Simple Avocado citrus salad

My friend dropped off 10 avocados from her father-in-laws avocado farm-lucky!  I love avocado but I simply had too much and was gaucamoled out.  I made a really “light” dressing of lime and a teaspoon of honey on top of a bed of sliced tomatoes and avocados and some chopped cilantro. This is a refreshing and filling side dish or perfect for  lunch.  I now am the proud owner of an avocado tree, but it will take years to yield many avocados.

For two servings:

2 Haas avocados sliced or cubed, depending on your preference

2 tomatoes sliced.

handful of cilantro chopped or cut with scissors

1 lime squeezed into small bowl.  Add 1 teaspoon or more of honey and 2 tablespoons oil of your preference.  Mix and drizzle over avocado and tomatoes!

Add salt ( sel de cali- citrus blend, cilantro red pepper, or chardonnay) Voila, ready to eat.

simple avocado salad

Grand Marnier Chocolate Truffles

ganacheIMG_1213IMG_1216

 

 

I needed a desert for a thanksgiving party and felt that by the time people got to desert they’d be pretty full. I decided chocolate truffles are always easy to go down, just one bite. I made these as little gifts for my weddings, used them to decorate around a birthday cake… I am also going to give them as gifts for the holidays. I will just put 5 or 6 in a little clear plastic bag, tie a cute bow and that’s it!  You can also get nice small candy boxes at cooking stores or craft stores. There are also molds to make your truffles perfectly round with no mistakes, but I like the homemade look to my truffles.  I don’t want them to look professional just taste that way.

 

Ingredients:

16 ounces of bittersweet or semisweet chocolate finely chopped.  I usually use the big dark chocolate bars (500 grams) from Trader Joe’s.

1 cup heavy cream (not whipping cream)

2 tablespoons Grand Marnier ( you can also use triple sec, framboise, or any other flavored liqueurs)

24 ounces chopped dark chocolate for melting and dipping the truffle balls.

For decorating:  Chopped nuts (pistachios, walnuts, pecans,…. ) powdered sugar, sel de cali- orange flavored sea salt, melted white chocolate, sprinkles… what ever you want: get creative.  chopped chocolate

 

Directions:  Put the chocolate into a large heatproof bowl.  In a small saucepan over medium heat bring the cream to a slight boil.  Pour cream over chopped chocolate. Stir until chocolate is melted and smooth.  Add your favorite liqueur ( about 2 tablespoons).  Put mixture, which is actually called a ganache, in the fridge over night or if you are pressed for time, pour the ganache in a shallow dish and put in the refrigerator/freezer for about 30 mins.  Once the chocolate seems ready in a solid pliable form, not hard, start making little balls with a teaspoon or a melon baller.  Don’t make the balls too big, remember this will be the inside of your truffle, there will still be an exterior layer of hardened chocolate.

Place the balls on a lined baking sheet with parchment paper.  Place the sheet in the refrigerator for another 10 mins.  cheap double boilerMeanwhile chop and melt the 24 ounces of chocolate over a double boiler.  I don’t have one so I balanced a heat proof bowl over a sauce pan filled with water boiling.  Once the chocolate is melted, take the balls out of the fridge. Dip and swirl each in the melted chocolate. place on cookie sheet and sprinkle on nuts, salt..whatever you want. You can also roll it in chopped nuts.  I just kept mine with little added sprinkles and maybe one or two rolled in nuts.  Once you are done, put the truffles back in the fridge.  Continue until all are done.  By the way, don’t re-heat chocolate or over cook, it will break down and won’t work. The truffles last up to 2 weeks and the best is to refrigerate them.

Enjoy!!!!!

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Grilled Pork Chop with Sel de Cali

We no longer can use our grill at our apartment due to California law and fires,  so this meal is an ode to the grill.  I accompanied the Grilled pork chop with a mushroom ragu, a side of steamed spinach and grilled red and yellow peppers.

For the pork chop I used some of my Cabernet Sel de Cali, a special wine infused salt from California, infused with California Cabernet and dried in the California sun.

For the mushroom ragu I used about one tablespoon of unsalted butter and sautéed some shallots.  Just as the shallots were tender I added a splash of Marsala cooking wine.  I then added a mix of mushrooms:  cremini, portabella and shiitake, any mix will do.  I wished I had oyster mushrooms or other kinds.   I cooked it until tender.  I grilled the peppers that were drenched in olive oil, Sel de Cali and pepper while the pork chop was cooking.  It turned out to be a nice end of the grill meal.

Pork chop with mushroom ragu

simple melone with Sel de Cali (Chardonnay salt and Pinot Noir salt)

Today I decided to make a simple little lunch with my specialty salts. Sel de Cali (Chardonnay) and Sel de Cali (Pinot Noir)  Not only does the Chardonnay salt and Pinot Noir salt taste good, it looks spectacular.  Just by adding a few grains you have turned your boring melon into a wow!  So now I feel good, I had a good sweet and salty cantaloupe that was just right for a healthy lunch.  This is a quick and easy appetizer for guests and a great hors d’oeuvre for a party.  You can cut them up and put them on a stick… play around with presentation, make a trail of wine salt on the platter… either way, it will look and taste delicious.  By the way, I had 3 more pieces after this photo!

 

ceviche

chili peppers
chili peppers (Photo credit: marzbars)

I love ceviche.  I had the real deal 10-years ago when I went to visit my sister in Peru.  We traveled all over sampling some of the most amazing Peruvian dishes, but for me, Ceviche is my favorite.  I had never tried making it until today.  Inspired by the Peruvian restaurant and my local fish monger, I decided to try it out when I was buying my weekly fish.   The fish guy told me to try his frozen tilapia. I’m a purest and didn’t feel like buying frozen fish, why after all, I was in fresh-fish heaven?  However, he convinced me by saying, “It makes for a wonderful ceviche”  I bought four filets for about $5 dollars.  I went home thawed out the fish and started squeezing my bags of lemons and limes.  I know you can use one or the other (lemons or limes), but this was my first and I wanted it “cooked.”  I was on a time constraint so the only thing I did was cover my fish completely with lemon and lime juice and put it in the fridge.  I let it sit for a few hours, the time to get my son, bring him to an afterschool event and then back.  So my ceviche was done in several stages.  So, three hours later……  I chopped up some fresh hot peppers– I had bought a little medly of peppers and I can’t remember all the names of each, but in general any spicey pepper will do.  Some were super spicy and others more mild.  I also chopped up a big bunch of cilantro. I really love the fresh taste of cilantro, so I probably added more than the average Peruvian would add.  Next I cut up half a red onion in the thinnest slivers possible with a chefs knife.  A mandolin would have been perfect, but I don’t have one.  I also added 4 half of garlic cloves for flavor.  Lots of Sel de Cali– the chardonnay version, a bit of fresh, ground pepper and I put it all in the bowl with my fish and back into the fridge to “cook” some more.  Just before serving, maybe 2 hours later, I boiled a sweet potato to go on the side.  Generally this dish is served with big corn and a sweet potato.  I didn’t have big Peruvian corn, so we settled for the lovely orange-colored potato.  I have to say, it was delicious.  We had enough to feed several people.  I had used all 4 filets.  Next time I think I will use two filets, if it’s a main course for two people.  This dish would also be a great party appetizer.  It could be served on a tortilla, on a lettuce wrap, or just alone in little individual ramekins.  Now that I’ve made it the possibilities are endless if I am to entertain.   Just make sure you keep the ceviche cold, nobody likes a warm ceviche.

Tilapia filet

10-15 limes or/and lemons

3 hot peppers chopped fine

1/2 red onion thinly sliced

4 halved garlic cloves

1 bunch of cilantro roughly chopped

Sel de Cali- Chardonnay kind

1 sweet potato or yam

Lobster and shrimp ceviche

(Ceviche de pulpo, as known and prepared in th...

Ceviche

Salmon with herbs

salmonI love salmon!  And I love super fresh Salmon from my fish monger.  I call it the freshest seafood in southbay. I’m seriously lucky to have this wonderful fish available when I want.  Luckily, my friend was with me and wanted salmon as well because we had to buy the whole fish.  That’s what you get when you shop at a warehouse .  The big debate was how we wanted it split.  She wanted a filet with the skin off, I wanted a steak, but said fine for the filet, yet in the end, I had to have the skin off, too. I didn’t want Tony to do too much work, it was already a favor for him to clean the fish for us.   This decision dictated my preparations for dinner.  I had planned to grill it on the BBQ, but instead would bake it.  We each had enough for 7 -8 people each. So I guess you could say one big Salmon would have fed 16 people!  And it only cost about 24 dollars for the whole fish!!!

I peeked at recipes online for inspiration and decided to make an herb incrusted salmon in the oven.  I took what I had growing on the balcony.  I grabbed a bunch of fresh Italian oregano and some Thai basil.  I chopped it up and added some Chardonnay Salt from Sel de Cali and placed the salmon on a bed of thinly sliced and de-seeded lemons.  I baked the salmon for about 15 minutes at 350F.  In the meantime I steamed some asparagus that I bought from Jacques produce stand.  I set up the rice medley in the rice cooker.  Yet, something was missing, I needed color so I cut up some delicious tomatoes that I also purchased from the veggie stand.  I made a really simple tomato salad.  I used a few scallions and then just finished it off with Sel de Cali, the Cabernet one.  It was simple but added a deliciously fresh element to our dinner.  Yum.  We actually enjoyed it in front of the TV, which isn’t ideal fro great dinner conversations, but it was late.

salmon, asparagus, rice medleytomatoes

Sauteed garlic shrimp with pasta al pesto

For tonight I decided to satisfy my husbands love for pasta and give a good recipe for those who want pasta during their 3rd phase of the Dukan diet.  I was tired of grilling, so I just sautéed a few wild caught shrimp, previously frozen.  I sautéed them in a bit of basil garlic infused olive oil that I had made a few days ago, until the shrimp  were pink and  looked less opaque.  In the mean time, the water was boiling and ready to add my lovely pasta I brought back from Italy.  It’s a semolina based pasta called “Trecce Dell’orto.  It’s delicious and perfect for pesto but, unfortunately, I’ve not found it here yet.  Once my pasta was cooked, I just added one hefty scoop of pesto I had previously made and tossed it in.  I tossed in a few cherry tomatoes halves to add texture, color and freshness to this dish.  Finish it off with a few sprinkles of Sel de Cali, for taste and presentation, as well as a bit of grated parmesan cheese.  The dish takes about 20 mins to prepare, if you make the pesto ahead of time.  You can use any type of pasta, but good ones with this are farfalle, bow tie, orcetta, basically any type of pasta works.  I find that it’s not the greatest with angel hair pasta because it tends to clump up, but it’s still tasty.  Enjoy.  YUM

Fish stock

I bought a great red snapper at the Seafood warehouse in San Pedro and my friend bought a huge fish, I can’t remember the type, but she had the man filet it.  He asked if we wanted the discarded parts, I decided to take them home and make a fish stock.  I added just about everything appropriate I had in my fridge.  I filled a large pot of water, added some chopped up fennel, coarsely chopped onions, chopped baby carrots, normal carrots are fine, I just didn’t have any.  I also added a few celery stocks with their leaves, a few, about 4-5 bay leaves, about 1 tablespoon pepper corns and a large scoop of salt.  I added my Sel de Cali, giving it a bit wine infused sea salt flavor.  I let the stock simmer for about 1.5 hours.  I strained and transfered the stock to Tupperware and once cooled, I put them in the freezer for future use.  I have to say, this stock was the easiest and tastiest stock I’ve had.  It really makes a huge difference making it yourself, however, man did it smell fishy.  The apartment smelled fishy and my hands were fishy, but nothing like a few candles and some lemon juice for my hands, the smell was gone.  I later used these stocks for a simple steamed clam recipe, so simple, just put the stock and steam the clams!  I also used it for my seafood stew.  I hope you enjoy.

Brownies with Sel de Cali

There is absolutely no reason to make brownies from a box!  It’s almost too easy to make them from scratch.  You just need some good chocolate and about 10 minutes to chop and mix. I tend to buy the huge, 500 gram bars from Trader Joes, which can make up to 3 or 4 batches of brownies, depending on how chocolaty you want your tasty bars.  I miss nice chocolates at expensive prices from Europe, or even just the access to good chocolate, but the Trader Joe’s dark Belgian chocolate isn’t bad.  I used to make brownies from a box until I moved to Italy where no boxes of brownie mix were found and that is when I discovered the amazing and healthier version of this American desert. When ever a friend had a party or an event I was asked to bring brownies.  I became the brownie and blondie maker.  I’ve passed on my recipe and taught others to make these and am proud to know that people are eating my brownies all over the world.  Now a best friend impresses  guests in South Africa, my Italian mama friend is making them for her kids’ playdates, and my non-baking Mexican friend has now found a love for baking and her children have rediscovered how yummy a real brownie can be.  Brownies from a box are actually disgusting, adding vegetable oil and an egg to a pre-mixed powder of fake-like chocolate isn’t so healthy.  Please pass this recipe on to show how easy it is to make real brownies.  It will take about 10 mins to make and 25 to bake.  The baking part is the key.  You want to  under bake  your brownies.  If you over cook them, they just become regular brownies and are a bit too dry.  If this does happen, just top them with marscapone cheese before serving, but hopefully you will get the timing right to enjoy this chocolate, gooey treat.  The most important part of making brownies is timing and salt!

Recipe

125 grams butter, cut into pieces (1/2 cup)

100 grams chopped dark chocolate -play around with the dark percentage to find your favorites.

1 cup sugar-superfine sugar works best, but costs more, so just normal white sugar works also

2 pinches of salt

2 large eggs at room temperature

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

3/4 cup all purpose flour

150 grams chopped chocolate – I use the same dark chocolate used in the melting process, but you can use white chocolate, peanut butter chips, milk chocolate, play around to find your best indulgence.

1/2 cup loosely chopped walnuts optional.

Sel de Cali- a red wine infused salt

Basically you want to chop about 100 grams of good quality, dark chocolate into your cut up butter, place in a pan and melt completely.  Take off heat and add the rest of your ingredients.  Mix sugar completely, add eggs and vanilla, mix with wooden spoon, add two pinches of salt, then add in the flour a bit at a time to avoid lumping.  Next you will want to chop up the 150 grams left of chocolate, you can chop as finely or as loosely as you want.  It all depend if you want more melted chocolate to your brownies, which is what I choose, or if you want chocolate chunks within the brownies.  Then add your walnuts.  Sprinkle this lovely Sel de Cali, making each bite have a mouth-watering red-wine sea salt accent.  It will change your brownies.  Bake for 25 minutes at 350 f or 180 C.  Make sure you do not over cook.  Check your brownies with a toothpick. You want a bit of the brownie to stick to the toothpick.  You just don’t want them too raw, but as it cools, it’s still cooking.