Monthly Archives: April 2015

Earth Day & Ethereal Shrimp Ceviche

‘Earth is our spaceship. There’s no other. Protect it…’ – was my verbal tribute to the Earth Day few days ago along with this Martian-looking image of the low tide vista some place beautiful. It brought the cozy memories of my most recent travel to Florida, and of course of all things ‘Floribbean’ including its food staple CEVICHE!
Shrimp Ceviche © http://www.letsheatit.com/

Bon Appetit magazine named ‘crudo’, which includes carpaccio, sashimi and other raw sea food creations seasoned with sweet, spicy and acidic components, the dish of 2014. Ceviche (raw seafood and fish) dish is hot on this list. Pristine fresh fish, scallops, even skate join this list with many inexpected spice takes on this Latin/Central American delight. I chose to showcase the Shrimp Ceviche starring freshly cooked shrimp reserving the hard core raw challenges for some hot days later this summer. Some authentic Peruvian recipes use raw shrimp, but I will stick to the cooked one because I wasn’t the one catching it, ha-ha.

The surreal scenery of one of our first nights in New Smyrna, FL with the gorgeous oceanview provides a perfect back drop for this kind of the dish and just to support the mood I found this amateur YouTube recording of the sunrise at the same place if you wish to see it in the day light or, at the sunrise to be exact.

Oh, those rear lucky days of fun in the sun, sandcastling, trying (and inevitably failing) YOLO (you only live once), dog-chasing sandpipers. Refreshing the taste buds in between with fresh ceviche and a glass of rose… 
Isn’t it the way life should be lived more of the time? Routine chores interrupted by whispering ocean breeze and spectacular sunset. Lazy seagul to watch while making your bed, hearing waves while falling asleep… 
The ocean-side theme has imprinted so much in my heart I’m even re-designing our bedroom based on this inspiration now. It’s going great and I will sure post the results once the project is done. You will see exactly this seagull picture framed among other things.
I’m also dreaming about visiting Peru quite often.

The first top notch shrimp ceviche I tried was not in Peru though. It was in Philadelphia at Nuevo Latino restaurant run by the renown Chef Guillermo Pernot. Two times James Beard award winner, Chef Pernot is a world’s expert of ceviche dishes and even published a book since called Ceviche with lots of exotic recipes worth trying. He now runs the chain of Cuba Libre restaurants specialized in ‘Criollo’ cuisine in Philadelphia, Washington, Orlando and Atlantic City.  Guess what, his shrimp ceviche is still on the menu! He serves his shrimp ceviche signature dish floating in the pool of the blackened tomato and pepper spicy gazpacho (the veggies are grilled, blackened and then ground in an old-fashioned way). Mine version is more of a hot day ‘take a break with rose’ style, but is nevertheless uber tasty.

Here are my few tips on how to make shrimp ceviche a success:
a. use the freshest shrimp of the best quality as if you were a real Peruvian, or just have caught this shrimp yourself in St. Lawrence river (at the level of Sorel) an hour ago;
b. salt matters: it’s not a joke – avoid table salt by all means, if you can’t afford to buy Maldon yet (my case), choose a quality flaky sea salt from Normandy for $2.99 from Avril/amazon or Greek sea salt, or Himalayan or other great salts that are 100% natural and not that ‘salty;
c. don’t overmarinate your ceviche;
d. customize the garnish and seasoning with your preferred things: I add mint, a dash of smoked chili or paprika and sometimes mix shirm with lime-brined fresh fish (that goes to the fish ceviche);

e) sweet potato chips are not just a staple in Peruvian cuisine, they are easy to make and supe-deliscious with ceviche.

A glass of nice pinot gris or rose will boost the indulgment. In no time you will be transported to some ocen-view place you feel like you belong to. If shrimp is not your thing, try lobster rolls (btw the images in that post were from the same place although during a day).

One last word: if you happen to be allergic to shrimp like me, the Nordic shrimp from Atlantic will guarantee your safety (I suppose you can find equivalents in other areas). Tested and approved by the undersigned.

Have fun making your shrimp ceviche and please let me know how it goes.
Great week-end cooking to all of you!
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Other great dishes with shrimp: Shrimp & Fish Soup Provencal ;
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SHRIMP CEVICHE RECIPE
Yields: 4 portions
Ingredients:
1 pound (454g) medium small shrimp, peeled and deveined
3 limes, juiced
1 lemon, juiced + for seasoning
1 small orange, juiced (optional)
3 tablespoons (45 ml) quality olive oil
3 tablespoons (45 ml) maple syrup or honey
½ teaspoon lemon zest (optional)
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
Pinch of smoked paprika or chili (optional)

1 teaspoon Kosher or flaky sea salt
1/3 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 small tomato, minced (optional)
3 tablespoons scallion or chives, minced
1/8 cup (35 ml) red onion or shallot, minced or thinly sliced
1 medium jalapeno (35 ml), cubed
1 small yellow, orange or red pepper (250 ml or 1 cup)
1 small cucumber (250 ml or 1 cup), cubed
1 small avocado, cubed for garnish (optional)
1 tablespoon cilantro, minced for garnish (optional)
Plantain, tortilla chips or rice crisps for the side serving.
Instructions:
Add the shrimp to the large pot of boiling salted water and cook for 2-3 minutes.*
Drain and run under the ice cold water to chill. Cut the shrimp into 1-inch sized pieces and transfer to a bowl. Add the lime, lemon and orange juices, combine and refrigerate for 1 to 3 hours.
Mix olive oil, maple syrup, lemon zest and smoked paprika. Add tomato, scallions, red onion, jalapeno and yellow pepper and mix well. Season with salt and pepper. Stir the vegetable mix into the shrimp mix and let sit at the room temperature for about 15-20 minutes.

Green Tea Green Apple ‘Gimme That’ Mini Bundt Cake

I’ve been planning to join the Matcha tea craze in baking for a while and have finally come up with this mini cakes creation: worth every penny. Not only it’s a super-cute dessert with presence and pizazz, it is a moist and dense flavor bomb with a perfect match of green tea, green apple, maple syrup ingredients enhanced with the secret organic STASH tea powder to also include: hibiscus, orange peel, chamomile, pomegranate and raspberry flavors. The later ingredient is optional, although it works as a great taste booster and saves you lots of trips (and cash) to groceries for special ingredients if you happen to have it already. Pure Matcha tea powder alone is also good, packing the cakes with the one and only delicate taste of Japanese tea, along with its powerful health benefits.

If you feel hooked, dear reader, let’s buckle up for a quick food journey, play some Lilly Allen and agree the ‘Life for Me’ can totally include these treats.
Of all my previous mini cakes, muffin or cupcake experiments, I had the most fun with these ones. Whether you are a pro in your own kitchen or just an amateur of an easy, but special kind of dessert you never tried before, but were potentially curious about; the texture and aroma of which would be surprising; the taste of which would linger long after the first bite; and which can be re-heated a week later to reveal even more flavor – this is your thing.  These little sweet babies are the result of my light bulb moment re-purposing the Keurig-style STASH organic tea cups, which later became a pure Matcha tea cakes experiment. Four green apples are included and maple syrup is not forgotten. Believe me, if I’ve done them 3 times in the last 30 days that means they are obsessively addictive. The mini Bundt cake pans are procurable at many places today: from Walmart to Winners, but you can as well have these cakes in the cupcake or muffin shapes.
The spring has sprung, the Easter times go on and the beautiful city of Montreal is finally awakening from the never-ending cold slumber. What a Joy! You can gauge this excitement by the special things cooking on the stoves and special desserts baking in the ovens. The green tea + green apple cakes make a perfect ode to celebrate spring and nature’s renewal…
If you plan a trip to a potluck party this week-end, these will literally sell like hot cakes. No need to advertise, just wait to watch the face expressions while the cakes will be disappearing with cosmic speed.

There are two options to finish the cakes: drizzling with the maple syrup or dusting with confectionary sugar. I prefer to do both. There’s an indefinite number of garnish: from trendy pistachios, to other nuts, to spices like cinnamon or cardamom, to fruits, to whipped cream, jams, even fresh cheese or exquisite savory ingredients like foie gras or smoked fish if you’d like to stretch them to an upscale tapas party territory.

The cakes also make a perfect picnic or Easter basket companions.  These are easy and fun to make in advance and keep for a few days or up to a week in a fridge. If you decide to revive them into something especially impressive, just warm them up in  pre-heated oven (375F) for about 10-15 minutes to have that newly developed crisp crust, which you will re-drizzle later with maple syrup and re-powder with sugar.  Amazing!

It all began with giving a new purpose to the STASH tea cups with 100% natural green tea, hibiscus, orange peel, chamomile, pomegranate, raspberry flavors and Matcha. The idea of using Matcha in dessert has been rattling around my brain for a while. I was going to make the usual apple cinnamon cakes and then noticed the ingredients written on the STASH tea cups. As Deepak Chopra says, ‘intention brings attention’ and eventually ‘brings the process to fruition’: I broke the seal on the cup to see the inside and the tea mix looked like a perfect ingredient to me.  In the first batch I used only two cups of STASH tea powder. I was very impressed with the taste, but felt like it can take on much more tea ingredient.

The next batch I made was with the load of pure Matcha: 3 tablespoons of Japanese Green tea and Matcha mix, which I powdered in the mortar with pestle. In the third batch I used both, STASH tea powder and Matcha and the result was outstanding: cakes bursting with flavors you always look for when ordering desserts at coffee or tea house (and often fail to find).

Tip: squeeze some apple juice out (and drink it) from the pulp to make the texture of the cakes less dense…

Give the cakes a generous maple syrup drizzle on a patriotic whim; dust with powder sugar  and garnish with crushed pistachios. Voila, your green tea cakes are ready to impress the palate.
First time I tasted it I was just struck how incredible a mouthful of green tea the cake can be.
Everyone agreed. Try it with you favorite tea or coffee and you won’t be missing anything…


Enjoy your Easter baking and have a great week-end!

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Previously, around this time of the year:
BBQ Lamb Chops
Eggs Asparagus Ham Tart
Savory Easter Cypriot Bread
Lentil Avocado Spread

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MATCHA GREEN TEA & APPLE MINI BUNDT CAKES

Yields: 5-6 cakes depending on the bundt pans’ size
Ingredients:
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour, OR gluten-free flour for gluten-intolerant
2 tablespoons Matcha green tea powder (plus 1 extra tablespoon to replace the STASH tea if necessary)
2 contents of tea bags or Keurig-style cups of STASH Pomegranate Raspberry Green tea with Matcha (optional)
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon sea salt
1 stick butter, ½ cup, or 118 gm
½ cup brown sugar
¼ cup maple syrup, plus extra for drizzling
3 eggs, beaten
4 green apples, peeled and grated
1 teaspoon lemon juice to spray the apple pulp with
Confectionary sugar for dusting
Slivered nuts for garnish
5-6 mini bundt cake pans
Instructions:
Pre-heat the oven to 350F.
Wash, peel and grate the apples. Squeeze the juice out (to drink or discard) and drizzle the pulp with lemon juice to prevent from browning.
Unless you already have Matcha powder, ground the green + Matcha tea mix in the mortar.
Sift the flour into a big bowl and add the green tea and STASH mix tea, if using.
Beat the softened butter and brown sugar in a separate bowl with mixer.
Whisk the maple syrup and beaten eggs well.
Grease and flour 5-6 mini bundt cake pans and spoon the cake batter into.
Bake for 35-45 minutes or until the toothpick comes out clean. Let the cakes cool for 10 minutes before inverting them onto the wire rack.
Glaze the cakes with maple syrup and/or dust them with confectionary sugar.
Sprinkle with pistachios, almonds or other slivered nuts.

Sour Cherry Babka with Quark Cheese & Maple Glaze Recipe


Keep the Metamucil close, because I’m coming at you with this totally irresistible, incredibly addictive Babka with sour cherries, quark/cream cheese and maple syrup glaze. This brioche-like Babka is an awesome culinary cross between Slavic and Jewish Easter recipes. It’s a great sweet bread to make few days in advance of Easter and keep it at the room temperature or in the fridge (while secretly cutting slices at night when no one can see you devouring it with melted chocolate drizzle and ice cream).

The maple syrup glaze made with one of those gorgeous maple products you procured the other day at the SS fair will have time to get absorbed and you can add a fresh layer of it just before serving.

The down side of this yeasted cake is that you have to find half a day to make it. Allow yourself exactly 4 hours and 40 minutes to have the Babka finally baked and cooling. We made it last night, finished at almost midnight, so there will be no detailed pictures of the steps of making the dough, but I don’t think you really need them. I know the leavening part is imputed to often baking flops. Many of home bakers lambaste themselves over it, but you’ll never know until you try, right? When armed with the proper ingredients, right proportions and yeast that IS actually ACTIVE, I see no reason anyone would fail this mission.

On the upside, this Babka is incredibly deliscious and versatile with some extra additions like honey, melted chocolate, butter, maple syrup, caramel, etc. It can be stored at the room temperature for up to three days or for few days longer in the fridge.

Sour cherries give a great fresh tang balanced delicately with the cheese mix (lightened with the quark cheese instead of pure cream cheese and maple syrup to replace sugar) and spongy, yeasty dough. Simple and attainable goodness and a stunning center piece (given you saved your night trips to the fridge for the better days).

Our midnight steps… followed by some blurry final shots…

The boring part is the waiting times for the dough to rise, which on the other hand, gives you time to do many other things in between. Otherwise it’s fun to whisk, rock and roll. But if you feel that you are not yet ready for the challenge and might find the experience still humiliating, just wait till I post something much simpler but equally adorable next week.

Happy Easter Baking!
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PS: Here are some other good ideas for the Easter breads we’ve posted previously:  
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MAPLE GLAZED SOUR CHERRY BABKA WITH CHEESE
Yields: 10 to 12 portions
Ingredients:
For the Babka Dough:
2 ¼ tsp active dry yeast
¼ cup, plus 2 tbsp plus a pinch of granulated sugar
¾ cup warm milk
1 egg, plus 1 egg yolk
3 cups all-purpose flour, extra for the surface
Kosher salt
1 stick unsalted butter at room temperature, extra for the bowl, pan and lining parchment paper
1 egg, beaten with 1 tbsp of cream for an egg wash
1 ½ cups pitted fresh, thawed or drained sour cherries
For the Filling:
6 ounces quark cheese
8 ounces softened cream cheese
1 egg yolk
¼ cup maple syrup plus 2 tbsp confectioner’s sugar
For the Glaze:
½ cup maple syrup
½ cup confectioner’s sugar
2 tbsp milk
Instructions:
Sprinkle yeast and a pinch of granulated sugar over warm milk in a medium bowl. Let stand for 5 minutes until foamy.
Whisk together remaining ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, the egg, and yolk. Whisk into the yeast mixture.
Combine flour and ½ teaspoon salt in the bowl of a mixer. Add egg mixture. Beat on low speed until almost fully combined, for about 30 seconds. Switch to the dough-hook attachment. Add butter. Beat until smooth, soft and slightly sticky, for about 10 minutes.
Butter a large bowl. Turn out the dough onto a floured surface; knead for a few minutes until smooth. Place in bowl, turn to coat, and cover with plastic wrap. Let stand in warm place until doubled in volume, 1 to 1 ½ hours.
Make the filling: stir together quark cheese, cream cheese, egg yolk, maple syrup and confectioner’s sugar.
Punch down dough. Transfer to a floured work surface. Let stand for 5 minutes. Roll out to an 18-inch square (about 1/8 inch thick). Brush edges with egg wash. Spread the filling over the dough. Top with cherries. Tightly roll dough like a jelly roll. Pinch seam to seal. Coil into a snail shape on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Brush top with egg wash.
Preheat the oven to 350F. Drape plastic wrap over dough. Let stand in a warm place until risen by half, 20 to 30 minutes.
Remove plastic wrap. Cut six ½-inch slits into top. Bake rotating halfway through, until golden, for about 55 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 325F. Bake until deeply golden, 15 to 20 minutes more (cover with foil if the top gets too dark). Transfer pan to a wire rack. Let cake cool.
Make the glaze: Mix together maple syrup, confectioner’s sugar and milk. Add more sugar or milk to reach the desired consistency. Drizzle over cake. Let rest for 5 minutes before serving.
Adapted from: Martha Stewart’s Yeasted Cheese and Sour Cherry Coffee Cake

Happy April Fool’s Day!

Here’s a great food-pranking quote for the April Fool’s Day:
‘Two peanuts were walking down the street, and one was a salted.’
Tina Fey includs it in her book Bossypants for those who ‘want to get their money’s worth‘ reading it.
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Let’s think about some improv variations to:
Two peanuts were walking down the street, and …
Mine goes: ‘… one went nuts and shell shocked soon after…’
Your turn…

Happy Pranking!