Saturday, May 15, 2010

"Liquid Gold"

"Rick Bayless and his daughter, Lanie, check out a fabulous fish fillet at a neighborhood restaurant in Mexico City, and then, at a seafood street stall, they get rapturous over a plate of succulent garlicky prawns that rivals the best scampi in the world. The common denominator of these two dishes? It’s one of the cornerstones of Mexican cooking, Mojo de Ajo (literally, “bath of garlic”)—a sauce made by slowly simmering garlic in olive oil and seasoning it with lime and chiles. Back home in Chicago, Rick shows us how he plants, grows and cures this flavorful garlic variety, then uses some to make a big batch of Mojo de Ajo—a jar of “liquid gold” to keep on hand for enhancing just about anything. It all adds up to this: a splash of mojo de ajo can be the Midas touch that turns just about any ingredient into culinary gold."

Slow Roasted Garlic Mojo (Mojo de Ajo)

Recipe by Rick Bayless, from Season 7 of "Mexico - One Plate at a Time"
Makes about 3 cups mojo de ajo (made with 2 cups of oil)

4 large heads garlic or 10 ounces (about 1 3/4 cups) peeled garlic cloves
2 or 3 cups fruity olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes


Heat the oven to 325 degrees. Break the heads of garlic apart, then mash each clove (a fist against the side of a knife is what I do) to release the clove from its papery skin; if using already-peeled garlic, scoop the cloves into a heavy plastic bag and use a rolling pin to mash them slightly.

Stir together the garlic, oil and salt in an 8x8-inch baking pan (make sure all the garlic is submerged), slide it into the oven and bake until the garlic is soft and lightly brown, about 45 to 55 minutes.

Remove the dish from the oven, add the lime juice and the crushed red pepper flakes, and return to the oven for 20 minutes for the garlic to absorb the lime and turn golden brown. (If you’re using the larger quantity of oil, ladle off 1 cup—no garlic cloves—and store it in a cool dry place for use in salad dressing or sautéing.)

Using an old-fashioned potato masher or large fork, mash the garlic into a coarse puree. Pour the mixture into a wide-mouth storage container and refrigerate it until you’re ready to enjoy some deliciousness. The mojo will last for up to three months as long as the garlic stays submerged under the oil.


Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Shortcut Carrot Cake

Sometimes it's funny how you end up baking something you hadn't planned on baking! lol

I have been wanting to make this "Nut Cake" for a long time—which I used to bake a lot back in Lima—and, finally, had all the ingredients!  Gathered them, took a picture and, before actually starting to make the cake, decided to prepare the pans for baking.  You need two 9-inch round cake pans . . . to make a long story short, I went nuts—no pun intended—looking for the pans in my tiny kitchen!!!  They were nowhere to be found!  I actually have a theory of what could have happened to them but, I don't feel like talking about it! :(

Anyway . . . I still wanted to bake a cake . . . so, the next best thing was to try this new recipe for a "Shortcut Carrot Cake"—for which I also had all the ingredients.  I saw the recipe on the Kraft Foods website, although I had planned on baking this one later on during the week.

I started preparing the spice cake mix first (hence the name "Shortcut") and realized I couldn't bake the cake on my bundt cake pan . . . and then I remembered I had these two square glass baking pans that could fit the bill.  Problem solved! :)

Now . . . to be completely honest with you, I'm not really happy with how the cake turned out . . . to me, the texture was too moist—more like an overly moist cake—although everybody who tasted it thought it was perfect and they even told me they were amazed by how good it was!  When I got the pans out from the oven I let the cakes rest for a good 45 minutes, thinking that would be plenty of time for them to cool before frosting.  It was getting late and I wanted to take pictures before the sun went down.  Big mistake . . . when I started assembling the cakes, I noticed they were still a bit warm and the frosting started melting!!!  I immediately stopped working and put them in the fridge (as well as the frosting) . . . but, as far as I was concerned, the damage had already been done!  Even though I waited 30 minutes, I noticed the frosting had soaked into the cake.  I was so disappointed and annoyed, to say the least!!!  I tasted the cake and, although it didn't taste bad, I didn't think this was one of my best cakes! :(

The next morning I cut a big piece of cake (almost half of it) and brought it to the office.  After all, I had already promised my friend Rosi that I would bring her cake!  Since I still had a feeling of unease about it, I called Rosi, told her what had happened and, jokingly, asked her if she wanted to be my guinea pig.  Not only did she try it, but told me she liked it a lot!  She said the only problem was that the cake had way too many nuts for her taste! lol

Here is the recipe:

Shortcut Carrot Cake (recipe by Kraft Foods)

What You Need!
1 pkg. (2-layer size) spice cake mix 2 cups shredded carrots (about 3 large) 1 can (8 oz.) crushed pineapple, drained 1 cup chopped PLANTERS Pecans, divided 2 pkg. (8 oz. each) PHILADELPHIA Cream Cheese, softened 2 cups powdered sugar 1 tub (8 oz.) COOL WHIP Whipped Topping, thawed Make It! HEAT oven to 350°F.

PREPARE cake batter as directed on package; stir in carrots, pineapple and 3/4 cup nuts. Pour into 2 (9-inch) square pans sprayed with cooking spray. Bake 25 to 30 min. or until toothpick inserted in centers comes out clean. Cool in pans 10 min.; invert onto wire racks. Remove pans. Turn cakes over; cool completely.

MEANWHILE, beat cream cheese and sugar until well blended. Whisk in COOL WHIP.

STACK cake layers on plate, spreading frosting between layers and on top and sides of cake. Top with remaining nuts. Keep refrigerated.

Kraft Kitchens TipsSize-WiseLooking for a simple dessert to serve at a party? This quick version of a classic serves 18 people. For a Decorative DesignUse a toothpick to draw 4 diagonal lines across top of cake; sprinkle remaining 1/4 cup nuts over lines.SubstituteSubstitute a yellow cake mix plus 2 tsp. ground cinnamon for the spice cake mix.


Sunday, May 9, 2010

Anniversary and a flea market surprise . . .

I came back from MI last Sunday night and was actually planning on writing during the week but, for one reason or another, kept postponing it.  Bobby and I celebrated our first year Anniversary on 26 April and, lovely as he always is, he brought me beautiful roses and a yummy chocolate cake that we shared after dinner the following night.

Then, on Friday, Bobby and I drove up north to spend the weekend with his dad.  On Saturday, after having lunch, we decided to scour some antique shops, a gift shop and a flea market in a nearby community, some 20 minutes away from his dad's house.  Before meeting Bobby I was already collecting cat figurines, salt and pepper shakers, and small collectible boxes . . . however, some months ago—when Bobby and I started "raiding" Salvation Army thrift stores—we decided to start our own collection together:  green bottles, old clocks and fish motif items (for the bathroom).  Little by little, we have been adding things to our respective collections, to the point that I've started leaving my new pieces at his house because I ran out of space at my apartment! lol

That Saturday we found lovely things—like antique German clocks (in perfect working order!) and one cloisonné box (circa late 1700)—that were a steal!  But little did we know about the surprise awaiting us at the flea market!  We got there almost an hour before closing time, around 5 p.m., so we decided to make the most of our time there and check out things rather fast.  Got some good bargains and, while walking around the place, we stumbled upon a shelf full of old books.  I didn't have my glasses with me—had left them in the car—so Bobby was the one checking them out and, all of a sudden, he grabbed two books and showed them to me:  The Art of Mastering French Cooking and From Julia Child's Kitchen!  I was ecstatic, to say the least!  Like I said, I didn't have my glasses with me, so wasn't really able to take a close look at them, but decided to buy them.  So we approched the lady that owned the stand, showed her the books and asked about the price.  She asked $2 for the books (one dollar for each one)!  We silently paid, asked for a plastic bag to put the books in, and started walking away!  As we walked away, we were giggling and looking at each other with complicity.  OMG!—I said to Bobby—This woman doesn't have a clue of what she just sold us!  We managed to walk around the whole flea market, bought a couple more things and then left.  Once in the car, though, I noticed that we had Volume 2 of The Art of Mastering French Cooking and were a little bit disappointed that we hadn't seen whether Volume 1 was also for sale.  Since the market was already closing, we decided we would go back another time.

We left up north the next day around 11 a.m.—with the car packed to the rim with all our stuff—and got home before 3 p.m.  After eating a light lunch, we eagerly started unpacking and rejoicing our eyes with all our collectibles!  At some point, Bobby got to the books and started leafing through them . . . all of a sudden he started yelling at me, showed me the books, and we looked at each other speechless . . . they were both signed by Julia Child and her husband, Paul Child!!!

Both books were dedicated to the same person, Joann, and date back to 1981.  Like I mentioned before, the only thing that was a little bit disappointing, was not having been able to get Volume 1 of The Art of Mastering French Cooking.  But, since I'm coming back to MI in two more weeks, Bobby and I can't wait to go back to that flea market and see if we get lucky enough and find the missing volume . . . or some other surprises! :)

And . . . oh yes . . . Happy Mother's Day to all my mom friends and family!!! :)