I currently live in Charlotte, NC and after spending 7 years as a personal chef and caterer, I am now happy to share my love of cooking with friends and family. My heart is in the kitchen, but my soul is in the stars!

The 5th kind of love

The month of February cannot come and go without thoughts of love, relationships, and togetherness. According to this article, there are four types of love and it's really important to a relationship to have all four.

Agape love is the unconditional side of love where your significant other loves you no matter what. Even if you've forgotten to take the trash out for the second week in a row, don't worry. Everything is going to be okay because of this non-judgemental kind of love.

Phileo love, or friendship love, is just that....the kind of love that makes you laugh at each other's jokes even when they're not really funny. It's what makes you have fun together when you're doing boring things like matching socks from the laundry.

Storge love may be better known as PDA or public display of affection. It's the hand holding, a simple kiss on the cheek just because, or the touchy-feely when you think no one is looking.

Eros love is the hot and steamy antics that happen behind closed doors. It's the stuff we can't talk about here because my mother is reading.

But the article didn't talk about the fifth kind of love. It is, in my opinion, the best love of all kinds....

Tiramisu love. This is the kind of love that makes you want to spend an entire day making your own pastry cream, savoiardi biscuits, zabaglione, and mascarpone cheese. And when the espresso soaked biscuits melt in your mouth and the luscious silky pastry cream takes over your senses, you'll realize you can never love another store-bought tiramisu again.

The February 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Aparna of My Diverse Kitchen and Deeba of Passionate About Baking. They chose Tiramisu as the challenge for the month. Their challenge recipe is based on recipes from The Washington Post, Cordon Bleu at Home and Baking Obsession.

This was an awesome challenge ~ probably my most favorite one of all that I've participated in so far. When the five pages of instructions printed out, I nearly gave up on my tiramisu relationship, but it was a very simple process, very well worth it and hardly took any active time at all. Most of the time was spent waiting for everything to chill overnight. When you see the instructions at the bottom of this post, you'll most likely run screaming with a click of the Back button, but I promise you it's not that bad.

I also promise that if, during this month of all things love, you take a long, hard look at your current relationship and realize you're missing any one of the four important types of love, just grab a spoon and discover the love of tiramisu...


(Recipe source: Carminantonio's Tiramisu from The Washington Post, July 11 2007 )
This recipe makes 6 servings

For the zabaglione:
2 large egg yolks
3 tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup Marsala wine (or port or coffee)
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

For the vanilla pastry cream:
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg yolk
3/4 cup whole milk

For the whipped cream:
1 cup chilled heavy cream (we used 25%)
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

To assemble the tiramisu:
2 cups brewed espresso, warmed
1 teaspoon rum extract (optional)
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup mascarpone cheese
36 savoiardi/ladyfinger biscuits (you may use less)
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

For the zabaglione:
Heat water in a double boiler. If you don’t have a double boiler, place a pot with about an inch of water in it on the stove. Place a heat-proof bowl in the pot making sure the bottom does not touch the water.
In a large mixing bowl (or stainless steel mixing bowl), mix together the egg yolks, sugar, the Marsala (or espresso/coffee), vanilla extract and lemon zest. Whisk together until the yolks are fully blended and the mixture looks smooth.
Transfer the mixture to the top of a double boiler or place your bowl over the pan/ pot with simmering water. Cook the egg mixture over low heat, stirring constantly, for about 8 minutes or until it resembles thick custard. It may bubble a bit as it reaches that consistency.
Let cool to room temperature and transfer the zabaglione to a bowl. Cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight, until thoroughly chilled.

For the pastry cream:
Mix together the sugar, flour, lemon zest and vanilla extract in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan. To this add the egg yolk and half the milk. Whisk until smooth.
Now place the saucepan over low heat and cook, stirring constantly to prevent the mixture from curdling.
Add the remaining milk a little at a time, still stirring constantly. After about 12 minutes the mixture will be thick, free of lumps and beginning to bubble. (If you have a few lumps, don’t worry. You can push the cream through a fine-mesh strainer.)
Transfer the pastry cream to a bowl and cool to room temperature. Cover with plastic film and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight, until thoroughly chilled.

For the whipped cream:
Combine the cream, sugar and vanilla extract in a mixing bowl. Beat with an electric hand mixer or immersion blender until the mixture holds stiff peaks. Set aside.

To assemble the tiramisu:
Have ready a rectangular serving dish (about 8" by 8" should do) or one of your choice.
Mix together the warm espresso, rum extract and sugar in a shallow dish, whisking to mix well. Set aside to cool.
In a large bowl, beat the mascarpone cheese with a spoon to break down the lumps and make it smooth. This will make it easier to fold. Add the prepared and chilled zabaglione and pastry cream, blending until just combined. Gently fold in the whipped cream. Set this cream mixture aside.

Now to start assembling the tiramisu.
Working quickly, dip 12 of the ladyfingers in the sweetened espresso, about 1 second per side. They should be moist but not soggy. Immediately transfer each ladyfinger to the platter, placing them side by side in a single row. You may break a lady finger into two, if necessary, to ensure the base of your dish is completely covered.
Spoon one-third of the cream mixture on top of the ladyfingers, then use a rubber spatula or spreading knife to cover the top evenly, all the way to the edges.
Repeat to create 2 more layers, using 12 ladyfingers and the cream mixture for each layer. Clean any spilled cream mixture; cover carefully with plastic wrap and refrigerate the tiramisu overnight.
To serve, carefully remove the plastic wrap and sprinkle the tiramisu with cocoa powder using a fine-mesh strainer or decorate as you please. Cut into individual portions and serve.


(Source: Vera’s Recipe for Homemade Mascarpone Cheese)
This recipe makes 12oz/ 340gm of mascarpone cheese

2 cups whipping (36 %) pasteurized (not ultra-pasteurized), preferably organic cream (between 25% to 36% cream will do)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Bring 1 inch of water to a boil in a wide skillet. Reduce the heat to medium-low so the water is barely simmering. Pour the cream into a medium heat-resistant bowl, then place the bowl into the skillet. Heat the cream, stirring often, to 190 F. If you do not have a thermometer, wait until small bubbles keep trying to push up to the surface.
It will take about 15 minutes of delicate heating. Add the lemon juice and continue heating the mixture, stirring gently, until the cream curdles. Do not expect the same action as you see during ricotta cheese making. All that the whipping cream will do is become thicker, like a well-done crème anglaise. It will cover a back of your wooden spoon thickly. You will see just a few clear whey streaks when you stir. Remove the bowl from the water and let cool for about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, line a sieve with four layers of dampened cheesecloth and set it over a bowl. Transfer the mixture into the lined sieve. Do not squeeze the cheese in the cheesecloth or press on its surface (be patient, it will firm up after refrigeration time). Once cooled completely, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate (in the sieve) overnight or up to 24 hours.
Vera’s notes: The first time I made mascarpone I had all doubts if it’d been cooked enough, because of its custard-like texture. Have no fear, it will firm up beautifully in the fridge, and will yet remain lusciously creamy.
Keep refrigerated and use within 3 to 4 days.

(Source: Recipe from Cordon Bleu At Home)
This recipe makes approximately 24 big ladyfingers or 45 small (2 1/2" to 3" long) ladyfingers.

3 eggs, separated
6 tablespoons granulated sugar
3/4 cup cake flour, sifted (or 3/4 cup all purpose flour + 2 tbsp corn starch)
6 tablespoons confectioner's sugar,


Preheat your oven to 350 F degrees, then lightly brush 2 baking sheets with oil or softened butter and line with parchment paper.
Beat the egg whites using a hand held electric mixer until stiff peaks form. Gradually add granulate sugar and continue beating until the egg whites become stiff again, glossy and smooth.
In a small bowl, beat the egg yolks lightly with a fork and fold them into the meringue, using a wooden spoon. Sift the flour over this mixture and fold gently until just mixed. It is important to fold very gently and not overdo the folding. Otherwise the batter would deflate and lose volume resulting in ladyfingers which are flat and not spongy.
Fit a pastry bag with a plain tip (or just snip the end off; you could also use a Ziploc bag) and fill with the batter. Pipe the batter into 5" long and 3/4" wide strips leaving about 1" space in between the strips.
Sprinkle half the confectioner's sugar over the ladyfingers and wait for 5 minutes. The sugar will pearl or look wet and glisten. Now sprinkle the remaining sugar. This helps to give the ladyfingers their characteristic crispness.
Hold the parchment paper in place with your thumb and lift one side of the baking sheet and gently tap it on the work surface to remove excess sprinkled sugar.
Bake the ladyfingers for 10 minutes, then rotate the sheets and bake for another 5 minutes or so until the puff up, turn lightly golden brown and are still soft.
Allow them to cool slightly on the sheets for about 5 minutes and then remove the ladyfingers from the baking sheet with a metal spatula while still hot, and cool on a rack.
Store them in an airtight container till required. They should keep for 2 to 3 weeks.

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Swimming up stream

Salmon lead a fascinating life...

Beginning life as tiny eggs hatched in a stream bed, they spend a few years in the streams and rivers before they begin their journey downstream to the ocean. Their bodies change to adapt to life in saltwater and after several years of frolicking in the ocean, their bodies re-adjust to freshwater so they can swim through miles and miles of rugged, upstream rapids and waterfalls to return to their spawning grounds to breed and lay eggs. Those that make the trip back usually die within a week of laying their eggs and those that don't make it back to the spawning grounds end up on a plate smothered with ginger-cilantro pesto.

Okay, so maybe it's not such an exciting life because either way, the end result is belly up. Maybe the lesson to be learned here is that we should make the most of the time spent swimming downstream because we just don't know if we'll make it back. While I continue to feel particularly philosophical today, maybe you should just go lead a fascinating life and enjoy this recipe before we all go belly up.

Grilled Salmon with Ginger-Cilantro Pesto on Sauteed Greens
Holland America's Taste of Elegance Cookbook

Serves 4

1 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/3 cup chopped scallions, white and light green parts only, plus 1 extra scallion thinly sliced (for garnish)
1/3 cup salted roasted macadamia nuts, roughly chopped
1/4 cup chopped peeled fresh ginger
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
7 tbls vegetable oil, divided
salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 (6 oz) salmon steaks or fillets, 1" thick
1-1/2 tsp minced garlic
2 tbls extra virgin olive oil
2 bunches arugula or 3 bunches watercress, coarse stems discarded and the greens rinsed but not spun dry

To make the pesto, combine the cilantro, 1/3 cup scallions, macadamia nuts, ginger, and cayenne in a food processor. Blend until the nuts are finely chopped. While processing, slowly add 6 tablespoons vegetable oil until the mixture is well blended. Season with salt and pepper. The pesto can be made 1 day ahead. Cover, chill. Bring to room temperature before serving.

Heat a grill (charcoal, gas, or electric) to medium-high heat. Brush the salmon with the remaining 1 tablespoon vegetable oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill the salmon on an oiled rack until just cooked through, 4 to 5 minutes per side. Alternatively, you can cook the fish in a large hot grill pan over moderately high heat or under a preheated broiler until opaque in the center, about 4 minutes per side.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet saute the garlic in the olive oil over moderately high heat for 30 seconds, or until it is fragrant. Add the arugula and stir the mixture until it is well combined. Cook, covered, for 2 to 3 minutes, or until the greens aer just wilted. Season with salt and pepper.

Put the sauteed greens in the center of serving platter. Top with the salmon, pesto, and sliced scallion and serve immediately.

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