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

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Orange Roughy with Squash and Butter Beans Over Herbed Quinoa

Five times.  Five times I've tried quinoa and didn't like it at all.  Until now.  I feel like this recipe for Herbed Quinoa is some kind of magic.  Seriously.  I don't know if the addition of lemon juice helps balance out the somewhat strong flavor of the quinoa, but this recipe is golden.  The quinoa cooks up nice and tender in a flavorful mix of chicken broth and lemon juice.  Then you toss the quinoa in a light lemony dressing with lots of fresh basil, parsley, and thyme.  It's everything a summer side dish should be: light, mild, fresh, and delicate. The only way to eat quinoa in my opinion!

This beautiful quinoa, with it's light lemony flavor, pairs perfectly well with fish.  I spotted this recipe for fish baked in foil with zucchini, butter beans, cherry tomatoes, garlic and basil and thought it sounded both unique and interesting.  After all, butter beans and fish? Well, let me tell you it was a wonderful combination.  We loved the creaminess of the beans and the overall color and flavor of the dish.  It was a very pleasant combination! This was definitely a meal worth repeating.

Fish with Squash and Butter Beans
Adapted from Jamie Deen's Feel Good Food
by Jamie Deen
Serves 4

1 medium zucchini, diced
1 can (15 ounces) butter beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup grape tomatoes, sliced in half
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup torn fresh basil leaves
salt and pepper, to taste
4 skinless red snapper filets (6 ounces each)*

*Note: Feel Free to use any fish you'd like.  I used orange roughy.

Preheat the oven to 400F.  In a medium bowl, combine the zucchini, butter beans, tomatoes, garlic, oil, and basil.  Season with salt and pepper and toss it all together.  Divide the vegetables evenly among four squares of parchment paper placed on four squares of heavy-duty foil.  Season the fish on both sides with salt and pepper and place one filet on each square of foil.  Make foil pouches by sealing all sides of the foil.  Place the sealed packets on a sheet tray and roast for 25 minutes, until the fish is cooked through and the vegetables are soft.

Herbed Quinoa
Adapted from Food Network
by Giada De Laurentiis
Serves 4-6

2 3/4 cups low-sodium chicken stock
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 cups quinoa

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
3/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
2 teaspoons lemon zest 
salt and pepper, to taste

For the quinoa: In a medium saucepan, add the chicken stock, lemon juice and quinoa. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to a simmer, cover the pan and cook until all the liquid is absorbed, about 12 to 15 minutes.

For the dressing:
In a small bowl, mix together the olive oil, lemon juice, basil, parsley, thyme, and lemon zest. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Pour the dressing over the quinoa and toss until all the ingredients are coated. Transfer the quinoa to a bowl. Season with salt and pepper, to taste, and serve.
Theme: July Potluck!

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Chicken Cakes with Lettuce and Mayo

Anything containing bacon is a pretty much delicious.  In fact, any recipe containing bacon is almost always a sure bet with my family, which is the reason I took notice of this recipe and I'm so glad I did!  These chicken cakes were a HUGE hit!  Crispy on the exterior and perfectly tender on the inside, these chicken cakes are brimming with the irresistible flavors of bacon and cheese.  The cakes are perfectly tasty all on their own, but are even better wrapped inside a lettuce leaf with a dollop of mayo.   A perfect appetizer or light meal.  We thoroughly enjoyed these!

Chicken Cakes with Lettuce and Mayo
Recipe adapted from BBC Food
Serves 4-6

2-1/2 ounces breadcrumbs
1 pound ground chicken
6 pieces of bacon, cooked, cooled and crumbled
1 egg
1 lemon, zest and juice
6 sprigs of fresh thyme, leaves only 
3 heaped tablespoons Parmesan cheese
salt and black pepper, to taste
oil, for frying*

To serve: Lettuce Leaves and Mayo
*Note: I used leftover bacon fat to fry the chicken cakes 

Place the breadcrumbs, chicken, egg and chopped bacon into a mixing bowl. Grate the lemon zest in with the chicken and bacon, then halve and squeeze the lemon. Add the lemon juice to the mixture with the roughly chopped thyme leaves. Tip in the grated parmesan. Season the mixture with a little salt, then more generously with black pepper. Mix thoroughly.

Shape the mixture into small balls or patties. Warm the olive oil in a non-stick pan. Fry them in the oil, about eight at a time, for 4-5 minutes until they are crisp and golden-brown on all sides. Lower the heat and leave to cook through to the middle, about 6-8 minutes more. I tend to turn them no more than once or twice during cooking so they develop a crisp, slightly sticky exterior.

 Remove the cakes from the pan and place on large, crisp lettuce leaves, add a dollop of mayonnaise and wrap the cakes in the leaves.

Theme: Starters & Nibbles