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Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Mango Crisp with Chai Ice Cream

I have shared this recipe before, but it keeps coming back into my favorites, because it is just that good. I changed it up a bit this time, because I made this really interesting ice cream with some chai tea mix I purchased at an Indian food market in Chicago recently. 

With that in the freezer, I decided to add some additional spice to the crumble topping of this crisp, and they made a spectacular combination. We couldn't stop eating it, even after having a large, comfort-food pasta dinner ! 

Mango Crisp with Chai Ice Cream
For the crisp: 
2 large mangos, diced (about 3 cups) 
1/2 cup honey 
6 tablespoons butter 
2/3 cup shredded coconut 
2/3 cup brown sugar 
2/3 cup flour 
1/2 teaspoon salt 
1/2 teaspoon garam masala 
Preheat oven to 350. Spray a 9 by 9 pan with non-stick spray. Toss mangos with honey and spread in pan. Combine remaining ingredients until crumbly, and cover mango mixture. Bake for 35-40 minutes until golden brown and bubbly. Let cool for 10-15 minutes, served topped with ice cream. 

For the chai ice cream: 
1 cup heavy cream 
1 cup half and half 
2 packages of instant ginger chai tea mix (see here
1/3 cup sugar 
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Mix all ingredients together, and process in ice cream maker according to manufacturers directions. Place in freezer to set for 2 hours or more before serving. 

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Baked Spinach and Grits with Eggs

I wasn't really sure what to call this, or how to describe it. It started out when I saw this recipe in a magazine: 

But chard at the store didn't look all that great, so I was going to substitute spinach. And I needed to make a smaller batch, because there was only two of us. Then, we went out for dinner at Butcher and the Boar the other night, and we brought home some of their cheesy grits, and I wanted to use those up, so I tossed those into the mix. I have to say, this was really delicious, and extremely rich. I know you won't always have leftover cheesy grits sitting around, so I have given instructions on how to replicate that. But honestly, baked eggs and grits ? Who knew ? 

Baked Spinach with Grits and Eggs
3 cloves garlic, minced 
1 small onion, thinly sliced 
2 tablespoons olive oil 
8 cups fresh spinach 
1/2 cup cream 
1/2 cup instant grits (or 3/4 cup leftover cheesy grits) 
1/2 teaspoon salt 
1/2 teaspoon pepper 
1/4-1/2 teaspoon sriracha (depending on taste) 
4 eggs, at room temperature
1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
Preheat oven to 400. Spray an 8 by 8 pan with non-stick spray. In a large saute pan, warm olive oil and add onion and garlic. Saute until translucent, then add spinach. Continue to stir until spinach is wilted, approximately 5 minutes. Add cream and grits, and cook for an additional 5 minutes until thick. Stir in spices, and remove from heat. Pour into prepared pan. Make 4 small holes in the spinach mixture, and gently slide eggs into the holes.  Top with shredded cheddar cheese. Salt and pepper to taste. Place pan in the oven, and bake for 15 minutes until eggs are just barely set. Remove from oven and let rest for 5 minutes before serving. Eggs will continue to cook as it rests. 

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Banana Cake with Bourbon Cream Cheese Frosting

I admit it. I hate bananas. I really do not like the texture of them at all. As a result, the smell of them reminds me of their disgusting texture, and it truly makes my skin crawl. I don't even let my husband kiss me after he has eaten one. 

I realize that's a little extreme, but it's a food texture issue, and there are certain things my mouth just won't tolerate...bananas, jello, marshmallows that have been cooked in jello, raisins that have been rehydrated. You see how this is going. But I don't hate banana bread, because combining the nasty bananas with the other ingredients transforms the texture. I just had to get past the "mooshing" part in order to make this cake. 

I figured if I put bourbon in the frosting, I could get past the bananas. But, Ray doesn't like bourbon, and he loves bananas. Is this cake doomed ? Not at all. Ray claims I finally found a way to make bourbon palatable for him, and I didn't hate the bananas ! 

Banana Cake with Bourbon Cream Cheese Frosting

For the cake: 
1/2 cup butter, softened 
1/2 cup white sugar 
3/4 cup brown sugar 
4 large bananas, mashed 
1 teaspoon vanilla 
2 eggs 
2 1/2 cups flour 
1 tablespoon baking soda 
1/2 teaspoon salt 
2/3 cup buttermilk 
Preheat oven to 350. Spray a 9 by 13 inch pan with non-stick spray. In a large mixing bowl, cream together butter and sugars. Mix in bananas, then vanilla and eggs. Mix on medium speed until smooth. Sift dry ingredients together, and add alternating with buttermilk until well combined. Pour into pan and bake for 40 minutes, until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from oven and let cool. 

For the frosting: 
1 eight ounce package cream cheese, softened 
1/2 cup butter, softened 
1/4 cup good quality bourbon (I like Maker's Mark for this) 
5 cups powdered sugar 
Melt butter and cream cheese together in a large bowl. Add bourbon and powdered sugar, and mix until smooth. Spread on cooled cake. Let sit for 20-30 minutes before serving. This tastes even better the next day.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Rustic Blackberry Honey Tart

We picked up our bees this weekend, so I was in the mood for something with honey for breakfast on Sunday morning. I also had some really yummy fresh blackberries just begging to be used, and I love blackberries and honey together. 

Since it was Sunday morning, I didn't want anything that was too time consuming to prepare. A rustic tart is always easy. I happened to have a prepared pie crust in the refrigerator as well, so this took only a few minutes to throw together and put in the oven. 

I topped it with some Greek yogurt sweetened with honey from last years crop, it was a nice, easy Sunday treat. 

Rustic Blackberry Honey Tart 
1 prepared pie crust 
2 cups fresh blackberries 
1/2 cup honey 
1/4 cup flour 
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Preheat oven to 400. Lay pie crust out flat on a baking stone or cookie sheet. In a small bowl, mix together the berries, honey flour and cinnamon. Spread on top of pie crust, leaving approximately and inch and a half on the edge. Fold the edge over the filling. Place in the oven, and bake for 30 minutes, until crust is golden brown and filling is bubbly. 

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Smoked Shrimp Tacos with Pickled Onions

I had never tried smoked shrimp before, but when we visited the Calumet Fisheries, they had it on their menu. So, we tried them, and I really liked the flavor. They smoked the shrimp with shells on, and apparently in their regular smokehouse, so I imagine to took awhile for the smoke flavor to penetrate the shell. The shrimp were nice and smoky, but a touch overcooked for my tastes.

I was convinced I could make them at home, but in a way that didn't leave the shrimp so overcooked. We are fortunate enough to have this really cool gadget called a "Smoking Gun", that allows us to cold smoke small items indoors. I used raw, shucked shrimp, lightly seasoned, and smoked them both before and after cooking. My original plan was to grill them, but weather prevented that. Next time, I think that might increase the smoky flavor even more. 

So, why pickled onions ? I recently read somewhere they were good on tacos, so I thought, why not ? And we always end up with onions left over, just about to go bad. This was a smart way to preserve them, and they make a great snack on their own. You could use these on almost any sandwich, or eat them straight out of the jar ! And it couldn't be simpler to do. 

Smoked Shrimp Tacos With Pickled Onions 
For the pickled onions: 
2 large red onions, sliced 
1 cup cider vinegar 
2 cups water 
3 tablespoons sugar 
1 tablespoon salt 
1 tablespoon pickling spice 
Place onions in a quart jar, cover with remaining ingredients, and give a jar a good shake. Let sit on the counter for one hour, or refrigerate. Can be kept refrigerated for up to 2 weeks. 

For the shrimp: 
1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined 
1 teaspoon chili powder 
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder 
1/2 teaspoon salt 
1/2 teaspoon pepper 
1/2 teaspoon cumin
Toss shrimp in a large bowl with the spices. Cover, and use table smoker to infuse with smoke (we used applewood). Let sit in smoke until the smoke mostly dissipates. Place shrimp on skewers and grill, or, alternately, you can saute in a pan with 2 tablespoons olive oil. Return to the bowl and repeat smoking process. Serve with pickled onions, and your favorite salsa. 

I make salsa fresca for these kind of tacos, it's fresh, simple and delicious. 

Salsa Fresca: 
4 roma tomatoes, diced 
1 large jalapeno, diced 
1 small red onion, diced 
1 handful cilantro, chopped 
1 avocado, diced 
1 teaspoon salt 
1 teaspoon pepper 
2 fresh limes
Mix all of the ingredients together, except the limes. Squeeze the lime juice over the top of the salsa, and toss. Enjoy ! 

Monday, May 6, 2013

Goat Cheese and Smoked Salmon Mac and Cheese

I am a mac and cheese fanatic. If I see it on a menu when we go out I order it. And, it's hard for me to keep it off my home menu every week, but I try to mix it up a bit for variety. 

I already had planned mac and cheese for the week, but I never know what kind until I get to the store. My shopping list directed me to "buy interesting cheese", and then I planned to craft the recipe from there. We use a lot of goat cheese, and it was on sale, so although it didn't quite fit the "interesting" requirement on its own, I had never tried it in mac and cheese. I wanted to add another ingredient, to make it more unique, and my first thought was bacon. I know...bacon was too predictable. 

Then I flashed on our recent trip to Chicago, where our friends took us to the Calumet Fisheries. We had some really amazing food, standing outside, eating from the tailgate of the truck ! One of the items purchased was smoked salmon. So, I could still get the smoky flavor bacon would add, along with fish, like tuna hot dish (yes, I said hot dish. I live in Minnesota). 

So, here it is, and it was truly extraordinary. I added spinach because, well, we had some.It added a nice textural component, and I could pretend it was a little more healthy...

Goat Cheese and Smoked Salmon Mac and Cheese 

2 cups elbow macaroni
2 tablespoons butter 
2 tablespoons flour 
2 1/2 cups milk 
8 ounces goat cheese, crumbled 
1 teaspoon salt 
1 teaspoon pepper 
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg 
1 cup chopped fresh spinach 
8 ounces smoked salmon 
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese 
1/2 cup bread crumbs
Preheat oven to 350. Spray a 9 by 13 pan with non-stick spray and set aside. Start a large pot of water boiling for your macaroni, salt liberally. In a large saucepan, melt butter. Stir in flour and continue to stir until flour turns golden. Gradually add milk, and reduce to a simmer. Stir in spices. When milk mixture starts to thicken, add goat cheese and stir until melted. Gently fold in spinach and salmon, and remove from heat. Add macaroni to the water when it boils, and cook approximately 8 minutes until tender. Drain, and stir into the sauce. Pour the entire mixture into prepared pan, and sprinkle cheese and bread crumbs on top. Bake for 30 minutes until golden and bubbly. Remove from oven and let rest 10 minutes before serving.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Purple Yam Ice Cream with Tamarind and Ginger

Isn't it a pretty color ? I wish it had maintained more of the brilliant purple color of the yams after they had been cooked. 

The inspiration for this dish came from a small package of dehydrated purple yam powder I purchased at an Asian grocery store in Chicago. I was curious what to use it for, but the back of the package said it was for dessert. Sounded good to me ! 

I rehydrated the powder, then added some tamarind paste I had also purchased at the same market. I decided to add ginger to round out the flavor, and it is a really unique combination, reminiscent of pumpkin pie. I wasn't completely happy with the somewhat grainy texture, which I would assume is related to using a powder for the yams rather than real purple yams. so that would be the next step.  

I topped the ice cream with fresh blackberries, chopped crystallized ginger and some bee pollen, it was one of the best desserts I have ever made. 

Purple Yam Ice Cream with Tamarind and Ginger 
1/3 cup purple yam powder 
2 cups water 
1/4 cup tamarind paste 
3 tablespoons fresh ginger, grated 
1/2 cup sugar 
1 teaspoon vanilla 
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon 
3/4 cup heavy cream 
3/4 cup half and half 
Fresh blackberries, crystallized ginger, and bee pollen for garnish 
In a small saucepan, combine yam powder and water. Simmer slowly for approximately 20 minutes until mixture is thickened and water is completely combined with powder. Stir in tamarind paste and let come to room temperature. In a large bowl, combine yam mixture, ginger, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, cream and half and half. Process with immersion blender or hand mixer until thoroughly combined. Strain through a sieve, and place in ice cream maker. Process according to manufacturers directions. Freeze for 1-2 hours before serving. Garnish with blackberries, crystallized ginger and bee pollen, as desired. 

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Batata Poha-Pressed Rice and Potatoes

I admit it. I am a grocery whore. I love grocery stores of any kind. But, I particularly love any kind of grocery store where I can find new ingredients and experiment. 

We were visiting friends in Chicago this weekend, and we had some time to burn on Sunday, so they suggested we hit a couple of the many ethnic food stores they have in their area. I was all for that ! I ended up filling my suitcase with supplies from all around the world, many of which I had never heard of. Some people might think I am crazy, but that's fun for me ! 

This dish was created because I purchased a large bag of poha, which is pressed rice, commonly used in Indian dishes. I researched it's various preparations, and it can be cooked in both sweet and savory dishes. This dish, with potatoes, is often cooked for breakfast, but we used it as a side dish for our dinner. I made a massive pot of it, which was a good thing, because Ray couldn't stop eating it ! 

I took some liberties with the traditional preparation, so I could use ingredients we had on hand, and incorporate more of my new pantry items. 

Batata Poha-Pressed Rice and Potatoes 
2 cups pressed rice
2 tablespoons canola oil 
2 tablespoons butter 
2 teaspoons mustard seed 
1 medium onion, diced 
2 jalapenos, finely diced 
2 teaspoons cumin 
1 teaspoon dried safflower (you could also use tumeric here)
1 large potato, peeled and diced
1/2 cup vegetable stock 
1 teaspoon salt 
1/2 cup dried, roasted chickpeas (peanuts could substitute) 
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice 
Handful of cilantro
Rinse rice thoroughly in cold water and set aside. In a large dutch oven, heat oil and butter together. Add mustard seeds, and cook over medium heat until they begin to pop. Add onions and peppers, and saute until soft. Add spices, and stir to combine. Stir in potatoes, and cover. Keep cooking over medium heat, stirring frequently, until potatoes are cooked through. Gently stir in rice, salt and vegetable stock. Cover and cook an additional 10 minutes until rice is thoroughly cooked. Add chickpeas, lemon juice and cilantro just before serving.