Friday, June 30, 2006

The View Mudslinger Chocolate Pie

Can you believe all the fuss? "The View" (a show La Vida Dulce avoided for a very long time) has gotten so much press, all because some chick decided to blab about personnel changes at work. Geesh, get a grip, women. They're slinging the mud right and left, even dragging poor old Larry King into the mess. I haven't seen so many cat claws out and this much fur flying since Penny Lane, our Siamese kitty, and Shadow, our adopted kitty, duked it out for a space on the window ledge. Here's my idea of mudslinging, dig into this no-bake dessert and move on.
Life's too short, have some pie, ladies.

2 ounces BITTERSWEET chocolate (Ghiradelli) broken in pieces
1 can Eagle Brand condensed milk, 14 oz.
1 envelope unflavored gelatin
1/3 cup water
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 pint heavy whipping cream, whipped
1 prepared graham cracker or chocolate pie crust
whipped cream, chocolate shavings for garnish

Place mixer bowl and beater in freezer until ready to whip cream. In a heavy saucepan, melt the bittersweet chocolate and the Eagle Brand together over low heat. Set aside. Place the water in a small saucepan, sprinkle the gelatin over the water and let stand for 1 minute. Stir over low heat just until gelatin dissolves. Combine gelatine and chocolate in the large saucepan, add vanilla. Cool to room temperature. Whip the cream till soft peak stage, do not over beat. Fold in chocolate mixture and spread into crust. Chill for at least 3 hours or overnight. Garnish with additional whipped cream and chocolate shavings. Serves 5-6 catty co-hosts.

Monday, June 19, 2006

The Nasty Bits

If Monica is reading this post, she may want to avert her eyes for a moment. Oh heck, it's OK, she already knows about it. Anthony Bourdain was in the area for a book signing yesterday. We chose to see him at the Hollywood Farmers Market, rather than Vromans in Pasadena. Good choice. The market was spectacular, tons of wonderful produce, and of course, the delicious pupusas. The veggie is becoming my favorite. I brought home some beautiful kumuqats and berries, the best were the little blueberries, sweetest I've ever tasted. I also picked up some chocolate mint and lavender plants, hope the cats don't eat them. There's a recipe by Chef Bob Wemischner, (my baking and pastry instructor) in his wonderful book "The Vivid Flavors Cookbook" for Lavender Honey Ice Cream with Grilled Pineapple. It sounds fabulous and I'd like to add some fresh lavender.

Tony Bourdain was not nasty at all. Quite the contrary, and we were amused watching him stroll along the farmers market, smoking a cig, enjoying the cool morning. He was gracious, friendly, even signed my chef coat, adding a little chef's knife under his signature. He had a good laugh about our family tradition, wishing a Happy Birfcake, and sweetly wrote that message in Monica's book. What a guy! He smiled for pictures with anyone who asked. Of course, I still don't have a camera, dag nappit! My partner in crime had him sign all her Bourdain books, even the personal ones not for sale by the Cook's Library. I don't think Vroman's would have been quite that accommodating. Although there are no recipes in Bourdain's new book, I am sure that Monica will be very happy with this little gift for her birfcake next month.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Un Bistec Con Queso, Por Favor

I checked out the site for an article on the Philly cheesesteak "English only" sign. Seems the owner of a South Philadelphia cheesesteak stand wants customers to speak "English only" when ordering. However, his real "beef" is more concerned with the changing demographics of the community, not with how somebody orders his meaty cheesy sandwiches. He ran his mouth, as people sometimes do when emotions get in the way, and made some very unkind remarks about his customers, in particular the Mexicans. South Philadelphia is not the same as it was long ago, when the food stand first opened, and he is very upset. I understand how he can feel that way. To see things change can be so hard to take, especially for someone who remembers what the "old neighborhood" used to be like.

When first I learned that "Brooklyn Avenue" had been renamed "Avenida Cesar Chavez" I was very upset. Certainly he was a great man deserving of such an honor and more, but by taking away the street name, those in power were cancelling out the memory of the old Boyle Heights neighborhood and its founders. Here was yet another piece of history to be quickly disposed and forgotten, more pieces of our heritage added to the list of "What used to be here?" that is steadily growing. Why couldn't they rename one of the numbered streets like 1st Street or 3rd Street? And why is it only renamed "Chavez" until it passes through Chinatown? Beyond Broadway, the street is still named "Sunset Blvd." Interesting. In protest, I choose to call it "Brooklyn Avenue" and I know many other people, who also honor the memory of Cesar Chavez, do the same thing.

I was born in Boyle Heights and grew up on a street that crossed between Brooklyn Avenue and First Street. The old electric street car stopped at the end of my block and took us downtown along Brooklyn Avenue. I remember the delis, the cream sodas, the bakeries with their wonderful New York style cheesecakes & fresh rye bread, and the department stores. They are all gone, replaced with small businesses, kept tightly locked behind shuttered doors and chains at night. One of the last remaining pieces of the old neighborhood was the street named Brooklyn. It broke my heart when its name was gone.

Reading the story about the "English only" sign got me thinking. (Oh no, here she goes!) First, I was angry at his lack of compassion for the people in his neighborhood who, like his own family, entered the United States as immigrants. Then I felt sorry for him, because I understand how it feels to see your neighborhood change so drastically. Finally, although I disagree with the "English only" sign, he has the right as an American to express himself, however cruel and hurtful he may sound. No matter how much he wants to keep them foreigners out. And his customers, though they may be Mexican, Canadian, Vietnamese, or from some other place, have the right to patronize his cheesesteak stand---or not.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Ube Doobee Doo Purple Yam Mousse

La Vida Dulce sometimes gets carried away with a new product discovery. Thanks to Annie, we have the ube, pronounced ooh-beh, the Filipino purple yam delicacy. The Hawaiian Market in San Gabriel carries ube jam. It also is available in Filipino markets in a powdered form. Taste? Think of a delicate baked sweet potato with a smoother texture, not at all stringy, and no sugar or marshmallows added. Color? A beautiful mix of violet and lavender, the natural color of the ube is amazing. It is used in ice creams, cakes, frostings, and a little goes a long way. This mousse formula is such a pretty lavender shade, Annie graciously gave me a sample of cooked ube, a packet of the powdered ube, and also a lovely molded pudding. They are delicious. So I decided to have some fun and made an ube mousse filling for a jelly roll cake. I am still working out the ube cake formula, having tried a couple of times with less than stellar results. Ube deserves the very best. But this ube mousse filling, oh wow, it makes a beautiful dessert all on its own. The cake formula will be posted later. Ube doobee doo!

Ube Purple Yam Mousse - adapted from Chocolatier Recipe Collection
by Lisa Morley
2 envelopes unflavored gelatin
4 oz. water
1 jar ube jam
2.5 oz. by weight or 1/2 cup sifted confectioner's sugar* see note
16 oz. manufacturing or heavy whipping cream
4 oz. sour cream
Place mixer bowl and beater/whip attachment in freezer. Sift confectioner's sugar onto a sheet of waxed paper and set aside. In a heat-proof cup add water and sprinkle gelatin, let stand for 5 min. to soften. Place cup into a saucepan with enough water to come halfway up the side of the cup. Heat gelatin in hot, not simmering water. Stir gelatin frequently, 2-3 min., until granules dissolve and becomes clear. Remove from heat, leave in hot water to keep warm until ready to use. In a medium bowl combine ube jam and gelatin, whisk till blended. Remove bowl and whip from freezer and beat heavy cream, sour cream on low speed, slowly adding the confectioner's sugar to combine. Look out, don't increase the speed or the sugar will fly everywhere. When incorporated, increase mixer speed and beat until cream mixture forms soft peaks. Fold 1/3 of the whipped cream into the ube to lighten. Gently fold into remaining cream. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 3 hours. *Note: Depending upon the sweetness of the ube, add up to another 2.5 oz or 1/2 cup confectioner's sugar to cream if desired.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

A Moment of Zen at the Checkout Line

I had to get moving quickly. Michael was getting ready for work and we were completely out of any coffee products in the house. Unthinkable! No instant espresso stuff I use for baking, no sample packs, no gift bag-size gourmet ground, no whole beans, not even a spare hotel packet. NADA! So I rushed out to Ralphs, and of course at 7am, there is only one checkout line. I despise that store for so many reasons, but since it is the only market within miles, and I don't count the 7-11 located 5 blocks away, Ralphs was my only choice. They had just opened a second line, and I followed the man in front of me. Then a veteran bimbolina cut in line, black roots growing out of her blonde-streaked dye job, age inappropriate clothing Britney Spears would never wear, yammering on her cell-phone, at the same time giving me her whiny story about being in line before him, blah-blah-blah, the blithering went on & on. "Oh go ahead!" She still didn't shut up. I glanced over at the tabloid rack, looking for something to take my mind off the first rude act of the day. There it was, above the InStyle, a small section of paperbacks and stuck in the middle, a Nick Hornby book! At Ralphs? I already read that one, but the memory of how much I enjoyed it made me smile. Amazing. Small favors, little wonders, and rare sightings --- what sweet miracles we are blessed with, they are all around us if we look for them.
Total La Vida Dulce!

Sunday, June 04, 2006


It only takes a minute. Friday night I went to take a shower, and by the time I got dressed, Nikk our 17-year-old Pomeranian was gone. I called out to him, but he wasn't on the patio. Then I saw the back gate was left wide open. He's gotten out of the yard before, but usually comes right back and sits on the front porch, waiting for someone to let him in. And he was going to get his doggy bath, so his collar was off. I went looking for him all over the neighborhood, calling his name and singing his puppy song. All the animals, even the iguana, have their own baby songs, the same as my kids. Michael hates it when I do that. So there I am, my hair already looking like "Tondaleo" and going up and down the street, "Cause my mudder love me so much." Nobody had seen Nikk and it was getting dark. But Nikk is very old, suffering from severe arthritis, incontinence, going blind in one eye, and losing his hearing. All last week he hardly touched his food and wasn't drinking much water. Not much chance of finding him, but we shall when I call the animal control people. Saturday we got his dog license renewal in the mail. I thought of all the times he sat by the kids when they were sick, when he tried to protect us from the pizza delivery man, and of all his little playful tricks. It is sad to think of him wandering all alone out there, and with the terrible heat wave, no water. I can only hope if somebody has him tonight, he's getting some puppy love.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Up in Smoke for the PBE Challenge

It is confirmed, I am totally obsessed with BBQ. Like St. Louis Ribs, pulled pork, brisket, sausages, sauces, mops, and rubs. And all the many regional cooking and seasoning methods. On the verge of mortal sin, I covet the BBQ smokers on websites like the Smoke Ring, Weber, and Barbecues Galore. I dream of Memphis In May. Some of those guys are hardcore BBQ-ers. Oh man, their smokers are so awesome.

When we got set up for our Memorial Day BBQ, everything was ready as far as the food. A glorious feast was going to be prepared, everything prepped. Then reality set in. No gas in the propane tank! Oh no! So we improvised and got the pork into the oven early in the morning. Add to this the arrival of a few surprise guests. That meant no leftover potato salad. That was OK, I really don't need an extra 42 pounds tacked on to my backside. But the real shock was having no camera for the photos!

I thought we had an extra throwaway camera in the house. Darn it, forgot I used it on exterior photos of a French restaurant that went out of business. (Good location shots!) Oh well. Gotta get a digital camera, no more throwaways from Rite Aid. In culinary school I used the throwaway cameras, too many thefts. Took the film to Rite Aid and I'd order an extra photo CD to download pix and make copies for my portfolio. Plus I figured if "Julie/Julia" could write about her food adventures without photos, I could do the same. Makes sense, she got a book deal, right? Not! What good is a food blog without real photos of the food?

So before La Vida Dulce gets any more obesessed with all things BBQ, we are off to search for a low priced, decent enough digital camera. One that La Vida Dulce can use without a degree in engineering. And a new set of eyeglasses. Forget about the electric smokers for now (sigh!), and let's check out Fry's or Rite-Aid or the swap meet this weekend. Even Crazy Gideon in downtown L.A. is a possibility. So instead of those big ass whole hog smokers they haul all over creation on a flatbed trailer, maybe I can put together a little smoker like the one Alton Brown did, with a terra cotta clay pot, a BBQ grill rack and a hot plate! Works for him, so why not?