Tag Archive: vinegar


Duck Fried Rice (!?)

Duck fried rice. Yes, I made it up. I’m sure it exists but still – tada! It sounds more glamorous than it actually ischopsticks, but duck legs are relatively inexpensive here, especially when bought frozen (and somehow always on sale…) This was a sudden idea I had, finding myself with some leftover “Japanese dipping sauce” from a steak recipe that I really had to use for something other than marinating.

This recipe is 100% mine (I am original every once in a while ๐Ÿ˜‰ ) and it used different ingredients from our kitchen, but the emphasis is on the easy. Fried rice cooks up quickly in a wok or skillet and thank god for parboiled rice. Sometimes, it’s the little things that make dinner come together that much faster. I had the duck legs already cooked but I included steps for roasting duck legs in the recipe below just to make things even easier (and for next time!)Roast-Duck

My secret ingredient is the duck, er, the eggs, okay maybe both. Sometimes I think the best part of fried rice is the eggs because it’s just like scrambled eggs, in rice. It’s ingenious. Duck legs definitely elevate the dish because duck is flavorful enough that you don’t need a lot and it goes great with the salty soy, savory flavors already in fried rice. I’ll admit, if I could go back and do it again (which I will…) I would fry my rice a little bit more, “brown” it better, but no regrets as far as the results.

Have a wok in your kitchen? Use it! This dish is the perfect excuse and fried rice can be made with any number of veggies and different meats (or minus the meat altogether). There’s something special about chicken fried rice, and now? Duck fried rice! Could it get any better?!

Duck Fried Rice with Shitake Mushrooms and Garlicky Onions

Ingredientscooking-asian-wok

2 cups rice (parboiled, if possible)

4 onions, coarsely chopped

6 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced

2 carrots, thinly sliced

1 bag frozen vegetables of your choice (like bean threads, peas, or a wok mix)

1/2 cup dried shitake mushroomsFried-Rice

2 duck legs, trimmed

4 eggs

1/2 cup milk

3 Tbs. soy sauce

1/3 cup beer (or wine)

1 Tbs. fish sauce

1 Tbs. vinegar

salt & cracked pepper

vegetable or roasted sesame oil

(1) Preheat the oven to 190 degrees Celsius (about 370 degrees Fahrenheit). Wash the duck legs and pat dry, season with salt & cracked pepper. Line an oven dish with foil and arrange the duck legs snugly in it. (2) When the oven is preheated, put duck legs on the middle rack and roast for 20 minutes. Turn the oven down to 170 Celsius (about 340 Fahrenheit) for 30 minutes. Carefully drain off any fat that collects in the bottom of the oven pan. Turn the oven up to 200 Celsius (390 Fahrenheit) for a final 10 minutes to crisp the skin. (3) Remove the duck from the oven and transfer to a plate, let them cool, covered in foil 10 – 15 minutes. Separate cooked duck meat from the bones, keeping the skin, and coarsely chop pieces on a cutting board, taking care to remove any bones or fibers. Set aside (duck can be cooked up to 3 days ahead and stored until ready). (4) Put dried shitake mushrooms in a bowl and add boiling water, cover, and let soak until soft 20 -25 minutes. Remove stems and cut shitakes into thin slices. (5) Cook the rice according to package instructions and set aside too, covered so it won’t dry out. Meanwhile, heat 2 Tbs. of oil in a large wok (or skillet) over medium-high heat. When hot, add the carrots, onions, and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender and translucent, 10-12 minutes. (6) In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs, shitake mushrooms, and milk with some cracked pepper, set aside. (7) Add frozen veggies to the wok and, stirring often, cook another 5 – 7 minutes. (8) Next add the rice, duck meat, fish sauce, beer, and vinegar. Stir to combine and cook until liquid has cooked off, 5 minutes max. (9) Using a wooden spoon or spatula, push the veggie mixture to the side of the wok and pour the egg mixture on the bottom. Let it cook until browned and slightly sticking, another 4 – 5 minutes. Break up the eggs into chunks before stirring in with the rest of the veggies. (10) Remove the wok from the heat and stir in soy sauce, seasoning with salt & pepper. Serve immediately (leftovers can be reheated at 150 degrees Celsius for 7 minutes in the oven ๐Ÿ™‚ ).

Serves 4

My question: What is your favducorite ingredient to find in Asian dishes?

Mine is shitakes, no soy sauce, no bean sprouts, no…

Well, I kind of wish the fried rice had lasted longer! But I always end up saying that, don’t I? All the more excuse to try again. There’s something supremely wonderful about the salty, spicy flavors in Asian food. Anyways, the next challenge? How to make more comfort food (like fried rice) in less time because shopping and doing the dishes is about all I have the energy for these days ๐Ÿ˜‰

3.20.2014

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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! ๐Ÿ˜‰

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 ๐Ÿ˜€ ‘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 ๐Ÿ™‚

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 ๐Ÿ™‚

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 ๐Ÿ˜‰ 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

Sweet and Easy Tomato Jam

tomato-PaintingWhoa, where did July go? It’s already over and being on vacation with a little guy means my cooking is pretty much at a minimum. BUT…a lady’s got to eat and so, I am pleased to present an easy, tasty, amazing recipe for tomato jam.

Tomato jam, you might say, how strange?! Let me say this: just because it didn’t start out sweet, doesn’t mean it wasn’t meant to be sweet ๐Ÿ˜€ One of the things I miss from South African food is all the tomatoes — tomato chutney, tomato-flavored potato chips, braaied tomatoes (a.k.a grilled), spicy ketchup, and other assorted tomato-goodness. I’ll admit, I am a fan of tomatoes. Why? Because they’re awe-some. If I had to eat just 1 thing, for the rest of my life, tomatoes would be it. Seriously, some of the simplest, healthiest, tastiest recipes require tomatoes –salsa, marinara, bruschetta, tomato soup –the list goes on and on. Where would humankind be without tomatoes? We’d have a whole less flavor and nutrition to work with in the kitchen, of that I am certain ๐Ÿ˜›

So yes, the star ingredient in this recipe is the tomatoes. Why? Because they’re cheap, they cook quickly, and they’re already tasty by the time you’ve bought them. Cooking tomatoes intensifies the flavor and either way, this veggie (or fruit, whatever) is good for us so we should all be eating more of them! Tomato jam is a very traditional thing in South Africa. In the U.S., or my newer home in Denmark – it’s a strange thing and not so common. But jam is so easy (too easy) I mean, just add sugar, tomatoes, water, and boil (watching and stirring once in a while too) and whala, you have jam. tomato-jam-on-bread

Tomato jam may sound like a unique ingredient but it goes great in a ton of things, spread it on slices of grilled cheese, as a condiment on a cheese plate, a heaping spoonful over a charred steak – keep in mind that despite the fact that these are tomatoes we’re talking about, this jam is super sweet, sticky, and of course very red ๐Ÿ™‚

The best part is, this entire recipe needs only 4 ingredients, an hour on the stove, and you’ve got enough jam to butter sandwiches every day for a month ๐Ÿ™‚ Keep in mind there is room for additions to the jam, like garlic, onion, or herbs. Add some spice or curry to the jam and you basically have tomato chutney ๐Ÿ™‚ Remember that with jam, it’s okay if it’s chunky, just as long as the excess liquid is boiled off so the jam coats the back of a spoon and takes on an oozy, lazy-like nature. Nice to look at and easily preserved in jars, tomato jam could be used as a gift, condiment, or surprise ingredient. I say be creative and use it wherever you see fit, you’d be surprised how many things become irresistibly delicious with a dollop or two of tomato jam…

Sweet Tomato Jamtomato jam

Ingredients

2 cans diced tomatoes

2 cups sugar

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

1 lemon

(1) In a large saucepan, mix sugar, vinegar, and tomatoes (do not drain). Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. (2) When bubbling, lower the heat and simmer, stirring often, for about an hour or until liquid has evaporated. (3) Add lemon juice to the jam and stir well, cooking for another minute. (4) Remove from heat and let cool, store jam in a sealed container in the fridge for up to 8 weeks.

Serves 8

Still_life_fruit_lobster_Alexander_CoosemansTomato jam is pretty tasty so if you haven’t tried it, I highly recommend it ๐Ÿ™‚ My newest craving (I mean indulgence) is Lobster — I really wish that crustacean was less mindbogglingly delicious than it is. And so red too! I’m going to have to make some more of it soon…

My question: What is your favorite jam or marmalade? This can be fruit or veggie, maybe even a chutney (?)

8.2.13

Mustardy Goodness

Hello againย  – so Summer came and went, didn’t it? And wow, so did Autumn! Now it’s just cold. Brrrr.. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ 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 ๐Ÿ™‚ 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 ๐Ÿ˜‰ 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 ๐Ÿ˜€

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 ๐Ÿ™‚ (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 ๐Ÿ˜› 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? ๐Ÿ˜‰

11.21.12

Herbivorous Hรธstfest

In Danish, hรธstfest 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 ๐Ÿ™‚ 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 ๐Ÿ™‚ 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 ๐Ÿ˜‰ 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 ๐Ÿ™‚

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 ๐Ÿ˜€ 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 ๐Ÿ™‚

Serves 6

Spiced Bulgur with Mango, Miso & Pickledย  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 Saladย  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 tupperwareย and shake until blended. Can be kept chilled in the fridge for up to 2 months ๐Ÿ™‚ (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 ๐Ÿ™‚

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 ๐Ÿ˜›

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 ๐Ÿ™‚

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 ๐Ÿ˜€

Probably one of this menu’s more bombastic contributions, the breakfast pรขtรฉ I found in last month’sย Bon Appรฉtit. I just happened to have frozen pรขtรฉ in my freezer, made in the last month of my pregnancy. A container of frozen pรขtรฉ 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 ๐Ÿ˜€ (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 ๐Ÿ˜‰ 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 Pรขtรฉ Crostini with Savory Berry Salad

Ingredients

2 1/2 cups chilled liver pรขtรฉ (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 chilledย pรขtรฉ 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 ๐Ÿ™‚

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, untilย  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 bรฅde lang og godt fyldende ๐Ÿ™‚

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 ๐Ÿ™‚ 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 ๐Ÿ˜€ 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 ๐Ÿ˜€

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 ๐Ÿ™‚ 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 ๐Ÿ˜€

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 ๐Ÿ˜‰

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

6.30.12

A Mother of a Salad

Ahh, with Summer weather on the way, it keeps getting lovelier by the day ๐Ÿ™‚ 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 ๐Ÿ˜‰

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 ๐Ÿ˜€

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 ๐Ÿ˜‰ 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 ๐Ÿ™‚

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 zestyย 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 ๐Ÿ™‚

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 ๐Ÿ˜€

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 ๐Ÿ™‚

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 ๐Ÿ™‚

My question:

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

3.24.12

Menu for a Spring Celebration

Last Sunday, I had the pleasure of throwing a baby shower at our little apartment. This post comprises the menu. Everyone brought plenty of soda and juice, and one of my friends even made some delicious Spanish food, which disappeared mighty quick. It was a beautiful day, with wonderful company, good food (if I might say so myself), and turned out to be one lively celebration. I thought it only best to share some of the delectable deliciousness that accompanied everything ๐Ÿ™‚

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

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

The dessert proved to be the simplest dish to prepare out of this menu, which is always good at the end of any event and it included the essentials — fruit, nuts, cheese (yes, again) and honey. I got the idea from last April’s Cooking Network magazine but the nuts were a welcome inspiration on my part. I think the key thing here is to get quality fresh fruit, because pears can be pretty disappointing if unripe. Blue cheese may be a reluctant choice to some but say just yes to the moldy dairy because everything is delicious when sprinkled with honey ๐Ÿ˜€

The star ingredient in this menu is: cheese! I included cheese in every course (because I can, and so I will) and all different kinds of it too, mild and fluffy with the main course (god bless the mozzarella), light and creamy with the starter, and mottled with flavor for the dessert. Remember, cheese is pure protein (okay, and a little fat) but I maintain the believe it more flavor than calories, so no restraint should be necessary ๐Ÿ˜‰ The Danes love cheese just as much as I do so I didn’t really need an excuse. By the end of the day, we were all so full I feel I may have overdone it just a little. Oh well!

Fig-Thyme Jam

Ingredients

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

1/2 cup of sugar

1 bunch of fresh Thyme

1 lemon

3 Tbs. honey

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

Serves 6

Citrus, Coriander, and Chili Marinated Olives

Ingredients

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

1 lemon, seeded & sliced

1/2 cup of olive oil

4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

2 fresh Thai chiles, halved (or 4 dried)

1 Tbs. crushed Coriander seeds

1 tsp. crushed fennel seeds

1 tsp. crushed black peppercorns

1 Tbs. sherry vinegar

3 bay leaves

sea salt

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

Serves 6

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

Ingredients

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

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

1 bunch baby tomatoes, stemmed & halved

1 can white beans, drained

1 bunch green onions, coarsely chopped

4 garlic cloves, minced

1 lemon, juiced

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

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

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

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

2 Tbs. olive oil

salt & cracked pepper

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

Serves 6

Pear Slices with Blue Cheese, Walnuts, & Honey

Ingredients

3 ripe yellow pears, cored & sliced

1 wedge of soft blue cheese

1/2 cup of walnuts, shelled

3-5 Tbs. honey

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

Serves 6

Well, that was my baby shower menu. I’m so happy everyone came, had a good time, and left with full bellies. I enjoyed everything about that day and have so many baby things now, I dare say the little guy is taking over my closet ๐Ÿ˜‰ Hopefully one day he’ll like cheese as much as I do!

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

3.3.2012