The Bean and the Hungry Goat

Here's a question to ponder: what beverage, when consumed in moderation, intensifies a person's concentration, alertness, and increases their ability to process information? If you guessed a specific herbal tea, carrot juice, protein shake, or other "health food drink" (legal or illicit) you're wrong.  The beverage of course is none other than a good cup (or two, or six) of caffeine-laden coffee. Sometimes considered a "vice," coffee is reputed to do all these things and more; besides tasting good, researchers in recent years have done studies on the bitter brew attempting to conclude it's health benefits as well, which quite possibly range from a natural asthmatic treatment, preventative of colon cancer, to the reduction of kidney stones and prevention of type II diabetes. This is good news for a guy such as myself who's consumed quantities of the caffeine elixir for more than twenty years. But in all of this the key word, as it is with most things, is moderation (there always has to be a catch). Most of the information that I've read pertains to studies in which the subjects consumed 2-3 (6-ounce) cups of coffee a day&I sometimes drink that before getting dressed in the morning.

Coffee drinking of course is not without somewhat immediate physical consequences, and for the seasoned drinker these negative effects are well known. Caffeine can cause sleepless nights and even heart palpitations if consumed in quantities, and the diarrhetic effects of too much coffee on an empty stomach are obvious but will go further unmentioned in this article.

Thankfully I'm not alone in my love of the brewed bean. According to the National Coffee Association (NCA) approximately 110 million Americans drink coffee every day, which is about 54% of our country's adult population, and the "average coffee drinker" spends $164.71 on coffee each year. That, no doubt, translates to a lot of beans. 

The really remarkable thing about coffee is that it's simply a liquid made from steeping roasted beans. According to legend, coffee was first discovered more than a millennium ago by an Ethiopian goat herder who noticed that his sheep became "spirited" after nibbling on the berries of coffee plants. He reported his findings to the local church and the monks found they were able to remain alert and refreshed through the long hours of evening prayer after consuming coffee beans or a beverage from them. Whether this is an accurate legend or not I personally find fables like this interesting&populations around the world quite possibly drink coffee today because of a hungry goat.

Chocolate-Espresso Mousse
Yield: 8-10 servings       

1-1/2 pounds semi-sweet chocolate, broken into pieces
1/2 cup strong espresso
4 eggs yolks
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup sugar
8 egg whites
Melt the chocolate in a double boiler (or in a bowl resting on a pot f simmering water). When the chocolate is completely melted stir in the espresso and remove it from the heat. Allow the chocolate mixture to cool slightly, and then beat in the egg yolks and vanilla extract. Let this mixture cool about room temperature, and then whip the cream in a stainless steel or copper bowl while gradually adding the sugar. Whip the cream until it forms stiff peaks, and then set aside. Whip the egg whites also in a stainless or copper bowl until they form stiff peaks. Gently fold the whipped egg whites into the whipped cream, and then fold 1/3 of the cream and egg white mixture into the chocolate mixture, stirring gently until smooth. Then, very gently, fold in the remaining cream and egg white mixture, taking great care not to over mix or it will deflate the mousse. Ladle the finished mouse into 8 or 10 cups or wineglasses and refrigerate for at least an hour. Garnish with whipped cream and/or fresh berries just before serving.

Yield: 6 servings

 2 egg yolks
 1 ounce Marsala wine        
 4 ounces granulated sugar 
 7 ounces Mascarpone cheese     
 2 cups of strong coffee
 12 ladyfinger cookies 
 powdered sugar
 cocoa powder

Using a wire whisk beat the egg yolks and Marsala in a small bowl with two ounces of the sugar until the yolks are aerated and pale yellow. Fold the Mascarpone cheese into the yolk mixture with a rubber spatula, making sure the ingredients are fully blended, and then transfer it to a small serving dish. Combine the remaining 2 ounces of sugar with the coffee, making sure the sugar is dissolved. Dip the ladyfingers in the sweetened coffee and arrange them on top of the cheese mixture. Dust the top of the tiramisu with the cocoa ad powdered sugar and refrigerate for at least an hour before serving. 

Espresso BBQ Sauce
Yield: about 2 cups

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 cup minced onion
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 cup espresso
1-1/2 cups ketchup

Heat the oil in a small saucepot. Add the onion and sauté until it just begins to brown. Stir in the garlic, sugar, chili powder, cumin, cinnamon, salt, and black pepper; sauté for 2 or 3 minutes. Stir in the espresso and ketchup. Bring the sauce to a boil, and then lower it to a simmer. Cook the sauce, over low heat, for approximately 30 minutes, stirring often. Use this sauce for basting poultry or meat. Store it refrigerated for up to 2 weeks.