The Ardent Epicure

An Ode to the Pleasures of Food

Choya Cocktails, Friends and Awards

I want to tell you a bit about this cocktail...for one many of you as myself
may not be familiar with Choya...second this is not my cocktail recipe. 
Some of you may be wondering exactly why I am posting a recipe not
of my own creation? I have a very good excuse for this I promise.

 You see this cocktail was presented to me by a wonderful friend out there
 in this big beautiful world of foodies on the blogosphere. This wonderful
lady is Shirley of Shirley's Luxury Haven . Shirley, if you are not already
familiar, has a "Black Belt in Shopping", and she is not kidding. She rules
her site from Singapore but brings us goodies from all over the world. What
 to get and at what price is where she shows, "the best" and the
 "don't want to waste your time" they are all listed  for you to explore.

Do not, and I repeat do not travel without her :)
Plus there is a lovely array of tasty recipes to be found here...
So today I have tried to re-create this wonderful cocktail and share
it here with all of you. So of course I was able to indulge and believe
me when I say...I want another!

Choya is a brand that produces Umeshu a Japanese liqeur made from the
 ume fruit, closely related to the apricot that we are familiar with here in
the States. Appearance wise is like that of a fruity white wine and
a taste has both a sweetness and slight hint of sour.

I had to adjust this a bit based on what I had available. Since I could
not find Apple Cider, I infused an organic unfiltered apple juice with
mulling spices by allowing the spices to steep in the warmed juice for
about 10 minutes and then re-chilled. Next I did not have the mint tea
to add to the rim, as I wanted to come as close as possible to the
original flavors I merely  added fresh mint leaves to some fine natural
sugar for several days to impart the mint flavors. 

What you will need:
Recipe from - Shirley's Luxury Haven

(.34 ounces) 10ml Apple Cidar 
(.51 ounces) 15ml Choya 
1 Ume (from the Choya bottle)
Top with Champagne 
Add Peppermint Tea to rim

Shirley's Note: For less alcoholic content,
substitute Champagne with Sprite.
My Note: I so did not follow Shirley's note and
full on topped off with a French bubbly :)

Serving size: 1 cocktail
Thank you my lovely!

The Awards
The following award was bestowed on us by Chris of Gourmet Fashion.
a new friend that we have come to enjoy a multitude of treats from.

When you visit this site you will find a wonderful variety of fresh and usually
organic goodies to feast upon. Along with this you will get recipes with
fantastic step by step instructions, restaurant reviews and more.
Thank you so much Chris for this honor...

These next awards are from my lovely Marguerite of Cajun Delights.
And delights are exactly what you will find here...oh and I mean delights!

Les meilleurs délices! Et la musique, si bien...Basically every delight you
can dream of and some amazing Cajun music to accompany it. If you are
ever in the mood for some Cajun wonders, please stop on by!
Thank you so much mon cher...I am blessed.

Then we have a wonderful group of awards from Jay at Tasty Appetite.
On Jay's site you will catch her enthusiasm and love for food instantly.
Indian food is a specialty here, and every recipe is new and wondrous...
Especially to a lover of these amazing flavors that has no expertise
within said cuisine. Always lovely and bright, so if you are not yet
acquainted take a tour and say hello.
Thank you so much the honor of the awards... 

I would like to express a huge amount of gratitude to everyone above
for having me and our site in their thoughts. 

Alisha ~ Magic of Spice

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11:28 PM

What's on the side? A Slightly Tipsy Shrimp Cocktail

Posted by Magic of Spice

Grilled shrimp Cocktail with 
tomatillo and grape brandied salsa 

These days there are a multitude of cleaver concoctions based on this classic
 appetizer. The origins of this dish seem to be a little muddled, but according to
 this site I ran across while trying to gather more information  Food Timeline
 it appears to date back to the early 20th century United States. Traditionally
 this appetizer consists of cooked peeled shrimp served with a spicy
 ketchup/catsup or tomato based sauce.

I have chosen a salsa based sauce for our cocktail of tomatillo and grape. For a bit of taste-bud tantalizing we through in some French brandy and Cambodian lemongrass curry spice. Cambodian cuisine has a mixed influence of French and Chinese with their curry dishes showing influences from India. So as you can see we are taking quite a cultural culinary tour with this dish…

Along with our shrimp cocktail I served a cheese filled tortilla roll. For my cheese selection I used Midnight Moon, a firm aged goats milk cheese. This is high on my list of favorite cheeses with a smooth mouth feel, hints of salted caramel and prominent nutty brown butter undertones.

What you will need:

For the salsa:
1 bunch fresh cilantro
1 small bunch red seedless grapes, halved
6 tomatillos, husked and chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 red chili peppers, chopped and seeded
1 shallot, chopped
1 fresh lime, juiced (reserve about 1 tsp for shrimp)
4 tablespoons  French brandy or cognac
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/2 tablespoon Cambodian lemongrass curry seasoning
1/2 tablespoon cumin
Salt and pepper to taste
Food processor or blender

For the shrimp:
12 raw colossal shrimp, peeled and veined tail on
1 tablespoon olive oil
Splash of French brandy
1 teaspoon fresh lime juice
1-2 pinches cayenne pepper
Pinch of salt
1 shallot
4 skewers

For the rolled tortillas:
4 large tortillas
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup midnight moon cheese, grated

Let's get grillin':
Begin preparing your salsa by roughly chopping all produce and placing in a 
large food processor. (If using dry chilies, reconstitute in warm water until soft)
Reserving a few grapes halved to add to processed salsa, if desired.
Slowly add liquids while the processor is on, adding more if needed. Add cumin 
and curry, continuing to blend until fully incorporated. Salt and pepper to taste. 
Set aside stirring occasionally.

Heat grill to 375 degrees f 
Place shrimp in a large bowl along with olive oil, brandy, lime juice, cayenne and salt. 
Toss until shrimp is coated. Alternating between shrimp and shallot, place on skewers.
Place on grill about 4-5 min each side, until shrimps begin to char slightly and are pink.

Now prepare your cheese tortilla rolls by buttering one side of each tortilla 
and place on a sheet of foil. Add 1/4 of cheese to each tortilla and roll.
Place the foil with the tortilla roll onto grill until browned on each 
side and cheese has melted.

Note: If you are unable to obtain the Cambodian lemongrass curry a small amount of 
dry lemon grass ground, ground ginger, lime zest and a mild chili powder will be close.

This recipe was featured on Honest Cooking 

And for more fun on the grill check out these recipes...
Vegan Steaks - Honest Cooking 
Grilled Shrinp with Gulf Coast Flavors - Drick's Rambling Cafe
Grilled Brie and Cibatta - Honest Cooking
Cajun Grilled Rib Eyes - Cajun Delights 

Alisha ~ Magic of Spice

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Farmers' Market- 
TAE's Shopping Spree and Snacks 

This was the first time that all three of TAE team ventured of in search
 of organic and local treasures. This was also our first visit to this particular
farmers' market.  The location is at the Orange County Great Park in
Irvine California. And this is one large market let me just say...

Offering a wide variety of both locally grown produce, nuts, dried fruits
cooking oils and vinegar, wines, smoked fish, coffee and teas to
freshly baked treats. Now if this is not enough for you, how about a
large array of gourmet food trucks to choose from or maybe some hand
made crafts.

To finish off your trip to the market, what about a Hot Air Balloon ride or
maybe join the kids on the Carousel. There is  also live music to be
enjoyed and various educational events for the kids.

As you can see here, the list of produce and other goodies is 
a long one. We took home a few other treats as well...
The snacks:
Some natural dried pineapple and low sugar dried cantaloupe.
For our nut selections we chose freshly made almond butter,
roasted hazelnuts and mixed pistachios of lemon, jalapeño
and garlic/chili pepper. Then of course a variety of freshly made
hummus and pita bread along with some marinated baby mozzarella.
Oh, and I almost forgot...a few mini bunt cakes to wash it all down with.

The cranberry beans were gorgeous. These are actually a newer variety
of the cranberry bean know as Crimson the shelled  bean is tan with crimson
colored splotches or streaks. 

The two images that you see at the bottom of the above
collage are two new finds for me. On the left is Red Amaranth an Asian
vegetable similar to spinach. The gorgeous red stripped green leaves and
are commonly used in stir fry dishes, soups or in salads.

The next new find on the right is Water Spinach ( Ipomoea aquatica)
a semi-aquatic leafy vegetable also called "Chinese spinach". The
flavor is similar of that to a milder or baby spinach. This is another
vegetable that is commonly used in Asian stir fry dishes. This leafy
veggie can also be added to salads raw or wilted in the same way
you would treat a common spinach. 

My very favorite finds were the Coffee Chefs Soup Bar and one
of the most fantastic teas I have ever encountered. The tea is a Cucumber
Mojoto Green Loose Tea. I used this tea as a base for a sorbet that was
published here on Honest Cooking if you want a sneak peak :)
Hangar 244
Coffee & Tea

Alisha ~ Magic of Spice

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Lavender & Vanilla Bean Sugar 
Frozen Yogurt 

It all started when my friend C' purchased a beautiful bright red ice cream
maker. Well being the kind of friend that I am, with a selfless giving nature
I offered to break it in for her...What can I say, I am just that kind of girl :)

I used a Lavender and Vanilla Bean infused sugar from the spice shop that
we visited a couple of weeks ago. Along with some Pure Tahitian Vanilla Extract.
And since I have an abundance of lavender in my garden, I used some fresh
lavender flowers as well.
Savory Spice Shop
928 Avocado Ave 
Corona del Mar, CA 92660
949. 717.7776

Since this was my first try at making homemade frozen yogurt, I was not too familiar
with the process nor the potential results. So I followed the basic vanilla frozen yogurt
recipe that came with the ice cream machine. Then just made adjustments to
meet the flavors I wanted.
Adapted from Cuisinart® Classic Frozen Yogurt

What you will need:
5 cups whole milk plain yogurt
3/4 cup raw sugar, less 2 tablespoons
3 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon agave
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons lavender vanilla bean sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 vanilla bean, split
1-2 sprigs fresh lavender, whole
Pinch of sea salt
Cheese cloth
Ice cream machine
* My changes included the use of agave in place of corn syrup, by increasing
the honey by one tablespoon for texture. I also decreased the sugar by 2 tablespoons
and replaced with the lavender/vanilla sugar. Then added fresh lavender.

Let's get freezing:

Begin by prepping your yogurt. Place a sheet of cheese cloth over
a strainer and the placing the strainer over a large bowl. Add yogurt
and allow to rest for 2-4 hours. 

Now make a simple syrup by placing honey, agave, vanilla bean, water
and whole lavender flower into a small saucepan. Bring to a low boil
over medium/low heat then reduce heat and simmer. Continue to simmer
until liquid has reduced by half. Strain and place in a large mixing bow.
Add stained yogurt, sugars, vanilla extract and salt whisking until sugar
has melted. Refrigerate mixture until completely cooled 2 hours to overnight.

Now follow your ice cream manufacturers instructions to prepare
your frozen yogurt.

Note: If you can not get the lavender/vanilla sugar, you can make your own. Simply
take sugar and place in an airtight jar with a lid, add 1 split vanilla bean and
1-2 flower heads of lavender. Allow to sit in a cool dry space for about 1 week.

Alisha ~ Magic of Spice

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6:34 PM

What's for lunch? Pear and Gouda Grilled Cheese

Posted by Magic of Spice

Pear and Gouda Grilled Cheese
with a cherry balsamic glaze

There are few things that come to mind that bring up the thought “Comfort Foods”,
 like that of gooey melted cheese. So here at TAE we have been doing a
series on re-do's of the classic grilled cheese sandwich...
This is an incredibly easy sandwich to put together that is sure to delight
your family or guests.

What you will need:
For the glaze:
1/2 cup  balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup  fresh cherries, pitted and halved
For the sandwich:
8 slices ciabatta bread
16 slices gouda cheese
2 ounces aged gouda cheese, shaved
1-2 fresh firm ripened pears, thinly sliced
4 tablespoons butter, melted
Pinch of finishing salt and freshly ground black pepper

Let's get cooking:
For the sauce
Begin by bringing balsamic , lemon juice and cherries to a boil. Then reduce to a low
 heat and simmer for 20-25 minutes or until reduced by at least half.
For the sandwich 
Slice pears thinly and set aside.
Once your glaze had reduced allow to cool slightly, then brush one side of bread
with glaze, alternating slices.
Add a pinch of salt and pepper to melted butter.
Brush melted butter onto one side of bread and place buttered side down on a
 grill or frying pan.
Add one layer of gouda, pear, agged gouda the additional gouda.
Making sure that the cheese will melt onto both slices of bread.
Top with the second slice of bread with the glazed portion facing the cheese.
Brush outer side with additional butter.
Grill on low heat until lightly golden and cheese begins to melt.

Note: This can be served warm or at room temperature and makes for a
great appetizer as well as a main dish served along side fresh fruit, soup or salad.
This sandwich was featured on Honest Cooking the Food Magazine 

Alisha ~ Magic of Spice

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Gorgonzola and Cream Cheese-Filled Yellow Peppers with Roasted Elephant Garlic

Roasted Garlic
What you will need for this dish: one bulb of elephant garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper
We roasted a whole bulb of elephant garlic using a cast iron garlic roaster.  This creates a delicious, mellow and flavorful garlic that is spreadable.  We spread it on pieces of toast for a delicious, heavenly snack sent straight from Garlic Heaven!

Set your oven or barbecue to about 400 degrees (this can vary a bit, but don't let it get over 500 degrees or so for very long, or you may burn your garlic.
Cut off the top of the bulb, to the point where you are just cutting in to the garlic cloves.
Place the bulb in your garlic roaster, and drizzle with high-quality extra virgin olive oil, sea salt (we used fleur de sel), and freshly-cracked pepper.
Roast the garlic.  If you are using a barbecue, remember to close the lid while you are roasting, or the heat will drop too low.
Continue the roasting for about fifty minutes, more or less.  Anywhere from forty-five minutes to an hour should result in a nice, soft and tasty garlic.  If your barbecue gets too hot, open it to let off some heat, and make sure you don't leave it in too long.
Being very careful not to burn yourself, extract the cloves from the garlic roaster, and spread them on bread, use them in hummus, add them to your favorite foods, or just eat them like that!  However you do it, this roasted garlic will tingle your gastronomical senses, and have you back at your barbecue with another bulb in no time!
Note: if you like, feel free to add other spices to your garlic.  Experiment with flavors, and customize the roasted garlic to your desires.

Stuffed Peppers
What you will need for this dish: 4 yellow hot peppers, 2 ounces gorgonzola cheese, 3 ounces cream cheese, juice 1/4th lime, pinch of salt, pinch of pepper and foil.

Begin by slicing the top or head of each pepper at about 1/4th of an inch from the top. Remove seeds and veins if desired.
Mix remaining ingredients in a bowl until smooth and creamy, adding more lime juice, salt and pepper as desired.
Stuff each pepper to the brim, replace top and loosely enclose in foil. Place foil seamless side down on hot grill at about 400 degrees with a closed lid.
Continue to grill for 5-7 minutes or until tender and charred. 
Note: Some of your cheese mixture will escape, simply scoop this back into your peppers before serving.   

Note: If you prefer to have the skins removed grill the peppers first without the cheese mixture. Once grilled to desired tenderness, allow to cool to touch. Place peppers under running water and remove skins. Now stuff the peppers with the cheese mixture and loosely wrapped in foil. Return to grill on low heat until cheese is bubbly and hot.
For more fun with snacks or appetizers check these out:
Spicy Fresh Fruit Cocktail-Honest Cooking
Tea Sandwiches-Mission Food
Brussels Sprout And Goat Cheese Turnovers-Honest Cooking
Pretzels~Pepper Jack 'vs' Three Cheese-Spookie Queen
Wonton Dessert Fruit Cups-She's Cookin'

Adam ~ Truffle Shuffle
Alisha ~ Magic of Spice

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Grilled Cheese with Creamy Blue Cheese, 
Aged Cheddar, Apples and Bacon

As part of our running series on grilled cheeses, I wanted to make something decidedly less vegetarian, and a little bit more full of bacon!  Well, here it is! This grilled cheese includes Saint Agur blue, a ten-year aged cheddar, sautéed apples, and Black Forest bacon. A bit of sweet, a bit of bite, a bit of smokiness, and a ton of melted cheesy goodness!

Saint Agur
Saint Agur is a cow's milk blue cheese from France. It is a double cream cheese, which gives it a very soft, creamy and more delicate flavor than many blues you may have tasted. It has distinctive bluish-green mold veins and a soft, spreadable texture. If the usual sharp tang of blue cheeses isn't your style, try Saint Agur. It's mild flavor may be just what you are looking for. Either way, it is a delicious, flavorful cheese that melts wonderfully and adds a ton of flavor to the sandwich without taking over the other flavors.
Hook's Ten-Year
Hook's ten-year cheddar is a cow's milk cheddar made in Wisconsin, U.S.A. It is aged for ten years, but unlike many cheeses that are aged for this long, has no mold veins. Rather, it is a dense cheddar with a sharp, complex flavor. A bit spicy, with some tang and a mellow aftertaste, this cheese is one you won't want to miss. It also melts very well, and went great with our blue pick.

Loaf of fresh wheat bread
1/4 pound of Saint Agur blue
1/8 pound of Hook's ten-year cheddar
2 small or medium apples, or one larger one (I used the tart but sweet Pink Lady as my choice for this sandwich)
1/2 pound of Black Forest bacon
One clove of fresh garlic, minced
Fruit vinegar (I used a delicious and sweet pomegranate vinegar for this)
Spices: black pepper, sea salt, smoked paprika, cumin, cayenne pepper

If your bread is not sliced, slice it into thick sandwich-sized slices.
Peel your apples, and slice them into small segments that fit your desired size.  If you like big segments in your sandwich, you can make them a bit bigger.  Just be sure that they aren't too big for your sandwich to melt together properly; remember, this is a grilled cheese.
Shred your cheddar cheese to a small shred

In a pan set to medium heat, layer your bacon slices side by side (note that you will probably need to cook your bacon in multiple batches, unless you have a grill).  Remember to flip your bacon pieces as they reach the desired texture.  I like my bacon very crispy and on the verge of being burnt, but you can make yours however you like.

While your bacon is cooking, set another pan to medium-low heat, and prepare your apples.
Melt two tablespoons of butter in the empty pan, and add your apples.
Once the apples begin to soften, add about an eighth teaspoon of ground black pepper, a small sprinkling of sea salt (I used fleur de sel), about a half teaspoon of smoked paprika, a quarter teaspoon of cumin, and a pinch of cayenne pepper.  Also add your minced garlic clove.
Continue to cook the apples until they have just become soft on the inside.  You want the apples to maintain their texture and not fall apart, but you don't want them to be crunchy.  Once they are done cooking, remove them to a bowl, draining off as much of the excess oil as you can.  Add a splash of vinegar and stir to combine.

Continue to cook more bacon as necessary, and get started on your sandwiches.
Set a cast iron skillet to medium-low heat.
Butter one side of each piece of bread.  Melt the butter before hand for ease of application, if you desire.
Very carefully, use a bristle brush to apply some of the remaining sauce from the apple pan to the other side (the inside of your bread slices).  This step is optional.  If you do not desire to do this, butter the inside of the bread as well.
Lay one two slices, butter-side down, in the pan.  On each piece, layer some pieces of blue cheese, a sprinkling of cheddar, three or four apple slices, and about a strip and a half of bacon.  Make sure to either crumble or smash down the bacon a bit, so it fits inside the sandwich.  Add a bit more shredded cheddar on top.
Once you have everything you want inside, place the other pieces of bread on top, and press down so that the cheese will melt both sides of the sandwich together.
Cook the sandwiches until the bread becomes a medium golden brown, and the edges begin to get crispy.  Flip, and do the same on the other side.  Press the sandwich down to make sure that the cheese is melting both sides together properly.

Repeat this for each sandwich.  Serve warm, and enjoy!  Serve the sandwiches with any extra slices of bacon you may have.

Check out more on our grilled cheese series with Insalata Caprese "The Grilled Cheese"
and Pear And Gouda Grilled Cheese Sandwich on Honest Cooking 

Posted by Adam
(Truffle Shuffle)

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