Monday, June 25, 2012

Yerba Mate soda and Tamarind Teacakes

Our local purveyor of yerba mate (Guayaki) has become very popular; not sure if they're national yet, but it's getting up there. A while ago, my dad was messing around with their loose leaf tea, trying to make a cheaper, homemade version of their delicious canned teas. He has also started using the tea leaves to brew his own kombucha, which is an acquired taste, plus you NEVER want to ask to see the process before you've tasted it, as it involves a kind of fermentation that uses a lot of disgusting-sounding terms and has the appearance of a giant mushroom floating in muddy water. And yet, the beverage is actually very refreshing and good for you, so don't knock it til you try it.

I was driving home from knife skills class this morning, feeling kind of morose and wondering if it was too early to go back to bed (at noon) when I thought I'd try making a Guayaki/yerba mate soda. Of course I am of the mind that tea should be accompanied by treats whenever possible...

I started trying to think of what flavors would go well with the delicious yerba mate. It's a very delicate flavor and from my experience at tea shops and cafes, green tea does best paired with light, citrusy or floral accompaniments. I had a jar of tamarind paste from my godmother that has been neglected for months, so I started experimenting and got lucky.I also got a chance to use my cute mini-bundt pan, although I am sure the batter would make very good mini muffins. I thought that the tamarind would make the cakes a bright orange, but they turned out kind of a dull golden brown, although the flavor is sweet and tangy.

tamarind cake, 1) dusted with cocoa and sugar and 2) glazed with orange glaze and topped with candied orange peel

mini bundt pan

Green Tea Syrup
1 1/2 Tbs loose leaf yerba mate
3 cups water
1 2/3 cup sugar- the syrup will keep its color better if you use processed, white sugar although I used unprocessed sugar for this recipe
Tie the loose tea with the cheesecloth and brew in a saucepan with 3 cups of water. Once the tea has a deep, golden color (but is not bitter), add the sugar and whisk until dissolved. Allow the syrup to reduce on low heat, then transfer it to a heatproof bowl to cool. Use it in mineral water to make an Italian soda, adding juice if you like.

Tamarind Teacakes
4 Tbs unsalted, softened butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 vanilla bean or 1 tsp vanilla extract
1 Tbs tamarind paste
1 egg
1 cup flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 cup milk
Preheat the oven to 375F. Prep your mini bundt pan liberally with oil, so that every surface has a light coating (you can use a mini muffin pan instead). In a medium bowl, cream the butter and sugar. Scrape the vanilla bean into the mixture and add the tamarind, mixing thoroughly. Add the egg, then the dry ingredients. Whisk in the milk thoroughly. Fill the molds or cupcake cups 3/4 way so they don't overflow. If you are using a mini bundt pan, rap it on the counter to keep your cakes from getting air bubbles like mine did! Bake until lightly golden and a skewer comes out cleanly. The cakes can be served plain or glazed (1:2 orange juice to powdered sugar) or dusted with a mixture of powdered sugar and cocoa powder.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Midnight Linzer Pie

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Friday, June 22, 2012

Potatoes Two Ways- the Irish cure-all

Perhaps one wouldn't think of potatoes as the "Irish cure-all", but rather of some stout brew that could numb the most terrible of pains or sorrows. My grandmother, who is of Irish descent, taught all of us grandchildren how to prepare potatoes many ways. For me, potatoes are the ultimate comfort food, impossible to resist and healing at the soul level.

I was thinking about rainy days, as I said on my previous post today and an image of a mound of potatoes came up, swimming in gravy, topped with crispy fries. I went to the store, assembled my ingredients and got to work. The zesty, vinegar fingerlings offer a contrast to the sweet, earthy, mashed Yukons.

The perfect snack for a cold, gloomy day.

Potatoes Two Ways
approx 6 Yukon Gold potatoes
10 fingerling potatoes, preferably purple or red-skin
1 Tbs apple cider vinegar
unsalted butter
olive oil
Start a pot of water boiling with a pinch of salt and boil the Yukon gold potatoes. While they are boiling, get your gravy started and wash the fingerlings. Using a potato peeler, peel the fingerlings into little oval strips, forming a pile until there is just a small nub left, which can be saved for soup or compost. Once the fingerlings are reduced to small peelings, toss them in a bowl with the apple cider vinegar, a pinch of salt and freshly ground pepper. Heat a frying pan with some oil and brown the peelings in the bottom of the pan, so they form a kind of sheet. Flip once they are golden and repeat on the other side. Once the Yukons can be broken easily with a fork, drain the pot and mash the potatoes (with the skins on) with a few tablespoons of unsalted butter, salt and pepper to taste. Mound the mashed potatoes onto a plate, garnish with the fingerling sheet and dress with the mushroom sauce to taste.

for the mushroom sauce
olive oil
1 medium yellow onion
1 clove garlic, minced
approx 10 crimini mushrooms, diced
1 Tbs white wine
boiling water
cornstarch, approx 2 tsp
Start a saucepan on the stove with some olive oil. Soften the onions in the oil on low heat, until translucent and soft. Add the garlic and the mushrooms, being sure to add a little oil if the mixture looks dry. Allow the mushrooms to reduce slightly, adding the wine and some boiling water if necessary. Add the salt and pepper and slowly whisk in some cornstarch a bit at a time so clumps do not form. This should thicken the liquid in the pot. If it becomes too thick, simply add more boiling water. Once it has reached the desired consistency, it is ready to be added to your potatoes.

Bijoux aux Gingembre~ ginger gems

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