Cook in the Moment: Boca Negra, a Chocolate Chipotle Cake

Boca Negra (c)2012

Each week I contribute an article to the Whole Foods Market Cooking Boulder website expanding on one of the 10 Ways Tuesday ideas. This week I cooked and photographed a recipe for Boca Negra. For the full article, click on the icon below.

The name says it all- Boca Negra means black mouth in English, and it’s impossible to sneak a piece of this cake without anyone knowing. Your sticky fingers will leave smudged chocolate prints on the fridge door, and even after wiping your lips clean a tiny piece of evidence will linger on the corner of your mouth- not to mention the satisfied smile that will certainly tip off anyone who knows you well. Boca Negra is a rich, fudge-like cake infused with the flavor of smokey dried chipotle chiles. This recipe comes from Fany Gerson’s book, My Sweet Mexico, a heartfelt collection of traditional Mexican desserts and sweet treats. The book has a noble mission, manifest in Fany’s commitment to traveling Mexico in search of recipes passed down through generations orally, recipes at the brink of extinction as modern cuisine carries on without them. Fany was born and raised in Mexico, but here career as a pastry chef has taken her around the world. She writes of family matriarchs carefully guarding their treasured recipes, willing to “go to their grave with them rather than share.” Motivated by her desire to preserve these meaningful traditions, Fany spent time with people, earning their trust, and wrote a book that is much more than a collection of indulgent desserts. My Sweet Mexico is a history book, a dictionary of traditional Mexican ingredients, a map, a lesson in pastry technique, and a heartfelt trove of stories. Boca Negra is the very last recipe in the My Sweet Mexico, and Fany writes that this cake is one of her proudest creations. After baking it, I can see why.


10 Ways Tuesday: Dried Chiles

Dried Chili Peppers (c)2012

I’ve got creative ideas for cooking with dried chiles during winter:

1.  Chocolate Dessert

In celebration of Valentine’s Day, I wanted to cook something special with chocolate and chile. Later this week at la Domestique, you’ll find a recipe for Boca Negra (chocolate cake with dried chipotle chiles) I discovered in the book, My Sweet Mexico, by Fany Gerson. It’s a simple semisweet chocolate cake with citrus notes from orange and the fruity dried chipotle. Achingly rich and moist, like a flour-less chocolate cake (only 1 1/2 tablespoons flour), Boca Negra refers to the black mouth you will have when you’re covered in chocolate after eating the cake. I also found a recipe for Chile Chocolate Almond Bark with Salt Crystals in Salted by Mark Bitterman that’s vegan friendly. Melted dark chocolate (70% cacao) is melted with dried Thai bird chiles or piquín chiles and poured over toasted almonds. A sprinkling of flour de del is the finishing touch.


Ingredient of the Week: Dried Chili Peppers

Banner Dried Chili Peppers (c)2012

February has arrived, and with it, a longing for spring. Here in Colorado, the ground hog always sees his own shadow, and we’re sentenced to 6 more weeks of winter. On the sunny, mild days one could be convinced spring is around the corner, but we know better. March is our snowiest month, averaging 17 inches in Boulder. Too bad I don’t ski.

Fresh produce is at its leanest right now, and many months will pass before a peppery radish, sprightly green bean, juicy peach, or ripe tomato graces the table. The farmers market has gone into hibernation until April. Hearty, rich, comfort food is wearing on my palate. I begin to crave bold, punchy flavors. Subconciously, I reach into the pantry for crushed red chili pepper to sprinkle over pastas and soups. The spicy heat stimulates my palate, and I feel the warm summer sun shining on my shoulders, if only for a moment.


Cook in the Moment: Gnudi with Swiss Chard, Rosemary & Aleppo Pepper

Gnudi with Swiss Chard, Rosemary & Aleppo Pepper (c)2012

Each week I contribute to the Whole Foods Market Cooking Boulder website expanding on one of the 10 Ways Tuesday ideas. This week I cooked and photographed a recipe for Gnudi with Swiss Chard, Rosemary & Aleppo Pepper. For the full article with tips on making gnudi (including 3 lessons I learned), click on the icon below.



Gnudi is winter comfort food. Countless variations on these ricotta dumplings can be found in cookbooks, but I was drawn to a recipe for gnudi in Jamie magazine for its simplicity. If you’ve never made fresh pasta at home before, gnudi is a great way to get your feet wet. You get the experience of making dough by hand without the need for special equipment. For this recipe, ricotta and Parmesan are rolled into a dumpling with chopped Swiss chard. After a good night’s rest in the fridge the gnudi are cooked in simmering water for about 3 minutes, then served with a generous drizzle of oil infused with the flavors of garlic, rosemary, and Aleppo pepper. In his recipe, Jamie Oliver used fresh red chiles, but since they aren’t in season right now I went for my favorite dried chili peppers. If you use a lot of crushed red pepper at home, consider trying something new by seeking out Aleppo crushed red pepper flakes. Grown in Syria and Turkey, the Aleppo pepper is more fruity and earthy (reminiscent of the flavor of cumin) than regular crushed red pepper. Because of this earthy character, Aleppo pepper shines when paired with woodsy rosemary. Gnudi with Swiss Chard, Rosemary & Aleppo Pepper is good for a simple family supper (get the kids involved in shaping the dough) or a special occasion. It perfectly illustrates the image of ricotta as both comforting and luxurious.


10 Ways Tuesday: Ricotta

I’ve got creative ideas for cooking with ricotta during winter:

1.  Ricotta Crostini

My craving for ricotta all started because Nicole from Cooking After Five posted this picture of Toast with Ricotta, Sliced Bananas, Walnuts, and Honey. Crostini, whether sweet or savory, for breakfast, lunch, snack, or supper, is the easiest, simplest way to enjoy ricotta. To me, there is something decadent about spreading toasted bread with thick and granular ricotta. The texture is also great for toppings, which cling to the crostini rather than flying this way and that while you try to get it in your mouth. Try my Ricotta Crostini with House-Cured Salmon, Lemon Zest, and Dill or keep things simple like the Frankies by spreading ricotta on toasted bread and topping it with freshly ground black pepper, sea salt, and a drizzle of olive oil.