Happy Hour: Passion Fruit Caipiroska

Cool Cocktail

Tomorrow is the last day of school, the community pool is open for the season, and I have my first dozen mosquito bites. Summer’s here!

I made a big batch of these delicious Brazilian-style summer drinks for a Memorial Day bash last weekend. I only allowed myself one, but I’ve been thirsty for another. Passion fruit has an intensely tropical candy-like taste that I love, and this drink is a perfect foil for the vodka – you don’t really taste it. Which can be a problem. Sometimes.

Have one or two in the backyard while fending off those bloodthirsty insects, and you’ll be a happy camper.

Passion Fruit Caipiroskas
makes 6 drinks
from Food and Wine magazine, June 2006

3/4 cup frozen pure passion fruit puree, thawed (Note: I use Goya brand frozen fruit pulp from my international grocer)
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup fresh lime juice (about 6 limes)
1 1/4 cups vodka
Garnish: 6 thin lime slices

Stir together all ingredients in a pitcher until sugar is dissolved.
Pour over crushed ice. Garnish with a lime slice.

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Tuna Burgers with Wasabi Mayonnaise

Bring on the Burgers!

Okay, so this weekend officially marks the beginning of Burger Season. I’m embarking on a burger bash that will probably go on all summer, or at least until I run out of charcoal.

And, for those of you who are interested, check me out on TV! The Build a Better Burger III Challenge is on Food Network this Monday, May 28th. I’m cringing in anticipation. At least I can tell you that I wasn’t one of the winners, and that the Iron Chef-style judging was a little grueling. My finalist recipe for Coconut Basil Chicken burgers is on the Food Network site.

Back to reality, these tuna burgers are at the top of my favorites list. Admittedly, the price of tuna has risen alarmingly since I last made these – I’m talking twenty bucks a pound – and I hesitated a moment before buying it. But after eating them, I can say it’s worth the splurge. And possibly, the price of tuna will vary if you happen to live next to an ocean.

The recipe is from Sara Foster and appeared in Cottage Living magazine. I didn’t change much; just switched panko for the bread crumbs and tweaked the seasoning a little.

I have to add that the wasabi mayonnaise is extra-tasty made with Kewpie mayonnaise (have a look at their interesting website) from Japan. It’s my new favorite condiment. Did you know that the Japanese are crazy about mayonnaise? Kewpie is smoother and eggier than my Hellmann’s and made with rice vinegar. I love the star tip on the container, which produces decorative mayonnaise swirls when you squeeze the container.

For more creative food-blogger burgers, have a look at Writing at the Kitchen Table. Freya and Paul are hosting Big Burger Ballyhoo. I can’t wait to see the results.

Tuna Burgers with Wasabi Mayonnaise

Makes 6 burgers

2 pounds very cold, skinless yellowfin tuna, cut into chunks (I chill the tuna in the freezer for 10 minutes before starting – it’s a lot easier to chop and handle)
1/3 cup fresh cilantro leaves
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 1/2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1/3 cup panko crumbs
2 green onions, chopped
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
A few handfuls mixed salad greens
6 hamburger buns, split and toasted
2 avocados, peeled, pitted and sliced
Fresh chives

Wasabi Mayonnaise:
1 cup mayonnaise
2 minced green onions
2 teaspoons wasabi powder
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Place first 4 ingredients in a food processor. Pulse briefly, just until the mixture is roughly chopped. Add the panko, onions, ginger, soy sauce and pepper; pulse again to combine. Form into 6 patties and place on a baking sheet or shallow baking dish. Cover and chill 30 minutes.

2. Mix together all ingredients for the Wasabi Mayonnaise, cover and chill until serving time.

3. Grill the burgers over medium-high heat about 3 minutes per side. Be careful not to overcook; these are best removed from the grill rare and left loosely covered for a few minutes to finish cooking to medium-rare. Overcooked tuna will be dry.

4. Serve the burgers on lettuce lined buns and topped with the wasabi mayonnaise, avocado slices and chives.

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Roasted Asparagus with Arugula and Shallot Vinaigrette

Asparagus: It’s What’s for Dinner

Last week, I had the great opportunity to meet the celebrated food writer Patricia Wells at a private event sponsored by the St. Louis Culinary Society. She was in town promoting her new cookbook, Vegetable Harvest. She talked about her experience writing, testing and photographing all the recipes for the book and her absolute reverence for pure, fresh food came through bright and clear. How many people notice the “beautiful purple striations” in a shallot? I like her even more.

I’ve always been a fan of her simple, rustic cooking. I wore out my copy of Bistro Cooking when I was first teaching myself to cook, and still make a variation of her Sautéed Chicken with Shallots. My other favorites are the five flavored (chocolate, honey, lemon, pistachio and hazelnut) madeleine recipes in her book, Simply French. Luckily, these were two titles I didn’t lose in the flood.

And who could help envying her lifestyle? She lives in Provence in an old restored farmhouse, surrounded by olive trees, vineyards and lush vegetable gardens. No wonder this book inspires me! The recipes are all uncomplicated and full of the Mediterranean flavors I crave.

I went straight home and made this recipe from the book – just add a serving of grilled chicken or salmon and some crusty bread. Call it dinner.

Roasted Asparagus with Arugula and Shallot Vinaigrette

Adapted from Vegetable Harvest by Patricia Wells
Four servings

1 pound asparagus, bottoms trimmed
Shallot Vinaigrette (recipe follows)
Coarse sea salt
6 cups prewashed baby arugula
2 finely chopped green onions
1/4 cup shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (use a vegetable peeler)

Heat oven to 450 degrees. Toss asparagus on a baking sheet with 2 tablespoons of the shallot vinaigrette and season with salt. Sprinkle about 2 tablespoons water over asparagus.
Roast asparagus until slightly brown at the tips and slightly firm, about 12 minutes.
Toss arugula and green onions in a large bowl with remaining vinaigrette. Arrange on a serving platter and top with asparagus. Scatter the cheese over the top.

Shallot Vinaigrette

2 tablespoons minced shallots
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
Grated zest of 1 lemon
Pinch salt
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Place all ingredients in a small jar with a lid. Cover and shake until creamy and emulsified.
Can be refrigerated up to one day ahead.

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