Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Coronado Concert in the Park - Out of South Africa

Our Out of South Africa theme was a nice change of pace this past Sunday. Many of our culinary themes this summer have been tied to the band name or songs, but I like to challenge myself with new ingredients and dishes from different regions or countries.

South African cuisine, sometimes called rainbow cuisine, celebrates the country's rich cultural heritage, as well as the natural bounty of seafood, meat, game and plants. I was able to find several South African recipes in Steven Raichlen's Planet Barbecue! Although I was tempted by the South African Springbok Kebabs with Monkey Gland Sauce (no monkey parts involved), I chose Sosaties, South African-style shish kebabs made with meat, dried fruit and curry. Native to the Cape Malays of Cape Town and now enjoyed throughout South Africa, the traditional recipe calls for both pork and lamb, but sosaties can be made with either meat alone. I used pork tenderloin, and you can find the recipe from the book here. However, if you enjoy barbecue, I highly recommend buying the book which contains over 300 recipes from around the world, with lots of history, photographs, tips and techniques.

"There is perhaps no other single dish that can be regarded as more genuinely Afrikaans." - South African food writer C. Louis Leipoldt describing his grandmother's sosaties. Cubed pork tenderloin marinates (preferably in the shadow of a mulberry tree) in dark brown sugar, curry powder, coriander, peppercorns, salt, dried apricots, sliced onion, orange zest, red wine, red wine vinegar and olive oil, and then the pork and apricots are threaded onto hand-whittled green bamboo skewers with onion and bacon. The kebabs are then grilled and basted with a mixture of the marinade and apricot jam.

I wasn't able to marinate my pork in the shadow of a mulberry tree, but I did grill my sosaties under the shade of a massive pine!

Pork Sosaties with dried apricot, onion and bacon
nestled between cubes of pork tenderloin

Grilling at the Park under the shade of a massive pine tree

Bryan was one of the inspirations for our South African theme, having lived there for over 20 years. According to wife Kelley, he cooked all day to prepare his three delectable dishes: Peri-Peri Chicken Wings, Droewors, and Sadza with Curried Vegetable Relish.

Bryan enjoying one of his Peri-Peri Chicken Wings

Peri-Peri Chicken (Portuguese origin), grilled in a fiery paste of peri-peri chiles, is the most popular fast food in South Africa.  Droëwors, a popular snack food, is a dried sausage with spices (Dutch/Afrikaans origin) based on the traditional, coriander-seed spiced boerewors sausage. Sadza (Bantu origin) is cooked cornmeal and the staple food in Zimbabwe and other parts of southern and eastern Africa. Bryan used white corn for his sadza and served it with mild Curried Vegetable Relish (Cape Malay origin).

Sadza with mild curried vegetable relish and Peri-Peri Chicken Wings and Drumettes

Carmen mastered Bunny Chow, a South African fast food dish consisting of a hollowed out loaf of bread filled with curry. Bunny chows are popular amongst Indians, as well as other ethnic groups in the Durban area. Bunny chows are commonly filled with curries made with lamb or chicken, but the original bunny chow was vegetarian. One of the tops of Carmen's individual bunny chows even looked like a bunny! I believe she adapted this recipe for her vegetarian version. 

Carmen's Vegetarian Bunny Chow

Another dish that symbolizes braai (South African barbecue) is the coarsely ground, richly spiced sausage known as Boerewors (farmer's sausage). The formula varies from family to family and region to region, but the essential elements - ground beef with plenty of fat, cumin, coriander, cinnamon, and nutmeg - remain constant. Holli used a combination of meats that she ground herself, seasoned, stuffed into casings, and grilled at the park. Toothpicks sporting mini flags in the colors of the Republic of South African flag jazzed up her presentation. Jim & Holli also made a big batch of South African Sundowner Cocktails. Whew, those puppies were strong and most likely the cause of my subsequent slip and fall and broken toe while photographing the band! But then again, we also had several bottles of South African wine and shots of Amarula to go with the carrot cake ;-)

I always tease Mary about her culinary skills, but now we all know she can pull it off when she musters up a little enthusiasm and finds her way to the kitchen! She made her own version of Potjiekos (small pot food), a stew prepared outdoors and traditionally cooked in a round, cast iron, three-legged pot or potjie. The potjie descended from the Dutch oven and was brought from the Netherlands to South Africa in the 17th century. Last night, while attending a wine dinner at Wine Vault & Bistro, I noticed that the big pot hanging in the patio is a potjie!

Mary's Potjiekos 

Potjie at Wine Vault & Bistro

Mom found a unique recipe for carrot cake made with Amarula, a South African cream liqueur made with the fruit of the African marula tree.

At the height of the African summer, from mid-January to mid-March, a sweet and enticingly tropical fragrance fills the air of the sub-Saharan plains. It’s not just humans who relish the delicious wafts of sun-ripened fruit but many of the animals of the veld: elephants, rhino, warthog, kudu, baboons, vervet monkeys, zebra and porcupine. For that is when the marula fruits, heavy with goodness and flavour, drop to the ground and nature’s bounty is there for all to share. - Amarula web site.

Unfortunately, scientists have put to rest the myth that elephants and other animals get drunk from the fruit of the marula tree (see one article in National Geographic News), but this video may convince you otherwise!

Regardless, Amarula is a tasty liqueur and interesting addition to the carrot cake batter and frosting. Mom "hired" me to make the cake for her because I have a better supply of bakeware and ingredients these days. I'm hooked on petite cakes after baking from Miette, so I used my 6-inch cake pans and made two petite cakes. I also like Meg Ray's style of frosting just the tops of her beautiful cakes.

Amarula Carrot Cake

Amarula Carrot Cake
Adapted from this recipe and this recipe
Makes two 6-inch cakes


2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground cloves
½ teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon salt
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 ¼ cups canola oil
1 ¼ cups sugar
1/4 cup Amarula
2 cups grated carrots
1 cup crushed pineapple, drained well
1 cup chopped pecans
½ cup smooth apricot jam

Cream cheese frosting:

1⁄4 cup butter, at room temperature
8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
2 cups sifted confectioners sugar
2 tablespoons Amarula

Garnish: 1 cup candied pecans, coarsely chopped


Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter and flour two 6-inch-diameter cake pans with 3-inch-high sides. Line pan bottoms with parchment paper.

Whisk together dry ingredients in medium bowl and set aside.

Using electric mixer, beat eggs, sugar, and oil in large bowl until thick and smooth, about 3 minutes. Reduce speed to low and add Amarula. Add dry ingredients slowly, in three additions, and mix just until incorporated. Turn off mixer and add grated carrots, crushed pineapple, apricot jam, and pecans. Mix by hand with a rubber spatula just until incorporated. Divide batter equally between prepared pans.

Bake cakes about 1 hour, or until tester inserted into center comes out clean. Cool cakes in pans 10 minutes. Cut around pan sides. Turn out cakes onto racks. Peel off parchment and cool completely.

Frosting:  Using an electric mixer, beat cream cheese and butter in large bowl until smooth and fluffy. Gradually beat in powdered sugar. Beat in Amarula.

To finish cakes: Spread frosting thickly over top of each cake. Garnish with chopped pecans.


Sue Palmer "Queen of Boogie Woogie" and her band

Alec wore a touch of South African bling designed by Sonoma

Cute dancing kid of the week

I really enjoyed this concert and food and hope to "travel" to a few more countries before the season ends.

Enjoy your week,

Denise & Trapper


Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Concert in the Park: Take a Rock on the Wild Side with Rocky Road Cheesecake

Rockola continues to draw the masses to Concert in the Park every summer. Jim and Carmen graciously offered to set up our spot at noon and then Kellee, Pammy and Nina volunteered one-hour shifts until we could all arrive. We had quite a few early birds hanging out by 3:00 and our picnic was well on its way when the music started at 6:00. As with most of our culinary themes this summer, we found inspiration from the band's name and/or songs. For Rockola, "Take a Rock on the Wild Side" seemed appropriate.

I had been working with a friend during the week, cooking for a family of 12 who was renting a vacation house on the beach, and wasn't even sure I was going to make it to this concert. At the last minute, when I realized I would be able to swing it, I quickly did a search for "rock" and/or "wild" recipes. I came across Saveur's article, 8 Great Recipes that Rocked the Internet, which included Dorie Greenspan's World Peace Cookies, a recipe she obtained from Pierre Hermé, the macaron maestro of Paris.

Cookies that rocked the Internet seemed to be a perfect choice and making them would also provide me with the opportunity to use a few bars of the Kallari chocolate I received as a gift from the Kallari marketing team. I don't typically accept sample products, but it's hard to pass up chocolate of this quality. I used the 70% and 85% cacao bars in the cookies and may try the 75% cacao bar as suggested on the web site (the hints of passion fruit and cloves are a perfect compliment for Pinot Noir, Barolo, Bordeaux, Espresso & Stout).

The cookies were rich and decadent, but spread out very thin during baking. I wasn't happy with their appearance and went in search of another recipe with more of a wow factor. When I set my eyes on the stunning photo of Rocky Road Cheesecake by Bakers Royale, I knew I had found the WOW. In place of crushed Oreo cookies for the crust, I crushed up some of the World Peace Cookies. For the filling, I used a HUGE bar of Valrhona chocolate Holli had given me the night before. Talk about chocolate heaven with a Kallari chocolate crust and Vahrhona chocolate filling! In addition to the baby marshmallows, roasted salted almonds, and chocolate ganache flavored with a bit of instant coffee granules, I added the ultimate "cherry on top" with a few Luxardo Gourmet Maraschino Cherries. After a few recent baking disasters in the kitchen, I was finally able to redeem myself with this cheesecake.

Rocky Road Cheesecake

Before digging into the cheesecake, we made our way around the table for some incredible savory fare. Kai prepared and presented his platter of Rock Shrimp Crostini garnished with caviar and scallions. He has the drill down pat and enjoys perfecting his styling and plating for the camera.

Rock Shrimp Crostini

When Carmen e-mailed me her original idea of what she was going to make, I must admit I wasn't too excited. We often change our minds by the time Sunday arrives and Carmen's change of heart rewarded us with a taste of one of the latest and greatest food crazes - The Ramen Burger. It's a seasoned prime beef patty topped with secret sauce and choice of vegetable garnishes, sandwiched between buns made of ramen noodles. Carmen did her research and came up with her own fabulous rendition. Of course, Jim expertly grilled the patties table side and assembled the burgers to order.

Ramen Burgers

Holli was disappointed her Stone Crab Risotto wasn't as creamy as risotto should be, but nobody seemed to complain as they went back for heaping seconds and thirds.

Stone Crab Risotto

We had rocks and stones covered with my Rocky Road Cheesecake, Kai's Rock Shrimp, and Holli's Stone Crab Risotto, and wild side covered with Carmen's Ramen Burgers, Pammy's Wild Rice Salad, and Nina's Wild Mushroom Tart. Holli also brought rock candy for the kids. We had several more dishes, including Kelley and Bryan's meatballs and ribs, Mary's fruit and cheese platter, Brad's chicken skewers, carrot cake, and strawberries, but I was so relaxed from drinking wine from 3:00 on that I didn't get around to photograph, document, and taste everything.

Wild Rice Salad

Rock Candy

Kellee joined the kids with black tongues

Kai relaxed with a head massage by Max

Mary and Jasmin - Jasmin's visiting from Austria

Photo by Jack Hill

If you wish to make the most decadent chocolate Rocky Road Cheesecake, head on over to Bakers Royale for the recipe. I followed Smitten Kitchen's post to make the World Peace Cookies used in place of Oreos for the crust. For the chocolate ganache, I followed Ina Garten's recipe because I like the addition of a little heavy whipping cream to make the ganache smoother and a teaspoon of instant coffee granules for the flavor. I also used a 6 x 3-inch springform pan, rather than an 8 x 2-inch for a taller cheesecake.

Sue Palmer, Queen of Boogie Woogie, and her band return to the park on Sunday. I promised Bryan we would do South African cuisine before the season ended, so that's our theme. I've got a few ideas from Planet Barbecue cookbook but just wish I had time to order crocodile.


Denise & Trapper

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Bon Appetit Freeze the Cover: Bourbon Cherry Ice Cream

I was thrilled to see ice cream on the cover of the August Bon Appetit because 1) my KitchenAid Ice Cream Maker bowl has been patiently sitting in the back of my freezer all summer, and 2) I've been making gift jars filled with Strawberry Meringues for a client the last few weeks and have accumulated a nice collection of egg yolks in the freezer next to it. 

The cover recipe is for True Vanilla Ice Cream, which is great served alone or slowly melting over a warm slice of cherry pie or plum tart, but it also serves as a base for add-ins like bourbon cherries and chunks of dark chocolate. Bon Appetit provides flavor upgrade recipes for Cherry-Bourbon Ice Cream and Chocolate-Malt Ice Cream. I'll be making another batch of meringues this week and will be forced to try the Chocolate Malt Ice Cream next...oh darn!

Cherries have always been a love of mine. As a child, I couldn't resist cherry pie, frosted cherry pop-tarts, cherry cheesecake, and cherry ice cream. Must be because I'm a June baby, when cherries are at their peak. Regardless, my love for them continues in those same childhood favorites, as well as a few others like seared duck breast with cherries and port sauce, cherry clafoutis, dried cherry and almond scones, and Ben & Jerry's Cherry Garcia ice cream.

Cherry-Bourbon Ice Cream

I made the True Vanilla base and then added in Bourbon Cherries and chunks of dark chocolate (from a 4-ounce bar of bittersweet chocolate). My only regret is not making a double batch. You can find the recipe here.

I don't need to tell you how easy it is to open the freezer, pull out the container and sneak a few bites. But it's impossible to stop there with this ice cream. You'll be compelled to take the container to the couch and polish off at least half in one sitting.


I'm now adding bittersweet chocolate and malted milk balls to my grocery list today and you should do the same.

Oh, and for your leftover egg whites, here are the Strawberry Meringue Clouds that have been flying out the door...thanks, Giada!

Friday, August 2, 2013

Coronado Concert in the Park: Feeling a Little Blue

Liquid and/or Blue was our culinary theme of the evening for the return of Liquid Blue, a high-energy dance band. It was a challenge to think outside the blueberry box, but we did and there wasn't a blueberry to be found.

Bluefin Tuna Nigiri beautifully prepared and styled by Holli

We don't really judge other people by their picnics because we're too busy being our own worst critics. There's always a little competitiveness in the group, but it keeps us striving to excel in our cooking, plating, and photography.

Of course, Holli lived up to her own high standards with blue everything...fish, cocktail, platter, tablecloth, napkins, blouse and husband.

Blue Hawaiian Punch

Nice try Kai with your ahi disguised as bluefin sashimi...even your daughter and her friends were on to you in no time. Kidding, your dishes always rock. But don't be surprised when Olivia starts begging you to take her to Saiko Sushi when the toro comes in on Thursdays...and please invite me to join you ;-)

Kai's "Bluefin" Sashimi

Discriminating palates

Glazing the Bluefin with a little Shoyu

I contemplated various dishes with blue cheese, blueberries, or blue corn chips, but I had a craving for jambalaya. Like Kai, I took the easy way out by inserting Blue in the name of my dish: Blue Bayou Jambalaya. It's not really Blue Bayou Jambalaya, as in the jambalaya served at Disneyland's Blue Bayou restaurant, but this one from Donald Link's Real Cajun. I will keep making this incredibly flavorful jambalaya again and again (layers and layers of flavor with holy trinity, roast chicken and homemade broth, Cajun-style andouille, and a kick-your-butt spice mix), but my only complaint is that the rice never gets cooked quite enough trying to cook it in the pot with everything else. Next time, I think I'll cook the rice separately until al dente and then throw it back into the big pot to finish cooking. This jambalaya is really better the next day and I'm glad there was a little left over for breakfast!

"Blue Bayou" Jambalaya

Blue Cheese was represented well in the remaining dishes with Alec's Mushroom and Blue Cheese Stromboli, Hillari's Apple, Blue Cheese and Walnut Tartlets, Kellee's Blue Corn Chips served with Trader Joe's Blue Cheese Roasted Pecan Dip, and Crostini.

Alec slicing the Stromboli

Nina chilling with a Blue Hawaiian

Hillari's Tartlets

Alec showing off his new hairdo

Chips and Dip

Random Cuteness

Hillari's Toes

Dogs hanging out on "Dog Row"

Liquid Blue

If you're still feeling a little blue and in search of a blueberry fix, you can find it here with Blueberry Pumpkin Seed Energy Bars, here with Blueberry Buttermilk Pancakes, or here with Thomas Keller's Blueberry Cobbler.

Blue jeans are the most beautiful things since the gondola. - Diana Vreeland

Denise & Trapper