April 2009


Lemons always remind me of spring because of their sunny color and fresh flavor they add to food. I love to use lemon juice to add a bright citrusy flavor to dishes, and the zest shouldn’t be wasted either — it packs a punch of flavor in just a small amount. Mint is also another favorite flavor of mine and tangy lemon and cool mint taste great together.

Risotto is a creamy, traditional Italian rice dish that’s so versatile it’s great for any time of the year or occasion. So, thanks to my affection for lemon and mint during this season, I decided to marry the two in this dish.
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I was in another Latin mood last week when I decided to make this recipe. I had a taste in my mouth for that combination of vinegar, olive oil, garlic and fresh herbs that chimichurri possesses and was simply looking for an excuse to make it, and a vehicle on which to consume it. Chimichurri is a traditional, uncooked condiment from Argentina that is used on grilled meats and fish. I could eat it on almost anything.

My inspiration for this came from a dish I’d eaten recently, grilled flank steak with chimichurri, at Cafe Dufrain in Harbour Island. Flank steak can be tough and needs to be marinated for a long time and I wanted a tender, thick and juicy hunk of meat, so I opted for a New York strip instead (my cut of choice). This cut of meat really doesn’t need to be marinated because it’s tender enough already, but I wanted to infuse a bit more flavor before throwing it on the grill. You can use any beer you’d like for the marinade (I used Dos Equis Amber) but I’d suggest a somewhat dark beer, like a Mexican amber beer or a medium ale, nothing too light or fruity. (more…)

parkesdale_farms

Have you been to the grocery store and seen the prices on produce these days? No wonder people don’t want to buy fresh food that’s actually good for them, when they can save a buck by buying processed, pre-packaged food that is full of chemicals and fake ingredients. It’s also dejecting to think how far food travels before it reaches our tables — going from farm to processing and packing plants, then shipped off hundreds of miles away to grocery stores.
I am making a personal effort to buy more locally grown food. It saves me money and it keeps the local farmers in business. Last weekend, I ventured out to Plant City to check out some of the local farmers’ markets and found Parkesdale Farms Market. Parkesdale Farm has been in operation by the Parke family since 1956, growing an array of vegetables, fruits, and various plants and flowers over hundreds of acres. They are now the largest strawberry, citrus, and produce market in Florida. (more…)

 mockamole1I am a big fan of guacamole, and avocados in general. So when I found this recipe for guacamole that didn’t use avocados in my Meatless Monday cookbook, I was a bit skeptical. But, as the saying goes, don’t knock it ’til you’ve tried it.

The great thing about this recipe is that it contains items you probably already have in your refrigerator. Otherwise, the ingredients are dirt cheap to buy at the grocery store. Just throw in anything you would add to normal guacamole — onions, jalapenos, spices, etc. Frozen peas are about a dollar, and the recipe calls for only one-third of a bag. What will probably end up happening, though, is you’ll try this faux guacamole recipe and then use the rest of that bag of frozen peas to make some more. Bonus: frozen peas are always in season.

Unless you have an aversion to peas, this replacement guacamole rivals the original — it’s slightly sweet, smooth, super tasty, and keeps its bright verdant color (as opposed to the old fashioned kind that turns brown because of oxidation). Not to mention, using peas in place of avocado reduces the calories in this dip by almost three quarters and fat by 34 grams, so you won’t have to feel guilty when snacking on this addictive appetizer.

So go ahead, try this flavorful new twist on classic guacamole and become a convert to the delicious copycat that is mockamole.

Mockamole
(makes about one cup; recipe courtesy of Meatless Monday cookbook)

1 cup frozen green peas, thawed and drained
1 teaspoon ground cumin
3 tablespoons chopped onion
1 large clove garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon lemon or lime juice
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes, or to taste (or one fresh jalapeno pepper, minced)
salt and ground black pepper to taste
(I also used chopped fresh cilantro)

1. Combine the peas, cumin, onion, and garlic in the container of a food processor or blender. Process until smooth.

2. Add lemon juice and olive oil, and process just to blend.

3. Taste and season with red pepper flakes, salt and pepper.

4. Blend for just a few more seconds, and transfer to a serving bowl. Serve with chips, crackers, or fresh veggies.

Check out the Meatless Monday site for recipes and tips to kickstart healthier living! And be sure to check out my blog, Culinary Pirate, and follow me on Twitter!

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