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Tuscany? Look Again

Join the party at Baja's Las Brisas del Valle

November 19, 2006|Barbara Thornburg

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the ground walnuts, flour and salt in a medium bowl. Mix in the softened butter little by little. Add 1 cup of the powdered sugar. Once all is incorporated, add the oil. Thoroughly mix all the ingredients and form into a tight ball. Cover and refrigerate. After 30 minutes, remove and make 1-inch balls with the dough. Place on a cookie sheet and bake for about 10 minutes, or until golden brown. Let cool. Roll each cookie in powdered sugar and wrap in colored paper, twisting the ends to seal.


Chocolate Lavender Truffles

Makes 3 dozen

14 ounces semisweet chocolate

1 cup heavy cream

6 sprigs lavender

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup sugar

1 cup finely chopped pistachios

Chop the chocolate into pieces and place in a wide metal bowl. In a saucepan, heat the cream with the lavender, vanilla and sugar to the boiling point. Remove from the heat and let cool 20 minutes, until the aroma of the lavender is absorbed. Remove the sprigs and gently reheat the cream, but do not boil. Once heated, pour over the chocolate and begin to stir until it is fully incorporated and the chocolate is completely melted and acquires a glossy look. Lightly coat an 8-by-8 pan with olive oil and pour the chocolate evenly into the pan. Freeze for 10 minutes, then cut into 1-inch cubes or roll into 1-inch balls. Return to the refrigerator for 10 minutes. Remove and roll the truffles in the chopped pistachios to coat. Keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator or freezer for up to two weeks.

Variation: Replace the lavender sprigs with 4 dried hot red chiles or 2 habanero chiles.


Quail Sopes

24 servings

1 1/2 cups maize flour

1/4 cup flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 cups warm water

2 cups vegetable oil

8 deboned quail breasts

1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, finely chopped

Salt and pepper, to taste

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/4 cup white wine

1 bay leaf

1 cup cooked black beans

1 1/2 teaspoons garlic, finely chopped

1 tablespoon dried California chile, roughly chopped

1 avocado, finely diced

Cilantro, for garnish

Sopes: In a medium bowl mix the maize flour, flour and salt. Add the water little by little until the dough forms a ball. Add more water, if necessary, until the dough is uniform and soft but holds its shape. Roll the dough into 24 3-inch balls and flatten to 1-inch thick, making a 1/4-inch indentation to hold the topping. (The sopes should be about 2 inches in diameter.) In a large saute pan, heat the vegetable oil over medium heat. Fry the sopes, in four batches, in the hot oil until golden brown, about 1 1/2 minutes. Let dry on paper towels to remove the oil, and cool.

Quail: Season the breasts with the rosemary, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Cook in a medium saute pan until golden, about 4 minutes per side. Add the butter to the pan and cook for 1 1/2 minutes. Add the white wine and bay leaf, lower the heat and cook for 10 minutes. Remove the quail from the pan, reserve the juices, and shred when cooled.

Mash the beans until they form a soft paste. Saute over low heat with the garlic, chile, salt and pepper.

To assemble, place a dollop of the bean paste in the center of each sope, followed by 1 teaspoon of shredded quail. Drizzle each sope with the reserved quail juices. Top with diced avocado and a sprig of cilantro.


Cilantro Dip

Makes about 1 cup

1 bunch cilantro

3 garlic cloves, peeled

1/2 cup olive oil

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted

Multicolored tortilla chips

Wash and dry the cilantro. Put all the ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth. Serve with tortilla chips.


Cilantro Margarita

Serves 1

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste

4 sprigs cilantro, chopped

2 ounces tequila

1 1/2 ounces lemoncello

1/2 ounce water

Juice of 1 lime

1 tablespoon simple syrup

1 cup ice

Mix the salt and cayenne in a shallow dish. Rub the lime around the rim of each glass and dip into the mixture. Blend the rest of the ingredients in a blender until the ice is crushed. Freeze for 30 minutes, or until slushy. Pour into a glass and serve.



Makes about 30 pieces

10 cups flour, divided

2 1/2 cups warm water, divided

2 1/2 tablespoons active dry yeast, divided

2 tablespoons chopped garlic

2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, finely chopped

2 tablespoons fresh basil, finely chopped

1 tablespoon salt

2 tablespoons sugar

5 tablespoons olive oil, divided

1 tablespoon chile powder

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