Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Simple Spicy Asparagus in a Wok

It seems the Trout is always searching the Internet for new recipes.  This week he pulled a recipe off the New York Times which sounded really good.  Then we found perfect asparagus this week and we knew this would be on the menu.

So at this time, I also need to talk about the love/hate relationship of cilantro.  I almost find this situation amusing.  My big question is, "how can you hate the taste of cilantro?"  Here we are...the two of us.  One with Czech and Norwegian taste buds and the other with German infiltrated through every muscle.  Thinking back, we are not really sure the first time we tasted cilantro.  It had to be in the last 14 years or so since we retired and have ventured off the due course of eating into total experimentation and indulgence.  We both love cilantro!  In fact, we now grow it in our herb garden.  It is such a clean, fresh taste and goes perfectly with Thai and Oriental cooking which we do a lot of.  Soapy?  I don't think so.  In fact, each time I eat it, I try to imagine a soapy flavor and it just does not come through.

So, if you do not like cilantro, I am sorry.  You will not like this recipe.  It is absolutely necessary and makes the recipe POP with excitement.

Simple Spicy Asparagus in a Wok
  from the New York Times

1 1/2 pounds asparagus, medium or pencil-size
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
6 small dried red peppers  (we omitted this)
Salt and pepper
1/2 teaspoon Chinese chili paste
1 teaspoon grated garlic
1 teaspoon grated ginger
1/2 teaspoon grated orange zest (don't omit is great)
1 jalapeno, finely chopped
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1/2 cup roughly chopped cilantro
3 green onions, slivered
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds

Snap off ends of asparagus and then cut into 2 inch pieces

Set wok over high heat and add vegetable oil.  Add dried peppers and let sizzle and then add asparagus, tossing well to coat.  Season with salt and pepper.  Stir-fry for a minute or so, then add chili paste, garlic, ginger, orange zest and jalapeno.  Continue cooking over high heat for a minute or so, until asparagus is cooked but still firm and bright green.

Mound asparagus on a serving platter and drizzle with sesame oil.  Sprinkle cilantro, green onions and sesame seeds over top.  We served this with a grilled chicken breast that was marinated in sweet chili sauce. 

Monday, April 15, 2013

Around the yard

I am always happy when the magnolias start blooming.  We have a very large tree in our front yard, and when in full bloom, it smells simply delicious. 

This morning on our walk, we also smelled our neighbors gardenias and jasmine blooming.  So many of our northern friends are so far from smelling anything right now, I thought I would share to let them know that spring will arrive...sometime soon. 

I also found this photos on the camera taken about one month ago.  Our beautiful family of sandhill cranes often visit in the backyard.  The babies now are the size of the parents and it has been fun watching them learn from the parents such habits as preening and even flight lessons.  We have a family every year and they are very tame.  Golfers need to quite often wait for them to move before they can continue.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The Forbidden Rice

We made a quick trip to our favorite oriental market this morning, and as always, Gigi was there to help us and answer questions.  We needed a Daikon radish for tomorrow night's dinner and some bean sprouts for a stir fry tonight.  But, I love checking out "other things" while I am there.

I came across a bag of Black Rice and remembered immediately it is also called Forbidden Rice.  Gigi told me that I needed to add more water and cook longer than regular rice.  I started immediately after we got home.

I took 2 cups of black rice and 2 3/4 cups of water, 1 tsp. salt and brought it to a boil.  I let it simmer for about 30 minutes.  The longer it simmered, the more purple it became.  A beautiful, royal purple color.  It was perfect; a little chewy, nutty flavored and delicious.  I will use some of it for our stir fry tonight, and the rest will go into a salad.  I like the flavor and texture of this rice, much more than brown rice. 

I am thinking soy sauce, sesame oil, cilantro, perhaps diced, roasted sweet potatoes, lime juice or maybe diced mangoes.  The ideas are endless.  I am thinking the rice could be substituted for black beans in salad, etc.  And here is the best news.....

In ancient China, only Emperors and the royal family were allowed to eat the black rice.  This is the where the name "Forbidden Rice" came from.  And now, in modern times, natural healing power and goodness of black rice is well noted.  Black rice is loaded with antioxidants, vitamin E, fiber and valuable anti-inflammatory properties.  Black rice has more antioxidants than 1 serving of blueberries.  It is also rich in iron. 

I also bought something else while at this little market.  Tumeric.  I saw some of the rhizomes in the refrigerator case, but Gigi talked me into the tumeric powder and told me to put a very small amount in a glass of water each day, but to drink with a straw because my mouth and tongue will remain bright yellow for a long time.  Tumeric is very helpful for arthritis.  I will let you know if I gain some more knowledge about the tumeric. 

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Kiwi and Strawberry Cocktails

It seemed like a perfect afternoon to do some experimenting.  I bought a fairly large stock of kiwi fruit this last week.  The price was right, but at the moment, I was not sure what I was going to do with it.  So I started researching (my favorite thing to do ) and came up for a recipe for Kiwi Capiroska.  It seems that this is a drink from Brazil.  By the way, all of you who are into Pinterest, know that by simply typing Kiwi into the subject line, you come up with millions of suggestions.  I feel this is the very best cookbook ever.  I love Pinterest!!!

So we started experimenting in the kitchen and, I think, came up with a winner.  It seems the favored name for this drink is Kiwi Capiroska.  So, with a little tweeking here and there, we came up with this!

Kiwi Capiroska
 Inspired by "Spoon Fork Bacon"

Drinks for 2

Peel and dice one kiwi

Take two drink glasses and fill each with 1/2 of the kiwi, 2 mint leaves, 1 teaspoon sugar and 1/2 of a lime, juiced.

Muddle together the contents of the the glasses until fully combined.

Fill each glass with ice and top off with 1/3 cup vodka and 1/3 cup tonic water.

Stir and finish each with a garnish of kiwi, mint leaves and serve.

Okay, this was delightful!!  But, now I started a little more research and the word "strawberries" came to light.  Since this is still the fantastic strawberry season in Florida, and since I had some fresh strawberries in the refrigerator, we just had to try one more drink!!

So, instead of the kiwi, we diced strawberries and used them instead.  It was, again, a delightful cocktail, but we both agreed that instead of tonic water with the strawberries, perhaps simple club soda would taste just a bit better.

Don't you agree, that each drink looks perfectly refreshing, and it was!!

Monday, April 1, 2013

Pomme Gratin, or a favorite potato

Surprisingly, I have not shared one of my favorite potato recipes on my blog.  Always watching the carbs, we do not eat potatoes very often.  But when we do, it has to be something other than a plain old baked potato.  I am going to make it a really good, worthwhile potato.

Traveling in France, as we love to do, we have often run into a Pomme Gratin that has knocked our socks off.  Love, love, love the flavors of really good cheese, cream and potatoes together.  It is not the scalloped potatoes you grew up with as a child in the 50's.  There was definitely an American twist to that with cheddar and flour for thickening.  No, no, not necessary.

In 2003, we found a recipe we have followed since then.  It was on the Food Network and the recipe was courtesy Tyler Florence.  Right there you know we are in the right ballpark.

This recipe goes together simply, can be prepared ahead of the main course of your meal, and no one will turn up their noses.  I now see that Dorie Greenspan has an almost identical recipe in her cookbook "Around my French Table."  

Pomme Gratin or Potato Gratin
 recipe courtesy of Tyler Florence

1 1/2 cups heavy cream (Okay, use your own judgement.  You can use half n' half if you wish, but come on, do you really want to do that?)
1 sprig fresh thyme
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 russet potatoes, peeled and sliced thin (I used my favorite Yukon Gold potatoes and sent them through my food processor.   I used about 1 1/4 pounds of potatoes.)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup grated Parmesan (Oh no...not I.  I used 1/2 cup of grated Gruyere)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  In a saucepan, heat up the cream with a sprig of thyme, chopped garlic and nutmeg.

While cream is heating up, butter a casserole dish.  Place a layer of potato in an overlapping pattern and season with salt and pepper.  Remove the cream from the heat, pour a little over the potatoes.  Top with some grated cheese.  Make 2 more layers.  Bake, uncovered for 45 minutes.

This potato dish will brown beautifully without broiling the top.  I do love Parmesan and we always have a large wedge in the refrigerator for grating onto salads, slicing for a side to a glass of red wine, but the Gruyere is just so much better in this dish. 

These potatoes go great with ham, roast beef or with lamb chops as I prepared them.  The recipe says it is for 4-6 people.  Sorry, I cannot claim that, because we do love them that much.