Praline Iced Spice Cake Petit Fours

 

I like to come up with a new recipe each Christmas to make as home-made gifts for my close friends and neighbors, so this year I decided to make iced spice cake petit fours.  The cake is a very simple, savory base, which as it baked, it filled the house with all of those wonderful scents of cinnamon, vanilla, molasses, and allspice that remind me of the holidays.

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Cranberry, Orange, and Pomegranate Marmalade

 

My mother will probably cringe my telling this story; however, it’s been one of those humorous memories my three older sisters and I share from when we were very young. One day our mom decided to buy fresh pomegranates to give us girls a special treat. So, she sat us down at the table, each with our section of pomegranate, and unfortunately for her, she left the room, leaving us alone with this strange new fruit.  As my sisters and I began to eat the tiny, juicy seed pods, we were fascinated by their taste and how our fingers turned bright red when you squeezed the seeds between your fingers.  I’m not going to say which one of my sisters started it, but someone discovered you could pinch the seed pod at a certain point, and it would shoot the tiny seeds up as high as the ceiling.  Well, our kitchen ceiling was white, the juice was bright red, there were four of us all shooting our tiny seeds at the ceiling, and you can guess what happened next.  Our mother never bought pomegranates for us again.  EVER!

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Olive Oil Poached Tuna Rolls

 

I’ve always been intrigued by authentic poke, however, sushi-grade tuna in St. Louis, Missouri can be a roll of the dice unless you’re a sushi restaurant.  So for this light yet filling dish, I elected to first poach the tuna in olive oil until it was just pink in the center, then I finished the ‘cooking’ ceviche-style using rice wine vinegar and lemon juice along with aromatic and bold flavors like shallots, jalapeno, pickled ginger, oyster sauce, and sesame oil.  The delicate rice paper was the perfect vehicle to pull all of those wonderful flavors together.

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Chorizo Jalapeño Popper Mummies

 

Halloween for me always means spooky decorations and playful food.  I decided this year’s theme was going to be mummies so I took traditional jalapeño poppers, added spicy chorizo sausage meatballs, and replaced the bacon wrapping with pizza dough.  The combination of the heat from the jalapeño and sausage with the cool creamy cheeses and savory pizza dough made these the perfect spicy Halloween party appetizer!

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Sweet Potato and Tofu Curry Puffs

 

I love the deep spicy flavors in Indian food, and for many years I was fortunate to have colleagues from India who would generously invite me to their annual Diwali celebration which is the Hindu festival of lights.  One of my favorite Indian delicacies they served was samosas which is a pocket of fried dough filled with a savory mixture of spiced potatoes, onions, peas, or lentils.

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Squid Ink Pasta with Seafood

 

This recipe is inspired by a dish served at one of my favorite local St. Louis restaurants and is the only item on the menu I order when I go there.  The combination of the wonderfully briny and beautifully black squid ink pasta, delicate scallops, tender lobster meat, and sweet, succulent prawns immediately draw you in, then you’re surprised with the perfect finish of an added layer of acidity using lemon-infused olive oil, lemon juice, fresh parsley, and just a bit of heat from the chili flakes.  Sweet, salty, acidic, and spicy!

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Ratatouille

 

No, I did not have a ‘little chef’ helping me prepare this recipe. However, I did think about the movie as I was slicing and arranging the vegetables, hoping to achieve that colorful visual that makes ratatouille such a beautiful dish.

You may notice I haven’t included eggplant on my list of ingredients which is a common ingredient in ratatouille.  Baby eggplants work great in this dish, unfortunately, I rarely find baby eggplants where I live, only the larger eggplants which don’t scale well with the size of the squash and Roma tomatoes.  If you’re fortunate enough to have an abundance of baby eggplants in a store near you, by all means, slice a couple of them up and add them to the mix!

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Scarlet Quinoa with Charred Summer Corn Salad

 

This mouth-watering salad is a virtual farmer’s market in a bowl and is perfect for your next picnic or cookout. The fresh crunchy veggies, bittersweet charred sweet corn, and chewy quinoa tossed in a bright, acidic dressing are the perfect summer flavors to accompany your favorite protein. You can make the salad in advance and store in the refrigerator, however, bring it to room temperature to serve.

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