Sunday, May 1, 2016

Lunch With Madame Mere...Mediterranean Tuna Salad On Roasted Red Peppers

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This weekend MM and I were on our own.  My daughter flew up north to visit friends and I got to take care of Mother, Madison, Lily and Coco.  Just us girls, by ourselves, with Lindaraxa to feed us.

Yesterday was a race against the clock to fertilize the azaleas and fumigate the roses before the storms came in the late afternoon.  It was unusually hot and humid and, by noon, after a final sweep of the garage,  I was ready for bed.  But there was lunch to prepare for my mother has no help during the weekend and she does look forward to her meals.  Usually my daughter pitches in, but this time I was flying solo.

I am telling you all this so you can appreciate how easy this recipe was to put together.  I had all the ingredients on hand, including half a big jar of Italian roasted red peppers.  I placed the salad on a plate  in the freezer and a French rose in a bucket full of ice while I went upstairs to take a shower. By the time we sat down it was so cold MM asked when I had made it.

What makes this salad different and Mediterranean are not only the roasted red peppers, but the addition of capers and scallions to an everyday tuna salad.  It may become the standard in this house when tomatoes are not available or out of season.

This recipe feeds four, which means we get to enjoy it for lunch again today!





Mediterranean Tuna Salad On Roasted Red Peppers
Serves 4

Ingredients

1 can white tuna, oil or water packed, drained
4 TB mayonnaise
2 celery stalks, peeled and finely chopped
4 hard boiled eggs
2 TB finely sliced scallions
1 to 2 TB drained capers
Black pepper to taste
Salt if needed

2 canned roasted red peppers, cut in half
Fresh parsley, chopped

Directions

Boil the eggs for 15 minutes and chill in an ice bath.  In a bowl, mix the tuna, mayonnaise, celery, scallions and capers.  Add the black pepper and one boiled egg, chopped. Taste for salt.  You will find that you don't need any.

In a plate, open one red pepper half, add some tuna salad.  Sprinkle with parsley on top, if using, and decorate each plate with the rest of the eggs, sliced.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Spring Has Arrived At Lindaraxa's.

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It is finally here...Spring 2016! This year March seemed to last forever.  Who ever thought of giving it 31 days?!  Certainly not a gardener.  Luckily in Georgia we get an extra month on both ends, Spring and Fall.  I shouldn't complain about poor March after all.

The daffodils were a dud.  We had a false "Spring" during December and some came out yelling "Are we there yet" ? Is it time? NO. and that was it for them.

I am keeping my fingers crossed that we don't have another freeze like last year in April that took care of the hydrangea macrophylla blooms. These are the ones we are all familiar with, the mopheads also known as French hydrangeas.




  30% of the color in my backyard comes from these hydrangeas so I had to improvise a lot last year with annuals.  Luckily, as with investments, it pays to diversify; so I have others like hydrangea paniculata,  that bloom on new wood.


hydrangea paniculata Limelight


The Foxtail Fern wintered rather well in Mother's apartment.  In a week, with warmer temperatures, it will be ready to go back out.


I saved this dogwood from getting obliterated.  All it needed was pruning and fertilizing.


The only man in the house, the Macho Fern, waiting to go in his pot up front.  Wait 'til you see him in a couple of  months!


Lavender from the grocery store in front of a photo from our sugar mill in Cuba in the 1950's.  The mill is gone but the lavender will go in the ground and live another day...


Small dahlias waiting to go in a pot on our deck.  I have already been warned there won't be any on the ground this year....sigh. 

As I type this it's cool again...a typical early April.  Tomorrow is Madame Mere's 91st birthday and we shall celebrate.  We already had the big feast last weekend when the whole family was here for Easter.  No matter, we shall celebrate again.  Each year is a gift.  For her and for each and every one of us.

Stay tuned for the recipe I cooked for Madame Mere's Birthday.




Wednesday, March 23, 2016

East Meets West for Easter... Aleppo Pepper Deviled Eggs

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I love the global economy.  The Fountain of Youth for new flavors and fragrances.  Just when we were getting tired of the old and tried recipes, the doors burst open to new cuisines and methods of cooking. When tagines can be found at TJMaxx, deeply discounted, you know this is no longer something new.  Now I know how the courts of Europe must have felt when they first tasted these spices and why they spent so much money sending men and ships in search of the Spice Islands.

Aleppo pepper flakes are now my new heat of choice.




 I know what you are going to say....Oh God here we go.  Now that we've gone through the salts, here come the peppers.  No, I stopped at Himalayan pink salt.  I still have a burlap bag of sea salt from Guarande that I brought home from France about 10 years ago,  It still sits on the shelf.  Too precious to use. Never got over that feeling.  So it sits on the shelf waiting for "just" the right occasion while  I use sea salt or Kosher salt. Julia Child used to say, salt is salt. Wrong.  Not all salts are created equal, nor are peppers.

As you know I am an Ottolenghi groupie and I have noticed that a lot of his recipes call for Aleppo pepper.  I have been substituting my regular old red pepper flakes, as heat is not a big thing with me. Don't get me wrong.  The right amount of heat is necessary to bring up a recipe to perfection but not enough for me to have a shelf full of different peppers.  That changed on my last visit to the World Market last week.  I love this place...you never know what you will find. Into my basket went a tin of Aleppo pepper together with a bottle of preserved lemons.  You can get all this at a Middle Eastern market but I am in Georgia, in the country, and heaven knows where that is.

I couldn't wait and had my first taste tonight...over Fettuccine Alfredo.  Oh my.  I have never gone this wild for heat!  Mildly hot and so classy and elegant.  I am a fan.  If this is on leftovers I can't imagine what it will be like on an Ottolenghi recipe.

The pepper is named after Aleppo, an ancient city in Northern Syria  long considered one of the culinary meccas of  the Mediterranean and an important part of the Silk Road.  It is also grown in Southern Turkey.   It has a moderate heat level with some fruitiness and mild, cumin-like undertones, with a hint of a vinegar, salty taste. Use it for authentic chili flavor in any Middle Eastern or Mediterranean dish. 



The blue line above is the old Spice Route.  The Red the Silk Route.  They both meet at Aleppo in what is now Syria.
Aleppo chili offers a nice variation from your usual crushed red peppers. It has a very robust flavor that hits you in the back of your mouth, tickles your throat and dissipates quickly. Try it in place of regular crushed red pepper flakes on pizzas, salads, and pasta.  From The Spice House

Like this review, what struck me was that it hit me and then poof!.. it dissipated.  I did not get choked with a lot of  heat that, to me, gets in the way of the food you are trying to taste.  A very elegant way to awaken your taste buds.

One of the most popular reasons for the craze of cooking with Aleppo Pepper is due to its friendliness with other spices. It blends exceptionally well with spices like Coriander,Cumin, and even Cinnamon. The dynamic flavors of Aleppo accentuate similar flavors in these spices to create an incomparable palette-pleaser. The flavors of an Aleppo pepper can be described as sweet and salty with fruity notes.. and if you feel for it- a touch of smokiness similar to the one found in Cumin. Normally, the saltiness found in an Aleppo is after math of the drying process in which salt is commonly used. In addition to these diverse flavors, these peppers are sun-dried and commonly used in a powder or crushed form which can present an essence of tomato flavor. from About.com
I suggest getting acquainted with Aleppo pepper in a dish you are familiar with and one that is fairly bland so you can really experience the taste.  Macaroni and Cheese is one (I usually sprinkle paprika or cayenne for a kick): Deviled Eggs are another. I have been singing the praises of this pepper to my son, who loves heat, and can't wait for him to try it this Easter Sunday.

My friend and fellow blogger Sam Hoffer of My Carolina Kitchen is as taken with Aleppo pepper flakes as I am.  It is amazing how synchronized she and I are on our recipes.  When she published her post mine was getting the final touches!

There are a million combinations for deviled eggs, from capers and tarragon, to plain old paprika and mustard. Experiment with what you like, and make them your own. In the meantime, try these. For big holiday meals such as this, I go light on hors d'oeuvres, but for Easter, there's always a tray of these around.

3/30/2016 Note: You will not be able to find the authentic flakes from Aleppo due to the war in Syria.  You will be able to find them from Southern Turkey or styled Mediterranean Aleppo pepper flakes.  Sadly ISIS has not only destroyed antiquities but also Aleppo pepper fields as well. They are not sure when the fields will be back in production, if at all.

Aleppo Pepper Deviled Eggs
Serves 6-8

Ingredients

12 large eggs
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 1/2 to 2 teaspoon Dijon mustard or Durkees Famous Sauce
1/4 teaspoon Aleppo pepper or cayenne
Salt
Special equipment: a pastry bag fitted with 1/2-inch star tip (optional)
Garnishes: Aleppo pepper, paprika, chopped fresh chives or Parmesan cheese

Directions

Cover eggs with cold water by 1 1/2 inches in a 3-quart heavy saucepan and bring to a rolling boil, partially covered. Reduce heat to low and cook eggs, covered completely, for 1 min. Remove from heat and let stand, covered, 15 minutes. Transfer eggs with a slotted spoon to a bowl of ice and cold water to stop cooking and let stand 5 minutes.

Peel eggs and halve lengthwise. Carefully remove yolks and mash in a bowl with a fork. Add mayonnaise, mustard, and Aleppo or cayenne pepper and stir with fork until smooth, then season with salt and pepper. Fill pastry bag with yolk mixture and pipe into egg whites.  Garnish with Parmesan cheese and Aleppo pepper sprinkled on top.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Celebrate St. Patricks Day With A Reuben!

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I will be celebrating St Patricks Day tomorrow with a corned beef brisket and cabbage.  Don't laugh.  I know you know I'm not Irish;  but the reason behind this meal is to have enough corned beef to make Reuben sandwiches until I say enough!  Yes, the Reuben is up there as one of my three top favorite sandwiches of all time.  So much so that this is one of the first recipes I posted when I started this blog in the Spring of 2009.

You don't have to make a corned beef brisket to have a Reuben.  Go to the store, buy everything you need and make them at home.  So much better...that is, unless you are in New York City.  Nothing can beat the ambiance of a good New York Jewish deli. 

The Reuben Sandwich is unquestionably one of New York's greatest contribution to the world of eating. It was named for Arnold Reuben, owner of Reuben's Restaurant and Delicatessen located at 6 East 58th Street in Manhattan. The restaurant closed its doors in the late 1960s.

Nowadays, if you are in New York City and get a yen for a Reuben, you can go to the corner deli or a nearby coffee shop and get a fairly good one. If you live in Miami, like I do, you can always cross the bridge into Miami Beach and get a fabulous one at the Epicure Market on Alton Road. But who wants to go through all that trouble for a sandwich? I do. There are times, however, when I don't want to go through the process and seeing that I get the yen pretty often, I decided to start making them at home. It is also a treat and something different to serve to your guests for a very informal lunch by the pool. All you need to do in advance, is make sure you have a chilled stein and a cold beer as the perfect companion to the Reuben sandwich experience.

Serves 2

Butter
4 slices rye bread or marbled pumpernickel and rye bread
1/2 lbs. corned beef
4 slices Swiss cheese
Sauerkraut
Thousand Island Dressing

Preheat a large skillet or griddle on medium heat. Add some butter and lay all four slices of bread. Lay a slice of the Swiss cheese on two of the bread slices, followed by half the corned beef and the sauerkraut (drained). I like to add the Thousand Island dressing on top of the sauerkraut, followed by another slice of Swiss cheese. Top with the remaining bread slices, buttered sides out. Press the grill down or place a heavy skillet over the sandwich if you are cooking on top of the stove.

Grill sandwiches until both sides are golden brown, about 3 more minutes on each side. Serve with potato chips, dill pickle and a cold beer.

Thousand Island Dressing

2 TB mayonnaise
1 TB catsup
1/4 tsp chili sauce

Monday, March 14, 2016

Monday Orchids...Cymbidium

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It's hard to capture the loveliness of this orchid in a photo taken inside the house on a rainy Sunday.  I almost killed myself trying all angles atop the kitchen steps!  No matter, you get the picture (no pun intended).


They were a present for Madame Mere and these particular ones came from Costco.  Look for them at your local nursery and at Trader Joe's, Kroger and other stores.  This is their time of year.




Cymbidium, often called boat orchids, are known for their large spikes and long lasting blooms.  If you take proper care of them, the flowers will last for 8-10 weeks.

They need lots of light, no direct sun, and a moist soil .  Madame Mere's apartments are the best place for them.  She is the Orchid Whisperer!




For how best to care for them, follow the tips from this source or the one that comes with your orchid.  If you live in California, you can grow them outside. Anywhere else, including Florida (it's too hot for them in Summer), stick to the pot.

Friday, February 19, 2016

An Odd Couple That Works...Tomato And Pomegranate Salad

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Pomegranates are not high on my list.  It's not that I don't like them, I just don't like them enough to put them in my grocery cart.  The thought of getting to the little seeds, no matter how pretty and flavorful they are, is enough to discourage me from even trying them; but that all changed last week when I noticed them in plastic boxes at both Whole Foods and my grocery store.  Why not... it was Valentine's Day and I had been intrigued by a recipe I had seen a few months ago in Yotam Ottolenghi's last book Plenty More: Vibrant Vegetable Cooking from London's Ottolenghi.

Coincidentally, I had also been intrigued by the boxes of mixed tomatoes Costco was selling, another ingredient in the same recipe.  I already had pomegranate molasses from this chicken recipe so the signs were auspicious.






You have heard me say this before but I will say it again...the genius of this man knows no bounds.  The things he comes up with are beyond comprehension sometimes; but it all works. You can trust him and that is one of the things that made Julia Child great...she never let you down.  Plus, there is harmony in his recipes.  They sing to you, its an hallelujah chorus on steroids, but enough said.

This recipe has only one problem.  There is a lot of chopping to do.You have to cut all the vegetables in a 1/4 inch dice and it takes time (and you get bored).  Make sure you have a very sharp knife.  I diced tomatoes for awhile, then switched to red pepper, then tomatoes, red onions and watched t.v. Some of them were 3/8 inch but I hid them underneath.

You can get pomegranate molasses at Whole Foods or Amazon.  You can make your own by simply reducing Pom pomegranate juice.  Although it would not be the same, you could substitute balsamic vinegar for both the white vinegar and pomegranate molasses.  Do try to get the latter, it is, after all the point of this recipe and it keeps for awhile.   You will use again and it is great for basting when you start grilling this Spring.




It's been awhile since I last posted but I haven't felt up to it.  I have lost 15 lbs and I am delighted.  I only eat when I'm hungry and I don't think much about food but this recipe was too exciting not to post.  I will be back, as MacArthur said, but only when I have something really nice and different to contribute. After almost seven years it was becoming an obligation and that defeats the purpose of this blog.  Thanks to all of you who have kept on subscribing and accessing the blog.  Sorry to have kept you waiting so long.

Yotam Ottolenghi's Tomato And Pomegranate Salad 

Serves 4

Ingredients:


  • 1 1/3 cups/200 g red cherry tomatoes, cut into 1/4-inch/5-mm dice
  • 1 1/3 cups/200 g yellow cherry tomatoes, cut into 1/4-inch/5-mm dice
  • 1 1/3 cups/200 g tiger or plum tomatoes, cut into 1/4-inch/5-mm dice
  • 18 ounce/500 g medium slicing tomatoes (about 5), cut into 1/4-inch/5-mm dice
  • 1 red pepper, cut into 1/4-inch/5-mm dice (1 cup/120 g)
  • 1 small red onion, finely diced (rounded 3/4 cup/120 g)
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 2 teaspoons white wine vinegar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses
  • 1/4 cup/60 ml olive oil, plus extra to finish
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 large pomegranate, seeds removed (1 cup/170 g seeds)
  • 1 tablespoon small oregano leaves

  • Preparation:

    Dice the tomatoes, pepper and red onion and add to a medium bowl.

    In a small bowl, whisk together the garlic, allspice, vinegar, pomegranate molasses, olive oil, and a scant 1/2 teaspoon salt until well combined. Pour this over the tomato mixture and gently mix.

    Arrange the tomato mixture and its juices on a large, flat plate. Sprinkle the pomegranate seeds and oregano over the top. Finish with a drizzle of olive oil and serve.


    Cook's Note
    Although it says it serves 4, this recipe really serves 6.  Make sure you don't over mix the tomatoes or they will get mushy.

    All photos Lindaraxa

    Saturday, November 14, 2015

    Thanksgiving Favorites... Chocolate Bourbon Pecan Pie, An All Time Favorite

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    One of Lindaraxa's most popular posts published six years ago. 

    Now that I live in the South, the DEEP South, I think it would only be appropriate to have pecan pie as my other dessert on Thanksgiving.  I have been mulling whether to have pecan pie or chocolate pecan pie or chocolate bourbon pecan pie and the choice was made for me last night by my friend Libby Wilkie who publishes the beautiful blog An Eye for Detail.  Isn't that what friends are for? Although I have to admit that the bourbon part is my contribution. Who wouldn't exchange that for vanilla extract, especially on Thanksgiving!

    Pecan trees are so abundant in this part of Georgia that they are all over my son's backyard.  The area where he lives used to be a pecan farm in the middle of what is now a suburb of Atlanta.  Maybe I can get them to gather some  for me, since, after all, the pumpkin pie filling is a product of our visit together to the pumpkin farm last month.  Talking about home grown pies!

    One of the most important things about this pie is toasting the pecans beforehand.  Really, do go the extra mile, it makes a world of difference as far as flavor is concerned.  Place whole or halved pecans on an ungreased sheet pan and toast in a 350 degree oven for 10-12 minutes, stirring a few times until light brown and fragrant. Let cool and set aside.  Don't go overboard on the pecans. Just add what it says in the recipe or you will overwhelm the pie  Been there, done that.

     Don't scrimp on quality when it comes to making the best chocolate pecan pie for the holidays. As important as toasted and roasted pecans are to this pie, so is the type of chocolate used. Gourmet chocolate would include such brands as; Lindt chocolate, Ghirardelli chocolate and Callebaut chocolate. Mini chocolate chips are easy to use, and shaved or finely chopped dark chocolate works well too. These two ingredients -- toasted or roasted pecans and gourmet chocolate -- will be the deciding factor between a so-so chocolate pecan pie and a knock-your-socks-off, have-to-have-some-now chocolate pecan pie! A few drops of Bourbon won't hurt either.


    Servings:  8 - 10


    Ingredients

    1 deep dish 9 inch basic pie crust

    3/4 cup gourmet chocolate chips or shaved dark chocolate

    1 1/2 cup toasted pecans, shelled and chopped in half if desired

    1/3 cup butter, melted

    3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed

    3/4 cup Karo light corn syrup

    3 large eggs

    3 TB Bourbon

    Directions:

    Preheat oven to 350 Degrees F with rack in lowest position.  Prepare pie crust ahead of time  whether you are making one or buying one already made such as Mrs. Smith's. Place toasted pecans in the bottom of the unbaked pie shell (don't worry, they will rise to the top when the pie is fully baked ). Sprinkle chocolate chips or shaved chocolate over the pecans. Place the pie crust on a baking sheet to prevent drips and set aside.

    Melt butter in a medium saucepan. Turn off heat. Add brown sugar, stir until dissolved and pour into a large mixing bowl. Mix well with the whisk attachment.

    Add corn syrup and mix again. Scrape.

    Mix in bourbon and eggs, beating to mix well, but not foamy.

    Carefully pour batter over the chocolate chips and pecans, being careful not to disturb them.

    Bake at 350 degrees for approximately 50 to 60 minutes or until top is slightly browned and puffed up. This will fall during cooling.  Make sure you let the pie cool on a wire rack for at least 4 hours.

    Chocolate Pecan Pie cuts best when it is chilled. Use a sharp knife. Let cool completely before wrapping. This pie freezes well, so make extra!



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