Archive for May 5th, 2009

Cranberry Banana Smoothie

May 5, 2009

cran-smoothieAbout mid-afternoon yesterday I had this incredible craving for something fruity and cool. The only thing in the house was a little bit of frozen cranberries and bananas. With a sense of urgency, I popped a banana, 1/2 cup of frozen cranberries, a drizzle of honey, and a healthy splash of half-n-half into the food processor.  Turned it on high, puttered around for a few minutes, went back to check on my concoction and voila! It was mousse more than smoothie, lovely hot pink with flecks of cranberry, not too sweet and definitely not tart, with mild banana after tones, perfectly refreshing, filling, and I ate it with a spoon.  Finally got rid of the cranberries from thanksgiving and now I’ll have to buy more because I think I’ll want another one of these smousses (smoothie-mousse). 

Las Vegas is heating up, 91° F. today, and it won’t be long before the temp is over 112° F.  Cold salads and cold refreshing drinks will be everyday fare.  Most sane people only come out at night like bats and vorles.  Only golfers and suntanners venture out after sun-up.  The air-con will be whirring non-stop along with the jacuzzi and swimming pool pumps… and I will dream of those precious moments of near silence in 86° F. weather with only the sound of the surf, sand between my toes, and a mango/pineapple Mai Tai.

Appetizers – Poached Squash Blossoms

May 5, 2009

zucchiniuseAs soon as the squash and pumpkin plants start blooming begin watching for blossoms that appear nearly closed.  Those are male blossoms that have done the deed and propagated the female blossoms.  Pick them with a couple inches of stem, wrap them in paper towels and refrigerate until ready to use.   They can also be frozen in a single layer on a baking sheet, then placed in a plastic bag and left in the freezer for a winter minestrone soup or a baked side dish.

One of my favorite dishes is made with fresh pumpkin blossoms, stuffed with chicken liver paté and poached in chicken stock with butter.  I was asked to cater appetizers and desserts for the grand opening of a medical clinic in one of the villages on the main island of Tonga.  The King and Prime Minister officiated and were served this stuffed pumpkin blossom appetizer.  They sent the server back for refills and compliments to the chef.  I was elated!  Pumpkin squash is the foremost cash crop of the islands, selling tons of squash pumpkins to Japan yearly.  There is so much rejected pumpkin on island rotting in heaps after the boats are loaded that the fly-swarms become unbearable.  The Health Minister finally told everyone to bury the rotting heaps and that stopped the swarms of flies.  The Tongans feed their pigs with a lot of the rejected pumpkins and they cook pumpkins filled with coconut milk in their umu’s (underground ovens).  They also boil and mash pumpkin for babies and the elderly, and grill wedges of pumpkin along side sausages, chicken and lamb chops. 

Mea’ kai Faka Tonga, my cooking show series on local Tongan TV, had just started so I dedicated one show to pumpkin, demonstrating various ways to use pumpkins in muffins, bread, cookies, pie, stuffed with meat, and stirred fried with other veggies.   People were very appreciative and often stopped me in the market or on the street with compliments.  It was an enormously satisfying time in my life.

Preparation of blossoms:

12 male squash blossoms from zucchini, pumpkin, summer squash, acorn, etc.

Rinse carefully and trim stems to 1/8 inch from bottom of blossom.  Dry on paper towels.  Use a pastry bag or demitasse spoon to fill blossoms.

Quick Appetizers

  • 3/4 cup chicken liver pate of your choice
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • 4 Tbsp butter

Stuff each blossom with pate.  In a sauce pan, boil stock and butter until butter melts, reduce heat to medium and poach stuffed blossoms, a few at a time (do not crowd) for 3-4 minutes.  Remove with a slotted spoon.  Serve warm with garlic toast.

Variations:

  • semi soft cheese with fresh herbs (goats cheese works well)
  • devilled ham
  • small piece of mozzarella wrapped in prosciutto