Thursday, May 26, 2016

Summer Weekends...Shrimp With An Avocado Mango Salsa

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This is one of the first recipes I ever published when I started this blog seven years ago.  It's still a family favorite and worth another look.  The perfect lunch or dinner for a hot summer weekend!

I have made some notes as to substitutions in case you cannot find mango.  You can also grill the shrimp!

I love Mexican food, particularly the combination of sweet and savory in mango and avocado salsa. I saw a  recipe recently that had both shrimp and scallops. My recipe just has shrimp but if you find fresh scallops at this time of the year for a reasonable price, go for it. This is great for a summer lunch by the pool or the beach, with plenty of Margaritas or cold Mexican beer.

The local Florida mangoes this year are out of this world. They are really lush and sweet. Of course there is nothing better than a fruit that has ripened in the tree. Somehow everyone in Miami seems to have a mango tree growing in their yard or have a relative or friend who has one. I have been making mango marmelade, chutney and you name it practically every day. Just swimming in them and they keep coming, so I keep digging up recipes.

As to avocados, this is not the season for Florida avocados , but the ones I have picked up at the market from California are great and in some places, on sale.

In this casual main course, the shrimp is paired with a vibrant sweet-savory salsa. Serve the shrimp and the salsa with warm corn or flour tortillas or, as an alternative, saffron rice.

6 servings

Ingredients

Salsa:

1 mango, peeled, pitted, diced (about 1 1/2 cups)
1 large avocado, peeled, pitted, diced
1/4 cup red onion, chopped
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1/2 tsp. chopped green jalapeno (or to taste)

Shrimp marinade for 2 lbs of shrimp or a combination of shrimp and scallops

1/3 cup chopped red onion
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1/4 cup tequila
1-2 TBS chopped cilantro
2 garlic cloves, pressed
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 cup olive oil
2 pounds uncooked jumbo shrimp, peeled, deveined
1 cup chopped scallions
Lime slices

Preparation

Salsa

Mix all ingredients in medium bowl. Season to taste with salt. Cover and chill. DO AHEAD Can be made 2 hours ahead. Keep chilled.

Shrimp

Whisk first 6 ingredients in small bowl to blend. Gradually whisk in 1/3 cup olive oil. Season marinade to taste with salt and pepper.

Place shrimp in large resealable plastic bag. Pour marinade into bag and seal. Turn to coat. Chill at least 30 minutes and up to 1 hour.

Drain shrimp, pat dry. Save 1/2 cup of marinade.

Add 3 tablespoons oil to skillet. Add shrimp and green onions; sauté until shrimp are browned on both sides, stirring often, about 3 minutes. If it needs more oil, add some. Add 1/4 cup of marinade and sautee another 1 minute on medium high. Add more marinade if necessary keeping in mind that it should be fairly absorbed by the time you remove the shrimp from the skillet. Simmer until shrimp is just opaque in center and mixture is heated through, 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer to large shallow bowl. Garnish with lime slices. Serve with salsa and tortillas.

Notes: you can also grill the shrimp and substitute pineapple for the mango.  If you do the latter, substitute cilantro for the mint.

WHAT TO DRINK
Mexican beer is a natural match for this menu. I like Presidente and Corona.



*I don' t like things too hot. 1/2 tsp. of chopped jalapeno is enough for me but you can add whatever amount you can live with.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Lemon Pasta With Artichoke Hearts, Tuna, Sundried Tomatoes And A Cream Pesto Sauce

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I know that by now you must be thinking that this has turned into a gardening blog instead of the food blog you originally subscribed to.  The truth is that since I had back surgery last August, my interest in food has all but evaporated.  I have lost almost 20 lbs and I am delighted to meet up with my old size 10 clothes.  These days, I eat to sustain.  It's all about calories folks, and eating less is a sure bet to weight loss.  Don't over think it.  Listen to your stomach and eat when it tells you.  Just a little will keep it content.  I am not hungry until mid afternoon when I have a small snack.  I eat a normal dinner, including a sweet, if I feel like it,  and that's it until the next day.  The only exercise I do is in the garden or going up and down the stairs that separate us from Madame Mere's apartment.

Yesterday I got inspired... at Homegoods, of all places.  It was a jar of sun dried tomatoes that made me want pasta.  They often have wonderful artisanal pasta made in Italy and I always stock up when a new shipment comes in.  The one that got my attention was the lemon linguine.  I thought it would go well with the sun dried tomatoes and....tuna! I also remembered the jar of artichoke hearts in the pantry that I had noticed was getting near expiration.  Voila, a new dish was born!  From there it was just a matter of tweaking with herbs.  Very soon I was going to be enjoying a dish and memories of the South of France.







By the time I got home I was starving and ready for an evening of creativity.  My daughter had just made a Costco run and there on the counter was a jar of what would make this dish sing, basil pesto.  And crunch, Parmesan Crisps! No matter she had forgotten the napkins which was the reason she had gone there in the first place!





I encourage you to make the recipe as is.  Don't substitute for the Sherry with white wine.  It needs the sweetness and body only Sherry can add.  If you can't get lemon pasta easily, don't sweat it.  Add a TB finely shredded lemon peel or chopped lemon balm.

I only used half the package of pasta and it was enough for four people.  I tend to like more "goodies" and less pasta and these are the right proportions.  If you make the whole package, double up on the rest of the ingredients.

This would be a great ladies lunch in Summer or Spring or a quick dinner any time of the week.  Put your feet up, enjoy the garden and imagine you are in the South of France!





Lemon Pasta With Artichoke Hearts, Tuna and Sun Dried Tomatoes In a Cream Pesto Sauce

Serves 4

Ingredients:

2 TB butter
1/4 cup olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 large shallot chopped
1/2 cup Dry Sherry
2 TB basil pesto
8 oz. heavy cream

1/2 lb Lemon pasta, linguine or fettuccine, cooked al dente*
1 can artichoke hearts
1 can tuna, packed in oil and drained
4 or 5 sliced sun dried tomatoes

Salt and pepper to taste ( I added a few flakes of Aleppo pepper)

Parmesan cheese, shredded
Parmesan Whisps

Chopped basil or parsley for decoration (optional)


Directions:

Pre warm the oven to 350 degrees.

Cook the pasta as per package directions. Leave a little al dente. Drain and save some of the cooking water.

Saute the garlic and shallot in the oil and butter until translucent.

Add the Sherry and reduce to half.

Add the basil pesto.  You can use homemade or ready made.  Stir

Add the cream and let it simmer for a bit until it thickens.

Add the artichoke hearts, roughly chopped, the tuna and the sliced sun dried tomatoes.

Add the cooked pasta and stir until the noodles are fully coated.  If you find it is too thick (you won't) add a little of the pasta water.

Place in a casserole dish, sprinkle some shredded Parmesan cheese and top with crunched Parmesan Whisps.   Cook covered for 20 minutes.  Uncover and cook for another 5 or until it browns.  Don't let the pasta dry up!

Add chopped parsley or basil on top before serving (optional).  I was too hungry!

* you can use plain pasta but add about 1 TB finely shredded lemon peel.

All photos Lindaraxa

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

The Garden In May, Part II

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Welcome to the backyard, the most challenging part of the garden.  It is big, it is shady as well as very sunny in parts, and it is the playpen of Madison, our Westie, and Lily the lab.    It is a joint effort between my daughter and me and we argue consult constantly on what goes in and what comes out.   We have learned to compromise and to pick our battles.  Some of them carry over from one year to the next, but we are still friends...until the next battle.

The grass is the biggest headache in the back.  We have drainage problems due to a sloping yard that guides the water down to the creek on the other side of the fence when we have big storms.  We can only plant fescue in the Fall,  so this year we will have to live with big empty patches.  It irritates me to no end but life is not perfect.  Neither is our yard.

The hostas are the stars of the year.  They are on steroids! Keep in mind this is only the second week in May.























The New Dawn rose by the bird house.  No tenants this year.  Coco, has done a good job of keeping new parents away.




Confederate jasmine planted three years ago.







The peonies have also had a good year.







A closer look of the birdhouse.




This year's project is the path to the fence which gets very muddy when it rains. Those are flats of sedum I purchased at Lowe's.  We'll see how they do.  I've left the right side open so we can have access to the other side of the fence.






Madame Mere's private garden.










The climbing Japanese hydrangea with Mountain Laurel in back is by the gate that separates the front and back garden.  It leads to MM's apartment from the outside.








And here's Coco, whose help in patrolling the yard and keeping it free of bunnies is indispensable in the preservation of this garden, particularly the hostas.  We are lucky to have a fence and a Westie to keep the deer away.




Next up, my domain...the front yard.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

A Tour Of The Garden In May, Part I

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All my hard work of past years has finally been rewarded this Spring.  Don't get me wrong, a beautiful garden is a work in process and takes years to develop.  It is not a one time thing as I've discovered, but years of trial and error, hard work and learning from your mistakes.  You can get a landscaper to come in and do it all for you, but my daughter and I love to garden and we wanted our garden, like the inside of our house, to have character and to be "us".

This year, the peonies take center stage.  The profusion and the colors are staggering.  I don't even cut them anymore.  I don't have enough vases in the house and the place already looks like a funeral home!



The photo above was taken AFTER I had already placed some in containers for arranging.




 The first to come out, the biggest and, always the most reliable, is the Sarah Bernhardt peony.  No wonder it has won so many prizes.



I have already cut over 20 of these for both my living room and Madame Mere's


This other is Duchesse the Nemours.  There are two plants, one white with a yellow center and the other a blush pink, also with a yellow center.






Here's the light pink in a vase



There's also Festiva Maxima in white and a dark red which did not do as well and was not as profuse as the others.

The tea roses have also been fantastic, so far.  I have been on top of them treating them for pests which come in every size and color here in Georgia. Let's see who wins this battle.  I would put my money on the bugs, they always win.   I usually give up and swear I will never have another rose in my garden again...until next year.  I have finally compromised and grow only three bushes in front of MM's window.  She keeps guard.  Everyday.  Like a hawk!




The photo above was taken in the afternoon after a brief rain shower.  They never look this good as we get into the hot summer.  We will see how well we do this year.





The photo on top is the New Dawn rose, a prolific climber, now in its third season.

Stay tuned for the rest of the garden...

All photos have been taken by and are the property of Lindaraxa.  

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.

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