Valentine sweet treats from Cox’s Market

Both the chocolate-macadamia pie and key lime tartlets include tropical elements

By: Pat Tanner
   With Valentine’s Day upon us, I turned to the folks at Cox’s Market in Princeton for some sweet ideas. Alan Heap, who owns the market along with his wife, Marguerite, and partner, Carlos Espichan, offered up two recipes that hold special meaning for him. Both the chocolate-macadamia pie and key lime tartlets include tropical elements, which reflect the years the Heaps lived and worked in Guam and Hawaii.
   "Both my wife and our children are from Hawaii," Alan Heap says. "We get macadamia nuts shipped to us regularly, and I think chocolate and macadamias go together like a husband and wife. The tartlets have key lime and a coconut crust, which make me think of romantic tropical beaches."
   The Pacific background of the Heaps will be married with the Hispanic background of Carlos Espichan in the trio’s latest venture, a BYOB restaurant behind Cox’s Market that is set to open in March. With a menu of Pacific-Mexican cuisine that will feature such dishes as empanadas with king crab, the restaurant, Mr. Heap says, "will be a little bit of Carlos, a little bit of me. The food will be classic Mexican but not necessarily with Mexican ingredients. It will be fusion at its best."
   The same can be said for their partnership. Mr. Espichan has been with Cox’s Market for 16 years.
   "None of this would be possible without Carlos," Mr. Heap says. "He’s the guy who kept the market alive all these years. He knows all the customers."
   Many of those customers submitted entries in the trio’s contest for naming the new restaurant. "We’ve gotten a lot of really good suggestions, literally hundreds," Mr. Heap reports. The winner, to be named in the coming weeks, will win a $500 catering gift certificate.
   Alan Heap is scheduled to conduct a series of four hands-on cooking classes called "Scrumptious Dessert Making" for the Princeton Adult School beginning on Feb. 22. But why wait? The following are scrumptious desserts guaranteed to warm our hearts on Valentine’s Day, just like a good tropical breeze.
Cox’s Market
For the crust:
   ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
   ¼ cup granulated sugar
   1 egg, beaten
   1-1/8 cups cake flour
   7 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
For the chocolate cream:
   3 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
   ¾ teaspoon coffee liqueur
   ½ cup heavy cream
For the caramel:
   ½ cup heavy cream
   ½ cup granulated sugar
   2 tablespoons unsalted butter
   1 cup whole macadamia nuts, divided
   1. For the crust: In a large bowl cream together the butter and sugar until soft; then beat in the egg. In a separate bowl combine the cake flour and the cocoa powder. Slowly add flour mixture to the creamed mixture and form the dough into a ball. Flatten into a round disk, wrap in wax paper, and refrigerate for 2 hours.
   2. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. On a lightly floured surface roll out the dough into a 10-inch round about 1/4-inch thick. Transfer dough to an 8-inch tart or pie pan, pressing it evenly to the bottom. Prick all over with a fork and freeze for 10 minutes. Bake the shell in preheated oven for 12 minutes; place on rack to cool.
   3. For the caramel: In a saucepan, bring ½ cup heavy cream to a simmer over low heat. In another saucepan, over high heat, slowly add the ½ cup sugar in small amounts, stirring constantly, until it melts and turns golden brown, being careful that the sugar does not burn. Remove from heat and slowly stir in the hot cream. Stir in 2 tablespoons butter and allow the mixture to cool.
   4. For the chocolate cream: In a bowl combine the chocolate and liqueur. In a saucepan over high heat bring the remaining ½ cup heavy cream to a boil and pour it over the chocolate. Stir with a wooden spoon until the chocolate is melted and smooth.
   5. Set aside 15 macadamia nuts and chop the rest. Pour the cooled caramel into the cooled pie shell and spread evenly. Sprinkle chopped nuts over the caramel. Pour the chocolate cream on top and spread evenly. Arrange 10 of the whole nuts around the edge to mark 10 slices and then place the remaining 5 nuts in the center. Refrigerate for 1 hour until firm.
Cox’s Market
For the crust:
   4 tablespoons melted butter
   2 tablespoons flour
   ½ cup graham cracker crumbs
   ½ cup gingersnap crumbs
   1 cup coconut
For the filling:
   8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
   14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
   1 cup sour cream
   Juice from half a key lime
For the topping:
   ½ cup heavy cream
   2 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar
   Grated lime zest
   1. Note: Crust must be made at least 4 hours before serving. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine all crust ingredients and mix well. Press mixture firmly over the bottoms and 1/2- to 3/4-inch up the sides of 8 mini tart pans (or 1 9-inch springform pan). Bake for 5 minutes and refrigerate.
   2. At two-and-a-half hours before serving, mix in a blender the cream cheese and the sweetened condensed milk. Add the lime juice and then manually add the sour cream, gently folding the mixture. Pour into the refrigerated shells. Refrigerate for 2 hours. Just before serving, whip the cream with the sugar until stiff peaks form. Place a dollop on top of each tart and sprinkle with grated lime zest.
Pat Tanner can be heard each Saturday morning on "Dining Today with Pat Tanner" on MoneyTalk AM 1350 and over from 9 to 10 a.m.