Peacock Flatbread

These tartlets were inspired by one of my favorite pairs of earrings.  They’re just dangly earrings with peacock feathers hanging off of them.  If it’s not too bold to say, I think that I was fairly ahead of the curve in regard to the peacock feather earring trend.  I could be wrong, but that’s what I’m going to go with.  I love all of the colors in peacock feathers and how beautifully they all blend together.  Naturally, I felt compelled to translate this into something delightful and edible.

I gave a fair bit of thought as to the base of these wee treats.  Puff pastry?  Flatbread?  Croissant dough?  As of late, I’ve taken a shine to making croissant dough and using it in lieu of puff pastry.  Well, that, and I’ve thus far been unable to locate puff pastry in the freezer aisle even though I’m confident that it’s there, and I refuse to ask for help finding it in the grocery store seeing as I worked for a couple years at the one I most often frequent so I should really know where it is.  Perfectly reasonable, no?  Moving on, it turns out that some thinly rolled croissant dough made an OK base for these, but in the end, flatbread kept it together a bit better.  Better luck next time, croissant dough.

Next, I formulated the toppings.  Most important (to me, at least) was that they have all of the colors of a peacock feather: brown, green, and blue.  For the brown, I used Satay Peanut Sauce from Trader Joe’s.  It’s got a nice peanut-y flavor and just enough spice to stand out amongst the other flavors.  The peanut sauce is topped with something leafy and green.  I envisioned this with arugula, but I’ve had the darnedest time finding it.  That said, spinach worked fine.  Fennel could be fun, too.  To top it all off, some homemade blueberry compote adds a delightful sweetness to the mix and completes our color trifecta.  Ta da!  Done!  If nothing else, they’ll be fun to look at.  Please consider wearing some peacock feather earrings while you serve these, just to see if anyone makes the connection.

Peacock Flatbread

Flatbread adapted from This Food Thing

Blueberry compote adapted from Epicurious

Makes about 30 flatbread triangles

Flatbread Ingredients:

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup cold water

3 Tbs. cold butter, cut into 1/2″ cubes

1 tsp. salt

2 tsp. baking powder

1/4 tsp. baking soda

Toppings:

1/2 cup spicy peanut sauce

2 cups spinach (or arugula or fennel)

1 recipe blueberry compote

Blueberry Compote Ingredients:

1 12oz bag frozen blueberries

1/3 cup water

1/3 cup granulated sugar

Equipment:

1 large mixing bowl

1 cookie sheet or pizza stone

1 cooling rack

2 spatulas

1 pastry cutter

1 rolling pin

1 knife or pizza cutter

1 medium saucepan

plastic wrap

To Make the Flatbread:

In the large mixing bowl, combine 1 cup of the flour and the cold butter.  Use the pastry cutter to cut the butter into the flour.  Continue to do so until the butter has been reduced to pea-sized pieces.  Then, add the remainder of the dry ingredients (flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda), and stir until well-combined.  Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients.  Pour the cold water into the center of the well.  Use a spatula to fold the dry ingredients into the water.  Once the majority of the dry ingredients have been incorporated into the water, use your hands to knead the dough until all of the dry ingredients have been incorporated into the dough.  Wrap the dough in plastic wrap, and allow it to chill in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.

Place the cookie sheet or pizza dough in the oven, and preheat the oven to 425F, allowing the sheet to heat up as well.  Remove the dough from the fridge and unwrap it.  On a gently floured surface, roll out the dough.  You may need to split the ball of dough and do this in in two phases.  Roll the dough out until it is very thin, about 1/8″-1/4″.  Use a fork to gently poke holes throughout the dough.  Use a knife or pizza cutter to cut the dough into triangles.  Quickly remove the cookie sheet or pizza stone from the oven the place the triangles onto it.  Bake the triangles for 10-12 minutes, or until the tops are a pleasant golden brown.  Remove from oven, and allow to cool on cooling rack for at least five minutes before adding toppings.

To Make the Blueberry Compote:

Heat a medium saucepan over medium heat.  Add the water, sugar, and 1 1/2 cups of the frozen blueberries.  Stir continuously, and allow the mixture to heat until the berries begin to burst (about 10 minutes).  Then, add the remainder of the frozen blueberries.  Continue to stir the mixture as it begins to bubble and steam.  Continue this until the mixture has thickened (about 10-15 minutes).  Once the mixture has reached the desired consistency, transfer to a heat-resistant bowl and allow to cool in the refrigerator until ready to use.

To Assemble the Flatbread:

On each flatbread triangle, spread about a teaspoon of the peanut sauce.  Top it with about a tablespoon of torn spinach (or another desirable leafy green).  Top the spinach with a teaspoon or two of the blueberry compote.  Serve at slightly warmed or at room temperature.  Assembled flatbread will keep in the refrigerator for about 3 days.  Enjoy!

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Strawberry Lemonade Mojito

This springtime twist on the classic mojito is made with equal parts refreshment and relief and is best enjoyed at the conclusion of a long week or a terrific weekend.

Aren’t farmer’s markets fantastic spectacles?  The farmer’s markets here have just opened for the year, and my parents and I made the rounds at a couple of them this past weekend.  My dad, especially, really got in the spirit by going to the farmer’s market dressed as… a farmer.  Yep, he was sporting his denim overalls, straw hat, and he had his sleeves rolled up to show off his farmer’s tan.  It was grand.  I definitely did take a picture of him in his farmer outfit holding all of our market spoils.  Said photograph may be posted here at a later date for your enjoyment.

Besides the aforementioned sight of my dear papa in traditional farmland attire, my mom and I stocked up all manner of terrific herbs to enjoy for the coming summer season.  I invested $12 in a thornless blackberry bush which I am sincerely hoping the deer will not take a liking to, and we scored a variety of herbs with interesting sounding names.  My favorite is the lemon verbena plant that I bought.  If the name “lemon verbena” sounds familiar, it’s probably because it’s a popular scent for lotions.  Sounds promising, yes?  I could not wait to use it, so I didn’t wait and I went ahead and used it.

Everyone loves a good mojito in the summer time, but seeing as we’d already had a bit of a lime extravaganza last weekend, I chose to go with lemon instead.  That said, it appears that Lemon-palooza has struck again.  My apologies, I thought it had passed, and I was wrong.  Anyhow, lemon and lemon verbena seemed like an obvious match.  To take things a step further, I employed some of the fresh strawberry puree I had leftover from additional splendid adventures with Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home.  Not only does the addition of strawberry give this cocktail an amazing fresh flavor, it also looks very pretty.  So, by all means, feel free to get fancy and share this wee treasure with all of your pals on a sunny afternoon on the patio, for that’s what I had in mind while thinking of/making/drinking it!

Strawberry Lemonade Mojito

Adapted from $40 a Day on Food Network

Makes 1 drink

Ingredients:

6 lemon verbena leaves

2 slices of 1 large lemon or 1/2 small lemon

2 Tbs. strawberry puree

3/4 cup club soda

2 oz. rum

2 Tbs. simple syrup

1 cup cubed ice

Equipment:

1 shaker

1 muddler or wooden spoon

1 tall glass

1 knife

1 cutting board

1 spoon

In a shaker, muddle together the lemon verbena leaves and lemon slices.  Muddle until both are well crushed.  Add the simple syrup, rum, and about 1/3 cup ice.  Give it a good shake.  Drain the liquid into the tall glass.  Add the remainder of the ice, then pour club soda over the ice.  Gently stir the club soda and alcohol mixture together.  Use a spoon to gently pour the strawberry puree over the ice on the top of the glass.  Garnish with a slice of lemon and serve with a straw.  Enjoy!

Cardamom Cilantro Risotto

Rice is nice, but it’s not particularly photogenic.

I had oodles of fun with flavors this weekend, and this recipe is largely the product of my aforementioned experimenting.  This recipe was also created to be a friend for the steak which I marinated in a beer which I could not drink.  There is a tale to be told here.  Let’s start at the beginning.

About a month ago, I was in Seattle, where I saw a great many sites and spent a substantial amount of time enjoying the finer things in life- things like great beer.  One of the stops on this whirlwind Emerald City adventure was Elysian Brewing Company.  While there, I sampled several of their brews and purchased one of their more unique creations: this year, Elysian has teamed with a local artist to create their 12 Brews of the Apocalypse series.  On the day that I was there, they were just about to launch their newest beer at the time, a chocolate chili ale.  Not until a week or so ago did I finally open that bottle and give it a try.  I’m not one to speak ill of another brewer’s work, but I did not care for it.  Truthfully, I did think it was a very well crafted beer, but it was, to my shock and surprise, way to spicy for me to drink straight.  Not wanting to let a good beer go to waste, I put some thought into the best way to utilize this brew.  A short while ago, Sweet and Stout did a marvelous post about a jalapeno chocolate cupcake with raspberry frosting that they created using this beer, and, indeed, the thought crossed my mind to try something similar.  However, after pondering the issue, I elected to go in another direction.  Given the surprising spiciness of the brew, I elected to turn in a more savory direction.  That said, I’ve had a lovely cut of flat-iron steak marinating in the brew for the majority of the day, soaking in all those chilis and hops from the beer to create one darn tasty cut of meat.

Moving on to the risotto, the specific inspiration for that actually came from… ice cream!  I recently purchased Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home and have been thoroughly enjoying a myriad of frozen delights crafted by my own two hands.  The recipe of Ms. Bauer’s that I tried today was the lime cardamom frozen yogurt, and, as one may have guessed, it turned out splendidly!  I love the unique combinations of spices and fruits that are utilized in so many of the recipes, and I have been eager to apply such combinations to other dishes.  That said, let’s make it happen with rice!

Cardamom Lime Risotto

Serves 8

2 cups rice (any rice will do, I used brown long grain)

2 cups (or 1 14 oz. can) beef broth

2 cups water

1/2 tsp. cardamom

1/2 cup fresh cilantro

2 Tbs. lime juice

1/4 cup Mexican blend finely shredded cheese

Equipment

8″x8″ glass or ceramic dish with lid (if it doesn’t have a lid, aluminum foil will work)

spatula

Preheat oven to 350F.  In an 8″x8″ glass or ceramic dish, combine rice, beef broth, cardamom, and water.  Cover the dish and bake for 1 hour or until all of the liquid has been absorbed.

Once all of the liquid has been absorbed, remove the dish from the oven.  Stir gently with a spatula, removing any grains of rice that may be stuck to the side of the dish.  Add the lime juice, cheese, and cilantro, and mix in.  Serve warm.  Enjoy!

Berry Meringue Nests

Alright, friends.  I think that this may be the third and final act of this year’s Lemon-palooza.  Oh, what a wild ride it’s been: memories made, recipes shared, and countless lemons sacrificed for the cause (totally worth it).  That said, I feel that it is high time that we move on to bigger and better things… at least until next year’s Lemon-palooza.

This last, lemony jewel was actually inspired by the recent photographic antics of one of my dear aunts: there is a tree that grows right next to, and practically through her back deck.  In this tree, sitting just barely out of reach, is a robin’s nest.  Being unable to very well reach the nest on her own, my aunt has taken to reaching as high as she can, possibly with the assistance of a chair or stool, stretching out her hand above the nest, and snapping pictures and videos with her iPhone, all in the hopes of capturing an image of what, if anything, is to be found in the nest.  Well, she done good.  A month or so ago, she found that there were, indeed, three perfect, blue robin eggs comfortably resting in the nest.  A few short weeks later, tiny chirps could be heard coming from the back deck.  Utilizing the same stretch-and-hope-for-the-best technique that so well served her before, my aunt shot a short video of the nest.  When she rewound and watched the video, she discovered that one egg had just hatched and the others were in the process of doing so!  What luck!  With that in mind, this one’s for you, baby birds.

In the spirit of spring and the groovy trend of insanely brightly colored attire, these berry meringue nests are full of color, flavor, and the spirit of spring.  The meringues themselves are crisp, lightly toasted, and the perfect container for lively lemon curd.  A fresh berry or two happily reside atop the lemon curd, completing this trifecta of delight.  I don’t think that you, or anyone who tries these, will be able to help but smile and say “mmm” when you give these sugary trophies a try.

Berry Meringue Nests

Adapted from Cooks.com

Ingredients:

3 egg whites, room temperature

1/4 tsp. cream of tartar

6 Tbs. powdered sugar, sifted

1 Tbsp. freeze-dried raspberries (pictured), strawberries, or blueberries (mangoes could also be magnificent in this recipe), crushed to a fine powder

1/4 cup lemon curd of Minneola tangelo curd

1/2 pint fresh blackberries or blueberries

Equipment:

1 large medium mixing bowl

1 electric hand mixer or stand mixer

1 cookie sheet

parchment paper

2 piping bags (or use a Ziploc bag with a corner cut off)

Preheat the oven to 350F.  In the large mixing bowl, use the stand mixer or electric hand mixer to beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form.  Add the cream of tartar.  Then, one tablespoon at a time, add the powdered sugar and crushed freeze-dried berries.  Continue to beat until well-combined; the mixture should now appear glossy and smooth.

Scoop the meringue into a piping bag with a 1/2″ diameter opening.  On a cookie sheet covered with parchment paper, swirl the meringue into a small circle, 1 1/2″- 2″ in diameter.  Then, continue swirling the meringue to make the walls of the nest.  Continue swirling until the walls of the nest are about 1″-1 1/2″ high.  Repeat with the remainder of the meringue.

Place the meringues in the oven.  Cook for 7-10 minutes at 350F, then turn off the oven but keep the meringues in the oven.  Keep the meringues in the cooling oven for 2-3 hours, or until the oven has cooled to close to room temperature.  The meringues should have a lovely toasted look on top.

Just before serving, use a piping bag or small spoon to scoop 1/2-1 teaspoon of lemon curd into the nest.  It’s important that you not add the lemon curd until just before you intend to serve the nests, lest they get soggy (soggy meringues are still delicious, but not nearly as attractive).  Top the lemon curd with a blackberry, a few blueberries, or some chopped strawberries.  Enjoy!

Mandarin Chicken Tabbouleh

Orange you glad we’re making something a bit more wholesome for a change?

I realize that things have been rather dessert-centric around here as of late, and I mean to remedy this by posting a dish with a little more nutritional substance (and a lot less sugar).  Well, a lot more nutritional substance; I think that this dish may actually include them all.  What we have here is what I have decided to call Mandarin Chicken Tabbouleh.  It’s a tabbouleh in spirit more than anything else, for it has very few things in common with the original.  Nonetheless, I think it’s a winner and pretty darn tasty.

If you’re not yet acquainted with quinoa (pronounced keen-hua), I encourage you to consider it as a fascinating alternative to rice.  When fully cooked, it displays the most adorable little curly-Qs that add a great deal of visual appeal to any dish it is featured in.  The grain gets an oriental twist with the addition of mandarin oranges, ginger, almonds, and soy sauce, as well as a welcome splash of color from shredded carrots and sliced scallions.  If anything, it’s pretty to look at.

Tabbouleh is, technically, a salad, though it can easily be made into an entree by beefing up the portion a bit.  Full of protein, healthy fats, and vitamins, I dare say that this amalgam of flavor is almost better off as an entree.  Let it be the star of the show!  Feel free to add any additional spices or veggies you may desire, and have fun with it!

Mandarin Chicken Tabbouleh

Serves 8

2 cups quinoa

2 cups chicken broth

2 cups water

1/4 cup soy sauce

1 cup grilled chicken (from about 6 frozen chicken tenders)

1/2 tsp. ground black pepper

1 11 oz can mandarin oranges in light syrup, strained

2/3 cup scallions (green onions), thinly sliced

1/2 cup sliced almonds

1 cup shredded carrots

1 Tbs. fresh ginger root, finely shredded

Equipment:

1 medium pot or large saucepan

1 medium saucepan with lid

1 whisk

1 spatula

1 cutting board

1 knife

1 large serving bowl

1 meat thermometer

1 set of tongs

Rinse the quinoa.  Then, combine the water, chicken broth, and quinoa in the medium pot or large saucepan.  Set the pot over high heat and bring the water to a boil.  Once the water has come to a boil, turn the heat down to medium, maintaining a steady boil.  Leave the pot uncovered, and occasionally stir.  Cook the quinoa for 30-40 minutes, or until all of the water/broth has been absorbed.  Once the quinoa has finished cooking, transfer it to the large serving bowl and set it in the refrigerator, allowing to chill for about two hours.

To make the grilled chicken, lightly spray the bottom of the saucepan with non-stick spray or a light coating of olive oil.  Over medium heat, place the frozen chicken tenderloins in the sprayed pan and sprinkle with the black pepper.  After 7-10 minutes, flip the tenderloins over and lightly spray them with non-stick spray or a light drizzle of olive oil and a bit of black pepper.  Cook for another 7-10 minutes, or until the meat thermometer reads 165F when inserted into the center of a tenderloin.  Remove from heat.  Cut chicken into 1″-cube pieces.

Remove the chilled quinoa from the refridgerator.  Add the grilled chicken, mandarin oranges, soy sauce, sliced scallions, shredded carrots, sliced almonds, and shredded ginger.  Toss so that all ingredients are well-combined.  Serve chilled as either a side salad or the main course.  Enjoy!