Friday, August 28, 2009

Mango Carrot Chutney

A few weeks ago, a friend and I had a fun experimental cooking day, involving meat pies featuring delicious chile peppers (Serrano and yes, Habanero). Anyway, I was left with some of the leftover ingredients, including carrots and mango. Later in the week, I had a craving for fish - and yes, I admit, I did not make my own but rather just picked up a piece of fried flounder from Supersol (shame on me).

I stared down the store-bought, ready-made fish with some degree of embarrassment, and so I decided I would repent for my sin by creating some sort of sauce or topping for the fish (it looked pretty dry and like it could use some help in the flavor department). Luckily, I had those leftover mango and carrots, so I decided to do a Carribean-themed meal for myself (previous attempts with this theme were wildly successful; unfortunately I did not record my recipe for Jamaican Chicken Skewers which involved mangoes, onions and chicken in a delicious coconut jerk sauce. I will eventually try to recreate it though...).

I aimed for a pretty savory chutney, though I found I did need to add some brown sugar to really bring out the mango flavor. The carrots also provide a textural contrast to the mangos (which are nearly mushy by the time it's done) since they still have a little bite to them after4 minutes. If you want softer carrots, precook them (in the microwave or boiling them) for an extra minute or two.

I ate this on top of fish, but it would also be quite delicious on top of chicken, rice, couscous, or even just on the side by itself!

Quick and easy mango carrot chutney - no stove required!

This chutney was great on top of fish - but goes well on chicken, rice & couscous too!

Mango Carrot Chutney

1 mango, diced
1-2 big carrots, diced
1/2 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ginger (fresh if possible)
2 tsp brown sugar
pinch of salt

1. Combine ingredients in a microwaveable bowl and mix well.

2. Cover with plastic wrap. Microwave for 2 minutes, mix again, then microwave another 2 minutes until carrots are mostly cooked through. Serve on top of fish or chicken.

3-4 servings

Monday, August 10, 2009

Beta Recipe: Coconut Lime Bars

I was asked to make a dessert recently and I had a very difficult time deciding what to make. I was torn between pies, cakes and other pastries. After much searching, someone suggested to me that I make lemon bars. Now there's a nice, simple dessert that's got a clean, refreshing taste and is always a crowd-pleaser.

Of course, I needed to figure out a way to make this dish mine. I started perusing the Joy of Cooking for its basic recipe for lemon bars (just to get a baseline) and then it hit me: swap the lemon for lime. It's unexpected, but will likely have just as much appeal. To sweeten the deal, I decided to add coconut to the crust for an extra tropical flavor. Also, to cut the pungent flavor of the lime, I chose to sweeten the curd with honey instead of regular sugar, which gave it a fuller, more rounded off taste.

I consider this to be a beta recipe because I'm not quite happy with the proportions just yet. The taste was quite good, but I may need to scale up the volume of the curd, or scale down the size of the pan. It's not quite perfect, but it's a good chunk of the way there!

You'll notice I call for egg substitute - this is my attempt to make up for the whole stick of margarine in the crust. Sorry, but there was just no way around it - oil just doesn't cut it (baking pun not intended). I used margarine simply because I wanted this dish to be pareve (non-dairy) - but you can easily make this in dairy form (which will likely be even tastier) by swapping the margarine for butter (I haven't tried this, but you may want to keep in mind that butter is 20% water, so the swap ratio may not be exactly 1-for-1 - but I would probably try that first anyway just as a test). I also think I might need to up the powdered sugar in the crust.

When you make the curd, you'll notice that it is in fact not lime green but yellow, from the eggs. You can leave it like that and watch as unsuspecting tasters sink their teeth in expecting lemon only to be fooled and surprised by the lime deception; or, you can beat them over the head with it by adding a few drops of green food coloring to turn it a bright neon green (admittedly, this was not the color I was looking for - but it sufficed).

Finally, one last note, you may notice that in a 9x13 pan (as in the picture), the curd does not quite completely cover the crust (my own underestimation). I would either use a smaller pan (such as an 8x8 - this may mean you will have a thicker crust, which you may like) or increase the volume of the curd recipe (though I can't quite tell by how much yet - this is an experiment for next time I make this).

I hope these few reservations won't deter you from making this on your own - and if you figure out a way to improve it, please let me know!

A tropical twist on your everyday lemon bars

Coconut Lime Bars

For crust:
1.5 c flour
1 stick margarine
Pinch salt
1/2 c powdered sugar
1/2 - 3/4 cup flaked coconut

For curd:
1/4 c flour
1 c sugar
Less than 1/2 c honey
1/3 c lime juice (about 2-3 limes)
1 tbsp lime zest
1 egg
3/4 c egg substitute (equivalent of 3 eggs - you can use real eggs if you like)
3-4 drops green food coloring (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 350. Combine crust ingredients, cutting margarine into flour, forming a dry dough.

2. Press dough into an ungreased pan. Bake for 15-20 min until the top is golden.

3. Whisk curd ingredients together.

4. Pour curd on top of crust and bake for another 25-30 minutes until semi-firm.

5. Dust with extra powdered sugar before serving.

Serves 12-16.

The Ultimate Sweet & Sour Meatloaf

Okay, so I must admit, after just having seen Julie & Julia last night (very good movie), I am re-inspired to continue my quest to post my collected recipes on my blog. Most notably, I'd like to finally share the Ultimate Meatloaf recipe that I came up with a couple weeks back.

So basically, I was kinda stuck for dinner one Friday night, and I decided I was going to just eat at home and try to invite whoever I could over (I ended up not finding anyone, so more meatloaf for me!). I was also in the mood for a ground beef dish, but I find meatballs very time-consuming (I am picky about the shape). So, I decided to try my hand at meatloaf (another first for me) - something that growing up I was never a huge fan of because it was often dry and flavorless.

I decided to construct the meatloaf in two layers: the first layer being the meat, which I wanted to be very savory and flavorful, yet moist and juicy. The second layer would be the glaze, which I had scribbled down in my cooking notebook over a year ago as an idea to try out - an applesauce-based glaze. I wanted to take this a step further and turn it into a bit of a sweet-and-sour glaze, so I added some cider vinegar and teriyaki sauce.

It came out ridiculously well, but I want to stress one thing. There was one flavor in the meat that absolutely made all the difference: the Chinese five-spice powder. THIS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT INGREDIENT IN THE RECIPE (maybe besides the beef), DO NOT SKIP IT!!! I cannot stress this enough. In the past few months I have been learning the ways of Chinese five-spice, and I have concluded that it is amazing with ground beef (my meatballs on Purim were also a testament to that - but alas, I didn't write down the recipe!). If you don't have any, it is incredibly worth your while to go out and get some (sometimes hard to find - I only found Fairway carried it, but I am certain you can find it online easily). It gives this complex flavor of cumin and a hint of anise (licorice) that makes you go, "ooh, hmm!" on every bite.

Okay, okay, enough of plugging the spices. On to the recipe!

The best meatloaf I have ever tasted.

The Ultimate Sweet and Sour Meatloaf

For meatloaf:

2 lb. ground beef
2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
2 tbsp. dijon mustard
1 tbsp. maple syrup
1 tsp. thyme
1 tsp. parlsey
1/2 tsp Chinese five spice powder
1/4 tsp ginger
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 oz finely chopped pecans or hazelnuts (you can add up to 8 oz. if you wish)
2 eggs
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1 can diced tomatoes
Salt (at least 2-3 heavy pinches)

For glaze:

1/2 cup applesauce (preferably unsweetened)
2 tbsp. brown sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1 tbsp. cider vinegar
2 tbsp. teriyaki sauce

1. Combine all meatloaf ingredients and mix very well.

2. Transfer to a loaf pan (or other baking vessel) and pack well. Smooth off the top.

3. Combine glaze ingredients well and spoon evenly onto top of meatloaf.

4. Bake at 350 for 1 hr 30 min or till meat reaches 160 F. Please, use a meat thermometer on this if you have one available.

5. After it's done, allow it to rest at least 10 minutes before serving. If desired, pour off excess fat (carefully please!)

Serves 10-12. Depends how you cut it really.