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Friday, July 29, 2011

Godiva Coffee Chocolate Truffle Granita - A Cool Summer Treat

It's hard to drink hot coffee on a hot day and cold coffee just doesn't cutting it when the weather is over 90 degrees for days on end.  Great ideas are inspiration born out of necessity and perspiration and this is a recipe created out from both.  Behold, Godiva Coffee Chocolate Truffle Granita topped a generous drizzle of non-fat sweetened condensed milk.  In "Philly-speak" this is "water-ice" for grown ups.  I received two packages of Godiva Coffee from my blog sponsor, FoodBuzz and I have been thinking about recipes to make using the Godiva coffee as an integral flavor.  Pairing coffee in my recipes are as common as my using pumpkin, beer, bananas and sodas.  I use coffee in  chocolate creations and will put coffee into my slow cooker and in barbecue recipes.  We had five heat waves hit Philadelphia this summer in the span of less than two months so the thought of turning on the oven was too much to consider.  Hence, the need for something cool and refreshing.  

Granitas or Italian ices are easy to make and do not require any special equipment such as an ice cream or frozen concoction maker.  All you need to do is brew the coffee in whatever coffee brewing apparatus you have - coffee maker, French Press, stove-top espresso maker, Chemex or  Bunsen set, and you have the base for a fabulous dessert or any time cool treat.  I used my French Press to brew the coffee - it extracts a stronger and more pure coffee brew.  I topped the granita with sweetened condensed milk to make into this into a sweet ending along the lines of a Vietnamese coffee dessert.  
This is a three-ingredient dessert that takes little prep time but you need about 8 hours for it to freeze  properly. Make this 1 day ahead of when you plan to serve it.  Typically, granitas are scrapped with a fork in between their freezing state to break up the ice crystals as they are forming.  Granitas are on the sweet side; the sugar keeps the liquid from freezing too much.  A true granita is coarse but uniformly smooth, with a texture similar to wet sand or brown sugar.  An easier, less hands-on method is to freeze the entire mixture over-night and break up and crush the coffee ice before serving it.  The icy mixture won't be as uniform but the method works well; there will be some chunks icy coffee making this less of a true granita or "water-ice".  

Want to try this? I have coupons for Godiva Coffee.  Leave me a comment and I'll send coupons out to two of my readers.  And for my local Philadelphia readers, I'm happy to share some of my coffee with you!  Leave a comment or Message me on The Bicycle Chef's FACEBOOK Page for a sample!

Godiva Chocolate Truffle Coffee Granita ingredients:
  • 8 Coffee Scoop Measures (equivalent to 2 Tablespoons per scoop) of Godiva Chocolate Truffle Coffee - Pre-Ground
  • 8 Coffee Cups of Water (equivalent to 48 ounces of water; each "coffee-cup" is 6 ounces)
  • 1/2 Cup Sugar
  • Sweetened Condensed Milk - Whole or Non-Fat - for drizzling
Equipment Needed:
  • Coffee Maker; Coffee Filters
  • Large Mixing Bowl
  • 9 x 13 Baking Dish
  • Freezer
  • 2 - 1 Gallon Freezer Bags
  • Rolling Pin or Fork - to crush or break up the ice as it forms
Directions:
  1. Brew the Godiva Coffee in your coffee maker - using 8 scoops of the coffee grounds to 48 ounces of cold water.  Once the coffee is brewed, pour it into a large mixing bowl and add in 1/2 cup of sugar, stirring to dissolve the sugar.  Let the coffee cool - about 20 minutes.
  2. Next, carefully pour the coffee mixture into a 9x13 baking pan; put the baking pan into the freezer and chill for 1 hour.  Remove the coffee mixture and scrape it with a fork to break up the ice crystals that are beginning to form.  Do this repeatedly, every half hour for 2-3 hours, or until the coffee mixture is completely frozen.  The coffee mixture should resemble coarse wet sand or soft brown sugar.
  3. Alternatively, you can freeze the entire mixture, then remove the coffee ice block from the pan.  Break the coffee ice into chunks and place the chunks into two 1-Gallon freezer bags. Carefully crush the coffee ice with a rolling pin until the ice resembles coarse sand. 
  4. To serve, scoop out the crushed coffee ice and put it into a small cup, dish or dessert glass. Drizzle a tablespoon of sweetened condensed milk over the top.  Serve cold, immediately.  Makes 8 to 10 servings.  Once the coffee mixture is frozen and broken up into a granular consistency, it will hold in the freezer for up to 1 week. 

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Lavender Iced Tea


Another inspiration from our friends, Ennio and Teresa, lavender iced tea.  We were at their lovely South Jersey home over the weekend for brunch and they plied us with the most delicious food, drink and desserts.  A feast of grilled vegetables and meats, a variety of beers and iced teas and a delectable dessert array of blueberry pie and home-made toffee.  I could write a blog post a day for a week all about our visit and the luncheon.  Their garden alone is worthy of a photo essay.  Of the many tastes I discovered at the luncheon the one I was most struck by was Teresa's lavender iced tea.  Again, why have I never thought of this before?  Maybe because I get hung up on details and doing the same old things over and over again.  Or because I'm exhausted from getting up at 5:50 am most mornings, biking 24 miles, coming home, showering, going to work and then coming home to spend a bit of time with our rambunctious 21 month-old toddler, Nate.  Yeah, that's what it is, motherhood and full-time work where I use my brain at least 50% of the day!

Teresa and Ennio have a lovely herb and flower garden that spans two patio areas.  There is a raised bed of herbs by their back patio door within easy reach of their kitchen and dining room area.  Along a back wall is a rosemary bush that has grown huge and woody, all the better for cutting large bunches to use as aromatic grilling skewers.  They have climbing vines, shrubs and cypress trees (a little touch of Italy!)  It's a haven for bees and humming birds and other flora and fauna of the garden set.  There is also an abundance of lavender - a wonderful natural insect repellent, herb for cooking and as I tasted, a delightful and refreshing herb for iced tea.

The recipe is easy to make and all you need is some fresh, non-sprayed lavender.  I happened to have a huge pot of lavender growing in my South Philly "Out-door" living room; inspiration could turn into a reality as soon as we got off the Walt Whitman Bridge and came down Broad Street!

 
 Lavendar Iced Tea Ingredients:

  • 1 Large Bunch of Lavender - About 2-3 cups worth, loosely packed.  Use the stems, leaves, and flowers
  • 1 Earl Grey Tea Bag (optional)
  • 4 to 6 Cups Boiling Water
  • 1/2 Cup Sugar - more or less, to taste

Directions:

  1. Clean the lavender stems in  cold water to remove any dirt, dust or insects. Loosely shake off excess water.  Place the lavender into a heat-safe pitcher or a 4 quart sauce pot, along with the Earl Grey Tea bag, if using.
  2. Bring 4 cups of water to a boil.  When water reaches the boil, pour it over the lavender and tea bag and let steep for 5 to 10 minutes.  
  3. Remove the tea bag and lavender - discard or toss into the compost bin! Strain the liquid through cheese cloth or a fine mesh strainer to remove any sediment.  Pour the brewed tea into a large pitcher and stir in the sugar, to taste.  Chill and serve the lavender iced tea over ice.  
  4. Makes about 1& 1/2  Quarts of Iced Tea.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Getting my Grill on



Once the hot weather lands in Philadelphia, or rather, once the cold, snow and rains stop, I try to cook and grill all of my meals outside.  After a while I either run out of gas (literally) or good grilling ideas.  The food tastes great but I don't get the same thrill from my grill mid-July that I did, say during the early merry month of May.  I need some new techniques, some new foods, something to cook in a way that I never had before.  And then I try some slightly different approach and the same old potato tastes new and interesting.  I decided to grill-roast garnet red sweet potatoes and instead of placing the sweet potato directly onto the grill, I roasted them in a foil packet.  Talk about a revelation!  These were a side dish and starch that could have doubled as a dessert or main course. Sweet, sugary caramelized lusciousness and simple to make.  


Caramelized Garnet Red Sweet Potatoes: Use 1 large sweet potato for every 2 people.  Slice the sweet potato into 1/2 inch thick slices.  Use heavy duty aluminum foil or two or three sheets laid on top of each other.  Sprinkle the all sweet potato slices with a tablespoon of smoked paprika, 1/2 tablespoon of cumin and a tablespoon of cinnamon.  Drizzle with a tablespoon of olive oil and season with a generous pinch of salt and several grinds of freshly ground pepper  Seal foil packet tightly and place onto a preheated grill, rotating the packet from side to side and upside down.  Cook for half an hour or up to 45 minutes on the cooler side or warming rack of the grill.  Carefully open the packet to release the steam. 

We went to a friend's house for brunch over the weekend, and he grilled some vegetables to go along with the filet he made for us.  I love it when friends cook for me and I learn a new technique or think about cooking foods in new ways.  Ennio inspired me to try out new herbs and to simplifying my cooking methods.  The meal he made for us was colorful and filling.  I can see the appeal of going meatless more often when you cook a wider variety of vegetables and make them just a bit more flavorful by using more than just oil, salt and pepper when you grill them.
Ennio made a simple marinade of olive oil, fresh herbs — parsley, oregano and cilantro, salt and pepper for slices of fresh beets, eggplant, onions and parsnips.  I often cook eggplant and onions but rarely do I think to marinated them, not because I don't want to it's more because I just never think about doing it!  I have never considered grilling beets or parsnips.  It was like eating these vegetables for the first time.  Both the beets and parsnips take on a sweetness when roasted.  Grill them and they take on a unique  smokey flavor dimension from the natural sugars that char on the grill. 

TO COOK: The vegetables should be sliced thick - 1/2 inch or so and cooked on a medium hot grill, turning and moving every few minutes to keep them from burning.  Most of the vegetables will take about 15 minutes to cook.  They are done when they are knife tender and have nice grill marks on both sides.





 
I don't think I'm quite ready to relinquish my carnivore card but it's tempting...Until I cut into the butter tender filet Ennio made — topped with a sauce of cilantro, parsley, garlic and something acidic like lemon, lime or a dash of vinegar.  It was a cross between a Cuban Mojo Sauce, Argentinian Chimchuri sauce with a touch of something Italian thrown in for good measure.  Good thing I filled my plate with all of the delicious grilled vegetables otherwise this platter of meat may have become my plate!  This will most definitely make an encore appearance at my house soon though. It was pre cooked and served at room temperature.  It would also be good cold, especially with the sauce.  

Monday, July 11, 2011

City Garden Meal



In my simple city patio in South Philly I am growing a few huge pots of flowers, herbs and giant pots of Rainbow Chard and Basil.  I wanted to keep the "back yard" clear and simple this year so our inquisitive 21 month old son, Nate, wouldn't lift, move and tear into my plants and flowers.  The idea is working as the planters I purchased this year, from IKEA are bigger and heavier (thankfully) than Nate, so he cannot budge them.  Nor can I but that's just fine. Where they are set is perfect and all the herbs and flowers I'm growing are doing well.  I had not planned on planting edibles this year but I was given the chard and basil from a friend that were started from seed, so I couldn't resist.  After three weeks in the good soil in the bright hot sun, the chard and basil were large enough for picking and eating tonight.  While I enjoy organic foods and produced picked within a few days from my local CSA farm share, I can't say that I've ever a) picked my own food and b) eaten something picked within an hour of coming out of the garden.  Tender, delicious and alive are the best descriptions for the chard and the basil was sweet and fragrant, perfect for turning into into a quick pesto.  

The basil is nearly as big as my hand - which is to say the leaves are large but my hand is average sized.  I removed  the basil stems gave the leaves a quick rinse and whirl in the salad spinner.  Rather than fuss and make a basil oil, or get too tricky with too many unnecessary and fattening ingredients, I turned the basil leaves into a basic pesto - pureeing the leaves in the food processor with only about 2 tablespoons of light olive oil.  I wanted to "whiz" the basil to make a fragrant sauce which could toss into a saute of my CSA farm share: garlic scape oil, candy onions, green and yellow zucchini and my very own back yard chard.  All this was mixed in with whole wheat thin spaghetti and topped with my fresh pesto.  To make sure the pesto really coated all the pasta and the vegetables, I reserved a cup of the pasta cooking water to thin the sauce and "tighten" the over-all dish.  Since we are meet eaters, dinner also included  grilled boneless/skinless chicken breasts.  These were sliced thin, tossed with kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper, the juice of half a lemon and a tablespoon of my garlic scape oil.  

Here's what the saute of vegetables looked like - very basic.  I used no more than 2 tablespoons of the garlic scape oil (you can find the recipe here).  When you don't have a lot of vegetables and you want to stretch them further, combining unlikely ingredients will do the trick.  In a large non-stick saute pan, I heated the garlic oil until it shimmered and then sauteed a diced large onion until they started to caramelize - about 6 minutes.  To this I sauteed  2 medium zucchini for 5 minutes, then added the tender stems from the chard and then the chard leaves until they wilted - about 2 more minutes.  I tossed in a couple of grinds of freshly ground black pepper and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar.  I wanted to reserve using salt until the end since I knew I would serve it over pasta and I'd be using some grated cheese.  

 Once the pasta was cooked, I drained it (remembering to reserve a cup of cooking water) and tossed the pasta into the pan with the vegetable saute.  Topped this with the fresh pesto a few more grinds of fresh black pepper and tossed to combine.  Serve with grated cheese.
This was a summer meal that was garden fresh and tender.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Bicycle Junk-ette

I spent last week at the south Jersey Shore, in Sea Isle City, on the outskirts near Strathmere Beach. In Philly-speak, we went "down the shore".  Sea Isle/Strathmere is about 20 miles south of Atlantic City,  it's the town after the famously dry town of Ocean City, New Jersey.  Where we stayed is the perfect location for so many reasons - private beaches, not crowded and near enough to several other shore towns that you can reach them quickly via a short drive or bike ride.  I opted to bike ride to the three closest towns, mostly so I could imbibe in all the delicious beach and boardwalk treats! I biked at least 18 to 24 miles round trip per ride,  giving me justification for all of my bad junk food habits on this trip.  

A friend asked what did we eat while away, and the answer back was, what didn't we eat?  There are four food groups that I have to have when I head to the Oeanc City, NJ shore, ice cream from Kohr Bros., donuts from Browns, Pizza from Mack and Manco's and Popcorn from Johnson's.  I'll sometimes add a 5th item, Curly's fries, but those aren't a junk food necessity.  Sprinkle in salt water taffy, hamburgers, and other assorted unhealthy but oh so good junk foods and you have the makings of a very merry time (and major weight gain!)

This was the year of the donut for me.  I conducted taste tests of Brown's, Ove's and other old-fashioned cider donuts.  Brown's, a landmark spot at the end of the Ocean City Boardwalk since the 1970's has a fantastic following for their donuts, breakfasts and hamburgers.  Their dontuts are my sentimental favorites, but Ove's, another old-time stand a few blocks away on the boardwalk,  won out for light, fluffy and non-greasy donuts.  I had a donut from a farm stand at the Turn-pike rest stop, sort of one more for the road.  It was good, but not the same as the one's for which I biked 20 plus miles!

The Men at Brown's on the Boardwalk in Ocean City.  It's a non-stop affair here, with the lines for the donuts, breakfasts, burgers and other shore treats have people snaking down the boardwalk as soon as the shutters go up and the cash register opens.  The donut fryer works overtime until all the batter is done for the morning.  Get there early, the donuts don't last beyond 11 am.



Ove's at 4th Street on the OC Boardwalk - another South Jersey Shore institution.  The donuts here are excellent.  Light and airy cake donuts with a choice of toppings: cinnamon sugar, chocolate, vanilla or honey glazed or plain.  The coffee at Ove's was meh, but the donut was worth the ride.




Another Shore treat that I find hard to resist - soft-serve "custard" ice cream from Kohr Bros.  Admittedly, it lacks a powerful flavor profile. The flavors are too muted and bland.  It was hard to taste either the peanut butter or chocolate in the chocolate peanut butter twist cone.  Maybe it's because they are such a large franchise presence on the boardwalk and they are more interested in selling as much product as quickly as they can or that they've cut corners on the products to save money and maximise profits.  Soft serve custard ice cream isn't great at most places, if you're lucky it's airy frozen cream and sugar plus some real flavoring.  Nevertheless we had ice cream from Kohr Bros. twice!  


When it comes to real, home-made, old fashioned ice cream, the absolute best is at Springer's in Stone Harbor, New Jersey.  It's a 13 mile bike ride from where I was staying and I had to make sure I did this southern bike ride at least once while on vacation.  Years ago, back when the Food Network had good programs and not that many celebrity show-offs chefs, I saw a program that featured summer time favorites.  Springers was a featured ice cream shop and somewhere into my food memory bank the name got stored.  I had the chance to enjoy a lot of their ice cream during my Sea Isle summer vacation of 2009, and haven't been back since.  The two year wait didn't disappoint.  The small batch, home-made ice cream was creamy, flavorful and the flavors we tried were full of real fruit, chips, marshmallows and peanut butter ribbons.  Aside from Capogiro in Philadelphia, it's the only ice cream worth 4 bucks a scoop.  Try it towards the end of the season - the week after Labor Day.  The shop stays open through September, but they get increasingly generous with the scoops as they near the end of the season.


Boardwalk style pizza is my all-time favorite. I love pizza that is thin and crisp.  It may be a tad on the greasy side, but what isn't when it comes to shore eats?  We all had a taste for Mack and Manco's pizza and no other pizza would suffice this trip.  The whole family piled into the car and took yet another jaunt over the Strathmere bridge and ventured into OC for a boardwalk excursion.  Since there were more of us than could fit into our car with our son, Nate and his car seat, I "volunteered" to ride my bike the 13 miles one way.  I figured I'd earn my pizza points by riding.  That was the day I rode twice, visiting several different shore towns for a total of 48 miles cycled in one day.




In OC, we visited with some old family friends and their new baby first, then we ventured to the boardwalk for more Kohr Bros, Johnson's Popcorn, salt water taffy and the famous Mack and Manco's Pizza.  Note, there were 5 adults on this outing, and two more adults at home waiting for all of our food finds.  Plus we had two toddler boys who would also be eating pizza - so we had to get several pies.  The lines at Mack and Manco's never seem to end and it's a cash only business.  It's safe to say they are rolling out and in the dough!  



The last food find of my biking adventures was not one I intended or expected to find.  I was visiting with my Blogstress Network buddy, Barbara, from the blog Zero to Sixty.  We met on the boardwalk, rode the length of it, about 5 miles and then meandered through the north end of Ocean City.  Along the way we stopped at the OC Farmer's Market, which had just started that day for the summer season.  As we checked out the vendors, I noticed a sign for blueberry pies and biscotti.  Not one to turn down a piece of pie, I stopped for a closer look and realized that the vendor was an acquaintance of mine and a purveyor of the best biscotti in Philadelphia, Gilda's Biscotti.  We chatted with Gilda and her husband, caught up on the culinary world and people we know and were Gilda's first sale via her Iphone web credit card/debit wifi system.  Barbara and I each purchased a blueberry breakfast hand pie - or individual blueberry rustic tart - a free form pie backed in a pie crust without a pie plate.  It was divine and truly deserves a post in a non-junk food category.  

Over-all I couldn't have indulged in all of this eating had I not been riding my bike at least 20 miles per day.  Another week at this rate and I'd have to do some serious cycling to keep the weight off.  But since it was vacation, I'm allowing myself a free pass for the week.  Tomorrow the biking and clean eating begin anew!

Monday, July 4, 2011

White Chocolate Key Lime Pie

Disclaimer: this pie is not low-fat or healthy but it's REALLY GOOD! That being said, if you make this earlier enough in the day, it may be ready to take to your 4th of July picnic today.  I received this recipe courtesy of our friend, Kerri, a co-worker of Liz's from the Opera Company of Philadelphia.  She brought it to our house for a recent get-together and I fell in love with this tasty treat.  I was also intrigued by the chemistry of the ingredients, white chocolate, heavy cream, a touch of sour cream and lime zest and juice.  No baking, no freezing, no gelatin and no egg-whites whipped into a frothy stiff batter to set the filling.  It's all done via a ganache and curdling method. You melt the chocolate into the heavy cream and curdle it slightly with the addition of the acid from the lime.  Chill and voila! You have an easy and surprisingly light refreshing dessert.  Make about 4 hours ahead of when you wish to serve, so it sets and firms properly.  Key limes are not necessary, though they are more tart and certainly cuter as a garnishment.  I suggest you use the best white chocolate you can find - the better stuff has more cocoa butter, which is integral to real white chocolate.  I found a great version at Trader Joe's, for a decent price.  Skip the Nestle's - it contains very little cocoa butter.  The only way I could figure out how to make this lower fat was by using a low-fat graham cracker pie crust and using low-fat sour cream, small, insignificant changes.  If anyone has an idea on how to make this lower-fat, by all means, comment and let me know! As a once in-awhile treat though, it's not so terrible...

White Chocolate Key Lime Pie Ingredients:

  • 1 Cup Heavy Cream
  • 11 to 12 Ounces Best Quality White Chocolate (chips or break the bar into smaller pieces)
  • 1 Tablespoon Low-Fat Sour Cream
  • Zest of 1 Lime (about 1 tablespoon) - finely grated
  • 1/3 Cup FRESH Lime Juice (regular or Key Limes)
  • 1 - 9-inch Ready to Use Graham Cracker Pie Crust Shell 

Directions:

  1. Either in a sauce pot over low heat or in a microwave safe bowl, heat the heavy cream and white chocolate until the chocolate melts completely; stir constantly if heating over the stove; if microwaving, heat at 1 minute intervals, stir and heat again for a total of 3 to 4 minutes.  Whisk the cream and chocolate mixture to ensure that the white chocolate is completely melted (a few streaks or tiny pieces may remain, but the mixture should be nearly smooth).
  2. Stir in the sour cream and incorporate thoroughly.
  3. Carefully whisk in the finely grated lime zest and the lime juice - the mixture will change colour and texture.  
  4. Stir to completely combine and then pour the mixture into the ready to use graham cracker pie shell. Chill at least 4 hours before serving.  Garnish with lime slices if desired.
  5. Cut, using a thin knife, cleaned before cutting the next slice. Serves 8.  Will hold for 3 days, refrigerated and covered.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Basil, Cantaloupe and Mozzarella Salad

A quick light summer salad - perfect for this weekend's Independence Day barbecue celebrations.  I'll share the version I made and the variations to which you can adapt it.  I whipped this up while at the beach; I wanted to use the rest of the fruit and vegetables we had before we left the shore from vacation and I needed to eat at least one "healthy" and non-junk food beach meal for the day!  Should you have a variation that you can think of, please share it and comment! I'd love to see other versions of this that utizlize melons, cheese and fresh herbs.

Basil, Cantaloupe and Mozzarella Salad Ingredients:

  • 1 Whole Cantaloupe - seeded and peeled/skinned and cut into 1 inch chunks
  • 1 pound of Fresh Mozzarella Bites (Boconccini balls) or a large mozzarella ball cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1 Bunch Fresh Basil Leaves - torn or cut into chiffonade ribbons
  • 1 Medium Cucumber - peeled, seeded and cut into 1/4 inch half moon slices
  • Juice of 1 Lemon - about 2 tablespoons
  • 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • Salt and Freshly Ground Pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Prep all the fruit and vegetables as indicated; remove the seeds and rind from the cantaloupe and cut into 1 inch chunks.
  2. Cut the mozzarella into 1/2 inch pieces.
  3. Tear the basil leaves or cut into chiffonade (ribbons) to release the basil's flavor.
  4. Peel the cucumber and de-seed; cut the cucumber into 1/4 inch thick half moon slices.
  5. Place all the ingredients into a large serving bowl and toss to combine.
  6. Squeeze the juice of 1 lemon over the mixture; drizzle the olive oil over the mixture and season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper. 
  7. Chill and serve cold.  Serves 8 to 10 as a side salad.  Will keep for up to 2 days, covered and refrigerated.

Variations:

  • Cantaloupe with Mint, Feta and Cucumber. Use Lemon Juice and Olive Oil
  • Cantaloupe with Mint and Basil and Mozzarella. Use Lime Juice and Olive Oil
  • Cantaloupe with Mixed Fresh Herbs - Parsley, Basil, Rosemary and Goat Cheese - Use either Lime or Lemon Juice or White Wine Vinegar and Olive Oil.