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Our tech-savy society is feeling the hurt in this Internet age | WHIDBEY RECIPES

It’s a lethal combination, cowardice and vitriol. And that lethal combination is seeping into one of the most society-changing, communication revolutions of our lifetime.

If anyone had told me, 30-some years ago, that students would commit suicide because of communications received over this earth-shaking new method of communication; that lives could be shattered or saved because of it; that entire governments could be shaken and possibly even forced to change due to its power, I’d never, ever have believed it.

But, I have lived to see it happen. I’m not sure, yet, whether I find it a good thing or an evil thing, but that doesn’t matter because it is here, we have to learn to deal with it, and be very, very, wary of it.

I’m talking, of course, about world-wide instant communication, whether it’s by cellphone, computer, your iPod/iPad, or whatever device it is that allows you, along with virtually everyone else in the world, to send photos, thoughts, threats, allegations, praise, inane random rambling, pornography, government secret and you name it, to anyone else anywhere in the world.

Yes, there are probably pockets in the world where there’s no reception, and people who have no devices to receive all of this massive amount of input (lucky them), but after the recent graphic photos of the Egyptian revolution, and then, closer to home, stories of the online threats to a local medical pot grower,

I honestly can’t decide whether we’ve created a monster or an angel of mercy.

Once again, it doesn’t really matter; the elephant is now in our living room, and we have to learn how to live with it.

This is, as you may have guessed, where the cowardice and vitriol enters the scene. One of the major, in fact I’d say huge, problems I have with this wonderful instant ability to communicate with anyone anywhere, is that it allows cowards to hide behind an impersonal medium to pour their vitriol onto Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, the Ethernet in general — to anyone and everyone — and worse yet, make damaging, threatening comments that can’t, safely, be ignored. No accountability, no proof required for any charges made; just vitriol and, possibly, threats.

In my upbringing, that was called cowardice.

RECIPES

Here it is, only a few days away from Valentine’s Day, and we’re talking about ugly, mean stuff. Forget it. Let’s talk about love and sweets for your sweetie. If it’s for Valentine’s Day, first and foremost, there must be chocolate, and what could be more impressive than a chocolate souffle.

HOT CHOCOLATE SOUFFLE

1¼ cups milk

2 T. butter

4 extra large eggs, separated

1 T. cornstarch

4 T. superfine sugar

3½ oz. semisweet chocolate

½ t. vanilla

2/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Confectioner’s sugar, for dusting

For the Chocolate Custard accompaniment:

2 T. cornstarch

1 T. superfine sugar

2 cups milk

1¼ oz. semisweet chocolate

Grease a 5 qt. soufflé dish and sprinkle with fine sugar

Heat the milk and butter in a saucepan until almost boiling. In a bowl, mix the egg yolks, cornstarch and superfine sugar. Pour in a small amount of the hot milk to temper the egg mixture, whisking as you add, then whisk this mixture back into the pan of milk. Cook gently, stirring constantly, until thickened. Break the chocolate into pieces and stir them into the mixture until melted. Remove from heat; stir in the vanilla.

Whisk the egg whites until they form soft peaks. Fold half the whites into the chocolate mixture, then fold in the rest of the whites along with the chocolate chips. Pour into the prepared soufflé dish and bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for 40-45 min., until well risen and puffy.

While the soufflé is baking, make the custard. Put cornstarch and sugar in a small bowl and mix to a smooth paste with a little of the milk. Heat the remaining milk until almost boiling. Pour a little of the hot milk onto the cornstarch, mixing well, then pour this back into the pan. Cook gently, stirring, until thickened. Break the chocolate into pieces and add to the custard, stirring until melted.

When the soufflé is done, remove from oven, dust with confectioner’s sugar and serve immediately, with the chocolate custard as accompaniment.

Note: If you like your chocolate a bit more intense, as I do, use bittersweet rather than semisweet, best quality you can find.

Valentine’s Day is on a Monday, which means it’s not easy for working guys and/or gals to come up with a romantic Valentine dinner after finally getting home from work.

But, with this easy recipe for Tiramisu, you can make this great dessert the day before and have it ready to serve to the whole family or for a party on Valentine’s Day, after a special pizza and salad, perhaps?

TIRAMISU, QUICK & EASY

1 pkg. (18 oz.) Duncan Hines Moist Deluxe Butter Golden Cake Mix

6 large egg yolks

½ cup plus 3 T. sugar

2/3 cup dry Marsala

2 pkgs. (8 oz.) cream cheese, at room temp.

½ cup sour cream

1 cup chilled whipping cream

½ cup water

2½ t. instant espresso powder

2 T. coffee liqueur

½ cup grated semisweet chocolate

Butter and flour a 9-inch cake pan with sides at least 1½ inches high. Prepare the cake mix according to package directions. Pour half the batter (about 3 cups) into the prepared pan and bake in a preheated 350-degree oven about 20 min., or until a tester comes out clean. Transfer to a rack to cool for 10 min., then invert cake onto rack to cool completely. Use remaining cake batter to make cupcakes, which can be frozen for later use or iced/decorated and served for a party.

Whisk yolks and ½ cup sugar in the top of a double boiler. Gradually whisk in Marsala, and whisk over boiling water until the mixture triples in volume and a thermometer reads 160 degrees, about 4-5 min. Remove pan from over the water and cool mixture to room temp., whisking occasionally.

Using an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese and sour cream in a large bowl until fluffy. Gradually beat in the cooled Marsala mixture. Again using electric mixer, with clean beaters, beat the cream and 2 T. sugar in a med. bowl until stiff peaks form. Gently fold whipped cream into the cheese mixture in two additions.

Stir water, espresso powder, coffee liqueur and remaining 1 T. sugar in a small bowl until espresso and sugar dissolve. Using a serrated knife, cut the cake in half horizontally. Brush the cut side of one half with ¼ of the espresso mixture. Place, espresso side down in a 9 or 10-inch glass soufflé dish and brush the top of that cake piece with ¼ of the espresso mixture. Spread cheese mixture over cake. Brush the cut side of the remaining cake piece with ¼ of the espresso mixture, place espresso side down on top of the cheese mixture in the bowl. Brush top with remaining espresso mixture, sprinkle grated chocolate over the cake. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Serves 8 or more.

As for that pizza? Using a prepared crust (such as Boboli) and getting a few ingredients ready the day before means you can have your Valentine’s Day pizza party, with the tiramisu dessert, on Monday, quick and easy.

CHEESY TOMATO PIZZA

1 cup grated Fontina cheese

1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

½ cup finely chopped prosciutto

¼ cup chopped red onion

2 t. minced fresh rosemary, or ¾ t. dried

1 12-inch baked cheese pizza crust (I like Boboli thin crust)

1 T. garlic oil (see below)

10 plum tomatoes, halved crosswise, seeded and cut into thin rounds

2 T. freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Combine the first 5 ingredients and season generously with pepper. Cover and chill until ready to prepare the pizza.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Place crust on a heavy baking sheet and brush with garlic oil (see below). Spoon the cheese mixture over the crust, then arrange overlapping tomatoes in circles on top of the cheese mixture. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and bake until the crust is golden brown and cheese bubbles, about 18 min. Transfer to cutting board and cool 5 min. Cut into wedges and serve. Makes 1 large pizza.

To make garlic oil: Combine ½ cup olive oil and 6 large garlic cloves, peeled and pressed; cover and chill overnight. Let stand at room temp. about ½ hr. before using.

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