Friday, May 11, 2012

Watermelon Salad

I saw a picture of a watermelon salad in a travel magazine about a year ago. I ripped out the page, hung it on the fridge and waited for watermelon season. 
Yesterday I pulled the pic off the fridge and realized it was only a pic, no recipe. Now it became a challenge. 
I went into the garden cut a few chive flowers, and pull some radish sprouts. I cut the goat cheese and watermelon into circles, stacked them and sprinkled with flowers and sprouts. I then drizzled a wee bit of thick and sweet balsamic vinegar on the plate. 
The perfect first course for dinner.
Easy peasey and tasty too. 
And best of all, every bite was eaten!
All text and Photos are property of The Gypsy Chef

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

St. Martin, une belle île.

I am the luckiest woman in the world. I know that and I give thanks everyday. After studying french I declared I would only vacation where french is spoken. When B came home from flying a turn to SXM (St Martin) he insisted we visit. He said it was the perfect spot for R&R and une petite vacannces. It doesn't take much to convince me so off we went.
We arrived in late afternoon, rented a car and with a map in hand began our journey to Baie Orientale and the Palm Court Hotel. Unbeknownst to us the Mardi Gras celebration in Grandcase had made traffic bumper to bumper from the airport to our destination. Three hours after climbing into our rental car we pulled into the gated community that was know as Baie Orientale. 
 In the darkness it looked tropical and somewhat Disneyesque. We tracked down our hotel, and were fortuitous enough to arrive as guests were leaving. They kindly shared the code and gave us access through the gate. Exotic lanterns led us around to the main entrance. 
 There we found our names on a envelope taped to the front door. Inside there was a warm french welcome, a key to our room, and information about breakfast. We’d arrived!
Our room was enchanting, the balcony had a lounge chair and dinette set over looking the pool and gardens. The kitchenette was hidden behind a colorful striped curtain and was stocked with glasses, cutlery and plates. They’d looked as though they had never been touched.
The bathroom was large, beautifully tiled and contained a multitude of lotions, scents, and other amenities. I found a bowl of sweets and a basket of jasmine incense. It was a lovely, relaxing suit perfect that provided a heaven from a cold stressful New York lifestyle. Heaven, thy name is the Palm Court!
Across the road we found a cluster of restaurants around a gazebo and grassed area. At night while adults dined al fresco children romped around the gazebo dancing and playing until called for their dinner. 
This being a French island ensured the food was delicious, the baguettes were crisp and the croissants were flaky with butter. Everyone spoke french and were more than willing to converse with me kindly correcting my mistakes and encouraging me to speak that most beloved of languages.
Every night we dined in a different restaurant and every night we declared it was our favorite.
The beach was sunny, breezy and lulled us into a trance. It seemed the morning would never end then we would feel our stomach’s growl and would head back to our room for a ploughman’s lunch and a nap. 
 Late afternoon would find us enjoying a coffee and heading back to the beach to sit in our favorite chairs under an palm umbrella and we would read and doze until dinner.
It seemed like our 5 days went by quickly. As we climbed aboard the plane to head back to New York we felt relaxed and sad to leave such a jewel of an island.
I am ready to head back, but B wants to try another island in the French Caribbean. Any suggestions?
All text and photos are property of The Gypsy Chef

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Roasted Cauliflower Pizza on the Grill

Roasted  Cauliflower Pizza on the Grill

Recently I had dinner a friend at Anthony’s Coal Fired Pizza in White Plains. We shared a Roasted Cauliflower Pizza fresh from a wood fired oven. It had a fresh smoky flavor you find in Italian pizzas. The cauliflower was creamy and golden atop a silky ricotta that had a touch of garlic.
I wanted to create the same pizza for our dinner party last night. I made a pizza crust from sour dough starter I’ve been nursing since bread class. I thought the tang of the sourdough would compliment the roasted cauliflower and it did. I tooped the pizzas with salted fresh ricotta, oven roasted cherry tomatoes, fresh mozzarella  and organic cauliflower.
Once the dough was ready, I divided it into 3 equal pieces and pressed it into a round flat disk. I then used my knuckles under the edge of the dough moving it around  to stretch it into a circle. It actually forms an unusual free form shape but I prefer that to rolling it out with a pin.  
 I had preheated the gas grill so that it was hot and ready to go. I only use 2 of the 3 burners because I like a cooler side to finish off the pizza with out burning it. This way I can walk away from the grill and not worry.
I placed the dough over the fire, waited about 1 minute and turned it over. I brushed it with olive oil, and topped it with cauliflower florets, roasted tomatoes and bits of ricotta and mozzarella cheeses.  On the second pizza I crumbled a dried hot pepper from last year’s garden which added a bit of pizazz. Once the crust was set I slid the pizza to the cooler side of the grill, lowered the lid and allowed the cheese to melt.
Don’t load up your pizza with a lot of toppings. It will become soggy but more importantly it will have a jumbled flavor with no one ingredient standing out. It’s much better to use your ingredients sparingly.
I served one pizza at a time cut into bite size pieces. It was an intimate dinner eaten slowly and enjoyed with good company and Italian wine.
If your not inclined to make pizza dough, or you don’t have starter hanging around your kitchen you can buy an acceptable one at the super market. If you would like to try a sour dough pizza crust you will find it here at Sourdough Pizza Crust; King Arthur.

Roasted Cauliflower Pizza

1 head of Cauliflower divided into florets
8 ounces oven roasted cherry tomatoes
salted fresh ricotta
salted fresh mozzarella
olive oil
fresh chives
Pre-heat the oven to 425 degrees

Toss the cauliflower florets in olive oil, salt and pepper and roast in the oven for 20-25 minutes tossing occasionally.

Toss the cherry tomatoes in olive oil, garlic and salt and pepper and roast for 20-30 minutes depending on their size.

Break the mozzarella into pieces and set aside.

Once the dough has risen, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Cut it into four equal pieces. Press it into a flat round disk and use a rolling pin to roll it out from the center to a thin round pie shape.
Dust a peel or plate with semolina flour  and place the pizza on the peel. Slide it onto the gas grill and turn the fire down. Allow the pizza to sit for one minute or so and then using a tong check the bottom. If it is scored with grill marks give it a turn. brush it with olive oil and add your toppings. Lower the lid and allow the cheese to melt and everything to heat. If it looks as though the fire is too hot move the pizza to the cooler side. 
All text and photos are sole property of The Gypsy Chef

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Happy Valentine's Day

The rose is red, the violet's blue,
The honey's sweet, and so are you.
Thou art my love and I am thine;
I drew thee to my Valentine:
The lot was cast and then I drew,
And Fortune said it shou'd be you.
Gammer Gurton's Garland (1784) Wikipedia

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Easy Peasy Bean Soup

As flight attendants we are often home for only a day at a time. This makes it difficult to prepare  nutritious and well balanced meals for our trips.  When I cook, I prepare a larger amount than I need and freeze single portions to take along on my trips. This week I wanted an economical first course that would lend itself well as a crew meal.
Bean soup fit the bill perfectly.
There are a lot of variations for this recipe. I used Trader Joe's organic cannelini beans, chicken stock, frozen roma tomatoes, rosemary, sage, bay and thyme all from my garden.
Served in small white soupettes it was perfect for a chilly day. My guests were dazzled and today when I reheated it on the plane, the crew was dazzled too. For an elegant presentation, puree it and serve it with a dollop of mascarpone.
Bean soup variations are endless. For a true Italian soup substitute the canneline beans for garbanzos add rosemary add a bay leaf, puree the soup and garnish with cooked pasta and parmesan cheese.
For Tex Mex use pinto beans, chile powder and top with sour cream, tortilla chips, cheddar cheese and scallions.
A la Francaise use white beans, thyme, bay leaf and garnish with creme fraiche and chives. 
See where I'm going with this? You can make your own signiture bean soup and literally everyone will love it! Just be sure to bring enough for the crew.
Easy Peasy Bean Soup

1/4 cup olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 small onion, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
1 carrot, diced
1 stem of rosemary, leaves pulled and chopped
1 sage leaf
1 bay leaf
1 slice of ham, if your so inclined
4 cups of chicken stock
2-3 cans of cannelini or white kidney beans, rinsed and drained
Parmesan cheese, rind also if you have one
Handful of parsley, chopped

Heat the olive oil in a stock/soup pot. Add the onion and garlic cook for several minutes, add the celery and carrot saute for 5 minutes. Stir in the herbs and ham and cook for another 2 minutes. Pour in the chicken stock and bring to a boil. If you have it, add the cheese rind and lower heat and cook for 1 hour to develop the flavor. Add the beans and cook another 15 minutes. Remove the rind and the bay and sage leaves.
Serve garnished with parmesan cheese and freshly chopped parsley.

All text and photos are sole property of The Gypsy Chef