Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Kale with Roasted Garlic, Pecans and Raisins

2 bunches kale
2 tsp olive oil
1/4 cup whole pecans
1/4 cup whole roasted garlic (see recipe and note below)
2 tbsp raisins
2 tbsp mirin
1/4 tsp ground ginger
salt and pepper to taste

1. Wash kale throughly and chop coarsely.
2. Chop pecans coarsely.
3. Set skillet over medium heat and add olive oil.
4. Once oil is hot, add pecans, garlic, and raisins. Cook for two to three minutes until heated through.
5. Add kale, followed by mirin, ginger, salt and pepper. Cook for another three to five minutes.
6. Serve as a side dish or a main course with grilled fish or poultry.

Whole Roasted Garlic
20-30 peeled garlic cloves
1-2 tbsp olive oil

1. Set oven to 450 degrees F.
2. In bowl, toss garlic with oil.
3. On a greased or lined baking sheet, spread garlic cloves evenly.
4. Roast for 8 to 10 minutes, monitoring periodically to prevent garlic from burning.

Note: If you do not have time to prepare the roasted garlic, then substitute 2 tablespoons chopped fresh garlic. Unused roasted garlic, can be stored in airtight container and kept in refrigerator for up to one week.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

From Bland to Blueberries

During my freshman year of college, I had an 8 am biology class. Sounds simple, not so. For me, having to wake up at 7 am to catch the 7:30 bus from my campus to the other campus (There were two campuses: one for men and one for women but the classes were on both campuses. Most of the science classes were on the men's campus.) was annoying, especially so during the winter. Not very enticing for a Caribbean girl. The biology class I looked forward to, not the morning commute. Until one day, my friend and I stopped off at the cafe for coffee before walking across the frozen tundra to the science building. "You should try the scones," she said. That was the beginning of a year long "addiction." Addiction and the onset of "the freshman 15," or more accurately, the freshman 20. Buttery,crumbly, sweet blueberry scones. Simple triangles of pure heaven. The fact that I still had to catch the 7:30 bus didn't change neither did the fact that I still had to get to class for 8 am, sometimes in sub zero degree temperatures. What did change, however, was the blandness of that morning routine.

My Blueberry Cappuccino Scones have no butter so, to provide the crumbly texture characteristic of scones, I used whole grain pastry flour which has a little less protein content than all-purpose flour. If you do not have pastry flour available, by all means do use all-purpose flour but expect that the texture will be a little more on the chewy side. Also, whether you use pastry or all-purpose flour, do not over-mix the dough. Over-mixing will cause it to become more elastic.

Blueberries and cappuccino are an unusual combination but I think you will be pleasantly surprised; the cappuccino provides an extra layer of flavor.

You should try these scones.

Blueberry Cappuccino Scones

2 cups whole grain pastry flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup sugar
1 cup blueberries
1/4 walnuts finely chopped
1/2 cup prepared cappuccino OR 1/4 cup cooled brewed coffee plus 1/4 cup milk
2 tbsp yogurt
2 eggs lightly beaten
1 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
3 tbsp milk
1 tsp honey
1/4 cup dark chocolate chips

1. Set oven 400 degrees F.
2. Combine flour, baking powder, sugar, blueberries and walnuts. Mix well.
3. Combine liquid ingredients
4. Add liquid ingredients to dry ingredients. Using a spatula, mix until just combined, DO NOT over-mix. Mixture will be wet and appear sticky. This is good.
5. Flour your fingers well and, on lightly floured surface, work mixture into circular disk about 1 to 1 1/2" thick. Cut into eight triangles as you would a pizza or into rounds using large circular cookie cutter.
6. Gently transfer to a well greased baking sheet, placing equal distances apart.
7. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes until lightly golden brown. Transfer to wire rack to cool.
8. Melt chocolate chips using a double boiler or in the microwave.
9. Drizzle melted chocolate unto scones. Enjoy warm or cooled.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

About the Author

Who am I?

Three little words; such a simple question yet one that I find the most complex to answer. So many things have molded me into the person that I call myself and at the same time I am still an unfinished product. To define myself merely by my heritage, my ethnicity, will be doing grave injustice to my new found self here in the United States. I came to this country almost five years ago as a student. Now, I have graduated, and trying to identify with the person that stepped off the plane at the Miami International airport on January 9th 2003 en route to Minnesota is a tough task. I almost do not recognize her. But grateful I am that she decided to leave her family and everything she knew, for if she hadn't, there would be no "me." Me . The 25 year old Caribbean transplant, the eager and starry-eyed fiancee, the novel cook, the adventurous cook, the willing traveller, the overbearing sister, the grateful daughter, the risk-taker. These various personalities are the reason I decided to create this blog. More than anything however, I want to share the experiences of my American travels, cooking, my interest in ethnic food, exercise (not very much, I promise), and everything else that I enjoy.

I think a good place to begin is talking about new discovery of healthy gourmet food. Since meeting my fiance, I have been able to more thoroughly explore my interest in cooking. He has indulged me in so many ways, for instance, and most importantly, being my willing taster (i.e. my guinea pig) and providing me with a well-stocked and well-equipped kitchen. We enjoyed eating decadent dishes every night: coq au vin, roasted butternut squash lasagna, chocolate souffle, just to name a few. Then two Thanksgivings ago, while mixing two sticks of butter into flour for an apple pie crust, it occurred to me that there must be a alternative way to prepare our favorite dishes without so much fat.

I am not claiming that I have found the way to a completely non-fat living nor am I saying that all of my recipes are non-fat. In fact, I do not believe in the non-fat craze or dieting on the whole. I believe in living, and part of living is enjoying foods. Food embodies our experiences and cultures. Weddings, birthdays, graduations, business ventures. So many of life's experiences include food as a major component. However, we have to be realistic: we cannot expect to eat any and everything and maintain good health. On the other hand, we should not punish ourselves by restricting certain foods. Food should make us happy and healthy, energized and euphoric. Not guilty, tired or self-loathing.

On this note, I welcome you to my blog and share with you my first two recipes: Onion and Mushroom Quiche with a Crust of Wonton Skins, and Individual Apple Cups with Pecan Streusel Topping. The apple recipe I created through sheer necessity. One night, after a long day at work and an evening filled with additional paper work, my fiance had a craving for something sweet. Very uncharacteristic of our kitchen, there wasn't much in term of sweets that night. All I had to work with were a couple of apples. Whenever I think of apples, the next thought that comes to mind is apple pie. Right? Well, a pie would have taken too long to bake, so I improvised. The dish turned out edible but with room for much improvement. After many attempts and variations, the result is the version I share with you today. Happy eating!

Onion and Mushroom Quiche with a Crust of Wonton Skins
Serves 3-4

1 whole onion (white or yellow)
1 cup cremini mushrooms
1/4 cup chopped parsley
2 egg whites plus 1 whole egg
3 tbsp milk
2 tbsp part skim ricotta
1/2 tsp corn or potato starch
salt and pepper
1 tbsp whole wheat or spelt flour
1/4 cup grated cheese of your choice
16-18 wonton skins

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
2. Chop onion into rings. Set aside.
3. With a damp paper towel, clean mushrooms and slice. Set aside.
4. Place skillet on medium heat, add onions and mushrooms with a pinch of salt, pepper and half of chopped parsley. Saute until soft and aromatic, about 8 minutes. Remove from heat.
5. In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, ricotta, salt, pepper, cornstarch and remaining parsley until ricotta is fully incorporated. Set aside
6. Mix flour into onion-mushroom mixture, followed by cheese. Set aside.
7. Grease the bottom and sides of small springform pan. Line with aluminum foil or parchment paper. This is to safely remove quiche after baking.
8. Arrange about 8-10 wonton wrappers unto bottom of pan in a double layer. Then arrange remaining wrappers on the side of pan in a single layer. The result should look similar to a pie shell.
9. Spoon onion-mushroom mixture unto wonton wrappers.
10. Pour egg mixture over onion-mushroom mixture.
11. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until lightly golden brown on top and knife test comes out clean.

Note: This recipe can be made into mini quiches by arranging 2 or 3 wonton skins into cups on a muffin tin. Spoon 2 tablespoons of onion-mushroom mixture into each cup and top with just enough egg mixture to cover vegetables. Bake until done.

Individual Apple Cups with Pecan Streusel Topping
Makes 2 individual cups

Apple filling
2 small apples
1 small nectarine
2 tbsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
pinch ground ginger
pinch ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp lime juice

Streusel topping
3 tbsp spelt flour
1/8 cup pecans
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 tbsp cold unsalted butter

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
2. Peel and cut apples and nectarine into small chunks.
3. Add sugar, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg lime juice and chopped fruit in bowl. Mix well.
4. In food processor, pulse pecans until finely chopped.
5. In separate bowl mix together flour, 1/4 tsp cinnamon and chopped pecans until just mixed; do not over mix.
6. To assemble, arrange two individual ramekins or individual baking cups unto a baking sheet. Spoon the apple mixture into each ramekin. Make sure to press down forcefully to ensure that all the fruit fits. This might take a lot of pressing depending on the size of fruit you used at the beginning. Also, you want to fit in as much as possible because, as the desert bakes, the fruit will shrink.
7. Crumble streusel mixture onto apple mixture.
8. Bake for 30 minutes. Cover with foil and bake for another 15 minutes.