2013 IN REVIEW

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The Louvre Museum has 8.5 million visitors per year. This blog was viewed about 280,000 times in 2013. If it were an exhibit at the Louvre Museum, it would take about 12 days for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

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OUR MEXICAN HOLIDAY DINNER

As I mentioned in a previous post, we had an early Christmas celebration with one of my stepsons.  This year all our holiday meals were decided on a whim, serendipity playing a pretty big role. I happened to catch Marcela’s episode “My Favorite Holiday Dishes“, and while watching it with Phil he suggested we make that full menu for our Christmas dinner. Avocado-Cilantro Mousse, Pork Tenderloin, and Mexican Chocolate Souffle.   You know how we felt about the mousse, so now it’s time to share the recipe for the second course, a pork that ended up moist and tender, surrounded by the sweetness of prunes and pearl onions.

served

ROASTED PORK TENDERLOIN WITH PINEAPPLE GLAZE
(from Marcela Valladolid)

for the brine:
1/2 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
2 cups warm water
6 cups cold water
2 pork tenderloins
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for the herb rub:
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary leaves
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for the final roasting:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup dried prunes, halved
1 pound pearl onions, peeled
1/3 cup dry white wine
1 cup pineapple juice
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

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For the brine: Combine the salt, brown sugar, peppercorns, coriander seeds, and 2 cups warm water in a large bowl. Stir until the salt dissolves. Add 6 cups cold water. Add the pork, cover, and refrigerate overnight (the pork should be submerged in the liquid).
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Heat the oven to 400 degrees F.For the herb rub: Mix the garlic, olive oil, salt, pepper, thyme, and rosemary in a small bowl. Remove the pork from the brine and pat it dry (discard the brine). Spread the herb mixture over the pork loin, making sure you coat all sides of the loin.
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For the pork: Heat the olive oil in a medium, heavy saute pan over high heat. Add the pork and sear until browned, 4 minutes. Carefully turn the pork over and sear until browned, another 4 minutes. Meanwhile, add the prunes and pearl onions to a baking dish, creating a bed for the loin. Transfer the seared pork loin to the baking dish (making sure the loin fits in the baking dish, leaving a 1-inch border on every side). Add the wine to the same saute pan used to sear the pork and cook, scraping the bottom of the pan to remove the browned bits, until almost evaporated, about 1 minute. Stir in the pineapple juice and remove from the heat. Season with salt and pepper. Pour the mixture over the pork. Season the prunes and onions with salt and pepper.
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Place the pork in the oven and roast until a thermometer inserted into the center registers 160 degrees F, or to your desired level of roasting. Baste with the pan juices every 20 minutes. Transfer the pork to a cutting board, tent with foil, and let it stand for 10 minutes. Slice the pork into 1/4 to 1/2-inch thick slices and arrange on a platter. Top the pork slices with the pearl onions, prunes, and sauce.
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ENJOY!
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to print the recipe, click here
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Comments:  I loved making this dish, it is perfect for a day spent at home, relaxing, enjoying the aromas and the anticipation of a more elaborate meal to come.  Brining the meat is the way to go when roasting pork loin (or tenderloin), as the delicate meat, so low in fat these days, can dry out in the oven.  I left the tenderloins in the brine from 8am until around 5pm.
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Pork and prunes are a classic combination for good reason! This recipe is not too different from a typical meal served in my family in Brazil during the holidays, except that they like to roast a pork shoulder or butt. We call it “pernil assado“, and prunes or pineapple slices are often part of the sauce.

Leftovers were awesome on day 2 and amazing on day 4, the sauce intensified in flavor, the meat retained its moisture and tenderness. I can tell this recipe will become a regular appearance at our table.  Next time I’ll add some fennel to the bed of prunes and onions, I think its flavor would be great here.

Pork with Prunes in Pineapple Glaze

ONE YEAR AGO: The Ultimate Cranberry Sauce

TWO YEARS AGO: Edamame Dip

THREE YEARS AGO: Gougeres

FOUR YEARS AGO: Beef Wellington on a Special Night

A TWENTY YEAR MILESTONE

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Right after Christmas 1993,  I left Brazil with the firm, but slightly far-fetched idea that I was not going back.  Many things made my departure hard.  A marriage. A lovely home. Toby, a dog I was crazy about. I could only take two pieces of luggage with me. Everything else was left behind. Books, dishes, pans, photos. But, much harder than that, family, friends, and the safety of a job at the best university in  the country.

At the time, I had no idea whether I was making the right decision.  I left São Paulo at the height of the summer, I arrived in Paris on a very cold night,  a few days short of New Year’s Eve to face months of loneliness like I had never experienced before.  I quickly realized I was fully unprepared for it, but giving up and flying back to Brazil was not an option I was willing to take. My former husband at some point told me: the struggles you are going through today, one day will be like invisible medals you will be proud to wear on your chest. Wise guy.

Twenty years flew by.  I cannot express how fortunate I feel for taking that risky first step. I do not mean this as advice, it’s rather a personal observation:  the only way to move forward is to take some risks, and to accept the idea of being very uncomfortable for a while. So, when in doubt, take a deep breath, and dive into your dreams!

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…
(opening line of a favorite book, read in Paris, March 1994).

THE AVOCADO MOUSSE THAT STOLE THE SHOW

MERRY CHRISTMAS!   FELIZ NATAL!  JOYEUX NOËL!

This year we had a pre-Christmas celebration with one of my stepsons, because he had to fly back to California on the 23rd. The evening before his departure we made a special dinner that featured the whole menu of a recent show from the one and only Marcela Valladolid, entitled “My Favorite Holiday Dishes“.  The main dish was Pork with Prunes and Pineapple Glaze (on the blog soon), and I expected it to be the star of our meal, but truth is that the first course,  a simple, unassuming avocado mousse put up a great fight and according to some, took the Christmas Eve spotlight…  😉

Avocado Cilantro Mousse
AVOCADO AND CILANTRO MOUSSE
(slightly adapted from Marcela Valladolid)

1 to 1 + 1/2 bunches fresh cilantro, washed and dried, leaves picked off and reserved (about 2 cups loosely packed)
1  avocado (I used two small ones)
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, at room temperature
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice, from about 1 lime
1 Serrano chile, stemmed, seeded, deveined, and roughly chopped
1 cup cold water, divided
2 (1/4-ounce) envelopes unflavored gelatin
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Spray 3 (1 cup) or 6 (1/2 cup) ramekins with vegetable oil cooking spray.

Place the cilantro, cream cheese, avocado, salt, lime juice, and chile in a food processor and puree until smooth.
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Pour 1/4 cup water in a small bowl. Sprinkle the gelatin over the water and let it sit for a few minutes. Place the remaining 3/4 cup water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Pour the boiling water over the softened gelatin and whisk until the gelatin has dissolved.
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Add the gelatin to the mixture in the food processor, pulsing until pureed and thoroughly blended.
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Pour the mixture into the prepared ramekins. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, about 2 hours. To unmold, fill a large container with very hot water. Dip the ramekins in the water for 1 minute. Run a small, sharp knife tip around the edge of each mousse. Invert onto a platter. Let stand at room temperature for 20 minutes before serving.
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ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments:  I made my own tortilla strips to serve alongside the mousse, and I must say the work involved is minimal, but the pay-off huge.  They were so much better than store-bought versions, both in texture and flavor.  I just cut some yellow corn tortillas into strips, placed them on a baking sheet, sprayed with olive oil, and coated very lightly with salt and more liberally with Southwest Spice mix from Penzey’s.  Baked at 375F until  they start to crisp up and get brown.

The mousse… WOW!  We started enjoying it quite politely, a little bit spread on a cracker, a little more on a tortilla strip, but by the end of the dinner we were slicing it and adding the cold slice on top of the pork tenderloin and moaning about it…  We decided it will go well with pretty much anything, from grilled salmon to lamb burgers, and in case of emergency, licked from the tip of a finger when no one is looking.   It is THAT good.  Please, make it for your next dinner party, and stop by to thank me later… 😉

ONE YEAR AGO: Sourdough Popovers

TWO YEARS AGO: Merry Christmas!

THREE YEARS AGO:  Sourdough Focaccia, with a twist

FOUR YEARS AGO: Merry Christmas!

CARROT AND CUMIN HAMBURGER BUNS

Hamburger Bun1
I’ve been baking bread for many years, and of course I’ve had my share of failures.  However, I have yet to meet one recipe from Dan Lepard that didn’t work.  Dan knows his way around all things yeast and sourdough, so whenever I’m in the mood to try something out of the ordinary he is my number one source of inspiration.  This recipe is from his book Short and Sweet, which I reviewed in the past.  I am always fond of anything with carrots, and thought that incorporating them in a soft bread perfumed with cumin would lead to something awesome.

Look at these babies! Plump, golden, and so very fragrant…

Carrot and Cumin Hamburger Buns

If you want the recipe but do not own his book, you can find it at The Guardian website with a quick jump here. Or you can do even better and order your own copy.  😉

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I loved making these buns!  They flow in the opposite direction of a sourdough, as Dan uses fast-rising yeast for the dough.  The only tough part was grating the carrots, I think my box grater is getting a little old and dull. I don’t like to buy pre-grated carrots, I think they are too bulky and overly dry. Not the best option for this type of recipe.

I made 5 buns, one of them larger than all others, as I wasn’t sure how much oven spring they would have.  Next time I will cut the dough into 6 equal pieces, the resulting size is perfect for a hamburger.

crumb

I am submitting this post to Susan’s Yeastspotting event…

ONE YEAR AGO: Potato Galettes a l’Alsacienne & Book Review

TWO YEARS AGO: Caramelized Carrot Soup

THREE YEARS AGO: Miso-Grilled Shrimp

FOUR YEARS AGO: Pain Poilane

PUMPKIN BRIGADEIROS

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Brigadeiros are the most popular Brazilian candy, mandatory item at Birthday parties. I blogged about them here, and shared a coconut variation here. This recipe has been sitting on my Pinterest cooking  board ever since I saw it on Denise’s site, From Brazil to You, around Halloween.  You should definitely stop by her site to see how she shaped each one as a cute little pumpkin.  Knowing my limitations, I simply rolled them as traditional “brigadeiros” and coated them with the shimmer sugar Phil recently bought for me, adorable husband that he is.  And, by the way, in Portuguese, pumpkin brigadeiros = brigadeiros de abóbora.  if you want to say it as a native Brazilian, listen to yours truly by clicking this audio link

PUMPKIN BRIGADEIROS
(slightly modified from Denise’s blog)

1 (14 oz or 396 g) can sweetened condensed milk
3/4 cup canned pumpkin puree
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Granulated sugar for rolling

Grease a dish with unsalted butter and set aside. Place about 1 cup of granulated sugar on another plate and set aside.

Mix the condensed milk, pumpkin puree, butter, and spices in a saucepan over medium heat. Non-stick is best.  Cook, stirring constantly in order to avoid burning, until thickened enough that the bottom of the pan shows through briefly when the mixture is stirred, and runs to the sides of the pan slowly if gathered in the center of the pan with a wooden or plastic spoon– this should usually take approximately 10-12 minutes, depending on your stove.

Remove from heat, stir in the vanilla, and pour mixture into the greased dish. Let cool. The brigadeiro dough can be refrigerated for about 20 minutes before rolling into balls if desired. Then wet your hands with cold water and shape the brigadeiros into balls, using a tablespoon as measure. Roll each one in sugar, and place in small paper cups.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

prep

Comments:  This was a delightful take on a Brazilian classic!  They are sweet with all the condensed milk, but the pumpkin offers a nice counterpart.  I took a batch for a potluck dessert party,  and lots of people asked me for the recipe, so I guarantee that whenever you make these babies, they will please your guests!

I bet  you cannot eat just one… 😉

Pumpkin Brigadeiros

ONE YEAR AGO: Pumpkin Espresso Loaf

TWO YEARS AGO: Caramelized Carrot Soup

THREE YEARS AGO: Miso-Grilled Shrimp

FOUR YEARS AGO: A Special Holiday Fruitcake

TWISTED SISTER OF THE SHEPHERD’S PIE

The traditional Shepherd’s Pie, a delicacy from Ireland, is a casserole type dish made with lamb and veggies covered with mashed potatoes and baked in the oven.  After our Thanksgiving meal this year, I decided to improvise on a version to use our leftover turkey, roasted sweet potatoes, and gravy.  It turned out much better than I expected, so I must share with you. Plus, it gives me a chance to show off our recent gift, the Le Creuset baking dish… gorgeous!

If you already used up your leftover turkey meat, ground turkey could work well too, but spice it up with more sage, maybe some sautéed mushrooms, and use some type of stock slightly thickened with a roux in place of gravy.

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SWEET POTATO & TURKEY SHEPHERD’S PIE
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

leftover roast turkey, preferably dark meat, cut in small chunks
1 Tablespoon grapeseed oil (or olive oil)
1 shallot, diced
3 medium carrots, diced
1/2 cup frozen green peas
a few leaves of fresh sage, minced
salt and pepper
gravy from your Thanksgiving turkey
cooked sweet potatoes
veggie stock, amount variable
low-fat milk, amount variable

Cut enough leftover turkey meat to fully cover your baking dish. Give preference to dark meat, but a mixture of dark and breast works fine.  Reserve.

Sautee the shallot and diced carrots in olive oil until they start to get some color, and soften up slightly. Season with salt and pepper,  then add the turkey meat, the frozen peas, and the sage.  Mix gently until the peas defrost, add some gravy, enough to moisten the whole mixture.   Pour into a baking dish.

Prepare the potatoes by warming them slightly in a microwave, then mashing them with a little veggie stock and milk, also warmed up in a microwave.  Taste, and if necessary, adjust seasoning.   You need to add just enough liquid to be able to spread the mashed potatoes over the turkey.

Spoon the mashed sweet potatoes over the turkey & veggies, and place in a 375 F oven for 30 minutes or until all bubbly and hot.

Remove from the oven, let it rest for 15 minutes before serving.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

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Phil is always in charge of roasting our Thanksgiving turkey, which he does according to his family recipe. Our bird is stuffed with a mixture of bread, sausage, celery, green apples… absolutely delicious!   He also  makes the gravy, which ends up dark brown, thick and very flavorful. Usually, he is also in charge of coming up with leftover ideas, but this year I decided to explore this road on my own.

This was so good!  Comfort food indeed, but not overly heavy, sweet potatoes are less filling than regular ones.  I know that using ground turkey could work too, but honestly, this recipe is best if made with leftover roast turkey,  moistened with real gravy.  Phil and I enjoyed some of this “Twisted Shepherd’s Pie”  for our dinner, and the rest is in the freezer, waiting for one of my stepsons who will be visiting us soon.  I know he will love it!

plated1Dinner is served!

ONE YEAR AGO: Hail Caesar Sourdough

TWO YEARS AGO: In My Kitchen, December 2011

THREE YEARS AGO: Festivus Dinner Rolls

FOUR YEARS AGO: 100% Sourdough Rye