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Saturday, March 31, 2012

Grapefruit Pops


While citrus is still in season and before summer fruits ripen,
get grapefruits while you can. They are a good source of vitamin C and antioxidants like lycopene that can help protect against cancer.

Normally I slice them in half and scoop out the sections as I eat them. Sometimes I trim away the peel and cut out the sections for a salad. Here I make them into fruit pops.

Sweet and sour grapefruit pops make a cool snack on warm spring days, an easy dessert for informal entertaining, or a crisp palate cleanser between courses when you're serving special meals. This summer you'll be packing them in a cooler and eating them at the beach.

I don't drink a lot of juice because it's high in natural sugar, but grapefruit is one of the least sugary fruits. And like anything else, moderation is the key. So stir in the pulp for extra fiber and a delightful chewy texture, and limit yourself to 1 pop per day.

Select grapefruits that feel heavy for their size. Three large ones should yield enough juice for four 4 ounce pops.

2 cups freshly squeezed grapefruit juice and pulp, about 3 large grapefruit
Special equipment: BPA-free ice pop molds
    Pour the juice and pulp into the molds and freeze for several hours until frozen.

    Note: Grapefruit juice can interfere with certain medicines, so talk to your doctor before you eat these pops if you are taking prescription medication.

    Saturday, March 24, 2012

    Tea Eggs


    Tea eggs are a Chinese tradition, usually enjoyed as a healthy snack. But they can also be eaten for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Add them to a big salad for a light and satisfying spring lunch or serve them on Easter, as a healthy alternative to eggs colored with synthetic dyes.

    Tea eggs are cooked and cracked, then simmered and steeped in tea and spices that add flavor and color. The longer you let the eggs simmer and steep, the more color and flavor they will absorb. Some people simmer their eggs up to three hours and allow them to steep overnight. Instead I prefer a shorter cooking time and a longer steeping time to make sure they don't become over-cooked or tough.

    For the tea and spices, I used black Darjeeling tea, cinnamon, dried chipotle (smoked jalapeno), and allspice leaves. Most people are familiar with the allspice berry, which is commonly ground into a powder. My mother-in-law in Martinique cooks with the leaves as well, which are readily available because allspice trees grow all over the island. If you don't have all spice leaves you can substitute allspice berries, bay leaves, or kaffir lime leaves instead.

    Chipotle peppers add a very mild, almost undetectable heat. If you don't like the subtle smokey flavor, you can substitute a different dried chili. If you don't like chili peppers at all, you can use another flavor all together like dried star anise, fresh sliced ginger root, or lemon grass.

    • 1/2 cup loose black tea leaves, Darjeeling or other, or substitute 4 tea bags
    • 4 eggs
    • 2 cinnamon sticks
    • 4 allspice leaves
    • 2 dried chipotle peppers
    • 1/4 cup tamari or substitute gluten-free soy sauce

    1. Bring 4 cups of water to a gentle boil. Add the tea leaves and steep for 20 minutes.
    2. While the tea steeps, place the eggs in a saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring it to a gentle boil and simmer for 4 minutes. Pour out the hot water, keeping the eggs inside, and fill the pan with cold water. Set it aside to cool.
    3. Once the tea has steeped for 20 minutes, strain the mixture and reserve the tea. Discard or compost the leaves.
    4. Cut the chipotle peppers in half with a sharp knife or kitchen shears. Add them to a medium saucepan along with the tea, cinnamon, allspice leaves, and tamari. Warm the mixture over low heat.
    5. Once the eggs are cool enough to handle, gently crack them all over by tapping them with the back of a spoon. Place them in the saucepan with the tea mixture and increase the heat to medium. When it comes to a boil, reduce the heat to the lowest setting and simmer the eggs gently for 1 hour or more. Turn off the heat and cool completely to room temperature.
    6. Transfer the room temperature eggs to a glass storage container and cover them with the tea mixture. Put them in the fridge overnight for lighter lines or allow them to steep for up to 2 days for darker lines. Peel away the cracked shells and rinse the eggs before eating.

    This egg was steeped only overnight. The egg at the top of the post (with the salad) was steeped for 2 days. Notice the difference in color.

    Saturday, March 17, 2012

    Simple Roasted Chicken with Dijon Pan Sauce


    This is one of my favorite meals to make if I'm eating alone.
    It's just roasted chicken and a simple pan sauce, but it's seriously delicious.

    The quality of the chicken makes a big difference. I buy pasture-raised birds from the farmer's market and roast them low and slow. (The chicken legs from Raghoo Farm in Montgomery, New York are the most flavorful and juicy I've ever tasted.)

    Once they're perfectly browned and fall-apart tender, I transfer them to a serving plate and whip up a quick sauce using the pan juices. Pan sauces are great because they're fast and easy - this one takes only 2 minutes and 2 ingredients - and also because they leave you with a mostly clean pan, which makes washing up easy too.

    Here I just roasted a leg, but you can roast a whole chicken if you like, either whole or cut up into pieces. Season your bird in advance, 24 to 48 hours ahead if possible. I used red wine vinegar for the sauce, but you could substitute white wine or another kind of vinegar. Use a good Dijon-style mustard without a lot of additives.

    (You can make your own mustard by blending up mustard seeds, white wine, vinegar and sea salt, after you've set them aside for a day or two to allow the seeds to soften and soak up some of the liquid.)

    Cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil
    1 pasture-raised chicken leg per person, pre-seasoned and at room temperature
    Ground peppercorn
    White wine vinegar
    Dijon-style mustard (Maille or other)

    Preheat the oven to 300F.  If you haven't already, take the chicken out of the fridge to come to room temperature and season it with sea salt and ground peppercorn.

    Drizzle a little bit of olive oil into a cast iron pan and place the seasoned chicken inside.

    Once the oven is hot, roast the chicken for about an hour (longer if you're roasting a whole chicken), until the skin is crispy and brown and the meat is fall-apart tender.

    Remove the pan from the oven and place it on the stove top. Lift out the chicken, transfer it to a serving plate, and cover it to keep it warm.

    Add a splash of vinegar to the meat juices and rendered fat in the pan. (If the chicken was pasture-raised, the fat is good for you.)
    If you like vinegar a lot, add a tablespoon. If you like it a little, add a teaspoon. Use a whisk to scrape up the brown bits on the bottom of the pan.

    Add a dollop of Dijon to the sauce and whisk until smooth. If you like mustard a lot, add a tablespoon. If you like it a little, add a teaspoon. Taste the sauce and make any necessary adjustments.

    Serve the sauce with the chicken as soon as it's ready and round out the meal with a big green salad.

    Reserve the carcass for soup stock.

    Sunday, March 4, 2012

    Dark Chocolate Rum Truffles


    Packed with antioxidants and full of flavor, these dark chocolate truffles are a healthy dessert when eaten in moderation. Unlike complicated recipes that call for butter, sugar, or even corn syrup, this one has just a few ingredients. These truffles are almost as easy to make as they are to eat.

    I infused these truffles with Trois Rivières Rhum Blanc Agricole, an artisinal rum from Martinique that I picked up at the distillery on a recent trip to visit my husband's family. If you can find it, I highly recommend it. It's the most fragrant and floral rum I've ever tasted.

    If you can't find it, you can substitute another rum, omit the rum, or substitute an equal amount of espresso or the zest of an organic orange.

    8 ounces dark chocolate, 72% or darker
    ½ cup heavy cream
    Pinch sea salt
    2 tablespoons floral rum
    ½ cup cocoa powder, non-alkalinized 

    Add the chocolate, cream and sea salt to a glass or stainless steel bowl. Cover the bowl and place it over a saucepan of slowly simmering water until the chocolate has just melted. Keep an eye on it because you don't want the cream to come to a boil.

    Once the chocolate has just melted, turn off the heat and remove the bowl from the saucepan. Add the rum and whisk until the mixture becomes homogeneous, dark brown, smooth and shiny. Set it aside to come to room temperature (several hours).

    Once the mixture has cooled completely, add a few spoonfuls of cocoa powder to a small bowl or tea cup. Use a small spoon to scoop up a teaspoon or two of the chocolate, and another spoon to scrape it off the first spoon. Roll it in your hands until it forms a ball and work quickly before the chocolate starts to melt. Drop the ball of chocolate into the bowl of cocoa powder.

    Swirl the bowl around until the cocoa coats the chocolate ball, then gently lift it out with a fork and transfer it to a serving dish or glass storage container.

    (Alternatively, you can roll the truffles in unsweetened shredded coconut or ground nuts.)

    Repeat the process until you've used up the chocolate, adding more cocoa powder to the bowl as needed. Arrange the finished truffles in a single layer.

    Store the truffles in the fridge. Take them out of the fridge at least 30 minutes before serving to allow them to come to room temperature and soften.