Thursday, December 11, 2008

A Contest for the Holidays

I haven't quite figured out the art of blog giveaways but I hope to learn eventually. In the meantime head over to Jaden's Steamy Kitchen for the Holiday Giveaway of a lifetime.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Another Forgotten Recipe

This one I literally haven't made or thought about for 2 years. Sad huh? I actually mentioned it on this blog a small century ago but here it is again. How can such a gem get thrown to the wayside? This is fabulous. It makes an incredible sauce that would be great served on chicken, pork, or duck. Plum, mango, and curry are a match made in heaven.

Cornish Hen with Curry-Plum Glaze
adpated from Bon Appetit 2003

2 cornish game hens, halved lengthwise
2/3 cup plum jam
4 tablespoons mango chutney
2 teaspoon curry powder
1/2 cup chicken broth
Scallions, thinly sliced

In a small saucepan combine jam, chutney, curry powder, and chicken broth. Heat until sauce comes together, about 5 minutes. Prepare the hens by cleaning them thoroughly and patting them dry. In a baking pan lined with foil, place the hens cut side down with a small amount of oil. Season the hens lightly with salt and pepper. Baste the hens with some of the jam mixture. Bake the hens at 400 until the skin crisps and juices run clear -- about 20 minutes. Bring the jam mixture to a slight boil to thicken. Spoon the sauce over the finished hens and sprinkle with scallions.

Monday, December 8, 2008

The recipe broccoli haters don't want you to know about...

There are several 'special interest' groups that I just cannot understand -- the cilantro haters, the sour cream haters, the fish haters, the mushroom haters, the broccoli haters, etc. In some cases there are entire websites dedicated to displaying people's hatred (dare I say misunderstanding) of these foods. I always think of how interesting it would be to gather all of these food haters together and force feed them their most hated foods, done up in a different way just to see if they could be swayed.

I challenge even the most devout broccoli hater to taste this recipe. Try this variation of the frightening green vegetable and invite all of your broccoli-hating friends over and show them the error of their ways.

Roasted Broccoli with Lemon
seen on TAG and in Barefoot Contessa's Back to Basics

1 head of broccoli (don't wash it!!!)
2 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
olive oil
1 lemon, zest
Grated Parmesan

Heat the oven to 450. Cut the broccoli into florets and arrange in a foil lined baking pan. Season with salt and pepper and sprinkle the sliced garlic over top. Pour in a good amount of olive oil and coat the broccoli -- mixing everything together with you hands. Roast in the oven for about 10-12 minutes or until tender and the edges just slightly brown. Take the pan out and immediately zest an entire lemon over top of the pan so all of the wonderful lemony oils hit the broccoli. Cut the lemon and squirt in the juice from half. Dress it with a tad more olive oil (you might use a tastier oil here) and grate fresh cheese over the top.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Martha Stewart Knows Cookies

Martha Stewart's Cookie cookbook came out earlier this year and I have been vying for it ever since. It was a wonderful coincidence that my aunt 'donated' it to me (by donate I mean she purged some cookbooks) right before I was about to give in and buy it from my cookbook club.

I've only tried one recipe from this book so far and already I'm in love. The book is organized by putting cookies into different categories like chewy, sandy, dense, crisp, etc. So if I crave something chunky and nutty I need look no further than the appropriate section. What's more is that every recipe has a picture! Beautiful pictures! I was so enthralled by the cover photo of the chewy chocolate gingerbread cookies that I had to make them first.

These cookies turned out fabulous. Chewy and rich in flavor. They go easy on the sugar content which makes me feel less guilty about eating a handful. I love how they crinkle when they bake and the light coating of granulated sugar makes them look snow dusted and sparkly. Include these in your Christmas cookie tins, Martha would want it that way.

Chewy Chocolate Gingerbread Cookies
seen in Martha Stewart's Cookies book
Makes 2 dozen cookies

1 1/2 cups AP flour
1 1/4 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves (I used allspice because I only had whole cloves)
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1 tblsp Dutch-process cocoa powder (I used Hershey's special dark which is 1/2 Dutch-process, 1/2 regular)
1 stick unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
1 tblsp freshly grated ginger
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/2 cup unsulfured molasses
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp boiling water
7 oz chocolate chips (this would probably be good without the chocolate chips at all)
1/4 cup granulated sugar

In a bowl, sift the flour, ground ginger, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and cocoa. In a separate bowl with an electric mixer, cream the butter and fresh ginger for several minutes until pale and fragrant. Add the brown sugar and beat until combined. Finally, beat in the molasses.

Dissolve the baking soda with the boiling water (I think this may be the key to making them wonderfully chewy). Beat half of the flour mixture into the butter mixture. Add the dissolved baking soda and then the remaining flour mixture. Mix chocolate in with a spoon.

Martha then suggests turning the dough out onto plastic wrap into a 1-inch thick square and refrigerating for at least 2 hours (or overnight). This worked well to help in forming the cookies. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper and preheat the oven to 325. Form the dough into 1 1/2 inch balls and place about 2 inches apart. Chill the balls for another 10-15 minutes. Remove from the refrigerator and roll the balls in the granulated sugar to coat. Bake for 10-12 minutes or just until the cookies began to crackle. They may seem soft but they will harden as they cool.

Martha says they taste best the day they are baked but I think they get better the next day -- if they last that long.

Monday, December 1, 2008


It just dawned on me that I have yet to share one of my favorite recipes. How could I not share this quick and tasty bulgogi that P requests weekly. I'm not quite sure where I saw it first but this recipe is a winner. I've tweaked it ever so slightly to cut back on the saltiness and I think I've finally got it just right. This fish goes great with rice and lightly sauteed bok choy with garlic and shitakes. You can also use the same sauce on beef for the more traditional bulgogi approach.

Salmon "Bulgogi"
seen in Bon Appetit June 2008

1 large garlic clove
2 chopped scallions
< 1/4 cup soy sauce (I use about 1 oz)
1 tblsp Chinese rice wine
1 3/4-inch cube peeled fresh ginger
2 heaping tsp sugar
1 tblsp honey
1 tsp sesame oil
3/4 tsp sambal oelek (sriracha would work fine as well)
2, 1/5 lb center-cut skinless salmon fillets

In a food processor combine all of the above ingredients except the salmon. Mix until everything is combined. Taste to see if you need to add more sugar. Clean and thouroughly dry the fish. In a oven-safe skillet brown the fish on one side then flip it, add some sauce, and finish it off in a hot oven. Pour the remaining sauce over the fish and serve hot over rice or bok choy.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Dinner at Alinea

I'm still quite new to this foodie world. That's why I wasn't too disappointed when I couldn't get a reservation at Grant Achatz's Alinea in Chicago. Maybe I wasn't ready for it anyway. Maybe I wouldn't appreciate the whole molecular gastronomy thing. Maybe my palate would be overwhelmed.

When I got the call 4 hours before dinner that they had had a cancellation, I wasn't quite sure how to feel. Excited? Anxious? Nervous? Underdressed? Yes! I had packed thinking there was no chance we'd be eating anywhere nice. P looked nice but they looked me up and down. They couldn't kick me out because I wasn't technically breaking the dress code (this is what I told myself). Corduroys and combat boots may be practical for trudging around a freezing city but not a good idea to wear to one of the best restaurants in the country.

Actually in 2006, Gourmet did call Alinea the best restaurant in the country. And here we were standing outside of the building -- an entirely black building, with covered windows, and no sign whatsoever. It was so discrete we walked past it completely. The only thing that clued us in that we were at the right place was the valet post setup outside. Even a small sign with the chef's name would have been helpful. The place is intimidating, and only added to my anxiety.

Walking in was like entering another dimension. A long hallway with brightly colored lights leads you to an automatic door that opens onto this beautiful restaurant. The kitchen is on the first floor and completely visible upon entering, if I had been better dressed and less nervous I would have asked to take a closer look. Chef Achatz was right there in the thick of it.

I'm not sure how many servers we had but it had to be 5 or more. Some were more friendly than others. We obviously didn't look like a pair that had a ton of money to lay out on wine, so some of them treated us more like kids in a fancy restaurant. The description for each dish was an abridged version compared to what I overheard at adjacent tables. I pulled out my camera (after asking permission of course) and the marathon of a meal began...

An amuse bouche of trout roe, licorice foam, ginger cream, maple syrup ball, parsley. One of my favorite dishes all night. The roe popped perfectly in your mouth. Really nice combination of different flavors.

Cauliflower soup with apple cider, fried squares of cheddar, gels of horseradish and the rest I can't remember. I really liked this but it was a bit too salty.

Fluke with camomile sheet, various mussels or clams, celery... we both really hated this dish. I think I hated it mainly because I hate celery so much but the little bits of orange cereal looking puffs were pretty gross. The fluke underneath was good but this dish was really not interesting at all.

Lobster with butter (and lots of it!), popcorn, curry. This dish was basically anything that goes well with butter. There was corn and a yummy square of mango gel. The ribbon strip running across the plate I think was pure butter. That little yellow ball on the left was a ball of liquid butter that would make Paula Deen blush. It exploded in my mouth. This dish was very, very rich.

Lamb with a lemon ball, fennel foam, coffee aromatics. Grant Achatz is big on using aromas to pair with food. This dish was served with a small bowl of coffee, cinnamon, and maybe some other stuff heated on the plate. I think his famous pillow of scented air would have been more effective. This was a fabulous dish though. The lemon ball was amazing, and the little bits of lamb parts all done different ways were very nice as well.

Black truffle ravioli with romaine and Parmesan served in the famous bottomless bowl that a spoon fits perfectly into. This was one of the more memorable dishes all night. We popped this in our mouths in one bite only to experience an explosion of truffle. How do you liquefy the filling of a ravioli? I may never know.

Chestnut with quince, chocolate, and baked potato ice cream. This looks like a big mess on the plate and that's because it is. It was served in a tall bottomless cylinder that the server removed before I could snag a photo. The baked potato ice cream was really nice and the chocolate gels really fabulous but this dish wasn't one of my favorites.

Sweet potato tempura fried on a smoldering cinnamon stick with brown sugar and bourbon. The aromatics really worked on this one! Bacon on a string with butterscotch, apple, and thyme. Concord grape with yogurt, mint, and long pepper. These desserts were to be eaten in the above order. These dishes were fun and all really tasty. My favorite was the grape that again exploded in the mouth.Persimmon spice cake with rum and carrot. This was my favorite dessert by far -- an incredibly moist and delicious cake drizzled with fresh honey with bits of walnuts and gels of carrot and a liquid spiced rum ball in the top right corner. Really delicious.

Chocolate sheet with fig, olives, pine ice cream and pine soup. This was really nice too. The pine and chocolate went really well together.

Dehydrated caramel with salt shooter to finish the evening. It rehydrates in your mouth to a salty, gooey, chewy mess. I had most of P's too.

The verdict? Dining at Alinea is certainly an experience like I've never had before. The 13-course meal done in about 3.5 hours was a test of endurance. A lot of the dishes were so rich that we felt a little sick towards the end. We were both a little tired of the lack of chewing needed for most of the dishes. All the exploding balls of flavor, gels, and purees were a little too much to the point that everything began to taste similar -- savory. Palate fatigue. I felt a lot of the dishes were too heavily salted and some even served a bit cold. If I end up moving to Chicago I'd try Alinea again. It is a lot of fun that I might appreciate more after a little more experience.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

A New Take on Pumpkin Pie

As much as I like to try unconventional recipes during the Holidays, there is no getting away from the pumpkin pie. Sure it would be fun to try other flavors of Fall/Winter like cranberry, quince, pear, apple, and fig but it just doesn't feel right unless there is pumpkin thrown in the mix. Can you even imagine a kitchen that doesn't smell of baking pumpkin and spice during the Holidays? Try this new take on pumpkin pie to satisfy your pumpkin needs.

Gingerbread Pumpkin Pie
as seen in Cuisine at Home December 2008

1 pie crust (I cheated and used store-bought but this one seems great)
2 eggs
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1 tbsp molasses
1 15 oz can pumpkin
1 tbsp grated fresh ginger
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup heavy cream

1/2 cup crushed gingersnaps
4 tbsp chopped pecans
4 tbsp chopped crystallized ginger
4 tbsp melted butter

Prepare the pie crust and blind bake. In a large bowl mix the eggs, brown sugar, and molasses. Next add the pumpkin and spices. Stir in the cream until smooth. Pour the mixture in the pie crust and bake at 375 for 40 minutes. While the pie cooks, mix together the topping with melted butter. Sprinkle the topping on the pie after 40 minutes and then bake an additional 10 minutes or until set. Serve with whipped cream.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

chili on a chilly day

I never used to like chili. I think it was one of those foods I just thought looked like something I wouldn't like and I never tried it. Chili definitely isn't the nicest thing to look at but it can pack some serious flavor. It was the number one thing I was craving last week in the cold weather.

This recipe makes a nice meaty, thick chili. It is loaded with spices and might be a little too spicy for some tastes but it seems to mellow out by the second day. The secret ingredient? Beer.

Chocolate Stout Chili
as seen on Use Real Butter

1 lb ground beef (or turkey)
1 large onion, chopped
3-4 jalapeno peppers, deseeded and chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp oil
28 oz can crushed tomatoes with juice
2 tsp beef bouillon (2 cubes)
1 bottle or can of chocolate stout (Young's)
3 tbsp cumin
1 tbsp ancho chili powder
1 tbsp cayenne
salt to taste
1 can kidney beans, washed and drained
1 can cannelloni beans, washed and drained

Brown the meat in a large pot that you plan to cook the chili in. Cook in batches then spoon out and set aside on a plate. Add some more oil then cook the onion, garlic, and peppers until softened. Pour in the tomatoes and scrap up any bits off of the bottom of the pot. Return the beef to the pot and add the bouillon. Stir and cook over moderate heat for several minutes until the tomatoes break down. Pour in the stout and simmer on low heat covered for 1 hour. Add the spices and beans after an hour then simmer for another 30 minutes. Add salt to taste. Serve with sour cream or whatever you like and corn bread.

Friday, November 21, 2008

citrus zing!

The other night when P asked me to make something 'exotic and interesting' for dinner, I didn't immediately think to make seared scallops with citrus risotto. Frankly, I drew a blank. All I knew is that it was cold out and I wanted something warm and comforting for dinner. He suggested making something time intensive but for a late night dinner that was out of the question.

I went to my recipe collection looking for something quick and remembered this recipe from the Zuni Cafe Cookbook which I first saw from Adam's blog. Maybe this isn't the most exotic recipe ever but it struck me as very interesting and the citrus is wonderful this time of year! When I say the citrus is good, I mean wow, it's incredible. This recipe calls for limes, oranges, and grapefruit. All three were wonderfully sweet and tangy. You make this risotto like any other risotto but stir in the fruit segments at the end and you get all of these wonderful flecks of fruit mixed in.

Seared Scallops with Citrus Risotto
adapted from the Zuni Cafe Cookbook and seen on TAG

1 lb large scallops, ligament removed, cleaned and pat dry
salt and pepper
1 cup arborio rice
1 onion, diced
4 cups chicken stock (Adam says to use 5 cups but I used 4 and had some leftover)
1 lime and zest, segmented
1 orange, segmented
1 red grapefruit, segmented
1 tblsp mascarpone

First prepare the fruit. Zest the lime and set aside. Cut the top and bottom off the fruit and then carefully skin the sides removing the pith with the skin. This part is really simple. Next use a small knife and cut out each individual segment of fruit between the membrane. Collect all fruit slices with juice in a large bowl.

Heat the broth in a large pot and keep it at a simmer while you make the rice. In a large, hot non-stick skillet melt some butter and cook the onion until translucent. Add the rice and a little bit of oil if it is too dry, then toast the rice until it begins to get translucent, about 2-3 minutes. Add about 3/4 cup of the hot broth to the pan and stir, stir, stir. Turn the heat down to medium at this point and keep stirring until the rice absorbs most of the broth. Keep adding amounts of broth and stirring until the rice is al dente. The only trick to risotto is don't cook it too fast (that is at a high heat) and stir as much as possible.

In between stirs prepare the scallops. Simply pat them dry and sprinkle them heavily with salt and pepper. In a super hot skillet sear each side of the scallop until they are nicely browned and just cooked through. This should only take a minute or two.

Keep stirring.

When the rice is nice and ooey-gooey and al dente (around 20 minutes later), stir in the fruit and juice. The segments will break up nicely if you keep stirring. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Once the rice has absorbed most of the juice, stir in a heaping tablespoon of mascarpone cheese and the lime zest. Scoop the risotto into a big bowl and serve the seared scallops on top. If you used really excellent citrus, you'll have a wonderfully balanced, creamy, perfect dish for a cold night that's a little more exciting than meat and potatoes.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Cantonese is such a strange language. I've been listening to it for nearly five years now and I think it sounds different every time I hear it. I may only know how to say a handful of words and phrases, but I never forget how to say this dessert. The "soup ball" (Tāngyuán) is perhaps my favorite thing on Earth. A glutinous rice ball stuffed with sweet black sesame paste boiled in a light syrup... I love it. And I'm sad this is a picture of my last package. Normally you can pick these up at a good Asian foods market but I have had trouble finding them. On the rare occasion that I spot them, I buy one of those big silver freezer bags and stock up. They may be easier to find it stores around Chinese New Year and the Lantern Festival.

Friday, November 7, 2008

40 ± 2 cloves of garlic

Ever since I can remember I've always wanted to make chicken with 40 cloves of garlic. It sounds so extreme doesn't it? It sounds like a dish that means business. As I was unwrapping all 40 or so cloves of garlic tonight, I was just thinking of how bad I would smell later. My fingers would reek (not good for my line of work), my breath would be killer, and my sweat would smell like sweet garlic. Well I have to say I was wrong on all counts. This may sound like a serious dish but the garlic really mellows out and what you're left with is sweet roasted cloves mixed in a rich sauce. It is heaven on earth. Plus I couldn't believe how easy it was to make. Perhaps we can have chicken with 40 cloves of garlic every week. However, the odor might kick in eventually.

Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic
as seen on TAG and in Barefoot Contessa

4 lbs of chicken parts
40 cloves of garlic (about 3 heads)
1 tbsp butter
2 tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp cognac, divided (I used bourbon)
1 1/2 cups dry white wine
1 tbsp fresh thyme
2 tbsp AP flour
2 tbsp heavy cream

Don't bother peeling all of that garlic by hand. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and blanche the cloves for a couple minutes. Once you take them out of the water they are much easier to peel and you're fingers won't stink.

Pat chicken dry and coat with salt and pepper. Heat butter and oil in a large pot (preferably a dutch oven) until very hot. Place the chicken in the pot in small batches and brown all sides -- a couple minutes a side. Brown the chicken then place it on a separate plate. Once the chicken is all set, toss in the garlic and stir it around for a few minutes until it starts to brown nicely but not burn. Next deglaze the pan with the wine and 2 tbsp cognac and scrape the bits off the bottom of the pot. Bring to a boil then return all of the chicken and cover, cooking on the lowest heat for about 30 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through.

After the chicken is done remove it from the pot and set it aside, covered with foil to keep it warm while you make the sauce. Turn the heat back up to medium and remove 1/2 cup of the wine/drippings/cognac mixture from the pot and whisk into it the flour to make a roux. Stir the roux into the main pot to thicken the whole thing. Stir in the cream, remaining cognac, and thyme and let the mixture come together for a minute or two. Season if need be then serve the chicken with the sauce poured over top.

Whoever said chicken was dull?

Wednesday, October 29, 2008


How can something that looks like this

turn into a yummy dish they call "Poor Man's Lobster?"

Easing into Fall

One thing that is really funny about Floridians is that once the temperature dips into the 50s, people start wearing winter coats, boots, and sweaters. Then you have a good portion of tourists or whatnot who are still wearing shorts and flip-flops. It makes you double-take when you're out and about. I'm still not quite used to the weather. 60 degrees didn't used to feel cold to me, now I need slippers and blankets.

I'm still not quite ready to put my Le Creuset to good use with braises and stews. I'm not quite willing to roast a chicken just yet either. Until then I'm easing into fall like with this incredible pork recipe I saw today in my copy of Cuisine at Home. Cuisine at Home is really a underutilized magazine. I never hear anything about it at all! Yet, everything I've ever made from it has been fantastic. They must have some serious testers working for them. Just try this recipe and you might want a subscription yourself.

Sage Encrusted Pork Tenderloin
adapted from Cuisine at Home, December 2008

1 pork tenderloin, trimmed and cut in half
3/4 cup bread crumbs (I used wheat panko)
1 tbsp dijon mustard
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp fresh sage, minced (or 1 tsp dried sage)
salt and pepper

2 shallots, sliced
1 cup thinly sliced apples (I used one Jonagold)
1 tsp fresh thyme
1/4 cup white wine
1/4 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup thawed apple juice concentrate (I'd use slightly less next time so it's not so sweet)
2 tsp butter, divided
1 tsp flour
salt and pepper

Preheat the over to 425. Mix breadcrumbs, sage, salt and pepper, and oil together. I added a bit of water too in order to moisten the bread crumbs up. Rub the mustard all over the tenderloin pieces then roll in the breadcrumb mixture. Let the meat rest so the breadcrumbs adhere better. When you're ready to cook, heat some oil in a skillet and brown one side of the tenderloins for about 5 minutes. You may need to add more oil seeing as the breadcrumbs absorb most of it. Flip the meat then place it in the oven to cook through for another 15 minutes.

In another pan heat 1 tsp of butter with the shallots and cook until softened. Add the thyme and cook another minute. Finally add the apples and cook for another minute or two. Deglaze the pan with wine and cook until most of the liquid evaporates. Once evaporated add the broth and apple concentrate. Melt the remaining tsp of butter in a small dish and mix it with the flour. Add this mixture to the compote to thicken it and reduce the heat. Add salt and pepper to taste. Your pork should be done when a thermometer reads 150-155. If you're good with meat you don't need a thermometer. I like my pork a little pink inside so I'm not sure what the temp would be. Slice the pork into medallions and serve with the compote.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

What would Calvin Trillin Think

Calvin Trillin first tempted me with the salt and pepper shrimp in Alice Let's Eat. His description of the dish in Hong Kong and Flushing was so clear you could almost smell the fry oil. The most recent issue of Gourmet had a recipe that reminded me of them again. I had forgotten about it and then found myself with a pound of mutant prawns from Malaysia (a pound was a mere 6 shrimp have you!).

Now it wasn't until I had these salted, breaded, and ready to go that I realized that salt and pepper shrimp are supposed to be eaten shell and all. The shell on these prawns was thick and tough, and would in now way crisp up to an edible state. It was too late. But I did have the shell split and a large portion of exposed flesh was covered in batter. I went for it and I'm glad I did. Sure you had to peel the shell off before eating, but the little bits of batter were incredibly tasty. These prawns were so big, I think I'd call this dish salt and pepper lobster tails rather than shrimp. Heavenly. The deep fried cilantro and jalapeños didn't hurt either.

Salt and Pepper Shrimp
from Gourmet October 2008

1 1/2 pounds medium shrimp, in shell, shell split and deveined ,legs removed
3 quarts oil (canola or smart balance with omega-3!)
3 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
2 large egg whites, at room temperature
1 cup cornstarch
3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon freshly ground coarse black pepper
8 sliced jalapeños
2 big bunches of cilantro sprigs
2 teaspoons flaky sea salt to taste

Heat oil to 400°F in a heavy pot. Toss the shrimp with 1 tablespoon salt and let stand 5 minutes. Rinse with cold water, drain, and pat dry. Pulse egg whites in a food processor or blender until watery, then put in a bowl. Stir together cornstarch, 3 tablespoons pepper, and 2 tablespoons salt in another bowl.

Toss half of shrimp with 1/2 teaspoon each of kosher salt and pepper in a third bowl, dip in egg white, shake of excess, then lightly dredge in cornstarch mixture, shaking off excess. Make sure the coating is light. Fry until crisp and cooked through, 1 1/2 to 2 minutes (dependent on size). Transfer to paper towels to drain. Season, coat, and fry remaining shrimp. Reduce oil temperature to 375°F or therabouts and fry half of chiles with half of cilantro until cilantro just starts to turn dark green and chiles are wilted, only a couple seconds. Transfer to paper towels to drain. Repeat with remaining chiles and cilantro. Serve shrimp topped with fried chiles and cilantro and sprinkled with sea salt. Serve immediately, shell and all.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Favorite drink of the moment

Have you heard of the French liqueur Domaine de Canton? The fresh baby ginger and cognac liqueur used to be hard to come by in the States but now it is readily available at specialty liquor stores. The design of the bottle is incredible and the contents even better. It is fine to sip over ice but can be mixed with a variety of other liquors. The bottle comes with a booklet of a handful of recipes (many more on the website), so I decided to try one mixed with Hendrick's gin. Hendrick's gin, if you're not familiar with it, is a gin infused with cucumber. Together this is a serious drink with serious flavor. Sweet juniper and cucumber and spicy, smooth ginger.

La Coloniale
2 parts Domaine de Canton Liqueur
3 parts Hendrick's Gin
cucumber slice to garnish

Friday, September 26, 2008

Recycle Bin

Santa Martina Rosso 2005
40% Sangiovese, 20% Merlot, 20% Cabernet, and 20% Syrah. An Italian everyday wine under $10 and packed with flavor.

Rombauer Vineyards Merlot 2004
One of two of the best Merlot I've ever tasted and under $30. All I can remember now is rich chocolate.

Tilenus Pagos de Posada 2000
A Spanish red, 100% mencia, but for under $20 it tasted like it costs over $50 -- toasty like cocoa.

2000 Domaine de la Charbonniere Chateauneuf du Pape Cuvee Mourre des Perdrix
Robert Parker gives it 90 points. It's a mouthful of a wine both in name and taste. A $50+ bottle but truly worth it. Excellent mouth feel, juicy fruit flavors, encompassed in a beautiful aroma.

Southern Eclipse Pinot Noir 2006
The best Pinot you will find for under $20 and it's not from Napa. This New Zealand wine is full of life, rich with fruit, dark and smooth.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Last Tastes of Summer

While everyone else is feeling slightly cooler temperatures, I'm still enduring 90+ degree temperatures. I'm longing for cooler temperatures and more wholesome food. I'm trying to get all of this Summer food out of my system now. Here's a light end of Summer dish that is truly incredible.

Salmon Cakes with Lemon Yogurt Sauce
adpated from Gourmet Aug 2008

1 pound skinless salmon fillet, cut into 1/2-inch chunks
1/4 cup coarse bread crumbs
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 egg, beaten
1/2 teaspoon coriander
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
salt and pepper
2 tablespoons chopped chives, divided
1 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest, divided
3/4 cup plain whole-milk yogurt (I used Greek)
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

In a small bowl, combine the yogurt, 1/2 tsp lemon zest, juice, 1/4 tsp salt, and half of the chives. Set aside. In another bowl, add the bread crumbs, egg, mayo, spices, remaining zest and chives. Add the salmon chunks last and combine gently, preferably with your hands. Separate the mixture into 4-5 medium sized cakes. Add more bread crumbs if the mixture is too wet. Heat some olive oil in a large skillet and add the cakes. Brown on each side for a couple minutes then flip. I like to finish everything for a few minutes in a hot oven to ensure even cooking. Serve the cakes warm with a dollop of the lemon yogurt and some extra lemons to taste.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Forgotten Recipes

Have you ever forgotten one of your favorite recipes? I must have made this dish a zillion times but I had forgotten all about it until this week. Maybe it was all the fun I was having with my curried chicken salad that sparked my memory. This is another great curry recipe that is light and goes wonderfully with a fruity salsa like mango or pineapple.

Apple Curried Chicken with Mango Salsa
adapted from Cuisine at Home

8-10 chicken legs (or any part)
1/4 cup curry powder
1/4 cup good quality apple jelly
1 tblsp red pepper flake
salt and pepper

1 mango (or 1/2 pineapple), diced with some juice
1/2 small red onion, diced
handful of chopped cilantro
1 jalapeno, seeded and chopped
fresh lime juice
sprinkling of salt to taste

In a large Ziploc bag add the chicken legs, curry, jelly, and spices. Seal and mix together until the chicken is coated. You can mix this in advance and have it ready to go whenever you need it. Meanwhile dice the ingredients for the salsa. Adjust the ingredients to taste. When you're ready to bake the chicken, line a roasting pan with foil and preheat the oven to 450-500. Roast the legs until near done (15 mins) then turn on the broil to finish them off and brown them. Serve the chicken with the salsa over basmati rice.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Omnivore's Hundred

The Omnivore's Hundred is an eclectic and entirely subjective list of 100 items that Andrew Wheeler, co-author of the British food blog Very Good Taste, thinks every omnivore should try at least once in his life. I found this over at Chocolate and Zucchini and thought I'd try it out. However, I'm new to this whole food world thing so I'm sure there are many things I have not tried but would like to.

The rules:
1. Copy this list into your blog or journal, including these instructions.
2. Bold all the items you’ve eaten
3. Cross out any items that you would never consider eating.
4. Optional extra: post a comment on Very Good Taste, linking to your results.

1. Venison
2. Nettle tea
3. Huevos rancheros (I truly dislike eggs)
4. Steak tartare
5. Crocodile (alligator yes)
6. Black pudding
7. Cheese fondue
8. Carp
9. Borscht
10. Baba ghanoush
11. Calamari
12. Phở
13. PB&J sandwich
14. Aloo gobi (I think so)
15. Hot dog from a street cart (you have to if you go to NYC)
16. Epoisses
17. Black truffle (just a little bit, not nearly enough)
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes
19. Steamed pork buns
20. Pistachio ice cream
21. Heirloom tomatoes
22. Fresh wild berries
23. Foie gras
24. Rice and beans
25. Brawn, or head cheese
26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper
27. Dulce de leche
28. Oysters (I still can't do it)
29. Baklava
30. Bagna cauda
31. Wasabi peas
32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl
33. Salted lassi (I've had rose, mango, and plain)
34. Sauerkraut
35. Root beer float
36. Cognac with a fat cigar (not in it's entireity)
37. Clotted cream
38. Vodka jelly/Jell-O
39. Gumbo
40. Oxtail
41. Curried goat
42. Whole insects
43. Phaal
44. Goat’s milk
45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth £60/€80/$120 or more (scotch does that count?)
46. Fugu (food shouldn't be worth dying for)
47. Chicken tikka masala
48. Eel
49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut
50. Sea urchin
51. Prickly pear
52. Umeboshi
53. Abalone
54. Paneer
55. McDonald’s Big Mac Meal (never can you believe it?!)
56. Spaetzle
57. Dirty gin martini
58. Beer above 8% ABV
59. Poutine
60. Carob chips
61. S’mores
62. Sweetbreads
63. Kaolin
64. Currywurst
65. Durian
66. Frogs’ legs
67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake
68. Haggis
69. Fried plantains
70. Chitterlings
71. Gazpacho
72. Caviar and blini
73. Louche absinthe
74. Gjetost, or brunost
75. Roadkill
76. Baijiu
77. Hostess Fruit Pie (yeah as a kid)
78. Snail
79. Lapsang souchong
80. Bellini
81. Tom yum
82. Eggs Benedict
83. Pocky
84. Tasting menu at a three Michelin-star restaurant (I wish!)
85. Kobe beef
86. Hare (rabbit?)
87. Goulash
88. Flowers (tulips, chive flowers)
89. Horse
90. Criollo chocolate
91. Spam
92. Soft shell crab
93. Rose harissa (I've never heard of rose)
94. Catfish
95. Mole poblano
96. Bagel and lox
97. Lobster Thermidor
98. Polenta
99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee
100. Snake

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

lunch: solved

After much deliberation (ok not too much) I think I have temporarily solved my lunch problem. Not only have I uncovered a typical lunchtime food made over, but this recipe is also nutritious! Added spices, garlic, and ginger make this simple salad pack a powerful anti inflammatory, flavonoid-rich punch. This is perhaps the best chicken salad you may ever make. I'm very picky about my chicken salad. Most recipes have too much mayo or too much mustard or too much celery or too much pickle. Ugh. Not this one. Yogurt is used instead of mayo and the whole thing is spiced up to create flavors you won't believe.

This recipe will make a lot. Take it to a picnic. It's light. It's refreshing. It's good for you. This recipe comes from the latest issue of Gourmet. I tweaked it ever so slightly. I cut back a little on the salt and skipped the extra raita thinking the yogurt would be overkill. If you skip out on the cucumber and the grapes I don't think you'll have nearly as tasty a final product. The sweetness of the grapes and crispness of the cucumber balance so well with the spicy curry and cayenne. I love this. Please make it.

Curried Chicken Salad with Spiced Chickpeas
as seen in Gourmet Aug 2008

For curried chicken salad:
1 medium onion, chopped
1+ tablespoon minced garlic (I go heavy on the garlic)
1+ tablespoon minced peeled ginger (I go heavy on the ginger too)
1 tablespoon Madras curry powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1 tsp salt
2 roma tomatoes, chopped
1 cup plain whole fat yogurt
2 tablespoons cilantro, chopped
1 rotisserie chicken, meat coarsely shredded (about 3 to 4 cups)
1 cup seedless red grapes, halved

In a medium skillet heat a tablespoon or so of olive oil. Cook the onion, garlic, and ginger until soft and fragrant. After a couple minutes, when the onions start to get some color, add the curry, cumin, and salt. Stir to combine and cook a minute or so longer. Finally add the tomatoes and stir for several minutes until everything cooks down into a nice paste. Remove the pan from the heat and put mixture in a large bowl. To the bowl add the yogurt, cilantro, and chicken. Stir well to combine and chill while you make the chickpeas.

For chickpeas:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 can chickpeas, rinsed, drained, and patted dry (and I mean dry!)
1 tsp cumin
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 teaspoon salt (you could probably skip the salt here)

In a cleaned skillet, heat the oil until it's very hot and starts to glisten. Carefully add the dried chickpeas. They will pop and spatter and fly out of the pan like popcorn so be careful! Shake over the heat for about a minute then add the spices. Shake carefully over the heat until all of the peas are coated then remove from heat and cool. Once cooled slightly, stir the spiced peas into the chilled chicken salad.

You can serve the chicken salad stuffed in a pita, with crackers or flatbread, or over lettuce. Either way make sure you serve it with thinly sliced cucumber and sweet red grapes. You can also add some fresh mint, sliced almonds, or some more yogurt to top if off.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Lunch alternatives take 2

I have been scouring my recipe collections looking for things that:

1. require little to no cooking
2. can be made ahead and eaten for several days
3. are nutritious yet delicious and
4. are appropriate for lunch

One of the first things I tried was an eggplant salad first seen over at The Amateur Gourmet from the book Roast Chicken and other Stories. It is similar to the Indian dish baigan bharta but slightly different. It was pretty easy to mix together in a dutch oven and it makes a very large amount that will last most of the week. I enjoyed the salad (though it is more of a stew) but it was very rich and hard to eat in larger portions and very hard for me to eat for more than one day. This would be great to make if you have many people sharing it over rice, naan, or flat bread. This probably wasn't the best choice to solve my lunch conundrum.

Spiced Eggplant Salad
As seen in Roast Chicken and Other Stories

2 large eggplants, sprinkled with 2 tsp salt
2 large onions, chopped
2 cans organic tomatoes
1 heaped tsp cumin
1 heaped tsp allspice
1/4 tsp cayenne
4 garlic cloves, chopped
2 tbs currants (I used fresh because I had them, dried works as well)
Chopped fresh cilantro and mint

Dice the eggplants into cubes and place in a colander with 2 tsp salt. Let them sit for at least 20 minutes then blot them dry with paper towels. In a large pot or dutch oven brown the onions in some olive oil. The more color the more flavor will be in the finished dish. Add the tomatoes, drained, and the spices and stir together. Let these simmer for about 10+ minutes. In the meantime, saute the eggplant in a large skillet in some olive oil. I let mine get rather charred but just cook until cooked through. Do this in batches so you don't crowd the pan. Add the eggplant to the pot as you cook them. Once you've finished with the eggplant, take the pot off the heat and stir in the garlic, currants, and cilantro. Serve with a dollop of yogurt and more cilantro or mint.

If I make this again I might try to make it more like baigan bharta by roasting the eggplants in the oven then scooping out the flesh to add to the mixture. It might make for a better texture but it will still be a rich dish.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

the lunch conundrum

I have a problem. I hate lunch. It is such an awkward meal. Most folks fill up on sandwiches or a salad and go back to work. I can handle that for a day or two then I want some variety. Normally I just eat some odds and ends and maybe leftovers if on the rare occasion we have any. I'll nibble on lots of different types of dried fruit, some yogurt, fresh fruit, cheeses, juices, nuts, maybe a bit of bread. The problem is that my breakfast also consists of the above ingredients so I'm quickly tired of them. Not to mention that by the end of my lunch break I'm hungry again!

For some reason I just can't bring myself to cook during my lunch break. I think I just want to avoid the dirty dishes. I'd much rather stir something together or just grab something out of a package then throw it away. But alas, I'm tired of being hungry after lunch and the nutritional value of the above snacking is very much sub par. I'm finally ready to take on lunch with more interesting and more nutritious fare.

One of my lunch options, that I had nearly forgotten until recently, is Molly's chickpea salad. True chickpeas aren't the best protein source, but I'll work my way up to meat for lunch eventually. Baby steps. This can be thrown together in minutes or the night before and chilled. I like to mix it up in a container by shaking (no need to dirty a spoon) then place in the freezer for 5 minutes or so before I eat it. The flavors really come together.

Chickpea Salad
courtesy of Molly aka Orangette

1 can chickpeas (get the good stuff, the ingredients should just say chickpeas)
juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 tsp cumin or to taste
salt and pepper to taste
Parmesan to taste
olive oil to coat

Drain and wash the chickpeas well. Combine all the ingredients in a container and stir (or shake with a lid on it) to combine. Get creative and try adding herbs, different spices, vegetables, anything.

Any other lunch ideas?

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Birthday at Luma

My birthday was 2 weeks ago and I'm just now finding the time to blog about it. Luckily, it was so awesome I have no problem remembering all the details. P and I and some friends went to Winterpark to have dinner at Luma on Park and afterwards relaxing and digesting at the Wine Room next door.

P got there first and ordered a nice Cab to sip on while he waited. He had a pretty bouquet of flowers put in a champagne bucket waiting for me as well, so everyone in the place knew it was my birthday. Thankfully there was no singing.

This was my second time at Luma. The first experience was very memorable and I'd recommend it to anyone coming to the Orlando area and looking for a really great meal outside of the kitsch Disney environment. Chef Brandon Mcglamery has a pretty impressive resume working at Chez Panisse, The French Laundry, Guy Savoy, Gordon Ramsey London, and more. The place looks amazing, right down to the futuristic bathrooms. In both of my experiences the staff is incredible, and can make some really fabulous wine recommendations. The menu changes all the time, but can have similar dishes from week to week just with different twists depending on what's available.

We started with some appetizers. Yes, I broke down and brought my camera. This food is too good and too pretty not to take a picture. Would you believe that no one in the whole restaurant even noticed? This is a similar ceviche that I had on my first visit. Imagine kona kampachi, watermelon, cilantro, avacado, jicama, and scotch sorbet all intermingling in one bite. This ceviche was just as good as the kampachi, jicama, blood orange, thai basil, avacado, and spicy citrus sorbet from my last visit. Luma knows ceviche! We also tasted a gnocci appetizer but I think I was too absorbed with my ceviche to pay attention.

P had the arctic char with a corn sauce and chard. P loved it -- a perfect balance of flavors. Corn is his favorite.

I had the maple duck with black rice and peach slaw. I'd like to know where the chef found such ripe peaches. What a slaw!

We also ordered the diver scallops with grits and pole beans. Tasting this dish reminded me of how wonderful grits can be. I'm going to try to make some at home soon.

At this point we had to get dessert. P and I shared the peach tart with giant fresh berries and thai basil ice cream. Since the peach slaw was so good, I knew this would be incredible too. I have always thought that basil ice cream would taste strange and strong but this was refreshing and mild.

Our friends shared the chocolate truffle cake with salted popcorn ice cream and caramel. I sneaked a bite and concluded that popcorn ice cream tastes NOTHING like those awful buttered popcorn jellybeans.

Comfortably full, we walked next door to the Wine Room for some dessert wines and conversation. I have to say that my 2 Luma visits have been some of the most memorable food experiences in my short foodie life. It's a pretty good drive for dinner but I'm sure we'll come back again soon. They offer a fixed price tasting menu on a couple days of the week that we might check out next. Luma is great. They even gave us one free dessert since it was my birthday.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

No need to knead

Tomorrow is my birthday and my cat's. I didn't find any birthday cards for my cat in the mail today and he hasn't really received any presents except a new favorite box to replace his old worn out one. I on the other hand, got lots of wonderful presents and it isn't even officially my birthday yet. The best gift of all is my "almost brand new" Le Creuset. Thank goodness for outlet malls!

Now that I finally have the treasured cast-iron-heavy-duty-cook-anything pot, I can't wait to see what it can do. Does it really evenly distribute heat and brown and caramelize food to perfection. So far I can say yes, and yes. I've already ordered Molly Steven's All About Braising to get me started cooking in this massive thing. Anyone else know some great and perhaps unconventional uses of the Le Creuset?

I won't be cooking up a special birthday surprise for my cat but I did use it to make no-knead bread (ok, he tasted it too). I don't know what is more surprising, baking a loaf of bread in a pot or not having to knead. I can attest that it does work and boy is it simple. If you don't have a cast-iron dutch oven you can also use a regular pot (I think). I used Mark Bittman's NY Times recipes (c/o Steamy Kitchen) and threw in some wheat flour to make it more nutritious. The results were really amazing -- light and airy interior, crisp and browned exterior. Mine came out a little too "wet" but I think I didn't bake it long enough.

This is all you have to do:

The night before you want to bake the bread mix the following in a big bowl until it comes together into a wet dough.

3 cups bread flour (I used 2.5 cups King Arthur bread flour and 0.5 cups KA wheat flour)
1/4 teaspoon instant yeast
3/4 tablespoon kosher salt (or 1 teaspoon table salt)
1 1/2 cups warm water

Cover your big bowl with plastic wrap and let it sit on the counter for about 12 hours or more. The longer it sits, the more the flavors will develop with the yeast. One to two hours before baking, take the dough out with wet hands and put on a floured surface. Gently fold the dough until you get it into a nice round ball. Don't use a lot of flour. Let it sit at least another hour in this shape. Before baking preheat the oven to 450 with the pot inside to heat up as well. Once everything is nice and hot, carefully place the loaf in the pan and put a lid on it. Let it bake for about 25 minutes then remove the lid to let it brown for about 15 minutes more.

That's it! I can't wait to try experimenting with this. You can add herbs, cheeses, seeds, and nuts. You can make a sweetened loaf and add chocolate or cinnamon. Hungry yet?

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Is it safe to eat tomatoes yet? It's Summer, I NEED them.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

the wine room

If you ever find yourself around Winterpark, Florida you have to plan a trip to The Wine Room. Not only is it the best wine bar in the Orlando area but it is the only one of it's kinda in the entire Nation (hard to believe I know, but I asked!). At The Wine Room you purchase a card containing whatever dollar amount you'd like to spend tasting wines. You then peruse around their cozy shop sampling wines simply by inserting your card and pressing a button for a 1-3 oz taste. Wines are arranged by type and the price per ounce varies from $1 to $25. In addition to the large selection of wines, they also offer specialty beers, cheeses, and other things to nibble on while you taste at your own pace.

I've had the opportunity to visit The Wine Room twice now and have tasted a lot of wonderful wines. We even have money left over on cards from our last visit that we can use for another time. Tasting wine before you buy it is always a good idea and this seems like the absolute best way to do it.

Mosella 2004 Riesling Spatlese Graacher Himmelreich
The wine maker himself was there to tell us a little bit more about his wines. He saw me jotting down notes and made sure to introduce himself as the only American wine maker in Germany. We tasted 2 of his Rieslings and they were just as he described them -- excellent. The above was light and crisp with notes of starfruit and grass -- perfect for the incredibly hot day outside.

Freemark Abbey 2006 Viognier
I almost always love a viognier. This one was a bit different that the very floral and fragrant ones I'm used to. Lemony and full of zest.

Martinelli "Giuseppe & Luisa" 2006 Zinfandel Russian River Valley
Very nice but very expensive. Spicy finish. Hints of coffee, kirsch, and strawberry.

La Crema 2005 Pinot Noir Anderson Valley
A solid pinot for the buck. Perfume-y and full of sour fruit on the nose. Thick and luscious with red fruits and plum.

La Crema 2006 Chardonnay
I'm not much for Chardonnay but La Crema makes some really nice wines. This one was thick and oaky with a bright finish that was fitting for the heat.

The Black Chook 2006 Shiraz Viognier Australia
This is the most memorable wine I've ever tasted. What a combination! It smells like the sea and tastes like the sea in a way that perfectly fresh seafood might taste. There's a hint of salt and maybe a bit of briny seaweed. This is just one you have to taste to believe. I'm not sure I'd want to drink a bottle but it might pair really nicely with oysters or other bivalves.

Rosenblum Desiree Chocolate Dessert Wine California
The Wine Room even has dessert wines and ports! This one tastes just like what you might think it tastes like. It has a smooth buttery taste that reminded me of chocolate cake batter.

Meeker FRO-Zin Russian River Valley
An icewine made from zinfandel grapes. It resembles grape juice or raspberry juice and tastes like sweet candy. Mark from Mosella called it "Kool-Aide" and it is, but in the very best, tastiest way.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

mutant fruit

Everyone is sweltering in the heat and has lost there appetite haven't they? Thankfully loads of wonderful fruits are in their prime (sans the tomato what with the salmonella and all...) and make a wonderful light snack, refreshing leisurely breakfast, or a scrumptious dessert. Now is the time to hit up your local producers. You may find mutant blueberries the size of quarters like this one:

Or you'll find other great berries perfect for jams/jellies, pies, cobblers, trifles, cakes, ice creams... it's endless.

Raspberry Tiramisu
adpated from Giada de Laurentiis

1/2 cup good quality raspberry jam
6 oz orange liqueur (Cointreau, Grand Marnier)
8 oz mascarpone cheese, room temperature
1 cup heavy cream
scant 1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
ladyfingers, enough to fill a 9x9 glass dish
1-2 pints fresh raspberries
dust with confectioners sugar, chocolate shavings, or cocoa powder (optional)

In a small bowl combine the jam and liqueur to thin it out. Set aside. In a large bowl whip the cream, sugar, and vanilla until soft peaks form. In another bowl, soften the mascarpone with a spoon. Fold the cream into the cheese, adding a little at a time until combined. Layer the bottom of a glass dish with lady fingers and spread the jam mixture over the top. Then add a layer of the cream and top with raspberries. Add another layer of ladyfingers and repeat the layers until you're dish is full or you run out of ingredients. You can double the recipe to fill a trifle dish. Refrigerate for a few hours to let the flavors meld and serve on a hot, hot day. This is perfect for a picnic and can be thrown together in no time.

Monday, June 2, 2008


I succumbed to a 'free' trial of a new product that is being promoted by Lance Armstrong. My FRS (Free Radical Scavengers) trial came with not just a energy drink, but also a powdered and liquid concentrate and chews. I've had time to try the sample and thought I'd blog about the experience.

First the taste. Well, if you're one of the lucky few who can't taste Splenda (aka sucralose) then you will probably like FRS. The 'diet' versions have a mere 5 g of sugar. I haven't tried the non-diet versions yet but I imagine they are loaded with as much sugar as a Red Bull or any similar energy drink. The drinks taste best super cold and chugged. I've had the berry and peach-mango flavored drinks. They're not great, with a slight vitamin-y taste, but they're not that bad considering some of the alternatives. The chews are a little more tolerable and come in lemon-lime and orange flavors. They have some grittiness but I've really gotten used to eating them despite the sucralose. The powders and concentrate can be added to other juices to mostly mask the taste. After a couple days trying the out my trial pack, I'm getting used to the taste.

FRS suggests drinking 2 cans of the drink per day and/or 2 chews at a time -- morning and afternoon. They also suggest drinking or chewing right before a workout for an added boost. P says he has definitely noticed a boost in energy from drinking/chewing FRS. He described it as different than coffee or other drinks that tend to give you the jitters. I haven't noticed a thing. I'm not surprised. I think if I ate an entire bag of the chews I'd still be tired. Unfortunately there's no quick fix when you live with CFIDS.

So what's in the stuff? FRS is more of a health drink than an energy drink. The caffeine content is about the equivalent of 1/4 cup of coffee. The main ingredients consist of green tea extract, vitamins and minerals, and quercetin. Quercetin is a powerful antioxidant found in green leafy vegetables, capers, red onions, citrus, apples, and various berries. This main ingredient seems to be how the drink got it's name, since antioxidants help combat the barrage of free radicals that damage cell membranes and DNA. Green tea extract is also a powerful antioxidant, and if you ask me you can't have too many antioxidants! In addition, quercetin works as an anti-inflammatory! After reading about quercetin, I want to eat more capers and red onions.

So maybe I can get past the taste if I know it's good for me. Each can is packed with B vitamins and vitamins C and E. The sugar and sodium content are minimal and the drink is not carbonated. The verdict is still out on whether quercetin is the next big thing or not. If you want to try it out for yourself look in stores or check out the trial. The downside to FRS is the price. If you don't cancel your subscription after signing up for the trial, you will be charged $60/month and receive loads of FRS at your doorstep. While the drinks are competitively priced at $1.99, a bag of the chews can cost you anywhere from $15-20/30 ct. Maybe we'll see a price drop if demand gets high, in the meantime ration your 'free' trial.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

It's too hot not to eat seafood

It feels a whole lot hotter out than it probably is. I think I've lived in FL long enough to realize there isn't much difference between 80, 90, and 100 degrees. The heat really ruins the appetite but lighter fare is abundant. Fish is not only a light meal but also a great go-to, throw-together-in-a-hurry meal. I normally just put some rice in the steamer and dinner is on the table in no time. Jaden's citrus-soy fish with soba is my new go-to meal. You can pull this one off in less than 15 minutes.

Citrus-Soy Salmon with Soba
as seen on Steamy Kitchen

6 oz soba noodles, I like to use cha (green tea) soba
1 lb fresh salmon fillet, cut into 2 portions

1/2 cup vegetable broth
2 tblsp honey
zest of one lemon
2 tblsp lemon juice
2 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp rice wine (I used rice wine vinegar, in retrospect I think sake would work as well)

In a large pot of salted water, cook the soba according to the package directions. In a small saucepan add all your sauce ingredients and bring to a boil. Once boiled, return to a gentle simmer and reduce slightly. Clean and prepare your fish. Season the flesh side with salt and pepper. In a hot pan with some olive oil, sear the fish skin side up for about 2 minutes (time will vary depending on thickness). I like to then flip the fish and finish them in a hot (400-450) oven. Cook for another couple of minutes or until just flaky. Drain the soba and plate them with fish on top. Pour the sauce over your creation and serve. If you like more sauce, double the recipe.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008


It makes me sad when I hear someone say they don't like fish. In the back of my mind I immediately think that they've never had a fresh, right out of the water fish. Fish is mild, with some exception, so I can never accept someone telling me they don't like it. They just haven't had it cooked properly and were left with a fishy taste in their mouth. Or there is the possibility that they had a bad experience with a fish stick as a child.

Fish should be done simply, and taste like the sea. All seafood should taste like the sea for that matter. Mollusks, shrimp, scallops and crabs are all relatively mild in taste but vary greatly in texture and richness. Scallops in particular can be super rich which is probably why you get so few when you order them in a restaurant. If you eat too many, you'll be bursting at the -- nearly the equivalent of a big bowl of pasta. Just like fish, I like my scallops done simply. If you want to add some richness to a light white fish (flounder, halibut, tilapia, cod) throw a couple scallops on top for a very satisfying meal. I like to match the subtle sweetness of scallops with an equally subtle spice, curry.

Curry-dusted Scallops
adapted from somewhere...Gourmet?

1 lb fresh scallops, tough ligament removed
Madras curry powder
sea salt and pepper

Properly clean and prepare your scallops. If you get them at the grocery store like I do, make sure you get dry packed. They may have been previously frozen but if they're dry packed, liquid won't seep out after you cook them. Fresh is always best of course. If you can find pink scallops use them; they are slightly richer than the white and look beautiful. In a small bowl mix a good portion of curry powder (scant 1/4 C) with about a tsp each of salt and pepper. Eyeball it! Pat the scallops dry them dredge them in the curry mixture, shake off excess and set aside. In a very hot pan with a thin layer of olive oil or some melted butter, sear the scallops. Cook about 1 min a side and be very careful not to overcook. Give them a little push/squeeze to see if they're done. Also remember that they will continue to cook after you take them out of the pan. Scallops are delicate and easy to overcook so be careful and patient. It's better to under cook than overcook!

Served above with panko-crusted halibut, Parmesan wilted spinach and sauteed shitakes.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Summer Wine

My favorite wine of the moment is perfect for Summer. For under $10 you can serve it up at your next BBQ. Check out Oregon's 2006 A to Z Rose. A to Z's Pinot is also excellent and under $10. Check them both out.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

I scream, you scream

I love Haagen-Dazs Reserve ice cream. Every flavor I've tried so far has been incredible. If you can still find some of the older flavors try Sticky Toffee Pudding, Caramelized Pear and Roasted Pecan, Toasted Coconut and Sesame Brittle, and Hawaiian Lehua Honey and Sweet Cream. I've never been that big into ice cream but I was really able to get into these new sophisticated flavors. They are a lot more exciting than plain vanilla, chocolate, or strawberry.

The latest flavor is Fleur de Sel Caramel. P thinks it's too salty but I think salt and caramel are a match made in heaven. mmm.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

The Tomato

One of my favorite things about summer is the fresh homegrown tomato. It was always fun to run around outside and snatch cherry tomatoes off the vine. The crunch and squirt of a fresh cherry tomato always reminds me of summer. It might be harder to find perfectly ripe, juicy tomatoes these days but your local roadside stand or farmer's market usually has a nice variety.

Whether you roast them, slice and dice them, toss them in a salad, or serve them atop a burger you can't go wrong. But have you ever tried tomatoes my favorite way? Macerated? Tomatoes are a fruit after all... Try your summer's best tomatoes diced with a sprinkling of sugar on top. Let them sit for a minute and stir them around. I think macerated tomatoes go best with freshly fried fish -- a lovely alternative to fish and chips. Try them other ways too like with a nice cheese, some herbs, or maybe....strawberries?

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Lamb smells like...

What do you do with ground lamb? You could do meatloaf which is normally a bit intense for me... burgers are always a big hit... bolognese is classic... keema matar?

I have to say that I've gotten quite better in my Indian food experiments. I'm not scared to try anymore and not even put off by the amount of time it takes. I just see a recipe and go full speed ahead. Saveur had an issue on Indian Cuisine a few months back and I had torn out the recipe for keema matar since I'm always looking for something to do with ground lamb. This recipe was straightfoward and turned out quite nicely. Lamb is always so fatty so the finished product was rather greasy but tasty all the same. A little greasiness does the body good.

Keema Matar
adapted from Saveur #109
serves an extended family

Make sure to fry your spices whole to enhance the flavor. The article called this technique "tarka."

6 cloves garlic
3 1⁄2" piece fresh ginger, peeled
2 tsp. plus 1 tbsp. garam masala
2 tsp. turmeric
1⁄3 cup ghee (I just used butter)
1 tsp. coriander seeds
1⁄2 tsp. cumin seeds
3 whole dried chiles de árbol (I couldn't find these so I used some unnamed dried chile that could've been hotter)
1 bay leaf
1 medium red onion, chopped
salt and pepper
2 tbsp. tomato paste
1 1⁄2 lbs. ground lamb
3 medium plum tomatoes, quartered
1 cup Greek style yogurt
1 1⁄2 cups frozen peas, thawed
1⁄2 cup roughly chopped cilantro

Blend garlic, ginger, 2 tsp. garam masala, turmeric, and < 1⁄2 cup water into a blender and purée to a paste.

Melt the butter then add the coriander, cumin, chiles, and bay leaf. Fry until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the onion, season, and cook until golden. The more carmelized the onion, the more flavor. Add the blended spice paste and tomato paste and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture is further caramelized. Add lamb, breaking it up into small pieces with a wooden spoon. Once cooked through, add the tomatoes until soft and incorporated. I removed the bay leaf and chiles at this point. I wish I had of removed all of the whole spices because, even though they soften while cooking, they're still not very nice to bite into when you sit down to eat. Next time I might remove the whole spices right before adding the lamb.

Remove from the heat and stir in the rest of the garam masala, yogurt, peas, and cilantro. Season again if necessary and serve immediately with basmati rice.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Wolfgang Puck

I recently had the opportunity to go to Wolfgang Puck Cafe in Downtown Disney for a cooking demonstration. I signed up for the event and spent the next couple days with fingers crossed thinking maybe Wolfgang would be there. The event details were very ambiguous and it involved a lot of really rich people so I didn't think the possibility was entirely out of the question. All of us were buzzing about it, thinking that maybe... well, he didn't show of course. In his place, his executive chefs put on a show for us. It felt a lot like a taping for a cooking show. It was less about eating and more about technique, hints, and recommendations.

The food was simple and not at all exciting but I would imagine they had to pick a pretty safe menu for a group of people with such a wide variety of tastes. There was no wine which I was kinda sad about especially after the nice pairings we had at the Grape. We started with a sushi making demo. After this I had absolutely no excuse not to try to make sushi at home. I have since tried making it at home with pretty decent results. I need more practice.

Next we went on to a salad that mainly helped illustrate some knife work tips. We had Wolfgang's Asian Chicken Salad. I found it rather bland. There wasn't nearly enough dressing to make it remotely "Asian" tasting. Maybe it was prepared in a hurry.

Next was a pasta dish that was my favorite. The chef didn't make pasta from scratch in front of us, unfortunately, but instead used frozen dough. The ravioli were stuffed with butternut squash and served in a brown butter sauce with fried sage and pine nuts. Really tasty!

Finally we finished the demo with the pastry chef. He broke out his blowtorch and quickly showed us how to make creme brulee. He also showed us some plating techniques for desserts. He made it look very pretty but I think my recipe tastes better.