Sunday, January 20, 2008

#35: Paromi Teas

Ah, a good cup of tea . . . is there anything better? I was happy when I saw that Exquisite Tea Blends was listed at #35 on Food & Wine's 100 tastes to try in 2008. That meant I got to try some new tea!

Paromi Tea was listed as an example of the Exquisite Tea Blends - specifically the Coconut-Almond version. I ordered that along with the traditional Earl Grey version. The tea come is these gorgeous little silk tea bags and is filled with flowers and dried fruits and herbs. They are really great and I'll definitely be bringing these to work!

Friday, January 18, 2008

Fresh Picks for Winter

I received my first Fresh Picks Box today. I signed up at Irv & Shelly's Fresh Picks which is similar to a CSA. They work with several farms in the area (Illinois, Wisconsin, Indiana and Michigan) and you can always order fresh, organic, local vegetables, meat and cheese. I have a bi-weekly standing order for one of their Fresh Pick Boxes so twice a month I will get a surprise delivery of veggies.

I'm pretty excited. My first box contained Yukon Gold potatoes, rosemary, green cabbage, dried cranberries, red beets, yellow onions, plus kale, some type of lettuce and a jar of "Roasted Pasta Sauce" from the Tomato Mountain Farm in Brooklyn WI. I have only tried the dried cranberries so far and they are the most flavorful dried fruit I have ever tasted.

Meeta at What's For Lunch Honey has started a neat blogging event called Eat Fresh - Wonderful Winter. She has asked bloggers from around the world to take pictures of their Winter veggies so that we can see what is in season in various parts of the world. It should be very interesting!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

#50: Brookfarm's Australian Macadamias

Everyone knows nuts are supposed to be good for them. They are a "good fat". I happen to love nuts. I got in the habit of having for a snack during diet times. Usually I turn to almonds. I was intrigued that this year Food and Wine list International Nuts for three of their 100 tastes to try in 2008. Listed at #50 are Australian Macadamias and Brookfarm's roasted nuts are highlighted as the example.

I ordered a 3-pack of the Oven Roasted with Kashmiri Chilli Macadamia Nuts from and they are awesome! They come vacuum sealed so they are super-fresh when you open the package. We ate the entire first package in one seating. High quality sea-salt with the fresh macadamia nuts is a great combo, but what really makes these stand out is the chilli flavoring that is added. There is a mild heat that gets stronger the more you eat. These are really great. I think I'm going to order the other versions - one just has sea salt and the other is has bush pepper spice added as seasoning.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Slow-Cooker Sausage and Vegetable Risotto

I was really intrigued by this recipe for Slow-Cooker Sausage and Vegetable Risotto I found in the November, 2007 issue of Food and Wine Magazine. I absolutely love risotto, but I HATE standing over the hot stove stirring the rice. All the steam comes up in my face and I end up a big sweat box. So the thought of doing some prep work and then letting it all cook by itself in the slow-cooker was very novel to me. I was doubtful though . . . would the slow cooker turn out good risotto? Would it be moist enough? Would the rice end up tough?

The risotto turned out perfect! I was so excited that it turned out so well. It was rich and creamy just how risotto is supposed to be. I hope I can learn how to adapt other risotto recipes to be made in my slow cooker!

Slow-Cooker Sausage and Vegetable Risotto
6 servings

4 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth

3/4 pound sweet Italian sausages, casings removed

3 tablespoons water

5 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 small onion, cut into 1/4-inch dice

2 cups arborio rice (14 ounces)

1 medium zucchini, cut into 1/2-inch dice

1 tablespoon kosher salt

5 cups baby spinach (5 ounces)

3/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus more for serving

Freshly ground pepper

Turn a 6- to 7-quart slow cooker to high. In a saucepan, bring the broth to a simmer. In a skillet, cook the sausage with the water over moderately high heat, breaking it up with a spoon until the water has evaporated and the sausage is browned, 10 minutes. Transfer the sausage to the slow cooker.

In the same skillet, melt 3 tablespoons of the butter. Add the onion and cook over moderate heat until the wine is reduced by half, 2 minutes. Stir in the rice and cook until all of the wine has been absorbed. Scrape the rice into the slow cooker. Add the hot broth, zucchini and salt and cover. Cook for 1 hour, stirring once halfway through. The risotto is done when the rice is al dente and most of the liquid has been absorbed. Turn off the slow cooker.

Stir the spinach into the risotto until just wilted. Stir in the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and the grated cheese, season with pepper and serve immediately, passing additional cheese at the table.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Buckwheat and Broccoli Salad in Tangy Miso Dressing

I had NO IDEAS what buckwheat groats were. I know buckwheat is a good grain for you though and the picture for this recipe in The New Whole Grains Cookbook looked so tasty. So I thought I'd give it a try.

buckwheat groats = unroasted buckwheat groats = raw buckwheat groats = whole white buckwheat groats.

Notes: These are buckwheat kernels that are stripped of their inedible outer coating and then crushed into smaller pieces. Unprocessed white groats are slightly bitter, so before you cook them it's a good idea to toast them in oil for several minutes until they're rust-colored. This removes the bitterness and brings out a pleasant, nutty flavor. If you don't want to do this yourself, you can buy already roasted groats, called kasha.

Substitutes: kasha (similar texture, nuttier flavor) OR millet OR amaranth OR quinoa

I made this recipe over a few days. One day I prepared the buckwheat. A different day I prepared the veggies. On a third day I finally put everything together and ate it. It lasted for three or four days more in the fridge. The salad was okay. Somehow I added too many onions and by letting it sit the taste just permeating through the entire salad. Overall, I want to say it was almost "clean" tasting. I felt fresh and healthy eating it. I forgot the cashews though and I think it would have added a nice additional crunch.

Buckwheat and Broccoli Salad in Tangy Miso Dressing
Serves 5

1 cup buckwheat groats
1 1/2 cups water
2 tablespoons red miso
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 tablespoon dark sesame oil
1 tablespoon grated ginger
1 clove garlic, minced or crushed
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon honey
2 cups broccoli florets, blanched
1/2 cup julienned carrot
2 scallions, minced
1/2 cup cashews, toasted

In a small, heavy saucepan, heat the buckwheat groats over medium-high heat. Swirl the groats in the pan, toasting them until they are crackling, hot to the touch, and fragrant, about 5 minutes. In a wire-mesh strainer, wash the hot buckwheat quickly and drain thoroughly. Put the 1 1/2 cups water in the pan and bring to a boil. Add the buckwheat, return to a boil, cover tightly, and reduce the heat to the lowest setting. Cook for about 20 minutes, until all the liquid is absorbed. Take the pan off the heat and let stand for 5 minutes, then transfer the cooked grain to a bowl, cover, and let cool to room temperature.

In a large measuring cup, whisk the miso, canola oil, and vinegar until smooth. Whisk in the sesame oil, ginger, garlic, pepper flakes, and honey. Pour the dressing over the cooled buckwheat and toss to coat.

To serve, spread the buckwheat on a platter, and top with the broccoli, carrot, and scallions. Sprinkle the cashews over the salad and serve. Alternatively, mix the veggies in the grain and chill.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Baby Arugula, Orange and Fennel Salad with Grilled Shrimp and White Balsamic Vinaigrette

I'm not a big fennel person, but this recipe for Baby Arugula, Orange & Fennel Salad with Grilled Shrimp and White Balsamic Vinaigrette sounded so good I overlooked the heavy use of fennel ingredients. I'm glad I did too because all of the orange flavors really balanced the fennel out and the fennel tasted amazing! And there are so many different uses of fennel in this recipe I decided to use it as my entry for Weekend Herb Blogging. The main fennel bulb is sliced up and used in a salad. I thought it was interesting that the recipe advised chilling the fennel in a bowl of ice water to crisp it up before adding it to the salad. Fennel fronds (I had to look up online) are the grassy parts at the top of the fennel stalk and they are used in the marinade and the vinaigrette. Toasting the fennel seeds in a pan on the stove smelled really great too. I didn't really grind them up before I added them to the vinaigrette. I just pounded them a bit with a wooden meat mallet. But I think it released some of the flavors and it added a bit of a crunch to the salad.

Overall, this recipe was amazing. I like dinners where I prepare on part the night before and then marinade overnight as I did with the shrimp. There is quite a bit of chopping both for the marinade and the vinaigrette so if I were to make this again I'd make the marinade and the vinaigrette at the same time. The vinaigrette can be stored for up to two weeks. So if I did all that prep work the night ahead all I would have to do is grill the shrimp and chop the veggies for the salad. I didn't grill the shrimp on a grill, I used a grill pan on the stove and cooked it in batches.

I have to admit that I only made half of the veggies for the salad but I made all the shrimp. So I had salad for 3-4 servings and shrimp for 6-8 servings. There were only two of us and we ate almost all of the shrimp because it was so good!

Baby Arugula, Orange & Fennel Salad with Grilled Shrimp and White Balsamic Vinaigrette
Makes 6 to 8 servings

1 tablespoon undiluted orange juice concentrate

Pinch of red pepper flakes

2 tablespoons minced orange zest

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

2 tablespoons minced shallots

1/2 cup olive oil

2 tablespoons minced fennel fronds

1 tablespoon fennel seed, toasted and crushed

2 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

2 pounds large raw shrimp (32 to 40)

1 large or 2 small fennel bulbs, trimmed

6 oranges or tangerines

6 cups baby arugula

2 heads baby frisee, torn, rinsed, and spun dry

White Balsamic Vinaigrette (see below)

To marinate the shrimp, whisk all the ingredients, except the shrimp, in a large bowl. Peel, devein, and remove tails, then add the shrimp to marinade and toss to coat. Refrigerate and marinate for at least 1 hour to overnight.

To prepare the salad, finely shave the fennel bulbs with a sharp knife or a mandoline and crisp in ice water for 10 minutes. Spin dry before using. Cut the peel off the oranges, trim away all the white pith, then cut the fruit into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Flick out any seeds. (If prepared ahead, refrigerate the fennel and orange slices separately, for up to 2 hours.)

Prepare a hot fire in a charcoal grill, or preheat a gas grill to high. Grill the shrimp until just pink and done, about 1 to 2 minutes per side.

Meanwhile, toss the arugula, frisee, fennel, and oranges with enough of the vinaigrette to coat nicely - taste for flavor, adding more dressing if needed.

Server the salad on a large platter or divide among individual plates, arrange the shrimp on top, and drizzle with a little extra dressing if desired.

White Balsamic Vinaigrette
Makes 2 cups

1/2 cup while balsamic vinegar

2 tablespoon minced shallots

1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

1/4 cup undiluted orange juice concentrate

Pinch of red pepper flakes, or 1 tablespoon harissa paste

2 teaspoons kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon fennel seed, toasted and ground

1 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon chopped fennel fronds

In a large bowl, whisk the vinegar, shallots, mustard, and juice concentrate. Whisk in the pepper flakes, salt, pepper to taste, and fennel seed. Slowly drizzle in the oil, whisking constantly to emulsify. Stir in the fennel fronds. If made ahead, refrigerate until shortly before needed, then re-whisk before using. The vinaigrette keeps, refrigerated, for up to 2 weeks.

Checkout the Weekend Herb Blogging roundup hosted by Vani from Batasari sometime next week.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Hot and Sweet Grilled Tilapia

I had a taste for tilapia tonight and lucky for me my local Whole Foods had some really fresh fish available for me. I saw this recipe for Hot and Sweet Grilled Tilapia in Padma's book Tangy Tart Hot and Sweet, when I was making veal the other day. It seemed so simple though I went searching for different recipes in my other cookbooks. I couldn't believe how few recipes there are for tilapia - I only found one other version I'd consider but I decided to stick to Padma's and give her cookbook another try.

This recipe calls for grilling but I did not want to deal with the outdoor grill so I just broiled the fish 3 minutes each side. I can't believe how good this tasted! So light and fresh. The sauce wasn't over-powering gave the fish a "lip-smacking" taste. We couldn't get enough of it. It's very healthy too (especially if you substitute the sugar in the sauce) so I recommend anyone on a diet to give this a try.

Hot and Sweet Grilled Tilapia
Serves 4

4 6-ounce tilapia fillets
olive oil
freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbsp. fresh-squeezed lime juice
2 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. minced fresh ginger
1 tsp. minces fresh green chili (optional)

Take the fillets out of the fridge 1/2 hour prior to grilling. Brush them on both sides with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Brush the grill with olive oil as well, and heat until very hot. The grill should be 2 inches from the heat source.

Combine the lime juice, sugar, ginger, and a pinch of salt, and chili (optional) in a bowl.

Place the fish on the grill and cook for 2 to 3 minutes on each side or just until the fish begins to flake. Place the fillets on a plate, and pour the lime and sugar mixture over them. Serve immediately.

Dramatically Seared Green Beans wtih Garlic and Chiles

I found some good recipes in the January/February 2008 issue of Vegetarian Times. This green bean recipe seemed very easy and I was looking for a side dish to go with my Hot and Sweet Tilapia so I decided to make it. It went together very quickly - the hardest part was trimming the green beans. I was a bit concerned about all of the oil, but the beans didn't soak it all up and there was a bunch left it the bottom of my wok. Watch the red pepper though, I only added 1/4 tsp. and it was still pretty spicy.

Dramatically Seared Green Beans with Garlic and Chiles
Serves 4

2 Tbsp. canola or peanut oil
1 lb. green beans, trimmed
3 cloves garlic, minced (1 Tbs.)
1/4 tsp. to 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes, optional

Heat large, deep skillet or wok 2 minutes over medium heat. Add oil, and swirl to coat pan. Increase heat to high, wait 30 seconds, then add green beans and a big pinch of salt. Cook 3 minutes shaking the pan or using tongs to turn and move beans so they cook quickly and evenly. Stir in garlic and red pepper flakes, if desired, and cook 1 minute more, stirring constantly, or until beans are crisp-tender.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Food & Wine's 100 Tastes to Try in 2008

I had so much fun trying to taste everything on Food & Wine's 100 Tastes to Try in 2007, I'm going to give it another go this year! Apparently it is an annual thing for them and they published Food & Wine's 100 Tastes to Try in 2008 in the January, 2008 issue of the magazine. Food and Wine Magazine puts items on their list from three main groupings: Travel, Food and Drinks.

Obviously anything under the Travel category is really hard to accomplish. Sometimes You have to travel to the destination and go to an event or order something specific to eat. But I try to work my way around it by finding things locally. For example, #5 is Movie and Museum Meals. The Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago has a restaurant by Wolfgang Puck which is supposed to be really good. So even though that museum isn't listed, if I go to the one in Chicago I'll count it. Sometimes I'll find things online too.There are several chefs listed, like #7 Shanghai's New Star Chef. I'll search for some recipes or a cookbook published by him and maybe make something myself. So even though I don't get to go to his restaurant, my plan is to still sample his style.

Last year I accomplished about half of the list. I had a ton of fun doing it too. It was something I could go back to throughout the year. My vacations were on and off and if I happened to be one of the places on the list I made sure to check one thing off the list. Like when I was in Vancouver I was always ordering wine from the Okanagan Valley and it was great! So who knows where the year will take me - but I'm excited to give it another go. Hopefully I'll get closer to 100 this year . . .

1 - The Gulf Beyond Dubai
2 - Fabulous Trips for the Food-and-Wine Obsessed
3 - Olympic Buzz in Beijing
4 - Tokyo's Latest Dessert Craze
5 - Movie and Museum Meals
6 - New Zealand Wine News
7 - Shanghai's New Star Chef
8 - The Greenbrier Goes Modern
9 - Frankfurt Classics
10 - Carrots with Fried Shallot Gremolata (Restaurant: San Francisco)
11 - Kansas' New Food Scene
12 - Pebble Beach Food & Wine (March 27-30)
13 - Juicy Texas Burgers (Trend: Burgers)
Food Trucks (14-16)
14 - Food Shark; Marfa, TX
15 - Skillet; Seattle
16 - The Treats Truck; NYC
17 - Chickpea Tagine (Restaurant: Sydney)
Star Chef News (18-22)
18 - David Chang, New York City
19 - Jose Andres, Washington DC, and Los Angeles
20 - Eric Ripert, Philadelphia
21 - Elizabeth Falkner, San Francisco
22 - Jose Garces, Chicago
23 - Chinese Noodles with Cockles and Pork (Trend: Noodle Restaurants)
24 - Slow Food, American Style
25 - Costa Rica Goes Luxe
26 - Civilized Amazon Cruise
27 - Alain Ducasse Two Ways
28 - Belgian Bistro Boom
29 - Napa's Best Market

30 - Fudgy Chocolate-Walnut Cookies (Cookbooks: Dessert)
31 - Great Ingredients from Family Farms
32 - Old-Fashioned Candy Makes a Comeback
33 - Prodigy Foods
34 - Faux Gras
35 - Exquisite Tea Blends
36 - Mackerel Makeover
37 - Cauliflower Curry (Cookbooks: 660 Curries)
38 - Locavore Bible
39 - Posh Poutine
40 - Smoky-Hot Ginger Stir-Fry (Cookbooks: Chinese)
41 - Microgreens at Home
42 - Creole Shrimp with Garlic and Lemon (Ingredient: Wild Shrimp)
43 - Healthy Bison Recipes
Sustainable Seafood: Best Bets (44-49)
44 - Atlantic Mackerel
45 - Dungeness Crabs
46 - Farmed Mussels and Clams
47 - Farmed Striped Bass
48 - Wild Alaskan Salmon
49 - Wild Pacific Halibut
International Nuts (50-52)
50 - Australian Macadamias
51 - Indonesian Cashews
52 - Sicilian Almonds
53 - D.I.Y. Tea
New Must-Try Chocolates (54-56)
54 - Square Turtles
55 - Salty Chocolate Bars
56 - Candy with Pop
57 - Spicy Roast Chicken (Ingredient: Pastured Chicken)
Frozen Food (58 - 60)
58 - Chocolate Souffles
59 - Dinner Dishes
60 - Silky Soups
61 - Praising Poularde
62 - The Ubiquitous Pistachio
63 - Beyond Gelato
64 - Grown-Up Jam
The Best New Juice and Waters (65-67)
65 - Frutzzo
66 - Fyxx
67 - Twist
68 - Maple-Glazed Beans
69 - Quick-Smoked Fish
70 - The Potato's Big Promise
71 - Yukon River Salmon
72 - Muesli: The Next Granola
73 - New Exotic Herbs
74 - Sweetbreads's Moment

75 - Mother's Ruin Punch (Cocktails: Reviving Classics)
76 - Torrontes is the New Malbec
Oregon's Great Chardonnays (77 - 79)
77 - 2005 Argyle Nuthouse Chardonnay
78 - 2005 Domaine Serene Clos du Soleil Chardonnay
79 - 2005 Ponzi Chardonnay Reserve
80 - California's Best White Wine Blends
81 - Boutique Mixers
82 - Locavore Cocktails
83 - Barrel-Aged Beers
84 - Hungary's Excellent Table Wines
85 - Roast Leg of Lamb with Red Wine Sauce (Wines: Local Lists)
86 - New World Negociants
87 - Small-Batch Mezcal
88 - Five Wines to Buy Now and Cellar
Green Beer (89-91)
89 - Fat Tire Ale
90 - Mad River Brewing Company
91 - Foster's Yatala Brewery
92 - Superlative Sake
93 - Long-Lost Spirits
Highbrow Bar Food (94 - 96)
94 - Holeman and Finch Public House, Atlanta
95 - George's At the Cove, La Jolla, California
96 - The Violet Hour, Chicago
97 - Hand-Pumped Cask Ales
98 - Five Wines to Buy and Drink Now
99 - Miso Lager and Other Japanese Beers
100 - Beer Cocktails: Amberjack (Trend: Ingredients)

In addition to this list, Food & Wine has published a Web Exclusive of the Best Restaurant Dishes to Try in 2008. I might dip into that list as well!

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Veal Smothered with Thyme and Olives

When I first saw Padma Lakshmi's new book Tangy, Tart, Hot & Sweet, I just thought "Oh, God!" The host of Top Chef is capitalizing on the tv show to sell a cookbook. But then I picked it up and started flipping through it. Page after page I saw recipes I'd like to try out. Since I like exotic recipes, Padma's selection of dishes influenced from all around the world was perfect for me.

I love veal and I thought her recipe for Veal Smothered with Thyme and Olives would be excellent. Veal PLUS olives, yum! The only problem was that when I went to the store to purchase 1 1/2 pounds of veal scallopini, I almost fell over at the price! 2 cutlets were between $5 - $6 and the recipe called for eight of them. Since there were only two of us eating, I decided to cut the meat allowance by half. I made the rest of the recipe with all the ingredients as specified because the sauce is prepared separately than the meat. It was perfect. We only ended up with a little bit of sauce left over.

The meal itself was exactly as I expected. Very flavorful and a great combination of tastes.

Veal Smothered with Thyme and Olives
Serves 4

1 1/2 pounds veal scallopini, pounded into 8 flat cutlet pieces


1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 cup dry white wine

olive oil for frying, approximately 1/2 cup

2 tablespoons butter

3 cloves garlic, cut lengthwise

2 bay leaves

2 1/2 cups thinly sliced shallots

3/4 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, stripped from their branches

1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper

1 cup pitted Spanish green olives

1 cup chicken stock

flour for dredging, about 2 cups, although you may use less

Wash and dry the veal, and sprinkle it evenly with healthy pinches of salt and black pepper. Place the veal in a baking dish, pour the wine over it, and marinade it in the fridge for 3 to 4 hours.

In a deep, wide casserole, heat 1/4 cup of oil and the butter on medium heat, and when these are hot and melted together, add the garlic cloves and bay leaves. After 1 minute, add the shallots and thyme, stirring until the shallots are nice and wilted. Add crushed red pepper and salt to taste. Add the olives and chicken stock. Continue to stir over medium heat, cooking for a total of 5 minutes. Turn the heat down to medium low, and let the mixture simmer and cook down.

Spread the flour evenly on a dinner plate. Carefully remove the veal and pat it dry. Pour the reserved wine marinade into the pot of shallots and olives, and stir; keep heating this pot while browning the veal. Be sure the marinade boils for at least 5 minutes.

Dredge both sides of the veal in the flour.

Heat the oil for frying in a skillet until it is nice and hot. Place the veal in the pan and cook each side for 2 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove the veal from the heat and place it on a serving dish. Depending on the size of your skillet, you may have to do this in batches; don't crowd the pan.

Remove the bay leaves from the shallots and pour the mixture over the veal. Serve immediately.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Roasted Asparagus with Balsamic Browned Butter

I usually don't make recipes more than once. There are a few things I have made two or three times. But this recipe for Roasted Asparagus with Balsamic Browned Butter I have made at least 20 times. It is an old recipe from Cooking Light that I first made about 5 years ago. You can find the recipe online. It is incredibly easy to make and the flavors are amazing. Aren't those some of the best dishes to prepare? I always have butter, soy sauce and balsamic vinegar on hand, so whenever I grab some asparagus at the market I usually end up preparing it this way. Everyone who has every tried it has loved it. I hope you all make it and like it too!