The Ardent Epicure

An Ode to the Pleasures of Food

11:53 AM

What's for snack time? Puff Pastry Pizzas - Two Ways

Posted by Magic of Spice

Champagne Grape, herbs and Ricotta
 Tomato,Arugula and Le Petit Crème

These are fun and simple appetizers that can be put together with just
about anything you have available...and fast!

For our slightly sweet version I used rosemary and thyme along with
the champagne grapes and ricotta. Then for the savory version we
have strawberry tomatoes (named for shape not flavor), along
with arugula and some lovely Le Petit Crème. 

What you will need:
For the sweet
1/2 puff pastry sheet
3.5-4 ounces ricotta
1 small bunch champagne grapes
1 sprig fresh rosemary leaves
1 sprig fresh thyme leaves
1-2 teaspoons raw sugar

For the savory
1/2 puff pastry sheet
2 tablespoons pistachio oil
1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup loosely packed arugula
4-5 strawberry tomatoes or 2 medium Roma
4 ounces Le Petit Crème

 Let's get cooking:
Prepare your pastry sheet by rolling out onto a lightly floured surface or
cutting board. Cut in half lengthwise and allow to thaw for 40 minutes.

Pre-bake sheets in a 400 degree oven for about 10 minutes until lightly
golden. Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly.

For the sweet 
Spread prepared sheet with ricotta to about 1/2 inch from edges. Sprinkle
with herbs then champagne grapes. Scatter with raw sugar.

For the savory
Brush pastry sheet with pistachio oil, again to about 1/2 inch from edge.
Sprinkle with sea salt and pepper. Layer on arugula and tomatoes, then
drop cheese in teaspoon sized dollops as shown.

Place both sheets back into the oven for 5-7 minutes or until
Le Petit Crème has melted and the champagne grapes begin to peel.
Let stand for a few minutes then slice and serve.
Serves 4 as appetizers

This is week three of the "Tailgating Game Week Party" over
at my good friend Drick's place. So stop over and check out the menu
and bring along a tasty treat of your own. You can link your delicious
party style foods until tonight 9-12-2011 at midnight.

Alisha ~ Magic of Spice

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11:23 AM

What's on the side? A Dirty Banana Shake

Posted by Magic of Spice

A Dirty Banana Shake

This cocktail has many varieties as well as methods of preparation. Typically you will
 find this drink containing crème de bananes,crème de cacao, coffee liqueur, 
dark rum and vanilla ice cream.

We are going to our version here today just slightly differently. Just a bit less 
sweet with fresh ripe bananas  and fresh brewed coffee.

Our version will be blended and served in a chilled pitcher, but you can divide the 
ingredients and make per cocktail utilizing a shaker if you prefer.
A fun and refreshing cocktail…The Dirty Banana

What you will need: 
1 large banana
4 ounces strong brewed coffee, chilled
4 ounces chocolate liqueur
4 ounces dark rum
2 ounces cream
8 scoops vanilla ice cream
1/2 cup ice, crushed

Add ice to blender and pulse until crushed.
Add remaining ingredients except ice cream, blend well.
Add ice cream blending until fully incorporated.
Place in chilled pitcher or cocktail glasses.
Serves 4

This is gong over for week three of the "Tailgating Game Week Party" over
at my good friend Drick's place. So stop over and check out the menu
and bring along a tasty treat of your own. You can link your delicious
party style foods until tonight 9-12-2011 at midnight.

Alisha ~ Magic of Spice

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9:00 AM

What's on the side? Baked Asparagus Fries

Posted by Magic of Spice

Baked Asparagus Fries

Fresh baby asparagus is a tender delight who's primary harvesting season is spring.
However this versatile and adaptable California joy is also harvested during during the
 months of September and October. In fact depending on the production are in
 California, you can find asparagus through most of the year. The more tender "baby"
asparagus is not as easily acquired but when available, I of course jump right in...

I served these with two dipping sauces that I make on several occasions.
A Champagne Mustard Aioli, here, and an Ancho Honey Cream, here.
I substituted the sour cream in the ancho honey cream with
Crème fraiche this time, but either works great. 

My choice of flour was a Garrbonzo Bean Flour that is a gluten free flour.
For a alternate glutton free version of this recipe try replacing the the
panko bread crumbs with unsweetened coconut flakes. 

What you will need:
1 pound baby asparagus
2 eggs
1/2 large lemon, juiced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup garbanzo bean flour
1 arbol chili pod, ground
1/2 teaspoon ocean smoked sea salt, ground
1/2 teaspoon fresh pepper, ground
1/2 cup panko
Ice and large pot for blanching.

Let's get cooking:
Start by preparing your eggs by gently whisking them, add lemon juice and
minced garlic, stirring to incorporate. Then take two separate plates,
or one large serving plate, and place your flour on one with the panko on
another (or side by side on large plate). Finely grind your salt, pepper
and chili pod then mix into your flour. Set aside.

Now take a large pot filled with water and bring to a boil. Have ready
a bowl with an ice bath. Drop raw asparagus into the boiling water
for no more than 2-3 minutes, then quickly remove placing in the
ice bath until completely cool.

Leaving the asparagus still damp, dredge through seasoned flour shaking off excess.
Next place into egg bath and coat all sides, then dredge through panko. Then lay
coated asparagus onto a lined baking sheet, slightly spaced.

Bake in a pre-heated oven at 425 degrees 10-12 minutes, turn and continue
to bake another 10-12 minutes until panko crumbs are golden brown. 

My friend Drick over at Drick's Rambling Cafe is hosting a Football Food Party.
So stop over and see what is on the Tailgating Game Week Party menu...
P.S. there's voting and prizes involved :)

We would also like to extend a Very Happy Labor Day to
everyone celebrating here in the States...stay safe and have fun!

This is going over to Torview Food Palette Series.

And over to Your Best Recipe September 2011 on Spicie Foodie  

Alisha ~ Magic of Spice

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Mango Melon and Lime Soda
with Mint and Geranium

Homemade sodas are a fun and simple thing to prepare right in your own
kitchen. No fancy equipment required, with an endless possibility of flavors.

Making your own soda is also a great way to use up any leftover fruits, herbs
or whatever you may have on hand. Or perhaps you are like me and have
an over abundance of certain herbs crowding out some of your more
docile plants in your garden...

What you will need:
1 mango melon, peeled and seeded
10-15 large spearmint leaves
1 medium bunch geranium leaves and flowers
2 cups water
2 cups raw sugar
2 fresh limes, juiced
2 liters sparkling water
Chilled pitcher or soda bottles

Let's get cooking:
Roughly chop your melon and set aside. Tear mint and geranium leaves
to release the essential oils.

Place 2 cups of water into a sauce pan, add melon, herbs and sugar.
Bring to a low boil over medium heat. Reduce heat and allow to simmer for
an additional 3-5 minutes. Remove from heat and steep for 20 minutes.

Strain mixture through a fine mesh sieve until the syrup is free of debris.
Add lime juice and mix thoroughly. Refrigerate until completely cooled.

When ready to serve mix 1/2 cup syrup to 2 cups sparkling water. Or
begin with a lesser amount of syrup until desired taste is acquired.
Serve immediately. Serves 4

This recipe was originally featured on Honest Cooking The Food Magazine.
For more refreshment on the web
Blackberry Mint Margaritas - Honest Cooking
Pineapple Margarita - Sweet Life
Watermelon, Strawberry and Banana Smoothie - The Comfort of Cooking

Alisha ~ Magic of Spice

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7:22 PM

The 7 Links Challenge

Posted by Magic of Spice

The 7 Links Challenge

I have recently been tagged in the "7 Links Challenge" by two lovely friends...
I was first tagged by the ever lovely Elisabeth of Food and Thrift Finds. Then
I was tagged by the wonderful and passionate Victoria of Mission Food.
The challenge is to list posts by each of the seven given categories, then pass
the challenge on to 5 other bloggers...

One: Most Beautiful ~
 What's for lunch? An Organic Gardener's Salad

For this category I went primarily by the popularity of the photo. It was a beautiful
salad and so very colorful, light and healthy. A perfect start to spring :)

Two: Most Popular ~
 What's for lunch? Pear and Gouda Grilled Cheese

I would have picked this for number "Five", but as it is the most popular
post/recipe it belonged here. And I have to admit it was absolutely delectable.

Three: Most Controversial ~
 What's for Dessert? Stuffed Baked Apples with Apple Velouté

OK, I don't think I really have any controversial posts, but as this sauce is
one of the "5 Mother Sauces" and typically prepared with fish or chicken...
then I go and use apples? Now don't get me wrong, the basic rule of
pairing your Velouté with a dish of the same was followed...
I made apple stock and served with baked apples!

Four: Most Helpful ~
 What's on the Side? Zucchini Bowls with Cherry-Chocolate Gastrique

This is actually one in a three part series featuring classic sauces, most specifically
learning reduction sauces. I of course did" Classic Sauces with a Twist"...

Five: Surprisingly Successful ~
 Whats on the side? Sunflower Salad with Pineapple Emulsion

Not that I did not completely enjoy this wonderful salad, but it had an amazing
amount of traffic. I am not sure what I did here but it ended up in the top 5 recipes.

Six: Did not get the attention it deserved ~
What's on the Side? Stuffed Squash Blossoms with Tomato and Pluot Marinara

This dish was a fun way to use fresh seasonal produce from a local farmers' market,
and was very well loved by all that happened to be around to enjoy. In fact I will
be making it again as soon as I get my hands on some squash blossoms ;)

Seven: Most proud of ~
What's on the side? Crimini Mushroom and Plum Wine Consommé

I am most proud of this post for a couple of reasons...One, it came out beautifully with
gorgeous rich flavors. The earthy mushrooms held up perfectly against the softly sweet
 and fragrant plum wine,  and I managed to pull off a vegetarian raft :) Second, it was
my first contribution to and featured on Honest Cooking Food Magazine.

I would like to tag the following friends:
Lazaro of Lazaro Cooks
Bonnie of Sweet Life
Cathy of Wives with Knives
Drick of Drick's Rambling Cafe
Priscilla of She's Cookin'

Enjoy ~ Alisha Magic of Spice

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Hot Buttered Honey Rum Maitake 
Mushroom and Olive Pizza -
 A 5 Star Makeover 

For our August 5 Star Makeover Challenge we were asked
to create a gourmet pizza utilizing any ingredients or
style of pizza we desired.

For my pizza I chose to re-create my champagne poached maitake
 mushrooms with a bit of a switch up using dark rum versus champagne.

Our olive choices are a bit special as well and both play off of each other
 nicely as well as adding a nice balance against the sweetness of our mushrooms.

First we have the  Lucques Olive considered by many to be the best olive in
the world. They are cultivated in the southern Languedoc region of France
primarily but can also be found in several other countries including the US.
The have a slightly sweet and nutty flavor and are positively delightful eaten
as a snack on their own.

Next we have our Sun-dried Purple Peruvian Olives,
these black olives are raw organic and uncured then dried in the sun.
They have a stronger taste almost like that of the kalamata but are
larger and meatier. We used them as is, but you can soften them
up a bit ahead of time in water or oil.

I used lemon verbena and lemon balm from my garden to create a
pesto like drizzle for a bit of tart zing and playful touch.

For the cheese selection I went with a Comté a semi hard cheese with a
strong and slightly nutty sweet flavor. I used this cheese for both our
Sauce Mornay as well as added a bit to our lemony drizzle.

The next cheese is a Raclette a semi firm cheese prized for it's
creamy buttery flavor and melting capabilities.

What you will need:
For the flatbread crust
2 1/2 cups unbleached whole wheat flour, sifted
1/2 cup almond meal, sifted
1 cup semolina flour, sifted
(plus a bit for dusting)
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 ounce active dry yeast
1 1/4 cup warm water
1/2 teaspoon agave nectar
2 tablespoons almond oil

For the poached mushrooms
see recipe here
substitute champagne for 6 ounces dark rum
and 3 ounces herbal tea or water

For the toppings
1 cup Lucques olives, whole
1 cup Purple Sun-dried Purple Peruvian Olives
hot buttered honey rum maitake mushrooms
2 cups Raclette, grated

For the Sauce Mornay
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons whole wheat flour
1 1/4 cups hot cream
1/2 cup Comté, finely grated
pinch of fleur de sel
pinch of fresh ground black pepper

For the lemon verbena-balm drizzle
1 cup leaves of verbena and balm
1/4 cup salted pepitas, crushed
1/2 cup almond oil
juice of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 tablespoon Comté, finely grated

Let's get cooking:
For the flatbread crust
Begin by preparing your pizza dough. In a small bowl place warm water,
yeast, agave and oil then set aside. Next sift flours (note: it is best to do
these individual as the almond meal has bits of almond). Placing flours
in a large bowl with salt, mix until well incorporated. Place flour
mixture on a lightly dusted cutting board. Create a well in the center
and very slowly add a portion of your yeast mixture. Fold flour
 over the yeast mixture with a fork gradually adding more yeast
 mixture until you are able to begin kneading a dough.

Once you have a smooth dough ball, cover outer are with additional
dust of flour. Divide dough ball into 3 equal sections. Cover with a damp towel
and allow to rise for about 1 hour or so.

Place each section one at a time back on dusted cutting board.
Begin to kneed the dough ball, or punch down the dough to
remove air pockets. Loosely wrap each dough ball in plastic wrap
and leave on counter for an additional 30 minutes while you
prepare the other ingredients. Or if making ahead refrigerate
until ready to use, allowing about 30 minutes or so before needed.

Just before starting your sauce, take prepared dough at room
temperature and kneed a bit again to push out the air. Place
dough on a lightly dusted surface and roll dough to desired shape.
For the crispy flatbread crust roll to about 1/8th thickness.
Place rolled out dough onto a surface dusted with semolina or corn meal,
lightly brush tops with oil paying closer attention to edges.

Let's get cooking:
For the poached mushrooms
this step will take about 25 minutes
see recipe here

For the toppings
With a small sharp pairing knife remove the meat
potions from the olives and set aside along with grated cheese.

For the Sauce Mornay
Begin by making a blond roux by first melting butter in a sauce pan
then slowly adding flour. Stirring continuously for about 2-3 minutes
on a medium heat, do not brown but just achieve a lightly golden hue.
Now lower your heat and begin to make a  Béchamel sauce
by slowly pouring hot cream into your roux a bit at a time
continually whisking until sauce begins to thicken about
3-4 minutes. Now slowly add your salt, pepper and cheese,
  continue to stir while thickening for an additional 2 minutes.
Note: It is best to use this sauce immediately

For the lemon verbena-balm drizzle
This drizzle can be made with pizza is cooking. Simple add all
ingredients except oil into a blender or small food processor.
Once leaves are finely chopped slowly add oil until emulsified.

Spread sauce thinly and evenly to about 1/4th from the edge of
your dough. Top with mushrooms, olives and grated cheese.
Add a sprinkling of fleur de sel and fresh ground black pepper.
Bake at 450 degrees for 5-7 minutes or until cheese
begins to bubble.
Note: I used a pizza stone, other methods may vary in
time so check pizza after first 3 minutes to monitor.

Makes 3 small pizzas

The 5 Star Foodie Cooking Group
Hosted by 5 Star Foodie and Lazaro Cooks

Alisha ~ Magic of Spice

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2:03 PM

Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee with Allspice

Posted by Magic of Spice

Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee
 with Allspice Coffee Drinks

Jamaica Blue Mountain coffee is grown in the Blue Mountains of Jamaica
 at altitudes of up to 5,000 feet. These rare coffees are strictly regulated
 and globally protected and certified. They are also one of the most
expensive coffee beans in the world at $30 and upwards per pound.

There are 3 levels (Blue Mountain #1, etc) of beans that distinguish
from each other by bean size. An additional 2 types of beans one being
Triage, which is a blend of the first three categories. Then there is the
Peaberry, my personal all time favorite :) The Peaberry and this beauty
is distinguished by it's round pea like shape. This anomaly occurs when
only one seed verses two becomes fertilized. This rare coffee yields only
5%  of the coffee harvest.

For more history on Jamaican coffees see this article on Jamaican Coffee.

Currently and though September 5th 2011, Starbucks is featuring a
limited supply of this coffee through their Starbucks Reserve selections

You are probably already familiar with allspice, but did you know that it is
actually the dried  Pimenta dioica berry? The spice was named by the English
due to it's multi spice flavor. And since we are enjoying coffee grown in
Jamaica and since pimenta berry/fruit is grown and utilized in Jamaican
cuisine we will be flavoring our coffee with it.

You can purchase these dried berries of many times find them ground
under the name allspice in many grocery and specialty stores. However
is you are not able to find it in your area, a simple combination of
cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and black pepper in equal amounts
to get a close proximity. 

What you will need:
(measurements based on 6 ounces of coffee)
6 ounces water
2 tablespoons coffee, ground
1/4 teaspoon allspice, ground
one pinch each cinnamon, clove,
nutmeg and pepper, ground

*Note: depending on your preferred method of brewing, use
a similar grind of spice to that of the coffee.
Coffee Press - course grind
Automatic Drip - medium grind
Espresso machine - fine grind
You can use a finer grind of spice in an automatic drip, but be sure
not to use in a press as your ending results will be muddy.

Let's get brewing:
Set up your coffee preparation as you typically would. Grind your coffee
beans just prior to use for best results, then grind your pimenta berries or
allspice mix (see above) separately. Mix your spiced directly into your
ground coffee and proceed as usual.

Serve with sweetener and cream if desired, and either
as a hot or chilled beverage :)

Enjoy ~
Alisha ~ Magic of Spice

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The Avila Valley Barn Shopping ~ Part Two
 and Summer Chillin" Pasta Salad

If you had a chance to see our "Part One" road trip to the Central Coast,
you got to see some of the gorgeous produce that we found at
The Avila Valley Barn. 

This charming barn offers a wonderful variety of treats aside from their
local produce. Personally I could spend hours just playing with
the kitchen gadgets :) 

There is also an on site bakery so the pies, cakes, breads and cookies
are fresh from the oven. And if that were not enough, there is an
additional building reserved for hand made candy and ice cream...
sorry no pictures guys as we were running out of time.

As I mentioned in the first post, they have a U-Pick seasonal offering
for families to enjoy. Along with a small petting zoo and hay rides.

You can visit their website to see all of the seasonal treats available
through out the year.

We of of course did not come home empty handed. Aside from
our fresh produce we picked up a few sauces and condiments,  habanero
 flavored garlic stuffed olives and a bottle of roasted garlic juice.

I threw together a quick chilled pasta salad that can
be served as either a main or side dish. The pasta is
another find from the barn and is a handmade tri-color
angel hair. And since I had a few ripe and ready goodies
in the garden, I threw a few in as well.

What you will need:
12 ounces tri-color angel hair pasta
6-8 teaspoons roasted garlic juice
(each teaspoon = 1 clove)
1/4 th cup grapeseed oil
2-3 limes, juiced
2-3 bell peppers, chopped
(I used yellow, red and orange)
3 medium sizes fresh tomatoes, chopped
4-6 lemon cucumbers
4 ounces habanero garlic olives, sliced
1/2 ounce dried wild mushrooms, reconstituted
1 small bunch fresh basil, torn

Garnish with
Grated Toscano and black pepper cheese, to taste
Ground Himalayan pink salt, to taste
Ground flower pepper, to taste
(black peppercorns with dried edible flowers)

Let's get cooking:
Prepare pasta according to directions, drain and run under cold water.
Note: I prepared each color separately, but you can mix if desired.
Place pasta in a large bowl and toss with roasted garlic juice, grapeseed
 oil and lime juice. Add chopped tomato, peppers, lemon cucumbers,
olives, mushrooms and basil, then toss until incorporated.

Add flower pepper and salt, toss adding more to taste.
Serve with a side of grated cheese.
Serves 4 main dishes 

Alisha ~ Magic of Spice

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