The Ardent Epicure

An Ode to the Pleasures of Food

Chilled Angel Hair Pasta Salad
 with Chanterelle Mushrooms, 
Lucques Olives, Purple Snow Peas
 and Kumquat

This pasta salad is colorful, bright and fresh with a mingling of citrus, floral and
woodsy tones. A refreshing alternative to many of the heaver dishes we
indulge ourselves with during fall and winter Seasons. 

With the addition of kumquats we add a bit of sunshine and citrus. Typically
these little guys are enjoyed raw and whole, having a sweet outer peel and
tart flesh, they make great snacks. Here in California our Season spans
October through January and my itchy organic shopping fingers,
just could not resist :)

The Lucques personal favorite, have a slightly sweet and nutty flavor.
And hold up impressively well against the citrus and deep floral/woodsy
pallet of our chanterelles.

We have some additional color with these purple snow peas and a toss of edible
 flowers to give a bit of sunshine to our "sometimes"chillier days.

The chanterelle mushrooms with their beautiful rich and complex flavors
are a delight to behold. They are prized as a sought after culinary delight
to many with a similar passion of the morel or even the coveted truffle.
Although I am using fresh organic chanterelles here, they are another
variety of mushroom that does well in their dried state.

What you will need:
12 ounces rainbow angel hair pasta
2-4 ounces chanterelle mushrooms, sliced
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup Lucques olives, pitted and sliced
3-4 ounces purple snow peas
6-8 kumquats, sliced
1/4th cup plus 1 tablespoon grapeseed oil
1/8th cup fresh orange or lemon juice
1/8th cup white balsamic vinegar 
1 teaspoon orange zest
(or dried orange peel, finely ground)
1/8th teaspoon coriander, finely ground
Freshly ground pepper and salt to taste
Edible Flowers, optional

Let's get cooking:
Prepare pasta as directed and set aside.

Heat 1 tablespoon grapeseed oil in a sauté pan on medium/high heat.
 Add sliced mushrooms and allow slightly caramelize 2-3 minutes. Now
add garlic until just fragrant, then add olives, snow peas and kumquats.
Continue to sauté for an additional 2-3 minutes, remove from heat.

Place remaining oil, zest, citrus juice and balsamic into pan. Toss
in pasta until well coated, season as desired. Garnish with
edible flowers as desired.

Chill for 1-2 hours prior to serving or serve hot if desired.
Serves 4

Alisha ~ Magic of Spice

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Roasted Golden Beets with Lemon and
 Mint Cream Sauce

This is another quick and easy side that I love the basic simple flavors of. By
simply dressing our roasted beets with a drizzle of hazelnut oil then a sprinkling
 of coarsely ground salt and pepper we let the natural flavors shine.

The lemon and mint yogurt sauce makes a lovely accompaniment to our
roasted beets, or would hold up well on it's own as a veggie dip. Perhaps
even a nice light dressing by adding a bit of oil and upping the fresh
lemon a bit. Either way both would be a welcome guest at a holiday
 table or fall get together.

These lovely organic beets are of the golden variety and although many may find
them, along with several other rood vegetables to be unattractive, I find them
to be glorious! I do find the red beets to be attractive as well, but the golden
beet has my vote. The raw beet has such a perfect blend of hues the
yellows, oranges and even fall is that!

Did you know that these beautiful bushy greens are also edible? Well if not I can
assure you they indeed are. They in fact belong to the same family as chard, and
 can be prepared in any way their cousins can. So if you are to get your hands on
 young beet greens they are lovely in a raw state, if the leaves are more mature
 along with the stems, a stir fry may fit the bill. So if you had only though that
the root portion was edible, take another look at the beet as a
 "stem to root" food source.

To highlight these beauties I chose the simplest of seasonings...but of coarse they
are a bit special :) The salt is a combination of pink and white sea salts, along
with dried edible flowers. We also have two pepper varieties.

The first of our peppers being Penja Pepper or "Pepper from Paradice".This
unique white peppercorn has larger than typical berries. The flavor is quite
 complex, bold yet mildly spicy. It has a silky feel with woodsy undertones,
 along with a delicate uplifting aroma...beautiful by any standards.

Our second pepper it the Tellicherry, I have featured this pepper before and
 am re-introducing it. This variety of peppercorn is said by many to be
 the finest in the world. They are ripened for longer than most black
 peppercorn varieties, lending them a luscious fruity aroma and mouth
 feel. As I have featured this pepper recently, I will not go on and on,
but if you have the opportunity to get your hands on either
 or both...shall I just say...Do :)

What you will need:
For the lemon mint cream
5 ounces plain Greek yogurt
1 1/2 - 2 tablespoons fresh mint, finely chopped
1/2 large lemon, juiced
1/2 tablespoon lemon zest
* Note: make sauce ahead by a couple of
hours to allow for a melding of flavors

For the roasted beets
4 medium to large golden beets
2 tablespoons hazelnut  oil, plus
 more for drizzle
Freshly ground sea salt and pepper
(I used sea salt with dried flowers
along with Penja and Tellicherry
 peppers freshly ground)

Let's get cooking:
For the lemon mint cream
Start by preparing your lemon mint sauce. First finely chop your mint, and
place in a mini food processor to mince. If using a food processor add
 yogurt, lemon and zest until combined. If using a bowl, whisk until
 fully incorporated and creamy. Refrigerate for a few hours,
removing 10 minutes before needed.

For the roasted beets
Place cleaned and trimmed beets in foil, drizzle with olive oil and place on a
baking sheet in a pre-heated oven at 375°F. Roast covered in foil turning beets half way
for about 1-1 1/2 hours depending on beet size. (baby or mini beets can be as little as
 25 minutes while very large beets can be up to 1 1/2 hours). Beets are done when
they are pierced with a fork or knife at the top and are tender.

Allow beets to cool to the touch after removing from oven, then peel. Slice
each beet into aprox 1/4 inch slices or as desired. Drizzle with a bit of oil
then sprinkle on salt and pepper. Serving lemon mint cream on the
side, or thin a bit with oil and lemon and drizzle.
Serves 4

And for a fun side note, I had a visit from the mysterious The Fairy Hobmother,
she is said to be spreading gifts to those who make a wish. I myself have
been graced by such a gift, in the form of a $100 dollar Amazon gift card.
Who doesn't want such a treat during the holiday Season!

She is often seen here at Appliances Online, where she watches over
 a luxurious line of  household appliances and more.

The story goes, that if you leave a comment while making a wish, you
may receive a visit of your vary own. So don't forget to make a wish ;)

Alisha ~ Magic of Spice

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1:20 PM

What's on the side? Fall Spiced Roasted Carrots

Posted by Magic of Spice

Fall Spiced Roasted Carrots

Fall or Autumn is my favorite Season, but certainly not for the weather or even the
loom of the Holidays. After all I am a southern California girl, so no changing of the
 leaves from greens to golds and browns. The evergreens are still green and
the palms still palms.

Or even that I am myself a fall none of these.
It is the scents, the glorious aromas that fill our days and nights. The warming
spices and fresh pines, the smells of freshly baked breads and sugar cookies.
Cups of spiced warming teas and the crackling smokey wood of the fire place.
These are the very things that say fall to me.

So today we are going to play with some of the warming aromatic spices
that are associated with fall. Perhaps we will even get a bit bold with
our fall spice mix by including cardamom, black cardamon to be exact.

A cousin of the more widely know and popular green cardamom, and also
hailing from the ginger family, this bold rustic beauty will be adding an
earthy/smokey touch to our dish. The smokiness is due to the
pods being dried over an open flame, while the spice retains
similar notes of  eucalyptus and mint like it's green relative
they are more of an undertone beneath the smokey forefront.

Working with whole spices
Our spice mix will yield about 1 tablespoon so adjust the
amounts as desired or when increasing the number of servings.
When interchanging whole, ground/crushed and powdered
spices here is a general rule of thumb to follow.
1 tablespoon whole spice = 1/2 spoon ground/crushed
and 1/3 teaspoon powdered or finely ground.
For convenience I used ground measurements along
with approximated whole spice amounts to be used.

On another note, I did not add any sugar to the spice mix
as I find the natural sweetness of the carrots to be sufficient.
You can add a bit of brown sugar or raw sugar if desired,
or add sugar to create a wonderful and fragrant rub for
pork or salmon dishes :)

Aside from our spices we are using a mixture of two oils, one being
an organic extra virgin olive and the other an Organic unfiltered and unrefined
 pumpkin seed oil. Since unrefined pumpkin seed oil has a very low smoking
point at only 225°F the blend will add a bit more stability when roasting.
Typically this oil is serves well as a finishing oil or for light sautéing.

This beautiful and exotic pumpkin seed oil has a rich full bodied nutty
flavor. A specialty pumpkin know as the  "Styrian oil pumpkin" or
Cucurbita pepo species pumpkin, is cultivated for it's unique seeds.
The seeds are entirely edible and hull-less and more easily
processed for the oil.

Another unique factor of pumpkin oil is it's color produced by the
high chlorophyll content giving it a dark rich green. However
there is a bit of a twist with this oils color or hue, being that
the hue adjusts visually by the thickness it is being  viewed at.
This phenomenon is called dichromatism, if being viewed in
a thick layer the oil will appear deep red nearly black, but
viewed in a thin layer a deep rich green. I took a set of
photos to give you a bit of a visual below.

What you will need:
2 bunches fresh young carrots
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon pumpkin seed oil
1 teaspoon cinnamon, ground
(1 large stick)
1/2 teaspoon black cardamom seeds, ground
(seeds from 2 pods)
1/2 teaspoon pepper, ground
(15-20 peppercorns)
1/4th teaspoon nutmeg, ground
(1/4th whole nutmeg seed)
1/4th teaspoon allspice, ground
(5 to 6 berries)
1/4th teaspoon cloves, ground
(4-5 cloves)
1/4th teaspoon Himalayan pink salt, grated

Let's get cooking:
Start by grating your nutmeg and salt to the desired amounts then grind
 the remaining spices with a spice grinder or coffee grinder designated for
this purpose, to a semi course grind. Add the grated nutmeg and salt to
 the grinder with the other spices and pulse a few times to incorporate.
Note: It is easiest to get a more consistent grind if you break up the
 cinnamon stick before grinding.

Arrange carrots in a single row on a baking sheet.Next blend your two
 oils together and drizzle or brush the oil on carrots to coat, sprinkle
 evenly with spice mix. Roast in a pre-heated oven at 400°F loosely
covered in foil for about 10 minutes, remove the foil and turn carrots
placing them back in the oven for an additional 10 - 15 minutes
or until tender. Note: I do not peel my carrots as they are organic
young carrots but you can peel them if desired or if using non-
organic or older carrots.

Serves 4

Alisha ~ Magic of Spice

Remember to submit here YBR by deadline is November 29th 2011 

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Truffle Salted and Balsamic Glazed
 Seared Yellowfin Tuna with Manzano
Pepper and Cucumber Salad

This is a quickly put together dish that will serve well as a main dinner delight with
 a larger portion or along with a side, or as an equally satisfying lunch. The salad
 marinating time can be anywhere from 1 hour if you are needing to  prepare
 same day, or overnight to make a quick meal in a matter of minutes.

Our chosen salt is nothing short of a treasure, especially for anyone looking to
get a bit of truffle essence in their dish. With a beautiful blend of Italian sea salt
 and shaved bits of Abruzzi black truffle, we are instantly seduced by an earthy,
rich and sensual aroma. This is a beautifully balanced finishing salt, but today
we will be utilizing its intoxicating flavorings as a rub for our Ahi.

I went a bit further here with the truffle-infused ingredients and utilized both
 a white truffle-infused olive oil along with a white truffle infused balsamic
 glaze. This dish will work wonderfully with any of your own favorite
 flavors, so substitute with any balance of flavors that you enjoy :)

And as for our adorable hot pepper selection may I introduce the Manzano 
Pepper for those that are not familiar. This organic pepper variety is one of
 the "pubescens" and a cousin of the Rocoto pepper. They are typically used
fresh as they have a thick meaty body so are difficult to dry. The name
Manzano is apple in Spanish, so termed by their similarity to mini
apples or really crabapples if size is a factor.

This variety of peppers is on the hot side and varies between an index
of 30000-60000 Scoville units, similar to that of Cayenne pepper.
So we are talking quite a bit hotter than the Jalapeño at 2500-8000
 heat index, but not as hot as the Habanero or Scotch Bonnet at
100000-350000. Although some varieties are considered to be
 hotter than the Habanero by some, this can range by both palate
 as well as variety and region of the peppers cultivation.

Capsicum pubescens can be identified by their large black seeds,
 being the only chili pepper variety with this characteristic. The
Monzano peppers come in a range of colors from yellow,
 orange, red to a brownish red.

What you will need:
For the salad
6 Persian cucumbers, thinly sliced
2-3 manzano peppers, thinly sliced
(or mini peppers of choice)
3/4th cup white balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons grapeseed,or other light oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
A pinch of sea salt
Freshly ground pepper
Baby romaine or other lettuce for bedding

For the seared tuna
4-6 ounce sashimi  grade yellowfin tuna steaks
2 tablespoons white balsamic glaze or
(Balsamusse White Truffle Balsamic Glaze)
1 tablespoon truffle salt
1 tablespoon freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons truffle infused olive oil
 or oil of choice

Let's get cooking:
For the salad
Whisk together all ingredients except cucumbers and peppers in a bowl.
Place thinly sliced cucumbers and peppers in a large bowl and cover with
marinade. Refrigerate loosely covered for at least 1 hour to overnight.

For the seared tuna
Drizzle each steak with balsamic glaze on one side, then rub on both
truffle salt and freshly ground or cracked pepper.

In a large heated heavy bottomed sauté pan drizzle oil. Once has just
started smoking, add tuna stakes. Over medium/high heat sear each side to
1 to 1 1/2 minutes for rare. Sear for 2-3 minutes for medium rare.

Allow steaks to cool to touch before slicing for serving. Then
drizzle with additional glaze at serving, Layer the cucumber/pepper
 salad onto individual plated and top with the seared ahi.
Serves 4 

*Note: for steaks on the thinner side you can use a high heat
and shorter searing time. And if you are unable to find a
balsamic glaze, here is a link to a guest post I did for my friend
 Lazaro over at Lazaro Cooks that will give you the basics on
preparing your own balsamic glaze.

Alisha ~ Magic of Spice

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