Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Sweet and Spicy Slow Cooker Nuts

I love spiced nuts, especially my recipe for those from Union Square. You know, their Bar Nuts. But I was surprised to see a recipe in The Kitchn for Slow Cooker Spiced Nuts. As in, why would you do this?

But curiosity got the better of me and since I have an Instant Pot I thought I'd check it out. Only instead of their "spiced nuts," which only include ground cinnamon as the spice, along with some vanilla paste, I thought I'd amp it up with a sweet and savory version--like the Bar Nuts.

My garden is filled with herbs so I clipped rosemary, oregano, thyme, and sage. I chopped them up and prepped everything else--melted the butter, whisked the egg whites. And I added cayenne pepper to this to get that kick of heat. After prepping, you make the sauce in the slow cooker pot. Then add the nuts, stir up the mixture to coat the nuts, and let it rip--or, in this case, gently cook. It's actually a very easy recipe--but, it's a slow cooker recipe so it requires patience. And your presence. Unlike other slow cooker recipes in which you can head out and it all takes care of itself, with this recipe you need to stir the nuts in their salty, herbaceous sweet sauce every 20 minutes. 

The recipe also gives you an option in cooking times. Cook low for three hours or high for one hour. I went all in since this was, after all, a slow cooker recipe. But after three hours it still didn't look done--whatever that was. So, I amped the heat up to high and gave it another half an hour.

And I liked them. They're gooey, and the nuts won't be crisp as they would if you toasted them. But they actually have a lovely almost creamy texture and addictive flavor. You'll be as stuck on these as kettle corn. And don't try to have any self control. They only last a week in an airtight container at room temperature.

P.S. These are perfect little holiday gifts!

Sweet and Spicy Slow Cooker Nuts
Adapted from The Kitchn
(printable recipe)
Makes 6 cups

2 large egg whites
1 cup packed light brown sugar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, roughly chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh sage, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons fresh oregano, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, roughly chopped
1 tablespoons ground cayenne pepper (optional)
6 cups raw, whole nuts, such as almonds, pecans, cashews, or walnuts

1. Lightly coat a 6-quart slow cooker with cooking spray.
2. Place the egg whites in the slow cooker and whisk until frothy. Add the brown sugar, butter, vanilla, salt, herbs, and cayenne pepper, and stir into a thick syrup.

3. Add the nuts and stir with a spatula until they are evenly coated.

4. Place a double layer of paper towels over the top of the slow cooker to catch condensation. Cover with the lid and cook, stirring every 20 minutes, until nuts are fragrant, lightly browned, and the coating appears dull and not shiny, 3 to 3 1/2 hours on the LOW setting or 1 to 1 1/2 hours on the HIGH setting. If you go with 3 hours on LOW, you can add another half hour on HIGH.

5. Stir one final time, then pour onto 2 baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Spread into an even layer, separating the nuts as much as possible, and cool completely.
6. Once cool, break apart any nuts that have stubbornly stuck together and transfer to a serving dish, jar for gifting, or airtight container for storage. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week.

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Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Tillie's Chocolate Bit Cookies

Holiday baking is upon us. I tend to associate Chanukah with two cookies: snowballs and rugelach. Both are cookies my Nana Tillie made, and later my mom and I. But there's one more cookie from Tillie that I hadn't thought about in years--chocolate bit cookies, a layered treat with a cookie base, topped by chocolate chips, then brown sugar merengue, and finally chopped walnuts. One bite gives you a crisp cookie popping with sweet chocolate, then comes the snap of the merengue and savory warm crunch of the nuts. It's heavenly. When I came across the recipe on a couple of index cards clipped into in a denim cookbook she made for me decades ago it caused a reflexive smile.

And then I realized I had to make it.

Tillie used to send me these Chocolate Bit cookies wrapped in wax paper, along with the snow balls and her other legendary sweet, mandelbread, all packed tightly in a shoe box--mailed first class all the way from Arcadia, Calif. to Manhattan, NYC, where I was living and working after college. They would arrive at the mailroom at The William Morris Agency, where I worked, the box wrapped in a brown paper grocery bag. If I was lucky, by the time the mailboy (yes, then always a guy) delivered the box to me the tape and twine were still intact and the cookies still cookies, not crushed into crumbs. But I never got many home. Once I opened that box, it would be a free for all among my friends and co-workers. That box's arrival always was bittersweet. I loved the treats inside but it would make me weepy with homesickness.

My Nana passed away many years later, after I returned to L.A. and I got her to make me that little cookbook. The chocolate bit cookie seemed to have died with her. My mom and I annually make the snowballs and mandelbread. I still love making rugelach. But for some reason the chocolate bit cookies hadn't stayed in play.

But they're back now!

I actually have two versions of the recipe--one handwritten by Tillie and the other in the calligraphy my mom was focused on back in the '80s. They were slightly different. Tillie used Crisco, Mom used butter. The number of eggs was a little different. And so on. I figured the best way to tackle it was to have Mom come over and make them with me.

That's what we did last Sunday afternoon. For my mom, reading recipes isn't good enough. It's all about the feel. She's very insistent that you have to internalize the texture when making these and other cookies. And these cookies have a special meaning to her. Tillie made them for her when she was a child.

For this cookie, the layers can seem a bit intimidating if you haven't made them. Tillie even acknowledged this on her index card, at the end of the recipe.

"This may sound like a difficult cookie--but it is not," she wrote. "Enjoy--enjoy. Nana"

She's right. It's not. We fiddled a little, compromised a little. Instead of all Crisco or all butter, we used a 3-to-1 ratio to get the butter's richness and flavor and the crispness you get from shortening. We added an extra egg white to have more merengue, doubled the amount of walnuts, and tried a slightly longer baking time. I think we ended up with a cookie Nana would enjoy. Mom certainly did!

Tillie's Chocolate Bit Cookies
(printable recipe)
Yield: About 30 squares, depending on how you cut them

12 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons shortening, like Crisco
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
2 egg yolks
1 tablespoon water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups AP flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
12 ounces chocolate chips
3 egg whites
1 cup brown sugar, sifted
2 cups walnuts, toasted and roughly chopped


Pre-heat oven to 350°.

Cream together butter, shortening, and sugars. Slowly add the egg yolks, water, and vanilla.

Sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Add to butter mixture. Mix well.

Pat cookie Fill a small bowl with water and wet your fingers. Then use your fingers to press mixture into a 10 X 15-inch cookie sheet. The water will keep the dough from sticking to your fingers. Spread chocolate chips evenly over the dough and lightly press in.

Beat egg whites and slowly add brown sugar. Beat until the whites form soft peaks.

Dot merengue mixture on top of chocolate chips and cookie dough, then smooth evenly with an offset spatula.

Sprinkle chopped walnuts on top of merengue.

Bake 25 to 30 minutes. Cool and cut into squares.

Note: These cookies are freezable, but the merengue texture won't be as great after defrosting. Also, my mom tells me that if you are eating them a day or so after baking, heat them very briefly--like 7 seconds--in the microwave to freshen them.

Happy Chanukah!

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Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Curry Via Oh Momo!

At the risk of being labeled a pseudo-Sandra Lee with her semi-homemade dishes, I have a thing now for Oh Momo! Fresh Curry Paste. Launched by Momoko Jackson of World Curry in Pacific Beach (Yes, you must go eat there!), the red, green, and yellow pastes are an easy way to add a ton of flavor to a stir fry, soup, or curry dish that you'd like to simplify to get dinner on the table quickly on a week night.

I'll be writing a story on their global house-made curries for the San Diego Union-Tribune's food section for February, but for now I want to introduce you to their retail product, which you can find at the restaurant, Specialty Produce, Frazier Farms, Jensen's in Point Loma, and Catalina Offshore Products.

The curry pastes themselves aren't new. Momoko Jackson, who with her ex-husband Bruce Jackson, owns World Curry, has been selling them wholesale to markets that sell hot dishes--like Cardiff Seaside Market, Bristol Farms, and Harvest Ranch--and restaurants like the Brigantine and Karl Strauss Brewing Company. But only this past summer have the Jacksons been packaging and selling the curries for retail.

For home cooks, the fresh pastes are a wonderful short cut to add new flavors to dishes you may have become boring staples. They are also something that will last a good long while in your refrigerator--up to six months, even without preservatives. And, if you have a vegan or gluten-free eater in your household, these curry pastes will work. The green basil curry paste, for instance, contains  lemongrass, Thai basil, cilantro, shallots, salt, garlic, galangal, turmeric, cumin, black pepper, and coriander, as well as organic can sugar, and non-GMO gluten-free soy sauce (something Jackson incorporated instead of fish sauce, which she said made no significant difference to the flavor).

I used the green basil curry paste for two dishes: a broken shrimp stir fry and what I'm calling my Orange Soup because it features Kabocha squash, sweet potatoes, and carrots. With both dishes I added coconut milk. Beyond that, given that the curry sauce contains all the flavorings, I didn't have to add much more. It made putting on dinner so easy and the end result was delicious.

The broken shrimp stir fry doesn't have a recipe. I had picked up these shrimp pieces at Catalina Offshore Products and used half in a stir fry their Tommy Gomes had shown me how to make. The rest went into this dish for one--Just broccolini, half a yellow onion, some shitaki mushrooms, and a serrano chili from my garden.

I heated some peanut oil in my wok, added the vegetables and stir fried them. Then added the shrimp.

Once they were cooked, I added the coconut milk and green curry paste, took it off the heat, and stirred it well. Then I poured the mixture over a bowl of brown rice.


My Orange Soup was pretty easy, although obviously it took longer to cook.

Orange Soup with Green Curry Paste
Serves 6
(printable recipe)

Vegetable oil
1 yellow onion, diced
5 cloves garlic, minced
4 carrots, sliced
1 sweet potato, peeled and sliced
1 Kabocha squash, seeded and chopped
1 quart chicken stock
4 ounces Green Basil Curry Paste
1 cup coconut milk

1. Add vegetable oil to a large pot. Heat and add onions and garlic. Sauté until translucent.
2. Add carrots, sweet potatoes, and squash pieces. Mix well.

3. Add stock. Stir and increase heat to bring to a quick simmer. Skim foam.
4. Reduce heat to a slow simmer and cover. Simmer about 40 minutes, until vegetables are tender.

5. Remove from heat and using an immersion blender, puree the soup until creamy and smooth.
6. Add curry paste and coconut milk. Stir well and serve.

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Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Tommy Gomes' Broken Shrimp Stir Fry

You never know what you're going to find at Catalina Offshore Products. I mean, of course, besides the seafood. Usually, COP's Tommy Gomes is out on the floor schmoozing with chefs and other customers and friends. And if you time it right, he's in his little open kitchen cooking up simple delicious dishes that show off the product.

It had been awhile since I'd been in but I was in the neighborhood and figured he'd be around to say hi to and I could pick up some fish for dinner. In fact, he was and, yes, he was in the kitchen cooking. On a wok. That I hadn't seen before. Usually, he's grilling something on the flat cook top. Tommy stir frying was new. Then he gave me a taste of the dish--stir fried broken shrimp with vegetables. It was fabulous!

Tommy made another batch and showed me what he did. There's no strict recipe but that's because it's just so easy. And I love the broken shrimp; it's simply raw shrimp that was leftover from other uses, shelled and chopped up. If you don't need to have beautiful whole shrimp for a dish, this is terrific (and cheaper).

Tommy's Broken Shrimp Stir Fry

Peanut oil
Chopped vegetables (any combination you like)
Broken shrimp
Olive oil
Your favorite marinara (jarred or homemade; Shhh, Tommy actually uses Ragu)
Black ground pepper
Juice of half a lemon

Heat the wok and add peanut oil. Add the vegetables and stir fry until cooked through.

Add the shrimp and stir fry until the shrimp turns pink.

Toss in some olive oil. (Tommy says it offsets any bitterness from the peanut oil.) Then add your marinara sauce--enough to coat; don't drown the stir fry with it. Mix well and add pepper and lemon juice.

Cook for another minute or so to combine the flavors. Serve over rice.

FYI, I'll have another related post soon with a divine stir fry using the broken shrimp--and OH MOMO by World Curry, a line of curry pastes from the owner of Pacific Beach's World Curry. Here's a sneak peak:

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Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Delicata and Carrot Soup

I always think that my preferences for fruits and vegetables leans toward spring and summer--peaches and plums, strawberries, asparagus and corn, and, of course, tomatoes. And yet when I roam through farmers markets or places like Specialty Produce starting around October and see all the gorgeous variations of winter squash, I just fill up with joy. They're all so extravagantly colored and shaped. And the flavors are so specific to the time of year.

One of my favorite winter squashes is delicata. I love the sweet flavor and the fact that I don't have to peel it. The skin is thin and perfectly edible. And, I love the seeds. My dad taught me how to prep and roast pumpkin seeds when I was a little girl and I do it on almost every winter squash I buy. It's such a waste not to!

Delicata squash on the left
On Halloween I had a long striped Delicata squash whose future I was contemplating and decided it was meant for soup. But which way to go? If I have a complaint about winter squash it's that it can be kind of challenging to bring flavors to it that won't be overshadowed by its own flavor. So I rummaged through my fridge and came up four ingredients that I thought could pull it off--even if they didn't seem to go together: carrots, mirin (rice wine), white miso, and fresh lemongrass. I had shichimi togarashi spice seasoning, a spicy multi-ingredient Japanese mix that contains chili pepper, black sesame, white sesame, orange peel, basil, and szechuan pepper. And I had onions and garlic.

Since soup is one of those wonderful dishes that don't require precision, I figured I'd just go for it. I sliced up the carrots and roughly cut the onion. I minced the garlic and peeled off the tougher layers of the lemongrass and then chopped that. Pretty soon, ingredients were going into the medium-size blue Le Creuset pot my mom gave me when she moved out of her house. I added a little water to the sauteeing onion, garlic, and carrots to keep them from burning while I dismembered the squash and pulled out the next of seeds. Once I added the squash and the rest of the ingredients, along with water (I didn't have any stock on hand but you could use chicken or vegetable stock to make it even richer) I brought the pot ingredients to the boil, the reduced the heat to simmer for about an hour until the squash softened. And, oh, the aroma. It turns out combining mirin, miso, and lemongrass is, well, inspired. Sweet and salty and full of umami.

Now you could enjoy the soup as it was--a loose vegetable soup. But I prefer creamy soups so I pulled out my stick blender and puréed it to a silky consistency. I had some pumpkin seed oil from Vom Fass I had been waiting to use, so I drizzled that on my soup once I poured a serving into a bowl. And sighed after the first bite. Lucky me. I had plenty to enjoy with a hank of warm sourdough bread for a few more meals!

Delicata and Carrot Soup
(printable recipe)
Serves 2 to 4

Olive oil for sautéing
½ large onion
5 cloves garlic, minced
5 carrots, sliced
1 large Delicata squash, cut into cubes
¼ cup fresh lemongrass, roughly chopped
1 cup mirin
2 tablespoons white miso
1 tablespoon shichimi togarashi spice mix
Water or chicken or vegetable stock
Pumpkin seed oil (optional)


1. In a medium size pot, sauté half an onion and five cloves minced garlic. Add carrot slices. Add a little water to prevent burning while cutting up the squash (save seeds for roasting).
2. Add squash pieces, chopped lemongrass, mirin, white miso, togarashi, and water to cover.
3. Bring to the boil then simmer for about an hour until squash is soft.
4. Use an immersion blender to purée. Drizzle with pumpkin seed oil from Vom Fass. Serve with crusty sourdough bread.

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Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Himitsu Appetizers

Long ago and far away my parents introduced me to Japanese food. This actually would be in Los Angeles back in the '60s, when pretty much only the Japanese ate Japanese food, dining in Little Tokyo downtown. My folks, though, were into what at the time would be considered adventurous eating and wanted to expose us kids to foods and people of different cultures. There were no sushi bars back then; instead there were tempura bars--and that's where we went in Little Tokyo. The concept was similar. You'd sit at the counter and in the refrigerated cases in front of you would be vegetables and shrimp. You'd select what you wanted and your choices would be dipped in batter and then fried in what to me back then was a ginormous wok filled with oil. And then you'd be presented with your meal and the accompanying dipping sauce. It was so marvelous I remember it all these decades later.

Now, of course, L.A. and San Diego and cities and towns across the world are filled with sushi bars--and tempura (although tempura bars appear to be history). In San Diego, the most revered and traditional sushi bar is probably Sushi Ota in Pacific Beach. And that's where Japanese chef Mitsu Ahara went to work about 17 years ago. He grew up in a beachside town outside of Tokyo and came to San Diego in 1995 at age 18--not because he dreamed of cooking here but because he was a surfer. He eventually found his way to Sushi Ota and found a mentor in Mr. Ota, as he refers to him. Ahara began as a dishwasher and progressed to prepping vegetables, taking leftovers home to practice. Mr. Ota, he said, taught him everything--especially that quality was most important above all and that you had to take care of the food.

"If there's quality, people will come back," he recalled Mr. Ota telling him. And, while most of us think service and delivery of the food is most important because that's what we see, Ahara was emphatic that instead it's what happens before we get there that counts. "Seventy to eighty percent of what is most important in the process is prep," he told me.

And that's what I found him doing when I came for a visit to Himitsu, his month-old restaurant in La Jolla. That precious time in the afternoon is spent fabricating the fish. In this case, it was tuna. Ahara and his crew at any given time work with 15 varieties of seafood, including local species: lobster, live shrimp, sea bass, and sea urchin. About 60 percent of his fish comes from Japan. One of his cooks made sure to tell me that Ahara uses every last bit of every fish that comes in, not just for customers but also for family meals for the staff. Even the head and attached skeleton are fried and served as a garnish on one of his dishes. In fact, I saw that when I ate there a couple of weeks before.

At Sushi Ota, Ahara eventually progressed from vegetable prep to tempura making, and then, finally,  sushi. The skills he learned from 17 years with Mr. Ota he took with him--with Mr. Ota's encouragement and blessing--to his new place. Now he is the star behind the sushi bar, creating a finely honed show, filled with delicate finesse, for the eight guests at the bar (there are an additional 22 seats in the patio). The evening I was there, my friend and I had him prepare his omakase menu--chef's choice--and were fed sublimely fresh fish, both nigiri and sashimi--and had a delightful plate that reflects his interest in Mexican fusion: Braised Pork Belly over Miso Mole Sauce, Cauliflower, Asparagus. 

From left, bonito flakes, shichimi pepper, chile pepper threads
For me, a night out enjoying Japanese food wouldn't be complete without snacking on edamame or shishito peppers. Ahara shared with me his simple preparations of both. These are dishes you can easily make at home, along with sushi rolls. Now these aren't full recipes with measurements, just ingredients and directions, but you should be able to pull them off without a sweat. You can find the ingredients at markets like Mitsuwa, Nijiya, and Maruki--all in the Convoy District.

Spicy Edamame

Shichimi pepper (spicy, 7-ingredient Japanese seasoning blend)
Chile pepper threads
Slice of lime

Bring a pot of lightly salted water to the boil. Add edamame. When they start to float to the surface, remove and drain.

Place the edamame in a bowl. Toss with a sprinkling of shichimi pepper. Place in a serving bowl and top with chili pepper threads. Serve with a slice of lime.

Shishito Peppers

Shishito peppers
Sesame oil
Teriyaki sauce
Ponzu sauce
Bonito flakes

Turn on broiler. In an oven-proof skillet add shishito peppers and drizzle sesame oil over them. Put under the broiler to char. After about 2 minutes, pull out and flip the peppers. Put back under the broiler for another minute.

Mix together the teriyaki and ponzu sauces in 1-to-1 ratio. Pour sauce into the serving bowl. Place shishito peppers over the sauce. Top with a pinch of bonito flakes and serve.

Himitsu is located at 1030-G Torrey Pines Road in La Jolla. 

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Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Herringbone's Sticky Toffee Pudding

I can just picture you right now, sitting at your patio table, thrilled to have a sweatshirt on because, you know, it's a little chilly in the shade right now, even with your cup of coffee. Even with your glass of pinot. You've got a notepad out with your favorite pen, because while you could do this on your iPad or phone, somehow it's just easier to think by writing. And what you're writing is your Thanksgiving menu and shopping list.

I'm still trying to find mine from last year, which I purposely kept because it was so hugely helpful to me--each dish with the ingredients listed and then a timetable for preparing everything. For an organized person I'm so annoyed with myself for not being able to find it--but I will! Unless puppy Casper ate it (nah, I can't blame him for it going missing).

Anyway, back to Thanksgiving list making. Along with the pies you're undoubtedly making, I have a suggestion for an alternative--or added--dessert: Sticky Toffee Pudding. I got to watch Herringbone's executive pastry chef Becky Kastelz make this last week and not only is it an easy dish to make, it is utterly sublime. Because, of course, I didn't just watch her make it, I ate a serving of it while chatting with her. The cake isn't dense like a fruit cake. It's soft and warmly sweet, thanks to brown sugar and honey dates that soaked with the baking soda, sugars, and butter in boiling water. And, yes, to the toffee sauce that soaked into the cake--more brown sugar and butter...and heavy cream. Pair it with the house-made orange almond ice cream and some candied almonds? Well, you shoulda been there.

Kastelz comes to San Diego from Texas, first near Dallas, where she was raised, and then Galveston, where she attended A&M University (yes, they also have a campus there), earning an education degree in marine science. When she figured out that marine science-type jobs were limited she decided to go to culinary school and studied European pastry at Houston Community College. Kastelz then launched her pastry career at local hotels before starting her own restaurant, Speculoos (named for the cookie). It was a breakfast and lunch cafe, but she also made wedding cakes. Unfortunately, Speculoos literally went under water--literally 10 feet under water--in 2008 with Hurricane Ike. So, she returned to hotel pastry jobs.

Four years ago, though, she moved to San Diego when her husband--also in hospitality--was transferred to a new job with Wyndham Hotels. And Kastelz eventually found her way to Herringbone. For the past year and a half, she's been supervising the dessert and pastry program at all the Herringbones and Searsucker. And, on occasion, still makes wedding cakes.

But right now, on the menu because it's such a perfect fall and winter dish, is this Sticky Toffee Pudding. One thing she does, which I've never seen, is plate it on a sweet potato puree, made with cinnamon, butter, and maple syrup. It's a family recipe that's so good she decided to include it in the dish.

One of the reasons why this dessert is such a great choice for a holiday meal is that so much of it can be made in advance and then plated when it's time to serve. You can even serve it family style on a platter.

Kastelz made this version gluten-free, using Cup4Cup gf flour (something you can purchase from  Amazon or Williams-Sonoma), but you can also go for the gluten with all-purpose flour. She also suggests making the cake batter at least a day in advance because, she said, it "settles down." You can also bake the cakes two to three days before you need them. And, you'll notice, Kastelz slices off the round top of the cake for serving (enjoying the scraps to snack on). You can bake them in conventional muffin tins or buy silicon cylinder molds, which is what Kastelz uses.
The sweet potato puree also isn't really time sensitive. It has a refrigerator shelf life of up to seven days. And toffee sauce, too, can be stored in the fridge for up to a week (but you'll have to reheat it before using). And, if you can resist noshing on the candied almonds, they, too, can hang out for awhile. To make them, just toss raw almonds in egg whites, then granulated sugar, spread on a sheet pan and toast at 300 degrees until just brown.

The recipes are straight forward. Plating is, too. First spread some sweet potato puree on a plate. Then place the cake on the puree. Pour the extra toffee sauce over and sprinkle the candied almonds. Kastelz also likes to add meringue kisses and the powder from crushed meringues. Then serve with ice cream.

Sticky Toffee Pudding
from Becky Kastelz of Herringbone
(printable recipe)
Serves 12

Date Toffee Cakes
Yield: 12 cakes

1 1/4 cups honey dates, pitted
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon plus 1 1/2 teaspoon (packed) brown sugar
12 ounces boiling water
1 egg + 1 yolk
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup + 2 tablespoons Cup4Cup or all-purpose flour

1. Place the dates in a bowl, add baking soda, butter, and sugars.
2. Bring water to a boil, then pour over ingredients in bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit 20-30 minutes to soften the dates.
3. Place the mixture into a blender and blend on high speed until smooth. Pour into a bowl.
4. Whisk in the eggs followed by salt. Sift the flour and whisk well into the batter. For best results, refrigerate batter overnight.
5. Preheat oven to 350°F.  Spray a muffin tin well with non-stick spray. Divide batter evenly into 12 muffins, about 2/3-full.
6. Bake for about 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cakes cool in muffin tin for 5 minutes, then gently remove.
7. While cakes are baking, prepare Toffee Sauce. After baking, soak each warm cake in sauce for about 30 seconds.
8. Place cake on serving plate; top with more Toffee Sauce if desired. Serve with vanilla ice cream.

Toffee Sauce

12 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup + 2 tablespoons (packed) brown sugar
2 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup + 2 tablespoons heavy cream
Pinch kosher salt

1. Combine butter, sugar, vanilla into a medium saucepot and bring to a boil.
2. Add cream and return to a boil for 30 seconds. Add a pinch of salt.
3. Use immediately, or store in refrigerator up to 1 week.  Reheat before use.

Sweet Potato Puree
Yield: about 1 1/2 pints

2  pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1” chunks
2 teaspoons lemon juice
¾ teaspoons kosher salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup medium brown sugar, packed
½ cup maple syrup
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

1. Place sweet potatoes and lemon juice in a medium/large saucepan.  Cover with water and bring to a boil.  Boil for 5-10 minutes, or until just barely fork tender.
2. Meanwhile, combine remaining ingredients in a small saucepan over medium heat.  Stir occasionally until butter and sugar are melted; set aside.
3. Once potatoes are done, remove from heat and drain potatoes; place in a 9x13” baking dish.  Pour sugar mixture over the potatoes and bake at 350°F for 30 minutes.
4. Let cool to room temperature, then puree in a food processor or blender for several minutes until completely smooth.  Scrape down occasionally as needed to ensure the entire mixture is smooth.

*Note: the sweet potato puree has a shelf life of seven days. Do not freeze.

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Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Pisco's Lomo Saltado

Back in the beginning of September I wrote about chef Emmanuel Piqueras and his Liberty Station restaurant Pisco Rotisserie & Cevicheria and shared the recipes for two of his ceviches. With the weather cooling I want to now share his Lomo Saltado dish--an intriguing stir fry beef tenderloin that melds Peruvian flavors with Cantonese influences.

As Piqueras explained, Peru is a melting pot of food--a mix of Spanish, Italian, Cantonese, and Japanese styles and techniques that reflect the country's unique history. Piqueras considers himself a teacher to Americans, sharing Peru's history through its cuisine. Lomo Saltado is a popular traditional Peruvian dish--yes, stir fried beef tenderloin cook with vegetables and served with French fries or potato wedges on rice.

In this dish, Piqueras features soy sauce, oyster sauce, ginger, and garlic to form the sauce that is its  base. That's made in the blender and reserved. Using canola oil, he stir fries seasoned tenderloin pieces, then adds red onion, tomatoes (have you ever stir fried tomatoes?), and a jalapeño. All this is blended with that salty, sour traditional sauce and topped with scallions and perhaps a fried egg. It's easy to prepare and the brightness of the stir fried vegetables really set off the richness of the tenderloin.

Lomo Saltado
From Emmanuel Piquera of Pisco Rotisserie & Cevicheria
(printable recipe)
Serves 4 to 6

Canola oil for frying potatoes
8 ounces of potato wedges1 ounce of canola oil
1.5 pounds beef tenderloin cut into 1/2 inch thick
Kosher salt
Black pepper
1 large red onion, cut into strips
3 Roma tomatoes, cut into strips
1 jalapeño chili, seeded and julianned
6 ounces of lomo saltado sauce*
Scallions cut into strips for garnish
Optional: fried egg

*Lomo saltado sauce:
In a blender mix 2 ounces of low sodium soy sauce, 1 teaspoon of oyster sauce, 1 ounce of white wine vinegar, 2 ounces of water, 1 teaspoon of fresh ginger, and one clove of garlic.


Fill a large pot with oil or use a fryer and bring oil to 375 degree F. Carefully add potato wedges in small batches and fry for 5 to 7 minutes until golden brown. Remove and let drain on paper towels.

Season the tenderloin pieces with kosher salt and black pepper. 

In a wok with canola oil stir fry the tenderloin pieces and cook until golden over high  heat, add the red onion strips stir fry for two minutes, add the tomato strips cook for one minute, add the chilies, then add the lomo saltado sauce and mix everything together in high heat for one more minute.

Serve in a shallow plate, add the fried potato wedges and garnish with the scallions strips and fried egg if you like. For a traditional Peruvian experience, serve with white rice.

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