January 30, 2011

Current Adorations

Two of my favorite Christmas gifts, a 60mm macro lens and an adjustable tripod.

A soon to be lush herb garden on my fire escape.

 This cheap buy from H&M. I never realized how much of an owl collector I was until someone pointed it out. Apparently my room is full of them and now I can take one with me. I always wear rings on my 'ring finger' and yesterday a drunken client told me what a strange wedding ring I had. Win.

Snowshoeing. Last weekend we headed up to Mt. Lassen for a $1 Ranger-led snowshoe walk. They'll let you borrow some snowshoes and give you a quick tutorial on how to use them during a 1-2 mile walk through the forest. The park is absolutely stunning and snowshoeing is a great way to get your heart rate up on a beautiful Saturday afternoon.

This big orange baby I fondly call Toulouse. 

January 29, 2011

Blood Orange Flan

I've got a huge bag of blood oranges I've been trying to get through for about two weeks now. They're great as a snack, in salads, and can be substituted in any orange recipe. I'm almost there...just one more left and you'll surely see the recipe on the blog later this week.
Number 2 on the blood orange recipe list is flan. Although synonymous with Latin American cuisine, this sweet custard originated in France(called creme caramel). A silky smooth custard with a burnt sugar base similar in flavor to creme brulee but without the crunchy topping.  

Blood Orange Flan adapted from Tyler Florence
3/4 cup sugar, divided
1 tablespoon blood orange juice

1 cup milk, preferably whole
zest of 1 blood orange
2 tablespoons blood orange juice
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

2 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
pinch of salt

To make the caramel, have 3 to 4 ramekins ready(I used small bowls since I only have 1 tiny ramekin). Combine 1/2 cup sugar and 1 tablespoon of blood orange juice in a small sauce pan over medium-high heat. Cook until the sugar starts to melt, swirling occasionally(do not use a spoon). Cook until it turns to a medium brown-amber color, about 8 minutes. Remove from heat and distribute the caramel evenly into ramekins.
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Bring a kettle of water to a boil for the water bath.
Combine the milk, zest, 2 tablespoons of juice, and vanilla in a small saucepan. Heat to a brief simmer, stirring occasionally. Make sure to keep it under a boil.
In a medium bowl, cream together eggs, egg yolk, remaining sugar, and a pinch of salt. Whisk until the mixture becomes thicker and lighter in color, about 5 minutes.

Temper the egg mixture by drizzling in the milk and whisking vigorously. Pass the mixture through a strainer to get rid of any lumps and zest.

Place the ramekins into a casserole dish. Pour the custard into the caramel-coated ramekins. To create a water bath, place your dish onto the oven rack and pour hot water half way up the sides of your ramekins. Make sure you don't get any water inside your flan. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes(if using small bowls or ramekins like me) or until the custard is just set and jiggles slightly. Let the flan cool in the water bath then place in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours.

When you're ready to serve, run a knife along the inside of the ramekin to loosen the flan. Place a small plate over your ramekin and flip it over to reveal your beautiful custard!
*If you have trouble getting the flan out fill a cereal bowl with hot water from the tap. Dip the ramekin in the bowl of hot water to melt some of the sugar. Wiggle the dish in your hand to loosen the flan then try flipping again.

January 26, 2011

Corn Black Bean Salad

 Looking back at the past few posts(minus those pancakes), you'd think I was eating the healthiest of meals everyday. Mostly vegetarian, low-cal, packed with fruit and veg. The problem lies in this jar of nutella I bought about a month ago. At the time I thought sure, I can have just one tiny spoonful a day and I'll be set for my sweet fix. Well gradually that has turned to a large spoonful to two large spoonfuls...to slathering a quarter of the jar on whole wheat toast.
Luckily for my thighs, the jar will soon be empty and I'll hopefully be left with just the wholesome meals I've been cooking to keep me satisfied. 

I served this salad along side grilled fish tacos and as a snack with some yucca chips I found at Trader Joe's. Give this a try and mix it up by adding any vegetables you have on hand(ie. tomatoes, green onions, or avocados). Or make it a meal in itself by the addition of more black or whole pinto beans. 

Corn Black Bean Salad 
1 15 ounce can corn, drained
1 15 ounce can black beans, drained
1 medium red bell pepper, diced
1/2 small red onion, diced
1/2 cup chopped fresh pineapple
2 teaspoons chopped serrano or jalapeño, minced (more if you can handle the heat)
1 handful fresh cilantro, chopped
2 limes, juiced
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon honey
1/8 teaspoon cumin
a pinch of garlic powder

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Mix gently until everything is evenly distributed. Taste for seasoning and serve!

January 25, 2011

Taco Tuesday: Grilled Fish Tacos

Working and going to school is going to make this even more challenging than I thought. I'm still getting used to waking up before 10am let alone 8am. The next 4 months could be rough. Luckily, I had enough time to put this together for lunch today after my class and before work. I am taking a pretty sweet class all about the history, art and culture of Paris. Some day I'll drop everything for  la boheme lifestyle(aka I'll be broke)and become an American-Parisian tour guide. Hire me?
This is a play on the classic fish taco but it's easier (and healthier) to grill than make a batter and fry the fish. Simple with delicious white sauce(does this have a real name? How about crema blanca to make it more authentic?), pico de gallo and a handful of cabbage. I served them with a lime wedge and corn black bean salad...recipe to be posted later this week. Happy Taco Tuesday!

Grilled Fish Tacos
For Pico de Gallo:
5 golf ball sized cherry tomatoes, chopped
2 tablespoons red onion, minced
1/2 serrano or jalapeño chile, minced
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
1/2 clove garlic, finely minced

For White Sauce:
1/4 cup sour cream
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
juice of 1 lime
pinch of smoked paprika
salt & pepper

10 ounces mahi mahi
juice of 1 lime
a drizzle of olive oil
1 clove garlic, finely minced
kosher or sea salt
oil cooking spray
6 corn tortillas
shredded cabbage
lime, cut into wedges for squeezing

For the pico de gallo, combine all ingredients in a bowl. Toss to combine and set aside. 
For the white sauce, combine all ingredients in a bowl. Add a pinch or two of salt and pepper to taste and mix. 
For the fish, squeeze the lime over the raw fish. Drizzle a bit of olive oil then give that fish a garlic massage. Generously salt and pepper both sides. You can let the fish marinate over night or sit after marinating for about 30 minutes before cooking. Preheat your grill, or grill pan in my case, to medium high heat. Spray some oil cooking spray on the grill to prevent the fish from sticking. 
Grill on each side for about 4 minutes. Keep an eye on it though, your fillet may be thicker or thinner than mine.
 I pull mine off a minute or two before it's done all the way through and leave it for a few minutes to rest and finish cooking. 
Warm your tortillas for a few seconds in the microwave. Top with some fish, a small handful of cabbage, pico de gallo, and white sauce. Garnish with a lime wedge for squeezing over the whole thing. 

January 23, 2011

Blood Orange Avocado Salad

Blood oranges could quite possibly be the most beautiful pieces of fruit in the world. Their ruby red color and tart, raspberry-orange flavor make them deliciously unique. Winter (It's still winter right? Couldn't tell with this 70 degree weather for the past week) is the best season for oranges and I'm lucky enough to get them so fresh as they're grown right here in California. 
Since it's been so warm, I decided to put together a refreshing salad with these sweet fruits and some buttery avocados. 

Blood Orange Avocado Salad
12 wonton wrappers
about 3/4 cup vegetable oil 
2 medium blood oranges
2 avocados

For Dressing:
1 teaspoon garlic, finely minced
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, finely minced
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
2 teaspoons soy sauce(or fish sauce if you've run out like me)
1/2 teaspoon honey
1/4 teaspoon chile flakes
toasted sesame seeds for garnish

Pour your oil into a small sauce pan and bring to medium high heat. There should be about an inch of oil from the bottom. The the oil should also be hot enough so that a bunch of tiny bubbles surround the wonton wrapper immediately after you put it into the oil. Each wonton will only take about 30-40 seconds to turn golden brown, flipping it as needed. Place them on a paper towel to drain. 
Next we'll tackle the oranges. 
First, lop off the top and bottom. Then place the orange on one of the flat, cut ends. Slice the peel off using the curve of the orange as your guide making sure to get all of the white pith off (it's bitter!). 
Once you've got the orange all naked, cut between the white membranes that divide the segments, as shown in the picture below. Save your orange centers to use their juice in the dressing!
This produces beautiful little gems the French call supremes(pronounced su-premm). 
For the dressing, throw all the ingredients into a bowl and squeeze the remaining juices out of the orange membranes. Depending on how juicy your oranges are, taste the dressing along the way. I used about 2-3 tablespoons of juice in the dressing. 
Next, slice the avocados in half, take the pit out, cut into 3/4 inch cubes, and scoop the whole lot out. 
Place a few cubes of avocado and orange supremes on your fried wonton square. Drizzle with a teaspoon or so of dressing and a pinch of toasted sesame seeds. 

January 20, 2011

Vietnamese Prawn and Herb Salad

This recipe was inspired by a Spring night in Melbourne. I'd consider Melbourne the "San Francisco"of Australia. More than a handful of separate districts known for different cultures and people from all over the world. A clean China Town(!), a huge Italian population with restaurateurs calling you in with free glasses of wine, lots of new age fancy shmancy places and heaps of Vietnamese cafes scattered throughout. 
This came about at a sort of dinner party at a friend's house(Hi Ryan and Caro, if you're reading!). I loved the combination of fresh herbs with the tangy/salty dressing and sweet shrimp. I've also got an addiction to fish sauce apparently. When we first had it, there were crunchy fried noodles at the bottom but if you're looking for a more health conscious version(although my grocer was fresh out at the time) I suggest adding crispy bean sprouts.

Vietnamese Prawn and Herb Salad
For Dressing:
2 tablespoons fish sauce
2 tablespoons water
2 teaspoons brown sugar
2 cloves garlic, very finely minced
1 small red chili, Minced
juice of 2 limes (about 2 tablespoons)

Directions: Combine all ingredients in a bowl and let the flavors merry while you are getting the rest of the salad together. Taste to see if it's to your liking. Some may want to add a bit more water to mellow it out but I like the strong sour/salty mixture.
For Herb Salad:
1/2 Lb. medium cooked shrimp
1/2 cup pineapple, cut into small cubes
1 bag mixed salad greens
1 bunch fresh cilantro
1 small bunch fresh mint (make sure it's tender and not rough)
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced into strips
2 green onions, sliced-green tops only

Optional for more crunch:
1/2 cup bean sprouts(for the healthy folks) or fried wonton strips

Pull off all of the cilantro and mint leaves and combine with salad greens. Try to keep just the leaves and the thin upper stems. Throw in the sliced red and green onions, pineapple chunks, bean sprouts(if using), and shrimp. Pour on the dressing and toss to coat everything evenly. Garnish with fried wonton strips. 
If you're opposed to raw onions try this trick to soften the taste. Slice thinly then soak them in a bowl of water with a dash of vinegar for about 30 minutes. Drain them and use as needed. Sweet, sour, salty, and herbal... This is my kind of salad. Hope you enjoy!

January 18, 2011

Taco Tuesday: Pineapple Shrimp Tacos

Here's a new blogging goal for 2011: Taco Tuesday. This means every Tuesday I will try my hardest to come out with a new taco recipe for your enjoyment...well more like mine since I'm the one who gets to eat them! 

These were just some leftovers thrown together from another upcoming recipe. I love the combination of the sweet pineapple and shrimp mixed with the lime crema and a good salsa. In the future, I'll hopefully be making my own salsa but I still need to do some searching for dried chiles.

Pineapple Shrimp Tacos 
1/2 lb. shrimp, deveined and rinsed
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon salt 
A quarter of a fresh pineapple, cored and cut into wedges
1/4 cup sour cream
juice of 1/2 lime
salt & pepper
6 small corn or flour tortillas
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
salsa of your choice

Top shrimp with cumin, garlic powder, salt and black pepper to taste. Heat a grill pan to high heat and cook shrimp until just undercooked (about 2 minutes on each side). Place them in a bowl and cover to keep warm. The residual heat will finish the cooking. 
On the same grill pan on very high heat, throw on the pineapple wedges. Turn when you see grill marks appear (2-3 minutes per side). 
While the pineapple is cooking, mix together the sour cream, lime juice, and a pinch each of salt and pepper. 
Heat the tortillas until they become warm and pliable(I did this on the grill too). 
Layer on the shrimp, pineapple, and lime crema. Add cilantro, red onions and salsa. Garnish with a squeeze of lime and a Mexican beer of your choice. :) Serves 2 hungry people or 3 moderately. 
Simple but awfully tasty. Anyone have any suggestions or recipe's they'd like to see? Let me know!

January 17, 2011

Lazy Days and Red Velvet Pancakes

I've been spending the last few days before getting back to the real world enjoying this amazing weather with a bunch of company. Lots of company means eating out heaps. 
 I did get the chance to do a bit of shopping and picked up this red velvet pancake mix at World Market. Perfect for Valentines Day if you're into that sort of thing. 
 The mystery of this classic bright red cake is simple really: a chocolate base with a bunch of red food coloring(often from beets). 
As if these weren't decadent enough on their own, I added some chocolate chips too. Then whipped some cream cheese, brown sugar and a splash of milk to play on the traditional cream cheese frosting. Threw on some bananas for a smidge of health and a dusting of powdered sugar since we've already gone this far. Now we're off for a long walk to the beach to work off this madness. Healthy recipe posting coming in the near future, I promise. 

January 8, 2011

Sweet Potato & Lentil Curry

I know all the other Californians out there agree this cold season is ridiculous. Yeah, it's sunny and beautiful but those bright blue skies are deceiving. What is this 40 something temperature doing here? We San Franciscans have been good little recyclers and even have those compost boxes stinking up our kitchens! C'mon climate change, give us a break. Most likely we all just forget that yes, we always nearly freeze this time of year and we're just wusses since we're spoiled for the other 10 months. 
Here's a recipe that has been keeping me warm this winter(along with piles of blankets, scarves and a crappy wall heater). 

Sweet Potato & Lentil Curry
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 shallots, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
1/4-1/2 teaspoon, chili flakes (depending on how spicy you want it)
1 1/2 teaspoons garam masala*
1 teaspoon tumeric
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1 dried bay leaf
1 cup brown or French lentils(I used brown but French ones hold up better)
2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 hot cup water
1 large sweet potato, cut into roughly 1 inch cubes
salt and pepper to taste
Lemon slices 
Naan bread

Heat a medium sized soup pot over medium heat. Add the shallots and cook until translucent. 
Throw in the garlic and ginger and let them cook about a minute. Next, add the chili flakes, garam masala, tumeric, coriander, cumin and bay leaf. 
Let the spices soak into the mixture then add the lentils, stock and water. 
Bring to a boil then turn heat down to a simmer. Let the mixture cook covered, for 10 minutes then add the sweet potato cubes. Cover and cook until the lentils and potato are tender, about 20-25 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. 

Serve with a squeeze of fresh lemon and some naan to soak. The results are filling and although very spiced, not spicy(unless you add more chili flakes).

*Garam masala is a beautiful blend of ground spices found in many Indian dishes. It's wonderfully fragrant with a mix of what we Americans dictate as sweet spices(like cinnamon and cloves) and savory spices(like pepper). I picked up a rather large bag at Cost Plus World Market. 

Stay warm! -J

January 6, 2011

Citrus, Quinoa, and Spinach Salad

First of all, happy new year everyone! Sorry for the long blog hiatus. Things have been busy around here with friends and a particular Kiwi visiting. While I'm getting things back on track, here's a great recipe to start your new year off to a somewhat healthy start!
This recipe is from Sunset magazine and was actually a side for our Christmas dinner this year(my aunt is the queen of great salad recipe finds!). It was delicious by itself but would go swimmingly with some seared salmon over top. Yum! 
 My local produce store was out of baby spinach so I grabbed a huge bundle that was covered in dirt! Oh the luxury of bagged lettuce. If you run into the same problem I did, just rinse it thoroughly in a large colander under cold water. Spread it out on some towels to drain. When you're ready to assemble, tear the bigger leaves into more mouth-manageable sizes by hand. 
I slice my green onions on an angle for a pretty presentation.

Citrus, Quinoa, and Spinach Salad by Sunset Magazine
1/2 cup quinoa
zest and juice of half a lemon
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes
pinch of kosher salt and pepper
6 ounces baby spinach
1/4 sliced green onions
1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese

Cook quinoa according to package directions. 
Meanwhile, mix together the lemon zest, juice, oil, chili flakes, salt and pepper in a large bowl. 
Add spinach and green onions then add the warm cooked quinoa. Toss to combine and sprinkle the feta on top. 
Here's to the start of a fabulous new year. Wishing you health and happiness and many good meals to come!