Though an oldie, it is golden as it is true to the spirit of the New Year
with warm wishes of Luck, Prosperity & Joy
And now back to the delectable beer battered prawns with the honest flavor of the prawns with a light batter, lightly spiced with a touch of cayenne pepper is all that is needed. Try these and see for yourself!
Needless to say, on Christmas day I tested the elasticity of my belly to it's limits. So severe was my case of food induced stupor that whence I awoke from it a few days later, I realised that I had completely ignored my surroundings, right down to the answering machine with its blinking light, waking up from the daze, only to dish out leftovers from the refrigerator of humble chicken soup and such.
Now on day three, even the leftovers have run out and the kitchen fires must once again be stoked. There are many things to love about the winter - the crisp cool mornings, the hope of waking up to a blanket of white kissed earth, warm bread and slow cooked hot stews. And yet, there are times especially when it comes to dinner, that there is nothing I'd like more than a burst of summer flavors.
There is something about herbs and olive oil infused with those light & refreshing flavors that cannot but invoke in me, images of a hot summers day and farmers markets laden with sweet red tomatoes and Nature's bounty. And what a great way to dress up a pork tenderloin!
Now if you're going tsk-tsk because you think all I am doing is glorifying the simple pesto, then hold your horses. There is nothing about this pesto that screams -I've-been-around-the block'. I have often said that some of my noteworthy inpirations come straight out of my refrigerator, pantry and a determination to not let anything go waste and this is no exception.
Bundles of half used parsley, basil, goat cheese and pecans come to the rescue today and as much as I would like to think that I did the saving, it was actually the other way around - of week night dinner at the very least!
A story is a sum of its parts. And so it is that this story is a sum of three - and this story has an idyllic beginning, a rude awakening and thankfully, a happy ending. The idyllic beginning to this story sets forth in the wonderful city of Sydney, more than a decade ago.
It was during one such winter break that I met Umberto, an acting student from Sicily who was attending the National Institute of Dramatic Art (yes, the very same school Mel Gibson attended) and was using our college as temporary housing. He had moved to the room across from mine for the holidays and introductions were made over foaming mouths as he borrowed my toothpaste one morning.
When Christmas day arrived, we awoke to a hot and sultry weather which is quite usual as it is summer, down under. Most of us were heading to the beach for a barbie and a swim and Umberto looked at everyone with a puzzled expression. He said, "Barbie, What about some Struffoli? In Naples I always knew that Christmas week had arrived, not by the date on the calendar but because in in the center of the table would be a plate full of Struffoli". Of course we had no idea what he was on about.
Next thing we know, he walks over to the kitchen, speaks to the head cook and asks us to go grocery shopping with him. We return huffing and puffing loaded with flour, sugar, honey, lemons and oranges. We followed him into the kitchen and went to work. He was head chef and I was one of his line cooks.
And so it was, that much later on Christmas day looking over the azure waters at Coogee beach, a handful of Uni students from the world over, savored our first plateful of Struffoli. These little doughnut-like balls enveloped with honey and the scent of lemons and oranges are a wonderful reminder of simpler times and simple pleasures.
Now wouldn't this have been a wonderful ending to this story? Written on a piece of old yellow parchment in my recipe pit is Umberto family recipe of Struffoli? I wish!
I, in fact have only scribblings of Umberto's family recipe with no proportions in writing and all of it put together looks like runaway feline scratchings. So I turned to the dear man in orange crocs, Mario Batali. After all, how can I go wrong with Mario?
But Alas, not only did Mario but the culinary Gods as well desert me, because what arrived on the table was this -
Mr. Hubby took one look at them and said,"They look like shrivelled 'nuts' in winter! Are they supposed to look like this?"!
The kids who were also looking at the plate with some trepidation and thankfully missed the meaning of what was just said, announced, "Daddy, they look like walnuts" Unfortunately, they were as hard as walnuts too. Sigh.
I was sad. I barely looked into Mr. Hubby's eyes and just hung from my shoulders. After moping around for about 2 hours, I decided there was no way I was going to rest my head on a pillow this night without conquering the art of Struffoli making.
I reviewed the recipe again, and squealed to Mr. Hubby who was now sitting at his computer with a pair of headphones (no doubt to block away my whimpering sounds), which I promptly yanked off his head and said, "Nani (my gran) would have smacked me on the head! There is no fat in this recipe! How can we have soft, fluffy airy dough balls with no fat? I'm fixing them again and you have to eat them!"
Mr. Hubby mumbles, "I do?"
So off I went and reworked the same recipe but with less eggs, a smidgen of baking powder and buttah...you hear me, buttah!
And what we have here are these - marvellous, airy, light and bearing no resemblance to 'nuts' whatsoever -Struffoli!
Goan food is a celebration of hot, tangy and spicy flavors.
And Vindaloo is a quintessential Goan specialty and especially popular during the holidays. In fact, Christmas would hardly be Christmas if it were not for the highly anticipated Sorpotel and Vindaloo in Goan homes. It was a much sort after meal for all of us who spent Christmas at the homes of our Goan Catholic school friends, growing up.
Here are 3 things you probably did not know about Vindaloo but ought to if you're going to serve it at your next Book club/dinner party or else risk end up being a proper Vindaloo-bumpkin!
1. Just because the term Vindaloo consists of the word 'aloo' which in Hindi means potatoes, there is no room for potatoes in a traditional Vindaloo.
2. The term vindaloo derives from the Portughese dish "Carne de Vinha d' Alhos", which is a dish consisting of meat, usually pork, with wine and garlic. The dish evolved into the Vindaloo when the Goans made it their own by adding plenty of spices and the subsitituting wine for their signature ingredient - Vinegar.
3. Why the Portughese influence in Goa? Because the Portughese landed on Goa's shores in the early 16th century as merchants, and conquered it soon thereafter. The Portuguese overseas territory of Portuguese India existed for about 450 years, until it was annexed by India in 1961.
It's best to use a cheap cut of meat like pork-butt for such a recipe and it is essential to allow the meat to marinate overnight to season and infuse with flavor. I also use a slow cooker to cook the meat instead of cooking the Vindaloo stove top as it is not only convenient on a busy weeknight but also renders an incredibly flavorful and moist result.
Can Vindaloo be made with prawns or chicken? Sure, but forgo the overnight marination if using seafood and it is best to use boneless, skinless, chicken thighs if you end up using chicken. Also, seafood will cook very quickly right on the stove top with no slow-cooking required.
As with all Goan food, chilli rules so though the recipe is authentic it is no means a traditional, fiery hot rendition and I have subsituted the usually called for 15 red chillies for a meek 2! But if you can happily ingest the called for 15, I say go for it!
Good friends don't let good friends forget about awesome flavor-blasting eats to fix during the holidays and though the dessert parade is coming up in a moment, I can't let you forget about this soup.
Before you go, soup?
Hold your horses because I can't think of a better soup than this one for the holidays - I mean it's roasted apple and Brie and brown sugar and thyme. Can you blame me for including it in a dessert line-up? This is the stuff of dreams!
Now we all know that holidays are a time when we might as well kiss our diets goodbye. The siren call of warm, gooey, delish baked goods are too much for my poor heart to resist. I have a list of yummies that need baking between today and next week.
Note to self - good luck with that!
So if you've got your knickers in a twist about just what dessert to whip up this week, then join me in the kitchen with this little drool-bake-eat list that might just get you going!
It's not everyday that those of us living in Hooville eat at a Bon Appetitrated, top 10 sushi spot in the United States and such an occasion was treated with the appropriate primping and coiffing as would warrant on such an occasion.
Me in my evening black and Mr. Hubby in his somber suit. We were ready to embrace an evening of sushi & sashimi delights and were heady with excitement (sans kids who were safely perched with the baby sitter watching The Incredibles for the 100th time) We are after all true and blue sushi buffs.
Mr. Hubby who speaks Japanese as fluently a babe talks baby talk is always at home in the land of raw fish and sake. If there was ever a couple who could 'pig-out' on the stuff, it's us!
As we enter the restaurant, we take in the modern minimalist surroundings and the smooth glistening gnarly wood sushi bar is a delight. It is impossible to not skim ones fingers on the surface just for the delight of the experience. The open kitchen sits beyond.
As we are seated to the table, I enjoy the plush beautiful leather chairs as opposed to the hard wooden chairs that often cause an ache in my backside from prolonged seating. Too much information? Maybe, but I tend to notice this stuff .
Our waiter whose name I later learned to be Wesleywalks over to the table and after the customary small talk, leaps into the intricacies of the menu. Spurred on by our obvious interest and delight in their signature creations, he opens up and takes us under his wings.
So thoroughly impressed am I by his knowledge and attention to detail that I immediately remark to Mr. Hubby "What excellent training they must provide here". We all know that the reputation of a good restaurant does not necessarily translate into great service and just because the figures in right hand column is high enough to give one a double take, it does not necessarily ensue that good service follows.
It was the way Wesley wove the sense of knowledge and care that we uncharacteristically decided to taken him up on ALL of his recommendations for the evening.
Once we placed our order I was thrilled by an introduction to the Executive Chef, Ce Bian & a tour of their kitchen. It was a treat to see the preparation of the dishes in the kitchen to later see them arrive plated at out table.
The wood fired tiered Robata grill that is the hearth of this kitchen. Many of the restaurants specialties come from this fire.
It is fascinating to stand so close to heat exuded by this enormous Robata grill that takes up almost the entire length of the kitchen.
The chef creating the sushi and sashimi platter for our table. I quickly return to the table as the first of our order makes an appearance on our table. Mr. Hubby left alone to sip his sake patiently awaits my return.
Robata-Grilled Scallops with Shiso and Wasabi
Sweet & succulent, perfectly cooked scallops with the taste of flame broil and the heady mixture of Japanese basil (shiso), pungent wasabi and sweet honey glaze.
Cremini Mushrooms with Garlic & Butter
A robata grilled skewer specialty the earthy flavor of the creminis pair perfectly with the garlic and chili mayonnaise topping. With the sushi-sashimi platter arrives fresh Wasabi root, freshly grated on a shark skin lined wooden grater.
Big Eye Tuna - Mebachi Maguro
The salmon is characterized by a sesame oil glaze and a final touch with the blow torch. It goes without saying that the fish was practically swimming with freshness.
ROKA AKOR Butterfish Tataki with White Asparagus and Yuzu
Wagyu Gunkan - Wagyu Sushi with Wasabi, Ponzu and Ginger
These are 2 specialty creations of the restaurant and were preceded by well deserved accolades from server, Wesley. These are undoubtedly not to be missed.
It is impossible to describe the delicacy of both these appetizers. The butter soft texture of the fish with the scent of yuzu (japanese lime) & the crisp asparagus enveloped within teases the senses.
The wagyu beef, incredibly tender and succulent with a kick from the wasabi and ginger nestled in the sweet ponzu (soy) sauce is both refreshing as it is surprising.
ROKA AKOR Yuzu Miso-Marinated Black Cod with Pickled Red Onion
The final pièce de résistance! If you're only going to eat one thing in this place, this should be it!
This Robata grilled cod is so succulent that chopsticks can barely hold on to this incredibly delicate creation. The miso & honey sweet sauce pairs perfectly with the fish. The pickled onions though not my favorite accompaniment adds a visual element.
I cannot emphasize how gracious Executive Chef Ce Bian was. He exuded a genuine warmth in showing me his domain despite the evening rush hour. Neither did he show any signs of stress as he quietly commandeered his troops through the evening rush hour meal.
An obvious master of his craft, Chef Ce Bian gave his personal final touch to every plate as it left for the tables. I thank him for his hospitality.
As cooler weather has come calling, it is nice to wake up to mornings where but for the occasional pine trees, almost all the magnificent trees have surrendered their leaves to the earth below.
And through these trees, the misty air is a visual wall, like curdled buttermilk. It is on such mornings that I long for a splash of color and warm baked goods. Few things lift my spirits like cold weather baking.
So excited have I been about the magnificent results of the Raspberry and almond cake, that we made a few weeks back that I decided that another fresh fruit cake albeit not one with ground up almonds but rather a plethora of spiced up seasonal fruit was in order.
And what would be more seasonal at this moment than fresh cranberries with apples and warm spices?
This is one of those creations that to my mind is as much of a pie as it is a crumble as it is a cake. I suppose the fact that the fresh fruit is heaped in mounds at the base of the dish reminds me very much of a crumble but the batter is indeed that of a cake and yet the fruit juices that bubble up to the surface of the cake is just so pie like.
Either way. call it what you will, it tastes just as sweet!
All the wonderful comments and participation for this Giveaway!
Alas! There can be only one winner and it is
Please email me your mailing address so we can get this wonderful dish out to you!
One again, thanks to CSN Stores for sponsoring this giveaway and to all of you for participating.
~ Happy Holidays to All ~
It's holiday season and if you're like me, it is also the time of year when I am always short of bakeware and cookware and find yet another excuse to go shopping for just one more cookie sheet or pudding mold because I absolutely must make that dessert. Sigh. So how wonderful is it to have a one stop shopping site at CSN Stores that sells everything from cookware, kitchen appliances and baby stuff, right down to kitchen bar stools all in one corner and all in the comfort of ones flannels and bunny slippers.
I am also delighted that the kind folks at CSN Stores are sponsoring this giveaway on the blog for one of our lucky readers to win, this ~
Le Creuset 12" x 9.5" Rectangular Dish
Now, hopefully your cabinets are not like my cabinets which if they could, would be shrieking away by the sheer weight of the baking pans that they must endure for my sake. So, I do hope you're the one to win this!
To enter the contest, please do all of the following ~
1. If you are a food blogga, please link this giveaway on your blog.
2. Please subcribe - follow me on twitter, RSS or use the email subcription link.
3. Please 'tweet' (use#lecreusetflavors) or 'facebook' this giveaway ( if you have an account that is)
4. Please tell me about the tasty treat you'd bake in this wonderful dish by leaving me a comment. Click the title of this post for the comment box at the very bottom.
Giveaway ends on Friday, Dec 10th at 11:59PM (PST)
One lucky winner will be chosen and announced soon after. Leave me your email when you comment or I will have no way to contact you if you win.
Few cuisines tug at me the way the foods from Spain do.
If it weren't for the fact that my parents assure me that there is no 'foreign' blood flowing through my veins, I'd have thought that I may have a smidgen of Spanish heritage.
There is something about the honest ingredients, market fresh produce, intense love for good food and wine and age old culinary traditions that makes me love it all. Not to mention the Moorish influences that introduce rich spices into the cuisine like cinnamon & saffron.
And of all the foods I love, I love the way Spain does seafood. Fresh, local market ingredients, un-messed with. So on a weeknight like this, when I have some lovely large prawns, a warm crusty loaf and succulent asparagus, is it any wonder that I should fix some Spanish styled baked prawns?
Best part of it is that dinner's on the table in 15 minutes flat! So what are you waiting for?