Monday, March 26, 2012


Under the heading of "now I've seen everything," let me add a sunbathing squirrel. Coming out of my bathroom, I saw this beautiful little squirrel basking in the rare sunshine of a late March morning. It startled me a bit and I decided to grab my camera and see if he would sit still to some photographs. I got these three shots and then grabbed my roommate to come upstairs and see for herself. The cat was sleeping on the floor right in the front of the glass door to my bedroom balcony. And Beau was sleeping in one of his daybeds in the same room. The squirrel didn't seem to mind a bit.

The way he's lying down reminds me of Beau when he's all stretched out with his hind legs all the way behind him.

Friday, I had the opera gang over for dinner with Carol, Sarah, Lynne, Maureen and Jim, Marie and Justin.  We feasted on Porchetta (a special dry-rubbed shoulder of pork which is tightly wrapped in two thicknesses of foil, and roasted for four hours until it is spoon tender), pressure-cooker risotto, a farro and garbanzo bean salad, and a green salad.  Since I do most of the desserts for our gatherings, Lynne asked me very seriously if I would make something with chocolate, which is a passion of hers. Maureen is also a not-so-secret chocoholic.  So after a good deal of research into my past chocolate files, I made a Chocolate Carmel Tart from Marlow & Sons, a popular Brooklyn Restaurant. The recipe came from Saveur magazine, and the instant I saw it, I tore the recipe from the magazine. It's a real crowd-pleaser, with a just-right sweet cocoa power crust made with a Dutch processed cocoa powder. Blind baked, it is filled first with a creamy and soft caramel and then topped with a not-too-thick, but very satisfying layer of dark chocolate ganache. Refrigerated and cut into narrow slices, it is swooningly decadent.  I sent everyone home with a second slice (not a good idea to keep this stuff around too long). It is surprisingly easy to make (let me know if you want the recipe), but must be done in three stages. This is the third time I've made it and I always make the crust the day before. Then the caramel is added and chilled four or five hours (made early the next morning), and the genache is done and poured over the top and chilled for an additional four to five hours. You then lightly sprinkle the top with grey sea salt, which brightens the chocolate flavor and cuts a bit of its richness.

I'm not as wild about chocolate in my old age than I was in my youth, where just about every dessert I made had chocolate in it. This tart is right up there with Maida Heatter's famous almond and hazelnut tortes, and Jamie Oliver's chocolate tart (with maple syrup--giving it a divine softness), Nick Malgieri's Chocolate Eminence, Rose Levy Beranbaum's Chocolate Oblivion Truffle Cake, and Dorie Greenspan's Espresso Chocolate Shortbread Cookies.

Those are Lynne's hands (the lady who requested a chocolate dessert). I warned her not to touch it as I was reaching behind me for the grey sea salt.

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