Chocolate as a health food? now that's an intriguing claim. I haven't read the research on the efficacy of chocolate as an antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, blood pressure reduction agent or any of the other claims, just skimmed a few brief summaries, but I'm willing to embrace the health food notion. Chocolate works for me as a soothing mood enhancer. Just thinking about it, I'm ready to sign up for a daily dose of chocolate therapy... as long as it's good dark chocolate. None of the disappointing, fat-filled, paraffinlike, pseudo-chocolate for me, thank you very much. Good chocolate isn't cheap but spend a little extra for a flavor you love. You don't need to get label crazy, but it's worth the extra pennies to purchase a better quality. Chocolate is the star of this treat.
Gnawing on a block or a bar of bittersweet chocolate might provide a quick, semi-guilty bite of bliss, but here's an easy-to-prepare option that looks suitable to share with company... if you can bring yourself to share. Add a few dried fruits and nuts to some barely melted chocolate, spread in a pan, chill and voila! you have a pan of decadent, supremely satisfying, chocolate temptation. Now how easy is that? Healthy? well, maybe. Tasty? oh yes, definitely YES!
Fruit and Nut Chocolate Squares
Recipe based on several others found online at Gourmet/Epicurious, Orangette, FoodNetwork, and a host of others.
1 ¼ lb bittersweet chocolate, 60-70%, chopped
Vegetable oil to grease the pan
2/3 cup dried cranberries (or other dried fruit)
2/3 cup golden raisins (or other dried fruit)
2/3 cup roasted, shelled pistachios, salted or unsalted
2/3 cup roasted peanuts, salted or unsalted (or other nut)
- Line the bottom and sides of an 8-inch square baking pan with foil, leaving a 2-inch overhang all around for easy removal. Lightly brush the foil with vegetable oil or spray with a cooking spray.
- Melt the chocolate in the top of a double boiler or metal bowl set over a saucepan of gently simmering water, stirring occasionally until smooth.
- When the chocolate is melted, remove it from the heat and add the fruit and nuts, stirring to incorporate. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan, and spread it evenly with the back of a spoon or rubber spatula.
- Place the pan in the refrigerator, and chill for about an hour, or until the chocolate is firm and cold.
- Use the foil overhang to lift the chilled chocolate mixture from the pan, and transfer to a cutting board. Peel back the foil, and cut the chocolate into whatever size you desire, dainty 1-inch cubes or something larger.
Note: These candies keep in the refrigerator, wrapped in foil or in an airtight container with foil between the layers, for up to two weeks.