The Ardent Epicure

An Ode to the Pleasures of Food

Breakfast Taquitos with Apple and Pear Salsa, 
A Guest Post for Spicie Foodie

This preview post is a bit behind, but for any of you wonderful people out there
that have not already seen it, I am a Guest Poster over at Spicie Foodie...
I am sure you all, or at least most of you are familiar with my dearest friend 
Nancy's site Spicie Foodie, and spend many hours just gazing at her 
stunning photos, not to mention the delectable eats!

So if you are not aware yet, she is celebrating her 3rd anniversary, and 
I am helping in the celebration by way of brunch :) 

I have prepared for her some delightful breakfast style taquitos, and you may 
remember that I spoke of my current "breakfast foods" kick recently. These
may want me to eat breakfast for every meal :) But aside from the tequitos,
we have a pear and apple salsa...and this salsa has a few unexpected
ingredients I suspect, but I have a feeling you will enjoy, 
after all it only lasted moments around here :)

So please help me in sharing in on the celebration, and wishing my amazingly
talented friend Nancy a very Happy Third Anniversary of Spicie Foodie,
may we all enjoy many, many years to come! 

Alisha~Magic of Spice

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Black Onyx Cocoa Ice Cream in Baklava Cups

I is once again time for the 5 Star Foodie group to get together and put a unique
spin on our monthly challenge. And for this months challenge, we are going Greek!
More specificly we are doing Greek Mezedes which are small dishes, or little bites
typically served at gatherings. But instead of going with the more common
savory bites, I brought mini dessert bites :)

So I chose a popular Greek sweet treat Baklava, and for the twist I chose to do little
open faced cups of baklava and a rich luscious ice cream that includes the flavors 
of the baklava, along with some Black Onyx Cocoa for an ultra chocolaty experience.

As always out 5 Star event is being hosted by the wonderful and talented Natasha
of 5 Star Foodie and the amazing Lazaro of Lazaro Cooks...

The Black Onyx is a Dutch Cocoa powder that I got at a little local spice shop "Savory",
they have several unique and fun organic goodies to choose from and for anyone
that is not local they also have online goodies. As you can see, this ultra alkalized 
cocoa powder is nearly black, if fact the photo looks considerably lighter than it is.

What you will need:
For the ice cream
1 1/2 cups half and half
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
3 extra-large egg yolks
2 tablespoons black onyx cocoa
8 ounces quality dark chocolate of at least 60% cocoa
1/8 teaspoon almond extract
1/8 teaspoon cloves, ground
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, ground
Ice cream machine

For the baklava syrup
1/2 cup raw sugar
3/4 cup water

For the baklava
6 sheets phyllo, defrosted
1/2 cup butter, melted
6 ounces almonds, ground
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, ground
1/8 teaspoon cloves, ground
8-10 mini ovenproof baking cups or mini muffin tins
Note: you can do these mini or larger for traditional sized ice cream scoop

Let's get cooking:

For the syrup
Begin by preparin your syrup. Place water and sugar in a heavy sauce pan and bring
to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and continue to simmer, stirring constantly until 
you have reached a syrup like consistency, about 5 minutes or so.

For the baklava cups
Starting with the phyllo, brush each sheet with melted butter then tear or section
into smaller pieces. Line the bottom and up the sides of each cup with your phyllo
making sure each cup has 6 sheets deep.

Place nuts in a small food processor and grind until semi-fine. Place nuts in
a mixing bowl, add spices tossing to incorporate. Add syrup and mix 
until fully incorporated.

Layer the inside of your phyllo prepared cups with the nut mixture. Bake
in a pre-heated oven at 350 (F) for just a few minutes until golden.

For the ice cream
Melt chocolate in a double boiler over low heat until melted.

Whisk eggs almond extract and  sugar, also heating in a double boiler continuing 
whisk until sugar has melted. Slowly add warm half and half, while continuing to whisk. 
to whisk. Then slowly add heavy cream doing the same. Now add melted chocolate
and spices, continue to whisk until you achieve a custard consistency.

Strain custard through a mesh sieve into a large bowl. Chill in refrigerator for 
at least 2 hours or so to overnight. 

Place fully chilled custard mixture into an ice cream machine per manufacturers instruction. 
Place a mini scoop of soft serve style ice cream over room temperature baklava cups.

*Note: It is best to serve the ice cream straight from the machine. If using a 
pre-frozen ice cream, alow it to sit for several minutes at room temperature first. 

makes 8-10 mini servings

Alisha~Magic of Spice

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11:03 AM

What's for breakfast? Summer Veggie Frittata Sandwich

Posted by Magic of Spice

Summer Squash and Mushroom 
Frittata Sandwich with
 Penja Pepper and Espresso Salt

I am not really much of a breakfast person...let me rephrase that, I am not much
of a breakfast foods person, at breakfast time. For dinner, lunch or even a 
lovely Sunday brunch, and I am ready to dive right in. But mornings? Well I am
really more of a coffee (cappuccino preferred), yogurt and fruit sort. But I have
been on a bit of a "breakfast type foods kick lately, and I am going to
drag you right along with me :) 

Running the risk of being referred to as "The Mushroom Lady", this recipe
includes a few beauties that I snagged at the farmers' market recently...
and you know I just love my mushrooms!

I am beginning to wonder if I may be, or end up being, the blog with the
most "mushroom" photographs? :) But then again, I am like that with 
pretty much all of my ingredients. I guess I am just an "ingredients" type girl.

I love it all, from the fresh market finds, to the not so common finds, and
right down to the specialty me, I am ingredient crazed! But in
my defense, wait who said I needed to defend my position? Never
mind, I was just having a moment. But, if you are on the lookout for some
specialty ingredients, including some wonderful mushroom finds, check
this spot out, you might just find a few things on your list here.

OK so, let me quickly introduce our salt and pepper now. Staring off with
 the pepper, one i have showcased on a few occasions, my favorite in the
  world of white peppercorns, the Penja Pepper also known as the "Pepper
from Paradise". This pepper has a delicate, woodsy flavor profile so
 it works beautifully when you want something a bit lighter.

For our salt, I went with a wonderful espresso infused salt, that added
 just a hint of expressiveness and wonder. You will note that I added the
salt as a finishing touch to the sandwich, if you are choosing to omit this
step, then you may want to add a bit more flavor, or even toppings to
the sandwich. I kept it simple to highlight certain flavor combinations,
but this would work nicely with any of your favorites.

What you will need:
1 medium shallot, finely chopped
3-4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
6 ounces mushrooms, sliced
4 summer squash of choice, like zucchini
or yellow crookneck, sliced
8 extra large eggs, lightly whisked
2-3 tablespoons half and half or cream
1/3rd cup of grated cheese
 (I used a raw mild white cheddar)
A few grinds of sea salt and pepper
6 cheese and garlic buns (or your favorite)
1 teaspoon espresso salt, optional
2 teaspoons Penja Pepper, optional
A bit of butter

Let's get cooking:
Let us begin with the veggies, we are going to stat off by placing our oil
in a large heated oven proof sauté pan or skillet. Once the oil is hot, add shallots
and garlic until just translucent. Add mushrooms and continue to sauté a bit until
the moisture begins to release. Now add sliced summer squash and sauté until
they are just beginning to soften.

Remove pan from heat and set aside. Now gently whisk eggs in a large mixing
bowl, adding cream, cheese, salt and pepper. Whisk until just incorporated.

Return pan to a medium/low heat and add egg mixture. Cook over a medium/low
heat, pulling up the edges on occasion to allow the egg mixture to run to the bottom.

Once the egg mixture begins to set along the edges, and is partially set in the
center, transfer to a pre-heated oven at 400 degrees (f), for about 12 to 15
minutes (depending on depth of pan), until set and golden brown.

Once the frittata is removed from the oven, allow it to sit for a few minutes.
In the meantime, lightly toast rolls or bread, then brush the inside top portion
with a bit of melted butter. Sprinkled buttered side with your Penja Pepper
and Espresso Salt.

Using a pasty cutter cut your frittata into desired shapes and size to meet the
needs of your bread choice. Serve as is, or with additional condiments.

Note* If you do not have an oven proof skillet or sauté pan, you can use
foil securly placed over the pans handle to protect it from oven damage.

Makes 6-8 small sandwiches

Alisha~Magic of Spice

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2:03 PM

Chef David Buchanan~An Introduction to Swai

Posted by Magic of Spice

A Guest Post by Chef David Buchanan~
Introducing Swai - Catfish by Another Name

Our guest here today is Chef David Buchanan, a long  time friend of mine, in fact one
 of my very earliest connections and friends in the wonderful world of food blogging!
 His site "Chef's Resources" is a culinary dream for all. You can find all the information
you need, right at your fingertips, on both seafood /meats as well as culinary "how to's".
But aside from all of that, David is one of the most personable people you could ever
 want to know. I have enjoyed many conversations, prompts to get my culinary
 side activated, and a host of other interactions with him.

I had to do a bit of prompting to get a Bio from him, and as expected, it was a
downplay of sorts. So, I am going to add my own Bio for him here, sorry David
...just go with it :) So let me introduce my friend Chef David Buchanan to you...
his words and mine....interlaced :)

By day, David is a chef de cuisine who oversees the "Award Winning" 
Blackfish restaurant in the Tulalip Resort Casino. And by night, he is the author
of a "brilliant culinary resource"....Chef’s, a website "providing
culinary information geared towards chefs and foodies of all passions".

And now a few words from David on this featured fish and an extraordinary recipe, plus a  gorgeous sauce and tips on how to master this culinary favorite...

Do you prefer catfish or Swai fish? Although many people wonder, “What the heck is Swai fish?” the debate (and commercial war) has been ongoing for the past decade in the United States. Sales of Swai have been in the top ten of total US fish sales for the past few years. The question revolves around the common American catfish known as Channel Catfish, and Swai fish which is a catfish from Vietnam. On the one hand channel catfish are US grown, so purchasing it supports US catfish farmers. On the other hand, Swai fish is available at a more economical price point. And with the exception of diehard channel catfish lovers, most people prefer the flavor of Swai fish over American catfish. This has been proven in blind tastings and is due to the fact that Swai fish have a milder, sweeter flavor than channel catfish does. Ultimately there is no right or wrong answer. It simply depends upon your priorities and perspectives. Are you pro-American regardless of all other issues? Then buy American channel catfish. Is taste more important to you and you don't care about politics? Then try both fish and eat the one which satisfies you the most. If cost is the most important factor to you than Swai fish is probably going to be your best bet.

Parmesan Crusted Swai with Mushrooms, 
Artichokes and Spinach
I prepared this dish with a Roasted Corn Polenta and Lemon Beurre Blanc. But Swai is very versatile and lends itself well to many sauces and side dishes. It has a mildly sweet flavor, is moderately low in fat, and has a tender texture with medium-small flakes. Many recipes for Snapper or Halibut also work for Swai.

For the Swai and vegetables:
Serves 4
3 tablespoon Olive Oil
10 ounces assorted sliced mushrooms (I used Shiitake,  Crimini & Maitake)
1.5 tablespoons Shallots, minced
2 teaspoons Garlic, minced
6 ounces Roasted Red Bell Pepper, julienne
4 ounces canned Artichoke Hearts (marinated), quartered
4 ounces Baby Spinach
3 ounces Vine Ripe Tomato, julienne
4 each Swai fillet (about 6 ounces each)
pinch Kosher Salt and fresh ground Black Pepper
Flour for dredging
2 eggs whisked (for egg wash)
1 Tbl water
5 ounces freshly shredded Parmesan Cheese

For the lemon beurre blanc:
Yield: serves 4
1 tablespoon shallots, sliced
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
¼ cup dry white wine
3 tablespoons heavy cream
8 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter, cubed into 8 pieces
1 teaspoon honey
pinch of sea salt

For the vegetables:
In a heavy bottom sauce pan add the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms and sauté until lightly caramelized (browned). Season lightly with salt and pepper. Reduce the heat to medium-low, add the shallots and garlic, sweat until translucent. Add roasted red pepper and artichokes, sweat for several minutes just to warm through. Remove from heat then add spinach and tomato, toss until spinach is lightly wilted (about 1-2 minutes).

For the eggwash:
Combine the eggs and water. Mix well. For the fish: Lightly season the Swai. Dredge lightly in the flour… shake off the excess. Dredge in the egg wash, completely coating all edges of the fish. Let excess egg drip off the fish, then press into the grated parmesan, coating both the top and bottom of the fillet.

In a heavy bottom sauté pan over medium-high heat, add 3 tablespoons olive oil. When the oil is hot, carefully add the fish, letting the fillets fall away from you (so if grease splatters it will splatter away). Sauté until golden brown, gently turn, reduce the heat to medium and finish cooking. Remove from pan, pat excess oil away with a paper towel. Hold in warm area (but not on the paper towel… it will stick).

For the lemon beurre blanc:
Plan the meal so the sauce is one of the last things you prepare. Beurre Blanc means “white butter sauce” in French, meaning that the sauce is made with a white wine. Beurre Rouge would be a butter sauce made with red wine. Butter sauces of this type can be a little tricky because they are heat sensitive… if they get too hot, or if the butter is added too fast, they can turn into an oily mass. And if they are too cool when added to a hot dish they also “break” and it separates into an oily mess. But when you have mastered a beurre blanc it is such an elegant and versatile sauce. With a few modifications you can create beurre blancs flavored with orange, vanilla, pomegranate, fig… a host of options!

In a heavy sauce pan over medium-low heat add the oil and shallots. Sweat until translucent. Add the wine and lemon juice. Reduce to about 2 tablespoons. Add the cream, reduce by about 2/3, until it is fairly thick. At this point, if the edges of the pan are brown then transfer the ingredients to a new sauce pan. Return to a low simmer, slowly add the butter one cube at a time, whisking constantly.

When one butter cube is almost melted add another. When you add the last butter cube, remove pan from the stove and let the residual heat melt the last cube, whisking constantly. Add the honey and sea salt, whisk. Strain through a fine sieve (or chinios if you have one) into a small warm metal bowl. Hold in a warm (but not hot) area on top of the stove. Arrange the Swai over your starch of choice. Add vegetables. Drizzle lemon beurre blanc over the front edges of the fish.
 Grub time!

As a side note, there has been some negative press about the quality of Swai, and although there may be a grain of truth to some of the claims, I think a lot of it is BS. I’ve spoken with a number of fish purveyors who import and sell fish all over the West Coast and they point out that if they were to sell garbage fish (or unhealthy fish as some propaganda suggests) it would hurt their reputation and therefore hurt their business. Most restaurants and main stream grocery stores purchase from reputable seafood vendors who have their own inspectors who verify the quality of the fish they purchase and sell.
Alisha~Magic of Spice

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10:20 PM

What's for Dessert? Boozy and Spiced Cherry Freeze

Posted by Magic of Spice

Boozy and Spiced Cherry Freeze

This is a simple and refreshing treat to cool off with this during our warmer, even
hot days this summer. You can use freshly juiced cherries, or your favorite 
prepared cherry juice.

We spiced up our frozen treat with just a hint of Star Anise and Black
Cardamom.Giving us just a little something extra, and perhaps
even a bit unexpected :)

But before we get onto our treat for the evening, I wanted to tell you
about a wonderful Bake Sale event that is going on over at my
friend Erin's site Dinners, Dishes and Desserts.

The Bake Sale is to raise money for the victims of the Colorado Wildfires,
its a wonderful cause and there are some delightful goodies to be had.
Please stop over and check it out from July 8th -9th. 

What you will need:
If juicing your cherries
21/5 pounds fresh cherries, pitted with skins intact
(or about 16 ounces of juice)
1/4th cup boiling water
1 star anise
1 black cardamom pod, bruised
6 ounces sparkling wine

Let's get juicing:
Begin by placing your whole spices in a cup and steep covered in the
boiling water for about 20 minutes or so. Allow to come to room
temperature, then set aside.

Remove the stems and pits from your cherries, then juice them.
Take cherry juice and add strained spiced infused tea, sparkling wine.
Place mixture in a shallow dish and place in the freezer.

Allow to freeze for several hours, then scrape with a fork to loosen
the mixture up a bit. Continue to freeze until mixture is solid.

Taking a fork again, break up into smaller bits and continue with the fork
in this manner until you have shavings.

Place in glasses or serving bowls and serve immediately.

Makes 4, 6 ounce servings

Alisha~Magic of Spice

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