In Texas, where I grew up, the state fair is legendary. In fact, it's so famous that in 1962 Rodgers and Hammerstein made a musical about it called State Fair. I have always loved a good fair with the stuffed monkeys on a wand, the Ferris Wheel, felt hats with your name magically embroidered on in minutes, and of course CORN DOGS! Here in Calaveras County we also have a legendary county fair called the Jumping Frog Jubilee, made famous by Mark Twain's short story about the "celebrated jumping frog." Every third week in May people come from all over and bring or borrow a frog. They then compete to see how far they can get their frog to jump, hoping to be the next big winner. The Frog Jump is great, but the first thing I look for every year is the food trailer with the hand dipped corn dogs—none of those frozen, inauthentic ones for me! I am 'old school' about these crunchy, tasty dogs and eat mine with a side of mustard. They are also good with catsup if you must. See you out at the fair!
Miniature Corn Dogs
40 miniature sausages or cut regular hot dogs into thirds
1 cup cornmeal
3/4 cup flour
1 1/2 t kosher salt
3/4 t baking powder
1/4 t baking soda
1/4 t cayenne
2 T plus 1 t sugar
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
3 T water
Mix the dry ingredients together. Mix the buttermilk and water together in a separate, larger bowl. Add the dry ingredients and stir. Mixture will be lumpy. Set aside to rest for 10 minutes. In a high sided 8 qt pot, heat 4 cups of veggie oil to 375 degrees (use a candy thermometer). Stick each sausage with a 4" skewer or a toothpick. Make sure you leave enough sticking out to grab on to. Give the batter a stir and transfer into a smaller, deeper container if easier. Dip each sausage into the batter and holding the toothpick end, drop into the oil, frying only 3 at a time. Turn with a slotted spoon until golden. Transfer to a sheet pan lined with paper towels. Serve with mustard and catsup or whatever your favorite condiment is. Makes 40.
I love the month of May! The signs of spring are all around us and the weather is warm, but not too hot yet. Among my family and friends, May has a lot of birthday and anniversary celebrations—and then there is, of course, Mother's Day! I am fortunate to still have my mother in my life. She lives a couple of hours away and I try to spend a few nights with her each month. My mother is a wonderful woman but she has a weakness—she has a scary sweet tooth. She and her roommate Pearl are devout cookie, candy, cake, brownie and ice cream aficionados...it's everywhere in their house! Candy dishes in the living room, baskets of deliciousness on the kitchen counter and always ice cream in the freezer. Every time I stay with her I have to be on my guard.
I am making this scrumptious lemon cake to take to my mother this weekend because she loves desserts and because lemon is her favorite flavor. Although this desert travels well, I imagine it won't last long—none of the sweets in their house ever do. Happy Mother's Day!
Lemon Buttermilk Cake*
1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 1/2 cups granulated sugar, divided
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1/3 c grated lemon zest (6 to 8 large lemons)
3 c flour
1/2 t baking powder
1/2 t baking soda
1 t kosher salt
3/4 c freshly squeezed lemon juice, divided
3/4 c buttermilk, at room temperature
1 t pure vanilla extract
For the glaze:
2 c confectioners' sugar, sifted
3 1/2 T freshly squeezed lemon juice
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour one (8 1/2 by 4 1/4 by 2 1/2-inch) loaf pan. Cream the butter and 2 cups granulated sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. With the mixer on medium speed, add the eggs, 1 at a time, then add the lemon zest.
Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl. In another bowl, combine 1/4 cup lemon juice, the buttermilk, and vanilla. Add the flour and buttermilk mixtures alternately to the batter, beginning and ending with the flour. Pour the batter into the pan and smooth the top. Bake for 1 hour or until a cake tester comes out clean.
Combine 1/2 cup granulated sugar with 1/2 cup lemon juice in a small saucepan and cook over low heat until the sugar dissolves. Let the cake cool for 10 minutes then remove the cake from the pan and set it on a rack set over a sheet pan; spoon the lemon syrup over the cake. Allow the cake to cool completely.
For the glaze, combine the confectioners' sugar and the lemon juice in a bowl, mixing with a wire whisk until smooth. Pour over the top of the cake and allow the glaze to drizzle down the sides.
Note: I did not do the final glaze on the cake pictured above because I served it with my lemon curd. If you get my blog in your email or follow me on FB, you will see the cake with the glaze there.
*I was inspired to make this cake by a post from Ina Garten. Her recipe makes two cakes but I chose to just make one taller cake. You can totally make two though, they will just be a bit shorter.
I often talk about my friends Peter and Tari, who live in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. I credit them with a lot of my culinary education and creative ideas. This dish is one of their inventions. Lining the pan with tortillas lends the familiar corn masa flavor that is indicative of Mexican cuisine—and is much easier and faster than making pie dough, as one does for a traditional quiche.
This recipe can be used for one whole quiche made in a 10" pie plate or individual ramekins, which are handy for a brunch or lunch buffet. For a whole quiche, use a 10" pie plate and line the bottom with the tortillas, overlapping them. When cool, cut it into wedges. If you are celebrating Cinco de Mayo this weekend and need an easy app to bring to a party, buy 4-inch tortillas (street taco size) and place them in a muffin tin. Any way you make it, this quiche is la bomba!
Mexican Quiche in a Tortilla Crust
2 T unsalted butter
6 green onions, chopped
1 zucchini squash, split into quarters lengthwise and sliced
3/4 c of corn, fresh from the cob or frozen
9 large eggs
1/2 t Mexican oregano
1/2 c whipping cream
3 T mild, canned green chiles
dash of hot sauce, Tabasco or whatever you like
1 c hot pepper jack cheese, cheddar or plain jack work well too
1/2 t kosher salt
1/4 t pepper freshly ground
1/4 c parmesan cheese for sprinkling on top
6 six inch corn tortillas
nonstick vegetable spray for ramekins
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Melt the butter in a medium pan and sauté the green onions until soft, about 5 minutes, add the zucchini and cook for another 5 minutes until the zucchini is softened. Turn the heat to low and add the corn tossing to combine all ingredients. Cook for a few more minutes, turn off and let cool a bit.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, oregano, cream, chiles, tabasco, hot pepper jack, salt and pepper. Add the cooled veggie mix and stir well.
Spray sides and bottom of six ramekins (4″) with non-stick spray. Warm the tortillas in the microwave for 20-30 seconds, just until soft enough to mold into the ramekins pressing the bottom and sides to form a crust. It’s ok if they crack a little, the filling will get into the cracks and be fine. With a cup measure, add the filling to the tortilla lined ramekins. Top with the Parmesan cheese. Place the ramekins onto a baking sheet and bake for 25-30 minutes or until the tops are puffed and brown. Remove from oven and allow to set for 3-5 minutes. With a fork, loosen each quiche around the edges and transfer to plates or a serving platter. Top with sour cream, salsa, chopped cilantro or just serve plain, either way they are delicious.
I am lucky to have just returned home from a week-long vacation in Roatan, Honduras. I stayed at an incredible home belonging to my friends Tim and Cynthia on the northeastern end of the island. Thanks to their fisherman friend Jerry we ate plenty of fresh fish, but I adored these tasty, twice-fried plantains called tostones served with a pico de gallo-type salsa called chimol at Camp Bay Lodge. A Honduran specialty, the chimol was refreshing, crunchy and a little bit sweet while the plantains were salty, crispy and delicious. I made this dish from memory and am fairly certain that the one I ate had cucumbers in it and no cilantro. None of the recipes that I found for chimol online call for cucumber but I am sticking with it. If you have never tried plantains, I urge you to try them this way—you are going to love them!
Tostones (twice fried plantains)
3 plantains peeled and cut into 1" lengths (if you can't find plantains just use green bananas)
veggie oil for frying
Heat a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat with 1-1/2 inch of vegetable oil until hot enough that the oil sizzles when a plantain is added. Line a plate with paper towels and set aside.
Cut plantains into 1-inch slices, about 10 slices each. Fry the plantains in batches until tender and just golden, 2 to 3 minutes each side. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate to drain.
Place a plantain slice between two sheets of parchment paper and using the heal of your hand or the back of a wooden spoon press the plantain. Put the pressed plantain back into the hot oil and fry until golden and crisp, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a plate to drain then season with sea salt. Serve with chimole.
1/4 red onion, diced
1/2 yellow bell pepper, diced
1/4 green bell pepper, diced
1 small tomato, diced
1/3 of a regular cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced
juice of one lime
1/4 tsp sugar
sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
Toss all ingredients together and serve with tostones.
You may think that tomatoes are a weird ingredient for a jam but if you remember that they are a fruit, it might make more sense. We used this jam as a condiment spread for the turkey meatloaf sandwich that we served when I owned Alchemy Market and Wine Bar back in the 2000s. It lends a sweet, spicy and tangy taste to most anything you pair it with—goat cheese and crackers, grilled chicken or shrimp, roasted pork tenderloin, even grilled cheese. It makes about 4 cups and lasts for a couple of weeks in the fridge so, make a batch and get creative!
Tomato Ginger Jam
2 T olive oil
1/4 cup of fresh ginger, peeled - a 2" knob or so
1/4 cup garlic, peeled - about 4 large cloves
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1/2 t cinnamon
2/3 cup brown sugar
1 T ground cumin
1/4 t cayenne
1/4 t ground cloves
2 cups chopped, canned tomatoes (or you can also use fresh apples)
1/3 cup honey
Drop the garlic and ginger through the feed tube of a food processor and chop finely. Don't bother to wash the bowl as you will be puréeing the sauce after cooking it. Sauté the garlic and the ginger on low heat, without browning, until translucent. Add the rest of the ingredients except for the honey, and simmer for 25 minutes covered.
Purée the sauce in the food processor until smooth and then return to the pan. Add the honey and cook for a few minutes over medium heat until thickened and jammy.
As a caterer for over 30 years, I have established a reputation for consistently creating original menus inspired by the occasion and the season, presenting them with an ease and elegance uniquely my own. Fresh, locally-sourced ingredients are the basis of my creative “from scratch” menus, which range from the classically elegant to rustic and whimsical.
"Love your recipes! Pat made your avocado toast a few weeks ago, delish! I'm taking them to a party in a few weeks, although the mushroom crostata looks pretty darn good!"