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Thursday, April 30, 2009

Fried Green Tomato BLT



I came across these beautiful green tomatoes in the market just the other day. Never before have I had the pleasure to cook with them, so I was eager at the challenge to make something delicious. The first thing that came to mind was a classic fried green tomato and BLT. I am big fan of an occasional BLT, especially with Avocado. This Fried Green Tomato BLT is heavily breaded and served as the bun. Layered with basil mayo, lettuce, and smoked bacon. As they say here in Hawaii, it's ono kine grindz!
Just for the record, I wouldn't say this is the healthiest dish I have ever made. However, no ones perfect. A healthy diet always has room for a little rebellion.

Fried Green Tomato BLT

2-3 large Green Tomatoes
1 cup cup plain bread crumbs
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
2 eggs
1/4 cup low fat milk
salt & pepper
8 slices lean bacon or turkey bacon
4 leaves Green leaf lettuce, rinsed
1/4 cup light mayonnaise
1 tablespoon basil pesto
1 tablespoon fresh basil, chopped

Prepare basil mayo by mixing mayonnaise, basil pesto, and fresh basil. Store in refrigerator until ready to use.
Slice tomatoes 1/2 inch thick, 8 slices total. Season sliced tomatoes with salt and pepper.
In a small bowl, whisk together eggs and milk and set aside. In another bowl, combine bread crumbs and flour, set aside.
In a large skillet, cook bacon until brown and crispy. Reserve bacon grease for frying tomatoes.
Dip each tomato slice in egg, then coat in bread crumb mixture. Repeat once more for a heavily breaded tomato, after all this is going to be your bun. Cook breaded tomatoes in greased frying pan over medium heat until golden brown on both sides. Set fried tomatoes onto brown paper bag, or paper towels to absorb grease.
Assemble sandwich using the fried green tomatoes as the bun. Spread with basil mayo, top with 2 slices of bacon per sandwich and leaf lettuce. Enjoy!

Serves 4



Thursday, April 23, 2009

Grilled Espresso Chicken with Moroccan Spiced Sweet Potatoes, & Braised Mustard Greens

I thought I might need to post something for all of my omnivore friends, or for those of you who are flexitarians like myself.
This recipe, for Grilled Espresso Chicken came to me a few years back when anything Espresso made my heart sing. On the back burner for quite some time, I pulled it back out of hiding for a dinner party just a few weeks ago and the arrival of my long awaited Espresso Machine. This chickens main ingredient 'espresso' is full of surprises when accompanied with rich flavors like brown sugar, and smokiness from the grill. Although you don't need an Espresso Machine to make it, you can also use double strength coffee.
This Espresso Chicken is paired with a mashed Moroccan Spiced Sweet potato and Braised Mustard Greens. Full of unexpected flavor sensations like sweet and smoky, slightly spicy and bitter greens. Enjoy!


Espresso Chicken

2.5 pounds chicken pieces, skinned & trimmed
2 cups espresso, or double strength coffee
3/4 cups brown sugar
1 tablespoon ground mustard powder
1 large onion, sliced
1 clove garlic, whole
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt

In a slow cooker, layer onions, garlic, and chicken. Sprinkle salt, ground mustard, and brown sugar over chicken. Slowly pour coffee over the chicken. Cover and cook on low for 4-5 hours. Meat should be dark on the outside, white in the middle and slightly falling off the bone. Turn off slow cooker and preheat charcoal grill. Meanwhile, prepare Moroccan Sweet Potatoes and Braised Mustard Greens. Note that the sweet potatoes take about an hour in the oven as part of the preparation.

Once your grill is nice and hot, gently grill chicken pieces on both sides brushing them with left over marinade to keep chicken moist. Chicken will be very fragile and shouldn't take but a few minutes to get nice grill marks and a little smoky flavor into the chicken.

Plate chicken with braised greens and mashed sweet potatoes. Recipes follow.

Moroccan Sweet Potatoes

4 large yellow sweet potatoes
1 large lemon, juiced
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Wash sweet potatoes and cut ends off. Place on a cookie sheet, and bake for 1 hour. Remove from oven and let cool slightly.
Remove skins and place in a large bowl. Mash sweet potatoes until smooth and slightly chunky, set aside.
In a small bowl, whisk together lemon juice, cinnamon, paprika, cilantro and olive oil. fold dressing into mash sweet potatoes.

Braised Mustard Greens

1 large bunch fresh mustard greens, rinsed and chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
1/4 cup chicken stock
4 slice lean bacon

In a large skillet, brown bacon and set aside. Reserve the fat, there should be very little if you are using lean or center cut bacon. Saute the garlic in reserved bacon fat. Add mustard greens and chicken stock. Braise greens over low heat until greens are wilted.

Serves 4



Reduced-Fat Cherry & Dark Chocolate Cookies

These cookies were inspired by a recipe sent to me from my father, originally featuring a delicious Reduced-Fat Oatmeal Raisin Cookie. This cookie makeover demonstrated brilliant cooking techniques used to reduce fat while maintaining flavor. Immediately I was hooked, and couldn't resist playing with new flavors and while improving upon nutrition even more.
Instead of raisins, I used dried cherries. I also replaced the white flour with stone ground whole wheat, and cut the brown sugar from 1 1/2 cups to 1/2 cup. Of course, even though I reduced the sugar, I was really just making room for the rich morsels of dark chocolate. Full of flavor and wholesome goodness this recipe will have you addicted. Enjoy in moderation!

Reduced-Fat Cherry & Dark Chocolate Cookies

1 cup dried cherries; 1/2 cup whole, 1/2 cup finely chopped
3/4 cup water
6 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 3/4 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 large egg
2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup dark chocolate chunks (like 62% or higher)

Preheat oven to 350. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper, set aside.

In a small sauce pan, bring water and cherries to a boil. Reduce to a simmer for 5 minutes, set aside and let cool. In a large skillet, melt butter and toast oats over medium heat until golden brown. Remove from heat and add cinnamon. Stir to coat the oats with cinnamon, set aside and let cool.

Once the cherries and oats are cooled down you are ready to proceed. This is an important step, otherwise you will be left with a gooey cookie dough and melted chocolate that just isn't good.
In a large mixing bowl, combine cherries (liquid and all), sugar, egg, and vanilla. Stir in oats, flour, baking powder, and salt. Lastly, add dark chocolate chunks.
Drop cookie dough onto prepared baking sheets, about 2 tablespoons per cookie, spacing them about 1-2 inches apart. Bake for 12-14 minutes.

Serve warm with a glass of non-fat milk.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Coconut Crusted Tofu with Mango Salsa

Tropical flavors like mango and coconut are abundant here in Hawaii, and when it's hot outside and the trades are still, nothing is more refreshing than these local flavors.
With a little Asian influence came this dish. It is a play on the traditional Agedashi Tofu topped with some gourmet flare like mango salsa.
Enjoy!

Coconut Crusted Tofu with Mango Salsa

1-12 oz package firm tofu
1/3 cup sweetened coconut flakes
2 tablespoons Wondra flour
2 Tablespoons cornstarch
dash of sea salt
2 tablespoons Canola oil

Salsa:
1 ripe mango, diced
1 small carrot, shredded
1/4 cup red onion, chopped
1/4 teaspoon ginger, finely chopped
2 tablespoons cilantro, chopped
1 lime, juiced
dash of sea salt

In a mixing bowl combine mango, carrot, red onion, ginger, cilantro, and lime juice. Give a good stir and set aside.

Drain tofu and slice into five thick steaks. In a small bowl, combine coconut flake, flour, cornstarch, and sea salt. Coat each tofu steak in coconut mixture.

Heat 2 tablespoons canola oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Brown Tofu on all sides until golden brown. Drain cooked tofu on paper towel. Serve warm with Mango Salsa.


Grapefruit Bars

These bars are much like a lemon bar but are much lower in fat and sugar. To make them even more unique, I have added a touch of fresh Rosemary to the crust, complementary to the naturally sweet ruby red grapefruit used in this recipe.

Grapefruit Bars

Crust:
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped
3 tablespoons cold butter
dash of salt

Topping:
1/3 cup fresh grapefruit juice
4 egg whites
1 tablespoon grapefruit zest
1/2 cup sugar
3 tablespoon Wondra flour

1 tablespoon powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350. Lightly grease a 8x8 inch glass baking dish, set aside. In a mixing bowl combine flour, powdered sugar, chopped rosemary, and salt. Cut in cold butter using a a pastry cutter, until mixture is fine and crumbly. Press into pan and bake for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile prepare topping. In a mixing bowl whisk together grapefruit juice, egg whites, grapefruit zest, and sugar. Slowly whisk in Wondra flour.

Once the crust has baked for 20 minutes, remove from oven and pour grapefruit mixture over the top. Bake for an additional 20 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool completely. Once cooled, top with powdered sugar. Serve chilled.

Sparrow Stencil:
To make a stencil like I did (shown above), simply cut out your favorite shape using regular paper. Lay the shapes over the bars and lightly sprinkle powder sugar over the top. Using the tip of a pointy knife, pick up the edge of the stencils to remove.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Purple Potato Gnocchi with Parmesan Cream & Thai Basil

This past Saturday I rode my bike up to the farmers market for another causal shopping trip for local produce. This market seams particularly unique, compared to what I am used to on the mainland. Here you can find avocados the size of your head, and fruits and vegetables you've never even heard of. I always try to come home with something new. This weeks find was dollar bag of Peruvian Purple Potatoes and Thai Basil. These vibrant little potatoes intrigued me, while the Thai Basil with its green leaves, and purple flowers seemed to be a match made in heaven.
Using some basic ingredients and and traditional Gnocchi recipe my adventure began. I was on a mission to create Purple Potato Gnocchi with Parmesan Cream & Thai Basil.
For a complete meal, serve with Simple Farm Fresh Tomatoes (recipe below).


Purple Potato Gnocchi with Parmesan Cream & Thai Basil

1 lb. Peruvian Purple Potatoes
3/4 cups whole wheat flour
1 egg
Scant of sea salt
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 recipe Parmesan Cream
16 Thai Basil leaves, chopped

Wash and half potatoes. Bring six quarts of salted water to a boil. Boil potatoes for 10 minutes, or until tender. Drain potatoes and run under cool water until cooled slightly. Peel skins off using your fingers under cool running water. Place peeled potatoes into a small mixing bowl. Using a pastry cutter, fork or potato ricer, mash potatoes while they are still warm until no lumps are detected. Let cool.
Whisk egg and pour over mashed potatoes. Fold egg into mashed potatoes. Adding sea salt and a little flour at a time, fold in flour gently until all of it is mixed in. Do not over mix, you want a light and fluffy mixture. Mound dough into a round ball and cut into eight pieces.
Find a clean work surface and lightly dust with more flour. Handling once piece at a time, gently form dough into the shape of a wide cylinder. Place your finger tips in the middle of dough, gently roll dough moving your finger tips outward forming a long even stick. Cut the dough into 1" pieces and set aside. Repeat steps with all eight pieces.
Bring a fresh 6 quarts of water to a boil with olive oil. Drop Gnocchi into boiling water. When they float to the top, their done! Serve with Parmesan Cream sauce and garnish with chopped Thai Basil and fresh ground pepper.

Serves 4

Parmesan Cream

1/2 cup low fat milk (I use Organic 1%)
1 cup grated Parmesan, packed
3-4 dashes Wondra Flour

In a small sauce pan over medium heat, whisk Parmesan into milk until melted. Whisk in 3-4 dashes of Wondra until thickend. Set aside and let cool slightly. Serve over Purple Potato Gnocchi.



Simple Farm Fresh Tomatoes

Tomatoes are a far cry from what they used to be. More often then not, store bought tomatoes are a pale red and almost white in color with no flavor. There is nothing like a vine ripe tomato that has been sweetened by the sun, and picked just moments before it reaches your mouth. It's rich red skin and sweet flesh. So when I came across these fresh beauty's at my local farmers market, I just couldn't help myself. It would truly be a sin to chop up them up and throw them into a boring everyday salad. Instead, these tomatoes are better enjoyed for what there are. Slice them into 1/4" slices, drizzle lightly with Extra Virgin Olive Oil, and a scant of sea salt for a simple yet delectable flavor.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Pesto Madness

I woke up this morning and opened my fridge, only to realize that a gang of vibrant colored pesto's have taken over.
Little glass jars fume with intense aromatics and creamy goodness. Unique blends of herbs, nuts, and cheeses that I just simply can't get enough of. Pesto is a culinary fare that has taken the United States by storm over the years, and you don't need an Italian grandmother to tell you why.
The reason why I love pesto so much is for their pungent yet delicate flavors that complement a variety of dishes in place of the boring, and sometimes bland, dried herbs and spices of today. Pesto offers a fresh and clean flavor that is unmistakable.
The basic components to a good pesto is any combination of herbs, hard cheese, nuts, and olive oil. Dried fruit in combination with nuts and olive oil is another variation. Just combine all the ingredients in a food processor until you get a rich consistency that's spreadable and delicious.
Pesto stores up to a week in the refrigerator, or can be frozen for later use. When freezing, fill an ice cube tray with prepared pesto and freeze for easy measuring. If your pressed for time, don't forget that a variety of pestos are also available in grocery stores.
One of my favorite, and basic recipes for using pesto is Sun-Dried Tomato Aioli. It is one that I stumbled upon when trying to dress up a wrap for lunch one day. Its very easy and adds a burst of flavor to any wrap, sandwich, or burger. It can also be made with plain low fat yogurt instead of mayonnaise for a creamy sauce that is Delicious on pasta or your favorite omelet.

Sun-Dried Tomato Aioli

1/2 cups Mayonnaise
1/4 cup Sun-dried Tomato Pesto (Like Bella Sun Luci w/pine nuts)
1/2 teaspoon Garlic Chili Sauce

Stir all ingredients together until well blended. Store in the refrigerator for later use.