Thursday, September 27, 2007

Lemon Grass and Ginger Jelly

Johanna of thepassionatecook is hosting this round of "Waiter, There's Something in My----. WTSIM was created by Johanna, Jeanne of Cook Sister and Andrew of SpittoonExtra and hosted alternately by the three.

This time it's savory preserves. So I'm thinking-I have a ton of lemon grass growing in a pot in my garden, a bag of lemons and very fresh piece of ginger root, a lemon-based jelly would be good. I began my search for a savory jelly in which I could use my ingredients already on hand, especially since I only have a few days in which to prepare and photograph. My ever useful and wonderful book on "The Complete Book of Preserves, Pickles, Jams, Jellies,Chutneys and Relishes" by Catherine Atkinson and Maggie Mayhew was the book I used just recently for Pear and Walnut Chutney. I made it especially for Thanksgiving 2007 as it had to mature for at least a month to let the flavors meld. However, I couldn't wait that long! I spread some Boursin Cheese on plain crackers and topped it with the pear and walnut chutney for an easy appetizer. The flavors were terrific!

Lemon Grass and Ginger Jelly goes well with Asian-styled foods such as Crispy Chinese Duck.

Lemon Grass and Ginger Jelly

2 lemon grass stalks
6 1/4 cups water
3 lbs lemons, washed and cut into small pieces
2 oz fresh ginger, unpeeled, thinly sliced
2 1/4 cups (about) granulated sugar

Using a rolling pin, bruise the lemon grass, then chop roughly. Put the chopped lemon grass in a preserving pan and pour over the water. Add the lemons and ginger. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 1 hour or until the lemons are pulpy.

Pour the fruit and juices into a sterilized jelly bag, suspended over a large bowl. If you don't have a jelly bag, you can use several layers of muslin tied securely at the ends with a strong string, then tied together and hung from a single support. I used this method and hung the bag from my cabinet knob. A bit crude, but it worked. Leave to drain about 3 hours, or until the juice stops dripping.

Measure the juice into the cleaned preserving pan, adding 2 1/4 cups sugar for every 2 1/2 cups juice. Heat the mixture gently, stirring occasionally, until the sugar has dissolved completely. Boil rapidly for about 10 minutes until the jelly reaches the setting point (105C/220F). Remove from heat.

Skim any scum off the surface using a slotted spoon, then pour the jelly into warmed sterilized jars, cover and seal. Store in a cool,dark place and use within a year. Once opened, refrigerate. Eat within 3 months.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Coffee Syrup with Panna Cotta

My purchase of some antique sterling demitasse spoons sent me a on search for small desserts to show off my new treasures. I have been obsessed with espresso since my daughter and son-in-law gave me a Nespresso D300 for a milestone birthday. When I saw an article on coffee desserts in a recent issue of Donna Hay's fabulous magazine, I knew the recipe for Coffee-Syrup Panna Cotta would showcase my new demitasse spoons and also, satisfy my coffee obsession.

The demitasse spoons were in a new shipment of antique silver which had just been recently displayed in a glass case at the entrance of a large antique store where I always find something unique to use in my food photography. I passed up a matching set of twelve demitasse spoons for eight different spoons, some engraved with an initial on the handle and one even had the name "Cara" engraved in the bowl of the spoon. Was "Cara" a name of someone or did it mean "dear one" as in the Italian word? I'll never know but in my mind's eye, I can conjure up many different pictures.

But I digress---.Panna cotta is a soft-set creamy delicious mix of cream, sugar, a flavoring of some sort and gelatin. It's beautiful served with fresh fruit, berries especially, and can be made several days in advance which makes it a great dinner party dessert. With Coffee-Syrup with Panna Cotta, you can have your dessert and coffee at the same time.


1 teaspoon powdered gelatin
1 tablespoon milk
1 cup (8oz) single cream (half and half)
1 cup milk, extra
1/3 cup confectioner's sugar or icing sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

coffee syrup

1/4 cup (2 fl oz) prepared strong coffee liquid or espresso
1/4 cup (55g/2oz) caster (superfine)sugar

To make the coffee syrup, place coffee and sugar in small saucepan and stir over medium heat until sugar is dissolved. Simmer for about 5 minutes until thickened some and syrupy. Set aside and allow to cool.

In a small bowl, pour milk over gelatin and let stand 2-3 minutes. Place remaining ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat and bring to a boil. Add the softened gelatin to the cream mixture and whisk to combine. Allow to cool. Pour the coffee mixture into six 1/4 (2 fl oz) cup capacity and slowly pour over the panna cotta mixture. Refrigerate 4-6 hours or until set. Makes 6. I added a small shot of coffee liqueur to the panna cotta mixture.

You can use all half and half or a combination of cream, half and half or sour cream such as 1 cup cream, 1 cup sour cream, etc.

Recipe from Donna Hay Magazine, Issue 33.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Fried Zucchini with Chipotle Ranch Dressing

Zucchini has to be one of the most prolific as well as versatile garden vegetable ever grown. Imagine Bubba Blue from Forrest Gump saying that zucchini is the fruit of the earth-you can barbecue it, bake it, broil it, saute it;"deys uh"-zucchini Parmesan, stuffed zucchini, fried zucchini, zucchini soup, zucchini bread-----. You get the message?

After eating the tasteless, over-breaded fried zucchini at some of the large chain restaurants, I had forgotten how wonderful really good fried zucchini could be until I made this recipe. Crisp golden spears of tender zucchini served with a chipotle ranch dressing-unbelievable! With the proper temperature of the oil, frying the zucchini is a breeze, the hot oil sealing off the vegetable so it won't be soggy and full of grease. The combination of the freshly grated Parmesan cheese and the bread crumbs gives a light crispy outer layer.

Fried Zucchini

1 1/2 cups grated Parmesan
1 1/2 cups fresh bread crumbs from toasted bread
3/4 tsp salt
2 large eggs
3 medium zucchini, cut into 3 inch long by 1/2 inch pieces

Put enough oil in a pan to reach a depth of 2 inches. Heat over medium heat until the oil reaches a temperature of 350 degrees F.

Combine Parmesan, bread crumbs and 3/4 teaspoon salt in a medium bowl. Whisk eggs in another medium bowl. Begin dipping zucchini in beaten egg-let excess drip back into pan. Coat the zucchini completely in the bread crumb Parmesan mixture. Place on baking pan. Repeat with remaining zucchini.

In hot oil, fry zucchini in batches until golden brown-about 2-3 minutes. Don't crowd in the pan. Remove when browned and drain on paper towel.

Arrange zucchini on plate and serve with Chipotle Ranch Dressing. Recipe follows.

Chipotle Ranch Dressing

2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons buttermilk
1/2 to 1 small chipotle en adobe, minced
3 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro leaves
1 scallion, green and white parts, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon freshly grated lime zest

Mash minced garlic and salt together to make a coarse paste. Scrape into a bowl and add remaining ingredients. Mix together for a creamy dressing.

Recipes adapted from Food Network

Monday, September 10, 2007

Nectarines in Red Wine

This very simple dessert reminds me so much of a chunky sangria with it's perfectly ripe nectarines layered with caster sugar and fresh basil and then a light red chilled wine poured over the top. It's great as a light dessert after a grilled meal. What's even better is you can serve the red wine steeped nectarines over vanilla ice cream for a more substantial dessert, then drink the wine! Two for one!

Nectarines in Red Wine

3 Nectarines, halved, stoned, and finely sliced
4 Oz. caster or superfine sugar
1/4 cup fresh basil, shredded
1/2 bottle chilled light red wine-I used a Pinot Noir

In four wine glasses, layer the slices of nectarines in the glasses, sprinkle with the sugar and basil leaves. Continue layering and sprinkling sugar and basil in each glass, then pour over the wine and let sit in the refrigerator for about 20 minutes.

To serve, remove glasses from the refrigerator and stir each one to dissolve the sugar. Top with more wine. Serves 4

Recipe from BBC Good Food, August 2007

Nectarines and peaches are interchangeable and the only difference is the skin of the nectarine is smooth and doesn't have to peeled like the peach. Nectarines ripen at room temperature much better than peaches which are quite fragile. Good quality nectarines will be large and firm, but not rock hard. They should have a sweet fruit
smell with no blemishes or soft spots.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Tami's Super Soup Challenge 2007-Chilled Pineapple Gazpacho

I have been writing this food and photo blog for just over a year now, but it was in December of 2006 before I had nerve enough to enter a blog event. Tami's Super Soup Challenge 2006, in honor of her mother, was my very first. I was a nervous wreck as I knew other far more accomplished bloggers than I would be critiquing my post. I am still nervous when I enter these events, but I am enjoying trying new dishes and practicing my photography skills.

Now Tami is having her second annual Super Soup Challenge-The Rematch which gives me another opportunity to make my most favorite dish-soup. Now the summer has been miserable and it's still hot so I wanted to make a cold soup. Our American West has been brutalized by the heat as well, so maybe that's why the September issue of Sunset Magazine had this colorful and refreshing recipe for-

Chilled Pineapple Gazpacho

1 slightly under ripe pineapple
1/2 cup peeled, diced red bell pepper (1/4-in. pieces)
1/2 cup peeled, seeded, diced cucumber (1/4-in. pieces)
1/4 cup finely chopped, rinsed red onion
1/4 to 1/2 serrano chile, seeded if you like (for less heat), and minced
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro, plus some leaves for garnish
1 to 2 tbsp. fresh lime juice
About 1/2 tsp. sea salt

1. Juice pineapple in a juicer, or peel and core the fruit, then purée in a blender and strain. Pour juice into a medium bowl.
2. Stir in red bell pepper, cucumber, red onion, serrano chile, and chopped cilantro. Season to taste with fresh lime juice and sea salt.

3. Cover and chill until very cold, about 2 hours. Serve garnished with cilantro leaves.

Serves 4.

This remarkably flavored soup is best made with a fresh pineapple-don't be tempted to shortcut by using canned pineapple juice!

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Hay Hay It's Donna Day #14 Winner!

After a lot of hot and heavy voting in the last few days of the HHDD#14,Sarina Nicole of trinigourmet emerged victorious with her beautiful gnocchi pomodoro and will be lucky blogger to host HHDD#15. Congratulations Sarina! It was a touch contest and there were some fabulous gnocchi recipes submitted. Thanks to everyone who submitted their favorite gnocchi dish. Reading all the blogs from the participants has given me a glimpse of the amazing talent of bloggers worldwide.

Sarina Nicole will receive a copy of Kylie Kwong's "Simple Chinese Cooking", a great looking cookbook. We will all be waiting to see what Sarina will choose as her theme for the next Hay, Hay It's Donna Day event.