Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Lemons and Limes

As the seasons change, different fruits and vegetables appear and disappear at the farmers market, depending on where you live. I took a look at the La Jolla Open Aire Market website, as they have a great list of all our seasonal fruits and vegetables, and noticed that we are lucky enough to have lemons and limes in season all year round.

This reminded me of a recent conversation I had with my father who still lives in England, who spent many weeks trying to find limes at the local stores, as he wanted to "experiment" making some lime marmalade. Admittedly, he lives in a very small country town, but even so, it made me realize what an amazing climate we have here in Southern California. Citrus fruits, such as lemons and limes, not only add color and flavor to many dishes, but are a great source of vitamin C, essential to help boost our immune system.

The recipe below for Classic Lemon Bars appeared in a recent food network magazine, and is sure to be a crowd pleaser.

The lemon bars are simple to make using a food processor, and of course, take advantage of those super juicy lemons found at the farmers market all year round.

This recipe makes 24 bars.

Ingredients for the Crust
  • Vegetable oil for greasing pan
  • 1 1/2 sticks cold unsalted butter, diced
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup confectioners' sugar, plus additional for garnish
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
Ingredients for the Filling
  • 4 large eggs, plus 2 egg yolks
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour, sifted
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 1 cup fresh lemon juice (about 8 lemons)
  1. Make the crust: Place the rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Grease a 9 x 13 inch pan with vegetable oil and line with foil, leaving a 2-inch overhang on all sides. Grease the foil with oil. Pulse the butter, flour, both sugars and the salt in a food processor until the dough comes together, about 1 minute. Press evenly into the bottom and about 1/-inch up the sides of the prepared pan, making sure there are no cracks. Bake until the crust is golden, about 25 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, make the filling: Whisk the whole eggs and yolks, sugar and flour in a bowl until smooth. Whisk in the lemon zest and juice. Remove the crust from the oven and reduce the temperature to 300 degrees. Pour the filling over the warm crust and return to the oven. Bake until the filling is just set, 30 to 35 minutes.
  3. Let the bars cool in the pan on a rack, then refrigerate until firm, at least 2 hours. Lift out of the pan using the foil and slice. Dust with confectioners' sugar before serving.

Colossal Grilled Shrimp

In Southern California, we are lucky enough to be able to grill outdoors practically all year round, but if grilling season is a long way off for you, this recipe can also be made indoors under the broiler.

If you are looking for something simple, that is still elegant enough to impress the most discerning of guests, try these grilled Colossal Shrimp. These large shrimp, often known as the Giant Tiger Prawns, are imported into the United States from the Pacific and Indo-Pacific regions. They are much bigger (usually between 6-13 inches in length) than other and retain their shape well during cooking. If you cannot find these in the stores, the Blue Shrimp, from the west coast of Mexico, makes a good alternative.

These were marinated in a simple lemon and olive oil marinade and served with a Greek salad and pita bread. The flavors of the marinade also go well with Italian style food, so you could serve them over angel hair pasta tossed in olive oil and garlic, with a green salad on the side. Either of these meals is very light and ideal for a hot summer evening.

Colossal Grilled Shrimp with Mediterranean Marinade (serves 4)
  • 3 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 4 tbsp light olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic crushed
  • salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 12 raw unpeeled Colossal Shrimp (use more if using a smaller shrimp)
  1. Combine lemon juice, olive oil, garlic and a dash of salt and freshly ground pepper in a glass bowl.
  2. If the shrimp are not already deveined, slit the back of the shrimp and remove the vein with a deveiner, rinse and pat dry with paper towel.
  3. Add the shrimp to the marinade and toss to coat evenly.
  4. Cover bowl and refrigerate for 30 minutes up to an hour.
  5. Remove from the marinade and grill over medium-hot coals until the shell is pink and the flesh opaque, depending on the size of the shrimp. The shrimp we used took 4 minutes each side to cook.
While the shrimp are cooking you can prepare a simple Greek salad using mixed spring greens, tomatoes, and cucumber tossed in olive oil and red wine vinegar (seasoned with a little salt if you like). Mix in a salad bowl and sprinkle with crumbled feta cheese and black olives. Serve with pita breads lightly grilled on both sides.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Spaghetti with Chanterelles in White Wine

One of the nice things about being part of the Little Italy Farmers market is that you are able to buy some really great produce from the local vendors, and get cooking tips and techniques at the same time.

Last weekend we bought some chanterelles from the resident "mushroom man" at the Date Street, San Diego market, and he suggested we make a white wine reduction with shallots to bring out the full flavor of these hard to find wild mushrooms, so that's what we did.

Golden chanterelles taste earthy and smell fruity, and are one of the most sought after wild mushrooms. Because of their subtle flavor, they work extremely well in simple dishes like the pasta dish shown above, or soups, casseroles, risottos and stir fries, which help bring out the wonderful flavors.

Like all mushrooms they require careful cleaning, as dirt gets stuck inside the gills (much like leeks), so rinse them under cold water for a few minutes, then pat them dry on a paper towel.

They are prepared in much the same way as any other mushrooms, you cut off the rough end of the mushroom, and depending on the size of the chanterelles you have (they range from the size of cultivated button mushrooms to about 6 inches in width), you can either leave them whole, or slice them. The outer skin on the mushroom can also be removed, if you prefer.

This recipe makes a really light meal, and you can also add pancetta or bacon (sauteed with the shallots), and serve the pasta with a tossed green salad.

Spaghetti with Chanterelles (serves 2)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 small shallot (finely chopped)
  • 10 oz (approx) chanterelles
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 oz spaghetti
  • few sprigs fresh Italian parsley
  1. Bring a large pan of water to the boil for the pasta. Once boiled add the pasta and cook according to the instructions for al dente.
  2. In a large frying pan over a medium heat, warm the oil. Add the chanterelles and saute for 2-3 minutes until lightly golden. Remove from the pan and keep warm.
  3. Add the chopped shallots to the mushroom liquid, and saute for 1-2 minutes.
  4. Add the white wine to the onions and cook until most of the alcohol has evaporated, about 1 minute at a high heat.
  5. Return the chanterelles to the wine and onion mixture, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Cook for a further 2 minutes (the mushrooms should be just cooked but still tender).
  6. Drain the pasta and add the cooked pasta to the sauce, along with the Italian parsley.
  7. Add a little more olive oil, if needed, and toss to combine.
  8. Serve immediately and garnish with a sprig of parsley.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Mugs on Sale at Gourmet Fusion

Now is a great time to shop at Gourmet Fusion online if you are looking for Easter and Mother's Day gifts.

All of our ceramic and glass mugs - including mug and coaster sets, like the cute little tabby shown here - are on sale through March 30th.

Why not combine a mug with one of our cast iron or ceramic infuser teapots, or one of our specialty teas, to make an extra special gift.

We always combine shipping, and are happy to gift wrap and answer any questions you may have to make your shopping experience simple and fun.

Check out our range of mugs, teapots and tea at the Gourmet Fusion store online, or in the Leaping Lotus, Solana Beach. (Sale items online only).

Friday, March 12, 2010

Wine to Lose Weight?

I am not quite sure how this works, but recent research has concluded that women who drink moderate amounts of alcohol tend to gain less weight over time than those who drink no alcohol. This included wine - both red and white, beer or liquor.

Research carried out at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston studied the alcohol consumption of over 19,000 women, all starting out at healthy weights. Over the 13 years taken to carry out this study, most women gained weight. However, those who consumed a light to moderate amount of alcohol gained less weight, and were less likely to become overweight or obese. The conclusion drawn from this was that those who drank moderate amounts of alcohol tend to eat less food, particularly carbohydrates.

The reaction to this article which was carried in USA Today appeared to be skeptical, at best, and I have to agree that a glass of wine for me usually means I need to bring out appetizers and snacks (see the picture), so it doesn't often lead me to eating less. I wonder if a similar study has been carried out with men?

Monday, March 1, 2010

Spicy Italian Sausage Sauce with Penne

This is a variation on the traditional marinara pasta sauce, as it has the addition of hot Italian turkey sausages, and an abundance of colorful vegetables. The sweetness of the carrots and yellow pepper combines wonderfully with the hot peppery sausage.

You can use pork or turkey sausage, and both taste great. We chose turkey as it is the healthier option with less calories.

(serves 4)
  • 3 hot Italian sausages, skinned and sliced
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 3-4 small carrots, diced
  • 1 celery stalk, sliced
  • 1/2 small yellow bell pepper, sliced
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 4 tablespoons red wine
  • 1 can chopped tomatoes, drained
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1 tsp. dried basil
  • 2 dried bay leaves
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • basil leaves for garnish (optional)
  • 8 oz dried penne
  1. Make the sauce: Heat the olive oil in a saucepan and saute the crushed garlic. Add the tomatoes, dried oregano, dried basil, bay leaves, and red wine and bring to boil. Cook for 2 minutes at high heat. Reduce the heat and stir in the tomato paste, salt and pepper.
  2. Simmer the sauce for a further 6 minutes, then remove from the heat.
  3. Meanwhile, heat a pan of boiling water for the pasta, and add the dried penne. Cook according to the instructions (about 10 minutes for al dente).
4. Skin the sausages, and cut into slices about 1/2 inch thick. Heat the sausages in a pan, adding a little water, if necessary - no oil is usually needed with Italian sausages. Cook for 5-6 minutes.

5. Add the chopped onion, carrot, bell pepper and celery to the pan and cook with the sausage meat for a further 5 minutes - 6 minutes until the vegetables are tender.

6. Add the marinara sauce to the sausage and vegetable mixture, and heat through.

7. When the pasta is cooked drain, and add to the sauce mixture.

8. Serve immediately, and garnish with the fresh basil leaves.