Showing posts with label appetizer. Show all posts
Showing posts with label appetizer. Show all posts

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Velvety Cream of Asparagus Soup...non dairy

simple, elegant, healthy, satisfying, rich and velvety smooth.
a perfect soup for a chilly night after you've had a big lunch out with the relatives.
soup is always a great make-ahead meal to have on hand for a quick comfort food dinner when you're just too tired to lift a finger...
to whip up an easy pureed soup with just about any favorite vegetable, all you need are a few staples in the kitchen

a few staples for a simple easy pureed soup...

in the freezer at all times...
never throw away a good roasted chicken carcass.  break the carcass down and save in the freezer.  when you have a few throw them in a big pot with water to cover and make up a batch of homemade stock.  just the carcass, skin and bones with some water.  cook it down for a few hours.  the viscosity you get from all those roasted bones and cartilage is the best, hands down.
always tucked in the back of the fridge...
cut the top off, pour some olive oil on cut sides and wrap in foil.  throw it in the toaster oven for 40 minutes on 370 F.  remove cloves from skins and refrigerate in a small container covered with olive oil.  use a few cloves when ever you need that extra "took me all day" flavor.
hiding in the cool dark pantry...
i buy the big container of dried shitaki mushrooms from Costco.  put a good handful in the toaster oven on low for a few minutes to insure they are good and dry.  then put them in a spice grinder and pulverise until it is powder.  store in an airtight container in the pantry.
proudly displayed on the counter top...
not to sound like an infomercial or anything, but i highly recommend the VITAMIX.  i used to use my immersion stick blender for purees, but for this Asparagus Puree i thought i'd try the Vitamix.  i was truly amazed at the difference.  absolutely velvety smooth.  so much creamier than my others.  creamy...with no added cream...BIG difference.


1 pound of blanched asparagus (salted water)
1/2 yellow onion, sauteed in olive oil
2 cloves roasted garlic
2 Tbsp shitaki mushroom powder...see note above
1 tsp fresh tarragon, minced 
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
3 1/2 - 4 1/2 cups homemade chicken broth, depending on how thick you like your soup.

blanch asparagus, saute 1/2 onion, roast garlic, bring broth to a boil.
cut tips off asparagus and save for garnish.
add everything to the Vitamix/blender...or you can use an immersion blender (see note about blender vs. immersion/stick blender above).
puree until very smooth and creamy.  add more stock if too thick.
salt and pepper to taste.
serve with asparagus tips and a sprinkle of very fine chiffonade of tarragon.
after thought...maybe a tiny zest of lemon would work well...

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Forbidden Rice Risotto

comfort food.  that's what cold weather is all about...
but with a HEALTHY TWIST

let's just say that this is NOT your typical "risotto".
i would call it "risotto-like"...but it definitely fits the comfort-food category

all the deep rich flavors from the slow cooking and reducing are there, but the black rice has a different texture...almost "al dente-like" to regular rice.  it maintains it's shape no matter how long you cook it.  i cooked this for a good 1 hour and 20 minutes!  the black rice does not act like the Arborio used in classic risotto, but it does make an interesting twist on a popular comfort food dish.  
the end result was delicious and worth the effort, but i think i'll leave the risotto up to the professionals.
on the other hand....
for a fabulous easy recipe using this super-food on the sweet comfort food list, check out my post on "Black Rice Pudding".  i'm not sure i will make the risotto again (due to the time and effort), but i will surely be making the rice pudding for a healthy dessert alternative or breakfast treat..

Forbidden Rice...once revered for Emperor's now considered one of the new "super-foods".
not only is it full of antioxidants, it is packed with a load of health benefits and more are being discovered.  for more information you might want to click HERE  and  HERE.


1 cup dried forbidden rice
2 1/2 - 3 cup vegetable or chicken broth
NOTE...i ended up using 4 cups homemade broth AND almost 1 can of low sodium broth (see more notes)
1 tbsp butter
1/2 medium shallot chopped fine
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1 big Tbsp shiitake mushroom powder
1/3 cup white wine
1/8 cup grated parmesan cheese
fresh thyme, basil or Italian parsley for topping
8-10 crimini mushrooms, sauteed and browned for additional topping

in a saute pan, melt the butter over medium heat and saute shallots until translucent.  do not brown.  add the forbidden rice and cook for a minute, stirring well so that the rice is well coated with butter and shallots.  deglaze the pan with the white wine and stir to incorporate.  when the wine reduces turn the heat to medium-low and add warm chicken stock...1/2 cup at a time.  add the dried thyme and shiitake mushroom powder.  when 1/2 cup has absorbed, add another...then do this again and again until all stock has been used and risotto looks creamy, done and delicious.  i guess this is "risotto 101".  i have never made risotto, but this is what i was told to do.  i'm sure it takes practice for a perfect risotto.
when you feel it is done, check for seasoning, stir in some grated parmesan and top with fresh thyme, basil OR Italian parsley...and sauteed crimini mushrooms.

A FEW NOTES...if i were to cook this again...i would probably pre-cook the black rice.  then go on with the risotto-like instructions.  i bet it would shorten the overall cooking time, make for a softer bite and it would take less stock.  the recipe called for 2.5 cups of stock and i went through about 5-6 cups of liquid AND it was on the stove for about 1 1/2 hours before it was done..
also when reheating (i had left-overs) just add a little more stock.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Easy Hock Terrine

what to do with big beautiful UGLY ham hock...?

break it down, tear it apart, smash it in to a loaf tin...

call it charcuterie !...

hi peoples...
sorry, "writers block"... apropos.  a block for a block.

maybe that's why i have 23 drafts with photos and recipes waiting for some fabulous intelligent description...hmmm...intelligent just ain't gonna happen.

SO...this is a "WHAT YOU SEE IS WHAT YOU GET" kind of post.
hence, this is more of an idea rather than a recipe.

while shopping at one of my favorite Asian markets, H Mart, i came across a beautiful fresh already cooked ham hock...displayed much like a supermarket might display it's fresh roasted chickens. it was still warm and pliable so i snatched the best looking one up and brought it home.  with a fridge over flowing with food ready to eat i thought what am i gonna do with this big hunk o' hock ?!

i know...i'll make a terrine.


of course you can cook your own ham hock and do the same thing, but that takes hours....and ingredients.

ham hocks, much like trotters (aka pig feet) have a lot of good sticky collagen.  this is what makes for good glue in a terrine.  no gelatin needed.

all of the following should be done with a warm pliable cooked enough to touch and work with.
remove the skin in one piece, if possible.  this makes a nice outer layer and helps hold everything together.  tear apart the meat and tendons.  remove any bones and cartilage.  chunks can be large, but better long and thin instead of fat chunks.  add a little hot water (broth if you have some) maybe start with 1/2 cup to get some of the juices flowing.  SEASONING IS KEY...taste your filling.  maybe add some chopped scallions, chinese five spice, garlic or onion powder, cumin?...salt and pepper!  terrines are something that need extra flavor.
find a vessel that will work well.  i use a small loaf pan.  spray the inside lightly then line with plastic wrap.  leave over hang on all sides.  cut the skin in strips and layer the bottom.  then start packing the goods in...evenly dispersing the meat, fat, tendons and odd bits and pieces.  everything must go in so that it will hold together, but you can discard any unwanted dark ugly veins.
pour what juices you have left over the top and let it sink in.cover with hang over plastic wrap and press down hard with something flat that fits the top of the meat.  you don't want any air pockets.  place in fridge with a weights on top.  your terrine should be ready in a few hours. have made a terrine.
pretty enough for any charcuterie platter.
serve chilled, sliced thin.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Kalamata Fig and Shallot BACON Jam

BACON JAM...i know you've seen it.  you say, "so what?!"

i'll tell you what...IT'S DELICIOUS.  that's what!

i love it so much that it has become a staple in our house...a guaranteed little jar of sweet bacony goo will be in the fridge at all times.  it goes with just about EVERYTHING!

i have made Spicy Chipotle Bacon Jam a couple of times and the newest combo with dried apricots and Garam Masal...not posted yet...but this version with dried Kalamata (light skin) figs seems to be a crowd favorite.
something about the snappy little fig seeds and the sticky spreadable texture.

serve with a nice tangy goat cheese on a seeded baguette and you've got a fabulous appetizer.
how about a waffle with maple syrup and a fried egg?
a huge spoonful on a grilled burger with Havarti cheese?
peanut butter, bacon jam and a bagel?....

the jars will disappear before you know it and you'll soon make this a staple in your fridge as well.  it's pretty darn easy, it makes the house smell delicious and you'll be a smash at the next dinner party if you bring a jar of this go on...give it a try.


1 1/2 lbs sliced smoked bacon, cooked NOT CRISPY.
i prefer to do this in the oven on a rimmed cookie sheet lined with tin foil.  reserve 1-2 Tbsp fat for recipe and the rest for something else Bacon Fat cookies perhaps.
1 medium onion, diced
1 large shallot, diced
7 oz. dried Kalamata figs, diced (remove hard stem)
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup maple syrup
3/4 cup brewed coffee, i like strong
1/2 rounded tsp to 1 tsp garam masala(depending on strength)
1/2 tsp Mexican dried chili powder, optional
1/8 - 1/4 tsp smoked salt

cook the bacon in the oven or a saute pan, until it is browned and most of the fat is rendered.  reserve 1-2 Tbsp and try to get some of the yummy scrapings.
cook onions and shallot in a saute pan with bacon fat until translucent.
add vinegar, brown sugar, maple syrup, coffee, garam masala.  bring to a boil and scrape up the bacon bits off the bottom if you have used that pan to cook the bacon.  not too long...just until sugar has dissolved and everything is incorporated.
add bacon (that has been cut or torn into 1 inch pieces) and diced apricots...stir to combine.

transfer this mixture to a 5-6 qt. slow cooker and cook on HIGH, UNCOVERED for about 3 1/2 - 4 hours, until liquid is syrupy.

transfer to a food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped...or to desired consistency.  fill sterilized jars, let cool open to room temp, cover jars tight and refrigerate.

this should keep in the fridge for at least 4 weeks.  i have been known to open a fresh jar 5 weeks later and i'm not dead a matter of fact i'm working on one right now.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Queso de Puerco...Pig's Head Cheese

sounds a lot better than the translation...HEAD CHEESE

but wait...don't go...come back...
all this talk about nose to tail eating, waste not want not, being green and can't tell me you're gonna shy away from a little head cheese.
come the adventurous foodie that you think you's delicious!

i know the picture is a little alarming...
but you DO have to get over the shock factor that it IS all ingredients from a pig's head.  part by part it can be a little daunting...maybe disturbing for first timers, but nowhere near as disturbing as  tackling the whole head.
authentic Queso de Puerco is made from the WHOLE pig's head boiled and broken down...
I COULDN'T DO IT.  i'm not there steps...besides it's a well known fact that a whole pig's head would not be allowed into this house.  i've snuck ears, tails and trotters in before, but i think the head with a face...eyes and teeth might just sign my walking papers.
SO...i had a better idea...
i simply bought all the parts.  a few ears, a couple of snouts, some trotters and a Pozole meat mixture (grab bag) which includes tongue, cheek, ears, lips, and various other bits of fatty meats that work well for this thing called head cheese.  i'll bet you didn't know that delicious authentic Pozole you love so much from your favorite Mexican restaurant actually had all those parts in it.  well, consider yourself christened.  
now come on...try the Queso de Puerco

this is nothing like the head cheese you're afraid of.  if you consider yourself an adventurous foodie this is a fabulous challenge to take "head on".
when presenting it to unsuspecting guests and those less adventurous, slip a few slices onto your next meat/charcuterie it a fancy "terrine"  or "Pate de Tete" if you have to..., but this one really is good ol' head cheese with some spicy Mexican flavors will surely be the conversation at the table.

the left overs...i'm sure there will be some...make a delicious sandwich...or sear a slice or two in a hot skillet.  it renders into crispy little unctuous fatty bits that are delicious on top of a cold crisp salad.

QUESO de PUERCO...or HEAD CHEESE with Mexican flavors

things like this always change in flavors, size and depends on what parts of the pig you can get your hands on...AND are you willing to handle the said parts?... 
this is what i started with....

2-3 full pig ears
2 full trotters, sliced in half by the butcher
2 lbs. (or a little less) of Pozole mix...various pieces of pig including tongue, cheek, ear, snout, butt.
2 pig snouts...i found cooked, roasted snouts at the hot food area in my favorite Mexican market..Northgate, Santa Ana, CA
1 1/2 tsp cumin
1 big Tbsp dried oregano
1 tsp chipotle powder
1/2 tsp cayenne, optional
8-10 peppercorns
 1 large onion, quartered
3-4 bay leaves
6 smashed garlic cloves
2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
salt and fresh ground pepper

before you begin to cook, you need to take care of a couple things...
#1  you must look for any stray hairs that have made it past the first cut, so to speak.  check the ears, snout and trotters.  i find the easiest way is to burn them off with a lighter or even better, and more fun, use a kitchen torch...yes the one you use for creme brulee.
#2  i like to boil a big pot of water, big enough to hold everything and put all the meat in and boil the parts for about 5 minutes.  then remove, discard the water and clean the pot before using for the actual cooking.  this will take care of any lurking exterior impurities.

now...i could go on and on and get really involved with instructions, but really it "boils" down to this...

all meats, veggies, herbs and spices into a pot big enough to hold it all.  cover with water,  water should just cover meats throughout the cooking process.
bring it to a boil, then to a nice simmer.  cook until all is fork tender.  approximately 3-4 hours.

again...trying to keep it simple...
remove meat and let cool to the touch.  remove bones, large fat and any unwanted parts...NO don't toss it all...that was a joke!
strain broth through cheesecloth.  taste broth.  it should taste quite over seasoned, so add more salt and spice if necessary.
pack meats into a large loaf pan lined with Saran wrap.  i like it well packed.  pour warm broth over and weigh some sort of lid down on top so as to press everything together packed tightly.  you will be pressing out most of the liquid so do this in the sink.  the more packed it is...the less gelatinous your block of head cheese will be.
refrigerate for a few hours.  it's ready when it is solid.

slice and enjoy with pride.
now you are a true nose to tail-er
or...snout to

PS...if you truly want to attempt this and need more instruction, i would be more than happy to answer any questions.
here are a few other terrines i have posted about that pretty much use the same method.
once you have made one terrine you can make anything into a terrine.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Chawanmushi. Japanese Steamed Egg Custard

Chawanmushi might sound exotic and look complex, but it's so simple to make.
it's really just a delicate egg custard filled with delicious little savory nuggets.
i'll be the first to admit that i DO NOT know Asian cooking techniques and terms as well as i would like to, so bear with me.  if you happen to be Asian or just know more about Asian all means drop me a note.  

BUT...for now i will keep it simple.

as i understand a classic Chawanmushi is egg mixed with dashi, a touch of soy, a splash of mirin...then poured over a few ingredients like diced chicken, shrimp, ginko nuts...and steamed to a delicious silky egg custard.
typically served as an appetizer, this dish can be transformed with just about anything you want to put into it...add udon noodles and you've got a main dish called Odamaki Mushi.
i've made this quite a few times...for a light dinner i added diced roasted chicken and sauteed crimini mushrooms in the custard and topped it with carrot, chive and a slice of octopus sashimi (shown in white bowl).   for a simple version (blue bowl) i added a few mushrooms i had already sauteed from the delicious.  

NOTE...don't be scared off by the classic ingredients DASHI,  Mirin, Ginko Nuts...

this can also be made with good ol' chicken broth.
turns out this is an absolute "feel better" comfort food for any nationality.

BUT...i must say...making your own Dashi is too easy.  once you make it, you will recognize that distinct flavor.  Japanese cuisine uses it as a background stock in a lot of cooking. you'll find the Konbu Seaweed and the Bonita Flakes at most health food stores.  i really suggest going out and finding an Asian market near you.  they are a lot of fun with all kinds of goodies you've never seen.  i go just about every weekend and always find something new.  if you're in So. California, look for 99 Ranch's like a big Asian Ralph's.  they will have whatever you are looking for...and MORE.

check link for other's comments and original recipe

2 large eggs
3/4 cup dashi (see below) or broth of choice
NOTE...some recipes call for more broth.  i like this amount of broth, but you can experiment with the ratio of eggs to broth.
1 dash mirin or sake
1/2 tsp soy
1/2 cup cooked diced chicken
shredded carrots
a few Ginko nuts if you can get them
just a few sauteed crimini or shitaki mushrooms, diced or left sliced for topping.
your choice for more toppings.

set up a steamer that your bowls of choice will fit in.  start the will want it hot and ready to steam when filled bowls go in.
in a medium bowl, whisk eggs gently with broth, mirin and soy.  divide diced chicken and diced mushroom into 2 - 3 small bowls.  pour egg mixture through strainer into bowls, slowly as to not disturb the diced items.  you don't want to have them floating about.
cover each bowl.  i used double saran wrap a few times and it works well.  just take care removing wrap when done so as not get condensation into finished chawanmushi

set covered bowls into flat surface steamer (steamer that is good and ready).
cover steamer and turn heat to a simmer.  
steam for 12-15 minutes (depending on size of bowls) or until egg is set...firm, but soft like silken tofu.

top with chives, green onion, shrimp, seared scallop. mushrooms, etc.....

2 1/2 cups water
1 square dried konbu (kelp)
15g dried bonito flakes
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp soy

briefly rinse konbu, put in sauce pan with water and bring to a boil over medium heat.  just before boil, remove from heat and add bonito flakes and soy.
let this steep and come to room temp...strain

NOTES...i added a heaping Tbsp of fresh diced ginger  when i added the bonito.  then strain.

store in the fridge as you would a simple stock.  i think it would freeze well so you can have some ready for chawanmushi on the fly.

you never know...this could be your new comfort food.

(woops...custard with chopsticks?...quite often my head is not using the right utensil)

Sunday, April 1, 2012


creamy eggs topped with Russian caviar tucked into a perfect little egg cup...
one of my all time favorite savory treats.  
so simple, so delicious, so delicate and SOOOO EASY !...

if you have the right tool !

i spotted this little uni-tasker egg gadget about 6 years ago, but i couldn't justify paying the whopping $55.00 for something that does one thing.  well, now that Rosle is making one and it only costs $20.00 bucks...i finally snatched one up.  now I can make the fancy looking froo froo caviar egg cup that i fell in love with years ago at L'Orangerie Restaurant.  piled high with caviar... my eyes would light up as it was brought to the table by the waiter wearing white gloves.  although it's doors are closed now, i'll never forget the wonderful dinners i had there and ordering this decadent first course every time.   
i missed my delicious little caviar egg cup...until now.

the Rosle Egg Topper...a must buy.  as far as gadgets go?  this one is worth it.  it does it's job and it does it well.  i purchased mine at Sur la Table, but i'm sure you can get one on line HERE or at the Sur la Table website...HERE.

this post isn't so much about the recipe, i'm sure you can all figure it out, but here is how i make caviar eggs.  these are not your every day scrambled eggs...they have way to much cream and butter, but they work well for the presentation in the shell and the rich creamy eggs compliment the savory dollop of caviar.

(if you want concrete Martha Stewart instructions click HERE, but this is how i roll...pretty much the same idea.) your eggs with your new topper...snap the topper once on the egg, then when you see a slight crack carefully slip a thin knife in and ever so carefully pry the top off.  you'll get the hang of it quickly.
remove egg from shell and clean inside well.  carefully dunk them into a pot of boiling water for a min or two to remove any impurities and set them upside down to dry while cooking eggs.
you'll need...about 1 per egg cup
heavy cream
salt, but remember the caviar is salty
pepper (white is best)
 and your choice of topping
and toast, of course.

if filling egg cups you'll need to add one or two more eggs than you need.  the pan and the pastry bag will catch a bit...besides you might have an accident with one of your shells.
use about 1/2 Tbsp heavy cream per egg (might need a little more.  i don't measure)
dash salt and pepper
whisk well, but not fluffy
start your pan on low and add a healthy (more than usual) pat of butter to coat.
add the eggs and let them get started...these need to be cooked low and slow, stirring all along to prevent large curds from forming.
the key is to take them off the heat before you think they are done.  you can always cook them more, but you can't undo something that has been over cooked.
use your judgement...remember these need to be soft enough to go into a piping bag, but firm enough to hold shape and support your topping.

fill a pastry bag with eggs and start to assemble.  caviar isn't necessary, but it sure elevates the dish to something special.  small diced smoked salmon with a dollop of creme fraiche is delicious as well.
the toast?...i think the best way is to saute with butter in a pan...for some reason it tastes better than out of the toaster.

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