Thursday, August 28, 2008

Andalusian Gazpacho

Serves 4
  • 2-2.5 pounds tomatoes, quartered
  • 2 slices of good crusty bread
  • ¼ cup water
  • ¼ cup blanched or toasted almonds
  • 2-3 cloves garlic (3 if you like the taste of raw garlic, 2 if not)
  • 2 T very good extra virgin olive oil. Spanish tends to be a little on the spice side which is not necessarily a good thing in such an acidic soup
  • 1 T very good, sweet balsamic vinegar. May also use white balsamic. Sherry vinegar is also an option, but tends to make it a little too acidic
  • 1/2 peeled English cucumber
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • Salt to taste
  • Optional: ½ tin anchovies
  • Garnish: julienned basil (1/2 mm julienne), olive powder, etc.
  • Special Equipment: Chinoise and pestle(optional)
Tear apart bread into pieces and place in a bowl. Pour water over the bread and allow to sit until all water is absorbed. If a fair amount of bread is still dry, add a touch more water.
Place bread, almonds and garlic in a food processor (NOT a blender, it won't work—too thick). Push down sides periodically until you have a relatively uniform paste. If adding anchovies, add now and process till evenly distributed. Add tomatoes to the food processor, processing as you add them. Add olive oil. Taste and add more olive oil if desired. Process till a uniform texture is achieved. Add cucumbers and continue to puree until uniformity is achieved again.

If you like, strain through chinoise. Usually I just leave it as is. The texture is not as velvety, but it still tastes very good.

Add salt to taste. It does not have to be perfect; you will adjust the seasonings again after chilling it.

Chill in the refrigerator till cold (3-4 hours). When ready to serve, add vinegar to taste; adjust salt.

Despite being quite light, this soup is very rich. This serves four normal people with a very appropriate soup-sized portion. You cannot make just a meal of this though. For gazpacho lovers (like me), this serves 2-3 people.

Red Pepper, Feta & Basil Sandwiches

Serves 2

  • 4 slices of good bread—whatever type you prefer; works well with whole grain, sourdough, etc.
  • ¼ cup red pepper sauce (can be store-bought or homemade)
    • For homemade, use one can or pint of roasted red peppers, and add 1 T extra virgin olive oil, add walnuts if desired
  • 4 ounces feta (appx), sliced into 1/8" slices
  • Julienned basil leaves, to taste

Pre-heat oven to broil and 550 degrees (you're basically making cheese sandwiches). Toast bread in a toaster until golden at edges. Spoon red pepper sauce onto each piece of bread, and spread around. Place feta slices over red pepper sauce to cover the bread.

Place on cookie sheet and put in oven for 60-90 seconds, or until feta is melted/melting. Remove from oven and sprinkle julienned basil leaves (as many as you like) over sandwiches. Serve immediately.

Very good with Andalusian Gazpacho, or Greek salad.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Caramelized Pear-Marzipan Tart with Cardamom Crème Chantilly & Pistachio Ice Cream

Serves 8

  • One pint pistachio ice cream


  • 6 ripe pears, peels and cut into 16 wedges
  • 1 frozen rolled or folded pie crust (i.e. not in a pie tin) (or substitute with almond crust).
  • 4 T butter
  • 1 T sugar
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • Kosher salt
  • ½ to ¾ of a package of Marzipan (optional, you may add the almond flavor, if desired by doing any of the following: adding almond extract to the pears when you sauté them, or by substituting the almond crust for the pre-made one).

Cardamom Crème Chantilly

  • 8 oz whipped cream
  • ¼ - ½ tsp cardamom
  • ½ tsp vanilla
  • 2-4 T confectioner's sugar

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Place crust in an 8" or 9" non-stick tart pan with removable bottom. Do not trim overhanging dough. Form marzipan into a ball and place between two pieces of wax paper, and roll out as thinly as you can such that it forms a disk that will cover the bottom of the tart pan. Place marzipan on top of crust already in tart pan.

Melt butter in sauté pan. Add sugar and stir till it dissolves. Add pears and lemon juice and sauté until pears are soft (a few minutes), and the liquid is starting to thicken. Taste liquid and add a pinch of salt, and more lemon juice or sugar to taste. Remove pears from pan with a slotted spoon, and turn off heat. Do not discard liquid. Place pears into tart pan. Arrange if desired. Turn heat back on liquid, and reduce until bubbly and starting to caramelize. Using a rubber spatula, remove from pan and distribute over pears—it will melt in the oven and distribute itself a little more widely. Fold excess crust over the pears, and begin pinching it together, sort of like you're making a "satchel" of pear tart. It will likely come over onto the pears about 1-1.5 inches. This makes it easier to remove the tart, and also will yield a more evenly cooked crust. Bake in center of oven for 35-45 minutes or until crust is golden.

Whip cream until stiff peaks form. Add in vanilla extract (or do half vanilla, half almond), sugar and cardamom. Continue adding sugar and cardamom to taste. Cardamom is a very strong spice. If you don't use it frequently start by adding only 1/8th of a teaspoon, and gradually add more according to your preference.

Serve tart warm or cold with cardamom crème, and one scoop pistachio ice cream.

My thoughts: I did not think that the marzipan added much—if anything, even when I tried the tart by itself. There is already a very strong marzipan-y taste in the pistachio ice cream. Next time I make something like this, I will not add the marzipan, rather I will just add some almond extract to the pears. If I am feeling ambitious, I will make the almond crust. The almond crust is amazing and idiot-proof, but it does make the dessert a little more labor-intensive. As it is, it is a very easy dessert.

Tostones; or Fried Plantains

Serves Two

  • 1 ripe plantain, cut on the bias into ¼" slices
  • Kosher salt
  • Canola Oil

Soak plantains in heavily salted water for half an hour. Remove from water and drain/dry on paper towels.

Warm oil in the smallest pan you have that will also accommodate the plantains. Warm oil to 350 degrees. Fry plantains in oil for 4 minutes. Remove to a plate with paper towels to absorb any excess oil. Do not let sit long. Using a clean glass, smash each of the plantains. Sprinkle the plantains liberally with salt and serve immediately (if you let them sit, they will taste like cardboard).

Serve alone or with your sauce of choice—guacamole, tamarind chutney, mojo sauce, red pepper sauce, ketchup (?)

Good as a side for any main dish of Latin extraction

Monday, August 18, 2008

Blackened Tuna Sandwiches with Lemon Aioli and Avocado

Blackened Tuna Sandwiches with Lemon Aioli and Avocado

Serves 2
Pre-heat oven to broil (550 degrees). Slice buns and place in oven face up, such that the interior of the sandwich is facing the top of the oven. Toast for 40 seconds to 1 minute, or until browned.
Heat pan (preferably cast iron) to smoking hot. Do not add oil. While pan is heating, dredge tuna steaks in blackening seasoning, being sure to fully cover each one. You won't be using oil, so it's important that no flesh be exposed to the pan's surface, or it will cause the meat to stick and tear. Cook tuna between 30 seconds and 1 minute per side, enough so that the blackening seasoning has blackened, and the fish underneath is cooked. This will cook the meat such that it is rare, with about 1-2 millimeters of fish actually cooked. If you want it cooked more, reduce the heat and cook over moderate heat to desired doneness (if cooking through, don't waste the money on sushi-grade fish).

Remove tuna steaks from pan and slice into 1/4 inch slices . This is not necessary if you're tuna steaks are relatively thing (i.e. 1/2 inch).

Assemble sandwiches. Spread aioli on the toasted faces of the buns. Arrange 1/2 the sliced avocado on each sandwich, followed by the tomatoes. Arrange the slices of tuna on top of the tomatoes such that they are overlapping. Place arugula on top. If serving arugula as a side salad, toss with vinaigrette first, then place some of the leave onto the sandwich.

Serve warm.

Suggested pairing: arugula salad tossed with balsamic vinaigrette

Blackening Seasoning

Blackening Seasoning

Provides enough to blacken 2 tuna steaks, or similar surface area of meat.
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp thyme (fresh or dried)
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp crushed fennel seeds (mash in a mortar and pestle, or grind in a coffee grinder.
When using with meat, heat pan to smoking (no oil), then add the meat. The blackening seasoning will smoke a lot, and will smell like pot. If you are using meat that you want to serve rare, do this on both sides for around a minute. If you want the meat cooked through, don't get the pan as hot, and cook over more moderate heat till cooked through.

Classic Aioli

Classic lemon-garlic Aioli

  • 1 clove garlic minced and mashed into a paste
  • juice of 1/2 a lemon
  • 1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • Kosher salt to taste.

Mix all together, and adjust to taste with kosher salt, lemon juice and mustard

Good on sandwiches, with French fries, etc, or anything you’d use mayonnaise on.


Chilled Cucumber Salad

Chilled Cucumber Salad

  • 1 English or hothouse cucumber (so that you don't have to peel it) very thinly sliced--no more than 1 mm each slice, preferably slightly smaller. If you have a mandoline, use it here.
  • 1/4 c. white wine vinegar
  • 1/4 c. mild extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 1 large pinch (several fingers) kosher salt
  • 1/4-1/2 bunch of dill removed from stems and minced. Add until very dill-y in appearance
Marinate all except at least 1 hour. The more the better.

Add dill to taste @ end

This goes nicely with a variety of different types of cuisine, from German to Indian. Serve it as a side with cold poached salmon, wiener schnitzel, or curried chicken kabobs. If pairing with something more middle eastern or Indian, substitute mint for dill.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Feta Sandwiches

Serves 2

  • 1/2 pound good feta, sliced into 1/4" slices
  • 1 tomato, sliced
  • 1/2 hot house cucumber, thinly sliced
  • Arugula
  • 2 buns or rolls. Preferably an olive bread.
  • 1/4 cup vinaigrette
    • 2 T good vinaigrette
    • 4 T good extra virgin olive oil
    • 1 tsp dijon mustard
    • very large pinch salt
      • Mix in all ingredients save olive oil
      • Slowly whisk in olive oil to emulsify

Put oven on broil, and 550 degrees. Toast buns, cut face up for 30 seconds to 1 minute, or until brown.

Drizzle vinaigrette over both side of toasted buns. place arugula, then feta, then tomatoes and cucumbers onto bun. Drizzle additional vinaigrette, if desired over the top of vegetables.

Use remainder of vinaigrette and arugula for a side salad.

If you have the ability to do a panini, melting the feta with the vegetables is very good. In this case, add arugula after you melt the cheese.

Salad with Pepitas, Golden Raisins & Chipotle Lime Vinaigrette

Serves 2

  • 1/4 cup golden raisins
  • 2 T pepitas
  • 1 quart salad greens (romaine preferably)
  • 2 T lime juice (appx. 1 lime)
  • 2 T Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO), Hojiblanca Spanish is preferred, or other spicy olive oil
  • 1/4-1/8 chipotle chili powder
  • Kosher salt
Place all ingredients save EVOO into bowl, and mix. Slowly whisk in oil until emulsified. If you prefer a less acidic vinaigrette, add 1 more T EVOO.

Toss salad greens with vinaigrette. If using mesclun or arugula, serve immediately. Ideally, a lettuce with stiffer leaves should be used (like romaine).

Sprinkle pepitas and golden raisins over greens.

Shredded chicken would also be very good, as well as some fresh crumbled mexican cheese (mild).

Puerto Rican Shrimp Mofongo

Puerto Rican Shrimp Mofongo

Serves 2

  • 2 ripe plantains, peeled and sliced into 1" slices
  • Oil for frying (mild-tasting, like canola oil)
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced.
    • To mince, thinly slice garlic, liberally sprinkle kosher salt over garlic slices. Mash garlic and salt with the broad side of a chefs knife. Then use chef's knife to mince. Continue mincing and smashing till you achieve a paste. Try to mince more than smash, as you will lose some of the oil into the cutting surface when smashing.
  • 3/4-1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined. 1" will yield almost equal parts plantains and shrimp. This portion is filling, but will not overfill you.
  • 2-4 T butter
  • 1 cup warm chicken broth (from Boullion cube is fine)
  • 1/2 avocado diced (1/4 avocado/serving)
  • 2-4 T minced cilantro

  1. Peel and slice plantains. Place in heavily salted water and let soak for 15 minutes. Remove from water and place on paper towels to drain.
  2. Heat oil to 350 degrees. 1" of oil should be sufficient to cover plantains. Use as small a pan as possible, to avoid wasting oil
  3. Fry plantains for 4" turning occasionally if not cooking evenly.
  4. Remove plantains from oil and allow to drain on paper towels.
  5. Place plantains in a bowl and mash with a pint glass (or similar)
  6. Mix in 1/3 of minced garlic. Cover to keep warm.
  7. Melt butter in a saute pan.
  8. Add remainder of garlic, and saute briefly.
  9. Add shrimp and saute until done--1-2 minutes, or until opaque
  10. Add additional butter if garlic begins to brown, or if you prefer a richer mofongo.
  11. Mix shrimp and garlic into plantain mixture. Use a rubber spatula to get all garlic and butter from pan. If you are worried that it has too much garlic, add shrimp, and leave some garlic in pan. Mix shrimp and plantains, taste, and add remaining garlic to taste.
  12. Add salt to taste
Serve in a deep, well-insulated crock-style bowl to conserve heat. Push mofongo into bowl so that it is fairly tightly packed within the bowl.

Serve with avocado and cilantro. Sprinkle cilantro over top, and place remainder on the side. Be sure to put salt on the table, in case more salt is necessary.