Monday, July 14, 2008

Kiwi Martinis

Kiwi Martinis
(from Marmalade restaurant in San Juan, Puerto Rico)

Serves 1

- 1 whole kiwi, peeled
- 1 shot white rum (1 shot is 1.5 oz, or 3 T)

Peel kiwi by cutting along the equator and scooping the flesh out of each half. Place kiwi and rum in blender. Blend just until kiwi is "juiced." Do not blend so much that you start cutting the seeds. If you do, you will have a very bitter drink.

Pour contents into a shaker, shake with ice, then strain into a martini glass.

N.B. I have tried to add more alcohol to this--it just won't work, so save yourself the trouble.

Greek Salad

Greek Salad

- 1 English hothouse cucumber, cut into a 1/2" dice
- 2 medium tomatoes, cut into a 1/2" dice
- 1/4-1/2 red onion, cut into a 1/4" dice
- 1 small (5-6 oz) kalamata olives (basically to taste)
- 4-8 oz good feta, depending on your preference. I prefer 8 oz.
- 1-2 T good extra virgin olive oil
- 1-2 T white balsamic vinegar
- kosher salt (to taste, be careful, because the feta's fairly salty)
- freshly crushed black better (to taste, but liberal)
- 3-4 T fresh mint, minced (optional
- Italian seasoning (to taste)

I use Mt. Vikos feta, a brand that my Greek Cypriate friend approves of. Don't buy anything that is shrink-wrapped (e.g. no "Athenos") only something that is in water, or otherwise shows signs of being recently cut. The difference between good and bad feta is night and day. Low-quality feta has very little flavor save a sourness, and has a grainy texture, rather than the rich, silky texture of high quality feta. For stores such as Whole Foods and other supermarkets, cost is a pretty good proxy for quality. In stores with a more limited selection "French feta" is usually a better choice. Never buy pre-crumbled.

Mix all together, and add "to taste" things at the end

Lamb Burgers

Lamb Burgers:
(serves 3)

- 1 pound ground lamb
- 1/4 cup fresh mint, minced, and packed tightly (or more, you can't really over-do it)
- 2 large clove garlic, minced
- 1 egg
- cinnamon (liberally sprinkle over meat to cover)
- kosher salt (liberally sprinkle over meat to cover)
- pepper (liberally sprinkle, but about 1/2 as much as the salt)

- buns: I used olive rolls from Whole foods, which were great.
- Tzatziki
- 1 tomato, sliced
- sliced red onion (don't slice too thin, just slightly less than 1/4")
- greens, e.g. arugula
- optional, a few strips of julienned hot pepper (serrano, jalapño, etc.)
- optional, quick-pickled cucumbers (sliced cukes marinated in salt and white wine vinegar for about 20 minutes)
- optional, sliced feta (easy to do, if you serve this with Greek salad)

Combine mixture. Don't knead the meat too much. The key to tenderness in ground meat (as with breads) is not working it to much. Work it to the point where you're sure you've evenly incorporated everything, then make the patties, either 3 medium, or two large, and one small.

Bring a cast iron skillet to smoking (no oil), then place burgers on high heat. Around 4" each side. Basically, watch the burgers and flip when it has browned to nearly half way up. Do the same on the other side. This should yield a medium burger, pink on the inside. If you see them burning, rather than browning, reduce the heat to medium.

Assemble. Spread Tzatziki liberally on buns. Place cooked burgers followed by feta, tomato, onion, greens and optional cukes on top.

Very good. Serve with Greek Salad

Kiwi, Lime and Savory Creams Pie: Take One

I had a bunch of kiwis leftover from a party where I'd intended to make a pitcher of kiwi martinis. For some reason, Kiwi-lime pie got stuck in my head, rather than "key lime pie." I've also been experimenting lately with some deconstruction of recipes, and so decided that a layered pie with a kiwi curd (like lemon curd) would be quite good. I couldn't find a recipe for kiwi curd, so I made up the one below. It could still use some work to get it a little thicker. The filling below that I came up with would work great with a lime or lemon curd, too. Flavor-wise this turned out very well, is very easy. As I mention below, as the kiwi-curd didn't quite set, when cut, it lost a bit of its "pie" aspect:

Kiwi Roy-ale Pie

Serves 12

NB: This will need at least to chilled in the freezer for several hours and should ideally be chilled in the refrigerator over night.

Kiwi Curd:
- 5 ripe kiwis (the ones I used were over-ripe, which is still good, but makes is much sweeter)
- juice of 2 limes
- 1 1/3 C sugar
- 3/4 C (1.5 sticks) butter
- 5 large eggs beaten to blend
- sale to taste (after cooked)
- worth trying: 1 tsp unflavored gelatin sprinkled over 2 T water

Savory Creams Filling:
8 ounces low fat cream cheese (room temperature)
- 8 ounces low fat sour cream
- 8 ounces heavy whipping cream, chilled (you could also use Cool-whip to further reduce calories. if you do this, don't add any sugar or vanilla until the end. We just have an aversion towards whipped vegetable oil, even if it is lower cal).
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/3 cup confectioner's sugar

Crust (or use pre-made graham cracker crust, this is easy enough, I think it's probably worth it for the richness it has. However, if you are doing individual tarts, definitely use pre-made):

- 12 whole graham crackers (should yield 1.5 cups graham cracker crumbs)
- 5 T melted butter
- 1/4 C. sugar

Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees if making your own crust.

For Kiwi Curd:
Peel kiwis. The easiest way to peel a kiwi is to pretend it's a planet, and cut it in half along the equator. Then scoop out the flesh on each side. If the hard stuff at the "poles" comes out, you'll need to remove it, as it doesn't blend well. Juice the two limes and put the juice and the kiwi flesh into a blender. Blend just until blended. It is very important not to overblend this, as you will start to chop up the seeds. If too many of the seeds are chopped, they confer a very bitter taste to the mixture. Next, in a sauce pan, start butter and sugar melting over medium heat, mixing frequently (DON'T let the butter brown). Add the kiwi mixture once the butter is melted. Stir the mixture until all of the sugar & butter are dissolved and incorporated. Reduce the heat to medium low and whisk in the eggs. Continue whisking for approximately 3 minutes, allowing the mixture to thicken. Remove from heat, and add a small amount of salt to taste. Cool in the refrigerator of freezer. One fast, easy way to cool is to put it all into a large ziploc bag, and put it in the freezer so a lot of surface area is exposed.

This curd was a bit on the runny side. It still tasted great, but never really set. Thus, when I cut the pie, it was like a very rich, thick sauce that I spooned out of the pie tin on top of the piece of pie. Tasted great. Next time I will try the following:

sprinkle 1 tsp of gelatin over 2 T of water, and let stand for 5 minutes. After eggs have been incorporated, while mixture is still warm, whisk in gelatin. The only problem with this, is you can't really just let it set and cool. You'll have to continually whisk so that the gelatin doesn't set up. But the whisking will aerate and help it to cool faster. You will want it to be fairly cool (approaching room temperature) before you stop whisking it, b/c it will be going straight onto the creams filling.

For Graham Cracker Crust:
You may do this while you are waiting for the kiwi curd to cool. If you elect to add the gelatin, you'll need to do the kiwi curd last instead of first.

Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees. Crumble graham crackers into a bowl. Using the base of a glass like a pestle, grind the graham crackers until they are crumbs, not chunks. incorporate the sugar. Pour the butter over the crumbs, and evenly mix in.

Press crust into a buttered 9" pie pan, or a non-stick one. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until crust is browned.

Savory Creams Filling
You may do this while you are waiting for the kiwi curd to cool. If you elect to add the gelatin, you'll need to do the kiwi curd last instead of first.

Whip cream to stiff peaks. Whip in vanilla anc confectioner's sugar (don't over-beat). Whip in cream cheese and sour cream. Taste and adjust sweetness to your own preference.

Using a rubber spatula, spread enough filling over the bottom of the pie crust to cover it to a depth of 1/2." You will have left-over filling. You may freeze the remainder and use it for another pie later on, or some individual tarts (don't microwave to defrost, just let it defrost on its own.) Spoon the kiwi curd over the top, so that it to measures about 1/2 " deep. Cover with plastic wrap and chill till set (if you used gelatin). If you didn't use gelatin, the kiwi curd won't really completely set. In that case, just chill it over night, or for an hour in the freezer, followed by an hour or so in the refrigerator.

If you used gelatin, it would be neat to garnish this with kiwi slices.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

The Perfect Summer Dessert: Lemon Sorbet with Raspberries, Amaretto & Sour Cream

Last Sunday I made what I think may be the perfect summer dessert: cool, easy, extraordinarily fresh and flavorful and fairly light.

Here's what is needed for one serving:

- Lemon sorbet
- Raspberries, appx 1/4 cup
- 1 small dollop of sour cream
- 1 T amaretto

I tried to drizzle the Amaretto onto the raspberries which had rolled onto the side, to get the raspberry-frangipane flavor I love.

There are two keys to this dessert. The first is getting high quality lemon sorbet that has the proper texture. Some sorbets (all that I found at Whole Foods) have a horrible, icy texture. I use "Whole Fruit" sorbets, which I find at Shaw's Market here in Boston. The other key is the sour cream. Don't substitute whipped cream. The sour cream pulls the entire dessert together and adds richness to give you that hint of decadence so necessary to properly enjoying dessert.

I tried to think of ways to improve this, thinking of pastries, tarts, custards or panna cottas, and I honestly couldn't think of anything that I could possibly have liked more. Perhaps a lemon buttermilk panna cotta with an amaretto creme anglaise and raspberries, but then you lose the tangy richness of the sour cream.

We served after serving marinated steak with chimicurri sauce and tomato-leek quinoa. This is a very nice grouping, because the steak is heavy, but the salad and the dessert are both light and flavorful. I make no changes to the salad save omitting the green onions (only because I always forget them) and substituting red tomatoes.

Argentine Chimichurri Sauce

Argentine Chimichurri Sauce:

- 3 large cloves garlic
- 1/4 C. white wine vinegar
- 1 bunch of parsley (you may leave stem on, remove the very ends)
- 3/4 bunch cilantro (keep stems on, very end removed)
- 1/2 - 1 jalapeno, seeded
- 1/4- 1/2 tsp cumin
- juice of 1/2 lime
-1/4 onion
- 6 T extra virgin olive oil (I was forced to use my very expensive EVOO last time, and I have to say, it did make it much better-- much smoother and richer, so use cheap or good EVOO, but you will see a difference using good)
- salt to taste

Place all in blender. If you have problems getting it to blend, remove some of the cilantro and parsley and add back in once blending starts. You may also use a food processor, but the blender makes a more evenly emulsified and much smoother, finer sauce.

Sauce works exceptionally well on flavorful, slightly lower-fat content steaks (e.g. NY strip, skirt steak, London Broil). While not traditional (despite both being traditional Argentine dishes) it also works well with these empanadas--I would suggest the modifications I make in my review on that site--they make these much easier.

This will make about 1.5 pints, enough for many, many steaks, and about 30 empanadas. You may freeze the remainder, so I would always recommend making the full amount.