Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Asparagus Soup With Ginger & Almond Oil

This soup is so delicate and flavorful, you wont believe your mouth. The mild and refined essence of the asparagus is highlighted by an aromatic oil infused with lemony and earthy ginger and sweet and nutty almonds. The Asparagus gets lightly sauteed with smashed garlic cloves and fresh thyme. Then boiled with water, silky milk, salt and pepper, it gets liquefied before being thickened with a little flour rue. As for the infused oil, slices of fresh ginger and almonds are simmer-fried (yes my own invention of a word. Where the oil fries, but the ingredients are drenched in the oil that it looks like it's simmering) to release all of their essential flavors and aromas. The oil is then drizzled over the soup and served with good crusty baguette slices. This soup is a luxurious experience for your senses. So on a cozy fall day, bundle up and enjoy.




Asparagus Soup With Ginger & Almond Oil

For the soup:
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 bunch of asparagus, washed and ends trimmed
7 cloves of garlic, smashed
5 sprigs of thyme
6 cups water
2 cups milk
2 tbsp. flour
1 tbsp. salt
1 tsp. black pepper

For the oil:
1/2 cup olive oil
A 2 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and sliced
1/2 cup of sliced almonds

Heat up the 2 tbsp. of olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring often. Add asparagus and whole sprigs of thyme. Add 1 tsp of the salt and 1/4 tsp of the pepper. Cook for 10-15 minutes or until the garlic and asparagus begin to brown and soften. Add water and milk, turn heat up to high and cover. Bring to a boil. Remove from heat. Strain out all of the asparagus, thyme and garlic and place into a blender with 4 ladles of the liquid. Pulse until completely liquefied. Place back into the pot with the remaining liquid. In a bowl, pour 2 ladles of the soup and add the flour. Whisk until there are no lumps and the mixture smooth. Add back to the pot, add remaining salt and pepper and bring to a boil. 

For the oil:
Place the olive oil in a small pot over medium high heat. Add the ginger and almonds and let cook for 10- 12 minutes or until they have browned nicely. Drizzle over soup and garnish with almonds and fresh thyme. 

Cremini Mushroom,Tomato & Mozzarella Stuffed Artichoke Hearts With A Side Of Sweet & Dirty Fries

Here's a new way to enjoy artichokes. Stuff them, and have a chunky and flavorful cheesy dip right in the center. I love food you can play with and artichokes are definitely one of them. Kids will love the idea of playing with their food plus all that cheesy goodness on the inside. Sauteed purple onions, tomatoes and cremini mushrooms get sauteed in a little olive oil, then stuffed into the center of the artichokes that have already been boiled and had their hairy centers removed. Sprinkled with mozzarella cheese and placed under the broiler for a few extra minutes and this fun dish is served!

To go along with this tasty but healthy dish, I made something I call Sweet & Dirty Fries. To be honest, you cant actually call them fries because they aren't as crispy as the original french fries since they are baked, but they are still really delicious! Using sweet potatoes, I seasoned them with some olive oil, salt and pepper, and here's where the dirty part comes in; some paprika and  curry added to the seasoning. Bake in the oven until lightly browned.  They are sweet with a hint of spice.

Cremini Mushrooms, Tomato & Mozzarella Stuffed Artichokes
Serves 4.

4 medium artichokes, stems removed
1 cup cremini mushrooms, diced
1 cup tomatoes, diced
1 small or half a purple onion, diced
1 cup shredded mozzarella
2 tbsp. olive oil
pinch of salt and pepper

In a pot of boiling water, add the artichokes and let them cook until leaves have softened, about 45 minutes. In a pan, heat olive oil and saute the onions until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add mushrooms and tomatoes and cook until the onions and mushrooms begin to brown. Remove from heat and set aside. Drain the artichokes. Carefully open up the center leaves and using a spoon, scoop out just the hairy center, being careful not to scrape the heart. Fill the mushroom and tomato mix in the center. Sprinkle with a good amount of cheese. Place on a foil lined baking sheet and place under the broiler for 5-10 minutes or until cheese is melted and bubbly.

Sweet & Dirty Fries
1 large sweet potato, cut into fries
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. curry powder
2 tablespoons olive oil.

Pre-heat oven to 450 degrees.
Place the sweet potatoes on a baking sheet lined with foil. Drizzle with the olive oil and season with all four spices. Toss to coat and place in the oven for 25 - 30 minutes or until the potatoes are cooked through and browned a bit.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Sunday Strawberry Smoothie

Nothing says Sunday morning more than whipping up a home made smoothie. This one is easy and delicious. Strawberries, yogurt, milk and sugar. Simple. Sunday. Morning. Have a fabulous one.

Sunday Strawberry Smoothie
Makes 2 Servings

1 cup strawberries, stems removed
1 cup milk
1/2 cup low fat vanilla yogurt
2 tbsp. granulated sugar

Place all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. Pour, sip, enjoy.

Lemon Poppy Surprise Cookies

I love poppy seed filling so much I could eat it out of the can. Not so good if you're about to have your picture taken. These cookies are delicate and buttery to the bite filled with a sinful surprise. I added surprise to the title because when I served them, everyone was sure that there was raspberry jam or chocolate inside. No one expected to see and taste the sticky and delicious black specks of poppy. The dough is infused with a good dose of lemon zest that lend a  really bright zing to this cookie. Sprinkled with a little powdered sugar, it's your morning coffee or teas best friend. 

The dough is really soft and delicate. When you make them you will feel the urge to add more flour, but don't. This is what makes them so light and crumbly. 

Lemon Poppy Surprise Cookies
Makes about 2 dozen cookies.
4 sticks margarine
1 cup confectioners sugar, plus more for dusting
3 tbsp vanilla extract
4 1/2 cups all purpose flour
zest of one lemon
Poppy seed filling

Preheat the oven to 350°. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper.
In the bowl of a standing electric mixer fitted with the paddle, beat the butter with 1 cup of the confectioners' sugar until pale white, about 5 minutes. Beat in the vanilla and lemon zest. Add the flour and beat at low speed just until combined.
On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to 1/4 inch thickness. Using a 2 inch round cookie cutter, cut out circles. Fill half of the circles with 1 tsp of poppy seed filling. With a pastry brush, lightly brush the edges of the filled circles with a little bit of water. Cover the filled cookies with the remaining circles and press lightly on the edges to seal. Poke the cookies with a few holes, not too deep, just to create a design. 
Bake for 22 to 24 minutes, until the bottoms are golden and the tops are pale blond; Transfer the baking sheets to racks and let the cookies cool for 10 minutes. Dust with confectioners sugar and garnish with lemon zest curls. 

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Hearty Autumn Beef Stew

Fall is finally here, and I couldn't be more excited. The warm and cozy clothing, the nip in the air and of course the heart warming food. This is my signature beef stew. I have been making it ever since I learned how to cook and trust me, it never fails to make people melt in their seats as they take that first bite. The recipe mostly stays the same every time I make it except when I am missing an ingredient or two. I usually add regular chopped onion and button mushrooms, but on days I want to get a little fancier I'll use pearl onions and cremini mushrooms instead.  If it's especially cold outside I'll add potatoes, but when I want to lighten it up a bit, I omit them. And for the beans I like to add cannellini beans but I sometimes switch them up for pinto beans. So this recipe is very flexible which is another reason I love it so much. But I do like to keep the technique and the flavors the same. For example, I never boil meat before I use it. Instead I lock the meat, which basically means I sear the meat on all sides in the pot on very high heat. What this does is lock in the juices, plus it leaves little bits of fat and flavor on the bottom of the pan when you cook it at that high temperature which then flavors the rest of your veggies and sauce. Another thing I don't like to change is the addition of wine. The wine gives it an immense depth of flavor that, without it, is just not the same. And I am sure you all know this by now but cooking wine expired in the 80s. If you wouldn't drink it, don't cook with it.  Same goes for the rosemary and thyme. Technically you can just do Italian parsley alone, but it's just not going to have that same aroma and flavor. So try to have those on hand when making this dish. OK, enough jabbering. Here's the recipe.

Hearty Autumn Beef Stew
Serves 6

2 lbs cubed chuck beef ( AKA stew beef)
1 large onion, chopped
3 large carrots, chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
4 garlic cloves, sliced
2 cups mushrooms, halved (or quartered if too big)
3 large rosemary sprigs
6 thyme sprigs
1 can cannellini beans, NOT drained
1 small can tomato paste
1 cup good red drinking wine
8 cups water
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 heaping tbsp paprika
1 tsp. cumin
2 tbsp olive oil

Pat beef dry with paper towels. Heat olive oil in the bottom of the pan and brown the meat on all sides on very high heat. Remove and set a side. Immediately add the onion and let it cook for 10 minutes until translucent. Add carrots, celery, garlic, mushrooms, thyme and rosemary sprigs. Stir to combine season with 1/2 tsp of the salt and 1/4 tsp. of the pepper,  and cook for 10 minutes until carrots just begin to soften. Add the wine and scrape all the bits from the bottom of the pan. Stir and bring to a simmer. Add tomato paste and beans with their juice. Stir well. Add the water, remaining salt and pepper, cumin and paprika. Raise heat to high and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to medium low and add the meat back to the pot. Cover and let cook for 1 hour or until the meat is fork tender. Remove thyme and rosemary sprigs and serve with crusty bread.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Sesame Glazed Chicken with Fired Mini Peppers

As a working mother, I love short cuts. But that doesn't mean I am pulling out frozen boxed dinners on a moments notice. And there are very few jarred sauces I fall head over heels for. Well, make that two. One of them is Mikees Marinade with Garlic, which I recently showed you in a past post for a Chinese stir fry recipe. And the other one is Maui Mountain Sweet and Sour Sauce.

 It's the exact flavor of that bad for you, but so good sweet and sour chicken you get at the take out place. But sometimes sauce out of jar begins to taste like...well sauce out of a jar. So I decided to mix it up a bit. Literally . I combined half quantities of each sauce. Added a little sesame oil and sesame seeds and smothered it over chicken drumsticks. The flavor was new, yet had all the things I love about both sauces. It's literally lick your fingers delicious.  Just toss them in the oven, covered for 350. Bake for an hour and uncover for an additional 30 minutes or till they get a gorgeous golden brown crisp skin. When the main course is something so savory, and packed with flavor, I like to keep sides pretty simple. Throwing peppers on the fire, makes them smokey and sweet and definitely one of my favorite things. The fact that they are mini peppers makes it a great one biter. This dinner idea is super fast and simple, and what you will be making tonight.