Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Holidaze Rum Cake

Cleveland Harbor West Pierhead Light House.
Associated Press

 December 21st marks the beginning of winter in the Northern Hemisphere.  For the first time in 372 years, this winter equinox and a total lunar eclipse happened on the same day.  North America was one of the best spots to see this rare phenomena, for the lucky few that did not have winter storms. More than likely you were inside staying warm. 

To many pre-Christian cultures, this time was thought of as the most dreaded time of year, when the lack of heat, light and a limited supply of food could mean the end to life. To raise our spirits, many people created rituals and celebrations, some complete with delicious foods. In ancient Rome, the Winter Solstice was celebrated at the feast of Saturnalia, while in pre-christian Britain, the end of December centered around the pagan Yule log in a fiery display to help melt the heart of a cold and dreary winter. Today, a similar response to winter doldrums is the celebration of Christmas by many cultures around the world, complete with twinkling lights and holiday feasts. Supporting each other through this seasonal darkness and looking forward to spring, we eat, fill our tummies, and give thanks for the many blessings of modern life. We are so fortunate that most of us have shelter, heat, and plenty of food. 
In honor of these dark times, and bringing more merriment to our home, I've made this delicious Holidaze Rum Cake! 
Light your beeswax candles, sing some songs, and eat some cake!  
Happy Winter Solstice! 

Cake Ingredients

2/3 cup sweetened flaked coconut
8 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, broken into pieces
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/3 cup of light or golden rum
4 large eggs, separated
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, softened
 2  tablespoon light or golden rum
1/4 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup confectioners' sugar
½ cup of heavy cream
Preheated over to 350°F. 

On a baking dish toast 1/3 cup of the coconut in the middle of oven until it just begins to color, transfer it to a small bowl, and let it cool.

In a metal bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water, melt the chocolate and the butter with the rum, stirring, until the mixture is smooth and remove the bowl from the heat. In a separate bowl whisk together the yolks, 2 tablespoons of the sugar, the flour, and the salt until the mixture is smooth and whisk in the chocolate mixture and the remaining (untoasted) 1/3 cup of coconut. 

In another bowl with an electric mixer beat the whites until they hold soft peaks and beat in the remaining 2 tablespoons sugar until the whites just hold stiff peaks. Stir half the whites into the chocolate mixture and fold in the remaining whites gently but thoroughly. Pour the mixture into a buttered 7- or 8-inch springform pan (I did not have spring form pan, as seen from pictures and used a 9 inch pie dish, buttered and flour).  

Bake the cake in the middle of a preheated 350°F. oven for 40 to 45 minutes, or until it is set and the top is puffed and cracked, and let it cool in the pan on a rack. (The cake will fall as it cools).

Remove the side of the pan from the cake to cool even more. If you use a pie pan, place plate on top and turn cake over to cool. 

Make the frosting while the cake is cooling:
In a bowl mix the cream, the butter, add the rum, the salt, and the confectioners' sugar, and beat the mixture using an electric mixer. 
Frosting should be light and fluffy. 

Frost the cake once cake is completely cooled. Spread frosting liberally with frosting spatula (knife). Spread some wax paper on counter. Over this wax paper, hold the cake in one hand & other hand press the coconut onto the frosting, letting the excess fall on wax paper. I used several pinches of coconut in covering the cake. 

This cake may be made 1 day in advance and kept covered loosely and served chilled. 

I served this with strong coffee! Enjoy with family friends!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Thanksgiving Reflections

This year was one of the 5th orphaned Thanksgiving tradition that my husband and I hosted. It was a showcase of oven roasted turkey and side dishes to gorge on. The prized turkey was made with herb butter under skin cooked with sage, paprika, and salt on the skin, and to help it along, cooked in an oven bag. Yes, instead of every 20 minute basting, I only had to baste once an hour. It cooked quickly within 4 hours, the 12 pound turkey was done. All side dishes had butter in them. I remembered what Julia Child always said, "You can leave out the cream and butter [from your dishes] if you want, but you'll be sorry!"

This year I asked myself, why put myself through the hard work of cooking, preparing, and cleaning for orphaned friends, that either do not have close family, or chose to otherwise stay away from their blood relatives during this time? I being first generation of Colombian parents, never had a proper traditional turkey dinner cooked at home; yet here I was, fulfilling a very American tradition that goes back to the pilgrims and Native Americans sharing a meal for survival. 

Many people I spoke to changed or added touches of cuisine from their native lands and culture. An Asian American friend, always included a mix of long and short grain rice to his meal instead of potatoes. A Latina woman always included tamales. A Persian friend, was making curried rack of lamb instead of turkey. An African American friend always enjoyed the mac and cheese dish topped with crab meat. This year, my mother brought some plantains to fry.  I've also heard rumors of salmon instead of turkey. I guess we can say Thanksgiving is evolving, transforming to fit into our needs.

I am a glutton for punishment I suppose, as I embarked on another large meal and hosting. I remember the women in my family always ran the kitchen, preparing big lunches for the entire family. It was a sense of pride, and duty to take care of family. I couldn't go to an other's house, as we were invited. I couldn't forgo the turkey, as it was now expected, a tradition had been born to come to our house. I couldn't leave people homeless without a place to find a small bit of comfort during this season as we move more and more into the darkness and cold. Most of all I resigned myself to the fact that I am part of this American tradition, and was manifesting fresh year after year. My single favorite thing about Thanksgiving meal is still the dessert & fresh whipped cream; but of course what would we be without the family we create to share it with.
~Peace Out~    

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Pomegranate Toddy Pie

One of my favorite fruits of the season is the pomegranate. Great for adult beverages and adding to pies! Don't be surprised to find pomegranates and walnuts in your local farmers market of California at this time of year. The pomegranate was introduced into California by Spanish settlers in 1769, and is now cultivated in parts of California and Arizona for juice production. Humans had been harvesting pomegranates for several millennia  previously to the Spanish. The pomegranate is native to the region of Persia and the Himalayan ranges of India, and has been cultivated in Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, North India, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, and the Mediterranean region. The pomegranate is so much part of our ancient human culture, it was mentioned in Europe as early as the Iron-Age Greek Mythology in the Homeric hymns. Nature has some amazing ways of spreading it's seed with this tart/sweet fruit, not to mention the wonderful health properties that the pomegranate has for the body. With those powerful anti-oxidants to fight free radicals in the body, makes this fruit dear to my heart. 

With all this in mind, I've created a Walnut Crusted Apples & Cheery Pie Infused with  Brandy & Pomegranate juice!  It's a "Pow & Wow" in your mouth as my husband said; and perfect for serving at the upcoming fall festivities. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

4 Gala or Smith apples
1 pomegranate.
1 cup of walnuts
2 tablespoons of butter
1/2 dried cherries
1/2 cup of brandy
1/4 brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
1  raw pie crust 

First simmer in a medium size pot the brandy and when comes to a low boil, turn off heat, and add dried cherries to brandy while other preparations are made.  
Juice and strain juice from pomegranate with first a hand held juicer then, then a strainer, to remove seeds. 1 pomegranate should yield 1/2 cup of juice.
Peel and cut apples into thin wedges. Chop walnuts into a fine chop that will be used as a crust.
Place pie crust in baking pie dish, and warm in oven for 5 minutes., and then remove.
Add a low heat to pot with cherries. Add pomegranate juice, apples, cinnamon, nutmeg, and sugar. Mixing and allowing the apples to absorb and also reduce juice. This last step should be done with much attention. Do not leave apples to cook, only a quick softening. Next place mixture into pie crust. I like to curl edges of pie shell in. Lastly, place an even layer of walnuts across the top of pie.
Place melted butter on top of walnuts. In order that top does not burn, a foil covering can help. If heat is low enough you do not have use foil.
Place in oven for 30-40 minutes. Pie serves 6 pieces. Enjoy with some lovely vanilla bean ice-cream.

Here's to your good health and a sweet life!


Sunday, October 17, 2010

Magenta Beet Medley

The beet has a long history of cultivation stretching back to the second millennium BC. So I'm making the most of this old friend, and cooking a warm beet salad to go with any dish. My family had a tradition of making a warm beet salad in South America. This salad is variation of their recipe, mixed with a slice of California and sprinkle of my travels in Italy.  At my local Organic Farmers Market I found these two different varieties: Burpee's Golden (orange skin/yellow inside) & Red Ace (dark purple skin, beautiful deep red/magenta inside), perfect for this medley to sing hymns of joy in your mouth. I've also made two different presentations of this salad to give you ideas on how to serve.

8 medium to small beets
1 medium cucumber
1/2 small red onion,
1 clove of garlic
4 small heirloom tomatoes
1 tablespoon of parsley
1 tablespoon of dried oregano
1 tablespoon of basil
1 teaspoon of salt
1 tablespoon of fresh squeezed lemon or lime
2 tablespoons of olive oil

First, boil beets till they are easily pierced with a fork. Sometimes it helps to cut beets in halves if they are on the larger side. While those are boiling, cut up the cucumber, tomatoes, press 1 garlic glove and do a fine chop of the red onion, fresh basil is always preferable to dried, but we  do what we can. When beets are ready, give them a quick rinse in cold water, let them cool down a bit before taking skins off. The skins should easily come off, and beets will leave your hands died while handling them. On a cutting board, chose which presentation you would like before you decide how to cut beets. Length wise or in small cube bites. (The platter style is good for larger parties - look how gorgeous it looks!) I like to add the beets to the salad while they are still warm, they make a great comfort food. Lastly, in separate bowl, make the dressing with the 2-1 olive to lemon juice, use salt to neutralize the acidity of the lemon juice, and add spices. Wisk dressing with a fork lightly. Pour over your salad. The more you mix salad the more it will turn dark red. Enjoy & sing a song of joy! 

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Punky Pumpkin Soup

Feeling Autumn's cool breezes, leaves falling from the Oaks, and a little like snuggling? Here is a seasonal recipe, that I conjured up with my dear friend Sharon. This recipe is perfect for warming up your home and welcoming the harvest. This is the hot shot of all pumpkin soups, and it will knock everyone's socks off with delicious flavors.

2 cups of chopped pumpkin
3/4 cup of yellow squash
3/4 cup of mushrooms
1/4 cup of red onion
1 cup of chopped tomatoes
3 cups of chicken broth
1/2 cup of fresh basil
1/2 cup of ricotta cheese
1 tablespoon of chopped ginger
2-3 tablespoons of olive oil 
Dashes of garlic
Dashes of black pepper
Dashes of paprika
Dashes of cayenne 
Dashes of sea salt

First carve out pumpkin and get the meat of the pumpkin to cut into bite size cubes. You can save the seeds to roast later. Next chop all vegetables into small bite size pieces. In a 10 quart stock pot, use olive oil to saute onions and ginger. Add pumpkin and squash, cooking until they are softened. Adding a splash of water can speed up the softening process. Continue sauteing while adding mushrooms. Next add chicken broth making sure liquid covers all vegetables. Next add tomatoes, stirring and attending to soup in medium to low heat. Add season to your liking. Simmer uncovered for another 30 minutes, stirring soup infrequently, add more salt if needed. When you are ready to serve, lastly add ricotta cheese and basil, but stirring lightly. Serve into soup tureen for showing off! Enjoy with bread sticks or warmed baguette and salted butter.  

Recipe serves 2 comfortably.
You can double the ingredients of the recipe if you need to serve more people.

Happy Autumn Days!


Sunday, September 26, 2010

Dreaming of Summer Pasta Salad

Are you missing summer? Or is summer lingering in your hemisphere just a little longer than usual? Here is the perfect salad to take for a picnic! This recipe serves about 20, but recipe can be halved to serve less people and have left overs.

2  12 oz boxes of color Rotini
1  8 oz tub of ciliegine mozzarella (small balls)
1  6 oz can of black olives
1  3-4 oz jar of capers
1  3-4 oz jar of julienne sliced sun dried tomatoes
5  fresh sprigs of basil
2  stalks of green onion
2  cups of cherry tomatoes
1  red bell pepper
1  medium cucumber

1/2 cup of olive oil
1/2 cup of parmessan and romano grated cheese
2  tablespoons of apple cider vinegar
1 table spoon each of: pepper, garlic powder, sea salt, oregano.

First cook pasta, exactly as directed on box, (boil with a splash of olive and sea salt). Do not over cook, as I like pasta for this salad to be slightly chewy. Get a large mixing bowl ready to put all cut up items.  I like to cut red bell pepper in small cubes, cherry tomatoes in halves, cut whole olives in 3s, only the green of the onion, cut sun dried tomatoes into smaller bite sizes if necessary, and basil into a fine chop. Rinse capers under a quickly draining and throw into mix. I like to cut mozzarella balls in halves, then place in separate bowl to add at the end. See picture for view before pasta is tossed in.

Next I prepare the dressing: Take all ingredients for salad dressing and mix in a bowl with a wisk

Once your pasta is rinsed with a quick flash of cool water, and drained, add to chopped mix.  Stir in dressing while mixing salad. Slowly add dressing, so that all pasta gets a chance to be covered with dressing. I like to add more salt at the end if not salty enough, but usually capers and olives will do the trick. Toss thoroughly and serve to your work friends and or family. Bueno Apetito!  

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Mega Dairies- Shocking Truths

Hello my friends,
I really wanted to share this video with you, forwarded to me by East Bay Edible Magazine. This video was posted on  The Ecologist.org.  This is a nice follow up to my dairy focused episode #5 of previous month.
All For The love Of Cow,
p.s. Warning, this video contains images of animal cruelty.


Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Colombian Dreaming & Mr. Pollo

Colombian food in San Francisco is somewhat rare, but I’m a determined foodie warrior,
and have not given up having my share. Fortunately, I discovered Mr. Pollo, On Mission Avenue.
After a long day of shopping, I had hit the golden coffers of Colombian Food. I had heard of this place, through my foodie network. Websites had been exchanged, rumors had abounded about this
Colombian chef who took it upon himself to buy the whole animal from the butcher and
use every part of it. I was impressed already.

It was a small place, with “the chef” catering to all customers. On the menu, I found a
small item called “empanada” as appetizer. These palm size delicacies were deep fried,
but don’t be weary, they were flash fried, so they did not have a heavy greasy taste.
Outside, a golden yellow half moon of corn was a delight to crunch into. Inside, the
empanada was filled with potatoes, minced beef, and a hint of cumin and oregano. I was
transported already. I ordered a drink with “maracuja” a tart tropical fruit, blended with
water to such perfection, I mean the perfect amount of raw sugar, that I could imagine the
bounties and sun of the equator with every sip.

The chef chatted with me and with his penetrating gaze, uncovered my secret foodie.
I watched as he sliced off a piece meat from another, with such grace and delicacy. It
was true, he was an old world chef, caring not to waste a single piece of the animal.
The cooler had all parts of the animal ready to be cooked. I watched as he carefully
seared my steak on the grill, dressed my beans with spices, fried in a pan some fresh
plantains, and hand pressed an “arepa” made from hominy with both his hands. I was
mesmerized. How often do you get to watch your meal prepared in front of your eyes by
the chef. As he served me the main platter of “Carne Asada” with sides, I let the smells
of this “Bandeja Paisa” linger on my senses. This was a traditional Colombian meal,
as served in the region of “Antioquia” the region of Medellin, where my ancestors had
come from. What a joyful meal! A true foodie shares his/her experiences, so we can all
celebrate in the wonders of sustenance in all we labor and eat. .

2823 Mission St
(between 24th St & 25th St)
San Francisco, CA 94110
Neighborhood: Mission

(415) 374-5546

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Peaches & Pie

Bake some peach pie and Enjoy the 4th of July! Peaches are in seasons and these organic beauties I found at the farmers market. This pie is very easy to make! First pre-heat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. I used 6 medium size peaches, and sliced them as shown, sprinkling with some brown sugar of each layer. Before placing in oven cover with and 1/8 cup of maple syrup! Get the pre-made dough, so you'll have time for the fireworks and grilling. Bake for 45 minutes with light cover of foil so it does not burn the edges. Bake last five minutes without foil to golden brown crust. Yum!

Friday, June 4, 2010

Chicken Soup - Makes Us Good

I believe home cooking is best for the soul, even better when someone else makes it for you. But let's not get distracted here. Let's talk Chicken. The soup version is really good for you they say....

Chicken soup has been considered a curative since earliest recorded history. Ancient Egyptians used it as a remedy for the common cold. In the 10th century, the Babylonian Avicenna, known as “the Prince of Physicians,” recommended it. In the 12th century, the Jewish physician Maimonides wrote that chicken soup “is of benefit against chronic fevers…and also aids the cough,” recommending its “virtue in rectifying corrupted humors.” Maimonides seems to have regarded chicken soup as something of a cure-all, not only prescribing it for convalescents, but also for hemorrhoid sufferers (we can only speculate how it was used.

Studies are abundant. Dr. Stephan Rennard, professor of pulmonary and critical care medicine at University of Nebraska’s Medical Center and his colleagues researched the effect of chicken soup on inflammatory white blood cells, known as neutrophils. Rennard demonstrated that neutrophils showed less tendency to congregate — even while retaining all their capabilities of fighting germs — after he added samples of chicken soup to them. Even when the soup was diluted up to 200 times, it still had that effect. Rennard believes that chicken soup has these effects because of chicken soup’s combination of vitamins and nutrients.

and also I found that..."Just a small amount of chicken soup before dinner can go a long way, according to Duke University researchers. In fact, if you consume chicken soup as an appetizer, it can reduce the amount of food you eat by 20 percent. By eating fatty foods before dinner can reduces food intake." a study by Dr. D.D.Chen.

I've heard of “Jewish penicillin” with matzo balls, a German version with spaetzle, Greek with lemon and egg, Chinese with won tons, Vietnamese with lemongrass, Peruvian with potatoes, to an Italian version with pasta, chicken soups are found in cuisines worldwide and lastly the classic Tortilla soup. Recently, when I was in Colombia at a night club. They served every customer leaving the club, chicken soup consume in a small cup, to help sober people up. Amazing it worked!

There is something so special about homemade chicken soup that I love, and all the above reasons that I share this lovely recipe with you. All ingredients wherever possible- support local organic produce!

4 quarts of water
4 pieces of chicken with skin and bones
4 large potatoes cubed or 8 of small fingerling potatoes
2 small zucchini round sliced.
3 medium organic carrots round sliced.
2 medium tomatoes cut in wedges.
1 large white onion chopped
1 clove of garlic 
cilantro for garnish
4 tablespoons of lemon.

Tsp of turmeric
Tsp of garlic powder
Tsp of oregano
Tsp of basil
Tsp of thyme
Tsp of rosemary
Tsp of cumin
Tsp of saffron
Tsp of pepper
Tsp of Salt *If you use sea salt, you will need to add more salt at the table*

Cooking instructions:
First in a large pot (8 Quarts) place chicken pieces and add water to cover chicken, filling pot a least half way. Bring to a boil. Lower the heat, chicken should no longer be bleeding or pink. Next, skim the fat at the top of the water with a large spoon. This will get rid of excess fat not wanted, but still retain the good nutrients. Next lower heat to a simmer and add onion, potatoes, carrots. Once they have cooked for a good 20 minutes, add zucchini, tomatoes and garlic crushed and spices, and cook for another 20 minutes. Don't over cook or vegetables will be too soggy. Chicken can be separated from bone, or can be left for the eater to tackle at the table. When serving, I like to garnish with cilantro and some fresh squeezed lemon. Delicious.

Eat your soup & be well!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

In times like these - Vichyssoise

In economic downturns, when there is a sense of so much loss, one can still find comfort in homemaking. The benefits are not yet measurable, when individuals turn to home gardening and to the kitchen to awaken new inspirations in honor of our bodies and family's well being, but we know it feels right. How do we know? Look at your family's and partner's beaming smiles.

I find myself more and more, turning to the kitchen to make special meals to add spice to the humdrum of Monday or Tuesday night. When one cannot get out to the best and favorite restaurants (Gather, in Berkeley or El Camino, in Oakland), I find inspiration in soup. Soup was a staple by my grandmother, when I was in her care in Colombia. Every major meal had a pureed soup. Currently my favorite is: Vichyssoise ("vee shee swahzz") a potato & leek variation, with uncertain origins. Originally a French soup, but rumors have it that it began in the Ritz Carlton in New York City, by a Chef that recalled his mother pouring cold milk into the soup to cool it down. Below you will find the recipe I acquired on my travels through Europe, from a family I stayed with many years back. Luckily, this recipe is not a budget buster. I have made meals with salmon cakes, and delicate spring salad served on the side. Don't forget to wherever possible support your local organic produce and dairy farmers!

1 Tb unsalted butter
1/2 cup-1 medium small onion chopped
1/2 cup chopped celery
1 leek thinly sliced only the stem not the leaves.
1 cup-2 medium potatoes pealed and chopped
1 cup of chicken broth
1 cup half-half
1 cup of milk
1 large garlic pressed
1/4 Tsp of white pepper
1/4 Tsp of ground nutmeg
Salt to taste

Heat butter in saucepan over medium heat add leeks and onion for about 2 minutes. Next add potatoes celery and chicken broth. Heating to a boil; then reduce heat, cover and simmer for about 15 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Place undrained mix in a blender. Blend at a low speed until smooth (I prefer a bit chunky). Stir in remaining ingredients.
Refrigeration of soup is recommended for about 5 hours, but I find an hour is plenty to get the mixture at a comfortable temperature. Garnish with your choice of fresh chives or thin slice of lemon as seen above.
This recipe serves 2 comfortably, recipe can be doubled to serve 4.

Buy Local, Eat Organic, Save the Planet!
Bon appetit, mon ami,

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Potato Primavera Ensalta

You have been so patient, waiting for my Episode 2 of Grand Lake Farmers Market Interviews. Well...the footage is still in the editing room. Coming soon!

In the meantime, thought I'd share one of my favorite creations. It started as a left over salad, but now, one of my regular warm side dish. Whenever possible I support local and organic farm fresh produce. You can too!

4 russet style potatoes (or any variety of equal quantity)
2 handfuls of green beans
1 green onion
4 leaves of fresh basil
4 marinated artichoke heart pieces cut
2 handfuls of cheery tomatoes

2 table spoons of olive oil.
2 table spoons of lemon juice fresh squeezed
dashes of oregano,rosemary, and garlic powder, salt and pepper to taste.
1 table spoon of capers optional

First, I like to boil my potatoes, removing from stove before skins start to fall off, and one can stick a fork in with some slight resistance. Cut into bite size cubes. Lightly steam green beans so that they are still crispy, then cut into bite size pieces, cutting off ends (those hurt to eat). Next, cut onion into very small pieces using mostly the green end. Chop basil leaves somewhat fine. Cut artichoke hearts, and slice cheery tomatoes in halves. Place all items in a large mixing bowl. Add olive oil, and spices. Might take your a few tries before you get the combo of seasoning right. Just remember that salt neutralizes the acidity of the lemon and therefore a good balance is advised.

Here is one variation before I added potatoes using cherry tomatoes .

Here is an other version with whole tomatoes cut into small pieces, that serves 4 people. Enjoy your sharing!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

The Devil in the Eggs

Happy Easter!
We could safely say one of humanities oldest celebrations lands now, if one searches far back into pagan celebrations of the Spring Equinox. It was the New Year for the pagans! Originally New Year/Spring celebrations coincided with the rebirth of so many living things, from the darkness of the winter cold. Today we are left with a swirled mix of our past: hot cross buns, chocolate eggs, Christ resurrection, and a Rabbit goddess named Oester.

Let's focus on those eggs. Mmmm, how we love our eggs. The exchange of eggs has been an ancient custom for many cultures. Today not only do we eat chocolate eggs, we color our eggs, and eat the devil out of them after. Deviled eggs have an interesting history coming to us from Europe. Deviled eggs originated out of Rome, Italy, according to 'The Secret Life of...' show hosted by George Duran. The French call them oeuf mimosa. In Belgium, and Germany they are filled with caviar and served with remoulade sauce - Wow! "Deviled" referred, in the 18th century, to food that was spicy or zesty. In America, these devilish eggs, were renamed: Dressed Eggs, for God might not approve of such a diabolic name at the church functions where they were often served. Sometimes known with the gentler name of Picnic Eggs too. Americans have even taken to serving them in special designed trays, favored for showing off the eggs in all their open splendor.

Deviled eggs are hard-boiled, peeled, and sliced lengthwise. Yolks are removed and made into a paste, mixed with a variety of other ingredients. Perhaps mayonnaise, mustard, tarter sauce, diced pickles, salt, ground black pepper. The mixture is then scooped into each egg cup. Sometimes sprinkled with cayenne pepper, poppy seeds, minced onion, or paprika. In Germany anchovy and capers are included. In the French kitchens, the other ingredients are most likely to be pepper and parsley.

More contemporary versions include wide variety of seasonings: wasabi, cheese, capers, salsa, mushrooms, spinach, sour cream, smoked salmon, or other seafood, and may not always be spicy. Interesting how the Deviled Eggs keep evolving.

Deviled Eggs are usually served cold an as appetizers, and commonly for holiday or party food. Who will you give your eggs to this Easter? Share your eggs and be fruitful! Happy Easter, may you celebrate all that's new and everything that keeps renewing itself!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Texas Hill Country

Well, it was an interesting short trip out to the Rio Frio area of Texas. Found out that people love to eat, shoot anything that crosses their path, and enjoy big open spaces. I think the most memorable dinner was the "ham" roast, served with collard greens, black eyed peas, and corn bread. In the heat everything goes well with a cold beer, so that was also well served with lime. The ham reminded me of "cerdo asado" in Colombia when I was child, baked whole and stuffed with rice and bean. It certainly was a sight to see. I wish I had a picture of that to share with you!

Let me know if you'd like the recipe, will post for you darlin'.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

St. Patrick's Soda Bread

Had a lovely visit from an angel of Ireland, and she left me with a recipe for Soda Bread from her great-great-grandmother Margaret! This is an old world recipe and I will attempt to make the measurements usable, but you must adjust quantities to help dough be right consistency. These are measurements for small a loaf, but quantities can be doubled to make a larger loaf.

Preheat Oven to 400 degrees, approximately.

1/3 cup white flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 Tsp. Baking soda
1/2 Tsp. Salt
1 egg,
1/3 cup butter milk

In a large mixing bowl, mix dry items: white flour, whole wheat flour, baking soda, and salt, mixing with your bare hands for 30 seconds.
Next mix egg into butter milk into measuring cup.

Now very gently and slowly mix the fluid into the dry mix, stirring with fork or spoon (see below).

The mixture must have a tacky texture. Final mixture should be moist, but not too hard to knead with your hands on a flat surface. Make sure the flat surface has flour so that dough does not stick. Knead dough with palm of your hands and by folding over several times, until there are few air bubbles appearing.

Now mold dough into a rounded bread loaf shape with hands (see below). Take a knife and make a cross on top and some small indentations like dimples on top of loaf.

Bake for 45 minutes approximately.
Check bread by tapping on the bottom with knuckles, loaf should have a hollow sound, like a drum top. The top should be nice and golden.

Enjoy with real butter & Happy St.Patrick's Day!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

International Cookbook Seed

For years now I have been simmering on the idea of a Colombian/Persian cookbook. This was an initial sketch of a fabulous cookbook idea started by Shahrzad Naficy and me back in 2003.

Photograph from Legion Of Honor Museum, SF

Shahrzad and I arrived at the idea of consciously cooking delicious meals while we were attending graduate school. She at Mills College and I at John F. Kennedy University indulged ourselves in expanding our minds to creative writing and psychology. We were living together and sharing a small kitchen while renting rooms from a warm English lady in Oakland. We had the idea of sharing our recipes with those that were interested in Persian and Colombian cooking.

We took cooking seriously. I hardly remember how we found the time to make our meals so special. We were both taught cooking from our aunts, mothers, and grandmothers. I had traveled extensively in Europe and had also been shown cooking secrets from friends’ mothers & grandmothers all through Spain, Italy, Germany, even Sweden. Knowing humans to be so visual and relational, we couldn't help but think of cooking traditions being passed through generations by word of mouth and demonstration through time as a something really sacred. We felt connected and vibrant during these years. We were on the cusp of an internal awakening.

Eating is as old as any living creature on our blue planet. Humans evolved great hunting cunning and tools to use from far away, increasing their yield. Eventually, agriculture and domestication of animals created cities and boosted populations. Cooking also evolved alongside these survival needs, today as an art, a creative venture, or sometimes simply a quick distraction to our busy technology-dominated lives. Cooking and eating have been integral to our cultures: deaths, births, weddings, showers, christenings, bat mitzvah, birthdays, anniversaries, Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Passover, Pagan Soltices, graduations, and celebrations honoring those returning from wars. Rituals bring us together, marking special transitions into the seasons and in our lives. She and I both were lovers of rituals which nourished our physical bodies and spirits. Food has had a bewitching power we cannot deny. Our relatives showed us that it's not only how you prepare the food, but the ever-pressing need that family has to be nourished in body and spirit, daily. This was a constant in both our homes of origin. Our inherited cuisine was not only important to us, but was a huge part of our personalities. Shahrzad and I were known to invite others for dinner parties, tea parties, hot chocolate late night candlelight, and movies with dinner. People gathered around us because we provided so much comfort.

Shahrzad and I wanted to share these special recipes with you because we believed they held the power of female love & gentle wisdom embodied and transmitted through generations. We were not only concerned with using organic produce, and organic meats wherever possible, but felt strongly about reducing our impact by living more in harmony with nature. We had seen the explosion of mono food and fast food culture in the United States; these practices certainly feed people, but they increase the use of toxic pesticides, damaging ecosystems on many levels, not to mention the negative impact of preserved and highly processed food on our bodies causing dis-ease. We found the Bay Area, to be a haven of individuals, vendors, businesses that had some awareness as to the power of the locally grown, slow food movement. Organic means fruit, vegetables and even meat that have been grown, planted, and harvested with intentions to replenish and do little harm to the Earth. Nature gives so abundantly and we wanted to be able to pass this wisdom on to future generations.

For these reasons, we supported local farmers. Yes, Earth first, even when shopping and cooking scrumptious dishes. As many of us are aware, nature has been decimated by man's over-use and population explosion, but only we can make better choices here in our daily journey that will have positive impact and change. Holding this focus of an abundant healthy ecosystem often takes a little effort to shift our attentions to a vision for the future. Organic food also happens to taste better, has more nutrients, and of course, costs a bit more than other produce. We found that we experienced the difference in the amount of peace and light which had been ingested by these foods and meats - grown and cared for with gentleness as nature intended it to be.

Conscious cooking happened at every step of the way for both of us. Your thoughts, feelings, and intentions are important. We recommend making peace with family members before beginning the cooking process. Clear your mind of disturbing thoughts and emotions that have occurred. I found that my mood affected and enhanced the food preparation and final flavor. Your mood makes all the difference to the anatomical cellular structure of living plants and meats. See this article on thought forms affecting water molecules: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rZDOPQRdxJM & http://www.life-enthusiast.com/twilight/research_emoto.htm. For example, Shahrzad likes to create a gentle environment in the kitchen with small tea lights on the counter. She usually had flowers nearby which happened to be a wonderful place to keep her company while she was cooking. Of course, I have yet to have a bad-tasting meal with her. I would also give a small silent Sufi prayer for any meats about to be prepared. Honoring the flesh of another animal about to be consumed is essential, even as our modern culture has moved away from awareness to how meat is raised and slaughtered. The next place awareness happens is in the tools to be used. Shahrzad and I both agreed that sharp cutlery is important to have and invest in. Dull knives, especially with tomatoes, have a tendency to destroy too many of fine subtleties in the flavor by breaking up too many cells upon cutting. Another key factor we have observed is always cooking in iron or stainless steel pots. This iron cookware enhanced the taste of food...

Photograph from Legion Of Honor Museum, SF

My new vision for this International Cookbook today will include not only Persian and Colombian, but also other recipes from other nations. I will be posting here individual recipes from all over the world, including my personal thoughts on the art of cooking. These will be collected into a published cookbook that will accompany you on your journey into fabulous & nourishing meals!

Addendum - Farmers Market Episode 1

I imagine I will certainly catch some vendors unprepared for my interviews at the Farmer's Market. Shirley from Donna's Tamales was kind enough to send me MORE details about their wonderful products that delight so many of the Bay Area fans. Thank you Shirley, I look forward to visiting the factory where all the magic takes place!

"We have been in the vegetarian and vegan tamale business for 18 years. All of our original recipes are created by Donna Eichhorn , owner and founder. What makes our tamales unique from all other tamales available in the bay area is the use of fresh ground masa (corn dough). We do not use corn flour nor any leavening agents (baking soda or powder). We use pure olive oil as our fat source and our tamales are the lowest fat tamales in the Bay Area.

Our tamales are made fresh for each market and delivery at a certified kitchen in San Rafael by a highly trained staff of five supervised by Donna herself. We make five to six thousand tamales a week, plus burritos, pupusas, salsas and enchamales (Donna invented the enchamale and trademarked the name). Our tamales are made in small batches, hand scooped and rolled to ensure the highest quality.

A small batch of tamales (3 dozen) would take 3-6 hours depending on the filling. So as you can see tamales are a labor of love and are generally prepared in families only for special occasions.

I agree with Shawn that our highest selling tamales are the Cheese Chile Corn and the Smoked Cheddar with Black Beans. Close on their heels is our Goat Cheese Tamales and our Vegan Tamales. We are almost as famous for our fabulous burritos as we are our tamales. Many farmers start their market day with a hot breakfast burrito from Donna’s or end the day with a Donna’s Burrito. Don’t forget about our delicious Vegan Burrito!!

Our tamales meet the needs of many people with specialty diets since our tamales are gluten free and contain no added sugar. Several of our tamales do not contain garlic, onions or tomatoes. We make tamales without anything spicy at all. In fact, our just corn tamales are delicious with maple syrup and fresh fruit on them, like a hot corn cake without all the fuss. Because we are in the markets throughout the bay area our tamales also follow the season. Soon we will have Asparagus tamales to trumpet in the spring!"

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Welcoming a new Bay Area Foodie !

Welcome Tarabud to the world of food, dinning, home cooking, and farmer fresh produce... just plain good Eating!