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FOOD FUN (For The Affluent): Lobster-Topped Guacamole

RA Sushi, a small restaurant group in the southern U.S., has imagination and class.

With locations in Atlanta, Arizona (5 locations), Baltimore, Chicago, Florida (3), Leawood, Kansas, Las Vegas, Southern California (5) and Texas (6), sushi lovers can experience creations that the sushi bars we frequent can only aspire to.

While neither sushi nor sashmi, we picked this tasty dish as the one we’d most like to have for Cinco de Mayo:

A lettuce cup of guacamole, topped with a king’s ransom of lobster.

We’d also like to have it for Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, and, oh…any day.

You don’t even need to cook: Just assemble.

We’re making ours with a garnish of salmon caviar (ikura in Japanese—photo #2). Tobiko or any whitefish caviar (they’re available in several flavors) will do just fine. We’re also making a chunky guacamole, a better texture contrast with the lobster.

If you’re a really affluent foodie, sturgeon caviar is not discouraged.

You may notice the plate garnish in the photo includes herbs, spices and a drizzle of flavored olive oil. Plate garnishes add not only color and texture, but extra bits of flavor.

RECIPE: GUACAMOLE-LOBSTER LETTUCE CUP

  • A lettuce cup, created from pliant butter lettuce (Bibb, Boston)
  • Guacamole: your favorite recipe
  • Lobster meat
  • Lime wedges
  • Plate garnish: black or toasted sesame seeds, citrus zest, minced chives or other green herb (cilantro, parsley), red chili flakes, etc.
  • Optional garnish: caviar of choice*
  •  

    Lobster Guacamole Salad

    Salmon Caviar

    [1] What better topping for guacamole than this creation, from RA Sushi? [2] Salmon caviar, ikura in Japanese (photo courtesy Petrossian).

     
    DRESSINGS

    With flavorful guacamole, you don’t need much more than lime juice as a dressing. But for those who want more:

  • Basil-Jalapeño Dressing
  • Creamy Citrus Dressing
  • Mimosa Dressing (olive oil, champagne, orange juice)
  • Spicy Lemon Dressing
  •  
    A simple drizzle of basil olive oil with fresh lime juice is also delicious.
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    *Affordable caviar types include capelin (masago in Japanese), flying fish (tobiko in Japanese), lumpfish, salmon, trout or whitefish roe. The latter two are often available flavored, with everything from mango to truffle to wasabi. They are delicious!

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Fun Bagel Buffet

    Bagel Buffet

    Fruit Topped Bagels

    Fruit & Vegetable Bagel Toppings

    Bagel Caprese

    Bagel topping ideas from Arla, which makes delicious flavored cream cheeses including Herbs & Spices, Natural, Natural Light and Pineapple, with seasonal specialties.

     

    If your idea of brunch includes bagels, it may also include pricey fish:

  • Herring salad
  • Sable
  • Smoked bluefish
  • Smoked salmon
  • Smoked sturgeon
  • Smoked trout
  • Smoked tuna
  • Whitefish salad
  • and other delights of the sea.
  •  
    While we love all of these, we can run up quite a tab at the cash register.

    So here’s a colorful—and less expensive—alternative that may even look like more of a feast:

    THE NEW BAGEL TOPPINGS

  • Fresh fruits
  • Fresh vegetables (including basil)
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Olives, capers, pickled vegetables
  • Different flavors of cream cheese
  •  
    It’s easy to pull together.

    Head to the market to see what looks good. Buy a variety of bright colors, both sweet (fruit) and savory (veggies).
     
    Buy a selection of different bagel flavors, and don’t forget the cream cheese: plain plus a fruit flavor (blueberry, strawberry, etc.) and a veggie flavor (herbs, jalapeño, etc.)

    Philadelphia Cream Cheese has outdone itself with cream cheese spreads, currently:

    Sweet Cream Cheese Flavors

  • Blueberry
  • Brown Sugar & Cinnamon
  • Dark Chocolate
  • Honey Pecan
  • Milk Chocolate
  • Pineapple
  • Strawberry
  •  
    Savory Cream Cheese Flavors

  • Chipotle
  • Chive & Onion
  • Garden Vegetable
  • Jalapeños
  • Salmon
  • Spicy Jalapeño & Bacon Flatbread…
  •  
    …plus Original (plain) and a variety of protein-enhanced, reduced fat and fat-free flavors.

    Other Spreads

    It doesn’t have to be cream cheese. Consider other spreads:

  • Guacamole
  • Hummus (many flavors!)
  • Pesto (many flavors!)
  • Spinach or Onion dip/spread
  • Taramasalata
  • Yogurt spreads
  •  
    This little post makes us so hungry, that we’re off to create our own bagel.

    Maybe jalapeño cream cheese topped with red bell pepper and pineapple.

     
      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Spring Salad Bouquet

    We found this spring salad (photo #1) on the social media pages of the New York City outpost of Catch seafood restaurant (a charming spot with a roof deck for alfresco dining).

    The salad is no longer on the menu, but it looked so festive we had to make it for ourselves.

    The ingredients:

  • Beets: red, orange and yellow (choose two; substitute chioggia beets, photo #3)
  • Baby greens
  • Capberberrieshttp://blog.thenibble.com/2014/09/26/tip-ways-to-add-more-flavor-to-food/
  • Chives
  • Croutons: pumpernickel (for color contrast and flavor)
  • Radish (look for specialty radishes, e.g. breakfash radish, watermelon radish)
  • Smoked salmon (substitute prosciutto or serrano ham)
  •  
    It’s topped with zigzags of ranch dressing.

    We preferred tossing it with a sprightly vinaigrette (two recipes below)

    More To Add To Your Spring Salad Bouquet

  • Asparagus
  • Citrus zest
  • Fiddlehead ferns (photo #2, blanched)
  • Garlic scapes
  • Kumquats, halved
  • Orange segments
  • Spring peas
  • Sugar snap peas
  •  
    SPRING SALAD VINAIGRETTE RECIPES

    RECIPE #1: BASIL VINAIGRETTE

    Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • Optional: 1 teaspoon lime zest
  • 9 tablespoons basil olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  •  

    Spring Salad

    Fiddlehead Ferns

    Chioggia Beets

    [1] A festive spring salad at Catch NYC. [2] Fiddlehead ferns (photo by Katharine Pollak | THE NIBBLE). [3] Chioggia beets (photo courtesy True Food Kitchen).

     
    Combine all ingredients. To emulsify so they don’t separate, use a blender or an Aerolatte Milk Frother.
     
    RECIPE #2: BLOOD ORANGE VINAIGRETTE

  • 3 tablespoons blood orange juice
  • 1 teaspoon champagne vinegar (substitute sherry vinegar or white wine vinegar)
  • 1 teaspoon minced shallot
  • 9 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  •  
    Combine all ingredients. To emulsify so they don’t separate, use a blender or an Aerolatte Milk Frother.

      

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    FOOD FUN: Hand Pies Grow Up

    Gourmet Hand Pies

    Raspberry Hand Pies

    Hand Pie, Ham & Cheese

    [1] Hand pies plated as a gourmet dessert at Sirena Cocina Latina in San Diego (alas, now closed). [2] Use cutters to make prettier pies, and crimp the edges with a fork (here’s the recipe from Driscoll’s Berries). [3] A ham, brie and fig jam hand pie with grainy mustard sauce (here’s the recipe from Cooking On The Front Burner).

     

    Like pie? Like savory pie? Like fancy desserts?

    Combine the two with plated hand pies. The pies, meant to be eaten without plate or fork, taste even better with a bit of glamour.

    Sweet Hand Pies

    Restaurant Sirena Cocina Latina in San Diego plated fruit pies with dessert garnishes (photo #1):

  • Mango purée (use your fruit of choice)
  • Berries (use fresh, caramelized or grilled fruit of choice)
  • Ice cream (substitute crème fraîche, mascarpone or whipped cream)
  • Cookie crumbs (under the ice cream)
  • Any garnish you like, from chocolate shavings to edible flowers
  •  
    Savory Hand Pies

    For an appetizer or first course, you can make meat, cheese or vegetable hand pies—or any variation combination (photo #3).

    Choose savory garnishes:

  • Chutney
  • Dairy-based: horseradish cream, flavored sour cream or plain yogurt
  • Gherkins or other pickled vegetables
  • Herbs
  • Sauces (cheese, marinara, tomatillo, whatever)
  • Herbs or microgreens
  • Small salad: Asian slaw, cucumber salad, dressed mesclun, etc.)
  •  
    TIP: Sweet or savory, use your cutters to create a shape at the top of the pie (photo #2).
     
     
    THE HISTORY OF HAND PIES

    Since there was dough, something to fill it with, and something to bake it on or in, there have been hand pies—beginning with savory pies.

    Cultures around the world have what we now call hand pies: portable meals that could be stuffed with leftovers or any variety of kitchen ingredients. Empanadas, a popular Mexican street food, Jewish knishes and and Jamaican meat patties are hand pies.

    Until someone in the U.S. called them hand pies (if you know who, raise your hand), these grab-and-go mini-meals were called meat pies or pasties (rhymes with nasty, not tasty).

    In our own culture, they trace their origins at least to 19th-century England, where they were a convenient lunch for Cornish tin miners—but not as we eat pasties today.

    For miners, the pastry casing kept the filling warm and dirt-free. Holding the edges, miners would eat the filling and discard the dough.

    Cornish immigrants to northern Michigan brought the tradition to the U.S. [source] The concept engendered fruit versions among America’s home pie bakers, and corner sweet shops sold them to enthusiastic fans.

     
    Sweet hand pies traveled south, where they became popular in New Orleans (Hubig’s bakery made theirs in a half-moon shape, with fruit, custard and chocolate fillings). Hand pies became a Southern snack staple, made for church bake sales, picnics and home treats.

    They’re portable, requiring no plate or fork, and can sit in the heat without melting. Give us a good crust, and we’re in!

     
      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Make Pretzel Bites For National Pretzel Day

    What do you bake on National Pretzel Day (April 26th)? Pretzel bites!

    These soft, chewy pretzel bites are a version of the jumbo soft pretzels sold by street vendors, and are easier (well, let’s say more elegant) to eat than pulling apart a six-inches-wide pretzel.

    Warm from the oven and served with a cold beer: There’s no better way to celebrate the day.

    The recipe that follows is from King Arthur Flour. If you want a gluten-free recipe, they’ve also created a recipe for gluten-free pretzel bites.

    There are more recipes below.
     
     
    RECIPE: SOFT PRETZELS

    Prep time is 20 to 30 minutes, resting time 30 minutes, baking time is 12 to 15 minutes.

    Ingredients For About 6 Dozen Pretzel bites

    For The Dough

  • 2-1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 7/8 to 1 cup warm water*
  • Vegetable spray
  •  
    For The Topping

  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 2 tablespoons baking soda
  • Coarse, kosher or pretzel salt (see Salt Alternatives)
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  •  
    Salt Alternatives

    Don’t want salt? You can leave it off, or substitute:

  • Crushed chile flakes
  • Cinnamon-sugar
  • Grated cheese
  • Pearl sugar
  •  
    Plus

  • Mustard, for dipping†
  • ________________

    *NOTE: Use the greater amount in the winter, the lesser amount in the summer, and somewhere in between in the spring and fall. Your goal is a soft dough.

    †DIPPING MUSTARD doesn’t have to be ballpark yellow, even if it’s your standard. Go gourmet with a great mustard from Maille. The company makes 50 different flavors, including seasonal limited editions. For spring, there’s a limited-edition honey mustard collection (photo #5). The mustards can be paired with meats, fresh vegetables, and cheese, mixed into vinaigrettes…and used to dip pretzels, of course!
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    Soft Pretzels Recipe

     Pretzel Bites Recipe

    Glass Of Lager

    [1] Pretzel bites, mustard and beer: a great way to celebrate (photos #1 and #2 courtesy King Arthur Flour, photo #3 courtesy Pizzeria Uno).

     
    Preparation

    You can make the dough by hand or with a bread machine.

    1a. MAKE dough by hand: Place all of the dough ingredients into a bowl, and beat until well-combined. Knead the dough, by hand or with a mixer for about 5 minutes, until it’s soft, smooth, and quite slack. Flour the dough, place it in a bag, and allow it to rest for 30 minutes.

    1b: MAKE dough with a bread machine: Place all of the dough ingredients into the pan of the bread machine, program the machine for dough or manual, and press Start. Allow the dough to proceed through its kneading cycle (no need to let it rise). Then cancel the machine, flour the dough, and give it a rest in a plastic bag for 30 minutes.

    While the dough is resting…

     

    Maille Honey Mustard

    Maille Honey Mustard

    Maille Old Style Mustard

    [4] and [5] Did someone say Mother’s Day gift? The limited edition honey mustard set from Maille. Mustard with Acacia Honey and Balsamic Vinegar, Mustard with Acacia Honey and Orange Blossom and Mustard with Acacia Honey and Walnut, are available individually or as a boxed set. [6] Are you old school? Use Maille’s Old Style grainy mustard.

     

    2. PREPARE the topping. Combine the boiling water and baking soda, stirring until the soda is totally (or almost totally) dissolved. Set the mixture aside to cool to lukewarm or room temperature.

    3. PREHEAT the oven to 400°F. Prepare a baking sheet by spraying it with vegetable oil spray, or lining it with parchment paper. If you’re not using King Arthur Flour, do both: grease the parchment with vegetable oil spray to make double-sure the bites won’t stick.

    4. TRANSFER the dough to a lightly greased work surface, and divide it into six equal pieces. Roll the six pieces of dough into 12″ to 15″ ropes. Cut each rope crosswise into about 12 pieces.

    5. POUR the cooled baking soda solution into a pan large enough to hold the bites. Place the bites into the solution, gently swish them around, and leave them there for a couple of minutes. Transfer them to a greased or parchment-lined baking sheet, and top with pretzel salt or sea salt; or with pearl sugar or cinnamon sugar, for sweet pretzel bites.

    6. BAKE the bites for 12 to 15 minutes, until golden brown. Remove them from the oven and roll them in the melted butter. For cinnamon-sugar pretzels, toss with cinnamon-sugar once you’ve rolled the bites in the butter.

    7. PLACE on a rack to cool. In you’re not going to enjoy the bites the same day, store them, well-wrapped, at room temperature. Reheat briefly before serving.
     
     
    MORE PRETZEL RECIPES

  • Buttery Soft Pretzels: moist, with a brush of melted butter.
  • Classic Soft Pretzels
  • Everything Pretzels
  • Gluten Free Soft Pretzels
  • High Fiber Pretzel Rolls
  • Pigs In Pretzel Blankets
  • Rye Pretzels
  • Sourdough Soft Pretzels
  • White Whole Wheat Pretzels
  •  
     
    PRETZEL HISTORY

    The first pretzels were baked by monks to reward children for learning their prayers, way back in the year 610. The shape represents their arms folded in prayer.

    More pretzel history.

     

      

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