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 My Very Versatile Salad

Summer Salad 013

It has been a few years ago that we spent a couple of days in Napa, California.  One day we were invited to a private home for dinner where many of their friends gathered on that evening.  The dinner was catered and it was considered   “light fare.”

Well, the buffet was laden with food, all salads, and it was a feast to behold. 

Here are some of the salads that were on the buffet!

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207   208

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My plate after I took a little of every salad that was offered….

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Having grown up in California I found their produce being always spectacular, not only in the summer but all year round.  However, during the summertime the vegetables and fruit are absolutely the best, and this buffet gave the season credit in abundance.

The recipe for my “Very Versatile Salad!”

This recipe has developed over time. I particularly love all the fruit in it and the lemon vinaigrette makes the salad refreshing and cooling on a hot summer day, or any time during the year.  It is really very versatile, one can change the fruit with the season. It is delicious when made with apricots, peaches, figs, plums and berries…or whatever fruit is available. You can also add some cold pasta, any kind of meat or fish, because the Lemon Vinaigrette is a perfect enhancer to any protein or grain.

Ingredients –

1 head of Butter Lettuce

Some Spring Greens ..  or spinach

1 Apple cut into strips

1 green Pear cut into strips

1 cup of red grapes cut in half

1 cup of fresh strawberries cut into quarters

1 Fennel cut into strips…. optional

1 orange cut into cubes

1 cup of caramelized walnuts

1 handful of fresh Basil Leaves cut into strips

Summer Salad 001

 

Lemon Vinaigrette –

¼ cup fresh lemon juice

Zest of 1 lemon

¼ cup of water

1 tsp salt…or less if preferred

2 Tbsp sugar

¼ cup of Light Olive oil

 

Mix all the above ingredients and whisk to combine the sugar and salt. 

Make sure that the sugar and salt are dissolved.

If the salt or sugar do not seem to dissolve…add a Tbsp of water to help these two ingredients go into solution.

 

 

Caramelized Walnuts or Pecans (Filberts)

½ cup of sugar

¼ cup of water

1 cup walnuts

Place both ingredients into a sauce pan and let the water evaporate over high heat…and let the sugar caramelize to a light golden color,  then take the sugar to the side and keep swishing it around in the pan.  The sugar will continue to get darker.  When it is a nice golden brown color toss the  walnuts into the caramelized sugar.   With two fork  mix the walnuts into the caramelized sugar so that the walnuts are coated.  This is a very sticky job.  Take care not to be burned…the sugar is very, very hot.  When somewhat cooled transfer the walnuts onto a sheet of foil to cool, then break the walnut clumps into small pieces to be tossed into the salad.

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After the lettuce, spinach and fruit have been washed and dried, cut them into either strips or cubes and place them into a large bowl.

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Cut the Basil leaves into a” chiffonade”…thin strips…and add them to the other ingredients in the bowl.

Add the caramelized walnuts and lastly add the lemon vinaigrette and toss the salad.

It is best to add the vinaigrette just before the salad is served…

Summer Salad 007

 

Hope you find this salad as delightful as I have for so many years.

Summer Salad 014

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Unauthorized use, distribution, and/or duplication of proprietary material without prior approval is prohibited. If you have any questions or would like permission, I can be contacted via email at: maria@majaskitchen.com   Feel free to quote me, just give credit where credit is due, link to the recipe, and please send people to my website, http://www.majaskitchen.com

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….and… if you like this post…please, share it with your friends….

Thank you!

Maria Reisz Springer

Maja’s Kitchen LLC

maria@majaskitchen.com

http://www.majaskitchen.com

 

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Chocolate Decadence

Blondies and Chaocolate Musse Torte 035

It was a weekend with family and a birthday to be celebrated.   The birthday person has a very special place in my heart, she is the mother of my beautiful grandchildren.  When I asked her what kind of cake she would like me to bake for her she immediately answered a “Chocolate Cake” of course.   It seems chocolate is her primary food in life…maybe chocolate is the cause of her beauty.

I immediately thought of a Sacher Torte, but when we chatted about what kind of a chocolate cake that she wanted she told me that it had to be all chocolate, no jams, no nuts, no combinations of creams simply a chocolate cake with a chocolate icing.

Well, I am known not to make simple cakes, there has be to something about a cake that makes it special and better than what I had done in the past.  The Sacher Torte as a base was still what I thought would please her, and the chocolate ganache  was certainly special and I knew she would like it, however, there had to be something else that would make this birthday cake even more special.

I started looking through my chocolate pastry cookbooks, and while I was turning the pages my thoughts and imagination clouded while reading between the lines of the recipes.  I was just about to give up when I came upon a chocolate mousse.  Yes, why not a chocolate mousse filling and piling the same mousse all over the cake. It certainly would make it a very special cake and worthy of celebrating a special person and her birthday.

Chocolate Mousse Birthday Cake

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Sacher Torte – ala Maja’s Viennese Kitchen

            3/4 cup butter – softened

                1 1/2 cup sugar

                3 eggs (large)

                1 1/2 cups flour

                1/4 cup cocoa

                1/2  tsp baking soda

                1 /2 cup sour cream

                1/2 cup boiling water

                1 tsp Vanilla

                1 tsp Almond Extract – optional

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                Cream butter and sugar until very fluffy

                Add egg yolks – one at a time – beat between each until well incorporated

                Add Vanilla Extract

                Combine flour, baking soda and cocoa, sift then add to the eggs

                and butter mixture

                Alternating, between flour and sour cream

                Now add the very hot water – slowly – keep mixing until well mixed

                Bake in 2 –  10 inch cake pans lined with parchment paper

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                Grease and dust the sides of the pans with flour.

                Bake at 325 F for about 25 to 30 minutes (depending on your oven)

               Or, until cake tester comes out clean

Note:….If  my time is limited I reach for a “Duncan Hines” Devil’s Food cake mix…..it is a great alternative….and I have never been disappointed.

Simple Chocolate Mousse

Use Fabulous dark chocolate…I use 2 bars…..

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Lindt “Excellence” Supreme Dark Chocolate ( 90 % Cacao 3.5 oz, 100g)

Ghirardelli  Intense Dark, Midnight Reverie  (86% Cacao 3.17 oz, 90g)

3 cups heavy cream – whipped

½ cup powdered sugar

2 tsp Vanilla

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Melt the chocolate in a double boiler, stirring until smooth.

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While the chocolate is melting, place the cream into a chilled bowl,  helping the cream to whip faster.  Whip the cream until it forms soft peaks.

Add the powdered sugar and mix just enough to blend thoroughly.

Add half of the whipped cream to the melted chocolate, and mix well until combined.

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Then gently fold in the remaining whipped cream until mixture is smooth and well blended.

Chill the mousse for about 30 minutes to an hour…then fill and ice the cake.

Note!  I piled the mousse about 2 inches high on to the first  cake layer

then refrigerated it for about 30 minutes.  This helped to hold the mousse in place when I placed the  second cake layer on top of it.

Once the filling was between the two cake layers I iced the cake and piled the rest of the mousse onto the top, and decorated it.  I used a pastry bag and a star tip to fill the top.

To give the cake a special touch…I went to my garden and wondered what I could use to make the cake special.  I have a huge bush of Russian Sage and it is in full bloom.  There is also  Marjoram with it’s delicate pink blossoms.  The pink blossoms would go well with the dark chocolate, but I felt that the aroma of Marjoram would not compliment the chocolate…I went back to the Sage and looked at it for a while, picking off the leaves, smashing them in my hand and smelling the potent sage fragrance.  Yes, Sage would go well with chocolate the two aromas are strong  yet  they would not clash.  They would compliment each other. When I finished decorating around the cake I inhaled the two aromas with delight.

 Here is today’s creation!

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Unauthorized use, distribution, and/or duplication of proprietary material without prior approval is prohibited. If you have any questions or would like permission, I can be contacted via email at: maria@majaskitchen.com   Feel free to quote me, just give credit where credit is due, link to the recipe, and please send people to my website, http://www.majaskitchen.com

Find me on Face Book, LinkedIn

and Pinterest

….and, if you like this post…please, share it with your friends….

Maria Reisz Springer

Maja’s Kitchen LLC

Maja’s Kitchen LLC

maria@majaskitchen.com

http://www.majaskitchen.com

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“Rosemary, that’s for Remembrance!”

Rosemary – Rosmarinus officinalis

Rosemary is native to the Mediterranean area, where it grows wild and in huge masses on rocky hillsides near the sea where the soil is dry and chalky with lots of sunshine.

It has been in use in that part of the world since 500 B.C, now we find it  throughout  Europe and in the U.S.  The name is derived from the Latin “ros” and “marinus,” meaning “dew of the sea.” This shrub/herb can grow up to six feet tall along the Mediterranean coast. 

Originally it was used for medicinal purposes, especially among the ancient Greeks when they intertwined branches in their hair to guard against “weakness of the brain” especially at a time while taking exams, and was thought to cure ailments of the nervous system.

As folklore tells us it carries many superstitions and is a member of the Mint family.  Through the ages rosemary was tossed into graves at funerals, as a sign that the deceased would always be remembered.  Shakespeare tells us in Hamlet: “There’s Rosemary, that’s for Remembrance.”  Rosemary also symbolizes fidelity, from the time of Anne of Cleves who wore a rosemary wreath when she embarked on her ill-fated marriage to Henry VIII.

Rosemary is a very aromatic shrub with numerous branches that grow low to the ground when young and later becomes woody with  grayish-brown, scaly bark.  The narrow, leathery leaves are spiky, with a dark green upper surface and a pale gray, underside.

The silver-green, needle-shaped leaves are highly aromatic and their flavor hints of both lemon and pine.  Its small blossoms are pale blue and sometimes pale pink and are a special delicacy to bees.

In the markets today this herb is available fresh, in whole-leaf form, as well as dried and powdered.

In your gardens, harvest Rosemary from midsummer through late fall.

Rosemary can be used as a seasoning in variety of dishes including fruit salads, soups, vegetables, meat, particularly lamb, fish, egg dishes, stuffings , and dressings. Also, one cannot overlook the many possibilities in breads and muffins.

Its unique flavor is particularly excellent for barbecued and grilled meats, not only in marinades, but throwing it onto the coals for flavored smoke. It is also especially useful in the making of sausages, and is a prime ingredient in “Herbs de Provence.”

Recipe!

Rosemary Marinated Flank Steak

1 ½ pound Beef Flank Steak

¼ cup Soy Sauce

¼ cup Olive Oil

½ cup Sherry

2 Tbsp fresh Rosemary Leaves, chopped fine

2 Cloves of Garlic, minced

1 Tbsp Juniper Berries, slightly crushed

Put the steak on a cutting board and using a sharp knife, make

Shallow diagonal crisscross cuts on both sides of the steak so that the steak is scored in a diamond pattern.  This scoring will both tenderize the steak and prevent curling during cooking.

Place the scored steak in a shallow non-reactive dish.  Combine remaining ingredients in a small bowl and pour that mixture over the meat.

Allow to marinate at least 1 hour but no more than 3.

Turn meat several times while it marinades.

Preheat broiler or barbecue grill, then broil or grill the steak quickly about 2-inches from the heat source.  Cook the steak for about 8 minutes on the first side and 4 minutes on the second….or altogether less……..if you desire the meat a little  rare in the center.

The real secret to a tender flank steak is the carving.  Position the cooked meat on a carving board so that the smallest end is angled slightly away from you.  Secure the meat with a fork or tongs and, with the blade of your knife almost parallel to the surface of the steak, make very thin slices diagonally across the grain of the meat.

You can make a delicious sauce with the remaining marinade by straining it and placing the liquid in a small saucepan over medium heat.  Combine 1 Tbsp Cornstarch with 2 Tbsp Cold Water.  Add to the heating marinade, mix well and allow to thicken slightly.

Sprinkle in a tad more finely chopped fresh rosemary, mix well and serve over the sliced meat.

My personal encounters with the herb – Rosemary ………..

After I graduated from College I found a position as a Medical Research Technologist at the University of Tuebingen in Germany.

At the end of my one year contract I found myself with a group of friends vacationing on the Coast of the Adriatic Sea.  We were on a Sail Boat hopping the islands in those most beautiful blue waters.  The islands were barren of any kind of growth, but Rosemary and Sage.  These two herbs grew in such abundance that whole herds of sheep found enough food to sustain their livelihood.  As I was gazing at this amazing sight of green and gray bushes, inhaling the powerful aromas of these herbs, watching the energetic sheep munching away in lively exuberance, I could not but think………that their flesh is already marinated before they are slaughtered for human consumption.

Then……………

Having my roots in Croatia and am from Austrian heritage……

I remember going to weddings as a child, I saw that when the bride and groom entered the church that they were given a small bouquet of Rosemary that was pinned on them, to assure happiness as long as they live together.

When my parents immigrated to the U.S. and when my father bought our second home in Los Angeles, CA, my mother planted a Rosemary bush on the side of our house.  This bush grew to be quite large through the years.  I graduated from college, spent my three years in Europe and came back to marry my husband within a year and a half of returning.

To my biggest surprise and pleasure my mother announced that we would make little buttonière of Rosemary to be pinned on every guest that came to my wedding.  We made 160 of these little bouquets and wrapped a little white ribbon around each one of them.  During the wedding ceremony the whole church was sitting in an aromatic cloud of Rosemary fragrance.

After our honeymoon we visited my parents only to see that the Rosemary bush had died.  I think it knew that my mother planted it for a purpose……..and when that purpose was fulfilled…it died!

My husband and I are still together after 41 years of marriage. That little twig of Rosemary kept it’s promise!

Why do you like this herb, Rosemary…or do you not like it? 

How do you use it….in cooking, baking, medicinally or therapeutically?

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Unauthorized use, distribution, and/or duplication of proprietary material without prior approval is prohibited. If you have any questions or would like permission, I can be contacted via email at: maria@majaskitchen.com   Feel free to quote me, just give credit where credit is due, link to the recipe, and please send people to my website, http://www.majaskitchen.com

Find me on Face Book! LinkedIn and Pinterest!

http://www.culinaryhalloffame.com

http://www.majaskitchen.com

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