Friday, August 22, 2014

Vietnamese Coffee Granita

A simple dessert, only two ingredients, thought up while my sister and I were sitting at a local Vietnamese restaurant, Mai Lee, waiting for our takeout order. We usually pick up a curry dish, either chicken or vegetarian, and happy to report that the 5-spice pork was recently a winner for us, too. Love the green papaya salad. And though we haven't had one in a while, the mango with coconut sticky rice for dessert is fantastic- highly recommended.

While waiting, it is imperative for any of us to order a Vietnamese coffee. The coffee is not difficult in itself to make, but it's a treat we've reserved for sitting at the bar and waiting.

We're supposed to have a hot weekend, so I thought I'd give the idea a try.
This granita is creamier than the normally strictly icy but melt-in-your-mouth versions of most coffee granitas, but really, how bad can any sweet and icy coffee be on a hot day?

Serve dessert as is, or maybe turn it into something a bit more Italian with a little whipped cream and a chocolate-covered espresso bean or two.
But no matter what, a demitasse spoon will always make it last longer.

Vietnamese Coffee Granita
serves 6-8

5 c (1 L plus 200 ml) strong black coffee (In this instance I prep a strong French press brew.)
1 can (14 oz/379g) sweetened condensed milk

Mix the hot coffee and condensed milk in a large bowl and let cool. Pour the mixture into a large, flat freezer-safe pan (like a 9x13 inch), and place in the freezer until frozen solid (overnight may be best), giving a quick whisk or two during the process to make sure everything stays mixed as well as possible. 

Scrape the frozen coffee with the tines of a fork until it is completely broken down into icy flakes. 
Spoon into glasses  or dishes and serve as desired. 

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Summer Fruit Salad

This isn't a fruit salad as in what people normally think of: a berry and melon melange tossed together in a big bowl.

It's more like the idea of a traditional green-leaf salad, but with the addition of great ripe fruit- and it's a salad idea I love.

You'll want to use whatever is the ripest and the best stone fruit you can find. If the peaches are sub-par, get the nectarines instead, but have at least 2 stone fruits so there's a little color and flavor variety in the salad. The jewel-like tones in the finished salad definitely make it visually appealing.

Toasted hazelnuts are a fantastic addition to practically any salad.
Preheat the oven to 350 F/175 C. Place raw hazelnuts on a pan and bake about 10 minutes, shaking the pan and checking the progress about halfway through. Let the hazelnuts cool completely before rubbing the skins off in a tea towel, then roughly chop so they're ready to go.

I don't give exact "how to" in salad assemblage here- mostly because tastes are so different. The vinaigrette recipe makes about 3/4 cup, which, to me, is enough to serve up to 12 small salads (with about a tablespoon of vinaigrette on each).
5 oz (about 140 g) of greens can serve 5-6 people. Although if you're looking to make a meal of it, you'll want more greens and fruit per person.

A bit of crumbled chevre might be a nice addition to each salad.

Summer Fruit Salad
Adapted from a recipe in Sunday Suppers at Lucques, by Suzanne Goin

3 T (45 ml) Sherry vinegar
2 T (20 g) minced shallot
1/2 t (2 g) sea or kosher salt (plus more to taste)
1 T (15 ml) honey
7 T (105 ml) olive oil
freshly ground black pepper

mixed greens

Choose at least 2 of these stone fruits: 
2-3 nectarines
2-3 plums
2 peaches
3-4 apricots

fresh ripe figs

chopped toasted hazelnuts 

In a medium bowl, combine the vinegar, shallot, and salt. Let sit about 10 minutes. Whisk in the honey and then the olive oil. Add black pepper and salt to taste. 

Place greens on each plate and spoon the vinaigrette over each salad. Slice the stone fruit into 12 pieces (less for apricots, more for large peaches), and divide among the salads. Perhaps use 3 slices of each fruit for each salad. Remove the stems from the figs and halve. Place 3 halves or so on each salad. Scatter several blackberries on the salads and sprinkle chopped hazelnuts over everything. 

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Avocado Lime Ice Cream

I know most, if not all, of us are used to avocados on sandwiches and in salads, maybe eaten halved with a spoon, seasoned with salt and pepper.  One of my favorite incarnations was an afternoon snack in Mexico: fresh corn tortillas from the tortillaria down the road, smeared with perfect avocado, then sprinkled with lime juice and salt.

Now, before anyone balks at the idea of "sweet" with "avocado" let me ask, have you ever tried it?
We have a friend who spent a lot of time in Brazil who said that they never eat avocado as we do. Brazilians are more likely to eat it as ice cream, drink it in a milkshake, or sprinkle a half with sugar before eating.
Remember now, avocado is a fruit.
I tried the sugar-sprinkled version at one point, and I will say I think I prefer to eat half an avocado with salt. I'm not saying it was bad, but I wonder if it has to do with the things I'm used to...

Well, I wanted to try again.

I can't say this is how anyone else makes their avocado ice cream, but I thought I would mix it with a bit of tropical flavor and give it a try.
Yes, you could probably use cream (or maybe half and half) instead of the coconut milk, but this version happens to be dairy-free.
The combination of the rich coconut milk and the smooth avocados yields a creamy, gelato-like feel. Even when melted, it's more of a thick, custard-like consistency.

I love avocados, but the only thing I'm not a huge fan of is the old avocado color. I mean, old as in overripe, and old as in decor and appliances from the 1970s and very early '80s. The closest we came at our house was a set of Tupperware- in shades of tangerine, harvest gold, and avocado. I think it may have been the only avocado-colored thing in our home, though I am recalling some dishtowels with printed designs where the colors were definitely hilighted...
However, down the street at a neighbor's house (that was pretty much a second home to some of us) there was an avocado-colored refrigerator they owned forever. Now, a refrigerator is a pretty big swath of color- a decision that should not be taken lightly.
What I would like to know is how this color combination become so popular?
Why did it completely take over?
Ah, the power of marketing.

Avocado Lime Ice Cream
serves 6 or more

1 can (400 ml) coconut milk
1 c  (200 g) sugar
3 ripe avocados
zest of 2 limes
1/3 c (80 ml) freshly squeezed lime juice
1/4 t (1 g) salt

Ideas for serving:
toasted coconut
raspberry sauce
fresh strawberries

Place the coconut milk and sugar in a medium saucepan. Cook over medium, heating to a simmer and stirring occasionally until the sugar is completely dissolved. Set aside to cool completely.
In the bowl of a food processor, process the coconut milk mixture, avocados, lime zest, lime juice, and salt until completely smooth.
If desired, chill the ice cream mixture completely before transferring to an ice cream maker and freezing per manufacturer's instructions. 
OR, if you do not have an ice cream maker, place in a dish and freeze as indicated in the strawberry basil sorbet recipe.
Once frozen in the ice cream maker, remove the finished avocado lime ice cream to a dish and freeze several hours so that it freezes further and is stiff enough to scoop. 
Serve as desired. 

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Peach Lavender Tartlets

In between writing essays for some coursework I'm taking this summer to increase my repertoire, I need a little downtime and relaxation so my brain can recover from being fried in lectures and from frantic note taking.
Today was a version of plum-cardamom ice cream from the windfall of plums we were gifted, as well as these tarts.
(Then, of course, back to the grindstone.)

I love the summery peach-lavender combination of peaches in lavender tea, as long as the peaches are ripe, so I decided I wanted to recreate it in a different form.

Any good stone fruit would probably work in this instance, provided it's a soft and sweet flavor, nothing too tart. Ripe apricots or nectarines would be nice. A scattering of fresh blueberries over the peaches to fill in the gaps before baking would also be a good addition. A thin layer of raspberry jam laid down before the peaches, perhaps?

A good sprinkling of vanilla sugar just prior to baking finishes it off for sparkle, an extra boost of flavor and sweetness, and as a slight thickener to any syrupy juices.

Lavender sugar can be made and used instead: about 1 cup (215 g or so) granulated sugar with 1 1/2 t (scant 1 g) dried lavender buds.
Combine in a covered jar at least one day prior to using, better if more. Shake occasionally.

Everything is baked until the crust is golden and the peaches relax and slump a bit, and gain a slight jamminess.

Serve the tartlets with a cup of tea, plain or dressed with freshly whipped cream.
The tarts, not the tea.

Peach Lavender Tartlets
Makes 8, 4 inch tarts

1 1/3 c (150 g) sorghum flour
3/4 c (60 g) almond or hazelnut flour
1/3 c (33 g) tapioca flour
large pinch salt
1 1/2 to 2 t (scant to full 1 g) dried lavender flowers, pulverized with a mortar and pestle
3-4 T (50-68 g) sugar
8 T (114 g) butter
1 large egg
water, as necessary
4-6 fresh, ripe peaches
sugar (plain, demerara, vanilla or lavender infused)
lavender buds for garnish (optional)

In the bowl of a food processor, combine the sorghum, almond/hazelnut, and tapioca flours along with the salt and sugar. Pulse several times until well blended. Add the butter, cut into 6-8 pieces and pulse again several times until it resembles damp, crumbly sand. Crack the egg into a small bowl and pour it into the food processor, and pulse several times again until combined. Depending on humidity, the dough may form itself into a nice ball of soft dough, but if it doesn't, drizzle a bit of water (1 t/ 5 ml at a time) on the dough and process again. Repeat as necessary until it comes together into a ball. 
Remove the dough to waxed paper or plastic wrap, wrap well, and refrigerate at least 30 minutes. 
Divide the dough among 8, 4-inch tart tins. Either roll the pieces of dough between two pieces of plastic wrap to use your fingers or a small offset spatula to smooth the pastry evenly across the bottom and up the insides of the tins.
Freeze the tart tins at least 10 minutes while you preheat the oven to 350/180.
Arrange peach slices in each tart shell and sprinkle with sugar. Bake the tarts 25-35 minutes minutes, or until the edges are set and golden and the peaches have cooked a bit. 
Let the tarts cool about 10 minutes and carefully remove them from the tins. If your tins do not have removable bottoms, upturning a plate over the top of a tart and inverting will help to ease them out of their tins. Place a plate over the bottom-up tart, and invert both plates and the tart so that the tart is right side up. 
Serve as desired. 

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Turkish Chopped Salad

Sometimes you want a substantial salad, one packed with vegetables
I know there are times in my life when all I've craved has been tons of good, fresh fruits and vegetables. Off the top of my head I can certainly think of those times when I was home from college (as college dormitories are not notorious for their great produce), and after returning from Africa.

Turkish chopped salad is a great salad for summer with all the fresh vegetables available. Things are even better if you have a garden that can supply you with almost everything you need.

Another plus: this salad is going to keep it's shape, and won't quickly turn into a wilted mess on you.

Turkish Chopped Salad
Adapted from Casa Moro
serves 8 or more

1 English cucumber, peeled, halved lengthwise, deseeded, and cut into approximately 1 cm pieces
1 red pepper, deseeded and cut into approximately 1 cm pieces
1 green pepper, deseeded and cut into approximately 1 cm pieces
1/3 large red onion, cut into 1 cm dice
10 oz (290 g) cherry tomatoes, halved
1/4 c (12 g) fresh minced cilantro
1/4 c (12 g) fresh minced parsley
1 clove garlic, minced and mashed to a paste with salt
zest of 1 lemon
2 T (30 ml) lemon juice
1/2 c (120 ml) olive oil
freshly ground black pepper
plain yogurt (milk or cream added if not a pourable consistency)
3-4 T (42-56 g) butter, melted in a saucepan on medium low and heated until browned and nutty, cooled slightly
chile flakes

Place the cucumber, red pepper, green pepper, red onion, cherry tomato, cilantro and parsley. Zest the lemon on top of the prepared vegetables.  
In a  small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, salt and and pepper.  Adjust the seasonings as necessary, and carefully fold the dressing into the vegetables until everything is coated.  
If plating the salads individually, place a portion of salad on each plate. Spoon yogurt over the top of each salad, drizzle with a bit of the browned butter, and sprinkle with chile flakes. 
If preparing a large salad, spoon the salad onto a large platter or shallow bowl, add the yogurt, butter, and chile flakes on top. 

Monday, June 30, 2014

Pea and Quinoa Fritters

My last visit to Australia, a couple of my cousins and I made a trek out to Woollahra (I believe), one of Sydney's suburbs. We had a lovely outdoor breakfast at a cafe, a gorgeous walk through wisteria-draped areas that looked a bit like they might belong in Victorian Colonial India, and traipsed into Donna Hay's General Store (which no longer exists as a brick-and-mortar location). Purchases were made for my aunt's birthday and we lazily browsed the perfect little space.

I love Donna's style.

Donna Hay Magazine is something I occasionally like to splurge on at the bookstore newsstand (as is the case with a couple others) if I find it and it generally catches my eye for one reason or another. That said, the bookstore is a place that's probably ok for me to stay away from. I can't usually leave there without something, and if it's just a cup of coffee, it's a particularly good day of resistance.

I have a weakness for fantastic recipes and gorgeous cookbooks. Give me a cup of tea and an hour or so, and I end up poring over Donna's publications every time. The photography and food styling are wonderful: you'll just want to eat everything off the page. If nothing else, it's a bit of an education on those topics without taking an actual course.

In one of her more recent issues, there was an article with a recipe for pea and quinoa fritters. I liked the idea, but I switched things up.
They make a nice vegetarian main, and along with a salad could be a complete meal (though they do make really nice nibbles).

Maybe I can call this falafel-inspired pea and quinoa fritters.
Certainly they've got the shape and color, as well as some of the flavor components. But the recipe is not chickpea based, it's grain-based instead.

The peas and herbs offer fresh flavor, and the fritters are great on their own or dressed up with fresh tomatoes, a little crab meat, or a yogurt sauce.

Pea and Quinoa Fritters
makes about 20, 3-inch fritters

1 c (170 g) white quinoa
2 c (480 ml) water, chicken broth, or vegetable broth
1 t (5 g) salt
3/4 c (90 g) white rice flour
2 c (260 g) frozen green peas, blanched and drained
1/4 c (12 g) fresh minced cilantro leaves
1/4 c (12 g) fresh minced Italian parsley leaves
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 c (33 g) minced shallot
1/2 t (1 g) cumin
pinch of cayenne
1/2 t (1 g) freshly ground black pepper
2 large eggs
neutral oil, for frying

Yogurt sauce (to taste):
plain yogurt
lemon zest
lemon juice
black pepper

Place the quinoa, water (chicken or vegetable broth), and salt in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, give a stir, reduce the heat to a simmer, and cover with a tight fitting lid. Simmer 10 minutes, remove the pan from the heat and let steam 5 minutes. Remove the lid and let the quinoa cool completely. 

Place half the cooked and cooled quinoa in a food processor along with the rice flour, peas, cilantro and parsley, garlic, shallot, cumin, cayenne, and black pepper. Process to a coarse paste. Add the eggs and process again until just incorporated. Place the quinoa mixture in a large bowl and add the rest of the quinoa. Stir until fully incorporated. 

Heat a cast iron skillet over medium heat. Add a layer of neutral oil and let heat until the oil shimmers. Add large spoonfuls of the fritter batter to the hot oil. Let cook a few minutes, or until set and golden on the underside. Carefully flip and cook until golden and cooked through. Remove to a paper towel lined pan to remove the excess oil and continue with the rest of the batter, adding more oil as necessary. 

Serve as desired or refrigerate and reheat in a dry frying pan or in the oven until heated through. 

Monday, June 16, 2014

Shrimp Lettuce Wraps

Shrimp is like a blank canvas: a versatile and mild type of seafood ready to take on flavor.
If marinated and placed into a lettuce leaf cup, the lettuce and shrimp plus other garnishes become a vibrantly flavored (and colored) hand-held salad.

Southeast Asian inspired, the fresh flavor combination altogether offers a light bite, perfect for summer- either as an appetizer, a starter, or a casual main.

A little sweet, lots of savory, with a good dose of bright freshness, spice from the chili flakes and sweet chilli sauce, and cool crispness from the crunchy and buttery lettuce.  

The shrimp is great to finish the day before and chill... everything's ready to go when needed.

YES, those are cooked shrimp you see.
NO, you do not want to buy cooked shrimp for this recipe. I mean, you can, I suppose, but the flavor will be better if you marinate raw shrimp instead of cooked. Plus, if you decide to cook already cooked shrimp you'll more than likely end up with a texture you weren't expecting.

(If you're ready to shoot, but happen to be missing some key elements, a grocery store run is in order. But sometimes communication between two people during grocery runs yields unintended results. Really, it's ok though.)

Serve assembly line-style, already put together, or pack into small individual jars and refrigerate to take later for picnic salads.

Shrimp Lettuce Wraps
serves 6-8

2 lb (900 g) medium raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
large thumb sized piece of ginger, finely grated
1 stalk lemongrass, bruised and crushed with the back of a knife, and sliced
1/2 t (1 g) chile flakes
2  large cloves garlic, minced
2 T (30 ml) soy or tamari sauce
1 T (17 g) packed brown sugar
1 t (5 g) kosher salt
1/4 c (60 ml) lime juice
zest of 1 lime
1/4 c (60 ml) olive oil

1 large carrot
4 medium radishes
3 large green onions

lettuce (Bibb is my preference here)
fresh cilantro leaves
fresh basil leaves
sweet chilli sauce, to serve

If the shrimp still have the tails attached, remove and discard. Slice each shrimp into three bite-sized pieces and set aside. Mix marinade ingredients together in a large bowl: ginger, lemongrass, chile flakes, garlic, soy sauce, brown sugar, salt, lime juice and zest, and olive oil. Add the pieces of shrimp and carefully fold together to coat in the marinade. 
Cover and let marinate at least 3 hours and up to overnight in the refrigerator.

Before you are ready to cook the shrimp, grate the carrot and radish, and slice the green onions. Place in a medium bowl and set aside. 
Remove shrimp pieces from marinade and saute in a pan until cooked through along with 2 T (30 ml) of the liquid marinade. 
Cool to room temperature and add to the bowl with the vegetables, mixing carefully but thoroughly. Add a bit of the cooked marinade from the pan if desired for a little extra flavor. 
(At this point you could refrigerate the shrimp and vegetable filling until ready to use, up to a day ahead.)

Spoon into lettuce leaves, garnish with cilantro and basil leaves as desired. 
Serve with sweet chilli sauce.