I had visitors the other day, but I had a problem. A combination of little time and a shrinking budget found me with an almost-empty fridge and facing the conundrum, thus far unanswered, that has troubled every cook since cavemen were chasing mammoths: what to cook?
Allow me to appear immodest and tell you that in those moments is when you will see the best of me — as a cook, that is. Because he or she who has plenty of time and all the ingredients neatly lined up… isn’t necessarily the best cook, noooo, we, the ones who are capable of producing a decent-tasting dish with only a can of sardines and two spoonfuls of peanut butter are the kings and queens of the kitchen.
I have been known for pulling off whole meals with the oddest ingredients – well, I’ve been known for worse things, but I can’t tell here. ‘Necessity is the mother of invention’ and nowhere is this truer than in the kitchen. And strange enough, food seems to taste better when cooked under less-than-favorable conditions. Or as my father wisely puts it, “hunger is the best seasoning”.
To make a long story short, I’ll tell you that I received high praise for my sliced stuffed tomatoes, roasted spicy peppers and vegetarian pasta. Little did my guests know that there wasn’t that much choice, after that meal my fridge looked, as Dominicans say, ‘como el Teatro Agua y Luz‘ (like the Light and Water Theater).
And when it comes to stretching budgets nothing satisfies like a delicious non-dairy cocoa, long ago a breakfast or dinner budget drink, now we drink it for comfort and its delicious taste.
- 2 baking chocolate bars or 2 cups of cocoa powder (unsweetened)
- 1 cup of sugar
- 4 cinnamon sticks
- 1 teaspoon of cloves
- A pinch of salt
- A pinch of nutmeg
- Mix 2 qt of water, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and salt.
- Bring to a boil over medium heat and simmer until ⅓ of the liquid has evaporated.
- Add chocolate (or cocoa) and stir until the chocolate has dissolved.
- Add sugar to taste.
- Sieve to remove solids and serve hot.
I have experimented with unsweetened baking chocolate with pretty good result, bear in mind that baking chocolate can be a bit overpowering so start with half the amount the recipe calls for. Try it and if it seems like it might need more chocolate, then add a second square.
If you are using cocoa powder, use the unsweetened kind and follow the same instructions as in the paragraph above.