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At HelpAroundTown, we're into cooking. Local, healthy food preferably, but we'll also indulge our sweet tooth and celebrate with food.
Somehow, the people we tend to attract and the people we become friends with all love good food.
Speaking strictly for myself now, Reem Yared, the founder, I only have one rule when eating: the calories must be worth the exercise required to burn them off. This is a very meaningful rule if you are not one who loves to exercise.
Meghli is a sweet spice pudding that is worth every calorie.
For the holidays and for Valentine's day, below are two recipes I love to make. Chocolate truffles and candied orange peels (dipped in chocolate!). I learned to make these because I love to eat them and they are way too expensive commercially. They are also never as good as I would want them to be when I buy them. Not worth the calories and not worth the money.
So, here comes rule number two: you have to spend either the money or the time. I choose to save my money (because what I would be buying isn't worth it), so I spend the time. Chocolate truffles and candied orange peels are not fast food. But they are plenty worth it!
Thank you to Evie Tse & Steve Isenberg of TrueImagesPhoto for filming and producing the video for their What's Cooking show on LexMedia. Thank you to Mark McMinn for his irreplaceable help and to LexMedia for their wonderful studio & facility. You can see these and other What's Cooking videos here: http://whatscooking.toku.us
Meghli is a sweet spice pudding. It is a traditional Lebanese dessert, made to celebrate a birth. It is essentially sugar, nuts and spices, good sources of energy to help the new mom recover. It is also fat-free and gluten free, so it is a good dessert for people with Celiac or on a gluten-free diet. Meghli is traditionally eaten cold, so without nuts, it is also a good pudding for someone who’s just had wisdom teeth removed or cannot chew. Finally, it is one of the simplest desserts to make. You just have to keep mixing non-stop for 20 minutes!
Watch the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bbcYgJVXonA
Pudding: 12 cups water 1.5 cups powdered rice. 3 cups sugar (you can reduce to 2 3/4 cup sugar) 3 tsp. Cinnamon 2 tsp. powdered anise seeds (note: anise seeds taste very different from star anise) 3 Tbsp ground caraway seeds (yes, Tablespoons! Must be finely ground)
Decoration: A combination of peeled unsalted nuts - Walnuts - Pistachios - Pine nuts - Slivered almonds Shredded coconut (no sugar added. Toasted is good but not necessary)
The mixture will thicken from minute to minute. Watch how it coats your wooden spoon, how it sticks to the sides of the pot, and the trace your spoon leaves as it turns. The more sticky and thick the mix, the deeper the trace left by your spoon, the better. You will also feel it is getting harder to mix, as the meghli gets thicker. Stop when the meghli becomes hard to mix, the spoon leaves a clear furrow as you turn, the spoon has a thick coating when you lift it, or the sides of the pan have a thick coating when you bring up the meghli. Watch the video to see when to stop.
You should be done after 20-22 minutes total.
Serving & Decoration:
Pour the meghli carefully in a few individual small Pyrex bowls and a couple larger serving bowls. Leave outside to cool. Cover and refrigerate once cool. Cracks will appear in the surface (skin) as the meghli cools. It’s OK. You’ll cover them with nuts and shredded coconut.
Meghli is usually decorated just before serving, so the nuts remain crisp
Decorate with assorted nuts. Choose unsalted, peeled nuts.
You can sprinkle them (less pretty) or create beautiful patterns.
Walnuts, slivered almonds, pistachios and pine nuts
Sprinkle shredded coconut on top (use the no sugar added variety).
Rice powder is fine and looks exactly like powdered sugar. You can find it from Bob’s Mills, in bulk at Whole Foods, or from the Armenian Stores in Watertown, MA. Powdered anise and powdered caraway can be found at ethnic Indian and Armenian stores usually for a lot less than at a traditional supermarket. You can also order them from Penzey’s spices.
Thank you to Steve Isenberg & Evie Tse for producing, directing and editing the video and to LexMedia for their wonderful studio! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bbcYgJVXonA
Copyright Reem Yared, April 11, 2017
For the entire chocolate show: http://youtu.be/vM_B8gyN8Gw
250 g bittersweet chocolate = 8.8 oz Source: I buy Trader Joe's 500g bars (Pound Plus) of Dark Belgian Chocolate. The chocolate tastes great and it's the best quality/price ratio for chocolate I can find. Just use half the bar or use the full bar & double the recipe!
1/3 cup Heavy cream - as fresh and pure as you can get it
2 1/2 Tbsp. butter (I use Land o'Lakes)
1/4 tsp. Turkish Coffee powder or good quality instant coffee powder
2 Tbsp. Cognac or Grand Marnier (Note: alternatively, if you don't have a good dry coffee, you can use 2 tsp. liquid concentrated coffee and 1 1/2 Tbsp cognac or Grand Marnier)
Authentic chocolate truffles are rolled in dark cocoa. They do not have a hard chocolate shell. The hard shell comes from the necessity of industrial production and of preserving truffles for long periods of time. At home, you have the luxury of making a soft cocoa shell to your taste. I like a bitter cocoa that contrasts with the sweeter chocolate within. But 100% unsweetened is too bitter. It is easy and fun to find your preferred combination, based on your taste, cocoas available and how sweet (or bitter) you made the truffles.
I typically use:
Measure cream & butter & pour into a microwave safe bowl. Microwave on High for 1 mn. Cream should bubble gently and butter should be melted. Stir to mix.
During that time, measure chocolate & cut it up in small squares.
Drop chocolate in cream & butter bowl. Mix till it melts.
Remove any unmelted pieces of chocolate and microwave separately & gently till they melt.
Note: DO NOT let chocolate burn in the microwave! Immediately remove & throw any burnt chocolate. It will ruin the whole mix if you keep it.
Once all the chocolate has melted and is well mixed in with the butter and cream, add in the coffee and cognac or liqueur.
Refrigerate covered with Saran wrap It will take at least 30 mn for the paste to harden enough to become workable. There should be enough liquor in the paste to keep it workable even if you refrigerate it overnight.
When you are ready to roll the truffles, prepare a shallow soup bowl. Mix in your favorite mix of cocoa. (see description above). Use a teaspoon to scrape out some chocolate paste. Shape it into a ball with your fingers or roll it in the palm of your hands. Then drop into the cocoa bowl. I wait till I have a few truffles (3-6) in the bowl, and then roll them all in the cocoa. Drop them in a well covered bowl, jar, or box and keep refrigerated until consumption.
One recipe will make 3-4 dozen truffles, depending on the size you roll.
As long as the truffles are kept refrigerated, they will be good till the cream's or the butter's expiration date, whichever comes first.
1 cup sliced peel (Peel of 3 oranges, approximately)
1/2 cup white sugar
1 cup to 1/4 cup water
Preferably, use organic oranges, since you will be eating the peel.
Wash the oranges and rinse well.
Cut off the top & bottom of the orange peel, then remove the rest of the peel in vertical segments. You'll be cutting the segments into long thin strips. Imagine you are drawing longitude lines on your orange.
Remove the pith from thick peels and any thick parts. Some peels are really thick, others very thin and others are average. There will be very little to remove from thin peels.
Cut the peels on a cutting board into matchstick long pieces. About 1/4 inch thick and the whole length of the peel.
Measure the peel in a measuring cup. Fill the cup tightly. Pour peel in a thick-bottomed small to medium pan.
Measure half the volume of sugar and pour in the same pan.
Measure the oranges' volume in water and add to pan. If the water is not enough to cover the oranges, add just enough water to cover.
Set heat to medium-high. Bring to a boil. Stir.
Once it's bubbling, set timer on 10 mn and lower heat.
Check after 10 mn. If the orange peels are soft, stop. Otherwise, keep simmering up to another 5 mn.You do NOT want the peel to be so soft it's soggy and falling apart. When it's ready, the water will have become a syrup. The sound of the bubbling will be different. The color will be orangey.
Take the orange peels out with 2 forks. Be very careful not to burn yourself with the boiling syrup. Dispose the peels on parchment paper (or oiled aluminum foil).
Let peels dry overnight if desired as is
To crystallize the orange peel, pour 1-2 Tbsp regular sugar into a soup bowl.
Drop the orange peels WHILE STILL WET into the sugar bowl. Turn the peels around in the sugar. Take out and set to dry.
The next morning, store the dried orange peels in an airtight container.
For chocolate covered orange peel, see below.
Note: Store the cooled syrup in a glass jar and freeze or refrigerate. Makes a very nice glaze on a cake. Or serve with vanilla ice cream. Even on a crepe or pancake or waffle!
Watch starting at 8:14mn at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ShHI70MTAP8
Note: If chocolate burns, throw it out and start again.
Dip the dried fruit in the melted chocolate. Now you understand why in most cases, the dried fruit is not 100% covered. You need to hold it!
Set the chocolate covered fruit to dry on wax paper. It will take several hours.
Reem's tip: At the end, to use up the melted chocolate covering the bowl, throw in some nuts. Cover nuts with chocolate with a spoon by scraping them around the bowl. Remove lumps of chocolate covered nuts with spoon and set to dry.