Archive for August, 2008

A RECIPE: Avocado & tarragon bites

I’m a officially a canapé snob. I’ve always had an inkling it was in me but my true colours finally came out in all their elitist light at my wedding tasting. It has become a point of contention between my mother and I in the planning process. If I can’t serve amazing canapés then I would rather not serve any at all- which raises the question: is it worse to serve your guests bad food or make them go hungry? I’m not sure there’s a right answer to that question although I believe both scenarios will lead to a disappointing night.

The following are the types of canapés that make my toes curl- the food equivalents of nails on a blackboard. In some cases, perhaps even worse.

1/ Prepackaged canapés that have been in the freezer too long and have taken on that old freezer smell- a cross between freezer burn and salmon.

2/ Canapés that are deep-fried to disguise the cheap and/or flavourless interior.

3/ Canapés that require a description longer than is possible to individually taste in a single bite, just to make them sound fancy.

4/ Canapés that have been made too far in advance and taste a/ soggy b/ stale or c/ old.

5/ Fussy canapés that most commonly involve an generic pastry base on which a small tower of indecipherable ingredients are mounded.

6/ Awkward to eat canapés that require either a/ tipping your head back to eat b/ putting your glass down to eat or c/ crumbs down your dress.

7/ Anything on a skewer. What are you supposed to do with the skewer afterwards- pick you teeth?!

8/ Canapés that involve dipping. If everyone stuck to the one dunk rule then this would be marginally more acceptable but inevitably they do not and besides which, dips don’t look so pretty after they’ve been dunked in to.

My mother and I haven’t quite come to an agreement about whether or not our guests will be forced to starve at my wedding but if I had it my way- these avocado & tarragon bites would be on the list. I was given this idea by a visiting chef at my culinary school who for the life of me I cannot remember or I would be crediting. Who knew that tarragon and avocado on a salty cheese biscuit would make for such a winning team? Simple, pleasantly surprising to eat and with all the right textures- this kind of canapés makes me very happy.

Continue reading ‘A RECIPE: Avocado & tarragon bites’

CHEF’S TIP: Perfect fried rice

The Olympics may be over, but that doesn’t mean that we have to forget about Chinese food (except perhaps what’s photographed above). Celebrity chef Ming Tsai who hosts the show Simply Ming on PBS shares with us how to make the perfect fried rice and it’s oh so simple. The key is to make sure that the rice you use is dried out- and ideally a little crusty! Day old rice is perfect but if you are using fresh, lay it out in a thin layer on a large tray and place in the freezer for fifteen minutes uncovered before you use it. You’ll be given gold medals all around. Bring on London 2012!

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A RECIPE: Cheese biscuits

Trips back to the UK always leave me rather unsettled. Inevitably I always spends the first 48 hours bemoaning the rain, the filthy hot trains, the even filthier and reliably inconvenient tube service and the cost of absolutely everything. I find myself saying things like “my subway pass costs half the price in Manhattan” and “why can’t people dispose of their litter properly?” The kind of things that make me sound really old and boring. The kinds of things I’ve heard my mother say. Once I get over the initial discomfort and price shock I find myself embracing the cool damp weather and sitting around the patio table in layers of clothing because it’s not raining and the sun is periodically appearing so even though it’s bloody freezing we should enjoy the fresh air. It’s what we Brits do- we grin and bear it. My mother and I had the heating on in the car the other night- we slurped on mugs of soup for dinner (soup in August! Now that’s unheard of this side of the Atlantic) and in the evenings we pulled our chairs close to the aga with cups of tea.

And then there’s the food. I only realise how much I miss it when I head back these days. An apple that you can eat in it’s entirety without feeling greedy, big fat juicy raspberries, meat that is labeled where it’s from, without the worry that it’s packed full of hormones and granary bread-Oh! Granary bread and the butter!  The downside to my diet is that I always find myself reaching for processed foods more in the UK- the kinds of things I avoid like the plague in this country- flavoured yogurts, sausages, crisps, Bombay mix, sweeties, orange squash and mini cheddars. Is it dreadful that I miss mini cheddars so much?  Light and crispy little cheese biscuits that you can let dissolve on your tongue or plunge into taramasalata.

I blame my mother- mini cheddars have always been a family favourite-their moorish qualities kept them in every picnic basket and many a lunch box and Christmas stocking. Along with Licorice allsorts, Wine gums, Polos, Hobnobs and Cadbury’s chocolate we are a family united by tuck shop preferences. Although, when it comes to tea we are a family divided between those favouring the richly flavoured PG tips and those with thwarted tea taste buds who stand firmly behind the watery taste of Sainsbury’s Earl grey (bleh!). Mini cheddars hold a little space in my pinnacle taste memories- those foods you find yourself day dreaming about and reminiscing when you eat.

With little spare room in my suitcase, past the baked beans, Marmite and tea staples I was going to have to learn to make my own or leave the UK without them. I’ll agree that my version doesn’t look like mini cheddars but these come without hydrogenated oils- so I think that we can make visual allowances. Plus, they will make leaving coming home, so much easier.

Continue reading ‘A RECIPE: Cheese biscuits’

On holiday!

I am off on holiday! Two whole weeks in cold rainy England, and I can’t wait. Will try to post, but I will most likely be working on my tan- and that could take rather a long time!  Back soon- though hopefully it won’t go too quickly.

CHEF’S TIP: Getting the raw out of raw onion

Craig Koketsu of Park Avenue Summer/fall/winter/spring

Raw onion can be a delicious salad addition- but as we all know, it’s best avoided if you have an afternoon of intimate conversation ahead of you. Craig Koketsu provides us with this little tip for avoiding the seemingly inevitable onion breath- and thankfully it doesn’t involve munching on bunches of parsley.

Firstly, after peeling away the outer skin, wash the onion under running water. Then, after slicing, chopping or dicing, soak the onion (and this includes all varieties) in ice water for 10 minutes. Not only will this crispen up the onion, it will also help to reduce it’s astringent effects on the tongue- which means you can happily spend your afternoon up close and personal.

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A RECIPE: Vietnamese-ish prawn lettuce cups

There are some foods that I think you just have to accept the fact that you’re going to get messy for- like sucking on mango seeds, cracking crabs and spaghetti bolgonase. Personally I’m a big fan of what I like to refer to as interactive eating, which takes more thought than the typical fork to mouth operation. I’m referring to the kind of foods where you need to tie your hair back, wrap a bib around your neck, roll up your sleeves, hunch over your plate, use your hands to scoop and shovel and you’ll need an agile tongue to catch the dribbles down your chin.

When my sister and I went to India last year, I found myself immersed in a culture fully committed to eating with your hands- or rather, hand (and it better be the right one). At every meal we used chapatis, (flatbreads made out of chickpea or lentil flour) to scoop up our curries and dahls . There was no aimless shoveling food into our gobs we had to really look at the food, feel and manipulate the food in our hands and finally taste the food. And for the rest of the trip our hands stank of the food- we were fully engaged by the food and we lived for our next chana masala. Stateside, these kinds of meals are perhaps not first date material- but then again, so long as your both eating the same thing it could turn out to be a great ice breaker.

This recipe is one of those interactive foods, of the salad kind. Beautifully presented- colourful and multi-shaped and textured but just a heck of lot easier to eat with your hands. But if you’re one of those people who insists on eating pizza or burgers with a knife and fork then by all means go ahead and be civilised, it certainly won’t taste bad. I guarantee, however, that you will get a lot more satisfaction by eating this with your hands. When Don and I sat down to eat this at the weekend we didn’t even bother with plating it up we just had a bowl of crispy romaine and a bowl of the prawn mixture and we tucked in, wrapping the filling in the lettuce cups and mopping the leaves in pools of dressing. On second thought, this is great date material, just perhaps not a great one when you’re trying to impress the in-laws.

There is however, one drawback to making this salad. It requires patience- that virtue of which I lack. Unfortunately, it’s the finely julienned vegetables that keep this salad so light and delicate. Chunks of carrot just will not do. My mandolin turned out to be my knight in shining armour, shredding each vegetable into perfect strips- but for those of you who do not own said armoury, you will at the very least need a good knife or in the worst case scenario a box grater.

Continue reading ‘A RECIPE: Vietnamese-ish prawn lettuce cups’

QUICK FIXES: 5 ways with courgette

If you’re not a courgette enthusiast then you’re probably finding the farmers markets and food bloggers rather tedious of late. Fortunately, for myself I adore them- which is why I’m jumping on the courgette bandwagon. Well, it would be rude not too.

Here are five of my own quick ideas to help you use up your courgette

Grilled courgette with feta and mint

Slice courgette thinly into any shape you like, lightly brush with oil and cook on a grill until nicely char-striped on both sides. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, sprinkle with Maldon Salt and scatter over crumbled feta and freshly torn mint leaves. This is also great served as bruschetta.

Simple roasted courgette salad

Roast chunks of courgette and yellow squash coated generously in good olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper until golden.  Toss with freshly steamed green beans or a can of rinsed and drained beans (your choice). Squeeze over lemon juice to serve.

Courgette Fritatta

Sauté thin slices of spring onion in olive oil in a nonstick frying pan. Fill the pan with thinly sliced courgette rounds and toss over a high heat until beginning to go golden.  Stir in chopped fresh herbs of your choice. Add beaten eggs, seasoned with salt and pepper and let cook for 1 minute, then place top with shreds of proscuitto and place under a hot grill (broiler) until set and lightly golden on top. Slice into wedges to serve

Raw courgette and strawberry salad

Slice courgette paper thin using a mandolin and serve topped with slices of strawberry, toasted chopped walnuts and a drizzle of lemon vinaigrette. Also delicious with a few slices of grilled cheese such as feta or halloumi.

Crispy courgette bites

Brush thin rounds of courgette with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper and equal quantities of panko bread crumbs and grated parmesan cheese. Place under a hot grill or in a hot oven until crispy. Serve immediately.

How others are using up their crop:

Zucchini ricotta cheesecake (101 cookbooks)

Spaghetti with zucchini and mint (Bitten– Mark Bittman)

Zucchini fritters (Simply Recipes)

Zucchini strand spaghetti (Smitten Kitchen)

Garlic and herb stuffed zucchini (The Wednesday Chef)

Chocolate & zucchini cake (Chocolate & Zucchini)


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