Thursday, April 22, 2010

mango spread & chocolate bird's nest

I haven't eaten meat or seafood in three weeks.

Ok, I've had one local exception...
a gorgeous, strip of grass-fed beef
and a few tasting slip-ups with chicken or beef base that are perpetually inevitable with my line of work.

I'm not trying to be a:
new, self-proclaimed vegetarian
shouting from the rooftops
with Food Inc. and King Corn thoughts firing up my fury.

I've simply made a firm decision to become more knowledgeable of what goes into my mouth.

I was raised eating healthily and have always eaten local when possible, purchased organic groceries and cage-free, antibiotic-free options. The list goes on...

Whether I'm eating cow, chicken, scallops or cherries--

I will strive to be
healthy & happy
about the decisions I'm making and continue to
support the people that help me eat this way.

My past slow weekend began perched atop linoleum bar stools-- catching up with an old culinary school friend at Fuzzy's Taco Shop.

Formerly content with the:
garlicky cheese enchiladas & cornflake-crusted tempura fish sandwich
(toss up)
I settled on julienned veggie tacos (squash, carrots, onions, zucchini) delightfully dressed with garlic sauce and guacamole. Brothy black beans and crispy-fried potatoes were swallowed in between icy scooner sips.

I later took part in an indulgent evening at the chic, new Tillman's Roadhouse--

think Billy Reid,
crossed with a fire pit,
and a gluttonous amount of
goat cheese, coffee, truffle oil and homemade marshmallows.

We opted to lounge on the still-sunny patio and sipped blood orange margaritas (sans simple syrup for me) between warm peanuts with truffled popcorn.

For my entree, I went local with a grass fed New York strip from Grandview, Texas-- charred on the firepit then served medium rare with blistered shishito peppers, black bean and cotija grits and a red jalapeno radish salad.

This rustic dish was earthy, spicy, bitter and just screamed summer.
A copper bird's nest filled with decadent chocolate-covered almonds consoled us when we received our hefty tab-- clever marketing attempt.

On a later homemade supper affair, I focused on textures galore with my:

Steamed Chicken & Radish Potstickers
with Peanut Brown Rice and Soy Muddled Blackberries

These delicate dumplings are quick steamed then nestled amongst nutty, brown rice and a tart, easy-as-pie blackberry topping.

In addition to this recipe, these quaint packages would be perfect:

poached in a broth-based soup
pan-fried with stir-fried vegetables
or deep-fried with a sweet & spicy dipping potion
for a cocktail party in a flash!

Peanut Brown Rice:

1 recipe brown rice, prepared and kept warm
3 T unsalted butter
3 T natural peanut butter, crunchy
juice and zest of 1 lime
1/2 t red pepper flakes

Mix ingredients and keep warm to pair with dumplings.

Chicken & Radish Dumplings:

Yields 16 dumplings (4 servings)

1 organic boneless, skinless chicken breast
1 T extra virgin olive oil
4 radishes, minced
3 T fresh cilantro, minced
1 tsp honey
salt and pepper to taste
16 square potsticker skins, defrosted
1 small bowl of water to seal potstickers

Coat chicken in olive oil, salt and pepper. Bake in a 375 degree oven for 15 minutes until just cooked and juicy. Set aside to cool. Shred chicken into small pieces then mix with radish, cilantro, honey, salt and pepper. Add approximately one teaspoon of filling to each wonton. Fold into a triangle, sealing edges with water-drenched fingers. Fold corners in together to form "purses" shown in picture.

While folding remaining dumplings, make Soy Muddled Blackberry Sauce and begin boiling water to later steam dumplings. Steam dumplings in a bamboo steamer approximately 5 minutes until dumplings are transparent and hot. Serve immediately atop peanut rice with muddled blackberries.

Soy Muddled Blackberries:

juice of 1/2 lime
zest of 1 lime
1/2 pint fresh blackberries
1 t soy sauce
dash of salt

In a mortar and pestle, carefully muddle together ingredients to develop juices but keep some texture intact. Serve atop potstickers.

For dessert, I added local flare and texture to a traditional jam thumbprint with Mango Bread Spread from Fort Worth's Cherith Valley Gardens and dried apricots:

Mango & Dried Apricot Thumbprints

These crumbling, buttery cookies are sweet, sour and perfect with a glass of steamed milk.

1 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup sugar
2 egg yolks
2 T lemon zest
2 T lemon juice
1 t pure almond extract
1/4 t salt
2 and 1/2 cups AP flour
Cherith Valley Mango Bread Spread (or any jam of your choice)
Dried apricots, sliced diagonally

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a stand mixer, cream butter and sugar until creamy-- about 5 minutes. Slowly add egg yolks, lemon zest, lemon juice, almond extract and salt until mixed. Finally, slowly add flour until a dough just forms, careful not to overmix.

Form dough into 1-inch balls. Place balls on parchment-lined baking sheets, spacing 1 inch apart. Make a finger indentation into center of each ball. With a teaspoon, drop equal amounts of mango jam into each indentation. Bake cookies approximately 20 minutes until firm and bottoms are golden.

Top each cookie with a slice of dried apricot-- still displaying jam. Transfer cookies to racks and cool completely.

In anticipation for the Summer issue of Fort Worth Foodie,

I've been developing a recipe for:
a citrusy, avocado treat
sure to please a crowd on the patio-- more delicious details to come!


Wednesday, April 14, 2010

a candy shoppe & springtime crops

ramps & fiddleheads
have been on my mind.

Spring has sprung-- and what a gorgeous, season, indeed!

I've broken out the sunless tanner, juicer, oversized sunglasses & bamboo steamer and cast away my cashmere scarves, Dutch oven, knee-length boots & pressure cooker 'til a few seasons come...

On a recent Twitter post, I mentioned by "grease and alcohol" cleanse after a fried food and sugary cocktail-ridden weekend.

On my radar:

...smoky vegetables
a hit of spice,
creamy, herbed polenta
and a tangy goat cheese finish...

Thyme Polenta
with Roasted Vegetables, Radish & Goat Cheese

Roasted vegetables:

1/4 c whole garlic cloves
1/2 c cherry tomatoes
2 jalapenos, ribbed, seeded and sliced thinly
1 c fresh corn off the cob (frozen can be substituted)
1 medium red onion, chopped
2 T olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a roasting pan, toss vegetables with olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast approximately 20 minutes until vegetables are charred. Keep warm.


6 c water
2 c polenta
4 T butter
1 T fresh thyme, chopped
1/2 c whole milk

salt and pepper to taste

Bring water to a boil then slowly add polenta, whisking constantly to prevent lumps. Cook for approximately 3-5 minutes while stirring until mixture thickens. Add milk, butter, thyme, salt and pepper to taste. Serve warm.


1/4 c radishes, sliced
crumbled goat cheese to garnish

In a large bowl, spoon warm polenta. Top with roasted vegetables, sliced radish and goat cheese. Serve immediately.

This past Sunday was soaked with April showers and a cry for sunshine. Determined to bring an outdoor feel to a quaint dinner party for 6, I fired up the grill for these springtime delights:

Turkey Sliders

with a Serrano Mint Pesto, Grilled Watermelon and Butter Lettuce
Yields 12 sliders.

1 lb lean ground turkey (85/15)
1/2 c saltine crackers, crushed
1 serrano, ribbed, seeded and minced
2 T fresh mint, minced
2 T olive oil
1 T honey
liberal kosher salt and fresh-cracked pepper to taste

Combine ingredients with hands. Form into 3 inch patties. On a charcoal grill, cook burgers approximately 4 minutes on each side until just cooked through. Keep warm.

1 c mayonnaise
1 T olive oil
1 serrano, ribbed, seeded and minced
1 T fresh mint, minced
1/2 t honey
salt to taste

Combine ingredients. Chill until ready to use.
12, 1" x 1" slices of fresh watermelon
12 slider buns, toasted
butter lettuce leaves

Assemble sliders with a shmear of aioli, fresh grilled turkey patty, leaf butter lettuce and watermelon square. Secure sliders with toothpicks-- perhaps a frill pick for whimsy!

Gazing at the
sparkling, rain-drenched lawn,
we munched away on these whimsical sliders,
slurped margaritas,
and sipped luscious, beer cheese soup
with crumbled saltine crackers.

We've all spent numerous hours, time and money experimenting with muffin recipes and ended with dry, tough results. For your next venture, don't bother with other recipes.

These muffins are the best I have ever had.

The trick is thoroughly creaming together the cream cheese, butter and sugar-- at least 5 minutes. Patience is indeed a virtue in this instance. The thoughtful "creaming" process is what makes these muffins so unbelievably moist, creamy and light.

For an upcoming tea party I'm catering, I tested this recipe and decided to add ripe bananas, pure almond extract and toasted almonds for garnish. The beauty of this recipe is the versatility-- any seasonal fruit can be substituted for the bananas and the almond extract can be omitted.

Banana Almond Muffins

Adapted "Seasonal Fruit Muffin" recipe from Artisan Baking Company.

Makes 24 muffins or 48 mini muffins.

3½ cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 pound cream cheese, softened
½ pound unsalted butter, softened
2 cups sugar
4 eggs, room temperature
½ cup whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
2 c ripe bananas
1/2 c toasted almond slivers for garnish

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat muffin pans with nonstick baking spray or place paper liners in cup and lightly coat papers with nonstick baking spray, so that the paper liners slip off muffins easily.

Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large mixing bowl. Combine crushed bananas, milk, almond extract and vanilla extract in another mixing bowl.

Beat cream cheese, butter and sugar with an electric mixer until smooth, about 5 minutes. Add eggs one at a time and beat well after egg addition. Add dry ingredients in two parts, alternating with wet banana mixture. Batter will be thick.

Portion into prepared muffin pans with an ice cream scoop. Bake at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes. Rotate pan in oven for even baking), and continue to bake for another 10-15 minutes*, or until a toothpick inserted near the center of a muffin has only a few or no crumbs clinging to it.

Remove from oven and let cool for a few minutes. Remove muffins from tin and let cool completely on a wire rack. Serve warm and enjoy!

*Mini muffins take approximately 17 total minutes.

Finally, I wanted to end with a
whimsical gift idea
perfect for children or the young at heart-- a retro candy & soda basket!

After a recent peruse at the World Market "Candy Shoppe" section, I fell in love with vintage confections, theater-style candy boxes, cane sugar sodas, funky, local beers by the bottle and oversized salty snacks.
I put together a sugar-laced arrangement for my boyfriend as well as:

imported chocolates,
saturated spices
and water crackers
for myself.

What a perfect entertaining destination!