I, Yi, Yi, Yi, Yi, I Like You Very Much…

2008.Feb.14 Thursday · 2 comments

in Casa SaltShaker, Food & Recipes

 More affectionate than a kiss is a well done hug in someone that you love. Have you ever notice how I can give delicious hugs?”

– Carmen Miranda

Buenos Aires – There was no question in my mind that the event to celebrate last weekend was Carmen Miranda’s 99th birthday. Actress and singer, famous for her elaborate hats, often involving tropical fruit, and a style that was uniquely her own. Born in Portugal, and lived at various points in her life in Brazil and Los Angeles, and a world traveler, I decided that the common thread would be the fruit, and the cuisine would be international.

Red Papaya SaladMy first thought was a nice, traditional, Thai style green papaya salad. But green papayas were not to be found in the market, and as I started thinking of other similar ideas, my eyes chanced upon a Laotian red papaya salad. With a bit of play, as I wanted it a little prettier and more vibrant than the original, we ended up with this delicious take on the dish – which, given that virtually every plate came back licked clean, I have to assume was a hit. The salad itself is a mix of thinly sliced papaya (not too ripe, these were probably just slightly immature, but gave a nice lightly crunchy texture to the salad), blanched green beans, quartered cherry tomatoes, and whole opal basil leaves. The sauce, a coarsely blended mix of dried shrimp, garlic, peanuts, fish sauce, red rice vinegar, and a couple of fresh chilies.

Tropical GazpachoIt was a fairly warm weekend, and I decided on a cold soup – a gazpacho, and something with some tropical flair to it. The “broth” is a pureed mix of really ripe red tomatoes, some mango, fresh chilies, garlic, cilantro, red wine vinegar, and olive oil, salt and pepper. I strained that through a coarse strainer to get out any seeds and skin bits, and then added in a fine dice of pineapple, red and green bell peppers, and cucumbers. Just enough water added to thin out to the consistency that I wanted, then chilled, checked the seasoning (figure on a little more salt after chilling to bring out the flavors more brightly). Really delicious – the chliies and pineapple set each other off nicely (and will be used again for the main course).

Grilled langostinos with banana guacamoleThis is a reprise and refinement of a dish I’ve now made a couple of times. The base is a crushed boiled potato seasoned with butter, milk, salt, and ají amarillo powder (mild Peruvian yellow chilies). Atop that is my banana guacamole – a blend of ripe avocados, banana, lemon juice, cilantro, more yellow chili peppers (fresh), and salt. And perched above are grilled langostinos, or prawns, that spent the day marinating in a mix of olive oil, salt, and smoked paprika. Each version of this dish seems just a touch of improvement, which, of course, is what one hopes for!

Abadejo in pineapple chili sauceOn to the main course, and I’d been thinking about a pineapple chili sauce, not too spicy, and then I started thinking about the fish marinated in passionfruit juice and condensed milk from the previous week’s dinners, and it just seemed a natural match. I used fillets of abadejo, or pollack, cut nice and thick, and enfolded them with the marinade in foil packets, and let them sit for a couple of hours. Then they were baked in the oven, which steams the fish in its own juices and the marinade. That was ceremoniously placed on the plates, and then a cooked down puree of fresh pineapple, and guajillo and de arbol chili powders, garlic, cumin, cloves, coriander, orange juice, olive oil, and apple cider vinegar (all reduced down to about half volume), was spooned over the top, along with a sprinkling of chopped chives, and then digging in.

Carmen Miranda’s Ice Cream SundaeNow, Carmen Miranda died in 1955, so the various postings around the net of her famed ice cream sundae, some of which purport to have been posted by her, herself, are of dubious provenance. That’s not to say she didn’t have a favorite sundae recipe, but given the variations, I’m guessing it’s just various people riffing on the theme of tropical fruits. I decided on a gelato flavored with a touch of espresso and lots of grated fresh orange peel, served on a bed of diced mango and banana, and topped with a hot caramel sauce. Good decision!

So, to Carmen Miranda, wherever you are, a toast, and a Happy Birthday!


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