Monday, December 12, 2005

Knitting, meme, and a recipe

First, the knitting. I've been clicking needles merrily (and not so enthusiastically) almost every possible moment for the last few weeks, trying to get Christmas presents finished in time for, oh, say, Christmas. Not doing terribly badly, but I have to get moving if everything is going to get done. Clockwise from upper left: One Skein Wonder in stash yarn of some sort for a wee five year old, plain ol' mistake rib scarf in KnitPicks Decadence, and Twisty Turns from Warp Style in KnitPicks Andean Silk (the color is a gorgeous burgundy that refuses to photograph properly). Also in line are a scarf and hat for Dan. Already finished a scarf+hat set for my sister in law and the hat that goes with the blue scarf, and both the Twisty Turns and One Skein Wonder are pretty far along. I'm switching between projects as I get bored or tired but sticking with things-that-must-be-finished-by-Christmas. And as reward for my dilligence, I got a copy of Knitter's Handbook and some gorgeous Cherry Tree Hill Supersock as birthday gifts this last weekend. Karma, baby!

On to the meme. I was pegged by B'Gina over at Stalking the Waiter and I've really been thrown for a loop. How on earth to narrow down my very favorite foods? It's a bit like picking a favorite child - each has their own special traits that make them unique and wonderful. I'll do my best, though.

So here they are, my Top Ten Favorite Foods (in no particular order):

  • Asparagus - In the Spring, when slender stalks can be had for less than a dollar a pound, I go a little crazy. I have been known to steam a pound, top it with butter and a little salt, and call that dinner. Wonderful, heavenly stuff.
  • Pistachios - Anything with pistachios and I'm instantly addicted. There's something about the flavor, the color, the crunch that pulls me in every time.
  • Fresh, ripe, peaches - I can't think of many things better than a perfectly ripe peach, juices dripping down my arm as I bite into it.
  • Fresh bread - Something about the smell of bread, right out of the oven, and then the taste and feel in your mouth. There's really nothing like it at all.
  • Indian food - All right, I know that's a whole category and not a specific food. But I could eat Indian dishes every day and night for the rest of my life and be blissfully happy. Can't even come close to pinning down anything specific.
  • Rice - I eat rice in some form almost every other day. It's so simple, a perfect foil for almost any other dish, yet satisfying all on it's own.
  • Tea with milk and sugar - One of my favorite small indulgences. Rich, sweet, warm, and the perfect start or end to the day.
  • Steak - There are days when nothing will do except meat, preferably meltingly tender and flavorful.
  • Perfectly scrambled eggs - For me, this means cooked long and slow so the eggs are creamy and almost custard-like. Each bite practically dissolves in my mouth.
  • Toffee - In general, I don't have much of a sweet tooth. I can pass up cookies, cake, just about anything...except toffee. Once I found pistachios covered in toffee and chocolate at Bristol Farms and just about died happy right then and there. Sadly, they don't make them any longer. Though perhaps I should be thankful, since I could not stop eating them AT ALL.
Last, a recipe. I'm working from notes and trying to piece together everything I did, so tamale recipes are going to come one at a time. First, the one sleeper of the night, Tamales Dulces. These were made up as a last minute answer to "what the heck are the small fry going to eat if they don't take to tamales?" I made up a sweet masa, then grabbed a bottle of cajeta (a sweet, thick caramel made from cooking milk for a long, long time) to dollop in the center before steaming. They came out sweet, but not cloying at all, with a rich, warm texture that was hard to put down.

Tamales Dulces

makes approximately 3 dozen small tamales

3 cups masa harina
1 cup lard (Yes, lard. No, it won't taste the same without it.)
2 cups water
1 cup dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
corn husks
cajeta, dulce de leche, or caramel sundae topping (in a pinch)

Soak the corn husks in water for at least two hours before filling the tamales. Drain, then pat dry.

Beat the masa until light and fluffy. Mix the masa harina, water, sugar, salt, and baking powder together, then mix into the lard. Beat again until mixture is light and all ingredients have combined well.

Fill each husk with a small amount (perhaps 1/4 cup) of the sweet masa, then add a spoonful of cajeta in the center. Make sure to enclose the cajeta on all sides with the masa or it will leak as they cook. Steam the tamales for approximately one hour, or until the masa is set. Best served warm.