I feel the end approaching. Quick, bring me my dessert, coffee and liqueur.
~Jean-Antheleme Brillat-Savarin’s
great aunt Pierette

No, this is not a delusion…just another ladleful of ignorance added to the broth.

As the nation’s second largest textbook market, Texas has enormous leverage over publishers, who often craft their standard textbooks based on buyers’ specs. So, when it comes to the very books which teach the basics to our children, what happens in Texas rarely stays in Texas…to the chagrin of genuine academia and our children’s children. Driven by a paranoid, chauvinistic mindset that has been advanced as gospel truth, in three short days of turbulent yet less than intellectually honest meetings, the Texas Board of Education simply removed Thomas Jefferson from the curriculum. Off the bench, they replaced him in the lineup with a couple of religious icons: a Siclian, St. Thomas Aquinas and a Frenchman, John Calvin. How quickly theological tenets can become widely peddled as ipse dixit school books.

Summarily guillotining the scrivener of the Declaration of Independence from the horizons of our history? According to these pious Texans, Jefferson’s heinous sin was that (along with other Founding Fathers) he was committed to a purely secular government. Even his onetime adversary, and later pen pal, John Adams is twisting in his grave at such wretched illiteracy. Hopefully, the board members comprehend this severe blow to students across the land—inevitably leading to a lack of a common notion of reality among youth. Shame to those zealots who added to the stoning of President Jefferson.

Something sweet is needed to assuage such bitterness.

Translated as “pick me up” or “pull me up,” tiramisù has recent culinary origins, i.e., during my children’s generation. This only makes sense as my daughter is openly smittten by this creamy-coffee-liqueur-chocolate-finger caked ambrosia. Heaven in a spoon — or in a darker calvinist vein, a sinful indulgence demanding redemption, salvation, absolution and all that brimstony blah-blah-blah.

Buon appetito, mia figlia

TIRAMISU

1/2 C strong espresso
1/4 C coffee liqueur
3.5 ozs bittersweet chocolate, grated
3 T cocoa powder
1/2 C light brown sugar

3 large egg whites

3 large egg yolks
1/4 C sugar
1 t high quality vanilla extract
3 C mascarpone

30 small savoiardi (Italian ladyfingers)

Bittersweet chocolate, shaved (for topping)

Mix the coffee, coffee liqueur, bittersweet chocolate, cocoa powder and light brown sugar together and set aside.

In a medium bowl, beat the egg whites to stiff and glossy peaks with a hand whisk or an electric mixer fitted with a whisk and set aside.

With a whisk or in an electric mixer fitted with a paddle, beat egg yolks, sugar and vanilla until mixture is pale and thick and forms ribbons. Slowly fold the mascarpone into the egg yolk mixture. Then, with a spatula fold in the egg whites into the marscarpone mixture, and set aside.

In a long, shallow bowl, quickly dip the savoiardi in the espresso, coffee liqueur, bittersweet chocolate, cocoa powder and brown sugar mixture. Do not drench the ladyfingers, or they will self destruct as you arrange them. Arrange them on the bottom in one layer in a 9″ x 9″ x 3″ rectangular or oval dish and sprinkle with grated chocolate. Stand the savoiardi standing on end around the dish. As necessary, shorten the ladyfingers to fill the spaces. Pour half the mascarpone mixture over and spread evenly. Repeat the layers of dipped ladyfingers, mascarpone mixture and grated chocolate.

Lightly smooth the top with mascarpone mixture and strew with shaved bittersweet chocolate.

Serve immediately at room temperature or refrigerate and serve chilled.

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He give her a look that you could of poured on a waffle.
~Ring Lardner

Carbo loaders unite!…but for the butter.

Waffles are leavened cousins of the ancient communion wafer which were once baked in irons and likewise displayed a honeycomb pattern. Waffles were first introduced to this continent in the 17th century by Dutch settlers. Even Thomas Jefferson brought a waffle iron from France at considerable trouble and expense when “waffle frolics” became the fad. Quite the image. Sounds like a scene from La Grande Bouffe, a controversial early 70’s film with its scatological humourous depictions of sex and over eating. Picture President Jefferson with his slave-lover-baby-mama Sally Hemings, batter, syrup and butter…an early 19th century 9 1/2 Weeks. A waffle frolic, to be sure.

BUTTERMILK WAFFLES WITH PECANS

2 C flour
1 T baking powder
1 t baking soda
1 T sugar
1/2 t sea salt

4 organic egg whites
4 organic egg yolks
2 C buttermilk
12 T unsalted butter, melted and cooled

3 T pecans, roughly chopped and toasted

Preheat waffle iron

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt, then set aside. Beat egg whites until they hold about a 2″ peak. Set aside.

In another bowl, lightly whisk egg yolks, add buttermilk then the melted butter and whisk further until combined. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the wet ingredients except for the egg whites. Gently whisk them together with several swift strokes. Gently fold in the toasted pecans and then the egg whites. The batter should have a thick pebbled, unincorporated appearance much like muffin batter—it is preferable to undermix than to overmix.

Pour between 1/2 to 3/4 cup batter (or the amount recommended by the maufacturer) onto the preheated waffle iron. Spread the batter to within 1/2″ of the edge of the grids. Close the lid and bake until the waffle is light golden brown.

Serve with unsalted butter and pure maple syrup.

The fennel is beyond every other vegetable, delicious. It greatly resembles in appearance the largest size celery, perfectly white, and there is no vegetable equals it in flavour. It is eaten at dessert, crude, and with, or without dry salt, indeed I preferred it to every other vegetable, or to any fruit
~Thomas Jefferson

If fennel is good enough for Thomas Jefferson, it is good enough for you…and for gracing your pizzas, bruschettas, crostinis and tarts and for nestling up to your roasted or grilled meats, poultry, fish and so on and so forth.

Jefferson was a scientist, philosopher, statesman, author, architect, musician, naturalist, zoologist, botanist, farmer, bibliophile, inventor, wine conoisseur, and mathematician…and in his spare time was the President of the United States, Vice President, Secretary of State, Minister to France, Governor of Virginia, and founder of the University of Virginia. Oh, and he wrote the Declaration of Independence. What have we accomplished this week?

It is self evident that Jefferson sallied forth to pursue the eclectic and exotic in all facets of his public life (and private dalliances, too).

Much like with garlic, braising and roasting causes fennel to undergo an almost radical transformation. The sometimes intense and lingering licorice flavor of raw fennel softens and cedes to much more voluptuous, sweet, nutty and herbal aromas and flavors with the bulb’s characteristic crunch turning soft and silky. See Beet & Fennel Salad—Undeservedly So

BRAISED FENNEL

4 medium fennel bulbs, trimmed of stems and fronds, cut into 1 1/2″ wedges
3 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
3/4 C dry white wine
3/4 C chicken broth
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Preheat oven to 375

Over medium low, heat the olive oil in a large heavy skillet. Lay fennel wedges in the pan. Saute until golden on the bottom, about 8 minutes, then turn and repeat on the other side. If necessary, brown in batches. Season with salt and pepper.

Arrange the fennel in a single layer in a baking dish. Add the wine and chicken broth, transfer the dish to the oven, and braise until tender, about 30-40 minutes. Remove and season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve.

ROASTED FENNEL

3-4 medium fennel bulbs, trimmed of stems and fronds, cut lengthwise, then into 1/2″ slices
Extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
Balsamic vinegar

Preheat oven to 400

Coat fennel with olive oil with hands, season with salt and pepper, and then sprinkle with some balsamic vinegar. Line a baking dish with aluminum foil. Arrange fennel in dish and roast for 30-40 minutes, until the fennel softens and begins to caramelize.