Saturday, January 2, 2016

A New Day, A New Year

There will never be a New Year’s Eve to eclipse the epic December 31, 1999. The sense of anticipation was palpable. For heaven’s sake, computers had not been programmed to turn over to the new millennium, we were told. The fear of havoc for mankind as we knew it was pervasive. I had my emergency preparedness kit at the ready.

I had a dinner party that night and remember a friend came with a magnum of unchilled Baby Duck. I stuck in the freezer compartment of my refrigerator and forgot about it. Good news. It froze and burst! I didn't have to drink it!

Every New Year’s Eve since has been anti-climactic. I am now back to mundane resolutions and dreams of a new life miraculously appearing before me when the last page of the calendar is ripped off and tossed.

As the new year blossoms I regret not being better at staying in touch with old friends. Old friends are the best friends. We pick up where we left off as if time stood still. Old friends seldom let you down.  Now I feel I am letting them down.

It happens. You move. Get busy. Don’t call. Lose touch.

Another interesting piece with retirement is the reconnection with people from the past who actually are not friends. It goes like this, “So I see you have retired. What are you doing?” Me, naïve and one who always thinks the best of people answers in vivid detail and with questions about their life. Waiting. For. Communication.

There is something about being retired that brings similarly positioned people to call. They want to talk about themselves. They want to brag. They tell me about vacation homes and moving to a warmer climate. But they never continue the conversation. Interesting.

Pomegranates represent good luck in Turkey for many reasons: Their red color, which represents the human heart, denotes life and fertility; their medicinal properties represent health; and their abundant, round seeds represent prosperity — all things everyone hopes for in any fresh start. (

Chocolate Pomegranate Torte
from Fine Cooking

This is not local food in any way but what a nice way to ring in the new year. As if chocolate wasn’t healthy enough it is combined with superfood pomegranate. There is a double dose of antioxidants in this. You won’t age a bit this year. Promise.

Serves 12 to 14
  • 1/4 c. softened unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces; more for the pan
  • 6 oz. bittersweet chocolate (70% or 72% cacao)
  • 3 large eggs, separated
  • 3/4 c. granulated sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. table salt
  • 1/8 tsp. cream of tartar
  • 1/2 c. unbleached all-purpose flour
For the Pomegranate Jelly:
  • 1 medium cooking apple
  • 1 1/2 c. pure unsweetened pomegranate juice
  • 1/4 c. plus 2 tbsp. granulated sugar
  • 12 fresh or frozen cranberries
For the Glaze:
  • 6 oz. bittersweet chocolate (70% or 72% cacao), chopped medium fine
  • 6 tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into 6 pieces
  • 1 tbsp. honey or light corn syrup
  • Pinch table salt
  • Fresh pomegranate seeds, for garnish (optional)

Make the Cake:
Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease the sides of a 9x2-inch round cake pan and line the bottom with parchment.
Finely grate 2 oz. of the chocolate and set aside. Coarsely chop the remaining chocolate and combine with the butter and 3 Tbs. water in a heatproof bowl. Set the bowl in a skillet of barely simmering water and stir frequently until the mixture is melted and smooth. Set aside.
In a large bowl, whisk the egg yolks with 1/2 cup of the sugar and the salt until thick and lightened in color.
In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites and cream of tartar at medium-high speed to soft peaks, about 2 minutes. With the motor running, gradually add the remaining 1/4 cup sugar, beating to stiff peaks, 1 to 2 minutes more.
Whisk the warm chocolate and the flour into the yolk mixture. With a rubber spatula, fold one-quarter of the whites into the chocolate batter. Scrape the remaining whites into the chocolate mixture and sprinkle the grated chocolate on top. Fold together. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and spread it evenly.
Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out smudged with a few moist crumbs, about 25 minutes. Cool in the pan on a rack for 10 minutes. Run a knife around the edge of the cake and invert it onto another rack. Remove the pan and parchment and invert the cake onto the first rack (it's normal for the cake to have a crusty exterior that may crack with handling). Let cool completely.

Make the Pomegranate Jelly:
Grate enough of the apple (including the peel) to yield 3/4 cup. In a medium saucepan, bring the grated apple, pomegranate juice, sugar, and cranberries to a simmer over medium heat. Simmer, covered, until the apple is softened and the mixture has thickened a little, about 10 minutes. Uncover and continue to simmer, stirring occasionally at first and then constantly towards the end, until the liquid has evaporated and the mixture is reduced to 3/4 cup, about 5 minutes.
With a rubber spatula, press the pulp through a medium-mesh strainer into a bowl until you can't get any more juice out of the pulp. Scrape all of the juice clinging to the bottom of the strainer into the bowl and discard the pulp in the strainer.
Brush away any loose crumbs and easily detachable crusty pieces from the sides and top of the cake. Transfer the cake to a cardboard circle or tart pan bottom.
Stir the jelly to blend it, scrape it onto the cake, and spread it evenly over the top. Let the jelly cool until it's set, about 1 hour. At this point, the cake may be covered with an inverted cake pan, wrapped in plastic (the pan keeps the plastic from touching the cake), and stored at room temperature for up to 2 days.

Make the Glaze:
Put the chocolate, butter, honey, and salt in a heatproof bowl set in a skillet of barely simmering water. Stir gently until the chocolate melts and the mixture is perfectly smooth. Remove from the heat and stir in 2 Tbs. cool water. Let cool to room temperature without stirring. If not using right away, cover and store at room temperature. 

Set the cake on a rack set over a baking sheet. With an offset spatula, spread 1/3 cup of the glaze around the sides of the cake and on top of the gel (be careful not to disturb the gel) to smooth the surfaces and glue on any crumbs. Re-warm the remaining glaze gently to 90°F in a skillet of barely simmering water—the glaze should have the consistency of thick, pourable cream.
Scrape all of the glaze onto the top of the cake. Spread the glaze over the top and all around the sides. For the shiniest glaze, work quickly and use as few strokes as possible. Scoop up any excess glaze from the baking sheet and use it to cover bare spots.
Garnish with pomegranate seeds and let the cake rest on the rack for 10 minutes. Transfer to a cake plate and let sit at room temperature until set, 15 to 30 minutes, or up to several hours before serving.