Tag Archive: spices


Spaghetti with ShrimpIt’s finally Spring, at least, I think. With the sudden rush of sunshine and warm weather, I find myself feeling like something fresh and flavorful. Spring is my favorite season by far and I always almost forget how wonderful it is – every year, until it happens again πŸ™‚ This season is proving to be warmer by the day, and perhaps even more delightful is the fact that a lot of fruit and veggies seem to be in season suddenly as well. Ahh Spring, how did I forget you? And how I remember you now that you’re actually here.

I find people underrating seafood these days, so it’s only fitting this post involve the fresh, salty cuisine. Other than being devastatingly delicious, shrimp tend to pack enough flavor that you don’t need a huge amount. I found this recipe in a “quick & easy”-themed Fine Cooking magazine. Quick? Shrimp cooks in like 3 minutes, so check. Easy? Definitely. Other than some chopping at the beginning and a lot of stirring in between, this was easy enough. I did up the veggie content and mix a few things up recipe-wise, but here’s my version. The best part? The cream sauce. The recipe was titled ‘shrimp & pasta with a “light” curry cream sauce’ so I took this to mean light in content, but rich in taste; I accomplished this by quadrupling the amount of curry I added (I’m pretty sure moCreamst people do this too…)

Okay, I’ll admit it. I have a problem. My problem is with cream. Seriously, WHY did we make the stuff? Oh yeah because it’s amazing, because it takes things like sauce, dip, dessert, or a cup of iced coffee and makes it simply spectacular, I’d go so far as to say divine. I love to hate cream because it keeps adding to the comfortable layer already around my waist πŸ˜‰ but thank god they make low-fat versions of the sinful stuff and sell it in little itty bitty containers, otherwise I might be a little rounder about now. My secret ingredient? That’s right, the cream. No lie. Because what IS sauce without it? I’ll tell you: it’s runny , it’s grim, it’s lacking in texture and depth – but WITH cream? Ahh, then we’ve hit culinary nirvana, again. Remember that a little goes a long way and for this sauce, it’s more than enough.

Pasta + veggies = boring … Pasta + veggies + shrimp? Mmm … pasta + veggies + shrimp … + cream sauce? Now we’re talking πŸ˜€

Spiced Shrimp with Soy Beans, Basil, and Mushrooms in a Light Curry Cream Sauce

Ingredients

(for pasta)

1 package spaghetti or linguinicurry-powder

1 package frozen & shelled edamame (soybeans), defrosted

1 package mushrooms (any), stemmed & sliced

1 package frozen mixed veggies (like peppers, or a wok mix with corn, carrots, snap peas, etc.)

4 garlic cloves, sliced

1 package large shrimp, peeled & deveinedChiffonade-Basil

2 Tbs. sesame seeds

1 Tbs. chili flakes

olive oil

coarse sea salt

(for sauce)

1/3 cup chicken broth

1/2 cup dry vermouth (or white wine)

1 cup creamEdamame

4 Tbs. yellow curry powder (sub any other curry powder)

1 lime

cooking oil

sea salt & chili flakes

fresh Basil leaves for serving, chiffonade

(1) Fill a large pot with water. Add a pinch of salt and a spoonful of olive oil. Cover and set over medium-high heat until at a rolling boil. (2) In a large saute pan or skillet, heat 2 Tbs. cooking oil over medium-high heat. When hot (and oil is shimmering), add the garlic and mushrooms, stirring occasionally until browned, about 8 minutes. (3) In a medium bowl, season shrimp with the sesame seeds, sea salt, and chili flakes. (4) Add the frozen veggie mix and endamame to the skillet and cook another 3 minutes. Using a wooden spoon, push the veggie ingredients to the side of the skillet and add shrimp and cook, stirring often until semi-pink but not completely cooked through (3 minutes max). (5) Add broth and vermouth, lowering the heat to maintain a simmer and, stirring occasionally, let the liquid reduce by half. (6) Once the large pot of water is boiling, add pasta and cook according to package instructions until al dente. Drain and return to the pot. Juice the lime over the pasta and stir until moistened. Cover to keep warm and set aside (7) Add the curry powder and cream to the skillet, mixing well, and let the mixture bubble another 2-3 minutes, until sauce is thickened. (8) Pour curry sauce with shrimp and veggies over thShrimpe pasta and stir to combine. Season to taste with sea salt and chili flakes. Serve steamin’ in bowl garnished with a generous pile of fresh Basil leaves.

Serves 4

Well, it looks so time-consuming here when I spell it out step-by-step, but just re-thinking making this recipe gives me this strange desire to cook similar things… involving seafood + cream… hmm like seared scallops with creamy pea puree, or something like that (!)

My question: What is your favorite dish with cream in it?

Seriously, I want to know.

Yes, ice cream counts.

5.6.2014

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

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

The Best of the Season

Now that we’re in the full swing of Summer, there’s plenty of tasty things in season – apples, apricots, avocados, basil, bell peppers, berries, melon, carrots, cherries, chilies, cilantro, eggplant, fennel, figs, grapes, garlic, green beans, green onions, lettuce, limes – veggies that are relatively inexpensive and arriving at the local markets in abundance. The last two weeks I’ve had my best friend here from the U.S. I cooked up a storm, really couldn’t help myself and we probably ate 90% of what’s on that in-season list. Granted we drank a lot of Sangria too, so I think it’s all a balance πŸ™‚

In this post I’ve sketched out a complete day’s menu. I tried to make it a colorful, tasty spread with a good mix of both rich and fresh, spicy and sweet flavors. The menu is divided into the day’s meals: breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert. If I had to categorize it, I’d call the breakfast Danish, the lunch Hawaiian, and the dinner just plain European…I’d be lying if I said the dessert wasn’t Italian πŸ˜€

Probably one of this menu’s more bombastic contributions, the breakfast pΓ’tΓ© I found in last month’sΒ Bon AppΓ©tit. I just happened to have frozen pΓ’tΓ© in my freezer, made in the last month of my pregnancy. A container of frozen pΓ’tΓ© is one of the best things I’ve ‘lost’ and found again in my freezer. The steak, carrot, and chicken salad recipes I read in Cooking Light a couple years ago (and pineapple dressing for salad – genius!) The dessert is from Cucina La Italiana, still one of my favorite cooking magazines πŸ˜€ (nope..no endorsement yet, but a girl can dream).

On a random side note, I have switched from using olive oil to sunflower oil in all of my recipes that involve cooking at high temperatures. I recently read in an email sent from a very helpful friend of mine that when you cook certain oils (most oils, actually) to a certain high temperature, they burn and consequently go rancid. Rancid oils are carcinogenic, which are bad no matter what form they come in. So – as delicious as olive oil is – I guess it’s best to be served with dishes that aren’t cooked. Perhaps I should have known this but hey, I thought olive oil was delicious in any form I used it.

The star ingredient in this menu is citrus, I used mostly oranges but lemons and limes too. I’ve made the case for this fruit time and time again and I never seem to tire of it. I have a tupperware full of citrus slices sitting in the fridge for my water, juice, wine, etc. and I throw orange peels into stir-fries, zest copious amounts of lemons for batches of strawberry lemonade, and am making lime simple syrup for what I think might be the perfect mohito. This family of fruits can sit in the fruit bowl on the counter long after all other fruits there have molded and bruised, all the while giving off verbena aromas in the kitchen. I put unripe fruit in a bag with oranges or other citrus for a day to make them soft and ready to eat. Since I get a lot of my citrus from Spain, I’ve now gotten into the habit of scrubbing the outer rinds with soap and warm water before I zest or peel for cooking. At first what I thought was a pregnancy craving, turns out to be a lifelong addiction to Vitamin C, perhaps? Or maybe I’m just wanting some extra energy πŸ˜‰ Either way, there’s something wonderfully refreshing about these sweet and sour fruits. If I had to pick a favorite – and it would be hard – I would have to say lemons. When life gives you lemons, you can make just about a million things to eat..

Breakfast

Liver PΓ’tΓ© Crostini with Savory Berry Salad

Ingredients

2 1/2 cups chilled liver pΓ’tΓ© (can be chicken, duck, or beef)

1 baguette, sliced

(for the salad)

1 container of fresh blackberries

1 container of fresh blueberries

1 Tbs. olive oil

2 Tbs. fresh chives, minced

2 Tbs. fresh Parsley, minced

1 lemon, juiced

salt & cracked pepper

(1) To make the salad, combine all ingredients – blackberries through lemon juice – in a sealable container. Season with salt & pepper and chill until ready to serve. Turn the oven on to a low broil. (2) In a large metal or glass oven pan, lay out the baguette slices and season both sides lightly with olive oil and pepper. (3) Put pan into the oven about 10 cm from the top and broil, turning once, until both sides are browned, 3-4 minutes total. (4) Serve each of the toasted bread slices with a layer of chilledΒ pΓ’tΓ© and a spoonful of the berry salad on individual plates, or set it all in the center of the table and let everyone make their own.

Serves 4

Lunch

Blackened Chicken Spinach Salad with Spicy Pineapple Dressing

Ingredients

(for the chicken)

1 lb. (or 1/2 kg) chicken breasts

1 Tbs. ground coriander

1 tsp. chili flakes

1 Tbs. garam masala

1/2 Tbs. curry powder

1 /2 Tbs. ground black pepper

1 Tbs. cajun seasoning

1 Tbs. paprika

sunflower oil

(for the salad)

1 bag of baby spinach, washed & stemmed

1 package of baby bean sprouts, washed

1 red bell pepper, seeded & thinly sliced

1 yellow bell pepper, seeded & thinly sliced

2 red onions, peeled & thinly sliced

3 carrots, peeled & cut into matchsticks

1/2 of a ripe pineapple, peeled & cubed

(for the vinaigrette)

1/4 cup beer

1/4 cup olive oil

1/2 cup cubed pineapple

2 Thai chilies, coarsely chopped

1/2 bunch fresh cilantro, stemmed & chopped

1/2 bunch of fresh chives, chopped

2 oranges, juiced

3 Tbs. honey

3 Tbs. yogurt

1 Tbs. rice vinegar

3 garlic cloves, chopped

(1) First, make the vinaigrette: combine all ingredients (beer through garlic) in a blender and puree until smooth. Season to taste with honey and cracked pepper, cover, and chill in the fridge. (2) Second, for the salad, make sure all veggies are washed and the greens are dry. In a large bowl, toss all veggies for the salad together, spinach through pineapple pieces. Cover with a damp paper towel and refrigerate until ready to eat. (3) Third, make the chicken: combine all spices for the chicken- coriander through paprika – in a small bowl. Wash and trim chicken breasts, dry, and then rub with 1 Tbs. sunflower oil. Rub the spice mix on both sides of chicken. (4) Heat 2 Tbs. of sunflower oil over medium-high heat in a skillet. When hot, add the chicken and cook, turning once until both sides are browned and the meat is cooked through, 10-12 minutes. Transfer chicken to a cutting board and cover with foil; let rest 5 minutes. (5) When ready to serve, lightly toss salad with the chilled vinaigrette. Slice blackened chicken lengthwise and top each salad bowl with 4-5 pieces. To make the salad as a weekly snack, keep vinaigrette on the side and separate salad into sealable containers, covering with damp paper towels; close and seal the containers and refrigerate until needed, adding the vinaigrette just before eating. Salad goes well with garlic bread or toasted pita triangles πŸ™‚

Serves 4

Dinner

Beef Tenderloin Steaks with Pomegranate-Pinot Noir Sauce

Ingredients

4 beef tenderloin steaks

1 1/2 cups Pinot Noir (or Cabernet-Merlot blend)

4 shallots, peeled & minced

2 oranges, juiced

2 pomegranates, seeded

1 cup of beef broth

2 Tbs. butter

sunflower oil

sea salt & cracked pepper

(1) Season both sides of steak with salt and pepper. Let meat stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before cooking. (2) Heat 2 Tbs. of oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, add the steaks and cook 3 minutes per side, untilΒ  seared on the outside and medium-rare when cut into. Remove steaks from the skillet and cover with foil. (3) Pour 1 Tbs. of oil into the skillet, add shallots and cook about 3 minutes until slightly golden. Add all of the red wine, beef broth, and orange juice next, bringing the sauce to a boil. (4) Stirring occasionally, cook until the liquid has been reduced by half. Lower heat and stir in the butter; season to taste with salt & pepper. (5) Serve the steaks with a generous spoonful of red wine sauce and 1/4 cup pomegranate seeds per plate, cracking black pepper across the top.

Serves 4

Steamed Carrots with Garlic-Ginger Butter

Ingredients

1 lb. (or 1/2 kg) carrots, peeled & quartered

4 cloves of garlic

5 Tbs. fresh grated ginger

3 Tbs. butter

5 limes, zested & juiced

sunflower oil

Sea salt & cracked pepper

(1) Mince all of the garlic and mix with the fresh ginger and lime zest; set aside. Fill the bottom of a large pot with 3 cm of salted water; cover and bring to a boil over high heat. (2) Put the carrots in a colander and then into the pot; cover and steam veggies until tender and easily pierced with a fork, 10-15 minutes. (3) In a large skillet, heat 2 Tbs. sunflower oil and add the garlic-ginger mixture, cooking 1 minute or until fragrant. (4) Lower the heat to medium and add carrots and lime juice, mixing well. Cover the skillet and cook, stirring often, until carrots have absorbed liquid, about 4-5 minutes. (5) Stir in the butter until melted and serve immediately with cracked pepper.
Serves 4

and Dessert..

Honey-Citrus Gelatin with Cream & Cracked Pepper

Ingredients

1 packet unflavored gelatin

3 oranges

1 lemon

4 Tbs. honey

2 Tbs. brown sugar

1/2 cup cream

cracked pepper

(1) Zest and juice all 3 oranges. In a medium saucepan, add orange juice, zest, honey, and brown sugar; bring to a boil over medium heat and simmer until thickened and reduced by half. (2) Juice the lemon and add to saucepan, add the gelatin powder and cook for 1 minute more. (3) Remove from heat and cover, letting stand a minimum of 30 minutes. Once cool, put in the fridge (keeps 3 weeks chilled). (4) When ready to serve, put spoonfuls of the warm (or chilled) gelatin into small bowls and pour cream over the top, garnishing with 1/2 tsp. cracked pepper.

Serves 4

So, my Summer menu has turned out to be both long and filling. Det er bΓ₯de lang og godt fyldende πŸ™‚

My question: What is the best sauce to serve with a steak?

Red wine sauce is still one of my reigning favorites…

8.1.12

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

Fish Tacos Night :)

There comes a time (right around now..) when you’re so anxious for Spring you feel like making equally zestyΒ dishes to remind you it’s the season of sunshine, freshness, and bloom. Maybe I’ve just been cramped up in winter for too long that the sight of all these flowers makes me feel more energetic and adventurous πŸ™‚

Last weekend we had some company over for dinner, both of whom are talented foodies in their own right. My friend cooks authentic Mexican food and she was wonderful enough to bring roasted tomato and pepper salsa — Salsa Roja — which sounds just as awesome as it actually is, as well as fresh homemade tortillas that went wonderfully with the blackened fish.

The actual recipe I used for the fish tacos ended up being a culmination of a few different recipes I found that served my purposes. For the blackened part, I used a recipe from Cooking Light (March 2011) and substituted the spices I had at home for the ones I wasn’t going to go out and buy, namely I used ground coriander, chili powder, and lots of cumin. The idea for the tacos came from allrecipes.com where they paired slaw with fish and chipotle mayo in tacos (but who needs mayo when you have fresh salsa!) For the slaw, I found a recipe made by the brilliant ‘Southwest’ chef Bobby Flay for cumin-lime cabbage coleslaw. I modified it by adding honey because it just sounds like something slaw is missing πŸ˜€

The star ingredient in this menu was fresh limes (I know I’m loving/craving citrus these days so I may be a little bias, but still). Limes have this wonderfully sour and acidic flavor that compliments spicy and sweet dishes alike, not to mention it just looks colorful and fresh sitting on a plate. I even served our coca-cola with little lime wedges to stick with the theme :v There is something nice about the flavor combination of blackened fish, spicy salsa, sliced avocado, creme fraiche, and warmed tortillas all cut with a squeeze of lime that makes you appreciate the messy act of devouring tacos all over again!

Spicy Blackened Fish Tacos served with Creme Fraiche, Lime, Fresh Salsa, & Avocado

Ingredients

1/2 kg (or 1 lb) boneless fresh white fish, like Tilapia or Halibut

(for blackened seasoning)

1 1/2 Tbs. ground coriander

1 Tbs. chili powder

1 Tbs. dried oregano

1 tsp. brown sugar

1 Tbs. ground Cumin

1/2 Tbs. ground black pepper

1 tsp. salt

(for the tacos)

3 ripe avocados

3 limes

1 package small flour (or corn) tortillas

2 cups fresh salsa

1 cup creme fraiche

(1) Mix all of the spices together for the blackened seasoning (coriander through salt) in a small bowl. Spread evenly over both sides of the fish until all the seasoning has been used. (2) Heat the oven to 150 degrees Celsius (or 300 Fahrenheit). Wrap the tortillas in foil and put in the oven to warm. (3) In a large frying pan or skillet, heat 1 Tablespoon of olive oil over medium-high heat. When hot, add the fish and cook 3-4 minutes per side, adding more oil if necessary to prevent sticking. Keep the fish centered in the pan so it cooks evenly and just until it begins to fall apart. Remove from the pan and cover with foil. (4) Slice the limes into wedges. Put the salsa, shredded cheese, and creme fraiche into separate bowls and set out for serving. Halve and thinly slice the avocado; squeeze a lime wedge over it to prevent browning. (5) To assemble the tacos, take a warmed tortilla and first put some of the blackened fish, then salsa, cheese, and a spoonful of creme fraiche, top with sliced avocado. Serve plates with a couple of lime wedges on the side πŸ™‚

Serves 4

Honey-Cumin Cabbage Slaw with Red Onion, Carrots, & Bell Peppers

Ingredients

(for the vinaigrette)

3 Tbs. olive oil

1 Tbs. red wine vinegar

3 Tbs. honey

2 Tbs. ground Cumin

(for the slaw)

1 head of red cabbage, stemmed & cut into ribbons

2 carrots, peeled & grated

2 bell peppers (red & yellow) seeded & thinly sliced

2 medium red onions, thinly sliced

(1) Make the vinaigrette first, whisking together the olive oil, honey, vinegar, and cumin in a small bowl until blended. (2) In a large bowl put all of the chopped vegetable ingredients (cabbage through red onions). Add the vinaigrette and mix well. (3) Refrigerate the slaw until ready to serve, at least 30 minutes.

Serves 4

Sadly, taco night is over but that craving for fresh food has not gone away yet so, much like Spring I suppose, my meal plans will hopefully blossom into more colorfully fresh and vibrant dishes πŸ™‚

My question:

What is the best-tasting fresh fish to use for tacos?

3.24.12

Spicy Asian Flavors

The new semester is in full swing and amid all the ruckus of studying, reading, and working – I find myself with basically one evening a week free to cook, and that is Sunday. Well, it seemed like a great excuse for a little sophistication last weekend so I chose a supper menu that was Asian-inspired and had plenty of spice, salt, greens, and all that other good stuff. Also since I am feeling just a little sick, (I know, it’s just unfair..) I thought it would be best to cook something with strong flavors that would clear the sinuses and settle heavily in my ever-expanding belly πŸ˜‰ The wilted greens though, turned out to be the best idea and had lots of vitamin C to increase those white cells and boost what’s left of my immune system, with plenty of Calcium for baby who will take it from my bones if he doesn’t get enough – ahhh!

The recipes I reference here originally came from two different sources, with the meat recipe (which originally called for pork) from the September edition of Bon Appetit and the cooked greens recipe from last December’s Food & Wine. Of course I had to implement some changes here and there in both recipes since the bazaar I shop at doesn’t stock pork (anywhere I guess, bummer..) and the veggies took quite the search just to find an acceptable substitute for collard greens. While the task of shopping, chopping, and preparing it all seemed a bit daunting at first, I’m glad I made the effort because in the end — while consuming it at a rapid rate — I had to admit how tastefully worth it the meal turned out to be πŸ˜€

The star ingredient in this spicy Asian menu is garlic. Typical, right? …And I’m sure I’ve used this ingredient somewhere before πŸ˜‰ The fact of the matter is I used garlic in various forms throughout the preparation of this meal, with minced garlic in the greens, garlic sriracha sauce in the marinade, and some of the same savory spiciness reserved for serving with the seared meat (now that’s alliteration:-) Garlic has its own host of immune-benefiting properties by boosting antibody production, but I’ve elaborated on this topic before so I’ll stop there.. Either way, it is an incredibly flavorful ingredient/medicine/vegetable which ranks it among the best of (cheap) kitchen staples. I find myself with plenty of fresh garlic these days and was happy to use some of it (okay, a lot of it) in our evening meal.

Spicy Marinated Beef Shoulder with Curried White Rice

Ingredients

1 lb (or 1/2 kg) beef shoulder

olive oil, for cooking

(for the marinade/sauce)

1/2 cup sake or white wine

1/4 cup fish sauce

1/4 cup rice vinegar

1/4 cup lemon juice

3 Tbs. olive oil

6 Tbs. garlic sriracha sauce (or regular sriracha, plus 5 cloves of minced garlic)

(for the rice)

2 packets (or 2 cups) white rice

1 Tbs. curry powder

1 Tbs. ground Coriander

1 Tbs. rice vinegar

salt & pepper

(1) Combine all ingredients for the marinade (white wine/sake through sriracha) in a medium bowl and whisk until blended. Reserve 1/2 cup of this sauce for serving. (2) Wash the beef shoulder and pat dry, trim excess fat, and cut the shoulder into 1/2 inch (or 1/3 cm) thick slices. Put all the beef pieces in the marinade, turn to coat, and let marinate at room temperature 35-45 minutes. (3) Meanwhile, heat salted water in a saucepan over medium-high heat (according to package instructions) and add rice when boiling; lower the heat and simmer until soft and most of the liquid is absorbed, 15-20 minutes typically. When cooked, drain the rice and rinse with warm water. Stir in curry, coriander, and vinegar, mixing well. Cover the rice and set aside until ready to serve. (4) After the meat has marinated, heat 1 Tbs. of olive oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat. When hot, add the beef pieces, shaking off excess marinade. Sear each side, turning once, until meat is cooked to medium, and browned on the outside, 4-5 minutes. If the beef gives off too much liquid while searing, stir excess into the rice. (5) Let the meat sit covered for 5 minutes before serving over rice with a side of the reserved sauce.

Serves 4

Cumin-Braised Kale with Onions & Garlic

Ingredients

6 Tbs. olive oil

1 large yellow onion, halved & thinly sliced

5 garlic cloves, minced

2 Tbs. ground cumin

1 tsp. crushed red pepper

1 bunch kale (or collard greens substitute)

1/2 cup chicken broth

1 Tbs. butter

salt & pepper

(1) Wash the greens thoroughly and remove stems, cutting off any browned or wilted pieces. Slice into thin ribbons. (2) In a large wok or skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add onion, garlic, cumin, and red pepper and fry until onions are soft, about 5 minutes. (3) Next, add all of the chopped greens and cook, stirring constantly, until wilted, another 3-4 minutes. (4) Stir in the chicken broth, cover and let everything cook until greens are tender and the liquid is gone, 5-6 minutes more. Remove from heat, salt generously, and stir in a Tablespoon of butter. Serve immediately.

Serves 4

So more of my meddling in Asian cooking has proven (yet again) worthwhile, producing minimum leftovers which I try to take as a good sign. Valentine’s day came and went and instead of planning another huge meal, I opted for a series of snacks–papaya, feta cheese, cherries, garlic sausage, and dark chocolate–ahh, I’m all about ease during the week. We’ll have to see what cooking madness may develop this weekend when I finally find myself with a little more freetime }:-)

My question: What is your favorite green to eat cooked (that is, slightly wilted)…and why?

Is it because it’s salty, or healthy–or both? I used to hate the stuff, not so much anymore!

2.16.12

Homemade Barbecued Pork Ribs

The last meal I made with my family over the holidays was barbecued pork ribs πŸ˜€ Personally, I may have missed the spicy-sugary taste of barbecue sauce but I was definitely missing the whole eat-off-the-bone experience. With ribs it seems, the more time you put into them, the more taste you get out of them (I made that up myself..) and can prove to be an all-intensive process. I reduced marinade, let the ribs soak in it overnight, grilled and basted them over slow heat, and made my own barbecue sauce. I’m thinking I may have gone a bit overboard on the whole DIY concept but hey, you don’t get to make ribs from scratch every day! (At least I couldn’t;-)

The rib recipe I refer to here is from December’s Food & Wine and originally involved Root Beer. After perusing through a couple of cooking magazines with my brother, we quickly established that any meat you serve marinated in and covered with sauces made from Coca-Cola will be tasty, at the very least πŸ™‚ The spiciness in this barbecue comes from ground black peppercorns, a simple combination since there’s so many different and more colorful chilies and spices to choose from out there but black pepper pairs wonderfully with vanilla bean (and just when you thought vanilla couldn’t get any better!) My advice to spice enthusiasts, add 1/2-1 Tablespoon extra ground black pepper to your barbecue sauce if you want it really spicy.

Perhaps needless to say at this point, the star ingredient in the ribs recipe is Coca-Cola. And why not?! I initially thought that the taste might be overshadowed by some of the other flavorful ingredients but that wasn’t the case. Apparently boiling something down over time only contributes to the flavor :] This is making me think that you could probably boil any soda down to its sauce form, like Dr. Pepper steak sauce or chicken cutlets with Fanta reduction. I should start considering soda an ingredient (is it that bad? Doesn’t cooking making it any better? I hope so…)

Slightly inspired by the whole farewell ‘grilling theme’, I made another recipe, this one from last June’s Food & Wine, which is a salad with grilled oyster mushrooms and green grapes, chilled celery and butter lettuce. Salad and barbecue just sound like the perfect combination.. I have included both recipes in this post, let’s call it le grill menu. The two go awfully well together and the ribs were so delicious I was eating them with my fingers a quarter of the way through, probably covered with a little barbecue sauce too. I was not the only one though πŸ™‚

Grilled Pork Ribs with Coca-Cola Lime Barbecue Sauce

Ingredients

(for the marinade)

2 cans of Coca-Cola

3 shallots, sliced

1/2 cup fish sauce

1 head of garlic, peeled & crushed

1/4 cup whole black peppercorns

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

1/4 cup olive oil

1 cup cold water

2 racks of pork ribs (about 5 lbs. or 2.3 kilos)

(for barbecue sauce)

3 cans of Coca-Cola

1/4 cup lime juice

1 Tbs. ground black pepper

1 Tbs. garlic powder

1 Tbs. chili powder

1 ts. salt

2 vanilla beans, split & scraped for seeds (or 2 Tbs. vanilla extract)

cooking/grilling spray

(1) To make the marinade, boil Coca-Cola, fish sauce, garlic, black peppercorns, shallots, and vinegar for 1 minute over high heat. Cover, remove from heat, and let steep for 30 minutes; uncover and let cool. Add the olive oil and cold water, stir, and transfer to a ziploc bag or large dish before adding the pork ribs. Cover/seal and marinate meat overnight in the fridge. (2) While cleaning and preheating the grill (on medium), let ribs come to room temperature, uncovered 20-45 minutes. (3) In a medium saucepan, mix the vanilla bean, black pepper, and 3 cans of coke. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and reduce to about 1/2 cup, stirring occasionally, 25-35 minutes. Add the lime juice and salt, simmering over low heat for 2 minutes. Strain and discard the vanilla bean and remove pan from heat. (4) When cooled, stir in the garlic and chili powder, seasoning barbecue sauce to taste with salt and pepper. (5) Once grill has preheated, drain the marinade from ribs, reserving about 1 cup for basting. Spray ribs with cooking spray and grill over medium-high heat, turning once, to sear each side, about 10 minutes total. (6) Put heat to low and continue grilling the ribs, turning often, and basting every 5-7 minutes until cooked (edges of the meat will begin to pull away from the bone), about 35-45 minutes. Remove ribs from the grill, slather in barbecue sauce, and cover with foil, letting rest for 10 minutes. (7) Before eating, cut between each rib with a sharp knife. Serve pork ribs with lime wedges and a side of barbecue sauce.

Serves 4

Grilled Grape & Mushroom Butter Leaf Salad with Mustard-Celery Seed Vinaigrette

Ingredients

(for the vinaigrette)

3 Tbs. walnut oil

1 Tbs. Dijon mustard

1/4 cup champagne vinegar

1/4 cup olive oil

1 Tbs. celery seeds

1 lemon, juiced

2 Tbs. fresh Parsley, minced

3 green onions, minced

2 garlic cloves, minced

2 Tbs. white wine

salt & cracked pepper

(for the salad)

1 head of butter lettuce, stemmed & torn

1 cup fresh sprouts

1 cup green grapes

1/2 cup fresh celery, thinly sliced

1/4 cup celery leaves

1/4 cup fresh parsley leaves

2 cups fresh oyster mushrooms

1/4 cup roasted & salted whole almonds

(1) To make vinaigrette, whisk together all the ingredients, walnut oil through white wine above, in a medium bowl and season to taste with salt & pepper (adding more champagne vinegar, if needed:-) Cover and chill until ready to serve. (2) Wash and dry salad greens, combining the celery leaves, parsley leaves, butter lettuce, and sprouts in a salad bowl. Refrigerate. (3) Preheat the grill to medium-high heat and clean racks with lemon halves. When hot, grill the oyster mushrooms, turning once, until browned, about 3-4 minutes. Also grill the green grapes on a strip of foil until slightly browned, 2-3 minutes. Remove both from grill and let cool about 2 minutes. (4) Next, add sliced celery and roasted almonds to the salad greens. When ready to serve, toss salad with grilled mushrooms and grapes and 5 Tbs. of the salad vinaigrette. Serve immediately πŸ™‚

Serves 4

So, at last my desire for grilled food has been satisfied }:-) for now…I will see what new inspirations come with visiting wonderfully flavorful Espania! I already miss cooking with my family, but at least I’ll be coming up with some more meaty meals since my little brother will be here and cooking with me by the end of the week, in my uber tiny European kitchen too πŸ˜€

My question: What is your favorite style of barbecue sauce?

It seems like every city has one. There’s Memphis (sweet and salty), Kansas City (tomato-based), and St. Lious (tangy) barbecue and the list goes on and on..

1.13.12

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

Spicy Chocolately Chili

Finally, Winter is here! (Never thought I’d be excited about that πŸ˜‰ and now that it’s oh so cold outside, I have renewed interest as well as every reason to be cooking rich, hearty meals that can simmer on the stove (ahem, hotplate) until tender and flavorful enough. I decided to make chili because for one, it is obvious I am missing American food and second, this mouth-watering recipe contains all of nourishingly good stuff I like, fat and sugar, veggies and salt, protein and carbs (and just enough…) But I must emphasize here, this is no ordinary chili.

I got this recipe from Food & Wine and while I’m wondering what this ‘Texas-style’ phrasing is indicative of, there is no doubt that this chili is blissfully tasty. With spicy flavors like chili powder and canned chipotles, herbaceous flavors like fresh Thyme and crushed Coriander, sugary flavors like coffee and dark chocolate, and other wonderfully wholesome ingredients like beef and beer (see what I’m saying?!!) I highly–emphatically, joyfully, exuberantly–recommend making this recipe for yourself, and you will see, I mean smell & taste, what I mean!

The image I include in this post is a rather poor visual representation of the final product because in actuality, the chili was this very deep, dark color, probably owing a lot to the coffee and chocolate, and the sauce very thickened, a process that is perfected by allowing this to cook (or simmer…) for the allotted amount of time needed on the stove. Patience here is the key, but in the process of this ‘stewing’, the kitchen (or very small apartment) will be filled with the delicious aromas of spicy goodness πŸ™‚

The star ingredient in this recipe would have to be the dark chocolate–not that the chipotles, thyme, or beer were lacking in any respect–but simply because it gives the chili this rich (and yes, chocolately) flavor that was interesting, undeniable, and worked in delicious conjunction with the other savory aspects of this meal. When served, zesty fresh flavors of minced red onion and melted cheddar cheese on top combine in an exceptional feast πŸ™‚ Just writing this post has made me want to cook this chili all over again, mmm….

Texas-Style Beef Short Rib Chili with Chocolate, Coriander, and Chipotles

Ingredients

2 lbs. beef short ribs

3 medium red onions

2 Anaheim or Pasilla chile peppers

2 Poblano chile peppers

1 red bell pepper

3 canned chipotle chiles in adobo sauce

5 garlic cloves, minced

1 bunch fresh thyme

1 can white beans, drained

1/2 lb. cremini mushrooms, thinly sliced

4 cups chicken broth

1 bottle of pilsner beer (your choice:-)

3 Tbs. ground Coriander

2 Tbs. ground Cumin seeds

2 Tbs. Ancho Chili powder

1 bar of dark chocolate, broken into pieces

1 1/2 cups fresh-brewed coffee

flour

olive oil

salt & cracked pepper

pita bread/tortillas, for serving

shredded cheddar cheese, for serving

(1) Heat a skillet or frying pan over a medium-high temperature on the stove. Add fresh peppers and roast, uncovered, turning occasionally until skins are charred, 6 to 8 minutes. Put peppers in a bowl and cover with boiling water, letting sit 20 minutes or so until softened. (2) Meanwhile, chop 2 of the red onions coarsely for the chili and finely chop the remaining onion for serving. Cover the minced onion to be used for garnishing in a small dish and refrigerate until ready to serve. Separate fresh thyme leaves from their stems and put coarsely chopped onions, minced garlic, sliced mushrooms, and fresh thyme all in one large bowl; set aside. (3) Drain the peppers, de-stem, and seed them. Add roasted peppers, chipotle peppers with adobo sauce, and fresh-brewed coffee to a blender, pulsing until smooth (or if you don’t have a blender like me, just mince the peppers in a mug with scissors, before mixing the three together in a bowl). (4) Trim any large strips of fat from short ribs and cut into 1/2-inch or small 1-inch cubes. Season meat generously all over with salt and pepper. Heat 2 Tbs. of olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. (5) When the pot is hot, add short rib cubes and cook, stirring to prevent sticking, until pieces are browned all over, about 8 to 10 minutes. (6) Lower heat to medium and all of add the onion-mushroom mixture, stirring often, and cooking until veggies are slightly softened, another 4 minutes. Add the Coriander, Cumin, and Chili powder, mixing well until fragrant, another 2 minutes. (7) Next, stir in the blended peppers and coffee, chicken broth, white beans, and bottle of beer. Lower the heat, partially cover, and let chili simmer until meat is tender and the sauce is reduced, about 2 hours. (8) Ladle 2 cups of sauce into a bowl and stir in 2 Tbs. of flour with a fork, whisking until well blended; return sauce to the pot and cook until chili has thickened, another 10 minutes. Mix in the dark chocolate pieces until melted and remove from heat. (9) Dish up chili in bowls with warm or toasted pita bread on the side. Sprinkle finely chopped red onion and grated cheddar cheese across top of chili and serve.

Serves 4

So that comprises my experimenting in the art of slow cooking flavorful food. I will be returning home to the snowy mountains of Colorado this weekend and shall once again have access to a fully-functioning kitchen (and the wonderful guidance of my mother, the culinary expert) so who knows what wonderfulness is in store for me and my ever-expanding belly πŸ™‚

My question: what is the best (and reasonably priced) cut of meat to slow cook in chili and/or stews?

12.9.12