Friday, August 24, 2012

What’s cooking? Raspberry Chocolate Almond Spread

I really think I must have been possessed at the farmers’ market this week. The weather had cooled off – the morning temperature was about 66 degrees when I got out of my car at 8:00 a.m. I was maybe the first person at the market when it opened.

I’m not normally an early morning person. Late night is when I shine. But here in New Jersey, my husband and I are dealing with the one-car phenomenon, because parking in Jersey City is completely ridiculous. The main streets in our neighborhood have parking only on one side of the street, and then only if you have a “Zone 1” permit. (We do not.) You can park in front of our building, but the number of spaces available is very small versus the number of folks living in the building, and the fight for those spaces isn’t pretty. So when we bought the apartment, we made sure to get a place that came with a slot in the garage. But that’s only one.

Which leads me to why I’m able to be at the farmers’ market at what for me is the crack of dawn. If I want to show up at all, I have to get up at 6:45 (!) to drive my husband to the golf course, so he can be there in time to tee off at 8:00. (And I have no idea why that’s such a special time, so don’t ask.)

Something about all those fresh foods and me being one of the few people in the market at that hour sent me into a buying frenzy. So much so that once I got home with my bounty, I had to make a list of what I had in order to remind me to do something with it. For many of the items, I had – and still have – no plan. For the raspberries, however, I wanted to try a jam-like spread from a recipe I saw in the NY Times this week. It’s made with chocolate and almonds and the berries, and I confess to a complete lack of control when it comes to chocolate and raspberries.

It took me way longer than I had planned, because I didn’t read the recipe carefully and forgot to chop the almonds until after they had gone into the chocolate-raspberry mix, so I spent a good half hour spreading small batches of the hot, goopy concoction out on a cutting board and chopping the almonds in the midst of it. What a mess. But it did mean I got to sneak some tastes of this heavenly stuff. Just read all the directions first, okay?

And if you want to know what to do with the spread, here are some options:

1. Spread it on a croissant or a brioche for breakfast.
2. Heat it and spoon it over good vanilla ice cream.
3. Do as my husband and I are so far doing, by sticking a knife or spoon into the jar and eating it straight.

Kitchen Goddess note #1: According to Ms. Barrow, “Raspberries are best when used without rinsing.” And apparently, Ina Garten concurs. I didn’t really care, as I got mine from an organic stand and they get boiled plenty in the recipe. You do want to make sure you toss any that have white mold on them.

Kitchen Goddess note #2, ABOUT PRESERVING: This recipe makes 4 cups of spread. You may want to use some of it immediately, but trust me that you will want to preserve some of it for later. I’m actually planning to give ½-cup jars of it to friends for Christmas. If you like that idea, you’ll need a box of Ball’s Jelly Jars. As preparation, before you start cooking the spread, remove the rings and lids and run the jars through the dishwasher; leave them in the machine until you’re ready to fill them. Stick the canning rings into a small saucepan with water to cover, and bring it to a boil. Turn off the heat and add the lids to the water. Cover the pan until you’re ready to fill the jars.

Raspberry Chocolate Almond Spread
Adapted from Cathy Barrow in The New York Times

1 cup slivered almonds
36 oz raspberries, picked over and not rinsed
3 cups sugar
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
8 ounces high quality bittersweet chocolate (at least 50% cocoa solids) [The Kitchen Goddess used Ghirardelli.]
⅛ teaspoon almond extract (get the pure stuff, not the imitation)

1. Toast the almonds using one of the following methods: (1) Put almonds in an ungreased skillet over medium heat and stir until they turn golden brown; (2) Spread almonds in a single layer in a shallow baking pan, and roast 10-15 minutes at 350º. Let the almonds cool and chop them to a fine consistency.

2. Bring the raspberries and sugar to a simmer in a large, heavy saucepan. Stir until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and run the mixture through a fine sieve, scraping and pressing to get all the juice, or use a food mill (much easier!) to remove the raspberry seeds. Or leave the seeds in if you prefer, but the consistency is much better without the seeds.

3. Pour the raspberry-sugar mixture back into the saucepan, add the lemon juice, and boil it for 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the chocolate and boil for another 5 minutes, still stirring constantly. Turn off the heat and let the mixture rest for 2 minutes. If the surface “wrinkles” when you press it gently with a spoon, it’s cooked enough. If it doesn’t wrinkle, boil the mixture another 2 minutes and test again. You shouldn’t have to boil it more than the extra 2 minutes.

4. Stir in the almond extract and the chopped almonds. You can keep the spread in jars – unprocessed – in the refrigerator for about a month. To keep them longer, go to step 5.

5. Spoon the spread into the preserving jars, to a level about ½ inch from the top, wiping the tops and sides of the jars clean with a damp paper towel. Place the lids on and screw on the rims. Put the closed jars into a large pot of water to cover, and boil them 10 minutes. Using tongs, transfer the jars to a work surface and leave them overnight or until cool. You’ll hear a ping as each ring seals. I count the pings to make sure all the jars seal. If one doesn’t, stick it in the fridge or sterilize a new lid and ring and run the jar back through the boiling process. If a jar has properly sealed, you’ll be able to remove the ring and lift the jar by the lid.

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