The Ardent Epicure

An Ode to the Pleasures of Food

Chocolate Cocktails 
and A Tale of Three Cocoas

Happy Memorial Day to all from all of us here at TAE...
We are hoping everyone is having a safe and wonderful extended weekend,
 with all of the amazing food and wonders that anyone could ever dream of.

Now let's talk cocoa...
Starting with the photo far left, we have a traditional cocoa or sipping 
chocolate.This one makes a splendid hot cocoa when added to warm milk 
and a bit of sweetener. 

The middle photo displays our Mayan Cocoa, a luxurious blend of
Dutch cocoa, chile pepper, cinnamon and vanilla powder. A serious 
delight for all of us savory/sweet lovers. 

Our first photo displays our Black Onyx Dutch Cocoa, this is an alkalized 
cocoa powder that has a rich and beautiful purple/black huge. This cocoa powder
is lower in fat than that of traditional cocoas and is recommended as a 25-50%
blend with a traditional cocoa.

Along with our  honey powder the Black Onyx Cocoa as well as the wonderful
Mayan Cocoa can be found by all of our Southern California Coast residents.

Savory Spice Shop
928 Avocado Ave 
Corona del Mar, CA 92660
949. 717.7776

For our wonderful Non-California residents, have no fear there will be 
a full preview on everything this amazing Spice Shop has to offer,
including online orders...

What you will need:

1 pint vanilla bean ice cream
1 bottle Baileys Irish cream liqueur
6-7 ounces cream coffee liqueur
(or espresso with cream)
1 tablespoon mayan cocoa
1 tablespoon traditional cocoa
1 teaspoon black onyx cocoa
Whipped cream and honey powder for garnish
Blender and 4 cocktail glasses

Notes: with this blend you will have a creamy initial palette with 
an after shock of spicy notes and a lingering peppery/sweet feel. 
Serves 6

I would also like to introduce you to an amazing Foodie Venture
going on right now...My lovely friend Devaki has a special
adventure for all of the Food Lovers across the continents...
a Sicilian food journey, take a peek :)

Alisha ~ Magic of Spice

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Languedoc Style Tuna Salad Sandwich 
with a French Slaw for a Gourmet Picnic

Today we are taking a journey to France...well our taste buds are anyway. The 5 Star
Makeover Cooking Group has set the Month of Mays challenge as Gourmet Picnic
 Foods.Specifically we have been challenged to makeover traditional picnic foods.
So I have chosen both the classic Tuna Salad Sandwich and Cole Slaw.

The 5 Star Foodie Makeover Group is hosted monthly by two very talented friends,
Natasha of 5 Star Foodie and Lazaro of  Lazaro Cooks

Starting Friday May 27th they will be showcasing the groups fabulous
contributions. So stop by for a little Gourmet Picnic inspiration.

Our Salade De Chois or French Cole Slaw has a bit of it's own twist
here. We are going to create our Slaw with cucumber, ridicchio, carrot 
and mint. No cabbage here guys...

What you will need:
For the French slaw
1 medium head of  ridicchio, shredded
2 large carrots, shredded
1 medium sized cucumber, sliced into strips
2-3 large mint leaved, sliced into thin strips
1 tablespoon agave or raw sugar
2 tablespoons grapeseed oil
2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

For the tuna
8 ounce tuna steak
1 tablespoon herbs de Provence
1 teaspoon salt flakes
1 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
heavy sauté pan

For the sauce
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 small garlic bulb, cloves mashed
3-4 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves or whole
4 leaves tarragon, finely chopped
2-3 large sage leaves, finely chopped

In addition you will need 6 rolls our desired sandwich bread. I used
Challah Rolls which are slightly sweet.

Let's get cooking:
For the French slaw
Prepare your vegetable and place in a large bowl or container that you will
be transporting in. Add all other ingredients and toss. Allow to rest for at least
1 hour or longer before serving.

For the tuna
Place pan on a medium/high heat until hot. Add oil and tuna, sear on each
side 2-3 minutes each side for medium rare, or desired doneness.

For the sauce
Once your tuna is done, reduce flame to low then add oil, lemon juice and garlic
 to the same pan you prepared your tuna in. Whisk the mixture until your garlic
become fragrant and lightly golden. Add herbs and continue heating for another
minute or so.  

Notes: If transporting your food to another location do not assemble sandwich
until ready to serve. The cole slaw should be kept cool but not cold as the
oil will begin to coagulate. The tuna however should be kept cold until ready.
And don'r forget the Champagne :)
Makes 6 sandwiches

Alisha ~ Magic of Spice

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Artichokes with Champagne Mustard Aioli,
Papaya Purée and Cheese 

This is a very simple snack to put together that has been a favorite around here
for years. I was originally planning to grill these beauties, but instead opted for
steaming. They will work wonderfully any way you choose to prepare them.

Depending on the variety of artichokes you have you may need to trim the tops
of the leaves where the thorns are. Then just prepare them how you like. If
steaming trim them first and remove the bottom stem portion. 

I also picked up a lovely papaya to serve both as a purée and a fresh fruit
side to accompany our artichokes. The purée was used as a spread with
cheese and the dipping sauce for the artichokes was the champagne
mustard aioli. However some chose to dip with both sauces.

What you will need:
For the champagne mustard aioli
8 tablespoons of French mustard aioli
8 tablespoons of plain Greek-style yogurt
2 tablespoons of champagne
(or a very dry sparkling wine)
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon honey
1 clove of garlic, minced
Pinch salt and pepper
Whisk and bowl

For the Papaya Purée
1 large papaya, halved
1 tablespoon fresh orange juice
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1-2 pinches chipotle chile pepper, ground
1 pinch cumin, ground
3-4 fresh mint leaves

Let's get mixing:
For the champagne mustard aioli
Place all ingredients in a mixing bowl and whisk briskly until incorporated.
You can adjust the thickness of this sauce by adding a bit more champagne. 

For the Papaya Purée
Place all ingredients except the spices in blender, blending until smooth.
Add spices and additional juice to taste. Note: if using as a spread make
sure not to thin the purée too much.

Each sauce will yield about 1 cup and is based on 2 large artichokes.
Serves 2-4

To go along with our artichokes I picked up a few Pretzel Sticks, mainly because they
were just too cute :) And a couple of cheese selections, my favorite The Triple Cream
Brie and Rosemary Olive Oil Asiago. Both paired wonderfully with the Papaya Purée.

Alisha ~ Magic of Spice

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 Farmers Market Salad
Creamy Cilantro Dressing

On Sunday my friend Priscilla of She's Cookin' and I spent our morning and early
afternoon playing at our local Farmers Market in New Port Beach. Although the 
morning started off with Spring showers by mid morning the sky opened up to
show off our beautiful California sunshine. Of course neither of us remembered to
bring our cameras to show you this lovely Organic Certified Farmers Market, but
I did take some photos once I returned to my kitchen. 

My favorite find of the day were these gorgeous mulberries. When
I was a kid my grandparents had mulberry bushes along with some other
delightful fruit bushes and trees. Not having had these beauties since my
teens I devoured half the carton before I even had time to decide on 
what I wanted to make with all of my goodies.

With a little encouragement from Priscilla I brought home my first cherimoya.
Apparently these delightful guys will have the texture of a custard if allowed
to ripen to the point that just before they go bad. I think I will give that a 
try next time. For this salad however I had a just ripened  cherimoya and
the texture was similar to that of a firm ripened pear, and quite sweet. 

I intern encouraged her to try the loquats :) If you have never tried these
I encourage you to as well. As you can see by the photos they are small
deep orange fruits when fully ripened and have large seeds in their center.
They are sweet and slightly acidic, with a taste akin to a peach/mango mix.

And then of course my true passion...finding a new cheese! And this I did :)
Picnic’s Fine Foods has a booth at the market and carries with then several of
there beautiful cheese selections. I chose two aged selections, I know only two...
what was I thinking. But they were both fantastic.

A Beamster Xtra Old Gouda a hard cheese with a texture similar to a
Parmigiano-Reggiano. This a a cows milk cheese from Holland with a
crystalline/flaky texture with a creamy mouth feel. This cheese has a
clean taste with hints of toffee, whiskey and caramel.

Next we have Hook's 10 yr aged Sharp Cheddar  this one has a firm
and crumbly texture, also a cow's milk cheese. With an incredibly smooth
and creamy mouth feel and silky finish.

What you will need:

For the salad
Baby romaine lettuce
Wasabi arugula
Cucumber, sliced
Kohlrabi, peeled and sliced
Cherimoya, peeled and sliced
Loquats, peeled, seeded and sliced
Cherries, pitted and halved
Mulberries, stems trimmed off
Purple basil, torn
Edible flowers

For the dressing
4 ounces non fat Greek style yogurt
1/2 bunch cilantro
Juice one lime
1/2 tablespoon white balsamic vinegar
3/4 tablespoon sunflower oil
A touch of honey or agave
Salt and pepper to taste
Small food processor or blender

Let's get blending:

Place cilantro in blender and chop until very fine, add yogurt
and pulse until incorporated. Add lime juice and vinegar then add oil slowly
while blending until smooth. Season with agave, salt and pepper.
Note: You can add more or less liquids to adjust desired consistency.

Truffle Shuffle suggested a hard grated cheese like a Parmigiano-Reggiano
to top it off with. For next time :)

Here a few other delightful salads you should take a peek at...

Baby Greens with Mango, Loquat and Mango Sauce - She's Cookin'
Flower Showers, Spring Serenade, Gourmet Greens and Tangerines - Spicie Foodie
How To Make A Perfect Niçoise Salad - Honest Cooking

Alisha ~ Magic of Spice

May 2011 YBR

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 Crimini Mushroom and Plum Wine Consommé

As some of you may already know this is my first piece as a
Contributor to Honest Cooking the Food Magazine. Please stop by
and say hello, you will find a glorious variety of recipes, food news,
articles and so much more. So please join me...

I chose a Classic French starter the Consommé with just a few minor
changes :) You are more apt to find this dish served as a beef or even
chicken soup or broth, and likely during a five to seven course menu.
Today however we are going to create a wonderful vegetarian version...

What you will need:
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, halved
2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar, halved
8 ounces crimini mushrooms, sliced
1 large onion, sliced
1 large shallots, sliced
5 cups vegetable broth, chilled
2 cups plum wine, chilled
2 tablespoons butter
4-5 sprigs thyme
2-3 sprigs tarragon
2 sprigs meadow rue, optional
1 teaspoon pepper corns, whole
A pinch of sea salt, course
3 medium tomatoes, chopped
1/2 head celery, chopped
4 ounces carrots, chopped
1/2 ounce ginger, sliced
4-5 egg whites
Large sock pot, large sauté pan, food processor,
fine mesh sieve and cheese cloth
Optional garnishes:
1 large leek, sliced and par boiled
2 baby carrots, shaved and par boiled
Finishing salt to taste

Let's get cooking:
Begin by slicing mushrooms, onions and shallots as uniformly as possible.
 Heat half of the olive oil in a sauté pan and the other half in a stock pot. Place
 mushrooms in a single layer into the sauté pan while placing onions and shallots into
 the stock pot. Caramelize these on each side for about 2 minutes without stirring. 
Set aside and allow stock pot to cool.

Place broth, wine, butter, salt, pepper corns, herbs, mushrooms and onions/shallots
 in a cooled stock pot and set aside.

Place chopped tomatoes, celery, carrots and ginger in a food processor until finely 
chopped. Place egg whites in a large mixing bowl and whip slightly, add vegetables 
and mix until incorporated.

Add this mixture to the chilled broth mixture then bring to a boil stirring frequently. 
Once the mixture has come to a full boil, reduce heat to low and allow to simmer until 
liquid has reduced by at least 1/3 for a single Consommé or by 1/2 for a double 
Consommé (preferred). You will begin to see a foamy crust layer at the top, do not
 stir or disrupt this foam know as a raft. Continuing to simmer for 1 to 1 1/2 hours uncovered.

Once your liquid has reduced by at least 1/3 you can push aside a small are of the raft
 with a spoon for a taste test. Continue to reduce further if desired.

Now that you have reached your desired taste and consistency, begin by pushing 
aside your raft and ladling out your broth into a fine mesh sieve placed over a large
 bowl. Continue this process until you have removed all of your base broth.

Taking another large bowl repeat this filtering process until you have a clear broth. 
Generally  about 4 times. Then for final clarification process take your clean sieve and
place a double layer of cheese cloth over it, running your broth though this to remove
any final impurities replacing cheese cloth as necessary.

Return your clarified broth to a clean pot and keep very hot until ready to serve, 
adding desired garnishes just before serving.

Get this look:
It is best to sever this dish in warmed or heated bowls and severed immediately.
 And for both a lovely presentation in addition to a functional way to keep the bowls
 hot, try using a larger serving bowl filled with stones then placing a smaller dish of
the Consommé on top. These rocks can be purchased at any gardening center.

Alisha ~ Magic of Spice

My Menu On Honest Cooking

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 Insalata Caprese "The Grilled Cheese"

I have been a bit of a mood to change a few things up...or explore new
ways to enjoy the classics. The Insalata Caprese for instance, then the thought
of a super comfort food, the grilled cheese. How could combining these two be
bad? A rhetorical question guys...the answer is it can't be bad. Sure maybe not
exactly what a historian wants to jot down in the culinary classics, but still,
oh so good :)  So if you are looking to try out a different grilled cheese...:)

What you will need:
Per sandwich 

Bread of choice, sliced
3 slices of fresh tomato
3-4 large leaves basil, trimmed
4 slices Buffalo mozzarella
 2 tablespoons butter
A pinch of garlic salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
A pinch of salt and ground pepper

Let's get cooking:

Simply brush the inside of your bread with the olive oil, salt and pepper mix.
Coat the outside of each slice with the butter mixture. Lining each with cheese,
tomato and basil. Grill until browned or until cheese has melted

Alisha~Magic of Spice

This is going over to Friday Potluck 
and over to Friday Food

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Happy Mother's Day ~ 
With an Herbed Pineapple Cocktail

We would like to wish all of the Mom's out there a 
Very Happy Mother's Day...

This will be a short post but with a relaxing and fun cocktail. As many of you 
know we have a rather extensive herb garden, so needless to say these were 
harvested from that very garden. Choose the herbs that you enjoy and find
 most soothing, then have a cool refreshing cocktail out on the patio.

What you will need:

A small bunch of each herb
apple mint
4 1/4th cups water
4 cups pineapple juice
4 cups spiced rum
Large pitcher, chilled glassed and ice

Let's get cooking:
Bring water with herbs to a rolling boil, continuing to boil for about 5 minutes.
Remove from heat and steep for about 10 minuted. Allow to chill completely.

Once your herb tea is chilled, fill a large pitcher with about a cup or so of ice. Add
pineapple juice and rum...stir and serve ;)


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Poached Spiced Rum Plum Stacks
with Mascarpone and Awards

This is a very simple but fun way to serve fruit and a cheese dessert.
And awards as you may already know if reading us here for awhile,
come with a dessert :) So today I have prepared something simple,
fresh and just a tad on the sassy side...

What you will need:

6 fresh plums, sliced and pitted
1 cup spiced dark rum
1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon butter
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 whole vanilla bean, split
1 cinnamon sick
1 pinch nutmeg, ground
1 pinch cardamon, ground
6 ounces mascarpone cheese
6 large mint leaves,chiffonade style
Dark chocolate or cocoa shavings, optional
Large sauté pan with lid

Let's get cooking:

Start by adding rum, water, butter, honey, lemon juice and spices to a
large pan. Bring liquid just to a boil, then reduce heat to medium/low and
add plum slices. Cover and simmer for about 15 minutes or until firm but tender.

Note: When slicing the plums it is easies to slice in half running from the navel
portion the around. Remove the pit and then slice into circles like above, as
thinly and uniformly as possible. This will prevent some slices from over or
under cooking.

Once your plums are done, lay them out individually on a flat clean surface.
Allow them to reach room temperature before spreading on the mascarpone,
like you would frost a multi layer cake. Place a layer on mint chiffonade on
top of alternating plum/cheese slices. Now begin to stack them, leaving the
final layer topped with cheese. It is best to place a toothpick through the
center and allow to sit for a few minutes, then remove before serving.
Garnish with additional mint and chocolate shavings if desired.

The Awards

We were honored with this wonderful group of awards by two very amazing
 bloggers. First we received these from Jan the author of I Love, Therefore I Cook.
Jan is a lawyer by day and a serious foodie by night. Her site is full of enthusiasm,
passion and humor. And if that were not enough, how about "Jan’s Cupcakery".
Thats right she is on her way to fame in the cupcake world :)

Next we received these awards from Jill the author of Mad about Macrons,
 both the site as well as the Book. Aside from mastering everyones favorite
treats she provides us with wonderful recipes of both savory and sweet, plus
she takes us with her all around Paris...even to those gorgeous markets!

Then we received The Stylish Blogger Award from my favorite Cajun cooking beauty
 Marguerite the author of Cajun Delights . I let me tell you delights is right on target,
Wow! There is always great food, music and dancing...then more great food :)
As Marguerite would say, stop on over and let the good times begin, cest bon, cher!

This group of lovely awards came to us from a new friend Cooking Rookie 
author of Cookbook of Trial and Error. A beautiful site, with even more
beautiful food. What I am loving the most so far is her willingness to experiment
and continue to stretch herself. If you are not yet acquainted please stop by :)

A warm and heartfelt thank you to each of you, from all
The Ardent Epicure Team!
Please take a moment to stop by these wonderful sites
and see some passioned food lovin'...

Alisha~Magic of Spice 

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