I’ve been up to my eyeballs in ingredients for a big project; packages of stuff are heaped on my dining room table and every time I open the refrigerator I stand back, just a bit, to avoid things that inevitably fly out. I’m packed to the gills – again – and with an inordinate amount of cheese this time. Earlier in the week while I was developing this round of recipes, I somehow overbought and ended up with too much goat cheese. First world problems, I know. But I had an idea; I hadn’t made focaccia in a while. It was time.
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This is the time of year, over here anyway, when the shelling beans start appearing at the farmers markets. Brightly colored, striped and speckled pods filled with fat beans ready for the cooking pot. This weekend, a favorite vendor had big piles of deep purple crowder peas and the ones I really wait for, red and white striped borlotti beans. Sometimes called tongues of fire or cranberry beans, they cook up nice and creamy yet slightly firm. I love them but for some reason, my work schedule always kicks into high gear in September, just as they make an appearance on market tables. If there’s one thing I have a problem with it’s buying too much food at the exact moment when I have zero time to cook it. This has happened more times than I care to admit with these beans.
The start of September means one thing to me: football. Back in the day, friends and I used to play on a flag football team in the park on Saturday mornings. This is hilarious for so many reasons. First, I watch football, I don’t play it yet somehow I was talked into joining the team. Second, I’m fairly certain we were universally hated in the league as we spent the majority of the game laughing and making fun of each other. Third, we were terrible but damn, it was fun and it made for some very long Saturdays. By 10am we were typically comfortably ensconced in the local bar for our post game fiesta. Pitchers of beer flowed freely and platters of chicken wings came out by the dozens. We would routinely go through at least one waitress shift change and more than once, departed to discover it was dark out. Oops. To this day, it’s hard for me to watch a college football game without hankering for some wings.
For my 21st birthday, my mom took me to Las Vegas where we gambled (obviously) and laughed (obviously) but also went to the shows and out for some great dinners. One was at a quirky Vegas stalwart, The Alpine Village Inn, that has since sadly closed. Specializing in Swiss-German cuisine, I can’t recall what we ate but I distinctly remember the spiced cottage cheese served alongside the bread. It was delicious, studded with caraway seeds and we enjoyed it so much we bought a tub of the spice mix on our way out. That tub sat in my mom’s pantry for years and I usually stirred a little into my cottage cheese when I visited. Then one year, it was gone. I’m not sure exactly why I was outraged that she tossed a ten-year-old tub of spices that had overstayed it’s welcome by a long shot, but I was still sad about it.
I’ve been completely immersed in Olympic coverage the last two weeks. It’s pretty much all I’ve accomplished even with a trip to New York City and several Client meetings. I watch in the morning. I watch at night. I watch late late night. I tape during the day and watch in between. And can I just say, across the board, the ladies are killing it. I’m finding the women’s sports much more exciting than the men’s this go round. Also, throughout the games, I’ve been inspired to cook with a Brazilian flair, making all sorts of dishes that fit the theme. For an Opening Ceremonies party, I made Brazilian cheese bread (pão de queijo) and feijoada that were both very delicious. In the interim I made Coconut Quindim, a lovely and very easy coconut flan and a tropical Fresh Mango Coconut Tea Cake. Then the other night I made this: a coconut milk based fish stew known as moqueta.
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I’ve been on a real coconut bender lately. Some people despise coconut and I just don’t understand it. Coconut is delicious! I guess that just means more for me, which is A-OK. I’ve been going through coconut milk at a rapid pace lately, making a slew of frozen desserts, savory stews and rice dishes not to mention dried coconut in a bunch of things. I recently made a blender full of old school piña coladas for friends not long ago and they were fantastic. A properly made, boozy, retro piña colada is something that is most definitely due for a comeback. (I’m looking at you Tiki Bar trend.) Tasty but potentially lethal, you gotta keep and eye on these things and the rate at which your friends are downing them. Trust me on this. For an Olympic Opening Ceremonies party two weeks back, I was searching for an appropriate dessert and with neither the time nor the energy to attack my favorite egg custard tarts; I narrowed in a coconutty custard that looked perfect. Coconut Quindim. Interesting name. This had potential.
I’m feeling rather tropical as of late. Must be the heat or maybe its the 24-hour cycle of Olympic events from Rio that is emanating from every electronic device I own. All this broadcasting from Copacabana Beach is making me crave tropical drinks with long straws and plastic monkey decorations like nobody’s business. A recent stop at the local produce market persuaded me to grab case of ripe mangoes bought on the cheap. I can never resist a deal. I immediately ate one warm out of the case, sticky orange juice running down my arm. The next day, I did the same thing with a cold one. I like them better cold. Two down, six to go. I made some coconut sticky rice and sliced the third one on top. Five left.