Monday, April 28, 2014

Sweet Tart Martini

The Easter shenanigans are officially over. Decorations put away. Temperature are creeping into the 90's (already, ugh) and yet my kitchen is filled with bags and bags of candy. The Easter bunny was kind to Knox this year. As much as we've tried to stash the candy out of sight, he knows. He just knows where to find it. So, we've been in negotiations all week. ::Sigh::...smarter than the 3 year old, I try to remind myself. He wins far too often, I'm not going to lie!

Sunday, after a long fun day, Knox went to bed a little earlier than usual. Little one is sleeping, Game of Thrones time, best part of the day! I mean, just kidding. :) I realized I was pretty worn out from a week of negotiating over candy. I was contemplating just chucking it all. ::Sigh, again:: couldn't bring myself to do it....starving children in Africa. Starving children everywhere. Then I had a brilliant idea, if I do say so myself, COCKTAIL. bam! A Sour Punch Kid cocktail. 

At this point, I was feeling pretty ingenious. That was, until I tried actually melting the Sour Patch candies. Now I'm not sure what they are made of; not sure I want to know. They are basically indestructible. So I cut them into little bits and grabbed the bag of Sweetheart Easter Bunny Gummies. Those melted instantly. Once it was all whisked together and melted (aside from the little bits of Sour Patch) I did a 1:1 ratio; equal part vodka to the Sweet Tart Mix. I mixed it all over ice, then strained into a martini glass. It's a yummy little drink. And I eliminated some Easter candy, score! I felt a little sense of satisfaction, getting rid of Easter candy in the form of an adult beverage. Living on the edge.This is a a Sunday night drink. I didn't even feel bad about drinking liquid candy after chasing my three year old all week. Here are all the deets & a pictures follow:

Sweet Tart Martini

1 Cup Water
Handful of Sweetart Gummies
Handful of Red Sour Punch Kids
All of the little sour sugar dust from the bottom of the Sour Punch Kid box

Bunny candies plus all the sour sugar from the Sour Patch kids, helps to keep it tart.

1 cup of water into a pan. 

Bring to a boil.

Add candies.

Candies start to melt pretty quickly, except the Sour Patch bunnies.

The Sweettart bunnies dissolved.

With a fork, I chopped up the Sour Punch bunnies into little tiny bits.

Mix equal parts vodka with the Sweet Tart mix, over ice. Strain into a martini glass.

Until next time....Happy Cooking! Enjoy!


Saturday, April 26, 2014

Shrimp Summer Rolls with Citrus-Mango Chili Sauce

One night a while back, I dreamt of three scenes and they eventually inspired a recipe for Summer Rolls. The dream was about a man in early 20th century Japan, and lessons he taught his daughter. I woke up and wrote down the dream...and some days later was thinking about it. It gave me inspiration for a new recipe: Shrimp Summer Rolls. I wanted to pair it with a sweet and spicy sauce, a Citrus-Mango Chili Sauce. The recipes for both with lots of how-to photos follow the story about this man and his lessons...  

The Greens & The Garden

There were lessons he taught that always stuck with her. As a girl she played on the spring banks while her father gardened in their plot. She would help pick weeds and splash in the spring. Her father came to the bank and pulled several bunches of leaves. He added them to his garden basket. 

"Father, don't put weeds in our basket," she exclaimed. 

He took the moment to tell her a story, "When I was a boy, the Western men were trading in our markets, our lands were changing. The Watercress sprouted in the shallows, along the river shores. Even here, in our spring. It set its roots in our topsoil and grew towards the sun. The Watercress is no weed. It reminds us that we too, on unfamiliar grounds can adapt and grow towards the sun."

A lesson in adaptability.

The Shrimp & The Sea

When she was a little older, they traveled to the fish market together for her first time. It was a spectacle. Foreign and familiar.  She recognized many things that her father had brought home before. There were barrels of dried shrimp. Smoked salmon sat in raised wooden boxes. Scattered around the market were many baskets of Katsuobushi (smoke dried skip-jack.) Konbu decorated every wood-beam. Her father named the fish as they walked, "This basket is dried red sea bream. Turtle over there. Akiaji (salted salmon)... fresh oysters... This is Tsuzumi Shokai, he said excitedly, this is new to our market!" It was a canned salmon, a newly adopted method of preserving the pinkish fish.

She walked and found a curious small straw bag. She opened it and inside was a bundle of fresh shrimp."Father, you bring these home every Oshogatsu! These are my favorite! Can we get them, please, oh please?!"

"Ahhhh my girl, look around, do you see any other fresh shrimp in the market today?"

"No," she replied.

"Look," he said pointing to the script on the bag, "these are a delicacy and fetch a pretty penny. Such a treat is meant for a celebration." He continued with a story, "The first year after your mother and I were married, on the morning of Oshogatsu, I went to the sea to replenish my energy. I spoke to the sea about my fears and my wishes for the coming year. I fished with my basket. My labor was rewarded and I brought your mother home a yellowtail and bundle of fresh shrimp, just like this. They were twice the size and smelled of sweet sea water. The yellowtail we ate just cut from the fish. The shrimp were grilled and rolled with rice and Shoyu and celebrated oshogatsu. The next year, you were born. Every year, I travel to the sea, I tell her my fears and my wishes, and she answers with a gift for my family for the New Year. Surely we can buy this bundle of fresh shrimp but I'm afraid you will be disappointed. The shrimp you name as your favorite are ones reaped through hard work and love, and eaten in celebration of the same."

Lessons in reflection and industry

The Wrap & The Women

When she was past adolescence, she remembered how here father came home sullen one day. 
She asked, "Father, what is wrong?"

He told her, "Daughter, they've closed the division to commission new archaeological excavation sites and explorations in the Izu and Bonin Islands; my entire territory has been removed. They've shut down the Pacific Ocean projects. The current sites in the west are staffed and the men have been assigned. Today, I am afraid, I am lost."

With a daughter to feed and a roof to provide, he found work in Nikon's new Ohi factory. She took over  the household gardening, trips to the market, taking care of the home and him, as well as her schooling. At the factory, his days were long and ran together. He toiled in young men's work. Down the path from the Nikon factory was a rice house where ladies worked their hands through rice. Their days were long and ran together. He told his daughter about the women who worked there. They'd always been kind, though some toiled in young women's work. They sent him home with rice papers that she would soften and fill with daikon, pickled plum and tofu or small pieces of fish. His daughter loved when he would come home with rice paper, they were an extravagance not afforded anymore and she was grateful for the small luxury. 

After the The Treaty was signed in Paris, he was rewarded with excavations on new islands in the East. One day after school she arrived home and found a basket of vegetables and fruits from their garden. There was a spread of rice papers, pickled vegetables, fresh vegetables, miso and shoyu, and beautiful whole fish spread in the kitchen. 

He glanced sideways to her, "Hello, daughter, would you help fill the rice papers and we can speak about your day?"

She asked, "What is the meaning of this feast?" 

He explained that he intended to deliver the meals and produce to the women at the rice house. He told her, "They gave me hope when I had none. They toiled as I toiled, we were one. I saw their plight as they saw mine." She stood by his side and started slicing daikon.

A lesson in graciousness

And so my dream about the father and his daughter inspired a new favorite dish in my house....

Shrimp Summer Roll Ingredients

5 "11-15" Size Shrimp, prepared (see recipe below)
Daikon Radish
Green Onion, sliced into thin strips
Cucumber, cut into thin strips
Carrots, cut into thin strips
Edamame, peeled & shelled
Butter Leaf Lettuce
Package of Rice Paper
Citrus Mango Chili Sauce, prepared (see recipe below)

While your sauce simmers, cut up all the veggies. Steam edamame & pop the beans out of the shell. Discard shells. Peel and cut daikon into thin strips. Peel and cut cucumber into same size strips. Peel and cut carrot into same size strips. Slice green onion into thin strips.

Boil your edamame. I cook them for 8 minutes on a simmer, then rinse and cool

Edamame, boiled & peeled. Carrots, peeled and cut into small strips

Green onion, sliced longways

Daikon; peeled & cut into small strips


Butter Leaf Lettuce
Not pictured: Cucumber. I cut all the "strip" style veggies into the same-ish sizes.

Lemon Scented Shrimp

Adding a little flavor to the water lemon, peppercorn & bay leaves give the shrimp some personality in the roll! These cook quick, and should be cold for the actual rolling, so make them in advance and chill.

5 "11-15" Size Shrimp
1/2 Lemon
1 Tbsp peppercorns
2 Bay Leaves
Olive Oil, drizzle
Pinch of Salt and Pepper

Add half a lemon, peppercorns and bay leaves to a pot of water.

Bring to a simmer. Add shrimp in small batches. Cook for 4 minutes, remove from water and drain. Slice in half, length wise and chill in fridge. Remove from fridge right before you are ready to make your roll. Cut into fourths and toss in drizzled olive oil, salt and pepper.

Boil for 4 minutes. These are 11-15 size shrimp, so they're large. Go with less time for smaller shrimp

Drain dry

Drizzle liberally in olive oil & salt and pepper

Citrus-Mango Chili Sauce

Now for the dipping sauce. I toyed around with measurements quite a bit on this one, to get the right balance of sweet, spice, and sour. Here's the thing, I like the sauce HOT. All of the freshness and crispness from the veggies in the roll, can handle the SPICE. However, I've kept the spice lower in this recipe to please a larger group. If you are one to like spice, you can always up it with more pepper flakes! I've included a photo journal of sorts of steps in the process, below the recipe

2 Cups Water
1 Cup Mango Mambo Dole Juice (label said Pineapple/Mango blend)
3 Tbsp Soy Sauce
4 Tbsp Ketchup
2 tsp White Wine Vinegar
2 Oranges
1/2 Lemon
Grated Orange Peel, from one orange
1 Sprig Green Onion
Chunk of Ginger
1/3 Cup Sugar
1 tsp Red Pepper Flakes
1 tsp Garlic Powder
1 tsp Salt, plus more to your taste
1 1/2 Tbsp Cornstarch, tempered

Measure out all ingredients into a pot, except reserve the cornstarch.

Some require a little extra attention:

Grate one orange peel; add grated peel to pot. Cut in half & juice both oranges. Add juice to pot & discard rinds.Juice lemon half; add juice & reserve the rind to use later. 

Peel tough skin off Ginger; slice into pot.

Simmer on low for one hour, covered.

Strain out the solids; discard solids & add liquids back to the pot.

In a small dish, temper the cornstarch with a little bit of hot liquid, whisk and add to the pot. Mix all together and bring to simmer for 10 minutes with the lemon wedge rind. Turn off heat, remove pot from heat. If your sauce appears too reduced, you can add a little extra water or orange juice to thin. Give it a taste test, depending on the reduction from simmering, it may need another pinch of salt. Trust your taste buds here.

Finally, let cool, then finish cooling in fridge or freezer for serving.

Gather & Measure your ingredients

Wedges of ginger, chili pepper flakes, and other ingredients all into the pot together

Green Onions and Orange Rind help flavor the sauce

Cornstarch Tempering: Strain liquid (left); Add cornstarch (middle); Whisk together (right)

I added lemon wedges and simmered the straided liquid together with the cornstarch for 10 minutes to thicken and flavor. Remove lemon wedges before chilling

Rolling Your Rolls

It's not as difficult as you might think, to roll summer rolls. Especially if you have prepped all the filling ingredients in advance. I had prepared myself for a struggle with the rice paper; the struggle was NOT real. I was happy about that! 

Set up all the ingredients in little bowls around the surface where you plan to roll. Then, it's just an assembly line: shrimp, lettuce, carrots, veggies...boom boom boom...and that's it, time to roll. I've included a step by step photo journal of the actual rolling. To me, that was the most tricky part of all, but still not intimidatingly difficult. It can be done! The rice paper is surprisingly forgiving. I had the most trouble when I overfilled my rice paper.

Rice Paper. I found this at the International Market on Decatur. I searched and searched; found them in the dry Asian noodle aisle. These are different from the spring roll wrappers in the freezer section; they are dried

Warm water in a shallowish large bowl. Start by dipping the dry rice paper on one side

After 10 seconds, flip over to the dry side again

As the rice paper gets wet on both sides, you'll dip a few times before it's sticky and malleable. About 30 seconds for the whole process

Lay the wet rice paper onto a ceramic surface for easy use. I premoistened the plate to keep the paper from sticking

Lay 4-6 pieces of shrimp first

Layer on the veggeis. i went in this order: butter lettuce, watercress, cucumber, daikon, carrots, green onion, & edamame

Layering complete

Drizzle light bit of olive oil

Fold up one side; I started on the side that became one end cap

Fold the opposing side over the fold, so the rice paper is touching. It naturally sticks together

Start rolling from one of the remaining two sides open

Fold the open flap over, so the veggies don't start falling out on this side and start folding the whole thing in over itself
Imagine rolling a tire across a flat surface; this is a tiny tire, roll roll....

Keeping rolling...this is sounding like EDC...

AND VOILA! You've done it. See, easy peezy! :)

Served on banana leaves ^^^ above. Pretty Pretty, healthy and delicious, too! 

Until next time....Happy Cooking!!!


Monday, April 21, 2014

Cutest Little Kale

Look what I came across this morning....

Instagrammer @Adelinemt said it best "The Cutest Vegetable Ever" 

They call it the Flower Sprout.
Awwww, a cute name, too.

I read about this new hybrid vegetable on the Dailymail UK first, then trolled IG to see if it was out in the streets. Not really, only 44 posts. But, it's oh so adorable, I am surprised we aren't seeing it EVERYWHERE. It's marketed as a "Superfood" and we are in the heat of health craze, ya'll, so you'd think it be hook, line, sinker. Some things take longer to catch, I suppose. 

Maybe it's the lineage, little Flower Sprout is the love child of Kale and Brussel Sprouts. While that sounds like SUPERFOOD to me, Super Steven would say that's his worst nightmare incarnate. Soooo, maybe I won't be seeing it in my local grocery store anytime soon, buuuut if I can just get this garden going. Then, turn this black thumb, green....then, maybe then, I can sprout my own Flower Sprouts...I know, I know but cheesy was too easy there. 

That's all I've got today; hope everyone's Easter was all you'd hoped it would be...I'm exhausted :)

Happy Cooking!


Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Arugula Spring Salad: Strawberry Vinaigrette, Pickled Shallots &BrieCroutons

Alright, so to start, this recipe may sound out there. Pickled shallots? Strawberries? WHAT?! No, seriously, it is good. Really good. I liken it to the salad that they sometimes bring to the table in Japanese Steakhouse. Kind of a citrus-ginger dressing over the top. It's tangy, sweet, salty; it's got a lot going on.

Brie Croutons might sound bonkers. I know. But try them with the strawberry Vinaigrette. It's dangerously good for a lover of anything brie.

It's a salad that just tastes like Spring. The recipes for heavy stews, soups & roasts of winter are tucked in Las Vegas they are tucked away for the next 6 months! Kind of sad about that. There's a magic about winter. Of course, we don't get snow and our winter was in the 70's more than 30's this year. It was a mild winter. But winter brings the holidays, family comes together and the recipes are deep, hot, flavorful, & nourishing.

Now we enter the hibernation season in the desert. It's backwards in our neck of the woods. Pretty soon, people will hide inside tucked away from the 100+ degree weather and here at my house, we eat loads of Popsicle and watermelon, and not much of anything else. Now this salad will be on rotation.

Strawberry Vinaigrette, Pickled Shallots & Brie Croutons

over Arugula & Red Leaf Salad

Arugula, rinsed
Red Leaf Lettuce, rinsed and cut
1 Whole Shallot (1/3 for dressing & 2/3 for pickling)
Pack of Strawberries
Dried Cranberries
Shelled Walnuts
Pickled Shallots (recipe below)
Strawberry Vinaigrette (recipe below)
Brie Croutons (recipe below)

Strawberry Vinaigrette

1/2 Cup Olive Oil
1/4 Cup Red Wine Vinegar
1/3 Medium Shallot
4 Strawberries
2 Tbsp Feta
8 Walnuts
1 Wedge Lemon Juice
1/2 tsp each salt, pepper, garlic powder, paprika

Combine all ingredients in food processor and blend to smooth. Add salt and pepper to your tastes.

Spicy Pickled Shallots

Red Wine Vinegar (about 1/2 cup- enough to cover shallots)
Shallot (use the rest of the shallot from dressing)
1 tsp Sea Salt
1 tsp Black Pepper
1 Tbsp Brown Sugar
Good pinch of red pepper

Slice shallots into thin strips.
Whisk the marinade. Microwave the liquid for 30 seconds.

Cover the shallots and refrigerate for an hour.

Drain shallots before adding over salad.

Brie Croutons

2 Slices French Bread
Soft Butter for spreading
Wedge of Brie

Spread butter over one side of the bread, just like if you were making a grilled cheese.

Slice the brie into thin slices.

Heat a pan and put butter side down of the first slice of bread.

Add a thick layer of cheese to the side facing up.

Finish exactly as a grilled cheese; add the second slice, butter side up. 

Flip to get the cheese melted through and both sides nice and toasted.

Remove from heat; let it cool until the cheese isn't gooey. 

Finish by cutting into cubes. Put the cubes back on low heat. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Let them toast for 30 minutes, giving them a stir every so often. Serve warm over top of the salad.

Assemble the Salad

Mix equal parts of cut red leaf lettuce and arugula. Top greens with a handful of dried cranberries and walnuts. Crunch the walnuts into smaller pieces first. Add sliced radish over the top. I found these great "Easter Egg" radishes at Glaziers Market.

They were too pretty to pass up, so they ended up in the mix. Added a nice little spicy crunch. Don't forget the pickled shallots! You can even throw a couple of sliced strawberries over the top. Top it all of with the Strawberry Vinaigrette and add the Brie Croutons at the last minute before serving.

Here is my attempt at salad art. I was feeling inspired that day:

Then the everyday version for Super Steve who is not a Brie fan. Blasphemy, I know! I snuck some on for the photo though. Ha.

That's it for today.
Until next time....Happy Cooking! I'm not sure that I'll have my next recipe done before, so I'll wish you a Happy Easter, too!!!