Frenchy’s Chocolate Raspberry Tart with Pistachio Crust

A chocolate raspberry tart with a slice on a plate

Today’s Musings:
I recognize this evening as a non-starter before I even order my Sauvignon Blanc. I realize before this ass of mine has warmed the bar stool. There’s no chemistry – no spice. I’m more interested in the cute, tattooed bartender (alas, a wedding ring) than the man beside me. Before my first sip of wine, my date has managed to “casually touch” my thigh and arm a half-dozen times during conversation. I don’t need to wear my body language decoder ring – I get it; you’re interested, now back off. Our tactile evening continues with me receiving a demonstration of his co-worker’s hugging techniques followed by an unsolicited and awkward one-handed back rub. He has unquestionably grabbed or stroked me at least three dozen times. Body language hint – if your date is slowly sliding away to regain her personal space, stop with the hands! Ten minutes into the conversation, he declares that he wants to “claim” me as his own and our next date should be in my neighborhood. Next date?! I’m squirming through this one – and I’m beginning to believe you’re stalker material as well. Okay…polite conversation, polite conversation; I can do this; just finish my wine and leave – fast. I’m out the door in 40-minutes flat, but he insists on walking me to my car. Please don’t try to hug, kiss, or molest me at my vehicle. Not surprisingly, I receive his text on the 10-minute drive home, “Good night, Sweetheart.” Sweetheart – already?! Disturbing.

Reaching the safety of home, I’m tempted to bee-line for the kitchen and bake up a batch of David Lebovitz’s chocolate chip cookies – culinary Xanax. This type of dating debacle deserves an edible pacifier – a dozen warm, gooey cookies or even a chocolate cake with thick chocolate frosting – devoured in one sitting. I content myself with a turkey sandwich and Netflix instead.

Today’s Recipe:
This recipe was especially made for my friend, Frenchy.  When it comes to dating, he’s the Jerry Seinfeld to my Elaine, always good for a few dating horror stories of his own.  But rather than chatting about our pitiful love lives over a “Big Salad,” we prefer coffee and dessert.  This one is especially for you,  Frenchy!  


Frenchy’s Chocolate Raspberry Tart with Pistachio Crust

  • Servings: One 9” tart
  • Print

The raspberry coulis is a must to help cut the richness of this decadently sinful dessert. If you love chocolate and raspberries, this dessert is for you.


Ingredients

    Crust
  • 1 cup (about 10 cookies) shortbread crumbs, such as Lorna Doone
  • 1 cup pistachios, raw
  • 3 Tablespoons sugar
  • pinch salt
  • 3 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • Filling
  • 1 lbs. dark chocolate
  • 1 ¾ cup heavy cream
  • 7 large egg yolks, beaten
  • ½ teaspoon instant espresso (optional)
  • ½ cup seedless raspberry jam
  • 12 oz. fresh raspberries
  • Filling
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 3 Tablespoons water
  • 12 oz. frozen raspberries, thawed
  • 1 Tablespoon raspberry or orange liqueur (optional)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350° F. Combine shortbread crumbs, pistachios, sugar and salt in a food processor and process until finely ground. Add melted butter and process until mixture begins to clump and resembles wet sand. Press crust along the bottom and up the sides of a 9” tart pan. Bake until crust is golden and smells like roasted pistachios, about 12 minutes. Cool.
  2. Chop chocolate and place in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave at 30-second intervals, stirring in-between, until chocolate is fully melted, about 1 ½-2 minutes. Cool slightly.
  3. Whisk together heavy cream, beaten egg yolks, and instant espresso (if using). Add melted chocolate and whisk until fully combined.
  4. Fill crust with chocolate mixture and bake in a 350° F. oven until top is firm to the touch but center still jiggles slightly, 25-30 minutes. Cool 30 minutes and then refrigerate until completely cold.
  5. While tart is cooling, make raspberry coulis by combining sugar and water in a heat-proof liquid measuring cup. Microwave on high power for 2 minutes and stir to ensure all sugar crystals are dissolved. Combine this simple syrup with thawed raspberries in a blender. Blend until smooth. With a rubber spatula, stir and push puree through a fine-mesh strainer to catch the seeds. Add liqueur, if using. Store in the refrigerator up to a week.
  6. When tart is cool, heat seedless raspberry jam in a small bowl in the microwave until it is liquid. Brush top of tart with warm jam, arrange fresh raspberries on top, and brush raspberries with more jam. Serve tart with raspberry coulis.

Blue Cheese and Bacon Deviled Eggs

Today’s Musings:
I wrote the following a month ago, never knowing that Bill Cosby would be released a mere dozen days later. 

I’ve never been a fan of Gloria Allred.  It may be remnants of my father’s utter dislike for this brash, outspoken, opinionated woman.  The fairer sex, he believed, belongs in the H. O. M. E.  not marching with a sign that says, “N. O. W.”  Of course,  if Gloria was named Glen,  my dad would see him as a “man’s man” and wholeheartedly embrace him.   I’ve changed my tune about Gloria. I gained a new appreciation for Ms. Allred after recently watching the 2018 documentary, Seeing Allred. Is she loud?  Is she brash?  Is she a publicity hound?  Yes,  but perhaps she needs that persona to be heard above the din of the persistent, ever-present inequality in America.  The Bill Cosby sexual abuse scandal takes up a fair portion of the documentary.  What surprised me was the number of women who spoke up with similar stories and yet, when the first handful of victims came forward,  the majority of Americans didn’t believe – “Oh no,  not Bill Cosby,  not Cliff Huxtable, not America’s dad.” “These women just want money or they’re actresses looking for publicity.”  In the court of public opinion,  these women were shredded for shining a light on something no one wanted to see.   The tide didn’t seem to turn until dozens of women stepped forward, and, still,  those women faced vicious attacks from disbelievers.  It reminds me of the accusations regarding Michael Jackson in Finding Neverland.  Michael still retains a huge, die-hard fan base, despite shockingly similar stories of sexual abuse from disparate victims. “We love you, Michael. We believe in you.”  Fans need to understand that the public Michael Jackson isn’t the Michael behind closed doors.  I believe the accusers – and you should, too. 

If you perform a Google search,  one of the top three definitions of sexual assault is,  “an act in which one person intentionally sexually touches another person without that person’s consent, or coerces or physically forces a person to engage in a sexual act against their will.”   If you were to ask me if I’ve been sexually assaulted,  I would answer, “Thankfully, no,”  imagining date rape or a stranger jumping out from behind a tree,  but the truer answer would be an ambiguous, “Maybe.”

I willingly entered Ted’s house.  I happily drank wine with him, becoming a little tipsy – not incapacitatedly drunk,  but tipsy…two or three glasses.  I voluntarily joined him in his bedroom to fool around (his roommate was on the couch).  Yet,  I  did not come over, nor was I prepared, to have sex that night. He had different plans.  He tried to take our make-out session further, I rebuffed him.  He attempted  to take it further a second time, I rebuffed again, and again, and again. I never consented.  Did he force me down and rip off my clothes?  No, but  I remember feeling like a 16-year-old Sophomore in a car’s back seat fighting off a hormone-fueled Senior’s attack  – except I was 37; Ted was 41.  He was bigger; he was stronger; he wasn’t letting up.  I eventually acquiesced, tired of trying to redirect his energies.  You are probably asking,

“You are a strong, independent woman.  Why didn’t you just get up and leave?” 

That is a legitimate question – and one I would ask if I was in your position.  I will share my thoughts at the time.  Are these excuses for my inaction? No, but they provide context,  perspective.  I didn’t leave because I  thought I liked this man.  I didn’t shove him away with force because I was attracted to this man.   I didn’t jump up from the bed because I wanted to have sex with this man – but not yet, not that night.  If I had jumped off the bed, screamed “stop” at the top of my lungs, grabbed my purse and ran out,  I have no doubt he would have let me leave;  he wouldn’t have pursued.  He probably would have told his friends I was a crazy bitch, but he wouldn’t have brutalized me.   Yet,  doesn’t my “no” mean “no?” I never told a living soul this story until today,  18 years after the event. 

Which reminds me of the time I went to my GP for my annual physical.  I had been seeing this doctor for 8 years, believed him to be an excellent medical professional, and I trusted him.  During my physical,  he insisted on a pelvic exam.  I assured him it was unnecessary because my OB/GYN performed a pelvic exam just six months prior – and all tests came back normal.  Yet,  with his medical “authority,” he dismissed my declination (the OB/GYN’s report was not in his notes)  and pushed for the exam I didn’t want.

Are you once again asking, “You are a strong, independent woman.  Why didn’t you get up and leave?” 

That is a legitimate question – and one I would ask if I was in your position.  I didn’t get up and leave because he was my doctor, an expert in a position of power.  I didn’t firmly tell him, “Absofuckinglutely not,” because I had been in his care as a patient for eight years without incident.  I rationalized, “why make a big deal about this – it’s not the first nor last pelvic I’ll endure.” I acquiesced.  If I had jumped off the examining room table, screamed “stop” at the top of my lungs, grabbed my clothes and ran out,  I have no doubt he would have allowed me to leave;  he wouldn’t have  blocked the exit.  He probably would have told the nurses I was an overly sensitive, sexually-repressed woman, but he wouldn’t have forced me.  He performed the pelvic exam…without a female nurse present – any woman knows that’s an odd and uncommon practice.  The exam itself seemed routine.  I couldn’t actually see what he was doing,  but nothing overtly untoward felt like it was happening.  Yet, afterwards,  I felt violated.  I did not give him my consent.  Was this merely a case of an overzealous, egotistical  doctor dismissing my declination of  the exam in favor of his own medical decision – or something more perverse?  I truly don’t know, but I left his office questioning the experience and feeling ashamed and invaded.  For my next annual physical,  I found a new doctor – a woman.  I told her why I left my previous MD – said I didn’t know if his actions were malevolent or not, but I refused to be his patient any longer.  Besides her,  I never told another person until today. 

Have I ever been sexually assaulted?  What is your answer –  because I truly don’t know?  But, please,  if someone (male or female)  is brave enough to step forward with an accusation of abuse, sexual or otherwise, – listen to them, believe them.  You weren’t in the room with them, you don’t know all sides of the person you are defending.  The victim may have experienced a side of the abuser you’ve never seen.  Mr. Wonderful, Bill Cosby, may not be so wonderful behind closed doors when there’s something he wants.  “But what about the false claims of abuse that are just payback for something else altogether?” you ask.  Do false sexual abuse accusations arise?  Absolutely,  but don’t assume the aberrant is the norm.  Many easier and less humiliating methods of extracting payback exist.  It takes courage to speak up and speak out.  One must have thick skin to endure the disbelievers, the hostile opponents who will shout “liar” from their soapbox,  turn their back on the victim. His friends will try to silence the victim insisting, even if it did happen, the victim should keep quiet, not rock the boat,  just get over it.  “How dare you speak out and sully the abuser’s reputation!”  The victim is acutely aware they must go to battle and, even then, they may still not be believed. If it takes a victim 10, 20, 30 years to come forward to tell their story, to speak their truth,  we must have compassion and understand that the event was not only traumatic, but confusing,  embarrassing, and perhaps not clear cut. The abused often feels partially responsible; They may fear the retaliation from the abuser’s fans or cadre.  The victim, however,  can’t “just get over it.”  They’ve carried the incident with them;  They haven’t forgotten.  They’ve been carefully weighing the benefits versus the damage speaking up will cause – lines will be drawn; sides will be taken.   They’ve been physically and/or emotionally assaulted once;  they don’t deserve to endure that again.   I’m not suggesting we label every possible abuser, “guilty until proven innocent,” but also, we mustn’t  insist that 20 victims come forward before we believe the first who was brave enough to say, “I was abused.” 

Today’s Recipe:

 


Blue Cheese and Bacon Deviled Eggs

This is my go-to appetizer to bring to a drinks party, nostalgic with a modern twist.


Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped celery
  • 2 tablespoons drained pickle relish
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped scallion
  • 2 tablespoons crumbled blue cheese
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 dashes hot sauce, such as Tapitio
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 large eggs, hard boiled, peeled
  • 2 slices cooked bacon, cut into 8 pieces each

Directions

  1. In a small bowl, combine mayonnaise, celery, pickle relish, scallion, blue cheese, Dijon, hot sauce and black pepper to taste.
  2. Slice eggs in half and scoop yolks into mayonnaise mixture. Combine yolks and mayonnaise mixture with a folk until well blended.
  3. Using a large star tip nozzle, pipe mixture into egg halves. Decorate with bacon and serve.

Firefighter’s Jambalaya

Today’s Musings:
An artifact formerly excavated…

Russell claimed his eyes were hazel, but I disagreed.  Russell is slightly colorblind, so  he’s never looked in a mirror and contemplated the nuances of his irises;  he’s relied on others’ interpretations.  I’m reminded of that parable about the three blind men and an elephant.  Perhaps, at one specific moment, on a particular day,  his eyes did appear hazel, but they are not so easily described.  Hazel is a catch-all category,  for those lacking the vocabulary to describe an iris’s shade in more, um, er, colorful terms.  Hazel eyes, by definition,  are a combination of green, brown, and golden hues, decidedly not the shade of Russell’s.  I’m the one with eyes of hazel – a drab olive green with rays of russet brown and a few flecks of ocher. When asked,  I liken their unremarkable color to dirty pond water. 

Russell’s eyes were grey – a light bluish slate. He dismissed my assessment, assuring me his driver’s license states differently and also insisting I’m the only person who has ever mentioned the smoke-hued mirrors beneath his lashes.  Has anyone else bothered to examine them closely, I wonder?  Their shade rippled, mutable, depending on his clothes or the light, shifting from pale sky to the faintest sage. I’m sure the silver from his hair held sway over these misty specters, as well.

When in the throes of passion or paroxysms of anger – states I witnessed in equal measure – these portholes to his psyche grew graphite dark,  like storm clouds just before the deluge.  When our romance still blossomed,  this kaleidoscope of shifting greys and blues and greens transfixed me; the emerging of a yet unobserved color arresting me mid-sentence with their beauty.  However, once his kindness drained away, replaced by indifference and contempt,  I was met with windows of the bleakest winter, two gravestones,  hard, cold, and unyielding grey as he seethed and accused. 

I examine images of his face now, looking deeply in eyes both right and left, trying to fathom how I was fooled – and only flat, blank, detached emptiness stares back at me.

Today’s Recipe:


Firefighter’s Jambalaya

This jambalaya is a hearty combination of sausage, ham, chicken, and shrimp that can feed a large family or small party.


Ingredients

  • 4 Tablespoons ( ½ stick) unsalted butter
  • 1 lbs. Andouille or smoked sausage, sliced
  • 1 lbs. ham steak, diced
  • 1 lbs. chicken thighs, skin, boned and diced
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 3 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 green pepper, chopped
  • 4 scallions, sliced
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 c. rice, uncooked
  • 4 Tablespoons, flour
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon thyme
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon white pepper
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne
  • ¼ teaspoon cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon allspice
  • 1 14 ½ oz. canned tomatoes, chopped
  • 8 cups beef stock
  • 2 lbs. raw shrimp, peeled and deveined

Directions

  1. Melt butter in a large, heavy, Dutch oven. Cook sausage, ham, and chicken until beginning to brown. Add onion, celery, green pepper and scallions and lightly brown. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, 30 minutes. Add rice and combined. Stir in flour and spices. Add canned tomatoes and stock. Bring to a boil, reduce and simmer until rice is cooked through, 35 – 45 minutes.
  2. Add shrimp and cook another 5-7 minutes until shrimp is cooked.

Triple Coconut Tart with Berries

A coconut tart covered in fresh berries

Today’s Musings:
July 4th in my city – there’s nothing safe nor sane about it. It starts weeks prior with the random M80 explosion rocking the neighborhood, usually at 4:00 a.m., as well as the testing of mortar rockets at 7:30 a.m. before the culprits head off to work.   By the time dawn breaks on the 4th,  an alarm clock isn’t needed to wake me from my slumber.  Fire crackers, Piccalo Petes, and cherry bombs ensure I’m out of bed by 9:00 a.m.  The cacophony increases throughout the day to a crescendo of illegal sky rockets and mortars with skyward explosions akin to a war zone, overshadowing any display from my neighbor,  Disneyland. The night is punctuated by the howl of fire engines – and we wonder, “Has someone blown off a finger?  Has a wayward rocket caused a fire?” By 10 p.m., a sulfuric haze has blanketed the city and I’m thankful my roof is still intact. The next morning, a tour of my backyard reveals a smattering of detritus from the festivities – charred end caps from the mortars and thin red sticks from the sky rockets.

My dog-owning neighbors hate this time of year. I, on the other hand, delight in this reminder of my childhood and consider myself lucky to be owned by two unruffled felines, no matter how loud the blasts. This one night, my city is alive and decidedly lawless. The neighborhood celebrates with a backyard party each year – more anarchistic that patriotic, except for my choice of dessert.

Today’s Recipe:


Triple Coconut Tart with Berries

  • Servings: One 9” Tart
  • Print

Coconut in the crust, along with coconut milk and shredded coconut in the pastry crème ensures coconut lovers won’t be disappointed.


Ingredients

    Coconut Pastry Crème
  • 3 Tablespoons corn starch
  • 2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 cup canned coconut milk
  • 2 cups sweetened shredded coconut
  • 4 Tablespoons unsalted butter, diced
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • Graham Cracker Crust
  • 2 cups Graham cracker crumbs (about 15 sheets)
  • 1 cup sweetened shredded coconut
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup unsalted butter, melted
  • Topping
  • Assorted fresh berries
  • ¼ cup apricot jam
  • Sweetened whipped cream
  • Toasted coconut

Directions

  1. Make coconut pastry crème: In a medium sauce pan, whisk together flour, corn starch, salt, and sugar. Whisk in eggs, milk, coconut milk, and shredded coconut. Place over medium heat and bring to a simmer, stirring constantly until custard is very thick, about 7 minutes. Remove from heat, and whisk in butter and vanilla extract. Scrape into bowl, press plastic wrap against the surface of the custard, and chill in refrigerator for several hours until cool.
  2. Make graham cracker crust: Preheat oven to 350° F. In a food processor, pulse graham crackers, coconut and salt until ground into crumbs. Add melted butter and pulse until combined and beginning to clump together. Press in the bottom and up sides of a 9” tart pan. Bake for 10-15 minutes until lightly browned. Cool.
  3. To assemble: Pour pastry crème into crust and smooth. Cover with fresh berries. Heat apricot jam for 1 minute in microwave and strain. Brush berries with jam, decorate with whipped cream and toasted coconut. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Steakhouse Potato Salad

Today’s Musings:
Recently,  two different friends have reproached me for “living in the past.”  No kidding;  That’s what happens when you naively decide to write a memoir, isn’t it? You are faced with excavating your history, your shards of broken dreams, your faulty memories and stories, surrounding yourself  with these unearthed remnants of your past.  Spade in hand,  the memoir process requires you to crouch on your personal plot of land and begin digging, uncertain of what’s hidden underneath the smooth topsoil.   Prodding the hard-packed earth,  you uncover remembrances buried long ago.  Layer by layer, bit by bit, you scrape away time.  The work is often painful; you are spent by day’s end. As you reveal each recollection, you resist placing a value on it straightaway.  You unearth,  record, set it aside for later examination, and  move on to the next trinket to be exhumed.  Some memories you uncover whole,  the ground gives them back easily.  They appear, to you, almost untouched by time.  Others are mere shards that require painstaking reconstruction and restoration.  You unbury still other recollections only to realize they are not, in truth, as you remember them.  Each piece, intact memories and shards alike, is changed, if only a little;  sharp edges smoothed by the years buried and concealed from sight.  You gently extract them from the ground,  brush them off and carefully spread this array in front of you for a discerning evaluation – what to keep, what to discard,  what is valuable, what no longer serves you.  Some remembrances you delight in unearthing while others you wish you had never found. You continue with your work until each treasure, every fragment, has been exposed.  Only then can you truly recognize where you’ve been.  Only then can you decide where you’re headed next, but do these memories fail us as guides?   

 

Misunderstanding

Make a notation dear
of this word and that
which ones hurt most
which ones feel good about our hearts

which ones we moor our tenderness upon
When in the midst of course terms
I would rather expose docile replies
It is strange how fear binds adults

Would you still admire me if
I spoke in concert again with your aspirations
with eyes of open glass
You would be captive in their sentience of you

Or if I were mute
which of my voices would you understand
The voice of my joy in you is brave and sweet
It resonates from the most inward enclosures

I’m quite guilty
I relied on poetic vision
to show me what exists
and what doesn’t

I sought knowledge of you through your body
at times making false assumptions
wrong turns
sincerely at times admit to being lost
crying, where is the felicity in this?

In small favors not on desert plateaus
In errors only
I tried to placate your worlds
with perfect skies
the contour of your body and mind

I ask you please to renounce your hardness
A favor for love

To be unpossessive of happiness
maybe in not striving for ends
just in the purpose of temporary joy
Ti
me only falsely unmakes their sum
a
lso fragmenting us

Before you
and after you
a region slept in me
Trees replaced you
and temples replaced you
and then nothing replaces you

Now that your absence is exposed like the desert we stood in
I search failingly for your depth in the shallow nightfall
I search for your affinities in quiet spaces

I had hoped the slow paces of enlightenment
would rescue our disappointments
not allow a trail of misunderstanding
to mislead the procession of tenderness
which once flowed in weightless rivers

What darkness cares to separate us
Existential questions preclude emotional ones
Perplexities aren’t supposed to stop Love

Once the chastities have eloped
I hoped to undertake true intimacies
Outside of mysteries

Is your body made for me
to place unutterable reasons within
to shelter your surfaces with gestures now obsolete

A lovely future dares to be here now
Don’t allow the unknown to dispel it
Don’t use doubt as a veil of shyness

I thought I had vanquished the desire to perfect
It robbed me of the ability to love what is most human
to admire the task not quite finished the way I had envisioned it
to subtract nothing
for Love

We must embrace the accomplishment
of one who gives their soul
Where doest right and wrong appear in love
just a state we know to be vulnerable

Our eyes began east harmonies
A procession of epiphanies, maybe,
but not all meetings are breathless

I saw in the mistral of your eyes
Love adrift
and sought to still your inquietudes
I failed more than once
with words
and with wordlessness

At times I thought I deserved to be loved less
At times much more
All the time wanting something else

 Don’t begrudge our pasts
There are many of them
At once remote and still intimate
I consider them like our childhood
unruly and fantastical
but our memories always fail as guides

Full of not knowing
and yet instilled with clairvoyance
We distill a thousand kinds of courage
necessary for anything of worth

Who can see the way out of adult dilemmas?
Certainly not adults
We expected so much brilliance
for such a difficult task

Tall flowers do not grow in close shelter
to survive our folly
our hearts must go separate ways for a vanity forever precluding Love

 – Jason, 1998

Today’s Recipe:


Steakhouse Potato Salad

What do you like on your baked potato? Sour cream? Blue cheese? Bacon? They’re in here!


Ingredients

  • 1 ½ lbs. small, red skinned potatoes
  • 1 Tablespoon Champagne vinegar
  • 1 Tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ cup crumbled blue cheese
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • ¼ cup chopped red onion
  • 2 Tablespoons chopped Italian flat leaf parsley
  • 4 slices bacon, cooked until crisp and crumbled

Directions

  1. In a large saucepan, cover potatoes with salted water by 1”. Bring to simmer and cook, uncovered, until tender 15-20 minutes. Drain well.
  2. Whisk together vinegar, olive oil, mustard, salt and black pepper. When potatoes are cool enough to handle, quarter them and toss the still-warm potatoes with the vinaigrette. Add blue cheese, sour cream, red onion and parsley and toss gently. Let stand 1 hour to allow flavors to develop. Sprinkle with bacon and serve.