The Ardent Epicure

An Ode to the Pleasures of Food

Herb, Tomato and Pluot Concassé 
with Black Garlic

Concassé if you are not already familiar does not refer to a specific dish
 or recipe. Concassé  pronounced (kon-kah-SAY) is actually a French
culinary term meaning to roughly chop an ingredient.

Although the term Concassé can apply to most any ingredient, it is
normally associated with tomatoes. We are going to utilize this technique
with both tomatoes and pluots here. Last summer I prepared a marinara
 using these two ingredients and it quickly became a favorite. The pluots
add just the right touch of tangy and sweet adding a bit of playfulness
to our fresh garden tomatoes.

Before we get on to our dish I would like to mention one of our stars here. 
Black Garlic which probably should have earned the title “Black Gold”, 
is one of the most delightful culinary treats I have encountered thus far. It is a 
fermented garlic that has a rich sweet flavor that brings up thoughts of molasses, 
yet not overly sweet. It is similar to roasted garlic in many ways, such as being
 spreadable and adding that well loved garlic feel without the bite of fresh garlic.
 However unlike roasted garlic it is quite sticky so I recommend when chopping,
 lightly brushing your knife with a grape seed oil or other light oil.

The term  Concassé neither requires nor implies anything further than roughly 
chopping. However, you will typically find a few more steps involved in the
 preparation. The purpose of this extended process is to not only enhance the
 color, texture and flavor  of our tomatoes and pluots, but to also remove the seeds 
and skins. This allowing for a far more palatable experience and adding a bit 
more Wow factor as well  :) 

These steps will generally consist of four primary steps along with
 coring and seeding where applicable.
1. Scoring
2. Blanching
3. Peeling
4. Chopping

Today we will be folding our concassé into a light oil, fresh herb and black 
garlic sauce. This can be served alone with warm crusty bread, as a topping for a
 lovely crostini appetizer or just about anything you wish. We will be serving it 
today however with some fresh basil linguine drizzled with a bit of olive oil and fresh
 lemon juice. This dish serves well as either and entrée for a multi-course meal, or 
as a slightly elegant accompaniment side to any main dish.

What you will need:
For the concassé:
4 large ripe tomatoes
3 ripe pluots
Large stock pot
Ice bath
For the sauce:
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium shallot, chopped
3-4 cloves black garlic, chopped
2 tablespoons cream sherry
a pinch ground white pepper
4 large fresh basil leaves, chopped
2-3 fresh mint leaves, chopped
Small bunch fresh chives, chopped
Sauté pan
For the pasta:
6 ounces fresh linguine, or pasta of choice
1/2 fresh lemon, quartered
Olive oil for drizzle, salt and pepper to taste

Let's get cooking:
Begin by removing any stems from your tomatoes and pluots. Place tomatoes
 and pluots bottom side up on a cutting board. Score the bottom of each with a
sharp pairing knife to just below the skins in an X pattern.

Bring a large stock pot of water to a rapid boil. In the meantime you can set up
 your ice bath by placing a large bowl filled with ice water within easy reach
 of your cooking station. If you are using various sizes, ripeness or types of fruits,
 it is best to blanch them separably. For example we have our tomatoes here all of a
 similar ripeness and size, so we will start with these. Gently place your tomatoes in
the boiling water from 10-30 seconds depending on ripeness. You will begin to see
 your X on the fruits start to deepen or the skin begin to loosen just slightly when
 the are ready.

Next you will want to immediately submerge them into the ice bath then set aside.
 Now repeat this process with your pluots. Note that they should require less time than
 the tomatoes being they have a thinner skin. Now we are ready to remove the skins
 from our fruits by simply grabbing the cut edges and gently sliding the skins off.

For the tomatoes you can now cut them into quarters then remove the core area
 and seeds. For the pluots or any stone fruits simply slice each side up to the pit area,
 then do the same on remaining edge pieces. Now you can simply
roughly chop them and set aside.

In a heated sauté pan on a medium/high heat add oil and shallot, gently cooking
 until just golden. Now add your black garlic, gently moving it around in the pan
 for just a moment or so to get the flavors working. Reduce heat to medium,
adding herbs and sherry, continuing to sauté for about 10 minutes.

Now prepare your pasta. If you are using fresh pasta merely bring a large pot
 of water to a boil. Place pasta into the boiling water and cook on high for
5-6 minutes for al dente.

Now gently fold your tomatoes and pluots into your sauce until just incorporated.
To serve I placed the tomato and pluot concassé into individual mini cast iron skillets and arranged the pasted into their own mini cast iron baking dishes.
Then drizzle the pasta with a bit of olive oil and and squeeze of fresh lemon. Note: I find it best with this dish to allow each person the salt and pepper at their own taste.

Note: If you have never prepared a dish concassé style, the primary thing to
 watch for is the blanching time. We are not trying to cook our ingredients here but
 rather wanting to enhance the raw fruits as well as simplify the peeling process.
On another note, you can prepare your concassé ahead of time or the
 day before and keep chilled.
This recipe was previously featured here on Honest Cooking...

Alisha ~ Magic of Spice

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10:29 AM

What's on the side? Farmers' Market Gourmet Bites

Posted by Magic of Spice

Farmers' Market Gourmet Bites
of Cheese Toasted, Chopped salad
and Blood Orange Emulsion
A 5 Star Makeover

Our 5 Star Makeover challenge for June/July was to  create a dish using
only farmers' market finds and pantry staples. I was so excited, I mean
even if you have only seen one other post I've done in the past, you
have probably figured out I'm a farmers' market junkie...

My excitement continued as I picked through fresh produce, grabbed
 a new cheese find, some fresh flatbread and a glorious black bean humus.
That was until I got to my car and ran these ingredients through my head.
What on earth was I going to make from all of this, and gourmet no less?!

Well, as I arrived home and started unloading my goodies, it came to me.
I would create a dish using my purchases that would allow for either
a starter, appetizer or lunch dish. The dish would be arranged in such
a way that each flavor and texture would be highlighted as well
as compliment each other.

This is a very easily prepared dish and makes a great starter for entertaining,
or as a larger portioned lunch. These is really no recipe except for the
emulsion so I will just list what I used.

What you will need:
For cheese and toasts
Flat bread
Red Hawk or other triple cream cheese
toasted peppitas
black bean humus, served on the side

What you will need:
For the blood orange emulsion 
2 blood oranges, juiced
(about 1/2 cup)
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons pain greek yogurt
1/2 cup sunflower or other light oil

What you will need:
For the salad
mango melon
firm ripe avocado
fresh young carrots
bulb from fresh scallions
cilantro flowers and top leaves
Fresh ground pepper and sea salt

Get this look:
Start be placing desired amount of humus in a pastry tube or bottle, and allow to
sit at room temperature. Then heat up a cast iron skillet or other heavy pan
until hot, add peppitas and toast until fragrant, set aside to cool then crush.

Now prepare your carrots by slicing into thin coins, then blanch these until
just barely tender. Next chop onions very finely. Sauté until onions are
golden brown and fragrant. Salt and pepper to taste, st aside and cool.

Now prepare salad mixture by roughly shopping mâche and basil. Then cube
 your melon and avocado setting each aside separately.

Prepare your blood orange (or other citrus) emulsion by by placing
juice, honey and yogurt in a blender or bowl if you have a hand held.
Slowly add oil while on high speed until fully incorporated.

Toast flat bread then cut into triangles. Smear on desired amount of cheese
then top with crushed peppitas. Serve with humus on the side.

Arrange your salad in layers starting with the greens, then carrots. Top with
melon and avocado, drizzled emulsion, cilantro leaved and flowers.

Note: It is best to serve the toasts and salad separately , allowing
each person to top their toasts with the salad.

Hosted by 5 Star Foodie and Lazaro Cooks

Alisha ~ Magic of Spice

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Tropical Fajitas, Kiwi Avocado Salsa
and Ancho Honey Cream 

Have I mentioned my unwavering love for fajitas? Well let me just say, if I am out to
eat and they are on the menu, they are on my plate! As you probably already know
they are a popular dish in Tex-Mex cuisine as well as in Mexican cuisine. It appears
though that the dish originated in  the Rio Grande Valley of Texas.

Aparently the "fajita" was originally skirt steak grilled over an open fire. The name
originates from the Spanish faja, for "girdle" or "strip" describing the specific cut
of meat. Today you can find this dish with any variety or combination
of meats, poultry, fish, shellfish and vegetables. Or in our case here
today fruits and vegetables.

Beautiful organic summer fruits and vegetables are in abundance at every
farmers' market, and a few in my garden as well. OK, I know, I probably spend
 a bit too much time roaming farmers' markets...but hey it's like a Christmas
 windfall out there :) So why not get them all together and let them play! 

And of course a few flavorful sauces always help. Plus I purchased this
adorable serving bowl set and just had to show it off :)
 Is my shopping gene showing?

What you will need:
For the fajita seasoning
1/8th teaspoon sweet paprika
1/2 teaspoon cayanne pepper, ground
1/2 teaspoon cumin, ground
1 teaspoon raw sugar
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 tablespoon fresh ground pepper

For the marinade 
(note you should marinade for minimum 
20-30 minutes prior to grilling)
4 tablespoons coconut oil, melted
3 tablespoons rum (optional)
1 tablespoon lime zest
4-5 cloves black garlic, cousley chopped
(use 2-3 cloves garlic if you do not have black)
Fajita seasoning  (use above or a mix)

For the fajitas
1 portabella mushroom, cut into strips
3 globe zucchini, sliced
(or 2 small zucchini, speared)
1 large small yellow squash, speared
1 large sweet onion, sectioned
3  sweet bell peppers, cut into thin strips
1 mango, cut into strips
2 small blood oranges, peeled and sliced
Large cast iron griddle or fajita pans
Grill or stove top

For the salsa
1/4 bunch fresh cilantro
2 fresh kiwi, chopped and halved
1 large avocado, chopped and halved
4 yellow tomatoes or tomatillos, chopped and halved
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 yellow pepper, chopped (seed for less heat)
1 shallot, chopped
1 fresh lime, juiced
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/2 tablespoon cumin
Salt and pepper to taste
Food processor or blender

For the ancho honey cream
8 ounces sour cream
3 teaspoons ancho chili, ground
1/2 teaspoon honey, or to taste

Let's get grilling:

Starting with our fajita seasoning, place all ingredients in a bowl and mix well.
Now prepare your marinade by adding all ingredients in a shallow dish, or
plastic bag if you prefer, mixing until fully incorporated.

Slice all of your fajita fruits and vegetables then place in the marinade, making
sure everything is well coated. Refrigerate for minimum of 20 - 30
minutes up to several hours.

While you are waiting begin your salsa. Prepare your avocado and kiwi,
setting half aside. Add the other half of both along with remaining ingredients
into a food processor or blender, blending until smooth. Transfer to a container
then fold in remaining avocado and kiwi. Chill until ready to use.

Now prepare your ancho honey cream by mixing in ancho chili and
honey, then chill. Note: this is best at room temperature prior to serving.

If using a grill set to high and wait until grill has reached a minimum of
400 degrees. Use a cast iron or heavy grill proof pre-seasoned pan and
place your mixture into the pan. Adding more coconut oil if needed.
Note: If you are using fajita pans you will need 2 large, or do it in shifts.
Shift your fruits and vegetables every now and then to brown evenly.
They are done when vegetables are tender.

Serve with fresh tortillas and additional cilantro.
Serves 4-6

The lovely Nancy over at Spicie Foodie is having a food contest, and this will be
 my entry. You see the challenge is to create a dish or more specifically a
"Spicie" dish...I am all over it!!! The contest runs until July 27th so
get an inventory of you spices and get cooking :)

The contest winner will receive a copy of this beautiful cookbook
An Epiphany of the Senses.  See contest rules and information here.

Alisha ~ Magic of Spice

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Summer Sunshine Watermelon 
Sunflower and Greens Salad

Summer brings with it thoughts of warm evenings, picnics, barbecues and 
of course sunflowers. And since staying cool becomes a priority,
a cool and refreshing salad hits the mark...

I am going to get a bit personal now and tell you something about myself...
I have a vice and I mean a hardcore habit type of vice. This vice or habit comes in the
form of a small seed encompassed within a hard little shell. While others munch
happily on popcorn during a movie or while curled up with a favorite novel, I happily
and obsessively pop one after the other of these nutty little treasures into my mouth.
 You may have guessed by now that these little jewels
are non other than the sunflower seed.

Why you may be asking yourself, exactly is she rambling on about these seeds.
Clearly there are no sunflower seeds here in the recipe. Sure there is a sunflower
in the photo and its bright yellow sunny petals here, but clearly no seeds. A few months
back I discovered a new obsession in the form of Sunflower Greens. These are as
addictive as my beloved seeds, with a nutty crunch and flavor to match.
And as with many baby greens or sprouts they are an excellent
 source of  protein, vitamins and minerals.

Fresh summer fruits are another classic delight that showcase their beauty all through
 the season. Watermelon is of course among the most classic of summer delights.
To assist you with a bit of summer seduction we are going to prepare a chopped
 greens salad with sweet watermelon. Adding a bit of fresh snappy cilantro
 and a sweet but slightly peppery dressing

What you will need:
For the salad:
1 baby seedless watermelon, slice and reserve juice
4 ounces sunflower greens
4 ounces pea shoots or greens
1/2 small bunch cilantro leaves
1 small bunch edible sunflower petals

For the dressing:
1 fresh lemon, juiced
1/2 cup sunflower oil, or other light oil
2 Tbs  reserved watermelon juice, or to taste
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
Pinch of cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon honey, or to taste

Lets get it together:
For the salad
Begin by slicing your melon (down the center if using the shell as a bowl)
 then chop of slice melon fruit to desired shapes.
Take both sunflower greens and pea shuts, cutting of stems about 1/8th of an inch from leaves,
 then chop leaves. Tear sunflower pedals  into smaller pieces. 

For the dressing:
Add all ingredients into a blender or small food processor, slowly add oil 
while blending until completely incorporated. Add additional honey 
and pepper to taste if desired.
Once your dressing is complete toss greens with dressing, then add watermelon
 and lightly toss or layer as I did.

Note: When using flowers as an ingredient please make sure they are grown for 
consumption as the types of pesticides used for flowers will very 
between edible and non-edible.

This recipe was featured on Honest Cooking 

And check out these other watermelon treats...
Mexico On My Plate: Agua De Sandia - Honest Cooking
Watermelon Feta Salsa with Fresh Horseradish,
 Euro-Mexican Fusion - Spicie Foodie 
Salted-Herbed Watermelon Granita - Como Water

Alisha ~ Magic of Spice

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8:26 AM

What's for lunch? French Style Grilled Cheese

Posted by Magic of Spice

 Triple Crème Brie, Petit Basgue, 
Grape and Candied Walnut Butter
Grilled Cheese

Here we have another in our series on the Grilled Cheese...
We are having some fun mixing things up a bit, yet sticking
with our classic fruit and cheese combinations.

Our cheese selection for today are Istara Petit Basque and
Saint-André Triple Crème Brie.

 The Petit Basque is a relative newcomer on the cheese scene, being first produced
 in the late 90's. This is a semi firm cheese that has a smooth feel with hints of
 brown butter and caramel, with just a hint of sweetness. The cheese is a
sheep's milk variety found both raw and pasteurized. The unique rind is
 washed in Espelette pepper then aged for 2.5 to 4 months. And if you
are on the border with most sheep's milk cheeses, you may find this
one surprisingly mild in comparison.

Ah, and now the  Triple Crème Brie...the cheese making gods were
in top form with this beauty. This cheese is characterized by it's
edible downy white rind and ultra creamy center. A pasteurized cow's
 milk cheese typically aged for 4 weeks or longer. At a 75% milk fat
ratio and triple crème, silk is the only way to describe this cheese.
Pure silky buttery goodness...

What you will need:
Based of 4 sandwiches
8 slices of your favorite rustic bread
(I used an organic whole wheat walnut and berry)
2-3 ounces petit basque, sliced
4-5 ounces triple crème brie, sliced
1/4 cup candied walnuts, ground
4 tablespoons butter, softened
(plus extra for grilling)
1 small bunch of grapes, thinly sliced
Small pinch of freshly ground pepper
 and fleur de sel

Let's get grilling:
Starting with your candied walnut butter, grind walnuts in a mortar and pestle
or small food processor. Add softened butter and mix until smooth.

Next brush melted butter onto one side of bread and place buttered side down on a
 grill or frying pan. Place one layer of triple crème brie followed by a layer of thinly 
sliced grapes. Next add your sliced petit basque the lightly dust with Fleur de sel
and ground pepper. 

Brush outer side with additional butter.
Grill on low heat until lightly golden and cheese begins to melt.

Alisha ~ Magic of Spice

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1:55 PM

What's for dessert? Cucumber Mojito Sorbet

Posted by Magic of Spice

Cucumber Mojito Sorbet

Here in the northern hemisphere summer is beginning to heat things up, leaving us in
 search of pleasant ways to stay cool. And of course frozen treats being at the
top of this list.

Officially summer began with summer solstice on June 21st where we enjoy
the longest period of daylight. This brings with it an almost instant desire to be
 outdoors. Al Fresco dining, BBQ’s, picnics, swimming pools and beaches
quickly become the fashion.

The Mojito is a classic Cuban cocktail famed as the favorite drink of Ernest Hemingway.
And let’s not forget this cocktails Hollywood moment when Bond offers Jinx a
cocktail and says “Mojito? You should try it” in the 2002 film Die Another Day.

The cocktail is classically prepared with white rum, sugar cane juice, lime juice, Cuban
or apple mint/Mentha nemorosa and sparkling water. The mixture is then lightly
crushed to release the essential oils of the mint.

Our sorbet however has a green tea base that is flavored with mint, lime and refreshing
cucumber. I found this tea while shopping at a local farmers market and instantly
fell in love. Given my immediate attraction to this tea, upon my arrival back home out
 came the ice tea pitcher. For the ice tea I lightly seasoned with some dehydrated
cane juice, a splash of fresh lime and some fresh apple mint from my garden.
While sipping my tea and contemplating my next kitchen creation, it hit me…
A mojito sorbet!

What you will need:
5 cups  prepared tea, chilled
1 cup  fresh lime juice
2 cups  evaporated cane juice, or raw sugar
2 Tbs  lime zest, divided
4-5 large apple mint leaves, torn
8-10 slices cucumber
2 Tbs white rum, optional
A pinch of salt
Ice cream maker

Let's get freezing:
Begin preparing a simple syrup by placing tea, sugar and half of the lime zest into a
medium sized saucepan.Over medium heat, simmer this mixture until the sugar
has completely melted.

Remove from heat and all remaining ingredients except for rum and remaining lime
 zest. (These ingredients will be added at the very end). Allow this mixture to rest for
 20 minutes then chill in refrigerator 4-6 hours or overnight.

Once mixture has completely chilled, stain through a fine mesh sieve to
 remove all solids. Your mixture is now ready for your ice cream machine.

Follow your machines manufacturer instructions for sorbet.
The mixture will typically reach desired consistency in about 20 min.

Once you have reached desired consistency, add remaining lime zest and rum
 until incorporated.
Note: If you are not able to find the cucumber mojito tea, you can come close
 to the flavors by using a green ice tea and increasing the amounts of cucumber,
mint and lime zest.

This recipe was featured on Honest Cooking.

Looking for more frozen delights?

Spanish Turrón Ice Cream - Honest Cooking
4th of July Paletas - Sweet Life
Dark chocolate sorbet with pink peppercorns - A Meanderring Mango
Apricot Sorbet with Smoked Paprika - Dinners & Dreams
Strawberry Yogurt Popsicle - Explora Cuisine
Double Peach Ice Cream - Authentic Suburban Gourmet

Alisha ~ Magic of Spice

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9:39 AM

What's on the side? Key West Inspired Grilled Corn

Posted by Magic of Spice

Tequila and Key Lime Buttered
 Grilled Corn

Summer is really starting to heat up a bit with long warm days and,
when we are lucky, evenings filled with cool refreshing drinks and breezes
 to match. And since this is a  Holiday weekend, we will see, smell and
hopefully indulging in mass amounts of outdoor cooking.

To be a little more accurate, the type of outdoor cooking I am referring
is barbecuing or gridiron cooking. The process of grilling foods typically
refers to any method of cooking where a high heat source is meant to
cook foods more quickly. And depending on where you live this
can take on many forms as well as titles.

Fresh corn from the farmers' market is a treat that just screams summer...
or at least to me. Fresh young sweet corn is the ideal barbecue ingredient
and in fact is said to be the most popular vegetable to stage a presence in
this popular summer cooking method.

The sugars in our fresh corn are what help to caramelize the outer
surface of our corn, rather than merely charring it. So fresh is a must,
but if you are not able to get these stalks directly from the farming source
a few simple steps can still insure that your corn is fresh.
1. Choose ears that have a deep vibrant green husk.
2. The ends of the silk protruding from the top should
light brown and inner silk should be translucent.
3. When pulling back a layer of husk to expose the kernels,
they should be nice and plump.

I must make a quick note about another ingredient we have
staring here today. This is a Key Lime Seasoning, hence the
title. You can find this seasoning pre-packaged in many
specialty stores and online. However with a few simple spices
you can also mimic these flavors. I will make some notes
after the recipe for you :)

What you will need:
4 ears of fresh sweet corn, preferably with husks

For the tequila key lime butter:
half for basting, half for serving
8 tablespoons butter, melted
2 key limes, juice and zest
2 tablespoon tequila
1 1/2 tablespoons key lime seasoning
Sea salt and fresh ground pepper
Basting brush and grill (if you do not have a grill
you can also use an oven broiler)

*Note: If you do not have the Key Lime seasoning you
can create a similar flavor using one additional key lime, zest,
fine ground white pepper, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, mustard
 and cayenne . Dehydrated onion, ginger, garlic and thyme.
Using all small pinch of each until you have reached a
desirable flavor, then finely grind and mix well.

Let's get grilling:
For the corn:
Peel back the husks of each stalk and remove as much silk as possible.
Remove very outer layers of the husk, retaining 2-3 inner layers.
Rinse corn under cool water, including the husks. Shake or pat dry
the set aside.

Fore the tequila key lime butter:
Place melted butter in a bowl, add tequilas, key lime juice
and zest. Blend thoroughly then add seasoning a bit at a time
until you have reached desired flavor.

Divide your butter mixture setting aside 1/2 for basting with the remaining
 1/2 places into individual serving cups. Now bast each ear of corn with
butter mixture and replace retained husks.

Setting grill to medium/high heat place corn directly onto grill.
Grill for approximately 10-12 minutes turning as needed.

Notes: For if using a broiler remove husks, baste and broil
for about 5 minutes each side, basting as needed.

So to all of our friends and readers here in the States...
we wish you a safe and delightful 4th of July.
And a recently past celebration to those in Canada,
we hope you had  festive and safe celebrations for Canada Day.

And a couple of quick reminders

Regestration for An Epicurean Voyage to Sicily deadline is August 15th.

And the June round up from YBR...take a look!

Alisha ~ Magic of Spice

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