fiery fish tacos with crunchy corn salsa

I adapted this light and easy to make recipe from allrecipes.com.  I used snapper fillets instead of tilapia and flour tortillas instead of corn. I left out the jicama and didn’t miss it. I had a lot of the fish taco spice left over so I recommend reducing the amount or spooning out what’s needed and putting up the rest. I also recommend substituting chopped avocado or chopped tomato instead of the jicama. To me, a taco isn’t fiery unless you add chilies to it so in went half a habañero (Scotch bonnet in Jamaica). This turned out to be a tasty meal, light but satisfying, zesty and full of flavor.

Prep Time: 30 Minutes
Ready In: 40 Minutes
Cook Time: 10 Minutes
Servings: 6

INGREDIENTS:
Corn Salsa
1 cup corn
1/2 cup diced red onion
1 cup peeled, chopped jicama, optional
1/2 cup diced red bell pepper
1 cup fresh cilantro leaves, finely chopped
1 lime, zested and juiced
1/2 Scotch bonnet (habañero) pepper with seeds, finely chopped, optional

Tacos
1-2 tablespoons cayenne pepper
1/2 -1 tablespoon ground black pepper
1-2 tablespoons salt
6 (4 ounce) tilapia or snapper fillets
2 tablespoons olive oil
12 corn tortillas, warmed
2 tablespoons sour cream or nonfat Greek-style yogurt, optional

DIRECTIONS:
1. Prepare to cook. Preheat grill for high heat. Or, preheat broiler at 450˚F and spray a broiling pan with cooking spray. Set pan aside until ready to broil fish.

2. Make the corn salsa. In a medium bowl, mix together corn, red onion, jicama (if using), red bell pepper, cilantro, and the scotch bonnet pepper (if using). Stir in lime juice and zest. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

3. Season the fish fillets. In a small bowl, combine cayenne pepper, ground black pepper, and salt. Brush each fillet with olive oil, and sprinkle with spices.

4. Grill and serve. Arrange fillets on grill grate, and cook for 3 minutes per side. In the broiler, arrange fish fillets on the prepared broiling pan and broil for 2 1/2 minutes on each side. For each fiery fish taco, top a corn tortilla with fish, sour cream or yogurt (if using), and corn salsa. Roll up and eat!

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strawberry shortcake with grand marnier whipped cream

Strawberry Shortcake with Grand Marnier Whipped Cream

Strawberry shortcake  is a really easy summer dessert to make, so delicious with cool whipped cream! Good news. The whipped cream can be dressed up with Grand Marnier, an orange liqueur. I made this for lunch today, having made the scones for the shortcake the night before in the Temperamental Oven. The browning was uneven and the scones were a tad dry, but the macerated strawberry juice took care of that.

This is one of my two favorite scones recipes.  When I want a savory scone I make Stilton Bacon scones. This one is sweet and can be served with cream and jam. I decided to make it the base for this version of strawberry shortcake.

Scones (adapted from: joyofbaking.com)

2 cups (280 grams) all-purpose flour
1/4 cup (50 grams) granulated white sugar
2 teaspoons (10 grams) baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup (76 grams or 5 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon ) cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup (120 ml) whipping cream or milk

Glaze:
1/4 cup cream or milk

Prepare to bake. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C) and place the rack in the middle of the oven. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

Combine ingredients. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Cut the butter into small pieces and blend into the flour mixture with a pastry blender or two knives. The mixture should look like coarse crumbs. In a small measuring cup combine the 1/2 cup whipping cream or milk, beaten egg and vanilla. Add this mixture to the flour mixture. Stir just until combined. Do not over mix.

Prepare to bake the dough. Knead dough gently on a lightly floured surface. Roll or pat the dough into a circle that is about 1 inch high. Then, using a 2 1/2 inch (6.5 cm) round cookie cutter, cut the dough into rounds. Pat scraps together and cut into additional rounds. Place the rounds on the prepared cookie sheet, spacing a few inches apart. Brush the tops of the scones with a little cream. This helps to brown the tops of the scones during baking. A low-calorie option is to spray the tops with cooking spray.

Bake scones. Bake for about 15 – 18 minutes or until nicely browned and a toothpick inserted into the center of a scone comes out clean. Remove from oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool. They can be made a day ahead for strawberry shortcake. When they are cool, wrap airtight and place in a zipper lock bag. Store at room temperature.

Strawberry Filling

2 pounds fresh strawberries, washed, stemmed, and sliced
1/2 -1 cup powdered sugar

Put the sliced strawberries in a large bowl and toss with powdered sugar to coat. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to use. Do this a couple of hours before serving to allow the berries to macerate in the sugar. Any longer and the berries  will become  soggy and  soft.

Grand Marnier Whipped Cream Topping (from epicurious.com)

1 cup whipping cream (35-36% milk fat)
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon Grand Marnier or any orange-flavored liqueur

Put all ingredients in a large bowl and whip until stiff peaks form. The alcohol will soften the cream and give it a slight tang.

Ah! Dessert

Jamaican mint-ginger tea

When I was a girl in Jamaica, my mother used to make this tea. I had forgotten how good it is because it’s not the same as a peppermint tea, which I abhor. I had a bunch of mint sitting in the fridge. After chiffonading a few of the leaves for a tzatziki sauce I was left with the problem of what to do with the rest. Solution: mint-ginger tea!

2 cups fresh mint leaves with stems, washed and picked over
1 1/2 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and crushed
4 cups boiling water
sugar, optional

I cut off the brown tips on the leaves and trimmed the stems. Then I put the mint and ginger in a one-quart saucepan. After pouring boiling water all over the leaves and ginger, I covered the pan and heated it over medium high heat.  When it came to a boil, I turned off the heat. I strained the tea into a tea pot.  You can sweeten it to taste if you wish. The leaves and ginger can be used again. Not sure how many times they can be re-used but I got two pots of tea out of them!

Jamaican Mint-Ginger Tea

coconut bread

I tried this recipe in the Land of Coconuts earlier in the year, but could not get it right. This recipe uses dried unsweetened coconut, which was not available in the supermarkets although I could get fresh young coconuts, tins of coconut milk, and cartons of coconut juice. Apparently the Thai do not bake with dessicated coconut, or if they must, they prepare it from scratch.  I wanted something simpler! I had to go back to New York to get dessicated coconut for this recipe in Chinatown. This recipe for coconut bread comes from Bill Granger in Australia. It is a quick bread so it is simple to assemble the ingredients, mix them, and bake them.

Coconut Bread

2 eggs
1 1/4 cups (300ml) milk
1 teaspoon vanilla essence/extract
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 cup caster sugar or superfine sugar (U.S.)
1 1/2 cups (150g or 5.29 ounces) dried unsweetened shredded coconut
6 tablespoons (75g or 3 ounces) unsalted butter, melted

  1. Preheat oven to 350˚F (180 degrees Celsius) and grease and flour one 9”x5” loaf tin (or 9 inch square baking dish). Melt butter in a glass one-cup measure in the microwave and set aside.
  2. Sift the flour and baking powder together into a bowl and add the cinnamon, sugar and coconut. Stir to combine and make a well in the center.
  3. Whisk the eggs, milk and vanilla together and pour into the flour mixture and mix until just combined before adding the melted butter.  Stir until the mixture is smooth, being careful not to over mix.
  4. Pour into the prepared loaf pan and bake for 1 hour and up to an additional 10 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean.  Leave loaf in the pan to cool for 5 minutes before removing and placing onto a wire rack to cool completely.
Half Loaf

The bread turned out to have a moist texture and a fine crumb with a delicate coconut flavor. Up close you could see little white specks of grated coconut. The crust was hard and brown because the oven I’m using is being temperamental (It needs calibrating, Hugo says.) and browns the outside before cooking the inside. Lorraine and Hugo said it was good that way, like a crusty French bread.

coconut cream cake: a disaster of mixed proportions

For Brian’s thirteenth birthday today, I decided to bake him a cake filled with cream and fresh young coconut. Ambitious, perhaps, but I’ve been thinking about this cake for seven months since I had my first spoonful at T-Det in Bangkok last December. If I made it myself, I decided, the base must  be a  lime chiffon cake.  So it was. The cake  came out of the oven at precisely 10:05 a.m.  Even though it seemed suspiciously woftly (wobbly and soft) the top looked golden, and through the cracks in the top wafted a sharp smell of lime and the sweetness of  sugar and the promise of  a lemon-hued fragrant interior. Oh well.  I gave it an extra 10 minutes in the oven.

With happy confidence, I removed the tube cake pan from the oven then up-ended it on a funnel to cool. I turned my back to wash up the mixing bowls when I heard a sucking noise behind me. I looked around and saw that the cake had slipped out of the tube cake pan and had landed squishily on the table, the  empty pan hanging loftily on the funnel now surrounded by cake-lava. Deep inside the cake  I saw the shiny trails of uncooked egg whites and I realized that it wasn’t the absence of baking soda. I had remembered it. After scraping the mess into the trash, I thought it over. What went wrong? I immediately concluded that the oven thermo-sensor was faulty. I didn’t say “This oven’s thermo-sensor is faulty!”  Actually, I said “$#*!” This alerted David upstairs, whose hearing is acute and whose truthfulness is equally devastating, to announce to his parents, “I think something is wrong with the cake!”

I made a second cake in the evening, after a suitably decent time had elapsed for the Cake Baker to recover her nerves. To reverse my bad luck,  I used  the convection rather than the conventional oven setting. It took a bit longer than it should have in a convection oven but at least it was done. But by this time, everyone had had their fill of birthday pizza and champagne! Into my champagne I dropped a sugar cube–I’ve always wanted to do this ever since I saw Moonstruck— and it bubbled up romantically, fizzing fireworks in a champagne flute.  Alliteration notwithstanding, we were all too full to eat cake at 9 p.m. so after the appropriate picture-taking for all blog-sterity, the cake went into the refrigerator to be eaten for dessert tomorrow.

Brian's coconut cream birthday cake, #2

To make my iteration of coconut cream cake, first bake a lime chiffon cake. Rather than write it out again, I’ve made a link to the recipe. Then make the frosting. To make the frosting, make one recipe of crème fraîche.

1 1/2 cups heavy cream (at least 36% milk fat)
1/2 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons sugar

Add all ingredients to a large bowl. Let it rest, refrigerated, for 15 minutes. Whip until stiff peaks form. To make the coconut frosting, use one package (yields 1 cup) frozen young coconut jelly, thawed and drained. Discard the water and spread the drained coconut on a tray lined with paper towels. Cover with paper towels and pat dry. It’s important that the coconut jelly is dry and doesn’t make the crème fraîche runny. Frozen young coconut can be purchased at Asian supermarkets.

Set aside 1/3 of the crème fraîche. To the bowl, add the coconut jelly and mix thoroughly. Split the lime glow chiffon cake in half and spread the bottom half with half of the coconut-crème fraîche frosting. Put the top of the cake on top of the frosting. Spread the remaining frosting on top, being careful to just go to the edges. Frost the sides of the cake with the reserved crème fraîche.

Coconut Cream Cake

The result is a cake that is lightly sweet with a hint of lime and coconut. For a deeper coconut flavor I would add a few drops of coconut extract to the crème fraîche.

tiramisu layer cake

This recipe is fun to make though it is an intricate three-layer cake. First make one recipe of white velvet cake, then moisten the layers with a coffee liqueur mixture, fill between the layers, and  frost. Decorate the cake with a dusting of cocoa powder and fresh raspberries. Easy!

Tiramisu Layer Cake

White Velvet Butter Cake (adapted from The Cake Bible)

Ingredients
Cake
4 1/2 egg whites (4 oz.)
1 cup milk
2 1/4 tsp. vanilla
3 cups sifted cake flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon plus 1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
12 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
1 teaspoon coffee powder

Syrup
1 heaping teaspoon coffee powder
1/4 cup hot water
2 tablespoons Kahlua coffee liqueur

Garnishes
1 square unsweetened chocolate, for making chocolate curls (optional)
2 cups fresh raspberries (optional)
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder

Prepare to bake. Preheat oven to 350˚F. Grease three 9×1 1/2 inch cake pans and line the bottoms with parchment paper then grease again and flour. Set aside.In a cup, measure 1 heaping teaspoon coffee powder and dissolve in 1/4 cup hot water. Add 2 tablespoons Kahlua and set aside.

Combine the egg white mixture. In a medium bowl lightly combine the egg whites, 1/4 cup of milk and vanilla. Set aside.

Combine the dry ingredients. In a large mixing bowl combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Mix on low speed for 30 seconds to blend. Add the butter and remaining milk. Mix on low speed until the dry ingredients are just moistened. Scrape down the sides. Gradually add the egg mixture in 3 batches, beating after each addition until just blended. Scrape down the sides after each addition.

Divide the batter. Scrape one-third of the batter into the prepared pan and smooth surface with a spatula. Repeat for the second pan. To the remaining batter in the bowl, add 1 teaspoon coffee powder and blend well. Scrape coffee batter into the third pan. The pans will be half full. Shift the pans back and forth on the countertop to release any air in the batter. To divide the batter evenly, Martha Stewart recommends using a kitchen scale. Weigh the empty bowl then weigh the bowl again with the batter in it. Subtract the two figures to find the weight of the batter. Divide that figure by three.

Bake the cakes. Bake 25-30 minutes or until a tester inserted near the center of the cake comes out clean and the cake springs back when pressed lightly in the center. The cakes should start to shrink from the sides of the pan only after removal from the oven. Also jiggle this cake and if it looks wet in the middle don’t put a toothpick in the middle, it will deflate. Don’t test it until it looks set, but this can go from wet in the center to done pretty quick.

Cool and moisten the cakes. Let the cake cool in the pan on a rack for 10 minutes. Loosen the sides with a small metal spatula and invert onto greased wire racks. Remove the parchment paper. To prevent splitting, re-invert so that the top is up. When the cakes are still warm, poke holes in the layers about 1 inch apart. Brush each layer with the coffee-Kahlua liqueur syrup mixture.  Cool completely before wrapping air tight for frosting. The cakes can be made a day ahead and refrigerated.

Make the filling. You will need mascarpone cheese for the filling. As it is quite expensive and difficult to find, you can make your own mascarpone substitute. This recipe is from allrecipes.com .

Make mascarpone substitute (if using):
8 oz cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

Blend the cheese, cream, and butter in a small bowl. Set aside.

Make mascarpone filling:
8 oz mascarpone cheese (or mascarpone substitute)
1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar
2 tablespoons Kahlua coffee liqueur

Blend cheese, sugar, and Kahlua in a medium bowl. Using an electric mixer set on low speed, beat just until smooth. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.

Make the frosting:
2 cups heavy cream (In Canada, 36% milk fat)
1/4 cup confectioner’s sugar
2 tablespoons Kahlua coffee liqueur

In another medium bowl, using an electric mixer set on medium-high speed, beat 2 cups heavy cream, 1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar and 2 tablespoons coffee liqueur until stiff. Fold 1/2 cup of frosting mixture into filling mixture. Set aside.

Assemble the cake. Place one plain cake layer on a serving plate. Spread half of the filling on top. Top with coffee-flavored cake layer. Spread with the remaining filling. Top with remaining cake layer. Spread sides and top of cake with frosting. Place 2 tablespoons cocoa in a sieve and lightly dust top of cake. Garnish with chocolate curls and/or berries.

Slice of Tiramisu Layer Cake

The lime and the coconut both together

Haupia Cake

A song recorded back in 1971 inspired this cake.  It’s the song  Coconut  by Harry Nilsson, the silliest song ever played on a single chord and containing the line “put de lime in de coconut and drink dem both up” that was covered by The Muppets who made it a bigger hit than Nilsson. I had made this haupia cake back in November for John who loves white cakes. I decided to try the coconut pudding cake  again, this time with a lime chiffon cake as a base. It turns out my father loves white cakes too.

Haupia Hawaiian Coconut Pudding Cake with Crème Fraîche

The Cake Baker’s Notes: This recipe is my own adaptation of the classic Hawaiian dessert. It’s made in three steps. First, make the cake, then make the haupia pudding filling, and finally, the crème fraîche. If you wish add fresh young coconut slivers to the haupia pudding. I recommend using Thai unsweetened coconut milk as it tends to be creamier and thicker. If a thin coconut milk is used increase the cornstarch a tablespoon at a time until the consistency is thickened. To add more cornstarch to the pudding mixture, make a solution of water and cornstarch, about 1:1. Never add cornstarch directly to the pudding.

First, bake a Lime Glow Chiffon Cake (adapted from The Cake Bible)

Have at room temperature:

2 1/4 cups cake flour
1 1/2 cups white superfine sugar, set aside 2 tablespoons
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup safflower oil
7 large eggs, separated plus 3 additional whites
2/3 cup water
2 tablespoons lime juice, freshly squeezed
1 tablespoon grated lime peel
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

Prepare to bake. Preheat the oven to 325˚F. Set aside one ungreased 10 inch two-piece tube pan. Make sure the large bowl for the egg whites and the beaters are free of grease.

Whip the egg whites. In a large bowl, beat the egg whites until frothy. Add the cream of tartar and beat until soft peaks form when the beater is slowly raised. Beat in the 2 tablespoons of reserved sugar and beat until stiff peaks form when the beater is slowly raised. Rinse the beaters and dry them.

Combine all the dry ingredients. In another large mixing bowl, combine the flour, the remaining sugar, baking soda, and salt. Beat 1 minute to mix. Make a well in the center.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry. In the center well, add the oil, egg yolks, water, lime juice, lime zest, and vanilla. Beat one minute until smooth. Set aside.

Combine the two mixtures. Gently fold the egg whites into the batter with a large balloon wire whisk, slotted skimmer, or angel food cake folder until just blended, when there are streaks remaining.

Bake. Pour into the tube pan. The batter will come up to 1 inch from the top. Run a small metal spatula or knife through the batter to eliminate air pockets. Bake for 55 minutes or until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean and the cake springs back when lightly pressed in the center.

Cool the cake. Invert the pan, placing the tube opening over a funnel to suspend the cake above the counter. Cool the cake completely in the pan 1 1/2 hours.

Unmold the cake. To unmold the cake, loosen the sides and center tube with a long metal spatula. Remove the side of the pan. Dislodge the bottom and center core with a metal spatula or a long thin sharp knife. Invert onto a greased wire rack and reinvert onto a serving plate. Wrap airtight. Freeze cake as a frozen cake helps set the pudding filling.

Second, make the Haupia Coconut Pudding filling (from: food.com)

Ingredients

1 1/2  cups (12 ounce can) unsweetened coconut milk (See The Cake Baker’s Notes above)
4 -6 tablespoons sugar
4 -6 tablespoons cornstarch
3/4 cup water or fresh coconut water, if available
1/2 teaspoon coconut extract (Also recommend vanilla or rum extract!)
1/2 cup slivered fresh young coconut, optional

Make the pudding. Pour coconut milk into saucepan. In a medium bowl, combine sugar and cornstarch; stir in water and blend well. Stir sugar mixture into coconut milk; cook and stir constantly over low heat until it becomes thickened.

Add flavoring. Remove from heat. Stir in extract.

Blend in coconut. If using fresh young coconut slivers, stir gently and evenly into mixture.

Trim and slice the cake for frosting. Remove cake from freezer and, using a serrated knife, slice cake into two layers. Trim the top to level it and make the cake layers even.

Fill the cake. Put bottom cake layer on a large plate with the cut side up. Spread half the haupia on top to within 1/4 inch of the edge. Place the second cake layer on top of the haupia, cut side down trimmed top up.  Press down slightly so that the haupia will spread to the edge. Spread the remaining haupia on the trimmed top going all the way to the edge.

Decorate and Refrigerate. Refrigerate to set the pudding. When the haupia pudding is set, frost top and sides with crème fraîche.

Finally, make the Crème Fraîche (from: The Cake Bible)

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups heavy cream (In Canada, at least 35% milk fat)
1/2 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons sugar

Prepare ingredients. In a large mixing bowl, combine heavy cream, sour cream, and sugar then refrigerate at least 15 minutes.

Whip ingredients. Beat cream mixture until soft peaks form when the beaters are raised or until it mounds when dropped from a spoon.

Frost cake sides. Using a thin spatula, spread the crème fraîche evenly on the sides of the cake. Refrigerate until ready to slice and eat. Serve with any remaining crème fraîche. Refrigerate, covered, any uneaten portions.