Thursday, August 29, 2013

Baked Fish Sticks with Avocado Lemon Ginger Dip

I must confess to one of my "quirks."  I do not wear jeans.  I am not trying to cultivate an eccentricity.  I just absolutely do not find them comfortable.  That stiff denim fabric.  That waist band that rubs against the skin. I hate it with the entirety of my heart.  They have been phased out of my life completely.

My aversion to jeans started at an early age.  I'm pretty sure my mom capitalized on this fact, and would make me wear jeans as punishment when I was little.  I say "pretty sure" because I sometimes lose track of what is reality and what are the personal myths and lies we tell ourselves (luckily, this beloved parent of mine is coming for a visit, so I can find out for sure - I'm extremely excited about this). But I do remember that the thought of wearing jeans was an effective deterrent against wrongdoing.

Eventually, I gave in to lure of conformity, wearing denim like all the normal people.  But I never loved them, and relished the thought of returning to a state of pajamahood at the end of each and every day.

One day, it occurred to me that I did not need to continue my denim distress.  Alternatives exist.  And thus I left behind my jail of jeans.

So instead of being fashionable, I choose comfort. Which generally leaves me with two choices.  Dresses, with or without leggings. And yoga/sweat pants and tees.  Which, depending on my mood, leaves me under or over dressed for just about every occasion.  And I am okay with this.

Sometimes, however, comfortable clothes just don't give the proper amount of comfort.  And that is where food comes in.  A few days ago, my friend Jess informed that you can cut fish into stick shapes.  And then turn those into fish sticks. This was the most genius of all the ideas.  How did I not think of that before?  So I went ahead and made one of those most basics of comfort foods - fish sticks.  And a wonderfully zesty avocado lemon ginger dip to go along with it.  Comfort food that goes supremely well with anything you choose to wear.

For the fish sticks:
3/4 pound white fish (I used rockfish), cut into strips or nuggets (whatever shape strikes your fancy!)
1 egg, beaten
1/4 cup flour
1 cup panko
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 1/4 teaspoons dried dill weed

For the avocado lemon ginger dip:
1 tablespoon grated ginger (use a microplane)
flesh from 1 small avocado
1/4 cup Greek yogurt
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
1 teaspoon lemon juice
2 chopped scallions
1 tablespoon chives
pinch Saigon cinnamon

To make the fish sticks:  Heat oven to 375.

Place egg in a shallow bowl.  In another shallow bowl, mix together flour, panko, salt, freshly ground black pepper, and dill.

Take each strip or nugget and dredge in the beaten egg and then the panko mixture.  Place on baking sheet.  Repeat until all the fish has been dredged in both the egg and the panko mixture.  Bake for about 15 minutes, until golden brown on the outside and cooked through.

To make the dip:  Place ginger, avocado, Greek yogurt, and lemon zest/juice in bowl.  Use a fork to mash together.  Add scallions, chives, and pinch of cinnamon and continue to blend together.  Serve with fish sticks.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Breakfast Crostini with French Toast Style Broccoli Stalks, Gorgonzola, Maple Syrup, Tarragon and Quail Eggs

We appear to have a new addition(s) to the family.

Some kids tote around dolls or stuffed animals or blankets as companions through this big old world of ours. Max, having no concerns about portability, has this.  An owl-shaped suitcase (usually empty, but occasionally an elephant-shaped lunch box makes its way in there).  And we want to bring it EVERYWHERE.  Going to bed?  The owl suitcase needs to get tucked in as well!  Heading to mom and dad's room at 2 am for some early morning cuddles?  Be sure to bring along the suitcase! Going stargazing? God forbid the owl doesn't get to see the moon as well! Distress, inevitably, ensues when the little guy is told that he cannot bring along the suitcase.

And in addition to the owl, our family has also welcomed a new breakfast item into the fold - french-toast style broccoli stalks.  We, as a unit, were previously not super interested in french toast.  Good in theory, but soggy in practice.  Broccoli stalks, after a nice soak in some eggs and maple syrup, browned in some butter, then coated in a sprinkling of powdered sugar, mimic french toast, without the problems of the bread.

And after chowing down on a handful of these stalks, we decided their sweetness would combine perfectly with the strong Gorgonzola cheese and quail eggs we were looking to use in a breakfast crostini.  Add a little bit of maple syrup and a liberal amount of tarragon, and this is literally one of the best things we've ever tasted.  

New additions can be glorious things.  Though it remains to be seen what this owl suitcase is bringing to the table.

1 baguette, sliced
extra virgin olive oil
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper

2 large broccoli stalks (outside of the stalks removed), sliced, then halved to fit on a crostini
2 eggs
1 tablespoon maple syrup
pat of butter, for skillet
powdered sugar, for sprinkling

Gorgonzola cheese
french-toast style broccoli stalks
good quality maple syrup
quail eggs, fried in a skillet with butter
torn tarragon leaves

Heat oven to 375. Place the baguette slices on a baking sheet (I used a Silpat to line mine). Pour olive oil in a bowl, and brush the oil on each slice. Sprinkle a bit of salt and pepper on each. Bake for 8-10 minutes or until golden-brown.

Beat the eggs with the syrup.  Heat a cast iron skillet over high heat; add butter.  Soak the slices of stalks in the egg and syrup mixture.  Place in skillet on high heat.  Brown one side, drizzling some egg mixture on top of the stalks with a chopstick before flipping over to brown the other side.  Flip to brown the other side. Sprinkle the french-toast style stalks with powdered sugar.

Assemble the breakfast crostini by adding a generous layer of Gorgonzola to each baked baguette slice.  Then add a french-toast style stalk to each one.  Using a chopstick, drizzle a bit of maple syrup on top of each stalk.

To fry the quail egg, heat a skillet to medium low.  Add some unsalted butter to the pan and let it melt.  Separate most of the white from the yolk of the quail egg by carefully cutting off the top half of the egg using a sharp knife.  Be careful not to puncture the yolk.  Pour out as much of the white into the pan as you can until you're left with a yolk and a bit of white.  Drop this onto the pan and cook just until the white stops being translucent.  Should only be 10-20 seconds.  Use a spatula to remove from the pan and place onto the crostini.

Finish with a sprinkling of torn tarragon leaves.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Steamed Asparagus and Radishes with an Espresso Rose Spice Mix

We weren't sure what to expect when introducing our pig cat to his little sister - the puff cat.  Maybe he would take her under his wing (or paws, I suppose), and show her the ropes.  Or maybe he would be offended by her presence, thinking we were trying to replace him with a fluffier, tinier version.  Or maybe he would be sort of a bully, defending his territory against this miniature intruder.

Rambo chose to go with the latter of these options. The defending against a super tiny puff thing that looked more like a cottonball that an actual cat.  That was, apparently, the logical option.  Though in his defense, we do think JiJi can be a bit of a drama queen, reacting to offences that were never even made in the first place.  But I digress.

Sometimes, introductions can be weird.  Or awful.

These seemed like very likely outcomes when I introduced instant espresso powder, ground dried porcini mushrooms, and ground dried rose petals to some steamed asparagus and radishes.

It wasn't weird, or bad, at least to me!  The flavors combined to give a floral, sultry note to the veggies.  A generous douse of melted butter gave them a luxurious feel.  The spicy edge of the radish is tamed in the steam, playing quite nicely with the earthy flavors of the asparagus spears.  All in all, I would say the introductions went quite well, indeed.

And though Rambo and JiJi had a rocky start to their relationship, they get along quite well now.  Rarely are they found more than a couple of feet apart.

Do you also have the problem of being completely incapable of resisting the allure of radishes?  And then you bring them home and are like, oh wow, I'm totally sick of eating these alone as a snack, what else can I do with them?  Fear not! Cooking Light has a slideshow of recipes using those adorable little root vegetables!

1 bunch asparagus, woody ends removed
1 bunch radishes, leafy tops removed, halved
1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon ground dried porcini mushrooms
1/4 teaspoon ground dried rose petals
1/4 tesaspoon ground instant espresso
3/8 teaspoon vanilla salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
pinch ground clove

Bring a medium pot of water to boil.  Add the asparagus spear on one side of a steam basket and the radishes on the other.  Place on top of the boiling water.  Remove the vegetables once they reach your desired tenderness (I did my asparagus for about 6 minutes and the radishes for about 8 minutes).

Whisk the melted butter and lemon juice, and pour desired amount over the steamed vegetables.  In a small bowl, stir together the ground mushrooms, ground rose, espresso, vanilla salt, black pepper, and clove. Sprinkle and toss with the veggies.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Cantaloupe Strawberry Salad with White Wine Lime Dressing

Composed. The word itself even sounds so elegant, so controlled. So poised.

Not surprisingly, these words do not describe me.

I hurt my ankle on the linen closet somehow, That "somehow" sneakily obfuscates the major role I played in my own injury. I do actually know what happened.

I attempted to stuff a pillow on a shelf that quite clearly did not have enough space. The pillow was aware of this, and didn't really want to be there. But I can be ridiculously stubborn, so I carried on with my futile task, resulting in the pillow rebelling by popping open the door on my ankle with surprising force.

Later that day, I made some bacon for Max, keeping a slice for myself to use in a grilled cheese, and used the bacon grease to cook the sandwich. It turned out to be a delicious grilled cheese. But it really was not one of my best ideas. As one can imagine, this sandwich provided some wonderful stomach pains.

To top it all off, something began irritating my left eye, resulting in a red eye that would barely stay open. The irritation also led to some side effects like a runny nose.

By the end of the day, I was a hobbling woman with one eye open, face in a tissue, hunched over from the pain of the grilled cheese.

Composed I am not. Composed people do not stuff grilled cheese sandwiches with bacon and then cook them in bacon grease. Composed people probably eat quinoa and kale salads exclusively. Composed people do not fight pillows to stay in closets. Composed people probably have special closets dedicated solely to storing pillows. Composed people do not allow eye irritations to occur.

Since I am not elegant, or poised, or composed, I attempted to live vicariously through produce. Some cantaloupe, strawberries, macadamia nuts, slices of Parmesan cheese, and basil leaves arranged "artfully" (a term I use very very very very loosely, by the way) on the plate, drizzled with a lime and white wine dressing and sprinkled with just a bit of freshly ground black pepper. This salad is everything I am not. The self I wish I could be.

Melons, all juicy and round and fragrant are just so much fun to eat! Here, Cooking Light has a super informative slideshow about how to best pick out melons and recipes to use them in! So check it out!

shaved slices from cantaloupe wedge
sliced strawberries
roasted and salted macadamia nuts, halved
shaved Parmesan slices
basil leaves
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon lime juice
1/4 teaspoon lime zest
1 tablespoon dry white wine
freshly ground black pepper

Arrange the cantaloupe, strawberries, macadamia nuts, Parmesan, and basil leaves on a plate.  Whisk the olive oil, lime juice, lime zest, and white wine together.  Drizzle desired amount of the dressing over the salad.  Sprinkle the salad with black pepper.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Sourdough Toast Topped with Biscoff, Apricot Compote, Granny Smith Apple Slices, and Fleur de Sel

For as long as I can remember, I've been a reader. A voracious reader, consuming the backs (and sides) of cereal boxes, my mom's church bulletins, and whatever books were lying around, all with equal gusto.
My true love, however, was fiction.  Every now and then, I come across a line or paragraph that feels so incredibly, thrillingly, true that I feel like it is actually possible to understand humanity.  Just a little.

I was indiscriminate in my youth, accepting loaned books and recommendations from others as easily as I would accept candy. I didn't have the resources to be picky.

Eventually, I was able to become more discerning.  Glorious years, however, were spent in books - current fiction and literature from the (admittedly problematic) canon, making up for lost time.  Time I would never get back.  Time that had been spent with the likes of Danielle Steele, John Grisham, and the Babysitter's Club.

Then Max was born. I was prepared to have less time available for reading. I wasn't prepared to have a diminished interest in fiction.

Perhaps I just didn't have the brain capacity to empathize, to learn about new characters and problems while I was getting to know my own little guy. Maybe I just found the conflicts so out of the realm of my day to day life, I no longer could care.  Maybe I could no longer see truth in the fiction I was reading.  Maybe it is totally something else.

So I hung up my fiction hat for awhile, subsisting on long-form non fiction articles and a smattering of non fiction books.

Somewhere along the way, about a year and a half after Max was born, I found my way back to my first, my true love.

A new title from a well liked author made a nice reintroduction with this old friend. After that, a collection of short stories from the wonderful Alice Munro. From there, my confidence slowly rebuilt to the present, in which I can actually read a non-fiction book and not worry that I will no longer be able to read fiction again, backsliding into those former reading habits.

These days, I can finally nestle on the couch with our old, ratty, giant comforter (never just a throw blanket!) and a snack and delve into a book - a book of whatever I feel like at the moment. Currently, those books are Susan Sontag's On the Pain of Others and Posession by A.S. Byatt.

And the snack?  The perfect snack for reading has to be individually-sized.  Individually-sized for the private, interior world you are inhabiting.  Luxurious, as well.  Like these toasts - sourdough bread with a creamy layer of Biscoff, apricot compote, slices of Granny Smith apples, a drizzling of fresh orange juice, and just a sprinkling of fleur de sel.

By the way, Biscoff is running a "Spread the Love" contest! Facebook fans will vote for the grand prize winners.  The contest ends on August 25 (11:59 p.m. EST).
The top three winners of the challenge will be announced on August 30, 2013.

Prizes include:
First place – A trip to Belgium for two and a tour of the Biscoff factory
Second place – $1,500
Third place – $1,000

sourdough or french bread, toasted
Biscoff spread
apricot compote*
apple slices
drizzle of fresh orange juice
fleur de sel

For the apricot compote:
13 apricots, pitted and halved
2 teaspoons juice from a Meyer lemon
3-4 tablespoons sugar

To make the compote: Put everything into a pot. Cook on low for about 8-10 minutes, until warm and the apricots start to break down. Chill.

To make the toasts: Generously spread the Biscoff over toast. Add a layer of apricot compote. Arrange slices of apple on top. Drizzle a bit of fresh orange juice. Finish with a sprinkling of fleur de sel.
Biscoff Spread is a sweet, creamy spread made with Biscoff Cookies. Try this delicious European alternative to peanut butter or chocolate spread. Vote for the best photo in Biscoff’s “Spread the Love” contest and you could win a year’s supply of Biscoff products!

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Biscoff. The opinions and text are all mine.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Smoky Tomato Soup

Life, with some exceptions, has a rhythm. A regularity, a predictability to give the amorphous concept some structure.

Since toddler soccer began, Tuesdays can be counted on to involve a conversation like the following:

Upon arrival of the park to play soccer,
Max: "bye bye"
me: "bye bye what?"
Max: "bye bye ball"
me: "you don't want to play soccer?"
Max: "nooooooo. trains (referring to the multiple playground pieces of equipment that are shaped like trains)"

I know what you are thinking, "If this is a common occurrence why do I continue to bring him to soccer?" I can't, and don't, force him to play.  But I have to at least give him the chance to play because the class has already been paid for, and he will sometimes play happily for like 4 minutes. I don't want to sound like I'm some sort of psychotic parent demanding athletic skills to be proficiently demonstrated by a toddler aged child.  I have no athletic ability to speak of myself!   He may not like going to soccer, but he loves going to that park for the playground equipment.  He already knows that is where the best toys are located in town.

And just like the regularity of this conversation with my child (I am most definitely looking forward to the end of the class, where we no longer have to engage in the charade of attending it), my love of smoked paprika flares up. And I am compelled to make things taste smoky.

I feel like an evangelist for the stuff, even becoming some sort of smoked paprika fairy godmother and gifting it to others in hopes that they too will see the light of smoked paprika. In addition to introducing my container of smoked paprika to new people, I love introducing it to new ingredients as well. Like eggs. And eggs (okay, I guess that isn't really new, but the richness of eggs just goes so amazingly well with smoked paprika). And cauliflower. And jalapenos. Just to name a few.

And now, my penchant for putting smoked paprika on things took the form of big, juicy heirloom tomatoes. Tomatoes that were roasted with garlic and jalapenos, sprinkled with spices like earthy cumin and fruity ground pasilla peppers, and, you guessed it, smoked paprika, and then blended into soup.  I should note that we enjoyed this with a grilled cheese of cheddar and smoked gouda.  A predictable accompaniment for such a soup.

3 large heirloom tomatoes, chopped into wedges
handful of cherry tomatoes, halved
2 jalapenos, halved (or to taste)
5 garlic cloves, peeled
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice
3/4 teaspoon liquid smoke
3/4 teaspoon ground pasilla
1/4 teaspoon ancho chile powder
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon smoked salt
1/8 teaspoon ground sumac
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons half and half
smoked salt, to taste
freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Heat oven to 400 degrees.  In a large bowl, mix the tomato wedges and hales, jalapeno, and garlic.  In a small bowl, whisk the olive oil, lemon juice, and liquid smoke.  Drizzle over the tomato mixture.  Toss gently to coat. In another small bowl, whisk together the pasilla, , ancho chile, coriander, cumin, smoked paprika, salt, and sumac.  Sprinkle over tomato mixture. Toss gently to coat.  Pour into 9 x 13 pan, and place in oven for 30-40 minutes.

Once roasted, remove the tomatoes, jalapenos, and garlic, as well as about half of the cooking liquid left in the pan and place in a pot.  Blend with an immersion blender.  Add more of the cooking liquid, if needed, to get desired consistency. Place over medium-low heat and stir in the butter and half-half.  Adjust salt and pepper to taste.  Once soup is warm, take off heat.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Corn, Scallion and Cotija Dumplings in a Coconut Corn Broth

There are nights, as we make our way upstairs to bed, that I am overcome with tiredness. A tiredness that makes each step incredibly difficult to take.

Okay, every night I'm tired.  I'm not exactly known as one of those full of energy types.

There are times when I fall asleep within a few minutes of getting into that beautiful, amazing place known as bed.

Other nights, however, my brain does the opposite of shutting off.  I become incredibly awake. Happy and awake.

So when this occurs, I enjoy "demonstrating my awakeness," a phrase coined by Seth.  Perhaps by engaging in one or more of the following.
-Initiating vigorous, contentious conversation
-Using a cheerful, loud voice
-Continuing conversations that were previously over
-Asking a million questions
-Discussing the episode of television we are watching
-Snorting in his face
-Walking to the other side of the bed, getting in his face, and saying hi

After numerous "demonstrations" and a subsequent reprimand to go to sleep, I usually decide to read.  But there are times when I put this silent, private awake time to good use.  And think about food.  Glorious, glorious food.

Like, for instance, some dumplings.  Dumplings stuffed with lime-scented cotija, corn, scallions, and jalapeno.  Dumplings coated in a coconut milk and corn broth, infused with the flavors of ginger and garlic and lime. "Demonstrating my awakeness" might not always lead to my desired outcome (Seth joining me in my awakeness), but at least some good can come of it.

For the corn stock:
husk of 5 corns
1/2 teaspoon peppercorns
1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds
small red onion, halved
pinch salt

For the corn:
4 ears of corn, husked

For the coconut and corn broth:
5 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons grated ginger
extra virgin olive oil
1 cup corn broth
1 cup coconut milk
zest and juice of 1 small lime
1/2 teaspoon fish sauce
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
kosher salt, to taste
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/2 cup fresh basil, chiffonade
sprinkle more cotija for serving

For the corn scallion dumplings:
the cooked kernels from 4 ears of corn
1/2 teaspoon lime zest
1 tablespoon lime juice
2 chopped scallions
1/4 cup cotija cheese, crumbled
1 minced jalapeno
black pepper
1 package wonton wrappers (I made about 40 dumplings)

To make the corn stock:
Place everything in a large pot and cover with water.  Cover with lid, set over medium heat.  Simmer for 1-2 hours.  Strain.

To make the corn:
Cook the corn using your preferred method.  I just stuck them in a 400 degree oven and let them roast for about 15 minutes.

To make the coconut and corn broth:
Heat some oil in a saute pan on low.  Add the garlic and ginger and saute for about a minute, until fragrant. Pour in 1 cup of the corn stock, coconut milk, lime juice and zest, fish sauce, and coriander.  Simmer for just a few minutes.  Adjust salt and pepper to taste.  Finish with a sprinkling of fresh basil and cotija cheese.

To make the corn scallion dumplings:
Place the cooked corn kernels, lime juice, lime zest, scallions, cotija, jalapeno and black pepper in a bowl. Toss together.  Take a wonton wrapper and place in the palm of your hand. Place ½ tablespoon of the corn scallion mixture in the middle. Dab water around two adjacent sides of the wrapper, then bring up the other two sides of the wrapper to form a triangle.  Bring a large pot of water to boil.  Add 4-5 dumplings and cook (about 1-3 minutes).  Remove the cooked dumplings and repeat. Serve with broth.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Peaches and Cream Chamomile Tea Cooler

Sometimes your instinct and reasoning skills line up to tell you something.  A situation in which success should be guaranteed.

You see the way he gets all excited playing with a ball.  You know how energetic he is.  You are extremely aware of his inability to sit still.  Friends and family all said yes, he will love it.  Toddler soccer seemed like the perfect activity for Max.

But it was not.  To say the least.  In his defense, the soccer class was held on a patch of grass immediately adjacent to the big toys on the playground.  Like right there, calling out to him with its siren song of fun and climbing adventures.  A song that he could only hear, apparently, as none of the other tots seemed to be running off to play on it.

At first, everything seemed like it would be perfect.  Hilarious and adorable, with a happy little tot playing with the soccer ball.  But that scene was crushed after all of like thirty seconds (I'm not exaggerating), when he decided he needed to be elsewhere. The two train-shaped toys were especially appealing to his sensibilities.  After using various strategies to get my child back to soccer, I eventually had to admit defeat.  As soon as I would carry him over to the soccer balls he would just dart right back to the playground area.  Futility at its finest.

So that was that.

I was so wrong about his interest in soccer.

But I don't think I am wrong here.  I had a vision, instinct and reasoning, telling me that sweet cream and peaches and chamomile and lemon would come together to make a delicious summery drink.

Sometimes our instincts are wrong.  And sometimes they are spot-on.  Not sure what to make of that situation.

For the chamomile-black tea:
8 regular-sized chamomile tea bags
3 regular-sized black tea bags (I insist on my mom sending me packages of Red Rose brand of tea)
4 cups just-boiled water

4 peeled peaches
2 tablespoons lemon juice
6 tablespoons International Delight Cold Stone Creamery Creamer Sweet Cream Flavor
honey, to taste (depends on the sweetness of your peaches)

To make the chamomile-black tea:  Pour the water over the tea bags.  Steep for 4-6 minutes, remove bags. Cool.

To make the tea cooler:  Pour the tea, peaches, lemon juice, creamer, and honey (if using) in bowl.  Blend everything with an immersion blender (or regular blender) until frothy. Ladle into ice-filled glasses.

By the way, in addition to the Sweet Cream creamer flavor, International Delight and Cold Stone Creamery have three additional flavors! They are:
Cold Stone Creamery Hot for Cookie
Cold Stone Creamery Founder's Favorite
Cold Stone Creamery Churro Caramel

Sound amazing?  Click here to find out where to get them!

Love ice cream + coffee? This summer, International Delight is bringing your favorite Cold Stone Creamery ice cream flavors to coffee and they're celebrating by giving away five $400 grand prizes to throw this summer’s ultimate Ice Cream Social!  To enter, visit the ID + Ice Cream Pinterest board and pin your favorite image using the #IScream4ID hashtag. Good luck!

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of International Delight. The opinions and text are all mine.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...