Monday, February 25, 2008

Art Bars

The Gourmet Fusion store, selling both kitchen and food items, has always sold eco-friendly products for the home such as Mobi Bags, natural bamboo products by Bamboo 54 and Shiraleah, and Fair Trade products by Zen-Zen Home, and we are planning to expand our lines of natural and foods in the store throughout 2008.

When I attended the Winter Fancy Food Show in San Diego last January, I was interested to learn that organic and natural food products now account for 15% of all specialty foods sold in stores. It is encouraging to know that food producers are becoming increasingly aware of the benefits that natural and organic products can have for both consumers and producers.

One such company whose products Gourmet Fusion carry, is Ithaca Fine Chocolates. This Fair Trade company produces great tasting Swiss chocolate
, in a variety of flavors, and all ingredients used in the making of the chocolate are certified organic. Not only is the chocolate is out of this world, you get an art reproduction inside each bar, and a portion of the proceeds from the sale of this are donated to art education programs. Now how cool is that?

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Broiled (Grilled) Oysters with Garlic Butter

The romantic and luxurious image of oysters was not always so - they were at one time the food of the poor, but when I lived in England, they were very expensive, and difficult to obtain, except in the most exclusive stores (such as Harrods Food Hall in London - not everyone's local supermarket). This was due to the fact that much of the shellfish caught off the British coastline was never sold in Britain, but instead shipped directly for sale in the rest of Europe where demand for shellfish was much higher. Now I live in California, it is very easy to obtain all manner of seafood and shellfish from the local supermarkets which means I have the opportunity to eat .

However, I am one of those people who is kind of squeamish when it comes to oysters. I eat practically everything else, but the texture of raw oysters is something I have never quite got used to. I know most gourmets consider that oysters are best eaten raw in order to get that sea-salty fresh taste - all you need is a squeeze of fresh lemon juice or a dash of Tabasco sauce and you're done. If you are like me, and not quite sure about the raw deal, there are many
for broiling and baking oysters which I would highly recommend. The recipe below is for Broiled Oysters with Garlic Butter (if you are in the UK, you would call these Grilled Oysters), but as opening (or ) the oysters is often quite a challenge, I have outlined how to do this below.

1. First take a dish-towel in one hand to help you take a grip of the oyster.

2. Grasp the oyster firmly, making sure it lies flat side up in your palm.

3. Insert the blade of an oyster knife, (or short, stout knife, if an oyster knife is not available) into the hinge of the oyster, and prise open.

4. As you are separating the shells, slide in the oyster knife and cut the oyster free from the top and bottom of the shells.

5. Take care to keep in the juice and remove any flakes of shell that may have fallen on top of the oyster.

6. The oyster is now ready to serve.

OK, now we've got the oysters shucked, we're ready to make the Broiled (Grilled) Oysters with Garlic Butter!

  • 16 Oysters
  • 4 oz Butter, softened
  • 2 Cloves Garlic, crushed
  • 3-4 Tablespoons roughly chopped English parsley
  • 3 Tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • Lemon wedges, crusty bread and butter to serve

1. Open the oysters, as illustrated above, and arrange the shells with the oysters in a baking dish, taking care not to spill the juice. (To keep the oysters upright, you could stand them in thick slices of bread in which you have cut out round shapes to cradle the shells and keep them steady).

2. Cream the butter and garlic together, add the parsley and beat in.

3. Place a knob of this butter on each oyster, then a good sprinkling of breadcrumbs and Parmesan cheese.

4. Place under the broiler for no more than 2 minutes.

5. Serve immediately with lemon wedges and crusty bread and butter.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Pasta with Spanish Rosemary Olive Oil

If you are looking for a light, and simple midweek meal, often comes to mind. This is a recipe that you can make in literally minutes, it's delicious as a dish, or you can add cooked chicken or shrimp to it, if you like - the Parmesan cheese is also optional.

The pasta is first cooked, then sauteed in virgin olive oil, with garlic and parsley, and seasoned. The I used is Mallafre Olive Oil Pressed with Rosemary from Catalonia, Spain, and is available in the Gourmet Fusion store.

Unlike other herb oils, this olive oil is not flavored or infused, but the sprigs of fresh rosemary have been pressed together with the olives and allowed to naturally separate and mellow, resulting in a fragrant Extra Virgin Olive Oil with a light scent and light after taste. I have used this oil before as a dip, and wondered whether the rosemary taste would be too strong in a pasta such as this, however, once mixed with the pasta and other ingredients, the rosemary flavor is remarkably subtle, and does not overwhelm the dish at all. If you do not have flavored olive oil such as this, you can either infuse your own with a sprig of fresh rosemary for about 10 - 15 minutes, or add fresh or dried to the oil while cooking.

Pasta with Spanish Rosemary Olive Oil
Ingredients (serves 2)
  • 6 oz dried rigatoni or penne
  • 4 tablespoons Rosemary Olive Oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • Several sprigs of flat-leaf (Italian) parsley
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons shredded Parmesan cheese (optional)
  • 4 oz cooked chicken or shrimp, if desired
  1. Boil the water for the pasta, then add the pasta. Cook the pasta according to the timing on the instructions (usually between 10-12 minutes for al dente pasta).
  2. While the pasta is cooking, prepare the other ingredients. First crush the garlic, then roughly chop the Italian parsley, saving a few sprigs for garnish.
  3. When the pasta is almost done, heat the rosemary olive oil in a saute pan (or if using plain olive oil heat in a pan and then add the rosemary).
  4. Saute the fresh garlic in the rosemary oil for 2 minutes.
  5. If you are using chicken or shrimp add this to the oil mixture and coat.
  6. Add the pasta to the oil, and mix in the Italian parsley, salt and pepper.
  7. Cook for a further 1-2 minutes until the pasta is completely coated with the oil and garlic mixture.
  8. Garnish with parsley sprigs, and serve with additional black pepper and Parmesan cheese.

This meal can be served with a green salad, and is great with a dry white wine, such as Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc.

If I am not in the mood for wine, I also like it with a glass of Pellegrino and a slice of lemon.

Monday, February 18, 2008

English Biscuits at Gourmet Fusion

As I am English, I often try to include some food items at the Gourmet Fusion store. Now I know many people think that English people have no idea about food, or how to prepare it, but that is simply not true. Admittedly, I have come across some really bad cooks, and poor restaurants in England, but just like America, England also has some of the most amazing cooks and finest restaurants in the world.

Baking has always been a tradition in England, and even today, "from scratch" baking is the norm, rather than the exception in most kitchens. Baking pies and cakes at home is very common, however, (cookies) are usually bought from the store in packets. So, when I added the Norfolk Manor biscuits to the store, I could not wait to try them. English biscuits are slightly different to American cookies in that they have a crunchier, lighter texture, and these were no exception.

The flavors we carry are Pure Butter Clotted Cream, and English Toffee and Brazil Nut Biscuits. They have a light, buttery, flavor not unlike a Scottish , but the texture is fare more airy, and they simply melt in your mouth.

Both are available online, and also at the Gourmet Fusion store in the Leaping Lotus, Solana Beach.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Green Tea Martini

For many of us the New Year celebrations seem well over by now, but if you celebrate the Chinese Lunar New Year, February 7, 2008 marks the beginning of the Year of the Rat, with festivities and celebrations taking place all around the world over the next two weeks.

If you are planning your own New Year celebrations, this fits in perfectly with Asian-fusion cuisine, and whether you are cooking food at home, or simply calling your favorite restaurant for pick-up or delivery, this cocktail is sure to please.

Made simply with , ginger and tea, the zing of the ginger mixed with the vodka, and the delicate tannins of the tea are a perfect way to introduce your guests to the delicacies to follow, and go especially well with a menu infused with sweet-spicy-sour flavors.

Ingredients - Green Tea Martini
  1. Pour the Vodka, Tea and Ginger liqueur into a shaker with ice.
  2. Shake well.
  3. Strain, and pour into a martini glass.
  4. Decorate with an orchid head.
Also, if you don't want to leave out anyone who would like a non-alcoholic cocktail, make green tea infused with ginger ahead of time, and leave in the refrigerator to chill. Serve in a martini glass with an orchid in the same way, so everyone has a beautiful, fun and delicious start to their meal.