Thursday, March 27, 2008

Meal of the Week #3

Last week I shared breakfast for my meal of the week, so this week I am presenting a dinner. We actually ate this dinner last week, but I am feeling motivated to show this taco meal after last evening's episode of Top Chef. On the show the guest judge, Chef Rick Bayless, challenged everyone to make upscale tacos. Several of the contestants were not happy about it, one whined loudly saying that Mexican food is not gourmet. I'm not claiming that my tacos are upscale or gourmet, I'm just saying that tacos can be made with anything, so to me the challenge was really not a stretch.

We have been on an habanero kick since returning from Yucatan. Asparagus is not ordinarily eaten with habanero. In fact, my Mexican mother-in-law had the first asparagus of her life only a few weeks ago. But, that didn't stop us from pairing the two. A lot of the tacos that DH and I eat are not what the typical American or even a typical Yucatecan would eat as a taco. Tacos work very well with fusions of many different cuisines.

I roasted asparagus with white onion, garlic cloves and shitake mushrooms that had been lightly coated with olive oil and very simply seasoned with salt and pepper. In the same roasting pan, I added two slices of tofu that I liberally coated with some homemade salsa de chile ancho. It didn't take long to roast in a hot oven of about 400 degrees F. I stirred the vegetables and flipped the tofu after about 5 to 10 minutes, then they cooked only a short time more.

We made homemade corn tortillas and then served the roasted tofu and veggies with refried black beans, lime wedges and two different habanero salsas. We sprinkled everything with lime juice and each taco we made had a different combination of the ingredients.

Summary of Meal:

protein: black beans, tofu, and corn tortillas
whole grain: corn tortillas
dairy: none
fruits/vegetables: onion, mushroom, asparagus, chiles, limes
fats/sugars: minor use of olive oil

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Tomatoes with Dijon Vinaigrette

I have to admit it. The only reason I am posting this recipe is because I want to share these photos I took of this tomato salad. The lighting was hitting the bowl so nicely, and I ended up taking scores of photos; so many that it was hard to chose which were my favorites!

So here are a few of the photos.

Orange is my favorite color, and I really love how many shades of orange I was able to capture and how nicely the orange contrasts with its complimentary color, blue.

So, here is my simple tomato salad.

Tomatoes with Dijon Vinaigrette
salad dressing recipe given to me by my French host sister, Patricia

glob of spicy mustard (Dijon or French Red Hot Pepper Moustarde au Piment d'Espelette)
1 big spoon of vinegar or lemon juice (any vinegar, but red wine or balsamic are very nice)
2 big spoons of extra virgin olive oil
sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
fresh chopped herbs, if desired

Stir together the mustard and vinegar or juice. Then whisk while slowly pouring in the oil to emulsify. Stir in fresh herbs, if desired. Salt and pepper to taste. Let the dressing rest for up to an hour before dressing your salad. After dressing the salad, serve immediately.

If too strong, add more oil. If too weak, add more vinegar.

Note: this dressing is great on many vegetables: shredded carrot salad, corn and pepper salad, tomatoes, lettuce, etc.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Spinach Catalan

I have been thinking about our trip to Barcelona that we took a few years ago, probably because of a book I have been reading set in the Mediterranean. So, here is a dish from the Catalan region of Spain. It's very simple and sweet, chewy but also crunchy. Other greens would also work in place of the spinach, like chard or even kale. For kale, I would recommend steaming it first for several minutes to soften it, instead of blanching it, before sauteing.

Spinach Catalan
adapted from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison

fresh spinach or chard, stems trimmed or removed, leaves blanched,* then gently squeezed or spun to remove excess moisture
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 or 2 large garlic cloves, sliced in large slices
1/3 cup dark or golden raisins or currants
1/3 cup pine nuts
sea salt and freshly ground pepper

1. Coarsely chop the blanched greens, if desired.
2. Warm the oil with the garlic in a wide skillet over medium heat. When the garlic is golden, remove it.
3. Add the raisins and pine nuts to the oil and saute until the raisins are plump and the nuts are golden.
4. Add the greens and the cooked garlic (optional) and gently saute until they are heated through. Salt and pepper to taste.

*For Blanching: Plunge the greens into boiling water. They should be in the boiling water for less than one minute. Then they are removed from the boiling water and are placed in a colander to drain.

Whole Grain Bread Bonanza

DH had a chance this weekend to have a bread baking bonanza! Our house smelled like a bakery, the aromas even carried outside. He made four recipes. Anadama Bread, Whole Wheat Brioche (with chunks of dark chocolate) and Whole Wheat Cinnamon Raisin Bread from Peter Reinhart's new book, Whole Grain Breads. He also made a batch of ciabatta using a recipe we learned at our class at Johnson & Wales. DH added roasted zucchini and sun-dried tomatoes to the ciabatta. I forgot to photograph the Anadama. It was the first loaf he made, and we ate it all weekend. Luckily, I did put some slices in the freezer to enjoy later.

DH used kefir for the soaker in the above Whole Wheat Cinnamon Raisin with Walnuts. He found that the 56 grams of flour called for in the final dough recipe was not enough. The bread is so soft and moist with a very deep flavor. Most of the raisins fell apart during the intense kneading required for the dough, so each bite carries the sweetness of the raisins. The walnuts and cinnamon really shine without overpowering the complexity of the slowly fermented whole wheat dough. DH could have formed the bread into visible cinnamon swirl, but decided against it. It turned out nicely, as each bite has an even balance of all of the flavors.

Above and below are close-ups of the Whole Wheat Brioche. It has a rich buttery flavor and consistency. He cut into chunks a small bar of high-end 85% dark chocolate and added it to the dough. What a decadent treat that was! That is how I ate chocolate when I was in France: a little bite of dark chocolate with a big bite of bread.

It's amazing how sweet, soft and flavorful even brioche can be using no white flour or sugar. DH used agave nectar in place of the sugar in these recipes. I can see why loaves of high quality breads cost so much money here in the States. If we were to sell the brioche, for example, we would have to charge a steep price just to break even for the cost of the ingredients, not to mention the time and energy required. But that is why it is art. I am happy and so very lucky that DH has developed such a passion for bread baking.

Above are some slices of the ciabatta which were eaten with some marinated orange tomatoes and slices of cheese. Simplicity can be divine.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Balanced Breakfasts Food Event

This month there is a food event for Weekend Breakfast Blogging that calls for Balanced Breakfast Meals. To be considered balanced, the guidelines encourage us to use more than one of these four food groups: fruits/vegetables, grains/cereals, dairy, vegetarian proteins.

I am providing four hearty protein-packed vegetarian breakfasts that include all four of the food groups. They are all very easy to make using leftovers, so why wait for the weekend to make these wholesome morning meals?

Number One: Scrambled Eggs with Spinach, Roasted Red Pepper, Mozzarella and Wholegrain Bread

Protein: Eggs, Whole grains in the bread, Cheese
Grains: Whole grain bread
Dairy: Cheese, Butter (on bread)
Fruits/Vegetables: Red Bell Pepper, Spinach

Number Two: Veggie Melt: Wholegrain Toast topped with Tomatoes, Spinach and Cheese

Protein: Cheese, Whole grains in bread
Grains: Whole Grain Bread
Dairy: Cheese
Fruits/Vegetables: Tomatoes, Spinach

Number Three: Enfrijolada topped with Fried Eggs, Onion, Cilantro, and Queso Fresco

To make enfrijoladas: Warm corn tortillas. Warm some refried black beans or pinto beans and thin them out with a bit of water. Dip the tortillas into the beans to coat them completely. Then fold them or roll them. Top them or fill them as shown or with whatever you have on hand. Some suggestions are salsa, chopped tomatoes, cream, jalapeno or serrano chile strips...

Protein: Black beans, eggs, corn in tortillas, cheese
Grains: Corn tortillas
Dairy: Cheese (queso fresco)
Fruits/Vegetables: Onion, Cilantro, Lime juice generously coating everything

Number Four: Moyete with Fried Egg and Grape Tomatoes

Note: Moyetes are slices of bread with refried beans and cheese and sometimes other toppings that are baked in the oven until the cheese melts and the beans warm. Sometimes they also have a tomato sauce or hot chiles, etc.

Protein: Black beans, egg, cheese
Grains: Whole grain bread
Dairy: Cheese
Fruits/Vegetables: Tomatoes, Serrano chiles

Monday, March 17, 2008

Strawberry Oatmeal Squares

Mike of Mike's Table is hosting the Strawberry Seduction food challenge. As a fellow Floridian, I can identify with his story of finding himself with six pounds of ripe Florida strawberries. I myself have not been able to resist buying whole flats of our lesser known winter/early spring fruit. So we have been happily eating strawberries practically every day since around Christmas. Usually we eat them with breakfast, sliced on top of oatmeal or pancakes or stirred into Kefir or yogurt. But we have also had them with many desserts, from tarts to tapioca pudding.

The recipe I share now is for Strawberry Oatmeal Squares, which makes a 9x13 sized yummy dessert or decadent breakfast. The added benefit is that it calls for a separate recipe of Strawberry Sauce. If you have a surplus of strawberries on hand, I recommend making a larger batch of the sauce to have plenty of leftovers to freeze. The leftover Strawberry Sauce can be used as a topping for waffles, pancakes, yogurt, ice cream, etc.

Strawberry Sauce

  • 1 quart of strawberries
  • 1 tablespoon arrowroot or cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon lemon or lime juice
  • agave nectar or sweetener to taste (amount needed will depend on how sweet the berries are and how sweet you want the sauce)

1. Wash and core the berries. Blend in a blender or food processor half of the berries. Set aside. Slice the other half of the berries into big chunks. Set aside.

2. Place 1/4 cup of the puree in a small bowl and stir the arrowroot or cornstarch into it. Place the rest of the pureed strawberries in a saucepan and turn on the heat. Add the cornstarch mixture and stir. Once everything is well combined with no lumps, stir in the sliced strawberries. Sweeten to taste, a tablespoon at a time.

3. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Lower heat a bit, continue stirring, and it should thicken a bit within a minute. Remove from heat. Add the lemon juice and stir. Set aside to cool. What is left of the sauce after making the Oatmeal Squares can be used as a breakfast or ice cream topping.

Strawberry Oatmeal Squares

  • Strawberry Sauce (see above recipe)
  • 10 tablespoons butter, cut into small cubes
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup agave nectar or honey (if you prefer to use granulated sugar, you probably will want to increase amount; the original recipe calls for 1 cup of brown sugar, which I think is way too sweet)

  • 2 cups oats or quick oats
  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup other flour (all purpose or spelt or barley, etc)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

1. Grease a 9x13 pan. Preheat oven to 375 F. Beat the butter until fluffy. Add the sweetener, beat well. Add the vanilla. Beat well.

2. In a separate bowl, combine the dry ingredients (oats, flours, baking soda, salt). Add to the butter mixture, stirring until it resembles a coarse meal. It will be dry, but if it seems way too dry with a lot of the flour left with nothing to hold to, add a tablespoon of warm water.

3. Press half of the oatmeal mixture into the pan. Set the other half of the mixture aside. Bake for about 8 minutes, or until the crust looks puffed.

4. Spread some strawberry sauce evenly over the baked crust. You don't need to use all of the sauce, only what is needed to cover the crust. If you have a lot of fresh strawberries on hand, you could optionally also place some fresh sliced strawberries on top (as pictured above). Then cover the strawberries with the rest of the oatmeal mixture, gently pressing it in place.

5. Bake again, this time for about 15 to 17 minutes, until golden. Cool completely in pan on a wire rack. Cut into squares.

Apple and Spelt Berry Salad

Happy St Patrick's Day! Not that there is anything very Irish about this salad. But, as shown above, it does happen to have a few green ingredients.

Maybe spelt berries are not the most common salad ingredient, but I would like to change that. They are chewy, nutty in flavor, and are a nutritious whole grain. Spelt has been around at least 9 thousand years and is an ancient relative of wheat. Speaking of wheat, you could also use wheat berries or kamut berries or the such for this recipe. Also, if I can't convince you to try spelt berries, but the rest of the salad looks interesting, you could add about a 1/2 cup of chopped nuts as a substitute.

Apple and Spelt Berry Salad
inspired by the deli at Native Sun Natural Foods in Jacksonville, FL

1 cup cooked spelt berries (cooking instructions below)
2 or 3 Granny Smith or green apples, cored and sliced
2 stalks of celery, sliced
1/4 to 1/2 cup dried cherries or cranberries or raisins
1/3 cup plain yogurt or mayonnaise
2 tablespoons cream cheese, ricotta or small curd cottage cheese (to thicken it a bit)
2 tablespoons fresh lime or lemon juice
2 tablespoons honey or agave nectar
1/2 to 1 teaspoon apple pie spice, to taste (apple pie spice is a mixture of cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice)

1. To cook the spelt berries: boil 1 1/2 cups water, then add 1/2 cup uncooked spelt berries. Cover and reduce heat. Simmer for about an hour and a half, until tender. Drain any remaining liquid and cool before adding to the salad. (A tip: make a larger batch and put some in the freezer for a future salad).

2. Make the dressing by whisking together or blending until smooth the yogurt or mayo, the cream cheese, lime juice, and honey. Add some apple pie spice. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.

3. In a large bowl toss the sliced apples, celery, spelt berries and dried cherries with the dressing until everything is coated. Serve immediately or chill first in the refrigerator and then serve.
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Friday, March 14, 2008


Papatzul or Papadzul (I have seen both spellings) is a traditional Mayan dish that has been eaten in the Yucatan since before the arrival of the Europeans. The word itself means "food of the lords." They are commonly referred to is Yucatecan Enchiladas. Basically they are corn tortillas that have been dipped into a salsa de pepita (a sauce made from pumpkin seeds), that are then wrapped around chopped hardboiled eggs. Then they are placed on a plate and are topped with more of the salsa de pepita plus some chiltomate (a salsa made from tomatoes and chiles).

The photo above is an order of papatzules from a restaurant we visited in Merida. The manner the restaurant presented the dish is a bit different from what I have normally seen. Rather than having chopped hard boiled eggs on top of the dish as shown, usually the eggs are only inside the tortillas. Sometimes in addition to being topped with the two sauces, they are also lightly garnished with ground pumpkin seeds. I also have seen people garnish them with chopped cilantro, but I don't find it to be authentic, as there is no cilantro in the dish traditionally. Another thing that they are sometimes garnished with is green pumpkin seed oil, squeezed from toasted pepitas.


3 or 4 ripe tomatoes
2 cups of water or broth
1 or 2 fresh sprigs of epazote or 1 tablespoon dried epazote leaves
1 habanero chile, stem and seeds removed
1 small onion, chopped
2 tablespoons oil, separated

Bring the first four ingredients plus some salt to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Take the tomatoes and habanero out of the broth and set aside. Remove the skin from the tomatoes and discard the skin. Reserve the broth (it will be needed for making the salsa de pepita).

Meanwhile, heat one tablespoon of the oil in a small skillet and saute the onion until soft. Set aside.

Place the cooked tomatoes and sauteed onion in a blender. Heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in a saucepan. Add the pureed tomato mixture and simmer for five minutes, stirring occasionally. Add more salt to taste.

Salsa de Pepita

  • 1 cup of pepitas (green pumpkin seeds), toasted until they puff and turn lightly golden
  • approximately 2 cups of broth flavored with epazote (or broth reserved from above chiltomate recipe)
  • salt

1. Strain the broth reserved from chiltomate recipe.

2. Finely grind the toasted pepitas, using either using a nut grinder or a blender or food processor. Place them in a bowl. Add bit by bit the strained broth, until you have a paste. Place in the blender or food procoessor. Blend or pulse, slowly adding more of the broth, bit by bit, until you get a saucy consistency to your liking. Salt to taste. (You don't necessarily need to use all of the broth).

Papadzules or Papatzules

  • 6 eggs, hard boiled, peeled and chopped
  • up to 12 corn tortillas, heated until they are soft and pliable
  • salsa de pepita, warm or at least room temperature (see above)
  • chiltomate, warm (see above)

Assembly instructions: place the salsa de pepita in a wide, shallow bowl. Dip a warm tortilla in the bowl to coat it with the sauce. Place it on a plate. Put some of the egg down the center of the tortilla, then fold over two opposing edges of the tortilla on top of the egg. Place this bundle on another plate, seam side down. Repeat until you have formed as many as you would like for a serving.

Ladle more of the salsa de pepita over the top of the papatzules. Then ladle on some chiltomate. Serve.

Additional note: instead of using a blender, you could use the more traditional and rustic molcajete (mortar and pestle). See above photo.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Merida en Domingo (Merida on Sundays)

I realized I didn't really share any photos that show a glimpse of what Merida, Yucatan looks like. So here are some photos I took during Merida en Domingo (Merida on Sundays) which is a celebration every weekend. Above is a street vendor selling ice cream in one of squares that participates in the party, Parque Santa Lucia. Nearby was a band playing music to which quite a large group of couples were dancing. In this same park, as well in as in the zocalo (the main big park), there are booths stationed where people sell handicrafts. It was funny, but many streets are closed to cars for this celebration, but nearly everyone still walks on the narrow sidewalks.

Above are booths of handicrafts in the zocalo.

Another thing that happens on Sundays is that on the Pasejo Montejo, which is the grandest boulevard in Merida, the south-bound lane is closed to cars as an invitation to bicyclists and pedestrians. Unlike the streets downtown, people were actually taking advantage of the fact this street was closed for their benefit. Our hotel was on this street,and it was fun watching everyone enjoying themselves. There was a constant stream of people taking advantage of it. There were walkers, bicyclists, runners, even kids on tricycles and Big Wheels. This street closure for pedestrians has been a more recent addition to Merida en Domingo festivities, starting about six years ago. Pictured below.

On Sunday evenings downtown you will find musicians, called Trios, that you can pay to serenade your sweetheart. A Trio in Yucatan will be comprised of three musicians, each more than likely playing their choice of one of these instruments: guitar, requinto, maracas, or bass. They will play for you on the spot or you can hire them to surprise your sweetheart at her window in the middle of the night.

Below you can glimpse some of the variety of architecture and a long standing fixture in Merida, the horse-drawn carriages. They are a tourist attraction, not a standard mode of transportation.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Meal of the Week #1

This is a feature for my blog that I am thinking of attempting for this coming year. I feel like most food blogs post recipes, and that is wonderful, as it is a huge resource even for me, for finding new things to make to eat. But, I think it is also interesting to see what a whole vegetarian meal looks like, in addition to recipes for individual dishes.

Anyway, here is how this meal came together. The above soup is the first thing I made upon returning from our trip to Mexico. I hadn't been to the market yet, so I just did what I sometimes do when I don't have much in the house, I threw together a soup using what I had on hand. We had the soup for lunch with some slices of toasted homemade bread that I found in the freezer. Then the leftovers of the soup became a side dish for the next night's meal, alongside baked barbecue tempeh, brown basmati rice and sauteed greens.

This isn't a recipe, but here is what was in the soup: vegetable broth, olive oil, spring onion (which was also the garnish), garlic, carrots, 1 small potato, 1 very small butternut squash, zipper peas (see below), green peas, datil pepper sauce (see below), dried epazote, a bay leaf or two, and salt and pepper. (If I remember correctly).

I recently bought these zipper peas and hot sauce at a small country store outside of St Augustine. Both are delicious!

Summary of the dinner:

  • Protein: Tempeh, Brown Rice, Potato, 2 kinds of Peas
  • Whole Grain: Brown Rice, Potato
  • Vegetable/Fruit: Swiss Chard, Carrot, Onion, Squash, Potato, Peas
  • Dairy: None
  • Fats/Sugars: Olive Oil

My notes: you can see I was very hungry for a wider variety of proteins after returning from my trip where eggs, black beans and corn had been my only protein sources. I wished I had even more vegetables in the soup, as I was also desperate for vegetables. I made up for it in later meals that week.

Monday, March 10, 2008

You Make My Day Award

As I had reported a few days ago, Lynn of the blog Colorjoy awarded me a You Make My Day Award for blogland happiness. Lynn is the most committed blogger I know, and her blog is so interesting with such a nice variety of subjects. If you aren't into knitting, you will find music or food or art or other topics of interest. So it is an honor to be in her list. So, now I will follow-up and provide a list of a few of the blogs (besides Lynn's of course) that I have found inspirational. Not all of these are vegetarian, and a few are art-related:

  • First, I would like to salute Karma-Free Cooking. Madelyn and I met at a culinary class in Southern Florida almost a year ago. Now that she has a blog too, I have stayed even more connected to her despite our geographic distance. That is priceless! Madelyn's passion for cooking and healthy vegetarian eating is contagious, and that's a good thing!

  • Before I started my own blog, I really hadn't visited many food blogs. Maybe that is strange, but that's how it is! I'm really quite new to the world of blogs in general. But Kitchen Space is one of the food blogs I have followed the longest. Ana truly is happy and friendly, as her profile states!

  • The Great Big Vegetable Challenge is fantastic. I do not have any children, but having 18 nieces and nephews, I am quite impressed by this woman's tenacity at serving her children such a wide array of vegetables. It is truly jaw dropping. I think I was a one of the very rare children that actually always loved vegetables. True story: when I was a child I would pass up dessert, especially if it was pie, to eat all of the leftover veggies...

  • As a big fan of breakfast, Simply Breakfast is a blog I really appreciate. The photography is illuminating. I think of it more as an art journal.

  • This blog is in Spanish, Verduras Para Todos. Many people contribute recipes to the blog, so there is a little of everything, but it is all vegetarian. Reading recipes in Spanish comes second nature to me, as my Mexican mother-in-law has been giving me scores of recipes over the last 15 years. Actually, it was by reading recipes that I first started learning Spanish...

  • Here is another blog with breathtaking photography, Lucy's Kitchen Notebook. Her blog focuses on the Lyon area of France where she has moved from the US with her French husband. I have a soft spot for France in general, having been an exchange student there more than once...

  • This one art-related, and it is one of my favorite blogs, On My Desk. It's a wondrous peek into creative spaces.

  • Maybe this shouldn't count, as it's not a blog technically, but it is similar in concept to the above blog, and I truly love it: It's one of my favorite things on the Internet right now. I can't even begin to add the number of hours I have spent there... And since I otherwise wouldn't have an opportunity to shout about how wonderful this site is, here was my chance!

  • This also is probably not technically a blog, but it at least features glimpses of blogs. I go here just about every day, and that says a lot, as I am truly not a very loyal website follower. There are few websites (are there any except email?) that I visit on a daily basis. I wander back now and then to some sites, but usually not daily. However, I somehow find myself here more days than not: Tastespotting. There are some truly beautiful and also some truly frightening things highlighted there. You never know what you'll see.

  • And, now, for my tenth, I'll go back to listing a real blog. This one is another art-related, and it is also in Spanish. I do not know exactly why, but Ximena Pan enchants me! I even love her name. The attention to detail to each of her collages is amazing. She actually recreates the items in her scenes, makes little dresses out of fabric, etc. Just look, I can't explain it justly. She is the mother of Ximena Maier, who writes the wonderful food blog Lobstersquad (gotta love it: a food blog with drawings!).

Anyway, it was fun putting together this glimpse of where you can often find me out in cyberspace.

Chocolate Spongecake

To celebrate the one year mark of this blog, which is officially today, I present this birthday cake. The recipe is Chocolate Sponge Cake from The New Vegetarian Epicure by Anna Thomas. This cake has so many layers of flavor, it's very tasty! I think a better name for it is Mexican Chocolate Sponge Cake, but probably that is because my cake turned out more Mexican flavored than the original recipe. This is because I used tequila and agave nectar as substitutions for the cognac and sweetener. Normally I try to follow baking recipes as written, but I took LOTS of liberties here, and everything turned out fine.

The reason this recipe sparked my interest in the first place was because it calls for egg whites, and we had egg whites leftover from a Whole Wheat Challah that had called for yolks, which DH made on the same day. (Photo of the Whole Wheat Challah is at the end of this post: it was incredible!)

Chocolate Spongecake
adapted from The New Vegetarian Epicure by Anna Thomas

2 Tbs minced dried apricots plus 1/4 cup raisins, chopped OR reduce amount of sugar/sweetener and use up to 1/2 cup total of minced dried fruits of choice (I used a combo of dried apricots, dried cherries and raisins)
2 Tbs cognac or Tequila (I used Agavero Licor de Tequila)
2 Tbs water
1/2 tsp almond extract OR vanilla extract (I used vanilla)
1 cup flour
2/3 cup Dutch process cocoa
2 tsp espresso powder
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon
pinch of cream of tartar
1 cup plain yogurt (I didn't have any on hand, so I substituted one cup milk with a squirt of fresh lemon juice)
1 1/3 cups packed light brown sugar (In my opinion, this recipe has so much flavor, it doesn't need so much sugar. Just increase the amount of dried fruit, like I did, and then add two generous squeezes of agave nectar and just a bit of granulated sugar: I used no more than 1/3 cup total of sweeteners, omitting a whole cup of the sugar, and didn't miss it at all!)
6 large egg whites, at room temperature
confectioner sugar to decorate after it is has cooked (I omitted this and sprinkled on cinnamon instead)

1. Prepare a nine-inch spring form cake pan (grease it with oil or butter and then dust with flour). Preheat oven to 350F.
2. Combine the minced fruits with the alcohol, water and extract in a small skillet and warm over low heat until the liquid begins to steam. Stir, then set aside to macerate while you prepare the batter.
3. Sift together the dry ingredients, except the sugar. In a large mixing bowl, beat together the yogurt with the sweetener or sugar until smooth. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites until they hold firm, glossy peaks.
4. Stir the macerated fruits and their liquid into the yogurt mixture. Then stir in the dry ingredients. You will have a stiff batter. Mix in about a third of the egg white and stir until it is very thoroughly blended and the batter has loosened. Then gently fold in the remaining whites.
5. Pile the batter carefully into the prepared pan and bake at 350F for about 35 minutes. Test by inserting a toothpick or thin knife near the center; the cake will be done when the toothpick comes out clean.
6. Cool cake in its pan for 10 to 15 minutes, then carefully remove it and let it cool completely on a rack. Dust with confectioner sugar or cinnamon. Serve by itself or with berries or a berry sauce or whipped cream.

(My note: after 35 minutes of baking, I did the test and the toothpick did not come out clean, so I baked an additional 3 minutes and retested, still not clean. But the cake was starting to look dry, especially at the edges. So I tested it by patting the top of the cake with my hand and it felt firm and nicely set, so I stopped cooking it. I was glad I did, as I think it would have dried out too much if I had cooked it longer. I think that it cooked differently because I used some agave nectar: When using agave in baked goods, you are supposed to reduce the amount of other liquid ingredients and sometimes it helps to bake at a lower setting, but I neglected to do both of those. But, the cake was perfectly cooked after it had cooled, so everything worked out great!)

Above, Whole Wheat Challah, using the recipe in Peter Reinhart's Whole Grain Breads.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

News about My Blog

First of all, I should acknowledge the new look for my blog. It is to commemorate a big milestone, the one year anniversary of my blog! I chose this particular photo because not only is orange my favorite color, but also because oranges are in season where I live (Florida). I will probably be playing around more with the look in the upcoming months.

I am really surprised that this blog has been around for a year already, and that I am enjoying it as much as I do. It started out only as a temporary experiment. I am really happy to be able to share and connect with others that I would otherwise not. I have some ideas for the direction I want to take this blog in the upcoming year, but will share more about that later.

Next, I want to share my honor that Lynn of Colorjoy has awarded me the You Make My Day Award! Thank you so much, Lynn! You are bringing lots of new people to my blog, and I love that! And, incidentally, you also make my day!! Yours is the first blog I ever read or followed.

Last but not least, today my kitchen is being highlighted in the Perfect Pantry's Other People's Pantries series. Check it out! Thanks so much to Lydia for coordinating such an interesting effort!

Friday, March 7, 2008

Easy Dates

Sorry for the terrible pun in the title! These dates came from the Mexican state of Sonora and were a gift from DH's brother. He brought them to the family reunion in Merida. They are pitted dates stuffed with toasted pecans. But my goodness they are so scrumptious! I really appreciate this treat for its beautiful simplicity.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Some typical produce in Yucatan

These are a few of the simple things I really savor when I am in the Yucatan, because I cannot find them in easily the States. Above are limes, which are called limones in the Yucatan. Limes are very easy to find in Florida where I live. However, the limones in Yucatan taste so different! I cannot explain it. Lime slices are served with most meals there, something I love, as a splash of lime compliments everything.

Above are a few common types of peppers used in the Yucatan. On the far left are chile xcatic in the middle are chile dulce (these taste similar to the green bell peppers found in the US). On the right is chile habanero. Habaneros are available in Florida too, however, they taste different here and are normally found orange in color here rather than green.

Above is a typical salsa made of habanero chile. This salsa or others or even just diced habaneros are typical garnishes for most dishes in the Yucatan. If the waiter doesn't automatically provide some form of habanero on the side, just ask for some. I absolutely love it in any form. My mother in law (mi suegra) gave me a recipe for salsa de chile habanero and told me I can post in on my blog, so stay tuned. First I have to find some decent habaneros!

Above on the left are naranja agria, bitter oranges. This is used in a lot of marinades and salsas and pickled vegetables in the Yucatan. Above on the right are a type of squash that is grown there. It has a very thin edible skin and is normally boiled in soups or stews. However at an ocean front restaurant, I ordered an ensalada verde (green salad) and what I was served was a plate of slices of boiled squash and chayote (another type of squash which looks like a bright light green pear) with slices of cucumber and tomatoes, and a garnish of lime slices. I was very happy.

Italians have oregano and the French have Herbes de Provence. In the Yucatan it is epazote that gives its dishes its special flavor. Black beans are almost always cooked with epazote.

Above is the plant I avoid when I am in the Yucatan. Chaya. It is a leafy green native to the area that people have been eating for ages. However, it is poisonous. I would not recommend eating chaya in raw form at all. And I also urge caution when trying it cooked. It makes me extremely ill. My mother in law, who has lived her entire life in the Yucatan, also will not eat it, if that says anything! Instead of using chaya in Yucatecan dishes, it can be substituted with kale, spinach or Swiss chard.