The Ardent Epicure

An Ode to the Pleasures of Food

Jalapeño Poppers 5 Star Junk Food with
 Mango and Grapefruit Salsa Crème

It is time once again for our 5 Star Makeover group to post the
months challenge theme or ingredients. And March's
challenge theme is Junk Food. The task was to incorporate
junk food into our dishes...and so we did.

As always the 5 Star Makeovers are hosted by the ever lovely
and talented Natasha of 5 Star Foodie, and the incomparable
Lazaro of Lazaro Cooks

Junk Food...As per Bing online dictionary = food lacking nutritional balance:
 food that does not form part of a well-balanced diet, especially highly processed,
 high-fat snack items eaten in place of or in addition to regular meals.

Now as for our Wheat Thins, they really do not run off to badly, as far as
junk food is concerned. But our, so yummy, Easy Cheese, well lets just
say it is fully qualified to fit the bill. Although the second ingredient is
indeed cheese, the rest run off like a "Who's who" of the
 processed food world.

Have you ever seen red jalapeños? They are the result of allowing the
ripened green jalapeños to mature further while still on the vine. The
result is a slightly sweeter pepper. The seeds, the portion that contains
the majority of the heat, are hotter in the more mature versions.

I decided that a nice cooling salsa would be a perfect accompaniment
 to out rather heated little stuffed peppers. So I went light on the heat
in this area, just enough to give it that salsa like flavor.

The salsa has an added touch of refreshing coolness with the addition
 of some Crème fraîche and Lime. Then we pulsed that baby
up to get a smooth and creamy sauce.

We are adding just a hint of additional flavor with some black cardamom,
cumin and black pepper.

Our traditional bread crumbs are being replaced with, you guessed it,
crushed Wheat Thins. Since they have always been the cracker of
choice whenever we indulge in this creamy cheesy treat, I
decided to keep them together here.

What you will need:
For the poppers
8 medium jalapeños

3 ounces Easy Cheese
½ cup Mexican cheese blend, grated
1 pod black cardamom seeds
1/4 teaspoon cumin, ground
1/2 teaspoon black pepper, ground
1 jumbo egg, beaten
2 tablespoons cream or milk
1 cup Wheat Thins, crushed
1/2 garbanzo flour, or other flour

For the salsa crème

Small handful of cilantro, leaves and stems
1 mango, peeled and diced
4 grapefruit sections, chopped
1 teaspoon jalapeño, finely chopped
1 small shallot, finely chopped
2 tablespoons white wine or juice of choice
1 tablespoon lime juice
Salt and pepper to taste
1-2 tablespoons Crème fraîche

Emulsion blender or small food processor
Mortar and pestle
Parchment paper
Baking sheet

Let's get cooking:
For the poppers
Take your cleaned peppers and slit lengthwise down the center, careful
to not slice in half, we are leaving them whole. Not cut a small cross at
the top just below the stem area. Wearing gloves, remove seeds and stems
from the peppers, if you want a bit more heat you can leave a few.

Once you have your peppers prepped, lay out your grated cheese and
spread long stripped of the Easy Cheese onto the top in sections like
in the photos above. Note: I found this much easier then trying to mix
 the cheeses together. Stuff each pepper with the cheese mix and set aside.

Now grind your Wheat Thins until they are fine like bread crumbs,
add your black cardamon, pepper and cumin mixing well,
place on a plate. Place your flower on another plate, then
whisk your eggs and cream then place in a bowl.

Dredge your stuffed peppers through the egg mixture, then the
flour, repeat. Then dredge threw the Wheat Thin crumbs.
Place on a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Bake in a 350 (F) degree oven rot 30 -35 minutes or
until the cheese begins to bubble out of the peppers.

For the salsa crème
Note: you can make the salsa portion ahead of time
adding the Crème fraîche just before serving.

Prepare your mango, grapefruit, shallot and peppers by
chopping them into small bits. Add all remaining ingredients
along with  these into a mixing bowl. Using your emulsion blender
blend until completed smooth, add the crème fraîche, continuing 
to pulse until smooth and fully incorporated.
Serves 4

Alisha~Magic of Spice

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11:07 PM

What's for breakfast? California Scramble with Toast

Posted by Magic of Spice

California Scramble with Toast

Who likes breakfast?
Well really this could be a light meal for any time of day, but since
we had it for breakfast... let's call it breakfast :)

Scrambled eggs are a classic and quite often considered a comfort food.
There are two primary ways I like to prepare them and one being the more typical
American version, while the other is the classic French style.

For this recipe we are going to combine the two techniques giving us a fluffier
 scramble than the French style, while maintaining its soft creamy texture.

The American style utilizes a technique of briskly whisking the eggs to incorporate
air into them. Usually adding the cream along with the eggs, prior to whisking.
Then they are cooked relativity quickly over a medium to high heat in a frying pan,
or similar type of pan. This method if done correctly will produce a fluffy,
 yet drier finished product.

The French method does not utilize the "air incorporation" technique, but rather
a more gentler agitation of the egg yolks. The cream is added at a later point
while the eggs have nearly completed cooking. The milk, along with additional
butter, are added cold into the hot eggs and allowed to complete the cooking
process without the addition of further heat. This method  commonly makes
use of a double boiler rather than a frying pan, on a very low heat.

The soft eggs that we are going to prepare, work beautifully with
a lovely crusty grain bread. Or what ever your favorite might be,
but I do recommend a crusty bread as the texture pairs
wonderfully with these soft creamy eggs.

And of course we want to load up on the fresh organic veggies...
You may remember from the last post that I have quite a bit of endive
to put to use. And joining them are these delightful crimini Mushrooms
and some colorful sweet bell peppers.

For our herb and spice selection we have a few goodies as well.
The herbs are a garden selection of sage, savory and thyme.

For our spices we have Himalayan Pink Rock Salt, Tellicherry Pepper
 Corns, and a sweet addition with the Raw Rock Sugar. But of
course any salt, pepper and sugar you have on hand will work as well.

Then we are going to top it all off with some Sheep's milk feta, fresh
ripe avocado and some lovely vine ripened tomatoes. And
to add just a bit of a kick we are serving these breakfast
 toasts with a favorite salsa.

What you will need:
For the vegetable sauté
1-2 tablespoons avocado oil
(or other oil)
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium shallot, shopped
4 ounces crimini mushrooms, sliced
(then halved)
1 large sweet bell pepper, chopped
2 endive, chopped and core removed
1 tablespoon raw sugar, ground
1/4 cup white wine or vegetable broth
2 sprigs thyme leaves
1-2 sprigs savory leaves, chopped
3-4 large sage leaves, chopped

For the scrambled eggs
2-3 tablespoons cold butter, halved
8 extra-large eggs, room temperature
1/4 teaspoon pepper, ground
1/4 teaspoon salt, ground
1/4 cup cold half and half or heavy cream

In addition
Feta cheese, crumbled
1 ripe avocado, sliced
4 small vine ripened tomatoes, sliced
8 slices crusty bread

Large mixing bowl, room temperature
Large whisk
Large sauté pan
Wooden or rubber spatula

Let's get cooking:
For the vegetable sauté 

Start by heating the oil in your sauté pan on a medium/high heat, until hot.
 Add shallots and garlic, until shallots are just translucent and garlic is slightly crisped.
 Then add mushrooms and peppers, until mushrooms have sweated
 a bit and peppers are slightly tender, about 5 to 8 minutes.

Now add sugar and continue to cook while stirring for just a few moments,
or until you see the edges of your vegetables to be just a bit caramelized.
Add wine and herbs then reduce heat to medium, continue to simmer until
liquid had evaporated, about 5 minutes or so. Set aside.

For the scrambled eggs
Add eggs, salt and pepper to a large mixing bowl and whisk
very briskly for several minutes until you begin to see foam
 on the top of your eggs.

In your cleaned sauté pan, add 1/2 of the butter over a low heat,
until butter has melted. Add eggs maintaining the love heat, while
constantly scrapping the bottom and sides of the pan. Do not
leave them on the flame without keeping them in continuous motion.

If the eggs are starting to congeal too quickly, remove from heat
for a moment or two, then return to heat. Do this as often as needed
to maintain a slow cooking process. Depending on the size of your pan,
this should take 10 minutes or more.

Once the eggs are congealed but still a bit wet, add remaining butter
while maintaining your low heat. Fold the butter gently into the eggs
until melted. Now add your cream and fold into the eggs, remove from
heat and fold in your vegetables.

Divide into 8 portions and scoop onto prepared toast, layer on top
with feta, avocado and sliced tomatoes. Serve with salsa.

Serves 4

This is going over to YBR, click the badge below to enter your own...

Alisha~Magic of Spice

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Shaved Endive, Black Radish, Carrot 
and Apple Salad with a 
Jasmine Plum Wine Reduction

I was recently the winner of the Dipstock round up for Super Bowl contest
sponsored by the lovely Sara of Saucy Dipper.

I initially received a case (six pounds) of beautiful fresh California
grown Endive from California Vegetable Specialties. But then
I received yet another shipment just the other day. So I am
pretty sure we are going to be seeing quite a few recipes featuring
these versatile little guys around TAE :)

California Vegetable Specialties is the only producer of
endive in the US...

Both Endive and Curly Endive are members of the chicory family and
commonly used like lettuce. Also a very popular vegetable used in many
 types of appetizers. California endive is available and grown year round,
so it makes for a tasty treat anytime.

These lovely black Radishes are a delight that can add a
little additional spice to any dish you would use a traditional
variety of radish. They are a bit spicier than the more common salad
radish, but not quite as pungent as horseradish.

They are about the size of a turnip with a tough outer skin, and
white a white crunchy inner flesh.

Carrots and apples are always a favorite salad duo for me
so I added them both for some additional textures and crunch...

And for our dressing...of sorts. I made a simple Plum Wine reduction
that I infused with a few Jasmine Tea Buds and Some bruised
 white pepper corns.

I chose two types of mint from my garden the Apple mint
and some Peppermint to add a refreshing burst to
our salad. 

Just a couple of added goodies here to broaden our flavor profile
a bit. We have a favorite pepper of mine the Penja Pepper
also referred to as "Pepper from Paradise".  It has a very delicate, warm and
woody flavor, with a woody and musky aroma.

Then we have the wonderful and aromatic Jasmine Buds. These are
actually very young green tea leaves rolled into buds, that have been scented
with jasmine.

What you will need:
For the salad
8 endive, shaved
4-6 young carrots, julienne cut
A few bunches of young carrot greens
1/4th black radish, julienne cut
2 large apples, quartered and thinly sliced
3-4 large apple mint leaves, chiffonade cut
2-3 peppermint leaves, chiffonade cut

For the plum wine reduction
1/2 cup plum wine
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon penja pepper, bruised
3-4 jasmine tea buds

Let's get cooking:
For the salad
Prepare all vegetables as noted above. Then arrange on individual
plates or a serving platter as desired.

For the plum wine reduction
Place plum wine along with jasmine tea buds, pepper into and lemon
juice a small sauce pan. Bring wine to a rapid boil, then reduce to
a low heat. Simmer for just a few minutes  or until the mixture
just coats the back of your spoon.

Quickly strain mixture through a fine mess sieve. Allow to
sit to room temperature, the drizzle over salad.

*Note: due to the higher sugar content of the plum wine, the
mixture will thicken quickly. If it becomes too thick, add
more plum wine and/or lemon juice.

Serves 4

Alisha~Magic of Spice

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Happy Birthday to The Ardent Epicure with 
a Mimosa Freeze and Awards

I can barely believe it has been two years since we started this little blog.
Well, thanks so all of you it's not so little anymore :)

So to celebrate going into our third year here...I made a Frozen Champagne
treat...I'll drink to that, join me?

Some of you may remember the Clementine, Meyer Lemon and Ginger Juice,
a few posts back? Well that was the inspiration for this treat :)

This is such a simple way to have a refreshing after dinner treat/drink,
and would work with any of your favorite juice or juice combinations. Or
perhaps a fun early Spring Brunch?

There is really no recipe, just add 1 part juice to 2 parts champagne.
Place in a shallow freezer proof container and allow to freeze for
several hours. Check after about 2 hours of so and scrape with
a fork to loosen into shavings. Continue until you have fully
frozen shavings. 

You can serve in a glass or bowl, or use the citrus rinds
halved like I did, by just placing them in the freezer
until your shaved treat is ready.

And now onto the awards~
I am going to admit that I have been way behind and a few of these 
are from several months ago. But since we are celebrating...

The Versatile Blogger Award was awarded by a few wonderful blogger friends.

Starting with the always lovely Reem of Simply Reem.
Reem is not only one of the sweetest blogger you will ever encounter, but
 also one of the most passionate. Her site is full of delightful recipes and
 some really beautiful photos. So stop by if you have
yet to meet her...and give her a hug from me!

The next wonderful blogger to award us this prize, is the equally
wonderful and sweet Shannon of Just as Delish. Her site is literally
packed with healthy and delicious goodies. She also has some great
time saving and healthy/good for you tips. So if you are not yet
acquainted...quickly stop over and get to know her, you
won't be sorry! 

We also received this award from yet another lovely and passionate
blogger Jules of Bananamondaes.I'm sorry, but the name alone has
me wanting to stop by and kiss the screen...and well her photos 
are not helping much, with all those in your face-take a bite
goodies staring back at you! Then to top it off we get to correlate
 our food with equally fun books, movies and legends...I mean really, just
 how much fun can you have blogging? Well apparently quite a bit,
 so stop over and get introduced if you are not already!

We were also award the Liebster Blog Award along with the
The Versatile Blogger from yet another wonderful blogger Sonali of 
Only Fish Recipes. And yes, as you have probably noted from
the sites title...there is a wonderfully unique and impressive list
of recipes to make any seafood lover do a happy dance! And if
seafood is really not your worries, these flavors can
be happy on any plate :)

And for the last, but certainly not least, the Kreativ Blogger
award was presented to us by the wonderful Terra of Café Terra.
Terra has a degree in Nutritional Science and is a Food Safety Quality 
Assurance Auditor...but aside from knowing how to keep our food
safe, she knows how to make food fun! So pop over and get
your creative juices flowing...after all food should be fun :)

This last award came along with a Tag, so I will be listing 10
things about TAE and/or myself...
  1. TAE is actually a duo. The blog was created by both myself and my oldest son Adam aka Truffle Shuffle.
  2. There were originally three of us, but Sugar and Spice lost interest :( Since he is the baker of the group we will need to bribe him to guest post perhaps :)
  3. Truffle Shuffle is NOT a vegetarian, so that is why you see not vegetarian dishes here at times. Both by myself and Adam...after all, I am not the only one who eats around here :)
  4. We have a huge, and I mean huge passion for unusual finds and exotic spices.
  5. Truffle Shuffle is a Hot guy...I didn't mean in the looks department sillies, although...just sayin'. I mean he loves much so I should have given him jalapeño as a middle name.
  6. I am a horror movie addict, and I mean even the low budget B flicks.
  7. Aside from my horror movie fetish...yes fetish, I love foreign and independent films. My favorite movie is Indochine. I have probably seen it at least 20 times. 
  8. I have rituals...several of them. One is when I go to sleep at night, I must have all of the following. Tea lights for my soap stone burner that I heat up leftover candle wax in. Next is the ocean/nature music playing. Then my waterfall, softly lulling me in the background. The my cricket singing app...yes I have an app for that.
  9. I am afraid of insects! I mean terrified to the point of causing myself bodily injury to escape them. My friend laughs at me and says "Little bug...6 foot woman". I don't think its funny!
  10. For the last one I am going to follow Terra, as she brought up tattoos. I have one, an orchid with the vine wrapping around my ankle. 

Thank you everyone for helping us make it to our 2nd Anniversary...
Wishing you all a joyous week!

Alisha~Magic of Spice
Adam~Truffle Shuffle

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A Chat with Be Happy and 
Smoked Sea Salt Baked Sardines

Today we have a special guest from the Blue Ocean Institute Kate McLaughlin.
Kate will be telling us a bit about the program "Be Happy" and
some discussion on seafood sustainability. She will also be talking
about one of her favorite catches, farmed mussels :)

I chose to do a recipe on another sustainable seafood catch,
the sardine. And according to the Blue Ocean Institute, these little
guys get a "Best Choice" rating.

Sardines are a seriously under used sustainable fish source. These highly nutritious
 little guys are usually associated with canned fish, but they are available fresh or
 frozen. Although they do not freeze as well as many other types of fish and
have high oil content,  lending to be a healthy choice in the fish world, but also
 cause them to spoil quickly. So it is best to purchase your sardines on
 the day you plan to prepare them for best results. 

                                     Be happy with your Seafood Choices!
     By: Kate McLaughlin, Blue Ocean Institute

This year, as you look for new ways to be more eco-friendly,
 why not resolve to be happy?

Just as you’re thoughtful about other environmentally-responsible choices you make
(like recycling, or buying farmers market vegetables), you can be thoughtful about
 your seafood choices and be happy with the results! When fish are caught or
 farmed in ways that protect the ocean, that’s something all
seafood lovers can be happy about.

For me, being happy is sitting down to a plate of farmed mussels
these guys are ocean-friendly rockstars.

First off, did you know that half of the seafood produced globally comes from
 fish farms? That’s a lot of seafood! Next time you’re at the store, look for signs
 on the seafood that note whether it’s farmed or wild, and you’ll see there’s more
 farmed seafood out there than you might have guessed.

Mussels are an ocean-friendly farmed seafood because you don’t have to feed them—they naturally filter their food from the surrounding water. They can filter 10-15 gallons of water a day—that means they’re eating a lot of microscopic plankton. It also means we don’t have to go fishing to catch fish to feed to them (as is the case with some farm-raised seafood, like Atlantic salmon).

Mussels are delicious and nutritious on top of all their ocean-friendly qualities (and kids love picking them out of their shells at meal time).

Farmed mussels are just one kind of ocean-friendly seafood that you and your family can be happy about. Learn about other ocean-friendly seafood, at

Eight conservation organizations in the U.S. and Canada have teamed up to bring you fun and engaging seafood info. There are family- (and ocean!) friendly recipes, trivia to help you get to know ocean-friendly options, and you and your kids can sign a pledge to support ocean-friendly seafood or post a pic of your best fish face showing your support for the ocean.

About the author: Kate McLaughlin is the Seafood Program Director with the
 Blue Ocean Institute. Kate has studied fish for more than 10 years—she’s taken kids
 fishing in the urban parks of NYC, and tracked the salmon on the mighty Columbia
 River in Washington State. She’s studied river herring in the coastal rivers of
 Massachusetts, trout in the mountain streams of Montana, and manta rays along
 the jagged shore of Hawai’i. Kate earned a Master’s Degree in Fisheries from
 Humboldt State University in northern California. In her work with Blue Ocean Institute,
Kate works with seafood lovers, scientists, chefs, and nutrition professionals to
 communicate the science of seafood.

Thank you Kate for this informative and fun guest post.
Everyone please stop over and "Like" the "Be Happy Page"
on Facebook and join in on the fun :)

What you will need:
3 cups black sea salt, finely ground
3 cups smoked sea salt, finely ground
3 pounds fresh sardines (about 12 large)
12 small sprigs fresh thyme
12 leaves lemon verbena
12 large sage leaves, halved lengthwise
1 lemon

Let’s get cooking:
Make sure your sardines are cleaned with heads and tails left intact, 
your fish monger will do this for you. 

Combine both salts and fully incorporate On a large stick resistant baking
 sheet, evenly layer half of the salt in a large enough area to support all of your
 sardines. Pat the salt down to make a base for the sardines. 

Rinse sardines thoroughly under cold running water and lay onto a cutting board or
 dish. Gently pat dry with a paper towel leaving them just damp.

Stuff each sardine with herbs and lemon slices, then layer on top of salt bed 
about 1-2 inches apart. Take remaining salt and place evenly over tops of the 
sardines. Pat the salt down to create a tight mound.

Bake in a pre-heated oven at 400 degrees (f) for 15 minutes or until
 internal temperature reaches 140 degrees (f)

To serve or eat, remove salt shield by tapping on the surface until it cracks 
and gently lift away salt. Make sure to remove any bones prior to eating.
Serves 4

Alisha~Magic of Spice

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Carpaccio style Portabella Mushrooms 
and Asian Pears with Cilantro Crème
~A guest post

I was recently invited by the lovely Priya author of the wonderful site Bon Appetit
to do a guest post feature as Blogger of the Month. 

I was so excited and honored when Priya Invited me to be included in her monthly
 highlight series. Her site has a vast and quite scrumptious array of vegetarian delights.
  And as a vegetarian myself, I truly enjoy experiencing the varied flavors and
 dishes that so many around the world have to share.

I chose to share  a culinary technique, rather than a recipe. So this can be
 adapted in any way you see fit, or to accommodate what you may have
 on hand. This is a very simple presentation that makes either a lovely side,
 or can add a bit of glamour to a dinner party.

So please join me over at Bon Appetit for my featured guest post! 

Alisha~Magic of Spice

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