Category Archives: modern and contemporary

Recipe of the Week

Cream of California Herbs

Cream of California Herbs

“California’s climate is just right for a lot of things, including herbs. They all flourish here, though one has to get pretty north to have luck with chervil, I admit.” – from Helen Evan Brown’s “West Coast Cook Book” of 1952

Brown’s recipe is thickened with egg yolks. This recipe has potatoes to add a little creaminess.

2 tablespoons butter
2 shallots, minced
3 baby potatoes, peeled and diced
6 cups chicken stock
2 cups parsley
1 cup basil leaves
½ cup cilantro leaves
2 tablespoons tarragon leaves
1 tablespoon lemon juice
salt and pepper

Melt the butter in a large saucepan. Add the shallots and cook over low heat until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the potatoes and chicken stock and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer over low heat until the potatoes are tender, about 10 minutes.

Add the parsley, basil, cilantro and tarragon to the soup. Working in batches, puree the soup in a blender, or puree using an immersion blender. Return the soup to the saucepan, add the lemon juice and season to taste with salt and pepper. Add a dollop of crème fraiche to each bowl and serve.

Serves 6

Sticky Toffee Pudding

Sticky Toffee Pudding

The word toffee comes from taffy, a different sweet, which still survives in the United States. British toffee is made from a syrup of sugar and butter and dates to the early 19th century.

For the pudding:
½ stick butter, room temperature, plus more for pan
1 ½ cups flour, plus more for pan
1 ½ cups chopped pitted dates (about 6 ounces)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs

For the sauce:
1 ¼ cups brown sugar
½ cup heavy cream
½ stick unsalted butter
1 teaspoon brandy
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
vanilla ice cream

Preheat oven to 350° F. Butter and flour a 10-inch cake pan.

Bring dates and 1 ¼ cups water to a boil in a medium heavy saucepan with tall side. Remove from heat; stir in baking soda. The mixture will become foamy. Set aside and let cool.

Whisk 1 ½ cups flour, baking powder, and salt in a small bowl. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat butter, sugar, and vanilla to blend. Add 1 egg; beat to blend. Add half of flour mixture and half of date mixture; beat to blend. Repeat with remaining 1 egg, flour mixture, and date mixture. Pour batter into mold.

Bake until a tester inserted into center of cake comes out clean, 40 to 45 minutes. Let cool in pan before inverting.

While the cake is baking make the sauce. Bring sugar, cream, and butter to a boil in a small heavy saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly. Continue to boil, stirring constantly, for 3 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in brandy and vanilla. Let stand at room temperature.

When the cake has cooled, unmold, cut into wedges and serve with the warmed sauce and vanilla ice cream

Serves 8

Alegrías

Alegrías

In the Aztec diet, amaranth was second in importance only to corn. In festivals to honor the gods, toasted amaranth grain was mixed with maize, honey, and sometimes blood and shaped into idols of gods before being paraded through the streets, “sacrificed” into pieces, and distributed among the crowd to be eaten.

The conquistadors regarded this practice as a blasphemous parody of the Christian communion and outlawed its cultivation. Today these honeyed sweets, called tzoalli in Nahuatl by the ancient Aztecs, are known as alegrías, the Spanish word for happiness.

¼ cup amaranth seeds
¼ cup pumpkin seeds, toasted
2 tablespoons raisins
3 tablespoons honey
½ teaspoon lime juice
pinch salt

Pop the amaranth. Heat a skillet over medium-high heat. Place a tablespoon of amaranth into the bottom of the dry pan, and cover with a lid. Turn off the heat and shake pot vigorously to keep the amaranth from sticking. After 20 seconds or so the amaranth should be popped. It’s ok if there are some un-popped grains. Pour the popped amaranth into a bowl. Repeat until all the amaranth is popped.

Mix the pumpkin seeds and raisins with the popped amaranth.

Place the honey in a saucepan. Heat over medium, mixing well, until a syrup forms. Mix in the lime juice and salt. Turn off heat.

Pour the amaranth mixture into the syrup and mix quickly so that the mixture absorbs the syrup. Pour onto a pan lined with parchment paper and press to flatten. Place another sheet of parchment over the amaranth and flatten to smooth the surface.

Let cool until firm and cut into rounds or rectangles.

Makes about 4 pieces

Chocolate Avocado Pudding

Chocolate Avocado Pudding

Native to subtropical America, avocados have been cultivated in Mexico since antiquity; the fruit’s seeds that have been found in archaeological sites in modern day Puebla dating to 8000 BC. Avocado was part of the ancient daily diet along with maize, beans, and squash. The Nahuatl (Aztec language) word for the fruit is ahuacatl, meaning testicle, because of its shape. Naturally it was believed to have properties of virility.

Learn about the history of chocolate in Chocolate Unwrapped: From a Mesoamerican Drink to the Modern Bon Bon, on Life & Thyme.

1 cup water
¾ cup sugar
¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon salt
2 large ripe avocados (8 ounces each), halved and pitted
1 cup 70% dark chocolate chips

cacao nibs for garnish

Combine water, sugar, cocoa, vanilla, and salt in small saucepan. Bring to simmer over medium heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until sugar and cocoa dissolve, about 2 minutes. Remove saucepan from heat and cover to keep warm.

Scoop flesh of avocados into food processor bowl and process until smooth, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. With processor running, slowly add warm cocoa mixture until completely incorporated and mixture is smooth and glossy. (This can also be done in a bowl using a fork and a whisk.)

Melt the chocolate. Place it in a wide shallow bowl and microwave. Heat on medium high for about 1 minute to start with. Remove and stir. Repeat, heating at 15-second intervals stirring in between, until melted and smooth. You can also melt the chocolate in a double boiler. Heat a small pot with several inches of water. Place the chocolate in a bowl and set over the pot, making sure the surface of the water does not touch the bottom of the bowl. Stir occasionally until completely melted.

Add the melted chocolate to the avocado mixture and process until well incorporated, about 1 minute. Evenly transfer pudding to 8 ramekins, cover, and refrigerate until chilled and set, at least 1 hour or up to 24 hours. Garnish with cacao nibs and serve.

Serves 8