June 12, 2012

recipe – grilled scallops on rosemary skewers

recipe – grilled scallops on rosemary skewers

A cryptocurrency (or crypto) is a form of digital cash that enables individuals to transmit value in a digital setting.

I’m hooked on the Santa Monica Seafood Market.

It throws me back to the days when I was 4 years old, running around the pier looking in people’s buckets to see how many fish they had caught.  Usually it was just one or two mackerel, but every once in a while, I’d stumble upon a guy who had caught the mother lode of fish.  That made me happy (for about 30 seconds).

At SMS, it’s the mother lode of fish all the time.  This place has EVERYTHING you could possibly imagine (except seahorses and dolphins), super fresh and stocked high in abundance.  Sometimes I think the guy who owns this place must be Jesus because he has so many fishes.

We’ve gotten in this little tradition where we pop in every Wednesday after the farmer’s market, then make a picnic lunch of fresh fish, fruits & veggies.  Last week – Swordfish tacos.  This week I’m thinking some citrus-herb tuna.

Every once in a while, I throw in a few scallops.  Josh doesn’t really like them, but for me, they’re fish candy.  Sweet, juicy, tender… the bay scallops at SMSM are perfection.

But how do you make something so perfect even better?

Obviously.  Bacon.

These aren’t the traditional bacon-wrapped scallops you may have seen before.  In fact, if I didn’t tell you, you wouldn’t even know this dish included bacon, you’d just wonder how the scallops tasted so sweet-savory-caramelized-delicious.

The secret is… bacon FAT.  Yep.  I said it.  I meant it.

I’ve got a jar of it.

Yes, it sounds horrifying, I know.  But don’t knock it till you’ve tried it… it’s one of the best cooking fats there is, especially for grilling scallops, shrimp, lobster, etc.  You can even use a little bacon fat to grill up a panini or grilled cheese and I guarantee you’ll never go back to butter or oil.  It adds something magical.

If you’re interested in having a steady stock of rendered bacon fat on hand for emergencies (and who isn’t?!?!) just save some in a mason jar in the freezer, and add to it every time you make bacon.  After you fry the bacon, simply pour the bacon fat through a fine mesh sieve into the jar and freeze.

If you don’t have a jar of bacon fat on hand, you can fry a couple pieces of bacon and just use that pan for grilling… basically the same thing.

Here’s what I made the other day – it was surprisingly quick & easy to throw together, great for a light weeknight meal.

Grilled Scallops with Grapefruit & Rosemary over Cousous

Ingredients:

  • 8 scallops (I usually plan on 2 per person for appetizers, more if it’s the main course)
  • 1 grapefruit
  • 4 rosemary branches
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • Bacon fat for grilling

For couscous:

  • 8 oz Israeli couscous
  • 1 shallot
  • Olive oil
  • 1-2 lemons
  • 1/4 cup italian parsley, chopped
  • Kosher salt

Prep scallops:  prep the scallops by rinsing under cold water and patting dry.  Remove the side muscle – that little extra part on the side with the tougher texture (exhibit #1) – and discard.  Place scallops in a medium bowl.

Prep skewers:  make the rosemary skewers by removing the leaves from the bottom 3 inches of the branch.  To do this, simply pinch the branch 3″ from the bottom and slide your fingers down the branch, easily stripping off the leaves.  Set leaves aside for the marinade.  Using a cleaver or heavy chef’s knife, cut the bottom of each rosemary branch on the diagonal so it’s sharp enough to skewer the scallops (just whack it really hard keeping your fingers out of the way).

Prep marinade:  For the marinade, finely chop one clove of garlic.  Add 1 tsp kosher salt, 1 tablespoon of rosemary leaves, and 1 tablespoon grapefruit zest, arranging it all in a mound on your cutting board (exhibit #2).  Chop the whole pile of stuff until it is finely minced and integrated like so.

Marinate Scallops:  Drizzle the scallops with olive oil, tossing to coat.  Add the grapefruit-rosemary mixture and stir so all scallops are coated.  Refrigerate for at least 10 minutes up to 30 minutes (any longer and I find the grapefruit flavor gets too strong).

Make couscous:  While the scallops are marinating, make the Israeli couscous.  Finely mince one shallot, then saute it in a little olive oil until golden.  Add couscous, saute a couple minutes longer until couscous is golden, then continue prep according to the box instructions.  Once it’s done, toss it with the juice of 1-2 lemons (to your liking), sea salt & chopped parsley to taste.  Prep the grapefruit segments for serving (here’s how)

Grill scallops: When you’re ready for the scallops, heat the bacon fat in a grill pan over medium-high heat.  Place 2 scallops on each rosemary skewer (exhibit #3).  Once bacon fat is hot, add scallops – they should sizzle immediately, if not, let the grill pan heat longer (a hot pan is the key to perfectly seared, not-overcooked scallops).  Grill for about 2-3 minutes per side, until nicely browned on the outside (exhibit #4) and just cooked through on the inside.

Serve:  Serve scallops on a bed of Israeli couscous topped with grapefruit segments.  So summer-y fresh!

p.s. this dish pairs wonderfully with the Cotes de Tablas Blanc we picked up in Paso Robles this Spring

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June 8, 2012

recipe – araucana pesto eggs

recipe – araucana pesto eggs

Before I moved in with Josh, his thrice-daily staple meal consisted of a heavy rotation of approx 30 different breakfast cereals which he ate from a glass Pyrex cup (an effective eating vessel, I soon discovered).  These days, at least one of those bowls is traded out for Rosie’s Pesto Eggs, our new fallback for weeknight dinners.

Breakfast for dinner is fun even when you’re not a kid.  And when it’s hot, easy, tasty, mostly healthy and super-mindless to throw together, it’s not just fun, it’s awesome.

But every once in a while, you’ve gotta mix it up.  So when I saw Green Eggs for sale at the Farmer’s Market last week, I knew it was time to throw in a little twist.

“Green eggs” come from an ex-pat community of Chilean Araucana chickens who currently live and roost in East LA.

If you can get past the Dr. Seuss references, you’ll notice that these eggs are less “green” and more of a soft minty blue.  If I didn’t know better, I’d think that one of Anthropologie’s food stylists hand-dyed them for their kitchen window display.

Really now… have you ever seen a prettier egg?

The chickens that lay the eggs, on the other hand…

Well.

Let’s just say they have very nice personalities.

Rumpless.  Tufted ears.  Frequently mistaken for a giant cotton ball.  Only a chicken this ridiculous-looking could lay minty eggs.

There’s not much difference in taste between Araucana and normal brown or white eggs, but like any eggs you get fresh from the farmer, they’re worlds better than the supermarket variety.  That yolk is just so golden & fresh and they taste… well… super egg-like.

Fortunately, Josh and I both like our eggs the same way: lightly-fried whites with crispy edges and a just-set yolk that spills on impact for maximum toast soppage.

I’ve cooked about 100 eggs to perfect this method, so assuming you like yours the same way, here’s how to do it.

1) Fry the egg white:  Melt a little butter in a non-stick pan over medium/medium-high heat until bubbling.  Slide just the egg white in the pan and fry until lightly golden and crispy around the edges.  Flip the white over and remove the pan from the heat.

2) Set the egg yolk:  Off the heat, carefully slide the egg yolk onto the white – it helps to nestle it in one of the bubble pockets.  Treat it carefully, like a newborn baby.  It almost was one.  Then, return the pan to the heat and cover it with a cookie sheet, a plate, or anything that seals in the steam.  Steam the egg yolk for about 1 minute longer.

3) Accessorize:  Remove the pan from the heat and top with minced parsley, kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper.  Voila!  Egg perfection.

We usually have our eggs with sourdough English muffins spread with fresh pesto (try the Pesto Perfetto from the farmer’s market… delicious).

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May 29, 2012

a memorial day to remember…

a memorial day to remember…

It’s been a jam-packed day.

We awoke at 5:30am to get to Marina Del Rey Parasailing by 6:30.  Not on purpose of course.  But this is what happens when you wait till the week before your Living Social voucher expires to make a reservation.  We got the literal LAST spot available on their LAST open boat… a 7am flight on Memorial Day.

Josh & I went this past October and had a total blast… we vowed to take the kids the next time they had a group deal.  So all five of us sucked it up, bundled up, and made the early morning trek down to the marina.

Marina Del Rey Parasailing is a FANTASTIC company.  The owner and crew totally remembered us from last time and took great care of us once again.  It’s a really fun outing, they have an awesome sound system on the boat, play great music, and the crew is friendly, funny and extremely experienced.  Highly recommended.

The kids loved it… they were all smiles the whole ride.

Josh & I flew up next, which of course meant it was time for aerial acrobatics.

By 7:30am, we had all been soaring like birds at 800 feet over the Pacific Ocean.  A totally cool way to kick-start summer.  The kids immediately passed out on the boat and slept for the rest of the 45 minute ride.

A couple hours later back at the ranch, we started getting ready for lunch.  This whole thing was meant to be a BBQ – last summer Josh bought me a shiny and most amazing Lynx 36″  – and I’m super eager to use it again.  But unfortunately there’s some sort of broken part situation, so we’ll have to get it fixed and try again for Father’s Day.

Not a problem, indoor grilling it would be.  As usual, I made way too much food:

  • Bacon Truffle Cheeseburgers (we got the ground bacon-beef mix from the “farmer direct to you” dude at the Farmer’s Market… pretty good stuff)
  • Chicken Sausage Dogs
  • Grilled Corn on the Cob
  • Roasted Asparagus with lemon & parmesan
  • Mixed Berry Trifle
  • Chocolate Covered Strawberries
  • Homemade Maple Bacon Chocolate Chunk Ice Cream with hand-dipped chocolate waffle cones

Since I don’t really eat any of the above except the fruit & veggies, I treated myself to a seared #1 grade ahi filet with a grapefruit & O.J. reduction sauce.  It’s good being the chef.

Dessert was my red-white-and-blue canvas.

I started with the berry trifle, which had white raspberries, red raspberries, blueberries & blackberries, layered with vanilla bean pound cake and fresh vanilla bean whipped cream.

For the ice cream, I took some sugar cones, dipped them in melted dark chocolate and rolled them in red-white-&-blue sprinkles (bonus points if you noticed they’re Hannukah and Valentine’s Day sprinkles mixed together… a little kitchen improv)

Sam and Tasha got the lucky job of taste-testing and hand-modeling!

And the ice cream.  Oh… the $23 quart of homemade ice cream.

I’ve been brainstorming this recipe for a few weeks – it combines all my favorite flavors… caramel, maple, bacon, and dark chocolate, plus a sprinkling of sea salt for good measure.  There are two Vosges Mo’s Bacon bars in it, and that’s just the beginning.

If you eat it, you’ll go straight to hell.  But you’ll be one happy traveler (I’ll post the recipe soon).

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May 27, 2012

to my fellow diablo 3 widows…

to my fellow diablo 3 widows…

To my fellow Diablo III widows (you know who you are)

Nothing says “I love you” like freshly-baked cookies in the middle of a 5-hour gaming marathon

XOXO,

Widow No. 3,221,805

p.s.  on the upside, I now have plenty of time to dedicate to my artisan ice cream adventures.  Here’s what we’re swirling up tomorrow…

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May 24, 2012

recipe – cherimoya sorbet

recipe – cherimoya sorbet

If the artichoke had a cuter, younger fruit sister, it would be the cherimoya.

I always walk by these things at the farmer’s market.  I guess I put them in the same category as mangosteen, starfruit, dragonfruit, and rambutan.  Weird looking, a lot of effort, kinda expensive ($8 for one!), and nobody offers samples, so I’m not sure I’m gonna like the taste.  In other words, quirky fruit.  You gotta be in the mood for it.

Now that I’m on a weekly quest to cook with every local fruit and vegetable known to man (check off the list Peas in the Pod, Nopales, Chiogga Beets), I have to get myself in the mood for weird things more often.

And WOW I’m glad I did.   Cherimoya is quite possibly one of the most delicious fruits I’ve ever tasted (Mark Twain agrees).  I’ve heard it described as the ice cream fruit and it’s easy to see why.  Cut it open and eat the soft custardy flesh with a spoon… it’s like tropical-fruity cake batter.  So good.

But the raw version wasn’t cold enough for me.  So I busted out the trusty old ice cream maker, added a pinch of this and that and treated myself to a small cup of homemade Cherimoya sorbet.  Heaven.

It’s best to buy your cherimoya when it’s still firm, then let it ripen in a safe place for about 3-4 days (this helps it avoid bruising).  It will give to pressure when it’s ready, similar to a mango or avocado.  Once it’s ripe, you can put it in the refrigerator for a day or so if you prefer to eat it cold (note that the skin will turn brown in the fridge, like bananas do).

But it you prefer it to be sorbet, here’s how to do it.

Cherimoya Sorbet

Ingredients:

  • 1 Cherimoya, ripe
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon raw agave nectar
  • Pinch of ground cloves

Slice the cherimoya lengthwise, then scoop out the flesh.  The seeds look like chocolate chips, but they’re not – remove and discard.  They’re not really edible and supposedly they’re poisonous too (I ate one and was fine, but just in case… is that really how you want to go?).

Mash the cherimoya batter with the lemon juice and agave nectar.  Stir in the ground cloves.  Put in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturers instructions, or just put it in a freezer-safe container and freeze it for a couple hours.  Let it soften a bit before scooping, then serve with a sprinkle of ground cloves for garnish.

 

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May 22, 2012

hot air ballooning in temecula

hot air ballooning in temecula

Sometimes I lie awake at night and wonder what life would be like without Groupon.

I never would have gone to the indoor trampoline park or tried zumba.  I wouldn’t have the distinct pleasure of spending 30 minutes at The Body Shop while they try to figure out how to give me the 3-for-2 deal AND redeem my Groupon.  And I certainly wouldn’t have a life-size remote-controlled flying inflatable shark.

In other words, life would be just a smidge less shiny.

Josh and I do a lot of Groupon dates.  In fact, they should probably create a commercial starring us, because we’ve done just about every random Groupon adventure imaginable.  Parkour.  Paddleboarding.  Parasailing.  Pizza-making.  That’s just the P’s!

A few weeks ago we drove down to Temecula for yet another excursion… hot air ballooning.  It was a brutal awakening – we started at 5:30am and a butt-cold-freezing 30 degrees F (have you ever tried to shoot photos in your boyfriend’s leather man gloves?  not easy).   Fortunately, our method of transport came with a portable fireplace and we warmed up quickly.  Our pilot fired up the jets and we were off..

Our balloon lifted right alongside the sunrise and within 15 minutes, we had a perfectly bright spring morning.  I wonder if the people who crashed the day before felt as carefree as we did in that moment (for better or worse, we didn’t hear that somewhat important piece of news until after the flight as we were driving home).

The view from a hot air balloon is a lot like the last 2 minutes of an airplane flight… the whole world is in miniature.  Fortunately the Temecula valley provides a lot of interesting little details to savor, from bee farms to super-tacky McMansions.

We originally planned to spend the day in Temecula and check out some of the wineries after our flight.  We asked the pilot what wines the area was known for and he said, and I quote, “pineapple champagne.”  Mmmmhmmm.  Got it.  We’ll stick with the hot air ballooning and drink wine when we get home.

Next up… parasailing with the kids in Catalina!

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May 18, 2012

mother’s day brunch

mother’s day brunch

Josh & I invited our moms (and dads and siblings) over for a sweet little Mother’s Day brunch on Sunday.

I’ve been having lots of fun with my Farmer’s Market “cook one new thing a week” challenge (see: Chiogga Beets, Nopales), and this week I picked fresh, in-the-shell sweet peas.  It seemed appropriate for Mother’s Day, since peas are the pregnant women of the vegetable world.

Shelling peas is bizarrely fun, like popping bubble wrap.  It’s also fascinating because every time you break open a shell, you get to discover how many babies are in the pea’s litter.  Four.  Three.  Five.  Seven! (fertile pea).  I could never work in a pea-shelling factory because I’d get too distracted collecting little green pea families.

(in case you did know, peas are really fun to photograph)

So, what to do with my bowl of freshly-shelled peas besides photograph them?

I was inspired by a class Josh & I took at Surfas where we made pasta with peas & prosciutto.  Super easy, super flavorful.  So I boiled some farfalla, crisped up some proscuitto and sauteed the peas with a little olive oil, shallots, and garlic.  Toss it all together with parmesan reggiano and a little lemon zest and it tasted fresh & lovely.  I don’t think I can ever go back to frozen peas again (except maybe for icing a sprained ankle).

In addition to the pasta, we put together a really yummy spread… definitely our best brunch to date.  And Josh’s mom brought over the most beautiful wildflowers that they picked right in front of their house that morning (note to self: go on a 5am raid of the canyon with shears in hand).

Our Mother’s Day menu:

The salmon was one of my faves and really quick to prep – plus, it cooks in under 10 minutes (love that).  We’re so lucky to have Santa Monica Seafood so close by… it’s a fish-lovers playground.  Seriously, I have dreams about this place (I’ll do a full post on SMS when we do our seafood BBQ in a few weeks).

Strawberries were running rampant at the farmer’s market on Saturday so I bought a couple flats knowing Sam would eat one and we could use the other one for dessert.  I had some leftover cake batter after making the cupcakes, so I popped a 9″ square pan in the oven, cut the cake up into 4 squares, and made two mini strawberry layer cakes.  The whipped cream frosting kept it light & airy and we served it with a bunch of fresh strawberries on the side (we can pretend this is healthy, like the banana bread).

The cupcakes, on the other hand, could never pretend to be healthy.  There are two sticks of butter and 3 cups of powdered sugar in the frosting alone.  And that’s why they’re so delicious.

Note to my future self:  committing to three different frosting colors is a pain in the boot.  Buy more pastry bags or just settle on one color.

And to our wonderful, beautiful mothers… we love you, Happy Mother’s Day!

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May 12, 2012

lukshon @ the helms bakery complex

lukshon @ the helms bakery complex

When someone does one thing remarkably well – like, for example, creating the best hamburger in the known universe – there’s a good chance they’ll do another thing remarkably well.  So when Sang Yoon (founder of Father’s Office and the aforementioned life-changing burger) decided to redefine the concept of Asian small plates and launch a more upscale restaurant, I had complete faith it would be awesome.  And it is.

Lukshon is hard to describe because there aren’t many restaurants like it.  It’s sort of like grown-up, reinvented Asian street food with a lot of surprises thrown in.  Everything tastes incredibly fresh and seasonal and the play of textures and spices is a whole lotta fun.  And they give out free sparkling water and dessert.  Who doesn’t like free dessert?!

Josh and I pop into Lukshon whenever we’re at Surfas or HD Buttercup, which is to say, very frequently.  We’ve whittled the menu down to some key favorites…

Hawaiian Butterfish – I’d put this dish up against Nobu’s yellowtail jalapeno sashimi any day.  The butterfish is impeccably tender and sweet, perfectly accented by the tart and crunchy pickled watermelon radish and spicy nahm jim (chili lime dressing).   I love all well-executed sashimi dishes, it’s true.  But this is on a whole different level…  if they served it by the pound, I would happily eat it.

Tea Leaf Salad x 2 – Let me break it down for you.  This salad = crack.  I’m not even joking.  Josh and I have to order two of these otherwise we fight over who gets the last bite.  I’m dying to recreate this salad at home, it’s pretty much the perfect combo of tastes and textures.  One the one hand, you have the crunchy sweet cabbage, complemented by crispy chana dal (a fried lentil) and the smoky marcona almonds.  On the other, you have an absolutely mouthwatering Asian vinaigrette that might induce you to ask for an extra shot of dressing on the side.  And then, in this hypothetical situation, you might just drink that shot of dressing all by itself.  There must be nam pla in it because it’s just tooooo good.

Dan Dan Noodles – these noodles are spicy in the very best way.  Not the “omg give me white bread and a glass of water” spicy.  This is the mouth-numbing, trance-inducing sichuan pepper hot.  Which is to say, a very pleasant kind of heat.  Toss the noodles at your table and devour.  They’re filling and crazy good (that complimentary sparkling water will light up your mouth after a couple bites… try it).

Flank Steak Bao – bao, the marshmallow of the bread world, elevates this savory steak to new levels of deliciousness.  A fluffy soft bun, steak, asian pear & cabbage salad and kimchi vinaigrette… how can you go wrong?

At the end of your meal, they bring out a complimentary dessert (why don’t more restaurants do this?  such a nice touch).  The dessert changes seasonally  – today, we had an ice-cold palm sugar butterscotch pudding with candied walnuts.   Perfectly bite-sized and total yumminess.

Lukshon @ the Helms Bakery complex

lukshon.com

3639 Helms Ave., Culver City

(310) 202-6808

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May 10, 2012

recipe – dark chocolate chip banana bread & mini muffins

recipe – dark chocolate chip banana bread & mini muffins

I’m a green banana person.  I know, I know… “Gross!” most people are thinking.   Whatever.  You can have your boring old yellow bananas and I will savor the starchy-crisp-green-grassness of my underage banana babies.

On the other hand, I get REALLY – I mean truly, unnaturally – excited when my bananas mature past their adult stage and start to develop brown age spots  (btw, wouldn’t it be strange if bananas applied Retinol and stood in front of lasers so they could turn back to yellow?   Just sayin’…)

But I’m not the only one excited by the signs of aging bananas.  Everyone at Casa Resnick knows that old bananas = a hot slice of banana bread at the breakfast table very soon.

Baking banana bread is also the perfect excuse to use my grandmother Lollie’s vintage mini loaf pan from the 1950’s.  Seriously, how cute is this thing?

My mom saved it and gave it to me a few years ago when I started cooking obsessively regularly.  It’s essentially four small pans connected together, so you can easily bake multiple mini loaves at once.  I love to do slight variations… one might have chopped walnuts, the next some cinnamon & nutmeg, and the last one a double-helping of dark chocolate chips (that one always seems to disappear first).   We usually make a few small loaves for slicing and a big handful of mini muffins, the perfect size for school lunches.

I have this super easy banana bread recipe that’s basically foolproof (unless you’re the type of fool who forgets to stir in baking soda or eggs).  It’s also a little decadent, because come on, let’s not try to pretend that banana bread is healthy (for the record, carrot cake is not healthy either).   You can whip it together and pop it in the oven in under 5 minutes… and your kitchen will smell downright delicious because of it.

The one super-important ingredient for this recipe – over-ripe bananas.   There’s a big difference in taste when they’re at that perfect stage of ripeness.    Too young and the bread won’t have that rich caramel-y banana flavor.  Too old and the texture gets too runny and weird.  Just right and and it tastes… well… just right.

So how do you know if your bananas are ready?  You could try to calculate the brown spot to yellow skin ratio, but it’s sometimes hard to tell.  Here’s how I do it:  try to pick up the bananas by the top of the stem.  If the stem falls off (like in the above picture), they’re ready.  If not, give them another day or so (if you’re really impatient, you can put ‘em in a paper bag and they’ll ripen more quickly).

Got your bananas?  Good, you’re ready to go…

Dark Chocolate Chip Banana Bread & Mini-Muffins

Ingredients

  • 3 medium bananas, very ripe
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/2 stick unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 ½ cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup dark chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

For bread loaves:  spray your baking vessel with flour baking spray, such as Baker’s Joy (if you don’t have this, you can butter the vessel then lightly dust with flour).

For cupcakes: place cupcake liners in a cupcake pan (no spray needed).

Mash the bananas using a pastry cutter or potato masher.  Add the sugar, flour, eggs, baking soda and salt and stir with a wooden spoon to combine (don’t overmix, just stir until the flour is incorporated).  Stir in the chocolate chips.

Pour the batter into your baking vessel  - fill it about 2/3 of the way full.

Bake until the tops are nicely browned and the centers are cooked through.  A wooden tester inserted into the center of the loaf should come out clean, with no cake stuck to it (if you happen to strike a chocolate chip… and you will… try a different part of the loaf).

You’ll know it’s close to  being ready because your kitchen will start to smell crazy delicious.   Here are the approximate baking times:

  • For large bread loaves:  bake approx. 45-55 minutes
  • For small bread loaves:  25-30 minutes
  • For regular size cupcakes: 18-22 minutes
  • For mini cupcakes: 12-15 minutes

If you have some extra batter after pouring the bread loaf, make a handful of mini-muffins.  Poppable and delish!

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May 2, 2012

recipe – nopales fajitas with mango & avocado

recipe – nopales fajitas with mango & avocado

Searching for a vegan dish to serve at your Cinco de Mayo fiesta this weekend?  Not really?  Well… here’s one anyway.

I didn’t intend for this to be a Cinco de Mayo recipe (or a vegan one, for that matter)… it just kinda happened.  Josh and I were scouring the SM Farmer’s Market for the next candidate in my “Cook Something New” challenge (see: Chiogga beets from last week).

“Here’s something I bet you’ve never cooked before,” he said, pointing to a table full of cactus paddles.  “True, and I’m not quite sure what to do with them,” I thought as I scooped up a handful and promptly stuck myself full of thorns (damn you cactus).

Turns out, cactus – also known as prickly pear or nopales – are surprising easy to prepare.  You can roast or grill them whole, or dice and saute them like I did in this recipe.  They taste like a lighter, citrus-y green bean (with a similar texture to green beans) and they combine beautifully with a wide variety of ingredients, from eggs to tomatoes to mangoes.

I didn’t really have a recipe for this dish, so I just improvised with a bunch of random fruits and veggies we had on hand.  The combo of sweet mangoes with tart nopales and savory-sweet caramelized onions worked beautifully… light, healthy & fresh.

Nopales Fajitas con Mango y Avocado

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1/2 red onion, diced
  • 2 nopales paddles, dethorned & diced
  • 1 cup grape tomatoes, quartered
  • 1/2 mango, diced
  • 1/2 avocado, diced
  • 2 tablespoons cilantro, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons Cotija cheese, finely crumbled (optional – eliminate for vegans)
  • 2 limes
  • Flour tortillas

To prep nopales: use a sharp knife to scrape the thorns off the paddle, then slice off the outer edge all the way around the perimeter.  Cut off the thick bottom end and rinse the paddles in cold water.  Slice into strips or dice as desired.

Cook Fajitas:  heat 2 tbsp canola oil in a large skillet on medium-high heat.  Add red onion and cook until lightly caramelized, about 7-10 minutes.  Reduce heat to medium and add nopales.  Cook just until they begin to soften and give up their juices, about 5-7 minutes (when you taste them, they should still have a little crunch but release a savory/tart flavor).  Add tomatoes and cook about 2 minutes longer.  Remove from the heat and let cool slightly.  Stir in cilantro and mangoes.

To serve:  char a flour tortilla over a charcoal grill or gas flame until hot and blackened in spots.  Spoon about 1/2 cup of nopales mixture down the center of the tortilla, then sprinkle with avocado and cotija cheese.  Serve warm with lime slices on the side.

Save any leftovers and serve them for breakfast atop scrambled eggs… olé!

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