Tuesday, April 27, 2010

A Splash of Orange

The essence of oranges is used in recipes across the board from dessert to salads to entrees with beef, pork and chicken.

Oranges are a common ingredient in our salads, and are usually peeled, segmented and added to fresh greens along with cheese and nuts. This month we bring you oranges in a few different ways.

Basmati, Sauteed Vegetables & Flank Steak

An uncommon and surprising use of mandarin oranges is in the recipe, Basmati, Sauteed Vegetables & Flank Steak which combines stir-fried vegetables and marinated flank steak with basmati rice that is tossed with the mandarin oranges after it is cooked. Every bite is a wonderful flavor discovery from spicy hot to the sweetness of the oranges.

Ginger & Orange Curried Fried Fish gets its splash of orange from orange zest in the marinade. The marinade is a blend of orange zest, ginger and buttermilk. The marinade gives the fish a subtle under layer of flavor that pairs beautifully with the curry, ginger and pepper that make up the flour coating. Served with chutney, this is wonderful and different fried fish dish.

Ginger & Orange Curried Fried Fish

We also experimented with a literal splash of orange when testing for our Decadent Hot Chocolate. The unadorned hot chocolate is sinfully rich and smooth with no additional flavorings, but for those who like a little extra something, the addition of a drop of orange oil, transforms these little pools of ‘heaven in a cup’ into liquid truffles. A must try!

Next time you’re experimenting with a recipe and want to give it something special, try a bit of orange or other citrus juice or zest. You may be surprised at the delicious flavor combinations you can create by thinking (and cooking) outside the box!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Salad Entrees

For those of us looking for healthy low-fat meal alternatives, salad entrees can be a perfect choice. Endless ingredient combinations make salad entrees fun, quick, nourishing and an exciting way to layer food groups and flavors. Leafy greens, vegetables, fruits, nuts, cheese, rice, meats, poultry, fish and herbs can all be enjoyed together in one glorious meal!

So, how do you decide which foods to combine into a great one dish salad? Our method is to first choose a flavor direction. As an example, if you choose a Latin flavor, it is easy to develop a list of Latin ingredients that will compliment each other:

Once you have your list of ingredients, make a list of options from different food groups:

Greens: Spinach

Vegetables: Tomatoes, onions, garlic, avocado

Meat, poultry or fish: Chicken

Herbs: Cilantro

Cheese: Asiago

Spices: Chili powder, cumin, salt, hot pepper flakes

Once you have your ingredients, wash and spin the greens, prepare a vinaigrette, season and sauté, broil or grill the meat, poultry or fish, and slice vegetables which can be prepared raw or cooked. To assemble, toss the greens with vinaigrette and place on a serving plate. Top with vegetables and spoon on a little more vinaigrette. Slice meat and lay decoratively next to vegetables and top with cheese and fresh herbs.

Here are some great recipe ideas to get you started:

Pan Seared Red Potatoes, Snow Peas, Cilantro Vinaigrette with Almond Crusted Chicken

Peppered Wild Rice Salad with Spinach, Grapes & Thyme Vinaigrette

Gourmet Greens with Tomatoes, Pine Nuts, Asiago Cheese & Basil Vinaigrette Served with Herbed Olive Foccacia

Snapper w/Tomatoes and Spinach

Marinated Steak Salad w/Mixed Greens & Gorgonzola

Mahi Mahi Salad w/Hazelnuts

Noodle Salad w/Shrimp

Balsamic Beef Salad

Chicken Curry Salad

Fresh Orange Salad w/Sauteed Scallops

Grilled Pepper, Corn & Onion Salad w/Balsamic Vinaigrette

Marinated Steak Salad w/Mixed Greens & Gorgonzola

Rice Salad w/Asparagus & Prosciutto

Spring Roasted Salmon Salad

Spinach & Roasted Red Pepper Salad w/Grilled Tuna

Spinach Salad w/ Turkey Picadillo

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Cooking with Ginger

Many people hear the word ginger and automatically think of gingerbread, ginger-ale, or gingersnaps. But fresh ginger can add amazing flavor to stir-fry’s, pasta, salads, curries, soups and much more.

Ginger dates back to the 8th and 12th centuries BCE in the Sichuan region. Ginger was probably introduced to Japan in the 3rd century BCE. It not only was used for culinary purposes but was also revered for its medicinal qualities. It was purported to cure colds, liver ailments, nausea, anemia, rheumatism, jaundice, tentanus, leprosy, aid in digestions, restore appetite, regulate menstruation and even stimulate sexual desire. In fact the ginger root was so important to the Chinese and Japanese that it in Chinese and Japanese cooking it is said to be a "yang" ingredient — necessary to achieve harmonic cuisine.

The popularity of ginger carried through to the Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Egyptians, Greeks and Romans. It is not a wonder that you will find this amazing root in so many different types of cuisine. But why do some ethnic cuisines use fresh ginger and others dried? Because dried ginger was the only way they could transport it without spoilage. And over the years in some areas, even when fresh was available these cuisines opted for the dried ginger as a matter of preference.

Ginger is now available in six forms:

Fresh Ginger: Roots are available in two forms — young and mature. Young roots are pale and have a thin skin that does not need to be peeled. The taste is very mild in flavor. You can grate, chop or julienne young ginger roots. Mature ginger roots have a tough skin that needs to be peeled away to get to the flesh. Usually mature ginger roots are grated, chopped or ground. Much like garlic, fresh ginger, mellows with cooking, and turns bitter if you burn it.

Salmon with Thai Curry & Bok Choy

Ground (Powdered) Ginger: Tastes very different than fresh. Ground ginger is readily available in most supermarkets in the spice aisle. Usually used primarily in sweets like gingerbread, ginger snaps, etc or in curry.

Dried Ginger: This form is most commonly found in whole fingers or also in slices. It is usually hydrated before using.

Pickled Ginger: This form is pickled in sweet vinegar and is usually bright pink or red. Most people have seen this form accompany a plate of sushi. It is also eaten to freshen the breath. It is available in Asian markets. Must be refrigerated.

Preserved Ginger: Preserved in a sugar-salt mixture — this form is generally used as a confection or added to desserts.

Spicy Thai Mixed Vegetables

Crystallized Ginger: Also referred to as candied ginger, this form has been cooked in a sugar syrup until tender and then coated with granulated sugar. It is most commonly used in desserts.

The best way to store fresh ginger root is to freeze it. It will keep, frozen, almost indefinitely. Remove it from the freezer whenever you need it, use what you need and stick the remainder back in the freezer.

This month with our focus on Thai cuisine we have many recipes that utilize fresh ginger. We invite you to try these recipes… they are all delicious and most are quick and easy to prepare.

Salmon with Thai Curry & Bok Choy

Ginger & Orange Curried Fried Fish

Roast Chicken with Sushi Rice Stuffing

Curried Beef with Sugar Snap Peas

Ginger Beef

Spicy Thai Mixed Vegetables

Lettuce Wraps

Curried Beef with Sugar Snap Peas

Thai Pork Tacos

If you are a big fan of ginger, or after reading this article decide you can’t get enough ginger, you might want to consider growing it. Here are some great step-by-step directions on how to grow ginger in a pot.

How to grow ginger in a container:

Plan to plant the ginger in the spring — where you can supply warm enough temperatures (whether

Thai Pork Tacos

indoors or out). The tubers will sprout only when temperatures reach 75-85 degrees F.

  1. Buy fresh ginger root(s) at the supermarket or in an Asian market. Look for fat tubers with lots of buds.
  2. Use a container that is about 14 inches wide and about 1 foot deep. Make sure that your pot has good drainage. This size of a container should hold about 3 average-sized tubers.
  3. Fill the container with potting soil enriched with compost.
  4. Soak the tubers in warm water overnight. Set them in the pot just below the surface, spacing them evenly, with the buds facing up.
  5. Set the container in a light shade, indoors or out (depending on the temperature — warmer is better).
  6. Water lightly at first, then more heavily when growth starts. Keep the plants dry in the winter because they are dormant through the winter months.
  7. Expect the plants to reach maturity, and a height of 2-4 feet, in 10 months to a year.
  8. Dig up new, young sprouts that appear in front of the main plants, use what you need. Freeze or replant the rest.
  9. Clip young, tender stems anytime.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

10 Easy Chicken Dishes

Everyone needs a handful of quick and easy recipes that they can pull out for those, ‘I can’t think of anything to make for dinner’ occasions or unexpected drop-ins. What distinguishes our list of easy chicken dishes is the fact that they are also full of flavor and include some of our all time favorite recipes.

Quick chicken recipes almost always begin with boneless chicken breasts. Boneless chicken breasts with the skin can be browned, baked, broiled or grilled without drying them out because the skin and fat keep the meat moist along with imparting flavor. Boneless, skinless chicken breasts are great sliced and tossed with other ingredients cooked over high heat, usually just until browned.

Buying boneless chicken breasts from the grocery store is more expensive and unnecessary if you have a few minutes to de-bone the breasts yourself. Whenever possible, we recommend buying whole chickens, cutting them into parts and freezing them for later use.

Chicken with Blackberries

To de-bone a chicken breast, cut the whole breast into two halves along the cartilidge and center breast bone on the underside of the breast. Grab each half with both hands and press apart until the small bone at the top snaps. With a sharp knife, cut along the breast bone to separate. One of the breast halves will still have the breast bone attached. For this half, place the breast skin side up and slide your knife along the ribs against the bones, separating the breast meat. The other side is easier, simply slide your knife between the bones and meat to separate.

To make quick meals quicker, package breasts in serving amounts and freeze. You can write the amount of servings on the freezer bags with a marking pen. Boneless chicken breasts thaw relatively quickly.

Our top 10 easy chicken recipes are:

1. Honey Rosemary Chicken

2. Almond Crusted Chicken Breasts

3. Mustard Grilled Chicken

Grilled Tequila Chicken

4. Caramelized Chicken Burgers

5. Chicken with Blackberries

6. Chicken with Spicy Chipotle Tomato Sauce

7. Curried Chicken

8. Chicken Teriyaki

9. Chicken Breasts w/Mushrooms

10. Grilled Tequila Chicken