Black Velvets


This photo is another one of those party moments that I wonder what people who weren’t there would guess we’re up to. (In this case, I’ll spoil the mystery and reveal that we’re looking at is this, because it’s an incredibly slick idea that I wish I’d thought of first.)

Anyway, it was fun. Thanks to all who came, and apologies to all we couldn’t invite (we only have so much room at the table!)

Some of you asked for recipes — the spices in the soup are going to be to-the-best-of-my-recollection, but here goes:

Vegetarian Black Bean Soup for 16

Heat 1/2 cup of canola oil in a big vat. Add some chopped peppers and toast them very briefly — I used italian long peppers and some crushed red peppers because I forgot to buy anything else, and that’s what we had in the fridge. Add three or four chopped yellow onions and a chopped shallot or two, sauté until soft. Add 16 cups vegetable stock, two pounds soaked black beans, and whatever of the following sounds good:

  • a handful of chopped thyme
  • another handful of chopped rosemary
  • a small handful of oregano
  • too much cumin
  • a tablespoon of coriander
  • a teaspoon of cinnamon
  • bit of allspice

Simmer for three or four hours. Somewhere in there, get paranoid that the beans are never going to get soft enough on their own, so stick a hand blender in there and puree it. Shortly before serving add some salt and a few splashes of red wine vinegar; serve with diced tomato and sour cream.

Risotto for 16

Make a lot of risotto. Put some broiled portobello mushrooms on top. Get a friend to draw pretty pictures on top using a balsamic vinegar reduction in a squeeze bottle.

Too Much Chocolate Cake

This is the one that comes from the Serendipity Jokebook er I mean Cookbook. I have removed the silly parts (such as calling for measurements like “1 cup plus 2 1/2 tablespoons”; and measuring the same ingredient by weight for the cake, but by volume for the frosting), but even with my corrections you’ll still a) use every mixing bowl you own, and b) end up with vastly more of both cake and frosting than you actually need.

This could easily have made four layers instead of three — which would’ve saved much panicky tinfoil and oven-rearranging when everything overflowed during baking — and we’ve got at least two cups of frosting left over. Which when it cools bears a startling resemblance to fudge. In fact, it is fudge.

The cake:

  • 1 pound unsweetened chocolate
  • 2 pounds brown sugar
  • 1 pound sweet butter
  • 3 cups flour (we used all-purpose because I couldn’t find pastry flour; it seemed to work out fine)
  • 2 tablespoons baking soda
  • 6 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons vanilla
  • 3 cups water
  • Roughly a cup of sour cream (they call for 10 2/3 ounces, so good luck with the postage scale)

Beat the sugar and butter together in one bowl. Sift the four and baking soda together in bowl 2. (yeah, like anybody owns a sifter. Just stir.) Beat the eggs and vanilla in bowl 3. Melt the chocolate in bowl 4. Get the water ready to boil in bowl 5. Ponder the fact that the word “bowl”, repeated enough times, stops looking like it is in english. Wonder whether just for symmetry the single remaining ingredient should go in a bowl too.

Pour bowls 3 and 4 into bowl 1. Mix well. Pour half of bowl 2 into bowl 1. Mix well some more. Add the sour cream, mix, add the rest of the flour, mix, then pour in all the boiling water at once and mix mix mix.

Divide the batter into three (or probably better four) greased 9-inch pans, into which you’ve remembered to put carefully measured and x-acto’d circles of wax paper because you’re just that kind of guy. Line the entire oven with tinfoil, because it will overflow. Bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees, let cool.

The frosting:

  • 1 pound unsweetened chocolate
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 3 tablespoons karo syrup
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 8 ounces of completely unnecessary chocolate chips

Melt the chocolate, let it cool. Bring the cream, sugar, and syrup to a boil, and let that cool completely. Put them all together, add the vanilla and sour cream, and whisk together “until it is shiny as the crust on chocolate pudding.”

Frost the cake, putting the chips between layers. (We added layers of strawberry jam, and should’ve added a layer of crème fraîche too. That would’ve been good.) Stir some chopped nuts into the vast quantities of leftover frosting, refrigerate, and call it fudge.