November 29, 2007


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Chocolate-Cherry Fruitcake sans nuts
David Lebovitz is always and inspiration to bake something including the most ridiculed and reviled (at least here in the US) of all Christmas season staples: the fruitcake. The on-going joke that somewhere there's a fruitcake being endlessly passed on from one person to another from generation to generation since the first fruitcake was baked could be true because people don't want to throw food away and "re-gift" the dreaded fruitcake. I remember getting one such cake many years ago, it came in a Christmas gift basket with all those beer sausages and cheeses. I felt so guilty when I threw the fruitcake away. Every year there is a fruitcake tossing contest because these people either really hate fruitcakes, have nothing better to do, or just love using their catapults. I can understand why they don't like fruitcake. The first US-made fruitcake we had was in my parents-in-law's house in Texas (the cake was probably a gift). We all hated it. It was bone dry, studded with tasteless hard fruits and nuts, with no cake (flour) visible, cloyingly sweet, and no hint of liquor either. My MIL used to make the darkest, moistest, most delicious will-make-you-tipsy fruitcakes in Manila and the US fruitcakes were a big disappointment.

Anyway, I made the traditional fruitcakes which I will inject regularly with brandy for the next 3 weeks and half a recipe of David's Chocolate-Cherry Fruitcake which was a semi-disaster because I did not add the nuts. I had the recipe in front of me but forgot the nuts were still in the toaster oven when I started mixing and spooned the batter into the pans without realizing the nuts were missing. Oh well, the cake is still very good and will bake another batch a week before Christmas. I sprinkled some of the toasted nuts on top of the sliced cake for the crunch and flavor.


3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon ground cloves
½ tsp allspice
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups snipped whole dates
1 cup dried currants or sultanas
½ cup chopped red candied cherries
½ cup chopped green candied cherries
½ cup candied pineapple
¾ cup candied citron
¼ cup candied lemon peels
¼ cup candied orange peels
¼ cup chopped candied ginger
1 cup chopped walnuts or almonds
1 cup soft butter
1½ cups dark brown sugar
4 eggs
¾ cup orange juice
¼ cup brandy plus more for brushing
zest of 1 large orange
  • Pre-heat oven to 300°F.
  • Grease three 8 x 4 x 2-inch loaf pans, line with parchment paper, grease paper, set aside.
  • In a medium bowl, mix fruits and nuts with ¼ cup flour, set aside. Sift the rest of the flour with the spices, salt, and baking powder in a large bowl. Add sugar, butter, eggs, juice, brandy and zest. Mix for 2 to 3 minutes. With a large spatula mix in the fruits and nuts. Spoon into the prepared pans, smooth top. Bake for 2 hours or until cake test done (I use a small wooden skewer). Place on wire racks and let cool in pans thoroughly. Remove from pans and peel off paper. Brush all over with brandy and wrap in plastic film. Keep in a freezer gallon bag in the refrigerator. Moisten loaves with brandy every 4 days for 3 weeks before serving.

November 27, 2007

Tortellini And Grapes Salad


We have tons of leftover roast turkey because we eat like birds and it takes a looong time for us to finish a whole turkey. I kept about a quarter in the freezer and made some into quesadillas the day after Thanksgiving but there is still plenty of white meat in the fridge. The leftover seems to be growing instead of getting smaller. Of course we can't have turkey everyday but today I am forcing everyone to eat at least a slice with the salad I made today, Tortellini and Grapes. This salad reminds me of the Waldorf Astoria salad that has apples and walnuts and usually served with roasted chicken breast, the difference is the addition of pasta with cheese filling. I changed the dressing a little by adding 2 tablespoons of honey mustard and used roasted pumpkin seeds instead of walnuts. At first I thought it would be unusual to combine cheese and sweetish dressing but to my surprise I liked it a lot. It's very good with the roast turkey or just by itself as a vegetarian fare.

Tortellini And Grapes Salad
8 ounces tortellini with cheese or spinach, prepared according to package directions and chilled
2 cups red seedless grapes
¾ cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon honey
2 tablespoonss honey mustard
½ teaspoon sea salt
½ cup toasted walnuts
1 teaspoon minced shallot, optional
  • Mix mayonnaise, honey, honey mustard, salt, and shallot. Add the rest of the ingredients and toss gently. Chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours before serving.

November 26, 2007

Movies on DVD Review

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My review of a 1981 French art-pop and 2 animated movies on DVD

Once again I find myself in the minority who did not like this much-loved animated movie about a rat who loves to cook gourmet food. My question to Disney: WHY A RAT? The symbol of all things foul and putrid: bubonic plague, sewers, garbage, and all sorts of diseases associated with it being dirty. AND WHY A MOVIE ABOUT COOKING WITH A RAT? Unlike cute cartoon drawn mice Mickey and Minnie the rats in this movie are so life-like with their gray fur and pink noses, paws and tails. Eww, eww, eww, yuck! The characters and script did not appeal to me at all. I did not laugh the entire time I was watching because all the characters are repulsive to me specially the young man, Alfredo Linguini, who is so painfully irritating and repetitive. Not a single character is adorable but rather it's full of cliched and overused personalities: the angry strong chick, arrogant critic voiced by a British actor, and the dwarf sinister dark skinned thin mustachioed villain again voiced by a British actor. And I really hated the first 10 - 15 minutes with the crazy woman shooting and destroying her own house. Not. Funny. I was wishing she would accidentally shoot herself or the chandelier would fall on her. There was very little cooking shown so what is the point. The ending was so disgusting with the rats having their own dining room at a mezzanine floor overlooking the main dining room. I do not like to see RATS that look like real rats and not cartoon rats in the same restaurant in a cartoon, ick!

I have enjoyed the first 2 Shrek movies and I was not totally disappointed with this installment. It is far from flawless, some of the jokes are a little too gross a la Austin Powers but I still liked the movie. Who can resist Puss, he's so cute. The High School scene is a little bit corny, I must admit, but tolerable. Although the movie is a little bit crowded with so many new characters, I love the addition of Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Rapunzel, and Belle. What can I say, the animation and soundtrack are superb. Paul McCartney's Live and Let Die during the king's pond funeral and the women charging to rescue Shrek with Heart's Barracuda as background music are excellent choices and made me smile. Highly recommended if you don't mind a few flatulence gags.

I am wondering why I have never heard of this 1981 French movie before it appeared in our Netflix recommendation corner. It is such a gem, I love love love it. It has everything I like: comedy, action, suspense, fantasy, romance, bad guys, weird people, fantastic chase scene, and operatic aria.
This is not your average boy meets girl in the romantic city of Paris. It's much more than that. The male lead, a 19-year old postal courier Jules, is in love with an American soprano, the Diva of the title, who in her entire career refuses to be recorded. During her latest recital he recorded her with his expensive recording equipment so he can listen to her whenever he likes which is every time he is home. He managed to steal the dress the Diva wore at the recital, brought it home where there is a large poster of her, and holding the dress while listening to the illegal recording. I know, it seems creepy but I didn't see it in that sense, I can't explain why. Now come the bad guys, 2 sets of them: the hired thugs working for the corrupt Police Chief, and the Taiwanese businessmen who also want to have a bootleg recording of the Diva. One of the thugs is an awl wielding psycho, called Le curé, played by rubber-faced (or to Filipinos mukhasim) Dominic Pinon of Amelie, The City of Lost Children, Delicatessen, A Very Long Engagement, etc. He has very few lines which always start with I DON'T, car garages, Beethoven, elevators, etc. Jules also befriended the oddest couple in Paris. He is a 30-something male (who is also a master criminal or thief) and his female companion, a young girl, Alba, whose preoccupation is thievery, she stole a music record using photos of herself naked or in sexy poses to distract the store clerk. They live in a very large unfurnished loft apartment with just cushions to sit on, hammocks for beds, and a bathtub on one side of the apartment. But the guy is a gourmet of sorts, teaching Jules the art of making a baguette sandwich, i.e., using a knife that has the precise thinness, how much butter to spread, and so on. This weird couple helped Jules get rid of the 2 sets of villains all at once. All the characters, except the Diva who only has interaction with Jules, crossed paths when the mistress of the police chief placed an incriminating recording she made in Jules' delivery bag. I like the chase sequence which IMHO is second only to Bullitt's. Jules was riding a friend's motorbike going up and down stairs, in and out of the Metro, in and out of the train, the poor policeman chasing him was no match. Spoiler Alert: To make the story short, all the bad guys perished, he became friends with the diva (she sang Bach/Gounoud's Ave Maria and an aria from an Italian opera called The Wally) who forgave him for the recording agreeing to listen to it. I so love this very stylish plot driven movie that I watched it again the very next day.

November 23, 2007

French Toast Bites

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french toast bites with maple caramel sauce

There's always leftover bread in my house after the holidays and the perfect way to use them is making them into French toast (pain perdu) for breakfast or brunch. Old baguette, brioche, or challah is my bread of choice because not only are they delicious they also don't become soggy. This time I made them into small bites with maple caramel sauce and different toppings.
BTW, the Japanese duo Cibo Matto has a song Le Pain Perdu, about getting out (of a relationship) before it gets stale, check out the lyrics. I actually got the idea of making pain perdu when this song came on while I was preparing the turkey stuffing.:-)

Le Pain Perdu Lyrics

French Toast Squares
1 egg, well beaten
1 tablespoon sugar
4 tablespoon flour
½ cup whole milk
2 cups 1-inch cubed day old baguette or brioche
powdered sugar, optional
  • Mix egg, sugar, flour, and milk. Soak bread for 10 minutes. Heat a skillet, add 2 T butter and fry bread until golden brown and crisp. Serve with syrup and fruits of your choice or top with Nutella, fruit preserves, or sweetened heavy cream. Sprinkle with powdered sugar, if desired.

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