Farro with Artichokes, Caramelized Onions and Mushrooms

Artichoke, mushroom and farro

Artichoke mushroom and farro  Farro with Artichokes, Caramelized Onions and MushroomsI am on day 41 of being an “empty nester.”.. but who’s counting?

It isn’t really going as I planned. At all. See, I thought I’d all of sudden have all this free time to read cookbooks, work out and even have a candlelight dinner or two with my DH.

Well, except for the working out, it hasn’t happened… and even the working out has been sub optimal.

Sheesh. So, I continue to be in the mode of looking for relatively easy, quick and nutritious meal options like this Farro with Artichokes, Caramelized Onions and Mushrooms.

Artichoke Farro and Mushrooms 2 Farro with Artichokes, Caramelized Onions and Mushrooms

And once again, leave it to Melissa’s Produce to make my life easier! In case you weren’t aware of it, Melissa’s has a whole line up of convenient, ready-to-eat vegetables and legumes – things like lentils, beets, fava beans and now  steamed artichokes!!!

Screen Shot 2014 09 30 at 1.51.46 PM Farro with Artichokes, Caramelized Onions and Mushrooms

Artichokes have always been one of my pantry staples – I put them in pasta, salads, and they do wonders for chicken dishes. There is only one problem though… the canned ones are kinda briny. Which, don’t get me wrong, I love “briny” – olives, pickles and capers are all regular occupants of my fridge. But there are a number of dishes where that  “briny – ness” (hey this is a food blog so I get to make up words on occasion) is not a good thing. Like in this dish of chewy farro with caramelized onions, mushrooms and artichokes that’s laced with sherry. It’s a one bowl meal – hearty with an earthy nuttiness and a touch of sweetness from the onions and sherry. All you need is a salad … and maybe a nice fire to curl up in front of with a bowl of this in your lap.

Well, if you live anywhere but California that is… we are still in shorts and flip flops.

But back to these  steamed artichokes, which have earned a prime spot of real estate in my fridge.  Melissa’s  really, really knows the way to this girl’s heart.

ArtichokeMushroom and Farro 3 Farro with Artichokes, Caramelized Onions and Mushrooms

And when you try them… I think these artichokes will find a way into your heart too… especially if they are in this dish!

Farro with Artichokes, Caramelized Onions and Mushrooms
 
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This works as a side dish for roasted meats and poultry. For a vegetarian main dish use vegetable stock and add a can of drained cannellini beans.
Author:
Serves: 4 servings
Ingredients
  • 2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1 cup semi pearled farro
  • 1 cup diced onion
  • 1 cup diced celery
  • 2 cups sliced mushrooms
  • 1 package [url:1]Melissa's steamed artichokes
  • [/url]
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • ¼ cup sherry
  • ¼ tsp. pimente de espellette or smoked paprika
  • ¼ tsp. white pepper
  • freshly grated parmesan (optional)
Instructions
  1. In a large skillet heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until the onions are tender and golden brown, about 10 -12 minutes. Add the mushrooms, garlic and celery and cook until the mushrooms are tender. Increase the heat to medium high and add the sherry. Cook until almost all the liquid is evaporated. Add the farro, stock, pimente de espellete and pepper. Bring the mixture to a boil - cover and reduce heat to a simmer. Simmer for 15 - 20 minutes or until the liquid is evaporated and the farro is tender. Divide among 4 bowls and top with parmesan if desired.

 

 

One Bowl Almond Toffee Bars

One bowl Almond toffee bars

One Bowl Almond Toffee Bars 1 One Bowl  Almond Toffee BarsIt may be 80+ degrees outside, but the calendar says it’s  “fall” – and  my calendar is starting to look like  somebody had a confetti party. Which means a little less time for cooking.

Ugh.

I am soooo not ok with that.  But I am very, very ok with these One Bowl  Almond Toffee Bars.  For a lot of reasons.  First off, these bars are everything I think a “good bar cookie” should be. A little bit crunchy, with a rich, buttery crust  and  just enough chocolate to feel indulgent. Add in a little toffee for that salty/sweet contrast and some sliced almonds for balance – and I don’t need to tell you that that combination just works. Bonus is that you only need one bowl and a baking pan – which, if you play your cards right and line it with foil, means only one thing to wash.

One Bowl Almond Toffee Bars 2 One Bowl  Almond Toffee Bars

And seriously, who wouldn’t be ok with that???

One Bowl Almond Toffee Bars
 
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Serves: 16 bars
Ingredients
  • 10 Tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1½ cups all purpose flour
  • ½ tsp. baking powder
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 2 cups semi sweet chocolate chips
  • ½ cup sliced almonds
  • ½ cup toffee bits
Instructions
  1. Pre heat the oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, beat together the butter and sugar. Add the egg yolk and beat until incorporated. Add in the flour, baking powder and salt. Beat until combined. Dough will be very stiff.
  2. Line a 9 inch metal baking pan with foil and grease the foil. Distribute the dough evenly across the bottom of the pan, pressing the dough down until you have an even layer.
  3. Bake the dough for 25 minutes or until the dough is lightly browned. Remove the pan from the oven and scatter the chocolate chips over the hot crust. Return the pan to the oven for 5 minutes or until the chips have melted. Remove the pan from the oven and using an offset spatula, spread the melted chocolate chips evenly over the crust. Sprinkle the almonds and the toffee bits on top. Let bars and cool and then refrigerate until cold. Using the foil, carefully lift the bars out of the pan and place on a cutting board. Cut into bars.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hatch Chile and Lemon Rice Salad

Hatch chile and Lemon Rice Salad

Hatch chile and lemon rice salad 2 Hatch Chile and Lemon Rice SaladI’ve got a little “hatch chile fever” going on at the moment so hang in there. This should be the last hatch recipe for a while.. I think icon smile Hatch Chile and Lemon Rice Salad This Hatch Chile and Lemon Rice salad has been on my mind for a while. Last winter when I had no fresh hatch chiles!!! and my frozen stash had dwindled to almost nothing, I was thinking about this salad. So I  made some notes and filed it away to await my new supply of hatch chiles.  So you see, I kinda had to make this salad – and it was sooo tasty I wanted to share it!!!

Hatch chile and lemon rice salad 3 Hatch Chile and Lemon Rice Salad

I think you are really going to like this one –  it’s sweet, sour, crunchy and well,  punchy… there is a lot going on with this salad – chiles, bell peppers, zucchini, avocado and corn – which is just the way I like it.  If you’ve taken a peek at the recipe, don’t freak out and the long list of ingredients because this Hatch Chile and Lemon Rice Salad is really two different recipes. The first is for a Lemon Relish  – which btw, is terrific on fish and chicken so I’d make a double batch – use it with chicken or fish one night and use the rest in this salad for later in the week.

And since  fall has officially started and we are all returning to “the routine” anything I can “make once, eat twice” goes to the top of my list of things to make –  like this Hatch Chile and Lemon Rice Salad.

Hatch Chile and Lemon Rice Salad 1 Hatch Chile and Lemon Rice Salad

If you haven’t gotten your supply of  roasted Hatch Chiles yet, you still have time to head out to a chile roast in your area – here’s a handy list from Melissa’s Produce to help you find a “chile roast” near you!!!!

Hatch Chile and Lemon Rice Salad
 
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Serves: 6 - 8 servings
Ingredients
  • For the relish:
  • 1 large lemon
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 1 Tbsp. white wine vinegar
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 Tbsp. minced fresh chives
  • 1 Tbsp. minced fresh parsley
  • ⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • For the salad:
  • 1 recipe lemon relish
  • 1 cup long grain rice, cooked
  • ¼ cup fresh lime juice
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 tsp. oregano (mexican if possible)
  • 1 tsp. Tangin
  • 1 cup roasted hatch chiles, cut into ½ inch dice
  • 1½ cups fresh corn kernels
  • 1 cup diced, seeded yellow bell pepper
  • 1 cup diced zucchini
  • 1 avocado, peeled and diced
  • ¾ cup minced cilantro
Instructions
  1. For the relish - Remove the zest from the lemon and add to a small mixing bowl. Slice the lemon thinly and then remove the remaining peel. Chop the pulp and add pulp and any remaining juices. Add the remaining ingredienst and stir. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
  2. For the salad: Cook the rice and let cool. In a large mixing bowl, add the remaining ingredients except the avocado. Add the rice and the lemon relish. Stir to thoroughly combine. Fold in the cilantro and avocado and serve.

Hatch Chile and Corn Fritters

Hatch Chile and Corn Fritters

Corn and Hatch chile Fritters 1 Hatch Chile and Corn FrittersThey’re here!!!! They’re here!!!!  Like a kid at Christmas I anxiously await the arrival of Hatch chiles to Southern California. So, when Melissas Produce graciously sent me a couple of bags I got to work – roasting and cooking! I put them in everything – margaritas, salad dressing, potatoes - you name it just about everything is better with Hatch chiles – especially these Hatch Chile and Corn Fritters.

Corn and hatch chile Fritters 3 Hatch Chile and Corn Fritters

Taking advantage of fresh corn and my haul of hatch chiles these Hatch chile and corn fritters come together in no time. Just blitz the corn in a food processor, add eggs, roasted hatch chiles, green onions, a little flour and cornmeal and my “secret” ingredient – Old Bay seasoning!

Corn prep Hatch Chile and Corn Fritters

Then fry them up in a little corn oil and viola – you have little cakes of hatch chile goodness! I love serving these as a side to just about anything I put on the grill -steaks, pork, chicken and fish all go wonderfully with Hatch Chile and Corn Fritters.

Corn and hatch chile fritters cook Hatch Chile and Corn Fritters

These fritters also make a delicious hors’ d’oeurve. Topped with a little bit of sour cream and fresh salsa makes an easy pre dinner snack. Worried that you be in the kitchen cooking these up while everyone else is relaxing? No worries – you can make these up to 4 hours in advance. Just  pop onto a rack set in a sheet pan and re heat!

To make these Hatch Chile and Corn Fritters even easier, get your chiles already roasted – and right now is the time, with roastings going on all over the country!  Here’s the list for a roasted near you!!

Corn and Hatch chile Fritters 2 Hatch Chile and Corn Fritters

 

 

 

 

Hatch Chile and Corn Fritters
 
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Ingredients
  • 3 cups fresh or frozen corn
  • 4 eggs
  • 4 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 4 roasted and peeled hatch chiles
  • 1 cup grated jack cheese
  • 1 cup flour
  • 2 Tbsp. cornmeal
  • 1 tsp. Old Bay seasoning
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1¼ cups corn oil
Instructions
  1. Place corn kernels in the bowl of a food processor and process until coursely chopped. Transfer to a large bowl and add the eggs, chiles, onions and cheese. Stir until thoroughly combined. Add the flour, cornmeal, Old Bay and salt. Stir until incorporated.
  2. In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium high heat. When the oil is hot (it should be shimmering) add a tablespoon of the batter and slightly flatter it out. Add 3 or 4 more tablespoons to the pan, making sure that the fitters don't touch. Cook for 3 - 4 minutes until the fritters are golden brown at the edges. Carefully flip them over and cook on the other side. Carefully remove them from the pan and drain on a paper towel lined rack.
  3. Serve with a dollop of sour cream and salsa.

Ooey Gooey Chocolate Cake

ooey gooey chocolate cake

ooey gooey chocolate cake 1 Ooey Gooey Chocolate CakeIt isn’t pretty.

In fact, in the pantheon of beautiful desserts, this Ooey Gooey Chocolate Cake wouldn’t even crack the top 100…  or maybe even 500.

But as they say, “looks can be deceiving” – and that is absolutely true, in this case. On a number of levels.

No, this Ooey Gooey Chocolate cake isn’t pretty nor is it “so sinfully rich I could only eat two bites” which seems to be the gold standard of today’s chocolate desserts. This cake harkens back to earlier times when desserts were just… well desserts – a little something sweet to follow a meal, before the time when we took the basics, like chocolate cake and didn’t add chocolate chips, salted caramel sauce, m and m’s in the center, etc. etc. Not that doing those things is necessarily bad of course, but sometimes… well sometimes you just want something simple – like Ooey Gooey Chocolate Cake.

Oooey Gooey Chocolate cake 2 Ooey Gooey Chocolate Cake

Oh, and that frosting you see? That’s part of this cake’s charm – no separate frosting to make -it makes its own! (Because you know I am lazy smart about desserts!)

So where did this recipe come from?Well, the other day I was going through some old (and by old I am talking 60 years here people) cookbooks that were my mother’s.  To be honest, I can’t remember what prompted that stroll down memory lane, but whatever it was, it was completely overshadowed by this recipe. Written in pencil on a piece of scratch paper in my mother’s elegant script was a recipe for chocolate upside down cake.

Oooey Gooey Chocolate cake 3 Ooey Gooey Chocolate Cake

Since I still have two YA men under my roof (1 week and 3 days until they are Texas bound, but who’s counting??) I regularly run out of three things – meat, milk …. and dessert. So, I am constantly on the lookout for quick and easy desserts which will satisfy my crew – and by “dessert” I mean chocolate so this recipe definitely caught my eye. After scanning the ingredients I headed to the kitchen and within 20 minutes this cake was baking.

It was good – but not great… but it had possibilities. So, a couple of days later it was back into the kitchen – a few tweaks and the second cake was done.

Now this is the cake I’d imagined when I’d read the recipe – chocolately but not sinfully rich – not too heavy but with enough heft that a scoop of vanilla ice cream is almost mandatory.

It’s ooey, it’s gooey with enough chocolate and nuts that everyone can find something to love… and with all that going for this Ooey Gooey Chocolate Cake, who cares if it isn’t pretty???

 

Ooey Gooey Chocolate Cake 5 Ooey Gooey Chocolate Cake

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Ooey Gooey Chocolate Cake
 
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There are no eggs and little fat in this cake so it's best eaten the day or day after it's made!
Serves: 8 servings
Ingredients
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • ½ cup whole milk
  • 2 Tbsp. melted butter
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 Tbsp. Kahlua (optional)
  • 2 oz. melted 70% bittersweet or semisweet cocoa chocolate
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • ⅓ cup white sugar
  • ⅓ cup brown sugar
  • 2 Tbsp. high quality dark cocoa powder (I used Varlhona)
  • 1 cup boiling water
Instructions
  1. Pre heat the oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl combine the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. In another bowl, combine the milk, melted butter, the vanilla and Kahlua if using. Add liquid to the flour mixture and stir. Stir in the melted chocolate and the pecans. Spray a 9 inch cake pan (with 2 inch sides) with cooking spray. Add the batter, smoothing the top so it's even and covers the pan. Sprinkle the top with the white and brown sugar and the cocoa powder. Pour the boiling water over.
  2. Bake for 35 - 40 minutes - cake should spring back lightly when pressed. Let cool for 10 - 15 minutes. Place a platter or cake stand over the cake and then invert. Serve warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

 

 

Grilled Asian Pineapple Salsa

grilled pineapple salsa

Grilled Pineapple Salsa 1 Grilled Asian Pineapple Salsa

My poor grill.

During the summer, my grill rarely gets a night off – just about anything and everything gets thrown on there for dinner – salads, chicken, fish, burgers, steaksand even dessert have all taken their turn on those hot little rods. And yes, I even grill the ingredients for this Asian Pineapple Salsa. But one thing that does not get on that grill? Olive oil.

Grilled Pineapple Salsa 3 Grilled Asian Pineapple Salsa

Not that I don’t love olive oil –  if you’ve spent any time here at the Table, this should come as no surprise. But during the summer, well, my affections turn to another –  Mazola corn oil. Yup, that beautiful, golden hued beauty who far too often is passed over in favor of… olive oil.

And this folks, is a shame.

Why? Well, olive oil, despite it’s lovely color, flavor and nutritional benefits does not belong on a grill!! It’s smoke point is far too low – 325 – 375 degrees. With grilling, medium heat is about 325 – 375 – and if you want those lovely grill marks? Your grilling at 400 – 450 degrees.  Using olive oil for  grilling is at best a waste olive oil (as the heat destroys all those lovely flavors) and at worst will impart an acrid, rather nasty taste to your food.

Which is why I like using Mazola corn oil – it’s smoke point is around 450 degrees.

But I like it for other reasons – flavor being one. To me, Mazola corn oil has a richer flavor and mouthfeel than canola oil and I love pairing it with grilled foods – it’s a no brainer with anything mexican but works surprisingly well with other cuisines as well – like this Asian Pineapple Salsa!

Grilled Pineapple Salsa 2 Grilled Asian Pineapple Salsa

 

Last, but certainly not least is that  Mazola corn oil has a great nutritional profile – 14% saturated fat, 29% monounsaturated and 57% polyunsaturated fat. If you use a lot of olive oil like I do, corn oil is a perfect compliment to it in your diet – giving you a nice balance of both monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.

Speaking of diet, you’ll be pushing that guacamole away in favor of this grilled asian pineapple salsa to dip those tortilla chips in – at least if you are like my son who braved the far reaches of my fridge to find it!  A mixture of grilled, fresh  pineapple,  sweet onion, cilantro, mint, jalapeno, garlic and ginger and wrapped up in a little fresh lime juice and corn oil it’s a delicious dipper for tortilla chips – or on top of some grilled chicken… or salmon… or tossed with greens and leftover grilled chicken… see where I am going with this?? Yeah, you can use this salsa on just about anything!

Grilled Pineapple Salsa 5 Grilled Asian Pineapple Salsa

Your grill might not thank you… but your taste buds? Oh yes!!!

Grilled Asian Pineapple Salsa
 
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Your yield on this will vary a bit depending on the size of your pineapple. For an average sized pineapple, my yield was a little over 3 cups! This salsa is great served with tortilla or wonton chips, on chicken, salmon or other fish!
Ingredients
  • ½ fresh pineapple, peeled, cored and cut into 1 inch thick batons
  • 1 sweet yellow onion (maui or walla walla) peeled and cut into ½ inch thick slices
  • 2 Tbsp. Mazola corn oil
  • 1 inch piece of peeled ginger, minced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ red fresno chile, minced
  • ¼ cup fresh mint, minced
  • ⅓ cup fresh cilanto, minced
  • 2 limes, juiced
  • 2 Tbsp. Mazola corn oil
Instructions
  1. Pre heat the grill to medium high heat. Brush the pineapple and onion with Mazola corn oil. Add to grill and grill until pineapple is caramelized and has turned a deeper shade of yellow - about 3 - 4 minutes per side. Add the onion slices and cook until onion is lightly browned.
  2. Remove from grill and let cool.
  3. When cool enough to handle, cut the pineapple into ½ inch dice and put in a large bowl. Dice the onion into ¼ inch dice and add to the pineapple. Add the remaining ingredients and stir. Season with salt and pepper. Taste and adjust seasonings - if you like it spicier add more fresno chile! Serve

 

 

 

Zucchini Bruschetta with Pepper Relish

Grilled-Zucchini-Bruschetta-#4

Grilled Zucchini Bruschetta 4 Zucchini Bruschetta with Pepper RelishA couple of week’s ago, I posted this Lemongrass and Pepper Cooler from Melissa’s Produce new  book, The Pepper Cookbook! Leafing through the pages  of  The Pepper Cookbook started the creative juices flowing.. and the result????  Zucchini Bruschetta with Pepper Relish.

Notice anything a little different? Yup… no bread. Why I’ve never thought of using zucchini before…. sigh….. it was definitely one of those “duh!!!” moments.

I’ve been making bruschetta for … well, forever and up until now this had never occurred to me (que smacking forehead with hand)…

Grilled Zucchini Bruschetta with Pepper Relish Zucchini Bruschetta with Pepper Relish

But once the idea entered my rather thick skull…. I got to work – with the ideas coming almost faster than I could write them down…. and a couple of hours later?  I had these Zucchini Bruschetta with Pepper Relish in my hand (and shortly in my mouth!).  So, a couple of notes about this recipe –

Grilled Zucchini Bruschetta with Pepper Relish 2 Zucchini Bruschetta with Pepper Relish

  • It works best when the zucchini have cooled a bit – that way the cheese is easier to spread – so you can prep all the ingredients  ahead!
  • You can marinate the zucchini with whatever marinade complements your topping of choice – if using an acidic ingredient in your marinade don’t let the zucchini marinate for more than 20 minutes – you need them firm to hold the toppings!
  • The pepper relish is really, really good with grilled chicken, flank steak, tri tip – so make extra!
  • This is a great solution to the problem of a very prolific zucchini patch!!!
  • You can grill the zucchini on an outdoor grill or inside on a grill pan.
  • The variations are almost endless – think regular salsa, corn salsa, olive tapenade, hummus – the mind truly boggles.

Oh, and a couple of other things – it’s gluten free, vegetarian and, if you just top it with the relish, it’s also a vegan!! Score!!!

I’d love to hear what you come up so feel free to share your creations in the comments!!!

Zucchini Bruschetta with Pepper Relish
 
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The relish recipe will yield more relish than you need. Refrigerate the leftovers for topping grilled chicken, flank steak, tri tip or serve with tossed greens making a simple vinaigrette with additional olive oil and sherry vinegar!
Serves: 12 servings
Ingredients
  • For Zucchini
  • 2 medium to large zucchini, sliced ½ inch thick on a diagonal
  • 1 Tbsp. canola oil plus 2 Tbsp. for oiling the grill/grill pan
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • ¼ tsp. pepper
  • For Relish:
  • 1 bag Melissa's Organic Vine Sweet Mini Peppers cut into ¼ inch dice
  • ¾ cup red onion, cut into ¼ inch dice
  • ¼ cup minced italian parsley
  • 1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp. sherry wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp. smoked paprika
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • ¼ tsp. pepper
  • ½ cup ricotta or goat cheese, softened
Instructions
  1. For the zucchini - in a medium sized bowl, combine the zucchini, olive oil and salt and pepper. Toss to coat.
  2. For the relish: In a medium sized bowl, combine all the ingredients and stir to combine. Taste and adjust seasoning. Set aside.
  3. Pre heat grill or grill pan to medium high. Brush grill or grill pan with 2 Tbsp. canola oil. When grill/grill pan is hot, add zucchini. Cook for 2 minutes and then flip, grilling for another 2 minutes until zucchini is tender but not limp. Remove zucchini to a cutting board (if making ahead, place zucchini on a cooling rack so that moisture can escape).
  4. Top with a teaspoon or so of softened ricotta or goat cheese. Top with 2 tsp. of the relish and serve!
Nutrition Information
Serving size: 1 zucchini slice

 

 

 

 

Lemongrass Ginger Cooler

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Lemongrass Ginger cooler Lemongrass Ginger CoolerSweet, salty, bitter, sour and umami –  otherwise known as the 5 basic “tastes”  and the foundations of flavor.

Although it’s  technically not a “taste” I would add one more – “spicy” or “heat” – that tingly warmth that only a pepper can provide like the jalapeno in this Lemongrass Ginger Cooler.  Salsa, Kung Pao Chicken, Creole Shrimp and any of the myriad Indian curries just wouldn’t be the same without them – and we wouldn’t be as obsessed with them. Spicy or “hot”dishes hold a special fascination – and if you don’t believe me, take a stroll down the aisle of your local supermarket and check out the sheer number of “spicy” condiments!!!!

So, most of us  are all familiar with bell peppers, jalepeno’s and… if you’ve been reading this blog for a while, Hatch chiles… but what of the other 50 or so other types? The  Pequins, Tepins, guajillas and, Shishitos?

Do you ever look at a recipe that lists a pepper and pass it by because you had no idea what that pepper was or because you knew your market didn’t carry it and you had no idea what other pepper you could use?

Yup, I thought so….well, “been there, done that… read the book”.

And yes, I literally have just read “the book” – Melissa’s Produce’s  brand new book – “The Great Pepper Cookbook – the Ultimate Guide to Choosing and Cooking with Peppers” - and this is definitely the book that has been missing from my bookshelves for far too long. Of course, it has fabulous recipes – that goes without saying. But what really excites me about this book is this – it’s a “passport to understanding the most universal ingredient of the New World”.

Screen Shot 2014 06 02 at 11.33.36 AM Lemongrass Ginger Cooler

By that I mean this book has a beautifully illustrated guide which explains “heat” – i.e. the Scoville scale and then goes on to describe individual peppers – where they are on the Scoville scale, their season (for fresh peppers), what other names they go by and… what other peppers you can subsitute with if you can’t find that particular pepper – or like me, you don’t plan far enough in advance so you can order them from Melissa’s !!!

I can’t tell you the number of hours I’ve spent researching this very question for a variety of dishes…

Thank you Melissa’s Produce!!!!

So, now that I’ve convinced you to buy the book … or put it at the top of your list for Father’s Day, wedding showers, birthdays or… my personal favorite – instead of the usual bottle of wine hostess gift… what kind of recipes are in  the book?

Glad you asked!!

The answer course is just about anything you can think of… including this Lemongrass, Ginger Cooler which gets it’s kick from jalapenos! This past weekend I made up a batch of this to sip (ok, I did more than sip!) while I planted tomatoes and herbs in the garden. It’s incredibly refreshing and  would also make a terrific base for a cocktail!

Lemongrass Ginger Cooler
 
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You can add a little honey or agave nectar to sweeten this if desired. I also served it with a splash of lime juice as well!
Serves: 6 servings
Ingredients
  • 6 cups water
  • 5 oz. fresh ginger, thinly sliced
  • 1 large stalk fresh lemongrass, trimmed, split and chopped
  • 1 fresh jalapeno chile, stemmed, seeds removed and thinly sliced
  • 1 lime (optional)
Instructions
  1. Combine all the ingredients in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Strain into a pitcher and discard solids. Cool for an hour and serve over ice.

Baked Alaska

Baked Alaska with angel food cake and sorbet

Baked alaska BC1 Baked AlaskaThere is no question about it… my pants are tighter than they were 4 months ago. Between Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s in Italy and the Superbowl it has been one long food fest here at  The Table.

And Friday is Valentine’s Day….which generally means a nice dinner (at home!) a bit of bubbly and… dessert.  Which of course, is not helpful when one is trying ahem to lose those “oh so enjoyably gained” extra pounds. But all is not lost…(pardon the pun) at least when it comes to dessert because you can have your cake and eat it too without your pants getting tighter with this Baked Alaska (ok, done with the puns… promise!!!!)

Not exactly “au courant” –  Baked Alaska is a bit of an old fashioned dessert that you don’t see very often on restaurant menus – which I don’t really get since what’s not to like about ice cream, cake and creamy meringue that’s been caramelized oh so slightly????

I have no clue.

Baked Alaska BC2 Baked Alaska

Ah, but wasn’t I saying something about Baked Alaska and your pants not getting tighter?  If so… ummm what about that ice cream and cake??? Well,  you know me and my seeming inability to make a recipe as written – so of course I had to tinker with the traditional recipe a little – substituting angel food cake for the richer butter cake that is normally used and substituting  sorbet for the ice cream. And as for the meringue? Well, here is the real “secret” to this Baked Alaska and the reason it may not be as popular on  today’s restaurant menus –  meringues use raw egg whites and so can be rife with salmonella bacteria… not exactly  very romantic, is it?

Which is just another reason why I love  Safest Choice Eggs. Since Safest Choice Eggs are pasteurized in the shell,  so there is no risk in using them in desserts like Baked Alaska.

To find out how easy it is to make Baked Alaska, check out my recipe on the Safest Choice Website!