Our friend Jess, who is also a native Californian living in the barren Wasteland of Mexican Food that is Boston, recently threw a potluck BASH featuring only Mexican delicacies. There were enchiladas, chile rellenos, pozole, tamales, beans and rice and my contribution to the fiesta - Pastel Tres Leches or Three Milk Cake. I've never made it before, never even eaten it before but I've longed for it for a very long time. Approximately 100 years ago I bought this amazing Mexican cookbook (Mexico The Beautiful Cookbook, Susanna Palazuelos) - it was one of those things you find in the lobby of a Barnes and Noble on sale for, like, a dollar. Its one of the best cookbooks I've ever purchased - the recipes are authentic and the pictures are gorgeous, not only of the delicious food but also of all the regions of Mexico, which is how the book is segmented. There is a Pastel Tres Leches recipe that I have been eyeing since I bought this book and I finally made it - and now I will make it whenever I can. It is a pretty dense cake that gets soaked with a combination of evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk and cream (the tres leches) and topped with a lime meringue. Believe me when I say this cake was refreshing...refreshing! Who ever heard of a refreshing cake? This is it. It isn't too complicated and it was actually pretty fun to make, a nice departure from your standard baking operation. I hope you try it and enjoy it!
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
7 eggs, separated
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 can (12 fl oz) evaporated milk
1 can (14 fl oz) sweetened condensed milk
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup brandy (optional, I didn't use it)
6 egg whites
pinch of salt
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
3/4 cup water
1 1/2 cup sugar
zest of 1 lime
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease and flour a 9 inch spring-form pan. Sift the flour and baking powder together.
In a large bowl, beat the egg whites (I used an electric mixture as the recipe recommended, I'm sure a kitchen aid would be fine) until frothy. Add the sugar and beat to form stiff peaks, then add the egg yolks one at a time. Turn down the mixer to a slower speed and add one third of the flour and one third of the milk. Repeat until all the flour and milk are incorporated, then add the vanilla. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 35-45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool for 5 minutes and remove from the pan. Once cooled, cut the cake into 3 layers.
In a bowl combine the evaporated milk, condensed milk and cream. Stir in the brandy, if you're using it. Pour one third of the milk mixture over the bottom layer of cake, set the middle layer on top, pour another third of the milk mixture over that, put on the top layer and pour the remaining milk mixture over it.
A couple things: 1) I cut off the very top of my cake before cutting into three layers so that it would be flat - I recommend this as otherwise the milk will slide right down the sides. 2) the cake will soak up the majority of the milk, but I definitely had some overflow, so make sure the cake is on a plate with sides so it doesn't spill all over your counters. I did have to pour some milk off that the cake didn't end up soaking into it. 3) as you can see, my layers weren't totally even - if you know how to do that, more power to you - but, you'll end up covering it with frosting anyway, so it doesn't really matter.
To prepare the frosting, beat the egg whites, salt and cream of tartar in a large bowl until the whites hold soft peaks and set aside.
Mix the water, sugar and lime zest in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-heat and cook until a candy thermometer registers 238 degrees or soft ball stage.**
**Guess what? I don't have a candy thermometer. I sort of got it to the soft ball stage - you know, where you drop some of the molten sugar syrup in a glass of cold water and it forms a soft ball...sort of. So, what I'm trying to say is, if you have a candy thermometer, great! Use it and I'm sure this step will be a lot easier. But if you don't, just go with it and I don't think you'll ruin it too badly, especially since I didn't.**
Remove from heat and add the syrup to the beaten egg whites in a thin stream. Beat for 6 minutes or until the mixture is stiff. It will get voluminous and although it started out a little yellow-y it will turn a snowy white.
Cover the top and sides of the cake with the frosting and refrigerate until just before serving. Its this last part (the refrigeration) that really added to the refreshment...nice and cool, moist with a subtle nutty-sweet flavor complimented by the lime in the frosting. Sorry there are no pictures of the inside - we ate it all up!
I garnished mine with lime peel, you could easily use some beautiful fresh flowers or just leave it as is!
This muy romantico picture has A LOT going on, almost all of it from either our Stillman's Farm veg or meat CSA:
- Stillman's Farm lamb chop
- Stillman's Farm lamb riblet
- Roasted Stillman's Farm butternut squash with bleu cheese and pecans
- Sauteed Stillman's Farm brussel sprouts with Stillman's Farm ham
Ok, I won't say Stillman's Farm anymore. For this post I'll focus on the lamb, the veg sides are pretty straight forward.
The meat on the riblets was super gamey and there was a ton of fat - I probably should have cooked them lower and slower to render out the fat, but I didn't and I enjoyed them nonetheless. Anyway, here's what I did to achieve the above result on the chop:
Heat your pan and add a few tablespoons of olive oil. Sear your chops for about 3-4 minutes per side until really nicely carmelized. This is important and where a lot of your awesome flavor is going to come from! Transfer to a baking sheet and pop them a 350 degree oven for about 5-7 minutes or until they are cooked to your preferred doneness. As always, its important to tent your meat and let it rest for about 10 minutes before you serve.
For the sauce, process toasted almonds (I'll say 1/2 cup sliced) and roasted red peppers (I'll say 1 whole pepper) together in a food process and pour in olive oil until it reaches a saucy yet still thick consistency...mine was similar to hummus. Season to taste with s&p.
To serve, top meat with sauce. Knife. Fork. You know the rest.
What you see to the right of the chop is a lovely light salad of thinly sliced red onions and fennel, lemon, olive oil, s&p. It beautifully cut the richness of the chop.
Our winter CSA started this past week and boy did we get a haul. I kind of love the winter CSA; you think the fun is all gone because its not warm anymore, but NOOOOOO! You get more! In this week's box: red and white potatoes, apples, bell peppers, acorn squash, butternut squash, lettuce, spring mix, radishes, BEAUTIFUL carrots (see above, aren't they awesome?), radishes, arugula and brussel sprouts. Did I miss anything? This will keep us (or at least me) stocked for a while.
As you can probably tell, I was pretty excited about the carrots and remembered an Indian inspired vegetable fritter from Smitten Kitchen. What you should have already anticipated by now is that I didn't have all the ingredients (what?? you didn't??) for those. But it doesn't really matter, because the idea of a pancake chock full of veggies is an easy concept and you can do it in many different ways (see here for an awesome Korean version of the same idea.) Use the veggies you have on hand and decide on your spice profile and go from there. Here's how I did mine:
1 bunch kale
2 medium carrots
2 small potatoes
1 small onion
3 Tbs flour
1 Tbs cumin
1 tps paprika
1 Tbs chopped ginger
1 large garlic clove
Wash and chop kale. Heat olive oil and add crushed garlic clove. Once the garlic is brown remove from oil and discard. Add kale to the garlic flavored oil, add a few tablespoons of water and cover. Cook until wilted and the stems are cooked through.
Grate the onion, potatoes and carrots on a box grater and put in a colander to drain. In a large bowl combine beaten eggs, flour and spices (including ginger). Squeeze grated veggies to get out as much moisture as possible. Add veggies (don't forget the kale!) to egg mixture and stir to completely incorporate. Season with salt and pepper.
Heat olive oil in a skillet and fry pancakes. I was able to do 4 at a time and kept them warm in the oven while I cooked the rest. Top with a fried egg, drizzle with soy sauce (or don't, whatever you like) and you've got yourself a meal! (Not to mention that the leftovers, topped with plain Greek yogurt made for a fantastic breakfast.)
In our September meat CSA haul, we got a slab of ribs. A modest, dare I say small, slab. But ribs are ribs, which means they thrill me no matter what (getting Pork 3 Ways at Craigie on Main is to me one of the world's best ideas, and one of the ways is a rib - that's right, ONE RIB, but I'm not even complaining because that one rib is SO INCREDIBLY GOOD). So since it was October and our next meat pick up was imminent, we decided to eat those ribs. But it's too cold for barbecue. The internet confirmed my suspicion that I could make darn good ribs in my oven (low and slow being the name of the game). We had a lot of apples around, so I decided to use them to make some BBQ sauce from scratch (so easy and so worth it, even for vegetarians, to whom I offer the idea of putting homemade BBQ sauce on veggie burgers, with cole slaw if you have it!). I'll tell you my ribs and sauce methods, and just link to some of the other things I made, to try to keep the size of this post somewhat under control - caramelized onion and goat cheese cornbread (I didn't have any fresh corn kernels and mine turned out very differently from hers, though still very delicious), and clementine almond cake, both from smitten kitchen.
-you'll need a spice rub - any one will do, use your favorite. It should feature things like salt, pepper, sugar, paprika, maybe cayenne, maybe cumin, maybe garlic or onion powder. -a rack or two of ribs (I wish we'd had two!) -A sheet pan with a cooling rack that will fit inside of it and go in the oven without a problem -BBQ sauce (see below for a recipe, or any one you like or have around is great)
For easy cleanup later, line the bottom of your sheet pan with foil, then put the cooling rack on top of the foil. Lay the rack of ribs on the cookling rack. Rub it all over quite thoroughly with your spice rub. I probably used about 1/4 cup total for one modest rack. Don't be shy with the rub, you want to coat all visible meat, basically. Cover, and leave to flavor up. I left it for about an hour and a half at room temperature. If you wanted to let it go longer, put it in the fridge.
Preheat the oven to 250. Put in the ribs, and leave em! 2 1/2 hours. Paint on a little BBQ sauce, and leave for another 1/2 hour. Take them out and cover them with foil, and prepare anything else you want to put on the plate - that's when I made the cornbread and the clementine cake (photo of this at the end), which both needed higher oven temperatures). When those came out, I upped the temperature on the oven even farther to 400, spooned a little more BBQ sauce onto those ribs, and put them back in the oven for another 1/2 hour, to warm back up and brown a little more, at which time they are ready to cut up and eat, and you will wish you had a whole rack to yourself. That last half hour with the ribs in the oven gave us the right amount of time for Jenean to bread and me to fry some green tomatoes our dad gave us (thanks Da!) - which I forgot to mention before! It is easy to do, you just slice green tomatoes just shy of 1/2 inch thick, then set up 3 plates: in #1, put flour heavily seasoned with at least salt and pepper, maybe garlic powder, in #2, 2 eggs well beaten with salt and a little water, and in #3 breadcrumbs, preferably panko, but any kind of dry breadcrumbs are ok. Then you just go 1, 2, 3, coating completely in each one, then fry in a large, flat bottomed very hot pan with plenty of oil - canola or olive or peanut oil are good; drain on paper towels and sprinkle with coarse salt while they're still piping hot). Meanwhile we boiled up the last of the CSA potatoes and Jenean mashed them with some Roquefort butter she made, SERIOUSLY. I die. Quick Apple Maple BBQ sauce: 1/2 onion, finely minced 2 small apples, cored, peeled and chopped 1 smashed garlic clove (optional) 1 1/2 cups ketchup salt and pepper cider vinegar maple syrup brown sugar mustard (last 5 entirely to taste)
In a heavy bottomed small saucepan, fry the onions over medium heat in a little oil until soft and translucent. Add the apples and the garlic clove and let them cook (sprinkle in a little salt to help them start releasing their juices) till they start to break down and look a little like applesauce. It helps to put the lid on for a while, and keep the heat medium to low. When they're soft, use a potato masher or a big spoon to smash up the apple chunks into smaller bits, but it's ok for it to still be pretty chunky. Turn up the heat to high, and add the cider vinegar, about 2 tablespoons, and let it boil a little. Then add the ketchup, some maple syrup (a couple glugs), brown sugar (a tablespoon or two), and a squirt of some nice brown mustard, if you want. Stir it all together and check for seasoning. You might like a splash or two of worcestershire sauce in there. It won't be great until you bring it to the boil and let it simmer, turned down to low, for at least 15 minutes. Cover it and stir it often, you don't want it to reduce too much, or scorch on the bottom. Dessert was the clementine almond cake (not everything I dreamed of, but good) with a little cordial glass of Amaretto liqueur, a gift from our friends Reba and Jay, and it is pretty much the most delicious liquid you'll ever drink, ever.Love and thanks, Reba and Jay! And a shout-out to Eve for the adorable dessert plates.