Saturday, October 4, 2008

Recipe: Carne Mechada - Venezuelan Shredded Beef

Shredded beef is a key dish in Latin American cooking, from Cuba's rather unappetizingly named but utterly delicious "ropa vieja" ("old clothes") to Venezuela's national dish Pabellon Criollo, where the beef is typically accompanied by white rice, black beans and slices of fried plantain.

It is also used as a filling for empanadas and arepas.

The name shredded or pulled beef comes from the

Monday, September 29, 2008

Recipe: Perico - Venezuelan Scrambled Eggs

You don't get plain old scrambled eggs in Venezuela. As befits a vibrant tropical country where eating great-tasting food is an intrinsic part of the culture, you get something far more exciting and colourful: Perico.The name of the dish comes from the Spanish word for parrot, probably because the red, yellow and green of the ingredients echoes the parrot's colourful plumage. Interestingly,

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Recipe: How to Make Arepas

Arepas are cornmeal patties that are eaten in place of bread in Venezuela. They are quick to make, healthy and can be eaten at any time of the day. At breakfast, they can be served steaming hot from the oven with a slather of butter, or filled with cheese, ham or perico, Venezuelan-style scrambled eggs. During the day, they make the perfect snack and are sold in fast-food outlets called areperas

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Recipe: Caraotas Negras - Venezuelan Black Beans

Tasty, cheap and nutritious, black beans are as emblematic of Venezuela as the colours of the flag - and they're good for you.

And while other Latin American countries might refer to their beans as frijoles, porotos, judias or habichuelas, in Venezuela they are always caraotas.

In England they are often sold as Turtle Beans, a name which comes from the Caribbean and is said to be inspired by

Thursday, August 28, 2008

El Levanton - Man enough for a Merengada?

Some milkshakes you can't prepare for. I remember waking up one Sunday morning in Merida feeling like death warmed up after a fun-filled night of beer and rum that probably went on too long. Luckily, one of my "panas" (mates) from the Andean capital had the perfect solution and took me to a juice bar in the Mercado Principal where he insisted on ordering a pick-me-up called El Levanton. "Don't

Batidos and Merengadas - Juice Bar Glossary

One of the great pleasures of visiting Venezuela is the chance to try so many delicious fruit juices. From exotic soursops to run-of-the-mill raspberries, juices seem to taste better in the tropics.And there's no trouble finding them. You can enjoy juices at fruterias, areperas, luncherias and five star restaurants - anywhere there's a blender and a plug socket, basically.Just don't ask for a "

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Lunch with Los Amigos Invisibles

Max and Jason of Current TV join Venezuelan band Los Amigos Invisibles for a brunch of arepas and cachapas at Beverly Hills' famous gourmet java-joint Coupa Cafe.

The restaurant is run by Jean Paul Coupal, the French-Canadian owner of Cafe Arabica in Caracas.

The menu combines single-estate coffees from the finest fincas in Venezuela with hefty helpings of popular dishes such as Pabellon

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Eating out - Arepera Glossary

Arepas are Venezuela's homegrown alternative to bread or rolls, cornmeal "cakes" about the size of a hockey puck that are crunchy on the outside but soft and fluffy on the inside.Infinitely versatile, they can be eaten solo with butter or opened up and stuffed with a variety of fillings to make a delicious snack.While most Venezuelans will eat arepas at home, if you want something more exotic -

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Cornmeal Cravings and the Hunt for Harina Pan

Sometimes you can travel the world looking for something only to get back and find it was just round the corner all along. That's what happened to me when I went looking for Harina Pan, the basic ingredient for Venezuelan arepas. You can say what you like about arepas; I've heard them described as "bland stodge in a bun", which is unfair, and "about the size of an ice-hockey puck and just as easy

Friday, August 8, 2008

Pabellon Criollo - Venezuela's National Dish

Pabellon Criollo is not only Venezuela's national dish, it's also emblematic of the country; a hearty plate of simple food that mirrors the national flag and highlights the special mix of races that has made Venezuela a country of beauty queens.A delicious combination of carne mechada (shredded beef), arroz blanco (white rice), caraotas negras (black beans) and tajadas (fried plantains), there

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

DMBLGIT Winner-Edibility, April 2008

Thanks to Sara of ms.Adventures in Italy for hosting the April edition of DMBLGIT, a very cool monthly competition of food bloggers. Also, thanks to the judges, Helen of Tartelette,Sara of The Kitchen Pantry, Susan of Food Blogga and Robyn of The Girl Who Are Everything for their effort in judging what must be a difficult task trying to decide who is chosen for each category. The photos get better and better each month!

I am very proud of having been chosen Edibility winner. Check out all the winners here. You can read my post here.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Strawberries and Toasted Walnut Biscotti

My local berry farm just opened its roadside stand a few weeks ago and as it is on my way to just about everywhere, I have been stopping by nearly everyday buying buckets for friends and family, plus a few for myself, too. Once you have had really good strawberries, you can never go back to the impostors in the grocery store. Last year, I froze quite a few of these luscious berries to have for desserts in the winter.

After a heavy meal, this simple dessert is colorful and the toasted walnut biscotti adds a little crunch. These little biscuits freeze well, so can be made ahead. The whipped topping is a mixture of sour cream and heavy cream whipped with a little sugar and will keep several days in the refrigerator. The strawberries can be sliced and sugar added several hours ahead of your meal.


3 cups washed, sliced fresh strawberries
sugar to taste

Combine fruit and sugar. Refrigerate for an hour or so.

I wrote a previous post on biscotti here. In the Spring 2007 issue of Baker's Companion, there is an article on creating authentic Italian biscotti which gives step-by-step instructions to ensure success in making these lovely little crisp cookies. Without going through all the steps in detail, here are three important ones.

1. To keep the biscotti from crumbling after the first baking, spritz the baked dough lightly, but thoroughly with water taking care to cover the sides and the top. Let stand 5 minutes before slicing. This is an important step especially if your biscotti contains nuts and fruits.

2. When cutting the biscotti for the second bake, use a serrated knife and cut with a straight up and down motion. This steps ensures that the biscotti will stand up for the second bake.

3. Instead of flipping the biscotti over to bake a third time, stand them up on the prepared baking sheet so the air can circulate around them as they bake.

Toasted Walnut Biscotti

2 large eggs
2/3 cup sugar (4 3/4 oz)
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup toasted,chopped walnuts
2 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a large baking sheet (18x 13-inch) with parchment paper. In a medium bowl, beat the eggs, sugar, baking powder, and vanilla extract until creamy looking. When properly beaten, the egg/sugar mixture will be thick and lemon colored and drop in a ribbon from the beater.

Lower the mixer speed and add the flour beating gently until incorporated. Transfer the dough to the prepared baking sheet and shape into a rough log about 14 inches long, 2 1/2 inches wide and about 3/4 inch thick. Smooth the top of the dough with a wet dough scraper.

Bake the dough for 25 minutes. With the nuts, it may be necessary to bake an additional 5-10 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool on pan from 5-25 minutes. I let mine cool about 15 minutes. Spritz with water. Let stand 5 minutes. This will soften the crust to make slicing easier.

Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees F. Wait 5 minutes, then cut the biscotti on the diagonal into 3/4 inch slices using a serrated knife and straight up and down motions. If you slice the biscotti wider at the top than the bottom, they will topple over while baking the second time.

Set the biscotti upright on the prepared baking sheet 1/2 inch apart so the air can circulate. Bake for 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and transfer to a rack to cool. Store in an airtight container to preserve their texture. If the biscotti aren't as hard as you like, store uncovered overnight to continue drying. Biscotti can be stored at room temperature for two weeks; for longer storage, wrap airtight and freeze. Yield 14-16.

Whipped Topping

1/2 pint heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup granulated sugar (add more if desired, to taste)
8 ounces sour cream, you can use low fat sour cream, but not nonfat

Whip cream at low speed with electric beater or by hand. Don't overbeat or it will turn to butter. With wire whip, fold in the sugar, mixing well. Drain any water off sour cream. Fold it into the whipped cream. Add more sugar if desired. Cover tightly and refrigerate. Use as needed. Keeps well.

Original whipped topping recipe here.

To assemble dessert

Spoon strawberries into desired dessert dishes, place biscotti in glass and spoon topping over strawberries. How easy is that?
Serves about 4.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Tuesdays with Dorie-Fluted Polenta and Ricotta Cake

I can see myself sitting in a cafe in France or Italy, sipping an espresso or a strong cup of tea and having a small piece of this honey and fig cake as a mid-afternoon dessert. The dried Mission figs coated with crushed fresh thyme leaves was a pleasant surprise flavor and balanced the sweetness of the dessert, whereas the polenta gives the cake some texture. A whipped topping blend of sour cream and heavy cream counterbalances some of the sweetness of the honey and sugar.

It's nice to have some freedom with a recipe, but because this is my first post as a member of Tuesdays with Dorie, I decided not to fool with the recipe too much. As a member of Tuesdays with Dorie, I am required to have the book, Baking From My Home to Yours and to be able to post the chosen recipe at least twice a month and on a Tuesday. Caitlin of Engineer Baker chose Fluted Polenta and Ricotta Cake for this week's challenge.

I had no luck finding a 10 1/2-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom, so bought an 11-inch quiche pan thinking the 1/2-inch difference wouldn't really matter. The cake went together very well and looked beautiful while it was baking. I loved the idea of the lemon zest, honey, polenta and dried figs;it had such a rustic sound to it. Instead of using 16 large dried Mission figs, I used twice the amount of dried figlets. The figlets were very moist and supple, so didn't need the plumping up that Dorie suggested may be needed for figs that are somewhat hard.

For those of you who haven't bought Dorie's book, Baking From My Home to Yours, here is the recipe.

Fluted Polenta and Ricotta Cake

About 16 moist, plump dried Mission or Kadota figs, stemmed or 32 figlets which wouldn'd need cutting in half.
1 cup medium-grain polenta or cornmeal
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup ricotta
1/3 cup tepid water
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup honey, a full-flavor honey such as chestnut, pine or buckwheat for real honey lovers.
1 stick(8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted and cooled, plus 1 tablespoon, cut into bits and chilled
2 large eggs

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 325° F. Butter a 10 1/2-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom and put it on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silicone mat.

Check that the figs are indeed moist and plump. If they are the least bit hard, toss them into a small pan of boiling water and steep for a minute, then drain and pat dry. If the figs are large (bigger than a bite), snip them in half. I followed Dorie's suggestion of tossing the figs with a pinch of crushed fresh thyme leaves to add a Mediterranean touch to the cake.

Whisk the polenta, flour, baking powder and salt together.

Working with a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment or a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the ricotta and water together on low speed until very smooth. With the mixer at medium speed, add the sugar, honey and lemon zest and beat until light. Beat in the melted butter, then add the eggs one at a time, beating until the mixture is smooth. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the dry ingredients, mixing only until they are fully incorporated. You will have a sleek, smooth, pourable batter.

Pour about one third of the batter into the pan and scatter over the figs. Pour in the rest of the batter, smooth the top with a rubber spatula, if necessary, and dot the batter evenly with the chilled butter bits.

Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until a thin knife inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. The cake should be honey brown and pulling away just a little from the sides of the pan, and the butter will have left light-colored circles in the top. Transfer the cake to a rack and remove the sides of the pan after about 5 minutes. Cool to warm, or cool completely.

Serves 8. Cake can be wrapped in plastic and will keep for five days at room temperature or can be frozen up to 2 months.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Daring Bakers-Cheesecake Pops

"Hello, my name is Lynne and I am a Daring Baker. It was just a casual thing to do, I could stop anytime I wanted,right? Well, I got in deeper and deeper and now I'm addicted" Sound familiar? I agonized over missing last month's challenge, the beautiful party cake. I even bought Dorie's book, Baking From My Home to Yours and vowed at the next special occasion in my family, I would bake the cake. This month's challenge is Cheesecake Pops, chosen by Deborah and Elle, both have beautiful blogs with great photos and tasty looking recipes. The Cheesecake Pops recipe comes from Jill O'Connor's book, Sticky Chewy, Messy, Gooey -Desserts For the Sweet Tooth, another book to put on my ever-growing lists of must haves.

A great make ahead dessert, the pops seem time-consuming, but can be accomplished over two days. The cheesecake is baked, then chilled for several hours before scooping out the 2 ounce balls. The balls are then frozen for several more hours before dipping them in the chocolate. Since Memorial Day and the Fourth of July are our next holidays in the USA, I chose a red, white and blue theme for decorating my cheesecake pops.

Cheesecake Pops

Makes 30 – 40 Pops

5 8-oz. packages cream cheese at room temperature

2 cups sugar

¼ cup all-purpose flour

¼ teaspoon salt

5 large eggs

2 egg yolks

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

¼ cup heavy cream

Boiling water as needed

Thirty to forty 8-inch lollipop sticks

1 pound chocolate, finely chopped – you can use all one kind or half and half of dark, milk, or white (Alternately, you can use 1 pound of flavored coatings, also known as summer coating, confectionery coating or wafer chocolate – candy supply stores carry colors, as well as the three kinds of chocolate.)

2 tablespoons vegetable shortening

(Note: White chocolate is harder to use this way, but not impossible)

Assorted decorations such as chopped nuts, colored jimmies, crushed peppermints, mini chocolate chips, sanding sugars, dragees) - Optional

Position oven rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 325 degrees F. Set some water to boil.

In a large bowl, beat together the cream cheese, sugar, flour, and salt until smooth. If using a mixer, mix on low speed. Add the whole eggs and the egg yolks, one at a time, beating well (but still at low speed) after each addition. Beat in the vanilla and cream.

Grease a 10-inch cake pan (not a springform pan), and pour the batter into the cake pan. Place the pan in a larger roasting pan. Fill the roasting pan with the boiling water until it reaches halfway up the sides of the cake pan. Bake until the cheesecake is firm and slightly golden on top, 35 to 45 minutes.

Remove the cheesecake from the water bath and cool to room temperature. Cover the cheesecake with plastic wrap and refrigerate until very cold, at least 3 hours or up to overnight.

When the cheesecake is cold and very firm, scoop the cheesecake into 2-ounce balls and place on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Carefully insert a lollipop stick into each cheesecake ball. Freeze the cheesecake pops, uncovered, until very hard, at least 1 – 2 hours.

When the cheesecake pops are frozen and ready for dipping, prepare the chocolate. In the top of a double boiler, set over simmering water, or in a heatproof bowl set over a pot of simmering water, heat half the chocolate and half the shortening, stirring often, until chocolate is melted and chocolate and shortening are combined. Stir until completely smooth. Do not heat the chocolate too much or your chocolate will lose it’s shine after it has dried. Save the rest of the chocolate and shortening for later dipping, or use another type of chocolate for variety.

Alternately, you can microwave the same amount of chocolate coating pieces on high at 30 second intervals, stirring until smooth.

Quickly dip a frozen cheesecake pop in the melted chocolate, swirling quickly to coat it completely. Shake off any excess into the melted chocolate. If you like, you can now roll the pops quickly in optional decorations. You can also drizzle them with a contrasting color of melted chocolate (dark chocolate drizzled over milk chocolate or white chocolate over dark chocolate, etc.) Place the pop on a clean parchment paper-lined baking sheet to set. Repeat with remaining pops, melting more chocolate and shortening (or confectionery chocolate pieces) as needed.

Refrigerate the pops for up to 24 hours, until ready to serve.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Blackberry Clafoutis

Fabulous is the only way I can describe my clafoutis when I saw how beautiful it looked when they began to puff up in my oven! And so easy to prepare! I have baked grunts, slumps, cobblers, pan dowdies and the like, but I have never baked a clafoutis. I must be only person in the whole world who hasn't, judging from the plethora of clafoutis recipes on the Internet. All were beautifully prepared and photographed, so I was a little hesitant to post my blackberry clafoutis in Hay, Hay, It's Donna Day #19 hosted by two time winner of HHDD, Bron Marshall. If you aren't familiar with HHDD, it's a fabulous blog event created by Barbara of winosandfoodies and I am proud to be one of the event's winners with my blackberry lemon verbena sorbet. It was just a coincidence that I chose another blackberry dish for this event. The recipe I used was part of a Fall menu and used dried cranberries and toasted walnuts which would make it very much an American dish, but I loved the way the blackberries looked nestled in the egg milk mixture. I did a little research on clafoutis and found that the dish when made with fruits other than cherries becomes a flaugnarde.

While shopping in my favorite restaurant supply store, I found four Lodge pre-seasoned iron pans about 6 inches in diameter with au gratin handles on either side. I would have bought more, but that was all they had in stock at them moment. I love cooking in cast-iron and knew my clafoutis would look great in these little pans.

Recipe adapted from "Sunday Suppers at Lucques" by Susanne Goin.

Blackberry Clafoutis

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons whole milk
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon unsalted butter
3 extra large eggs
1/2 cup plus 2 teaspoons granulated sugar
3/4 cup all-purpose flour, sifted
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 pint fresh blackberries, washed and drained

Heat milk and the 2 tablespoons butter in a small saucepan over medium heat until warm but not hot. In a large bowl, whisk eggs together. Whisk in 1/2 cup sugar, the flour, and the salt. Add the warm milk, whisking well to incorporate completely. Let the batter rest 1 hour at room temperature.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Butter a 10-inch round baking dish or 4 6-6 1/2 inch cast-iron pans with the 1 teaspoon butter. Sprinkle the baking dish or individual pans with the 2 teaspoons sugar. Tip to coat bottoms and sides of dish. Pour batter in the pan. Arrange the fresh blackberries around the pan. Bake about 45 minutes for large pan and about 30-35 for smaller pans. Serve hot or cold.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Ginger Ice Cream

I had my first taste of ginger ice cream in a favorite sushi restaurant a few years ago and have sought to reproduce that intense ginger flavor in my own kitchen. After making gallons of ginger ice cream, I was finely successful.

Two forms of ginger, fresh and crystallized, makes this rich smooth ice cream a double treat. Chopped fresh ginger is pureed in a food processor,squeezed through a cheesecloth bag to extract ginger juice which is then added to the cooked custard. Near the end of the freezing process, minced candied ginger goes for added flavor and texture. If you love ginger and ice cream, this is the recipe for you. Ginger ice cream will be a perfect ending to a meal of sushi or any other Asian or grilled meat dish.

When shopping for fresh ginger, look for unwrinkled rhizomes with no mold spots. Fresh ginger can keep in the refrigerator for a few weeks wrapped in several layers of paper towel. Crystallized ginger should be firm with a good coating of sugar and not clumped together.

Ginger Ice Cream

1 cup chopped ginger with peel
1/2 cup water
2 cups half and half
1 cup heavy whipping cream
3 egg yolks
1 cup sugar
1 cup minced crystallized ginger

In a food processor, combine chopped fresh ginger with the water and puree. Line a bowl with a piece of cheesecloth and pour the pureed mixture into it. Gather ends of cheesecloth together and squeeze out as much juice as possible.

Whisk egg yolks and sugar together in a small bowl. In a medium saucepan over medium heat,combine the half and half with the whipping cream. Heat until small bubble appear around the edges. Do not boil. Whisk in some of the hot cream into the egg yolk sugar mixture to temper it, then add it to the cream mixture. Cook over medium low to low heat, stirring constantly, until custard thickens slightly and coats the back of a spoon. Remove from heat, cool slightly and add the ginger juice. Transfer mixture to a bowl and refrigerate until very cold.

Pour mixture into an electric ice cream maker and process according to manufacturer's instructions. During the last few minutes of processing, add the crystallized ginger. Place in freezer container and freeze for several hours until firm.

Makes about a quart. Recipe adapted from "Asian Grilling" by Su-Mei Yu.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Boston-Lunch at Figs

We arrived at Figs just when it opened so avoided the long line that accumulated while we ate our lunch.Surprisingly small, but the wait staff weaved in and out with panache serving large rectangular pizzas with thin crisped crust smeared with just enough sauce and generously topped with a variety of ingredients. We ordered the cod cakes, a special that day and weren't disappointed. They were lovely fish and mashed potato cakes perfectly fried and served with a lemon aioli. Our pizza was half and half fried calamari and shrimp. The calamari was tender and delicious, but the shrimp wasn't all that special. Next time I visit, I will order Todd English's signature pizza, Fig and Prosciutto, a crisp rosemary crust with fig and balsamic jam, prosciutto & gorgonzola cheese. Figs is a great casual bistro with excellent pizza if you don't mind being in close quarters with other diners.

Figs Menu

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Asparagus With Leeks and Pancetta

Two posts in one day! I thought I was doing really well until I realized that I had not written any text to go with this delicious asparagus dish. It's such an easy dish, maybe that's why I failed to write about it.

Everything Michael Chiarello cooks is so casually elegant and has lovely table appeal and color. I have two of his books and constantly pour over them for not only recipes I know will work, but for his tips on how to beautifully display his food, pantry necessities, and basic kitchen equipment. In his book, "At Home with Michael Chiarello, he lists his top five cleaning agents and all are either already in your home or easily obtainable. Club soda is his number one favorite on the list as his basic stain fighter. When doused on spills, stains are less lightly to become permanent. Cream of tarter is great mixed with lemon juice which acts a bleach for white clothes stained with food.Denture cleaning tablets was a real surprise to me. These tablets when dissolved in a little cold water cleans stains off of linen tablecloths. Dishwasher liquid can be rubbed directly into the stain while meat tenderizer and cold water mixed together can remove meat juice stains, milk and other stains which contain protein.

But I digress! Try Michael's easy asparagus dish and it will become a favorite for family and friends.

From Michael Chiarello's "Casual Cooking, Wine Country Recipes for Family and Friends"

2 pounds medium asparagus, I used half purple and half green asparagus
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 ounces thinly sliced pancetta, unrolled and cut into 1-inch lengths
1 cup thinly sliced leek, white and pale green parts only
Sea salt, preferably gray salt, and freshly ground black pepper

Holding an asparagus spear in both hands, bend the spear until it breaks naturally at the point where the spear becomes tough. Discard the tough end and repeat with the remaining asparagus. Cut the asparagus into 1-inch lengths.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.

While the water heats, heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium-low heat and cook the pancetta until the pancetta is almost crisp, about 5 minutes. Add the leek and saute until softened but not colored.

Add the asparagus to the boiling water and cook until just tender, 3 to 4 minutes. Drain and add to the skillet. Season mixture with salt and pepper and toss to coat. Transfer to a serving bowl and serve immediately. Serves 6.

Blogging By Mail-Small Things

I felt like a kid at Christmastime opening my box the postman left at my door! I couldn't wait to tear through the packaging to see what goodies I had been sent from from the Land Down Under. Lovely Asian sauce packets, dark chocolate, teas, chopsticks, just great stuff I've never seen where I live. Thanks Agnes! It's uncanny that you picked out so many of my favorite things. Thanks to Stephanie of Dispensing Happiness who organized Blogging By Mail-Small Things. Eighty five bloggers worldwide signed up to swap packages containing small things. It's quite an exciting way to meet someone from another part of the world and to receive treats from someone who loves food as much as I do.

Here is a list of what I received in my "small things mean a lot" box:
Green and white tea
A beautiful tea blossom
Snifter and Sparkles-candies
Egg Rolls and Hello Panda biscuits, little panda embossed biscuits filled with chocolate
Koko Black dark chocolate which was nearly gone before I took the photo, and Koko Black hot chocolate.
Two sets of chopsticks
Two packets of crisps;lime and black pepper, and sour cream and chive
A chilli and garlic grinder
Harissa-a Middle Eastern spice mix I have always wanted to try
Pink Salt which comes from the Murray River, the longest river in Australia
Furikake rice seasoning
Several packet mixes such as Pho, tofu and Hainanese chicken rice for quick meals of favorite Asian sauces which require ingredients not easily found.
A South Pacific lapel pin.
And-last, but not least!

I had never heard of Vegemite until this song by Men At Work, one of my very favorite songs ever! I'll have to have a Vegemite and cheese sandwich as Agnes suggested.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Chocolate Ginger Cupcakes with Two Toppings

Chocolate Ginger Cupcake with Whipped Cream and French Meringue

With Easter coming early this year and traveling part of March, I haven't posted as many entries as I had planned on, but I wanted one more before this month comes to an end. I am disappointed that I missed the Daring Bakers' challenge this month hosted by Morven of FoodArtandRandomThoughts. Check out all their beautiful party cakes! The recipe for the perfect party cake comes from Dorie Greenspan's book Baking: From My Home to Yours.

I have had fun making cupcakes lately, but I think this will be my last post on them for a while. The two little cakes here have one thing in common in that the batter, a spicy ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg blend with chopped dark chocolate stirred in, is the same, but the toppings are entirely different so that each cake stands alone. For a dessert buffet, make two batches of the cake recipe. Top one batch with the Whipped Cream Toffee Topping and the other batch with the Whipped Cream and French Meringues. The meringues are delicious served on their own, too.

Chocolate Ginger Cupcake with Whipped Cream and Toffee Topping

Chocolate Ginger Cake


1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup self-rising flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
6 tablespoons butter, softened
1 egg
1/4 cup buttermilk
3 tablespoons honey
2 ounces dark chocolate, coarsely chopped

Preheat oven to 325° F. Line a Texas size (6 ) or a standard cupcake(12) tin with paper baking cups. Combine dry ingredients in a small bowl. Add butter, egg, buttermilk and honey, beat mixture with a electric hand mixer on low speed until ingredients are combined. Increase speed until mixture has changed to a paler color. Stir in chocolate. Divide mixture among baking cups, smooth surface.

Bake large cupcakes about 40 minutes, small cakes about 30 minutes. Turn onto wire rack to cool.

Whipped Cream and Toffee Topping
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
6 ounces chocolate-covered toffee bars(such as Heath or Skor), coarsely chopped

When cakes have cooled, spread tops with whipped cream, then top with chopped toffee bars.

Whipped Cream and French Meringue Topping

When cakes have cooled, spread with whipped cream and carefully top with meringue. A fresh berry is all you need to complete the decoration.

French Meringue

This recipe from Allrecipes in one of the best I have found for French Meringues. What's not written in the recipe instructions, but hidden in the reviews section is that you have to beat the egg white and sugar mixture for 15-20 minutes for it to reach the stiff peak stage.

French Meringues

Friday, March 28, 2008

A Taste of Yellow-Livestrong Day-Lemon Ice Cream

It's time again for A Taste of Yellow created by Barbara of winosandfoodies to coincide with Livestrong Day, a Lance Armstrong Foundation's one day drive to raise funds and to educate the public about cancer at the grass roots level. I don't know Barbara personally, but through her two blog events, A Taste of Yellow and Hay, Hay It's Donna Day which I have participated in, I know she would be the sort of person I would love to have as a friend. Barbara, a cancer survivor was so inspired by Lance Armstrong's successful battle with cancer that she created this blog phenomenon which is sanctioned as an official event for Livestrong Day by the Lance Armstrong Foundation.

Lemons are about as yellow as you can get and they are plentiful, although expensive and need to be picked carefully as some have more rind than juice. We love ice cream in my family and I make most of what we eat with my ice cream maker. I usually prepare the custard in the morning, refrigerate it for several hours until it's very cold and then process it in the machine early afternoon so it's ready for dessert at dinnertime. For a double lemon flavor, I swirled lemon curd into the mixture after I placed it in the pan to put in the freezer. I made my own, but you can use purchased lemon curd as an substitute.

Lemon Ice Cream with Lemon Curd Swirl


1 1/2 cups heavy cream
6 egg yolks
1 (15oz) can low-fat condensed milk
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

Whisk egg yolks in a bowl until blended.Bring the heavy cream to a simmer in a large heavy saucepan. Whisk in about a cup of the hot cream into the egg yolks, then add to cream in saucepan. Over low heat, constantly stir with a whisk or wooden spoon until custard thickens slightly, or until coats a metal spoon. Do not boil as eggs will scramble. Patience is needed here as it may take 6 minutes or more for the mixture to thicken. Remove from heat and pass through a fine meshed strainer into a bowl. Let cool slightly, then stir in condensed milk and lemon juice. Cover and refrigerate until very cold. You can speed up the process of chilling by placing the bowl with the ice cream mixture on top of another larger bowl filled with ice cubes. Stir until cooled, then place covered in the refrigerator until cold.

Process in one or two batches in your ice cream maker according to manufacturer's instructions. Place mixture in a shallow pan as shown in photo, swirl in the Lemon Curd, cover with plastic wrap, then cover the entire pan with aluminum foil and place in freezer for several hours. Yields 1 qt.

Lemon Curd


4 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon peel
1/4 cup lemon juice
3 tablespoons butter

Combine ingredients in a small heatproof bowl over a pot of simmering water, whisking constantly, until mixture thickens slightl and coats the back of a spoon. Remove from heat. Cover and refrigerate until cold. Makes about a cup.

Thanks to my husband, Alex for his patience while I photographed him.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Dried Blueberry and Candied Pineapple Bread Pudding With Lemon Curd Sauce

Believe it or not, I had leftover French bread from last month's Daring Bakers' challenge! Wrapped well in aluminum foil and put in the freezer until I was ready to serve the bread again. When life gives you leftover French bread, make a bread pudding! My family raved over the caramelized pear bread pudding I posted by in January so it was easy to prepare the same basic recipe, but this time substituted dried blueberries for the raisins, added chopped candied pineapple and poured a lemon curd sauce over the baked puddings. Another winner in my household! I used a good French bread from the bakery in my local grocery when I made the caramelized pear bread pudding, but this one made with Julia's French bread was definitely better.

2 1/2 cups low-fat milk
4 large eggs
1/2 cup sugar, divided
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
4 cups cubed, day-old french bread
2 tablespoons dried blueberries
1/2 cup chopped candied pineapple
1 teaspoon unsalted butter, softened, plus 2 teaspoons additional, divided

Heat milk in a saucepan over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until steaming, about 4-6 minutes. In a separate bowl, whisk eggs until blended;gradually whisk in 1/4 cup sugar. Slowly whisk in the hot milk until blended. Add vanilla, lemon zest and nutmeg.

Add bread, candied pineapple and dried blueberries to the mixture; gently fold together. Press down lightly to submerge the mixture. Cover and set aside at room temperature. Butter the sides and bottom of a round or oval 2 quart baking dish with 1 teaspoon butter. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Put a kettle on to boil.

Set the baking dish in a shallow baking pan.Spoon the bread pudding mixture into the baking dish. Press down on the bread to submerge it. Place the pan in the oven and slowly pour the hot water into the shallow baking pan until the water reaches halfway up the sides of the baking dish.

Bake until brown on the top and set in the center-about 1 1/2 hours. Carefully remove the pan form the oven. Transfer the baking dish to a wire rack and let cool at least 45 minutes. To serve, run a knife around the edges of the pudding. Place a serving platter over it and invert. Spoon over Lemon Curd Sauce Serves 8.

Lemon Curd Sauce

4 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon peel
1/4 cup lemon juice
3 tablespoons butter

Combine ingredients in a small heatproof bowl over a small pot of simmering water, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens slightly and coats the back of a spoon. Remove from heat. Cover tightly, refrigerate curd until cold.
Note: When serving this sauce with the bread pudding above, warm in a pot until sauce loosens slightly.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Raspberry Swirl Cupcakes

There are so many exciting and innovativel blog events out there that it's difficult to decide on just one or even two. I will miss a few that I was eager to participate in , but time flies! This week I will be in Orlando taking in Epcot where I'll battle the long lines to ride Soarin' and do some shopping at all the great outlet stores in Orlando. I worked hard this past week to get a few recipes and photos completed which would leave me with just the text to write and post on the appropriate day.

Arfi Binsted of HomemadeS is hosting a Cupcakes Spectacular 2008 event just in time for Spring and Easter Holidays. Arfi has a two beautifully run blogs,HomemadeS and Through My Lens, both with gorgeous photographs of food, flowers, kids and landscapes.

Cupcakes are great little cakes, so easy to make and transport well for picnics, school parties and weddings. Some of the prettiest wedding cakes I have seen recently have been in cupcake form. Gorgeous flowers cut from rolled fondant and billowy meringues transform unpretentious batters into works of art.

Raspberry Swirl Cupcakes

Cake Ingredients

6 tablespoons butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 cup self-rising flour
3 tablespoons milk
3 tablespoons raspberry preserves, stirred vigorously for a minute or so.

Preheat oven to 350° F. Line a Texas size (6) muffin pan or a standard muffin (12) with paper baking cups. Beat butter, vanilla, sugar, eggs, flour and milk in a small bowl with an electric mixer on low until ingredients are just combined. Increase speed to medium, beat until mixture has turned to a paler color.

Divide mixture among the baking cups; smooth surface so it is flat. Divide the jam over the tops of the cakes. Using a skewer, swirl jam into cakes.

Bake large cakes about 30 minutes, small cakes about 20 minutes. Turn cakes onto wire rack to cool.

Italian Meringue Frosting

1 1/4 cups sugar
1/2 cup water
4 egg whites
1/4 tsp cream of tarter

Combine sugar and water in a small pot, stir over medium heat, without boiling, until sugar is dissolved. Boil uncovered without stirring about 5 minutes or until syrup reaches 240°F. on a candy thermometer. Syrup will be thick, but not colored. While syrup is boiling, beat eggs whites with cream of tarter in a small bowl with an electric hand mixer until soft peaks form. While mixer is running, add hot syrup in a thin stream; beat on high speed about 10 minutes or until bottom of bowl is cool to touch.

Spread cakes with frosting, sprinkle with colored sugar. Recipe adapted "Cupcakes" by Pamela Clark.


Friday, March 7, 2008

Spiced Blueberry Grunt

Somehow I'm not thrilled with out of season fruits and berries. Most have no flavor, especially strawberries. However, these blueberries were a real deal at the grocery store just recently and they looked fresh and ripe. I did a post on blueberry muffins last summer with some really great blueberries from a local fruit and berry farm, so I needed a different recipe for these winter blueberries. I found just what I wanted to make from Blueberry Grunt is a cobbler of sorts, but is cooked entirely on top of the stove, not baked. The "grunt" noise comes from the sounds the mixture makes as it is cooking in the pan. Mine didn't grunt, or if it did, I didn't hear it. The grunt is probably the sounds of delight when one is eating this luscious blueberry dessert. The dumpling topping doesn't get brown with stove-top cooking so I would sprinkle a little cinnamon sugar and run it under the broiler for a few minutes for a more pleasing color. Of course, when you scoop it out and top it with vanilla ice cream, you won't really notice.

Spiced Blueberry Grunt

4 cups fresh blueberries, washed and drained
1/2 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
1/4 cup mild-flavored (light) molasses, I used honey
1/4 cup water
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon peel
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
3 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
3/4 cup whole milk

For filling, mix all ingredients in a 12-inch diameter skillet. Bring to a boil over medium heat, reduce heat to medium-low and cook until blueberries soften and thicken slightly, about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare dumplings. Mix dry ingredients together, cut in butter with fingertips or pastry blender until mixture resembles fine crumbs. Add milk a little at a time until blended and a sticky dough is formed.

Drop dough by tablespoons onto simmering blueberries, placing dumplings close together. Cover skillet, cook on medium-low heat until dumplings are firm and a tester inserted into the dumplings comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Julia Child's French Bread

"I don't think there is a more fundamentally French metaphor:
the baguette symbolizes France."
--Steven Kaplan, 1700-1775, author of
The Bakers of Paris and The Bread Question

Julia Child sought to make the perfect French bread and hundreds of pounds of flour later, she and Paul Child discovered that to make authentic French bread, you needed to ""simulate a baker's oven with a hot surface to bake the bread on and steam to form a crust. Read more here.

Breadchick Mary of thesourdough and Sara of iliketocook,who are hosting the February Daring Bakers give us some instructions below on how to simulate a bakers oven. For complete French bread recipe, equipment needs and techniques, go here.

The Simulated Bakers’ Oven
Baking in the ordinary way, as described in the preceding recipe, produces an acceptable loaf of bread but does not nearly approach the glory you can achieve when you turn your home oven into a baker’s oven. Merely providing yourself with the proper amount of steam, if you can do nothing else, will vastly improve the crust, the color, the slash patterns, and the volume of your bread; steam is only a matter of plopping a heated brick or stone into a pan of water in the bottom of the oven. The second provision is a hot surface upon which the naked dough can bake; this gives that added push of volume that improves both the appearance and the slash patterns. When you have the hot baking surface, you will then also need a paddle or board upon which you can transfer dough from canvas to hot baking surface. For the complete set up here is you should have, and any building-supply store stocks these items.
For the hot baking surface: Metal will not do as a hot baking surface because it burns the bottom of the dough. The most practical and easily obtainable substance is ordinary red floor tiles 1/4” thick. They come in various sizes such as 6 x 6, 6 x 3, and you only need enough to line the surface of an oven rack. Look them up under Tiles in your Directory, and ask for “quarry tiles” their official name.

(Mary and Sara Note: When this book was written, quarry tiles had a fair amount of asbestos in them. Today, in North America and Europe, they normally are made of clay. Make sure if you decide to go purchase some quarry tiles you only purchase unglazed quarry tiles because most of the glazes used contain lead or some other nasty substance that could get transferred. A large pizza stone will also work but make sure it is at least 1/4 inch thick because the thinner ones can break when used at the high heats that baking bread requires. Make sure you never put wet tiles in the oven because they can shatter or worse as the oven heats up.)

Each step in the bread making process worked well until I got to taking the dough off of the floured linen cloth. As I was rolling the dough onto the baking sheet, it collapsed! I thought if I deflated them all and started over from the last rising point, there wouldn't be enough yeast to rise again. I baked the baguettes anyway hoping that I would at least have some edible French bread. The bread was delicious despite the near fatal mistake.