Saturday, July 31, 2010

Shrimp with Homemade Tandoori Marinade

One of my oldest and dearest friends is from New Delhi, India, and it was with him that I ate at my first Indian restaurant. "Never order shrimp in an Indian restaurant," he warned me, and I have always followed his advice. He explained that it was only put on the menu for Americans, and not really Indian at all.

But when I was exploring My Feasts and came across this post, I knew I would have to leave the beaten path and try Tandoori Shrimp for myself. Well, not quite by myself, I invited a friend over and we both agreed it was pretty good!

While the recipe I referenced noted that you can buy Tandoori paste at specialty stores, I knew that I was not going to waste a lot of gas driving around Los Angeles looking for said paste.  (In case you're an experienced Indian cook, I want to be clear that I know that part of what makes a dish "Tandoori" is the type of oven it is cooked in, which I didn't have.) Of course it wasn't too hard to make it from scratch, so being the DIYer I am, that's what happened. I found a recipe here and reduced the portions to what is below. If you like it a bit spicier, increase the paprika.

Shrimp with Homemade Tandoori Marinade

4 tablespoons cilantro, minced
5 tablespoons ginger, chopped
1 large lemon, zest and juice
2 1/2 tablespoons cumin seed, pan toasted
2 tablespoons paprika
2 large red chilies, chopped
2 large garlic cloves
2.2 oz tomato paste
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

10 shrimp (5 per diner)
3 tablespoons yogurt

Combine all ingredients in blender or food processor and puree until smooth. You can add a teaspoon of water to ensure smooth blending. Scrap down sides to ensure all is blended. This will make about 8 tablespoons of paste and the best way to preserve it is to spoon it into an ice cube tray and freeze them. Use two cubes (2 tablespoons) for a 2 person meal.

Combine 2 tablespoons of paste with the yogurt and blend well. Marinate shrimp in mixture for 30 minutes and then bake at 425 degrees for 8-10 minutes.


Recipes currently inspiring me:

Stuffed Cheese Bread with Herbs at Stacey Snacks
Panzanella Bread Salad at Simply Recipes
Asiago Crusted Baked Zucchini Sticks at The Taste Space

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Tomato, Mango and Jicama Salad

Here's a super easy and fresh summer salad that uses my favorite root vegetable, jicama. The crunchy, citrus taste of jicama goes really well with the mango and cilantro and the savory taste of tomato just makes your mouth jump with excitement!

Bring this to your next picnic or potluck and watch people turn in surprise as they bite into the crunchy jicama. You could easily add some toasted nuts - cashews or almonds - and make this a heartier salad as a main dish or a side.

Don't add the avocado until the last minute as it has a tendency to get terribly mushed when tossing the ingredients.

Tomato, Mango and Jicama Salad

1 1/2 cups diced jicama
2-3 large tomatoes (I used a mix of heirloom and early girls)
2 large mangos (or 3-4 altufo AKA champagne mangos) diced
2 tablespoons cilantro, minced
1 avocado, diced
1 lemon or lime, juiced
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil

Mix all in a bowl and toss gently. Serve chilled or at room temperature.


Recipes currently inspiring me:
Vegan Tuna Salad at Gluten Free Goddess
Japanese Pickled Carrots and Daikon Radish at Closet Cooking
Shrimp Po Boy with Remoulade at Cinnamon Spice and Everything Nice

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Gram Flour (chick pea) Pancakes with Coriander Chutney and Raita

Ever since I came across this post here I have been dying to make these pancakes. They sounded so quick, easy and delicious that I knew they would not wallow long in my bookmarked recipes file.

Gram flour, made of ground chick peas, is not only gluten free and full of protein but has a lovely nutty taste. Add any veggies or seasonings that you like and presto! you have a fabulous faux carb for your meal. Don't even think about serving them without the condiments - that's like pie without whipped cream or salsa without chips. The coriander chutney was this recipe that I made before and the raita is just yogurt, cucumber and cilantro (or mint, your choice).

This beauties make a delicious snack or as part of a larger meal. No matter when you eat them I know you'll will enjoy them!

Gram Flour (chick pea flour) Pancakes with Coriander Chutney and Raita

1 1/4 cups chickpea flour (or gram flour)
1 cup water
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon garam masala
1-2 jalapeno or serrano peppers, minced
2 tablespoon fresh cilantro, chopped
3 tablespoons vegetable or canola oil

Place chickpea flour in a large mixing bowl. Add water and whisk to make a smooth batter. Add the remaining ingredients except the oil and blend well. Set aside for 15 minutes to a couple of hours to thicken. Heat nonstick or cast iron skillet on medium heat. Add oil and spoon batter into pan and cook like regular pancakes, flipping when each pancakes has multitude of popped air bubbles on its uncooked surface. Serve with Chutney and Raita.

Recipes currently inspiring me:

Gluten Free Chicken Burger at Sophie's Foodfiles
Tempeh Hot Wings at The Ordinary Vegetarian
Lamb and Cucumber Kabobs at Ladyberg's Kitchen

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Beer Can Chicken

A couple of summers ago I went to a backyard cookout with a bunch of twenty something men who I worked with at Just Food Co-op. As the deli manager at the co-op at the time, I had become the defacto expert on everything cooked, whether that fit the circumstances or not. So when one of the guys kept asking for my tips on how to cook his first beer can chicken I thought I heard him wrong. What in tarnation was a "beer can chicken"?! Turns out, it is a superb way to grill a chicken and keep it moist.

This memory was stirred up by a recent post by Elise at Simple Recipes when she remarked that the concept alone might incite men to cook more. As Elise put it, some guys refer to this as "beer butt chicken" since a half full can of beer is inserted into the cavity of the bird and used to prop it upright on a grill. It definitely is a comical sight which produces fabulous results.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Gazpacho with Heirloom Tomatoes

I know that some parts of the U.S. are still waiting for their tomato abundance to arrive. Here in Southern California we're swimming in them and its a beautiful feeling!

One of my favorite ways to enjoy the tomato bounty is gazpacho - the cold tomato soup made famous in the movie Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown. (If you haven't seen it yet, rent it soon, the color palate alone with lift your spirits!) Gazpacho could just as easily been dubbed "Cold summer garden soup" since it seems like its everything from the garden when the tomatoes are at their peak.

This is one of those dishes where every woman has her own version; some prefer basil to cilantro or don't add celery or do add bell pepper. It's up to the cook! My version generally adheres to what I have below, with occasionally more spice in the form of a raw chile like a jalapeno or serrano, nothing too hot. But it is always delicious in a hot day when you're not going to go near any oven devices!

Gazpacho with Heirloom Tomatoes

2 beefsteak tomatoes, cored and quartered
2 heirloom tomatoes (red are best), cored and quartered
1 1/2 stalks celery
1/2 cucumber, peeled and cut in chunks
1/2 red onion, cut in chunks
4 cloves garlic
1/2 cup olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/2 cup cilantro
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon hot sauce

Place all in blender and puree. Serve chilled.


Recipes currently inspiring me:
Scalloped Tomatoes with Croutons at Smitten Kitchen
Thai Fried Rice at ECurry
Broccoli Rabe with Mozzarella Crema at Pithy and Cleaver

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Spice-Rubbed Pork Cutlets with Mango Peach Salsa

Mango peach salsa is one of those garnishes that restaurants (of any caliber) love to toss on menus. It sounds lush and exotic and is visually stunning on a plate. I have to confess that I am one of those people who has turned her nose up at the idea of making it at home - it feels so trite and overdone....of course that was how I felt before, before being the operative word  here.

I was shaken out of this stubbornness because I had some overripe mangos and a few peaches and a hot pepper that was dying to be used. This salsa is usually served over fish (salmon, Chilean sea bass) and all I had was a pork cutlet, not something I cook with everyday or almost at all. Someone suggested a spice rub and I thought to myself, "spice plus fruit plus pork, that sounds like a combination I have heard before, I'll give it a try."

Spectatular. Unbelievable. I will actually buy pork cutlets on purpose now to recreate this dish.

Once again, I am humbled by my own stubbornness regarding preconceived notions when it comes to a dish or condiment or garnish. All my notions do is leave me bereft of a great food experience. Please let me continue to remember this point!

Spice Rubbed Pork Cutlets with Mango Peach Salsa

2 large pork cutlets
olive oil

Spice Mix

3 teaspoons cumin seeds
1 1/2 teaspoons coriander seeds
1 1/2 teaspoon fennel seed
1 teaspoon white peppercorns
1 small dried red pepper
2 dried bay leaves

Mango Salsa
2 large mangos (or 4 altufo aka champagne mangos) cubed
2 ripe peaches, cubed
1/4 red bell pepper, diced
1 lime, juiced
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1 small jalapeno, deseeded and minced
1/2 teaspoon salt

Combine salsa ingredients and set aside to marry at room temperature. Grind spice mixture in electric grinder or mortar and pestle. Oil pork cutlets lightly and dredge in spice mixture. Grill or pan fry over high heat, 4-5 minutes per side until done. Serve with salsa on top.

Recipes currently inspiring me:
Watermelon Gazpacho at Soup Chick
Homemade Nutella at Family Style Food
Eggplant Rolls at Greek Food Recipes and Reflections

Monday, July 19, 2010

Zucchini and Sunburst Squash Fritters

Vegetable fritters, particularly squash ones, are popping up all over the food blogs I read (kind of like squash in the garden!) A few samples are here and here and here. So naturally I had to give them a go. They really couldn't have been easier and the variations are endless!

Unlike other breaded-fried foods, this fritter really allows the vegetable flavors to come through, particularly if you let it rest a minute or two after frying it. Don't skimp on the cold topping garnish, it makes such a lovely contrast and brings all of the flavors out.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Grilled Spice-Rubbed Sea Bass

I recently came across a new food website that I adore. It's called An Edible Mosaic, written by Faith who makes lots of traditional home cooked Arabic dishes for her Middle Eastern born husband (so you know they're fairly authentic.) She makes it sound so easy and that's where I found the inspiration for this dish, and I know there will be so many more to come!

Spice rubs on just about anything are a great alternative to breading - it looks like breading and creates a crust but there is no flour or breadcrumbs involved - Amazing!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

French Onion Soup

French onion soup is one of those traditional dishes that I always think about ordering at a Bistro but never do. I can't actually remember the last time I ate this amazing peasant style soup.

I was inspired to make it after one of the wine vendors I work with at Co-opportunity mentioned that the first time he tried the sherry he had just sold me (Tio Pepe) was drizzled over French Onion soup, in France no less. Well, that was all the prompting I needed! Particularly when I noticed that the co-op had some gorgeous vidalia onions, there was nothing to do but give this a go.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Roasted Red Pepper Hummus

When you're a poor student AND a vegetarian you eat a lot of hummus, I mean tons. Dried chick peas are cheap and a jar of tahini will last you a long time. So I quickly learned to vary my hummus so as not to lose my mind with boredom.

I've added carrots, parsley, beets and spinach to hummus. I even recently tried a version with avocado (wasn't a huge fan, too much avocado and not enough hummus for me). But my favorite flavored version is roasted red peppers, particularly if they're fresh roasted. And when I was watching my pennies, buying a jar of peppers wasn't the best investment. When the summer abundance of red peppers arrived, I would roast up a bunch and keep them in a jar under a layer of olive oil.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Simple Grilled Scallops

Frutti di mare, fruits de mare - fruits of the sea - however you say it, seafood are one of my favorite things to eat. In fact, during the 15 years I was vegetarian I was actually a "pesca-vegetarian" because I ate fish and fruits of the sea.

Scallops come in such a variety but if you're going to grill them reach for the largest ones you can find. I bought 9 which came to a pound, and three per diner was a good size serving. But get more if you're so inclined.

As with most fruits of the sea it is best to add as little as possible to allow the delicate flavor of the individual fish or mollusk to shine through. In this case I simply salted the scallops lightly and seared them on the grill, about 2-3 minutes per side to give them a nice browned crust. The best way to know when they are done is the touch method; they firm up as they cook and become more opaque.

These specimens were truly sweet and I ate them without the lemon, although others may want the option. I could have eaten more that would have felt gluttonous; maybe next time!

Grilled Scallops

3 large scallops per diner
lemon (optional)

Light your grill and when the coals have gone white, place scallops over direct heat and grill on each side for 2-3 minutes. Remove and eat immediately.


Recipes Currently Inspiring Me:
Thai Style Slaw at Closet Cooking
Herb Wrapped Chicken in Chili Garlic Sauce at Cooking Escapades
Lime Roasted Carrots and Saffron Orzo at A Kenetic Energetic but not Generic Diabetic

Friday, July 9, 2010

Goat Cheese, Walnut and Pear Galette

I am dessert challenged. Not only are they not my forte but I just don't think about making them. How is that possible? Because I have a sour tooth, not a sweet tooth; I am a lover of pickles, vinegar, citrus, and kombucha. But every once in a while, I get a hankering and need some dessert. Of course my version of dessert is rarely that sweet and usually involves fruit and cheese. This galette fit the bill on all of those dimensions and I whipped it up in less than 30 minutes, a near miracle for me!

Galettes are simply country style tarts; a rolled out piece of pie crust with some filling placed in the center and the edges crimped over to prevent the filling from leaking onto the pan. Do not let yourself be intimidated by the elegant but hopped up versions seen in French bakeries or restaurants that involve glazes or perfect pinwheels of sliced fruit. Just think of centuries of French housewives wondering how to use up some of the pears that kept dropping out the back door and making mush on the ground. Raise your glass to them and thank them for receiving inspiration from the mother of necessity.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Thai Corn Chowder

Corn season is coming! And if you're looking for some new recipes to try with your first batch of fresh corn here's just the ticket. Thai flavored curry with coconut milk, lime leaves and fresh corn stock is an amazing combination that also keeps well. It even is great cold, with a squeeze of lime to ensure that you taste that spice.

I added shrimp for some protein but you could easily add tofu or some fresh mussels if you were looking for some decadence. The best part was how quickly this dish comes together; I made it in 25 minutes, before I left for work in the morning. It's all about having the ingredients on hand in the pantry.

Thai Corn Chowder

1 tablespoon red Thai curry
2 tablespoons sunflower or safflower oil
2 cups fresh corn
1 can coconut milk
2 cups corn stock or other vegetable stock (corn cobs, shucked of corn, boiled in water for 30 minutes, drained)
3 kaffir lime leaves
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
2 tablespoons cilantro, minced
2 scallions, sliced in rounds
1 teaspoon fish sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons soy sauce
6 shrimp, deveined and deshelled

In large stock pot heat oil over medium heat and add curry paste, mashing to gently heat it in the oil. Once you begin to smell the paste, add the coconut milk, corn stock, and lime leaves and bring to boil. Add corn and return to boil. Add scallions, red pepper, fish sauce and soy sauce and simmer for 5 minutes. Add shrimp if using and cook until they curl up and turn pink, about 2-4 minutes. Stir in cilantro after removing from heat and serve.


Recipes Currently inspiring me:
Zucchini and Ricotta Galette at Smitten Kitchen
Farinata Genovese at Cinnamon Spice and Everything Nice
Baked Sole at Greek Gourmand

Monday, July 5, 2010

Ceviche Salad with Mango and Avocado

Ceviche is one of those South American dishes that sounds exotic and hard but is really simple and elegant. It's the perfect food to wow guests with and can be made ahead of time so it's great happy hour food at your home with friends after work.

Fish and or seafood marinated in citrus juice - that's it - that's all it takes to make this delicious dish. What I find so incredible is that the juice literally "cooks" the fish - it actually changes it chemically in the same way that heat does. Click here to learn more about that process.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Hoisin Marinated Salmon Steak

I am such a sucker for colorful ingredients and salmon is certainly one of those items that draws me in, the oranger the better! Deep orange colored salmon is usually only found in wild caught salmon which live in the coldest portion of the northern oceans of the Pacific and the North Sea. Luckily, wild caught is also a more sustainable choice as well as higher in the essential omega-3 fatty acids for which salmon is prized.

In case you have been living in a land locked, electricity free zone, you might not have yet heard that salmon is one of those nutritional superfoods. But that's not why it's always high on my list of favorite dishes. It simply tastes delicious, especially with this slightly sweet, Chinese style marinade.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Guacamole - Summer Staple

Not until I was 20 years old and living in France for the year did I begin to eat avocados. This fact still baffles me, although knowing myself, it doesn't quite surprise me. I was a fussy eater as a child and texture was often the primary culprit. Avocados were too mushy to my little girl mind so I avoided them like the plague, and most certainly anything made with them!

It was thanks to my Parisian roommate, a southern California native, and her shock (and frankly outrage) that I didn't eat avocados which sent me to buy and try this curious green orb. I immediately fell in love with them and promptly ate two whole ones in a single sitting. (She gasped in shock, mumbling something about calories - I was too rapturously in love with my find to notice).