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Jamaican Ripe Banana Fritters

Most people think that Jamaican banana fritters are more like pancakes, but the real Jamaican banana fritters are not. They are thin, light and airy, literally melting in your mouth. Once the batter meets the hot skillet, the fritters puff up so beautifully. It is eaten with just some sugar sprinkled on top, how much more does it take to be in heaven?

Photography by Heaven on Hearth
You will need:
1 ripe banana
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 egg at room temperature
½ teaspoon Madagascar vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt
4 tablespoons vegetable oil for frying
white sugar to serve
Egg, Vanilla and Nutmeg
 This will take no time at all. Mash 1 ripe banana, one that has lots of brown spots on the skin, with 1 tablespoon of brown sugar. Brown sugar gives the batter a lovely deep flavor. In another bowl, whisk 1 egg, ½ teaspoon Madagascar vanilla extract, and ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg.
Egg Mixture, Mashed Banana Mixture, Flour and Baking Soda
Mix with the mashed banana and sugar. Add 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour, 1 teaspoon baking powder and a pinch of salt to the mixture and mix well.
Fritters In the Skillet, Getting Golden Brown
Heat a skillet over medium low heat, before adding 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil. Pour 1 tablespoon of mixture for each fritter. Don’t crowd the skillet with too many fritters at a time. The skillet should always have enough oil. The fritters will take about 1 minute on each side over medium low heat. The fritter will start bubbling and you will see the edges getting a nice golden color, then you can flip it over. 
The Fritters
You can use a fork and poke into the fritter to see if it is done. If it comes out clean, then it’s done. Once the fritter is done, place on a kitchen towel so that it can absorb the excess oil.
Enjoying the Fritters!
Then transfer to a plate and sprinkle with white sugar and you are ready to dig in. This batter yields 12 fritters or serves 4. Voilà. So go ahead and enjoy!


Caramelized Onions

Raw onions have a sharp, spicy taste, but once they are caramelized, they are sweet, soft and sticky and have this wonderfully comforting smell and taste. The sweetness of the onion is brought to the forefront. Delicious. Caramelized onions are a great addition to so many dishes like sandwiches, burgers, soups, tarts, terrines, pastas and the list goes on.

Photography by Heaven on Hearth
You will need:
2 large onions, cut in half, then sliced (about 6 cups sliced)
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
Sliced Onions
This will take about 45 minutes. Heat a large skillet or pot, over medium low heat. You want to make sure the burner is not on high or else the onions will burn. Let the onions take their time to caramelize, so that that entire sweet flavor is brought out slowly.
Onions Getting Translucent
Add 3 tablespoons olive oil to the hot skillet, and then add the sliced onions. Make sure that all the onions are well coated with the olive oil. You will notice that they get translucent, that should take a few minutes. Then add 1 teaspoon of salt and stir occasionally. The onions will start breaking down in size and getting soft. Just make sure the onions don’t stick to the bottom of the skillet so you may have to stir pretty often. 
Starting to Caramelize
If you find that they are, just scrape them gently from the bottom of the skillet. After about 30 minutes, you will notice the onions have started to get nice and brown. 
Caramelized Onions
At around 45 minutes, your onions are done. Voilà. How easy was that?


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Warm Pasta Salad with Basil Pesto, Tomatoes and Mozzarella

It’s summer and the heat is on. Here in Lake Mary, the weather has had its ups and downs. In the mornings the sun shines brightly, by midday, the clouds appear, offering us a shield from the blazing sun. Then, by one in the afternoon the skies open and we are showered with cooling rain. So, to make the day sunny during the rain, I love my summery pasta salad, with the fresh taste of basil, sweet vine ripened tomatoes and creamy mozzarella.

Photography by Heaven on Hearth

For the pasta:
3 cups dry Rotini pasta
1 gallon water
3 vegetable bouillon cubes (1 cube = 1 cup broth)
1 tablespoon salt

For the salad:
6 tablespoons Basil Pesto
3 medium sized tomatoes on the vine cut in half then in quarters
5 basil leaves, chiffonade
4 mozzarella bocconcini balls, cut in half and then in eighths

In a large pot, over high heat, bring 1 gallon water with 3 vegetable bouillon cubes and 1 tablespoon of salt to a rolling boil. This should take about 16 – 18 minutes. I like putting the bouillon cubes in the water so that the pasta has more flavor and it adds such a wonderfully full taste to the dish. 

Once the water has come to a boil, add the Rotini pasta and cook until al dente. Please look at the directions on the box. I like to check the pasta, just in case it may need to be cooked a bit longer.
The pasta should still have a nice bite, but shouldn’t have a raw flour taste. If you feel it’s not done, just boil a bit longer.
Bocconcini and Tomatoes
While the water is coming to a boil, rinse tomatoes and cut in half then in quarters, as well as the bocconcini. Cut the bocconcini in slightly smaller pieces.

The pasta should be ready by then, so drain the pasta. Once drained, add 6 tablespoons of Basil pesto and toss, then add the tomatoes and bocconcini and toss again. This pasta salad is also delicious when served chilled. This is such a great summer salad, the vibrant green of the pesto and the rich red of the tomato…it certainly lifts your spirit on a rainy day. 
Enjoying the last bite
Some shaved Parmesan on top will add a delicious salty kick to the dish. This serves for 4. Voilà. Grilled chicken or shrimp would go beautifully with this pasta salad. Bon Appétit!


Basil Pesto

Pesto is a combination of herbs, salty Parmesan cheese, pine nuts, pungent garlic and olive oil. This simple combination of ingredients has such a wonderful fresh flavor that can turn a simple dish into something fabulous.
Photography by Heaven on Hearth

3 ½ cups of basil leaves
½ teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup Parmesan cheese
7 garlic cloves
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
Basil, Toasted Pine Nuts, Garlic, Parmesan Cheese and Olive Oil
In a food processor or blender, add the basil leaves, the pine nuts, garlic, Parmesan cheese, salt, freshly ground black pepper, then stream the extra virgin olive oil on top and blend till smooth. If using blender, start by chopping then liquefy. You will get a smooth paste. Once the pesto is complete. Keep in an airtight jar. I find covering the top of the jar with saran wrap first, then putting on the cover of the jar keeps unwanted air out and the pesto remains a vibrant green color.
Vibrant Green Basil Pesto
This recipe yields 1¼ cups. Voilà. What an easy condiment. Adding a tablespoon or two of pesto to soups, sauces, seafood, poultry or pasta dishes can make such a difference. This is such a versatile little concoction. It makes sauces nice and creamy as well. Add to steamed or grilled vegetables and you have a wonderful and interesting twist too. I sometimes mix it in some soft butter to make a wonderful compound butter.


How to Toast Pine Nuts

Pine nuts are a small buttery type of nut. Toasting them just brings out more of that nutty buttery flavor and gives them a nice golden brown color.
Photography by Heaven on Hearth
Toasting pine nuts is quite easy and really doesn’t take much time. All you need are the pine nuts and a non-stick skillet. Toss the pine nuts in the dry non-stick skillet over medium low heat. Just make sure that they are in one layer in the pan. Shake the skillet every now and then to ensure that they don’t burn. Once you smell that buttery nutty scent and they are nicely golden brown, they are done. Transfer them to a plate once done and leave to cool.

I used 1/3 cup of pine nuts and toasted them for 4 minutes.

Toasted pine nuts are so versatile. They are great in soups, salads, pasta sauces and pesto. Voilà. This is also used in my Basil Pesto.


Chilled Creamy Asparagus Soup with Parsley Cream

When it’s hot outside, the last thing you want to do is eat hot food. Although asparagus is a spring vegetable, you can pretty much get it throughout the year. Asparagus has a distinct and unique taste. The freshness of the parsley, the tanginess of the sour cream really brings out a fresh flavor. I used green asparagus because the color would be more pleasing for a summer dish and the taste is more distinctive than white asparagus.

Photography by Robert Demetrius

You will need:
1 pound asparagus without the woodsy part
woodsy parts of asparagus
5 cups chicken stock
3 small red potatoes
1 large onion diced (2 cups)
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1½ teaspoons of salt
4 tablespoons olive oil
1½ ounces dry vermouth
Cutting Asparagus in 1 inch pieces
Cut the ends of the asparagus then break off the woodsy part. Just remember that we will need the woodsy parts to add to our stock, so do not throw them out, but you can dispose of the cut ends. In a pot bring the stock, woodsy parts of the asparagus and 1 teaspoon of salt to a boil over medium heat and then let simmer for 7 minutes then strain. Discard the woodsy parts and keep the stock in a container for later use.

While the stock is simmering away, dice a large onion to yield 2 cups. If you have smaller onions, just dice enough for 2 cups. Cut tips of 8 asparagus about 2 inches from the tip, we will need them for decoration. Cut the rest in 1 inch pieces. Peel and dice 3 small red potatoes. Chop 2 garlic cloves.

Once the pot has been emptied of the stock, place it back on the burner over medium heat. Heat 4 tablespoons of olive oil and sauté onions and potatoes for 5 minutes before deglazing with 1½ ounces dry vermouth. 
Sauteeing Onions and Potatoes
Continue to sauté for 3 more minutes before adding chopped garlic and sauté for another 2 minutes before adding the strained stock back to the pot. Bring the stock to a boil, which should take 4 minutes before adding asparagus, but not the 8 tips that we will be using as decoration and let it simmer for 6 minutes.
Stock and Vegetables Simmering
Using Immersion Blender to Puree the Soup
If you have an immersion blender, blend the ingredients until nice and creamy and let cool before placing in the fridge until chilled. If you don’t, wait until the soup has cooled and pour in the blender and liquefy. You will have a creamy velvety soup.

Just before serving the chilled soup, blanch the remaining 8 asparagus tips. Bring a pot of water to a boil and season with salt. Add the 8 asparagus tips for around 2 minutes and cool in a bowl with cold water and ice to stop the cooking process, because we want the tips to be nice and crunchy.

Ladle a cup of chilled soup in each bowl with and dollop of Parsley Cream and 2 asparagus tips.

This serves for 4 and yields 4 cups of soup. Voilà. Now go and have a cup of creamy chilled soup as one of your summer delights. How cool is that?


Parsley Cream

I made this cream specifically for my Chilled Creamy Asparagus Soup. It is light and fresh. Turns out, this cream is delicious for sandwiches, who would have thought! Just spread on the bread, add your favorite meats or cheese and there you have it.

Photography by Heaven on Hearth
All you will need is:

3 tablespoons of sour cream
1 handful of parsley
1 ½ tablespoons of olive oil
¼ teaspoon of salt

In a small food processor, add all the ingredients and pulse until the parsley is very finely chopped. If you do not have one of those small gadgets, just finely chop the parsley, put all the ingredients in small bowl and mix until well combined. The parsley cream is ready.

This serves as a topping for 4 with my Creamy Chilled Asparagus Soup. Voilà. 


Watermelon and Mint Limeade

Watermelons are a great summer fruit. They are sweet, juicy and are known to cool you down on a hot summer day or night. I remember running around as a child in our garden and when I was finished playing, there was this big plate of watermelon slices that my grandma had waiting for me. I remember biting into the big juicy slices, having the heavenly sweet pink colored juice running down my arms. Now that I am older, I still love watermelon and the heavenly sweet juice. Experimenting with the juice in so many different ways has been fun. This is a drink that my family just loves.
Photography by Robert Demetrius

3½ cups watermelon juice (3 pounds watermelon)
3 ounces lime juice
mint leaves

Peel watermelon, cutting it into cubes and push through a juicer. Strain again, so that you have no pulp. If you don’t have a juicer, put the cubes in a blender with the lime juice and liquefy for a few minutes, ensuring no lumps are visible and that the watermelon has been completely broken down. Strain through a sieve.

In a large jug, mix watermelon juice, lime juice and minty mint syrup and a few mint leaves, just for effect. Add ice and serve. Voilà! It’s truly a refreshing drink. The subtle taste of the watermelon is brought out even more once the lime juice is added. You can even add some melon balls or small melon cubes to the glass, for decoration. If you are making this drink ahead of time, remember to stir before serving.

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