Cooks Corner

Learn Japanese-Peruvian cooking at SushiSamba in Coral Gables

Robata grill: SushiSamba’s executive chef in Coral Gables cooks Peruvian-style corn on a Japanese grill.
Robata grill: SushiSamba’s executive chef in Coral Gables cooks Peruvian-style corn on a Japanese grill. SushiSamba

Executive chef David Sears of SushiSamba in Coral Gables (180 Aragon Ave.) shares his recipe with Cook’s Corner for corn on the cob with a Peruvian-style, chile-flavored vinaigrette. It takes the more familiar Latin American street food to a whole new level. At the restaurant, Sears prepares the corn on a robata, which is a traditional Japanese barbecue that uses binchotan (Japanese oak-based charcoal).

There’s still time to sign up for Sears’ next Robata Rub: Thursday, Sept. 17, in which he and guest chef Andres Barrientos will share tips on grilling methods, marinades and more, while preparing five robata specialties with Ocucaje Peruvian Pisco cocktail pairings on the outdoor patio. Price is $50 a person. Reservations required: 305-448-4990.

Q. I love your column and have been a fan for many years! Our anniversary is coming up, and my husband’s favorite dessert is the Delicia de Fatima at Old Lisbon Restaurant in South Miami (5837 SW 72nd St.). This is an egg custard with whipped cream and Maria biscuits. I am planning a romantic dinner for this occasion and would love it if you could obtain the recipe for me. This is one of our favorite restaurants.

Maribel

A. Unfortunately, Carlos Silva of Old Lisbon said he does not believe the dessert can be duplicated by a home cook. “This dessert has been one of the oldest we had, since 1995. It is very complicated to make, not only because of the number of ingredients, but also the process involved to do it right.”

Perhaps you can celebrate your anniversary with this recipe, a similar dessert I adapted from a recipe from a friend who grew up in a Portuguese-American bakery in Providence.

The original recipe called for a topping made by beating the egg whites with 2 tablespoons of sugar and lightening it with a bit of whipped cream. I avoid the whole raw egg issue by simply using whipped cream. If you like, you can add cinnamon or nutmeg along with the crumbled Maria cookies.

Tried and New

Some intriguing options to help deal with school lunch boxes now that school’s back in session — and for sending care packages to homesick college students and friends in the armed forces:

▪ Krusteaz just expanded its bakery-style cookie mix line with five new varieties (Brown Sugar Oatmeal, Oatmeal Scotchie, Butter Vanilla Sugar, Triple Chocolate Chunk and Double Peanut Butter). When you’re too busy to bake from scratch, these are a good alternative and not much more complicated than slice-and-bake refrigerated cookies.

You can add your own touch to the dough, and best of all, you get that enticing aroma of cookies wafting through the house. I added dried cranberries to the oatmeal dough and thought the result was just like homemade. You dump the mix in a bowl, add an egg and water, stir and then scoop the dough onto cookie sheets. About $3.25 for a box that makes 18 cookies. Available at Publix; for more options, check the store locator at krusteaz.com.

▪ A super way to get kids to eat their vegetables is an expanded line of muffins from Garden Lites. I was already a big fan of their low-guilt chocolate muffins made with zucchini, but the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Power Muffins pack spinach and zucchini into a chocolate chip muffin that not only lists vegetables as the first ingredient but also is gluten-free, dairy free, nut free, low in calories, high in fiber, made with whole grains and certified kosher.

My TMNT fan was entranced, and the muffins exceeded taste expectations. The muffins are individually packaged with a different character on each wrapping, come in a box of six and are $3.49; find them in the frozen section of stores nationwide, including Target and Publix. Also new: Nickolodeon SpongeBob SquarePants Chocolate Krabby Squares.

▪ SnackWell’s New Mini Chocolate Chip Cookie Bites are made with whole grains and only 120 calories per pack. These mini cookies are peanut-free, school and USDA compliant, and are made with no high fructose corn syrup, partially hydrogenated oils, artificial flavors or colors. About $3.49 for a box of five individual packs.

Send questions and responses to LindaCiceroCooks@aol.com or Food, The Miami Herald, 3511 NW 91st Ave., Doral, FL 33172.

SushiSamba’s Corn on the Cob

Vinaigrette:

4 ounces aji panca paste (see note)

1 1/2 teaspoons soy sauce

1/4 cup rice wine vinegar

3/4 teaspoon ground cumin seed

1 1/2 teaspoons pureed garlic

1/4 teaspoon dried oregano

3/4 cup vegetable oil

Butter:

1 stick butter (4 ounces), softened

6 tablespoons (3 ounces) aji panca vinaigrette

To finish:

4 ears of corn, shucked and cleaned

4 teaspoons grapeseed oil

Coarse salt and black pepper to taste

1/2 cup aji panca vinaigrette

1 stick aji panca butter

Juice of 1 lime

1/2 cup finely grated manchego cheese

Chopped cilantro, to taste

Prepare the vinaigrette: Blend the aji panca paste, soy sauce, vinegar, cumin seed, garlic and oregano in a food processor or blender. Slowly drizzle in the oil to emulsify. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.

Make the butter: In a medium-sized mixing bowl, whip butter and aji panca vinaigrette until evenly incorporated. Place butter in an airtight container, label, date and reserve in the refrigerator.

To finish: Brush the corn with the grapeseed oil and season to taste with salt and pepper. Next, place the corn directly on grill grates and grill until golden and slightly charred on all sides. In a small mixing bowl, combine the prepared aji panca butter and vinaigrette with the lime juice. Remove the corn from the grill, cut into four pieces and toss in the bowl with the sauce. Place the corn on serving plate and drizzle the remaining sauce over the corn. Garnish the corn with the grated manchego and cilantro. Makes 4 servings.

Note: Aji panca is a common Peruvian pepper. It’s not spicy like the incendiary aji amarilla or other native chiles, but mild with a fruity, smoky flavor, sometimes described as berry-like. Aji panca is a long chile, 3 to 5 inches, picked when it is deep burgundy red. It is mostly found in jars in paste form in the United States. Use as part of a sofrito of sautéed onions, garlic and herbs for stews and fish dishes. Available in Latin markets and online retailers, about $6 for an 8-ounce jar.

Per serving: 644 calories (74 percent from fat), 55 g fat (23 g saturated, 10.3 g monounsaturated), 91 mg cholesterol, 10.9 g protein, 32 g carbohydrates, 3.7 g fiber, 417 mg sodium.

Source: SushiSamba chef David Sears, adapted for home use by Linda Cicero for Cook’s Corner.

Portuguese Custard Dessert

4 egg yolks

2 cups whole milk, divided

1/2 cup sugar

1/4 cup cornstarch

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup heavy cream

3 tablespoons butter

2 teaspoons vanilla

Garnish:

Lightly sweetened whipped cream

Crumbled Maria wafers

Whisk the egg yolks with 1/2 cup of the milk until thoroughly mixed and frothy. Set aside. In a large saucepan, whisk together the sugar, cornstarch and salt. Turn heat to low under the saucepan. Gradually beat in the remaining 1 1/2 cups milk and the cream. When well mixed, increase heat to medium and bring mixture to a bare simmer (bubbles just beginning around the outer surface. Turn heat down to low. Remove about 1/2 cup of this hot mixture and, while beating, slowly add it to the egg yolk mixture (this will help keep the eggs from cooking too quickly and curdling). Keep doing this until you’ve added all the milk mixture to the yolks, then return to saucepan. Increase heat to medium-high and cook, stirring briskly, until pudding is thick as you like, about 2 minutes.

Remove from heat and stir in the butter and vanilla. Pour into individual serving bowls. Top with plastic wrap – right on the custard’s surface to keep a “crust” from forming — and refrigerate until thoroughly cold. Prepare at least an hour and up to a day in advance. To serve, top with whipped cream and crumbled Maria wafers. Makes 6 servings.

Per serving: 364 calories (64 percent from fat), 26.2 g fat (15.5 g saturated, 7.8 g monounsaturated), 201 mg cholesterol, 5.2 g protein, 27.3 g carbohydrates, 0 g fiber, 200 mg sodium.

Source: Linda Cicero for Cook’s Corner.

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