Monday, September 28, 2009

Roasted Heirloom & Smoked Mozzarella Caprese Salad

The Insalata Caprese, an iconic Italian salad. Traditionally, this salad is made with fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, and basil, then seasoned with freshly cracked pepper, salt, and olive oil. The three prominent colors; red, white, and green, are said to signify the colors of the Italian flag. My dear friend, Amanda, brought me the last of this season's harvest of Heirloom Tomatoes from Charleston, SC. These tomatoes are absolutely amazing, both in appearance and flavor! I've decided to use them to their full potential and stray a bit from the traditional Caprese salad.

What is an Heirloom Tomato?
The advent of megaagriculture in America has seen the gradual depletion of ancient varieties of native nonhybrid plants. Unfortunately for those who appreciate full-flavored fruits and vegetables, produce-seed conglomerates focus only on those strains that have mass-market appeal - which means they're beautiful and hardy, but not necessarily the best-tasting. Fortunately, about 25 years ago some dedicated individuals began saving what they could of the remaining open-pollinated (without human intervention) seed varieties, which have become known as "heirloom seeds."
-Food Lover's Companion

Heirloom Tomatoes
Smoked Mozzarella
Olive Oil
Salt & Pepper
Basil Infused Oil

Measurements aren't particularly necessary for this recipe. I sliced all my heirloom tomatoes into about 1/2" wheels, lined them up on a sheet tray, topped with garlic, salt, pepper, and a basil infused olive oil that I'd made earlier. I decided to use some basil infused oil instead of fresh basil because these tomatoes were on the small side and I didn't want them dwarfed by the basil leaves. I set the oven to 400 degrees and roasted the tomatoes for 15 minutes, checking on them every 3 minutes.

If there is an outcry, I'll be happy to do a blog about how to make fresh mozzarella from scratch, but it's a bit of a long process for most people to tackle at home without previous experience. For this recipe, I just bought smoked mozzarella from my local grocer and diced it into cubes roughly as large as I had sliced the tomatoes. When the tomatoes were finished, I began to assemble my salad alternating tomato and mozzarella until I had completed one giant wheel. There were a lot of delicious pan juices in the bottom of my sheet tray, so I poured them into the center of the plate for dipping the cheese into. You never want to waste any flavor!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Fresh Peach Yogurt Soup w/ Pistachios & Candied Mint Leaves

We're nearing the end of summer. On the last Monday before Autumn, I found it only appropriate to prep a perfect summer dessert - peaches. This is a great chilled "soup" for lack of a better term. I really love this dish on the second day when the flavors have had a chance to mingle overnight. What's best about this dish is that it's seasonal, so you're forced to patiently wait for peaches all year. It makes it taste so much better once you can finally get your hands on some fresh peaches. Patience is delicious!


2 lbs. Peaches
3/4 C. White Wine
1/4 C. Honey
1 Tbsp. Lemon Juice
1 Tbsp. Apple Cider Vinegar
1/2 tsp. Cinnamon
1/4 tsp. Nutmeg
1/2 C. Yogurt, Plain
TT Pishtachios
TT Heavy Cream (optional)

First you'll want to pit and coarsely chop your peaches. Do not peel them! Keep the skin on! I like to throw the peaches in a hot saucepan and put a little bit of color on them, but you don't need to. You can simply toss your peach pieces into a pan with wine, honey, lemon juice, and apple cider vinegar. Cover the pot and simmer for 30 minutes. I like to stir it every 10 minutes or so.

When the peaches are soft and the wine mixture has become slightly syrupy and foamy, you'll want to puree everything together. I like to use an immersion blender or stick mixer. Once everything is completely pureed, you'll want to strain your peach mixture. I really put a lot of effort into this step. It took me 20-30 minutes of constant stirring to completely strain my peach puree through a chinois. The amount of straining required is completely up to you.

When your mixture has been strained (or not), add your cinnamon, nutmeg, and yogurt and mix thoroughly. Again, I mix everything with the immersion blender. You can use the same food processor you used to puree if you like. (optional: Heavy cream takes on a slightly nutty flavor when reduced. If you'd like to dilute your peach mixture, you can use a bit of heavy cream added to your yogurt.) When your peach mixture is fully incorporated, set in the fridge to chill for a few hours if you're serving it that night or you can chill it overnight to serve the next day.

For garnish, I like to chop up some pistachios. Pulsing in a food processor works great for this. The green color of the nuts really goes well with the orange from the peach and yogurt puree. To candy your mint leaves, simply spray them with non-stick spray and dredge them through sugar. I also enjoy spooning a bit of heavy cream around the outside of the dish for presentation. A thinly sliced peach also looks pretty cool. I've done a bit of both below for you to see. Enjoy!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Sauteed Chicken w/ Pepper Coulis

I love coulis, pronounced [koo-LEE]. They're very simple, but very delicious. Essentially it's nothing more than a thick puree. Typically when I make this coulis, I use all red peppers; however, I decided to switch it up a bit this time. I used 2 reds, 1 orange, and 1 yellow pepper for more of a light orange color. Especially during the winter, it's nice to have a rich, hearty, thick red sauce, but for these last days of summer I wanted to lighten it up.

Olive Oil
3 C. Bell Peppers (about 4 each), diced
1 C. Onion, diced
1 Tbsp. Garlic, minced
1 C. White Wine
2 C. Chicken Stock
1/2 tsp. White Pepper
1/4 tsp. Salt
Butter (optional)

Heat your oil and saute the garlic and onion until translucent. Next, you want to add your peppers and saute until they're tender. Once the peppers are starting to break down, deglaze the pan with white wine and simmer briefly. Finally, add in your chicken stock, salt, and pepper and let simmer for about 15-20 minutes.

While the peppers are simmering, you can prepare your chicken. I like to sear the chicken in a pan and then finish them in a 375 degree oven. When your chicken is cooked, set it aside to rest and finish your coulis.

Pour your peppers into a food processor and puree until smooth. (Optional) You can add a bit of butter to the peppers to help bind everything together. Once your coulis is strained, simply spoon it over the chicken and you're done.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Seared Tuna w/ Jasmine Rice & Wasabi Ponzu

This is the simplest blog yet. You can make this dish in under five minutes. This Ponzu incorporates two very common ingredients when it comes to oriental cuisine; Soy Sauce and Wasabi! I absolutely love wasabi. Despite its sinus-cleansing heat, I find wasabi to have very intriguing layers of flavor. In this recipe the wasabi really takes the Ponzu to a new level by adding that little something extra.

8oz. Tuna Fillets
1/4 C. Soy Sauce
1/4 C. Chicken Stock
1/4 C. Olive Oil
1/4 C. Lemon Juice
2 Tbsp. Wasabi Powder
2 Tbsp. Water
Olive Oil (for sauteing)
2 C. Rice

For the Ponzu, you'll want to start out by bringing the soy sauce, chicken stock, olive oil, and lemon juice to a simmer in a saucepan. Combine wasabi and water to make a paste, then add it to the Ponzu.

Heat a small amount of olive oil in a saute pan. When the oil is about to smoke, add your tuna and sear briefly on all sides. I like my tuna "blue" which requires about 6 seconds per side. Your time will vary depending on the size of the fish; just use your best judgement.

After the fish has rested, slice the tuna much like Tataki. I serve my tuna with Jasmine rice, ginger, and lemon zest, and the Ponzu on the side for dipping.