Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Coronado Concerts in the Park - Latin American Cuisine

Our theme for Sunday's Concert in the Park was Latin American Cuisine, spanning South and Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean. The menu for the evening included Jim's Pozole Verde (Jim took over the kitchen and let Carmen have some needed down time for her writing after a busy month); Alec's Spicy Shrimp (seasoned with lots of smoked paprika, black pepper, garlic salt, a bit of cayenne, and finished with fresh squeezed lime juice); Kai's Lettuce Wraps (sprouted wild rice, avocado, cucumber, red pepper, and chipotle and ancho chile powders - yes, the fearless four are still on the "raw" diet this month), Bradley's Fruit Salsa with Cinnamon Tortilla Chips; John's Prickly-Ass Tequila (prickly pear-infused tequila), and my Pupusas and Mango Tres Leches Cake.

I'm not sure how I decided on Pupusas, a traditional Salvadoran dish made of thick, hand-made corn tortilla (made using masa de maiz), and usually filled with cheese, cooked pork (chicharrón), and/or refried beans.  They are similar to South American arepas, and Mexican gorditas. It's challenging making something you've never even heard of, but they were unique, easy, and tasty, and I was able to get some use out of our tortilla press.

I read a few blogs and watched some videos on making pupusas, but saw only one chef using a tortilla press. The dough is usually shaped, filled, closed back up, and flattened in the palm of your hand, but I liked the idea of a more uniform, thinner tortilla surrounding the filling. The video demonstration that inspired me, by Chef Sergio Remolina of the Culinary Institute of America, can be found here.

For my filling, I used crispy pork belly (Chef Remolina used pork rind), Lila beans from Rancho Gordo's Xoxoc Project Sampler, and queso añejo. I cooked the pupusas in about a 1/2 inch of canola oil, wrapped them in foil, and reheated them at the park, made to order, in a dry, nonstick skillet. John whipped up a little chipotle crema for dipping, and we were good to go! These do need to be served hot, but I love sitting in the park, with my little portable burner fired up, and cooking on the fly.

My dessert was not quite as successful, but the flavors were perfect for the theme. I've been MIA in the Daring Cooks' and Bakers' Challenges since I hosted the Gumbo Challenge, and it was time to get back into the game.

Jana of Cherry Tea Cakes was our July Daring Bakers’ host. She challenged us to make Fresh Fraisiers, inspired by recipes written by Elisabeth M. Prueitt and Chad Robertson in the beautiful cookbook, Tartine.  Fraisiers are light, moist, chiffon layered cakes, split and filled with sliced strawberries and pastry cream, then topped with a thin sheet of almond paste.

I had the not-so brilliant idea of creating a Tres Leches Fraisier Cake, incorporating our Latin American theme and flavors. Tres leches cake, or pastel tres leches (Spanish, "three milk cake"), is a sponge cake soaked in three kinds of milk: evaporated milk, condensed milk, and heavy cream, and topped with whipped cream.  It is very popular in Nicaragua, Mexico, Cuba, Puerto Rico, and Guatemala.

Because I used a deep, 6" springform pan, the cake didn't cook all the way in the middle (although it appeared to be done and passed the clean toothpick test). My next problem occurred when the pastry cream didn't firm up with the gelatin. After cutting the cake into two layers, I ended up cutting the uncooked portion out of the middle. I filled the hole with chopped mango and added the pastry cream between the layers, carefully placing a decorative kiwi and mango design around the outside edge to show through between the layers. After the required time in the refrigerator, I lifted off the springform pan, and cussed under my breath as a good portion of the pastry cream oozed out everywhere, along with my pretty design of fruit. Oh well, live and learn. Of course, in hindsight, I should have I followed the recipe for the Mango Tres Leches Cake for our Concert dessert, and prepared a second cake according to the Daring Bakers' Fraisier Cake recipe for the DB Challenge, but I was trying to be creative and combine two cakes into one.

But, the flavors were wonderful - coconut, brandy, mango puree, vanilla pastry cream, and fresh kiwis, mango and blueberries. It just didn't look like a Tres Leches Cake OR a Fraisier.

The recipe for Mango Tres Leches Cake can be found here, and the recipe for the Daring Bakers' Fresh Fraisier can be found here.  I need to give this one another go, because many of the cakes turned out by the talented Daring Bakers are simply gorgeous.  

Sunset, at Spreckels Park

Friday, July 22, 2011

French Fridays with Dorie - Coconut-Lemongrass Braised Pork

My original plan for this week's French Fridays with Dorie recipe, Coconut-Lemongrass Braised Pork, was to adapt it for the grill. That didn't work out, but the final dish did end up slightly different from Dories's recipe. It still had the same basic ingredients, but I used the spices as a dry rub on pork tenderloin (in place of cubed pork butt), seared the tenderloin in olive oil and finished it in the oven (rather than braising), added green curry paste to the coconut milk, and used zucchini in place of celery root.

I started by seasoning the tenderloin with coarse salt and freshly ground pepper, and I used the remaining spices (turmeric, curry powder, cardamom, white peppercorns, and coriander) as a dry rub. I seared the tenderloin stove-top, and finished it off in the oven. Meanwhile, I sauteed the onions, potatoes, carrots, and zucchini, and then added the coconut milk and green curry paste (I was unable to score lemongrass at our local market, but the curry paste does contain it), and let the sauce cook down a bit. The tenderloin emerged from the oven perfectly tender and slightly pink. Dorie suggests rice or egg noodles to soak up the sauce, and I went with rice.

Coconut-Lemongrass Pork Curry with Vegetables
Adapted from Around My French Table: More Than 300 Recipes from My Home to Yours
Serves 2-4

1 whole pork tenderloin (about 1 lb.)
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
2 teaspoons turmeric
1 1/4 teaspoon mild or hot Madras curry powder (I used hot)
Seeds from 6 cardamom pods
6 white peppercorns
6 coriander seeds
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
3 small carrots, peeled and sliced diagonally into 1/4-inch slices
1 small onion, peeled, halved, and each half cut into eighths
1 medium zucchini, sliced diagonally into 1/4-inch slices
3 medium red potatoes, halved, and each half quartered
1 14-ounce can unsweetened coconut milk
1 tablespoon green curry paste
Cooked white rice or egg noodles, for serving


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Grind spices using a mortar and pestle. Sprinkle the spice rub over the tenderloin and rub the pork with the seasoning over the entire outside of the meat, pressing gently so the seasoning adheres well to the tenderloin.

In a large oven proof skillet, over medium-high heat, add 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and heat. Put tenderloin in the pan and cook for about 4 minutes, searing each side using tongs to turn the meat. Transfer meat to the oven and bake for 15 minutes, or until internal temperature is 140 degrees F. Remove from oven, transfer to plate, tent with foil, and allow to rest while you prepare the vegetables (during resting, the internal temperature will rise to 155 degrees F).

Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil to the pan and heat over medium high. Add the onions and potatoes and saute for about 5 minutes. Add the carrots, and saute another 2-3 minutes. Turn heat down to medium, and stir in the coconut milk and green curry paste. Cover, and allow to simmer until vegetables are tender, about 5 more minutes, and then add the zucchini and lemon zest. Cover and let simmer while you slice the pork.

For serving, place some rice or noodles on the plate, add the vegetable curry, and top with sliced pork.


French Fridays with Dorie is an online cooking group, dedicated to Dorie Greenspan‘s newest book Around My French Table: More Than 300 Recipes from My Home to Yours.  As members of the group, we have purchased the cookbook and cook along as much as we can. There is a new recipe each week, and we post about that recipe on Friday. We are asked to refrain from posting the actual recipes on our blog. The book is filled with stunning photography, and personal stories about each recipe, which makes it that much more intriguing. I highly recommend adding it to your cookbook collection if you haven't already!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Coronado Concerts in the Park - On a Raft

We're on our fourth Coronado Concert in the Park season, and there's no shortage of ideas for culinary themes. This past Sunday's On a Raft theme seemed to flow naturally after On a Stick, and complemented the tropical rock and roll performed by Stars on the Water.

One of my cookbooks, Big Small Plates, is organized by similar chapters: Sticks, Picks, and with Fingers; Dressed, Not Naked; Bowls and Spoons; On a Raft; Knife and Fork; and Something Sweet. In old diner lingo, if something came "on a raft," it meant that the food was served up on toast. Our group stretched that concept to include buns, naan bread, baguette slices, graham crackers, jicama slices, endive and lettuce leaves, tortilla chips, tart shells, nut crusts, hollowed out orange halves, and melon slices.

Liege Waffles served as my rafts, carrying fresh cherries macerated in Catdaddy Carolina Moonshine. We got hooked on this particular spirit at New Orleans' Cochon restaurant. It tastes like a smooth, sweet liqueur, with hints of vanilla, nutmeg and cinnamon, and it flavored the cherries beautifully.

Liege Waffles, originating from Liège, Belgium, are very special waffles. They were invented by the chef of the prince-bishop of Liège in the 18th century as an adaptation of brioche bread dough, resulting in a richer, denser, sweeter, and chewier waffle. When baked, chunks of pearl sugar partially melt on the inside of the waffle, and caramelize on the outside. Preparation is a two-day process, but the reward is well worth the effort. Toppings are optional, and really not necessary.

The Liege Waffle recipe I followed appears at the bottom of this post. But first, here are a few photos from the evening...

Drunken Cherries aboard a Liege Waffle Raft

Sandra with one of Lauren's S'mores

Jack with one of Sandra's amazing Pressed Cuban-style Burgers

One of Pammy's salads, incorporating jicama rafts

Jim feeding Bradley Lemon Tart

Bradley's Naan bread rafts topped with grilled sausage and mozzarella

Very important in our crowd

Olivia scooping her homemade sorbet into orange rafts

Jim and Sam

Jim and Sam's Prosciutto slices holding on tight to cantaloupe rafts

Sliced baguette rafts carrying salami

Jack and John enjoying another "theme" of the evening

Two out of four pairs of white, gauze pants...the other theme of the evening.  Going Commando??

Men will be boys...

Kai's Veggie Lettuce Rafts

Carmen's Strawberry Shortcake sandwiched between raw nut-crust rafts

Carmen's Beet and Artichoke Hummus on endive rafts

Stars on the Water played "tropical" rock and roll



The first step for liege waffles is finding authentic Belgium Pearl Sugar. I ordered mine from Get a Waff, and I was very pleased with the service, prompt shipping, and quality.

Get a Waff included a recipe for liege waffles with the bag of sugar, but I was impressed by the recipe I found here. I intend on trying Get a Waff's recipe, which does not require as much resting time or overnight refrigeration, and I'll update this post when I do.

Liege Waffles
Slightly adapted and doubled from this recipe
Makes about 10 regular size, or 20 snack-size waffles


3 teaspoons active dry yeast
1/2 cup scalded whole milk (110-115 F)
5 tablespoons water (110-115 F)
4 cups King Arthur bread flour
2 large eggs (room temperature egg, lightly beaten)
2 tablespoons light brown Muscovado sugar
1-1/2 teaspoons sea salt
16 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon Pure Vanilla Bean Paste
1-1/2 cups Belgian Pearl Sugar


Place yeast, milk, and water into the bowl of an electric mixer, fitted with a paddle attachment. Stir for a few seconds to moisten the yeast.

Add the eggs and 1/3 of the total flour. Mix to blend. Scrape down sides of bowl.

Sprinkle the remaining flour over the mixture, but do not stir. Cover and let stand about 90 minutes (at the end of that time, you’ll notice the batter bubbling up through the cover of flour).

Add brown sugar and salt to the bowl, and mix on low speed to blend.

With machine on low, add the honey, vanilla, and butter, two tablespoons of butter at a time.

Increase speed to medium-low and continue mixing 4 minutes. Scrape down the sides once or twice during that period. Turn the mixer off and let the dough rest for 1 minute, and then continue to mix for 2 additional minutes. The dough should start sticking to the sides of the bowl during the last minute of mixing and, in the last 30 seconds of so, should start to ball-up on the paddle. If this does not happen, let the dough rest for 1 more minute and mix for another 2 minutes. Whatever the outcome of the extra mixing, proceed to the next step.

Scrape the dough into a large bowl, sprinkle lightly with flour, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise at room temperature for 4 hours. This step is crucial for developing the flavor.

Refrigerate the dough for 30 minutes before proceeding. This is essential to allow yeast respiration to slow.

Gently deflate the gases from the dough by pressing on it with a rubber spatula. Scrape the dough onto a large piece of plastic wrap, and then use the spatula to press the dough into a long rectangle. Fold that rectangle over on itself (by thirds – like a letter) so that you have a square of dough. Wrap it in plastic, weigh it down with two heavy dinner plates on top of it, and refrigerate overnight. (Note: Since I doubled the recipe, I probably should have separated the dough into two pieces. I did have a slight explosion of dough through my plastic wrap during the refrigeration process).

The next day, place the cold, firm dough in a large bowl and add 1/2 of the pearl sugar. Mix the sugar into the dough by hand until the chunks are well-distributed. Add the remaining 1/2 of the sugar and do the same.

Divide the dough into 10 pieces of equal size (about 3.5 ounces or 100 grams). If making the smaller size, divide into 20 portions.

Shape each piece of dough into into an oval, cover loosely with plastic wrap, and let rise for 90 minutes.

Cooking temperatures of waffle irons vary, so this is where you'll need to experiment. If you have a professional waffle iron, the waffles cook at 365-370 degrees F (the maximum temp before sugar begins to burn/decompose) for approximately 2 minutes.

If you have a regular waffle iron, heat the iron to 420 degrees F, place an oval of dough on the iron, close the iron, and immediately turn the temperature dial all the way down to prevent the sugar from burning.

I used a Waring Pro Waffle Iron, but also took advantage of our infrared thermometer to monitor the temperature. I found that setting the dial to "6" heated up the iron to 420 degrees. Once I put in the dough and closed the iron, I turned the dial down to "3" and cooked each waffle a tad over 2 minutes. You do want to see the caramelized sugar form on the outside, but not to the point of burning. I allowed the iron to heat back up between waffles. Again, you'll need to experiment, but I had great results after playing with the first two.

Be very careful when removing the hot waffle from the iron, or you will be burned by the caramelized sugar. Transfer the hot waffles to a cooling rack and allow to cool briefly before serving. Although better warm, I made mine a few hours in advance, wrapped them in foil, and served them at room temperature. I don't think I'll ever go back to any other kind of waffle.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Just Bag It! Salmon en Papillote

I missed this French Fridays with Dorie recipe a few weeks ago, but I wasn't going to let it get by me, especially when it's so simple, healthy, adaptable, and flavorful. En Papillote, French for in parchment, is a method of cooking food in a folded and sealed pouch or parcel, and then baked. The parcel is typically made from folded parchment paper, but a paper bag or aluminium foil works equally well. The food steams in moisture from the food itself, or from added water, wine, or stock.  Vegetables, herbs and spices add to the flavor.

"A classic way to cook a fish fillet is to seal it inside a tightly folded package of parchment paper and bake it briefly in a hot oven. Known as en Papillote, this gentle method cooks the enclosed fish in its own moisture and creates its own sauce of natural juices. Cooking en Papillote is also fun – assembling and wrapping the fish and seasonings in paper – and it is thrilling to open the package at the table, revealing a beautifully cooked dish and releasing all the pent-up aromas in one heady burst...” Julia Child, from Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home.

Because we're using our new grill almost exclusively for cooking this summer, I used aluminum foil. I started by making a bed of fresh basil, sprinkled with Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper.

After drizzling the basil with a little extra-virgin olive oil, a piece of salmon is laid down (you can leave the skin on, or take it off).

It's then up to you what to add.  I used minced garlic, capers, sun-dried tomatoes, thinly sliced lemon, another drizzle of olive oil, and about a tablespoon of white wine.  Asparagus, snap peas, grape tomatoes, summer squash, spring onions, shallots, Italian parsley, thyme, and rosemary are also nice options.

After sealing the aluminum foil, the pouch is cooked on a closed grill, heated to 450-475 F, over indirect heat, for about 10 minutes.  Why even bother with plates?

French Fridays with Dorie is an online cooking group, dedicated to Dorie Greenspan‘s newest book Around My French Table: More Than 300 Recipes from My Home to Yours. As members of the group, we have purchased the cookbook and cook along as much as we can. There is a new recipe each week, and we post about that recipe on Friday. We are asked to refrain from posting the actual recipes on our blog. The book is filled with stunning photography, and personal stories about each recipe, which makes it that much more intriguing. I highly recommend adding it to your cookbook collection if you haven't already!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

French Fridays with Dorie - Cold Melon-Berry Soup with Grilled Shrimp

I've said this before about Around My French Table: More Than 300 Recipes from My Home to Yours, but I enjoy reading Dorie's introduction to each recipe as much as preparing the recipes themselves. When she mentions an unfamiliar region in France, restaurant, chef, or ingredient, my interest is always peaked and I start Googling! Since I've never been to France, I have much to learn.

For this week's French Fridays with Dorie recipe, Cold Melon-Berry Soup, Dorie tells us her inspiration came from a soup she enjoyed at renowned chef Alain Ducasse's former hilltop retreat, Ostapé ("in the shade of oak trees"), a 45 hectare estate located in the heart of the green Basque country, close to the village of Biddaray. The spacious guest rooms are located in the 17th-century manor house, or in five farmhouses that have been converted into traditional Basque-style villas. This looks like my kinda place!

The Navarrian restaurant serves regional cuisine using fresh, local products, including vegetables from its own garden. See the watermelon on table? Dorie says just about every restaurant has melon somewhere on the menu when they're in season.

The cold melon-berry soup is nothing more than pureed cantaloupe (or Cavaillon if you're in France), topped with melon balls and strawberries. The soup should be served in glasses, to show off its beautiful color.

I'm strawberry'ed out, so I went with raspberries. Actually, The Flavor Bible: The Essential Guide to Culinary Creativity, Based on the Wisdom of America's Most Imaginative Chefs, highlights raspberries with cantaloupe, and doesn't even list strawberries. Ginger, lime juice and sweet white wine, basil and mint are also recommended flavor pairings.

To the pureed melon, Dorie's recipe adds grated fresh ginger, fresh squeezed lime juice, and a pinch of sea salt.  To serve, top the soup with a little wine, a few melon balls and berries, and mint or basil chiffonade.  I used raspberries, basil, and Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand.

I had the chance to use my ginger grater I bought from our Little Italy Mercato. It works quite well, and you don't lose the ginger juice.

In an effort to make a light dinner out of the soup, I added grilled shrimp. These shrimp are from one of my newest cookbooks, Steven Raichlen's Planet Barbecue!: 309 Recipes, 60 Countries.  Grilled Shrimp Sprayed with Olive Oil and Wine is from the "archly innovative grill restaurant Etxebarri in Spain's Basque Country."  This also looks like my kinda place!

I nestled a melon ball in the curve of each shrimp, and threaded two shrimp per skewer. During grilling, the shrimp are lightly misted with olive oil and wine, and then finished with course sea salt.

Not too shabby, for a light, summer dinner on the patio.

French Fridays with Dorie is an online cooking group, dedicated to Dorie Greenspan‘s newest book Around My French Table: More Than 300 Recipes from My Home to Yours. As members of the group, we have purchased the cookbook and cook along as much as we can. There is a new recipe each week, and we post about that recipe on Friday. We are asked to refrain from posting the actual recipes on our blog. The book is filled with stunning photography, and personal stories about each recipe, which makes it that much more intriguing. I highly recommend adding it to your cookbook collection if you haven't already!