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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Creamed Corn Custard Bread or Nicaraguan Torta de Elote--Revised

I absolutely love this recipe.  It's actually a Nicaraguan recipe, but it reminds me so much of a few old soul favorites.  I am a Southern girl, and I love my cornbread and spoon bread too!  Spoon bread evokes memories of sitting in the kitchen chatting with my family with my grandmother standing over the stove.  She was not always the best cook until the past few years, but she was always the expert on the most traditional of  Southern fare--think hoe cakes, chicken and dumplings, spoon bread, fried squash, collard greens, ham, etc.  This dish reminds me of warm, comforting spoon bread.  It's almost like the result of combining a fresh corn corn bread with spoon bread.  It really is the best of both worlds!  My family absolutely loves it!  It's such a special treat, but it's one of the easiest things you'll ever make.  If you're concerned about fat, you can cut the eggs back a bit, but you can't touch the butter.  It will wreck the dish.

This wonderful dish bakes up fluffy and tender with a rich, butter, deep corn taste.  It's far better than the cornbread with fresh corn kernels that can be a bit off-putting to some, since the corn often dries up and creates an unpleasant textural contrast.  The corn in this dish remains moist, tender, and plump.  Most of it, in fact, just becomes one with the batter.  Oh my!  I think I'll have to make this tonight!!

If you have picky eaters in your family, don't call this cornbread, or it will mess their little heads all up.  This dish is quite far from regular cornbread.  It's not dry or gritty in the least bit, and there's no corn flour.  This bread is moist and custardy, so be sure not to lose your own battle for yourself with picky eaters by calling this cornbread.  Their expectations will be all messed up, and they won't be open-minded to it at all.

Creamed Corn Custard Bread or Nicaraguan Torta de Elote

1 c fresh corn kernels or frozen corn
1 stick butter, melted
1 can condensed milk
5 TB sweet rice flour*
2 TB potato starch*
1 TB baking powder
5 eggs

*These ingredients can be subbed for all white all purpose flour, if you are not on a gluten-free diet.

1. Preheat oven to 350F.

2. Blend all ingredients together in blender until blended just until combined.

3. Bake in a greased loaf pan or square pan.


Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Ultimate Coconut Black Sesame Bundt Cake (gluten-free and traditional recipes)

In my kitchen, I go through spurts of experimenting with different types of global cuisines.  In the past week, I've been doing lots of Thai food.  This cake is inspired by traditional Thai dessert flavors, albeit not at all influenced by traditional Thai textures.  Black sesame is a very common ingredient in desserts of many kinds, and coconut is a ubiquitous ingredient when it comes to traditional Thai desserts.  Palm sugar is typically used for both savory and sweet dishes in Thailand, and plays an important role in many traditional baked desserts, such as the beloved toddy palm cake.

This cake is pretty easy.  You don't even need an electric mixer.  It's a great weeknight cake, since no mixer or frosting is necessary.  If you desire topping, whip up heavy cream with powdered coconut milk and sugar until heavy peaks are achieved.  Please note that a cake with this topping is only good for a day or two before the whipped cream begins to weep.  Refrigeration and avoidance of hot weather are also a must if you do the whipped topping.  You could always make it on the side and serve a dollop with each slice :).

1 c flour (or gluten-free flour sub blend., in my case)
1 c fine unsweetened  desiccated coconut/coconut flour*
1- 3/4 granulated white sugar
1/4c softened palm sugar (microwave for 30 seconds)
1 TB baking powder
1 tsp salt
3 eggs, room temp.
1 stick butter, melted
1/2c vegetable oil
2 TB black sesame seeds**
2 tsp vanilla, preferably Bourbon vanilla***
1 tsp coconut extract
1c + 2 TB milk (or Indian yogurt or sour cream)
2 TB white rum or cachaca

* found at your local Indian market or often in gluten-free aisle of fine supermarkets
**found at SE Asian market
***TJ sells a great one at a great price

1. Preheat oven to 350F
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, coconut, baking powder, and salt until well-blended.  Set aside
3. In a large, microwave-safe bowl, melt butter in microwave and allow to cool slightly.
4. Whisk in oil, vanilla, coconut extract, rum, white sugar, and palm sugar until blended uniformly.
5. Whisk in eggs, one at a time.
6. Alternate whisking in flour mixture and milk, one third at a time, starting and ending with flour.
7. Stir in sesame seeds until combined.
8. Bake for about 1 hour, or until cake springs back when touched in center.
9. Allow to cool,slice, and enjoy.


Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Triple Squash Roasted Red Pepper "Spaghetti" and Marinara

Whether you have a garden this Summer, you're participating in a CSA, or you just enjoy the abundance of fresh US-grown veggies this time of year, this is an excellent hearty and healthy, put-it-together-in-a-flash weeknight meal.  Let's not forget how inexpensive it is too!  I couldn't believe how great this meal tasted.  I almost felt bad for how quickly it came together once the veggies were roasted.  Roasting veggies doesn't exactly take much effort or babysitting on the part of the cook, so I can't even really count that part.  You really don't even need to cook this sauce beyond simply warming it to desired serving temperature, if you opt not to add the wine.  The key here is quality canned tomatoes and roasting the veggies.  It brings out an unparalleled flavor that will have everyone begging for more!  No one else needs to know how little effort it took to pull together. Get ready to try a new family favorite!  Yum, yum, yum!

1 large can whole plum tomatoes in sauce (I recommend Hunt's or Kroger Private Selection)
1 large can crushed tomatoes  (I recommend Hunt's or Kroger Private Selection)
1 large spaghetti squash
1 large red bell pepper
2 pieces zucchini squash
2 pieces yellow summer squash (straight or crookneck)
1 fresh tomato, if you have it (no worries if you don't)
5 cloves of garlic, unpeeled
1 fistful of fresh basil (no dried!)
1 tsp crushed red pepper
about 1 TB salt (preferably sea salt)
lots of black pepper to taste (preferably coarse ground or freshly ground)
1/2 glass Chardonnay (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 450 F

2.Split spaghetti squash in half length-wise and scoop out seeds. Drizzle with olive oil and season liberally with salt and pepper.  Place split-side down on a lined pan.

3. In a separate lined pan, place yellow squash, zucchini squash, red pepper, garlic, and tomato.  Drizzle with olive oil and season liberally with salt and pepper.  Spread in one even layer across pan.

4.  Bake spaghetti squash and mixed veggie pans uncovered until squashes (including spaghetti squash) are fork tender and other vegetables are roasted and soft to touch.
Note: Zucchini and yellow summer squash and other veggies may finish before spaghetti squash.  Remove from oven and set aside once done.

5. Once mixed veggies done, add peeled tomato, peeled garlic, peeled red pepper, basil, can of plum tomatoes, salt, and pepper to a blender or food processor and process until desired smoothness achieved.  I like mine uniform, but still somewhat chunky.  Yellow squash and zucchini will remain set aside.
Note: You may want to put tomato and roasted red pepper into a plastic bag once cooled someone and seal in steam for a few minutes to aid in removal of skin.

6. Allow spaghetti squash to cool.

7. Meanwhile, place pureed veggies, crushed tomatoes, and crushed red pepper, in a pot over medium heat and bring to a boil.  Season generously with salt and pepper.  Add in grated Parmesan to taste.  Adjust salt and pepper

8. At this point, the sauce is absolutely divine!  If you'd like, you can add in half a glass of wine.  I did Chardonnay.  Without the wine, the sauce is fresher tasting and, with it, it tastes deeper, richer.  I loved both ways.

9.  Gently stir in yellow squash and zucchini squash, along with any pan juices, and voila!  Serve a ladle-full of sauce on top of your spaghetti squash "pasta" and top with extra Parm, and you're done!  That simple :)  Enjoy :)

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Jamaican Jerk Marinade--Revised

Jamaican Jerk Marinade

2 TB salt
1 onion
1/2tsp black pepper
1/2c orange juice (I had tangerine, so I just used that)
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
2 tsp ground allspice
1 tsp grated fresh ginger
¼ c White vinegar
4 scallions (I had only had two, so that's what I used)
5 sprigs fresh thyme or equivalent amount dried thyme (fresh is MUCH better!)
7 cloves garlic
2 TB soy sauce
1/2c packed brown sugar
2-3 habanero peppers
1/4c oil

1. Blend all ingredients in food processor until they form a smooth puree.  You can keep the marinade on hand for later use or freeze it.  It actually preserves well in the fridge.

2. In a foil-lined roasting pan, which you will also use for cooking, marinade chicken or pork for a minimum of two hours or up to overnight.  Let meat reach room temperature before placing in 400F oven or, even better, on a charcoal grill.  

3. If preparing meat in oven, cook uncovered for one hour then broil, turning meat occasionally for about 5 min, or so until you get charred edges on all sides.  You need the sugars to caramelize for a good jerk.


Sunday, February 9, 2014

Pernil dominicano - Dominican Marinated Pork Shoulder

One of my favorite foods on earth is pernil, or latin style pulled pork.  It's juicy, it's citrus-y, it's herby, it has the yummy crunch of crispy bits of skin, and it's topped with the sweet-acidic pop of marinated onions.  mmmm!  Pernil always reminds me of the heavenly street stands in the Dominican Republic where you can buy yourself a portion of a nice whole roasted pig.  What could be better?  

Well, just like I dream of walking up and pointing to just the right piece of a sweet suckling pig to call my own, most Dominicans do the same (okay, so they don't really have to dream of it, they just do it.  Lucky ducks!).  Few people make their own  lechon (roast suckling pig) or pernil at home.  Even for special occasions, people buy them.  I mean, there are people who specialize in this art, and it can be a very time-consuming one if you're talking about roasting a whole pig.  The whole pig, of course, is extra special because it gives you more crispy skin deliciousness to savor, so that's what most people will go for, when possible.

Soooo, the reality is, if you're just doing a pernil, it's actually pretty easy stuff.  All you need is time on your hands ("tiiiiime on my hands, since you went away boy" in my Mary J. Blidge voice).  You don't need to watch this dish much, just leave it be.  You can watch some movies, clean the house, whatever you need to do.  At the end of the day, four hours is nothing when you taste the gem-of-a-slab-of-meat that awaits.

Pernil dominicano
9lb pernil (pork shoulder or butt)

Mash in a pilon or run through blender or food processor
14 garlic cloves
1 TB oregano
1 tsp black peppercorns
1 bay leaf
1 tsp salt per pound
3TB oil
1/4c lime
3/4c bitter orange (you can buy a bottle from the Latin market or international aisle at some supermarkets)
1c white vinegar

Slices of fresh lime
Sweet or red onion slices marinated in White vinegar

1. Blend all of the seasoning, including the oil, together in a bowl.

2. Inject the pork like crazy, and pour over any excess marinade.

3. Allow to marinate in the fridge 1-2 days.  Time is key here.

4. On roasingt day, place the pork, fat side up, in a foil lined roasting pan, pour over any extra marinade and cover tightly with foil. Line the pan well or you will have a huge mess to clean up later.

5. Allow to roast at 300F for 4 hours.  Do not open the oven or uncover the roasting pan during this time.  This keeps it nice and moist.

6. Once your pork baby is in the oven, thinly slice a sweet white or red onion and set aside for it to marinate in white vinegar until the pork is ready.  This will be a very yummy topping once you serve the meat.

7. At the four hour point, uncover the meat.  It should be falling off the bone or at about 190 - 200F.

8. Remove foil and remove roasting pan from oven, baste the meat with its juices, and set pan aside. Crank up oven to 450.  Brown the meat for 30 mins once oven is up to temp.

9. Remove the fat from the meat and incorporate some of it into the meat.  If the fat has still not browned sufficiently, chop it up coarsely and crisp it up on the stove top over medium high heat.  Chop some of the fat into small bits and incorporate it into the meat once shredded.  There’s no need to use anywhere near all of it, just some.

10.  Allow the meat to cool then shred it with two forks.  Don’t forget to incorporate your crackling bits. 

11.  Top each serving with pickled onions, drained of course, and slices of fresh lime.  Yum!  Serve with rice, boiled or fried yucca, and stewed red beans or pigeon peas in coconut milk.

Inspired by: