May 31, 2007

Guinness Punch

per drink
12 oz cold Guinness stout
1/4 cup sweetened condensed milk
1/16 teaspoon cocoa
1/16 teaspoon allspice
1/16 teaspoon cinnamon

In a small bowl or measuring cup, whisk together the cocoa, allspice and cinnamon to remove any clumps. Then pour the Guinness into a large cup (larger than you'd think, this will foam) and gently stir in the spiced condensed milk. Serve immediately. Serves one.

My thoughts:
We watched the first season (or "series") of the BBC show Chef! recently. In one episode, the French-trained Chef tries to impress his Jamaican born father with an authentic Caribbean meal. The problem is that Chef knows nothing about Caribbean cooking and has to turn to the lowest ranking member of the kitchen who had worked at his aunt's soul food restaurant* and thus knows the cuisine. They made a variety of foods but what caught my attention was something I had never heard of-Guinness punch. Chef is skeptical of the recipe but allows the rooky chef to put it on the menu. Then much to Chef's chagrin, throughout the whole rest of the episode anyone who sipped the drink swooned. A quick look online told me that this magical elixir is simply Guinness stout mixed with some spices and sweetened condensed milk. It sounds a little odd, but it is actually quite good and not as sweet as you might think. Of course, I used about 1/2 the usual amount of sweetened condensed milk I've seen in recipes and kicked up the spices, but it seems to be very close to authentic and much more drinkable.

*Apparently soul food restaurants sell Caribbean food in England, not food from the Deep South like it does in the US. Who knew?

May 30, 2007

Spicy Onion Rings

2 very large onions*, cut into 3/4 inch rings and separate
3 cups oil
2 cups flour
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup club soda
3 eggs
1 teaspoon paprika
hot sauce (I used Tabasco brand Habanero Sauce)

In a large bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, a few drops hot sauce and eggs. Stir in the club soda and toss the onion rings in the mixture. Allow to soak 10 minutes. Meanwhile, in a pot with high sides, heat the oil to 350. Whisk together the flour, paprika and salt and pepper. Drain the onion rings and toss with the flour. Carefully drop about 4 onion rings into the hot oil, cook until golden brown, flipping once. Remove to paper towel lined plates and repeat for remaining onions. Alternately, fill a few pots with oil and cook several batches at once. Salt and serve hot.

Serves 4-6

*I found some that were over 1 lb each! If you are using smaller onions, you might need to use more than two.
My thoughts:
I had never made onion rings before and sort of expected it to be more difficult than it was. The batter was perfectly crisp thanks to the club soda and if you keep the oil hot, virtually grease free.

Update 06/04/07: When I made these back on the 30th, the recipe made too much for just two people. So I refrigerated the extra flour covered rings (before frying) and fried them up tonight. It worked out just fine, I couldn't tell the difference between the fresh and the "leftovers". I am glad I thought of it, cooked onion rings do not hold up well and I would have just ended up throwing them out. This way, I had onion rings twice-almost a week apart-and the second time involved no prep whatsoever.

May 26, 2007

Lemon Cupcakes with Fresh Strawberry Centers

juice of 1 lemon
zest of 1 lemon
1 1/2 cup flour
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup buttermilk
7 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
2 eggs, at room temperature
12 small to medium sized strawberries

Preheat oven to 350. Grease and flour or line 12 wells in a cupcake pan. In a large bowl, cream the butter, zest and sugar. Add the lemon juice and the eggs. Beat to combine. The mixture may look a little curdled but that is okay. Mix in the buttermilk. Continue to mix and slowly add in the flour. Beat the batter an additional 2 minutes, until light and fluffy. Pour an even amount into each cupcake well, filling about 3/4 of the way. Place a whole strawberry, point side down in the middle of each cupcake. Bake 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted on the outside of the strawberry comes out clean. Cool in pan briefly, then remove from the pan and cool completely on a wire rack. Ice*.

Icing suggestion: make a basic buttercream and substitute lemon juice for any liquid and add some lemon zest. I actually made a cream cheese icing: 8 0z cream cheese, confectioners' sugar and some lemon zest.

My thoughts:
A reader, Jenn, wrote to me yesterday wanting to know if I had any suggestions or a recipe for a lemon cupcake with a strawberry inside. I had never done that before, but I gave her some suggestions and decided to try it out for myself. This might be my new favorite cupcake for Spring, lots of tangy lemon and a juicy, sweet strawberry sunk in the middle. I also made a few plain and they were excellent as well, but if you have access to good strawberries, use them! They are a great and tasty surprise.

Update: check out Jenn's post about the cupcakes she made using this recipe.

May 25, 2007

Mango Lassi

1 mango, cubed (should be about 1 cup)
1 cup plain yogurt
1/3 cup milk
simple syrup

Place the mango, yogurt, milk and simple syrup to taste in a blender. Pulse until smooth. Serve cold. Optional: sprinkle with salt, tumeric or cardamon.

Yield: 2 glasses
My thoughts:
Timmy fell in the well again! Oh, wait, this is a refreshing Indian drink, not a collie with a heart of gold. Well, either one is good in pinch, but only one will cool you off on a hot day. I'll leave it to you to decide which one you'd rather have.

May 23, 2007

Fish Tacos

6 firm, white fish fillets
3 tablespoons tequila
juice of 1/2 lime
1/2 teaspoon cumin
2 small hot chiles, seeded and minced
1/2 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
1 green onion, chopped

to serve:
corn tortillas (small size)
sour cream
additional lime juice
hot sauce (I used Tabasco brand chipotle pepper sauce)
finely shredded red cabbage

Whisk together the tequila, lime juice, chiles, cumin and salt/pepper to taste. Pour into a resealable bag and add the fish. Marinate about 10-20 minutes or until you get bored and hungry and want to eat. Spray a nonstick pan with cooking oil or heat up 1 tablespoon olive oil. Cook the fish until cooked through, about 5 minutes, flipping once. Meanwhile, mix the green onion and the tomato together. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and a tiny bit of lime juice. Set aside. When the fish is cooked through, remove it to a plate and cut into slices. Microwave the corn tortillas between damp paper towels for a few seconds or until they are slightly warm and soft. Place the fish in the middle of the tortilla. Sprinkle with additional lime juice if desired. Top with tomato/green onion mixture, avocado*, shredded red cabbage, hot sauce and sour cream. Serve.

Yield: about 6-8 tacos.

*which I didn't do, as avocados were $2 each at the store today, but that I think would taste really good.

My thoughts:
I wish I had a better name to call these besides fish tacos, but I have no idea what that would be. Fish taco sounds so prosaic for what is truly a taste sensation. Incredibly quick to make and really fresh tasting, perfect for a outdoor meal. I think this is one of my new favorite meals and this is from someone who (I am pretty sure) until today and never even had a fish taco.

May 22, 2007

Spinach Deviled Eggs

10 hardboiled eggs, peeled and sliced length-wise
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 1/2 teaspoons capers (optional)
smoked paprika
1/4 cup frozen spinach (defrosted, drained and chopped*)

crisp bacon or large capers for garnish

In a small bowl, use a fork and thoroughly mix together the yolks, mayonnaise, mustard, capers, parsley, pepper, and a bit of smoked paprika. Spoon an equal amount into each of the egg halves. Top with tiny bits of crisp bacon or a jumbo sized caper and serve.

*or subsitute 1/4 cup cooled, "wilted" fresh spinach

My thoughts:
At Springtime, a girl's thoughts naturally turn to deviled eggs. These are made a little extra special by the addition of chopped spinach and a bit of bacon. The smoked paprika really compliments the bacon, but regular or hot paprika would work just as well. I think this might be my new favorite deviled egg recipe!

May 20, 2007

Dark Chocolate Goji Berry Ice Cream

2 cups milk (I used 2%)
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup sugar, divided use
1/2 cup goji berries
1/3 cup Dutch process cocoa
1/4 cup cachaça (white rum would be a good substitute)
4 oz semisweet chocolate, chopped
4 egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla paste
red or pink sea salt

In a small bowl, soak the goji berries in the cachaça. Set aside. Meanwhile, in a large pot over medium heat, whisk together 1/4 cup sugar, milk and cream until the sugar dissolves and the mixture almost boils, about 2-3 minutes. Meanwhile, whisk together 1/4 sugar and the egg yolks until it forms a ribbon and is yellow and creamy, about 2 minutes. Add about a 1/2 cup of the cream mixture into the eggs and whisk to combine. Pour the egg/cream mixture it into the cream mixture on the stove. Whisk in cocoa, vanilla paste and a pinch of sea salt and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 8 minutes or until the mixture coats the back of a spoon. Remove from heat and whisk in the chopped chocolate. Strain mixture into a bowl. Drain the goji berries and stir them in. Allow to cool on the counter then cover and place in the refrigerator to cool completely then pour into a ice cream maker and churn until cold and set. Place in a freeze-safe container and freeze until solid. Serve with a sprinkling of sea salt.

My thoughts:
You all know how much I love the Vosges goji bar, right? Well, I started to wonder what would happen if I took those same favors and applied them to other types of food. I found goji berries while we were in New York and brought them home. I thought about making fudge or candies or brownies but couldn't really decide which sounded best. I might still make them, but this morning it came to me: ice cream! I always think of ice cream as being tricky (custard making!) and time consuming, but it is actually quite easy (just stirring, basically) and the hands on time is short. The worst part is waiting for it cool and then freeze-I am so impatient. Anyway, I've only made ice cream a couple times before so I was a little nervous, what with all of the pricey ingredients I used and all but it is seriously the best ice cream I have ever had. Richly chocolate and creamy it would be delightful even without the plumped up goji berries, but they really push it over the edge. They are slightly tart and have sort of an herbal undertone that goes wonderfully with chocolate.

May 18, 2007

Basil Artichoke Pesto

12 oz frozen, thawed artichoke hearts
3 oz Parmesan cheese, grated
2 oz fresh basil
.5 oz fresh Italian parsley
1 oz pinenuts, toasted
3 tablespoons olive oil
4-5 cloves garlic

to serve: 1 lb hot pasta

Place all ingredients in a food processor or blender, pulse until almost smooth. Stir into hot pasta.
My thoughts:
I love making pesto in the warmer weather because it good on hot or cold pasta, comes together quickly and requires no cooking. However, buying enough fresh basil for pesto at times costs small fortune and I get tired making the same thing over and over again. Enter the frozen artichoke. It adds a great texture and flavor to the pesto and you only need a drop of basil to make a delicious sauce. A great twist on an old favorite.

May 16, 2007

Steak & Spinach & Artichoke Pasta

1 lb dried ziti
1 lb marinated* top round or flank steak, cooked medium rare and sliced
6 oz good quality marinated artichoke hearts, chopped, liquid reserved
1 ½ cups fresh or frozen spinach
¼ cup chopped Italian parsley
¼ cup chopped basil
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 cloves garlic, minced
olive oil


Bring a pot of water to boil for the pasta. Meanwhile, measure out the artichoke liquid and add olive oil to make ¾ cup. Whisk in basil, garlic, mustard, and vinegar until emulsion occurs. Stir in basil, parsley and the artichokes. Set aside. When the pasta is almost al dente, add in the spinach. Drain when finished, add steak and toss with dressing.

*use leftover sliced steak or prepare a simple marinade using the dressing ingredients and marinate for at least 20 minutes before cooking.

My thoughts:

I am not sure if better as a hot pasta dish or a cool salad. It is terrifically good hot or cold and travels nicely. I also like it because it comes together quickly-perfect for a week night. If you think ahead and make double the amount of steak for an earlier meal, this comes together in minutes. It is also good way to use up the little bits of fresh parsley and basil that I always seem to end up with after making another dish.

May 14, 2007

Black Beans & Rice

30 oz canned black beans
1 large onion, chopped
1 small onion, quartered
6 cloves garlic, 4 minced and 2 left whole
1 bay leaf
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon allspice
8 small chili peppers, 5 minced and 3 cut in half
2 teaspoons palm sugar (or brown sugar)
2 tablespoons white vinegar
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper

to serve: hot white rice

Pour the canned black beans (with their liquid) in a large pot with the 2 whole cloves garlic, small quartered onion, 3 halved chili peppers, and bay leaf. Bring the mixture to a boil and then turn down to a simmer. In a saute pan, saute chopped onion, minced garlic and chili peppers until fragrant and soft (about 4 minutes). Add the sugar, vinegar, cumin, cinnamon, allspice, salt and pepper. Cook 1 minute. Add 1/2 cup of the beans with their liquid to the saute pan and mash them with a potato masher or a wooden spoon. Add this mixture back into the beans. Bring back to a boil and then simmer on low heat for 15 minutes. If the mixture gets too thick, thin it slightly with water. Serve hot, with white rice.
My thoughts:
Black beans and rice are one of those dishes that seem like more than the sum of their parts. The simplest ingredients- spices, beans, onions and garlic form a truly satisfying dish. Perfect for when you have a craving for something comforting and it is even better when you can convince someone else (in my case, my husband Matt) to make it for you, so all you have to do is enjoy. While I love it as-is, I also enjoy it with some sliced or diced avocado on top.

May 10, 2007

Saffron Orzo with Shrimp

6 cups broth
1 1/2 lbs shrimp, shelled
1 lb orzo
2 cups of broccoli florets, cut into bite-sized pieces
6 dried mushrooms (we used shiitake)
1/2 lbs sliced fresh mushrooms
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons white wine
1 teaspoon saffron
4 cloves garlic, minced
juice of half a lemon
salt and pepper

Pour the wine and shrimp in a bowl and refrigerate. In a large pot, heat the broth. Then remove from heat and soak the dried mushrooms in the broth for 30 minutes. Strain out the mushrooms and reserve the broth. Squeeze out mushrooms and slice thinly, removing stems. Put broth back on medium heat and add the saffron. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until the saffron blooms (colors the water an orangish yellow). Add the orzo and the broccoli and bring to a boil. Cook on low for 8-9 minutes or until the orzo is tender. When the orzo/broccoli mixture is done, strain it and set aside. Saute garlic and dried mushrooms in the olive oil in a large saute pan for 2-3 minutes until fragrant. Add the sliced fresh mushrooms and saute until they are soft, 5-10 minutes. Then add the shrimp to the pan and saute until they have turned pink, an additional 5 minutes. Squeeze the lemon juice over the shrimp and add salt and pepper to taste. Cover the pot and cook for 2 minutes to ensure that the shrimp is fully cooked, and then mix with the orzo. Adjust the seasoning and serve.

My thoughts:
Top reasons why you should make this tonight for dinner: it uses the often over looked pasta orzo, it gives you an excuse to sing Donovan songs, it has vegetables and mushrooms in it, so you don't need a side dish and it is really easy.

May 08, 2007

Matcha (Green Tea) Angel Food Cake

12 cold egg whites
1 cup cake or super fine flour*
1 1/2 cups super fine sugar*
2 tablespoons matcha (green tea powder)
1 tablespoon warm water
1 teaspoon cream of tarter
1/2 teaspoon salt


Preheat oven to 350. Whisk together all of the flour, 3/4 cup of sugar and the matcha powder, set aside. Using a stand mixer with a whisk attachment or a hand mixer and some stamina, beat the egg whites, water, salt and cream of tarter until the soft peak stage, about 3-4 minutes) in a clean metal bowl. Continue beating and stream in the remaining 3/4 cup sugar. Beat until the the egg white are stiff and glossy, but not dried looking. Using a spatula, fold in a small batch of the flour at time, in about 5 parts. Transfer to a ungreased tube or bundt pan and backe 35 minutes or until the top is browned and it bounces back when touched. Invert the pan on its legs or over a large bottle to cool, one hour. Use a knife or spatula to loosen the cake from the sides. Slice and serve. Store leftovers in an air tight container, up to one day.

*I don't generally keep super fine sugar or flour on hand. I just pulse regular sugar or flour in the food processor for a "homemade" version. For an accurate measurement, measure after pulsing.

My thoughts:
Despite using copious amounts of egg whites, this cake came together in 15 minutes. It is also virtually fat free and is full of natural antioxidants thanks to the matcha. It is so high, so fluffy and each bite has an almost flowery taste of tea-so tasty, it is easy to forget that is one of the healthiest cakes you can make.

May 05, 2007

Cinco de Mango Margaritas

2 mangos, cubed
2 limes, juiced
1 cup of tequila
2 cups ice
ginger syrup to taste

Place all ingredients in a blender and pulse until smooth. Serve or keep cold in an ice cream maker. Makes about 4 margaritas.

My thoughts:
I wish I could take credit for Cinco de Mango, but in actuality it was the National Mango Board (how cool is it that the US even has a mango board?) who came up with it. Recently they offered to send me a special "Cinco de Mango" box containing one mango, one lime, a margarita glass and coarse salt-in short, everything you need to make a mango margarita except the tequilla. How could I pass that up? They also sent a basic mango margarita recipe (mango, lime juice, triple sec and tequilla) but we tweaked it a bit to make it more to our taste. They also sent a great chart of the different mangos varieties imported to the US, they are always just labeled "mango" at the store, but now I know I recently bought some Hayden mangos.
Happy Cinco de Mango!

May 01, 2007

Deconstucted Pizza

2 1/2tablespoons olive oil
2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/4 oz active dry yeast
1 cup tepid water
sundried tomatoes (dry, not packed in oil)
fresh basil, torn into bite sized pieces
grated parmesan

Dissolve the yeast and sugar in the tepid water. Let sit about 10 minutes or until frothy. In a large bowl, stir together the flour and salt. Add the olive oil and yeast and knead until a ball of dough forms. Transfer to a mixer with a dough hook or knead by hand until a satiny ball of dough forms. Place in a lightly greased bowl, cover with a towel and allow to rise 1 hour until it is doubled in bulk. After 1 hour, punch it down and then divide into 2 equal parts. Form rounds and place them on a greased baking sheet. Flatten slightly, cover and allow to rise half an hour. Preheat to 375. After 1/2 an hour, brush each round with olive oil and arrange the sundried tomatoes, basil on top, pressing them into the dough slightly. Bake 20 minutes, sprinkle with the parmesan and return them to the oven for an additional 5-10 minutes or until just browned.

My thoughts:
This is sort of a cross between an personal sized pizza and focaccia. I had bought some (oil free) sundried tomatoes a while back and have been trying to think of a way to use them. I generally am not the one who makes the majority of the yeast breads in our household, but they came out very well- perfect for a small, light dinner. They also travel well, as they taste just as well cold as warm, which makes any leftovers a great choice for lunch or traveling.