Thursday, August 29, 2013

A Great Website, and an Appetizer

Hi Everyone,

I have recently been contacted by a gentleman from Australia who has traveled fairly worldwide and has a wonderful concept for his website. It is all about bringing cultures together through food. All sorts of ethnicities are included, and he is attempting to include such things as where bloggers buy their food for these ethnic cuisines, not counting large supermarket chains. He is also interested in "street foods", something I was highly interested in, when I lived in Guatemala, though I never took photos of any of it, back then. If anyone is interested, I did list his website here: I urge everyone to at least check out his website and if anyone can help with fleshing out the categories, and adding some great street food photos to that section, I am sure it will be greatly appreciated. Food brings together diverse cultures. This should be celebrated.
Mushroom Crostini with Sherry & Rosemary
Mushroom Crostini with Sherry & Rosemary

Having lived in Guatemala for 12 years as a new young wife (long ago), I came in contact with so much new and interesting food I had never seen or heard of before, and this journey led me to a lifelong interest in ethnic cuisines and different foods and spices. That has brought me to where I am today. I constantly look for new ideas, new spices, new combinations. At times I have lived in places where many wondrous ethnic shops are available and at others not so much. But it has been a lifelong joy when I find a little ethnic grocery, where entering the new sights and smells just transports me to another place. The smells are just amazing.

When we lived in Justice, in the greater Chicago area, there was a little Greek/Italian grocery we frequented. Sadly I cannot recall the name, or exactly where it was located, but walking in there, the smell of the barrels of olives or huge chunks of Feta cheese were immediately noticed, as well as many other interesting foods not seen in a grocery chain store. In Guatemala I recall loving the typical candies like Canillas de Leche, or just the candied fruits like figs and oranges, or candied vegetables such as squash or sweet potato. We often stopped at little stands outside someone's house where we ate things like Pipian de Pollo or Res, or Tripa. We bought Pupusas and curtido. We often stopped for freshly roasted corn on the cob, rolled in cream and then in Queso Fresco. Those memories will never fade.

Black Cardamom, closeup
Green Cardamom
I wish now that I had had the foresight to get photos, no matter that they wouldn't be of great quality. Alas, the memory alone must serve. For now though, I made another recipe today that is just spectacular. It has been something percolating in my mind for some time, but when our friend Richard was visiting recently I was giving him some of the less-known Indian spices to smell. He is very inventive when it comes to pairing flavors, and after smelling the black cardamom (not to be confused with green cardamom, he commented that the smoky earthiness of the cardamom should go well with the earthy flavors of mushrooms. And I thought, "Duh! Now why did this never occur to me?" It is just wonderful to have others with great ideas like that. So today, I finally got down to trying it out. I had wanted to revisit a recipe I had played with a couple years back. It was mushrooms, and meant to go onto toasted bread. However, I burnt the bread so badly, the whole thing was a bust. You couldn't even taste the mushrooms for the burnt bread, though my husband valiantly ate them anyway. True love, there!

A few days ago I made some Multi Grain and Seed Bread that turned out just spectacular, so I used that bread as the base for these Mushroom Crostini with Sherry and Rosemary. This would be perfect on thinly sliced baguette, shown. The recipe makes about 3 1/2 - 4 cups worth and will top at least 24 little baguette slices. This should make 24 appetizer servings or 12 servings as a first course. A nice earthy wine would go well with these, such as a Pinot Noir, or a Carmenere from Chile.

Mushroom Crostini with Sherry and Rosemary

1 baguette, sliced about 1/4-inch thick
2 - 3 tablespoons olive oil for brushing on the bread
Mushroom Crostini with Sherry & Rosemary
Mushroom Crostini with Sherry & Rosemary

1 ounce dried shiitake mushrooms, soaked 20 - 30 minutes in 2 cups boiling water
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, thinly sliced and rough chopped
2 - 3 cloves garlic
1 pound "baby bellas" or cremini mushrooms, stems removed, sliced thinly
1 teaspoon sea salt
a few grinds of the pepper mill
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary leaves, minced
1 black cardamom pod, seeds removed and crushed, pod discarded
1/2 cup Fino Sherry, or dry white wine
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 - 2 ounces grated Parmesan cheese

Heat a large skillet and add in the 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add the onion and reduce heat to medium low, cooking the onion slowly, tossing often, for about 15 minutes, or until nicely golden. Add in the garlic and sliced mushrooms with the salt and pepper and continue to cook, stirring often, until all the liquid has evaporated and the mushrooms begin to brown slightly. about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, remove the shiitakes from the hot water (discard water) and cut out the hard stems. Slice them in half, then thinly slice them across. Add the shiitakes to the skillet with the cardamom, rosemary and Sherry. Raise the heat to medium high and cook, stirring, until all the Sherry liquid has evaporated. Add in the cream off the heat and stir to combine. Set aside.

Broil the olive oil brushed baguette slices very close to the broiler for about 2 minutes, or until browned. Flip them over and brown the other side. Remove from oven and pile on mushroom mixture and top with grated Parmesan. Broil for another 2 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and just beginning to brown. Serve immediately.
1 ounce dried shiitake mushrooms
Bon Appetit!

My passion is teaching people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and passing along my love and joy of food, both simple or exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me also at A Harmony of Flavors on Facebook, and Pinterest.  

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

What to do with Summer's Bounty?

Summer Bounty
This time of year, we are all inundated with vegetables. It is a wondrous thing, especially after going through a long winter, and believe me, up in south Dakota, winter is plenty long. I am not complaining, but suddenly there is a glut of all the vegetables, and we all scramble for things to make. Whether it is too  many tomatoes, too many ears of corn, too many zucchini, or any other vegetable, I always look for some new way to use them.

I bought some ears of corn at the Farmers' Market here; a very small affair compared to some cities, but very nice and most welcome. Of course, I no more than bought the corn and then two people gave me a bunch more. 

Fresh RAW Corn Salad
Fresh RAW Corn Salad

Fresh RAW Corn Salad

Serves 4 - 6 as a side dish
Serves 2 - 3 as a main course on a RAW diet

3 ears fresh corn (about 3 cups corn kernels)
1 red bell pepper
1 jalapeno pepper, or more as desired
1 - 2 Roma tomatoes
1 chopped shallot
½ cup cilantro, chopped
juice of 1 lime
1 teaspoon cumin seed, ground coarsely
1 teaspoon salt

Cut kernels from the corn cobs and place into a bowl. Chop the bell pepper, jalapeno pepper (remove seeds and membranes if less heat is desired), and tomato(es) and add to the corn. Add in the cilantro, lime juice, salt and cumin and toss to combine.

Personally, I love my Fresh RAW Corn Salad best, but I have come up with a couple of other recipes recently to try and use up some of the extra corn. One was Confetti Corn and Bacon; anything with bacon tastes good! Another was just a couple of days ago; Southwest Corn and Beans. 

Confetti Corn and Bacon
Confetti Corn and Bacon

Confetti Corn and Bacon

Serves 6 to 8

6 ounces bacon, sliced across into ¼-inch strips
1 onion, chopped
6 ears fresh corn, cut off the cob
1 green bell pepper
1 red bell pepper
1 - 2 jalapenos, seeds and membranes removed, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1½ tablespoons minced fresh sage leaves
2 teaspoons salt, or to taste
2 teaspoons nonpareil capers
½ cup heavy whipping cream

Fry the bacon on a large skillet until just crisp. Remove the bacon to paper toweling to drain and set aside. Reserve about 2 tablespoons of bacon drippings in the skillet. Add in the onion and saute gently for about 10 minutes or until just golden. Add in the corn and peppers and saute another 8 minutes, then add in the garlic to cook for another two or so minutes, until corn is tender. Add in the salt, sage, capers and whipping cream and heat through. Return the bacon to the pan, reserving 1 tablespoon for garnish.

Southwest Corn and Beans
Southwest Corn and Beans

Southwest Corn and Beans

Makes about 8 - 10 servings

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 large green bell pepper, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
5 ears fresh corn, sliced from the cobs, about 6 - 7 cups
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, stripped from stems, OR
1 teaspoon dried whole thyme, rubbed between palms
1 teaspoon cumin, or more, to taste
2 - 2½ teaspoons salt
few grinds of the pepper mill
½ cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 can kidney beans, well rinsed
½ cup chopped cilantro, or to taste

Heat a very large skillet and add in the olive oil. Put the onion, bell pepper and celery into the pan and saute on medium heat for about 8 minutes, until softened. Add in the garlic and cook for another 2 minutes. Add the corn, along with the thyme, cumin, salt, pepper and sun-dried tomatoes and continue to cook, tossing often for another 10 minutes. Add the lime juice with the beans and cilantro and toss until heated through, another 2 minutes. Serve with some cilantro leaves scattered over top for garnish.

My Sister-in-Law is growing herbs this year that are not always in her repertoire, such as rosemary, sage and chives. She usually has various flavors of mint, and does this year as well. Since I was moving into a new house this Spring, I missed out on getting anything planted, so I am doubly grateful for her bounty. I do miss my herbs. I walked to her place today and picked some sage, rosemary and mint. I wanted to use sage in my Yellow Squash and Apple Casserole that I was dreaming up. I got back and made the casserole with some of the yellow squash a friend brought over. I was mainly trying to think of a way to make these yellow squash or zucchini more exciting to eat. I find them rather bland. Great for making zucchini breads, but less so when trying to get them down otherwise.

Everyone may not agree with me on this, and that is wonderful. This would be one sad world if everyone liked only the same things. But, for any of you out there who find a lot of zucchini and/or yellow squash on hand, with little desire to eat them, you have just GOT to try this casserole.  I have been thinking on this recipe for days. I knew I wanted to put Granny Smith apples in it, but aside from that, I hadn't pinpointed the rest of what would  make this casserole stand out. Today I did that.

Yellow Squash and Apple Casserole

Yellow Squash and Apple Casserole
Yellow Squash and Apple Casserole
Makes one 9 x 13-inch casserole

4 slices thick-slice bacon
1 tablespoon reserved bacon fat
1 tablespoon butter
1 onion, thin sliced and rough-chopped
2 - 3 cloves garlic, minced
4 cups yellow squash and/or zucchini, cut in thin slices
4 cups Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, sliced thinly
1 cup bread crumbs
2½ cups shredded cheddar, 1 cup set aside
2 tablespoons minced fresh sage (less than 2 teaspoons if dried)
1½ teaspoons salt
pepper, to taste
2 eggs, lightly beaten
½ cup water

Slice the bacon across the length into ¼-inch pieces. Fry the bacon till crisp, drain and reserve 1 tablespoon of the fat in the pan. Add in the butter and the onions and toss to coat. Saute the onions till golden, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic and allow the mixture to cook for another 2 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. While the bacon and the onions are cooking, slice the squash or zucchini and place into a large bowl. Add in the apples, bread crumbs, 1½ cups of the cheddar, sage, salt and pepper. Add the bacon and onion/garlic mixture to the bowl when they are done, tossing well to coat. Add in the eggs, whisked with the half-cup of water and mix well. Grease a 9 x 13-inch baking dish, or spray with cooking spray. Pour the squash mixture into the prepared pan, patting in evenly. Sprinkle with the reserved cheddar. Cover with foil and bake the casserole for about 20 minutes. Uncover and bake about 25 minutes more, or until the vegetables are tender and the top is golden.

Of course, you may say that anything with bacon, egg and cheese in it is going to be good. And you'd be right. I added in some other flavors too, such as fresh sage, bread crumbs, caramelized onion and garlic. I was testing as I went along to see if there was enough flavor. It seemed good. I found it needed to be covered for part of the baking time in order to get the vegetables and apple done through. But even while baking it smelled just heavenly. I couldn't wait to taste it. It was certainly worth the wait. My husband has absolutely no interest in zucchini or yellow squash, but I knew he would like it this way. I shoved a spoon in his mouth as soon as he got home this afternoon, and he admitted that it really was good. That is my real test of a recipe!

Okay, I grant you that this is not going to fly if you are on any kind of diet at all. It is not egg-free, dairy-free, gluten free. It won't work for vegetarians and less still for vegans. But it is so tasty. Oh yes.

My passion is teaching people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and passing along my love and joy of food, both simple or exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me also at A Harmony of Flavors on Facebook, and Pinterest.  

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Pork - that Magical Meat

I love pork. I guess if you eat meat, and pork is not kept off your menu for religious or vegetarian purposes, it is a favorite of most. Bacon makes everything taste good. My sister-in-law quipped once that "Bacon could even make cardboard taste good." I'm not sure I would go quite that far, but I expect you know what I mean.

There are so  many parts of the animal that are usable, though I usually stick to the more common ones. Bacon, of course, pork loin roasts, pork tenderloins, pork chops, pork ribs, other pork roasts, ham. Once in a while I will cook something like a boneless pork shoulder roast to use in things like a barbecue for summer sandwiches. Pork Barbecue is one of my more favorite things to serve on a bun. The terminology is different in some places. My mother-in-law called what I would term Sloppy Joes, "barbecue". But when I say Pork Barbecue, I mean the wonderfully tender shredded pork roast with barbecue sauce. Yum!

I have made pork barbecue occasionally for many years, though I never thought to set down a "recipe" as such. I rectified that lately, and put the recipe on my website. I used my own Sweet Tangy BBQ Sauce recipe for the sauce, and it is just insanely good. Still, any preferred barbecue sauce will work. In past, I have used a regular red barbecue sauce alone, or used a combination of a red sauce combined with a honey-mustard variety. Whatever your preference, it will be good, I am sure. It is a simple meal to prepare. The only messy part comes when you have to remove all the fat from the cooked roast and shred the meat. Obviously, a pork shoulder roast is fatty, and will cook down a fair bit. I just place it into a pot with water nearly to cover and add in some salt, bay leaves, pepper. Sometimes I add an onion, sometimes not. I allow the roast to cook, covered for up to 3 hours, or until it is falling-apart-tender. Remove from the cooking water and let it cool. Breaking it up a bit will speed the cooling process. Then remove fat and shred the meat and you are almost done with no real work involved.
Pork Barbecue
Pork Barbecue

Pork Barbecue

Serves about 6 - 8

3 - 3½ pound boneless pork shoulder
1 tablespoon Kosher salt
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon peppercorns
1 large onion, chopped
3 - 6 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups Sweet Tangy BBQ Sauce, or other barbecue sauce

Place the pork roast into a pot large enough to accommodate without crowding. Add water to almost cover, then add in the salt, bay leaves and peppercorns. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to a simmer, cover and cook slowly for 2½ to 3 hours, or until the pork falls apart easily. Remove the meat to a plate until cool enough to handle.

Once meat has cooled, remove all fat and discard, then shred the meat, cutting across the grain to make some strands shorter and more easy to eat. Set aside. In a large skillet, fry the onion until golden brown. Add the garlic and fry for a couple minutes more. Add in the meat and the BBQ sauce; toss to combine and heat through.

Pork Chops with Sage & Currant Jam
Pork Chops with Sage & Currant Jam
Pork chops are a favorite standby. I make them in various ways. One of my favorite go-to-recipes for pork chops is to place the chops into a cold skillet and bring up to fairly high heat. Brown that first side and while it is browning, sprinkle the chops with salt and pepper and then use either fresh sage or rosemary. Chop the herb of choice very finely and sprinkle that all over, along with some minced garlic. Once the first side is browned, flip the pork chops and repeat with the seasonings. Once the second side is browned, place about a tablespoon of Marion Blackberry Jam, or currant jelly on top of each chop. Cover and simmer for about a half hour. The jam/jelly will have made a wonderful sauce around the meat and given great flavor. These are a particular favorite with my husband and his sister. Recently, when I made some "Champagne Pink" Currant Dehydrator Jam, while the jam was too tart for serving on toast, it was fantastic on these pork chops.

I make pork tenderloins all summer long on the grill. I love using the marinade for either chicken or pork tenderloins. I usually clean any fat and silver skin off the tenderloins, then cut them on a bias across the grain into three pieces. They are then about the size of a chicken breast. This marinade is so exceptionally good on either chicken or pork. The meat is great after a half hour of marinating, but can easily be left overnight if it is a time crunch. This is the recipe:

Pork (Chicken or Turkey) in Indian Spices


Pork in Indian Spices
Pork in Indian Spices
1½ to 2 pounds pork tenderloins (or boneless chicken or turkey breasts)

3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons fresh ginger, grated
2 teaspoons coriander seed, ground
1 teaspoon cumin seeds, ground
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
½ teaspoon cardamom, ground
½ cup red wine vinegar
½ cup olive oil

Combine all the marinade ingredients in a zip top bag or other container. Prepare meat: For pork tenderloins, trim any silver skin and slice the tenderloin diagonally into 3 or 4 pieces. If using chicken breasts, leave whole if small. If large, cut them lengthwise into two pieces. For turkey breasts, cut them lengthwise into 2 pieces each. Place the meat of choice into the marinade and allow at least 1/2 hour of marinating time, turning often so all sides of the meat are in contact with the marinade.

Once the meat is marinated, remove from marinade and grill to desired doneness. It is wonderful with a side of rice. 

I could go on and on, but all this is making me hungry! I hope some of these ideas will give you new avenues to explore.

My passion is teaching people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and passing along my love and joy of food, both simple or exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me also at A Harmony of Flavors on Facebook, and Pinterest

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Pickles - 'tis the Season

Beet Pickles
Some of my Beet Pickles
I must start out with the fact that I am not into canning all that much. On occasion, I have canned some few jars of something, such as jam, dill pickles, pickled beets or pickled jalapenos. On the other hand, when I married my current husband, I found out about pickles and canning on a scale heretofore unknown in my world. My mother-in-law was the absolute Queen of Pickles, and I say that in a most loving and appreciative way. Her pickles and other canning were legend. From fruits and tomatoes to Green Tomato Relish, Apple Butter and all things in between, her larder was well stocked, year after year.

All of which makes it no surprise that my husband is absolutely nuts about the pickles she made, such as her green Lime Chunk Pickles or Bread and Butter Pickles or her Watermelon Rind Pickles. He eats these types of pickles like there will be no tomorrow. In my life I had never seen anyone eat so many pickles at one sitting. Once I tasted my mother-in-law's pickles, I understood how this could be the case. In particular, her Lime Chunk Pickles were so delicious, to me they were nearly like a dessert. I was happy with 4 or 5 chunks. Richly spiced and very sweet, with enough vinegar tang to make them incredible. Early in my relationship, she gave me the recipe. However, it was a recipe that would take days of work, and I heard enough about the process to make me leery of trying to make them alone.

I grant you, I have not been one to shy from a cooking challenge. I have made Guatemalan tamales, for heaven's sake. The difference being that the first time I made Guatemalan tamales, I was helping my (ex) sisters-in-law make them, and so I was instructed all along the way just how something should be done, or how it should look or why it was done in this one way, etc. As for the pickles, I never had the opportunity to see how they were done. If I was going to spend three days on making pickles, I surely didn't want to find out they didn't come out right.

Making Lime Chunk Pickles

My sister-in-law, Sherri, when visiting recently, told me that WE were going to make Lime Chunk Pickles. She had an order placed for a half bushel of pickling cucumbers. She already had all the large pots and a canning pot, as I do not. I was instructed to pay for the cucumbers and we got started making these little gems last Friday evening.

Rinsed of lime and soaking in clear water
Rinsed of lime and soaking in clear water
Up to this time in my life (at age 63) I had never, ever, come face to face with a half bushel of cucumbers. Sherri and I sat at the table and cut all those cucumbers into small chunks, or thick slices. She prepared the lime solution of:

1 cup of pickling lime, mixed with
2 gallons of water

This mixture was made in each of two 16-quart Granite ware preserving kettles. We divided the cucumber slices into these two pots and stirred them well. At this point, they were to set overnight, stirring them now and again to keep them in contact with the lime that tends to settle to the bottom. This part of the process is to firm up the pickles and help with the nice crisp crunch, later on. My husband was in charge of the periodic stirring.

The next morning, Sherri came over and we took turns washing the cucumber slices free of all the lime solution. This step is very important as any leftover lime will turn the pickles black. No one wants black pickles! We went to the degree of actually running fingers over each and every cucumber chunk or slice, under running water. After this thorough washing, the cucumber chunks were once again returned to the cleaned kettles and covered with clear water and left to soak for the day.

That evening, we prepared the brine. When I think of brine, I think of a salt water solution. While this mixture contains salt, it contains no water. The "brine" mixture (per kettle) is:

2 quarts apple cider vinegar
4½ pounds white sugar
1 tablespoon canning salt
2 tablespoons celery seed
2 tablespoons whole cloves
2 tablespoons pickling spices
½ teaspoon green past food color

Lime Chunk Pickles, Canned and Processed
Lime Chunk Pickles, canned and processed

Each kettle with brine solution was brought to just under a boil; just to the point where it was too hot to keep one's finger in more than a few seconds. At this point the sugar is dissolved and the brine is ready. The green paste food color is really just an option, but my mother-in-law's green Lime Chunk Pickles were always vibrantly green, so for me this was not to be left out. We added in the food color, about a half teaspoon, until the spoon we were using to stir was no longer visible immersed in the solution. We added the drained cucumbers and stirred them in well and left them overnight.

Next morning I brought the first kettle of cucumbers in the brine to a boil and then allowed them to boil for 40 minutes. Meanwhile, I had another of the large kettles with boiling water and the quart canning jars, lids and rings. Once the pickles were cooked, I filled the jars and sealed them, while placing the next kettle to boil. My mother-in-law never used a hot water bath to process these pickles. They would seal and the lids would pop and that was that. I know that these days, everything is supposed to go into a boiling water bath, so I did process them for 10 minutes. In all, the outcome was 15 quarts from the half bushel of cucumbers. Seeing them lined up on the shelves makes me incredibly proud. I am very glad to have been a part of it and finally learn how to make them properly.  It may well be years before I do that again. At least in that quantity. I think I would stick to a peck of cucumbers in future. They sure are pretty though. 

My passion is teaching people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and passing along my love and joy of food, both simple or exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me also at A Harmony of Flavors on Facebook, and Pinterest

Friday, August 2, 2013

Things I am working on lately

My last post was about dehydrator Jam, and I left with the idea that the next jam I would make this way would be blueberry. It didn't happen that way. The very next day my sister-in-law arrived for dinner bearing gifts - a bag of delectably ripe peaches. They couldn't have been any more perfectly ripe, so they needed eating or working with, pronto. Since I was on a roll with the dehydrator jams, I decided on that.

Spiced Peach Dehydrator Jam
Spiced Peach Dehydrator Jam
I love fresh peaches. Along with mangoes and raspberries, those are my favorite of fruits. I set about getting the peaches prepped for the dehydrator early the next morning. Most of the jams I have made have started with about 3 cups of the prepped fruit. I add in honey, and sometimes some spices. Sherri, my sister-in-law, loves peaches more than almost any other fruit, so I thought to make some of this jam for her to try. The thing is, she is a purist. She does not like tainting the fruit with other flavors. I, on the other hand, just love to add in spices. So although the batch of fruit was enough for what would usually be just one container, this time I divided it into two containers of about 1½ cups each, and adding spices to one of the containers. I added in cinnamon and cardamom and a little bit of vinegar. The other container was just the peaches and honey.

While both taste wonderful, I really liked the spiced batch better. Peaches really lend themselves to spices and even vinegar. My next project, tomorrow morning, is to make Spiced Pickled Peaches. I don't have any precise measures in mind yet. That will have to be another post. I believe I must have tasted Spiced Pickled Peaches before at some time in my life, because I can almost taste them in my mind. I can't wait to try this out.

Another thing I want to make is Blondies or blond "brownies". I have never made them, although I have eaten them. I am not terribly over fond of chocolate, though brownies are good once in a great while. Watching The CHEW the other day, Carla Hall made Blondies, and it just looked so good. Okay, so I went back to my recipe for brownies, to see if I could come up with a suitable combination of ingredients to make Blondies out of that as a basis. Carla also made a Praline Sauce, and I want to make that also. As a matter of fact, I think I might just go and do that right now, so we can have them for dessert tonight!  This will have to be continued later!

7:40 PM

I ran downstairs earlier (from my "office" in one of the upstairs bedrooms) and made my recipes for Blondies and the Praline Sauce. Both turned out fantastically well. The Blondies are chewy and rich and the Praline Sauce has just the right consistency and makes the perfect counterpoint. Too bad I had no vanilla ice cream, but this was surely enough on its own. I do not believe I would change a single thing about either of these recipes. Here they are, as they will have to wait to go on my website until tomorrow.

Blondies with Macadamia Nuts and White Chocolate

Blondies with Pecan Praline Sauce
Blondies with Pecan Praline Sauce

⅔ cup unsalted butter
2 cups light brown sugar, packed
4 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1¾ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup nuts of choice: macadamia, pecans, walnuts
1 cup white chocolate chips, optional

Heat oven to 350 (or Convect to 325). In a medium-large saucepan, melt the butter. Remove pan from heat and add the brown sugar and whisk until smooth and creamy. Add eggs, one at a time, whisking until completely incorporated before adding the next. Add in the vanilla to combine. Separately, combine the flour, baking powder and salt, then add this to the saucepan and mix until almost combined. Add in the nuts and white chocolate chips if using and mix well. Pour into a greased 13 x 9-inch pan and bake for about 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out just barely moist. To maintain proper chewiness, do not over bake.

Pecan Praline Sauce

2 tablespoons butter
Pecan Praline Sauce over Blondies
Pecan Praline Sauce over Blondies

1 cup light brown sugar, whisked together with-
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 tablespoons dark corn syrup
¾ cup evaporated milk
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon Pralines & Cream flavoring, optional
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch cubes

In a 4 cup saucepan melt the first 2 tablespoons butter. Add in the next 4 ingredients and whisk together well. Bring to a boil, lower heat slightly and allow to maintain a soft boil for about 6 to 8 minutes. Remove from heat and add in the salt, vanilla, cinnamon and Pralines & Cream flavoring, if using. Whisk in and then add the second 2 tablespoons of butter, 2 small cubes at a time, whisking until completely absorbed before adding in the next 2 cubes, and so on. Allow to cool slightly. Pour over Blondies to serve. Also great over ice cream.

My passion is teaching people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and passing along my love and joy of food, both simple or exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me also at A Harmony of Flavors on Facebook, and Pinterest