Remedy for a rainy day: Coconut Oatmeal Cookies

Image

Remedy for a rainy day: Coconut Oatmeal Cookies

While contemplating the shades of grey (not the book) in the sky, I suddenly urged for oatmeal cookies! Adding a bit of unsweetened shredded coconut did miracles Suddenly the day wasn’t so… dull. If you’d like the recipe, contact me via comment, Facebook, or whatever ;). It’s definitely a cure for the rainy-day blues.

Advertisements

Festive Pico de Gallo

Pico de gallo. I won’t go into the literal translation of it, but it really is a refreshingly vibrant addition to any savory something. Cool, acidic, slightly sweet, and picante at the same time. Pico de gallo is traditionally found at most taquerías and other Mexican-influenced restaurants, but in Puerto Rico, you can find it just about anywhere criollo. In fact, there’s a chain of food restaurants called Pollo Tropical that offers a variety of signature Caribbean dishes and, just because it is so good with everything, they offer unlimited pico de gallo with your food. Did I mention Pollo Tropical is Cuban-owned? Talk about mixing cultures – yum.

As with sofrito, the recipe for pico de gallo varies greatly. Typically, it is slightly picante (or hot) from hot peppers, acidic and refreshingly sweet from tomatoes, onions and lime.  Some pico de gallo varieties are chunky, while others are runny. I made this recipe for pico de gallo adding a couple of twists and turns in terms of flavor, color and texture. A trio of peppers, garlic-infused oil, cilantro for freshness, and Sriracha Hot Chili Sauce® to add depth to the hot jalapeños. The last item can be found in the Asian section most supermarkets in the US, but in Puerto Rico I’ve seen it in health food stores, as well as an Asian supermarket located in Condado County.

The forecast was cloudy with a “chance of rain.” Naturally, it poured, since early in the morning. How depressing. It’s nice to know that some pico de gallo is here to brighten my breakfast though.

Yields: 4 cups of pico de gallo

Tools and Equipment

Mixing bowl

Knife

Cutting board

Small saucepan (optional)

Stove (optional)

Ingredients

3 Cloves of garlic, chopped or sliced

3 Equally-sized bell peppers (red, green, and yellow)

3 Tomatoes

1/2 Vidalia onion

1/2 Green jalapeño

1 Tbsp Extra virgin olive oil

1/4 C Lemon juice, about two lemons

1/4 C Finely chopped fresh cilantro

2 Tsps Sriracha Hot Chili Sauce®

Black pepper or pepper medley to taste

  1. In a small saucepan, heat the olive oil on medium-low, and add the garlic. Heat until the oil starts to bubble, in effect frying the garlic. Transfer the garlic and the infused oil onto a large mixing bowl and let it cool until necessary.
  2. Chop the peppers, tomatoes and the onion. For a runnier salsa, leave the pulp of the tomato. I like mine on the dryer side, so I removed it. You can puré the tomato pulp and add it to your next soup or sauce, like I did ;-).
  3. Cut the jalapeño in half and remove the stem and chop finely, be careful with all the flesh adjacent to the seeds, as it is the primary source of the heat. You can use gloves to be extra safe. Just make sure not let anything or anyone get near them once you’ve finished.
  4. Combine all the chopped goods with the garlic and oil in the mixing bowl from step #1.
  5. Add the lemon juice and the chilli sauce, mix again.
  6. Cover the bowl and refrigerate for at least an hour. The longer, the better though, as it will allow flavors from the fresh veggies and fruits to mix together in both acidic and oily phases (read: It will taste 10x better).

Something is a’making, while the oven preps for baking!

Something is a'making, while the oven preps for baking!

¡Piñón! Perhaps the most common dish made from ripe plantains in the Caribbean, after amarillitos, fried cuts of mature plantains served as a sweet side dish. Piñón is like lasagna, but with layers of ripe plantains, and no tomato sauce. Usually the plantains are fried prior to layering, but I don’t want anything clogged-up, except my mouth with delicious food. =)

Hot Nights Merit Ice Cream!

Image

20120728-000903.jpg

It’s about 78 F in the western region of Puerto Rico, so ice cream is just what the drunk doctor ordered: Two flavors! Red velvet cake in lemon creme over a lusciously creamy amaretto ice cream. Any takers?

Chocolate chip banana bread

GUINEO! Shouted the lady from across the counter. Local fruits and vegetables were stacked by levels in front of her. The woman’s skin told stories of countless years picking crops in the field. Her forehead had lines of worry and a shine that could result from enduring more than five consecutive hours at an 86°F temperature. Her eyes were alert and cunning, glancing; searching. A moment of silence and the faintest hints of conversation traversed her venue. Below her, but just above the lines of avocados, her grandson spoke to her and she replied in kind. Suddenly, she looked at the costumers walking by and she returned to her former stance. Apologizing to her grandson, she wiped the sweat from her face and gave him a kiss just above his hairline. From a pile of boxes she procured small, clear-plastic bags that swayed in her hands as she shouted “GUINEO” again. She caught my attention.

I already had a bag of vegetables. Enough for three meals and a batch of sofrito, and to be honest, guineos (read: bananas, say: gui – neh – ohs) are my least favorite fruit. Before I could decide, she looked straight at me. “¡Pruébalos!” (Read: Try them!) She was already pealing a banana and before I could greet her, she handed me a neatly cleaned and pealed banana. Wait.

The banana peal was still green! In fact, the banana itself looked rather small, by comparison to a supermarket’s average offering. Sensing my reluctance, the woman, whose voice was now soft, perhaps maternally so, said: “I’ve had more than five costumers today saying they won’t buy these bananas, until they try them.” I followed orders, as I’m sure the others did before me. Soft, sweet, and delicately flavored. I was sold. As she bagged my purchase, we spoke about the history of her organically grown bananas and she gave me useful tips on how to store them. She charged me a dollar, nothing extra. I left booth #34 with deep respect for that woman, sixteen bananas, and something to remember. After all, that’s what food is all about: memories and the people you share them with.

Sixteen bananas is a lot to go on. Although banana is still my least favorite fruit, I really enjoy banana bread. I’ve given away a few of them and used the really ripe ones in this recipe. Hopefully, in the future, I will visit the woman and share a slice or two.

This recipe is diary and egg free, as I’ve been on a plant-based diet for some time now. I do not, however, limit all my recipes in this manner, because some of the recipes are made for my family and friends. Not for myself. Since I had so many bananas, I made both with diary and egg, as well as without diary and egg, so I included the alternatives in the Notes at the bottom of the post.

Yields: 8 – 10 thick slices.

Tools and Equipment

Mixing bowls

Whisk

Electric mixer (optional)

9 x 5 metal bread mold

Ingredients

1 1/2 C Unbleached flour

1/2 C Brown sugar*

1/4 C Granulated sugar

6 Small ripe bananas (or 3 regular ones)

1/3 C Chocolate Chips

1/2 C Toasted and chopped walnuts (optional)

1/4 C Toasted and chopped pecans (optional)

1/4 C Canola oil

1/2 C Soy milk, unsweetened *

1 Tsp Baking powder

1/2 Tsp Baking soda

2 Tsps Fresh lemon juice

1 Tsp Mild vinegar*

1 Tsp Vanilla extract

1/4 Tsp Cinnamon (optional)

1/2 Tsp Salt

Pinch Cloves

Pinch Nutmeg

  1. Set the oven to 320°F and line the mold with a piece of parchment or grease.
  2. Combine soy milk and lemon juice in a cup and let it until required.
  3. Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, salt, cloves and nutmeg together into a small bowl.
  4. In a large bowl, combine bananas, sugars, oil, and margarine, as if creaming using and electric mixer. If doing by hand, start with a fork to work everything together and then switch to a whisk until the sugar crystals are barely visible.
  5. Add vanilla extract and the soy milk and lemon suspension prepared earlier.
  6. Combine the dry ingredients with the wet ingredients in the larger bowl, and quickly fold in the nuts and chocolate – without over mixing (Read: as soon as you feel resistance from the batter, stop). Gently mix in the vinegar.
  7. Transfer batter to mold and bake for 1 hour to 1 hour and 15 minutes. Let it cool in its mold for thirty minutes and then let it cool out of the mold for at least an hour before serving. Or just have a pice of it warm, like I did. =)

Notes:

* Brown sugar can be switched for regular granulated sugar, but the bread will be sweeter.

For dairy + eggs version:

Switch the margarine for unsalted butter, and the soy milk, vinegar, and baking soda for 2 eggs at room temperature. Whisk the eggs and incorporate them into the creamed ingredients along with the vanilla extract in step #5 above. This will result in a yellower bread.

The only real stumblin…

Quote

The only real stumbling block is fear of failure. In cooking you’ve got to have a what-the-hell attitude.”

– Julia Child

I have a more “what the hell happened in my kitchen?” attitude. Just the same, I’m sure.

Not Rightfully Tembleque de Coco

Childhood memories kick-in every now and then. The other day, my family celebrated my grandmother’s 76th birthday and even though I was not able to attend, I did talk to her over the phone for a very long while. The chief subject: a recount of comical memories since her childhood. One of the things we both agreed on: She got me into loving coconut, in every way. She wasn’t the only one though. My grandfather would climb, don’t ask me how, the palm trees in their backyard to fetch fresh, water-filled coconuts every single time we visited over the summer. He would skillfully chop the top layers and poke a hole in the center, from which deliciously sweet water poured. Inside the green coconut, one could scoop out delicate, yet tasty flesh. Delicious.

Any who, it was my grandmother that got me into coconut sweets. Among them, tembleque de coco, was the easiest to find, as well as to eat. Not surprising, since this coconut pudding of sorts, is embedded to the very culture of Puerto Rico. I don’t think there’s a bakery in the island that does not offer a variant of this dish lightly dusted with ground cinnamon. The variants I refer to mostly differ in the rigidity of the pudding. The word tembleque actually alludes to the jiggling motion (yes, that is an actual word) that the pudding has as you poke or move it along its sides. Some people prefer this rigid version, as opposed to a softer one. The first time I remember trying tembleque de coco, I asked my grandmother if it was coconut Jello®. Indeed, it looked like white gelatin. Not that I did not like it, but a few months later I tried another variant, a more pudding or mousse-like tembleque; and I loved it. Of course, my grandmother enjoyed it too. ;-)

In light of the recent occasion, it seems right to make this mousse(y) tembleque de coco. In fact, I’ll be making some again as a gift for my super grandmother this weekend. Hopefully, we won’t eat all of it before the rest of the family arrives. Then again, it will be her gift. No reason to share, right?

This recipe yields enough pudding for 6 – 8 people. To make the gelatin-like tembleque de coco see the notes at the end of the recipe.

Tools and Equipment

Mixing bowl

Whisk

Stove

Pot or medium saucepan

Electric mixer (optional)

Ingredients

2 1/2 C Coconut milk, divided (Not coconut cream!)

1/4 C Coconut cream *See notes below.

1/4 C Granulated sugar

1/4 C Cornstarch

1/4 Tsp Salt

1/2 Tsp Vanilla extract

1/4 Tsp Almond extract (optional)

Toasted coconut flakes and/or cinnamon, for garnish.

  1. Combine half the coconut milk with the cornstarch in a separate bowl and whisk until smooth, though small clumps may set in the bottom. Not to worry.
  2. In a saucepan, pour the rest of the coconut milk and set to medium heat. When it starts to boil, add the sugar, salt, and coconut cream. Let it reach a boil once more.
  3. Add in the cornstarch slurry in a slow, steady stream, while vigorously whisking the heated mixture until it starts to thicken. Add the extracts.
  4. When it starts thickening, lower the heat to medium-low, and let it sit for 20 seconds, without whisking. Then whisk again for 10 seconds. Repeat this two times. It should thicken significantly.
  5. Transfer to serving recipient and refrigerate for at least three hours.

– OR –

For a more fluffy, delicate coconut pudding, transfer the mixture to a cold metal bowl and chill for at least three hours. Before serving, whip it using an electric mixer and serve.

Notes: * An alternative I prefer to use, instead of coconut cream, is to chill a can of coconut milk over night and remove the cream from its almost-solidified state at the top of the can. I use the rest in making sauces and soups. This makes for not-ridiculously sweet cream.

To make the gelatin-like tembleque, double the amount of corn starch, let it sit on low heat for 2 extra minutes after thickening to your desired consistency and refrigerate in a shallow bowl or serve ware.