Tag Archive: Desserts

False friends

Panqueque de dulce de leche

Buenos Aires Herald
On Sunday supplement
Food and Wine

What’s in a word, you might ask? I’m thinking at the moment of false friends, a.k.a. false cognates – words that seem similar or the same in two languages, but have different meanings. Those of us who spend time learning the local language have discovered a whole world of them. But there’s one in particular that comes to mind today, the pancake. When we look at the local panqueque, we’re not talking about the kind of difference that there is between being embarrassed and being embarazada, an embarrassing mistake indeed.. We’re looking at, to flip the terms around, the difference between an esponjoso and a crepe.

But once you get past the disappointment that your plate isn’t going to be loaded down with a short stack of flapjacks, that puffed cake-y breakfast favorite of North Americans, and realize that you’re dealing with the European derived thin version, you’ll do just fine. What’s particularly interesting is the choice of a name here in Argentina – one might expect derivation from Spanish or Italian culture, but neither the frixuelos or filoas of the former or the crespelle of the latter seem to have made it into the local vernacular.

But, crepes they are, and they’re popular here in two particular forms. First, cooked up as a simple wrap to be used around a savory filling, often bizarre combinations featuring artichoke hearts or hearts of palm or salsa golf or blue cheese or walnuts or any of a variety of options – these are the midday staple of the “ladies who lunch” set, and there are whole restaurants dedicated to serving nothing but these. The second, and more widely seen and sampled, are two favored local desserts, the panqueque de dulce de leche and de manzana – the former generally a crepe wrapped around a whopping scoop of caramelized milk, the latter laid out flat and studded with apples, coated in sugar, and then quickly torched or flamed with rum. They’re also sometimes offered up as canneloni, that’s incorrect – those are made from pasta tubes or rolled lasagna noodles, while the crepe wrapped Italian specialty is called manicotti.

Staying with my false friend assertion, I’m going back to my recent and popular gluten free column – in fact, the only column for which I’ve gotten a flood of e-mailed thanks so far. So how about one of those classic desserts for the gluten free set? With my own take on the dulce filling, though these same crepes are used for savory fillings as well.

Milk Caramel Crepes

160 grams rice flour
4 large eggs
240 ml water or milk

Whisk all three ingredients together and let sit for about 20 minutes before using – this will allow the starch in the flour to rehydrate fully. You want a consistency that’s more or less like warm honey – if you need to, add a little more liquid or flour to achieve that. When ready give it another quick whisk to make sure it’s well mixed, heat a small skillet, omelette or crepe pan over low heat. Drizzle a little cooking oil to coat the bottom and scoop in 60ml of the mixture, swirling or spreading it around the pan evenly. Cook until the upper surface is no longer wet, and if you look, the bottom is lightly golden. Flip out onto the counter to cool. Continue until you’ve used up the batter, 10-12 crepes.

For my take on the dulce de leche filling I put a large scoop of everyone’s favorite milk caramel off-centered on the non-browned side of the crepe, add some toasted pecans and fresh blueberries (or dried ones rehydrated) that have been macerated in liqueur. Then I fold up the closest side to the caramel, fold in the ends, and roll it, like a blintz or a burrito. Line them up on a baking sheet and warm them in the oven for about 10 minutes. Spoon more blueberries over the top and eat with gusto!

A series of recipes and articles that I started writing for the Buenos Aires Herald Sunday supplement, Food & Wine section, at the beginning of 2012. My original proposal to them was to take local favorite dishes and classics and lighten them up for modern day sensibilities. We’re not talking spa or diet recipes, but at the very least, making them healthier in content, particularly salt, fat and portion size. As time went by, that morphed into a recipe column that, while emphasizing food that is relatively “good for you”, wasn’t necessarily focused on local cuisine. At the beginning of 2013 I decided to stop writing for them over some administrative issues, but it was fun while it lasted.


Desserts and Dessert Wines

Q San Francisco
January 1999
Page 56

Desserts and Dessert Wines

“Oh,no, I couldn’t eat ANOTHER bite. Well… MAYBE I’ll just look at the DESSERT list.”

Dessert is one of nature’s most perfect inventions. Properly made, it contains elements of all four basic food groups–sugar, fat, caffeine and a touch of salt. These of course correspond to the cardinal essences of life: earth, air, fire and water. In point of fact, dessert is a true Zen experience.

For some inexplicable reason, heated debates often occur after dinner over dessert–arguments about dieting, health, and even people who claim not to like a good chocolate mousse. These poor, deluded individuals have merely strayed from the path of all that is good, decent and moral in life. You, as a righteous individual, have a decision to make. You can reach out to them and bring them back into the fold. Or you can reach out and take the extra helping yourself.

Dessert should be accompanied by a beverage. I’ve never understood why perfectly sensible people who enjoy liquids of various sorts with their appetizers, entrees and cheeses suddenly seem to feel that nothing but water should accompany their last course. It remains shocking, but the most often overlooked part of the winelist in a restaurant is the listing of dessert wines.

Understanding sweet wines is not as difficult as it may seem at first. There are a few basic types, the rest is all variation on a theme. Perhaps most common are late-harvest wines. Simply, these are wines that have been made from grapes that are, well, late-harvest.

A basic premise in winemaking is that you leave grapes on the vine until enough of the acids in them have converted to sugars which will enable you to get a sufficient level of alcohol when you ferment the grape juice. With late-harvested grapes, you leave them on the vine till there’s so much sugar that only a portion will be converted to alcohol (the fermentation yeasts die off when the alcohol level reaches around 15%). This leaves the wine very sweet.

If you read any food and wine magazines, you’ve probably read about “botrytis” or “noble rot”. This is a fungus that develops on grapes. What the fungus does is drill little holes in the grape skin and suck the water out. This concentrates all the flavor and sugar elements in the grape, almost to the point of turning the grapes into raisins. Needless to say, the wine made from what little juice can be pressed from these grapes is highly flavored and rather sweet. The most famous of this type is Sauternes.

A similar result happens with ice-wines. Here, the grapes are left on the vine till the first frost. They are picked early in the morning while still frozen and crushed. Because much of the water is crystallized as ice, the juice is once again very concentrated and flavorful. The risk, however, of just killing off the grapes or having them rot before the first frost is high. That’s why the prices are too. Ice-wines made from Riesling in Germany generally top the quality list.

The last category are the so-called “fortified wines”. Ports, sherries, and other similar wines are made in a variety of methods, but the underlying idea is the same. Neutral grape brandy is added to grape juice or sweet wine to a level that prevents or stops fermentation (remember that 15% yeast die-off thing), resulting in, you guessed it, sweet wine.

Okay, enough of the technical stuff. Let’s get some dessert whipped up and pick a few dessert wine favorites to try out. I happen to love banana bread (like any reasonably sane individual), and then there’s this chocolate thing…

The Ultimate Banana Cake

2 cups whole wheat flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup corn or canola oil
1/2 cup maple syrup
4 eggs
2 tablespoons of milk
3 very ripe bananas, mashed
1/2 cup of chocolate chips

(Note: All four basic food groups are indeed represented.The bananas and whole wheat flour are purely spurious…)

Mix the flour and salt. Blend in the oil and syrup. Beat the egg yolks lightly and mix into the flour mixture. Add milk and bananas and stir thoroughly. Add chocolate chips and mix. Beat the egg whites till stiff and fold in carefully till it is just blended through. Don’t over-mix at this point or you will deflate the egg whites and the cake will be just a little too dense. Pour in a loaf or cake pan and bake in a 350ÉF oven for 45-50 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Serve with whipped cream.

Dessert Wine Picks

For something a little light, refreshing and just plain fun, I like Moscato d’Asti from Piedmont in Italy. This is the sweeter, less sparkly version of Asti Spumante. My current fave is Giorgio Carnevale’s “Sori”. Other great choices, Bologna’s “Vigna Senza Nome” and Bava’s “Bass Tuba” (don’t ask).

In the sweeter, more serious vein is anything made by Alois Kracher of Austria. Personal top pick (and only because I had it most recently), his Scheurebe Beerenauslese. It may be unpronounceable, but delicious definitely. Another top pick is from Chambers in Southern Australia, any or all, but the best is the Rare Muscat.

Now for something a bit heavier and red. Yes, red–dessert wines do come in all colors. I think I would have to go with Paolo Bea’s Sagrantino Passito from central Italy. But I could easily be talked into a Banyuls from Dr. Parce in southern France or Ridge’s Zinfandel Essence from California.

Q San Francisco magazine premiered in late 1995 as a ultra-slick, ultra-hip gay lifestyle magazine targeted primarily for the San Francisco community. It was launched by my friends Don Tuthill and Robert Adams, respectively the publisher and editor-in-chief, who had owned and run Genre magazine for several years prior. They asked me to come along as the food and wine geek, umm, editor, for this venture as well. In order to devote their time to Passport magazine, their newest venture, they ceased publication of QSF in early 2003.


A Taste for Romance

Q San Francisco
March 1998
Pages 43-44

A Taste for Romance

romanceIt is tempting, for an issue on pets, to be twistedly evil and write a column on Barbecued Basset or Grilled Guinea Pig. I could perhaps even suggest some wines to pair with Neon Tetra Sushi. On the other hand, I could go the cute route and offer up some recipes for Sautéed Friskie Kibbles or Tuna-Liver Mousse for your Abyssinian.

Last year at this time I helped you plan a seduction dinner. This year, I offer a romantic dinner for those of us who are single and think we like it that way. It’s just like in the movies. You prepare a beautiful candlelit dinner – incredible food, great wine – and you raise your glass to, well, yourself. Perhaps you offer a toast to Fido or Fluffy.

So what’s the perfect seduction dinner for the one you love the most? Caviar and Champagne is a must for the start of the evening. I am particularly fond of osetra caviar–not the most expensive, beluga–but I think the most flavorful. A nice three ounce tin should be just about right, especially if you’d forgotten that you made a date for the evening. A dab of creme fraiche, similar to but more elegant than sour cream, and perhaps a small sprinkling of chopped chives make it just perfect. Eat slowly, savoring each spoonful, alternating with sips of Heidsieck Monopole’s Diamant Bleu, my current choice for imported bubbly. If you want to stick closer to home, the L’Ermitage from Roederer Estate in Anderson Valley is particularly delightful.

Chocolate and foie gras seem an unlikely combination, but who can resist either? Doing a riff on an idea from the chefs at the Four Seasons Hotel, here is a delicious hot soup that combines the two.

Mexican Chocolate Soup with Foie Gras Toasts
(for 2, just in case)

1 pound porcini mushrooms
1 large shallot
1 tablespoon butter
3 cups of water
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
2 ounces Mexican chocolate
4 ounces foie gras mousse
raisin bread

Coarsely chop the mushrooms and finely chop the shallot. Sauté in butter over low heat with a sprinkling of salt till most of the moisture has evaporated. Add water, bring to a boil, and simmer until reduced to half the volume. Add milk, chocolate and thyme, and heat through till chocolate has melted and is thoroughly mixed in. Season with salt to taste. Be sure to use Mexican chocolate, which has bits of almond and cinnamon that provide additional seasoning already in it. For the raisin bread, I like those little “cocktail” loaves. Trim the crusts, toast the slices and serve warm with foie gras mousse spread on them. Dipped in the soup, well, I told you it would work. Keep sipping champagne.

There is a somewhat odd, but rather seductive drink called a Black Velvet. It’s made by mixing equal parts of Guinness Stout and Champagne. I find it useful in cooking a particularly tasty dish.

Black Velvet Beef Filet
(for 2, just because)

2 4-ounce beef filets
1 pint Guinness Stout
1 pint Champagne
1 tablespoon coarse salt
1 tablespoon cracked black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon cold butter, diced

Mix half each of the stout and champagne together in a container big enough to hold the filets. Rub the filets with the salt and peppercorns and marinate in the liquid for at least 2 hours, preferably overnight. Sear the beef over high heat in the olive oil till browned on all sides. Add the remaining stout and champagne to the pan, cover, reduce heat and braise the meat until very tender — about 1-1/2 hours. Remove the meat and set it aside. Over high heat, reduce the remaining liquid till it is about half a cup. Whisk in butter till sauce is smooth. Serve over the beef, accompanied by your choice of veggies, potatoes, rice, or whatever you (or whomever may have happened by) like(s). Open a nice bottle of a lighter Bordeaux or California Meritage – personal choices would be, respectively, Chateau Kirwan and Mount Veeder Reserve.

You simply must treat yourself to a really good cheese course. At this point, I’d opt for a selection of blue cheeses. This might be the perfect moment to compare Roquefort, Gorgonzola and Stilton, like you’ve always wanted to. Continue to drink your red wine.

Dessert is a must, of course.

Figs, I think.

Honeyed Figs with Amaretto Cream
(Serves…well, you know)

4 ripe, fresh figs
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup armagnac
1/4 cup red wine
1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
1 teaspoon grated orange peel
1 clove & 1 cinnamon stick
1 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons amaretto

Quarter the figs and place in a heatproof glass bowl. Bring honey, armagnac (or other brandy), red wine, zests, clove and cinnamon stick to a boil in a small saucepan. Pour over figs and let stand till cool. Refrigerate overnight. Whip cream with sugar and amaretto till stiff. Serve over figs. There should be enough left over in case whomever dropped by wants to stay and play.

Q San Francisco magazine premiered in late 1995 as a ultra-slick, ultra-hip gay lifestyle magazine targeted primarily for the San Francisco community. It was launched by my friends Don Tuthill and Robert Adams, respectively the publisher and editor-in-chief, who had owned and run Genre magazine for several years prior. They asked me to come along as the food and wine geek, umm, editor, for this venture as well. In order to devote their time to Passport magazine, their newest venture, they ceased publication of QSF in early 2003.


Seduction Dinner

Q San Francisco
February/March 1996
Pages 42-43

Seduction Dinner

The lights are low. No, the lights are off. Candles lit on a beautiful cloth draped table. Crystal glasses. China plates. Real silver. Your best Peggy Lee album is moaning away in the background. The date of your dreams is already sitting at the table.

This is not the moment to bring out the reheated takeout food from the shop down the street. This is your moment to star, to shine, to seduce. You want to be loved not only for you, but your culinary prowess. You want to be introduced to friends not only as cute, smart, and funny, but as someone who can cook, too.

It should look like you worked at it. And you should use every aphrodisiac known to man. Well, at least a few of them. Oysters, caviar, roses, chocolate. Sounds like a winner. I’m going to make this as painless as possible. A four-course seduction dinner that can be made by anyone, whether frying pan challenged or a whisk master.

I should warn you. This is a no expense spared dinner. After all, this is a special night. What’s a couple of weeks’ paychecks in exchange for eternal (or at least a long weekend) happiness? You spent more last month on club entrance fees.

First, the oysters and caviar. Actually, first, the champagne. Pop for a half bottle of Krug Grand Cuvèe. If you want to go domestic, and/or a bit less pricey, and make a subtle (not very) hint, pour out some Iron Horse Vineyards Blanc de Noirs “Wedding Cuvee.” Now just skip dinner and go straight for the bedroom…

Most importantly, have your fishmonger open the oysters for you. There’s nothing worse than struggling to open a dozen fresh oysters in your own kitchen. You probably don’t have an oyster blade and it’s no fun anyway. Just buy them that afternoon.

Now the best thing you could have here would be one of those great cast iron plates on a wood base like you get at the local Sizzler. Otherwise, use a heavy pan. Cover the plate or pan with the salt, about 1/8 inch deep. Set the oysters, each on a half shell, into the salt. Drizzle with champagne. Top with a quick grind of white pepper. Throw it all in a 450 degree oven for five minutes till the oysters just firm up. Top each with a small (demitasse) spoonful of caviar, and serve you and your intended a half dozen apiece.

The next course is the easiest one. It’s taken from an old Italian recipe. I think old Italian women use it to snare husbands for their daughters. It works on non-Italians too.

You have to pluck the rose. That’s all there is to it. It will be a moment to indulge in your Morticia Adams fantasies. Pull those petals right off the flower. Rinse them and dry them.

I prefer serrano ham to prosciutto, but I leave it up to you. Spread the slices out in a fan on your nicest china salad plate. Drizzle with oil and vinegar. Coarsely crack the peppercorns and sprinkle over the plate. Casually strew some marjoram leaves and rose petals over the dish. Serve.

To bring out the rose and spice flavors in this dish, I recommend a Gewurztraminer. This grape is often referred to as the “Don Juan of Alsace,” Alsace being its ancestral home. Women (and occasionally men) are said to swoon just from a sip. My favorite from Alsace comes from Marcel Deiss at his Altenberg vineyards. If your aim is a little closer to home try the Martinelli or Sakonnet Vineyards Gewurztraminer, respectively from California and Rhode Island.

The main course is always the hardest, which is why I left the first two easy. Combining the proverbial partridge, an aphrodisiacal bird if ever there was one, and chocolate, which may just be the queen of seduction, this classic Spanish recipe had better turn the trick, as it were…

If you can’t get partridges, well, let’s face it, you’re not the shopper we thought you were. You can, however, substitute one game hen and split it. Rub the birds with one of the tablespoons of oil. Bake in a roasting pan at 375 degrees for half an hour.

Meanwhile, saute the garlic and onion in the remaining two tablespoons of oil till just golden. Add the wine and cook till it pretty much evaporates. Add the remaining ingredients and simmer over low heat for half an hour. When the birds have baked for thirty minutes, take them out and put them in the pan with the sauce. Continue to simmer, turning the birds, for another 15 minutes. Serve.

This dish calls for something a bit bold to go with the chocolate, garlic and onions in the sauce, but elegant enough for both the partridges and the mood of the evening. Coming from the Bordeaux side of the world, I’d pick Chateau Kirwan from Margaux. From way south of our borders, Bodegas Weinert Cabernet Sauvignon would be high on my list. And for those inclined domestically, I think I’d grab a bottle of William Baccala Estate Merlot.

For dessert, I recommend going light. Remember, you want to have enough energy for after dinner activities. We’ve already filled up with three dishes of food. Poached fruit is the way to go. And what could be more classically seductive than figs and honey?

Melt butter in frying pan over low heat and gently saute the figs for 2 minutes. Mix honey, amaretto and nutmeg together and add to pan. Simmer until amaretto has evaporated and sauce is thickened. Serve warm with a large spoonful of whipped cream. Save the rest of the whipped cream for your after dinner activities.

This is a moment for a small glass of classic sherry. This dish works especially well with E. Lustau Solera Reserva “San Emilio.” In the “also works” category would be a top Vin Santo from Italy, the most prized of which would be Avignonesi Vin Santo Occhio del Pernice. George Bernard Shaw once said, “There is no love sincerer than the love of food.” Starting from there, just imagine your second date…

Seduction Dinner – Appetizer
12 fresh oysters
1 small tin of sevruga or oscetra caviar
a dash of white pepper
Coarse grain salt
1/4 cup of champagne

Seduction Dinner – Antipasto

1/4 pound of thinly sliced serrano ham or prosciutto
1 pink rose
Fresh marjoram leaves
Mixed color whole peppercorns
Good balsamic vinegar
Extra virgin olive oil

Seduction Dinner – Main Course

2 partridges, thoroughly cleaned
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 tablespoon sherry or balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup chicken stock
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 cloves
1/2 teaspoon thyme leaves
1 small bay leaf
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
1 ounce unsweetened chocolate

Seduction Dinner – Dessert

4 ripe figs, quartered
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup amaretto
2 tablespoons butter
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
2 cups whipped cream

Q San Francisco magazine premiered in late 1995 as a ultra-slick, ultra-hip gay lifestyle magazine targeted primarily for the San Francisco community. It was launched by my friends Don Tuthill and Robert Adams, respectively the publisher and editor-in-chief, who had owned and run Genre magazine for several years prior. They asked me to come along as the food and wine geek, umm, editor, for this venture as well. In order to devote their time to Passport magazine, their newest venture, they ceased publication of QSF in early 2003.