May 12, 2008

May Table of Contents

1. Margaret Makes Dolce de Leche Brownies for Cinco de Mayo
2. Cousin Lisa's May Memories
3. Cousin Cheryl's Cheesecake Memories of Mamaw
4. Mother May I -- May Introduction and Call for Stories

May is a Mexican Dessert?

Ya. Take a look at that sweet bambino of a dolce de leche brownie, baby.

I wanted to make some of these to take to my mom for Mother's Day, but the time, the time it just fizzled away. We moved her this weekend, though. And there was an IGA-bought chocolate cake involved (I know, sometimes you just have to do what you have to do).

My dad, though, was enamoured of all things Latino Americano. I don't think he knew about Cinco de Mayo, did he? Does anyone remember him throwing that particular party? it's hard to believe he wouldn't have if he were aware. Still it's impossible not to think of his bad boy party self. It doesn't matter any more, our differences, because he's gone to that great pontoon boat in the sky, and now I can love a more perfect version of him. Having gotten my mom initially installed in her little retirement apartment, here I introduce you to the best brownie in the world, made by Myself two weekends ago. Here is the secret ingredient, amigas y amigos:

Yes, dolce de leche. The nector of the milky caramel gods, up there skirting the cosmic lakes in their sparkly-lighted boats. Or something. For once in my life invited to a Cinco de Mayo dinner party (thanks, y'all! it was fun!), I made dolce de leche brownies from David Lebowitz's angelic recipe. Finally, a brownie I like that's not The Barefoot Contessa's boxed mix (ya, it's fantastic, when you want a mix -- the only one on earth that's worth buying). Ledowitz's brownie recipe rocks even without the dolce de leche. And with it, wow. Ultimato.

In the STL you can buy the Argentinian dolce de leche at Straub's, for $11. I'm betting it's in Mexican markets on Cherokee Street, too, for about a million dollars less, but I haven't made it over there yet. There is also a method I'm entirely curious about, wherein one covers a can of sweetened condensed milk with water and simmers it for three hours, then lets it cool in the water for another three hours. Easy enough. But I wanted a taste of the yummy stuff made by experts before I embarked on the expedition myself.

Of course this reinforces my recent feeling that I have some karma with Argentina emerging, given Natalia's cake and all.

David Lebowitz's Dulce de Leche Brownies

8 tablespoons (115 g) salted or unsalted butter, cut into pieces

6 ounces (170 g) bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
1/4 cup (25 g) unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
3 large eggs
1 cup (200 g) sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup (140 g) flour
optional: 1 cup (100 g) toasted pecans or walnuts, coarsely chopped
1 cup Dulce de Leche (or Cajeta)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees (175 C).

Line a 8-inch (20 cm) square pan with a long sheet of aluminum foil that covers the bottom and reaches up the sides. If it doesn't reach all the way up and over all four sides, cross another sheet of foil over it, making a large cross with edges that overhang the sides. Grease the bottom and sides of the foil with a bit of butter or non-stick spray.

Melt the butter in a medium saucepan. Add the chocolate pieces and stir constantly over very low heat until the chocolate is melted. Remove from heat and whisk in the cocoa powder until smooth. Add in the eggs one at a time, then stir in the sugar, vanilla, then the flour. Mix in the nuts, if using.

Scrape half of the batter into the prepared pan. Here comes the fun part.Drop one-third of the Dulce de Leche, evenly spaced, over the brownie batter, then drag a knife through to swirl it slightly. Spread the remaining brownie batter over, then drop spoonfuls of the remaining Dulce de Leche in dollops over the top of the brownie batter. Use a knife to swirl the Dulce de Leche slightly.

Bake for 35 to 45 minutes. The brownies are done when the center feels just-slightly firm. Remove from the oven and cool completely.

May 11, 2008

May Memories From Cousin Lisa

May and Memories. When we lived on Aberdeen Proving Grounds [near Baltimore] in the military duplexes, my father kept a garden, as he usually did wherever we were living. I was always a gung ho harvester at dinner time. Sometimes it was zucchini, (or the blossoms to fry in cornmeal, yum...) or tomatoes, cukes, beans, all kinds of peppers, and more. At this particular warm dusk, I went out along the side of the house and brought in a bowl of fresh lettuce and other add-ins for a nice green salad with our meal. I washed and prepped and dished it up.

As I was I was munching away, I looked down at my plate and saw a little green inchworm mixed right in... I was horrified! My fork almost touched it! What if I had eaten it? Look at his little black eyes! Eww. What if I already DID eat another one! My heart was pounding. I couldn't eat. My Dad said, "Well, you wouldn't want to eat any lettuce that a bug wouldn't eat, now would you?"
When the oogy feeling went away, I knew he was right; but I don't think I ate any salad again that summer.

Summer is dancing before us again, and I love salads. And I still eyeball my salad plate thoroughly to this day.

I had a salad the other day that had mixed greens, arugula, candied walnuts, sliced strawberries, and goat cheese, with a chambord balsamic vinegrette. I don't know the proportions, but it was refreshing and delicious on a hot Florida day. It's perfect for summer. This would be a perfect side salad with pasta or chicken marsala, as I enjoyed it, or as a meal in itself with a hunk of bread for soaking up the last goodness of that dressing. Mmmmm. Now I can't wait to have it again. Give it a try and see if you can come up with some proportions for the vinegrette. Bet you'll like the flavors.

Cousin Cheryl's Cheesecake Memories

Of course, my memories of Mother's Day and Mamaw have more to do with the garden and the blooming Dogwoods, which are in full bloom here and always remind me of her. She and Pawpaw instilled in me such a love of gardening, and I think it's my most peaceful, love-filled hobby. Spring and mother's day are such a beautiful time!Me with food? Not so much. I'm not like you and Cindy and Lisa.

But if I were to be pressed, it would have to be her cheesecake. That's a story I remember so well!. When she baked one one summer, and the boys got in earlier than I did. They ate the whole thing before I even got there from the airport. For an entire day I whined and whined. "You love the boys more..." "They're your favorites" Of course the boys lapped it up and told me all about how she made it for THEM. etc., etc.

So the next day they were gone fishin' or something stupidly boy-ish. And when I finally got out of bed Mamaw (of course) was already up and baking..."Whatcha doin?" I asked..."making you a cheesecake" she said with her little grin... IT WAS MINE ALL MINE!

May 8, 2008

Mother May I

May -- Early Garden Veggies (Asparagus, Peas, Strawberries, Rhubarb, Early Greens, Lamb, new potatoes, Mother’s Day meals, spring desserts)

Here’s what I think would be totally cool to do: Everyone, think of your favorite thing Mamaw or your own mother (if Mamaw wasn’t she) made with any of these ingredients or for a Mother’s Day meal. It doesn’t matter if you have the recipe or not! Just write and tell me what you remember! If I must, I will research to find the recipes! We need more stories up here, more memories. I’m hoping this will cue some!

And yes, the final move out of our beloved grandparents’ house is happening this weekend, and it’s a painful dawn. Something entirely new is emerging. Not to be too clichĂ©, but it is like a birth I suppose, all things new born out of great pain. Appropriate enough that it’s happening in spring. But I hope my mom will be happy in her little retirement duplex. And I know our hearts will bear the sad goodbye to the house that, for all of us I think, signifies love and stability. I know for me Mamaw and Papaw’s house has been the center of the universe, almost literally. The one place that, through everything, never moved or changed. The immovable mover, if you will. It’s hard to imagine now a world without access to it.

Also, Bill, Kristy and the kids are moving back to St. Louis at the exact same time. Woo-hoo, are they hanging on by a thread! Maybe I should make some dolce de leche brownies for them, if I can figure out how to get there with the major highway leading to their house totally closed down. Geez.

In the midst of this, here’s May, and time for the May recipes. Last month I got one from Lisa, and one from Aunt Janey, though it was May by the time hers came in, and so I’m saving it for the next seafood round. I took one of Nancy Thompson’s out of the cookbook, which was a big help. I do wish I could hear from you, Danny and Nancy and Courtney and Connor, more often – I’m not even sure it I am sending to the correct email. I know everyone is busy. Anything from any of you is a dear blessing.

Good news: I was, with the combination of the grant from Foodbuzz and the President's generous suspension of the paying down of the national debt by giving us that extra money able to buy a laptop, which is on it’s was to me now through the mails, and so I will be able to work on the blog at some other time than lunch hour at work! I am totally psyched about working at home on this blog (and other projects). I haven’t had a computer at home in more than three years, and you can imagine the crimp in my style this has caused! So, thanks Ben and George.

So, love to all. Send me a memory. Any time. Live in blissfulness. It’s spring.


I have several photos cached away waiting for upload, as I know have my honey digital camera in my possession for that explicit purpose. A new dawn is coming, full of lollipops and honey. Hang on.