Tag Archive: appetizer


Ladies Luncheon

farmers-market-nancy-pahlNo but really, how long has it been? Too long. The days stretch into weeks and while Summer zips by I find myself enjoying it often enough away from the kitchen X) It’s no surprise (or excuse for not posting, that’s my fault entirely:( ) but it does leave more time for strolling, shopping, and exploring. Grocery shopping is among the best parts of Summer. I still can’t seem to understand how everyone ends up hating grocery shopping so much. I mean, it’s still shopping…right? And while it may be crowded, bright, and dirty at least there’s fresh food to be found there…better than hunting and foraging for our food I like to think πŸ˜€ So, why do I like grocery shopping so much? Well, I don’t have a good reason, just that it is a reason. I don’t mind navigating the tight & narrow aisles for unique and tasty treasures. I rather enjoy the process of finding, comparing, and deciding on things to buy and eventually, devour πŸ˜‰ Most of the time (and probably to the annoyed dismay of others) I end up taking my time, getting lost, and often standing in the way of the bustling shoppers as I try to decide what “light” coconut milk means in the Asian aisle. Sure it’s depressing because you can’t buy everything in front of you πŸ˜‰ (and because, oh yeah you have to carry it all home on your back), but that’s not the point. I used to like shopping a whole of a lot less simply because (a) it had become a chore; and (b) it required strict budgeting. But ah, such is life.

I always have a list (“the list”) when I go grocery shopping because it keeps me on track, what I’ve discovered is that it’s important to plan (and yes, budget) some spontaneity into the task of shopping. What do I mean? I allot my spontaneity a certain amount on my weekly grocery list so that while I still get all those things needed for making meals, there’s also room for something random, or daring, or sugar-coated – whatever I may or may not stumble across. Believe me, it has a tendency to be surprising πŸ˜‰ Sometimes it’s dried fruit or other snacks for my toddler (my first thought “oh thank god, something new. Let’s see if he likes this“), other times it’s a block on cheese that was on sale, or caramelized almonds, or a basket of cherries . Whatever “tickles your fancy” while your out & about on the drudgery of adult life and modern food-gathering is worth your notice and consideration – just be aware that: 1. you do and will always have to shop for food, right? Because 2. you have to eat and eat healthy, and 3. that it’s hugely important and necessary. It is okay to try and enjoy the uncertainty and variety that comes with the modern and the everyday. Sometimes it’s focusing on how little you have to go out and get that makes you overlook the facSnyders_Frans_Fish_Markett that it requires so little to feed and please your family and yourself πŸ™‚ That being said, it’s nice to give voice to my secret delight at the present food-gathering process, hope I don’t upset the haters. I try to appreciate and believe me, that doesn’t always come easy but there are the finer things in life and shopping for food I consider to be one of them.

To pick up at my point, an example would be this luncheon that I prepared for a friend, which necessitated me visiting 3 different stores to properly acquire all the “necessary” ingredients, and even then there were some substitutions. The original recipe was from a “Fresh & Quick” edition of Fine Cooking. Some things just feel special when you go out and get them – fresh seafood (i.e. scallops) included. I remember when I first saw the slippery suckers πŸ˜‰ I thought: …what even are those? Delicious is what they are. I liked the simplicity of this recipe and was only slightly daunted by the sheer amount of steps in completing the “quick & easy” -ness of it all. Note to self for next time: double the amount of scallops you make because seriously, it won’t be enough…

Before I jump into this recipe, I want to say that the star ingredient would be truly, simply – butter. Where would seared scallops be without Butter-Meltingbutter? I’ll tell you: a little dry and not nearly salty enough. Butter plays a key role in this recipe and is essential for plenty of other amazingly delicious things that only exist because of it (like biscuits, and frosting!) I’ll give credit where credit’s due – butter is the best, and I thank it for existing. I’ve come across a recipe for using aΒ Lemon-Dill beurre blanc sauce to spoon over steamed clams with crusty bread. Mmm…more butter may be needed πŸ˜€

 

Seared Sea Scallops with White-Wine Pea Puree, Peppered Bacon, and Lemony Gremolata

Ingredientsscallops

(for the scallops)

6 – 8 fresh or defrosted jumbo scallops

1 package of bacon, coarsely chopped

2 Tbs. butter

(for the puree)

1 package of frozen peas, defrosted

6 shallots, peeled & coarsely chopped

3 garlic cloves, peeled & chopped

3 Tbs. butterFood52

5 Tbs. white wine

5 Tbs. chicken broth

4 Tbs. milk or cream

(for the gremolata))

1 lemon

1 bunch of fresh parsley, stemmed & chopped

1 shallot, peeled & minced

sea salt & cracked peppergremolata

(1) Rinse the scallops under cold water and pat dry, season with salt & pepper and chill until it’s time to cook. (2) To make the puree, melt 3 Tbs. butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add shallots and garlic and let cook until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the peas, chicken broth, and white wine and let cook uncovered until the mixture is soft & fragrant, about 5 more minutes. Remove from heat and let cool briefly, 5 minutes. (3) Transfer the pea mixture to a blender and blend until smooth, adding the milk or cream and seasoning to taste with salt & pepper. Once pureed, return to the saucepan, cover, and keep warm over very low heat until ready to serve. (4) Heat a a medium skillet or frying pan on medium high-heat. When hot, add bacon pieces and cook, stirring occasionally until bacon is brown and crunchy, 5 – 6 minutes total. Transfer to a plate lined with paper-towels, season with cracked pepper, and cover until ready to serve. (5) Wipe the skillet clean before returning to medium-high heat. Melt 2 Tbs. of butter. When piping hot, add the scallops and do not stir. Let sear 3 minutes per side, turning carefully to brown the bottom & top sides of scallops until they are firm to the touch. Transfer cooked scallops to a plate and cover with foil. (6) In a small bowl, combine the minced shallot and fresh parsley. Zest the lemon and then juice it, adding it to the mixture and stir until combined. Season generously with salt & pepper, adding more lemon juice, if needed. (7) When ready to serve, scoop a spoonful of puree onto each plate, season with peppered bacon, and set seared scallops in the puree. Garnish with spoonfuls of the lemony gremolata. Goes great when paired with either/or garlic bread and champagne πŸ™‚

Serves 2 – wish it made more, double it if you plan on being really hungry

Phew! That was a lot of steps but trust me, it’s worth it. These days as the rain (and wind…and hail…) begins to pop up during the week, I find the salty, fresh air contributing to my recent craving for seafood. My next seafood cooking extravaganza is going to be mussels in Riesling lemon broth with – yes – more garlic bread. I’ll have to make a “luncheon” out of that because what is a good dish without good company? Hope the rest of July provscallop-shellses to be as thrilling as scallops for lunch πŸ˜›

My question: What was served with the last plate of scallops you ate?

I ask this because the combinations of pairings with scallops kind of blows my minds sometimes and you never know what will be the perfect side – like a chickpea puree or roasted hazelnuts, or even brown “nori butter” like I read in a Bon Appetit from earlier this year. I will make more scallops this month just to satisfy my new fondness of searing things grill-style in our kitchen’s new skillet. Scallops are a somewhat of a blank canvas and I’d like to make a different version before I get tired of seeing them on the dinner menu πŸ˜‰

7.13.2014

Rise of the Nachos

chips_paintingI can’t believe it’s 2014 – already! I have no excuse for not having a recent post, other than my Master’s thesis being due very soon. Just imagine all the celebratory food cooking and related cacophony of posts I could do after THAT πŸ˜€ For now, I wanted to post this simple & sweet blurb on nachos. Ahh, cheese. Where would food be without you? One of my favorite foods is cheese. One of my other favorites? Salsa. I am also a carnivore by nature and can’t help but like eating meat from time to time too. Where do these three meet? Cue in – nachos. This undervalued dish isn’t necessarily unhealthy, just watch the cheese! Nachos are on the rise and if you’ve a bad or nonplussed experience of the dish before, it’s time to make new memories, I mean nachos. We are lucky to be in the era of limitless culinary diversity and the sheer amount of different things you can put on cheesy nachos is kind of mind-boggling.

From what I remember of my restaurant experience with nachos, it’s a little slimy, a little soggy, and kind of anticlimactic. But I do also remember from my bar-tending days that nachos was the one dish that people would NEVER finish. Why? Because there’s too much if it! Granted, there’s nothing better when you’re really hungry than a steaming pile of chips & cheese, but it’s important to transcend the baseline comfort elements in this recipe to reach something better. The 3 recipes or versions I have here I read in last year’s Cooking Light. So easy! So simple! So tasty! I should write ads for this magazine πŸ˜‰

When it comes to nachos, here’s 3 tips to remember: 1. It’s quality, not quantity. Gourmet ingredients cheese_nachosgive you some deluxe nachos and no matter what, you will be full by the time you’re done (and there will be some left). Spread a baking sheet onto the oven pan and one layer of chips, no need to make mountains – I know tortilla chips are cheap but please refrain, for the sake of your stomach 2. Don’t skimp on the cheese. Broiled chips aren’t very tasty by themselves, but add the right amount of cheese and viola, irresistible goodness. The best part? Broiling this dish takes 1-2 minutes MAX. You put it in and you’re eating moments later, it’s like magic πŸ™‚ 3. Be creative. Try making what you’d consider you’re “dream nachos.” Then m???????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????ake a Greek version, a Caribbean version, and/or good ol’ Tex-Mex. Mix it up and have all-veggie nachos or use some crazy ingredients like toasted sesame seeds or capers.. No need to restrain yourself, this dish is messy and sloppy and will turn out del-ish once covered in warm, melted cheese. Have fun, because you have TIME for that when making dinner only takes 15 minutes!

My star ingredient? Greek yogurt. Greek what?! You don’t need sour cream or creme fraiche, they’re merely nice condiments that should be used in moderation. But, you get some low-fat Greek yogurt and put a big dollop in the center of your nachos? It’s practically the same thing, only better (for your body, I mean). I love sour cream as much as the next American πŸ˜‰ but hey, there are alternatives to watch the calorie count and Greek yogurt is just as yummy. Below are 3 versions of simple nacho recipes you can make, enjoy and WARNING: you will need napkins πŸ˜€

Nachos – 3 Ways

(1) Pork & Bean Nachos with Tomatoes, Onions, and Fresh Herbs

Ingredients

1 bag of tortilla chips, unsalted

1 bag (or 2 cups) of shredded cheddar cheese

1 yellow onion, thinly slicednacho-combos

3 tomatoes, chopped

1 can black or red kidney beans, drained & rinsed

1 pork tenderloin, trimmed

1 bunch fresh cilantro, minced

1 bunch fresh basil (or mint)

1/2 bunch fresh parsley, minced

4-5 pickled or preserved jalapenos, for serving

1/2 cup low fat Greek yogurt, for serving

baking paper

vegetable oil

sea salt & cracked pepper

(1) Season the pork tenderloin generously with salt and pepper. Heat 1 Tbs. oil over medium-high heat in a skillet. When hot, brown the tenderloin on all sides, turning every 4 minutes or so and cook until tenderloin is firm, about 15 minutes total. Remove from heat, cover with foil, and let sit 10 minutes. When cool, slice the cooked pork into chunks and set aside. (2) Spread a piece of baking paper across the bottom of a large oven pan. Preheat your broiler. Spread tortilla chips in an even (or not so even layer) across the baking sheet and top with meat and cheese. (3) When the broiler is preheated, put the oven pan in and broil just until cheese is melted, 1 – 2 minutes. Remove from the oven and add beans, tomatoes, and onion. Top with minced herbs, pickled jalapenos, and a dollop of Greek yogurt. Serve immediately.

Serves 4

(2) Spicy Shrimp Nachos with Salsa, fresh Jalapenos, and Avocado

Ingredients

1 bag of tortilla chips, unsaltedfresh-salsa

1 bag (or 2 cups) of shredded mozzarella cheese

1 bag (around 1/2 kg) frozen small shrimp, peeled & de-veined

1 jalapeno, seeded & sliced

3 Tbs. coconut flakes

4 Tbs. seafood seasoning or market spice

2 ripe avocados, slicednachos_02

1 bunch fresh Cilantro, minced

1 cup salsa of your choice or pico de gallo, for serving

1/2 cup low fat Greek yogurt, for serving

vegetable oil

baking paper

(1) Defrost shrimp, drain, and rinse thoroughly. Place in a bowl with seafood seasoning and 1 Tbs. oil and stir until well-coated. Heat another Tablespoon of oil in a saute pan over medium heat. When oil is shimmering, add the shrimp and cook, 1 -2 minutes, or until shrimp is pink and can be easily cut in half with a fork. Put cooked shrimp in a bowl and set aside. (2) Spread a piece of baking paper across the bottom of a large oven pan. Preheat your broiler. Spread tortilla chips and coconut flakes in a layer across the baking sheet and top with shrimp and cheese. (3) When the broiler is preheated, put the oven pan in and broil just until cheese is melted, 1 – 2 minutes. Remove from the oven and add spoonfuls of salsa, slices of avocado, and jalapenos. Top with minced cilantro and a big dollop of Greek yogurt. Serve immediately.

Serves 4

(3) BBQ Chicken Nachos with Green Onions, Jack Cheese, and Honey-Mustard Coleslaw

Ingredients

1 bag of tortilla chips, unsaltedbbq-chix

1 bag (or 2 cups) of shredded Jack cheese

2 cups of cooked barbecued chicken, shredded or cubed

1 bunch green onions, thinly sliced

1/2 cup low fat Greek yogurt, for servingColeslaw

(for slawπŸ™‚

2 Tbs. honey

1/4 cup Greek yogurt

2 Tbs. mustard

1 tsp. paprika

sea salt & cracked pepper

1/2 head of red cabbage, thinly sliced

1 head of fennel, thinly sliced

2 carrots, peeled & grated

3 Tbs. fresh dill fronds

baking paper

(1) To make slaw, put honey, paprika, 1/4 cup Greek yogurt, and mustard in a jar or container with a tight-fitting lid. Seal the container and shake until ingredients have combined. Season dressing to taste with salt & pepper and chill at least 20 minutes for flavors to meld. Mix thinly sliced cabbage, fennel, and carrots in a large bowl and add dressing. Stir until combined and chill slaw until ready. (2) Spread a piece of baking paper across the bottom of a large oven pan. Preheat your broiler. Spread tortilla chips in a layer across the baking sheet and topnachos_painting with barbecued chicken pieces and Jack cheese. (3) When the broiler is preheated, put the oven pan in and broil just until cheese is melted, 1 – 2 minutes. Remove from oven and add green onions and spoonfuls of coleslaw. Top with a big dollop of Greek yogurt and serve immediately.

Serves 4

My question: what are the craziest (as in crazy delicious) things you can think of to put on nachos?

Come on, I’d love to hear what that could be – I want to make MORE of this cheesy deliciousness and I need some fresh ideas…

1.31.2014

Seaweed Saladizzle

mermaid_seaweedI was going to do a post on chestnuts since I’d ‘forraged’ some (a lot, actually) from the urban wilderness. I’m not even going to talk about how THAT turned out, other than to say don’t bother trying it and save yourself some energy. Instead, I am going to talk about one awesome salad that doesn’t get enough credence in the buzz and hubbub of the salad world. It’s called wakame, sound familiar? Mmhmm, seaweed salad. Introducing the first delicate pile of greens that won’t wilt or get soggy, even after chilling for a couple days in the fridge – is it real? YES. I buy seaweed salad frozen and defrost, then add my own ingredients. Below are two versions of seaweed salad I think are worth trying – it’s not as slimy as you think! πŸ˜‰

The first recipe here is from Food & Wine and was the inspiration for me making my own seaweed salad in the first place. It just looks so… good… and I love the stuff but have never seaweed_saladseen it in stores to make it myself. Way back in the day, I came across this honey-miso version, and I filed it away for one day… That day came. Seaweed salad, including the first version I made of this amazing dish, is especially flavorful (and healthy!), with or without the honey. Last week, I made seaweed salad again, only this time it was “my version,” with a little more vinegar, onions, and other smelly herbaceous stuff πŸ˜€ ‘Twas de-licious.

My star ingredient? Miso. What even is this stuff?! Fermented… what… now it kinda sounds gross. Not gross, SUPER healthy. Also super salty, what could be better? The miso I got is black as sh%$ , I mean night, and it looks like sticky dirt. Does NOT taste like dirt though. I’ll admit, I find myself sampling a small spoonful nmiso-paste_chartow and again with toast or cheese. That’s breakfast, right? I don’t like adding salt to anything I cook, so to have the super smooth saltiness of miso to use comes in handy in my kitchen. I think it’s going to take a lot more dishes like these to get me through this whole packet of miso though, I’ve got oodles πŸ™‚

Seaweed Salad with Honey, Miso, & Lime

Ingredients

1 package frozen seaweed, or wakameseaweed-salad

1 cucumber, thinly sliced

1 bunch green onions, thinly sliced

1 Tbs. rice vinegar

1 Tbs. sesame seeds

1 Tbs. miso paste (any)

1 Tbs. honey

1 Tbs. fresh ginger, peeled & sliced

1 tsp. roasted sesame oil

1/2 a lime, juiced

(1) Defrost the seaweed overnight in the fridge or 2 hours at room temperature. In a small bowl, mix together rice vinegar through lime juice, stirring until well blended. (2) Drain any excess liquid from the seaweed before putting in a bowl. Combine the seaweed and vinaigrette and toss. Chill until ready to serve. Goes great with pork or poached eggs πŸ™‚

Serves 4

Spicy Seaweed Salad with Red Onion, Cucumber, & Kimchi

Ingredientssliced-red-onions

1 package frozen seaweed, or wakame

1 cucumber, thinly sliced

2 red onions, peeled & thinly sliced

2 Tbs. rice vinegar

1/2 Tbs. chili flakes

2 Tbs. sesame seeds

2 Tbs. lager beer

1 tsp. roasted sesame oilkimchi

1 Tbs. miso paste (any)

1 can fermented veggies (like ginger, water chesnuts, or carrots), drained & chopped

1 can kimchi, drained & chopped (spicy Korean fermented cabbage)

(1) Defrost the seaweed overnight in the fridge or 2 hours at room temperature. In a small bowl, mix together rice vinegar through kimchi, mixing until blended. (2) Drain any excess liquid from seaweed before putting into a bowl. Combine the seaweed and vinaigrette, tossing, and chill until ready to serve. Goes great with chicken (I served it with shitake-crusted chicken breasts), or fried eggs.

Serves 4Dong_Yuan_Mountain_Hall

Well, no matter how long the intervals between my posts, I am still here and cookin’ up a storm in the hours my day usually allows me πŸ˜‰ I will try to post more material these days about my culinary musings (maybe even something on chestnuts too, sigh…). I’m doing a lot of my shopping at the Asian markets these days, so expect more spicy-themed dishes with fermented goodness and powerful flavors.

My question: When you go out to eat at a Asian place, what is your favorite dish to order?

…Maybe this is something you wouldn’t think of cooking up on your own? I’d love some ideas!

10.14.2013

Mussels 4 Ways

musselsAhh, mussels. It’s hard to describe precisely why I like these crusty, salty bivalves. Once in a while I get a little piece of shell as I’m eating, and I think to myself: why do I do this? Simply speaking: mussels are delicious. Labor-intensive, yes. Delicate and high maintenance, a little. Dirty and fishy, often enough. So what’s the big deal? Again, mussels are delicious – and good for you to boot. Plus, making mussels (avec le bouillon) is an art form that I have a lot of respect for – the art of broth-making.

There’s something salivating about a big pot of mussels on the table, filled with dark shells submerged in a broth that smells something of butter and wine. Furthermore, mussels are one of those magical foods that become heavenly when cooked with/in alcohol. The catch? You have to take care when making them, or at least pay some attention. I used to buy the poor creatures alive, keep them padded with damp paper towels in my fridge for 24 hours while I got my act together to go ahead and steam them for dinner. A quarter of the little guys would die as I was trying to de-beard them between the sink and the hot stove. I’ll agree, that’s way to much work… My solution? The seafood section at the grocery store is huge, have you checked it out? There’s all sorts of stuff there, including — mussels, in the shell, beautiful and ready to go. I buy a huge, flash-frozen batch for around $9.00 and keep it in the freezer until I’m ready. The best part? No defrosting, you get to concentrate on the broth and as soon as that’s ready you crank up the heat, add frozen mussels, and five minutes later (less, really) you’re ready to dig in.

strained-mussels-judy-mercer

Mussels seem like a poor man’s food but when you’re eating the poached and pinkened sea creatures between pieces of a baguette and some roasted garlic, it’s close to heaven πŸ˜‰ My advice is to make mussels in any form — and experiment a little with your favorite seafood spices and sauces. Get the mussels frozen and save them in your freezer for a rainy day. I’ve been playing around with mussel recipes and these particular 4 I made up from looking over the various versions in existence (and my own taste and favorite ingredients). Belonions1ow are what I think are the best ways to serve these sweet & salty little things. As always, when making a big pot of mussels, remember to serve them in bowls with big spoons; and other than the mussels + steaming broth, all you really need is a lot of bread and, oh yeah, napkins.

My star ingredient? The onion family. In every one of these mussel recipes, one of the onion family is used; and thank god it’s a big family. Cooking the onions/garlic is how this dish begins and the finished product would not taste the same without this aromatic group of ingredients. The super hero ingredient? Vegetable bullion allows you to make broth with some hot water in seconds, and it can sit in your spice drawer until needed for months. Just be aware it packs a salty taste. But broth is what makes mussels such a sensational dish, so be sure NOT to water down the both any more than is needed, or maybe just water it down with wine instead πŸ˜€

Mussels – 4 Ways (!)

(1) American – Beer Mussels with Bacon, Red Beans, Roasted Garlic, & Fresh Thyme

2 lbs. frozen musselsbeer_mussels

Broth: 1 bottle (light) beer, 5 pieces of bacon, 5 shallots (sliced), 3 Tbs. butter, 3 cups vegetable broth, 1 can kidney beans (drained & rinsed),

Season with: fresh Thyme (minced)

Serve with: whole wheat baguette (sliced), 4 heads of garlic (roasted), & aged Parmesan (shredded)

(1) To roast garlic: preheat the oven to 190 degrees Celsius (375 Fahrenheit). Cut the top off 4 heads of garlic with a serrated knife. Season lightly with oil, salt, & pepper and wrap OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAtightly in foil. Bake for 60-65 minutes until cloves are golden and sweet. Let cool and remove from foil before serving. (2) Melt butter in a large pot over medium-high heat. When hot, add shallots and cook about 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally. (3) Add bacon sliced and cook until fat had rendered and the pieces have browned slightly, 4-5 minutes more. Remove bacon from pot and chop (or chop in the pot with a pair of scissors). (4) Return bacon to the pot. Add broth, beans, and a Tablespoon of fresh Thyme. Bring the mixture to a boil and then lower the heat; simmer, covered until reduced by 1/3, 10-15 minutes. (5) Return heat to high and add frozen mussels and beer. Cook covered, stirring occasionally until mussels are pink and fragrant, 5 -6 minutes. (6) Season the broth to taste with salt, pepper, and fresh Thyme. Serve immediately in bowls accompanied by bread, roasted garlic, & cheese.

Serves 4

(2) Asian – Spicy Mussels with Saki, Thai Chilies, Mushrooms, & Sesame Seeds

2 lbs. frozen musselsmussels_asian

Broth: 1 cup saki, 1 bunch green onions (sliced), 3 Tbs. butter, 2 cups mushrooms (sliced), 1 small can bamboo shoots (drained & rinsed), 1 small can water chestnuts (drained, rinsed, & sliced), 3 cups vegetable broth, 2 Thai chilies (sliced), 1 piece fresh ginger (peeled & sliced), 1/2 Tbs. soy sauce.

Season with: sesame seeds (toasted) & chili flakes

Serve with: garlic bread or steamed rice

(1) Melt butter in a large pot over medium-high heat. When hot, add green onions and cook about 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally. (2) Add mushrooms and 1/2 Tbs. sesame seeds, stirring occasionally until slightly browned.Β  (3) Add ginger, bamboo shoots, chili-flakesand Thai chilies, stirring often until fragrant, another 5-6 minutes. (4) Add the broth, soy sauce, and water chestnuts. Bring the mixture to a boil and then lower the heat; simmer, covered until reduced by 1/3, 10-15 minutes. (5) Return heat to high and add frozen mussels and saki. Cook covered, stirring occasionally until mussels are pink and fragrant, 5 -6 minutes. (6) Season the broth to taste with salt, chili flakes, and sesame seeds. Serve immediately in bowls accompanied by rice and/or bread.

Serves 4

(3) French – Provencal Mussels with White Wine, White Beans, Dill, & Fresh Tomatoes

2 lbs. frozen musselsMUSSELS-PROVENCAL

Broth: 1 cup white wine, 2 red onions (sliced), 3 Tbs. butter, 2 tomatoes (chopped), 1 can white beans (drained & rinsed), 1 celery stalk (sliced), 3 cups vegetable broth, 1 can artichoke hearts (drained, rinsed & chopped), 1 Tbs. dried Dill, 2 garlic cloves (sliced).

Season with: sea salt, cracked pepper, & lemon juice

Serve with: buttered bread & dollops of Greek yogurtwhite_beans

(1) Melt butter in a large pot over medium-high heat. When hot, add red onions, celery, and garlic. Cook about 3-4 minutes until softened, stirring occasionally. (2)Β  Add tomato, dried dill, and artichoke hearts, stirring often until fragrant, another 5 minutes. (4) Add the broth, and white beans. Bring the mixture to a boil and then lower the heat; simmer, covered until reduced by 1/3, 10-15 minutes. (5) Return heat to high and add frozen mussels and white wine. Cook covered, stirring occasionally until mussels are pink and fragrant, 5 -6 minutes. (6) Season the broth to taste with salt, pepper, and lemon juice. Serve immediately accompanied with buttered bread & dollops of Greek yogurt πŸ™‚

Serves 4

(4) Indian – Curry Mussels with Chickpeas, Red Wine, Leeks, & Cashews

2 lbs. frozen musselsCurry-Mussels

Broth: 1 cup red wine (sub Indian beer), 1 bunch leeks (washed & sliced), 3 Tbs. butter, 2 celery stalks (chopped), 2 carrots (peeled & chopped), 3 Tbs. curry powder (any), 1 can chickpeas (drained & rinsed), 3 cups vegetable broth, 1/2 cup cashews (salted), 1/2 cup milk (or cream), 3 garlic cloves (sliced).

Season with: roasted paprika & fresh cilantro (minced)

Serve with: garlic naan & seared veggies

(1) Melt butter in a large pot over medium-high heat. When hot, add leeks, celery, carrot, OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAand garlic. Cook about 10-12 minutes until softened, stirring occasionally. (2)Β  Add cashews, curry powder, and chickpeas, stirring often until fragrant, another 5 minutes. (4) Add the broth and bring the mixture to a boil and then lower the heat; simmer, covered until reduced by 1/3, 10-15 minutes. (5) Return heat to high and add frozen mussels and red wine. Cook covered, stirring occasionally until mussels are pink and fragrant, 5 -6 minutes. (6) Season the broth to taste with milk (adding more if needed), salt, roasted paprika, and fresh cilantro. Serve immediately accompanied with buttered naan or seared veggies of your choice.

Serves 4

painting_musselMy “trick,” if you will, is that I only add the wine/saki/beer to the pot of broth when I throw the mussels in, that way the little critters basically poach in alcohol, versus it just burning off in all the boiling… Steaming hot and wreaking of herbs and butter, it’s hard not to get a little messy devouring dishes like these πŸ˜›

My question: what is your all-time favorite seafood dish to eat ? – something you wouldn’t make for yourself, but might treat yourself to? Mine would still have to be lobster tail, mmm… πŸ™‚

9.4.13

Shrimp Saganaki (!)

Almost called this post “ode to Greek food” but it is perhaps a better ode to cheese πŸ™‚ Maybe there’s something about the dead of winter that makes you crave richly flavorful (and wonderfully filling) dishes. It’s been a while since I had shrimp and I have Greece_posterno excuse; it’s really the cutest, tastiest little crustacean I’ve ever had. The best part of this dish in particular is what I’d like to call its “Greekness,” which translates into how simple it is by nature – with basic ingredients, easy preparation & cooking, and even simpler cleanup since you’re all eating out of the skillet. What more could you ask for from bread and cheese?

My star ingredient would have to be the feta cheese. This dish would have been damn boring without it. And while ouzo, tomatoes, herbs, and shrimp all make for a layered entente flavor-wise, the cheese is always the best part. I mean, isn’t it? There’s something special about melted cheese too, feta is no exception. Like all components of Greek food, feta goes well with garlic. Coincidence? I think not! More like culinary fate, but that does sound a bit intense πŸ˜‰ The Greeks knew a thing or two about good food back in the day, as they still do, just look at their contributions to cooking and awesome food-eating as we know it today – wine, yogurt, olive oil, vinegar – what would we be eating today without them?

I made this for some fellow foodies last week and it was well worth all the chopping and sautΓ©ing (which really wasn’t much). I was initially worried it wouldn’t feed us all, but cheese always satisfies πŸ™‚ if not, garlic bread definitely helps! This dish, like shrimp in general, goes great with a (chilled) white wine. I am not a huge fan of chardonnay but with shrimp it’s like bread and butter πŸ˜€

This recipe comes from July’s Bon Appetit. I don’t know why I hesitated to make it way back when in July (oh yes, maybe the newborn baby was a mild deterrent;) but I got rather inspired with a new kitchen and all, along with a whole new host of super markets to forage through for “Greek” ingredients. Call it the spice of life, variety just makesFeta_cheese a chef want to show off πŸ˜‰ Like the recipe subtext says, high-quality ingredients make this recipe, so don’t skimp on the good stuff – I used a nice ouzo, marinated shrimp, and the most solid chunk of feta I could find πŸ™‚ Everything in this dish comes together pretty fast so remember to put the bread in the oven!

I did add one flaming embellishment to this recipe – which is probably the one reason I like saganaki in the first place! In theΒ  authentic Greek version of this recipe, the cheese is doused in ouzo and set aflame, effectively melting the cheese and looking seriously cool in the process. Did I light my skillet of cheese on fire with ouzo? Yes, without hesitation too πŸ˜€ (okay, only a few seconds of hesitation though..) and I can tell you, it was awesomely non-dangerous and was only really alit for about 7 seconds, although completely covered in a purple flames that whole time…This just makes me want to flambe all sorts of others things with ouzo too πŸ˜‰

Shrimp Saganaki with Fresh Herbs, Feta Cheese, and Tomatoes

Ingredients

1/2 kg. medium-sized shrimp, peeled & deveinedshrimp-medium

4 oz. block feta

3 small loaves garlic bread (frozen or fresh)

1 bunch green onions, chopped

8 garlic cloves, chopped

1 can chopped tomatoes, drained

1/2 cup white wine

3 Tbs. ouzo (anise-flavored liquor)

1/2 cup vegetable broth

1/2 cup chopped fresh dillFIRE

1/2 cup chopped fresh basil

1 Tbs. dried oregano

olive oil

sea salt & cracked pepper

(1) Heat 3 Tbs. olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. When hot, add green onions and garlic, stirring often until softened, about 3 minutes. (2) Add tomatoes and stir occasionally until reduced by half, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat. (3) Add wine, dried oregano, ouzo, and broth to the skillet and return to heat on medium-high. Let boil until reduced by half, another 5 minutes, and season to taste with salt and pepper. (4) Combine the fresh herbs in a cup, stirring half into the skillet mixture and reserving the remaining half of the herbs for serving. (5) Reduce heat to medium, and add shrimp, laying them on the side, leaving some space in the middle. Put the block of feta in the center of the skillet and cover, cooking until the cheese is soft and shrimp are cooked through, 5-6 minutes. (6) Warm the garlic bread in the oven and slice. When done, place in a glass bowl and cover. (7) When the shrimp & cheese are looking ready, pour a shot of ouzo over the top of the feta. Safely, light the ouzo on fire and let cook until flames extinguish themselves, about 10 seconds. (8) When ready to serve, remove skillet from heat. Put on the table with a wooden cutting board beneath (to protect the table:). Garnish the skillet mixture with the rest of the fresh herbs and cracked pepper. Serve hot with small plates and garlic bread. Goes with white wine, chilled beer, and/or more ouzo with lemon slices πŸ™‚

Serves 4

Shrimp-and-tomatoGod bless Greek flavors! I’ll have to go there someday, especially if I ever want to see the sun again πŸ˜‰ In the meantime I’m going to cook more creatures of the sea! They’re just so…tasty.. πŸ˜€

My question: What, in your opinion, is the tastiest appetizer involving seafood?

Maybe to truly answer this question, I’ll need to throw a little cocktail party where we serve 5 or 6 seafood appetizers and poll the guests to see which dish goes best with very dry martinis πŸ™‚ Mmm…

2.24.13

Mambo Italiano

Is Summer really almost over? It seems like it with all this raaaaain 😦 In celebration of summertime simplicity, I’ve been making easy recipes involving fresh ingredients that can be assembled into a meal, cooked, and ready in minutes. My latest obsession? Carbohydrates (what a surprise..) particularly pasta and pizza. I’ve posted this recipe in dedication of the Italian approach to cooking, which always seems to involve fresh, tasty ingredients in out-of-this world dishes. As is the case with Italian wine, Italian food just screams simple AND delicious πŸ™‚
This recipe is from one of my favorite magazines, Cucina La Italiana and was made to honor the tastes of the creator’s mother, who had an affection for lemons. In case it’s not too obvious, the star ingredient on this pizza is definitely the lemons. The second most important ingredient is the olive oil, which serves as a much better base than runny tomato sauce.. but then again, perhaps I’m craving purity in dishes already natural and uncomplicated. Lemons you say, on pizza?! At first, it did seem a bit odd but I amped up the vegetarian version with bacon (yeah, I couldn’t help it) and green onions. The result? A pizza that’s both savory and citrusy (whoa) with rich and light flavors satisfying enough to please any pizza lover.

Now, while making dough from scratch could prove to be an interesting experience, it’s also incredibly time-consuming so I opted for pre-made refrigerated pizza dough. Any access to specialty cheeses (like aged Gouda, smoked mozzarella, pesto Asiago, etc.) would amp up the exotic factor. I prefer my pizza browned on top (if not black in a couple of places!) with bubbling cheese and wilted greens – it makes for the best dinner after one of those long summer days πŸ˜€

Sorretina Pizza with Peppered Bacon, Lemon, and Fresh Basil

Ingredients

2Β  packages of refrigerated pizza dough

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 bunch of fresh Basil, cut into ribbons

1 cup of shredded mozzarella cheese

2 lemons, peeled, seeded, & segemented

1 packet of bacon

1 bunch green onions, thinly sliced

chili flakes

baking paper

sea salt & cracked pepper

(1) Preheat the oven to 205 degrees Celsius (or 4oo degrees Fahrenheit). Heat a medium skillet over medium-high heat and cook the bacon until slightly crispy, turning once, and cracking pepper generously over the top. When cooked, transfer to a cutting board and coarsely chop the bacon, setting aside. (2) Spread the pre-made dough out on an oven pan covered with baking paper. Cover generously with half of the olive oil. (3) When ready to bake, layer the first pizza with half of the cooked bacon, chopped green onions, fresh basil, and shredded cheese; top with 1 of the segmented lemons and sprinkle chili flakes across the top. (4) Cook in the oven until the top is nicely browned and the cheese is melted and bubbling, 12-15 minutes. (5) Follow the same order with the remainder of the toppings for the second pizza; cook in the oven while eating the first pizza. Goes well with lager beer or chilled white wine πŸ™‚

Serves 6

Experimenting with pizza always seems worthwhile, I guess that’s because almost anything goes well on warm bread with a little olive oil and bacon πŸ˜› What surprises me is this particular version of Neapolitan pizza still being limited to the region in Italy..

My question:

What is one of the more unusual pizza ingredients you like to use when making pizza from scratch?

9.5.12

Menu for A Cool Summer Day

Hello and happy summer πŸ™‚ The sun has proven worth waiting all these months and as I’m getting to enjoy the cool summer breezes I’ve also been making lots of different dishes too numerous to post. I have however, combined three of my latest edibles into a summertime menu with plenty of homemade flair and the sublime simplicity of fresh summer produce.

The crunchy, briny pickles are from a recipe I found in last month’s Cooking Network magazine and are a genius idea because first, it’s so easy to make, second, the veggies stay crispy and fresh without sitting in boiling water for forty minutes, and third, they last 3 months in the fridge and only become more marinated with time. Pickles are a pretty versatile ingredient too, I recommend having them with cheese & crackers for breakfast, with garlic bread for Lunch, or coarsely chopped and served as a salad alongside grilled meat πŸ˜€ The peppercorns and other seeds soften significantly enough to be chewable, granted you love the robust flavors involved in the pickling brine.

The Quinoa Recipe is from an old Cooking Light and well worth the 15 minutes it takes to cook the grain to fluffy completion. There are different types of quinoa and while we ordinarily eat the white, quinoa also can be black and red; I used the red version here which was a much warmer color among the sticky peach pieces. The sandwiches are very Danish (at least that’s what I’m going to claim;)) with a savory spread, and both crunchy and smooth veggies. This particular recipe I saw in Gourmet, adding some of my own embellishments in the form of full flavors. Everything in this menu can be served chilled (and only gets better with the cold). I think the sandwiches make for a perfect picnic dish, if the weather is sunny enough πŸ˜€

The star ingredient in this menu is black pepper. Now I may be an overzealous fan of this spicy staple, but it’s cheap, potent, and in every kitchen πŸ™‚ Pepper goes with sweet and salty tastes alike and is apparently full of anti-oxidant vitamins and minerals. At one point in time I’d assumed pepper was a seed like coriander or cumin, but it’s actually the fruit of a tropical evergreen tree, which is far more interesting. Cracked pepper will remain the unsung hero in most of my dishes, partly due to the fact that I often double (or okay, triple..) my pepper seasoning – which seems to bestow the right degree of tasteful spiciness every time.

Carrot-Cucumber-Cauliflower Pickles with Fennel, Mustard Seeds, & Coriander

Ingredients

4 carrots, peeled & thickly sliced

3 red onions, thickly sliced

1/2 head cauliflower, divided into florets

10 green beans, trimmed

5 small cucumbers, quartered

1 bunch fresh Dill

2 Tbs. coriander seeds

2 Tbs. fennel seeds

1 Tbs. mustard seeds

1 Tbs. black peppercorns

1/2 Tbs. salt

2 cups white wine vinegar

4 cups water

5 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced

5-6 glass jars with seal-able lids

(1) Put 2-3 dill sprigs in each jar and pack (as tightly as possible) a mixture among all the jars. Stir together the peppercorns, fennel, coriander, and mustard seeds and divide evenly among the jars, spooning atop the veggies. (2) Put the water in a large saucepan and bring to a boil. Add the vinegar, garlic, and salt; reduce heat and simmer for about 5 minutes. (3) Carefully pour the hot brine into each of the jars, filling to the top. Seal the jars tightly with lids and let cool before refrigerating. Keeps chilled 3 months, ready to eat 3 hours after refrigerating.

Serves 6-8

Red Quinoa with Peaches, Black Pepper, & Honey

Ingredients

1 bag of red quinoa, rinsed

8 peaches, thickly sliced

4 lemons, juiced

6 Tbs. honey

2 Tbs. olive oil

2 Tbs. cracked pepper

(1) Cook the quinoa according to package instructions (usually 1 part water to 3 parts quinoa), until the grain has absorbed all water and can be fluffed with a fork. Uncover and set aside, letting cool 10 minutes. (2) Stir in the honey, cracked pepper, and lemon juice. Serve at room temperature or chilled, as dessert or side dish.

Serves 4

Bacon, Avocado, & Sprout Sandwiches with Dill-Chive Spread

Ingredients

(for sandwiches)

3 ripe avocados, thinly sliced

1 loaf of sourdough bread, sliced

8 bacon strips

1 cup fresh bean sprouts

3-5 slices of Havarti cheese

(for spread)

3 Tbs. mayonnaise

4 Tbs. yogurt

1 orange, juiced

4 Tbs. fresh Dill, minced

4 Tbs. fresh Chives, minced

salt & cracked pepper

(1) To make the spread, combine all ingredients from the mayonnaise through fresh chives in a small tupperware. Season to taste with salt and cracked pepper. Can be chilled up to a week ahead. (2) Sprinkle cracked pepper over the bacon before cooking in a skillet at medium-high heat. Remove when crispy but not burnt, 6-8 minutes and let cool. (3) Layer both sides of bread thickly with the herb spread. On one piece put the bacon and then sliced avocado. On the other, layer sprouts and cheese, putting atop the bottom layer. Cut in half before serving. Best with light beer or chilled white wine πŸ˜€

Serves 4

So as the weather continues to warm up a bit I’ll probably keep thinking of cold food in all its refreshing versions. Salsa, salad, sandwiches, sangria – it sure seems like I have a lot of options – if only Summer was forever πŸ˜‰

My question: What spice do you think is underrated in the kitchen?

6.30.12

Sugar, Spice and Everything Nice

Hooray! Spring is here and so is the new baby πŸ™‚ He’s so beautiful it’s hard to imagine I’ll be able to cook anything when I’m not fondly staring at him πŸ˜‰ Anyways, I decided that in order to tie my latest kitchen creations in with what’s left of Springtime and the whole ‘sweet’ theme I’ve been experiencing lately, I would post a couple of recipes reflective of this celebratory mood.

Below I’ve listed 2 jam recipes – both using the same base (strawberries) but with 2 very different takes on this delicious Spring fruit πŸ˜€ Since making jam is so incredible easy (not to mention pretty entertaining), I’m sharing 2 recipes I made up myself, concocted in the last weeks leading up to the big arrival.

The star ingredient in both recipes is (surprise!) strawberries. Admittedly, these berries are some of the best for jam – colorful and sweet – they just scream “eat me!” every time I see them but hey, maybe that’s just me πŸ™‚ The first of these recipes is a spicy jam version which, although it may sound a little strange initially, is absolutely delicious; I spread it on crusty bread, mix it in with plain yogurt for breakfast, and serve it alongside slices of cheese as a snack. Either way, the ‘spice’ element shouldn’t scare anyone away because a tamer version can be made by simply omitting the seeds in the peppers. The second recipe included in this post is a sweet on slightly tart combination with strawberry and rhubarb, an earthier recipe with a syrupy sweet finish. For all those who consider a little jam now and then among the finer things in life, enjoy! πŸ˜€

Strawberry-Chile Jam with Cognac

Ingredients

1 bag frozen strawberries, thawed

3 Thai chilies (or other hot red chile)

3 cups sugar

2 Tbs. pectin (or citronsyre) powder

1/2 cup cognac

1/2 lemon

(1) Chop or blend the strawberries so they’re in coarse pieces; dice the chilies but do not seed them (if you’d like your jam less spicy, then go ahead and seed them). (2) Mix the strawberries, sugar, chilies, and 1/2 cup water in a medium saucepan. Cook until bubbling over medium-high heat until water burns off, about 8-10 minutes. (3) Add the cognac and pectin, stirring often, another 5-8 minutes until jam has thickened and coats the side of a spoon. (4) Juice the lemon into the jam and cook another 2 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool. (5) Spoon the jam into glass containers and let come to room temperature before refrigerating. Serve with anything from bread, meat, cheese, yogurt, scones, or ice cream πŸ™‚ Keeps chilled in the fridge over 3 weeks.

Serves 6

White Wine Strawberry-Rhubarb Jam

Ingredients

1 bag frozen strawberries, thawed

3 rhubarb stalks, coarsely chopped

3 cups sugar

2 Tbs. pectin powder

1 cup white wine

(1) Heat the strawberries, sugar, rhubarb, and 1/2 cup water in a saucepan over medium-high heat until boiling; cook until water burns off and sugar dissolves, about 8-10 minutes. (2) Transfer to a blender and pulse until smooth, return to saucepan and reheat, adding the white wine and pectin. (3) Cook another 8-10 minutes until jam has thickened and coats the side of a spoon. (4) Remove the jam from heat and let cool. Spoon into glass containers and let come to room temperature before refrigerating. Serve with crackers, cheese, on toast, or with chilled cream for dessert πŸ™‚ Keeps in the fridge over 3 weeks.

Serves 6

So this has been my experience with jam-making of late and seriously – god bless berries…jam would simply not be the same without them πŸ™‚

My question:

what fruit & wine combination works great for jam?

The next venture in preserves I’ll be undertaking will be blueberry-grappa jelly, from a recipe I found in Cucina La Italiana, which sounds ridiculously delici0us and sweet, but we’ll have to see..

5.19.12

Menu for a Spring Celebration

Last Sunday, I had the pleasure of throwing a baby shower at our little apartment. This post comprises the menu. Everyone brought plenty of soda and juice, and one of my friends even made some delicious Spanish food, which disappeared mighty quick. It was a beautiful day, with wonderful company, good food (if I might say so myself), and turned out to be one lively celebration. I thought it only best to share some of the delectable deliciousness that accompanied everything πŸ™‚

The menu is organized in basically the order in which it was served, with the first course or starter being homemade jam (I mean, marmalade), then the main course, ending with a very simple dessert. I first read this jam recipe in Bon Appetit but after glancing at the picture (bleh..) I decided to make my own version and ended up winging it with the rest of the recipe. My other friend, a very talented individual in ways of baking, was nice enough to make fresh rolls with raisins for the shower and her boyfriend brought along a tasty loaf of bread so the jam ended up being a good way to start off everything. I served both the bread and the jam alongside a soft cheese (something crème), but butter would work just as well..

The antipasti dish I also found in Bon Appetit, accompanied by much better picture this time so I added a couple of things I thought it needed to make the main course dish. Namely, I served the salad with a strip of peppered ham, more slices of mozzarella, baby tomatoes (because it’s a baby shower:-) and plenty of garlic in the raw form, because the store-bought pesto just wasn’t cutting it. Olives I marinated in a spicy-salty brine from the week before I added to the plates as a finishing touch, which turned out to be some of the more flavorful aspects of the meal. It is by request(s) that I include the olive recipe below because frankly, it’s easy to make and the olives turn out so much tastier than they’d normally be just sitting in your fridge. I really hope someone makes their own version of these marinated olives and let me know how it tastes!

The dessert proved to be the simplest dish to prepare out of this menu, which is always good at the end of any event and it included the essentials — fruit, nuts, cheese (yes, again) and honey. I got the idea from last April’s Cooking Network magazine but the nuts were a welcome inspiration on my part. I think the key thing here is to get quality fresh fruit, because pears can be pretty disappointing if unripe. Blue cheese may be a reluctant choice to some but say just yes to the moldy dairy because everything is delicious when sprinkled with honey πŸ˜€

The star ingredient in this menu is: cheese! I included cheese in every course (because I can, and so I will) and all different kinds of it too, mild and fluffy with the main course (god bless the mozzarella), light and creamy with the starter, and mottled with flavor for the dessert. Remember, cheese is pure protein (okay, and a little fat) but I maintain the believe it more flavor than calories, so no restraint should be necessary πŸ˜‰ The Danes love cheese just as much as I do so I didn’t really need an excuse. By the end of the day, we were all so full I feel I may have overdone it just a little. Oh well!

Fig-Thyme Jam

Ingredients

1/2 kilo ( or just over 1 lb.) dried figs

1/2 cup of sugar

1 bunch of fresh Thyme

1 lemon

3 Tbs. honey

(1) Boil a kettle of water. In a bowl, place the dried figs and cover with the boiling hot water. Let soften 10 minutes, then drain, stem, and coarsely chop all of the figs. (2) In a medium saucepan, put the figs and sugar, adding enough water to just cover all contents in the pot. Make sure the thyme is washed thoroughly and secured in a bunch with string then put into the saucepan as everything heats up. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat. (3) Meanwhile, zest and juice the lemon and set aside. When the jam mixture is bubbling, lower the heat to medium. (4) Stirring often, cook until all of the liquid evaporates and jam starts to stick to the bottom of the saucepan, 20-30 minutes. (5) Mix in the lemon zest and juice and cook everything a minute more. Remove from heat, discard the thyme bunch, and let the jam cool. (6) Stir in the honey and remove any visible thyme stems (but not the little leaves:-) Chill jam in the fridge 1 hour before serving (keeps chilled up to 3 weeks). Serve with bread or toast and butter or a mild cheese.

Serves 6

Citrus, Coriander, and Chili Marinated Olives

Ingredients

2 cups mixed olives (like green, black, or kalamata)

1 lemon, seeded & sliced

1/2 cup of olive oil

4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

2 fresh Thai chiles, halved (or 4 dried)

1 Tbs. crushed Coriander seeds

1 tsp. crushed fennel seeds

1 tsp. crushed black peppercorns

1 Tbs. sherry vinegar

3 bay leaves

sea salt

(1) In a medium tight-sealing container, mix the olives and lemon pieces. (2) In a saucepan, bring the olive oil, sliced garlic, chilies, and all of the spices slowly up to a simmer over low heat. Let bubble until fragrant and the garlic begins to brown, 20-30 minutes. (3) Remove the pan from heat and add vinegar. Cover and let the brine steep for 1 hour. (4) When cool, pour the oil mixture over the olives and mix well, letting everything marinate at room temperature for up to 2 hours (can be stored in the fridge for 2-3 weeks). Serve the olives at room temperature.

Serves 6

Pesto Antipasti with blanched Beans, Baby Tomatoes, and fresh Mozzarella

Ingredients

1/4 kilo fresh green beans (0r 1/2 lb)

1/4 kilo fresh flat beans (or wax beans)

1 bunch baby tomatoes, stemmed & halved

1 can white beans, drained

1 bunch green onions, coarsely chopped

4 garlic cloves, minced

1 lemon, juiced

1/4 cup store-bought (or homemade) basil pesto

300 g fresh buffalo mozzarella (or just over 10 oz), thickly sliced

1 cup mixed olives (from the marinated olive recipe above)

1 packet thinly sliced meat, for serving (like ham or prosciutto)

2 Tbs. olive oil

salt & cracked pepper

(1) Top and tail all of the fresh beans, cutting into 2-cm pieces. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Once at a rolling boil, throw in all of the fresh beans and blanch for about 1 minute until bright green. Drain the beans and immediately rinse with ice cold water. (2) In a large mixing bowl, combine the white beans, baby tomatoes, green onions, minced garlic, and all of freshly blanched beans. Add pesto, 2 Tablespoons of olive oil, and lemon juice, mixing well. Season the salad to taste with salt & pepper (or more minced garlic:-) (3) When ready to serve, arrange 3 slices of the fresh mozzarella, 1 piece of meat, and a generous cup of the salad on each small plate. Add 3 or 4 marinated olives on the side.

Serves 6

Pear Slices with Blue Cheese, Walnuts, & Honey

Ingredients

3 ripe yellow pears, cored & sliced

1 wedge of soft blue cheese

1/2 cup of walnuts, shelled

3-5 Tbs. honey

On small dessert plates, arrange 3-4 pear slices alongside 3 walnuts. Spread a thin (but not too thin:P) layer of blue cheese over the pear slices and drizzle the plates with honey. Serve immediately.

Serves 6

Well, that was my baby shower menu. I’m so happy everyone came, had a good time, and left with full bellies. I enjoyed everything about that day and have so many baby things now, I dare say the little guy is taking over my closet πŸ˜‰ Hopefully one day he’ll like cheese as much as I do!

My question: What is the best cheese to serve as or with dessert? I’d love some new ideas..

3.3.2012

Tiny, Tasty Tapas

For my Baby Shower, I wanted to make Spanish Tapas, just a couple of simple, incredibly tasty dishes with offshore attitude. Since I’m off to Spain next month with my brother I feel inspired and a desire to cook up some Spanish food of my own. I chose major protein groups of course — meat, beans, and eggs (see, I’m getting good at this;) but it’s not as boring as it initially sounds.

I have included a mini menu of the tapas I served at the shower, which does not begin to subsume the effusion of appetizers that were brought to the party. These recipes are from A Passion for Tapas, a wonderful book filled with these Spanish-style eats. The most difficult (no, let’s say time-consuming) recipe was by far the deviled eggs — so many steps, so little time — so while I still recommend making this, anytime for any reason, I would also advise at least boiling the eggs and making the filling the night before an event, if anything it just intensifies the flavor while chilling πŸ™‚

The star ingredient in all these dishes was lemons. Granted, I have been craving lemons and limes like none other since my arrival back in snowy Colorado so my bias in inherent from the start. Although all three of these recipes contain similar simple ingredients — garlic, fresh Parsley, and olive oil (god bless olive oil:-) and all of them contain this sour ingredient in some form or the other, be the zest pulp, or juice of lemons. I think this citrus fruit adds the right amount of acidity to each dish that compliments all other fresh flavors involved. The festivities were great and it’s so nice be home and cooking for friends and (with) family again, a part of why the holidays are especially nice.

Lemony Lamb Skewers with Pickled Onions

Ingredients

(for the marinade)

5 garlic cloves, minced

3 lemons

1 onion, coarsely chopped

1 bunch fresh thyme

2 Tbs. ground coriander

1 Tbs. ground cumin

1/2 cup olive oil

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

1/2 cup cold water

(for lamb)

10 wooden kebab sticks

2 lbs. leg of lamb, trimmed and cut into 1-inch cubes

1 jar pickled pearl onions, drained

ground coriander, for garnish

sea salt & cracked pepper

(1) Combine ingredients for the marinade, garlic, olive oil, onion, spices, vinegar, thyme, and cold water in a large seal-able bag; zest all of the lemons and juice them, combining both in marinade. Add cubed lamb pieces to the marinade, seal bag and refrigerate 3-4 hours (or overnight). (2) Next, soak the wooden skewers in water for 15 minutes. Remove lamb pieces and reserve 1 cup of the marinade for basting. Put 3 pieces of lamb on each skewer, separated by pickled onions; season skewers generously with ground coriander. (3) Preheat the grill over high heat and cook skewers, turning once, and basting with leftover marinade for about 10 minutes. Remove from grill and cover with foil, letting stand another 10 minutes before serving.

Serves 6

Chickpeas and Chorizo with Pimentos, Parsley, & Sherry

Ingredients

1 lb. Chorizo sausage, sliced

2 cans chickpeas, drained

1 can butter beans, drained

1/2 bunch fresh parsley, minced

1 jar sliced pimentos, drained

1 lemon

1 bunch green onions, sliced

4 garlic cloves, minced

1/4 cup cooking sherry

olive oil

1 baguette, sliced

sea salt & cracked pepper

(1) Brush the bread pieces lightly with olive oil and toast in the broiler over medium-high heat until both sides are browned; put all baguette pieces in a cloth-lined basket and cover until ready to serve. (2) Heat 2 Tbs. of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. When hot, add chorizo pieces, stirring occasionally until the slices are browned, 5-7 minutes. (3) Add garlic, green onions, and a little more olive oil, cooking until tender another 3-4 minutes. Lower the heat to medium-low and add sherry, all beans, pimentos, and minced parsley, stirring occasionally until most of the liquid is absorbed and the dish is heated throughout, 5 minutes. (4) Remove from heat, juice all of the lemon over the mixture and season with salt and pepper. Serve with a large spoon and toasted baguette pieces, garnishing with sprigs of fresh Parsley.

Serves 6

Deviled Eggs with Fresh Chives, Cayenne, and Green Olives

Ingredients

1 dozen eggs

4 Tbs. olive oil mayo

2 Tbs. paprika

1 Tbs. ground cayenne pepper

1 bunch fresh chives, minced

2 Tbs. Dijon mustard

1/4 cup dill pickles, finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced

2 tsp. Tabasco

2 Tbs. lemon juice

1/4 cup green olives, halved

thinly sliced pimentos, for garnish

sea salt & cracked pepper

(1) Put eggs in a pot and cover with cold water, bringing to a boil over medium-high heat. Once boiling, reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for about 10 minutes. Drain the cooked eggs and fill the pot back up with very cold water; let eggs chill 20 minutes. (2) Gently tap eggs with a knife to crack the shells, carefully removing shell from all eggs before rinsing with water. Next, halve the eggs and with a spoon, carefully remove cooked yolks, putting them all into a medium bowl. (3) Mash yolks with a fork, adding the mayo, mustard, hot sauce, chopped pickles, chives, garlic, and cayenne pepper. Season the mixture to taste with salt & pepper then cover and chill in the fridge for about an hour (or overnight). (4) Arrange the hollowed egg whites on a platter and fill (generously) until all of the yolk filling has been used. Garnish each deviled egg with a sliced pimento and half of a green olive, sprinkling paprika over everything. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Serves 6

So while this may not be a very ‘Christmasy’ post, I do think it is celebratory and the recipes all got the good stuff: flavor, spice, and filling. I enjoyed making the tapas and can’t wait to try some of these authentic Spanish dishes on the upcoming trip. In the meantime, I will be enjoying the holidays and am already thinking about the recipe to make for New Years. I’m thinking two main things: pork ribs and coca-cola }:-)

My question: What is the best ingredient in deviled eggs? (And don’t say the eggs, because that’s just too obvious..)

Merry Christmas (and to All a Good Night — and Day)!

12.25.11