Archives for category: Coco


Like most New Yorkers (heck, New Englanders, East Coasters, Mid-Atlanticers) I feel that spring can not get here fast enough. I want to start making and blogging about produce-based dishes with exotic ingredients like asparagus, ramps, and spring lettuces. I fear I may be in a dessert–breads–grains rut for lack of seasonal inspiration. Alas, this yummy gooey breakfast-or-is-it-dessert (does it matter?) banana bread.

I’m not want one to roll my eyes at excessive chocolate. In fact, I open them wide and grin a wide grin. My friend @superdaniela tipped me off to this double chocolate banana bread over at smitten kitchen and I decided to give it a whirl, substituting and creating variations on a theme as I so often do. (Maple syrup instead of sugar, for instance.)

Last year at this time I was blogging about spicy carrots and the year before a chickpea sauté with pickled shallots and there are actual photos in that post with blossoming trees! One day, I’m told, spring will come again.


Chocolate Banana Bread
adapted from Smitten Kitchen

3 medium-to-large very ripe bananas
1/2 c Earth Balance or coconut oil, melted
1/2 c maple syrup
1 large egg
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 c whole wheat flour
1/2 c all-purpose flour
1/2 c cocoa powder
1/2 c semisweet or dark chocolate chips or pieces
1/2 c chopped walnuts

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Grease a loaf pan (8 x 4 or 9 x 5 in.) and set aside.

Mash the bananas in the bottom of a large bowl. Add the melted butter, maple syrup, egg, and vanilla. Combine. In a separate medium bowl, sift the baking soda, salt, cinnamon, flours, and cocoa powder. Add to the banana mixture, stirring just until combined. Then stir in the chocolate chips and walnuts.

Pour into the prepared loaf pan and bake for approx. 55 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean (save for some melted chocolate chips!). Cool in the pan for 10 to 15 minutes then run a butter knife enough along the edges and flip upside down onto a cooling rack.

Store at room temperature wrapped in foil or wax paper.


As the occasion called for, this Thanksgiving was one indulgence after another. Gumbo, dark chocolate devil’s food cake, pecan tart, cornbread stuffing, Misty Knoll turkey, pear-pistacchio pie, mince pie, curry butternut squash soup. See what I mean?

When we arrived in Vermont on Thursday more than a dusting of snow remained. The photo above is a view from my dad and Bonnie’s back porch out toward the pond.

Each year there is mild debate about which stuffing we will make: my dad’s thymey-sagey breadcrumb with apple and sausage stuffing or my stepmom’s cornbread with cranberry stuffing. I like both but suppose I have a slight preference for the latter since I adore cornbread, and this year that is in fact what we had.

A twenty-one-pound bird from Misty Knoll Farms in Vermont managed to feed the twenty guests we had over for our Thanksgiving dinner, held on Saturday and not Thursday. (Thursday is for traveling and gumbo!)

Bonnie’s sister-in-law is known for her pies and this year she outdid herself by making four: an apple, pumpkin, pear-pistachio, and mince, my grandmother’s favorite.

My sister Hope’s birthday falls on the 28th of November (like John Stewart’s) and so each year we celebrate around Thanksgiving and I usually make a birthday cake. Since chocolate is kind of her thing and dairy is not so much her thing, it usually ends up being some chocolatey dairy-free concoction. This year I was interested in trying David Lebovitz‘s Devil’s Food Cake; while not dairy-free per se, it seemed easy enough to substitute Earth Balance for the butter and soy milk or Lactaid for the milk.

In the end the cake was a hit but I encountered a few stumbling blocks along the way. For instance, the recipe called for lining the bottoms of the cake pans with parchment paper, but I had none. So I greased and floured them well instead. But when it came time to wiggle the baked cakes out of the pans to cool they put up a good fight and the cakes started to come apart. In general I found the cake to be crumbly and wondered if this was just the lack of parchment or the Earth Balance perhaps? And finally, while I love dark chocolate, I found the overall cake and ganache frosting too be a little too dark, a result of using only 70% bittersweet cocoa bars. The cake’s darkness was fine, but next time, I’d mix the bittersweet with some lighter semi-sweet chocolate bars for the ganache frosting. Not that I heard any complaints from the birthday girl.

Devil’s Food Cake
Adapted from David Lebovitz

For the cake:
9 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 c cake flour (not self-rising)
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
4 oz (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temp
1 1/2 c granulated sugar
2 large eggs, at room temp
1/2 c strong coffee (or water)
1/2 c whole or low-fat milk (soy also works)

For the ganache frosting:
5 oz bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
5 oz semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1/2 c water (or cream)
3/4 c (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter

1. Adjust the oven rack to the center of the oven and preheat to 350 F.

2. Butter two 9″ x 2″ cake pans and line the bottoms with parchment paper.

3. Sift together the cocoa powder, cake flour, salt, baking soda, and baking powder in a bowl.

4. In a separate bowl, beat together the butter and sugar about 5 minutes until smooth and creamy. Add the eggs one at a time and incorporate.

5. Mix together the coffee and milk. Fold half of the dry ingredients into the butter mixture, then add the coffee and milk. Fold in the other half of the dry ingredients to combine, but do not over mix.

6. Divide the batter into the two prepared cake pans and bake for 25 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool completely before frosting.

7. To make the frosting, melt the chopped chocolate with the water (or cream) in a double boiler. Remove the bowl from the pot of water.

8. Cut the butter into small pieces and whisk them into the chocolate until completely melted and the ganache is smooth. Cool until spreadable, which may take up to an hour at room temp or a quick cooling (5-10 mins) in the fridge.

Frost the top of one layer of the cake and then place the other cake on top. Frost the tops and sides of the cake and serve the same day.

That is the title of a Sunday New York Times Magazine piece by Frank Bruni on the wizards behind Torrisi Italian Specialities, a small but game-changing restaurant on Mulberry Street in Manhattan.

On Saturday I was just singing the praises of this small Italian bistro to a friend visiting from out of town. “You. Must. Eat. There.” I chanted.

Back in 2009 I was editing a book for Phaidon called Coco: 10 World-Leading Masters Choose 100 Contemporary Chefs. Mario Batali, one of the book’s curators, selected the young Mario Carbone as one of his top-ten emerging chefs. Carbone, a Queens boy, had worked for Batali at Babbo and Del Posto, but in Coco we were discussing his then-new restaurant Aeronuova at the Jet Blue Terminal at JFK airport. I don’t think that gig lasted very long.

In the summer of 2009 Carbone opened this tiny storefront with his partner Rich Torrisi and it soon went from a splash to explosion onto the New York restaurant scene.

Bruni comments that the two of them don’t even have a publicist; but the restaurant, like the food, seems to speak for itself. I look forward to trying the Italian-wedding-soup dumpling. You. Must. Eat. There. Or don’t! Better chance that I’ll get a table.

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