Category Archives: Appetizers

Shrimp, Endive and California Avocado Salad

Mary Bergens Shrimp California Avocado and Endive Salad

Summer marks the peak season of California avocados, when the fruit is readily available and at its most delicious. So what better time than now to learn more about two of the nearly 5,000 California avocado farmers who take pride in growing the delicious fruit and their favorite avocado recipes.

Ninety percent of the nation’s avocados are hand-grown by farmers in California, all of whom take special care in growing premium avocados. Many of the California avocado groves are multi-generational and family operated.

For example, California avocado grower Mary Bergen’s parents bought a ranch in Ojai, Calif. in 1957 – Rancho dos Rios. As a young child, she spent her time roaming the avocado groves and disappearing into the hills, which she says allowed her to gain an appreciation and love for the land. Mary took over the operations of the ranch in 2000 and with the help of other avocado growers, she has become knowledgeable and found a community. “I’m more connected with the community here than I ever was in the city,” says Mary. “It’s wonderful to grow something people love. It’s great to grow something outstanding.”

To view videos of Mary Bergen discussing her life as a California avocado grower, visit her page at the California Avocado Commission Website.

Here is her recipe for Shrimp, Endive and California Avocado Salad.

Mary Bergen’s Shrimp, Endive and California Avocado Salad
Recipe created by California avocado grower Mary Bergen for the California Avocado Commission.

Serves: 4

Prep Time: 45 minutes, including chill time; Cooking Time: 5 minutes;

Ingredients

2 cups water
1 cup dry white wine
2 tsp. coarse salt
1 dried bay leaf
1 lb. medium shrimp, peeled
2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 Tbsp. white wine vinegar
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
6 Tbsp. crème fraîche
2 Tbsp. finely chopped shallot
2 Tbsp. minced fresh chives
2 small Belgian endives
1 ripe, fresh California avocado, peeled, seeded and diced
1 small head butter lettuce

Instructions

1. Bring water, wine, half the salt and the bay leaf to a boil in a medium saucepan. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Add half the shrimp and cook until opaque, about 1 minute. Transfer the shrimp to a plate with a slotted spoon. Cook the remaining shrimp, transfer to the plate and let cool. Cut into 1/4-inch pieces.
2. Whisk together lemon juice, vinegar and remaining salt in a medium bowl. Pour in olive oil in a slow, steady stream, whisking until emulsified. Whisk in crème fraîche. Fold in shallots, chives and shrimp. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
3. Separate endive leaves and thinly slice crosswise. Fold endive and avocado into shrimp mixture. Make a bed of lettuce on each salad plate and add a generous spoonful of the shrimp mixture to each plate and serve.

Nutrition Information Per Serving: Calories 480; Total Fat 30 g (Sat 4.5 g, Trans 0 g, Poly 3 g, Mono 15 g); Cholesterol 225 mg; Sodium 1520 mg; Total Carbohydrates 17 g; Dietary Fiber 12 g; Protein 29 g

Pumpkin Bolani

Pumpkin Bolani

Pumpkin is kind of an obsession for me, so let me start by proclaiming Pumpkin Month on StreamingGourmet. Some of you may remember 31 Days of Pumpkin from last year. Well, since then, I have found even more pumpkin recipes that think outside the pie, starting with Pumpkin Bolani. Stayed tuned throughout the month.

Recently, I was at the Whole Foods in Mill Valley (the new one), and I wandered over to the cold case looking for something to bring home for lunch. I stumbled onto Bolanis (sometimes spelled, Bulani or Boolawnee). They are similar to Indian paratha, ie, they are flatbreads stuffed with yummy things. Typically Afghani Bolanis are stuffed with leeks, but the ones available at Whole Foods from the company, Bolani: East and West Gourmet Afghan Food, come in four different varieties: Spinach, Lentil, Potato and… wait for it… Pumpkin.

I brought home the pumpkin version and absolutely adored them. They didn’t have that pumpkin pie flavor at all. There was quite a spicy kick, in fact. They are incredibly low in fat and calories, very filling, and happen to be vegan. All pluses for me.

They are available from Bolani: East and West Gourmet Afghan Food. The company is based in Concord, CA, which is just across of San Francisco in the East Bay. You can order their products online and they will ship anywhere in the US. Perishable products are shipped in insulated styrofoam-lined packages and filled with ice packets.

I decided I had better try to recreate them at home and I am here to share with you the results of that endeavor. This does not represent the East and West Gourmet Food recipe (I have not been in contact with them).

Pumpkin Bolani
Makes 4 Bolani

Ingredients

For the pastry
2 Cups All-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
2/3 cup cold water
1 tsp olive oil

For the pumpkin filling
1/2 of a 15oz can of pumpkin purée
1/2 tsp salt
1 clove garlic, peeled and minced
2 Tbsp finely diced onion
1/4 tsp (I used 1/2 tsp) minced Jalapeño or Serrano Chili pepper
1/2 tsp minced fresh ginger
1/2 tsp ground coriander
Fresh ground black pepper

Olive oil for frying

Method

1. Mix the flour and salt together in the mixing bowl of a stand-up mixer (if you have one) or just a large bowl. Make a well in the middle of the flour and add the water slowly. Add the teaspoon of oil and mix the dough together, kneading it a little until it forms a ball. If the dough doesn’t come together in a ball, add a little bit more water. Once the dough is formed, using the dough hook of your stand-up mixer (or doing it by hand), knead it for 10 minutes. Cover the dough with a cloth and let it rest for 1 hour.

2. In the meantime, prepare your ingredients for the pumpkin filling. Mix together all of the ingredients either in a bowl, or in a food processor to ensure that they are fully blended.

3. Once the dough has rested for an hour, divide into 4 balls. Flour a large, wooden cutting board and roll out the dough into a flat disc with a rolling pin. It should be about 10 inches in diameter and as thin as you can make it. Spread 2-3 Tbsp of the pumpkin mixture on one half of the dough circle, leaving a small border around the edge and the other half empty. Fold over the dough and press it together to form a seal. Repeat for the remaining 3 balls.

4. Heat about ¼ cup of oil in a 12-inch sauté pan over medium-high heat. Make sure that the pan is just hot enough so that the bolani will sizzle when it hits the pan. Brown the bolani about 3-4 minutes on each side, until golden brown. They can either be served immediately, or for a party, you can slice them into appetizer slices and serve them a little warmer than room temperature.

Thrasher’s French Fries: Best Fries on the Boardwalk? My Attempt to Make Them at Home


[pinterest]

Thrasher's French Fries

Thrasher's French Fries

For over 80 years, the Thrasher’s French Fries stand at 401 South Atlantic Avenue, in Ocean City, MD, has served as a kind of gatekeeper to the famous boardwalk. At Thrasher’s, the potatoes are cut fresh, fried twice, doused with vinegar, and served in buckets. Big buckets. With only three sizes available (16 oz, 32 oz and 53 oz buckets), the smallest serving you can buy is a pound. But, there is something about these fries that makes them so addictive that a pound often is not enough and Thrasher’s fans are adamant. These are the best fries on the planet.

Thrasher's French Fries

Always a line of people waiting for their fries

With more than eight decades of frying and over 22,000 fans of the unofficial facebook page, who’s to argue? In 1933, Thrasher’s weathered a hurricane that not only destroyed vast sections of the boardwalk, but actually severed off Assateague peninsula to create the now-famous Assateague island across the inlet. Thrasher’s then went on to survive the Great Depression, two World Wars, Reaganomics, and the “freedom fries” era. Featured in countless magazine and newspaper articles, like the Woman’s Day 8 Best Boardwalk Food in the U.S., and inevitably found in the comments section of any web article about the “best fries,” these fries inspire a fanaticism usually reserved for politics and religion.

So, when I was heading back to my native Maryland Eastern Shore, I knew that it was time to make a pilgrimage to the place where I first learned what a French fry is supposed to taste like. Sure enough, there is something irresistible about these fries. They aren’t particularly crispy, but the flavor is pure potato. In fact, Thrasher’s is so proud of the fresh potato flavor, they don’t provide (or even allow) ketchup.

NO KETCHUP.

Katherine Bunting-Howarth of Delaware remembers using so much vinegar once, she soaked a hole through the bottom of the bucket and she’s not the only who considers the vinegar to be an essential element of the Thrasher’s experience. 939 people on facebook have “liked” the Thrasher’s facebook update, “[…] diggin’ the Apple Cider Vinegar with no ketchup!” and dozens more have added their two cents.”


OC, MD 3073 miles

After returning to California, more than 3000 miles away, I began to wonder. Can I recreate true Thrasher’s French Fries at home? I know the basic ingredients: Russet potatoes, peanut oil, salt and vinegar. But can I get that same balance of tender and crispy? And can I reproduce the rich, potato flavor? I set out to find the answer. But it would not come directly from the source. Thrasher’s is part of the Bayshore Development Corporation which also owns the Jolly Roger amusement parks. My attempts to reach someone at Bayshore willing to talk about Thrashers Fries were unsuccessful. Buddy Jenkins, chair of the board of the Bayshore Development Corporation, has always been secretive about the magic of these fries. According to a 2004 Washington Post article, Jenkins said, “We have a process that I certainly don’t intend to divulge,” but that the secret involves a “recipe and cooking times.”

Well, a recipe and cooking times were just what I set out to develop. I knew that part of what makes boardwalk fries, boardwalk fries is that they are soaked in a brine solution before they are fried twice, so I knew that I would try brining the potatoes as part of the solution. But how hot should the oil be? How long should the fries, well, fry? To find some answers, I turned to The Food Lab at SeriousEats.com. In May, J. Kenji Lopez-Alt set out to determine what makes a McDonald’s french fry so darn good and I have applied some of his learnings to this project. But Thrasher’s French Fries are not like McDonad’s French Fries. They’re thicker for one thing, and they’re served in buckets; they’re never frozen, and, must I say it again? They’re eaten with vinegar, not ketchup. But, they do need to come out with a crispy exterior and a fluffy, fully-cooked interior and that is where the “recipe and cooking times” come in. In his article, Lopez-Alt discovers that McDonald’s actually blanches its fries in nearly-boiling water before frying them, so I decided to add this step to my process as well. Blanching them at 170˚F rinses off excess sugars and starch which in turn prevents over-browning later. It also strengthens the cell walls of the potato so it doesn’t completely lose its structure during the frying process. Again, Lopez-Alt explains all of this really well here.

Following the multi-step process of brining, blanching, frying, cooling, frying meant that I could enjoy something approaching a bucket of Thrasher’s French Fries without having to leave the state of California. And that, my friends, is worth a day’s effort. Are you with me on this one? If you are, read on for the complete recipe.

Homemade French Fries

My best attempt at recreating
Thrasher’s French Fries at Home
Serves 2 (or one, really)

Ingredients

4 Russet potatoes, peeled and sliced into 3/4-inch thick slices
Peanut Oil, enough for fries to be submerged
Sea Salt
Apple Cider Vinegar (or malt vinegar, if you prefer)

For the brine
2 quarts water
1 cup salt

Tools
I don’t have a lot of deep-frying tools in my kitchen. No wire basket, no electric fryer. But the one instrument that is indispensable for this recipe is a Candy/Deep Fry Thermometer, like the one pictured here:

Russet Potatoes

Method

1. Mix the water and salt in a large glass bowl. Stir to dissolve salt. Add potato slices and allow to sit for 30 minutes. Drain in a colander and rinse.

2. In a large stock pot over medium heat, bring a bath of water to 170˚F. Remember, the boiling point of water is 212˚F, so you don’t want to let it boil. There will just be a few bubbles. Add the potatoes and let them sit in this warm bath for 17 minutes. Continue to check the temperature periodically to ensure that you are spot on. Remove potato slices to a paper towel-lined cutting board or cookie sheet and allow them to dry. They must be completely dry before submerging them in the hot oil, so do what you need to do to ensure that they are dry.

3. In a dutch oven or heavy-bottom pot, heat the peanut oil to a whopping 400˚F. Beware. Hot oil is hot. Wear protective clothing and make sure you do not allow any drop of water to fall into the hot oil bath. It will splatter and burn you. Don’t ask me how I know this. Carefully lower about 1/3 of the potato slices into the oil and allow them to fry for 80 seconds. Make sure they are not sticking to each other during this process. If you notice them starting to turn brown, remove them immediately. During this stage of the process, they should only just begin to take on a golden color. Remove them to a paper-towel lined surface and repeat with two more batches. Allow the oil to come back to the proper temperature between batches. This is what they look like after the first frying session:

After the first fry

4. Allow the fries to cool for at least 30 minutes. Then, bring the oil back up to a temperature of 375˚F. Again, in batches, allow the fries to cook for 3 – 4 minutes. Watch carefully so that they don’t get too brown. Remove them to a paper-toweled lined surface and salt immediately. They can be kept warm in a 200˚F oven on a parchment-lined cookie sheet while you are frying the other batches, but I found it wasn’t necessary because everything moved so fast.

5. Serve in paper-lined cups (I used tall coffee cups) and sprinkle with salt and, of course, cider vinegar! Enjoy immediately.

Perfect French Fries at Home

What are your memories of Thrasher’s French Fries? What tips do you have for making the best fries at home? What boardwalk food do you love the best? Share your memories, tips and opinions in the comment section below.

If you liked this article, please become click “like” on StreamingGourmet facebook fan page.

For great cooking videos like this one introducing you to French fry techniques, check out Rouxbe.com:

Avocado-Crab Gratinée

Avocado Crab Gratinée

Avocado Crab Gratinée

A few weeks after the amazing California Avocado Commission dinner at One Market, I flew to the south of Spain for a family wedding. We stayed at a small inn about 45 minutes west of Malaga called Hotel Rural La Paloma. Owned and operated by an Italian couple, Philippo and Elena took amazing care of us.

Hotel Rural La Paloma, Spain

The menu at the inn’s restaurant was a great mix of Spanish and Italian-influenced dishes. They were incredibly accommodating as well. My husband is a vegan, and they were happy to prepare separate, off-the-menu dishes for him. While I am moving towards a vegan diet, I took the opportunity to taste a few dishes on the menu that contained dairy and seafood. One of my favorites was “Aguacate relleno de pulpa de cangrejo gratinado,” or “Puréed avocado stuffed with crab au gratin.” We’ll call it Avocado-Crab Gratinée.

Hotel Rural La Paloma

I couldn’t wait to come home and try to prepare the dish myself. Elena was nice enough to share the recipe with me and both avocados and dungeness crabs happen to be in season right now. This dish is so easy to prepare, you could easily whip it up for weeknight treat for two.

Avocado Crab Gratinée

Avocado-Crab Gratinée

Avocado-Crab Gratinée
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Avocado, crab and cheese. Yum.
Author:
Recipe type: Appetiser
Serves: 2
Ingredients
  • 1 ripe California Grown Avocado
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 3 Tbsp heavy whipping cream
  • 2 oz lump crabmeat
  • 2 Tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
Instructions
  1. Preheat the broiler. Cut the avocado in half. Discard the pit, but reserve the skins. Empty the flesh into a microwave-safe bowl. Mash it with a fork it and add salt and pepper, combining well. Add the heavy cream and the crabmeat and mix well with a fork. If the mixture is too thick, add additional heavy cream.
  2. Warm the mixture in the microwave for 1 minute. Add the grated Parmesan cheese to the mixture and stir it in completely. Spoon the mixture either back into the two empty avocado halves or into one or two small oven-safe dishes. Sprinkle additional Parmesan cheese on top.
  3. Bake under the broiler for a couple of minutes until the cheese has browned slightly. Serve immediately.
Avocado Crab Gratinée

Avocado Crab Gratinée

Searing Scallops using the new All-Clad d5 Technology Sauté Pan

Seared Scallops

Seared Scallops

In late 2009, All-Clad launched a new line of cookware that is available only at Williams-Sonoma (online and in-store). As part of the launch, All-Clad contacted food bloggers and asked them to test and review one pan of their choosing. I chose to test the 3-quart sauté pan.

I’ll be honest. I normally don’t splurge on All-Clad. Before receiving the complimentary sauté pan in the mail, I owned just one All-Clad pan; it is one I would not want to go without, mind you, but still. It is the All-Clad LTD 11-Inch Square Nonstick Grille Pan, available at Amazon.com. It enables me to grill indoors and simplifies the cleanup immeasurably. I love it.

But this is my first time cooking with a stainless steel-interior All-Clad pan. The d5 technology improves upon All-Clad’s previous pans, because they’ve welded together not 3, but 5 layers of metal to create an incredibly stable, evenly-heating pan. Representatives from All-Clad assured me that this pan heats so evenly and holds heat so efficiently that I would not need to turn up my gas burner to high. In fact, they warned against it. I wanted to put this notion to the test by cooking something that requires high, even, sustained heat, so I decided to sear scallops.

All-Clad d5 Sauté Pan

Searing Scallops to Perfection

The trick to getting the perfect seared scallop is to start with a well-heated pan and ensure that your scallops are completely dry. Remember when you learned in grade school that the boiling point of water is 100˚C? Well, that means that water cannot reach a temperature higher than that. Steam can, but water can’t. So if the scallops are full of water, they’re going to be stuck at a measly 100˚C, which is not hot enough to produce a nice, caramelized sear. So pat those babies dry. And, if possible, buy scallops that haven’t been sitting in a brine getting water-logged in the first place. That means you’ll need to ask the man behind the fish counter for “dry scallops.”

For more about why dry scallops are better, you can read this article over at Fine Cooking.

Now that you’ve patted the scallops dry, season them with a bit of sea salt and freshly ground pepper on both sides and heat the pan. I decided to heat the d5 pan over medium-high heat (instead of high heat), because the All-Clad representatives were so convincing that the new technology warranted it. After the pan itself was good and hot, I added grapeseed oil, (because of its neutral flavor and high smoke point) and let it pre-heat as well. Sure enough, the pan performed perfectly. I knew that the temperature was right as soon as I added the scallops and I heard just the right kind of sizzle. The scallops got a nice sear going right away and the pan did not drop its heat when the three were added. Also, all three seared at the same rate.

Brown for about two minutes on first side

There was enough oil in the pan to just coat the bottom entirely and I added only three scallops so that they wouldn’t get too crowded. If you crowd scallops in the pan, they will steam each other which prevents them from getting a good, crispy sear.

After about 2 minutes, I flipped the scallops and saw the sear I was hoping to see. I let them cook for only another minute or two. It’s important not to overcook scallops and they cook very quickly. They should still be ever-so-slightly-translucent in the middle when you take them off of the heat. If you overcook them, they will become rubbery. So after about 90 seconds, I removed them from the heat and transfered them to a paper-towel-lined plate.

Be careful not to overcook scallops

Since I wanted to serve the scallops over pasta with a garlic, white wine sauce, I set to work preparing the sauce in the same pan. (The pasta had already cooked and was draining in the colander). Here’s how I pulled together the sauce in just a few minutes:

Garlic and White Wine Sauce
Serves 1-2

Ingredients

1 Tbsp butter
2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
1/3 cup dry white wine
Salt and pepper to taste
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice + a few scrapes of lemon zest
1 Tbsp fresh parsley, chopped

Method

1. Reduce heat in the pan. You don’t want to burn the garlic. Add the tablespoon of butter and let it melt. Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant, about one minute. Add the wine and simmer until thickened, about 3-4 minutes. Add salt and pepper, the lemon juice and zest and toss. Add about 2 cups of cooked pasta. Toss to coat. Remove from heat. Toss in most of the parsley then pour onto a plate. Place scallops on top. Garnish with additional parsley. Enjoy immediately.

Scallops seared to perfection

So, in conclusion, I do recommend splurging on a d5 pan. Pick one you know you’ll use again and again for recipes that require a little finesse. If you want your pan to be just the right, even temperature while sautéing meat or vegetables or whipping up fragile creamy sauces, I do think it’s worth spending a little more for a pan that will last a lifetime. I was surprised and delighted to learn that these pans are dishwasher safe. And, the new, larger handles even stay cool while you’re cooking. What’s not to love?

Disclaimer:
While I did not receive money to write this review, All-Clad did provide me with a complementary pan and asked that I participate in an informational web conference, where I had an opportunity to share my feedback and ask questions. I was not required to write this post.

Other d5 technology reviews and recipes by bloggers:
Laura’s Best Recipes – Smoky Red Chili
The Eclectic Cook – Polenta Mascarpone
Hungry Cravings – Chicken Parmigiana
Dad Cooks Dinner – A Bunch of Recipes

Want to know more about how to get the temperature of your pan just right? Watch this instructional video from Rouxbe.com. I was totally mesmerized when I watched it.

For more of the highest quality instructional videos are around, visit Rouxbe.com. Rouxbe offers over 200 step-by-step video recipes and about 250 cooking tip videos with their free basic membership. There are also a few free sample cooking school lessons to try out the cooking school content but the rest of the cooking school requires a Premium Membership. Try it free for 14 days.

Dinner Party Recap and A new adventure

Over the past six days, I’ve shared each course of a five-course dinner I cooked for my husband’s recent birthday party. Looking at the array of photos below, would it occur to you that this is a collection of vegan, gluten-free recipes? Think of it. No cheese. No pasta. No fish or fowl. If you had asked me on my husband’s birthday last year whether I could (or would even want to) make a dinner like this, I would have answered, “no,” flatly. Now, I can barely imagine eating any other way. Well, almost barely.

Marinated Olives with Fennel Cucumber & Avocado Ceviche Artichoke Velouté with Black Truffle Carpaccio
Roasted Asparagus w/ Grapefruit & Lemon Oil Saffron and White Wine Braised Spring Vegetables Strawberry Sorbet

Yes, we are happily joining the national craze of eating in a sustainable, healthful way. In fact, just yesterday, I planted a whole pallet of seeds which means we’re joining the garden-at-home craze too. Count on a whole host of blog entries about this new adventure. When I was on the outside looking in at this fad, I thought it was a bit of overblown malarky, and, well, just a fad. Now that I’m joining in, I can feel myself transforming into an evangelist. I guess 38 per cent of Americans (the number of people who had a vegetable garden last year) can’t be wrong. Well, sometimes they can, but not this time.

Seeds germinating after just 24 hours

I absolutely must thank Viviane Bauquet Farre for her inspiration and help on this birthday dinner project. If you haven’t seen her blog yet, you are really missing out. You can find her at food and style and please, go “Like” her facebook fan page. Viviane creates the most original and beautiful recipes. She also produces some of the highest quality cooking instructional videos on the web. See them all on StreamingGourmet.com. It took me months to figure out that her recipes are vegetarian, so they will appeal to you whether you are a vegetarian, a vegan, an omnivore or someone determined to subsist on truffles and scotch. Seriously. Thanks again, Viviane!

Viviane Bauquet Farre

Roasted Asparagus w/ Grapefruit and Lemon Oil

Asparagus with Grapefruit and Lemon Oil

It’s day four of my blogging event: “How to host an elegant, flavorful, vegan, gluten-free dinner party” in which I feature recipes created by the wonderful Viviane Bauquet Farre of food and style. My husband and several of his friends have transitioned to a vegetarian diet and several of them are also avoiding dairy and gluten, so when I decided to celebrate G’s birthday with a dinner party, I knew I needed to turn to my friend Viviane who features such refined recipes which also happen to be meat free. Today’s installment is the third of that five-course meal. For the next course, you’ll just have to check back tomorrow.

So far in this dinner, we’ve enjoyed cucumber and avocado ceviche, and slurped down an artichoke soup with truffles on top. Now we’re ready for a scrumptious early Spring salad, so Viviane’s Roasted Asparagus with Grapefruit is just the thing. Here’s what I learned by making this recipe: It is soooo easy to make and it is easy to prepare ahead of time, when it was time for this course, I could truly relax. All I had to do was plate everything and drizzle it with oil.

Roasted Asparagus

The other revelation I had while making this recipe is just how easy it is to roast asparagus. Brush the spears with a little olive oil, pop them into an oven preheated to 500˚F and 7-10 minutes later you’ve got roasted asparagus. No careful chopping, no peeling, no long wait. It’s like fast food. Well, sort of.

Brush with olive oil, then roast

Watch Viviane’s video for more tips on roasting asparagus and to watch her demonstrate how to prepare grapefruit slices with no pith or membrane in sight. Again, now that I’ve done it once, I want to do it this way all the time. My kids love eating citrus in our house now because I prepare for them this way now.

Roasted asparagus with pink grapefruit and lemon oil
Adapted from the recipe by Viviane Bauquet Farre of food and style, with permission.
See her original recipe here.
serves 4

1 large Texas Rio Star grapefruit
1 1/4 lbs asparagus spears – washed and stem snapped
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon sea salt or to taste
2 tablespoons pine nuts
4 teaspoons lemon infused oil as garnish
A bit of lemon zest for garnish
freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 large jellyroll pan

Method

1. Peel the grapefruit down to the flesh, Quarter lengthwise and remove the thin membrane around each slice, being careful not to break them. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.

2. If your pine nuts are raw, preheat the oven to 425˚F. Place the pinenuts on a baking sheet and roast for about 2 minutes, but watch carefully through the window to make sure they don’t burn. Set aside.

3. Increase oven temperature to 500°F. Move rack to the top of the oven. Spread the asparagus on a jellyroll pan. Brush with the olive oil and sprinkle with the salt. Bake for 7 to 10 minutes (depending on their size) until the tips begin to brown. Remove from pan and let cool for 10 minutes.

4. Place a bundle of asparagus in the center of each plate. Top with 3-4 grapefruit slices and sprinkle with the pine nuts. Drizzle with the lemon oil and finish with a bit of fresh lemon zest and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Serve immediately.

Roasted Asparagus with Grapefruit

Artichoke Velouté with Black Truffle Carpaccio

Artichoke Velouté w/ Truffle Carpaccio

It’s day three of my blogging event: “How to host an elegant, flavorful, vegan, gluten-free dinner party” for which I feature recipes created by the lovely and talented Viviane Bauquet Farre of food and style. Today’s installment is the second of the five-course meal. Check back Monday for course number three.

Velouté in French means, “velvety,” and this soup is made velvety, not by creating a butter and flour roux, as are most French velouté sauces, but rather by puréeing the soup (including the artichokes and potatoes) in a blender and then pressing the it through a fine sieve. Whenever I strain a sauce or soup through a sieve, I am reminded of Thomas Keller because he has said that ‘nothing moves from one pot to another in the French Laundry kitchen without first passing through a sieve.’ Now that I have gotten into this habit as well, I highly recommend it.

The other special trick for this soup is the black truffle carpaccio as the garnish. Viviane featured these in her original post, and I was compelled to order some myself. They are available at Gourmet Attitude in New York City. They FedEx them to you in a chilled box. They were a wonderful addition to this soup and I can’t wait to try them in other dishes as well. These are the first truffles to take up residence in my kitchen, so I am very excited about that.

This would be another great occasion to own a stick blender. Every time I make a soup like this, I think it’s time to buy one, but I’ll be honest. I haven’t yet pulled the trigger.

Parlsey and Thyme Bundle

Artichoke Velouté with Black Truffle Carpaccio
From a recipe by Viviane Bauquet Farre, by permission
serves 6 (makes 8 cups)

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 medium Vidalia or Spanish onion – skinned, quartered and thinly sliced
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 garlic cloves – skinned and finely chopped
8 oz Yukon gold potato (1 large) – peeled and cut in 1/2” cubes
2 8oz boxes of frozen artichoke hearts
2 1/2 cups vegetable stock
2 1/2 cups spring/filtered water
1 1/4 teaspoons sea salt or to taste
freshly ground black pepper to taste
8 Italian parsley sprigs & 6 thyme sprigs – tied in a bundle with kitchen string

1/2 – 2.82 oz jar Black Truffle Carpaccio or truffle oil as garnish
1/4 cup finely chopped chives as garnish

Method

1. Heat a large heavy-bottomed soup pot at medium-high heat. Add the olive oil and onion, stir well and sauté for 5 to 6 minutes, until just golden, stirring from time to time. Add the garlic and wine. Stir well and continue to sauté for 2 to 3 minutes, until the wine has reduced to a syrupy sauce and has almost all evaporated. Add the potato cubes, frozen artichokes, stock, water, salt, pepper to taste and herb bundle. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low, cover the pot and slow-simmer for 40 minutes until the artichokes are very tender. Remove the herb bundle and discard.

2. Purée the soup with a stick blender, food processor, or blender until very smooth. Strain in a sieve and return to the soup pot and gently re-heat at medium heat. Taste and season with salt and pepper if needed.

3. Ladle the soup into soup bowls, put a spoonful of black truffle carpaccio (or a spoonful of truffle oil), garnish with a swirl of extra virgin olive oil and a sprinkling of fresh chives and serve immediately.

Amy’s tip: Viviane recommends straining this soup through a medium sieve. I own a fine sieve but not a medium one. It was time-consuming to strain it through the fine sieve as she warned ,but I was glad I did it anyway. I used a wooden spoon to press it through and just tried to stay patient.

Artichoke Velouté

Cucumber and Avocado Ceviche

Avocado and Cucumber Ceviche

It’s day two of my blogging event: “How to host an elegant, flavorful, vegan, gluten-free dinner party” for which I feature recipes created by the lovely and talented Viviane Bauquet Farre of food and style. This recipe was the first course of the dining extravaganza that was my husband’s birthday dinner this past weekend. This kicked off a wonderful five course meal. For course number two, you will have to check back tomorrow.

Avocado and Cucumber Ceviche

Normally, when one thinks of ceviche, raw seafood that has been cured in a citrus marinade is what comes to mind. Well, this is a vegetarian version ceviche. It’s an incredibly light dish, perfect for spring and summer gatherings and it is incredibly easy to make. I prepped all of the vegetables ahead of time except for the avocado because I didn’t want it to turn brown. I waited until just before I assembled the dish to cut the avocado. Drizzling it with a lime-based marinade helps keep it from browning, but it’s important for the avocado to be fresh nonetheless.

The tabasco sauce in the marinade does give it a little kick. If your guests like spice, you can heat up it even more by adding another 1/4 tsp. For me, it was just perfect.

I remembered having traditional ceviche served in a martini glass at a restaurant in San Francisco and I wanted to recreate that effect here, but you could just as easily serve it in a shallow bowl or on a salad plate. Viviane’s presentation is quite different from mine, but truly beautiful. Here is a link to her post.

First Course of the Dinner


Cucumber and Avocado Ceviche

by Viviane Bauquet-Farre of food and style
(I have changed the recipe slightly by chopping the vegetables differently. See Viviane’s version here.
serves 6

For the dressing
1 small shallot – skinned and finely chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1/2 teaspoon Tabasco
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

For the ceviche
1/2 of a (seedless) English cucumber, peeled and diced
2 medium tomatoes – seeded and cut in 1/8″ cubes
1/2 ripe but not-too-soft avocado – pit removed, skinned and cut into small cubes
Cilantro sprigs as garnish

Method

1. To make the dressing, place all ingredients except the olive oil in a small bowl and toss. Gradually whisk in the olive oil, beating continuously to create an emulsion. Set aside.

2. Toss a large spoonful of cucumber into a martini glass or shallow bowl. Place a spoonful of tomato cubes on top of the cucumber and a spoonful of avocado cubes on top of that. Drizzle with dressing and toss a bit to coat. Garnish with a sprig of fresh cilantro. Serve immediately.

Cook’s note: This recipe can also be served as a side salad. Instead of serving it in individual small plates, serve it in a large platter.

Avocado and Cucumber Ceviche

Blog Widget by LinkWithin