I cannot believe it is the first week of August. Like, how did this happen? Last time I was here I was in Chicago writing about duvalin paletas from the floor of my friend’s apartment, doing a bad a job of typing quietly so my other friend who was lying next to me could sleep….
I cannot believe it is the first week of August. Like, how did this happen? Last time I was here I was in Chicago writing about duvalin paletas from the floor of my friend’s apartment, doing a bad a job of typing quietly so my other friend who was lying next to me could sleep.
Since then I came home, worked on the house, had my mom visit, when to DC for a weekend and am back home again. Although it is summer and I technically don’t have to work, my days have been filled with measuring rooms for furniture, contacting handymen and contractors to repair things, gardening, and otherwise becoming a full fledged home owner by googling things like- small red bug in house, will it eat my house? (The answer is, No).
Although this summer has been kind of hectic there is one constant and its recreating this berry spinach salad that I fell in love with last summer.
It all started one morning in a small coffee shop in Greenfield, MA. John and I had traveled to Western Mass, one of our favorite places in the world, for a church conference, and we had stayed at a nearby airbnb for the night. The next morning, a full near our airbnb. A few steps inside and one cursory glance at the menu later, I knew that this coffee shop was good choice.
We ate delicious waffles, pastries and eggs that morning but this breakfast salad was our favorite. Yes, salad for breakfast is a thing! The salad was a light and citrusy topped with a poached egg, bacon and a piece of toast, it was subtly flavored, light but filling and most importantly-delicious! The vinaigrette in particular stood as out citrusy and refreshing, I knew that there was a special ingredient in the vinaigrette and when I asked what kind of dressing ot was, I was informed that it was a basil lemon vinaigrette.
I came home and immediately set out to recreate the salad dressing. I blended olive oil, lemon juice and basil with a dash of salt and pepper into a green vinaigrette and I was amazed by the simple, yet delicious vinaigrette that flowed out from my blender. Since then, I’ve become more adventurous, making the lemon and olive oil vinaigrette and just tossing the basil, cut into a fine chiffonade, into the dressing without blending. Sometimes I add chives, or chive blossoms and pink peppercorns.
This dressing recipe has proven to brighten up any summer salad and always surprises me with its simplicity and deliciousness. The dressing can also be salty or savory depending on how much sugar you add which means that this simple dressing makes a weekly appearance in my kitchen.
The salad recipe that I am sharing with you today comes with….. A salad wheel! I’ve had the idea for a salad wheel like this for a while and though this one started as more of a spring/early summer salad wheel, as this post had gotten delayed I’ve added a few more summer veggies into the mix since it’s now July. I loved water coloring this wheel and currently have it on my kitchen wall as decoration.
Although these days throwing together a good salad is a breeze, for a long time I was intimidated by salads. These questions overwhelmed me: Should I go salty, or savory? Which greens should I use? Should I add protein? And most importantly- will these ingredients go well together?
These days, I tend to make recipes based on loose formulas rather than strict recipes and this salad wheel is just that. A seasonal green, with a fruity touch, a savory veggie, a nutty crunch and a plant or dairy based creaminess yields an amazing salad 9 out of 10 times. Check out the salad wheel below. I hope it helps you in your journey to become a salad master.
The Berry Spinach salad pictured above is incredibly simple and follows the salad wheel. We have a crunchy green, some walnuts, local feta cheese, a pint of strawberries from the farmers market and my lemon basil vinaigrette. It is simple, fruity, and delicious!
Let me know if you make this berry delicious salad with a basil vinaigrette or if you end up using the salad wheel. Would you like a printable PDF?
Yields: 1 salad and 1 cup of dressing
Prep time: 10 minutes
Berry Spinach Salad:
1 big bunch of spinach, washed and chopped into bite size pieces
1 pint of strawberries, washed and cut into small pieces
1 cucumber, washed, peeled, and cut into thin rounds
½ cup of walnuts, bonus points if you candy them
⅓ cup of crumbled feta or goat cheese
Basil Lemon Vinaigrette:
⅓ cup of fresh lemon juice
⅓ cup of olive oil
One handful of basil leaves
1 teaspoon of sugar
½ teaspoon of salt
½ teaspoon of pepper
- For the dressing, combine all ingredients in a blender and blitz until uniform in consistency.
- Toss over the salad of your choice. In my case the salad above.
I am in Chicago this weekend to visit college friends and the thing I was most looking forward to, besides spending time with said friends, was eating Mexican food in Chicago! We went into the city this morning and ate churros and chocolate at Xoco, took an architecture boat tour, saw the Bean, visited the aquarium, walked next to the river, snuck into the ladies’ room of the John Hancock Tower, and ended the night with dinner at The Purple Pig. It was a full and delicious day!
One of my favorite parts of the day was eating at Xoco and trying some of Rick Bayless’s inventive Mexican recipes. I particularly loved a pepita spread, officially called sikil pak, but which I quickly renamed Mexican hummus. It was bright and spicy and dreamy paired with jicama wedges. My mind was blown. I cannot wait to go home and recreate it.
Today though, what I am sharing with you in honor of paleta week is a duvalin paleta!
If you are not Mexican, you might be wondering, “What the heck is a duvalin?” A duvalin is a sugary chocolatey, fudgy, Mexican candy that essentially resembles frosting in a small plastic tub.
Duvalines were some of my favorite candies as a child. The creamy frosting fillings came in a rectangular plastic box with a tiny plastic spoon that looked like a little shovel. The flavors were always strawberry, vanilla, and chocolate.
One of the worst things that could happen to my eight year old self, was getting home from the corner store only to realize that I had forgotten to grab a tiny spoon with my duvalin. This was a big quandary since a large spoon would not do as it would not fit properly into the small square candy box. Although you might think that perhaps the handle of the spoon could be used, and it was, it made for a clumsy utensil.
Alas, when I found myself with a duvalin and no spoon, there was no resort but to lick the duvalin up with the tip of my tongue, taking the utmost care to prevent the flavors from mixing. Taking care to finish one flavor before moving to the next. Ironically, last time I tried a duvalin, I realized that they all taste kind of the same.
These paletas take me back to my childhood and when I dreamed them up and tried them the first time, I was amazed that they actually do kind of taste like Duvalines! They are made with heavy cream and milk which yields a popsicle that is rich and delicious. The vanilla flavor was too plain the first time I made it, so I added an egg which resulted in a silkier and custardy vanilla filling.
I am going to be completely honest with you, these are not the easiest popsicles to make. You have to pour and freeze all three layers in 45 minute intervals taking care not to over freeze before adding the popsicle sticks. Making them just one flavor would be easier, obviously, but what’s the fun in that?
They are also decidedly not a healthy popsicle. These are no “smoothie” or fruit juice popsicles but rich, sugary popsicles meant to be enjoyed as a dessert. And as that, they are perfect!
If you really wanted to you could substitute the dairy for a rich nut milk, maybe coconut? And you could remove the sugar and add honey or maple syrup but I prefer these just as they are.
Oh, and also, once you make them, you should coat them in a magic shell and drizzle some sprinkles on top because, why not?
Duvalin Paletas Recipe
Yields: 6 popsicles
Prep: 20 minutes
1 cup of milk
1 tablespoon of heavy cream
½ cup of strawberries
1-2 tablespoons of sugar
Dash of vanilla
2.5 cups of milk
2 tablespoons of heavy cream
2 tablespoons of sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
Leftover vanilla custard
1 tablespoon of cacao powder
1 tablespoon of heavy cream
2 tablespoons of sugar
1 cup of milk
- Combine all ingredients for strawberry layer into a blender. Blend until smooth. Then fill the first third of paleta mold with strawberry layer taking care to wipe smudges from side of the container for clear lines. Freeze for an hour.
- Meanwhile in a small sauce saucepan combine all vanilla layer ingredients except for egg and bring to a simmer. When milk is just starting to bubble remove from heat.
- Combine a few tablespoons of hot vanilla milk in a small bowl with beaten egg and mix vigorously to prevent cooking for a minute or so. When the vanilla liquid is uniform and slightly yellow in appearance, add small bowl contents back to the remaining milk in saucepan and stir constantly with a whisk over low heat for a few minutes longer. Mixture will not thicken too much. Allow
- Take 2 cups of vanilla liquid and place in freezer to cool for 20 minutes.
- Meanwhile, combine remaining vanilla liquid and chocolate layer ingredients in blender and process until smooth. Set aside chocolate liquid in fridge to cool.
- Once vanilla liquid has cooled, take out strawberry paletas from freezer and layer the vanilla layer on top of that distributing equally between molds to make second popsicle layer. Freeze for 45 minutes.
- Finally, take your chilled chocolate layer mix and gently fill popsicle mold to top, making sure not to break through the hardened top of the vanilla layer.
- Freeze for 45 minutes.
- Add popsicle sticks if using cup molds, or plastic “handles” and freeze until solid.
Spring has arrived to my little yard in the southernmost limits of the city of Boston. Where there were once empty planters littered by fallen branches from the nor’easters this past winter, now seemingly (and sometimes literally) overnight, there are all sorts of flowers blooming. First the crocuses appeared, then the daffodils and tulips, and now the lilac bushes and violas. My garden is bursting with flowers and with it, I too am feeling more alive and energized.
I think at heart, I am a Texan girl. I miss the long sunny days and year long summer, and so the long New England winters still have a way of making me unsettled. Late winter, especially, with its dreary weather and crusty, grey snow banks is especially hard. In those days it feels like spring will never come. But then there they are, the little blooms peeping through the snow, and my soul rests assured that spring is here.
This is our first spring in the house. When we bought it we knew that the previous owners were huge gardeners but I didn’t really understand what we were getting into until all of the snow melted away and I saw the sheer number of planters and beds. Now as I wander the yard I am overjoyed at all of the edible blooms around the yard. Amazed by the labor that went into planting so many flowers, and also slightly horrified at the thought of keeping it all up, but that’s a story for another time.
Although there have been many beautiful blooms, perhaps the most exciting find this spring has been the lilacs. We have FOUR lilac bushes (trees?) lining our yard and I am realizing as the flowers begin to fade that I was all too conservative in my lilac picking. Next year I am cutting all the blooms I possibly can and putting them in vases around the house while the fleeting lilac season is here. I am loving the scent of lilacs and perhaps more excitingly, the taste of lilacs too!
Although the lilac flowers are beginning to fade in my yard and yet another flower is springing up, I see you chive blossoms, I am keeping the memory of my first spring in the house alive with lilac sugar. The recipe is simple, you combine lilacs and sugar and leave them alone to infuse for a few days. Or if you are impatient like me, and want the lilacs to also turn the sugar a lovely shade of mauve, you can pulse them together in the food processor for immediate results.
Once you have this dreamy mauve sugar, which I also infused with vanilla bean, then can proceed to pour it over or bake it into anything and everything. For me, the idea was obvious, I have a brand new buñueluera which my mom brought back from Mexico for me recently. A buñuluera is an aluminum or cast iron flower mold with a handle which is dipped into batter and then into piping hot oil to make buñuelos. The result is a light and airy fried dough ring which is then coated in cinnamon sugar.
My buñueluera, also called a rosette in english, makes bueñuelos that almost look like lilacs, so lo and behold, today I am sharing lilac buñuelos with you to help you celebrate spring!
Buñuelos de aire, are the only sweet fried things that I grew up eating (no sopapillas or churros for me). My grandma would make them when visiting us, usually during Christmas. There was no recipe just a scoop of flour, an egg or two and a glug of milk whisked until the batter resembled a thin pancake like batter. She would then proceed to make 6 dozen buñueloss and the whole kitchen would smell like fried dough and cinnamon for days.
These lilac buñuelos are just as delicious as the classic buñuelos that I grew up eating but the lilac vanilla sugar gives them a subtle but addicting floral taste. Give them a try and let me know what you think!
NOTES: The process is easy once you get the hang of it but here are a few notes to make this simpler. Never wash your buñuelera or it will lose its season and maybe rust. Once you get your buñuelera, sold here or at a latin american food store, wipe it down with a napkin and prepare your batter. The batter ingredients should be room temp when you mix them or you should take the time to let the batter rest for a bit until it warms up. One your batter is room temp, dunk your buñuelera into the hot oil to warm up for a few seconds, then shake of any excess oil back into pan, carefully, or dab lightly on a paper towel. Then quickly dip your buñuelera into the batter making sure to coat about ¾ of the way up the sides but do not submerge in batter as your buñuelo will not come off the buñuelera then. Once your buñuelera is coated in batter dip into hot oil and shake the buñuelo off of the metal frame gently, using a fork or tongs to help if needed. Then cook until golden brown, flipping a few times if needed, and deposit on a paper towel lined plate or straight into your sugar mix. Then coat gently in lilac sugar and set aside, or eat immediately, like I do. Buñuelos taste best the day that are made but can be stored at room temp in an airtight tupperware for a day or two. Also, yes lilacs are edible but you should be careful when eating flowers and make sure that you are sourcing them from a place you trust since many flowers are treated with pesticides. Also, eating flowers can worsen your symptoms if you suffer from allergies so be mindful before you start eating lilac everything 🙂
Recipe for Lilac Buñuelos
Yields: One dozen
Time: 1 day and 30 minutes
Ingredients for Lilac Sugar:
- 1 cup of granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup of lilac blooms, stems removed
- ½ vanilla bean worth of seeds
Ingredients for Buñuelo Batter:
- 1 cup of milk, room temp
- 1 egg
- 1 cup of all purpose flour
- Pinch of salt
- Dash of vanilla
- Oil, for frying
- Combine sugar, vanilla bean seeds in food processor and process until smooth
- Sugar will look like wet sand, allow to dry out in oven overnight OR turn oven on to lowest setting (175 degrees for me) and cook for 10 minutes. Sugar might stick together, reprocess to break up if necessary.
- Set lilac sugar aside on a shallow plate.
- Combine the first 5 ingredients for buñuelo batter in a bowl and mix until silky smooth.
- Add 1 cup of vegetable oil to a small saucepan, bring to 360 degrees or heat up until a drop of batter puffs up and turns gold within a few seconds.
- Place your buñuelera in hot oil for a few seconds to heat up. Shake of any excess oil back into pan carefully and then quickly dip buñuelera into the batter making sure to coat about ¾ of the way up the sides.
- Dip buñuelera coated in batter into hot oil. Shake buñuelera gently to release buñuelo dough. Allow buñuelo to cook until slightly golden nand the flip over and cook until golden brown flipping over again if needed.
- Remove buñuelo from oil and place on a paper towel lined plate to catch excess oil. Repeat.
- Then, dip buñuelos into lilac sugar and serve while still warm.