Sunday, November 9, 2014

Trinidad Coconut Bake




Coconut bake is  made in practically every household in Trinidad.  I was taught how to make it by my mother but my earliest memory of this uniquely Trinidadian bread was my paternal grandmother's. It was part of her weekend baking lineup. A savory bread that's made with freshly grated coconut, it is usually served for breakfast with something called salt fish buljol (salted fish with fresh tomatoes, onions, pimentos and sometimes scotch bonnet peppers).

In Trinidad, freshly grated coconut is always used for this bread. Dry coconuts are sold in every grocery store. These coconuts are then cracked and the hard jelly carefully extracted and grated by hand. Admittedly, this is a tricky process and I would not recommend it for someone who has never done this before. However, if you are so inclined, here are step by step instructions on how to do so. Alternatively, you can use store-bought, unsweetened, shredded coconut. And, while salt fish buljol is the traditional topping so to speak for this bread, it is just as delicious slathered with butter. This morning, mine will be served warm with butter and spicy scrambled eggs.


Trinidad Coconut Bake
Makes two 8" round bakes 

4 cups all purpose flour
1 packet yeast
2 tbsp brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt
4 tbsp cold, unsalted butter, cubed
2 cups grated fresh coconut
1 1/2 to 2 cups water

1. Sift the flour into a large mixing bowl. Add the yeast, sugar and salt - combine well.
2. Work the butter into the flour mixture until fully incorporated and the mixture becomes coarse and crumbly.
3. Mix in the grated coconut.
4. Add the water and stir the mixture until a soft dough forms. Placed on a floured work surface and knead until the dough pulls together into a uniform ball, adding extra dry flour to prevent any sticking. Return to the bowl, cover with a dry towel and allow to rise for about 30 minutes.
5. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a large baking sheet or two 8" round cake pans.
6. Divide the dough into two equal parts, and shape into 8 " round disks. Place on the baking sheet or in the pans and bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until risen slightly and the tops have turned golden brown. Serve warm.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Zucchini and Potato Pancakes with Roasted Red Pepper Cream



This morning, I got inspired to make a special breakfast. It is not very often that the hubby and I get to share breakfast together on a weekday. So for our special breakfast "date", I decided on these pancakes. Potato pancakes, in general, are delicious on their own but I added some shredded bits of zucchini for added fiber and flavor. And the cream sauce is absolutely necessary. Don't be surprised if you see this is another recipe in the future. I would suggest that you drizzle some on the top of the pancakes for serving, and place extra on the side for dipping.

A couple other notes: I used shredded hash browns because it certainly cuts down on the preparation time when you don't  have to peel and shred potatoes. And, as far as the roasted red pepper is concerned, any store-bought brand would do. Just be careful to drain most of the liquid from them before making the sauce. You don't want the sauce too thin otherwise it would just run off the pancakes. 


Enjoy! 

Zucchini and Potato Pancakes with Roasted Red Pepper Cream
Serves 2 to 3 

1 zucchini, grated 
4 cups shredded hash brown, thawed
2 tbsp chopped cilantro
2 tbsp chopped green onion
1 tbsp all purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 egg, whisked 
Approx. 1/4 cup of vegetable oil
2 large roasted red peppers
1 small garlic clove 
2 tbsp mayonnaise
2 tbsp plain yogurt 


1. Place the grated zucchini and shredded hash browns on paper towels to soak up excess moisture. Gently squeeze out as much liquid as you can. 
2. In a large bowl, combine the zucchini, hash browns, cilantro, green onion, flour, salt and pepper. Stir in the egg, combining well. 
3. Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add a couple tablespoons of the vegetable oil to the heated skillet. Add the mixture into the hot oil by the quarter cupful, flattening each mound of mixture a little. Cook until golden brown, about two to three minutes on either side. Repeat until all of the mixture has been used up. You might have to add additional oil as you cook the subsequent batches. 
4. For the sauce, puree the roasted red pepper and the garlic. Add the mayonnaise and yogurt, and continuing pureeing for a few more seconds until a smooth cream is formed. Season with salt to taste. 
Serve the pancakes warm, with a generous amount of the cream sauce drizzled on the top. 



Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Incredibly Rich Chocolate Brownies


Typically, I am not a brownie person. It is not something that is made often in our home nor is it something that I think about when I think of desserts. Cakes, pies, puddings (did someone say bread pudding?), tiramisu - yes. Not brownies. I am also not very good at making them which is probably why I'm not a  brownie person in the first place.  Most times, they turn out way too dry and almost brittle. Don't ask me how someone can mess up brownies. It just came naturally to me.

Not any more.

This recipe is adapted from Ina Garten's Peanut Butter Swirl Brownies and comes at a rare time when I do crave a brownie. A rich, dark, moist, intense chocolate brownie. The instructions are quite simple to follow - even I had great luck on my first attempt. They turned out perfectly. Be advised, however, these are rich! Lots of butter, lots of sugar and lots of chocolate. Enjoy!

Incredibly Rich Chocolate Brownies
Makes about 12

8 oz semi sweet chocolate chips (plus 3 oz)
3 oz unsweetened chocolate
8 oz butter
3 eggs
1 tbsp pure vanilla extract
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp sat

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour an 8" x 12" baking sheet.
2. In a double boiler, melt 8 oz of the semi-sweet chocolate, the unsweetnened chocolate and the butter. Once melted, allow to cool slightly.
3. In a large bowl, stir together the eggs, vanilla, and sugar until combined. Do not whisk.
4. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt.
5. Stir the cooled chocolate mixture into the egg and sugar mixture. Next, stir in the flour mixture.
6. Toss the remaining 3 oz of semi-sweet chocolate chips with a little flour and stir into the brownie mixture.
7. Pour into the prepared baking sheet and bake at 350 degree F for about 30 minutes until the tooth pick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
8. Cool to room temperate and them refrigerate for another hour before cutting into squares. 

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Baked Sweet Potato Fries


I would chose sweet potato fries over regular fries any day. Sweet potatoes are so much more delicious and definitely more wholesome than regular potatoes, with significant amounts of vitamins A and C, beta-carotene and fiber.

To makes these fries, all you need are a some sweet potatoes (of course), some vegetable oil and some seasonings. I like to use a combination of salt, pepper, garlic powder and dried thyme - the thyme and garlic powder are a good contrast to the sweetness of the potatoes. 

Enjoy! You might find that these are addictive. 

Baked Sweet Potato Fries

3 to 4 sweet potatoes
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground pepper
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp garlic powder

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
2. Wash and peel the sweet potatoes. Pat them dry. Cut into wedges or 1/4 inch strips for thinner fries.
3. Arrange in an even layer onto a baking sheet, and toss with the vegetable oil, salt, pepper, thyme and garlic.
4. Bake in the oven for about 30 minutes until the fries are tender and golden brown, turning occasionally the prevent the edges from burning on one side.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Fresh Tomato Pizza


If you are what you eat, I might soon turn into a giant tomato. Exactly what kind of tomato is a good question. This summer, we experimented with growing tomatoes in pots, on the deck (up high and safe from our resident critters.) Four varieties: roma, beefsteak, cherry, and heirloom. Truth be told, we half-expected that they would not thrive very well given that, firstly, we were growing them in pots and, secondly, that tomato plants are, in general, susceptible to disease. We never expected that we would be reaping vine-ripened tomatoes all summer long.  And by extension, that we would be eating tomatoes all summer long. In cous cous, on bruschetta, in salads, in pasta - these past couple months have been a mini tomato festival at our house. 

As the nights here in Minnesota are getting cooler, the plants are beginning to show signs of the end. They are "thinning", and the leaves are drooping and turning a sort of blue-purple color. But, surprisingly, the cherry tomato plant is still bearing. I managed to pick quite a bit a few days ago, most of which ended up on this pizza. Instead of baking the tomatoes with the other toppings, I decided to put them on after the pizza had baked, in order to savor all of its freshness. For the crust, I used store-bought dough - this can be so convenient on weeknights. And I also added a bit of sun-dried tomato paste to the sauce, which, to me, makes a more flavorful sauce but is by no means necessary. 

Here's to the last few days of summer! 

Fresh Tomato Pizza
Makes one 10" pizza

pizza dough (enough to make one 10" pizza)
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup pizza sauce 
2 tbsp sun-dried tomato paste (optional)
8-10 oz mozzarella, sliced
1/2 lb cherry tomatoes, halved

1. Set the oven to 450 degrees F. 
2. On a clean, floured surface, roll out the dough to about 10" in diameter. Transfer to a greased baking sheet. 
3. Drizzle the olive oil over the pizza dough and, using a pastry brush or the back of a spoon, spread evenly. Next, spread on the pizza sauce. (If using sun-dried tomato paste, stir this into the pizza sauce before spreading it on the pizza dough.) Arrange the mozzarella slices evenly on top. 
4. Bake until the crust is crisp and brown and the mozzarella is bubbly, about 15 minutes. 
5. Right before serving, top the pizza with the fresh cherry tomatoes.