Haute Hot Food

Only for the adventurous in eating that want to tantalize their taste-buds and make food dance on their palate.

For I am not afraid of letting the food
overtake my desires, nor am I afraid of letting my desires be my food. Food is my expression, not just my livelihood. Cooking is my art, not out of responsibility, but purely out of passion.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Dirt Between Your Toes...Isn't it Grand!!!!

Playing in the dirt is therapeutic, and being an adult, doesn't mean we can't enjoy the mud-pie, squishing between the toes fun that all of us enjoyed as a child. So, maybe I label it "gardening" now, but never the less, I still enjoy it. Maybe it's the growing up in what used to be rural America, spring always meant planting, and summer always meant more fruits and vegetables we could possible consume! Sauteed, grilled, fried, raw, and canned......we ate our bounty every way the mind can imagine. For the vegetables, it meant tomato and cucumber salads, freezing battered okra, and shelling the black eyed peas. Fruit trees always brought on a different excitement.
I knew the outcome of the small fragrant blossoms was going to be even better than my slight addiction to the salty fried okra. I remember my mom boiling the jars, pressing the almost over ripe plums and peaches through the sieve, and hearing the little "pop" of the seal as the preserves cooled.
I live in a suburbia neighborhood, of which I thoroughly enjoy, but it does limit the space of my desire for a large garden. I plant what I have room for, and I am blessed enough to live not too far from the acreage where I grew up, so my parents have graciously allowed me to still use a few of the tilled rows of their garden in order for me to ease my itch. Yes, the hot days of picking weeds may be a little backbreaking, early morning watering's can come too early, and the fire ant bites are inevitable, but knowing the outcome far outweighs any part that may be grueling at times.
The first harvest came at a perfect time this year. I made sure to plant all my "normal" veggies: jalapenos, tomatoes, zucchini, herbs, and onions, but this year I branched out and also decided to try my luck with a variety of pepper plants as I have been experimenting with different prestos and also trying different ways to enjoy the abundance of squash that will be healthy yet appeal to my three little mouths. This, my dears, is the fun part: picking ( not knowing what you will get for the day), cooking, testing, re-testing, and enjoying. From my first harvest of many more succulent recipes and trial and errors to come, let the summer veggies do their thing!

Fresh Garden Skillet

2c. Spaghetti Squash, cut in half, sprinkled with seasoned salt, olive oil and roasted in 425 degree oven (skin side up) 30 minutes then scrapped with a fork
2c. assorted garden peppers and onions (bell, Serrano, jalapeno, Anaheim, poblano, red onions, white Spanish onions) sliced thin
4 garlic cloves, minced
2TBS Olive oil
1TBS Fresh oregano, chopped
2 Roma Tomatoes chopped
2 Green onions, sliced
1/4c Queso Fresco, crumbled

-Heat Oil in Skillet
-Add garlic and cook 3-4 minutes
-Add peppers and onions
-Cook until soft 5-7 minutes
-Add Tomatoes
-Add cooked squash and cook until mixed and tomatoes have broken down a bit (5minutes)
-Season with Salt/pepper
-Off heat, fold in Queso Fresco
***Keep in mind, this is YOUR garden skillet! Use what you have for your peppers/onions. There is never a wrong way to enjoy your harvest!

Monday, May 10, 2010

The Seduction of an Avocado

"Pura Matnequilla". I had no idea what this meant nor had I ever heard the phrase, but little did I know, that this term would forever change the way I felt about the world of avocados. Over thousands of miles, and years of travel, I have enjoyed the vastness of the culinary world. From savory sauces to decadent desserts, my palette has experienced some of the most fantastic and complex flavors there is to offer, yet none has compared to one of the richest, purest there is. The AVOCADO.
1,769 miles south, lies a land that is rich in tradition, beauty, and the love of everything pure. Simplicity of life and food are the keys to the most tranquil place I have ever witnessed. The water that flows over the land and falls with force over high cliffs, is the purest in the world. Crystal clear pools seem to dot the jungle roadside, and every one we pass by, I long to linger in the serenity it offers.
Each village we come across has a small open air market that is bustling with business. As soon as we settled in to our jungle get away, I went for a walk and discovered the one that would eventually become my daily stop. Although the size of this market was not large, and the uneven posts were topped with a woven roof and open air sides, the abundance of fruits and vegetables picked at their peak, were endless. I did not speak the language, and I had not the first clue what many of these native foods were; there was one thing in common....a passion for taste. With each glance of the produce, I was offered a taste. With pride, they would cut into each one and hand it over. As they watched me sample, they studied my face. With eager anticipation, they awaited my reaction. They wanted me to love each bite, and savor the hard earned labor they had sown. I was mesmerized by the farmer's excitement over each morsel I devoured. I walked over to a few crates that had just been brought by his son's and took a glance. The man ran over to me and insisted I eat one. He called them "Pura Mantequilla" - Pure Butter........Avocados.
Sure, I loved guacamole. I'm from Texas, so naturally I was brought up smearing it on fajitas or mounding it on a chip, but I never would have gleamed with excitement or compared it to my love for butter! He slowly cut it open with his rusty knife, and handed me a thick slice. My hopes were not high, but I wasn't going to let him see the hesitancy in my eyes. As I began to taste the fruit, I realized how distorted my taste had become from over mixing and concocting this lovely and delicate food. My taste buds danced with enjoyment as I savored each bite. He was right! Pure butter is the only words in the English language that could even begin to compare the smoothness of my new found gem. No longer was I going to be masking the identity or buffering the taste, and no longer will my firsts thoughts of them go straight to a tortilla or chip.
Do I still love my Mexican dips? Yes. Do I still crave them being layered with meats and salsa? Of course!
But now, I appreciate the true identity and I try to reach beyond the conservative realm that so many times seems to take precedence. Shift your paradigm. Go beyond the norm and take a chance. You never know, for you too, could become seduced by an avocado!

Southwest Seafood Avocado Salad with Chipotle Lime Dressing served in a Grilled Avocado
Garnished with a Roasted Poblano Pesto

***GRILLING the Avocados, keeps the color vibrant and adds to this beautiful presentation!
4 Haas Avocados halved, seed removed and set aside
-Heat grill or grill pan to med-high heat.
-Rub avocado with lime wedge and oil
-Lightly salt
- On oiled grill, place avocados down and grill until marks achieved. (1-2minutes)
-Remove and set aside

Poblano Pesto:
2 lrg poblano peppers, roasted and chopped
1/4c. Toasted pine nuts
1/4c. Packed cilantro
2 cloves garlic
Olive oil
-Combine all but oil in a processor. Puree until finely chopped. Add oil to desired consistency. Set aside

Chipotle Lime Dressing:
2 cloves garlic
1 Chipotle pepper canned in Adobo
1½ TBLS Adobo sauce
2 small limes juiced
2tsp Cumin
1TBLS chopped white onion
1/2c. Mayonnaise

-Pulse in a blender until well chopped and combined. Salt/pepper to taste

For the Salad:
1/3c. Finely chopped red onion
3 avocados small diced
1 can black beans drained and rinsed
1 small bunch cilantro, roughly chopped
1/4c. Manchego Cheese, chopped small
12 oz lump crabmeat
1c. Rough chopped shrimp, cooked and cooled

-Combine all ingredients except crab and avocado. Fold until combined. Add dressing by tablespoon-full’s until desired creaminess is achieved. Gently fold in avocado and half of crab. Reserving the rest for tops of individual salads.

To serve:
-place grilled avocado on a plate
-Top with scoop of salad
-Place extra crabmeat on top
-Garnish with pesto on plate and lightly over salad for color.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Secret Sundaes

Oh to be a child again. No worries about life haunted my thoughts and reality never stomped out dreams. Summers were long and evenings were magical. Life was all about indulgences.
Running through the house on a warm summer day, just long enough for a tall glass of lemonade, I hear the most amazing sound ringing through the house. The sound is not of lively music nor is it the sound of laughter, but rather the nostalgic and repetitious sound of the ice cream maker churning away. Nothing brings me back to July summer nights than to hear once again the glorious sound of ice cream being made.
Even now, it has comforted many tears, been the secret midnight snack, and make little ones dance with anticipation. We have limited this after dinner treat to birthday parties and snack shops. We have passed over the ice cream recipes because they look so plain, ordinary and child-like. We choose the complex over simplicity.
Ice cream brings out memories we have long forgotten, and helps us to make new ones that fill our hearts with the same excitement we felt as a child when we were licking the melted ice cream as it ran down the cone. Is it not to be confined to a half gallon bucket or a sweet crunchy cone.
 Whether we admit it or not, adults as well as children like to build and play with their food. Get out your wine glasses, martini glasses, or tea cups and serve this frozen deliciousness with as many toppings as you can imagine. Chances are, you will get smiles and giggles as stories will be shared and memories will be forever ingrained in our hearts.

So many times, we pass over the simplest and most pure form of happiness to fulfill the sophisticated side we think will make us happy, but at the end of the day, it's really about the simple little pleasures that fill our lives with the greatest amount of joy.

Crunchy Dulce De Leche Ice cream

1 can sweetened Dulce De Leche milk (in the Mexican section of the grocery store)
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup milk
6 large egg yolks
2 tablespoons sugar
1/3 c. sliced almonds that have been toasted and cooled
1/3c. toffee bits

Make the ice cream base: In a medium heavy saucepan, combine the cream and milk and bring to a gentle boil over medium heat. In a heatproof large bowl, whisk the egg yolks, 3/4 of the dulce de leche, and granulated sugar until smooth and pale. When the milk comes to a boil, whisk 1 cup of the hot cream mixture into the egg yolk-sugar mixture until smooth. Gradually add the egg mixture in a slow, steady stream to the hot cream in the pan, whisking to combine. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and strain through a fine mesh strainer into a clean container. Cover with plastic wrap, pressing down against the surface to keep a skin from forming. Refrigerate until well chilled, about 2 hours.

Remove from the refrigerator and pour into the bowl of an ice cream machine. Freeze according to the manufacturer's instructions. When the ice cream is nearly completely churned, spoon in the remaining dulce de leche to create a swirl in the ice cream. Add toasted almonds and toffee bits. Let churn 3-4 minutes until combined. Transfer to an airtight container and freeze until ready to serve.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

For The Love Of The Spoon

What a wonderful sight to see. A small little bite of bursting flavors. Just enough. Nothing more. One bite and that's it? Yes. It's the wonderful course of the "Amuse Bouche". It is seldom seen yet richly desired. One bite that is usually amidst white table cloths and a Steinway. This bite is meant to literally wake up your mouth and prepare it for the on coming rich food that we seek. These morsels of food that are served on the delicate little spoons have become my favorite indulgence of the dining experience. The amuse takes time to prepare and the attention to detail must be perfectly executed. This is the first representation of the chef to the diner, and this is the diner's first impression and foretelling of the next hours to be enjoyed. Each piece must be precisely placed in order to fit into the spoons perfectly concave shape. No spills, nothing out of place, and a flavor that must speak loud enough to be heard yet subtle enough not to overtake the palette. Perfect balance. -Why is this small piece of luxury only enjoyed out? Why can't we start having amuse-ing times at our table? It will be fun. It will be new. It will teach us this: We have become too focused on the third and forth course of life, and have forgotten about the small yet explosive little details that can get us started.

"Amused" Smoked Salmon Roll

3 oz Smoked salmon
1 lemon, juiced
2 oz lump crab
smoked sea salt
fresh dill

-Start with dry salmon laying flat.
-Brush lightly the lemon juice over salmon
-Lay crab in single row
-Roll salmon and cut into small rolls
-Plate each roll separately or in amuse spoons
-Top each roll with one caper, pinch of dill and a few granules of sea salt

Only for those......