Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Cherry Muffins

Living in Traverse City, Michigan, I have come under the influence of cherries.  Claiming the title, Cherry Capital, Traverse City is home to the Annual Cherry Festival, an event which draws tourists from all over the world,  as well as the vast cherry orchards  which inspire us locals to invent various uses for the famed fruit, using it for everything from the legendary pies to an additive for ground meat and all things in between.
So, it wasn't too strange when I decided to depart from a heavy dump-muffin recipe from a cereal box  and venture into an ingredient closer to home.
Not at all dense, but very moist and cake-like with the deliciousness of sour cherries, the ones we generally use for the classic cherry pie, these muffins are a great start to the day and are equally as good as an afternoon pick-me-up with a cup of coffee.
Cherry Muffins

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup half-and-half
2 large eggs
2/3 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 stick butter, melted
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1-15 oz can sour cherries, well drained.

Preheat the oven to 375° F.
Grease muffin tins or use paper liners.
Sift flour, baking powder and salt together in a large bowl and set aside.
In a medium bowl, whisk half-and-half, eggs, sugar, butter and extract together.
With a fork, blend the wet ingredients into the flour mixture until just wet. Don't overmix.  There should still be lumps and the batter should not be smooth.  
Gently fold the cherries into the wet ingredients.
Spoon into the muffin tins and bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the muffins comes out dry.
Cool for about 10 minutes in the tins before removing them to a rack to cool
Makes 12.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Brazilian Black Beans (Feijão Preto)

One thing I didn't see much of on my  visits to Brazil were black beans, a key ingredient in Feijãoda, something else I didn't see much of...maybe once at a pay-by-weight buffet.  So I was pleasantly surprised when I got hold of a Brazilian recipe for black beans, one that called for some ingredients that I can't get here, that forces me to use my imagination for substitutions, ends up making the recipe my own. I'm sure my Brazilian friends will notice the replacement right away!
With the beans, I also served rice (my new favorite way to make it thanks to Carlos, my friend in Manaus who gave me a cooking lesson on my last night there) and braised cabbage, a colorful dish that utilizes corn, peas and red sweet peppers to make a dazzling dish,  I will give the recipes for both of those in a later post.

Brazilian Black Beans

1 pound black beans
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup good quality chopped bacon
4 oz diced Polish sausage
1 medium onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste.

Pick over and rinse the beans and put them in a pressure cooker with enough water to cover by 5 inches.  Heat until the weight gently rocks and cook for 15 minutes.  Use cold water to decrease the pressure.  Drain off part of the water leaving about 2 inches covering the cooked beans and mash the contents with a potato masher to thicken up the broth.  Be careful not to mash too much.  You still want most of the beans left whole.
In a skillet, heat the oil and saute the bacon and sausage until cooked through.  Add the onion and garlic and continue cooking until the onion is soft and add the contents to the beans, one cup of water and salt and pepper to taste.
Put the cover on the pressure cooker, bring up to pressure and cook again for another 5 minutes.  Serve with rice.