Valentine’s Dinner Trio – Spinach Gnocchi, Easy Marinara Sauce and Miles Davis

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Fight the restaurant crowds this Valentine’s weekend if you choose, or have a cozy dinner for two at home that takes no time to prepare and is stunningly delicious and fresh.  A bowl of spinach gnocchi, a glass of wine and thou……while listening to Miles Davis’s album & title song “My Funny Valentine”.images-1

 Gnocchi are usually small dumplings but my gnocchi are made with fresh spinach leaves and ricotta and are a little bit larger. Served in a pool of fresh marinara will no doubt pave the way for another year of love and romance. A good full-bodied red wine  and freshly shredded Parmigiano Reggiano will seal the deal.

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Fresh spinach leaves steamed, chopped and mixed with….

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ricotta cheese, eggs, nutmeg…..

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…parmesan, flour, salt & pepper….

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…formed into gnocchi ready to be sauted…

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….until lightly browned.

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Treat yourself to the really good Parm for this dinner.

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The simplest of red sauces using skillet roasted cherry tomatoes and herbs.

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A good meal, Miles Davis and a glass or two of well-chosen wine…a deliciously romantic trio.

Peace and Love.

Spinach Ricotta Gnocchi and Roasted Tomato Marinara

  • Servings: 2
  • Time: 45mins
  • Print

Ingredients for Sauce:

  • 2 cartons of cherry or grape tomatoes
  • 2 minced garlic cloves
  • 2 shallots, peeled and chopped
  • olive oil for skillet
  • 1 cup organic chicken broth
  • 1 tsp dried Italian herbs
  • sea salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Ingredients for Spinach Gnocchi:

  • 1 to 1.5 lbs fresh spinach leaves, steamed, well-drained
  • 1 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup freshly shredded or grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese + extra for serving
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup dry bread crumbs
  • sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
  • olive oil for cooking

Directions for the Sauce:

  1. Heat olive oil in a large heavy skillet over medium high heat. Add cherry tomatoes to the pan along with the garlic and shallots. Stir to coat with oil and turn heat to medium.
  2. Cook mixture until tomatoes collapse and juices are released which takes about 10-15 minutes. Stir every now and then.
  3. Add chicken broth, herbs, salt & pepper to skillet tossing well. Turn heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat to cool for 10 minutes.
  4. Process mixture in a food processor or blend in a blender just until smooth.  Return sauce to pan over low heat, keeping warm while making gnocchi.

Directions for Gnocchi:

  1. Blend steamed, well-drained spinach and ricotta together in a mixing bowl.
  2. Add shredded Parmesan, eggs and nutmeg and blend well.
  3. Sprinkle flour and dry bread crumbs, salt and pepper over mixture. Blend well. Mixture will be somewhat wet.
  4. Form gnocchi into 1.5 inch balls and then roll gently to make them oblong. Dip your fingers into water as you work so it will be easy to form shapes. As you work place finished gnocchi on a sheet pan covered with parchment. You should have about 15 to 20 gnocchi.
  5. Brown gnocchi in batches in a non stick skillet over medium high heat that has been lightly coated with olive oil. Turn to lightly brown on all sides and cook inside. Place cooked gnocchi loosely covered in a warm oven to keep warm until ready to serve.
  6. To Serve: Portion hot tomato sauce into bowls and top with gnocchi and a generous amount of freshly grated Parmesan. Pour a glass or two of vino, light a few candles, turn on some Miles and enjoy!

Teresa Blackburn       http://www.teresablackburnfoodstyling.com

 

Blood Orange & Bourbon Chipotle BBQ Roasted Chicken

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I know it is citrus season when Blood Orange beauties start appearing in my supermarket…..along with Pomelos, Cara-Cara Oranges, Little Cuties, Tangerines, Grapefruit…..all packed full of Vitamin C for the dark days of Winter.

My citrus love affair continues in this post. I have been making salads with Pomelo,         upside-down cakes with grapefruit, chocolates studded with candied orange peel, citrus salad dressings and today a deep-red-brown Blood Orange BBQ sauce laced with Bourbon and Chipotle Peppers in Adobo Sauce for the heat.

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Not a heavy, ketchup based BBQ sauce but rather a lighter, more liquid sauce brushed on chicken before and during the roasting process. The results? Crisp skin, moist meat and lots of good sopping juices in the bottom of the pan.

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Lordy mercy that color is just stunning! .

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Cooked down to thicken before brushing over the chicken.

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Any chicken will do…whole, fryer pieces, leg quarters or bone-in legs and thighs. I purchased the chicken I used here through my CSA “Fresh Harvest” (Nashville area). Organic all the way.  I believe this BBQ sauce would be equally delicious on pork.

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Blood Orange and Bourbon Chipotle BBQ Roasted Chicken

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Ingredients for BBQ Sauce:

  • 1 cup blood orange juice
  • zest of one blood orange
  • 2-4 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, chopped (with some sauce)
  • 1/3 cup pomegranate vinegar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar or honey
  • sea salt & black pepper
  • 1/4 cup bourbon whiskey
  • 2 Tbsp butter

Directions for BBQ Sauce:

  1. Put all in ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil over medium high heat. Reduce heat to simmer and cook for 30 minutes until somewhat reduced. Stir often. Remove from heat and let cool. This BBQ sauce will keep chilled for up to 2 weeks.

Ingredients for Roasted Chicken:

2 to 3 chicken pieces for each person – 8 to 12 pieces or the equivalent as in chicken quarters or cut-up fryer pieces

Directions for BBQ Roasted Chicken:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Rinse chicken pieces (leg quarters, half chickens, legs, thighs, cut up fryer pieces) and pat dry.
  3. Place chicken pieces, skin side up, in a shallow baking pan that has been sprayed with cooking spray.
  4. Brush chicken pieces with BBQ sauce. Sauce is not thick so apply a few coats. Place in oven and roast for 45 minutes, basting with BBQ sauce every 15 minutes. Chicken will be crusty on the outside and juicy on the inside. Chicken juices should run clear. Serve chicken with good crusty bread for sopping pan juices and a side of cole slaw or rice.

Teresa Blackburn    www.teresablackburnfoodstyling.com     http://www.foodonfifth.com

 

Snow Day In Nashvlle Black Bean Mole Chili with Coconut Cornbread

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I just love this Southern city that shuts down neatly and absolutely at the first sign of a snowflake! I really do…totally…seriously. This morning I awoke to a hushed quiet…no clamor of jack-hammers, no hubbub of beeping trucks backing up, no babel of traffic…shhhhhh…it’s quiet here…can you hear it? I am right downtown and it is tranquil!

A day such as this calls for staying indoors & hot steaming bowls of chili. Any kind of chili you like. But how about my “Black Bean Mole Chili”? Thick with beans, tomatoes…spiced with chipotle chile powder, cocoa and freshly squeezed orange juice all cooked down to make a snow day anywhere more cozy!

Out my front window early morning.

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Not a true “mole negro”, but with much of the same flavor as one I remember eating in Oaxaca a few years ago. That mole was so thick and dark red-black in color smothering the roasted chicken I was eating  that the incredible flavor is forever part of my best-loved food memories. My version is in no way authentic, but is a tribute to the real thing.

Dark cocoa and chili pepper combined to enrich the other ingredients…all cooked down to a thick dark red-black color.

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“Coconut Cornbread Cakes” made in one of my favorite Lodge Cast Iron pans.

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Black Bean Mole Chili

  • Servings: 8-10
  • Time: 1-2hrs
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

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Ingredients for Chili:

  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1  small onion diced
  • 3 garlic cloves minced
  • 3 Tbsp cocoa powder
  • 2 Tbsp Chipotle chili powder
  • 1 Tbsp Cumin powder
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground allspice
  • 1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 4 can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 large cans diced tomatoes with juices
  • salt and black pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Heat the oil in a large, heavy pan over medium high heat. Add onions to pan and cook until translucent. Add garlic and cook, stirring for 2 minutes.
  2. Sprinkle in, while stirring, the cocoa powder, chipotle chili powder, cumin powder, cinnamon and allspice. Turn heat to medium and cook for 3 minutes while stirring.
  3. Add orange juice to pan. Stir to blend and cook for 10 minutes over medium heat.
  4. Add black beans and tomatoes to the pan and bring to a low boil. Stirring often. Turn heat to simmer and cook for 20 minutes. Season with salt and black pepper. Taste and adjust seasonings if desired. Serve with coconut cornbread cakes.

Ingredients for Coconut Cornbread:

  • 1 cup sweetened shredded coconut, divided
  • 2 Tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 1/2 cup self-rising yellow cornmeal
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened coconut milk
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 large egg

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Place cast iron pan (skillet or muffin tin) with coconut oil in the oven to heat while you make the batter.
  3. Mix together 1/2 cup of the coconut, cornmeal, flour, coconut milk, buttermilk and egg just until blended. Add more liquid if you need to.
  4. When pan is really hot, remove from oven and quickly pour in batter.
  5. Sprinkle top of batter with remaining 1/2 cup coconut and bake until cornbread is puffy and golden brown and the coconut is browned. Delicious served hot with chili.

Teresa Blackburn     http://www.teresablackburnfoodstyling.com     http://www.foodonfifth.com

Ambrosia with Pomelo, Coconut and Dried Blueberries

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Wonderfully large and thick-skinned, this Pomelo was my ambrosia inspiration. The orange is there for scale…the orange is a regular size navel….the Pomelo is quite grand.

Pomelos are native to Thailand and Malaysia and can be found this time of year in large supermarkets as well as Asian groceries. Pomelos with yellow skin and pink fruit are quite sweet and are full of fiber, potassium and Vitamin C.  I found the Pomelo for this salad at K and S Asian Market here in Nashville.

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I have loved the word “ambrosia” for as long as I can remember. In the food world it simply means a dessert (salad) made of oranges & coconut or something that is extremely pleasing to taste or smell. In classical mythology it is known as the food of the gods. Say it….ambrosia…it’s a lovely word.

Ambrosia always makes me think of my Mother and Grandmother who both made this salad of citrus and coconut for special Winter meals. The onset of Winter citrus season in all its variety and availability made me start thinking of ambrosias past and present. Here is my recipe for “Ambrosia with Pomelo, Coconut & Dried Blueberries”.

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Pomelo cut in half…….

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…sections separated from the pith and cut into bite-size chunks mixed with other ingredients…..

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…..or piled on top of a bed of arugula leaves and drizzled with apple balsamic vinegar.

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Ambrosia with Pomelo, Coconut & Dried Blueberries

  • Servings: 6
  • Time: 20mins
  • Difficulty: very easy
  • Print

Ingredients:

  • 1 pomelo, peeled with pith & seeds removed, sectioned & chunked with juice
  • 1 cup unsweetened flaked coconut
  • 1 cup dried blueberries
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds toasted
  • apple flavored balsamic vinegar to drizzle
  • arugula, optional

Directions:

  1. Put pomelo chunks & juice,  coconut flakes, dried blueberries & toasted almonds in a large bowl and toss together. Cover and chill.
  2. Serve as is or pile on top of arugula and drizzle with apple balsamic vinegar. This ambrosia is really great the next day with yogurt for breakfast!

Teresa Blackburn             http://www.foodonfifth.com      http://www.teresablackburnfoodstyling.com

Eating Goulash in Hungary and Other Stories

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It is finally Winter in Nashville. Real Hungarian Goulash is on the menu. Big chunks of beef, potatoes, parsnips and carrots in a paprika riddled broth. Hot and steaming with crusty pieces of bread for dipping.

This past summer I was traveling with friends and we spent some time in Hungary. Budapest in particular. I fell in love with the city and its food. One of my goals  was to eat real goulash soup. Bowls and bowls of it. Goulash, or Gulyas, is a cross between a soup and a stew. There are thousands of variations with everyone having their own family twist. Named for Hungarian herdsman or gulyas it is truly a dish of the people. I went…I saw….

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I ate…and ate….

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Budapest is a large, bustling city on the Danube with lots of old world charm. Like a frame from an old black and white movie taking place “behind the iron curtain”, the city seems caught between “then and now” in many ways. Haunting and beautiful, ancient and modern. A history of conflict, war, terror, lovely avenues, culinary delights and art all mish-mash together to create the whole.

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The three of us were smitten. Within weeks of our return home, the massive wave of Syrian immigrants were on the move across Europe trying to reach a safe haven in a welcoming Germany, crossing the borders of Hungary to get there. To our sadness the Hungarian government behaved very badly in this crises of humanity. Should I write about our trip..what we saw and ate? Should I share something I had so enjoyed when later disappointment clouded my outlook?

As food is a universal language with no allegiance to governments I decided that to not write this post about Budapest and Hungarian Goulash would be as silly as when people in this country refused to eat French Fries in response to France not agreeing with our invasion of Iraq.  A very silly response to a very serious situation.

So enjoy these photos and this recipe as good food is the lingua franca of people all over the world.

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Really good paprika is the key to an authentic Hungarian Goulash ,or Gulyas. It is to be found everywhere in Budapest and I stocked up on both sweet and hot. There are good paprikas from Hungary found in most large supermarkets in the USA as well as online sources.

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Hungarian Goulash

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Time: 2hrs
  • Print

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Ingredients:

  • 4 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 medium yellow onions, chopped
  • 2 lbs lean beef chuck, cut into 1 inch cubes
  • salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup sweet paprika
  • 3 tsp dried marjoram leaves
  • 2 tsp caraway seeds
  • 2-3 cloves garlic minced
  • 2 carrots, cubed
  • 2 parsnips, cubed
  • 1 1/2 lbs new potatoes, cubed

Directions:

  1. Saute onions in olive oil over medium high heat until translucent in a heavy dutch oven type pan. Stir often.
  2. Turn heat to high and add cubed beef. Season with salt and pepper. Cook until meat is lightly browned. Stir to turn meat a few times.
  3. Sprinkle paprika over meat and toss well. Add marjoram, caraway and garlic. Cook a few minutes stirring to mix.
  4. Add the carrots and parsnips to the pan with 6 cups of water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered until the beef is tender for about 45 minutes.
  5. Add potatoes to the pot and cook, uncovered, for about 20 minutes or until potatoes are tender.
  6. Serve bowls of hot goulash with crusty bread for dipping in the sauce.

Note: You can also serve goulash over noodles if you like.

Teresa Blackburn      http://www.teresablackburnfoodstyling.com      www.foodonfifth.com

All scenes from Budapest in this post were shot with an iphone 6.

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Drinking Le Chocolat Chaud While Doing Nothing on New Years

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I am always hesitant to post a blog at the first of a new year. It seems that one should say something profound or wise about the past year or the one upon us. I do not make resolutions to break, nor promises to myself that I have no intentions of keeping. Although it can be a time for reflection I approach it as a time to regenerate and pretty much do “nothing”.DSC_0307

How does one do “nothing”? The answer for me is very intentionally and purposefully. In fact I have been doing “nothing” with gusto! I have playing in my kitchen trying out recipes from my ever-growing list, watching BBC shows on cable on rainy days, reading, taking long walks, having lunch with friends, reading, having coffee in bed while reading, eating at new restaurants we have been intending to try all year, spending fun time with the family, seeing a movie or two! That is how I have spent a lot of the Holiday week…”doing nothing”…..really!

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One chilly morning this week, while again attending to my art of “doing nothing”, I made myself a hot cup of “Le Chocolat Chaud”. This very Parisian hot chocolate has been on my list of things to try for a long time. I had it in Paris many, many years ago and have never forgotten it.  My version is based on a recipe by David Lebovitz with my addition of a splash of vanilla and I used turbinado sugar instead of classic brown baking sugar.

Very good bittersweet chocolate is the starting place. I used Callebaut from Belgium.

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A large cup or mug, steaming hot milk, turbinado sugar and a splash of vanilla extract along with the chocolate is all you need to make the most heavenly flavored cup of hot chocolate you will ever drink.

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May your days be bright, your nights be cozy, and your 2016 the best year you can possibly have. Stay well.

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Drinking Le Chocolat Chaud While Doing Nothing on New Years

  • Servings: 2
  • Time: 10mins
  • Difficulty: not at all
  • Print

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Ingredients:

  • 2 cups hot milk (I use whole, but any including Almond milk will work)
  • 6 ounces of good quality bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • turbinado/raw sugar
  • options: vanilla extract; a pinch of cayenne pepper; a pinch of cardamom

Directions:

  1. Into two cups or mugs place 3 ounces chopped bittersweet chocolate.
  2. Add turbinado sugar to each cup to taste.
  3. Pour steaming hot milk into each cup and let sit for 1 minute.
  4. Stir until the chocolate has melted and the sugar dissolved. Add a splash of vanilla if desired. Sip!

Note: You can also make this recipe by putting the ingredients (or doubling for 4 or more people)into a saucepan and heating over medium heat while whisking.

Teresa Blackburn    http://www.teresablackburnfoodstyling.com

Adapted from a recipe by David Lebovitz, living the sweet life in Paris his really fabulous blog.

Martha Webb’s West Tennessee (The Best) Chocolate Meringue Pie

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 Although I have eaten fancier, more complicated chocolate desserts in my lifetime in cities and countries far and wide…none is as dear to my heart and palate as a dark chocolate pie with a fluffy meringue browned just right.

This was my favorite pie of my West Tennessee childhood. My mother, Grandmother, Aunts, Mother’s of friends all seemed to bake this classic pie with ease. My Mother’s was my favorite as she added just a bit more cocoa to make the filling darker and richer.

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Alas, there are no hastily written nor carefully scribed recipes left to me from Mother, nor my grandmother…no splattered, tattered scrapes of paper!

But life can have so many  intriguing twists and turns and one is that I often work with  fabulous food photographer, Stephanie Mullins, who happens to be from West Tennessee…as is her Grandmother, Martha Webb…and Martha Webb has a chocolate meringue pie recipe that is the mirror of Mother’s!

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A couple of years ago Stephanie made a recipe book of some of her family’s recipes. She gave me one and this Holiday season I made chocolate meringue pies for my family using Martha Webb’s recipe with a few small changes.  Thanks Martha for the recipe and Stephanie for sharing with me.

Big pie, wee pies, medium size pies…crust “blind baked” cooling and ready to fill. Blind baked simply means to pre-bake the pie crust before filling. This works especially well with pudding or custard fillings keeping the crust from getting soggy. For a video how-to from Fine Cooking Magazine go here.

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Chocolate filling ingredients measured and ready….

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…a rich, dark pudding….

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..poured into pie shells to cool.

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All topped with fluffy meringue.

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Before………………………..After baking.

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Martha Webb's West Tennessee Chocolate Meringue Pie

  • Servings: 6
  • Time: 1hr
  • Print

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Ingredients:

  • 6 Tbsp cocoa powder
  • 4 Tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 3 large egg yolks (set whites aside for meringue)
  • 1 cup sugar + extra for meringue
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 1  9″ pie crust blind baked and cooled

Directions:

  1. In a small bowl whisk together flour & cocoa. Set aside.
  2. In a medium saucepan whisk together the egg yolks and 1 cup sugar with just a bit of the milk until blended.
  3. Gradually whisk the flour-cocoa mixture into the yolk-sugar-milk mixture.
  4. Set saucepan over medium-high heat and whisk in the vanilla extract.
  5. Slowly add the remaining milk, stirring with the whisk until the mixture thickens into a chocolate pudding. Be patient as this might take a bit of time, but well worth it…about 10-12 minutes.
  6. Add butter and whisk until fully melted and incorporated into the pudding. Remove from  heat.
  7. Fill pie crust with pudding mixture. Set aside to cool a bit while you make the meringue. Preheat oven to 350 degrees for meringue.
  8. Place egg whites in a clean dry mixing bowl. Using a hand mixer or stand mixer beat whites until fluffy and airy. Halfway through slowly sprinkle sugar by tablespoons over the whites with mixer running. Continue adding sugar and mixing until soft, fluffy peaks form.
  9. Scrape meringue onto pie spreading out to the edge of the crusts completely covering the pie filling.
  10. Place pie on a sheet pan and bake in oven until meringue is golden brown on the tips. Remove from oven and let cool for at least an hour before serving.

Recipe adapted from original. Teresa Blackburn    http://teresablackburnfoodstyling.com