- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 26, 2006

A friend asked me for recipe recommendations using Nutella, the luscious spread of

chocolate and hazelnuts.

What recipe, I wondered. Don’t people simply stick a spoon in the jar and lift out a mouthful? Some things — whipping cream, chocolate, and chocolate-hazelnut butter, to name a few — don’t need to be complicated to be delicious.

During the holiday season, when your stress levels may be peaking, it’s great to have a few ingredients on hand that don’t require a lot of preparation time, especially when you need instant food comfort.

Think of some foods as culinary first-aid kits. You open a jar or package and get instant relief.

My kit would include Nutella; roasted, salted macadamia nuts; dried cherries; and barbecued soy chips, reflecting my preference for both sweet and salty foods and the crunch that alleviates aggravation.

Think about what you would crave after a day of shopping and build your emergency food supply accordingly.

Of course, if you’re feeling creative, you can use your rations as a base and toss together something truly scrumptious. For example, take a handful of dried cherries, mix with roasted, salted pistachios and stir into a tub of rich mascarpone cheese.

Spread the mixture on thin slices of pecan bread and enjoy. Or spread biscotti with a thin layer of almond butter. Fattening? You bet, but very soothing.

Here are two very quick and easy food indulgences. Serve the chocolate-and-hazelnut grilled sandwiches as an afternoon snack or for Sunday brunch. The hazelnut-and-chocolate cream-cheese spread makes a great holiday or weekend breakfast treat.

Chocolate-and-hazelnut grilled sandwiches

3 tablespoons chocolate-and-hazelnut spread

2 thin slices crusty country bread, each slice 7 to 8 inches long

1 tablespoons butter

1/4 cup mascarpone cheese

1 teaspoon sugar

Evenly spread chocolate-and-hazelnut spread on 1 slice of bread. Cover with remaining bread. Melt butter in medium skillet over medium heat. Add sandwich to skillet. Fry sandwich about 3 to 4 minutes per side or until golden brown. Remove immediately.

Meanwhile, whip mascarpone cheese and sugar at high speed in bowl of electric mixer until fluffy.

To serve, cut sandwich diagonally in half. Add a generous dollop of whipped mascarpone cheese on the side. Serve immediately. Makes 2 servings.

Hazelnut-and-chocolate cream-cheese spread

1 3-ounce package cream cheese, at room temperature

1 to 2 teaspoons milk or half-and-half

1 tablespoon chopped toasted hazelnuts

1 tablespoon finely chopped bittersweet chocolate

1 teaspoon sugar

Beat together cream cheese and milk by hand or in bowl of electric mixer. Add hazelnuts and chocolate. Taste and add sugar, if desired. Makes enough spread for 4 bagels. Store leftovers, covered, in the refrigerator up to 4 days.

TRIBUNE MEDIA SERVICES

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