Steaming consolation

Split-Pea-Soup-2Hot soup on a cold day is the greatest of comforts, isn’t it? This particular soup is a favorite; it’s a vegetarian split-pea that’s simple and comes together quickly. What makes it special is how I garnish it… olive oil, lemon juice, lemon zest, and smokey Spanish paprika. Served with a crusty bread, it’s an unexpectedly delicious wintertime meal.

I never really liked split-pea soup until this recipe. My mother-in-law used to send over a jar at least once a month and I dutifully ate it, but never enjoyed it. She made it with ham, as is usual, but I think the ham flavor was the turn-off for me. If only I’d known that the simple addition of lemon and smoked paprika could’ve transformed it into something wonderful!

Rice, milk, sugar, eggs

I would love to be able to share the recipe for this most wonderful rice pudding, but I’ve been forbidden to do so. According to my sister-in-law, it’s a “family” recipe and not meant to be shared with the world. She insists that only her dad could make it really right and that the recipe would self destruct if made to perfection by anyone but him.

: )

His recipe is unique in the quantity of rice used, I think, and leads to a thick milk custard with an understated presence of rice. Because I can’t leave well-enough-alone, the second time I made it, I dressed up the rice/milk mixture with a bay leaf, as well as the expected vanilla. It adds a little something nice.

I also tried my hand at flan this afternoon, another dessert made with the same basic ingredients – milk, sugar, eggs – but the jury is still out on that science experiment. It was easy to make, but for the caramel…

What’s your favorite dessert?

Yep, I set off the smoke detector again

But it was so worth it!

I love this dish from “Jerusalem” as featured in the NY Times a couple months ago. It “feels” very complicated to make, but really it’s not. That feeling comes mostly from having to buy a bunch of strange spices that look like something I’d find on a walk in the woods…

Next on my list of meals to conquer is Indian Butter Chicken. Anyone have a good recipe?

Building a better taco

As a kid, I loved having tacos for dinner, but could hardly convince my dad to ever make them. I guess assembling all the proper parts was too much trouble. What I’m sharing tonight are not tacos, but something better, I think.

Jay calls these “Poor Man’s Tostadas” and we had them for the first time last week before our first Braves game of the season. They came together quickly and were delicious! We started with a corn tostada instead of a taco shell… important to the stability of the end product, I think. We used warmed refried beans spread in a thin layer over the tostada as the base for the yummy things and as a “glue” to hold it all together.

We made a meat-free version, hence the “poor man” title, with boiled carrots and potatoes in place of any meat. On top of that we added a crumbly Mexican cheese called queso fresco, diced tomatoes and diced jalapenos.

The final touches were sour cream, fresh cilantro and a green tomatillo salsa.  All very yummy!

A proper approach is necessary, so that you don’t lose the whole thing in your lap. It’s definitely worth the trouble balancing it all, though. I’m trying to dream up something besides potatoes and carrots that might be used as an alternate… any ideas?

Tres leches

Today’s science experiment

Something about baking, as opposed to cooking, makes it much less intimidating to me. And making cupcakes, well… they’re just plain fun!

While out and about yesterday (truthfully, I was lost at the time) I stumbled across a little bake shop that had tres leches (Spanish for three milk) cupcakes as their special of the day. I’d always wanted to try this Latin American specialty, so I forked over the $5.00 for two of them.

They were yummy enough (addictive, honestly) that I decided to try making them myself today. I followed the recipe I found here and… oh my goodness, these are so delicious! According to my taste tester, they’re even better than the ones I bought yesterday!

Tres leches is traditionally a cake, but it’s so super rich that I almost think it’s better suited to cupcake form… you know, just a couple bites. These aren’t your traditional cupcakes, either, because if they’re made right and drenched in milk, you’ll want a spoon for all the sweet goodness at the bottom.

: )

A rare recipe

Hold onto your chairs. I’m going to share a recipe with you.

I made these on Christmas morning and they were really wonderful. I’ve never made homemade muffins before and was very pleased with how easy and delicious they turned out to be. I recommend them warm from the oven spread with butter. Don’t forget a nice cup of coffee or tea.

The recipe comes from the Barefoot Contessa Cookbook.

3 cups flour
2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 pound butter, melted and cooled
2 extra-large eggs
3/4 cup whole milk
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup mashed ripe bananas (2 bananas)
1 cup medium-diced ripe bananas (1 banana)
1 cup small-diced walnuts
1 cup granola
1 cup sweetened shredded coconut
Optional: dried banana chips, granola, or shredded coconut

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 18 large muffin tins with paper liners. Sift the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together into mixer bowl. Add the melted butter and blend. Combine the eggs, milk, vanilla, and mashed bananas and add them to the flour-and-butter mixture. Scrape the bowl and blend well. Don’t overmix.

Fold the diced bananas, walnuts, granola, and coconut into the batter. Spoon the batter into the paper liners, filling each to the top. Top each muffin with dried banana chips, granola, or coconut, if desired. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the tops are brown and a toothpick comes out clean. Cool slightly, remove from pan, and serve.