March 6, 2012

Cucumber Soup

I absolutely love soup, and ever since we moved to NYC from Florida I've been experimenting with hearty soups during the winter. This year, I haven't felt compelled to making any soup aside from the standard chicken noodle soup when I got sick last month. Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining, but its been such a mild winter I haven't even craved hearty soups at all!

Growing up in Puerto Rico, we didn't eat soup often as the weather was just too warm for it. But when my mother would make soup, this was a often the preferred choice of soup that paired well with the tropical weather in Puerto Rico, as it satisfied the craving for soup, while still being incredibly light. This cucumber soup is wonderful when piping hot, but its also great cold or even room temperature, similar to a gazpacho.

I recently made this it as I was nursing my second cold of the season, but paired it with a grilled cheese sandwich just to give it a more "comfort food" feel. Since its texture, nor ingredients (don't even think about the heavy cream) is nothing like thick, creamy bisque or cream based soup, which makes this cucumber soup guilt free too!

2-3 large cucumbers
1.5 cups of water per cucumber
1/4 cup of chopped onion
2 garlic cloves chopped
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1 chicken bouillon cube
1-2 tbsp heavy cream

Peel and chop the cucumber and set aside.  (I always like to keep 1/3 of the cucumber with the peel on to enhance the color, but you can peel if you prefer).

Set aside about 1/4 cup of chopped cucumber to add as a garnish. In a soup pot sautee the onions and garlic until they are fully cooked and lightly transluscent. Add the cucumber and sautee for a few minutes then add the water. Add the salt, pepper and bouillon cube and bring water to a boil. Reduce heat and let simmer for about 40 minutes.

With a hand immersion blender, blend the soup until smoothe. Add the heavy cream and heat for another 5 minutes. Serve in bowl with some of the un-cooked cucumber you set aside, and pair with your choice of grilled cheese sandwich.

February 27, 2012

Passion Fruit Pudding

A few weeks ago I attempted making a passion fruit pudding for the second time. While it was a better effort than my first time (I didn't cook the mixture long enough, so it was more of a cream than a pudding), it wasn't passion fruity enough for me. I used store bought passion fruit juice which is great for drinking, but it felt like a watered down version of passion fruit when using in a recipe. I knew instantly that I needed to use real passion fruit and extract the pulp myself in order to get that pungent tart flavor I wanted in the pudding.

Luckily as I was perusing the aisles at Whole Foods this afternoon, I saw in a small corner a basket full of Passion Fruit! I picked up half a dozen and as soon  as I got home, I made fresh juice! If you've never seen or opened a Passion fruit, its kinda creepy looking. The pulp is gooey and filled with black seeds. Similar to pomegranate, you can eat the seeds too. I first scooped out the pulp and sieved it to allow all fresh juice into a bowl. With the remaining pulp I put in the food processor with the juice of 1 lime and blended for about 30 seconds. Sieve into the bowl to extract all the seeds. Set aside.

3 cups whole milk
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 tsp salt
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
Juice of 6 passion fruit (see above)

In a sauce pan, heat 2 cups of the milk and bring to a boil. While the milk is warming up, in a heat proof bowl mix the sugar, cornstarch and salt. Make sure there are no clumps. Slowly add the remaining cup of milk to the mixture, beating constantly to ensure that you have a smoothe mixture. Add the egg into this mixture. Once the milk comes to a boil, remove from heat and slowly add into the other mixture.

You want to temper the remaining of the milk/cornstarch/egg mixture SLOWLY, so you don't end up "scrambling" the egg. Once you have it all mixed, return to the sauce pan and cook until it simmers. Add the vanilla extract and the fresh Passion Fruit Juice. Turn the heat off and continue mixing until the its got a creamy consistency. Pour into serving dishes and refrigerate for 3-4 hours before consuming.

February 12, 2012

Scrambled Egg Puffs

I may have mentioned before that breakfast is one of my favorite meals, and eggs usually take a front seat whenever I make breakast during the weekends. Last weekend I found myself craving scrambled eggs, but I realized I had run out of toast. Being the middle of winter, last thing I wanted to do was head out of my cozy apartment to buy a loaf of bread. Until I remembered that I had some puff pastry in my freezer.

I removed 1 sheet from the box, and thawed it out for 30-40 minutes while I thought of a smiple breakfast to make with my "bread" replacement. I decided on using my cupcake pan to make mini puff pastry cups to fill with scrambled eggs. The prep was so easy, there really was no formal recipe involved!

1 Puff Pastry Sheet
6 Eggs
Splash of Milk
1/4 Cup Chopped Ham
3 Slices of Cheese
Salt & Pepper to taste

Pre-heat oven to 350 F. Once the Puff pastry has thawed out, cut into the 2 fold seams. Roll out the dough a little to cut into thirds, and press into cupcake pan, cutting the excess dough to re-use for the remaining tins. Get your eggs cracked in a bowl, add a splash of milk and season to taste. Add chopped ham or turkey to the egg mixture (feel free to use bacon if you prefer).

 Place the puff pastry tin in the oven and cook until your scrambled eggs are done, . Remove the puff pastry cups from the oven and press in the center of each cup to fill with the scrambled eggs. Top with a small piece of cheese and put back in the oven for another 10 minutes.

February 11, 2012

Mediterranean Tilapia "En Papillote"

Every once in a while, I get stumped when trying to decide what to make for dinner. This usually happens when I'm exhausted from a long day at work, and feel no real motivation to get too many pots dirty. For these days I usually rely on simple seafood dishes as they only take few minutes to cook. I always have several kinds of seafood in my freezer, particularly pre-packaged fillets, such as fish fillets and shrimp.I keep them on hand for nights like these as I put them in a bowl of water to defrost for 15-20 minutes as I get myself settled in and ready to cook.

A "en papillote" or "in paper" is a simple way to cook fish in a tightly sealed package. Most of the times it includes various herbs or vegetables to add flavors to the fish itself. By placing the fish over sauteed onions and topping with lemon, tomato and other fresh herbs, then tightly wrapping the fish in wax paper or foil paper, you get a perfectly steam-cooked fish with a natural sauce from the lemon and natural juices in the fish. This is a perfect, yet simple dish to make; with a fancy name that no one would believe it only has a 10 minute prep time!


4 Tilapia fillets
1 Lemon
1 Tomato
1/2 Onion
1 tbsp capers (optional)
1 tbsp chopped olives (optional)

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F. In a large baking pan, such as a 9"x13" cover the bottom with foil paper. Make sure there is plenty of extra foil in the overhang as you will eventually wrap up the fish like a package.

Saute 1/2 sliced onion for 3-5 minutes. Until lightly translucent and place at the bottom of the pan. Season your tilapia fillets with salt and pepper and place over the onions. Top with sliced tomato and lemon. Add fresh herbs such as thyme sprigs and basil leaves. Drizzle some olive oil over the top and make sure to season the tomatoes and onions with a little salt and pepper too.

Now all you have to do is tightly close the foil so that no steam comes out from any crevice. Place in oven and cook for about 20-30 minutes. Remove from oven and let sit for a few minutes, allowing the foil to slightly cool prior to opening. Serve immediately.

January 29, 2012

Crunchy Spice Cookies

It's no secret I adore cookies, and while I made tons of cookies during the holidays, I completely forgot to bake one of my favorites. I always loved when my mother would do holiday spice cookies. These are sure to be a big hit if you choose to bake them during the holidays or even after!

2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp ground ginger
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp black pepper
1/8 tsp ground cloves
3/4 cup vegetable shortening
2/3 cup light brown sugar
1 large egg
1/2 cup molasses
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup granulated sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare a cookie sheet by lining with with parchment or wax paper.

In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, ginger, baking soda, cinnamon, salt, nutmeg, pepper and cloves. Set aside. Using an electric mixer, beat the shortening and brown sugar until fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. Add the egg, molasses and vanilla and mix for another minute. Slowly add the flour mixture until all is combined.

Place the granulated sugar in a shallow dish. Using a tablespoon, roll the dough into balls, then roll in the sugar and place on parchment paper, spacing them about 2 inches apart. Using a glass, press the balls to a little less than 1/2 inch thick and sprinkle with a little more sugar.

Bake, rotating the pan 1/2 way through until the edges are firm, around 10-12 mintues. Cook slightly then transfer to a wire rack.

December 21, 2011

Peppermint Twist Sugar Cookies

Sugar cookies are the quintessential cookie everyone bakes during the holidays. They tend to be a favorite since you can pull out those festive cookie cutters and decorate them in so many different ways. While I knew I wanted to add a typical sugar cookie to my cookie box, I was sure I didn't want to spend my entire weekend decorating cookies either.

Enter: Peppermint Crunch, crushed candy cane pieces that I found while shopping at Crate and Barrel. If you can't find the pre-crushed kind, you can easily buy some candy canes and crush them yourselves.

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup unsalted butter
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
4-6 oz semisweet chocolate
1/2 cup crushed candy canes

In a large bowl whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside. Beat the butter and sugar with an electric mixer until it is smooth. Add the egg and vanilla and beat until it is fluffy.

Gradually add the flour mixture until fully incorporated and the dough is stiff. Shape into a disk and cover well with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and divide into 2 or 4 equal parts. On a floured surface, roll out the dough to about 1/4" thick. Cut into desired shape and transfer to a wax or parchment lined cookie sheet. Bake for 12-15 minutes, making sure to rotate the sheet 1/2 way through. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

As your first batch of cookies is baking you can melt the chocolate over a double boiler, and set aside until all cookies are baked and cooled. To decorate, simply dip half the cookie into the chocolate. Remove excess chocolate, then sprinkle with the crushed candy canes. Place the decorated cookies over parchment lined sheet and refrigerate until the chocolate has set.

December 20, 2011


Polvorones are one of my favorite treats I almost always get when I go to Puerto Rico, particularly during the holidays. The best way to describe them are as crumbly almond cookies, similar to a shortbread cookie but with a sharper nut flavor brought in by the use of almond meal mixed with the butter, flour, powdered sugar and other spices. Almond meal is also gives this cookies their wonderful "crumby" texture.

For those who are unsure as to what almond meal is: its' essentially finely ground almonds. Not to be confused with Almond Flour (which you can get if you sift the meal), nor by grinding the almonds to the point of extracting too many oils from them and creating Almond butter. 

Some of my favorite Polvorones are from Sweet Ann Cakes, a local bakery that sells to many supermarkets and even have small kiosks in the malls. Since I was making holiday cookies in lieu of gifts for my co-workers, I instantly knew I had to include these delectable treats. In all honesty, they were my first time baking them, and will definitely not be my last!

16 tbsp butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup confectioners sugar, sifted
1 tsp vanilla extract
Zest of 1 orange
1 1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup almond meal

In an electric mixer fitted with a paddle, beat the butter for around 1 minute. Slowly add the confectioners sugar until it is light and fluffy, this will take about 3-5 minutes, depending on the speed of your mixer. Add the vanilla and orange zest.

Sift the flour, and remaining spices and then blend with the almond meal. Add this dry mixture all at once to the butter mixture and gently stir until is fully incorporated into the butter mixture, but be sure not to over mix.

Form a large disc of the dough, and wrap well in plastic to refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Scoop the dough into tablespoons and roll into a ball and place on the cookie sheet, approximately 2 inches apart. Lightly press down on the dough with a spoon dipped in flour to form a 1/2" disk. Bake until the edges are lightly golden about 15 minutes.

As soon as you remove them from the oven and they are still warm, sprinkle generously with sifted confectioners sugar.