Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Putting Chocolate in Perspective

By now you have become familiar with not only my coffee obsession, but my chocolate fixation as well. In order to put my sentiments for chocolate in perspective, I have decided to publish a letter I received from my friend Régine after our visit to The Chocolate Room. I think that you will find that, compared to her infatuation, my feelings for chocolate are quite mild, everything being relative of course.

Feeling, smelling, seeing, touching, looking…. All my senses are awake in order to celebrate you.

Trip to The Chocolate Room

The anticipation of going to this place excites me to a point I cannot control the ecstatic smile I have stuck on my face. The whole world becomes sunny side up and quite surreal. As soon as I pushed the door of the shop, uncontrollable internal laughter gets hold of me… The abundance of different vintages of chocolate makes me happy, the strong smell of chocolate makes me happy, not being able to decide what chocolate I want makes me happy… I am so happy when I am in this store! And even happier when finally I leave with my little Chocolate Room bag full of dark chocolate… Life cannot be better. I Love It!

Orgasmic addiction

Chocolate gives me an euphoric high. First I look with divine admiration at the square of fine dark chocolate delicately placed in a plate, I smell it, then I gently take it, bite a piece, let it melts on my tongue, sit down and close my eyes… The rush starts… I can feel a million fire works exploding from my head, through my nipples, to my vagina, then I get the most euphoric orgasm… Sex cannot make me in such a state… Without my daily dosage of dark chocolate, I feel down, deeply sad inside, useless, moody, under the weather… My life makes no sense… I am in love with chocolate…


Miss SLOW Shot studio

Sunday, February 25, 2007


Yesterday was a day that held great promise. It was a day for enterprising research, for heartening entertainment, and creative beginnings. It would be thought provoking, invigorating, and satiating. I had been looking forward to it all week long; yesterday I was going to make ice cream.

It was my first time and the plan was to start the day off with some Internet fieldwork looking through recipes for inspiration. I had so many questions, should I start my ice cream journey with something simple like vanilla bean, or something more adventurous like spicy apple cider, or ginger melon? Once I had decided on my flavor, I would go ice-skating in Prospect Park in hopes of burning off some of the calories I was destined to consume later on that night. After some brisk and hopefully graceful laps around the rink I would next embark on one of my favorite tasks, hunting for ingredients. Sahadi’s was on the agenda for bulk, and green market next door for fresh produce. With everything accounted for, the day was going run like clock work… or so I thought.

With all my extensive planning, there was one factor I had neglected to consider: I had yet to receive delivery of my brand new Cuisinart ice-cream maker. UPS had tried to deliver the package the previous day while I was at work and had left a notice saying that it would be delivered between 10-2pm. This would not tarnish my plans however; I would conduct research until delivery and then head out to the rink at 2pm. I was determined to fulfill my day’s plans.
  • By 12:30 I had completed my research and was nervously pacing in front of my window.
  • By 1pm I was dressed, packed, and had checked my e-mail, myspace, and the weather four or five times.
  • At 1:30pm I had decided to change my outfit and by a quarter to 2pm I had changed it once again.
  • 2pm found me sitting in the windowsill and with hopeful eyes watching every car that passed.
The hours rolled by with no sign of the delivery guy. At first I was unnerved. How could the deliveryman lie so blatantly? I checked the slip one more time. It was now 3pm. My anger gave way to anxiety when I considered that possibility that there had been an accident. “ I hope he is okay,” I said to myself, feeling ashamed about my unnecessary anger. By 5:30pm my hunger inched up a notch, and my vexation soon followed. I had only planned on being in the apartment until 2pm and had no real food in the house. As my appetite grew, I was overtaken by paranoid delusions. I began imagining the deliveryman at home, happily making ice cream with my machine, ‘That bastard!’ I thought to myself as I pursed my lips and checked the UPS web site one more time.

At 6pm I scrambled some eggs with the remainder of some very old and stale up Edam cheese (the only two ingredients in my refrigerator) and as I ate I tried to let go of my ill feelings. I was upset, hurt even. What could I say? The UPS guy had stood me up. I felt betrayed and humiliated.

At 7pm, just as I was putting aside my venomous feelings the buzzer rang. I jumped to attention, my hair wildly disheveled and my eyes complete with dark circles. I ran down the stairs and swung open the front door expecting to come face to face with the villainous delivery man. Would he apologize? Would he care? I wondered. I opened the door and found nobody. I looked down the block but neither he nor his truck were anywhere to be found. On my doorstep there lay a large brown box, with CUISINART clearly printed on one side. I don’t know why the UPS guy did not stick around to deliver my package in person. Perhaps he did not have the heart to face me after his hurtful lies, or much more likely this was his last delivery of the day and he wanted the get the hell out of there. Regardless, I had my ice cream maker and although it was seven hours late and it was now evening, I was finally free to begin my day.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Does My Blog Look Good in This?

This Month's Does My Blog Look Good in This? photo contest/event is being hosted by on of my favorite bloggers, Fancy Toast. Basically, it is a chance to peruse some of the wonderful food pics posted this month on food blogs across the world. In an attempt to represent Brooklyn, I have entered a photo that I posted on both my Gourmet Peasant blog and its sister site, Peasant Pics. There are 70 entries in all, and every one of them is torturously tantalizing, so if you check out the gallery, I suggest you have some goodies on hand.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

More Chocolate, More Challenges - Part II

If ever there were a picture that could tell a thousand words, this one would tell them all about my mother.
It is Easter 1952. My mother Vivian (middle), my Aunt Pat (right), their cousin Robert (middle), and their friend Ellen (left) sit gleefully displaying their holiday spoils. As Ellen tilts her head coyly at the camera, Pat holds a block of chocolate to her face completely oblivious to the camera. Robert, the youngest of them all, stairs distractedly into the distance as my mother, with a sweet-as-pumpkin-pie grin, squats prominently in front of her towering basket of goodies. She is an adorable creature to behold, with vibrant eyes, a darling hairdo, and an innocent smile. It is only once you glance down at her arm that you realize that, by this clever little culprit, you too have been deceived. Not only does Vivian have the largest Easter basket of all the children, containing the most chocolate, but as she poses sweetly for the family photo, she also happens to have her hand in innocent little Robert’s Easter basket. Not only was she greedy enough to steal from her baby cousin, she was also ballsy enough to do it in front of a camera. The thing that makes me smile, as well as shake my head with disapproval is that, most likely, she got away with it.

This picture appeared in my mind today as my now sixty-year-old mother tried to convince me to cheat Dave, her boyfriend, out of his portion of the Oliver Kita’s chocolates. “Come on,” she said, her eyes sparkling with glee as she spoke, “he’ll never notice.” “That’s not very nice,” I replied disapprovingly. “ I’m telling you the truth,” she protested “if we don’t say anything, he’ll never remember!” She was twirling her braid mischievously like a fox and trying hard to keep a straight face. I suppose some things just don’t change, and I guess no amount of chocolate, not even a fully stocked chocolate pantry (which my mother has at all times) will never be enough.

We had bought the chocolates the day before after she picked me up from the station. The snow had stopped by then, and the sun had done a good job of melting most of the ice, but there were reminders of the storm, large snowdrifts lined the roads, fallen tree branches were strewn about, and every so often we passed an abandoned car stuck in a ditch. As we made our way to the chocolate shop, my mother explained what had happened to her to make her so emotional. The car had been giving her problems on her drive and, as it turned out, the cause was a nest in the center of her engine complete with the now roasted mouse. Tears welled up in her eyes as she told the story. “ Well maybe some chocolate will calm you down,” I suggested ignorantly as we pulled into the parking lot.

As we walked through the front door of Oliver Kita’s chocolate shop, the earthy sweet aroma of chocolate pleasurably engulfed us. The intensity of the scent was like no other; it was dense and vibrant, a rich confectionery smog that filled every corner of the room. As we penetrated the chocolaty mist, it encircled us filling out mouths, noses, and caressing us from head to toe. As I acclimated to the riotous bouquet, the heavey smell of savory soil mellowed and mingled playfully with the sturdy and still lingering honeyed savor. It was a blissful rhapsody of the senses that left my mother and I lightheaded. We looked around the shop, classically decorated with pinkish orange walls and dark brown trim. The windows at the back of the shop looked out on the now icy exterior; its chilly tones of white and gray contrasted the warm and embracing interior and made us thankful to be inside. The colorfully painted chocolates were arranged neatly inside two brightly lit display cabinets, behind which Oliver’s chocolate studio was visible.

Oliver greeted us both warmly, vaguely remembering my mother from years past, and we began to chat. At this point my mother’s intoxication at the hands of this otherworldly perfume became evident. Every thought that entered her mind she immediately expelled in the form of jumbled up sentences. She was talking about chocolates, my chocolates, the fact that she likes chocolate, my food blog, and the fact that I was toying with the idea of starting an ice cream company with odd flavors. Having plummeted into a pool of bittersweet mania - she was now stuttering - I was worried that she might hyperventilate. ‘Just take a deep breath’ I though silently, hoping she would telepathically pick up the signal. I put my hand on her shoulder in an anchoring attempt, and we finally got to the job at hand, picking out chocolates.

Here is what we choose:
Mint &Lemon Balm
Shiki Matcha Crunch
Cherry Ancho
Caramel du Del
Palet d’Olivier
Palet d’Opium
Fig and Pistachio
Lavender Citronade

What is it about the aroma of chocolate that takes such strong hold, causing in us a state of bumbling dementia? Perhaps it is the intoxicating scent that drove my mother to steal chocolate from her young cousin, or to attempt to swindle her boyfriend out of his share of the goods. One thing is certain; if chocolate is a useful remedy for a great number of maladies, intoxication, giddiness, and an overwhelming need for more chocolate is not among them.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

More Chocolate, More Challenges - Part I

There were many obstacles, challenges, and so much uncertainty, but in the end I made it. I had planned to visit my mother for a few days, but the snowy ice storm that had consumed the region was making my safe passage questionable. As I have mentioned before, leaving the glass prism of the city is not always as easy as it should be, but this time my mother and I had one sparkling incentive, chocolate. I was bringing her a sampling of my new and improved Regine truffle along with two new experimental flavors, and she was planning on whisking me up in her Jeep and heading straight for Oliver Kita's chocolate shop in Rhinebeck. There was only one problem,“ Well the schools are closed, which is not a good sign…” she told me with concern in her voice. I looked out my window and imagined what I would do with my three days off here in Brooklyn, same old thing as I always do I suppose. “ Maybe if we wait until noon, the ice will be melted and the wind will settle down,” she said, having sensed the disappointment hidden beneath my silence. “I’ll start packing!” I yelped as I jumped out of bed to brew my morning coffee.
Two hours later I was watching mountains roll past my Metro North window. They were like old ancient ancestors, I thought to myself, with thinning trees peeking out through their snow-blanketed scalps. The banks of the river were congested with large slabs of ice that crackled and split under the weight of the current and the beaming sunlight. As the train pulled into the station I could sense a change had taken place. Somewhere along the journey, within the insulated capsule of the train, I had unloaded a large portion of my mundane worries, checking them for future retrieval amongst the gray, and unfortunately inhabited, margin that segregate cityscape from rural terrain. I walked up to my mother’s Jeep, truffles in hand, and opened the door; “Now I don’t want to freak you out,” she said trying to sustain a façade of calm to shield her manicness. “Everything is fine, I’m okay, thank the gods,” she said taking a deep breathe and looking up at the heavens as if to give them (the gods) an appreciative nod. “ What happened?” I asked, having flashbacks to our past deer incident…

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Sugar High Friday #28 - Chocolate Seduction

“Pomegranate and Basil!!!” Guy advanced toward me, his face marked with the grammar of disbelief. “How did you come up with that_ _ _” I wasn’t sure if his statement warranted a diligent trio of question marks or one menacing exclamation. “Where did you get an idea like that?” - the quizzical glisten in his eyes said, question mark - “ Well… um… I …” I might have known how to answer if I were sure whether his spirited response was one of pleasure or of disgust. “I don’t know how to feel about it,” Caitlin chimed in as she folded napkins, “ I was only able to have one bite, and that just wasn’t enough to form an opinion.” Every one responded differently. Many smiled as they chewed. Was this a sign that they liked them? It was hard to tell. Some kept a straight face trying hard to guard their first impressions, while other just spit them out. “Basil! Oh yuck! Spit! Ah, sorry hon, I just can’t do chocolate and Basil” Prudence said matter-of-factly as she wiped her mouth with a napkin.

As my co-workers curiously tested my chocolates, I thought about Guy’s question. Where did I come up with an idea to make a Chocolate, Pomegranate, and Basil Truffle? I can assure you, I meant no harm. Valentine’s Day was approaching and I was merely trying to seduce my friends, family, and co-workers with the tender and unfailing comforts of chocolate. Boyfriends may come and go, but chocolate has always been by my side. It is dependable, romantic, and sultry. It’s sweet and sometimes savory. It can be whatever you want it to be, and this is what makes it, in my opinion, the most delightful pleasure to be seduced by.

Not everyone fell for my wacky truffles, but the ones who did, fell hard, myself included. Days later I found myself thinking about them, and I couldn’t help but compare all other chocolates to my burstingly fragrant cocoa creation. My cravings have been so fierce that, where else did I find myself late Tuesday night, but melting chocolate with the feverishness of an addict. Once I had replicated the pomegranate truffle (a bit less basil this time, sorry Pru), I experimented with two new flavors, Gram Marsala and orange zest, and Mint and Tarragon with Port bathed Cherries. Forget about a Valentine, the only thing I want to be seduced by this Valentine's day is chocolate, and by the looks of my refrigerator right now, that's not going to be a problem.

chocolat75-72dpi- 8
Sugar High Friday #28 is being hosted this month by Cardomom Addict. Her very Valentine's Day Theme is Sweet Seduction, the idea being that you post a recipe that you will or would seduce someone with, or one that you would want someone to seduce you with. Bellow is my entry: The Regine Truffle, named after my friend who's devotion to chocolate is inspirational. With this truffle I plan not to seduce anyone. In fact as far as I'm concerned there is no third Party, just me and Regine. She is the only one I hope to be seduced by this Valentine's day and if you follow these instructions, you can be seduced by her as well.
(I'm talking about Regine the Truffle silly, not the girl!)

The Regine Truffle

8oz. of dark chocolate 70% -85% ( I used Vintage Plantations 75%)
3/4 cup – Heavy Cream
7 -9 - Basil leaves, cleaned and dried
2 - Tbsp – butter
2 - Tbsp - Pomegranate Molasses (I got mine at Sahadi's)

1.) Chop up the chocolate very, very, very fine (if it is to thick, it will not melt all the way.)

2.) Heat cream over med heat and when it is about to boil, add the Basil leaves and remove from heat. Let steep 10 min.

3.) Remove leaves and place them in a tiny sieve and squeeze out the remainder of cream.

4.) Return to medium heat and add butter. When it is almost boiling pour the cream over the chopped chocolate and let stand 30 second. Stir a little and wait, stir then wait etc. Continue until chocolate is melted.

5.) Add pomegranate molasses and stir in.

6.) Chill for at least two hours.

7.) Once the chocolate mixture is cooled scoop out chocolate with tiny spoon and roll in your hands to create a ball.

8.) You can cover these with what ever you like. I use cocoa or chopped pistachio.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Cooking, Sex Scenes, and Unearthly Places

I had decided to take a break from cooking and from blogging. As of late, the two have grown into a slight addiction and I figured that I stood to benefit from a night away from my beloved kitchen. Instead of food, my night would be about sex. Yes, you heard me, SEX. I planned on going to see a reading of Sex Scenes by Polly Frost. Sex Scenes is sort of a comic and erotic ‘soap opera’ read by actors to a virtually over flowing and eclectic crowd. I remember the first time I was ‘turned on’ to Sex Scenes. I had been working where Polly held her readings, and as she greeted her actors and guests I couldn't shake the feeling that, somehow, I already knew her. As it turns out, Polly had been a customer at the Cedar Tavern and had actually done much of her writing there.

As I spoke with her about the tragedy of Cedar’s closing she told me a little bit about her work, “I just think all couples should write erotica together…” she told me with a firm yet breathless energy that was impossible to define. Here was this woman who writes ‘erotica’ (whatever that means) standing before me speaking to me with Zen-like assurance . Her voice was gentle yet assertive, positive, and almost bubbly. She invited me to stay for the reading and I accepted gratefully. I had no idea what to expect. Just how graphic would it be, erotic, hardcore, soft core, racy? I had no idea.

As lights dimmed, the audience chatter simmered down and they sat quietly at attention. Halfway through the first scene, there was no denying it, her work was hot! So much so - I had goose bumps - that it might have been embarrassing if it had not also been funny, heart warming, and true to life. This writing was not merely about sex; it was about life and all its conflicts, choices, and rewards. And, without a doubt, it was about sex. As I listened, it struck me: Sex Scenes was as much about sex, as my blog was about food. Gourmet Peasant is based around food, yet food is simply the palpable thread that stitches together and enhances the less tangible elements of my life. Food and sex are rudimentary elements, and at the same time they are so much more than that; they are the foundations of a majority of our experiences, and are a means of our expression and fellowship. I could go on and on, but I will spare you. What I am trying to say is that I can take a break from my kitchen, and I can take a break from my blog, but I can never escape the roots of experience - nor would I want to. My second Polly Frost reading was as interesting and moving as the first. In taking a night off from cooking, I had found my way back to the same unearthly place to which food can transport me, only this time, food was not the vehicle, sex was.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

I Love You Coffee Robot

Those of you who are familiar with my The Fefe Monster and The Coffee Fanatic post already know that my love of coffee is so great that “I dream of the day they invent a ‘coffee Robot’ that will brew coffee to my liking and wheel it in to me first thing in the morning saying, with electronic intonation, ‘Here is your coffee…Madeline.’” For those of you who have not yet read the entry, now you know, I long for a robotic coffee slave.
You may laugh, thinking that I am merely joking, but let me assure you, I am rather serious. I have spent many a lazy mornings in bed dreaming of my Coffee Robot, her tin can legs, her flashing R2-D2 lights, and her electronic purr. On indecently early alarm-clock-mornings I experience the excruciating anguish of her truancy and as I pull my weary bones from the warm and feathery comforts of my bed, I am welcomed by the unsavory bite of cold and the shameful sting of reality: I am the coffee robot.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

The Lucky Roommate, or The Paranormal Roommate?

My roommate has either astonishing luck, or an almost supernatural intuition for she seems always to be bursting through the front door just as I am plating an extravagant dinner, removing a pie from the oven, or better yet, just adding the finishing touches to the cream filled cup cakes. "It sure smells good in here!" she says beaming as she leans gingerly into the kitchen with the curiosity of a cat. Of course there is always enough stew for a second helping, a mixing bowl ready to be licked clean of batter, or extra plate of sweet and savory salad. Why just this week, as I was removing these scallops from a scolding pan, in walks my roommate, cheeks rosy from the howling wind outside. "Are you hungry?" I asked. " Are you kidding me?" she answered.
Here is what was served:

Salty and Sweet Pan Seared Scallops with and Arugula, Fennel, and basil salad in a Pomegranate Dressing garnished with Squash Seeds, Leeks, and Kiwi...

Sweet Potato and Acorn Squash Soup, with Cardamom, Leeks, and Toasted Squash Seeds...

and for dessert, Black Pepper Cookies with Pine Nuts.

A Brief Meditation on Chocolate

I can’t say that I remember my first time. I was exposed at an inappropriately early age, and have never fully recovered. It is as though that first fateful experience is caged deep within the musky caverns of my subconscious and with each new encounter is released, for but a moment, to thrust upon my senses the recollections of that all-enveloping rapture. The sensation is that of a sharp intimate blade cutting right through the center of the palette, leaving on one side a dry and tannic piquancy and on the other, a warm, sweet, and voluptuous earthiness. With each inhalation, the threading aroma blossoms sending out bouquets of nostalgic harmonies that erupt in the fingers and toes. It is then that it strikes, the final and singular thunderous clap of gratification. I open my eyes and it is a new day, my senses are clear, my mind is keen, and I am ready for another bite.