I could spend hours upon hours wandering up and down the aisles of any great grocery store or market. Any place that lets me find gourmet chocolate, oils, beautifully packaged products and fresh produce.
So when I was asked if I would play around with some ingredients from Mark McEwan’s shop; it was like asking if I wanted another slice of cake. Yes. Let’s do this. I’m a huge fan of chef Mark McEwan and wanted to see what kinds of products he stocks and see what recipes he came up with for his new Italian cookbook, Fabbrica (also the name of his most recent restaurant).
I guess it’s not surprising that I would start with something sweet. I had some great things to experiment with and they included a bottle of La Vecchia Dispensa balsamic oil and some Himalayan pink salt. You’d be surprised how many desserts you can find online that use balsamic vinegar (and I was looking for something beyond drizzling it on fruit – which is great if you haven’t tried it.) I found recipes for vinegar pie, chocolate balsamic cakes, balsamic fudge and lo and behold…several versions of balsamic chocolate truffles.
This is where you use the best quality chocolate you can find. I used 66% Valrhona Caraibe, 70% Valrhona Grand Cru Guanaja and 70% Callebaut. If you like salty and sweet – a bit of good sea salt or in this cake, the pink salt, really brings out the flavour of the chocolates. I fed these to people who looked very unsure when I told them they were about to eat a balsamic vinegar and pink salt truffle, and they were all pleasantly surprised.
The recipe I used was from The Food Network
Melt the chocolate and cream in a double boiler over hot but not simmering water. Place melted chocolate in a small bowl. Stir in the balsamic vinegar. Cool the chocolate in the refrigerator for 1 hour. Remove from the refrigerator and let sit at room temperature for 2 hours, until firm but moldable.
Use a teaspoon to scoop out chocolate. Use your fingertips to shape into balls about the size of a cherry. Set the chocolate balls on a parchment-lined tray.
Place the cocoa powder in a small shallow dish. Place 6 truffles at a time in the cocoa powder and roll the truffles around to coat, and return the coated truffles to the baking sheet. Continue with the remaining truffles. Place the truffles in a serving dish or airtight package.
The next time I make these truffles I would add an extra teaspoon of balsamic to boost the flavour. And I mistakenly rolled a few truffles in cocoa powder before realizing that the salt wouldn’t stick on the outside. So then I dabbed a little salt on the truffle BEFORE rolling it in cocoa.
There were all kinds of other great items from McEwan’s gourmet selection of products including a bright green little jar of pesto which I used to make a fantastic frittata. I find frittatas to be the easiest meal to make – you just toss in whatever random things you have in your fridge and bake it with eggs. In my case, I chopped some sundried tomatoes, spinach (wilted in a hot pan with McEwan’s Ice Pressed extra virgin olive oil), and grated Parmesan cheese with a tablespoon of the pesto and used cheater eggs (a carton of egg whites) along with 4 whole eggs. Mixed it up, lined an 8×8 pan with parchment (if you bake without it – you’ll be scraping bits of cooked egg off your pan for days) and baked at 350-degrees for about 35 min. It’s a meal! In a pan!
If you’re looking for a last minute Valentine’s gift; McEwan’s has perfect gift baskets. You can even get someone to put it together and take the credit.