Recipe Review: Caramel Drizzled Pear Upside Down Cake

One of the last fruits of fall, pears are usually simply too good to cook with. I eat them as they are, savoring the textured sugary taste. However, on rare occasions such as this one, I do have a few extra pears lying around. Pears are a versatile fruit: you can poach them, puree them, bake them. Poached pears a particularly lovely, and look so much more impressive than they are. But since I didn’t have anybody to impress, I went for the comfort-food alternative: coffee cake.

Katie’s Definition:

Coffee Cake, n. 1. Any cake-like substance which can be thrown together with whatever is on hand in under an hour.

This particular definition comes from childhood afternoons at grandma’s house. Grandma first started me baking at around five, and I was obsessed with making cake. Any time I forgot something and the cake turned out not-quite-right, grandma would proclaim it ‘coffee cake’. The phrase has stuck with me ever since, although I now associate it with convenience rather than mistakes.

Recipe: Carmel Drizzled Pear Upside Down Cake, Adapted from Kiran Tarun.

Post-baking comments: good, but slightly bland. Future reference: 1/2 tsp. vanilla and double the spices.



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Recipe – Chiles Rellenos

It is the peak of pepper season, and I have peppers coming out my ears! I have been stuffing them, slicing them, roasting them, and adding them to every kind of salsa imaginable. But it isn’t enough. It’s time to fry them. And the best way to fry a pepper is to make the infamous chile relleno. Infamous in my house, anyway, as tonight will be my third attempt — with the previous two ending in unmitigated disaster. (After Note: Success!!! Finally!!!!)

This time, I’m prepared. I’ve done my research, and I won’t be repeating any of my previous mistakes. For your reference, those were:

    • using the wrong kind of peppers
    • incorrectly peeling
    • misapplying batter
    • overstuffing
    • removing stems


3 Poblano (Ancho) Peppers
3 C. Oil for frying – preferably a mix of olive oil and canola or sunflower seed oil

1 1/2 C. Queso Fresco, Shredded
1 Ear Sweet Corn
1/2 C. Cilantro
1/4 tsp. Salt

2 C. Corn Flour
1 1/2 C. Beer (something light, not too much hops)
1 C. Milk
1/2 tsp. Cumin
1/2 tsp. Coriander
Salt and Pepper to taste

1. Place peppers in baking dish. Roast on 350 for 45 minutes or until beginning to blister. Remove, let cool, and peel. Slit peppers from top almost to tip, de-seed (preserving stem).

2. Strip corn and mix kernels with cheese, cilantro and salt to form filling. Gently stuff the peppers until almost full. You will now want to use tooth picks or other such apparatus (I used bobby pins because I had no toothpicks. Weird, but effective) to pinch the sides of the pepper closed.

Now for the Enlightened step, courtesy of Home Cooking in Montana

3. Stick the peppers in the freezer until very firm but not totally frozen.

4. While you wait, mix the corn flour, beer, milk, and spices for the batter. This should be well mixed but still fluffy – don’t overdo it!

5. Heat the oil in a wok or deep pan over medium high heat – you want it high enough that water will sizzle and evaporate instantly, but not so high that it boils or smokes or anything scary like that. Remove the peppers from the freezer, dispatch with their toothpicks, and plop gently, one at a time, first in the batter and then in the hot oil.

5. Gently brown on all sides before removing, cooling, and of course enjoying. For best results, top with a tasty sauce. You could try a classic mexican mole, or better yet my Roasted Tomatillo Salsa Verde. Buen Provecho!

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Apricot Custard Tart

What do you do on your afternoons off? I challenge you to find a better use for your time than this:

This is, of course, a food blog. So, ignoring the glorious scene before us, lets get down to business. This is the view from grandma’s kitchen. And grandma’s kitchen is where the magic happens. When I someday write the biography of my grandmother, I will surely devote at least a chapter to her incredible culinary skills. In preparation for the chapter, I spend every possible moment I can savoring her skill – and learning where I can.

        So, on my afternoon off, I ran over there and we collaborated. She provided the vista, and I provided…

Apricots. Is there a more joyful fruit than this? You simply cannot have a bad day (or make a bad dish) using apricots. Their color is infectious, and their taste… Sigh.

Apricot Custard Tart: (makes two 9 inch pies, or several small tartlets)


Her Crust: (To my utter shame, this is a Pâte Brisée recipe I shamelessly stole from Martha Stewart)
1 stick of butter, cold
2 1/2 C. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. sugar
1/4 C. ice Water

Grandma’s Custard:
4 egg yolks
Scant 1/4 C. sugar
2 C. whole milk
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/8 tsp. almond extract
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. cinnamon

My Apricots:
3 C. Apricots – about a dozen of my extremely small ones, or perhaps six medium sized
1 C. Water
2/3 C. Sugar

Our directions:

1. Mix sugar and salt into flour. Cut the butter into the mixture until crumbly. Pour in ice water and mix, adding more if necessary. Roll the dough out thin – approximately a quarter of an inch of thickness will do. Line tart pans/pie pans.

2. Beat together egg yolks and sugar to form a paste. Slowly add milk. When smooth, stir in extracts and spices to taste. Fill pans.

3. Heat oven to 350 degrees and cook until just wobbly. At this stage you should be able to insert a knife and have it come out clean. Because this recipe is meant for tart pans, there should be a very thin layer of custard, and it will cook quickly. I would gage for approximately 15-20 minutes.

4. In the mean time, halve and pit the apricots. Heat the water and sugar until just boiling, add the apricot halves, and turn down to a simmer. Cook for 3-5 minutes, until tender but not falling apart.

5. Remove the tarts from the oven and allow to cool slightly before adding apricot halves. Allow the tarts to cool the rest of the way before enjoying.

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Recipe – A Quick Summer Salad

Cucumbers, Tomatoes, Onions. What to do, what to do… Aha!


3 Medium (Yellow) Tomatoes
1 Large Cucumber
1 Small Sweet Onion
4 Tbs. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
4 Tbs. Lemon Juice
1/4 C. Fresh Parsley
2 Fresh Basil Leaves
Salt and Pepper to Taste


1. Chop cucumber, tomato, onion, parsley and basil. Try to get the onion very fine. Consider de-seeding the tomato prior to cutting if you don’t like your salad juicy.

2. Add to large bowl, drizzle with olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Stir gently and allow to chill for 30 minutes before serving.

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Recipe Review – Mango Kulfi by Foodess

What to pair with a spicy meal on a hot day? Hmm… Ice cream? Foodess’s recipe for Mango Kulfi is the perfect recipe for those of us who love ice cream, but not enough to clutter our kitchen with an ice cream maker. Since mangoes are never in season here, I chose to use fresh peaches.

Recipe from the Foodess:

Mango Kulfi

    • 1 tbsp cornstarch
    • 2 cups whipping cream
    • 2 cups milk
    • 3/4 cup white sugar
    • 2 cups mango chunks, from 2 large, very ripe mangoes
    • 2 tbsp water

Whisk together cornstarch, whipping cream, milk and sugar in a large saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until thickened and slightly reduced, about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, puree mango chunks in a blender or food processor until smooth.

Stir mango puree into cream mixture and freeze in individual cups, or you may churn in your ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions.

My changes:

This recipe is already excellent, and the only changes I made were to cut the water and to replace mangoes with peaches. Yum!

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Verde Sauce with Roasted Tomatillos

The  boyfriend and I are huge fans of spicy food. We have also recently discovered the art of roasting. Roasting adds great depth to flavors, and has the benefit of being incredibly easy: stick desired veggies in pan, stick in oven, go do something else. Return later to find that you have created a culinary masterpiece. It doesn’t get much easier than that.

The eventual combination of these two obsessions was inevitable. The product:

Verde Sauce with Roasted Tomatillos



8 Tomatillos, still in husks

1 Large Red Onion

1 Large Red Tomato

3 Cloves Garlic

1 Jalapeño pepper

2 Tbs. Olive Oil

Salt and Pepper to taste

3/4 C. Fresh Cilantro

1 tsp. Coriander

1 tsp. Cumin


1. Halve the onion and the tomato. Add onion, tomato, tomatillos and garlic to baking dish. Rub with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast vegetables in oven at 350 degrees for one hour, or until husks of tomatillos are lightly cracked and burned.

2. Chop cilantro and jalapeño. Allow roasted vegetables to cool. Add cilantro, jalapeño and assorted vegetables to food processor. Process until mostly smooth, and stir in coriander and cumin.

3. Add sauce to large sauce pan and bring to a boil before reducing heat and allowing to simmer. Cook down sauce to desired thickness (~15 Minutes for me).

This Verde Sauce can be eaten straight as a salsa (skip step three), as a filling/sauce for enchiladas, or as a topping for huevos rancheros, etc. Buen Provecho!

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Tomato Sauce – The Good Stuff

I lose all respect for a cook who claims to be into the natural/organic/locavore movement when they put the words ‘can’ and ‘tomato’ near each other in a recipe. Not only are tomatoes that have spent time in a commercially processed can disgusting, they are a completely wasted opportunity. Not only is buying and roasting your own tomatoes the more organic and healthy option, it is also the only way to go if you care about local food, and with the season’s bounty, just as cheap. What about winter, you ask? Why, I have a freezer, I reply. I also have a mother who cans tomatoes from her garden, bless her soul.

Thusly, any recipe for tomato sauce that includes canned tomatoes/tomato paste should be scorned and spurned completely. On to the superior alternative.

Tomato Sauce (For pizza, for pasta, for life):


3 large red tomatoes

6 smaller yellow tomatoes

3 cloves garlic

4 tbs olive oil

salt and pepper as desired

2 fresh basil leaves

1 Tbs. oregano

2 Tbs. fresh parsley


1. Place tomatoes and garlic in baking dish, drizzle with olive oil and salt and pepper as desired. Back at 350 for an hour, or until tomatoes are nicely cooked and skins begin to blacken.

2. Remove from oven and allow to cool before food processing contents minus stems.

3. At this point, you can either spice the sauce (black pepper, oregano, parsley, etc.) and run with it, or you can cook down the sauce to the desired consistency by simmering it in a stock pot: it all depends on how thick you like your sauce. Go for it!

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