Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Spaghetti with Fresh Spinach and Gorgonzola

I love pasta. Love it, love it, love it! I had pasta at least once a week while growing up. Probably even twice a week. Each Sunday my mom would make a big pot of gravy with homemade meatballs and sausage. And she'd also make 6 loaves of homemade bread. You can imagine the wonderful smells I got to grow up with. . .

Consequently, I am very picky about pasta. I do not make the same gravy that my mother makes. I keep that in my heart as coming from her and I like to eat it at her house in her kitchen and bring back all my happy memories of childhood. I play with the more gourmet aspect of pasta. My standards are Pasta Puttanesca, Pasta with Vodka Cream Sauce and Spaghetti con Pomodoro e Tonno (Pasta with Tuna). I make those three very well and usually make one of these when I need my pasta fix. Besides those, I lean towards using Asian and Thai seasonings when working with noodles.

I feel that most Italian cookbooks are quite pretentious about their pasta recipes. The importance of fresh pasta is always discussed. And I'd love to make fresh pasta, but that will be a special occasion for when I have alot of time. My normal life calls for dried pasta. And I finally found a book that acknowledges the ease of use and even celebrates dried pasta. On Top of Spaghetti is written by Johanne Killeen and George German, owners of the famous Al Forno restaurant in Rhode Island. These are two chefs who work in the kitchen making high quality gourmet food all day. But at night, they come home, often late and tired, and throw together quick pasta dishes for themselves. They call it "Midnight Spaghetti". The two of them started challenging each other to come up with the most unique pasta dishes created from items they already had around the house. Night after night as each took their turn, they would try to think up something new. And with this book they introduce us to many of those great creations.

The first 200 pages are dedicated to dried pasta ideas. That is a lot of different pasta recipes for dried pasta! And you won't find any "classic" Italian recipes in this book. Pasta is featured with so many different things that you may not normally think of adding to it. The chapters are separated into making pasta with vegetables, legumes, and herbs; tomato sauces; seafood, poultry, meat, and rabbit; and eggs and cheeses. Another 50 pages are dedicated to fresh pasta recipes including ravioli and lasagne. So there is something for every kind of pasta lover (and preparer) in this book.

The name is cutesy, but don't let that turn you away from the quality in this book. I am in love with this book and it has sparked my creativity for all things spaghetti (including macaroni, linguine, penne, and pasta of every kind). I haven't gotten very far . . . I only got to the 6th recipe before I had to stop reading and start cooking. I can't wait to turn the page and see what I'm going to try next!

I did change it up a tiny bit. I halved the recipe since there was no way I wanted to make an entire pound of pasta just for myself. And after I had a few bits I decided to try crushing up some Peperoni Cruschi imported from Italy to sprinkle on top.

Spaghetti with Fresh Spinach and Gorgonzola
(serves 6 or 8)

4 ounces Gorgonzola, at room temperature
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
8 cups firmly packed trimmed young, fresh spinach
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons sea salt
1 pound dried spaghetti or spaghettini
10 to 12 large fresh basil leaves (optional>

Bring a large pot of water to a boil for the pasta.

In a small bowl, mush together the Gorgonzola and butter until you have a smooth paste. Set aside but do not refrigerate.

Wash the spinach in plenty of cold water. Drain in a colander, leaving the water clinging to the leaves.

Heat the olive oil in a large straight-sided skillet over moderately high heat. Add the spinach and 1 teaspoon of the salt. Toss the spinach with tongs until it has wilted. Taste it to add more salt if necessary. Turn off the heat, but keep the spinach warm on the side of the stove.

Generously salt the pasta water and drop in the spaghetti. Cook at a rolling boil, stirring until al dents. Drain the pasta, reserving about up of the cooking water. Transfer the spaghetti to the skillet and toss with the spinach. Add the Gorgonzola-butter mixture and toss to coat each strand of spaghetti. If the pasta seems dry, add a bit of cooking water and toss again. Add as much of the cooking water as you need to make a creamy consistency. If you have fresh basil, tear the leaves and toss into the spaghetti. Serve right away.

#96: Peperoni Cruschi

I received these dried Italian peppers from Zingermans several weeks ago but have not been quite sure what to do with them. I never would have thought to order them on my own, but it is my foodie duty to check them out since they are listed as #96 Peperoni Cruschi on Food & Wine's 100 Tastes to Try.

Very mild chiles from the Massimo family in Basilicato are dried in the sun for a few weeks, fried in a bit of the farm’s own olive oil, then salted. The result is a sweet, smoky, salty, crispy sensation that’s quite habit forming.

I love roasted peppers, especially covered in olive oil and salt. But these are dried and I was not quite sure what to expect. I am told then can be eaten straight, maybe as part of an antipasti platter. And indeed I did try them this way. Honestly, they are just okay. They have some crunch, which is nice, but I don't really associate crunch with roasted peppers. As you can probably tell, I much prefer regular roasted peppers over these. And they should not even be compared because they are not even the same thing. But I just love roasted, oily and salty peppers so much . . .

My love of roasted peppers aside, these Peperoni Cruschi are a good way to add a unique bit of pepper flavor to food. I crunched them up and sprinkled them over some pasta. The flavor isn't over powering and it added an interesting texture to the dish. So they do have their unique place in the foodie world. But at $19 for about 15 small peppers and a $10 shipping charge, I will not be ordering them again.

Monday, January 29, 2007

With Love, From a Food Blogger

I made this little postcard to send some Valentine's love to a fellow food blogger. The polar bear was from a World Wildlife Fund sample of their Christmas cards. I cut it down, grunged it up, added the rub-ons of the wing and a crown. It is my way of turning him into a sweet prince. I stamped on the flowers with red paint and drew the stems and some doodles.

So where in the world is my crafted Valentine going? I can't tell. It's a secret. Only Meeta from What's For Lunch Honey and I know. 60 food bloggers from all around the world are taking part of the 2nd Blogger Postcards Around the World event and Meeta paired us all up. I can't wait to get mine!

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Georgia Peanut Soup

Think of the words creamy, spicy, warm, and peanut butter. Do they evoke positive emotions? If so you may want to try Georgia Peanut Soup because it is all of those things. I was intrigued by the title of this recipe and the fact that it is a soup made with peanut butter. I am so glad that I decided to try it. I am one who does not repeat recipes very often. However I know I will be making this one again because I want all of my friends and family to try it. It is so unique and will be really impressive to serve to others. So as each of them come to visit me, I'll be whipping up a batch. It is fine to make ahead and reheat as well. It doesn't separate or get greasy or anything that happens to some other soups.

I found this recipe in the 75th Anniversary Edition of Joy of Cooking which I received for Christmas. I am using this recipe as my entry for this month's Weekend Cookbook Challenge. The current theme is to cook a recipe from a newly acquired cookbook. I haven't made it very far through this book. It contains 4500 recipes! I enjoy reading all of the tips in the beginning of each chapter. I'm trying to use this book as a way of learning some basic core recipes since up until now I always seem to be cooking some type of fancy ethnic food. I have only made it up to the soup chapter (#10 out of 38) and I seem to be stuck there because there are so many interesting soups that I want to try. The first recipe I cooked out of this book was Roasted Garlic Soup and that is really good too. I'm not crazy about the recipe format Joy of Cooking uses. Instead of first listing out all the ingredients and then specifying the directions, they merge it all together. I notice that it is easier to miss steps this way.

This recipe for Georgia Peanut Soup makes enough for several large bowls full. It goes great with a nice side salad or some roasted chicken you can pick up at the supermarket. When following recipes I don't always include the suggested garnishments, but in this case the chopped peanuts add some crunch and the scallions add an amazing freshness and balance so I highly suggest you add them both.

Georgia Peanut Soup
(Makes about 6 cups)

Melt into a soup pot over medium heat:
    2 tablespoons of butter
Add and cook, stirring until tender but not browned, about 5 minutes:
    2 medium celery ribs, minced
    1 medium onion, minced
    1 garlic clove, minced

Stir in:
    2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
Reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring for 5 minutes. Whisk in:
    4 cups hot Poultry Stock or Chicken Stock
Simmer, stirring often, until the soup begins to thicken, about 5 minutes. Stir in:
    1 1/2 cups natural peanut butter
    1 cup heavy cream or half-and-half
    1 1/2 teaspoons salt
    1/2 teaspoon ground red pepper
    1/2 teaspoon hot pepper sauce

Heat through, but do not boil. Stir in:
    2 teaspoons lime juice
Serve garnished with:
    3 tablespoons chopped dry-roasted peanuts
    1/4 cup chopped scallions

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Tortino Gorgonzola

Everyone who cooks has at least one cookbook that they turn to for comfort. Maybe it is their latest find. Maybe it is a comprehensive cookbook with a lot of recipes. Mine is my first cookbook. I received it as a gift for my bridal shower when I was 21 years old. I lived at home until I got married and never cooked a meal for myself until I moved out. I love Italian cooking and I registered for Trattoria by Patricia Wells and made my first several dinners from that book.

I happened to pull it off of the bookshelf the other day. When I was flipping through it I found a recipe for Tortino Gorgonzola (Individual Gorgonzola Souffles). I immediately thought it would be a good choice to make for this month's Hay, Hay It's Donna blogging event hosted by Running with Tweezers. The theme is Souffles. I have never eaten, let alone baked, a souffle before. So it seemed fitting that the recipe I chose is from the same cookbook I cooked my first official dinner from.

This recipe challenged me a bit. First of all, it serves 8 and I am only 1, so I decided to half it. Actually, when I saw that the Gorgonzola is sold is 4 ounce packages, that confirmed my decision to half it. But 5 eggs are called for! I had to half one egg! And not only that, I had to separate the yolk from the whites of this half egg. It was amusing.

Also, I do not have 1/2 cup ramekins, I have 1 cup ramekins. So I had to double the amounts in the ramekins of my half recipe. More amusement. Of course the cooking time needed to increase, but I just watched until "the souffles are well risen and the tops are browned" as instructed and they came out fine. The souffle was well risen but I just didn't get a picture of it fast enough. There is a good reason 1/2 cup ramekins are suggested however. The souffle is VERY RICH! I could only eat about 2/3rds of one until I absolutely had to put my fork down. So the doggies got what was left from that one plus the whole other souffle. For future reference, do souffles reheat well? I assume they do not.

I enjoyed the individual souffle with a small salad and a wonderful 2004 Dierberg Pinot Noir from Santa Maria Valley that my wine guy suggested when I told him what I was making. He told me it would be good but it was great. Definitely one of the best Pinot Noirs I have ever tasted, and I have tasted many because Pinot Noir is my favorite red wine. I almost choked on it when I was reading the back of the bottle as I sat enjoying my dinner. It was at that time I noticed the price tag: $42.99. The wine guy kept me too busy talking about the souffle I was going to make and I forgot to ask him about the price point of the wine! What a trickster. I'm going to have to watch him from now on. And at that price I figured it might not taste as good if I saved any of it, so I drank the whole bottle and made cupcakes!

Tortino Gorgonzola
(serves 8)

Butter for preparing the ramekins
2 cups (500 ml) heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
Fresh ground black pepper to taste
3/4 cup (100 g) unbleached all-purpose flour
5 large eggs, separated
5 ounces (150 g) imported Gorgonzola cheese, at room temperature, crumbled
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Thoroughly butter the bottoms and sides of eight 1/2-cup (125-ml) ramekins.

In a large saucepan, combine the cream, salt, and pepper, and scald over moderately high heat, bringing the mixture just to the boiling point. Reduce the heat to low, and add the flour all at once, whisking constantly to prevent lumps from forming. The sauce will thicken almost immediately. Remove from the heat, and stir in the egg yolks one by one. Then add the Gorgonzola, and stir until the cheese melts into the cream mixture. Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk, beat the egg whites until still but not dry. Whisk one-third of the egg shites into the souffle mixture and combine thoroughly. (Do not be concerned about deflating the egg whites at this point.) With a large rubber spatula, gently fold in the remaining whites. Do this slowly and patiently. Do not over mix, but be sure that the mixture is well blended and almost no streaks of white remain.

Spoon the mixture into the prepared ramekins, filling them three-quarters full, and smoothing out the tops with a spatula. Place the ramekins on a heavy-duty baking sheet and place in the center of the oven. Bake until the souffles are well risen and the tops are browned, about 15 minutes. Carefully remove from the oven and place each ramekin on a small salad plate. Serve immediately.

Friday, January 26, 2007

The Cupcake Challenge

24 cupcakes are just too much for one gal to eat. Well, 24 of the same type of cupcakes anyways. So my co-workers got really lucky today when I brought in a whole bunch of Cappuccino Chip Cupcakes with Mocha Buttercream.

When Cupcake Bakeshop by Chockylit and Vanilla Garlic issued a challenge to create a cupcake, I was trying to come up with some unique tastes. I was inspired by the Wattleseed Ice Cream I tried recently from Vosges Haute-Chocolate. I ordered some aboriginal wattleseed and went in search of a recipe I could use as a base and then modify with the wattleseed. It was a great opportunity to crack open Cupcakes from the Cake Mix Doctor which I purchased from a school charity a few months ago. Anne Byrn, the author and self titled Cake Mix Doctor, specializes in using cake mixes as a base and making amazing cupcakes. Her secret is to add other ingredients such as pudding, yogurt, spices, fruits and nuts to give them a twist. It didn't work out for me though, I ran into problems though when I tried to customize it myself and use the wattleseed. I tried several things but realized that I should have bought the wattleseed extract instead of the grounds.

After messing around for an hour or two with no success, I was still determined to get some edible cupcakes! So I made the recipe I was going to customize just as it was originally written, straight out of the book. And they turned out great! I got a bunch of compliments on them and I learned a whole lot. I'm not much of a baker and this book offered lots of good tips on the art of cupcakes.

Cappuccino Chip Cupcakes
24 paper lines for cupcake pans (2 1/2-inch size)
1/3 cup water
4 teaspoons instant coffee granules
1 package (18.25 ounces) plain yellow cake mix
1 package (3.4 ounces) vanilla instant pudding mix
3/4 cup whole milk
3/4 cup vegetable oil
4 large eggs
1 cup miniature semisweet chocolate chips,
Mocha Buttercream Frosting
1/3 cup miniature semisweet chocolate chips or cracked roasted cocoa beans for garnish

Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line 24 cupcake cups with paper liners. Set the pans aside.

Place the water and instant coffee in a small glass liquid measuring cup and microwave on high power for 40 seconds. Remove and stir until the coffee is dissolved. Set it aside to cool for 5 minutes.

Place the cake mix, pudding mix, milk, oil, eggs, and coffee in a large mixing bowl. Blend with an electric mixer on low for 30 seconds. Stop the machine and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat 2 minutes more, scraping down the sides again if needed. The batter should look thick and well combined. Fold in 1 cup of the chocolate chips. Spoon or scoop 1/3 cup batter into each lined cupcake cup, filling it three quarters of the way full. Place the pans in the oven.

Bake the cupcakes until they spring back when lightly pressed with your finger. 18 to 20 minutes. Run a dinner knife around the edges of the cupcake liners, lift the cupcakes up from the bottom of the cups using the end of the knife, and pick them out of the cups carefully with your fingertips. Place them on a wine rack to cool for 15 minutes before frosting.

Meanwhile, prepare the Mocha Buttercream Frosting (see below).

Place a heaping tablespoon of frosting on each cupcake and swirl to spread it out with a short metal spatula or the back of the spoon, taking care to cover the tops completely. Garnish with the remaining 1/3 cup chocolate chips or roasted cracked cocoa beans. The cupcakes are ready to serve.

Mocha Buttercream Frosting
1/4 cup milk
1 heaping teaspoon instant coffee granules
8 Tablespoons (1 stick) butter, at room temperature
2 ounces (1/2 bar) German's sweet chocolate, grated
3 1/2 cups confectioner's sugar, sifted
1 Tablespoon water, if needed

Place the milk and instant coffee in a small glass liquid measuring cup. Plan in the microwave oven on high power until the milk is hot enough to dissolve the instant coffee, 30 to 40 seconds. Remove and stir until the coffee is dissolved. Set aside to cool.

Place the butter in the large mixing bowl and add the coffee and grated chocolate. Blend with an electric mixer on low speed until the mixture has softened, 30 seconds. Stop the machine and add the confectioners' sugar. Blend with the mixer on low speed until the sugar is incorporated, 1 minute. Increase the speed to medium and beat until light and fluffy, 1 minute more. Blend in up to 1 tablespoon water if the frosting seems too stiff.

Use to frost the cupcakes of your choice.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Creole Sausage and Shrimp

Although this recipe for Andouille Sausage and Shrimp with Creole Mustard Sauce is featured in the February, 2007 issue of Bon Appetit Magazine, it was brought to my attention by Becky from Key Lime and Coconut. She reviewed this recipe and used it as her submission for her Weekend Herb Blogging entry a few weeks ago. I hope Becky knows that imitation is supposed to be the highest form of flattery . . . because I am totally copying off of her. Not only did I make the recipe for dinner tonight, but I'm also going to use it as my entry for this week's Weekend Herb Blogging which is being hosted by Tomatom. I was going to do something else, but I ended up with a thyme story so I figured I'd write about it here.

First of all, the recipe . . . Make this. Go out and buy yourself a pound of shrimp, some spicy sausage, creole mustard and creole seasoning. You will be happy you did. It's pretty easy to make and is nice because it only uses one pot. The hardest part was taking the shells off of the shrimp but you can purchase them without shells to make it even easier. I had one issue with the recipe because my sauce did not thicken in two minutes. It took mine more like 8 minutes and I was worried that the veggies would over-cook but the whole thing came out just perfect. This dish has a bit of spice to it, but it's wonderful spice. The flavors are just amazing and it's super satisfying. Now for the thyme. . .

Thyme is a Mediterranean herb but it grows easily in many parts of the world and has become a standard for various ethnic cuisines. The thyme leaves are tiny and by the time I got mine home, they had folded and looked more like an evergreen than small parsley. This recipe calls for chopped fresh thyme. I have one of those Pampered Chef food choppers so all I have to do is pill up my herbs and then stomp, stomp, stomp . . . it's all chopped. Well, most herbs anyways. This was not the case with the thyme. My normal practice is to chop the herbs stems and all. Those thyme stems are some tough suckers! I kept chopping and chopping and they wouldn't break down fine enough. I brought out the knife but they just weren't cooperating. So my advise is to take the time to pull the leaves off of the stems when working with thyme. This was definitely a learning experience for me with using fresh herbs. But isn't that what this is all about?

Andouille Sausage and Shrimp with Creole Mustard Sauce
4 to 6 servings

1 pound uncooked peeled deveined large shrimp
1 tablespoon Creole or Cajun seasoning*
2 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
1 pound andouille sausage, cut crosswise on diagonal into 3/4-inch-thick pieces
1 large onion, halved, thinly sliced
1 large red bell pepper, cut into 1/3-inch-wide strips
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
1 cup low-salt chicken broth
5 tablespoons Creole mustard (such as Zatarain's)
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar

Toss shrimp with Creole seasoning in medium bowl to coat. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in heavy large skillet over high heat. Add sausage pieces, cut side down. Cook until browned on both sides, about 5 minutes. Transfer sausage to bowl. Add shrimp to skillet; cook until browned and just opaque in center, about 3 minutes. Transfer to bowl with sausage. Add remaining 1 tablespoon oil, onion, bell pepper, and thyme to skillet. Sauté until vegetables are beginning to soften, about 5 minutes. Add broth, mustard, and vinegar. Stir until sauce thickens, about 2 minutes. Return sausage and shrimp to skillet. Simmer until heated through, stirring occasionally, about 1 minute. Season with salt and pepper.

CRAFT's Interview with Amy Sedaris

Yesterday, CRAFT blog posted an interview Amy Sedaris, author of I Like You: Hospitality Under the Influence. I received this book for Christmas and I read the entire book on my plane ride back home. While many of you may be attracted the to book from a cooking perspective because she has some good recipes, this interview focuses on the crafty side of things. Amy's hysterical in a strange way. I love her stories about her rabbits.

So far I have made three recipes from this book: Tula's Country-Style Greek Salad, Crosscut Stump Stew, and Tiddlywinks Toadstool Pie. Do any of you have this book? Has anyone tried any of her recipes?

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

#95: Piparras (Peppers from Spain)

Ingredients: Piparras, vinegar, salt, citric acid, ascorbic acid.
100% natural containing no preservatives or artificial flavors.

On my quest to taste as many food as possible on Food & Wine Magazine's 100 Tastes to try in 2007, I found myself ordering Spanish Matiz Piparras from Casa Oliver for $6.50 a jar. Piparras are a traditional long green pepper from the Basque Country of Spain. They are noted by Food & Wine as a food that is only recently available in the United States.

Kate at Kate in the Kitchen was the first to taste these peppers. She ate them with rustic bread and sprinkled them with olive oil and salt. She liked them but I was a bit skeptical since she described them as having a vinegary taste.

I had the jar sitting in my cabinet for about a week because I hadn't decided how I wanted to try them. I know it needed more than bread for me because I only like sweet peppers that way. Casa Oliver says "they make a wonderful accompaniment to Bonito tuna and smoked fish." So last night I finally grabbed them to add to my leftover red snapper. Before I mixed it into the salsa I ate one raw. NOT my thing! There is nothing about that pepper that I liked to eat it alone. It was nice mixed in with the sweetness of the fruit in my salsa because it added a different flavor.

So tonight I went all out and tried them again. This time I took six out of the jar, covered them with Greek Olive Oil and lots of salt. I had the same reaction with the first one I ate - ick! The flavor is just overpowering. But by the time I got to the third one, they weren't so jarring anymore and by the time I got to my sixth one I decided I liked them. My mouth just needed to warm up to them. And they are a bit spicy, it just doesn't hit you until you have a few.

There is one thing I think they would be perfect for. Hotdogs! Chicago-style hotdogs are served up on a poppy seed bun topped with mustard, onion, sweet pickle relish, a dill pickle spear, tomato slices or wedges, sport peppers, and a dash of celery salt (and NO ketchup). Piparras taste almost exactly like those "sport peppers" except without the immediate heat.

What is it about Gyros?

I was at this really neat store called Land & Sea Market here in Tampa this weekend to get the red snapper for my Red Snapper Alicante. While waiting by the fish case I was checking things out. They had these really fresh looking gyros meat slices along with real, gyros-type pita breads and fresh sauce. So I picked up all the fixing and decided to make them tonight. I have been waiting since Saturday to finally eat them. They looked so good in the package and I had so much hope. Disappointed again. In the past I have tried the mass produced Gyros kit from the grocery store and I wasn't happy with those either. Nothing is ever good enough as which I can get at a fast food restaurant.

So what is about Gyros that is so hard to create at home. Has anyone ever been able to make good gyros themselves?

Monday, January 22, 2007

Leftover Fish and Random Pantry Salsa

David over at Cooking Chat has challenged us with Leftover Tuesdays. The concept is simple: use your leftovers in a creative way to make a new meal.

The idea is sound and even seems like fun. My problem is that when I eat leftovers, I am use to just reheating the same meal. That is why I only like to eat leftovers one time and then the rest goes to the dogs. However when I was cooking this weekend, I looked at each meal and tried to come up with ways to change it up and make some creative leftovers.

I decided to work with the fish leftover from the Red Snapper Alicante I made on Saturday night. I wanted to use this because I had two large fillets left and, besides the fact that it was expensive and I didn't want to waste it on the dogs, re-heating fish for lunch in the microwave does not appeal to me. The fish was cooked simply with rings of onions and peppers so it was nicely flavored but there was no sauce.

Now I had to figure out what to do with the fish. At first I thought of making a taco but I thought that seemed kind of boring. I'm sure it would have tasted good but I didn't want to cover up the delicate taste of the red snapper with lots of filling. I racked my brain for flavors to compliment fish and I settled on doing something with fruit. I was thinking about some sort of mango salsa.

The only problem was that I didn't have any fresh mangoes. And this being a leftover challenge, I didn't want to make a special trip to the store to get some. So I turned to my pantry. I used a cup of Dole's Mixed Tropical fruit. I drained out the juice and placed the mango, pineapple and papaya fruit pieces in a bowl. Then, back to the pantry . . .

I received an order last week from Casa Oliver. I had ordered several items from Matiz, a company from Spain. I found them because the peppers are on the list of 100 foods I have to try in 2007 that Food & Wine magazine put together. I grabbed the peppers and Sweet Garlic.

I also grabbed some Banana Ketchup that I bought while in the Caribbean last year. It tastes so good but I have not found anything to eat it with. Since I was feeling creative I decided to toss that in with the fruit, garlic and peppers. I mixed it all together and poured it on top of the fish.

It turned out great! The peppers didn't really contribute that much because I probably didn't add enough, but every once in a while I'd get a vinegary crunch from them. The fruit and the banana ketchup both definately go well with the fish. I'm going to have to find some more creative uses for that banana ketchup.

I have to thank David for this challenge because I am usually a recipe follower. I rarely put random things together. But tonight I completely stepped out of my comfort zone and it was really fun. I'm going to have to do this more often.

Where's Anthony Bourdain? In Namibia.

"You'll never get the truly good meals in life
if you don't open yourself out to the bad ones."

I suppose it's pretty pathetic that I have only heard of this country because it is where Angelina Jolie decided to give birth to her child. Thankfully though Anthony Bourdain has decided to explore Namibia on camera to show the wonderful country to us all.

This episode of Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations begins on a boat in Walvis Bay with an oyster farmer. Back on land, they watched as the oysters were processed in the hatchery and Tony commented that they are some of the best oysters he has tried in the entire world. Tony then "rode the dunes" in the exact opposite type of environment - the desert. A snowboard on sand. Wow. It looks hot but thrilling. Tony did a pretty good job and made it all the way down without eating sand.

But the best part was when Tony had breakfast with the bushmen. They made him an ostrich-egg omelette in this neat pit in the ground. The egg is poured right onto the hot sand. Wood is placed to surround the outside and then additional wood is placed on top. The end result is a whole bunch of ash and dirt baked onto of the hardened egg. It looked horrible but it was seen as a special dish to the bushmen because it is not often that they get their hands on some ostrich eggs. I don't see it becoming popular over here in the United States any time soon.

Of course Tony had some of the nasty bits as well. He tried different parts of a warthog including the rectum and brains which he called the worst meal of his life. The bushmen also served him tree beatles which are only found in one certain type of bush. The tribe makes an event of their gathering. Tony had several of them and claimed that they were the single best thing he had eaten all day.

In the city, one of Tony's friend took him to the market. They had all this meat cooking up on a HUGE grill and it looked so tasty. With some other friends while out on a huntin, Tony tried some Namibian truffles. These are not the chocolate truffles, they are from the white truffles that grow wild in the desert. There were no communication problems at this market like he had in Ghana because the national language of Namibia is English.

It was interesting to see Namibia from Tony's perspective. It is a filled with cultures that I can only try to understand. The people are strong survivors and live in the purest sense by living off of the land.

Next Week: Tony visits Russia.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Stuffed Roasted Strawberries

Stuffed Roasted Strawberries
They taste better than they look! I first saw these Stuffed Roasted Strawberries on 30 Minute Meals. I had the Food Network on one day while I was doing things and I happened to catch Rachael Ray putting strawberries into the oven. I was intrigued by that. When I started to pay attention I noticed that the strawberries were being filled with chocolate! At that point I knew I wanted to try them to use as my entry for Sugar High Friday #27: Chocolate By Brand hosted by David Lebovitz. Strawberry season is just starting down here in Florida. This is a perfect way to eat more fresh strawberries!

As is typical for me, my strawberries ended up looking nothing like hers. Even though I cut off the bottoms so that they were level, over half of them tipped over while roasting. I filled my strawberries with some chopped Lindt Lindor Dark Chocolate Truffle pieces which I received as a Christmas gift. The result is like a warm inside-out dipped strawberry. It is a fun dessert because it is light and unusual. All my friends know that Lindt is my favorite chocolate so I received a whole bunch of yummy Lindt chocolate. Ah, the simple pleasures . . .

Stuffed Roasted Strawberries
Serves 4

12 extra-large strawberries (the bigger the better!)
1 to 2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 teaspoon sugar, optional
Spray whipping cream (the real kind in the can in the dairy section)
Cocoa powder, for garnishing


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Slice the tops of the berries off just below the stem. Cut the tips off (about 1/4-inch), so that the berries will sit upright. Next, use a small spoon or a melon ball scoop to hollow out the strawberries, working from their tops, in order to create a cavity in each one. Stuff some chocolate into the cavity of each strawberry and place them upright in a baking dish. Lightly sprinkle the berries with sugar, if using. Roast the berries until soft and the chocolate is melted, about 10 to 12 minutes.

To serve, place 3 strawberries on a dessert plate in a triangle. If the berries have given off liquid in the baking dish, spoon it over them. Spray a small mound of cream in the center of the berries, and top each berry with a rosette of cream. Sift a little cocoa powder over the plate, and serve!

Moroccan Stew: Chicken Tagine with Lemon and Olives

I decided to go Moroccan for the inaugural Waiter, There's Something in my . . . Stew hosted by Spittoon Extra. This is a fun new blogging event with a different foodie theme for each month. For my entry, I chose Chicken Tagine with Lemon and Olives from the January, 2007 issue of Cooking Light Magazine. A tagine, the food, is a rich Moroccan stew. Many tagines are vegetarian, but I also like ones with meat. The cooking method yields some wonder flavors making something really special out of vegetables.

A tajine (tah-zheen) is a Moroccan dish as well as a special pot for preparing this dish. The traditional tajine pot is formed entirely of a heavy clay which is sometimes painted or glazed. It consists of two parts; a bottom which is flat and circular with low sides, and a large cone or dome shaped cover that rests inside of the bottom during cooking. The cover is so designed to promote the return of all condensate to the bottom. With the cover removed, the bottom is open and shallow for easy serving at the table.

Tajine dishes are slow cooked at low temperatures, resulting in tender, falling-off-the-bone meat with aromatic vegetables and sauce. The cover has a knob-like formation at its top to facilitate removing it. While simmering, the cover can be lifted off without the aid of a mitten, enabling the cook to inspect the main ingredients, add vegetables, move things around, or add additional braising liquid, if needed.

While a ceramic tagine is on my wish-list, I currently don't own one. I made this dish in deep pan on the stove. I have only prepared a tagine one other time in my life and it came out so flavorful and tender that I immediately fell in love with them. The smells in the house are so amazing while it is cooking and it is perfect for a comforting Sunday evening meal. The taste with the Moroccan flavors is always so different from my average meals that I feel all proud because it tastes as good as anything you would eat at a restaurant.

And, it was perfect meal for tonight because THE CHICAGO BEARS ARE GOING TO THE SUPERBOWL!!!!!! They are my home team. I was in grade school the last time they went and watching the game tonight made me totally homesick . . . except for the fact that my house was all warm and yummy smelling like it used to be when I'd have friends over to watch the Bears games on Sunday afternoons in Chicago. It was always freezing cold and we'd all cuddle up on the couch and then we'd eat a good meal. Even though it's hot down here in Florida, watching it snow on TV and smelling a cold-weather stew made it perfect.

The recipe is good as it stands, but the only thing I suggest is to use olives from an "olive bar" that are found in a lot of supermarkets. The olives really make this dish and the ones out of the jar won't be as fresh. If you have to use jarred olives, make sure you buy large ones.

Chicken Tagine with Lemon and Olives
Serves 6 (serving size: 2 chicken thighs and 1/3 cup sauce)

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
12 skinless, boneless chicken thighs
1/4 cup all-purpose flour (about 1 ounce)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 cups chopped onion (about 2 medium)
1 teaspoon minced peeled fresh ginger
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
1/4 cup pitted green olives, halved (about 12)
2 teaspoons grated lemon rind
1 (3-inch) cinnamon stick
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

Combine juice and chicken in a large zip-top plastic bag. Seal and marinate in refrigerator 30 minutes. Remove chicken from bag; discard marinade.

Pat chicken dry with paper towels. Dredge in flour; sprinkle with salt, black pepper, turmeric, and red pepper. Heat olive oil in a large nonstick skillet with high sides over medium-high heat. Add half of chicken; cook for 3 minutes on each side or until lightly browned. Remove from pan. Repeat procedure with remaining chicken.

Add onion, ginger, and garlic to pan; sauté 5 minutes or until tender. Return chicken to pan. Add broth, olives, rind, and cinnamon stick; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 1 hour or until chicken is tender. Discard the cinnamon stick; stir in cilantro.

CALORIES 240(34% from fat); FAT 9.1g (sat 1.6g,mono 4.4g,poly 2g); PROTEIN 28.6g; CHOLESTEROL 115mg; CALCIUM 27mg; SODIUM 612mg; FIBER 0.8g; IRON 1.8mg; CARBOHYDRATE 9.9g

#4: Biolea Organic Olive Oil, Imported from Greece

Biolea Olive Oil Imported from Greece
Sometimes I question all the different types of olive oil out there. When a recipe calls for extra-virgin olive oil, what difference does it make where it comes from? I usually use a high quality Italian olive oil. But after doing a little bit of research online I find out that there is an entire foodie universe dedicated to olive oils.

For me, I only can really taste the difference when I am eating something simple that shows off the taste of the oil. When adding it to recipes, I have a hard time noticing any difference. I am not a big fan of dipping oils. After a visit to Napa Valley in California several years ago I got into some dried herbs that you add to the olive oils for dipping. They are really great. But that phase passed and now I usually only dip bread in oil when in an Italian restaurant and the oil is piled with freshly grated cheese.

My favorite food to eat with olive oil is tomatoes. I absolutely love sliced tomatoes with olive oil and salt. Sometimes I add balsamic vinegar. When I'm ambitious I add fresh basil and fresh mozzerella to make a Caprese Salad. Lately, I have been eating more of a greek salad with tomatoes, cucumbers, black olives and feta cheese.

I purchased Biolea Organic Olive Oil since it was the brand suggested as #4 Greek Olive Oil on Food & Wine's 100 Tastes to Try in 2007. It cost $30 and I ordered it from Kaliroi Imports. The Food & Wine taste-testers gave this organic olive oil high marks. Biolea olive oil is made with olives grown at the Astrikas Estate in Crete. Only their olives are used and it is not blended with olives from anywhere else which makes it stand apart from several other olive oils on the market.

Like Kristen at Dine and Dish, I tasted this Greek olive oil in a variety of ways. The very first was to dip my finger into the bottle as soon as I opened it. But as I mentioned above, I don't really get into plain olive oil. The smell is amazing though it it is quite different from the Italian and Spanish olive oils I had right next to it for comparison. Next, I dunked a few pieces of bread into each of the three oils and tasted it that way. The Spanish was the lightest, barely with an olive flavor. The Italian was the strongest as the olive flavor hit you right away. And the Greek olive oil was in the middle. At first it has a very light taste and the olive flavor comes through subtly, but you definately get the olive taste at the end. It seemed to have the most sophisticated taste of the three.

I had to taste it with some tomatoes to really get the full effect. I made Tula's Country-Style Greek Salad. I'm not sure what it was, but using the Greek olive oil instead of the Italian olive oil that I used last time really made this already awesome salad absolutely amazing. The olives, feta and Greek olive oil blended together perfectly. I also used the Biolea olive oil when making the Eggplant Ricotta Bake. In this dish the olive oil is used to brush on the eggplant slices before roasting. I tasted the roasted eggplant before I put the entire dish together and it was really nice. So I can see a high quality olive oil also being used when roasting vegetables. But when I took a bite of the finished lasagna, there were so many complex tastes I could not pick out the olive oil. So this confirms my theory about not using the super-expensive olive oil in recipes with a bunch of strong ingredients.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Tampa's Cuban Food: Red Snapper "Alicante"

Columbia Restaurant Red Snapper Alicante
Columbia Restaurant's signature dish.

Anna over at Anna's Cool Finds came up with a really neat idea: food bloggers from around the world should each blog about a terroir. Except while the term is normally applied to wine or coffee, we shall apply it to food. Read Anna's A Taste of Terroir post for a wonderful definition of the term and how it can be applied to food. Basically, we are encouraged to describe a food or recipe local to the part of the world in which we live. Her inspiration came from the foods from around the world which were listed on Food & Wine's 100 Tastes to Try in 2007.

I live in Tampa, Florida USA. I have lived her just under two years so some things are very new to me. Grouper is the most popular fish here because it is caught in the Gulf of Mexico. A grouper sandwich can be found on the menu at almost every restaurant. It is as common as hamburgers in the rest of the United States. We have "seasons" for lots of foods like crab and strawberries. And when people think of THE food from Tampa, it is a Cuban sandwich. That surprised me because I always thought of Cubans in Florida being in Miami. But Tampa has a rich and important Cuban history.

In 1886 Vicente Martinez Ybor established a cigar factory in Tampa. From the steps of Ybor's factory, José Marti, sometimes called the George Washington of Cuba, exhorted the cigar workers to take up arms against Spain in the late 1800's. Hispanic culture enlivens Ybor City, which covers about 2 square miles between Nebraska Avenue, 22nd Street, Columbus Drive and East Broadway.

I did not choose the Cuban sandwich to represent a terroir of Tampa. Without fresh Cuban bread and a sandwich press you can not recreate the authentic version. Instead I went with something deeper. It is a recipe for Red Snapper "Alicante" which is the signature dish of the famous Columbia Restaurant in Ybor City. Ybor City is the historic Cuban district in town. Cuban cigar makers brought their leaves from Cuba to this part of Florida and assembled their "Cuban cigars" for the United States in their cigar factories located in Ybor City. The factories are now long gone and the area reminds me of a toned down version of the French Quarter in New Orleans. There are lots of old buildings where many bars and restaurants have opened up. And Columbia Restaurant is the cornerstone of Ybor City.

One of the first things you will notice about Columbia Restaurant in Ybor City are the hand-painted Spanish tiles that decorate the outside of the building. Some are even laid in the sidewalk. Once you step inside you will immediately feel that you have entered a place that has captured a snapshot in time. There are several different connected dining rooms each expressing a slightly different feeling. In the middle of them all is a two-story atrium featuring a large Spanish fountain. Each night there are two Flamenco shows in the main dining room. There is also cigar bar in the cafe and a shop where you can buy several Spanish items and Columbia Restaurant souvenirs.

The day I signed the papers for my new home down here, I asked where we should to to celebrate. Everyone I talked to recommended Columbia Restaurant as the place to go for a special dinner. We got a great spot so that we could see the Flamenco dancers and enjoyed all the courses. The Ybor City location is the original Columbia Restaurant but they have opened other restaurants around the Tampa Bay area. I have also been to the Columbia Restaurant in St. Armand's Circle on Longboat Key off of Sarasota, Florida. That one has the same traditional design, but it has a much more casual feel because it is all open air and near the beach. The food is the same and you still can get all the yummy classic Spanish dishes.

The seafood at Columbia is amazing. And if you order the Caesar Salad they mix it all together for you table-side. They do the same with their amazing mojitos and sangria. Those are really nice touches. It is really fun to get your pitcher of drinks made right there. You can get tapas at Columbia as well but I usually find them very rich due to their heavy use of Spanish olive oil.

Tonight I made the Red Snapper "Alicante" for myself and two friends. The recipe was very simple to make. All you need to do is slice some onions and peppers and into the oven it goes. For some reason the cooking time included in the recipe did not get my fish cooked thoroughly. Maybe it was because the red snapper filets I had were thick, but I cooked it for an additional 15 minutes. Breaded fried eggplant is a garnish that I suggest you take the extra time to make. The crispy eggplant was a wonderful compliment to the snapper and was actually our favorite part.

Columbia Restaurant's Red Snapper "Alicante"
(Serves 4)

2 to 3 large Spanish onions, sliced into rings
2 pounds Red Snapper fillets
4 green peppers, sliced into rings
1/2 cup Spanish olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
3/4 cup brown beef stock gravy
1 cup white Spanish wine
1 to 2 cloves garlic, minced
Garnish recipe below (optional)

Place onion rings in bottom of a 13 x 9 x 2-inch casserole; place fish on top of onions. Place pepper rings on top of fish. In a bowl mix together remaining ingredients; pour over casserole. Bake at 350 degrees for approximately 25 minutes.

1/4 cup sliced toasted almonds
8 large shrimp, cooked and cleaned
9 pieces eggplant, breaded and fried
fresh parsley sprigs

Eggplant Ricotta Bake

fresh oregano
Oregano: widely used in Greek and Italian cuisines

I chose oregano as the featured herb for my Weekend Herb Blogging entry hosted this week by Scott of Real Epicurean. Fresh oregano, not dried. I cook with oregano all the time but I barely ever buy it fresh. That will be changing. The fresh oregano that I added to ricotta cheese to make an Eggplant Ricotta Bake really made the dish.

Last week Everyday Food on PBS featured this healthy recipe and I new I wanted to make it sometime this week. I have been trying to cook with eggplant in different ways. While watching this recipe being prepared, it seemed to me that it was like an eggplant lasagna. Eggplant was being used instead of any noodles. It is stacked between tomato sauce and ricotta cheese layers.

Everyday Food's Eggplant Ricotta Bake
Since it is made in an 8x8 dish, I made four portions of out it. I had it right out of the oven last night and really loved it. But it was even better when I had some leftovers for lunch! This is a great meal to make and take to work during the week. I think the flavors melded together a little bit more, plus the shape held together better after it cooled completely. This is a healthy meal that is filling without making you overly full.

Eggplant Ricotta Bake (serves 4)

2 large eggplanats (1 to 1 ¼ pounds each), sliced lengthwise ¾ inch thick
3 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for baking dish
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
1 container (15 ounces) part-skim ricotta cheese
(1 2/3 cups)
3 large eggs
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano (or 2 teaspoons dried)
1 jar (16 ounces) store-bought marinara sauce (2 cups)

Preheat oven to 450°. Arrange eggplant slices in a single layer on two rimmed baking sheets. Brush lightly on both sides with oil; season with salt and pepper. Roast until eggplant is tender and golden, turning halfway through, 25 to 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk together ricotta, eggs, ½ cup Parmesan, oregano, 1 ½ teaspoons salt, and ¼ teaspoons pepper. Brush an 8-inch square baking dish with oil.

Lay a fourth of eggplant slices in bottom of prepared dish; spread with half of marinara sauce. Top with another fourth of eggplant; spread with half of ricotta mixture. Repeat layers, ending with ricotta; sprinkle with remaining ½ cup Parmesan. Bake until bubbling and golden, 20 to 25 minutes. Cool 10 minutes before serving.

Two Samples of Decorative Cutting

Friday, January 19, 2007

#20: Chocolate in Tea. . . Why Not?

Pictured are Mocha Pu-erh Truffle, Mayan Chocolate Truffle and Masala Chocolate Truffle loose teas.

I was curious when I saw Truffle Teas listed as #20 on Food & Wine's 100 Tastes to Try in 2007. It is described as "A healthy new way to kill a chocolate craving." I have never really tasted truffles (the fungi) but I figured they must be good since they are an expensive food item. I assumed that since these teas were "truffle" teas, that they would be made with truffle shavings. The chocolate must be similar to what a truffle tastes like. But I got it all wrong.

The "truffle" teas are named so because they are made with flavor combinations similar to chocolate truffle candies. And I LOVE candy truffles. I recently tasted truffle flavored ice cream made by Vosges Haut-Chocolat. And now I get to enjoy truffle flavors in my tea. Mocha Pu-Erh Truffle by Mighty Leaf is one of the most popular truffle teas.

As for the flavor of these teas, I love the two that I have tried so far. Mocha Pu-Erh Truffle reminds me of a tea that would be served at a spa. Just smelling it makes me think of being wrapped up in one of those fluffy spa robes while sitting in the quite lounge before going in for a facial or fabulous spa treatment. The decaffeinated Mayan Chocolate Truffle looks and smells more like potpourri than any tea I have seen before and seems more fruity than chocolaty. The Mighty Leaf website gives excellent descriptions of their products:

Chocolate Chip Truffle: Deep dark chocolate chunks mingle with rich black tea leaves in this decadent infusion.

Chocolate Orange Truffle: Combines Madagascar vanilla, chocolate cacao nibs and orange peels blend with Ceylon and China black tea leaves to impart a full, deep chocolate citrus tea.

Mocha Pu-Erh Truffle: Combines handcrafted small golden leaf buds to make this a rare and full-bodied tea from the Yunnan Province. It is one of the most difficult of the Pu-erh teas to produce. In the cup the tea is a deep amber color with a rich, smooth and savory flavor with a hint of cocoa, accented by additional cacao nibs and then balanced by the clean, sharp notes of citrus.

Chocolate Mint Truffle: An intoxicating blend of chocolate cacao nibs, mint and rooibos leaves.

Masala Chocolate Truffle: Creamy chocolate notes are accompanied by zesty cinnamon, cardamom, and cloves in this chai-like herbal infusion.

Mayan Chocolate Truffle: Chocolate chips mingle with chunks of chili and red pepper, and bits of apple and strawberry in this hearty stimulating herbal infusion with a sweet finish.

I purchased the Au Chocolat sampler for $36.95 which contains six mini tins of Mighty Leaf's Truffle Teas: Chocolate Chip Truffle, Chocolate Orange Truffle, Mocha Pu-Erh Truffle, Chocolate Mint Truffle, Masala Chocolate Truffle, and Mayan Chocolate Truffle. Three of these are decaffeinated teas.

Mighty Leaf Truffle Teas
The sampler not only contains the teas, but also a tea strainer and several chocolate candies. I have had a hard time actually making the tea since I am use to tea bags. My first cup was too weak and my second cup was too strong. I am obviously having a problem finding the proper amount of dry leaves to use for brewing a single cup. But this weekend I plan to brew a pot of tea the old fashioned way.

So what about you guys? Have you ever had a "unique" tea? Before these chocolate teas I usually drank a variety of Asian, African or fruit teas.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Sauteed Tangerine Shrimp

Foster's Market Sauteed Tangerine Shrimp
Who ever heard of shrimp marinated in tangerines? Not me. And who would devise such a combination? Chef Sara Foster, that's who. I'm not saying she's the one who created the flavor combination, but she is the one who introduced me to it. Yes, SHE introduced me. How did I meet Chef Sara Foster? On the internet of course. On YouTube!

Sara Foster owns Fosters Market and has written several cookbooks. She worked with Martha Stewart as a chef at her catering catering company and also assisted Martha in several of her cookbooks. Sara launched a Fosters Market YouTube Channel about three weeks ago. Most of her recipes look really good.

Lately I have been interested in the concept of the "online cooking shows" I have been seeing. Who create cooking videos and puts them online? Are their recipes any good? I wanted to try one of them to see what it is like. I think YouTube is just as valid of a media channel as a TV station or a published book or magazine. I was intrigued by Sara Foster's Sauteed Tangerine Shrimp recipe so I decided to give it a try. I made it tonight and it turned out really great. I love the flavor combination. Sara describes this as a winter version of sauteed shrimp (expect sauteed shrimp for all seasons in the future). It is kind of fun to get a recipe from a video online. It's like watching the food network in 6 minutes and without commercials. The only down side is that there is no recipe to print out so you have to have your grocery list nearby when watching the video.

This meal is very easy to prepare and it uses fresh and simple ingredients. I have listed the ingredient list below, but you have to watch the video to get the instructions. In addition to the Tangerine Shrimp, she makes Coconut Rice.

6 Tangerines or Clementines
1 Garlic Clove
1-inch of fresh Ginger Root
1 lb. medium shrimp
Sea Salt
Black Pepper
Olive Oil

In addition to finding a new tasty recipe, I got some good tips from this video. Sara demonstrated a marinader that looks like a neat little helper in the kitchen. The most useful tip for me was how she peeled the ginger root. I hate working with ginger root. It is oddly shaped and hard to work with. But Sara explains that the easiest way to peel the ginger root is to use a spoon. I had major doubts when I was watching the video, but I tried it and I kid you not, it works!

As for the food, it is really, really tasty. I had a few pieces of shrimp right after they were sauteed and they tasted awesome even without the sauce. Itg would be great to throw on a salad. The tangerine flavor adds a freshness that is just perfect.

I did have a few problems with the recipe, but they were minor. I used tangerine instead of clementines as Sara does in the video. I think that because tangerines are larger in size, I had much more juice. It took me about 5-10 minutes to reduce the marinade. But it did reduce and all was well. Also, Sara suggests leaving the tails on the shrimp because her husband likes to eat the shrimp with his hands. I do too so I left them on but I think that is a mistake when serving with rice. I prefer to scoop up a piece of shrimp, some tangerine and some shrimp all in one forkful. But having the tail on there makes this cumbersome and I had to go through and pick off all the tails and then go back to eating.

For a special treat, I stopped at my local wine shop on the way home. I told my wine guy Sean what I was making for dinner and he pulled out two different Sauvignon Blancs that he told me go well with citrus. I selected the 2003 Mission Hill S.L.C Sauvignon Blanc / Semillon because Sean told me that it has a bit more of a nutty flavor. It was PERFECT. I'm not sure if I would like this wine on its own or not, but there is definitely something said for matching the wine up with the food you are eating to really enhance the culinary experience.

So what about you guys? Have any of you checked out any "cooking shows" at YouTube? Have you found any neat food related videos?

The Smart Egg

I can't decided if this is neat or strange. According to the UK's Times Online, the self-timing egg will become available in Britain this autumn. There are marks made with heat-sensitive invisible ink stamped on the egg shell. The stamps turn black as the egg heats, letting you know that your egg is soft, medium or hard-boiled.

A spokeswoman for Lion Quality Eggs, the service’s quality assurance scheme, said: “We had a lot of inquiries. We said OK, this is a big issue — people can’t even boil an egg.”

I will admit it. I am one of those people who doesn't know how to boil an egg. I use eggs mostly for baking. I can hard boil them if I must, but I only do that at Easter if I'm feeling nostalgic and I look up instructions online each time. My grand-mother used to make me soft boiled eggs when I was little, and I did like them, but I never make them now. I usually make my eggs sunny-side up (which I have perfected by the way). No recipes every call for soft-boiled eggs so why should I know how to cook them? I don't know how to microwave a hot dog either because cook them in boiling water on the rare occasion that I want to make one. So this novel idea of an egg (or a hot dog) that will tell me when it is done seems kind of fun to me.

What do you guys think? If something like this becomes available in the US (or wherever you live) will you buy them? I can see myself buying them once just so I can check it out. I supposed I will have to soft boil an egg then. . .

Food Network Awards

The Food Network. Love it or hate it, every foodie turns it on every now and then. This evening I was looking for a recipe on FoodNetwork.com when I saw an ad for the Food Network Awards which will be an event held at the annual South Beach Food & Wine Festival (which this year has partnered with the Food Network for the first time) in February, 2007. The award show will be televised on the Food Network sometime in April, 2007.

The first-ever Food Network Awards combines the fun of Food Network with the glamour of South Beach to make a completely unique, entertaining, off-beat awards ceremony unlike any other. From a red carpet hosted by Ham on the Street's George Duran and walked by the likes of Snap, Crackle and Pop, to appearances by your favorite Food Network stars, this is a fresh, new awards show. The best part? We're asking our viewers to get in on the fun. Cast your votes now in our five viewer's choice categories and don't forget to watch the Food Network Awards, coming in April, 2007.

I am intrigued by this because I love award shows. AND, I love food. AND, we get to vote! When I saw the bright red "Vote Now" on their homepage, my mind sped forward and I put my judging cap on. This is important since I will be voting for the likes of Paula Dean and Emeril. And I suppose I will have to make my decision one way or another about Rachael Ray. I excitedly clicked my way over to the voting page . . .

Viewer's Choice Award Categories are:

* Favorite Comfort Food Combo
* Best Ballpark Eats
* "Professional Grade" Food Applicance You Can't Live Without
* Favorite Childhood Classic Read
* Favorite Cool & Classic Cocktail

You can't necessarily tell it from the category headings, but there is no voting for ANY Food Network show. The "nominees" are various foods, drinks, books, appliances and baseball stadiums. I felt fleeced for a moment but I voted anyways. I am slightly suspicious of advertising being incorporated into everything. But, the awards show could be interesting to watch - if they do it right. But Snap, Crackle and Pop being on the red carpet smells like overkill of advertising to me. There is also a sweepstakes you can enter to win a trip to the awards show.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

#97: A Spoonful of Honey

Zambezi Organic Honey
"The only reason for being a bee is to make honey.
And the only reason for making honey is so I can eat it.

Winnie the Pooh

Did anyone know that the bees from Africa make honey? When I think of African Bees I think of Killer Bees. One too many late night movies I suppose. Well, I'm glad they do because Zambezi Organic Forest Honey is really something special.

Hidden in a lush forest at the source of the mighty Zambezi River lives a special honeybee that feeds only on flowering trees. Gathered using sustainable methods, our traditional beekeepers help to preserve the forest as well as the bees.

I do not know much about honey and I am certainly no honey connoisseur. I purchase a bottle of honey from the local grocery store from time to time, mostly when it is called for in a recipe. When I have it in the house I sometimes add it to tea. The only reason I bought this special honey is because it is part of my project to taste each item on Food & Wine's 100 Tastes to Try for this year. #97 on the list is African Honey. Zambezie Honey was the recommended honey from Food & Wine.

I used this honey when I made Corn Bread with Scallions. However the honey flavor was not very noticeable in that recipe. So to really try it, I had to be like Winnie the Pooh and just stick my paw in a take a taste. It is so good! Ever since I have been having a finger full each night, straight out of the jar.

Honey has become all the rage lately. It is coming is all sorts of flavors and from all parts of the world. In fact, I just ordered some Lavender Honey from Spain at Tienda.com earlier today. Zambezie honey is made in Africa. I purchased this 16-ounce jar online from Zambezie's website for $9.95.

Zambezie Organic Forest Honey honey has so many things going for it. It's organic so it comes from pure sources. The bees live wild in the forests near the Zambezi River of Africa. Since the bees are in their natural habitat, they do not feed on anything except their natural diet of wild flowers. Their website describes the taste: "You first discern a pleasant woodsy aroma, with hints of toasted caramel. The taste is slightly spicy, with subtle tangs of red currant. The warm amber hue is reminiscent of sunrise over the African forest." Doesn't that just sound delicious? I'm not the only one who thinks so . . . Kate from Kate in the Kitchen also gave it a positive review.

Have any of you tried or heard of any other interesting honey's lately? Also, does anyone have any creative uses for honey?

Monday, January 15, 2007

#9: Corn Bread, Some Good Grub

Corn Bread with Scallions
This Corn Bread with Scallions recipe is probably one of the easiest recipes every published in Food & Wine Magazine. It was featured as an example of #9 Updated Chuckwagon Recipes on Food & Wine's 100 Tastes to Try. This recipe was created by Paula Disbrowe and will be published in her Cowgirl Cuisine cookbook due out in March, 2007.

The ingredients are simple so the only special thing I needed to get for this recipe was the green onions. I did not have any corn oil so I bought a small bottle of organic corn oil as well. The only problem was that I do not own a cast-iron skillet. Instead of trying to improvise, I decided to call in the help of a friend.

My friend Julie invited me over and we made this recipe together. It is a perfect thing to make as a team not because it is complicated, but because it is so easy we didn't mess anything up with our gabbing. Julie picked up a roast chicken from the grocery store and she also made sweet potatoes which her husband mashed for us. It was a perfect meal. Before we ate we finished up the bottle of 2003 Tandem Porter-Bass Vineyards Chardonnay which I had brought over.

I am kind of picky when it comes to cornbread. I like it sweet and can't stand it when it turns out bland. There is only a little bit of honey in this recipe so I was a bit concerned. It did not turn out to be sweet corn bread, but it did turn out to be good corn bread. I was surprised how well the green onions added amazing flavor. They were not over powering but they contributed a homey quality and we all liked it. I had some the next day for breakfast and it did not dry out.

Corn Bread with Scallions
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup coarse, stone-ground yellow cornmeal
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
Pinch of freshly ground pepper
1 1/4 cups low-fat milk
2 tablespoons honey
2 large eggs, beaten
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon corn oil
8 scallions, white and tender green parts only, thinly sliced
Preheat the oven to 400°. Place a 10-inch cast-iron skillet in the oven to heat. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, salt and pepper. In a small bowl, whisk the milk, honey, eggs and 1/3 cup of the oil. Add the wet ingredients to the cornmeal mixture and whisk just until combined. Stir in the scallions.

Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil to the hot skillet and swirl to coat. Pour the batter into the skillet and bake for about 30 minutes, until the top is golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool slightly, then turn the corn bread out onto a plate. Invert it onto a rack to cool. Alternatively, serve the corn bread hot from the skillet.

note* with nine servings (a big slice), each piece of corn bread is 6 Weight Watchers points.

Tag: 6 Weird Foodie Things

I've been tagged by Paula at mango&lime with a meme to list 6 weird things about me. Since this is my foodie blog, I kept my list food related.

1. I don't mind cold coffee. In a previous life I used to work long, long, long hours and got used to the pot being cold late at night when I went into the lunchroom.

2. I let my bird eat with me. He usually hangs out on my shoulder and then reaches down to grab a bite of food. His favorite thing is to stand on the edge of the salad bowl and pick out the pine nuts I put in there.

3. I rarely create my own food ideas. I am a complete recipe addict and I usually follow them to the letter. There are just too many things that I want to try and I never developed the natural talent to combine my own ingredients into something recreatable.

4. I judge sushi restaurants based on thier spicy tuna rolls. I figure if those are good, than everything will be good.

5. Almost every night I make myself a cup of tea which I always forget about it. I usually get sucked into TV or my computer. I don't see it until I go turn off the light in the kitchen right before bed and by that time it's cold.

6. I often make complicated lamb recipes because they sound so good and I forget that I don't really like lamb.

Now I get to tag some people!

1. Sandi at Whistlestop Cafe

2. Claire at Cooking is Medicine

3. Kristen at Dine & Dish

4. Becky at Key Lime & Coconut

5. Kate at Kate in the Kitchen

6. Sarina at TriniGourmet