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Friday, July 23, 2010

Ginger Watermelon Summer Cooler

I'm a water drinker.  I shy away from extra drinks like juices, energy drinks and sodas.  I save my liquid calories for tea, coffee, wine, gin ... and beer. 

But if ever there was a time to splurge on fun drinks, this is it- summertime. You can pretty much juice any fruit, add simple syrup, a splash of vodka and voila!  A super refreshing summer cocktail is on your lips in no time.

In this case I chose watermelon - it seemed like a nice option for an afternoon get-together.  Plus, I like to think this is a slightly upscaled version to the classic 'soaked watermelon'; you know what I'm talking about, the watermelon sprouting the upside down vodka bottle...   Stop by the farmers market, or better yet- Stanley's Vegetable Market, pick up a melon and make yourself a fat and happy cocktail worth splurging on.

Tips and Techniques:  Juice the watermelon in the morning, it takes a few minutes to get this all chopped up and juiced.  Read the labels, look for a juicy, seedless watermelon; if you have a melon with seeds, remove them before blending.

Ginger Watermelon Summer Cooler

1 small seedless watermelon
Ginger simple syrup (recipe below)
Juice of 1 lime
Ginger ale

Begin by making the simple syrup first, you will need this to cool before adding to the drinks (this can be done the day before, just store in the fridge.)  Chop up the watermelon, removing the rind.  Save a few slices for garnish on the glass.  In batches, place the melon in a blender and blend for just 5-10 seconds.  Be sure to remove any seeds before blending.

Set a strainer on top of pitcher, strain the juice into the pitcher.  Use a spatula or wooden spoon to push the juice out of the pulp.  Throw the pulp away and blend another batch. I juiced 8 -10 cups of melon juice and still had half of a watermelon left over, it was plenty for a party of about 10. Cut up any remaining watermelon, grate fresh ginger over the top and serve in a pretty bowl.

Add in the lime and ginger simple syrup. You may like more or less so add in half of the syrup first, then taste and add to your liking.  The melon juice itself is pretty sweet, so don't add the whole batch of syrup without tasting, I only used about a cup of the syrup.

To mix:  Fill a cocktail glass with ice, fill the glass 2/3rds full with the melon juice.  Add 1 oz of vodka and top off with fresh ginger ale and give it a stir.  Serve with a little watermelon wedge.

Ginger Simple Syrup
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
1 fresh ginger, cut into pieces (about 1/4 cup)

Add all ingredients in a saucepan, heat on medium until the sugar dissolves.  Remove from heat and let cool, this will allow the ginger time to steep.
Strain out the ginger, store in the refrigerator to keep it cool until ready to use.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Blueberry Sorbet

I have a bad habit of buying more fruit than I eat; it can be a real waste of money.  Luckily I'm also pretty frugal and I use my freezer to no end.  Just before any fruit goes bad, I clean it and throw it in the freezer.  This becomes the base to many sauces, gravies, pies and sorbets!

It's 90-something outside, the humidity is dripping off me and I need something frozen but feeling like the dairy in ice cream is too thick and will weigh me down today.

So I'm making a quick and easy blueberry sorbet. It's as simple as freezing fruit and blending it together with a bit of sugar. No ice cream maker needed, a Cuisinart or even a blender, will work great!  The addition of lemon and almond flavoring gives a reminiscent flavor of a blueberry pie... frozen.

Next time you're in a pool of heat and need a refreshing treat - pull that fruit out of the freezer and cool yourself off with this fat and happy sorbet! Do I even need to mention the great nutrients you will be getting from the fruit...?

Tips and Techniques:  When you freeze fruit, wash it and cut off any bad spots first.  Place the fruit in a heavy freezer zip lock bag and lay the bag flat in the freezer so the fruit doesn't freeze in one solid clump.  This will allow for ease in using and measuring.   

Blueberry Sorbet

2 cups frozen blueberries
1/2 cup simple syrup
1 tbls lemon zest
1 tbls lemon juice
1/2 tsp almond extract (optional)

Make the simple syrup by heating 1 cup water and 1 cup sugar over medium heat until the sugar is dissolved. Cool.  Add all ingredients into the Cuisinart (or blender) and blend on high until the blueberries are all chopped up and have formed the sorbet.  Taste, if you like things sweet, you may want slightly more simple syrup.  Use immediately or store in the freezer until ready to use.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Soba Salad with Peanut Sauce

There are times when our meals call for something lighter, something milder on the body.  For those of us who are meat eaters, it's important to enjoy a few meals/days of meatless entrees.  Let the internal system have some time of rest.

The tricky part is will you be left hungry and wanting more after the meal?  I think part of this is a mindset, so first set your mind right.  You don't need meat with every meal- you just don't.  Second, be sure the meatless meal you are making is hearty and flavorful.

This cold soba salad covers the ask.  Soba noodles are from buckwheat flour - they resemble spaghetti noodles in size except that they are brown in color with a nuttier taste. Since it is a Japanese noodle, it seems only fitting to mix this with a soy peanut sauce.  The use of peanut butter helps to make this a 'stick-to-your-ribs' meal and offers protein to boot.  The soba noodles themselves offer a great amount of protein as well.  The veggies are interchangeable - throw in what you on hand or what is in season.  This dish can stand on it's own or serve with a light side salad tossed with an oriental dressing.  You and your body will feel fat and happy!

Tips and Techniques:  Try creamy or crunch peanut butter, or get really crazy and use almond or even sunflower butter.  Serve by tossing all the ingredients together and serve the sauce on the side. Make and serve the day of, the flavors do not deepen if left overnight.  The flavors are best at room temperature rather than chilled.

Soba Salad with Peanut Sauce

2 bundles of soba noodles
1 heaping cup carrots
1 cup cucumber
1 heaping cup red pepper

2 Tbls sesame flavored chili oil or (sesame oil)
2 Tbls grated ginger
2 Tbls grated garlic
1 Tbls soy sauce
1 Tbls red wine vinegar
3 heaping spoons of peanut butter
1/4 hot water

Begin by bringing 6 cups of water to a boil in a large pot While that is heating, chop the veggies- cut the carrots, cucumbers and red pepper into matchstick size pieces (long and thin).  Add the soba noodles to the boiling water, cook until just before al-dente (refer to the package for timing.)  Just before you drain the noodles, add the carrots and peppers to the boiling water ( I like adding the veggies to the water just to ease the crunchiness slightly.)  Drain everything, rinse really well with cold water, set aside.

Make the dressing next- add the oil, ginger, garlic and soy sauce to a small fry pan.  Simmer for about 2 minutes just to help soften and release the flavors of the garlic and ginger. Turn off the heat and add the vinegar and peanut butter.  Whisk together while drizzling in the hot water.  Add just enough water to make the sauce thin enough to toss.

Toss the sauce with the noodles, veggies and cucumbers.  Top with toasted sesame seeds or crushed peanuts if desired. Serve.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Brazilian Corn Corn Stew

I'm going to tell you something that may shock you.  Ready?  I hate cilantro.  Not just dislike - but a deep hatred. Crazy coming from a 'foodie', right?  There are very few foods I dislike, and none more than cilantro.  It's pungent and overused in my opinion.

However,  I do understand that most people love it.  So when the the Gozamos Food Editor asked me to create my version of a Brazilian dish to help celebrate the magazines' Brazilian month, I broke one of my own rules and brought cilantro into the house.  Not that I think Cilantro completely defines Brazilian cooking, but it did come to mind as all the other fresh, vibrant ingredients danced in my head.

The base of this recipe is absolutely dependent on fresh, extremely flavorful ingredients; corn so sweet it doesn't need butter or salt when eaten alone, peppers that tease the back of the throat and fresh ginger that tickles your nose.  The outcome was quite lovely; if I made this again for myself however, I would substitute parsley for the cilantro.

Pick your poison- parsley or cilantro, I won't take offense to which one you choose because either way- you will be fat and happy with this Brazilian stew.  Oh, and if anyone wants to take the remaining bunch of cilantro off my hands- just give me a call!  It will be a while before I use it again!

Tips and techniques:   You get a bigger flavor boost from grilling the corn and peppers first, the extra little smoky flavor mixes with the coconut milk and takes it over the top. 

Brazilian Coconut Corn Stew

2 cobs of corn
1 red pepper
1 poblano

1/2 cup red onion, diced
1/2 cup white, diced
1 large shallot, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbls fresh grated ginger
1 lemongrass stalk
1 can of coconut milk
1 can black beans (optional)
 2 limes
1/2 cup chopped cilantro (or parsley)

Grill the corn, red and poblano pepper.  Scrape the blackened skin off from the peppers and remove the seeds.

Stand the corn on end in a large shallow bowl or a cutting board.  Carefully slice the corn off the cob; squeeze any juice out of the cob you can.

Saute the onions in oil until the edges begin to caramelize.  Add the garlic, shallots and ginger, continue to saute.  Bruise the lemongrass (do this by cutting the stalk into a 2 or 3 sections and then bending each stalk several times to release the flavor) and add along with the garlic for about 4 minutes.

Add in the diced peppers, the corn, black beans (if using), and the coconut milk.  Let the stew simmer for 20 minutes.  Remove the lemongrass stalk, squeeze on lime over the stew and sprinkle in the cilantro. Serve with a lime quarter.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Grilled Flat Bread Pizzas

Does the idea of grilling a pizza freak you out?  To some, it's just incomprehensible. I believe that anything can be grilled from fruit to bacon to potato salad.

I've been grilling flat breads and pizzas for many years.  What's the difference between a flat bread and a pizza?  A flat bread is a thinner, crispier dough that does not require yeast and sports less amounts of topping while a pizza tends to have a thicker base with much more toppings and usually covered in cheese.  Flat breads have a greater interest to me for the complex yet simplistic approach and because they are not laden in heavy, greasy cheese so you don't feel weighted down after eating them.

While the options are limitless, below I've given you three superb topping ideas. Try them all together or just one per night- but these delicious grilled flat breads will raise the level of your next barbecue and impress all your guests.  Grilling flat breads is a super fat and happy grilling experience for everyone.

Tips and Techniques:  Make the dough and pre-grill the flat breads up to 2 days prior to your event; store the stack in the fridge wrapped in tin foil.  Make the toppings ahead of time too. Then just add the toppings to the flat breads and grill; this will leave you time to enjoy your guests and your party.  Cut into squares, do not cut into triangles.

Flat Bread

2 cups flour
1 cup semolina flour
3/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups warm water

Mix all the dry ingredients together with a fork, slowly add the water.   Depending on the humidity that day you may need more or less water.  Only mix this until it just comes together, careful not to over mix and do not knead it.
Divide the dough in half, half again and again until you have about 12 small balls of dough.  Cover them with plastic wrap and and a warm, wet kitchen towel.  Rest for 20 minutes. 

Roll each dough out, you will need a little flour for the rolling surface, into a thin flat bread, place on the grill for about 2 minutes.  Flip and grill on the other side - just until the dough holds its shape.  Remove and cool if not using immediately or top with toppings and place back on the grill until crispy and melty.

Pancetta, Mushroom and Port Pizza

.25 ounces of pancetta- literally two slices, about 1/4" thick
3 small cloves of garlic, minced
4 small to medium sized crimini mushrooms, thinly sliced

1/2 cup port
1 Tbls butter
1/2 grated Havarti cheese

Dice the pancetta fairly small and saute until nearly crispy. Pour out most of the grease.  Add the minced garlic and the mushrooms, saute a few minutes until the mushrooms are softened.  Deglaze the pan with the port, continue to simmer until the port is reduced and thickened.  Add a small pat of butter and swirl the pan.

Place a spoonful or two of the pancetta on a flat bread, spread around and sprinkle with Havarti cheese.  Grill over medium-low flames until the bottom is crispy and cheese is melty.

Fennel and Leek Flat Bread

1 leek
1 small fennel bulb
2 tbls olive oil
1 tbls butter
Fresh ground pepper
prosciutto, thinly sliced
1/2 cup feta cheese

Thinly slice the leek and the fennel, saute in 1 Tbls of olive oil and the butter until softened.  Add lots of fresh black pepper.

Spread the remaining olive oil on the flat bread, top with  2 or 3 thin slices of prosciutto, a few spoonfuls of the leek mixture and a few feta crumbles. Grill until the bottom is crispy.

Parsley-Mint Margarita Flat Bread

1/4 cup fresh parsley
3 Tbls fresh oregano
2 tbls fresh mint
4 tbls olive oil
2 tbls walnut oil
1 tbls lemon
2 tbls champagne vinegar
salt and pepper

1 roma tomato, thinly sliced
1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

In a blender, pulse all the ingredients except for the cheese leaving some texture to the pesto. Add more olive oil as needed.

Spread a spoonful of the parsley mint pesto on a flat bread.  Top with thin slices of roma tomatoes and Parmesan cheese.  Grill over medium-low heat until the bottom is crispy and the cheese is melted.


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