Tag Archives: savory

Is Durian a fruit or a vegetable?

8 Jul

Have you ever heard of durian? It’s also known as jackfruit in some places…

Everywhere I have looked, they refer to durian as a fruit. A very stinky fruit at that… a fruit so stinky it has been sometimes banned from being carried in public transportation. Apparently is that stinky…

In the Food Network it is always presented as a challenge, because when you get past that stinky impression, apparently durian is a very sweet and delicious fruit used in many desserts. Cooks just need to get over the initial impression to be able to fully enjoy durian in all its glory.

Durian Collage

However in India, I was presented durian as a vegetable… huh?

They told me that durian, when unripe is considered in India as a vegetable and cooked in curries and sauces to be eaten as a vegetable. When fully ripe, apparently is when the distinctive odor develops, then it turns sweet and is considered a fruit.

cooked durian

This is an example of the ways we were offered durian during our latest Indian trip… I kinda liked it. I tried it at the last portion of the trip when I was already tired of eating foods so heavily seasoned with cumin. So it’s not fair to the durian that it was made with so much of what I don’t enjoy. But I am willing to give it another try.

Have you ever eaten durian? In a sweet or savory preparation?? Please share…

 

Annie Mariel’s Composed Salad

18 Jan

I firmly believe that God or the Universe, however you prefer to say it, puts the right people in our path for us to learn and grow… And Annie Mariel has been a real blessing in my life. It’s as if God, in his all-knowingness, understands and knows exactly the type of person you need in your life at a certain time in your life.

We got along almost immediately since we met each other about 5 yrs ago in a conversational French class. We have lots of things in common – we’re both consultants, we both enjoy anything French, we both enjoy to travel, we follow yoga and spiritual practices, we are both vegetarians… bueno, almost vegetarians because Annie Mariel still eats seafood and shellfish on occasion. But she gets my idiosyncrasies of being vegetarian. She has passed on to me her love of running and we even applied to run the Amazing Race together… (oh boy!!!)

Annie Mariel is a great supporter and fan of KarmaFree Cooking… and for my last supper of 2012 she wanted to contribute by bringing a salad. She knew I was going to cook pasta. She asked me to make it as light as possible, so I pleased her by making the sauce all tomato, instead of mixing it with some cream or half and half, like I like to do on other recipes. She told me she would surprise me with the salad… and that she did.

cooking 4 - salad

 

This salad had a little bit of everything… and it was delicious! I asked Annie Mariel if I could feature her salad in KarmaFree Cooking and she agreed. I hope I make her proud. Try it for yourself…

annie Mariels Salad 2 finished

ANNIE MARIEL’S COMPOSED SALAD

Baby Spinach
Arugula
Grape Tomatoes
Sliced Red Onions
Avocado
Crumbled Blue Cheese
Toasted Almond Slices
Dried Cranberries
Crispy Fried Onions
Balsamic Vinaigrette Dressing

 

  1. In a large bowl add all the ingredients. Toss lightly to combine
  2. Dress the salad with vinaigrette.

 

 

Balsamic Vinaigrette Dressing

¼ cup balsamic vinegar
½ cup extra virgin Olive Oil
1 tsp Dijon mustard
Sal and Freshly Ground Black Pepper

 

  1. Place all the ingredients in a empty glass or mason jar. Shake well to combine. Let rest for 10-15 minutes to allow the flavors to combine well.
  2. Serve on top of your favorite salad.

 

Cheese, Spinach and Mushroom Stuffed Manicotti

17 Jan

My un-married friends (which is not the same as being single) and I like to get together and celebrate ourselves, our friendship and the Xmas season. We were also celebrating the new remodeled kitchen at one of my friend’s… She invited us all for a night of music, great company and Madelyn’s cooking.

cooking

That’s the funny thing… my friend loves to cook, and she does it very well, but when she invites, Madelyn does the cooking. I do not mind at all because it gives me a chance to showcase a few recipes I’ve had in the works. Tired of the same Xmas food fare people eat at most parties during the season, I planned a healthy pasta menu with low-fat cheeses and tons of flavors. Annie Mariel would bring the salad… something composed, that’s her type of cooking.

This pasta dish is super simple and you don’t even need to cook the pasta beforehand. Due to time and availability this time around, I made this recipe using regular semolina pasta, but I have certainly made it using brown rice pasta and whole wheat pasta. In none of those cases I have pre-boiled the pasta. There is no need to do that as long as you have enough liquid for the pasta to cook in. The liquid will come from the tomato sauce and the liquid in the filling. This is a mix and bake recipe perfect for entertaining or a pasta night with the family.

 

manicotti - cheese, spinach and mushrooms

 

CHEESE, SPINACH AND MUSHROOM STUFFED MANICOTTI

1 box of whole wheat manicotti
1 box of Pomi chopped tomatoes
16 oz tub of part skim ricotta cheese
16 oz tub of cottage cheese
1 cup of grated Parmesan Cheese, divided
1 cup of shredded Italian Cheeses, divided
1 cup frozen spinach, mostly thawed and finely cut
1 packet of button mushrooms, finely chopped
½ onion, chopped finely
1 clove of garlic, smashed
2-3 sprigs of fresh thyme
1 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
¼ cup of toasted pine nuts
1 tbs basil, chopped – I use the freeze dried kind or Italian Seasonings
Olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

 

  1. Pre-heat oven to 350F.
  2. Let’s put together the filling…
  3. In a medium skillet over medium-hi heat, add a drizzle of olive oil and add the onion, garlic clove and mushrooms. Mix together and cook without stirring too much so the mushroom get to brown and caramelize. Move them once in a while, but leave them alone for periods of time and allow them to get brown.
  4. When the mushrooms are brown and fragrant, and to me they smell like steak, believe it or not, add a splash of soy sauce and a splash of balsamic vinegar to season. Add the thyme leaves and sauté a few times. Discard the pieces of garlic you may find and set aside.
  5. In a separate bowl, mix together the ricotta, the cottage cheese, ½ cup shredded cheeses and ½ cup Parmesan cheese. Also add the toasted pine nuts and the spinach, squeezing any extra liquid from it, but it does not have to be super dry. We want some moisture still because it will help cook the pasta. Also, add the cooked mushrooms. Mix everything together. Season with salt, pepper and a drizzle of olive oil and set aside.
  6. In another bowl, add the chopped tomatoes, a drizzle of olive oil, a drizzle of balsamic vinegar and season with salt, pepper and the basil or Italian seasonings mix. Mix everything together to combine all ingredients well.
  7. Transfer ½ the sauce to the bottom of a 9” x 13” baking dish. I used a disposable baking dish because I do not bring my vegetarian-only dishes to anyone’s home where I am not 300% they’re vegetarian just like me.
  8. Using a small spoon, fill each dried manicotti sleeve with the cheese/spinach/mushroom filling we just did. Place each manicotti sleeve one next the other in the baking dish. Some will go one way, the rest across, but they should all fit. This is the most time consuming part of the process. Keep on going until all manicotti sleeves are filled with cheese. If you have any leftover filling, like I did, don’t worry. I have a Round 2 recipe for you to use it in a new different application.

cooking 3

9.  Pour the rest of the tomato sauce over the filled manicotti. Top with the remaining shredded Italian cheeses and grated Parmesan.

10.  Place in oven for about 30 minutes to allow the pasta to cook in the tomato sauce. You’ll notice when the sauce is bubbling and the pasta has softened. If the top is not golden brown, turn the broiler on and allow the cheeses to get crispy on top. When it’s golden delicious, I turn the oven off and leave the pasta in there for another 15 minutes to let it finish cooking with the oven’s residual heat. This will ensure the pasta is cooked, yet still al dente.

 

Serve with your favorite side dishes… and for us Puerto Ricans that means sweet plantains are on the menu too. We also served it with Annie Mariel’s awesome composed salad. It may not have been the traditional typical Xmas menu, but it was my last cooked meal of 2012 and I LOVED it!!!! I hope you love it too.

My Plate

 

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