Saturday, July 17, 2010

The heat is on .....

Summer has arrived with a vengenance this year . We are recording 90+ degree days like sand through the hour glass. My vegetable garden is growing in abundance, the basil is out of control - considering last year it refused to grow , turned a sad colour of yellow then curled up and died. My cucumber plants are seeking gold medals by outgrowing their cages and my tomato plants are growing in leaps and bounds.

A few weeks ago my eldest daughter had a few of her bff's over for a summer party - they all enjoyed these delicious fruit slushies . I cannot tell you how refreshing they were and perfect for an afternoon of summer fun .

Watermelons and strawberries starred in these delicious drinks , a little simple syrup and plenty of icecubes. Of course you can tailor these to your specific favourite fruits. I like to keep things seasonal - because nothing tastes better than watermelon and strawberries in the peak of summer.

Of course these can be made more enticing for adults by adding your favourite vodka or tequila ..... we have now elevated them to happy hour drinks - because it is always 5 o'clock somewhere .

Enjoy these drinks in the spirit of summer fun the perfect cooling beverage for the whole family .

Fruit Slushies
inspired my many a recipe

watermelon , cubed
strawberries - hulled and halved
simple syrup **
cold water
ice cubes

decorative drink umbrellas and fruit of choice

My preference is for seeded watermelon as they have more flavour , take the time to take out all the seeds , cube to about the same size as your icecubes . Wash and hull the strawberries them cut them in half . Place the fruit in the freezer for about an hour - to make them very cold - that way they will not melt the icecubes.

Place 2 handfuls of icecubes in your blender along with some water , the partially frozen fruit and blend. Add a little simple syrup and cold water to adjust the thickness of the drink - you want to be able to drink it through a straw - basically they need to be margarita consistency. You can adjust the ratios of fruit to your personal taste . If the fruit is sweet enough you can omit the simple syrup .

Place in a cold glass and decorate with whatever you have on hand.

** Simple syrup recipe.

In a saucepan place equal parts sugar and water , bring to boil then simmer for 5 minutes. allow to cool them store in a glass jar in the fridge until you use it all up .

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Pesto and Mozarella Meatballs with Pasta

I think I have found my new go to quick family meal .

I will spare you the details of who eats what when I make the traditional pasta and meatballs. Who wants spaghetti , who wants penne , who wants sauce and who only nibbles at their meatballs before they declare they are full to the hilt and who looks at the sauce under a microscope before they will even contemplate eating the meal.

Once again we sat down to a meal that sought of came together in stages , when my little gourmet declared " you have to put this on your blog" . Mind you, this was after I had served everyone , I looked into the bowl and there was barely enough left to qualify a well presented dish ....... but taking into account how much I am flying by the seat of my pants lately, we should be grateful for small miracles.

So , out comes the camera and with the light of the evening dinner table , and everyone collectively holding their breaths - I took the photo. Once again please forgive and understand presentation is lacking in this photo - but taste is certainly not lacking .

Welcome to pasta with turkey meatballs , made with basil pesto and fresh mozarella. They are delicious and light, a wonderful break from the traditional tomato based sauce and a hit with the whole family .

I started making turkey meatballs with pesto and provolone cheese for customers when I had my  catering business happening and they were always a hit . In this particular case I knew I wanted meatballs, I had excess fresh mozarella left over from pizza night and I am staring at my basil plants in the pot contemplating beautiful dishes.

Confession up front, the pesto is store brought however the meatballs have fresh basil from my garden . My preference of late is ground turkey , I am sure this recipe will also work well with ground beef - I would recommend a mix 50/50 of ground sirloin and ground round.

So go ahead and make this dish - enjoy it during these summer months and I am sure it will become a family staple.

Pesto and Mozarella Meatballs with Pasta
a GG original recipe

1lb ground turkey meat 93% lean
1 large fresh mozarella ball
1/2 -3/4 cup coarsely grated parmesan/asiago /pecorino mix , or to taste
kosher salt
freshly ground pepper
6 large fresh basil leaves , julienned
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
fat free milk - to moisten the breadcrumbs
basil pesto
canola oil

pasta of your choice

Combine all ingredients except the basil pesto. Add the fresh mozarella to the mixture by cutting it up into little chunks with your hands - they do not have to be perfect a shape. Or you can grate it coarsely on a box grater .

Once you have combined all of the above ingredients - flatten out the mixture in the bowl slightly, then drop dollops of the pesto over the mixture - then with your hands fold the meat mixture into itself gently so that you do not end up with a green meatball mixture - but rather  little pockets of pesto , little pockets of mozarella .

Place the mixture in the fridge for a couple of hours before forming into meatball.

Meanwhile prepare your choice of pasta according to packet directions.

Preheat your oven to 400F and preheat a non stick pan , add a little canola oil. Remove the meatball mixture form the fridge and form into meatballs either using a small- icecream scoop or free form . Shallow fry in the canola oil  then finish cooking them in the oven for about 8-10 minutes depending on their size. They will not be cooked in any sauce therefore you need to make sure they are cooked thoroughly.

Once the pasta is cooked , add some pesto ( to taste) in the bottom of the bowl and add the pasta with a little bit of the pasta water to the bowl ( this helps to loosen up the pesto) - toss thoroughly to combine then place the pesto meatballs on top and serve with a salad.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Cuban Inspiration

I am writing this post in the recovery phase of 4th of July festivities . Just got back form a wonderful lunch with friends , which we have enjoyed for the past few years, following the parade through our village streets.

Several weeks ago , I lamented the fact that I had not posted anything for May , of this year , and half the battle , excuse was because I would make something then eat it - then , realise I did not take a photo of the meal - and it was super delicious .......

So , a few weeks ago I purchases some ground turkey for burgers , has just flicked through a Sara Foster cookbook and was inspired by her Cuban Turkey Burger recipe. Because I always like to put my own twist on the everyday mundane , I thought it would be nice to incorporate some interesting flavors to what is otherwise an american summer staple.

Welcome to turkey burgers with a gourmet goddess twist.

Firstly , let me say that I have grown to love turkey meat for burgers - more than beef burgers . Not only for the health aspect of less fat - I feel that have a more delicious flavour and you can add more things to them , that many times just do not work out for beef burgers.

To make these Cuban inspired I have added some basic Latino staples such as black beans, cumin, cilantro, red onion and bell peppers . I know you are probably reading this and wondering how this all works . They were delicious . Approved by my little gourmets, raised eyebrows with my picky gourmet (a.k.a husband...... love you Deno) and absolutely inhaled by the gourmet goddess . But wait there is more - a secret ingredient ..... and the secret ingredient was bbq sauce - homemade no less !!!

I did not follow a recipe and neither did i adhere to strict measurements. I just added things as I went along and looked at the colourful combination created and adjusted accordingly . I have to say that the addition of cumin and bbq sauce really added a depth of flavour and deliciousness that made the ordinary hamburger - extraordinary.

I hope over the coming summer months you have a chance to enjoy the chance to experiment with different flavours and textures for turkey burgers - we enjoyed these on a nice sourdough buns, lettuce and a smear of bbq sauce on the bun and some yummy organic blue corn and flax seed tortilla chips.

Happy summer and burger and eating .

Cuban Turkey Burgers

ground turkey meat ( 93% lean)
black beans - rinsed and drained
red and yellow bell peppers - small dice
red onion - small dice
2-3 green onions , green parts as well
small handful of fresh cilantro - sprigs only
1 teaspoon ground cumin
salt and pepper
bbq sauce , of choice
panko breadcrumbs
fat free milk
lettuce leaves
provolone or cheddar cheese , to put on top
sourdough or very hearty wholewheat buns
blue corn chips

This recipe is just guidelines , depending on the amount of ground meat  you want to use you adjust the other ingredients accordingly. Place the panko breadcrumbs in a bowl and cover with the milk , stir to combine and allow the breadcrumbs to absorb all the milk . they should be moist and not dry before you add them to the burger mixture , add more milk if needed.

Grill accordinly to well done and with a slight char on the burger , toast the buns a little - it makes then a lot more tasty .

If you prefer your burgers not to have breadcrumbs - just omit - and look more to the melting pot of flavours rather than the strict adherence to amounts.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Albuquerque Dip to die for

Hi everyone .

Happy 4th of July , the weather is July perfect , rising humidity, rising heat and frazzled parents . Well, I enjoyed drinks on my patio the other day with my friend Sharon , and somehow we managed to put away one bottle of wonderful organic Malbec , dip , chips and conversation in a timeframe of 2 hours - and still keep our heads clear . Hence , I cannot explain the touch.... hint of blurriness of the photo .

Sharon came bearing gifts , one of which was this delicious dip - with a post-it note stuck to it - letting me know I could not enjoy this deliciousness for at least 24 hours . What is a gourmet goddess to do - but bide her time , it looked very colourful and smelt amazing .

The recipe has travelled along way , all the way from Albuquerque New Mexico , via a friend of Sharons, from a restauruant which escapes everyones memory . To this restaurant , I acknowledge you and thank you for inventing this wonderful dip .

It is not your typical soft serve dip , it is chunky, it is moreish and received outstanding approvals from both my little gourmets. It is a collusion of Mediterranean and Mexican flavours , you have olives, balsamic ( in this case it was made with red wine vinegar - due to allergies .....I still think it tasted awesome) corn, cilantro and beans. I tweaked it a bit because I think kalamata olivess would give a greater taste than tinned olives - and I urger you make it with deli brought olives rather than tinned ones .

This would be great served as a side dish with any grilled meat , served with rice - but we enjoyed it on its own with blue corn chips.

I urge you all make this , put it away in your fridge and enjoy it tomorrow with your 4th of July festivities .

Albuquerque Dip
from a restaurant in NM

3 tbls Balsamic vinegar
1 can small chopped green chilies
3 tbsl taco seasoning
2 ripe diced tomatoes
3 tabsp olive oil
1 tbsp sugar
2 garlic cloves ( finely chopped or put through a garlic press )

1 cup pitted kalamata olives , sliced
1 cup pitted green olives roughly chopped
1 bunch green onions chopped - white and green part
1 15 oz pinto beans 
10oz bag of white frozen corn - try making it with the yellow and white corn
1-2 cups Mexican shreddes cheese * read my note in the method

Put everything in a bowl except the cheese , I would recommend the prepackaged Mexican cheese mix , or you can really make it special by crumbling some Mexican Chichuaua cheese . If you are not a huge fan of balsamic you can swap it out for good quality red wine vinegar .