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October 2, 2011

FLAVORS - OUR NEW BLOG

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Many of you might have followed the last cooking adventure I participated in, which was Pomodori E Vino. For that challenge, we cooked our way through Marcella Hazan's Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking. It was a great project, and I learned a lot about Italian cooking. But when we were through, I was ready for it to be over. I was tired of having to cook a recipe each week, whether it sounded good to me or not. One of our rules was we had to follow the recipe exactly as written. And because they weren't our recipes or adaptations of them, we didn't post the recipes. A lot of blog readers really missed that.

After several months of not having any challenges, I began to miss a cooking project. Deborah, the orginal creator of Pomodori E Vino, asked if I was interested in starting something new. We tossed around ideas, and Deborah came up with the suggestion that we use The Flavor Bible, by Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg, as the base of our blog challenge. We recruited 5 other participants, one for every day of the week. And the challenge just began today.

The idea behind The Flavor Bible was to study the way flavors were being combined. They interviewed many many chefs, discussing with them flavor combinations. The book is not a cookbook. It is more of a reference guide. There are over 600 ingredients listed, with the most compatable flavors also listed. The matching flavors are in BOLD CAPS if they were very highly recommended by a lot of experts, and in bold if they were recommended by a number of experts. Abd the flavors in regular type were suggested by one or more experts.

Our rules for this blog were that we would run the blog for 1 year, or 52 weeks. Each week one ingredient will be the theme. Then each of us 7 participants have to create a recipe using at least one bolded capped ingredient, one bolded, and at least one other ingredient of our choice. While there's very little that's never been created before, these were to be mainly our own creations. No looking up a recipe and just changing a couple of things to make it your own. We would then post our recipe on our "given" day.

I will be posting my recipes each Monday. You'll find those recipes here on my blog. But if you'd like to follow along for the entire blog, go to Flavors. I think you'll enjoy following along. And if you like to cook and have a blog, think about buying the book and cooking along with us. Make your recipe and post it on your blog, then come to the the Flavors blog and leave a message about your creation and leave a link to your blog. It would be fun to see what everyone comes up with.

October 3, 2011

PROSCUITTO-WRAPPED SALMON WITH PLUM SALSA

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For those who don't know me, my name is Cindy and I reside in Eagle River, Alaska. I love to cook, and seem to go through spells of being creative and challenging myself, and being in a rut cooking basic things like grilled fish and steamed vegetables. I love to bake, but as I try to lose weight I find myself cooking more with the fish and shrimp that stocks my freezer. That's one of the advantages of living in Alaska, having a boat, and a husband who loves to fish.

Today is my first posting for the Flavors challenge, the first of fifty-two. I'm really looking forward to this challenge, as I think this challenge will make me a better cook. We will learn about our key ingredients, their flavor profiles, seasons, and their most complimentary ingredients. Then we will develop our own recipe which you'll see here along with photos of our completed dishes.

As Deborah told you yesterday, our first ingredient is PLUMS. I decided to pair those plums with the following complimentary ingredients: ORANGE JUICE AND ZEST, ginger, mint, olive oil, red onions, black pepper, and prosciutto. I'm starting off using a lot more than the 3 required ingredients. Each week, I'll let you know what complementary ingredients I have used, and I'll also list them as they are in the book-either BOLDED IN CAPS, bolded, or just plain type.

I really enjoyed this recipe. The saltiness of the proscuitto contrasts perfectly with the sweetness of the plums. The salsa is also made more flavorful with the addition of fresh mint and ginger. The salsa sounds like it has a lot of ingredients, but they blend really well and make a flavorful salsa that would also go well with chicken or pork.

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Continue reading "PROSCUITTO-WRAPPED SALMON WITH PLUM SALSA" »

October 10, 2011

APPLE, FENNEL & WALNUT SALAD WITH CAMEMBERT SOUFFLE

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Today I chose to make an Apple, Fennel, & Walnut Salad with Camembert Souffle. If you've started following our blog, you know that we need to pick 3 ingredients that are listed as complementary. My complementary ingredients for apples were LEMON JUICE, Camembert cheese, fennel, honey, mustard, olive oil, black pepper, sherry, and WALNUTS. Wow, I didn't realize I used so many complementary ingredients until I was typing this up just now.

I thought that this salad paired really well with the Camembert Souffle. The tart Granny Smith apples are tamed by the honey in the Vinegrette, and the earthiness of the toasted walnuts really makes a difference. The souffle is a lighter version, using low-fat milk and more egg whites than yolks. It made a very nice lunch when paired with a nice glass of Viogner.

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I can't wait to read about what you were inspired to make, so be sure and leave a comment with a link to your blog showing us a recipe that you created with Apples.

Continue reading "APPLE, FENNEL & WALNUT SALAD WITH CAMEMBERT SOUFFLE" »

October 17, 2011

GRILLED MUSHROOM, SWISS CHEESE AND TRUFFLE OIL SANDWICH

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Deborah introduced you to this week's ingredient, mushrooms. I love mushrooms, and had to really think about what I wanted to create that was different than what I usually do. I decided that I was going to make a Mushroom, Swiss Cheese, and Truffle Oil Pizza. I stopped at the store on the way home from work to purchase some mushrooms, but I had a hard day at work and by the time I was home I was tired and hungry and I didn't want to make pizza dough. I had some home-made wheat bread that a friend had given me the day before, and I decided that the same topping that I was going to put on the pizza would be great in a grilled sandwich.

This recipe is pretty loose on the quantities. You can really use as many mushrooms and as much cheese as you'd like. I'll tell you what I did, but feel free to adapt as you see fit. I have to admit-this is one of the best sandwiches I've eaten. At least the best I've made.

This week our main ingredient was mushrooms. The complimentary ingredients I used were BUTTER, unsalted, Swiss cheese, OLIVE OIL, and fresh thyme.

GRILLED MUSHROOM, SWISS CHEESE, AND TRUFFLE OIL SANDWICH
Serves 2 (you could probably get 3 or even 4 sandwiches out of the filling)

12 ounces fresh mushrooms (I used a mixture of shitake, cremini, and oyster), thickly sliced
2 shallots, thinly sliced
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
6 ounces Swiss cheese, thinly sliced or grated
Truffle oil
Butter, for cooking in
4 slices sturdy bread, your choice of variety

Place olive oil in large skillet. Heat on med-high. When hot, add mushrooms, shallots, and thyme. You want the mushrooms to sear, so don't stir at the beginning. Wait until they are browned on one side before you stir. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms and shallots are tender and browned. (If they start to burn, turn heat down a little.)
Remove to a plate and set aside.

With a paper towel, wipe out the skillet. Turn heat on med to med-high, and place butter in skillet to melt (I used about 2 teaspoons butter.). When butter is melted, place the bread in a single layer in the skillet. Top each slice with 1/4 of the cheese, then place the mushroom mixture on two of the slices. When the bread is beginning to brown, turn down the heat to allow the cheese to melt and the bread to brown. When the bread is nice and brown and the cheese is all melted, drizzle truffle oil over the mushrooms (I used about 2 teaspoons). Place the halves together so you have two sandwiches. Slice in half, place on a place, and serve.

I hope you enjoy these as much as my husband and I did. The topping could also be placed on crostini, pizza, or flatbread.

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October 24, 2011

Sweet Potato Cakes with Duck and Red Wine Cherry Reduction

As I'm reading some of the entries to our Flavors blog, I'm realizing that you don't always know who the person who made the recipe is. So I'll probably begin starting my posts with some dorky sentence like "It's Cindy, and ....". Okay, now you know it's me.

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The ingredient for this week is duck. I enjoy duck whenever I eat it, but it is not something that I eat often. I've only cooked it a couple of times, and I just cooked duck breasts. This time as I was at the meat market contemplating between duck breasts and a whole duck, I decided to challenge myself even more and choose the whole duck. I can now add that to my repertoire.

I knew that I was going to be using some of the shredded duck for my appetizer recipe, so first I needed to decide how to cook the duck. I decided to roast it, and I used the recipe from Barbara Kafka's "Roasting, a Simple Art". I'm not going to post that recipe since it's not really part of the recipe I did today, but I can tell you it's a great way to cook the duck. You place it in a pot of simmering stock for 45 minutes before you roast it. This melts away a large amount of the fat, so the duck wasn't greasy at all. I ate the duck breasts with some of the Red Wine Cherry Sauce one night for dinner, then used the thighs, etc. for this appetizer the next day.

Now onto today's recipe. I decided to make an appetizer. I wanted a little sweet potato cake topped with the other ingredients that you could hold in your hand for a small bitefull. These didn't turn out where you could hold them in your hand, you definately needed a plate and fork. I think you could play around with the potato cake recipe to come up with the consistency of one that you could hold. If you make them smaller, and finely shredd the potatoes that might make the difference.

The flavor of this appetizer was delicious. Making (and eating) these was the first time I kinda blew my weight watcher diet since I joined a month ago. I just couldn't stop eating them. They provide a mouthful of contrasting flavors. You have the crispy sweet potato pancake, topped with some tangy goat cheese, the rich duck meat, and topped off by the tang of a dried cherry/red wine/balsamic vinegar reduction. I think this will be another one I'll be making in the future. I think you could do lots of different kinds of meat here also. Chicken thighs or shredded pork are a couple of suggestions.

The complimentary ingredients I used in today's dish are CHERRIES, honey, leeks, shallots, sweet potatoes, thyme, and balsamic VINEGAR.

Continue reading "Sweet Potato Cakes with Duck and Red Wine Cherry Reduction" »

October 31, 2011

Carrot Soup

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This week our ingredient for Flavors is carrot. I had an abundance of carrots, because they're a vegetable that grows very well here in Alaska. I get lots of them in my weekly CSA box.

I didn't want to try to come up with some oddball recipe here. I made Carrot Soup. This is something that I make quite a bit, and never follow a recipe for. I made this one a little different than I usually do, using some complementary ingredients that I normally wouldn't use. The result was delicous. Fresh carrots are usually quite sweet, and with the addition of maple syrup in my soup, I wondered if it would be overly sweet. It was not. I think the orange juice cut the sweet, maybe because my orange was more tart than sweet. I garnished my soup with a swirl of plain Greek yogurt, which also added a nice tang. Another keeper as far as I'm concerned.

The complementary ingredients I used were onions, olive oil, thyme, ORANGE JUICE, MAPLE SYRUP,and allspice.

CARROT SOUP
5 cups carrots, sliced
1 large onion, diced
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
1/2 teaspoon salt
Pepper, to taste
4 cups chicken broth
Juice of 2 oranges
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
Greek yogurt, plain (optional)

1. Heat olive oil in large saucepan. When hot, add diced onions, salt, pepper, and thyme. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are soft.
2. Add sliced carrots and chicken broth. Cook until carrots are tender.
3. Puree soup. I used a hand immersion blender. You can leave it a little chunky if you'd like.
4. Add juice from 2 oranges, maple syrup, and ground allspice.
5. Return to cooktop and reheat to serve.
6. If desired, garnish with a dollop of plain Greek yogurt.

November 14, 2011

Cranberry Pumpkin Muffins with Streusel Topping

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This week our ingredient was cranberries. I decided to try and make something from ingredients I already had around the house. I didn't have any fresh or frozen cranberries, so I decided to use orange-flavored dried cranberries I had on hand.

I chose to make pumpkin muffins that contained spices and the cranberries, and a streusel topping. I wasn't sure how they were going to turn out, as messing around with recipes for baked goods doesn't always produce good results. But these were wonderful. I started with a recipe for a sweet potato muffin that was a healthier recipe with less butter, less sugar, and whole wheat flour. I adapted it so much from that original recipe that I don't think it resembled it at all.

These muffins are still lower in fat and sugar than many are, and have some whole wheat flour in them. So while not low-fat, they're definitely more healthy than your neighborhood bakery's. What really suprised me was the texture. They were light with a tender crumb. These will be added to my recipe file to make in the future. I calculated the Weight Watchers Plus points, and there are 6 points per muffin.

My complimentary ingredients to the cranberries were cinnamon, cloves, ginger,, pumpkin, SUGAR, vanilla, and walnuts.

Continue reading "Cranberry Pumpkin Muffins with Streusel Topping" »

November 21, 2011

Brussel Sprout and Goat Cheese Salad

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This week's ingredient is Brussel Sprouts. I love roasted brussel sprouts. I had a little trouble deciding what to make this week, because I couldn't seem to come up with an unique recipe. I don't know if what I came up with is unique or not. Probably not, since hardly anything is, but I've never had it and I loved it and it will be added to my list to make many times for future meals.

I made this recipe the last week of September because when I was at the Farmer's Market, I found some great-looking brussel sprouts still on the stalk. They were tender, flavorful, and I wish I had purchased a lot more.

The complimentary ingredients I used this week were BACON, GOAT CHEESE, Dijon mustard, olive oil, black pepper, sea salt, and shallots.

I really liked this combination of flavors. You get that bitter hint of the brussel sprouts, but the sweetness from roasting them. Then the sweetness of the cranberries counterbalances the tang of the goat cheese and the fatty goodness of the bacon. And it's all tied together by the Dijon mustard and shallot vinaigrette.

If you've not liked brussel sprouts in the past, give this recipe a try. It might just change your mind.


Roasted Brussel Sprout and Goat Cheese Salad
Serves 4

1 1/2 lbs brussel sprouts, cleaned and sliced in half
1 tablespoon olive oil
Sea salt and black pepper to taste
2 to 4 slices bacon, diced
1 oz goat cheese
1/4 cup dried cranberries (or could use dried tart cherries)
Vinaigrette (see below)

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Farenheit.
2. Place brussel sprout halves in large bowl. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Toss, and place, cut side down, on large baking sheet.
3. Roast until tender and browned, turning once, about 25-30 minutes. Let cool.
4. While brussel sprouts are roasting, cook bacon in a skillet until crisp. Place on paper towels to drain. Also make vinaigrette (see recipe below).
5. Just before serving, place brussel sprouts, bacon pieces, dried cranberries and goat cheese in a large bowl. Drizzle the vinaigrette over, and gently toss. Serve.

Vinaigrette
1 small shallot, peeled and finely minced
1/8 teaspoon salt (preferably sea salt)
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons olive oil

Mix shallot, salt, and vingegar in a small bowl. Let sit for about 10 minutes for the shallots to soften in flavor. Whisk in the mustard, then slowly whisk in the olive oil.

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November 28, 2011

Pear Coffee Cake

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(Excuse my bad photos. I have got to get a better light to take photos with. Our days are too short to rely on natural light, and my photos are suffering.)

Our ingredient this week is pears. For some reason, I had trouble coming up with something unique. I have been wanting to make a coffee cake lately-seems like the cold weather makes me crave things like this. I decided to do an adaptation of a sour cream coffee cake. I'm not sure where my original recipe came from-it's one written on a recipe card that I've had for a long time. The original has a streusel filling that contains currants and cocoa powder. I decided to skip those ingredients and add chopped fresh pears. I also changed around some of the spices.

The cake tasted really good on the day it was baked, with a good texture. But after that first day, the texture changed. I think it was too much moisture from the pears made the cake more dense, instead of the crumb you would normally think of in a coffee cake. I made double the recipe, and in the second batch I skipped the pears and used dried cranberries instead. I liked that texture better. So if you make this cake, which I do highly recommend, either serve it on the day it's made, or else subtitute dried fruit for the fresh pear.

The complimentary ingredients I used were WALNUTS, SUGAR, CINNAMON, BUTTER, and VANILLA.

PEAR SOUR CREAM COFFEE CAKE
8-10 servings

1 1/4 cup chopped walnuts
1 1/4 cup brown sugar
4 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 pear, peeled and diced
3 cups cake flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 16 oz container sour cream

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 12-cup Bundt pan.
2. Mix first 6 ingredients in small bowl. Set aside.
3. Sift flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt in medium bowl.
4. In large bowl, beat butter and 1 1/2 cup sugar until fluffy and well-blended. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Mix in vanilla.
5. Mix in dry ingredients, and sour cream alternately into the butter mixture in 3 additions. Beat on high 1 minute.
6. Pour one-third of batter itno prepared pan. Sprinkle with half of pear/nut mixutre. Spoon another third of batter on top, then sprinkle with remaining pear/nut mixture. Top with last third of batter.
7. Bake cake until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, about 1 hour. Cool cake in pan on rack for 10-15 minutes. Cut around pan to loosen, then turn out onto rack and let cool 1 hour.
8. Transfer to a platter and serve.

December 5, 2011

Pasta with Cabbage and Potatoes

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This was a hard challenge for me. I love cabbage and eat it quite often, but it seems like by ways of cooking it are very simple-saute it in a stir fry, or just brown it in a skillet with a little olive oil. Or make it into a salad. I was going to post the salad I make, which is very low in calories and very healthy. I thought it was too simple. Shredded cabbage, almonds, dried cranberries, olive oil, rice wine vinegar, sesame oil, salt and pepper. You can also add some cooked chicken if you would like some protein.

But that is not the recipe I chose to feature. As I was thinking about what to create, I saw a recipe in Food & Wine for a Italian pasta with cabbage and potatoes. The cabbage and potatoes were steamed, and become a quite soft texture. I decided to cook cabbage the way I normally do, add some potatoes, leeks, and spices, and mix that with whole wheat pasta. The results were prettey healthy and delicous.

Pasta with Cabbage and Potatoes
Serves 4

17 oz whole wheat pasta
1/2 green cabbage, thinly sliced
3/4 lb potato, peeled and cut into 1/2" dice (mine were small potatoes, and I didn't peel them)
1/2 leek, cut in half and thinly sliced
1/2 onion, peeled, cut in half and thinly sliced
2 tablespoons extra-virgin oilve oil
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, chopped
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 cup grated Paremsano Reggiano cheese

1. In a large skillet, heat oil over medium high heat. Add leeks, onions, and garlic. Cook until onions/leeks begin to soften.
2. Add the potatoes. Cook at med high heat until potatoes begin to soften. Add the cabbage, rosemary, salt and pepper. Cook until all vegetables are tender and beginning to brown. Adjust temperature as needed.
3. While vegetables are cooking, cook pasta in large pot of boiling water until al dente.
4. When pasta is al dente, drain pasta, reserving 1 cup of water.
5. Add the pasta to the onion mixture, along with 1 cup pasta water. Stir well.
6. Remove from heat, and add cheese. Stir until combined well.
7. Place on plates and serve.
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December 12, 2011

Roasted Vegetable Soup

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I know, I know, this is a strange colored soup. This is what happens when one of your ingredients is fresh beets. The color doesn't bother me, but if it bothers you, just use golden beets instead of red beets. That's what I did the second time I made this soup and it was a nice golden color.

The ingredient for this week is PARSNIPS. I love soups of all sorts, and with this winter weather we've been having, soups are perfect. This is also a very healthy soup. You can alter this recipe in many different ways. I'm going to just describe what I did here rather than give you an actual recipe. Any way you adapt it, it always turns out good.

The complimentary ingredients I used with parsnips are NUTMEG, carrots, olive oil, pepper, potatoes, salt, chicken stock.

Here's what I did. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Peel and cut into small pieces about 4 parsnips, 4 carrots, 3 potatoes, and 3 beets. You can use any variety of root vegetables in any quantities you want. Place all on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil, salt and black pepper. Toss to mix together, then spread out. If the vegetables can't all lay flat, place half of them on a second pan. I also peeled 1 medium onion, sliced it in half, and layed in cut side down on the baking sheet. If you'd prefer, you can dice it instead and toss with the other ingredients. Roast the vegetables, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are tender. The time will depend on how small you cut your vegetables, but probably 30-45 minutes. Remove from pan, and place in a large saucepan. Add about 1 can chicken broth or stock. Use an immersion blender to then make a pretty smooth soup. I like some chunks still, but not too large. You can also use a blender. As you're doing this, add more broth until it's the right consistency. I think I used 3 or 3 1/2 cans for the above quantity of vegetables. When the soup is pureed and the consistency you like, place the pan on the stove to heat back up. You can add any spices you might want also. I used a little freshly grated nutmeg, because I needed to have this as a complimentary ingredient. It tasted good, but the second time I made it I only used salt and pepper. Fresh herbs like thyme or sage would be good also. Place in a bowl, and serve with fresh croutons or slices of bread.

That's it. I love this soup, love that it's healthy, easy, and adaptable to whatever root vegetables you want to use. Turnips, parsnips, carrots, potatoes, sweet potatoes, sunchokes, even winter squash and cauliflower work well.

December 19, 2011

Apple Spice Cake with Chestnuts

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This week our featured ingredient is chestnuts. I've eaten chestnuts a few times, but I never enjoyed them very much. I thought the texture was rather mealy. I liked the flavor, so I figured that I just never had really good ones since most people seem to love them.

Chestnuts are hard to find here in Anchorage. I didn't want to have to mail order any, then I remembered that a few years ago on a visit to Tuscany, I brought back a couple of jars of chestnuts in syrup. I think I ate the first jar on top of ice cream, and for whatever reason never opened the second jar. I won't tell you how many years past expiration they were, because you'd think I was crazy to eat them. But internet searches led me to discover that sweet jams and fruits rarely go bad. They just might deteriorate in quality. So I tasted one, and it was delicious. No funny taste, and I ate the first one about 8 hours ago and I'm not sick yet.

The next decision was what to make. I decided to make apples one of my complimentary ingredients. I was trying to think about what I could make when something got me to thinking about those old-fashioned applesauce snack cakes. You know, the one where you mix everything together right in the pan you're going to be baking it in.

So since baking is somewhat of an art, I had to have a basic recipe to adapt from. A google search turned up a recipe from TreeTop. I skipped the allspice called for in the recipe, and instead used cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg. I also skipped the lemon juice and used rum instead. And then most apple snack cakes have raisins. I don't remember whether this original recipe did or not, but I decided to instead use the drained, chopped chestnuts.

The cake turned out really good! Much better than I expected. I would by no means consider this a snack cake now. The rich spices and chestnuts and rum definitely elevate it above that. It would be perfect for any dinner party, plain with just a dusting of powdered sugar on top, or with a little lightly sweetened whipped cream.

If you don't happen to have any chestnuts in syrup that you brought back from Italy on hand, you could always just use raisins (I would prefer golden raisins) or any other dried fruit.

Apple Spice Cake with Chestnuts

1 1/2 cup flour
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cloves
grating of nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup applesauce
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon rum
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 egg
2/3 cup apple juice
1/2 cup drained, chopped chestnuts in syrup

In an ungreased 8 or 9" square pan (I used a 10" round pan), combine flour, brown sugar, spices, and soda. Mix well with fork or whisk. Sprinkle with the chestnuts. In a separate bowl or large mixing cup, combine apple sauce, vanilla, rum, oil, egg, and apple juice. Mix thoroughly with fork or whisk. Add liquid ingredients to flour mixture in pan, and mix until all ingredients are combined. Bake at 350 degrees for about 40 - 60 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. (The original recipe called for baking for 40 minutes. I had to back mine for 60 minutes or even a little longer to get it cooked in the center.)
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January 1, 2012

Pasta Carbanara with Smoked Oysters.

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Our ingredient this week is oysters. I had plans to make oysters on the half shell with a champagne granita. The only problem was my husband won't eat raw oysters, and I waited until the last minute to buy fresh oysters, so I was afraid they would all be gone. So I switched gears and decided to make something using canned smoked oysters.

I decided to make an Spaghetti Carbanara with Smoked Oysters. I thought the smokiness of the oysters would match the smokiness of the bacon. The results were good, but the pasta was really rich. Serve this in very small portions. I'm not a big oyster fan, so I actually liked the pasta better without them, but if you like smoked oysters, then I think you'll really like this dish. And by the way, it's not a true carbanara. I added leeks, mushrooms, and used parmesan cheese.

Pasta Carbanara with Smoked Oysters
4-6 servings

1 lb dried spaghetti
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 oz bacon,cut into thin strips
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 leek, cut in half and thinly sliced
6 cremini mushrooms, sliced
4 eggs
1 cup parmesan regianno cheese, grated
Freshly ground black pepper
Salt to taste
2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley

1. Bring water to boil. Add pasta and cook 8-10 minutes. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup cooking water.
2. While pasta is cooking, heat olive oil over med heat. Add bacon and saute until bacon is almost crispy. Add leeks, garlic, and mushrooms. Saute until leeks and mushrooms are tender.
3. In a medium bowl, whisk eggs and cheese together until there are no lumps. Set aside.
4. Add hot drained pasta to the skillet wtih the bacon mixture. Toss to coat well. Remove from heat.
5. Pour the egg/cheese mixture over the pasta and quickly stir to mix well and keep the eggs from scrambling. Thin out the sauce with the reserved pasta water if needed.
6. Season with salt if needed and lots of coursely ground black pepper. Top with the chopped parsley.

January 9, 2012

Winter Sqash Risotto

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The special ingredient for today is Winter Squash. I had several winter squashes sitting around my kitchen, and I decided to try to create something from ingredients that I already had in my kitchen. I settled on making a Winter Squash Risotto. I began by roasting the squash for extra sweetness and flavor. Then I made a basic risotto, added the mashed winter squash along with some French triple creme cheese. It was a very delicious meal, and one that will surely remind you that you're in the winter season.

The complimentary ingredients I used this week were SAGE, stock,olive oil,leeks, and cheese.

WINTER SQUASH RISOTTO About 8 servings
winter squash of your choice (I used 3 different varieties-Delicata, Butternut, and Acorn (About 2 cups when roasted)
1 leek, cut in half and thinly sliced
10 cremini mushrooms, cut in half and sliced
2 teaspoons olive oil
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 cups Arborio rice
3 14 oz. cans chicken broth
1 tablespoon fresh sage, chopped
2 ounces French triple creme cheese (or brie, gorgonzola, or blue)
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Cut squash in half, scrape out seeds, season inside with salt and pepper, and place cut side down on an oiled bakig sheet. Cook until tender, 30 minutes to 1 hour. Can be made in advance.
2. Bring broth to simmer in a saucepan. Turn to low and keep warm.
3. Place 2 teaspoons olive oil in large saucepan over medium heat. Add leeks and mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until both are softened. Add rice and stir for 1 minute. Add the wine and stir until evaporated. Add 1 1/2 cups hot broth and simmer, stirring frequently, until the broth is absorbed. Continue adding 1/2 cup broth at a time, allowing broth to evaporate before adding any more. Remember to stir frequently. When rice is tender (but not too soft), add the sage, squash, and cheese. Stir to combine and taste for seasons. Serve on warmed plates or bowls.


January 16, 2012

Roasted Beet, Goat Cheese, and Walnut Tart

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The ingredient this week is beets. I love beets. As a kid, I ate canned beets. I liked them, but as an adult when I discovered fresh, roasted beets, my love for them grew more. One of my favorite ways to eat them is on a salad. A salad with roasted beets, goat cheese, and toasted walnuts. Yum. This week I decided to take the flavors of that salad and put them into a tart. This tart was absolutely delicious. The crunch of the crust, tang of the goat cheese, sweetness of the beets and earthiness of the walnuts complement each other perfectly. I served it the first evening with a simple green salad that was dressed with mandarin orange-infused olive oil and a sweet balsamic vinegar. Then I had some of the leftovers the next morning for breakfast. The tart is very versatile and could be served as an appetizer if made in individual small tart pans, or as a light entree alongside a salad, or as a breakfast or lunch course. It reheats nicely, but be sure and reheat in the oven, not the microwave or you will have a soggy crust.

Roasted Beet, Goat Cheese and Walnut Tart
Yield: one 10" tart
3 small to medium beets
Drizzle of olive oil
Salt & pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, cut in half and thinly sliced
1 tablespoons dry white wine
3 large eggs
1/4 cup heavy cream
3 ounces soft goat cheese
1/2 cup toasted chopped walnuts
10" tart shell, blind-baked (recipe below)

1. Preheat oven to 350. Wash and dry the beets and place them on a large piece of aluminum foil. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Close the foil tighly around the beets and bake until beets are tender, about 1 hour. When cool, peel the beets and cut them into small chunks. (Can be prepared up to 1 day in advance.)
2. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring often, until the onion is soft. Add the wine and stir up any bits stuck to the bottom of the skillet. Cook until the wine has all evaporated.
3. Preheat oven to 350. Spread the cooked onions evenly in the bottom of the cooked tart shell. Then evenly distribute the beets on top. Sprinkle with the toasted walnuts.
4. Whisk together the eggs and cream and season lightly with salt and pepper. Pour this over the beet onion mixutre. Crumble the goat cheese over the top.
5. Bake until just set, about 40 minutes. Let sit 5-10 minutes before cutting.

Tart Shell (Pate Brisee) Yield: one 10" shell
1 1/3 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
8 tablespoons ( 1 stick) chilled unsalted butter, diced
1 large egg, lightly beaten
Ice water

1. In a food processor, combine the flour, salt and butter, and pulse until the mixture resembles course meal. Add the egg and pulse again until dough comes together. If dough is a little dry, add a few drops of ice water. You want the dough to hold together but you don't want a sticky wet dough.
2. Pull dough out of processor and with floured hands, shape dough into a flattened ball or disk. Wrap tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 30 minutes or up to 1 day.
3. When ready to use, let dough stand at room temperature long enough you can roll it, about 10 minutes. Roll dough on a floured surface until it's large enough to fit in the tart pan with extra to come up the sides. Gently pat into pan and press up the sides of pan. Cut off excess.
4. To blind-bake the shell, preheat the oven to 375. Line the shell with foil and fill with beans, rice or pie weights. Bake for 12 minutes. Remove the foil and weights and continue baking until the crust is nicely golden brown all over.

January 23, 2012

Asian-Flavored Beef

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The ingredient this week is beef. I had trouble coming up with something that I thought was original. Then I remembered a recipe that a neighbor taught my mom years ago, when I was just a kid. An Asian lady moved into our neighborhood. I think she was Chinese. She taught some of the neighbor women to make wonderful fried eggrolls, and I think she also told us how to make this beef.

It's very simple and not really even a recipe. Place some type of thin-cut steak in a shallow pan. I threw away the wrapper without remembering which cut of beef I bought. You could use flank steak, or any cut that you can quickly cook on the grill. Mince 5 or 6 garlic cloves, a tablespoon or two of grated fresh ginger (I think we even used to use powdered ginger) and enough light soy sauce to come to about 1/4 or 1/2" up the sides of your pan., and place that all in the pan with the beef. Season with freshly ground black pepper. Turn the steaks to coat all sides in the soy sauce mixture. Cover the pan with plastic wrap, place in the refrigerator, and marinate from 1-3 hours.

When ready to cook, take out of the pan and grill until rare or medium-rare. That's all there is to it. Good served with steamed broccoli and maybe some rice. A simple, flavorful beef recipe.

February 6, 2012

Broccoli Cakes with Tomato Salsa

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I remember a trip my husband and I took to Santa Fe probably 20 some years ago. One of the nights there we ate dinner at a restaurant where I had some type of a vegetable cake or patty, served with a sauce or salsa on top. I think they were broccoli, but I don't remember what type of sauce they had. I was suprised at the time how good they were.

So for this week's ingredient, broccoli, I decided to try to recreate some type of a cake. I actually made these for Christmas Eve dinner. It was just me and my husband, and I was wanting to use ingredients we had in the house, and I also wanted something healthy.

While these were good, I would change some things next time I make them. The only cornmeal I had was medium-grind. I would use a fine-grind next time. I think I would also try them with all of the flour being white next time, to see what difference that makes. You can also use whatever vegetables you have around. I happended to have about 1/4 cup of mushrooms stems leftover from making stuffed mushrooms, and I chopped those and added them to the broccoli.

Broccoli Cakes with Tomato Salsa 2-4 servings

Tomato Salsa
1 cup chopped fresh tomatoes
2 green onions, thinly sliced
Cilantro or Parsley, optional
Juice of half a lemon
1 tablespoon olive oil
dash tabasco sauce
Pinch sugar (optional)
Salt and Pepper to taste
Mix all ingredients in a bowl and set aside.

Brocolli Cakes
1 cup finely chopped broccoli
1/4 cup finely chopped mushrooms (or any other vegetable you choose), optional
1 teaspoon chili paste
1 clove garlic, minced
1 egg + 2 egg whites, lightly beaten
1/2 cup cornmeal
1/2 cup flour (I used half white and half wheat)
2 teaspoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
Grated cheese, about 1/4-1/2 cup (I used an Irish sharp cheddar, but you could use any hard cheese)
2 teaspoon baking soda
juice 1/2 lemon
1 cup milk

1. Heat the olive oil in a skillet. Add the broccoli, mushrooms, and garlic and cook over med heat, stirring, until tender. Place in large bowl to cool.
2. To the bowl with the broccoli, add eggs, cornmeal, flour, salt, and cheese. Mix well.
3. In a small bowl, combine the milk, lemon juice, and baking soda.
4. Add the milk mixture to the broccoli mixture and stir well.
5. Form into 4-6 patties and cook in a large non-stick skillet (which you've either sprayed with Pam or drizzled a little oil into) and cook over medium heat until first side is browned. Flip, turn heat to med-low, and continue to cook on second side until cakes are browned and cooked through.
6. Top with the tomato salsa and serve.

February 13, 2012

Rabbit Marbella

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Our Flavor ingredient this week is rabbit. I love rabbit. It's not something I eat often, but each time I do I wish I would think to eat it more often. One of my favorite recipes is a slow bake with onions, fennel and white wine. Today I decided to make what is essentially a recipe for Chicken Marbella and use rabbit instead of chicken. For those of you who don't know what Chicken Marbella is, it's a baked dishe of chicken pieces, prunes, green olives and capers in a sweet sour sauce. I thought this would match perfectly with the rich rabbit.

I loved this dish. The sweetness from the brown sugar was cut by the tang of the red wine vingear and capers and olives. I will be making this dish again, either using rabbit or chicken.

Rabbit Marbella 3-4 servings
1 rabbit, 2 1/2 - 3 lbs, cut into pieces
5-6 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced
1/8 cup red wine vinegar
1/8 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon dried oregano
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup pitted prunes
1/8 cup pitted Spanish green olives (I used the kind stuffed with garlic)
1/8 cup capers, drained, but use a little juice also
1 bay leaf
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup white wine

1. In a large bowl, combine the rabbit, garlic, red wine vinegar, olive oil, oregano, salt and pepper, prunes, olives, capers, and bay leaf. Cover and place in the refrigerator to marinate, at least 8 hours or overnight.
2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
3. Place the rabbit pieces in a shallow baking dish without overlapping them. Spoon the marinade, including the prunes, capers and olives, over the rabbit. Sprinkle with the brown sugar and white wine.
4. Bake 50-60 minutes, basting frequently with the marinade and juices.
5. Transfer to a large platter and serve along with the pan juices.

February 20, 2012

Lentil, Walnut & Salmon Salad

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This week our Flavors ingredient was lentils. I love lentils and fix them quite often. They're healthy, filling, and I love that I don't have to soak them overnight and they cook quickly.

When looking at the complimentary ingredents I saw salmon listed. I often serve salmon along with lentils, but this time decided to make a lentil salad that could be served at room temperature (or cold) and topped with salmon. I was originally planning on using a jar of salmon (we can salmon every year) but instead I thawed out a fillet and cooked it on the grill.

I really enjoyed this salad. The sherry vinegar and dijon mustard gave the right tang to the dressing. Then you have the bite of the shallots and green onions. Be sure and add the toasted walnuts, and the earthiness and crunch added a lot to this salad.


Lentil, Walnut & Salmon Salad
2 1/2 cup dried lentils
3 carrots, peeled & quartered
1 onion, peeled & sliced in half
1 1/2 quarts chicken broth (I used half chicken broth and half water)
1 bay leaf
2 teaspoons dried thyme
1/3 cup sherry vinegar
2 shallots, peeled
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/2 cup oil-walnut, hazelnut, or olive oil (I used half hazelnut and half olive oil)
Salt & pepper to taste
1 cup thinly sliced green onions
1 cup toasted walnuts, coarsely choppe
Salmon-can use 1 fillet or 1 can (I used one fillet)

1. Rinse lentils. Place in a large pot and add the carrots, onion, chicken broth and water, bay leaf and thyme. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, cover, and cook until lentils are tender but still firm (about 25 minutes).
2. Combine the vinegar, shallot, and mustard in a food processor. Then slowly add the oil until emulsified. Set aside.
3. Drain lentils and discard the carrots, onion and bay leaf. Pour into a large bowl. Pour the dressing over the hot lentils and toss to mix. (I used the entire amount of dressing, but you could use less.). Season with salt and pepper. Let cool.
4. If using salmon fillet, rub with olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and place on a sheet of foil. Place on a med-low grill and cook with lid closed, until salmon is just barely cooked through. If using canned salmon, drain.
5. When ready to serve, add the green onions and walnuts to the salad and toss. Top with salmon.

February 27, 2012

Puree of Cannelini Bean Soup with Roasted Cauliflower and Truffle Oil

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This week's ingredient was beans. My first thought was what am I going to come up with that is unique. But then I throught of something that was unique to me. (I've decided it's next to impossible to come up with totally unique ideas, so who knows if others have done this.) I had a bag of Cannelini beans that I had brought back from our last trip to Italy. I decided to make a pureed bean soup, top it with roasted cauliflower and drizzle it with truffle oil. It came out delicous. If you don't have cannelini beans, you could use any dried white bean.

Puree of Cannelini Bean Soup with Roasted Cauliflower and Truffle Oil 6 Servings

1 1/2 cups dried cannelini beans
Sprig fresh sage
Sprig fresh rosemary
1/2 onion, peeled
water or part water and part chicken broth (I used 1/2 water and 1/2 chicken broth
Salt and Pepper to taste

1. Rinse beans, place in large pot, cover generously with water, and soak overnight.
2. After soaking, drain and rinse the beans. Put the beans in a large pot and cover (with a couple of inches above the beans) with water or a combination of water and chicken broth. Add the sage, rosemary, and onion. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and cook until beans are tender. (I forgot to pay attention to how long this took. Sometime between 1-2 hours.) Season with salt and pepper.
3. Using a hand immersion blender or a regular blender or food processor, puree the beans along with their cooking liquid until smooth. If too thick, add a little water.
4. While the beans are cooking, roast your cauliflower. Just cut the cauliflower into small pieces, toss with a drizzle of olive oil, salt and pepper, and spread out on a baking sheet. Roast at 400 degrees until cauliflower is soft and nicely browned.
5. Serve by placing soup in a shallow bowl, top with cauliflower and drizzle with a little truffle oil. If you don't have, or don't like, truffle oil, just drizzle with a good olive oil.

March 5, 2012

Tropical Lobster Salad

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Our ingredient this week is lobster. I thought I would make some type of lobster salad, but then I had to decide what kind.

Lobsters are really expensive. I like lobster, but I probably like shrimp as well, and when you have a freezer full of shrimp it is hard to justify spending a lot of money on lobster. I planned on buying whole live lobster, but on Valentine's Day my local grocer had lobster tails on sale for $5.00 each. I bought two. I realized as I was making the recipe later why they were so inexpensive-they were tiny. My recipe today uses 2 small lobster tails. They gave me a little less than 3/4 cup of meat, and that was packed very loosely in the measuring cup. You could easily double, triple, or quadruple this recipe, and I think shrimp would be just as good as lobster.

Tropical Lobster Salad Makes 2 small servings

3/4 lb cooked lobster tail, cut into small pieces (My lobster tails had been frozen. I boiled them for about 5 minutes.)
1/4 cup fresh pineapple, cut in small dice
1/4 cup mango, cut in small dice
1/8 cup tomato, cut in small dice
1/2 avocado, cut into small dice
1/2 hot red chili pepper, cut in very small dice
1 tablespoon finely minced onion
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 tablespoons plain Greek yogurt
1/2 teaspoon lime juice
1/2-1 teaspoon lime zest
Sea Salt

1. In small bowl, mix together mayonnaise, yogurt, lime juice, and lime zest.
2. In med bowl, mix together lobster, pineapple, mango, avocado, tomato, onion, and chili pepper.
3. Mix the mayonnaise mixture into the lobster mixture. Chill, then serve.

March 19, 2012

Pina Colada Cheesecake

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The ingredient this week is Pineapple. I love fresh pineapple, and it's one of my favorite things to eat whenever we visit Hawaii. It's a little more challenging finding good pineapples here in Alaska, but they can be found, albeit not as sweet as what we normally get in Hawaii.

I decided to share a recipe that I've made before. It was a recipe that I developed for a Daring Bakers Challenge three years ago. Our challenge was to take a basic cheesecake recipe, and add our own twist to it. I came up with this wondeful Pina Colada Cheesecake. If you're a fan of cheesecakes, pineapple and coconut, splurge on this. You will not be sorry.

PINA COLADA CHEESECAKECrust:
2 cups graham cracker crumbs
½ cup shredded coconut, toasted
1 stick butter, melted
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Mix together the crust ingredients and press into bottom and up sides of aa 8 or 9” springform pan. (Wrap heavy duty foil around bottom of pan, 2 layers, so the water bath doesn’t seep into the crust.) Set in the refrigerator while you make the filling.

Filling:
3 8oz packages cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1 cup coconut milk(I used the thickest part from a can of coconut milk)
½ teaspoon lemon zest
1 vanilla bean
½ teaspoon coconut extract(can omit if you don’t want a stronger coconut flavor)
3 tablespoons dark rum

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Begin to boil a large pot of water for the water bath.

Combine the cream cheese and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer (or in a large bowl if using a hand-mixer). Cream together until smooth. Add eggs, one at a time, fully incorporating each before adding the next. Be sure to scrape down the bowl between each egg. Add coconut milk, seeds scraped from the vanilla bean, lemon zest, coconut extract and rum. Blend until smooth and creamy, but do not overbeat.

Pour batter into prepared crust and tap the pan on the counter a few times to bring all air bubbles to the surface. Place the pan into a larger pan and pour boiling water into the larger pan until halfway up the side of the cheesecake pan.

Bake 45 to 55 minutes, until it is almost done. This can be hard to judge, but you’re looking for the cake to hold together, but still have a lot of jiggle to it in the center. You don’t want it to be completely firm at this stage. Close the oven door, turn the heat off, and let rest in the cooling oven for one hour. This lets the cake finish cooking and cool down gently enough so that it won’t crack on the top. After one hour, remove cheesecake from the oven and carefully lift out of the water bath. Let it finish cooling on the counter, and then cover and refrigerator until overnight.

Topping:
1 cup finely chopped fresh pineapple
¼ cup sugar
1/3 cup water
4 teaspoons cornstarch
1/8 cup rum
½ cup toasted coconut
½ cup toasted macadamia nuts or pecans, chopped

Place pineapple in a small saucepan. Stir the cornstarch and sugar together and add to the pineapple. Heat to boiling. Cook and stir until clear and thick, about 2 minutes. Take off heat and cool. Add the rum and stir until combined.

When topping is cool, spread over top of cheesecake and sprinkle the toasted coconut and chopped nuts on top.

March 26, 2012

A Taste of Sunshine

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Our ingredient this week is lemons. As I was contemplating what to make, I remembered a drink recipe I came up with last summer. I named it "A Taste of Sunshine". It reminds me of a sunny summer day. Okay, here in Alaska we've had over twice the normal amount of snow, it's dreary as I'm writing this post, but I can only dream about summer not being too far away. Ago, it's still about 3 months away for us, but I can still dream.

A Taste of Summer
1 teaspoon honey
1 ounce fresh-squeezed lemon juice
1 1/2 ounces limoncello
1 1/2 ounces seltzer water
Rosemary sprig

Dissolve the honey in the lemon juice. Pour this mixture, along with the limoncello and seltzer water in a shaker filled with ice. Shake briskly and strain into martini glass. Garnish with rosemary sprig.

April 9, 2012

Thai Shrimp Salad

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Our Flavors recipe this week is shrimp. For those of you who know me, you know that my husband and I have a boat, which we take out of Whittier in Prince William Sound. We are very fortunate that one of the things we are able to do is set out shrimp pots. Once you find good spots, we get an abundance of shrimp. Large, sweet spot shrimp. We eat it boiled, in stir fries and curries, in soups and stews, lots of different ways. Today I decided to make a Thai Shrimp Salad. I started off by making some quick pickled carrots, cucumbers, & onions. I needed to use the cucumbers before they went bad, and this was a great way to fix them.

Here's what I did for the pickled vegetables: Thinly slice the cucumbers and place in a bowl. Peel the carrots and cut into sticks and add those to the bowl. Peel an onion, cut it in half, and thinly slice it. You can use as little or as many vegetables as you would like. Then cover the vegetables with seasoned rice wine vinegar and place in refrigerator. Let them soak until they're as stong as you would like, then drain. I soaked mine a couple of hours.

Thai Shrimp Salad 4 Servings
Dressing:
2 tablespoons peanut butter
3 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon soy sauce (I use low sodium)
1-2 teaspoons chili sauce
Pinch of sugar

Salad:
1 pkg (2 oz) bean thread noodles
1 lb shrimp
1 cup sliced red pepper
6 cups lettuce, shredded
1 cups cabbage, shredded
As many pickled vegetables as you would like
Cilantro if desired

1. Make the dressing by whisking all of the dressing ingredients together.
2. Boil the shrimp in water until done, just a few minutes (they will float when done). Cool and peel.
3. Cook the bean thread noodles according to package directions and drain. I then took kitchen scizzors to mine and cut them into smaller pieces to make them easier to eat.
4. Place noodles, shrimp, red peppers, lettuce, cabbage, and pickled vegetables in large bowl. Pour dressing over and toss to coat. If desired, top wtih chopped peanuts and chopped cilantro.

4 Servings
Per Serving"
297 calories
9.1 g fat
25.1 g carb
3.9 g fiber
7.2 g sugar
28.1 g protein

April 16, 2012

Tuna Tower

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This week our ingredient is tuna. I was thinking about making tuna tacos like a get at a restaurant in Anchorage. I decided to make something very similar. I chose to make a tuna tower. This is a mixture of ahi tuna that has been lightly marinated in a soy sauce-based mixture, avocado and mango, served with wonton chips. I don't have an exact recipe here for you, but I think you've got enough to make it work.

Tuna Tower 4 servings
Wonton Crisps:
1/4 cup sesame oil
20 wonton skins, sliced in halg
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Brush 2 cookie sheets with sesame oil. Lay the wonton skins on the sheets in a single layer. Brush with oil. Bake about 15 minutes, until crisp and golden. Transfer to plate to cool.

Tuna:
1/2 lb sushi-grade tuna (I used ahi), cut into small dice
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon red chili paste
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
1. Mix together the last 4 ingredients and stir until sugar is dissolved. Stir in tuna, cover, and refrigerate 15 to 30 minutes. Do not let set too long or fish will be mushy.

To serve:
Peel one mango and cut into small dice. Place in a medium bowl. Cut one avocado in half and cut into small dice. Add to the same bowl. Drain the tuna mixture and lightly stir into the mango and avocado until mixed. Serve with the wonton chips. If you'd like the presentation I did, just use a ring mold and layer the ingredients in, then gently remove the ring.

I served this with a little wasabi mayo on top. This is where I don't have the measurements, as I kept adding things until I liked the taste. I placed 2 tablespoons mayo in a small bowl. I mixed in about 2 teaspoons wasabi powder and stirred until blended. Add sirachi and stir to blend. Add a little water if lumpy or too thick.

April 30, 2012

Espresso Cocoa Nib Meringues

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This week our Flavors ingredient is coffee/espresso. I love espresso and drink a double latte every day. I had several ideas in mind, but most of them contained a lot of cream, butter, and other fattening things. I decided to make a cookie that really isn't so bad for you - meringues.

I took a basic meringue recipe, added powdered espresso powder and cocoa nibs. The cocoa nibs taste almost like an interesting nut. If you don't have cocoa nibs, you could use very finely chopped chocolate. (If you don't chop it finely enough, you won't be able to pipe it through a pastry tip.)

I really enjoyed these. There's a nice hit of coffee flavor, and the chocolate on top sends them over the edge. They were very quick to make, and last about 3 days. And when I figured out the calories, they're only about 14 calories each!!!

Espresso Cocoa Nib Meringues Makes about 80 meringues

4 large egg whites, room temperature
2/3 cup sugar
2 teaspoons espresso powder
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
2 ounces cocoa nibs
1-2 ounces semisweet chocolate

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
2. Beat the egg whites and sugar in a mixer with a whip attachment until soft peaks form. Add the espresso powder and vanilla bean paste and continue whipping just until stiff and glossy. Fold in the cocoa nibs.
3. Fill a pastry bag fitted with a large plain or star tip with the meringue mixture. Pipe bite-sized "kisses" onto 2 cookie sheets that are lined with parchment paper or silpats.
4. Bake the meringues until they are light golden brown, about 30 minutes. Test for doneness by removing one from oven, cooling 1 minute, then tasting. You want it to be dry and crisp all the way through. Let cool on pans.
5. While cooling, melt 1-2 ounces of finely chopped semisweet chocolate. When melted, take a fork and drizzle chocolate over meringues. Let chocolate harden, about 1 hour.

May 7, 2012

Shrimp-Stuffed Squid in a Sofregit Sauce with Aioli

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I knew I wanted to make a stuffed squid dish, but I wasn't sure what I wanted to stuff them with. I went to our local asian/seafood/specialty market, where I knew they carried whole squid. I bought a pound, and the only problem was that the squid were pretty small. I had thought I would stuff them with a rice/shrimp mixture, but I decided they were too small for that. So I decided to stuff them with minced shrimp instead.

This preparation is rather long, but if they squid were larger they would be easier to stuff and wouldn't take as long. I was having a friend come over for a late lunch on Saturday, and I woke up early, which gave me the opportunity of piddling around in the kitchen taking my time and making most everything in advance.

I started out by making a sofregit sauce. Sofregit is a foundational sauce in Mediterranean Catalan cuisine. It's a fragrant tomato-based sauce made with tomatoes, onions, olive oil, garlic and onions, it can include other vegetables like mushrooms and peppers. These are cooked at low heat for a long period of time, so the vegetables become very flavorful.

As this sauce was cooking, I peeled my shrimp, minced it, and seasoned it with salt and aleppo pepper.

Then I cleaned my squid. I had done this before, so I knew how. Once you've done it once, you realize how easy it is. Okay, some people might find it a little unappealing, but it doesn't bother me. When the squid was cleaned, I stuffed them like little sausages with the shrimp mixture. Close the open end with a toothpick woven through, and back in the refrigerator to wait until their time to cook. Oh, I also kept the tentacle part to cook in the sauce alongside the stuffed bodies.

I next made an aioli sauce, which is basically a garlic mayonnaise. If you make this recipe, be sure to include this element. The bright sharp flavor of this really made a difference in the taste of the dish.

The stuffed squid turned out delicious. The shrimp inside was firm with the texture of a seafood sausage. I served simply with crostini alongside. (Take a loaf of good crusty bread, slice, lay on cookie sheet, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper and broil on low until crispy.)

Shrimp-Stuffed Squid in Sofregit Sauce with Aioli
Serves 2 as a main dish, 4 as an appetizer

1 pound whole squid, cleaned.
1 pound shrimp, peeled and minced
salt and pepper
aleppo pepper
Sofregit (see below)
Aioli (see below)

1. Make the safregit and set aside. Can be made in advance and refrigerated until ready to use.
2. Make the aioli and refrgerate until ready to use. Can be made a day in advance.
3. Season the raw, minced shrimp with salt and a sprinkling of aleppo pepper.
4. Stuff the squid bodies with the minced shrimp and close the end by weaving a toothpick through each. Make sure to cut the eyes and the hard white piece off the tentacle part of the squid and set aside.
5. Heat the sofreigit in a large skillit. Place the stuffed squid among the sauce and add the tentacles also to the sauce. Keep the heat on low, cover, and cook until the squid are firm and you think the shrimp are cooked through. I forgot to watch exactly how long this took, but I would guess about 20 minutes. You don't want to overcook or they'll get tough but you need the shrimp to cook through. You could cut one open when you think they might be done.
6. Divide the sauce and squid among 2-4 plates and drizzle the aioli sauce over. Serve with crunchy bread.

Sofregit
2 tablespoons olive oil
5 large ripe tomatoes, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped (I used a yellow one)
5 garlic cloves, chopped
1 cup mushrooms, chopped (I used cremini, you can use portabello, buttons or any kind)
1 bay leaf
Large pinch of cumin
Large pinch of oregano
Salt to taste

Place all ingredients in large skillet and cook slowly, stirring occasionally, until all of the vegetables are soft. (I probably cooked mine for an hour to 1 1/2 hours). Can be made ahead and refrigerated until ready to use.

Aioli (The recipe for aioli came from Epicurious.com)
2 garlic cloves
1 large egg yolk
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons vegetable oil

Mince and mash garlic to a paste with a pinch of salt using a large heavy knife. Whisk together yolk, lemon juice, and mustard in a bowl. Combine oils and add, a few drops at a time, to yolk mixture, whisking constantly, until all oil is incorporated and mixture is emulsified. (If mixture separates, stop adding oil and continue whisking until mixture comes together, then resume adding oil.)

Whisk in garlic paste and season with salt and pepper. If aïoli is too thick, whisk in 1 or 2 drops of water. Chill, covered, until ready to use.

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