Stay tuned, stay hungry, and go cook something already!

Follow Mouth of Wonder on Instagram!

If you make something from the blog and don't share it on social media, did it really happen? #mouthofwonder

Wednesday, September 04, 2019

Spanish Scallop Salad

Every year for my lovely sister-in-law's birthday I cook a feast for her and her family at their home on Long Beach Island. This summer I decided to make it a themed buffet of Spanish tapas! It gave me the opportunity to use authentic Spanish ingredients I bought at Despaña in Soho, as well as local island seafood, and produce from my garden. (I made about 12 different tapas for the party and plan to feature all of them in the coming months here on the blog. It was a huge success and we have already agreed on a middle eastern buffet for next summer.) I had planned to do some kind of marinated seafood salad, originally thinking of using Calamari, but when I got to our favorite local fish market and the sign said: "local scallops" I could not resist. Enjoy, and know you can use any kind of seafood you want for this dish.

1 1/2 lbs scallops, calamari(rinse, dry and cut into rings), or shrimp (peeled and deveined)
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon aged sherry vinegar
1/3 cup good olive oil
1 clove minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 small red onion, cut in half, then into very thin slices
1/3 cup pitted Kalamata olives
2 cups grape tomatoes, cut in half
2 ribs of celery, finely sliced
1 cup loose packed flat leaf parsley, leaves only
1/4 cup cilantro leaves (optional)

Clean the scallops and cut them in half if large and dry them (you cannot sauté them if they are wet). Sauté scallops in a little olive oil, lemon juice, salt, and pepper until the surface shows some small cracks, then remove from pan. If using shrimp or calamari, lightly poach them in some water, white wine, lemon juice, and herbs of your choice and then quickly cool them.

Whisk together the lime, vinegar, oil, garlic, salt, and pepper. Stir in onions and let sit 5 minutes. Meanwhile, combine the cooled seafood, olives, tomato, celery and parsley. Toss with dressing and refrigerate 1 hour before serving to allow flavors to combine. If you want extra heat, add some Aleppo pepper to the mix.

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Strawberry Shortcake in Cake Form

When my dear friend requests a birthday cake and then says strawberry shortcake is her favorite, I get to work. There are basically three elements: a great sponge cake or genoise for the layers; a strawberry filling; and stabilized whipped cream. For the cake layers I go to my baking mentor Susan Purdy for a great recipe I'm very familiar with. It's from Pie in the Sky the high-altitude cookbook I helped her with, back when I lived in Santa Fe. (Even though it's mainly for high altitudes, the book also includes a version of every recipe for sea level — that's what I used here.) It's a foolproof recipe which requires carefully following the explicit instructions and using many bowls, but it's totally worth it. The cooked strawberry filling is pretty basic but the inclusion of a little Yuzu juice keeps it very fresh and not too sweet. The whipped cream which frosts the outside is held a bit firmer with the inclusion of folded-in melted and cooled white chocolate with a little heavy cream in it. Then you just put it all together — it's divine! Of course, this would be fabulous with a cooked peach filling and almond scented whipped cream, or cherry filling and a chocolate Genoise. The possibilities are endless!

Ingredients for genoise
1 1/2 cups plus 1 tablespoon sifted cake flour
pinch salt
6 large room temperature eggs separated
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 cup plus 1/2 cup granulated sugar divided
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon orange extract
1 teaspoon lemon extract
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon grated citrus zest (your choice)
6 tablespoons melted and cooled unsalted butter

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Prepare two 9 inch cake rounds with non stick spray, line the bottom with parchment, re-spray, flour pans, and tap out excess flour.

Sift flour and sugar into small bowl and set aside. Put egg whites in bowl of electric mixer,  add cream of tartar, and whisk until foamy on medium speed. Gradually whip in 1/2 cup granulated sugar increasing mixer speed to high. Whip until stiff peaks form and when you raise up the whisk the egg white peak stands firm and tall and glossy. Carefully, with a rubber spatula, remove the egg whites into a medium size bowl and, without washing the eggy bowl, return to mixer stand and add egg yolks and remaining 1/2 cup sugar and whip until mixture thickens and lightens in color. Then add the extracts and zest and continue mixing at a high speed until it forms a ribbon as the batter drips off the whisk (which will take between 5-7 minutes, depending on your mixer). Now it's time to combine parts. Start by folding 1 cup of whipped egg whites into the yolks carefully with a good rubber spatula. Then alternately fold the flour mixture and the whites into the yolk mixture. Once everything is combined, remove 1 cup of batter and put into a small bowl. Fold the melted and cooled butter into the batter and then incorporate the batters together with yet more folding.

Using a spatula, divide batter between 2 pans and place on middle rack in oven. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until top is golden brown and it springs back when touched. Let cool. Can be made ahead of time and frozen.

Ingredients for strawberry filling
2 cups strawberries, cut into quarters
1/4 cup Yuzu (or lemon) juice
1 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch stirred in 1/4 cup cold water

Combine the berries, sugar, and juice in a sauce pan and cook over medium heat about 10 minutes, or until the berries create a nice bit of juice and get tender. Do not overcook, you want to see the pieces. Then taste for sweetness — you can add more sugar or more juice to your taste. Mix the cornstarch with the water just to make a paste and stir it into the boiling berries. Cook another few minutes so cornstach flavor cooks out. If it's too thick, add a splash of water and then let cool.

Ingredients for whipped cream frosting
2 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup white chocolate chips
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup confectioner's sugar

In the top of a small double boiler, melt chocolate chips with 2 tablespoons of heavy cream over low heat, stirring with a rubber spatula. When everything is melted and combined, remove from heat and set aside to cool. In bowl of electric mixer, whip heavy cream until it is soft but thick. Sprinkle in confectioner's sugar and vanilla and whip a bit more. Then add melted white chocolate mixture and mix until thick. Watch closely, as over mixing can cause it to separate. Refrigerate until ready to use.

I like to brush the cake layers with a little simple syrup to keep them moist (this is optional). Simple syrup lives up to its name — it's just equal parts of sugar and water which is boiled a few minutes until sugar dissolves and mixture is clear. You can also add some rum or Grand Marnier if you want to add another layer of flavor ... or even coffee. So place the first cake layer on a flat plate and put some of the whipped cream in a pastry bag and pipe a tube around the edge of the cake to keep the strawberry filling in place then put half the filling on top of first layer and smooth it out. Next top it with the second cake layer. Repeat the edge piping and berries. Then take the whipped cream in a pastry bag with a star tip and make festive little stars in rows up the sides and eat all of it. Happy end of summer!


Monday, August 19, 2019

Grilled Pineapple Tofu Cheesecake — a vegan dessert for everyone!

Seasonal Recipe of the Week
I have been working on some great new recipes I want to share. There are some great natural substitutes on the market which enable me to do yummy baking for the vegans in our lives. In particular, egg substitutes, which make baking possible. I also love to use cashews soaked in water overnight to make an amazing cream, add a little sriracha and you have a killer pasta sauce — BAM! But I digress, back to baking. This recipe combines silken tofu, cashew cream, banana, coconut oil, and pineapple to make a super delicious pie, even your carnivore eaters will love. Gotta soak those cashews overnight, so plan ahead! Makes one 8-inch cake.

Ingredients for crust
1 1/4 cup finely ground graham cracker (or any vegan cookies)
3 tablespoons sugar
4 tablespoons melted coconut oil
2 tablespoons almond milk

Ingredients for filling
1/2 cup raw cashews, soaked in water overnight
1/2 cup mashed ripe banana
14 ounces silken tofu, drained
2 tablespoons coconut oil, room temperature
2/3 cups sugar
4 teaspoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
4 tablespoons fresh pineapple juice
Grated zest of 1 lime

Grilled pineapple slices for garnish
2 tablespoons toasted coconut for garnish

Preheat oven to 350° and lightly spray an 8-inch springform pan with nonstick cooking spray.

To make the cookie crust, place the cookies in your food processor and pulse until you get fine crumbs. In a medium mixing bowl, stir together the cookie crumbs and sugar. Drizzle in the melted coconut oil and mix well to ensure the crumbs are moist. Pour in the almond milk and stir again to combine all ingredients. You might need to use your hands to blend the mixture to get a crumbly dough. Pour the crust mixture into the springform pan and press very firmly into the sides of the pan first and pat into the bottom. Bake for 10 minutes until firm. Remove from oven and place and let the crust cool completely before filling.

To make the filling, drain the soaked cashews and tofu. Add the cashews, mashed banana, tofu, coconut oil, sugar, cornstarch, sea salt, pineapple juice and lime zest to a blender and whizz until completely smooth and there aren't any small bit of cashew. Pour the batter over the crust and tap it lightly on the counter to get rid of any large air bubbles. Bake the cheesecake about 50 minutes, until the edges are golden and the top is lightly puffed and still looks a bit wet. Cool cake completely before adding the topping.

To decorate, cut thin rounds of fresh pineapple, remove center rind with small ring cutter. Grill in a very hot dry pan to get blackened marks. Let cool, then place rings on top of cake. Sprinkle with toasted coconut. Refrigerate cake overnight for best results.

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Flan — why mess with the classics?

One of my favorite desserts is a simple flan (or crème caramel, if you're French). Yes, you can alter the flavorings, add some citrus, or some herbs (thyme, lavender, lemon verbena, etc.) but how about just leaving it alone and making it perfectly? (Okay, maybe add an edible flower on top.) You can't beat that! This makes 6 servings

1 3/4 cups heavy cream
1 cup full-fat milk
pinch salt
1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise with seeds scraped out and saved
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup water
3 large eggs
2 large yolks
7 Tablespoons sugar

Preheat oven to 350 and position rack in the center of the oven. Combine cream, milk and salt in a medium-size sauce pan. Add the vanilla seeds and the scraped vanilla bean pod. Bring to a simmer over medium heat then shut off and let steep for 30 minutes. Remove the vanilla pod.

Meanwhile, combine 1 cup sugar and the water in a small sauce pan and cook until sugar liquifies and turns a deep amber color. Be careful, if it gets too dark it gets real bitter, which nobody wants! Carefully pour about a tablespoon of this hot caramel into the bottoms of six 3/4-cup ramekins and swirl around to cover bottom. Set ramekins into a large roasting pan (13 × 9 × 2 inches).

Whisk eggs, egg yolks, and 7 tablespoons of sugar in a medium bowl until blended. Gradually and gently, whisk cream into egg mixture. Strain the egg mixture into a large measuring cup and carefully divide mixture among the ramekins. Open the oven door, pull the rack partially out to make the filling process easier. Now add very hot water into the pan, until the water level is halfway up the ramekins. Be careful not the splash water into the ramekins! Then slowly push the pan onto the rack then into the center of the oven.

Bake until centers are set and are jiggly, about 40 minutes. Remove from water bath and let cool, then refrigerate covered overnight.

To serve, run a small sharp knife around the edge, cover with a plate, give a little shake and turn over. If all is right with the world the flan will fall out onto the plate covered with a nice pool of caramel. And you will be a superstar.