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!