Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Cantaloupe and Black Pepper Sorbet and Ciao (for a bit)!

I hate to be that blogger that constantly apologizes for falling behind on posting. But....I'm sorry.

I admit that I've been really lax about posting for a few weeks...I'm further ashamed to divulge that it will be another few weeks before I'm back in the saddle, as it were.

Work has been, how shall I say this? Demanding. I have a horrible cold. I was out of town at a wedding. Etc. Etc. Etc. I could talk (type?) your ear off all day, but I'd still have to apologize. So I'm sorry, dear reader, I vow to get better.

However, not until mid- August.

Why will it be that long, you ask? Well, I'm about to go on a long awaited, much hyped, and hopefully fabulous, vacation. My best friends and I are going on a cruise around the Mediterranean, starting this Friday and lasting until August 9. During that time, I will devouring all of the delicious food I can find, drinking all the wine I see, and taking plenty of notes about everything to share with you all. However, the one thing I won't be doing, is blogging.

So for now, please accept my apology, enjoy the recipe, and get excited about the stories to come!

Cantaloupe and Black Pepper Sorbet


--5 cups cantaloupe chunks
--1/2 cup sugar
--1/2 cup water
--pinch salt
--1 tablespoon freshly ground pepper
--2 tablespoons vodka


1) bring sugar, water, and salt to a boil. Then, simmer, stirring often until sugar is completely dissolved. Take off the heat and allow to cool slightly.

2) In your blender, combine cantaloupe chunks, sugar syrup, salt, pepper, and vodka and blend until smooth. For best results, refrigerate this mix for at least an hour.

3) freeze according to ice cream maker instructions


Yes, black pepper and cantaloupe are delicious together, I promise. My family has always put pepper on cantaloupe (and salt on watermelon), and relished in the contrasting flavor. This sorbet takes this idea a bit further...and, man, oh, man, is it delicious. Sweet and smooth, with a subtle kick. Please don't be turned off by the idea of pepper in your dessert -- it really is good. :)

Oh, and the vodka? Keeps the sorbet from freezing too hard. Don't worry, it's not going to get you (or your kids or neighbors) inebriated!

And, the main part of that meal: Cockles with garlic and parsley, over whole wheat pasta.

And, on the side, sauteed squash and a glass of Prosecco with a raspberry. (Oh, yes, and a citronella candle -- we were eating outside, after all!)

On that note, I bid you farewell for a few weeks -- but, never fear, gentle reader, I'll be back soon enough, with lots of inspiration and plenty of tales to tell. Ciao!

Saturday, July 14, 2007


Have I mentioned how much I love the combination of mint, cilantro, and basil? Put those three herbs together and mix them up with almost any savory dish and I'll come sit at your table.

I buy mint, cilantro, and basil every week at the farmer's market and use them in summer salads, in any asian style soup, in tuna salad, chicken salad, in larb, in sorbet (no, really), and in a multitude of other dishes. Like I said, I adore the combination -- it is heady with fragrance, complexly nuanced, and fresh beyond belief.

Last night, D and M were coming home late from the airport, and I promised to have something yummy on the table when they got in. Because it was the end of the week, and the larder was on the empty side, I did not have much to work with. However, I did have the magical mix of herbs, a slab of marinated tofu, and a bag of chili flavored noodles.

Necessity being the mother of invention as it is, and those being the ingredients that I had on hand, this dish was created. It turned out to be a distant cousin to one of my favorite dishes, larb. D, M, and I all enjoyed it -- give it a try, it is another one of those fast, simple, healthy meals that you can get on the table in just about 30 minutes (and holds really well, you can serve it warm or at room temperature, or even cold).

Tofu Noodle Wraps


--3 or 4 purple cabbage leaves per person, separated from the head and cleaned

-- 1 lb pasta (either soba noodles, udon noodles, or thin spaghetti noodles -- mine happened to be chili flavored spaghetti)

--1/2 cup total of liquid (your choice on the ratio, but I include: sesame oil, soy sauce, a bit of fish sauce, lucky boy soy paste, rice wine vinegar, and rooster sauce)
--2 cloves garlic, diced
--1 inch fresh ginger, dished
-- 1 8 oz package of baked tofu, sliced into matchsticks
--4 green onions, sliced into 1/2 inch pieces
--1 cup sliced mushrooms
--1 cup diced herbs (basil, mint, and cilantro)


1) put a large pot of water on to boil, and, when boiling, add your pasta. Cook until al dente and then drain.

2) meanwhile, heat the liquid mixture in a large wok until bubbling. Add the garlic and ginger and cook, stirring, for about a minute.

3) add the tofu, onions, and mushroom, and cook, stirring regularly until mushrooms are done and tofu is heated through -- about 10 minutes. Then turn the heat off.

4) add the herbs and the drained noodles to the tofu mixture and stir until everything is incorporated and the noodles are slicked with sauce. Taste and adjust seasoning (at this point I added more rooster sauce)

To Serve:

Pile the noodle mixture onto a large plate, next to the plate of cabbage leaves. Let each person fill their own leaf to make their own wrap(s).

Just before the first bite. Yum!

In other (culinary) news, check out some of the first tomatoes from my tomato plants!

And, look at the delicious cupcakes I made for a 4th of July party -- they are the cupcake version of this cake. They were phenomenal, if I do say so myself, and were devoured in minutes after I brought them out. :)

Friday, July 13, 2007

Sucky Day Salad

Sometimes, you just have a sucky day. Or maybe you don't. Maybe it's just sometimes *I* have a sucky day. I doubt it though -- like death, taxes, and Paris Hilton, bad days are here to stay.

When I get home from an especially awful day (which for me usually includes: getting up early, horrible traffic, demanding clients, difficult bosses, and a late night) I need something easy for dinner. But more than that, I need something easy and good. No soup from a can or heated up pasta will do. I need something that will make me feel healthy, fill me up, and won't take me more than 15 minutes to prepare.

Enter, Sucky Day Salad.

There are a thousand variations on Sucky Day salad. The basic formula is this:

Your favorite salad greens (I like spring mix, spinach, and arugula) + assorted fresh veggies (I usually add tomatoes, mushrooms, and carrots) + protein source (for me, generally grilled chicken, tuna, tofu, or beans) + something a bit exotic (artichoke hearts, high quality olives, roasted peppers, etc.) + salad dressing of choice (usually a vinaigrette of some kind).

Simple? yes. But also, healthy, tasty, easy, and brightly colored. Certain to improve any sucky day.

My most recent example:

Mixed greens, mushrooms, grape tomatoes, cold, cooked lentils, roasted red and yellow peppers, and basil vinaigrette.

All of the ingredients live permanently in my pantry and refrigerator, and the entire thing takes less than 15 minutes to put together. Goodbye sucky day, indeed.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Chimichurri 2.0

Earlier this month, I was out to dinner with some friends from work. We were tired, hungry, and, for some unknown reason, talking about baseball. One of my cohorts, as they perused the menu, asked the table what chimichurri sauce was...happy that the conversation had moved from the Red Sox (of which I know nothing) and on to food (of which I know many things), I piped up with an explanation of the Argentinean sauce and its uses. In case you, lovely reader, are unsure, chimichurri sauce is usually made from chopped parsley, oregano, garlic, salt, pepper, onion, and paprika. The herb mix is moistened with olive oil and a bit of vinegar, and the loose sauce is most often used to top steaks or as a dipping sauce for bread.

I had this delicious mixture on my mind as I set about making dinner a few nights ago. I had some beautiful fresh, yellow wax beans, some adorable tiny potatoes, and a hunk of never frozen halibut. The yellow beans were on the receiving end of a hot bath in boiling salt water, and the potatoes were tossed with olive oil, salt, pepper, and paprika and left to roast in the oven, while the halibut was sprayed with lemon juice and then dusted in salt and pepper before going on the grill. This meal was easy, healthy,.... and honestly, a bit boring. I needed something to liven up the lean fish, and provide a contrast to the simple beans and potatoes.
I came up with this sauce, a first cousin of chimichurri, as a solution. It is so simple, I'm almost embarrassed to share the recipe with you, but its bright herby flavor was the perfect addition to our plates. I imagine that it would be delicious with anything grilled, from fish to chicken, and would also be wonderful as a baked potato topping or as a sauce to pour over sweet corn. Experiment -- and let me know of any other uses you find for it.
Herb Sauce (Chimichurri style)
--1/4 cup fresh basil, chiffonaded (I use thai purple basil)
--1/4 cup fresh cilantro, stems removed
--1/4 cup fresh mint, chiffonaded
--1 clove garlic, mashed into a paste with a pinch of salt
--salt and freshly ground pepper
--2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar (or lemon juice)
--1 tablespoons olive oil (or more to taste)
1) grind all ingredients together with mortar and pestle until a loose paste is formed. Conversely, pulse all ingredients together in a mixer until a loose paste is formed. Add more oil or vinegar to correct consistency, if needed. The smell in your kitchen at this point will be fantastic, I promise. :)
To serve:
Spread thickly over the piece of grilled meat, vegetable, or bread. Eat. Sigh. Eat more.
Notes: These pictures are kind of awful. I apologize. The yellow beans look oddly like french fries and all of the colors seem muted. I assure you, this dinner tasted 100 times better than the pictures indicate. As my friend J informed me, perhaps I need to work on presentation...

The avocado dilemma

One avocado. Three people. Do you see the dilemma I was in? I felt like King Solomon -- should I cut the avocado into pieces or leave it whole? Would the avocado (and us) be better served by being sliced into tiny bits or by giving it to one person to enjoy? Did I mention that it was a small avocado to begin with?

Unlike King Solomon, I chose to cut up the baby. Erm, I mean avocado. Cut up the avocado, and then pulverize it. Because it seemed fairer...not that King Solomon had that choice -- pureed baby wouldn't have solved any problems.

Good God, what am I talking about? Forget it, I can't stretch this analogy any further, I've become (more) offensive (than usual).

Bottom line is, I chose to make avocado vinaigrette with our one sad, little avocado instead of slicing it up and giving us each a miserly portion.

Phew, are you still reading? Did I manage to not scare you away with all my talk of babies and pulverizing? Awesome. On to the recipe.

Avocado Vinaigrette


--1 avocado, flesh scooped out

--2 tablespoons grapefruit vinegar (I buy mine at Trader Joes)

--1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar

--1 tablespoon hot sauce (I use the green Tabasco)

--salt and pepper to taste


1) mash all ingredients together in a bowl. Add more vinegar or water until the mixture has a loose dressing type of consistency. (Do recipes get any easier than this?)

To serve:

Use as salad dressing or as sauce to pour over fish. I made a simple heirloom tomato salad -- just roughly chopped tomatoes, diced green onions, and a sprinkle of purple basil -- and served the avocado vinaigrette on the side. It was delicious -- and though it only contained one avocado, we each managed to satisfy our jones for the rich veggie.

Another pic of the tomato salad.

The rest of the meal -- seared tuna over mixed greens and couscous/red quinoa/baby garbanzo bean mix (from, where else? Trader Joes)