Nanaimo Bars and other eats

I tried a making a couple of new things last week: fried squash blossoms with goat cheese and Nanaimo bars.
The squash blossoms came out decently; I didn’t have enough oil, and so while they did get crisp, they were also a little sandy from all the carbonized particles clinging to the blossoms since they didn’t have enough depth to sink into in the oil. The tangy goat cheese is a good counterpoint to the friedness of blossom in batter. Joe still prefers to simply sauté the blossoms. I usually don’t like deep frying in the house (because of the smell and the grease fumes) but I like this dish, so I may make it again once before the season is over.

I also made Nanaimo bars: they’re as common in Canada as brownies are here. Nanaimo is a city in southwestern British Columbia. There’s a nutty layer, a yellow ‘custardy’ middle layer and then a top layer of chocolate crust. Being a Canadian/Commonwealth thing, one of the ingredients called for was Bird’s custard powder (A British staple). I called 5 stores before finding one that carried it. It turns out to be composed of ‘corn flour, salts and annatto.’ I thought about simply substituting for cornstarch, but figured I’d done all the research in locating the powder, I should use it. Even though I was not keen on spending $5 on a big can of powder from which I was only going to use 2 tablespoons and 2 teaspoons worth. (Isn’t that odd measure?)
The good thing about making Nanaimo bars in the summer is that there’s no baking required. The bottom layer is the best: but how could graham cracker crumbs, coconut, almonds, and chocolate that are ground up and mixed together not taste scrumptious?
The middle layer I deviated drastically from the recipe because I had no icing sugar, and had only ¼ cup of regular white sugar. The recipe called for two cups of icing sugar to be beat with a stick of butter and the custard powder until fluffy. I substituted with 1 cup of maple syrup, seeing that it was a Canadian desert, and the remaining ¼ cup sugar. I also used a manual egg beater instead of electric, so it didn’t get as fluffy and there was too much liquid from the syrup. I remembered that I didn’t like the middle layer even when I had it in Canada, thinking it was too unctuous, but now I realize that because it looked like custard, I expected it to taste like custard, and it didn’t, so I was thrown off. But if it’s just butter and sugar, well, it looked too much like chicken fat. I actually worried about the clogging of my arteries.
The top layer of chocolate ganache: I used unsweetened cocoa powder, because that’s all I had, but it was OK, because the middle layer was already so sweet, you didn’t miss it in the chocolate.

I like the bottom layer so much; I will probably make it again sometime, properly, with icing sugar and an electric beater.

We went to a Peruvian restaurant in Redwood City called Estampas Peruanas on ECR. It was pretty good. We had grilled beef hearts (with cumin, very tasty). We had two seafood dishes: one a seafood mixture with coriander rice, and another seafood mixture in a mild but eye-appealing chili cream sauce. Both were recommended by the proprietor. The coriander rice perks up considerably with a squeeze of lime. I think we’ll go check out the meat dishes next time. However, they don’t have guinea pigs on the menu.
On the table, they have a salsa of green chili and coriander: it’s watery, but doesn’t seem to taste vinegary enough.


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