Flourless Chocolate Cake from the Good Ole’ Days

We have a killer flourless chocolate cake recipe we served at the restaurant. It was this recipe, from the Frog Commissary Cookbook. I’ve been making it since the eighties, and it always impresses.

These are my tips: Make sure to line and grease the pan with tinfoil. The cake is super dense and sticky, and this is an essential if not irritating step.

Allow two days to make it, not because it’s hard, but because it needs time to set up properly. Allow it to cool before peeling away the tinfoil.

When it comes out of the oven it should be cracked and puffy. Level the top by pushing it down with a spatula before it cools completely. This way you can flip it for service and have a nice top by using the bottom as the top, and you don’t have to cut anything away by making it even.

For frosting we did one of two things. Either strain some heated raspberry jam and drizzle that on, or make a nice ganache  and poor it on warm to coat the cake.


Or you can always use a doily and do a powdered sugar scrim.


Last and most important, be sure to use a high quality chocolate and good strong coffee.

Good Pesach!

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Birthday Week ends with a BANG and a Recipe

My Saturday started of at the Santa Monica’s Farmer’s Market on Pico and 22nd.  I was promoting “Into the Beautiful North” for the Santa Monica Public Library.  I did a classic Tacos de Patatas with a curtido – which turned into the word of the day as I explained it as a pickled cabbage El Salvadorian style. It’s based on one of the slaw recipes in my book, and I jazzed it up with seasonal flavors or orange and fennel and it was SO GREAT!! (recipes below)


I ended it with tequila shots with all my favorite people at the shoppe for my 55th birthday celebration. bd 55

I think my Johnny had some food in his mouth, because I’m sure he meant to smile. Any birthday party that ends with whooppee pies and cherry crunch is an excellent party! cake

Now back to business!!  I’m exhausted from a week of celebrating me!

 Tacos de papas con crema & fennel curtido


1 tablespoon olive oil plus some more!
1 jalapeño, seeded and chopped

½ a bell pepper, chopped
3 cloves minced garlic

1 teaspoon ground cumin

½ teaspoon dried oregano
1  pound red potatoes, cut into small cubes
2 teaspoons kosher salt or to taste
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
1 tomato, chopped

1 tbsp. finely chopped cilantro
12 corn tortillas
½ cup oil


1. Heat pan, add oil then the peppers and garlic with the cumin and oregano. Stir to coat and add the potatoes. Keep cooking on high heat until potatoes are cooked through and golden brown. Add the tomato and the cilantro, the salt and pepper and taste.

2. Heat oil in a clean 12″ skillet over medium-high heat. Spread 1 heaping tablespoon of potato mixture over half of each tortilla, and fold over to form a taco. Working in batches, add tacos to oil and fry, turning once, until golden brown and crisp, about 3 minutes.

3. Top with fennel curtido and vegan crema.

    Fennel Curtido

1 garlic clove, minced

1/4  teaspoon sea salt

2 tablespoons cider vinegar

1 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1/4 teaspoon ground coriander

1/2 teaspoon sugar

½ teaspoon oregano

zest and juice of 1 orange

1 large fennel bulb, core removed and shaved on a mandoline

2 cups shaved red cabbage

1 grated carrot

1 tablespoon chopped fennel fronds

1/2 cup shaved red onion

3 tablespoons minced Cilantro (about 1 bunch)

1 tablespoon capers – minced

In a medium bowl, whisk together garlic, salt, vinegar, olive oil, pepper, coriander, sugar, oregano, mustard, orange zest, and juice. Fold in shaved fennel, cabbage, carrot, fennel fronds, red onion, capers and cilantro. Toss well to distribute the dressing and serve. Preparing this a day in advance helps mellow the fennel.

Vegan Cilantro Crema

This is a great substitute for sour cream and tasty too! 

Makes 1 1/3 cups

8 ounces vegan cream cheese

1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

1/4 cup rice milk

1/2 bunch cilantro, minced

Soften Cream cheeze and whisk all together – consider not flavoring all of it with cilantro, and divide the batch.

I Love Silverlake Glee Club

I’ve switched from a holiday singer to a year round singer at the Silverlake Music Conservatory Glee Club (or the Silverlake singers as some prefer). I’m not very good, but I figure the more I practice the better I’ll get and it is a chorus, so I feel like I can blend in. Sometimes I even pretend sing. I’m that bad. I’m dedicated to improvement, I try to make all the rehearsals and I even tried to take a sight-reading class. I tried real hard, but had to quit, it made no sense to me whatsoever.

 Here’s the reason I signed up for this season; I really like being part of a musical community. I love listening to the children’s chorus rehearse before us. (See my Johnny in the back row? So handsome.)

chorusI love when coach needs a guitar player and six folks raise their hands. I love seeing musical instrument cases come and go with the wee ones, listening to a bunch of adolescent boys play horns and I love the piano man.horners What a gift, all of it.

I’m sure there’s scientific proof that singing raises the world vibration, but I don’t need it. I know it does. We all know, which at our core is why we sing together.

 You know, when you hit 60 as a member of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, you gotta go. They show you the door. Bye bye. That could be me in another 5 years, but I don’t fret, I’ll still be singing with the Silverlake Glee Club. And I’m hoping I’ll be pretty good by then.

Sing a song.

Plates are my passion.

Since it’s my birthday week, I’m writing about things I love all week long. Of course, there’s my fam and my pets. Natch. But then there’s my compulsion for procuring china plates. Several years ago my Johnny threw down a moratorium at home “NO MORE PLATES EVER!!” Which could have been a buzz kill, but my Shoppe is my domaine and procuring china will never die. These lovelies are available to you – we call them the “shabby chic” china line and well, you know what? I’m trending, they are crazy popular.shabby chicA few years back, I was the winner of three thousand plus pieces of agate wares at an auction. I had so many, I gave them away as party favors at Make it and Take it, donated a slew to my loves at RootDownLA and set up a traveling box of two hundred plates to donate to brides on a budget.  I rent them for a song ( really, if you sing, I’ll give you a great price). They stack real well and they’re easier to schlep than the china and they are so flippin’ camper cute. As a big bonus, they help keep disposable crap out of the landfill, and that’s happy making.agate emily Matching mugs for soup service adds a layer of “OMG, that’s adorbs!” mugs

So I’ll keep looking for the perfect pie plate and purchasing abundantly. All these old California patterns inspire memories from the guest as well.  I’ve had more than one tell me there mom/ grandma had these red glass dessert plates ( they look black in the pic below), and then they get all sweet and sentimental.  I like that.red plates

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Shiny Happy Things…

Well…I’ve Graduated!

Today, Jennie told me I was ready for my first blog post…..Hmmmm….What to Do? So many small shiny things attract me – but which to share? Perhaps all of them…from time to time. Where Jennie ALWAYS knows what she’s about — hopefully, the dithering of my attention will amuse you. If not? THAT’S WHAT COMMENTS ARE FOR PEOPLE!

Up First – My Farmer’s Market (I won’t say which one because guessing is always part of the fun.) Specifically, the Vendor’s that populate my Farmer’s Market…

Some mornings they are my first point of human contact. And without exception they are awesome! So, I’ve started photographing them “in situ” because I lurrrrrrrve them!


Who they REALLY are? I don’t get nosey but I know some are married, some are owners and some are employees, some have kids, some have tattoos, some I’ve known for almost 10 years…


They don’t want ANYTHING from me and they give me sooooo much! Cheerfulness, of course, whether or not they’ve had their morning coffee. Knowledge about what they sell AND about ME – they always know what I REALLY want. And that’s the truth.


I feed off their healthy creative energy and humbly bring my bundles home to cook for the week.

Avec Brio!


(These pictures were taken on the “Tin-type” setting within my Hipstamatic program – I think it is so cool and spooky….what do you think?)

The oranges are calling. And the lemons, kumquats and grapefruits.

My Los Angeles neighborhood is at it’s most enchanting when it’s busting at the seam with citrus fruit. Oranges are everywhere.orange hedgesGrowing next to fences, driveways and in front and backyards. tree driveAnd there are papaya too!

papaya 2Friends, if you have a tree that needs harvesting,  give my friends at Food Forward a call. They’ll come help. And if your looking for some low hanging lusciousness, try the Fallen Fruit Map!

Or call me!!  I’ll come over and pick a few!!

orange tart

Blood Orange Tart. Easy and delicious.

And then make a rustic tart and invite your friends over for pie and joe.

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Fat Tuesday Fasnacht day has come and gone.

Back in Sellersville, Pennsylvania Dutch Country, the day before Ash Wednesday was fasnacht day. Time to use up the fat in the larder and fry up a huge batch of german donuts before repenting for 40 days of Lenten sacrifice (we never did that part). We did it for good luck, the same way we ate pork and sauerkraut on New Year’s Day. My Grammy who lived with us growing up made them every year and only once a year. They were a real treat and I loved them.grammy in kitchenGrammy typically made a recipe with baking powder instead of yeast. She fried up lumpy hard donuts, like the kind they call “old fashioneds” and we topped them with a bucket of powdered sugar and ate them up before school. The original breakfast of champions. We washed them down with full fat vitamin fortified cow’s milk before we walked to school.

table of fasnachts

The next day, Lots of the other kids had ashes on their foreheads. (We didn’t do that either) and I never understood until I was older that the two rituals were actually connected.


Today, no fasnachts, no Grammy; but I thought of both of them all day with love and longing.

And I’m feeling lucky. rachel grammy

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Oh Milk. You’ve lost that special something.

The  Milk Processor Education Program has announced that “Got Milk?” the slogan they’ve used since 1993 is being replaced.  The lobby’s new slogan “Milk Life” will attempt to recast milk for a hyper-competitive food and beverage marketplace.  Expect ads that look more like Gatorade commercials that suggest consumers reach for “milk instead of an energy bar in the morning.” milk Good lord, what a crock of hooey – HOW MANY THINGS ARE WRONG WITH THAT!  Perhaps milk consumption is down (more than 25% since the 1970’s) because we’re getting smarter as consumers. Maybe the corporate dairy industry should be focused on making their milk better for us and be honest about their product and additives. Consider this happy non-GMO Dairy cow from Straus Family Creamery.

strauss cow While he’s smiling and munching grass in the field, his corporate cow pals are likely standing in pens of pooh up to their elbows pumped up on antibiotics to reduce boils and infections, ingesting GMO corn and soy feed so they bulk up and produce more milk.  This falls under animal cruelty and  corporate greed, not public health. Not only is the feed (try dehydrated garbage in some cases) cause alarm but these operations are condemning us to ingesting antibiotics on a daily basis, not to mention unlabeled GMOs. (No horror pictures here….you can search the web for those.  Back to another happy cow from Clover Organic Farm)

other cow

I think our friends at the Weston Price Foundation get it just about right;

“Once you understand how modern milk is produced and processed, it seems logical to just avoid it altogether. But Real Milk–full-fat, unprocessed milk from pasture-fed cows–contains vital nutrients like fat-soluble vitamins A and D, calcium, vitamin B6, B12, and CLA (conjugated linoleic acid, a fatty acid naturally occurring in grass-fed beef and milk that reduces body fat and protects against cancer). Real milk is a source of complete protein and is loaded with enzymes. Raw milk contains beneficial bacteria that protects against pathogens and contributes to a healthy flora in the intestines. Culturing milk greatly enhances its probiotic and enzyme content, making it a therapeutic food for our digestive system and overall health.”

 Dairy consumption is a very personal choice.  Choose wisely and pay attention to your body.  It’ll let you know whether you’ve made the right choice.

P.S. Goats make milk too.


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Canning Collective Sunday Fun Day

What a day! Forty pounds of cabbage later we each took home over twelve pints of goodness. We made pints and pints of pickled cabbage and sauerkraut.

lootI strained my apple scrap vinegar from Make it and Take it; surprisingly delicious, just ask sister. You should see the mother in that tank!  WOW. I just ordered some oak barrels for my next batch, tasty homemade vinegar from apple peels –  love that!

rachel vWe pressure canned some organic beans, a plain cannellini and a Christmas bean in tomato sauce –  had it for dinner last night with Pickled Cabbage- delish!

beansIt’s a busy afternoon and takes about 4 hours including clean up, and it’s worth every minute. Hanging out with fun folks, getting our hands all in the dish and spreading the love. Thanks Rick, for the amazing cabbage massages.rickAnd we even labeled everything!

gilrs working

Cooking with friends. I could do it every weekend. How about you?

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