Sunday, May 27, 2012

Sunday Dinner's Dessert: Sofia's Dulce de Leche Oatmeal Cookies--in Berlin and beyond!

With Chef Sabine and our beautiful  cooking class assistant from my last Berlin visit (and cooking class!)!
As you read this, I'm probably boarding my plane for Berlin...and I promise to share my culinary adventures there, especially since one of the people I'll be with is the amazing chef, Sabine Hueck!
Though I'm not teaching there this time, I'll most certainly be learning. Of course, I'll explore--and share my findings.

 In the meantime, I'm sharing a recipe that was as huge a hit there, as it's been here in New York: Sofia's Dulce De Leche Oatmeal Cookies. Named after my daughter Sofia, they've been a highly-requested item ever since I made them over 10 years ago. Sometimes I make them into "sandwiches" with a creamy dark chocolate middle, or add coconut/pecans for variety, but the original version, which I'm sharing with you today, is still a favorite.

This was the dessert we served after one of my cooking classes!
Presentation courtesy of amazing Chef Sabine!
After a few evenings of teaching cooking classes in October a few years ago--Sabine and I  hit the town!

Sofia’s Dulce de Leche Oatmeal Cookies

Adapted from Viva la Vida/Rafael Palomino and Arlen Gargagliano, © 2002
Chronicle Books,

Makes approximately 6 dozen cookies

1 cup quick oats
1 cup white cane sugar
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons all-purpose unbleached flour
1 and 1/2 teaspoons excellent quality vanilla (My favorite: Primera, from the Dominican Republic)
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 teaspoons dulce de leche* 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Mix all ingredients together and chill for about an hour.  Use a Silpat, parchment paper, or  aluminum foil, shiny side up, to cover baking sheet pans. Use two teaspoons, and scoop up about a 1/2 teaspoon of dough for each cookie in rows three wide and four long (depending on your cookie sheet).  Make sure you spread out the cookies because they will expand!

Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until golden brown. Let them cool completely before peeling them  off. Serve immediately or store for up to five days in an airtight container. You can also freeze them and take them out  just before serving.

* Makes 1 3/4 cup dulce de leche
One 14-ounce can of sweetened condensed milk

Of course you can make it the old-fashioned way, as my wonderful culinary adventurist cousin Donna did with great results--but here's a quicker method: Place the can in a deep pot, and cover them with cold water. Bring the water to a boil. Once it is boiling, set the timer for an hour and forty-five minutes. Make sure you constantly check the water to make sure it is always covering the can. Also, do not let it boil for more than two hours; not only will you overcook the dulce de leche, you will also run the risk of exploding the cans (which, I am happy to report, has not happened and we have been doing this in my family for many, many years). Using tongs, occasionally turn the cans to stir the milk. After the timer rings, remove the can from the water and let cool to room temperature before opening. When cool, transfer the caramelized milk to an airtight container and store in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Midweek Food Musings: Grilled Chorizo Con Ají Rojo

Okay--yes! It's true--I'm off to Berlin next Monday, where I am sure to have fun travel adventures (always!) and also hope to find some fun new flavors for my repertoire. Actually, one of the dear friend's I'm visiting, Sabine Hueck (chef/author extraordinaire!) boasts a wonderful collection of her own native Brazilian recipes, as well as East Asian...and more. I'll be interviewing her, and sharing her insights, recipes--and passion--in the next couple of weeks!

The cover of Sabine's second book! 
Before I go, I want to share a recipe with you: This one is a perfect Memorial Day side dish--and it's great because it marries well with just about anything else you might serve on this great-for-barbecue weekend.

So this recipe just slightly adapted from the one in  Latin Grill! You can also use this ají rojo, fresh tomato sauce, with other grilled meats--and vegetables.
Photo by Dan Goldberg (Latin Grill photographer)
The trick with this dish is to get excellent-quality Colombian chorizo links.

Serves 4 

4 Colombian chorizo links
1/2 red onion, finely diced
Juice of 1 lime
1 medium-size red tomato or  8 grape tomatoes, diced (I've also used mini heirloom tomatoes--and they work very well!) 
1/2cup olive oil
1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar
1/2 habañero or jalapeño chile peeled, seeded, and finely diced
1 teaspoon chopped chives
1 teaspoon chopped cilantro leaves

Light a fire in a charcoal or gas grill. First prepare the ají rojo. (This can be done several hours ahead of time; keep it in the fridge, and bring it to room temperature just before serving.) In a large bowl, combine the onion, lime juice, tomato, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar. Add the chile, chives and cilantro and stir well. Let sit for at least 15 minutes.

Meanwhile,  place the sausages on the grill. Cook the sausages, turning every couple of minutes, until cooked through, about 10 minutes. (The grilling time will vary depending on the thickness of the sausages.)  Remove the sausages from the grill and place them on  a chopping board.  Slice each sausage into rounds (on a slight angle) and place on a platter, or onto 4 plates.Top with ají rojo, and serve.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Sunday Dinners: Latin Grill Salad

There's so much to do...and so little time, always! 

Yesterday we went to Brooklyn, saw my brother Shawn's sculpture and paintings as part of a great show called Time and Materials, on display at Brooklyn Arts Exchange (this show, up until June 9th,  is made up of art by construction workers; you will be inspired by a visit there!). His paintings--which will don the walls of my restaurant some day--can be viewed here!

And speaking of inspiration, this weekend's weather (at least here in New York) inspired many of you break out the grill--and dine al fresco! In honor of the season, I will be sharing recipes that are perfect for these kinds of soirées, including one from a book I collaborated on: Latin Grill

Whenever I have a barbecue—which is just about every Sunday in the summer—I make this salad, which I believe has Italian roots (at least in my family!) makes great use of leftover bread, as well as fresh tomatoes and basil. It’s not only simple, fresh, and tasty, it’s also very flexible; you can vary dressing according to your taste (my sweet shallot vinaigrette would also work well), or add different ingredients like cucumber, mesclun lettuce—even potatoes.   

Arlen’s Hombre Pobre (Poor Man’s) Salad   
Adapted from Latin Grill, written by Rafael Palomino with Arlen Gargagliano, 2010, Chronicle Books 

Serves 4

Photo by Dan Goldberg (Latin Grill photographer)

1 garlic clove, minced
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
3 cups 1/2-inch cubes of crusty bread (preferably ciabatta)
1 pound fresh mozzarella, cut into 1/4-inch chunks
1 pound vine-ripened red tomatoes, cut into 1/2-inch chunks
1 pound vine-ripened yellow tomatoes, cut into 1/2-inch chunks
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, finely chopped
In a bowl, mash the garlic pieces to a paste, using a pestle or the back of a spoon, along with a pinch of salt and pepper. Add the vinegar, and whisk in oil until blended.

In a medium-size bowl, combine the bread, mozzarella, tomatoes, and basil. Pour the oil and vinegar mixture on top and stir to coat.  Let the salad stand at room temperature for about 15 minutes to allow the bread to soak up the dressing before serving.


Christine Romano's gorgeous interpretation--from across the pond! 
 Latin Grill

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Midweek food musings: Roasted Grape Tomatoes, Red Onions and Red Wine Sauce

Sauce possibilities are,  wow, just infinite. And yes, even though I collaborated on Chef Rafael Palomino’s Nueva Salsa  (and local friends, I still have a bunch of copies if you'd like one!), I’m always looking for new sauces and salsas to make.

The inspiration for this sauce comes partly from my love of roasting just about any vegetable, as well as a craving for a new tomato sauce, and the desire to use all the grape tomatoes I was compelled to buy last week! Also, since Wes, my vegetarian, is home from college (though Sofia--my daughter--loves vegetables just as much!), and honestly I’m trying not too eat too many meat-based dishes—I’ve started branching out in the sauce department.   

I made this one twice last week: the first time I made it was on Thursday—and served it for my husband atop ravioli. He liked it, so I figured I’d keep going on for Sunday’s dinner. I served it over lovely orzo-grain mixture (entitled Harvest Grains) and it worked quite well. I would, alternately, serve this on crisp toasts—or as part of a melted mozzarella sandwich. Again, so many possibilities…so much fun to explore. Enjoy!

Roasted Grape Tomatoes, Red Onions and Red Wine Sauce

Serves about 10 as a side dish, about 5 as a main

1 – 2 pounds grape tomatoes
2 large red onions, coarsely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced
1/2 cup red wine (I used a Malbec that I had opened and—incredibly—not finished!)
1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves
Toasted almond slivers
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
In the pan, just before serving

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Lightly grease a baking sheet with olive oil. Add the tomatoes, onions, and garlic. Bake until the all are soft and the tomatoes are mushy, about 30 minutes. Add the red wine and bake another 10 minutes. Remove from the oven, and stir. (At this point you can get ready to use it, or let it cool, cover, and refrigerate for up to 5 days.)

Just before serving reheat, add fresh cilantro, and salt and pepper, and toasted almonds according to taste.  
Here it is atop the orzo mixture! 

Monday, May 14, 2012

Sunday Dinner: Shrimp and Assorted Roasted Bell Peppers

My two favorite women: my daughter and my mom 

I feel lucky: Yesterday, Mother’s Day, I got to celebrate with the two most important women in my life, my daughter and my mom. For me, that’s what Mother’s Day is all about!  

As you know, in my home, Sundays are the day for big family dinners; Mothers Day is no exception. Still, I wanted to make it a bit special, and try to accommodate all the guests’ dietary preferences—including vegetarian and gluten-free! Obviously everything doesn’t work for everyone, but offering a variety of dishes gives everyone the chance to pick and choose. 
Here was the menu I came up with:

Mother’s Day Menu

Mixed Green Salad topped with Chopped Mango, Mango Vinaigrette and Roasted Cashews
Shrimp with Assorted Roast Peppers and Onions
Roasted Grape Tomatoes and Wine Sauce with Cilantro, Served over Orzo and Quinoa medley, Topped with Roasted Almonds
Citrus and Cumin Grilled Chicken
Sautéed Garlic String Beans
Ginger Cookies, Fresh Strawberries

I have to say that this assortment looked great on the plates—and worked well together. I will share the shrimp recipe today—the others to follow soon.
Shrimp with Assorted Roast Peppers and Onions

Shrimp and Assorted Roast Peppers and Onions

Serves 12

7 bell peppers (I used 2 yellow, 2 read, 2 orange, and 1 green), deveined and seeded and coarsely chopped
2 red onions, coarsely chopped
Olive oil 
Coarse salt and freshly ground black (or assorted) pepper
3 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
3 pounds medium-size shrimp,  peeled and deveined (tail on)
Fresh basil (about 15 leaves, rolled and chopped)

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Lightly grease a baking pan. Add the chopped bell peppers and onions. Drizzle with olive oil. Toss, and use salt and pepper as desired. Bake for approximately 40 minutes, or until the peppers soften and start to brown. Remove from the oven and set aside.  (At this point you can keep them at room temperature—if you’re serving within a relatively short amount of time—or you can cover and refrigerate them for up to 3 days.) Bring  the pepper mixture to room temperature before using.

Just before serving, heat about 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a pan. Add the garlic. Then add the shrimp. Cook for a minute or two, and add in the peppers. Continue cooking, stirring frequently, until the shrimp is pink (don’t over cook—or it will be rubbery!). Add the basil leaves, and serve immediately (or as soon as you can!).

Mother's Day Dinner
With Sofia (my daughter) and Sonia (my mom)


Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Midweek Musings: Play with your Food!

When I am teaching ESL-- English as a Second Language--I tell my students that they need to play with their words. When I teach cooking, I tell students to play with their food. What I really mean, is that it should all be fun; we should enjoy the journey, as well as the destination... Well, case in point:  this is exactly what Nicole, Ann, and Teresa, their mom (who looks like she could be their sister) did beautifully.

Nicole said they wanted some simple (or simplish) recipes they could make for summertime (or anytime) entertaining at home. We came up with a menu of "tapas" that are not only fun and festive, but also easy to prepare ahead of guests' arrival. Well, we had a great "cooking class" in my kitchen last week--and enjoyed both the process, and the delicious results!
While Teresa is busy working, Nicole and Ann play in front of the Arepas! 

Here was the menu: Salmon Patties and Mango Chutney, and also made Brazilian Cheese Puffs, Costa-Rican Style Arepas, and classic Argentine Empanadas--which I'll share with you today!

Before baking the empanadas
So, wow, I could go on about empanadas (fell in love with them--as well as my taxi driver and a few more--during my first visit to Buenos Aires!). But suffice to say that there are soooooo many different types of empanadas, even within Buenos Aires, so I picked a one version to share with them (and now with you!).

Now, they came by on a weekday evening, after a long day at school,  and I confess I didn't make the dough, but that--obviously--would be ideal. Second best is a pie crust... But here I used Goya's pre-made frozen empanada dough rounds (easy to find in the frozen-foods section of larger markets, or in smaller Latin-style groceries).
I fried one--just to show my lovely ladies--but here I'm sharing the recipe for the baked version. Serve them with your favorite Malbec...or Bellini (both quite popular in Buenos Aires). Enjoy!

After baking--we didn't use a brush for the egg the "shine" is not as smooth as it could be! 

(Makes about 10) 

1 tablespoon (or more) vegetable oil 
3 red onions, finely diced
1 clove garlic, minced 
1 pound ground beef
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
2 teaspoons paprika
1/4 cup beef broth (you can use half a beef bullion cube in 1/4 cup hot water)
Course salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup raisins
3/4 cup green pimento-stuffed olives, sliced
2 hard boiled eggs, coarsely chopped
1 egg yolk

Empanada dough 
Heat the oil in a sauté pan over medium-high heat. Cook the onions and garlic, stirring frequently,  until softened. Add the ground beef, cumin, chile powder, paprika, beef bouillon, and salt and pepper to taste. 
Cook the beef, stirring and crumbling the meat, until browned. Set aside. (At this point you can also cool, cover, and refrigerate for up to 2 days.)
When you're ready to make your empanadas, preheat the oven to 350° F   place the following ingredients in individual ramekins or small bowls: raisins, olives, and hard boiled eggs.
Prepare the empanadas: If you are using dough, separate it into golf ball size pieces, and roll into smooth balls.  On a floured surface, roll each ball of dough into a 6 inch diameter circle, about 1/4 inch thick. (If you are using the Goya or other empanada discs, you can also roll them out as needed.) 

Add about 1 tablespoon of the beef filling, a few raisins and some chopped olives, and a slice of hard boiled egg to once side of the circle (if you overload, you won't be able to close it).  Brush the edges with water---with a brush or your fingertips--and fold the pastry in half over the filling, to make a half-moon shape. Seal the edges by pressing down with your fingers. Brush the sealed edge lightly with water as needed, then turn the edge toward the middle and press with your fingers to seal. Use the tines of a fork to make a design along the edges. 
Mix the egg yolk well, and brush the tops of the empanadas with it.
Bake on a lightly greased sheet pan at 350° F for about 25-30 minutes, or until golden brown. Serve immediately.  (You can make them ahead of time, and then bake them prior to your guests' arrival.) 

Monday, May 7, 2012

Sunday Dinner: First Sunday in May!

Many of you may have seen my menu even before I started cooking (yes, thanks to Facebook). Well, if you’re looking for a good May menu, I highly recommend it! For those who didn’t see it—here it is,  with a few additions...

Quickly-plated Steak w/salsita, Pasta with Pistachio Pesto, and Salad 
Mango Sangría
Brazilian Cheese Puffs
Mango and Cucumber Salsa with Homemade Chips
Crisp Toasts with Roasted Red pepper and Eggplant Spread
Caitlin and Keiko--at the Table! 
Leafy Green Salad with Mango Vinaigrette
Pasta (cellentani) with Pistachio Pesto
Anticuchos Peruanos (actually I didn’t do the usual kabob-thing; I used skirt steak, marinated it in ají amarillo sauce, and grilled it)
Sofia’s Dulce de Leche Oatmeal Cookies, Mango Sorbet, Fresh strawberries

The result? Some happy eaters, for sure!

Here I’m sharing the recipe for the anticuchos (you have the one for the roasted red pepper spread, and the pistachio pesto---the rest to come). Well, actually, these aren’t anticuchos—because those are skewered and usually not made with skirt steak. (Acutally the REAL anticuchos peruanos are made with beef hearts!) But the sauce, made with classic Peruvian yellow pepper, is the same, or at least this is my interpretation of the classic sauce. I made extra marinade and served it on the side as a kind of dipping option (it’s a bit sparky so, for example with my parents, I didn’t even put it on their plates!).  You can adapt this sauce and use it for chicken—and more. (Ah! By the way--I'm sharing my Latin-style recipes and more every Friday on: Latin Twist! It's part of LoHud's fabulous food blog, Small Bites!)

Peruvian-Style Grilled Steak

Adapted from  Mambo Mixers,©2005,   Arlen Gargagliano


Serves about 12

2 tablespoons ají amarillo (Peruvian yellow pepper--available in large supermarkets and Latin American markets), or to taste
2 teaspoons ground cumin
4 cloves  garlic, chopped
1 1/2 cups red wine vinegar
1 red bell pepper
1 green bell pepper 
1/4 cup olive oil
Coarse salt to taste
4 pounds skirt steak trimmed of fat  

In a blender, combine the ají, cumin, garlic, vinegar, bell peppers, oil and salt. Place the steak in a large glass bowl or dish, and cover with the marinade. Marinate for at least 1 an hour, and up to 24 hours.

Remove from marinade but reserve it. Heat a grill to medium high. Place meat on the grill, and brush with the marinade. Cook for about 4 minutes on each side, or until browned and the desired doneness is reached. Serve hot or at room temperature.
Keiko, Arlen, and Caitlin--after Dinner--and  Dulce de Leche Cookies!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Midweek Food Musings: Chickpea and Heirloom Tomato with Rosemary Salad

The brownies are in the oven, salad is made and “marinating,” quesadillas are waiting to be heated, and one of my “babies” is on his way home from college!

Aside from being a gorgeous time of year, it’s also a big family season: kids return from college, younger ones are winding down the school year, and weekends promise warmer weather for outside adventures. This inspires fare that’s portable (easy to take on picnics and to friends’ homes) as well as servable at room temperature. This, also, is part of my inspiration for this salad.  Now—another thing—I had cans of organic garbanzo beans (I just got home from work and didn’t soak any beans last night!), fresh tomatoes, and fresh rosemary on hand; that makes it all convenient as well.
The chickpea salad I share with you today is simple and tasty. It’s perfect for people like my son, who is no longer a meat eater, but who craves (and needs!) beans and more protein-laden items (we’ll talk about the protein-packed and tasty grain, quinoa, another time!). But he’s by no means the only fan of this salad. My daughter—and son, both meat-eaters—enjoy it as well. (And okay, my dad’s been a garbanzo fan since before any of us were born! My mom likes ‘em, too…and she’s not the biggest bean fan, so that’s saying something!)

What I like about the garbanzo is that it’s versatile and wow, there are so many ways you can prepare it: baked—I have a great baked garbanzo snack (with a kick of spice, it’s a perfect beer or other-thirst-quenching beverage treat), mashed (as in humus), served warm with fresh vegetables, and here, cooked and served at room temperature in a tomato salad. And, thanks to my husband (he’s the gardener in the family!), we’ve got fresh rosemary growing, so I can just step outside and snip away!

Serves about 6 as a side dish

Two 15-ounce cans of garbanzo beans,  or 1/2 pound cooked garbanzos, drained
1 pound of mini heirloom tomatoes (or cherry—or a combination)
A few other gorgeous ripe tomatoes
2 tablespoons chopped rosemary leaves (or more, if desired)
Olive oil
White balsamic vinegar (though apple cider vinegar could also work well here)
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Combine all the ingredients. Let sit for about an hour before serving, or cover and refrigerate for up to a day. Before serving, bring back to room temperature, and adjust seasonings as needed.