Have Sweet Tooth, Will Travel

30 Apr

I was 26 before I took my first trip outside the US. As (bad) luck would have it, I had the flu for nearly the entire excursion and didn’t get to try any new foods. As (good) luck would have it, L.A.’s vast collection of pocket ethnic neighborhoods more than makes up for my lack of a world-wide travel budget. This is the final post in the “talk desserty to me” series, so savor it.

My first and only international trip was to Israel, and while I didn’t get to try any luchon kugel there (Jewish noodle pudding), I can be sure that none of it would have beaten my mother’s version anyway (recipe below).

Israeli mall spice stand. Show me to the kugel, please.

If you are willing to risk the health of your heart for a good dessert, you ought to try this one. Buying farm-fresh organic eggs and butter from the market makes me feel less guilty (because the recipe calls for five eggs and a whole stick of butter, oh and cream cheese and 1/2 pint sour cream…you get the point). While the recipe uses canned peaches, you could substitute skinned and sliced fresh peaches when they are in season.

If egg noodles and dessert don’t say “match made in heaven” to you (then you haven’t tried it) then just go for some ice cream-with a twist. My first box of mochi was a gift from Mitsuwa, but since then I have become one of those people who know which Trader Joe’s stores carry which flavors. Mochi is basically a Japanese ice cream ball, covered in a chewy, gummy rice layer. Again, if you’re making a face, you haven’t tried it. It’s hand-held ice cream, now that’s genius. Mikawaya in Little Tokyo has a full selection for those of us who stand in the freezer section of TJ’s thinking, “Out of chocolate again?! I guess green tea in that case.” Mikawaya  has an array of mochi made with gelato centers as well. The flavors change but are as intriguing as plum wine or as ordinary as mint chip.

For sheer selection, it’s tough to beat Indian Sweets and Spices for slightly sweet, spicy treats. I just point to something behind the glass and I’m not usually disappointed. Plus, you can pay a visit to the Culver City farmers’ market before dessert, then you’ll feel more like you’ve earned it.

For more slightly spicy, always exotic sweet treats, I head to Tehran Market on Wilshire in Santa Monica. I was first hooked on the saffron rock candy. The rose jams are a little too sweet for even me, but I love the slightly sweet, rich and delicate little chickpea cookies and the gata (sweet bread). And seriously, if you haven’t heard-best fresh hummus in L.A.

Walnut cookies from Tehran Market

Before L.A., I lived in Miami for a few years, where I became acquanted with tres leches cake for the first time. I love soggy deserts so tres leches and I get along famously. I have yet to find the perfect slice of it here so I’ve been nagging various friends for their mom’s recipes. In the mean time, you can find a Kogi chocolate version of tres leches cake at The Alibi Room.

Lastly, if your dessert style leans all American, I again defer to my mom and her candied walnut apple pie. But, as with all my mom’s best desserts, you’ll still be putting the health of your heart on the line. But if you aren’t willing to risk some negative side effects for a good dessert, I question your commitment to the cause.

Ma Chewgooder’s Luchon Kugel

  • 1/2 pound medium egg noodles
  • 3 oz cream cheese
  • 2/3 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 pound cottage cheese
  • 1 stick butter
  • 5 eggs
  • 1/2 pint sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • Can of sliced peaches, drained well

-Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

-Cook noodles until al dente, drain and set aside.

-Grease a 9×11 inch pan and line bottom with peach slices.

-Whip together all ingredients except noodles.

-Add noodles and mix well.

-Cook for about 50 minutes making sure top doesn’t burn.

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One Response to “Have Sweet Tooth, Will Travel”

  1. hank keilly May 2, 2010 at 5:22 am #

    Jess,
    As good luck would have it, you didn’t get to try any of the food. We tried the food and we suggest getting sick before eating it , rather than after (which was the case with us!)

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