Thursday, May 31, 2012

Mango and Coconut Milk Risotto

Mango and Coconut Milk Risotto
Did you walk by a mango today?  Did you look at a mango and think it looked interesting, but just didn't have the energy to think about what to do with it?  This Mango and Coconut Milk Risotto could cause you to never walk by a mango, again.
Believe me, sometimes I literally slow-run through the grocery store or even the Farmer's Market just because of time.  I put my head down, ignore the ideas and the seasonal colors, and just get the essentials for the next few days.  That's when I grab a few apples, a couple oranges, maybe a bunch of bananas and try not to knock down the displays turning the corner on two wheels. Now, mangos have made it even to my "quick grabs".

I was fortunate to have a weekend recently at CampBlogAway for food bloggers and one of the sponsors was the National Mango Board (yeah, who knew there was one of those, right?)  When I returned home, a few days later, I received a box of gorgeous mangos just to enjoy.  Hopefully, my getting these mangos literally dropped at my doorstep will benefit you, too. 

I'm not going to let food go to waste, no way no how, so I began experimenting with recipes.  I'll post a few as it goes along, but I must say this one I just couldn't wait to show you.
First, let me tell you a couple things I learned about mangos, and maybe that will make you feel very at home with this fruit, too.

1)  Mangos can be eaten when they're almost ripe (ie. a salsa), ripe (ie. this risotto) and very ripe (ie. caramelized and on top of ice cream), depending on how you fix them.

2)  Mangos will continue to get ripe if you leave them at room temperature, or you can stop them from getting any riper by putting them in the refrigerator where they will keep for several days.

3)  Mangos come in a variety of colors and that's not the way to judge their ripeness.  A ripe mango will have a light "give" and be a little soft to the touch.
The easiest way to cut a mango is to stand it up on a cutting board, stem end down and hold.  Place your knife about 1/4 inch from the widest center line and cut down through the mango.  Flip the mango around and repeat the cut on the other side.  The two ovals are the "cheeks" of the mango.

Cut parallel slices into the mango flesh, being careful not to cut through the skin.  Scoop the mango slices out of the mango skin with a spoon.

For this recipe, I also experimented with my little Mango slicer, which worked great (but a knife works well, too.)

Also, after cutting the parallels, I added a cut across before scooping, so I had little cubes of mango.

Then I just scooped them out and held them nearby until the Risotto was almost done.
Adding the cubed mango near the end allows the fruit to stay in nice firm little bites, while still blending with the creamy risotto.
Recipe:  Mango and Coconut Milk Risotto

1 Mango (without skin, cubed) *See Above for easy cutting*
3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1 Teaspoon Minced Shallot
1 Cup Arborio Rice
1/4 Cup White Wine (or use water or white grape juice)
1 Can Coconut Milk (13.5 ounces), plus a Can of water
Dash of grated Nutmeg
* optional Rocket Arugula *

1)  In a large skillet, heat the oil and shallot (and a pinch of salt) on Low/Medium -just til tender (about 5 minutes.)

2)  Add the rice and stir often, heating until the rice turns opaque - (about 10 minutes.)

3)  Add the wine and stir to incorporate all the flavors formed in the skillet.  Continue heating and stirring until almost all of the liquid has been used up.

4)  Add the Coconut Milk in increments (about 1/2 cup at a time), stirring frequently to allow the rice to absorb the liquid each time.  Season along the way with the salt/pepper and nutmeg.  When all the Coconut Milk is used, fill the empty can with water and continue until that is used up also. 

***It is important to cook, stirring until the liquid has been absorbed before adding more liquid.  This will take about 20 - 30 minutes, but will give you a creamy Risotto with just the right amount of al-dente bite.***

5)  Just as the last amount of liquid has been used up, add in the cubed mango and fold gently.  (If you want to add Arugula, do this now also.)  Taste and season.

6)  Serve.  If you have leftovers to keep, reheat with a bit of liquid (more Coconut Milk, water or juice to taste.)
Enjoy and watch for more Mango recipes, including checking out their very fun website: Mango.Org

Now, go walk up to a mango and grab it!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Chocolate Chip Scones and Campblogaway

I am not a morning person, but I love breakfast.  What's a gal to do?  Make these flaky Chocolate Chip Scones, (freeze them before baking) and just pop one in the oven for 15 minutes while making my morning coffee.  

Of course, no one is going to blame me for having one with an afternoon tea, or a midnight snack while watching a taped segment of Shark Tank, either.  
The key to these flaky scones is in the ingredients.  Using good chocolate makes a huge difference.  Using a great quality butter is an absolute.  Many of the European butters are wonderful, and for mine I used Kerrygold butter.
I'm not kidding when I tell you, Kerrygold is luscious and it will make you butter a scone.  I know my friends from "ye ol'London-town" are gasping out loud at the idea of using butter on a scone, but I couldn't help it.  I was taking the pictures for this post, the scones were fresh, hot out of the oven, the Kerrygold package was sitting there and then I opened it. 

A moment later I had smeared it on the inside of my scone and eaten half of it while moaning in a butter induced dream. 

I learned a lot about Kerrygold butter and cheeses while I was at sleep-away camp.  It wasn't when I was a kid, I went to camp last week.  Crazy, right?  It's called CampBlogAway and it's a blast.  This was my second year (see last year's post here for Avocado Bacon Margarita.)

I slept in a cabin with a FoodBlogging buddy:
Cheryl from
I took walks in the beautiful San Bernardino enclave known as de Benneville Pines-
We toasted S'mores over the fireplace at night.
Patti (WorthTheWhisk & Creator of CampBlogAway), Priscilla (She'sCookin), Dara (CookinCanuck) with Rachel (LaFujiMama)
CampBlogAway is a chance for Foodbloggers to hangout with other peeps who like to talk/write/photograph/eat and marvel over food.
There were many wonderful sponsors:
Wente Wines

Roland Food
National Honey Board, National Mango Board, Kerrygold Butter and Cheese
Paperchef Products
 We had beautiful salads made by Nancy of Melissa's Produce.
Nancy, Stacy, Dorothy (Shockingly Delicious)
We had breakout sessions where other bloggers lead discussions on topics of interest (like Sarah from lead a session on Video.)

Throughout the day we also had speakers (people with experience in journalism, internet matters and techniques) telling their personal stories of growth and gladly answering our questions.  

It's not a stuffy conference where everyone is straining to hear or see the screen.  It's casual.  It's friendly.  It's camp!  

If you have "camp envy", go to and get ready for next year's camp on Memorial Weekend, 2013.

If you have "Scones made with butter so good it will make you butter a scone-envy", make these:

Recipe:  Chocolate Chip Scones

1 1/4 cup Flour (plus more for board)
1 Tablespoon Sugar
1 Teaspoon Baking Powder
1/2 Teaspoon Salt
2 oz. (4 Tablespoons Butter, preferably Kerrygold) cold, cut into small cubes
1 Egg
2 Tablespoon Sour Cream
2 Tablespoon Milk
1/3 Cup Chocolate Chips

1)  In a bowl, whisk together Flour, Sugar, Baking Powder and salt.

2)  Toss in the Kerrygold Butter cubes and using your fingertips, rub the cubes into the flour just to break them up a bit.

3)  Add the Chocolate Chips into dry ingredients and toss to coat.

4)  In a separate bowl, whisk the Egg, then whisk in Sour Cream and Milk.

5)  Using a fork, stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients just until combined.

6)  Pull the dough together with your hands and place on a well floured board.  Roll over once to coat with flour, pat into a disk (approx. 8 inches round).

7)  Cut into fourths, then cut each fourth in half to make 8 small triangle shaped scones in total.

8)  Place on a parchment covered baking sheet and bake in a preheated 375-400F oven for 18-20 minutes.

***These can also be frozen on the tray before baking, then bagged and kept in the freezer for several weeks.  Take out as needed, place on a baking sheet or toaster oven tray and bake for 20 minutes in a preheated 375-400F oven.***

Friday, May 4, 2012

Bacon Studded Polenta with Tomato Gravy - Ciao, Yawl!

Bacon Studded Polenta with Tomato Gravy~
Some of us were born to color outside the lines, inside the lines and sometimes draw our own lines.  Combining Italian Polenta with crispy bacon bits, then smothering it with a deep Southern Tomato Gravy is one of those meals where the lines between the countries get blurred.  What comes out of this marriage of "Ciao and Chow" is good country eating, no matter what country you're talking about.
And speaking of countries, this month the Lets Lunch Bunch (my virtual lunch buddies from all over the globe) are celebrating a very special debut of a new cookbook:

Ellise (Cowgirl Chef) is a true Texan who has been living, learning, teaching, growing and loving in Paris, France for the last few years.  Her story of how she embraced her authentic and true self, talents and dreams by meeting the challenge of a brand new environment is inspiring (and the recipes are down right "must-makes.")  Ellise is one of the original foodbloggers to start our unique monthly lunch meeting online several years ago.  I was there for the very first one and we all made our own versions of a BLT sandwich.  It's a great example of one of the good things that come from our tech-driven journey.
This month's challenge was to create and share a meal that represented our own past experiences and another country, too (ala: Texas and France.)  

Picking something Italian was a no-brainer for me.  I've been obsessed with all things Italian for many years and will be fortunate enough to be packing this week to visit our good friends in Cossignano, Italy and stay at their Organic Agriturismo (Fiorano.)  Paolo and Paola are part of the Slow Food Movement and are very active in Organic wines, foods and conservation. 
Agriturismo Fiorano in Le Marche
I speak a little Italian from years of studying and soaking it up, although it seems to be with a good ol' Southern twang no matter how hard I try to pretend.

My grandmothers in North Carolina made Tomato Gravy and poured it over biscuits, toast, rice and grits.  It's a poor man's marinara sauce and it's packed with tomato bits, bacon flavor and rich roux.
Polenta is ground corn meal and considered an Italian comfort food.  Depending on the region, it's served warm and loose like soupy grits, or thick and cut into sections or even baked.  If you've seen the pre-made tubes of something they call Polenta in grocery stores, please don't judge Polenta by that gross congealed yellow tube food product (smiling, but serious.)  

Making Polenta is as easy as rice. There are just a few tips for making it successfully:

1)  When the liquid begins to simmer, rain in the Polenta grains.  This means do NOT pour it all in (that makes it clump.)  Rain it in, sprinkling it gradually and stirring while it goes.

2)  Reduce heat and stir often so not to scorch the Polenta.

3)  Keep in mind, it's easy to add a little more liquid if it's too thick, but not so easy to make it thicker if you add too much liquid too quickly.

4)  Adding butter makes it a little bit looser, cheese will make it a bit thicker.

The liquid used in Polenta, like rice, can be water or stock, milk, or something in your imaginative recipe developing "coloring book."

When I made this Bacon Studded Polenta smothered in Tomato Gravy, I also ate almost the whole plate of it.  So, be careful. :D

Check below to see the many varied and delectable recipes of country fusion cooking from other Let's Lunch pals: 

Chery's Goin Pork Curry Tacos at Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan
Eleanor‘s  Wok Picadillo at Wok Star
Ellise‘s Salty Lime Sabl├ęs (Margarita Cookies) at Cowgirl Chef
Emma‘s Kimchi Bulgogi Nachos at Dreaming of Pots And Pans
Felicia‘s Mexican-Lebanese Hummus at Burnt-Out Baker
Grace‘s Taiwanese Fried Chicken at HapaMama
Jill‘s Southern Pimento-Stuffed Knishes at Eating My Words
Joe‘s Grilled KimCheese Sandwich at Joe Yonan
Karen‘s Ukrainian-German Cabbage Rolls at GeoFooding
Leigh‘s Venezuelan-Italian Cachapas Con Queso at Leigh Nannini
Linda‘s Project Runway Pelau: Rice & Beans Trinidad-Style at Spicebox Travels
Linda‘s Edible Salad Totes at Free Range Cookies
Lisa‘s Sunday Night Jewish-Chinese Brisket at Monday Morning Cooking Club
Lucy‘s Coconut Rice Pudding with Mango at A Cook And Her Books
Nancie‘s Chili-Cheese Biscuits with Avocado Butter at Nancie McDermott
Rashda‘s Mango Cobbler at Hot Curries & Cold Beer
Renee‘s Asian-Spiced Quick Pickles at My Kitchen And I
Steff‘s Chicken Fried Steak at The Kitchen Trials
Vivian‘s Funky Fusion Linguini at Vivian Pei
Recipe: Bacon Studded Italian Polenta-

3-4 pieces of Bacon
1 cup Nonfat Milk
1 cup Water
2 Tbls. Butter
salt, pepper

1)  In a skillet, cook the bacon on Med. until crispy, remove and chop into small pieces. Pour off the fat/grease and save for the Tomato Gravy.  Save the bacon coated skillet for cooking the gravy in also.

2)  In a deep saucepan, bring the water, milk, salt and pepper to a low simmer, stirring so the milk doesn't curdle.

3)  Rain in the Polenta, stirring constantly until the Polenta is creamy.  

4)  Reduce the heat to low, stir often so it doesn't scorch.  Now is when to add a bit more liquid if needed. Stir in the bacon pieces now.  Cook and stir often for about 15 minutes.  The Polenta should be thick for this recipe.

5)  Stir in the butter and turn out into a buttered 8x8 baking pan. Leave to room temp or chill for later.
Press into a buttered baking dish
6)  Before serving, cut into squares and triangles and broil or fry for just a couple minutes until crisp on the outside. *It can also be used without this step.

Recipe:  Tomato Gravy

1/4 cup Bacon fat (use butter if there's not enough bacon fat)
1/4 cup Flour
2-3 Tomatoes (peeled, chopped)
2 cups Stock (veggie or chicken) warmed

1) Using the same pan the bacon was cooked in, add the bacon fat/butter and the flour, salt and pepper.  Cook and whisk on Med. until light brown and a nice roux has been created.
2)  Add the chopped tomatoes and any reserved juice from chopping.  Lower heat to Low/Med and Whisk together.

3)  Slowly whisk in the warmed stock and continue cooking on Low for about 15-20 minutes.  If it's too thick, add a little water or more stock a little at a time.  Season to taste.

4)  Serve poured over the Polenta or biscuits, rice or scrambled eggs. Mmmmm.

Congrats to Cowgirl Chef!  Hope to see you on tour!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Drunken Grapes with Wine Poached Shrimp

Drunken Grapes with Wine Poached Shrimp

So many people loved my Drunken Grapes with Goat Cheese that I decided to get more grapes drunk and see what happened.  This time, I soaked the seedless yummies in a nice bright Smoking Loon Chardonnay.  

I'll admit some of the fun was popping a few of these while I decided what to do next.

With the rest of the white wine just sitting there staring at me, I was inspired to use it for poaching a few shrimps.  It was so easy, I'm almost embarrassed to put it into a recipe form, but I'm too food-nerdy to not do it.
 It probably doesn't come as a shock to find out that crisp Chardonnay, grapes, Herbs de Provence and large fresh lightly poached Shrimp are delicious together, right?

These are easily prepped ahead and chilled, making them perfect Spring, Summer and anytime party favorites.  Pour it, soak it, poach it and serve it, guys.  Party on with ya bad selves! :D

Recipe: Drunken Grapes with Wine Poached Shrimp-

1 bunch seedless grapes
1 bottle Chardonnay (or another light white wine)
1 Dozen large (21count,etc) Fresh frozen Tiger Shrimp in the shells
1 cup water
1 Tbls. Herbs De Provence (or mixture of dried basil, thyme, lavender, savory, fennel, etc)
**Optional - Fresh parsley, fennel fronds or dill chopped fine

1)  Put the picked grapes into a container and pour the wine to cover.  Let soak for at least 2 hours, or up to 3 days in the fridge.
2)  Pour the rest of the wine (at least 1-2 cups) into a deep saucepan or skillet, add the herbs and the water.

3) Bring to a boil, then immediately turn down the heat to a bare simmer, no rolling.  Add the shrimp and poach (below the boiling point) for about 3-5 minutes.  Drain the shrimp and chill.

4)  Peel the shrimp and assemble by putting one grape inside the curl of each shrimp and attach with an appetizer pick or skewer.

5)  Arrange on a bed of finely chopped fresh parsley, fennel fronds or dill.  Serve chilled or room temp.

Drunken Grapes with Wine Poached Shrimp by SHOWFOODCHEF~