Tag Archives: sauce

Maple Mousse in a Phyllo Nest with Strawberry and Mango Sauce and a Maple Balsamic Reduction


After all the years I’ve spent experimenting with recipes I feel I’ve got a decent grasp of which flavors work together, but tend to be a traditionalist — especially in the savory department.  Cilantro goes with onion, tomatoes, spicy peppers, and citrus.  Basil goes with tomatoes, onions, garlic, and olive oil.  Bell peppers go with celery and onions.  Once in a while, I’ll play around with one of the combinations, but not often.

I scan the ingredient list of an accomplished chef’s recipe and think, really? wondering where their inspiration comes from.  I dissect it with my own familiarity of and opinion about each flavor in an attempt to understand how one works with the other, but know that my simple lack of experience is my biggest obstacle.  It’s a slow process, but it works if I’m in the mood to tackle one of the often complicated recipes.   Again — not very often.  And even when I do, the experience is rarely if ever repeated, so my ability to grow knowledge beyond my traditional ingredient choices peters out.  Well, except for that dense, rich, dark chocolate tart I’ve made a few times with cayenne and chipotles in adobo.  But still.

A good example of my semi lack of awareness would be with maple syrup.  It makes me think of breakfast:  bacon or ham, eggs, hash browns.  I think of Fall for some reason because I think of apples.  Apples + maple syrup + walnuts = great with a German pancake.  Chalk this up to someone who grew up about as far as one can get from maple trees and their accompanying “sugaring-off” season which occurs as winter’s cold temperatures wane into spring.  Sasha Chapman’s article “The Sweet Life:  Maple Syrup Season in Quebec” published this past March in Saveur magazine provided an excellent foundation to restructure my thinking about maple flavored anything — authentically, of course.  I was drawn into Chapman’s nostalgic description of how Canadians gather in the “sugar shack” and work within the family to make syrup, waiting for that first taste of the season.

Why use maple syrup as an example to explain my not so edge-cutting ingredient combining ability?  Because it’s what the Daring Bakers were challenged with this month.  Color me surprised.  The April 2011 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Evelyne of the blog Cheap Ethnic Eatz. Evelyne chose to challenge everyone to make a maple mousse in an edible container. Prizes are being awarded to the most creative edible container and filling, so vote on your favorite from April 27th to May 27th at http://thedaringkitchen.com!

I had to do a bit of reading to get my head out of my maple syrup rut and consider what flavors might work with a mousse.

It’s spring…

There are berries everywhere…

…and mangoes.

Resisting the addition of a chiffonade of basil, a piquant maple balsamic vinegar reduction was added, and voila.

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Lasagne with Béchamel and Spring Vegetables

I’ve been trying to write something here for days now.  I approach the task with the best intentions but know that it’s really only my conscience goading me.  No words come.  I scrounge for a memory worth sharing, then wonder if it’s one I’ve already written about and catch myself wanting to waste time sorting through archived posts to make sure.  It’s an old procrastination ruse, so I’m onto it most of the time.

Photos of recipes I’ve tried and liked are accumulating, waiting for something to be said about them, or the ingredients they were made with,  whether they’re in season, local, organic….or not.  Because you know, that matters, right?

I can’t muster up the energy because it all sounds so trivial.

I’m like an ostrich avoiding reality.  I’d rather edit photos (which qualifies at least as legitimate procrastination), or sprawl on my bedroom floor in front of the big windows on this blustery day watching the storm come in off the Pacific — probably the last we’ll have until next winter.  Mother Nature seems to have gotten March all wrong this year, with its entrance more like that of a lamb’s and its exit resembling a lion’s — at least in San Diego.

I could grab a book and lose myself for a while or think again for what seems to be the millionth time about whether the windows need drapes, and whether I should make them myself — except I’m not sure which closet that sewing machine is in and even if I did, my heart wouldn’t be into it.

A walk in the rain would also be nice, but the force of the wind is rattling the skylights and whistling down the chimneys.  I’d make it out the door and realize how silly a decision it was since I’m nothing like the thin woman clad in white who just sprinted past my window, nor like anyone the Brontës might write about, a thin figure whose dark dress is flapping about her ankles on the hauntingly beautiful Yorkshire moors and proof of a pained existence etched across her brow.

So ridiculously unfocused and thinking none of it really matters.

I’ve been thinking about perspective quite a bit this past week.  Counting my blessings.  Thinking about life, loss, what I take for granted (see foolish exhibits A, B, C, and D above) and what others in the world right now have lost and may never, ever recover.  I’m watching it on the news, in the photos that stream through a variety of websites, and can’t begin to understand.  How can anyone not actually experiencing the magnitude of such devastation understand?  I’m weighing the pettiness of any complaint, feeling short with others for their narrow mindedness, and all in all just very sad and angry.

It’s overwhelming.

So on this first day of spring and all it traditionally represents with respect to birth, new growth, and renewal, I hope the best for people in so many places on Earth right now devastated by things beyond their control.

If you’re someone who has thought about donating to a relief fund for Japan’s recovery, you may be interested in this piece by Stephanie Strom from the New York Times, “Charities Rush to Help Japan, With Little Direction.”

Donations can be made directly to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

More information about other ways to help are listed in “The Lede” at The New York Times“Japan Earthquake and Tsunami:  How to Help”

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Carne Asada with Anaheim Chili Sauce

We love Mexican food.  But I’m the one that loves the heat the most.  Not so much that I can’t taste the food, but enough to get my guys to say, “It’s spicy,” after they’ve taken only one bite.  I generally tell them to suck it up and keep eating, that it’s an acquired taste and if they keep an open mind, they’ll get to the point that they can keep up with me.

So when I happened onto a conversation about grilling and “Barbeque” at Great Cooks Community in the Barbecue College group, it was easy to join in the debate about whether using propane constitutes real grilling.  Jerry of Cooking by the Seat of My Pants said, “No problem,” when I said, “Saddle up, dude, and we’ll find out.”  I’m always good for a debate even if it’s about apples and oranges which I think this is.  No, not grilling apples and oranges — debating whether using propane vs charcoal vs wood is best.  They’re all different methods of the same thing, allowing the cook to explore different options.

So with my new Rick Bayless’s Mexican Kitchen cookbook in hand that I finally splurged for a few weeks ago, and a propane BBQ out on the patio, I was ready to roll…erm…grill.  Sans my husband, of course.  He was still buried at work, and I figured I could somewhat live without my sous chef on this one.  After all, how difficult is it to turn a knob on our grill?

Evidently, more difficult than I thought.  The plan was to delve into Bayless’ recipes (and a few others  as well…)throughout the entire week, with one recipe leading to the next, whether focusing on a dry rub, or type of salsa, or a slow grilled roast. It would be quite the tasty experiment.

Sounds great, right?

Well, I only got as far as the carne asada the first night, freezing left overs for later use.  The next day, slow grilled boneless “country style” ribs were planned right up to the part where the barbeque wouldn’t light.  Apparently, we were out of propane.  And because I didn’t feel like dragging out the small Weber we keep around for outings, I ended up cooking inside that night.  Not one to throw in the towel where food is concerned, I also thawed a gorgeous six pound rib eye roast I had delicious plans for.  So I took the time to go to Home Depot to get a new canister of propane.

I brought it home, we hooked it up, and guess what?

It was empty.  I paid for an empty canister of propane.  I know.  I should have been paying attention.

So there was no roast at that point.  I decided to put it back in the fridge until the next day, then put it in the oven with some salt and pepper late one night, long after a ridiculously busy day at work.  At least it would be cooked, and then I could refrigerate it to be used for a couple of dinners later in the week.

Can you hear the violins accompanying my sad story?  Jeez.  We still haven’t gotten around to returning the canister to The Home Depot to inquire about why they sell empties to trusting foodies.

In the meantime, I do actually have a recipe for you, and over the next few days, I’ll do my best to put them up just to prove I actually had a plan.  Maybe in the meantime, I’ll drag out that little Weber and throw some Hickory in it.  It all depends on whether I can light the wood.
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