About a month ago, I posted a photo of this cake I made and a few of you asked for more details – it was a coconut layer cake inspired by the 12-Layer Coconut Cake from the Peninsula Grill in Charleston, South Carolina.
Exactly 12 months ago, as we were sailing down the US east coast, we pulled into Charleston Harbour seeking shelter from bad weather brought on by hurricane Sandy. We ended up staying for 9 days, waiting for a good weather window. The city has much to offer and I loved walking around the historic district, mostly eating my way around! I wrote about our Charleston stay here, of particular interest was the culinary tour during which our group sampled southern specialties in handpicked establishments. Some of the town’s most famous restaurants were also pointed out, notably the Peninsula Grill renowned for its decadent coconut cake. Top choice for local brides, highly rated by the likes of Martha Stewart and the New York Times, the advice from our guide was that even if we had dinner somewhere else, at least save room for dessert and walk to the PG just for the cake! Unfortunately we never managed this ( we were always too full to contemplate dessert anywhere), but I did do some research and found a recipe which I kept in my “to-do-one-day” list. The original recipe from the Peninsula Grill not only calls for an incredible amount of butter, sugar and cream, but also involves more time that one is used to bake a cake (unless you’re a pastry chef, then it’s all in a day’s work). The (dare I say) easier version I stumbled upon, while still very rich, didn’t require as much time and precision to put together.
I have just returned from a week end in Merida, taking my girlfriend Marie Suzanne who is visiting from France. Driven by Terry, who has no interest in this city, but who wanted to come along for the ride anyway, we started with a quick tour of Plaza Grande looking for somewhere to have lunch. We were starving, and on a mission to find authentic yucatecan food. There is no shortage of eating places in the Yucatan capital, from the cheap street side vendors to upmarket white linen-clad tables restaurants. After being accosted by a local, advertising his grandfather’s genuine yucatan restaurant a few bocks “that way”, taken to a Mayan’s artisanal store to see “the best hats”, we escaped to the quietness of X’CATIIC, a mid-range restaurant, overlooking the Plaza in full view of the Cathedral on our left and the City Hall on our right. While we waited for our meals, we watched families, couples strolling in the park, horse drawn carriages waiting for tourists (there were virtually none!), old men playing chess…
What a strange month that was! A mix of celebrations ( Australian Father’s Day, Terry’s birthday, some friends farewell, other friends return…) should have kept me busy in the galley, but strangely enough, it was the lousy weather that forced me indoors.
22 successive days of rain meant hours spent either in the galley, cooking favourites and experimenting with new recipes, or looking for inspiration on the internet. Here are some of my most memorable moments:
– EXPERIMENTING with Baked Cauliflower slices smothered with bacon and vegetables, side of avocado and tomato salad, layered coconut cake, lemon cream cookies
– ALL TIME FAVOURITES with Pan fried chicken and Caesar salad, pizza bar, roast chicken with macaronis
– EATING HEALTHY with Quinoa salad, very raw salad, potato and spinach salad
– MEXICAN COOKING with Pork Verde and black beans, spicy garlic prawns
And just on cue, as a friend came to stay for a few days, the sun came out and actually stayed out for the end of the month. Perfect days to enjoy lounging around in Tulum and sample some of the best Mexican food.
A case of good ingredients, bad dish.
Have you ever picked a recipe thinking it sounds great and the picture looks really appetising? Well I did last week. My teenage son has been bugging me for weeks about including more protein in his diet. He is not only going thru a growing spurt, but decided to embark on a fitness kick and strive for the best abs, shoulders, and pecs a 15 year old can have. I am not complaining, better have a fitness fanatic teenager than a couch potato.
So I grabbed one of the few Men’s Health and Outside magazines we have laying around, and came across a Lentil-Mushroom Burger recipe recommended by an ultramarathon runner, called Scott Jurek. If you’re like me, you probably have never heard of him and are highly unlikely to ever run into him (pun intended!). You see, he holds the record for the most miles run in 24 hours: 165.7. And he’s done it on a vegan diet. I am always looking for new ways to incorporate plant-based foods in our rotation (that’s new lingo to say I try to eat more vegetables!) and under my son’s influence, I find myself thinking not only about the yumminess aspect but also the nutritional value of such foods ( like energy boosting or endurance enhancing). So I was intrigued by Mr Jurek’s claim that “this vegan burger is so delicious, even meat eaters find it satisfying!”.
All the ingredients are favourites of ours, and I happened to have them at hand on the boat: garlic, onions, lentils, mushrooms, walnuts, flaxseeds, breadcrumbs, Dijon mustard and spinach…I do feel like I am running a floating market sometimes! The recipe has you cooking the lentils till soft, finely chopping, mixing and sauteeing the vegetables, combine everything together, forming patties and grilling them as you would a hamburger. Sounded and looked perfect.
September is Latin American month in our house (oops, on our boat, rather).
We’re going along with the local mood, as September is Patriotic month in Mexico. The big day was Sept 16, Mexico’s Independence Day with fiestas organised everywhere! All shops and houses were decorated with flags and balloons, Playa del Carmen had crowds gathered down the Plaza, not sure if they had fireworks, with all the pouring rain, but that would not have stopped the Mexicans having fun. Even Anne got involved at school, and asked me to buy her some red-white-green earrings for the occasion. The supermarkets were brimming with specials on Mexican food products: tortillas, tomatoes, avocadoes, chili sauces, rice, beans, spices, sugar… heavily hinting that putting on a traditional feast was part of the celebrations (let’s not forget the Corona’s specials too: buy a 6 pack, get another for ½ price!).
I also happen to be writing about Cuba in our other blog, so my head is full of images of roast pork, black bean soup, and pina coladas. Not surprisingly, all this has influenced my cooking lately, and I have found myself trying to either recreate Cuban dishes or experiment with Mexican ones. So far, I have had success with two: black beans and Pork Verde.