Last night, my modern dance group, Gnosis, held our second annual show Dance for Another Day to help fund Lupus research. Highlights included cowboys in rhinestone-studded chaps, dancing dolls, pop n’ locks, ochos, singing into shoes, and yummy treats courtesy of the Bojon Gourmet, vended by my lovely sister, niece, and sister in spirit, Isaac the Girl. Apologies to anyone who did not get to sample the goods I made for the pre-show bakesale; here are some photos to make you drool/jealous. Recipes coming soon!
My favorite kinds of breakfasts are ones that also double as dessert. Though commonly eaten as an after dinner treat in Latin America, an extremely talented cook named Nancy makes arroz con leche every morning at the band camp that the doc and I attend every summer. There’s nothing better than a bowl warm, sweet, creamy rice infused with cinnamon and dotted with plump raisins on a foggy, cold morning under the redwoods when you’ve been up dancing til 4 am the night before.
Makes 4 servings
Time: about 1 hour
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 cup white Jasmine or Basmati rice, rinsed briefly in a strainer
3″ cinnamon stick
5 green cardamom pods, lightly crushed
14 oz. can coconut milk
1 cup whole milk
1 cup water (or additional milk)
1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise and scraped
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 cup sugar or sweetener of your choice
1/3 cup raisins or currants
Heat the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the rice, cinnamon stick and cardamom pods and cook, stirring, until fragrant, 1 – 2 minutes. Add the milks, water, vanilla bean pod and scrapings and salt. Bring to a gentle simmer. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring every few minutes, until the rice is very tender and the liquid has thickened somewhat, 20 – 30 minutes.
Add the sugar and raisins. Cook 5 – 10 minutes more, stirring occasionally, until thickened to your liking. Let stand off the heat for 10 minutes before serving. It will continue to thicken as it sits, so thin with a little milk if you like.
This rice pudding is best served slightly warm. Store in the fridge for up to several days.
Oh winter squash and cheese, will I ever get tired of combining you?
This morning, I set out to make gougeres, heavenly little puffs of pate a choux with loads of gruyere cheese folded in. Pate a choux, like most things with fancy French names, is deceptively easy to make. (Take a brunoise, for instance. Sounds tricksy, doesn’t it? Well it just means ‘a fine dice.’ Thanks, Frenchies, for constantly making us feel inadequate.)
Here in SF, gougeres seem to be the new scone, popping up at chic coffee shops, like Coffee Bar and Tartine, as a nourishing, portable, savory treat for any time of day. They are rather like the scone’s refined, city-dwelling cousin; lighter, crispier and with a name that makes you salivate just pronouncing it.
For my first trial, I added small cubes of roasted squash and some crumbles of goat cheese to the finished batter, but it made the dough overly moist and heavy. The goat cheese dried out in the oven and the dough tasted overly salty. That didn’t stop Jay from making them all disappear by the time I got home from work, though. For trial 2, I (sob!) omitted the goat cheese and added the squash with the other wet ingredients at the beginning, cooking off some of its liquid with the flour. These gougeres baked up light, tender and crisp. I reduced the salt by half, and found the balance of flavors to be just right.
These addictive little puffs would make an elegant and luxurious start to a fall cocktail party, or a bojon brunch. Try serving them with pomegranate mimosas or a simple glass of prosecco.
Other directions you could go with this recipe would be:
-smoked paprika or chipotle
-omit the gruyere topping, and shove some crumbles of blue cheese and a few toasted walnut pieces into the center of each unbaked gougere
If you live with a gougere hog, or are baking for guests, you might consider doubling this recipe as there never seem to be quite enough of these to go around. The batter can be made a day or two ahead and scooped just before baking, or you can scoop the dough onto a parchmented sheet pan, freeze, then save the frozen dough blobs in a ziploc baggie for instant gougere gratification whenever you please.
Winter Squash and Sage Gougeres
Makes 20 1 1/2″ puffs
Time: about 1 hour
1/2 cup whole milk
1/3 cup mashed roasted winter squash (such as butternut)
1/4 cup (2 oz.) unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
2 large eggs
1 – 2 tablespoons minced fresh sage
4 oz. grated gruyere, divided
Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 425º. Line a 12×18″ baking sheet with parchment paper and place on top of another baking sheet (these tend to over-brown on their bottoms.)
Combine the milk, squash, butter, and salt in a medium saucepan over medium high heat. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Dump in the flour and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture forms a ball and a film forms on the bottom of the pan, a few minutes.
Dump the mixture in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle. Beat on medium speed for a minute or so to release some heat, then add the eggs one at a time, beating until combined and smooth after each addition. Add in the sage and three quarters of the cheese, beating to combine. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and the paddle and fold a few times to make sure the mixture is homogenous.
Using a #40 spring-loaded ice cream scoop (or a piping bag fitted with a #8 plain tip, or the old spoon-and-finger method) scoop out 20 balls of the mixture and place them, 4×5, on the parchmented pan.
Bake until puffed and golden, about 25 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 350º and bake for an additional 10 minutes or so, to dry out the centers slightly. (If underbaked, the gougeres will deflate as they cool.)
These are best served warm from the oven, but will keep for a couple days at room temp. You can re-toast them before enjoying, if you like.
The Italian phrase which sums up this gastronomical hegemony is ‘mettere un po’ di tutto,’ or ‘to put in a little of everything.’ While here in gli Stati Uniti chefs earn praise and notoriety for dreaming up creative concoctions, an Italian would shrink away, horrified, from foods we consider basic or mundane. Eggs for breakfast: disgustose. Barbequed chicken pizza: ma, dai! Salad dressing: Madonna, che paura! Mettere un po’ di tutto is not a good thing to an Italian. In fact, it is a very bad thing. If you proffer a dish to an Italian and they ask what’s in it (notice the look of suspicion) and if, after you’ve told them, they smile sardonically, cock an eyebrow, give little nod and say, ‘Ah, hai messo un po’ di tutto!’ you can bet you will be dining alone.
Baked Mac and Cheese
I’ve never exactly been a trendsetter. All too often I find myself clambering onto the bandwagon just as all the cool passengers have already transfered. Take fourth grade, for instance. My best friend and I spent weeks choreographing a dance to our favorite song, Ice Ice Baby, for our school’s talent show. When you’re 9, that seems like a really long time. While we looked great in matching black bike shorts, oversized t-shirts, slouch socks and Converse, the performance got off to a rocky start when the sound came on too low and we couldn’t really stick our dramatic and suspenseful opening. We did our best, though, jumping, spinning, popping, locking, and finishing in breathless exhilaration. Afterwards, riding a stellar performance high, a fifth grader sauntered up and, rolling her eyes, notified us that Vanilla Ice was totally last year.