The citrus obsession continues -or- Grapefruit cocktail with mascarpone cheese and toasted almonds

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Oh Citrus! I just can't seem to contain my excitement as the citrus season returns. I hope you like citrus as much as I do because the citrus train isn't going to leave the A Shared Mile station until this spring. The corniness, however, is a year round event. Sorry.

This dessert is yet another from Peter Berley's
Fresh Food Fast. Along with citrus this book is another staple in my life. And so, I share another recipe. This time, it's a dessert featuring grapefruit that is delicious but not overwhelmingly rich or sweet. Doesn't get much better than that.

The only problem I have with this dessert is that I don't have stemless wine glasses to serve it in. Honestly, I find it sort of strange and weird to eat out of wine glasses. I don't know why.

Grapefruit Cocktail with Mascarpone and Toasted Almonds
serves 4
adapted from Fresh Food Fast

This and the other dessert I have posted from this book both called for Demerara brown sugar which are raw and light brown sugar crystals. For this recipe especially I think it is well worth the effort if you can find it in your hometown or online.

5 large grapefruits
2/3 cup honey
1 vanilla bean, cut in half and pulp scraped from the middle
1 sprig fresh rosemary
1 Tbs. unsalted butter
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1 cup mascarpone cheese
1/4 cup brown sugar (preferably Demerara)

Cut four of the grapefruits in half along their "equator" (you know, the way you cut it if you are going to eat it with a spoon) and remove the segments with a small paring knife. Work over a bowl to collect the juices as you cut. Divide the grapefruit segments evenly among four wine glasses (preferably stemless if you are like me) with a slotted spoon.

Squeeze the juice from the membranes and skin of the segmented grapefruits until you have two cups. If you don't reach two cups then use the fifth grapefruit to get the two cups of juice you will need.

Combine the grapefruit juice, honey, vanilla pod and pulp, and rosemary in a small saucepan over high heat. Give it a quick stir and bring the mixture to a boil. Allow it to boil until it has reduced by half, about 10 to 12 minutes.

Once it has reduced, strain the mixture into a glass measuring cup (easier to pour later) and allow it to cool in the refrigerator for 10 to 15 minutes.

While your syrup is cooling melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Once the butter has melted add the almonds. Continue to cook the almonds while stirring constantly until they have browned evenly, about three to five minutes. Once they are done browning transfer them to a plate to stop the cooking and to allow them to cool.

Once the syrup and almonds are done, divide the syrup evenly among the four glasses. Then dollop each with approximately 1/4 cup mascarpone cheese, sprinkle with a quarter of the almonds, and then sprinkle with 1 Tbs. Demerara sugar.

Serve immediately.

My dirty little kitchen secret -or- Jicama and avocado salad with a Spicy citrus Vinaigrette

I have a confession to make. I can't make a salad dressing to save my life. Sure, I can mix a little balsamic vinegar with olive oil and add some spices, but a true blue salad dressing maker I am not. I have never been able to just "whip something up" for my greens. I always need a recipe. It is strange really, because I consider myself to be a decent cook when it comes to opening the refrigerator and formulating a dinner plan from what I see.

I have always been jealous of friends who can make a dressing without even stopping to pause and think. I am that person who will spontaneously cook a meal for friends without breaking a sweat or cracking open a cookbook and then just as the meal is ready will sheepishly ask one of my guest "Ummm...can you make the salad dressing?"

My friends and family have been putting up with this for years. They deserve a medal for all the work they have put into fixing awful dressings I have made. I am trying to learn. I am trying to get better. I really like salad of all varieties, after all. But alas, the only way to not ruin a dressing is for me to follow a recipe. A recipe like this one, in fact.

This is another recipe from Veganomicon. I figure what better way to learn the art of salad dressing than from a vegan. I am totally stereo-typing here, but I figure they must eat a lot of salad.

Jicama And Avocado Salad with a Spicy Citrus Vinaigrette
serves 6-8 (but is easy to reduce for less people)
adapted from Veganomicon

This salad has a really tropical feel to it. It is cool, crisp and refreshing. A great start to or break from the heavier foods we tend to eat during the winter. Plus, citrus season is upon us and you all know how much I love citrus.

This recipe calls for watercress instead of field greens. Someone once told me some gross things about watercress and I haven't been able to eat them since. I won't share them here...I don't want to ruin watercress for you too.

For the salad:
1 large jicama, peeled and shredded (at least 6 c.)
enough field greens for four servings
1 avocado, sliced
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
1/2 c. roasted (salted or unsalted - your choice) peanut

For the dressing:
1/4 c. rice wine vinegar
1/2 c. fresh orange juice
2 Tbs. lime juice
2 Tbs. peanut oil
2 Tbs. hot chile oil
2 Tbs. soy sauce
3 Tbs. sugar
1 tsp. sesame oil

Squeeze the orange juice right into a measuring cup (trying to save you extra dishes here) then add the rest of the ingredients for the dressing and mix vigorously.. Let it sit at room temperature for about 10 minutes so the sugar can dissolve.

While the dressing rests, prepare the vegetables for the salad. Place the field greens into four bowls or salad plates for serving. Cut the avocado and red onion and set aside. Peel and shred the jicama into a larger bowl.

Once the dressing is ready, give it a quick stir and then pour all but 1/3 c. of the dressing onto the jicama, then divide the remaining 1/3 c. between the four salad plates.

Place a pile of jicama (about a cup) over the field greens for each serving. Then add the red onions, avocado, and peanuts.

Side note: I forgot the peanuts. So you will just have to imagine them in the picture above. I think the peanuts add a lot to the flavor.

Learning to love a northwest winter -or- Cassoulet with biscuit topping

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I am happy to report that things are getting back to normal around here. Teaching and trying to move forward on my thesis keeps me busy during the day, but only during normal work hours. And now that the conference is over I have felt the stress just melt away over the past week. Of course, the prospect of meeting Mr. Man's parents this weekend is adding that stress right back to my neck and shoulders. But that is a different story.

One thing that I have enjoyed over the last week or two has been catching up with friends a bit. In the winter time there is little to do around here besides eat and drink. In an effort to embrace winter this year I am really trying to look at the positive features the season has to offer. Eating good food and drinking spirits with my friends is something I can get behind. Obviously, I only have friends who love food as much as I do.

Last night I had a dear friend over for dinner. She and I cozied up on in our warm living room and stuffed ourselves silly with this cassoulet.

It was delicious. Hearty enough to fill my hibernation-mode belly. And it allowed me to turn on the oven and warm the place up a bit.

This recipe comes from my one and only Vegan cookbook. Veganomicon is not the type of book I would normally buy. There are virtually no pictures in it. And to quote the wonderful Alice once again, "How can one possibly read a book with no pictures in it?" I usually stray away from cookbooks without the beautiful photographs of food that I covet and drool over. However, I think that is because most cookbooks rarely have much to offer in the way of conversation with the authors.

Veganomicon has all sorts of great recipes with some of the best descriptions I have seen in a cookbook. It is very conversational and makes you feel as if you are hanging out with the authors themselves while they share their favorite recipes with you. This book made me laugh out loud more than once. How often can you say that about a cookbook?

Cassoulet with biscuit topping
Serves 4
adapted from Veganomicon

I pretty much made this recipe ver batum from the book. With the exception of the leeks, most of the ingredients are all things I normally have on hand any given day so there wasn't much need to substitute. Also, this book is always straightforward in it's methods and descriptions. Why mess with success? Cliche? Yes. True? Another yes.

Another note. Spring for the fresh thyme at the super market. You won't regret it.

For the stew:
2 Yukon gold potatoes, cut into half inch dice
2 leeks, thinly sliced
1 small onion, diced
1 1/2 c. carrots, peeled and cut into a half inch dice
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 c. frozen peas
1 (15-oz) can navy beans drained and rinsed (can substitute cannelli)
3 c. vegetable broth
3 Tbs. cornstarch
2 Tbs. olive oil
1-2 Tbs. fresh thyme, chopped (I don't think you can use too much here)
salt and pepper to taste

For the Biscuits:
1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
3/4 c. plain soy milk
1 tsp. apple cider vinegar
1/4 c. nonhydrogenated vegetable shortening (I used Earth Balance brand)

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. You could wait to do this until later...but, I always like an excuse to turn it on in the winter.

Wash and chop the potatoes into a half inch dice. Place them into a small pot and fill with water until they are covered. Place the pot over high heat with a lid. Allow the potatoes to cook in boiling water for about ten minutes or until the potatoes are just tender enough to pierce them with a fork. Once they are done drain them immediately and set aside.

While the potatoes are cooking go ahead and chop the rest of the vegetables.

If you have time before the potatoes are done (otherwise, wait and do this while your vegetables are cooking int he next step) go ahead and mix the soy milk and vinegar together and set aside (just do it right in the measuring cup) and set it aside. Them mix the dry ingredients for the biscuits together in a bowl (the flour, baking powder, salt) and set aside.

Whisk the vegetable broth and cornstarch together until it completely dissolves.

Heat the oil in a large oven-safe skillet over medium heat. Saute the leeks, onions, and carrots for about 10 minutes, or until they begin to brown. Then add in the garlic, thyme, pepper, and salt and cook for another minute. Then add in the drained potatoes, frozen peas, and vegetable broth mixture. Turn the heat up a bit to bring the stew to a simmer and then lower the heat again. Continue to cook it at a simmer for about another seven minutes, stirring occasionally. Do not cook it for longer than seven minutes. If you are not ready with the biscuits (I wasn't) just turn off the heat until you are ready.

While the stew cooks (or after, for me) work on the biscuits. First, cut the shortening into small pieces and add it to the flour mixture. Using a fork or your fingers work the shortening into the flour until it forms large crumbs (you don't want to overwork it). Then drizzle the soy milk mixture into the flour mixture and stir. Just stir it lightly with a fork, it's fine if there are still a few dry pockets.

Wash and dry your hands. Sprinkle a little bit of flour onto the ball of dough and gently knead it about 10 times, right in the bowl. if the dough is sticking to you hands just sprinkle a little bit more flour onto it.

Set the biscuits aside and check on the stew if you haven't already turned it off. The stew will be slightly thickened when it is done. Add the beans and turn off the heat if you haven't already.

Roll the dough into balls that are about the size of a golf balls, flatten them slightly and place them on top of the stew until the dough is gone.

Place the whole pan into the oven and bake for about 15 minutes or until the biscuits are just beginning to brown.

Bits from the past few busy weeks

I thought that a good way to ease back into this whole blogging on a regular basis thing would be to just give you a list of some of the things that I have been up to the last few weeks and some of the things I have learned. When I think about writing multiple posts about these things it becomes overwhelming, and would probably bore you. But, a list. Now that is something I can get behind.

1. Anyone interested in time warps, loss of time, time travel, etc. should do some research with speakers at conferences. Seriously, giving a talk at a conference is like losing time. I lost 12 minutes last week. I got up to the podium started talking and did not regain consciousness until my last slide. Seriously, I could have stood up there and talked about cheese for 12 minutes. I really have no idea. My colleagues and lab mates said that I did a good job. But, they have to say nice things. Either that or they really like cheese.

2. Thank heavens that high wasted skirts have come back into style! I packed two options for "professional" looking outfits for the week. A pair of pants and a skirt from my professional past. The pants dug into my skin so deep I would have needed to donate a kidney to fit into them. So they were out. The skirt didn't fit quite like it used to either. It is now a very stylish high wasted skirt rather than the normal hip-hugging kind. No one noticed though (at least not to my face). I just tried to rock it like that was the way the skirt was made.

3. I hate airlines. Who else is with me? Does anyone else feel like they are being taken advantage of for wanting to visit family anytime even remotely close to the December holidays?

4. I feel recharged. Three of my college friends came to visit last weekend. Sometimes, I need to be reminded that I am not just the graduate student drone I sometimes feel like. Sometimes, I need to be reminded that I am not as adult as I sometimes act. These girls always bring out my crazysexycool side. Thanks.

5. This college reunion of the "Lounge Girls" was different than others we have had. It was the first time that none of us were single. Not only that, but the first time that we were all together with our boys. It was really fun to hang out as a big couple-y group. It all felt very adult. And it forced us to be a little more adult than we normally are. Usually when we get together our time is filled with a series of inside jokes, quotes from fav movies (Birdcage!), and some really intense dance parties (both inside and outside of the home). This time we had to make more of an effort to communicate on a level understandable to others, you know, like adults. It was totally worth it.

6.I really enjoyed getting to know my friends as part of a couple. It was so nice to see that they had all chosen their mates so well. No drama all weekend. So, awesome.

7. I was really happy for my friends to get to know Mr. Man and vice versa. Like a very wise TV character once said, nothing is better than the sound of your friends laughing at something your boyfriend said. Thank you, Carrie Bradshaw for your awesome wisdom.

Okay, I am missing lots but it is time to head off to school. I will try not to be too drone like though. I am still sparkling with the energy brought from my friends.
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