Friday, June 30, 2006

I HEART Cesar goes Up In Flames

We made a huge fire in the grill. HUGE. And grilled everything left in the fridge. It all went up in flames, so to speak.

My idea was to make a grilled vegetable salad. With a little protein on the side. Something quick, simple, healthy and cool.



But no one could agree on the components of the salad. Some were for eggplant. Some were violently opposed. Some were for Maui onions, others refused to consider them. I could not even get consensus on the meat.

So we made a huge fire in the grill. HUGE. With the intent of grilling everything possible, until everyone was either happy or the neighborhood burned down, in which case it wouldn’t matter anymore.

The sweet onions and eggplant were now both on the list. Along with red peppers. I didn’t think I could get the radishes on the grill. And grilled avocado seemed messy as well. Some other things had to be tossed or left off the list for grill-ability reasons, so our list got pared down quickly.

But beets offered up possibilities. I’d never grilled a beet before. Usually I roast them in the oven for one or two hours. But that sort of defeats the purpose of the grilling, which is to get outside and keep the house cool.

I have never microwaved a beet before either. I rarely, very rarely, use the microwave. But time was the deciding factor. So I tossed them in olive oil, set them in a covered ceramic bowl, and let them rip. Seven minutes on high, five minutes rest, and five more minutes on high. And they were done. Completely cooked. In just 17 minutes.

The only difficulty of microwave cooking the beets was that the skins didn’t come off easily. But once off, I sliced them, brushed them with olive oil, and set them on the grill. Just a few minutes per side and they were well browned. The microwaving and grilling developed a very nice sweet, roasted and smoky flavor in the beets. So we’ll be making that again soon.



The red peppers, I just set right over the coals, turning as each side got black and charred. They went into a paper bag for 10 minutes, got peeled, and tossed in some dressing. Delicious!

The eggplant was just sliced, brushed with olive oil, and grilled. And it grilled fast. We had as much eggplant charcoal as nice looking slices (and no – I didn’t do that on purpose, for the hundredth time!).



The Maui onions on the other hand grilled up very nicely. Also sliced, thickly, and brushed with olive oil. Maybe because of all the water in them, they went slowly enough that you could really turn them and take them off at the optimal time.



For the meat, chicken breasts marinated in lemon juice, olive oil and garlic. And sausages. A veritable orgy of grilled meat, at least for us.

And bruschetta croutons. French bread slices, again brushed with olive oil, grilled lightly, and rubbed with garlic.

The salad was just romaine, tossed in original Cesar dressing. With fresh raw egg yolks. And anchovies. And garlic, lemon juice and parmesan cheese. Outstanding. I drizzled some more of the Cesar dressing on the top of the grilled veggies.

I HEART Cesar dressing. Homemade, by crushing the garlic in the bowl with the wooden spoon, using fresh eggs and anchovies. The whole production.

And that’s when I looked at my olive oil bottle. The one I had just bought yesterday. The one that was now almost empty. Because it was brushed all over all the veggies, and marinated into the meat, and tossed with the egg yolks on the lettuce.

Believe me, it’s not my girlish figure I’m worried about. It’s my heart, that is about to get a meal that was intended to be a low fat, light, healthy salad. Somehow we killed that deal!

So the light and healthy part of dinner was up in flames along with the grilled vegetables. Isn’t it always that way? Just when you’re really into something, and it’s turning out better than anticipated, boom. The reality sets in.

I drank a double dose of red wine with dinner so that the anti-oxidants in the wine would have a better chance to counteract all the Cesar dressing and olive oil (extra virgin – does that help?) I had consumed. Hey, I do the best I can!


A very nice Cesar dressing, which we used for this dinner, can be found here. We made a double portion, so that we could toss the lettuce in half, and drizzle the other half over the grilled veggies and meats.



Caesar Salad
Source: http://www.culinaryarts.com/Recipes/recipefiles/Caesar.htm

This recipe is very close to the original version created in 1924 by Caesar Cardini, an Italian restaurateur in Tijuana, Mexico.

Serving Size: 4

Ingredients:
1 large head romaine lettuce
1 cup olive oil
3 cups French bread
2 large cloves garlic
8 anchovy filets
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon dry mustard
2 tablespoon lemon juice (fresh is best)
1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1 teaspoon coarse ground salt
2 egg yolks for large eggs -- at room temperature*
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/4 cup parmesan cheese -- shredded or shaved

Preparation:

Trim the romaine lettuce of bruised or browned leaves, then cut into 1 1/2 inch pieces. Wash and drain the lettuce, pat it dry and refrigerate for 30 minutes to crisp the leaves.

To make the croutons, cut the bread into cubes, heat the 1/2 cup olive oil in a sauté pan over medium-high heat. Fry the bread cubes in the oil, tossing frequently, until they're crisp and golden. Drain the croutons on a paper towel until ready to use.

Peel the garlic cloves then put in a large wooden salad bowl. Mash the cloves against the sides of the bowl with the back of a wooden spoon. Rub the pieces against the bowl until they begin to disintegrate. Remove most of the mashed garlic from the bowl and discard (oil from the garlic will remain in the bowl and flavor the salad). Add the anchovies and repeat the procedure you used with the garlic, but leave the anchovy pieces in the bowl. Now add the dry mustard, Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, black pepper, and egg yolks and blend well. Slowly drizzle in the remaining olive oil mixing with a wire whisk until a creamy mayonnaise type dressing forms. Add the lettuce, croutons, Parmesan cheese and salt. Toss everything together and serve directly from the salad bowl!

*Note: The original recipe may have called for coddled whole eggs (warmed to 120F degrees, to coddle simmer in water 1 minute and cool in cold water) so they are soft and runny. Some chefs who make this salad today use the whole egg at room temperature.


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Wednesday, June 28, 2006

A Sad State

Of tomato affairs, that is. Here’s how sad this has all become.



We found some tomatoes that tasted ‘pretty good’. Seems like good news! Here’s four reasons why it just highlights the sad state of affairs in this sunshine state.

Number one: no tomato we have bought in SoCal has exceeded the ‘pretty good’ taste level in twelve years. They usually tend more towards ‘red Styrofoam’.

Number two: it is so amazing to find a tomato here that tastes like a tomato that I am actually making it the feature of this blog post. It’s so rare, it’s like finding a politician who doesn’t lie. Or a dog that doesn’t sleep. Pretty sad.

Number three: these tomatoes tasted so much better than what I generally find around here, ripe looking or not, that we made them the feature of the dinner. An entire dinner with the centerpiece a ‘pretty good’ tasting raw sliced tomato. Just cause it’s so unusual.

Number four: not only were they the feature of the dinner, but we ‘rationed’ them out, at 5 slices per person (I could have gotten more, but who knew they would taste ‘pretty good’!). Tomato rationing. Humph.



It’s just a tomato we’re talking about.

Actually, the guy who sold them said they were a type of heirloom tomato.

I don’t really know how to verify this statement, other than to say that they were much fleshier, less seedy and watery, than the usual non-Roma tomato. And they were a bit streaky in color – sort of more of an iridescent orangey hue with darker red emanating from the pip and running down the sides. They looked like a sunset. On a warm summer evening.

I always assumed heirloom meant that they were from an ‘old’ seed stock unaltered by modern commercial manipulations, as in an heirloom that is passed down through generations. But that is not necessarily true. Heirloom may mean that, but it may also mean that the plant is ‘open-pollinated’ – i.e. pollinated by bees, insects, birds, wind, etc., thereby supporting greater genetic diversity (both good and bad), as opposed to industrial pollination techniques that isolate plants so that the genetic pool is as limited as possible to produce the qualities ‘desired’, such as the ability to withstand storage, or ability to be picked and packed effectively.

But the taste, which has to be the giveaway of an heirloom tomato, was good. Not sensational. Not like a dream. But again, so so so much better than average that they seemed like a dream.

So we featured them. Just sliced. With a very light lemon verbena vinaigrette. And a sprinkle of shallots.

On top of a nice dandelion and sorrel (because of its lemony taste) mixed green salad. Everything simple so as not to hide the tomato.

On the side, TeenBoy, who has become risotto chef extraordinaire, made a fantastic gorgonzola risotto. His favorite and his specialty. The creamy rich risotto was a nice balance to the clean and crisp salad.

We put the tomato salad in the center of the table, discussed the distribution of tomato slices (they varied slightly in terms of size, color, etc.), then either threw it down with abandon (TeenBoy), or savored it until the risotto was practically cold (me).

Who knows when we’ll find a tomato to match, or, dare we dream, exceed, those?

I’ve already posted on the gorgonzola risotto in previous posts, with recipe, so I’ll just list the tomato salad here.



Heirloom Tomatoes on Summer Greens with Lemon Verbena Vinaigrette
Recipe by surfindaave
Serves 4

Ingredients:
4 large, ripe, heirloom tomatoes, pips removed, sliced fairly thickly
1 bunch dandelion greens, sorted, washed and cut to serving sized pieces
2 bunches sorrel, ends trimmed, washed, and cut into serving sized pieces
20 lemon fresh verbena leaves, chopped thinly
1 shallot, minced
2-3 tbsp rice vinegar or sherry vinegar
½ cup olive oil
salt, pepper
additional lemon verbena leaves for garnish, if desired

In a small bowl, whisk together the chopped lemon verbena leaves, vinegar, salt and pepper. Drizzle in the olive oil, whisking. Let dressing sit for at least 30 minutes, an hour or more would be good, to extract the lemon flavor. Strain the dressing through a fine mesh sieve, pressing hard on the solids. Whisk in the shallots. Adjust seasoning.

Toss greens in a large bowl. Sprinkle lightly with rice vinegar and olive oil, and toss gently. Place greens on a large plate, arrange tomato slices on top. Spoon dressing over top of tomatoes, and garnish with lemon verbena leaves, if desired. Serve. Enjoy!



As a side note:
We found these growing in our very own backyard. Not planted, or cultivated in any way, by us. Just growing all on their own in a sunny corner. I don’t know how the plants got started. Probably the seeds were ‘left behind’ by some nocturnal animal that visited our yard (we get raccoons, possums, rabbits, coyotes, and other critters on various occasions).

So we started watering them.

I have no hopes that they will taste any better then the tomatoes we generally buy, but hey, it’s worth a try!

Maybe in a month we’ll have real local grown tomatoes. And open-pollinated (I guess – how else could they have been pollinated). Which makes them an heirloom of sorts, doesn’t it?


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Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Life, it always seems to pass me by

Then I begin a dream and I feel fine ...



It goes by pretty fast sometimes. Everyone seems busy doing their thing. Whatever that may be. And everyone’s thing is pretty important. So it seems. So I support everyone as best I can. That usually means cash and driving.

And you can get that feeling that it can pass you by. Just like that. Like a fast moving river. With everyone tearing along through the rapids. And you caught on something, stuck fast.

What did Ferris say? “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

The last few weeks, life seems to be moving pretty fast for everyone. Naturally that means it seems to be moving pretty slow for me.

But that’s how it goes when you set you’re sights on a long range dream. It’s hard sometimes to keep it in focus. It can sort of seem to fade, in importance, and in urgency.

And since no one else really gives a hoot, I mean it’s not their dream, there’s not much in the way of external motivation. In fact, there’s probably a more external de-motivation (“Isn’t he over that yet? Must be a mid-life something or other! Could be worse…”).

So I have to dream sometimes. To recapture the energy and urgency. That probably looks a lot like doing nothing. Sleeping with my eyes open. And maybe it is to some extent. But you gotta recapture that energy to persevere. To live the dream.

So I have my dreams. Hope they’re not tooooo long term. I guess we’ll see.



Today while I was dreaming, I dreamed of doing something with the figs we got on Saturday. I love fig season. If ever there was a fruit to spend time dreaming over….

And I dreamed of some figs, some thyme, and some balsamic vinegar. Wrapped in (of course) chicken breasts, pounded thin, like a rollatini. Roasted in the oven (again with the no charcoal situation). With some goat cheese to hold it together into a filling.

Believe me, in my dreams, the pictures were better! But I did like the little thyme flowers. And figs are always beautiful to look at – so intricate, with wonderful color.

And the taste of the dish was nice. The sweet figs meshed with the thyme and balsamic. The goat cheese gave everything a creamy background tang that contrasted with the figgy sweetness.



Chicken stuffed with Figs and Goat Cheese in Balsamic
Recipe by surfinedaave
Serves 4

Ingredients:
6 chicken breasts, skinless, boneless, pounded thin between plastic wrap
10 small fresh figs, cut into pieces
6 ounces goat cheese
2 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
2 cloves garlic, minced very fine
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp olive oil
salt, pepper
additional balsamic vinegar to sprinkle on top of chicken
additional olive oil to sprinkle on top of chicken
additional fresh thyme leaves for garnish, if desired

Pre-heat oven to 400ºF.

In a bowl, gently mix together the figs, goat cheese, thyme leaves, garlic, balsamic, olive oil, salt and pepper to taste.

Lay each chicken breast out flat. Place1/6 of filling in middle. Roll the breasts up loosely, encasing the filling. Secure with toothpicks. Brush the rolled breasts with olive oil, and sprinkle with balsamic vinegar.

Roast chicken in oven for 20 to 25 minutes. Finish under broiler for a few minutes to brown the tops. Remove from oven. Let rest for 5 minutes. Sprinkle with balsamic. Garnish with additional thyme leaves, if desired.

You can serve these whole, or slice them, and serve them over polenta, rice, mashed potatoes, etc. Enjoy!


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Sunday, June 25, 2006

The Sweet Heat of Salsa

I mentioned the other day that I have a lot of champagne mangos. Delicious. Better by the day.

So we are using a mango at every opportunity.

When you have a lot of something, a veritable endless supply, your frame of mind regarding how to use that thing changes.

I tend to use the mangos ripe, not green. And it is not so often that we find mangos that are ripe. When we do, their price usually reflects it.

So now with this unexpected bounty, we can try a few things that seemed just a bit too capricious before. Some things where the mango may not necessarily be the featured player.

One such idea that I had seen a few times is a salsa based on mangos and strawberries.



I see strawberries and mangos together in many recipes. Smoothies, for example. Or baked as some sort of crumble. So it seems they must have a certain affinity for each other.

I also know that mangos and heat go well together. We’ve made mango chutneys with chili peppers, and that works very well.

And I know that strawberries work well with vinegars. As do mangos.

I recently read that mangos match well with cilantro as well.

So there you are. All the fixings necessary for a good salsa are there: chilies, cilantro, vinegar. Together with the strawberries and mangos. I was a little worried how the garlic would fit into the mix – but eyes closed and jump! We’ll find out soon enough.

In the end, I wanted to use up my mint, so I substituted mint for the cilantro. And that worked just as well.

Since I was in the mood for something lighter, I wanted to go salad. But salsa and salad? Hmmm.

I was thinking to roast up some salmon fillet, set it on top of the salad, and spoon the salsa on top of the salmon, when I got a better idea.



Mango and Strawberry Salsa on top of Salmon Bruschetta.

Almost finger food. Little toasts that you could pick up and eat. Set next to a simple salad.

I sliced the salmon fillet in half lengthwise so it was not too thick. Otherwise it would be too hard to eat on top of toast with salsa as well. The salmon was lightly breaded in rice flour and some spices, mainly cayenne and cinnamon.

The bruschetta is just country French bread brushed in olive oil, toasted, and rubbed with garlic. The salmon fillets sit on top, some salsa spooned over the stack, and a sprig of mint for garnish.

It was excellent. Aside from TeenBoy, who does not eat fish, and held his nose through the entire cooking and eating of the salmon, everyone enjoyed it.

Since the salsa works equally well over chicken, and even rice, everyone eventually got to try it. And agreed it was wonderful!



Salmon Bruschetta with Mango Strawberry Salsa
Recipe by surfindaave
Serves 4

Ingredients:
2 pound salmon fillet, skin removed, cut into 4 serving pieces, and cut again in half lengthwise (for a total of eight thin pieces)
½ cup rice flour
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp salt
8 slices country French bread
1 garlic clove, peeled, cut in half
olive oil
Mango-Strawberry Salsa (recipe follows)
Additional mint, cut chiffonade, plus a few leaves left whole, for garnish if desired

Combine the flour, cayenne pepper, cumin and salt in a shallow plate. Lightly dust the salmon pieces in the flour mixture, turning to cover all sides.

Heat olive oil in a heavy skillet until very hot. Sautee the salmon pieces quickly until just browned on both sides, and remove to an oven proof plate. Set plate in warm oven.

Brush the bread slices on both sides with olive oil. Broil on both sides until bread pieces are browned. Remove from heat and rub lightly with cut piece of garlic.

Place 2 pieces of bruschetta on each of four serving plates. Place one piece of salmon on top of each piece of bread. Spoon some of the mango strawberry salsa over the fish. Sprinkle some of the chiffonade mint on top, and garnish with a whole mint leave, if desired. Serve. Enjoy!


Mango Strawberry Salsa
Recipe by surfindaave
Serves 4

Ingredients:
3 ripe mangos, flesh removed from pit, peeled, and cut into 1 inch cubes
1 pound strawberries, stems removed, washed, cut in half
¼ cup almonds, slivered
3 cloves garlic, minced
1-2 tbsp fresh grated ginger
1 tbsp red pepper flakes
2 tbsp rice vinegar
½ cup sugar
1/3 cup fresh mint, minced
½ cup water
Additional mint, for garnish, if desired

Combine all ingredients except mangos and strawberries in a heavy sauce pan. Bring to a simmer. Reduce slightly.

Add mango and strawberry pieces. Simmer gently for a few minutes, until the fruit just begins to soften a little. Remove from heat. (If cooked longer, the strawberries will dissolve away into mush).

Let the salsa cool. Stir gently. Garnish with additional mint if desired.


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Tiny Things – WHB

It amazes me every week.

We take a morning walk around the stands at the farmer’s market. Same people, more or less, every week.

But every week, we find something interesting.



Something we’d never seen there before, or something unique, or something we’d never seen before period.

This week looked less promising, for the first time. Lots of nice produce, mostly organic. (Does organic just mean twice the normal price, or what?) (I mean, who really knows what goes on at these farms?) Well, can’t be cynical about it all.

We always walk the same way. We enter near the old guy, who is playing guitare and singing ‘House at Pooh Corner’, every week, every time we go past him. Never fails. We hit the herbs first. Then go around the first long ‘U’ of stands, stopping, keeping track of interesting things for the return. After the first ‘U’ of stands, there is a second ‘U’. The whole thing makes sort of an ‘M’ shape.

Well, we did the whole thing. And were on the way out, almost the second time by the last stand, almost ready to pass the old guy, now singing some old 50s folk song, sometimes it’s ‘If I had a hammer’, things like that.

When we spotted something interesting. We were looking at the heirloom tomatoes, which we had spotted on the first loop through. And we saw the baby corn.



It looked strange in the sense that we knew it was corn, but they were tiny. Even though still in the husk, with the hairy silk still attached, the ears of corn were smaller than your finger.



And 10 for a dollar. So we got 20. So it's Baby Corn this week for , sponsored this week by Virginie at .

I’ve seen baby corn in cans, and eaten it in Chinese food at restaurants. I may have even served it myself a time or two. Who knows!

But I have never seen it fresh like that.

It looked fun. And interesting. And put us in the mood for something Asian for dinner (it’s that whole in-bred stereo-typing thing). So we snapped up some lemongrass as well. 5 stalks.

The baby corn is simply corn, picked by hand, about 2 days after silk appears. Because of the hand harvesting, most is not grown in the US, but in Thailand. And it spoils quickly, which is why most baby corn is sold canned or pickled.

And they are tricky little devils to husk. When you open them, there is almost nothing inside. Just a lot of husk and silk. And one very fragile little ear of corn. We broke one because of my rough handling.

We decided to give tiny corns a light pan fry, like a stir fry. With some of the lemongrass, in peanut oil, among other things.



Lemongrass is pretty well known, if not very common here in the US. To my way of thinking, it is primarily a flavoring agent. Not something that I like to eat as such. Like a bay leaf. Sliced and used in marinades, or sautéed, etc., it imparts a wonderful lemony-gingery flavor to foods.

The lemongrass itself is attributed with being a digestive. As well as a mild insect repellant. And it seems to induce mild perspiration. As if I need more of that!

So I marinated some boneless chicken thighs in some slices lemongrass, cilantro, garlic, chili peppers and peanut oil. And grilled them up.

We grilled up some regular corn on the cob, still in the husk. I love the flavor and texture of grilled corn on the cob. Sometimes I unwrap the husks a bit, and slather the corn in butter, rewrap it (I tie it with some of the silk), and grill it that way. Delicious!

We don’t eat the corn on the actual cob anymore – TeenGirl has braces and it makes a real mess – so I cut the corn off the cob, and made a salad with some tomatoes and the purple basil from last week. A light ponzu – peanut oil dressing.

A little dandelion and romaine salad, and dinner was served!



Lemongrass Grilled Chicken with Baby Corn
Recipe by surfindaave
Serves 4

Ingredients:
3 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
5 stalks lemongrass, sliced
1-2 tbsp fresh ginger, grated
3 cloves garlic, minced
¼ cup cilantro, chopped
1 tbsp red pepper flakes
2 tbsp rice vinegar
3-4 tbsp peanut oil
20 ears of baby corn husked and cleaned
½ head dandelion salad, rinsed, dried, and cut into bite sized pieces
½ head romaine lettuce, rinsed, dried, and cut into bite sized pieces
salt, pepper

In a bowl, combine the lemongrass, ginger, garlic, cilantro, red pepper flakes, salt, pepper, vinegar and oil. Add chicken pieces, and stir to coat well. Let sit for 30 to 60 minutes.

Over a hot grill, or under the broiler, broil the chicken pieces until well browned on both sides. Reserve the excess marinade and lemongrass slices.

While the chicken is grilling, heat some peanut oil in a small sauté pan. Add the excess marinade, lemongrass slices and ears of baby corn. Sautee, stirring gently, until corn is lightly browned.

In a bowl, toss the dandelion and romaine with 2-3 tbsp rice vinegar, salt and pepper. Drizzle over ¼ cup peanut oil. Toss well.

Place some salad on serving plates. Place one or two chicken thighs on top of the salad. Arrange a few baby corn ears on top of the chicken. Serve. Enjoy!


Grilled Corn and Tomato Salad with Ponzu Vinaigrette
Recipe by surfindaave
Serves 4

Ingredients:
4 ears of corn with husks intact
4 roma tomatoes, pipped and chopped
¼ cup purple basil, chopped chiffonade
2-3 tbsp ponzu
¼ cup peanut oil
salt, pepper

Soak the corn for 30 minutes.

Roast corn, still in the husks, over hot coals (or under the broiler), turning as the husk blackens, for 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool.

When cool, husk corn, and cut kernels from cob into a bowl. Add tomatoes, basil, ponzu, salt and pepper. Toss gently. Drizzle with peanut oil. Toss to combine. Serve. Enjoy!


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Thursday, June 22, 2006

Box ‘o Mango

We found a box of champagne mangos for $5. That’s 16 ripe, sweet, super smooth mangos for just 31.25¢ a mango.

Seems like a deal, considering most places are selling mangos for between $1 and $2.50 each.



And, these are champagne mangos, which, as I learned from the Produce Hunter Web site:

Champagne Mango
They'll be here any day now! The mango is the single most consumed fruit in the world. Hadens, Keitts, Kents and Tommy Atkins are the most common varieties. Enter the CHAMPAGNE MANGO. Actually a premium pack of the Ataulfo variety mango, CHAMPAGNE MANGOES, like all Ataulfo mangoes, are free from the pesky fibers that plague the flesh of the other mango varieties. Once ripe (they will actually be a little wrinkled), the texture of a Champagne mango is very, very smooth and the flavor is very sweet. Any way you slice 'em, CHAMPAGNE MANGOES are the ultimate mango.




We got them at our local Asian market, the 99 Ranch Market. A great place full of every sort of produce, meats, great fish, as well as thousands and thousands and thousands of packets of spices, powders, dried things, noodles, who knows what all.

And the mangos are indeed smooth and sweet.

So we not only have the apricots to use up, and the figs I blogged about yesterday, but now the mangos.

What a healthy, tasty dilemma to have! I just hope my ‘constitution’ withstands this imminent onslaught.

First order of business was simply grilled mango slices set on top of lime and cilantro marinated grilled chicken breasts.



You just cannot beat this combination. First, as chef, you get to eat all the mango left on the pits, as well as all the little trimmings that are too small to grill. Already a sweet deal!

Then the mangos, brushed lightly in olive oil, caramelize just a bit on the grill. Making them even sweeter.

And they are the perfect foil for the juicy, tangy marinated and grilled chicken breasts.

A delicious start to the grill season!



Lime-Cilantro Grilled Chicken Breasts with Grilled Mango
Recipe by surfindaave
Serves 4

Ingredients:
6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
¼ cup chopped cilantro
1 Serrano chili, minced fine
1 lime, juiced (heat the lime up in the microwave for 20 seconds before cutting and juicing to get more juice out easier)
½ lemon, juiced
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp salt
½ cup olive oil
3 ripe champagne mangos
Cilantro, chopped, for garnish, if desired

Place chicken in a large flat baking dish. In a small bowl, whisk together the cilantro, chili, lime juice, lemon juice, garlic, salt and olive oil until combined. Pour over chicken, and turn chicken a few times to coat well. Let sit for 30 to60 minutes, turning occasionally.

Peel mangos, and cut flesh from pit in quarters. Lightly brush mango pieces with olive oil, and reserve.

Prepare grill, and let heat until very hot.

Grill chicken, covered, until well browned on both sides, and just cooked though. Remove to a plate, cover, and reserve.

Carefully set the mango slices on the grill. Let the grill, without moving, until grill marks appear, but do not let burn. Carefully turn mango pieces, and continue to grill for another 1-2 minutes. Remove mango pieces to a plate.

Serve the chicken breasts, topped with a mango slice, and sprinkled with additional chopped cilantro. Enjoy!


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Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Eat a Fig, burn in Hell!

Fresh figs are here. Finally.



A tricky little fruit. Having two harvesting seasons – early summer and early winter.

When they are there, I jump on them. They can be my favorite fruit. When they are just at that perfect point of ripeness.

When I was looking around on the Internet for info on figs, I found a happy little Web site that indicated that eating figs leads to eternal damnation: http://www.godhatesfigs.com/. Were there such things (God, Hell, people going to Hell for eating figs, etc.), I’m sure I’ve been condemned long ago, so on with the fig story!



Here in SoCal, we get the Black Mission figs. They can be good. Often quite sweet.

In Europe, especially Germany, where there are large groups from Turkey, Greece, and other southern Mediterranean climes, with a much stronger tradition of enjoying figs, the figs are even better. Of the 800 or so varieties of figs, I can’t be sure exactly which I was able to get there, but probably Brown Turkey, maybe Adriatic, Kodota, or Genoa varieties.

You can be sure that there is no tradition of fresh figs in my family. My relatives of the pale northern European stock didn’t associate with things Mediterranean. Whether fruits, or families trying to move to their neighborhoods. I’ve never gotten anyone to even try one yet.

On rare occasions, dried figs turned up around Christmas time (just like those apricots). Maybe in a fruit basket that was a gift. They usually sat in the back of the pantry until they were thrown out years later.

Mainly, we consumed them in the form of Fig Newtons. The cookies. Prepackaged things with the gooey inside wrapped in the soft cookie shell. In that form they were sanitized, de-fig-ized. The ethnic fruit safely hidden inside a protective cookie and Madison Avenue marketing.

We scarfed these things down by the millions. Never knowing that the fig in the name had any connection to an actual fruit. Never occurred to us. We had no connection to the actual fruit, didn’t even know there was an actual fruit, didn’t care. So it was just a name. They could have been called Joe Newtons, would not have made a difference.

The cookie itself was fun because you could eat it many different ways. All squished together in a mushy ball – much like it emerged from your lunch bag after a morning in your school locker, or you could pull it apart and eat the top and bottom separately. And pieces of it stuck fantastically to everything. Fun fun fun! In any event – a bag of these things never lasted more than a day.



I’m pretty sure I started eating fresh figs while living in Munich. Fruits and vegetables were sold from carts on every street corner there, and they all carried fresh figs when in season. We had an old couple on our street that showed up in early spring, and lasted till about October, before heading back to Italy to avoid the cold winter.

Frequent trips to various parts of Italy probably deepened my relationship with fresh figs. We often got fresh figs as part of breakfast there.

In Paris, and in Hamburg, I could almost always get fantastic fruit, especially in Hamburg, as I lived in the section of town, Altona, that had the highest Turkish population. Super ripe, super sweet. Fruit you had to eat within a day of purchase. It went downhill fast. But that was never a problem.

Here in California, it’s a bit tougher to find the precious little gems. And when I do, they are often not quite as ripe or sweet as I would hope.

So, coming up – fig tarts, grilled figs, fig ice cream, figs in salads, and lots of other things.



But these figs, the first ones, I am just going to enjoy as they are. Raw, unembellished. While sitting in the shade in the backyard. Hopefully there’s a nice breeze, birds, and no lawn mowers. Sort of a meditation of figginess. My mantra? Sweeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeet!

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Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Summer? It’s the Pits

Summer means fruit with pits.

Stone fruits, they’re called.



And the race to eat them all before they inevitably get moldy. And mushy.

The transition from spring’s berries is in full swing. The berries go bad pretty quickly too, but seem to get eaten a lot quicker.

We load up on pluots, plums, peaches (white peaches can be soooo sweet), and of course apricots. Too many, I guess. I push them on everyone (come on – they’re good for you – gets things movin’!). In the hopes they will be eaten before turning.

According to McGee, I can store the stone fruit in the fridge, which I never really thought about. I usually keep all my fruit in some baskets on the counter – within easy reach, mostly of the fruit flies. We are certainly in their travel brochures as a sort of Niagara Falls destination for the romantically inclined of the little buggers, the way they multiply around our baskets (assuming the mini-beasts are sort of 50s retro in their honeymoon concepts).

We’re going to try the fridge this year. I expect the fruit will last longer before going bad (because no one will see them in the fridge, as they get pushed to the back).

I didn’t used to buy a lot of apricots. They are not always so sweet. And can be a little dry tasting. My experience with them was mostly in the dried form around Christmas time. Stuffed into a lot of cloyingly sweet cookies and desserts. So my opinion of them was not that good.

Until we discovered a quick little chutney. Made of apricots and red onion. With a little rice vinegar and sugar, and again with the five spice powder.



This is a very simple chutney to make – a 10 minute affair, but it’s amazing how much flavor it brings to almost anything – we’ve tried it with chicken, fish and even steak.

The cooking and the touch of vinegar really brings out the apricot flavor. And in a good way, a balanced way - not that mouth numbing sweet way I so often associate with dishes from my childhood.

Apricot Chutney
Recipe by surfindaave
Serves 4-6

Ingredients:
2 pounds apricots, washed, pitted, and cut into quarters
1 red onion, chopped
3-4 tbsp rice vinegar
2-3 tbsp sugar
2 tsp five spice powder

Combine all ingredients in a heavy saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring, and reduce heat to a simmer. Simmer over low heat, stirring, for 5 to 10 minutes, until the apricots are softened but not falling apart. Spoon over chicken, fish or steak. Enjoy!


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Monday, June 19, 2006

Dreams become Reality

We actually made almost all of the proposed Father’s Day menu.

And it turned out pretty good. Better than the pictures would have you believe, anyways. It wasn't so much an orchestraed concept as a series of individual stars, each one delicious in it's own right.



The Lemon Verbena Curd Pie with the Blackberries on top was outstanding, despite the fact that I’m not much of a pie crust baker. I do a better galette crust, and maybe I should have made a pâté brisee style dough. But what I made was good enough. And anything covered with that creamy delicious lemon verbena curd, with those HUGE blackberries would taste good.

I also made a lemon verbena syrup, and dipped the blackberries in it before putting them on top of the pie. That worked out very well. Even though the berries were big, not every one was a sweet as you would expect.



The ribs. Whew! Beef short ribs (not pork, but still good). Marinated for several hours in a soy – ginger – garlic – rum – brown sugar mixture. Sounds odd, but tastes outstanding. Then braised for 5 hours at a very low temperature in the marinade. Just 225ºF. Covered with foil. The ribs were fall-apart tender by then. A quick brush with more marinade, and a quick turn on the grill (yes, we cleaned off and fired up the monster!). Succulent. Tender beyond belief. Fantastic deep flavor. Not the ketchupy type of BBQ most would expect, but outstanding flavor and texture. Really the highlight of the day.



With this, I grilled up some sweet potatoes. Something we’ve been doing in recent years. The potatoes are boiled until not quite tender, then cut into lengthwise slices, like giant French fries, and grilled. A nice lime-cilantro sauce goes on top after grilling. Delicious.



A tomato salad with tarragon vinaigrette (of course! What did you expect!) on the side. Got to be my favorite way to eat tomatoes.

And a light pea sprout salad to round things out.

The only thing we didn’t make, and I was a little disappointed, was the corn salad. We had gone to several different stores looking for fresh corn on Saturday – and nothing edible was to be found. It was all either completely picked over, or looked just plain bad. I was hoping for a fresh grilled corn and red pepper salad, with a basil dressing. But that will have to wait for another day.

And because we didn’t make the corn salad, we didn’t use the purple basil we had bought at the farmer’s market Saturday. Well, we will have to find something to do with that in the next few days.

Anyhoo – everyone seemed pretty satisfied with the meal. For the most part, everything turned out very well. And we are all the fatter for the experience!



BBQ Beef Short Ribs
Recipe source unknown
Recipe adapted by surfindaave

Ingredients:
6 lbs beef short ribs, excess fat trimmed away
1 cup water
¾ cup light soy sauce
2/3 cup sherry (we used ½ cup rum with ¼ cup triple sec – worked just as well)
½ cup packed brown sugar
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp red pepper flakes
1 tbsp fresh grated ginger
2 tsp Chinese five spice powder

In a sauce pan, combine all ingredients except ribs. Bring to a simmer and stir until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat a let cool.

Arrange ribs in a single layer on a roasting pan. Pour marinade over ribs. Let marinate for 1-2 hours.

Heat oven to 225-250ºF. Cover ribs tightly with foil, and roast for 4-6 hours, turning once or twice. Remove ribs from oven.

Grill ribs over a hot charcoal fire until well browned on all sides. Serve. Enjoy!




Grilled Sweet Potatoes
Recipe from

Ingredients:
4 pounds sweet potatoes (long, thinner ones work better)
¼ cup lime juice
1-2 tsp salt
pepper
½ cup olive oil
¼ cup chopped cilantro

Place potatoes in a large pot of salted water. Bring to a boil, and cook until just getting tender, but not quite done. Remove to pot of cold water to stop cooking. If they get too done and soft, they will be hard to cut and grill. When cooled, cut into quarters lengthwise.

Prepare grill for cooking.

Whisk together the lime juice, salt, pepper and cilantro. Add the olive oil in a stream, whisking.

Brush potatoes lightly with olive oil. Place potatoes on grill and cook without moving for 1-2 minutes per side, until grill marks appear. Turn, and repeat on other sides. Remove to a serving plate and drizzle with the cilantro-lime sauce. Serve. Enjoy!




Lemon Verbena Curd Tart with Blackberries
Based on recipes from and Web sites
Adapted by surfindaave

Lemon Verbena Syrup:
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons chopped fresh lemon verbena leaves

Mix 1/4 cup water, 1/4 cup sugar, and 2 tablespoons lemon verbena in small saucepan. Bring to simmer over medium-high heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Cover and cool completely. Strain syrup into bowl.

Lemon Verbena Crème:
2 tablespoons whipping cream
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons chopped fresh lemon verbena leaves

Mix 2 tablespoons cream, 2 tablespoons sugar, and 2 tablespoons lemon verbena in small saucepan. Bring to simmer over medium heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Cover and let cool 30 minutes. Strain into small bowl; chill.

Lemon Verbena Curd:
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
¾ cup sugar
4 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into slices, at room temperature
Lemon Verbena Crème

In a stainless steel bowl, whisk together the eggs, lemon juice and sugar. Set over a double boiler with simmering water, whisking constantly. Continue to whisk until the mixture becomes pale in color and thickens significantly (like hollandaise sauce or sour cream), about 10 minutes. Remove pan from heat and immediately strain through a fine mesh strainer into a bowl. Whisk in butter slices until butter has melted. Whisk in lemon verbena crème. Cover, and let come to room temperature before chilling in fridge. Let cool completely before filling in pie crust.

Sweet Pastry Crust:
1 ½ cups flour
1/8 tsp salt
½ cup butter, at room temperature, cut into slices
¼ cup sugar
1 large egg, lightly beaten

Sift together flour and salt.

In a mixing bowl, beat butter until smooth. Add sugar, and beat until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in egg, beating just until incorporated.

Add flour to butter mixture all at once, and mix lightly just until it forms a ball. Don’t over mix. Wrap ball in plastic wrap and let sit in fridge for 30 minutes.

On a lightly floured board, roll out dough until about 1/8 inch thick, and 11 to 12 inches in diameter. It should be about an inch large than you pie baking dish all the way around when it is inverted on top of the dough circle. Gently roll the dough onto your rolling pin, and unroll it onto pie pan (of course so that it is exactly centered and fits perfectly! We had to roll and unroll twice to get it close!) Press lightly into sides. Trim off extra overhanging pan. Cover, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Heat oven to 400ºF. Prick bottom of pie shell with fork. Line pie shell with parchment paper, and weigh down with pie weights, or rice or dried beans. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until lightly browned. Let pie shell cool in a wire rack until completely cooled.

Assemble:
2-3 pints large blackberries

Spread chilled lemon verbena curd into pie shell. Warm lemon verbena syrup in microwave slightly. Dip blackberries into syrup, letting extra drip off, and arrange on top of curd. Place pie back in fridge until well chilled. Serve. Enjoy!


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Saturday, June 17, 2006

Size is Everything (no matter what they say!) – WHB

We saw these giants at the Farmer’s Market today. They should be kept in brown paper bags. Out of sight of the innocent.

Huge. Lush. Dark and swollen. The women gasped. The men glanced in their direction occasionally, discretely, enviously.



Some say that the smaller ones can be sweeter. Others try to convince that it’s all in how you use 'em.

But just let everyone see some really big ones, and the truth comes out. They all want the big ones.

So we got three pint boxes of huge ones, for an equally obscenely large price. But berry season comes and goes quickly. And this is the high season. And it is for my day, sort of.



We got some lemon verbena as well. My idea here is to make some little tart shells, a lemon verbena crème, and just place the berries on top. They look so fantastic, no cooking or manipulation could improve on them.

Plus, we got some fresh shallots. I’ve never seen shallots in a market that were still ‘fresh’ like this with the tops and roots still on. Usually they arrive like onions – greens removed, somewhat dried out. So these will go into the ribs marinade for tomorrow. Beef ribs. Roasted in the oven, then grilled to perfection.



And we saw some purple basil. And I mean purple. Pretty fresh too. So we snapped that up as well. I am not 100% sure where this will fit in, but it will. I’m thinking that a fresh corn salad with a light basil dressing. The purple would go nice with the yellow corn. Some shallots could come into play here as well.

And we also found something called Kelites. A green small-leafed affaire sold in big bunches. With the roots still attached. Apparently a variety of spinach. I was not able to find any information on this herb on the internet. It may be that the name the stand guy told us is not quite right. But there were a few ex-hippie types – in their 60s (!) with the full 60s regalia who ensured us that they ate it all the time, and that it was indeed a relative of the spinach family. So, we’ll give it a try.



And to finish off the menu for tomorrow, grilled sweet potatoes. Maybe with a light lemon or lime and cilantro garlic marinade.

Now there’s a meal. BBQ Beef Ribs, tomato salad with tarragon vinaigrette, fresh corn salad with purple basil vinaigrette on kelites, roasted sweet potatoes, and for desert the lemon verbena crème tarts with fresh black berries.

That's it this week for , sponsored by . Today was a prep day for tomorrow. Just getting things bought and ready. Figuring out how to put it all together. I will post the results of all this tomorrow!


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Friday, June 16, 2006

Fluff Daddy sets up for a Porker

Here’s a tip: when roasting beets, don’t pick out the biggest beets you can possibly find, under some bizarre notion you are getting more for your money. You will, like me, burn up more in terms of time, energy and patience than you might have gained in vegetable tonnage per dollar as you wait for the giants to cook through. AND you will struggle to find a way to fit them, size wise, into your final composition.



Another tip: fly to France, specifically Paris, or maybe Lyon (although I actually think more Paris), and try some soufflés before making some of your own. Not that a soufflé is so hard to make. It’s more to get the hang of the final consistency. To have a clue when it might be cooked enough. Julia Child here or there, there’s nothing like the real thing.



In younger days, my tendency here was to bake them until solid. I mean, who wants to eat eggs that aren’t cooked? Think rubber. Or masonry cement.

But in some of the restaurants in Paris, where I had the opportunity to dine with French nationals steeped in a lifetime of the stuff, and who seemed to know their way around a good soufflé, it was the moist, but not watery, interior that seemed to send them into ecstasy. Still gooey. Not completely set into a masonry project. Something you could gently scoop onto your plate, and that would hold its shape for just a bit, but probably as much for the nice crust on top as for the robust structure of the interior.

The cheesy interior, fluffy and light and gooey all at the same time, seems to be the trick.

So I endeavor to take mine out of the oven before my ‘rubbery scrambled eggs childhood’ sensibility tells me might be wise. And I revel in the fluffy, gooey lightness of this quirky little dish.

Much like my pizza or risotto, I don’t like to weigh my soufflés down with too many filling components. Simple is better. And I avoid things that would seem to negate the intrinsic lightness of the final effort. It’s all about the fluff. I put the heavy stuff somewhere else, like in a salad that goes along side.

So that’s what we did. The roasted beets – golden – got stacked up with tomatoes, mozzarella and roasted lemon slices. A light tarragon vinaigrette went on top. Aside from the long roasting time, this is a simple dish, but wonderfully elegant to serve.

And it was a nice variation of the traditional tomatoes and mozzarella salad we have so often.

The soufflé – as mentioned, simple, with just goat cheese, and some herbs. This time thyme, sage and parsley.



Alongside the soufflé was a romaine salad with a delicious fresh strawberry dressing. This is just mashed strawberries with some light vinegar (we used rice, but sherry, or maybe champagne, would work as well). Very simple to make, delicious on the salad. It kind of kicks the salad up a notch to complement the soufflé.

So you can bet TeenGirl was happy today! Practically nothing but veggies. But don’t worry – TeenBoy and I are just building up good will for Father’s Day, when I plan to spring some BBQ ribs on everyone. Pork, that is!



Roasted Beet, Roasted Lemon, Tomato and Mozzarella Stacks in Tarragon Vinaigrette
Recipe by surfindaave
Serves 4

Ingredients:
3 medium golden beets, trimmed and washed
5 Roma tomatoes cut into slices
4 fresh Mozzarella balls, about 4 ounces each, cut into slices
1 lemon, cut into think slices
3-4 tbsp fresh tarragon leaves
1 shallot, minced
2-3 tbsp red wine vinegar
Olive oil
Salt
Pepper

Preheat oven to 450ºF.

Toss the golden beets in olive oil. Place in a baking pan, and cover tightly with foil. Roast for one to 1 ½ hours, or until tender when tested with a fork. Remove from oven, and let cool slightly. Remove peels while still warm. Slice beets, and reserve.

Lay the lemon slices on a baking pan lined with parchment paper. Drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt. Roast in oven for 10 minutes, or until lightly browned.

In a small bowl, whisk together vinegar, tarragon, shallots, salt and pepper. Drizzle in olive oil, whisking, to taste. Reserve.

On a serving plate, make stacks of tomato, beet, mozzarella and lemon slices. I cut the beets to match the size of the tomatoes, but that is optional. Spoon a little of the dressing over the top. Serve. Enjoy!



Herbed Goat Cheese Soufflé
Recipe based on FoodNetwork
Adapted by surfindaave
Serves 4

Grated Parmesan cheese
Butter for buttering baking dish
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
5 tablespoons all purpose flour
Pinch of cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives, or parsley
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary or sage
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 1/4 cups whole milk
1/4 cup dry white wine
6 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
8 ounces of goat cheese, brought to room temperature, and crumbled
1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese, plus 2 tbsp to sprinkle on top
8 large egg whites

Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 400°F. Generously butter one 10-cup soufflé dish or six 1 1/4-cup soufflé dishes; sprinkle with Parmesan cheese to coat. (If using 1 1/4-cup dishes, place all 6 on rimmed baking sheet.) Melt butter in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add flour, cayenne pepper and nutmeg. Cook without browning until mixture begins to bubble, whisking constantly, about 1 minute. Gradually whisk in milk, then wine. Cook until smooth, thick and beginning to boil, whisking constantly, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Mix yolks, salt and pepper in small bowl. Add yolk mixture all at once to sauce and whisk quickly to blend. Fold in the goat cheese and 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese (I whisked until all the cheese melted into the sauce). Using electric mixer, beat whites in large bowl until stiff but not dry. Fold 1/4 of whites into lukewarm soufflé base to lighten. Fold in remaining whites. Transfer soufflé mixture to prepared dish. Sprinkle with remaining 2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese.
Place soufflé in oven; reduce heat to 375°F. Bake soufflé until puffed, golden and gently set in center, about 40 minutes for large soufflé (or 25 minutes for small soufflés). Note that mine (big dish) had to cook for about 50 minutes until it was just barely set. Test for doneness by inserting a long wooden tester in the center – it should come out clean. Using oven mitts, transfer soufflé to platter and serve immediately. Enjoy!


Strawberry Vinaigrette on Romaine

Ingredients:
1 cup strawberries, cleaned and tops removed
2-3 tbsp light vinegar, such as sherry, or champagne, we used rice
1 tsp sugar
salt
pepper
1 head romaine lettuce, washed, and ripped into bite sized pieces

Mash strawberries together in a bowl with the other ingredients until a soupy paste. Add a little additional vinegar if too thick. Adjust seasonings.

Toss the salad with the dressing just before serving. Enjoy!


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Thursday, June 15, 2006

Summer Breeze



Light.

Mint, in wilted lettuce.

Hot.

Serrano chilies and sesame chili oil.

Sultry.

Shrimp. On crispy polenta. Everything grilled.



I love the look and taste of grilled lettuce. The lattice pattern comes out with the grilling (or broiling, in this case, but same idea). And the lettuce melts a little into a moist, sensuous wrap, with just a hint of its own flavor.



The mint and Serrano chilies combine to form a wonderfully fresh marinade for the grilled shrimp. With a drizzle of hot sesame chili oil to add dimension and a little more burn.

And crispy fried polenta. One of my favorite things. It provides a nice, light background to this very summery meal.



Serrano-Mint Grilled Shrimp in Wilted Lettuce Leaves on Polenta
Recipe by surfindaave
Serves 4

Ingredients:
2 pounds large shrimp (25 to the pound or so), peeled and deveined
Olive oil
Sat, pepper
Sesame Chili Oil
Serrano-Mint Sauce (recipe follows)
Romaine lettuce leaves (1 leaf per 3 shrimp), about 15 or so, washed and dried
Polenta (I used store bought (shudder!), but you can certainly make your own)
Lemon, cut into this slices, as garnish, if desired
Cilantro, chopped fine, as garnish, if desired

Cut polenta roll into ½ inch thick slices. Heat olive oil in a large, heavy sautee pan. Sautee polenta slices over medium high heat (not too hot!) until browned on both sides. Remove to paper towels, keep warm and reserve.

While the polenta is cooking, toss shrimp with olive oil, salt and pepper. Arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper (or grill over charcoal). Cook under broiler for 1 to 2 minutes per side, until just cooked through. Remove to a plate to cool.

Place a lettuce leaf on a baking tray covered in parchment paper to that is curls upward. Place 3 shrimp to one side of the leaf. Drizzle some Serrano-chili sauce over the shrimp. Sprinkle a few drops of sesame chili oil on the shrimp. Wrap tightly, tucking the ends under so they stay closed during broiling. Repeat procedure for remaining shrimp and lettuce leaves.

Broil lettuce leaf wraps until lettuce is well browned, even lightly blackend in some places.

Arrange polenta slices on serving plates. Place a few lettuce wraps on plates. Sprinkle with chopped cilantro and decorate with lemon slice, if desired. Serve. Enjoy!


Serrano-Mint Sauce

Ingredients:
1 large bunch mint
1 Serrano chili, including seeds
3 cloves garlic
a 1 inch square piece of fresh ginger, peeled
2 tsp sugar
2 tbsp rice vinegar
2 tbsp fish sauce

Combine all ingredients in a food processor or blender and process until smooth. Let stand for 1 hour to let flavors combine.


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