Mango Lassi is a popular drink in India where the climate is frequently sweltering. The yogurt-based drink makes a great treat on a hot day and is perfect for cooling down those spicy Indian curries. My understanding is that traditional lassi is actually a savory drink, made by blending plain yogurt with water, salt, and spices like cumin or mint. I’ve only ever had sweet lassi which is made by blending yogurt with sugar, fruit, and sometimes rosewater. My favorite is mango lassi, though you could use other fruit if you like.
Mango Lassi is so refreshing and addictive. It’s also very easy to make. The hardest part is getting your hands on some good mangoes like the ones from the Philippines. They’re thin-skinned and juicy and very sweet, unlike the fibrous ones that come from South America. Alphonso mangoes are a good choice and can be found more easily in the U.S., especially in Asian food stores.
2 cups mango puree (3 to 5 mangoes, depending on how big they are)
Every Halloween, I make a big crockpot of Spiced Tea so that the kids have something hot to drink when they come in from the cold after trick-or-treating around the neighborhood. I’ve been making it for years. I used to make it from scratch with tea bags, fresh orange juice, fresh lemon juice, and some other ingredients. Then I learned how to make spiced tea using orange drink mix and powderedinstant tea. Super quick and easy! The kids loved it so I started doing it that way ever since because it made it one less thing on the Halloween menu to worry about. You could actually make the spiced tea mix way ahead of time and just stir it with water in your crockpot on the day you’re serving it. It’ll keep forever stored in an airtight container.
Anyway, a couple of weeks ago I stumbled on a post on marthastewart.com on how to make shrunken apple heads and thought how perfect would it be to float shrunken heads in my spiced tea this Halloween? I asked my daughter, Bashful, to carve the spooky faces for me and she did an awesome job, don’t you think? I was in a bit of a hurry so I skipped the part where you bake the heads and I also left out the clove eyes. Did I say I was in a hurry? We just floated the heads in the tea directly after carving and I think they looked great!
(Makes a little over 2 cups mix)
1⅓ cups orange drink mix (like Tang)
⅓ cup instant tea (like Lipton or Nestea)
½ cup sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp. ground cloves
Combine orange drink mix, instant tea, sugar, and spices together.
Store in tightly covered jar.
Stir desired amount into boiling water and serve hot. I put it in a crockpot so it stays warm.
Use ½ cup mix for every quart of boiling water. Add more or less mix till it tastes to your liking.
For a single serving, measure 1 tsp. of mix into a cup of hot water, adding more or less to your taste.
To Make Shrunken Apple Heads:
4 large Granny Smith apples
1 cup lemon juice
½ tbsp. coarse salt
16 whole cloves, optional
Preheat oven to 250ºF.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside.
In a medium bowl, mix together lemon juice and salt; set aside.
Peel and core apples; then cut each in half.
With a sharp paring knife, carve a face on the rounded side of each apple half.
Place apples in lemon mixture for one minute; transfer to paper towels to drain.
Arrange apples face-side up on prepared baking sheet.
Bake until apples are dry and begin to brown around the edges, about 90 minutes.
Remove apples from baking sheet and, if desired, press cloves into the “eye sockets.”
NOTE: If you’re putting the shrunken heads in spiced tea, you can skip soaking them in the lemon-salt mixture and baking them. Just float them in your pot of spiced tea right after carving. Put them face down for the first half hour or so, then flip them face up.
Churros are a traditional and beloved Spanish snack. They are often served with little cups of chocolaté (pronounced cho-ko-lah-tay) for dunking. There are churrerias all over Spain where you can get churros con chocolaté. However, the Spanish chocolate drink is nothing like our American hot cocoa. Spanish chocolaté is thick and when I say it’s thick, I mean thick. But it’s rich and creamy and oh-so-delicious. It’s the perfect complement to the crispy churros.
Growing up in the Philippines where the Spanish influence is very strongly visible in our food, I always had hot chocolate prepared the Spanish way. My Mom would buy these chocolate tablets or tableas as they were commonly known which were made from locally grown cacao beans. The brand we used most often was Antonio Pueo Chocolate which was founded by a Spanish immigrant and has been manufactured in the Philippines since the early 20th century. It’s easy to find here in the States but if you can’t find it, you could substitute Mexican chocolate in a pinch. Pueo chocolate tableas come in two forms – pure cacao tablets which are wrapped in gold paper, and cacao-and-milk tablets which are wrapped in white paper. I prefer to use the gold-wrapped tablets, though the white ones work just as well.
In the Philippines, traditional chocolaté (or tsokolaté) is prepared by placing chocolate tableas in a pot with some water and then setting it on the stove to boil until the chocolate dissolves. The mixture is then transferred to an iron pitcher called a tsokolatera, after which milk and sugar are added, and then it is hand-beaten with a utensil called a batidor which is like a wooden stick with a carved knob at one end. You hold the handle of the batidor between your two palms and then rub your palms together back and forth causing the batidor to spin left and right. This is the hard part. You spin and spin and spin and spin some more until you’re sure your arms are going to fall off, but as you spin the batidor, the chocolaté froths up into a creamy, thick, slightly grainy concoction that smells divine and tastes like heaven. Some people like to add ground peanuts to their chocolaté which gives it a delicious nutty flavor.
I make my chocolaté the lazy man’s way which is definitely easier on your arms than using a batidor though you still have to whisk. No getting around that. But first I pulverize the tableas until they’re crushed into small pieces because they dissolve much faster that way. I also add a little cornstarch to my mixture which helps ratchet it up to the Spanish level of thickness.
1 pack (7.4 ozs.) Antonio Pueo Chocolate Excellent (in the gold wrapper)
3 cans evaporated milk
1 can condensed milk (you won’t use the whole can)
2 tbsp. cornstarch dissolved in ¼ cup milk or water
Crush the chocolate tablets in a food processor or place them in a ziploc bag and pound them with a meat tenderizer or rolling pin. It is not necessary to pulverize them to a powder. Just crush them into small pieces.
Combine crushed chocolate and evaporated milk in a heavy-bottomed pot, stirring with a wire whisk to combine.
Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly with a wire whisk. This can take some time so just be patient and keep whisking.
Meanwhile, taste the mixture for sweetness. If you think it’s not sweet enough, whisk in ¼ cup condensed milk and taste again. I would start with ¼ cup and go from there. If you want it still sweeter, just add more condensed milk, little by little, till it reaches the sweetness you desire. I find that ¼ cup is plenty sweet for me, but if my daughter Bashful had her way, she’d pour the whole can of condensed milk in!
Once chocolaté starts to boil, reduce fire to low, and whisk in cornstarch mixture.
Continue to cook, stirring constantly, until chocolaté is thick and smooth. If the chocolaté doesn’t seem to be thickening, raise the fire a little to bring the mixture up to a boil again. Don’t forget to keep stirring so it doesn’t burn!
Pour into demitasse cups and serve with churros. We also love it with hot pan de sal or ensaimadas. Yum!
NOTE: I have made this with both the pure cacao in the gold wrapper and the cacao with milk in the white wrapper using my same recipe. Both work fine. Even though the white-wrapped Pueo tablets already have milk in them, there’s no need to adjust the amount of evaporated milk you use. That being said, I like the pure cacao in the gold wrapper better. It has a much richer, bolder chocolate flavor.
Gigi, one of my best friends, came to visit us last weekend. She brought us a couple of bottles of Spanish Cava. Cava is a sparkling wine which is very, very popular in Spain. It gets its name from the caves or “cavas” where the wine is aged.
We had a bottle left over so I decided to experiment and make Peach Bellinis with it. It turned out pretty good. A Bellini is traditionally made with Prosecco, but I didn’t have any on hand and we needed to drink Gigi’s cava anyway. Here’s my Peach Bellini Recipe.
6 peaches (about 1½ lbs.), peeled, halved and pitted
3 tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice, optional
1/4 to 1/2 cup sugar, depending on how sweet your peaches are
1/4 cup water
1 bottle Prosecco (750 ml or 3 1/3 cups), chilled
granulated sugar for garnishing glasses
Place the peaches, lemon juice (if using), sugar and water in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade and process until smooth.
Pour peach puree into a small pitcher and place in refrigerator to chill until needed.
When ready to serve, pour a little sugar on a plate and invert a chilled champagne glass in the sugar to coat rim.
Pour peach puree about a third of the way up prepared glass and top off with Prosecco.
NOTE: You can substitute 1 16-oz. bag frozen peaches, defrosted, or 1 large can peaches, drained. Omit the water if using canned peaches.