Friday, November 30, 2012

@FoodsFromChile Dinner Party #NowInSeason

In the continuing saga of my Foods from Chile dinner party—you've seen my dinner party prep, as well as all the recipes—here's my recap of the event.

Highlighting the different foods that Chile provides to the U.S. was a major focus of the dinner. So, I decorated the dinner table with bowls of limes and platters of almonds…

…and I served a big pitcher of Clementine Lime Water (which did double duty as a very pretty and colorful centerpiece).


I also started the evening with a cocktail table full of candles and Chilean foods: a bowl of cheery clementines; some salted, crunchy almonds; and bread with a dipping sauce made from merquén and Chilean Extra Virgin Olive Oil


These last two ingredients might have been the most eye-opening of the night. The spicy merquén was new to me; it’s a fabulous blend of ground smoked chiles and various spices, including coriander and cumin. I think it would work well in a number of different recipes. The oil was surely among the best I’ve tasted: bright and rich, with a wonderfully fruity olive taste. Everyone raved and dipped some more.

A couple of big pinches of merquen and a bunch of Chilean EVOO = yum.

Of course, most of us already knew about the great reputation of Chilean wines (even those—like me!—who really know nothing about wine).  We got to try three different bottles throughout the evening.


Lana, of Bells and Thistle, was our resident oenophile; she works in wine and Scotch Whiskey branding and she knows her stuff. She even came armed with a book on Chilean wines to give us some fun facts!

The Montgras Reserve Sauvignon Blanc was my favorite. It had a fabulously light grapefruit taste, without being sweet. My kind of wine!


When I first received the menu for the dinner, I was impressed with how nutritious and balanced it was. We had loads of color and, therefore, antioxidants, from the various fruits, veggies and herbs; we had fantastic fiber in practically all the ingredients; and we had great fats in the fish, olive oil, and nuts. Those omega-3s are especially good for pregnant women—and we had two of them at the party!

Look at that gorgeous, full belly! And that's me in the background,
squeezing clementines over the salad.

Now, you might not eat four-course dinners every night or, you know, ever. But if you had different elements of this meal throughout the day (say, berries for breakfast, soup and salad for lunch, fish and salsa for dinner) you’d be doing really well nutritionally. And your taste buds would be happy, too.

A quick note about these recipes: they are all intended for a home cook, not a chef. Even though these dishes look elegant and kind of fancy, they are in fact very straightforward and doable.

Our first course was a lovely Endive Salad with Raspberries, Clementines & Goat Cheese. I love salads with fruit and cheese and the endive made the salad hearty enough for a winter meal.


Second course was my favorite, in part because I adore avocados and in part because it was just a fantastic recipe: Chilled Avocado Lime Soup with Chives and Walnuts.


The main course was the one I was feeling the most hesitatnt about, since I’m not a huge fan of salmon and I really never cook fish. But this Chilean salmon was supremely fresh and not fishy-tasting at all. Its richness balanced wonderfully with the nut topping and the fresh fruit salsa: Almond-Crusted Salmon with Chilean Fruit Salsa and Black Rice.


Everyone went wild for the dessert and a number of us went back for seconds: Cherry Berry Crisp.


Part of the fun of hosting my Foods from Chile dinner was getting to invite a fun assortment of food bloggers and social media mavens. They traveled from all over NY, CT and NJ to participate—and I’m so glad they did! Here are their recaps of the event:

Cupcakes & Kale Chips

You can see more pictures and Tweets from these and other guests by checking out #NowInSeason on Twitter. For more information on Foods from Chile, go to FacebookTwitter, and Pinterest.  

Monday, November 19, 2012

Almond-Crusted Salmon w. Fruit Salsa and Black Rice

I always recommend to my clients that they eat fatty fish like salmon. It's such a fantastic source of omega-3s and protein. But, if you'll notice, the only fish recipes I have on this blog were done by guest bloggers. That's because I rarely cook fish myself. I always hated the fishiness of fish (although I adore tuna salad—and is there a fishier fish than tuna, even when tossed with mayo, onions and celery?!). 

So, I admit I was a bit nervous when I got the menu and recipes for the Foods from Chile dinner I recently hosted. But the recipe seemed straightforward enough...and when I received the Chilean salmon I was shocked/thrilled to find that it didn't smell fishy at all. It was fresh and gorgeous. I could handle this!


This dish sure looked striking, with the bright colors of the salsa and salmon contrasted by the darkness of the black rice. But it's quite a simple recipe. And I think all the elements played vital roles. For example, the sweetness and acidity from the fruit salsa was a great balance to the rich fattiness of the salmon. And the nuttiness of the rice meshed wonderfully with the almond crust on the fish.

I followed the instructions for cooking the fish to the letter. I didn't want to mess it up. It was well-received by my guests, who said it was cooked just right. Phew! The moral of the story: if I can cook this, so can you.


Almond-Crusted Salmon w. Fruit Salsa and Black Rice
Ingredients
serves 4


Nut Topping
  • 1 cup Almonds
  • ½ cup bread crumbs
  • ¼ cup parsley
  • ⅛ cup softened butter
  • salt & pepper
  • dash of Merken /merquén (1/2 tsp).

  
Chop all in food processor.  Set aside. (Note: I used my Vitamix to grind the almonds first into a flour, then combined with the rest of the ingredients.)


Salmon

Lightly coat baking pan with Chile Extra Virgin Olive Oil (I baked mine on parchment paper for easier clean-up).  Season salmon with salt, pepper and Merken, to taste. 



Cover the salmon with a light layer of the nut topping.  

Cover and bake at 350F for 40 minutes or until cooked.  Remove cover at 20 minutes to allow the topping to brown.


Chilean Fruit Salsa


  • 6 plum tomatoes, diced
  • 1 large green pepper, diced
  • ½ cup Raspberries
  • 2 TB chopped cilantro
  • 1 orange or 2 clementines, segmented and chopped
  • 1 cup seedless grapes, halved or quartered
  • 1 red onion, minced
  • ¼ cup of Chile Extra Virgin Olive Oil


Add all ingredients to a bowl and toss with olive oil. I also added some salt right before serving.


Black Rice
  • Prepare black rice as directed on the package.
  • ½ Clementine
  • dash of salt

Scoop rice onto plate and give a quick squeeze of the Clementine onto the rice and a dash of salt.  Serve salmon on bed of black rice with generous amounts of salsa around the plate.



For more of the recipes from this meal, check out the Chilled Avocado Lime Soup; the Endive Salad with Raspberries, Clementines and Goat Cheese; and the Cherry Berry Crisp

For more information on Foods from Chile, go to FacebookTwitter, and Pinterest. Use #FoodsFromChile and #NowInSeason to check out the pictures and posts about this nationwide dinner party event on Twitter. 

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Endive Salad w. Raspberries, Clementines & Goat Cheese

This salad was a lovely starter to the Foods from Chile dinner party I recently hosted. It was delicious: the sweet, juicy fruits provided a fantastic balance to the bitter crunch of the endive leaves. It looked beautiful with all those amazing, bright colors. And it is fancy but also downright easy—the best kind of dish for a dinner party, because you get to actually spend time with your guests! Of course, this salad's also packed with antioxidants, fiber...and did I mention it tastes amazing? Oh, yeah, I did. 


The Chilean raspberries and clementines are actually in season now, since our wintertime is Chile's summer—isn't that convenient? 


Endive Salad with Fruits from Chile
Ingredients
serves 4-6
  • 3 heads of Endives, bottoms trimmed and leaves separated
  • 3-4 Chilean Clementines, peeled, segments sliced into rough chunks; reserve ½ of one clementine
  • ¾ cup Raspberries
  • ½ cup Micro Kale
  • 3-4 oz. crumbled Capricho de Cabra Goat Cheese
  • handful minced parsley
  • Chilean Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Sea Salt

Lay the separated endive leaves out on a large serving dish.  


Scatter clementine segments, raspberries and micro kale across the plate and into the endive leaves.  Spread goat cheese crumbles into the endive leaves.  Sprinkle micro kale across the plate.  Drizzle a generous amount of Chile Extra Virgin Olive Oil (seriously, that is some insanely delicious EVOO - everyone was impressed) across the endive leaves.  Squeeze juice of ½ a clementine or more across the plate; I used a whole clementine—I like a lot of acid on my salads.  

Sprinkle with sea salt and garnish with the minced parsley.  Each serving is approximately six endive leaves per person. If you're preparing the salad ahead of time, wait until the last minute to add fruit and drizzle the oil and juice or you might make the leaves soggy.

One of my guests documenting the first course.

Pretty, right?



Check out the other recipes from the meal: Chilled Avocado Lime Soup, Cherry Berry Crisp and Almond-Crusted Salmon!


For more information on Foods from Chile, go to FacebookTwitter, and Pinterest. Use #FoodsFromChile and #NowInSeason to check out the pictures and posts about this nationwide dinner party event on Twitter. 


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