5.31.2011

Summer Berry Scones


It'll be June tomorrow. Finally! I've been holding this recipe back until fresh fruit abounds in our markets. How fortunate we are in South Florida to have fresh fruit all year; we are spoiled. Although most of the larger markets nationwide now carry fresh fruit year round, it can be pricey.  But hopefully, you now have berries available whether at your grocery or farmer's market and you can try these fabulous scones. I really do think it's important to use fresh, not frozen, berries.

I had family visiting recently and they love fresh berries for breakfast so I thought it would be fun to spoil them with these scones. I was worried they'd be soggy what with the raspberries, certainly not the driest fruit, but they weren't. As long as you cool them on a rack, the bottoms hold up perfectly. I love the raspberry jam in them and those raspberry and almond flavors marry beautifully. My favorite sweet mini muffins have raspberry jam and almond paste in them. 

The recipes in Once Upon a Tart are practically no fail and the only additional advice I would add to this recipe is when mixing the dry and wet ingredients, use your best kitchen tool: your hands. It's rather a stiff dough and it's hard to mix with a spoon. However, I did use a big spoon for mixing in the berries. Very. Carefully.


Wouldn't this be wonderful to use for a fruit shortcake? Slice the scone in half and put some berries in the middle and top with whipped cream. Another bonus: I had some left over and put them in the freezer. A week ago, I thawed them in the fridge overnight and stuck them in a convection oven the next morning. They were still perfect.


Summer Berry Scones

From Once Upon a Tart by Frank Mentesana and Jerome Audureau
 
 

Ingredients:
4 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup sugar
2 1/2 sticks (20 tablespoons) cold unsalted butter, diced small
2 large eggs
3/4 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste (or 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract)
1 1/2 teaspoons almond extract
1 tablespoon raspberry preserves
1/2 cup dried currants
3/4 cup blueberries, rinsed and dried on paper towels
2/3 cup raspberries, rinsed and dried on paper towels


Method:
Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 400. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a food processor, pulse the flour, baking powder, soda, salt and sugar to mix. Add the butter all at one time. Run the processor for 15 seconds. You want the mixture to look grainy like moist crumbs and with no chunks of butter. Pulse if you need to (I didn't)but don't overwork the dough.
Dump the crumbs in a big bowl. Whisk the eggs, add the buttermilk, extracts, preserves and currants. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and stir until there is no flour visable. I did this with my hands.
Add the berries and mix gently, trying not to break them up anymore than necessary.
Using your hands or a 1/2 cup measure, scoop the batter onto the parchment paper, leaving 2 inches in between scones.
Place the baking sheet in the center of the oven and bake 20-25 minutes, until they are golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Place baking sheet on a wire rack to cool for a couple moments, then transfer the scones to to the rack. Makes 12 scones.

5.28.2011

Paris: Simply Irresistible


Anita at Castles, Crowns and Cottages is having a party. She's not only tres chic but a hostess extraordinaire. You'll love her parties....they are enchanting and imaginative. You won't want to miss this one, so go on over today and see who's invited and what fun you'll have with just a click or two. We're all going to Paris. And here's Anita's adorable button:


Isn't she talented? Such a happy drawing!

What could I possibly contribute that would be interesting to all of you AND Anita's stellar list of guests? Photos taken on our last trip to Paris, of course. Brought to you by four of us who think Paris is irresistible: daughter Tracy, son David, granddaughter Kensy and me. (Kensy's parents were not with us.)



Amusez-vous!


My granddaughter Kensy on arrival in Paris.
Simply irresistible!

Our funky hotel on the West Bank

Sacre Coeur: Ooo la la....those stairs!

Arc de Triomphe

So irresistible: Tuileries

Now where else would we lunch, my dears?

Musée du Louvre

Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris

So charming: Jardin des Tuileries


Quel plaisir!


My favorite: Musée d'Orsay

The Obelisk at  Place de la Concorde

The irresistible Seine and Pont Royal 


Hope you had almost as much fun as we did!
Paris IS irresistible.....au revoir!

5.24.2011

Three Simple Non-Salads


Very rarely do I eat lunch out. And because I've been watching my weight, I've been eating a lettuce-based salad for lunch every day for months. B.O.R.I.N.G. Yes, yes, I know it's good for me AND it fills me up. I try to make them as interesting as possible by making my salads with endive and all the veggies I can find in the fridge, along with chicken or shrimp shredded on top. But still....I'm really getting sick of it and I confess: salads that are mostly lettuce, any kind lettuce, are not high on my preferred lunch list. I'd rather be eating non-salad salads or salads with little or no lettuce. Am I the only one?


When I eat out, I order quiche, caprese salad (It may say salad, but it really isn't.), chicken salad (ditto) or an omelet.  At home, if a lunch takes too much time to make or if the stove or oven has to be turned on, forget it. Not worth it for one person.
Now that summer is nearly here,  I thought I'd share three of my favorite non-salads that are easy and quick to make and perfect for 1 or 2 people. Not a lettuce leaf in sight. :) I bet all of you have your own favorite "non-salads" and I'd love to hear about them. 


The first I saw many years ago in one of
Lee Bailey's cookbooks. He always has such clever ideas for entertaining and this one was for a company lunch. I changed it a bit and he served it with chicken, which I never do, but if you want, you could add a couple slices of chicken or turkey. If you insist, you can also add a lettuce cup under the cottage cheese. For presentation purposes only, of course! 
I can't even remember what he called it, if anything, because it was on a page full of quick lunch ideas, so I just named it:


Cottage Cheese Salad



Ingredients:
1 cup small curd cottage cheese (lo-fat)
1 tablespoon chives
3 radishes, sliced
1 red pepper, diced
2 hard boiled eggs, sliced
1 tomato, quartered
1/2 cup toasted pecans, roughly chopped
freshly ground black pepper

seasoning salt (I use Lawry's)

Method:

Mix cottage cheese with radishes, chives and red pepper. Top with pecans and serve with sliced tomatoes and hard boiled eggs. Season all with Lawry's.

                                             ***********************************************************


The second non-salad is something I invented a long time ago, although it wouldn't surprise  me to read in the comments that
you make something like this often. I'm not much of a fan of pasta lunches, mainly because you have to cook the pasta and I'm usually in too big a hurry. But if the kids are here, this is an easy one to make. I usually use whole wheat pasta but the only photo I found in my file was one with regular pasta. Whole wheat gives it such a lovely nutty flavor, that I rarely make it any other way. I must have been out of it the one time I thought to dig out the camera. I add any veggies happen to be in the fridge.

It may say cold in the title, but often the pasta is still warm when I mix everything and I actually like it that way. So don't refrigerate it unless you have to.



Cold Pasta Salad



Ingredients:

1/2 box fuselli pasta- regular or whole wheat
1 small can black olives, sliced
5 green onions, finely sliced, white and green
6 to 8 cherry tomatoes, halved
2 radishes diced
carrots, sliced , if desired
1 red pepper, diced
Freshly grated Parmesan
Your favorite vinaigrette

Method:
Cook the pasta, rinse in cold water and drain. Add ingredients, dress with vinaigrette and toss with some fresh Paremsan.

                                                  *******************************************************

The last salad came from my dear friend Nancy. She's not with us any longer and I miss her a lot and think of her often. She invented this herself and ate it frequently. I posted this back when I first started blogging. It's worth reposting.



Nancy's Cauliflower Salad


Ingredients:

1 small head cauliflower, in florets                                      
3 carrots, sliced
3 celery stalks, sliced                                                                                                                   
1/2 cup pimento stuffed green olives, sliced
1/4 cup salad oil
1/4 cup vinegar
seasoning salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Method:
Make a simple vinagrette with the oil, vinegar, salt and pepper. Or use your own favorite vinaigrette. Mix with the other ingredients and chill.

5.21.2011

French Polynesian Adventure II: Huahine



To read Part One of this series, check HERE.

As with so many inter-island flights, we had to return to Tahiti to fly to Huahine. Isn't it amazing how much more time we seem to spend in airports than on the flight itself? But Tahiti is the hub of French Polynesia, so back we went.

As I'm sure you've noticed this trip was more a watersport-oriented than a food-oriented vacation. We're both foodies, no question, but we didn't often have a choice about where we ate. So many of the islands we visited had no outside restaurants, just the resort. And when we did have choices on a couple islands, we always chose funky and unusual rather than ordinary, although I doubt you could call ANY restaurant in these islands ordinary.  :)

Huahine

The flight to Huahine was about half an hour. Upon our arrival, we were surprised to find our trip was not quite over. It appears there's no road to our hotel, so we were driven to the village of Fare to wait for a small shuttle boat for the 10 minute trip to Te Tiare Beach Resort.  The reception building is built on a large dock over the lagoon and it also holds the lobby, restaurant and bar.

It's kind of a fun arrival as it's traditional at Te Tiare for someone to blow a conch horn to welcome the arrival of guests at the reception building.

Huahine's two islands, Huahine Nui (big Huahine) and Huahine Iti (little Huahine) are joined by a small bridge and are enclosed within a protective ring of coral.



Huahine is pronounced Wa-ee-nee by the French and Who-a-hee-nay by everyone else.
This island is one of the three most important Polynesian archaeological sites. Ancient chiefs built Maraes (a communal or sacred place which serves religious and social purposes) which have been restored and are fascinating to visit with an informed guide. We took a tour there which I will tell you about later. It was rather like an outdoor museum. Known as the Garden Isle, Huahine is one of the last places in the Society Islands to be touched by tourism. France did not annex Huahine more than 50 years after Tahiti and the 5500 residents are very independent.

My daughter and I were both enchanted the minute we landed. Even after we had visited all the islands, we both agreed Huahine was our favorite. A difficult feeling to describe and there were probably many reasons for it. For one thing, by this time we were well into "island time", an expression often used in our family to describe the laid back pace and pleasure one finds on most small islands in the Caribbean (and now I include French Polynesia).  And of course another big plus was we had an over water bungalow here. I mean c'mon. Who isn't going to love this?


We didn't have a fish-viewing glass panel in the floor, but the bungalow was very comfortable and we had a huge L-shaped deck, half of it under the shade of a thatched roof. There were privacy screens so your neighbors couldn't see you. Luggage and anything else you needed was brought by bicycle out onto the dock.


 I was in heaven because after Tracy left for her dives each day, I would just drop off the side of the bungalow into the water and snorkel to my heart's content.


As far as the diving was concerned, Tracy loved it. Huahine is still fairly unknown as a dive destination, so the waters are not overrun by humans. A barrier reef surrounds the island and she saw rays, sharks, turtles as well as a variety of fish and coral. Quoting my daughter: "I remember one really exquisite dive where you could see all the shelves going deeper and deeper into the sea, the water was so clear."

On Huahine we met and made friends with several couples we saw intermittently throughout the rest of our trip. It turns out many honeymooners board a sailboat at some point during their trip, see some of the other islands and then we would run into them later on another island or at an airport making a transfer. This socializing with other guests made Huahine much more fun for both of us, even though we were still the only unattached women. And finally, here, not everyone was on a honeymoon. Still, we saw very few children. I imagine this is rather an expensive vacation to include entire families. There were lots of Americans and British here, so everyone was comfortable with language.

One thing I keep forgetting to mention: when we arrived at each island, we were greeted and given a shell lei. There were floral leis for sale on each island as well. We both still have our collections of shell leis as they hold so many memories. I hang my collection over a folding screen in the bedroom, but have worn some of them on a couple occasions.



There was some shopping in the reception area, not much. We both loved a jewelry store that carried the most lovely sea urchin spine necklaces. We both bought several.




 We took time out from diving and snorkeling one afternoon to take a tour and learn something of the island's history. We took a boat back over to Fare and picked up a tour guide. 
Fare is Huahine's main village. There's not a lot to do, but that's part of its charm. The guide took us around the huge network of restored ancient royal sites, the Maeva archeological village. The royal village of Maeva, is considered to be one of the most important archaeological areas in all of Oceania. Traditionally, Maeva was the seat of royal power for all of Huahine. Mata'ire'a Hill - located just above the village of Maeva, is home to more than 200 stone structures, including maraes, agricultural terraces, house foundations, fortification walls and burial platforms.



We were taken next to a vanilla bean plantation. I was fascinated and amazed to discover that it takes between 18 months and three years from planting a cutting of the vine till the plant produces flowers. They bloom and die within a few hours unless they are pollinated by hand. The beans (which are actually seed-pods) must stay on the vine for nine months before being harvested. No wonder vanilla beans are so expensive. Of course, we brought some home with us. Mine came in a sweet little bamboo cylinder.

And to cap off the afternoon,  n
ear the village of Faie, on the opposite coast from Fare, we were taken to see Huahine's sacred eels. These freshwater eels measure three to five ft. in length and jump out of the water to be hand-fed by locals who stop by with cans of mackerel. No, I didn't do it. Ick. The eels are considered sacred because of local mythology; the legend states that the first eel to crawl across the mountain married a beautiful maiden from Mataiea, Tahiti -- and that present day inhabitants descended from the unlikely couple. Mainly they were gross, but you couldn't help but be fascinated.


 Another afternoon, we got someone to take us in a boat to a black pearl farm. 
It was out on stilts in the water. You can see it in the background on the right in the photo.

Black pearls mean the marine cultured pearls produced from the black lip pearl oyster shell and as a result, there are lots of oyster shells used in decoration all throughout the islands. Baby oysters are called spat. The pearl farmer collects the spats on artifical collectors in the lagoon.   They are reared on underwater lines for more than three years  when they reach maturity. We each bought one. They weren't cheap...as I recall we paid well over $100 for each of them.


Te Tiare had a really cute bar, which seems to be common around these islands, and the food was excellent. In fact, I can't say enough about what wonderful friendly service we were given at Te Tiare.


There was yet another South Seas Island review here and I only mention it because the women wore coconut halves as bras. Tracy was intrigued, asked one of the dancers about it later and she sent her to a guy on the beach who made one for her. Trust me when I tell you it was most uncomfortable to wear. :) I believe Tracy still has it someplace. If you look closely, you can see a woman wearing one in the photo below. After looking at the video at the end of the post, it appears they don't wear them anymore. Smart move. If  you look closely in the background of the photo below, you can see the male dancers. Aside from some sort of wrap around their waists, they wore an arrangement of fresh palm fronds tied just below their knees, so the fronds hung down to their ankles. (Sorry the photo is so dark.)  


We were both really sad to leave Huahine, wished we had planned to stay longer, but our next stop was Moorea, which we were both looking forward to.


Amazingly (doesn't everything eventually find its' way to YouTube??) I found some videos of the Polynesian dancers and drummers in Huahine, taken at our resort. The palm fronds on the skirts are real as are the leis. 
Enjoy!









5.18.2011

Palm Beach Orange Ice Cream


I know, it's not quite ice cream season yet and while you might want to wait for summer to serve this, I serve it year round. Of course, I'm a Floridian, but still, ice cream has always been my downfall and Maida Heatter's ice cream recipes are really something special. Even when it's cold down here, I love making her ice cream recipes. Ms. Heatter is best known for her baking and she only has a few recipes for ice cream in each of her cookbooks, so you know when you see one, it's going to be great.


This one is a family favorite. It's so versatile. You can serve it over a fruit salad, but it's lovely all by itself with a bit of fruit around it....or serve it along with a scoop of Maida's vanilla ice cream. The color is a delicate pale orange, it's creamy and what with both the orange AND lemon, it has an intense citrus flavor. I've been making it since the early 80's. The lemon prevents it from being too sweet...gives it kind of a refreshing tang.
Unfortunately, you DO need an ice cream maker, but you were going to get one anyway this summer, weren't you?


Palm Beach Orange Ice Cream

From Maida Heatter's New Book of Great Desserts



Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups milk
Finely grated rind of 2 or 3 oranges
Finely gated rind of 1 or 2 lemons
6 egg yolks
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup light corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
3 cups freshly squeezed and sieved orange juice
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed and sieved lemon juice

Method:
Place the milk in the top of a double boiler over hot water on medium heat. Add the grated rinds and let cook uncovered until small bubbles appear around the edge.

In a small bowl, stir the yolks lightly with a whisk just to mix. Stirring constantly, temper the eggs with half the hot milk mixture. Then add everything back to the top of the double boiler. Add the sugar, syrup and salt.
Stir until mixture thickens slightly and coats the back of a spoon...about 180° on a candy thermometer.
Strain the mixture. This is very important because the rinds will stick to the paddles on your ice cream machine.
Set aside to cool. Add the cream and both juices. Chill in the fridge until very cold and then freeze in your churn, according to directions.

5.13.2011

Almond and Raspberry Friands



First of all, let me introduce you to vanilla bean paste. If you don't have this in your pantry, you should. Vanilla bean paste is much thicker than vanilla extract; it's actually a thin syrup. A bottle of it at Williams Sonoma  is $11. That may sound like a lot, but it isn't. This little bottle goes a long, long way.


Use vanilla bean paste in place of vanilla extract or vanilla beans anytime you want the beans to shine. Cakes, ice cream, frosting, you name it, if the recipe calls for vanilla, this can't help but improve your results. You certainly could use an actual vanilla bean instead of the vanilla bean paste, but it's a bit more pricey and this is so much simpler. Here's the formula: one teaspoon of vanilla bean paste equals one vanilla bean or one teaspoon of vanilla extract.


And I used it in this friand recipe for our end-of-year Garden Club luncheon last week. The recipe is quite similar to one for financiers that I made last year. The word "friand" seems to be used in Australia and New Zealand for a pastry that is based on the French
financier. The difference? Australian and New Zealand friands often utilize flavorings other than vanilla and also use fruit and/or nuts, which the French version does not. They are also baked in oval shapes.

This particular recipe, from Donna Hay magazine, did not call for vanilla (I added it anyway) but did call for raspberries to make them a touch more summery. They also suggested using fluted tins. They aren't too sweet and I love this fluted shape. They were a big hit at the luncheon. Besides, how simple can a recipe be? And all in one bowl too! Sprinkle some powdered sugar on top for the final touch.



Almond and Raspberry Friands

Adapted from  Donna Hay, issue 53




Ingredients:
1 cup almond flour
1 2/3 cup confectioners sugar
3/4 cup all purpose flour
scant 1 teaspoon baking powder, sifted
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
5 egg whites
9 tablespoons butter, melted (plus more softened butter for the tins)
150 g. raspberries (I used 3 berries in each friand)

Method:
Preheat oven to 360. 

Brush softened butter in each of the fluted tart tins and then place in the freezer for a while. Makes it easier to remove the friand.
Place almond flour, sugar, flour, baking powder, egg whites and butter in a bowl and whisk until smooth. Spoon mixture into fluted tart tins, top with raspberries (I pushed them into the batter a bit) and bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden. Makes 12.

5.08.2011

French Polynesia I


My daughter and I often travel in August and a few summers ago, we decided to make one of our dreams come true and visit several islands in French Polynesia. I've been truly lazy about organizing our photos and writing some sort of diary to post, but finally, I'm getting my act together and hope you'll enjoy reading about these lovely islands and the memories of our time there. That's what's important, isn't it? The memories. Hopefully, between my daughter and I, we can remember enough to entertain and inform. :)

So how did we decide which islands to visit? My daughter Tracy is an experienced dive master so rather than take a cruise (which neither of us like much) or a packaged tour, she spoke with some of her experienced dive buddies who had previously made the trip. Between these friends, a lot of research, some travel books and the advice of a travel agent, we decided which islands had the best diving, which we thought most interesting and then made our reservations. In the end, I think we made pretty good choices, but we eventually learned about two islands we should have visited and there were a couple we visited and wished we hadn't...or at least spent less time on them. We visited: Tahiti; Rangiroa; Huahine; Moorea; Bora Bora and Taha'a. The two we should also have included: Raiatea and 
Manihi. 

Doing all the islands in one post would be an extremely tedious read and this one is already too long so I'm going to break it up a bit and do an island at a time over the next month or two. I'll begin with the first two we visited: Tahiti  and Rangiroa. I've written about two the first time because we didn't spend any time to speak of on Tahiti. 

As far as geography is concerned, French Polynesia is comprised of many islands. French Polynesia is a semi-autonomous territory of France with its own assembly, president, budget and laws. France's influence is limited to subsidies, education and security. Most of the islands we visited are part of The Society Islands: Tahiti and Moorea are Iles du Vent (the windward islands); Bora Bora, Huahine and Taha'a are Iles Sous le Vent ( the leeward islands). Rangiroa is part of the Tuamotu Archipelago. And here are a couple maps to help orient yourself.




LA and Tahiti

It all started out with a bad cold. Mine. Don't you hate starting out on a trip feeling rotten? A flight to LA pretty much plugged up my ears and wreaked havoc with my balance. So our one night in LA was rather uncomfortable. We splurged and stayed at
Hotel Bel-Air. Our room was charming and I immediately took a lovely long nap, trusting my ears would clear up by dinner time. That evening, we had arranged to have dinner with some friends of my daughter's at The AOC Wine Bar and Restaurant, a Suzanne Goins restaurant.....and fortunately, my ears cleared up so I felt much better. The restaurant was lovely, the company entertaining and the food delicious....we ordered a variety of things and shared. I highly recommend it.

The next morning we caught our 8 hour flight to Tahiti. Now everyone advised us NOT to bother spending any time on this island. Even the travel agent agreed. They were right.  It was crowded, traffic was terrible and one would have thought we were in any big city anywhere. We had to spend one night there, so we chose the Sheraton (now a Hilton), because it was very close to the airport, our flight to Rangiroa left early and we were warned about morning traffic. The hotel itself was fine for one night, much as you would expect a Sheraton to be. I have no doubt there are other hotels on Tahiti that are lovely, self-contained resorts, but we had limited time and preferred to visit the much smaller islands. There were several pools at this hotel and it was our first experience with "infinity" pools....which are now quite common everywhere.

Tahiti was created from volcano eruptions that occurred over 3 million years agos. It's split into 2 circles; the larger circle is known as Tahiti Nui, while the smaller circle is known as Tahiti Iti. They are connected to each other by a thin narrow isthmus called the Plateau of Taravao. A majority of Tahiti’s population can be found living on Tahiti Nui, near Papeete, the capital of French Polynesia.
Tahiti was proclaimed a colony of France in 1880 although it was not until 1946 that the indigenous Tahitians were legally authorised to be French citizens.  French is the only official language although the Tahitian language (Reo Tahiti) is widely spoken. We had a language problem on just one island, Rangiroa, and it was only a problem for me, as I will explain.

Rangiroa

The next day we began our island journey with a one hour flight to Rangiroa. (Pronounced Rain-GHEE-ro-ah) Let me preface by saying this: practically everyone we met while traveling in French Polynesia was on their honeymoon. We were the odd men women out for the most part. But my daughter and I are good buddies, travel frequently together so we weathered the sultry romance surrounding us, chuckled about it, often commiserated we didn't have partners with us (nor any in sight what with all the honeymooners around), but were grateful to be in these lovely islands. Just sitting and having a drink while watching the sunset was truly amazing. And thankfully, traveling as a single diver didn't give Tracy any difficulties anywhere. 

Rangiroa is the largest atoll in the Tuamotus and the second largest in the world. It's a string of coral encircling a lagoon, looking from the air rather like a giant pearl necklace laid in the waterThe atoll consists of about 415 motus (tiny islets) and sandbars, each no more than three feet in elevation, comprising a total land area of about 170 km. Only two islands, located on the northern end of the atoll, are permanently inhabited. Rangiroa offers some of the best dives in the world, which is why we chose to visit.





We stayed at Hotel Kia Ora (which is about to reopen after undergoing a much-needed refit). About 5 minutes from the airport, the Hotel Kia Ora is set on a beach on the atoll's northern portion, amid a secluded and vast coconut plantation. It's the only hotel on this island. To be honest, we both agreed this was the island we liked the least. It didn't help that after a few days, they fouled up our reservations and we had to move out of our little cottage into tiny room for our two final days. 
There was barely enough room for our luggage. After having enjoyed a cute bungalow, this was an unpleasant ending to our stay. Rangiroa and Bora Bora were the only islands where we didn't have an over-water bungalow. 

The only language spoken on Rangiroa, by both guests AND staff, was French (you may be thinking duhhh, Barbara, but this was the only island on which it happened). Tracy is fluent as she lived in Paris for 6 years, but I'm not. I can speak enough to get by, but any extended conversation is beyond me. There were no other English speaking guests when we were there, which made things a tad quiet for me when Tracy was diving.  Picture this:  an older woman, American, single, sitting alone amid French honeymooners. T
rès drôle, non? :D And there may have been one or two children, but that's all. Good thing I like to read and snorkel! And I was still taking it easy as my cold wasn't completely gone.
The food was quite good, lots of fish and fruit of course, but we were pleasantly surprised with our meals. Which I suppose we should have expected: Rangiroa IS French after all, but let's face it...an atoll. There was an adorable bar with sections of floor in glass so you could see the fish below (another surprise we found to be common nearly everywhere in the islands ) and the bartender was a sweetie.

 One day we rented an open air electric car, although I hesitate to call it a car, to drive around what little of the atoll was passable. We actually came across a woman just off the (only) road who made wonderful pattern-dyed scarves, blouses, bags and cover-ups. Leave it to two women to find someplace to shop on an atoll in the middle of the Pacific. Anyway, she was quite a find and we came home with some lovely things we wear still. One of mine was a cover-up, another was a small wrap that decorates the bottom of a bed and then a larger wrap hangs in the guest bedroom.


Twice a day the tide changes on this atoll and when it does, waves and whirlpools churn through Tiputa Pass and the famous bottlenose dolphins of Rangiroa perform their acrobatics there. While diving, Tracy had seen them and wanted to show me, so we found our way there and sure enough, we saw them frolicking in the waves. For some reason, I didn't take a photo, but found one online that was exactly as we saw it.


That was pretty much it as far as sightseeing is concerned. There's not much to see on an atoll, after all. If you're not a diver and need to be entertained, this island is not for you. Probably why so many honeymooners choose these islands. The most "entertainment" we saw was the ubiquitous South Seas revue. You know, the one where you get called up on the stage to learn to hula. Poor Tracy got dragged up there by a 12 year old boy who was part of the act. She was a good sport, but this type of show was repeated every place we went and we learned to visit the loo when we saw them coming into the audience to find willing suckers participants .

The snorkeling was excellent, which we found to be the case in all the islands. If you are intending to scuba dive, the hotel is ideally located between the 2 lagoon passes. There is a dive operator on the property. My daughter reported that it's mainly shark diving. They went super deep to look for large grey sharks and also silver tip sharks. If you are a diver,  you might like to check the diving situation  HERE.


Enjoy the Rangiroa slideshow! The next island will be Huahine. One of our favorites.
P.S. The photos are ALL of my daughter!


5.03.2011

Dulce de Leche Butterscotch Pudding


Mother's Day usually falls near my Mother's birthday....which was on the 16th. We always combined the two when she was still with us, so I always think of Mother's Day and her birthday in the same breath. Have I ever mentioned her name was May? And that she had a sister June? Naming kids after birth months was quite common back then . And then there was a third sister, named Francis. I always got a chuckle out of that. 



For Mother's Day, I was going to make Mother's 7-up pound cake (which nearly everyone has a recipe for anyway) until I remembered her butterscotch pudding. She made a lot of puddings for dessert but I especially loved her butterscotch pudding; unfortunately, she never wrote the recipe down. Often, I asked her to write down measurements as she cooked, but I must have missed this one. I've never tasted anything like it since. Mother also made a divine butterscotch pudding/sauce, which she layered over a baked meringue and topped it with a thin layer of whipped cream. Killer dessert, calorie-wise, but sheer heaven. And this butterscotch was a bit different than her pudding, thinner and more like a sauce, but not quite as thin or sticky as a sauce for ice cream. Which means I always keep my eyes open when I see butterscotch anything recipes, always hoping. I still haven't found any exact matches and neither has my sister. As I recall, that particular meringue dessert was one of my brother's favorites, too. (Of course Mother also made it with lemon curd, which must have been a treat for my lemon-obsessed sister Sharon, but I still dream of the butterscotch.)

Recently, I came across a couple butterscotch pudding recipes I thought I'd combine and try. The result doesn't taste exactly like Mother's, but it's a lovely pudding. (Back to the drawing board for those butterscotch meringues.) Anyway, I mixed recipes from Flour and The Perfect Finish. You probably all have a recipe for butterscotch pudding, but I've never tried one that adds dulce de leche. Which, BTW, I made in a new way. (See bench notes)  

You can't beat the teacup presentation for Mother's Day! 


Dulce de Leche Butterscotch Pudding




Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups dark brown sugar
4 large egg yolks, room temperature
1/2 cup sifted cornstarch
2 cups half and half
2 cups whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons dulce de leche (see bench notes)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
whipped cream for garnish


Method:
In a saucepan, whisk together the brown sugar, egg yolks and corn starch. This mixture will be very stiff.
In another saucepan, heat the half and half and milk until it just comes to a boil. Remove from heat and whisk this mixture slowly into the brown sugar mixture. Whisk in the dulce de leche. Return to the stove and place a candy thermometer in the pan. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until slightly thickened. (Between 160º and 170º) Do not allow the mixture to boil or go over 180º or it will curdle. 
Remove from heat and divide among teacups or ramekins. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate about 2 hours.
Serve chilled puddings with whipped cream and dulce de leche.

Bench Note: 

I've made dulce de leche boiled in the can and also stovetop. But this time, I tried David Lebovitz's oven method and thought it the easiest, certainly less hands-on. The recipe follows.

Dulce de Leche 

Preheat the oven to 425° F.
Pour one can of sweetened condensed milk into a glass pie plate or shallow baking dish. Stir in a few flecks of sea salt.Set the pie plate within a larger pan, such as a roasting pan, and add hot water until it reaches halfway up the side of the pie plate.Cover the pie plate snugly with aluminum foil and bake for 1 to 1¼ hours. (Check a few times during baking and add more water to the roasting pan as necessary).

Once the Dulce de Leche is nicely browned and caramelized, remove from the oven and let cool. Once cool, whisk until smooth.Store in the refrigerator until ready to serve. Warm gently in a warm water bath or microwave oven before using. 

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