Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Tamarillo and Canary Melon Salad with Honey Mint Yogurt Dressing










     Summer Salad!
     This salad features two great fruits that many cooks are not familiar with.  Canary Melon has a bright yellow rind and the fruit flesh is a pale whitish yellow.  The flavor of Canary Melon is lighter than Honeydew, so it is perfect for summer.  Canary Melons are about the size of an American football, so each can provide 2 to 3 portions.
     Tamarillo is native to South America.  Tamarillo grows in high elevations of the rain forest from Colombia to Peru and Chile.  Tamarillo is in the Nightshade family of plants.  Tamarillo is also called "Tree Tomato" because it looks like a tomato when it is cut open.
     The Tamarillo skin is not eaten.  The fruit and seedy pulp is scooped out of the skin.  The seeds are palatable and they sometimes have a slight crunch.
     Just like the South American fruit Naranjilla, Tamarillo has a bitter flavor.  The flavor tastes like a combination of passion fruit and pomegranate with a lemony bitter alkaline finish.
     Many chefs simply offset the bitter flavor of Tamarillo with a generous amount of granulated sugar.  This may sweeten the fruit, but a copious amount of sugar does not appeal to health conscious consumers.  A natural sweetener, like honey, is a better choice.
     Slightly sweetening Tamarillo Fruit with honey will still leave the bitter alkaline aftertaste to conquer.  The enzymes in goat milk yogurt (Greek Yogurt) help to stabilize the alkaline flavor, especially when the yogurt is mixed with honey and mint.  Many Mediterranean chefs use Honey Mint Yogurt as an accompanying sauce for fruit, because this sauce can make just about any kind of bitter fruit taste good.  All I can say is that the combination of Tamarillo and Honey Mint Yogurt creates a flavor that is intriguing!

     Honey Mint Yogurt Dressing:
     This recipe yields 1 portion.  (About 1/2 cup)  
     Step 1:  Place 1/3 cup of goat milk yogurt (Greek yogurt) in a small mixing bowl.
     Add 1 tablespoon of honey.
     Add 1 teaspoon of finely minced mint leaves.
     Add 1 pinch of sea salt and white pepper.
     Stir the ingredients together.
     Step 2:  Add 1 teaspoon of water at a time while stirring, till the dressing is a medium thin consistency that can coat a spoon.  (About 1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons should be enough.)
     Chill the dressing aside for 20 minutes, so the flavors meld.

     Tamarillo Preparation:
     Step 1:  Cut 2 Tamarillos in half.
     Step 2:  Trim the bottom end of one of the Tamarillo halves flat, so it will sit evenly when used as a garnish.
     Set the thick Tamarillo garnish aside.
     Step 3:  Scoop the pulp and fruit out of the remaining 3 tamarillo halves.
     Place the Tamarillo pulp on a cutting board.
     Chop the Tamarillo fruit into small pieces.
     Scrape the fruit and juice off of the cutting board and place it in a small bowl.
     Chill the chopped Tamarillo till it is needed.

     Canary Melon Preparation: 
     Step 1:  Cut an average size canary melon in half lengthwise.  (Save one half of the melon for another recipe.)
     Scoop the pulp and seeds out of the half melon and discard them.
     Cut the thin rind off of the canary melon half.
     Step 2:  Cut the melon half across the middle into 2 melon quarters.
     Cut the 2 canary melon quarters lengthwise into thin slices.
     Chill the canary melon slices till they are needed.

     Tamarillo and Canary Melon Salad with Honey Mint Yogurt Dressing: 
     This recipe yields 1 large salad portion.
     Step 1:  Mound 3 cups of mixed baby lettuce on the center of a plate.
     Step 2:  Cut 2 paper thin slices of White Onion and separate the slices into rings.
     Sprinkle the onion over the lettuce.
     Sprinkle a few paper thin slices of carrot over the salad for color.
     Step 3:  Arrange the canary melon slices on the salad greens, so they point outward from center.
     Step 4:  Pour about 1/4 cup of the Honey Mint Yogurt Dressing over the salad.
     Spoon the chopped Tamarillo fruit and juices over the salad.
     Drizzle about 1/4 cup of the remaining Honey Mint Yogurt dressing over the Tamarillo.
     Place the reserved tamarillo half garnish on top of the salad.

     A simple, pretty and refreshing tasting naturally bitter sweet summer salad!

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Seville Orange Stewed Pheasant Legs







     A Light Wild Game Bird Stew!
     Many people cannot believe that stew could be a nice light summer meal.  This is because stew has a reputation of being rich, thick and heavy on the tummy.  In tropical regions around the globe stew is served even on the hottest of days, because stew quickly replenishes the body with nutrients that are lost in extreme environmental conditions.
     Tropical stews and Mediterranean summer stews are usually not thickened.  Many tropical summer stews are flavored with acidic fruits that also help to tenderize the meat.  Such is the case with today's Colombian style Bitter Orange Pheasant Leg Stew.    
     Bitter fruits like Naranjilla (Lulo), Tamarillo, Lime or Seville Orange (Bitter Orange) will tenderize tough meat.  Pheasant legs are notoriously tough, because pheasant spend most of their time on their feet.  When stewed with bitter fruit, even pheasant legs turn out tender.
     Bitter fruits also add a very light refreshing flavor to a stew.  The vitamins from a bitter fruit, like Seville Orange, help the body to revitalize after a long day in the sun.  
     Chile Peppers are nearly always used to flavor tropical stews.  Hot Chile Peppers cause light perspiration, which creates a cooling effect.  Endorphins are also released when hot chile peppers are eaten.  The amount of hot chile peppers that are added to a stew is a matter of personal taste, but most guests prefer a comfortably spicy flavor.

     Seville Orange Stewed Pheasant Legs: 
     This recipe yields 1 hearty entrée.
     Because pheasant breast is a high demand item in fine dining restaurants, the legs sell for a very low price! 
     There are 2 ways to prepare this stew.  The pheasant legs can served whole, like in the photos above.  Serving stewed whole pheasant legs creates a classic rustic presentation.   Pheasant legs have many thick hard tendons, so you must warn the guests to be careful.
     The second method involves removing the pheasant legs from the stew when they are tender.  After the legs cool, the meat can be pulled off of the bones and tendons.  The boneless pheasant leg meat can be returned to the stew.    
     *About twenty minutes before the stew finishes simmering, cook 1 portion of plain brown rice.
     Step 1:  Trim some of the excess fat off of 2 pheasant legs.  (Save the fat for making pheasant leg confit!)
     Place the 2 pheasant legs in a small container.
     Add 1 cup of bitter orange juice.
     Add 1 cup of dry white wine.
     Add just enough water to cover the pheasant legs.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of black peppercorns.
     Add 2 pinches of Kosher Salt.
     Marinate the pheasant legs in a refrigerator for 4 hours.
     Step 2:  Remove the pheasant legs from the marinade and set them aside.
     Pour the marinade through a strainer and set the marinade aside.
     Step 3:  Place 4 cloves of crushed garlic in a wide sauce pot.
     Add 1/2 cup of chopped onion.
     Add 1/2 cup of chopped green bell pepper.
     Add 1/2 cup of large diced carrot.
     Add 1/3 cup of diced celery.
     Add 1/3 cup of chopped tomato.
     Step 4:  Add the 2 marinated pheasant legs.
     Add the reserved strained marinade.
     Add enough water to cover the ingredients with 1" of extra liquid.
     Step 5:  Place the sauce pot over medium high heat.
     Bring the stew to a boil.
     Step 6:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Add 1 bay leaf.
     Add 2 pinches of thyme.
     Add 1 pinch of marjoram.
     Add 1 pinch of tarragon.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of Spanish Paprika.
     Add 2 pinches of cumin.
     Add 2 pinches of coriander.
     Add sea salt and black pepper to taste.
     Step 7:  Add 2 to 4 dried whole Chile Pequin.  (To taste.)
     *Chile Pequin are very tiny and they are very spicy hot.  Chile pequin are also called Bird Peppers.
     Step 8:  Gently simmer till the pheasant legs are tender.  Add water as necessary to keep the pheasant legs covered.
     Step 9:  Raise the temperature to medium/medium low heat.
     Rapidly simmer and reduce till the stewing sauce is a medium thin consistency that easily clings to the pheasant legs.
     *There should be less sauce than pheasant and vegetables in the pot when the stew is finished.
     Step 10:  Reduce the temperature to very low heat.
     Skim any grease off of the top of the stew.
     Remove the bay leaf.

     Presentation:
     Place a ring of steamed plain brown rice around the border of a plate.
     Place the pheasant leg stew in the middle of the rice ring.
     Garnish with an Italian Parsley sprig.

     This healthy wild game bird stew is refreshing to eat on a hot summer day!

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Tequila Cilantro Shrimp and Nopales Salad







     A Healthy Southwestern Style Salad!
     Taco Salads are a Tex-Mex creation that became popular nationwide back in the 1980's.  Basically, this salad combined lettuce, ground taco meat and taco garnishes in a crispy tortilla bowl.
     Fried or toasted tortilla bowls are perfect for jazzing up just about any kind of Southwestern style salad.  Tortilla bowls add crunch to a salad and they create a nice visual effect.
     A large tortilla does not necessarily have to be shaped like a bowl for a salad.  The tortilla shape can be customized to best suit the salad.  For example, he crisp tortilla shell in the photographs was shaped like a backstop, so the salad ingredients could cascade onto the plate.
     Nopales are cactus paddles.  Nopales can be harvested from a wide variety of paddle cactus and Prickly Pear Cactus Paddles are the most popular.  The spines have trimmed off of the cactus paddle with a filet knife and the bare cactus paddle is usually cut into thin strips.  Nopales have a neutral green vegetable flavor that tastes rather bland.  Nopales are usually blanched, then marinated or pickled.  The mucilaginous juice from fresh Nopales will help to thicken a light sauce.  Just like prickly pear cactus fruit, Nopales offer good nutritional value and health benefits.

     Toasted Tortilla Shell:
     This recipe describes making 1 tortillas shell for a salad.  
     A thin corn tortilla or flour tortilla can be used to make a toasted shell.  Large flour tortillas are easier to find at grocery stores.
     A tortilla shell does not have to be deep fried.  It can be draped over a ring mold or empty can and baked till it is toasted crisp.  
     Step 1:  Lightly brush a large flour tortilla (12") with blended olive oil.
     Place a tall steel ring mold or empty tin can that is placed on a baking pan.  The can should be about 4" to 5" tall.
     Drape the tortilla over the can, so it forms a backstop shape that resembles a chair seat.
     Step 2:  Bake the tortilla in a 350ºF oven till it is lightly toasted and crisp.
     Lightly season the toasted shaped tortilla with sea salt and set it aside.

     Fresh Nopales Preparation:
     About 3/4 cup of fresh Nopales strips are needed for the salad recipe.
     Trimmed prickly pear cactus paddle strips are called Nopales in Mexico.  Canned Nopales can be used for this recipe, but I chose to prepare fresh prickly pear cactus paddles.
     • When trimming cactus paddles, wear a thick heavy gauge rubber kitchen glove to protect the hands from the small cactus spines.  
     • A sharp curved boning knife is best for trimming the spines off of a cactus paddle.  
     Step 1:  Make a shallow escallop cut under each group of cactus spines with a curved knife blade to remove the cactus spines.  Try to retain as much of the cactus skin as possible by only removing the skin from under the spines.
     Step 2:  Slice the cleaned prickly pear cactus paddle into thin 1/4" wide strips and set them aside.  
    
     Salad Plate Set-Up:
     This recipe yields 1 salad set-up preparation.
     Step 1:  Place a bed of whole baby romaine leaves on a plate.
     Set the tortilla shell on top of the bed of romaine leaves, so the back of the shell stands upright.
     Fill the tortilla shell with 1 1/2 cups of chopped romaine.
    Garnish the romaine leaves on the plate with 4 slices of tomato.
     Step 2:  Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of toasted pepitas (toasted calabaza seeds) over the salad.
     Sprinkle 3 tablespoons of rinsed pre-cooked pinto beans (or canned pinto beans) over the salad.
     Place 4 or 5 thin avocado slices on the salad.
     Step 3:  Sprinkle a little bit of julienne carrot strips over the salad for color.
    Place a few thin roasted peeled pimiento strips on the salad for color.
     Set the salad set-up plate aside while the Tequila Cilantro Shrimp and Nopales are prepared.

     Tequila Cilantro Shrimp and Nopales:
     This recipe yields enough for 1 salad entrée.
     Step 1:  Heat a sauté pan over medium heat.
     Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil.
     Add 2 cloves of chopped garlic.
     Briefly sauté for a few seconds, till the garlic is aromatic.
     Step 2:  Add 6 large peeled shrimp.  (Remove the tails.)
     Add 3/4 cup of the prepared fresh Nopales strips.
     Add sea salt and black pepper.
     Sauté till the shrimp are halfway cooked.
     Step 3:  Add 1 chopped green onion.
     Add 1 tablespoon of coarsely chopped cilantro leaves.
     Add 1/3 cup of water.
     Add 1/2 cup of tequila.  (Cheap aromatic tequila is best.)  
     Bring the liquid to a gentle boil.
     Step 4:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Gently simmer and reduce till the sauce is a thin consistency.
     *The cactus juice will help to thicken the sauce!
     Step 5:  Remove the pan from the heat.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of lime juice.
     Add 1 tablespoon of virgin olive oil.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of red wine vinegar.
     Toss the ingredients together.
     Step 6:  Place the shrimp on top of the garnished lettuce in the tortilla shell.
     Cascade the nopales over the shrimp.
     Spoon the warm tequila dressing from the pan over the shrimp and salad.
     Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of thin sliced green onion over the salad.

     The tequila flavor is subtle and it combines with the flavor of the Nopales.  This is a nice Southwestern style summer salad!

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Tacos de Pescado y Guacamole








     Fish Tacos!
     Taquerias throughout the Southeast serve authentic Mexican antojitos.  Taquerias offer an extensive list of taco fillings on the menu.  Everything from vegetarian tacos to cabeza tacos can be found on the menu.  Every item is made the old fashioned way.
     At taquerias, a taco is usually made with steamed or grilled small corn tortillas.   The corn tortilla is soft, even if it is grilled.  Serving the taco meat filling on 2 small steamed corn tortillas is traditional.
     Most taquerias offer a complimentary condiment bar that has sauces, escabeche, radishes, jalapeños, limes and cucumber.  Items like guacamole, sour cream and cheese usually cost a little bit extra.  Most tacos are garnished with fresh onions and cilantro.  For a price of less than 99¢, you can get an authentic Mexican taco that tastes exceptionally good just about anywhere in the Southwest!
     Fish Tacos are popular just about everywhere these days.  Fish Tacos are really nothing new.  The Aztec civilization was located by a large lake and they built an extensive canal system.  The first recorded tacos in written history were Aztec Fish Tacos made with fresh caught lake fish.  The Aztecs liked snack food, like tacos, which could be eaten with one hand while standing, so one might say that the Aztecs were the creators of modern Southwestern style fast food.
     At most taco stands, the fish is deep fried or pan seared with no batter or breading.  The fish pieces should be cooked till the skin or meat is a little bit crisp.  Anatto is usually the only spice that flavors fish tacos, besides salt and pepper seasoning.  Sliced avocado or guacamole are the most popular toppings for fish tacos.

     Guacamole:
     This recipe yields about 3/4 cup.  (2 to 3 portions)   
     There are many guacamole recipes to choose from.  Many people think that the addition of sour cream is traditional, but guacamole was made long before cattle were introduced to the Americas.  Today's guacamole recipe requires no sour cream.  It tastes amazingly crisp, fresh and light without sour cream.  No tomato is in this guacamole recipe either.  This is a little bit different version than some of the guacamole recipes that I have posted in the past.
     Step 1:  Place the pulp of 1 peeled seeded ripe avocado in a mixing bowl.  (About 1/2 cup.)
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of lime juice.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of Mexican style hot sauce.
     Step 2:  Add 1 chopped green onion.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of chopped onion.
     Add 1 clove of chopped garlic.
     Add 2 tablespoons of chopped seeded green jalapeño pepper.
     Step 3:  Add 1 tablespoon of chopped fresh cilantro.
     Add 1 pinch of Mexican Oregano.
     Add sea salt and black pepper to taste.
     Step 4:  Mix and mash the ingredients together till the guacamole is a coarse paste consistency.
     Place the guacamole in a container and chill for 30 minutes so the flavors meld.

     Escabeche:
     This recipe yields 2 portions.
     Step 1:  Place 1/3 cup of thin sliced carrot in a  small container.
     Add 1 thin sliced jalapeño pepper.
     Add 1 tablespoon of chopped onion.
     Add 2 pinches of coarsely chopped cilantro leaves.
     Step 2:  Add 2 teaspoons of rice vinegar.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of Kosher Salt.
     Add 1 pinch of black pepper.
     Add just enough water to cover the ingredients.
     Step 3:  Let the mixture marinate for 1 hour.
     Drain off the marinade before serving.

     Cilantro Onion Taco Garnish:
     This recipe yields enough for 4 tacos.  (Only a little bit is needed per taco!) 
     The salt will cause the onions to sweat and create their own light marinade.
     Step 1:  Place 5 paper thin slices of onion in a mixing bowl.
     Add 1 or 2 pinches of coarsely chopped cilantro leaves.
     Add 2 pinches of coarse sea salt.
     Add 1 small pinch of black pepper.
     Step 2:  Toss the ingredients together.
     Let the cilantro onions sit and marinate for 5 minutes.

     Tacos de Pescado y Guacamole:
     This recipe yields 2 small tacos.
     Step 1:  Cut a 5 ounce tilapia filet into small thick strips.
     Place the tilapia pieces in a mixing bowl.
     Add sea salt and black pepper to taste.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of achiote paste (or ground anatto).
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of vegetable oil.
     Toss the ingredients together, till the fish is coated with the orange anatto color.
     Step 2:  Heat a cast iron griddle over medium heat.
     Place 1 1/2 tablespoons of blended olive oil on the griddle.
     Add the prepared tilapia pieces.
     Sear the fish till it is fully cooked on all sides and crispy golden brown highlights appear.
     Step 3:  Quickly warm two small corn tortillas (4" to 5" wide) on the clean part of the griddle for a few seconds.
     Step 4:  Set the tortillas on a plate.
     Place equal amounts of the tilapia on each tortilla.
     Step 5:  Place a little bit of the cilantro onion topping on the fish.
     Mound 2 to 3 tablespoons of the guacamole on each taco.
     Garnish the guacamole with a half of a lime slice.
     Step 6:  Place these accompaniments on the plate:
     - 1 portion of escabeche
     - a 1 1/2 ounce dollop of sour cream
     Garnish the sour cream with a black olive.
     *Serve with hot sauce or salsa verde on the side.

     This is a healthy fish taco platter!