Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Super Food Strawberries

If, like me, you love , the good news from the California Strawberry Commission is that they fall into the group of super foods that improve health and longevity, and are full of cholesterol-lowering antioxidants.

A recent study published in the scientific journal, Metabolism, carried out by the University of Toronto, confirms existing evidence that strawberries are one of the world's most nutrient-rich foods. It showed that the antioxidant power in strawberries can improve and maintain the effectiveness of cholesterol-lowering diets. High is known to contribute to heart disease, and including antioxidant-rich strawberries in a healthy diet is a behavior change that is simple and delicious to make.

Here is the US, we are fortunate that California strawberries are grown and available year-round across the country. One serving, about a cupful, or eight strawberries, is not only rich in antioxidants, it is low in sugar (containing about 50 calories), and also an excellent source of vitamin C.

The recipe for the delicious Summer Strawberry Daiquiri shown above, and of course, Paula Deen's Cream Cheese and Pecan Stuffed Strawberries, have been featured in earlier issues of our blog, and are great ways to use summer strawberries. However, if you are looking for the best healthy option, it's advisable to eat the strawberries without the addition of alcohol or cream cheese!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Steamed Mussels with White Wine & Chiles

This is the kind of meal to share with friends, sitting around the table enjoying the flavor of the mussels, dipping crusty bread in the juices at the bottom of the bowl, and drinking a glass of white wine, or your favorite ice cold beer.

You should buy the on the day that you are going to cook them, and scrub and debeard them in advance of cooking.

Ingredients (serves 4)
  • 4 lbs mussels, scrubbed and debearded
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoons flat leafed parsley, plus a little for garnish
  • 4 scallions, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 red chiles finely chopped
  • 1 large baguette
  1. Place the olive oil in a large wide pot over medium heat.
  2. Add the garlic and saute for about 2 minutes.
  3. Add the scallions and the chiles and saute for another minute.
  4. Add the mussels, and toss quickly to coat.
  5. Add the white wine and and cover the pot.
  6. Continue to cook over a medium-high heat for about 3 minutes, or until the mussels begin to open. Discard any mussels that do not open.
  7. Add the tablespoon of chopped parsley, and toss to combine.
  8. Continue cooking until all the mussels have opened.
  9. Place the mussels in warmed serving bowls, or one large bowl (family style) and spoon over the wine mixture.
  10. Sprinkle with the additional parsley, and serve immediately with the baguette.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Spice Things Up

Ever wondered what to do with the and herbs you use regularly, so you don't have to search through dozens of jars to find the one you want?

Gourmet Fusion has the answer with these cute little mini spice canisters, each with an airtight colorful acrylic lid, and a mini spoon that slots neatly into the side when not in use. They can be found online as a set of four, or you can find them in our Solana Beach store at the Leaping Lotus. They also make a great for someone who likes to cook, or a host or hostess gift.

Spices are derived from aromatic seeds, berries, buds, roots, or barks, and they are used to enliven many dishes. Here are just a few of the common ones.

This sweet Caribbean spice, sold ground or as whole dried berries, gets its name because its flavor resembles a blend of cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg.

Cayenne Pepper
Finely ground from the dried cayenne chile, this orange-red powdered seasoning delivers a spicy-hot accent.

One of the most popular sweet-hot spices, cinnamon is the aromatic bark of a type of evergreen tree, sold ground or in long, thin curls (cinnamon sticks).

Native to Southeast Asia, these dried flower buds of an evergreen tree have highly aromatic flavor. They are used whole or ground in both sweet and savory recipes.

The small, spicy-sweet seeds of the coriander plant, also the source of the herb known as fresh cilantro or Chinese parsley.

Sold either as whole seeds or ground into a pale brown powder, cumin is popular in Middle Eastern, Indian, and Mexican recipes for its strong, dusky flavor and aroma.

This popular baking spice is ground from the hard fruit pit of the nutmeg tree. For the best flavor, grate the nutmeg as needed.

Made from the dried paprika pepper, his powdered spice is available in sweet, mild, and hot forms. Hungarian and Spanish paprikas are both available.

Red Pepper Flakes
The coarsely crushed flesh and seeds of dried hot red chile. This seasoning adds a touch of fire to sauces and marinades, but use carefully - they add more heat than you expect!

Saffron Threads
It takes the hairlike stigmas from many thousands of blossoms of a variety of crocus to yield one pound of this golden, richly perfumed spice, making it one of the world's most expensive. Use just a pinch of saffron to impart a bright, sunny yellow color and wonderful aroma to a dish. Saffron threads are best, as saffron that has been ground loses its flavor more quickly.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Clams with Sausage & Tomatoes

This simple recipe is made with and sausages in a tasty tomato sauce. The recipe suggests using linguica or chourico sausages, however, I have used Italian sausages, and other types of with equal success, but the flavor of the sausage does have a marked effect on the final flavor of the dish.

Serve the clams in shallow bowls, either spooned over wedges of boiled potatoes or accompanied by lots of coarse country bread.

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 yellow onions, thinly sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1-2 teaspoons red pepper flakes or 2 fresh chiles, finely minced
  • 1 bay leaf, torn into pieces
  • 1/4 lb presunto or prosciutto, diced
  • 1/4 lb linguica, or chourico, casings removed and crumbled
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 2-3 cups diced, canned tomatoes with juices
  • 3 lb small clams, such as Manila, well scrubbed
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • lemon wedges (optional)
  1. In a large saute pan over medium heat, warm the olive oil.
  2. Add the onions and saute until tender, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic and the red pepper flakes, if using, and saute until softened, about 3 minutes more.
  3. Add the bay leaf, ham, sausage, wine, tomato, and the fresh chiles, if using.
  4. Simmer for 10 minutes.
  5. Add the clams, hinge side down, discarding any that are open or broken.
  6. Cover and cook until the clams open, 3-5 minutes.
  7. Spoon the clams and juices into warmed bowls, discarding any clams that failed to open.
  8. Sprinkle with parsley and a liberal grinding of black pepper.
  9. Serve with lemon wedges, if desired.
The recipe originates from the region of Portugal and can be found, along with many other mouth-watering recipes in the Williams Sonoma book, savoring Spain and Portugal.