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Beet salad for the sweet tooth

5 Apr

Candied Almond Beet Salad

Image

  • Arugula
  • 3 Prepared whole beets
  • Mandarins (optional)
  • Olive Oil
  • 1 Fresh lemon
  • 2 cups almonds
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup brown sugar

If you are looking for a vibrant and scrumptious salad than here you are. The Candied Almond Beet Salad is very easy to prepare and can be altered to your own taste.  It also serves as a very visual compliment to any meal, with ruby red beets providing a stark contrast to the leafy green arugula.  And if mandarins are in season, a few slices would also pair very well.  To tie it all together I made simple lemon vinaigrette and drizzled it over top (keep some on the side if you choose to add more).

The only real cooking involved was making the candied almonds, which proved to be really easy to make but quite difficult to not eat.  Click for the recipe.  I chose not to add the cinnamon to the dry ingredients mixture.  I also chopped the almonds if you are buying them whole.  If you choose to buy whole almonds, a tip is to cover them with one hand while you chop so they don’t fly across the kitchen.  Make these first to allow cooling time.

With this done, you are now ready to prepare the rest of the salad.  I used ready to eat whole beets from the store.  Cut them to your desired size. If you are using mandarins as well, I recommend making them the same size pieces.  Than prepare plates with a handful of arugula in a mound shape and scatter the beets, almonds and mandarins around in a circular motion to spread evenly.

Lastly is the dressing.  Start with good olive oil, 2 Tbs, and squeeze a quarter of a lemon.  Wisk them together and taste.  If you like the taste than you are ready to drizzle, if not add more lemon or olive oil, salt, pepper, etc.  Raspberry vinaigrette I imagine would also go well.

Have fun!

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The Art of French bread

22 Mar

The Art of French Bread!

french-bread

Making bread can seem a daunting task as it involves baking and exact proportions.   At least for me, I like to work in akitchen adding, screwing up, fixing, tasting… cooking as I please.  I enjoy having instant gratification as I watch and taste during the process.   With baking you put in the time and effort, just to find out 3 hours later the cake you had in mind didn’t turn out right and instead  it looks like something out of one of Dali’s dreams.

A cake of Dali's, "The Persistence of Memory."

A cake of Dali’s, “The Persistence of Memory.”

But we are in luck!  Here is a simple recipe for French bread that is hard to mess up and turns out great!  It only involves, ready…, 4 ingredients!!!   Water, flour, salt and yeast. And from start to finish about 3 hours (you’re only actually working for about 30 minutes).  You can follow the recipe by clicking on the link above.

The kneading is a bit more intense than you may think, especially towards the end when the dough finishes thickening.  Now I see why bakers have those Popeye forearms.popeye-arms

Dough before rising

Dough before rising

Dough after rising, about 2.5 hours later.

Dough after rising, about 2.5 hours later.

Before Baked

Before being baked

Baked with thyme and rosemary

Baked with thyme and rosemary

It yields 2 loaves.  If you want to dazzle it up, I sauteed some rosemary and thyme in olive oil and brushed the top of the loaves for the last 3 minutes of baking.  Actually there are many ways to customize your bread; dried tomatoes with cheddar cheese on top, toasted garlic bits, sea salt,  use your imagination!

The Green Fairy

16 Feb

Absinthe has always had its allure to Americans, the forbidden alcohol!  Banned in the U.S. and France for its hallucinogenic and demonizing reputation, the Green Fairy only gained a greater longing desire as a result.  This green potent liquor has been made more popular through “pop” movies and those traveling abroad to countries where it’s legal and comeback to tell their tale.  I think most young people including myself until recently would associate this alcohol with Eastern Europe giving it a greater feeling of mysterious and forbiddances as we make a connection in our minds with “The Iron Curtain.”  Well after a little curiosity, research and some absinthe experiences it has been revealed to me that this green absinthe is not real absinthe in fact but grain alcohol with green coloring.  It is a marketing technique by eastern European countries to draw in tourists.  True absinthe is a lot like Pasties and is made with wormwood; it has a murky color, anise taste and clouds when mixed with water (which is the proper way to drink it).

Absinthe has a very rich history.   I will say I am the first to compare Absinthe with SPAM.  What a comparison!   Well if you enjoy history maybe you have already made the link.  Absinthe first became popular in France’s North African wars, being mixed with water for a cheap and easy way to purify the water.  After the war, the returning soldiers had a palate for this new drink.  Thus, just as whenever there is a demand there is someone to quickly supply it.   And it quickly became the drink of drinks in 1920’s France, Hemmingway, Wilde, Picasso, Lautrec, Stein, and every other artist or common folk par took in this beverage.  It was said that it expanded imagination causing the imbiber to reach a higher level of revelation/thought process.  Today we also say goldschlagers tiny gold filaments cuts your throat so your body takes in the alcohol more quickly.  Marketing?  But how did this drink all of the sudden become so evil that it was made illegal for more than half a century?   The answer, lobbying, by wine producers and social activists.  Two major reasons, wine consumption was down and the country needed an escape goat for rising alcoholism rates.  Apparently more people drink when out of work, think the great depression, the U.S. had Prohibition.  It would only take a second World War to boost up the economies again.  Well I’m off topic.

Man with the Absinthe

Getting off work late one night I headed to an absinthe bar.  What an interesting place this was, not New York City at all, like I could have been in some small bar in the Scotland county side, antique furnishings, dust, a little bare, somewhat old fashioned cliental…very appropriate for what I had read about absinthe.   With the streets quiet and me absorbed in the environment I questioned if my subway train had a flex capacitor and traveled at 88 mph.   Two old UK expats owned the place.   Slow moving and talking but very smooth with their movements, they had all the knowledge of Absinthe I needed.  $15.00 a glass and a story like tale as they prepared and sipped the green fairy with us, the night turned out very well.

The Groupon Experience

20 Jan

What was thought to be a wine tasting experience, quickly turned into a Groupon experience.   Everyday I receive emails from this deal of the day website about their offers.  Well a few weeks ago I purchased one for a wine tasting with appetizers for two (4 glasses of wine each, appetizers and two take home bottles).  What a picture it had, a full glass of wine and assortment of cheeses around it.  The first hint that this would not be as sweet as it sounded was when calling for reservations. I was quickly told after referring to Groupon that I must come at 5pm, contrasting with what was written on the offer by 7pm. (After a little back and fourth we agreed on 6:30pm). It was not only this but the tone of voice that really gave away the fact Groupon customers weren’t so welcomed. Like the response you get when a salesman offers you a great deal and makes you excited but than immediately tells you about the hidden costs, that dramatic drop in your tone of voice…”oh, ok well I’m not interested.”

We arrived to the restaurant, a little, low lighted Italian place with candles and cheap looking deco. Immediately we are seated in the front and given the “4 glasses of wine each” as promised, they were tastings rather (about a few small sips). I should have read into this more, the title said tasting but the fine print said glasses. These were a pinot grigio, chardonnay, malbec and pinot noir, with a small dish of appetizers in between us. The night went well though, at least we had the equivalent of one glass of wine and some things to pick at while conversing, with the exception of the music selection, Celine Dion and some other really cheesy music. Coming out, I will say that they really tried to hard, over the top, to make it a nice place, kind of like a nouveau riche house.

We lingered soaking up the wine and cheesiness until feeling it was time to get our two free bottles to take home. Retrieving our coats and wine, I asked the manager if he wished he hadn’t signed on with Groupon.  Apparently most Groupon customers don’t tip very well and it doesn’t help businesses as much as predicted. Wow, the response was blatantly lying through the teeth with a smile, “No, we like our Groupon customers.” It did not take a lie detector to decipher that statement.  So we left and without a word walked right into “Big Daddy’s” burger joint next door as it was on both our minds and just laughed that we had just made this subconsciousness switch in atmosphere .  So much for the refined night we had been expecting…

Will Manolo knock?

11 Jan

While in Spain, I had the great pleasure of being a tenant in the house of Manolo.  An aging porteños (citizen of El Puerto de Santa Maria and Buenos Aires), Manolo still lives with his mother which is a common characteristic in Spain for men.  As we (North Americans) see this as an infringement on our freedom, for Manolo, it is not only normal but an advantage as he is able to learn all of his Franco era hardened mother’s culinary recipes and secrets.  And for me, well this was a great stroke of luck, one well worth putting up with her many strong Andalusian accented spouts about god knows what directed at me, another tenant, or of course Manolo.

So, how was this lucky for me?  Well after coming home for lunch in the afternoons, many times I received a waited expecting knock on the door from Manolo to come help him cook lunch, the biggest meal of the day in Spain.  Stopping my own lunch prep, I gladly always followed him across the courtyard into his house.  For me and many other Americans, lunch tends to be a quick meal, either eating on the run or in front of the computer at work ;p  But not in the House of Manolo, or in Spain for that matter.  No, lunch was a carefully prepared, aesthetically detailed, Sherry drinking, culinary experience.

Pouring Sherry from jugs, communicating in broken Spanish and hand gestures, with the windows open to the courtyard in a beautiful Spanish afternoon, Manolo would teach me some of his passed down trade and give me the authentic taste of Andalusia.  Caracoles (snails) in a tomato sauce, conch, grilled octopus, sauted Durado, sword fish, salmon, boquerones (anchovies), squid, Choco, crawfish, oxtail!!!!  Fresh figs with goat cheese, oranges, thinly sliced Iberian ham (pata negra) with fresh olive oil and bread, fried eggplant with salmorejo and gazpacho!  What a tummy terrific time!

And did I mention this all came from the farmers market down the street…