Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Chocolate - Cardamom Cake

When my husband and I were recently out for dinner, we shared a mini chocolate cake with Turkish coffee ice cream for dessert.  It took a moment or two for us to realize the cake was infused with cardamom.  Interesting.  I had often paired cinnamon and ginger with chocolate, but had never thought about cardamom.  I've had other sweet treats with cardamom before -mostly from a local Scandinavian bakery and I've made a panna cotta with this warm spice, so naturally I had to recreate this lovely chocolate cake at home.

Cardamom is a peppery, citrusy spice, common in Indian food and is a close relative to cinnamon and ginger; and like these spices, it's loaded with health benefits.  Just to name a few, it's an antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, aids digestion and detoxification, and if it couldn't get any better, it's also an aphrodisiac.

I loosely based this recipe on my recently posted Nigella's chocolate olive oil cake.  I cut the sugar in half and made a few other adjustments that my taste testing family approved of.  With the warmth of the cardamom, this cake will make a  wonderful accompaniment to the pumpkin pies on your Thanksgiving dessert table.

Chocolate-Cardamom Cake

6 Tablespoons good quality cocoa powder (unsweetened)
1/2 cup boiling water
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon instant espresso powder (optional)
1 cup ground almonds or almond flour/almond meal
1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 cup sugar (I use evaporated cane juice which is an unrefined, unbleached sugar)
4 eggs
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil (plus more for greasing pan)
powdered sugar for dusting

1.) Heat oven to (325 F). Grease a  (9-inch) spring form pan with a little oil and line base with parchment paper cut out in a circle to fit.

2). Measure and sift cocoa powder and espresso powder into a bowl and whisk in boiling water until you have a smooth, chocolaty, still runny (but only just) paste. Whisk in vanilla, then set aside to cool a little.

3.) In another small bowl, combine almond meal, flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cardamom.  Set aside.

4.) Put sugar, olive oil and eggs into bowl of a freestanding mixer with the paddle attachment (or other bowl and hand mixer) and beat together vigorously for about 3 minutes until you have a pale-primrose, aerated and thickened cream.

5.) Turn speed down a little and pour in cocoa mixture, beating as you go, and when all is scraped in, you can slowly tip in almond meal/flour mixture.

6.) Scrape down, and stir a little with a spatula, then pour batter into prepared pan. Bake for about 25 - 30  minutes or until the center puffs up and a toothpick comes out clean with a few crumbs clinging to it.  Do not over bake, it can dry out quickly.

7.) Let cool for 10 minutes on a wire rack still in its pan, and then ease sides of the cake with a butter knife and spring it out of the pan.  Leave to cool completely or eat while still warm.  Dust with powdered sugar and/or serve with whipped cream.
Makes 8 to 12 slices.  


"The Greatest Wealth is Health" - Virgil

"Let Food be thy Medicine and Medicine be thy Food." - Hippocrates

Monday, November 11, 2013

Charlie Trotter 1959-2013

Today Charlie Trotter's body was laid to rest.  When I heard the news last week of his unexpected passing, I was shocked and saddened.  While I didn't know him personally, I was fortunate enough to eat at his ground-breaking restaurant twice.  Once in 1989, just two years after he opened his famed name-sake, and again in 2001; this time working an event for a friend.  The second visit was unique because not only did I have the meal in his studio kitchen, I actually got paid to eat this amazing food.   

Charlie Trotter, considered one of the finest chefs in the world, changed the fine dining scene in Chicago, helping the city become the food capital it is today.  So many current Chicago (and beyond) chefs have learned so much from this talented, culinary master.  Trotter closed his 60-seat restaurant in August 2012 after 25 incredible years.

Click Here  to read a Chicago Tribune article about the memorial service.

My "take-away" from this intensely, creative chef fits the "youthful eating" philosophy I try to incorporate into my everyday life:

1.)  Trotter strived for excellence, not perfection.  Excellence allows for the human element which will never be perfect.

2.)  Even in his early days, Trotter veered away from cream and butter in favor of vegetable based sauces that didn't mask the flavor of the food as heavier sauces would have.  He also stopped serving foie gras long before Chicago's temporary ban of the luscious fat duck livers, because of the in-humane way it is made.

3.) Trotter did not serve hard alcohol in his restaurant.  He felt that too much alcohol interfered with the appreciation of food.  Wine was served with every course, and champagne to begin, but no hard alcohol.

4.)  While Trotter was known for his degustation menu, 12 courses in one sitting, his portions were small.  This allowed guests to enjoy multiple courses without feeling as if they were in a food coma at the end of the meal.  He wanted people to be energized from his food, not lethargic.

RIP Chef.