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Mango Mojitos With Ancho Chili Salt

15 Aug

It was another summer Friday in the neighborhood and that called for another festive cocktail. Riding high on the success of last session’s passionfruit mojitos, I decided to make mango mojitos. The drink itself followed much the same construction, but the mango was decidedly sweeter than the passionfruit, so I decided that it needed a spike of heat and salt for proper balance.

Assembly line for summer

Assembly line for summer

Ancho chile salt on the rim provided just the right touch.Your lips get hot, your tongue gets salty, then the potent sweetness of the mango and rum drenches your mouth in happiness!

Friday night in the hood

Friday night in the hood

I made enough to take to a Spuyten Duyvil concert at the farm two days later. Once again, big hit (except for the bit about the plastic cups…it is not good form to use one-time use cups in our world, but sometimes it happens; mea culpa)!

Spuyten Duyvil rocking the farm

Spuyten Duyvil rocking the farm

Mango Mojitos with Ancho Chile

3 parts rum

2-3 parts mango nectar or juice

1 part simple syrup (1 part sugar, 1 part water heated until clear and liquid and cooled)

Ancho chile salt

1 Tbs ancho chile powder

1 Tbs table salt or salt crystals

Limes quartered

Mint leaves

Ice

Club soda or seltzer

Mix rum, juice and syrup together and place in a container until you are ready to use.

Mix salt and ancho chile powder thoroughly and pour onto a small plate. Rub the rim of your empty glass with lime then twirl the rim in the salt until coated.

Add two or three lime quarters, three leaves mint and muddle thoroughly so you have lime juice in the glass. Add ice, pour the mango mix in and top with a bit of club soda or seltzer.

KID IN THE KITCHEN: Tembleque (Tropical Coconut Pudding)

7 Feb

We spent the better part of last summer in Puerto Rico, and among the tasty things that my little guy fell in love with was tembleque, a jiggly (temblar means to tremble) dessert that falls somewhere between pudding and flan. I promised him we’d make it back in New York, and this weekend, for a dinner with some dear Nassau Community College colleagues with whom I serve on the Latin American Studies Committee, I delivered.

2015-02-05 21.03.20 temblequeWho knew it was so, so easy to make that my seven-year-old could do it almost completely on his own? All I had to do was pour the hot mixture into the mold. I adapted a recipe from Cocine a Gusto (University of Puerto Rico Press), which is one of my go-tos for traditional Puerto Rican recipes.

2015-02-05 21.27.57 temblequeIn future we will make it with homemade coconut milk (all you have to do is pour hot water over coconut flakes and strain, but more on that next time), but in the interests of expediency (I also made pollo guisado, black beans and pink beans from scratch, and yuca salad, so I had my hands full) I just used canned.

Next time you want a fun dessert that takes your tastebuds to the tropics, tembleque is the ticket!

2015-02-06 19.21.31 temblequeTembleque

2 14 oz. cans coconut milk

½ Cup corn starch

½ Cup sugar

¼ tsp salt

1 tsp vanilla

Powdered cinnamon

Place coconut milk, corn starch, sugar and salt in a heavy bottomed saucepan and bring to a boil at medium high, stirring constantly until mixture begins to thicken. Add vanilla, stir and pour the mix into a slightly moistened mold (a smooth pie tin for one, or six ramekins for individual servings). Chill for at least three hours or at most 48. Turn tembleque out of mold(s), sprinkle with cinnamon and serve.

Bok Choy, Carrot and Ginger Soup (just chop and simmer)

25 Oct

This was one of those late-season, gotta use up some veggies because tomorrow is another C.S.A. pick up, type of recipes that came together so quickly and made everyone so happy that I have to share it, even though it is embarrassingly easy and yes, I used a stock cube because I was out of chicken stock and my found veggie stocks didn’t seem the right flavor for this.

My parents went wild for this delicate soup.

My parents went wild for this delicate soup.

Bok Choy (Brassica rapa, Chinensis group) is also called chinese white cabbage and pak toi or variations thereof. There are also different varieties within this group; the one we get from Restoration Farm has kind of a bulb-like bottom (like fennel), wide stalks like chard, and green leaves like wings on either side. Look for firm yet tender stems and glossy, spot-free leaves. It is very versatile for salad, fried rice, stir fry and the like.

We loved this soup because it was so delicate and yet clearly expressed the flavors of the vegetables, the ginger, and the sesame oil. You can remove the ginger slices if you like; we didn’t. A couple of shrimp or shredded beef would not go astray here either! Done in a flash and ever so delicious!

I find this bok choy soup kind of pretty!

I find this bok choy soup kind of pretty!

Bok Choy Carrot and Ginger Soup (serves 4 as an appetizer; 2 as a very light main course)

4 Cups chicken or vegetable stock (or a stock cube and 4 Cups water)

1 knob ginger, roughly peeled and sliced in thin rounds

1-2 heads bok choy, bottom sliced off, separated and carefully washed*

½ Cup onion, sliced into half moons

2-3 carrots, peeled and sliced on the bias

¼-1/2 tsp sesame oil

½ – 1 tsp soy sauce (low sodium, if using commercial stock)

Place all ingredients in a soup pot. Add liquid to cover, if necessary. Bring just to a boil, lower heat immediately and simmer until vegetables are tender.

*My mom prefers the bok choy sliced smaller, but my dad and I like it whole. My son thinks it’s a joke that we would even suggest he try it.

Garbanzo (Chick Pea) Salad with Tahini, Black Olives and Sun-Dried Tomatoes

13 Aug

I love garbanzos (chick peas, ceci) in all different ways, but especially as a salad or salad topper. They add meatiness and texture to everything and taste great with loads of garlic and onions.

Also, very versatile...

Also, very versatile…

Here is a quick and easy salad that uses up the bits and bobs you have in your fridge. When I make this kind of salad, I feel as though I am just giving it everything I’ve got; you’ll notice that the quantities of each ingredient can vary to your taste and availability. We’ll be having this one tonight with cold leftover chicken, perhaps some marinated artichoke hearts, an olive assortment, some pistachios and clementines. Delicious light dinner!

A worthy accompaniment to summer meals

A worthy accompaniment to summer meals

Garbanzo Salad with Tahini, Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Olives

2-3 Tbs extra-virgin olive oil

½ – 1 tsp apple cider vinegar

Juice of half a lemon

1-1 Tbs tahini

Pinch salt

1 Tbs garlic, minced

2 Cup garbanzos (soaked or from a can)

¼ Cup onion, chopped fine        

¼ Cup green pepper, chopped fine

2 Tbs sun-dried tomatoes, diced

1-2 Tbs pitted black olives, sliced

1 Tbs fresh parsley, chopped

In a serving bowl, whisk the olive oil, vinegar, and lemon juice, until smooth. Stir in tahini until smooth, then a bit of salt. Add remaining ingredients and mix well, adding additional salt if desired. Serve over salad greens or rice.

Georgia Kalamidas’ Purslane Salad (Another weed made useful!)

12 Aug

We were a bit bemused to find this thick-leaved rubbery-stemmed plant called purslane (Portulaca oleracea) in our pick-up and completely unsure of how to use it. It seemed to be the exception to the CSA rule of thumb: “When in doubt, saute in garlic and oil.” What to do?

Purslane is a succulent. those fat leaves hold water during drought.

Purslane is a succulent. those fat leaves hold water during drought.

Fortunately, our Restoration Farm grower Caroline Fanning provided a recipe from someone I think is another another member, Georgia Kalamidas (duly credited here) and the Internet provided more info on what this thing is. Apparently, some folks think it is a beautiful edible ornamental. Others think it is a weedy, resilient pain the gardener’s ass.

University of Illinois Extenson educator, Sandra Mason in a very funny and informative piece called “Purslane: Weed it or Eat it?”  discusses the relative merits of purslane in the garden. For example: “Purslane is an annual reproducing from seeds and from stem pieces. Seeds of purslane have been known to stay viable for 40 years in the soil. You may find that fact either depressing or exciting.”

Use it or lose it. One day after pick-up this needed using

Use it or lose it. One day after pick-up this needed using

The edible nature of this useful weed is another story. In young plants you can use the stem. My pick-up partners, Lori and John, and I tasted the stems and were not impressed. So we removed the leaves (it takes a while, so factor in time for that), rinsed thoroughly (purslane generally grows close to the ground) and followed Georgia’s recipe. The purslane is a bit like watercress without the nuttiness, and a bit like parsley but milder. In fact, you could substitute either in this salad, which was absolutely refreshing and delicious, with a lot of brightness and crunch. And by the way, you can apparently saute it in garlic (the rule stands!), and also in soups, but don’t cook it too long or it will become mucilaginous (slimy, like okra). Also, next time I might substitute oregano for the mint and add feta. Click for basic recipe! Continue reading

Hibiscus Mint Iced Tea Lemonade

7 Aug

I am so glad to be back!

There she is! Will find that contact info soon!

There she is! Will find that contact info soon!

We were just in Puerto Rico for a month, which was fantastic and wonderful (especially for my son’s Spanish; he spent his days at a summer camp fending for himself  and emerging victorious!). But for those of us sitting home with nothing but fans blowing hot air around while he frolicked in the pool, it was ridiculously hot.

Putting it together was easy!

Putting it together was easy!

We headed for Rincón’s Famer’s Market a couple of Sundays (Rincón is higher elevation where it is not beachfront, so it is cooler), and we found a young lady selling iced teas…with a twist (now I can’t find her card or I would tell you who she is…).

How pretty is that?

How pretty is that?

Leandro fell in love with the Hibiscus-Mint Iced Tea Lemonade which she said is very popular for kids’ parties. So, of course I had to recreate it at home and I too emerged victorious. This stuff is super-refreshing and delicious, has no caffeine and looks beautiful. I used agave nectar, so I didn’t even have to fuss with sugar syrup….You could try honey too!

 

So refreshing!

So refreshing!

Hibiscus Mint Iced Tea Lemonade

6 Cups hibiscus tea, cooled (I used Tazo’s Passion – 5 teabags to 6 Cups hot water, then steeped for ten minutes)

½ generous Cup fresh-squeezed lemon juice (strained to remove seeds and pulp)

¾ Cup agave nectar (you could also make a simple sugar syrup and start with 1/2 Cup)

Several sprigs mint and 1 Tbs chopped mint

Mix all the ingredients in a large pitcher until blended. Remove mint sprigs, stir in chopped mint and serve over ice, with additional sprigs of mint for garnish, if desired.

 

20 Summer Tomato Recipes and Techniques (including rescuing and freezing!)

31 Jul

Here it is finally, a round-up of recipes for using summer tomatoes, including rescuing tomatoes past their prime and processing for freezing (without the trouble of canning!). Bookmark this one….

1. The Easiest of All: Chopped Tomato Sauce

Light and beautiful, any kind of tomatoes will do, as long as they are garden fresh!

Light and beautiful, any kind of tomatoes will do, as long as they are garden fresh!

2. Speedy Bruschetta (great for using up tomatoes past their prime salad days)

A lovely way to start a meal (or grate some cheese over and call it a movie snack)

A lovely way to start a meal (or grate some cheese over and call it a movie snack)

3. Pan-Roasted Cherry, Grape or Sungold Tomatoes (Oil-Free options and another way to use up those minis gone soft)

4. Grilled Cherry Tomato Salad or Burger Topper

This recipe has terrible photos so I am not using them here, but great flavor.

This recipe has terrible photos so I am not using them here, but great flavor. Try it!

5. Roasted Plum Tomatoes with Garlic and Basil

Bung these in the oven while roasting other veggies!

Bung these in the oven while roasting other veggies!

6. Spanish-style Stuffed Tomatoes

Stuffed Tomatoes!

Stuffed Tomatoes!

7. Provencal Vegetable Tian (baked layered summer veggies with olives)

Assembly is easy on this vegetable tian

Assembly is easy on this vegetable tian

By the time it came out of the oven, my natural light was gone...but you get the idea.

By the time it came out of the oven, my natural light was gone…but you get the idea.

 

8. Marinated Mini-Mozzarella Balls

Perfect for a summer BBQ or buffet (and big savings over the pre-marinated from the Italian deli

Perfect for a summer BBQ or buffet (and big savings over the pre-marinated from the Italian deli

 9. Classic Criollo Tomato and Avocado Salad

The go-to side for spicy, salty, strong-flavored creole cooking

The go-to side for spicy, salty, strong-flavored creole cooking

 10. Cannellini and Tomato Salad (no cook)

Add crusty bread and you've got yourself a no-cook hearty cool meal!

Add crusty bread and you’ve got yourself a no-cook hearty cool meal!

11. Pan-Roasted Tomato and Tomatillo Salsa (fat-free)

Pretty all the way from start to finish

Pretty all the way from start to finish

2012-08-26 04.56.47 tomato tomatillo

12. Oven Charred Tomatillo and Tomato Salsa

Oven Charred...Yum

Oven Charred…Yum

Next page: Bisque; Watermelon Feta and Tomato Salad, AND several ways to preserve tomatoes by freezing!

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Sangría Tropical (and rainforest paradise pictures)

27 Jul

When the heat gets tropical, so should the drinks.

View from Noelia's where you can sit out on the deck and chat while waiting for dinner

View from Noelia’s where you can sit out on the deck and chat while waiting for dinner. See rapidly disappearing sangría in my mom’s hand

On a recent trip to the mountains of Puerto Rico, I was inspired by a wonderfully cooling and exotic sangría I had up around and about El Yumque (Caribbean National Forest, the only tropical rainforest in the U.S. Forest Service  system) at Noelia’s, recommended to us by Matthew at our hotel, Casa Cubuy EcoLodge — which is simple and wonderful and part of the rainforest.

An eclectic and friendly joint, with loads of Puerto Rico memorabilia and drums!

Noelia’s is an eclectic and friendly joint, with loads of Puerto Rico memorabilia and drums!

Your balcony looks out on the mountain, with walks to several rivers and waterfalls right out the back door.

View from the balcony at Casa Cubuy

View from the balcony at Casa Cubuy

It was a wonderful night with a local couple and Noelia herself telling us tales of their region and showing up the island of Vieques in the distance, spotting palomas sabaneras (an indigenous and endangered bird) in the trees, coqui frogs in the kitchen keeping Noelia company, eating garlicky mofongo and seafood from the nearby coast (the little guy sucking on the bones of his delicious fried chicken).

Noelia herself!

Noelia herself!

moonshine!

moonshine!

There’s moonshine up in those mountains and we brought some of that home too, but I am not revealing my sources. Note that our moonshine is a potent cane rum, best mellowed with local flavors like coconut and passionfruit.

A boy's paradise

A boy’s paradise

So when I got back to sea level, it was clearly time to enjoy some of that flavor and bring back the cool of the high hills. I used a couple of tablespoons of moonshine, but I offer worthy substitutions in the recipe. Continue reading

Beets: A Variety Pack of Easy and Delicious Techniques

21 Jul

Beets are popping up in CSA boxes, farmer’s markets and gardens (except mine, because I haven’t planted any this year since I wasn’t going to be consistently available to thin and tend them).  I never liked them as a kid, because when I was a kid they only came out of a can and were floppy and disgusting! Today I know better and I love them.

David and Goliath

David and Goliath

They are available year-round and store well, but are really a cool season crop. Grilled, roasted, boiled, or steamed…there are many ways  to skin this veg. We usually keep one around to grate raw onto salads for extra crunch, flavor, and color, paring just enough to grate some off the bulb and then sticking it back in the fridge.

Rinsing the beets

Rinsing the beets

Any vegetable that colorful has to be good for you and beets prove the rule. They contain phytonutrients called betalains which are supposed to be rich in anti-oxidants and have anti-inflammatory properties (for more on the healthful properties of beets, click here) , so eating them is a good thing. And they are very sweet, which is also a good thing, because they stand up to a lot of interesting flavors. THE GREEN ARE EDIBLE AND DELICIOUS so make the most out of your purchase following the instructions below, or try out one of the easy-peasy recipes here.

Beets are available year-round, but are best from June to October and that's when the beet greens are best too!

Beets are available year-round, but are best from June to October and that’s when the beet greens are best too!

For advice from Cornell on growing your own, go here.

BASIC PREP

Trim off the greens about an inch from the actual beet. You can eat them and they should be used within a day or two, taking out larger ribs before cooking. They can be used like most other leafy greens.

The unwashed beet roots will last about three weeks in the fridge. To use, scrub gently and do not remove the root. Do not peel before cooking. You can wrap in foil and roast at 400°F for 1-1.5 hours or simmer in salted boiling water for 30 minutes to 1.5 hours. Another option is to steam in a vegetable steamer for 30-45 minutes. the beets are done when a fork goes easily through the center. The skins will come off easily and should be removed while the beets are still warm. Use kitchen gloves or put your hands in plastic bags to handle them, as they will stain*. Flavor affinities include goat cheese, tarragon, herring and ham.

Zesty Orange Beet Salad with Beet Greens

El amor entra por los ojos -- This dish is love at first sight!

El amor entra por los ojos — This dish is love at first sight!

 USE THOSE BEETS GREENS! 

How to select, store and saute these excellent greens that come attached to your beets!

I like to mash mine into bolied yuca or boiled potato with olive oil...and that's just what I did after taking this photo.

I like to mash mine into bolied yuca or boiled potato with olive oil…and that’s just what I did after taking this photo.

Grilled Beets (No Oven Required)

Roasted Beets with Goat Cheese and Walnuts (or feta)

Roasted Beets with Feta and Walnuts

Roasted Beets with Goat Cheese and Walnuts

Golden Beets (sauteed with garlic and parsley)

Golden Beets, sauteed

Golden Beets, sauteed

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tostones de Panapén (Fried Breadfruit Disks)

16 Jul

When they talk about flakes of manna falling from the sky, I am sure they are talking about tostones de panapén.

Chunks browned lightly

Chunks browned lightly

Panapén or pana is what Puerto Ricans call breadfruit. The back story of how breadfruit got to the West Indies from South East Asia is actually one of the most famous seafaring tales around: The Mutiny on the Bounty.

The LeBron Brothers are the guys in the Plaza de Mercado de Mayagüez (where my great-grandfather had a booth in the early 1900s) who supply me with the good stuff, already peeled and pared!

The LeBron Brothers are the guys in the Plaza de Mercado de Mayagüez (where my great-grandfather brought his produce and my great-uncle had a booth in the early 1900s) who supply me with the good stuff, already peeled and pared!

Captain Bligh, on that ill-fated trip was trying to bring breadfruit to plant in the  Caribbean for cheap slave food.

Wikipedia image

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