Thursday, July 23, 2009

Lovely Lavender Mint Pimm's

I found the most fabulous thing ever at the Farmers' Market last Saturday: Lavender Mint! This is the most amazing herb, it really does smell of both lavender and mint. Excited about my new find, I had to try it in my favorite summer drink: Pimm's. This is a variation of my favorite version, using 7-Up instead of Ginger Ale.

  • 1 part Pimm's
  • 3 parts 7-Up, or your favorite lemon-lime soda
  • 1 sprig of Lavender Mint
  • 1 slice of peach
  • 2 sliced of pear
  • 1 spring cucumber

Muddle mint, cucumber, and Pimm's in glass. Let sit for 1/2 hour to blend flavors. Next add fruit, a few ice cubes, then 7-Up. Stir gently and enjoy!

PS: I was in the local paper this week talking about Pimm's! Not front page news, but it's a start... :-)

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Culinary Creation: Amy's Basquaise Chicken

Having never been to the Basque Country obviously makes me an expert in their cuisine. I have seen several recipes in the past, which have given me just the right amount of ammunition to attempt to make this on my own. To me, a little bit of French combined with a little bit of Spanish obviously equals Basquaise. And since it's my kitchen, what I say goes :-) That, and we really enjoyed this dish. Please note that this recipe is for two.* 1/2 pound fingerling potatoes
* Good pinch of saffron
* 1 chicken breast, cooked and thickly sliced
* 4 oz chorizo sausage, sliced
* 1 can Adobo Fire Roasted tomatoes
* 1 small onion
* 2 small different colored bell peppers (I used cubanellos), roughly chopped
* 1 zucchini, sliced thinly on the diagonal
* 1 yellow squash, sliced thinly on the diagonal
* 1 clove garlic, chopped
* Splash of rosé wine
* 4 sprigs of thyme
* 1 bay leaf
* Small bunch of basil
*olive oil, sea salt, pepper

Boil potatoes in water with a good pinch of saffron for around 10 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender but not over cooked.
Sauté the zucchini, yellow squash, onion, garlic, and peppers using a drizzle of olive oil on medium heat for 5 minutes.
Add the potatoes and chorizo and continue sautéing for another 3 minutes. Next, add the can of Fire Roasted tomatoes. Fire Roasted tomatoes add an amazing flavor to this dish. If you can't find one that is adobo seasoned, add a pinch of dried chili flakes. Regular diced tomatoes can be used, just use 1 teaspoon of smoked paprika to get the roasted, smokey flavor.
Stir in the tomatoes and cook for another 3 minutes before adding the chicken, thyme, bay leaf, and wine. You don't have to use rosé, both red or white wine are also fine to use.
Stir to evenly coat and simmer, covered, on medium low for 20-30 minutes.
Just before serving, mix in the basil. Now this is where my hunger took over. The smell was amazing and I was so eager to try it that I completed skipped taking a photo of the finished dish. I can assure you that we thoroughly enjoyed and definitely will make this again.

~ Topa! ~

Sunday, July 19, 2009

How to Prepare Fresh Artichokes

What better way to spend a rainy Sunday than to sit in your dry kitchen, eating fresh artichokes? That is exactly what I did today. Fresh artichokes are so easy to prepare and are such a treat.

You first start by trimming off the bottom stem, leaving about ½ inch. Next, pull off any loose leaves around the bottom. You’ll also want to snip off any thorny tops on the petals. I was pretty lucky with this one as there were only a few. One fairly important step that I forgot today is to slice off a bit of the top of the artichoke. Not too much, but just flatten the top rounded part. When ready to cook, I first rub with lemon before putting into water.
There are several ways to cook, with steaming being popular. My favorite way, however, is to put the artichoke in a large pot, add a little water, cover, and boil for 30-35 minutes.
The artichoke is ready to eat when you can easily insert a knife in the bottom.
Your choice of dip is a matter of personal preference. While herb butter or garlic mayonnaise are popular choices, I like mine best with a simple vinaigrette.
Make sure you have a bowl or plate for the discarded petals. Getting to the choke is almost like finding a hidden treasure.I'm not very graceful at this stage, but removing the hairs from the center and getting to that tender choke is well worth the effort. Even if the effort is a bit clumsy.

Recipe Review: Mireille's Summer Potato Gratin (Patricia Wells)

Potato Gratin is a hugely popular dish in my house. There is something so comforting about potatoes, garlic and cream - and in my kitchen, usually the addition of blue cheese. When summer temperatures reach close to 100F, you really don’t want something as heavy as the traditional gratin. My Mother’s Garden have had some gorgeous young Yukon Gold potatoes lately, which inspired me to make a summertime alternative. After a morning of searching through many cookbooks, I chose Patricia Well’s “Mireille’s Summer Potato Gratin” from The Provence Cookbook. This recipe is dairy-free, using reduced chicken stock and bacon instead of cream and butter. If you are vegetarian, of course you can omit the bacon and use vegetable stock. This recipe is amazing. We’ve had it twice in the past two weeks and know that it will appear on our table throughout the year. Sadly, I couldn't find a link to the recipe, but will share a few of my notes. This recipe is honestly worth the cost of the book, or at least a trip down to the library. As I didn't have chicken stock, I used 1 and 1/2 cup of water with 3 chicken Oxo cubes, simmering about 10 minutes to reduce.
The recipe calls for 20 garlic cloves, which I'm sure is divine, but I grew bored of chopping after 3. I also couldn't resist adding a sprinkle of Herbes de Provence.
While the onions and bacon are simmering, I slice the potatoes and start to layer them in a baking dish. The onions, garlic, and bacon smell amazing when cooking. Florida sweet onions are in season here, which adds a subtle sweetness to this dish. I should also mention that I used sliced applewood smoked bacon as I didn't have a slab. So my bacon is not cubed.
The reduced chicken stock marries well with the sweet onions and smoky bacon.
In my over, the potatoes were tender in about an hour.
The flavor of this dish is so bold, you'll want to serve this only with a salad or vegetable. To serve this as a side dish would be a sin.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Downtown Sarasota Farmers' Market

Every Saturday morning, you'll find me starting my weekend at the Farmers' Market at Main St. and Lemon Ave. This is the time I look forward to the most during the week. Stocking up on my week's produce, having (in my opinion) the best cup of coffee downtown at C'est la Vie, and being surrounded by happy people with their dogs puts a smile on my face. Here are a few images of my favorite market this year. If you are ever in the area, this Saturday market is a must!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Spring Cherry Green Tea and My Favorite Mug

In honor of my friends at K&G Bookclub becoming the new host to Tea Time Tuesday, I'm sharing one of my favorite summertime Green Teas, served in one of my favorite summertime mugs.A few summers back, while in England, I spotted this sweet pink mug/bowl set with little roses, and just had to have them. This Gabriella Miller set was my prized possession from that trip. Too delicate (with a clumsy girl like me) for everyday use, they only come out for special mornings when I have time to relax with a nice cup of tea and muesli with yogurt and berries.
I am a huge fan of The Republic of Tea, and their Spring Cherry loose Green Tea is an absolute treat. It is also the perfect pairing for this delicate cup. The Spring Cherry Tea is a cherry flavored green tea with rose petals. This tea and cup were made for each other!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

A Moment of Zen on Your Breakfast Plate: Buddha Belly Doughnuts

There is a new breakfast contender on Main Street: Buddha Belly Doughnuts. Located across the street from the Hollywood 20 cinema, Buddha Belly serves breakfast and lunch. The coffee is good and the Bavarian cream doughnut, even better.
Supporting Local and Independent Businesses is good karma.

Creamy Pesto Chicken With Roasted Tomatoes

This recipe is a good example of why I created this blog: to archive recipes that I like but will never again remember to make. I made this several weeks ago, took photos to remind myself what was in it, and then couldn't remember where the recipe came from. We really enjoyed the Creamy Pesto Chicken With Roasted Tomatoes and was so happy to stumbled upon the recipe today. I followed the recipe completely, only making for two instead of four. Also omitting the pine nuts - only because I didn't have any. Oh yeah, and also used Ricotta instead of Mascarpone. Other than that, I honestly followed to recipe - honest!
I suppose the photo below was sort of a note to self: NEVER cook raw beans EVER AGAIN!!! At the Farmer's Market a few weeks back, I was so excited to find fresh Cranberry Beans. Once home, I shelled, boiled, then sauteed in olive oil, garlic, and herbs. Once to what I thought was a good point, I added mushrooms and tomatoes, cooking until softened. Now, I think since MOST of my kitchen attempts come out very well (modestly speaking, naturally), I might - at times - get a little over confident. This was one of those occasions. Good idea, but the beans were not cooked. They were vile. If I do say so myself. Do you know how to cook fresh beans? If so, please do share. My ego is bruised and I am determined to master the art of cooking fresh beans.
It was a truly humbling experience and I have withdrawn my application from Hell's Kitchen. Kidding. Well, not really.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Garlic and Rosemary Haricot Verts

Haricot Verts have to be in my top 5 favorite vegetable list. These slim French green beans are truly popular in France too. Last October, I was on a mission to actually have Haricot Verts while in France. Well, apparently the French were too. Each morning, we'd go to the boulangerie to get pastries for breakfast then stop in to the épicerie, only to find that by the early time that we would get there, that they had sold out for the day. Lucky for me, these gems have been turning up at My Mother's Garden at my local Farmer's Market. Morton's Market prepare them in my all time favorite, with garlic, rosemary, and red new potatoes. This is my attempt to recreate their recipe. Tonight I made them to go with Mireille's Summer Potato Gratin from Patricia Well's The Provence Cookbook. More on that later, yum!First I boiled for 4 to 5 minutes, testing after 4 minutes as you don't want them too soft. Drain, then rinse with cold water to stop further cooking.
Once drained, I crushed one clove of garlic, chopped one sprig of rosemary, a drizzle of olive oil, a pinch of sea salt, and a good sprinkling of fresh pepper. Sauté for 2 minutes to release the flavors of the rosemary and garlic.

You could add cooked new potatoes to this stage too. They had some gorgeous fingerling potatoes at the market too. If only i had been thinking ahead!
(Follow up a week later:) Well, it was a good excuse to get them the following weekend and make this lovely dish again!

Bon Appétit!

Monday, July 6, 2009

Easy Provençal Pork Ragoût

This is one of my favorite week night treats. Pork makes a lighter summer alternative to the heavier taste of beef. You could also make a vegetarian version by substituting the pork with lentils ~ very French, or meat substitute. You will see that I'm using a jarred Italian Sausage Sauce, but the flavoring of Herbes de Provence and the use of a Rosé wine give it a Provençal twist. Using a jarred sauce is what makes this dish so forgiving: you're adding other flavors, but since the base had a head start, if you don't have the time, you don't have to simmer the sauce all day.

  • 1 pound ground pork

  • 1 small onion, chopped

  • 1 rib celery, chopped

  • 1 medium carrot, chopped

  • 1/2 bell pepper, chopped

  • 2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped

  • 1 jar of Italian Sausage Pasta Sauce

  • 1 6 oz can of tomato paste

  • 3 oz Rosé wine

  • 1/2 tablespoon Herbes de Provence

  • 1 spring rosemary

  • 3 springs of thyme

  • 1 bay leaf

  • sea salt and freshly cracked pepper to taste

Start off by sautéing pork in a large saucepan over medium-low heat. As the pork slowly browns, chop vegetables and garlic, placing in a bowl.

Once pork is half cooked, add the garlic and vegetable mixture, stirring well.Next add the Herbes de Provence, rosemary, thyme, bay leaf, and a pinch of sea salt. Cook over medium heat until pork is cooked and vegetables have started to soften. Next add in the Sausage flavored sauce. I'm not loyal to any one brand, most likely choosing whatever is on sale, or better yet ~ buy one get one free!
Then add the can of tomato paste and wine. For this recipe, you'll need to use a proper dry Rosé, not White Zinfandel or the like which are way too sweet.Stir meat, vegetables, and sauce to mix well. Once mixed, cover and simmer. It really doesn't take long to make. If you're pressed for time, follow the instructions above for the sauce. Once the sauce is mixed, start to prepare your pasta. While the water is heating up and then the pasta is cooking, simmer the sauce on medium heat. Once your pasta is cooked, the sauce will be ready to eat. If you have a little longer, turn the heat down to medium-low and let simmer. While it simmers away, you can read a chapter or two of your book, look through a new magazine, call your mother, or do the laundry. Once you have relaxed or caught up on your chores, boil some pasta and you have a sauce that has slowly simmered, letting the flavors develop a little more.Taste before serving. I almost always have to add some more sea salt at this point. Season with freshly ground pepper.

Makes 4 generous servings.

Enjoy! x