2. With a chef's knife or in a food processor, chop the chocolate into 1-inch or smaller pieces. Place half of the chocolate in a heavy saucepan and place on a flame tamer over a low flame. Alternatively, use a double boiler, making sure that the bowl of chocolate is suspended over, NOT in, the simmering water. It is essential that no water get into the chocolate or it will seize up and turn to unusable clumps.
3. Stir the chocolate frequently with a rubber spatula until melted. Remove from the heat and stir in the remaining chocolate until completely melted.
4. Pour the melted chocolate onto the wax paper and spread it about 1/8-inch-thick with a cake icer. Let the chocolate set 3 or 4 minutes. This is your palette for improvising really fun and interesting combinations.
5. Scatter or arrange your desired embellishments over the chocolate.
6. To add ground spices, place in a fine strainer and gently sift evenly over the chocolate. Sprinkle coarser herbs or sea salt over the chocolate with your fingers.
7. Let the chocolate set 1 to 2 hours until firm. Break into shards. Package in cardboard candy boxes bought from a local bakery; flea market tins; cellophane bags bought from a store or online. The chocolate will keep up to two weeks in a sealed container at room temperature.
Recipe courtesy of Sally Schneider, author of The Improvisational Cook (William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, 2006).
Andrea Reusing is the creator of the restaurant Lantern in Chapel Hill, N.C., and author of the book Cooking in the Moment: A Year of Seasonal Recipes. In this installment of The Key 3, she shares with Lynne Rossetto Kasper the techniques behind three of her favorite recipes: Turnip Soup, Overnight Braised Short Ribs and Tomato Salad.