Recipe Review: Spicy Cantaloupe Salad

It’s been a very long time since I’ve seen Oklahoma so lush and green from all the rain we’ve been getting throughout the summer. The grass (and weeds) are growing like crazy and the mowing has to be done almost once a week.

Mom’s garden is producing some fabulous produce as well, which has been SO nice! We’re finally getting sun ripened tomatoes and they are mouthwatering delicious. One day, she arranged Anaheim peppers, tomatoes of different varieties, eggplant,  cucumbers and chili peppers on the counter and it looked so pretty I didn’t even want to move them. That feeling didn’t last long as the Anaheims got roasted, the tomatoes and a hot pepper found it’s way into fresh salsa (We could eat this by the gallon!), the eggplant to baba ganoush, and I made Roasted Pineapple, Basil and Cucumber Salad , refrigerator pickles, and tried a Cucumber, Mint and Lime Chiller with the cukes. The salad was amazing, the chiller, not so much.

My favorite recipe of the week, however, involved a very HOT black chili pepper Mom brought in from the garden. It’s purple-black on the outside and green within and it smells hot when you cut it open. I found Lan’s recipe for Spicy Cantaloupe Salad while browsing through Tastespotting and had to try this pepper out in it.

Spicy Cantaloupe Salad

photo from morestomach.com

Review Spotlight: Lan’s Spicy Cantaloupe Salad over at morestomach.com

My first thought: Fish sauce on cantaloupe? No way!

I bought my first bottle of fish sauce just to try this recipe and I’m so glad I did! The salty fish sauce with the tangy lime and the sweet cantaloupe were stupendously matched in this lovely summer salad. The chili and the ribbons of basil added color and topped off the flavors nicely.

Changes I made or will make later: I thinly sliced one whole (small) black chili pepper, instead of a diced red chili pepper the recipe calls for, and the heat intensified to almost too hot by the end of the meal (we weren’t even eating the slices of chili!), so if I was making the salad in advance, I’d wait to add the chili and, depending on the crowd, maybe not so much chili. I’m pretty sure if there were any leftovers for the next day it would have been way too hot! Alternatively, a milder chili pepper or jalapeno would probably work fine.

Health rating: 5 stars

Taste rating: 5 stars

Make it again? Oh yeah! Like, today and tomorrow and the next day!

If this recipe suites your fancy head on over to morestomach for the ingredients and instructions.

If it doesn’t suite your fancy…well, you’re missing out, but you should still head over to morestomach for other delicious looking recipes. I know I’ll be heading back for more!

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Mediterranean Stuffed Eggplant

Giant fluffy snowflakes are drifting out of a grey sky this afternoon. It’s one of my favorite kind of days really, when everything gets canceled because of the snow and all I have to do is do whatever I feel like doing.

But today I’m feeling that wanderlust itch. Today, I’d happily give up my beloved snowflakes to be transported to Gimmelwald in the Swiss Alps, Haarlem’s bicycle busy cobbled streets in the Netherlands, or the Cinque Terre along the Tyrrhenian Sea in Italy.

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On snow days I read blog posts like this and this and the gorgeous pictures of far away places make me smile and cry at the same time. Maybe it helps cure the travel bug bite… maybe it makes it worse.

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It’s funny how the senses can take you back in time to a specific place. Pictures, food, music, and smells – they all do that to me. I love it. The smell of Torani Hazelnut syrup takes me right back to the counter of the Rocky Mountain Candy Factory in Georgetown, CO. Steven Curtis Chapman’s “Not Home Yet” finds me driving in the wee hours of the morning on lonely highways through Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming. And the combination of kalamata olives, tomatoes and feta cheese? Well, you know where that’s headed…

I found these adorable mini eggplants at the market for 10 cents a piece, that’s right, 2 bucks for all 20 of them…

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…And I thought to myself (Well, I don’t know, maybe I said it out loud right to the produce guy placing them in the bins), these would be perfect stuffed.

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Slice in half and place on a baking sheet. Sprinkle on the olive oil, salt and pepper and roast @ 375 for about 20 minutes.

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Scoop out the insides with a spoon (I used my melon baller-dilly-wopper-thing.). Place the shells back on the pan.

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Chop the flesh into small pieces and put in a bowl. Add some chopped tomatoes, green onions, kalamata olives, feta cheese and cooked quinoa.

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How about some fresh oregano if you have some? Oregano is pretty tough stuff. Mine is living through it’s second winter.

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Season with olive oil, pepper and more salt if needed.

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Spoon into eggplant skins and top with Parmesan cheese.

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Bake at 350 until the cheese is melted on top and it’s warm throughout – about 15 minutes.

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May the flavors transport you to your favorite Mediterranean getaway!

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And where would that be?

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Flavors of Europe Tart

Just two years ago, my sister and I were over in Europe, somewhere between the Netherlands and Italy. You can read about our adventures over on our Sisters Four blog if you like.

Biking the lovely streets of Haarlem, Netherlands

I’ve been missing Europe a lot lately – the trains, the towns, the people, and, of course, the food.

There are several flavors that totally remind me of different places in Europe. Part of that is due to my ancestry, part to travels, and there’s probably a part in there that comes from what I’ve been told by cookbooks or people in general. Perhaps it’s faulty, but never the less, there.

I’ve been wanting to make something that was reminiscent of the amazing flavors we sampled on our trip, but when I saw the recipe for Brown Butter Tarts with Sour Cherries in the Midwest Living a couple months ago, I knew I had to incorporate cardamom whipped cream somehow as well.

Cardamom is native to India, but my viking relatives (I’m sure I was related to one of them!) introduced it to Scandinavia over 1,000 years ago. That’s why cardamom always makes me think of my Swedish grandmother’s delicious Cardamom cinnamon rolls and not this great sounding recipe for Badam Burfi.

This fabulous photograph was taken by Moira over at Who Want’s Seconds? You’ll find some interesting facts about cardamom over there.

Almond is used everywhere and for good reason, it is AMAZINGNESS! The Swedes use mandalmassa (almond paste) in muffins and biscuits and other treats like the Swedish Mazarinmuffins. When we were in Haarlem, Paula, the hostess at our phenomenal B&B, served us a bread laden with liqueur soaked fruit and a whole log of almond paste wrapped inside. Oh my! That was a flavor worth savoring! I recreated the recipe for Kerststol in my Taste of Europe series here.

Okay, almond was a given. Maybe some orange. Cherries? I like that…

And so the Flavors of Europe Tart began to take shape.

I started with a crumb crust. Actually, I lied. I started with a pastry crust using almond paste, flour and butter. It was delicious, but it wasn’t what I was looking for. So we ate that and started over.

7 oz. almond paste

1/2 c. flour

1/4 c. butter

1/2 c. almonds, ground

Pulse in a food processor, until blended and press into a tart pan. Bake for 15 -20 minutes or until golden.

I wanted vanilla bean custard for the filling, so I went with my tried and true custard/pudding recipe that I use for just about anything I need pudding or custard for.

2/3 c. sugar

1/2 vanilla bean, scraped

1/4 c. cornstarch

1/4 t. salt

2 c. milk

4 lg. egg yolks

2 t. butter

1 t. vanilla

Whisk all ingredients together in a sauce pan while cold. Turn on the heat and whisk while it warms. As soon as it starts to thicken, remove from heat. Stir in butter and vanilla and pour into tart crust. Cover with plastic wrap to keep from forming a skin on top and chill in refrigerator.

The yolks I used are farm fresh and were so orange. That explains why the pudding is yellow. I knew you were wondering. :)

And guess what? The shell of the egg was green/blue! I LOVE that!

I decided to used dark sweet cherries for the topping and reduce them in their own juices. So easy! Just put 12 oz. of frozen cherries in a pan and let simmer, stirring occasionally, until the liquid is a  syrupy consistency.

Cardamom Whipped Cream from Midwest Living

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup whipping cream

1 tablespoon powdered sugar (optional)

1/2 teaspoon finely shredded orange peel

1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom

Beat cream until it starts to thicken. Add sugar, orange peel, vanilla and cardamom. Beat until desired texture is reached.

Slice tart and serve with a dollop of cream.

So now, just to be totally random (and because I like it so much and I’m so excited about it :), I have to share my latest project with you.

I decided to paint my closet. I’ve done a lot of painting in the past working for my Dad or sisters or doing jobs of my own and I’m telling ya’, I really dislike painting closets. I mean, come on, it’s just a closet! Right?

Well, I don’t know what got into me.

I took a plain, decent closet…

And spiced it up a bit!

 I love it so much I’m doing to get rid of all my stuff, take the doors off my closet and enjoy it! :D Just kidding. But it was sad covering so much of it up.

Now it’s just a closet again…with an attitude.