Tag Archive: vinaigrette


Kale Ceasar Salad

salad-carol-scottSo it seems we find ourselves in the New Year (yay!) and yet in the depths of Winter…still. Oh but it’s not so bad, right? And there’s of course more than comfort food around to lift our spirits πŸ™‚ I am happy to remember all those winter foods that weren’t in season and weren’t around, even a couple months ago. And somehow, I’m now hungrier – all the time! 😦 Mostly, I just end up wanting to make soup, but it’s good to diversify. And this brings me to my post.

So, is salad in season? No. But Kale is. I know what you’re thinking. Salad. Bor-ing. Ceasar, bleh – but no, I promise you this is worth the effort. Because, let’s just be honest here – caesar is awesome – emperor actually, and I’ll be the first to admit I don’t care for anchovies BUT then there’s CAESAR (I am trying to make my point, although I may just end up being redundant, but seriously) there are other perks to the wintertime salad. First, you cancaesar_salad scratch most fruit off that list because, darn, it’s just not ripe or even available and the first rule of any caesar is that it’s all about salty. In the absence of sweeter fillers, it’s good to add a go-to-protein or two to the salad that’ll contribute some texture and quantity. My choice: cubed cheddar cheese (instead of Parmesan) and ham, but the recipe I used suggested roasted chicken too. Remember, science (as reported by the Business Insider) just debunked 5 of the silly myths about meat that are out there so now we know that it is healthy, a great source of protein, our bodies can (and do) digest it well, and that it does not cause disease, or make you fat. Thank you, science.

Julius_Caesar_Coustou_LouvreThe secret ingredient here? Brown rice. I know I hate rice too, hate it. It’s the absence of something, I think, what’s it called? Oh yeah: flavor. But what’s the second rule about making a caesar salad? (I’m totally making this up, but still) It must have carbs. CARBS, say what, how can that be a rule?! Ask the Romans, they invented this. I’m only kidding, this dish is very American so I think it’s safe to assume that for it to be a caesar salad, there must be some carbohydrates in it. So the typical caesar has croutons and I try to avoid these tasty little treats full of empty calories (darn!) You know what packs a ton of (not empty) wholesome calories and can count itself as a good carb? That’s right, rice. Brown rice happens to be holier than thou when it comes to getting whole grains. Well thank god it’s good for something. I first came across this recipe in last September’s Cooking Light. Granted it called for quinoa, but brown rice is just as good.dressing

The labor intensive part of any salad is in the processing or chopping of all the raw veggies. The bad news? Caesar dressing from the store is over-rated and has waaaay too much sodium in it. The good news? You can make your own in about 24 seconds if you have handy some of the classic ingredients like a couple anchovies (yes, those slippery little suckers), olive oil, light milk or creme fraiche, and lemon. For me, the key to saving time in making this recipe lies in using a blender to puree everything – but this can just as easily be hand-chopped and mixed well.

I’ve included a quick & easy infographic from Women’s Health that breaks down all kinds of salad dressings you can make in 3 minutes, like a boss. Talk about easy, so you aren’t required to make creamy, salty dressing if you don’t want to; Greek, Honey Mustard, and Asian Dressing would all go just as well here πŸ™‚

salad dressings

Kale Caesar Salad with Brown Rice, Bell Peppers, and Ham

Ingredients

(for the salad)Brown-Rice

4.7 dl (about 2 cups) brown rice

1 bunch of kale (any color)

1 block of sharp cheddar, cubed

3 bell peppers, seeded & sliced

2 red onions, thinly slicedkale

500g (or 2 cups) cubed ham

5 tomatoes, coarsely chopped

(for the dressing)

2 anchovies, packed in oil

2 Tbs. hot water

1 lemon, juiced

1 dl (1/2 cup) creme fraiche or light milk

1/2 dl (or 1/4 cup) olive oil

2 garlic cloves, chopped

1 Tbs. English (or Worcestershire) sauce

sea salt & cracked pepper

(1) Cook the brown rice according to package instructions and let cool completely. (2) Wash the kale and remove the stems, chopping the leaves and putting all greens into a large salad bowl. (3) Add all the other chopped salad ingredients including the brown rice, cheddar cheese, onions, peppers, ham, and tomatoes. (4) To make the dressing, combine the anchovies, hot water, lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, creme fraiche, and Worcestershire sauce in a blender. Pulse until the dressing is creamy and smooth. Season to taste with plenty of salt & cracked pepper (5) When ready to serve, toss the salad with the dressing and heap into bowls, no bread needed, garnished with more cracked pepper and a wedge of lemon. πŸ™‚

Serves 4

cheeseYou’d be amazed just how much I made of this and just how fast it all “disappeared.” I really planned for leftovers but caesar is another one of those things that gets really good by just chillin’ in the fridge. Amazing.

My challenge for the new year: go-to-snacks that I can assemble in less than 10 minutes. Got any ideas for me? Please share! I guess healthy is a priority but emphasis on the easy/quick to assemble part.

Question for this post & its readers: what is your favorite salad dressing ever?!

1.6.2015

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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

Mustardy Goodness

Hello againΒ  – so Summer came and went, didn’t it? And wow, so did Autumn! Now it’s just cold. Brrrr.. 😦 I’m on to thicker, richer flavors – as long as the food is hot!! As Thanksgiving looms in a land far away from me I keep finding excuses to make turkey breast, stuffing-like side dishes, and harvest veggies like squash and hard greens.

Panzanella is defined as “bread salad” but that is a rather colorless description of this Italian concept. The version I made of this classic can be found in August’s Bon Appetit and is traditional and still oh so simple. Panzanella is an ingenious way of using stale bread, which I end up with often enough these days for this be very useful πŸ™‚ I thought the massive amount of savory, briny flavors added another dimension of flavor to this dish, resulting in what should be called “Italian stuffing” – and good enough to substitute for the thick stuff at the Thanksgiving table. As for the mustard, the recipes are pretty consistent: mustard seeds + vinegar = mustard, or something like that. When I made my first batch, one taste just about burned my tongue off so I ended up diluting here and seasoning there considerably. Be warned, mustard means business πŸ˜‰ I decided to combine all my favorite types of mustard into one honey-beer mustard recipe that is sweet and spicy to boot. I think the result is much more fun than the standard recipe and worth the effort. After all, mustard goes in everything (and anything) you can think of, so spice it up! Add a dollop to vinaigrettes, pasta sauce, cheese platters, or scrambled eggs..

So yes, the star ingredient here is mustard. Its uses are endless and it adds ample taste in small amounts; oh, and did I mention it lasts 7 months (at least) in the fridge?! No there’s something useful. Mustard is also a host to health benefits based on the fact that mustard is mostly made up of mustard seeds and those seeds are full of potassium, magnesium, calcium, and phosphorous, among other things.. Have you seen a mustard tree? It’s huge. And a mustard seed? So small, itsy bitsy. It’s crazy that one turns into the other in a matter of years. So my motto this month is – eat more mustard! And you’d be surprised how easy that is πŸ˜€

Warm Tomato Panzanella with Capers, Olives, and Roasted Peppers

Ingredients

(for the mix)

1 whole-wheat baguette (can sub with any bread), slightly stale & broken into chunks

5 tomatoes

2 stalks of celery, thinly sliced

2 bell peppers, any color

10 kalamata olives, pitted & coarsely chopped

2 Tbs. capers, coarsely chopped

(for the dressing)

3 garlic cloves, minced

2 Tbs. sherry vinegar

3 Tbs. olive oil

2 Tbs. white wine

1 lemon, juiced

1 Tbs. spicy or whole-grain mustard

1 Tsp. chili flakes

1 Tbs. dried (or 3 Tbs. fresh) oregano

sea salt & cracked pepper

(1) Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius (350 degrees Fahrenheit). Fill a large pot with salted water and bring to a boil on high heat. Line a baking pan with foil and spray with oil, add the peppers and season with salt and pepper, mixing to coat. (2) When the oven is hot, put the baking pan on the highest rack. Roast until peppers are soft and the outside skin is blackened and blistered, 30-40 minutes. (3) Cut an ‘x’ into the skin on the bottom of each tomato with a paring knife. When the water is boiling, add the tomatoes and boil for 1 minute or so until the skin starts to peel back. Immediately transfer tomatoes to a bowl of cold water. When cool, peel the skin and coarsely chop. (4) When the peppers are done roasting, seal in a plastic bag and let sit 15 minutes. Peel and discard the blackened skins and coarse chop peppers; set aside. (5) In a large bowl, add the bread, tomatoes, roasted peppers, olives, celery, and capers. (6) Make the dressing by whisking together the mustard, olive oil, oregano, garlic, lemon juice, chili flakes, white wine, and vinegar. (7) When ready to serve, add dressing to the bread and vegetable mix, tossing to coat. Season with salt and pepper.

Serves 4

Honey Whole-Grain Beer Mustard

Ingredients

1/2 bag/jar of yellow mustard seeds

1/2 bag/jar of brown mustard seeds

1/2 bag/jar of mustard powder

1 Ceres classic beer (sub any amber beer)

1/2 cup malt vinegar

1/2 cup tepid water

1/4 cup yogurt

5 Tbs. honey

salt & cracked pepper

(1) Combine mustard seeds, powder, and beer in a large container. Mix, cover, and refrigerate overnight. (2) Add vinegar & water to the mustard seed mixture and blend until most (but not all) of the seeds are pureed. (3) Add remaining ingredients, mix well, and taste. Season with salt, cracked pepper, and more honey πŸ™‚ (3) Chill in the fridge 1-2 hours before using. Keeps in the fridge 7 months. Goes well with crackers, meat, and on rolls with pickled veggies or cheese.

So.. while being a bit time-consuming, it is possible to make your own condiments and once you’ve done so, you can use heaping spoonfuls of it in other dishes. As the sun begins to set earlier, the frost starts to cling to the corners of the windows – I’ll have to come up with even warmer, more comforting food to subsist upon πŸ˜› Ah, it’s wintertime again!

My question:

what is your favorite type of mustard?

There are quite a few variations. My favorite is a toss up between french mustard (always a classic) and honey mustard.

Seriously, who needs ketchup? πŸ˜‰

11.21.12

Herbivorous HΓΈstfest

In Danish, hΓΈstfest literally means “harvest party” which is the perfect word for this season with Fall having made an entrance and the air already a bit chillier. As a species that was probably once accustomed to hibernation :D, like most mammals, I suppose an increased appetite can be expected. As for me, the sooner it gets colder I’m craving more filling meals. I’ve always loved eating meat, probably because I am a carnivore by nature πŸ™‚ but after some reflection, I’ve noticed that most of my posts have meat in them. Having noticed this perhaps natural popularity of meat dishes, it’s true that vegetarian food is just as good and often healthier, so I decided to devote this post to vegetarian food everywhere. Here are three of my latest recipes that happen to be completely meat-free.

The melon-cucumber salad is a recipe idea of mine, including the honey mustard vinaigrette, which turned out to be the best part πŸ™‚ The roasted tomato and pepper soup recipe is from the legendary Soup Bible (which can be found on Amazon) and is full of brilliant, if not slightly time-consuming, soup ideas πŸ˜‰ The bulgur recipe is also a creation of mine and makes use of pretty much exactly what was left in our fridge and cupboards after a week or so of kitchen chaos. The fruity/peppery and honey/salty combinations of flavors seemed to get better after every bite, or maybe that was just me πŸ™‚

The star ingredient in all of these recipes is the miso, which I was finally able to procure at the Chinese grocer. Miso is basically fermented soybeans and as unappetizing as that may sound, it comes in a few different colors and has a pleasant salty taste. It’s a Japanese staple that is full of protein and high in vitamins and minerals. I was able to do some experimentation with the saltish stuff, which helps when you have a chunk since they only sell it in bulk πŸ˜€ I think it adds a rich and almost roasted flavor to all sorts of things, including dressings. If you can’t find miso, no worries there, just season as wisely as you wish with salt.

Roasted Pepper & Tomato Soup with Tortellini

Ingredients

8 – 10 tomatoes, on the vine

3 bell peppers, any color

3 sweet peppers, any color

1 Thai chili

3 yellow onions

4 cups vegetable broth

1 box of dried tortellini (with cheese and/or veggie filling)

1 tsp. sugar

1 Tbs. garlic powder

1 Tbs. red or yellow miso (optional)

sea salt & cracked pepper

sunflower oil

(1) Preheat the oven to 230 degrees Celsius (or 450 Fahrenheit). Line a large oven pan with baking paper. Half the onions, tomatoes, and all of the peppers, removing the seeds from the peppers (but not the tomatoes!) (2) Add 2 Tbs. of oil to the pan and then all of the halved veggies, stirring to coat. (3) When the oven is preheated, put the pan on the top rack and let roast until the skins of the peppers have browned and are beginning to peel, about 40-50 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool. (4) In a large pot, stir together the sugar, miso, garlic powder, and broth, warming over medium heat. (5) Remove the peels from the onions and the browned skins from the peppers (it’s okay to leave the tomato skins on). Using a blender, puree the roasted vegetables before adding to the soup pot. (6) Bring the soup to a boil and add tortellini, cooking until pasta is al dente, 10-15 minutes. Serve topped with a dollop of creme fraiche, dried herbs, or scrambled eggs πŸ™‚

Serves 6

Spiced Bulgur with Mango, Miso & PickledΒ  Ginger

Ingredients

(for bulgur)

2 cups bulgur wheat (coarse or finely ground)

4 cups onion (or vegetable) broth

1/2 cup pickled ginger, chopped

1/2 cucumber, peeled & chopped

1 bunch green onions, finely chopped

1/2 cup dried green mango, chopped

1 green bell pepper, seeded & sliced

1 red bell pepper, seeded & sliced

(for dressing)

3 Tbs. yellow miso

2 Tbs. rice vinegar

2 Tbs. olive oil

2 Tbs. apricot jam (or other jam)

3 Tbs. lemon juice

2 – 3 dried chilies (like Pequin or African Bird’s Eye), crushed

1 Tbs. brown sugar

1 Tbs. soy sauce

1 tsp. garlic powder

salt & cracked pepper

(1) Cook bulgur uncovered in salted broth according to package instructions; this usually involves 1 part bulgur to 2 parts broth, for 10-14 minutes or until all liquid has been absorbed. Fluff with fork. (2) In a small bowl, mix together all the ingredients for the dressing, miso through garlic powder and stir well; set aside. (3) Next add all of the peppers, green onions, mango, cucumber, and ginger to the bulgur and mix. (4) When ready to serve, add the dressing and stir until blended. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Can be served warm or cold.

Serves 4

Melon-Cucumber SaladΒ  with Honey Mustard Vinaigrette

Ingredients

(for salad)

1 small honeydew melon, skinned, seeded & cut into chunks

1 cucumber, cut into chunks

6 cups mixed greens (like baby spinach, arugula, & red-leaf)

4 sweet peppers, seeded & thinly sliced

1 red onion, peeled & thinly sliced

(for vinaigrette)

1/4 cup white wine

1/4 cup olive oil

1 garlic clove, minced

1 Tbs. paprika

1 Tbs. yellow miso

3 Tbs. honey

3 Tbs. Dijon mustard

2 Tbs. milk (or cream)

1/2 Tbs. mustard seeds

1/2 Tbs. onion powder

1/2 Tbs. ground black pepper

1 lemon, juiced

(1) Make sure all the greens are washed and dried before tossing with the peppers, onion, melon, and cucumber. Cover and chill until ready to serve. (2) To make the honey mustard, combine all of the ingredients – white wine through lemon juice- in a sealable jar or tupperwareΒ and shake until blended. Can be kept chilled in the fridge for up to 2 months πŸ™‚ (3) When ready to eat, toss the salad again with the dressing and serve immediately.

Serves 4

So those are my offerings to the harvest gods and vegetarians everywhere πŸ™‚

It’s amazing how the earth just grows all sorts of differently delicious plants and countless other things for us to eat. I think being human has never been better πŸ˜›

My question:

What is your favorite vegetarian dish to eat?

10.8.12

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

A Mother of a Salad

Ahh, with Summer weather on the way, it keeps getting lovelier by the day πŸ™‚ And looking at all these flowers and budding greenery has only increased my appetite for fresh dishes (what a surprise, right?) These days it’s easier to create colorfully crisp meals because so many vegetables and fruits are now in season and I find myself making excuses to go to the market to get more πŸ˜‰

I based this dish off a recipe from Cooking Light that had an aromatic herb salad, and while my version is not nearly as ‘aromatic’, it has lots of other tasty points, and both salty and sweet elements to balance off the already capacious list of ingredients. In making this I was trying to create a dish that had it all — greens, fresh veggies, cheese, protein — the works basically, with a sweet summery dressing to top it all off. What I ended up concocting was a massively fresh and filling salad worth devoting a post to based on the fact that it’s probably one of the most delicious salads I’ve had to eat in a looong time.

Making a salad is easy – just incorporate the elements; the greens and the vegetables are the things you buy fresh, the dressing can be made from what is already in your cupboards. When putting together a salad, just combine ingredients that make sense to you, and ones you already like to eat on their own: peppers, onions, some sort of cheese, tomato, dried fruit, etc. and pick whatever greens look the crispest at the market. The good thing about salads (or at least one of the good things..) is that they’re easy to assemble and you can always feel good about eating them, providing one doesn’t overdo it on the dressing :/ And even though it gets just a tad bit soggy, I always save the leftover salad for snacking the next morning because there’s something refreshing about cold greens for breakfast!

The star ingredient in this recipe is hard-boiled eggs because they add some class to the dish (in addition to fat and protein) and look pretty awesome atop the stack of greens when serving. Eggs also add a creaminess to everything that upgrades this from a side dish to more of a meal. I prefer my eggs boiled until barely set so the yoke tastes buttery. As for the dressing, anything would work with this; I chose to make a sweeter version because I still had plenty of jam (from my last post) at my disposal, but a salty vinaigrette would work just as well, or simply oil & vinegar. In honor of the season and the simplicity of the meal, I’ve shared my recipe for this salad in hopes of inspiring others to come up with some amazingly creative tasty salad dishes too πŸ˜€

Baby Spinach, Red Cabbage, & Mint Salad with White Beans, Hard-Boiled Eggs, and Dried Apricots

Ingredients

(for salad)

1 bag of baby spinach

1/2 head of red cabbage

1 bunch of fresh mint

1/2 block Gorgonzola cheese, cubed

1 red onion, thinly sliced

1 can of white beans, drained & rinsed

1/2 cup dried apricots, halved

1/4 cup shelled pumpkin seeds

4 hard-boiled eggs

(for vinaigrette)

1/4 cup olive oil

1/4 cup sherry vinegar

3 Tbs. strawberry jam

1 tsp. mustard

1/4 tsp. vanilla powder

Juice of 1 lemon

salt & cracked pepper

(1) Rinse and dry all the greens; stem the red cabbage and slice into ribbons. Toss the baby spinach, cabbage, and mint leaves together in a large bowl. (2) To make the vinaigrette, combine all ingredients – olive oil through lemon juice – and stir until well blended. Season to taste with salt & cracked pepper. Can be refrigerated up to a week ahead of time. (3) Add the dried apricots, white beans, red onion, pumpkin seeds, and Gorgonzola cheese to the salad and mix. (4) When ready to serve, toss salad with the vinaigrette and slice hard-boiled eggs lengthwise. Serve the salad in bowls, topped with egg slices and cracked pepper.

Serves 4

I can’t believe there was a time in my life when I hated salad, really – I hated it – it had something to do with lettuce, which just seemed like bunny food to me πŸ˜‰ Well not anymore, now I want a salad with every meal! I believe it’s a wonderfully fresh way to eat all these daily servings of veggies we’re supposed to be consuming, and salads just have a touch of class to them, I’m not sure why…

My question: What is one unusual secret ingredient to make a great salad?

It’s amazing how almost anything can go in a salad, fruits, vegetables, nuts, cheese, meat, legumes…so many choices πŸ™‚

6.10.12

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

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..

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