Summer Fare

Baked Ribs, Fresh Corn, and Fried Taters

It was my birthday no too long ago, and I was really craving some comfort food.  I set my mind on BBQ ribs in the oven, with corn fresh off the cob, and fried taters like my grandmother used to make them.  It's not exactly easy to find ribs.  They're called "travers de porc".  "Côtes de porc" are pork chops.  I asked a friend who's been here longer than I, and she suggested I try the farmer's market at Place Carnot on Wednesday afternoons.  If you've never been to this market I highly recommend it.  Unlike many markets who resell products, here all the products come straight from the farm.  I was really happy to find a female butcher that uses gloves to touch the meat, and not to make change with.  I had already made my plans, before I knew there was a heat wave starting on my birthday.  So I stayed up late the day before to bake the cake, and start the ribs on a slow bake that I left in the oven all night long.  I slathered them with a smokey spice rub that I got from my sister for Christmas.  In the morning I made a quick bbq sauce and caramelized it.  I just wish I'd have remembered to make the ice tea.  

Post by Dori, 21 July 2015

No Bake Cheesecake with Agar-Agar

I promised to find the cheesecake recipe for a cooking workshop I participated in.  Easy right?  Not.  The workshop only lasts 4 hours.  I thought, we can just do a no bake recipe and it'll have enough time to chill if we put it in the freezer.  I settled on a Martha Stewart recipe, and decided to test it with actual fresh cheese, instead of cream cheese.  It was a disaster.  One of the cheeses had started to have a little bit of funky flavor, and it ruined the whole cheesecake.  So I tried it again, with regular cream cheese.  Even after 24 hours it was soupy.  So I called on my pastry chef friend for help.  The answer- Use Gelatin!  Unfortunately gelatin takes at least twice as much time to jell as the workshop actually lasts, and half the people in the group are either vegetarian or muslim.  So I was left with the choice of trying agar-agar, or eating warm cheesecake in the middle of summer.

I'd never used agar-agar, so I took to researching it.  I never could find a plain no bake cheesecake recipe made with agar-agar.  Apparently mango cheesecake dominates in this category.  I also found that a lot of sites give you information that's totally inaccurate, for instance, telling you that you can just substitute agar-agar for gelatin.  Agar-agar is much stronger than gelatin, and you could end up with something more like cheesecake jello if you don't adjust the measurements.  Whereas gelatin isn't supposed to be boiled, agar-agar has to be boiled for 4-5 minutes to activate.  The hot agar-agar is then supposed to be blended into something that's already warm.  Otherwise you can end up with lumps.  Neither can be frozen.  What's great about the agar-agar though, is that it starts to firm up in 15 minutes, even before it cools down, and will stay firm at room temperature.  So on the third try, I finally came up with my own recipe that turned out great.  It's a light summer time cheesecake, that you don't have to turn on the oven for, and you don't have to wait 24 hours for either.

No Bake Cheesecake with Agar-Agar


For the Crust :
50g - ¼ Cup Sugar
125g - ½ Cup Melted Butter
240g - 2 Cups Sablés Anglais crumbs (apx. 16 cookies) McVities brand

For the Filling :
450g - 16 oz. Philadelphia cream cheese
400g - 14 oz. Sweetened Condensed Milk (Lait sucré concentré, a 397g can)
1 tsp. Vanilla extract
2-4 Tbsp. Juice of ½ a lemon
¾ tsp Powdered Agar-agar (1.5 g or half a 3g package)
33cl - 11 oz. Whipping Cream – In France use Elle & Vire,
Crème liquide entière professionnel 35% from Monoprix


Make the Crust :
-Process the sablés anglais into fine crumbs in a food processor.
-In a bowl, mix the cookie crumbs with the sugar, then add the melted butter, and combine.
-Press the mixture firmly and evenly into your pie plate.

Make the Filling :
You need two sauce pans, and electric beater, a whip, a metal strainer, two bowls, a spatula and spoons.

Prepare the ingredients :

-Put the powdered agar-agar in a sauce pan with a cup of water.

-Put the sweetened condensed milk in a second sauce pan.

-Start by whipping the cream. Beat the cold whipping cream with an electric beater until stiff peaks form. Store in the refrigerator until you are ready to use it.

-In a second bowl, beat the cream cheese, vanilla, and lemon juice together.

-Start heating the agar-agar, boil for 4-5 minutes. At the same time, heat the sweetened condensed milk on low heat. You may need to whip the agar-agar as it boils so that it's well incorporated.

-Pour the agar-agar into sweetened condensed milk through the strainer. Quickly whip the agar-agar and the sweetened condensed milk together with a whip.

-Immediately after, use electric beaters to incorporate the hot mixture a little bit at a time into the bowl of cheese mixture.

-Fold in the whipped cream with a spatula until it's well incorporated.

-Pour the filling into the crust and refrigerate until completely cooled.

Post by Dori, 9 July 2015

Mexican Finds - Jalapeños and Masa Harina

Masa Harina
This has been the month of serendipitous mexican finds.  First I found 2kilos Masa Harina at Bahadourian for 7€.  You can usually get it at Don Taco, but for 11€.  I made a round of tamales with a chicken and rajas filling, using a corne de boeuf pepper in place of poblanos.  (I already had the corn husks).  Then I made sopes with the left over filling.  Next I made some tortillas, and turned them into chorizo quesadillas.  For those of you who are unfamiliar with masa harina, it's dried corn that is cooked in "limewater" (not actual limes), ground into a paste, then dried into flour.  It's the cooking in limewater that alters the corn in such a way that allows tortillas to be supple.  If you've ever tried to make tortillas, or other mexican corn products with regular corn flour, then you know that it'll just break up.  This is also why the "corn" tortillas you might buy here are strange and tasteless.  They are mostly made of wheat flour with a touch of regular corn flour.  


I was doing some shopping at Bail Distribution.  They distribute high quality fruits and vegetables to restaurants, but also have a retail store.  I found these chiles next to normal Moroccan ones and I asked about them.  Of course, the sales lady has no idea these are not the same kind of chili.  When I insisted these two were not the same thing, and there was no price on those, she asked the manager.  He didn't know either.  I ended up talking to him, I finally I told him, look, I know my chiles, and that is nothing like those moroccan chilies, and if it was what I thought it was, I knew quite a few people who were going to be really happy.  He knew he had jalapeños in jars (didn't realize they're pickled so they don't have the same culinary uses).  Then he says to me, I'm not even sure those are hot… He picked one up and broke it open.  I put my pinkie finger in there and put it in my mouth.  I told him it was hot, but he decided to do it anyway, and did the finger taste test.  I don't think he's going to forget that for a while.  Poor guy!  He came to the conclusion that these peppers were probably a mistake, and they may not get anymore.  I bought a dozen, so if you're quick you might still get some.  I've since made guacamole and salsa with them, and I'm thinking about doing some poppers with the rest of them.  I do think they're jalapeños, but they don't have as strong of a jalapeño taste as the ones I'm use to.  I think that's likely due to the growing conditions.  I was still really happy to get them :)

Post by Dori June 25, 2015


Banana Bars

Back in the 70's people came up with all kinds of recipes that were "healthier" because they had vegetables or fruit in them.  I've been revisiting some of them lately and I'm rather shocked but what we considered healthy at the time.  I still make them occasionally as a sweat treat from my childhood.  My conservative mother had this one book of "hippie" recipes, and the banana bars were our favorite.  It's basically a wetter cookie recipe, where banana replaces a some of the fat and sugar.  Next time I think I'll try reducing the sugars from 2/3 of a cup to 1/2, and see how I like it.

3/4 C butter (170g)
2/3 C sugar (150g)
2/3 C brown sugar (160g)
2 medium mashed bananas (245g)
1 egg 
1 tsp vanilla (7g)
1/2 tsp salt (3g) unless using salted butter
2 tsp baking pwd (7g)
12 oz choco chips (300g)
2 C flour (300g)

Cream butter, egg, sugars, vanilla, bananas, salt
Add half of the flour and baking powder
Add choco chips, mix
Add rest of flour
Spoon into well greased pan 9 x 13
Bake 25 min at 350 F or until done in center

Post by: Dori 22 May 2015