Punschtorte, an Austrian Punch Cake

The Punschtorte is a classic Austrian cake with a big boozy punch! A thin cake sandwiches a rum punch filling, and finished off with a thick pink fondant icing.

No one knows for sure the origins of this Punschtorte cake but it may have been introduced to Vienna in the Middle Ages by the Ottoman armies some time during the 17th century. The components include cake crumbs, chocolate, rum, apricot jam, citrus juices. It is a kick-ass cake! Individual pastries are known as Punschkrapfen.

punschtorte inside

Tasty reading ahead, KEEP GOING… →

Chocolate-Dipped Orange Peel Cookies

This is my first year participating in The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap, a great fundraising effort partnered with Cookies for Kids’ Cancer, a national non-profit organization committed to funding new therapies used in the fight against pediatric cancer. I cannot remember the exact amount raised last time we were notified but it was in the 5 digits, and I beleive about 1,000 bloggers joined. That is amazing! My cookies of choice for the swap were Chocolate-Dipped Orange Peel Cookies. What is this Cookie Swap?

The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap brings together food bloggers from around the world in celebration of all things scrumptious. The premise is this: sign up. Receive the addresses of three other food bloggers. Send each of them one dozen delicious homemade cookies. Receive three different boxes of scrumptious cookies from other bloggers. Eat them!

orange peel shortbread 017

Tasty reading ahead, KEEP GOING… →

Fish tortilla citrus vanilla gastrique radish salsa

A wonderful new way to enjoy a fish tortilla: top it with a fabulous citrus & vanilla gastrique and a radish salsa! Served with battered radish leaves.

Well, I guess it had to happen sooner or later. Ladies and Germs: 5 Star Makeovers is at WAR this month. Yes you read me right. We have created our very own friendly competition based on Restaurant Wars, like the popular part of the Top Chef show. Members of this fabulous gourmet group were divided into teams of 3. We had to come up with a restaurant or menu based on an ingredient or concept. My personal challenge: radishes meet fish tortilla!

Does life imitate art or art imitate life? Who knows but unfortunately we did loose some teams along the way following incidents. Mine survived without any battle. I am so happy to have worked with my 2 particular team members Faith and Shannon. We all got along fabulously, came to decisions rather fast and we were very encouraging of one another.

Fish tortilla with a citrus & vanilla gastrique radish salsa

My team chose radishes and we announced our menu about a month ago here: Raphanus! Celebrating the Radish. Not one of us were particular fans of this vegetable but we all appreciated the challenge of turning this foe into a shinning star for our dishes. And since that was not tough enough we added another aspect: there must be a citrus vanilla component to our dish. All 3 of us were ready to confront our radish dish with our chef’s sleeves rolled up. Who won? In the end the radish won us all over.

After reading my post please go visit the rest of my team so you can see our complete menu. You will find Shannon’s radish themed appetizer and Faith’s radish themed dessert  by clicking on their respective links. I can’t wait to go check them out. But first let’s take a look at my dish, the main course:

Fish tortilla with a citrus & vanilla gastrique radish salsa, battered radish leaves.

Say that 3 times fast lol. It’s a mouth full…but a so delicious one. OK so my vanilla component is a vanilla gastrique. I never made one before so this was new. A gastrique is a reduction of a sweet and sour element, usually sugar and vinegar. I added a vanilla bean to mine. This stuff is freaking addictive it’s ridiculous. I used it as part of my Radish salsa vinaigrette.

I more then covered the citrus factor. In total I used satsuma mandarin juice, Yuzu lemon juice, dried orange peel and lime juice. I also wanted to add a little heat to my dish since it has a Tex Mex flair. I chose a Serrano pepper and some habanero infused salt, just a touch.

My radish salsa plays the crowning jewel atop of a fantastic fish tortilla dish. Although I enjoy it I don’t prepare a whole lot of Tex Mex, it’s not part of my culture. And I had never had a fish in a tortilla before, something I had been curious about after seeing such a dish featured on a few blogs. Well it was just fantastic and the sweet tanginess of the radish salsa gave it a perfect flavor kick.

And there is a side dish surprise recipe all the way at the bottom of this post!

 

Vanilla Gastrique

1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup Zinfandel vinegar (you can use any vinegar)
1/2 vanilla bean, split length wise

Add all ingredients to a pan and place on medium heat. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 8-10 minutes or until the mixture has reduced by 1/3 and is syrupy. Allow to cool and discard bean.

Red and Black Radishes, the Stars of the show

 

Radish Salsa adapted from Figareau

12 radishes
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
Juice from 1 satsuma mandarin (or orange)
1 1/2 tbsp Yuzu lemon juice (or lime)
1 tbsp vanilla gastrique
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
Pinch habanero infused salt (or plain salt)
Pepper to taste

Washed, trim and dice finely the radishes. Put all the ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover and chill for at least an hour before serving.

Ξ Fish tortilla with a citrus & vanilla gastrique radish salsa Ξ

team radish 15

For the fish

1 1/2 lbs firm white fish (I used Tilapia)
1 teaspoon lime juice
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon fenugreek
1/2 teaspoon dried orange peel
Dash of salt and pepper

Heat grill or oven to 400F. Place fish in an aluminum pan, coat with olive oil, lime juice and spices. Cook about 10 minutes (more or less) until fish comes apart with a fork.

team radish 6  team radish 7

team radish 1  team radish 5b

Assembly

tortillas
red bean paste
prepared fish
red onions, thinly sliced
cilantro
sour cream with a touch of lime juice and diced Serrano pepper.
radish salsa

Line plate with tortillas. Spoon a layer of red bean paste. Place fish on top of red beans.
Top fish with red onions, cilantro, sour cream and radish salsa. Makes 4 individual servings or 1 big plate to divide.

WAIT, one more recipe, a SIDE DISH adapted from Kitchen Gossip. Why throw away those lovely radish greens? These fritters are like a cross between hush puppies and an Indian Bahji – unique to say the least.

team radish 4  team radish 11

team radish 12

Ξ Battered radish leaves Ξ

2 cups radish leaves, chopped
3 heaping tbsp cornmeal
2 tbsp rice flour
1 Serrano chili, finely chopped
1 tsp Cumin Powder
1 tsp Turmeric
1 tsp Paprika
Salt to taste
Oil to Deep Fry
Water

Mix leaves, flours and spices in a bowl. Add a little bit of water at a time and mix until batter is sticky
Shape into small balls and deep fry in oil at 375F until golden brown.
Drain on paper towels before serving. Enjoy hot or cold.

Don’t forget to go visit Shannon’s radish themed appetizer and Faith’s radish themed dessert  by clicking on their respective links after leaving a comment. Thank you to our amazing organizer who came up with this brilliant concept: Natasha at 5 Star Foodie &  Laz at Lazaro Cooks!

Introducing Team Radish

I’ve got two special announcements today. First I just got back from the hospital the cast is OFF, freedom and physio therapy ahead. And second, a huge event, as part of the 5 Star Foodie Makeover group!  We have a May Event – Restaurant Wars.

For this event, the group got divided into teams of three.  Each team was responsible for choosing the theme or main ingredient for their restaurant.  Then each member produces an appetizer, main course or dessert.

The first challenge was to decide on a main ingredient with my teammates Faith and Shannon.  We wanted something a little different…  something challenging…  a vegetable none of us like?  Indeed, we’re trying to come around to this root vegetable ourselves 🙂

Photo from risingriverfarm.com

Radishes are members of the mustard family Brassicaceae, along the likes of broccoli, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts.  The flesh of radishes is crisp with a peppery flavor.  Some of the more common varieties of radishes include red globe, black, breakfast and daikon.

A favorite of any gardener, radishes are easy to grow and their rapid germination means that radishes will be one of your first harvests!  Radishes are a good source of fiber, vitamin B6, riboflavin, magnesium, copper, calcium, potassium, folate and vitamin C.

When buying radishes, choose ones that are firm, unblemished and brightly colored.  It is also good to make sure that the attached greens are nice and healthy as well.  If you aren’t using them right away, cut away the greens and pop the radishes into a jar and cover with water.  They’ll stay nice and crisp in the fridge until you’re ready to use them.

While they’re most often enjoyed raw or pickled, we thought radishes would be a worthy challenge for Restaurant Wars, where they are going to take center stage through a three course meal.  To make things even more interesting, citrus and vanilla will be incorporated into each dish.  Go ahead, have a taste!

Review: O Clementine Olive Oil and O Zinfandel Vinegar plus a Contest

I know, I know I have been bad. I have been quiet, I have not been posting as much or catching up with commenting. I blame November. It’s such a blah month and my energies plummet. But also one of the reasons I have been more quiet is due to much research and experimenting. I have been working on a few very original recipes which would be a perfect fit to round off that fabulous menu for the holidays. Come back later today on the blog as I will be publishing one of these creations.

These recipes feature two products I was lucky enough to win recently on eRecipeCards: the O Clementine Olive Oil and O Zinfandel Vinegar from the Natural Box collection. Winning this prize also meant entering a contest. So I hope you come back and vote for me by putting this mysterious recipe (which will be posted later today) in you eRecipeBox. I’ll tell you all about that a bit later. Contest alert: YOU can be the winner of an absolutely divine vinegar too, details are at the bottom of the post!

This prize was awarded by my new favorite oil and vinegar company. If you follow my blog regularly you are well aware that I do the occasional product review and they are often interesting finds but not necessarily something that would knock my socks off. This time I was completely taken aback with my prize from O Olive Oil. I would even say pleasantly flabbergasted!  I know it sounds like a huge and ridiculous claim but it is 100% sincere. I LOVE my new oil and vinegar. So what makes O Olive Oil so special and unique to dazzle my exotic taste buds? The answer is surprisingly simple: keep things organic, keep things basic, take the time it needs and make it with love.

Let’s looks first at the Citrus Oils. This collection of oils are beautifully crafted by using the crush method. Fresh hand harvested California Mission olives are crushed directly with whole organic citrus within 48 hours of the harvests. It takes about 1½ lbs. of fresh, whole citrus to make each bottle of oil. As the extracts of both the olives and the fruit mingle in such a unique way the tastes bond, making for an intense marriage of flavors. This bit of info makes you realize quickly the poorer quality of many companies who mass produce by infusing or flavoring the already produced olive oil, sadly a common practice in the industry. There final product pales in comparison.

I received the O Clementine Olive Oil. I was already cooking up a storm in the kitchen before I really sat down to have a proper taste testing. I have a confessions to make: after pouring the amount required by my recipe of the Clementine oil I actually took a mini swig from the bottle. The beautiful coating of olive oil in my mouth was delicate and light in flavor but I did not taste a lot of the clementine at that moment. But once I sat down to take the pictures and properly savor it with a slice of white French bread, I had a completely different reaction to the taste. The clementine miraculously came to life and was now bursting with notes of zesty citrus all nicely layered in with a sweetness of the oil. The sumptuous yellow color coated the bread wonderfully. I was also really impressed by the results in my coming recipes.

The O Clementine Olive Oil is limited production. Keeping mind this is NOT an oil to fry foods is. A gentle warming in a pan will heighten the flavors, more will burn it.  I could see myself using this oil in a light salad mixed with a crisp and light vinegar. A light brushing over cooked seafood or chicken would be lovely too.

The second part of my prize from O Olive Oil was the Wine Vinegar collection. Again the company blasts the competition by nor rushing a good thing. The old world Orleans method is employed here by filling ventilated oak barrels with premium wine which naturally ages the wine turning it into vinegar over months or years.  The fact that the wines comes from near-by Napa Valley does not hurt either. Natural flavors are added slowly over time as the wine turns to vinegar.  The competition usually just mechanically ages using artificial flavors and ingredients.

I was thrilled to find the O Zinfandel Vinegar in my prize package. Before I even opened the bottle I was captivate by the magnificent ruby orange color. I dipped my bread in the aromatic liquid and took a bite. My taste buds where delighted with the wonderful sharp, smoky and tangy cherry notes the harsh vinegary taste. And as the taste lingers in your mouth you start wishing there really was a bottle of Zinfandel nearby.

Before I wrap things up I would like to send out a nice Thank You to eRecipeCards for hosting the give away and contest. If you are not familiar with this site you should. eRecipeCards is the home for food lovers, all of them. It is not a community based site like Facebook per say as you do not ‘make’ friends. The soul purpose is to share, add and bookmark recipes. Food bloggers love it as they can link and share their posts, and non writing foodies can discover fabulous recipes which they can keep in their eRecipeBox with one click. It is a new site that is growing rapidly. There are already thousands and thousands of recipes. It is free so why not join now and you will accumulate a collection of great new recipes to try. Go visit eRecipeCards.com

A drop of vinager in the oil - so colorful and pretty

O Olive Oil is more than just the two types of products mentioned above. They also offer products like the Citrus Oils and Wine Vinegars. Extra Virgin, Roasted Garlic, California Balsamic, Rice Vinegars, Citrus Tapenade, and more. You can find them in gourmet, natural food and specialty stores in the United States, Canada, Japan and Europe, and Latin America sell these products. Or you can simply order online. O Olive Oil is offering a 20% discount sale through the end of the year on ANY order. Just use the exclusive promo code e-recipecards when you check out. Plus if your order total is more than 60$ you will get free shipping.

CONTEST TIME! Win a bottle of O pomegranate champagne vinegar which is describe on the site as sweet, round, and subtle. A hint of raspberries and faraway Mediterranean lands. Ripe and scarlet. California pomegranate steeped in barrel-aged champagne. Splash on spinach, feta and pecan salad. Punch up late summer stews and soups. Brush on roasted rosemary lemon chicken. Yes, yes and yes please! O Olive Oil is not hosting this contest. I will personally send a bottle of this fine vinegar out of my own pocket because I really think their products are that good!

To enter all you have to do is go O Olive Oil on Facebook (I will be checking) and then come back leaving me a comment saying you did so. Open to everyone around the world! Deadline Dec 6th 2011 noon EST.

Preserve as I Say, not as I Do

The September 2010 Daring Cooks’ challenge was hosted by John from Eat4Fun. John chose to challenge The Daring Cooks to learn about food preservation, mainly in the form of canning and freezing. He challenged everyone to make a recipe and preserve it. John’s source for food preservation information was from The National Center for Home Food Preservation.

I know most Daring Cooks participants got super pumped and excited when they saw this month we were going to learn how to preserve…but I was not. I have nothing against canning, I think it is cool to do, but to me it equals waste becomes in my kitchen it becomes a jar that is left to accumulate dust. Nowadays we have access to everything year round…even if it is not a it’s peak time of year. So give me a choice between a fresh tomato or a canned one, I go with fresh. Now I hear you all say: well make a jam! I am not a big jam eater either. Sorry!

What I did like when I read this challenge was the easy peasy task this would be. I was not equiped for canning and I had no desire to buy several jars for this purpose or buy prolific amounts of a fruits or veggies. I wanted only 1 jar. I decided to throw caution to the wind and be a really rebellious cowboy with this challenge, hence my title. Don’t do what I did – even if it did work – if you want to learn the real way. Check out the proper canning and preserving .pdf instructions here.

After my Fruit Dropping Party I had a large amount of cut up citrus fruit leftovers. Perfect I did not have to go buy any ingredient! I wanted to preserve these acidic wedges whole. So a light cooking session in a sugar syrup would do. My citrus sugar syrup was made from oranges, grapefruit, lemon, lime, strawberries, sugar, red wine, anise star, ginger and lemon fizz water.

I just simmered it down a little after a good boil. I did not want the fruits to fall apart. This is were I got really rebellious. I grabbed an empty store bought spaghetti sauce jar. When you buy then they are vacuumed and there is a bit of rubber inside. I filled my jar up and closed the lid. I had some syrup left over so I made some Citrus Mezcal Sherbet with it.

It was a very tall jar so I had no choice but to lay the jar SIDEWAYS in the pan. How DARING am I? I followed the instructions for time, about 15 min. I was expecting the canning police to come crashing threw my door at any moment. All kidding aside I knew there would be only one way to find out if my crazy ideas had work: the POP. You will know if your canning is successful only as the jar cools on the counter top. As the inside cools the vacuum will be created and the lid will sink in making a popping noise. Well guess what? It popped, I was so freaking excited.

It’s not the best picture to really tell, but yes the lid concaved inwards. My used spaghetti jar worked. I celebrated my mixing up a spontanious Sangria with the little bit of red wine left and the lemon fizz water. I toasted the glass against the jar to our successful bad cowboy adventure!

Miracle Berry: Fruit Dropping Party

Hey, psst…wanna by some Miracle fruit tablets? Have you ever heard of the Miracle berry and the hallucinogenic games it can play in your mouth? This is the coolest thing! The Miracle berry is a fruit originally grown in West Africa and has been used for centuries but of course the word of mouth spread only after the European dropped in for a visit/invasion. This berry makes sour foods taste sweet.

The berries contains a glycoprotein molecule called miraculin which coats and binds to the tongue’s taste buds when eaten. Science has extracted this molecule and successfully created a edible tablet which does the same thing than eating the fruit. Scientists have made the tablet yet they still don’t know why the phenomenon occurs. The one thing they know for sure is that miraculin messes around with your taste bud receptors.

Ever since I read about the Miracle Berry I have been so eager to try it. After some online shopping I found miracle fruit tablets at a very reasonable price. Finally the packet arrived in the mail. Right away I sent out an email to invite a select group of friends to my Fruit Dropping Party.

Why is it called that? Best guess I have is you are meant to eat acidic food so I assume is is a play of dropping acid? Such parties are also nicknamed flavor tripping parties. Let me assure you miracle fruit tablets are not a drug and are perfectly legal. It is however a subject of controversy as well, see last paragraph.

We were a party of 8 guinea pigs for this tasting experiment. Everyone brought a food to contribute. We all took a tablet and let it dissolve in our mouth, making sure we swished it around the whole tongue. The tablet itself tasted quite sour ironically. Then we all felt a earthy/powdery residue on the tongue. Someone volunteered to take the first lemon bite. It worked! We all jumped on the acidic buffet. See Karyn here bite into a lemon…

It was the strangest food spread I had ever seen: oranges, limes, lemons, grapefruit, tamarind, unripe mango, tomatoes, strawberries, pickled vegetables, sourdough bread, goat cheese, sour cream, salt and vinegar chips, salad with a balsamic vinaigrette, a sour candy called Toxic Waste, red wine and Guiness.

Not everyone reacted the exact same way to all foods but all found foods unusually sweet. A lemon still tastes like a lemon…just really sweet. Same for all other citrus. Tomatoes and unripe mangoes were so sweet ans strawberries were almost to sugary. The sour cream, the bread and goat cheese only had a slight effect but there was an unusual sweetness to it. Vinegary foods were less tangy but still had a bit of kick to them. The toxic candies were still sour..perhaps because it is a chemical sourness? Guiness had a more chocolaty taste to it. Bit I think the biggest shock for all was red wine: it tasted like Kool-Aid made with 5 cups of sugar, it was unbelievable.

We just ate in amazement for about 40 min until we started noticing the effect of the tablets was slowly wearing off. The effects can last between 15 to 60 min. At this point some guest were really happy I had bought antacid tablets. You flavor perception made be different but your stomach sees no difference! Oh boy! Many had a slightly sensitive stomach the next day. But it is totally worth it once to try. We had such a blast.

I highly recommend this experience. It is not expensive so get some and have your own Fruit Dropping Party. Just make sure to supply a bottle of antacid tablets too!

By the way Miracle Fruit tablets are great for those lacking appetite due to the metallic taste resulting from chemotherapy. Diabetic patients and dieters can use it as a way to calm a sugar craving without the calories or playing with their sugar levels.

But the US government has put a stop to any such research. It is legal to grow,buy, sell and consume Miracle berries on their own. It cannot be added legally to foods though because the FDA suddenly decided to classify it as a possible food additive instead of a food (as first planned). Why? Well there are stories that the sugar industry was not to happy about the whole situation. All we do know for sure is that in 1974 the one company developing miraculin for the diabetic market had to close its doors when the FDA slapped the food additive label. Such a label involves years of research and a whole lot of money, more then the Miraculin Company could ever dream of having. Did I mention too that it is a fact the offices of the Miraculin Company were ransacked not log before the FDA stepped in? Hmm, make your own conclusions.