Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Pretzel Bites

As this blog is mostly about food and not necessarily about homemade food I must share a recent snack obsession. For those of you who live in California and NY (and I'm sure a few other places) I'm sure you've all visited a Trader Joes (only the best place EVER). Well my new snack obsession is Pretzel Bites. Why you say Pretzel Bites well it combines what I love most... sweet and savory. Yes the salty pretzel is covered in dark chocolate with a sprinkle of white candy. Seriously it doesn't get better than this.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Cuba a Bittersweet Tale - Part I

Several years ago I took a trip to Cuba. I've wanted to write about it ever since so I'm going to chronicle the story here as it fits into what makes life sweet and savory. This experience was truly the trip of my lifetime. To start this series off I must give the back story.

My father is Cuban. What I knew about my father before this trip was limited. He came to the US when he was 14 years old. He lived first in Miami then in a "home" in Albuquerque, NM run by Catholic priests. My maternal grandmother was a very big Catholic and supported the church. She is a hospitable woman who always had the "Cuban boys" over. This is how my parents met. The group of boys that came over for meals all had left Cuba during the Revolution led by Castro and Che who ultimately ousted the dictator Baptiste from the government this Revolution caused many families to flee the island (that's enough history on that subject). These boys left everything, home and family to live a better life in the US. Many of their parents did eventually make it to the States. My father's parents never did. When I was very young I heard few stories about Cuba from my dad, I do remember him singing in Spanish to me, though I have no idea what the words meant. I do not speak Spanish and understand a little, as is the situation with many children of Spanish speaking parents who came to the states in the 60's.

For many years growing up my mom would say "write your grandparents in Cuba, send them a school picture." I felt that the language barrier was too much and only recall maybe sending one or two letters my entire life. As I grew older I had this overwhelming desire to meet my grandparents and see my roots. I was raised an only child, though I have half-siblings, so I have that tendency to want to please and fix everyone. I wanted to fix my father's sadness about leaving his home and family. So for years I kept pressing the issue, "lets go to Cuba." My mom was nervous, my dad was non-committal. I did research on how to get there as I heard American's were still making their way to the island.

Finally, with overwhelming sadness my Cuban grandmother passed away in December. This was an utter devastation to my father. He may have mistakenly thought that it would be his parent's dying wish to see him so this may have been one of many reasons why he wouldn't commit to going. We now had an urgency to get him to Cuba to see his father and brother before it was too late. After many months of getting our paperwork in order (finding and renewing green cards, changing names on passports and obtaining a visa to visit Cuba) we finally embarked on this trip of a lifetime. Nearly 40 years from the day my dad left his home.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Eclectic Tea

Tea in the afternoon is such a civilized meal. Today I went to see the Jane Austin biopic, "Becoming Jane." For any true Jane Austin fan it's a must see. Afterwards I had a few friends over for what I call an eclectic tea. This is because it was not truly English, as is Ms. Austin, although I did serve the usual cucumber and butter tea sandwiches and added scones with raspberry jam and butter. What made it eclectic? Well I threw in a little Italian and French items. Since I love sweets we'll start there. I made a chocolate hazelnut tart. This recipe is from Giada's show Everyday Italian. The bittersweet chocolate and hazelnuts are such a rich combination you can only eat a small amount, but this was delicious, crunchy and satisfying. I did make a basic Pate Sable from Clotilde Dusoulier Chocolate & Zuchini book instead of the store bought pie crust. I thought it might go well with the filling. It was a perfect match.

I also made a favorite dish from a book. Baking with Julia Child, it's called Pizza Rustica. It seems daunting the first time you look at the recipe. But to make it is actually quite easy. First make a basic pie crust:
2 cups flour, 1/3 cup sugar, 1/2 tsp baking powder, 1/4 tsp salt, 1 stick(4 oz) butter, 2 large eggs. Can be done in a food processor and then knead, take 2/3 of the dough, roll out and layer it in a glass pie dish.
Then mix 1lb ricotta cheese, 3 eggs, 1/4 lb mozarella, 1/4 cup pecorino romano cheese, 1/4 lb proscuitto, 2 tbsp parsley, and 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper. Fill your pie and roll out the extra dough and cut strips with ruffled-edged pastry wheel if you have it handy, and make a basic lattice over the filling. Bake in 350 degree oven for 35-40 minutes. It's truly a sweet and savory dish as the crust is slightly sweet and the cheese and proscuitto is salty.
Along with the tart I follow this with ecletic afternoon tea with fresh strawberries and whip cream.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Walking on Sunshine

Do you remember that song? Katrina & the Waves that was me and SB on Sunday. The Palisades Park was breathtaking and the exercise invigorating. We kept stopping to look at the surf while walking in place.
Lots of fun people watching and always some new crazy looking tree or plant to make us ask wonder where that came from? I've taken many photographs in this park of all kinds from weddings to abstracts to nature shots. It's just a lovely place. Afterwards we stopped at one of our favorite local hangouts. Marisco's. It really is local, only peeps you see there are surfers and all us Latins getting a good taste of some authentic California Mexican food. Yes it is different from any other Mexican food out there. Just ask a Texan (heavy on the beef and cheese) or New Mexican food (green chili with that please).
I had two Carne Asada taco's hold the onions and just a small sprinkling of cilantro (sorry Shoefiend) and a little bit of Tapetillo sauce. Great food after a nice Sunday walk.


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