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Volume 39 Issue 4 • May 28-June 3, 2009
now in our 39th season

Make a Memory

by Jenn Farmer
Sous Chef at Bartlett's Farm

I think everyone has a friend who really loves birthday attention.  In fact she begins campaigning about one month after her birthday is over, and like any great politician campaigns stronger and stronger as the big event approaches.  I am pretty sure when I am old and senile I will probably forget my own birthday, but there is no way I will ever forget hers. 

Recently she has celebrated the big event by assembling her most valued possession, her entourage of friends.  They all go out to a lovely luncheon, where she is showered with gifts, and, better yet, much deserved attention.  It wasn’t always that proper.   The first time we met we were working together at a local nightclub, she was bartending, and I was cooking.  Back then she used to act like she didn’t know how to cook, but was very interested in food.  I now am the wiser, she is an excellent cook.  Perhaps like so many people she was afraid to leave that comfort zone and just dive in, experiment with the food a little.  Or it could be she just loved to have people cook for her.  Regardless we spent a lot of time cooking and eating together. 

On one occasion she asked me to assist her in preparing a very special Valentine’s meal for someone.  Our goal was actually to make it look like she had made it all by herself, and for me to be long gone when the guest arrived.  It should have been no problem.  In fact she had done a great deal of the prep work in advance.  I forgot one important thing:  the “lets make a memory” factor.  This is the phrase my friend uses when she wants to have a lot of fun, especially the kind involving adult beverages.  It seemed every time I looked her glass was empty and mine full.  She had been slyly pouring her wine into my glass.  I was completely oblivious as I cooked away. 

I cannot tell you what we cooked on that evening, but I remember it being a feast to be proud of.  The moment I finished cooking I began to feel the wine, and a friend came to pick me up.  The rest of my evening was spent in a haze with good friends.  Hers didn’t go quite as well.    In the process of creating this amazing meal, we realized we would have to delay the dinner guest a little longer.  He was already at the brewery, it seemed to be perfect.  Unfortunately the extra time took its toll on her dinner guest, and he barely noticed the dinner.  In fact he took a few bites of one course, and then promptly took a nap on the sofa.  We still laugh about it to this day.  What a memory! 

Since we no longer work together I rarely get to see my friend.  But every time I do, no matter where we are or what we are doing, she wants to “make a memory” again.  So here is a birthday menu I envision cooking, and perhaps we can “make a memory” again soon.

  • Antipasti Salad with lots of prosciutto
  • Homemade Minestrone Soup
  • Penne tossed with Mom’s pesto Genovese & shaved parmesan cheese
  • Chocolate Grandma Cake

Mom’s Pesto Genovese

  • 4 cups packed fresh basil leaves, washed well
  • One half cup pine nuts, toasted until golden, cooled, and chopped fine
  • One half cup freshly grated Parmesan (about 1 1/2 ounces)
  • 2 large garlic cloves, minced
  • One quarter to one half cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt and Pepper 

Bring a saucepan of salted water to a boil, and prepare a bowl of ice water.  This is for blanching the basil to keep its brilliant green color.  If you are consuming the pesto immediately you may omit the blanching step.  Begin to blanch the basil, a handful at a time, 2 seconds, transferring with a slotted spoon to bowl of ice water to stop the cooking; this is referred to as shocking the blanched item.  Drain basil in a sieve and pat until very dry, or spin it dry in a salad spinner.   

In a food processor, or a blender, pulse the basil with the pine nuts, parmesan, and garlic.  Slowly add the olive oil until it is the desired texture, some people enjoy it smooth and on the thinner side, and some enjoy it thicker.  Taste the pesto and season with salt and pepper. Pesto may be made a few days ahead if tightly covered and refrigerated.  It can also be frozen, which is great if you are making a large batch of pesto.  Toss the pesto with freshly cooked hot pasta and enjoy.   

Chocolate Grandma Cake

for the Chocolate Cake:

  • 10 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup (1-1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 6 large eggs, separated
  • 2 tablespoons Grand Marnier
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated orange peel
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt 

for the Icing:

  • 7 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 7 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch cubes, room temperature
  • 2/3 cup whipping cream 

For the cake:

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Butter 10-inch springform pan; line bottom with parchment paper round, or butter and lightly flour the bottom of the pan.  Stir chocolate in metal bowl set over saucepan of simmering water until melted and smooth.  Cool slightly.  Using electric mixer, beat sugar and butter in large bowl for about 2 minutes.  Beat in egg yolks, Grand Marnier, orange peel, and vanilla.  Stir in lukewarm chocolate.  Add flour and salt; stir to blend.  Using clean dry beaters, beat egg whites in another large bowl until peaks form. Fold whites into chocolate mixture in 3 batches. Transfer batter to prepared spring form pan.

Bake cake until top is dry and cracked and tester inserted into center comes out with a few moist crumbs attached, about 45 minutes.  Cool cake in pan on rack (top will fall slightly).  Be certain to run a hot knife around the pan before unmolding it.  Cool completely before icing. 

For the icing:

Place chocolate and butter in medium metal bowl.  Bring cream to boil in small saucepan.  Pour hot cream over chocolate mixture; stir until mixture is melted and smooth.

Run thin knife around inside of cake pan; remove pan sides.  Invert cake onto 10-inch removable tart pan bottom or cardboard round.  Place on rack set in rimmed baking sheet.  Remove cake pan bottom and parchment.  Pour icing over cake and spread to cover top and sides (any icing that drips onto baking sheet can be reused).  Chill until glaze sets, about 30 minutes.

Cut into wedges and serve.

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