Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Pear and Ginger Cocktail

Ginger is the flavor of the moment in our kitchen. It started with a new flavor of yogurt the hubby found at the grocery store recently: honey and ginger. Who would have thought that ginger would work so well in yogurt? I think what it comes down to is getting the right balance of sweetness to counter the characteristic spiciness of the ginger. A technique that I tried and, thankfully, worked well for this cocktail.  

Pear and Ginger Cocktail
Serves 3 to 4

4 ripe pears, cored and sliced
1/2 cup water
2 tbsp agave
1 24oz bottle of ginger ale

Add the pear slices and water to a blender and puree. Strain into a pitcher, trying to filter as much of the liquid as possible. Stir in the agave and fill up with ginger ale. Serve as is for a non-alcohlic drink, or add 1 oz of white rum and 1/2 oz ginger liqueur per serving for a sweet and spicy cocktail.  

Monday, December 16, 2013

Chicken and Date Meatballs with Balsamic Glaze

Holiday recipes for me have to be simple, quick and, of course, tasty. This recipe encompasses all of that plus it is baked, making it lighter in calories. 

Chicken and Date Meatballs
Makes about 20

2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 onion, diced
1 bell pepper, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 bay leaf
2 sprigs of fresh thyme
4 fresh sage leaves
2 lbs ground chicken breast
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 tbsp tomato paste
1/4 cup plain bread crumbs
10 dates, chopped

Balsamic glaze:
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp honey

1. Add the vegetable oil to a large skillet set over medium-high heat. Cook the onion, pepper, garlic, bay leaf, thyme and sage leaves, until the onion and pepper have softened, about 6 to 8 minutes. Remove from the heat, and remove and discard the bay leaf, thyme sprigs and sage leaves. Set the mixture aside to cool.
2. Add the cooled onion and pepper mixture to the ground chicken, in a large  bowl. Add the remaining ingredients and combine thoroughly.
3. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and spray with cooking spray. Scoop up about 2 tablespoons of the mixture and form into a ball and place on the baking sheet. Continue this process until all of the chicken mixture has been used up.
4. Bake in a 350 degrees F oven for 30 minutes.
5. To make the balsamic glaze: Add the ingredients to a sauce pan over medium heat. Cook until the mixture has thickened, about 5 minutes. Pour this glaze over the meatballs before serving.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Butternut Squash Creme Brulee

Last weekend, I revisited one of my most decadent recipes, one that makes good use of butternut squash. This is my butternut squash creme brulee. Find the original recipe here.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Heirloom Tomato Tart

September is the best month of the year, in my opinion, to peruse the various farmers markets in the twin cities. It is the end of summer with fall just around the corner, and this means that you can still get some of the spoils of summer as well as early pick up some early fall produce such as apples and squash. A wonderful time of the year to be cooking! Last Friday, I found myself at the Minneapolis Farmers Market where I found these gorgeous heirloom tomatoes. In our house, we like to eat them fresh, with a baguette, and maybe some cheese. But no one complains when they are put in a tart shell with a creamy custard base and baked until golden brown.  

Heirloom Tomato Tart
Makes one 8" tart

one 8" whole wheat tart shell (see recipe below)
2 to 3 medium-sized heirloom tomatoes, sliced
2 eggs
1/2 cup evaporated milk
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 cup shredded cheese 

1. Place the tomato slices between sheets of paper towels and pat dry. You want to remove as much liquid as possible. Then arrange the slices in a spiral pattern in the tart shell. 
2. Whisk the eggs, milk, salt and pepper together. Stir in the cheese. Pour this mixture over the tomatoes. 
3. Bake at 375 °F  for 30 minutes. Remove and let rest for about 5 minutes before serving. 

Whole Wheat Tart Shell
Makes one 8" shell

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
4 tbsp cold butter, cubed
4 to 5 tbsp cold water

Add the flour, sugar and salt to a food processor. Pulse quickly to combine. Add the butter and pulse until incorporated into the flour mixture. With the processor running, slowly add the cold water, one tablespoon at a time, until the dough forms into a ball. Press the dough out along the bottom and up the sides of a well greased 8" tart pan. Refrigerate for about 30 minutes before baking. When ready, line the inside of the tart shell with foil and fill with pie weights. Bake at 375 °F  for 15 minutes. Remove the foil and pie weights and return to the oven for another 10 minutes. 

Friday, August 30, 2013

Grilled Eggplant with Chile Sauce and Tahini

There are a couple great aspects of this recipe. First, it makes a satisfying, meatless meal. And, second, the chile sauce is so incredibly smooth and highly flavorful that I can see it working well not only in this dish but certainly on meats or even in pasta. And if you were ever looking for a recipe that utilizes  bunches of fresh mint, other than mojitos of course, this is it. (Speaking of mojitos, here's a classic mojito recipe, if you're so inclined.) The original version of this recipe features eggplant charred in the oven. While I'm a big fan of charred anything, especially eggplant, I opted for grilling them only because it takes less time and summer is the time for grilling. 

Grilled Eggplant with Chile Sauce and Tahini
(Adapted from Saveur)
Serves 2-4

2 small italian eggplant
2 cups cilantro leaves, chopped
1 cup mint leaves, chopped
1 cup olive oil (plus 2 - 3 tbsp for the eggplant)
1/4 cup honey
6 garlic cloves
1 serrano chile, stemmed and seeded
zest and juice of 1 lemon
salt and pepper, to taste
6 boiled eggs, halved
1/2 cup tahini

1. Heat the grill. Slice each eggplant in four, lengthwise. Brush each slice on both sides with a generous amount of olive oil. Grill for 4 to 5 minutes on each side, until tender, with nice grill marks. Remove from grill and season with salt and pepper.
2. Puree the cilantro, mint, olive oil, honey, garlic, chile, lemon zest and juice, until smooth.
3. Serve the  grilled eggplant slices together with boiled eggs, topping them generously with the chile sauce and tahini.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Watermelon Mojitos

This is the third summer in our new home, and one of our favorite places in the house is the deck. On summer evenings, while the sun sets on the opposite side of the house, we get a couple hours of perfect warmth and sometimes even a gentle breeze at the back. This, of course, makes it a lovely venue for summer cocktails. Recently, we have been enjoying this watermelon mojito, due in part to the fact that we always have watermelon on hand during the summer (as judged by my last two posts), and partly to my my father who, on his last visit, generously brought along a couple bottles of Trinidad rum.

This recipe calls for watermelon juice and frozen watermelon cubes. To make the juice, simply puree 2 cups of seedless watermelon, which should yield about 1 cup of puree. Then, the watermelon ice cubes can be made by simply freezing cubes of fresh watermelon overnight. You can certainly use these frozen watermelon ice cubes in flavored water or in lemonade. Enjoy and have a good weekend!

Watermelon Mojitos
Makes 2 cocktails

10 mint leaves
1 tbsp sugar
6 ounces club soda
4 ounces watermelon juice (See notes above)
3 to 4 ounces white rum
Watermelon ice cubes (see notes above)

In a large tumbler, muddle the mint and sugar together. Pour in the club soda, watermelon juice and white rum. Mix well and divide between two glasses filled with the frozen watermelon cubes.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Watermelon Feta Salad

We noshed on this all weekend: watermelon feta salad. Together, watermelon and feta are a classic combination - sweet, crisp, soft, and salty - and can be eaten as a snack or side salad. While this recipe does not include a vinaigrette, you can easily add your own mixture of balsamic vinegar and olive oil.

Watermelon Feta Salad
Serves about 4

5 to 6 cups of  cubed, seedless watermelon
1 1/2 cups feta, cubed or crumbled
1/4 cup kalamata olives, sliced
fresh mint leaves

Combine all of the ingredients. Chill until ready to serve.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Watermelon Gazpacho

Gazpacho is the ultimate summer soup. I learned this recipe from a cooking class we took while in Barcelona last year. I would advise anyone who enjoys travel and food to sign up for a cooking class at your next destination, if possible. While they are informal, these classes are a good way to learn about about the history of the food in that region, to try new dishes and it's a souvenir unlike any other - something that you will always remember and would have most certainly enhanced your travel experience.

I've made this gazpacho periodically since that trip. I usually use my immersion blender simply because I prefer a more chunky texture. And while it can be served straight out of the blender, topping it with feta, and olives, or even boiled eggs, is not a bad idea. Enjoy this recipe! And if you are ever interested in a good cooking class in Barcelona, try Espai Boisa.

Watermelon Gazpacho
Serves 4 to 5

8 to 10 cups diced watermelon
4 very ripe tomatoes, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 small onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced
1/4 cup chopped parsley
Salt and pepper

Place all of the ingredients in a blender and process until smooth. Season to your taste with salt and pepper, and chill before serving. Serve topped with feta, black olives and a drizzle of olive oil.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Rhubarb Compote

A compote is  a stewed mixture of fruit, typically served as a dessert. Sometimes, it can function as a relish and served on the savory side. For this rhubarb compote, I added a bit of ground pepper since I chose the savory route. However, by simply omitting the pepper, you can use this recipe to make a sweet topping for vanilla ice cream. 

Rhubarb Compote
Makes about 2 cups

3 cups of fresh, diced rhubarb
zest and juice of 1 orange
1 cinnamon stick 
1/2 cup of sugar
1/2 tsp ground pepper

Combine all of the ingredients in a large pot. Cook over medium heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Reduce the heat, and continue cooking until the rhubarb has softened, about 5 more minutes. Discard the cinnamon stick. Serve warm over grilled meat. 

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Rhubarb Oatmeal Crisp

Last Friday, a friend asked me if I had any recipes with rhubarb. And I did not! Somehow I had managed to ignore this wonderful spring vegetable (or fruit, as it is sometimes considered due to its primary use in desserts). And I think it is because a couple years ago, my first attempt at rhubarb crisp failed miserably. Not only was the dessert under-sweetened, the rhubarb base itself was a bit too runny. It took me two years get over that nightmare.

But here is, and if I may say so myself, an easy and very delicious recipe for rhubarb oatmeal crisp. This time, to circumvent any issue with the base being too watery, I have added a bit of corn starch to thicken it. Also a personal touch, which is totally optional, is the use of chia seeds in the topping (in the photo above, they are the fine, black specks seen throughout the topping.) Chia seeds, in my opinion, really have no significant taste, but they are full of omega-3 fatty acids which I think is good for my health. Happy baking!

Rhubarb Oatmeal Crisp
Serves 4 to 6

1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup oats (quick-cooking or old fashioned)
1 cup sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
5 tbsp cold butter, cut into small cubes
3 cups sliced, fresh rhubarb
1 tsp corn starch

1. Set the oven to 375 °F. Spray an 8" x 8" baking dish with cooking spray. Set aside. 
2. Combine the flour, oats, 1/4 cup of the sugar, and 1 teaspoon of the cinnamon. Next, work the butter into the mixture, until it turns into a crumb-like mixture.
3. In another mixing bowl, combine the rhubarb, the remaining 3/4 cup of sugar, the remaining 1 teaspoon of cinnamon, and the cornstarch.
4. Evenly spread the rhubarb mixture on the bottom of the prepared baking dish. Top with the oatmeal mixture, again spreading it out into an even layer. Bake at 375 °F for 45 to 50 minutes. Cool before serving or serve warm with ice cream. 

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Tomato Jam

This was the first time that I  have made jam from tomatoes, and I was pleasantly surprised. Tomato jam is probably one of the easiest condiments to make. So far, we have pasted it unto toast and used it in place of ketchup in burgers - delicious both ways. This recipe utilizes only very ripe roma tomatoes, but I don't see why you can't use any other variety. 

1 1/2 lb very ripe roma tomatoes, diced roughly
1 cup sugar
1 cinnamon stick
zest and juice of 1 lemon

Add all of the ingredients to large pot over medium heat. Cook until thickened, about 20 to 30 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking. You can also use a potato masher to crush the tomatoes during cooking.  Remove and discard the cinnamon stick. 

Friday, May 10, 2013

Trinidad Sweet Rice (Rice Pudding)

My two sisters will be visiting us in less a week. As part of the preparation, there is a lot of discussion about food: which restaurants to try and what dishes we are going to make. Family visits are a good time to cook together, and in the past we tended to revisit many of our favorite (and admittedly indulgent) dishes we grew up eating in Trinidad. This time will be no different. One of those recipes is Trinidad Sweet Rice - our version of rice pudding or Mexican arroz con leche. In fact, to be more specific, this recipe has its origins in the Indian kheer, brought to the Caribbean in the 1800's by East Indian indentured laborers. Over the decades, the recipe changed only a little, with the omission of saffron threads and the preference for a thicker consistency in this version.

Trinidad Sweet Rice (Rice Pudding)
Serves about 6

1 cup basmati rice, rinsed well
4 cups water
3 cinnamon sticks
4-5 whole, green cardamom
3 whole cloves
1 can low fat evaporated milk (approx. 1 1/2 cups)
1 can fat free condensed milk (approx. 1 1/4 cups)
1 piece fresh ginger, about 2 inches, grated
1/3 cup golden raisins
1/4 cup roasted slivered almonds (optional)
maraschino cherries (optional)

1. Bring water to boil. Add rice, cinnamon sticks, cardamom, and cloves. Cook until rice is soft, about 20 to 30 minutes, and until all of the water has been absorbed.
2. Add the evaporated, condensed milk, ginger, and raisins. Cook until thickened to desired consistency. Remember that the pudding will thicken further as it cools.
3. Allow to cool before serving. Serve topped with almonds and maraschino cherries.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Scallops with Rosemary Butter Sauce

A typical Good Friday meal back in Trinidad consisted of some sort of seafood. For my family, it was usually "carite" or "king fish", two types of white fish found just off the coast of the island.  Both of these are similar to tilapia in the sense that their subtle flavor pairs well with a variety of locals spices and preparations.  In keeping with tradition, we will be having seafood this Good Friday- except it will not be fish. I am planning to make this seared scallop recipe with a easy rosemary-butter sauce. In the past I've served this dish with brown rice but this time it will be served on top of grilled polenta slices. Happy Easter!

Scallops with Rosemary Butter Sauce
Serves 2

4 large scallops
salt and ground pepper
2 tbsp oil
1 small shallot, finely minced
1/4 cup white wine
1 tbsp butter
1 tsp fresh rosemary, minced

1. Using paper towels, pat the scallops to remove excess water. Season on each side with salt and pepper.
2. Add the oil to a large skillet over medium high heat. Cook the scallops on each side for 2 to 3 minutes undisturbed. Remove to a serving dish.
3. Lower the heat and add the shallots. Cook for 2 minutes until softened. Add the white wine and stir well to pick up any caramelized bits at the bottom of the skillet. Stir in the butter and chopped rosemary. Pour the sauce of the cooked scallops to serve.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Clams in Saffron Broth

We are on a seafood spree these days. This is a simple but very delicious recipe for clams in a savory saffron and white wine broth.  Don't forgot to pick up some fresh baguette because you would need some for the broth, which just might be the best part.

Clams in Saffron Broth
1 pinch of saffron threads
1 cup of luke warm water
2 tbsp olive oil
2 shallots, minced
2 garlic cloves minced
1/2 cup white wine
approx. 2 dz small clams, cleaned
1/4 cup chopped parsley

1. Using your finger tips, crumble the saffron threads into the water to make a broth. Set aside
2. Heat the oil in a large skillet. Add the shallots and garlic and cook until lightly browned. Stir in the white wine, scraping up any bits of shallots and garlic that have stuck to the pot as you go.
3. Add the saffron broth and the clams. Stir, cover the pot and cook for approximately 10 minutes until all of the clams have opened. (Discard those that have not.) Sprinkle in the parsley and serve with toasted baguette slices.