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There is no mystery to Thai cooking. Keeping things simple and adjusting to personal taste seems to be the best way of finding that perfect balance of the five taste senses [spicy, sweet, sour, salty, and bitter] in Thai cuisine.
As a default mode, deciding what to eat or recipes I would like to write, French cuisine always comes to mind. Something fresh with vibrant flavors has recently been my thought process lately. Shrimp in an aromatic coconut broth was the right choice for a dusky evening dinner.
It’s nearly July and the peas in the garden are bountiful. The cool summer weather has been good on the spring season vegetables that got a later start than usual. Tender sugar snap peas are a nice contrast to the typical snow peas that are so commonly used in Asian food, and make a visually striking accompaniment.
Thai Basil Shrimp Recipe
2 Tablespoons safflower oil
1 ½ Tablespoons fresh ginger, minced
1 ½ Tablespoons garlic, minced
2 teaspoons red curry paste
½ teaspoon crushed red chilies
2” piece of lemongrass, cut in half lengthwise
15 ounces coconut milk
1 Tablespoon sugar
¾ pound shrimp, cleaned & shells removed
¼ pound snap peas -or- snow peas
Juice of half a lime [approx. 2 Tablespoons]
1 Tablespoon fish sauce -or- to taste*
2 sprigs of Thai basil, chopped
1. Heat oil in a saucepan over medium heat and fry ginger, garlic, crushed chilies and red curry paste until fragrant.
2. Add lemon grass, coconut milk and sugar. Bring to a gentle simmer.
3. Add shrimp and peas, cook until shrimp are opaque and pea pods are tender, approx. 5 minutes.
4. Add lime juice and fish sauce to taste, serve garnished with basil. Serves two.
*note: What’s my favorite fish sauce brand? “Three Crabs!”
Grilling is the hallmark of outdoor dining enjoyment. Just about anything can be grilled and what better way to spend the warm days of summer with friends for some fresh tacos and a few laughs. Far from complicated, tacos are easy and quick so you can enjoy the evening reminiscing, enlivening the night with hilarious stories your friends won’t soon forget.
In this post I have included a few recipes for salsas that make these tacos delicious. If you have never heard of chismol, [pronounced “chimol”] it is a Honduran salsa of tomato, onion and bell pepper. This condiment will produce a tasty liqueur that is very fresh and pleasing to the palate.
Grilled Chipotle Chicken Recipe
1 ½ pounds boneless, skinless chicken thigh
½ -7 ounce can chipotles in adobo sauce, sauce only
1/4 cup safflower oil
3 large garlic cloves, minced
1 ½ Tablespoons fresh oregano, minced
2 teaspoons cumin seeds, toasted and ground
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
½ teaspoon sea salt
- In a mortar, grind up garlic, oregano, cumin seeds, black pepper and sea salt.
- Combine with the remaining ingredients and coat chicken. Marinate for 2 hours.
- Heat grill on medium-high and grill chicken pieces 4-6 minutes per side or until juices run clear.
- Allow chicken to rest off the grill for 5 minutes before cutting up.
This recipe is great as is, however, if you wanted to increase the heat, just add some of the chipotles to your liking. I wanted the lick of the flame to add flavor and not be masked by too much seasonings, especially salt.
Fire Roasted Poblano Corn Salsa Recipe
2 large ears of corn
1 large poblano pepper
Juice of 1 lime [approximately ¼ cup]
¼ cup chopped cilantro leaves
3 Tablespoon red onion, finely diced
2 Tablespoons jalapeno, finely diced
½ teaspoon sea salt
- Grill corn until cooked and has lots of grill marks. Set aside.
- Place poblano on the grill and char the skin until blackened. Place in a paper bag for 5 minutes to loosen skin.
- Cut poblano pepper in half and remove pit, seeds and stem. Scrape skin with a knife to remove.
- Dice Pepper and cut corn off the cob.
- Combine with remaining ingredients.
4 medium tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1 medium green bell pepper, chopped
Juice of 1 lime [approximately ¼ cup]
3 Tablespoons red bell pepper, diced
1 teaspoon sea salt
- Combine all of the salsa ingredients in a bowl and allow to macerate for 30 minutes.
*note: to seed tomatoes, cut off the tops and bottoms. Cut each tomato in half and with the knife cut out the seed cavity, discard and chop the tomatoes.
12 white corn tortillas
½ head of lettuce, finely shredded
Basmati rice & beans
For everything to come together at the right moment, prepare the fixings and salsas first, then grill the chicken and the tortillas just before serving and enjoy the good company. The perfect beverage is of course mojitos.
I find myself baking much more than I thought when starting this blog, probably because I am not a baker and it’s a challenge for me and I love challenges. Attempting to create beautiful and delicious bakery goods to have and to share has helped refine that skill. On the “behind the scenes” action I find myself chanting, “No need to be frightened.” Head strong and after copious amounts of butter and eggs later I feel complete. Whoever said that baking is an easy task to undertake was wrong or perhaps left a few details out. I find comfort working with my favorite baking medium [eggs], nothing more and nothing less; whipped egg whites can do spectacular things. Light as air, meringue can satisfy my sweet tooth any day.
Chocolate Pâte Sucree Recipe
1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
½ cup cocoa powder
6 tablepsoons unsalted butter, softened
1 ½ cup confectioner’s sugar
1 large egg
¼ teaspoon sea salt
This is the chocolate tart base for these or any filled tart.
Process butter, confectioner’s sugar, cocoa powder and salt in a food processor until smooth and creamy, approximately 3-5 minutes. Add egg to the mixture and further process for a few minutes, scraping the sides and bottom of the food processor bowl.
Once egg is completely incorporated, turn processor off and add the flour all at once. Run the food processor to create dough. This will be almost take five seconds. If you see any loose dustings of flour, do not worry. Place dough onto a work surface and knead gently to form a ball. Place on a piece of wax paper and fold edges over dough and flatten. Chill for at least two hours.
Divide dough into eight equal pieces. Working with one dough piece at a time, roll out to an eighth of an inch. Even if you see the pan through the dough, don’t be alarmed, the egg in this type of dough will cause it to expand and make a nice crust. Place dough into tart pan and press along the edges to cut the dough to shape. Now press dough into the sides of the tart pan. The bottom may split as you do this, but no fear, just press the dough to make a nice smooth bottom. Repeat with remaining tart pans. Chill for thirty minutes and prick bottoms a few times with the tines of a fork. Bake in a preheated oven at 350°F for 12-14 minutes. You may be wondering why I haven’t instructed to blind bake this crust, I find that there is no need, as the dough is rolled out thinly and it does not puff so much.
Recipe Makes 8-4” tarts.
Raspberry Chocolate Tart Filling Recipe
7 ounces heavy cream
6 ounces best quality semisweet chocolate
3 Tablespoons raspberry puree
Combine the cream and raspberry puree in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Immediately pour over chocolate chunks, whisk until smooth. Allow mixture to cool slightly then place three tablespoons in each tart shell. Chill to firm chocolate.
Toasted Meringue Recipe
½ cup plus 1 Tablespoons granular sugar
3 Tablespoons water
2 large egg whites, room temperature
pinch of cream of tartar
pinch of sea salt
1 ½ teaspoons fresh lemon juice [optional]
Bring sugar and water to a boil over medium heat. [Bring temperature to 238°F] Meanwhile, whip egg whites until frothy. Add cream of tartar and sea salt. Whip on medium high speed until soft peaks form.
Once sugar syrup reaches the proper temperature, slowly pour into the egg whites. [The best way to incorporate the syrup is to pour it down the inside of the bowl, avoiding the wire whisk.] After the syrup, incorporate lemon juice, and whip egg whites on high speed until glossy [approximately 5-8 minutes.] Use meringue immediately.
Fill a pastry bag with a large rounded star tip and pipe onto the chilled tart. Now comes the fun part where we have a chance to burn the kitchen down. Using a torch, toast the meringue to your liking and garnish with fresh raspberries.
As with any recipe, I encourage you to edit, experiment and adjust. What’s right for you is what works. If you feel like busting out this recipe, let me know what you think.
I came across a file of recipes just recently, which seems to happen when I take a few hours to organize files, notes and any other loose articles stuffed into boxes. Someday I will have all of those loose ends neatly archived. One particular file had a lot of quiche recipes that I had done some time ago, so I thought to revive and re-edit.
Today’s quiche recipe is a spinach quiche but with prosciutto and Cotswold cheese that makes it a bit more interesting. In terms of re-editing, I wanted much more than a delicious quiche, but more dimension than previous versions. Thinking outside a bubbly golden top, giving a quiche some interest made me wonder about what is to be inside should show on the outside.
Placing prosciutto on the top has giving this quiche a marvelous look. Now comes the exciting part of revising many more recipes with new eyes.
Prosciutto & Cotswold Quiche w/ fresh spinach
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
8 tablespoons unsalted cold butter, cubed
½ teaspoon sea salt
5 tablespoons ice water
8 large eggs
1/3 cup cream
1 ½ cups Cotswold cheese w/ chives, grated
A few grates of nutmeg [optional]
8 ounces fresh spinach, stems removed
1 large garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoon olive oil
3 ounces prosciutto, approx. 10 slices
Preheat oven to 400°F
In a food processor, combine the flour, salt and chilled butter until a coarse meal is formed. Add the ice water and mix just until a ball forms in the processor. If dough is too soft, chill for about 5 minutes. Roll the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and line a pie pan, crimping the edges to form a crust. Egg wash the edge of the crust after the shell has been filled, using the custard. Chill quiche crust in the refrigerator until ready to fill.
In a sauté pan, heat the olive oil and fry the garlic until lightly golden. Add the fresh spinach and toss to coat with oil. Continue to toss until spinach has wilted. Place in a colander to drain and cool. In the same pan cook the prosciutto on each side for a minute just to par cook.
Whisk together eggs and cream. Stir in cheese and nutmeg if using.
Squeeze out any moisture from the spinach and evenly distribute over the bottom of the quiche shell. Pour over the custard and cover with prosciutto slices. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until puffed and prosciutto is crispy. This eight inch quiche will serve six to eight.
For today’s salad of choice, I am harvesting some greens from the many flats planted. To dress this salad I made a basil vinaigrette. A chef friend of mine made one not too long ago that was very delish, so I thought it might go well with freshly harvested greens.
4 Tablespoons grape seed oil
1 tablespoon white balsamic vinegar
½ teaspoon sugar
¼ teaspoon sea salt
¼ cup packed fresh basil leaves, chiffonade
1 teaspoon Meyer lemon zest
Puree basil and oil together and allow the basil to flavor and color the oil. Strain through a coffee filter. Whisk together vinegar, lemon zest, sugar and salt. Slowly whisk this mixture into the now basil oil until emulsified. Drizzle over salad greens.
I think quiche is best served just above room temperature after being baked, when the cheese is still soft and crust flaky. It’s the simple things in life that make us most happy, and the most sense. Don’t you agree?
Years ago after moving into this home it seemed that the large stone terrace garden and other open spaces on the grounds were perfect for summer entertaining, sharing cocktails with friends and neighbors. One such year was a mojito inspired party, serving many guests, the night was a hit. I guess the chatter and excitement of the party with the unusually warm weather was the perfect combination to enjoy such a frosty and minty drink.
As the years went by, more and more parties were held, each with their own theme and plan. I was noticing a pattern, how the party flowed and what was necessary to keep the party going. Considering the details and flow of guests is crucial to the success of such an event. You will know how much to prepare, best times to hold outdoor soirées and so on.
Long before the party, planning was underway to determine the current year’s theme and featured drink. Guests were always welcome to bring something, but it is not necessary. One of the greatest joys for your guests is to offer them your hospitality.
To this day, with gratitude, the annual summer parties are a memorable experience for the many guests who have attended and look forward to another great evening.
For now, the days are growing longer and temperatures are rising. Here is my classic mojito recipe and a watermelon version that has served my guest well, not to mention is an excellent thirst quencher after a long day of weeding in the garden, the perfect moment for a mojito, to refresh and relax.
Classic Mojito Recipe
2 ounces Flor de Caña silver rum
2 ounces fresh lime juice, strained
4 mint leaves
2 teaspoon sugar
2 ounces club soda
In a 10-ounce tumbler, muddle the mint leaves with the sugar until the sugar turns light green and only flecks of mint remain. This step releases the essence of the mint that will flavor and perfume the drink. Pour in the fresh lime juice, and rum. One of my top favorite rums to use for this drink is Flor de Caña silver rum.
Add in the ice, yes, lots of ice. Fill the glass all the way to the top and finish with club soda.
I find that beverages such as these are best made to order. Freshness is a great thing to savor.
Watermelon Mojito Recipe
2 ounces Flor de Caña silver rum
2 ounces fresh watermelon juice
1 ounce fresh lime juice, strained
4 mint leaves
1 ½ teaspoon sugar
1 ounce club soda
In a 10-ounce tumbler, muddle the mint leaves with the sugar until the sugar turns light green and only flecks of mint remain. Pour in the watermelon juice, fresh lime juice, and rum. Fill the glass all the way to the top with ice and finish with club soda.
*note: To make fresh watermelon juice, remove the rind of the watermelon and place flesh in a food processor, process until smooth. Strain through a medium size sieve and again through a fine mesh sieve. The color will depend on the variety of the fruit, so I suggest the small individual ones. They have deep red color and are sweeter in character. I shy away from using a blender as it is too hard for this purpose, much of the pulp becomes too fine and muddies the flavor.
If you are planning an evening to entertain friends, give these recipes a try. Or, use the classic mojito recipe as a starting point to create your own unique mojito. Don’t stress the heat, have a mojito!
When conceptualizing recipes, I tend to draft up a large list of ideas that are possible creations. Mousse cakes are one such recipe with endless possibilities and certainly a mint chocolate chip is one of those have to make ideas. If you see the photo and think mint chocolate chip ice cream, that’s exactly where I got the idea. Growing up this was and still is my favorite flavor, not to mention this minty green color is at the top of my favorite paint colors list.
1 cup plus 2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup plus 2 Tablespoons granular sugar
6 Tablespoons cocoa powder, sifted
¾ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon sea salt
½ cup mini chocolate chips
¾ cup coffee
6 Tablespoons safflower oil
¾ teaspoon vanilla extract
3 medium eggs
Preheat oven to 350°F
Prepare a 12”x8 ½” sheet pan by coating it with butter and lining with parchment.
Whisk together flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt.
Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and add the oil, vanilla extract and eggs. Whisk until a smooth batter forms. Next, whisk in coffee.
For this recipe I chopped a block of chocolate for the chips needed, but mini chocolate chips will work just as well. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, sprinkle with chocolate chips and bake for twenty minutes. After baking, allow cake to rest for a few minutes before inverting onto a cooling rack lined with parchment. Why parchment? This cake is very moist and will stick to just about anything it can and with a handful of chocolate chips in this cake, it will be hard to resist eating any broken cake pieces
As instructed in my Neapolitan mousse cake recipe, the size of this cake is a little smaller. A cake board frame measuring twelve inches by four inches was constructed. The left over cake can be used to make trifles or saved for another mousse cake recipe later on.
Mint Chocolate Chip Mousse
4 cups cream
¾ cup granular sugar
2 teaspoons peppermint extract
¼ teaspoon green food color paste
1/3 cup cold water
1 Tablespoon gelatin
½ cup hand chopped chocolate [these are the chips]
Sprinkle the gelatin over the cool water and allow to bloom. Meanwhile, in a bowl combine the cream, sugar, colorant and mint extract. Beat just before soft peaks form. The consistency will still have soft peaks but they droop a little more. You want to stop at this point because the folding in of the gelatin will work the cream further. Heat the gelatin over simmering water. Remove from heat and warm the remaining cream. The cream should be slightly warmer than room temperature. Combine the gelatin and warmed cream. Pour this mixture over the whipped cream and fold in. Fold in the chocolate chips and fill the mold. Chill for several hours to set the mousse.
“To make chocolate chips for the mousse, simply fine chop any quality semi-sweet chocolate.”
1 cup confectioner’s sugar, sifted
1/3 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
2 teaspoons peppermint extract
To make this high intensity flavor layer for the mousse cake, whip together all ingredients in a bowl and frost the top of the chilled mousse cake.
2 tablespoons cream
2 tablespoons granular sugar
½ Tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon honey
2 Tablespoons cocoa powder, sifted
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
Melt cream, sugar, butter and honey in a saucepan on low heat just until combined. Whisk in cocoa powder and vanilla. Once cool, spread chocolate glaze over the peppermint spread and chill for the last time.
If you plan on serving this the next day or so leave the cake board frame on so the mousse does not dry out. When the moment arrives, use a long knife and slide it down along the cake board in one direction. This will keep the layers more intact. Mousse cakes are best carved when they are cold.
This recipe serves ten if cut into slices and less for square cutouts.
Sangria is the perfect beverage for big summer parties and is always a favorite. With endless variations this drink can be any combination of wine, fruit and a bit of added spirits. Red sangria is classic and most thought of, but a crisp white sangria can be quite refreshing if one prefers white wine over red. Choose a light, dry, young wine such as Rioja for the best refreshment.
1 bottle red wine [Rioja]
1 cup fresh orange juice
½ cup French brandy
½ cup Grand Marnier
¼ cup fresh lime juice
¼ cup granular sugar
2 cup club soda [optional]
2 Meyer lemons, thinly sliced
2 navel oranges, thinly sliced
- Combine the wine, liqueurs, citrus juices and sugar in a glass pitcher.
- Stir until sugar is dissolved
- Add citrus slices and chill for an hour.
- Add club soda, if using, just before serving.
It seems you can never have enough sangria on hand, so make plenty. Some of the best food to serve with this popular drink from Spain is any type of grilled seafood. The smokiness of grilled food balances well with sangria’s bright, refreshing flavor.
I started this garden many years ago in an attempt to beautify a spot once overrun with old shrubs and weedy growth. Mainly unattended for a few decades this area was in need of a complete makeover. It started out as a potager with high hopes of growing wonderful things, but was too dimly lit for such expectations, now it is pure flowers and a place of wonder.
I once heard that a garden takes twelve years to feel like it has become. Plants grow, they die and with many changes that has gone on here that is probably true. After eight years transforming this area the garden is starting to show its maturity.
One thing that has eluded me in the art of the perennial garden is the sense of architectural design. Not so much the use of structures but the architecture of herbaceous plants that add texture and depth of character to a garden. If you view the garden in terms of black and white you will see how this design concept makes sense. Take photos of your garden and put them into black and white. When you take out the color distractions you will see the bones of the garden.
A whole world of plant possibilities and combinations are better understood this way. Hostas and astilbes are a great example, each with their own unique forms and foliage textures. With digitalis blooming in the mix a black and white photo would look stunning. Flowers are important as they are beautiful, but the foliage of herbaceous perennials and shrubs are the workhorses of a garden.
The end of May is when the garden shows off the glories of spring. Blooming abundantly are the alliums and tree peonies. Such an explosion of bloom, the garden is transformed literally overnight and for a short week the blooms will have vanished as fast as they have appeared.
Here are the views of the garden at this time of year. Some of the shots were taken at dusk when the colors of the garden are richer and a bit mysterious.
In anticipation of bloom, allium ‘purple sensation.’
The Korean Lilacs are about ready to join in.
Golden Bleeding Hearts
Tree peony blooms. A color choice that was unexpected, but still beautiful.
Tree peony in full bloom.
Vines quickly overtaking the stonework with amazing vigor.
This garden was designed to have two large flower shows, one in the spring and later in the fall. Ever see gardens so full of flower power that it really is a wondrous sight, and then spends the rest of the summer devoid of excitement? It does take a large garden to have masses of blooms going off like clockwork for the entire season, annuals help, but I prefer perennials because next year the garden will be filled with even more flowers. Decide on the times you are most likely to enjoy your garden and plan accordingly. I like to be out in the garden in the spring and in the fall, just as the garden is flourishing.