empanada love

7 May

It all started a few weeks ago when Auntie Claudia of Island Liaison came to my class to do a food/cultural presentation. When we met to plan this, I mentioned that one of my favorite foods is Chamoru empanada. She mentioned that her cousin makes it and that she would share the frozen empanada that was currently sitting in her freezer. Fast forward to her class visit, she ended up bringing an incredible spread to my students.

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Auntie Claudia showing my students that the coconut ladle can be used to serve food and to hit stupid people over the head:)

When I saw the spread, I was really overwhelmed. There was so much more than I was anticipating. When we discussed her visit, she said she would bring “tastes” for my students. However, it ended up being more of a mini fiesta! There were two long desks filled with varieties of taro, rosketti, potu, coconut candy, and my favorite: Chamoru empanada.

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I urged my students to not eat this. Unfortunately, they refused to listen:(

Inspired by her visit, I decided to actively look for a recipe for Chamoru empanada. As I’ve said many times, I don’t trust recipes. Every cook has her/his secrets that are purposely left out. Chamoru food is no different. The few recipes I’ve mastered have come from lots of trial and error. My recipe for Chamoru shrimp patties came from my brother-in-law’s aunt, so it was totally legit. Even then, technique needs to be developed. It takes time.

I have had the recipe book Remember Guam bookmarked on amazon for ages. However, I hesitated because again, I don’t trust recipes. However, Paula Quinene, the author, has a website and a youtube channel. After viewing the video on Chamoru empanada, I decided to buy her cookbook because the recipe and technique seemed legit.

I’m happy to announce that it’s TOTALLY legit! The videos show technique, but you need to purchase the book(s) for the actual recipe. I say do it! In order to respect her recipes, I will not be posting the recipes or my modifications.

Here’s my first stab at Chamoru empanada. There are two steps to this. First, you need to make chalakiles, which is the filling. Note: It’s nothing like Mexican chilaquiles. After making the chalakiles (which is a fine meal on its own), you have to refrigerate it overnight so that it cools and thickens. Here are the pix:

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One of the key ingredients is toasted rice. You can easily do this over the stove. Medium heat and watchful eye is way better than using Cream of Rice (which is what some folks end up using).

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Just so you can see the contrast, the toasted rice needs to be golden brown. Even if you burn it a little, it should be fine because it gives the filling a nice charred taste.

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I used at least double the meat the recipe called for because I like a meaty, chunky filling.

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This is the finished product of the chalakiles. It’s basically a thick soup. Again, my version has a noticeable amount of bacon and chicken.

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After letting it cool and thicken overnight, the filling is ready! There was a lot of chalakiles. Unless you’re going to eat this first and use the excess for filling, I suggest making only half of Paula Q’s suggested recipe. A full recipe will make about 80 pieces.

 

The second part of the recipe is the shell. This is the part that is a bit difficult. I know my mom has stopped making empanada all together because of stiffness in her hands. After doing some online research, I discovered that a lot of people use a tortilla press to bypass the rolling involved in making the shell. BRILLIANT! It totally saved time and allowed some uniformity in the empanada. Again, here are the pix:

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The recipe for the dough is quite simple. Paula Q’s recipe makes about 40 dough balls. Admittedly, I tried to be fancy and this batch was slightly salty for my taste. I have since made notes to adjust. The dough balls need to be the size of a golf ball. Some other techniques is to use an ice cream scooper or a 1/4cup container to measure.

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I wrapped the tortilla press in plastic wrap on both sides. From there, I placed wax paper on the bottom and followed with a dough ball in the center. Note: You’re better off cutting he wax paper yourself. I had the pre-cut ones from Costco and wasted a lot of it!

 

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A simple press of the lever and BAM! A perfect thin shell. I’m sure you can adjust thickness by not pressing so hard. However, I like a thin shell.

The last part of the process is the fold and pinch. This is where the filling and shell meet. It’s quite easy and unlike lumpia, you DO NOT need a binding agent (such as eggs). The challenge is figuring out the right amount of filling. It took me a while and I’m still working on it. I found that my filling tended to spill over a little. It was okay, though because as long as you pinch well and remove the air, things should be fine. Check it out!

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You really want to play with portions. Make sure you press the filling so that there’s no air pockets.

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From there, fold over and pinch. If you look carefully at the top left corner, you’ll see where there was a little filling overflow. The amount of filling is also personal taste. Personally, I like there to be a good amount of filling. A tablespoon or two will do ya!

Once the empanada is made, you want to make sure you keep them in the wax paper. That way, you avoid drying. Also, the shell is really brittle, so the wax paper keeps everything intact. Ideally, you want to freeze these before frying. However, if you can’t wait, please be gentle when peeling the wax paper.

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Because you want the shell to be crispy, I suggest frying 4 minutes per side. Yeah. This stuff is fried. There’s no way around it, folks!

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The finished product. Don’t mind the oil stains. It just means that this is good stuff!

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Again, my filling is meatier than most. You’ll figure out your own adjustments.

There you have it! I’d like to thank Auntie Claudia for an awesome presentation and for inspiring me to finally make this. To my Guam family: We don’t have to buy these at $2.50/piece at the bakery anymore. We can make it ourselves at a fraction of the cost, and with an infinite amount of love!

Live deliciously,

-joanne

we all scream

22 Jan

Fritzie is the ultimate kitchen gadget pusher. Per her recommendation, I invested in a few key pieces for my kitchen. You already saw the incredible slow cooker that is now a regular part of my repertoire. When this ice cream maker went on special, I had to jump at the opportunity. When it finally came in, my life (and everyone around me) was changed forever. First off, take a look at this beauty:

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Confession: I love colorful appliances. It may make for a mismatched kitchen, but colors make me happy:)

I didn’t realize how easy making ice cream was. Just a few ingredients blended together, chilled, and run through the machine in twenty minutes… viola! You have a delicious concoction. I like that I know exactly what’s in my ice cream and that I can control the level of sweetness and tones of the various flavors. Homemade ice cream tastes day and night different from the store bought stuff. Once you start making your own ice cream, I’m sure you won’t go back to mediocre ice cream.

Granted, I’m still tinkering with recipes and proportions. However, I’m having fun thinking up cool flavors. The first ice cream I made was roasted plantain. It was  non-dairy and coconut milk-based. The flavor was good, but I really needed to work with the actual mixture. Also, I didn’t realize that coconut milk freezes to a hard-as-a-rock consistency. This makes enjoying ice cream in days to come a bit challenging. The second flavor I conquered was Vietnamese coffee. THAT was a total winner! I followed the winning streak with creamy kalamansi. I was on a roll!

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Vietnamese coffee ice cream, fresh out of the maker. Initially, it comes out as soft serve. There are less than five ingredients in this!

When I got back to Phoenix, I tried to make another non-dairy batch: mango-coconut non-dairy ice cream. Though it was delicious, I still had the hard-as-a-rock issue to deal with. Shortly after, I made lychee-mango for my nephew Brendan. Finally, this current batch is salted caramel hot coca.

It’s official. I’m an ice cream making addict! If you’re reading this and you have great ice cream ideas, feel free to share. I’m always looking for interesting things to experiment with.

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The salted caramel hot cocoa mix is currently on clearance at Williams Sonoma. That is what inspired this delicious bowl of ice cream that you’re looking at.

Live deliciously,

-joanne

kalua pork

5 Nov

It’s official. Slow cookers are sexy! How sexy? This motherf–kin’ sexy:

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I’ve been wanting a slow cooker for ages and have been doing the proper research. Ultimately, I wanted one that was light. I also wanted the insert to be used over the stove or in the oven in case I was ever in a situation that required that. I’m lazy. Any time I can do something in a single pot, I am one happy camper. Alas, my prayers have been answered with this baby. The All-Clad 7 qt. Deluxe Slow Cooker met all of my basic requirements. Recently, it was on sale at Williams-Sonoma (a.k.a. any cooking lover’s version of Toys-R-Us meets porn video store) and I was given an additional discount. (It’s true. Charm, patience, and a smile will get you far these days.) Yes. I HAD to have this. When it finally arrived, I proudly displayed it on my counter and fantasized about what I would make first. After searching, I decided to break this baby in with some delicious kalua pig! I used Nom Nom Paleo’s recipe and made a few adjustments of my own.

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I chose pork butt with skin on that was just under 4 lbs. Since this was my first time making kalua pork, I didn’t want to over do it. Also, it’s just me and I get tired of food easily. Cooking in big batches isn’t always ideal. This slab seemed to be just fine. The original recipe called for a 16 hour cooking on low. I ended up doing about 10 hours on low and it was perfect. The photo above is what I woke up to. Unlike the Nom Nom version, I lined the slow cooker with banana leaves and I added some liquid smoke to the salt rub (WIN!). When I stuck a fork into the meat, it was super tender, but I was disappointed at how bland it was. With that, I learned that all the salty smokiness is actually in the liquid. This is why you need to get the meat out and shred. The bottom of the pot has lots of liquid.

The leftover liquid looks a little something like this:

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Sticking garlic into the meat is brilliant! I decided that the next time I do this, I’m going to put a bunch of garlic pieces in the pot and let it roast outside the pork. Using the juices, I added a little bit to the newly shredded pork for some flavor. That’s when the first part of the magic happened! The photo below is the pork without any juices. The pork mixture has bits of roasted garlic and bacon. Mmmm!

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Another thing that the juices are good for is cooking the cabbage! Given the ease of the pot, I simply removed most of the liquid and sauteed the cabbage in the juices. Here’s what it looked like over the stove:

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Once the cabbage was cooked (I hate wilted veggies), I just added the pork back and mixed it. The final kalua pig and cabbage dish looks like this:

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You can serve this by itself, or over rice with some mac-potato salad (like they do it in the islands!) I was very happy with how this turned out. I don’t think I’ve ever had pork this tender. If I were to do this again, I’d keep the cabbage separate because the pork can be used for other dishes like tacos, soups, etc. But we’re not done yet…

Remember that slab of skin that was on top? Technically, it does NOTHING for the dish itself, other than keep it moist and fatty (but you can do that without the skin). When I removed the meat from the pot, the skin literally fell off because it was so damn soft. I let sit out for a while to “dry” so I could make chicharon.

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I tried frying it, but I was reminded of why I don’t like making chicharon. It leaves my kitchen in a terrible, oily mess. (Now I have all this oil to clean!) When the popping became way too intense (it didn’t take long), I turned off the stove and was ready to just throw the skin away. However, I could hear the Manpanion’s voice crying in my head. I don’t think I could handle the look of disappointment on his face if I told him I threw out the pork skin! Luckily, the turbo broiler is right next to the stove and I decided to go that route (I did this before when trying to make oven roasted lechon kawali. Unfortunately, it failed miserably.)

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If you’re a Filipino, you have a turbo broiler. Period. The one I have in SSF, is often used by the Manpanion because he (who never cooks) likes how it makes his Costco food nice and crunchy. I’ve had that thing since college (15+ years, if you’re doing the math right). When I moved to Phoenix, some dear friends gave me a VISA gift card as a going away present. I used it to buy this turbo broiler, made by the Sharper Image. Sometimes Costco has them too. I highly recommend! 15 minutes at 350 degrees made this:

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Crispy and delicious. The only thing I hate is that the Manpanion isn’t here to enjoy this. Unfortunately, I’m trying to cut down, so someone around here is gonna have to take this away from me. Besides, I’m fresh out of lechon sauce. Right now, this pig skin is simply useless to me:(

If you have any suggestions on what I should make in my slow cooker, please post to comments… with recipe attached:)

Live deliciously,

-joanne

solo

25 Sep
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Hummus and pita. Made onsite. When in Chicago’s Greek town….

Many moons ago when I used to watch Friends, I recall an episode when Rachel was trying something new: eating out alone. Apparently, there was this whole bru-ha-ha about her eating alone because apparently, only pathetic people eat in a restaurant alone. Admittedly, I thought this was a strange issue to tackle on a TV show. I eat alone all the time. In fact, I enjoy it. (Yes. I’m eating alone right now. In a cafe. In Chicago. And I really don’t give a shit about what the people around me are thinking.)

Granted, I understand why people don’t like eating alone. Our class readings addressed this issue, stating that eating alone is embarrassing and no one likes to admit they eat alone. Perhaps this is why I do so with such pride. Sometimes I need to be by myself so that I can escape my crazy life. When I eat alone, I take my time. I indulge in the menu and order way too much, just so I can have leftovers to take home and reflect on my marvelous meal alone.

For my students, I know that this next assignment was to share a food experience with someone else. I also know that I’m not quite addressing the assignment. However, I do want to tackle this notion of eating alone. For women, eating alone becomes this stigma because the assumption is that you have no one in your life. In contrast, men eating alone has a completely different meaning. Personally, I believe in these small acts of rebellion. Maybe this is why I have no problem eating alone. Besides, just because I entered the restaurant alone, doesn’t mean I’m necessarily alone.

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When traveling, I try to catch up on work. This is why I like eating alone. The waitress suggested this dessert. It was kinda’ custard-y inside with phyllo dough outside. It was okay, but definitely not a total stand-out.

When the Manpanion and I started dating, we reached the point where I would take him to my usual spots. He was impressed that I actually knew the owners and the people that work in the restaurant. For me, establishing this relationship is important. I like to know the story behind the restaurant. How did the restaurant come to be? What compels the owners and workers to do this work? What are the popular dishes? How is this different from the chef’s specialty dish? (Yes, there’s a difference. Always opt for the chef’s speciality!) Admittedly, I have made some wonderful friends by simply starting conversation and community while sitting alone in a restaurant. (OMG. There was this one time, this guy next to me paid for my meal because his daughter happened to be a professor whose work I was familiar with!)

I have this relationship at certain places I shop too. This past summer, I was taking a dear friend to my favorite shoe store to meet my “dealers” (a term I use to refer to the shoe pushers who work at the store). After he purchased two pairs of shoes, he said, “Joanne, the people there aren’t your ‘dealers,’ they’re your friends. They actually enjoy your visit and vice versa. You have an actual relationship with them!” I responded, “Of course! How else does one interact with other people?!”

Maybe that’s the key to navigating solo: make meaningful contact. Living in Phoenix, I’m alone a lot, but I don’t necessarily feel like I’m alone. I try to make conversation and make good company when I’m out and about. On occasion, it’s not  me that starts the interaction. I consider myself a fairly sociable person, so I respond accordingly. If I’m not feeling social, I make that clear too.

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Heaven in a glass.

Yes, I’m here at Artopolis, a bakery/cafe located in Chicago’s Greektown. The wait staff are very kind. The woman helping me is particularly chatty and I like her recommendations. I’m enjoying the Frappe, a cold version of a traditional Greek coffee. It’s delicious, but without all the grit of the traditional hot version. Of course, I’ll snack on other traditional-for-Chicago Greek fare. I’m glad to be here alone because I don’t think I’d have the patience to wait for a group of people to join me. Everyone should experience this Frappe, as I’ll surely miss it when I head back to Phoenix.

Live deliciously,

-joanne

back from the dead

12 Sep

I can’t believe it’s been about a year and a half since Fritzie and I had posted. A lot has happened and I apologize for the neglect. To make a long story short, I finished and filed the dissertation, taught my last class at Berkeley as a graduate student, and then hopped on over to Phoenix to assume my new position as an academic lecturer. I work at that place the Sun Devils call home:)

I’ve decided to upkeep this blog a little better because this semester, I’m teaching a class on Asian Pacific American Literature. When I teach this course, I typically focus on a particular theme. This time around, we’re looking at food in APA lit. Wa-hoo! As part of the class, my students have to maintain a flood blog, where I give them various assignments that reflect the ways in which APAs have incorporated food in the literature we are reading. To honor my students and to sympathize with the work they have to do, I’ve decided to join them in their blogging assignments.

For this first assignment, I had asked them to create a post where they share a recipe, along with a story or memory around the recipe they have shared. (Since this is an upper division course, there are other things they are expected to do, but I won’t get into the details.) Here it goes….

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I made this batch for an Easter celebration. It was the first time the Manpanion was going to meet my family. I figured if he entered the room holding these, they’d love him already:)

Chamorro Shrimp Patties

Yup. That’s right. These babies are a signature dish of mine. Because they’re a signature dish, I will never EVER reveal my secret recipe! (Well, at least not on this blog.) However, I did find this recipe online. While I don’t usually trust recipes, I will say that this one looks pretty legit! (I’m basing that on the reviews and how the ingredients and proportions measure up to my personal recipe.)

Growing up, shrimp patties were such a treat. While they were usually available at the various fiestas I went to, shrimp patties can sometimes be hit-or-miss. Some people over batter it. Others skimp out on the shrimp and use imitation crab meat instead. When I bite into the patties and find no shrimp, I feel disappointed. In short, not all shrimp patties are made the same.

It wasn’t until college that I started taking cooking seriously. For some reason, I felt this need to uphold the culinary traditions of my childhood. Since I was always unsatisfied with other people’s shrimp patties, I decided to embark on a quest to perfect  Chamorro Shrimp Patties.  It took a while to figure out which veggies worked best and what technique ensured they patties would stay round. However, I can confidently say that I have it down. My ultimate secret is love. Really. It is. I don’t make this dish very often because it’s pricey and time consuming. However, when the shrimp patties make an appearance, the family is always happy.

I try to make this at least once a year to celebrate the new year. In my family, a new year’s feast was to include as many round things as possible. Hence, why this is the treat of choice. When my cousin Ray visits, I make these just so he can feel at home. When the family first met the Manpanion, I made these for the Easter celebration. I figured that if he were holding these, they’d have no choice but to love him:) Since it seems they love him more than me, I’m convinced that my plan worked!

The last time I was on Guam was 2008. While there, I went to the ballpark where each week, there is collection of vendors selling food and goods. Naturally, I ordered a plate that had shrimp patties. Unfortunately, I was disappointed by the over-doughed, under-shrimped, bland concoction.  Alas, ’tis the curse of perfecting the shrimp pattie.

Live deliciously,

-joanne

a quickie: cafe cubano and pie

9 Apr

I swear I’ll be better and posting.

For those of you who don’t know, I LOVE coffee. I’m not an addict. One serving of coffee per day is plenty for me. These days I’m a bit of a snob. I don’t frequent Starbucks as much as I used to because I pledged to omit bad coffee out of my life. Also, I’m trying to patron local business as much as I can:) However, this is one place in San Jose that I go to, if I’m ever in the area. It’s called Barefoot Coffee. I go to the one on Stevens Creek. It’s a bit spendy, which is why I’m not here too often. However, they make the GREATEST cafe Cubano. I discovered this place through a bad date. Yes, even I can see the light in a horrible date. While I will never speak to this terrible date again, I do thank what’shisface for introducing me to some great eats. In fact, I’ll likely do a post called “great bites from a bad date” soon. Anyway… This place makes a great cafe Cubano because when they make the espresso, they mix the beans with a touch of muscovado sugar, giving it that hint of burnt sweetness. Delicious! If the Cubano isn’t your thing, then check out the Voodoo, which is made with coconut milk (for your paleo folk out there). Here’s my artsy rendition of the cafe Cubano:

Also, for those of you who don’t know, the Manpanion is big on pie. I like cupcakes. He likes pie. We still manage to love each other. One of his favorite places is Chile Pies. If you’re in SF and you have a hankering for pie, check them out. The Manpanion and I discovered Chile Pies in this article. To this day, the Manpanion is STILL in love with the green chile apple pie. It’s an eclectic mix of green chile incorporated into the apple mixture. The crust is is a cheddar cheese streusel. Strange, but wonderfully unforgettable. Check out the deliciousness:

(as you wipe your drool) You’re welcome!

Live deliciously!

-joanne

almond cake

29 Mar

So excited to finally bake this cake.  I’ve been planning to make almond cake since winter break but didn’t have enough time.  After studying Mourad Lahlou’s and David Lebovitz’s recipe, I only found two slight differences in their recipes: Lahlou uses more flour and Lebovitz uses more baking powder.  But they are pretty much the exact same recipe with the same amount of butter, eggs, and sugar.  Technique wise, Lahlou foundues the butter, which I highly recommend, in order to make a lighter batter.  Just whisk  the butter over low heat until it is thick and creamy.  I use the same approach when I make my date and walnut bars and it definitely makes a difference.  I basically doubled Lahlou’s recipe to make a 9 inch round layer cake.

Almond Cake
Adapted from Mourad Lahlou’s New Moroccan

1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
2 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, fondued
7 ounces almond paste
1 1/3 cups sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon almond extract

Preheat oven at 275 degrees.  Grease 9 x 2.5 inch round cake pan.  Line the bottom with a parchment paper and grease the bottom again.

Mix together flour, baking powder, salt, set aside.

Beat the almond paste with a mixer until it is soft and until it has broken into little pieces.  Add the sugar and mix to combine.  Gradually add the butter and mix until light and fluffy about two minutes.  Add eggs one at a time and make sure each egg is fully incorporated before adding the next one.  Add the extracts and continue mixing until light and fluffy another two minutes.  Fold in the flour.  Do not overmix.

Pour the batter into the pan.  Tap the pan to get rid of air bubbles.  Spread batter evenly with a spatula.  Lahlou says to bake the cake for about an hour.  Mine were done after 1 hour and 20 minutes.  Keep checking after an hour.

Notes:

  1. Baking tips: use the middle rack of the oven, turn the pan halfway through the baking time, ingredients such as eggs and butter should be in room temperature unless indicated otherwise.  You need cold butter when making pie crusts.
  2. I find that most readily available cake pans are too shallow.  I highly recommend investing in this taller layer pan.  No spill, no batter overflow.
  3. I noticed the Lahlou’s oven temperatures are always lower than normal when it comes to baking resulting in longer cooking time.  However, I find that they are always perfectly baked, no burnt edges, perfect golden brown color, etc.  Still trying to find some sort of scientific explanation why, will let you know once I find out.

Lahlou’s book calls for a plum sorbet, cardamom infused yogurt, and toasted almonds to be served with the cake.  It’s not really plum season yet and I still have to invest on an ice cream maker so that will have to wait until next time.  I also didn’t quite get it together to make cardamom infused yogurt.  The cake can be served as is, with fresh or macerated berries, or even a raspberry coulis with honeyed whipped cream as shown above.  This cake is amazing!  Moist and full of almond flavor.  I’ll definitely make this cake again with the cardamom yogurt.  But everyone loved it plain.  Yes, I love anything almond flavored.