The Ardent Epicure

An Ode to the Pleasures of Food

10:01 PM

Food Tip - Cooking with Clay Pots

Posted by Magic of Spice

Cooking with Clay Pots

The use of clay pots in cookery goes back to ancient times...In todays culinary world they are still quite prized by many cultures as well as chefs around the world.
What do fresh garden herbs have to do with clay pots you may ask?... Absolutely nothing~ 
They are just some garden herbs picked to enhance the photo. On the other hand, maybe they do have a few things in common. I mean, fresh from the garden herbs are most definitely at their best. The purest of flavors, and lets not forget the aroma...what a magnificent delight that is...
So this brings us back to cooking with clay pots...These gems are able to slow cook your dishes while maximizing flavor using the natural juices of your ingredients. They are also exceptional for steaming foods to heighten and preserve the natural flavors of really most any dish....

These pots can be found in many shapes, sizes and decor...They cover culinary uses from "One pot meals" to "Baked breads" and are easily assessable online or in most culinary stores. The pots are made of clay that is unglazed  allowing them to be highly porous. I will give you a few tips here on care and usage... 
Clay pots, similar to your cast iron, need to be seasoned prior to first use. So I will be sharing with you here my personal tips with the use of clay cookware.

Prior to first use:
First off I soak my clay pots (including lid) overnight in water.
Next, I place a large bunch of fresh herbs inside my pot and cover with water.
I then place the pot in a cool oven (do not preheat) at 350 degrees for about an hour. At this point turn off your oven and allow to sit in the oven about thirty minutes or so. Once your liquid is reduced , remove from oven and drain off fluid. Remove herbs and allow to stand for about thirty minutes or longer to room temperature. 
Now that your clay pot has cooled and is dried completely...Choose your favorite cooking oil, I use avocado, but select your oil to complement your own tastes. Gently coat the inside of your clay pot, and again place in a cool oven at 300 degrees for about one hour. Now turn of your oven and allow the baking pot to sit for about thirty minutes in the oven. Once cooled rinse pot and dry with a clean paper towel...

Temperatures and cooking time :
To start with, always soak your clay pots, including lids, for at least ten minutes prior to placement of ingredients... Especially if you are wanting to steam your dish.  If your intent is to merely bake a dish, less soaking time would be required. 
You will want to increase your oven temperature by about fifty degrees and add to cooking time by about fifteen minutes or so. 
*Note: Please see your manufacturer instructions for individual cookware for specific handling instructions... 


Add To Facebook Share with Twitter Stumble This Digg This Add To Add To Reddit Post to Google Buzz Share on Myspace Share with Windows Live Pin It

International Shopping Bloopers and Voting
Plus our Turkish Side Dish and Appetizer

So today we would like to present to you  the dishes that went along with our
 Islim Kebabi main dish... Plus share with you a bit of fun as far as bloopers go :)
As far as how we chose the particular dishes, well we just researched 
and then more research. Once we had a good idea of the authentic flavors
and dishes we played a bit with recipes. So first...
Let us present the full menu and add recipes to  the two remaining dishes.
Then on to the bloopers and voting information.
You can see the Main Dish entry here...Project Food Blog~Challenge #2
So I am sure you are all aware by now that the Project Food Blog challenge #2 was to prepare a Classic International dish that we were unfamiliar with and that was outside of our comfort zone as well as  prepare the dish as close to classic as possible... So we choice Turkish Cuisine as no team member had any familiarity.

The Menu
Main Dish~ Islim Kebabi
Side Dish~ Fig Compote with Clotted Cream
Appetizer~ Mercimekli Kofte with Pomegranate Molasses

The above photos represent our side dish A Fig Compote with Clotted Cream.
And the appetizer choice of Mercimekli with Pomegranate Molasses.

What you will need:
For the Mercimekli
2 cups lentils, traditionally red
(we used black)
1 cup bulgur, very fine
5 scallions, chopped
1 small bunch parsley, chopped
2-3 teaspoons red pepper flakes
2 teaspoons cumin, ground
1/4 cup olive oil
Salt and Pepper to taste

For the Pomegranate Molasses
2 cups pomegranate juice
1/4 cup raw sugar
4-5 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Let's get cooking:
For the Mercimekli Kofte
Add lentils to boiling water and cook until very soft.
 *Unless you can find very finely ground bulgur, you may need to grind it a bit.
To grind your bulgur use a food processor or a spice grinder.
Once your lentils are soft, remove from heat source and add bulgur.
Let stand covered for about 20 minutes
Drain the lentil/bulgur and place in a large mixing bowl.
Add remaining ingredients and mix until completely incorporated,
 and ingredients molds together easily.

To shape:
Take a small amount, maybe 2 tablespoons of mixture and mold in you hand to a cylindrical shape.
Then hold between two fingers and mold until you have achieved a cylinder with flattened edges.
Serve immediately and do not refrigerate these for later use...

For the Pomegranate Molasses
In a sauté or reduction pan add juices and sugar, cook over a high heat, until sugar has melted.
Reduce the heat to a medium high and continue to boil until the sauce coats the back of your spoon.

To plate:
Place each kofte on a mini bed of lettuce, drizzle pomegranate molasses...and serve :)

What you will need:

For the compote
2 pounds fresh figs
1/3rd cup raw sugar
1/2 cup water
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon vanilla paste,or extract
A pinch of ground cinnamon and ground clove

For the clotted cream
1 pint raw milk, unpasteurized
Double boiler
* Note: Make this a day ahead before you plan to serve

Let's get cooking:
For the compote
Cut figs into quarters and place in a baking dish.
Add remaining ingredients then bake covered in an oven at 350 degrees for about 1 hour.

For the clotted cream

Bring water to a low boil in mane pot, place smaller pot atop.
Add milk and simmer until reduced by at least half.
*Note: you will begin to see a crust, allow this to form.
Once reduced to about half and your crust is golden.
Remove from heat and allow to cool for about 2 hours, 
then transfer to a container.
Chill in refrigerator for at least 12 hours...

OK, now on to the bloopers...
International shopping, for ingredients that is...

Magic of Spice did the shopping so we will recount  the fun stuff.
First off, lets just say that having the vegetarian meat shop ~ Not the best idea.
So all ingredients are brought back to The Ardent Epicure kitchen.
There is a lot of prep going on and then suddenly-the roast???
Wait this is a pork roast...They don't eat pork in Turkey do they???
OK, for a moment imagine the faces of the judges or worse the unknowing google searcher that happens upon this dish and tries to re-create unknowingly to impress a friend from Turkey..An  Islim Kebabi with pork :(  NO....This however was discovered prior to creation of the dish...To much research can be a bad thing, I mean something gets stuck in your head (backward or not) and that is all there is. As pork is the one meat that is not eaten in Turkish cuisine...That is what was stuck...Pork...Secondly the eggplant...Well we want organic, fresh and photogenic if possible.  So the lovely vibrantly colored eggplants were a winner and added to the menu plan. Only one little problem, see they were the round sort versus the long. This dish required long thinner eggplants . Oh well nothing went to waste, the veggie wanted some eggplant too :)  So do we think that contests make her a bit nervous? :) 

Turkish Cuisine


Voting is open for challenge #2 

See our entry here 
If you are not registered with Foodbuzz, you can sign up here to vote...

Thank you, The Ardent Epicure team~
Adam, Grely and Alisha

Add To Facebook Share with Twitter Stumble This Digg This Add To Add To Reddit Post to Google Buzz Share on Myspace Share with Windows Live Pin It

Islim Kebabi...A Turkish Delight

The challenge was to create a classic dish based on international cuisine that is outside our comfort zone.  After some discussion and several ideas, we chose Turkish cuisine.  The food of Turkey is unfamiliar to all of us, and we felt it would present us with more of a challenge, requiring us to tackle some dishes and ingredients with which we have never worked.  
Turkish cooking finds its roots in the cuisines of some of the Eastern cultures.  Disparate throughout different regions of the country, the cuisine of Turkey combines aspects of Middle Eastern cooking, Central Asian cooking, Mediterranean cooking, and Eastern European cooking.  From yoghurt soup to freshly baked breads to the famous Turkish coffee, the amalgamous melting pot of worldly influences to be found in Turkish cuisine present a wide variety of options and flavors to tantalize the taste buds.  
Istanbul, the largest city in Turkey, has been a culinary center of the eastern world for ages.  The Spice Bazaar, built in Istanbul three hundred fifty years ago, provides the people of Turkey with a great center for shopping, similar to the malls of today.  Many Turkish staples may be found here, including stalls with hundreds of spices on display. 
For this challenge, we will be honoring Turkey by creating some dishes using classic Turkish ingredients such as lamb, eggplant, and fig, to present a Turkish feast to get you salivating.  We hope you enjoy our efforts.  While we are far from experts on Turkish cuisine, we will do our best to properly represent the time-honored flavors of the cuisine of Turkey.
For the purposes of this challenge, we will focus and be presenting the main dish. We will also be including our full menu and presenting these side dishes separately....Stay tunned tomorrow for recipes.

The Menu
Main Dish~ Islim Kebabi
Side Dish~ Fig Compote with Clotted Cream
Appetizer~ Mercimekli Kofte with Pomegranate Molasses

What you will need:
2 pounds lamb meat, cut into small cubes
5 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 medium onion, peeled and sliced
5 medium tomatoes, 3 grated and 2 sliced
2 large chili peppers, quartered
3 large long eggplants, sliced
Sunflower or olive oil
Raw sugar
Salt and Pepper
A clay baking dish or baking dish with lid
(A clay baking dish will allow for steaming)
If this is not available you can cover a baking dish with foil of lid

Let's get cooking:
In a large sauce pan
Simmer lamb, grated tomatoes,chopped peppers, garlic and onion.
With a splash of oil and just enough water to cover.
Simmer until liquid is reduced and meat is tender.
For the eggplant slice lengthwise and place on a baking sheet.
Brush with enough oil to evenly coat...Add a sprinkle of sugar and pepper.
Bake at 350 degrees until just softened.

 Now take two strips of eggplant and arrange one over the other in a cross shape.
Fill center with lamb mixture, and fold in ends of the eggplant over the top to close.
Top with a slice of tomato and put a toothpick through the middle to hold it closed.
*If using a clay baking pot, wet inside and out and drain excess water.
 Continue with the rest of the eggplant and meat, and arrange in a
 clay pot or baking dish. Or use a traditional baking dish and cover with foil.
Drizzle the cooking liquid from the meat and bake at 350 degrees the tomatoes and peppers are lightly browned

Voting begins Monday September 27th at 6 am PST...
We will be posting the additional dishes as a treat for you, plus a few Magic of Spice
International cuisine shopping bloopers :)
To vote you will need to register here on Foodbuzz our sponsor :)
And you can see our entry for the Project Food Blog #1 here if you missed it
and want to learn a bit more about us.
See our contestant profile here


The Ardent Epicure Team
Adam, Grely and Alisha

Add To Facebook Share with Twitter Stumble This Digg This Add To Add To Reddit Post to Google Buzz Share on Myspace Share with Windows Live Pin It

9:19 PM

Food Tip - Grinding Spices

Posted by Truffle Shuffle

Grinding Herbs and Spices

Most of us are used to buying spices in the store.  In today's age of simplicity and ease, just about everything is available toasted, ground, powdered, or dried in a bottle, and many people wouldn't even recognize half of these spices in any other situation.  However, the more a product is processed, the more it can lose some of its original quality.  Just like ground coffee releases many of its oils and loses flavor much more quickly, herbs and spices tend to do the same.  And just like coffee, there is a tool that can allow us to extract the best flavor from many spices at home.
Most of you are probably familiar with the coffee grinder, and the delicious taste you can get out of grinding whole bean coffee at home every time you use it.  The same equipment can be used to grind up herbs and spices, and in addition to extracting the best flavors from those items, can also allow you to mix together some great combinations with ease.

Krups Coffee Grinder

While there are spice grinders on the market, if you can't get one of these, or if they are more expensive, a simple electric coffee grinder is what I use, and will work just as well.  A push-top plastic or metal coffee grinder will allow for quick grinding and relative precision, and makes a great spice grinder.
Note: do not use a grinder you use for coffee or tea to grind spices!  You will never get the taste out, and your coffee will be tainted.  If you use a coffee grinder for coffee, it is absolutely necessary to have a separate grinder for spices.
Use this grinder to grind up whole or large spices and herbs.  Make sure you use dried herbs, and spices that will grind well.  Don't be afraid to mix things up, and grind your own custom spice mix.  Some good examples of things that grind well are peppercorns, cumin seeds, cardamom pods, dried rosemary, and coarse sea salt, among others.

Cuisinart Spice Grinder

The best way to go about grinding your spices is to place them in the grinder, then pulse them a little at a time until you reach the desired consistency.  Do this by pressing the top of the grinder for just a second, waiting, and pulsing again, until the desired result has been achieved.  If you have large spices or things that are a bit tougher to grind, you may want to grind them partially before you add other things to your mix.
Enjoy, and don't be afraid to get creative!  Just don't mix up your grinders, or your morning coffee might taste like garlic saffron cumin coffee!

Add To Facebook Share with Twitter Stumble This Digg This Add To Add To Reddit Post to Google Buzz Share on Myspace Share with Windows Live Pin It

White Chocolate Truffle Dip 
and Voting

Well everybody looks like the race has begun ~ 
Voting is now open to see who the next Food Blog Star will be...

Project Food Blog 
The first-ever interactive competition where thousands of Foodbuzz Featured Publishers are competing in a 12 week series of culinary challenges. The first of these challenges was to define your blog in a manner that explains what you are all about, as well as what may set you apart from other bloggers. 

 Voting is open to everyone, if you are a member of Food Buzz just log in to vote. If you are not registered, it's fast and easy... Just click here and you will be on your way. Note: You can register with a pre-existing Facebook or Twitter account. So if you missed our first entry you can take a look.
Project Food Blog ~ "We"...Defined  

So now on to the reason we are all here FOOD :)
What you will need:
8 ounces white chocolate, high quality
1/4 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon amaretto liqueur, or other flavoring
Assorted fruit slices

Let's get mixing:
Melt butter in a sauce pan on medium heat and add heavy cream.
Stir mixture while heating and bring to a boil.
Place chocolate in a mixing bowl and pour cream mixture over the chocolate.
Blend until incorporated and all to stand for 5 minutes.
Now add your amaretto of flavoring and mix until blended and smooth.
Place in a serving bowl with fruit


Thank you~ From The Ardent Epicure Team
Adam, Grely and Alisha

Add To Facebook Share with Twitter Stumble This Digg This Add To Add To Reddit Post to Google Buzz Share on Myspace Share with Windows Live Pin It

1:28 AM

Project Food Blog - Challenge #1 - Who are we?

Posted by Food Pear-ings

Project Food Blog ~ "We"...Defined
Would so just love to leave this as the above photo, but that is not the challenge :)

So here we have the first of a potential 10 challenges:
We are to define ourselves as a food blogger as well as state what we think 
makes us unique in the food world...We will post a link when voting begins. You can see our profile here on Foodbuzz our official sponsor. 
So to start this off we will explain that "we" are a group of three. This group consists of three family members and we will introduce each individually in just a bit. 

Now on to the challenge of defining ourselves:
The Ardent Epicure ~ An Ode to the Pleasures of Food...

 Now although that may sum it would be far to easy, so we shall elaborate.
We believe in food not only as a sustenance, but as an art form. 
The flavors and textures experienced in the preparation as well as the indulgence, are in essence, a joy. Here is what defines us; unique pairings of flavor and texture...As well as taking you on a journey for the love of food. Through  this journey we explore this vast and beautiful world of fresh, primarily organic and real food. We offer original recipes with a creative edge for the most part...
Really, we just encourage you to "Play With Your Food" :)
To give a few descriptive references we will add  photos from dishes by each member...  

The classical technique of cooking live lobster  ~ Truffle Shuffle

The decedent world of cocoa truffles ~ Sugar and Spice

A trip to Farmers Market ~ Magic of Spice

So now here we are The Ardent Epicure: A portion of our family:
A Mother, Son and Son in-law happy to pass on our love of food ...

 Truffle Shuffle ~ Adam  
I have always had a passion for food.  Ever since I was a small child, I have loved to cook and play with various combinations of flavors.  The only thing I enjoy more than cooking is eating!  I grew up in an environment where food was considered to be more than just something to fill you up, but where the enjoyment of food and cooking was a way of life.  Like fine art, the limitless combinations of taste, smells, and textures available in the world of food can create something no less amazing than the greatest Renoir... Only meant to be enjoyed for a fleeting moment.  But the greatest are moments you will remember for a lifetime!  To me, searching for the best of those moments gives life a greater meaning.  If I can die eating an exceptional meal, I will die a happy man.

Sugar and Spice ~ Grely
I was born in the Philippines, and grew up with a mixture of both Filipino and American-style cooking .  In high school, baking Christmas cookies with a high school coach got me interested in baking, and I've been hooked ever since.  From the days of baking for pep rallies and making cookies to benefit special needs students at school, I have carried with me a love for baking that I enjoy sharing with others to this day.

Magic of Spice ~ Alisha
I was raised in a family full of the joys of food. My Dad you see was a Chef. From the time I was very young, food was meant to be seen as a treasure. A world of never ending possibitlities to behold. I am in essence a Chef raised by a chef. And a love for great food is a family tradition. A tradition passed on to my children. Traditions can be difficult in our society, as we have so much in the way of variety of culture. So we end up with new traditions, a melding of sorts. This in fact is my favorite thing about food, such a plyable art form with so many variences...A true wonder with a vastness of the stars themselves. Blending of flavors, textures and aromas...this is me, this is why I am here. And we are all hoping that you enjoy~

Family Night Dinner with The Ardent Epicure

So we hope you have enjoyed learning a little bit more about us...But as far as why we would make the next Food Blog Star? That would be completely up to you...
One thing we can say is the world of food enthusiasts, chefs, home based chefs, food artists and food writers that we have come to know and love, are among the most exceptional people we know...
Cheers to us all :)

Add To Facebook Share with Twitter Stumble This Digg This Add To Add To Reddit Post to Google Buzz Share on Myspace Share with Windows Live Pin It

What's on the side? -  Scallops on the Half Shell
with Anise/Lavender chevriére 
and Cream Sherry Reduction
This is Part Two of a Three Part series ~ Classic Sauces with a Twist
If you missed Part One...Cherry-Chocolate Gastrique...Click here
To re-cap on the previous post about reductions...A reduction sauce is quite simply, reducing a liquid to produce a sauce. More specifically a reduction is the process of reducing liquid to intensify it's flavor. So any given ingredients would also be intensified, hence a melding of flavors. So here is where you get creative as  to the content of flavors you are looking to enhance. Meaning,what flavors would you most like to intensify for your dish? Are you wanting a pork roast to have strong hints of citrus and sage? The point is, whatever flavors your are working with will be intensified. There are so many ways to do a reduction sauce, from a vibrant balsamic reduction to a savory gravy. So here again we encourage you to "play with your food".

What you will need:
10 to 12 Jumbo scallops (I used wild caught Japanese)
375 ml or about 1/2 bottle of  cream sherry, or juice
(I think an apple cider would do well here)
Note: keep in mind that alcohol evaporates during reduction,
so start with a lesser amount if using juice or other liquid
Walnut oil and butter for searing
Splash of balsamic, for searing
10-12 teaspoons of soft cheese, one per scallop
(I used the anise/lavender chevriére)
1 small shallot, chopped
3-4 cloves garlic, chopped
10-12 leaves fresh basil ( per scallop)
10-22 sectioned leaves of radicchio (per scallop)
10-12 shells for serving or other medium
A heavy bottom sauté pan or reduction pan

Plus some snazzy sea shells to present your darlings, or any single type serving display :)

Let's get cooking:
The scallops
For starters, you need to sear your scallops, so get your sauté pan 
nice and hot before adding oil, butter and balsamic.
After the pan has heated about 1 minute, 
add oil and butter, wait until butter has settled.
Add your splash of balsamic, 
now place your scallops out evenly but don't crowd them.
The scallops should take no more than a few minutes per side.
Do not fondle them, they hate it...
When you have achieved a browned crust turn them over.
They are done once they feel just firm
*Reserve your drippings here

Note: Do not over cook scallops

as they will become rubbery and dry
The reduction
Using the same pan that you have prepared your scallops in,
and reserved your drippings from. Remove from flame of heat source.
Please note: when using a liquid with a higher alcohol content, use a low to medium
low heat. If using a juice or lower alcohol content liquid, 
you can use a bit higher heat. 
With the pan that contains your drippings, add garlic and shallots.
Sauté garlic and shallots until opaque. Remove from heat and add cream sherry.
Return pan to heat and bring to a boil at a low medium heat, continue to heat
until your sauce holds to the back of a  spoon , or desired consistency.
Note: Depending on type of pan, you may need to adjust/stir these ingredients
as to prevent scorching. Now for my sauce I wanted a clear or clean sauce. So I stained out the garlic and shallot. This is a matter of preference and the particular dish should be considered here. Simply put...Refined or Rustic? It is a simple matter of how you wish to present your dish. They are equally delightful choices :)
Put it together
OK, now we are ready to present our lovelies...
For each shell, start with your basil leaf, then a radiccho leaf.
Place about 1 teaspoon of your chevriére on top of your leafs.
Now place a scallop on top, then drizzle with your reduction...

A quick side note: Truffle Shuffle does not care for goat cheese,
so he did note that the basil was a bit strong without the cheese. I would
suggest in the case of omitting the cheese that you add something milder...
Such as a red leaf lettuce or add a different soft cheese :) 
The combination of flavors and texture are key here, so add what you like...

Enjoy ~

Add To Facebook Share with Twitter Stumble This Digg This Add To Add To Reddit Post to Google Buzz Share on Myspace Share with Windows Live Pin It

4:56 PM

Quickies~ Morning, Noon and Night Cocktail Challenge

Posted by Magic of Spice

Our Cocktail Entry~Quickies Morning, Noon 
& Night Cocktail Challenge

There is a cocktail party going on... Alcoholic and Non-Alcoholic drinks are being served up
Thats right everybody grab a sexy drink and join the party...
Thanks to our ever so lovely hostess Denise ~ at Quickies Morning, Noon & Night
and host  Lazaro ~ at Lazaro Cooks

So here is our entry ~ Adult Cookies and Cream

What you will need:
1 bottle Kahlua coffee cream
2 shot glasses of Amaretto
3-4 Oreo ice cream cookie sandwiches 
1 cup ice
Whipped cream for topping
Just blend it all together until smooth...

Entries are open until 12 am EST so get a move one people :)
Please check above links for specific entry details and guidelines then
P.S. The prize for the winning cocktail? = The delightful cook book
Quickies Morning, Noon and Night by Denise Fletcher... So hurry :)

Add To Facebook Share with Twitter Stumble This Digg This Add To Add To Reddit Post to Google Buzz Share on Myspace Share with Windows Live Pin It

Stuffed Zucchini Bowls with 
Cherry-Chocolate Gastrique
This is Part One of a Three Part series ~ Classic Sauces with a Twist
Gastrique, if you are not familiar is a reduction sauce... This particular sauce is unique from many other reductions as it is starts by caramelizing sugar for the thickening agent. Gastrique (try saying with a French accent, sounds better :) typically has sugar, vinegar, wine and fruit...however there are variations to be found. It is a classic French sauce that utilizes the technique of reduction, and a reduction is just basically boiling a liquid until it thickens. What is more commonly called "A reduction sauce", usually starts with drippings from meat, fish or even vegetables. So for many the term "reduction sauce" is a specific sauce rather than a process. It is indeed actually a process by which sauces are named...Depending on the varied ingredients, a reduction would be reducing the amount of fluid by at least a third. Now there are many Chefs in this big beautiful world of ours, and depending on training as well as whom they were trained by will have variations. So please take note that this information is based on my personal knowledge and should be considered as such.

So a bit about this process now...I must give a couple of tips/warnings here. If you are not familiar with caramelizing of sugar and/or reductions with alcohol, please take note here...Use a deep pan for one, second make absolutely sure that you do not use this process with or near any children. *Note, caramelized sugar can cause severe burns, and when adding a flammable liquid such as alcohol please take extra precaution. The directions provided will assist you with these cautions, but please use your own judgment as well. Now I am not trying to scare anyone away from this sauce, it is quite delightful...And other than the attention required, quite easy.

What you will need:
A quick note about my cheese choice here... Truffle Noir , this is a beautiful Gouda cheese with a soft creamy flavor. There is a bit of nuttiness and works most beautifully with dishes that have intense flavor components. The black truffle flavoring comes off subtly but noticeably, and is quite lovely on its own :)

For the zucchini
4-6 round zucchini, hollowed
3 cups langoustine, par boiled
1 cup wild rice
4 cups vegetable broth,or water for rice
1 small bunch fresh sage, coarsely chopped
3/4th cup oyster mushrooms, chopped
1/8th pound truffle noir, or other cheese
4-6 Large whole basil leaves, one per bowl
1 small bunch fresh sage (for rice)
Butter and oil to sauté langoustine
1 or more pinches of each, depending on preference
Cayenne Pepper
Beau Monde
Fleur de Sel

For the gastrique
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup cherries, fresh or canned
1/3 cup cherry balsamic vinegar
1.5 ounces semi sweet cocoa
(again the higher grade the better)
3/4th to 1 cup champagne, or dry sparkling wine
(Note: Start with 3/4th cup and add more to thin if needed for consistency)

Let's get cooking:

For the zucchini 
Prepare your wild rice, 3 to 1 ratio. Bring to a boil your broth or water, add rinsed wild rice and sage, reduce heat. Cover and simmer approximately 40 minutes, until fluffed and tender. Now in a pan add equal parts butter and olive oil (depending on size of sauté pan about tablespoon each). Add desired amount of seasonings and sauté par-boiled langoustine until just warmed and coated. Now add your rice and chopped mushrooms. Fold these together until incorporated.
Carve out the inside of your zucchini, leaving enough of a rim to allow for textured. Tuck a whole basil leaf into each of you carved zucchini, then stuff with your rice mixture. Top with sliced cheese and bake in a pre-heated oven at 350 degrees (f) until cheese is bubbling and browned, about 20 minutes.

For the gastrique
Place sugar in a large deep sauce pan, adding just enough water to cover sugar. (Note: You can do a dry caramelize if you prefer and are comfortable with it). Oh a high heat bring to a rapid boil, continue to boil until you have reached desired color (the darker the caramel the less sweet). Stir frequently during this process to insure that it is an evenly caramelized. At this point remove from heat and add your cherries, fold until evenly coated. You can now return your pan to the flame and very slowly begin to add your vinegar. Continue to stir this mixture until it begins to reduce to about 1/3, being careful not to allow it to boil over. If the boiling point ever becomes to high, just lift the pan off of the heat for a moment and then return.
Now remove the pan from the heat again to add your wine and cocoa. Return to heat and continue to stir until the mixture is incorporated. Continue to reduce until your sauce is just thick enough to create a film on your spoon without dripping off. If the sauce becomes too thick remove from heat and add a bit more liquid.
Side Note: I like this sauce to be a little bit thicker so I place the sauce in a bowl over heated water to keep it warm. As we are using caramelized sugar and chocolate it can harden a bit when cooled...Now prepare your plate, I served with fresh garden mini tomatoes...and drizzle your gastrique as desired :)


P.S. This dish is being entered into The Festive Rice Event
On Torview 

Add To Facebook Share with Twitter Stumble This Digg This Add To Add To Reddit Post to Google Buzz Share on Myspace Share with Windows Live Pin It

Stuffed Squash Blossoms 
with Tomato and Pluot Marinara 
First, Happy Labor Day to all of our friends out there :)

So above you can see the final result of my farmers market finds from Friday...
This past Friday,I met my Foodie Friend Priscilla of She's Cookin'.
We had lunch and Farmers Market plans for early afternoon. The Farmers Market
is our local one here in Huntington Beach California, and my first visit. No I did not just
move here, but I am a nerd so exploring my own back yard takes some prompting.
 If you are not already familiar with her site, I encourage you to promptly get acquainted. From her weekly obsessions to her delightful recipes, there is always something to savor. As far as the farmers market went...not so impressed,
 but I did have a few lovely finds...

There are also a couple of other Foodie Friends that I will be mentioning here...
First is our friend Chef David of Chef's Resources. For my dear David, I am preparing
a mini series of "Classic Sauces with a twist". Now this sauce is not part of the series, but is
most certainly is a classic sauce with a twist...?  (P.S. He challenged me :)
Second is our friend Chef Dennis of  More Than A Mount Full. You see our friend Dennis
has a wee bit of an obsession with squash blossoms... If you have not been keeping up, he I believe, has gone so far as talk of group therapy and rehab... But as the food loving friend I am, I am saying No to treatment, and yes to fulfillment... So dear Dennis, I thought of you while preparing this dish, in hopes that it will bring you back amongst the squash blossom fanatics :)

What you will need:
For the squash blossoms
8-10 Squash blossoms
15 Ounces ricotta cheese
2 Cups quattro fromage cheese
(blend of provolone, mozzarella, parmesan and romano)
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg, ground
1 teaspoon vanilla paste
Pinch of flake salt, or fine sea salt
1 1/2 teaspoons juniper berry, dried and ground
(I used in place of pepper for a more floral light peppery flavor)

For the sauce
8-12 tomatoes (depending on size)
4-6 pluot (hybrid plum/apricot)
1 large bunch fresh basil, chopped
 3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1 small shallot, finely chopped
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 teaspoon agave (omit for less a sweet sauce)
Salt and pepper to taste
Note: The sauce is simmered over a 4-5 hour period stove top
or overnight in a crock pot.

Let's get cooking:
For the sauce
To start with we are going to take our tomatoes and pluots, placing them in a large stock pot of water. Bring water to a boil and allow to a rolling boil. Reduce heat just slightly to prevent an over-boil at this point. Continue to gently boil until you see the skins of your fruits begin to wrinkle and peel. Remove your fruits now and place in a large bowl to cool to touch. Meanwhile take your butter and oil and place in a sauté pan, heating until butter has melted. Now add your shallot and garlic, allowing them to come to a nice deep golden brown. Once you have peeled your tomatoes and peeled/seeded your pluots, place them in a medium to large French/Dutch oven (or crock if cooking overnight). Now add your basil, wine, agave, salt and pepper. Then allow to simmer for several hours or overnight in your crock pot. Note: we are starting from scratch, so we want to allow our flavors to meld into one another, the slower - the better :)

For the filling
Now get your blossoms ready - gently clean in chilled water and pat dry. Now you will want to remove the squash that is attached to the bottom (for this recipe), by cutting just above the base of your flower. You will also need to remove the stamen (the small pod inside the flower), by gently opening up the blossom and reaching in to the stamen, then just pinch off....
In a large mixing bowl add all ingredients for your filling. Blend with a large wooden spoon until incorporated and smooth. Now take a blossom and gently stuff filling inside, doing this with each blossom. Now place each prepared blossom in a baking dish, pour over a small amount of your marinara sauce and a sprinkle of cheese. Bake in a pre-heated oven at 350 degrees (f), until the cheeses have just begin to bubble. Serve with the zucchini or other squash if they cam whole :) Note: for the baby zucchini I  drizzled with a lemon peppered garlic butter.


Add To Facebook Share with Twitter Stumble This Digg This Add To Add To Reddit Post to Google Buzz Share on Myspace Share with Windows Live Pin It

10:57 PM

What's for Dessert? - Decadent Chocolate Truffles

Posted by Truffle Shuffle

Dark Chocolate Truffles

Smooth decedent chocolate that melts in your mouth literally...Need I say more! Actually there will be more. Sugar and Spice along with Magic of Spice have dreamed up something else with these beauties, coming soon:)


Half pound (8 ounces) of bittersweet dark chocolate (we used 85% cocoa dark chocolate)
1 cup of heavy cream (we used organic)
2 tbsp. butter (unsalted)
2.5 tablespoons of alcohol, your choice (we used Grand Marnier)

85% chocolate is very, very dark, and bitter.  If you want a sweeter truffle, use a less bitter chocolate, or even a semi-sweet chocolate, if you prefer.
Many types of spirits will do nicely in the truffles.  We love the taste of Grand Marnier, an orange-flavored liqueur, but amaretto, coffee liqueur, flavored rum, cognac, or any other heavy, sweet drink you like will work just fine).


Chop your chocolate, and place it in a mixing bowl.
Heat your cream over medium-low heat in a pot, add the butter, and heat until boiling.
Once the cream is boiling, immediately remove it from the heat, and pout the mixture into the chocolate.
Let the mixture sit for a few minutes, then stir until fully incorporated.
Add the alcohol, and stir the chocolate mixture until it is smooth.
Cover the bowl and refrigerate overnight (or for at least three hours).
Once the mixture is chilled, use a small spoon to scoop out small amounts of chocolate, and use your hands to form them into balls, until you have truffles the desired size.  Don't worry, they don't need to be perfectly spherical!
If desired, roll the truffles (immediately after forming) in cocoa powder, powdered sugar, toasted nuts, coconut, or any other desired topping.  For this, we did half in bitter cocoa, and half in semi-sweet cocoa (mixed with powdered sugar).

Serve at room temperature, and enjoy!

Using high-quality chocolate will make all the difference in having rich, intensely chocolate-flavored truffles!
Truffle recipe by: Sugar and Spice
Photos by : Magic of Spice
Dialog: Truffle Shuffle

Add To Facebook Share with Twitter Stumble This Digg This Add To Add To Reddit Post to Google Buzz Share on Myspace Share with Windows Live Pin It