Marinades

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Marinades are a wonderful way to flavor meat. They can be simple or involved, depending on your desires, but they’re also a great way to use up ingredients. Have some leftover parsley? Make a marinade. Tomatoes? Make a marinade. An orange? You get the idea.

Generally, a marinade is composed of three parts: the oil, the acid, and the flavoring. The oil is simply the carrier. It can be a neutral oil like grape seed, an extra-virgin olive oil, or an infused oil.

The acidic option depends on what food you’re preparing. If I’m marinating beef for fajitas, I’d choose lime juice as my acid. If I’m marinating chicken for a stir fry, I’d choose sake or mirin. But there are other options as well. Orange juice? Pineapple juice? A ripe tomato? Sure! They all work.

The third part of creating a marinade is the most fun, because you can get really creative. Garlic is always important to me. There’s not one cuisine I can think of that doesn’t utilize this wonderfully pungent allium, be it Indian, Asian, Mexican, and so forth. Ginger is also perfect in Asian- and Indian -inspired marinades.

The next option for me would be fresh herbs, like cilantro, basil, or parsley. They provide beautiful color and freshness to a marinade.

Chile peppers puréed in a marinade provide wonderful heat as well as flavor. Just remove the stem of fresh jalapeños, for example, and pop them into the blender with the other ingredients. Alternatively, use roasted peppers or chile pepper purée, of which there are many varieties.

Here are some spice options for marinades: Cumin, chili powder, smoky or sweet paprika, coriander, Chinese 5-spice powder, curry powder, cayenne, chipotle, ancho chile pepper.

Other ingredients to flavor marinades include pesto, miso, ketchup, soy sauce, fish sauce, hoisin sauce, berbere, harissa, romesco, mustard, honey, maple syrup, roasted red bell peppers, sun-dried tomatoes, chipotle peppers in adobo sauce… the list is literally endless.

The following marinade is basically a red wine-based vinaigrette, seasoned with garlic, dried herbs, and cayenne pepper flakes.

Here is a marinade made with olive oil, lime juice, garlic and parsley puréed together for chicken breasts. The combination makes a wonderful green marinade, which colors the chicken beautifully after grilling.

For a beef tri-tip, I created an Asian-inspired marinade. I used soy sauce, sake, sesame seed oil, chile paste (Sambal oelek), ginger and garlic. After 24 hours I seared the thin slices of beef in peanut oil for a quick dinner. It’s that simple.

Yogurt can also be used as the “carrier oil,” which you learn about quickly when you indulge yourself in Indian cuisines. So for my final example of a marinated meat, I’m using a mixture of yogurt and harissa.

For a more involved Indian-inspired marinade, I would include garlic, ginger, and curry powder, but I wanted to show how easy it is to create a flavorful and unique marinade. It took10 seconds to prepare and you don’t even need to use a blender.

I’m simply smothering a pork tenderloin with the marinade, waiting a few hours, and then roasting it in the oven.

Marinating requires very little work. It’s just about planning. Try different variations and see what magic you can come up with!

Watermelon Margaritas

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Well, leave it to Facebook to help me out with a recipe dilemma. My (adult) daughters have bugged me for quite a few years about making these watermelon margaritas again that I’d made once. In my memory, as well, they were so refreshing and tasty. But I didn’t remember how I’d made them.

And then, the other day, June 28th, to be exact, there it was, on Facebook. A memory, dated 7 years ago:

Watermelon Margarita
blender full of frozen watermelon chunks
1 cup tequila, or to taste
Juice of 4-5 limes, about 3 ounces
2 ounces agave nectar

There was no blog back then, but why I didn’t write the recipe down on a recipe card, like I’ve done for 40 years is beyond me.

But, just in time for watermelon season, we’re making this recipe and having watermelon margaritas. Unfortunately one daughter doesn’t live here, and the other is pregnant, so there’s more for the rest of us!!!

The first thing to do is buy a giant seedless watermelon, unless you enjoy dealing with the seeds.

Cut up the beautiful red flesh into cubes, and freeze them in sealable bags.

When you’re ready to have margaritas, fill up the blender with the frozen watermelon chunks, add the tequila, lime juice, and agave nectar.

Blend until smooth.

Serve immediately; they will be nice and slushy.

Don’t be tempted to add a little more tequila. It will mask the watermelon flavor.


Trust me on this.

Roasted Fruit Packages

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The sub header of my creatively named blog, the Chef Mimi blog, is “so much food, so little time”. I could have easily made it, “so many restaurants, so little time.”

Dining out may be my favorite thing to do. Like it’s my serious hobby. Whenever we have a travel destination, I’m researching top ten restaurants, new restaurant openings, best new chefs, and working online at open table.com for reservations.

Of course this is more challenging in major cities like New York. I’ve tried to get us in to ABC kitchen 5 times with no luck. And I start early.

One restaurant that has always been on my NYC list is Buvette – so much so that I bought the cookbook “Buvette – The Pleasure of Good Food” by Jody Williams, who is the chef and owner.

The restaurant, considered a gastrothèque, opened in 2010 and has received many accolades. Before opening Buvette, Jody Williams worked with such culinary notables as Thomas Keller and Lidia Bastianich.

When I first received the cookbook from Amazon, I bookmarked quite a few intriguing recipes, but one really called to me – Fruit in Parchment Paper.

For the recipe, Ms. Williams oven-roasts fresh and dried fruits in squares of parchment paper, much as how one would prepare fish. She serves the packages of fruit with cheese as an “unexpected alternative to the ubiquitous cluster of grapes that seem to accompany every cheese platter in the world!”

Except for serving a compote, a chutney, or aigre doux of fruit, I have never served roasted fruit as a cheese platter accompaniment. So needless to say I was excited. And being that it’s early summer, I have access to a good variety of fresh fruit.

Ms. Williams suggests mixing up the fruit to suit your taste. She suggests the combination of pumpkin, apples and dates. I’m saving that for next fall.

Fruit in Parchment Paper

2 tables of dried currants (I used dried sour cherries)
1/2 cup vin santo* (I used Sauternes)
1 apple peeled cored and thinly sliced
1 quince peeled cored and thinly sliced (I used plums)
2 tablespoons honey
A pinch of coarse salt
1/4 cup walnuts

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. In a large bowl soak the currants in the vin santo for at least 10 minutes. Once they’re a bit softened, add the remaining ingredients and stir to combine.

Meanwhile cut out four 8″ squares of parchment paper. Evenly divide the mixture among the squares. Bring the edges of each square together and fold them over each other creating a continuous seal. ( I had parchment bags that I used.)

Place the four packages on a baking sheet and roast in the oven until the fruit smells fragrant and the paper is browned, about 15 minutes.

I almost made my smoke alarm go off roasting the fruits; so much of the syrup leaked through the bags and began smoking.

I paired the fruit with Mimolette, a smoked Raclette, and Saint-Félicien, along with some bread.

If you’ve never had Saint-Félicien, you need to get some. It’s mild, a little salty, and oh so creamy. It paired especially well with the fruit.

The fruit was also perfect for a torchon of foie gras I served that evening when friends came over (not pictured).

I understand that the parchment packages help steam-cook the fruits, but honestly they ended up being terribly messy.

In the future, I will place the fruit mixture in a large gratin pan, and roast at 375 degrees, maybe stirring once. That way, you don’t lose the syrup, and the fruit will still be cooked but also a bit more caramelized.

* Ms. Williams states that Banyuls, Port, or Sauternes can be substituted for the wine.

I’m already thinking of new fruit combinations…
Cherries apples dried apricots
Pears grapes dates
Peaches apples figs
And so forth

note: When I make this again, I will also chop the fruit. I think the smaller pieces will be easier to place on breads and crackers.

Apple Chutney

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I love making all kinds of jarred stuff, like chutney, cranberry sauce, foriana sauce, pumpkin butter… It’s just fun – especially because you can really create as you go. And chutney is one of those things that you can completely make your own.

I have one apple tree on my property. It grows little green apples. They’re not great. They’re dry, and not that flavorful. But I feel compelled to cook with them because I’m in competition with the raccoons. Overnight, they can rid the tree clean of every apple. It’s like they have their whole families come with apple picking bags.

We know it’s the raccoons because we finally have proof. This July, before we left town, my husband set up his wildlife camera on our peach tree. The raccoons have always beat me to my peaches. On one year, I notated on my calendar that they disappeared on July 17th. So, we were ready in July.

And there they came, along with their teenagers. No bags across their shoulders, but they’re certainly smart. In the photos, you can see the larger raccoons in the tree, and the children gathering them up down on the ground.

We figured out from the span of the dates on the photos (those aren’t the real dates because my husband is electronically challenged) that they really don’t scour the whole tree overnight, like it seems, but they take a few days to do it. So you really don’t notice until it’s too late. Plus, by then, most all of the branches have been broken by their sturdy bodies, which makes this phenomenon doubly frustrating.

But back to the apples. On most years, I let the animals, including my dog, Louie, enjoy the apples.

photo

But this year, I really wanted to take advantage of some of the apples. Plus some crabapples, that I know nothing about, but that’s another post.

I picked half of a grocery bag of apples and crabapples, and it was heavy. And don’t worry, there are about a million apples still on the tree.

Now to put on my thinking cap. Crappy-tasting apples. What in the world to do?

app

So chutney came to mind. Because there are so many other flavors in chutney, like the savory ingredients, the sweet ingredients, the spices, and the vinegar. The apples would just add substance. Perfect.

So here’s what I did, and, as usual, I’m only listing ingredients as a guide, because you can use what you like in your own chutney. But I can tell you that you cannot taste bland, non-juicy apples in this chutney! In fact, it’s one of the best ones I’ve made!

Curried Apple Fig Apricot Chutney

Olive oil
White onion, finely diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
Apples, cored, finely chopped
Chopped dried apricots
Chopped dried figs
Brown sugar
Curry powder or individual spices like cumin, coriander, cardamom, turmeric, cinnamon
Cinnamon stick, if you’re not adding ground cinnamon
Salt
Apple juice or some white wine

In a medium pot, heat the oil over medium heat. I used some orange-infused olive oil just for a little added flavor.

chuts1

Add the onions and sauté them for a few minutes, or until soft. Add the garlic and stir it in.

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Immediately add the apples, dried fruit, sugar, seasoning, and about 1/4 cup or so of liquid. The liquid is just to start the steaming and cooking/softening process of the fruits.

Bring to a soft boil, then cover the pot, turn the heat way down, and let the chutney cook for about 45 minutes.

Occasionally check to see how much liquid is on the bottom of the pot. You want the fruits to keep some semblance of their shapes, not for the chutney to turn to mush.

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Remove the lid of the pot and let the chutney cook if any excess liquid remaining needs to evaporate. Don’t stir.

For the last step, add a little bit of apple cider vinegar to the chutney, and let cook for about one minute. Remove the pot from the heat, then gently stir in the juice of half of a lemon.

Remove the cinnamon stick, and let the chutney cool completely.

The one thing that’s really nice about chutney is that is freezes well. Unless you want to make a dozen jars of chutney and are willing to can them, just make a small amount and stick them in the freezer. It’s so handy and easy. And that way you can make different varieties of chutney!

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And I finally have a labeler!!!

Today I served the chutney with pork loin, and corn on the cob. The curry flavors are striking, especially with the apple, fig, and apricot.

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Just if you’re interested, I paired this meal with an Albariño. Fabulous!!!

This chutney is also good with roasted chicken. I know – it was my lunch today!

note: Typically, I place all of the chutney ingredients, except the final vinegar and lemon juice step, in a pot and cook everything together, an example shown below. This time, just for fun, I decided to sauté the aromatics first. It added a little oiliness to the chutney, which worked fine. But make sure, if you sauté the aromatics first, that you serve the chutney warm or at room temperature.

If you want to try your hand at your own customized chutney, see Create your own Chutney!

Dried Fruit Sauce

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In yesterday’s post on fruited duck breasts, I mentioned that I served them with a “fruited” sauce. After completing the duck breasts and the sauce, there was just too much information and too many photos for a single post. So here is the sauce I made for the duck breasts, using dried fruit.

This sauce would be just as good with poultry, pork, or lamb. Plus, you can really mix and match the ingredients to suit your tastes. This is your sauce, make it yours!

Dried Fruit Sauce

1/4 cup dried pomegranate seeds
1/4 cup golden raisins
Chambord
1 cup chicken broth or other
1 tablespoon veal or chicken demi-glace
Oil left in a skillet after searing meat
1 onion, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup white wine
1 tablespoon ancho chile paste
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup sherry vinegar

First, place the pomegranate and raisins in a small bowl. Cover them with the chambord and set aside.

ducksauce6

Pour the stock into a measuring cup and add the tablespoon of demi-glace. Heat the stock in the microwave until you can dissolve the demi-glace in it.

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If there’s a lot of oil in the skillet you’re going to use, pour some off. You will have quite a bit if you’ve just cooked duck breasts with the skin. Keep about one tablespoon in the skillet.

Heat the fat over medium heat. Add the onions and sauté them for about 4-5 minutes, then stir in the garlic.

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As soon as you can smell the garlic, add the stock with the demi-glace, plus the wine.

ducksauce4

Then add all of the juices that have run off from the duck or whatever meat you seared and cooked.

ducksauce3

Heat the liquid gently and let it reduce. If you’re unsure about reducing liquid, read my post on it here.

Meanwhile, strain the raisins and pomegranates over a bowl. Keep the Chambord, but not for this recipe. I didn’t want the sauce too sweet. You can always use it in another reduction or marinade.

When the liquid has reduced by at least half, add the ancho chile paste and salt. Stir well.

ducksauce1

Then stir in the fruits and keep cooking over low heat.

ducksauce

When there’s barely any liquid in the skillet, pour in the vinegar. This will brighten the sauce a bit, and offset the sweetness from the fruit. Continue to cook until there’s barely any liquid in the skillet again. Then it’s ready to serve.

duck

Pour the sauce into a serving bowl and pass around with the duck breasts or lamb chops.

lastduck

note: If you’re limited on time, reduce all of the liquids except the vinegar first, until just 1/4 or so remains in the saucepan. Then the sauce-making time will be cut back significantly.

another note: The ingredients that you can make your own include:
1. your choice of dried fruits (try apples and apricots instead of pomegranates and raisins)
2. your choice of liqueur (try port instead of Chambord)
3. your choice of liquids (try home-made stock, red wine, port, vermouth, madera, marsala, whatever you like and have on hand)
4. your choice of seasoning (try a little thyme or even a little curry powder instead of the ancho chile paste)

Fruit Cheese

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So what is fruit cheese? It’s a terrible name, really, but that is exactly what it’s called in this book:

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Karen Solomon is the author.

The fruit cheese is really a fruit paste. It’s similar to the wonderful quince paste or membrillo that’s served alongside Manchego on a Spanish cheese platter. Except that my paste ended up a somewhat different texture to membrillo. Nonetheless, it’s worth making this fruit cheese at least once. There’s no effort involved to speak of, it just takes a few days to complete.

Here’s what I did; the ingredients are slightly adapted from the original recipe:

Apple-Pomegranate-Plum Fruit Cheese

1 1/2 pounds apples
1/3 cup dried pomegranate seeds
1/3 cup diced dried plums

fruit11

1/2 cup water
3/4 cup white sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt

Peel and core the apples. Cut them up and place them in a tall pot. Add the pomegranate seeds and diced plums.

fruit1

Then add the water, sugar, and salt.

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Cover the pot and bring the mixture to a boil. Simmer the fruit for about 20 minutes.

Using a potato masher, mash up the apples.

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Do this as often as you can to get a nice mush. The fruit has to be fairly smooth. And now that I think of it, I could have used an immersion blender. But I think I had it in my mind that I wanted to see the pomegranate and plum part of this fruit cheese.

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It’s kind of a tedious process, but keep after it. Then continue cooking over the lowest possible heat to remove as much liquid as possible, with the lid off.

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Line a jelly roll pan with parchment paper, and pour the fruit mixture on top. Smooth it out; it should be about 3/8″ in thickness evenly.

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Let the fruit paste sit on the parchment paper overnight. It should be a little dried out. I peeled the paste from the paper and you can tell the paper is wet.

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Then place a cooling rack on top of a cookie sheet, and place the fruit paste and the paper on which it’s laying on top of the rack. Place everything in a 200 degree oven for 3 hours. Leave the oven door ajar.

The fruit won’t look any different. Let it cool, then let it sit overnight once again. It should be mostly dry.

fruitcheese1

At the point where the fruit cheese’s liquid has mostly all evaporated, but the paste hasn’t been allowed to over-dry, wrap it up in parchment paper and store it in the refrigerator. Supposedly it’s good even after 6 months.

fruitcheese
The only problem with this recipe, is that there are no accompanying photos. I really wasn’t sure how to serve this slab of fruit paste. Membrillo comes in many forms, from rectangular flats to thicker pie-shapes, so I guess it really doesn’t matter. The point is that the fruit paste is really good with cheese.

Just for fun, I decided to use a little scalloped cookie cutter to cut out the fruit cheese.

fruitcheese2

For my company, I paired the fruit cheese with triple creme Cambozola – one of my favorite bleu cheeses. I must say, it was a fabulous combination.

fruitcheese4

verdict: I probably won’t make this again, especially with membrillo so readily available anymore. And there are other fruit varieties out there as well. If you have young kids at home, this is a fun way to make what is essentially the equivalent to a fruit roll-up, however. Especially with cheap apples in season.