Calling all chocolate loversA little bit of...


January 23, 1994|By Karol V. Menzie | Karol V. Menzie,Staff Writer

Calling all chocolate lovers

A little bit of self-indulgence can be the perfect antidote to deadly winter doldrums. And if a worthwhile community cause also benefits, it's all the more reason to treat yourself.

Treats there will certainly be when Action for the Homeless presents "A Chocolate Affair" from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 3, in the Charles Room of the Belvedere Hotel, 1 E. Chase St., in downtown Baltimore.

Guests can sample chocolate confections prepared by notable local chocolatiers, restaurateurs and caterers -- among them are Cafe Montage, Linwood's, Truffles, Germano's, Lee's Ice Cream, Cameo Chocolates, Vaccaro's, Charles Levine and Sweet Indulgence. WJHU on-air personalities Lisa Simeone and Peter Moskowitz are celebrity hosts for the event.

Tickets are $25 per person and proceeds will benefit the community program of Action for the Homeless. To order tickets, or for more information, call Maria Johnson at Action for the Homeless at (410) 659-0300. Tickets will also be available at the door.

Cooking an international cuisine is one mode of armchair travel, and it can offer insights into the history of a country and the private lives of its citizens that can't be gained elsewhere. Cookbooks that foster this international spirit have always been popular, and a new one of the genre offers an insider's look at Russia -- not the now-defunct Russia of the Soviet Union, but the once and future Russia, with its imperial monuments and enduring, hearty cuisine.

Alla Sacharow's goal in "Classic Russian Cuisine" (Arcade Publishing, 1993, $50) was to produce a compendium of traditional Russian cooking, free of dishes of foreign influence. The result is a fascinating look at a thrifty, imaginative style of cooking, with dishes from sauerkraut salad to roast pork with prunes to wild mushroom fritters to Easter cake.

One familiar classic is beef Stroganoff. Ms. Sacharow notes that Count Stroganoff, mayor of Odessa, was famous for feeding virtually anyone who showed up at his door. This dish, she says, was developed by the cook to be prepared ahead of time and served in individual portions.

Beef Stroganoff

Serves 4

2 pounds beef fillet

salt and pepper

2 tablespoons flour

1 large onion

1/2 cup butter

6 tablespoons tomato paste

1 cup meat broth

1/3 cup creme fraiche or sour cream

Slice beef fillet 3/4 inch thick against the grain. Pound lightly to tenderize. Cut slices into 1 1/2 - to 2-inch-long strips. Season with salt and pepper and toss with flour.

Slice onion into thin rings. Saute in butter in a large, heavy skillet until transparent. Add meat. (The skillet must be large enough to allow strips to fit in a single layer.) Saute quickly over high heat until brown. Remove meat and onion from skillet, cover and keep warm. Braise tomato paste briefly in the pan drippings. Add broth and creme fraiche or sour cream. Add meat and onions. Stir well and simmer 5 to 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and serve with sauteed potatoes.

The company calls it "a thinking cookbook," and claims it can locate recipes by key ingredient, nutritional information, or preparation time; can generate shopping lists by food group or store location; and can adjust recipes to serve from one to 99 people.

It's MasterCook II, a computer cookbook for both Mac and Windows users from Arion Software of Austin, Texas.

MasterCook II contains more than a thousand recipes; users can also enter their own recipes, and the program automatically organizes them for nutritional information and cost. All the recipes, analyses and lists can be printed onto index cards or onto standard paper.

The program has a suggested retail price of $29.95 and is available at major software retailers, or call (800) 444-8104.

Cold enough for you? How about a little warm-up -- in the form FTC of chili peppers that arrive right in your mailbox.

And then how about a new kind of chili every month? Chili Today-Hot Tamale, a New Jersey-based retail and mail-order company, is introducing a Chili of the Month club. Members will receive a packet containing a different chili every month, along with recipes. Among recipes are roasted tomatilla and red pepper pasilla sauce (for January's pasilla peppers) and smoked poblano three-bean salsa (for September's smoked poblanos).

The club costs $69 for a full year (12 pepper shipments) or $39 for six months. Both include shipping. Shipments also include facts about the chili of the month, previews of the next chili, and a newsletter called "The Misunderstood Chile," with chili fact and fiction. And, with the first order, club members will also receive a chili wreath made of chili de arbol and cascabel chilies and bay leaves.

To sign up, send check to Chile Today-Hot Tamale Inc., #i Commerce Center, 2227 U.S. Highway 1, No. 139, N. Brunswick, N.J. 08902. Or for more information, call (908) 360-0036.

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