The Ardent Epicure

An Ode to the Pleasures of Food

Candied Ginger, 
Baked Asian Pears and Awards

Candied ginger makes a delightful snack and is frequently utilized
in our kitchen for a flavorful add of spiciness to many delectable dishes.
Although on this occasion I have prepared these cut into slices, you can
prepared them in straw like strips or cubes depending on your preference.

Now I know we have awards and I did prepare a dessert. No recipe really
required for this one...I just took a couple of Asian pears and split them down the
middle, scooped out the core area and drizzled with honey.  I baked them until just
 tender, about 40 minutes. I took some mascarpone cheese, honey, ground ginger,
ground cinnamon, and a bit of allspice. Placed a couple of tablespoon of the mixture
 into the cavity of each pear, returned to the oven until cheese was bubbly...
then served with candied ginger :)

As for the left over ginger water, not to worry there are multiple uses for this treat.
Perhaps a ginger tea with lemon and fresh mint? Just dilute the ginger water with
desired amount of boiling water and prepare as desired. Or the liquid can be
frozen for later uses, such as soups or sauces...

What you will need:
Fresh ginger, peeled and sliced
Granulated sugar
Parchment paper
Wire cooling rack

To prepare:
There are no specific measurements other than equal amounts of sugar
to equal amount of cooked ginger. *I will give an approximate scenario below.

Begin by peeling and slicing your ginger root. It is easiest to use a mandoline,
however as long as your slices are uniform in thickness you can use a sharp knife.
Slices should be between 1/8th and 1/4 of an inch in thickness. Now place sliced
ginger in a non reductive sauce pan large enough to accommodate the amount of
ginger you wish to prepare. Cover with enough fresh water to cover ginger completely,
 bring to a boil over a medium/high heat then reduce heat to simmer about 15
minutes. Drain and weigh your ginger at this point, setting aside an equal weight of
 sugar. Return the  par-boiled ginger to the pan and add required amount of water
 (see below).
Bring ginger back to a simmer on medium/low heat until tender, about 30-40 minutes.
Drain liquid into a bowl and set aside. Place sugar and measured amount of ginger
liquid back in pan on medium heat, stir until sugar has dissolved.  Add ginger
and simmer until most of the liquid is reduced.
In the meantime, place a piece of parchment paper on cutting board and
sprinkle a good amount of sugar on top. Once ginger is ready use tongs
and carefully place ginger, a few pieces at a time on sugar to coat. Coat both
sides then place on cooling rack until completely cooled. Repeat until all ginger
slices are coated with sugar.
Approximative measuring base: 8 ounces ginger, 8 ounces sugar and 1/8th cup
reserved ginger liquid. Adjust amounts based on amount of ginger being used.

The Awards

We received the 360º Foodie Award and A Fabulous Blog Award
from our amazingly talented friend Victoria of Mission Food.
Victoria has the most wonderful passion and exuberance which shines
post after post. If you have not yet met I seriously encourage you to stop
by to say hello. You will find everything from the most delectable of dishes,
food experiments and trials, to honest and direct reviews. This is one talented
lady, and I am so very pleased to have had the chance to get to know.
Thank you so much for sharing these awards with us, this is such an honor.

The Sisterhood of the World Bloggers Award comes to us from Elizabeth
of Food and Thrift Finds. Elizabeth is another member of our community that shares
with us a wealth of both experience and passion. She also has a deep love for dishes
reminiscent of her heritage and shares these as well as others with open arms. So if you
have yet to meet, please stop by I promise you will have a great time...Thank you so
 much for including me in your recipients of this award, again I am honored.

We received The Stylish Blogger Award from a few lovely foodie friends...
Joyce of Kitchen Flavours, Joyce has a wonderful blog that I find endless enjoyment
in reading . Her unique and original dishes are truly wonderful as are her lovely and
fresh treats from her garden. She also has a lovely gardenting site
  My Little Potted Garden that you will surely enjoy, please stop by and say hello :)
Thank you so much Joyce for sharing this honor with us.

Abeer from Cake Whiz, Abeer is a talented baker and gives the most fantastic
step by step instructions. Each creation is an amazement for the eye as well as the
sweet tooth ;) She is a newer member of our fantastic community and someone I
encourage you to pay a visit to. Thank you so much Abeer for your sweet and
thoughtfulness in passing on this honor.

Raven of Ravie NomNoms, Raven is another multi talent here in our foodie
world. She shares a diverse love of all things food, as well as being a talent
in the dancing world. Currently she has a fantastic detox menu going on that
you won't want to miss. It is detailed and sectioned out so that it is easy to follow,
and probably a pretty good idea for all given the Holidays then Valentines ;)
There is always something enjoyable on the menu so stop by to say hello.
Thank you so much Raven for sharing this honor with us.

And One Lovely Blog Award from the lovely Alex of Dear Love Blog.
Alex is a newer friend, but like all of us has a passioned voice in our foodie world.
And on top of this I must mention that she is also a vegetarian that cooks meat...
I thought I was alone ;) So as you can see her sense of adventure holds no bounds!
Please stop by and introduce yourself, she is a pleasure. Thank you so much Alex
for extending this award on to us, it is indeed an honor to be shared...

As a final note, I will be passing on awards but one award at a time so that no one
gets lost in the shuffle. However I wanted to take a some time to thank those whom
graciously awarded us and intoduce you if you have not already met.

Alisha~Magic of Spice

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Sunflower Greens, Avocado, Pummelo 
and Mandarin Salad with Mint
and a Pineapple Emulsion

Anybody ready for Spring? And could my title get any longer?
Especially considering we have a very simple starter salad going on here.
Well here is my excuse...I have a couple of special ingredients here, and well
I felt a little guilty about leaving out the others just because they are a bit less
exotic. I mean just look at those gorgeous mint leaves!
I used three types of mint actually, spearmint, peppermint and pineapple mint.
They are all organic and grown in TAE's very own garden :) And the organic
avocado and mandarins are not too difficult to get your hands on, that is unless
you live somewhere that they are tough to find.

The Red Pummelo perhaps is a bit more exotic...
 The Pummelo is an ancestor of the grapefruit and is similar in size and coloring.
However the Pummelo is far less tart and far sweeter that the grapefruit. As you
can see in the photo below they have a very thick membrane and can be sectioned
just as you would a grapefruit...

The stars of this dish are actually the Organic Sunflower Greens. I am obsessed
with them to tell you the truth...I ate more than half of my stash just by themselves
as I was preparing this salad. They are nutty, crunchy and packed with flavor.
In fact it is amazing that you can encapsulate that much flavor in such a small green.
Sunflower greens can be grown quite easily from unhulled sunflower seeds, sprouted
then planted. They are an excellent source of protein, vitamins and minerals. Sunflower
Greens unlike Sunflower Sprouts are actually the baby plants and should be grown in
soil to provide maximum flavor and benefits. I found a link that can provide you
with step by step growing instructions here. 

For those unfamiliar with and Emulsion it can be a simple or complicated
process depending on what type of sauce you are preparing. Simply put an
emulsion is merely a process of getting oil to play well with others... Examples
 of emulsions are mayonnaise or an aioli, even a simple vinaigrette.
I will try and avoid getting too scientific here, so basically we would need
a bonding agent to prevent our liquids from separating. A typical example of
a protein bonding agent or emulsifier would be eggs or cream. Another example,
say in the case of a vinaigrette would be mustard or a thick tomato sauce.
Whether you are preparing a hot or cold emulsion the one key is to add your
oil at the appropriate time and very slowly. 

What you will need:

For the salad
Sunflower greens
Very ripened avocados, sliced
Mandarin orange wedges
Pummelo sections
Fresh baby mint leaves, whole or chopped

For the pineapple emulsion
1/2 cup pineapple juice
2 tablespoons honey
(I used avocado honey)
2 tablespoons plain greek yogurt
!/2 cup sunflower oil, or other light oil
Emulsifying blender, blender or food processor

Get this look:
Have all of your salad ingredients washed and set aside. Place pineapple juice in
blender (or appropriate devise), add honey and greek yogurt. Blend mixture until
 incorporated, keeping blender on very slowly benign to add your oil. Continue
 process until all oil is used.

In the center of your salad plate, place desired amount of your pineapple emulsion
and spread into a circular pattern. Then arrange your sunflower greens with trimmed
stems facing towards the center. Now alternate your citrus wedges in the open areas
 between your greens. In the very center of your plate layer your avocado slices in a
 pile or mound. Decorate with your mint leaves or pieces as desired.
Note: This also makes a lovely after dinner alternative to a heavier dessert. The subtle
sweetness of the emulsion and citrus fruits pared with the creaminess of the ripened
avocado are very refreshing...

I also have a bit of fun news... I received a cookbook that I received during a
giveaway from one of my very favorite blog sites Roti n Rice...
Biren who is the author of Roti n Rice celebrated her first Blog Anniversary and
decided to hold a giveaway to one lucky winner (Me) and send out this lovely
cookbook The Minnesota Table by Shelley N.C. Holl and B.J. Carpenter.
The cookbook is a signed addition from B.J. Carpenter as well as a sweet note
from my wonderful friend Biren :) The cookbook itself has both illustrations as
well has photography. The concept of the book aside from flavorful recipes,
is local and fresh foods presented by season.
You can learn more here and here about this lovely cookbook and it's authors.
Thank you so much Biren! 

Alisha~Magic of Spice

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6:19 PM

Valentine's Red Velvet Cupcakes

Posted by Sugar and Spice

Red Velvet Cupcakes
with Cream Cheese Frosting

Happy Valentines Day from all of us here at The Ardent Epicure.
Here is a delicious recipe for red velvet cupcakes.  These red delights are perfect for Valentine's day, but they definitely won't hurt any other time of year either!  These cupcakes are lightly-tinged with cocoa, and are topped with a creamy cream cheese frosting.

For the Cake
3 eggs
3/4 cup of butter
3 cups of flour
1 tablespoon of cocoa powder (unsweetened)
3/4 teaspoon of salt
1 12 teaspoons of vanilla
1 large bottle of natural red food coloring (1 ounce bottle)
1 1/2 cups of buttermilk
1 1/2 teaspoons of baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons of white vinegar

For the Frosting
4 cup of powdered sugar
8 ounces (two sticks) of softened butter
8 ounces of cream cheese at room temperature
3 teaspoons of vanilla

For the Cake
Preheat your often to 350 degrees.
Take a cupcake tin and line it with paper or foil cupcake liners.
In a mixing bowl, combine the flour, cocoa, and salt.
In a larger bowl, beat the butter with a hand mixer (or in a standing mixer) until it become creamy.
Add the sugar and vanilla to the butter, and mix it in.
Next, beat the eggs in one at a time, then mix in the food coloring.
Alternately beat the flour mixture and the buttermilk into the butter mix, stopping when it is just combined.
Next, stir the baking soda into the vinegar, and add it to the badder, mixing it in.
Fill the liner 2/3 full of cupcake batter.
Bake at 350 degree for fifteen minutes, then check with a toothpick.  If the toothpick comes out clean, take out the cupcakes.  If there is batter on the toothpick, cook longer, and check again in five minutes, until a toothpick comes comes out clean from the center.
Cool on a rack before frosting.

For the Frosting
Beat the cream cheese with the butter until it becomes creamy.
Add the sugar, and beat it until it obtains a smooth texture.
Next, add the vanilla, and mix to combine.
Spread this over cooled cupcakes, or pipe with a piping bag.

Sprinkle your cupcakes with sprinkles, or add anything you like.  Happy Valentine's day, and enjoy time and good food with your loved ones!

 Grely~Sugar and Spice

 February 2011 YBR Entry

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1:49 PM

What's for dinner? Jamaican Inspired Beans and Rice

Posted by Magic of Spice

Jamaican Inspired Beans and Rice

Traditionally this dish is prepared with red beans, more specifically kidney beans.
The most famously know version here in the States is served in the Creole cuisine of
New Orleans. For me the primary difference with the Jamaican inspired version
is the flavor profile. The varied spices that are staples in Jamaican cuisine as well
as the addition of coconut milk. I will not get too far into all of the spices here
as they will be listed in the recipe, however their is one specific adjustment in my
recipe that differs from typical spices used in Jamaican dishes, and that is the
common use of the Scotch bonnet pepper I replaced this with African Devil
peppers as that is what I had on hand. They both add a unique flavor profile
and are close as far as heat index.

Now when we get to the rice portion of my recipe please note, the flavors I
chose were not specific to nor inspired by any specific cuisine. More like my
over active imagination and a deep seeded desire to Play with my Food :)
Oh and the fact that I have 9 pounds of beautiful California Mandarins
just hanging out in my kitchen...

One of the most significant difference in my recipe is the choice of both beans
as well as the rice. The reason I left the word Red out of my title is that the
beans I used here were Organic Heirloom Anasazi Beans and
Organic Cranberry Beans Both beans have a much milder and sweeter
taste than traditional pinto or kidney beans and can be found in most
health food stores. The rice is another special find, Madagascar Pink Rice.
Also organic as well as Fair Trade , and has a delightful sweetness to it.
This is an incredibly aromatic rice that could easily be enjoyed on it's own.

Note: I made both vegetarian/vegan versions as well as version where I
included uncured apple smoked bacon. If you will be using the vegan
by omitting the bacon, use 2 tablespoons of a nut based oil to sauté
your vegetables...

What you will need:
For the beans
12 ounces uncured bacon, cut into large pieces
1 small onion, medium chopped
6-8 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 bell peppers, medium chopped
(use red, yellow or orange)
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
1/2 tablespoon peppermint, chopped
1/2 tablespoon pineapple mint, chopped (optional)
3/4th teaspoon jamaica all spice, ground
1/4th teaspoon mustard seed, ground
1/8th teaspoon sweet paprika
1/8th teaspoon cloves, ground
1 tablespoon candied ginger, chopped
2 bay leaves
2-4 African devil peppers
(I placed the is a tied piece of cheesecloth to be easily removed)
1 1/2 pounds of dried beans, pre-soaked
1 quart vegetable stock, or enough to just cover beans
1 cup cooked and peeled tomatoes, chopped
1 tablespoon raw agave or honey
1 1/2 cups coconut milk
Salt and pepper to taste

For the rice
8 mandarin oranges, juiced
(or equivalent of 1 cup)
3 cups herbal tea
(I used mango/passion fruit)
2 cups pink rice, uncooked

Let's get cooking:
For the beans
Soak beans 8 hours to overnight in a large bowl with enough water to cover
plus about 2 inches. Drain beans and set aside.
In a large French Oven or heavy stock pot add bacon, onion and garlic.
Sauté until onion just becomes opaque, then add bell peppers, herbs and spices.
Toss to coat, add beans, tomatoes and vegetable stock. Sir and bring mixture to
a full boil, reduce to a low heat, cover and simmer for 1 1/2 to 2 hours or until beans
 are softened, stirring occasionally. Add agave and coconut milk, stir and remove
 from heat. Allow to stand, covered while you prepare your rice.

For the rice
In a medium to large sauce pan add mandarin juice, tea and rice.
Bring to a boil then reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for about 20
or until liquid is absorbed.
Optional add crumbled pieces of bacon as a garnish.
Serves 6-8

For another wonderful recipe utilizing these Cranberry beans take a look at
my wonderful friend Roxana's recipe for Roman Beans and Beetroot Soup

Alisha~Magic of Spice

This is going over to Hearth n Soul

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10:29 AM

An Interview With The Ardent Epicure

Posted by Magic of Spice

An Interview With The Ardent Epicure, 
on Spicie Foodies "My Favorite Foodies Series"

My lovely and talented friend Nancy has launched a new series in which
 she will be interviewing some of her favorite foodies out in the blogosphere. 
Nancy runs one of the most amazing blogs out there Spicie Foodie . Where
she serves up "Healthy, fresh and delicious recipes to spice up your kitchen" 

When Nancy first approached me with this idea, I of course thought it 
was brilliant and would so steal it if it would not be so obvious :)

But on a more serious note, I am both flattered as well as honored to
have the opportunity to share a bit more about myself and TAE through
my cherished friend Nancy.

Please join us...


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Shirred Eggs with Mushrooms
 (Oeuf Cocotte aux Champignons)

Today we have a very special and wonderful guest here on The Ardent Epicure.
Denise is the Author of Quickies Morning, Noon and Night an exceptionally stunning
and beautifully written cookbook, designed with a  todays busy lifestyles in mind.
  This book is packed with amazing recipes not unlike the one she is featuring here for us
 today. She is also the lovely author of not one but two amazing blogs listed below.
 Both her skill as well as passion are unquestionable...So with no further ramblings
from me, let us move on to the good stuff. I am both pleased as well as honored to
 introduce my most amazing and gifted friend Denise :)

A Guest Post by Denise Fletcher

Hello everyone! My name is Denise and I blog at Quickies on the Dinner Table and Bread Expectations. It’s wonderful to be here today, sharing with readers and followers of one of the most inspiring food blogs I have ever had the pleasure of reading.

What makes today even more special to me is that Alisha, one of the talented threesome behind The Ardent Epicure, apart from being a chef, stellar blogger and general force of nature in the kitchen, is also a friend.  We found each other online and though we have yet to meet in person, I feel a kinship with her as we share much in common; motherhood, a background in the culinary arts and an all consuming passion for food, cooking and all things related. Thank you Alisha, for your friendship, faith, encouragement and gracious invitation.

If you follow my blogs, you may know that I tend to shy away from eggs for a number of reasons. However I do feel that there are no bad foods, just badly prepared ones, so anything can be delicious, if done right. As I believe in putting my money where my mouth is, I have for you today, a simple but sublimely delicious egg dish that makes me forget all my reservations and want to plunge in with a spoon. 

 A dish this simple really stands on the quality and freshness of its few ingredients so while I usually am very relaxed about cooking, today I must be a despot and insist that you get the freshest organic eggs, purest sea salt and best quality cream you can find.  I promise, you will be glad you did! Now without further delay, on to the recipe!

Shirred Eggs with Mushrooms (Oeuf Cocotte aux Champignons)

Prep 10 mins Cook 12 mins Serves 2

A little soft butter for greasing ramekins
2 cremini or Swiss brown mushrooms clean off any grit and slice thinly
4 really fresh eggs (preferably organic) 
Two generous pinches sea salt
Freshly ground white pepper to taste
2 Tbsp heavy cream
Sweet paprika for garnishing
Snipped fresh chives for garnishing
Toast soldiers (optional)

1. Preheat oven at 195 C (385 F) and grease the insides of two ramekins generously with the butter so eggs don’t stick.
2. Divide the mushroom slices between the ramekins. Carefully break two eggs into each ramekin and season both generously with salt and pepper.

3. Pour a tablespoon of cream over the surface of each of the ramekin contents ensuring it covers the surface of the eggs. This will prevent a chewy skin forming as the eggs bake.

4. Place ramekins into a baking dish and put into oven.  Fill baking dish with really hot water to reach half way up the sides of the ramekins.

5. Bake for no more than 12 minutes. Remove from oven. If you like your eggs tender and wobbly, serve immediately. If you prefer them firmer, cover ramekins while still in water filled baking dish, securely with cling wrap so steam is trapped inside and continues to cook and firm up the eggs.

6. Garnish with chives and paprika and serve with buttered toast soldiers if you like.

Note : Toast soldiers are pieces of cut up bread toasted to a crackling crunch and usually served with soft cooked eggs. They’re a British culinary tradition and take any kind of soft cooked eggs to a new level.  I made them using my own home made sunflower seed bread but use whatever you prefer. The important thing is that they should be really crunchy, in fact the crusts should border on charred.

Thank you so much Denise for sharing this wonderful recipe here with us.
Please take a moment and stop by to view some other delectable goodies here 


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