Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Homemade Chocolate Mini Eggs in a Chocolate Nest

I've always liked easter, and have many fond childhood memories of the holiday.  Now that I have two little girls, I'm hoping to provide the same for them.
Amongst the regular easter activities, this year I decided to make an edible nest and chocolate eggs.  After combing the web for recipes, I founded upon a recipe for shredded wheat nests, on the blog of a mom and food writer, Amanda Grant.  I was looking for realism and good ingredients and this one seemed to fit the bill.
As for the eggs, they were my own invention with the help of two sized of chocolate candy egg molds, a cheese grater, paint brushes, the microwave and freezer.  With a bit of experimentation, I ended up creating three different colors/flavors:

  • Coconut    Blue tinted white chocolate with dark chocolate speckles.  Dark chocolate and toasted coconut center.
  • Cherry almond    Pink tinted white chocolate with dark chocolate and ground almond speckles.  Milk chocolate covered dried tart cherry center.
  • Chocolate Orange    White/dark chocolate with candied orange peel center.

I assembled these by first making the centers with the smaller egg molds.  Then, using a sort of "reverse painting" method, I applied melted white chocolate with a brush to the larger sized molds.  Grated dark chocolate was sprinkled on top of the white chocolate to create "speckles".  Then, the rest of the mold was filled 3/4 of the way with tinted white chocolate (in the case of the coconut and cherry ones, that is) and the previously made, smaller centers were pressed into the molds before they solidified.  Since the egg molds only made "half an egg", I then took two halves and fused them together with more matching melted chocolate.......whew!  Actually easier to do than explain!
Anyway, they were a hit, not only with my four-year-old but also the adult relatives.  These were fun to make.  They actually did take a fair amount of time, but the great thing about chocolate is that you can do a little at a time (which I did), way in advance (which I also did) and they will keep in the fridge.

Served up after easter dinner on top of little goblets with Bishop's weed garnish.

Shredded wheat being arranged inside a cupcake paper placed in a shallow dish.

Making the chocolate orange eggs.  This was a great use of the candied orange peel I've had on hand in the freezer since Christmas.

Last one....and now gone.  Consumed by Bea and I today after I photographed it.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Meddling with the Nettles

Stinging Nettles.  Urtica Dioica.  Bane of my childhood forays into the woods and in later years, during my "Native American" phase, a source of fiber used to make an incredibly strong bow string.  This week was my first experience harvesting, cooking and eating them.  They were delicious.

The harvest site:  
A large colony of young nettles on the south side of the family barn in Kelso, Wa.

I was inspired to eat nettles by a recent dinner at DOC, where Damon and I enjoyed a course of petrale sole, corona beans and nettles in browned butter.  Though I searched and didn't really find much in the way of recipes that resembled the above, I did find quite a bit of info on how to gather, process and cook nettles.  I knew in advance that they are best harvested young, which they still are here in late March.  I did not know, however, that even these lush young shoots carry as much sting as the full grown version. You must wear gloves--and thick ones!  Surgical gloves are not enough.
The top three or four inches of the nettle shoot is the only part you harvest.  The older the plant and the further down the stem, the more fibrous they are (there is a reason why nettles have been used for centuries for rope and cloth).
Once gathered, it's to the kitchen for blanching time......

Gloves are still necessary until the nettles are tossed into a pot of boiling water and blanched for 2-3 minutes.  This process renders them stingless.

Plunged into cold water to stop the cooking.......

Then drained and squeezed dry in a towel and chopped fine.  This is actually where the recipe I chose begins, for a Goat Cheese and Nettle Tart,  courtesy of the blog called "Clogs" of a chef in Seattle.

Chopped nettles are tossed with shallot sauteed in butter and placed in a tart crust.  Then poured over with two eggs beaten with heavy cream and curds of goat cheese.  Into the oven it goes.

Nettles are very nutritious.  Loaded with vitamins, they are regarded similar to dandelion greens and such as a "spring tonic".  I'm not so sure how cleansing they are after being loaded with cream and goat cheese!....but hopefully the benefits were still there.  Damon described their flavor quite accurately as a "cross of spinach, mint and parsely".  It was enjoyed (and gone) by all (except Beatrice) with a dinner of roast chicken and asparagus.