Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Low Fat Spicy Sausage Corn Chowder

Welcome the cold evenings with a bowl of this spicy corn chowder. To make it lighter in calories, instead of cream, I used low fat evaporated milk. In addition, I substituted chicken sausages for higher calorie pork varieties. Recently, I found these spicy chicken sausages at Trader Joe's which are good in eggs, in paella, and great in this recipe. Of course, you can use any type here and also adjust  the spice level to suit your own taste.

Low Fat Spicy Sausage Corn Chowder
Serves 4 to 5

3 tbsp vegetable oil
4  spicy chicken sausages, sliced
1 medium onion, diced
1 medium bell pepper, diced
1 bay leaf
1 sprig fresh thyme
1 tsp fresh oregano
1/2 tsp ground pepper
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
3 cups low sodium chicken stock
1 can low fat evaporated milk
1 can corn kernels
1 can cream style corn
1/2 tsp ground all spice
2 tbsp chopped parsley

1. In a large pot over medium high heat, add the oil and brown the sausage slices on both sides. Remove from the pot and add the diced onion and peppers, along with the bay leaf, thyme, and oregano. Cook until softened and until the onion have browned slightly on the edges. 
2. Add the chicken stock, evaporated milk, can of corn kernels, can of creamed corn, and all spice. Stir well, and bring to a boil. 
3. Add the browned sausages and return to a boil. Serve warm, topped with chopped parsley.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Mini Pumpkins with Coconut Lime Custard

Have you ever had stuffed pumpkin for dessert? This first time I did, it was at a roadside food stand on a busy Bangkok street. That was on our first international trip together and we were staying at the Asia hotel, which was located somewhat on the edge of the city but in close proximity to taxi hubs, and train stops. In other words, at the intersection of hungry tourists and hungry commuters. Needless to say, there was not a lack of food vendors at this part of the city, where commuters can make a delicious stop on their way to or from work or in the midst of whatever reason that brought them to this part of town.

Food vendors of all sorts dotted the streets here, selling an endless array of Thai specialties. But the two dishes that stood out to me were pad thai - unsurpassed by any restaurant-style version I've here in the States - and the Thai version of stuffed pumpkin - Sankaya.

Traditional Sankaya is not made with pumpkin per se but a different kind of squash - kabocha squash to be exact. Hollowed out, filled with a sweet, coconut custard, steamed until cooked, and cut into wedges to be sold - Sankaya certainly was the inspiration for this recipe.

Baked Mini Pumpkins with Coconut Lime Custard
Serves 2

2 mini pumpkins
1 tbps honey
3/4 cup light coconut milk
2 eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp corn starch
zest of one lime

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
2. Carefully cut the top off each pumpkin. Using a small tablespoon, remove the seeds and the string from inside and on the caps of the pumpkins. Brush the interior of each pumpkin with honey and bake (along with the caps) for 20 to 25 minutes until for tender. Remove from the oven and cool slightly before adding the filling.
3. For the filling: Thoroughly whisk all of the remaining ingredients together. Divide the mixture between the two pumpkins.  Return to the oven and bake for an additional 20 minutes, until the custard has set. Remove from the oven, place the caps on, and cool before serving.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Butternut Squash and Leek Gratin

When it comes to butternut squash, I tend to rotate the same set of recipes. Most frequently, it's soup. No soup is as creamy, sweet and savory, all at the same time, as a homemade butternut squash soup with a dollop of sour cream, or a swirl of balsamic syrup. Next on the list is butternut squash creme brulee. And finally, butternut squash bread pudding.

This is the first time, however, that I've make butternut squash gratin. A gratin is a simple, baked dish, similar to a casserole, with a golden, browned crust on the top. For this recipe, I've added onions and leeks to the squash base. A final topping of cheese and breadcrumbs, and a short time in the oven, and that's really all there is to it.

This is an easy recipe, the most laborious parts being peeling and cutting the squash, and washing the leeks. For those who haven't cooked with leeks before, you might be wondering what is so difficult about washing leeks. The problem with fresh leeks is that they are grown in sandy soil, which then finds it way into the many tight layers of the vegetable. This is why it is so important that you take the time to carefully wash them before cooking. (I found a quick tutorial of the process on YouTube.)

Having made this dish for the first time, I am confidant that it would become one of my regular butternut squash recipes. I'm even thinking that it would make a lovely side dish for our Thanksgiving dinner this year.

Butternut Squash and Leek Gratin
Serves 4 to 5

1 butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cubed
1 small onion, diced
1 medium leek, washed and chopped
3 tbsp vegetable oil
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
8 oz mozzarella, sliced or shredded
1 cup seasoned breadcrumbs
1 cup grated cheddar
2 tbsp chopped parsley (optional)

1. Preheat the oven to 300oF. Spray an 8" x 8" baking dish with cooking spray and set aside.
2. In a bamboo or stainless steel steamer, steam the squash until fork tender. I did it in two batches so that the cubes of squash cooked evenly.
3. In a large skillet, heat the vegetable oil over medium heat, and add the onions and rosemary sprigs. Cook until lightly browned on the edges, about 3 minutes. Add the chopped leeks. Continue to cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally to prevent burning. Cook until the leeks are softened, for an additional 4 to 5 minutes. Remove and discard the rosemary sprigs.
4. Combine the squash, onion-leek mixture, salt, and pepper. Transfer to the prepared baking dish. Layer the slices of mozzarella on the top, followed by the breadcrumbs, and finish with the grated cheddar. Baked at 300oF for 25 to 20 minutes, until the top is golden brown. Garnish with chopped parsley and serve warm.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Easy Tomato Basil Soup

Today, as I sliced through our CSA microshare of roma tomatoes, their sweet and intense aroma wafting to my nose, it dawned on me that this was the first time that I actually took notice of the aroma of a roma tomato. Conventional roma tomatoes - those sold at chain grocery stores - never smell this good, or even look this vibrant - brilliant, crimson red - for that matter. Don't you agree?

Conventional romas are usually sold under-ripe which explains why they rarely taste or look their best. I'm sure if you were to leave them on the counter for a few days or in a sealed brown paper bag for a day or two, they would develop the sweet flavor that comes naturally to those sold at farmers' markets across the country.

We've had a surplus of romas since they've been in our CSA delivery for the past three weeks. This turned out to be a good thing for making creamy tomato basil soup, without the cream. 

Easy Tomato Basil Soup
Serves 3 to 4

8 to 10 roma tomatoes
3 tbsp olive oil, plus 2 tbsp
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground pepper
2 onions, sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 jalapeno, sliced (optional)
4 to 5 cups low sodium chicken stock
1 cup fresh basil leaves

1. Slice the tomatoes in half and toss with the olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Place cut side down and in a single layer on a baking sheet, and roast in a 400 degrees F oven for 20 to 25 minutes. 
2. Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Cook the onions, garlic, and jalapeno (if using) until slightly browned. Add the roasted tomatoes (with all the juices from the pan), the chicken stock, and basil leaves. Stir and and bring to a slow simmer. Cover and cook for 15 minutes. 
3. Carefully transfer the soup to a blender and puree until smooth (or to your desired consistency). Return soup to the pot, and and return to a gentle simmer. Serve warm with garlic croutons. 

Friday, August 31, 2012

Cooking in Barcelona

At this point, we had been in Barcelona for only three days but taxis had become our primary means  of transportation. Barcelona's climate is oppressive in August.  An otherwise leisurely twenty minute walk is made unbearable by the heat and humidity, even at eleven o'clock in the morning.

Joining us this morning were two of our friends from Minneapolis who had been living and working in Barca for the past year, and who have somehow rapidly adapted to the heat. We boarded the taxi at the corner of Madrazzo and Valmis, an intersection marked by the a local hospital and relatively modern buildings. The cab driver was soon maneuvering through cobble-stoned streets, barely wide enough for his Spanish-made Astra. We slowly drove past ornate hardwood doors and brightly colored store fronts bordered by wrought-iron lamps, and flowers baskets hanging from windows and spilling over with brightly colored vines and blossoms.  We had come to this part of town for a lesson in Catalan cuisine. And I was ready to learn about and savor the favors of Spain!

Clams for the paella. 

Chef Alesandra getting the paella started. 

Espai Boisa is run by Claudia Schmilinsky and Pep Soler, a husband and wife team with a desire to teach locals and travelers alike about Spanish and Catalan cuisine.  From the prawns and clams for the paella, to the tomatoes and olive oil for the pan con tomate, and the red and white wines that Pep so generously refilled throughout the class -  all ingredients were fresh, organic, and sourced locally.

Catalonia, of which Barcelona is the capital, is the northeastern most region in Spain with a cuisine distinct from other regions. Claudia and Pep and their chef Alesandra prepared a menu of both Catalan and other regional dishes: spanish tortilla, bacon wrapped stuffed dates, pan con tomate, gazpacho, paella, and crema catalana.

 Preparing pan con tomate.

 The finished paella. 

 Crema catalana.

The class started with introductions, followed by a quick description of each dish by Alesandra. Our first appetizer, the spanish tortilla, is an egg dish made in a non-stick skillet and filled with potatoes and onions cooked confit-style. Certainly, not your ordinary breakfast eggs. The other appetizer was dates stuffed with almonds and wrapped in bacon before finally being roasted in the oven - a simple hor d'oeuvre which I took note to make at home at my next casual dinner party, served with a pitcher of homemade sangria perhaps. A third appetizer was pan con tomate, simply slices of fresh bread rubbed with fresh tomatoes and finished with sea salt and olive oil. Then there was gazpacho. Alexandra makes her gazapacho with tomatoes, onions, watermelon, lemon juice and olive oil. This, we later learnt, is a slight variation from the traditional gazapacho which includes day-old bread.  Our main dish was paella which is not Catalan, having originated in the Valencia region, but what cooking class in Spain would be complete without Spain's most popular dish? Dessert was crema catalana, a dish similar to creme brulee with a couple notable differences. Crema catalana is made with whole milk and the custard is finished on the stove-top; creme brulee is made with cream and the custard is finished in the oven.

While Alesandra relayed instructions, members of the class (on this day there were fourteen of us) began the chopping and dicing process, getting the ingredients ready for their respective dishes. We all  had different tasks: a couple people supervised the potatoes-confit for the spanish tortillas, some worked on the gazpacho but everyone got a chance to help with the paella. Seemingly, we all gravitated to the large paella pot in the center of the cooking station, a point that Alesandra took notice of and expounded on. Paella, she explained, is a dish that's meant to be shared and those restaurants that serve individual paellas deviate from the true meaning of the dish. I liked her narrative. I have a strong proclivity for tradition when it comes to food,  so I respected her efforts to incorporate her values in the class.

With Claudia and Pep. 

Two and a half hours passed quickly amidst the the chatter, the culinary education, and the good wine. Claudia and Pep were the most gracious hosts, having done a superb job of facilitating a warm, welcoming environment.  While fourteen people is a lot for one cooking class, I felt that it made for an interesting mix of backgrounds and conversation. In the end, we all had one thing in common: an appreciation of healthy, wholesome, and delicious food. So, if you ever make it to Barcelona, try and include a cooking class from Espai Boisa on your agenda. If I return, I'd do it again.

To view more photos, click here for our Facebook page.
For more information about Espai Boisa, click here.


Bacon Wrapped Dates
(8 ounce) package pitted dates 
4 ounces almonds
1 pound sliced bacon
Preheat the broiler. Slit dates. Place one almond inside each date. Wrap dates with bacon, using toothpicks to hold them together. Broil 10 minutes, or until bacon is evenly brown and crisp.

Traditional Gazpacho
Serves 4
100g slightly stale crusty white bread, soaked in cold water for 20 min. 
1kg very ripe tomatoes, diced 
1 ripe red pepper and 1 green pepper, deseeded and diced 
1 medium cucumber, peeled and diced
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed 
150ml extra virgin olive oil 
2 tbsp sherry vinegar 
Salt, to taste
Lemon juice, to taste
Directions1. Mix the diced tomatoes, peppers and cucumber with the crushed garlic and olive oil in the bowl of a food processor or blender. Squeeze out the bread, tear it roughly into chunks, and add to the mixture. 2. Blend until smooth, then add the salt and vinegar to taste and stir well. 3. Pass the mixture through a fine sieve, then cover and refrigerate until well chilled. 4. Serve with garnishes of your choice: I liked diced black olives, hard- boiled egg and small pieces of cucumber and pepper; mint or parsley also works well, and many people add spring onion, cubes of Spanish ham and so on.

Crema Catalana or Catalan Cream
Crema Catalana or Catalan Cream is the Catalan name and version of the French dessert, crème brulée. In fact, many regions lay claim to the origin of the dessert. Wherever it originated, enjoy and let it dissolve in your mouth! It is a great dessert for Spring, since it is also called Crema de Sant Josep, or St. Joseph’s cream, traditionally prepared on March 19th, St. Joseph’s Day, the Spanish equivalent of Father’s Day in the USA.
Yield: 4 Servings 
1 cup sugar
4 egg yolks
1 tbsp cornstarch
1 stick cinnamon
grated rind of 1 lemon 
2 cups milk
Directions: This is a great dessert to make ahead of time, since it is very easy and requires 2-3 hours of refrigeration before serving. Make it the day before and leave it in the refrigerator until you are ready to serve. Then, heat the broiler, caramelize the sugar and serve! In a pot, beat together the egg yolks and 3/4 cup sugar until thoroughly blended and the mixture turns frothy. Add the cinnamon stick and grated lemon rind. Pour in the milk and cornstarch. Slowly heat the mixture, stirring constantly, just until thickened. Remove pot from heat immediately.
Tip: As soon as the mixture thickens and you feel resistance while stirring, remove the pot from the heat or the mixture may curdle or separate! The texture of the finished crema will be grainy instead of smooth and creamy as it should be. Remove the cinnamon stick and ladle the milk mixture into 4-6 ramekins (depending on size). Allow to cool, then refrigerate for at least 2-3 hours.Before serving, preheat the broiler. Remove ramekins with the crema catalana from refrigerator and sprinkle the rest of the sugar over each ramekin. When broiler is hot, place the ramekins under the broiler on the top shelf and allow the sugar to caramelize, turning gold and brown. This may take 10 minutes or so, depending on your broiler. Remove and serve immediately.If you'd like, you can serve the crema catalana chilled, but we think it has more flavor when served warm from the broiler.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Coconut Kale

Kale is not a common vegetable in Trinidad, so my first experience with this green leafy vegetable was here in Minnesota. We had purchased a container of it at Whole Foods, where they combine it with cranberries, and cherry tomatoes. I was not impressed. Bitter and quite chewy. Nevertheless, I still incorporate kale in my diet for its nutritional content. And over the years, I've  learned to add new flavors to it to somewhat mask the bitterness. This recipe contains more than just coconut. Dried currants, onions, cilantro and chopped nuts; it makes a good side dish or stuffing for warm pita bread.

Sauteed Coconut Kale
Served about 3 

1 1/2 pounds kale, washed and chopped
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 medium onion, sliced
1/3 cup shredded, unsweetened coconut
1/4 cup dried currants
2 tbsp chopped cilantro
salt, to taste
1/4 cup toasted pecans, optional 

1. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, and cook until softened and browned on the edges, about 4 to 5 minutes.
2. Add the coconut and currants to the onions, and cook for another minute or two, stirring to prevent burning. Add all of the chopped kale and cook until it wilts down slightly. Remove from the heat, and stir in the chopped cilantro and season with salt. Serve topped with extra shredded coconut and chopped pecans. 

Friday, June 29, 2012

Risotto with Caramelized Beets

To me,  a simple risotto is the perfect, most savory and creamy conveyor for everything that's fresh and in season. Fresh peas, asparagus, mushrooms and, this month, beets. This risotto starts with a bit of shallots and ends with a handful of parmesan and fresh basil; enough but not too much, so that you really get to enjoy the flavor of the caramelized beets.

Risotto with Caramelized Beets
Serves 2 to 3

2 shallots, minced
2 tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 cups arborio rice
1/2 cup white wine
4 to 5 cups low sodium chicken broth, warm
1/2 cup grated parmesan
10 fresh basil leaves, julienned
2 cups caramelized beets (click here for recipe)*

1. Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the shallots, and cook until slightly browned. Add the rice, and  toast for two minutes, stirring well.
2. Pour the wine to the rice, and stir until almost all of  the liquid has evaporated. Add one cup of chicken broth, stirring until the rice has absorbed the liquid. Add the remaining stock, half cup at a time, stirring until all the liquid has evaporated after each addition. Stir in the parmesan and the basil. Serve the risotto topped with caramelized beets and extra fresh basil.

*The recipe for caramelized beets contains sugar. It is suggested to reduce the amount of sugar by half if using the beets in this risotto recipe.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Pasta Salad with Radishes

This summer, we did something I have always wanted to do since moving to Minneapolis: joined a CSA. Ours is a small one, located in Marine on St Croix, and so far we are enjoying the fresh weekly box of fruit and vegetables (along with the occasional greenhouse plant.) One of the benefits of joining a CSA is that you get exposed to different produce every week, which definitely impacts the wholesomeness of one's diet. So far, our weekly box contained a nice variety, except for radishes which showed up in two weeks in a row. 

Not that I mind. I can find many uses for radishes, one of which is this pasta salad. This is a simple salad. Whole wheat pasta, radishes, chives, currants, mayo. That's about it. I must say, however, that while currants are not a common ingredient in pasta salads, I think you would appreciate the contrast it provides to the strong, peppery flavor of the radishes. 

Pasta Salad with Radishes
Serves 2

1 cup dried whole wheat pasta (elbow or penne)
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 cup sliced radishes
2 tbsp chopped chives
1/4 cup dried currants

1. Cook the pasta according to package instructions. 
2. In a large bowl, combine the mayonnaise, salt, ground pepper, and vinegar. 
3. Add the cooked pasta to the mayonnaise mixture and combine. Fold in the chives and currants. Serve. 

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Sweet and Salty Pecans

Sweet and Salty Pecans. 

My sister, Nancy, recently visited us for a couple days last month. Even though we talk practically everyday, thanks to Skype, it had been almost six months since we last visited each other. She lives in Toronto, I live in Minneapolis, and we both have busy lives, so our visits with each other have become rare over the years. I get a little nostalgic when I think about it because we are only one and a half years apart in age, and were inseparable while growing up.  We have so much in common: our passion for the beach, cooking, history, culture, and our impatience, to name a  few.

Nancy, however is a better gardener than I am. To my great benefit,  she offered to help me with my summer planting projects. Three trips to the garden shop, and many bags of potting soil later, my back yard patio space and deck look brilliant.

One of a few combination flower pots Nancy and I created. 

Nancy is also a fan of all things nutty: chocolate and peanut butter ice cream, peanut brittle, chocolate covered nuts, etc.  I, on the other hand, if given another choice, would readily forego nutty flavored foods.  But just add some salt and some sugar to pecans or walnuts, and I can't help myself. This is my recipe for sweet and salty pecans which are good on their own but also are a nice extra on salads.

Sweet and Salty Pecans

2 egg whites
1 lb pecans
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 tbsp salt
2 tbsp ground pepper

1. Set the oven to 250 °F. Spray a large baking sheet with cooking spray and set aside.
2. In a large bowl, whisk the egg whites until frothy. Add the pecans toss thoroughly to coat.
3. In another bowl, combine the sugar, salt, and pepper. Pour unto the egg white covered pecans and combine well, making sure that all of the pecans are properly coated with the sugar mixture.
4. Spread evenly unto the prepared baking sheet into a single layer. Bake at 250 °F for an hour.
5. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Zucchini-Basil Soup

Most of my attention has been focused on final projects, papers, and presentations these days. Sadly, cooking has not been on the agenda. Over the past couple weeks, meals consisted of a steady routine of Chinese, Indian and Japanese takeout. Needless to say, I needed something wholesome and light soon. This recipe is an adaptation of one I found in an old issue of Gourmet magazine. It is easy, quick, and most of all low in calories.

Zucchini-Basil Soup
Serves 2

1 lb fresh organic zucchini
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 cup diced onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 cup low sodium vegetable stock
6 to 8 large basil leaves

1. Using a peeler, peel the zucchini in long strips. Julienne the strips. Dice the remaining parts of the zucchini.
2. Add the oil to a large pot over medium heat. Cook the onion and garlic until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the diced zucchini and cook for another 5 minutes. Pour in the vegetable stock and stir well. Cover the pot and reduce the heat; bring to a simmer, another 3 to 4 minutes.
3. Carefully pour the contents of the pot into a blender, add the fresh basil leaves, and puree until smooth. Return to the pot and return to a simmer.
4. Add the julienned zucchini strips to a pot of boiling water for two minutes. Drain.
5. Serve the soup with strips of julienned zucchini and grilled cheese sandwiches, preferably made with a sharp cheese such as asiago or sharp cheddar.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Individual Black Forest Trifles

Proverbial it may be, the sweet tooth is a genetic trait that runs deep in my family. I have tried but learned long ago that any attempt to suppress a sweet tooth is futile. So I've come up with ways to have dessert without undoing all my efforts at healthy eating. I try only to bake on the weekends - which does not always work out - and portion control - a more feasible approach.

Few desserts are more elegant than an expertly assembled black forest cake. The mounds of white, fluffy whipped cream, contrasted with shards of brown chocolate and bright red maraschino cherries all make a black forest cake a dreamy sight. The problem is: in my house, a cake of this calibre would be devoured in an embarrassingly short amount of time. This is where portion control and single serving sizes come in.

The following recipe makes approximately six to eight individual trifles. I usually use this recipe from Ina Garten for the chocolate cake but, as suggested, you can use a chocolate cake of your choice. A huge convenience is cutting the cakes into cubes and storing them in the freezing so that they are on hand for whenever I get a craving for something sweet, which is usually quite often.

Individual Black Forest Trifles
Serves 6 to 8

1 jar morelo cherries, in syrup
1/2 cup sugar
2 tbsp cherry brandy (optional)
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup confectioner's sugar
2 tbsp vanilla extract
1 pound chocolate cake of your choice, cut into 1/2" cubes
dark chocolate shavings
6 to 8 3oz servings glasses

1. Drain the cherries, saving the liquid and reserving the cherries separately. Add the liquid to a sauce pan, together with the cherry brandy (if using) half cup of sugar. Simmer until thickened and reduced by half. Allow to cool then combine with the reserved cherries, and set aside.
2. Whip the cream, confectioner's sugar, and vanilla together until fluffy, with stiff peaks.
3. To assemble the trifles, place about 4 cubes of cake on the bottom of each individual serving glass. Top with two tablespoons of the cherries followed by two tablespoons of whipped creamed. Repeat each layer ending with the cream. Dust the top of each trifle with chocolate chards before serving.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Spice-Rubbed Pork Tenderloin with Apples

There are two reasons I enjoy preparing pork tenderloin recipes: it is one of the leanest meats available, and it is relatively easy to prepare. Whenever she made any sort of pork roast or pork dish for that matter, my mother always used ginger. And this I took from her. The spice blend I used here contains enormous amounts of cinnamon, ginger and star anise. So expect your kitchen to be filled with these lovely aromas. Somehow, I doubt anyone will mind.

Spice-Rubbed Pork Tenderloin with Apples
Serves 4

1 1 1/2 lb pork tenderloin
2 tbsp cinnamon
1 tbsp ground star anise
1 tbsp ground ginger
1 tsp all spice
1/4 tsp ground cloves
5 apples, peeled, cored, and sliced
zest of 1 orange

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
2. Combine the spices and set aside.
3. Season the tenderloin with salt and pepper on all sides. Add two tablespoons of vegetable oil to a large skillet over medium high heat. Sear the tenderloin in the skillet, about a minute on each side. Remove to work surface and coat all sides with the spice mix.
4. Place spicce-rubbed tenderloin in a baking dish and roast in the oven to 15 to 20 minutes until it reaches an internal temperature of 145 degreses F.
5. Meanwhile, melt one tablespoon of butter to the same skillet and cook the apples for about 8 to 10 minutes until fork tender. Turn of the stove and stir in the orange zest. Serves slices of the pork tenderloin topped with the warm apples.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Carnival Cocktail

I woke up this morning a little bit jealous. Jealous of my relatives and friends in Trinidad who, at this very moment, are loading up their cars and headed to the beach. It is an Ash Wednesday ritual. After two days of Carnival reveling, not to mention the weeks of parties leading up Carnival, everyone is exhausted, and the beach is where everyone congregates to unwind and recharge. While the tone is somewhat less festive, there is usually music and good food. Not a bad way to spend a day in the middle of the week. So maybe you can now understand why I am a little jealous.

In lieu of the beach, today I have my post- carnival cocktail. A combination of fresh pineapple, rum and coconut water. And looking at the bright side of things, my friends have the beach but there is a high probability that the traffic going to the beach will be horrendous. I do not have to deal with that. At least that is what I will try to convince myself of all day.

Carnival Cocktail
Serves 2

1 cup fresh pineapple
1/2 cup rum
1 cup coconut juice
2 tbsp agave
Angostura bitters

Blend the first 4 ingredients together and divide between two cocktail glasses. Serve with a couple dashes of bitter.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Chicken Stew with Beer

A couple weeks ago, we were invited to a beer-tasting event. While I am not much of a beer drinker - let's just attribute that to too many thirsty Thursdays at Sal's during my college days - it was a good opportunity to get together with some great friends.

There is a misconception shared by many our friends and relatives, especially those on the east coast and those back in the Caribbean, that the brutality of Minnesota winters means the end to most activities. This is not entirely true; the fun simple moves indoors. As was true on this particular night. It started with delicious food and very lively friends, and ended with dancing and me winning a twelve-pack of beer!

So over the next few days, I will attempt to explore beer's culinary uses. This should be interesting.

Chicken Stew with Beer
Serves 4 to 5

4 chicken breasts
1/2 cup all purpose flour
3/4 tsp salt and
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1 onion, diced
1 green pepper, diced
2 celery stalks, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 bay leaves
1/2 tsp ground cumin
2 tbsp tomato paste
2 russet potatoes, cubed
1 twelve oz bottle of beer
4-6 cups low sodium chicken stock

1. Season the chicken and coat all sides with flour, shaking off any excess. Add a couple tablespoons of oil to a large pot and brown the chicken on all sides. Remove from the pot and set aside.
2. Add the onion, pepper, and celery to the pot, and cook until softened, about 4 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic and bay leaves, and cook for another minute. Return the pieces of chicken to the pot together with the remaining ingredients, stir and bring to a simmer. Cover, reduce the heat, and cook for 45 minutes.
3. Remove the chicken shred or cut into small cubes, then return the shredded chicken to the pot, and cook for another 10 to 15 minutes. Add more chicken stock if needed. Remove the bay leaves before serving.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Lemon Quinoa Salad with Currants

I have been cooking with quinoa quite often these days. I am hooked on the texture - crunchy and almost creamy at the same time. Full in protein and easy to cook with, I am certain this is a grain you would enjoy.

Lemon Quinoa Salad with Currants
Serves 4

2 tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 cup diced onion
4 sun-dried tomates (packed in oil), minced
1 cup quinoa grains
1 1/2 cup chicken stock
2 tbsp minced basil
zest of 1 lemon
1/4 cup dried black currants
1/2 cup diced feta

1. Heat the oil over medium heat and cook the onion until softened. Stir in the minced sun-dreid tomatoes and cook for another minute. Add the quinoa and toast for another two minutes, stirring to prevent burning.
2. Add the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes. Turn of the heat, add the lemon zest, basil and currants, and feta - if using- and let sit for 5 more minutes. Fluff with a fork, and serve.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Roasted Eggplant with Feta

Unlike most people, I have no real new year's resolutions. I will, however, continue to focus on wholesome cooking. This eggplant and feta dish is the first recipe I want to share with you this year. Eggplant and various cheeses always seem to go well together. Mozzarella, parmesan, and feta are my usuals. This combination with feta is an easy side dish but also makes a good stuffing for warm pita pockets, and a delightful topping for risotto. I hope you enjoy it.
Happy new year!

Roasted Eggplant with Feta
Serves 4

1 eggplant, diced
1 red onion, diced
1 garlic clove, minced
3 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups cubed feta cheese

1/4 cup olive oil
juice of 1 lemon
1tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp salt

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray and set aside.
2. Combine the eggplant, red onion, garlic, 3 tbsp of olive oil, and salt. Toss well and spread in a single layer on the baking sheet. Roast the vegetables for 30 minutes.
3. Whisk the dressing ingredients together. Toss the roasted vegetables and feta with dressing before serving.