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Last weekend I brought my "Beverly Hills Chocolate Mousse Tart" to an Oscars party. Adapted from "Jane's Chocolate Mousse Tart" via Martha Stewart circa 1985, I've renamed it the "Beverly Hills Tart" because it's the caloric equivalent of shopping on Rodeo Drive - if you have to ask, it's not in your diet.  

The recipe calls for nuts - walnuts or almonds - in a fairly standard pie crust and a liqueur in the mousse. I've settled on almonds in the crust and Amaretto in the mousse.

Have at least four bowls on hand - five if you don't trust your stove to melt chocolate without scorching.

For the pie crust:

1 1/2 C. flour
2 Tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 C. nuts, chopped very fine

Stir the dry ingredients together in Bowl No. 1, then cut one stick of butter into the bowl. I use a pastry cutter and cut for about 10 minutes. The cookbooks usually say that the mixture should resemble "coarse meal," but I have no idea what that means; instead, I get to the point where most of the butter pieces are grain of sand sized, but there are a few that are smaller-than-pea-sized. Then add:

1 egg yolk (save the white for the mousse)

Up to 4 Tbsp water, one at a time, stirring just long enough to the point where about 3/4 of the dough comes together. You should be able to gather up the remaining 1/4 of the crumbly dough and incorporate it into one big dough ball. Chill for an hour, then roll out, fill a pie pan, and bake for about 20 minutes.

For the mousse:
1 stick butter
8 oz quality semi-sweet chocolate
4 oz unsweetened chocolate

Melt the butter and chocolate in a double boiler in Bowl No. 2 or on a stove with a very low heat setting. Meanwhile, separate four eggs.

Whip the egg whites (include the egg white left over from the pie crust) to the soft-peak stage in Bowl No. 3.

Beat the egg yolks in a large Bowl No. 4, then stir in the butter-chocolate mixture, then 2 Tbsp of a liqueur such as Amaretto, Frangelico, Kahlua, or Grand Marnier.

Fold the egg whites into the butter-chocolate-egg yolk mixture.

In Bowl No. 5, whip a cup of heavy cream long enough for peaks to form, then fold into the mousse. Chill for an hour or more to set the mousse.

Just before serving, scoop the mousse, in irregular gloppy dollops, into the baked and cooled pastry shell. The original recipe called for garnishing with chocolate curls, but I used a handful of sliced almonds instead to echo the almonds in the crust and Amaretto in the liqueur.

Make someone else wash all those bowls.

I used to take some pride in knowing that I was supporting local farmers with this recipe - California produces 82% of the world's almonds. A springtime drive along the almond trees in blossom in the Central Valley can be very pretty, except for the parts where almond trees are being killed and uprooted amid "Pelosi-Boxer Caused Drought" signs. (By an odd coincidence, the signs used to blame "Congress," til Republicans took over the House.)

Almond trees are thirsty - one almond uses a gallon of water.  (A walnut uses 5.4 gallons of water, and a pistachio uses 0.75 gallons. An acre of almond trees uses as much water in a year as 16 people.) Unlike notorious water hogs rice and cotton, they're permanent crops. And they're being planted with virtually no regulation or planning or even thought in a California farm county, in sufficient quantities to equal a city of 480,000 people, and they'll need 39 billion gallons a year from aquifers in a county whose residents only drew 26 billion gallons from the same aquifers in 2012. The almond trees are being planted in the middle of two separate droughts - the first caused by a weather condition nicknamed the "Ridiculously Resilient Ridge" that kept significant rain from California for thirteen months, and the worse a long-term climate-caused megadrought.

But I digress. This is supposed to be a recipe diary, not a rant against the head-banging folly of planting thirsty trees in a thirsty place where everything is going to get worse until it gets much, much worse.  Here's a nice romesco sauce recipe.

1/4 C. slivered almonds
1 thin slice French bread, lightly toasted
1 large garlic clove
1 red bell pepper, seeded, chopped, blackened, and skin removed
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 Tbsp Spanish or smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Put all ingredients in food processor or blender and pulse just to combine - sauce should be relatively chunky. Serve with pasta, atop grilled chicken, or with cold cooked shrimp instead of a cocktail sauce. Garnish with more almonds, support your California farmers, and crunch on!

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