Monday, May 30, 2011

Nicoise with a Twist

 Here's my recipe for Nicoise Salad, which I demonstrated on Episode 4 of Foodgasm.

Salad Nicoise
Serves 4

·  1/2 pound small red new potatoes, scrubbed and boiled in salt water, cooled
·  4 large eggs, hardboiled and sliced
·  1/4 pound haricots verts or French green beans, stems trimmed, shocked and blanched
·  1 pound fresh sushi-quality tuna
·  2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
·  Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
·  ½ pint teardrop or cherry tomatoes,
•  ½ red onions thinly sliced half moons
·  ½ cup Nicoise olives (pitted)
• several leaves of romaine and red leaf lettuce
• 1 cup pesto (recipe below)
• ¾ cup balsalmic vinagrette (recipe below)

Make the pesto (see below)  and toss the pesto with the red potatoes and green beans and set aside. 

Pat dry the tuna. Lightly coat the tuna with olive oil, salt and pepper. 

Grill tuna for good sear marks on a very hot grill pan or grill, about 2-3 minutes each side (this can be done in a sauté pan if no grill pan or grill is available). 

Make the balsamic vinaigrette and set aside. 

Slice the tuna into thick long strips. Arrange lettuce leaves on the plates and place on top the pesto potatoes, pesto green beans, sliced eggs, tomatoes, sliced red onions, olives and sliced seared tuna. Drizzle with the vinaigrette and serve.

• 1 cup fresh basil leaves, packed
• 1/4cup freshly grated Parmesan-Reggiano or Romano cheese
• 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
• ¼ cup pine nuts or walnuts
• 1 -2 medium sized garlic cloves, minced
• Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Lightly toast in a dry sauté pan the pine nuts tills they are golden brown. Then put all of the ingredients into a food processor or blender. Blend till smooth.

Balsamic vinaigrette

•  ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
• 1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
• ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
• 1 teaspoon finely chopped shallots
• dash honey
• salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste

Whisk all the ingredients together till it’s well blended.

And now all that is needed is some good French bread, and a glass of wine.

Ashley Goes a Little French

I love a dinner salad. And one of my all-time favorites is that classic French salad, Nicoise Salad.

Now, I've had my share of really mediocre ones. So I wanted to make mine version of this really stand out. And here's what I came up with.

I want to take this opportunity to thank the fine crew that made this episode possible. And I want to thank our sponsor for this episode, The Windy City Media Group.

In my next post, I'll share the recipe for this salad.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

National Restaurant Association Show Day 3

I made it through another day!  My feet are tired and so am I. Here are my reflections on the show.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

National Restaurant Association Show Day 1

I spent the day at the NRA in Chicago.  And here's a summary of what it was like.

Friday, May 20, 2011

A Drink for the End of Time

Surely we need something for this momentous occasion. I’m referring of course to the prediction by Harold Camping that the world will end on Saturday, May 21, 2011. Well, not the world ending exactly, but the Rapture to occur, when all the faithful are taken up to heaven, and the rest of everyone left on earth, which goes quickly to hell on a handbasket.
There are other ideas on the end of time. Maybe the world will end in some quieter fashion, such as T. S. Eliot suggested in the poem “The Hollow Men.”
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.
No whimpering tonight, however, on the eve of the end of the world.
Charles Baudelaire, the French poet, posited a different plan for dealing with the fast passing of time.
Be drunken, always. That is the point: nothing else matters. If you would not feel the horrible burden of Time weigh you down and crush you to the earth, be drunken continually.
Drunken with what? With wine, with poetry or with virtue, as you please. But be drunken.
So, it’s the last night till the rapture and I feel like a great cocktail is in order. This drink incorporates many of my favorite things such as flowers, rosemary and fruit. It’s sophisticated yet fun. So I raise my glass to you and say, “Cheers, it’s been a great life.” Time for.........The Last Drink

The Last Drink
1 ½ oz. gin
1 oz. St. Germain (Elderflower Liquor)
½ oz. dry vermouth
1 oz. mango nectar
1 ½ oz. soda water
½ oz. rosemary simple syrup
dash fresh lemon juice
Garnish (optional)
Lemon slice
Rosemary sprig
Partly fill a rocks glass with ice. Pour in the gin, St. Germaine, dry vermouth, mango nectar, soda water, rosemary simple syrup, dash lemon juice and stir.  Serve with a lemon slice and sprig of rosemary (optional).
Rosemary simple syrup.
½ cup water
¾ cup sugar or honey
1 sprig of rosemary
Bring water in pot to boil and add in the rosemary sprig. Turn off heat and let sit for five minutes. Remove sprig and stir in sugar or honey till fully incorporated. Let cool. There will be extra for more drinks : )  So, enjoy your Last Drink!!!!

Friday, May 13, 2011

An Old-Fashioned Cocktail

It’s Cocktail Time with FOODGASM and I’m feeling like something bubbly. I just think it’s super sassy when you can make a cocktail out of a sparkling wine or champagne. You can’t help but to smile when you are drinking a bubbly cocktail.  Champagne Julep is the name of this cocktail, perfect for at brunch-time, Derby-time or any old Cocktail-time! This cocktail was a popular drink in the 1940’s and has mint leaves in it like a mint julep. 



Some of you may be wondering “What is the difference between Champagne and sparkling wine?” Well here is a little Wine 101 to help you figure that out.  All Champagnes are all sparkling wines, but not all sparkling wines are Champagne. Meaning this: a sparkling wine can be made anywhere, but to be called Champagne: it must come from the region of Champagne in France (which has strict laws about winemaking in that area); must be produced in the methode champenoise or MC method; and must contain the blend of the three grapes used for Champagne wines which are Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier.  


But not to worry, there are many fantastic sparkling wines out there that are reasonably priced and still of high quality. Two I can recommend are J. Laurens Brut Cremant de Limoux and La Marca NV Prosecco.


So enjoy your bubbly Champagne Julep and remember, when mixing that cocktail to throw a dash of love in there and have fun. Because everyone has fun at Cocktail Time!


Here's the recipe, if you want to try this cocktail right now.


Champagne Julep Cocktail
3 shredded mint leaves
2 dashes of bitters
1 oz lemon simple syrup (see recipe below)
1 oz peach schnapps
1 oz fino sherry
Garnish: grilled lime slice

Fill a champagne flute with crushed ice. Pour all ingredients into the glass and top with champagne. Garnish with grilled lime slice (this can be done on the grill or on a grill pan). Serve with a sexy straw.

To make the lemon simple syrup:
2 cups water
1 cup sugar
½ cup fresh lemon juice
A few pieces of the lemon rind ( no white part)

Put all of the ingredients in a pot. Heat slowly and stir till combined.  Set aside and let cool. Strain out the lemon peel and it’s ready to use. This will make more than you need for the recipe, but is great to keep on hand for use in other cocktails. Keep refrigerated.

Monday, May 9, 2011

A Better Cut

Knives, knives, knives. 

People are always asking me which knives to buy.  It’s truly a great question too. Having a really great (and super sharp) knife is crucial to making your cooking experience easier and fun. Also as a sassy mistress in the kitchen I need the proper toys, er I mean tools. A bad and dull knife can make cooking a chore. It takes a lot trial and error to find the knife that suits you the best. But I will share the tale of “My shiny knife Global and Me."

Once upon a cutting board in a kitchen far, far away lived a happy family of knives called Global…….. Not quite like that. But there are few brands of knifes that I have worked with and enjoy. Wusthof, Henckels and Global. There are many more great ones out there, but I have yet to personally work with them. What you really want to start is a really good 8-inch or 10-inch Chef’s knife and a great paring knife. 


With these two knives you can do just about anything. My personal favorite is my Global SANROKU, Fluted 18 cm blade. I like it because the Global knives have a solid metal handle that extends into the blade. The metal handle is hollow and is very light, which I find is easier when chopping. Some blades/handles are too heavy for my handles. I like something that is easier to weld. The little divots on the blade allow for the food to slide right off, making it super easy to keep on chopping.


But my advice is to go to your local culinary stores like Sur La Table and The Chopping Block (or others similar to these in your area) and try them out. Most places will allow you to try chopping with it before you buy it. 


Happy hunting….. and chopping.