Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Roasted Beet Salad

"The beet is the most intense of vegetables. The radish, admittedly, is more feverish, but the fire of the radish is a cold fire, the fire of discontent not of passion. Tomatoes are lusty enough, yet there runs through tomatoes an undercurrent of frivolity.
Beets are deadly serious".
 ~Tom Robbins, Jitterbug Perfume

You're right, Mr. Robbins!! I read Jitterbug Perfume when I was 18 & living with my sister in Maui. It was my first taste of Tom Robbins. Unfortunately, after my sister read the book she went on a beet cooking binge, which led to many, many tastes of beets. But in a weird way. She made beet everything. She made a beet omelet, which turned into a pink, eggy creation that scared me away from beets for years.

My mom & grandma made pickled beets when I was a kid, and even though they are fabulous, they were just too weird for me to like when I was little.

But of course, once I finally grew up - food wise anyway - I have fallen in love with the earthy, deep, rich, and you know I'm gonna say it: sexiness of beets.

On one of my recent, skipping-gleefully-through-the-isles-of-Whole Foods excursions, I saw this roasted beet salad in the deli case & had to re-enact it at home. As usual, I couldn't remember exactly what was in the one I had so I used what I had in the fridge. Here's the gist of it:

Peel a bunch of beets and 1/4 them. Slice some red onion, yellow or red bell pepper & toss them together with the beets, some olive oil & salt & pepper and roast in a 325 degree oven for about 15 minutes.
While they're doing their thing in the oven, throw together 1Tbs. olive oil, 1 Tbs. vinegar, a pinch of sugar and a bit of cayenne pepper. Toss the beets, peppers & onions in the vinaigrette, then throw in some feta cheese, chopped parsley & maybe some pine nuts if you have them.

And there you have it. Roasted "intense, deadly serious" beet salad with feta.     

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Brussels Sprouts with Bacon & Onion

Here's a take on brussels sprouts that will convert even the staunchest hater of these darling little cabbages. I stole this idea from Michael Symon, chef at Lola restaurant. Not that I've been there, sadly. But I did see someone raving about these fried brussels sprouts on "The Best Thing I Ever Ate". You can find his recipe on the Food Network Website . I didn't think to look it up first so I made up my own, and let me tell you, after I made a sample batch, I had to put down my empty plate, call my sister, and give her a blow by blow of how much these things rocked. It was like a food porn 900 number. Her ear was all steamed up after I was finished. Just please, trust me on this. You HAVE to make these. Do it. I mean it. Really.

Here's what I did:
Quarter the brussels sprouts, and set aside. 

They really are cute, aren't they? 

Next, slice some red onions & chop up a few slices of raw bacon, throw them together in a pan & saute until browned & making your dog pace around the kitchen, salivating.

I am finally the proud owner of a morter & pestle, so I've been looking for reasons to use it as often as possible - and this vinaigrette is the perfect reason. Toss in a clove of garlic, the zest & juice of 1 lemon, some fresh parsley, a Tbs. of capers, a few slices of red onion & some olive oil, then smoosh around until it's kind of like a paste. Of course, if you don't have a morter & pestle (I've been scouring yard sales for years, until finally...) You can just chop everything up, throw it in a bowl, then add the lemon juice & oil.    

Heat about 2 inches of oil in a sturdy pot until it's really hot. 
An aside here.... not that YOU would do this, but in case you think it's a good idea to heat up this oil & then step out onto the front porch with a glass of wine & chat with neighbors until you see smoke pouring out of your house, only to run inside and see said sturdy pot in flames on your stove... let me tell you, it's a bad idea. However, if you ever should find yourself in such a situation, baking soda is the magic ingredient to put out the fire - remember that. Ehem, Not that I know from experience or anything, I'm just saying... 

SO, once the oil is hot, gently put in the brussels sprouts (they like to splatter a bit) and cook for just a couple of minutes until browned. Then remove them from the oil onto a paper towel to drain for a minute, then toss into a large bowl with the bacon & onion mixture & the vinaigrette and toss together. Now get ready... I hope you made a lot, because you won't want to stop eating them. Go ahead, see if you can convert the haters you know with this recipe & let me know how much you loved them!    


Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Dragon Fruit & Rambutan - An Exotic Duo

I was walking through the open Market on Fort Street, in downtown Honolulu yesterday, happy to live in Hawaii on such a beautiful September day and was suddenly awestruck, the way only a girl who thinks about food non-stop can be. I was surrounded by the most exotic, beautiful, strange & even scary looking fruits and vegetables.

Many things I recognized, some I knew well, and many... well I had been meaning to set up a date with many of them, and I realized today was going to be that day.

So I mustered up my confidence, sauntered over to a plump, pink, intriguing fellow & asked, "What's your name"? Turns out his name was Dragon Fruit. Sexy, right? If this fruit had a job it would be a tattoo artist, that's how cool it is. Even though he's in the cactus family, he's smooth and sweet, almost like a kiwi got tangled up with a radish. Very interesting. Then he introduced me to a bunch of his friends, the  Rambutan's. Turns out I know their cousins, the Lychee's, so I knew we would be great friends. I coughed up $5.99 each for them (they're expensive dates), and the three of us walked off arm & arm, so to speak.

Mr. Dragon Fruit


We got to my place, I photographed them and then we got down to business. Seemed like an exotic fruit salad was in order.
I put these guys into a bowl with green grapes, orange segments, blueberries, raspberries, a little grated ginger, some fresh mint & a tiny bit of feta cheese, that's right, feta cheese. You should have seen them dance. It was a great party. You should have them over sometime....

This post was featured on Wine & Food Travel

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Happy Swigs-&-Grinds-A-Versary!

One year ago today, something came over me & like a sleepwalker, I stumbled over to the Blogger website & attempted to figure out what this whole blogging thing was all about anyway. 

About a year before that, my dear friend Christine said something like, "You really should write a blog, with all the craziness going on in your life." To that I responded, "What's a blog"? I'd never even read one. And besides, who would read it? After a divorce & all the drama that accompanied that stage of my life, I was pretty sure everyone was sick of hearing about my whacked out adventures in the marriage failure department as well as the struggle to survive department. I know I was.

But then, a thought hit me: I guess I could write a food blog!? I mean, my motto for years had been: Will Work For Food". What the heck. The more that thought rumbled around in my head, the more it solidified my belief that life happens around food. And drink, of course. That amidst all of the drama & madness, ups & downs, successes & failures, loves & break-ups of life, the thing that ties us all together is the pursuit to eat, drink & be merry. That these things nourish our bodies & our souls. That by taking a minute to appreciate the simplicity of a bowl of cherries, our favorite plates, a friend's recipe, 
we are connected. 

As with most anniversaries, when I realized a year had passed, there was that equal mixture of: "How could it be a year already" combined with: "It seems like it's been forever". Over the last year I have found a muse. A place to dump a little bit of creativity. A page to empty out the words & ramblings that  sputter around in my head. And I think most amazingly, I have found YOU here. Whether you are an old friend from the past, the boy I had a crush on forever in high school, my family, friends, clients, loves, or other foodies & bloggers from all over the world that I've never even met, we have become drinking buddies & eating buddies, & somehow Swigs & Grinds has connected us. 

I've also gained a reputation for having a drinking problem, (see the comment section on the Ginger Grape Cocktail post), finally learned how to make pasta for one, strangely my children now sometimes want to photograph their food before they eat it, I've interviewed people about food, I've received emails with family recipes from readers (I love that!), I've received products to test & review, I've gotten blisters from splattering oil, gained confidence in bread-making, gotten creative with cocktails & documented a little bit of my life.

So, I blew out the candle in that wedge of brie & made this wish for the next year: The continued ability to share in a meal & a toast with you, perhaps some paid writing gigs,
  and more comments from you all!

With much love, gratitude & a growling stomach, I send you all a big cheers!
Thanks for reading....       

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Caramelized Tomato & Onion Tart

Last month's issue of Bon Appetit had a fascinating looking recipe for a Tomato Tart Tatin.   
I was really wanting to try it, but I had to make it a little more savory, so I added caramelized onions, and then topped it with some feta & basil after it was cooked. It was a great appetizer & also the two slices that were left made a great breakfast the next day!

Check out the link above for the recipe. 
I've never done the whole x-ing & boiling of tomatoes before. It worked great.

Here's mine layered with sweet onions. I only added about 2 Tbs of sugar instead of 2/3 cup or whatever the recipe called for because I wasn't making it as a dessert. 

Puff pastry is applied & it's ready for the oven.

Out of the oven & ready to be flipped out onto a plate. 

Sample piece for the cook! 
Try this one. There's about a billion different things you can do with it. The puff pastry comes with two sheets in a pack. I might see what else I can come up with today....

Friday, September 3, 2010

Ginger Grape Cocktail

It's Aloha Friday! It's a three day weekend! In the words of Sigourney Weaver in Avatar, "Will somebody get me my god damn cigarettes!!??". Ok, I don't smoke, but WILL SOMEBODY GET ME MY GOD DAMN COCKTAIL!?

And while you're at it, you might as well make it a Ginger Grape Cocktail, invented by yours truly. Have you seen that commercial where the bartender muddles red grapes and whips them into a fizzy cocktail of some sort? Well, that was the inspiration here. It's refreshing, delicious and to top it all off, it's a beverage you can chew!

Just take some grapes & some orange zest and muddle them (smoosh then around with your handy dandy wooden muddling tool) in a cocktail shaker. Add 1.5 oz  citrus vodka & ice, put the lid on and shake it senorita! Then add a good splash of ginger ale, pour back & forth into a large glass to combine, then pour into serving glass, garnish with some frozen grapes & enjoy!

Happy Aloha Friday everyone! I send you a big cheers & wish you a spectacular weekend!