Grand Marnier Chocolate Truffles

ganacheIMG_1213IMG_1216

 

 

I needed a desert for a thanksgiving party and felt that by the time people got to desert they’d be pretty full. I decided chocolate truffles are always easy to go down, just one bite. I made these as little gifts for my weddings, used them to decorate around a birthday cake… I am also going to give them as gifts for the holidays. I will just put 5 or 6 in a little clear plastic bag, tie a cute bow and that’s it!  You can also get nice small candy boxes at cooking stores or craft stores. There are also molds to make your truffles perfectly round with no mistakes, but I like the homemade look to my truffles.  I don’t want them to look professional just taste that way.

 

Ingredients:

16 ounces of bittersweet or semisweet chocolate finely chopped.  I usually use the big dark chocolate bars (500 grams) from Trader Joe’s.

1 cup heavy cream (not whipping cream)

2 tablespoons Grand Marnier ( you can also use triple sec, framboise, or any other flavored liqueurs)

24 ounces chopped dark chocolate for melting and dipping the truffle balls.

For decorating:  Chopped nuts (pistachios, walnuts, pecans,…. ) powdered sugar, sel de cali- orange flavored sea salt, melted white chocolate, sprinkles… what ever you want: get creative.  chopped chocolate

 

Directions:  Put the chocolate into a large heatproof bowl.  In a small saucepan over medium heat bring the cream to a slight boil.  Pour cream over chopped chocolate. Stir until chocolate is melted and smooth.  Add your favorite liqueur ( about 2 tablespoons).  Put mixture, which is actually called a ganache, in the fridge over night or if you are pressed for time, pour the ganache in a shallow dish and put in the refrigerator/freezer for about 30 mins.  Once the chocolate seems ready in a solid pliable form, not hard, start making little balls with a teaspoon or a melon baller.  Don’t make the balls too big, remember this will be the inside of your truffle, there will still be an exterior layer of hardened chocolate.

Place the balls on a lined baking sheet with parchment paper.  Place the sheet in the refrigerator for another 10 mins.  cheap double boilerMeanwhile chop and melt the 24 ounces of chocolate over a double boiler.  I don’t have one so I balanced a heat proof bowl over a sauce pan filled with water boiling.  Once the chocolate is melted, take the balls out of the fridge. Dip and swirl each in the melted chocolate. place on cookie sheet and sprinkle on nuts, salt..whatever you want. You can also roll it in chopped nuts.  I just kept mine with little added sprinkles and maybe one or two rolled in nuts.  Once you are done, put the truffles back in the fridge.  Continue until all are done.  By the way, don’t re-heat chocolate or over cook, it will break down and won’t work. The truffles last up to 2 weeks and the best is to refrigerate them.

Enjoy!!!!!

IMG_1210

 

Advertisements

Baked tomatoes

Various heirloom tomato cultivars
Various heirloom tomato cultivars (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Deutsch: Parmigiano Reggiano in der Markthalle...
Deutsch: Parmigiano Reggiano in der Markthalle Stuttgart (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Small tomatoes in Korea
Small tomatoes in Korea (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This is such a simple dish.  They are not stuffed or cut in half.  They are just simple baked tomatoes at 350 F for 30 mins then 375 F for 20 more minutes.  I love this dish.  I started making it over the summer when tomatoes were in season.  I just cut the tops off the tomatoes, enough to sprinkle salt, pepper and whatever herbs I have along with a good dose of extra virgin olive oil.  Sometimes I add chopped garlic, too.  At the last part of cooking, grated parmesan cheese is great on this, too.

The great thing about this dish is it makes a great accompanyment to just about anything.  It can be used as a sauce  as well.  Serve it on a big bowl of rice or pasta and it’s simple and delicious.  I could eat this everyday.  The tomatoes really make a difference, but it’s still good if you jazz up bland tomatoes with a bunch of garlic, basil, oregano, cheese… whatever.  Enjoy!

July's Tomato Haul
July’s Tomato Haul (Photo credit: statelyenglishmanor)

Cauliflower, mushrooms, garlic and black truffle sea salt

I didn’t have much time to prepare anything fancy, but somehow my simple dish made it to the “I’ve been slaving away in the kitchen” category in my husbands eyes, even though it took all of 10 minutes to prepare, if that.  I searched for something interesting to make for a side dish.  We are staying away from so many starches and cauliflower just has that satisfying taste that not all veggies have.  I chopped up, trying to keep the “flowers” in tack, 1/2 a cauliflower, sliced about 8 nice white mushrooms that I bought from the local farmer’s stand and then added a few sliced garlic cloves.  Voila, just a few drizzles of my herb infused extra virgin olive oil and a few sprinkles of my black truffle sea salt, it was ready to go into the oven.  I put it at 375 for about 30 minutes covered with foil and then 5 minutes uncovered.  In the meantime I grilled up my usual grilled chicken, but this time I played around with the flavors a bit, using more salt and rosemary, from my friends salt concoction she calls, Herbs de PV.  She blended sea salts with natural growing herbs from Palos Verdes.  I think our meal was great and it was definitely healthy.

simple melone with Sel de Cali (Chardonnay salt and Pinot Noir salt)

Today I decided to make a simple little lunch with my specialty salts. Sel de Cali (Chardonnay) and Sel de Cali (Pinot Noir)  Not only does the Chardonnay salt and Pinot Noir salt taste good, it looks spectacular.  Just by adding a few grains you have turned your boring melon into a wow!  So now I feel good, I had a good sweet and salty cantaloupe that was just right for a healthy lunch.  This is a quick and easy appetizer for guests and a great hors d’oeuvre for a party.  You can cut them up and put them on a stick… play around with presentation, make a trail of wine salt on the platter… either way, it will look and taste delicious.  By the way, I had 3 more pieces after this photo!

 

Salmon with herbs

salmonI love salmon!  And I love super fresh Salmon from my fish monger.  I call it the freshest seafood in southbay. I’m seriously lucky to have this wonderful fish available when I want.  Luckily, my friend was with me and wanted salmon as well because we had to buy the whole fish.  That’s what you get when you shop at a warehouse .  The big debate was how we wanted it split.  She wanted a filet with the skin off, I wanted a steak, but said fine for the filet, yet in the end, I had to have the skin off, too. I didn’t want Tony to do too much work, it was already a favor for him to clean the fish for us.   This decision dictated my preparations for dinner.  I had planned to grill it on the BBQ, but instead would bake it.  We each had enough for 7 -8 people each. So I guess you could say one big Salmon would have fed 16 people!  And it only cost about 24 dollars for the whole fish!!!

I peeked at recipes online for inspiration and decided to make an herb incrusted salmon in the oven.  I took what I had growing on the balcony.  I grabbed a bunch of fresh Italian oregano and some Thai basil.  I chopped it up and added some Chardonnay Salt from Sel de Cali and placed the salmon on a bed of thinly sliced and de-seeded lemons.  I baked the salmon for about 15 minutes at 350F.  In the meantime I steamed some asparagus that I bought from Jacques produce stand.  I set up the rice medley in the rice cooker.  Yet, something was missing, I needed color so I cut up some delicious tomatoes that I also purchased from the veggie stand.  I made a really simple tomato salad.  I used a few scallions and then just finished it off with Sel de Cali, the Cabernet one.  It was simple but added a deliciously fresh element to our dinner.  Yum.  We actually enjoyed it in front of the TV, which isn’t ideal fro great dinner conversations, but it was late.

salmon, asparagus, rice medleytomatoes

A smoked salmon dinner

This is so easy, yet so delicious.  I love simple dishes.  I bought some wild caught smoked salmon at the local market.  I made myself the easiest and not to mention healthiest dinner.  I wasn’t in the mood to cook, but I wanted something good.  I added some heirloom cherry tomatoes and some organic persian cucumbers on the side for some crunch appeal.  I cut up lots of lemon slices for my salmon.  There is nothing better than simple flavors with salt, I of course used Sel de Cali, for the taste and beauty appeal.  This is now one of my favorite, easy meals to prepare that can also transform into a great appetizer or  hors d’oeuvre platter.  I would however dress it up a bit more when serving it to guests.  I would add a few capers on the side, maybe some red onions, little crackers, blinis, or just simple pieces of  bagels or some type of vehicle to place the salmon and veggies on it.  A great cheese that goes with this is of course, cream cheese, but also a marscapone, ricotta, boursin or even goat cheese.  There are many possibilities.  And for those who are staying away from carbs, a great way to serve this is with Belgian endive leaves, they are a perfect little vehicles to serve the salmon.  You can also make it in advance by placing a bit of cheese, a piece of salmon and a few capers with an onion on a piece of endive… or play with the combinations.  I personally wouldn’t mix the lemon with the cheese, however.  If you don’t have time to prepare it,  in a rush, just add all the elements to a plate as nicely as possible and call it the deconstructed hors d’oeuvre.  Smoked salmon is something I always have in my fridge, you just never know when you will have an impromptu guest over.  Enjoy.  

Ice Cream vs Gelato

Italian ice cream parlour in Verona.
Image via Wikipedia

I am super happy with my Cuisinart ice cream maker.  This was a gift about 10 years ago and I put it away for a few years, while living in Italy along with my pasta maker.  There was absolutely no point in having either, oh and also my pizza stone.  The pizza, pasta and gelato in Italy is really to die for. But now that I’m back in the US, I have taken my ice cream maker and pasta maker out of the moving boxes. I have made several Ben and Jerry’s ice cream recipes with a few modifications.  I enjoy them, but it just wasn’t the gelato feel and taste.  When in Italy I remember Italians bragging about how gelato is not ice cream and it’s much better for you than ice cream.  Well, I felt it was just the Italian way of superiority when it comes to food.  But they were right and often when it comes to opinions on food, the Italians have every right to brag.  I’ve never tasted such amazing food.  A tomato tastes like a tomato!  The quality of food is amazing. You have to go food shopping much more often due to such freshness not lasting, unlike the shelf life of an American vegetable. Sometimes I wonder what is on my tomato that it can last weeks in the fridge.  Ok back to ice cream.  Hmmm, tomato ice cream could be good.   Anyway, my staple is an altered Ben and Jerry’s mint chocolate chip recipe.  I basically steep real mint into my milk and cream mixture by heating it slightly while I mix the sugar and eggs in a separate bowl.  I let the creamy mint mixture cool before adding to my egg mixture.  Once it’s cooled I add it all to my fabulous ice cream maker.  Once the ice cream is soft enough I add in chopped chocolate, as much or as little as you want.

Recipe

1 cup sugar

2 cups cream

1 cup milk

2 eggs

mint leaves-a big bunch, discard when done steeping, squeeze out the cream into mixture or one teaspoon peppermint extract

100 grams or big handful chopped dark or milk chocolate.

Beat eggs and sugar together, add in milk and cream with mint taste,

add all to ice cream maker.  Once finished put ice cream in a Tupperware with a thin sheet of syran wrap directly on top of ice cream, this saves some freezer burn.

Now onto Gelato.  It is in fact much healthier for you.  In most of the ice cream recipes I’ve found, 2 cups of cream are required however, I’ve found that gelato is more a milk based ice cream, asking for 2-3 cups of milk.  I’ve not tried to make a fat-free ice cream, but it is the works.  I will however make a full fat gelato first and then make the fat-free version, just in case it’s not good.  I will let you know.

My custard vanilla American Gelato.

I used 1 cup super fine sugar and beat in two eggs and two egg yolks.  At the same time I heated up two cups milk with one cup cream.  Eventually I will eliminate the cream, but I didn’t want it to go bad, so I used it.  I heated the cream and then poured it onto my egg mixture.  After that I brought it all back to the pot and cooked till it thickened.  I let this now, custard type mixture cool in the fridge a few hours.  Once cool, I added some vanilla extract and put in my ice cream machine.  This was a triple yum!!!!!! More gelato recipes to come.  I think that my fat-free version would be a great desert for the Dukan diet.  Oh and for the verdict, I’ve turned Italian and prefer the more egg milk based creamy frozen treat!

ice cream