Some 2015 closeout notes from my kitchen journal:
▪ Most memorable recipe(s): Chef Adrianne Calvo’s Nutella Croissant Bread Pudding, which also appeared in the Miami Herald’s Holiday Recipe Guide (http://hrld.us/Holiday2015). It’s a special-occasion dessert, to be sure.
But for every day, who doesn’t love a great cookie? I’m pretty judicious about adding a recipe to my battered old wooden box, but when I tried this riff on the classic gingersnap, from Martha Stewart’s Cookies ($25, Taboori & Chang), I knew it was a keeper.
The flavors summon a host of memories: of baking with my mom, of summers at my gran’s with her always-reachable cookie jar, of rolling dough and cutting out gingerbread fantasies with my children. This is one recipe to learn and keep in your repertoire, with a flavor profile that will appeal to adults and children.
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The chocolate pairs so beautifully with the fresh ginger. The cookies have a chewy crisp yumminess that hopefully will beckon your own great cookie memories. You can even make the dough in advance to bake for impromptu entertaining or a simple conversation over milk (or coffee) and cookies.
▪ Favorite new snack: The healthy snack market is exploding, and I’ve tried some strange confections for Cook’s Corner. One that stands out as being all you’d want in a healthy snack that also is gluten-free, kosher, non-GMO, organic and vegan is a product unimaginatively called Gluten-Free Bites, from a pair of celiac brothers in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
My favorite is the dark-chocolate hazelnut, but there are other enticing flavors too, such as coconut-cashew crunch and dark-chocolate peanut butter. They’re packed with protein from brown rice and peas, but they taste like dessert. Find them at Fresh Market and Beehive Natural Foods, or online at thegfb.com. About $5 for a 4-ounce bag.
▪ Best new (to me) ingredient: Aji amarillo paste, found in Latin markets, is a bright yellow-orange puree of the distinctive chiles of Peru. The paste keeps forever in the refrigerator and adds a distinctive fruity pepper flavor — and a punch of heat — to sauces and stir-fries and salad dressings.
I love it in scrambled eggs, too. I discovered it when testing the recipe for the aji amarillo vinaigrette used on the quinoa-caprese salad at La Mar by Gastón Acurio at the Mandarin Oriental, Miami.
▪ Favorite new tool: I am a gadget addict, always looking for nifty tools that will make life easier in the kitchen. My favorite new toy is the Citrus Squeezer, which I use just about every day to add a no-cal punch to grilled and roasted vegetables, seafoods and chicken, salads — and of course Key lime pie.
It’s just so smart: It combines a twist-on measuring cup and strainer with the squeezer so you know just how much juice you’ve collected. The cup even has a pour spout so you don’t lose any juice when it is time to add to your other ingredients. And it can go in the dishwasher.
The squeezer is part of a line called Crisp from the Carter McGuyer Design Group in northwest Alabama that uses bold colors and modern design in inspired tools. Yes, it runs on hand power and not electricity, but the handles are easy to grip and I don’t miss having a clunky electric juicer on my counter. About $25; find it at select kitchen stores or online at crispcooking.com.
Orange Bowl eats
Fans at the Orange Bowl at Sun Life Stadium on Thursday will find some intriguing Miami styling of the usual football fare, including a twist on the classic Cuban sandwich made on tortillas, with black beans and rice added before it is all pressed and deep-fried.
Some of the other offerings from Centerplate, which is catering the game, include conch fritters and a Southern version of classic New England lobster rolls. If you’re not one of the lucky ones who will be at the game watching Clemson and Oklahoma, try this recipe for a great slow-cooked, Cuban-style pork from Centerplate executive chef Marc Spooner.
Linda Cicero: @TasteMemories. Write to Cook’s Corner at Food, Miami Herald, 3511 NW 91st Ave., Doral, FL 33172.
Cuban-Style Roasted Pork Loin
Recipe by Centerplate executive chef Marc Spooner. This is best served over mashed yucca with pickled red onions as a condiment.
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon ground cumin
30 cloves garlic, chopped
2 cups fresh orange juice, divided
2 cups fresh lime juice
1 bone-in, skin-on pork shoulder, about 8 to 10 pounds
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Using a knife, score pork skin to make a diamond pattern. Purée oregano, cumin, garlic, and 2 tablespoons of the orange juice in a food processor. Rub purée over pork; season with salt and pepper; transfer to a bowl. Pour remaining orange and lime juices over pork; chill, covered, overnight.
Remove pork from marinade (reserve marinade); season with salt and pepper. Heat oven to 325 degrees. Put pork skin side up on a rack in a roasting pan; add 2 cups water. Cover pork with parchment and foil. Bake until a thermometer reads 180 degrees, 4 to 5 hours. Remove foil; broil until crispy, 5-10 minutes. Pour pan juices into a saucepan and add marinade. Boil until sauce thickens, 10-12 minutes. Serve the pork with the sauce.
Yield: 10 servings
Pickled Red Onions
Recipe by Centerplate Executive Chef Marc Spooner. Serve as a condiment to Cuban-style roasted pork.
1 cup white or apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup filtered water
2 bay leaves
7 whole cloves
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
2 large red onions, peeled and thinly sliced into rings
Combine vinegar, sugar, water, bay leaves, cloves, and peppercorns in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Add the onion slices and stir to coat with liquid. Lower heat and let simmer gently for 15 minutes then remove from heat and let cool completely. Transfer to a jar along with the liquid and seasonings. Serve as a condiment with the pork roast.
Yield: About 2 cups
Chewy Chocolate Ginger Molasses Cookies
Recipe by Martha Stewart.
7 ounces best-quality semisweet chocolate
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
1 1/2 cups plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
1 1/4 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 cup unsulfured molasses
1/4 cup granulated sugar
Chop chocolate into 1/4-inch chunks; set aside. In a small bowl, dissolve baking soda in 1 1/2 teaspoons boiling water; set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter with brown sugar until combined. Add fresh ginger and mix until combined. In a medium bowl, sift together flour, cocoa, ground ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg. Slowly add to butter mixture, mixing until well combined. Add baking soda mixture and molasses; mix to combine. Stir in chocolate; Transfer to refrigerator. Refrigerate until firm, at least 2 hours.
Heat oven to 325 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Using a 2-inch ice cream scoop, scoop dough onto baking sheet, 2 1/2 inches apart. Refrigerate 20 minutes. Roll dough balls in granulated sugar and return to baking sheets. Transfer to oven and bake until surfaces crack slightly, about 18 minutes. Let cool 5 minutes; transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
Yield: 24 cookies