A mother-daughter conversation on food and cooking (mostly)

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Lime Cordial and Lime-oncello

Those tiny yellow limes you grew are so intense, Mom -- they're wonderful, but more acidic than regular limes. Today I used some of them in booze-related experiments.

First I zested 14 of them and started a batch of limoncello using limes instead of lemons.

I read a few recipes and enjoyed this overly detailed recipe the most. I more or less followed it but didn't filter the vodka -- it seems silly to filter something that's distilled. We had a bunch of Skyy vodka and since we don't drink vodka very often this seemed like a good use for it -- no grain alcohol in my version.

Two hours in, the vodka is already starting to yellow (it's in the jar on the right). After a few months it should be very pretty. Either that, or it'll look like urine. We'll see.

Lime Cordial
So then I had a bunch of dermis-free limes -- way too many for margaritas or mojitos. I thought about juicing them and freezing the juice, but again, they're so acidic, if they were to lose any delicate lime flavors through freezing they wouldn't be very useful -- all tartness, no flavor.

I poked around online for a while and decided to make lime cordial. Rose's Lime Juice is lime cordial, but Rose's seems pretty gross lately. Maybe it's the high fructose corn syrup. I made a gimlet with it over the summer and it wasn't very enjoyable.

Recipes for lime cordial online mostly contain lime juice, simple syrup, citric acid and tartaric acid. I have neither of the latter two ingredients. I decided the limes' acidity was intense enough to make up for the missing citric acid. For the tartaric acid I used cream of tartar. I'm no chemist, but cream of tartar retains the acidic flavor of tartaric acid, which I think is the goal of the acid, and is also a potassium salt...and I figured salt is a positive thing from a preservative standpoint.

I think I can taste the potassium from the cream of tartar a little. There's a slight bitter aftertaste similar to potassium chloride -- the taste of those "salt substitutes," or of Marmite, or of banana bread with too much baking powder. But Lawson says he can't taste it, so it's probably not a big deal.

After some adjustments, here roughly what I ended up with:

2 cups sugar
1 cup water
1 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
1 scant teaspoon cream of tartar

Boil the water and sugar until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat; stir in lime juice and cream of tartar. Strain into bottles and refrigerate.

I'll make gimlets tonight. And I'll let you know how long the lime cordial keeps.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Christmas Goodies

I love to make food gifts for Christmas. This year I made marmalade, lemon curd, chocolate chip cookies, fudge, and sour cream cupcakes with peppermint and cream cheese frosting. I might also make some coconut cupcakes.

If you find out late some day that you have to contribute something for your child's bake sale or your office party, this Microwave Fudge might save you. After ten years I still can't believe how easy and good it is.

Microwave Fudge
1 pound powdered sugar
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup butter or margarine, cut in small pieces
1/4 cup evaporated milk
2 teaspoons vanilla
3/4 cup coarsely chopped nuts

In a 2-quart glass container, combine sugar and cocoa. Stir in butter, evaporated milk, and vanilla. Cover with waxed paper and microwave on high for 2 minutes.

With wooden spoon, stir hot mixture until butter melts, then beat vigorously for one minute or until fudge loses some of its gloss. Stir in 1/2 cup of the nuts. Pour into greased 8 or 9-inch square pan and sprinkle with remaining nuts. Refrigerate one or two hours until firm.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Chard Tart with Pine Nuts

I remember you making chard pie when I was younger, Mom, and I got to thinking about it this week when I bought some tender, lovely Swiss chard. I didn't want something too eggy -- not a full-on quiche, but rather a light, creamy pie with lots of chard.

I used this crust recipe, which has become my favorite for both savory and sweet uses. It's pretty rich, but if you're going to go to the bother of making crust, why mess around?

I used the food processor this time, and it worked fine. I rolled out the dough, pressed it into a tart ring, brushed it with plenty of egg white, and put it in the fridge to chill.

For the filling, I sauteed in olive oil:

1 very small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 big bunch Swiss chard (1 lb?), including stems, chopped

I let that cool slightly, then added it to a bowl in which I had beaten together:

3 whole eggs + the leftover white (the other leftover white was used to brush the dough)
3 oz cream cheese (I had no Parmesan, which is what I would have used; this gave it a nice mild smoothness.)
1/2 cup half and half, roughly
pinch of nutmeg
lots of black pepper

I poured the filling into the tart shell -- it was very wet, another reason to make a rich crust -- and sprinkled the top with a handful of pine nuts. I baked it for about 45 minutes at 375 degrees.

As with most egg dishes, it was much better once it had cooled to room temperature. It was mild and clean-tasting, and the pine nuts seemed impossibly sweet, almost candied, against the dark green chard flavor.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Salsa Rapida with Tamales

We went to the Tucson Tamale Festival today and bought two and a half dozen tamales from various booths, all family operations. The best part was the free samples.

The main varieties on offer were green corn (made with fresh corn) and traditional (made with masa, a dough with lime-treated ground corn). They were filled with beef, pork, chicken, or cheese. Sweet tamales were also available.

I always serve Salsa Rapida by Aida Gabilondo with tamales. I thought I had posted it before, but here it is in all its simplicity:

Salsa Rapida

1/2 cup pure red chile powder (no spices)
1 cup boiling water
1/4 cup vinegar
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon pressed garlic

Soak the chile powder in the boiling water until for about 15 minutes. Add remaining ingredients, rest for a few minutes, and serve.