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The darkest night of the year has come and passed and the holidays are well underway, but I would be remiss to not share with you this one last edible gift.Chocolate Bark with Chile-Spiced Mango and Pepitas is everything I want in a chocolate bar.  Dark chocolate (first and most important ingredient), sweet dried mango, spicy chile pepper, crunchy pepitas, and of course the sparkling salt dancing across the top.  This combination is unexpected and delightful.

Chocolate Bark makes an excellent gift, wrapped up with a tag and a bow.  It would also be a delicious way to encourage your guest to linger at the table after their dinner.  Put out a plate of chocolate bark and let everyone break off their own piece.  It is delicious with wine or coffee.

You can find chile-spiced mango at Mexican markets and Trader Joe’s.  If you have a different taste sensation in mind, go for it!  This recipe is incredibly adaptable, just keep the proportions of chocolate to chunks the same.  Other ideas  I would like to try are Dried apricot and pistachio and dried cherry and almond.  If you want chunks of another type of chocolate (white chocolate or milk chocolate in the bark, simply chop them up and add with the nuts and fruit (do not melt).  The possibilities are endless!

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The peaches have been calling me this summer.  On my last trip to the farmers’ market, I gleefully strode away with a huge box mounded high with beautiful peaches and nectarines.  Fortunately, this coincided with an almost unprecedented two free days without the kiddos.  Oh, how productive this mama can be when the children are away!

There were enough peaches to make a few different types of products.  It was hard to resist making the Perfect Peach Cake (it really is soooo good), but I did.  Instead a made a batch of pie filling inspired by this recipe from Mrs. Wheelbarrow.  A few pounds went to making a puree for peach ice cream (still working out the kinks on that recipe).  With the bulk of the peaches I made one of my favorite pantry items, Peppered Peach and Rosemary Jam.

This jam is special.  Sweet white peaches, earthy rosemary, and just a hint of spice from the cracked pepper, the combination is delightful.  I serve it with cheese such as brie or chevre.  It is a definite crowd pleaser and an excellent hostess or holiday gift.

Peppered Peach and Rosemary Jam

adapted from Martha Stewart

makes 5 half-pints

3 pounds white peaches (you can use yellow, but I prefer the white varieties for this jam)

1/3 cup lemon juice

3 cups sugar

4 large sprigs rosemary

1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper

Peel and pit the peaches. (Very ripe peaches are very easy to peel with a knife.  If your peaches do not peel easily, they are probably not ripe enough.  If you must make the jam without allowing them to ripen further, you can boil them for one minute, then plunge into cold water to loosen the skin.)

Slice the peaches into 1/2 inch slices.  Place peaches in a large bowl, add lemon juice, sugar, rosemary, and pepper.  Cover and let stand for 4 hours.  Stir every hour to incorporate the sugar.

Transfer peach mixture to a large pot. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat.  Cook for 15 minutes, until mixture is syrupy.  Lightly mash the mixture to break down peach slices, leave 1/3 of wedges intact.  Discard rosemary sprigs (you can fish out the individual rosemary leaves if you want, but I leave some in for color and interest.)

Ladle jam into hot sterile jars.  Leave a 1/2 inch head-space. Top with a new lid and band. Process in a hot water bath for 10 minutes for half-pint jars.  See Home Canning Basics for more information about the canning process.

Here is a printer-friendly version of the recipe:  Peppered Peach and Rosemary Jam

You may also like:

Perfect Peach Cake

Mango Cranberry Chutney

Caramelized Onion Relish

Peppered Peach and Rosemary Jam on Punk Domestics

Salt Preserved Lemons

February 23, 2011

Yes, it is true, I’m on a serious citrus kick.  Why not?  What better to brighten the palette on a dark and dreary winter day, than the vibrant colors and tart flavors of lemons, oranges, grapefruit, and lime?  Lemons are my current favorite. Last summer, in an act of manifest destiny, we cut down our lemon tree  to make way for a larger outdoor dining area.  Luckily our neighbors have supplied us with a steady stream of Meyer lemons to fuel each of my citric indulgences.  The latest…  Salt Preserved Lemons.

This recipe comes from my grandmother’s recipe file.  She, like me, sought out ways to celebrate each harvest and make it last.  The first time I made these, I had no idea what to do with them.  Luckily, they last a ridiculously long time in the refrigerator, so I had plenty of time to accumulate recipes. (After a year in the fridge, they still tasted fine, but I tossed them because it just seemed wrong to be eating something so old.)   They are used often in North African and Middle Eastern foods.  They can be added to dishes whole or you can remove the pulp and pith and add the preserved zest.

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Meyer Lemon Curd

February 6, 2011

Oh la la, lovely lemon curd.  Lemons have always been a favorite.  Growing up on the San Francisco Peninsula, we had a Meyer lemon tree.  I would sneak outside to pick the lemons and eat them whole, despite my mother’s warnings that I was ruining my teeth.  Now I am a bit  (not much, but a bit) more sophisticated and like my lemons seeped in vodka or cooked up with butter and eggs (much healthier, I am sure).

Deep in winter when the trees are dripping with lemons, one fabulous way capture the fresh tang of lemons is lemon curd.  This lemon curd is intense, lemony, creamy goodness.  Meyer lemons work best here because of their balance of sweet and tart.  You can use Eureka lemons (standard supermarket variety) as well, just increase the sugar.

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