Cook’s Corner

Readers fondly recall La Casita’s icebox dessert


Sleuth’s Corner

Q. My late wife made a sauce she always served with Sunday dinner roasts that our whole family misses. My daughter remembers only that it had tomato soup and mustard. I am not sure about anything except that it had horseradish in it. I would appreciate it if anyone has the recipe. As far as I can recall, she started making this in the 1960s.



Chocolate Pudding Icebox Cake

3 3/4 cups milk, divided

1 1/2 cups half-and-half

1 1/4 cups sugar, divided

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

8 egg yolks

1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

4 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch

8 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, finely chopped

3 tablespoons cold butter, cut into pieces

40 chocolate wafers (such as Famous) or sandwich cookies

Whipped cream

Measure 3 cups milk, the half-and-half, 1/2 cup sugar and the salt into a saucepan. Bring to a low boil, stirring, over medium-high heat. Remove from heat.

Whisk egg yolks, remaining 3/4 cup sugar, the cocoa, cornstarch and remaining 3/4 cup milk briskly in a bowl. Very gradually pour the hot mixture into the bowl, whisking constantly. Strain mixture through a sieve back into the saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Continue to cook about 15 seconds, until the mixture is thick. Remove from heat.

Transfer to bowl of an electric mixer. Add chocolate and beat until it has melted. Beat in the vanilla and butter (a thin slice at a time). Continue beating until the mixture has cooled and is thoroughly mixed, about 5 minutes.

Place a layer of wafers on the bottom of an 8-inch-square baking dish. Spoon a third of the pudding mixture on top and smooth to corners. Top with a second layer of cookies, a second layer of pudding mix, then repeat. Cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate at least 3 hours. Just before serving, top with whipped cream and garnish with chocolate curls, chopped nuts or jimmies as desired. Makes 12 servings.

Per serving: 426 calories (42 percent from fat), 21 g fat ( 10.8. g saturated, 6.6 g monounsaturated), 150 mg cholesterol, 7.7 g protein, 57 g carbohydrates, 2.5 g fiber, 314 mg sodium.


Chocolate Icebox Cake

6 eggs, separated

1 cup (2 sticks) butter

3 cups powdered sugar

3 squares unsweetened chocolate, melted

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon almond extract

2 dozen Galletas Maria or lady fingers

1 cup slivered, blanched almonds

Whipped cream and toasted almond slivers for garnish

Beat egg whites until stiff and set aside.

Beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg yolks, one at a time. Blend in the chocolate and extracts. Carefully fold beaten egg whites into chocolate mixture by hand.

Line a buttered 9- or 10-inch spring form pan with cookies. Spoon in some of the chocolate mixture, sprinkle with almonds, and repeat the layers. Refrigerate overnight, or freeze for later use.

Before serving, unmold and frost with the whipped cream. Sprinkle with toasted almond slivers. Makes 12 servings.

Per serving: 460 calories (56 percent from fat), 30 g fat ( 14 g saturated, 11 g monounsaturated), 182 mg cholesterol, 9.1 g protein, 43 g carbohydrates, 2.6 g fiber, 208 mg sodium.


Paolo’s Tapenade

2 small eggplants

1 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper

16-ounce can garbanzo beans

1 teaspoon chopped garlic

2 tablespoons chopped parsley

16 ounces green olives stuffed with pimiento, drained

10-ounce jar or can roasted red peppers, drained

5-ounce jar pimiento, drained

1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary

1 teaspoon ground pepper

Heat oven to 450 degrees. Slice eggplants in half lengthwise. Brush with some of the olive oil and season with salt and pepper to taste. Place cut sides down on a baking tray. Roast for 30 minutes, or until soft. Remove from oven and cool.

Peel off the skin and place the flesh in a food processor with the olive oil and garbanzo beans. Puree until smooth and creamy. Transfer to a bowl.

Add the remaining ingredients to the food processor; pulse to coarsely chop. (Do not overchop or the consistency will be too smooth.) Fold the chopped mixture into the eggplant mixture. Makes about 8 cups.

Per 2-tablespoon serving: 50 calories (75 percent from fat), 4.5 g fat ( 0.6 g saturated, 3.2 g monounsaturated), 0 cholesterol, 0.6 g protein, 2.6 g carbohydrates, 1.2 g fiber, 132 mg sodium.


Fresh Canned Tomatoes

2 1/2 to 3 1/2 pounds ripe tomatoes (8 to 11 medium) per quart

Citric Acid or bottled lemon juice


Glass canning jars with lids and bands

Hot water

Prepare boiling water canner. Heat jars and lids in simmering water until ready for use. Do not boil. Set bands aside.

Wash tomatoes. Dip in boiling water 30 to 60 seconds. Immediately dip in cold water. Slip off skins. Trim away any green areas and cut out core. Leave tomatoes whole or cut into halves or quarters.

Add 1/2 teaspoon citric acid or 2 tablespoons bottled lemon juice to each hot quart jar. Add 1/4 teaspoon citric acid or 1 tablespoon bottled lemon juice to each hot pint jar.

Pack tomatoes into hot jars leaving 1/2 inch head space. Ladle hot water over tomatoes, again leaving 1/2 inch headspace. . Add 1 teaspoon salt to each quart jar, 1/2 teaspoon to each pint jar, if desired. Remove air bubbles. Wipe rim. Center hot lid on jar. Apply band and adjust until fit is fingertip-tight.

Process filled jars in a boiling water canner 40 minutes for pints and 45 minutes for quarts, adjusting for altitude. Remove jars and cool. Check lids for seal after 24 hours. Lid should not flex up and down when center is pressed.

Each quart jar will yield about 8 servings.

Note: Recipe is too variable for meaningful nutritional analysis.

Cynthia asked for help finding a recipe for the ice box pudding served at La Casita Tea Room in Coconut Grove in the 1950s and ’60s. She called it one of the highlights of her childhood and remembered “it had some kind of wafer or cake, whipped cream, chocolate pudding and maybe some nuts.”

“I remember going to La Casita in the very early 1950s,” recalled Charlene Heritage Geers. “Charming place. Even prior to that my mother made an ice box cake that is probably the same thing. Our family still enjoys it.”

Most readers leaned toward a pudding-based dessert like the recipe here from Ruby Thomas, who also remembers La Casita and thinks her recipe is “just like” the one at the restaurant.

Janet Sternbach of Oak Island, N.C. still makes her mother’s icebox cake with her daughter. That recipe uses half chocolate and half vanilla pudding, with layers of graham crackers rather than lady fingers or chocolate wafers.

LuAnne Schmidt says she makes a quick version by adding ground sweet chocolate to frozen whipped topping, then refreezing it with chopped cookies. “My son likes Oreos but I like to use oatmeal or peanut butter cookies. They soften a little but not too much.”

Aïda V. Shafer of Coral Gables makes her icebox cake with butter so it is closer to a mousse. “I think I have the recipe for the dessert Cynthia remembers eating at La Casita Tea Room,” she says. “My mom’s friend, Sosie Manoogian, used to make this when I was a teenager, and she shared her recipe with my mom and me. This is very rich!”

Since I never had the privilege of trying the icebox dessert at La Casita, I decided to pass both recipes along. The pudding-style version is wonderful as an anytime dessert, while the rich mousse style is a special-occasion splurge.

Q. Can you help me find a recipe you had in the newspaper about 20 years ago for eggplant dip? I remember you had to take all the seeds out to make this dip.


I believe the recipe you remember is for a combination of eggplant and chickpeas in a wonderfully piquant appetizer from Paolo’s in Washington, D.C., that appeared in my column in 1993. It is still served with all meals at the restaurant. I like it spread on crisp Italian bread rounds but it is also wonderful with raw vegetables.


Old-fashioned canning and preserving are back in vogue. Ball jar sales are up 31 percent over a year ago.

The company is celebrating its 100th anniversary by bringing back the iconic blue mason jar. It is also producing a live webcast demonstration of canning techniques with chefs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Aug. 17, at and

The Food Network’s Ted Allen ( Chopped) will be making the preserved fresh tomato recipe here. is also a good resource for recipes and canning supplies.

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