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Valentine’s, shmalentines. If he loves you, you better not let him get away with a lousy bouquet of flowers or a box of chocolates once a year. I’m saying “HE” as I have a “HE”. Your SHE is to express her love for you just as spontaneously and uncontrollably as my HE. And he does. Jason doesn’t buy me flowers for any specific occasions. He shows up at the threshold of our home with a fragrant bomb of fresh flowers whenever I reach the darkest depth of despair. (In other words, I’m feeling low.)
We also have established a versatile set of I-love-yous: for Good Morning and Good Bye; Thank you, Baby, I-love-you; on the phone: I’ll talk to you later, I-love-you; when experiencing sudden ebb of chest-expanding feelings unrelated to moon phases: I LOVE YOU! And last but not least, at night, after wishing each other sweet dreams back and forth three times and in 2 languages, he whispers into my ear with a perfect Polish accent: KOCHAM CIE [pronounced: koh-hahm tchyeh, more or less].
Love has settled like dust in every corner of our house. It oozes out of every steaming pot of food I make, it comforts our bare feet as we walk on our vacuumed carpets, it forgives the dances in the nude, it folds loads of laundry, and it tries really hard to ignore the soundtrack of cheerful and very confident farts in the background after one of those healthy meals. Love is always in the AIR. How timely for Sade to release a brand new album after close to a decade!
See, we don’t really feel the need to exchange Valentine’s cards. We both feel loved twentyfourseven on any given calendar day. It just so happened that we spent the Valentine’s Day this year in one of the most romantic destinations in the US – Napa Valley.
Jason was summoned to San Francisco for work this past weekend, and I simply tagged along. There was no Valentine’s Day plotting involved, no romance a’la carte.
As he was done with his duties on Sunday, we rented a car and crossed the Golden Gate Bridge heading north to visit both Sonoma and Napa Valleys.
It seems as the time stops up north. The Sun and Earth are still happily married and continue to bear their offspring across the golden fields and rolling hills. We stood on the side of a road and witnessed their bond, inhaled the love heavily sprayed in the air by ubiquitous blooming flowers, heard the birds exchange their KOCHAM CIE’s in their own tongue, and we were silent.
Now, do you still need a Valentine’s card? Or maybe that’s just us. I did, however, make a FLOURLESS CHOCOLATE CAKE for my coworkers, with a drizzle of RASPBERRY SAUCE. Oh, heavens! Chocolate and fresh raspberries together truly is a marriage made in heaven, or in the garden if you must. The sweet but tart flavor of the sauce strikes against the depth of the chocolate comfort, thus sending a ticklish shiver down one’s spine. If there is food with orgasmic qualities, this dessert certainly represents that group honorably.
Let me walk you through the few steps the cake requires. If you are organized, you will have made the cake and cleaned up the kitchen within one short hour. I use only organic ingredients. If they are not easily available in your area, at least choose the best quality items. It is worth it.
- 5 egg yolks
- 5 egg whites
- 1 stick of butter
- 5 oz semi-sweet chocolate
- 1/2 cup raw cane sugar
- 1/2 tsp instant coffee
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 1/2 tsp cardamom
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
Draw a 9” circle on a sheet of parchment paper and cut it out. Spray the bottom of a 9” round baking sheet with a non-stick spray, place the parchment paper in, and spray once again on its surface. Put aside. Preheat your oven to 325°.
In a double boiler melt together chocolate and butter; then add coffee, cardamom, and vanilla, mix well and don’t let it boil. As soon as the mixture is liquid and coherent, take it off the heat and let it cool until the rest of your cake components are ready.
In a large bowl beat together egg whites, using a hand-held mixer, and slowly add half of your sugar and salt. When the egg whites create soft peaks, they’re done. In a separate, smaller bowl beat the egg yolks together with the remaining sugar until they form a creamy and tick cream, and sugar is mostly dissolved.
Gently combine the egg yolks and the egg whites together, and slowly start adding your melted chocolate mixture in the eggs. Using a spatula gently fold everything together until it is a coherent chocolaty mass. Do not stir. Do not violently mix it. Simply fold all the elements together, patiently, with love, in one direction. It may take you about 5 minutes.
When the mixture is ready, pour it into the prepared baking pan and put in the oven. Bake for 30-40 minutes and then remove from the oven and let cool on a wire rack.
It’s best when chilled overnight in a refrigerator and served either with fresh strawberries or my RASPBERRY SAUCE:
Thaw out a bag of frozen raspberries, place them in a small saucepan and add 3-4 tbsp of raw cane sugar (depending on the size of the package). Mix with a wooden spoon, throw in a few springs of fresh mint and let it simmer together for 10-15 minutes. About 5 minutes before it’s finished ad a few drizzles of good balsamic vinegar (1-1.5 tbsp) and mix again. When done, pour the raspberries with all the juices through a sieve to remove all seeds and obtain a perfectly smooth and silky RASPBERRY SAUCE.
February has come unnoticed, and perched quietly on a tree branch outside our bedroom. It’s the Month of Lovers, Juliets and Romeos, Juliets and Julies, Romeos and Ramons, Suitors and Darlings, Cavaliers and Sweethearts. What about FOOD LOVERS? When do we get chocolate hearts with booze filling and free tickets to WICKED? If there is a FOOD LOVERS’ DAY, can someone please pass on the memo?? Because I didn’t get it.
One month ago today we were sitting in a car with Jason moving steadily along I-10 heading west. We were driving back from Texas after the holiday break and Cosmo was still wearing his Santa costume. The drive, as I’ve mentioned before, takes two full days (in other words 24 hours plus a one night stand in a roadside motel), hence we stacked the car with books, magazines and monkey tricks to keep each other entertained.
One of the magazines was Rolling Stone; at the end of the trip the most ragged one, as Jason is fiercely passionate about music. His bond with music is legendary and of such magnitude I have all the reasons to be jealous. Let’s put it this way: if our house was on fire (knock-knock), and Jason had to choose between pulling my naked body from underneath the satin sheets we don’t have (but could have, as it’s a hypothetical scenario) and packing up his collection of vinyls, turn tables, and his iTunes library, I’m afraid he’d have gone for the latter.
Jason is a walking music encyclopedia. He knows not only the names of all albums of his favorite bands (and those go by the dozen), songs on those albums, all band members’ names along with their shoe sizes and childbirth marks on their asses. I know I tend to exaggerate occasionally, just a little tiny bit. Trust me, it’s not the case today. He loves to dig through the Internet for hours (when that luxury is available) sniffing out facts, news, interviews, music videos, logs of the creative process and predictions.
When he read Rolling Stone’s summary of the past decade in music epithets started floating inside the chamber of our car. Pepe we named it. The car, I mean. Jason disagreed with most of the magazine’s choices for their Top Ten Albums of the Decade.
Why don’t you make your own list?
I challenged him.
Why I will then.
He responded and took the nearest exit off the road in El Paso, where we stopped to feed the horses. At a Mexican restaurant I chased after a waiter and with my broken Spanish I asked for a napkin and a pen so Jason could vent his frustration with the magazine and lay it all out on the paper.
Pardon, me homie, el papel por favor.
The man with a thick mustache and a sombrero nodded with a smirk, which did not escape my attention, and started heading back to the kitchen. As the gap between us grew, I realized I forgot to ask about the pencil, and so I yelled at the top of my lungs:
Y uno mass, corazon – el lapiz un poquito por favor. Gracias, me hombre guapo.
The waiter froze, turned around on a ball of his foot and looked me deep in the eyes from across the room. He took a breath and threw back at me with the sweetest smile:
Si senora loca.
I loved that man.
Jason didn’t waste time and quickly scribbled his first choices. However, it took another month for him to have a moment to finish assigning each album it’s rightful place on his Top Ten. Inevitably some changes occurred.
Ladies and Gentlemen, without further ado I present you with the final version of
JASON’S TOP 10 OF THE DACADE:
10. LCD SOUNDSYSTEM – The Sound of Silver
9. PORTISHEAD – 3rd
8. GIRL TALK – Night Ripper
7. WILCO – Yankee Foxtrot Hotel
6. RADIOHEAD – In Rainbows
5. THE WHITE STRIPES – Elephant
4. TV ON THE RADIO – Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes
3. SIGUR ROS – Agaetis Byrjun
2. ARCADE FIRE – Funeral
1. RADIOHEAD – Kid A
Have I mentioned Jason is a little nutso about Radiohead? If Thom Yorke farts, Jason knows about it, not to mention any other of his creative endeavors.
Around the same time, just hours after we stepped back into our cosy abode, I also challenged myself with one of Ina Garten’s recipes for NOODLE SALAD WITH PEANUT SAUCE. I have tweaked it (hello!) by switching to organic and whole-wheat noodles as well as almond oil for canola oil, and agave nectar for honey. And then, of course, I changed proportions of some of the sauce ingredients, as the one made by Ina seemed way too oily for my liking.
Here’s my concoction:
- 0.5 cup of almond oil
- 3 tbsp rice vinegar
- 4 tbsp soy sauce, low sodium
- 3 tbsp toasted sesame oil
- 2 tbsp agave nectar
- 3 tbsp peanut butter
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 tbsp grated ginger
Whisk all the ingredients in a bowl and set aside. Cook your pasta (whole box), drain, plunge into a large bowl, and pour the PEANUT SAUCE all over it while it’s still hot. The temperature will help the noodles absorb all those wonderful flavors like a sponge.
Blanch sugar snap peas (about 8 oz) for 1-2 minutes tops and shock them in an ice-bath. Drain the green bunch and toss in with the noodles. Julienne (cut in super thin strips) one small red bell pepper and into the bowl they go. Roughly chop a bunch of scallions and fresh flat-leaf parsley, and bang on top of that mountain of noodles. Sprinkle sesame seeds all over and mix it all together.
You can enjoy it right away, or cover with plastic and store in a refrigerator for later. The peppers and sugar snap peas give it a fun crunchy texture, while the PEANUT SAUCE wraps it all together like your lover’s arms on Valentine’s Day.
Countdown to the premiere of IMPORTANT THINGS WITH DEMETRI MARTIN is on. Tune in on Thursday at 10 PM on Comedy Central.