Monthly Archives: August 2012

Sweet and Spicy Thai Style Tofu

It happened.   My son brought in a beautiful golden brown and red leaf from outside.  Also, we have an extraordinary amount of pencils and erasers in the house.  This means only one thing…   September is almost here.   The start of the new school year is only one week away and before you can blink I’ll be making pumpkin pie and sewing (and by sewing I mean buying) Halloween costumes for the boys.

I suppose it had to happen eventually.   I will miss my little summer terror and all his shenanigans when he boards that big yellow bus next week.  As much as the fighting and the “THAT’S MIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIINE!” might grate on my nerves as he antagonizes his little brother, I will miss him more.   But, let’s not think about that yet.  I still have one week of fun left with them together.  So, let’s make some Thai tofu, shall we?  It’s sweet and very spicy and savory and delicious and fresh…not to mention easy.   The marinade takes a day or so, but after that it’s just a matter of throwing it in a pan and eating it, which I enjoy.

 

 Sweet and Spicy Thai Style Tofu

Serves 3 to 4

  • 1 14-ounce package extra firm organic tofu
  • 4 cloves garlic, grated
  • 1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 3 tablespoons freshly grated ginger
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
  • tablespoon chopped fresh herbs: Thai basil and/or Cilantro
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil, plus more for pan searing
  • 2-3 cups prepared rice or rice noodles
  • 3 scallions, finely sliced using both green and white parts
  • toasted sesame seeds, for garnish
  • toasted sesame oil, for garnish

 

Freeze tofu and then thaw and drain it between paper towels with a weight on top for one half an hour.   Re-wrap tofu brick in new paper towels and place on microwave safe dish.  Microwave on high for two minutes.  The water should be almost completely removed from the tofu at this point.

In a large plastic zipper bag, combine garlic, soy, lime juice, ginger, brown sugar, cayenne, fresh herbs and one tablespoon of the coconut oil.   Massage all ingredients together, add the prepared tofu to the bag and massage again for about thirty seconds, then seal the bag, with as little air inside as possible (vacuum sealed is ideal).   Let the tofu marinate in the refrigerator for at least 12 hours, preferably 24 hours.  Remove tofu from bag and slice into cubes, reserving any leftover marinade

Next, in a large nonstick pan over high heat, add a light and very shallow coating of coconut oil.  Drop the tofu cubes in and sear each cube on all sides until dark golden brown.  Once browned toss in a bowl add remaining marinade.   Serve garnished with sliced scallions, toasted sesame seeds and a very small drizzle of toasted sesame seed oil over prepared rice or rice noodles with dipping sauce of your choice.

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Peach Sandwiched Lemon Bar Sundaes (with vanilla ice cream and fig balsamic)

 

I’m not saying that one way or the other is right or wrong.  But, for me this dessert is ideal.   It varies in both texture and flavor which, I believe, is crucial.  The lemon bars came out extremely thin, so I sandwiched some fresh peaches between two of them.  Upon looking at it, I decided that anything with that shortbread buttery crumbly crust on top needs to have ice cream, so that was just a simple and logical choice.

 

But, then I feared it might be too sweet.   You see, I’m not much of a fan of sweet.  You know the desserts that are chocolate upon chocolate upon candy upon sugar topped with buttercream?  Ok, well maybe that’s an exaggeration.  But, my point is that it just isn’t all that interesting to me without something to mix it up.  So, I took just one small spoonful of the fig balsamic (a slight reduction I made a few days prior) I had on hand and drizzled it over the top and finished it with a fresh peach slice.

 

It wasn’t intentional or planned, but it definitely will be from this point forward.

 

Peach Sandwiched Lemon Bar Sundaes

(with vanilla ice cream and fig balsamic)

For the Crust:

  • Vegetable oil, for greasing
  • 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, diced
  • 11/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup finely ground almonds
  • 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

For the Filling:

  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour, sifted
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 1 cup fresh lemon juice (from about 8 lemons)

For the Sundae:

  • Vanilla Ice Cream
  • Fig Balsamic Reduction

Directions

Make the crust: Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Grease a 11-by-17-inch pan with vegetable oil and line with foil leaving a 2-inch overhang on all sides; grease the foil with oil. Using a pastry cutter combine butter, flour, ground almonds, both sugars and the salt until the dough comes together. Press evenly into the bottom of the prepared pan, making sure there are no cracks. Bake until the crust is golden, about 6 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the filling: Whisk the whole eggs, sugar and flour in a bowl until smooth. Whisk in the lemon zest and juice. Remove the crust from the oven and reduce the temperature to 300 degrees F. Pour the filling over the warm crust and return to the oven. Bake until the filling is just set, which took about 18-20 minutes for my oven.

Let the bars cool in the pan on a rack, then refrigerate until firm, at least 2 hours. Lift out of the pan using the foil and slice. Top half with fresh peaches and then make (peach filled lemon bar) sandwiches using the other half of the cut lemon bars.

Make the Sundae:  Top with vanilla ice cream and drizzle one spoonful of fig balsamic top with a peach slice to make the perfect end of summer sundae.

 

Lemon bars Adapted from : source

 

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Tomato and Scallion Quesadillas

These quesadillas are a product of what’s happening in my garden now.  I know most people have a zucchini invasion in their gardens at the moment.  I, however, have an onslaught of cherry tomatoes to eat on a daily basis which I rather enjoy.

This is  a light, quick, and seasonal home-grown lunch I made yesterday for the boys and I.   I used some roasted tomatillo salsa to add some spice to mine, but without that, they are very child-friendly.  The boys adored them, which I found outrageously astounding.  Of course it is delicious and savory and naturally sweet and even a little spicy with the salsa.  It’s both light yet filling, striking a nice balance of texture and flavor with the creamy yet tangy bite of manchego and beans.   The ridiculously fresh produce added a fresh lightness which rounded it out and the chewy crunch from the tortilla was the perfect contrast to the filling. That being said,  my children don’t really enjoy anything with such balanced qualities.  Or at least, they hadn’t before yesterday’s prepared lunch.

I suspect however that the general punctilious nature with which we approach our food is directly related to our experience in the creation and subsequent appreciation of it.  What grows in our garden is what was on the plate they were raving about and despite my preparation of the ingredients, they took ownership in the quality, therefore opening their minds to a wider array of flavors and tastes.  They helped with the seeds and the watering and the feeding and the picking and truly enjoyed doing it.

This novel experience of growing their own food has most assuredly broadened their palate, for which I am very grateful.  If you have a picky eater, I highly recommend allowing them to grow their own ingredients.

 

Tomato and Scallion Quesadillas

with black beans, manchego and roasted tomatillo salsa.

  • olive oil
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 10.5 ounce can of black beans, drained
  • 2 tablespoons salsa, plus more to finish if desired (your choice, I used this one)
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/4 cup sliced scallions
  • about 1/2 cup grated manchego cheese (more of less if desired)
  • three eight inch flour tortillas

 

Place large nonstick skillet over high heat and coat bottom thinly with olive oil. Drop in garlic, black beans and salsa.  Toss occasionally so the garlic doesn’t burn, until hot.  Remove from heat and add tomatoes, scallions and manchego.  Season to taste.   Drop filling into flour tortillas and fold tortillas in half.  Press firmly to evenly distribute filling.  Place filled tortillas in a dry nonstick skillet over medium high heat until gently warmed, then flip to warm the other side of the quesadilla.  Repeat with remaining filled tortillas.   Serve with additional salsa if desired.

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Eggplant Parmesan Crisps and Some Tomato Towers

 

 Eggplant is typically breaded and fried in many dishes, as most of you already know; then it’s either stuffed with cheese or layered into sauces or casseroles.  Granted that’s all pretty good, but, with this dish you just use the parmesan cheese as you would the breadcrumbs.  I lightly salted the eggplant and drained it on paper towels, then blotted it dry before dipping it into the egg so the cheese would stick.  I sprinkled both sides of the eggplant slices with the parmesan and then baked them in a low temperature oven for about one half an hour, turning once after twenty minutes, which is when they began to turn golden brown.  The trick to this is having eggplant slices that are as dry as possible before dipping them in the egg.   After that it’s all pretty easy.

 

Once your eggplant parmesan crisps are all crispy and golden brown you can let them cool on paper towels to crisp up further or you can use them to wrap up some ricotta filling and then bake as you would an eggplant rollatini, or you could use them in these tomato towers as I did (above).  It’s a good way to highlight the bounty of eggplant and tomato this time of year when searching for something slightly more unique and light than eggplant parmesan.   Raw tomato slices and basil leaves between the eggplant parmesan crisps round out this light and seasonal near-salad dish.  Feel free to toss some toasted pine nuts and garlic or basil oil at the end if you have it on hand.  I had some garlic-basil olive oil and it was phenomenal for finishing the tomato tower.

Eggplant Parmesan Crisps

  • 1 eggplant about four inches in diameter
  • 3 whole eggs at room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon creme fraiche
  • salt and pepper
  • three large garlic cloves, pressed (or very finely minced)
  • finely grated parmesan cheese
  • Garlic-basil oil
  • fresh herbs and cracked black pepper

Remove skin from eggplant on two sides and slice lengthwise into planks 1/8th of an inch thin and approximately four inches wide and tall.   Lightly salt the eggplant and drain on paper towels for ten minutes. Whisk together eggs, creme fraiche, garlic and a pinch of salt and pepper.  Blot the eggplant slices dry and dip into the egg mixture.  Leave them there to allow them to soak up some of the egg and garlic.   Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F and prepare a baking sheet that will fit the eggplant slices in a single layer; either ungreased or parchment lined baking sheet will work.

When the oven is preheated, take the eggplant slices out of the egg mixture and drop into the grated parmesan cheese.  The slices should be thoroughly coated on all sides.  Place on prepared baking sheet in a single layer and bake in preheated oven for 25-30 minutes, turning over once around the twenty minute mark, or when beginning to turn golden brown.

Remove from oven and drizzle with garlic-basil oil.   Sprinkle with fresh herbs and cracked black pepper while warm, if desired.

 

Tomato towers with Eggplant Parmesan Crisps

  • tomato slices
  • eggplant parmesan crisps
  • basil leaves
  • garlic-basil oil
  • toasted pine nuts
  • cracked black pepper

Slice tomatoes to one quarter of an inch.   Starting with the eggplant parmesan crisps, layer all ingredients: eggplant, tomato, basil leaves, repeat until desired serving size is reached.   Finish with garlic-basil oil.   Add toasted pine nuts and cracked black pepper if desired.

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Peach and Avocado Nachos (with roasted tomatillo salsa)

I picked up some tomatillos for the first time yesterday; a task that was well-overdue considering how much I love salsa yet rarely make it.

Of all the salsa I have ever eaten, (a lot) this is the one that rises above the rest.

The sheer heat and freshness of the simple quality ingredients are what ensure a captivating flavor experience.

I first tasted a delicious hit of cool cilantro, lime and fresh roasted tomatillos. Then a fiery burst of chile peppers followed, which was both surprising and addictive .

For the people who don’t enjoy that level of fiery heat alone, I decided that avocado and peach, together, would be the perfect cushion to counterbalance the extreme heat of chile peppers.

The naturally sweet and acidic peach with the creamy yet tangy avocado balance the heat of the chile peppers and are beautifully paired with the fresh cilantro and tomatillos. The heat is an afterthought that simply reminds you to have more as it lingers in your mouth.


This combination was inspired by the seemingly new prevalence of dishes that combine tomatoes and peaches.  Have you noticed this combination lately?  Is it a new thing like bacon and chocolate were a couple of years ago?  Well, it’s at least new to me and I’m very happy I’ve finally found it.   The tomatillos have a mild and uniquely fresh quality compared to tomatoes when used in salsa and are perfectly paired with cilantro and lime.

I also found several other new recipes here in the new recipe section of the website, “Avocados from Mexico”. It’s a place where those who are passionate about their food can share their Mexican avocado creations to inspire others. Feel free to visit and share your own recipes as well by clicking the image below.


Peach and Avocado Nachos

Ingredients:

  • Fresh and Ripe Peach Slices
  • Ripe Mexican Avocado Slices
  • Roasted Tomatillo Salsa (recipe below)
  • Fried Corn Tortilla Chips
  • Lime Juice and Chopped Cilantro for garnish

Directions:

Place warmed tortilla chips on serving platter

Spoon  one or two teaspoons of salsa onto tortilla chips

Top with avocado and peach slices and garnish with lime and cilantro.

Roasted Tomatillo Salsa

adapted from gourmet 1999

  • 1 1/2 pounds fresh tomatillos
  • 2 extra long Anaheim chile peppers
  • 4 garlic cloves, unpeeled
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro
  • 1 large onion, coarsely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt, or more to taste
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice, or more if desired

 

Preheat broiler.

Peel the sticky husks from tomatillos and discard. Rinse and drain tomatillos.  Broil chiles, garlic, and fresh tomatillos on rack of a broiler pan 1 to 2 inches from heat, turning once, until tomatillos are softened and slightly charred, or about 7 minutes.

Peel garlic and pull off tops of chiles. Purée all ingredients in a blender add more lime and salt if desired.

• Salsa can be made 1 day ahead and chilled, covered.

This sponsorship is brought to you by Recipes from Avocados From Mexico who we have partnered with for this promotion.
All opinions  expressed are my own.

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Sweet and Spicy Pickles

It’s August.  Yes I realize that it’s the last month of summer, but why does everyone want to rush into extra long work hours and short daylight hours? It just doesn’t make sense to me.    You know how some people complain about rushing the Holiday season, right?  Not me.  Not even a little bit.  I love the sugary baked goods, rich buttery comfort foods, shopping (naturally), presents and all the good cheer and Christmas music that the holiday season brings.  You’ll never catch me complaining about bringing Christmas in “too early” because that doesn’t exist in my world of chaotic craziness.  There’s no such thing.

But, rushing summer is just downright wrong in my honest opinion. I like summer.  Did you know that they have set up Halloween candy at my local supermarket?  HALLOWEEN CANDY!  IN AUGUST! And it’s not just a little display.  There’s a six by six square foot area completely designated to bats, snickers bars, ghouls and peanut butter cups.  I love bats and peanut butter cups as much as the next girl, but not in August.  Halloween is three months away and the sun is still blisteringly hot here.  Chocolate would melt, anyway.

While I’m at it, I might as well complain in passing about being inundated with all the back to school commercials on the collective media outlets.  Sure, some kids get out of school in May and go back in August (or so I hear, according to my Facebook page responses when I ranted about this).  I don’t know why they even call it “summer break” if it starts in spring.  May is spring, right? What’s the deal with that?

Then again, maybe I’m just too far north to really understand why.   My vegetable garden is still ripening as late August and early September will be the big payoff for my little container garden. They’re right on schedule, according to my seed packet calculations.  In a couple weeks my tomatoes and peppers will be bright and cheery, rather than pale and green.

They’re still working on themselves.  I would like to give them the freedom to rock at that and not rush their process.

When I have a cupboard filled with roasted peppers and multiple jars of homegrown tomato sauce, I’ll be ok with summer being over.   When I can go get apples and bake pumpkin pies, I’ll be ok with summer being over.  But right now, I can still take a picture of the sunset at eight o’clock at night.

That means summer definitely isn’t over.

So, now that I’ve ranted and gotten that out of my system, it’s time to celebrate summer.  I decided to make some pickles as I stared at the wide array of options in the cucumber department of my farmers’ market. It was a logical yet deliciously seasonal & local choice.  And, according to Emeril’s notes, I had found the perfect pickling cucumbers.  They had lots of grooves and bumps on the flesh, no wax on the outside and were not big and bloated, which can yield soggy pickles.  The cucumbers I found would make perfectly crisp beautiful pickles according to him, and he was right! These are not any ordinary pickles.  They taste sweet at first and then spike your tongue with a bit of tang and zippy spice.  They’re also good on pretty much everything, in my opinion.   They’re my perfect little protest against people thinking that summer ends in August.  It doesn’t.  Now, if anybody needs me, I’ll be at the pool because it’s hot outside in the summer.  By the way, in two weeks when your pickles are ready, it will still be summer.  Go outside and enjoy them with a really good burger.

 Sweet and Spicy Pickles

Ingredients:
  • 3 pounds pickling cucumbers, sliced into 1/4-inch thick slices
  • 2 cups sliced onions
  • 1/2 cup pickling salt
  • 6 cups water
  • 3 cups white vinegar
  • 1 1/2 cups apple cider vinegar
  • 3 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 tablespoons yellow mustard seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 4 whole cloves
  • 10 tablespoons roughly chopped garlic
  • 24 dried cayenne peppers
  • 2 teaspoons 100 percent Natural Pickle Crisp, optional
Directions:

Place cucumbers, onions, pickling salt, and water in a large, non-reactive bowl. Cover and allow cucumbers to soak for 2 hours. Drain the water from the onions and cucumbers. Rinse well for 5 minutes. Drain again and set aside.

in a medium saucepan over high heat, combine the vinegars, sugar, mustard seeds, turmeric, cloves, garlic, and peppers. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium and add the cucumbers and onions. Next, bring to a simmer then remove the saucepan from heat.

Fill each of the hot sterilized pint-size preserving jars with the pickle mixture, dividing them evenly, and enough of the liquid to come within 1/2-inch of the top. Add 1/2 teaspoon of Natural Pickle Crisp to each jar, if desired. With a clean damp towel, wipe the rim and fit with a hot lid. Screw on the metal ring just until the point of resistance is met. Process the jars in a hot-water bath for 15 minutes.

Using tongs, remove the jars, place on a towel, and let cool. Test the seals by allowing the jars to stand at room temperature overnight or until the lids pop. Tighten the rings and store in a cool dry place. Let the pickles age for at least 2 weeks before using.

 

Some Notes On Sterilizing Jars:

Properly handled sterilized equipment will keep canned foods in good condition for years. Sterilizing jars is the first step of preserving foods.

The jars you’re using should be made from glass and free of any chips or cracks. Preserving or canning jars are topped with a glass, plastic or metal lid, which has a rubber seal. Two piece lids are best for canning, as they vacuum seal when processed.

Before filling with jams, pickles or preserves, wash jars and lids with hot, soapy water. Rinse well and arrange jars and lids open sides up, without touching, on a tray. Leave in a preheated 175 degree F oven for 25 minutes. Or boil the jars and lids in a large saucepan, covered with water, for 15 minutes.

Use tongs when handling hot sterilized jars, to move them from either boiling water or the oven. Be sure tongs are sterilized too, by dipping the ends in boiling water for a few minutes.

As a general rule, please note that hot preserves go into hot jars and cold preserves go into cold jars. All of the items used in the process of making jams, jellies and preserves must be ultra-clean. This includes any towels used, and especially your hands; Be diligent about this.

After the jars are sterilized, you can preserve the food. It is important to follow any canning and processing instructions included in the recipe and refer to USDA guidelines about the sterilization of canned products.

Recipe from Emeril Lagasse 2005

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Plum and Cherry Upside Down Cake

I woke up early this morning, made the kids breakfast then immediately started baking. I didn’t really have a plan, since it was originally going to be a cobbler.  Cobblers are easy.  Fruit on the bottom, some pastry on top.  Bake until golden and you’re done.  Then my mind started wandering and landed on lemon pound cake and whipped cream.  I know you’re thinking, “That always happens to me too!”..or maybe not.

Anyway, I smashed the ideas together and came up with this.

Sweet plums and some slightly sour cherries to highlight and balance the taste of the plums; topped with delicious buttery lemon pound cake, flipped upside down and served with slightly sweetened vanilla whipped cream.

 

 Plum and Cherry Upside Down Cake

Ingredients:

  • 1 stick + 1 stick butter (half pound total)
  • 1/2 cup  +3/4 cup  granulated sugar
  • heavy whipping cream (2 tablespoons plus 1/3 cup)
  • 1/2 teaspoon + 1 tablespoon lemon zest
  • 1/4 cup chopped pitted fresh cherries (slightly sour in taste)
  • 1/2 pound ripened sweet plums (about two and a half plums)
  • 3 eggs, room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 cups sifted flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
Directions:

In small saucepan, melt one stick of butter and half a cup of sugar until lightly bubbling.

Remove from heat and add two tablespoons heavy cream, 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest and cherries.

Set aside to cool while preparing pie plate.

Butter a nine inch pie plate and slice plums into thin, translucent slices.

Arrange in overlapping concentric circles in the bottom of prepared pie plate.  Pour melted butter, sugar & cherry mixture over the plums.  Set aside while preparing pound cake batter.

Preheat oven to three hundred fifty degrees F.

Whisk together: eggs, 1/3 cup heavy whipping cream, vanilla, the raining lemon zest, juice and sugar.

Sift or whisk together flour and baking powder.

Add dry ingredients to the wet and mix until well combined.

Top prepared pie plate with the pound cake batter and smooth over the fruit evenly. Bake in preheated oven for about thirty minutes, or until golden brown and springs back to gentle pressure.

Cool to slightly warm or room temperature and flip onto serving plate.  Slice and serve with whipped cream (recipe below).

 

Whipped Cream

  • Heavy Cream
  • Sugar to taste
  • Vanilla Bean Seeds (optional)

 

Whip one cup of cream with optional dash of vanilla bean seeds with electric mixer or by hand with whisk until stiff peaks form.  Add sugar to taste.

Posted in Breakfast, Dessert, Entertaining, For Kids, Vegetarian | 12 Comments