Tag Archives: beets

Cayman Islands…

Monday, April 2 –

Dinner last night was… well… expensive. And the flavors were… kind of bland. I’m having a hard time writing this one because most of the people who came to join us for this really, really loved it. Let me tell you about it, and then we will see where my tastes would have preferred something a little different.

First, let me say thank you to everyone who came over: Wonderful Boyfriend (AKA MudFlaps), Roommate Extraordinaire, CurlyCue (AKA PoopyHands) Hot Momma, Mr. Hero, MoneyShot, SlotMachine, and GingerNuts. Not in attendance (but got a take-home dinner) was Grandpa Bear and Baby Bear. As you can tell by the AKAs, the nicknames I’m giving people might start evolving. Each dinner there are more terrible funny stories and jokes that drive the names. So by the end of this adventure I will build a chart of the names, who they are attached to, what they have changed to, who they really are, and how they are connected. Should be really entertaining after four and a half years of this! I also want to say thank you to everyone for bringing wine. It was wonderful to have everyone come together, eat, drink, and be ridiculous merry.

On to the dinner – It started on a wild lobster chase, turned into a four-person veggie chopping workshop, and ended with sauce and beet juice all over my kitchen. Epic, right? So Roommate Extraordinaire and CurlyCue chopped, grated, sliced, and diced all of the veggies for this recipe (keep in mind we tripled the amounts to have enough food for all of the dinner guests). GingerNuts washed the stack of dishes I was making as I whipped, folded, and poured my way through the cake and salad recipe.

The cake was extremely easy to make and baked at the same temp that the beets were in the oven. The mascarpone, gelatine, raspberries, and cream made for a beautiful topping that went into the fridge to chill.

Then Roommate Extraordinaire, CurlyCue, and I de-shelled and de-poop-veined the shrimp (hence the PoopyHands name). We were ready to cook! Except we had too much food to cook all on one stove, and so GingerNuts and I cooked the lobster and shrimp with the sauce and also the noodles for the patties upstairs. Roommate Extraordinaire and CurlyCue cooked all of the veggies downstairs. As the sauce was simmering I peeled and diced the beets and got the salad ready. The veggies were done, and food was ready to be served. (Writing this whole adventure didn’t take very long, but it took about three hours for all of this to happen. Eek!) Because we were running so late, I decided not to fry the noodles. I figured that we could pour the sauce on just the same and it would work out alright.

We set the salad stuff out for people to dish up themselves. And then I plated the noodles, veggies, seafood, sauce, and raw veggies on top for everyone. Dinner was served!

The noodles were a little overcooked because we didn’t have enough hands to make all of the different dishes turn out at that large of amounts of food. The sauce was bland and runny – probably because I didn’t have time to let it simmer down and thicken properly. The seafood was a little tough for me. The veggies were good but almost too much for the dish. And the salad was good except I still don’t like beets. This was just my take on it, anyway. Fortunately, most of the people at the table really liked the flavors and ate until they were stuffed.

Now, if I got to do it all over again, here is what I would do. I’d only make these dishes for four people maximum. I would make the cake and salad and set them aside, just like I did this time. Then I would have steamed the shrimp and lobster and set them aside. I would have sauteed the veggies that went with the shrimp and then made the sauce in that pan. Then right when I was ready to serve everything I would gently mix the seafood back in. (Spending that much money just to make tough lobster was pretty much a tragedy.) I also would have actually made the fried noodle cakes instead of leaving them loose. I think it would have changed the texture enough to make me like it more.

The dessert on the other hand was simply incredible. The cake came out the texture of a molten chocolate cake. The mascarpone and cream were light, fluffy, and plate-lickingly good. That was by far my favorite part of this evening.

Things I have learned: Trying to triple a recipe like this made it a disaster (at least to me). Next time a recipe calls for that many steps, just keep it to a very minimum number of people. Also, trying to eat a dish that had a cream base absolutely killed my crohn’s. It was a miserable night for me after having only a mediocre dinner. I’m super glad that most people loved this food more than I did! Also, I learned that it is “mascarpone” not “marscapone” like I have been saying it for years. Good to have the right name for things, even if it takes you years to get it right.

Cayman Islands
(recipes borrowed from the cooks at: www.caymanrestaurants.com)

Aragosta Di Buba

  • 1 1/4 lb lobster tail
  • 1 lb peeled shrimp
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp minced garlic
  • 3 tbsp ketchup
  • 1 yellow squash
  • 1 zucchini
  • 1 red onion
  • 1/2 tsp dry or fresh chopped tarragon
  • 3 oz brandy
  • 3 oz dry vermouth
  • 16 ox heavy cream
  • 2 green onions

Julienne the following vegetables:

  • 1 carrot
  • 1 red pepper
  • salt, pepper and cayenne pepper to taste
  • 4 vermicelli cakes (see below)

Cut lobster into bite-sized pieces. Heat olive oil in large pan. Sear lobster and shrimp in pan for 3-5 minutes, add garlic, shallots and sauté. Add ketchup, seasoning, deglaze with brandy, vermouth. Add cream. Reduce. When sauce becomes thick, taste and re-season if necessary. Add julienne of vegetables and chopped green onions. Toss. Serve on a vermicelli cake. – serves 4

Vermicelli Cakes

  • 1/2 lb vermicelli pasta
  • 1 egg
  • 3 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 roasted red pepper, chopped fine
  • 1/2 white onion, diced and sautéed
  • salt and pepper to taste

Cook vermicelli and cool slightly. Add the remainder of ingredients and mix thoroughly. Form cakes, using your hand. Let cool. In a hot pan (preferably with a nonstick surface) fry cakes until golden brown. – yields 4 cakes

Goat Cheese, Beets and Arugula Salad

  • Goat Cheese – 1 Lb. [crumbled]
  • Beets – 5 each [roasted or boiled]
  • Arugula – 1 lb
  • Pine nuts – 1 cup [toasted]
  • Apple Cider Vinegar – ½ cup
  • Olive Oil – ½ cup

Method: Wrap the fresh beets in aluminum foil and bake in oven for 1 hour at 350º F. Let cool, peel skin and quarter. (Or Boil in enough salted water to cover for an hour or till cooked.) To make the dressing: Combine apple cider vinegar and extra virgin olive oil, add salt and fresh cracked pepper and whisk well. Place beetroots in large bowl, toss with the vinaigrette. To Serve: Arrange the arugula in the centre of the plate. Place the beets on it and sprinkle the goat cheese over it. Spoon the left over dressing over it and garnish with pine nuts.

Chocolate Triangle

  • 4 oz bitter sweet chocolate, chopped
  • 5 oz milk chocolate, chopped
  • 4 oz unsalted butter
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 3 oz egg white
  • 3 oz egg yolk
  • 3 1/2 oz granulated sugar

Melt chocolate, butter and vanilla bean (only the inside). Whisk egg yolks and 3 oz sugar and add to the chocolate mixture. Whip egg whites and 1/2 oz sugar and fold under the mixture. Spread into pan and bake for 10 minutes at 350° F.

Mascarpone Cream:

  • 10 oz Mascarpone
  • 4 oz sugar
  • 2 oz whiskey
  • 1 oz lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 3 sheets gelatin
  • 1 cup fresh raspberries

Whisk Mascarpone, sugar, whiskey, and lemon juice together, then add softened gelatin. Whip heavy cream to soft peaks and fold into the mascarpone mixture. Take a triangle mold and lay out this mold with the chocolate cake, fill half with the cream, place raspberries in the center and pout the rest of the cream over. Refrigerate for 3 hours. Take the triangle out of the mold and coat with a chocolate ganache and let it set. Garnish with fresh berries marinated in simple syrup and Grand Marnier.



Wednesday, September 7 –

It is a really, really good thing we love onions – love them so much that using 4 onions for one meal didn’t even make me blink. I did end up using only 3 because I thought the proportions were off, but I would have used 4 if it had worked better with the amount of other ingredients. So I started out by making the dough for the empanadas, which I found on YouTube. As the dough was resting in the fridge, I started cutting the veggies for the filling. Noticing that this recipe called for an entire diced onion to be boiled with one chicken breast and then thrown away, I quickly moved to improvising. (Really? Boiling meat? And throwing more food away? Naaaaaw… not me.) So instead I chopped 1.5 onions, the green bell pepper, the leeks, and added the spices and put all of it into a large pan with two chicken breasts and some olive oil and covered it. I let the veggies cook down while using the steam from them to keep the chicken breasts moist.

While I was cooking the filling, Wonderful Boyfriend put the salad and salad dressing together. Because there were only 3 of us for dinner this time (Roommate Extraordinaire and us), he just built little salad piles (with the beets on the side, because I wasn’t so sure about them) on the plates instead of making a bowl of it. Saves on dishes and hard-to-save-squishy-salad-stuff leftovers. I moved on to making the bean dish while Roommate Extraordinaire shredded the chicken breasts and put the meat back into the veggies to simmer down a little bit more. (This dinner definitely took all 3 of us, and I was very glad for the help.) The bean dish also called for 2 onions, which I toned down to 1.5 just like the filling. I kept the rest of the recipe just like it called for, and let me tell you it smelled sooooo good as it was simmering.

Everything else done and prepped, I moved on to rolling out the dough and cutting out circles for the empanadas. I used a soup bowl pressed onto the dough to make an even line and then cut out the circles as carefully as I could. Roommate Extraordinaire put the filling and the egg in (we diced and crumbled the egg instead of using slices) and sealed them with a fork. The liquid from the filling started to make the dough sticky on the bottom so we used cooking spray and a cookie sheet to form them on. Then we fried them (yes, I know I could have baked them, but I was trying to be authentic…) and the smell of them cooking was amazing.

When we finally got everything dished up to serve and ready to eat, my mouth was watering. Onions? Cilantro? Fried dough? Yes, please and thank you. The salad was good, but mostly just a salad (and yes, the beets turned out just fine). I’ve had more interesting salads from combos I’ve made myself, but it was good none-the-less. The empanadas were good, crunchy, flaky, delicious pockets of wonderful – but I have to say it was the bean side dish that really pulled it all together. With a scoop of the bean dish on top of the empanada, the flavors mingled together and made all of us groan in happiness. It was so good, I have to say, that I almost wish that I had skipped the salad just so I could have more of the beans. I wouldn’t just give that recipe one gold star, it deserves many, many of them.

Things I have learned: Leeks taste a little bit like a mild green onion, and it feels like a waste to just use the white part. The next time I cook with them I will try to have a soup or something planned for the green tops so I’m not throwing so much usable food away. Continuing to keep with my “don’t simmer/boil/cook stuff just for flavor and then throw away” plan is working just fine. If you need the flavor of something like onion, use onion powder. I am also not really a fan of boiling meat, so simmering with the lid on did just fine keeping the meat moist and shred-able. Also, we started with drinking red wine while we were cooking and moved to white wine for the meal, which some people would argue was backwards, but it worked out just fine for us. Dare to be different than “conventional” because it might turn out more amazing than you even hoped!

Thoughts about wine: We started with a Malbec, which was so dark we couldn’t see through it, and so good it vanished before we could even get to dinner! It was a very good red, not too dry or woody tasting, and generally made me want to keep filling my glass. We moved to a white from Argentina with dinner, and it had a good, clean grapefruit flavor at the beginning with absolutely no lingering bite to it at all. It was refreshing rather than sharp, and it even went really well with the canary melon and blackberries that we had for dessert. I highly recommend both bottles!

Recommendations from our sommelier, Leigh Olson: One word ~ Malbec!

Malbec is the national variety in Argentina so it seems fitting that this meal be paired with the Regional Pairing strategy.  “If it grows together, it goes together.” This meal, which reveals the Spanish influence of the Argentinian cuisine, demands a wine with a little backbone as well as some elegance.  Malbec will not disappoint.  This richly colored red wine has an intense fruit quality that will augment the mélange of flavors in the empanadas.  The velvety textures prevalent in an Argentine Malbec, will offer a pleasant counterpart to the creaminess of the beans.

My recommendations:

  • Every day, Easy Drinker |  Catena Malbec 2007
  • Step it up | Luca Malbec 2007
  • Money is No Object | Weinert Estrella Malbec

If you can’t find one of these, ask your wine steward at your local grocer.  They can be great resources.  Just tell them you are preparing a traditional Argentine meal.

Fun Facts: Malbec originated in the Bordeaux Region of France and was allegedly named after a Hungarian peasant who planted the grape throughout France.  With more than 1000 synonyms for Malbec, this poor grape could have an identity crisis.

Serving Temp: 64 – 68 degrees.  This is a room temp kinda wine.  Just make sure that your room is not 74 degrees and you will be fine.  Otherwise, store in the fridge and pull out about 45 minutes before you plan on serving.

Vessel of Choice:  Since this is a Bordeaux grape, I am going to suggest a Bordeaux glass.  Both  Riedel and Spiegelau make beautiful glassware.  Otherwise, a nice red wine glass that will allow the wonderful blackberry, tobacco and vanilla aromas to waft up to your olfactories.

(recipes borrowed from the cooks at: www.allrecipes.com and http://fromargentinawithlove.typepad.com)

Black Beans a la Olla

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 large onions, diced
  • 6 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 (19 ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 (16 ounce) can tomato sauce
  • 2 tomatoes, diced
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 3/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1/2 cup chopped green onions
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Directions:  Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat; cook the onions and garlic in the oil until the onions are translucent, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in the black beans, tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, cumin, and cayenne pepper; reduce heat to medium-low and simmer 5 minutes. Add 3/4 cup cilantro and simmer another 2 minutes. Stir in the green onions and remove from heat. Garnish with 1/4 cup cilantro.

Springtime Hearts of Palm Salad–Ensalada de Palmitos de Primavera

  • 1 head of lettuce, leaves washed an torn (I used green-leaf lettuce here)
  • 1 tomato, sliced into wedges
  • 1 rib of celery, sliced into pieces cross-wise
  • 1 can hearts of palm, drained
  • 1 can cut or sliced beets, drained
  • 1 hard-boiled egg, shelled and sliced
  • salt, to taste
  • pepper, to taste

Vinagrette Dressing:

  • 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon red-wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt (or more to taste)
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4 cup olive oil

Directions: Hard boil the egg before anything else.  To make the dressing, combine all the ingredients in a jar with a tight-fitting lid and shake to combine.  In the bowl of your choice, place the lettuce.  Add about half of the dressing and toss until the lettuce leaves are klightly coated.   Layer the egg slices, then a ring of celery slices, a ring of hearts of palm slices, finishing with the beets in the center.  Add the tomatoes fanning around the beets.

Empanadas de Polllo, Puerro, y Pimiento – Chicken, Leek and Pepper Empanadas

  • 12 tapas or discos for empanadas, either store-bought (available at Latin Markets) or homemade
  • 1 hard-boiled egg
  • 1 chicken breast
  • 2 onions
  • 3 tablespoons cooking oil
  • 2 leeks
  • 1 green bell pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1 tablespoon oregano
  • salt, to taste
  • pepper, to taste
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten, for painting

Hard-boil the egg.  Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.  Bring 3 cups of water to a boil in a medium saucepan, and add the chicken breast, one onion, chopped very coarse, and a handful of coarse salt.  Let poach until the chicken has cooked through, about 20 minutes or so–check the inside of the chicken to be sure it is not pink and has cooked thoroughly.  Alternatively, use leftover cooked chicken, like from a rotisserie chicken. Remove the chicken breast to a cutting board and discard the onion and water.  Let cool slightly.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a skillet over medium-high heat.  Chop the onion into medium dice, and add it to the skillet.  Chop the leek, (white part only) and add it to the skillet, as well.  Let cook for about 10 minutes, lowering the heat slightly if needed, until the leek and onion mixture has softened and become translucent.  Meanwhile, shred or cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces. Add the chicken to the skillet, and the crushed red pepper, salt, pepper, and oregano.  Stir well to combine.  Peel your hard-boiled egg, if you haven’t already.

Set the empanada shells out on the counter to assemble.  Lightly flour a baking sheet.  Also have the slightly beaten egg in a glass, and a small glass of water.  Place a heaping tablespoon of filling in the center of the empanada shell.  Slice a sliver of hard-boiled egg and put it on top of the filling.

Moisten the edge on the top half of the shell with a little water on your finger. Fold the bottom half of the dough up until the edges meet and seal with your fingers by pressing down. The empanada should have a half-moon shape.

Use the palms of the hands to pack the filling firmly in the center. Next, fold the edges with the Repulgue: using your fingertip, fold one corner of the empanada over, pressing down firmly. Go to the edge again and repeat, pressing firmly each time. Go around the edge of the empanada and you’ll get a spiral pattern. You can also use a fork-seal, instead.

Paint the top of each sealed empanada with the beaten egg so that when they bake, they have a shiny, golden shell. Place the finished empanadas on the baking sheets. Put the empanadas in to bake for 12 to 15 minutes-they should be sizzling and very golden brown on top. Take out and eat very carefully while hot!