Friday, July 30, 2010

Got Basil? Make pesto!

My basil is growing so rapidly I decided to give it all a "haircut" and make some pesto for dinner:
5 cups loosely packed basil leaves
1/2 cup nuts (I combined toasted pinons and pecans)
1 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
approximately 5  garlic cloves
1 to 1.5 cups good olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
wash basil and remove leaves from stems.  Remove any discolored edges.

prepare garlic cloves (not this much!)

add nuts and garlic to food processor

add basil

start food processor and drizzle olive oil to emulsify

extra pesto can be divided and frozen in an ice cube tray.
Once frozen, pop the pesto "nuggets" out into a ziploc bag.
These are great for adding to soups!

also for dinner:  sauteed onions

....and crimini mushrooms

grilled steak topped with fresh pesto, caesar salad, veggies, 
and fresh strawberries for dessert.  Yum!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Curry Dry Rub (good for everything)

here is the mixture before grinding in a mini food-processor

Curry Powder:
2 tablespoons coriander seeds
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1/2 teaspoon whole cloves
1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
1 tablespoon cardamom seeds
1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
2 dried red chiles, broken in pieces, seeds discarded
1 tablespoon turmeric

Toast the whole spices (coriander, cumin, fennel, cloves, mustard, cardamom and peppercorns) and the chiles in a small dry skillet over medium-low heat, shaking the pan often to prevent them from burning. Toast for a couple of minutes until the spices smell fragrant. In a clean coffee grinder, grind the toasted spices together to a fine powder. Add the turmeric and give it another quick buzz to combine. Use the spice blend immediately, or store in a sealed jar for several months.
Yield: about 1/2 cup

Curry spice mixture is good on just about everything.  Once you savor the aroma of freshly-made curry, you'll never buy that "other" stuff again.  I love it for lamb, chicken, even as a dry rub for grilled steaks!  It is great on veggies for stir fry.  One of my favorite uses is in a vegetable egg casserole.  Try it!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Easy fig appetizer or dessert

It is fig-season in South Texas and this is a banner year.  The conditions have been perfect for large, juicy figs.  Lucky me:  I have friends with fig trees!

As I have an embarrassment of figs at the moment, I threw these little morsels together for an easy dessert to serve my family last night.  Everyone agreed that they were wonderful!

fresh, ripe figs
soft goat cheese (chevre)
lemon curd (or substitute a fruit preserve of your choice)

Look at these beauties!  Aren't they gorgeous?

Small dollops of goat cheese is stuffed into the center of the fig,
and a very small (think 1/4 to 1/2 tsp) amount of lemon curd is layered over the cheese.

All of this takes approximately 15 seconds to construct.  They would make great, colorful little "bites" for a party.  For me, they were a perfect ending to a nice meal.  The figs are sweet and very little is needed to make them into a tasty dessert.

Another lovely way to serve figs is to quarter them and serve them on arugula salad accompanied by freshly roasted red beets and herbs.  Enjoy them while they are in season!

Cold-brewed Vietnamese-style iced coffee

Cold-brewed coffee involves steeping ground coffee in cold water.  The following recipe is adapted from an article in Food & Wine magazine.

4 1/2 cups cold water
8 oz coarsely ground dark roast coffee
half & half *

In a bowl, stir 8 oz coarsely ground coffee into 4.5 cups cold water

I used a zeroed food scale to measure my ground coffee.
What can I tell you?  I wanted to be accurate!

Press the ground coffee so that it is well moistened

Cover, let stand at room temperature for 24 hours

Pour grounds and water through a fine strainer

If possible, allow the grounds to continue to strain
as you will get more liquid

Pour 2 oz half and half, 4 oz milk, spoon sweetener to taste,
and add 6 oz strained coffee into a glass.
Mix thoroughly.  Add ice.

This is my preferred sweetener, but sugar or Splenda will do just as well

*Note:  the original recipe called for use of 2 oz sweetened condensed milk.  That really didn't sound good to me, and I'm watching my intake of sugar, so I substituted with half and half and a non-calorie sweetener.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Tilapia with lemon-garlic sauce, roasted beets, Peach-Tomato crumble

Today's meal came straight from the Farmer's Market.  I'm so thankful that we now have a large, vibrant market every Saturday at the old Pearl Brewery.  

Tilapia with Lemon-Garlic sauce.

Fish is the most basic "fast food".  The beautiful filets came from a local purveyor and were so fresh they didn't smell like fish.  

zest of one lemon
Lemon, cut in half, sliced thinly to create 8 "wafers" (and lemon reserved for juicing over fish).
olive oil
3 garlic cloves, coarsely minced
4 tilapia filets

zesting the lemon

sauteing the garlic

zest is added to the garlic

fish are carefully added to the pan with thinly sliced lemon on top

In a non-stick skillet or saute pan, heat olive oil (about 1 Tablespoon) and melt 1-2 Tablespoons butter.  Add garlic and saute until fragrant, then add half the lemon zest, saute another minute. 
Add fish filets, place one of the thin slices of lemon on each filet.  When the fish begins to turn opaque in color on the bottom, gently turn them over in the pan, taking care not to break the filet in pieces.  At medium heat, this will only take a few minutes. Once turned, lay the remaining lemon slices on fish, scatter remaining zest, and squeeze a small amount of lemon juice over the filets.  Saute until cooked through.  Fish will be opaque in color.  Don't overcook!  The fish will continue to cook even after you remove it from the pan.  It should be lovely and tender.  Serve immediately.
You might think this fish would be soaked in butter, but not so!  It had a buttery taste, but most of it was left in the pan after cooking.

Beets were scrubbed, then sliced into 1/4 inch cross-sections, tossed in olive oil, then laid out in a roasting pan and lightly salted and peppered.  Roast in oven for approximately 30 minutes @ 350'F until slightly tender.  Serve.

Salad greens:
tossed with a light vinaigrette made of equal parts grapeseed oil and apple cider vinegar, a dash of turmeric, a dash of salt and pepper.  The mixture is emulsified and then tossed over the greens just before serving.  I like to plate the greens and serve the roasted beets on top of them.

Peach-Tomato Crumble

This may not sound good, but trust me, it is!  I don't know what got into me this afternoon.  I started thinking about how the acidity of the tomato might enhance the flavor of the peach in this dish.  And the colors looked so good together!
Beautiful peaches and slices of tomato
tossed with Wholesome Organic Zero Carb Sweetener
This dish is sugar and gluten-free.  No one will ever know because you won't miss the flour or sugar!

2 peaches, sliced
1 tomato, seeded and sliced
approximately 1/2 cup Sugar substitute, half directly on fruit, half mixed with dry ingredients*
1 cup Rolled oats
1/4 cup ground hazelnut flour
1/2 cup ground almond flour
3 Tablespoons vanilla flavored whey protein powder
dash salt
approx 6 Tablespoons butter, very cold

*if you are using a sugar substitute, add with caution.  Some have a much-sweeter taste than real sugar, some less.  The Wholesome organic zero calorie sweetener is about equal to (or slightly less) sweetness as sugar.  Here's a link to a bulk source on amazon:

Slice peaches and tomato, toss with some sugar substitute, distribute in a baking dish that has been sprayed with a release agent.
In a separate bowl, mix remaining dry ingredients until well-blended
With a paring knife, shave bits of the butter onto the dry ingredients.  Mix into dry ingredients by hand by rubbing butter and ingredients together until well assimilated.  Pour over the top of the fruit.
Place in oven preheated to 350'F and bake until crust is golden brown, approximately 30 minutes.
Cool on rack.  May be served with ice cream or creme fraiche.  

This dish can be expanded to accommodate a larger number of servings.  Note:  I guessed at the amounts of these ingredients because I never measure it.  I just sort of "eyeball" it and go for it.  I guarantee you will have something good!  The family was pleasantly surprised by how good it tasted.  I didn't mention the tomatoes but they noticed them immediately.  My theory was correct: the tomatoes amped-up the flavor of the peaches. 

dry ingredients

butter before being mixed into the dry ingredients



adding the crumble mixture to the fruit

ready for the oven

after baking

plated, topped with a dollop of creme fraiche

Let me know if you give any of these dishes a try.  Enjoy!

Also:  here is a link to the Pearl Farmer's Market, in case any readers live in the San Antonio-area:

A link to the Hollywood Farmer's Market, another favorite of mine: