Episode VIII: A New Hope

As a child, I remember the simplest grapefruit preparation: my mom would cut a large, juicy, brightly colored grapefruit in half and sprinkle sugar over the exposed segments. She then handed me the grapefruit half, placed in a small bowl with a jagged spoon beside it (aptly called a ‘grapefruit spoon’), and that was that. I gobbled up every little piece of that ruby red citrus in all its’ glory, and I’d squeeze the remaining juice into the bowl and drink it in one large slurp, sorta like the way you drink the milk after downing a bowl of Cookie Crisp or Fruity Pebbles.

That, in a nutshell, is my experience with grapefruit. I find it odd, since I choose citrus fruits any day over berries (well, seed-bearing berries, because I hate having to maneuver around them). Why, I could eat a lemon whole and have eaten them in that fashion since learning how to from my parents’ French spades/hearts comrade, Aurora. I remember thinking she was so cool because she was the only person I knew who drank alcoholic beverages so “neatly” – by eating the entire citrus slice without changing her expression one iota, and not leaving that silly rind behind like unwanted garbage beside the cherry stem.

And no, I’m not eating grapefruit rinds anytime soon – they’re way too thick and tasteless. But, but, I did eat a shit-ton of grapefruit-containing foods! Yes, friends, the eighth installment of the infamous Iron Chef Chicago battles – those monthly (in general) gatherings involving lots of good friends who love to eat. This time, we delved into one of my favorite “eat by itself with sugar” fruits (strawberry being second on that list, which already happened).

And while many associate citrus with summer, grapefruits are now at their peak and are a great escape from all this winter squash and stew, if you’re feeling the need to get away to somewhere warmer but can’t quite make it to the Bahamas right now. Tart and tangy, juicy and sweet, these citrus rounds are loaded with vitamin C and lycopene and go well with all sorts of foods, as you can see from all these lovely dishes.

For one dish, I went for a tried-and-true new favorite of mine and made two different flavors of grapefruit marshmallows (one with cardamom and one with ginger), and then fell upon a recipe for stuffed whole fish with grapefruit vinaigrette and grapefruit butter (served with millet instead of couscous), courtesy of my DVR and Tyler’s Ultimate. We had a couple of drinks, sorbet, various shrimp and scallop dishes, cakes and even lettuce wraps & pizza. It was, as usual, quite a spread.

The top three:

  1. Hope’s ‘Dark Chocolate Grapefruit Cake’, a gluten-free & vegan must have. I think Jon almost crapped his pants it was so good, and this time he got to eat cake with the rest of us!
  2. James’ ‘Grapefruit Cheesecake’ & (yes, a tie!) Christina’s ‘Grapefruit/Pork Lettuce Wraps’. James is a newcomer (Hope’s boyfriend – he does exist!!) who really came strong during his first attempt. Christina always seems to bring strong dishes and is getting very close to a win, I suspect. The wraps were my personal favorite, with both cakes coming in next.
  3. My ‘Grapefruit Marshmallows x2’. Clearly, you can’t go wrong with marshmallows, can you? I love them so much I’m going to start manufacturing them (yes manufacturing) and selling them on Etsy. I’m serious. Wait for it.

And with that, it looks as if the girls are back in business with two straight wins following the guys’ run. With the 9th competition right around the corner, February’s ingredient is sure to be a great one, as long as Hope can whittle down that list of possibilities!

Dark Chocolate Grapefruit Cake
Hope’s winning vegan, gluten-free recipe
adapted from the Gluten-Free Goddess blog
for a non-vegan version, click here

printable recipe

ingredients
6 oz unsweetened dark chocolate
3/4 c vanilla soy milk (warmed)
3/4 c fresh grapefruit juice (warmed)
1/2 c very hot double strong coffee
1 T vanilla extract
14 oz pumpkin puree
1 1/4 c brown sugar
1/2 c rice flour
2 T potato starch
1 T Ener-G Egg Replacer
1 t xanthan gum
1/2 t salt
1 1/2 t baking powder
1 t cinnamon
1 T grapefruit zest (optional, if you want even more grapefruit flavor!)
grapefruit segments for garnish
chocolate sauce for drizzling

instructions
Mix chocolate pieces with hot coffee and heated milk and grapefruit until chocolate is melted.  Add vanilla extract and pumpkin puree, blend.  Add in brown sugar, rice flour, potato starch, egg replacer, xanthan gum, salt, baking powder, cinnamon, and grapefruit zest, if using.  blend thoroughly until creamy and smooth.  Pour into a 9 in springform pan lined with greased parchment paper and smooth top.  Bake at 350 for 55-65 minutes until middle doesn’t wiggle.  Chill for a minimum of two hours. top with grapefruit segments.

Like my new puppy? Just kidding, sadly. Chris hasn’t given in yet! Oh, and a big thanks to my buddy Lindsay for the pictures. I think all of these are courtesy of her and her lovely camera. *sigh*.

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March (Mojito) Madness

wolfpack

Apparently March is the month for MADNESS. Prior to, and for a couple of years after moving to Chicago, we were hooked on NCAA basketball. HOOKED. Especially ACC and the Wolfpack. When I was in college, this guy (right) was our head football coach and the other goof (left) was the basketball coach. Following years of being mediocre in basketball, the Wolfpack finally decided to can the guy on left. Guy on right’s career was even shorter, but he did at least have a couple of great seasons, whether it was due solely to Philip Rivers or not.


NC State old basketball coachChuck Amato













Nonetheless, the Wolfpack fans have moved on. Me, in a way I gave up on them altogether (for the most part, I know – I am a horrible fan). Hubs, well he is utterly and mindnumbingly faithful, so he continued to watch once this guy (below) took over the b-ball team. While hopes were high, Lowe may have initially appeared to be “the savior” to NCSU basketball, but after his first season he hasn’t really come through as expected. Hence, March Madness, as I know it, doesn’t exist this year. Sniff Sniff. I didn’t even fill out a bracket – and I ALWAYS fill out brackets, even if I don’t know crap about the other teams. Sad indeed. We were talking the other day, once NC State decided they didn’t want to participate in the ACC tournament and lost in the “weed-in” game. Weed out for us…. But anyway, we decided, since NC State wasn’t coming through, the next best thing is rooting AGAINST UNC TARHEELS. We’ll see how that works once the NCAA tournament gets really going. Keep your fingers crossed, & Go Duke!!

This, obviously, brings me to the food portion of this post. Since March Madness in terms of basketball doesn’t really exist in my world this year, I will instead focus on MOJITO MADNESS – much tastier and much more satisfying! I absolutely LOVE mojitos, so below I’ll post a couple of mojitos I’ve recently made (one traditional and the other was part of the Battle Basil event). I’m also going to post a recipe for Mojito Chicken. I made it a while back and it was pretty yummy. One of my good friends is gluten-free, so I made it one night when he and his wife (if you ever hear me talk about Jennifer & Jon – this is them) were over. It’s amazing how many things you can make that are gluten-free and super scrumptuous. I initially thought that life without bread was not possible. Not true :). Anyway, I’ll post that below as well. Apparently they thought it was pretty good too b/c Jennifer asked for the recipe. Once she found out I was a “blogger”, she asked when the GF recipes would get posted, and she specifically asked about this one. So Jennifer, this is for you (and Jon…)!

P.S. – I will try to put quantities below, but I really don’t measure these drinks. Sorry!

traditional mojito


Traditional Mojito
serves 8 in pitcher

print recipe

4 limes, cut into small pieces
1 large handful of mint leaves (?1 cup)
8 Tablespoons of sugar (can also use splenda)
2 cups (yikes!!) of white rum
seltzer water

Combine limes, mint, and sugar in bottom of large pitcher (or divide among 8 highballs) and muddle away until there is a lot of juice in the bottom. Add rum and mix. When you are ready to serve, add the seltzer water. Don’t add it early b/c it will go flat. Pour into glasses with ice and garnish with mint and/or lime.


orange-basil-mojito

Orange-Basil Mojito
serves 8 in pitcher

print recipe

Same ingredients as above, except:
In place of limes, use 2 oranges
In place of mint, use basil.

 

Mojito Chicken w/ Roasted Asparagus & Almonds
Adapted from foodnetwork.com; serves 4

 

Ingredients
Olive oil cooking spray
2 bunches asparagus (2 pounds)
Salt and fresh ground black pepper
1/4 cup slivered almonds
2 teaspoons olive oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon sugar
1 pound cut-up skinless boneless chicken breasts
1/2 cup fresh lime juice
1/2 cup rum (dark)
2 1/2 teaspoon finely grated lime zest, divided
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint leaves
1 cup white rice, cooked according to package directions

instructions
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Coat a large baking sheet with cooking spray. Arrange asparagus on baking sheet and spray with cooking spray. Season with salt and black pepper. Roast 10 minutes. Top the asparagus with almonds and roast 5 more minutes, until fork-tender and almonds are golden brown. Remove from the oven and set aside.

Meanwhile, heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion, garlic and sugar and cook 3 minutes, until soft stirring with wooden spoon. Add chicken and saute 3 to 5 minutes, until golden brown on all sides. Add lime juice and carefully, off the heat, add the rum. Return to the heat and add lime zest, salt, pepper and bring to a simmer. Simmer for 3 minutes, until chicken is cooked through, about 12 to 15 minutes. Cook rice according to package instructions. When ready, mix in 1 1/2 teaspoons of lime zest.

Serve chicken, garnished with mint, over rice with the almond topped asparagus on the side.