The Seasonal Chef

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At the mention of Valentine’s Day, I instantly think CHOCOLATE! And not a minute too soon. “Chocolate for Breakfast” is a new and delicious cookbook by first-time author Barbara Passino.

The book is for fellow chocoholics who feel that “there’s something deliciously naughty about eating dessert first.” It is filled with unique and devilish chocolate recipes, along with delicious breakfast fare, that one could serve for brunch or possibly supper.

Even the names of the recipes bring instant excitement to mind. Chocolate Tacos are the perfect “dish” for fresh-ripe fruit, and Chocolate-Filled Toast Pillows evoke romance at their mention. For Valentine’s Day, serve this breakfast or brunch to the one you love. Even a non-chocoholic will appreciate such attention early in the day.

Though it isn’t a chocolate drink, the Mimosa Sunrise, a glass of sparkling liquid sunshine, is guaranteed to raise a smile as well as your spirits.

Three small stacks of Chocolate-Chocolate Pancakes definitely feel illegal, yet wickedly wise after a long vigorous walk or heavy workout at the gym before breakfast! Serve crisp slices of lean Canadian bacon on the side and antioxidant-filled fresh strawberry sauce and raspberries to balance the flavors. The recipe makes about 30 small pancakes. You most likely won’t eat all of them, so store the leftovers in Ziploc bags in the freezer for another time. According to the author, the pancakes can be served without the berry sauce.

The finale is a Chocolate Egg Cream that is fun for the whole family on Valentine’s Day. Or make my own favorite grown-up indulgence, Hot Chocolate Coffee. Be sure to use the best quality, 85-percent dark bitter chocolate such as Valrhona. Happy Valentine’s Day and bon appétit!

Mimosa Sunrise

(Serves 2)

About 2 cups of freshly squeezed orange juice1 bottle very cold Champagne, sparkling wine, or Perrier water1/4 teaspoon grenadine per glassTo serve:

First, fill a champagne flute one-third full of orange juice. Add two-thirds Champagne, wine or Perrier. Ceremoniously, slowly drop the grenadine into the glass. It will settle in the bottom to create a sunrise effect. Now, offer a toast.

Chocolate-Chocolate Pancakes with Berries and Canadian Bacon

(Makes 30 small pancakes)

For the pancakes:

1 2/3 cups flour1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder2 teaspoons baking powder1/4 teaspoon salt1/3 cup granulated sugar1 cup chocolate chips2 eggs1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled1¼ to 1½ cups milkOlive oil for sautéing6 slices Canadian bacon1/2 pint raspberries, washed1/2 pint strawberries, washed

To prepare:

In a sieve set over a mixing bowl, sift the flour, cocoa, baking powder, salt and sugar together. Add chocolate chips to the dry ingredients. In a smaller bowl, whisk the eggs until frothy, add vanilla, melted butter and milk and blend vigorously. Pour the liquid ingredients into the center of the dry mixture and stir well until blended.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 200 degrees Fahrenheit. Place a baking sheet lined with paper towels and serving plates to warm in the oven.

In a skillet over moderate high heat, coat the bottom with olive oil and sauté the Canadian bacon until brown on both sides. Transfer to the paper towel-lined baking sheet in the oven.

In a griddle or large skillet over moderate high heat, lightly coat the bottom with melted butter. When a drop of water skitters across the pan, using a small ladle, drop just enough batter onto the hot pan until the pancake is about two to three inches across. Cook until the edges start to look dry and bubbles appear across the surface of the pancake. Gently flip the pancake and cook about one minute longer on the other side. Transfer to paper towel-lined baking sheet in the oven. Continue until all pancakes are cooked.

Puree half of the strawberries in a food processor or blender. Taste and then sweeten only if desired.

To serve, arrange three pancakes on each plate, spoon about one spoonful of strawberry purée on each and top with another pancake, for a total of three pancakes per stack. Top each stack with fresh raspberries, slip a slice or two of Canadian bacon on the side and serve at once.

Chocolate Egg Cream

(2 servings)For the chocolate syrup:1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder1/2 cup sugar1/3 cup boiling waterFor the egg cream:4 tablespoons chocolate syrup4 tablespoons milkAbout 1 quart seltzer water to fill the tall glasses2 straws

To prepare:

For the syrup, in a small bowl or glass measuring cup, mix the cocoa and sugar together. Add about half of the hot water and whisk until the sugar and cocoa are dissolved. Whisk in the rest of the water and stir to blend. Can be done ahead of time. Store in the refrigerator.

For the egg creams, in a tall soda fountain glass or water tumbler, whisk two tablespoons of the chocolate syrup per glass with two tablespoons of milk until blended. Add the seltzer and a straw. Drink while the bubbles still tickle your nose.

Hot Chocolate Coffee

(2 servings)1/2 ounce 85 percent cacao dark bitter chocolate, grated1 tablespoon instant coffee (espresso or your favorite brand)14 ounces (1 3/4 cups) boiling water or strong-brewed coffeeOptional:Sweetener or sugar to tasteSplash of hot milk, half and half or soy milk to taste

To prepare:

With a lemon zester or fine grater set over waxed paper, grate one-half ounce of bitter chocolate (you will end up with about four heaping tablespoons of chocolate shavings). Transfer to a pint coffee carafe or glass measuring pitcher. Add the instant coffee and whisk briefly while pouring in the boiling water. If using hot-brewed coffee, omit the instant coffee and hot water. Whisk to blend, then pour into warm coffee cups and serve at once.

Offer sweetener and warm milk if desired.

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