I’m not devoutly superstitious so I have no problem picking and choosing which New Year’s traditions to follow. While 12 grapes at midnight are non-negotiable anywhere Spanish is spoken, for the rest of Latin America it’s pretty much an open field. I’ve written wishes for the coming months (Venezuela) then throw them in the fire so no one could steal them. Unfortunately, I forgot what I’d written before the paper had turned to ash, leaving me with unstarted resolutions. If I lived in Honduras, I’d make an “Año Viejo” doll stuffed with fireworks to set off at midnight if I didn’t find effigies and fireworks equally frightening. I’ve never thrown a bucket of water out of my window to rid myself of evil spirits (Puerto Rico), but a water pipe bursting a few years ago started off one of my favorite New Year’s nights and great year. A Peruvian friend suggested I wander around the block with a suitcase if I wanted to travel in 2011, but I’ve had enough of packing bags and getting nowhere in the last few days. Fortunately, everyone seems to be in agreement on an underwear color scheme for the occassion (red=love, green=money, yellow=luck, white=health). I don’t know if it works, but at the very least it forces you to get your priorities straight before midnight. Read more
Posts from the ‘Custards, Puddings & Mousses’ Category
My grandmother used to say that there were always apples in Cuba. I’m not sure what she meant but it was an argument-ender. I thought of her when I came across an old Cuban recipe from the 1930s for apple pudding made with Bacardi rum. Though apples aren’t native to the island, rum most definitely is. I waited a few months to try it because, while we do always have apples in New York, I don’t always want them. Out of season, they’re mostly texture and water. Now that the markets are in full fall swing, I decided it was a good alternative to the pies and tarts I’ll be making once the holidays start. Somewhere between a fallen souffle and bread pudding, I served it with lightly whipped cream though next time I might drizzle it with a caramel or rum sauce (for a little more authenticity). Read more
I am always looking for the best ingredients, but there are some things I just can’t find nearby and some I probably shouldn’t be able to find nearby. I try to stay local but the temptations of a jet-setting Prosciutto di Parma or a well traveled Chinatown dragon fruit can be difficult to resist. Still, it’s hard not to wonder what your missing when someone else does the picking and packing. The subtle differences between varieties and vendors that you can only discern when it’s close to home. That’s why, when trying a new cuisine, dessert can be the best place to start. I may not find the right Peruvian pepper or Argentinian zapallo, but milk, grains and sugar are universal and need little translation (or transatlantic travel). I’d been looking for a Chilean recipes to try and found several I wanted to include but kept circling back to this custard made with semolina and wine syrup (wine being the exception that was meant to travel the earth). Read more
Many people have a hard time imagining their parents as children, but I very much see my mother in the little girl pictured above — sweet, expressive and indistinguishable from the cake set before her, in essence if not in form. Last year around this time, I asked my mother to show me how to make her merengue con crema de leche. A combination of meringue and custard sauce, it’s similar to a French île flottante but much, much sweeter — Cuban sweet. She always made it for special occasions, though never the same way twice. Used to feeling her way around until she got it right, I distracted her with questions. I tried to note everything down, but secretly believed she was making things up as she went along. When I caught her consulting with her chihuahua about the consistency for the syrup, I knew we were in trouble. Read more
I never thought of myself as spoiled but since starting this blog, I am constantly coming across ingredients and recipes that I disliked as a child for no good reason. Pudín de pan is another example. It’s only crime against me was not being natilla, panetela or another of my grandparent’s desserts that I loved. I’d come to their house for lunch, excited to see the flan tin brimming with the tell-tale amber glaze, only to be disappointed when a caramel drenched bread pudding filled with dried fruits and nuts would arrive at the table. The adults were thrilled but the kids were underwhelmed. Where was the flan? Did that pruny pudding thing eat it? Read more
I’ve had one recurring thought since I tasted my first chirimoya a few months ago – there are parts of this world where flan grows on trees. Flan on trees. I’ve been pining for chirimoyas, also known as custard apples, ever since. In response to my previous post where I used them to fill pavlovas, my aunt described an alternative recipe that’s popular in Peru. The chirimoyas are folded into manjarblanco that’s been lightened with whipped cream and chilled, like dulce de leche pots de crème. I went back for more to but it’s been weeks since I’ve seen them. Then suddenly, there they were, looking proud but out of place at the Park Slope Food Coop. I scooped up a pretty heart shaped one and let it ripen on my counter like an avocado. After the whirl of Easter weekend had passed, I finally got down to using them. It was as simple as it seemed and the fresh fruit provided the right balance to the manjarblanco. I don’t know when I’m going to find them again but I’ll always look. From the moment the last scoop was served, I started to miss them.
I’d been looking for a way to use chirimoyas since I came across them a few months ago in a nearby market. Originally found in the Andean region between Peru and Ecuador, they’re also cultivated in small pockets throughout Chile, California, Spain, New Zealand, Australia, and Israel. Heart-shaped and scaly, they could be a dragon’s paw and are almost as rare in my Brooklyn neighborhood, so I was excited when I found them. Also known as custard apples, they’re like everything and like nothing else. The fruit can be likened to strawberry, banana, pineapple, papaya, avocados, mango, ripe pears, and commercial bubble gum while Mark Twain described it more simply as “deliciousness itself.” Read more