TWO DELICIOUSLY SIMPLE SALADS

With winter behind our backs (insert effervescent happy dance here), it’s time to get those big platters of salad joining us at the kitchen table. Two examples of our recent past were particularly tasty, so I share them with you today.  The first one is all about the dressing. The second brings two interesting twists. Well, at least I think they are interesting… let’s see if you agree!

BOSTON LETTUCE SALAD WITH AVOCADO DRESSING
(inspired by Pati’s Mexican Table)

2  ripe avocados halved, pitted and meat scooped out
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup Mexican crema or sour cream
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
1/2 teaspoon kosher or coarse sea salt or more to taste
2 heads boston lettuce leaves separated, washed, dried, and torn into pieces
grape tomatoes, halved (as many as you’d like)
1/3 cup cashew nuts, lightly toasted
freshly ground black pepper and salt to taste

Combine the avocado, milk, cream, lime juice and salt in a blender and puree until smooth.  

Place the lettuce and tomatoes in a generous-sized serving bowl, and toss with the dressing until everything is lightly coated. Sprinkle with the toasted cashews, adjust seasoning with salt, add a good amount of freshly ground black pepper all over, and serve. 

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: Am I the only one who finds Boston lettuce the most gorgeous green ever? I don’t think it gets the love it deserves. The leaves are smooth, delicate, and each bundle is perfect for a single serving. Nature-made portion control.

Pati’s original version is a bit more elaborate than  mine, but, even on a more austere version with only tomatoes and cashews, this dressing leaves a bright note. Creamy, almost herbal, refreshing but luscious. I had dressing leftover and next day enjoyed drizzled over… roasted carrots!  Talk about a big twist… After I polished it off, regretted not snapping a picture. But, you can use your imagination. Looked pretty nice, tasted even better!

Now, moving on to the second salad. I was watching The Kitchen on FoodTV the other day, and Sunny Anderson said that she often uses the seasoned oil left behind from grocery store marinated olives to incorporate in pesto type sauces.  I registered that idea, and then decided to use it as part of salad dressing. I had purchased a small container with olives and cubed feta, and not much was left. Olives and feta pieces became part of the salad, and the seasoned oil got whisked with some sherry vinegar. See the outcome below:

SPINACH SALAD WITH FETA, OLIVES & PROSCIUTTO CRISPS
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

big bunch of baby spinach leaves
thick slices of mozzarella cheese
yellow tomatoes, cut any way you like
mixture of kalamata and feta from grocery store
seasoned oil, drained from olive mix
sherry vinegar (eye-ball, 1/3 volume of oil)
salt and pepper to taste
4 prosciutto slices

Make prosciutto crisps by laying the slices over a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  Place in 425 F oven for a few minutes, until moisture evaporates and it gets crisp.  Flip the slices to crisp both sides.  Remove and let them cool over paper to absorb excess oil.   Reserve.

Assemble the salad with spinach leaves at the bottom of the platter, add all ingredients on top, drizzle with dressing. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.

Crumble pieces of cool prosciutto crisps.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments:  If your grocery store doesn’t sell those containers with marinated olives, move.  Just kidding. You can make the dressing yourself, just add some herbs to olive oil, such as oregano, thyme, to give it more flavor.  The prosciutto crisps are so delicious, they are actually the second interesting twist I mentioned. They offer a very nice crunch to the salad, much like nuts would do. Or those incredibly addictive crispy chow-mein goodies that are not allowed in our home. I have zero power against those. Once the can is open, it all goes downhill. Fast. Anyway, as far as indulgences go, prosciutto crisps are not that bad.  Four slices are more than enough for a salad made for two, with some bits to keep you happy while getting the salad ready.  And, by the way, speaking of indulgences, if you’d like to take this salad over the top, use burrata instead of mozzarella…

 

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ONE YEAR AGO: In My Kitchen, April 2016

TWO YEARS AGO: Spring has Sprung with Suzanne Goin

THREE YEARS AGO: Chai Brownies

FOUR YEARS AGO: Pomegranate-Molasses Glazed Carrots

FIVE YEARS AGO: Braised Brisket with Bourbon-Peach Glaze

SIX YEARS AGO: The Real Vodka Sauce

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Spring Rolls on a Spring Day

 

 

 

 

ROSE, CARDAMON AND COFFEE SQUARES: CHETNA MAKAN’S COOKBOOK REVIEW

Last year I binge-watched The Great British Bake Off, originally aired in 2014. One of the reasons it took me so long to go for it, is my intense dislike of ANY food competition. I was never too wild about Iron Chef, barely stand the countless versions of Chopped, and despise Cutthroat Kitchen with every cell of my body. There. I feel better. But, despite all that, one day I sat down and put the first episode of The Great British Bake Off to play. I was hooked. First and foremost for the friendly atmosphere. When you watch any of the competition shows from FoodTV-USA, it is impossible to ignore a certain mean streak in the competitors. Each one wants to win so bad, they keep hammering on why they are clearly better than all others. The blatant arrogance really bothers me. I also prefer the format of the British show, particularly when all contestants need to make the exact same (very challenging)  recipe and it gets evaluated in a single-blind way. Today I share with you a recipe from the cookbook of my favorite contestant,  Chetna Makan. She made it almost to the end, facing all sorts of challenges with poise, grace, and a warm smile. And after the recipe, I will walk you through The Cardamon Trail. What a beautiful name!

ROSE, CARDAMON AND COFFEE DESSERT SLICES
(published with permission from Chetna Makan) 

200g (7oz) chocolate digestive biscuits
50g (1 ¾ oz) unsalted butter, melted, plus extra for greasing
225ml (8fl oz) milk
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 tablespoon coffee granules
3 large egg yolks
75g (2 ¾ oz) granulated sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 tablespoon boiling water
2 teaspoons powdered gelatine
250g (9oz) mascarpone cheese
1 teaspoon rosewater
white chocolate curls to decorate

Heat the oven to 180 ° C (350 ° F).

Grease a 20cm (8in) square cake tin and line it with nonstick baking paper. Put the digestive biscuits in a plastic bag and bash them with a rolling-pin to crush them to crumbs. Transfer the crumbs to a bowl and pour in the melted butter, mixing thoroughly so that the crumbs are completely coated. Tip the mixture into the prepared tin and press down firmly with the back of a spoon to create a smooth, even base layer. Bake for 15 minutes, then set aside to cool completely.

In a small pan, slowly heat the milk to scalding point. Add the ground cardamom and coffee granules and mix well, then remove the pan from the heat. In a bowl, whisk the egg yolks, sugar, cornstarch, cocoa and 2 tablespoons of the spiced milk together to form a smooth paste. Slowly add the remaining milk, whisking the whole time. Tip this mixture back into the saucepan and cook over a low heat for 2– 3 minutes until it thickens enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon. Strain through a sieve into a clean bowl, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 10 minutes until lukewarm.

Put the measured boiling water in a small bowl and sprinkle in the gelatine. Stir until the gelatine powder has dissolved. Add this to the lukewarm pastry cream and mix well. In another bowl, beat the mascarpone and rosewater together. Fold this into the pastry cream and pour the mixture over the biscuit base. Cover the tin with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight to set.

When ready to serve, carefully remove the cake from the tin and cut it into squares. To finish, sprinkle with white chocolate curls (or any decoration you prefer). The slices will keep, refrigerated, in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: Chetna described it perfectly! This is a dessert for grownups. It has that exotic quality, the barely there sweetness, a very unique and complex mixture of flavors. I loved it!  I must confess I messed up big time, though. I used the wrong type of  cookies for the base. She specified chocolate digestifs for the base, but our grocery store carried only two types: regular digestifs, or some with a coating of chocolate at the bottom, very similar to these beauties made from scratch by my friend Karen. After I made the dessert, I exchanged emails with Chetna and she told me I could have used the digestifs either plain or with the chocolate coating, but the type of cookie I used (very thin chocolate Goya Maria brand) would need tweaking, probably some other binding agent to properly work. Learned a lesson there. The result is that the base got a bit too crumbly rather than giving a nice support to the deliciously smooth top layer.  I intend to make it again soon, but did not want to wait any longer to blog about it. So make sure to gather the right tools for the job…

TEASER RECIPE

On the very same day I made a batch of her Clove, Cinnamon and Chocolate cookies… 


OVERVIEW OF THE RECIPE

The cookie dough is made with self-rising flour, butter, two types of sugar, a touch of cinnamon and ground cloves. Then chocolate chips and diced pistachio nuts are mixed in.  I substituted white chocolate because I found out that I had 4 bags of white chocolate chips and not a single one of semi-sweet. Apparently every time I go to the grocery store I tell myself “you better get a bag of white chocolate chips, because you only have the dark ones.”  In case you did not know, I do research for a living. Shocking, I know. Once again, Chetna describes these gems very well:

Yes, everyone thought they come together beautifully….

And now that I shared a recipe and teased you with another one, let’s take a walk through
The Cardamon Trail: Chetna Bakes with Flavours of the East..

Chetna opens the book explaining that it is all about her culinary journey. It brings her food memories in the form of lovely bakes and new taste sensations. She grew up in Jabalpur, a city in central India, and her cooking is heavily influenced by her Mom, who cooked every single meal from scratch while Chetna was growing up.  Her book is divided in six  chapters, as follows:

Cakes. Each of the twenty cakes featured is enticing to me. Always some unexpected flavor that takes them to a higher level.  The very first one, Pear and Cardamon Caramel Upside Cake, already got me dreaming. You might remember that I have a very weak spot for cardamon, so obviously this cake speaks dearly to me.  Second one? Mango, Cardamon & Coconut Cake. Next? Rose and Honey Cake.  But so many more: Rose, Mint, and White Chocolate Cheesecake, Orange and Cinnamon Mini-Cakes (I almost picked them to showcase in this post).  Pistachio, Cardamon, and White Chocolate Cake… Saffron Meringue Cake…  Masala Chai Cake…. Black Sesame and Lime Cake… I tell you, it’s one temptation after another, a showcase of interesting flavor combinations.

Pies and Tarts. This chapter brings savory stuff to the game. I list my favorites: Peach, Star Anise, and Almond Tart…  Chocolate and Mango Tart (beautiful photo!)…  Passion Fruit, Lime, and Ginger Tart. On the savory front,  very creative recipes like Moong Dal Pie, Curry Onion Tart, and Chickpea Curry Pie. I definitely do not bake pies and tarts often enough. Hubby is usually the one in charge of those concoctions. But I need to get more practice and make them by myself.

Sweet Things. Twenty seven goodies for you there… She opens this chapter with something called Saffron Rasgulla, and I think it’s something I had once at a party and fell madly in love with. A little soft ball of curdled milk and saffron, cooked in a simple syrup. I could enjoy that every day of my life without ever getting tired of it. It seems a bit involved to make, but Chetna says it’s not that hard. It is a specialty from Western India.  Now, are you ready for this? Fig and Chocolate Macarons. Yes, my obsession of the past few years! She shares a great take on this French classic. Which of course, I intend to make in the near future. The only reason I did not pick them to feature, is the fact that I have two macaron recipes already waiting in line. The Rose, Cardamon & Coffee Dessert Slices come from this session of her book, as well as the Clove, Cinnamon and Chocolate Cookies, my teaser recipe.  I also bookmarked Sweet Baked Samosas (I am addicted to the savory version),  Mango and Passion Fruit Baked Yogurt, and Star Anise and Rhubarb Profiteroles. She does incredibly nice variations on classic desserts, I love it!

Savory Small Bites. A lot of savory things to tempt you here, I will just list the ones that would be my top choices. Corn Rolls: these are inspired again by one of her Mom’s recipes, Chetna uses phyllo dough to make little parcels with sweet corn kernels mixed with ginger, chilli, and other spices.  They get baked and served warm with chutney. O.M.G. Coriander Chicken Parcels made with puff pastry seem like perfection to me…  Tapioca Vada is another intriguing recipe, different from anything I’ve ever tried. Tapioca pearls are mixed with water to form a kind of dough that gets mixed with mashed potatoes, crushed roasted peanuts and spices. The mixture is fried until golden brown, forming little patties that I am sure are addictive.  I was also quite taken by her Buckwheat Potato Pakoras, I never skip ordering pakoras when I go to an Indian restaurant. Vegetarians will love her Cashew Nut and Paneer Koftas, which use desiccated coconut to improve texture.  But my favorite of this chapter might very well be her Savory Semolina Cake, with spinach and spices such as ginger, turmeric, and black mustard seeds. The photo is drool-inducing.

Breads. Twenty options to make any baker happy.  She opens the chapter with a show-stopping bread: Savory Potato Couronne. It is simply gorgeous, but you don’t have to take my word for it.

The dough is enriched with milk, eggs, and butter, then some grated boiled potatoes are mixed in. The exotic ingredient amchur (mango powder) is also included in the dough. Obviously, I need to get some. Tomato and Paneer Loaf is a nice example of a quick bread, made in a loaf pan. Another absolutely gorgeous picture included. Now, how about some Cumin Bread with Smoked Eggplant? I swear, it’s just one amazing twist after another. Another great temptation for yours truly, Chocolate and Chilli Loaf.  As Chetna put it:

This beautiful loaf has the indulgent feel of a cake yet is, in fact, very light…
The cocoa creates a deep-colored loaf, while the chilli provides a real kick to the aftertaste.

A couple more examples for you, Star Anise, Date, and Chocolate Bread (amazing shaping), and a Lemon Challah with Coconut Paneer. She closes the chapter with several options for Parathas, and a Chicken Naan. Yes, you read it correctly. A version of the quick bread naan, turned into a full meal with ground chicken and plenty of spices. To die for, I am sure!

Accompaniments. In this chapter, she offers little goodies that will go well with many of the recipes in the book. Seven types of chutney, two types of pickles (beets, and cauliflower), Indian Coleslaw, and three types of Raita, the classic cucumber, plus Boondi and Bhindi Raitas. Curious? Boondi are fried chickpeas… Imagine them as a base for raita… Bhindi is okra. Not my favorite veggie in the world, but I bet that prepared the way Chetna describes, I would eat it all with a big smile!

So that wraps up our walk through The Cardamon Trail.  In my mind, it is a perfect cookbook because I adore spices both in savory and sweet concoctions. As I watched the Great British Bake Off, Chetna’s confidence and creativity with the use of spices left a huge impression on me. This book simply confirms her skills. I could not wait to start baking once I got the book downloaded, but then was sort of paralyzed by the number of recipes I picked as “top” choices.

To order the book, click here

I would also like to mention that Chetna has a blog and is also very active uploading videos on her youtube channel.  On youtube you can see her cooking with her kids, with her Mom, it’s really nice!  I subscribe to both blog and videos, so I never miss anything new coming from her.

Chetna, thank you for giving me permission to publish one of your recipes…
I am just about to start a batch of your Black Sesame and Macha Tuiles…
looking forward to enjoying them!

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ONE YEAR AGO: When Side Dishes Steal the Show

TWO YEARS AGO: Venting on Vaccines

THREE YEARS AGO: Prime Rib Roast, Mexican Style

FOUR YEARS AGO: Sourdough Bread with Walnuts and Dates

FIVE YEARS AGO: Braised Brisket with Bourbon-Apricot Glaze

SIX YEARS AGO: The Real Vodka Sauce

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Pork Tenderloin and Blue Cheese

THE JOYS OF GRATING SQUASH

Have you ever thought of eating raw butternut squash? Probably not. Well, I am here to tell you it is surprisingly good, but I cannot take credit for this mind-blowing gastronomic twist. I saw this recipe years ago watching Southern at Heart, hosted by Damaris Phillips. Made a note to try, in fact I went as far as printing the recipe and filing it in my gigantic folder entitled “To Make Soon” ideas. Forgot about it until last month, when our friend Cindy visited us and mentioned that she makes it often, it is now one of her favorite salads. That nudged me in the right direction. Now, I will not lie to you, grating butternut squash is not fun. But once you try this simple, but super flavorful salad, you will grate it wearing a smile of anticipation. Ok, that might be a bit of a stretch…

BUTTERNUT SQUASH SLAW
(adapted from Damaris Phillips)

2 tablespoons maple syrup
2 tablespoons grapeseed oil
3 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1 pound butternut squash, peeled, grated on a box grater
1/4 cup dried green raisins (or substitute regular raisins)
1/4 cup sunflower seeds, toasted
salt and black pepper to taste

Whisk together the maple syrup, vegetable oil and sherry vinegar in a large bowl. Add the squash, green raisins, and sunflower seeds; toss well. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Let sit for 30 minutes at room temperature or 1 hour in the refrigerator before serving.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: For this salad, I used a new (to me) ingredient, green raisins. I first learned about them in a cookbook called Bowls of Plenty, by Carolynn Carreno. She confessed being addicted. I was lucky enough to find a bag in our special Oriental grocer in town, and brought it home. They look exactly the way a green raisin should look. Green. Not yellow, not brown. They are delicious indeed. I would say less sweet, almost lemony. Perfect for this salad, in place of dried cherries used by Damaris.  Feel free to substitute any dried fruit of your choice. All it matters in the salad is some bits of sweetness.  The raw butternut squash considerably mellows down by sitting with the dressing.  Leftovers were still very good next day, actually. And a tiny bit that was left on day three was incorporated in a stir-fry with ground turkey. I felt virtuous, even if the resulting dish was not exactly eye-candy. But, it all looked pretty nice on the first time around, as you can see below…

Dinner served: Butternut Slaw, Asparagus, and Grilled Pork Tenderloin.
Life is pretty good.

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ONE YEAR AGO: Auberge-Pecan Walnut Bread

TWO YEARS AGO: Gluten-free and Vegan Raspberry Bars

THREE YEARS AGO: Lasserre, a French Classic

FOUR YEARS AGO: Sourdough Bread with Walnuts and Dates

FIVE YEARS AGO: Braised Brisket with Bourbon-Apricot Glaze

SIX YEARS AGO: The Real Vodka Sauce

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Pork Tenderloin and Blue Cheese

SOUP SATURDAY: MEXICAN SOUPS

SOUP SATURDAY IS ON!

Third Saturday of the month, it’s time for soup! This month our event is hosted by the one and only, Karen from Karen’s Kitchen Stories. I’ve been a follower for a long time, and if you read my blog, you might remember I’ve made quite a few recipes from her site. The Bread Queen! For this event, she chose Mexican Soups. My first thought was tortilla soup, since it’s something I’ve been meaning to make for a while. But before settling on that classic, I sat down with some of my cookbooks. Maybe I should say I sat down with my iPad to electronically browse through my cookbooks. Yes, I might have a slight cookbook obsession, but I do so while sparing trees. The moment I laid my eyes on Marcela Valladolid’s Manchego and Poblano Soup, I knew it had to be it.  First, I love poblanos because their heat does not scream at you or threaten to strip the outer layer of your larynx. Second, Manchego cheese is a favorite of ours. We got hooked on this Spanish delicacy many years ago through our friends and next door neighbors back in Oklahoma. Ever since that time, we always seem to have a piece of Manchego in our fridge. Just because.  If you have trouble finding it, a Monterey Jack, with its nice melting qualities will do.

MANCHEGO AND POBLANO SOUP
(adapted from Marcela Valladolid’s Fresh Mexico)

7 poblano chiles, stemmed and seeded
2 medium shallots, halved
1/4 cup water
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1 + 1/2  tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 cups whole milk
1/2 cup grated Manchego cheese (or Monterey Jack cheese)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
diced Manchego cheese for serving, to taste
Tajin seasoning (optional)

Bring a medium-size heavy saucepan of salted water to a boil. Add the poblanos and shallots and cook for 20 minutes, or until tender. Drain them and transfer to a blender. Add  ¼ cup water. Blend until smooth. Set aside.

Melt the butter in a large heavy pot over medium-high heat. Whisk in the flour and cook for a couple of minutes, whisking constantly, but not allowing it to brown. Reduce the heat to medium and whisk in the chile mixture. Cook, whisking, for a few minutes until slightly thickened. Whisk in the milk. Bring the soup to a simmer and cook, whisking every minute or so to prevent scorching, for about 5 minutes, or until slightly thickened.

Whisk in the grated Manchego cheese. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Ladle into bowls, and top with the diced cheese, plus a sprinkle of Tajin seasoning, if using.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here


Comments: I modified the recipe quite a bit from Marcela’s version. She used double the amount of poblanos. Fourteen. You read me right. I could not bring myself to make it so peppery. I also modified the cooking method. I am really pleased with the resulting soup, creamy, just the right amount of heat, and that final touch of adding small cubes of Manchego cheese floating on top is sublime! As you get a spoonful, that cheese melts and fills your mind with happy thoughts. Then you get all cozy and warm inside. There was a bit of texture in my soup, even though I used a powerful Vitamix to blend it. It did not bother me, but just for fun I passed leftovers through a chinois. It turned out quite spectacular that way, I would follow the extra step if serving it for company.  There I go again, dreaming with soup shots. A recurring theme. Must do something about it.

Wendy, thanks for organizing the Soup Saturday Event, and Karen, thanks for hosting this month! 

You can take a nice tour of Mexican Soups made by my virtual friends with a click on the link at the bottom of the post. Have fun!

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ONE YEAR AGO: A Smashing Pair

TWO YEARS AGO: Spinach and Mushroom Stuffed Pork Tenderloin

THREE YEARS AGO: Crispy Chickpea and Caper Spaghetti

FOUR YEARS AGO: Spring has Sprung!

FIVE YEARS AGO: Chickpea and Fire Roasted Tomato Soup

SIX YEARS AGO: Double Asparagus Delight

SEVEN YEARS AGO:  Sun-dried Tomato and Feta Cheese Torte

 

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TIRAMISU

Some things do not make much sense. Take Tiramisú, for instance. It is definitely one of our favorite desserts, up there with Crème Brûllée and Oeufs a la Neige. However, after almost 8 years of food blogging, I do not have a single recipe for it in the Bewitching Kitchen. How could that be? I’ve made it in the past, but during this stretch of 8 years we’ve only enjoyed it in restaurants. To be completely honest, one example totally ruined us for other versions. A small Italian restaurant in Paris, called La Trappola, very near our apartment in the 7eme had simply the best, the very best, the most awesome, delicious, luscious, fantastic, superbly addictive Tiramisú in the known universe. Before we left Paris, I tried to convince the owner to share his secrets, but no matter how much batting of eyelashes and smiling I did, he was unmoved. Acted like a real gentleman, but kept saying he wanted us to come back to his restaurant whenever we were in town. Yeah, as if Paris was a cab ride from Manhattan, Kansas. The humanity! Oh, well. I don’t have his recipe, but David Lebovitz shared his online, and I can tell you it made Phil and a couple of friends we had over for dinner very very happy. Oh, and me too!

TIRAMISU
(slightly modified from David Lebovitz)

makes 4 servings
1/2 cup (125 ml) espresso, at room temperature
2 tablespoons dark rum
2  large eggs, separated, at room temperature
pinch of salt
7 tablespoons (90g) sugar, divided
1 cup (250g) mascarpone
twelve 3½-inch ladyfingers (70g)
optional: 1 ounce (30g) bittersweet chocolate
unsweetened cocoa powder, for serving
 .
Mix together the espresso and rum. The mixture should taste strongly of alcohol. If not, add more until it does.
In the bowl of an electric mixer beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt until they begin to get stiff. Beat in half of the sugar until stiff. Scrape the egg whites into a small bowl and reserve.
.
Beat the egg yolks with the remaining sugar until stiff and light-colored, about three minutes. Beat in the mascarpone (still cold from the fridge) until lump-free. 
Fold in half of the reserved beaten egg whites, then the remaining half, just until fully incorporated.
.
Submerge each ladyfinger in the espresso mixture for 3 seconds on each side, until soaked but not overly so. Layer them on the bottom of individual serving bowls. Top with mascarpone cream, grate semisweet chocolate on top. Add another layer of lady fingers, top with more cream. Cover and refrigerate for a few hours, preferably overnight.
.
Right before serving, shower with cocoa powder and shave some bittersweet chocolate on top.
.
ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: At first I intended to make a recipe from America’s Test Kitchen, but when I realized the huge amount it made, I quickly moved away from it, but kept some of their special tips in mind. One of them: contrary to what most recipes advise, do not bring the mascarpone cheese to room temperature before beating it. It has a tendency to separate. It will result in a perfectly creamy texture if you whip it while fridge-cold. Yeah, mind blown. So that’s what I did.  Worked like a charm. Also, I prefer not to over-soak the lady fingers, because I rather have a little bit of texture remaining in the cookie component. If you go by Lebovitz, he states “cut them in half to make sure they are saturated enough, they should be dropping wet.”  Decide how you like it best, and do it that way.

I wanted a recipe that would give us just enough for a dinner party with a couple of friends, and David’s version delivered exactly what I was looking for. I got the little glass dishes at Pier 1 Imports. They had only 6 left in stock, and by the time I left, their inventory dropped to two. It gave me a thrill to find exactly what I needed, one day before showtime. It’s not always the case, trust me on that.

Was it as good as La Trappola’s?  I am afraid nothing will match that version. Maybe being in Paris was part of it. Still, this was one spectacular dessert. At first I thought the portion was a bit too big. But next thing I knew, I was licking the spoon and staring at a clean little bowl. Such is life.  Woke up next morning and went for a nice jog. Order of the universe restored!

As I was composing this post, Phil found two photos from our past…
One at the entrance of La Trappola, and another of the Tiramisu of our dreams!  

(unfortunately La Trappola is not in business anymore)

 

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ONE YEAR AGO: Pulled Pork, Slow-Cooker version

TWO YEARS AGO: The Pie of the Century

THREE YEARS AGO: Bon Bon Chicken

FOUR YEARS AGO: Leaving on a Jet Plane

FIVE YEARS AGO: A Pearfect Drink

SIX YEARS AGO: Ming Tsai Under Pressure

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Paris, je t’aime!

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SWEET POTATO “HUMMUS”

My fingers are firmly crossed that there is no such thing as the Hummus Protection Squad, or I’d be in serious trouble. You can call it a “dip” if it makes you feel better, it’s fine with me.  I adapted the recipe from several different sources, but the little detail I loved the most was using the microwave to cook the sweet potato. The flavor was still quite intense and the prep time substantially faster when compared to roasting, steaming, or boiling. Since America Test Kitchen recommended this method in several of their dips, I knew it would work. Those guys work hard to control all variables in their culinary experiments.

SWEET POTATO “HUMMUS”
(inspired by several sources)

1 pound sweet potatoes (two, medium-large)
¾ cup water
¼ cup tahini
1 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
2 tablespoons yogurt
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon paprika
½ teaspoon ground coriander
¼ teaspoon ground cumin
salt and pepper to taste
toasted sesame seeds (optional)
drizzle of olive oil (optional)

Prick sweet potatoes all over with a fork.  Place them over a paper towel in the microwave and cook until very soft, 10 to 12 minutes. Allow the potatoes to cool down until you can handle them safely. Slice them in half, scoop the cooked flesh, discard the skins.

Place the cooked potato in the bowl of a food processor. Add the water, tahini, olive oil, yogurt, lemon juice, all the spices, and process until completely smooth. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper

For best flavor, allow the hummus to sit at room temperature for half an hour or several hours in the fridge, bringing to room temperature before serving.  Drizzle with olive oil and toasted sesame seeds, if desired.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here


Comments: First of all, don’t twist your nose at the microwave step. It works not only for sweet potatoes, but – ready for this? – eggplant! If you like to make baba ganush and until now have roasted the eggplant, give the microwave a chance. I intend to blog about it sometime, but it might take a while. I first saw it in an old book by Barbara Kafka, The Microwave Gourmet. Her words: the eggplant cooked in the microwave retains a beautiful green color, rather than taking on the dull brown of roasted eggplant. Mind blowing, don’t you think? Anyway, I hope I convinced you to try it.

I did not expect to like this departure on my favorite classic as much as I did. The texture won me over, big time, it is very creamy. The tahini takes it into hummus territory with the help of all the spices, but has a slightly sweeter and less sharp taste. I cannot quite comprehend that some people would not like the original version, but if you find yourself faced with entertaining these rare individuals, consider making this variation. It will be a hit.  As to what to enjoy it with, we have always been partial to Ak-Mak crackers, but the other day Phil brought home a box of Dr Kracker snackers and I have one word for you: dangerous. Actually, here is another: addictive. They are dangerously addictive. So so good! He found it at Marshalls, but here is a link to amazon, so you can see what I’m talking about. He bought two kinds, one with cheese and one with a mixture of seeds. I cannot decide which one I loved the most.  Even plain they are fantastic. You’ve been warned.

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FIRST MONDAY FAVORITE: MARCH 2017

Quick heads up: Karen just published a round up of breads in her blog, and I am thrilled to have one of my breads featured. Go visit and say hello with a click here

Yesterday was the First Monday of the month, so it’s time to showcase my favorite recipe of February. Come to think of it, 2017 could slow down a little, don’t we all agree? I am a tad late to join the virtual party, but better late than never.

One post was my favorite by far:

Lavender Macarons with White Chocolate Ganache…

How could I not choose this one to bring to the spotlight?

lavender-macaroncover

 

If you’d like to read the full post, click here.

Thank you Sid, for organizing!  
If you are a food blogger and would like to participate, drop Sid a line.
The more, the merrier!

To see the contributions from my virtual friends, click on the link below

(comments are shutdown for this post)

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