Friday, November 03, 2006

Easiest chocolate candy

We all have our faults. My greatest—by my own estimation—could be severe impatience. The problem is that when something takes, oh, 10 seconds or so, I would rather just skip it.

Some people might call that lazy. “Impatience” has a better ring, no?

This brings me to one of my favorite new food gifts. This Gourmet recipe is fantastic for impatient people. I adapt it to whatever dried fruits and nuts I have in my freezer, and throw together a lovely gift (or snack) in about 10 minutes.

Fruit and Nut Chocolate Chunks
1 1/4 lb fine-quality bittersweet chocolate (not unsweetened), broken into small pieces Vegetable oil for greasing pan
2/3 cup dried cranberries
2/3 cup raisins
2/3 cup salted roasted shelled pistachios (3 oz)
2/3 cup salted roasted cashews (3 oz)

Melt chocolate in top of a double boiler or metal bowl set over a saucepan of barely simmering water, stirring occasionally until smooth.

While chocolate is melting, line bottom and sides of an 8-inch square baking pan with foil, leaving a 2-inch overhang, then lightly oil foil.

Remove chocolate from heat and stir in fruit and nuts, then spread evenly in baking pan. Freeze until firm, about 20 minutes. Lift candy in foil from pan using overhang and transfer to a cutting board. Peel off foil and cut candy with a long heavy knife into 36 pieces.

Tips and notes:
· There is no need to use vegetable oil. Just line your pan with plastic wrap or parchment paper. The candy will lift right out.
· Place the candy (without the plastic wrap) on a cutting board, and use a sharp knife to break it into chunks. Gourmet cut these pieces into beautifully symmetrical squares, but I like it broken into different sized pieces for a rustic look.
· Use whatever nuts and dried fruits you have. I’ve made this a few times, and I always use dried blueberries and pistachios to add color. I never add raisins, because I don’t like the flavor.
· My favorite combination of nuts, and what I used this time, is hazelnuts, pistachios and pecans.
· I used really good chocolate the first time I made this. Recently, I made it with Hershey’s dark chocolate chips and I don’t think anyone would know the difference.

On sharing

I have a problem—a “sharing” problem.

Just about any Web site that offers the opportunity to email a story or post is likely to convince me that at least four of my friends need to know about this issue. This week I decided Luke and Bill should hear about the Charlie Weis segment on 60 Minutes. So I emailed them a link. When I read about a man getting 10 years in prison for the genital mutilation of his then 2-year-old daughter, my mom was among five people to receive that happy news. Michael is the likely recipient of anything relating to the media or Keith Olberman. My best friend, who is due next month, gets articles pertaining to the trials of motherhood.

There are other things I like to share, though: good books, a great sale, and of course, fantastic recipes. Not all my friends love to spend as much time in the kitchen as I do. So I know my mom’s garbanzo bean soup recipe is perfect for passing on to people who have a 15 minutes limit at the stove, but want a warming, homemade soup in the cold weather.

This recipe can be made with ingredients almost everyone would have on hand, plus a bit of fresh rosemary. Dried rosemary, though, doesn’t downgrade the flavor much at all. The red bell pepper is optional.

Chickpea and tomato soup with garlic rosemary broth
(Chicago Tribune)
1 ½ tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion
1 small red bell pepper, cored, finely diced
2 large cloves garlic, minced
Large pinch crushed red pepper flakes
1 branch fresh rosemary
1 can (14 ½ ounces) diced tomatoes
1 can (16 ounces) garbanzo beans
3 cups chicken stock
1 tablespoon balsamic or red wine vinegear

Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. When hot, add onion, bell pepper, garlic, red pepper flakes and half of the rosemary. Cook, stirring often, until onion is soft, 4 to 5 minutes. Add tomatoes with their juice. Cook until most of the juice cooks away, 2 to 3 minutes.

Add garbanzo beans and stock. Heat to a boil; cover and simmer 3 to 4 minutes to blend flavors. Remove rosemary branch.

Mince remaining rosemary and add to the pan along with vinegar, salt and pepper. Serve hot.
Makes 4 servings.

Notes and tips:
· By all means, use dried rosemary if you don’t have fresh.
· Adding a bit of grated parmesan cheese to the individual bowls adds a fabulous extra dimension of flavor.
· I can’t remember ever my mom ever using red bell pepper in this, so I never do. It’s completely optional.