sam's blackberry cuatro leches

blackberry cuatro leches| A Brown Table

I think I might have mentioned this to her but I can't remember. Though I had heard of Sam's blog, Love Comma Cake a few years ago, I actually learned a lot about her through a cooking school orientation I attended at the International Culinary Center in Campbell, CA. At the end of the orientation and a wonderful walk through the entire pastry school (and even attending a class), we were given a little book by the school's founder Dorothy Cann Hamilton called "Love What You Do: Building A Career in the Culinary Industry". The book is a great resources for anyone who is interested in going to culinary school and in it, you get a lot of realistic experiences (which I appreciated) shared by people who attended cooking school, the good, the bad and the ugly. I noticed a familiar name in the book, Samantha Seneviratne! Sam shares her work schedule from her time at Martha Stewart, how she starts her day, what she does and how she ends it. It was fascinating. I wanted to work with Sam, learn from her and bake with her. That didn't happen but I did get to meet Sam earlier this year at the Saveur food blog awards in Brooklyn. And she is one of the nicest and sweetest bakers you will ever meet! 

A few months ago, Sam's new book The New Sugar and Spice came out. Not only is it beautiful and full of delicious desserts to prepare but it's also a keeper because the recipes work. I started to imagine myself in a patisserie baking away to my heart's content as I flipped through the pages in her book. Sam uses a wide variety of spices in her desserts but there is an exquisteness in her technique. You can feel it when you cook through her recipes and when you eat them.

I've baked a few of her desserts from her book but her take on the tres leche cake caught my eye from day one. I love it so much that I've made it three times (the third run was for work). Four parts of milk and enough blackberries, this cake is comfort sweetness at its best. Though this might not be a dessert you'd traditionally think of eating during the Christmas holidays, you should make it because you'll probably want to eat this milk drenched cake on every single day of the year!

blackberry cuatro leches| A Brown Table
blackberry cuatro leches| A Brown Table
blackberry cuatro leches| A Brown Table
blackberry cuatro leches| A Brown Table
blackberry cuatro leches| A Brown Table
blackberry cuatro leches| A Brown Table
blackberry cuatro leches| A Brown Table
blackberry cuatro leches| A Brown Table

sam's blackberry cuatro leches (from The New Sugar and Spice - Samantha Seneviratne)

yields: 12 servings


unsalted butter, for greasing the pan

12 ounces (about 2 1/2 cups) fresh blackberries

1 1/2 cups (6 3/4 ounces) all-purpose flour (I used whole-wheat pastry flour in the same weight)

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

4 large eggs, separated

3/4 cup sugar

1/3 cup + 3/4 cup whole milk

1 vanilla bean split and seeds scraped

3/4 cup condensed milk

3/4 cup evaporated milk

3/4 cup heavy cream

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Butter the bottom of an 8-inch square baking pan. 

2. Cut 6 ounces of blackberries in half lengthwise and set aside. 

3. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. In a large bowl, with an electric mixer, beat the egg yolks and 1/2 cup of the sugar on medium speed until pale and thick, 3 to 4 minutes. Beat in 1/3 cup of the whole milk and the vanilla seeds. Beat in the flour mixture, just until combined. 

4. In a large bowl, with clean beaters, whip the egg whites until foamy and the yellowish hue has disappeared, about 1 minute. Slowly add the remaining 1/4 cup sugar while beating and continue to beat the mixture until you have shiny, medium-stiff peaks, about 2 minutes. Stir one quarter of the egg white mixture into the flour mixture to loosen it. Use a rubber spatula to gently fold the remaining egg whites into the batter. 

5. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and scatter the halved blackberries on top. Bake until golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Let cool on a rack for 5 minutes. 

6. Meanwhile in a medium bowl, combine the remaining 3/4 cup whole milk, the condensed milk, the evaporated milk, the heavy cream, and the vanilla extract. Cut around the edges of the cakes. With a toothpick, poke holes all over the cake and let it soak in. Then pour another 1 cup over the cake. Cover and chill the cake for at least 4 hours or up to overnight. 

6. Serve slices of the cake with the remaining milk mixture and remaining blackberries. Store leftovers, well-wrapped, in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. 

cauliflower tacos with cumin and za'atar

cauliflower tacos with cumin and za'atar 1

Last weekend, I found out that I am a very good accidental gardener, it's true, I might not have plenty of luck when it comes to planned gardening but when it comes to unexpectedly growing stuff, I have a green thumb! I went to open up a bag of sweet potatoes that I remember picking up a week or two ago and lo and behold, they were growing shoots and leaves. This isn't the first time something like this has happened, I once grew a date tree in my backyard in D.C. after tossing a medjool date by mistake into my garden (we got a few palm leaves but it didn't make it through the first snow). I was tempted to pull the shoots of the sweet potatoes but I decided to give them a chance and I've planted them. Who knows maybe they will grow well and I might get to eat my own accidentally homegrown sweet potatoes.

If you asked me if I could remember my first taco, I'd sadly say, I couldn't but I will say this, they always make me happy every time. When it comes to talking about tacos, I get pretty excited because every taco is a bundle of joy waiting to be enjoyed with the promise of goodness. There are so many different and wonderful ways to eat tacos so I thought, I'd share one of my personal favorites! 

cauliflower tacos with cumin and za'atar 2
cauliflower tacos with cumin and za'atar

For these tacos, it all starts with a few splashes of color courtesy of these beautiful purple and yellow cauliflowers that get tossed and seasoned with some tasty spices. Cumin and za'atar push these florets to a whole new level of tastiness with an added depth of citrusy and herb flavors. Though I'm only sharing the recipe on how to make the filling here, you can dress the cauliflower tacos with any type of salsa or toppings you love. I did however, share my favorite way to eat these guys at the end of the recipe section but seriously take liberties, because that what makes a taco special, you can individualize to your heart's (tummy's) desires!

cauliflower tacos with cumin and za'atar 3
cauliflower tacos with cumin and za'atar 4

cauliflower tacos with cumin and za'atar 

yields: 4 -6 servings (depends on how many and how big your tacos are)


1 small yellow cauliflower

1 small purple cauliflower

1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon kosher sea salt

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon ground red chili powder

1 teaspoon za'atar

1 lime

1. Place a wire rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 400F. 

2. Chop both cauliflowers into small florets. Rinse under cold water, drain excess liquid and place in a large mixing bowl. Add the olive oil, salt, cumin, and chili and mix to coat the cauliflower. Spread this mixture onto a non-stick baking sheet and cook for about 15-20 minutes or until the cauliflower florets are tender and slightly roasted.

3. Sprinkle the za'atar and squeeze the lime juice over the cauliflower. Serve immediately with your favorite taco fillings and tortillas. 

Note: I like to serve these with a few extra wedges of lime on the side, fresh avocado slices, some shredded purple cabbage, salsa and my cilantro mint chutney. You can also serve these anyway you love your tacos!