Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Pisco Perfect

Chile is a country of great beauty and delicious drinks. Photo © by Judy Wells.
Argentina and Chile have argued over who invented the Pisco Sour since the second one was served. I'm not about to get into that dispute, but while cleaning out files, I discovered a card from the general manager of the Chilean Tourism Promotion Corporation that included that country's recipe for the classic libation.

Here it is.

Photo courtesy of Hotel Portillo.
Chilean Pisco Sour

3 parts Pisco Brandy
1 1/2 parts lemon juice
1 to 2 TBS sugar
1/2 egg white
1 dash bitters

Shake first four ingredients vigorously with ice. Strain into a Champagne flute and add the bitters as an aromatic garnish.


Monday, August 27, 2018

Florida Glory with a Chinese Heritage

Chef Dennis Chan is known for the "hip Asian comfort food" he creates at Blue Bamboo in Jacksonville, FL. One taste of his Sunshine State Orange Crunch Cake, Grand Prize winner of the 2018 Neighborhood to Nation Recipe Contest, will have you lining up for reservations.  Sponsored by General Mills Foodservice, the competition was open to professional chefs at independent restaurants and food trucks.

Dennis not only wins $30,000 plus $5,000 for his local charity (the American Cancer Society's Real Men Wear Pink of Jacksonville campaign), in October he and his Sunshine Cake will take part in the Food Network & Cooking Channel New York Wine & Food Festival.

"The biggest joy that I will get out of winning this contest is that I get to share a little bit of my hometown of Jacksonville, Florida, and the flavors of my restaurant Blue Bamboo with the rest of the world."

                            Sunshine State Orange Crunch Cake

SERVINGS: 10 servings (1 serving = 1 piece)


Orange juice9 oz1 cup
Gold Medal™ Yellow Cake Mix (11152)1 lb 12 oz5 3/4 cups
Mandarin oranges, canned, undrained15 oz1 3/4 cups
Orange extract
2 Tbsp
Orange Sauce
Orange juice1 lb 2 oz2 cups
Granulated sugar
2 Tbsp
1 1/2 Tbsp
Puff Pastry Layers
Pillsbury's Best™ Puff Pastry Dough Sheet (05123)
1 each
Salt, kosher
1/2 tsp
Almond Lace Cookies
Butter, unsalted2 oz1/4 cup
Brown sugar, firmly packed2.5 oz6 Tbsp
Corn syrup3.5 oz1/4 cup
Gold Medal™ All-Purpose Flour (14323)1 oz3 Tbsp
Vanilla extract
1/2 tsp
Salt, kosher
1/4 tsp
Slivered almonds, ground2 oz1/2 cup
Butter, unsalted, softened1 lb2 cups
Powdered sugar1 lb3 1/2 cups
Cream cheese, softened1 lb 8 oz
Crushed pineapple, canned, drained12 oz1 1/3 cups
Orange extract
2 Tbsp
Powdered sugar
1 tsp


  1. Add orange juice and cake mix to bowl of mixer fitted with paddle attachment; mix on medium speed 2 minutes.
  2. Add mandarin oranges and orange extract; mix on low speed 30 seconds. 
  3. Stop mixer, scrape bowl and paddle; mix on low speed an additional 1 1/2 minutes.
  4. Deposit batter in 2 greased, parchment-lined 8-inch round cake pans; bake as directed below until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean.
  5. Allow to cool in pans 10 minutes; remove and cool completely.
Convection Oven*               300°F           33-38 minutes
Standard Oven                    350°F           38-43 minutes

*Rotate pans baked in convection oven one-half turn (180°) after 16 minutes of baking.

Orange Sauce
  1. Stir orange juice, sugar and cornstarch together in 2-quart saucepan; cook over medium heat until mixture comes to a boil, stir frequently.
  2. Remove from heat and cool completely; refrigerate until assembly.
Puff Pastry Layer
  1. Thaw frozen puff pastry dough sheet, covered, either at room temperature 15-30 minutes until flexible or refrigerated overnight.
  2. Roll out to 18x13-inch rectangle; cut 2, 8-inch diameter circles from opposite corners of sheet.
  3. Cut 2, half-moon shaped circles from remaining dough; transfer pieces to parchment-lined full sheet pan.
  4. Dock each piece and sprinkle with salt; cover with additional paper and place another full sheet pan on top to weigh down puff pastry dough.
  5. Bake as directed below until golden brown; cool completely. 
Convection Oven*          350°F         22-26 minutes
Standard Oven               400°F         26-30 minutes

*Rotate pans baked in convection oven one-half turn (180°) after 11 minutes of baking.

Almond Lace Cookies
  1. Add butter, brown sugar and corn syrup to 2-quart saucepan; bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring frequently.
  2. Remove from heat and stir in flour, vanilla, salt and almonds until well combined.
  3. Line 2, full sheet pans with silpat or parchment paper and place 10, #70 scoops of dough on each.
  4. Bake as directed below until golden brown; cool completely. 
Convection Oven           350°F         4-6 minutes
Standard Oven                400°F         5-8 minutes

  1. Add butter and powdered sugar to mixer bowl fitted with paddle attachment; mix on low speed to combine.
  2. Beat 2 minutes at medium speed.
  3. Divide cream cheese into about 2 oz portions; add a few portions at a time to mixer bowl until combined.
  4. Beat until fluffy. Add pineapple and orange extract; mix until well blended.
  1. Cut the cake rounds in half, horizontally; spread 1/4 cup Orange Sauce on the cut side of each.
  2. Place 1 cake layer on cake plate, cut side UP; frost with approx. 1/2 cup frosting.
  3. Top with a full circle of the Puff Pastry Layer; frost with approx. 1/2 cup frosting.
  4. Place another cake layer on top, cut side DOWN; frost with approx. 1/2 cup frosting.
  5. Top with the other full circle of the Puff Pastry Layer; frost with approx. 1/2 cup frosting.
  6. Top with the third cake layer, cut side UP; frost with approx. 1/2 cup frosting.
  7. Arrange the 2, half-moon Puff Pastry Layer pieces on top; frost with approx. 1/2 cup frosting.
  8. Top with last cake layer, cut side DOWN; frost top and sides with remaining frosting.
  9. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
  1. Garnish with Almond Lace Cookies and dust with powdered sugar.
  2. Serve with remaining Orange Sauce.
  1. Cake layers can be made ahead and frozen if desired. Allow to cool completely after baking. Wrap to seal and freeze; thaw about 20 minutes before assembly.
  2. Store Almond Lace Cookies in air-tight container.


Nutrition values are calculated using the weights of ingredients.

Serving Size: 1 piece
Calories from Fat
Total Fat
Saturated Fat
Trans Fat
2 1/2g
Total Carbohydrate
Dietary Fiber
% Daily Value*:
Vitamin A
Vitamin C
4 1/2 Starch; 0 Fruit; 7 1/2 Other Carbohydrate; 0 Skim Milk; 0 Low-Fat Milk; 0 Milk; 0 Vegetable; 0 Very Lean Meat; 0 Lean Meat; 0 High-Fat Meat; 18 Fat;
Carbohydrate Choice
*Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Summer cooler

Light, bright and cooling: that's what we look for in an adult beverage for a summer afternoon.

It was a summer afternoon in Mammoth Lakes, CA., when I had my first Eastern Retreat but it was hardly hot on Pokonobe's deck above Lake Mary. Actually we flatland-dwelling East Coasters were cold at the 8,000-foot Eastern Sierra mountain elevation.

Nonetheless, I opted for the Eastern Retreat, which is saying a lot, especially as my fingers took on a blueish tinge while holding the glass. it was that good, kind of like a California Pimm's Cup created by the mixologists at the local Shelter Distillery with their Gin the Third.

While I obtained the recipe for an individual serving, many thanks to my friend and fellow travel writer Susan Katzman who thought to ask for the party-sized proportions.

                        Eastern Retreat

Mint simple syrup
Lemon juice
Cucumber juice
Cucumber garnish

For one serving
1 1/2 oz Gin
1/2 oz. Cucumber juice
1/2 oz. Mint sauce
1 1/2 oz. Lemon juice

Mix together in a blender.
Serve over ice with a thin slice of cucumber.

For 50 servings (4 oz. liquid over ice in an 8 oz. glass)
Mix together:
3 bottles of Gin
1 bottle Mint syrup
1 bottle Lemon juice
2 bottles Cucumber juice

Garnish each serving with a thin slice of cucumber


Thursday, July 5, 2018

No leftovers with Muhammara Spread

Do you hate dealing with leftover spreads and dips at the end of a party? Too  good to waste, but too mauled to want.

There will be no leftovers with this one.

I discovered it recently at Jimmy's Taverna in Mammoth Lakes, California. With its blue and white brightened with yellow star light fixtures, the restaurant is one of the most tasteful and best decorated Greek eateries ever encountered.

Executive Chef Jeremy Graham, an alumni of The Phoenician in Scottsdale and The Westin in Mammoth Lakes, oversees two other restaurants in the same suburban complex.

But on to his Turkish inspired dish.








1 32-ounce can roasted red peppers
1 1/2 cups walnuts, toasted and chopped (reserve a few for garnish)
.5 oz. roasted garlic
1 oz. lemon juice
3 oz. panko
.75 oz. pomegranate syrup (available at Middle Eastern stores), add a bit more for garnish
1 1/2 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp. urfa pepper flakes or dried chipolte
1/2 tsp. cumin
1 1//2 oz. Extra virgin olive oil,  plus some for garnish

Place ingredients in food processor and blend until smooth. Top with toasted walnuts, pomegranate syrup and olive oil. Serve with triangles of warm pita bread.

Do not plan on leftovers.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Bubbe would be proud of this, too

For several years, I have judged the annual Bubbe's Bake Off competition at Congregation Ahaveth Chesed's Jacksonville Jewish Food Festival.

This year's, the seventh, the judging panel was particularly impressed with entries in the children's category. Both first- and second-place-winning young bakers found their recipes on line but they prepared the entries themselves; no adults are allowed in the kitchen during prep and baking.

This, the second place winner by 13-year-old Ellie Pinnar, will be first in the hearts of chocolate and peanut butter lovers.

Peanut Butter Cheesecake Chocolate Cake
Inspiration: "This peanut butter chocolate cake reminds me of my grandpa, who passed away in January of 2018. He LOVED all desserts, but the combo of chocolate and peanut butter was definitely in his top favorites. I got the inspiration from my dad. We were talking about cake flavors for the bake-off, and he reminded me of my grandpa and his favorite desserts. That's when it hit me to do this cake. Thanks, Daddy!"

3 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 cups hot water
3/4 cup vegetable oil
2 Tbl distilled white vinegar
1 Tbl vanilla extract

No-Bake Peanut Butter Cheesecake Filling
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 package (8 oz.) cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract

Chocolate Ganache
16 oz. milk chocolate, finely chopped
1 cup heavy cream
2 8.5-ounce bags Dove Peanut Butter Promises, divided

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray two 9×2-inch round cake pans with non-stick cooking spray with flour.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, and salt.
In a large measuring cup, whisk together water, oil, vinegar, and vanilla. Add to dry ingredients and whisk just until combine.
Divide batter between pans. Bake 35 to 40 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool cakes in the pans on a rack for 15 minutes, then invert them onto the rack. Leave cakes upside down (this flattens domed cakes) to cool completely.

Peanut Butter Cheesecake Filling
In a large mixing bowl, beat the cream until it forms soft peaks. In another large mixing bowl, beat cream cheese, peanut butter, and sugar until blended and smooth. Gently fold in whipped cream a little at a time. Fold in 1 cup Dove chocolates, finely chopped.

Chocolate Ganache
Place half of the chocolate in a mixing bowl. Heat heavy cream on medium high heat until it comes to a boil. Remove from heat and immediately pour cream over chocolate and stir until chocolate is completely melted. Add remaining chocolate and stir until chocolate is completely melted. Cool until ganache is thickened but still thin enough to drip down the sides of the cake.

Assembling Cake
When the cake layers are cool and ganache has thickened, evenly spread filling on bottom layer, carefully stack the second layer on top of filling. Spoon chocolate ganache on top of the cake, spreading to edges and letting the ganache drip down the sides. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Pile remaining coarsely chopped Dove chocolates on top.