Wednesday, June 9, 2021

A Bit of Aloha to Celebrate


We have a saying here at our house, "Costco got me", and that was true yesterday as I was strolling the aisles.  A friend calls Costco The Promised Land!  After inhaling the perfume from the pineapples that were stacked high, reminiscent of our time in Hawaii a few weeks ago, I picked up a pineapple and some macadamia nuts, along with $200+ of other things I can't remember, and headed home.  With my pineapple, some suspect cream cheese that was on the cusp of expiring, and the macadamia nuts, I decided to try and replicate the Pineapple Glazed Cheesecake that we had in Waimea at The Red Water Cafe.  To be honest, we devoured this dessert before taking a photo at the restaurant, so I really can't remember if it was a baked cheesecake or not, but the bruleed top was what made this memorable.  So, this is my take on that memorable dessert, and I'm making it to celebrate California opening up soon, and we are all finally vaccinated.  

Pineapple Bruleed Cheesecake

For the Crust

1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1 3/4 cup macadamia nuts
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
6 tablespoons melted unsalted butter

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, line a 9-inch cheesecake or springform pan with aluminum foil, and coat the foil with non-stick cooking spray.  
Put the crumbs, macadamia nuts, and brown sugar into a food processor.  Process until the nuts are chopped.  Add the butter, and stir to combine.
Press the crumbs into the pan and up the sides.  Bake for 15 minutes.  

For the Filling
Four 8-ounce packages cream cheese, softened
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla paste or extract
4 large eggs
1/4 cup sour cream
2 to 3 tablespoons dark rum
2 cups fresh pineapple, finely chopped
raw sugar

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment cream together the cream cheese and sugar, until smooth.  
Add the vanilla and the eggs and beat until smooth.  
Add the sour cream and beat until incorporated.   
Pour the mixture onto the crust, smoothing the top.  
Arrange the pineapple on the top and bake for 1 hour to 1 hour and 10 minutes until set.  
Turn off the oven and leave the door ajar until the cheesecake cools.   
When the cheesecake is cooled, sprinkle the pineapple with the sugar, and using a brulee torch, caramelize the pineapple.  If you don't have a brulee torch a broiler will work.  Cool completely and refrigerate.  Remove from the refrigerate at least 1 1/2 hours before serving.  

A few notes:  
  1. Only make this with the best pineapple, right now gold pineapples are available in your markets.  The only test of ripeness is by aroma---so smell that pineapple---pineapples are picked ripe, so if you want for that pineapple to ripen on your counter, it will begin to ferment.  Also, the photo shows sliced pineapple, since I'd sliced up the pineapple before I knew that I would be making this dessert.  At the restaurant there was a lot of chopped pineapple on the top and that woudl be my preferred method of topping this cheesecake.  
  2. I prefer Mauna Loa macadamia nuts, these were the only ones available at Costco.  
  3. Cheesecakes are best at room temperature, instead of ice cold.  
  4. My 21 year old Dacor convection ovens are on their last legs, the bottom oven has quit, the top is still "working"---note the quotes, so I have ordered new Cafe double wall ovens which should be arriving in the end of July....this whole supply chain thing is cutting into my cooking!  I'm just grateful to have one oven working.  

Chopping the nuts with the crumbs ensures that you won't get nut butter

Going into the oven

A little overbaked, but I'll blame that on the oven

Brulee torch covers a multitude of sins, and as Julia Child said, every woman needs a blow torch

Ciao for now.  

Sunday, May 23, 2021

Breaking Out; Guava Glazed Ribs

 A week ago, Dr. C, our son, and his girlfriend went to the Big Island of Hawaii for a short break.  We had some electronic certificates with United, and ironically the Big Island was the best deal.  The photo is some amazing deliciousness that we had at the Red Water Cafe while dining with friends.  These are guava wood-smoked ribs with a guava glaze.  They were amazing.  So today being Sunday I decided it was time to bring back a bit of Aloha here at the house.  
Ribs are something that I will order out, but they are also simple to cook at home if you have an Insta-Pot or Pressure cooker, you can pre-cook/steam the ribs, and then set them on the grill to glaze and get some smoky flavor.  For the glaze I gathered together about 7 different recipes, trying to figure out which would be the best option, and then went on the road less traveled---my own.  I think I'm close to the original, but don't have any guava wood to smoke these babies, and so they are a bit different, but we all decided they were worthy!  

Guava Glaze
Makes about 2 cups

14 ounces Guava paste (see note)
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon finely grated ginger
3/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons chili garlic sauce

Put the guava paste into a microwavable bowl, cover loosely and cook on high for 2 to 3 minutes until the paste is melted.  
In a saucepan, heat the oil, and swirl the garlic and ginger for 30 seconds until fragrant.  
Add the melted guava paste, soy sauce, water, Worcestershire, and chili garlic sauce.  Bring to a boil and simmer gently, stirring for 2 to 3 minutes.  Taste for seasoning, adjust with soy sauce, Worcestershire or chii garlic sauce.  The sauce will keep in the refrigerator for up to 7 days.  
Cook's Note:  The brand of guava paste that I bought (on Amazon) was 14 ounces. 

For the Ribs
2 racks baby back ribs
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/4 cup Penzeys 4S Smoky Salt
1 teaspoon celery seed

Arrange the ribs on a large piece of aluminum foil.  In a small bowl, mix together the brown sugar, smoky salt, and celery seed.  Wrap the ribs in the foil and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, preferably overnight.  
In the pressure cooker or Insta-pot, pour in 1 cup of rootbeer (or water) 
Arrange the ribs in the pressure cooker/Insta-pot and cook on high for 20 minutes, with a natural release.  
If you don't have a pressure cooker/Insta-pot, preheat the oven to 300 degrees, line a baking sheet with aluminum foil or silicone and pour in 2 cups of rootbeer.  Place the dry-rubbed ribs onto the baking sheet, bone side down, cover tightly with aluminum foil and roast for 2 to 2 1/2 hours.  
Cool the ribs, and refrigerate or cool for 1 hour before grilling.  
Preheat the grill for 10 minutes.  Brush the ribs with the glaze, over indirect heat (turn off the middle burners, or push coals to the sides of the grill) place bone side down onto the grill and cook covered for 10 to 15 minutes, until the glaze is bubbling on the top of the ribs.   Serve with warmed glaze on the side.  
Cook's Note:  Rootbeer gives the ribs a smoky, sweet flavor, you can sub in beer, or water, it's really about personal taste.  

In the beginning there was garlic and ginger and guava paste

This is my favorite new tool, a ginger grater

Swirl the garlic and ginger, don't let it brown, you only want it to release some of its oils

So, I realized that in order to get the guava paste to melt, I would need a low temperature on the stovetop, otherwise it would burn.  Best to microwave the paste first, and then add to the pan.  

Not much to look at, but it's really tasty!

Dry rubbed the night before

My favorite pressure cooker of all time the Cadillac WMF

Arrange in the pot

20 minutes on high, tender and delicious

Paint the ribs with some of the sauce, save more sauce for serving

And, I think we have lift off
So, the unanimous opinion was that these are delicious.  I'm not sure they are anywhere near the ones we had at the Red Water Cafe but they are so good, I will be putting these into the rotation.  Some notes, I had a lot of sauce leftover, so I think I'll freeze it for future use.  It will probably be delicious on chicken as well.  The sauce is really thick, I'm thinking next time I'll whisk in a little (or a lot) of dark rum and see how that fares.  All in all, this was a fun experiment.  
Speaking of experiments I took a zoom class on Saturday with my colleague and friend Rick Rodgers.  He taught the world-famous English muffins from the Model Bakery and it was a joy to watch him in action.  He will be offering a variety of classes and I highly recommend them, click here for details.  

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Dear Elizabeth Minchilli; Thank you for Pistachio Cake

 Dear Elizabeth, 

Thank you for your blog, your generosity in sharing your homes in Rome and Umbria, your recipes, the photos, all make armchair traveling so satisfying, especially during this time of quarantine. A few years ago, you posted a pistachio cake recipe on your blog, and although my intentions were to make it immediately, I finally made it tonight since I dug out the pistachio flour from the freezer.  What a delicious treat! Thank you again. I'll preface this by saying, I'm not a baker, but I do love a good bake.  The recipe called for making two loaves, but since the loaf pans I have aren't the same size, I figured I'd try and make it a bundt cake, and it's glorious!  I'm so grateful for your generosity in sharing your favorite places, foods, and your writing and hope one day to meet you in person when we are finally in Italy again.  Gratefully yours, D

Elizabeth Minchilli's Pistachio Cake (adapted)
Makes one 9-inch bundt, or two loaves

The original recipe called for yogurt, I didn't have any so subbed in sour cream, and it's delicious.  

11 ounces salted butter 
2 cups sugar
8 large eggs
3 tablespoons pistachio paste (see link)
1 cup plain yogurt, or sour cream or creme fraiche
1/3 cup pistachio flour (see link)
2 cups 00 flour, or all-purpose (I used 00)
2 tablespoons baking powder
confectioners' sugar for garnish

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and coat the inside of a 9-inch bundt pan, or two loaf pans with non-stick cooking spray.  (I use Baker's Joy--never fails)
In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until fluffy.  
Add the eggs, one at a time, then add the pistachio paste and yogurt or sour cream.  
Add the flours, and baking powder, and beat until blended.  
Transfer to the prepared pan, and bake for 1 hour, until a skewer inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.  
Cool on a wire rack for exactly 10 minutes, then turn out on the rack to cool completely.
Sift powdered sugar over the cooled cake and serve.  

This piece was still quite warm, but none-the-less, it was buttery, and delicious, with a crispy exterior.  
Now that I've made the investment in the pistachio flour and pistachio paste, I may just go into business making these cakes, it's that easy!  I do plan to make another and freeze it to have on hand.  This one will go quickly.  Once again, thanks to Elizabeth Minchilli, if you aren't following her and her daughter Sophie on Instagram and getting their blogs, you are missing out.  Ciao for now.  

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Oldies; Shrimp Florentine

When Dr. C. and I were first married, we were stationed at MCRD here in San Diego with a group of people who were always up for a good time.  When the Queen Mary opened in Long Beach we took the trip up to tour that and the Howard Huges plane the Spruce Goose, which was in a hanger next to the Queen Mary.  On the way home, our friends suggested that we stop at a place called Delaneys' Seafood Shanty in Newport Beach, and it was there, that I fell in love with this dish.  Delaneys no longer exists, but I went home and figured out how to make this rich, creamy, seafood dish.  This is the menu from way back when.  

Look at those prices!  Unfortunately, as with so many family chain restaurants, they were bought by a conglomerate, and eventually, they ruined the food, the ambiance and closed.  
I've loved this dish for years, and my favorite memory was going to my mom's house and saying I wanted to make it for dinner for she and my brothers and sister-in-law.  Mom said my brother Bob would not eat it, he ended up eating 3 full plates.  Proving her wrong was quite satisfactory!  Tonight I asked Dr. C. how he'd like his shrimp and he requested this.  Granted, we don't eat like this every night, but it was a lovely dinner, and since we are still kind of quarantined I like having something to make that has a few moving parts, it keeps me in the kitchen, and that's my therapy.  

Shrimp Florentine
Serves 6

2 tablespoons unsalted butter or extra virgin olive oil 
2 tablespoons finely chopped shallots
2 pounds baby spinach, washed and spun dry
salt and pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg

In a large skillet, heat the butter or olive oil and saute the shallots until they are softened about 2 to 3 minutes.  Add the spinach, and season with salt and pepper, and nutmeg, sauteeing until the spinach is wilted.  Transfer the spinach to a 13-by-9-inch casserole dish and set aside.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  

3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons finely chopped shallot
2 pounds U-15 jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/4 cup sherry
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups milk or 1/2 and 1/2
salt and pepper
1 1/2 cup shredded Gruyere cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano 

  1. Wipe out the skillet that the spinach was cooked in and melt the butter.  Add the shallots, and saute for 2 to 3 minutes until the shallot is softened.  
  2. Add the shrimp to the skillet, cook until the shrimp turn pink.
  3. Add the sherry, and bring to a boil.
  4. Remove the shrimp to a plate, and add the flour to the skillet.  
  5. Whisk for 2 to 3 minutes to cook the flour.  
  6. Add the milk, and bring to a boil.  
  7. Season with salt and pepper.
  8. Remove the sauce from the heat, add the cheeses, and stir until the cheeses are melted.  
  9. Add the shrimp and any of their cooking liquid to the sauce.  
  10. Pour over the spinach and bake for 30 minutes or until the sauce is bubbling, and the sauce is golden brown.  Allow the dish to rest for 5 minutes, and serve.  
  11. Cook's Notes:  You can use your choice of seafood, this is delicious with crab/shrimp/lobster or any thick fleshed white fish like halibut or seabass.  You can also substitute chicken (cut into bite-size pieces) 
  12. Cook's Notes:  Once the sauce and shrimp are poured over the spinach, you can cool, cover and refrigerate for up to 24 hours.  
                                                                                  Sauteed Spinach

Saute shallot

Add the Shrimp

Add the sherry (if you prefer, add white wine or white vermouth)

Add the all-purpose flour

Add the milk

Pour over the spinach

Bake until bubbly

I normally serve this with rice, but we're trying to limit carbs, so we served it with a salad

This is really a simple dish to make, and with the advent of pre-washed baby spinach, and peeled and deveined shrimp.  
As we are coming into another week, I hope that you all are closer to getting a vaccine and that you will continue to wear a mask.  Ciao for now!

Monday, March 22, 2021

Chocolate Salted Caramel Chip Cookies

So, I've said this before, I LOVE cookies!  I have my favorites, but I'm always willing to try something new, and that new thing was some salted caramel chips from King Arthur Baking.  I waited a long time to try them since they were out of them and over the summer they don't ship them because it's too hot and they might melt.  These chips are pretty sweet, and I thought they'd probably be too sweet for a chocolate chip type cookie, so I decided to add them to a chocolate cookie---since chocolate and salted caramel are matches made in culinary heaven.  
I picked up some Lindt cocoa in Italy---it's really delicious, and I can't find it readily here.  You can use your favorite cocoa in the recipe.  This recipe is simple to put together, I used a portion scoop to shape the cookies, and then pressed the cookies down once they were on they are on the baking sheet.  

 Chocolate Salted Caramel Chip Cookies
Makes about 24 cookies

1 cup unsalted butter softened
1 cup sugar
2/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar
2/3 cup cocoa
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons vanilla paste or extract
2 large eggs
1/4 cup milk
2 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 to 2 cups salted caramel chips (see note)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and line baking sheets with silicone, aluminum foil, or parchment. 
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment beat together the butter, sugars, cocoa powder, salt, baking soda, powder, and vanilla.  
Add the eggs beating until smooth.  
Beat in the milk, flour, and chips, until combined.  
Using a portion scoop, or a tablespoon, form the dough into balls and place 2-inches apart on the prepared sheets. Wet your hand, and press each cookie down to flatten.
Bake 12 minutes, until the cookies are no longer shiny, and look set.  Allow them to cool on the baking sheets, then store them in an airtight container.  

Note:  Because these chips are really sweet, I went with 1 1/2 cups, I think 2 cups would be fine.  The chips don't melt, they stay solid in the cookie.  
Note:   I adapted this recipe from the King Arthur website

There they are, just waiting for a glass of milk, a cup of tea, or coffee.  I hope you are all safe a well.  Dr. C and I have been vaccinated, and that feels hopeful.  Ciao for now!