The Ardent Epicure

An Ode to the Pleasures of Food

Quinoa Olive Cake Cucumber Sandwiches
with Cilantro Cream Cheese~
A Five Star Makeover

It's time once again for the Five Star Foodie cooking group to show
of their creativity and in ingenuity. And for this months challenge,
we have been assigned with the task of Classic English Tea goodies.

But of course you know with this group, the rules change...classics 
become new found adventures in the world of food.

This is my version of the classic Tea Time cucumber sandwich...

So what did I change with this lovely little classic? Well quite
frankly, almost everything! First off, as you may have guessed
I prepared quinoa olive cakes to substitute for the classic white
bread. Next I used a combination of cream cheese and cilantro
pesto versus butter or plain cream cheese. And lastly I did
not wilt my cucumbers, but if you are using bread instead,
I will add this in the instructions for you :)

As always, we would like to thank our wonderful hosts for this
 months, and every months challenge...Natasha of
  Five Star Foodie and Lazaro of Lazaro Cooks.

What you will need:
For the quinoa cakes
1 cup dry quinoa
2 cups English breakfast tea, prepared
6 ounces black olives, pitted, some for garnish
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons coconut flour
2 tablespoons whole wheat breadcrumbs
2 large eggs, whisked
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon ancho chili powder
1/2 teaspoon sea salt, ground
1/2 teaspoon fresh black pepper, ground
Coconut oil for frying

For the cilantro cream cheese
8 ounces cream cheese, whipped
1 small bunch of fresh cilantro, leaves and stems
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
1/8 cup of Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated
1/4 teaspoon of cayenne pepper
2 small to medium limes, juiced
1/4 cup pine nuts
1/3 cup coconut oil, or other oil
Sea salt and freshly-ground pepper to taste

For the sandwiches
1 English cucumber, thinly sliced lengthwise
1 small bunch sunflower sprouts, trimmed
Black olives, pitted
Cilantro cream cheese
Quino olive cakes

Let's get cooking:
For the quinoa cakes
Follow package instructions for your quinoa, typically 1 to 2 ratio, but
substitute the water or other liquid fro prepared English breakfast
tea, at room temperature.

Once the quinoa is done, fluff with a fork, then add seasonings, bread crumbs,
flour and chopped olives (saving some for garnish). Mix to incorporate
 until all ingredients are blended.

Place quinoa mixture into a small mixing bowl, and set aside until
cool to the touch. Add slightly whisked eggs and blend thoroughly
mashing the quinoa as you mix. Note: it is best to do this
with your hands.

Chill quinoa mixture in refrigerator for about 20 minutes to 1 hour.

Now take smallish handfuls, about a 1/4 cup or so, and roll into balls.
Making sure to press firmly as you do this so that they hold shape
when cooked. Place each ball onto a sheet of waxed paper, then smash
down the ball into a cylinder shape, about 1/4 inch thickness. Now
using a cookie or pastry cutter, cut into desired shapes.

Heat coconut oil in frying pan until hot. Gently add cakes to hot
 oil and fry on each side about 5 minutes or so over medium/high
 heat. making sure they are crispy on the outside. then transfer
cakes to paper towels to soak up excess oil.

For the cilantro cream cheese
Begin by preparing your pesto, placing all ingredients except for the
oil into a small food processor. Once the ingredients have been
pulsed several times and are finely chopped, begin to add oil
slowly until desired consistency is met.

Add cilantro pesto the whipped cream cheese and mix thoroughly.
Keep mixture and slightly chilled to room temperature.

For the sandwiches
Using a mandoline or sharp pairing knife, thinly slice cucumber
lengthwise. Trim on the edges and set aside.

If you choose to wilt the cucumber, this step should be done about
an hour or so ahead of time. Simply place sliced cucumber in a
bowl and sprinkle liberally with course grain salt. Cover leaving
then at room temperature and removing liquid periodically. Rinse
 cucumber slices once wilted and pat dry with paper towels.

To arrange your appetizer/sandwiches, place a large dollop
of cilantro cream cheese on top of each quinoa cake. Now top
with trimmed sunflower greens. Add sliced cucumbers
rolled into spirals onto a skewer or sandwich pick with
an olive at the top for garnish. Serve at room temperature.

Makes 18-20 appetizer sized sandwich bites

Alisha~Magic of Spice

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4:20 PM

What's for lunch? Summer Squash Parmigiana Sandwich

Posted by Magic of Spice

Summer Squash Parmigiana Sandwich

This sandwich is a simple switch-out take on the favorite classic Eggplant Parmigiana 
Sandwich. The change is simply a sub of summer squash for the traditional eggplant.
Now I know this is probably not an unheard of sandwich concept, but it was 
an original one in my mind at the time :) 

For me there is always room for a cheesy gooey sandwich any time of day,
and this one has a bit of a summer twist :) And our lovely summer squash here
are roasted, but could easily be done on the grill instead.

For us here on the Northern Hemisphere, fall will begin late September, but we
are already being flooded with thoughts of the next season. Regardless of this
we are still in the midst of summer, seasonal available ingredients wise anyway.

So I bring you a couple of these wonderful squash varieties in the form of the more
commonly known Zucchini along with the slightly less known Chayote ...
have you ever tried one of these lovelies? 

These guys resemble a pear in shape... hence their alternative name "pear
squash".  And like our other summer squash varieties they can be enjoyed
 either raw or cooked. This is another beauty that is actually a fruit, but
 utilized as a vegetable. Their mild slightly sweet introduction to the
palate lends a bit of intrigue to the summer squash series.

What you will need:
For the squash
1 Chayote, 1/4 inch sliced
2 medium zucchini, 1/4 inch sliced
A pinch of pepper, ground
A pinch of sea salt, ground
1 clove garlic, minced 
Olive oil for drizzle
2 tablespoons Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated
4 tablespoons or so, quatro formatio
(or equal amount of grated provolone or mozzarella)
2 tablespoons marinara or seasoned tomato sauce

For the garlic toast:
1 6" roll, or equivalent
2 teaspoons butter, softened
1/2 clove garlic, minced
A pinch of salt if desired

Let's get cooking:
For the squash
Place sliced squash onto a large baking sheet prepared with parchment
paper, or onto a non-stick surfaced baking sheet.

Season sliced squash with a bit of salt and pepper, the minced garlic. Rub
seasonings onto squash slices evenly. Now drizzle on a bit of olive oil.

Roast sliced and seasoned squash in a pre-heated oven at 375 degrees,
for about 15-20 minutes or so depending on thickness, until just softened.

Once the squash are ready, remove from the oven, and arrange the layered 
squash slices now into a layered pile Placing 2-3 slices on top of each other 
to make a sandwich sized pile... 

Now you will want to sprinkle on the Parmigiano-Reggiano, then add
 the tomato based sauce of choice. Top with grated quatro formatio,
or grated cheese of choice. Return to oven and bake until cheese 
is melted, about 3 minutes or so.

Now to prepare the toast by adding minced garlic to butter, add
a sprinkle of sea salt into a small bowl and mix until incorporated.

Brush each side of bread with garlic butter mixture and place in oven 
or toaster oven for a few minutes until just browned.

Top prepared bread with prepared squash parmigiana and serve warm.

Makes 1  piled high sandwich

Alisha~Magic of Spice

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Armenian Cucumber, Apple 
and White Tea Sorbet

Do you guys remember our Armenian Cucumber cocktail?
Well today I have another treat for you, but this time in the form
of a cold, cold do need to cool off right :)

We are going to be using our juicer here again, but if you do not have
one, just use prepared juice.

And for a nice refreshing balance of flavors, we are adding a slightly
tart apple and some white tea. And let me just say, if you are in
a hurry...this combo makes a very refreshing cold drink as well :)

What you will need:
3 cups prepared tea, chilled
1 large Armenian Cucumber
1 large apple
2 cups evaporated cane juice, or raw sugar
A pinch of salt
Ice cream maker

Let's get juicing:

Begin by slicing your cucumber and apple into sizes appropriate for your juicer.
Once you have your juice place in fridge to chill completely. Note: you will need 
about 2 cups of juice, if you did not yield enough juice add 
more chilled tea to total 5 cups. 

Now prepare a simple syrup by placing tea, juice and sugar into a
medium sized saucepan. Over medium heat, simmer this mixture until the sugar
has completely melted. Allow this mixture to rest for 20 minutes
then chill in refrigerator 4-6 hours or overnight.

Once mixture has completely chilled, stain through a fine mesh sieve to
 remove all solids. Your mixture is now ready for your ice cream machine.

Follow your machines manufacturer instructions for sorbet.
The mixture will typically reach desired consistency in about 20 min.

But before you go...
The lead photo here is being featured over at my lovely friend Velva's 
site Tomatoes on the Vine, please hop over and say Hi!
Thank you Velva :)

Alisha~Magic of Spice

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Fresh Chickpea and Tomato Summer Salad
with Mint Lime Dressing

This is a simple summer salad that is just loaded with green protein,
a variety of textures and refreshing summer flavors...

Basically this is just a throw together from a farmers' market afternoon,
with a bit of garden mint thrown in. I mean it's summer, and hot...
so who wants to work so hard at preparing a healthy meal?
Not me :)

OK, so I did have to do a bit of work shelling these gorgeous fresh
chickpeas, also known as garbanzo beans. Especially since I brought 
home the bush and all...

My son (aka Truffle Shuffle) promptly exclaimed..."Only a food photographer
would even consider buying this". Probably an accurate statement, but just
look how cool they are. I could not resist :) 

Plus they are not only delicious, but considered to be an excellent source
of protein, iron and fiber. 

The addition of Edamame Sprouts and Sugar Snap Peas added some
great additional texture and flavor. Not to mention the added antioxidants
and fiber. And an additional dose of protein with the edamame sprouts.

What you will need:
For the Salad
2 pounds various tomatoes
1 cup fresh chickpeas, shelled
10-12 ounces edamame sprouts
Handful of sugar snap peas
1/2 cup feta, optional

For the dressing
1 lime, juiced 
Zest of 1/2 lime
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh mint, finely chopped
1/4th cup grapeseed oil
A pinch or so of cumin
A pinch of raw sugar, or to taste
Ground pepper and salt to taste

Let's get cooking:
For the salad
Prepare as desired tossed in large mixing bowl, or
layered on individual plates. 

For the dressing
Place all ingredients except oil into a blender or mixing bowl.
Whisk or pulse ingredients until incorporated, then slowly add
oil while continually mixing for a few minutes, or until incorporated
and mixture does not separate.

Serves 4

Alisha~Magic of Spice

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8:18 PM

What's for Dessert - Häagen-Dazs Ice Cream Review

Posted by Truffle Shuffle

 Häagen-Dazs Limited Edition Ice Creams Review

It's time for another review!  This time we have some wonderful ice cream received from Roxana at Roxana's Home Baking, courtesy of Häagen-Dazs.  With five different flavors to try, we had quite a bit of fun with this review.  It might be time for some exercise now though!

Blueberry Crumble - 5/5
This was my personal favorite.  It has a nice, sweet blueberry flavor, and delicious crunchy pieces reminiscent of pie crust.  This one is pretty much like mixing your ice cream with a blueberry pie.  If you love blueberries, you absolutely cannot go wrong here.  Delicious!

Vanilla Bean Espresso - 5/5
Another great one.  This one is swirled with delicious coffee ice cream, and has a fairly strong coffee flavor that you may not find in a lot of lower-quality coffee ice creams.  With decadent vanilla bean flavor and rich espresso, this is a coffee lover's ice ream!

Salted Caramel Truffle - 3/5
This was a favorite in the house.  It has salted caramel mixed in, and small chocolate truffle pieces.  For me personally, this was not a favorite, and I found the salty flavor to be a bit much.  But the other members of the household loved this one.

Coconut Macaroon - 4/5
I am not a huge fan of coconut in general, but I really liked this one.  It had a sweet but not overpowering coconut flavor that mixed wonderfully with the ice cream, as well as pieces of tasty macaroon pieces.  If you like coconut, this is a great choice.

Spiced Caramel Biscuit - 3/5
This was my least favorite personally.  I found it to be a bit on the bland side.  That being said, the other people in the household also really enjoyed this one, so I suppose it comes down to personal taste.  This one has a caramel ice cream, with little pieces of cinnamon biscuits throughout.

I have always known Häagen-Dazs as a company that makes great, high-quality ice cream, and these flavors are no exception.  If you are looking for a rich, decadent treat (especially on one of these oh-so-hot nights!), you would do well picking any of these.  But my personal favorites are the blueberry and espresso.  Yum!
Happy ice cream hunting!

Posted by Truffle Shuffle (Adam)

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Armenian Cucumber and Lime Martini

Have you ever tried an Armenian cucumber? These curvy loveys are
actually of the melon family, but closely related to the cucumber. They
are similar in taste and texture to a variety of cucumbers, but 
perhaps a bit sweeter. 

Typically these are found to be long and often slender at one end, while
showing a larger mass at the other. They can be stripped like this one
or a solid paler green. The entire fruit is edible, including the thin
skin portion. They are frequently curled at one end, much like a snake
 in appearance, in fact they are often referred to as a "snake cucumber".

They are grown here in California, in fact it seems that we may be the
main producer of these fruits, but also are harvested in Armenia where
they originate. These are one of the summer bounty that can be
found at your local farmers' markets, if you live or are visiting CA. 

There is not really much of a recipe here, I basically just juiced this
baby, added vodka and lime, a bit of ice...A nice simple cocktail
for summer. But, have no fear if you do not own a juicer, 
simply add the sliced cucumber to the vodka and refrigerate for 
about 24 hours of so. Then simply strain out the cucumber :)

And if you are preparing this without a juicer (instructions below),
you may want to use 2 large cucumbers instead.

What you will need:
1 Armenian cucumber, ends trimmed
(about 8-10 ounces of juice)
12 ounces vodka
1 lime, quartered 
Cocktail shaker
Additional cucumber slices and lime 
for garnish, optional

Let's get juicing:

Begin by trimming the ends off of your cucumber, then slice 1 inch rounds,
or whatever size is most appropriate for your juicer.

Add juice and vodka to a shaker filled with ice, then pour into chilled
martini glasses. Squeeze lime juice from one quarter lime wedge 
into prepared glass and serve.  

Makes 4 martinis

*Note: if you are preparing this without juicing, as noted above
place several wedges of Armenian cucumber or traditional
cucumber into a pitcher of vodka, chill for 24 hours.

When ready, take remaining cucumber and place in a food 
processor or blender. Place the process cucumber into
a mesh sieve, pressing to extract juices. Add water
to pressed juice to taste.

Alisha~Magic of Spice

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