Friday, August 19, 2011

Sweet Ginger Lemon Tea

I love herbal teas. I really enjoy trying different spices and combining them into tea. You can do so many things with mint, anise, ginger, vanilla bean, lime rind, lemon rind, orange rind you name it.

Recently, I ended up with extra ginger after working on my Oh Baby, Baby Carrot Ginger Soup so I decided to make a simple herbal tea. It was a breeze and using simple syrup made it even easier.

Simple syrup is a combination of water and sugar. The idea is to dissolve the sugar into the water by cooking it so you have an easy sweetener handy without the bother of trying to dissolve the sugar later. This is a special blessing when serving cold drinks like iced tea or lemonade. 

Sweet Ginger Lemon Tea

1/4 cup chopped ginger root

2 cups of water

2 to 3 long strips of lemon rind

Simple syrup to taste. (Recipe follows below.)

Chop up the ginger.

In a sauce pan pour the water and add the chopped ginger root.

Add the lemon rind to the mixture.

Bring the tea to a boil, cover and let it simmer over low heat for about five minutes. 

Pour the herbal infusion through a sieve. Add simple syrup to taste.

Simple Syrup

2 cups sugar

1 cup water

This combination of water and sugar make for a very sweet simple syrup. If you want to make it lighter, you can use 2 cups of sugar and 2 cups of water.

For sugar, I use organic pure cane sugar which has a slightly brownish tinge. When this sugar dissolves into the water, it will have a slightly brownish color. This will affect the appearance of any drink in which you pour it, but I think the taste is wonderful. So the color issue does not affect me. 

Bring the water to a boil and add the sugar, stirring constantly until it is totally dissolved. You will know it is dissolved when you bring a metal spoon to the liquid and you do not see any crystals. You do not want to let the syrup cook for too long or it will become too thick. Let the syrup cool, transfer to a bottle, and refrigerate. It's good in the fridge for about a week. 

There's no one whose company I more enjoy than my dogs when sipping a cup of tea. Winslow was on the bed sleeping, but Kip decided to join me by sitting outside after the tea was brewed. It was already getting dark. It was that time, right before nightfall, when you get to see so many little creatures coming out to work avoiding the heat of the day.

On our avocado tree was a spider that was busy making a web. While I drank my tea, Kip and I sat and watched it weave. I got this shot of it busy at work with my camera. It was a fun night. Nothing like hanging out with your dogs, a cup of tea, and watching a spider spin its web at dusk.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Oh Baby, Baby Carrot Ginger Soup

Not long ago, I got together with Em...  You'll remember her as the Em from Em's Mom's Hot Fudge Chocolate Sauce. Em and I ventured out to one of our favorite Asian restaurants where they serve this superb carrot soy salad dressing. Now, to say Em is addicted to this salad dressing is an understatement. In fact, she's had this little habit since we were young adults... Now, we're much older adults... So yes, this restaurant has been around for awhile and for all the years they have been around they have been reluctant to give us the recipe for this dressing...Well, reluctant is not the word. They have downright REFUSED to share. Not so nice. So, we decided that we were going to crack the code of this salad dressing.

Now, you may be wondering what all this has to do with Oh Baby, Baby Carrot Ginger Soup. Well, it was in my various different experiments of figuring out how they made the salad dressing that I ended up creating this quite delicious soup! You see, at first I tried to make the dressing with raw carrot, but the color was off. The salad dressing has the distinct bright orange color of cooked carrot, not the reddish orange raw carrot color. So, I figured the carrot must be cooked and in trying to cook the carrot for the salad dressing, I came up with this soup. Well, okay, I still have not cracked the code to the salad dressing, and Em is none too happy with me at the moment, but I did come up with a very tasty soup. This one's for you Em, while I'm working on our research project!

Oh Baby, Baby Carrot Ginger Soup

1 lb baby carrots

2 cups water or chicken stock

1/3 cup + 1/2 tablespoon low salt soy sauce

1 tablespoon ginger root, grated

1/4 chopped large red onion

1 1/2 tablespoons canola oil

1/2 tablespoon sesame seeds

Sour Cream (to garnish)

Ginger root shavings (to garnish)

In a sauce pan heat the oil over medium high heat. Add the chopped onion. Cook the onions over medium high heat until the onions have softened - they will begin to look translucent. 

Add the water and carrots and cover. Set the heat to low. Let simmer for about thirty to forty minutes.  When the carrots are tender, (not mushy) transfer to a blender and liquefy. Be careful when transferring the hot liquid and carrots, as they will be very hot. 

Add the soy sauce, ginger, sesame seeds, and nutmeg. Blend again on liquefy. Serve hot. 

You can garnish with a dab of sour cream or garnish with ginger shavings.

Now, while I was busy with all this cooking, Kip decided to join me in the kitchen. He usually hangs out with me while I cook, since his favorite activity besides hanging around with me, is eating. He knows that when I cook, there is generally a treat for him in the offing. I guess he got a whiff of the soup, and it was not something that he would generally eat. So he decided to help.

Kip chewed up one of my measuring cups. I have to presume he did this to give me the hint to make something more to his liking next time! He doesn't like carrots much. But it gave me a great excuse to go down to Williams Sonoma  to purchase the All Clad measuring spoon and cup set, which I am enjoying immensely. 

Guilty Party

I still have not cracked the code on the salad dressing, but I'll continue to experiment, and who knows what other tasty soups I'll come up with in the meantime!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Devil Dog's Chocolate Angel Food Cake

Devil Dog's Chocolate Angel Food Cake with Em's Mom's
Hot Fudge Sauce as a Topper... Yum! Yum!
Recently, I had a BIG birthday... How BIG you might want to know? Well, big enough, let's say, that I needed to make a HUGE cake to hold many, many, many candles. So,with all that fire, it seemed to me that surely this was the birthday from Hell and that the Devil had to have something to do with it. Making a Devil's Food Cake for my birthday would be the natural solution to this problem. But as I sat there contemplating this, I knew that what I really wanted was an  Angel's Food Cake. I was definitely on opposite sides! So how could I possibly turn an Angel's Food Cake into a devilish delight suitable for all that fire? Chocolate, of course!

Kip Counts the Eggs

So as I sat there, watching my dog, Kip,  count all the eggs in a egg box, I came up with the idea of making a Devil Dog's Chocolate Angel Food Cake! Yes, not only would I make it of chocolate, but I would add the delicious flavor of orange and the taste of the seductive liqueur, Grand Marnier.

By now, anyone following this blog knows how much I love to add local flavors to different foods, and I love the combination of orange with dark chocolate. I also adore the taste of Grand Marnier with dark chocolate. Let's face it, I just love dark chocolate.It was my birthday and I'd have chocolate if I wanted to. So, off I began with my concoction.

This cake is a bit of work, so be prepared to spend some time on prepping.

Devil Dog's Chocolate Angel Food Cake

1 Box of 12 eggs

3 Squares Ghirardelli 100% Cacao Unsweetened  Baking Bar

1 3/4 Cups Ground Sugar

1 Cup Sifted Cake Flour

3 Tbs Half and Half or Non Fat Cream

1/2 Tbs Butter

2 Tsp Grand Marnier

1 1/2 Tsp Cream of Tartar

1 Tsp Grated Orange Rind

1/4 Tsp Salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Begin by separating the egg yolks from the egg whites. It is best to separate the egg yolks from the egg whites while the eggs are cold. Egg separators like the one shown in this photo, make the job easier.

Once you have the egg whites separated, cover them and let them stand so they can reach room temperature, about twenty to thirty minutes.

Grate the rind of an orange until you have 1 tsp, careful not to eat into the pith of the fruit, which is bitter. A great tool for this purpose is the Microplane. 

Break off three squares of the Ghiradelli 100% Cacao Unsweetened Baking Bar.

Butter the bottom of a saucepan and add the chocolate squares and the 1/2 tablespoon of butter. Melt the chocolate and the butter in a sauce pan on medium heat, add the cream, orange zest, and Grand Marnier, and set aside so that the mixture reaches room temperature. 

Grind the granulated sugar in a blender. By doing this, it makes it easier to incorporate into the egg whites when you whip the sugar into egg whites.

Sift the cake flour so that you have one cup of sifted cake flour. 

Is it ready yet?

Give the dog the bad news that it's a "chocolate" cake and that unfortunately, this is not one goodie he'll be able to share in. Hand him a hankie and proceed to the next step.

Combine 3/4 cup of ground granulated sugar with the sifted cake flour and the salt. 

In a blender with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites until they become foamy. You will know when they are foamy because you will see a mass of tiny clear bubbles. Add the cream of tartar which stabilizes the egg whites and prevents them from over-beating. Continue beating the eggs until soft peaks form. Typically, you will know that you have soft peaks when you lift the beaters and the peaks droop.

Add in the additional cup of sugar, two to three tablespoons at a time, giving the sugar time to dissolve into the egg whites. The fact that the sugar is ground at this point makes it easier for the sugar to dissolve more quickly into the egg whites. Beat until stiff peaks form. You will know you have stiff peaks when you lift the beaters and the egg whites hold their shape, but still look moist. The photo above shows stiff peaks. 

Take about 1 cup of the beaten egg whites and add it to the chocolate mixture.

Whisk the egg whites into the chocolate mixture to give it some lift. Do not over whisk. 

Add the flour mixture to the remaining egg whites gently, but quickly folding the flour into the egg whites. I did this in my blender with the whisk attachment, and it came out quite nicely. Once that is complete, gently fold in the chocolate mixture into the flour egg white mixture. I am careful about this step, because overworking the batter, will cause the fluffiness to deflate.  Pour the batter into an Angel's Food pan. I used a Kugelhopf pan, which I think gives the cake  a prettier shape and works just as well. Put the cake into the oven and let it bake for approximately 35 to 40 minutes, or until you can insert a knife in the center of the cake and it comes out clean. 

When you take the cake out of the oven, immediately place it upside down on an empty wine bottle and let it cool completely. 

Surely, it's ready now!
Remind your pooch, that it's a chocolate cake and that he still can't have any! This is the hardest part of making the entire dessert!

Sprinkle powdered sugar over the top. The easiest way to do that is to put a couple of tablespoons of sugar into a strainer and dust the sugar over the cake. For this cake, I also like to add as a topper Em's Mom's Hot Fudge Sauce. It is a delicious and devilish addition to this cake!

In the end, I decided not to put any candles on the cake, It was hot enough as it was!

Friday, July 29, 2011

My! My! Mamey Ice Cream.

I have one particular friend, who will go nameless, but who has a blog titled Adventures of a Radical Fat Bride. The blog is hysterical and I read every entry with great anticipation. However, she recently slammed cilantro and, God forbid, the mango in her blog!  I was going to flag this offense to Google, but weighed my years of friendship with her and thought better of it. Well, I can only imagine what she would do with today's recipe... Mamey Ice Cream. Heathen!

Moving on.... For all of you who do not know what mamey is, it is a luscious tropical fruit shaped like a small brown football... Not appealing you say? Well, never judge a book, or a fruit by its cover!

Mamey comes in a number of varieties, but here in Florida, the two most popular varieties are the Pantin, also known as the Key West Mamey, my personal favorite, and the Magaña. The difference between the two is that the Key West Mamey is smaller and sweeter, while the Magaña is larger, not as sweet, and the flesh is somewhat stringy.

Key West Mamey
One thing to note when selecting a mamey is that you do not cut the fruit open until it is soft to the touch and wrinkly. Also, it takes nearly 18 months for the fruit to ripen on the tree, so you want to make sure that the fruit you purchase is not picked before its time. That means that it must be red inside, bright red. So pick at the skin of the fruit with your nail and see if it's red. If it is, it's a good buy. If it's not, goodbye, move on.

The fact that the fruit is rock hard when you buy it is not a problem. In fact, if the flesh inside is red, the fruit will soften in a few days when it becomes fully ripe. To speed up the ripening process stick the mamey in a brown paper bag and leave on your kitchen counter.

In Miami, there are many places that you can purchase mameys. Any Cuban fruit stand or grocery store carries them. Palacio de los Jugos, in Miami has some of the very best mameys I have found. They have a couple of locations in the South Dade County area and not only do they have mameys, but guavas too... but more on that in a later blog.

Robert is Here a GREAT place in Florida City for Tropical Fruit

You can also find mameys along roadside stands in Homestead and Florida City. One of my very favorite roadside locations in Florida City is Robert is Here. And great news for those outside of Miami! Robert ships anywhere in the US! Go to Robert is Here to order your mameys or other fruit or to learn more about Robert. I've been going to Robert is Here since I was a kid. I love the fruit stand and I love Robert and his family. They are always there to help and are very knowledgeable about tropical fruit. If you have a question on tropical fruit, Robert is your guy. Additionally, if you ever get the chance to visit the fruit stand, be ready for some of the best shakes in Florida. Robert makes a killer mamey shake! But that's just one of the many flavors he has. It's all done with his fruit and all are delicious!

In fact, every time I have someone come down to visit me in South Florida, I try to take them by Robert is Here. Last year, a good friend and former Marine, David, came from Houston to visit. He had never had a mamey shake and was wary of it when I ordered it for myself. But no sooner did he taste mine, that he fell in love with the shake. Since then, David has asked me how he can get his hands on a mamey tree! Unfortunately, mamey trees don't grow well in Houston, but my wily friend is thinking of putting his tree on wheels so he can roll it in before the first frost! And it is because David loves mameys so much that I am dedicating this mamey ice cream recipe to him. Get your hands on that tree David, or call Robert. Here's an ice cream you'll love!

This ice cream is simple and SO delicious! It's creamy and best of all, the way I make it, it's not too fattening!

My My Mamey Ice Cream

3 Cups Mamey Pulp - Get the Key West Mamey for best results. Two small mameys should do it.

1 1/2 Cups Cream - I use the no fat cream from Breakstone, so that reduces any fat from the usual ice creams. If you prefer, you can use half and half.

1/2 Cup Sugar - The mameys I used were so sweet that hardly any sugar was necessary. If you've picked yourself great mameys, you won't have to use much sugar either.

Cut open the mamey. It should be a rich red color.

Using an ice cream scooper, scoop out the meaty flesh of the mamey. The hard part is not eating the sweet meaty  flesh before you make it into ice cream! According to Robert's site, mamey has the consistency of cheesecake, which is true. I love it. 

Winslow couldn't wait for the ice cream. He loves mamey as much as David does and insisted on a piece before all of it was tossed into the blender!

Place three cups of  the fruit which has been scooped out into a blender. Add the sugar and the cream and blend on high. 

Once blended, the mixture will have a thick rich consistency. 

Pour into an ice cream machine and let it churn. It takes about twenty to twenty-five minutes in my machine.

You can see the rich consistency of this ice cream as it churns.

Once done, give Winslow the first taste of the ice cream. 

This is without a doubt one of the most delicious tropical ice creams. If you want to make a shake, you can use the fruit directly with vanilla ice cream in a blender and some milk and sugar to taste. If you want a thick shake, a la Robert, then don't use much milk. I love to eat mamey ice cream, and so does Winslow Dog. For those of you who love tropical fruit, and I don't mean my Radical Fat Bride friend, this is a treat for you! Oh, and by the way, David, I found a great guy who can hook you up with a fruit bearing Key West Mamey tree! I'm planting one myself!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Eat Yer Spinach and Like it! Fruit, Goat Cheese and Spicy Pecan Spinach Salad

Like most kids, I was not into spinach. I tried to feed it to my dog whenever it was served but he would dash away from under the table into another room... traitor...and he would eat anything... well, obviously not. Dead rodent had greater appeal than spinach.

And Popeye didn't convince me either. I used to watch those old cartoons thoroughly sure of the fact that the poor sailor had some serious palette dysfunction whenever he crushed open a can of the leafy green stuff with his hand and wolfed it down like it was appetizing! There was no situation so dire that could possibly make that look good. This was another adult ploy to bamboozle me into eating vegetables.

Neighbor's Plant Could Be
More Tasty

In fact, having spinach was as about as appealing as going over to my next door neighbor's front yard and devouring his funny looking plant. I did not have grasshopper tendencies... so why spinach if not my neighbor's foliage?

But as I got older, I began to see spinach perks. Packed with vitamins and minerals, it was no wonder that Brutus got a beating every time Popeye opened up a can. But could that processed spinach have been as good as a healthy fresh spinach salad for the old boy? Imagine the damage he could have caused with this recipe!

What I like about spinach now is that I find it a fairly flavor neutral springboard for a salad. It does not attack my taste buds in a negative bitter way like arugula. It has a mild flavor to which many wonderful and healthy things can be added.

Fruit, Goat Cheese, and Spicy Pecan Spinach Salad

1 Package organic ready to eat spinach

1/2 cup dried cranberries

1/2 cup golden raisins

1/2 cup toasted Spicy Pecans with Hint of Sweet Orange or store-bought spiced pecans

1/2 cup chopped dried figs

4 Ounces goat cheese

Begin by chopping up the dried figs and the Spicy Pecans with a Hint of Sweet Orange. If you don't have the spicy pecans, you may be able to purchase some at your local grocer, or you can chop up walnuts, pistachios or add smoked almonds. My preference is the Spicy Pecans with a Hint of Sweet Orange because you have a sweet orange flavor, combined with the cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon and sugar and topped off with the smoke and heat of the chipolte peppers. But if you don't have the time to prepare the pecans, the other nuts work very well too!

In a large bowl, place the spinach.

Add the cranberries.

Add golden raisins.

Add  the toasted spiced pecans, walnuts, pistachios, or smoked almonds.

Add the chopped dried figs.

Crumble 4 ounces of goat cheese over the salad. For the first time, I recently used Whole Foods Organic Goat Cheese. This is a product of the US. I like the fact that it's organic, but I think for a greater bite in the taste, I would probably choose Ile de France next time. If you don't like goat cheese, you may want to use Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, which also has a terrific bite and works very well in this salad.

You're ready to serve! And I do think this beats my neighbor's plant....