Guava paste is the secret ingredient behind many of the best Cuban desserts. Sure, guava jelly is an acceptable substitute. But, it’s just not the same thing. Guava paste has a depth, density and complexity that guava jelly never will. For baked goods, that density is the key. Extra moisture is the kiss of death for so many delicate pastries. Puff pastry, in particular, doesn’t puff as beautifully. If you are eating your pastry fresh out of the oven, this is less of an issue. After sitting for a few minutes, that dense bit of dough under the wetness turns extremely dense, doughy and unpleasantly gummy.
Phyllo Guava Pastries
guava paste (or, jelly)
melted butter, as needed (about 4-5 Tablespoons)
powdered sugar, to top
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. for about 5 minutes.
Then, on a parchment lined baking sheet. Fold one or two sheets of phyllo in half. Brush with melted butter. Spread the middle third with guava paste or jam. Fold one side up. Brush with butter and more guava paste, if you like. Then, fold the remaining third over the top. Brush generously with remaining melted butter. Bake on parchment-lined baking sheet for 8-10 minutes at 375 degrees F, or until phyllo is crisp and golden.
Let cool. Dust with powdered sugar. Then, cut into wedges or slices.
If there’s real Cuban bread to be found in Atlanta, we’ve yet to find it. So, what’s the best substitute? We believe it’s the gorgeously fluffy Vietnamese bánh mì. They’re much easier to find. And, they’re available at the incredibly great price of three (or, sometimes even 5) for a dollar. There’s sure to be a few of these loitering in our house at any given time. This pressed Cuban sandwich makes great use out of a day old bánh mì.
Pressed Cuban Sandwich
1 6 inch piece of Cuban bread or your favorite mini baguette
good quality yellow mustard (and/or mayo)
dill pickle, sliced paper thin
boiled ham slices
roast pork slices
thin slices of swiss cheese (or, provolone slices if you’re in a pinch)
1 teaspoon butter, salted
Heat griddle, grill pan, or panini press to a moderate heat while you slice your bread. If you’re using griddle or grill pan, also heat a heavy cast iron skillet over high heat. Very lightly slather yellow mustard on both cut sides of your bread. (Or, could slather mustard on one side and mayo on the other.) Place paper thin pickle slices, ham, pork and cheese on your sandwich. Butter your griddle. Press sandwich together and place on buttered area. Place heated cast iron pan on top. After 4-5 minutes, or when bread appears crisp and golden brown, flip sandwich and replace the cast iron pan for another 3-4 minutes. Slice sandwich in half and serve with remaining pickle slices.
A handful of walnuts and a generous sprinkle of bleu cheese turn this simple salad into a real meal. For an even heartier meal, add a slice of grilled bread. Would you like a heartier option? Try a grilled cheese with brie.
Roasted Walnut Salad
roasted walnuts or candied walnuts
celery, sliced, if you like
Wash baby lettuce mix, romaine and celery well. Slice romaine and celery. In a large bowl, toss the lettuce. Then, sprinkle celery, walnuts and bleu cheese on top.
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup raspberries (or seedless raspberry jam)
1/2 – 3/4 cup olive oil
1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp black pepper, finely ground
fine sea salt, to taste
Combine all in a powerful blender and liquify. If using fresh raspberries, you might want to add a tablespoon of superfine sugar (or honey, or maple syrup).
The Starting Point For This Hand-Hammered Wok
Given its size, this wok probably won’t be seeing daily use. That will make it slightly trickier to season. I’ve noticed that if a wok (or, any blue steel pan, really) sits for too long unused. It requires additional seasoning. So, for this this wok, I’ll be seasoning it to a rough 50% point.
To start, I heated our outdoor grill for 10 minutes. Then, I placed the wok on the grill and covered the lid. I set my timer for 15 minutes. Then, at the 15 minute mark, I flipped the grill upside down, shut the lid, and set the timer for 10 minutes. This removed the industrial strength oily residue. Then, I scrubbed the pan very well and towel dried it. Then, I set the wok over a moderate heat and applied a light coating of rice bran oil and vegetable shortening. At the first sign of smoke, I wiped the wok clean. Leaving only a very light sheen of oil, I set the wok aside to cool. I repeated this process three times. The next day, I placed the wok over moderate heat, added a bit of butter and olive oil to the wok. I let the butter come to a bubble and added an egg. It slid out beautifully. And, I had something to top my toast for breakfast!
Roughly 50% Seasoned
The Grilled Cheese Sandwich
So easy and so good, the simplest recipes require quality ingredients and a little bit of care. That’s all there is to it. The combination of good bread and very good cheese make this super simple sandwich something truly special.
We do have our own little secret. And, it’s a secret that we think makes all the difference in the world. The secret? Use very little butter. We don’t butter the bread. This requires too much butter for our taste. We like butter on this sandwich. But, we don’t LOVE butter on this sandwich. So, we like to use it sparingly. The star of this sandwich is the cheese. So, we butter the griddle. This requires just a little bit of care, moderate heat and a little bit of time. You will be rewarded with a golden brown edges on the bread and melty cheese inside.
Grilled Cheese Sandwich
about 1 teaspoons butter
2 slices of rustic rosemary bread
brie, thinly sliced
a few crumbs of cave aged cheddar
Heat griddle with a moderate heat. Uniformly coat griddle with a thin sheen of butter. As the butter bubbles , place bread on the griddle. Carefully toast one side of the bread on the griddle to a light golden brown. Flip both slices of bread. Top one slice of bread with cheese. When the second side appears toasted, place the hot side of the toast onto the cheese. Plate. Slice. Devour.
Grainy mustard makes a lovely addition to this sandwich, if you’d like to add a touch of spice.
Ready for dessert?
Grill an extra slice of rosemary bread. Top with Georgia Belle Peach Preserves.
I love you
You are the light in my day, the blue in my sky, the air that I breathe…
…the reason to rise
I love you more and more with each new dawning day.
This recipe was clearly inspired by the America’s Test Kitchen 6 Banana Bread recipe. But, the idea of nuking the bananas for 5 minutes turns me off completely. So, I played and puttered around a bit with the recipe. And, I came up with a version that I prefer.
(This loaf was a bit too wet and dense under the banana slices.)
This is still a work in progress. I believe this loaf would have been better if I’d left it in the oven for another couple of minutes. And, next time I’ll leave the banana slices off the top. Those wet banana slices caused the top to be a bit wet and weepy. Thin coconut slices make a better garnish. They toast up beautifully on top.
Six Banana Bread
(Next time, this will be 5 Banana Bread)
makes 1 large loaf
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
5 very ripe bananas, average-sized (not huge)
1 cup sugar
8 Tablespoons butter, 1 stick, soft
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup pecans, chopped
1 banana, sliced thin
sprinkle of thin dried coconut slices
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Cream bananas, sugar, butter, eggs and vanilla in a large mixing bowl. Allow to sit at room temperature for about 5 minutes. Sift dry ingredients. After 5 minutes, add dry ingredients to the creamed mixture. Beat briefly. Then, stir in pecans by hand. Pour into large buttered loaf pan. Bake at 350 degrees F for 75-80 minutes. (Still testing, the oven had to be opened and closed too many times to specify an exact time. And, without the banana on top, the cooking time will probably be closer to 70-75 minutes.)
Those banana slices cook up sticky sweet.
There may be instances of desperation here and there. But, there are really only two cookies that I crave on a regular basis that are not homemade. Oreos and Biscoff… Wait, lets be completely honest. Nutter butters would make it a two way tie for second place with Biscoff. And, it’s no coincidence that all three of these cookies are dunk-able in milk. Oreos and Nutter Butters make me feel guilty. So, Biscoff cookies find their way home with me most frequently. Two cookies for 73 calories? That’s not too bad, right?
These cookies would make a great cookie crumb crust, too. But, who needs all that extra butter? Not me. I’m all about the pumpkin.
Baked Pumpkin Pie Pudding
makes 1 large oval casserole
1 3/4 cups biscoff cookie crumbs
30 oz pumpkin puree
1 can sweetened condensed milk
4 Tablespoons butter, soft
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/2 cup pineapple
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
In a large mixing bowl, cream all except for the pineapple and cookie crumbs. When everything is thoroughly combined, stir in cookie crumbs and pineapple. Pour into buttered casserole dish. Bake at 350 degrees F for 1 hour and 20-30 minutes. Let cool for at least 10 minutes before slicing. If you can’t wait, spoon it into a bowl and top with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
Add a mug of Harney & Son’s Hot Cinnamon Spice tea and you’ve got a dessert that you can almost feel good about…
…almost. You might feel a little bit of guilt about the sugar.
Traditionally, this is a simple salad of crab, a little chopped onion, cider vinegar and a splash of oil. But, wouldn’t a touch of sugar cane vinegar and coconut milk give this dish some real island flavor? I think so. The touch of natural sweetness from the coconut milk plays off the onion nicely. And, I love the hint of earthy sweetness and spice that Balinese long peppers bring to the table. So, that’s what I’ve chosen to use in this dish.
Stir gently, or the tender crab will be nothing but wispy shreds.
West Indies Salad
1 pound jumbo lump crabmeat, carefully checked for shell pieces
1/2 Vidalia onion, finely diced
2 Tablespoons sugarcane vinegar
2-3 Tablespoons peanut oil, olive oil, or vegetable oil
(or 3-4 Tablespoons full fat coconut milk, no added sugar)
fine sea salt, to taste
freshly ground Balinese long pepper, to taste
small pinch of chopped chives
small pinch finely chopped parsley
1 lemon, cut into wedges, if you like
Sprinkle ingredients evenly over the crab meat. This will allow you to keep the stirring to a minimum. Another way to treat the crab gently? Stir very carefully with your perfectly clean fingers. If you can wait, let it marinate for an hour or two. Or, as we do, devour immediately.
Serve with lemon wedges
Another Year, Another Cold
I nipped this one at the first tickle in my throat with oregano oil. It’s not a miracle cure. But, either I’m in better shape this year or it successfully cut the length of this cold in half. As usual, I munched on buttered toast, saltines and bites of cheese when I could muster an appetite. One favorite quick meal that was easy to whip up consisted of leftover Chinese curried vegetables in a bowl of chicken broth with ramen. The flavors were powerful enough to taste. And, that’s a plus when your senses are at half strength. Another favorite? Ginger tea with soothing elements. I’m not sure if the St Germain brought any healing powers to the table. But, it sure did make me feel better.
makes one small pot
1 scant teaspoon black tea leaves
1 teaspoon peppermint leaves
1 inch ginger, cut into thin slices
1 ounce St Germain elderflower liqueur
honey, to taste
Bring about 16 ounces of water to a boil. Let sit for 2 minutes. As the water sits, spoon black tea and peppermint leaves into steeping pot. Add ginger slices. After two minutes, pour hot water into steeping pot. Let steep for 4-7 minutes (to your taste). Then, add 1 ounce of St Germain to your tea cup. Fill with hot tea. Relax and sip slowly to let it all sooth your throat.