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April 29, 2011

Yogurt from 2% Fat Milk to 100% Homemade

Here's a fast and easy way to make yogurt of your choice at home. With this yogurt maker, you only need to boil 6 cups of milk then cool to lukewarm and add 1 cup of yogurt as starter. 
You can cool it faster when you place the hot milk over a pot of cold water.
Pour mixture into the individual jars and cover with the dome without the lids.

You can set the maker to 9 hours at night and have the yogurt ready the next morning for breakfast. 
You are now ready have a fresh jar of yogurt plain with muscovado sugar, topped with homemade jam or fruit macedonia.


April 26, 2011

Chirimoya Ice Cream

The chirimoya is a tropical fruit that originated in South America. It is a species of Annona native to the Andean highland valleys. So priced that it is cultivated in parts of the world that  have similar climates. Here too but with much difficulty because they will not bear fruit unless they are hand pollinated. That is why they are so pricey and very seldom found in markets here. I found them so abundant and inexpensive in Spain when in season. They usually come from the Canary Islands or the Azores if sold in Portugal.
The chirimoya is one of my favorite fruit. I find the white flesh so creamy and almost like eating custard with a fruity flavor. Mark Twain called the chirimoya "the most delicious fruit known to men."
To make the ice cream you need to remove the dark brown seed. They are very easy to dislodged with a fork. You need at least 2 cups of the delicately sweet and creamy pulp.
Beat a pint or 2 cups of heavy cream and sweeten it with at least 6 tablespoons of powdered sugar. Mix the pulp gently and freeze until firm.


April 22, 2011

Buona Pasqua - Felices Pascuas

Here's a flower vase for you. I made it entirely with white chocolate. It's hallow, about a foot high and 25 inches in diameter. I lined two steel bowls with chocolate flowers and glued them together with melted shavings. Then created the base made of flowers also and crowned it with lilly of the valley. Buona Pasqua! Felices Pascuas!

April 20, 2011

Manila Mango Scorpacciata

Famous for their sweet and distinctive flavor it is cultivated mainly in Mexico and also in Florida and some in Arizona. Manilas are a South East Asian type mango that is relatively thin and long and very sweet.  Now in season and they are ripe at their best. Breakfast fruit or dessert, this mango is just perfect.

The manila mangos gets very sweet after a couple of days when purchased still greenish. They are at their ripest best when they start to wrinkle a little like the one at end.
The best way to get the most out of this delectable fruit is to slice it on both sides as close as possible to the single seed in the middle. You can then scoop the flesh easily with a spoon. 
You can also have fun cutting it in cubes if you wish.
With this you can make a refreshing mango smoothie on a warm day. For 2 servings you will need at least 2 cups of cubed really ripe manila mangoes and blend with 2 1/2 cups of cold milk and 4 ice cubes or more. Add sugar to taste if your smoothie is no sweet enough. Top your glass with mango cubes for extra bite.
Here is a popular Thai dessert you can make with the mango. It's called Mango Sticky Rice. One cup of  sweet rice is boiled really soft then mixed with coconut cream and topped with a really ripe mango and extra cream is poured for garnish. The coconut cream is made by boiling 2 cups of thick coconut milk and 4 tablespoons or more of sugar until thick. Mix 3/4 of the cream to the soft rice and set aside. The remaining 1/4 is for garnishing. Every Thai restaurant have a different style of serving it.You can serve this dessert in any way you like too. I choose to put them all together like a cake this way.


April 17, 2011

Artichokes Fried and Delicious

The globe artichoke is a thistle originating in Southern Europe around the Mediterranean. Like all good things, they travel far and wide. Now cultivated all over the county especially in California and they come really fresh, just a few miles away from my kitchen. This is how they look. These buds are 3 to 5 inches in diameter with numerous triangular scales. The edible portion of the buds consist of primarily of the fleshly lower part at the base called the heart. When buying choose the tight buds with stems still fresh and tender. Here's how to prepare them for frying.  Squeeze lemon halves in a large bowl of cold water and soak the washed artichokes for 30 minutes. Then cut and scrape the outer leaves, chokes and hair. Then put them back into the lemon water until ready to use. Drain and cut each one into 1/8 pieces, drench in flour and roll in slightly beaten eggs that is lightly salted and then fry in olive oil and vegetable oil for about 1 minute or until golden.

Place them on paper towels to absorb extra oil and sprinkle your favorite salt while still hot. Then serve immediately with a squeeze of lemon juice.


April 13, 2011

Sweet San Marzano

These are the last of the San Marzano tomatoes I harvested from my small garden just before the frost. None survived except for one that was planted in an oak barrel. They have ripened all at the same time.  All came out with different shapes and sizes but always had that distinctive san marzano look. I saved some seeds to plant again this Spring. I stored half of the tomatoes in the freezer for future use and decided to make marinara sauce with the other half.
San Marzano tomatoes are considered to be the best sauce tomatoes in the world by many chefs. It is said to have traveled from Peru to Naples and known to have been planted in volcanic soil near Mt Vesuvius. They are priced tomatoes because its flesh is thicker, less seeds, sweeter and less acidic. In Naples, the San Marzano tomatoes have been designated as the only tomato that can be used for theVera Pizza Napolitana. The canned San Mazsano is often of good quality of the heirloom variety from Italy. It is just as good I have to say. I use them when I don't have the fresh ones. I made some marinara sauce at home and here's how.
I plunge the tomatoes in boiling water for a couple of  minutes just to soften the skin then pass them through a sieve to make the puree. My tomatoes yielded 11 cups. For this I sauteed 4 cloves of garlic and 1 minced onion. I added the pureed tomatoes with 1/4 cup of Italian parsley and a sprig of fresh oregano and boiled the sauce thick. Seasoned it with salt and pepper then simmer stirring often.

If you want your marinara sauce a little thicker, you can simmer it a little longer. You can use this sauce for many of your favorite pasta recipes. I tried it right away in spaghetti with Pecorino Romano and it was great.

April 09, 2011

Aioli Catalan Style

Aioli means garlic and oil. For garlic lovers, this is the best. There are so many variations of this sauce around the globe but I stick to the  traditional and authentic Catalan style which is eggless. Along with it is a good 30 minute exercise too. Aioli is great sauce for many foods like grilled meats or barbecues, as a dip or spread for bread and to add to other sauces  for more flavor. I love to use it for grilled chicken or fish, top potatoes and spread on bread. This is made only with only 3 ingredients, namely garlic, extra virgin olive oil and a pinch of sea salt. You can make a delicious and healthy aioli at home in no time following the Catalan method. You will need a good mortar and pestle and patience. Pound 3 cloves of garlic with a pinch of sea salt to a paste and then ever so slowly pour about a cup of extra virgin olive oil drop by drop grinding the garlic in a circular motion until you get 1 cup of aioli of mayonnaise-like consistency. You know you are doing right when the sauce in the process is increasingly pasty and not runny. The secret of emulsification lies on how slow those drops fall as you grind with the pestle. An accidental stream of oil will ruin the consistency of the aioli. This is where your patience and endurance are needed. 


April 05, 2011

Polar Bears Stranded on Melting Ice

I saw an incredible picture of two adult polar bears stranded on top of fast melting iceberg seemingly crying for help. I was so moved by the images that I thought of carving one with white chocolate depicting the same massage to do something  to stop the global warming trend. 

If we would not heed the warning, we might not enjoy these beautiful creatures anymore or even chocolate either!

April 02, 2011

Strawberry Jam Sans Pectin

Strawberries are now available for picking in farms around here beginning April and May. These are the months of strawberry festivals held in many counties too.  More and more growers now choose organic farming for these luscious berries which is such a welcome movement sweeping the state. Most of the strawberries in the markets are huge and bright red but the smaller varieties are usually a lot sweeter and more flavorful. One can really choose from a variety of berries when sold at the farmer's market. For this jam I got the ripe and some that are greenish at the top which have more natural pectin. The ripe ones have very little or none at all.
Three pounds of strawberries is quite enough to make jam at home to enjoy right away and still have a jar to give to the neighbor. I find it very practical to only make small quantities of jam to consume right away than make a lot and get tired of them fast. This way we enjoy and finish the jam long before they even get spoild on us.
Wash, hull and roughly dice or mash them. Leave lots of big chunks to really have the feel and taste of homemade preserves.
Add juice of I lemon. I find the lemon juice brightens the taste of the berries and is also very high in natural pectin that does not solidify like the pectin in a packet. 
Then add 1 cup of muscovado sugar and 1/4 cup of water, stir and put to full rolling boil for five minutes and cook everything down with the sugar. 
The cooking does not take long until its desired consistency. 
 When the syrup has reached the jelling point stir constantly  for a couple of minutes more and the jam is done.
Jar the compote and serve.
Makes plain yogurt tastes exquisite and the toast great.
The taste of the store bought just pales in comparison with the homemade. You won't believe how much better it is. So enjoy!

Art is in the Kitchen

Art is in the Kitchen
Arthur Escoto

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Napa, California, United States