Archive for the ‘Holidays’ Category
Well, another year is over. Hard to believe. Some people had a very good year. Others had a very bad year. For most of us, it was some good and some bad. But that’s life, isn’t it?
I wanted to take this opportunity to wish you all a very Happy New Year. May you be safe, healthy, and prosperous. May you enjoy every moment and appreciate all the good things that you have in your life, and even some of the not-so-good things because, after all, if everything is hunky-dory all the time, we wouldn’t be able to appreciate the good things.
I hope that all of you get in 2013 what you want out of life. As for me, I’ve always worked very hard and I believe that the things you want most are worth working hard for. I’ve particularly spent the past couple of years going beyond what I thought were my limits and knew was my comfort zone in order to achieve the things I wanted. I’m not there yet, but I’m hoping that 2013 proves to be the year I grab the brass ring. All I need is that right moment, that right opportunity, and the right person who will look at me and what I have to offer and realize that I’m worth a shot.
In that vein, I’m going to stick to a common New Year’s Eve tradition and have lentils and spinach for dinner. The lentils are for good luck and the spinach represents money.
Eating lentils on New Year’s Eve is an old Italian custom and is often eaten with cotechino, a type of sausage. Similar to this a tradition in the U.S. South, where black-eyed peas are cooked with ham hock or bacon for New Year’s Day. This dish, which also calls for rice, is called Hoppin’ John. Both of these dishes derive from the Medieval European belief that eating beans on New Year’s would bring good luck, and different beans have been used in different countries. A co-worker, who is from Panama, told me that a tradition in her country is to set the table with the following items: A bowl of black-eyed peas (aka field peas) with coins mixed into it, a small glass of water, a glass of milk, and a glass of honey. This is all supposed to bring good luck and prosperity.
So, with wishes for a wonderful 2013, here are my recipes for lentils with spinach and Hoppin’ John. Happy New Year!
Lentils with Spinach
2 cups vegetable broth
1 cup dried lentils
1 bay leaf
1/4 teaspoon sea salt plus more
1 teaspoon olive oil
2 large garlic cloves
½ teaspoon paprika
1 lb. spinach, washed and chopped
Black pepper to taste
Bring the broth to a boil in a medium pot. Add the lentils, bay leaf, and 1/4 teaspoon salt and return to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer, partially covered, until lentils are tender. Drain over a bowl and reserve the broth. Remove the bay leaf.
In a wide skillet, heat the oil; add the garlic and sauté 1 minute over medium heat. Sprinkle in the paprika then quickly add the spinach. Add the salt and stir. Cook just until spinach is wilted. Add the lentils and continue cooking to blend flavors. If it gets dry, add a little of the reserved broth. Season with salt and pepper.
Serve as is or with rice.
Makes 4 servings.
1 cup dried black-eyed peas
2 teaspoons canola oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 1/2 cups uncooked long-grain white rice
4 cups vegetable broth
1 bay leaf
¼ teaspoon sea salt plus more
Black pepper to taste
Soak the black-eyed peas overnight with enough water to cover by 3 inches.* The next day, drain and rinse the beans.
In a medium pot, heat the oil and add the onion; sauté until translucent. Stir in the chili powder and cook one more minute. Add the beans, rice, broth, bay leaf, and ¼ teaspoon salt; bring to a boil. Lower the heat and cook, partially covered, until rice is cooked and beans are tender. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Makes 8 servings.
*If you can’t soak overnight, place the beans in a pot with water to cover by 3 inches. Bring to a boil. Remove from heat and let sit for 1 to 2 hours. Drain and rinse and proceed with recipe where it goes into the pot with the broth, bay leaf, etc.
One of the things that people who love to cook relish about Thanksgiving is the leftovers. For people who don’t enjoy cooking, it can often be a sad week of turkey sandwiches accompanied by the same stuffing, same mashed potatoes, same peas and carrots, same everything.
But for cooks, it’s a time to let our creativity take flight. What can be done with all that turkey, stuffing, potatoes, etc? How many different ways can we re-purpose them? What new dish can we create with the squash or green beans? Maybe there’s a turkey recipe that you’ve been holding onto until the day after Thanksgiving to give it a go. Some people dread the leftovers; the rest of us say, “It’s go time.”
I love making fresh cranberry sauce every year. It’s far superior to the canned stuff. (Here’s my recipe for this year’s batch.) But the cranberry sauce never goes completely. I mean, there’s only so much of it you can eat at dinner. Plus, some people are gravy people, rather than cranberry sauce people, and others prefer not to dress their turkey at all. So, what do you do with leftover cranberry sauce? The list of possibilities is endless. Or, at least, long. Here are some ideas:
- Mix a tablespoon of it into chicken or tuna salad.
- Make a salad dressing. Add 1 or 2 tablespoons to a homemade vinaigrette.
- Use it as a sauce for meats, vegetables, fish, and (my favorite) vegetarian “chicken” patties.
- Mix about ½ cup to 1 cup of it into cheesecake before placing it in the oven. (Just swirl it in; don’t overmix.)
- Dollop some on top of slices of pound or angel cake.
- Stir about 1 cup of it into a big pot of chili.
- Make ketchup out of it—add it to a traditional homemade ketchup recipe.
- Turn it into salsa by adding some minced jalapeno or some chili powder and cumin to it, or a chutney by adding other dried or fresh fruits, such as raisins, chopped dates, or chopped apple.
- Use it as jam for toast, muffins, or bagels.
- Mix about ¼ cup into muffin batter.
- Use it as an ingredient in homemade ice cream.
A really simple way to use cranberry sauce is to add it to a breakfast bread. This one is a healthy loaf, using whole wheat flour and flax seeds. You don’t need a lot of sugar, either, because there are sweeteners already in the sauce. As for the flax seeds, use a clean coffee grinder to grind it until you get a coarse powder. Enjoy!
|Cranberry Sauce-Walnut Bread|
- 1 cup whole wheat flour
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoons flax seeds, ground
- 2 tablespoons sugar or maple crystals
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon allspice
- ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 large eggs
- 3/4 cup buttermilk
- ½ cup cranberry sauce
- ½ cup chopped walnuts
- Preheat oven to 375. Line an 8 x 4-inch loaf pan with parchment paper so that parchment sticks out of the sides (or grease it very well).
- In a medium bowl, whisk together flours, flax seeds, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, and salt.
- In a small bowl, mix together eggs and buttermilk. Mix this into the flour mixture just until all dry ingredients are moistened. Stir in the walnuts. Swirl in the cranberry sauce, but don’t mix it in completely—you just want it to run through the batter.
- Spoon batter into loaf pan. Bake until lightly golden on top and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out fairly clean, about 20 to 25 minutes. Some moist cranberry on the toothpick is okay.
- Set pan on a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes. Turn loaf out onto the rack. Serve warm or cool completely.
Makes 1 (8 x 4) loaf.
Every year, I make fresh cranberry sauce. Some people prefer the canned variety to freshly made, but when I see that gelled log with can rings around it, I can’t help but feel that I can do better. In fact, anyone can. Fresh cranberry sauce is extremely simple, and the end product is so much better than the canned log. (Although, I know some of you feel like it’s truly not a traditional Thanksgiving without that log with the rings around it, so I say, whatever floats your boat.)
Cranberries are a tart fruit and cranberry sauce requires plenty of sugar to make it palatable enough for most people. But I always cringe a little when I start dumping the amount of sugar that most recipes call for into my pot of cranberries. So, this year, I decided to try some of the sorghum molasses that I brought up from a trip to the South.
The recipe I’ve always used calls for 2 cups granulated sugar. That’s a lot of sugar. So, I started with 1 cup brown sugar. Brown sugar is a nicer product to use than granulated sugar because it lend the sauce a mellow molasses flavor and I think it thickens up the sauce better. My sauce was still a little too tart, but I really didn’t want to add any more sugar, so I reached for the sorghum molasses. I started with 2 tablespoons and I liked the results. However, I knew that most people would want it sweeter (I don’t have a big sweet tooth), so I added 2 more tablespoons. It worked wonderfully.
Sorghum molasses is a Southern staple, but it can be found in specialty stores elsewhere in the U.S. If you can’t find it, substitute brown rice syrup, barley malt syrup, or honey (the honey will be sweeter than the other products).
If you’re looking for that cloying candy-sweet taste of canned cranberry sauce, this isn’t it. But if you want something that is fresh tasting, texturally pleasing (from all those bits of beautiful cranberries), and not as loaded with refined sugar as typical cranberry sauce, give this a try.
|Cranberry Sauce with a Sorghum Twist|
- 1 16-oz. package fresh cranberries
- 1 cup loosely packed brown sugar
- ¼ cup sorghum molasses
- 1 teaspoon grated orange zest
- 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
- 1 cinnamon stick
- ¼ teaspoon nutmeg or ground cloves
- 1 whole star anise
- Tiny pinch sea salt
- Combine all ingredients with 1 ½ cups water in a 2-quart pot. Bring to a boil; lower the heat to low and simmer until cranberries start to pop. Continue simmering and stirring for about 5 minutes, smashing the cranberries along the sides of the pot (you can leave some whole). Taste and adjust sweetener level to your taste.
- Remove from heat and let cool. Transfer to a jar or bowl and refrigerate until needed. Remove the cinnamon stick and star anise before serving or use them for garnish.
Variation: Add a tablespoon of raspberry or cherry liqueur or ½ teaspoon vanilla extract.
Makes 3 cups.
Once again, Cinco de Mayo is upon us. Just like everyone is Irish on St. Patrick’s Day, everyone is Mexican on Cinco de Mayo.
Cinco De Mayo, meaning The 5th Of May, commemorates a crucial moment the Mexican conflict against the French army at The Battle Of Puebla in 1862. A fairly small Mexican militia (estimated at about 4,500 men) stopped and defeated the French army, numbering about 6,500 soldiers. Although the victory was short-lived (Napoleon sent more troops to Mexico, eventually taking control), the battle remained an important benchmark event for Mexico because it boosted morale and created a sense of unity among its people, which gave them the impetus to depose French rule a year after the French took control. The holiday is primarily a regional one, celebrated in, of course, in the state of Puebla.
Also like St. Patrick’s Day, Cinco de Mayo has become a bigger holiday in the U.S. than it is in Mexico, and the same way it brought the people of Puebla together, so it brings Mexicans in the U.S. together. For Americans, Cinco de Mayo means breaking out the tequila and eating some great Mexican food. The standard chips, salsa, and guacamole is a good start (who doesn’t like that?), but to really make it great Cinco de Mayo, try making some dishes that will wow your friends.
Here are a few of the many sites where you can get amazing Cinco de Mayo recipes:
If making a rocking margarita is your concern, here are a few sites for you:
At the Natural Gourmet Institute, we had Mexican day, which was our next-to-last class, and we cooked up some unbelievable food (see photos). Mexican cuisine, in my opinion, is one of the best in the world (although I can do without the chapulines—crickets). One of the dishes we made was mamelas, small disks made of masa harina and topped with any number of fresh ingredients. They make great tapas or appetizers. The original recipe belongs to the Natural Gourmet Institute, and I’ve added a few of my own notes, plus my own recipe for Pineapple-Mango Salsa. Below that is a recipe for Jicama with Lime, Salt, & Chile Powder, which makes a fantastic accompanying salad. It has those south-of-the-border flavors we all love with a satisfying crunch from the jicama.
Happy Cinco de Mayo and Buen Provecho!
2 cups masa harina
½ tsp sea salt
1 ¼ cups warm water or as needed
3 tb extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt to taste
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together masa harina, ¼ tsp sea salt and oil.
3. Pour warm water into masa harina (mixture should be soft but not too sticky).
4. Roll into walnut-size balls.
5. Flatten balls with tortilla press.* (Mamelas are not paper thin. About 2x as thick as tortillas.)
6. Place on non-greased cast iron pan** until slightly scorched on both sides.
7. Top with your favorite toppings and bake in oven an additional 5-7 minutes.
*If you don’t have a tortilla press, simply roll them out with a rolling pin as round as possible.
**If you don’t have a cast iron pan, you can broil them or use a regular pan and oil the mamelas slightly.
Top each mamela with any (or all) of your favorite toppings. Here are some favorites:
Black bean salsa
Pineapple or mango salsa
Cheese (cotija, queso fresco, cheddar, Monterey jack, pepper jack)
Copyright © Roberta Roberti
1 cup diced fresh pineapple
1 cup diced mango
2 tbsp finely chopped red onion
2 tbsp finely minced cilantro
2 tbsp lime juice
1 tbsp guava paste or guava fruit spread
1 tsp sea salt
Combine pineapple, mango, onion, cilantro, salt, and pepper in a medium bowl. If you are using guava fruit spread, add it along with the lime juice to the salsa and mix well.
If you’re using guava paste, combine it with the lime juice and mash it until the paste is soft. Stir it vigorously into the salsa.
Makes about 2 cups.
Jicama with Lime, Salt, & Chile Powder
Copyright © Natural Gourmet Institute
Yield: 6-8 servings
3-4 tb lime juice
1 medium jicama (about 2 pounds)
2 tsp sea salt
¼ tsp chile powder
1. Place lime juice in a medium bowl.
2. Peel jicama and cut into batonet or julienne slices* and place into bowl with juice.
3 . Sprinkle with sea salt.
4. Let marinate 30 minutes.
5 . Just before serving, sprinkle with chile powder.
I had to go into Manhattan the other day, to Broadway Panhandlers (a kitchen supply store), for some things that I needed. It was a frigidly cold day, and I had nowhere else to be (for the first time in a very long time), so I decided that afterwards, I would stop in somewhere and get a cup of coffee. Well, after I did my shopping, my bladder began warning me that if I decided to have any beverage with ties to Ethiopia, it would boldly protest. And because I hate using public restrooms, I decided to forgo the coffee. I was a little hungry, though, so I went in search of something that I could nibble on while riding home on the train.
A block away from Broadway Panhandlers, I spotted a Financiers, a French coffee/pastry shop, on Astor Place. There’s a Financiers around the corner from my school and I had stopped in there just about every week for a cup of Saturday afternoon coffee, but I had never tried one of their baked goods. So, here was my opportunity. I walked in and checked out the selection in the display case, and found it oddly sparse. I don’t know if this was normal for a Saturday afternoon or if they had gotten a huge influx of people stopping in for something warm and a bite to eat on this bitter January day, but there was not much of a selection. I almost walked out.
Then something caught my eye. Something labeled a galette de rois. With my very limited knowledge of French, I knew that this meant “king cake,” which was reinforced in my mind when I realized what time of the year it was.
King Cake is puff pastry filled with frangipane cream and is associated with the Christian festival of Epiphany. The feast of the Epiphany, traditionally falling on January 6, is the celebration of the revelation of Christ in human form. For Christians in the Western world, this more specifically celebrates the visitation of the Three Kings on the Baby Jesus, which is why the holiday also goes by the name of Three Kings Day. In the East, it revolves around the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River. In the United States, the king cake is also eaten in celebration of Mardi Gras, as it is wherever Carnival takes place. Traditionally, a little ceramic baby (representing the Baby Jesus), or some other trinket, is baked inside the cake. The person who gets the little prize is responsible for hosting the following year’s Epiphany celebration. The English tradition is to put a bean in the cake, which is why it also goes by the name Bean Cake. (By the way, there’s a different kind of king cake that is actually a stuffed bread and which is decorated with bright Mardi Gras-type colors. That’s not the kind of king cake I’m talking about.) In the French tradition, a large king cake is topped with a paper crown.
Love Live the King
When I stepped onto my train, I sat down and reached into my bag for a bite of my galette de rois. I tried to break off a mouthful but as I pinched the crisp pastry, I discovered that it was so flaky that it crumbled in my fingers. And it was so buttery that my fingers came away with the pastry glued to my fingers. I knew that if I made any further attempts at breaking off a piece, I would be covered in puff pastry flakes. My king cake had to wait until I got home.
So, now I was home. I made myself some espresso and cut into my cake. The flakey layers crackled slightly as the knife went through them, which promised me a light crunch between my teeth. I wasn’t disappointed. The puff pastry was indeed light, flaky, and buttery, but not sickeningly so (when something is too buttery, it makes me nauseated). The frangipane cream was sweet but not cloying, and had floral, fruity notes. Frangipane is an almond pastry cream made from butter, eggs, sugar, and almonds. It is sometimes enhanced by almond or vanilla extract, or other flavorings. It was really a delicious dessert.
If you want to try making king cake yourself, it’s really quite easy, and here’s a recipe that I made up myself. Although king cake is usually for the Epiphany, I think it will go over very well any time of year.
Galette de Rois (King Cake)*
1/2 cup ground almonds
½ cup softened butter
2/3 cup organic sugar
1/2 teaspoon almond or vanilla extract
1 package puff pastry (thawed if frozen)
1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
2. Combine all frangipane cream ingredients in a food processor and process until smooth and creamy.
3. Cut four 4-inch circles in the puff pastry sheet. Place two of them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
4. Place equal amounts of the cream in the center of the two circles. Top each one with the remaining puff pastry rounds. Pinch them gently around the edges to seal.
5. Beat the egg with a little water and brush the egg wash over the tops of each galette.
6. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until golden brown. If it gets too dark too fast, lower the heat to 350 and continue baking for 10 to 15 minutes.
* For a traditional celebration, make several batches and place a little ceramic baby, bean or trinket in one of them. Share them with family and friends and whoever gets the prize will have to make them next year. You can also make little paper crowns and top each cake with one.
Happy New Year, everyone! Around the world, different people have their own traditions and rituals for ringing in the New Year. And food always plays a part.
For example, in Japan, it is customary to eat soba noodles during the New Year’s celebration to ensure a long life. In many Latin American countries, as well as Spain, 12 grapes are eaten—1 for each month—and it is hoped that the grapes are sweet as a harbinger of a sweet year ahead. In many countries, legumes are popular for New Year’s because they swell when cooked, symbolizing increased financial prosperity. Lentils, particularly, are used in Italy and Brazil.
In the United States, black-eyed peas are popular (the band and the legume) and Hoppin’ John is a staple New Year’s dish in the South. I made my own black-eyed peas dish incorporating the healthy grain quinoa. And to make it more festive, I used red quinoa. So, here’s the recipe for my New Year’s Red Quinoa and Black-Eyed Peas Salad. Enjoy.
New Year’s Red Quinoa and Black-Eyed Peas Salad
1 1/2 cups red or white quinoa, rinsed
2 3/4 cups vegetable stock
2 cups cooked black-eyed peas
1 1/2 cups chopped bell peppers, mixed colors
5 scallions, thinly sliced
1 Haas avocado, cut into small dice
1/4 finely chopped fresh Italian parsley
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp flavored mustard
salt and pepper to taste
1. Cook the quinoa in the vegetable stock until liquid has been absorbed and grains are tender. Transfer to a large bowl and let cool.
2. When quinoa has cooled, add remaining ingredients (except dressing).
3. Whisk together the dressing ingredients and pour over salad. Mix well and adjust seasoning as desired. If it’s dry, add more oil a little at a time and mix well.
Hi, all. I spent the better part of the morning today helping to hand out turkey dinners–with gravy, potatoes, stuffing, yams, apple juice, and canned veggies)–to needy people in the community of Elmhurst, Queens. This is something that my place of business does every year and it fell to me to organize all the families who were on the list to receive the dinners.
It was kind of frustrating because in order to have everything go smoothly, I required the cooperation of my co-workers, and that didn’t happen. It’s not that they were being deliberately uncooperative, but they just sort of did their own thing without checking with me.
Anyway, in the end, the important thing was that 75 families are going to have a decent Thanksgiving meal this year. And it made me realize that Thanksgiving is only 2 days away! So, if you’re still looking for some good recipes, here are some that will make your Turkey Day feast one to remember. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. May you have a happy, healthy one and, if you’re traveling, get to your destination safely.
On November 1, I was fortunate enough to attend the Día de los Muertos Fiesta at the James Beard House. Día los Muertos means Day of the Dead, and it is a holiday that originated in Mexico to honor loved ones who have died. It is connected to the Catholic holidays of All Souls’ Day and All Saints’ Day, and is most characterized by the use of “sugar skulls”—beautifully decorated edible skulls. This has become a tradition of Día de los Muertos artwork, which is often stunning in its use of color and geometric patterns. Food is a big part of the holiday, as it is offered to the dead, as well as the living in a lavish feast.
There were 6 passed hors d’oeuvres at the cocktail reception. At dinner, there were 5 entrees, and a few desserts. So, the good thing is that they give you your money’s worth and even if you don’t like everything on the menu, you will surely find at least a few things that would satisfy your palate. Plus, they usually serve a different wine, beer, or other beverage with each course.
By the same token, it’s not a cheap dinner, and it behooves one to try and enjoy as much of it as possible. At the risk of sounding judgmental, from the couple of times I had dinner there, I can say that the clientele is usually well heeled. But there are those, like me, who would not be able to pull together, or justify, the money needed for a meal at James Beard regularly, but who, once in a while, want and need to indulge themselves with a fabulous culinary experience in a place that is legendary in the food world.
The cost for dinners vary, but usually they are well over $100 for both members and non-members. I was able to eat there the first time because I was there as a journalist (and, therefore, it was free) and this time because I have a student membership, which gains me entry at a still-steep $55.
I found myself eating things that I would not have normally eaten. Aside from the fact that I was a vegetarian for so many years, there are certain meats that I never liked so never ate in the first place. But I was going to get my money’s worth. And, on a non-monetary level, I don’t get many opportunities to experience haute cuisine, so when I do, I try everything—just because. So here’s my assessment of this great meal.
Slow-Roasted Goat Tlacoyos with Watercress and Goat Cheese Crema. I didn’t even know this was goat. It wasn’t goaty. It was tender and coated in a delicious sauce and was made beautiful by a fluff of microgreens, giving it freshness and lightening up the richness of the meat.
Blue Corn Sopes with Refried Black Beans, Corn–Tomatillo Salsa, and Cotija Cheese. There’s such an earthy quality about blue corn that really makes you feel like you’re partaking of something ancient and revered. It’s always a nice counterbalance to black beans and spicy salsa. This was a vegetarian’s Mexican dream.
Red Chile Sopes with Coconut–Habanero Shrimp and Cured Red Onions. I’m not crazy about seafood, but I gave this one a go. It had a spicy-sweet flavor that was complex and covered any sea flavors that don’t usually appeal to me. The coconut-chile sauce was mildly reminiscent of Southeast Asian dishes, but it had its own Latin twist.
Octopus Alambres with Poblano Peppers, Pearl Onions, and Lemon Vinaigrette. I couldn’t bring myself to try this one.
Oaxacan Cheese Albóndigas with Anchoberry Barbecue Sauce. These were meatballs skewers, and I thought they were beef at first. I found out they were lamb. I don’t eat lamb because a) they’re too cute and b) it’s too gamey. I was stunned to find that I actually liked them. They were tender and the barbecue sauce was so sweet and delicious that I was tempted to eat more. But I refrained. I just couldn’t do it.
Calabasa Soup with Toasted Chile Pepitas, Piloncillo, and Canella. This soup was FABULOUS. They served this in tall shot glasses with the pepitas sitting on top. The calabasa was sweet and smooth and had just the right amount of seasoning. Then that little crunch at the end as you toss it back is so satisfying. I had 3 of those.
Hiramasa Ceviche with Kiwi, Lime Sorbet, and Melon Vinaigrette. I’m not crazy about fish and anyone who knows me knows that sushi/shashimi and I are not bosom buddies. But I tried a piece and I must say, it was quite good. Light and not fishy at all. The kiwi, lime, and melon all gave it such a light, fresh taste, the fish almost seemed like a slice of fruit. This was accompanied by a cucumber margarita, which was also refreshing while having a definite margarita flavor.
Chicken Tostada with Avocado, Sea Urchin Crema, and Salsa Borracha. This was an interesting interpretation of a tostada. The chicken was tender and flavorful but made almost buttery by the slices of avocado that were wrapped around it. The “tostada” was a crispy ribbon holding up the other elements. It was playful and creative.
Chile Meco Relleno: Pork, Black Currant, Pine Nut, Almond, and Green
Olive–Stuffed Meco Chile. As expected, this dish was somewhat spicy, but not unbearably so. Meco chiles were stuffed with shredded pork, which was extremely tender. The almonds had a sweet coating and were a least crisp contrast to the almost creamy stuffing.
Seared Striped Bass with Smoked Bacon–Black Bean Broth, Poblano Peppers, and Güero Chilies. I hate to say it, but the sea bass, as beautiful as it looked, was a bit dry and bland. This is not just me saying this; several of my table mates said it as well. This was probably the only dish that disappointed, but only by a little.
Braised Pork Belly with Calabaza Tamale, Nopales–Pomegranate Salad, Fried
Cheese, and Mole Negro. The tamale was so incredibly delicious. They made it easy to eat by bundling the corn husks into candy shapes (tied at the ends) with an opening on the top. The calabaza was perfectly seasoned and had a sweet-spicy profile. The Nopales–Pomegranate Salad on top was an interesting use of nopales, and the fried cheese came in the surprising form of little croutons. Pork belly is another thing I would never have eaten (just the name alone turns me off), but, going with the flow, I tried it. It practically melted in my mouth. What can I say?
Dessert Duo: Dulce de Leche Budino and Plantain–Cinnamon Napoleon. The budino. Wow. This dessert, a parfait of cream and dulce de leche, was outrageous. It was creamy, smooth, and sweet without being cloying. There were little crunchy things on top and when they brought all the chefs out at the end, someone asked about what the little crunchy things were. The chef who made them said that they were duck cracklings, baked with sugar and vinegar and sweetened with Stevia. I was floored. The crunchies were sweet and almost maple-y. The Napolean was delicious, too, but next to the budino, it paled.
Chefs’ Collaborative Dessert:
Plantain-Crusted Chocolate–Mulato Chile Truffles
Pecan Shortbread Cookies with Powdered Sugar
Miniature Pan de Muerto with Tangerine Marmalade
Of all these, my favorite was the pecan shortbread cookies. It was just these little one-bit morsels that was crumbly, nutty, and tender. The other desserts held their own, though. The pan de muerto was a little dry but the flavor of rosewater was delicate rather than overpowering.
Coffee service included a selection of teas, which were brought to the table in this beautiful wood box, and the selection made me feel like a kid trying to choose a toy. I finally settled on Organic African Nectar, fruity and floral.
And, so, with a round of applause for the chefs, a few nice-to-meet-yous to my table mates, I left the James Beard House and headed home, full, sated, and inspired.
For information on the James Beard House and to check out their schedule of events, click HERE.
Hey, all. I just wanted to wish you all a safe and happy Fourth of July. Let’s all try to remember how lucky we are to live in a country where we can stand up for what we believe in and demand our rights as human beings. Sometimes it takes a while to get those rights, but nothing can stop us from fighting for them. People in some other countries are not so lucky. In many countries, groups of people are abused and oppressed–women, children, “minorities,” and even entire populations by their own governments.
We have a long way to go in this country but I’m grateful every day that I, as a woman, am allowed to vote, hold office, pursue the job of my choice, can wear whatever I please, and have legal recourse if any of my rights to the above choices are violated. The extent of those rights and the success of any legal action can be argued, but at least I’m not forced to walk around in a burqa.
On that note, have a great holiday. Here are some Fourth of July recipes from
FoodNetwork.com. The one below is for a Watermelon Cooler by Paula Deen. Enjoy!
Yield: 2 servings
- 1 1/2 pounds (4 cups) sliced seedless watermelon, rind removed
- 1 cup lemon sorbet
- 1 lemon, zested
- 1 1/2 cups cold water
- Watermelon wedges and mint, for garnish
In a food processor, blend watermelon, sorbet, and lemon zest until very smooth. Stir in 1 1/2 cups cold water; cover and refrigerate until very cold. Serve over ice and garnish with watermelon wedges and mint.
Yes, I’m a day early. But why not? Some people get really into this holiday, so I thought I’d post something about it.
St. Patrick’s Day is over a thousand years old, but Americans tend to commemorate the day with lots of food and alcohol. The holiday honors the 5th-century Brit who brought Christianity to Ireland, so because of its religious overtones and solemn occasion, the only treat allowed then was bacon and cabbage, because Lenten prohibitions on meat were waived on this day. Food was so not really a part of the tradition of this holiday that up ’til the 1970s Irish pubs were closed on the day, by law.
But the holiday acquired its more celebratory tone in the US. Irish immigrants started expressing their patriotism in 1762 with parades and parties. Initially shunned by non-Irish (probably fueled by a bit of bigotry), the number of Americans with Irish roots created a 20th-century surge among Irish Americans.
Authentic Irish spreads would include soda bread and stew, and though a few first-generation immigrants clung to the bacon and cabbage thing (updated to include corned beef, which was cheaper and sold by their Jewish neighbors in New York’s Lower East Side), the foods of choice were almost universally green. The struggle to find safe food dyes is a whole other story.
So if you join in on St. Patrick’s Day — even if you’re not Irish — have fun!
Some people really get into it, as you can see: