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February 25, 2011

Watermelon Radish Salad and Hummingbirds

Meet the watermelon radish! It is round and encased in a thin light green skin with a pinkish hue inside. This unusual radish actually resembles its namesake. They come in light red to fuchsia and offers a mild and sweet flavor for a radish. I love the crunch and fresh taste even slightly peppery too at times. They can be prepared like any other radish but this one you can eat raw or in a salad. Just toss it in little rice wine vinegar and sprinkle some black sesame seeds for effects.


You can also sprinkle olive oil, lemon juice and sea salt for a radish carpaccio. 




I carved some flowers and hummingbirds from the same fruit to show you the beautiful colors of the radish. 







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February 22, 2011

Prickly Pear Lemonade and Jelly

The prickly pears are a sight to behold when they are ripe on the leaves. As flowers they are spectacular too.  The cactus is found in all of the desserts of the American Southwest and Mexico. Cultivated in some farms and sold in local markets as Tunas, the Mexicans call it. Even here around where I live, they grow in the backyards or outside the fences. They can be prepared in so many ways like syrup, jelly, candy,popsicle or even for margaritas. Well, today we shall make lemonade and jelly for you.

Here's how to peel the beautiful fruit safely without any thorns on the side. The prickly pear has almost invisible thorns that break off and lodge on to your skin and can be quite irritating. Use rubber gloves or tongs to peel the fruit. Cut both ends and split the thick skin on one side and pry open and scoop the inside fruit and discard the peel right away. 

This bright magenta colored fruit can be very sweet to almost bland but always so fresh and juicy. 

The tuna is full of seeds that are edible but too hard to chew. So hard, they can ruin you tooth if your not careful. I think they are best enjoyed juicing them. You can easily extract the juice by pulsing them in a blender quickly and strain the seeds. I got a tall glass and a half of juice from 10 tunas. For the refreshing  lemonade, squeeze half a lemon and lime into a glass of tuna juice and sweeten with muscovado sugar.

This drink is so good and refreshing, you've got to try it!

For the jelly just add a tablespoon of agar agar and sugar to 1 cup of water and boil until all is completely dissolved. Remove from flame and add 2 cups of tuna juice, half of lemon and lime juice. Put into molds, cool and serve. I got some of the cactus leaves and carved some iguanas for accompaniment. Enjoy!





February 18, 2011

Golden Baskets - Thai Inspired Appetizers

Appetizers like these are usually called with different names from one Thai restaurant to another. My favorite one calls them golden baskets. I made some with the same name only and the rest is my own version. You can make them too with your own preferred ingredients. Here is how you can make them.
You will need 1/2 a cup of ground shrimps and 1/2 cup of ground chicken breast. Mix a sprig of minced cilantro and 2 scallion,white part only. Then season lightly with salt and white pepper. Wilt the leaves of six scallions for 1 minute in the microwave oven. Cut a 4 square inch feuille de brik or a good quality spring roll wrapper, about 24 pieces. Now put 1/3 of a teaspoon of the ground filling in the center of the brik and gather the four corners and press with fingers over the filling to make a purse or basket and tie it with the wilted scallion leaf.


Deep fry them in any light vegetable oil like canola until golden. I use a small saucepan that I fill with 2 cups of oil so as not to waste too much oil and they fry very well in it. When done put on paper towels to drain excess oil. Surprisingly they don't absorb too much oil.

Now make the sweet and sour sauce for the dip.
For the sauce mince one sweet pepper, grate garlic and juice a knob of ginger. Mucovado sugar for sweetness and red wine vinegar for sour. The quantity of seasoning depends on everyones taste. Boil with 1 1/2 cup of water until the soft and sauce consistency. Always taste and correct if necessary. Thicken with a teaspoon of cornstarch if too runny.
Add a pinch of cayenne pepper powder too if you want. Here is for an individual serving or for a couple of guests.




Enjoy!


February 16, 2011

A Bird Bath as Seen from My Kitchen Window


I get a lot of inspiration and ideas every time I visit Diane's blog Food, Fun and Life in the Charente. She posted a beautiful picture of birds bathing as seen from her window. I thought of carving one to enjoy even for a fleeting moment and maybe share it with you too. The birds were carved from huge carrots and the bird bath of squash and the pedestal was butternut. Enjoy!

February 15, 2011

Tandoori and 5 Spice - 2 Chicken Barbecues with One

This is a tandoori chicken barbecue baked in a convection oven. They are also called turbo or fan ovens. I think they are the closest thing to the tandoor oven although no as hot but the fans ensure the same temperature that reaches the top and bottom of the food and often with best results.

These masalas almost look the same but they taste very differently. Label them so you won't mistake one from the other.

Whenever I get a good sized chicken I oftentimes do two recipes like this one. I made 2 barbecues with different flavors. One half is Chinese 5 spice and the other half Indian tandoori. Both barbecues are favorites in the house and got an ardent request yesterday.
For the tandoori you will need half a chicken that have been skinned and scored. Then marinate it for at least 30 minutes with 2 tbsp of tandoori barbecue masala, 2 tbsp of ginger- garlic paste, 1/4 cup yogurt and 1/4 cup finely chopped coriander and mint leaves. Season with salt. Then bake in a 350F oven for about an hour or less. Put the chicken on a rack for better roasting. I use a portable convection oven for quicker result.
For the 5 spice, you need the other half of the chicken with the skin and score it as well. Marinate it for at least 30 minutes with 1 tbsp of 5 spice powder, 1 tbsp of sesame oil, 3 garlic cloves put through a press, 1 tbsp rice wine vinegar. Season with salt and cayenne pepper powder. Bake for at least 45 minutes to an hour for crispier skin.


This oven is ideal for small things to bake. It browns and crisps everything beautifully.

Both are best enjoyed with salad of cucumber, tomatoes and onions.

February 12, 2011

Fish for life - Salmon Mousse

There's an old Chinese saying that says; Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime. The proverb makes the point succinctly when we learn from each other through our blogs. We cook and eat well and in the process make friends for life.

I'm entering this for an interesting contest by the fabulous blog Cooking Elena called  Edo Ergo Sum-il Contest.


The saying have been updated in so many versions since then and here's one that reads; If you give someone a fish, you feed him for a day. If you teach someone to fish, he'll destroy another aquatic ecosystem or enlighten him further, he'll own a chain of seafood restaurants! Of course, this will not happen with any of the food bloggers, I think.


The fish is made with 3 cups of good fish broth and 3 tbsp of agar agar boil until gelatin is completely dissolved. Color 2 tbsp of the gelatin broth to rub into the fins and tail of the fish mold. Cool the mold for a minute and pour the rest of the broth to the brim. Cool in the fridge until firm. Scoop the inside of the fish leaving only a thin skin intact. Then fill the fish mold again with your favorite salmon mousse and put it back in the fridge to firm. I made my mousse with smoked salmon and sour cream with a hint of tabasco. Remember to oil the mold before filling for easy unmolding.  Black currants are cut into halves for the eyes. Serve with your favorite crackers or toast.

Enjoy!

February 09, 2011

Sfogliatelle Shortcut for Valentine's Day

Sfogliatelle is quite an undertaking to make.  I tried it once and it took me the whole day to make just 4 successful ones and did not do it again until now. Well,  I found some feuille de brik that is I would say a cousin to the phyllo dough, as thin but stronger and crispier for it is made with semolina flour. I thought of making a sfogliatelle-like heart for Valentine's and enter it too for the Hart-to-Hart of the lovely blog Cuocicucidici.


This almost instant sfogliatelle I made only for this occasion and I will still recommend making it the conventional way. Here is how to make the shortcut.

Cut the brik in strips to fit your heart mould. Arrange them in a fanned way one by one in the mold brushed with melted butter.
When all the strips of brik have been placed put your ricotta filling into the mold carefully. The filling is made of 1/3 cup sugar, 1/2 cup water and 1/4 cup of fine semolina flour that is boiled together into a paste and cooled. Then with an electric beater mix 1 egg yolk, 1 tsp vanilla, 1 cup of fresh ricotta and 1 tbsp of candied orange peel. Do it at low speed until smooth.
Fold the brik leaves to cover and bake in a 350F oven on a baking sheet for 12 minutes and turn over to remove from mold onto a piece of aluminum foil and put back to the oven for another 20 minutes or so or until golden brown.







Enjoy!

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Napa, California, United States