After the Eclipse: Beauty In Shadows
After so much hype, the eclipse came and went in my neighborhood without much fanfare. Though we only enjoyed about a 92% eclipse rather than a total event, it was still enchanting to hear the birds hush their twittering as twilight built. I remember being awakened super early to watch a total eclipse with my family at hat felt like the crack of dawn back in 1959. As I recall, the day was utterly overcast and drizzling and chilly, but even so, there was a definite wave of darkness, as if the sun tried to get up, flopped back down, then rose again with more energy.
Today, though, the sky remained blue to the west while the eastern sky paled and the temperature dropped. The gaps between the leafy shadows in my wooded front yard turned to a million crescents as the moon shadow passed over the sun, then slowly regained their usual assorted shapes. The birds began to sing and chirp again, my cat woke up (far from acting odd, she slept through the whole event), and I found myself enjoying yet another ordinary day in Paradise. Ho hum, right? Still, some celebration seems called for, so I offer you two fine pies, one for the dazzling daylight and one for the deeps of night.
Dark Of the Moon Pie
Dark, murky, subfusc, mysterious; this is a dessert for midnight or the blackness of a total eclipse. Exceptionally rich and rewarding, this surprisingly simple treat is a snap to make but tastes like culinary alchemy must surely be involved. There are lots of versions of this delectable pie or cake or whatever you may call it. This is the one I’ve settled on after much incredibly arduous experimentation; I never spare my efforts in the search for culinary perfection, for which you may thank me if you like….
It’s true that the lack of flour does make for a silky texture no cake can match. In any case, it’s always a huge hit with those who eschew gluten as well as those who just really love chocolate. It’s less dense than ganache-based cakes but you can add a ganache glaze if you like. I generally serve this with whipped cream and raspberries, a slightly less overwhelming combination that provides the pleasing illusion of lightness.
Total Eclipse Pie
1 stick (4 oz.) unsalted butter
5-6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (Bourbon vanilla especially good)
3 large eggs
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Generously butter an 8-inch round baking pan and line bottom with parchment paper (trace the pan onto the paper). Combine butter and chocolate in a large glass bowl set over barely simmering water, stirring occasionally until melted enough to blend. Remove from heat and add sugar, stirring until it no longer feels gritty. Add salt and vanilla, then gently beat in eggs. Sift cocoa powder into batter to keep it from lumping and stir until smooth. Spoon batter into prepared baking pan and bake until top crust is set (usually 25 minutes). Cool on a rack for 5 minutes, run a thin, soft rubber spatula around the rim, then quickly invert onto a cake plate and peel off the parchment paper. Cool to room temperature before glazing or slicing. Serves many; this is super rich. Supposedly freezes/stores well in a tightly closed container; I’ve never had enough left to find out.
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 cup bittersweet chocolate, chopped
Put cream in a glass bowl set over simmering water until it’s barely starting to steam. Remove from heat, add chocolate and stir gently to combine completely. Cool slightly, then pour while still warm over cooled pie/cake. Allow glaze to cool to room temperature before slicing. Or forget the glazing, just get out some spoons and share. Makes about 1 cup.
Full Moon Pie
Round and golden, this savory torta glows like the full moon and tastes like a perfect summer day. If you love crusts, you can add one before filling the pie dish but this delicious pie slices up handsomely without one. Adjust ingredients and quantities freely, but be aware that too many softies (as in squash and mushrooms) can make for a runny filling. It will still taste great, but put a baking sheet on the rack below your pie to keep your oven free of drips. In Italy, any leftovers would be stuffed into soft rolls for a flavorful picnic lunch.
Squash & Sweet Corn Torta
1 tablespoon avocado or olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 onion, chopped
2 medium summer squash or zucchini, thinly sliced
2 cups shredded kale or spinach
2 ears sweet corn, kernels cut
2 tablespoons chopped kalamata or any olives
1/4 teaspoon seasoned sea salt or any (**)
1/4 cup shredded basil
1 teaspoon minced oregano
4 large eggs
1 cup grated mozzarella
1 cup coarsely grated hard cheese
(Pecorino, Romano, etc.)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Melt oil and butter in a wide, shallow pan over medium heat. Add onions and cook for 3 minute. Add squash/zucchini and kale, cover pan and cook for 3 minutes. Add corn, olives, salt, and herbs, remove from heat and let pan stand 5 minutes on a cooling rack. Beat eggs with mozzarella and half the hard cheese. Pour vegetable mixture into egg mixture, stir to blend, then pour into a pie dish and top with remaining hard cheese. Bake for 10 minutes at 400 degrees F., then reduce heat to 350 degrees F. and bake until puffed and set (about another 20-25 minutes). Cool on rack for 10 minutes before slicing. Serves 4-6.