Category Archives: Desserts

Calas: A New Orleans Tradition

 

It’s Mardi Gras, and down in New Orleans, the King Cakes, beignets and other gustatory delights are flowing freely. But if you prefer your culinary temptations with a side of history, allow me to introduce you to the calas, a Creole rice fritter with a storied past.

Never heard of a calas? Most people outside of New Orleans never heard of them either.

It’s basically a rice fritter. Calas are just one of the many rice dishes that actually made the journey during the Middle Passage across the Atlantic Ocean. Calas are made of leftover rice mixed into a sugary egg batter, then deep fried and served dusted with confectioner’s sugar. 

To  me, they are kind of like beignets, only better — with a more interesting backstory. Calas were once a vital part of African-American livelihood in the New Orleans, and even helped some slaves there buy their freedom. The cala became a very important part of New Orleans’ history.

Scholars think slaves from the rice-growing regions of Africa  who were brought to the Carolinas specifically to  grow rice.  And as slavery spread down to the Gulf Coast, calas  were eventually brought to Louisiana. Some culinary historians can trace calas to Ghana, others, to Liberia and Sierra Leone. If you were to go to Africa today, to Ghana or Liberia, you would find the women in the open-air markets making calas.

330px-Le_Code_Noir_1742_edition.jpgIn 1685, during the days of French rule, New Orleans was ruled by the Le Code Noir or the “Black Codes”, a decree originally passed by France’s King Louis XIV. The Code Noir defined the conditions of slavery in the French colonial empire, restricted the activities of free Negroes, also known as free people of color,  and forbade the exercise of any religion other than Roman Catholicism, and expelled all Jews from France’s colonies.

The code has been described by Tyler Stovall as “one of the most extensive official documents on race, slavery, and freedom ever drawn up in Europe”.  The Code Noir resulted in a far higher percentage of blacks being free people of color during this period where the free color populations  was 13.2% in Louisiana compared to 0.8% in Mississippi. In by 21st Century standards, they were on average exceptionally literate and highly educated, sending their children abroad to study in some of Europe’s finest universities at the time.  Many were were doctors and lawyers, with a significant number of them owning businesses, properties and even slaves. Today, most people  are unaware that the free people of color were highly successful in the era of slavery. It was a very different climate in New Orleans than in the rest of the United States at the time.

In the Code Noir, it was stated that  all slaves were required calasby law to have at least one day a week off. The slaves’ day off usually was Sunday. Many of them would become street vendors. And so after church, African women would roam the streets of the French Quarter touting their wares with the chant, “Calas, calas! Belles calas tout chauds, madame, belles calas tout chauds!” — “Beautiful calas! Very hot!”

When the Spanish took control of Louisiana in the 1760s, they brought with them a powerful legal instrument, coartacion ,a specific type of manumission that pertained to slavery in the Hispanic Caribbean, through which slaves were allowed to purchase their freedom on a gradual basis. They were considered ‘free’ in exchange for compensation for the slave owner. In other words, coartacion  gave slaves the right to buy their freedom. For enslaved black women in the city, selling calas was a key way to earn money for these purchases. These women were able to buy freedom for their families and for themselves.

More than 1,400 New Orleans slaves bought their freedom under Spanish rule. But it’s not clear just how many did so with calas money.

African-American culinary historian Jessica B. Harris  has noted  in her writings that not all calas vendors were enslaved. And the ones who were  slaves often sold them for their mistresses. If they were lucky, they were allowed to keep a portion of the money, or perhaps have it go towards their freedom.

Americans ended the practice of coartacion soon after the 1803 Louisiana Purchase. But New Orleans remained home to thousands of free blacks – and throughout the 1800s, many of them, especially women, made their living selling calas and other street foods.

In the 20th century, these vendors slowly disappeared, until, by 1940, according to an old Works Progress Administration report, just a single calas street merchant remained.

But indoors, calas “remained popular as a home treat” among African-Americans — especially during Mardi. Friends and neighbors prepared calas for their families and for the maskers who stopped by for a little ‘recess’ from their parading.

And the fritters did survive in at least one public eating space: The Old Coffeepot Restaurant, a French Quarter breakfast joint, where they’ve been on the menu for decades.

Waitress Gaynell James serves up calas cake from the kitchen at The Old Coffeepot Restaurant in the French Quarter of New Orleans on Jan. 28, 2013.

Waitress Gaynell James Serves up calas from the kitchen at The Old Coffeepot Restaurant in the French Quarter. Gerald Herbert/AP 2013.

After chef Frank Brigsten purchased Charlie’s in 2009, he replaced hushpuppies on the menu at the longtime neighborhood seafood joint —a fixture in Harahan, outside New Orleans, since the 1950s—with a savory take on calas. They have gotten to be so  popular that the restaurant now serve shrimp calas as an appetizer.

 In recent years, calas have also made their way into a higher-profile tradition as well.2010-Calas-Lady-_vo
In 1990, New Orleans’ Haydel’s Bakery revived the old tradition of including miniature porcelain dolls in their Mardi Gras King Cakes.  The Original 1990 Frozen Charlotte Doll quickly became a collector’s item.  Since then,  Haydel’s has choosen a different porcelain figure  that celebrates one of the traditions of  the city’s beloved Mardi Gras heritage and bakes them  into  their famous King Cakes. In 2010, that figurine was in the shape of the iconic calas lady, her basket of “belle calas” balanced on her head —not forgotten. a symbol of a New Orleans long gone but, but still alive in the hearts of many.

And so the cala, a rice dish that is a part of New Orleans’ history, will be saved for future generations to come with this recipe that is presented below.

Makes About 2 Dozen

Ingredients:
2 cups cooked white rice
6 Tablespoons all purpose flour
3 heaping Tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
5-6 cups vegetable oil, for frying
Powdered sugar, for dusting

Directions:

Mix the rice with flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Add the vanilla and mix well.

Add eggs and when thoroughly mixed, drop by tablespoonfuls into the hot oil , heated to 360 ° F. Fry until browned on both sides.

Using a spyder, remove the fritters from the oil and drain on baking sheet lined  with paper towels. Sprinkle with powdered sugar. Serve hot with coffee or Cafe au Lait. 

 

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Hasselback Apple Pies

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My version of single servings of  Hasselback Apple Pies are basically, crustless  apple pies and they are the most brilliant way to cut back on carbs while still being a delicious dessert.Make a batch of the salted caramel sauce ahead of time and keep it warm in the  saucepan  over low heat, while the apples bake…. and then to serve, spoon it over the vanilla ice cream and  the apples…..Perfection.

Serves 6

Ingredients:
For the Salted Caramel Sauce:
1 cup granulated sugar
½ cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
¾ teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste

For the Apples:
6 large baking apples, halved vertically and cored
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/3 cup sugar, plus more for sprinkling
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cardamon
A pinch ground nutmeg
A pinch ground cayenne pepper (optional)
2/3 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
Vanilla ice cream, for serving
Warm salted caramel sauce, for drizzling

Directions:
For the Salted Caramel Sauce:
In a medium saucepan set over medium-high heat, combine the sugar with 1/4 cup cold water and stir to combine. Cook, without stirring, until the sugar has turned a deep amber hue, approximately 10 to 12 minutes.

Meanwhile, warm the cream in a small saucepan. When the caramel is ready, slowly whisk in the warm cream and continue simmering the mixture until it is smooth, another 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from heat, then whisk in the butter, and then the salt, to taste. Set aside and keep warm over a very low heat until ready to serve.

For the Apples:
Preheat oven to 350° F.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place each apple half flat side down and use a paring knife to create thin slices all the way across, making sure to stop slicing right before the bottom of the apple (so it stays together as one piece). Transfer apple halves to prepared baking sheet.

Lightly brush apple tops with melted butter and sprinkle with sugar.
Bake until apples are soft and caramelized, 23 to 25 minutes.
Remove from oven.

In a small bowl, combine remaining melted butter, sugar, cinnamon, cardamon, nutmeg, cayenne pepper (,if using,) and oats. Once cool enough to handle, spoon mixture inside apple slits.

Return to oven and bake 10 minutes more.

To serve, top each with a scoop of ice cream, then drizzle with caramel and …….Enjoy!

Roasted Stonefruit Cobbler

So, what do you do with any left over fruit like peaches, cherries, plums and nectarines? Why not make an end of the Summer cobbler. Here, the fruit was roasted and then topped with a crumble crumb crust to create this dessert:

Roasted Stonefruit Cobbler With Coconut Gelato and Balsamic Syrup.

 

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Tiramisù with Strawberry Sauce

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Photo Credit: NickStellino.com, 2017

Recipe adapted from:

Nick Stellino
Cooking With Friends, 2011

Serves 8 to 10

Ingredients
For the Tiramisù:
2½ cups strong coffee, cooled
½ cup Kahlúa coffee liqueur
2 packages ladyfingers cookies
9 eggs, yolks and whites separated
1¾ cups sugar, divided
1½ pounds mascarpone cheese
1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
½ cup sweet cocoa powder

For the Strawberry Sauce:
(Yields 1 Cup)
One 10-ounce package whole frozen strawberries, partially thawed
2 tablespoons crème de cassis liqueur
¼ cup sugar

Directions:
Mix the cold coffee and the liqueur in a large bowl. In batches, dip the ladyfingers in the coffee mixture. You want them to be moist on the outside but still crunchy on the inside.

Beat the egg yolks with half of the sugar until the mixture is thick enough to form a long ribbon when you lift the beater out.  Note: If you are concerned about using raw eggs, once you have beaten the egg yolks, cook them in a double boiler, whisking constantly until they become as thick as a custard cream. Be careful not to overcook them, or they will become scrambled eggs. After cooking the yolks, proceed with the recipe.

Add the mascarpone and beat for 2 to 3 more minutes. Set aside.

Beat the egg whites, adding the remaining sugar a bit at a time, until they form stiff peaks and have a glossy sheen, about 4 minutes.

Gently fold the egg whites into the mascarpone mixture until the mixture is all the same color. Add the vanilla and chopped semisweet chocolate, and gently fold them into the mixture.

In a 9 x 17-inch glass baking dish, assemble the dessert. Layer the bottom of the dish with the soaked cookies. Top with a layer of the mascarpone-chocolate mixture. Repeat the procedure to make 1 more layer.

Using a flour sifter, cover the top of the tiramisù with a thin layer of sweet cocoa powder.

Place the tiramisù in the refrigerator and let it rest for at least 5 hours; it’s even better if refrigerated overnight.

To make the strawberry sauce, place the frozen strawberries in a food processor. Add the cassis and sugar. Pulse until pureed. Taste and adjust for sweetness of needeed. Strain through a fine-mesh strainer or cheesecloth-like strainer to remove the seeds and pour into a small serving container until the tiramisù is ready to serve.

Honeydew Melon, Lemon Basil and Lime Sorbet

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Photo Credit: Pamela Ellgen, 2013

Adapted from
Pamela Ellgen
Ediblephoenix.ediblecommunities.com
May 15, 2013

Ingredients:
1 whole Honeydew melon, peeled, seeded and roughly chopped
1/2 cup lemon basil leaves
1/4 cup simple syrup
Juice of 1 lime
Very small pinch salt

Directions:
Pulse all the ingredients in a high-speed blender until smooth. Chill in refrigerator, then place into an ice-cream maker and follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Store covered in the freezer until 15 minutes before you’re ready to serve, then set on the counter to allow the sorbet to soften slightly.

Cook’s Notes:
If you do not have an ice cream maker, no problem! Simply pour the mixture onto a cookie sheet and freeze until set.  Remove the frozen mixture from the freezer and break it up using a wooden spoon. Place the frozen pieces in a food processor and blend until until smooth.  Repeat the process of freezing and blending  again for an ultra smooth consistency.

Mint Julep Lava Cake

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Clafoutix Aux Cerisis

 

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Clafoutis is a French dessert from the Limousin region of France.The dish’s name derives from Occitan clafotís, from the verb clafir, meaning “to fill”. Traditionally, black cherries are arranged in a buttered dish and covered with a thick flan-like batter. After baking , the clafoutis is dusted with powdered sugar and is best served cold, sometimes with cream.

There are numerous variations of clafoutis that use other summer fruits, including red cherries, plums, prunes, peaches, apples, pears, cranberries or blackberries. When other kinds of fruit are used instead of cherries, the dish is properly called a flaugnarde.

Ingredients:
21 ounces cherries
1 Tablespoon unsalted butter
1/4 cup confectioner’s sugar
2 Tablespoons Kirsch
4 eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1  cup all purpose flour
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup milk or cream
1/8 cup melted butter
grated zest of one lemon

Directions:
Preheat the oven at 350°F.

Pitting the cherries. If a cherry pitter is not available, it’s easier and quicker to do this by hand, but you can also use this trick: Remove the stems, and then place the cherry on the opening of a bottle. The opening must be smaller than the cherry so that the cherry does not fall through.A wine bottle works perfectly  for  this purpose . Using a chopstick, press through the cherry, allowing the pit fall into the bottle.

In a large bowl, mix the cherries with the kirsch and confectioner’s sugar and set aside for 1 to 2 hours, at room temperature. Note: if canned cherries are being used, drain them before adding the kirsch and confectioner’s sugar or a soggy cake will be the result.

Use the butter to grease a round or oval baking dish. Sprinkle a generous tablespoon of sugar into the greased pan, and carefully rotate the baking dish so that the sugar is distributed evenly, even on the edges. Add the pitted cherries to the baking dish.

Sift flour into a bowl. Add sugar and slowly whisk in the milk until well-blended. Add the eggs, vanilla extract, almond extract and lemon zest and whisk until well blended and smooth.

Pour the egg mixture evenly over the cherries and bake for 45 minutes until golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow the to cool. Sprinkle with powdered sugar and serve.

 

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Jalousie aux Amandes et a l’Abricot et Pêche

 

Jalousie means “shutter” in French, and these traditional slatted puff pastry fruit pies looks just like the shutters outside the houses all over the French shutterscountryside.  Using ready made puff pastry from your local supermarket’s frozen food section  along  with almonds, apricot and peach preserves, this is a very easy and elegant dessert, will surely  impress your family and friends.

 

 

Serves 4

Ingredients:
3 Tablespoons apricot preserves
3 Tablespoons peach preserves
1⁄2  pound puff pastry
Water
1 beaten egg
2 Tablespoons superfine sugar
2 Tablespoons sliced almonds
1/2 cup heavy cream
3 Tablespoons sugar

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 425º F.

In a small bowl, thoroughly mix the apricot and peach preserves; set aside.

Roll out the dough out on a lightly floured surface to a 12-inch square. Cut in half to make two rectangles.

Place one half on a baking sheet that you have sprayed with water.  Brush all around the edges with beaten egg. Spread over the apricot and peach preserves.

Fold the remaining piece of dough in half lengthwise and cut eight evenly spaced diagonal slits from the center fold to about 1/2-inch of the outer edge all the way along.

Unfold the pastry and place  it on top of the preserve covered pastry on the baking sheet , matching each edge carefully to the base. Cut into fourths  and press edges together well to seal. Scallop the edges at close intervals with the back of a small knife.

Brush the slashed pastries top with water and sprinkle with  sugar and sliced almonds. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until well risen and golden brown. Remove the jalouise from the oven and leave to cool on a wire rack.

Pour the heavy whipping cream into a large bowl, and whisk in sugar for approximately 3 to 5 minutes, until the cream reaches the soft peak stage.

Serve the jalouise with the  whipped cream and café au lait,  if desired.

 

 

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Maple Bacon Ice Cream

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I am one of those people who like to combine, savory, sweet, salty smoky flavors all  together in one bite and this recipe does just that.And the best thing about this ice cream is that it does not require a machine,  but will require the use  of your very ordinary, ever day  freezer.

 

Serves 12

Ingredients:
For the  bacon:
5 strips Maple smoked bacon
about 2 teaspoons light brown sugar

For the Ice Cream Custard:
One 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
1/2 teaspoon  salt
2 cups heavy cream

 

Directions:
For the Bacon:
To candy the bacon, preheat the oven to 400°F .

Lay the strips of bacon on a baking sheet lined with a silicone mat or aluminum foil, shiny side down.

Sprinkle 1½ to 2 teaspoons of brown sugar evenly over each strip of bacon, depending on length.

Bake for 12 to 16 minutes. Midway during baking, flip the bacon strips over and drag them through the dark, syrupy liquid that’s collected on the baking sheet. Continue to bake until as dark as mahogany. Remove from oven and cool the strips on a wire rack.

Once crisp and cool, chop into little pieces, about the size of grains of rice.

Note: The bacon bits can be stored in an airtight container and chilled for a day or so, or stored in the freezer a few weeks ahead.

For the Custard:
Remove the label from the can of the condensed milk. Place the can in a saucepan and fill with water, completely covering the can. Simmer the condensed milk on medium low for 2 hours. Keep a vigilant eye on the simmer can to make sure it stays under water at all times while simmering. After two hours, remove the can from the saucepan using tongs and allow the can to cool and set aside.

Add  the cooled caramelized milk to a large bowl, then add the salt and stir to combine.

In a separate  large bowl, add the heavy cream and  use an electric mixer on high speed, to  beat the heavy cream,  until thick, stiff peaks form, 3 to 5 minutes.

Add 1/3 of the whipped cream to the caramelized  condensed milk. Gently fold in the cream and combine. Add the remaining whipped cream.

Transfer the mixture to a loaf pan or freezer-safe container, cover  with plastic wrap and freeze until firm, for  at least 6 to 8  hours.

To serve, allow the ice cream to stand at room temperature for a few minutes. Stir in the the bacon bits. Serves scoops of the ice cream in bowls or on cones.

Note: The ice cream can be stored in the freezer for  up to 2 weeks.

 

TODAY.com Parenting Team FC Contributor