my granola

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Today, I finally concocted a granola I can call my own. While I have made many batches of granola in the past, they’ve always come from recipes. My science-minded self craves structure, reliability, and accuracy. Therefore, before I set out to cook, I scour the cookbook shelf and the blogosphere for the golden ratio of ingredients. I realized that when it came to granola, this was quite hypocritical. Granola is a staple of the 1970’s, and it begs for free love. So this afternoon, I let myself go and mixed up my favorite ingredients to make the most delicious batch of granola that has ever emerged from my oven.

Inspired by a recent New York Times article, I used olive oil instead of the usual canola. This not only gave the granola a great golden color, but also imbued it with a fruity undertone. I had recently been given a giant jar of homemade honey from a farm in South Florida, and I used a generous pour to give the granola a rich sweetness. My nuts of choice were sliced almonds and bright green pumpkin seeds. I also added a healthy dose of ground flaxseed, shredded coconut, and a few grinds of sea salt.

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As the granola baked away, I realized I had forgotten to add the ingredient I was most excited about: orange zest. However, this turned into a delicious mistake. The instant the warm granola came out of the oven I grated the zest of an entire orange over it and let the warm oats and nuts drink up the bright orange oil. Once it had cooled completely I tossed in dried apricots and cranberries. I’ve already munched on quite a few handfuls, and I can’t wait to have it for breakfast with Greek yogurt. I hypothesize that the results of this kitchen experiment will be well received by all taste testers

Recipe after the jump.

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ice cream for the birthday girl

Complimentary truffles from DiLido Beach Club, Ritz Carlton South Beach

Complimentary truffles from the DiLido Beach Club

Last week was Erica’s birthday, but since it fell on a busy Monday, the family had a celebratory dinner Sunday night instead. As per the birthday girl’s request, we had chili-rubbed ribeyes with sweet corn and saffron mashed potatoes and a big salad. Papi also prepared some refreshing marlin ceviche, which he served with avocado and sweet potato cubes, as is customary in Peru. It was an all-around delicious meal!

But what would a birthday dinner be without a decadent dessert? 24 years of life deserve a special treat, and Erica and I spent the entire week leading up to her birthday tossing around ideas for the perfect birthday dessert. We quickly agreed that warm cake or cookie with ice cream would be the way to go, but it wasn’t until Saturday afternoon that we settled on the winning combination: warm Ghirardelli brownies (the only mix we ever use, and swear by) with homemade cherry ice cream with chocolate chunks.

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I spent Saturday night staining my fingers deep magenta as I pitted close to a pound of fresh cherries. The ice cream base was extremely easy to make, requiring no eggs and a quick whirr through the blender. Many ice cream recipes call for the addition of alcohol, because since the alcohol doesn’t freeze, the ice cream retains a softer texture. I used a combination of Frangelico (hazlenut) and Chambord (raspberry) liquors and together they provided a sweet and nutty background for the tart cherries. Although I believe that when it comes to chocolate, the darker the better, Erica is a milk girl, so for this occasion, I folded in some milk chocolate chips at the end.

The brownies, fresh out of the oven, were topped with scoops of the whimsy pink ice cream and sprinkled with crunchy toasted salted almond slivers. The humble quart I made disappeared as our sweet-toothed family members lined up for servings. It had been a while since I last made ice cream, but last night reminded me of how easy and popular of a summertime dessert this is. I can’t wait to experiment with some more fruits and flavors in the near future.

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I’m glad I was able to make Erica’s birthday that much sweeter. Happy Birthday, sista!

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shrimp enchiladas

We’ve had annual subscriptions to Bon Appetit and Gourmet magazines for as long as I can remember. Each time a new issue arrives, I eagerly flip through the pages, drooling over the food porn and bookmarking the five-course meals and sky high cakes that I plan on making. Unfortunately, my lofty culinary goals usually get cast into the ever-growing pile of magazines that adorns our living room. Soon thereafter, the next month’s issue arrives, and the delicious dishes I dreamed of cooking never come to fruition.

Today, Papi ended this vicious cycle.

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The cover of June’s Bon Appetit had been staring at us for weeks—artfully prepared shrimp enchiladas with salsa verde. Before we had even eaten breakfast, Papi resolutely declared that we were making these for dinner. We were so excited to finally bring a beloved cover to life that we spent all day shopping and preparing for the meal. As 5pm rolled around, smells of freshly chopped oregano and cilantro and caramelizing onions filled our house. After a couple hours of kitchen teamwork, we sat down to an amazing dinner.

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Papi attributes the incredibleness of this dish to all of the layers of flavor. The enchiladas were simply stuffed with sauteed shrimp, caramelized onions, and cotija cheese (a hard, crumbly Mexican cheese similar to feta), and layered with salsa verde (we took the easy way out and used Goya). But when served with creamy avocado, fresh sliced red onion, cilantro, lime, and crema (a liquidy Mexican sour cream), magic happened. The melange of textures, temperatures, and tastes melded perfectly. We served the enchiladas alongside Mom’s homemade black bean salad and roasted corn on the cob. It was a perfect meal for a leisurely summer night. Hopefully, the curse has been broken, and many more of our treasured magazines will be uncovered.

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herb garden pesto

two basils & minttwo basils & mint bouquet

Nobody in the family has a green thumb, so I was shocked on a recent visit home when my mother’s formerly dinky Chia herb garden had overtaken an entire corner of backyard, all wild and green and begging to be simmered into soups and snipped into salads.  The thyme, rosemary, and oregano are plentiful, but it’s the summer basils and mint that are truly impressive.  Mom claims they tripled–if not quadrupled–with the first big rain, a la Jack’s beanstalk.  I half listened while daydreaming of my new mini-prep food processor and the delicious pesto I could make by mixing basils and perhaps a sprig or two of mint.

orzo pesto

It was as bright and and fresh as I had hoped, and made for a 10-minute weekday lunch or dinner served over orzo with diced tomatoes.

Recipe after the jump.

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mango salsa

They’re back.

ripe mango trio

They began falling early and in abundance.  Trees that lay dormant in past years are hanging low with the weight of fruit shining violet and green and all shades of orange like long forgotten Christmas lights.  While walking the dog in my parents’ neighborhood I spied an elderly couple tying extra support beams to their year-old sapling whose young branches bent earthward, the dozen or so absurdly large mangoes flirting with blades of grass.

For me, the beginning of summer is not defined by a holiday weekend or the end of school or the tilt of the earth but by two distinct smells: imminent thunderstorms and ripe mangoes.  This weekend, as Joanna and I watched grey-black clouds overtake Biscayne Bay from a bench swing in Stiltsville, our sweet-smelling fingers stained orange, my summer arrived.

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rollin’ into summer

After a lengthy blog hiatus, mumblepie is back with a vengeance to share the flavors of Miami!

We wanted to inaugurate summer 2009 with an easy and flavorful recipe for Vietnamese summer rolls. We’ve always enjoyed summer rolls in restaurants, but we never realized how easy it was to make our own. Fresh vegetables, zesty herbs, shrimp, and rice noodles are simply wrapped in a rice paper skin, which can be found at a local Asian grocery store. Whip up a simple peanut sauce alongside and you have a light and summery dish.

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We served these as appetizers at a family party, so they were cut into thirds, but you could easily leave these whole and make a meal out of them.

Welcome back to mumblepie!

See recipe after jump.

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holiday cookie baking

After a long set of final exams, I’m finally back in Miami to enjoy the warmth and the holidays. I wanted nothing more than to spend my first weekend home in the kitchen and surrounded by family. These two desires merged perfectly on Sunday afternoon when my sister, mom, aunts, and I got together to bake holiday cookies. Everyone brought a recipe and ingredients, and we ended up making five very different and very delicious cookies

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Mom made incredible Chocolate Thumbprint Cookies filled with ganache. They had a slight hint of saltiness that perfectly matched the richness of the chocolate. These are to die for.

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Aunt Susan made Giant Ginger Cookies, full of molasses, brown sugar, and spices. These are soft and chewy and encapsulate true holiday flavor.

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Aunt Karen made classic Russian tea cakes. They were buttery, crumbly, and covered in powdered sugar. Simple and incredible.

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Erica recreated her favorite French iced sugar cookies. Rolling them out proved challenging given the humidity in Miami, but she devised an ingenious technique of rolling out the dough on a refrigerated metal cookie sheet. It worked like a charm, and resulted in soft, sugarplum colored hearts with a sprinkling of glittery sugar for holiday flair.

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I also tried my hand at a rolled cookie, Rugelach. I encountered some challenges in rolling out my dough, and ended up with unruly mounds, rather than uniform crescents. Given their haggard appearance, I lovingly renamed them “ugelach.” Looks aside, they tasted great. The cream cheese dough was filled with apricot jam, cinnamon sugar, walnuts, raisins, and chocolate. I have already made and frozen another batch for Christmas morning. These actually held their shape, so I will post a photo of the non-ugly rugelach soon!

All in all, baking with the family was the perfect way to spend my first Sunday home. This was the first time we’ve done a holiday cookie bake-off, but I hope it will become an annual tradition!

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