Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Thai Iced Coffee

My husband and I are big coffee drinkers, both of us having come from big coffee-drinking families. We love the stuff! So, of course we have our morning coffee, and everyday in the afternoon we have what we've come to call, our "3 o'clock coffee". Sometimes when the weather is really hot, we'll switch it up a bit and have iced coffee. Recently, we were having a discussion over our iced coffee and my husband said to me "the best iced coffee I have ever had was years ago when we lived in Glendale (California). I went to a Thai restaurant with a co-worker. At the end of the meal we had Thai Iced Coffee and it was incredible!"

Intrigued, of course, I went to my computer and started looking up recipes for Thai iced coffee. I came upon this one from Williams-Sonoma and found that a key distinctive ingredient in Thai coffee is cardamom (or cardamon). I'm sure a lot of you who are much more knowledgeable about Thai food already knew this.

Off I went to my nearest health food store to find the cardamom pods. My coffee was already ground so I just used my coffee grinder to grind up the pods.

This is me being extremely impatient, waiting for the coffee to cool down.

We did end up adding a little half and half for extra creaminess.

This beverage was refreshing and enjoyable. The cardamom was a bit overpowering so I think next time I make it, I will use 3 of the pods. It does however add a wonderful spicy-sweet element to the otherwise "normal" iced coffee.

Thai Iced Coffee
From William-Sonoma

  • 3⁄4 cup French roast or other darkly roasted coffee beans
  • 5 green cardamom pods
  • 4 1⁄2 cups water
  • 3⁄4 cup sweetened condensed milk
  • Crushed ice as needed
  • Splash of half and half (to taste)

In a coffee grinder, combine the coffee beans and cardamom pods and pulse until finely ground, about 15 seconds. Transfer the coffee mixture to the filter of a drip coffeemaker. Fill the top of the coffeemaker with the water and brew according to the manufacturer's instructions.
Transfer the coffee to a heatproof pitcher and let cool to room temperature. Refrigerate until cold, at least 2 hours or up to overnight.
Pour 1⁄3 cup coffee into each of 12 small glasses. Add 1 Tbs. sweetened condensed milk to each glass and stir to combine. Add ice and stir again, then serve.

Yield: 12 servings

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Marinated Flank Steak with Blue Cheese Sauce

Today my husband will be guest posting/reviewing this steak dish. He is always very enthusiastic about the food that shows up on our table. Even more so when it involves steak! Read on...

It never ceases to astound me!

I have no right to expect our modest food budget to produce anything more than Hamburger Helper and Kraft Mac N' Cheese. Yet, amazingly and consistently I sit down to a colorful plate like this.

The flank steak tasted like prime, crowned with onion. The salad that grew in our back yard came together deliciously! The potatoes chipped in perfectly—a crisp golden brown.…and the watermelon was perfectly ripe. It all combined for a symphony—interrupted only by the muffled and muted sound of "Mfmmm…" coming from two teenagers and a grateful husband.

That Bleu Cheese thing goin' on with the thinly-sliced, tender flank steak and a bit of grilled onion had us begging for this dish again,…and soon! It seemed to me that the other flavors in this "quartet" harmonized very well with the main course.

They say that a colorful plate is likely also a healthy dish. I suspect so. But I'm absolutely persuaded that in this case, at least, a colorful plate is a delicious plate.

Here's the flank steak marinating in something delicious.

5 Minutes or so on each side and it's ready to melt in your mouth!

These little guys always help make beef taste even better.

"But what if they like their steak well done?" "Then we politely, but firmly, ask them to leave…"
King of the Hill

Dang! That was GOOD!

Marinated Flank Steak with Blue Cheese Sauce
Slightly adapted from Ellie Krieger

1 1/4 pounds beef flank steak
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon brown sugar
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons crumbled blue cheese
2 tablespoons lowfat buttermilk
Dash Worcestershire sauce
1 medium yellow or red onion
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley leaves (opt.)

In a small bowl, whisk together 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, sugar and garlic. Put the steak into a sealable plastic bag with the marinade and let sit for 30 minutes at room temperature, or 1 hour in the refrigerator.
In the meantime, in a small bowl combine the blue cheese and buttermilk with a fork, mashing until creamy. Stir in the Worcestershire and set aside.
Spray a large grill pan with cooking spray and preheat over medium-high heat. Or prepare an outdoor grill. Cut the onion into 1/4-inch rounds brush both sides with the remaining tablespoon of oil and grill 6 minutes per side. Separate into rings and set aside.
Remove the meat from the marinade and season both sides with salt and pepper. Discard the marinade. Cook the meat in the grill pan over medium-high heat for about 5 - 7 minutes per side for medium rare. Let rest for 5 to 10 minutes before slicing thinly on a bias.
Arrange a pile of onions on each serving plate. Top with a piece of steak. Drizzle with blue cheese sauce and top with a sprinkling of parsley.

Note: Flank Steak is so versatile! I usually only buy it when it's on sale!

Yield - 4 servings, Calories - 320

Monday, June 20, 2011

Apricot Cream Scones

Quite sometime ago, I spotted this recipe over at Pinch My Salt and I have wanted to make them ever since. I have not eaten a whole lot of scones. In fact, I believe I was an adult before I ever even had one.

I realized while I was making these that sometimes I don't take the time to really enjoy the process of cooking and baking. I'm just so anxious to have and to hold (and eat) the finished product.

I must say that every step of making these was truly enjoyable. As I was mixing the ingredients together, the rich, sweet aroma rising from the bowl was delightful!

"Painting" the tops with cream...I never fancied myself an artist, then I remember, I create "art" in my kitchen everyday.

Right out of the oven and a perfect golden brown.

I served these golden brown scones with apricot preserves and whipped cream. They were the perfect balance of mild sweetness, pleasing texture, and delicious flavor. I told my husband they go best with tea but he destroyed a couple slices with his coffee, and told me I should make them more often! Hurry and make these, you will not be disappointed!

Apricot Cream Scones
From Pinch My Salt

  • 2 C. all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 t. baking powder

  • 1/2 t. salt

  • 1/4 C. sugar

  • 6 T. cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

  • 1/2 C. chopped dried apricots
  • 1 egg, beaten

  • 1/2 C. heavy cream

  • 1/2 t. vanilla extract
  • cream for brushing (optional)
  • coarse ground sugar (optional)
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar.
In a separate small bowl, whisk together the egg, cream and vanilla; set aside.
Rub butter mixture into the flour mixture with your fingers (or use a pastry blender) until it resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in the apricot pieces.
Add the cream mixture to the flour mixture all at once and stir until moistened (The mixture should hold together when pinched).
Dump the mixture out onto the counter, gather all the pieces together with your hands and press everything together to form a rough ball. Pat it into a circle, about 3/4 inch thick.
Cut the circle like a pie into 8 pieces and place pieces onto a parchment-lined baking sheet.
Brush scones with a little cream and sprinkle with coarse sugar (optional)
Bake in a preheated 425 degree oven for 15 minutes or until golden brown.

Yield - 8 servings

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Minted Lemon-Lime Watermelon Agua Fresca

Cool, refreshing and a drink that just screams "summer"! Not in a loud and obnoxious way, more like soft, gentle, "I'm thirsty but I don't want a really overly-sweet-and-filled-with-sugar drink." This beverage will quench your thirst and make you smile on a hot day.

Just look at the ingredients, fresh, juicy and just 1/4 cup of sugar.

The mint, lemon and lime rind are infused with the water and sugar. Then it's strained to be added to the puréed watermelon.

My first watermelon of the season, it wasn't really ruby red but it was very sweet.

My 16-year-old commented that the mint flavor was a little strong for his tastes. If you're not a big fan, you may consider cutting back a bit on the mint. I could easily see making popsicles from this or even a sorbet. Lots of different options for summer. Enjoy!

Minted Lemon-Lime Watermelon Agua Fresca
Adapted slightly from Cooking Light

  • 1 1/4 cups water
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup coarsely chopped fresh mint
  • 1 tablespoon grated lime rind
  • 1 tablespoon grated lemon rind
  • 12 cups cubed seeded watermelon
  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Combine 1 1/4 cups water and sugar in a small saucepan; bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cook for 30 seconds or until sugar dissolves, stirring frequently.
Remove from heat; stir in mint, lime rind, and lemon rind. Let stand 20 minutes. Strain mixture through a fine mesh sieve over a bowl; discard solids.
Place watermelon in blender or food processor, process until smooth. Pour puree through strainer to remove pulp and little seeds. Mix watermelon juice and sugar syrup together in blender. Stir in lime and lemon juice. Serve over ice, or refrigerate until ready to serve. Stir before serving.

Yield: 9 servings (serving size: 1 cup); Calories 108 per serving

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Highlights from California

Craziness! We have been home from our trip to CA for over a week now and my life has been a bit insane. Jet lag, chest cold, an unexpected job, and a zillion other things have been zapping me of time and energy. I am slowly but surely making some headway. More than anything, I am ready to start posting some delicious summer recipes. But first, I wanted to share some of the food highlights of our trip.

We flew in and out of San Francisco and drove as far south as the Santa Maria area. With 5 people in a rental car that wasn't quite big enough for all of us and our luggage, traveling with little sleep, we didn't mind too much. We, after all, were filled with the excitement and anticipation of our son's wedding, getting to see much of my family who lives in California and much more. Our first stop after spending the night (or shall I say 3 hours), in a hotel in San Francisco was to head for Monterey. Ah, beautiful Monterey! Brings back sweet memories of my childhood since we would vacation there most summers.

After picking up all the tuxes for my husband and all my boys, we headed for the wedding rehearsal/rehearsal dinner. We chose to have the rehearsal dinner at a little place on Fishermen's Wharf in Monterey, called Paluca Trattoria.

What a lovely restaurant it was and the perfect size for our dinner. We were fortunate that they closed the restaurant for our private party. The ambiance, food—everything was perfect.

The bride and groom hanging out with "the fisherman" on the wharf before our sumptuous meal.

The meal started with the Trattoria Salad–Organic mixed greens, caramelized walnuts, dried cranberries, blue cheese, drizzled with a tasty dijon balsamic vinaigrette. I regret now that I didn't get pictures of my entree which was Seafood Ravioli-yum! Others ordered the Pasta Palermon–Italian sausage, caramelized onion, bell pepper, with fresh marinara. Others enjoyed the Penne Con Pesto–Penne pasta, grilled chicken in a pesto cream sauce. It was all very delicious.

This was our view from the restaurant after the sun went down. It was truly an unforgettable evening!

At last, it was the wedding day and we had a little time to kill. Back to the wharf we went, to enjoy clam chowder in a bread bowl. Just about every restaurant on the wharf has someone outside giving samples of what they say is the best clam chowder on the wharf. We finally just had to choose one... a tough decision.

A box of caramel corn from one of the candy stores on the wharf made a delicious desert. The pleasant aroma of caramel wafting through the air was irresistible.

The night after the wedding, we found ourselves back at the wharf again. By invitation from my father, we were all treated to an abalone dinner. My Dad eats NO seafood, but amazingly, he adores abalone!

The abalone shell glows luminescent and beautiful. It's used to make jewelry. The edible part is actually the foot of the abalone. No worries, it was quite delicious, we enjoyed our meal very much.

This is what we saw from our window while eating dinner!

You can"t go to California and not eat at In-n-Out. My boys love this place, and I'm embarrassed to tell you how many times we ate here (so I won't).

While in Santa Cruz the boys found yet another place for clam chowder and of course they had to supplement the experience with some milkshakes. This restaurant called Zelda's was right on the beach!

Our last day in California was spent in San Francisco. It is one of my all-time favorite cities and where my husband and I spent our honeymoon. Our college-age son LOVES Thai food so our first stop was this Thai Restaurant called Osha Thai. There are several locations in downtown. I ordered the Pad Thai and I thought it was extremely tasty. In fact, I'm not a big Pad Thai girl, but this was really good. I have to give my youngest son credit for the photo.

The day had started gray and rainy, but by the time we passed over the Golden Gate the sun was shining and things were looking up.

No trip to San Francisco is complete without a visit to Ghirardelli...

AND, you cannot go to Ghirardelli without ordering one of their magnificent hot fudge sundaes! My hubby and I split one and I'm so glad we did! The hot fudge is incredible!

As much as I love to travel, it is always so good to get home! I am looking forward to sharing the foods of summer with you! It is my favorite season!