Strawberry Cake

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Bolo de Morango

For Easter, I decided to unleash my inner hipster and make a chocolate-FREE dessert! The strawberries at the supermarket looked inviting, so I decided to bake this cake that I had seen made by Paula from The Cookie Shop and Deb from Smitten Kitchen, all based on Martha Stewart’s recipe! 😀

This cake is everything you want from a strawberry cake. I hadn’t had such a good cake – and such a pretty one – in a long time! The best thing is that it’s not very hard; actually, it comes together reasonably quickly.

When the cake came out of the oven, Sky asked me: do we have cream? I opened the fridge and saw a small package of cream. I whipped it to serve with the cake, making our dessert even richer!

Bolo de morango

For a 10-inch cake, you’ll need:

85g (6 Tbsp) butter, softened
200g (1 and 1/2 cup) flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
200g (1 cup) sugar, plus 2 Tbsp to sprinkle over the cake – I used regular sugar in the batter, and turbinado sugar to sprinkle over the cake
1 large egg
1/2 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
400 g strawberries, hulled and halved

Bolo de morango

Butter a 10-inch round pie plate and pre-heat the oven to 180 C (350 F). It is such a quick process that I actually started pre-heating the oven before making the batter 😀

Start by sifting together the flour, salt, and baking powder. I must confess I never sift – I follow Chef John’s trick of whisking them thoroughly for 2 minutes. This gets rid of any lumps and saves me from having to wash the sieve! 😀

Using your stand mixer, cream the butter with the sugar. The recipes usually say something about “mix until the cream is pale,” but Uruguayan butter is pretty yellow, so that never really happens – it has never stopped me from baking anyway, though!

Add the egg and mix well. Then, add the milk and vanilla, mixing well. At this point, the mixture looked a bit curdled, which is normal for this kind of cake.

As usual, to avoid over-mixing the batter, at this stage I change to a hand whisk. Add the flour mixture little by little, mixing just until you can’t see any flour specks.

Transfer the batter to the buttered pie plate. Place the strawberry halves over the dough, cut side down. Try to place them as close together as you can!

Sprinkle 2 Tbsp of sugar (I used turbinado) over the strawberries and bake at 180 C (350 F) for 10 minutes. Then, lower the temperature to 170 C (325 F) and bake until it’s golden and a toothpick inserted into the middle comes clean – the recipes said this would take about an hour, but in my oven it took only 45 minutes.

Let the cake cool over a wire rack and serve with whipped cream!

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Gazpacho Blanco

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Gazpacho Blanco

Cold soup. A lot of people dislike the idea, but I honestly think it’s because they’ve never given it a chance: cold soups are the best thing for summer! To date, this is my favorite cold soup. While I find it super weird calling gazpacho something that doesn’t have tomatoes in it, that’s how Chef John called it!

Is it the easiest recipe ever? No, not even close. But it’s worth it. Seven years ago, when I moved to Uruguay, I didn’t know how to cook the most basic of the foods – my repertoire consisted of pasta with store-bought sauce, tuna salad, and basic chocolate cake! Now I can cook a sophisticated-tasting cold soup. I can’t help but feel proud!

For 4 portions, you’ll need:

2 Tbsp olive oil
1 cup leeks, washed and chopped – chop, then measure. Use only the white part, or else your soup will be green! Save the green part for vegetable stock
2 English cucumbers, peeled
10 seedless green grapes – I just cut regular grapes and removed the seeds
¼ cup chopped blanched almonds – you can also use slivered almonds
1/3 cup sour cream or plain yoghurt
1 generous cup of bread cubes
2 Tbsp lemon juice
Salt, pepper, and cayenne
1 ½ cup cold water – you may need more
(optional) dill

Gazpacho Blanco

Did you know you can blanche almonds at home? I learned that for this recipe, as I tried, but couldn’t buy blanched almonds! Soak them in boiling water for one minute. Drain the boiling water and soak the almonds in cold water for another minute. Drain again and place the almonds over a dry dishcloth. Rub the almonds using the dishcloth and see how easy that skin comes off! Chop the almonds, measure ¼ cup and set aside.

In a small pan, heat 1 Tbsp olive oil and cook the leeks in médium heat for 10-15 minutes, until it softens. Set aside and let it cool completely. Peel the cucumbers and chop them into medium-sized pieces. Set aside.

When the leeks are cooled, it’s time to blend. Place the cucumber, leeks, grapes, almonds, sour cream, bread, lemon juice, 1 tsp salt, water, and dill in the blender. Blend well and, if necessary, add a bit more water. Try not to add too much, we want a thicker soup.

When the mixture is wel blended comes the boring part: passing the soup through a fine strainer! The idea is to remove the little chuncks/skin/whatever, so don’t skip it!

As the trick is to serve this soup VEEEERY cold, fill an ice cube mold with the soup and freeze it. Cover the rest of the soup and place it in the fridge for about three hours.

When the soup is nice and cold, taste for seasoning: I had to add more pepper and cayenne. To serve, place a couple frozen soup cubes in a bowl and cover with the cold soup. Add a few drops of olive oil, sliced grapes and slivered almonds and you have a delicious (and fancy) soup!

Mimosa Gelatin

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Gelatina de Mimosa

I hadn’t had gelatin for a LONG time! I mean, I didn’t really miss that overly sweet dessert with those bizarre artificial flavors. But when I started to think about what to make for Summer Tertulias, the idea of gelatin kept coming back to me. I decided to find a homemade version.

I found several recipes, among them Patricia’s tangerine and prosecco gelatin. I decided to try that one, subbing orange juice for the tangerine, to make a solid version of one of my favorite drinks!:D

The first time I tried, it didn’t work. It wouldn’t set, so I placed it in the freezer and ate frozen mimosas (No complains here, it was super tasty! :D)

But I’m stubborn, so I decided to try again, increasing the amount of gelatin and changing the way I added it on the recipe. It worked! I served with a spoonful of whipped cream and it was a hit!

For four servings, you’ll need:

200 ml freshly squeezed orange juice
1 Tbsp sugar
1 Tbsp powdered gelatin
3 Tbsp water
100 ml sparkling wine – I used rosé, because that’s what I had in the fridge!
Optional: whipped cream, to serve (I didn’t add sugar to the cream, as orange juice is quite sweet!)

Gelatina de Mimosa

Making gelatin is pretty easy. Sure, not as easy as mixing the flavored package into warm water, but then again, the homemade version tastes much better! 😀

In a small pan, mix the orange juice and the sugar. Mix well and heat over medium heat until it simmers. Remove from the heat, cover, and set aside for about 15 minutes.

In a small bowl, mix the powdered gelatin and water and let it hydrate for 10 minutes. After this, the mix will be pretty solid. Place this small bowl in a larger bowl with hot water – don’t put too much water: think “water bath,” but off the stove! Stir the gelatin mix until it turns liquid.

When the gelatin is liquid and clump-free, pour it in the pan with the orange juice. Add the sparkling wine, whisk well, and strain the mix.

Pour over four serving bowls, cover with plastic wrap, and place them in the fridge for about 3 hours, until they set. Serve with a tablespoon of whipped cream.

Crudo Siciliano

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Crudo Siciliano

One of the best restaurants here in Uruguay is La Huella, in José Ignacio. We don’t go there very often, but it’s great every time. Last year, on my birthday, we shared several starters, but one was really special: it was similar to ceviche, but with some very different flavors.

I was intrigued, of course. When we asked for the check, the waiter told us they had a recipe book. I asked the obvious question: “Is this recipe in the book?”. A few minutes later, he came back and said that the recipe was not in the book, but that the chef would happily teach me how to make it! Obviously, I accepted! As you would expect, she didn’t give me exact measurements, but a good idea of the proportions.

I was sure I would cook that the next week, but I ended up not doing it. In fact, I procrastinated so much that I only cooked this now, for Summer Tertulias! 😀

For a light lunch for 4 people, you’ll need:

Approximately 800 g white fish, deboned – she used sea bass, I used brótola, so you can choose whatever white (and firm) fish. If you’re cooking for less people, reduce the amount, as this is best served immediately after it’s made.
Salt
Cayenne pepper
Black pepper
½ red onion, very finely chopped – don’t grate it!
1 bunch of chives, very finely chopped – you can also use mint
1 heaping Tbsp Dijon mustard – next time, I’ll double the amount
2 Tbsp capers
Zest of one lemon
Juice of one lemon
Olive oil – roughly the same volume as the lemon juice

Crudo Siciliano

Start by chopping the fish into small cubes – mine were a little too big! 😦 It’s supposed to be smaller than your regular ceviche cubes. Season the fish with salt, cayenne pepper, and black pepper. Place it back in the fridge, so it won’t lose its consistency.

Chop the red onion as finely as you can – do not crush or shred: the goal is to have mini cubes here! Chop the chives and the capers very finely, too – the capers will turn almost into a paste, don’t worry. In a bowl, mix the onion, the chives, the capers, the lemon zest, and the Dijon mustard. Set aside.

In another bowl, emulsify the lemon juice and olive oil. This is how I did it: I placed the lemon juice in a bowl and poured the olive oil slowly, whisking well. That required a lot of elbow grease, of course. I later looked it up and it turns out you can do that with a hand mixer! I’ll try that next time! Set the emulsion aside.

When you’re ready to serve, all you have to do is combine the fish with the onion mix and this emulsion in a big bowl. Taste (and adjust the seasoning) and serve with a nice green salad!

Pecan Pie Mini-Muffins

Versão em português

Mini-Muffins de Noz-Pecã

Of the recipes I made for this holiday series, this was the biggest hit BY FAR! As it yields 24 mini-muffins, I thought I’d have some leftovers to freeze, but they disappeared! I had to make it again, so I could take the pictures – and once again, there were no leftovers! 😀

This is a pretty easy recipe: only five ingredients, and you don’t even need a stand mixer! The hardest steps are chopping the nuts and buttering the mini muffin tins. This last step is mandatory, though – I tried making it with paper cups, and it all got stuck! 😦 #truestory

You’ll need:

1 cup brown sugar – press well into the measuring cup!
½ cup all-purpose flour – yes, that’s all it takes!
1 cup pecans, chopped – chop first, then measure
2/3 cup (150 g) melted butter
2 large eggs

Mini-Muffins de Noz-Pecã

This is easy! Start by thoroughly buttering the mini-muffin tins.

In a bowl, mix the brown sugar, the flour, and the chopped pecans. In another bowl, lightly whisk the eggs and add the melted butter. Now all you have to do is combine both bowls!

Fill the well-buttered mini-muffin tins 2/3 of the way. Bake in a pre-heated oven for about 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into them comes out clean. With the help of a butter knife, remove the mini-muffins from the tin right away. Let them cool on a wire rack.

When they are completely cooled, place them in a nice gift box and brighten someone’s day! 🙂

Panettone Muffins

Versão em português

Muffins de Panetone

One of the things I picked up from my mom was the love for panettone – the best part of Christmas! As today is her birthday, I thought it was appropriate to post this recipe – which is much easier than the traditional panettone!

The first time I made these muffins was last Christmas. Everybody loved them, so I decided to bake them again – as they freeze wonderfully, you can bake them now, when the holiday madness is not fully on, and share them on Christmas Day!

Don’t let the ingredient list intimidate you – it’s quite long, but this is not a difficult recipe! Instead of Amaretto and Cointreau, I used almond and orange extracts. You can also replace the dried fruit for candied fruit if you prefer!

For 12 muffins, you’ll need:

1/3 cup sultanas
1/3 cup raisins
1/3 cup chopped apricots – chop, then measure
1/3 cup dried cranberries
¼ cup (60 mL) orange juice
zest of 1 lemon
zest of 1 orange
1/3 cup chopped candied cherries – the original recipe called for candied orange peel, but I couldn’t find it! 😀
½ cup (100g) sugar
¼ cup (56g) unsalted butter, softened
2 Tbsp canola oil
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp Cointreau – I used orange extract
1 tsp Amaretto – I used almond extract
2 ¼ cups (315g) all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
2/3 cup (160mL) whole milk
1 ½ Tbsp brown or turbinado sugar, to sprinkle over the muffins

Muffins de Panetone

Place the apricots, raisins, sultanas, cranberries, and orange juice in a small saucepan. Mix well and cook over high heat until the juice starts to boil. Turn off the heat and let it cool. Add the candied cherries and set aside.

Pre-heat the oven on medium. Place paper liners in a common muffin tin and set aside.

Place the sugar and the orange and lemon zest in the bowl of the stand mixer. Using your fingertips, rub the zests in the sugar, so you can extract more aroma from them – this is an optional step, but it’s so fun! Add the butter and the oil, and mix until it’s light-colored. You will need to scrape the sides of the bowl with a silicone spatula every now and then.

Add the eggs, one by one, mixing well after each addition. I always do that, but I must say I have no idea what happens if you add all the eggs at once! Hahahahahah!

Add the vanilla, the Cointreau (or orange extract), and the Amaretto (or almond extract). Mix well.

Muffins de Panetone

In a bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt. Add 1/4 of the flour mix to the batter, mix well, add 1/3 of the milk, and mix well. Repeat until you finish both – the flour mix will be the last thing you’ll add.

Add the reserved fruit, together with whatever orange juice is left in the pan. Mix into the batter with the silicone spatula.

Split the batter among the tins. Sprinkle the brown sugar over the muffins, and bake for about 20 minutes, or until they pass the clean toothpick test.

Let them cool on a wire rack. When they are completely cooled, place them in a pretty box/bag and give them away! 🙂

Spiced Chocolate Shortbread

Versão em português

Shortbread de Chocolate e Especiarias

Here at Culinary Tertulias, December is a synonym for edible gifts!

To start this series, I wanted to make something with chocolate and spices, Christmas-y but not overly so. I also wanted a quick and easy cookie, because I had to take SOMETHING to a meeting with friends. I found this recipe at King Arthur’s Flour and I immediately knew it was the one to make – I love shortbreads and I had all the ingredients!

I used two things that may be a bit tricky to find outside the US: allspice and pumpkin pie spice. To make this recipe, you will need one teaspoon of spices – you can use a mix of ground ginger, ground cloves, cinnamon, and nutmeg.

You will need:

1 cup (225 g) unsalted butter, softened
1 tsp salt
1 cup (200 g) sugar
1/3 cup (28 g) Dutch cocoa powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp mixed spices – I used ½ tsp allspice and ½ tsp pumpkin pie spice, but you can also use a mix of ground ginger, ground cloves, cinnamon, and nutmeg
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 and 3/4 cup (200 g) all-purpose flour

 
Shortbread de Chocolate e Especiarias
 

Start by lining 2 8-inch square pans with aluminum foil, leaving some excess to help you remove the shortbreads, and grease them well. Pre-heat your oven.

This is a recipe that is stirred by hand, which sounds hard – it’s actually pretty quick and easy, if the butter is properly softened!

With a spatula, mix the butter, salt, and sugar. Add the cocoa powder, vanilla, spices, and baking powder. Mix well. Add the flour and mix just until you can’t see any more white specks.

Divide the dough into both pans – use the spatula to smooth the surface and prick it all over with a fork. Bake for approximately 30 minutes.

Remove from the oven and let it cool for 5 minutes. Use the excess aluminum foil as handles to remove the shortbread from the pans and immediately cut the shortbreads into squares. Cool them on a wire rack.

When they are completely cool, place in a cute box or bag and spread the cheer! 🙂

Chocolate Pudding

Versão em português

Potinhos de Chocolate

One of these days, Sky said he was craving chocolate pudding. Naturally, I went looking for a recipe. Smitten Kitchen’s sounded pretty easy, and I had all ingredients there, so it was a no-brainer.

The recipe was indeed easy – six ingredients! One pot!

I made it quickly, and decided to place it nice serving bowls. While I was dividing, I had a taste – it was DELICIOUS! Comfort food at its best!

For six servings, you’ll need:

1/4 cup (30 g) cornstarch
1/3 cup (75 g) sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt – or, you know, a generous pinch
3 cups (710 ml) whole milk
6 ounces (170 g) dark chocolate, coarsely chopped – I used 70%
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Potinhos de Chocolate

Have I mentioned how easy this recipe is? This recipe is really easy! 😀

In a medium-sized pan, whisk the cornstarch, sugar, and salt. Add the milk slowly, mixing well to avoid lumps. Place the pan over low heat. Stir occasionally with a spatula, scraping the bottom and sides. If you feel lumps are forming, use a whisk – I didn’t have to.

After about 10 minutes, the mix will start to thicken – it will be hot, but not really boiling. Continue to stir until the mixture can coat the back of a spoon – I think the picture shows what I mean!

Potinhos de Chocolate

Still over low heat, add the chocolate and stir until it melts and the pudding thickens – this will take another 2 or 3 minutes. Remove from heat, add the vanilla and mix well.

Now you can be fancy and avoid all lumps by passing the mixture through a fine mesh strainer. I (obviously) didn’t bother.

Another thing you can do is to divide the mixture into individual serving bowls, but that is option. What is not optional is covering the pudding with a plastic wrap directly on it, to avoid the formation of the skin. In all fairness, even that is optional, some people like the skin! :-S

Refrigerate for about 3 hours. The original recipe says the pudding will last for three days in the fridge, but I was never able to test that! 🙂

Stuffed Pepper Rings

Versão em português

Anéis de Pimentão Recheados

Food nostalgia. It’s not often, but every now and then I miss some recipes I ate as a child and nobody (aka Mom/Grandma) has ever cooked them again.

This time, the feeling was quite odd: I was longing for a recipe that Mom must have cooked only once in her life AND I DIDN’T EVEN LIKE IT AT THE TIME! Ok, I know this might be a sign of madness. But there I was, thinking about stuffed peppers, so I decided to do something about it.

The idea for this recipe came, as usual, while I was procrastinating on Pinterest. I thought I’d follow this recipe to a T, but I ended up doing something different 😀

For two hungry people, you’ll need:

2 large bell peppers – choose your favorite color/the one that’s on sale 😀
400 g ground beef
1 egg
¼ cup parmesan, thinly shredded – I used my microplane for that
1 onion, chopped into small cubes
Garlic, to taste – and my taste is a bunch!
½ bunch of chopped parsley
Salt, pepper, hot paprika, red pepper flakes, and powdered mustard
400 mL tomato sauce –
About 300 g of mozzarella

Anéis de Pimentão Recheados

Start by cutting the bell peppers into thick slices, about 2 fingers-tall. I got three slices per pepper, give it or take. Set aside. Chop the leftover peppers into small cubes.

In a bowl, mix together the ground beef with the egg and the parmesan. Add the onions, chopped peppers, garlic, and parsley. Season with salt and pepper – as usual, I added paprika and other spices (this time, red pepper flakes and powdered mustard). Set aside.

Stuff the pepper rings with the ground beef mix. Do so gently, to avoid breaking the rings.

On a hot (cast-iron if you have it) pan, seal the stuffed rings for 3 minutes on each side.
Cover a baking sheet with the tomato sauce and place the sealed rings on it. Cover the rings with the mozzarella – I used slices, because that’s what I had, but I think it would melt better if I had used the shredded version.

Bake in a pre-heated oven for about 30 minutes and serve!

FREEZER: Freeze them before baking: cover a freezer/oven safe baking dish (I used a disposable one) with the tomato sauce, place the sealed rings, cover and freeze. When it’s time to use it, thaw, cover with cheese and bake as usual.

Zucchini Ceviche

Versão em português

Ceviche de Abobrinha

Mom, who was here for a short visit, opened the fridge, saw a few zucchinis there and told me that she had had zucchini ceviche at a restaurant somewhere, and that it was delicious. A ceviche without fish? Of course I had to try it!

I found a recipe that looked really interesting, but they left the zucchini strips whole. When making my own, I decided to cut these strips into smaller pieces, for better texture. Easy and tasty!
You’ll need:

3 medium-sized zucchinis
½ medium-sized onion, cut into thin rings – I forgot to add the onions to the ingredients picture! 😮
¼ red bell pepper, chopped into small cubes
½ Anaheim pepper or 2 ajíes dulces (optional)
½ bunch of cilantro, finely chopped
Juice of two lemons
Salt, red pepper flakes, and black pepper, to taste.

Ceviche de Abobrinha

Cut the onion into veeeeery thin slices. Place them in a bowl, add the juice of one lemon, and set aside. This step helps to reduce the spicyness of the raw onion – I don’t usually do it, but the one I used was VERY spicy! 😀

Slice the zucchini veeeery thinly. If you have a mandolin, it’s time to use it! I didn’t use the core, as it’s all seeds anyway. After slicing the zucchinis, chop them into smaller pieces. Chop the bell pepper, the Anaheim pepper, and the cilantro.

In the serving bowl, mix the zucchini with the peppers, cilantro, and reserved onion. Add the juice of the remaining lemon, and season with salt, red pepper flakes, and black pepper. Set aside for 15-20 minutes, to marinate, and serve as an appetizer or a side dish! 😀