If you’d asked me even at age 25, I’d have told you squash wasn’t something I thought I’d enjoy eating at any point in my life. I’d just begun to experiment with zucchini about then and that’s only because I had a small garden and harvested a few that were more than a foot long and five inches in diameter. I quickly became someone who could cook anything with zucchini.
It was the yellow and orange squash I continued to not like the idea of, and I think it may have had something to do with texture. When I saw it prepared, it was always soft and mushy, and ironically, sweet. It’s always been a challenge for me to consider eating meat or vegetables that have been sweetened…well, as long as nobody counts Sweet & Sour Chicken, right?
Thankfully, I’ve gotten past the few issues I’ve had with squash, so when I saw the copper pot full of glistening “Texas Beef Brisket Chili” on the cover of Bon Appetit last month and realized those orange chunks nestled up against the beef were nuggets of savory butternut squash, I knew what we were having for dinner and quick.
But there was just one thing…this dish was anything but quick. In fact, it was the epitome of slow and low — and just perfect for football watching on Sunday.
There’s a chocolate company here in San Diego that keeps me quite happy — Chuao Chocolatiers. Actually, it’s my husband who keeps me happy gifting me small boxes of their very unique chocolates several times during the year: Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, my birthday, our anniversary… I am thankfully rarely out of Chuao chocolate. I think biting into one of their dark nuggets of wonderfulness is what helped me understand that dessert can be sweet and have a bite — a spicy bite that is.
So when I saw this Boca Negra Chocolate Chipotle Cakes recipe a few years ago I knew I had to try it. It reminded me of another Boca Negra I’d tried, but this one had so much more to offer. Chocolate and chipotle? With tomatillo sauce? Oh my. Sometimes, one has to suspend all thought about preconceived notions and just dive right in with the most open of minds. It is only then that unexpectedly amazing flavors can be enjoyed.
And wonder of all wonders is that this happens to fit right in with this month’s Sugar High Friday event, hosted by the talented Anita of Dessert First. The deadline isn’t until Monday, the 27th and I’m so done. Are you ready to spice up your life?
Years ago, one of my students gave me a gift certificate to a bookstore as a parting thank you for the school year. With it, I purchased a tiny book called Biscuits and Scones: 62 Recipes from Breakfast Biscuits to Homey Desserts by Elizabeth Alston. Until Sunday, I’d never made another biscuit or shortcake recipe because those recipes are the very best.
When it comes to the perfect shortcake recipe, I think it should be only slightly sweet since it’s going to have macerated fruit poured over each piece. It should have a sturdy exterior with a pleasant bite — almost a crunch. The center is more dense and very nearly like a sponge that will soak up the juice of the berries without getting mushy. A bit obsessive, yes?
But Sunday, after the BBQ Beef Sandwiches with that amazing crunchy Coleslaw with Bacon and Blue Cheese, we had Nectarine Shortcake make with a different recipe. The ginger called for in the original recipe from this August’s issue of Bon Appetit, which I cooked the hell out of, caught my eye. In my recent kitchen reorganization, I unearthed a bag of crystallized ginger that I swear I bought two years ago, so now seemed like it was free. Ridiculous reasoning, I know, but it’s kind of like finding money in the pocket of a coat you haven’t worn since last winter, right? The other thing that caught my eye about the recipe was the addition of ginger ale. No milk. Well, not as much as the recipe I’ve been using.
Of course I’d like to say that I made this recipe exactly the way it was written, but I somehow forgot to increase the amount of butter along with the other ingredients since I was making more than what the recipe called for.
I’m sure Alton Brown would have something to say about the chemistry of the missing butter, but they turned out famously. Crunchy tops, easy to split, and very nice with nectarines that have been macerated in quite a bit less sugar than what the recipe called for. Some lime juice splashed in for good measure was almost perfect. I’d have added some basil to it all if we’d not had some younger people at the table who wouldn’t try the dessert if there were green shreds in it — but next time.
And yes, there will be a next time.
These are outstanding!
Nothing like a little blogging break, huh? It wasn’t planned, exactly, but the combination of finally moving my Mac back up to the office from where it sat for a few weeks on the kitchen counter, and a very busy weekend left me completely not interested in climbing the stairs to even check email for the past few days.
Since I’ve taken a gander at the posts I have looming ahead over the next couple of weeks and have somewhat measured their sugar content, I decided to keep my commitment of posting a few of the Rick Bayless recipes I’ve been enjoying. And since I’m a huge fan salsa fan, that seems to be a good place to start.
This Tangy Tomatillo Salsa is a breeze — especially if you’re someone who enjoys great salsa. Well, now that I’ve said it, I have to qualify it. Great salsa actually has the flavor of the ingredients and not so much salt and heat that you can’t taste anything else.
I’m not opposed to heat, but at some point, what’s the point? Is there a point?
To be a great salsa, a few qualifications need to be in order: 1) It’s perfect with tortilla chips whose only purpose is to scoop large quantities of it into one’s mouth; 2) It has lots of texture; 3) It tastes great with eggs, chicken, pork, fish, or beef; and 4) When nobody’s looking, you can eat it with a large spoon. No sharing.
Not very scientific, but that just about covers it, don’t you think?
The nice thing about this particular recipe is that you can alter it however you like. And I probably have, but may not be able to tell you exactly how. I don’t do this on purpose to torture anyone. If anything, it’s simply to promote the idea that you don’t have to make anything exactly like it was written. Well, unless you’re baking. That’s a whole different solar system.
Bayless uses this salsa with many of the dishes featured in Rick Bayless’s Mexican Kitchen.