Saturday, January 31, 2009

A Stress-Free Valentine's Day-Part 1

So I love to throw and attend dinner parties, but I often see the host or hostess running around to get everything ready, stressed and unable to really relax and enjoy the evening.

As Valentine's Day is coming up in 2 weeks, many people will be cooking at home. To avoid a stressful and tiring day, plan ahead!

Music is an important part of romantic ambiance. Create a play list on your computer, or burn a mixed CD. If you have a music collection, great. If not, the public library is a great place to borrow CDs. Pick out your music a week ahead of time, if you can. Write it down and make sure to download, buy or borrow the music at least 3 days pre-meal.

Candles create soft, flattering lighting and add to the atmosphere. Be careful to choose unscented candles for your dinner table. You don't want the scents competing with your food, which can create a slightly-nauseating experience. Candles for your room, or elsewhere can and should be scented. Choose a candle with a subtle vanilla, lilac or cinnamon scent.

Rather than clean your apartment or house the day of the event, clean a few days ahead of time, touching up the kitchen, bathroom and bedroom the day of. Avoid clutter which is distracting. You don't want your date gazing at piles of dirty dishes-you want them gazing adoringly into your eyes!

Pick up your flower centerpiece the day before and keep in the refrigerator to avoid the petals from wilting.

I will post more tomorrow about the actual meal, recipe choices and presentation.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Aphrodisiacs: Gambas al Ajillo (Garlicky Shrimp)

Chilies may in fact spice up your sex life. They contain capsaicin (the spicy factor in peppers). The spiciness tricks your body into believing it has been harmed. This raises the heart rate and possibly triggers the release of endorphins giving you the pleasure of a natural high.

"Shrimp provide iodine, which is essential to the thyroid and basal (your normal) metabolism. Iodine deficiency has been documented as reducing sex drive. Like many forms of seafood, they offer omega-3 fatty acids - great for circulation and vital in the battle against aging. Shrimp also offer a serving of iron and zinc. Best of all, shrimp protein breaks down in the body to the amino acid phenylalanine, proven to increase levels of sex drive-boosting neurotransmitters in the brain."(From

2 pounds large shrimp in shell, peeled, leaving tail and first segment of shell intact, and de-veined
10 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1/4 teaspoon dried hot red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Accompaniment: lemon wedges

Pat shrimp dry. Cook garlic, red pepper flakes, and sea salt in oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until garlic is pale golden, 4 to 5 minutes. Increase heat to moderately high, then add shrimp and sauté, turning occasionally, until shrimp are just cooked through, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in lemon juice, then transfer to a serving bowl. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Recipe from

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Tickled Pink

Ingredients for 2 Tickled Pinks:
8 oz dry champagne (brut...however "extra brut" is actually's a French thing I guess)
3 oz X-Rated Fusion Liquor (it has flavors of passion fruit, mango and blood orange)

Pretty simple. Pour the flute about 2/3 full with champagne, then top off with X-Rated Fusion. You can also use a Spanish cava such as Cristalino...very dry and a good deal.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Yuca Fries with Ali-Oli Dipping Sauce

In honor of the Super Bowl...a classic side, with a twist.

8 garlic cloves

2 tablespoons salt
4 quarts water
1 1/2 pounds yuca-washed, peeled and sliced into thick fries

Vegetable oil for frying

In large saucepan, combine water, salt and garlic. Bring to a boil and add yuca. Turn heat down to medium so that it is simmering, cook about 25 minutes, until yuca is tender but still has a little strength to it, i.e. not mushy or sticky. Drain and place on paper towels to dry. Pat dry when cool.

Heat up oil deep skillet (or sauce pan) to 375 degrees, or hot enough so that a piece of yuca dropped into oil would start to fry/bubble.

Fry until golden, then drain well on paper towels

Serve with an Ali-Oli dipping sauce. Mix in pimento, cilantro or chipotle powder to shake it up a bit.

*The above picture is yuca in a more natural state...I will often buy frozen, already peeled yuca to save time. However, fresh does taste better, it is just a lot more work.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Aphrodisiacs: Grilled Peaches with Vanilla Cream

The scent of vanilla is sexy and erotic yet sweet and innocent. And tests conducted at the Institute for Smell and Taste in Chicago (really?) found that the aroma was a powerful stimulant to men.

The peach is a food that is seen to symbolize female curves. The taste, smell, touch and feel of the peach has been compared to many female attributes. Peaches also supply healthy vitamin C-which may boost fertility in men. (Note to ladies: vanilla stimulates and vitamin C increases fertility in men.
Be aware. Be smart).

For Peaches:
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 tablespoons (packed) dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 medium-size ripe but firm peaches, halved, pitted

For Vanilla Cream:
1/2 vanilla bean, halved lengthwise, or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup chilled heavy cream
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar

Scrape seeds from vanilla bean with tip of a knife into a bowl. Add cream and sugar and beat with an electric mixer until cream just holds soft peaks. Keep in
freezer while preparing peaches.

Heat butter, sugar and lemon juice in small saucepan until syrupy; mix in vanilla and set aside.

Meanwhile, prepare grill to medium-high heat, or turn oven to broil. Arrange peach halves, cut side up, on baking sheet; sprinkle peaches with syrup. Place peaches on grill, sugared side down. Grill until tender and slightly charred, about 4 minutes per side.

Transfer peach halves to plates. Serve peaches pit-side up and top with vanilla cream.

I am entering this in Mele Cotte's Kitchen of Love Aphrodisiac Contest

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Aphrodisiacs: White Truffle Fondue

There is something mysterious, exotic and seductive about the truffle. Trufficulteurs venture into dark forests during the beginning of dawn to search out these elusive mushrooms. But, are truffles in fact an aphrodisiac? There is some scientific backing to this claim. However, do not read the next paragraph if you are easily grossed out.

Sows instinctively seek out truffles as the mushrooms give off scents identical to a pheromone with a strong musky smell similar to that found in the sexual organs of the boar and transferred to the salivary glands during arousal. Basically, truffles smell like pig love. How romantic.

6 oz. Italian Fontina, trimmed of rind and cut small chunks
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons flour
1 cup whole milk
1 tablespoon butter, softened
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 ounce Taleggio cheese, trimmed of rind
1 tablespoon white truffle oil

To serve with fondue:
1 baguette
Grape tomatoes
Small boiled potatoes
Sauteed mushrooms
Diced chicken

Toss Fontina, garlic and flour together in a medium heat-proof bowl, stir in milk, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight.

Stir Parmesan cheese and butter into bowl with garlic-cheese-milk mixture. Set bowl over a medium pot of gently simmering water over medium-low heat and add white wine. Cook, stirring constantly, until cheese is completely melted, 15-20 minutes. Add Taleggio and stir until it melts into Fontina, about 2 minutes. Stir in truffle oil.

Divide melted cheese between 4 soup bowls. Serve with your choice of suggested accompaniments.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Bésame Mucho

Agavero is a 100% agave tequila infused with the essence of the Damiania flower, known in Mexico for centuries as a potent aphrodisiac.

Ingredients for 2 Cocktails:
4 lime wedges
12 raspberries
4 oz Agavero
Passion fruit juice
3 oz Chambord
Cane sugar

Muddle limes and 10 raspberries in a highball glass. Add tequila and Chambord. Pour into cocktail shaker with ice. Shake well.

Run rims of chilled martini glasses in cane sugar. Strain liquor into martini glasses and top off with passion fruit juice. Place a raspberry floating in each glass and serve!

Aphrodisiacs: Oysters 3 Ways

The word "aphrodisiac" was born when Aphrodite emerged from the sea on an oyster shell. Because the goddess of love was said to be born from the sea, many types of seafood have reputations as aphrodisiacs.

Some people believe in a "law of similarity," that is, food resembling genitalia may possess sexual powers. Others state that the mere belief that oysters enhance sexual desire and performace creates a psychosomatic response and their bodies respond to the belief-due to the mind, not the oysters.

However, oysters gained their reputation at a time many people were zinc deficient-which affects sexual desire and pleasure. Oysters contain just about the most zinc of any food. Thus, the addition of oysters to a zinc-deficient diet, would definitely lead to an increased sex drive.

True or not, the belief of oysters' awesome powers continues. In honor of Aphrodite, and oysters :) I have included 3 oysters recipes in this post. The first is from MarthaStewartLiving.

Chanterelle and Parmesan Oysters:

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup minced shallots
6 ounces chanterelle mushrooms, rinsed, drained, patted dry, and cut into small pieces
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 tablespoons creme fraiche
Freshly ground black pepper
1 dozen extra-small (2 to 3 inches long) Pacific oysters, shucked and drained, bottom shells reserved
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Preheat broiler. In a small skillet, melt butter over medium heat. Add shallots and cook for 1 minute.

Stir in chanterelles and lemon juice and cook, until the chanterelles release their liquid, about 1 minute. Stir in parsley and creme fraiche. Season with pepper.

Scrub reserved oyster shells and dry.

Place an oyster in each shell and spoon about 1/2 teaspoon of the chanterelle mixture onto each oyster. Sprinkle with cheese.

Place oysters in a heatproof dish and broil about 6 inches from heat source until bubbly, about 2 minutes. Serve immediately

Artichoke and Oyster Soup

1 stick of butter
4 tablespoons of all-purpose flour
1/2 medium onion, minced
1/4 small green pepper, minced
1 1/4 rib celery celery, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 14 oz cans artichoke hearts, chopped
12 oysters, rinsed well, removed from shells (careful to remove any shell fragments!)
8 ounces baby bellas, chopped
1/2 cup evaporated skim milk
3 cups chicken stock
2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup of dry white wine.
Salt and pepper, to taste.

Heat the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the flour and whisk until golden. Add the onions, green pepper, celery and garlic. Saute, stirring occasionally, about 7-10 minutes.

the milk, whisking constantly to keep the mixture smooth.

Add the mushrooms and
oysters and cook until oysters are wilted and edges curled. Remove the oysters and chop them into small pieces.

Add the quartered artichoke hearts and oysters to the soup and enough of the chicken broth to make soup consistent.

Add salt and pepper to taste.

Just before serving, add Parmesan cheese and dry white wine and let the soup simmer a few minutes longer.

Oysters on the Half Shell

12 oysters on the half shell
1 lemon, sliced into wedges
Piri-piri sauce
A mignonette of your choice

Pick up one of the oysters by the shell. Squeeze lemon over oyster, or spoon a little sauce over oyster.

Use a small fork, like a cocktail fork, detach the oyster from its shell.

When you are sure the oyster is no longer attached to the shell, put the edge of the shell against your bottom lip.

Slurp the oyster into your mouth.


Friday, January 23, 2009

Blood Orange and Mango Sorbet

3 medium ripe mangos, peeled and cut into chunks (I used 3 cups of frozen mango chunks, thawed)
2-1/2 cups blood orange juice from 7 to 8 medium blood oranges

3/4 cup granulated sugar, or to taste (if mangos are not sweet I'd use 1 cup sugar)

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1 tablespoon finely grated blood orange zest

Blend the mango and blood orange juice high speed until smooth. Strain into into a large measuring cup. Ideally this makes about 4 cups. If it is less, decrease the sugar, lemon juice and zest by the percentage less, i.e if you have 3 cups, use 3/4 tablespoon lemon juice, etc. If it makes more, increase the sugar, lemon juice and zest.

Combine the sugar and about one-quarter of the pureed fruit in a medium saucepan. Turn heat to medium and cook until the sugar has dissolved, stirring occasionally, about 2-3 minutes. Stir into the remaining fruit and mix in the lemon juice and blood orange zest. Cover and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled.

Pour into freezer-safe container and seal lid. Check and stir every hour or so, to prevent the sorbet from becoming too crystallized/to make it smooth. When it is very chunky but not completely frozen, blend sorbet again to make uniform. Pour back into container, seal, and freeze until use.

Photo cour testy of JayChef-amazing food photographer

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Cherries Simmered in Red Wine

4 cups dry red wine (I just buy a bottle of $5 Zinfandel or Cabernet at Trader Joe's)
1 cup sugar
2 pounds sour red cherries, stemmed & pitted (You can use frozen cherries, but if they are sweet cherries add 1/2 cup sugar then taste & add more if necessary)
1/2 teaspoon orange zest (or just use 1 tablespoon OJ if you are feeling lazy or are without zest)
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon almond or vanilla extract

Stir wine and sugar in heavy large saucepan over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Add cherries. Bring to boil. Remove from heat; let stand 5 minutes. Transfer cherries to a bowl.

Mix in orange peel, extract and cinnamon to wine-cherry liquid.
Boil cooking liquid until reduced to 2 cups, about 25 minutes. Cool.

Pour syrup over cherries; toss. Cover; chill until cold.

Serve over vanilla ice cream, with flourless chocolate cake or top with creme fraiche! I am submitting these cherries to One Page Cookbooks by Varsha Vipins and Ramki

Monday, January 19, 2009

Arancini (Sicilian Croquettes)

As a child, one of my main food groups was mozzarella sticks. Seriously. My parents could not take me out to eat unless the place served hot dogs or mozzarella sticks without appearing as if they were depriving their daughter of food. My tastes have matured a bit since then (although I am slightly ashamed to say I do love a good hot dog and won't turn down a mozzarella stick). Arancini are fried rice balls filled with gooey cheese, tomato sauce and meat...aka grown-up mozzarella sticks for a grown-up Caitlin.


1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
3 cups chicken broth
1/4 cup butter
2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan
1 tablespoon freshly grated Asiago
1/2 cup ground beef
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 tablespoons tomato paste
Crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
1 tablespoon fresh basil, minced
3 1/2 ounces Mozzarella cheese, diced
2 eggs
1/2 cup seasoned Italian bread crumbs
Vegetable Olive (<-my mother scolded me for suggesting vegetable in place of olive oil) oil, for frying

Cook rice in boiling chicken broth until tender, about 15 minutes. Drain any remaining liquid. Put rice in bowl and add 1/2 of the butter and the Parmesan and Asiago cheeses. Spread rice out on (clean!!) counter and let cool.

Use remaining butter and melt in medium saute pan. Add beef and cook, turning occasionally to brown. Drain beef fat. Add white wine to beef and cook until evaporated. Mix in tomato paste, freshly ground black pepper and salt lightly. Add some crushed red pepper if you prefer spicier food. Cook about 10-15 minutes. Remove from heat.

Form cooled rice into small balls about the size of tangerines. Poke a hole down the center and fill with a little basil, tomato meat sauce and a chunk of Parmesan. Seal with more rice.

Heat oil in a deep-fryer or pan over high heat so that a drop of egg sizzles when it hits the oil.

Beat 2 eggs in shallow mixing bowl. Place bread crumbs in separate bowl next to eggs. Dip rice balls in eggs so that they are lightly coated and then dip in bread crumbs. Ensure the balls are coated with bread crumbs but shake off any excess.

Deep fry the rice balls until golden brown all over. Drain well on paper towels.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Ropa Vieja (Cuban Beef Stew)

Like many of my favorite foods, I first tried ropa vieja during my semester in Havana, Cuba. Meat is scarce on the island, both due to its economic situation and more so (this is a less known fact) because the government saves meat and fish to be sold at hotels/tourist restaurants). Originally this dish was prepared using whatever leftover meat Cubans had on hand, then vegetables and seasoning were added to give the dish flavor. Using leftovers (of anything) is 100% Cuban. See my post on making Batidos for a cartoon that explains the innovative Cuban spirit.

3 lbs skirt or flank steak (you can substitute chuck steak, not traditional but saves $$$) .

8 cups water
2 large carrots, chopped
Vidalia onion, chopped
2 ribs of celery, chopped
1 bay leaf
1 head garlic, cloves cut into 1/4ths
2 teaspoon oregano
2 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper

2 green bell peppers,
cut into long thin strips
1 large Vidalia onion,
cut into long thin strips
1/4 cup olive oil
2 cups leftover braising liquid
a 14 oz can whole tomatoes with juice, chopped
1 head garlic, minced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
2 red bell peppers,
cut into long thin strips
1 yellow bell peppers,
cut into long thin strips
1 orange bell pepper, cut into long thin strips
1 cup frozen peas, thawed
1/2 cup chopped Spanish olives stuffed with pimento
Freshly ground black pepper

Combine water, steak, carrots, celery, garlic, onions, spices, bay leaf and freshly ground black pepper in large stew pot. Bring to simmer and cook about 2 hours, or until meat falls apart easily using a fork. Remove meat from liquid and cool. Strain liquid from pot into another large stew pot, discard vegetables, etc than remain in strainer.

Clean & dry original stew pot. Heat up olive oil over medium-high heat Add green pepper, onion strips and garlic and turn to medium. Saute 7-10 minutes, until soft. While peppers and onion are cooking, shred cooled meat. Add tomatoes to stew pot. Simmer 10 minutes. Add meat, cumin, paprika and oregano. Add braising liquid. Bring to a simmer and let cook 1 hour. Add red, orange and yellow bell pepper strips and cook 30 minutes. Add thawed peas and chopped olives. Cook another 30 minutes.

Serve with crusty bread or over saffron rice. Stew is even better next day and can be kept refrigerated 3-5 days or frozen.

The photograph, sadly, is not mine...I have to find time to make a Cuban meal sometime soon, but having a Dominican boyfriend...that cuisine has taken precedence as of late. This great photo is on Flickr and is by>

Luck & Resolutions

So Christine aka Mistress of Cakes tagged me for Luck & Resolutions. This means I list 4 things I would wish for and 4 things I aim to do, or rather, my resolution's. This happened after I openly said I was not making any resolutions this year (cue eye roll).

My 4 wishes:
1) To get in Boston College's Master's Entry Nursing Program...I find out by February 1 and it is super competitive, yikes! (Cross your fingers for me!).
2) That my loved ones are healthy AND happy this year. Cheesy yes, but I have learned not to take it for granted.
3) My one secret wish comes true ; )
4) I get to travel to Latin America without repercussions from our silly government.

My 4 resolutions:
1) To try to be more environmentally friendly, which, as a foodie, can be a bit difficult at times. I am joining a CSA this summer, so I hope that counts!
2) To take more dance lessons, I love dancing but my brain and heart and hips seems to have a broken connection at times : )
3) To visit my family and friends from home more often.
4) To be better with my money. Even though I love buying expensive wine and foods, the whole "recession" thing has me thinking I
should be concerned.

And now, to pass along the
(punishment) task.

I am tagging:
1)5 Star Foodie
3)The Duo Dishes

Friday, January 16, 2009

Pork Tenderloin with Blue Cheese & Mushroom Sauce

For Pork:
2 lb pork tenderloin
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon rosemary
1/4 cup dry white wine
2 tablespoons olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper

For Sauce:
1 tablespoon butter
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 can evaporated milk
1/4 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup chicken stock
6 ounces crumbled Stilton cheese
8 ounces sliced baby bella mushrooms
Freshly ground black pepper

Place pork in gallon size Ziploc freezer bag. Pour in 1/4 cup white wine. Sprinkle garlic cloves and rosemary over pork and grind black pepper over everything. Add olive oil. Close bag and turn over a few times so that pork is evenly covered with marinade. Let marinate in refrigerator at least 2 hours.

Take pork out of refrigerator. Turn oven to 425. When temperature is reached, place pork in 13 by 9 inch baking dish and place in center of oven. Cook 10 minutes, fat-side down. Remove pork from oven. Turn oven down to 300. Roast fat-side up about 1 hour, or until internal temperature reads 170. (For moister pork, it IS safe to roast lower, as long as it is above 145, but I like to make sure mine is done!) Remove from oven and let sit 10 minutes before carving.

While pork is cooking, melt butter in medium sauce pot over medium-high heat, medium heat if your butter is melting too quickly/browning. Add garlic and mushrooms and saute about 10 minutes, or until mushrooms are soft and liquid has mostly evaporated. Remove mushrooms from pot and set aside in a bowl. Add white wine and chicken stock and bring to boil. Turn down to simmer and add evaporated milk and cheese, whisking to make sauce uniform. Cook sauce about 10-15 minutes, until it has thickened a little. Add in mushrooms. Taste, and add black pepper as desired.

Slice pork into 1/2 inch thick rounds. Serve 3 rounds on a place and pour mushroom blue cheese sauce over pork.

REALLY good with a dry red wine, such as a Spanish Crianza!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Truffled Wild Mushroom Soup

6 tablespoons butter

1 celery rib, diced
4 shallots, diced
1 medium onion, diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
6 ounces shiitake mushrooms, chopped
6 ounces crimini mushrooms, chopped
6 ounces oyster mushrooms, chopped
3/4 cup dry white wine (Sauvignon Blanc works well)
1/4 cup dry Sherry
1/4 cup all purpose flour
4-6 cups chicken stock
1 cup evaporated skim milk
1 tablespoon truffle oil
1/4 teaspoon thyme

Melt 3 tablespoons butter in large sauce pot over medium-high heat. Add celery, shallots, onion, garlic and thyme. Turn down to medium. Cook, stirring occasionally about 7 minutes. Add mushrooms and saute 5 minutes. Add wine and sherry. Bring everything to a boil. Cook about 5-7 minutes, stirring often, until liquid is reduced.

Melt remaining 3 tablespoons butter in medium saute pan over medium heat. Add flour and whisk until mixture resembles a golden paste. Add 1 cup chicken stock to paste and whisk in until creamy. Add to sauce pot and stir until paste and vegetables are mixed together. Add remaining chicken stock. (If soup is too thick add all 6 cups stock, if not, just use 4 cups). Bring to boil, stirring frequently. Reduce heat to so that mixture simmers. Cook about 10 minutes.

Puree soup in blender or processor until smooth. Return soup to pot and add milk and truffle oil. Salt and pepper to taste. Bring to simmer and cook additional 5 minutes.

Moroccan Preserved Lemons

Preserved lemons are expensive to buy and ridiculously easy to make. Plus, they keep for up to a year, if stored properly (refrigerated and covered with their liquid). This recipe is from Epicurious.

6 lemons
2/3 cup kosher salt
1 1/2 cups fresh lemon juice (from about 6 additional lemons)
2 tablespoons olive oil
6 cup jar, with lid

Blanch lemons in boiling water for 5 minutes,. Drain and rinse with cold water.

When cool, cut each lemon into 8 wedges, discarding seeds. Toss lemons with kosher salt in a bowl, then pack lemons, along with their salt, tightly into jar.

Add enough lemon juice to cover lemons. (To get more juice from a lemon, make sure it is room temperature or microwave it until water, then roll on a clean counter to loosen the juice). Seal jar and let lemons stand at room temperature, inverting gently once a day, for 5 days.

Add oil to jar and refrigerate.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Gambas en Gabardina (Jumbo Shrimp in Saffron Batter)

1 pound jumbo shrimp, peeled, de-veined, washed and butterflied
1 egg
4 tablespoons water
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
A few saffron threads
1/2 cup flour.
Oil for frying.

Whisk together egg, water, salt, baking soda and saffron. Add in flour, whisking until mixture resembles pancake batter. Let rest 1 hour.

Heat up oil in large saute pan over medium-high heat. Test oil heat by dropping a little batter to ensure it fries upon hitting oil.

Dip shrimp in batter. Fry until golden brown. Drain on paper towels.

Serve with Mojo de Cilantro

Mojo de Cilantro (Garlic-Cilantro Sauce)

I love this sauce with battered shrimp or spread on top of Spanish Tortilla. YUM!

4 cloves garlic

1/4 teaspoon cumin
3/4 teaspoon coarse salt
1/2 cup cilantro
3/4 cup virgin olive oil
5 tablespoon water
Spanish sherry vinegar, to taste

Peel garlic and chop coarsely. Wash cilantro and cut off stems. Add garlic, cilantro, salt and cumin to a blender or food processor and pulse (blend for short burst of time). Drizzle a little of the olive oil into blender with each pulse. Add small amounts of water until the sauce is thick but no longer paste-like. Add vinegar to taste (about 1 1/2 teaspoons).

Keeps refrigerated for about 2-3 days.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Vegetarian Tagine

I think might be possibly the most healthy dish in the world. This Moroccan stew is high in fiber, vitamins, minerals and protein. And it tastes good. Enough said. (Well, for those who know me, rarely am I that succinct). This version is vegetarian, as I am making it for lunch @ work-and it thus must be without meat, but it is awesome with chicken or lamb added, and served over couscous.


1 head garlic, chopped
2 onions, chopped
2 large carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch thick pieces, or about 1 1/2 cups cut baby carrots
1 celery rib with leaves, chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 lemon, juiced
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1 14 ounce can diced tomatoes
3 cups vegetable stock (I used Trader Joe's individual vegetable stock concentrate and added water)
1 14 ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed well
1 red pepper, chopped
1 pound butternut squash, cut into roughly 1 inch cubes
1 medium eggplant, chopped into roughly 1 inch cubes
1 cup sultanas (golden raisins)
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 box prepared couscous

Heat up olive oil in large stew pot over medium-high heat. Add celery, carrots, onions and garlic. Stir for 1 minute, then turn heat down to medium. Let cook about 7 minutes. Add dry spices and let cook 1 minute until fragrant. Add lemon juice.

Add parsley and 1/4 cup cilantro. Add tomatoes and bring to boil. Add in vegetable stock, chickpeas and butternut squash. Cook, simmering, 1 hour.

Salt eggplant pieces, let rest 2 minutes then rinse well with water and add, along with crushed red pepper flakes, and chopped red pepper to stew.

Chop up sultanas and add to stew. Cook additional 1 1/2, or until vegetables are tender. Add additional seasoning to taste. Stir in remaining 1/4 cup cilantro.

Serve over prepared couscous.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Ferran Adria's Rotisserie Chicken

I love how Ferran Adria plays with his ingredients, whether it be using liquid nitrogen to create a melt-in-your mouth flavored foam (more like, it evaporates and teasingly leaves the flavor of a vegetable or fruit like lemon on your tongue) or using potato chips in place of sauteed potatoes in his tortilla espanyola. In this recipe, he uses a store bought rotisserie chicken and turns it into something complex and wonderful.

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup pitted prunes
1/2 cup dried apricots
1/4 cup pitted dried sour cherries
2 tablespoons pine nuts
1 strip orange zest (it should be roughly the diameter of the orange), bitter white stuff removed
1 strip lemon zest (it should be roughly the diameter of the orange), bitter white stuff removed
1/2 cup tawny port
1 small cinnamon stick
2/3 cup chicken stock
1 store-bought rotisserie chicken, about 3 1/2 pounds, chopped into 8 pieces, any juices reserved

Preheat the oven to 425.

Heat the olive oil in large saute pan over medium heat. Add fruit, zest and pine nuts to saute pan Stir while cooking until fruit are browned in spots and pine nuts turn golden, about 3-5 minutes. Add cinnamon stick and port and cook about 5 minutes, or until syrupy. Add chicken stock and reserved chicken juices. Turn heat to high and cook 5 minutes. Remove from heat.

Place chicken pieces in baking dish that holds them snugly. Pour sauce over chicken, scraping saute pan to get any stuck fruit bits. Turn chicken in sauce until it is coated. Bake chicken 10-15 minutes until chicken is hot and sauce is further reduced. Serve immediately.

This recipe reminds me of Moroccan chicken tagine, only tagine may require hours of cooking and prep time, and this recipe can be prepared in less than 1 hour. Even better, your guests will never know the difference between this easy meal and the more intense tagine.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Truffled Beef Carpaccio

The following recipe is based on a dish I had at Mitre, in Santo Domingo. I thought I had died and gone to heaven, at least until my equally delicious main course arrived.

6 ounces beef tenderloin
1 cup sliced baby bellas
2 ounces arugula
2 ounces Manchego
White truffle oil
Olive Oil

Season the tenderloin with olive oil, salt and pepper. Heat up large saute pan over medium heat. Add the tenderloin and sear for 2 minutes on each side, so that the outside is brown but the inside is rare. Remove meat from pan and cool completely. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and freeze for 1 hour, as this will help slicing beef later.

Wash arugula very well and let dry. Slice leaves into halves.

Wash mushrooms very well to remove all dirty. Heat up olive oil in saute pan and cook until juices evaporate. Remove from heat.

Remove meat from the freezer and slice into 6 even pieces. Using a meat mallet, pound each slice until VERY thin between two pieces of wax paper. Place meat on plate and wrap with saran wrap until ready to use.

Heat oven to 350.

Place 6 beef slices over serving tray that can be heated in oven. Sprinkle mushrooms over meat. Shave Manchego evenly over meat. Drizzle lightly with truffle oil. Heat in oven until cheese is just melted. Remove from oven.

Sprinkle arugula over carpaccio and serve!

Sinfully good.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Fabada (Fava Bean and Chorizo Soup)

1 lb. Fava beans
4 small chorizo sausages or 2 large ones, chopped
1/4 lb. pancetta, chopped (not Spanish, I know, but I like the added flavor)
1/4 lb. jamón serrano, chopped
1/2 lb. ham hocks
2 cups low-sodium chicken stock
1 carrot, chopped
1 onion, diced
2 garlic
1/2 tsp. paprika
1 bay leaf
a few threads of saffron
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
Salt to taste

Soak the white beans in water overnight. Drain, rinse thoroughly and drain again.

Heat oil in large saute pan over medium high heat. Add the chorizo, pancetta, jamon serrano and other meat products and sear meat on all sides. (It's okay if it isn't completely seared-just do the best you can to brown the meat). Place meat large stew pot over medium heat.

In pan with meat drippings, saute the onion, carrot, garlic, paprika and saffron for a 5-7 minutes over medium heat, add additional oil if necessary. Add to stew pot, along with chopped parsley and bay leaf.

Add beans to stew pot. Add chicken broth and extra water if necessary to cover all the beans/meat. Bring to boil over medium-high heat. Turn down the heat and simmer for about 1 1/2 hours, or until beans are tender. Make sure the beans are always covered with liquid, adding water if necessary.

Take several beans, mash them up, return them to the pot and cook uncovered for several minutes.

Serve with good crusty bread.

To buy good chorizo or other Spanish products in Boston, I LOVE Las Ventas. Its owner, Julio de Haro. owns the tapas restaurant next door, Estragon (I haven't been there yet as I am a big fan of Dali), and always gives me free samples of cheeses, sausages, etc. They also do lunch sandwiches. Mmmm...

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Foodbuzz 24, 24, 24: A Caribbean New Year's Eve: Merengue, Mojitos and Meeting "The Family"

While in the United States, many teenagers and young adults prefer to go out with friends to celebrate New Year's Eve, in the Dominican Republic and many other Latin countries, holidays are spent with family. I spent this New Year's Eve in Santo Domingo with my boyfriend Carlos and his family. Approximately 25 celebrated in the apartment of Abuela (Carlos's grandmother) and ate a grand meal that included traditional Dominican dishes as well as modern cuisine.

Dominican cuisine,
and in particular the celebrated Dominican stew, Sancocho, reminds me very much of the story of stone soup. For those who are not familiar with this tale, two strangers arrive in a village with nothing more than a large stew pot. The villagers are unwilling to share food with the hungry travelers. The two strangers place a large stone inside the pot and add water. Curious, villagers begin to inquire as to what the villagers are making, to which they reply "a delicious stone soup" and comment that it could use a little more flavor. More and more villagers walk by, each adding another ingredient. At the end, a delicious pot of soup is enjoyed by all. Sancocho is a potpourri of many meats, vegetables, roots, plantains and other ingredients people had access to, with many different ingredients resulting in a rich and nourishing meal.

The same story can be applied to Dominican cuisine. It is the result of native foods, the arrival of African slaves with their traditional meals, the Moor's conquest of Spain and, of course, the influence of traditional Spanish cuisine. Poverty has also had a great impact on Latin cuisine; this is seen in the ever-present beans and rice that is found throughout Latin America.

For Foodbuzz's 24-24-24 event, I will share recipes from the meal and photos of the food, photos of the family celebration and some historical and cultural information.
Para el evento de Foodbuzz 24-24-24 voy a contarles informacion sobre la cultura y historia dominicana y compartir con ustedes fotos de la familia celebrando, de la comida y escribir algunas de las recetas del 31. Lo siento si mi espanyol no es perfecto, como soy americana y estoy aprendiendo el idioma todavia.

Pase el 31 de diciembre con la familia de mi novio en Santo Domingo, RD. En los Estados Unidos los jovenes salen de la casa para celebrar el 31, pero en RD es diferente-toda la familia celebra junta en una gran fiesta.

La comida dominicana, y especialmente el sancocho, me acuerda de la historia "Sopa de Piedra." Unos extranjeros llegaron a un pueblo con solo una olla grande. Tenian
mucha hambre pero la gente del pueblo no queria compartir su comida con ellos. Los extranjeros pusieron agua en la olla y pusieron una piedra a hervir. Varias personas les preguntaron lo que hacian. Les respondieron "una rica sopa de piedra, pero todavia falta sazon." La gente les compenzo a dar sazones, y terminaron cocinando una sopa con los sazones de todos. La historia muestra lo que sucede cuando la personas se juntan y comparten. Para mi, esta historia es muy parecida a la historia del pueblo dominicano, y latino en general. Los platos son productos de la pobreza. La gente usaba cualquier cosa que tuvieran (carne y vegetales) para hacer el sancocho, y ahora es un plato tipico. La comida dominicana tambien tiene influencia arabe, espanyol, africano, taino y tambien tropical.

Our menu (I have thrown in a few typical Dominican New Year's dishes as well) included the following:

Crema de Zanahorias / Cream of Carrot S
Puerco Asado / Roast Pork

Moro de Guandules/ Pigeon Peas with Rice

Ensalada Rusa / Russian Potato Salad

Pastelon de Esparragos y Poll / Asparagus and Chicken Casserole
Bizcocho de Chocolate / Chocolate Cake
Pastel de Datiles / Date Cake

Crema de Zanahorias (Cream of Carrot Soup):

4 large carrots, washed and peeled
1 small onion, chopped
1 tablespoon butter

2 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup evaporated milk

Saute onions in butter until soft, about 7 minutes. Combine broth, carrots, and onions in large sauce pot until carrots are very tender. Remove carrots and onion from broth and cool. Puree in blender, adding broth as needed if mixture is too thick thick. Add salt and pepper. Reheat soup. Mix some soup into cream then pour cream into soup. Cook additional 10-15 minutes, or until desired consistency.

4 zanahorias grandes

1 cebolla med
1 cucharada de mantequilla

2 tazas de caldo de pollo
1/2 taza de leche carnation

Se pelan y cortan las zanahorias en pedazos chiquiticos.
Se colocan las zanahorias y la cebolla con la mantequilla dentro de una cazuela hasta que se derrita la mantequilla. Se echa el caldo, la sal y la pimienta y se pone a hervir, cuidando de que no pierdan liquido, por unos 30 minutos. Pasa por la batidora dejando una crema suave. Echa la leche y se pone a hervir otra vez for 15 minutos o menos si prefiere mas liquido.

Roast Pork:
Puerco Asado
Cranberry sauce

Parsley, to garnish

Follow instructions to make roast pork. Once cooked, let sit 20 minutes before carving. Slice and place on large
serving dish. Spread cranberry sauce over slices and garnish with grapes and parsley.

Another typical dish is empanadas. Here I have my favorite recipe for vegetarian em
panaditas, with goat cheese, black beans and sweet plantains using traditional ingredients to create a modern dish.

Black Bean Empanadas
Avocado slices
Lime wedges
A salsa, if you wish

I was going to learn to make pasteles en hoja from abuela, but as she was not feeling very well, there was not time to make these. I am posting a link to a recipe for everyone to use and to enjoy.

Abuela iba a ensenyarme a hacer los pasteles en hoja pero no se sentia muy bien
y por eso no pudimos hacerlos. Voy a poner un "link" para una receta para que Uds la disfruten.

Another traditional dish holiday dish is "moro de guandules," pigeon peas with sofrit
o, rice and coconut nectar.
Otro plato tipico es "moro de guandules," guisantes c
on coco, sofrito y arroz.

Moro de Guandules

A dish of beans and rice accompanies most dinners. Moro de guandules is one option, red beans are also very popular in the Dominican Republic ("habichuelas coloradas"). These dishes can be very inexpensive to make, and thus they are found throughout Latin America. Beans and rice provide the necessary protein and calories to survive, even during difficult times.

Russian Potato Salad

1 lb peeled potatoes
1/2 lb carrots

1/2 lb corn
3 eggs
1 medium onion, minced

1/2 cup mayo

1/2 cup peas

1 roasted red pepper, sliced


1 teaspoon black pepper

Olives to garnish

Boil the potatoes, carrots and eggs. Peel and dice into small cubes. Mix in the mayo, onion and pepper. Adjust salt to taste.
Carefully stir in peas and corn. Garnish with olives and red pepper slices. Serve chilled.

La Ensalada Rusa

1 lb papas
1/2 lb zanahorias

1/2 lb maiz

3 huevos

1 cebolla mediana, cortadita

1/2 taza mayonesa

1/2 taza guisantes "petitepois"
1 pimiento ro
Una cucharadita de pimienta negra

Se pela las papas y las zanahorias. Se las pone a hervir con los huevos y con una cucharadita de sal. Cuando los ingredientes hervidos esten blandos s
e dejan enfriar a temperatura ambiente y se cortan en pedacitos. Mezcla los ingredientes hervidos con la cebolla, la mayonesa, los guisantes y el maiz en un tazon grande poniendo la sal al gusto. Se decora la ensalada con pedazos del pimiento y las aceitunas.

Pastelon de Esparragos y Pollo (Chicken and Asparagus Casserole)

4 chicken breasts
1 green pepper, diced
1 red pepper, diced
1 onion, diced

2 heads of garlic, minced
2 cups chicken stock
4 Hard-boiled eggs
3/4 cup flour
6 tablespoons butter
3 cups milk
1 can peas ("petite pois")
2 cans of asparagus

Place eggs in saucepot and cover with water. Bring to boil and cook 7 minutes. Remove from heat.

Rinse the chicken with water and pat dry with a paper towel. Place in large saucepot with the diced peppers, onion, 1 head garlic and chicken broth. Bring to a simmer until chicken is cooked. Remove chicken from broth and let cool. Cut into small pieces.

Drain peas and asparagus. Chop asparagus into small pieces.

Melt 6 tablespoons of butter in large saute pan. Add 3/4 cup flour and whisk together until golden. Slowly add 3 cups of milk, whisking to incorporate. Add remaining garlic. Cook, whisking often, until sauce thickens.

Remove shells form eggs, chop and place in 9 by 13 cooking dish. Spread a thin layer of bechamel sauce over eggs. Form a layer of chicken pieces, peas and asparagus, using about 1/3 of the ingredients. Repeat until all ingredients have been used.

Cook 30 minutes or until casserole is boiling.

Bizcocho d
e Chocolate "Chocolate Cake" y Pastel de Datiles "Date Cake"

While I was nervous before about meeting Carlos's (enormous) family, everyone made me feel very welcome an
d like I was already part of the family. The baby girl in the photos, "Sarita," was my first friend in the family - she wanted to play with me, saying "tia kay-lee! tia kay-lee!" Possibly the cutest girl I have ever seen!

His mother had previously tried to bring me my favorite fruit (mamey zapote
) to the States for Carlos's birthday this fall, but customs found it. Rather they specifically asked if she was carrying dulces, salchicha o sapote-sweets, sausage or mamey zapote("mira, que no soy traficante"dijo ella-"I am not trafficking anything"-she pleaded). The tale of the zapote grew and as a result, my first Dominican nourishment was a Batido de Zapote.

I survived having arrived with a cough, a burn on my hand from cooking for Christmas and a short bout with "una vaina tropical" (something icky from the water-we suspect the batido is the guilty party).
I hope to return.