The Cookie Strikes Back

coconutlede

One of my favorite ice cream sandwich memories were in the early-2000s, in the countless times I waited in a line that curved around the corner of a bakery in Westwood (close to the UCLA campus) called Diddy Riese for a sweet treat. Their ice cream sandwiches were a big deal to Angelenos and UCLA students alike. It was a #treatyoself moment every time my friends and I would drive over and grab a sandwich. Back then the cookies sold for .25 each and $1 for a scoop of ice cream to make the sandwich, and you could mix-match whatever cookie and ice cream flavor you wanted. I’d always take an extra bag of cookies back home for sharing and snacking.

I haven’t been to Diddy Riese in years, but I always enjoy a good ice cream sandwich when I can get one, or better yet, make one. The following cookie and ice cream sandwich combo was with some ingredients I already had in my refrigerator and pantry. Tart blueberries and rich white chocolate chips just go so greatly together, and I love the idea of a rum-coconut ice cream with a nice salty macadamia nut note.

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Brown Butter Blueberry White Chocolate Cookies

Adapted from Keep It Sweet Desserts
Makes about 12 large cookies

INGREDIENTS
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup dark brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 large whole egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2  teaspoon Kosher sea salt
1/2 cup white chocolate chips
1/2 cup fresh blueberries, washed and dried 

METHOD
Brown the butter by heating in a small heavy saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly. When the butter turns a medium brown color, remove from the heat and pour into a small bowl. Allow to cool.

Once the butter has cooled completely, place into a large bowl of an electric mixer with the sugars; beat on medium-high speed till well combined. Add in the egg and vanilla extract, mix on medium speed until thoroughly combined.

In a separate medium-sized bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt; slowly add into the wet ingredients with the mixer on low speed till just combined.

Turn off the mixer and with a spatula, slowly stir in the white chocolate chips and then gently fold in the blueberries. Wrap the dough into a container and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, overnight if possible.

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When ready to bake, preheat oven to 325 degrees. With an ice cream scoop, scoop the dough (about 4 tablespoons) onto a parchment- or Silpat-lined sheet tray. Bake the cookies till medium golden brown, about 17-20 minutes. Allow to cool for at least 10 minutes before serving.

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streetcardevouric

Macadamia Nut-Rum-Coconut Ice Cream
Yields 1 pint

INGREDIENTS
3 cups coconut milk
4 egg yolks
1/2 cup honey
1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup dark rum
1/2 cup macadamia nuts, roasted and roughly chopped
1 1/2 Tablespoons coarse sea salt

METHOD
Heat the coconut milk in a medium sauce pan over medium-high heat, stirring the bottom every few minutes to avoid scorching.

In a separate bowl, whisk the egg yolks till slightly thickened. Set aside.

When the coconut is heated and it begins to haze, take a ladle or 1/2 cup measuring cup and slowly add in the heated milk into the egg yolks. Whisk quickly to incorporate and to avoid curdling. Slowly add in more milk until 1/2 of the milk is incorporated, then add in all of the egg-milk mixture back into pot and turn the heat down to medium. Whisk the mixture to avoid curdling.

While the mixture heats up, set up an ice bath in a large bowl.  Wait for the custard to thicken enough to coat the back of a spoon. When the custard is thickened, remove from heat and place into a shallow pan or bowl. Stir in the rest of the ingredients.

Place the bowl over the ice bath and whisk the custard to cool down. Allow ice cream base to fully cool down in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours or overnight.

Place ice cream base into your ice cream maker and operate using the machine’s instructions.

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Cookie Sandwich Assembly
Pair the cookies according to likeness in size. Scoop the ice cream onto the bottom side of one cookie and top with the other. Place into the freezer for about an hour to finally set. Enjoy!

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Bidi Bidi Bánh Bánh

lede

I first discovered Bánh mì sandwiches in Little Saigon–an area in the city of Westminster, California, where a large population of Vietnamese Americans live. The Asian Garden Mall, “Phước Lộc Thọ”, had several Vietnamese-owned restaurants, clothing, jewelry, electronic, and beauty shops. My family would go there often when I was a kid because my mom enjoyed shopping there, and the mall was only a 30-minute drive from where we lived.

Bánh mì translates to “bread.” The French-style baguette was introduced to the cuisine during the French colonization in Indochina in the late-1850s early-1860s. The sandwich is traditionally made with pork liver pâté (also from the French), cold cuts, pickled carrot and daikon, cilantro, and mayonnaise.

For this recipe, I decided to go with a throwback recipe from Bon Appetit from 5 years ago. I loved the recipe then and I love it even more now. With a few tweaks and the addition of crispy shallots and a homemade French baguette recipe, this is definitely one of my favorite sandwiches. This sandwich is so good it makes my heart beat like Bidi Bidi Bánh Bánh.

artsy

Pork Meatball Bánh Mì Sandwich
Recipe adapted from Bon Appetit
Yields 4 sandwiches

INGREDIENTS
For the spicy mayonnaise
2/3 cup mayonnaise
2 1/2 tablespoons hot chili sauce (I used Sriracha)

For the Pickled Carrot
2 cups coarsely grated carrots
1/4 cup unseasoned rice vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
1 tablespoon Asian sesame oil

For the Pork Meatballs
1 large shallot, minced and sautéed in oil till translucent
1 pound ground pork
1/8 cup basil, picked and finely chopped
1/8 cup cilantro, picked and finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon fish sauce (such as Nam Pla or Nuoc Nam)
2 tablespoons hot chili sauce (I used Sriracha)
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
oil for frying

For the Sandwiches
4 each French baguettes (recipe here)
1 each jalapeño chile, sliced thinly
1/2 cup cilantro, picked
1 large shallot, peeled and thinly sliced into rounds
oil for frying

METHOD
To make the Spicy Mayo, stir all of the ingredients in a small bowl. Season with salt. This can be made a day ahead. (Cover and chill.)

To make the Pickled Carrots, mix together the first 5 ingredients in medium bowl. Let stand at room temperature for about an hour, mixing occasionally.

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To make the Pork Meatballs, stir all of the ingredients together in a large bowl. Form the mixture into scant tablespoonful balls, rolling the mixture into 1 1/2-inch meatballs. You should have 12 meatballs. Arrange them onto a baking sheet. This can also be made a day ahead. (Cover and chill.)

Preheat your oven to 300°F. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add in half of the meatballs. Sauté until browned and cooked through, turning the meatballs to evenly sear all sides lowering heat if they begin to brown too quickly, about 15 minutes. Transfer the meatballs to another rimmed sheet tray. Place into the oven. Repeat searing and baking with the remaining meatballs.

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In a small sauce pot, add 1/4 cup of oil. Place the sliced shallot rings into the pan. Turn on the heat to medium and wait for the oil to heat. (Allowing the shallot rings to fry in cold oil makes it easier to control the heat and to avoid burning them.) Once the oil begins to heat up, toss the shallot rings until a light golden brown. Transfer rings to a paper towel-lined plate.

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Cut each baguette horizontally in half. Spread spicy mayo over each bread halve.

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Place 3 each meatballs onto the bottom halve side per sandwich.

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Arrange the jalapeños one one side, then adding the (drained) and pickled carrot, crispy shallots, and cilantro. Gently place the top on baguette tops. Repeat with all sandwiches.

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Roll Out!

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This is a great beginner’s recipe for making bread. I haven’t made baguettes since my Breads and Pastries class in culinary school, so this was a great refresher course. I made this bread specifically for this recipe. 

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Vietnamese-style French Baguette
Recipe adapted from Vietnam Online
Yields 4 small baguettes

INGREDIENTS
4 cups all-purpose or bread flour
1 1/2 cups lukewarm water
2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
2 Tablespoons and 2 teaspoons melted butter
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons instant yeast
2 Tablespoons softened butter
extra flour for coating

METHOD
Dissolve the sugar and 3/4 cup of the lukewarm water, add the yeast and dissolve.

In a large bowl, mix together the flour, melted butter and salt. Add the sugar water yeast mixture and beat slowly with an electric mixer. Add the rest of the lukewarm water gradually if the mixture is still dry. Beat and mix well until the dough has a smooth surface.

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Butter a large bowl and place the dough there, cover with a damp towel and allow to sit for about an hour or until the dough doubles in size. Once doubled, beat the dough slightly and knead well. Divide the dough into 4 equal-sized portions. Slightly deflate the dough to even out the flour and roll back into mini baguettes.

Place the rolls onto a sheet tray. Preheat the oven to 212°F. Allow the rolls to proof in the oven for 30 minutes, turning off the heat after 10 minutes. (You can spray a little water onto the rolls to give the bread some moisture.)

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After proofing, the rolls should be doubled in size. Remove from the oven and preheat the temperature to 375°F. Using a sharp razor, make a vertical slash onto the top of each roll. Smooth a tiny bit of water on the surface of the bread and dust with flour. Use the leftover butter to fill in each slash.

Bake the rolls for about 15-20 minutes until the bread turn light yellow and toothpicks come out clean. Remove and set aside to slightly cool.

You Can’t Have the Mango!

mcclede

Why is it that every time I hear this song by Everything But the Girl, I’m reminded of Chris Kattan’s Saturday Night Live character, Mango? Does it give you flashbacks, too?

I digress. So the whole thing with mangoes started when my parents came to visit me in Portland recently (yay!). I was so excited to host them in my new apartment. We went on a road trip and visited our family in Idaho. It was such a lovely week, I’m so glad to have spent some quality time with my family. Working in the hospitality industry, it’s hard to get the time to take long vacations and spend time with loved ones. I really want to (and will!) make an effort this year to work less and spend more quality time with the special people in my life. Promise.

Back to the point of this story: My mom brought me a bunch of mangoes (it’s her favorite fruit), her reasoning being that I “need to eat more fruit.” (She thinks I don’t eat enough fruit, which is pretty much true.) But I somehow forgot about them, and when I finally remembered that I had them (in actuality, a telephone conversation with my mom asking me if I had eaten said mangoes) I found them overripe in my fridge. I was bummed; they were too mushy to eat raw. And I’m really hesitant to eat things with weird textures. (Random fact about me: I don’t care for eggplants or bananas because of their weird mushiness.) Yet I tasted the overripe mangoes and figured they were still salvageable, so I made this delectable Mango Coffee Cake instead.

The Martha Stewart recipe I adapted it from called for a glaze, but I decided to top the cake with my Vegan Caramel Sauce that I upgraded by steeping the coconut milk with star anise for about an hour.

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This recipe is best served warm and with coffee. (Duh.) Store the cake in room temperature wrapped in plastic. Upon serving, just reheat it in the oven at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes. It still tastes really good even after a week.

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mcclede2

Mango Coffee Cake with Coconut-Star Anise Caramel
Recipe slightly adapted from Martha Stewart

INGREDIENTS
FOR THE STREUSEL TOPPING AND CENTER
3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon coarse sea salt
1 1/2 sticks cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

FOR THE CAKE
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for your baking pan
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon coarse sea salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup sour cream
5 overripe mangoes, flesh scooped and mashed lightly

Vegan Caramel Sauce

METHOD
First make the streusel topping. In a medium-sized bowl, mix together the flour, 3/4 cup brown sugar, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, and 1 teaspoon salt. Cut in the butter using a pastry cutter or rub in with your fingers until small to medium clumps form. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Make the streusel center: Mix together the remaining 1/4 cup of brown sugar and 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. For the cake: Butter a 9-inch tube pan with a removable bottom. Place the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and 1/2 teaspoon salt into a bowl and mix together.

mccbatter

Beat the butter and granulated sugar with a mixer on medium-high speed till fluffy, about a minute. Add in the egg and vanilla. Beat in the flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with the sour cream and mashed mangoes, beginning and ending with flour. Continue to beat until well combined.

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Pour half of the batter into the greased pan. Sprinkle the streusel center mixture evenly over the batter. Pour in the remaining batter, and spread evenly using an offset spatula. Sprinkle the rest of the streusel topping.

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Place into the oven and bake until the cake is golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 55 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack, and allow to cool completely. Remove cake from pan, and transfer to parchment.

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Make the caramel sauce. While still warm, drizzle over cake and let the sauce drip down to the sides. Let set for 5 minutes before serving.

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Marta! Marta! Marta!

pupusalede

And now a scene from one of my favorite movies:

(This scene in Clueless always makes me laugh. Cher is so ignorant clueless, she doesn’t realize that her maid, Lucy, is from El Salvador, not Mexico. And that they are, in fact, two different countries. Luckily, hunky Josh sets the record straight.)

I first learned how to make traditional El Salvadorian pupusas with a very fiesty 50-something-year-old woman named Marta. I worked with Marta at a restaurant a few years ago; she was our dishwasher who’d come into work every day with the reddest lipstick and a full face of makeup and her curly hair all styled perfectly. You wouldn’t think she came into work to wash dishes by the way she presented herself. She took pride in the way she looked, and always joked to me and the other cooks that she was a “hot mama.”

Marta didn’t speak a word of English, so we communicated with each other in Spanish. Marta called me “Selena” because I would often belt out a song by the Tejano singer when I’d bring dishes to the dishpit, and she would be there, smiling brightly as I sang the words to “Como La Flor” with such passion and conviction. (Marta was one of my biggest fans.)

I learned in our conversations that she owned a pupuseria in El Salvador. How fortunate was I to work with a real pupusa expert?! “Mira, Selena,” she’d say, as she brought me and the staff pupusas con chicharones (shredded pork) and share them with the staff. I wanted so desperately to pick her brain and learn how to make the pupusas myself. So after a while we began serving her pupusas once a month in the restaurant, and guess who made them with her? Yep, me. Working next to her as she formed and shaped the pupusa balls at lightning speed was so impressive. It was, at first, quite difficult catching up to her. (She had been making pupusas for 40+ years.) But I was determined to be well versed in pupusa-making. And after a while, I got pretty good at it! Here are the recipes I remember making with Marta.

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pupusa2

El Salvadorian Pupusas with Curtido and Salsa Roja
Yields 5 pupusas; 1 quart curtido; 1 pint salsa roja

INGREDIENTS
FOR THE CURTIDO
1/2 head of small green cabbage, julienned thin
2 each carrots, peeled and cut into matchsticks
1/2 white onion, julienned thin
1/2 cup white vinegar (or apple cider vinegar)
1/4 cup fresh oregano, finely chopped
1/2 bunch cilantro, finely chopped
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

FOR THE SALSA ROJA
1 each canned tomatoes
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1 bunch cilantro, stems removed
1 bunch fresh oregano, picked
1/2 white onion, roughly chopped
1 jalapeño, tops cut off and deseeded
1 each lime, juiced
Kosher salt, to taste
splash olive oil, to taste

FOR THE PUPUSAS
2 cups masa harina (corn flour, I used Maseca)
2 cups water
1 cup shredded habanero jack cheese
2 jalapeños, minced
oil for frying

METHOD
FOR THE CURTIDO (cabbage slaw)
Mix the shredded cabbage, onion, carrots in a large bowl. Sprinkle salt and add in the vinegar and herbs. Mix thoroughly with your hands. Set aside for at least 1 hour to allow the cabbage to break down.

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curtido

FOR THE SALSA ROJA
Place all ingredients into a blender or food processor till fully incorporated. Add salt to taste. Set aside.

salsa

FOR THE PUPUSAS
In a large bowl and with your hands, mix the masa, salt and water till the dough is thoroughly mixed and feels like slightly wet clay or Play-Doh.

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Divvy up with dough and form into large balls. You should have about 5. In a small bowl add the minced jalapeños and shredded cheese. Add a splash of water to help bind the cheese-chile filling together.

balls

Fill a small bowl with lukewarm water. This water will help you when working with the pupusa dough, as it may harden and may become difficult to shape. Take one of the masa balls into your hand and flatten it onto your palm, creating a plate-like shape. Place a dollop of the cheese-chile mixture into the middle of the masa ball.

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Bring the outer sides of the masa to the other side to close the filling. Press down on the sides together to seal the seams. Shape the pupusa balls into a saucer-like shape. Dip your hands into the water bowl to add moisture to the dough if needed. Using some of the water also helps to close the seams and any cracks the dough may create.

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Fill a cast-iron skillet or shallow pan with about a half-inch of oil and turn the heat onto medium. When the skillet is hot and a little haze is over the oil, slowly add in the pupusas without overcrowding the pan.

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Allow the pupusas to cook for about 5 minutes per side. Using a heat-resistant spatula, place the fried pupusas onto a paper towel-lined plate. Repeat till all pupusas are cooked off. Serve with curtido and salsa.

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