Spiced Shortbread with Passion fruit Ginger Glaze

My Nephew, Kalani, back in Hawaii after several years away on the Mainland, informed me that he had made this shortbread for his co-workers there, to great acclaim.  I then asked, "...and where did you get the recipe?"  To which he said (as I knew he'd better), "From mom."  "And, where do you think she got it???" I asked.  Yes,  the end of the recipe trail, as you may have guessed, moi.  At least as far as our family goes. So, an old favorite here in an upbeat incarnation, with the addition of lillikoi (as we call passion fruit) syrup in the glaze.  When they are in season I make both jam and syrup, so we have it on hand all year.

It's  a wonderful buttery, crunchy shortbread, abetted nicely by spices and the fresh ginger, citric tangy glaze.  But even better, if that's possible, it bangs together so quickly.  Which is a good thing in my book, otherwise I don't usually have either time or energy to make dessert, unless for a special occasion.


Creamy Green Puna Penne with Three Cheeses

Our latest Cook the Books Club selection, The United States of Arugula, by David Kamp, has been on my shelf for at least two years, waiting I guess for this incentive to take more than a brief dip.  Just to dive in and immerse myself in "The Sun-Dried, Cold-Pressed, Dark-Roasted, Extra Virgin Story of the American Food Revolution" as per the book's sub title.  So glad I did.

This well-researched, historical commentary on the food movement, which however predates the more recent explosion of internet food blogs, is filled with tongue-in-cheek, and out of cheek foodie gossip, fascinating background information on food production in America, biographies of the culinary leaders of our day and their impact on The Art of Eating, as M.F.K. Fisher called it.

What grows in our own neighborhoods, and turns up at the local market, the big move to regional cooking, well covered in this history of the food revolution, inspired my take on the prosaic Mac 'n Cheese, well known in its often insipid, pre-packaged, boxed incarnations.  I loved the idea of a green revolution in this common, yet favorite dish.  Locally grown kale from my natural foods grocery and the cream cheese I make from kefir.  Creamy green goodness, proving that food can taste as delicious as it is good for you.


Gazpacho Sevillano for Summer

Another retro dish, or we could say a classic, popular in way more places than Spain.  Fabulous in hot weather, an icy cold soup full of  fresh vegetables that scream Summer is here!  I must confess to having some in a new favorite restaurant, and thinking, "This is not the way it should be.  I can do a much better job."  And I did.  So, no one is perfect.  They make great tapas.

My take is not going to please any purists, but as the original version, eons ago, had no tomatoes (this was before they hit the Old World), relying instead on almonds and lots of bread, do we really want to be iconic about it?  Anyway there are a gazillion versions out there. 

Here's the thing.  Just because it's hot, there is still soup stock to be used.  I recycle those bones and bits of veggies into my freezer bag until it is full, and then there is stock.  So, for this version, since a container of the stuff got defrosted to make something that didn't get made, I reduced it down to half, then let it chill out in the freezer.  A flavor boost of umaminess.  For all I know, this is a happening thing in Seville or Cadiz.


Satute to Julia, Beef Bourguignon for Daring Cooks

I am absolutely sold on this recipe for Beef Bourguignon.  It is positively, the best. Trust me. Our May 2012 Daring Cooks’ hostess was Fabi of fabsfood. Fabi challenged us to make Boeuf Bourguignon, a classic French stew originating from the Burgundy region of France.

The method called for mushrooms and small onions cooked separately to be added at the finish, but I used green beans, since I had some nice fresh ones from the Farmer's Market, and potatoes  just because Bob likes them with beef stew, or anything really. There were no tiny onions available in any case, but when they hit our market I will try caramelizing them, as per the recipe and adding at the finish.

We will be making more on a regular basis.  Tonight for instance.  There is some danger involved however; all those enticing aromas wafting out of your house could attract strangers in off the street. 


The Best Granola You Will Ever Eat Recipe

I was not satisfied with my old granola recipe, or any of the other versions attempted lately, and decided to do a bit more good old-fashioned research, online that is.  What finally called out to me from the Google stream was the funny Traveler's Lunchbox story of Melissa's search for the perfect cereal.  A must read.   After giving her recipe a try, I found it to be truly as fantastic as claimed, the best granola.you will ever eat.  Ever. Totally worth all of her experimenting to find that secret formula.  The "Lip Lady's" secret recipe is a secret no more.  Nice crunchy clusters full of flavor, goodness.

 It is pretty hard to tell from a photo how good a particular granola is, but I want to encourage you to give Melissa's version a go.  Having tried umpteen varieties of this popular breakfast food myself , you can believe me when I say, at the risk of being repetitive, it is the cook-off champion.


Tiramisu Trifle with Brown Sugar Cake, Chocolate Cream and Strawberries

 This began as a mistake.  A Dorie Greenspan recipe, which can be found in Baking: From My Home to Yours, for Brown Sugar Bundt Cake.  It was okay, though in the unmolding, quite a bit stuck to the bottom of the pan.  Not a thing of beauty, and as these things can happen, sat around for a few days.  So, yes a trifle (ha ha) stale.

I had been wanting an excuse to make Trifle, and this was it.  As well as another use for my Margarita glasses.  Not that they don't get enough use.  Multipurpose being  good.  Frugality also.

Trifle is so charmingly adaptable.  If your cake or cookies are plain, go hog wild on the layering ingredients.  This being a fruity sort of cake, including fresh pear and apple as well as dried figs and raisins, I kept the layers to a minimum.  Chocolate flavored cream cheese at the bottom, then cake pieces drizzled with Amaretto, followed by whipped cream, strawberries, then more whipped cream.

You could use ricotta or other fresh cultured cheese instead of the cream cheese in this, blended with your flavorings of choice. I used kefir cream cheese, agave nectar, and cacao powder.

The fresh strawberries came from our Volcano Village farmer's market.

Tiramisu Strawberry Trifle

For 2 large dessert glasses:

1 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons confectioner's sugar
1/2 cup cream cheese or ricotta
1/4 cup agave nectar or light honey
2 tablespoons cacao powder
1 tablespoon heavy whipping cream
2 cups (approx.) left-over cake
2 tablespoons Amaretto
1 cup strawberries, sliced  (2 reserved whole for topping)

Whip the cream and add in confectioner's sugar toward the finish.  Set aside.  Beat the ricotta and tablespoon of cream with honey or agave nectar and cacao powder until smooth, or whip together in your food processor.  Set aside.

Slice the strawberries, reserving 2 for topping.  Set aside.  Cut the cake into slices or pieces to fit your serving glasses.

Assemble layers, beginning with the chocolate cream at the bottom, next add a layer of cake pieces and drizzle with Amaretto or rum.  Add a layer of whipped cream, then the sliced strawberries, more whipped cream and a nice looking, smallish strawberry on top.

Chill for at least 2 hours so all the flavors can meld.  Serve it up with a little Sicilian (er... Mexican) tap dance.  Happy Cinco de Mayo!  Truly delightful, and pretty darn easy too.  Especially if you have some slightly stale cake or cookies that need to be creatively resurrected.