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Springtime Sweets – Tut

In Cookies, Candies & Sweets On March 29, 2018 0 Comments

Persians (modern-day Iranians) celebrated New Year on March 20 – it’s called Nowruz. Like people of the Persian culture, many of us observe Springtime celebrations that have come to us from the ancient past.

For my celebration of Springtime and Easter, I’m making Persian sweets called Tut. Although I’ve posted a similar marzipan recipe in the past, this one is different. Tut are easy to make and kids will love shaping these delicious sweets. Happy Belated Nowruz, Happy Passover, Happy Easter and Happy Springtime!

Prep time: 50 to 60 minutes
Makes: 40 to 50 sweets

1/4 to 1/3 cup granulated sugar
1-3/4 cups raw, ground almonds (skinless)
3/4 cups confectioners’ sugar (powdered sugar)
1/4 teaspoon cardamom
2 to 3 teaspoons rosewater (you can add more, if you like a stronger flavor)
3 tablespoons slivered unsalted pistachios
3 tablespoons slivered almonds
food coloring for red and green (follow instructions on food coloring package for making green)

1. Place the granulated sugar in an 10-inch shallow, wide bowl; set aside.

2. In a 1 to 2-quart bowl, combine the almonds, concessioners’ sugar (not the granulated sugar) and cardamom.

3. Using a fork, stir the ingredients until well-blended.

4. Gradually (a little at a time), add the rosewater and stir with a fork.

5. With your hands, knead the mixture until it amalgamates well. If it is dry and crumbly, add a little more rosewater or drinking water.

6. Divide the almond-sugar mixture into three parts – place each part in a separate bowl.

7. Add 1 drop of red food coloring to one dough section in bowl. If it is too light, add 1 more drop; mix well. Set aside.

8. Following food coloring package instructions, add the required yellow & blue food coloring to the second dough section to create green tut or sweets. Mix well & set aside.

Shaping the Sweets:

1. Working with the white tut, take a 1/2-inch piece of dough, roll it and shape it into a slight oval.

2. Roll the oval tut or sweet in the granulated sugar, shaking off excess.

3. At top of tut or sweet, insert a slivered pistachio or almond. Set aside on a serving plate.

4. Continue shaping remaining mixture and then the red and oval mixtures into ovals, rolling in sugar and alternately inserting a pistachio or almond sliver.

5. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until serving time.

6. Springtime Sweets can be made a day or two ahead of time, covered and refrigerated.
Text & Photograph ©2018 Nancy DeLucia Real

Green Linguine with Asparagus & Tomatoes

In Pastas, Rice & Legumes (Beans & Grains) On March 13, 2018 0 Comments

On St. Patrick’s Day, all sorts of recipes turn up for green cookies, green muffins, green candy, green everything except pasta. So how about making a nice dish of green linguine for St. Pat’s Day?

Here’s the recipe:

Prep time: 15 minutes
Serves: 4 to 6

1 bunch fresh asparagus, bottom tips discarded & stems cut into 3/4-inch pieces
1 pound (16 ounces) spinach linguine or fettuccine pasta variety
salt, to taste
10 ounces cherry tomatoes, cut in half
extra virgin olive oil, to taste
Grated Parmigiano Reggiano or Pecorino Romano cheese

1. Set the cut asparagus aside in a bowl.

2. Meanwhile, bring water to a boil in a 4 to 6-quart sauce pot.

3. When water boils, add pasta and 3/4 teaspoon salt to the water.

4. Cook pasta according to package directions.

5. During the last minute of pasta cooking, add the asparagus to the pasta in sauce pot.

6. When pasta is “al dente” (crunchy-tender), drain the cooked pasta in a colander and quickly transfer it to a large glass or porcelain bowl.

7. Add the cherry tomatoes and olive oil. Taste and adjust salt and olive oil levels.

8. Serve pasta in individual bowls; ask guests to add grated cheese to their pasta bowls.

Wine Pairing: Sauvignon Blanc or Cabinet Sauvignon
Text & Photograph ©2018 Nancy DeLucia Real

Vibrant Cancun: Street Art to Du Mexique Restaurant

In Nancy's Articles On February 22, 2018 0 Comments

When thinking of Cancun in Quintana Roo, Mexico, this is the image that comes to mind, right? After all, Cancun is renown for its great beaches and luxurious resorts.
Image.CancunBeachCancun Beach View, Photograph ©2018 Nancy DeLucia Real

In January, I celebrated my birthday in Cancun. And although, we woke up to this spectacular view every morning, my husband and I were anxious to see the culture of the locals in other parts of town.

Braced with our adventurous spirits and a rental car, we drove onto Bonampak Boulevard, a commercial and residential area of the city. We immediately noticed the vibrant architectural scene.
Image.CancunArtHouseMural on Boulevard Bonampak, Photograph ©2018 Nancy DeLucia Real

In Cancun and all of Mexico, you are surrounded by vibrant colors every day. They appear in paintings, sculpture, decorative arts and in glass-domed ceilings such as this one at Kukulkan Galleria Shopping Mall.
Image.CancunGlassDomeGlass Dome, Kukulkan Galleria Shopping Center, Photograph ©2018 Nancy DeLucia Real

Thanks to the great Mexican muralists of the early 20th century (Diego Rivera, David Alvaro Siqueiros, José Clemente Orozco, and others), the art of murals (wall paintings) lives on. Here are some murals made by Cancun’s talented artists:
Image.CancunMuralLadyIndigenousMural on Boulevard Bonampak, Photograph ©2018 Nancy DeLucia Real

This mural is inspired by symbolism related to Middle Eastern cultures. The Hamsa Hand or Hand of Fatima is an ancient Middle Eastern symbol with an eye at center. Native American cultures also used this hand symbol. People believe this talisman protects them from the evil eye and brings them goodness, abundance, fertility, luck and good health. Here, the artist transferred the eye from both hands and placed one eye at the center of what appears to be a heart.
Image.CancunMuralBlvd.KukulkanMural on Boulevard Kukulkan, Cancun, Photograph ©2018 Nancy DeLucia Real

The snakes could represent the Aztec god Quetzalcoatl, also known as Kukulkan in the Maya culture. The native Maya culture thrived in Quintana Roo and Yucatan from the 9th to the 12th centuries.
Image.DetailMuralBlvd.KukulkanMural Detail on Boulevard Kukulkan, Cancun, Photograph ©2018 Nancy DeLucia Real

The mural’s brilliant snake relates to the serpent god Kukulkan (see its heads at base of pyramid (below). It is called El Castillo and is located at Chichen Itza, a large city built by the Maya people. This city thrived from 600 AD. until 1221. You can visit Chichen Itza by driving 2 hours via an impressive toll road.
Image.ChichenItzaKukulkanHeadsEl Castillo Pyramid, Chichen Itza, Yucatan (detail); Photograph ©2018 Nancy DeLucia Real

After driving all over Cancun, our hunger pangs led us to Puerto Juarez where we enjoyed guacamole and beer on the beach:
Image.GuacamoleGuacamole Photograph ©2018 Nancy DeLucia Real

However, the most gourmet meal we had in Cancun was at Du Mexique Restaurant on Bonampak Boulevard. It is owned by Mexican entrepreneur Sonya Grimond and French Chef Benjamin Ferra y Castel.
As soon as you meet Sonya and Benjamin, you feel as though you are at home. Their warmth and meticulous attention to detail are astounding. Both Sonya and Chef Benjamin serve you personally.

For his foie gras, Chef Benjamin innovatively lays the flavors of both France and Mexico side-by-side on his canvas – the plate. The foie gras (made from fattened duck liver) is complemented by hibiscus sauce and coconut – Mexican ingredients.

Image.FoieGrasHibiscusFoie Gras Torchon, Coconut & Hibiscus, Toasted Brioche Photograph ©2018 Nancy DeLucia Real

Did you know that in 2010, UNESCO (The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) added the traditional and gastronomic French and Mexican cuisines to the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage?

This Ocean Terrine with Mexican Flavors combines fresh seafood with vegetables from local, private farms.
Image.DuMexiqueTerrine Terrine Photograph ©2018 Nancy DeLucia Real

The Red Mullet couldn’t have been any fresher. Its flesh was still glistening – it truly went from the dock to the table! The Ixnipec sauce tasted of Habanero chile and lime/citrus juices!

Since I eat gluten-free foods, this dish was perfect for me. Notice the French bread. Yes, Chef Benjamin makes bread, too. Surprised?
Image.DuMexiqueFishFilet de Rouget/Red Mullet with Olive Oil & Ixnipec Sauce Photograph ©2018 Nancy DeLucia Real

Image.DuMexiqueNR&OwnersChef Benjamin, Nancy DeLucia Real & Sonya Grimond

Clearly, this was one of the best meals that I have had in a high-end restaurant! Sonya and Chef Benjamin, merci/gracias for a delectable dining experience and your personal attention. We can’t wait to come back to your fabulous restaurant and the exciting city of Cancun!

Text & Photographs ©2018 Nancy DeLucia Real

Valentine’s Day Tuna Tartare Rolls

In Appetizers / Starters, Fish & Shellfish, Fun Foods, Holidays On February 2, 2018 0 Comments

If you want to stay in on Valentine’s Day, make this tuna tartare appetizer. It’ll pair well with the bubbly. And – you’ll have fun in the kitchen!

Prep time: 15 minutes
Makes: 12 to 14 bite-size starters

One 5 to 6-ounce sushi-grade tuna filet, chopped in 1/4-inch pieces
2 tablespoons finely-chopped chives or stems from green onions
1/2 teaspoon grated, fresh ginger
juice from 1 lime
1 tablespoon olive oil
dried, crushed red chili pepper, to taste
salt, to taste (1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon salt)
4 Persian cucumbers, peeled and tips cut & discarded

1. In a 4-cup mixing bowl, combine the chopped tuna filet, chives or green onions, ginger, lime juice, olive oil, chili pepper and salt.

2. Taste the tuna tartare and, if needed, adjust seasoning and olive oil levels.

3. Cover the tuna tartare and set aside.

4. Meanwhile, using a sharp knife or mandolin, take one cucumber and make paper-thin slices lengthwise.

5. Repeat slicing remaining cucumber.

6. Working with one cucumber slice at a time, place scant 3/4 teaspoon tuna tartare at one end.

7. Gently and tightly roll up the cucumber slice; secure the tuna tartare roll with a toothpick.

8. Set each tuna tartare roll on a serving plate.

9. When all rolls have been assembled, serve them immediately.
Wine Pairing: Champagne, Prosecco or Sauvignon Blanc wine
Text & Photograph ©2018 Nancy DeLucia Real

Orecchiette with Rapini & Sausage

In Pastas, Rice & Legumes (Beans & Grains) On January 3, 2018 0 Comments

This pasta dish with rapini and sausage will comfort you all year round! Its main ingredient is rapini. Rapini are a green vegetable. The leaves, buds and stems are totally edible. Although the buds resemble broccoli, they do not form a large head. Rapini have a slightly bitter taste and we Italians use them in all sorts of recipes. However, this one is a big hit with all who sit around us at our dinner table!

Note: Call your local specialty supermarket and ask them if they carry rapini.

Prep time: 30 minutes (rapini & sausage) & 10 minutes (pasta)
Serves: 4 to 6

For the Rapini:
3 to 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic, peeled & whole
1 bunch fresh Rapini (found at Erewhon, Gelson’s & Vicente Foods supermarkets in Los Angeles), rinsed, drained and cut into 1-inch pieces
Salt, to taste

1. In a 4-quart saucepot, heat 3 to 4 tablespoons olive oil.

2. When oil is hot, add the whole garlic cloves and stir-fry on medium high until they turn golden brown.

3. Immediately remove saucepot from hot burner; let cool for about 3 minutes.

4. After 3 minutes, add the rapini and cover the saucepot.

5. Cook the rapini on medium-high heat for 5 minutes, using tongs to stir them occasionally.

6. After 5 minutes, add salt to taste. Taste some rapini – they should be crunchy-tender. Set aside, covered.

For the Sausage:
3 to 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 turkey or pork sausage links (mild or hot)

1. In a 6-quart saucepot, heat the oil.

2. When oil is hot, add the sausage links – be careful to avoid splatters by covering the saucepot.

3. Sauce the sausage links on medium-high heat, covered, for 2 to 3 minutes.

4. After 2 to 3 minutes, carefully uncover the saucepot and, using a fork, poke holes in the sausage links. STAND AWAY FROM STOVE TO AVOID SPLATTERS.

5. Turn the sausage links over and cover on the other side for 3 to 4 minutes.

6. Repeat turning the sausage links over and cooking until they are 3/4 cooked.

7. When sausages are 3/4 cooked, lower heat.

8. Using shears and standing over skillet or saucepot, carefully cut the sausage links into 1-inch circles.

9. Cut circles in half and continue cooking sausage pieces for 1 minutes.

10. After 1 minute, stir in the rapini. Cover and set aside.

For the Orecchiette Pasta & Assembly:
1 pound orecchiette pasta
salt, to taste
3/4 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano or Pecorino Romano cheese, as garnish
Crushed red pepper, as garnish

1. Bring a separate 6-quart saucepot of water to a boil.

2. Add the orecchiette pasta and salt; cook over medium-high heat for 8 to 10 minutes or until pasta is “al dente” (crunchy-tender).

3. Meanwhile, heat the sausage-rapini mixture through.

4. Drain the orecchiette pasta in a colander set over a sink.

5. Transfer the drained orecchiette pasta to the sausage-rapini mixture in saucepot; stir and heat through.

6. Taste the pasta mixture, adding more olive oil and salt, if desired.

7. Serve immediately in separate bowls, asking guests to add their own grated Parmigiano Reggiano or Pecorino Romano cheese and/or crushed red pepper.

Wine Pairing: Sauvignon Blanc or Cabinet Sauvignon
Text & Photograph ©2017 Nancy DeLucia Real