Saturday, August 10, 2013

Our New Home

To visit our new website, JUST CLICK ON THE BOX ABOVE and you will be taken to  Over the next weeks we will be hosting some book give-aways to show our appreciation for your support!

Monday, August 5, 2013

DWTS: Latin Night at Home & Avocado-Pistachio Loaf with Lime Glaze and Cilantro Ice Cream

“From Len . . . . . . a Ten!”  That’s just how good this dazzling use of avocado turned out to be.

By now the California Avocado Commission has educated most that avocado is a fruit and not a vegetable and can be used for something other than guacamole.  While California would surely like to take credit for this wonderful produce, the avocado is actually indigenous to south-central Mexico and originated over seven millennia ago.  The avocado migrated to California in the 1870’s when Mexican trees were successfully introduced in Santa Barbara.  California now produces about ninety percent of the nation’s avocado crop with the Haas variety accounting for ninety-five percent of the total. 

The inspiration for my recipe was “Avocado Toasts,”  which turned out to be toasted bread with avocado smeared on top of it and consumed like a tartine.  Tasty but mundane.  Sous Chef was unimpressed and thought it seemed a waste of good guacamole.  So he challenged me to put my own spin on making Avocado Toasts.

My response was “Avocado-Pistachio Loaf with Lime Glaze” accompanied by Cilantro Ice Cream.  Avocado, cilantro, and pistachio form a sort of green holy trinity.  Avocado and cilantro have a harmonious layer of grassy flavors, but the cilantro’s brightness helps cut through the buttery fat of the avocado.  The pistachio is a versatile nut and provides texture against the richness of the avocado.  A bite of this version of “Avocado Toasts” first brings forward the fruity nuttiness of the pistachio, then the subtle avocado flavor starts to make its presence known, highlighted by the drizzle of lime glaze.  The Cilantro Ice Cream compliments the flavors of its mates and rouses the palate from any lethargy caused by the richness of the avocado. 

This dish satisfies your sweet tooth, with a little bit of sassiness thrown in.  Kind of like “Latin Night” on Dancing with the Stars.”  It starts out just as you would expect and the next thing you know someone has lost their shirt (hopefully Gilles Marini or Maksim – he’s usually good for several shirtless numbers a season –although Sous Chef is undoubtedly rooting for it to be one of the scantily clad female dancers).  If you are literal like Sous Chef, and must respect the toast label, then by all means toast the loaf slices.  Sous Chef grabbed his trusty cast iron skillet, cranked up the heat, tossed in a slice, and got a nice bit of crustiness for his efforts.  He proclaimed toasting the slice added further dimension and flavor to the dish.


This sweet and savory dessert is a great way to spice up your entertaining.   Pair it with a tequila-based cocktail and you might just have a Latin dance party in your dining room. 

Avocado - Pistachio Loaf with Lime Glaze adapted from Que Rica Vida recipe

1 large avocado
2 tablespoons butter (room temperature)
3/4 cup sugar
1 large egg
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 cup chopped pistachios, plus a 1/4 cup for the top of the loaf
1 cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoons lime juice

Preheat the oven to 325°F.

Grease bread loaf pan (5x9) and set to the side.

Puree avocado, butter, sugar, egg and buttermilk in a food processor or Vitamix until smooth.

In a small bowl, combine flour, baking soda, salt and baking powder together, and add to the avocado mix.

Mix the flour mixture and avocado mixture together until combined.

Add in 3/4 cup of chopped pistachios to mixture and slowly mix in.

Pour mixture into the loaf pan and bake for 50 minutes.

Remove from oven and allow loaf to cool.

Once loaf is cooled, mix powdered sugar and lime juice together until smooth.Drizzle lime icing over the top of avocado loaf and sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup of pistachios. 

Cilantro Ice Cream adapted from The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz

Warning:  Makes approximately 2 cups.  Double recipe for ice cream afficionados.

1 cup packed cilantro leaves
3/4 cup whole milk
3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
1/3 cup sugar
pinch of salt
2 large egg yolks

Bring about 4 cups of water to a boil in a sauce pan.  Prepare ice bath while waiting for water to boil.  Once water is boiling, blanch cilantro leaves for approximately 10 seconds, then immediately drop drained cilantro into ice bath to shock it.  Remove cilantro and squeeze very tightly to remove any excess water.

Place cilantro in Vitamix or blender.  Puree on high speed with 3/4 cup combination of milk and heavy whipping cream until the cilantro is very finely ground.

In a saucepan, warm the remaining milk and heavy cream.  In a separate bowl whisk together the eggs yolks.  Slowly pour warm milk mixture into the egg yolks, whisking constantly.  Place egg yolk/milk mixture back in the pan.  

Using a strainer over pan, pour cilantro mixture into egg yolk/milk mixture.  Once combined, heat mixture to medium and continue stirring until mixture can coat the back of a spoon.  

Strain mixture into cold bowl resting in ice bath.  Continue stirring until mixture is cool.

Refrigerate mixture until completely cooled.  Place mixture into your ice-cream maker and follow instructions.

Friday, August 2, 2013

"It's All Greek to Me" - Tzatziki & Other Musings

“It’s all Greek to me,” muttered Sous Chef as he poured through the menu of a quaint taverna on the esplanade in Katakolon, Greece.  While he may have been joking in his inimitable fashion, we were indeed living the Mediterranean lifestyle for a few hours:  al fresco dining under a bright blue canopy, water lapping just behind our table, soft breezes carrying the aroma of grilled delicacies and the Mediterranean Sea, and an unobstructed view of our cruise ship in the background. 

The best Octopus we've ever had is on this table
Somehow the grilled octopus disappeared...

It’s been a few years since our first-ever cruise which took us through the Adriatic and Mediterranean Seas to visit, if briefly, such historic sites as Corfu, Mykonos, Athens and Katakolon.  The cruise ship ordeal was forgettable, and our last if Sous Chef has anything to say about it, but the culinary and cultural experiences of the Greek Isles were not and remain deeply entrenched in my cognitive and olfactory senses.  This week’s “French Fridays with Dorie” challenge roused those senses to the point I could almost smell and taste our meal at the taverna in Katakolon:  fresh grilled octopus, warm pita slathered with house made Tzatzaki, and chilled Greek white wine.  Opa!, the staff shouted in greeting when we arrived, and Opa!, we exclaimed when departing that most wonderful culinary adventure.

Stands the test of time

Mediterranean cooking is based on the straightforward use of the best and freshest local ingredients.  Simplicity and freshness are the name of the game, and nothing embodies these qualities better than the ubiquitous Tzatzaki which is intended as a condiment for all courses of a meal.  Versatile and refreshing, and perfect for the dog days of August, it can be used as dip with crudité or pita or as a sauce or accompaniment with chicken or lamb.  Dorie’s recipe is delicious and true to tradition, although she dices the cucumbers instead of shredding or grating them as some recipes instruct. 

I often dream of sitting here

One of my favorite ways to enjoy Tzatziki is on a pita, with sliced grilled chicken breast, juicy tomatoes, avocado, and red onion.  It is simple, it is fresh, and it can be enjoyed equally for lunch or dinner.  If you are taking a stay-cation this weekend, travel to Greece by renting “Shirley Valentine” or “Mama Mia, “ and mix up a batch of Tzatziki to nibble on through the movie.

Chicken Pita & Tzatziki
Serves 2

2 pieces of pita
2 grilled chicken breasts sliced into strips (a great way to use leftover chicken)
1 tomato sliced thinly
¼ cup diced red onion
½ avocado diced
½ cup Tzatziki

Warm the pita.  Spread a generous layer of Tzatziki over the pita.  Place two tomato slices on the Tzatziki and top with the sliced chicken breast.  Garnish with the red onion, avocado, and dollop of Tzatziki.

To read more Dorista’s experiences with Tzatziki go to “French Fridays with Dorie.

Stark white architecture set off by a splash of color

A little "facelift" at the Acropolis

Emerald Green Water surrounds Corfu - James Bond forgot to pick me up