Chocolate Magic Shell

The kid in us loves this simple, crispy chocolate ice cream “sauce.” A little mysterious, the warm glossy chocolate hardens on contact with frozen scoops of ice cream, leaving a thin shell that breaks into shards as the spoon takes its first swipe at the cool creamy treat below. No matter the ice cream flavor, a drizzle of homemade chocolate shell is always a welcome addition.

So what’s the secret? How does liquid chocolate turn to a brittle shell on top of ice cream? Coconut oil! That’s right, pure, extra virgin coconut oil. This delicious tropical oil remains liquid at temperatures above 76 degrees, a not uncommon temperature in a busy kitchen. But once cooled, coconut oil gets very hard. And, like chocolate, the colder the coconut fat gets, the more brittle it becomes. The result of combining them is a delightfully crunchy ice cream topper.

The flavors of coconut and chocolate compliment one another perfectly. Beyond great flavor, their high saturated fat content protects them from oxidation. That means your batch of chocolate shell will last months at room temperature if kept tightly covered. We recommend using the best dark chocolate you can afford for this recipe. If you want to make a large batch to share with others, we’re fans of Trader Joe’s PoundPlus bars of 72% dark Belgian chocolate. Besides having great flavor, it offers a big bang for the buck. If a Trader Joe’s is not in your area, use the best chocolate you can find. The coconut oil used here is a cold-pressed, organic extra virgin coconut oil from Nutiva. It has a light taste and beautiful white color. When shopping for coconut oil, just remember to look for organic options and buy only non-hydrogenated virgin oil.

The chocolate shell on the shelf of the local grocery may be easy enough to grab, but if you can warm water on the stove, you can whip up your own batch of chocolate shell in minutes. We use the recipe written by the good folks at America’s Test Kitchen here. They know how to test a recipe and we’re happy to report this one is perfect.

Chocolate Ice Cream Shell
By America’s Test Kitchen*

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon instant espresso or coffee powder
Pinch salt
4    ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped (whatever dark chocolate you prefer)
1/3 cup coconut oil
1    teaspoon cocoa

Stir vanilla, espresso powder, and salt together in small bowl until espresso dissolves. Microwave chocolate and coconut oil in medium bowl at 50 percent power, stirring occasionally, until melted, 2 to 4 minutes. Whisk in vanilla mixture and cocoa until combined. Let cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes, before using. Chocolate shell can be stored at room temperature in airtight container for at least 2 months; microwave, stirring occasionally, until melted and smooth, 1 to 2 minutes, before using.

*We do not own a microwave (shocking, we know). Instead of nuking the ingredients here, we made a double boiler out of a sauce pan and a stainless steel bowl. It’s easy enough to melt the chocolate and coconut oil on the stove top over boiling water. It really doesn’t take much more time than a microwave. Remember, once cooled and stored, your magic shell may turn into a solid mass in the cupboard. To rewarm, loosen the lid, set the jar in a small saucepan and add enough water to come half way up the side of the jar and heat over a very low flam until the chocolate is liquid. This process takes less time than it takes your ice-cream to soften for scooping!

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Pesto Chango

You’re eyes aren’t deceiving you; we’re finally updating our blog. While we work out the kinks we’re also going to try to keep our blog posts more consistent too. If something is missing from our blog that you like, please let us know. We’re hoping to have a more functional blog up very soon including links to all our recipes, guest contributors, and videos of our cooking skills. If you’d like to write for us or if you have any suggestions for our new site, shoot us a line. Cheers!

Ah, bounty. The bags of produce we buy from Mariquita Farm are filled with an awesome bounty of winter fruits and veggies. Our most recent purchase contained a big bag of what we are pretty sure was arugula and we knew the second we looked at it that there was no way we would eat it all before it yellowed. While we love arugula, we couldn’t stomach the idea of eating arugula salads twice a day. It seemed destined to the compost bin. Big bummer.

But then it came to us – the spicy salad green makes for a tasty substitute for the more traditional basil in pesto sauce. We had our solution. The washed and dried arugula went into the food processor where it was ground and blended with a fruity, high quality extra virgin olive oil, toasted walnuts, fresh ground Grana Padano, raw garlic, fresh lemon zest and some salt and pepper. Perfecto!

Pesto is a versatile sauce. It’s great on pasta, but it’s also tasty served with grilled chicken or fish. It’s nice slathered on toasted baguette and eaten as a condiment with soup. Make it in big batches and freeze the extra in ice cube trays for future use. Just pull what you need from the freezer and toss with hot pasta or thaw for other uses.

We used walnuts in this version, but pesto invites experimentation. Basil pesto is traditionally prepared with toasted pine nuts or almonds. You can use just about any hard, salty cheese to make the sauce and nut oils make for interesting alternatives to the olive oil. Play with it, find what you like and enjoy your pesto choices with just about everything.

Arugula Pesto

4-6 cups fresh arugula
¼ cup Toasted Walnuts
4-6 garlic cloves, finely minced
Zest of one lemon
1 cup freshly ground Grana Padano (Parmesan Cheese)
½ cup Extra virgin olive oil
Salt & Pepper

Add the arugula, walnuts, garlic, lemon zest, and Grana Padano to a food processor. Pulse a few times until starting to form a paste. Then, with the motor running, add olive oil through the feed tube. Stop the processor and add salt and pepper to taste. Pulse a few more times. Pesto can be used that day or frozen in ice cube trays for future uses.