With Valentine’s Day coming up, I thought a cute love story would be appropriate.
Clearly, it doesn’t involve me. It’s about my grandparents, who are just as madly in love today as the day they met.
One night while I was in California, my grandparents hosted a birthday dinner for my dad. I made this cake.
Anyway, I convinced my grandparents to let me film them telling the story of how they met. If you have 9 minutes to spare watching this video, I suggest you do. It’s quite a cute story.
Anyway, I’ve been looking for an excuse to let that story out.
And, with Valentine’s Day just a few weeks away, I must turn to the mother of all dessert ingredients: chocolate.
My love affair with chocolate goes back a long way.
Aside from wishing I could sustain a diet almost entirely of chocolate, I loved it so much that I even based my high school speech class on the history and processing of chocolate. Yes, I stood behind a podium, in front of 30 teenagers, speaking for ten minutes… about chocolate.
I sure hope they remember something from that.
I spent years as an international development geek, so when Divine Chocolate contacted me and asked me to write a post or two using their chocolate, I was ecstatic.
Divine Chocolate is a fair trade company that works with women in Ghana, a country that boasts the title of second largest cocoa exporter in the world. With the liberalization of Ghana’s cocoa market in the 1990s, one woman saw an opportunity to organize the cocoa farmers whose voices were not being heard (this hits so closely to what my last employer did that you’d think I’d deny its coincidence).
In this recipe, I used their cocoa powder — the cookies came out perfectly. And the packaging was so well-designed!
Believe it or not, I was my father’s daughter. Still am.
My earliest memories are of waking up early to eat cereal with my dad as he read the newspaper. I had no idea what the stocks were, but nothing gave me more joy than crumpling up the corner of the page that, to this day, I don’t really understand.
He and I are cut from the same cloth. We are both practical, temperate, and sincere. We value honesty, good grammar, and thinking things through. We explore all of our options before making a decision, but we’re both generally quick to do so.
We know what we want.
Then, there are the moments where I am more like my mother. Like whenever my decisions are more emotional than practical. Like the time I booked an impromptu trip to Mexico before knowing what my grad school schedule was (whoops).
And then, there are the things about me that are somewhere in between the two, or the things about me that come completely out of right field (that’s the side of the field where no one hits, right? My baseball knowledge is limited). I love planning. I value little luxuries, sometimes more than I should. I’m stubborn. Sometimes mercurial, but not very often. That’s a trait that comes from my mother.
What I’ve learned from my father over the past twenty-five years is naturally infinite: he taught me how to type, how to write, how to draw, and how to photograph. He helped me learn to be independent, which is something I had to learn earlier than most people my age. And most importantly, he taught me how to want to live the most fulfilling life that I could. To take opportunities to make your life better when they come, and to take the opportunities to help others as much as possible, when possible, and affordable.
Some girls think they have the best dad in the world.
Whatever the ranking is, they’re missing out, because they don’t have mine.
Writing Father’s Day cards is something I enjoy slightly more than any other type of card, because I can be completely sincere with my father. I am who I am mostly because of what I’ve learned from him. He wasn’t exactly happy with my decision to study Arabic, or move east, but he’s the one who taught me to be independent, and make something of myself… so here I am. My father’s daughter.
I like to introduce the Gerritys to a new dish or dessert whenever I see them. Croquembouche was first, then there was banh mi, and then coq au vin.
They’re coming to Washington in a couple of weeks for a whirlwind of a Fourth of July – the best Fourth of July celebration they’ll ever have. My dad asked about beer bats, and I told him about the flabongo. I’m sure he’s ready. And he’s excited to see all my UCLA friends on the East Coast, so there will probably be an eight-clap.
There will also be affogato. My step mom, the coffee and espresso afficionado, will truly appreciate this delicate dish. After a predictably smoldering July day in DC spent on a bike, in the sun, with the monuments, we’ll all need a little cool-down with a pick-me-up.
Affogato literally means “drowned” in Italian, and is basically a scoop of vanilla gelato, drowned in a shot of espresso. It’s a fat girl’s latte (my name is all over it). I’ve been hitting the gym solely to counter my discovery of this dessert.
I should really double those efforts, because I’ll be riding my bike on a Mexican beach in a few weeks.
Affogato: Honey Vanilla Ice Cream with Espresso
For the Honey Vanilla Ice Cream:
2 cups milk
3/4 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup honey
1 vanilla bean, sliced lengthwise
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 shot espresso per scoop of ice cream
Zest of orange or lemon, to garnish
If you don’t have access to an ice cream maker, well, that’s a problem. But there are ways to make ice cream without one. Some people use a blender or a food processor.
In a medium-sized sauce pan, combine the milk, cream, salt, and honey. Heat over medium- to high-heat, constantly stirring, until the liquid starts to boil. Once it boils, take it off the heat.
Slice your vanilla bean lengthwise, and scrape the vanilla beans from the inside. Whisk them into the ice cream solution. Toss in the bean itself as well, cover the saucepan, and let the vanilla steep for at least 30 minutes. But let’s be honest – the longer, the better. After it’s done steeping, heat the saucepan again, just until it boils. Then, remove from heat.
In a separate bowl, whisk the egg yolks. Take a smaller measuring cup, and pour about 1/4 a cup of the hot milk solution into your egg yolks. Whisk furiously. We do this little by little so that the eggs do not scramble. Once the first 1/4 cup is mixed evenly, add another, and repeat. When the yolk mixture feels more liquidy than eggy, you can pour the egg solution into the saucepan to combine completely. At this point, we’re completely done with the stove.
Pour your custard through a fine sieve to remove any lumps, and let the mixture chill completely.
Run the mixture through an ice cream machine, according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Once frozen, serve one or two scoops per serving, and douse in a fresh shot of espresso (or very strong black coffee). Garnish with a dusting of orange or lemon zest.