When a Brownie is Not a Brownie

Okay, I need to tell you upfront that there is no brownie recipe at the end of this post. There is, however, a recipe for chocolate mousse. Confused? Keep reading...

When I was in high school in the early 70s (yes, I am that old!), there were common references to 'Alice B. Toklas Brownies.' Being fairly naïve, I didn't learn until I was in college that this referred to brownies laced with marijuana. I had no idea who Alice B. Toklas was, or why she was famous for these brownies. Some hippie, I assumed. As I neared my senior year in college, I discovered the poetry and writings of Gertrude Stein; my college opera department put on Four Saints in Three Acts with music by Virgil Thompson and the libretto by Gertrude Stein. It was a pivotal moment for me in my love of 20th century opera. I still didn't know who Alice was.


Pasta, Sweet Pasta!

When Lynne Rosetto Kasper published her cookbook The Splendid Table in 1992, it was the first time I had ever heard of sweet pastas. In the Renaissance, she wrote (and I paraphrase), sweet pastas were found only on the tables of the wealthiest Italians. This was the case for two reasons. First, the fine white flour that was used to make the best pasta was so expensive that only the rich could afford it. Second, these same folks were the only ones with the wealth and connections to get the spices that came from trade with Persia, Arabia, Southeast Asia and China.

These spices are ones we take for granted but, in the 1500s, ginger, cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, rosewater and black pepper were rare and costly. Having them in those days showed great power to one's guests.


South-of-the-Border Sweet Potato Salad

What do you think of our cool, blue margaritas? Amazing color, eh? (recipe follows)
My new blogging friend Paula, from Vintage Kitchen, has it right. Cinco de Mayo is about the party!  (check out her grapefruit-ginger-tequila cocktail!) Margaritas, zesty food, good friends. What more is there?

Cinco de Mayo is big here in Tucson, and our neighborhood had its annual party last weekend to celebrate. It was held poolside - a potluck that included chile relleno casserole, enchiladas, barbecued chicken, gazpacho, guacamole, bean dips, fresh fruit, salads, margaritas and plentiful desserts including tres leches cake, a local favorite.


A Single Layer of Heaven

As I mentioned in my last post, I finished the "week without cooking" (sounds like shock therapy to me!) with a birthday dinner for our friend Pat.

His actual birthday was a month ago but, with all the kids visiting them along with travel and work obligations, this was the first time all four of us were available to get together. On the positive side, it can be really nice to extend the celebratory period!

I let Pat pick the menu and was especially keen to know what he wanted for his birthday dessert. "Something chocolate with hazelnut." Once he said that, I knew just the cake!