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tropical dreams… and a mojito recipe

The temperatures in Sacramento are supposed to rise to nearly triple digits again this week (104 today!!!) and even after recently spending time in gorgeous Lake Tahoe, for some unexplainable reason this girls’ toesies are still aching to be buried in soft, white sand, off the coast of somewhere, anywhere!  Since I’m unable to dash off to far away bango bango right now (sigh…), I’m living vicariously through some images I shot a few years ago. And while rummaging through my refrigerator earlier, I discovered I have fresh mint and limes on hand, add them to the rum in the cupboard, and oh happy dance ~~ mojitos are but a muddle and shake, shake, shake away.

 

tray of mojitos via lensandladle.com

a tray of refreshing mojitos — aaaaahhhh!!!

 

fiji ikuliku lagoon bures

in my tropical dream… i awaken from my slumber in a tranquil over-water bure and after donning my fins and snorkel gear, find myself gliding through the azure blue water astounded by its clarity, and gaze upon a single blue starfish surreptitiously as it eases itself along oh so gracefully amongst the beds of brightly colored coral. each movement so simple and yet so purposeful…

 

belize amerbris caye

i then hop on my island cruiser and pedal to…

 

belize ambergris caye floating bar

here to sip on a tropical cocktail while i wait patiently for…

 

belize ambergris caye conch fisherman

the conch to arrive and seafood ceviche be prepared for dinner and then…

 

fiji ikuliku lagoon bures

  start it all over again…

 

mojitos

serving size: 2 mojito cocktails

ingredients:

  • 2 limes, cut in half
  • 12 mint leaves
  • 2 ounces simple syrup (recipe below)
  • 4 ounces white rum (or to taste)
  • 2-3 ounces club soda
  • 2 sprigs of mint leaves (for garnish)

directions:

  1. Place the mint leaves into a cocktail shaker and squeeze the juice from the limes into the shaker.
  2. Gently smash the mint into the lime juice with a muddler (or the handle of a wooden spoon) for about 3 minutes until the oils from the mint are released.
  3. Add the simple syrup and rum. Fill the shaker 3/4 full with crushed ice. Place the top on the shaker and shake until the outside of the shaker becomes frosted. Set aside.
  4. Fill two tall glasses with crushed ice and pour the mojito mixture into each glass about 3/4 full. Top each glass off with the club soda to taste. Garnish with sprigs of fresh mint. Cheers!
  5. for the simple syrup:
  6. In a small saucepan heat 1 cup each granulated sugar and water and bring to a boil. When the sugar is completely dissolved remove from heat and cool to room temperature. Refrigerate, covered, for up to 1 week.

 

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Beth Metsa - November 11, 2013 - 8:40 am

Incredibly WONDERFUL!!!!

The Dish

So I think this might make mom just a lil’ bit proud and I was so very flattered when asked to have some of my work featured in this exhibit!

 

The Dish_Postcard back

 

It was a bit challenging for me to have to choose the images to be displayed as the main focus of the exhibit is restaurant photography whereas the majority of my work is done in the studio. However, I think the curator did an excellent job choosing the images that best represented the subject matter for the show, and it was so cool to see my work as it was being hung in the gallery…. oh happy dance!!!

 

canolli via lensandladle.com

canollis – personal work

 

chez daniel via lensandladle.com

 

chez daniel – assignment for sacramento magazine

 

poached salmon entre via lensandladle.com

 

 

 

the dish_press release

the dish – press release

 

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recipe for easy peach galette

One of my favorite ways of using seasonal fruit is by making a rustic tart or galette. It is so easy to be creative with the combination of fruits, add the sweetener of choice whether it be sugar or honey, toss in a pinch or two of spices such as allspice, cinnamon or nutmeg, some fresh lemon or orange zest, and bake it all up in a pre-made puff pastry dough.  So simple and oh so good.

 

slice of peach galette via lensandladle.com

galette with white-flesh and donut peaches garnished with sliced nectarines

 

 

white peaches via lensandladle.comwhite peaches are typically sweeter and easier to digest than their traditional yellow counterparts

 

donut peaches via lensandladle.com how adorable are these?     saturn aka donut peaches   aka little baby bottoms

 

yellow flowers via lensandladle.com

I noticed this plant growing in my side yard and thought the buds were so cute. I’m not sure what variety of plant it is though. Maybe lamb’s ear because of the stems and leaf coloring?  If any of you are plant enthusiasts and know what they are, please feel free to leave the name in the comment section!  With my luck, I have a lovely photograph of weeds and a side-yard full of ‘em.

 

berries on pastry dough via lensandladle.com

A combination of fresh berries are a tasty alternative to summer stone fruits.

 

As an alternative to buying frozen fruit in the market, it is so easy and far less expensive to make your own! During the seasons when the fruit is plentiful, such as now for stone fruits… wash the outside of the fruit, slice in to 1/2-inch slices and place on a baking sheet. Place in the freezer for 1 hour. Remove fruit and place in a freezer bag being sure to squeeze out all the excess air before sealing. Fruit can be enjoyed for 3-6 months depending upon the variety. I always have several bags of fresh/frozen fruits on hand (even peeled bananas) for use in smoothies and in the winter I luv whipping up strawberry margaritas made from the organic strawberries I froze during the previous summer, Olé!

 

peach galette via lensandladle.com

recipe for easy peach galette

prep time: 45 minutes

serving size: 6-8

ingredients:

  • 1 large egg
  • 2 sheets frozen puff pastry, thawed (one 17-18-ounce package)
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut in to 8 pieces
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 4 ripe peaches, peeled, pitted and cut into 1/2-inch-thick wedges
  • sanding sugar (optional)

directions:

  1. Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 450 degrees F. Place a piece of parchment paper on a baking sheet and set aside.
  2. for the pastry:
  3. Beat the egg with 1 tablespoon water
  4. Unfold 1 sheet of the puff pastry on to a floured surface and brush the egg and water mixture over the dough. Unfold the other sheet of puff pastry and lay it on top. Press the sheets together and using a rolling pin, roll out into a 14-inch square. (Refrigerate the leftover egg wash for brushing on to the galette during baking.)
  5. Transfer the pastry to the prepared baking sheet and refrigerate until firm, about 30 minutes.
  6. for the filling:
  7. Combine the sugar, vanilla, lemon zest and lemon juice in a large bowl. Add the peaches and 3 tablespoons flour, mix well and set aside.
  8. Remove the pastry from the refrigerator. Trim the edges with a pizza wheel or sharp knife to make a 12-inch round. Spoon the fruit mixture in to the center, leaving a 2-inch border. Fold in the pastry edges over the filling, pleating as necessary. Scatter the pieces of butter on top.
  9. Bake the galette until puffed and golden, about 20 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F. Remove the galette from the oven and brush the pastry with the reserved egg wash and sprinkle sanding sugar over the top of the pastry (optional). Return the galette to the oven and bake until the juices thicken and the pastry is cooked through, 30 to 45 more minutes. Remove from oven and transfer to a rack and let cool at least 10 minutes before serving.

 

more recipes using summer fruits:

cherry and berry muffins recipe

strawberry & rhubarb crisps recipe

plum küchen recipe

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grown-up mac ‘n’ cheese

I luv macaroni and cheese and even some of the boxed, mix-up-the-powder with milk and butter kind of stuff, more often than not passed for a quick lunch or dinner for me and (shocker!!!) my children.

 

grown-up mac n

 

When I received my first knoshbox a few months ago, included in it was the coolest package of pasta ever, and I instantly began craving my version of grown-up mac n’ cheese.

 

sfloglini pasta via lensandladle.com

 

The bag of B&B Radiators from Sfoglini Pasta shop (Brooklyn based) immediately caught my eye. I wasn’t familiar with this variety of pasta and didn’t know what kind of dish to feature it in or even how to prepare it. Fun right?

 

sfoglini pasta spill

I went to the company’s website and read the description for this particular pasta: “traditionally called Radiatore, the ruffled edges capture every bit of your sauce and offer a superb bite every time. Great for thicker tomato sauces, ragus and mac ‘n’ cheese.” Okay, so which of the three preparations do you think I chose to make?   hmmmm yup — mac ‘n’ cheese it is — but with a grown-up twist!

 

While the boxed or frozen macaroni and cheese like most processed foods is definitely a convenience, it just can’t compare to the perfect combination of pasta and cheesy home-made goodness.  So with the package of pasta for inspiration, I tuned my Ipod to my favorite smooth jazz playlist and cranked up the volume, helped myself to a rather healthy pour of sauv blanc, gathered up the ingredients I would need, and got down to business.

You know it’s kind of funny but when preparing comfort foods, while it may take a little time and effort, it gives me, well, comfort!  The nutty aroma of butter and flour bubbling away and the sizzle of warm milk as it is whisked in. The sounds of the pasta as it bobs about and gently rises to the top of its stove-top jacuzzi. Hearty mounds of freshly grated cheeses and crumbled bacon awaiting their turn, and the specks of freshly grated nutmeg clinging to my fingers as I sprinkle a pinch or two over the bubbling mixture.  ahhhhh

After a few more sips of wine, a couple of toe-taps, finger snaps and hummm hummm hummm n’  along with the famously talented Chris Botti, I gaze upon the  ah-mazing mixture of the promising sauce to come.  After a few more stirs, I finish up the sauce, add the pasta, steal a few bites of bacon crumbles and reluctantly toss the rest in, stir, stir, stir, place the mixture in the buttered gratins, top em’ off with a generous heap of brown butter bread crumbs and in to the oven they go.

 

grown up mac n

 

Cheers to cheesy, bacony, home-made comforting goodness, a great glass of vino, and evenings filled with singing and dancing in the kitchen!

What variety of cheese(s) or add-ins do you use to make your mac ‘n’cheese extra special?

 

grown-up mac 'n’ cheese

total time: 1 hour

recipe inspired by the barefoot contessa

summary: a delicious blend of cheeses and hearty pasta make this grown-up mac n'cheese a comfort-food favorite. If you prefer a more saucier version, reduce the servings from 3 to 2

For a a little southwestern flair, substitute jack and pepper-jack for the sharp cheddar and bleu cheeses and add two tablespoons diced green chilies to the sauce. But I don't recommend skipping the gruyere... it's what makes this sauce so deliciously smooth.

servings: 2 to 3

ingredients:

  • 6 slices thick-sliced bacon
  • olive oil
  • kosher salt
  • 2 cups dried pasta
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 1/2 cup cheddar cheese (medium or sharp)
  • 1/4 cup gruyere cheese grated
  • 1/4 cup bleu cheese, crumbled
  • 1/4 teaspoon white pepper
  • pinch nutmeg
  • 3 slices of white bread, torn in half
  • 10 ritz crackers (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh basil leaves, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter

directions:

    for the bacon: preheat the oven to 375 degrees F
  1. Place a baking rake on a baking sheet lined with foil, and arrange the bacon in a single layer. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until the bacon is just starting to crisp. Remove the pan from the oven, careful - there will be grease in the bottom! Line a plate with paper towels and place the bacon on the towels and allow to cool. When cooled, rough chop or crumble the bacon in to 3/4 inch pieces.
  2. for the pasta:
  3. Drizzle olive oil in a large pot of boiling salted water. Add the pasta and cook per the package directions, 6 to 8 minutes or just until al dente. Drain the pasta and pour into a large bowl.
  4. note: do not over cook the pasta as it will continue to do so when in the oven!
  5. for the sauce:
  6. Heat the milk in the microwave for 1 to 2 minutes or until hot and remove. Melt the butter in a medium pot and add the flour. Cook over low heat, stirring with a whisk for two minutes. While whisking, add the hot milk and cook for two more minutes, until the mixture is thickened and smooth.
  7. Remove pan from the heat and add the gruyere, cheddar, bleu cheese, 1 teaspoon salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Pour mixture over the pasta, add the crumbled bacon and gently stir until the pasta is well coated. Spoon into 3 individual size gratin dishes lightly coated with cooking spray and place on a baking sheet.
  8. browned butter bread crumbs:
  9. In a food processor fitted with a steel blade, place the bread slices and ritz crackers and pulse until you have course crumbs.
  10. Add 3 tablespoons butter to a small saucepan and cook on low heat, until the butter begins to foam and is lightly brown around the edges of the pan. Remove from heat.
  11. Drizzle the browned butter in to the food processor, add the basil and pulse 3-5 times until the basil is mixed throughout the crumbs
  12. Sprinkle the bread crumbs over the top of the pasta. Bake for 20-30 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbly and the bread crumbs are lightly browned on top.

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recipe for sun dried tomato dip

 

sun-dried tomato dip via lensandladle.com

 

A few months ago  I came across a foodie service on the internet, knoshbox.com and with their tagline, “Discover the best new foods delivered right to your door,” they certainly had this foodie intrigued.

Food delivery services are nothing new. When my son was just a lil’ guy, I preferred to order my groceries online. Once a week, the van would pull up and as the driver would bring in the bins, my son would search through them looking for his favorites (peanut butter blah blah, crackers/cookies, and nanas). This approach to keeping the family fridge full was a lot easier for me to deal with than at the store, where my pint-size grocery monitor would toss food items out of the cart he didn’t like, and while in the checkout line I would discover boxes of animal crackers and other food stuffs that had mysteriously found their way in to the cart.

But knoshbox isn’t groceries… it’s grown-up goodness! A generous-sized box, filled with a variety of delicious treats that are handpicked each month… sometimes based upon a theme, and sometimes not. I signed up just in time to receive the February Romance box that included food items for a romantic date night.

 

knoshbox via lensandladle.com

 

I’ve never used sun dried tomatoes in a recipe before, and fortunately the good folks at knoshbox included a recipe for Sun Dried Tomato Dip. After I made the dip and it was in the refrigerator chilling, I sliced a baguette on the diagonal, placed the slices on a baking sheet and brushed them with extra virgin olive oil. Fleur de sel was lightly sprinkled on each slice and they were baked in a preheated oven at 400 degrees for 7 minutes. After the slices had cooled for 5 minutes or so, I generously spread some of the dip on each one, and topped them off with a thin slice of the sun-dried tomatoes.  Oh my… california sunshine in every bite!

 

baguettes with sun dried tomato dip via lensandladle.com

 

recipe for sun dried tomato dip

perfect served as appetizers for summer entertaining and pair well with a chilled bottle of sauvignon blanc or pinot gris

ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup (3 oz) sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
  • low fat cream cheese (8 oz package), at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup light sour cream
  • 1/4 cup light mayonnaise
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
  • kosher salt and pepper to taste

directions:

    for the dip
  1. In a food processor, blend all ingredients until smooth. Transfer mixture to a serving bowl and refrigerate for 2-3 hours (best if overnight). Serve chilled as a dip with crackers or spread the dip on toasts and top each with a thinly sliced piece of sun-dried tomato.
  2. toasted baguettes
  3. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F Slice a baguette on the diagonal and place slices on a baking sheet. Brush lightly with extra virgin olive oil and add a few sprinkles of fleur de sel to each slice. Bake 5-7 minutes, or until lightly crisped. Transfer from baking rack to a serving tray and allow to cool for 10 minutes.
  4. assembly
  5. Spread a generous amount of sun dried tomato dip on each toasted baguette slice and top with fresh basil and a slice of sun-dried tomato.

 

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