Thursday, July 3, 2008

Olio e Aceto... [or] Making Good Use of Foodie Gifts

I was lucky enough to win two contests this month (Hey - why the heck didn't I buy a lottery ticket?!?!). When they both arrived on the same day, I was as excited as a kid the night before going to Disneyland.

Presents are always fun, packages make them even better, and when they both come from foodies with phenomenal taste, they are the best! One of the contests was Coconut & Lime's Blogiversary contest, which I created my Thai Coconut Ice Cream with Mango Lime Swirl for. The other was Aapplemint's Paying It Forward giveaway, for which I did nothing (yet), and consequently, I feel very guilty about receiving such a bounty of treats (which you'll be hearing more about). I will, of course, be paying it forward quite soon, so stay tuned if you'd love some of my favorite goodies!

Rachel from Coconut & Lime really went all out. Her fabulous basket included treats like chocolate mochi, cola gummies, glacier fruits, japanese raspberry drops and litchi candies. The sweet was in perfect balance with the savory, which included a bounty of local McCormick seasonings, including Cinnamon Chipotle (yum!), Pork, Salmon and Seafood Rubs; Montreal Chicken and Steak seasonings; Baja Citrus, Garlic, Wine and Herb, Peppercorn Garlic, Zesty Herb and Tomato, Garlic & Basil marinade packets. She added some rich flavors with Pecan and Hazelnut extracts, and topped it off with some lime hued shot glasses (perfect for prep), a silicone basting brush and a cute white and green pot holder (how did she know I always destroy mine?). She even snuck in some white chocolate peanut butter, leading me to believe she must have noticed my tendency to fall for that creamy rich combo.

The spice mixes kind of caught my attention mostly because I don't ever buy these pre-mixed spices, so I was curious. Plus I drive by their international headquarters in Hunt Valley daily, and the tantalizing aromas make my mouth water. So tonight the theme was spice blends and two of my other favorite seasonings, Olio et Aceto. Oil and vinegar come in so many varieties that endless combinations are possible (and I get to play!)! So here's a taste!

Tomato Basil and Garlic Grilled Chicken

1/4 cup good red wine (I used a Paso Robles Cabernet)
1 Tbsp porcini oil (I didn't have basil or garlic oil - but they would be equally delicious)
1/4 cup minus 1 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp chianti vinegar
1 packet McCormick Garlic Tomato Basil marinade
2 lbs. bone-in chicken thighs with skin

In a liquid measuring cup, measure out wine. Add porcini oil, then add olive oil up to the 1/2 cup line. Combine with vinegar and seasoning packet. Pour over chicken thighs and toss to coat. Let sit at least one hour.

Sidenote: One of my favorite tricks is to freeze meat in a marinade. That way, as it thaws it takes on flavor and you don't have to worry about starting dinner an hour earlier than usual.

Preheat your grill (sorry folks - I use gas for convenience - otherwise I'd never grill) with all burners on high. After scouring the racks and brushing them lightly with oil, turn the middle burner off and immediately place the chicken over it on the grill (most of the cooking will be done through indirect grilling. Turn the side burners to medium and close the lid. Cook for 8 minutes. Baste with extra marinade and flip over. Cover and cook for another 8 minutes. Baste and turn over, this time directly over the burners. Watch out for flare ups and remove from heat if necessary. After 2 minutes, baste, flip and repeat with the other side. This will slightly char the surface and crisp the skin. Let rest for 5 minutes before eating.

Hungarian Brown Rice Medley

I am 25% Hungarian, and although I'm sure this is not a traditional recipe, it reminded me of my roots and was hauntingly good due to copious amounts of smoked paprika.

2 1/2 cups chicken stock
1 Tbsp porcini mushroom oil
2 Tbsp McCormick's Montreal Chicken Seasoning
1 1/2 Tbsp Smoked Paprika
2 Tbsp tomato paste
1 cup brown rice (I love Trader Joes brown rice medley for this)
1 Tbsp chianti vinegar or a hot pepper vinegar

Bring stock to a boil. Stir in other ingredients, except for vinegar. Bring back to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, for 35 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add vinegar, stir and let sit for 5 minutes. Top with salsa. Recipe follows.

Toasted Corn & Tomato Salsa with Bacon

Because everything's better with bacon!

This isn't salsa in the way most Americans think of salsa. Salsa literally means sauce, and this is a chunky summery mix that has enough of a liquid component to form a type of sauce. Many of you will probably shriek at me using tomatoes, as every person I've talked to in the last month has. All I have to say is use some common sense people! Buy your produce locally (right now that means greenhouse tomatoes) and wash it well and you won't get Salmonella! And please stop freaking out! It's a flipping tomato for god's sake!

1 1/2 Tbsp canola oil
1/2 Tbsp chile oil
2 1/2 cups frozen corn
3 very ripe Roma tomatoes, coarsely chopped
1 Tbsp Montreal Chicken Seasoning
1 Tbsp raspberry vinegar (my grammie makes this from her garden for me)
1 Tbsp orange muscat vinegar (or other intriguingly flavored fruit vinegar)
1 packed Tbsp basil leaves, chiffonade
3 slices center cut bacon

In a heavy bottom, high heat safe skillet, heat the oil over high. Add corn and stir occasionally until most are golden and many are starting to blacken. Remove from heat and toss with tomatoes, seasoning, vinegars and basil. Let sit.

Line a microwave safe dish with 3 paper towels. Place bacon on top. Top with 2 more paper towels. Microwave on high for 4 minutes. Wala...perfect crispy bacon. Crumble this on top of the salsa right before serving.

Dessert is a preview of some of my Indian treats. The little candied fennel seeds are so nostalgic to me, and I have always loved them with yogurt, another Indian staple. This is great on its own, or as a dip for fruit. The seeds aid digestion (as do the probiotics in yogurt, come to think of it).

Vanilla Cardamom Yogurt with Candied Fennel Seed

2 cups lowfat organic yogurt
1/4 tsp vanilla paste (or 1/5 seeds of a vanilla bean)
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1 Tbsp honey
1/4 tsp freshly ground green cardamom
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp candy coated fennel seeds

Blend first 5 ingredients together well. Sprinkle with seeds. Enjoy the simplest, and perhaps healthiest, dessert of your life.


P said...

All of that looks so delicious! I love your blog! The kayak pictures are fantastic! I hope you're having fun doing all that cool genetic research...

P said...

Yes! Everything is better with bacon, my favorite vegetable! Congrats on the win on the blog contests, what a feat!

Anonymous said...

what delicious looking food!

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