Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Mango Guacamole Happy Dance

Avocado Mango Guacamole
I had a hankering for a new kind of snacky snack this past weekend, and it didn't take long for this mango guacamole to come to mind.

....No, you can't have-a de Mango!....

...Such is Mango....

Moving on, I think the hardest part of making this little gem was having to go to two stores to get all of the ingredients. You can never count on Trader Joe's having the best produce, and they didn't have a single ripe avocado in the store. I had to walk all the way over to the Safeway, just next door, about 20 feet. Geesh!!

And why is it that they, (TJ's), don't really carry fresh herbs? They have these overpriced little packaged bundles of a few most popular herbs. No thank you! But, I still love my Traders, they have so many other great things to offer.

So, while at said second store, I picked up a handful of ripe avocado's, a big bunch of cilantro, and a jalapeno. I got in line, not really sure why I didn't do the self check-out as I normally do. Maybe I had alcohol in my basket...yeah, likely that I did. Or maybe I was meant to experience the check-out lady's guacamole happy dance. Yes, that's right. The guacamole happy dance. It was awesome, and it made my day. I love those little unexpected moments, experienced with complete strangers, that make you smile. And this one made me lol. As she is ringing up my items, she sings " I see guacamole!", and begins to quietly jump up and down and side to side. It was adorable. I love happy people who aren't afraid to express themselves, and actually communicate with other people. Yay for her.

She then asked me what spices I put in my guacamole. And I think many people wonder what is the secret to excellent guac. Well, I think, like everything, it depends on what you like. I happen to like, or um, love, the taste of pure and simple avocado. So I like to keep my guacamole fairly simple. Although, I love the contrast that fresh sweet mango adds, plus it looks pretty. But really, trust me, it tastes amazing.

Keep your guacamole simple by adding salt and pepper, red onion, plenty of fresh cilantro, fresh lime juice, a little bit of jalapeno, and fresh mango. And then don't be afraid to do the guacamole happy dance!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Oh, Handmade Ravioli...As You Wish!

Ricotta and Spinach Ravioli with Fresh Tomato Basil Sauce
This past weekend I had the opportunity to work at a cooking class, and lucky me, it was pasta day. And we're not talkin' just any old ordinary average joe pasta. We're talkin' ravioli! Oh Yea!

There is a huge, I mean really giant, difference between fresh pasta and your average store bought dried pasta, in terms of taste. And the obvious, shelf life. Your average store bought pasta is made with mostly semolina (the milled endosperm of durum wheat), and water. While fresh pasta is made into a workable dough with AP or "00" flour, eggs, and water, which equals much more flavor in my opinion. Dried pasta has a shelf life, of, about forever and a day. While fresh pasta should be used the day it is made, or kept in the freezer, otherwise, I am told, it will oxidize.

During our ravioli class, I had time to make some ravioli fillings, and was able to use some of the extra dough to make omy own rav's. Now we're talkin'! My favorite rav's are cheese, and mushroom, and so I quickly whipped together both. And the best tip I learned from the day was how important it is to over-season your ravioli filling. Because when you wrap up that little ball of filling in two layers of dough, you need that filling to be packin' some punch. So as I made my ricotta spinach filling, I added more salt than I thought it deserved. Same with my mushroom filling. Salt, and more salt. And let's just say that chef is always right. Yes, chef!

Now I did have to freeze my fresh ravioli's because I was not going to eat them that day. And you also want to give your fresh pasta a quick blanche and then a coating of oil before you go laying them to rest in the depths of the freezer. This step helps lock in flavor, color, (just like veggies), and the oil keeps the pasta from sticking to itself.

Today, two days later, my ravioli's were calling me from the freezer. And they were sounding all too perfectly lovely on this inconceivably chilly first day of spring. The only question being which ravioli do I want, and what kind of sauce to make for them? I quickly decide on the ricotta spinach ravioli, with a fresh cherry tomato sauce.

First I made some basil oil by simply adding fresh basil and a clove of garlic to some olive/canola oil blend, and heating that up a bit to infuse. Next, chopped up a good amount of garlic, some cherry tomatoes, and more fresh basil. Cooked the garlic in the basil oil, then added the tomatoes and some seasonings to cook for a minute or so. Did a quick boil for my ravioli's, and there we have it, dinner was served. Lastly, added fresh basil, parmesan, and pine nuts....
Bye bye boys, have fun storming the castle!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Hey Baby Quiche, Que Pasa?!

Crustless Quiche with Gruyere and Asparagus
Recently, once while dining at a Mexican restaurant on Valentines Day, and the second time, ummm, was maybe at the flea market....I really don't remember....but I have heard this song played by local Mariachi bands. And let me just state that I am one of "those"who happens to LOVE Mariachi bands. And since I don't actually speak Spanish, I have no idea what the song is about, and all I can understand, which is the best part, is when they say " Hey Baby, Que Paso". I think it's hilarious. Please don't judge!

So I decided to name the title of my post today after that song. You may ask, what does a Mariachi band song have to do with quiche?? Well, nothing at all really. It's just that this crustless asparagus quiche with gruyere cheese that I made last night for dinner, is my latest and greatest baby. So, "hey baby quiche, que pasa?!" At least I am giggling on the inside.

As I was making this one little lonely serving of beautifullness, I felt stingy not making more for sharing. But not enough to actually make more than my one little baby ramekin of this eggy cheesy yumminess. So the least that I could do is share some pictures with you, and a quick recipe...

For one serving:

1 egg whole egg
2 egg whites
1/2 shallot, minced
1-2 garlic cloves, mined
3-4 Asparagus, small to medium diced
about 1/2 cup of gruyere cheese, shredded
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 425
Coat ramekin with butter
Preheat ramekin in oven until hot

Season asparagus with oil, salt and pepper
Whip together whole egg and egg whites
Combine eggs, shallot, garlic, cheese, salt and pepper to taste
Place diced asparagus into heated ramekin
Pour egg mixture over asparagus in heated ramekin
Bake for 15-20 minutes, until cooked thru and lightly browned on top

I also roasted some baby potatoes, and some additional asparagus for garnish.

Your quiche might rise, like a lot, by trying to jump out of the piping hot ramekin. Don't worry, he won't get very far. Mine puffed up even more than this....

Cheers! Au Revoir! Bienvenidos! (Whatever that means)

Thursday, March 15, 2012

What is the Soup Du Jour? It's the Soup of the Day. Mmmm...That Sounds Good, I'll Have That.

Split Pea and Leek Soup, with Fennel and Chile Marinated Jicama,and Meyer Lemon and White Balsamic Foam
I wonder if this was the soup du jour that Lloyd enjoyed at the Truck Stop Cafe?? Hmmm.....

I have been waiting, waiting very patiently, for a true rainy day around here. And my time has finally come! It's beginning to look like day 3 of a real life rainy day. And that makes me a happy camper! It was bound to happen, though, because I had just washed my car the day before it started raining, which is only like a bi-annual occasion these days.

So what better to do on the perfect rainy day than to open up some windows and make a yummy hot pot of soup. And can I just say, which I have said before, but I am going to say it again. I love soup. So I went foraging through my vegetable drawer and pantry to see what we had in stock. I came up with a bag of split peas, an incredibly large leek, the always in fashion yellow onion, an on-it's-way-out bulb of fennel, some needing-to-be-used green chiles, and also some soon-to-be-expiring quite exquisite meyer lemons, and a shiny new globe of jicama.

I thought I would use the jicama to give the soup a fresh crunch, so I marinated it in some rice vinegar, sesame oil, honey, ginger, toasted cumin, fennel and green chile.
Next I got started on making my vegetable stock, using up the vegetable bits I have been saving just for this very occasion. And then got started on the soup, which consisted of about half an onion, one large leek, and one bag (2 cups) of green split peas.

I was also recently gifted something brand new to me, that I have been eagerly wanting to test out. So today was the day. I was going to try out this stuff called Versa Whip, and make a foam. Oooohhhh, aaaahhhhh! What is Versa Whip? Well, I am glad you ask. It is pure enzymatically treated soy protein which can be hydrated with water and whipped to make a foam. Got it, cool, thanks. 

I wasn't too confident it was going to work because I didn't have any instructions on how to use it. So I went to the most knowledgeable guy in town (well, one of 'em), and I Googled it. Which proved to be a bit more challenging than I imagined, but I did find some good information to get started. I found a recipe for making a carrot foam, so I figured I would just sub in some meyer lemon juice in place of their carrot juice and see what happens. The recipe I found did call for 1 teaspoon of xanthum gum, which I do not have in my possession, so I would have to go without for the day.

I juiced about 4 ounces of meyer lemon juice, threw in about 1 tablespoon of sugar and 1 tablespoon of Versa Whip, and blended it up with an immersion blender. And who'd have thought....we have foam! Pretty stupid cool. I scooped a spoonful out onto a plate to test it's life span....

On the plate it lasted a good few minutes before it started popping and melting away. I think the addition of the xanthum gum will be the final glue to really make it last. And yes, it tasted tangy just like meyer lemon. In the second run of the foam, I added a dash of some white balsamic vinegar just to give it some dimension.

And let me just say, that this soup came out particularly tasty. It almost tasted as if it were made with a chicken stock. I think it was the mushrooms that I used in the vegetable stock, that gave it a very savory and earthy flavor..... I love soup. I like it, I like it ALOT.

Ok little old lady, that's all we have for today....don't you go dying on me!