The Ardent Epicure

An Ode to the Pleasures of Food

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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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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