The Ardent Epicure

An Ode to the Pleasures of Food

Baked Pear and Chi Spiced Lentil Salad

Being that it a new year and time to begin new ventures or perhaps freshen up
some existing, the cooking group I belong to 5 Star Foodie Makeovers is
not to be left behind with new starts. In fact we know have a new name, look
and style. We are now know as "The Creative Cooking Crew", and will
continue to post monthly goodies from our members.

This months theme is "Vegan" and hosted by our very talented group leaders
Joan Nova of Foodalogue and Lazaro of Lazaro Cooks...

So vegan it is...not that that is a huge stretch from vegetarian, but I do
love adding some form of cheese to a good portion of my salad dishes.

I considered taking a classic meat dish and switching it out for vegan ingredients,
but in the end I decided to play on layers of flavor and textures to liven
up a dose of high protein and fiber good for you lentils.

Now this may not be the prettiest dish I ever created, but it sure is at the top
of the tasty list. With the melt in your mouth sweetness of the baked pear, and
just a slight tartness from the addition of meyer lemon juice...My pallet
was already doing a happy dance.

But why stop there, I mean one can not live of of baked pear alone!
And since we are playing with flavors and textures, how about 
we cook up our lentils with a beautiful flowering tea bud and some chi spices?

Not enough? Okay, then let's top it off with a mixture of crushed almonds,
sunflower seeds, herbs and a bit of Vietnamese lemongrass curry...
happy now?

What you will need:

For the tea
1 flowering tea bulb
1/2 cinnamon stick
1 small vanilla been, split
4-6 cardamon pods, bruised
3 cloves, bruised
1 teaspoon whole pepper corns, cracked
1 bay leaf
2 cups or so boiling water

For the lentils
1 cup dry brown lentils
1 3/4 cups tea
2 tablespoons coconut oil
1 teaspoon sea salt
freshly ground pepper to taste

For the baked pears
2 large pears of your choice
1 meyer lemon, juiced

For the curry nut topping
2 tablespoons crushed almonds
1 tablespoon crushed sunflower seeds
1 teaspoon Vietnamese lemongrass curry powder
1/8th teaspoon dry thyme, crushed
1 1/8 teaspoon dry parsley, crushed
Freshly ground pepper if desired

Let's get cooking:

For the tea
Bring 2 plus cups of water to a boil and place flowering tea bulb
into a tea pot with a lid of bowl that can be covered. Add spices and
steep for about 10 minutes or so, or until fragrant.

For the lentils
Clean dry lentils and rinse under cold running water.Add lentils and tea
to a sauce pan over medium heat to just below a boil. Reduce heat
and simmer 20-25 minutes adding more tea or water if needed.

Once lentils are done place coconut into a sauté pan over
medium heat until hot. Add prepared lentils and seasonings
sauté for a few minutes stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to
low and keep warm.

For the baked pears
Slice pears in half lengthwise removing stem and core area
with a spoon creating a bit of a bowl area.

Slice a small bit off of each half on the backside so that they sit
flatly in a baking dish. Squeeze fresh meyer lemon juice over each.    
Bake in a pre-heated oven at 375 degrees F for 20-25 minutes
or until just fork tender.

For the curry nut topping
Place all ingredients into a mortar and pestle and lightly
crush together, tossing to insure even incorporation.

Scoop lentils into the pears and top with curry nut mixture.
Sever warm

Serves 4

Alisha~Magic of Spice

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 Roasting Up Blue Foots and Other Goodies

Happy 2013 everybody! I am wondering how long it will take to get used to writing 
that. It always seems that it takes me several months with each new year.

And since we are starting off a new year, we tend to want to follow a more
healthy approach to daily life. Not that there is ever a shortage of fresh
fruits and vegetables around here, roasted and otherwise.

But then again, my intense love of cheese, butter and cream is probably
no secret either. So for my first post of the year, we are going 
to stick with my favorite cooking technique for fall and winter...Roasting!

It all starting with a trip to Whole Foods that my son and I took after work.
It was a Friday and our shop does not close until eight. So a late evening
trip it was going to be. They were having a sale on  Dungeness crab and
Truffle Shuffle aka Adam, was in hot pursuit. 

Sadly not a crab in sight, so the poor guy had to settle on a smoked duck.
Now while there was a good deal of brooding going on in the sea food section.
I was of course playing with mushrooms :) And to my delight, the pretty specimens
were in reach, maybe not so much price wise, but hey it was the holidays.

Yes these lovelies are Blue Foot mushrooms, a cultivated variety of the wild
blewit. I have yet to personalty try a blewit as they primarily grow in France.
But I did read somewhere that they can also be found growing in Coastal
Northern California. A considerably shorter trip for me, but still out of reach
none the less. 

The mushrooms have a smooth velvety feel and are meaty, similar in density
to the King Oyster. They hold up beautifully in just about any dish, with a
earthy flavor and delicate texture. They are sent to be milder in flavor that,
their wild counter part, but I found them fully flavorful with a deep
woodsy aroma.

And you know how I can not resist grabbing a variety of fresh goodies, I though
these gorgeous red apples would add a wonderful texture along with a bit of
extra sweetness.

What you will need:
1/4 pound blue foot mushrooms
2 fennel bulbs 
1 pound haricots verts
2-3 large apples
2-3 tablespoons sunflower oil
1/2 teaspoon  freshly ground Tellicherry peppercorns
1/4 teaspoon fennel salt

Let's get cooking:
Starting with the mushrooms, remove any debris with a dry pastry brush.
Slice mushrooms in half or thirds for larger ones.  Place mushrooms in
a single layer on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. 
Brush mushrooms with oil and cover mushrooms loosely with foil.

Begin roasting mushrooms in a pre-heated oven at 425 degrees F 
for about 20 minutes, turning them midway though roasting time.

While your mushrooms are roasting, prepare fennel and apples
by slicing each into 1/4 inch slices. Remove the mushrooms
from the oven, push them off to one side making sure not to overlap.

Place fennel, apples and haricots verts onto the baking sheet
with the mushrooms. Brush with remaining oil, adding more if
desired. Toss beans to make sure oil is distributed well.

Sprinkle with fennel salt and pepper. Cover beans loosely with foil.
Place baking sheet back into the oven and continue baking for
an additional 25-30 minutes removing the foil from the beans
and turning vegetable and apples midway through cooking time.

*Note: The Blue Foot mushrooms should be thoroughly cooked
prior to eating.

Serves 4

Alisha~Magic of Spice

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 Pappardelle Pasta with Candied 
 Chestnuts and Quail Eggs

Wow, did that happen? It seems that time just keeps slipping
by faster and faster! Aside from leaving the unnerving feeling that there is
just not enough time to get everything done, it is also making me feel old.

So I think it is time to think comfort foods, not that we really need an excuse :)
Let's talk pasta then, Pappardelle pasta to be specific. These extra wide noodles
really pump up the comfort factor for me, plus the have the body to really load
up on the toppings.

Speaking of toppings, are these little babies just the pretties things!
I am sure if you have yet to try quail eggs, you are probably familiar with
them at least visually. These tinny little guys are pretty similar in both texture
as well as taste to the more common hen eggs. Perhaps a bit milder in flavor,
and of course in size. In fact you would need about 5 of these little ones
to make up for one large hen egg.

We have a few other goodies to brighten up our pasta dish as well,
including the baby ice micro greens and a few lightly sautéed oyster 
mushrooms. Oh, and yes of course we had to find another way to make
our spicy roasted chestnuts, aside from their obvious snack-ability, they
make a perfect choice all candied up and ready to ring in the new year.

If you missed our Spicy Oven Roasted Chestnuts and 
would like to roast some up of your own, you can see it here.

What you will need:
For the candied chestnuts
12-14 ounces roasted chestnuts, peeled and halved
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4th cup maple sugar, or other fine ground sugar

For the pasta
8 ounces pappardelle pasta
1/8th cup plus 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
6-8 ounces oyster mushrooms
3-4 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Freshly ground salt and pepper
8-10 quail eggs
4 ounces baby ice or other micro greens
3-4 ounces baby arugula

Let's get cooking:
For the candied chestnuts
Begin by removing shells from your roasted chestnuts, then place
peeled and halved chestnuts in to bowl and toss with oil.

Place chestnuts in a single layer onto a baking sheet lined with
parchment, then sprinkle with sugar.

Bake in a pre-heated oven at 350 degrees F for about
8 minutes or so, or until deep drown and slightly crunchy.

For the pasta
Prepare pasta per package instructions. Drain pasta and place
into a large mixing bowl. Toss with 1/8th cup extra virgin olive oil
and set aside.

Gently brush off any debris from your mushrooms and
tear into 1/4 inch pieces lengthwise.

Place mushrooms into a dry non-stick pan, or with just
a drizzle of oil, over medium/high heat Sprinkle with a pinch or 
so of salt to help sweat out excess liquid. 

Once they begin to loose liquid and start to become limp and
tender, add a bit of oil add minced garlic. Continue to sauté
for a few minutes until mushrooms are tender and garlic
is fragrant and translucent. 

Add pasta to the sauté pan, reducing heat to low. Add red 
pepper flakes, salt and pepper, along with arugula. Toss
to incorporate. 

To prepare quail eggs place them in a single layer in a sauce pot
or pan with a lid.

Cover eggs with just enough water to reach about 1 inch above
the eggs. Over medium heat, gently bring to a soft boil.
Agitate eggs gently with a wooden utensil. Reducing heat
slightly, cover and simmer for 4-5 minutes.

Remove shells and arrange or toss into pasta, along
with micro greens and candied chestnuts.

Serves 4

We would also like to wish everyone a Very Happy and
 Safe New Years Celebration.
 May 2013 bring you abundant blessings!

Alisha~Magic of Spice

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5:35 PM

What's for snack time? Spicy Oven Roasted Chestnuts

Posted by Magic of Spice

Spicy Oven Roasted Chestnuts

Well these were not roasted on an open fire and Jack Frost is not exactly
nipping at my nose, but these delightful little beauties do put me in a holiday mood :)

And since I do love chestnuts, we will be featuring them in a few dishes for the 
holiday season as well as the "leftovers season". So roast up a few batches
and snack away...but save some for later, I promise you will need them!

What you will need:
1 pound fresh chestnuts in the shell
1/2 cup boiling hot water
1/8 cup olive oil, warmed
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
2 sprigs fresh thyme
4-6 small sage leaves
2-3 red peppers, dried
pinch of sea salt

Let's get cooking:
Begin by placing dried peppers in boiling or very hot water for about 5-10 minutes.
Once softened, cut a slit lengthwise in peppers and place in warmed oil along
with fresh herbs and salt. Allow them to steep in warm oil for about 5 minutes.

In the meantime, score an "X" shape into each of your chestnuts on the rounded
side. Then place chestnuts into a bowl and toss with seasoned oil mixture.

Place chestnuts, herbs and pepper mixture on a sheet of foil with edges folded
up onto a baking sheet. Cover loosely with additional foil to create a bit of steam.

Bake in a pre-heated oven at 375 degrees for about 20 minutes, remove
from oven and toss to re-coat chestnuts. Continue baking for 5-10
minutes, or until they begin to spread open.

Allow to cool to touch, peel and snack!

Alisha~Magic of Spice

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3:03 PM

A Day of Remembrance

Posted by Magic of Spice

A Day of Remembrance

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7:35 PM

The Ghost of Christmas Recipes Past

Posted by Magic of Spice

The Ghost of Christmas Recipes Past

Many of you may remember these recipes from last how time flies.
And since it his the season for warm and comforting dishes, I though we could 
revisit a few of our most popular.

I have made a few new holiday inspired treats that will be coming up next,
but for now let's say we start with dessert ;)

And of course we will need a few sides...

How about a couple of not so traditional salads? 

And let us not forget the fish lovers at your holiday table...

Alisha~Magic of Spice

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Mulled Cognac Cranberry and Clementine
Chutney~Cooking Red to Remember

As many of you may already be aware, December 1st is World Aids Day.
And my dear friend Angela of Spinach Tiger is putting together a 
"Cooking Red to Remember" round up on that day. 

So along with many other bloggers around the world we are cooking up red.
 Red to remember and  most of all to honor the lives of those lost, and reach
out to offer a small amount of comfort to their loved ones.

We dedicate this post in celebration of the lives of all those affected by Aids
and HIV. We also want to honor and celebrate all those who work tirelessly 
in an effort to find a cure.

Red to Remember

And since it is the season for all things cranberry, we are going to start there.
Plus mulled anything during the cooler weather seasons screams comfort to me.
Then trow in a few bright and sunny seasonal clementines, 
equals one happy girl. 

What you will need:
For the mulled cognac
2 rounded tablespoons mulling spices
1 cup cognac
4 clementines, juiced

For the chutney
12 ounces fresh cranberries
3-4 clementines, skinned and chopped
1/2 cup maple sugar
1 teaspoon light oil (like grapeseed)
1 cup mulled cognac

Let's get cooking:
For the mulled cognac
Place mulling spices that have been bruised or lightly crushed into a prepared
sachet, or create your own with cheese cloth and cooking twine.

In a small to medium sauce pan, place fresh clementine juice and cognac
along with sachet of mulling spices. 

Over a moderate heat bring mixture to just below a boil. Reduce heat and
cover allowing to simmer on low heat for about 20 minutes. 

Note: if your sachet is not completely submersed in liquid, stir occasionally
making sure the spices stay damp. 
Set aside

For the chutney
Begin by peeling your clementines then sectioning them. Removing the 
membrane and inner skins, then chop into chunks.

Place cranberries and clementines into a medium sized pot. Add sugar
gently agitating with a wooden spoon to coat the fruit.

Now add oil and mulled cognac bringing mixture to a low boil. Using
a wooden spoon continue to mix ingredients and press cranberries 
along the sides of the pan to release juices. 

Reduce heat to low and allow sauce to simmer for about 25 minutes or so,
or until desired thickness is achieved. 

Note* If chutney becomes too thick, add more mulled cognac or juice
to bring to desired texture.

Serve warm with your favorite bread and cheese...

Alisha~Magic of Spice

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