Saturday, October 31, 2009

Thai Inspirations

While visiting in Cleveland this weekend we stopped off at one of my favorite Thai restaurants. Peppermint Thai Cuisine, in Pepper Pike, Ohio provides an upscale dining experience. This wonderful restaurant is where I discovered the sweet, sour, spicy goodness of thai curries. A few of my favorite are red, panaag, and green curry.

Peppermint Thai Cuisine serves up many dishes with a variety of curries along with such thai staples as kaffir lime leaves, basil, hot peppers, and fresh seafood. The photo provided here showcases their 'Romantic Fish' which is a sauteed walleye filet in a sweet, mild curry sauce.

At home I often experiment with my favorite curries to find different ways to incorporate them in dishes. Most often they are delicious in sauces but it is surprising how tasty curries are when used as a rub on chicken or fish.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Morning Boost

Today I'm headed to Cleveland for a visit with my aunties. We're poised to have a true foodie weekend. We will be working on creating entries for the Sutter Home Build a Better Burger contest. The ideas and sources of inspiration are endless.

Right now I need a little fuel to get me through the drive. Most days my breakfast of choice is fruit but sometimes a warm breakfast can carry you through the morning like no other.

I'll admit this is the first time I've made this but WOW is it good! Greens and eggs - a match made for each other.

Baked Swiss Chard and Egg

Swiss Chard
1/2 tbsp butter
1/4 tbsp crushed red pepper
1/4 pound Swiss chard

Fried Egg
1/2 tsp butter
1 egg
Salt and pepper

Heat oven to 375 degrees.

Chop the chard in ribbons. Saute until wilted.

Lightly grease a small baking dish. Spread wilted chard on bottom of the baking dish. Crack egg in the middle. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake for 7-10 minutes depending on your oven. Egg doneness is a personal preference but I think the best way to enjoy is when the whites are cooked to opaque and the yolk is runny.

Garlic Soup

I started this blog to talk about one of my passions - food from cultures other than my own. But, it's harvest time in our area for a lot of my favorites so I'd be remiss not to showcase these favorites while they are in a state of perfection.

I've been going to our local Farmer's Market in Southeastern Ohio every weekend I get the chance. What is so strikingly beautiful to me is the garlic. I wish I would have taken a photo of the bounty and the beautiful couple that has grew the garlic for my recipes but I forgot to bring my camera. Maybe I'll be able to get a picture soon and add it to another post.

Garlic soup is elusive to me. I've heard of it but have never seen it on a menu. I've seen recipes but I've been too intimidated to make it. Will I spend time on this dish and it'll end up so garlicky I'm the only one that will eat it? That could be a turn off but fortunately not the case this weekend. To me garlic is very romantic. If there is garlic in the dish, The Hub will usually like it. I am out to please The Hub if nobody else.

The garlic soup I made this past weekend was sweet, creamy and extremely flavorful in many dimensions. I roasted most of the garlic before adding to the soup. Roasting made the garlic sweet with a little toast flavor. To top, I crisped some pork side to incorporate just a little bit of decadence.

Garlic Soup
2 heads of garlic + 2 cloves of garlic
3 tbsp of olive oil
2 c. chicken stock
3 c. water
4 sprigs of thyme
2 tbsp flour + 2 tbsp cold water
1/2 c. cream
1/2 pound of pork side

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Cut the very top of the stems off the 2 heads of garlic. Place on a piece of aluminum foil and drizzle with two tbsp. of olive oil. Wrap foil up and around garlic heads sealing them in. Roast for 45 minutes. Cool. Once cool, squeeze the garlic meat into a separate bowl being careful to keep the garlic husk/paper separate.

Slice in very thin pieces the 2 cloves of garlic. Heat a stock pan to medium and add remaining 1 tbsp of olive oil and add garlic. Cook for 30 seconds being careful not to burn the garlic. Add stock and water bringing to a low boil.

Separately mix the flour and cold water. Once the stock mixture comes to a low boil, add flour mixture. Simmer down for approximately 30-45 minutes until your desired thickness. Add cream.

Cut pork side into 1/4 inch cubes. Saute in medium hot saucepan until crisp.

Ladle soup into bowls and sprinkle with pork happiness.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Diablo Shrimp - Fire

The restaurant we go to for special occasions (birthdays, anniversaries, etc.) use to have a Diablo Shrimp appetizer dish that was really good and spicy. I’ve recently perfected my version of this very good appetizer. I’m sure you and your guests will love this one.
Fire Diablo Shrimp
1 pd peeled and deveined shrimp
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp crushed red pepper
½ c. Franks Red Hot
½ c. Marinara (when I’m lazy and don’t make from scratch I use Classico)
2 cloves garlic
In a large skillet on medium heat melt the butter with olive oil, garlic and the crushed red. Add all ingredients except the shrimp and simmer. When sauce is hot, add shrimp. Cook until pink which will be about 2 minutes. Don’t cook longer than this or the shrimp will be overdone and you might as well gone out to eat. (Maybe I’ll tell you the background on that comment in a future post.)

Monday, October 26, 2009

Thyme Butternut Squash Bread

Butternut squash is the gilded jewel of Nature. Fantastic nutritional factor. (good source of Vitamin E (Alpha Tocopherol), Thiamin, Niacin, Vitamin B6, Folate, Calcium and Magnesium, and a very good source of Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Potassium and Manganese.) Other than greens (see my first post to get my opinion of greens), I struggle to think of a vegetable that is tastier than a B squash. Divine!
I’ve been playing with a few different bread combinations lately and came up with a Thyme Butternut Squash bread recipe. I was extremely skeptical but it worked, pretty well actually.

Thyme Butternut Squash Bread
2 tsp yeast
2 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1 cup water
1 1/2 cups of butternut squash puree
3 ½ - 4 cups bread flour
3 Thyme sprigs

Cut a small butternut squash in half, deseed, and roast in a 400 degree oven for 20 minutes. Cool. Once cool scrap squash meat and place in a bowl. Mash with a spoon to smooth the mixture.

In a large bowl add yeast, sugar, and water. Let’s stand for a few minutes. Add butternut squash puree. Add flour, 1 cup at a time mixing after each cup, reserving the last ½ cup. With the first cup of flour I like to make ‘flour soup’. This helps to make smooth dough along with helping the gluten to develop creating chewier dough. I say chewier as a positive quality because chewier bread to me has mush more character than other bread. Now, this bread isn’t chewy by any stretch but I’ll encourage gluten development any day.
Let bread rise for at least an hour and half. If you have lots of time punch the dough down after an hour and a half and let it rise again. Again, this helps to develop character. But if you don’t have the extra time, don’t worry it’ll still be good. Trust me.

After you let the dough rise in the bowl, throw it on a cutting board and cut into eight equal portions. I like to do this by cutting it in half and then each section in half until I get the eight pieces. Place a piece of parchment paper on a sheet pan and brush it with olive oil. Place your pretty eight little pieces on it to rise for another 15 minutes. Bake in a 400 degree oven for 15-20 minutes until golden brown.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Joe’s BEST damn Deviled Eggs

My husband LOVVVVES Deviled Eggs. I love them too but personally I think they are a pain in the arse to make. The only reason why I make them is I lovvve my husband. I’ve never made a really good d-egg which is another discouraging factor. This morning I pleaded and begged him to pick up the task. Compared to me, he is a gentler cook, which is what deviled eggs need. Somehow I got him to agree.

THE best deviled eggs I’ve ever had. When you’re trying to pass a little love through food – try this:

Joe’s BEST damn Deviled Eggs
8 Hard Boiled Eggs
1 scallion finely chopped
2 tbsp red onion finely chopped
2 strips bacon finely chopped
1 ½ tsp grey poupon Dijon mustard
Heaping ¼ c. Mayonnaise
½ tsp celery salt
Coarse ground black pepper

Cut eggs in half and remove yolk. Mash yolk and add ½ of the scallion, ½ red onion, and bacon. Mix. Add remaining ingredients and mix until smooth. Normally, you would fill a plastic bag and pipe the filling in the eggs but Joe spooned the mixture in. Top with the reserved red and green onions. I'm impressed with the beauty of his eggs.

Who woulda thunk! - Let's all eat Pepitas!

Pumpkin carving wasn't about the face I made. I was more into the guts. Pumpkin guts that is. After carving my mom would have us separate the seeds and then she would roast them. Eating those delicious seeds was my favorite part of the evening!

Pepitas (from Spanish pepita de calabaza, "little seed of squash")

We recently hosted a 'Pumpkin and Pizza' night to celebrate the season. I can't even begin to tell you how much fun we all had. I think the 'dults had more fun than the kids. I expected the kids would bring pumpkins and maybe one or two adults would show up with a P. Wow, I had no clue! 'Dult after adult showed up carrying the biggest pumpkins! And, they all came with their own carving implements. There was a level of seriousness that was mind boggling. Two people even stenciled designs on their pumpkins!

All that was going through my mind was how many seeds we were going to get with all those pumpkins! I very quickly got big bowls for the guts. Surprisingly, after talking with people, I learned most people had no experience with roasting or eating pumpkin seeds. My friend, Anna, quickly got into rhythm and helped separate out the seeds.

Pepitas taste delicious and they must be good for you because they're a seed. But that was the extent of my knowledge so I had to go searching. Researching pumpkin seeds revealed some pretty impressive information. Pumpkin seeds are the third (3rd!) best source for Phytosterols. What is Phytosterol? What I found is that Phytosterol is a compound that can reduce blood levels of cholesterol. In addition this little wonder food is said to enhance your immune system, decrease risk of certain cancers, combat benign prostatic hypertrophy (BPH), and alleviate arthritic pain. Pretty impressive stuff!

I think I'll keep eating them.....its fun when it tastes so good and it's healthy. Here's a few of my favorite recipes:

Salt and Pepper
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp salt
1 tsp freshly ground pepper

Place seeds in a single layer on a sheet pan that you've drizzled with the olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake in 400 degree oven for 15 minutes.

Palak Pepitas
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp garam masala
2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp cayenne powder

Mix all spices together. Place seeds in a single layer on a sheet pan that you've drizzled with the olive oil. Sprinkle with spice mixture. Bake in a 375 degree oven for 15-20 minutes stirring occasionally.

Spicy Chili Pepitas
2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp ancho chili powder
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp garlic powder

Mix all spices together. Place seeds in a single layer on a sheet pan that you've drizzled with the olive oil. Sprinkle with spice mixture. Bake in a 375 degree oven for 15-20 minutes stirring occasionally.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Swiss chard with Lemon Tilapia and Garlic Parsley Cannellini Beans

I struggled a little to figure out what my first post should be. I wanted the post to be illustrative of the name I've chosen for this blog, 'Curious Eats'. Well, I'll have to get into that a little later in another post. . .For now I think it's only fitting that I post a recipe for Swiss Chard, one of my favorites, on behalf of my mom. My mom, who passed away in 1997, was always trying to get me to eat my vegetables. But I was a teenager! I didn't want to eat vegetables! I wanted something 'good'.

Let me give a little context here. My dad was a vegetable farmer and sold his produce at the Eastside Market in downtown Cleveland. He grew mostly tomatoes but he grew a lot of other things too. In other words, there was ALWAYS a lot of vegetables around. My mom, healthy cooker that she was, incorporated as many of these vegetables in our meals as possible. My dad grew a lot of different kinds of greens: collards, turnip greens, mustard greens, and kale. For some reason these were the only vegetables my mom didn't cook a lot with.

One day she made a wilted Kale dish. It was delicious! I remember saying, 'Mom, this is good! What is it?' She twirled around in her spot to look at me with this incredulous look of disbelief. She said, 'You like that?' and I simply said, 'Yup!' and continued to devour the remaining Kale on the table. I think she never cooked greens because she thought she would be pushing her luck, with getting us to eat vegetables, too far.

Greens! Greens! and more Greens! Please! From then on I've been fanatical about wilted greens of any kind. And, by the way I now love all vegetables! (My mom must have been wise beyond her years:)
To go with dinner, I picked up a beautiful bunch of Swiss Chard at the Farmers Market. With the Wilted Swiss Chard, I made a Lemon Tilapia and wonderfully creamy Garlic Parsley Cannellini Beans. What a wonderful dinner!

Wilted Swiss Chard

1 large bunch of Swiss Chard
3-4 anchovies (depending on size and personal preference)
2 minced cloves of garlic
1 tsp of crushed red pepper
2 tbsp of olive oil

In a sauce pan on medium heat, add all ingredients except for the Swiss Chard. Simmer and stir until the anchovies have melted into the sauce. Add the chard. Stir occasionally, folding the swiss chard over while pulling the garlic-anchovy mix up and through the chard. Cooking time is approximately 5 minutes.

Lemon Tilapia
4 Tilapia fillets
1 Lemon - you'll need the zest from 1 Lemon and the juice from 1/2 the lemon
1 tbsp olive oil
Splash of white wine
2 tbsp of chopped flat leaf parsley
Salt and Pepper

Zest the lemon and set the zest aside for later. Cut the lemon in half. Salt and pepper both sides of the tilapia fillets. In a hot skillet, add the olive oil. When the oil is hot, add the tilapia. The tilapia will cook for 5-7 minutes on the first side. A few minutes after adding the fish to the skillet add the juice from 1/2 a lemon and sprinkle the lemon zest over the fish. Cook the fish on the first side until it is mostly opaque. Turn and finish on the other side for 1-2 minutes. Sprinkle with parsley.

Garlic Parsley Cannellini Beans
1 tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp dry white wine
2 clove of garlic
1 can of cannellini beans - drained and rinsed
salt and pepper to taste

In a small pot, add olive oil, white wine and garlic. Simmer on low for a few minutes, being careful to not burn the garlic. During this stage, you are infusing the sauce with the garlic flavor. When the garlic is cooked, soft but not brown, add the beans and parsley. Mix to incorporate and simmer for 3 minutes to heat the beans through. Be careful not to over mix unless you want smashed beans as Cannellini beans are pretty delicate.