World on a Plate

Exploring culture. One plate at a time.

Month: November, 2005

Lovely Leftovers – Chilaquiles


Since Thanksgiving I’ve made tukey chilaquiles, which begat sopa de tortilla with turkey, and also breakfast for the week with a pecan sweet potato cranberry quick bread.

I love chilaquiles. Primavera, at the Saturday market makes a remarkable version.  In California, the Southwest and all throughout Mexico and down into Guatemala chilaquiles, pronounced "chee-lah-KEE-lehs" is a practical and tasty way to extend the life of stale corn tortillas and now turkey.

Editor’s Note: This is my entry for Slashfood’s Lovely Leftovers event.

Tagged with Recipes, Lovely Leftovers

Simple Turkey Chilaquiles (adapted from Rick Bayless’s Mexican Kitchen)

Serves 4

Combine in a large skillet a full recipe of the sauce (below) with 2 cups of broth and about 1 1/2 cups shredded leftover turkey. Turkey should be warm before beginning next step.

Add 8 cups (8oz.) of tortilla chips (preferably thick ones), a handful of epazote leaves (can sub with 1 cup or 2 sliced chard or spinach). Cover and simmer over medium-high heat for 3 minutes, until the chips are softening.  Uncover, stir well–you don’t want mushy chips.  Spoon onto plates and sprinkle generously with crumbled Mexican either queso añejo, cotija or Parmesan.

Salsa de Chile Chipotle y Jitomate – Essential Quick – Cooked Tomato-Chipotle Sauce

Rick Bayless’s Mexican Kitchen

Makes 2 cups

3-4 canned chiles chipotles en adobo

4 garlic cloves, unpeeled

1 1/2 pounds (3 medium-large round or 9 to 12 plum) ripe tomatoes

1 tblspn rich -tasting lard, olive or vegetable oil

Salt, about 1/2 tsp


Remove canned chiles from the adobo.

On a heavy, ungreased skillet over medium  heat roast the unpeeled garlic, turning occasionally, until blackened in spots and soft, about 12-15 minutes.  Cool, slip off the papery skins, and roughly chop.

Lay the tomatoes on a baking sheet and place about 4" below a very hot broiler.  When they blister, blacken and soften on one side, about 6 minutes, turn them over and roast on the other side.  Cool, then peel, collecting all the juices with the tomatoes.

Scrape the tomatoes and their juices into a food processor or blender and add the chiles and garlic. Pulse the machine until the mixture is nearly a puree–it should have a little more texture than canned tomato sauce.

Heat the lard or oil in a heavy, medium-size (2-to 3-quart) saucepan over  medium-high. When hot enough to  make a drop of the puree sizzle sharply, add it all at once and stir for about 5 minutes as it sears and concentrates to an earthy, red, thickish sauce–about the consistency of a medium-thick spaghetti sauce.  Taste and season with saltSauce will keep for several days, covered and refrigerated. 

SHF/IMBB – Cookie Swap


It’s a party this month for the annual Cookie Swap!  IMMB and SHF are jointly  hosting the mega-event via Alberto at Il Forno and Jennifer at Domestic Goddess.  Aren’t they just the sweetest?

The key to eating a black and white cookie, is to get some black and some white in each bite.  "Nothing mixes better than vanilla and chocolate."  so says Jerry Seinfeld in a now classic episode of the show.

‘Black and Whites’ are the quintessential New York deli cookie.  The Upper Eastside’s William Greenberg Bakery  began making these delights in the late 1940s and maintains the tradition today.  They have a cakey domed base and vanilla and chocolate frostings. Zabar’s in NYC makes a killer version. There are many versions–the best I can tell you is to stay away from the plastic wrapped versions. My mother made her own version of these cookies and called them ‘Half Moons’ which I think is far more creative than the former name.  According to a 2001 NY Times article, Molly O’Niell explains, "Outside New York, cookies with black-and-white icing are cookies with black-and-white icing. In Boston, where they are called half-moons, and in the Midwest, where they are known as harlequins, they are considered ordinary and have been around, say most bakers, "forever."

In this spirit I have re-created the cookie and have a new name, ‘Black & Tans.’  This speaks to my love of this flavor combination and my Irish heritage. Chocolate on one side and on the other, peanut butter a perfect marriage.  Sophisticated, comfort food no matter which way you decide to eat it.


This recipe is a hodgepodge creation.  The cookie base is from the current issue of Gourmet.  I found the icings to be well, quirky.  It may be my distaste for frostings that have a heavy confectioner’s sugar taste combined with the overly sweet tones of light corn syrup.  What’s wrong with buttercreams?!  I say mask that confectioner’s sugar and so I did.  Purists will say that this is more of a frosting and it’s missing a sheen.  But it’s my version and I don’t think you’ll complain at all.

Cookie Base

Gourmet Magazine, December, 2005

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup well-shaken buttermilk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
7 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg

Prepare cookies:
Put oven racks in upper and lower thirds of oven and preheat oven to 350°F. Butter 2 large baking sheets.

Whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt in a bowl. Stir together buttermilk and vanilla in a cup.

Beat together butter and sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium-high until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes, then add egg, beating until combined well. Reduce speed to low and add flour mixture and buttermilk mixture alternately in batches, beginning and ending with flour mixture, and mixing just until smooth.

Drop rounded teaspoons of batter 1 inch apart onto baking sheets. Bake, switching position of sheets halfway through baking, until tops are puffed, edges are pale golden, and cookies spring back when touched, 6 to 8 minutes total. Transfer to a rack to cool. Note:  Although not indicated in recipe these can be prepared a day ahead.  Store in tightly sealed container.

My Peanut Butter Frosting

1/4 cup creamy peanut butter

2 1/2 tblspns unsalted butter

1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted

1/4 cup half and half

Mix peanut  butter and butter together with a hand mixer.  Gradually blend in the sugar and half-and half.  Blend until fluffy and light.  Can be prepared a day or two in advance, tightly wrapped, and refrigerated.  Allow to come to room temperature before using.

My Chocolate Frosting

1/4 cup unsweetened Dutch process cocoa such as Periginotti

2 1/2 tblspns unsalted butter

1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted

1/4 cup half and half

Mix cocoa and butter together with a hand mixer.  Gradually blend in the sugar and half-and half.  Blend until fluffy and light.  Can be prepared a day or two in advance, tightly wrapped, and refrigerated.  Allow to come to room temperature before using.

Assemble cookies:
With offset spatula, spread peanut butter icing over half of flat side of each cookie. Starting with cookies you iced first, spread chocolate icing over other half.

Tagged with Cookie Swap, IMBB, SHF, Peanut Butter

Pilgrim’s Pride


Thanksgiving Cupcake, Chestnut Street Bakery, 2004

More Comfort Food

Surprised at the response to my macaroni and cheese post I became curious about comfort food.  A recent study has found that gender, age and of course culture influence our choices.

The study sponsored by Cornell and McGill Universities, found that women and men choose comfort foods for differing reasons.  Women decide based on emotional needs and men based on level of happiness. Men tend to choose protein-rich foods such as steak and women prefer sweets such as cookies and ice cream.  This makes some sense if you think of the fact that  proteins tend to elevate your satisfaction (i.e. happiness) level.  Sweets, such as chocolate tend to ‘make you feel good.’  It might also suggest that woman associate comfort foods with such negative emotions as guilt and men with the positiveness of reward.

The study, a collaboration between New York’s Cornell University and Canada’s McGill University, revealed that women indulge in comfort foods to boost their emotions when they are down, whereas men are more likely to opt for them when they are happy.  Jordan LeBel, co-author of the study and associate professor at Cornell’s School of Hotel Administration states, "In the past comfort food was considered primarily as a strategy to alleviate stress, sadness and other negative emotions. Ensuring emotional well-being is still the goal, but pleasure and positive emotions can also determine food choice, especially in men."

Another study found that if we are constantly stressed we tend to crave comfort foods more frequently.  In a way comfort foods act as a support to your system. So what’s should one do?  It’s making this gal stressed and guilt-ridden.  Experts suggest that we think of other ways to treat chronic stress – exercise, yoga, meditation and long hot baths all stimulate and activate regions of the brain that are associated with pleasure. And this quack suggests that if all else fails anything in moderation is sometimes the medicine that you need.  And I’m not done with this curiosity just yet! To be continued…

Bowls and Bowls of Comfort


Although macaroni and cheese has grown to fame as an American classic dish, its origin is often debated. Some believe the dish was created by former president Thomas Jefferson who served the dish in the White House in 1802. Others like food historian Karen Hess claims Jefferson introduced the dish from a pasta mold he brought back from Paris.  The presidential legacy continued with First Lady Mrs. Harry Truman who often prepared the dish her way.  Ronald Reagan was also know to frequently request the dish for his birthday dinner.

Jefferson’s original recipe of combining cooked pasta and cheese has evolved into an artwork of finding the perfect blend of  cheese, vegetables or meats to make the ultimate mac and cheese dish–chili & mac is quite satisfying!

Mac and cheese has become one of America’s favorite comfort foods and is still used frequently as a side dish for holiday meals, particularly in the south. Kraft Foods, Inc. sells over one million boxes of macaroni and cheese per day, but in my book, that’s not macaroni and cheese.  Over the last week I’ve been asked a few times for a recipe.  This is not a simple request as there are as many variations on the theme as there are cheeses.  This recipe is a great place to start instead of paprika or dry mustard powder it gets it’s lift from Tabasco.  Personally the amount in this recipe is not nearly enough, so feel free to to add a dash more. 

Eula My Macaroni & Cheese

Eula Mae’s Cajun Kitchen by Eula Mae Dore & Marcelle R. Beinvenu

6 servings

2 quarts water

1 tblspn olive oil

1 tblspn salt

1/2 pound elbow macaroni

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter

1/4 cup finely chopped yellow onions

3 tblspns all-purpose flour

1/4 tspn Tabasco brand pepper sauce

1 1/2 cups half and half

2 cups grated American or Cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly oil a large baking dish.

Combine the water, olive oil and salt in a large sauce pan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Add the macaroni, reduce the heat to medium, cover, and cook until tender, 8 to 10 minutes.  Drain and rinse under cold running water.  Set aside.  Dry the saucepan.

In the same saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat.  Add the onions and cook, stirring until just soft, about 3 minutes. Add the flour and Tabasco sauce and whisk to blend.  Slowly add the half-and-half, whisking constantly, until the mixture thickens.  Add the cheese and stir until completely melted and the mixture is thick and smooth.

Add the macaroni and toss to coat evenly.  Pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish.  Cover lightly with aluminum foil and bake until bubbly, about 20 minutes.  Remove from the oven and serve warm.

The Kitchen Sisters


The 13-part NPR series, Hidden Kitchens: Stories of Land, Kitchen and Community, is a wonderful, at times heart warming reminder of the cultural and social influence of food.  By exploring the world of hidden kitchens be it street corners, unique kitchens or in this story below, a makeshift kitchen in a prison cell it showcases how people’s stories of courage, redemption and resourcefulness connect us.  It also features recipes, via the NPR website, for great regional, local dishes. Small stories that say something big. 

The oral history programs are produced by the San Francisco-based  Kitchen Sisters.  Davia Nelson and Nikki Silva  have been collaborating together since 1979.  Previous efforts were not related to the culinary.  In fact they won 2 Peabody Awars for thier radio series Lost and Found Sound: An Aural History of the 20th Century and for "The Sonic Memorial Project. Now the This audio collection has now been assembled into a book that includes recipes, photos and additional stories that were not featured in the radio effort.  Now the book is being turned into a three-CD audio book, read by actress Frances McDormand. 

If you are in San Francisco on Saturday, Nov. 19, the Kitchen Sisters will be at the Ferry Building Farmer’s Market at Noon.

Making Clandestine Candy Behind Bars (link to NPR for audio program)

"Robert ‘King’ Wilkerson, who created the most amazing kitchen. He was in prison at Angola State Penitentiary in Louisiana for 31 years. Twenty-nine of those years he was in solitary confinement, basically as a political prisoner, because he was a Black Panther. He started a chapter of the Black Panther movement with two of his other friends. They had become a sort of a cause celebre known as the Angola Three.

Somehow, in solitary confinement, he managed to create a kitchen — and he did it out of a stove made of coke cans, and he burnt toilet paper rolls to get heat. And he made pralines, which we love in New Orleans. He made these delicious candies and perfected the recipe, hidden in prison.

They decided they had made a mistake for locking him up for so long. ‘King’ had a new trial, and he’s out now, and he sells his candies which he calls "Freelines." He does it as a way to help raise (consciousness) about political prisoners. ‘King’ learned to do it from his friend ‘Cap Pistol,’ who was in the kitchen at the time and taught him how to make sugar candy. And they are really, really good."

Holy Mole!


Part II of the series that ran last year on Oaxaca and the Day of the Dead.  This post written by Chris Carter.  Who excels in this category of Mexican cooking, his cajeta is fantastico also!

Written by Chris Carter

As we stepped through the wide iron gates of the cemetery at Xoxocotlan Cemetery in Oaxaca City well into the evening on October 31st a brass band struck up a jaunty tune. The enclosed space, crowded with people and illuminated in candles, was beyond anything I had seen in magazines about Day of the Dead celebrations– in the United States you rarely see hundreds of people in a cemetery at night, let alone with a brass brand. I was here for two reasons—to witness this cultural ritual first hand and to master the preparation for the king of all moles, Mole Negro Oaxaqueno (black mole). This task would be facilitated through Susanna Trilling and her school, Seasons of My Heart.

Oaxaca, in food circles, is known as the land of Seven Moles. This Mexican sauce made of ground nuts, seeds, chocolate and spices takes its name from molli, from the language of the pre-Colombian Nahuatl Indians in Mexico, and loosely translates as mixture. The Mexican state of Oaxaca is famous for its seven moles, often called the Seven Sisters.

Mole (pronounced MO-lay) preparation and especially mole negro, is complex and a difficult sauce to make. It contrasts greatly with both our culinary practices and general way of life in America. Rachael Ray need not apply as this is no 30-minute meal. It can actually take days to make and generally contains 20 to 30 ingredients. It is also not a simmer all day and forget about it dish either, as it can require a couple hours of constant, attentive stirring. It can actually be heartbreaking to dump a batch of inedible mole down the drain after three days of hard work. In my case it took several of these down-the-drain experiences and a trip South to perfect the dish before I could produce a passable traditional black mole.

The difficulty of the dish is due in part to the fact that the sauce does not lend itself to the rote following of directions. The end goal for a great mole is a single deep rich flavor. How do you know if you are tasting a quality mole? You should not be able to individually identify any of the 20-30 single ingredients, which requires the deft hand of the mole maker to balance all the aspects of the sauce– the sweetness from the fruit and nuts, with the heat from the chilies, and in many cases the richness of the chocolate added to the mole. Black mole requires a step where you deeply blacken the chilies followed by igniting and burning the seeds of the chilies to give the mole the classic delicate burnt undertones that add distinctiveness and complexity. After all the ingredients are prepared they are pureed together. In Oaxaca this ability and skill is acknowledged with a “buen sazon” which according to our instructor Susanna Trilling means “good taste buds or palate, combined with a good hand for seasoning.”

“Black mole always has to be the star” according to Rick Bayless in his cookbook, Mexican Kitchen. This can be generally interpreted as serving rice and fresh tortillas on the side of the dish to sop up the sauce. In America where meat is plentiful and usually the focus of a special meal, in Mexican cooking the sauce is typically the centerpiece with the meat—turkey or chicken–as a luxury. Zarela Martinez states in her book The Food and Life of Oaxaca “an understated foil to the fascinating textures and nuances of the sauces”.

If you take the time to make the black mole recipe below from Susanna Trilling you will certainly have an extravagant, richly complex, and deeply flavored dish for a special occasion. Relative to all the contrasts between Oaxaca and America listed above, it is actually harder to make Mole here than in Oaxaca where all the ingredients can be ground for you at local molino or mill. Here are a few practical tips to make preparing and serving black mole easier and more enjoyable:  continue on for mole recipe

Photo credit: J. Brophy

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