Sunday, July 31, 2011

Chicken Fajita Spice Mix

Love fajitas for their versatility.
Love fajitas for their one-pan clean up.
Love fajitas for their non-carb-heavy satisfaction.
Love fajitas for their speed from fridge to mouth.
Love fajitas for their quick-in-the-pan and don't-heat-up-the-kitchen in summer.
Love fajitas period.

Fajitas have been my go-to meal after a long day for ages. It's been so long that I'm thinking of (finally) changing it up a bit. Before that happens, I'd just like to share the homemade spice mix, which saves a few pennies and ensures that you can always make fajitas on a whim, rather than crossing your fingers that whatever little grocery shop on the way home will have a packet in stock.

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Saturday, July 30, 2011

Puff Pastry Strawberry Napoleons

I swear I eat more fruit than just strawberries.

In fact, there's a heap of freshly picked apricots on the table since morning. Yet somehow this will be the third strawberry post up this summer. First there was the elegant strawberry glasses with ricotta cream, then the splitting-at-the-seams strawberry pavlova with mint syrup.

Now up to bat is the classic brunch - Strawberry Napoleons - made easier with puff pastry.

I snapped a scant few pictures before gobbling them up, but I figure one picture is enough to toss up a quick recipe post. Really, though, I just wanted to share the fantastic ricotta cream one more time, because it is seriously that good. Same flavours as before, but much heartier, what with three layers of flaky dough. Think of this as the sturdy-legged cousin to that waify strawberry-purée-in-a-glass dish. Both are immensely satisfying, but in a night vs day kinda way.

And I promise, something besides strawberries will be coming soon!

Continue to the Recipe...

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

I Met Him in a Cherry Tree...Part 2 (& Strawberry Pavlova Recipe)

Continued from Part I

...I gasped. He was cuuuute!  

 I wanted nothing more than to fold him up and stick him in my pocket. Unfortunately, some fruit needed picking, so it was back to work for the moment. 

Ensuing days found me constantly in his path - quite literally. I did everything in my power to end up picking cherries in the same row, so that one day I could 'casually' wander over (carrying my 6-plus-foot ladder under my arm, mind you) and holler up to him - 

'So do you want to hang out some time?' 

(Embarrassingly unclever, I do realize, but in my silly-girl-nervousness state, that's all I could muster up, despite days of planning this very moment.)

He says: Uhhh, what does it mean, 'hang out?' 

Fuck. Phrasal verbs. Really? He doesn't know 'hang out'? What did they teach in English class in the Czech Republic? Well, certainly not phrasal verbs, I thought.

Once we got that all sorted out, and he vigorously agreed to 'hang out' with me that evening (his head-bobbing nearly threw him off his ladder), I 'casually' walked away. After a few steps: 'Josie!'

My heart briefly considered skipping a beat, but no use, as it was not my beloved - rather the voice of the orchard boss. 'Josie - this way!' he yelled.

I had 'casually' walked the wrong way down the cherry row. This did not exactly go unnoticed by the above-mentioned beloved, especially while turning around, what with that six-plus-foot ladder pinched under my arm.

Returning to my camp site, I furiously prepped for that 'nonchalant american cool' I so eagerly wanted to convey. He still jokes about the orange clown shoes (his words),which were actually authentic Berber loafers picked up in Morocco (my words), in which I arrived.

The impromptu date involved a dictionary, pen and paper, and wildly gregarious hand-gestures. We were in a small town with little else to do but to draw maps of our hometowns and teach one another the dearest and the nastiest of all phrases in our language. 

Within the year, we left New Zealand, and I moved to his county ('My Republic' he called it), and I have been teaching boat-loads of phrasal verbs ever since.

New Zealand = Aotearoa = land of the long white cloud = pavlova = damn fine dessert.


What a funny name for a dessert. My Czech friends were a bit suspicious...hmmm, sounds Russian, they said. Well, I had to dig into the lore a bit, since when I was in New Zealand it was drummed into my head that the Pavlova is as New Zealand as can be. Then I start seeing it pop up on all sorts of Australian blogs as a -what?- classic Aussie invented dessert?! The internet tells me that it was named after a Russian ballerina, but by a Aussie or a Kiwi chef in the early 1900s is the big debate

I really didn't want this dessert to be too sweet, so my recipe here uses limited sugar for the strawberries and cream. Basically, it's just enough to do the job extracting the strawberry juice and flavouring the whipping  cream. But the sweetness should really be understated to let those fluffy meringue layers shine

The meringue itself has the added kick of a bit of allspice. It really marries well with the basil syrup. For a more traditional pairing, the basil could easily be replaced with mint, and the allspice with a some lemon zest. But I like the offbeat allspice/basil zing. It provides a little earthiness to an otherwise sugar-spun and  fairy-light mouthfeel.

It was my first meringue attempt, and I spent the morning pouring over two of my fave cookbooks (in terms of explanations and techniques) - Cook with Jamie and French Lessons. 

Both these books are excellent sources on dessert techniques, among other things. I'm not sure the confidence would have been flowing as much as it was without them. I must say, making meringues was really fun in a science-experimenty kind of way! 

Note that this cake does not keep well for the next day. Share generously and that won't be a problem anyways! It's great made the morning of some get together, keep the meringues on the counter and the berries, syrup, and cream in the fridge. Assemble just before people arrive.

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Friday, July 15, 2011

Peach & Brie 'Quesadillas'

Oh this big 'ol basil plant of mine, what more can I do with you? Pesto, caprese, pasta - oh so passé.

This summer has seen a number of novel uses of basil pop up in my kitchen. I'm working on a dessert post featuring a basil syrup, but until I manage to finish that, here we have a quick post-work snack. Or brekkie when I've got 15 minutes to spare.
Basil. Peaches. Brie Cheese. Tortilla. Delish.

What's more, is it's just one more justification for that electric grill machine hanging out on the counter. And for quesadillas you don't even need to coat the grill with oil. Which means if you were strategic enough in your cheese placement and it doesn't ooze out, no cleaning the thing afterwords!

And since this month's Monthly Mingle theme is stone fruit, I'll send this post over to Sips and Spoonfuls. Looking forward to checking out all those fruity recipes soon!

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Sunday, July 10, 2011

Spinach,Tomato, and Goat Cheese Salad

The summer seems to have finally caught up with food bloggers. I feel soothed to see that I am not alone in starting a post with 'Well, it's been awhile...' So, yes, it has been awhile indeed.

I can't remember the last time I turned the oven on. Instead, kitchen appliances have taken root on my countertops - blenders and grill machines earn their keep in these months. And the cutting board is always in the 'ready' position for those salad fixings to be sliced up.

This salad is a no-brainer really. Spinach and tomatoes, with a bit of basil, goat cheese, and lemon dressing. Yet, I've been eating enough of it lately to feel that it deserves a post, and a picture. So here we are.

Like my comrades wielding their cameras over their dinner plates, I really hope to get some more posts up soon. I've got plans, sure, but it is summer after all, and my darling puppy Saffi keeps begging me to take her on excursions and take super cute pictures of her. Who could say no to this face?

And she has this super-dog ability to find, and gracefully run with, the biggest stick in any region. Shiba Inus are so much fun!

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