Sunday, September 14, 2014

Salmon Cakes over Pea Puree

Every year on September 11th, we have a special family dinner. This special dinner is our way of remembering and honoring all those who were affected by the tragedy.  On this day we make it a point to take some time out and celebrate our family and how blessed we are to have each other.

Thirteen years ago on September 11th my daughter turned six months old and I was about excited as I could be because this meant she could eat real food for the first time.  I had looked forward to this day for such a long time.  I had a special outfit chosen for her with a matching bonnet. I also had a homemade pea puree prepared and waiting in the fridge. My plan was to dress her up, feed her, and take all sorts of pictures.  Everything was laid out and waiting.

Then I went to work and that day turned into something I will never forget.  The fear, the panic, and the heartbreak seemed neverending as one tragedy unfolded after another.  Thankfully my employer let us leave early and there was nothing I wanted to do more than see my baby girl's sweet little smiling face. 

I was never so happy to see Olivia and give her a big hug.  I didn't know what else to do so I went ahead and took her to her appointment.  The doctor gave his approval for her to start eating real food. I no longer felt like celebrating but I took her home, dressed her up, fed her pureed peas, and took a few pictures. She was smiling and happy and it was just what I needed in that moment.  When I look back on that day my first thoughts are about the tragedy.  Then I remember my sweet baby girl and how she made me smile on a day when there was so little to smile about and I'm incredibly grateful.   

So each year on September 11th, we remember the tragedy and we honor it with a special meal.  Our special meal always has to include peas, of some sort, and Olivia always gets an extra helping.  We tease her that she has to dress up just like I made her do on that day thirteen years ago. We congratulate her on eating real food for thirteen years, or however many years it happens to be.  Mostly we are just silly and grateful to be together. 

Salmon Cakes
Adapted from The Guardian
by Nigel Slater
Serves 2-4

1 pound (500g) salmon, diced
a large stick of lemongrass, chopped finely
zest and juice of a lime
a thumb sized piece of ginger,grated
a small hot chili, diced
clove of garlic, grated
2 spring onions, diced
handful of cilantro, chopped
8 tablespoons breadcrumbs
salt and pepper, to taste
butter and/or oil, for cooking

Place the diced salmon into a mixing bowl. Add the finely chopped lemongrass, the grated ginger, chopped spring onions, grated garlic, and diced chili.  Stir the salmon adding in the lime juice and zest.  Be sure to use a light hand as to not turn the salmon into a paste.

Fold in the chopped cilantro and breadcrumbs together with a little salt and pepper.  Take up scoops of the mixture and pat into small thickish cakes.  The mixture should make about four patties.  Warm a little butter and oil in a skillet.  I prefer cast iron for frying.  Lower the salmon cakes into the skillet and cook until golden on each side.  Serve with the pea puree. 

Minted Pea Puree
Adapted from The Guardian
by Nigel Slater
Serves 2-4

One bag frozen peas
4 sprigs of mint
one clove of garlic
salt and pepper, to taste

Boil the peas, mint sprigs, and clove of garlic in lightly salted water till tender, drain, and whizz peas and the mint in a food processor with the oil till smooth.  Be sure to taste and season well. Serve with salmon cakes.

Theme: Lentils, Legumes, and Pulses Oh My!

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Chicken Po'Boy

To be perfectly honest I wouldn't normally turn to a British cook, like Nigel Slater, for a Chicken Po'Boy recipe.  However, Nigel's recipe seemed like a good jumping off point and I did happen to have all the ingredients on hand.

Nigel's recipe is as classic as ever.  Fresh baguette, strips of fried chicken, shredded lettuce and mayo.  The only personal touch I added was to add quite a bit of Lawry's seasoning to my chicken as it fried.  Lawry's seasoning is pretty much amazing on anything fried, especially chicken, and it was definitely a great addition in this recipe.   

The result was perfectly golden strips of fried chicken nestled in a hot crispy baguette with lots of shredded lettuce and mayo.  Every bite was heavenly. This sandwich is decadent, comforting, and satisfying on so many levels.

Chicken Po'Boy
Adapted from Real Fast Food
by Nigel Slater
For 2

2 small baguettes
2 chicken breasts, sliced into 3 strips each or
6 chicken tenders 
 cornmeal or flour, to coat
*Lawry's seasoning, to taste
a little canola oil for frying
shredded lettuce

Note: A homemade remoulade would be wonderful in place of the mayo

Split the baguettes lengthwise, put the halves together, and warm them in a hot oven.  While they are heating, slice the chicken breast into six pieces and roll in the cornmeal or flour.  Alternatively, put the cornmeal or flour in a bag and shake the pieces in it.

Fry the chicken in hot shallow oil till crisp, about 7 to 8 minutes, turning once.  Remove the bread from the oven and spread all the cut sides generously with mayonnaise.  Add some shredded lettuce to the bottom half of each baguette, then pile on the fried chicken pieces.  Press down firmly and eat while still warm. 
Soups, Salads, and Sammies Every Sunday at Kahakai Kitchen
Theme: Bread Ahead!

Sunday, August 24, 2014

A Fun Little Fiesta {Inspired by Rick Bayless}

Put on some festive music, pour yourself an ice cold beverage,  and dance around.  It's time for a little fiesta, courtesy of Rick Bayless, and his fabulous recipes. Here's what's on the menu.

 Fiesta Menu
Late Summer Salsa Mexicana
Simple Guacamole
Tortilla Chips
Pollo Monterrey
Garlicky White Rice
Watermelon Cooler
The only way to kick off a fiesta is with this  Late Summer Salsa Mexicana.  You may even have all the ingredients in your very own garden! Gather up some ripe tomatoes and dice them up with some white onion, jalapeno, and cilantro.  Toss it all together with some lime juice and a little salt and you have one fresh summer fresh salsa! Serve with chips as an appetizer or use it as a topping to brighten any meal.
Add a little more color to your fiesta with this Simple Guacamole.  Ripe avocado along with some white onion, lime juice, serrano peppers, and garlic come together to make one luscious and creamy dip or topping for your Mexican fiesta!
Since we're building layers of flavor, a little of Rick Bayless' Garlicky White Rice, can only help things out, right?  This simple and fluffy white rice has six cloves of garlic goodness and is definitely a welcome change from the typical Red Chile or Mexican rice served in most Mexican restaurants.  If garlic is your thing then I definitely urge you to give it a try.
 For the main course, I made my own version of a family favorite, Pollo Monterrey, or simply put...chicken topped with cheese sauce.  I seasoned thin chicken cutlets with Sazon and seared both sides in a hot skillet.  I topped the chicken breasts with shredded monterey jack cheese and covered the skillet for a few minutes to melt the cheese.  Delicious, easy and simple. I served my version of Pollo Monterrey with warm flour tortillas, the salsa, simple guacamole, shredded lettuce, cilantro, and all the ingredients to build your own taco.  It was a fun, flavorful, family-friendly meal. 
To wash it all down I made Rick's Watermelon Cooler, a refreshing blend of fresh watermelon, lime juice, and sugar.  This was by far our favorite part of the meal. Perhaps it had something to do with the extreme heat and humidity outside?  Not to mention, I think the kiddos felt like they were drinking a grown up drink.  If you're in the mood for a special little sipper I would highly suggest making this while watermelon in season!

*click on the recipe titles for the link to each recipe

Theme: August Potluck with Rick Bayless!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Oatmeal Cookie Sandwiches with Lemon Mascarpone Filling

What's better than one oatmeal cookie? TWO! Two is always better than one. 

Two chewy oatmeal cookies sandwiched between a creamy lemony filling.  Trust me.  You need these in your life. 

Remember those old fashioned oatmeal cookie sandwiches with the fluffy vanilla filling?  The ones from your childhood? These are like that, but with a unique twist.  A more adult version. The lemon filling provides a refreshing change from the original.  They are addictive and crave-worthy all on their own, especially for those of us who enjoy lemony desserts.

It's a good thing the recipe only makes a handful or two because these babies were gone, gone gone.

Oat Cookies with Lemon Mascarpone Filling
Adapted from The Guardian
by Nigel Slater
Makes 8-10 sandwich cookies

For the cookies:
120g butter
120g light brown sugar
one egg yolk
120g old fashioned oats
90g all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt

For the filling:
100g mascarpone cheese
100g lemon curd

Set the oven at 180C/gas mark 4. Dice the butter and put it into the bowl of a food mixer. Add the brown sugar and beat till light and creamy, then mix in the egg yolk. Mix together the oats, flour, baking powder and salt.

Divide the mixture into 8-12 cookies depending on how large you want them to be. Roll into balls then flatten and place on a baking sheet. They should be quite thick, so they remain chewy after baking.

Bake the cookies for 10-12 minutes, until they are lightly colored but not yet crisp. Remove the tray from the oven, leave to cool for a minute or two, then transfer to a cooling rack. As they cool they will crisp up.

Make the filling. Put the mascarpone in a mixing bowl, stir in the lemon curd, then use to sandwich the cookies together.

Theme: Zest It Up!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Nigel Slater's Classic Peach Melba

Juice dripping...first down your chin, then onto your hands, and eventually all the way down your elbows.  That can only mean one's peach season!  To me, there is nothing better than a ripe, juicy peach!  It's one of my favorite things in the world.

Most times I eat my peaches hunched over the kitchen sink with peach juice dripping everywhere.  Messy as all get out but oh, so delicious!  Easily my favorite way to enjoy a peach! When I'm feeling a little more dignified I like to slice my peach and serve it in a bowl with raspberries on top.  Peaches and of those most heavenly combinations ever! So colorful and pretty.

Peach Melba has been on my to-make list for years and years.  Not sure why I haven't got around to making this sooner, but I'm so very glad I finally did!  Sweet and tender peaches poached in a light sugar syrup, with a bright red raspberry sauce, topped off with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.  It's a beautiful classic dessert that pleases your eye with it's vibrant colors and sweet and tart flavor. It will definitely leave you wanting more!

Classic Peach Melba
Adapted from The Guardian
by Nigel Slater
Makes 4 sundaes

The Recipe
Poach 4 small peaches in a syrup made from 400mls of water, sweetened with 2 tablespoons of caster sugar. When they are tender, skin them, halve them and remove their stones. Whizz 250g raspberries in a food processor together with a tablespoon or two of the poaching syrup, then push through a sieve to remove the seeds. Place a ball of ice cream and two peach halves in each dish, then spoon over the raspberry sauce. A white peach looks very elegant here.

The Trick
Peaches need to be poached in sugar syrup for a dessert such as Peach Melba, but too often they come out cloyingly sweet. Use only a small amount of sugar in the syrup and add both a little twist of orange and some lemon juice to brighten the flavour of the fruit. Peaches need to be poached with their skins on, then slipped off after cooking. Use your thumb. It's a sign that the fruit is ready when the skin starts to pucker and can be slipped off with ease. If it sticks, the fruit won't be soft enough yet. Although it's a drag, the raspberry purée needs to be pushed through a sieve. Even the most sabre-toothed of food processors won't turn those pesky seeds to crimson purée.

The Twist
A wafer is not obligatory. Most people tend to stick to the classic interpretation above, lest Dame Nellie Melba turns in her grave, but a modern version might include a blackcurrant – or more fashionable blueberry – sauce instead of raspberry. This involves cooking the raw fruit with a small amount of sugar, then blending to a purée. Unlike the classic raspberry version, the berries must be cooked first. The ingredients can also be made into an ice cream terrine, with layers of vanilla ice and peaches studded with raspberries, and served with a sauce made from the fruit.

Theme: Moreish Meals

Sunday, August 3, 2014

A Salad of Lettuce, Peas, and Ham with Creamy Dressing

So I'm driving down the road holding a tablespoon of mustard. Dijon mustard to be exact.  Can't really do that with a straight face so I'm shaking my head and laughing a little.  What a sight I must be driving home in my workout clothes, sweat dripping down my face, holding a heaping tablespoon of mustard in my hand.  All in the name of saving myself a trip to the store. 

I borrowed a tablespoon of Dijon from my friend Gina when I dropped her off.  She offered to give me the whole bottle and I should've taken it, but I said "I only need like a tablespoon."  A minute later, she comes back out with a heaping tablespoon of Dijon mustard and we're both cracking up in her driveway.  Life is full of silly little things.  Laugh whenever you can.

I walked in the house with my mustard and started on the salad dressing immediately.  A creamy dressing of Dijon mustard, champagne vinegar, olive oil, heavy cream, salt, lots of black pepper and pretty green flecks of parsley.  Dressing with heavy know that's good stuff!

Then it came time to put the salad together and we're talking lots of deliciousness.  Soft butter lettuce with warmed peas, savory bites of ham, buttery homemade croutons, and shards of really good farmhouse cheddar.  Pour that creamy dressing on and you're talking one incredible, satisfying, and totally crave-worthy salad.

A Salad of Lettuce, Peas, and Ham 
with Creamy Dressing
Adapted from Tender
by Nigel Slater
Serves 4

For the Salad
8 ounces cooked ham
1-1/4 cups shelled fresh peas
3 thin slices white bread
about 3-4 tablespoons butter
a head of large, soft-leaved lettuce
5 oz. Deep-flavored/farmhouse cheddar cheese

Creamy Dressing
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
Champagne/White Wine Vinegar
3 to 4 tablespoons Olive Oil
2 to 3 tablespoons heavy cream
salt, to taste and lots of black pepper
a handful of flat-leaf parsley leaves

To make the dressing:  Mix the mustard, vinegar, and olive oil with a small whisk, then stir in the cream.  Coarsely chop the parsley leaves and add them.  Season with salt and black pepper.

To make the salad: Shred the ham into large bite-sized pieces.  Cook the peas briefly in deep, lightly salted water, then drain.  Tear the bread into small pieces.  Fry in a shallow layer of butter in a nonstick pan.  As soon as they are nicely golden, remove to paper towels to drain.  Salt them lightly.  While the bread is cooking, wash the lettuce, separate the leaves, tear them into manageable pieces, and put them in a serving bowl.  Take shavings or shards of the cheese with a vegetable peeler, or knife, and toss them into the lettuce leaves with the peas, golden bread, and shredded ham.  Pour the dressing onto the salad and toss gently.  

Every Sunday at Kahakai Kitchen

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Spicy Caramelized Nuts

  Anyone else going nuts besides me? Yes? 

Let's just say I can easily say, without a doubt even, that I'm more than ready for my two kiddos to go back to school on August 6th.  My two sweet kiddos have been spoiled by gorgeous weather, lazy days at the pool, lots of neighborhood friends, tons of ice cream and popsicles, and long summer nights.  They've played outside all day from early morning till late at night.  EVERY SINGLE DAY. They simply can't get enough.  They've turned into two crazed monsters who have daily meltdowns and can't contain themselves. It's like they're in panic mode trying to cram as much as they can into the last few weeks before school starts.  

In the meantime I turn the music up and find some peace in the kitchen.  Chopping, mixing, stirring, and baking.  There is something so satisfying about creating things with your hands.

These Spicy Caramelized Nuts are a delight to the senses.  Cardamom smells so exotic, like spicy orange blossoms.  I love the citrusy sweetness of it.  Cinnamon is like a warm blanket.  Comforting, familiar, and cozy.  A big dose of sugar adds the sweetness that brings it all together.  These nuts are glossy, shiny, and almost appear lacquered with all sorts of goodness.  The perfect indulgence.  

Spicy Caramelized Nuts
Adapted from 
by Nigel Slater 

1 tablespoon cardamom pods
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 cup of nuts*
6 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon
pinch of salt

Note: I omitted the ground ginger because I didn't have any.  The recipe is written for pecans but I opted to use almonds.

Break the cardamom pods and remove the seeds. Add them to a frying pan with the nuts and ground ginger, cook over a medium heat for one minute. Pour five tablespoons of the sugar over the nuts and let it melt, bubble and caramelize. Tip the caramelized nuts into a bowl and dust with cinnamon and a final sprinkle of sugar. If you like, toss nuts onto parchment paper to cool.  Nuts will form somewhat of a nut brittle that you can break into large chunks.

Theme: Off The Spice Rack