Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Banana Bread Pudding with Rummm Rummm Sauce - Regional Recipes August

A few of years ago we took a Caribbean Cruise and our first port of call was San Juan, Puerto Rico.  We had about eight hours in port and decided to poke around.  Hmm, what to do?

Perhaps, the Historic District of Old San Juan.  I love old buildings.  This sounded perfect.  We didn't do this. 

How about Las Cabezas de San Juan Nature Reserve with its mangroves, boardwalk trails, and manatees.  Sounds wonderful, right?  We didn't do this either. 

It would have been just like us to find some authentic, local restaurant with a delicious sounding name such as Ramiro's or Ajili Mójili so that we could experience some of the local flavours. I believe this is one of the best ways to get a feel for a place and its people.  That makes sense, right?.  Yes, it does. But we didn't do this either. 

So where did we go, you ask?  Well, after we were herded off the ship in cattle-like fashion, we headed straight to the Bacardi Rum Factory.  Yes, rummm, rummm.  (This is said in a way that sounds like you are making car engine noises)  Rummm, rummm, rummm.  Yes, that's it.

GWH loves rummm, rummm, especially dark rum and we were not visiting the Caribbean without paying homage to the Rum Gods.

The Temple of Rum 

The Wall of Rum

The God of Rum

So we went, we learned and we sampled.  And we bought rum. 

There is actually a point to me telling you about our trip to Puerto Rico three years ago.  Regional Recipes has chosen Puerto Rico as its culinary destination this month.  As I thought about Puerto Rico and recalled our trip to the Bacardi Rum Factory, it was obvious to me that I had to make a dish that involved rummm, rummm.  Here it is:

Banana Bread Pudding with Rummm Rummm Sauce


6 slices whole wheat bread, cubed
4 Eggs
4 bananas, sliced
1 tsp ground cinnamon
14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
2 cups warm water
2 tbsp butter, melted
1 tablespoons vanilla
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup chopped pecans

Rum Sauce
1/4 cup butter
3/4 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1/2 cup heavy cream
4 tbsp dark or amber rum

Preheat oven to 350.  Place bread cubes into 6 small, greased souffle dishes.  Layer with sliced bananas.  Beat together eggs and cinnamon.  Then add remaining ingredients except pecans and sauce.  Pour mixture evenly over bread, soaking completely.  Sprinkle with pecans.  Bake for 50 minutes and serve warm with rum sauce. 

To make rum sauce, melt the butter, add the brown sugar and cream.  Boil rapidly for about 10 minutes while stirring.  Add rum and serve over pudding.

Note:   I served the warm pudding with a scoop of vanilla ice cream topped with the rum sauce.
Yummm, Yummm!

This recipe was adapted from here:

Saturday, August 14, 2010

perogies - daring cooks challenge for august

Once a year my husband, GWH, leaves me for another woman.  Sylvia.  Yes, he packs all his things into his truck and drives for about eight hours to see her.  And every year, I take him back with open arms; the heavy perfume of fried onions clinging to his clothing, sour cream on his collar.  What does Sylvia have that I don't, you ask? .......Perogies; Sylvia has perogies.  Sylvia has beautiful, amazing perogies, apparently.  Hmmph. 

So you can imagine my hesitation when I saw this month's Daring Cook's challenge revealed:
"The August 2010 Daring Cooks' Challenge was hosted by LizG of Bits n' Bites and Anula of Anula's Kitchen. They chose to challenge Daring Cooks to make pierogi from scratch and an optional challenge to provide one filling that best represents their locale."
My first thought was, "That's what she makes.  That's her dish"  But then an idea began to formulate.  I was going to cook my man back to me.  No longer would he have to go elsewhere for his perogies!  He would eat his perogies at home!

So I set aside a day to make perogies; clad in babushka, apron and bare feet; my face scrubbed clean to reveal my best ruddy complexion.  I even considered phoning my Polish girlfriend for a little Eastern Bloc support.   I imagined Sylvia in her kitchen, her large capable hands kneading the dough.  Her name was probably actually Olga or Lara or something like that.  I had visions of my husband pulling into the gravel parking lot of Sylvia's Restaurant, the theme song from Dr. Zhivago playing on his radio.  He screeches in, jumps from his truck, leaving the door open in his hurry to get to her, the strains of the poignant music echoing through the parking lot.  (The scene is in slow motion now)  He runs up the stairs and opens the door as she places the fresh plate of steaming perogies on the Formica table.  He sinks into the chair and her name, like a sigh, escapes from his lips.  Sylvia.

Okay, enough already.  I had had enough.  I was going to make perogies better than Sylvia or Olga or whatever her name was.  So I set out to do just that.   I started first thing in the morning because I had heard that it took a long time to make these perogies.  These Russian* women were a hardy type but then so were us Newfies*.  I decided that we needed to have a full Russian meal to go with our perogies so I proceeded to make Borscht and Cabbage Rolls first.  I skirted around the perogy thing.  I was avoiding it.  Afraid my perogies wouldn't measure up.  Finally, I decided it was do or die.  Around 3:00 I thought that I had better get it done if I was going to serve perogies for dinner.

 Cabbage Borscht

 Cabbage Rolls

I made the filling, rolled out the dough, then put my mini scoop of filling in the middle of each circle.  Okay, now was the moment of truth, I needed to close up those little circles.  I picked one up in my small non-Russian hands, folded the dough around the filling and proceeded to pinch the ends together.  Hmm, this was not so bad.  Pretty easy, in fact.  Sylvia who?  So I sealed all the little packages and then stood back to admire my well formed, perky little perogies.

 Perogies served with cabbage rolls, kielbasa, fried onions and sour cream

Following is the recipe provided for the challenge:

Russian Style Perogy

Dough Ingredients:
2 to 2 1/2 cups (300 to 375 g) all-purpose (plain) flour
1 large egg
1 teaspoon (5 ml) salt
About 1 cup (250 ml) lukewarm water

Filling Ingredients:
3 big potatoes, cooked & mashed
1 cup (225 g) cottage cheese, drained
1 onion, diced & sauteed in butter until clear
3 slices of streaky bacon, diced and fried till crispy
1 egg yolk (from medium egg)
1 tablespoon (15 g) butter, melted
1/4 (1.25 ml) teaspoon salt pinch of pepper to taste

1. Combine all the ingredients for the filling (it's best to use one's hands to do that) put into the bowl, cover and set aside in the fridge until you have to use it.
2. Place 2 cups flour in a large bowl or on a work surface and make a well in the center. Break the egg into it, add the salt and a little lukewarm at a time (in my situation 1/2 cup was enough). Bring the dough together, kneading well and adding more flour or water as necessary. Cover the dough with a bowl or towel. You're aiming for soft dough. Let it rest 20 minutes.
3. On a floured work surface, roll the dough out thinly (1/8” or about 3 millimeters) cut with a 2-inch (5 cm) round or glass. Spoon a portion (teaspoon will be the best) of the filling into the middle of each circle. Fold dough in half and pinch edges together. Gather scraps, re-roll and fill. Repeat with remaining dough.
 4. Bring a large, low saucepan of salted water to boil. Drop in the pierogi, not too many, only single layer in the pan! Return to the boil and reduce heat. When the pierogi rise to the surface, continue to simmer a few minutes more ( usually about 5 minutes). Remove one dumpling with a slotted spoon and taste if ready. When satisfied, remove remaining pierogi from the water.
5. Serve immediately preferably with crème fraiche or fry. Cold pierogi can be fried. Boiled Russian pierogi can be easily frozen and boiled taken out straight from the freezer.

There was no stopping me now.  I decided to get creative with my fillings.  After all, variety is the spice of life, right? And I am pretty sure Sylvia doesn't have perogies like these.

Blueberry and Lemon
Served warm with vanilla ice cream and blueberry sauce
To the potato mixture, I added sun-dried tomatoes, feta cheese, garlic and cilantro. 
We haven't tried these ones yet but when we do I think I will serve them with a 
Roasted Red Pepper Sauce or a Tomato Romescu.

Bananas and Chocolate
Served warm with vanilla ice cream and chocolate shavings
Mmm gooey and good

So this year when GWH leaves me to go hunting - and leave me he will - he won't be stopping at Sylvia's.  He has asked that I make him some perogies to take with him.  And I will do so, gladly.  Sorry Sylvia.

* Note:  This post was not meant to offend any Russian women.  I believe that being a Newfie, and the subject of many, many jokes, gives me some license to poke fun at other ethnic groups, just a little.  And to prove my ability to laugh at myself, you will find some Newfie jokes here.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

wine, women and song - starfish club adventures

The young girl at the counter innocently asks, "What group do you belong to?  We look at her puzzled, "Group?", we say.  She lifts her chin, taps her collarbone and says, "The necklaces.  You all have the same necklaces."  "Ah, yes", we say, "It's the Starfish Club.  Have you never heard of us?"  We walk out laughing at, yet, another joke that was meant just for us.

What is the Starfish Club, you ask?  Well, it is a very exclusive club.  It is thirty-plus years of friendship; it is love, acceptance and complete permission to be yourself, whoever that is at the moment.  It is knowing the significance of red picnic tables, purple houses and "Blue Bayou".  It is walking into a bar singing, "I Will Survive" in perfect unison.  It is knowing all the words to "Ophelia" and "Life is Sweet" and understanding the need to break out into song at any given moment, wherever you are.  It is not having to explain your every heartbreak and every joy because they are already recorded in the Club's archives.  It is where you go to get a reality check because the other members of the Club often know you better than you know yourself.  I am forever grateful to have a lifetime membership in this Club.

I have just returned from a weekend with the Starfish Club feeling very full, physically and emotionally.  I have to admit to a great display of gluttony that involved the four of us and a buffet.  It was actually reminiscent of a scene out of Monty Python's "Meaning of Life".  It wasn't all piggery though because in the midst of all this eating, my spirit was nourished as well and I am never too full for this. Club "meetings" are always a feast for my soul.

This weekend the Starfish Club took a mini road trip to Chateau Ste. Michelle, a winery in Northwest Washington, to see Natalie Merchant and to immerse ourselves in her amazing voice, once again.  It has been fourteen years since the Club last saw her although her voice often fills the rooms of my house or blasts from the speakers of my old jeep as I drive down the road singing at the top of my lungs to the heartfelt strains of "I May Know the Word"; her voice and her profound lyrics resonating through and from me.  It was a wonderful concert at a beautiful venue.  I was very perplexed, though, to see all those people knowing and singing all the words to her songs.  Didn't they know that this was "my" Natalie? Weird.

Natalie's latest album, "Leaving Your Sleep" is actually a collection of poems by early and mid twentieth century poets with a few nursery rhymes thrown in.  It is a playful, insightful collection filled with many memorable moments.  There is a song on this album, adapted from a poem by Eleanor Farjeon (1861 - 1965), about a greedy young girl called Griselda.
"...Griselda is greedy as greedy can be
She snoops about the larder for sundry small supplies
She breaks the little crusty bits off rims of apple pies
She pokes the roast potato dish when Sunday dinner's done
And if there are two left in it, Griselda snitches one..."
Who knew that this would become the theme song for the weekend because I certainly felt like "Greedy Griselda" as we sat eating plateful after plateful of food at that buffet.  Even though I didn't think that I would ever be hungry again, I decided that I was going to recreate one of the best dishes from the buffet; the American Pot Roast.  This dish was among the most memorable and it was sooo good!  Oh no, I feel a Griselda moment coming on!

American Pot Roast

3 lbs Chuck Roast
3 tbsp oil
salt and pepper
6 cups water
1 cup red wine
1/4 cup beef bouillon powder
6 sprigs thyme
2 bay leaves
1 onion, sliced
3 stalks celery, roughly chopped
1 carrot, roughly chopped

Salt and pepper the roast.  Heat the oil in a frying pan and brown the roast on all sides.  Place roast in a crock pot and add remaining ingredients.  Cook on low setting for 8 hours.  The roast should be quite tender by this time.  Remove roast, veggies, bay leaves and thyme from pot and use the juices to make a gravy.  Perfect with mashed potatoes.

Note:  I used a moose chuck roast but the roast at the buffet was beef.  Both were very good.
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