Saturday, June 25, 2011

Berry Yummy!

Summer desserts are so much fun- no oven, no fuss, lots of fruit and loads of flavor....
I took my kids to England years ago and they came away with a love for the English Trifle, which for those of you that are unfamiliar, is possibly one of England's best desserts. They also came away with a very exaggerated English accent compounded by the Harry Potter movies- but that's a whole other blog! I take liberties when I make this dessert. I use any berries I have and add in pineapple or mango, grapes or orange segments- whatever takes my fancy and it all works out well. The key to a good Trifle is the custard- unfortunately there are no shortcuts and it takes practise to make a really creamy custard. Even mine can curdle or turn lumpy if I don't pay attention. The best way is to keep all the ingredients and equipment ready and keep your eye on it ALWAYS till it is done.
Recipe for an English Trifle:
1/2 a pound cake cut into fingers
assorted berries- strawberries, raspberries, blackberries and blueberries
mango, grapes, pineapple, orange segments, peaches or nectarines (optional)
2-3 tbsp sherry
1 tbsp sugar
whipped cream ( slightly sweetened)
slivered almonds toasted lightly

For the custard:
2 egg yolks
2 tbsp sugar
1 tsp cornstarch
1 cup heavy cream
1 tsp vanilla extract

1. To make the custard- whip the egg yolks with the sugar and the cornstarch until creamy. Scald the cream briefly in a pan and add it to the egg mixture a little at a time to prevent it from curdling. Return all of the mixture to the pot and cook over low heat, whisking constantly till it thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon. Pour into a clean bowl and mix in the vanilla. Cover with plastic wrap, pressing it directly over the custard to prevent a skin forming. Chill before using.
2. Mix the berries with the sherry and the sugar and allow it to sit for a while. Meanwhile arrange half the cake in the bottom of a large serving bowl .
3. Spoon some of the berries over the cake and pour half the custard over it. Repeat the layers ending with the custard and finish with dollops of whipped cream and toasted almonds.

Monday, June 20, 2011

If it gets boring- stuff it!

Cooking chicken can get incredibly boring, if you don't change it up every now and then. The good news is that it is also extremely versatile. I am constantly on the lookout for new ideas and recipes to give it a fresh approach- I get bored easily ! Sometimes when I'm out grocery shopping I pick up random ingredients that grab my interest with no particular recipe in mind. I recently brought home a log of goat cheese and combined that with some sun dried tomato and herbs for a simple stuffing for my chicken breasts. It was moist and flavorful and combined with a mushroom sauce tasted like a good restaurant style meal. So go ahead and try this at home...

Recipe for Stuffed Chicken breasts:
2 large chicken breasts butterflied
2 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper
1 tbsp flour

2 tbsp sun dried tomatoes in oil, drained and chopped
4 chunks of goat cheese
1 Tbsp fresh thyme
salt and pepper

1. Combine the cheese, sun dried tomato and thyme in a bowl and season well.
2. Stuff the chicken breasts and season. Dust them with the flour.
3. Heat the oil in a saute pan and brown the chicken on both sides.
4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and cook the chicken for about 20 minutes or till it cooks through to the center and serve immediately.

Mushroom Sauce:
1 shallot diced finely
1 cup of sliced mushrooms
1 tsp thyme
salt and pepper
1 tbsp butter or live oil
1 tsp flour
1/2 cup beef broth

1. Heat the butter or oil in a pan and saute the shallots followed by the mushrooms until golden. Season and add in the thyme.
2. Add in the flour and cook briefly followed by hot beef broth. Stir or whisk till the sauce is smooth and serve hot.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Apricot Tart

Summer brings an abundance of fruits and berries to our tables, and suddenly desserts are so much more fun and exciting. I tend to get carried away and buy a lot of variety and always keep an eye out for produce that is not readily available year round. The season for fresh apricots is short and so I couldn't resist getting some. A little smaller than a peach with a golden, slightly fuzzy skin, it worked it's magic and sent me into the kitchen with renewed fervor.
I love baking tarts and pies, mostly with fruit or sometimes with a fruity flavor- like a key lime pie. They are great as a dessert or simply to nosh on anytime of the day, with or without company. A small dollop of creme fraiche or whipped cream or even a small scoop of vanilla ice cream can make this a very satisfying and memorable dessert.

Recipe for Apricot Tart:
12 oz pate sucree
6 ripe apricots cut into halves, seeds removed
5 tbsp sugar
3 tbsp apricot preserves

Recipe for Pate Sucree (Sweet pastry Dough):
2 1/4 cups AP Flour
1/3 cup powdered sugar
1 egg
1 stick unsalted butter at room temperature
1/4 cup tepid water

1. For the Pastry Dough: Sift the Flour and the powdered sugar into a large bowl. Make a well in the center and add in the egg and butter. Combine this with the tips of your fingers or with a pastry cutter. Add in the water as needed till the dough comes together. Knead gently into a smooth ball, wrap and chill or roll out into a greased tart mould. Weigh out 12 ounces of the dough and freeze the rest to be used later. Once the pastry is rolled out, prick the bottom of the shell with a fork and chill for at least half an hour.
2. For the filling: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Place the apricot halves at the bottom of the tart pan and sprinkle with the sugar. Bake the tart for about 40 minutes. Bring the apricot preserves to a boil and allow it to reduce and thicken. Brush this onto the pie evenly and serve hot or cold with creme fraiche or whipped cream.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Twist that Burger!

Nobody says no to a freshly grilled burger, and it's definitely not happening anytime soon at my house. I can't say that I can eat burgers as often as my peeps but once in a while I get a craving that is dispelled only by a really special burger. Most good burger places like our very own "5 Guys" described by some as " Heaven on a bun" do a great job, but I like to throw my own on the grill and change it up whichever way I want ( call it instant gratification if you will). This recent experiment turned out well; the only downside was it's height- hard to pack into your mouth!
I had a couple of pounds of ground beef from Trader Joe's and 2 ready avocados so it was a no-brainer. A burger with a twist was easy and the perfect antidote to a hot and sweaty day. No cooking, no fuss and very little cleaning up. Potatoes were cut into wedges and baked into fat free fries, drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled liberally with sea salt, chili flakes, and fresh rosemary. A cold beer and it was as good as it gets....

Recipe for a Mexi-Burger:
2 lbs ground beef
salt, pepper and ancho chili powder to taste
Kaiser rolls
2 tbsp melted butter

Romaine lettuce shredded
sliced tomato
sliced onion- grilled
sliced Jalapeno peppers- grilled
Avocados mashed and seasoned with salt and lemon juice
Sharp Cheddar slices

Chipotle Dressing
2 tbsp sour cream
1 tbsp Chipotle peppers
1/2 onion
1 tbsp minced cilantro

1. Form the beef into patties ( I kept them small and skinny for ease of cooking and put 2 patties into each burger) and season with the salt, pepper, and ancho chili powder. Grease the grill and cook the patties on each side till the centers are cooked.
2. Brush the rolls with butter and set aside. Throw on the grill just before assembling. The rolls should be crisp and warm.
3. Prepare the garnishes on a plate for easy assembly.
4. Prepare the Chipotle dressing by combining all the ingredients and mixing well.
5. Assemble the burgers to taste.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Red Shrimp Curry....Mumbai continued...

To pick up where I left off, Mrs. Kothari's green fish curry was not the only good thing on the table. To compete with it was a fabulous Red Shrimp curry, with a subtle heat and flavor that brought out the best in the fresh shrimp. She explained to me patiently that although the original/ traditional version of this dish calls for "Methkut", a term used to describe a blend of spices in a specific combination that is native to the state of Maharashtra, she would do her best to give me a substitute combination of spices that would serve well in its stead. This dish literally cooks in minutes once you have the shrimp ready to go and tastes like it took forever.

Recipe for Red Shrimp Curry:
2 lbs Shrimp de-veined, topped and rinsed
1/2 cup oil
1/4 tsp Asafetida
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp red chili powder
1 tsp garlic paste
2 potatoes sliced thickly
salt to taste
2 cups water.

1. Heat the oil and add in the garlic paste. Lower the heat and as soon as the garlic is fragrant, add in the dry spices and the shrimp.
2. Stir continuously as you saute the shrimp. Once the shrimp is sealed on the outside, add the potatoes and the water and season to taste.
3. Simmer till the shrimp and potatoes are completely cooked. Serve hot with rice.