Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Cardamon Cake

Sometimes good things happen and this is one of those occasions. In one of my Spanish classes where I teach the elderly and the disoriented, there are lots of good people and there are some just plain mean and evil. This recipe comes from two of the good ones, kind of.

Esther is  a good soul who every year goes to Guatemala with a large group of doctors to perform tons of surgeries to help those who need the most. I have heard of the rumors that claim that she and her doctor-friends are going there to make some research as they are trying to prove that Central Americans are the same as the Canadians. After many years of doing the same annual research trip, Esther and her group has learned that they are not the same: the Central Americans speak Spanish!.

On her last trip Esther was given 3 cows, 5 goats, 200 chickens, Guatemalan coffee and... fresh cardamon. As she is a very generous soul, she tried to share the cows and some chickens but I had to decline as I fear that the current wife would eat them alive. Instead I too the cardamon. 

The second good soul is Carol, the Robinson Crusoe of the group. She travels and travels and travels and, when she is here she does golfing, host legendary parties that last some times a week and ... takes classes with me. When Carol heard that Esther has given me some cardamon, she went to the supermarket, bought a chicken and exchanged the poor bird for some cardamon (what she didn't know is that Esther only wants live chickens as she needs them to perform some sort of surgery that is becoming very popular with the high society)

Carol came and shared the cardamon cake with the rest of us and... I really liked it!... so, after some recipe modifications here I am sharing the recipe with you:

Cardamon Cake

Cooking Time: 60 Minutes   Makes 12 servings

1 1/2  Cups Flour
1 Tsp. Baking Powder
1/4 Tsp. Kosher Salt
3/4  Cup Room Temperature Butter
3/4 Cup Granulated White Sugar
3 Large Eggs
1 Tsp. Vanilla Extract
1/4 Cup Milk 
1/2 tsp Fresh Ground cardamom
1/2 tsp Fresh Ground nutmeg

Cooking Instructions

1. Preheat oven to 350 F˚ and butter and flour the bottom and sides of a loaf pan (8 x 4 x 2 1/2 inches). 

2. Line the bottom of the pan with a piece of parchment paper (only the bottom).

3. In a bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, ground cardamon and ground nutmeg.

4. Using a mixer beat the butter (must be room temperature) until softened and add the sugar for about 4 minutes, until light and fluffy.

5. Add to the butter-sugar mix the 3 eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

6. Beat in the vanilla and in three additions incorporate the flour mix and milk alternately. Mix well until combined.

7. Pour the batter into the baking pan and get rid of the air bubbles by pounding it on the cooking table.

8. Bake for 50 minutes (at 350 F˚) until golden brown and when we insert a toothpick  and comes out clean.

9. When the loaf is ready, remove from the oven but keep it in the pan. Place the pan in a cooling rack.

10. Let it cool for an hour and remove from the pan.

11. Enjoy!

Monday, April 13, 2015

Balsamic Vinegar Pearls!

The wife says jump and I ask how high. I am such a noble and docile husband. If you are one of those lucky women that has such a guy like me as husband, let me tell you something: adore him and if you can, build him a pedestal so you can do the adoration the way it should be. Also keep in mind that if you adore him he will be not only noble, fantastic and all that... he, like me, becomes adorable!

I am adorable, what are you going to do. Adorable with capital A.

The current wife in her past life was a scientist, and a brilliant one I have to admit. She created life!... and in this life she has done it again. Reincarnation at its best. Her first creation (past life) was ... the creature...Frankenstein was the name of her creation who she lovely called it "my son".  In her current life she calls her creation "my son"...coincidences?, I don't think so.

In any event, she discovered something that would satisfy her interests and mine. A bonding activity if you will. She discovered Molecular Gastronomy which combine two of her passions: food -she loves to eat as you know- and science. A gift that worked as an excuse to celebrate my second birthday (my kidney transplant date is the day I was born again thanks to a generous soul to whom I am and will be grateful)

Molecular gastronomy is the fancy name for... cool looking food. I like both, presentation and flavor (the big head son of mine has the gift of presentation... but he knows he got that from me, even though he denies it).

This is my first attempt to do Molecular Gastronomy. I went for something easy and ... attractive. Balsamic vinegar pearls was the choice.

The whole key to this is a product called Agar-Agar, also known as China Grass. With that name in hand I went downtown -actually to China Town- and looked for China grass. Not easy to find at first and people were sending us from place to place. At the end, a guy had it. He went to the back of his store and came back with the cooking ingredient. Not cheap though.

Exited we got home and got ready all ingredients. The mysterious package from China Town looked like grass as the name indicate. The wife was static. She told me: I know this stuff and, faster than you can say kaboom, she was rolling the grass and started smoking it. She hid in the bathroom and refused to share. Somehow I guessed that it was the wrong grass. Back to shopping.

At the end I did more research and I discovered that Agar-Agar is a substitute gelatin made of algae and not from animal protein and it is used as a gelling ingredient for vegetarians and Asian dishes. It is a thickening and stabilizing ingredient. It is tasteless and odorless -like love- and it sets more firmly than gelatin.

So, here is my very first attempt to do Molecular Gastronomy!!!

Balsamic Vinegar Pearls

Preparation Time: 30 minutes           


1/2 Cup Balsamic Vinegar

2 Cups Olive oil (will be reused so no worries)

2 g Agar-Agar

1 Glass room temperature water

Special Equipment

1 Cooking syringe or a cooking pipette

1 Piercing spoon (Tbsp size)


1. Put the olive oil in the freezer for 30 minutes

2. In a pan bring to a boil the mix of the vinegar and the agar and allow it to cool for 3 minutes

3. Pour the vinegar into the cooking syringe or pipette

4. Dribble the vinegar into the cold olive oil (if using the syringe make sure that the syringe is parallel to the working table)

5. Using a pierced spoon, collect the pearls that have formed and put them in a room temperature glass of water to rinse

6. Create a nice looking dish that requires balsamic vinegar and let your creative side go crazy !!

7. Enjoy!