Once upon a time I wrote a cookbook with my husband Robert. We received a nice advance, a tight deadline and a new laptop. I toiled on the content, staying up late after serving guests nightly at Krause Dining. We turned in our manuscript on time – all 300 recipes. We were told months later that 100 of them would be published in The Cook’s Book of Intense Flavors. We were proud of the finished book and I did not mourn the unpublished recipes, I was glad to have the work behind me. The publishers even put out another edition with a new title three years later. I thought that this was The End.
But recently I was told by one of our daughters that the trusty old white Mac laptop that I wrote the book on was acting funny, freezing up and running very slowly. I looked around at its contents and rediscovered those two hundred recipes, languishing in its darkened corners. It saddened me to think that they may never be seen again. So here are a couple. I hope you like them…
(Since I got a delicious mango this week, I wanted to include this)
“A Kick in the Tropical”
PINEAPPLE, MANGO, CHILI
Pineapple is so naturally sweet that adding sugar to it, even for desserts, is often unnecessary. Mango has a silky lushness that when put with pineapple, evokes gentle beach breezes. Adding a touch of spicy chilies to the combination awakes your senses from their tropical slumber, playing nicely off the sweetness of the fruit. For maximum kick use the ingredients uncooked; roast or sauté to soften the impact of the punch. Theses flavors work well with seafood, ethnic rice dishes, or for something different, as an accent on a composed cheese platter. The application recipe makes a zippy compote. For an alternative dessert application, how about a mango panna cotta with pineapple granita and chili glaze?
PINEAPPLE – Juice is sweet for drinking alone, or as a base for dessert granitas. Because of its firm texture, it roasts and grills nicely. In this combination, let it shine by using the fresh and juicy flesh. Because of its sweetness it can used easily for dessert applications. To tone down the pineapple element use the juice only.
MANGO – Its juice is a thick mouthful. Use fresh for clarity of flavor in salads and relishes. Cooking softens the texture and brings out its natural sugars. It becomes sweeter when dried and extends its shelf life. If you end up with a mango that is not perfectly ripe, put it in a paper bag with a banana and give it a day or two at room temperature. Or consider roasting pieces of it with orange juice to bring out the sugars.
CHILI – Fresh are the most potent when eaten raw, but are softened considerably when roasted. Dried chilies are readily available and are rehydrated upon use. Powders are used for a flavorful seasoning. All of these types of chilies can work in this combination – raw in a salsa, roasted in a compote, or sprinkle a chili powder-sugar-salt mix over the fruit as a snack like they do in Thailand.
A chutney is nice to keep in your refrigerator and can be used as a condiment to spice up many dishes- to top a quesadilla or as a fruit alternative to for cocktail sauce with shrimp.
Makes about 4 cups
1 whole pineapple, peeled, cored, and sliced into 1 inch cubes (set aside scrap pieces)
2 mangoes, peeled, flesh removed from seed, and sliced into 1 inch cubes (set aside scrap pieces)
juice from 2 limes
finely grated zest from 1 lime
1 cup orange juice
½ cup semi-dry to sweet wine (like Riesling)
¼ cup rice vinegar
½ cup sugar
1 whole dried chili, (ancho or chipotle), stem removed and chopped
1 vanilla bean, sliced lengthwise and seeds scraped (reserve pod for future use)
pinch of salt
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix diced pineapple and mango in a large mixing bowl. Add all additional ingredients, except fruit scraps and sriachi, stir to combine. Transfer to a roasting pan, cover with foil, and cook for 20 minutes. Remove roasting pan from oven, take off foil, and reduce heat at 325 degrees. Cook for an additional 20 minutes uncovered.
Add mix to food processor, scraping in all the juices from the roasting pan. Pulse on and off until fairly smooth. Transfer to a large bowl. Finely dice the scraps from the pineapple and mango and stir into the compote. Adjust seasoning with srirachi, if desired. Use immediately or store covered in the refrigerator for up to a week.
(I really loved the beverage chapter that was completely omitted)
“A Sip of Cucumber”
CUCUMBER, LIME, GIN
The soothing, vegetal flavor of cucumber is especially satisfying in liquid form. The tartness of lime perks up the taste of the cucumber and leaves your mouth refreshed. Gin often has a natural cucumber undertone and makes this combination go down very (maybe too) easily. The application recipe prepares a cucumber infused gin gimlet. Another option is to take shots of gin with a lime and cucumber chaser. Apart from using for a beverage, this combination could also be used as chilled cucumber-lime soup with a splash of gin as an accent flavor.
CUCUMBER – In the application recipe, cucumbers are infused to the gin by letting them soak together for an extended time. Because of the wax coating on grocery store cucumbers, wash well before using, or buy locally grown cucumbers in the summer. You could infuse cucumber into other light liquors as well like vodka or light rum.
LIME – Juice can be used as an acid component to accent drinks (like garnishing with a squeeze of lime) or as a primary liquid (like in a margarita). Its zest contains concentrated flavor and is a great way to impart lime flavor to liquids. Layer the lime flavor by using both the juice and a lime twist for garnish.
GIN – A neutral grain spirit that has the unique flavor of juniper berries. Most high quality brands are suitable for this combination – we like Hendricks for its nice natural cucumber tones, and Tanqueray makes for a good all-purpose gin as well.
You do have to get started early to infuse spirits – give this gin a couple of days or up to a month to get the most cucumber flavor in to the gin.
Serves 1 martini-sized cocktail
1 bottle (750 mL) gin
1 large cucumber, washed and thinly sliced
2 tablespoons simple syrup
Juice of 1 lime, about 2 tablespoons
Large glass jar with lid
Infuse your gin:
Place sliced cucumbers in the bottom of your glass jar. Pour gin on top, stir and cover. Save empty gin bottle and lid. Let gin infuse for at least one week, or up to one month, at room temperature, out of direct sunlight. Strain, discard cucumbers and use funnel to pour cucumber gin into empty gin bottle. Label bottle, if desired.
Fill martini glass with ice to chill. Fill martini shaker with ice, add 3 ounces of cucumber gin, two tablespoons simple syrup and two tablespoons lime juice. Shake, discard ice from chilled martini glass and strain into glass.
Infusing your own liquor is so easy and tastes so much better than the flavored kind you can buy at the liquor store. Be sure to use fresh lime juice, not making any substitutions with anything artificial. It makes a big difference in your finished drink.