Chimichurri Variation

One of the most delicious things that I have found on my visits to Argentina is the chimichurri that is often served with their steaks. As I was playing around with some herbs from my garden and what happened to be in my fridge, I came up with this variation on the Argentinean classic. It is quick, easy, and tasty! Try it out and play with your own variations on it! Log in and post your results below as well.

1 cup olive oil
3 garlic cloves
½ sweet onion (vidalia)
¼ tsp chili pepper flakes
3-4 mini bell peppers
1/3 cup kalamata olives
3 tbsp chopped parsley leaves
3 tbsp chopped mint leaves
3 tbsp chopped basil leaves
1 tsp dried oregano
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
juice from half a lemon
½ tsp black pepper
½ tsp sea salt

Peel and press the garlic. Chop the onion very finely and cut the leaves of the herbs into razor thin short strips. Mix this together with the chili pepper and vinegar. Add two thirds of the olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Chop the peppers and olives very finely and add to the mix along with the oregano. Stir well and taste it. Does it need more of something? Go ahead and add it according to your taste. Add remaining olive oil until you reach a desired consistency. Enjoy with a steak or fresh bread!

Raspberry Coulis

This delicious easy-to-make sauce pairs very well with many dessert dishes. I like using fresh raspberries that clean and freeze for a day before making this sauce. I don’t know the science behind it, but I get the best flavor and color that way. I like serving it with molten chocolate lava cakes. You can also serve it with ice cream or a sponge cake. Any other ideas? Post your tips below!

1 cup of fresh or frozen raspberries.
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup orange juice or water with a teaspoon of lemon juice
optional: 1 oz. Chambord and/or Triple Sec

Combine sugar and juice or lemon water and heat it gently in a saucepan until it melts and forms a syrup. Add the raspberries to the syrup and heat while stirring. You don’t want to let it boil, but get close to a simmer. After a it heats up, take it off the stove and puree it in a blender or food processor until it becomes smooth. Strain the seeds from the mixture with a fine-mesh strainer. You may need to work the mixture and press it against the strainer to get the juice out. Add the Chambord or Triple Sec to the sauce and it is ready to serve. You can also let it chill in the fridge for a bit before serving it if you want to make it in advance or serve it cold.

Baked Pear with Almond Cream & Brandy Caramel Sauce

This became an instant favorite when I made it the first time. It can be done very simply if you use pre-made ingredients, but require a little more work if you want to do everything from scratch. Nothing about it is difficult, though!

3-5 Pears (depending on size)
2 tbsp Brown sugar
2 tbsp Butter (unsalted)
2 tbsp Almond paste*
¼ tsp Cardamom seeds (crushed)
1/8 tsp Anise seeds (crushed)
1/8 tsp Cinnamon
¼ cup Sliced almonds
1 ½ oz. Brandy
Caramel Sauce*

Mix the sugar, butter, almond paste, and a little more than 1 oz. brandy in a bowl. Add the anise and cinnamon after crushing them with pestle and mortar or other method.
Cut the pears in half length-wise and scoop out the center with a melon-baller or spoon. Cut a thin slice off the bottom to create a flat surface. Place the pears in a deep dish with the centers facing up.
Distribute the mixture to the center holes of the pears and sprinkle cinnamon on top. Last, add the sliced almonds on top of it all. Put a half tbsp of butter at the bottom of the dish.
Bake 25-30 minutes at 350 degrees.
Serve with almond infused whipped cream and a drizzle of caramel sauce.

*These items can easily be made at home (recipes below) or purchased pre-made.

Almond Paste Recipe:
4 oz. almonds
2 bitter almonds or 2 drops of bitter almond extract
3 oz. powdered sugar
1/2 egg white (optional)

Blanch the almonds by putting them in boiling water for about 1-2 minutes. Let them dry on a paper towel and then remove the skins.
Grind the almonds finely and mix with the other ingredients until you have a smooth paste and then roll it up in some wax paper. Store in the refrigerator.

Caramel Sauce Recipe:
1 cup Brown Sugar
1/2 cup Butter (unsalted, room temperature)
1/2 cup Heavy Cream
Splash of Brandy

Place the sugar in a thick-bottomed sauce pan

and heat over medium heat while stirring. When it starts becoming clear and amber-like in color, add the butter and stir until melted. Then add the cream and allow it to boil for 2 minutes. Add a splash of brandy and stir again. Let sit and cool for 10 minutes before serving.

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Mango Salsa

This is one of easiest and most delicious snack items one can make. You just chop it all up and mix it. That’s pretty much all there’s too it. The biggest challenge is making sure to chop it finely enough and to peel the mango. I have some great tools and tips for that, though.

2-3 Mangoes–peeled and finely chopped
1/3 cup finely chopped red onion
1/3 cup fresh cilantro—chopped with mostly leaves and no coarse stems
1 finely chopped small jalapeno
¼ tsp chili flakes
juice from ½ squeezed lime

Chop all the ingredients and stir together in a bowl and add the lime juice last. Let it sit for about an hour in the fridge for the flavors to blend, but you can also serve it directly.

Variations & Tips:
Use serrano pepper if you want more heat to the salsa. The sweetness of the mangoes will temper some of the heat. If you want a milder salsa, omit the seeds and pith from the pepper. You can also choose a milder pepper, such as poblano.
Yellow mangoes tend to be sweeter and juicier than the red/green larger variant. For the salsa, I prefer the smaller mangoes.

How to Peel a Mango:
This Mango cutter tool makes it quick and easy to cut and peel the mango. The first cut will separate the pit. After that, you can easily scrape the peel off against the sides of the plastic part. Cut the remaining fruit off the pit, chop it all up, and you are done!

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One fun and delicious thing to make with fruit is marmalade. It’s pretty easy as well. Over the past week I have played with some variations using lemons directly off the tree and also rose hips, which has a distinct flavor and intense color. The basic concept of marmalade is to mix equal parts fruit and sugar, heat it up to its setting temperature and voila!
Citrus fruits are natural candidates for marmalade as they have a lot of pectin in them. Lemons are particularly good for this reason. You want to take the fruit before it is fully ripe as the pectin levels decrease with the ripening process. Sour apples are also rich in pectin and make for good marmalade ingredients.

When I make a citrus marmalade, I start by washing the fruit carefully. I then remove the side edges and cut it in quarter wedges before slicing it as thin as I can. If there is a lot of white pith between the fruit and the outer layer of the peel, I will separate that out and discard it so that the marmalade doesn’t get too bitter. Keeping some of it is fine, but you don’t want too much of that. I then place the cut fruit in a a stainless steel, glass, or plastic bowl and pour water over it so that the fruit is just submerged. I then cover the bowl and place it in the fridge overnight.
Next day, I measure the amount of fruit and water so I know how much sugar to use. 1 cup fruit mix = 1 cup sugar. After measuring it, I will boil the fruit mix while stirring frequently for about 15 minutes before adding the sugar. I then stir it until the sugar is dissolved, but no longer than that! I then let the marmalade simmer until it reaches the setting temperature of around 105 degrees Celsius or 225 degrees Fahrenheit. I use a candy thermometer attached to the side of the pot to measure this. If it doesn’t reach the right temperature, you will end up with very runny (still tasty!) marmalade. It is also fine to add some pectin with the sugar when you are adding that to the fruit if you want to be really sure it sets well.

Once it is ready, pour it into sterilized jars and put the lids on tight. The marmalade will fully set within 48 hours. Once it has cooled down and set, I like to keep it in the fridge, but that is really not necessary until you have opened the jar.

Rosehip marmalade is tasty and colorful, although quite labor intensive to make.

When making rosehip marmalade, it is important to remove ALL the seeds from inside along with any hairy fibers. This is a time consuming process, but it can provide for a good opportunity to meditate or socialize over an activity. Use latex or vinyl gloves when cleaning the berries to avoid getting all itchy in your skin. I find that having a bowl of water next to me that I can dip my fingers in between each berry is helpful. I cut the berry open into two pieces and scrape out the seeds with a small spoon or blunt knife. Once I have the cleaned berries, I chop them very finely and then boil them with some thin, peeled green apple slices, zest of half a lemon, and fresh squeezed lemon juice from one large lemon, a generous splash of orange juice and some water. After boiling for about 15-20 minutes and the apple starts falling apart, I add the sugar along with a small amount of pectin. I then let it simmer until it reaches the setting point temperature. When it is done, I pour it into sterilized mason jars. I wipe off the edges before putting the lids on and then let them cool off.

If you notice that the marmalade is too thick or jelly-like in its consistency once it starts cooling down, just pour it back into the sauce pan and add a splash of single malt scotch whiskey. Stir it up and heat it gently before pouring it back into the jars. This should bring it to the consistency you want for good marmalade.

What have you tried and how did it turn out? Please comment below and add pictures if you like!