Saturday, December 29, 2012

Baked 3 cheese polenta

This is a version of my friend Concha's amazing polenta dish. Long ago, when we were neighbors, she would make polenta during the holidays and on special occasions (she always made enough to last for lunch the next day, when it tasted even better!). I made this wonderfully filling baked polenta to bid goodbye to 2012 and as a prelude to the New Year! For a basic polenta recipe, I followed Alton Brown's savory polenta and it was easy and as promised, savory.

I used stone-ground whole grain cornmeal and baked it at 350 degrees for 40 minutes, taking it out of the oven every 10 minutes to stir it (thus eliminating any lumps). Once cooked, I added on top of the polenta (as if it were a lasagna) three fresh tomatoes (sliced thinly), 1 cup fresh basil, 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar (on top of the basil), as well as 1/2 cup fontina, 1/2 cup gorgonzola, and 1/2 cup fresh parmesan cheese and baked it for an additional 15 minutes. 
I was pleased with the results! And we ate the remaining polenta for lunch today when it tasted even better than it did last night. I think I will be making this quite often!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Bizcocho blanco for Christmas

I'd been craving a simple cake for sometime and found a wonderful recipe in the classic Puerto Rican recipe book Comida Criolla (sold in English as "Puerto Rican Cookery"). This book is simply amazing both as a cookbook and as a historic document. It was first published in 1954 and copyrighted several times since (in 1957, 1962, 1977, and 1983). It has been through 58 editions as of June 1999 a remarkable feat for any book and shows how important this book is to Puerto Rican cuisine! 
My mother loves to bake the "Bizcocho de Chinas Frescas" (fresh oranges cake) recipe from this book (my brother Richard's favorite cake!). I grew up perusing this book in my mother's kitchen and remember her trying out recipes like "Cazuela" and "Nisperos de Batata." To my delight my husband brought this book into our marriage. It was given to him 12 years ago on Christmas by his stepmother Rina whose sweet dedication reads:

para Carli:
con un libro así de mi abuela aprendí
a concinar criollo. ¡Que lo disfrutes! 
Te quiero, Rina

The other day at the market with our son Khalil, we picked up some plump and healthy looking raspberries and decided that we would bake a cake together and use the beautiful raspberries in it (Khalil says he plans to become a "cheft" and a "skeleton scientist" when he grows up!) I found the recipe for "bizcocho blanco" and we went to work!
The best part about this cake is that it is simple and doesn't need lots of different ingredients. It tastes really wonderful in a sort of classic way! I used 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla and 1/2 teaspoon of almond extract--the latter really "lifts" the flavors in the cake. 
You must sift the flower and the baking powder together before adding it to the sugar, butter.  The eggs must be "creamed" and then folded into the mixture gently--the creamed eggs makes the cake light and airy.
Buttered the pan well and dust it with flour then add the batter.
I made a simple whipped cream frosting -- 1 1/4 cup heavy cream, 1/2 cup powdered sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla - beat on high until stiff.
Let cake cool completely before applying the whipped cream and raspberries. It can be refrigerated for a few days, though I doubt it if it last. I think it is a perfect cake to celebrate Christmas!


Monday, December 10, 2012

Marley & Greta make breakfast

Today was the last meeting of our "Qualitative & Ethnographic Methods" seminar and Marley and Greta made food to share with us! (Sean brought the orange juice and I made the coffee). Greta made a delicious leek tart and Marley shared a wonderful apple and raspberry pie. Let's just say we "wolfed" it all very quickly, and plus it was very good food!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Almas soberanas (2da parte)

In last Wednesday's vein about powerful female icons, I want to follow up with videos of some of the Latin American women whom I count as part of my "womanist" canon. I wanted to post a small homage here to these brave souls, who thankfully have offered us their voice and talent and bravery! Bravo to Chavela Vargas, Violeta Parra, Mercedes Sosa, and of course, the amazing Susana Baca!


Sunday, December 2, 2012

Carrot, walnut & raisin loaf

Throw away those box mixes of carrot cake/bread. Seriously. This recipe is simple to make, delicious and nutritious too! All it takes is some grating action, of fresh carrots that is, and you are on your way to flavorful goodness. I am still on my healthy-winter-sweets kick and what a better way to incorporate health into a small little bread loaf than by adding 1 cup of fresh grated carrots, 1/3 cup toasted walnuts, and 1/4 cup raisins. Here is how to do it:

Ingredients (original recipe from here, but I kicked the nutrition factor up a notch): 
-1 cup freshly grated carrots
-1/4 cup raisins
-1/3 cup walnuts 
-1 stick unsalted butter (I used real butter because it has lots of health benefits, see this)
-1 cup all-purpose flour
-1 cup whole-wheat flour
-1 teaspoon baking powder
-1/2 teaspoon baking soda
-1/2 teaspoon salt
-1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
-1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
-1/2 cup packed dark-brown sugar
-2 large eggs
-1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For cream cheese frosting:
-4 ounces cream cheese
-1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
-1/2 teaspoon vanilla

What to do?
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and put some flour on loaf pan, set aside. Put raisins in a bowl, add water and let them soak (to plump them up). Toast walnuts for about 1 to 2 minutes on low-medium heat -- be careful not burn them. In a separate bowl, mix the dry ingredients. 

In yet another bowl, add the butter (at room temperature) and sugar and mix together using an electric mixer. Add the eggs and vanilla and mix again until light and fluffy. Add carrots, raisins, and walnuts and mix together. Then slowly begin adding dry ingredients and mixing together. Beat until just combined. 
Transfer batter to pan and bake for 45 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Make cream cheese frosting by mixing ingredients with blender until creamy and set aside. Let cake cool completely before adding the cream cheese frosting. 
This little cake-bread is not very sweet and is just the perfect thing to enjoy with a cup of tea, milk, or coffee. Rico!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Pour Une Âme Souveraine

The other night I went to see jazz pianist Jason Moran. He was wonderful! Then he mentioned his recent collaboration with Meshell Ndegeocello and I started wondering why I don't hear as much about Ndegeocello as I'd like to. And so I did a search to see what that great musician-artist-singer is up to and to my delight Ndegeocello's album, an homage to Nina Simone, was just released! It just so happens that Nina Simone, that "sovereign soul," is one of my favorite female musicians/singers. I adore Nina Simone's work! I also love Ndegeocello's music! I am thrilled at this pairing, as I think there is no one more fitting in the American music scene right now to work with/on Simone's deep and brave music.

Here is "Four Women" one of my favorite Nina Simone's songs:
And below is Meshell Ndegeocello performing another one of my favorite Nina Simone's tracks: "See Line Woman." 
I hope to catch Ndgeocello in concert before long, I don't want to miss her like I did Nina Simone. And I agree with Meshell that Simone is "royalty," the queen of queens!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Raisin-pecan-flax Bran Muffins

During this time of the year, I often crave sweets instead of the high fiber foods I should really be eating to keep my immune system and digestive tract in top shape. And so, with my cravings focused on sweets but my body needing nutritious and high fiber foods, I turned towards the best of both worlds: the bran muffin! Widely known as a healthy way to start the day or as an awesome snack anytime of the day or even as a treat to end the day (with a bit of warm almond cinnamon milk or a mint tea, anyone?). Here is a winning recipe that will surely satisfy those sweet cravings, while at the same time working to keep your body healthy!

Ingredients (original recipe here, below is my recipe)
1 1/2 cup wheat unprocessed bran
1 cup buttermilk (low-fat or non-fat)
1/3 vegetable oil (or 1/3 cup apple sauce or pureed bananas) 
1 egg
2/3 cup brown sugar (or honey or molasses)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup wheat flour
1/2 cup all purpose-flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup raisins
1 tablespoon flax (seeds or ground)
1 tablespoon chopped pecans
*yields one dozen muffins*

What to do?
Soak the raisins in water, set aside.
Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees. Grease muffin pan set aside.
Mix together wheat bran and buttermilk; let stand for 10 minutes. 
(*if you do not have buttermilk, it is easy to make it with milk, vinegar or lemon juice: look here for instructions).
Beat together oil, egg, sugar, and vanilla, ad add to wheat bran and buttermilk mixture. In a separate container, sift together flours, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Once sifted, stir into buttermilk and wheat bran mixture until just blended. Then add raisins, flax, and pecans and blend together well. 
Spoon batter into muffin pan and bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. 
*These can be frozen for up to a week and warmed in the microwave for about 30 to 40 seconds and they make a perfect breakfast treat! Enjoy!


Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Food animation

Sometime last summer, my son Khalil (almost 4-years old) said he wanted to show me something on the ipad (yes, he works the ipad better than me!). What he showed me was the "Fresh Guacamole" video by PES. I don't know how he found it, but he did, and I was stunned at the amazing use of imagination (and animation) portrayed in the video. The other day, Khalil showed me "Western Spaghetti" by PES and again, I was delighted by the creator's awesome imagination. Khalil  is pretty obsessed with these videos, he'll watch them over and over and I can't say I blame him... check them out:

Sunday, November 18, 2012

OMG lemoney pancakes!

I am not kidding when I say these pancakes are among the top five most flavorful foods I have eaten this year! Just fantastic! And they are simple, but the flavor combination is really great. The original recipe idea came from here, but I tweaked it in several ways mostly because I wanted to to use the ingredients I had on hand here at home. 

What you need?
1 egg
1/2 cup-greek lemon yogurt (such as Liberté, but any other brand will do)
2 tblspn almond milk (1 more tblspn if batter looks too thick still)
2 tblspn unsalted butter (more for buttering pan)
1/4 tspn lemon zest
1/4 tspn vanilla extract
1/4 tspn cinnamon
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup oat bran flour or wheat germ (whichever you have at hand)
1/2 tspn baking powder
1/4 tspn salt
1 tblspn sugar
1/2 cup blueberries 
*this makes about 5 small pancakes, double the recipe by increasing the quantity of ingredients

What to do?
Whisk egg and yogurt together, then add melted butter, lemon zest and vanilla - whisk together. 
 In a separate bowl, combine the flours, salt, sugar, baking powder, and cinnamon -- add the dry mixture to the wet mixture and then add the milk to moisten the batter. A cast-iron skillet is the best place to cook these tasty pancakes -- melt some butter in your skillet and when the butter starts bubbling drop a spoonful of batter. The batter will be thick and that's how you want it, press several blueberries onto your cake. Cook over low-medium heat for 2 to 3 minutes on each side. 
I topped this off with Vermont maple syrup, I usually buy a gallon during my yearly trip there. (and this gallon is almost gone, so I better get up there soon for next year's supply!) I use maple syrup in everything--from soups to salad dressing to cakes--it truly adds an amazingly subtle flavor to food that is difficult to compare. I adore maple syrup! (I read this story in August and appreciated the love for maple the author shares, but was also saddened to know that like so many other precious resources hanging on the balance, sugaring for maple sap is yet another food source and tradition hard hit by climate change). 
 Here is Khalil enjoying his pancake!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

on the curb: RCA "vintage" TV

Okay I know I'm revealing my (nerdy) secret passion for "vintage" technology with yet another post about the televisions I see kicked to the curb around my 'hood (here is the previous post in case you missed it). Well, the truth is that I like the look of these television sets and there is probably a little nostalgia too. I grew up during the time when technology transitioned from clunky analog to still clunky, but digital. It was very exciting to change the channel with a remote control without ever leaving the couch (so Jetsonian!). And yet, I actually miss getting up to change the dial on the TV because it helps with two habits I now find annoying: the constant clicking in search for a better show; and, sitting on the couch for hours without really having to get up (and thus less exercise). Anyway, the other day I came across a 1987 RCA ColorTrak TV tossed on the curb (but it is only 25!). One plausible explanation for the abundance of "vintage" garbage around my neighborhood is that because it is one of the city's oldest neighborhoods where mainly modest, but upwardly mobile working and middle-class folks live (the neighborhood's peak period being in mid-century sometime) this garbage--some of it was once expensive technology, as well as markers of class-status--is literally the "stuff" that shows that a generational shift is currently taking place. That older folks are moving on, out, etc., their stuff now defunct, clunky, and antiquated is put out and replaced by new (still modest, but upwardly mobile) families and their class-markers (in the form of über-minimal flat screen tvs, ipads, iphones, etc.). The difference is that in the not so distant past most households had one television set, maybe two, now people have five or more televisions (one in each room, for each family member). And a generational shift in technology has taken place rather quickly, I might add. I wonder when we will stop consuming so much "new" technology (since resources are limited and we can't keep making new everything for too much longer) and re-furbish the existing stuff we already own?

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Pineapple upside down cake!

The other day I went to the grocery store and right smack in the middle of the entrance was a big bin full of pineapples. I walked over and began to inspect the wonderful fruit, I also started thinking about what I would make with pineapples. I remembered that my husband loves upside down pineapple cake and thought I should make it for him. (though I've never been a big fan!) Until now that is! I found an amazing recipe here but because I was making it in a 9 x 1.75 pan, I decided to cut the recipe by half. I also added 2 tablespoons pineapple juice to fluff up the batter and I am glad I did. I am now a convert!! This recipe is TRULY amazing! 


Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Snow & soup

Just a few days ago...after tropical storm Sandy (and 75 degree weather)

 Today...a Nor'easter (and lots of snow)

So I made this...

(potatoes, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, carrots, garlic, in veggie broth with soy sauce and oregano).