Is there ever a thing as too much chocolate? Not only does chocolate taste great, but it's also loaded with benefits, such as antioxidants, which can lower inflammation and protect the heart. And, the perks are in higher concentration in dark chocolate, so you'll want to go for bolder, deeper flavors.
Beyond the health factors, chocolate is also really versatile, where it can be savory or sweet. When hardened or as nibs, it can make a good crust or dessert, and when melted, it turns into a beautiful sauce, one that can accompany a variety of ingredients.
Plus, chocolate boasts different flavors, and certain foods can further bring out those deeper components. "Underlying flavors in chocolate are often complimented by their spice counterpart, for example coffee and chocolate flavors are a popular combination because the flavor profiles of sweet, spice, bitterness, and fragrance intermingle to create a well-balanced depth of flavor," says Chef Hariharan, Executive Chef at The Ritz-Carlton, Pentagon City. "This particular combination can be used for sweet delights (like a mocha) to a savory espresso and chocolate rubbed steak," he adds.
With Steak as a Rub
Blend with coffee for a delicious rub. "Coffee, cocoa rub steaks, a smoky spice rub for steaks (using espresso coffee, cocoa powder & spices)," says Hariharan really enhances meat's rich, dark flavors and offers an extra kick. Meat and chocolate work well together, and the espresso adds another dimension of depth. Plus, if you're adding more seasonings, here are some tips for perfecting your slab of meat.
As Barbecue Sauce
Hariharan also recommends making a barbecue sauce out of chocolate, as chocolate complements chicken, pork, and beef really well. Try using the chocolate barbecue sauce in baby back ribs, he says. And, make sure to use a semi-sweet chocolate. This is best for flavor, texture, and those health perks!
As Mole Sauce
Another sauce, this one is just as satisfying. A traditional mole has been used for generations in Mexican culture, he says, and so it's typical to use chocolate in recipes. Think: Mexican hot chocolate, steaks, and more. Use this mole sauce on pork and steak fajitas, along with some veggies and queso, wrapped up in a warm tortilla.
In a Soup
Chocolate can also taste great in soups and chilis, as it's such a rich flavor that pairs well with hearty dishes. So, if you're making soup, go for bean or lentil based, cream-based, or ones with pasta, rice, or thick veggies or meats, in order to build consistency. "Traditional chilis, especially using game meat, go well with dark chocolate," he says.
As a Crust
"Cocoa nib and spice crusts on salmon or chicken breasts," are easy to cook and prepare and add a bit of crunch and flavor. Better than traditional breadcrumbs, right? Cocoa nibs are bits of crushed and dried cocoa bean, he says, and you can find them in any local store. They are packed with antioxidants, as they come directly from the source.
In a Dip
Ditch guacamole and go for hummus, here, but with an added bonus: chocolate. It's easy to blend cocoa powder with chickpeas to make a creamy, healthy hummus. By adding in almond butter, cinnamon, and vanilla, you can mask the taste of chickpeas and offer a sweeter dip to complement fruit, desserts, and breads.
"I have a 12 year old daughter who loves chocolate and Nutella so to encourage her to eat healthier, I wanted to create this Chocolate Hummus for her. She can't even taste a difference and eats it by the spoonful. We use all natural ingredients and it's vegan too," says Dave Pesso, Co-Founder of The Hummus & Pita Co., who offers it in his shop.