Sunday, February 22, 2009

Roasted Beet Salad With Citrus Dressing

When Pam was in town visiting me last week, our friend Lisa had us over for a delicious dinner. The salad course was total eye candy. First we eat with our eyes, and this was a feast. The colors of the deep wine red and sunset golden beets were magnificent. They played against the fresh green of the lettuce and avocado, the white crumbles of goat cheese and the flirty pink grapefruit. My jaw was dropping and I was salivating. I even forgot that beets were not high on my list of favorites. My mom used to make pickled beets and they had a gag factor of about 15 on a scale of 1-10. Nothing against my mom, but the flavors just didn't do it for me. Pickled anything is pretty low on my food chain. Beets have an unique earthy taste that can be off putting. But.....I was still excited to try this salad since it had many favorites in it, and I am a sucker for beauty. I loved it. Now I had to go home and make it for you. I added a few of my own touches and made a citrus vinaigrette. This salad is a tasty show stopper. As I ate it, I marveled at the beet red juice as it swirled with the citrus dressing and made patterns like that spinning paint art we all did as a kid. I am now a fan.
Roasted Beet Salad With Citrus Dressing

6 ounces mesclun greens

3 small red beets

3 small golden beets*
1 ripe avocado
1/3 cup red onion
1 pink grapefruit
2-3 sprigs fresh dill, separated from stems
1/3 cup goat cheese, crumbled
lemon and orange zest, grated

*if golden beets are unavailable, use red beets.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Wash beets, cut off tops** leaving a 2 inch tuft. Wrap in foil and roast for about 1 hour or more, depending on size, until cooked through. Let cool in foil slightly and peel skins using your fingers. Once cool, slice or cube. Peel, slice and pit avocado. Slice the red onion into paper thin slices. Cut grapefruit in half and cut out sections, without the skins. Place the mesclun on a plate, top with the sliced avocado, red onion slices, grapefruit sections, and dill sprigs. Arrange the beets along the sides and sprinkle on the crumbled goat cheese and some grated citrus zest. Pour Citrus Vinaigrette over the salad and serve. Makes 2 main course salads or 4 side salads.

**Beet green tops are delicious chopped and sauteed in a little olive oil and garlic, with a squeeze of lemon.

Citrus Vinaigrette

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup orange juice
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon lemon zest

1 tablespoon orange zest
1/2 cup olive oil
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
sea salt to taste

Using a micro plane grater, grate lemon and orange zest.
Mix lemon and orange juice together and whisk in Dijon mustard. Add zest of lemon and orange. Whisk in olive oil to emulsify. Stir in cayenne pepper and sea salt to taste.
Makes 1 cup.

Written and photographed by Diane.

Download recipe (pdf)

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Saturday, February 14, 2009

Blood Orange Marmalade or How We Reconnect Without the Cell Phone

Collaborating on this website via cell phone and email has some limitations and it is not quite as much fun as face to face updating. Pam and I had a laundry list of website fixes, additions and updating to do that is easier to do together. So she packed up her brand squeaking new (well, maybe not squeaking) car and drove to Boston. Among her camera gear and baggage, she brought up some blood oranges so we could make marmalade. She has been having blood orange fever! I made a big pot of soup for us to have so we could concentrate on our matters at hand. We made a list and checked it twice. Amazingly, we focused and were able to cross off every last chore all while making wonderful Blood Orange Marmalade. We even had time to socialize with friends. Our friend Lisa had us over for the most wonderful dinner and gave us new ideas for another blog. So much to eat and so little time! We were still stuffed the next morning, but made room for tea and an English muffin with our yummy Blood Orange Marmalade before Pam headed back home.

Blood Orange

10 Moro Blood Oranges
2 lemons
7 cups sugar
5 cups water
1 cup pomegranate cherry juice, or 1/2 cup of each
3 plates, placed in the freezer for checking the gel

Prepare jars and lids by boiling for 5 minutes. Remove from water, drain and let cool.
Scrub oranges and lemons well. Cut oranges into quarters, pulling flesh from the inside cavity. Halve the lemons and juice them. Reserve the juice. Remove pith remains and discard.
Slice lemon and orange rinds thinly. Give the flesh a rough chop.
Cover the rinds and orange flesh in lemon juice and 5 cups of water. Bring to a boil. Turn off heat and allow to cool. Refrigerate overnight. This will allow the pectin to seep from the rinds, ensuring a firm gel.

If it is cold outside, you may place the whole pot in a secure place to cool.
Remove from the refrigerator, stir in the pomegranate cherry juice and bring to a simmer over medium high heat. Cook until the thickest peel is tender, about 15 minutes. Add the sugar and stir well to dissolve. Over high heat, bring the mixture to a boil, stirring often. Boil for about 30 minutes until the mixture reaches about 225 degrees on a candy thermometer. Stir often to prevent scorching. As it starts to thicken, stir continuously so it doesn't stick on the bottom. Be careful! It spits! If your marmalade does scorch, don't scrap the bottom of the pan. This will prevent the burn from flavoring the marmalade.

To test for doneness, drop a spoonful on a frozen plate. If it is still runny, keep boiling.
If it sets, has a film, or wrinkles when you push it with your finger, it's done.
Immediately spoon into jars, wipe rims clean and seal with lids. When cool, refrigerate. Store refrigerated up to 1 month.

Makes 13, 8 ounce jars.

As a caution, prepare this jam without kids and pets around. Try to reduce distractions and be prepared to give it your full attention.

Written and photographed by Diane and Pam

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Sunday, February 8, 2009

Chocolate Chip Banana Nut Bread

I've been hearing a lot on the news lately about creative money conservation in our economic downturn (how about nosedive!). People aren't shopping as much anymore, either out of not having as much disposable income or out of fear of not having it in the future. Today I even saw a story on a news program of friends trading furniture and food, instead of buying new. Lack of money is definitely the "mother of invention". I mean, this is war. Our throwaway society is turning inward to discover new ways to save the greenbacks. Finally, waste and excess just aren't cool. Yesterday I bought a container of soon to be overripe tomatoes, at my local upscale fruit and veg store. They are very fussy about what they sell. I felt like a bandit as I paid $1.99 for some really good looking tomatoes that were in the sunset of their life. I brought them home, ate a few of the best and chop, chop, bada, bada, boom, the rest were sauce. Everything has its place. Last week I was staring at some bananas on my counter that were getting a little bit past prime for eating, but great for baking. I didn't have the time or inclination to make banana bread at the time, so I popped them in the freezer for later. Later came today. I took those black beauties out of the freezer and I made Chocolate Chip Banana Nut Bread. The whole house was scented with that "nothin' says home like fresh baked" aroma. Yum. I have tweaked this recipe over the years to become truly my own as I've added chocolate chips, nuts and a touch of cinnamon to the basic recipe. As my son said when he was young, "Mom, EVERYTHING tastes better with chocolate!". What an old soul.

Chocolate Chip Banana Nut Bread

2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
2 eggs
4 small/medium very ripe bananas, mashed
1/3 cup milk
1 teaspoon lemon juice or vinegar
3/4 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease a 9x5x3 inch loaf pan.

Mix flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon together in a medium bowl.
In a large mixing bowl, cream the sugars with the butter. Mix well.
Add the eggs and bananas and blend thoroughly.
Combine the milk and lemon juice or vinegar, which will curdle a bit. Slowly and alternatively add the flour mixture and milk mixture, starting and ending with the dry ingredients. Blend well after each addition. With a spatula, fold in the nuts and chocolate chips.Pour the batter into the greased loaf pan and put in preheated 350 degree oven.
Bake for one hour or until loaf springs back up when touched in the center and a knife comes out clean when inserted. If it starts to brown too quickly, lightly tent with aluminum foil.

Written and photographed by Diane

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Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Hot Sweet Potato Chili

Warm soup or stew on a cold day does the soul good. It can be as affirming as a soft snuggly blanket and as filling as a big meal. It never hurts to also have a reminder from tropical spices, that spring will eventually come. This Sweet Potato Chili is adapted from a hot bowl of soup that I had in London recently. I’ve added my own touches, since I duplicated it without a recipe. All I know for sure is the satisfaction it brought to the chill in my bones with spicy heat and the tastes of warmer climes. It is true fusion food…fusion that brings together hot chili spices and island tastes. Sweet potato is the meeting point for the two worlds. I added a garnish of a lime slice, cilantro tossed with ginger and lime juice, topped with a sprinkling of fleur de sel. Sub…lime!

Sweet Potato Chili

2 medium sweet potatoes
1 medium white potato
1 large red onion
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 large cloves garlic, chopped

3 teaspoons hom
emade chili powder*
1 teaspoon ground coriander

28 ounce can crushed tomatoes
1 15 ounce can pinto beans

¾ cup unsweetened coconut milk
2 tablespoons canned chopped green chilies

1 red pepper, roasted, peeled and diced
32 ounces chicken or vegetable broth

1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
3 ounces fresh baby spinach

1 cup cooked brown basmati rice

½ lime, juiced

This is a vegetarian chili if made with vegetable broth. Alternatively, it can be made with chicken stock and shredded chicken for a non vegetarian option.

*Homemade chili powder is easy to make and makes a big difference in the finished taste. Once you’ve tried it you’ll never go back to store bought!

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment. Peel the potatoes, cut into 1 inch cubes and dice the red onion. Toss with the olive oil and roast for 20-25 minutes, turning half way through. Five minutes before done, add chopped garlic, chili powder, ground coriander and toss to coat. Roast 5 more minutes until golden, making sure they are roasted but not too brown. Put in a 3 quart or larger stockpot. Add the crushed tomatoes, pinto beans, coconut milk, green chilies, diced, roasted red pepper and broth. Simmer over medium low heat for 30 minutes. Add the spinach and cilantro and simmer for 5-10 minutes more until the spinach has wilted. Add the cooked rice and the juice of ½ lime. Serve with Cilantro Coconut Garnish. Serves 6 with generous 2 cup portions.

Cilantro Coconut Garnish, per 2 servings

1 tablespoon cilantro
1 teaspoon lime juice

1 teaspoon ginger juice*
2 slices lime
2 tablespoons shaved, toasted coconut (unsweetened)**

fleur de sel or sea salt

*Ginger Juice Place a 1 inch piece of peeled ginger root in a garlic press and squeeze firmly over a bowl. Every one inch piece yields about 1 teaspoon of juice.

**Toasted Cocon
ut To toast the coconut, crack open fresh coconut (the right way and not the wrong way or the even more wrong way) and shave flesh with vegetable peeler. Place single layer on a a baking sheet and lightly toast in a 350 degree preheated oven for about 5 minutes. Keep a close watch, as ovens vary and it can over brown quickly. You want it to be just lightly toasted.

Remove cilantro leaves from the stems and toss with the lime and ginger juice. Place a slice of lime in the chili.

Add the cilantro/lime/ginger juice mixture and toasted shaved coconut. Sprinkle with fleur de sel or sea salt and serve.

Diane's Fire Breathing Chili Powder

Increase the "fire" by slowly adding more of the ground peppers
1 tablespoon ground ancho chilies

1 tablespoon ground cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon ground chipotle pepper

3 tablespoons ground cumin

2 tablespoons garlic powder
1 tablespoon ground dried oregano

1 tablespoon paprika

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

1 teaspoon salt

Mix all ingredients together, being careful not to breathe in the pepper. Store in an ai
r tight container. Makes approximately 3/4 cup.

Written and photographed by Diane

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