Monday, June 25, 2012


Recently I watched an episode of Around the World in 80 plates, where they were cooking in Modena, Italy. One of the restaurant owners said:"The beauty of Italy is the fact that it is this individuality that is so Italian. You go down this street and you get into five restaurants and all 5 of them will make a different tortellini filling. And every one of them is a real authentic one. Everyone has an authority on Italian food but there is no definitive benchmark so it is very interpretive." I am in no way a professional on food and my opinion comes from experience of a consumer/home cook: when it comes to Italian food, it is not so much about technicalities and recipes, but about great quality freshest ingredients and the feel of the dish. Sometimes you come to the restaurant that specializes in Italian food and you are served something that is based on authentic Italian recipe but taste wise and feel wise is very far from what real Italian food is. And sometimes you create a dish in the house, using the freshest veggies, following nothing but your gut and come up with such a treat, that when you serve it, you hear:"Honey, this is something I would order in an Italian restaurant!":)
Serve it as a salad or an appetizer or have it as a side dish to a steak or fish.

4 Italian eggplants, cut in 1/2" slices
regular salt
1 can diced tomatoes (14.5 oz)
1 medium onion, sliced
1 bell pepper, chopped
1/4 cup pine nuts
1 tbsp sugar
a little less than 1/2 cup white vinegar
1.5 tbsp olive oil + 4 tbsp (+) for cooking eggplants

Place the eggplant slices in a dish and cover them with a couple of tablespoons of salt. Put something heavy on top and leave for 1 hour. This procedure is going to take out excess moisture and they are going to absorb less oil when you fry them. Afterwards wash them with cold water and dry on a paper towel.
Heat 1.5 tbsp of olive oil in a pan over medium low and cook the onion for 3-4 minutes. Change the heat setting to low and add tomatoes, bell pepper and pine nuts. Cook for 15 minutes stirring occasionally.
In another pan heat 4 tbsp of olive oil over medium heat. Cook eggplant slices in batches until golden brown on both sides. Add more oil if needed. Move eggplants to the pan with onion-tomato mixture and cook for 10 minutes on medium low stirring occasionally. Season with salt and add sugar. Cook for 10 more minutes. Pour in vinegar and cook until it evaporates - 3-4 minutes. Sprinkle with basil before serving. 
Can be served cold as well.


Monday, June 18, 2012

Chocolate Salami

Embrace any change - that is all that comes to my mind right now. I like one of  Martin Luther King Jr. quotes: "the ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy". Though routine and order are great I believe it is the change and the challenge what make us grow and make us stronger.
I started this blog to challenge myself and break out of the rut. Since then I have had some incredible things happen to me. The changes are not related to this blog, but I feel that "Life in Chocolate" has had an incredible positive influence on my life and I am very grateful for that. Here is one more chocolate recipe to celebrate my happiness:) My family and friends looove this chocolate salami:) One time I was making it late at night so our friend could take it on a cross-country trip with him! Enjoy!


1 cup sugar
a little over 3 tbsp unsweetened cocoa
5 tbsp milk 
250 gr shortbread cookies
1 cup walnuts
3/4 cups butter at room temperature

In a small pan mix together sugar, cocoa and milk. Put it on a stove on a low heat setting and stir until all the ingredients are well mixed (2-4 minutes). Leave it on a stove till it starts boiling (approx 10 minutes). Stir occasionally. Once the liquid starts boiling, take it off the stove and let it cool down for a couple of minutes. Stir in the butter and mix until it fully dissolves. Pour the liquid into a large bowl.
Put half of cookies and half of walnuts in a food processor and run it till they are coarsely crumbled. Break the other half of cookies and nuts with your hands into rough pieces.
Start adding the cookie-walnut mixture to the bowl and mix. The mixture should be viscous, with the texture resembling raw ground beef. Divide the mixture into 3 portions. Prepare 3 sheets of parchment paper. Place each portion on one end of the prepared sheet and with your hands shape the mass in the form of a sausage. Roll it up in the parchment paper. Make sure the mixture doesn't lose the form and stretch from the sides while you are rolling it up. Roll the parchment paper in aluminum foil to further secure the form. Repeat with the rest of the mixture. 

Place the "salamis" in the freezer.  Slice right before serving with a sharp knife. Keep in the fridge or the freezer.  Serve cold.


- You can use cookies and nuts in different proportions, depending on your taste
- Secure the salami tight in aluminum foil as it can become loose and can break when being sliced
- If it breaks when you slice it, place it in the fridge or leave in the kitchen for some time, so it can warm up and get some moisture
- You can omit the parchment paper and roll it straight in the foil


Saturday, June 9, 2012

Mushroom Spinach Soup

A couple of days ago I came across an episode of Popeye the Sailor Man (thank you, YouTube, for your recommendations;)) where he was fighting termites in his house. I find this cartoon pretty funny and informative too: I mean after 5 minutes the kids who are watching the cartoon know who termites are, what they eat and why and how Popeye defeated them - he was strong because he ate spinach! I remember reading somewhere that the spinach sales skyrocketed in the 40's because of the cartoon. There was a lot of discussion about the creators' concept of "consuming spinach leads to physical strength". Some were saying it was based on the misleading information regarding spinach's iron content (10 times more than it really is), some said that Vitamin A was the reason this leafy vegetable was chosen for the cartoon. I think in the end it doesn't really matter. What's incredible is the whole idea that the spinach sales went up because of some cartoon! That proves that we can change our kids' perception on what is a good snack and what is not by just creating more cartoons that praise veggies and fruit and decreasing the number of commercials with cartoonish characters showing how good hamburgers and chips are.
I am not going to sit here and say that I really enjoy eating spinach. I guess my sense of responsibility for my family's well being makes me add a little bit of spinach here, a little bit there;) I'll add some fresh spinach to a salad, make spinach and ricotta filling for crepes or mix some spinach in a mushroom soup.  

I cannot not mention the use of wine in this recipe, as it plays a big role in making this soup aromatic and rather intriguing without any spices. But I feel it's wrong to express how I support using wine in cooking after talking so much about spinach (from cartoons to wine...yeah) Maybe next time:)


1 lb white mushrooms, sliced
a handful of dry crimini mushrooms
1 bunch of fresh spinach, roughly cut, stems removed
1 1/2 qt (6 cups) vegetable or chicken stock
1/2 cup dry white wine
parsley, finely chopped
olive oil
black pepper

In a small bowl cover crimini mushrooms with hot water for approx. 5 minutes. Drain them.
Add enough oil to a large frying pan to cover the bottom and heat it up on a high heat setting. Add white and crimini mushrooms and cook stirring for 3 minutes. Mix in spinach and cook for 4 more minutes. Pour in wine and let it evaporate, stirring occasionally. Once the liquid is gone (8-10 minutes), turn off the heat and add parsley to the pan.
Bring your stock to boil, add the mixture from the pan and cook for 8 minutes on a medium heat setting. Season with salt and pepper.
Serve hot.