Las Floras de Cozumel – 22

Mas floras bonitas de la Isla de Cozumel. !Desfruitas!

Fresh Tomatoes

Our friends Janet and Bob delivered a huge box filled with fresh tomatoes from their garden the other day. I love tomatoes, and we eat them all the time, but what am I going to do with ALL these delicious tomatoes? I was expecting a few tomatoes, NOT a huge box full.

In addition to these tomatoes, I had already purchased some as well. I found some at Sprouts that were ginormaous too. I have already used one of those, but I just had to buy those to show you their HUGE size. They were over 1 lb a piece.

Back to my gift box of tomatoes …. Some found other homes, but most will most definitely be used in many delicious recipes here at home.

The first thing I made with them was a tomato tart. When I make my tomato tarts, I love using a variety of different kinds of tomatoes. I used a few of the larger heirlooms as well as some of the smaller sweet 100’s from Janet and Bob, as well as some very tiny little orange and yellow tomatoes I already had.

I actually make tomato tarts quite often, especially in the summer. They go with everything and travel well. There are many different recipes but I usually stick to a real simple one, that is more like a margarita pizza. I only use a few ingredients for this simple, elegant tart.

My dough was my basic go-to dough that you have seen me use for many different recipes, although I also added some lemon pepper and black pepper to the dough. Asparagus and Pepper Tart Then I cut up a variety of tomatoes, as I mentioned above, added some mozzarella cheese, dried herbs and a drizzling of olive oil on top before putting it in the oven.

I baked the tart at 375* F or 180* C for about 45-55 minutes, or until the crust was lightly golden in color and started to pull away from the sides of my tart pan.

I let it cool slightly before cutting it. I also drizzled some of my delicious lemon balsamic vinegar on top right before serving it too. The little hints of lemon really paired well with the fresh tomatoes, making the flavors just pop out.

I served this alongside a quick and easy chicken Caesar salad and a cool, crisp chardonnay to make a light and refreshing dinner.

Stay safe and stay well Everyone. ‘Til next time.

Melone Stile Esotico

The romantic languages of French, Italian and Spanish always make everything sound so exotic and fascinating, even when in reality, they are just simple things. Maybe, that’s why they are called the romance languages. 🙂 This is certainly true with this simple, easy recipe as well. I took cantaloupe and doctored it up a bit with a simple rosemary and apple syrup and with a flick of the wrist, it became melone stile esotico. Doesn’t that sound a lot more intriguing than just plain cantaloupe?

This simple recipe only called for four ingredients and only took minutes to make. Don’t let the simplicity fool you though. It was a huge hit and was a welcomed light dessert after a heavy meal of rich lasagna. The cantaloupe can either be cut into slices or melon balls, but because I was taking it with me to another location, I thought it was easier as slices.

Cantaloupe with Apple Rosemary Syrup

2 cantaloupes, peeled seeded, and either cut into slices or served as melon balls

2 cups apple juice

1 cup sugar

5 fresh rosemary sprigs

Cut the cantaloupe into either melon balls or into slices.

Combine the sugar, apple juice and 3 of the rosemary sprigs in a heavy saucepan and bring to a full rapid boil.

Remove the rosemary sprigs and discard, then spoon or pour the sauce over the cantaloupe.

Let it chill in the refrigerator for at least 2-3 hours, or overnight, then serve, adding more of the rosemary sprigs right before serving.

This is a light refreshing, healthy dessert that can be enjoyed anytime.

Stay safe and stay well Everyone. ‘Til next time.

A Tropical Coffee Cake

We all love coffee cakes and they come in many, many different, never-ending varieties too. This comes as no surprise considering the coffee cake, like so many other fabulous recipes, has its roots from many different countries from around the world.

Coffee was introduced to Europe in the 1600’s, and has been a favorite ever since. Because enjoying a cup of coffee with family and friends became so popular, so too did the idea of enjoying something slightly sweet along with that deliciously warm beverage. It is believed that that the first actual “coffee cake” originated in Germany, although Denmark claims that eating a sweet cake while drinking coffee came from them first. Who really knows?

Coffee cake is a cake that was invented for the sole purpose of enjoying it with a cup or two of coffee, NOT because of it containing any actual coffee, although some recipes might. Coffee cake is a moist, tender cake that is usually topped with some kind of streusel topping and served alongside coffee or tea at breakfast. It is usually a single layered cake that is topped with streusel. Streusel is German for “sprinkle” or “strew” and refers to the popular crumbly topping of butter, flour, sugar, spices, and sometimes oats or nuts, that is sprinkled over coffee cake batter before it is baked. A close cousin to the coffee cake is the crumb cake, though it is a yeast cake.

I have been baking a lot again these days, now that I have found a home for all my baked goods without having me eat them all. I have been mixing a lot of my baked goods with some store-bought goodies for the Church coffee cart. Every week, I offer a variety of different items. I never really know what I am going to provide until the time comes to put it all together. So far, everything offered has been a huge hit. This time, I made a coffee cake with a tropical twist, by adding some chopped strawberries and pineapple to the mix.

Once again, I was rushed and pressed for time, so I forgot to take pictures before I served it, but there was a little bit left, which was just enough for a quick pic. As you can see, the cake was yet another big hit. It was gone in an instant. It was very moist and full of flavor.

Fruits of all kinds are very popular in coffee cakes, with apples and blueberries being some of the most popular. But you can use any kind of fruit you like. The basic recipe is the same, all that changes is the fruit inside.

Tropical Coffee Cake with Strawberries and Pineapple

The Streusel

3/4 cup flour

1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar

1 tsp cinnamon

4 TBSP cold butter, cubed

Mix everything together until it resembles course sand or crumbles. You can use a pastry cutter or your hands. I prefer using my hands.

The Cake

2 1/4 cups flour

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/s tsp salt

1 1/2 cups sugar

3/4 cup soft butter

3 large eggs

1 cup milk

1 tsp vanilla

about 3 cups of fruit of your choice – I used strawberries and pineapple this time

Preheat oven to 350* F or 180* C.

Spray a 9×13 baking pan with cooking spray and dust the pan with some flour.

Mix all the dry ingredients together and set aside.

Mix the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, then add the eggs, one at a time, and mix in between each addition. Then add the vanilla and milk and mix again. Add the dry ingredients, adding about 1/2 of the mixture at a time. Mix in between each addition and scrape down the sides of the bowl.

Gently fold the fruit into the mixture. Then evenly spread the batter into the prepared baking pan. Add the streusel mixture evenly over the top of the batter.

Place the pan into the oven and bake for 50-60 minutes or until the streusel is golden brown and a toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the middle of the cake. Allow the cake to cool completely before cutting and serving. Then as the name implies, enjoy the cake alongside a steaming cuppa, or cup of Joe, or java.

Stay safe and stay well Everyone. ‘Til next time.

Lamb and Vegetable Ragu with Pappardelle

Again, I am backtracking a bit with this one. When we had all our California guests in town, I made a feast featuring Moroccan spiced lamb Moroccan Spiced Lamb. Of course I had a ton left over, and you all know how creative I like to get with my leftovers. So I changed it and made it into a pasta dish with lots of vegetables.

Once more, I must have been side tracked, because I ALWAYS take pictures of the foods I cook and prepare, so I can share them with you, but alas, I have none this time around. So, for now, you will only be able to see the pictures I can pull from stock pictures online. My apologies. Rest assured though, the recipe is completely mine.

A ragu sauce is basically an Italian term for a meat sauce, though it originated in Renaissance France by the French Nobles and then traveled south to Italy and the Italian Nobles. From there, it became a popular dish to everyone in no time at all.

Ragù Bolognese

The term ragu comes from the French word ragout, meaning stews of meat and vegetables, usually cooked in a tomato based sauce (after the 18th century), cooked over low heat for a long time. Today, in Italy, a ragu sauce is a hearty, seasoned Italian sauce of meat and tomatoes that is used chiefly in pasta dishes and is typically made with ground beef, tomatoes, and finely chopped onions, celery, and carrots. Though a ragu sauce and a marinara sauce do share a lot of similar characteristics, they are also different. A ragu sauce is slow cooked and is much more complex, whereas a marinara sauce is is a quick simple sauce. Marinara is a tomato sauce, but it’s a thinner, simpler sauce made from simple ingredients and herbs that cooks very quickly. It only needs to simmer for about an hour.

Pappardelle is a type of Italian pasta that dates back to the early 14th century and comes from the Tuscany region of Italy. It is a large and wide fettuccine-type noodle that looks like a long ribbon. It is made from an egg-based dough which gives it a rich flavor and a fluffier texture than a lot of other pastas. If you cannot find pappardelle noodles, wide egg noodles are a good substitute.

Hand Nested Pappardelle — Artisanal Pasta —

I combined my leftover Moroccan spiced lamb with some leftover vegetables to make my lamb ragu. I served it over the pappardelle pasta. Instead of using ground lamb, I cut my lamb into small, bite-sized pieces. I also used zucchini, crookneck, mushrooms and onions which made this a much heartier, stew-like dish.

Lamb and Vegetable Ragu with Pappardelle

Slowly Braised Lamb Ragu {+ Slow Cooker & Instant Pot Directions}

3 TBSp olive oil

1 carrot, sliced thin

1 zucchini, sliced thin

1 yellow crookneck, sliced thin

1 cup mushrooms, sliced

1 onion, medium dice

1-2 TBSP garlic

1 1/2 lbs lamb, either ground or cut into small chunks

2 tsp ground coriander

1 tsp fennel

1 tsp cumin

1 tsp rosemary

1 tsp thyme

salt & pepper to taste

1 TBSP tomato paste

1/2-1 cup dry red wine

2 cups chicken or beef stock

2-3 tomatoes, diced or 1-26 oz can of diced tomatoes with juice

In a large skillet, heat the oil and saute the vegetables, garlic and onions for about 5 minutes or until softened and the onions are translucent. If the lamb is uncooked, add it at this point along with all the seasonings. If you are using cooked lamb, like I did, you can add it when you add the other ingredients.

Next add the tomato paste, tomatoes, stock and wine and bring everything to a boil. Reduce the heat and partially cover and continue to cook for about 30 minutes, making sure to stir occasionally.

Cook the pasta in boiling water until it is cooked al dente or cooked so as to be still firm when bitten. When the pasta and sauce are both done, serve the pasta covered with the lamb ragu sauce. You can top with cheese of your choice or fresh ricotta cheese and fresh chopped mint to give the dish a little bit of a Middle Eastern flair. In a word, DELICIOUS!!!!!!

Stay safe and stay well Everyone. ‘Til next time.

Italian Squash and Olive Oil Cake with Toasted Walnuts

Since we have been home (3 weeks now) we have been non-stop busy. We have been entertaining as well as visiting with friends, both old and new, I have started teaching cooking classes again, and I have been very busy with the church, plus all the other everyday things that need to be done. I like being busy. For the most part, it keeps me out of trouble, although, rest assured, I can always find trouble; or it finds me. 🙂

We were invited to some of our new friends’ house for a light afternoon gathering after church on Sunday, and I was always taught you never show up empty handed. True to my teachings, I did not. I brought dessert.

As you know, I am always looking to try new recipes. I am open to trying anything and everything too. This time, my new recipe was another olive oil cake, made with squash and toasted walnuts. It was from one of my Italian cookbooks, which was a perfect fit for what we had for our meal.

The recipe called for zucchini. I was sure I had zucchini, but of course when I was looking for it, I could not find it. I did find yellow crookneck though, which worked just fine. Naturally though, once my cake was made, I found that indeed I did have zucchini after all. Murphy’s law in action. So note that when making this cake, either or both zucchini or yellow crookneck will work just fine for this recipe.

Italian Squash Cake with Olive Oil and Toasted Walnuts

The Cake

1 cup walnuts

2 cups flour

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

2 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp ginger

1/2 tsp nutmeg

3 eggs

1 3/4 cups sugar

1 cup extra virgin olive oil

either 2 tsp vanilla or 1 tsp vanilla and 1 tsp lemon balsamic vinegar or lemon extract

2 1/2 cups or 2 small squash, either zucchini or yellow crookneck, or a combination

Toast the walnuts and chop into small pieces. I usually toast my nuts on top of the stove in a dry skillet, but you can also toast them in the oven as well.

Preheat the oven to 350* F or 180* C.

Spray cooking oil into a bundt cake pan and then lightly dust with flour.

Grate the squash in the food processor or with a grater.

Mix all the dry ingredients together well and set aside.

Combine the eggs, olive oil and sugar together and mix until light and fluffy. Then add the vanilla and/or lemon balsamic vinegar or lemon extract. Because I have this wonderful lemon balsamic vinegar, I am experimenting with it in many different ways. It came out great in this cake. Then add the dry ingredients slowly and mix again. I like to add my dry ingredients in batches and mix in between each addition. Make sure you scrape down the sides of the bowl after each addition too. When the batter is done, gently fold in both the walnuts and the grated squash.

When everything is combined, evenly spread the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 50-60 minutes, or until the cake is evenly browned and a toothpick inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean.

When the cake is completely cooled, remove it from the pan and drizzle the glaze on top.

The Glaze

1/4 cup lemon juice

1/3 cup sugar

1 cup powdered sugar

All that is left to do now is to enjoy it with friends and/or family. !Buon Appetito!

Life is short. Always make room for family, friends and desserts. Stay safe and stay well Everyone. ‘Til next time.