Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Beautiful Blogger Award . . .

. . .  and I'm blushing!

Mary, who blogs over at Work of the Poet, and who is a multi-faceted person and stellar photographer,
sent me a Beautiful Blogger Award.

I am so pleased!

Pleased also that I get to pass it on to some of my beautiful blogger friends.

The rules are:  Tell seven things about yourself and then pass the award on to 15 beautiful bloggers.

Here goes:

1.  I hate to fly. Even though I have to do it from time to time, I truly hate it.

2.  I'm a farm girl at heart and would have sheep, goats, more horses,
and maybe even a cow if Mr CC could abide it.

3.  I love Mr CC too much to indulge in my farm girl fantasies.

4.  My day job is being a business manager.

5.  Blogging makes me sedentary; I really should exercise more.

6.  I love taking photos of plants, critters, and the great outdoors and have another blog devoted to just that.

7.  I would live in France if I could. Even if for a short while . . .

Now I'd like to pass this along to:

Truly beautiful bloggers, all of you!

Copyright © 2005-2010, Christine Cooks. All rights reserved

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Ginger Green Tea Ice Cream - Sugar Free or Not

[8/16/2010: ed. note. Saveur picked this ice cream for Sites We Love this August! Thanks, Saveur!]

[10/7/2010: ed note. A kind commenter pointed out an error that I have now corrected. Then I noticed a few more things...]

When Mr CC and I took a trip along the south-east Atlantic seaboard recently, one of the cities we stayed in was beautiful, historic Savannah, Georgia.  And one of the first things we do when in a new area is ferret out a really great place to get really good coffee and tea.

Preferrably locally owned and operated.  With really tasty, homemade food.  [The reallys are on purpose.  Really]

A little pre-flight online sleuthing brought me to a promising website for Gallery Espresso in downtown Savannah: ostensibly a comfy, homey, artsy, laid back coffee house - just what we would be wanting.

Apropos of nothing Savannah, I had discovered Mariage Frères tea (only THE BEST tea in the world) not too long ago and, being a tea junkie and a snobby one at that, had been going about trying to find an outlet on the west coast. The only one my search brought up was in New York City and it was très expensive.  Well, so is Mariage Frères tea, but I still wanted it.
As dumb luck, divine providence, or whimsy would have it, after walking all over historic Savannah our first morning there, we tiredly headed over to my website find to refresh ourselves with a soothing cup of tea and I practically swooned when I saw the extensive display of, you guessed it, Mariage Frères tea.

Be still my heart.

You may well ask what all this has to do with ice cream.  Patience, grasshopper.
Not only does Gallery Espresso carry all manner of Mariage Frères teas, you can even buy a cup of it! Imagine that.  Or 5 cups if you wish, which is about how many I had during our 3-day stay.  Served to you by very friendly and knowledgeable waitstaff, who will also sell you your choice of this lovely tea in either a small sampler tin or a large, très expensive, canister.

And not only that, you can contact Jules, who is in charge of all things tea, on line, put in an order and she will mail it to you post haste, and it isn't near as expensive as ordering it from NYC.
And not only that, Gallery Espresso is everything we could have asked for in a coffee house and I highly recommend it.  This is not a pinkies in the air kind of place; students pack the overstuffed couches and easy chairs, laptops cover tables, steaming cups of coffee and tea accompany plates of rustic, home made pastries, soups and salads while monthly student art shows hang from the walls.

I was in tea heaven then and still am now, as I brought home four sampler tins of the elixir of my heart and have been sipping tea since.
OK, on to the ice cream.  My little tin of Mariage Frères Japan Green Sencha was the inspiration for this frozen offering.  The ginger was simply a no brainer.  Think about it.  Use fresh and organic from Hawaii if you can get it.

And if you ever come to my kitchen, I will share my little stash of tea.  And feed you ice cream.  Promise.

Ginger Green Tea Ice Cream
Christine's original recipe
(print recipe)
2 1/3 cups 2% milk
3 tea bags good green tea or 2 tablespoons loose leaf green tea
2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and grated, more if desired
8 packets Splenda or 1/3 cup sugar
3 extra-large or 4 large egg yolks
2 packets Splenda or 4 teaspoons sugar
1 cup heavy cream
green paste icing coloring just a little bit on the tip of a toothpick (optional)
2 tablespoons candied ginger, cut into small dice (optional)
In a medium saucepan, combine the milk, tea, grated ginger and 8 pkts of Splenda or 1/3 cup sugar.  Heat to just under boiling. Remove from the heat and allow to steep for at least 20 minutes.
Strain through a fine mesh strainer, pushing on the solids to extract all the good flavors. Return the milk to the saucepan.
If you wish your ice cream to be green, and it won't be unless you do this, pick up a tiny bit of the coloring paste on the end of a toothpick and swirl it into the warm milk until you attain the color you want.
Heat the milk mixture gently until bubbles form around the edge.
Meanwhile, beat the egg yolks on high speed of an electric mixer, adding the remaining Splenda or sugar, until the yolks have thickened and become a pale yellow.
Whisk 1/4 of the milk mixture into the egg yolks, blending thoroughly, then whisk the egg mixture back into the milk remaining in the saucepan.
Heat this mixture gently on low, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until it thickens slightly, coats the back of the spoon, and leaves a track on the back of the spoon when you run your finger across.
Remove from the heat and allow to cool for a few minutes.
Pour into a glass container and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or until thoroughly chilled.
Stir in the cold cream prior to processing in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturers instructions.  Add the candied ginger to the mix during the last 5 minutes of processing.

Life's short ... eat dessert first!

Copyright © 2005-2010, Christine Cooks. All rights reserved

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Steamed Pacific Halibut with Sautéed Early Spring Vegetables

The hours, minutes, days are flying by.  I cook, I take photos - do I have time to post them?  Seems not.
Spring can be like that.  So much work to do outside: the garden to ready for planting; mowing, clipping, weeding, and generally cleaning up after that messy person Winter who leaves her clothes strewn everywhere.

In this season that's not quite full-blown spring yet not really winter anymore, take advantage of the early spring produce that abounds:  green garlic, spring onions, leeks, baby bok choy, savoy cabbage, fennel, carrots, Hawaiian ginger, and that citrus-y wonder, blood orange.  Pair these with wild-caught Pacific halibut for an easy recipe that will get dinner on the table quickly so you can get back outside and work awhile longer before the sun sets.

I received inspiration for this recipe from my bestest-friend-in-the-world, Erika.  She treated me to a delicious dinner when I visited with her last week of mahi-mahi over leeks, kale, chard, and early onions from her Sacramento Valley garden, plus freshly grated ginger - lots of it.  It was fabulous.

I'm showing you a few photos from that dinner because the evening sunlight coming through Erika's west windows played over our plates of steaming vegetables and fish, enhancing an already beautiful setting, and I just had to share.

And while I didn't have the exact ingredients that Erika used, our local Co-op had some pretty wonderful substitutes.

Begin by slicing all your vegetables fairly thinly, the bok chot being the exception - it should be cut into 1/2-inch pieces.  Start your sauté with the onions, garlic, leeks and carrots, then add the rest per instructions below.  Use plenty of freshly grated ginger at the end.

Steamed Pacific Halibut with Early Spring Sautéed Vegetables (Spring Onions, Leeks, Green Garlic, Baby Bok Choy, Savoy Cabbage, Fennel, Fresh Ginger and Blood Orange Juice)
Recipe inspired by my dear friend Erika
(print recipe)
3/4-pound fresh Pacific halibut fillet, rinsed and patted dry
1 large leek, cleaned and thinly sliced crosswise, white and light green parts only
1/2 of a large fennel bulb, cut lengthwise into thirds, thinly sliced crosswise
1 stem green garlic, thinly sliced
1 stem spring onion, thinly sliced
2 baby bok choy, stem end removed, sliced crosswise into 1/2-inch chunks
1 medium head savoy cabbage, core removed, cut in half then in thirds lengthwise and thinly sliced crosswise
2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and grated
juice from 1 large blood orange
olive oil for the pan
sea salt to taste plus generous grindings of peppercorn medley
Using a large skillet (I almost always use cast iron), heat about 2 teaspoons of olive oil on medium-high.  When the pan is hot, turn the heat down to medium or even medium-low to prevent scorching and add the leeks, onion, garlic, and carrot and sauté until they begin to soften and cook down, about 5 minutes. Adjust the heat so they do not burn.
Add the fennel and bok choy next and repeat the sautéeing process, tossing the vegetables with tongs so everything cooks evenly, about 5 minutes more.
When the fennel and bok choy have softened, add the savoy cabbage and toss.  Drizzle on the blood orange juice, toss again, and allow to cook, tossing often, until the cabbage has cooked down slightly, about 5 minutes, then sprinkle on the grated ginger and toss again.
Season the vegetables with a good sea salt, make an indentation in the center of the vegetables and lay the halibut in it.
Sprinkle the fish with sea salt and generous grindings of peppercorns, turn the heat to low if it is not already there, and cover the pan.  Cook gently until the fish flakes when pierced with a fork but is still juicy and springy to the touch, about 7 minutes for a 2-inch thick fillet.
To serve, cut the fish into portion-size pieces and serve on a bed of the vegetables.


Copyright © 2005-2010, Christine Cooks. All rights reserved

Thursday, March 18, 2010

French Pigs In California?!

I've signed up!  Come join me!

Kate Hill, of Kitchen at Camont, is taking her French workshop, French Pig - the butcher and the cook, on the road to northern California and the Pacific Northwest this April.

An all-day workshop, replete with wine tasting and a succulent pork dinner, awaits you at Kelley & Young Wines in the Sonoma wine country of northern California.

If you have an interest in the art of French butchery and have always wanted to learn how to prepare your own meats for charcuterie, the French way, here's your chance.  Better sign up now as space is limited.

Hope to see you there!

Bon appétit!

Copyright © 2005-2010, Christine Cooks. All rights reserved

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Cauliflower, Turnips, Leeks, Garlic, Savoy Cabbage: Recipe for Colcannon - The Low Carb Way

All the wonderful winter vegetables listed in the title are still plentiful in markets and are a perfect way to celebrate the winter-into-spring season that we're enjoying right now.

Plus there's St. Patrick's Day to consider if you have a wee bit o' the Irish like I do, which is what I was doing when I came up with this idea. I love cauliflower, especially masquerading as mashed potatoes. And I wanted my cauliflower to have an Irish feel to it. The rest is, well, this recipe.
I already knew about colcanon, an Irish dish consisting of a mash of potatoes and members of the onion family plus kale or cabbage. Enter cauliflower. As many a low carb/low glycemic eater knows, cauliflower made into a mash serves as a delightful alternative to a mound of potatoes and is kinder to your waistline.

Crisp savoy cabbage adds a sparkle o' the green to this hearty, healthy dish.

Turnips, leeks and garlic all deepen the flavors, adding their roasted sweetness with every bite.

Low Carb Colcannon with Cauliflower, Turnips, Leeks, Garlic and Savoy Cabbage
Christine's original recipe
serves 8-10 as a side dish; 6-8 as a main with sausage
2 heads garlic
olive oil, divided
unsalted butter, divided
kosher salt to taste
4 turnips, peeled and cut into eighths
3 large leeks, white and light green part only, cleaned and cut into 1/2-inch slices
3 medium heads white cauliflower
1 medium head savoy cabbage

Cut tops off the heads of the garlic, peel away the outside paper down to what just covers the cloves and holds them together.
Place in a lidded oven-proof dish, drizzle with a small amount of olive oil, add a sprinkling of kosher salt and roast, covered, in a 350-degree oven for 1 hour. May be made ahead of time. Cover and keep in fridge.
Prepare the turnips and leeks, place in a roasting pan, dot with butter (approx. 1 tablespoon cut into pieces, or more, to your taste) and roast, covered, in a 350-degree oven until they are meltingly tender. Check periodically and lower the heat if they begin to burn. Loosen them from the bottom of the pan occasionally. May be made ahead of time. Let sit at room temp if making the entire dish on the same day, otherwise cover and chill.
Cut the cauliflower in florets and steam on the stove top, using a large pot and vegetable steamer, until they are very tender. Remove the florets from the steamer into a large colander and allow to drain. May be made ahead of time, same as above.
Heat a large pot of water to boiling.
Meanwhile, cut the savoy cabbage in half through the stem end. Using a sharp knife, remove the core from the end of each half. Cut the halves into quarters, or into pieces that will fit into the feed tube of your food processor.
Using the slicing blade, process each section of cabbage until they are all sliced.
When the water in the pot is boiling, drop the sliced cabbage in all at once and blanch it for one minute, possibly longer, just to tenderize the cabbage. It's ready to remove from its water bath just when it turns a brighter green and is slightly softened.
Drain the cabbage immediately through a large strainer set over a colander. Allow it to drain thoroughly.
As soon as the cabbage is done is when you will want to assemble the dish:
Using your food processor fitted with the regular blade, add the cauliflower, roasted turnips, leeks and garlic, and process until the mixture is smooth-ish, like whipped potatoes. I had to do this in several batches, removing the processed mixture to a large bowl as I went along.
Season the finished mash with kosher salt to taste.
Fold in the cabbage and mix well.
Mound into an ovenproof dish, dot with unsalted butter, and heat at 350-degrees for about 20 minutes, or until the mixture bubbles and the top is just golden brown.
Serve as a side addition to your Irish dinner, or pair it with your favorite fat, juicy sausage as a whole meal.

Bain sult as do chuid!

Copyright © 2005-2010, Christine Cooks. All rights reserved

Friday, March 12, 2010

Well . . .

Yes, I'm changing my template.

On the fly.

This is not the method I would have preferred, but one mis-click and there it was, out in the world for all to see.

Please bear with me while I sort this out.

Right now I have to take the cat to the vet.

Copyright © 2005-2010, Christine Cooks. All rights reserved

Friday, March 5, 2010

Quick-boiled Prawns with Winter-Summer Yellow Pear Tomato, Avocado, Cilantro Guacamole

An invitation to an appetizers potluck party was the inspiration for this recipe. That and the kiwis that had been holding (I thought) in the fridge while we were on the Atlantic seaboard for 2 weeks.
Now I think that kiwi guacamole spritzed with lime juice sounds like a stunning dip to go with prawns. Just not made with overly fermented kiwis. Sigh. Another time perhaps.
As in all cases when one ingredient does not cooperate, you find one that does. The petite organic yellow pear tomatoes that are coming to California from Mexico right now fit the bill. Sweet, tart, not too big a carbon footprint. Our borders do touch, after all.
The avocados are pure California. Organic, buttery smooth and rich, they pair well with the finely diced tomatoes, fresh cilantro notwithstanding. And yes, I do realize how lucky I am to have it growing right now in my northern California coastal garden.
This guac is a wintertime treat, bringing the sunny olé! flavors of summer to brighten our still-gray skies and our chilly tummies. Make it just before you're going to take it to a party or serve to guests.
Be sure to use plenty of sea salt when you boil the prawns, and boil them quickly - blanching really - no more than 1-2 minutes, then get them out of there and into an ice bath.

Definitely a crowd pleaser, this.

Quick-boiled Prawns with Yellow Pear Tomato, Avocado, Cilantro Guacamole
Christine's original recipe
(print recipe)
Makes enough for a crowd of 20 or so

40-60 medium prawns, preferrably USA wildcaught, peeled, tails left on, sandtrack removed*
2 tablespoons sea salt
4 large avocados
1 cup finely diced yellow pear tomatoes
juice from 1 Meyer lemon
1 tablespoon
green garlic, minced
1 tablespoon minced, seeded jalapeno pepper
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon sea salt (or to taste)
pinch red pepper flakes (more if you like it hotter)

Prep all of your ingredients, except for cutting the avocados, ahead of time.
Have a large bowl of ice and water standing by to receive the cooked prawns.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Add the 2 tablespoons of sea salt.
Toss the prawns into the boiling water and allow them to blanch for 1 to 2 minutes or until they turn bright pink. Do not overcook them.
Immediately drain the water from the pot and put the prawns in the ice water to stop the cooking. Let the prawns cool then allow them to drain in a collander until ready to use.
While the prawns are cooling and resting, take an avocado and cut it in half lenghthwise. Remove the pit and scoop the pulp into a medium bowl. Repeat with the remaining avocados.
Mash the avocado pulp with the lemon juice until the mixture is buttery but still has some lumps.
Stir in the rest of the ingredients (no, not the prawns) and adjust the salt and seasonings to taste.
Put the finished guacamole in a clear glass bowl and cover it with plastic wrap, pressing the wrap down on the top of the guac to keep it from browning.
Arrange the prawns around the guacamole bowl and you're ready to party.

Cook's Notes:To remove the sandtrack from the prawns, I use a sharp knife and make a cut down the back of the prawn from the head to just above the tail. If the sandtrack is still there, this will reveal it and you can pull it out. I've had many a prawn that still had the sandtrack intact. It's your call whether to remove it or not.

Buen provecho!

Copyright © 2005-2010, Christine Cooks. All rights reserved