Ropa Vieja : adapted from Norman Van Aken’s recipe

img_2455Ages ago I attended a wine dinner cooked by noted Miami restaurateur Norman Van Aken. The main course was his version of the traditional Cuban/Spanish dish Ropa Vieja – and it was a memorable experience. His vision was to upscale the comfort and to make new beloved favorites.

Ropa Vieja literally means old clothes. The idea is that the shreds and tatters of beef resemble shredded clothing. I only attempt this dish in the summer when corn is fresh and sweet. It works well for a dinner party of four to eight. The toughest part is getting the hash perfectly cooked with browned edges. I parboiled cubed sweet potatoes and then air dried them. Then I roasted them in a hot oven for about twenty minutes adding the corn at the last of the cooking. I also added a tiny dice of red bell pepper to add color. You could alternately add a finely chopped piquillo pepper or some roasted red peppers.

The beef itself can be made a day ahead. You reheat the sauce and then add the cold beef to warm it through. It develops even deeper flavor as it sits longer. The poached eggs as well can be done ahead and dropped into an ice bath and then refrigerated.

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Last night I attempted this version of Van Aken’s Ropa Vieja recipe from New World Kitchen. The NWK version is simpler but lacks some of the nuances to make more layers of flavor. A construct of slowly roasted beef shredded into a sauce and served over a hash of fresh corn and sweet potatoes then topped with a poached egg.
To get the poached egg right I used Alton Brown’s skillet method.
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Pineapple pudding cake – I adapted this recipe to make it from scratch w/ fresh pineapple.

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This is the original recipe.
My adaptations:
I halved it and made it in a 9″ spring form pan.
I used this one bowl yellow cake recipe rather than use a packaged cake mix. (and I halved this recipe as well).
I used a cooked vanilla pudding mix instead of instant (and added the egg yolk).
I used fresh pineapple instead of canned.
I used palm sugar instead of granulated.
I added about 2 tablespoons of rum to the cake – by spooning it across the top of the cake after it had cooled.

Sparkling White Sangria with White Peaches and Basil

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I really like Sangria. After Beginner’s White Sangria and Red Sangria Adventures, I thought I’d try a Seasonal Sparkling White Peach version.

There’s plenty of basil in the garden so I decided that would be the pairing.

Master Ratio: of 1 bottle of white prosecco wine to 1/2 cup of sugar syrup to 1/2 c of alcohol/brandy/liqueur and 3/4 bottle of sparkling water.

To make the Basil Lime Simple Syrup:

1/2c of stems and leaves of fresh basil (packed)

zest of 1 lime

1/2c Organic Cane Sugar**

1/2c Water

Boil 1/2c of water with 1/2c of sugar and the zest of 1 lime until the mixture boils and the sugar is completely dissolved. Stir in the basil leaves. *Cool. When cooled strain through a fine mesh sieve, discarding the filtered bits. You can do this in the microwave and it takes just a couple of minutes depending on the power of yours.

**Because this syrup was going into a white sangria I used Organic Cane Sugar which nets a golden colored syrup.

*Cool it fast in a metal bowl in the colder part of your fridge or in the freezer.

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White Sangria Recipe

3 White Peaches peeled cut into cubes (you can not peel them if you wish)

1 lime juiced. You can use some of the pulp if you wish.

Basil leaves – to taste. I used 2 large sprigs of leaves only – and I used Purple Opal Basil and Green to give extra color

1 Bottle White Sparkling Wine – I used a Prosecco

1/2c of Elderflower Liqueur (I used St. Germain)

3/4 bottle of Sparkling Mineral Water (to taste)

1/2c of Simple Syrup – I used the Basil Lime Simple Syrup recipe above.

 

To a large pitcher add the white peach pieces and basil, juice from the lime, Elderflower Liqueur, and the cooled basil lime simple syrup.

Add the bottle of  White Wine. Mix Well and taste.

Add Sparkling Water tasting after 1/2 the bottle. If you want the Sangria lighter add some more water.

If you are making this a few hours ahead for a party then don’t add all the sparkling wine and water. Macerate the fruit/basil in the syrup, liqueur and 1/3 of bottle of the sparkling wine. Then add the water and the rest of the wine before serving.

I think Sangria is best served fresh. You can make it a few hours ahead but if you have to make the night before, leave the fresh fruit out until a few hours before serving.

Cheers!

Notes on ingredients:

St. Germain’s Elderflower Liqueur

Another option for color would be to add a handful of raspberries and use yellow peach/nectarine.

A variation would be to add another flavor element of mint or switch the basil for the mint in both the syrup and the leaves.

Choosing a Wine: You want a sparkling wine that’s not too sweet but has some rustic bubbles. This is the perfect use for a prosecco or cava.

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A Beginner’s White Sangria Recipe

20130908-191140.jpgI really like Sangria. After last week’s Red Sangria Adventure, I thought I’d try a White Version. Resting on the laurels of last week’s Red Sangria success, I settled on my already pre-calculated roll of the dice using of a ratio of 1 bottle of white wine to 1/2 cup of sugar syrup to 1/2 c of alcohol/brandy/liqueur and 3/4 bottle of sparkling water.

20130908-191149.jpgTo make the Elderflower Simple Syrup:

1/2c of Dried Elderflowers

1/2c Organic Cane Sugar**

1/2c Water

Boil 1/2c of water with 1/2c of sugar and the zest of 1 lime until the mixture boils and the sugar is completely dissolved. Stir in the dried elderflowers. *Cool. When cooled strain through a fine mesh sieve, discarding the elderflowers. You can do this in the microwave and it takes just a couple of minutes depending on the power of yours.

**Because this syrup was going into a white sangria I used Organic Cane Sugar which nets a golden colored syrup.

*Cool it fast in a metal bowl in the colder part of your fridge or in the freezer.

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1 Asian Pear cored but not peeled cut into cubes

1 Yellow Peach or Nectarine pitted but not peeled cut into small chunks

1/2 Orange – Rind and Pith removed cut into cubes

1 Bottle White Wine – I used a Vin de Savoie

1/2c of Orange Liqueur – I used FruitLab’s Organic Orange Liqueur

3/4 bottle of Sparkling Mineral Water (to taste)

Juice of 1/2 Orange (Valencia preferred)

1/2c of Simple Syrup – I used the Elderflower Simple Syrup recipe above.

To a large pitcher add pear, peach and orange pieces, juice from the orange, Orange Liqueur, and the cooled elderflower simple syrup. Mix well. I used a yellow variety of Asian pear, but any would be great in this. Mixing White and Yellow Peaches would be fine too. I think using a Yellow Peach or Nectarine gives color to the mix.

20130908-191039.jpgAdd the bottle of  White Wine. Mix Well and taste.

Add Sparkling Water tasting after 1/2 the bottle. If you want the Sangria lighter add some more water.

If you are making this a few hours ahead for a party then add everything but the water. Then add the water just before serving.

To serve spoon some apple pieces into each glass and then pour the wine mixture over them.

I think Sangria is best served fresh. You can make it a few hours ahead but if you have to make the night before, leave the fresh fruit out until a few hours before serving.

Cheers!

20130908-191125.jpgNotes on ingredients:

Elderflower Syrup is available as a commerical product from D’Arbo, or Bottle Green.

Some Grocery Stores carry bulk herbs may carry Elderflowers. You can order them online from Mountain Rose Herbs.

One of many alternatives to FruitLab‘s Orange Liqueur would be St. Germain’s Elderflower Liqueur which I will try next time! I will also try 50/50 Orange and Elderflower Liqueur (1/4c of each).

Another option for color would be to add a handful of raspberries and use white peach/nectarine.

Choosing a Wine: The Vin de Savoie I chose was made from 100% Gringet grapes and had a bright acidity and strong herbal element.  Great substitutes would be a crisp Sauvignon Blanc  or a unoaked bright Chardonnay or a white Grenache.

A Beginner’s Sangria Recipe

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I’ve enjoyed Sangria many times, in lots of versions, but I hadn’t made it until last night. The concept is to mix red wine with water, fruit, liqueur/brandy and sugar. There are tons of recipes available and everyone seems to take a slightly different slant on proportions.

I settled on a calculated roll of the dice using of a ratio of 1 bottle of red wine to 1/2 cup of sugar syrup to 1/2 c of alcohol/brandy and 3/4 bottle of sparkling water. Lady luck must have been on my side, as the Sangria was a huge hit. I was asked to write down the recipe and repeat – soon!

To make the sugar simple syrup:

Zest from 1 lime

1/2c Palm Sugar or Whole Cane Sugar

1/2c Water

Boil 1/2c of water with 1/2c of sugar and the zest of 1 lime until the mixture boils and the sugar is completely dissolved. Stir well. Cool. You can do this in the microwave and it takes just a couple of minutes depending on the power of yours. The mixture will be dark brown. It’s great for the Red Sangria. If you were making a White Sangria you might consider choosing a lighter color or more refined sugar.

Cool it faster in a metal bowl in the colder part of your fridge or in the freezer. Mine took about 30mns in the fridge before I could add it. You can make the syrup a few days ahead and keep it covered in the fridge.

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Red Sangria Recipe

2 Tart Apples – Cored but not peeled cut into cubes

1/2 Orange – Rind and pith removed cut into cubes

Handful of Bronx Grapes (optional) – Seeded

I Cinnamon Stick – Broken in half

1 Bottle Red Wine – I used a Côtes du Rhône

1/2c of Amaro Liqueur – I used Magerum Amaro*

3/4 Bottle of Sparkling Mineral Water (to taste)

Juice of 1 Lime

Juice of 1/2 Orange (Valencia preferred)

1/2c of Simple Syrup – I used the Lime Simple Syrup recipe above.

To a large pitcher add apples, orange pieces, lime juice, orange juice, Amaro, crushed grapes, cinnamon sticks and cooled sugar syrup. Mix well. I used Honeycrisp Apples. Other good choices would be Cox’s Orange Pippin or Granny Smith. You want to choose a hard flesh crisp tart apple. Softer flesh apples will fall apart.

Add the bottle of Red Wine. Mix Well and taste.

Add Sparkling Water tasting after 1/2 the bottle. If you want the Sangria lighter add some more water.

If you are making this a few hours ahead for a party then add everything but the water. Then add the water just before serving.

To serve spoon some apple pieces into each glass and then pour the wine mixture over them.

I think Sangria is best served fresh. You can make it a few hours ahead but if you have to make the night before, leave the fresh fruit out until a few hours before serving.

Cheers!

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*About Amaro – It’s an Italian herbal liqueur which is often drunk as a digestif. It contains herbs, roots and citrus, macerated in a grape spirits base. The Margerum Amaro is made from Sangiovese, herbs, barks, orange peel and carmelized simple syrup. I purchased our bottle at Bi-Rite Market in San Francisco.

Blueberry Orange Scones

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I made these Blueberry Orange Scones yesterday morning to rave reviews by adapting my favorite scone recipe from Myrtle Allen’s Cooking at Ballymaloe House Cookbook.

Here is my adaptation:

Makes 6-8 scones

1c white spelt flour
1c einkorn flour
1 1/2 tsp honey or palm sugar
1 stick of unsalted butter cut into pieces
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
Grated zest of 1 orange
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 pint of blueberries washed and sorted
3/4c buttermilk (whole is preferable)
Optional sprinkle of palm sugar on top

Preheat oven to 400 degress – convection.

Mix dry with butter until mixture resembles fine crumbs. I use my hands but you can do it in the food processor. Then add the fruit – I used a pint of blueberries and zest of 1 orange and a 1tsp of vanilla extract. Mix well to coat the blueberries. Then add the buttermilk to combine. If the mixture is too dry add more buttermilk. Turn out on to parchment paper lined cookie sheet and press into a round (about 3/4″ thick – or to taste). Score into 8 pieces. Optional to sprinkle a bit of sugar on top. Put in preheated 400 degree oven for 16-20 minutes or until internal temp is higher than 180 degrees and the top is nicely browned. Cut into 6-8 pieces following your score marks. I find these taste even better the next day. They also freeze extremely well.

Here is the book the original recipe is in: http://www.amazon.com/Myrtle-Allens-Cooking-Ballymaloe-House/dp/1584790423 – I highly recommend the book if you enjoy Irish cooking recipes. It’s not a huge book and features about 100 recipes but they are all very accessible.

Here is the basic scone recipe:

2c flour, 1/2 stick of cold butter cut into pieces, 1/2tsp baking soda 1/4 tsp salt and optional 1 1/2 tsp sugar and 3/4 c buttermilk to pull it together