The simplest pleasures! I made a fruit salad yesterday with the freshest and best ingredients – many of which we grew ourselves or that we obtained at the Organic Market just half a block up the street on Wednesdays and Saturdays: papaya, cantaloupe, banana, blueberries, pineapple, pomegranate seeds, walnuts, orange juice and freshly desiccated coconut from one of our palm trees. I can’t tell you how much we appreciate the quality of the food we have access to, how amazing the flavors are and how happy we are to be home in Cabo again!
This past Friday night was very special. I got together with five of my very dear girlfriends for a delightful evening of connection, laughter, food, wine and general merriment! It was a pot-luck dinner and ALL of my friends love and appreciate great food and wine, so the offerings were superb. The occasion was supposed to be a celebration of three of our birthdays (Susan, Monica and me), but because I’m out of the country during the winter months, it has grown into just a great reason to get together and our group expanded to include Kajsa, Cathy and Tina.
I was responsible for the appetizer and had planned to prepare stuffed mushrooms and a grilled eggplant salad served in Belgian endive. When I walked into Lina’s Market on Centre Street and saw the magnificent fresh figs they had displayed, the plan instantly changed. Instead I made carmelized figs with burrata cheese, with rolled prosciutto and fennel salami – the cheese drizzled with extra-virgin olive oil, fresh lemon zest, finely chopped arugula and freshly ground black pepper. To caramelize the figs, I removed the stem end, cut the figs in half lengthwise, and pressed the cut sides firmly into light coloured brown sugar. I heated a large, heavy sauté pan until hot, then cooked the figs sugar side down until carmelized (only takes a couple of minutes).
Kajsa was up next with the salad course, which was absolutely brilliant. Kajsa is a caterer and is an amazing chef (as well as a cherished friend and first “adopted” daughter). She came up with this recipe after I told her about a fabulous crab salad I’d had in the JFK Airport recently. She made the salad with a combination of rock crab (from Prince Edward Island where she and her husband, Patrick, have a cottage) and shrimp, all beautifully wrapped in a ribbon of cucumber, served on a bed of mesclun greens, with threads of carrot and a thin slice of lemon to garnish. Gorgeous! None of us wanted to eat these little masterpieces, but we finally did and they tasted as incredible as they looked!
Susan prepared delicious chicken skewers for our protein and Monica, another brilliant chef and our hostess for the evening, provided a fabulous rice pilaf and some marinated, grilled vegetables to complete our dinner. Kajsa had saved and brought some very special wine for all of us to share and we ate and drank very well all evening!
Cathy supplied a delectable dessert of frozen green seedless grapes with ice-cold dessert wine from the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia.
Dinner was phenomenal, but it was the laughter and connection shared among our group of six that made it incredibly memorable and thoroughly enjoyable!
Until next year, precious friends! xox
– Capers are the unopened flower bud of a bush that grows in the Mediterranean. Contrary to popular belief, they are in no way related to fish! They are usually packed in brine, so they should be rinsed before using. Select small capers and try them in everything from salads, pasta dishes, with smoked salmon or other fish dishes, in egg salad sandwiches and devilled eggs, in vegetables, sauces to pizza!
– Tomatillos are surprisingly not members of the tomato family, but are actually members of the gooseberry family. They are available at Latin-American markets and some large supermarkets. They have a papery outer husk which should be removed, and them the tomatillos should be rinsed in soapy water, followed by clear water, to remove the sticky residue of the husks.
– To quickly slice mushrooms, strawberries or kiwis, try using an egg slicer, preferably with stainless steel wires for strength.
– The tart and tangy flavor of the versatile lime adds a sprightly touch to margaritas, other fruit drinks and desserts. It adds zest to ceviche, salad dressings, barbecued fish and poultry. An excellent source of vitamin C, limes grow in the tropics and subtropics, Mexico, the Caribbean, Florida and California.
Serious hot sauce lovers and collectors already use “liquid fire” in all kinds of ways. Outlined below are some suggestions that people may not have thought of or for those more timid, to convert and inspire them to “eat the heat”:
• Try mixing a small amount of hot sauce with softened cream cheese as a spread for bagels or as a dip for vegetables or crackers.
• Mix equal parts of olive oil and your favorite hot sauce and marinate skinless chicken breasts or fish fillets before grilling or broiling.
• Mix equal parts of soy sauce, dry sherry and hot sauce (or to taste), add a small amount of corn starch and mix in at the end of cooking your favorite stir-fry dish. If you’re using meat in your stir-fry, marinate the meat in the sauce mixture beforehand.
• Add a few drops of hot sauce to mayonnaise or salad dressing to add some extra flavor.
• Add a few drops of hot sauce to your favorite salsa, gravy, soup or stew for a little extra “kick”.
• For a different flavor in your next Bloody Mary, Caesar or glass of vegetable juice, try adding a few drops of your favorite hot sauce to “kick” up the taste.
• Use hot sauce on pizza and pasta dishes instead of red pepper flakes.
• Try cooking ham, pork roasts or smoked sausage in any tropical fruit nectar (pineapple, etc.) with a few shakes of hot sauce.
• Try a Caribbean style hot sauce on cottage cheese or your favorite salad as a low calorie, low fat dressing.
• Try mixing your favorite hot sauce with ketchup for a quick and delicious barbecue sauce.
• Tired of airplane food when travelling? Try carrying your own hot sauce to jazz up whatever they serve you.
• Try replacing the salt in your diet with hot sauce. Sprinkle it on burgers, vegetables, eggs, rice, salads, sandwiches or on any food that you’ve grilled. The sauce adds great flavor and is much better for you.