Sunday, May 29, 2011

Turkey and Avocado Wrap with Balsamic Vinaigrette

This recipe makes enough for two people...
Turkey and Avocado Wrap with Balsamic Vinaigrette

For the wrap...
  • 2 tortilla wraps (I like the green spinach Mission wraps)
  • 2 tablespoons stone-ground mustard
  • whole lettuce leaves, such as Bibb or Romaine
  • 1/3 pound thinly sliced peppered turkey
  • 1/2 avocado, sliced
  • 1/2 cucumber, julienned
  • 1/2 tomato, sliced into half-moons
  • 4 thin slices cheese (today I used a maple smoked cheddar)

For the vinaigrette...
  • 2 tablespoons olive or grape seed oil
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon lime juice
  • freshly ground pepper and salt, to taste

Spread the mustard on the wraps, then place lettuce leaves on the mustard.  Arrange turkey, avocado, cucumber, tomato and cheese on the lettuce, down the center of the wrap.  Roll up the wraps, cut each in half, and secure each half with a toothpick.

Whisk together the vinaigrette in a bowl, and divide evenly between two small bowls or ramekins.  Serve the wraps with the vinaigrette on the side for dipping.

Chocolate Caramel Croissant Bread Pudding

Today, Jamie turned 37, and this was the birthday dessert he requested, which I served last night during our poker game with friends.  This dessert is very rich and decadent, but also incredibly quick, if you take the shortcut I took.  I will admit, I really struggle with making caramel.  It burns, it separates, it crystallizes...  Two Christmases ago, I managed to make a couple of perfect batches of toffee, which was the first time I ever tried making caramel.  The process of cooking the sugar and butter is tricky, especially with an electric stove, where the heat is not constant the way it would be with a gas stove.  But for every batch that succeeded, I had a batch that failed (I used a lot of butter and sugar that winter experimenting with the process.)  I've even tried placing a cast iron pan underneath my pot of sugar, to more evenly distribute the heat, but even that did not work for me.

So for this recipe, I did use a jar of storebought caramel, but the result was still delicious.  (If you're interested in making your own caramel for this dish, you can reference the original recipe.)  But for you beginners at caramel making, read on!

Chocolate Caramel Croissant Bread Pudding
  • 6 croissants
  • 2/3 jar caramel topping (about 1 cup)
  • 6 eggs, beaten
  • 6 tablespoons bourbon (substitute 1 tablespoon of vanilla extract for an alcohol-free version)
  • 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chunks
  • ice cream or whipped cream

Preheat the oven to 350.  Tear the croissants into pieces, and place in a medium-sized baking dish.  Layer the pieces of croissants with the chocolate chunks so that you have chocolate all throughout the pudding, until all the croissants and chocolate are evenly dispersed in the dish.

Heat the caramel in the microwave until warm and pours easily.  Whisk the bourbon into the caramel.  Quickly, whisk the warm caramel into the beaten eggs until well incorporated.  Immediately pour mixture over the croissants and chocolate.  

Bake at 350 for 30 minutes.  Croissants will be slightly browned and crispy on top, and very soft and saturated with the caramel mixture underneath, with the chocolate slightly melted.  Spoon into serving dishes and serve warm, topped with ice cream or whipped cream.  We ate ours with butter pecan ice cream--so good!

Sushi and Poker Night

For Jamie's and my 5th or 6th date, he made sushi for me at his place.  I was, of course, very impressed (and let me add, that in our two years together, he's never stopped finding ways to do special things for me).  Since then, making sushi together at home has become one of our favorite meals to prepare on Friday nights.  Last night, we invited a few friends over to share in the fun, followed by a game of poker later that night, and it was a great evening!

Every time we make sushi, we try something a little different, but we have our favorite combinations also.  We'll make some traditional rolls with salmon, tuna, cucumber and avocado;  a spicy jalopeno yellowtail dish with Japanese radish, with a sauce of rice wine vinegar, soy sauce and lime juice (last night, this dish also got an unexpected flavor from my Mike's hard lemonade which I spilled on the plate, but I actually think that made it even better); sometimes we'll get more creative with ingredients like soft-shell crab, battered and deep fried, or tube squid turned into succulent calamari, dipped in cocktail sauce (we never buy cocktail sauce--simply mix together ketchup and horseradish, and make it as hot as you like!)

Jamie came up with a new creation last night which we called spicy cucumber rolls.  This was a simple and fresh-tasting roll which we made by peeling long wide strips of cucumber using a y-shaped peeler (when you reach the seeds, turn the cucumber over to peel strips from the other side as well).  We then wrapped the transparent strips around salmon, tuna, avocado, radish and cucumbers, with a few surprises here and there of jalapenos and siracha sauce.  Secure the roll with a toothpick and pop the whole thing in your mouth.  Delicious!  (And if you're concerned about carbs, this is a great option, since there is no rice in this roll.)

My all-time favorite dish, though, is tuna tartare.  A few simple ingredients make a spectacularly flavorful dish; it was sure a hit with last night's group.
Tuna Tartar
  • 6 ounces sashimi-quality tuna
  • 1/2 avocado
  • lime juice (1/2 lime)
  • 1 teaspoon drops sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon grapeseed oil (or olive oil)
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon black sesame seeds
  • sea salt, to taste
  • sesame crackers

Carefully dice the tuna and avocado into 1/4 inch cubes.  Add the remaining ingredients and gently mix to combine so as to not smash the tuna and avocado.  Lightly press into a small bowl and chill for several minutes while you prepare the sesame crackers.  

The sesame crackers are large round crackers about 8 inches in diameter that can be found at any Asian market; they come in a few different flavors, and some even have tiny dried shrimp baked into them.  Straight from the package they are thin and translucent.  But when microwaved, they become very light and fluffy, and are the perfect way to serve your tuna tartar.  On a microwaveable plate, microwave one cracker at a time for two minutes on high, or until cracker begins to puff up.  Break into large pieces.  Repeat with remaining crackers.

Take your bowl of tartar from the fridge, turn the bowl over onto a plate, and remove the bowl.  Now take your pieces of sesame crackers and around around the tartar on the plate.  Serve immediately.