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Chocolate Salad, Chocolate Sandwiches

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Got so much chocolate around the house that you don't know how to use it all? Love chocolate so much that you want to eat it in every meal of the day, not just for dessert but in actual food?

Yes, you can.

At last week's grand opening of the Newtree Café & Chocolate Shop in San Francisco, chef John Hutt showcased some of the savory dishes he has created for the shop that incorporate chocolate.

One comforting sandwich features grilled Provençal-style vegetables with chocolate molé and aged Parmesan on a whole-grain roll. Another merges triple-cream Cowgirl Brie and dark-chocolate-cranberry spread on a rustic raisin roll.

"I have to admit: That combination's pretty killer," Hutt said.

A Belgian-style shredded-Brussels-sprout salad is tossed with pomegranate-chocolate vinaigrette in which a chocolate-syrup base -- "we can call it a chocolate gastrique," Hutt said -- meets fresh farmers' market fruit for a seductively sophisticated tang.

Quinoa salad with cocoa nibs is a bestseller at the café, which is outfitted with salvaged wood furnishings, LED lighting, sustainable bamboo cabinets, recycled-glass countertops and a reclaimed-pebble floor.

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Devoted to carbon-neutrality, Belgian-based Newtree uses organic, fair trade, slavery-free cacao beans from Peru and the Dominican Republic to produce smooth chocolates flavored with everything from chili pepper to ginger to lavender. (The café features a "wall of chocolate" lined with bars for sale and bits to sample.) Just last month, its basic recipe was reformulated: Sugar was cut by up to 35 percent and replaced with higher-fiber agave.

Cook fish with it? Why the heck not?

CacaoWeb offers a recipe for salmon with white-chocolate sauce in which lemon and green peppercorns offset the chocolate's sweetness. An oxtail stew recipe on the same site includes cinnamon, cloves, tomatoes, pine nuts and bittersweet chocolate. Its creators suggest that the dish be served with polenta. FoodWishes offers a recipe for braised-beef short ribs with chocolate and cinnamon.

UK-based Green & Black's Organic Chocolate offers recipes for chocolate-spiked chile con carne and a remarkable Swedish-inspired lamb dish that incorporates coffee, Kahlua, mustard powder, shallots and dark chocolate chunks.

At the Newtree Café & Chocolate Shop, chef Hutt showcased some sweet treats too -- such as a heavenly milk-chocolate lavender mousse.

"It tastes like childhood," Hutt said.

Images courtesy of Kristan Lawson, used with his permission.

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