Monday, May 25, 2009

Paradise Caesar Salad

While by no means a traditional Caesar, this is a salad worthy of sonnets. The name is in honor of it's birthing place, a place so beautiful we simply call it Paradise.

When visiting in 2004, I ate this salad so much that the chef handed me a present before leaving...a list of ingredients for the dressing. At the time, I was more of an "eater" instead of a "preparer" and was terribly intimidated by the list of ingredients in formats like "0.009 quantity of anchovis" (purposeful misspelling to accurately reflect the Sweenglish that it was in). I never dared to try to make the dressing on my own.

So I dreamed. Fantasized. Imagined shrimp with a hint of lemongrass playfully bounding across leaves sunning themselves in Caesar dressing. For three whole years.

The second I arrived back at the island last year, I immediately ordered up two salads. Upon delivery, I undressed the prawns with my eyes. When I took my first bite, a tear actually escaped. Unfortunately, these were not tears of happiness. This was in no way the salad that either of us had remembered, that we had dreamed about so often.

The original chef was long gone, taking the recipe with him. The salad placed before me reminded me of the fourth Michael Keaton in Duplicity ...a sad copy of a copy of a copy of the original.

Last weekend, using the Sweenglish dressing ingredient list as a guide, I went for it. The end result? Original Paradise. I can actually feel my toes curling around the sand with every bite I take.

Dressing Ingredients and Directions:

2 tsp anchovy paste
1.5 tbs capers
1.5 tbs garlic
1 tbs dijon mustard with grains
1/2 tsp pepper, ground
1/2 cup white wine vinegar
7 ounces olive oil
2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp worchester
1 tsp red chilies
2 tbs grated parmesan
3.5 tbs water
4 tbs mayonnaise

In the bowl of a food processor, blend everything until well combined. Taste improves overnight.

Salad Ingredients and Assembly:

1 or 2 sliced of applewood bacon, cooked to your liking
Parmesan cheese, shaved
Cherry tomatoes, halved
1 head of romaine or green leaf lettuce (serves two), chopped
Black or Kalamata olives, halved
4 16/20 prawns per person, peeled and deveined
1 tbs butter, melted
1. Cook bacon. Drain.
2. Toss lettuce with 1/3 cup of dressing. Divide lettuce among plates.
3. Assemble tomatoes, olives, bacon and cheese on top of the lettuce.
4. Skewer prawns. Brush with butter and grill for 2 minutes each side. Brush with butter before flipping and again at the end.
5. Assemble prawns on top of salad. Serve.
Extra Credit: To get the mild lemongrass flavor, use a lemongrass brush to butter the prawns. To make the brush, remove the bottom from one pieces of lemongrass. Pound out the tender part until it fans out like a brush. Use accordingly.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

A Lesson in Kitchen Safety

Do not open goat cheese with a 8-inch Henckel's chef knife. Four stitches and one tetanus shot later, I've learned my lesson.
What kitchen safety lessons have you learned?

Shameless Foodie Fights! Promotion

Battle Raspberry/Cauliflower is open to voting. Please check out all entries and vote for your favorite dish. My favorite blogger ever, Loving Rice, is one of the participants!

[start Jedi Mind Trick]

You will vote for Dok Kha Lam with raspberry/ginger dipping sauce.

[end Jedi Mind Trick]

Monday, May 18, 2009

Tom Yum Pla - Hot and Sour Fish Soup

Recently, my husband came home from work looking like death warmed over. He collapsed onto the chaise, cough drops and box of tissues in hand.

"What would you like for dinner?" I asked. "Nothing", he responded between coughing fits. After thinking a moment he added, "Unless you're making something tasty."

Tom yum pla fit the bill (more like tom yum yum!)...with good protein, leafy greens, and a nice spice, I hoped to feed his cold and kick the nasty virus out of his body.

This recipe is fast and easy. You can even shorten the broth simmering time to 10 minutes if you need to.

Broth Ingredients and Directions:
2 cups fish stock
2 cups water
4 kaffir lime leaves, torn (use zest of one lime if no lime leaves are available)
4 bird's eye chilies, stem removed and cut in half lengthwise
3 pieces of dried galangal
3 stalks of lemongrass, halved lengthwise
2 shallots, chopped

1. Put all ingredients into a pot. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes.
2. Strain the broth through a sieve into a saucepan.

Soup Ingredients and Directions:
12 ounces of fish (white fish like halibut, sole, etc), skinned and filleted
1 lb green leafy vegetable, chopped (ex. water spinach, baby spinach, baby bok choy)
1 package beech mushrooms
1 package straw mushrooms
2 tbs fish sauce
1 tbs lime juice
Cilantro, a handful, chopped

1. Bring the broth to a boil.
2. Add the fish and the mushrooms to a pot. Return to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 4 minutes.
3. Add remaining ingredients. Simmer for one or two minutes, just long enough for the greens to wilt or soften.
4. Divide into bowls and serve.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Chicken Sushi

Flashback, 2003: I'm sitting on a bench in Queenstown, New Zealand. It's a beautiful day and I have a lunch from the nearby sushi hut. There was no menu...whatever they had available was rolled tightly and packaged up to go. I'm 1/2 of my way through my raw lunch when the coloring of one fish has me questioning what it is. Flipping over the box to inspect the handwritten label, I suppress a gag. That light pink fish? More like raw chicken. After a few moments of shock, horror and questioning if every tummy gurgle was the beginning of salmonella poisoning, I realized that it didn't taste bad and finished lunch.

Everyone avoids food of some sort or another. I've spent the majority of my life avoiding eggs. I've managed to work scrambled eggs into my diet, although they end up being more of a "Tabasco delivery device" than anything. While I work hard to avoid ova, I will willingly eat escargot, abalone that goes straight from sea to mouth, and quite enjoy both jellyfish and sea cucumber.

Chicken sushi was something that I had heard of years earlier. I had decided that Japan had gone mad. Chicken sushi?! "Only a country that eats live octopus could think of something so insane," I thought. I wouldn't have willingly tried it, but I would willingly eat it again.

Would you willingly eat chicken sushi? How about deep fried moose balls, stir-fried scorpions or an ant burrito?

Some people will eat just about anything. Then there is the guy I had once read about who didn't dare to try an apple or any other fruit, for that matter. What are your limits, or lack thereof?

Monday, May 11, 2009

Dinner Snapshot - Quacky Red Curry

Having planned to fail miserably at my first coriander duck attempt, I had bought two extra duck breasts. We love cooking with duck. People who haven't had it before usually say it tastes like lamb or very tender beef. It was easy to figure out what to do with the curry!

Note: This recipe requires marinating time.

2 duck breasts, skinned and sliced thinly on a diagonal
6 tablespoons/cubes of red curry paste (or store-bought but watch the sodium!)
1 cup coconut milk
2 cups hot water
2 cups pineapple slices (fresh or canned), cut into smaller pieces
1 cup Thai basil leaves
Jasmine rice, cooked according to instructions

1. In a medium bowl, coat the duck slices with 2 tablespoons/cubes of red curry paste. Marinate for three hours (or up to 24).
2. When duck is done marinating, cook the remaining four cubes of curry paste over medium-high heat until fragrant (about 2 minutes).
3. Add the duck and cook, stirring constantly, for two or three minutes.
4. Add the coconut milk and two cups of water.
5. Bring mixture to a gentle boil and cook for three minutes.
6. Reduce heat to low. Cover pan. Simmer duck for an additional 10 minutes.
7. Stir in the pineapple and basil leaves and cook for an additional two minutes.
8. Serve over rice.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Breakfast Around the World

We here at the Crazy Monkey House are passionate about food, travel, and photography. When we're not cooking at home, we are stuffing our faces in foreign countries. The National Geographic Society's Intelligent Traveller blog has a new entry about breakfast around the world. Why is this news worthy, other than it combines food and travel? They used one of our photos! That's right, the NGS approached us about using one of our photos of a street vendor breakfast in Bangkok. Check it out!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Vote for Foodie Fights!

Remember to check out the Foodie Fights! competition and vote for the dish you'd most like to eat. My smoked coriander duck breasts with a rhubarb port wine reduction can be viewed here.
The other entries can be viewed from the Foodie Fights! main page. There's stiff competition...all dishes were unique and creative!

Monday, May 4, 2009

Foodie Fights! Entry - Smoked Coriander Duck Breast with a Rhubarb Port Wine Reduction

Rhubarb? What? After spending my entire life avoiding it, my desire to be a Foodie Fights! competitor led to a requirement to cook with it. I had no idea what it looked like, what it smelled like, what it tasted like. I spent the first 24 hours in paralyzed fear, the second accepting it for what it was and starting my mental ingredient merry-go-round, and spent the final 24 hours asking my mom, husband, and a friend a series of "would you rather eat..." questions.

For a good portion of Saturday, it seemed like I was meant for failure. You see, spring's coming late to these parts and rhubarb isn't exactly easy to come by. After searching three stores together, I went home to start preparing the duck leaving my husband to embark on The Great Rhubarb Hunt '09. Thirteen stores later, husband returned victorious. He also proved himself a thinker, buying red chard to "substitute" for rhubarb if push came to shove.

I'm not afraid of many foods, but as I stood there in the kitchen, trying my third knife to get through the rough stalk, I actually found myself sneering at it. By the time it was whirling around the food processor, my nose was scruntched up between my eyebrows. The fibers, the smell. I knew I had avoided it for a reason. In the end, I overcame my fear of rhubarb, using the duck to sop up every last bit of the reduction.

Foodie Fights! was exactly what it was meant to be, a challenge. It challenged my recipe creation skills by throwing in an unfamiliar ingredient as well as my personal preferences.
Please swing by Foodie Fights on Tuesday, May 5th to check out the competition and place your vote for your favorite recipe.

Alder Wood Smoked Coriander Duck Breasts with a Rhubarb Port Wine Reduction

Note: This recipe can be recreated on the BBQ using wooden grilling planks. If you use this method, be sure to submerge the planks in water for 3 hours prior to cooking.

Duck Preparation - Four Easy Steps

Step One - Marinate Breasts:

2 duck breast halves
1 cup orange juice
1/2 cup soy sauce
2 tbs peanut oil
2 tbs honey
1 tbs ginger, peeled and grated
2 cloves garlic, minced

1. In a large bowl, combine all ingredients. Stir well.
2. Add the duck breasts, coating both sides. Refrigerate for two hours.

Step Two - Seal In Moisture:

Apple wood smoked bacon, one slice per breast half

1. In a large pan over high heat, cook the bacon to your preference.
2. Eat bacon, reserve bacon fat.
3. When breasts are done marinating, remove from marinade and coat each breast with bacon grease.

Step Three - Prepare Coriander Rub:

2 tbs coriander seeds
1 tsp black peppercorns

1. In a food processor or mortor, grind coriander and peppercorns until they have broken into a fine grit.
2. Rub coriander mixture into the greased duck breasts, coating each side.

Step Four - Smoke/BBQ Duck Breasts:

Duck cooked to medium rare (140 F) will result in meat that seemingly melts in your mouth but you can prepare it just like chicken to 170 F if you'd prefer well done.

If you are using a smoker, prep with alder wood. Heat to 225 F. Place breasts on an ungreased rack in the middle of the smoker. Smoke for 60 to 90 minutes or until the breasts reach your desired doneness. View video of the duck being removed from the smoker.

If you are using a barbecue, submerge a wood plank in water for three hours (alder and fruit woods work the best, but any flavor will do). Using indirect heat, preheat grill to 300 F. Place plank in center of grill and place duck breasts skin side down on the planks. Cook for 40 to 50 minutes or until duck has reached desired doneness.

Reduction and Sides Preparation - 3 Easy Steps

Step One - Make the Reduction:

1 lb rhubarb stalks, roughly chopped
3 bird's eye chilies, stems removed
6 tbs honey
1 stalk lemongrass, light purple and pale while parts chopped
1 inch ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
1/2 c chicken stock
3 tbs port wine
1 1/2 tsp arrowroot (or cornstarch)
1 tbs butter

1. In the bowl of a food processor or blender, combine the rhubarb, chilies, ginger, lemongrass, and honey. Puree until smooth.
2. Pour the mixture into a medium saucepan. Add chicken stock. Cook over medium low heat (a slow simmer) for 20 minutes.
3. Mash the puree through a sieve. Reserve the liquid that comes out. Discard the remainder.
4. In a small saucepan over medium low heat, add the port wine to the rhubarb liquid.
5. Whisk in the arrowroot until dissolved and reduce mixture by half.
6. Just before serving, whisk in the butter.

Step Two - Heat the Marinade:

While the rhubarb is cooking down, bring the reserved marinade to a boil and cook for three minutes, stirring frequently. Turn heat down to low and let cook until duck is ready.

Step Three - Cook the Carrots and Spinach:

1 large bunch of spinach, washed
2 carrots, cut into sticks
1 tbs olive oil
Juice from 1/2 lemon

1. In a large saute pan over high, heat the olive oil and lemon juice.
2. Add the carrots and saute for four minutes. Remove carrots.
3. Add the spinach. Saute until spinach just starts to wilt.
4. Arrange carrots and spinach on individual plates.

Bringing It All Together:

1. Remove duck breasts and slice width-wise at an angle into thin strips.
2. Arrange duck slices over spinach.
3. Spoon or pipe rhubarb port reduction over duck breast and plate.
4. Spoon marinade into small serving bowls and serve duck.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Foodie Fights! - Sneak Peek

Emerging from the smoker:

Friday, May 1, 2009

Foodie Fights! Update

Ouch, my brain hurts. I'm pretty sure it's from running endless rhubarb coriander combinations through my head only to keep mentally scratching them out. I was feeling pretty good about my final choice until I checked out the other contestants . My competition is serious (and have given me serious hankerings for Afghan dumplings, among other things).

You should go check them out because they are going to kick my novice rump all over the kitchen.

Aga Kitchen - you've gotta love any food blogger that cooks with quinoa.
The Arugula Files - must...make...dumplings.
Brake for Bread - has left my husband desperately wanting to improve his food photography skills.
Downsized! - eating to live, not living to eat...and encouraging others to do the same!
Elaine, the Gourmet Girl - two words, tequila caviar.