Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

“A steaming cup of hot chocolate with buttered toast is surely one of the most heart-warming, body-warming, and taste-satisfying combinations known to man.”

With that opening sentence in a column which ran in the 1970s, James Beard had me hooked. He went on to decry the notion of hot chocolate being something “tipped out of a little paper bag into a cup, dissolved with hot water,” which was what I knew, and reminisced of where he had enjoyed real hot chocolate: Swetland’s from his Portland, Oregon hometown; Paris sidewalk cafés; Viennese salons. Beard revealed to me the differences between the French, Spanish, and Mexican approaches to ingredients and preparation. His description of sipping chocolate between bites of crusty rolls or buttery croissants – “an enchanting marriage of flavors” – captured my imagination and elevated my thinking about food.

That clipped-out food section article started my interest in food writing and my recipe collection. I resolved that one day I would do better than packaged hot chocolate mix. I confess that most mornings at work, that’s all it is, but when circumstances permit, I strive for making my own recipe with steamed milk served outdoors accompanied by whole-grain toast, some nice French brie, and a crisp apple.

Last night while shopping for the ingredients to make Akemi’s welcome home dinner, I came upon a cocoa called “chocolate alchemy” with a dash of cayenne pepper and cinnamon. I just tried it, and for someone who doesn’t drink coffee, this version of the Mayan xocolatl delivers a nice morning kick. Maybe I should send some to Mitt Romney.

Akemi’s dinner tonight will feature some recipes I’ve saved to repeat and a couple to try out: braised short ribs, roasted carrots, latkes (we like them and it’s Hanukkah, after all) and homemade applesauce, sautéed swiss chard, garlic and rosemary cloverleaf rolls, molten chocolate mini-cakes with vanilla ice cream. In addition to celebrating Akemi’s successful fall semester, we will celebrate my falling IgM and m-spike numbers.

Come on by for short rib leftovers, or xocolatl anytime. Now off to get ready for Akemi’s homecoming.

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