Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Tres leches and seasonal fruit

For Valentine's Day this year, I made dinner as usual, but surprised my valentine with individual servings of tres leches. The three milks used in this dessert actually all start out as regular milk. Instead of buying cans of condensed and evaporated milk, I decided to make my own. The end result is so richly sweet that I typically pair it with fresh fruit for balance. In summer, that would be berries, but in the middle of winter I opted for blood orange, kiwi, and pomegranate.

1/4 C cake flour
1/4 t baking powder
1.5 T unsalted butter
3 T sugar
1 egg
1/8 t vanilla extract
1/3 C whole milk
1/3 C sweetened condensed milk (1 C whole milk + 2/3 C sugar)
1/3 C evaporated milk (2/3 C whole milk)
1/4 C heavy whipping cream
3 T sugar
1/4 t vanilla extract
Seasonal fruit (optional)

This recipe is adapted from All Recipes in order to make fewer portions. Preheat the oven to 350 ºF and grease and flour 4 cups of a muffin pan. Cream butter and 3 T sugar in a mixing bowl with a hand beater. Add the egg and 1/8 t vanilla and beat well. Slowly incorporate the flour and baking powder into the butter and egg mixture. Pour the batter into the greased muffin cups and cook for about 20 minutes. The tops should be golden and a knife should come out clean.

To create the condensed and evaporated milks, use shallow and wide pans to increase the surface area and quicken evaporation. Put the ingredients for the condensed milk in one pan and for the evaporated in the other. Place over a medium flame and bring to steam - DO NOT BOIL. Reduce the flame to make sure that the milks don't boil. Stir frequently. It will take less than an hour to reduce. After about a half hour, start checking the volume of each. The evaporated milk should reduce to 1/3 C and the condensed milk to 2/3 C. You can make this ahead of time and store in the fridge.

Mix equal parts of whole milk, condensed milk, and evaporated milk (reserve half of the condensed milk). Pierce the cupcakes thoroughly with a toothpick or skewer. Place the tiny cakes in a bowl and cover with the milk mixture. Let this sit for at least a day, flipping occasionally and re-piercing to get good saturation.

Bring the remaining condensed milk to a boil over medium high heat. Stir for about 10 minutes to start to create a caramel sauce.

For the orange, you want to remove all the rind, pith, and membrane by cutting it away. I find it easiest to cut the orange in half so that you have a stable orange and then cut away the peel. Note that I used navel oranges below, but actually used blood orange for V-day.

Carefully cut each section by cutting on either side of the membrane. When done, you can easily separate each piece revealing pure orangey goodness.

Separate the seeds from the pomegranate and peel and slice the kiwi. Whip the heavy whipping cream, 3 T sugar and remaining vanilla to stiff peaks. To serve, place one of the mini-cakes on a plate and top with whipped cream. Add a swoosh of the caramel sauce to the plate and add decorate with the fresh fruit.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Monthly micro-batch: mint kiwi sorbet

Last week at the farmers market my normal artichoke farmer was all out of artichokes, but had some beautiful kiwi. I got a few pounds for my lunches, but also decided it should be the hero in a refreshing micro-batch. Adding some mint and a secret ingredient (a little chocolate bitters) makes for a nicely balanced, curiously green dessert.

  • 1 lb ripe kiwis
  • 1/4 C sugar
  • 1/4 C water
  • 1/8 C mint
  • 2 t chocolate bitters
Muddle the mint and sugar in a small saucepan. Add the water and turn the burner to high heat. Stir constantly until the sugar is fully dissolved. Take off the heat, cover, and steep for 10 minutes.

Peel the kiwis and rinse to make sure all the fuzzy bits are off. Mash the kiwis with a potato masher (use a blender if you'd like it a bit smoother, but you run the chance of crushing the black seeds).

Pour the sugar water into the mashed kiwi, straining off the mint. Mix thoroughly and add the chocolate bitters.

Process in an ice cream machine. Put in the freezer to harden it up. Serve with mint or even some dark chocolate.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Black beans

I had a bunch of leftover ingredients after making some dishes recently: a bone from puerco pibil, some tomato juice strained off before making pasta sauce, and some chicken and vegetable stock that I didn't have room for in the canner. I couldn't let all that go to waste - instead I decided to make find a second life for all these items in some good, old fashioned black beans. This is a great dish to warm you inside and out and can certainly be made vegetarian sans bone and chicken stock.

  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 T olive oil
  • pork bone and fat
  • 2 C dried black beans, rehydrated for 4-6 hours and rinsed thoroughly
  • 2 C reserved juice from canned tomatoes (or just canned tomatoes)
  • 2 C stock (chicken, veggie, or both)
  • salt and pepper
Optional garnish:
  • 1 C shredded cabbage
  • 2 shredded carrots
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced
  • 1/2 t salt
Saute the onions in olive oil in a stock pot over medium high heat. When translucent add the pork bone and fat and brown for 5 minutes. Add the beans, tomato juice, and stock.

Bring to a boil then reduce the head to medium low. Cook for 2 hours or until the black beans are tender. Add water as the liquid cooks down. Season with salt and pepper when finished cooking. 

Serve with optional garnish, sour cream, over rice, or as is. If you're like me and can't eat that many beans at one time, freeze or can for future use.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Seared carrots with lemon brown butter

It's that time of year again when most people who eat locally are stuck with carrots and potatoes. This recipe is a beautiful way to prepare those boring old roots. It is simple, tangy, and, of course, buttery. In addition, searing is my new favorite method for cooking vegetables so don't be surprised to see more seared recipes. I like this method for vegetables that traditionally required braising, steaming, or boiling to get them cooked through (think Brussels sprouts). Searing gives you that slight caramelization that you often see in restaurants.


  • 1 bunch carrots
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 3 T butter, cut into pieces
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced
  • salt and pepper to taste

Thoroughly scrub the carrots and trim off their tops. Leave as is or cut in half to make approximately 3 inch pieces.

Heat olive oil in a skillet over high heat. Throw the carrots in the pan, sprinkle with salt, and cover. Don't disturb for about three minutes. This is where the magic happens. The heat caramelizes the carrot and releases water, but since the top is on, it turns to steam and steams the carrots, softening them up a bit. After a few minutes, toss the carrots around a bit in the pan. Cook for a few more minutes and then turn off the heat.

Meanwhile, heat the lemon juice over medium high heat in a small pan. Whisk in the butter a few pieces at a time. Season with salt and pepper.

To serve, place the carrots on a plate and then pour the lemon butter on top. You can also serve with other seared vegetables, like Brussels sprouts, broccoli, or fennel bulbs.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Handmade croutons

One of the reasons I like to eat salads is that I LOVE to eat croutons. The way they absorb the dressing, yet still crunch in your mouth makes my stomach growl just thinking about it. As it turns out, they're easy to make and a great way to find a second, and delicious, life for old bread. You can modify the ingredients to include more spices, healthy bread, or even a little less fat or salt.

  • 1 C cubed bread
  • 1 T butter
  • 1 T olive oil
  • salt and garlic powder to taste
If you've got bread that's as hard as a rock and not even a chisel can make a dent, wrap the bread in a moist towel and microwave for 20-30 seconds. This will temporarily rehydrate the bread. Don't do this too much as it will make the bread too hard when it cools down.

Cut the bread into small cubes, about 1/2 inch cubed.

Melt the butter in a pan over medium high heat. Add the olive oil and swirl. Throw in the bread and mix until all the pieces are covered in fat. Turn down the heat to medium. When the pieces start to brown on the bottom, toss around, trying to get some of the pieces to turn over. Sprinkle with salt and garlic powder and toss some more.

Take off the heat while you make your salad or soup or whatever needs crunchy goodness on top.

This is about a single serving for me. Make more, based on how much bread you have. You can make these ahead of eating and store in an airtight container for about a week. If they get too soggy, throw them on a cookie sheet under the broiler for a minute or so.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Asparagus three ways

While at the farmer's market last weekend, I came across the harbinger of spring: asparagus. After seeing the green beacon, I started to notice all the other signs of spring: blooming trees, daffodils, and my boyfriend putting his computer aside and saying, "Hey, let's go to the park."

To celebrate spring, I wanted to make something to showcase the light, playful vegetable. This dish starts with a simple asparagus risotto in combination with seared asparagus and topped with deep fried asparagus strands and a light lemon butter. Sorry to those still buried in 6 feet of snow - don't worry, you'll be able to eat this dish soon.


  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1/2 C arborio rice
  • 4 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1/4 C white wine
  • 1 T lemon zest
  • 1 C broth (chicken or vegetable)
  • 3+ C water
  • 1/4 C grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 t olive oil
  • 1 bunch asparagus
  • 1 half lemon (juiced, about 2 T)
  • 4 T butter, cut into small pieces
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 C canola oil (or other frying oil)

In a medium sauce pan heat the olive oil over a medium high flame. Add the garlic and saute till translucent. Add the rice and stir till all the grains are completely covered in oil. Add the white wine and allow to cook into the rice. Add the broth and the lemon zest and mix thoroughly. As the liquid cooks down, replace with a half cup of water and stir. Keep doing this for about a half hour until the risotto is the right consistency.

Meanwhile, cut the tough ends off the asparagus. With a few of the larger ones, use a vegetable peeler to create asparagus strips. Then cut the last few inches off the rest of the asparagus. Cut the ends into 1 cm pieces and microwave in water for 3 minutes till tender.

About five minutes before serving put the asparagus tips in a large frying pan with olive oil over high heat. Sprinkle with salt and cover. After a minute shake the pan to move the asparagus around. Cook for a few more minutes and then turn off the heat. Leave covered.

Heat the lemon juice over a medium flame and slowly whisk in the butter. Add salt and pepper to taste. Take off flame.

Meanwhile, heat the frying oil over high heat in a small pan (if you have a frier, heat it up so that it's ready to go right before everything else is done). Add the asparagus strips to the hot oil for about 3 minutes, or until crisp.

Strain the microwaved asparagus and add that and the Parmesan to the risotto and mix thoroughly. Season with salt and pepper. Place the risotto in the center of a plate with the seared asparagus to the side. Drizzle with the lemon butter. Top with the crisp asparagus strands.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Happy birthday

Growing up, I always hated that my birthday often coincided with the Super Bowl. It's really hard for people to focus on you when there's pigskin flying in the background. Every year I am given a reprieve from the co-opting of my day, I definitely take advantage and celebrate. This year there was extra reason to celebrate - a big move to San Francisco and I've almost reached the one year mark of the start of this blog.

The good news is that I've been able to post most of the recipes just in time for Super Bowl Sunday:

I chose these items based on what I could get at my local farmer's market. It's not as easy in Green Bay or Pittsburg, but still possible to find some morsels locally. Potatoes should be available, so fries and chips are easy crowd pleasers. Also, mushrooms are typically grown in the winter as far north as Pennsylvania. So go to your local farmers market or peruse the local section of your grocery store and think creative snacks.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Stuffed mushrooms

I remember my mom making stuffed mushrooms when I was a kid. Mine is a much more simplified recipe, but the smell still warms the house like hers did. While most recipes add stuffing and cheese, this recipe simply uses meat. However, to ensure happy, pasture raised pigs, I had to make my own sausage. The key to Italian sausage is the fennel seeds.

Surprisingly, fennel doesn't make the meat taste at all like licorice. Instead, it adds the high notes to balance the salt and the spice of the hot pepper.

  • 1-1/2 lb ground pork
  • 1 t salt
  • 1 t powdered garlic
  • 1/4 t ground black pepper
  • 1-3/4 t ground paprika
  • 2 t vegetable oil
  • 1/5 t fennel seed
  • 1/2 t red pepper flakes
  • 40 white mushrooms
Add the spices to the meat and mix well. Let sit in the refrigerator overnight.

Remove the stalks of the mushrooms. Trim the edges from the caps.

Fill each cap with meat. Cook in an oven preheated to 425ºF for about 30 minutes. Garnish with Italian parsley.

Mini quiches

When many people become vegetarians, they often slack on eggs and dairy. It's understandable, really. They're both hard to see and don't actually require the death of a living animal to acquire. However, there was always something about the way in which factory farm hens are forced to live that made me go to great pains to avoid conventional eggs. Therefore, it's not surprising that one of the first things I started making from scratch for parties were mini quiches. You can also have the flexibility of using whatever you want - I chose local king trumpet mushrooms.

  • 1 lb king trumpet mushrooms
  • 1 t minced rosemary
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 3 oz grated swiss cheese
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 C half and half
  • 24 filo dough mini shells
Chop the mushrooms and mince the rosemary. Saute the veggies in olive oil over medium heat until well browned.

Mix the cheese and the vegetables.

Distribute evenly among the shells.

Beat the eggs into the half and half. Pour into the shells to fill. Place in an oven preheated to 350ºF for approximately 30 minutes. Serve while warm.