Thursday, April 30, 2015

Making Coconut Ice

If you have never had the pleasure of sipping cool, refreshing coconut water directly out of a young coconut, then you are in for a real treat.
A coconut tool makes drilling a hole easy, but if not a Dremel or drill will do the trick. Once the hole is drilled, carefully insert a straw into the top and enjoy a highly nutritious, very delicious hydrating drink to take you through the scorching weather of summer. The tender flesh of this immature coconut can be scooped out with a spoon and eaten as a delicious treat, but there is another way to make use of this coconut and that is by making ice cubes out of the water.
After you drill your hole into the top, empty the contents into an ice cube tray. The water from one coconut fills one ice cube tray just perfectly. A bit of sediment may appear as the result of a flaking off of the interior, and that is just fine. After filling, place the tray into the freezer, and when the coconut water has turned to ice, pop the cubes out and into a freezer storage bag for later use.
They come in very handy in making smoothies and those tropical summer cocktails that we all love. The ice is also refreshing on its own when crushed and served in a chilled dessert dish. You will wonder how you ever got by without this wonderfully flavorful and refreshing coconut water.

Both the coconut and coconut tool are available from Melissa’s Produce.  Run, don’t walk, to get yours.  It’s going to be a long, hot summer!

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Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Pico de Gallo

Pico de Gallo is something that I can eat by the bowlful, I love it that much. I will pile it on top of enchiladas or burritos, use it to fill a taco, plunk it on a plate of nachos, scoop it onto the top of an omelet or poached egg, or simply use it as shown here, as a tasty dipper for tortilla chips.  I really have no recipe for it.  Generally, I just rummage through the vegetable bin to see what I have on hand and those are the amounts that I use, but any pico de gallo worth its salt must have tomatoes, onion, and cilantro to be really good. Sometimes I want mine a bit heavier and, in this case, will stir in a tablespoon or two of Melissa’s Hatch Salsa (something else that I can just spoon out of the jar).  Here is an approximation of what I used to make this version, but feel free to experiment on your own, and be sure to tell me the outcome.

Pico de Gallo

1 cup medium-dice tomatoes (seeded before dicing)
2 tablespoons minced red onion
1/2 teaspoon red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon fresh lime juice
1 heaping tablespoon chopped cilantro
1/2 canned chipotle pepper, minced (and seeded, to lessen heat)
Pinch of cumin
Salt, to taste

Combine all the ingredients and mix well. Pico de gallo is something that really needs to be consumed immediately.  It can be refrigerated overnight, but do drain off the accumulated juices before serving.
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Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Pea-Pickled Salad

April is National Letter Writing Month and I took up the challenge of writing a letter every day of the month. I was gung ho initially, then the vastness of my acceptance caught up with me and, near month's end, I opted to send out postcards instead of letters.
The postcards were special, though, and a part of my sizable collection of recipe postcards, that I heretofore never parted with. I chose to send cards from my Jack Daniels postcard book, embellishing the backs with rubber stamps and jotting a brief note. In the doing I found some interesting recipes that I thought I might try.
One of these recipes, for Pea-Pickled Salad, sounded particularly awful, so my inclination, of course, was to try it. (I tend to do this more often than I care to admit. Weird, I know.) I do like blackeyed peas, but tend to stick with the same tried-and-true recipe again and again. But having recently come to embrace the bean salad, I figured it was worth a try. I tasted it shortly after assembly and smiled to myself when my suspicions were proved true, but stuck it in the fridge overnight anyway. When I sampled it 24 hours later, I was pleasantly surprised. It was really quite tasty and would make a great addition to picnic fare this summer. (And isn't half bad as a dip for tortilla chips!) I'd over chopped parsley the day before, so dumped in what remained to give it a little color, otherwise I made the recipe pretty much as shown, substituting Melissa's Steamed Blackeyed Peas for the dreary canned variety.

Pea-Pickled Salad
From Jack Daniel’s Spirit of Tennessee Cookbook

2 11-ounce packages Melissa’s Steamed Blackeyed Peas, rinsed and drained
1 large red onion, thinly sliced
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
½ cup olive oil
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar (I used a bit more)
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 bay leaf
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Combine peas, onion, and parsley in a heatproof bowl.  Combine remaining ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a boil.  Pour over pea mixture.  Refrigerate overnight.  Remove bay leaf.  Makes 4-1/2 cups.
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Monday, April 27, 2015

Quick Chicken Breasts with Bacon, Marsala, Peas, and Cream

More than a dozen years ago I read and reviewed a delightful foodie/adventure book called A Trip to the Beach. It was the true story of Melinda and Bob Blanchard who decided one day, while on vacation in Barbados (and isn't vacation the place where the most genius plans are hatched?), to sell their successful  Vermont-based food company and open up a beach bar and restaurant on the island of Anquilla. It was a delightful book to read, full of food, fun, failure, and ultimately, remarkable success. All of the while I was reading the book I wished that I could make some of the delicious sounding food described therein.

As if in answer to my prayers, three years later At Blanchard's Table: A Trip to the Beach Cookbook was published. As charming as the initial book detailing their adventure, this book contains delicious recipes, beautiful pictures, and engaging side notes on the people who work with them, as well as charming anecdotes.

This recipe is one from the cookbook that I make frequently. The wordQuick in the title is what initially drew me in, and, boy was I glad. Yes, it is quick, but it is also delicious and company worthy. You'll need Marsala, please do not substitute, but it will be a wise purchase because you will undoubtedly make this again and again.
Quick Chicken Breasts with Bacon,
Marsala, Peas, and Cream
From At Blanchard’s Table

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, 
pounded to an even 1/4–inch thickness
1 cup Marsala wine
½ cup heavy cream
½ cup frozen baby green peas, thawed 
under cool running water and drained
4 slices thick bacon, cooked and crumbled into small pieces
2 tablespoons minced parsley

Whisk together the flour, salt, and pepper, and put the mixture on a plate or in a shallow bowl for dredging.  Heat the oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Dredge the chicken in the flour on all sides, shaking off any excess.  Saute in a single layer until brown and cooked through, about 2 minutes on each side.  If the pan does not hold all of the chicken, saute it in batches, transferring the cooked pieces to a plate as they are done.

Remove all of the chicken from the pan and add the Marsala.  Loosen the browned bits of chicken from the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon and cook until the Marsala is slightly thickened, about 2 minutes.  Add the cream and simmer over medium heat until the sauce has thickened enough to coat the chicken.

Return the chicken to the pan and coat well on both sides with the sauce.  Add the peas and bacon and simmer for a minute or two so to heat through.  Taste for salt and pepper, and serve garnished with parsley.

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