Monday, August 20, 2012

Procrastination nation

I always find myself procrastinating awhile on the internet on Mondays before getting started with whatever needs to get done. The problem is, at least in my experience, Mondays have the least amount of new content available. Maybe you have this problem, too? Maybe it's just me. At any rate, here are some links to entertain yourself with while you are hopefully slowly easing into your work week:

I am in no way a wedding cake person (nor a wedding one), but these are crazy gorgeous. 

I continue to be minorly obsessed with timbaAlexander AbreuAlexander Abreu again, Isaac DelgadoManolito, and yes, Isaac Delgado again

Rookie-- written by a teenage girl for other teenage girls, Tavi Gevinson (and her team) manage to be far more serious and articulate while still being completely approachable and entertaining than the vast majority of material out there aimed at young women.

Old post by Elizabeth Pisani (whose writing on HIV issues I love) on the weirdness of buying votes in elections. She articulate something I've often wondered about: if voting is private and anonymous, why don't people accept the bribe and then vote for whomever they want? Also, if you've never looked at Transparency International's corruption rankings by country, you might be surprised. We were surprised to find Argentina ranked lower than both Colombia and Brazil.

This weekend was the 472nd anniversary of Arequipa, "The White City" of Peru, and an arequipeña friend of ours had a potlock where everyone was supposed to bring a dish from their country. We ate lots of amazing Peruvian food (I know I've said it before, but they really do win the best South American food contest as far as I'm concerned), Brazilian fish stew, and arepas, along with other things whose names I can't remember (the caipirinhas didn't help my memory, either). We brought pecan squares and (Colombian-style) coconut rice, both of which were gone in a flash. The rice turned out a bit wonky (the quality of bottled coconut milk seems to vary pretty greatly by brand here), but the pecan bars came out fantastic. I try to chip at the "American food sucks" stereotype whenever I can, and luckily this time I was successful.

My camera has been getting worse and worse lately-- I'm waiting for my next trip to the states to get a new one-- so you're just going to have to trust me when I tell you that everything was beautiful and delicious. The pecan squares are everything you love about pecan pie minus the one-note sweetness (and the corn syrup!) The recipe that was the basis for these squares is not actually for pecan pie but maple-walnut bars, which sound delicious, but a friend of mine had just brought me back a bunch of pecans from Argentina, and I wanted to try using a syrup made from unprocessed cane sugar (aka panela or rapadura) to replace the typical corn syrup used in pecan pie. For the crust I used muscovado sugar, which also lowers the overall sweetness quotient, and a combination of muscovado sugar, granulated sugar, and the panela/rapadura syrup for the filling. (For a guide to these unprocessed sugars, you can look here.) Ok, so not strictly American pecan squares in execution, but the changes would certainly hold up anywhere.

Pecan Squares
     adapted from Lottie and Doof

For the base:
1 c. all-purpose flour
4 Tbsp. muscovado sugar
4 oz. unsalted butter, chilled and cut into chunks

Preheat oven to 350F. Rub the butter into the flour and sugar, then press the mixture into an 8 x 8 in. baking pan (or, more awkwardly, a cast iron skillet, which is what I used). Bake for 15 min., until it begins to brown a bit (the muscovado will already have given the dough color, you just want the top to look a bit golden at the edges).

For the filling:
1 c. whole pecans
3/4 c. syrup made from panela/rapadura (boil the panela with water to make a syrup the consistency of maple syrup, let cool)
4 Tbsp. muscovado sugar
4 Tbsp. granulated sugar
2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 eggs

Whisk everything together except for the pecans and pour over the hot base. Lay the pecans into the syrup so they look pretty (ridged side up). Bake until set, 30-35 minutes. Let cool before you cut into bars.