The Ardent Epicure

An Ode to the Pleasures of Food

 Pappardelle Pasta with Candied 
 Chestnuts and Quail Eggs

Wow, did that happen? It seems that time just keeps slipping
by faster and faster! Aside from leaving the unnerving feeling that there is
just not enough time to get everything done, it is also making me feel old.

So I think it is time to think comfort foods, not that we really need an excuse :)
Let's talk pasta then, Pappardelle pasta to be specific. These extra wide noodles
really pump up the comfort factor for me, plus the have the body to really load
up on the toppings.

Speaking of toppings, are these little babies just the pretties things!
I am sure if you have yet to try quail eggs, you are probably familiar with
them at least visually. These tinny little guys are pretty similar in both texture
as well as taste to the more common hen eggs. Perhaps a bit milder in flavor,
and of course in size. In fact you would need about 5 of these little ones
to make up for one large hen egg.

We have a few other goodies to brighten up our pasta dish as well,
including the baby ice micro greens and a few lightly sautéed oyster 
mushrooms. Oh, and yes of course we had to find another way to make
our spicy roasted chestnuts, aside from their obvious snack-ability, they
make a perfect choice all candied up and ready to ring in the new year.

If you missed our Spicy Oven Roasted Chestnuts and 
would like to roast some up of your own, you can see it here.

What you will need:
For the candied chestnuts
12-14 ounces roasted chestnuts, peeled and halved
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4th cup maple sugar, or other fine ground sugar

For the pasta
8 ounces pappardelle pasta
1/8th cup plus 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
6-8 ounces oyster mushrooms
3-4 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Freshly ground salt and pepper
8-10 quail eggs
4 ounces baby ice or other micro greens
3-4 ounces baby arugula

Let's get cooking:
For the candied chestnuts
Begin by removing shells from your roasted chestnuts, then place
peeled and halved chestnuts in to bowl and toss with oil.

Place chestnuts in a single layer onto a baking sheet lined with
parchment, then sprinkle with sugar.

Bake in a pre-heated oven at 350 degrees F for about
8 minutes or so, or until deep drown and slightly crunchy.

For the pasta
Prepare pasta per package instructions. Drain pasta and place
into a large mixing bowl. Toss with 1/8th cup extra virgin olive oil
and set aside.

Gently brush off any debris from your mushrooms and
tear into 1/4 inch pieces lengthwise.

Place mushrooms into a dry non-stick pan, or with just
a drizzle of oil, over medium/high heat Sprinkle with a pinch or 
so of salt to help sweat out excess liquid. 

Once they begin to loose liquid and start to become limp and
tender, add a bit of oil add minced garlic. Continue to sauté
for a few minutes until mushrooms are tender and garlic
is fragrant and translucent. 

Add pasta to the sauté pan, reducing heat to low. Add red 
pepper flakes, salt and pepper, along with arugula. Toss
to incorporate. 

To prepare quail eggs place them in a single layer in a sauce pot
or pan with a lid.

Cover eggs with just enough water to reach about 1 inch above
the eggs. Over medium heat, gently bring to a soft boil.
Agitate eggs gently with a wooden utensil. Reducing heat
slightly, cover and simmer for 4-5 minutes.

Remove shells and arrange or toss into pasta, along
with micro greens and candied chestnuts.

Serves 4

We would also like to wish everyone a Very Happy and
 Safe New Years Celebration.
 May 2013 bring you abundant blessings!

Alisha~Magic of Spice

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5:35 PM

What's for snack time? Spicy Oven Roasted Chestnuts

Posted by Magic of Spice

Spicy Oven Roasted Chestnuts

Well these were not roasted on an open fire and Jack Frost is not exactly
nipping at my nose, but these delightful little beauties do put me in a holiday mood :)

And since I do love chestnuts, we will be featuring them in a few dishes for the 
holiday season as well as the "leftovers season". So roast up a few batches
and snack away...but save some for later, I promise you will need them!

What you will need:
1 pound fresh chestnuts in the shell
1/2 cup boiling hot water
1/8 cup olive oil, warmed
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
2 sprigs fresh thyme
4-6 small sage leaves
2-3 red peppers, dried
pinch of sea salt

Let's get cooking:
Begin by placing dried peppers in boiling or very hot water for about 5-10 minutes.
Once softened, cut a slit lengthwise in peppers and place in warmed oil along
with fresh herbs and salt. Allow them to steep in warm oil for about 5 minutes.

In the meantime, score an "X" shape into each of your chestnuts on the rounded
side. Then place chestnuts into a bowl and toss with seasoned oil mixture.

Place chestnuts, herbs and pepper mixture on a sheet of foil with edges folded
up onto a baking sheet. Cover loosely with additional foil to create a bit of steam.

Bake in a pre-heated oven at 375 degrees for about 20 minutes, remove
from oven and toss to re-coat chestnuts. Continue baking for 5-10
minutes, or until they begin to spread open.

Allow to cool to touch, peel and snack!

Alisha~Magic of Spice

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3:03 PM

A Day of Remembrance

Posted by Magic of Spice

A Day of Remembrance

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7:35 PM

The Ghost of Christmas Recipes Past

Posted by Magic of Spice

The Ghost of Christmas Recipes Past

Many of you may remember these recipes from last how time flies.
And since it his the season for warm and comforting dishes, I though we could 
revisit a few of our most popular.

I have made a few new holiday inspired treats that will be coming up next,
but for now let's say we start with dessert ;)

And of course we will need a few sides...

How about a couple of not so traditional salads? 

And let us not forget the fish lovers at your holiday table...

Alisha~Magic of Spice

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Mulled Cognac Cranberry and Clementine
Chutney~Cooking Red to Remember

As many of you may already be aware, December 1st is World Aids Day.
And my dear friend Angela of Spinach Tiger is putting together a 
"Cooking Red to Remember" round up on that day. 

So along with many other bloggers around the world we are cooking up red.
 Red to remember and  most of all to honor the lives of those lost, and reach
out to offer a small amount of comfort to their loved ones.

We dedicate this post in celebration of the lives of all those affected by Aids
and HIV. We also want to honor and celebrate all those who work tirelessly 
in an effort to find a cure.

Red to Remember

And since it is the season for all things cranberry, we are going to start there.
Plus mulled anything during the cooler weather seasons screams comfort to me.
Then trow in a few bright and sunny seasonal clementines, 
equals one happy girl. 

What you will need:
For the mulled cognac
2 rounded tablespoons mulling spices
1 cup cognac
4 clementines, juiced

For the chutney
12 ounces fresh cranberries
3-4 clementines, skinned and chopped
1/2 cup maple sugar
1 teaspoon light oil (like grapeseed)
1 cup mulled cognac

Let's get cooking:
For the mulled cognac
Place mulling spices that have been bruised or lightly crushed into a prepared
sachet, or create your own with cheese cloth and cooking twine.

In a small to medium sauce pan, place fresh clementine juice and cognac
along with sachet of mulling spices. 

Over a moderate heat bring mixture to just below a boil. Reduce heat and
cover allowing to simmer on low heat for about 20 minutes. 

Note: if your sachet is not completely submersed in liquid, stir occasionally
making sure the spices stay damp. 
Set aside

For the chutney
Begin by peeling your clementines then sectioning them. Removing the 
membrane and inner skins, then chop into chunks.

Place cranberries and clementines into a medium sized pot. Add sugar
gently agitating with a wooden spoon to coat the fruit.

Now add oil and mulled cognac bringing mixture to a low boil. Using
a wooden spoon continue to mix ingredients and press cranberries 
along the sides of the pan to release juices. 

Reduce heat to low and allow sauce to simmer for about 25 minutes or so,
or until desired thickness is achieved. 

Note* If chutney becomes too thick, add more mulled cognac or juice
to bring to desired texture.

Serve warm with your favorite bread and cheese...

Alisha~Magic of Spice

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Deconstructed Green Bean Casserole
A Holiday Classic~5 Star Style

To start off with, we would like to wish all of our friends who celebrate
A Very safe and Happy Thanksgiving!

And in honor of the holiday, our 5 Star Cooking Group is doing a classic
"Green Bean Casserole" Makeover :) Thank you to our wonderful hosts
Natasha of 5 Star Foodie and Lazaro of Lazaro Cooks.

Now I have to tell you that my original thought was to stick with all the
classic ingredients, well at least how I remember them from childhood. With
the exception of the canned cream of mushroom soup. I thought perhaps a
mushroom Sauce Mornay of sorts? A lovely thick creamy and cheesy could that be bad?

But then I saw it, yes a portabella cream of mushroom soup from
Trader Joe's, the decision was a no brainier at that point. So, since
we were going the portabella route I decided to lay my crunchy
onion crusted green beans right over a snug bed of sliced and
sautéed portabellas.

What you will need:
For the  baked green bean fries

1 pound fresh whole green beans
2 eggs
1/2 cup garbanzo bean flour
1/2 teaspoon fresh pepper, ground
1/4 cup panko bread crumbs
1/2 cup crispy French fried onions, lightly salted
Ice and large pot for blanching.

For the sautéed portabellas
2 large portabella mushrooms
pinch of salt
1/2 teaspoon crushed red peppers
2 tablespoons olive oil

For the cream of mushroom sauce
11 ounce carton of portabella mushroom soup
6-8 ounces half and half
fresh ground pepper to taste

Let's get cooking:
For the  baked green bean fries

Start by preparing your eggs by gently whisking them, adding
Fresh ground pepper and continue to whisk to incorporate. Then
Place in a large enough bowl to accommodate the green beans.
Next mix panko and crispy onions in a mortar or heavy bowl
and crush.

Then take two separate plates,
or one large serving plate, and place your flour on one with the panko/onions
on another .

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

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

Bake in a pre-heated oven at 425 degrees 8-10 minutes, turn and continue
to bake another 8 minutes or until panko crumbs are golden brown and beans
are just tender. 

For the sautéed portabellas
Gently brush off any debris from your mushrooms and
slice into 1/4 inch pieces lengthwise.

Place mushrooms into a dry non-stick pan, or with just
a drizzle of oil. Sprinkle with a pinch or so of salt
to help sweat out excess liquid. 

Once they begin to loose liquid and start to become limp and
tender, add a bit of oil and crushed red pepper. Continue to sauté
for a few minutes until tender. 

For the cream of mushroom sauce
Add condensed mushroom soup and half and half to 
a medium pot. Heat gently until hot and keep warm.

To arrange place mushrooms on individual plates, top with
crispy green bean fries then drizzle this cream of mushroom sauce. 

Serves 6 as a side

Now, while we are on the subject of most delightful things. I wanted to point
out these beautiful dishes that I used for this post. These were made by a wonderful
and talented ceramics artist Robert James Murphy.

You see, I was explaining to Robert that it can be a challenge to photograph
glazed ceramic dishes at times, and that I would love to find a more matte
surfaced type. Then one day he dropped these beauties off at the store for
 me :) You can see more of Robert's work at RJM Ceramic Designs.

Alisha~Magic of Spice

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6:00 PM

Autumn Recipes and In The News

Posted by Magic of Spice

Autumn Recipes and "In The News"

Have I mentioned that Autumn or Fall is my favorite season? 

I love everything about it, but most especially the smells and warm spices. This
seasons eats are just the best, right? And even as a vegetarian, I do love all of those
those extra pound inducing sides...perhaps a bit too much, but I am probably 
not alone there :)

And since I do love the delicious dishes that make up this time of year, I
thought I would share some dishes that I had previously posted but just may be 
worth another look. I mean, we can all usually need some fresh ideas for sides
and lighter meals around the holidays...

As for the last portion in our title here, I do have some news, and several of you
are probably already aware. For the rest of you, if anyone has been wondering 
why I have made a partial disappearing act from beloved site and foodie world...
here she is, my second baby! 

Her name is "The Paint Chip", and she is a lovely little shop down on the 
Balboa Peninsula in Newport Beach. She is loaded with goodies from
home furnishings, décor, local fine art, jewelry and hand made body products. 

So now all I have to do is figure out how to organize my time, or rather 
effectively organize my time. Plus I just moved, and that has opened up 
a whole plethitude of other time organization issues. 

But rather than show up empty handed, I bring you a few dishes that you may
enjoy during this beautiful season Autumn...So Happy Autumn to all of you
here on the Northern Hemisphere! (Yes I do know it's half over already, but
I did say I am way behind right ;)

Now let's get to the food!
Starting with the top left...

And now I will leave all of you lovelies with a photo of The Paint Chip's
Mascot, our Mermaid :)

Alisha~Magic of Spice

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7:28 PM

What's on the side? Savory Pumpkin and Feta Soufflé

Posted by Magic of Spice

Savory Pumpkin and Feta Soufflé~
A 5 Star Makeover

For this months 5 Star Challenge we were given a delightful, and
oh so versatile ingredient, and that ingredient was squash...

Fall is most certainly the right season to feature any one of the delicious 
varieties available and in season. So I went with Pumpkin, pumpkin pie squash
to be exact, and I even played around with the idea of doing a pumpkin pie 
soufflé, but in the end savory one out.

And as is with each of our 5 Star makeover Challenges, this month
is hosted by my wonderfully talented friends Natasha of 5 Star Foodie
and Lazaro of Lazaro Cooks...please stop by on Friday to see the
entire groups creative and delicious contributions.

Have I ever mentioned that the soufflé is my "fear" dish? I mean they really
make me nervous. I am pretty sure they are my #1 in disastrous kitchen episodes,
but then again I have had some beauties delivered to the table as well.

Of course the only true way to master anything, including your fears is to face
them head it is a soufflé we shall have!

What you will need:
For the pumpkin purée
2 pounds pumpkin squash
3-4 sprigs fresh thyme
1 large sprig fresh rosemary
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon course sea ground salt
1/2 teaspoon white pepper, finely ground
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper, ground

For the Soufflé
Prepared pumpkin purée
2 tablespoons unbleached flour
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup half and half, warmed
3 large egg yolks, room temperature
4 large egg whites, room temperature
1 ounce Greek Feta

Let's get cooking:
For the pumpkin purée
In a large baking dish with sides, place about 1/2 cup or so of water
along with herbs and garlic. Place pumpkin(s) halved lengthwise face
down into dish and loosely cover with foil.

Bake in a preheated oven at 375 degrees F for about 25 to 30 minutes
or until skins can be easily pierced.

Once you have removed them from the oven, place face down onto
a wire rack and allow to cool to room temperature.

Separate pumpkin flesh from skins and place in food processor
along with seasoning, pulsing until smooth.  Place in a
large bowl and set aside.

For the Soufflé
Begin by preparing a blond roux by melting butter in a small to
medium sauté pan over medium heat. Slowly add flour and whisk
until mixture begins to foam up a bit, about 21/2 to 3 minutes.

Remove mixture from heat source and slowly add half and half,
continually whisking until thick and creamy, about 2 minutes or so.

In a small clean bowl at room temperature, whisk egg yolks
until creamy, just a few seconds.

Slowly fold egg yolks into roux and whisk until blended. Then
slowly fold roux mixture into pumpkin purée.

Now in another clean mixing bowl, whip egg whites until
firmly peaked but not hardened.

Gently fold egg whites into pumpkin  purée mixture a
little at a time until just incorporated.

Again gently fold the soufflé mixture into lightly greesed
individual sized soufflé cups or ramekins to the brim
or just below, then top with crumbled feta.

Bake in a pre-heated oven at 375 degrees F for about 25 to 30
minutes. Note* Do not open oven door during baking time,
or until you can see that the tops have puffed and are golden.
When done the tops will be set and golden with the soufflé
body being slightly giggly :)

Serves 6 as a side
Serve immediately!

Alisha~Magic of Spice

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An Edible Mosaic: Middle Eastern Fare
 with Extraordinary Flair by Faith Gorsky

As you can see, today we are going to take a peek into this visually stunning
cookbook by my dear friend Faith of An Edible Mosaic. A book of
which I just happen to have the honor of having a pre-release copy of.
Thank you Faith :)

For our first post, I will be sharing just a couple delicious selections from the 
book, but there will be more to come in the next few weeks.

Photo by Faith Gorsky

I chose two recipes to indulge with to start off, and I must say
 they were both dishes that I will be making again and again!

First I found myself intrigued by the idea of a potato dish seasoned
with is that for an unexpected yet delightful flavor profile!

The potatoes can be fried, roasted or boiled so I opted for boiled, but
any preparation will do wonderfully here. These garlicky spuds with
the fresh burst of cilantro are an extremely happy combination
anyway you choose to serve them.

Photo by Faith Gorsky

And to help us wash it all down, we relied on the assistance of this scrumptious
selection of recipes once again and leaned toward the sage tea.

Sage being a favorite herb of mine, and one I had yet to try as a drinking
tea, the decision was really an instant one. Oh, and of course there is
 also the little fact that I have an abundance of this precious herb
growing quite wildly in my garden.

Plus since we have been experiencing very high and unusual temperatures
as of late, I went iced but will most certainly be trying hot as well.

Photos by The Ardent Epicure

Potatoes with Herbs and Garlic 

Instead of frying the potatoes, you can boil them for this recipe if you prefer. To do so, put the peeled and cubed potato in a medium saucepan and add enough cold water to cover by about 1 inch (2.5 cm). Bring to a boil over high heat, then turn the heat down to medium-low and simmer until fork-tender, about 5 to 7 minutes; drain the potato and toss with the sautéed garlic/cilantro mixture. Or the potatoes can be roasted; preheat oven to 425°F (220°C); toss the peeled and cubed potatoes with 2 tablespoons canola oil in a large bowl; spread in an even layer on a large baking sheet and roast until soft and golden brown, about 20 to 30 minutes, stirring once.

Serves 4
Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 22 minutes

Oil, for frying
2 lb (1 kg) potatoes, peeled and cubed
4 tablespoons olive oil 4 cloves garlic, crushed in a mortar and pestle with 1 teaspoon salt
½ bunch fresh coriander leaves (cilantro), minced

1.Coat the bottom of a medium saucepan with about ½ inch (1.25 cm) of oil. Heat over medium heat; add half the potato and cook until tender inside and golden outside, about 8 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Transfer the potato to a paper towel-lined plate to drain, and cook the remaining potato the same way.

2.Heat the olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-low heat. Cook the garlic and fresh coriander leaves until the garlic is light golden and the cilantro is wilted, about 3 minutes, stirring frequently.

3.Add the potatoes and cook until warm, about 2 minutes; serve warm or at room temperature.

Sage Tea

Tea in the Middle East is rarely drunk as is. Instead, herbs, spices, and/or flowers like jasmine, mint, or sage are used to flavor it. Sage tea is particularly useful to drink after a meal, as it is said to soothe the stomach and aid digestion.

Serves 2
Preparation Time: 1 minute
Cooking Time: 5 minutes

2 cups (500 ml) water
1 teaspoon dried sage leaves
2 teaspoons sugar
1 black tea bag

1.Pour the water and sage into a small pot; bring to a boil over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally.
2.Turn off the heat; add the sugar and stir until fully dissolved.
3.Add the black tea and steep 2 minutes.
4.Strain the tea to remove sage leaves; serve.

Note: Recipes have been provided by Faith Gorsky taken from
that is now available with the link above for pre-order.

Photos by Faith Gorsky

And if these little tasting previews are not enough to make you
jump on a pre-order of your very own copy...take a look at
this incredible array of goodies above!

The cookbook is due for official release November 6th 2012!

Plus, don't forget to join us in a few weeks when we will be trying
 out a few more recipes and enjoy a chat with the lovely
Faith herself :)

Alisha~Magic of Spice

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