Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Book Tour Stops Here: Into the Darkest Corner by Elizabeth Haynes with Toast and Cara Cara Orange Butter

Hardcover: 416 pages 
Publisher: Harper (June 5, 2012)

Summary: Catherine Bailey has been enjoying the single life long enough to know a catch when she sees one: Lee seems almost too perfect to be true. And her friends agree as each in turn falls under his spell, But what begins as a flattering attentiveness and passionate sex turns into raging jealousy, and Catherine soon learns there is a darker side to Lee. His increasing erratic, controlling behavior becomes frightening, but no one believes her when she shares her fears.  Increasingly isolated and driven into the darkest corner of her world, a desperate Catherine, plans a meticulous escape.  Four years later, Lee is behind bars and Catherine--now Cathy--compulsively checks the locks and doors in her apartment, trusting no one.  But when an attractive upstairs neighbor, Stuart, comes into her life, Cathy dares to hope that happiness and love may still be possible ... until she receives a phone call…

The book starts with the transcripts of the trial of Lee Brightman, Catherine's abusive  boyfriend, then uses concurrent timelines to tell both the story of Catherine's downward spiraling relationship with Lee, as well as four years later when she is trying to recover from the trauma, moving to a new city, calling herself Cathy and suffering from post traumatic stress disorder and obsessive compulsive behaviors. Her new upstairs neighbor Stuart, gradually begins to break through her brittle shell and gets Cathy to start facing her fears, until she finds out Lee has been released from prison and her terror begins to build again. Into the Darkest Corner by Elizabeth Haynes is a page turner. The subject matter of extreme domestic violence was hard to read at times, but the suspense kept me going. From the start you know the general outcome of Catherine and Lee, but not the depths of his violence, so getting to that point is suspenseful. In the alternating timeline, Cathy's struggles to lead a normal life and overcome her OCD are engrossing, then apprehension builds as Cathy begins to see signs that Lee may have found her. The 400 pages went by quickly and kept me up into the night.

Into the Darkest Corner was selected as Amazon UK's Best Book of 2011, and is releasing in the U.S. in June. Author Elizabeth Haynes is is a police intelligence analyst and lives in Kent with her husband and son. This is her first book and I think it is very cool that it started as part of the annual National Novel Writing Project (NaNoWriMo).

I always partner my book reviews with a recipe inspired by the book. That was a little harder for this book. There  is food in it, but at its core it is a dark thriller about domestic abuse--not exactly meal inspiring. I decided to look to the more hopeful side of Cathy for something to make. After drinking a bit too much wine and kissing her neighbor Stuart one night, he invites her over for a breakfast of bacon and eggs. "On the the small kitchen table, with a pot of tea, a neat rack with steaming toast in it, a jar of orange marmalade." I've been on a Cara Cara orange kick lately, buying the seedless tangy sweet pinkish-red fleshed citrus whenever I can. I had the remains of a large bag from Costco and although orange marmalade seemed too much of a pain to mess with, Cara Cara Orange Curd seemed like a wonderful idea. Cathy's relationship with Stuart and its effect on her strength and confidence are the bright spots in the book, so this sunny-hued, sweet spread is a good fit.

I adapted a citrus curd recipe from a class I took. It has less butter and sugar than my favorite decadent lilikoi curd recipe--not that it is a health food. ;-) I found some English Toasting Bread in my grocery store bakery to spread it on, and accompanied it with a small pot of tea.

Cara Cara Orange Curd (or Any Citrus Curd)
Adapted from a Citrus Curd Recipe from Chef Laura Gershuni
(Makes approximately 2 cups)

3 large eggs
2/3 cup fresh Cara Cara orange juice (or other citrus juice)
2 Tbsp lime juice
1 cup sugar
4 Tbsp unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
pinch salt

In a stainless steel bowl placed over a saucepan of simmering water, whisk together the eggs, sugar and juice until blended. Cook, stirring constantly to prevent curdling, until the mixture becomes thick, (about 10 minutes). 

Remove from heat. Whisk butter pieces into the mixture, one at a time until the butter has melted. Mix in zest and a pinch of salt. Cover immediately with plastic wrap to prevent a "skin" from forming and refrigerate. (The curd will continue to thicken as it cools). 

Notes/Results: Pretty coral color and lightly sweet, this is one tasty curd. It has a mellower flavor than lemon curd and is delicious spread on an English Muffin or piece of toast. I will make this again.

Note: A review copy of Into the Darkest Corner was provided by the publisher and TLC Book Tours. I was not compensated for this review and as always my thoughts and opinions are my own.


Monday, May 28, 2012

Strawberry, Baby Arugula and Goat Cheese Crostini for Cook the Books: The United States of Arugula

Thank goodness for Cook the Books, the bi-monthly virtual foodie book club that I have the honor of co-hosting along with Rachel, The Crispy Cook and Jo of Food Junkie Not Junk Food. It gives me the motivation to dig into the stack of foodie books next to my bed. This month's selection is The United States of Arugula: The Sun-Dried, Cold-Pressed, Dark-Roasted, Extra Virgin Story of the American Food Revolution by David Kamp. I have been in possession of a copy of this book for a few years now, but it took Jo selecting for April/May to get me to finally pick it up and dive in.

The United States of Arugula is truly a book for food geeks. It is a well-researched glimpse into the history of food and the players who took food from something basic that only filled bellies and sustained life, to the mix of art form, sport and entertainment that it is today. One part history and two parts gossip magazine--spilling fun and often juicy details about a bevy of food icons like James Beard, Julia Child, Alice Waters, Wolfgang Puck, Thomas Keller, etc. Of course there isn't room in the book for everyone, but it is amazing the amount of information that Kamp packs into under 400 pages, and it's done in way that keeps it light and easy to read. Smart and entertaining is an excellent combination and this both is both. Although it took a while to get there, this book is going from the floor stack to a prime spot on my foodie bookshelf.

For my Cook the Books dish, I took inspiration from the arugula in the title and from the California cuisine movement and one of its pioneers Alice Waters of Chez Panisse and a master of the salad composé or composed salad, where the ingredients are placed on top of or next to each other rather than mixed together. Rather than salad, I decided to take some favorite ingredients and place them on top of toasted baguette slices for a Strawberry, Baby Arugula and Goat Cheese Crostini. Simple to make but full of wonderful flavor and perfect for late spring. 

Strawberry, Baby Arugula and Goat Cheese Crostini
by Deb, Kahakai Kitchen
(Makes 12 Toasts)

12 (1/2" thick) slices crusty baguette bread, brushed with olive oil and toasted
4 oz soft goat cheese
1 1/2 cups baby arugula leaves
6-8 fresh strawberries, sliced thinly lengthwise
2 Tbsp fresh tarragon, finely chopped
freshly ground black pepper 
Spread goat cheese on toast slices. Top with arugula leaves and strawberry slices. Sprinkle with fresh tarragon and freshly ground black pepper.

Notes/Results: Light and lovely. The tangy goat cheese and peppery arugula work well with the small sweet Kula strawberries and the clean herbal taste of the tarragon. Although the ingredients say "California" to me, the ingredients except for the pepper were all grown or produced here in Hawaii. The strawberries and goat cheese from Maui, the bread baked by a local bakery and the arugula and tarragon grown on the North Shore. These would be great for a party or a nice warm-weather lunch. I will make them again.

The deadline for this CTB round was today. (Whoops! Oh well, it's still Monday in Hawaii) ;-) Our hostess Jo will be rounding up all the entries at the Cook the Books site soon. If you missed this round, join us for June/July, when Rachel will be hosting the foodie mystery, "Death By Darjeeling: A Tea Shop Mystery" by Laura Childs.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Corn and Cheese Chowder Made Dairy Free (Not That You'd Know It) for Food 'N Flix: Sideways & Souper (Soup, Salad & Sammie) Sundays

I think for most people, the film Sideways doesn't necessarily conjure up visions of a bowl of Corn and Cheese Chowder. Corn chowder isn't a central character in this wine-filled comedy, but it does have a small walk-on part. On a double date between wine-loving sad sack Miles and intelligent waitress and horticultural student Maya, along with randy actor and soon to be married Jack paired with sassy winery employee Stephanie, the waitress mentions that corn chowder is the soup of the day. I heard that and thought, "I want some corn chowder..." and there was my inspiration. ;-) The fact that the "corn lady" has been parked at the Park-and-Ride near my house the last few Fridays selling sweet local corn just sealed the deal. Corn chowder would be my Sideways-inspired dish for Food 'N Flix.

Sideways is our Food 'N Flix movie selection for May, hosted by Tina of Life in the Slow Lane at Squirrel Manor. There is definitely more wine than food in this movie as it takes place on a vino-fueled mid-life crisis road trip to wine country and features a terrific cast; Paul Giamatti, Virginia Madsen, Thomas Hayden Church and Sandra Oh. Miles (Giamatti) is a divorced and depressed English teacher trying to get a book published, and the trip is his wedding gift to his best friend and college buddy Jack (Hayden-Church), an actor, who wants to sow some more wild oats before settling down. Miles is attracted to Maya's (Madsen) intelligence and knowledge of wine, while Jack begins to romance Stephanie (Oh), not mentioning the fact that he is about to be married. It's a smart comedy and although I frequently find myself wanting to smack both Miles and Jack for many varied reasons, it is an entertaining film. 

My Sideways-inspired Corn and Cheese Chowder comes from Love Soup by Anna Thomas, my favorite soup cookbook for both recipes and inspiration. There is wine in it--in this case a crisp Pinot Grigio (it's what was open). The chowder is vegetarian as written but I decided to make it dairy free and vegan by substituting out the milk, butter and cream with non-dairy alternatives. (My changes are in red below.) The chowder turned out creamy and lightly cheesy but not heavy, so the dairy wasn't missed   

Thomas says, "In my very first cookbook, The Vegetarian Epicure, I had a recipe for a corn and cheese chowder. I looked it up recently and saw that it called for...1 1/4 cups of heavy cream! Whoa! Then I laughed and thought, Those were the days. I was a young university student and thin as a rail. But corn and cheese chowder was one of my favorites, so I made it again and let it evolve with my current style of cooking: less cream, more corn, no flour, plenty of fresh herbs. It's a delicious corn chowder for modern times. (If you're still in school, go ahead and pour in another cup of cream - I don't mind.)"

Corn and Cheese Chowder
Adapted from Love Soup by Anna Thomas
(Serves 5-6)

1 lb Yukon Gold potatoes (450 g)
1 bay leaf
5 - 6 fresh sage leaves, finely chopped, or 2 tsps dried, crumbled sage
1 1/2 - 2 teaspoons sea salt, plus more if needed

(I added 1/2 cup chopped baby carrots) 
1 large yellow onion (350 g)
1 Tbsp (15 ml) olive oil
1 Tbsp unsalted butter (I used Earth Balance vegan spread)
1 cup (240 ml) whole milk (I used light coconut milk)
1 cup (240 ml) vegetable broth 
1/3 cup (80 l) heavy cream or half-and-half (I used a dairy-free creamer)
4 cups (600 g) corn kernels, scraped from 6 - 7 ears corn
2 - 3 green onions, white and green parts, sliced (50 g)
1 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 cup (30 g) chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
hot paprika
freshly ground black pepper
4 - 5 Tbsp (75 ml) dry white wine, optional
4 oz. (120 g) sharp cheddar cheese (I used Daiya vegan cheddar cheese)

Scrub the potatoes, cut them in 1/2-inch dice, and put them in a large soup pot with 3 cups (750 ml) water, the bay leaf, the sage, and a teaspoon of sea salt. Bring the water to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer for 5 to 6 minutes.

Meanwhile, chop the onion coarsely and saute it in the oil and butter with a pinch of salt over medium heat, stirring often, until it is translucent and browning in spots, about 15 minutes. Add the onion to the soup, along with the milk, broth, cream, corn and sliced green onions. Bring the soup back to a simmer and let it bubble for another 6 to 7 minutes.

Toast the cumin seeds for a few minutes in a dry skillet, and then grind them in a mortar or a spice grinder. Add the cumin, parsley, a pinch of hot paprika, and some black pepper to the soup. Taste the soup, and add more salt if needed. Stir in the white wine if you wish.

Keeping the soup at just below the simmer point, slowly stir in the grated cheese, allowing it to melt smoothly into the soup. From this point onward, you cannot let the soup simmer or boili, as that would curdle the cheese. If you need to reheat it, do it carefully, watching and stirring.

Notes/Results: A velvety and delicious bowl of soup. I like how the herbs and spices--fresh sage and parsley, bay, paprika, ground cumin seeds and hot paprika, work together. Nothing stands out but they all harmonize to bring great flavor. I was a little worried about how well the shreds of non-dairy cheese would melt but it melted well. It's not perhaps as "gooey" cheesy as real cheese, but the flavor is there and it adds to the texture. It's a filling and satisfying soup but not too heavy. Excellent, and I will make it again.

The deadline for this month's Food 'N Flix is May 30th, and Tina will be rounding up the entries at Life in the Slow Lane at Squirrel Head Manor shortly after. If you missed this round and love food and movies, June's selection is a favorite of mine, Mistress of Spices, hosted by Culinary Adventures with Camilla.  

I am also linking it to Sunday Night Soup Night!, hosted by Debbie at Easy Natural Food and Sue's Cookbook Sundays at Couscous and Consciousness.

Now, let's check out who is in the Souper Sundays kitchen.

Janet at The Taste Space has this hearty Ethiopian Split Pea Puree (Kik Alicha) to share and says, "...I tried the version from Olive Trees and Honey which had simpler ingredients: split peas, onion, garlic, and oil. It also called for a chile and I obliged by using one green chile.  With the bountiful onions and garlic, this was flavourful, and not spicy at all with only one green chile. Mild, but not distracting. Creamy yet not oily. This was how it was meant to be.  To make it even more luscious, puree the dish or partially mash."

Graziana of Erbe in Cucina made Tarragon Stracciatella (Egg Soup) and says, "This is the time of the year when I realize that winter is over, and so I rush to prepare some recipes that I forget to prepare! Despite the spring there are some gray and windy days, and I take this opportunity to cook for the last time some recipes perhaps more suited to a cold season, as this hearty egg soup. I added some tarragon to this soup and also to the croutons. Its slightly spicy aroma was perfect with the taste of eggs and beef broth."

Debbie of Easy Natural Foods has a flavorful Tomato Vegetable Soup to share and says, "This is a simple but tasty vegetable soup that I made to use up a variety of different vegetables in my fridge. Sometimes I get a little carried away at the farmer’s market and buy more produce than I end up using in a week, but fortunately there is always soup to take care of any extras."

Heather of girlichef made this colorful Avocado-Mango Salad with Gorgonzola, Bacon & Toasted Pepitas and says, "I definitely consider this a meal-salad.  The texture and flavor layers are insane.  Butter lettuce is crisp, yet soft and velvety.  Sweet juicy mango.  Creamy avocado.  Smoky, salty bacon.  Earthy toasted pepitas.  Pungent cheese.  All drizzled in a dressing that is all kinds of nutty, tangy, sweet, and hot all in the same mouthful.

Pam of Sidewalk Shoes shares a salad this week and says, "I call this my Everyday Salmon Salad. Why?  Because it’s so easy you could make it everyday and it’s so good you could eat it everyday! So, for this salad, while the salmon was broiling I grabbed some baby greens from the fridge, found some carrots and radishes, which I gave a quick whirl with the shredding disk on my food processor and put it in a bowl.  When the salmon was done, I flaked it into the bowl, tossed with a homemade vinaigrette, a little more salt and pepper, some fresh bread and that was dinner.  Dinner in less than 15 minutes.

Carol of There's Always Time to Cook made some tangy Quick Pickled Cabbage Slaw to go with her Korean-Style Steak Tacos and says, "It was a gorgeous day, perfect time to grill. The June magazines have tons of grilling recipes so I started to flip through the piles of magazines I have just waiting to be read and found plenty of recipes I put on the list to try. Tonight grilled steak taco's won out. They always do."

Some wonderful dishes this week--thanks to everyone who joined in. If you have a soup, salad, or sandwich that you would like to share, just click on the Souper Sundays logo on my side bar for all of the details.

Have a happy, healthy Memorial Day Weekend and week!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Sparkling Tamarind Cooler (Agua de Tamarindo): Sweet & Tangy Warm Weather Refresher

I have been looking at boxes of whole tamarind pods at my local Whole Foods for quite some time now.  I love the slightly sweet and tart spiced flavor of these woody pods of fruit. I usually buy the pulp frozen or in a little containers in the Asian grocery store sections and markets here, so I thought it would be fun to try the fresh stuff. Rick Bayless has recipes in several of his books for making fresh tamarind pulp base and turning it into an agua fresca or cocktail. I made a batch of the base and made adaptations to turn part of it into a refreshing Sparkling Tamarind Cooler (Agua de Tamarindo).

Sparkling Tamarind Cooler (Agua de Tamarindo)
Adapted from Fiesta at Rick's by Rick Bayless
(Makes about 2 quarts)

Tamarind Base:
1 pound (about 16 large) fresh tamarind pods—flexible ones with shells that flake off easily.
Hold a pod in one hand, loosen the stem with the other, then firmly pull out the stem and all the runners that trail down between the shell and pulp. Peel off the shells. 

In a large (4-quart), non-aluminum saucepan, bring 1 quart water to a boil. Add the tamarind, remove from the heat and let stand until completely soft—1 to 2 hours, depending on the freshness of the pods. Using your hand or the back of a large spoon, thoroughly dislodge the softened brown tamarind pulp from the fibrous material and seeds. 

Strain, discarding the solids. You should have 1 quart of tamarind pulp; if you don’t, add water to reach that quantity.

Sparkling Tamarind Cooler (Agua de Tamarindo):
Tamarind Base 
honey to taste (can also use sugar, agave, or simple syrup)
club soda or seltzer
ice cubes (small ones are best)

Place tamarind base in a glass or pitcher (depending on how much cooler you are making). Stir in honey or desired sweetener to taste. (I used about 2 teaspoons for 1 large glass). Add club soda in an equal amount to base. Serve over ice in tall glasses and enjoy!

Notes/Results: Lightly sweet, perfect tangy, this is a fun warm weather refresher. You could of course make it more traditional with the plain water, but the bubbles in the soda water make it feel special. Honey pairs well with the tamarind and I think that it adds a more complex flavor than plain sugar. I ended up with two jars of the base and just made a couple of glasses of the cooler, leaving me plenty more to play around with. I will probably try a Mexican Snakebite or "La Culebra" (tamarind base, apple cider & Mexican beer) and use some base unsweetened in a savory dish. (There is a  little Malaysian-Singaporean  restaurant here that makes a delicious fish in tamarind sauce that I would love to recreate.) Making the tamarind pulp is a little messy and a bit of a pain, so I don't know that I will make my own base very often, but it was fun to try and the flavor is excellent. I did not take step by step photos of the process (it was sticky and I am lazy!), but check out this post over at girlichef where Heather has done a much better job of documenting it.

It's Potluck! week over at I Heart Cooking Clubs this week. You can check out what everyone made by going to the post and following the links.

Happy Aloha Friday!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Wholesome Spinach-Dal Soup and a Cookbook Review of Quick-Fix Indian by Ruta Kahate for Souper (Soup, Salad & Sammie) Sundays

One of my favorite cuisines to cook and eat is Indian food. From warm curries to cooling raitas, I love the exotic ingredients and flavors. We are lucky enough to have a well-stocked Indian market here on Oahu, so finding ingredients is fairly easy. If you find cooking Indian food daunting, Quick-Fix Indian: Easy and Exotic Dishes in 30 Minutes or Less by Ruta Kahate, sets out to prove that tasty Indian cuisine can be done quickly and easily at home.

Quick-Fix Indian (Andrews McMeel Publishing, LLC, May 2012 Paperback 224 pages) has more than 100 recipes for Brisk Breakfasts, Lightening Lunches, Swift Soups, Speedy Salads and Raitas. Mains in Minutes, Express Veggies, Snappy Staples, Curries in a Hurry (Dals,Too), Rapid Relishes, Zippy Snacks, Double-Quick Desserts, and Last Minute Libations. There are sections on building a Quick-Fix Indian Pantry, a demystified shopping list that explains some less familiar ingredients, and a Shortcut Shelf with recipes for various make-your-own ingredient like ghee, masala pastes, browned onions and paneer (cheese).

Recipes I tagged to make are Eggless Omelet (a sort of savory pancake), Breakfast Channa Masala, Kids Favorite Banana Fritters, Grilled Paneer and Beet Salad, Indian Veggie Burgers, Cold Buttermilk Soup, Sprouted Mung Bean Salad, Indian Chopped Salad, Potato Raita with Cumin, Black Pepper Shrimp with Curry Leaves, Pan-Fried Silky Eggplant, Baby Potatoes in Green Masala Sauce, Pepped-Up Cauliflower, Sauteed Coconut Chard, Savory Coconut Rice, Spicy Egg Curry, Two-Greens Stew, Sweet Carrot Chutney, Indian Tater Tots, Carrot Halva, Cashew Brittle, Fresh Lime Soda, Pineapple Squash (A fruit drink), and Indian Spiced Tea. After paging through the book, I most wanted to make the simple Wholesome Spinach-Dal Soup--using channa dal or split chickpeas in a lightly-spiced broth.

Ruta Kahate says, "Dal, the soupy preparation made from dried lentils or beans, is the foundation of Indian Cooking, the one protein eaten in every corner of the subcontinent, whether you're a vegetarian or not. This recipe adds spinach for twice the flavor and goodness. It makes a delicious soup, but you can also enjoy it over rice, as part of a larger Indian menu. Or just add a piece of crusty bread and call it supper." 

Wholesome Spinach-Dal Soup
Quick-Fix Indian by Ruta Kahate
(Serves 4)

3/4 cup chana dal (split chickpeas)
4 cups water
2 Tbsp canola oil
1/3 cup minced yellow onion
2 whole cloves
1/4 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp ground coriander
1 cup finely shredded spinach
1 Tbsp ghee (I used safflower oil)
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
3 large cloves garlic, minced

Rinse and soak the channa dal in hot water to cover for at least 10 minutes or up to 4 hours.

Drain, top with 3 cups of fresh water, and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat to medium, cover, and cook until the dal is soft but still retains its shape--about 20 minutes.

While the dal is cooking, heat the oil in a medium saucepan. Saute the onion and whole cloves until the onion is well browned. Stir in the turmeric and coriander, then add the spinach and cook until soft.

When the dal has softened, pour it into the spinach, add the remaining cup of water and salt to taste, and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat and simmer for 4 minutes.

Heat the ghee in a small skillet over medium-high heat. When the ghee just begins to smoke, add the cumin seeds and cover. When the sputtering stops, add the garlic and cook until well browned. Pour over soup and serve hot. 

Notes/Results: Simple and full of good flavor. This would be a great starter soup for someone not sure of all the spices and exotic flavors of Indian cooking as it isn't at all overpowering. The onion, turmeric, coriander, cumin seeds and garlic provide plenty of flavor but it is fairly subtle. If you can't find the channa dal, any lentil would work. This is a healthy and nourishing soup--vegetarian as written and made vegan by omitting the ghee and using oil instead. Rather than serving it with rice, or crusty bread, I crisped up some spiced papadums--Indian cracker like bread to dip in and scoop out bites. Quick and easy to prepare, I will make this again.

I intend to cook much more from this book. In fact, I keep going back to the other recipe I have tried so far--One Minute Channa. It is nothing more than a can of chickpeas tossed with fresh lemon juice and a a bit of the author's garam masala--a spice mix of toasted and ground cumin seeds, coriander seeds, cardamom pods, black peppercorns, cloves, fennel seeds, cinnamon and a pinch of salt. So simple, but so addicting as a snack or salad.

Ruta Kahate is an accomplished chef, author and culinary travel guide who places her own modern and simple twists on classic Indian cooking. The recipes are written clearly and don't have overly complicated steps or impossibly long lists of ingredients, making Quick-Fix Indian an excellent resource for those who may be new to cooking Indian food or those more experienced cooks who want tasty food that's faster and easier to make than some recipes in more traditional Indian cookbooks.

Note: I received a copy of Quick-Fix Indian from the publisher (Andrews McMeel), however I received no monetary compensation to review it. As always, my thoughts, feedback and experiences cooking from it are entirely my own.

This soup is linked up to Sunday Night Soup Night at Easy Natural Foods and Cookbook Sundays over at Couscous & Consciousness.

Let's see who is in the Souper Sunday's Kitchen this week and what they brought.

Lee Ann from Cooking on the Ranch is here with a hearty Boulder Beer Porter Stew. She says, "Made with a Boulder Beer Planet Porter, a beer whose flavors reminds one of a good quality strong coffee mixed with a bite of dark berry serves as a great platform for a robust bowl of stew.  A long simmer in this flavorful broth, chunky vegetables, buffalo top roundsteak, all infused with lots of rosemary, results in a flat out wonderful savory rich flavor."

My pal Kim from Stirring the Pot made creamy Fresh Corn Chowder from Rick Bayless and says, "It is amazing!  So, if you're saying to yourself that a thick creamy chowder isn't what you want to eat during the summertime I hope you'll reconsider because the time to make this chowder is now.  Now, while fresh corn is in season. ... This chowder is mild and creamy and what's more...my husband, who almost never likes soup, loved it!"

Debbie from Easy Natural Food made Curried Golden Beet Soup and says, "Golden beets are typically steamed or roasted. They are great in salads, soups or as a side dish, providing a cheerful yellow splash of color and a wonderful sweet, earthy taste (but milder in taste than red beets). ... I had a large bowl of this soup in the fridge and ate it over several days, and it just kept getting better as the flavors blended over time."

Janet from The Taste Space has both a soup and a salad this week. First up her Appaloosa Bean Summer Chili. Janet says, "Named after the colourfully dappled horse, these are incredibly pretty beans. At least before they have been cooked. They keep their shape well and don’t have any strong flavours. They worked well in this summer chili with zucchini, red pepper and tomato. The red wine brought a robust depth of flavour and the summer flavours really shined through."

Janet also made this Curried Couscous Pilaf Salad with Peas and Currents and says, "This is a quick salad to put together, but you still get the benefits from assembling each part separately. First, toast your couscous/quinoa/millet and cook it with stock to up its flavour. Next, saute some onions and add some zip from the toasted curry powder, cumin and a hint of cinnamon. Peas make this a filling salad and currants add a touch of sweetness to balance out the dish.  I can see why this is such a knock-out salad at potlucks!"

Some hearty and nourishing dishes this week--thanks to all who joined in. If you have a soup, salad, or sandwich that you would like to share, just click on the Souper Sundays logo on my side bar for all of the details. 

Have a happy, healthy week!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Pineapple, Mint & Serrano Paletas Mexicanas (Mexican Fruit Pops): Sweet and Cool Ice Pops with a Kick

Nothing cools down and satisfies like a paleta or frozen fresh fruit pop on a warm day. There has been a fair amount of humidity here lately and I was craving some icy goodness. My favorite paletas come from OnoPops, an Oahu company that combines local fruit and ingredients into unique and delicious combinations. One of my favorite OnoPops variations is the Mango-Habanero which has just the right amount of spicy kick in a sweet and fruity base. It was my inspiration for these Pineapple, Mint & Serrano Paletas, adapted from the Paletas Mexicanas recipe from Salsas That Cook by Rick Bayless. 

(My changes/adaptations to the recipe are in red below.)

Rick says, "On warm days all throughout the neighborhood, I can hear the jingling bells of paletero signaling to all of us the arrival of his sweet frozen fruit on sticks--from guanabana and papaya to coconut and tamarind."

Pineapple, Mint & Serrano Paletas Mexicanas (Mexican Fruit Pops)
Adapted from Salsas That Cook by Rick Bayless
(Makes Eight 2-oz Pops)

scant 2 cups coarsely pureed, peeled & pitted fruit* (I used fresh local pineapple)
(2 Tbsp coarsely chopped mint leaves)
(1/2 serrano pepper, seeded)
1/2 to 2 Tbsp fresh lime juice (I used 1 1/2 Tbsp)
superfine sugar to taste, optional (I didn't use any sugar)

*Note: Rick says, "For really thick purees, like mango, you'll probably want to use 1 1/2 cups fruit and 1/2 cup water, with looser purees, I wouldn't add any water."

(Puree pineapple, mint and serrano chile in blender until smooth.)

Combine pureed fruit with the minimum quantities of sugar and lime in a 1-quart measuring cup with a spout. Taste and determine what your fruit needs. (Remember, when the mixture is frozen, flavors will be slightly muted; go for slightly sweeter and slightly tarter than you'd normally like. Stir the mixture until the sugar has dissolved completely. Fill your molds, leaving about 1/4-inch headspace to allow for expansion, set the lids in place.

Freeze until firmly set (this should take a couple of hours, though feel free to make them several days ahead if that's more convenient). Remove pops from molds (if necessary,  rinsing molds briefly under hot water first). The pops look festive and fun displayed in a chilled bowl, all the sticks poking up. 

Notes/Results: Oh these are GOOD! (If I do say so myself) ;-) The sweet juicy pineapple is the star, but the lime adds a tangy bright burst of flavor that combines well with the cooling mint. The serrano is just enough to let you know it is there and leave a bit of heat in the mouth. You could add more if you like the burn or take it out for kids. My Maui Gold pineapple was so sweet I didn't feel that it needed extra sugar at all, making it a very healthy and guilt-free snack or dessert.

We are celebrating the color Yellow this week at I Heart Cooking Clubs. You can check out the golden-hued Rick Bayless dishes that everyone created by following the links.

Happy Aloha Friday!