MANGO SALSA WITH VERJUS

If there was a folder with “non-recipes” in this site, this concoction would feel at home sitting inside. It is way too simple to qualify as a recipe. But it turned out so delicious, I must share and save it for my records.  If you have mangoes available at the grocery store, you should give this salsa a try. I used Verjus because I was anxious to try it, but don’t let that stop you if you don’t have a bottle in your pantry.  Lemon juice will work great too, a little more acidity never hurt a salsa, trust me on that.  Due to food sensitivities, this is an onion-less preparation.  I will include them as an option since most people consider salsa not be salsa unless loaded with onions. Honestly, I prefer it without.  However, you should go heavy on the cilantro.

mango-salsaMANGO SALSA WITH VERJUS
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

2 juicy, small mangoes, diced
1 large cucumber, diced
2 large red tomatoes, Heirloom is possible, diced
1/2 large onion, diced (optional)
1/2 Serrano pepper, finely minced
cilantro leaves, minced
2 tablespoons avocado oil (or another oil of your choice)
1 tablespoon Verjus (or juice of half a lemon)
salt and pepper to taste

Add all the diced veggies to a bowl.   In a small bowl, whisk the avocado oil with the Verjus or lemon juice, salt and pepper.  Pour on the veggies, mix well, add the minced cilantro and toss gently to combine.  Keep in the fridge for a couple of hours before serving.  Adjust seasoning and…

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

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Comments: I served this salsa over very simply grilled chicken breasts, and ended up eating a lot of salsa with a little bit of chicken for my meal that evening. Leftovers held very well in the fridge, and were amazing when added to mashed avocados for a tropical take on guacamole. I added a little more Serrano pepper just because.
Phil made a little quesadilla with Queso Fresco and a hearty spoonful of the salsa. As you can tell, this simple mixture of sweet mango and veggies is quite versatile and will brighten up many types of dishes. Next time around it will go over grilled salmon. I salivate just thinking about it…  Frozen mango slices are available, but I am not sure they would work here. I think nothing beats the fresh fruit at its peak in this type of preparation.

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ONE YEAR AGO: Raspberry Bittersweet Chocolate Chunk Brownies

TWO YEARS AGO: Scary Good Pork Burgers

THREE YEARS AGO: Review of exercise program Focus25

FOUR YEARS AGO: Celebrate Wednesday with a Thai Seafood Curry

FIVE YEARS AGO:  Post-workout Breakfast

SIX YEARS AGO: Semolina Barbecue Buns

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Lavash Crackers

 

 

SECRET RECIPE CLUB: GREEN RICE

THREE YEARS AS A MEMBER OF THE SECRET RECIPE CLUB!

Last Monday of the month. You probably expect me to whine about the cold, but guess what?  As you read this post, I should  be far, far away in Brazil, enjoying balmy temperatures, wearing shorts, t-shirts, and recharging my batteries to face the frigid months ahead.  But the last Monday means fun, because it’s Reveal Day for The Secret Recipe Club! I was paired with the blog “A Day in the Life on the Farm“, hosted by Wendy. Her story is fascinating: she and her husband were police officers in a large city (which of course meant a ton of trouble in their hands…), but when they retired they moved to a tiny little town of 4,000 people, and bought a house on 12 acres of land.  They raise meat chickens, turkeys, and pigs, and Wendy – to fight her empty nest syndrome  –  decided to host foreign students in their place.  Now she works part-time for the World Heritage, placing students into homes for a year of schooling here in the US.  Being in academia and therefore often exposed to the troubles that foreign students face (plus, I was one myself), I know how important this type of work can be.  Please, stop by her about page and read more about their life on the farm, and how on top of everything she also takes care of her Mom, who suffers from Alzheimer’s. She actually devotes a section in her blog to talk about it, under Life with Mom. Beautiful, touching, and at times funny.

We had so much going on this past month, that I needed to jump on my assignment right away.  The recipe I set my eyes on was a drool-inducing dessert, a Caramelized Almond Apple Upside Down Cake. But, I decided against it.  Why? With Thanksgiving saying hello, then the holidays, a lot of heavy food will be popping everywhere.  I did not want to start early with the excesses, so this cake shall wait. Sorry, folks, but better safe than sorry.  Then, I almost went with her cute Pretzel Dogs. Finally it was a tough decision between Zucchini Enchiladas, or Green Rice.  As you can see, I went green.  Green is good for you, and this was one of the most flavorful rice dishes I’ve made.

Green Rice

GREEN RICE
(very slightly modified from A Day in the Life on the Farm)

2 poblano chile peppers
1 green pepper (I used half a Serrano)
1 cup long grain rice
1 large bunch of cilantro
1 small bunch of flat leaf parsley
2 cups chicken stock
1/2  teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons olive oil (I used grapeseed)
1 small shallot, minced
Dry roast the peppers in a griddle pan (or on a grill), turning frequently so the skins blacken but the flesh doesn’t burn.  Place in a strong plastic bag, seal and set aside for 20 minutes
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Put the rice in a heat proof bowl, pour in boiling water to cover and let stand 20 minutes.
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Drain the rice, rinse well under cold water and drain again.  Remove the peppers from the bag and peel off the skins.  Remove any stems, then slit the peppers and scrape out seeds with a sharp knife.
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Put the peppers in a food processor, strip the leaves from the cilantro and parsley and add to peppers.  Pour in half the chicken stock and process until smooth.  Add remaining stock and puree again.
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Heat oil in a saucepan, add the rice and minced shallot and fry for 5 minutes over med heat until the rice is golden and the shallot is translucent.  Add the salt, stir in the green puree, lower heat, cover and cook for 25-30 minutes or until all the liquid is absorbed  and the rice is just tender. Taste and adjust seasoning, if needed.
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ENJOY!
to print the recipe, click here
 
Comments:  Lately I’ve been quite smitten with poblano peppers.  Very little heat, but so much flavor! Our stove did a great job charring them, I don’t think I was ever able to get such a beautiful blackened skin with almost no effort.   Using a paper towel to remove the charred skin was also a great move, a tip I got from watching Marcela Valladolid in her show Mexican Made Easy.  I never liked the idea of rinsing the peppers because there’s quite a bit of flavor loss if you do that.  The paper towels removed just the skin and I could leave little bits here and there for an extra smoky flavor.   Aren’t they cute?

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Adding boiling water to the rice and waiting for 20 minutes was also something I had never done, and I liked the texture of the finished product.  If you are a cilantro-hater, this rice is not for you, its flavor is obviously very prominent.  You could substitute spinach.

GreenRiceServed
This was a delicious dinner!  Green rice, simple roasted carrots, and for our protein a few slices of center-cut pork chops, cooked sous-vide, and finished off on the grill.   Life is good!

Wendy, I hope you had a great time this month with your assignment!  It was wonderful to browse through your site, I read all your posts about your Mom, and am still in awe of your ability to do so much Everyday in your Life on the Farm… 

For my readers: if you want to see what my fellow Secret Friends cooked up this month, give a little click on the blue frog at the end of this post.   Normally Groups C and D would take a break in the month of December, but apparently me and Dorothy from Shockingly Delicious whined so much about withdrawal syndrome, that The Secret Recipe Club will have a little surprise reserved for both groups.  It will be awesome, so stay tuned!

ONE YEAR AGO: Potato-Crusted Italian Mini-Quiches

TWO YEARS AGO: Beetroot Sourdough for the Holidays

THREE YEARS AGO: Cod Filet with Mustard Tarragon Crust

FOUR YEARS AGO: Soba Noodles: Light and Healthy

FIVE YEARS AGO: Potato-Rosemary Bread

THE AVOCADO MOUSSE THAT STOLE THE SHOW

MERRY CHRISTMAS!   FELIZ NATAL!  JOYEUX NOËL!

This year we had a pre-Christmas celebration with one of my stepsons, because he had to fly back to California on the 23rd. The evening before his departure we made a special dinner that featured the whole menu of a recent show from the one and only Marcela Valladolid, entitled “My Favorite Holiday Dishes“.  The main dish was Pork with Prunes and Pineapple Glaze (on the blog soon), and I expected it to be the star of our meal, but truth is that the first course,  a simple, unassuming avocado mousse put up a great fight and according to some, took the Christmas Eve spotlight…  😉

Avocado Cilantro Mousse
AVOCADO AND CILANTRO MOUSSE
(slightly adapted from Marcela Valladolid)

1 to 1 + 1/2 bunches fresh cilantro, washed and dried, leaves picked off and reserved (about 2 cups loosely packed)
1  avocado (I used two small ones)
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, at room temperature
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice, from about 1 lime
1 Serrano chile, stemmed, seeded, deveined, and roughly chopped
1 cup cold water, divided
2 (1/4-ounce) envelopes unflavored gelatin
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Spray 3 (1 cup) or 6 (1/2 cup) ramekins with vegetable oil cooking spray.

Place the cilantro, cream cheese, avocado, salt, lime juice, and chile in a food processor and puree until smooth.
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Pour 1/4 cup water in a small bowl. Sprinkle the gelatin over the water and let it sit for a few minutes. Place the remaining 3/4 cup water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Pour the boiling water over the softened gelatin and whisk until the gelatin has dissolved.
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Add the gelatin to the mixture in the food processor, pulsing until pureed and thoroughly blended.
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Pour the mixture into the prepared ramekins. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, about 2 hours. To unmold, fill a large container with very hot water. Dip the ramekins in the water for 1 minute. Run a small, sharp knife tip around the edge of each mousse. Invert onto a platter. Let stand at room temperature for 20 minutes before serving.
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ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments:  I made my own tortilla strips to serve alongside the mousse, and I must say the work involved is minimal, but the pay-off huge.  They were so much better than store-bought versions, both in texture and flavor.  I just cut some yellow corn tortillas into strips, placed them on a baking sheet, sprayed with olive oil, and coated very lightly with salt and more liberally with Southwest Spice mix from Penzey’s.  Baked at 375F until  they start to crisp up and get brown.

The mousse… WOW!  We started enjoying it quite politely, a little bit spread on a cracker, a little more on a tortilla strip, but by the end of the dinner we were slicing it and adding the cold slice on top of the pork tenderloin and moaning about it…  We decided it will go well with pretty much anything, from grilled salmon to lamb burgers, and in case of emergency, licked from the tip of a finger when no one is looking.   It is THAT good.  Please, make it for your next dinner party, and stop by to thank me later… 😉

ONE YEAR AGO: Sourdough Popovers

TWO YEARS AGO: Merry Christmas!

THREE YEARS AGO:  Sourdough Focaccia, with a twist

FOUR YEARS AGO: Merry Christmas!

SEA SCALLOPS WITH PEA PUREE & CILANTRO GREMOLATA

Preparing this dinner was not easy.  It was probably not very wise to make it during the kitchen hellnovation, but I was craving a nicer meal to make our Sunday evening feel special.  It can be very stressful to be in a house undergoing renovation, so having a slightly fancier meal seemed like a good idea.  However, what used to be a kitchen is now an almost empty space with no finished floors or appliances.  We are lucky to be able to keep the fridge turned on in our garage, and to have improvised two cooking areas: one in the laundry room, another in our enclosed patio.  Still, pantry items are in boxes, a few dishes are piled in the dining room for our daily use, a few pans at close reach, but not that many.  I wish you could see a video of me preparing this meal.  Actually, I am very glad there is no video documenting the process.  It involved me dashing a few times across rooms, forgetting that some passages are blocked by heavy plastic.  It involved a mildly twisted ankle while balancing scallops on a baking dish and “almost” losing them all to a floor covered in rough concrete bits. It also involved a scorched pan,  but the pea puree, even after subjected to torture tasted absolutely awesome!  So, allow me to share with you one of the toughest meals I prepared in the past year, a recipe that I first saw on a favorite food blog of mine, Taste Food.  Yes, I cooked from Lynda’s blog before…  😉

served1

SEA SCALLOPS WITH GINGERED PEA PUREE AND CILANTRO GREMOLATA
(adapted from Taste Food)

for the scallops:
12 sea scallops
salt and pepper to taste
sprinkle of Mycryo

for the pea puree:
2 cups shelled English peas
salt
1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
freshly ground black pepper
pinch of cayenne

for the gremolata:
1 cup cilantro leaves, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons finely grated lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Make the gremolata by combining the cilantro, garlic, lemon zest, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Set aside.

Bring 4 cups water to a boil in a large saucepan. Add 2 teaspoons salt and the peas. Cook until peas are tender. Remove from heat and drain peas, reserving 1 cup cooking liquid.

Combine peas, ginger, olive oil, lemon juice, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon black pepper and cayenne in bowl of food processor. Purée until smooth. Add some of the reserved water (approximately 1/4 cup) to thin to desired consistency; the purée should not be too thin. Discard remaining water. Transfer purée to a bowl and keep warm. Pat scallops dry and sprinkle all over with salt and pepper. Add a sprinkle of Mycryo right before cooking. Heat a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add half of the scallops, taking care not to overcrowd the pan. Cook, turning once, until brown on both sides and just cooked through, about 4 minutes. Transfer to plate and keep warm. Repeat with remaining scallops.  No need to add any oil to the pan, just the sprinkle of Mycryo will be enough.

To assemble, spoon pea purée on serving plates. Top with scallops. Sprinkle scallops and purée with gremolata.  Serve immediately.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

peapuree

Comments:  Mycryo is a great product with a poorly chosen name, if you ask me.  The word –  Mycryo – makes me think of tears, sadness, despair.  But that could not be farther from the truth:  they gave sea scallops THE most perfect brown ever, even though they were prepared in THE most rudimentary cooking conditions available to a cook (the Drama Queen says hello). I even conducted a small experiment by preparing two batches of sea scallops.  One cost a small fortune, they were the ultra-special, huge dry sea scallops.  The other was a frozen type that while thawing released a gallon of white milky liquid.  No bueno.   With a light sprinkle of Mycryo (and no oil added to the non-stick pan), all scallops browned like a Brazilian under the tropical sun!   We could not tell the difference in texture or taste between the two types, which was quite amazing to me.   Great product! You can order here, they shipped very quickly, contrary to what I heard from customers who got it through amazon.com.

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The pea puree competed heavily with the scallops to win the spotlight of this meal.   Bright flavor with the ginger and just a slight heat from the cayenne.  Lynda really came up with a perfectly balanced side dish.

I close this post with a little snapshot of our laundry room.  In one side we installed the induction cooktop + microwave. On the other side, where we do have a large sink, we stuffed together the coffee machine, coffee grinder, and our beloved Penguin Sodastream.  It’s cozy in there, folks. Cozy.

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ONE YEAR AGO: Mediterranean Skewers with Balsamic Dressing

TWO YEARS AGO: Five Grain Sourdough Bread

THREE YEARS AGO: The Nano-Kitchen

FOUR YEARS AGO: Kaiser Rolls

CILANTRO JALAPENO “HUMMUS”

cilantrohummus11
I haven’t yet met a “hummus” I did not like. This one is another example of a tahini-less version, with the garbanzo beans standing up to justify the name. 😉  The recipe is from a wonderful blog I recently stumbled upon:  “Garnish with Lemon“.  It called for peeling the chickpeas, and after reading a lot about the benefits of this extra-step, I went for it. You’ll need a considerable amount of Zen for the job, but I now believe it is totally worth the trouble.  If I am making hummus just for the two of us, I might skip it. But, for special occasions you’ll find me standing by the sink, mindfully peeling pea by pea while wondering about the meaning of life, the origin of the universe, and the mechanism of iron uptake by Escherichia coli.

CILANTRO-JALAPENO HUMMUS
(adapted from Garnish with Lemon)

1 can (15 oz) garbanzo beans, rinsed and peeled
1 cup cilantro
1/2 cup Italian parsley
1 jalapeño, seeded
3/4 tsp salt
Juice of 1+ ½ limes
1/8 cup olive oil
2 Tbs non-fat yogurt (more or less according to consistency)
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Place the beans, cilantro, parsley, jalapeño, salt and lime in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse for at least two minutes, until well mixed and smooth, stopping to clean the sides of the bowl halfway through. Slowly add olive oil as the food processor is running.
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Stop the processor, add one or two tablespoons of yogurt, depending on how thick or runny your dip seems.  Taste and adjust seasoning.  Place in a container and refrigerate overnight for best flavor.
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ENJOY!
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to print the recipe, click here
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comphummus.
Comments:
  The composite picture above should help me convince the hummus-makers out there that peeling the chickpeas is a good move.  See all those peels on the first photo? I had worked maybe half of the can at that point. The peels have a bit of a slimy texture. Getting rid of them can only improve your masterpiece.
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hummus111.
This creamy dip is great with pita chips, Ak-mak crackers, carrot sticks, but trust me: it works tremendously well over grilled salmon, and it would certainly be great topping other grilled concoctions like chicken breasts, thick tuna steaks, pork tenderloin.  Of course, being a lover of cilantro is mandatory to enjoy this versatile “hummus”.
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ONE YEAR AGO: A Moving Odyssey (has it been one year already?  😉

HEARTS OF PALM SALAD WITH CILANTRO VINAIGRETTE

Cilantro haters better quit reading right away!  This is a salad for those of us who can take this gorgeous herb in all its green glory…   Very tropical, very Brazilian with the addition of hearts of palm and oranges.

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HEARTS OF PALM SALAD WITH CILANTRO VINAIGRETTE
(adapted from Food and Wine magazine)

for the vinaigrette
2/3 cup cilantro leaves
1 tablespoon finely chopped shallot
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons honey
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper

for the salad
baby romaine lettuce leaves
campari tomatoes, quartered
orange segments
hearts of palm, sliced

Add the cilantro leaves, shallots, lemon juice, vinegar, and honey into a blender. Process until very smooth.  With the blender running, slowly add the olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Reserve.

Assemble the salad on individual plates, making a bed of lettuce leaves, adding tomatoes and orange segments on top. Place the hearts of palm slices in the center, drizzle the vinaigrette all over. You should have vinaigrette leftover; it keeps well in the fridge for a few days.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments:  When we have friends over for dinner, we normally bring the food to the table and let the guests serve themselves. I like informal. But, for this salad I opened an exception, and pre-assembled four individual servings. I wanted to highlight the hearts of palm, and make sure they would shine at the center, lightly covered by the bright green vinaigrette.  I loved the way the plates stood up waiting over the black granite, colorful, bright, as if calling for an early spring…  What am I saying? Spring can never be too early! 😉

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ONE YEAR AGO: Watercress Salad

TWO YEARS AGO: Curried Zucchini Soup

THREE YEARS AGO: Chocolate Bread

EDAMAME DIP

T’is the season to splurge, indulge, and be jolly!  But, even in time of non-stop celebrations,  it’s good to have a few options of lighter food that won’t make you feel sluggish and heavy.  I’ve had this recipe for edamame dip in my files for a long time, finally gave it a try the week before Christmas. Originally from Alton Brown, this adaptation was published in the  blog Closet Cooking.  Kevin substantially reduced the fat content in the dip by using part of the cooking liquid from the edamame to adjust the texture, instead of olive oil.

EDAMAME DIP
(adapted from Closet Cooking)

1 cup edamame beans (I used frozen)
1/4 cup shallots, diced
1/2 cup cilantro
1 clove garlic
juice of 1 lime
1 tablespoon yellow miso
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon chili sauce (I used Sriracha)
salt, if needed

Place the edamame in a small saucepan, cover with water and boil for 5 minutes.  Drain, reserving the cooking liquid.

Add the cooked edamame into the bowl of a food processor, together with all other ingredients.  Process until it forms a paste, and adjust the consistency with some of the cooking water reserved.

Taste, adjust seasoning with salt (you may not need it, both miso and soy sauce are salty), and serve cold, with crackers or carrot and celery sticks.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

This is a very nice option of appetizer for a dinner party in which the main dish might be on the heavy side.  Your guests will appreciate the bright flavor, unless they are cilantro haters.   Those people are out there, believe me! 😉 One of my best friends in Brazil  (hello, Fabio!) hates cilantro so much that while traveling through  China a few years ago, he carried a sign in Mandarin with the words: “Please, no cilantro in my food”.   The herb flavor is very pronounced in this dip, so make sure and warn your guests, just in case…

ONE YEAR AGO: Gougeres

TWO YEARS AGO: Beef Wellington on a Special Night