Thursday, February 28, 2008

Pigeon Peas

A caribbean staple that does wonders.
Steamed, in rice, in stew, with coconut, "a la vinagreta", in fritters or in hummus.
I just had a huge meal at a Dominican restaurant (El Merengue)160 Blue Hill Ave. Roxbury MA.
Celebrated with a friend the independence of his country from Haiti.
I am so stuffed I can not sit down and write for long but I promise the recipes will follow.
BTW... They are easy to find in almost all supermarkets under the Goya Products.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Sweet no more... Savory Dumplings.

1 cup
Sifted Chick Pea Flour
1 teaspoon
Baking Powder
1/4 Cup
Boiled Pumpkin
4 Whole eggs
Dash of nutmeg
Dash of Cayenne Pepper
or Paprika (Less Heat)
Dash of salt
1/4 Cup of Boiled Cauliflower
1/8 Cup of Tarragon, Chives and Cilantro Chopped.
4 oz. of Luke warm water.
4 Tablespoon of oil or Ghee (Clarified Butter)

Make two batters
1. Runny Batter:
One egg White and 3 yolks
1/4 Cup of Flour
Let sit aside on a bowl

2. Solid Batter:
One Whole Egg
and the remaining egg Whites Beaten to soft peaks
Mix in a Bowl Dry Ingredients
Herbs, Flour, Salt, Paprika, Baking Powder
Add the Ghee and the whole egg
Fold the egg whites
Drain the Pumpkin and the Cauliflower and squeeze dry
Fold in the vegetables
You should have a batter that can be rolled into little balls.
If too wet add flour if too dry add some Ghee.

In a deep pan heat corn oil enough to float your dumplings
After rolling all the batter into balls (Do not make them too thick)
Let them rest for one hour under a damp cloth at room temperature.
Dip in the runny batter
and drop to fry in the pan.
Balls that are too thick may not cook through.
Balls that are too small will separate.

Enjoy with tamarind Sauce or Yogurt.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Say Cheese!

Ah! Cheese cake
Childhood memories of happier times.

Silvia's Cheesecake

3 packages of Cream Cheese
4 eggs
3 Half pint Containers of Sour Cream
Graham Crackers (or Maria Crackers)
1.5 Tablespoons of Butter
1 cup Sugar
Vanilla Extract

Separate eggs
Beat in low speed the cheese and 3/4 cup of sugar
add one yolk at the time
add 1.5 Teaspoons of Vanilla Extarct and continue to beat.

Prepare a mold spring or otherwise by covering the inside with butter
Layer a crust of crumbled cookies and butter on the bottom.

Beat the egg whites to a Merengue (Soft peaks)
Fold these egg whites whipping the first wet mixture,
incorporating the merengue gradually as you fold the batter.
DO NOT beat or you will loose the air and end with a flat dense cake.
Pre heat oven 350ยบ
bake 20 min keep checking for firmess

Beat Sour Cream, Remaining Sugar and Vanilla
pour over top of the cake and return to oven
5 min.
take out and let cool.
Serve refrigerated.

I like to serve it with Dark Chocolate Covered Lemon Leafs as a garnish.

Make Dark bitter chocolate Ganache melting it very slowly in water bath.
Carefully as not to incorporate any of the water it will ruin the whole Ganache.
Use fresh lemon leaves when and were available. May use Bay leaves but cover them first in a thin layer of Lemon Essence and Butter. Lemon leaves naturally release their oils and essence as the warm chocolate covers them molding to each vein and creating a copy of the leave in the process. Once cooled separate the leaves and use the chocolate leafs as decorations.

You can also choose to do a sweeter milk chocolate ganache and cover the whole cake, drawing patterns by drippings of white chocolate!

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Bored of Koolaid then TEPACHE...

I am not insulting you, I swear!
Tepache is a fermented mexican drink based on Pineapple remains.

Is simple but it may take several days to accomplish.

Here it is:
One large Pineapple (NO Cans)
Cut and save the rinds and core of your Pineapple.
Use the Flesh for any other recipe.
Place in a large Pitcher full of cold water
Add a cup of sugar
Leave outside at room temperature overnight.
Next morning you should see tiny bubbles appear.
Stir and place in the refrigerator to slow down the fermentation
Keep for 4 days
At end of 4th day or so add more sugar
remove all vegetable matter and stir
Skim the top foam.
Add fresh water and enjoy very cold
This is a pro-biotic food
It's Alive!
This Pineapple Cider is great in the summer as it is very refreshing.
You may speed things along by adding some beer.
Traditionally Mexicans use Piloncillo (Brown Sugar) and Cinnamon.
It is commonly made in Taquerias and Puestos, even in jail houses as an alternative to alcohol...
And yes it does contain traces of alcohol, after all it is fermented.
Perfect to settle upset stomachs and perfect with a spring of mint.
Photos from:

Made for TV... Tv Dinner

Making my lunch bags for the rest of the week has turned into quite an adventure as of lately.
Roumaging through my refrigerator to find out what is left to cook or what is left to refurbish.

I decided that, "since cooking has become a chore and less and less time can be dedicated to it", I have to go Industrial.
Looking through the refrigerator to figure out what packs and freezes well enough to create my six to seven ready to eat meals for the work week.

Fried food is not good when it comes to microwaves, green vegetables are a must and protein (in my case from two sources animal and vegetable) and last but not least taste.

What freezing, thawing, cooking, microwaving and transporting can do to your food is a science on its own. But for a small kitchen guy discovering the what's and how's of making your own "TV Dinners" is proving to be daunting.

So even though this post has no recipes to share in my part.
I can share one thing and that is the principles of TV Dinners
1. Separate: Trays have covers and compartments to allow the cooking of either wet items from spilling over to your cherry cobbler or/and to create separate cooking environments as hits items may cook or need to be served at different temperatures.
2. Cover: Plastic sheets, films and or lids create the means to control your foods future cooking mainly by trapping it's own steam. Never mind the fact that they keep your office microwave and lunch bag clean.
3. Food: Food items should be considered for their qualities to freeze, thaw and reconstitute. It is ideal that you consider slightly undercooking your food items as they will be microwaved turning a once tender roast into a rubber ball. Foods that contain gluten or wheat in a dough form do not microwave very well, again turning into rubber as they cool and into brick once they are served. Bread items are not a good idea, sandwiches turn soggy and loose their crust, crunch and to me even flavor.
4. Steam: Vegetables that are high in water contents are better left just blanched and very raw. Freezing will break down their cellular structure and many times more water will be released from them once they are microwaved. Blanching them in scalding hot water and inmediatly in a cold ice water bath releases and reseals the nutrients with in the veggie allowing them t remain there until you microwave.
5. Transportation: Select your container carefully, melting styrofoam and other polysterines can release dangerous chemicals, and though they are marketed as insulating that does not mean heat resistant.
6. Temperature: The higher the sugar and fat contents of a food the greater amount of heat it releases when cooked. (The principles behind that famous dieter's measurement (THE CALORIES).
7. Flavor: Most if not all TV dinner items have a sauce involved in it. Again sauces are a way to retain the flavor, to protect certain items from freeze burn and to distribute heat. Meats cooked in a sauce retain moisture and tenderness. Pastas on the other hand can be doomed if cooked in their sauce, therefore what would have been an "Al Dente" pasta can turn into sauce and glue. Remember the food items will continue to cook so time your pasta to be undercooked so that the sauce can take over once in the microwave.
8. Fresh: Salads are a fresh as it gets right? Well not if you transport them with a dressing on. Separate dressings and treat vegetables and fruits that turn brown before packaging. Bananas, Avocados, Apples, Pears and Peaches can turn black, mushy and unappetizing in many instances as with the avocado changing the flavor to a slight bitterness. Wash with lemon or lime juice all cut fruits. If they are turned into dips or sauces skim the surface oxygen by pouring a thin even layer of olive oil.
That is part of the reasons behind the syrup in those colorful and tasteless fruit cocktails.

Check this story about the origins of TV Dinners:

Saturday, February 16, 2008

But baby it is cold outside!

Stay at Home Chicken Soup

Water lots
2 lb. Dark meat chicken cuts w bones
Bunch of Cilantro (Coriander)
3 leaves of Culantro (Long Leaf Coriander)
2 large onions chopped
3 Cloves of Garlic
Salt to taste
Two Bullion Cubes

Boil it all until reduced by half.
May add Ginger and Lemon Grass
and serve with Thai Basil, Bean Sprouts and Lime wedges
(Basic Vietnamese Pho)

You can find all the ingredients fresh in a Chinese supermarket...just stay clear of the fish and live els section.
or go online see the resources column.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Happy V.D.

V.D. Valentines day/V.D. Venereal Disease...Humm Coincidence?
Well while we ponder that thought. Here is a love potion.

Love Potion #3

Passion Fruit Sorbet,
Pineapple Mint Granizo
and Rose Ice Cream

Use the juice of a passion fruit strained (Powerfull stuff)
Use only 16 onz to make a 2 pints of Sorbet
Egg Whites(9 eggs)

Mix egg whites and froth almost to Merengue
add Passion fruit Juice (As you continue to fold)
add sugar and a pinch of salt (very little)
Spread on a cookie sheet lined with waxed paper.
Freeze for 2 hours
Take frozen mix and churn.

Repeat process use a very riped pineapple otherwise it will be sour
Blend with mint leaves
repeat process with the egg white but use less of them
you may also use unflavored gelatin
place a thicker layer on a cookie sheet with wax paper
mix with shaved ice or freeze in a block and shave it.
Frozen juices can be shaved with a knife be careful though

For the third you need an ice cream maker

1 cup heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
1 cup sugar
5 large egg yolks
1 ½ cups loosely packed, very fragrant old rose petals, washed and spun dry

1) Prepare an ice bath by placing ice cubes in a large, flat-bottomed container that will hold the bowl where the ice cream will be chilled.

2) Place the sugar and the rose petals in a food processor fitted with the metal blade and make paste.

3) Place the heavy cream, milk and sugar paste in a medium sized saucepan and place on medium heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Bring to a simmer and turn off heat.

4) Place the egg yolks in a medium sized bowl. Whisk yolks until light; add the hot liquid slowly, while whisking until the mixture is homogenized. Return liquid to saucepan and cook on medium heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until it reaches a temperature of 180 degrees F. on a candy thermometer or it coats the back of the spoon. Strain the mixture through a fine sieve into a clean container and place in the ice bath. Once completely chilled, freeze in ice cream machine, following the manufacturer’s instructions.


Use the egg yolks remaining from the Sorbet
Boil the cream 2 pints with rose escense or water
about 16 onz. and a small strawberry for color.
reduce the liquid
add sugar
let cool and refrigerate.
Using and ice cream maker
let the mixture churn, add the eggs portions at a time
pinch of salt. You may add pink rose petal
Mind you some ice cream makers require salt in the ice.
But salt in a very small quantity can brighten up a sweet dish.

Serve all three in small scoops, with dry Pistachios or Cardamon sprinkled wafers.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Ughhh what a day

Today was a long and draw out day...But I had a wonderful end to it.
I got to work on a client whom we all love and adore,
to bad he is taken and too bad he is a client and too bad he is the ex of an ex.
Can not wait to finish your case so we can concentrate in our friendship.
I also ended up at an opera recital with the now ex of an ex.
Hum! Recurrent theme here.

Thank you both for a wonderful end to a very hard day.
For you both S and Z : a quick and healthy salad.

Mexican Slaw

Julienne JICAMA (Mexican root vegetable very available in the supermarkets now)
Only the white flesh
Cut pineapple in small chunks
Mince cilantro
Mince Onions (very few and very small)
Julienne Apples
Julienne carrots
Mince Serrano peppers very fine chop no seeds no stems
(Add as much or little as you can take)
Remember hot in hotter out!
2 limes
One small container (4 oz) plain yogurt (Greek preferred)

Cut thin spears of the root vegetables and apples
Soak in the lime juice
Shred the Cilantro leaves and cut the sweet onions
Add the measured amount of cut Serrano pepper ( Smoky but with a great tanginess)
Mince all none root vegetables in a food processor
Add the pineapple chunks and lower the speed of the food processor
Mix with the marinating root vegetables
Add the yogurt to thinly coat not drown the fruits
add a bit of salt

Great stuff after a workout or after a run.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Lasagne, Lasagna...layers to be dough out.

Contrary to many a believe Italian food did not originate with Tomato sauce, as a matter of fact that addition came much later as the trade routes of the Orient and the America's became viable. Actually pasta was also an invention taken from legendary exotic lands. So without tomatoes and pasta, what was Italian food? Roman cuisine was infamous for being the first true fusion cuisine. But their humble beginnings did not differ much from the middle eastern and other such mediterranean cuisines. The recreation of once lost recipes and investigation of gastronomical tendencies of the past is not a dedicated science or history branch. (YET) Lets call it "Archeogastronomy"

Given the historical importance of a trade, invasion and all such events is rare to see the lack of attention given to the role of food in history.

How about taking a trip in time to find out when, how and were did our lives take a turn for the tasty or for dyspepsia.

Lasangna di tuti

1/8 pound of each of the following cheeses in slices
Mozzarella (Shredded)
Smoked Gouda
Assiago (Shredded)
Parmesan (Shaved)
Romano (Grated)

Sauce 2 cups
Stewed tomatoes
garlic one clove
Tomato paste
Basil (fresh)
2 Cloves (Spice)
1 once club soda
1/4 onion diced
2 ounces olive oil.
6 oz White wine
1/4 lb of ground veal

Saute the onions and garlic until they become transparent (do not brown)
Take dry herbs (Cloves and Oregano) Grind them in a mortar or using the bottom of a cup against a bowl.
Chop Basil finely.
Mix all herbs and grounded veal, saute with the onions
In the skillet pour the tomatoes and the tomato paste
Let simmer with the onions, garlic, veal and oil
add salt to taste ( watch it though the cheeses are salty enough)
as the sauce reduces keep stirring and add wine to taste
to reduce the acidity add bits of the club soda as it reduces.

Boil your pasta sheets in a large pot follow the pasta water instructions.
(bay leaves , olive oil and salt)
take sheets out as they become pliable "AL Dente"note that any more cooking than this will turn them from "" to play dough.

Start with a deep oven mold (about 4 inches deep)
first layer should be pasta
second should be a little sauce and a binder cheese (Suisse, Provolone or Mozzarella)
Follow each layer with enough sauce to taste it not to bathe it and two cheeses usually it works best if it is one sliced and another of the shredded, grated or runny ones
Because Mozzarella and Suisse cheese are glue like when melted they are good binders.
Provolone is less adhesive but it make for a good pasta substitute in thin layers or gaps
Finally the mixer cheeses that grated or shaved make a great salty addition (Parmesan and Manchego)
balance them with some Cottage Cheese mixed in.
Gouda and Assiago make strong flavored layers and are perfect for the last layer they also brown nicely
I save the bay leaves from the pasta water and use them as a tasty garnish covering them with a bit of any cheese specially the ones that broil nicely and broil them at the top of my lasagna to eat the crisp cheese skin right off the leaves that though not edible in their dry state they do transfer a wonderful taste to the broiled cheeses.

bake at 325 degrees for half hour =give or take. broil for the last 2-5 min depending on your oven.
serve and go to town in your own archeological dig, and ponder the question were did this all came from.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Layers, layers.

Layering dishes...I had a conversation in the office the other day about the different dishes that use layering. We are a very international staff group so the talk became very interesting very soon. Lasagna, Pasticchio, Pionos, Enchiladas Suizas, Pastelon , Moussaka and Sheepard's Pie.

Principles of layering, and what you put in between, came a bout; from Eggplant to plantains any vegetable can become a slice of savory cake.

I am too tired to write all the recipes tonight but I promise to have them up soon.

Basics are binders, frameworks and toppings keep that in mind as they are engineering fits of the common "culinaria".

Check out my buddy's site :

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Can't even boil water!

Water abundant yet scarce, common yet precious and vital yet destructive.
Basic skills require that boiling be a must do in the kitchen.
So lets review this basic skill.

Water fact sheet:

Boils at a 100 degrees C
Freezes at 0 degrees C
Anything in between is... well water
Boiling depends not on the water but on what is in the water.

Pasta water (Add oil, salt and bay leaves)
Better to bring it to a boil first then add the pasta.
do not boil the hell out of it, take the pasta out while it is still a little hard
but the shape of the pasta is flexible enough to bounce back when scooped up.
Save the pasta for later at this stage you can dip in same water boiling just before serving.
Water is a good heat conductor and infiltrates the pasta therefore it continues to cook after removed from the pot.

The incredible edible egg.
Boiled Soft or hard...
Eggs have a gas chamber inside letting escape small amounts of sulfur from the yolk (hence the egg smell).
You can prick a pin hole at either end of the egg and drop in the water.
Unlike pasta is better to drop the egg while the water is still cool. As it boils and the temperature raises the gas will escape the egg leaving a better tasting soft boil and a perfectly yellow non smelly hard boil. I use a thumb tack for that.
If you drop the egg into already boiling water the rapid cooking of the outer layer of Albumin (Egg White Protein) will harden before the rest and again trap the stinky gas in the remainder egg white. Never mind the fact that Murphy's law's apply...If you are going to drop an egg into boiling water chances are you will end up with a cracked leaky egg...(Aka Egg Drop Soup)
Water again becomes very useful as a dip in cold water before peeling the shell of the egg allows for shrinkage ( We guys know all about it) That shrinkage allows the layer of shell and membrane beneath it to separate allowing you to crack the egg top to spoon a soft boil or the whole shell to peel the hard boil ones. cant time your eggs...Well if it spins without wabbling (the egg that is not your head) then the center is solid...If it is still uncooked and semi liquid the egg will wabble as it spins since the center of gravity will move with the swiching soft center.

Water for tea:

One word (BREW)
Boil water and pour into a cup that alreday has the tea bag
(Tea Bag Hahaha Beavers and ButtHead)
A tea bag that becomes wet as it sits in the cup is less likely to trap air and float up.
Tea in a stariner...ughhhh fancy well let it steep
Tanins will overwhealm your flavors and release too many acids leaving the brew well like toilet bowl cleaner ready to strip your stomach lyning.

Weak herbal teas on the contrary should be boiled close to the time of serving. As steeping may not get enough goodness out of it. Highly volatile or aromatic herbal teas are better off steeping in bags inside your cup (Lemon verbena or Thai Lemon grass)

Sun tea brewed over time left on a window sill...Well hippy chicky do rose buds and hibiscus works better for this. Mild iced tea mixes as brisk, black tea and jasmine tea work best.

Water for soup...Easy....Dump ingredients, turn dial and let your inner Irish Maiden boil the shit out of the whole thing.
Potatoes, Cabbage, Sprouts and CauliFlower same boil until soft (tender soft not disintegrate soft)
Potatoes and root vegetables...until a fork can pierce them
Cabage..depending...By the way this is another stinker...boil the water with a little will take longer to boil but is well worth it.
Broccoli well just drop onto the already boiling water and take out as they turn bright green place in ice water inmediatly and the green should become even brighter.
Boiling Cauliflower...depending on the use: soft to use as ingredient and slightly harder as a side dish.

Friday, February 1, 2008


Now children there comes a time in any business or life endeavor when we need to "grow up"...AKA Eat Dudu and swallow. And believe me as a proud member of a profession with the highest reported suicide rate I feel somewhat entitled to rant and lecture about stress. I have as sunny a disposition as I can muster and many times the big assimilating machine of grown up society punishes me for being ...well, different.
For all or you public service professionals (government clerks) and customer services representatives; for all of you auditors, solicitors and collectors. Lets have a bite of the "chill pie" shall we.
Photo from

Chill Pie
Aka: Poor Man's Charlotte
1 cup Water
1/4 lb Linden tea (Or collect the clean flowers off the many trees that line Boston quaint streets)(4 tea bags)
Three or four (Hibiscus) Jamaica Flower Buds (Dry)(Two Tea bags)
You may use the equivalent in tea bags as is more readily available.
Boil do not brew this tea (dark) as it will be used for a sauce.
Couple of Teaspoons of Rose Water (Syrian Stores)(Save for last)
Strain and Reduce the liquid to 1/2 cup
Sugar Refined one table spoon
Add Sugar and keep reducing to 1/4 Cup
(Adult Cool Aid)
1 package of Kosher Gelatin (Unflavored)
Graham Crackers Ready Crust
OR Make your own with Crumble Graham Crackers and cold "Marje-uan" Butter -(follow the lead of the South Park Social Worker) For extra soothing effect (Unless you get drug tested at work... same as poppy seeds dear, stay clear of them)

Bake crust using a double mold, line the first mold with the butter including the sides and line the bottom of the second mold with butter or non stick spray, weight the second mold with a brick place the bottom of the weighted mold over the crust "Nesting the two molds. Bake for 4 minutes at 350 degrees (watch it if it browns it means is just time it) and let cool off completely before separating. Darn just buy the crust!
1/4 Lb Sliced Strawberries
1 large tub of Ready Whip (Cool Whip)or Whipped Cream (Cream Chantilly)
1 Cup of Yogurt (Strawberry)(I prefer Greek Strained Yogurt with macerated strawberries for consistency)(Any commercial yogurt can do too0
Add the Rose water slowly and check for consistency.
Different yogurts and using Whipped cream
can significantly make your filler very runny.
Mix in a bowl to a fluff while cold.
Pour into the cooled crust.

Refrigerate pie for several hours until firm.
Cover the filler top and decorate with a layer of sliced strawberries

MEAN WHILE BACK AT THE FAT FARM..I mean at the stove
(Hum Flash Back)
Make a syrup ...oh you already did..ha is it not wonderful!
Well that tea thing should be a little thicker by now as it cooled down and thickened into a syrup..not there well boil away dear..boil away.
Mix the gelatin as instructed in the package
(I get always confused with the hot and the cold liquids thing)
So just dump it in the saucer and stir away the lumps.
(Ah quite a life metaphor)
You should have a Cherry Pie looking clear red syrup.
Let cool a little and pour over Strawberries layer chilled pie
Return to Cooler (NOT FRIDGE)Unless it still somewhat runny and your guess are pulling at your apron!
Serve cold