Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Fiesta Fruit Salad with Cinnamon-Sugar Tortilla Chips {for Stemilt Growers}

Being of Mexican-American descent, it is somewhat ironic that the Cinco de Mayo holiday held little fanfare in my childhood home. It was a holiday that, by and large, we viewed from afar… noting the celebrations reported on the evening news, witnessing the crowds amass at our local Tex-Mex restaurant establishments, and, on rare occasions, attending friends' impromptu fiestas
of tacos, enchiladas, burritos and such.

Beyond knowing that May 5th was not Mexico's Day of Independence, I didn't question much. My take was always… it’s a party. It’s Mexican food. People are happy. And all of that is good. Besides... we were never for want of a good taco.

I learned sometime in my late teens that the 5th of May actually commemorates the Mexican army’s surprising victory against a much better equipped, occupying French force in the city of Puebla during the French intervention in Mexico in the late 1860’s, a much-needed morale boost to the Mexican army and, as such, seen by many in more regional locales of Mexico as a day to celebrate.

My mother was born and bred in the Distrito Federal of Mexico, as she defines what others might simply refer to as Mexico City. Not only is Mexico City the capital of Mexico and the seat of federal power, it is technically not considered part of any one of the various states of Mexico. It’s its own federal entity. Perhaps it was that distinction of locale that lessened the importance of acknowledging this holiday... or the fact that my maternal grandmother was born in France!

Now, well more than a hundred years later, it’s nice to just know that the divides that prompted this celebration are no more and that is certainly something to celebrate.

With the vast amount of tortillas that will be stuffed in various ways and forms – making tacos, enchiladas, taquitos, burritos, and the like – I’d like to think that revelers will crave a dessert that is fresh and healthy… while still delivering that satisfying end-of-meal feeling of a treat. (It's also a great brunch option!) Served with crisp baked flour tortilla chips, seasoned with a sprinkle of cinnamon-sugar, adds to the sweet celebration of flavors offered in this fresh plating.

This Fiesta Fruit Salad features crisp, red Stemilt apples paired with similarly hued fresh watermelon and vibrant green kiwi... a fruity combination that gives a little nod to the patriotic colors of Mexico. Infused with the flavors of mint and a generous pop of lime zest (not to be missed on fresh fruit!!!)... and topped with a bright citrusy dollop of yogurt, this little salad will surely please the palates of your sombrero-toting amigos.

To get recipe details, visit Stemilt’s blog, The Stem.

Disclaimer: While I am being compensated by Stemilt Growers as a guest contributor to The Stem, the views and/or opinions expressed are my own.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Pear, Bavarian Blue Cheese, Radicchio & Fennel Pizzettes

Years ago I acquired a pizza stone; the exact nature of how it materialized escapes me now but I do remember having grand visions of the crisp, cheesy pies I’d produce. I think I used it twice.

It’s still nestled in its original box with the end flaps conveniently agape should I ever want to pull it out for a quick bake. Like a forlorn toy, it remains ever at-the-ready among my favored baking sheets and muffin tins where it is likely to stay as I discovered two things shortly after its appearance that changed the pizza-making game for me.

One: that you can get GREAT pizza dough from the market or even your neighborhood pizzeria (not necessarily a discovery that impacts the use of a pizza stone but one that easily affirms the whole should we toss a pizza tonight query).  And two (the real epiphany): I like grilling my pies!

Not only do I enjoy the grilled and, sometimes, charred nature of the resulting crust, I love the hands-on, creative process of building the pie as you go. If our weather permits, the outdoor grill is my preferred method. If not, then I’ll pinch hit with a stove-top grill… the smoke fan on full tilt, a window or two popped open and, occasionally, a door held ajar... but it's worth it.

Regardless of where I might be taking our pie(s)... savory, sweet, or somewhere in between... I always start with a little brush of canola oil and a pre-grill of one side. That first grilled side, once flipped, then becomes your “toppings” side… a perfectly crispy base to build whatever pleases your palate… a great canvas that allows you to pile flavors on in stages; a method that works wonders when you have a variety of textures (soft cheese, fresh fruit, etc.)

In this particular pie I was using the last batch of pears I had for a grouping of recipes I was completing for Stemilt Growers. Not wanting to overdo the cheese element (keeping to my no-dairyitty-bit of dairy restriction), I wanted to create a layer of flavor that would serve as a great base for the beautifully ripe pears I planned to use in topping each pizzette (individual-sized pizza). Being on a bit of a fennel kick, I went with a caramelized sauté of fennel, onion and radicchio; after first lightly dotting the crusts with bits of a creamy, subtly pungent brie-bleu cheese blend. Then, hot off the grill, each pizzette gets a generous pop of nutty, fresh arugula. The slight caramel sweetness of the fennel mixture is brilliant with this particular cheese selection; truly tasty and a perfect “pearing” with the fruit… I think any sweet, ripe pear variety will work beautifully.

My old pizza stone still stands at the ready. Perhaps I’ll prop it up against the stove-top grill... pull it out for a baked fruit crostata and keep it in the pie-making business.

Recipe details can be found at Stemilt.

Disclaimer: While I am being compensated by Stemilt Growers as a guest contributor to The Stem, the views and/or opinions expressed are my own.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Apple & Chicken-Sausage Popovers {for Stemilt Growers}

A few months ago we added a son-in-law to our mix.  That’s really the best (and most accurate) intro I have for the inspiration for these popovers.

You see, most mornings when it’s just my husband and I  (which is most mornings), breakfast is either green or beige in hue, and porridge-like in consistency. (I know that doesn’t sound very appealing.)

The green version of our morning starter is actually a kale-based shake and is quite yummy and really quite varying in hue, depending on what gets tossed in.

The beige version of our morning starter is typically oatmeal… sometimes quinoa. And though not as interesting from a color perspective, a topping of fresh berries and nuts gives it a little artistic interest and welcomed flavor.

And then a few months ago, as I mentioned, a son-in-law was added to our mix.

While our son-in-law certainly welcomes our kale shakes and oatmeal… and often begins his own weekdays in much the same fashion… he’s a meat-loving kind of guy (that happily plays along and appreciates most anything I plate in front of him). With him, as with our girls, I always attempt to cook to their tastes. Thankfully our son-in-law is a fan of the same sweet-savory note we admire in a lot of breakfast offerings we enjoy when time better allows us to venture into egg territory… and the like.

Whether it’s simply a slathering of sweet jam on a slice of toast cozied up to a fried egg, or a stack of pancakes drizzled with a bit of pure maple syrup that gently pools upon a few strips of perfectly crisp turkey bacon… the melding of that enchantingly balanced sweet and savory yin and yang is relished as “the perfect bite” by each and every one of us.

Thinking back eons ago when my husband’s guilty pleasure was an occasional Monte Cristo sandwich and now, to today, seeing the newest member of our family enjoy a brunch of crispy fried chicken served overtop a syrupy golden waffle, I thought of how great a popover would taste with a bit of that same satisfyingly splendid sweet-savory element.

In thinking of using Stemilt’s delicious apples… it all came together.

Bits of fresh and subtly sweet Stemilt apple, sautéed with onion and a crumble of chicken sausage, nestles brilliantly amid the delicate folds of this puffy, golden popover for a perfect little breakfast package of delightful sweet and savory yin and yang… a perfect marriage of flavors!

For recipe details, click over to Stemilt's blog, The Stem.

Disclaimer: While I am being compensated by Stemilt Growers as a guest contributor to The Stem, the views and/or opinions expressed are my own.