Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Apple-Cajeta Crisp

Fall seemed to be waiting behind some mysterious curtain, ready to pop out at a moment's notice. That moment was Labor Day weekend. Yep, summer turned to fall during one blustery, rainy evening.

So I made caramel. What better way to herald fall than with caramel and fresh apples from the market?

I didn't make just any caramel, but homemade cajeta, or goat's milk caramel, a Mexican dessert/sauce that is used in all sorts of tarts and desserts (or perhaps eaten right out of the jar?).

Cajeta caramel is amazingly easy to make, though slightly time consuming, and delicious! Some people think that goat's milk has a strong or "distinctive" (meaning offensive) flavor, but I find it very subtle, rich and soothing. I mixed whole cow's milk with goat's milk to soften the flavor a bit.

I mixed some of the cajeta with fresh, tart apples and an almond topping to make a quick and delicious fall dessert. I still have plenty left--please pass the spoon!

Apple-Cajeta Crisp

serves 8 (adapted from Rick Bayless, of course)


1 quart whole goat's milk
1 quart whole cow's milk
1 stick cinnamon
1 vanilla bean (optional)
2 cups sugar
½ tsp baking soda dissolved in 1 tsp water

To make:
Bring milks, sugar and cinnamon to a simmer in large Dutch oven or pot. Remove from heat and stir in baking soda-water mixture.
(This neutralizes the milks' acid and assists in the browning process)
After the bubbles subside, return to heat and bring back to simmer, stirring often until the liquid turns a golden color and reduces, about 1 hour or possibly more.
Test if it is ready by dripping a bit onto a plate. If it develops a caramel-like consistency when cool, remove from heat.
Strain and pour into a jar.
Store in fridge up to a month-soften in microwave or by running warm water over jar. Use often.

Crisp topping

6 tbsp butter
¾ cup brown sugar
2/3 cup flour
½ cup almonds or oats
pinch salt,cinnamon and nutmeg

To make:
Pulse all ingredients in food processor until crumbly.
Set aside


6-8 medium cooking apples
1 tbsp lemon zest
1 squeeze lemon juice
2 tbsp cajeta, plus more for serving
crisp topping

To make:

Preheat oven to 375.
Peel and core 6-8 apples. Slice thin.
Mix in bowl with cinnamon, and lemon zest and juice.
Melt a tablespoon of butter into skillet
Add apple mixture and cajeta and stir.
Cover with crisp topping and pop in oven. Cook at 375 for about 25-30 minutes, until topping is browned and apples are soft.

To serve crisp:

Drizzle some cajeta onto the plates.
Scoop out warm crisp and place in center.
Top with fresh whipping cream or vanilla ice cream.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Golden Gazpacho with Red Pepper Sauce and Roasted Corn Salsa

Alright gazpacho haters, prepare to be converted. But wait, before you read further (and you'll be glad you did), go right now to your nearest farmer's market and buy a few delicious heirloom golden tomatoes. Think big, plump juicy Yellow Brandywine or Yellow German tomatoes. Hurry, or I might beat you to them.

While you're there buy a large cucumber, a sweet red bell pepper, a poblano and a yellow bell. Oh yes, don't forget a nice loaf of artisan white bread, and a Hungarian wax pepper. You might as well pick up a few ears of the sweet corn, too, before it's gone, and how about one of those zucchini everyone complains about?

There will be a tad more to your list, but for now, that's perfect.You won't regret it. How do I know that? Well, I had a couple of sworn gazpacho haters tell me, after tasting the last two batches of this soup that I made last week, that this was “the best” gazpacho/cold soup they had ever had. One of those people even used the F word for emphasis.

I take no credit for this delicious concoction. Mother nature has given us everything we need, and fresh, raw flavorful vegetables and fruits are among Mother nature's most amazing gifts. And with something as delicious as fresh heirloom tomatoes, the simpler the recipe the better.

This gazpacho, which is a traditional cold "liquid salad" from Andalusia, Spain, shines with the addition of artisan bread, a touch of rice vinegar and good quality olive oil, as well as two beautiful garnishes—Red Bell Pepper Sauce and Roasted Corn Salsa. Get it while it's hot—the weather that is—those tomatoes won't be at our Midwestern markets much longer. This soup is fresh, simple, and sure to illicit a raunchy comment or two.

Golden Gazpacho with Red Pepper Sauce and Roasted Corn Salsa

Serves 4-6

Golden Gazpacho

2-3 large golden tomatoes (brandywine are best, or other flavorful heirlooms)

1 medium cuke, peeled and chopped

about 6 small pieces or 5” piece of ciabatta or artisan white loaf in cubes

1/3 cup olive oil

1 yellow bell

½ yellow jalapeno, or yellow wax pepper

½ cup (to taste) rice vinegar


To make:

Tear or cube bread in a bowl. Add olive oil.

Cut peppers, cukes and tomatoes in chunks and add to bowl.

Chill for 1-2 hours.

Puree in food processor or blender with vinegar and salt. Chill until ready to serve.

Red Pepper Sauce

1 sweet red bell, cut into small pieces

1/3 to ½ cup vinegar (rice)

1 tbsp sugar

1 tsp ancho powder or other mild red pepper

1.5 cups water

pinch salt

To make:

Cut up red pepper into chunks and add sugar, chili powder and vinegar.

Boil until liquid is mostly evaporated. Blend or puree, and set aside in fridge.

Roasted Corn Salsa

1.5 cups fresh sweet corn kernels

½ zucchini, diced fine

1 tsp chipotle in adobo sauce

2 cloves garlic, roasted

1 poblano chile, roasted, peeled and seeded

juice ½ lime

salt, pepper

To make:

Sautee corn kernels in skillet until dry and slightly browned, about 10 minutes.

Put in a mixing bowl.

Add a bit of oil to skillet (clean first if necessary) and sautee zucchini until soft, about 5-8 minutes. Add to mixing bowl with corn.

Smash roasted garlic and add to mixing bowl, along with chipotle, lime salt and pepper.

Mix and set aside.

To assemble Gazpacho:

Ladle a spoonful of soup into a shallow bowl. Add a dollop of red pepper sauce, dragging spoon to create a nice swirl. If you like, place corn salsa on a blue corn chip, otherwise put it directly into the soup in a pile.

Serve right away chilled.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The Haze and Chautara-Two Great Madtown Eats

I went out to dinner not once, but twice--yep, you heard right--this past weekend. That's a record.

It may even have set the record for most dinners out in a 6-month time period. Makes them all the more enjoyable!

My husband and I enjoyed a date night at The Haze, one of chef Shinji Muramoto's three Madison restaurants. It is co-owned by Chefs Muramoto, Justin Carlisle and Daniel Almquist and together they create a selection of global barbeque that is out of this world!

My husband had grilled chicken over fluffy jasmine rice with a coconut-curry sauce. I chose the pork Bahn Mi, which featured layers of tender pork, cilantro and pickled veggies on a roll. They offer both Eastern and Western inspired dishes, from pulled pork on Texas toast, to lemongrass sausage, featuring locally raised meats and veggies! With each dinner item you can choose two sides-we had coleslaw with a perfectly creamy yet zingy sauce, potato salad, spicy fries with Asian dipping sauce and a fresh cucumber salad--all for only $10/person! Oh, baby, I can't wait to go back.

The next night I went out to celebrate the upcoming wedding of my friend Maggie (who rocked the cutest hot pink dress ever). We started out the bachelorette party at Madison's favorite Himalayan restaurant, Chautara. I haven't been there in ages, and so many of my friends love it. Now I know why. The food was delicious.

I had the night's special, Ahi tuna with a rich garlic-lemon sauce and wilted spinach over rice. The Ahi almost melted in my mouth, it was so tender, and the garlic was in perfect harmony with the lemon.

We finished off the night with Lemon Drops at Plan B, but that's another story that has nothing to do with food.