Friday, January 30, 2009

Grapefruit Avocado Salad with Grapefruit Glazed Shrimp

Lou was visiting his parents last week while attending a conference in Fresno and brought home a huge bag of grapefruit from their neighbor's grapefruit tree. Lou doesn't care for grapefruit alone and I doubt I can devour all of them on my own, so I have been creative about incorporating them into our meals, mostly with various takes on grapefruit salad. I served a smaller version of my Grapefruit Avocado Shrimp Salad as a starter for a dinner I made for a friend the other night. I had forgotten how good this combination is.

About a year ago, I submitted this recipe for a recipe contest at Apparently, I didn't win, because I never heard from them. Perhaps my original recipe was too common or boring as it seems everyone does some combination of avocado/grapefruit/shrimp salad. Winning recipe it's not, but I think this dinner salad is tasty, easy, and fresh and well worth sharing with you. Let me know what you think!

Grapefruit Avocado Salad with Grapefruit Glazed Shrimp

Serves 2 as a main course or 4 as a starter

1 Grapefruit
½ head bib lettuce or about 3 ounces mixed greens
1 medium avocado, diced and salted
¼ of a large daikon radish, peeled and julienned (cut into 1 inch long matchstick pieces)
¼ red onion, sliced thin

1 to 2 Tablespoons Olive oil for sautéing
2 cloves garlic, minced
12 ounces shrimp, peeled and de-veined

1 Tablespoon white wine vinegar
2 Tablespoons good quality extra virgin olive oil
Salt & Pepper

Remove the peel and pith from the grapefruit by cutting around the fruit with a sharp knife. Next, section the grapefruit by cutting along the membranes, collecting the fruit in a wide mouth bowl and capturing any juice. Squeeze the membranes to release any extra juice before discarding them. Set aside.

In a large bowl, place the prepared greens, diced avocado, daikon, and sliced red onion. Remove the grapefruit sections from their juices and add the fruit to the salad greens, reserving the juice.

Heat a 10 or 12 inch skillet over medium-high heat. Cover the bottom of the skillet with olive oil. Add the minced garlic, then the shrimp. Salt the shrimp to taste and stir until pink and just cooked through. Place the shrimp in a bowl and set aside. Put the hot skillet back on medium-high heat and add the reserved grapefruit juice to the pan, scraping up any garlic left in the skillet until the juice is reduced to a glaze. Pour the glaze over the shrimp and stir to coat.

Make vinaigrette by mixing one Tablespoon white wine vinegar with two Tablespoons olive oil. Add a dash of salt and fresh ground pepper.

Pour the vinaigrette over the greens and toss. Separate the greens onto plates, then top them with the grapefruit glazed shrimp and serve.

Sunday, January 25, 2009


It seems scones get a bad wrap these days. A lot of us think of the dry, over-sized clumps of cooked dough sitting under the lights behind the glass of the coffee shop counter. Then we here how fattening they are, causing some of us to avoid eating them altogether so the same coffee shop resorts to making an even less tasty, just as over-sized low-fat version. Yum. There's no denying that the coffee shop scone is high in fat, but it has more to do with their being unnecessarily over-sized than with the nutritional content. My local Starbucks sells a blueberry scone for example, that has 12 grams of fat and 370 calories. One serving is 121 grams! What I was very happy to see and to their credit is they also sell a "Petite Vanilla Bean Scone". They call it "petite", but it is actually a normal sized homemade scone or one purchased anywhere outside the US. One serving weighs 31 grams. Of course they also have to sell a three-pack of these, because one is just not enough for some of us super-sizers. (Perhaps we will see more down-sizing as a positive side effect of the slowing economy?)

As you might have guessed, I have never actually tasted the blueberry or the Petite Vanilla Bean Scone sold at our local Starbucks. Not only do I restrain from spending money at the big corporate coffee houses, I know that I can make them better and get them fresher if I make them at home... and eating them freshly baked is what makes a scone taste truly great.

A few years ago, after a trip to London, I was missing the scones that were served with the ritual teas which we indulged in almost daily. I experimented with a few unique recipes I had found, using more or less liquid and changing them as seen fit to get a lighter, flakier texture. I ended up with what I would call a pretty good scone, but it didn't "wow me". It wasn't something we craved and my lack of enthusiasm for it's taste and the difficulty of its preparation caused me to set the recipe aside. About a year ago, I found some dried currants at the market and thought... scones! Instead of going back to that old recipe, I started anew with a fresh perspective. I went back to basics with the ratios that Betty Crocker suggested. After only a few trials, bingo, we had it... a tender, flaky, flavorful. Exactly what a scone should be. With very few tweaks and some improved techniques, this is the recipe that I will make again and again.

This recipe is truly basic not only because it uses simple ingredients that most of us have on hand but also because you need no fancy equipment for it. You may use a food processor or a pastry blender to cut the butter into the dry ingredients, but I get great results by using my fingers to rub the butter into the flour mixture and a simple table fork for stirring. For baking, no fancy partitioned scone pan is necessary, just cut with a bench scraper or knife and place on a baking sheet. Note that a pastry brush will come in handy if you choose to brush the scones with the egg wash. It's an optional step that results in only a cosmetic improvement so don't delay making these for lack of a pastry brush. Dried currants may prove difficult to find, and when you do find them, they may be expensive, so I suggest dried sweetened cranberries as a fine substitute. They both have a strong pungeant flavor with just the right level of sweetness.

1 3/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
3 Tablespoons granulated sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt (or 1/2 teaspoon table salt)
1/3 cup unsalted cold butter, cubed
1 large egg, beaten
1/2 cup dried currants or sweetened dried cranberries
4 or 5 Tablespoons milk

optional- 1 egg, beaten (for egg wash)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a medium mixing bowl, mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt together with a fork. Add the cold cubes of butter and rub the butter into the flour mixture with the tips of your fingers until the mixture is crumbly. With the fork, stir in the beaten egg with 4 tablespoons of milk and the currants or cranberries. Dough should come together and away from sides of bowl. Add another tablespoon of milk if necessary.

Lightly flour a small area on your countertop and dump the dough out onto the flour. Sprinkle a very small amount of flour onto the top of the dough and knead the dough by pressing into it and away from you with the heals of your palms, then folding the dough in half, turning it 1/4 turn and repeating this another 7 times. Don't over-handle the dough. Pat it into a rectangle that is aproximately 6 X 12 inches. With a bench scraper or sharp knife, cut the rectangle in half so you have two 3 X 12 inch strips, then cut 6 triangles from each of those strips to get 12 equally sized scones. Place the scones on an ungreased baking sheet and brush with the egg wash if desired. Place on the middle rack of your preheated oven and bake for 10 to 12 minutes until browned. Remove from baking pan and cool before eating if you can stand the wait.

I calculated the fat content of one scone to be about 6 grams if you make 12 scones in total.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Inaugural Luncheon

Today was the Inauguration of our new President, Barack Obama. He is coming into office during a recession, but we set aside our lack of confidence today and celebrated in grand style. Besides all the pomp and circumstance of the ceremony itself, the news of course covers all the social events that surround the inauguration... 10 official inaugural balls (I wonder how many unofficial ones there are), a grand parade down Pennsylvania Avenue, and the Inaugural Luncheon. While NBC was covering the luncheon, I heard Brian Williams or Tom Brokaw comment that the menu garnered the most hits on a particular website. I was glad to hear that Americans were interested in more pertinent subjects than what the First Lady would wear today. (By the way, she looked great) We are a nation of foodies afterall! The menu consisted of three courses for which they even list wine pairings. It started with a first course of Seafood Stew, followed by "A Brace of American Birds", (pheasant and duck) and finished with an Apple Cinnamon Sponge Cake. Yum. To my delight, the recipes are available as well! I considered making the menu for our dinner today until I read the list of ingredients for the seafood stew- it called for 6 Maine Lobsters. That'll have to wait until the recession is over.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Point Reyes Lighthouse

Yesterday, we took a drive up Highway 1 along the California Coast to visit the Point Reyes Lighthouse. On the way, we stopped at Stinson Beach to bask in the sun and enjoy our lunch. I hate to admit it, but our lunch consisted of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, although, they WERE made with my own recipe for homemade mulitgrain bread. The lunch wasn't fancy, but I think anything would have tasted gourmet sitting on the beach watching the waves on January 15. Our unseasonably warm weather and Lou's lack of work due to the economic slump were the reasons for our little day trip. After our lunch and an unsuccessful search for seashells, we packed the car back up and headed north for Point Reyes Station. We took a short stroll through the quaint couple of blocks of the downtown and stopped in at Bovine Bakery for a coconut macaroon and an oversized chewy ginger cookie. I wondered, why is it that commercial bakeries always make their cookies so big? I guess they can charge a lot more that way. Anyway, we didn 't seem to mind as they were a perfect size for sharing. After dropping in at Cowgirl Creamery, we started the drive off of highway 1 in search of the Point Reyes Lighthouse. It was a long and meandering drive through historical ranches. Appopriately called the Pastoral Zone, our car weaved up the windy road that led us through cow pasture after cow pasture. There were happy cows everywhere, eating lush, green grass. We left the unusually warm January sun behind us and found ourselves in a thick, dense fog, more dense than any I'd seen in San Francisco. It was surely responsible for keeping the fields so thick with greens. When finally reaching the parking area for the lighthouse, we realized we'd vastly underdressed for the outing. The summerlike weather was miles away and we were bare-legged and sockless and standing in cold, blustery fog. After deciding we should finish the trek as we had come this far afterall, we scrounged around for extra clothes and started the half mile hike. It ended with 300 stairs down to the lighthouse. The light was well-kept and we received a personal tour from the park ranger on duty who was enthusiastic even at the end of his day. I thought he must rattle off the same details to tourist after tourist a few times every hour day after day. After our tour, we hiked back up the 300 stairs, walked the half mile back to our car, and drove a little over an hour back to San Francisco, where the sunny city seemed a world away from those foggy pastures.

The Point Reyes Lighthouse in the dense fog.

A break in the fog.

These two photos were taken from the very same spot within seconds of each other. The first is looking west down the steps to the lighthouse and the second was taken facing south.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

New Years Resolution #1

Normally, I do not make new years resolutions. I am a big believer that if you need to make an improvement in your life, just do it.
This year, it was different. January 1, 2009 caused me to reflect on myself and my accomplishments, or lack thereof. Perhaps because I'm older now, or because I am a parent. Maybe because my full time job as a stay at home mom doesn't have quotas or deadlines and January 1 presented itself to me as just that. Perhaps I've disappointed myself by neglecting what I so much like to do... post to my blog. Whatever the reason, I have decided that resolution #1 is to take more time for myself and to pursue my writing. Ok, so it's taken me thirteen days to realize this, but the important thing is I have resolved to just do it.