Renovations! Before and after photos Part V: the counter

THE COUNTER!!!

I love this counter so much.

I bought it real cheap from a deli that had gone out of business.

It wasn’t anything fancy.

In fact, it was pretty ugg.

But I loved it instantly because it had CUBBIES!! Oh me oh my I loves me some cubbyholes.

Bags! Boxes! Deli waxy paper! Stickers! Vegan starter kits! The top-secret list of who’s not allowed at the shop! (Really just one vile rabid right wing Republican, who lives around the corner and whose beliefs about marriage equality are so disgustingly neanderthal-ish that I couldn’t ever bear to have his energies near my revolutionary chocolates.)

I set about repainting the counter the inverse of the rest of the shop: brown with blue trim.

I commissioned the unbelievable Andrew Gray to make a custom countertop, which he amazingly agreed to do in exchange for chocolates.

The new over the old.

LOOK AT THAT GORGEOUS HUNK OF WOOD!

(And look at the gross laminate countertop it replaced!)

Andrew giving the wood a final rubdown. Every Sunday night I clear everything off it and rub some mineral oil onto the surface. We decided not to suffocate it with polyurethane, in order to let the wood breathe and settle and change and wear gracefully over time.

It feels amazing.

Top was installed. It was beautiful.

But it needed one more thing: WORDS!

Kate and Kevin from Dresser Johnson designed a glorious giant vinyl sticker for the little manifesto I’d written about the chocolates. They brought their usual obsessive attention to detail to the sticker installation.

(They UNINTENTIONALLY dress alike most days. I KID YOU NOT.)


Meticulous! No air pockets!

(Click to make it bigger so you can read it. Be sure to notice the zillion bruises my legs incurred in the process of moving and setting up shop!)

It’s so perfect now.

Have I mentioned that I love this counter?

So, so, so much.

May 2011 Chocolate of the Month: A Pair of Barks

For posterity and record keeping, I’m making a blog post with each Chocolate of the Month as the month ends.

Oh, the Facebook photo album with glorious photos of the barks is here, check it out!
May 2011 Chocolate of the Month: A Pair of Chocolate Barks
Strawberries and Cream Bark
and
Fig and Caramelized Fennel Bark

Strawberries and Cream Bark
More white chocolate! Everyone loved the January white chocolate truffles so much that I knew we had to do more. This sweet, easygoing bark is a swirl of non-waxy, delicious housemade white chocolate and our bittersweet dark chocolate, studded with crunchy bits of freeze-dried strawberries.

Fig and Caramelized Fennel Bark is dark and stormy—rich Calimyrna figs with toasted praline fennel seeds.

And there we go! (We were deep into renovation world in May, so no purple prose this month!)

 

 

 

 

things to do with artichokes

As I’ve mentioned, a friend emailed me asking what she can do with artichokes, and I figured I’d answer her here.

Artichauts à la Barigoule.

My pal said what she mostly does is steam them with a sauce. So do I! That’s my favorite thing to do. But she said she’s tried of that, and is looking for new sauces and things to do with artichokes. Herewith, a quick and random list of great things to do with artichokes. If you have other great preparations, let me know!

  • At my beloved BFF restaurant, Bloodroot, Noel and Selma make a cream sauce with scraped artichoke flesh, asparagus, lemon and olive oil that is puréed and cooked with flour and a light vegetable stock made with more artichokes and asparagus. I serve it with spinach pasta or vegetable bowties, tons of lemon zest, toasted pine nuts, and lots of cracked pepper. It’s a LOT OF WORK. See photos here! And more here!
  • FRIED ARTICHOKES. The best thing ever. Here’s one recipe. Lemon is essential.
  • This Provençal-style preparation is insanely delicious as well: Artichauts à la Barigoule.
  • The recipe above is a stewed dish, but braising artichokes (especially baby artichokes) in a flavorful liquid, like white wine with a bunch of green garlic and garden herbs thrown in, is really nice too. When the artichokes are cooked, reduce the sauce (whisk in a little flour if it’s really thin) and add some combination of lemon/vinegar/olive oil/shoyu/sea salt/fresh pepper until it’s tasty.
  • Here are a bunch of photos I took of artichokes last year. So pretty!
Now let’s talk about sauces. Here are five great ideas.
  • A nice lemon vinaigrette. This is especially lovely with your specialest salt. I have a smoked sea salt I love with artichokes, and also an Italian infused salt with dried sage, rosemary, and basil.
  • Any variation on cashew bechamel—from a rich, cheesey sauce, to a creamy vinaigrette.
  • If you’re used to hollandaise on ‘chokes, give almond mayo a try.
  • Chermoula. SO GREAT. My recipe is based on the one in Deborah Madison’s book Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone.
  • Even better,  harissa and chermoula sauces, so you can dip each leaf into each sauce. INCREDIBLE. My harissa recipe is also based on the one in Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone!
Have fun! Let me know how it goes!

almond mayo

As I mentioned the other day:

Once I was going to write a cookbook.

Then other things happened, like that time I bought that building and opened that chocolate shop.

So from time to time I’m going to post some of the things I wrote for the cookbook here. OK?

A friend of mine recently asked me about what to do with artichokes, so I thought I’d write a blog post about that. In order to write that post, I need to refer to this post, which I originally wrote for the cookbook. So here we go!

If cashew béchamel is a new all-purpose white sauce, almond mayonnaise is a new all-purpose tart, creamy sauce with a wide variety of uses. My friend Selma developed the basic recipe, and uses it to dress cole slaw. It’s heavenly.

A Midwestern-transplant recipe tester of mine pointed out that, though it is a lovely dressing, this is not what most people envision when they think of mayonnaise (and not just because it’s made from almonds). That is: it is not spreadable. I confess that this is partially because I have somewhat of a horror of traditional gloppy, oily mayonnaise cluttering up an otherwise zesty and bright dish. (I was quite honored when my tester artfully pointed out that “It is your duty as an East Coaster to hate mayo,” being as I am a transplant to my beloved coast.) If you desire plops of mayo as opposed to drizzles (what this dressing as written will give you), use up to 1/4 of a cup less water than the recipe says. The dressing thickens up considerably overnight, however, and usually needs additional water whisked into it the next day, so keep that in mind when determining how much liquid to use.

Almond Mayonnaise

Like the cashews in the béchamel sauce, the almonds in this recipe benefit from being soaked for a few hours or up to three days.

This makes about 2 ½ –3 cups of dressing, all of which might not be needed. You can halve the recipe, or freeze the leftovers.

½ cup almonds (preferably raw, with skin or without, preferably organic)

3-4 tablespoons lemon juice, to taste

1 cup water

½ cup grape seed oil

1 teaspoon sea salt

1-2 tablespoons prepared mustard, to taste

3-4 tablespoons red wine vinegar

¼ teaspoons freshly ground pepper, or to taste

splash Tabasco or other hot sauce

  1. Blend almonds, lemon juice, and water in blender until emulsified. Drizzle in grape seed oil with blender running in a thin stream. Add salt, mustard, vinegar, pepper, and Tabasco and blend until combined. Taste and adjust seasonings, adding more sea salt, lemon, pepper, or mustard as necessary. Add more water if necessary for a creamy consistency.

Vulva-Shaped Bonbons By Matthew Dickman

It occurs to me that I have not mentioned the beautiful poem that Matthew Dickman wrote about our chocolates in a while.

He wrote it last year or so, but it’s so nice to be reminded of it that here it is again.

You might know cutie-pie Matthew from such places as The New Yorker, or his great first collection of poems. If you haven’t read any of his work yet, I envy the awesomeness you are about to discover.

 

Vulva-Shaped Bonbons

By Matthew Dickman
for Lagusta Yearwood

The kitchen of Le Pigeon is empty

but for the ghosts of Bordeaux and pork bellies, a dark

black cherry sauce. I’m walking home

through a district

of porches and tea-lights lighting up backyards and living

rooms. People must love each other

here. Have you ever stayed up drinking

all night and in the morning

wake up feeling like the Irish Republican Army

found out you voted for Home Rule, pushed you in a van

while you slept, and woke you up

by cracking your head open with a metal pipe? I keep thinking

that my life would be better

if I ended up in an abbey with a wooden bowl and a wooden desk

to eat and sleep on. I was feeling alone

and miserable when the chocolates Lagusta sent

arrived in a big white box. Peanut butter cups and triangles

full of coconut and cream, little spicy ones

made with peppers like a Lorca poem. After the first one melted

over my tongue

it was all blue stockings flashing through the grass and springtime

though it’s January, ridiculous

horn sections and string quartets. The chocolates are amazing!

One minute you’re listening to Leonard Cohen,

looking around the house for a razor

you can run along your arm without the worry of fainting,

and the next your mouth is full

of vulva-shaped bonbons, you’re speaking French, writing apologies

to all the women you’ve kissed, cutting

everything red into the shape of a heart, breaking

like a storm and then forming again into a kind of brave, beautiful, parade.

Cashew bechamel! And its many variations.

Once I was going to write a cookbook.

Then other things happened, like that time I bought that building and opened that chocolate shop.

So from time to time I’m going to post some of the things I wrote for the cookbook here. OK?  A friend of mine recently asked me about what to do with artichokes, so I thought I’d write a blog post about that. In order to write that post, I need to refer to this post, which I originally wrote for the cookbook. So here we go!

Let’s talk about white sauces.

First, let’s look at a photo of a lasagne made with my cashew béchamel, which I mention below:

New White Sauces

When people decide to stop eating dairy, one of the things they often miss the most is the creamy texture of dairy-based “white sauces,” (and the dishes they are commonly used in, such as macaroni and cheese) along with cheesy dishes like pizza and lasagna. Happily, tastier vegan cheeses are being developed all the time, so not wanting to eat animal cheeses no longer means forgoing these dishes.

Sadly, many vegan cheeses are still made with low quality and extremely processed ingredients and contain off-flavors and textures. As with all foods, the challenge is finding a high-quality product. The trick with vegan cheese is to find a brand that is made with few ingredients and with artisanal techniques, just as high-quality animal cheeses are. Brooklyn, NY, based Dr. Cow is one company that makes nut-based cultured cheeses that are aged using traditional techniques. Their vegan cheeses are clean-tasting, soft, and creamy, perfect for spreading on crackers. For a meltable cheese, Teese and Daiya are two brands worth seeking out.

However, to make rich white sauces, it’s not necessary to rely on purchased vegan cheeses. Below are my techniques for making several variations on white sauces, using nuts or tofu.

What most of us think of simply as “white sauce” is usually a version of the classic French béchamel sauce, which is traditionally made from a roux (equal parts fat and flour, whisked together over low heat) and milk. Endlessly versatile, this sauce forms the basis for countless classic dishes, including many lasagna recipes, classic macaroni and cheese, and moussaka.

 

Nouveau Cashew Béchamel Sauce

Along with spicy peanut sauce, this is my go-to weeknight sauce. You can make it in the time it takes to cook pasta. Though it doesn’t include a roux (not to mention that it doesn’t include cow milk) and therefore isn’t a “real” béchamel sauce, I call it béchamel because it has similar uses.

 

The ingredients below are guidelines, feel free to vary them to suit your tastes.

You can soak the cashews for this recipe (in a covered container, at room temperature) for a few hours or up to three days, changing the water three times a day. Soaking the nuts makes for a creamier sauce and also cultures them a little, thus making them more easily digested and flavorful.

You don’t need a high speed blender (like a Vita-Mix) for this recipe, but it does make a creamier sauce in less time.

This sauce seems very thin when freshly made, but when tossed with hot vegetables or pasta, it tightens up a lot, so it’s better to err on the side of a loose consistency.

Makes about one cup sauce.

1/3 cup cashews (use raw cashews if you plan to soak them. Cashew pieces are fine—and often much less expensive than whole cashews.)

1 tablespoon nutritional yeast

1 tablespoon white miso

1 1/2 teaspoons shoyu

½ teaspoon sea salt

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 1/2 teaspoons prepared mustard (Dijon is nice)

1 small clove (or ½ medium clove) garlic

2-4 tablespoons olive oil

freshly-ground black pepper to taste

 

  1. Blend all ingredients for 3-5 minutes, or until completely smooth.
  2. If serving with pasta, blend in about ½-¾ cup of the water used for cooking the pasta, otherwise use plain water.
  3. Taste and continue adjusting flavors until sauce is balanced and flavorful.
Uses for Nouveau Cashew Béchamel Sauce:
  • Mix with macaroni to taste for a perfectly creamy new macaroni and cheese. I like to eat this dish with plenty of cracked pepper on top and greens sautéed with garlic on the side.
  • Replace as the white sauce in any lasagna recipe.
  • Add pesto for a creamy pesto sauce.

Classic baked macaroni casserole: Sauté one diced onion in a few tablespoons of olive oil. When golden brown, add 5 tablespoons of flour and whisk for a few minutes until a thick, emulsified roux is created. Over low heat, continue whisking while slowly pouring in a double recipe of Cashew Béchamel Sauce. Bring sauce to a boil, whisking often, and turn off heat.

In an 8’x8’ ovensafe dish, mix sauce with 8 oz. cooked macaroni. If you have pesto on hand, mix in two or so tablespoons as well. Preheat oven to 375°F.

Use purchased high-quality breadcrumbs, or make them by rubbing two slices of artisan bread with a garlic clove, drizzling with olive oil, sprinkling with salt and toasting until crisp. Pulse in a food processor until fine. Set aside.

Moisten mixture with ¼-1/3c water, depending on how dry it looks, then sprinkle an even layer of breadcrumbs on top (all bread crumbs might not be needed). Garnish with a few sprinkles of paprika, then bake for 25-30 minutes, or until bubbling and browned. Serve hot.

Cashew béchamel sauce can also be easily turned into delicious homemade salad dressings.

A few ideas and guidelines:

 

  • Unless you want to make a large quantity of dressing, halve the recipe. If the dressing is being stored overnight, add a few tablespoons of water, as it thickens up overnight.
  • For a creamy, lemony dressing, whisk or blend in two tablespoons or more lemon juice.
  • Or, blend or whisk in two or three tablespoons vinegar—white wine and red wine are good choices.
  • If you like chunky dressings, do not purée the cashews until completely smooth.
  • Substituting almonds for the cashews makes a nice almond dressing, and adding apple cider vinegar reinforces the theme. Using skinned almonds is fine, but use blanched almonds if you prefer a lily-white sauce.
  • For a more ranch-like flavor, add 1-2 more cloves garlic and a tablespoon or so each of prepared horseradish, chopped red onion, and lemon. Add more black pepper and a few tablespoons white wine vinegar. Keep tasting and adjusting flavors until it tastes right to you.
  • For a Caesar dressing, omit the nutritional yeast, add another clove of garlic, another tablespoon lemon juice, 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, and ¼ cup olive oil. Blend and taste for mustard, shoyu, and vinegar. Dress torn romaine lettuce leaves with the dressing and garnish with homemade croutons, lots of cracked ground pepper, and crumbled nori seaweed.
  • Blend in ¼ of a ripe avocado and a good amount of lemon juice for a creamy avocado dressing.