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Friday, December 19, 2014

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Splitting the sea of chocolate in Israel

Tags: Food
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One year when I was a kid, my bubby brought over some chocolate bars for us. My mother was appalled because they weren’t real chocolate at all, but some waxy, chocolate-flavoured thing with a token nod to cocoa way down in the ingredients list. “Why would she buy these,” my mother wailed, “when there’s so much good chocolate at this time of year?”
This year, celebrating our first Pesach in Israel, chocolate – simple, uncomplicated chocolate – is probably going to be one of the few things that are still easy.
Back in Toronto, a majority of Jews are Ashkenazi, and the Kashruth Council of Canada took care of everything for us. No flour, of course, but also no kitniyot: canola oil, rice, beans.
Here, we’re no longer in the majority.  Just about everyone here in Israel can eat all those yummies that we don’t – corn, peas, even falafel, if you leave out the pita bread.
While they’re feasting on falafel, corn-on-the-cob (or popcorn!), pea soup, and peanut-flavoured Bamba snacks, we’ll be sifting through grocery-store shelves trying to find things we can take home and eat. True, everything is labelled – in Hebrew that needs a magnifying glass to decipher. Many packages have two hechshers (kosher symbols), one for during the year and one for Pesach.  Which one’s which? They don’t teach you how to read product hechshers in our ulpan course.
I’m told it’s gotten easier for Ashkenazim here. The hechshers are less baffling, better organized. And there’s Facebook, where you can network for certain treasured ingredients, finding out which local stores carry what you need before you head out on a wild goose chase.
Things have also gotten more challenging in Toronto, with more kitniyot on the Pesach shelves every year. Not only for Sephardim, but also for Conservative Jews and others, who rely on rabbinic rulings that they’re fine for Passover use.
Here in Israel, at Purim, I noticed a bag of chips proudly proclaiming it was kosher for Pesach and kitniyot-free.  So there’s one more thing we can eat.  Chips – and chocolate. Since the very best chocolate has the fewest additives, particularly those troublesome kitniyot oils (like soy) that make up those waxy fake-chocolate bars, I can look forward to the best.
Kosher celebrity chef Jamie Geller feels the same way since making aliyah from the United States in 2012. Her new cookbook, Joy of Kosher: Fast, Fresh Family Recipes, which features over 100 fast and kosher recipes, includes many just for Pesach, especially her Olive Oil Dark Chocolate Mousse.
The title was strange at first; even a little revolting. Olive oil mousse? I don’t like olive oil that much, and the idea of mixing it with chocolate horrified me.  
But I’ve been trying to get away from Pesach margarine, made with less-than-healthy oils, and I knew chocolate could mask many unpleasant flavours, so I decided to give it a try.
Turns out the chocolate’s not masking anything. Both chocolate and olive oil play together deliciously in this recipe, with the olive oil providing a rich, silky texture, good-quality chocolate bringing its own distinctive flavour, and egg whites providing their heavenly fluff (don’t worry, you use the yolks, too, so there’s no waste).
Is it safe to use raw egg whites? The Egg Farmers of Canada recommend proper food handling. Use only clean, uncracked eggs, wash hands before and after preparation, and keep this mousse well-chilled until serving. Very few salmonella cases have been traced to eggs in Canada, but seniors and those with weakened immune systems should avoid uncooked eggs and many other high-risk foods.  Geller says that “you can use pasteurized eggs without affecting the results.”
She also recommends using a high-quality olive oil. Since you’ll be cooking with it a lot over Pesach anyway, it’s a great investment, and in this dessert, its “fruity” aromas shine.  “[I] just love the flavor and smooth, creamy texture it imparts,” Geller says.

OLIVE OIL DARK CHOCOLATE MOUSSE  Jamie Geller, from Joy of Kosher:
Fast, Fresh Family Recipes

10 oz. high-quality (72 per cent cacao) bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped, or chocolate chips
8 large eggs, separated, at room temperature
3⁄4 cup granulated sugar
1⁄2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp. instant coffee granules dissolved in 2 tbsp. boiling water
grated zest of 1 small orange (optional)
1⁄4 tsp. kosher salt

Place the chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl and melt in a microwave, stirring after each 10-second increment, until smooth, about 1 1/2 minutes. Let cool slightly.
Place the egg yolks and 1/2 cup sugar in a medium bowl and whisk until pale yellow. Whisk in the olive oil, coffee, zest (if using), and salt until combined.  
Add the melted chocolate and whisk until smooth.
Beat the egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer or with a hand mixer until soft peaks form. Gradually sprinkle in the remaining 1/4 cup sugar and beat just until stiff peaks form. Add a generous spoonful of the egg white mixture to the chocolate mixture. Stir firmly until completely incorporated. Pour the chocolate mixture into the bowl of egg whites. Gently fold with a large spoon or rubber spatula until completely combined.
Divide the mousse into six 6-oz.ramekins and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate overnight.

Dress it up (Olive Oil Dark Chocolate Mousse Shots)
Serve the mousse with various toppings in individual shot glasses on a vintage silver tray. Top with whipped cream, orange zest curls, coarse flake sea salt, fresh berries, or crushed nuts. Geller recommends Salted Nut Powder “for something really special.”  Pulse 3 tbsp. shelled pistachios and 1 tsp. coarse sea salt by hand or in a mini food processor or coffee grinder until ground and slightly powdery but still with some rough chunks. Sprinkle on top of mousse before serving. (Serves 6)
 

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