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Archive for February, 2011

Mexican Sopes

My friends Juana and Rosa came to my kitchen and cooked sopes for me. One of the things I most love about cooking and recipes is so much of what and how we know to cook something is passed down through generations. Intentionally or not. There have been times when I’ve asked my Mom to show me how she makes something or to give me the list of ingredients. But more times, I just watched. I’ve watched my Mom cook always, still do. We stand and talk, or I help chop or peel and she cooks. I bet there are things you know how to do in the kitchen that you don’t know how you know it. Which spoon you pick up, when to lift a corner and peek to see if it’s done. Why when you make tomato sauce that you automatically gather together the basics of what you’ll need. Chances are you watched someone cook. It’s by far the best way to learn. Recipes and cookbooks are fabulous tools, but the best thing about them is that when you make a recipe exactly as they ask you to, you learn a method and a technique that you’ll take with you to another recipe.

Juana

Rosa

Juana and Rosa came to this country with their family from Mexico City. They were in 16 and 10 when they got here so they had already been helping in the kitchen, watching their mother and grandmother cook. They brought those memories with them and continued making the same dishes with their own families. We’ve been talking about the food they grew up with and they agreed to come and cook something for me. They chose to make sopes. I wasn’t sure what they meant but they came and showed me. It was so much fun watching them, they’ve obviously cooked together before. They brought all the ingredients, and I asked questions, took pictures, and watched. Of course, after checking the web, there are as many different versions as there are kitchens to cook them in, but this is Juana and Rosa’s version. Anytime someone lets you into their life, even for a short time, shows you their traditions, tells you their stories, makes food for you, it’s a great gift. I’m very grateful and happy that I was given this glimpse into their memories and that I got to share the food with them. iGracias, Juana y Rosa, fue maravilloso!

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What is there to say about winter fruit in Colorado? Not much. There’s not much of anything, and no effusive words of praise. We get the out of season berries shipped in from a variety of southern climes, most without much flavor or texture. Still, they can work if you need them to. Apples. Citrus, with the occasional sighting of Meyer lemons or Cara Cara oranges, both able to stop you in your tracks, well, at least me. Then there are pears. Red, Anjou, and Bartlett. Organic or not. (Can you tell? I want the Farmer’s Market back so badly I could almost cry.) Fruit is good for you right? So I keep buying it. I like pears. I’m so over pears right now…..oooof. There they were, sitting in the bowl, in all their mottled green-y pear-shaped sadness wonderfulness (try to stay positive). I have to do something with them. Again, stand in front of baking cabinet, flour, sugar, vanilla,pecans, brown sugar, boring, boring, boring. Wait. Brown sugar and Butter…pears, vanilla cake, pear upside down cake. Upside down cake, the standard, pineapple, is perfection. I have adapted that recipe to so many different fruits, fruit combinations and nuts I can’t tell you. I can’t believe I forgot about it. I won’t forget again.

This pear upside down cake is not a knock your socks off, push you over kind of thing. It’s a gentle shove, a sit you down in the softness of the big comfy chair kind of thing. Delicate flavor, yielding fruit, with a bit of lushness from the brown sugar. The cake has a sturdy crumb that gets better every day as it soaks in more moisture and settles into itself. It’s not loud, it’s quiet, but deeply satisfying. Pretty enough to serve for company and dressed up with some creme anglaise or maybe ginger ice cream with a slight grate of fresh nutmeg, it might be downright elegant.  Either way, homey comforting upside down cake or elegant dessert, I think you’ll be happy. Go..go on, you know you want to try it.

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Coffee Crunch Bars

Hello, my name is Claire and I’m addicted to Coffee Crunch Bars. I’m pretty sure I’m going to have company. These could easily be renamed Crack Crunch Bars. Rich and crumbly, dark with the taste of toffee and espresso, studded with nuts, a cookie to quiet all the demon devils inside. These are not in the soft and melty category, nor do they fall in the crisp and chewy one, more like biscotti is what I think. They scream to be dunked, milk would do, but coffee…now coffee is the way to go. They’re perfect to pack in a lunch for an afternoon snack or to take on the road with you. I sprinkled some Fleur de Sel (but any coarse salt you have would do) over the top before I baked them and it’s a great addition, now they have everything, coffee and toffee, and chocolate and salt. These are seriously crunchy, seriously good, and you should make them. But I’m warning you, you might be standing before the room telling your tale of addiction before you know it. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. 🙂

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