Saturday, September 29, 2012

Majarete (Corn Pudding) from Dominican Republic for Michaelmas

The Dominican Republic celebrates the Archangel St. Michael's Day (the national patron saint) on September 29th, with musical processions. Colors used for the celebration are red and green.
In the U.K., this festivity is called "Michaelmas", or "Goose Day". It takes place on the same date, which is close to the autumn equinox, and harvest, which occurs before the darker and colder days of the year. Thus, St. Michael,  an angel warrior who fought against Satan, is invoked to protect people during this season. 
In the U.K., it used to be celebrated on October 10th, traditionally the last day people should pick blackberries, as an old saying declared that on that day, the devil landed in a blackberry bush.
In Scotland, a large cake called St. Michael's Bannock is eaten; in the U.K, geese used to be eaten, to ensure financial prosperity the following year. 

Majarete is a corn pudding, a dish shared by several countries. In the Dominican Republic and Venezuela, it is usually made of corn and milk; sometimes, coconut milk replaces the cow's milk. In Puerto Rico, rice flour replaces the corn, and coconut milk is always used. In Central America and Mexico, majarete is made of corn and milk, but the name for it is atol de elote.


4 corn ears
1 cup of coconut milk
1 teaspoon of vanilla
1 cup of water
1/2 cup powdered milk
pinch of salt
2 cinnamon sticks
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 tablespoon cornstarch
ground cinnamon

After you boil the corn, cut off the kernels with a large knife. Place them in a blender with water. When they are fully blended, place the liquid in a pot.

 Add coconut milk, vanilla, powdered milk, salt, cinnamon sticks, brown sugar, and cornstarch. 

Cook on low heat until the pudding thickens. When you serve the dish, sprinkle ground cinnamon on top. 


Sunday, September 23, 2012

Bananas Foster from New Orleans

Mardi Gras mask next to Bananas Foster on homemade vanilla ice cream

The rumbling sounds of the band entered Jackson Square. The familiar notes of "Oh when the saints....go marching in...." reminded all tourists that they were in New Orleans, a city of music. 
When you entered the French Quarter, where lace ironwork adorned with vibrant greenery and delicate flowers framed every balcony, you might spot a tourist seated to observe the crowds below.
The Spanish crown still proudly waves its flag over this area, announcing every street name in its tongue. When you turn onto Royal Street, or Calle Real, your feet and ears will force you to stop and listen to the blues, or rock, or even Led Zeppelin and Michael Jackson being played on a violin and ukulele as the transfixed crowd irepressibly smiles. The only way for you to advance along this street is to tear yourself away from the music to take a break every so often in one of several art galleries, where you will find anything from French art to local artists' clever transformation of recycled material into "canvas" for poignant portraits of people.
If you hurry, you might finally see Brennan's sign, further ahead, where you can try the original bananas foster.

The only deepwater port in the U.S., this city has been key in the entrance of many products in the past to this nation, such as coffee, and bananas in the 1950's. It was created at Brennan's restaurant on Royal Street in the French quarter of New Orleans in 1951 by Chef Paul Blange, and named after one of his best clients, Richard Foster. Often, the lighting of the alcohol, a feat, is done in front of the customer, next to his/her table.
The smooth cinnamon syrup combined with the cooked, soft bananas tastes delicious on vanilla ice cream. 

6 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 cups brown sugar
6 whole bananas, peeled, halved lengthwise and quartered
1/3 cup dark rum
1/4 cup creme de banana
Vanilla Ice cream
Heat the cinnamon, sugar, butter, brown sugar, and banana slices, cooking for five minutes. Add dark rum, and light it with a match until the alcohol burns off. Add the creme de banana and repeat; this one may be harder to burn, depending on the content of alcohol in the brand you choose. I was successful with the rum on my second try, but my banana creme refused to burn! I was only able to find one brand in the supermarket, so I had no choice.
Serve warm on top of vanilla ice cream. It is best to serve immediately. However, if it is necessary, you can save leftovers and warm in the microwave, then place on top of ice cream once more.


Saturday, September 22, 2012

Guava Shells filled with Dulce de Leche, from Colombia

Pink guavas cut in halves

As soon as we left Bogota we saw grazing cows. The blue-green mountain gems encased a small wooden cabin where souvenir hammocks and other items were sold along with coffee and heavenly arequipe popsicles. 

 After descending about eight hundred meters or so, green valleys decorated with red bougainvilleas lay peacefully near a golf course. Nearby, we had dessert-- aromatic guava shells filled with arequipe.

Guava Shells
1/2 pound guavas, peeled and halved
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup water
1/4 lime
Boil the guava halves in water for 1 hour. Take out seeds. Add sugar, more water, and the 1/4 of a lime. 

Unpeeled guavas facing open halves

Boil for 10 minutes, then remove the guava shells, and continue boiling the syrup until it thickens. 

Take dulce de leche or arequipe or cajeta, and place inside the guava shells. Serve and enjoy!

Guava shells next to dulce de leche sea candy decorations


Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Chilean Dulce de Leche Wafer Torte for September 18th

In Chile, September 18th is a national holiday and festivity called "Dieciocho" or eighteen, that requires posting your flag. It is one of the special dates for celebrating their independence, because in 1810 on that date, the first Junta government began office. September 19th is Army Day.

Torta Chilena, or the Dulce de Leche Wafer Torte, is made up of 8 or more large wafers that are covered with dulce de leche. In 1870, Cristobalina Montero made the Torta Curicana, or Curican Torte for the first time, which is made up of 8 or more large wafers, that can be filled with dulce de leche, orange dulce de leche, jam, almonds, or nuts. Seven years later, the railroad station on the route between Santiago and southern Chile was inaugurated and she opened a shop there. As the Curico station was halfway between both destinations, it was the perfect place for passengers to stop for a snack before getting back to their long ride, so her torte became well-known throughout the country.
Nowadays, this delectable sweet is made and enjoyed along with a cup of coffee in other Latin American countries, such as Costa Rica, Colombia, and El Salvador.

3 1/4 cups of flour
350 grams of butter
10 tablespoons of milk
1 tablespoon of rum
 1 pinch of salt

2 1/2 pounds of dulce de leche, or 3 1/2 cups of dulce de leche

Beat the ingredients together, and add the milk a tablespoon at a time. Roll out eight 9-inch disks with 4 oz. balls of dough, and cook them on parchment paper on a cookie sheet, at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes. Spread dulce de leche or arequipe on a wafer, and cover it with another. Repeat, until the last wafer is covered with dulce de leche. You can spread the candy on the side of the torte as well, if you like. A whipped cream (Beat 1 cup whipped cream with 2 tablespoons of granulated sugar) decoration is optional. Some people add sprinkles or wafer crumbs on top of the cake.
If you choose to make dulce de leche from scratch, and it starts to stick to the bottom of the pot, there is still time to fix it! Here is what you need to do: a. Stop scraping the bottom of the pan immediately. b. Remove the pan from the heat. c. Pour the contents into a bowl (that won't melt) and make sure you don't scrape the bottom at all. d. Get a new pot. e. Strain the candy into the clean pot. Now you are ready to start cooking it again! It is important to remove the burnt pieces. If you remove them quickly, they won't your candy a smoked taste.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Central American Milk Candy Tartlets for Independence Day

Empty tartlet shells that will be filled with dulce de leche

The rumble of helicopters sent chills through our spines, right before camouflaged soldiers covered with strips of grass emerged, resembling "The Ohio Grassman", or gorillas. The military scene covered the street, as paratroopers and rescue personnel scrambled on the pavement. A few airplanes swerved into the scene.
     This military parade, that takes place on September 15th in San Salvador, along with students that parade in other locations, brings back sounds and images of the war that took place in 1979 through 1992. Except for the bands, that vehemently invade the air with whistling from the "Bridge Across the River Kwai", banging on cymbals, and picturesquely beating on the drums as they methodically lift the sticks up to their shoulders.
September 15th is Independence Day for several Central American countries (Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica) and is celebrated with parades and flags are posted or waved across towns and cities. There was no bloodshed in 1821, the year in which it took place.

Tartaritas de Leche, or Milk Candy Tartlets, are a traditional type of milk candy available in Guatemala and El Salvador, that is sometimes mixed with ground rice (or rice flour) and poured into tart shells. Like most of the traditional candies of the area, their origins spring from Spanish desserts often made by nuns.


1 pound of flour
3/4 cup orange juice or water
2 tablespoons of melted butter
1 tablespoon of sugar
5 egg yolks
1/8 teaspoon of salt

1 liter of milk
2 1/2 cups of sugar
1 ounce of rice flour

Mix the dough ingredients, and roll into a ball. Roll the dough out 1/4 of an inch thick, and cut circles the same size as mini tart pans. Place a dough circle in each mini tart pan. Bake all the tart crusts at 350 degrees for 15 minutes. Cool. 
Cook the milk, sugar, and rice flour in a pot until the mix thickens and pulls away from the bottom of the pot.  Place a spoonful of milk candy in each crust. Enjoy!


Monday, September 3, 2012

Graham Crackers for Labor Day, California Parks

Bear sighting in Yosemite near El Capitan
The meadows at twilight

I thought I was safe, but when I turned to my right, I was facing a black bear! He scrambled onto a white, metallic cylinder, and tugged at locks, eager to get the treasures that lay inside it. I wondered if it had honey, which would have enticed Pooh. A sign over it read "Bear Trap". To think that the previous afternoon, I had spent two hours sorting all of my belongings (securing soap items and food in a bearproof locker) and taking every single item out of the car to avoid getting bear attacks--now, here I was willingly filming one! At the forty-five second mark, though, I switched the camera off and called it a day. We drove out, and left the rest of the gawking crowd which had increased by the minute. Most visitors wanted to see a wild animal up close, even if they didn't realize the dangers involved! 
  It was time to walk over to the base of El Capitan. The silver gray, largely smooth mountain loomed over our heads. At night, red lights shone on it, announcing the presence of climbers who were sleeping as they hung suspended on it.

Sylvester Graham, a Presbyterian minister, invented graham crackers in 1829. He created them to be a health food, and they originally were made with unbleached wheat flour and wheat germ, and were barely sweetened. Nowadays, they are made with a lot of sugar and honey, and are often served as s'mores (a block of Hershey's chocolate served with a roasted marshmallow and sandwiched between two graham crackers).


You can make the traditional square graham crackers, such as the recipe indicates:

I cut the dough with a mini teddy bear cutter to make a cookie similar to teddy grahams.