Sunday, June 29, 2008

Seared Ono Over Cold Soba Noodles with Ponzu-Soy Dipping Sauce

Back to our tour of local fish--tonight we have Ono (commonly known as Wahoo, also sometimes called tigerfish), a close relative (cousin maybe?) of the king mackerel. Ono is Hawaiian for good to eat--so if someone tells you the food you cooked is "ono" it means they like it, not necessarily that they thought you made fish. :-) Also the more common name for this fish on the mainland --wahoo, is thought to have been derived from the early explorers pronunciation of the Hawaiian Island of Oahu. Ono has a pale pink to white flesh that turns white and flaky when cooked. It has a medium fat content, a fairly delicate, sweet flavor and is versatile--can be grilled, sauteed, broiled, poached, baked and can be used for sashimi.

As it was warm and a little humid, I wanted something cool and on the lighter side. I also was craving soba noodles and some Japanese flavors so I decided to coat the fish in Gomasio (a sesame seed mixture), sear it lightly and serve it over the cold soba noodles with sugar snap peas in a ponzu-soy sauce.
Soba Noodles with Ponzu-Soy Dipping Sauce
Serves 2
8 oz Japanese buckwheat soba noodles
1 cup cooked sugar snap peas fresh or frozen
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup Ponzu
1/4 cup Mirin
1/4 cup rice vinegar
juice and zest of 1 lime
1 tsp wasabi paste
chopped cilantro to garnish
Boil the soba noodles according to package directions. Meanwhile combine soy sauce, ponzu. mirin, rice vinegar, lime juice, zest and wasabi paste in a small bowl and mix until blended.
Drain noodles and run under cold water and add cooked sugar snap peas. Place noodles/peas in two bowls, pour 1/2 sauce over each bowl and top with fish (recipe below) Garnish with chopped cilantro.
Sesame Seared Ono
serves 2
2 (4-6 oz) Ono fillets
2 Tbsp Olive Oil
2 Tbsp Gomasio (sesame seed, sea weed, sea salt mix)
Heat a saute pan over medium high and add 1 Tbsp olive oil. Lightly coat fillets with 1 tsp olive oil. Place gomasio on a dinner plate and press fillets into seed mixture, coating fish lightly on each side. Place ono fillets in pan and sear each side about 2 min--so fish is still uncooked and slightly pink in center.

The verdict--light, flavorful and just the thing for a warm summer night. (Slurping cold noodles makes me happy!) Ono, being a pale fleshed fish, doesn't photograph as well as say a bright pink/red ahi when seared, but the taste was delicious. I didn't have fresh peas so I used a frozen steam bag and did them in the microwave. (and unfortunately I overcooked them a bit!) I have all the ingredients above in my pantry but you could eliminate some of them and still get a great flavor. (For example if you don't have mirin--use all rice vinegar or if you don't want to buy ponzu sauce (a Japanese citrus sauce) you can buy it already mixed with soy (ponzu shoyu) or use an additional lime. If you don't want to buy gamasio you can just use toasted sesame seeds to coat the fish--just be sure and salt the fish first).

This afternoon I put a box together to be shipped to Singapore for a person who did not get their Blogging By Mail package from the last event earlier this year. (BBM is a cool idea from my hero Stephenie at Dispensing Happiness where you give and receive goodies by mail from a blogger randomly assigned to you--hopefully there will be another round soon!) Max decided to "help"--see below:
"First you get the ribbon out--or you just chew on it for awhile...."

"Next you check out the shipping box or maybe chew on it for awhile..."

"Then you wrap the stuff--or maybe you just lay on top of the wrap and gifts for awhile..."

"Helping is very hard work you know--I feel a yawn coming on..."

"I'll just lay here and try to look cute and you can stop this nonsense and come rub my belly..."

So as you can imagine the process took longer than it should have! Hopefully no bite marks will be visible when the package is opened!

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Lemon Garlic Lambchops, Grilled Romaine, Raspberry Fool and the Weekly Cook From Each Book Initiative

I may have mentioned before that I have a lot of cookbooks and I mean A LOT, some of which I have cooked from and some that I have not cooked from. I haven't gone through and counted them for a long time ( I am very afraid to) but this is about half of them in my dining room cabinet, the rest are on shelves in the closet in my spare bedroom.

It is a serious addiction I am afraid. The last thing I need is more cookbooks but when I saw the announcement for the Friends of the Hawaii Library Sale that started yesterday, I couldn't resist. I had heard about this book sale before but had never attended--basically I hate crowds and I heard this enormous sale draws them (about 30,000 people last year). This year I read that there was going to be about 150,000 books and something else caught my eye--there was a preview sale for "Friends of the Library" on Friday evening, before the masses get to shop and you could join and become a "friend" at the sale. Leaving work a little early, $25.00 check in my hand, I found myself at the sale. Apparently my friend the Library has a lot of other friends as it was pretty crowded--I would hate to see it on the opening day today! I also realized that I came pretty unprepared, with just a nylon shopping bag to carry my purchases---these other friends were pros carrying huge boxes on rolling carts no less.
So an hour and a half later, a borrowed box and use of the "will call", I left the sale with about about $47.00 less in my pocket and a box of 27 books. (In my defense only about 20 of the books are cookbooks) the others being fiction and children's (I wanted to read Little Women again and found a nice edition for $1.50) and a paperback copy of Bill Buford's Heat which I wanted to read and couldn't resist for only 25 cents. The books ranged from 25 cents to $5.00 for a 1961 copy of the New York Times Cookbook, edited by Craig Claiborne and a 1950 copy of the Gourmet Cookbook. I ended up with a couple of Betty Crocker classics, some Hawaiian Cookbooks and some vintage ones from the 30s and 40s, as well as a few modern ones as well. It was quite a haul and for a good cause. They tell you to keep going back to the sale as they put out new merchandise each day but even though it is only a few blocks from work, I have banned myself from going again as it is too dangerous (think mouse in a cheese factory!)
So what to do with all these cookbooks as well as the countless others taking up space in my house?!? I decided to issue myself a weekly challenge--The Weekly Cook From Each Book Initiative. Each week I will pick one (or two) of my cookbooks and cook a recipe from that book, putting a post it tab on the spine of the book until I have cooked at least one thing from each book I own. I figure that I can (kind of) justify having all my books if I am cooking from them rather than just focusing on my favorite cookbooks. I am allowing myself to count any book I cooked from and posted about since starting this blog in April--it at least gives me a bit of a head start!

For my first formal "entry", I had a friend coming over for dinner tonight and some lamb chops in the fridge so I needed to find a recipe for that. I also had some fresh angel hair pasta and some mizithera cheese which I wanted to cook with browned butter--so I needed a lamb chop recipe that wouldn't compete with the strong flavor of the cheese. I found a yummy sounding Lemon-Garlic Marinated Lamb Chop recipe in "The Food You Crave" by Ellie Krieger. Ellie serves the chops with Grilled Romaine Hearts, which I decided to do as well instead of a salad, along with the pasta. Organic raspberries were on sale at the market, so I decided to make a Raspberry Fool from Donna Hay's "Modern Classics; Book 2" for dessert. (That's two books down!)

Lemon-Garlic Marinated Lamb Chops
Foods You Crave, Ellie Krieger
Serves 4
1 Tbsp Olive Oil
2 Tbsp Fresh Lemon Juice
1/2 tsp finely grated lemon zest
2 Tbsp chopped fresh oregano or 2 tsp dried
6 cloves garlic, minced (about 2 Tbsp)
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black
Eight 4-ounce lamb loin chops, trimmed of all visible fat
In a small bowl, stir together the oil, lemon juice, zest, oregano, garlic salt and pepper. Put the lamb chops in a sealable bag and pour the marinade over them. Move the chops around in the bag so the marinade coats them well. Seal the bag and marinate for 20 minutes to 1 hour at room temperature.
Pre-heat broiler, grill or grill pan over medium heat. Remove the chops from the marinade and discard the marinade. Grill or broil the chops for 4-5 minutes per side for medium rare or to your desired degree of doneness.

Grilled Romaine Hearts
Foods You Crave, Elle Krieger
Serves 4
2 hearts of Romaine Lettuce
2 Tbsp Olive Oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Preheat your grill or a grill pan over medium high heat. Cut the romaine hearts in half lengthwise, leaving the end intact so each half holds together. Cut off the tops if they are bruised at all. Brush the hearts with the oil and grill over medium heat until they char and wilt slightly, about 6 minutes, turning a few times. Season with salt and pepper and serve immediately.

Raspberry Fool
Modern Classics Book 2, Donna Hay
Serves 4
1 & 1/2 cups fresh raspberries
2/3 cups caster (superfine sugar)
2 tsp lemon juice
1 1/2 cups (12 fl oz) whipping cream
Place 1 cup raspberries in a frying pan and lightly crush with a fork. Add sugar and lemon juice and cook over medium-low heat, stirring gently, until the sugar is dissolved. Simmer for 3 minutes or until the raspberries are soft and the juices are syrupy. Refrigerate until cold. Beat cream until soft peaks form. Fold through the raspberry mixture with 1/2 cup whole fresh raspberries. To serve, spoon into glasses.
All three recipes very easy and delicious. The lemon, garlic and oregano really flavored the lamp chops and the pasta (I just cooked the package of fresh pasta in lightly salted water and browned 2 Tbsp of butter. After draining the pasta, I tossed it with the browned butter, mizithera cheese, dried mint and some fresh ground pepper--no need for salt as mizithera is a salty cheese). The grilled romaine was very good, still a bit crunchy and the grilling brought out a sweetness in the lettuce. It is important to use good olive oil on this one as the flavor of the oil really comes through. The fool was light, sweet and delicious--a good, not too heavy dessert for a summer night. I halved the lamb and romaine recipes to make for two but not the fool (I'm no fool!) ;-) My friend pronounced it all delicious.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Aush Soup--Cook's Book Club and a Milestone--Post # 50!

Last month I participated in the first round of the Cook's Book Club, a monthly blogging event started by Meena at Hooked on Heat. Each month we read the chosen book and then cook a dish inspired by the story or it's characters. (You can read about it here) Last month the book was Serving Crazy With Curry (the post and recipe for that one is here), book I had read before and really enjoyed. This month it is Kahaled Hosseini's second book, A Thousand Splendid Suns. I read his first book The Kite Runner, a couple of years ago and found it to be a beautifully written, thought-provoking and somewhat depressing book so I had some concerns when a couple of friends told me this book was even more bleak. In all honesty, I really struggled through this book all month, reading a bit, putting it down and switching to something lighter, picking it up again, putting it down again, etc. Hosseini is a incredible and poetic storyteller and the book is I think, even better than his first in terms of the writing but as I was reading, I found myself constantly thinking "Oh no--what now? Can things possibly get any worse?!" with every page I turned.
The story this time is centered primarily on two women, Mariam and Laila, through three decades of war and basically hell in Afghanistan. Opposites in most ways--age, background, appearance, etc., they are brought together reluctantly by their circumstances and they forge a relationship and friendship over chai tea and their shared experiences. We hear their stories and their combined story alternating from both of their points of view. The story is harsh and unrelenting and I found myself sobbing throughout the book. Lest you think, based on my review, "Why would I want to even read this book?", know that it is VERY good and that I am pretty much a wimp with sad things. I remember when Oprah first started her book club, I would gamely buy the books and try to read them but ended up finding most of them to be way too depressing for my taste. (I used to want to write to her and say "Yo, Oprah--what's up? You are rich and famous--cheer up!!! Why not pick the occasional "happy " book to see what it feels like?!) I don't live in a fantasy land and I don't always pick books that are totally fluffy and perky, but sometimes I do like to read for fun and to escape from reality a bit and this book didn't do that for me. As tough as it was for me to get through it, however, I am not sorry I read it because we need books like this to make us aware of what is going on in the world.
When trying to decide on a recipe, I knew I wanted to make a recipe from Afghanistan. I first thought about making an ice cream because it correlated to some of the more pleasant moments in the story. Instead I ended up deciding on soup--something warm, comforting and nourishing, which is what I wanted for these two wonderful women. I wanted them to be comforted, nourished and happy which is what soup represents to me. I saw the name Aush Soup in the book and looked it up, finding out that it is a soup dish usually made with noodles and different vegetables and topped with yogurt or sour cream and dried mint. I found a few recipes for it on the Internet and I ended up with this recipe from a recipe posted on a website (here) from a book called "Afghan Cuisine: Cooking for Life A collection of Afghan Recipes (and Other Favorites) for the Novice Afghan and Non-Afghan Cook", by Nafisa Sekandari. Although Aush soup often has ground meat or lamb, this is the vegetarian version which sounder a bit better to me.
Aush Soup (Vegetarian)
Afghan Cuisine: Cooking for Life A collection of Afghan Recipes (and other favorites) for the Novice Afghan and non-Afghan cook by Nafisa Sekandari
1/2 package of egg noodles (Fresh Chinese noodles preferred)
2 quarts of water
1/4 cup of oil
1 onion
1/4 cup of tomato sauce
2 clove of garlic (minced)
3 cups of plain yogurt
1 can of kidney beans (rinse)
1 can of Garbanzo beans (rinse)
1-2 potatoes
Salt (to taste)
Pepper (to taste)
1 teaspoon coriander
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 tablespoons of crushed dry mint

In a deep pot, slice onions and sauté in oil until golden brown. Cut potato in quarters and add to onions with 2 cups of water and boil for 5-7 minutes. Add noodles, tomato puree, salt, kidney beans, garbanzo beans, pepper, minced garlic, coriander, turmeric, and ginger, along with 5-6 cups of water and let boil for 20 minutes. Once it's ready (noodles tender, and water soupy) take Aush out and place in a bowl and add yogurt and mix. Sprinkle dry mint over the Aush and serve.
I copied the recipe as listed--the out of order ingredients and all (does that drive you nuts too?!) The recipe is a bit vague, I had to make some guesses and take some liberties--I don't know what noodles would have been used in Afghanistan. The recipe called for "Chinese Noodles--preferably fresh" and not knowing what kind and having only the option of fresh chow mein or chow fun at my local store, I went for the thicker chow fun noodle. I added more tomato sauce than it called for as the recipe asks for 1/4 cup and I had a small 8 oz can and I didn't want to waste it so I just plopped it in. It also said to quarter the potatoes and I cubed them instead---thinking quarters would be too big. I am not sure how authentic the recipe is but it is interesting and (surprisingly), pretty good--I liked the flavors and the tang from the yogurt.
Next month's book is The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards. I read this book a couple of years ago when it came out and really loved it. I look forward to getting reacquainted with it.
I am also so excited that this is my 50th post! It may seem like a small thing to most but it is a milestone to me. I toyed with the thought of starting a blog for so long that it feels like a huge accomplishment to have actually done it! In the couple of months and a bit of change since I started blogging, I have really had fun, challenged myself and my cooking skills, "met" some great people and (I think anyway) improved my photography skills. I have kept it pretty under the radar so far--I have 3 people (and one cat) in my life that know I am blogging, not sure when or if I'll change that. It is just nice to have a realized passion for something and the creative outlet I was missing. Here's to another 50 and beyond!

Chicken Parmesan--Barefoot Bloggers

Time for our third Barefoot Bloggers' recipe, the second one for June. The Barefoot Bloggers (read all about us here) are the brilliant idea of Tara at Smells Like Home and are a group about 80 strong, who make and blog about the Barefoot Contessa, Ina Garten's recipes on the second and fourth Thursday of each month. We take turns choosing the recipes and today's recipe, Parmesan Chicken, was chosen by Megan of My Baking Adventures. I have to say I was a bit lukewarm when I saw the title of this recipe--I think I had bad flashbacks of Chicken Parmesan, served as a school lunch and consisting of a dry, over-breaded chicken breast, swimming in canned tomato sauce and tough mozzarella cheese. When will I learn to grant Ina the trust she so deserves??!! I am still waiting to see if the woman actually has a bad recipe! Ina's version of Chicken Parmesan, (you can find the recipe here or on page 82 in Barefoot Contessa, Family Style--the Lemon Vinaigrette is on page 40 of the book) has chicken breasts, pounded thin and lightly-breaded with seasoned crumbs and parmesan cheese, topped with salad greens. a light, lively lemon vinaigrette and some more parmesan to garnish. A lovely and much lighter take on the dish, inspired by a veal dish in a favorite restaurant of Ina's in Milan.
The last two recipes I had ready way ahead of posting time--I do most of my testing and cooking on weekends. For this recipe, I got caught being really busy on the weekend and didn't have a chance to make this until Monday night after work. This normally would drive me crazy because I am usually so tired when I get home from work but this recipe went together so quickly and easily, I didn't have an issue. What made it even easier were the chicken breasts that I bought which were marked as "thin" and were about the 1/4" specified--so no pounding and thus time saved.

The chicken breasts were delicious and I really liked the salad and the lemon vinaigrette. I was not all that hungry Monday night so I just ate it as is--no sides served with it. I would make it again for myself or for a small dinner party. I ate it the next day for lunch with the chicken breast sliced on top of the greens (should have taken a picture of it that way!) and it made a great salad that would be nice to serve as an elegant lunch dish to friends.

Another great recipe for the Barefoot Bloggers--can't wait to see everyones' posts (the list of B.B.s can be found here--so you can check them all out!), and I can't wait to see next month's chosen recipes.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

For The Love of Tea

I signed up for "Tea Anyone?", a 5-week Tea Tasting Seminar on Wednesday evenings through KCC (Kapiolani Community College), which has a large culinary program and lots of classes on nights and weekends related to food. I took a Knife Skills class there last fall and was signed up for an Ahi Tuna class that got canceled so I had a credit to use and I decided to use it on this workshop. I spent many years working for a major coffee retailer and perfecting my coffee knowledge but since we ended our partnership with them, I have pretty much totally given up coffee and now drink mostly tea. (Sacrilege! Basically I just needed to separate myself from it all and I also went through a cleanse omitting a lot of caffeine I was consuming) At this point I have just enough tea knowledge to make me dangerous and picky about what I drink, so I thought learning more would be helpful. Also, I tend to drink a lot of herbal tisanes or infusions (not really tea) or flavored tea so I decided this would push me to try new teas and more pure teas. Our class is taught by Dave Plaskett, Director of Tea for Hawaii Coffee Company. Dave has about 15 years in the tea business, seems to know his stuff and is very passionate about his tea. This is his first formal class but he easily got the about 20 or so of us who attended interested and ready to learn.

The first class was last week and in it we covered tea basics--growing, processing and brewing and learned about the 5 true teas from the tea bush: Camellia Sinensis: Black, Green, Oolong, White and Pu'erh. We each received proper "tea cupping sets" to keep (how fun!) and we cupped and tasted three different teas. I took a few photos but the lighting in the room is pretty bad and I am still feeling a bit "shy" just pulling out the camera and taking pictures in certain settings. (I will try to do better this week!) The teas we tasted and the ones we will taste in coming weeks are from a company called Zhong Guo Cha (website is here) and they are handcrafted (plucked and processed by hand) and considered to be "Specialty" or gourmet teas.
My tea cupping set

The first tea we tried was a Gyokuro Green Tea from Japan. Considered some of the best of Japan's leaf tea, this very dark green tea is shade grown, harvested once per year in the springtime and very high in chlorophyll, caffeine and theanine. (Theanine is supposed to reduce stress, produce feelings of relaxation and improve mood--so sign me up!) It is withered and steamed to stop the oxidation and has a tight twisted, thin needle shape leaf. The aroma of the dry tea leaf was subtle, green, maybe a bit grassy. The wet leaf took on the aroma and the flavor of spinach. Very reminiscent of being outdoors in the springtime. It was not harsh like some green teas and was very drinkable.

The Gyokuro Green Tea in my tasting cup

The second tea was a Lapsang Souchong (one of my favorite teas to say!), a black tea from China. If you are not familiar with Lapsang Souchong, you should definitely try it--at least for the experience. It is an extremely smoky tea--which i love in smaller doses. (I used to "host" informal tea gatherings at work in the afternoon and we paired this tea once with a smoked Gouda and bacon--whoa!) This robust, strong tea is whithered over pinewood fires and then pan fired, as the tea leaves oxidize they are pan fired again, rolled and do their final drying in bamboo baskets over smokey pine fires. The aroma of the dry leaf is very smoky and a bit woody. The aroma of the wet leaf is even stronger, like a smoky campfire and the flavor reminds me of the outer crust of a toasted marshmallow when you slightly burn it when making a S'more. They say you either love or hate this tea--the woman next to me didn't want to taste her tea after smelling the leaf but she gamely gave it a sip and although not a "lover", she finished most of her cup.

(A little blurry) Shot of the Lapsang Souchong leaves

Our final tea from last week was a Jade Oolong from the Nantou/Chiayi region of Taiwan. (Apparently in Taiwan, Jade is a category of tea based on oxidizing but can be characterized differently in other places in China). This tea is lightly oxidized, with greenish, tightly rolled leaves. The aroma of the dry leaf was lightly floral. The wet leaf had a more Jasmine-like floral smell. This tea typically has a floral aftertaste that lingers longer than the first taste. It has a light sweetness and reminds me of sitting in a flower garden on a sunny day. Very drinkable and you could easily drink it all day long.

Blurry Again--but can you see the tightly rolled leaves of the Jade Oolong?

The wet Jade Oolong leaves unfurled & the tea ready to taste

I am not sure exactly what we will be learning this week other than tasting more varieties of tea but I am looking forward to learning and cupping more in the next few weeks.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Red Lentil Dahl (Ayurvedic Dahl)

That summer "thing" that everyone seems to have gotten may have hit me. My throat is sore, I'm achy and tired and in need of something simple, warm and comforting. I marked this recipe in June's Yoga Journal. The article and recipes are what yoga teachers eat to nourish their bodies--generally foods and ingredients that keep your body light and your mind clear--I feel the need for both. I make dahl, (a thick stew-like dish usually made with lentils and spices) often and usually use urad (black lentils) so this recipe called "Ayurvedic Dahl" in the magazine and made with red lentils, sounded good. Since it seemed pretty low effort and I had all the ingredients I decided to make it tonight.

Ayurvedic Dhal
Scott Blossom, Yoga Journal June 2008
1 cup red lentils, rinsed
5 cups water
1 tsp ground turmeric
2 tsp ground coriander
1 1/2 tsp fresh ginger, grated
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 Tbsp ghee (clarified butter) or coconut oil
1 tsp cumin seeds
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
1. Combine the lentils, water, turmeric, coriander, and ginger in a stockpot. Bring to a boil, and then reduce the heat to low and cover. Simmer for 30 minutes or until the lentils are fully cooked and soft.
2. Turn off the heat and add the salt,
3. In a large saucepan, warm up the ghee over moderate heat and add the cumin seeds to saute for a minute or so, or until they turn brown and release their aroma.
4. Pour the lentils into the saucepan and cover to allow the seasoning to blend, about 2 minutes. Garnish with cilantro.
Makes 4-6 servings.
Recipe notes that "Scott Blossom enjoys dahl to help digestion and to balance his pitta dosha."

I have to confess that my "taster" might be a little numbed and out of whack tonight but it tasted good to me and was warm and comforting. I would use less water next time as it was a little "soupy" and I prefer my dahl a bit thicker. I am not sure if it "balanced my dosha" or not (I am never sure whether I am a pitta, vata or kapha?!?) but my body felt a little lighter and my mind felt a little clearer and I have leftovers for tomorrow. ;-)

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Curried Spinach Dip

OK, I'm at home. winding down from a busy day and evening and on to posting Dip #2--Curried Spinach Dip from 12 Best Foods Cookbook by Dana Jacobi. I discovered this cookbook and this dip about a year ago and have made it several times since then. There are some great, healthy recipes in this cookbook and she recently came out with a new cookbook,which I purchased the other day but I haven't cooked from it yet. This recipe is most definitely a keeper--this dip, deliciously spiced and served warm, never fails to please even those non-adventurous eaters and it puts curry lovers over the moon. I have taken the dip bowl away to refill it and warm it up and literally have people follow me with a piece of bread or cracker in their hands just waiting to be able to dunk again.

Curried Spinach Dip
12 Best Foods Cookbook, Dana Jacobi

1 tsp curry powder
1 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp ground turmeric
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1 vegetable bouillon cube
2 tsp canola oil
1 small red onion, finely chopped
1 large clove garlic, finely chopped
1 (10-ounce) package frozen spinach, defrosted and squeezed dry
2 Tbsp light cream cheese
1/2 cup fat free plain yogurt
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1) Combine the curry, cumin, turmeric and cayenne pepper in a small bowl. Dissolve the bouillon cube in 1/2 cup hot water and set aside.
2) Heat the oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Saute the onion until it is soft, 4 minutes. Mix in the garlic and continue cooking until the onion starts to brown, 3-4 minutes. Mix in the spices.
3) Add the spinach, pulling it apart with your fingers. Pour in the bouillon. Simmer until the spinach mixture is dry, 5 minutes.
4) Remove from the heat and mix in the cream cheese and yogurt. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve warm.

Makes 1 1/2 cups
Per serving (1 tbsp) 13 calories, 1 g fat, 0 saturated fat, 1 g protein, 1 g carbohydrates.

I do have a bit of a "quirk" in making this recipe that I have to share. When I first made it, I did not have any cream cheese on hand. Deciding that the cream cheese was probably for texture and to bind it a little bit, I substituted a garlic and herb Almond Cheese for the cream cheese. Since I liked the results so much, I keep making it that way. I am sure the cream cheese would be equally as good. I also usually add another Tbsp of curry because I like a bit more curry flavor. I serve this with warm pita bread, pita chips or any other somewhat "sturdy" dipper.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Edamame-Feta Dip

So its Saturday night and what am I doing? I am home making food for tomorrow. Tomorrow is going to be one of the things I like least in a Sunday--BUSY. All good stuff, but I like my Sundays slow and mellow to ease myself into the week. Tomorrow however, I have a baby shower I am co-hosting at noon--have to be there at 10:00 to set up. Then I have an early dinner at one of my partner's houses for a mentor of ours and former boss of mine, who is in Hawaii to talk at our Managers' Meeting on Monday. For the shower, I got off easy in the food department and I am just making three kinds of little sandwiches and a pomegranate-strawberry punch; both of which I prepped tonight but will assemble tomorrow. For dinner tomorrow night, I volunteered to make the pupus (appetizers), and decided to go easy with those too by making a couple of my favorite "standbys"; very simple to make and very good. Both are dips--one warm and one cold. I thought I would post one tonight and then post the other tomorrow.

The first dip, Edamame-Feta Dip, I found in Eating Well Magazine several years ago (It's also in one of their cookbooks) and I have been making it ever since. The combination of the edamame and feta is delicious and works not only as a dip, but makes a great sandwich spread too. It goes together quickly in a food processor or blender and I like to serve it with rice crackers, pita chips or vegetables. It is relatively healthy, always wins raves when people try it and is a great alternative to hummus.

Edamame-Feta Dip
EatingWell Magazine, Summer 2003 & The Essential EatingWell Cookbook
Recipe by Joyce Hendley
Prep time: 20 minutes Start to finish: 1 hour (including 1/2 hour resting time)To make ahead: The dip will keep, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. Ease of preparation: Easy
2 cups frozen shelled edamame (fresh soybeans)
3 cloves garlic, peeled
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
2-1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1. Bring a large saucepan of lightly salted water to a boil. Add edamame and garlic; return to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until edamame are tender, about 5 minutes. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup cooking liquid.
2. Place the edamame, garlic, 1/4 cup of the cooking liquid, feta, lemon juice, oil, salt and pepper in a food processor or blender. Puree, scraping down the sides as needed, until completely smooth. Transfer to a serving bowl or storage container.
3. Place plastic wrap directly on the surface of the dip and let stand for 30 minutes at room temperature to allow flavors to blend. Thin with additional cooking liquid to desired consistency, if necessary.

Serve at room temperature. Makes 1-3/4 cups.
Per tablespoon: 31 calories; 2 g fat (1 g sat, 1 g mono); 2 mg cholesterol; 2 g carbohydrate; 2 g

Thursday, June 19, 2008

"East Meets West Pasta" w/ Ginger-Apricot Turkey Meatballs--July Foodie Joust

After joining the Foodie Blogroll last month, I entered my first Foodie Joust for June. (My entry is here) I had such a great time creating something out of the 3 assigned ingredients (selected by the previous month's winner), that I had to enter again this month. The three ingredients for July are Apricots, Ginger and Butter, chosen by Erin at the Skinny Gourmet. Not being much of a baker and liking my savory entry last month, I decided to go for savory again. Thinking about apricot and ginger led me towards doing something Chinese or Asian style. Trying to work in a bit more butter, led me to thinking about buttery noodles or pasta. Combining it all together, I created my "East Meets West Pasta", baked turkey meatballs with apricots, ginger and butter; in a tangy sweet sour pasta sauce featuring tomatoes and apricot preserves; served on top of a buttery, ginger-spiked Chow Fun noodles mixed with Edamame.

Ginger-Apricot Turkey Meatballs
4 oz dried apricots
1/4 cup cilantro
1/4 cup parsley
1 small onion
2 cloves fresh garlic
2 Tbsp fresh ginger grated (about a 2" piece)
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
2 eggs
1/4 cup melted butter
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Using food processor, one at a time grind the apricots, cilantro, parsley, onion and garlic. Place in a medium mixing bowl and add grated ginger, panko, eggs, melted butter, salt and pepper. Using hands, mix until evenly combined and form into small meatballs--about 1 1/4 " or so. Place meatballs on large baking sheet lined with foil and baked until cooked through, about 12-15 minutes. (Makes about 32 meatballs)
Meatballs ready to go in the oven

Sweet and Tangy Pasta Sauce
1 Tbsp butter
1 cup (8 oz) apricot preserves
1 can diced tomatoes
2 Tbsp rice vinegar
2 Tbsp ginger, grated
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 Tbsp sriracha chile sauce
1/3 cup mirin (sweet rice wine)
1 Tbsp tomato paste
salt and pepper to taste
In a small saucepan, melt butter and add ingredients up to sriracha chili sauce. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, about 5 minutes. Stir in mirin, tomato paste, salt and pepper, reduce heat and simmer until thickened, about 5-7 minutes.

Buttery Ginger Chow Fun Noodles with Edamame
1 package dried Chow Fun Noodles (Hula Brand)
healthy pinch of salt
2 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp ginger grated
1 cup cooked, shelled edamame
Cook noodles with a pinch of sauce according to package directions until al dente(about 9-11 minutes). Meanwhile heat butter and ginger in a small saucepan over low heat. Drain noodles and toss with ginger-butter sauce and cooked edamame. (If you can't find Chow Fun Noodles--usually in the Asian section of your grocery store or speciality market, you can substitute dried fettuccine noodles).
Assembling East Meets West Pasta: While meatballs are baking, put pasta on stove to cook. Assemble sauce. (You can cook edamame in microwave or on stove top). Place noodles in serving bowl, top with meatballs, pour sauce over top, garnish with chopped cilantro.
The verdict--very tasty! (Which is good because I was worried while I was making it that it would end up tasting pretty funky!) The butter and apricots made the turkey meatballs delightfully moist and tender. Slightly sweet and spiked with ginger, they were delicious topped with the sauce. The sauce, sweet from the preserves and mirin, tangy from the ginger and rice vinegar with a kick from the sriracha chili sauce was not too heavy. The buttery noodles also had a kick of ginger and the edamame added some nice color and texture. Since the recipe made a good amount, I took some to work and gave it to my friend Julie who took it home and shared it for dinner with her husband. They both enjoyed it and her husband liked the sauce especially. The flavors compliment each other and work nicely together. Could you argue that you don't really need the butter? You could, but it adds a lot to the noodles and meatballs--so go ahead and add it in!
Flecks of sweet dried apricot in every bite of meatball

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

"Barcelona Bites" & Chocolate Pear Martinis: Blog Party #35

I had such a blast with coming up with my entry for last month's Blog Party: The Buffy Bash, that I just had to "attend" another Blog Party, hosted by the wonderful Stephanie at Dispensing Happiness. Each month a theme is chosen and to attend you need to come up with an appetizer and cocktail that match the theme. This months theme is CHOCOLATE--how could I, certified chocoholic, resist that?!?

I LOVE chocolate (just in case that wasn't clear) and I really love chocolate combined with salt --the creamy, sweet and salty combination makes me giddy with happy delight. One of my favorite chocolate bars is Vosge's Barcelona Bar described as "Deep milk chocolate melts into the mineral and sumptuous taste of sea salt and roasted almonds, reminiscent of Marcona, Spain." I frequently crave Fran's Salted Caramels,for their kick of salty goodness. I knew I had to make a Blog Party appetizer pairing chocolate and salt and had settled pretty quickly on chocolate covered potato chips (another favorite), until my trip to New York, where I found "chocolate nirvana."

My tale of chocolate love goes like this: I was standing in Henri Bendel, waiting patiently while the fine lines on my friend's hands were magically whisked away by a very persuasive salesperson in cosmetics. A bit bored, I wandered over to read the store directory by the elevator and noticed "Chocolate Bar" on the 3rd Floor Atrium.

I drug my friend (now with much younger looking palms) upstairs to see it and have a little break from shopping. We both ordered drinks (hers a hot, spicy cocoa and mine a cold iced chocolate) and I perused the menu of sandwiches, soups and salads when something caught my eye; the Barcelona, a toasted baguette with melted, 71% cacao chocolate, olive oil and sea salt. I knew I had to try it so we ordered one to share. When it arrived looking all ooey-gooey and delicious, I took my first bite. 

The combo of the crispness of the baguette crust, the soft bread inside, the fruity smoothness of the olive oil, the slight crunch of the sea salt crystals and the sweet, richness of the chocolate all combined into utter perfection in my mouth. Suddenly, the heavens parted, birds sang and all was right with the world--I kid you not, it really was THAT good!!! 


I only wish it photographed as beautifully as it tasted! Before I finished my half (and to be really honest, part of my friend's half too) of this delight for the senses, I knew I would recreate this at home, bite-sized and perfect for the Chocolate themed Blog Party. 


To make such simple components turn into bliss, you need to splurge a bit and get quality ingredients. I went with a Green & Blacks Dark 70% Organic Bar, some nice fruity extra virgin olive oil and Fleur de Sel to top my fresh baguette. I decided to cut about 3/4 inch rounds--to make them truly bite sized and call them "Barcelona Bites" in honor of The Chocolate Bar, where I found my new true love

I decided to pair my bites with a creamy, delicious, Chocolate Pear Martini, (I found the recipe and instructions for the drink here). Pear and chocolate is another flavor combo I love, and I thought it would compliment the Barcelona Bites nicely. 


Barcelona Bites 
adapted/inspired by Alison Nelson's Chocolate Bar, New York
1 small, fresh, plain baguette cut into 3/4" slices
good quality olive oil--enough to cover surface of baguette slices
1 3.5 oz good quality dark chocolate bar (70-71% cacao)
good sea salt to sprinkle on top
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place baguette slices on cookie sheet and toast until bread starts to get crisp but not brown (about 4-5 minutes). Meanwhile melt chocolate bar in microwave or in double-boiler, being careful not to burn or overcook. 

Remove bread from oven and let cool slightly. Coat the top of each slice lightly with olive oil, carefully put a thin layer of chocolate on each slice (I found a Pyrex measuring cup with a spout worked well for this) and sprinkle lightly with salt. 

Garnish with white chocolate shavings if desired. Serve bites while they are still a little warm and the chocolate is nice and "melty". 
Serve with Chocolate Pear Martini--following the drink recipe on the link above.
My contribution to the Blog Party menu may not be the most complicated recipe or the most beautiful but it is delicious! I look forward to "seeing" everyone and getting a glimpse of what other chocolate delights await! Look for the round up on Stephanie's site soon!