secret ingredient chocolate truffles

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I love avocados but it is difficult to assess their ripeness. I’ve slit into an avocado only to discover it was either under-ripe or over-ripe. I have discovered that the under-ripe ones hold up well in stews and ratatouilles. The over-ripe ones I usually make into an avocado spread or guacamole. But this came as a revelation to me: to use an avocado to make chocolate truffles (recipe adapted from Christine@Apple of My Eye). The delicate flavor of avocado is overpowered by the chocolate, so its only purpose is to add moisture to the truffle balls. I call the recipe the

Secret Ingredient Chocolate Truffles
Makes 18-20 one-inch diameter truffles

1 over ripe avocado (save the best ones for salads and sandwiches!)
5 oz bittersweet chocolate, recommended (I used semi-sweet baking chocolate and chocolate chips)
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder, divided.

In a heatproof bowl, melt the chocolate over boiling water. Alternatively, melt the chocolate in the microwave in 30-40 second increments, stirring after each increment. Cool slightly.

Process the avocado until it’s a smooth paste in a food processor. Scrape the avocado paste into the melted chocolate along with the sugar, salt, vanilla, and 1 1/2 tablespoons cocoa powder. Refrigerate or freeze the chocolate mixture until it is firm–about 1-2 hours.

Remove from the fridge or freezer. Using 2 teaspoons, shape the chocolate mixture into balls about 1 inch in diameter. Roll each chocolate ball in the remaining tablespoon of chocolate powder. Freeze or refrigerate until firm.

Baker’s Note: Though this simple recipe requires no baking, it does need to be thoroughly chilled before rolling in the cocoa powder. And when it is warm, as it is here in Bangkok, the truffle returns to room temperature rather quickly, and the cocoa powder will be absorbed. My sister-in-law who is an expert in all things chocolate, recommends freezing the truffles before rolling them in the cocoa powder. It worked beautifully. Thanks, Mimi!

banana chiffon cake with cream cheese frosting

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I love chiffon cakes. They are so light and airy! I also love banana bread. They are dense and sweet, perfect for a light breakfast or a snack. When I saw Chew Out Loud’s recipe for banana chiffon cake, I thought it would a a wonderful combination of the two. Now, in Thailand, there are quite a variety of bananas, but not all of them are good for baking. The one most familiar to Americans, the Thai call kluay hom. The kluay hom is actually the best for baking. It has enough moisture that the pulp of the fruit gets distributed in baking. The smaller varieties such as kluay numwa look like fat stubby fingers, and are best eaten out of hand or dried and candied. My problem is, I have a freezer bag full of these little bananas because they got too ripe and I didn’t want to throw them away. I will have to think about what to do with them.

Banana Chiffon Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Ingredients
2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/4 cup granulated sugar
3 tsp baking powder
1 tsp table salt
1/2 cup vegetable oil
5 egg yolks
1/2 cup cold water
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 cup very ripe mashed banana (approx. 2 bananas)
8 egg whites
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

Directions
Preheat oven to 325F, with rack on lower middle position.

In a large bowl, beat together the egg whites and cream of tartar on medium-high speed until stiff peaks form, about 4 min. Be sure it’s at stiff peaks, not soft peaks.

Cake Baker’s Note: I don’t have a whisk attachment for my handheld mixer, so I decided to whip the egg whites first the make the batter.

In another large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt until well combined. Make a well in the center. Add oil, unbeaten yolks, water, vanilla, and mashed bananas. Beat until smooth, about 2 minutes.

Using a rubber spatula, gently fold together the banana mixture into the egg white mixture. Carefully fold repeatedly until batter is incorporated, until tiny white streaks remain.

Pour batter unto an ungreased tube pan with removable center/bottom. Bake 60 minutes or just until toothpick inserted in center comes out almost clean (a few small tender crumbs attached is perfect.)

Invert the pan over a plate; keep pan inverted until cake is completely cool. Once cooled, use a very thin knife blade and run it carefully around all edges of the cake to loosen cake. Turn upside down onto a plate, and carefully remove the bottom/center of pan from the cake.

Unfortunately, the top of the cake was moist and a bit of the top stuck to the plate when I was removing the center tube. My solution was to fix it with some leftover cream cheese frosting that I had saved in the freezer.

grape salad with candied almonds

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This is a light and refreshing salad. Surprisingly, it’s not sweet at all but tart, with crunchy lightly sweet candied nuts on top.

Grape Salad with Candied Almonds (adapted from Eating Well)

Candied Nuts
1/2 cup chopped nuts (e.g. almonds, macadamias, pecans, or walnuts)
2 teaspoons water
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
Pinch of salt

Grape Salad
1/2 cup Greek Style yogurt (I used yogurt instead of sour cream)
4 ounces (115g) cream cheese, at room temperature (original recipe: Neufchatel cheese)
3 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
6 cups seedless grapes, preferably red and green (about 2 pounds), washed and patted dry with paper towels

Preparation
To prepare nuts:

1. Line a small baking pan with parchment paper or foil; coat with cooking spray. Preheat
oven to 400°F.
2. Toss nuts in a bowl with water. Sprinkle with brown sugar and salt; toss to coat well. Transfer to the
prepared pan. Bake until the sugar is melted and the nuts are barely starting to brown, 6 to 8 minutes.
3. Cool in the pan until the sugar hardens, about 6 minutes.

To prepare salad:

Meanwhile, combine yogurt, cream cheese, honey and vanilla in a food processor and pulse until smooth and creamy. Transfer sauce to a large bowl. If the sauce is runny,  thicken it by putting the bowl in the fridge for about 1/2 hour. Add dry grapes and gently stir to coat the grapes in the sauce. Transfer to a serving dish. Crumble the candied nuts on top just before serving.

 

salmon burger with three kings

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The three kings! My fanciful name for three delicious dressings for this salmon burger: Sriracha mayo, Thai basil-cilantro sauce, and guacamole.They are a kingly taste indeed; spicy, sour, sweet, salty, and savory.

Salmon Burger (adapted from Skinnytaste)

Prep time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 8 minutes

1 pound salmon steak, cut off the skin and bones
1/2 small red onion
2 large cloves garlic, minced
6 tablespoons Panko bread crumbs
2 tablespoons milk
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon soy sauce
Juice of 1/2 fresh lime
2 teaspoons oil

Mince the salmon after it has been deskinned and deboned. Add the onion, garlic, bread crumbs and milk. In a small bowl, add the egg and beat lightly with a fork. Add the soy sauce and the fresh lime juice. Pour on the salmon mixture and combine. Pat gently into four patties.

Heat the oil in a skillet. Fry each patty for 4 minutes on one side, flip them over, and fry again for another 4 minutes. Serve on a bed of fresh arugula lettuce. The peppery leaves make a nice contrast with the salmon, which needs no spices, except for the following accompaniments:

Cilantro Mayo
3 tablespoons mayonnaise (I prefer full fat for the taste; low fat is very sweet)
1 tablespoon Sriracha sauce (more or less, to taste)
1 scallion, minced

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl. Refrigerate any leftovers.

Thai Basil-Cilantro Sauce (adapted from The High Heel Gourmet)
1 cup mint leaves, loosely packed, chopped fine
1 cup cilantro, loosely packed, chopped fine
1 tablespoon garlic, minced
1 tablespoon ginger, minced
1 red chili with or without the seeds, or more to taste
1 scallion, chopped fine
1/4 cup vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
2 -4 tablespoons sugar (1/4 cup in original recipe)
Water 1/4 cup
Juice of 1 lime

Boil vinegar, sugar and salt together until dissolved. Let it rest until cool.

Add the cooled syrup to the vegetables, salt, 2 tablespoons sugar, water, and lime juice. Taste the sauce and adjust seasoning. Add a little more sugar if too sour, or a little more salt or vinegar if too sweet. The taste should be tart. Refrigerate leftovers.

Guacamole
2 ripe avocados, mashed
1/3 cup chopped tomatoes
1/2 small red onion, chopped
1 red chile pepper, seeded and chopped, optional
Juice of 1-2 limes or to taste
Salt and pepper

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl. Taste and adjust seasonings. Refrigerate leftovers.

 

nutella-bacon french toast

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Andy suggested the bacon and I suggested the Nutella. A marriage of true minds admits no impediment, especially when it comes to foodies.   A simple enough breakfast or brunch notion for two, with fruit.

Nutella-Bacon French Toast

Prep time: 5 minutes
Cooking time: 10 minutes

2 eggs
2 tablespoons milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla, optional
4 slices whole wheat bread
4 slices bacon
2 teaspoons oil
1/2 to 1 tablespoon Nutella chocolate-hazelnut spread for each slice of bread
Sea salt flakes, optional
Powdered sugar, optional

Put bacon on a plate between two sheets of paper towels. Microwave on high heat for 5 minutes or until crisp. Remove from oven to cool slightly. Crumble into large pieces and set aside.

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whip the eggs until frothy with the milk and vanilla, if using. Soak one slice of bread in the egg mixture for a few seconds, turning once. Set the slice on one end at the side of the bowl then repeat the step with the remaining slices.

Heat the oil on medium high heat in a large skillet and swirl it around. Add the bread slices and cook on one side for about 2 1/2 minutes or until golden brown. If the bread gets too brown too quickly, reduce the heat.  Flip and repeat. Voila! French toast in 5 minutes (or less).

Spread Nutella on two slices of French toast. Top one side with crumbled bacon. If desired, sprinkle a little sea salt on top. Cover with one slice of bread spread with Nutella. Slice sandwich in half diagonally. Repeat with the remaining two slices of bread. If desired, sprinkle each triangle with a little powdered sugar. Serve with sliced fruit. I recommend, kiwi or any berry–so enjoy summer’s bounty. Here in Bangkok, strawberries are a luxury but kiwi is available and quite reasonable.

 

candied almonds

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Actually, this works with your favorite nut–walnuts, pecans, macadamias, and almonds are highly recommended. They make a great garnish for ice cream or sweet grape salad. Or just to eat by the handful.

1 cup chopped almonds
4 teaspoons water
2 tablespoons brown sugar
pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 400˚F/200˚C.

In a medium bowl, toss the almonds with water and brown sugar and a pinch of salt. Line a baking tray with aluminum foil and spray with cooking spray. Spread the almond mixture in a thin layer on top. Bake 6-8 minutes or until the nuts just begin to brown. Remove from the oven and let cool 6-8 minutes in the tray to get crisp. Put up the nuts in an airtight container if not eating right away.