Thursday, February 26, 2015

"Grilled Cheese" Salad, Savory Meyer Lemon Whipped Cream, Edible Flowers

A “Grilled Cheese” Salad

Halloumi Cheese, Foraged Garden Herb Salad
Violas, Nasturtium Flowers, Nasturtium Whorls, Meyer Lemon Wheels
Tempeh Croutons, Roasted Sunflower Seeds
Savory Meyer Lemon Whipped Cream

This primavera-is-right-around-the-corner-salad was inspired by a stroll through my garden. All of a sudden it seems that the herbs and flowers are perking up. Meyer lemons are in full swing. Additionally, my friends over at Food Network are featuring “Grilled Cheese” this week. I wanted my contribution to be a low-carb version of grilled cheese – queue up Halloumi – a semi-hard, brined goat/sheep milk cheese originally from the island of Cyprus, with a high melting point that makes it perfect for grilling.

The salad is meant to be nibbled, shared, perhaps as an appetizer. Take a bite of cheese with a bit of herb, or flower petal, crouton, or greens with a delicate swipe through the savory Meyer lemon whipped cream. It’s quite delightful. Halloumi is often garnished with mint, so be sure to try that flavor combination.

Years ago, I made a Meyer lemon cream dressing adapted from Chef Suzanne Goin. Here, I turn that dressing into a thicker sauce to serve on the side as a dip rather than as vinaigrette-style.

Grilled Halloumi Cheese Salad, Savory Meyer Lemon Whipped Cream Recipe

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1 comments • Filed in: Meatless

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Silere Merino Lamb Loin Fillets Mustard Seed Sauce, Cannellini Beans Pickled Fennel, Carrot, Parsnip Cilantro, Mint, Borage

Silere Merino Lamb Loin Fillets
Mustard Seed Sauce, Cannellini Beans
Pickled Fennel, Carrot, Parsnip
Cilantro, Mint, Borage

Are you up for an adventure? Come with me on a virtual culinary trip to New Zealand. Our voyage of discovery takes us to the South Island where we climb high up in the Southern Alps. As we explore an area rich in flora, covered with tussock grasses and wild herbs and flowers, we navigate the pristine silence of nature in rarefied air and brilliant sunshine. We breathe in nature’s sweet fresh bouquet.

Notice the snow-capped peaks that feed the clear alpine streams. Take note of the fauna too. Exquisite Merino sheep, historically treasured for their fine soft wool, are nibbling on those herbs and lapping up that pure water. This is an ancient breed, originally from central Spain, whose fleece has been prized for centuries and is made into the finest luxury clothing.

In recent years, particular strains of Merino sheep have been bred for their meat and are recognized as the finest breed for eating. Breed (Merino) plus Appellation (Southern Alps) equals 5 star blue-ribbon meat suitable for the world’s top restaurants. And now, us! Merino lamb just became available to the U.S. market, courtesy of the fine folks at Marx Foods here. “Good on ya, mates!” And “chur” for the free lamb samples.

Unlike cattle, lamb meat has not been designated by breed. Chefs and diners alike know the difference between Angus beef and Wagyu beef. But lamb, up until now – has been marketed by appellation – such as Colorado or New Zealand, regardless of the breed. Like wine, though appellation is important, it does not tell the whole story. That fine glass of Burgundy you sip, reflects the terrior where the grapes were grown, yes. But are you enjoying Chardonnay or Pinot Noir? Very different, indeed.

Readily distinguishable from their lowland cousins who chew on grass and lollygag around the flat plains, Merino sheep are hearty. Their healthy athleticism makes them well suited to forage for their tasty meals in the steep mountain ranges where this highland lifestyle produces a meat that is naturally leaner and less gamy, in fact, barely gamy at all. Their slower rate of maturation results in a more nuanced and refined flavor of meat.

My friend, you must be starving after our long hike in the Alps. Do come back to the lodge with me, and I will prepare Silere Merino Lamb Loin Fillets for dinner – a dish designed to showcase the elegance of the meat.

The fillets are not coated nor crusted. They are simply rubbed with olive oil and seasoned with Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper, then seared in a hot pan. This way, you can focus your attention on its rich delicate savoriness. To accompany the meat, I pair it with a range of flavors, spices, and textures that are well-known to complement lamb dishes over the globe.

Merino Lamb Loin Recipe

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Thursday, February 19, 2015

Pasta Made of Black Beans Only - Gluten-Free, Lower-Carb

Black Bean Spaghetti
with
Butternut Squash, Mushrooms, Kale, Cabbage
Parmesan and Chives
in a
Savory Garlic Sauce

This spaghetti is made from 92% black beans and 8% water and has 25 grams of protein and 12 grams of fiber in every serving. I discovered it at my local Whole Foods Market in 2013 and have been a fan ever since.

The flavor is definitely reminiscent of beans, and the tooth is chewy in a pleasant way. It turns out that this gluten-free pasta substitute is actually good. Really good. I love the creamy black color, al dente texture, mild sweet bean-y flavor, and earthy aroma. Generally, dried pastas have 5 to 7 grams of protein and 2 to 3 grams of fiber per serving, so, not only is this black bean spaghetti quite tasty, it is more nutritious as well. Where beans replace flour, it is naturally lower in carbohydrates, with 17 grams of carbs per serving.

I pair this black pasta with bright colorful vegetables – butternut squash, mushrooms, kale, and cabbage – and a super savory garlic sauce. Finished with freshly grated parmesan and a sprinkling of chives – this dish has broad appeal – even if one is not looking for a gluten-free and low-carb pasta substitute.

 Black Bean Spaghetti Recipe

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11 comments • Filed in: Meatless

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Chocolate Mint Parfaits with Chocolate Hearts

Chocolate Mint Parfaits with Chocolate Hearts

With just five ingredients, a few minutes, and some cute little serving glasses – you can prepare a delighful dessert that is elegant enough for fancy entertaining, yet humble enough for family dinner. A classic flavor combination of chocolate and mint, a striking color combination of chocolate brown and pale green, plus an artsy chocolate heart make this an enchanting sweet treat.

And since chocolate mint parfaits are perfect any time of year, you can serve them for almost any holiday. Just adorn them with the corresponding chocolate shape. On Valentine’s Day make chocolate hearts, on Saint Patrick’s Day make chocolate shamrocks. You get the idea – stars, crosses, pumpkins, baby showers, wedding showers, graduation…

Chocolate Mint Parfaits Recipe

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7 comments • Filed in: Entertaining

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Edamame Spaghetti with Kale Cilantro Pesto, Carrot, Coconut, Ginger

Edamame Spaghetti with Kale Cilantro Pesto
Carrot Ribbons, Toasted Coconut, Fried Ginger

Compare this Edamame Spaghetti to common pasta and you will be amazed. Generally, dried pastas have 5 to 7 grams of protein and 2 to 3 grams of fiber per serving. This spaghetti – made exclusively of organic edamame (green soybeans) and water – has 24 grams of protein and 11 grams of fiber per serving.

The nutritional facts are hard to believe, until one realizes that this spaghetti really isn’t pasta at all, but soybeans masquerading as noodles. And as it turns out, beans make a super substitute for flour to make those noodles. Edamame spaghetti’s taste and aromas are mild and pleasantly vegetal in nature, and the tooth is delightfully chewy. Love the natural green color, too.

Edamame Spaghetti with Kale Cilantro Pesto, Carrot, Coconut, Ginger

I dress the noodles with kale cilantro pesto – the kale and almonds in the pesto adding their fair share of nutrients. Inspired by edamame and its Asian roots – I add toasted coconut for a little crunch and its toasty exotic flavor and a few shards of one of my favorite garnishes – fried ginger – which brings an unexpected zing to the dish. Raw carrot ribbons add color, texture, and more nutrients. This is definitely a feel-good pasta dish – one that is organic, naturally lower in carbs, and gluten-free to boot. Win.Win.Win.

Edamame Spaghetti with Kale Cilantro Pesto Recipe

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2 comments • Filed in: Meatless