Wednesday, April 6, 2011

a dessert, light as air & tostadas to share

The past weekend was considered a "working" one while I spent a few days with my parents in Austin. Fortunately, working was a joy surrounded by sweet yellow labs, 70 degree weather, wine spritzers on the patio and a gorgeous view of the Hill Country.

Although I was glued to my laptop writing, finishing taxes with my accountant and financial advisor (my dad), and returning endless emails I was finally able to pause and write some healthy spring recipes perfect for a party!

After I launched my new menu planning service for Linguine and Dirty Martinis, I decided to make a few recipes I shared with a client who was interested in balancing healthful foods, lean protein and whole grains with the rich tastes inherent in comfort food.

Comfort food to me is Tex-Mex laced with a warming spice and multiple textures. To appeal to these comforts, I settled on a bright tostada bar for the family fusing crunchy, savory, sour, sweet, spicy, earthy and buttery flavors all in one dish!

My make-your-own tostada bar was complete with:

Tamarind-Grilled Chicken, Stewed Black Beans with Chipotle, Baked Whole Wheat Tortillas, Fresh Avocado, Kumquat Pico de Gallo and Queso Fresco

The glory of this meal is how surprisingly light it is. One tostada serving (as shown) falls under 400 calories for a healthy portion. Bon app├ętit!

Tamarind-Grilled Chicken

I became a huge fan of tamarind paste after making Tamarind-Glazed Chicken with Fresno Chiles and Ginger for a colorful feast this past September.

I love the curious tart flavor of the paste combined with the wood-fired flavor from the grill. This chicken takes the tostada bar to the extreme of deliciousness (yes, deliciousness), but would be quite lovely served alone.

I marinated and chilled the chicken a few hours before dinner and left the grilling up to my Dad because that's what dads are for!

yields 4 servings

1 T seedless tamarind paste
2 T extra virgin olive oil
juice and zest of 1 lemon
salt and pepper to taste
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

In the bottom of a plastic container, whisk together tamarind paste, olive oil and lemon juice. Season both sides of chicken breasts with salt and pepper then dredge both sides in marinade. Cover container and chill to marinate approximately 1-3 hours.

After marinating, grill chicken on a charcoal grill approximately 5 minutes per side until just cooked through. Set aside to rest then slice for tostada bar.

Stewed Black Beans with Chipotle

yields 4 servings

one 15.5 ounce can black beans, undrained
1/4 c green salsa (of your choice)
1 T chipotles in adobo, minced
salt to taste

This recipe is so, so simple. Simply simmer ingredients together over medium heat to warm through. Serve warm or room temperature with tostadas.

Baked Whole Wheat Tortillas

yields 4 servings

4 whole wheat tortillas
3 T extra virgin olive oil

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Brush olive oil on both sides of tortillas. Position on a sheet pan and bake approximately 5 minutes until light brown, crisp and puffed. Set aside for tostada bar.

Kumquat Pico de Gallo

I was planning on making a nectarine salsa for this dish but my eyes fell upon a gorgeous basket of kumquats and I fell in love.

I switched my salsa idea to a rustic, pico de gallo-style topping with large chunks of tart fruit mixed with fresh vegetables, peppers and herbs. A swirl of glossy honey balanced the tartness.

yields 4 servings

1 c kumquats, sliced
1 c red cherry tomatoes, halved
3 scallions, sliced thin
juice and zest of 1 lime
2 T fresh mint, minced
1 jalapeno, ribbed, seeded and minced
2 T extra virgin olive oil
1 t honey
salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients. Cover and chill to combine flavors. Serve chilled with tostada bar.

To assemble tostadas, spread baked tortillas with black beans, sliced chicken and fresh, sliced avocado (1/4 avocado per serving). Finish with a sprinkling of kumquat pico de gallo and crumbled queso fresco.

I also served an ever-s0-simple salad with our tostada bar to add color and nutrients. Top a spinach/arugula mix with thin-sliced red onions, the dressing of your choice and fresh-cracked pepper. We used Sass All Natural Smoky Ranch dressing.

You didn't think I forgot dessert, did you?
Believe me, I didn't.

I was planning dessert the evening before when clouds of angel food cake were swirling around my head. My mom had gorgeous, ripe mango around the house and I knew the airy cake had met its match. Strawberries, too? Join the club.

Angel Food Cake with Mango Strawberry Compote

yields 12 servings

  • 1 cup plus 1 tablespoon cake flour (not self-rising)
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 12 egg whites
  • 1 tablespoon warm water
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1 teaspoon cream of tartar (stabilizes egg whites)
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

  • Always begin baking with your mise en place (having all ingredients in their place as shown).

  • Preheat oven to 325 degrees, with rack in lower third of the oven. Separate your eggs. *Reminder: eggs are always easier to separate when cold but egg whites whip up better when at room temperature.

  • Sift together flour and 3/4 cup sugar. Repeat sifting four times.

  • Beat egg whites and the warm water with a mixer on low speed until foamy. Add salt, cream of tartar, and vanilla, and beat on medium speed until soft peaks form, about 3 minutes. With mixer running, gradually add remaining 3/4 cup sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time. Raise speed to high, and beat until peaks are stiff and glossy (but not dry), about 2 minutes more (as shown).

  • Transfer mixture to a large bowl. Sift flour mixture over egg-white mixture in six parts, gently folding in each addition with a rubber spatula.

  • Gently pour batter into a 10-inch tube pan. Run a knife through the batter to release any air bubbles, and smooth with an offset spatula.

  • Bake until cake is golden brown and springs back when touched, 40 to 45 minutes. Picture shown is mid-way through cooking. My cake took exactly 40 minutes to bake.

  • Invert pan on a wire rack, and let cake cool about 1 hour. Carefully run a paring knife around side of cake to loosen, then unmold onto the wire rack.

  • Mango Strawberry Compote

  • yields 4 servings

  • Tragically, I only made several servings of this delicious compote. Make extra-- you will definitely fly through it.

  • 1 c strawberries, washed and cut into eighths

  • 1 mango, diced

  • 1 t lemon zest

  • 1 T sugar

  • How to dice a fresh mango (Callie's way):

  • Slice the mango lengthwise along the flat side next to the seed. Turn mango over and repeat on the other side.

  • With each side, carefully cut a cross-hatch pattern through the mango pulp down to the skin, being careful not to cut through the skin. Using a spoon, scoop out cubes (as shown).

  • Combine mango with strawberries, lemon zest and sugar. Chill, covered, to macerate. Serve chilled with angel food cake and unsweetened heavy cream whipped to soft peaks with a touch of pure vanilla.

    Now you're reading to float away with dessert pleasure...

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