Sunday, November 29, 2015

Grapefruit Salad with Shrimp and Coconut Rice

After a heavy Thanksgiving meal and next-day leftovers, perhaps a light and refreshing salad is calling your name.

This is a delicious, winter-appropriate, grapefruit salad with layers of flavor, texture, and crunch. It's not your boring old salad by any means. It's bright and colorful, and certain to wake up your taste buds.

Love when a dish incorporates flavors that excite all the tastes -- sweet, sour, salty, bitter, and umami. This salad covers them all.

There's sweetness (but not too sweet) from the dressing, which contains a bit of coconut sugar to balance the sour/tartness from the citrus -- lime and grapefruit. Salty and umami from the fish sauce. More umami from the shrimp. Bitterness from the radicchio (a member of the chicory family); although, with all the other flavors going on, the bitter element is well-integrated.

There's a fresh component from the herbs -- used (Thai) basil and mint. Cilantro would work too.

There's a touch of heat from Thai and Fresno chiles. Of course, you could always ramp up the heat by adding more chiles or tame it by using fewer, milder chiles and/or seeding them.

The crunch comes from toasted coconut, crispy fried shallots, and dry-roasted peanuts.

I served the salad with coconut rice that I topped with thinly sliced scallions and more toasted coconut.

The hardest part is sectioning the grapefruit, which is a bit of a pain but worth the effort.

Hope you enjoy!

My latest and greatest discovery, crispy fried shallots. I want to put them on top of everything. The crispy shallots work particularly well in this salad. I purchased them here for my NYC friends.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Camino de Santiago 2015

It took some time to sift through the hundreds of photos I snapped walking the Camino de Santiago (The Way of Saint James), but finally narrowed them down to my favorites. I'm not great with words, so I hope these photos paint a picture of my experience. For anyone thinking about walking the Camino (or biking, horseback, or even travelling via donkey), I encourage you to do so. I had some trepidation initially, especially as a single female (safety issues and all), but the Camino was an incredible life experience that I will never forget. If you travel solo, you're never alone on the Camino (unless you choose to be).

While there were a few things that I did not particularly enjoy along the way -- oh, like the horrible, perpetual snoring (that my ear plugs could not even drown out), the three consecutive days of torrential downpour, and the aches and sore muscles that I'm still trying to recover from -- overall the Camino was a very positive and memorable experience. Met some amazing people from all over the world. Loved that I would meet a person or group of people, walk with them for a day or two, then part ways. Then a few days later, out of the blue, they would pop back into my life like old friends. I felt physically challenged, healthy, and invigorated. I saw beauty -- landscapes, mountains, rainbows, cathedrals, monuments, etc.

Did I figure out the meaning of life?  No. Find myself? Not really, still a bit lost in this journey we call life. Did I become more spiritual or religious?  No to that too. But I did find inner peace, if just for a brief moment. At home, I often feel anxious about the future. I never feel content with myself. However, on the Camino, I was able to shut off my brain. Enjoy the moment. Feel happy. Leave my emotional baggage behind. Just "be." Something I hope to better incorporate into my life back here in NYC.

What I really enjoyed was the simplicity of life while on the Camino -- get up, have coffee, walk, stop for breakfast (tortilla and more coffee), walk some more, stop for a snack (and more coffee), walk some more, check into the albergue, shower, wash and hang my clothes, rest, dinner, wine (no vino, no Camino), sleep, and repeat.

The only thing that I had to worry about was finding a bed at night (and bed bugs, which thankfully I did not encounter).

Hope you enjoy the photos and feel inspired to one day walk The Way of St. James.

If you decide to take this journey, pack light. Just the essentials. If you think you may not need something, don't bring it. Your body will thank you later. You can always pick up things along the way (or discard/donate things). Wear comfortable shoes (and break them in ahead of time). Good quality socks too. Luckily I did not get any blisters, but did develop shin pain (probably because my pack was too heavy). Again, pack light. Oh, and get really good ear plugs.

Buen Camino!

It all started in Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, France (Tuesday, September 8, 2015)...

Walking over the Pyrenees, from France into Spain...stunning, magical, and physically exhausting (~6 hours uphill the entire way).  Pure adrenaline kept me going.


Monday, November 23, 2015

Winter Squash, Walnut, and Phyllo Pastry

How cute are these little winter squash?  Wasn't sure what I wanted to do with them, just knew they were too cute to pass up.  These are honeynut squash, which are mini butternut squash.

Not surprisingly, honeynut squash tastes exactly like butternut squash.

Once roasted, six of these petit guys yielded about 12 ounces of pureed squash, so I also used kabocha squash (two mini kabocha).  An abundance of miniature squash cuteness going on here.

Gotta have a few pumpkin/winter squash recipes.  It's that time of year.  Hope you're not tired of pumpkin/winter squash quite yet.

Continuing with my miniature theme, made these into bite-sized treats.  They're not overly sweet, so you can actually taste the pumpkin, and they have a good ratio of filling to phyllo.

They're best warm out of the oven when the phyllo is crispy and flaky.

This recipe is based on a traditional Bulgarian recipe called tikvenik.  I made a few little tweaks (hope that's ok).

So much miniature cuteness...honeynut squash.

Kabocha of my favorite varietals (they have a sweet, creamy flesh).

You can make the puree ahead of time.  Simply roast, scoop out the flesh, and mash.  Add your favorite sweetener and spice (added cinnamon and cardamom).

Whenever possible, have everything ready to go (mis en place) before you start cooking/baking, so you don't run around the kitchen like a crazy person (like me most of the time).

When you're ready to bake, simply lay out your phyllo, brush with melted butter, spread on the pumpkin puree, sprinkle with toasted walnuts, and roll up into a log (see steps below).

Instead of slicing into bite-sized pieces, once the phyllo is rolled up, you could form into a spiral (which is how this recipe is traditionally made).

Lastly, when out of the oven, dust with powdered sugar.