December 2012 Archives
A friend had a little trouble melting the chocolate when she was making my Dark Chocolate Mousse with Spiced Cranberry Topping
. I immediately got back into the kitchen and improved the method for working with the chocolate. I updated the recipe at 4:00 PM Pacific Time today. In case you printed out the recipe before then, please check the new and improved method.
Wishing you a happy and delicious holiday season,
I created this festive dessert for a holiday gathering with my gal pals (Steve’s name for the group of friends with whom I celebrate birthdays several times a year). Rather than making a disappointing imitation of a baked treat that relies on wheat flour, I prefer naturally gluten-free desserts, and this intense chocolate mousse topped with whipped cream and a sparkling cranberry and crystallized ginger compote was so pretty and indulgent, everyone wanted seconds.
The mousse relies on lots of bittersweet chocolate for its rich flavor. The better tasting the chocolate, the better the mousse. I used Trader Joe’s Fair Trade Organic Dark Chocolate
. I melted it in water with only a little cream, not wanting cream to obscure the distinctiveness of the chocolate. The fluffy texture of the mousse comes from whipped egg whites rather than cream, again to preserve the nature of the chocolate. However, whipped organic cream sitting atop the mousse offers a luxurious contrast to the bitter chocolate, helping show off its unique taste with each spoonful.
It is easy to fit cooking this dessert into a busy holiday schedule. The cranberry embellishment will keep for days in the refrigerator, so you can make it whenever you can find 15 minutes. I stirred up the mousse the night before our party and mounded on the cream and cranberries in the morning. Three days after the lunch, the small amount leftover was every bit as good as on the first day, so I will most likely make it a few days ahead next time.
Here is an easy, gluten-free dinner for this busy season: seafood simmered in a spicy tomato sauce and then spooned over quick, creamy polenta. Although we appreciated it on a busy weeknight, it is festive enough for the night you decorate your tree or an impromptu holiday gathering.
The seafood and the polenta are endlessly variable and indispensable dishes I return to over and over again. I gave you the recipe for my microwave polenta
a few days ago. Today I’m offering the seafood formula. The last time I made this satisfying meal, tender bay scallops were on sale, and the vibrant sauce enhanced their sweetness. However, I have made the same recipe with chunks of Alaskan halibut, wild shrimp from the Gulf of Mexico, shiny black mussels, large sea scallops, and briny calamari.
I find that almost anything is made even better with a big handful of fresh herbs. Thyme, rosemary, and sage grow in my garden year around, and any one of them is great here. When I use rosemary or sage, which are woodier than the other herbs, I add them earlier than the thyme and let them sauté with the onion. I also love this with marjoram, Italian parsley, or cilantro- any of these get added at the same juncture in the recipe as the thyme. The real point is to use what you have on hand, either in the fridge or growing. No need to buy an herb just for this dish.
I was fascinated by polenta when I first tasted it at a rustic cabin restaurant in the Italian Alps. I ate forkful after forkful of the molten layering of cornmeal, mountain cheese, local sausage, and tomato sauce, trying to figure out how it was made. Soon after, polenta made its way into restaurants in the US, and during my long tenure as food editor at Bon Appetit magazine, I got to sample polenta in many different recipes.
But, I didn’t fully appreciate the versatility of polenta until I began experimenting with my newly imposed gluten-free diet. It was then that I realized polenta makes a great replacement for many wheat-based staples- bread, pasta, croutons, crostini, and even pizza crust. This discovery added new satisfaction to my meals.
The recipe here is my quick twist on traditional polenta, which can take up to 45 minutes of almost constant stirring to prepare. I was determined to find a way to make polenta effortlessly so I could enjoy it frequently. I played around until I came up with this creamy, microwave version. The key is using medium-grind cornmeal, rather than coarser ground polenta, which requires more than three times as long to cook.