Thai Chili Mango Chocolate Torte

Chef Nicholas Walker,  Executive Chef at the Cobb Galleria Centre made these delicious petit fours for Go Eat Give’s one year anniversary party, held last week at Three Sheets Lounge.  He brought over a 100 pieces in three flavors – Thai Chili and Mango, Blackberry Mousse Cake and Smoked Sea Salt Ganache with Whipped Marshmallow. While each of them had a very distinctive flavor, the mango was the biggest hit with the attendees. The bitterness of the chocolate against the fresh light mango mousse and a kick of the chili at the end, all together created a tango in the mouth.

Chef Walker was kind enough to share his secret recipe with you. Mangoes are available in stores now, so you can even make your own mango puree. If you try it at home, make sure to leave your comments for the chef.

Thai Chili Mango Chocolate Torte  — Petit Four

(makes 35-40 squares)

Mango Mousse

  • 4 cups Mango Puree
  • 2 each Thai Chili, split
  • 1 cup  Sugar
  • 12  Gelatin Sheets
  • 2 qt Heavy Cream

Mango Gel

  • 1 ¾ cup Mango Puree
  • ¾ cup Water
  • ½ cup Sugar
  • 2 sheets Gelatin

Chocolate Cake

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup  Dutch cocoa powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Butter and lightly flour 18×26 sheet pan. In a large bowl, on the medium speed of an electric mixer, cream the butter until smooth. Add the sugars and beat until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the egg and beat well, then the buttermilk and vanilla.  Sift the flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder and salt together right into your wet ingredients. Stir together with a spoon until well blended but do not over mix. Scrape down the batter in the bowl, making sure the ingredients are well blended.

Pour the batter into the prepared sheet pan. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Cool in pan on a rack.

To form Petit Four

  1. Using a sheet pan extender, layer chocolate cake. Let cool.
  2. Layer mousse- about 1” inch thick and smooth out with rubber spatula.
  3. Pour room temperature gel. Make gel while cake is cooling so you can pour it over the mousse it a liquid state.
  4. Allow to set at least 2-4 hours. Best results if allowed to rest overnight.
  5. Cut to desired size.

~ Recipe courtesy of Executive Chef Nicholas Walker

Low-fat sugar-free panna cotta with raspberry compote

In my earlier post I shared a recipe for a heavy cream based panna cotta topped with mango coulis. Now, I will show you how to make a healthier version of this delicious dessert. It is great for people on diets and those looking to avoid sugar. It is actually a diabetic friendly recipe too.

Panna Cotta with blackberry compote (Serves 4)

  • 2 cups 2% milk
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • 1/3 cup + 2 tablespoons Splenda (or sugar substitute)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 packets powdered gelatin
  • 5 tablespoons cold water
  • 2 cups fresh blackberries
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 tablespoon corn starch

Heat the milk, heavy cream and Splenda in a saucepan on medium heat. Once the sugar is dissolved, stir in the vanilla extract and gelatin. Remove from heat and set aside. Lightly oil four custard cups with cooking spray. Divide the Panna Cotta mixture into 4 prepared cups. Refrigerate overnight or at least 4 hours. 

In another saucepan, heat the blackberries, 2 tablespoon Splenda and lemon juice. Bring to boil, then simmer and cook for 5-10 minutes till the blackberries dissolve into a paste. Slowly whisk in the corn starch and cook for 1 more minute until just blended. Remove from heat and cool completely before serving.

Before serving, remove the panna cotta from the bowls and transfer to serving plates by turning the bowl upside down. Pour generous heaps of the blackberry compote over each panna cotta serving. Garnish with mint sprigs and fresh blackberries. Serve and enjoy!

If you like this recipe, consider making a small donation to our nonprofit organization, Go Eat Give.

Panna Cotta two ways

mango panna cotta

This Easter I decided to experiment with a couple of panna cotta recipes. If you are not familiar with panna cotta, it is a light Italian pudding commonly found at Italian restaurants. The basic panna cotta is made with milk or cream, sugar, gelatin and vanilla. Fruit toppings are then added to enhance the flavor and presentation.

I tried two versions of the panna cotta and both of them turned out to be delicious. If you are looking for an easy to make dessert to serve on warm summer nights, these are your go-to recipes. Prepare the night before and serve chilled for best results.

Panna cotta with fresh mango coulis (Serves 4)

This recipe for the base has been adopted from David Lebovitz’s web site. I used fresh mangoes I found at my local farmer’s market. For this recipe, you want to use ripe mangoes that have a lot of pulp and flavor.

2 cups heavy cream
mango panna cotta1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 packet powdered gelatin
3 tablespoons cold water
1 cup fresh mango pulp, from 2 mangoes

Heat the heavy cream and sugar in a saucepan or microwave. Once the sugar is dissolved, remove from heat and stir in the vanilla extract.
Lightly oil four custard cups with cooking spray.
Sprinkle the gelatin over the cold water in a medium-sized bowl and let stand 5 to 10 minutes.
Pour the very warm Panna Cotta mixture over the gelatin and stir until the gelatin is completely dissolved.
Divide the Panna Cotta mixture into the prepared cups

2 tablespoon sugar
1 packet powdered gelatin
1 tablespoon dark rum

Cook the mango pulp with the sugar on low heat in a small saucepan until sugar is dissolved.
Add the gelatin, rum and a pinch of chili powder and continue to cook for 2 more minutes stirring continuously.
Take off from heat and allow to cool completely.
Divide the mango coulis equally over the prepared cups. Chill until firm, at least four hours or overnight.

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“Two minutes to Super Bowl” recipe

What do you do when you have guests coming over, the big game is starting and you are left with only a few minutes to prepare something? Here is my two-minute recipe for a really delicious and healthy finger food. It’s perfect for gathering, big or small.

Salmon-Avocado bites

(makes 15 pieces)

1 box Athens mini fillo shells

4 oz smoked salmon (lox is fine too), coarsely chopped

1 avocado, diced

juice of 1 lemon

1/2 cup red onion, finely chopped

In a medium bowl, mix chopped avocado and lemon juice. Using a melon scooper, fill each shell with the avocado.  Top with smoked salmon and sprinkle with chopped red onion for garnish. Serve immediately.

That took only two minutes, didn’t it?

Brazilian shrimp soup

This past weekend I taught a cooking class on how to make hearty soups and salads that can be eaten as full meals. They are nutritious, filling and make wholesome entrees. Out of all the dishes we prepared, the class unanimously voted for the Brazilian shrimp soup as the most delicious and their favorite. I have not been to Brazil yet, but have been making this recipe for over 10 years. It’s something I found (don’t even remember where) or I could give credit to it’s original creator.

If you want to make it healthier, use brown rice instead of white and lite coconut milk instead of regular. I don’t recommend substituting the coconut milk as it imparts a nice sweet flavor to the soup. To further enhance the flavor, use shrimp stock instead of water. Boil raw shrimp with shells in water for 10 minutes or until cooked. Remove shrimp, peel and keep aside. Strain and reserve stock to use in recipe.

Brazilian Shrimp Soup

  • 2 tablespoon Olive oil
  • 8 oz. large cooked shrimp
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 6oz. can tomato puree
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 2 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 cup uncooked rice
  • 5 cups water
  • 1 14 oz can coconut milk
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro

Heat oil in a large shallow pot. Add bell pepper & onion to the pot & cook till tender (about 10 minutes) over medium heat. Add the tomato puree & cook for 2 more minutes. Then, add the next 3 ingredients & mix well. Add water & bring to a boil. Cover & simmer for about 30 minutes. Stir in the coconut milk, mix well to make sauce even in color. Add salt & pepper according to taste. Let the sauce heat thoroughly. Slice each shrimp into half, lengthwise, and drop in the sauce. Garnish with chopped fresh cilantro.

National pear month

December was National pear month and my friends at Harvest PR and Marketing sent me a pear sampler box to mark the occasion. There are over 3,000 known pear varieties grown around the world, but only a handful of heirloom varieties have been cultivated. Up until recently, I didn’t even know there were so many varieties of pears available in US markets. All I paid attention to at my local grocery store was the red (Red Anjou) and the green (Bartlett) kinds, and the occasional small green ones (Seckel). Each pear variety has it’s own distinct flavor, growing season, food and cheese pairing. Check the USA Pears web site for detailed information on the pear varieties available to you. It’s quite fascinating!

Did you know that pear is one of those fruits that does not ripen on a tree? According to USA Pears 84% of pear shoppers don’t know how to determine ripeness. They recommend “checking the neck” to see if it yields to gentle pressure. Then you know the pear is ripe and juicy.

While there are countless recipes that can be prepared using pears, my favorites include serving them raw, pairing with cheese and incorporating in salads.  I love the fresh, juicy taste of a just-ripe pear. But here are some recipes is you like to get more creative. Many of them are internationally inspired and prepared by renowned chefs from around the country. See Alaskan king crab with pear tabbouleh salad, Braised Bartlett pear and chicken pastilla, Pulled pork and pear empanadas and much more.

A quick and easy recipe that would please any crowd is a Harvest Salad. Just add fresh chopped apples, pears, raisins, red onions with some lemon juice and keep aside. Spread on a bed of spinach leaves. Top crumbled blue cheese or Gorgonzola and chopped walnuts. Make a dressing by whisking olive oil, garlic powder, lemon juice, salt and Dijon mustard. Drizzle on top of salad.

Authentic Russian pirogi

I first tasted pirogi (perogie) when I was on a volunteer vacation in Russia couple of years ago. The lady who cooked for us at the volunteer home in Yaroslavl made this authentic Russian bread stuffed with mushrooms. Being a fan of both breads and mushrooms, this was one of my favorite dishes in Russian cuisine.

No wonder then when my house guest, Marsha from Russia asked me if I would like for her to cook something traditional for me, I asked her for pirogis. We planned for an entire evening of cooking (making pirogi is easy but time consuming). Since we were going to a farewell dinner for the GCIV hosts and delegates the following day, we decided to make two kinds – one stuffed with mushrooms and onions, and the other stuffed with cabbage and boiled eggs (like it is done traditionally).

Here is the basic recipe for one pan of dough: In a stand mixer, combine .5 liter of milk, 8 cups of flour (one cup at a time), 2 eggs and 250 grams butter until well blended. Add 40 grams wet yeast, 2 tablespoon sugar and 1/2 teaspoon salt and leave paddle on medium setting until a thick dough is formed.

Add more flour if needed. This will take a few minutes. Once the dough is not sticking to the sides of the mixer, transfer to another bowl and allow to rise for an hour.

In the meantime, prepare the filling. Boil 4 eggs. Finely chop 1 medium onion and shred 1/2 green cabbage. Heat 2 tablespoon olive oil in a large wok on medium heat. Add the onion and cabbage and let it sweat for 10-15 minutes, stirring frequently. Finely chop the boiled eggs and add to the cabbage mixture. Add salt and pepper to taste. Keep aside.

Heat the oven to 350F. Grease and flour a 12×16 cookie sheet. Divide the prepared dough into two. Flour a flat surface. Using a rolling pin, roll out the dough till it fits a cookie sheet. Fit it directly onto the sheet.

Spread the filling mixture evenly onto it. Top with remaining rolled out dough to form a blanket covering the filling. Use the left over dough to make the decoration.

Roll out thin long strings of dough with your fingers and create a criss-cross pattern on the pie. Beat one egg yolk and baste the top of the dough lightly with a brush. Bake in oven for one hour or until golden brown.

We also added a 5 Ruble coin into the pie. It is believed that whoever gets the piece with the money will have his/her wish granted. It happened so that Marsha got it (among the 20 people at dinner) and her wish is to return to US very soon!

While we drank wine and nibbled on snacks, we got our hands into pounds of dough. The final result was three pans of pirogis – much more than we anticipated. So we decided to make a breakfast type as well  – topped with sliced bananas and apples, sprinkled with sugar and baked till crispy.

Everyone at the party loved the pirogis. The Russian delegates were very excited to get a taste of home during their visit!

Pumpkin cheesecake brûlée

Here’s a crowd favorite dessert that I end up making during the holidays every year. Even people who don’t typically like pumpkin, love this recipe. What makes it extra special is the caramelized burnt sugar (or brûlée) that tops off the creamy cheesecake. If you don’t have a  brûlée torch, it is well worth the small investment. For variations, you can do cheesecake squares or individual size cheesecakes. From Halloween until New Years, it will be a recipe you would want to make over and over again!


1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/3 cup butter
1/4 cup granulated sugar
3 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 (15 ounce) can 100% pumpkin
2/3 cup evaporated milk
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract 

1/2 cup granulated sugar (for topping)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Combine graham cracker crumbs, butter and granulated sugar in medium bowl. Press onto bottom and 1 inch up side of ungreased 9-inch springform pan. Bake for 6 to 8 minutes (do not allow to brown). Cool on wire rack for 10 minutes.  Beat cream cheese, granulated sugar and brown sugar in large mixer bowl until fluffy. Beat in eggs, pumpkin, vanilla and evaporated milk. Add cornstarch, cinnamon and nutmeg; beat well. Pour into crust. Bake for 55 to 60 minutes or until edge is set but center still moves slightly. Cool on wire rack. Refrigerate for several hours or overnight. Remove side of springform pan.

Use a strainer to spread the sugar evenly on top of the cheesecake. Use a brûlée torch to burn the sugar till golden brown. The sugar will harden as it cools. Let cool for 5 minutes before serving.

Minny’s Caramel Cake

Last night I taught The Help (book and movie) themed cooking class at the Hal’s Kitchen cooking school in Atlanta. If you are familiar with the story, you would remember the character Minnie, who was known to be the best cook amongst the help available in the small town of Mississippi. She was also famous for her 7-layer caramel cake which was a popular item in the fundraiser auction.

Just as Minnie did for her employer in the story, we also cooked up a traditional southern dinner of fried chicken, turnip greens, mashed potatoes with gravy, and caramel cake for our class. The students learned to make southern favorites hands-on and were encouraged to go watch the movie after the class. Hal’s Kitchen has hosted a few The Help dinner and a movie classes and they have been a huge hit!

Author of The Help, Katherine Stockett shared this recipe for Minnie’s famous Caramel Cake which you can also enjoy!

Caramel Cake                            
(serves 12)
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted before measuring
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
2 cups granulated sugar
6 eggs
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Butter 2 9-inch layer cake pans; line the bottoms waxed paper. Butter the paper.
Sift the sifted flour and baking powder into a bowl. In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter until light, then gradually add the sugar, beating until creamy. Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat well after each addition. Stir in the flour mixture, a little at a time, alternately with the milk, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Stir well after each addition, but do not beat. Stir in the vanilla extract. Turn the batter into prepared cake pans. Bake in a preheated 325° oven until the cakes spring back when lightly touched near the center with a finger, about 35 minutes. Cool layers 10 minutes in the pans, then turn out onto cake racks to cool completely.
Never Fail Creamy Caramel Icing

2 1/2 c. sugar
1 slightly beaten egg
1 stick of butter
3/4 c. milk
1 t. vanilla
Melt 1/2 cup of sugar in iron skillet slowly, until brown and runny. Mix egg, butter, remaining sugar, and milk in a saucepan and cook over a low flame until butter melts. Turn the heat up to medium and add the browned sugar. Cook until it reaches the soft ball stage or until mixture leaves sides of pan. This takes about 10 minutes. Remove from fire, let cool slightly, and add vanilla. Beat until right consistency to spread. If it gets too thick add a little cream. 

Tomato, Fennel, and Saffron Soup with Olive Oil–Poached Artichokes

In this recipe, Chef Zouhair Zariri, author of the book, Moorish Fusion Cuisine: Conquering the New World combines two of his favorite ingredients, fennel and artichoke to make a light, healthy soup that combines flavors of East and West. With the chill of fall creeping in, it is the perfect comfort food with a twist.

moorish fusion cuisineServes 6 to 8
Preparation: 25 minutes; Cooking: 1 hour, 30 minutes
4 whole artichokes, cleaned and quartered (leave stem on for presentation)
1 cup olive oil, reserving
1½ tablespoons
2 quarts fennel broth (see recipe below)
1 pinch saffron, toasted
1 shallot, julienned
2 garlic cloves, sliced very thin
1 whole fennel, julienned (reserve top part for stock)
8 organic grape tomatoes or cherry tomatoes
Kosher salt to taste
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Zest of 1 lemon
Fresh parsley leaves


Poach the artichokes as follows. In a small sauce pot, over medium heat, place the artichoke quarters in the olive oil and poach for about 15 to 20 minutes or until the artichokes are tender. Keep warm.

In a medium soup pot, bring the fennel broth to warm, add the toasted saffron, and simmer for 30 to 45 minutes, allowing the saffron to release all its flavors.

Meanwhile, in a separate soup pot, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat. Sweat the shallot and garlic for a few minutes, stirring occasionally to make sure the shallot and garlic don’t burn. Add the julienned fennel and cook for a few more minutes. Pour the saffron broth into the mixture and cook for 15 more minutes.

In a small sauté pan, heat ½ tablespoon of oil over high heat and sauté the tomatoes for a few seconds or until their skins start to blister. Add to the soup and simmer for 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

To serve, ladle the soup into medium bowls and top with artichoke quarters crisscross. Sprinkle with lemon zest and garnish with fresh parsley leaves. Serve immediately.