Autumn Harvest Sandwich

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Yesterday was a crisp autumn day in Northern California..leaves are turning brilliant shades of gold and bronze, some even deep cherry red…most are still at home on their branches but a few gently ride the soft wind to the earth creating a blanket to cover the sun scorched grass…Fabio, my over energized poodle finds this amusing and randomly jumps in the fallen leaves with anxious excitement..I  must admit, sometimes I picture myself doing the same but then I think of all the ebby jibbies that potentially lurk under the facade of beauty and once again I refrain only by falsely convincing myself that it is not a very adult-like thing to do but secretly knowing my real reason has nothing to do with being all grown-up 😉

Regardless, fall is great!  Spending much time in Florida this is the first time in 12 years I have lived in an area in which seasons are actually depicted as they are known to be.  I am in love with the foliage and around every corner I find my self with a breathtaking photo-esque landscape before my eyes.  Yesterday, I decided to create a sandwich that celebrated and embraced the beauty of this time of year…

Baked butter nut squash and figs are a wonderful combination alone but are even better when mingled together with caramelized red onions, wilted kale, and just a bit of crispy pancetta.  Wait for it…….. wait for it…..now add all of that yummy autumn goodness to warm melted creamy Havarti cheese and smash it all together between two uber fresh pieces of grilled whole wheat Rye and you have yourself a delicious celebration of autumns harvest to bite on in to!  Pair it with a sweet Pinot Grig and relax…I mean, its gotta be 5 o’clock somewhere!!!!

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Yields: 4 Sandwiches

Prep Time: 20 Minutes

Total Time: 1 Hour

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SPECIAL EQUIPMENT:

Grill or Sandwich Press

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INGREDIENTS:

8 Slices of Fresh Whole Wheat Rye Bread (Pumpernickel or 8 Grain bread will work great too)

1/2 LB Creamy Havarti Cheese (Sliced thick)

8 Mission Figs (Sliced from top to bottom into 1/4″ Slices)

1 Butter Nut Squash (Halved Long-wise)

1/4 LB 1/4″ Pancetta Slices (Cubed)

4 Small Kale Leaves (De-steamed and Chiffonade) (Fun fact: in French culinary terms, to Chiffonade is a cooking technique in which herbs and leafy greens are cut into long ribbon-like strips)

1 Red Onion (Sliced Thin)

1 Garlic Glove (Minced)

2 TBSP White Balsamic Vinegar or White Wine (I prefer the white wine but PLEASE, I beg of you, do not open a bottle of wine just for this recipe because I would hate for it to go to waste as vinegar works just fine)

1 TBSP Butter

1/4 TSP Ground Red Pepper

1/4 TSP Coarse Black Pepper

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DIRECTIONS:

1.  Preheat oven to 375.

2.  Place squash in a casserole dish with 1/4″ of water, meat side up and bake for 1 hour.

3.  Meanwhile, in a saute pan, render the cubed pancetta until crispy.

4.  Add the kale, red pepper, black pepper, and garlic to the pancetta and saute until kale becomes slightly tender and wilted and the garlic becomes aromatic (I like my kale to still have a good hearty crunch) Approximately 1 minute.  Add 1-1/2 TBSP (reserving 1/2 TBSP for the following step) vinegar and continue to saute for 1 more minute.  Set aside.

5.  In another saute pan, add 1 TSP butter and allow to melt.  Add the onions and cook on medium-high heat until they are a dark brown and become sweet.  Add in the remaining vinegar and cook for an additional minute.  Remove from heat.

6.  When the Squash has 5 minutes remaining in the oven, place figs on a sheet tray lined with parchment paper and bake for 5 minutes.

7.  In the meantime, lightly butter one side of each slice of bread and line the other side with cheese.

8. Remove the squash and figs from the oven and set aside.

9.  Cut squash in 8 even pieces and remove skin.  Take a form and with one hard smashing motion, flatten each piece into a pancake-like shape.

10.  Sandwich all ingredients between 2 slices of bread and cheese (Buttered side out) and grill sandwiches or press in a sandwich maker.

11.  Add a pinch of love.

12.  Share and Enjoy.

You see, It’s truly simple: take some good quality ingredients, add a pinch of love to your cooking and bonappetit…..a delicious homemade meal for you and your loved ones!!!!

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Horchata (AKA Gringa-chata…)

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Horchata is a sweet Mexican rice drink served over ice.  It is probably up there as one of my favorite desserts when made right.  There are so many different varieties and every one in Mexico has their own family version of this drink..some I’ve tasted and and I fell head over heels in love while others are only so so… but let’s be real here, I never actually had a bad one, although I do definitely favor some over others.  So after gulping down many horchatas Ive decided to make my own, may I say Gringa version of horchata that I think could hang with the best of them…let me know what you think!

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Yields 7 Cups

Prep Time: 10 Minutes

Total Time: 20 Hours

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INGREDIENTS:

6 Cups Filtered Water

1-1/2 Cup Long White Rice (Un-cooked)

1 Can Condensed Milk

1 Vanilla Bean (De-seeded)

2 TBSP Ground Cinnamon (Fresh always works best)

1 TBSP Vanilla Extract

1/2 TSP Almond Extract

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DIRECTIONS:

1.  Combine rice and water and soak covered overnight.

2.  Place rice and water in blender and lightly grind.

3.  Strain well.  Discard rice and keep the white-ish rice water.

4.  Combine the rice water and all remaining ingredients back in the blender unitl all ingredients are well incorporated.

5. Shake well, chill, and serve over ice.

6.  Add a pinch of love.

7.  Share and Enjoy!

You see, It’s truly simple: take some good quality ingredients, add a pinch of love to your cooking and bonappetit…..a delicious homemade meal for you and your loved ones!!!!

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Bacon Cabbage Soup with Garlic Croutons

As I stared into my fridge last night, I realized I am going out of town in less than 48 hours and I still had an abundance of  beautiful groceries in my fridge.  Now, let me clarify, I can eat and I can eat quite a bit …but there was no way possible I would be able to polish off an entire fridge full of produce before I hit the road to visit my parents.  So, I decided to play “mystery basket” (Like from the Food Network show “Chopped”) and I randomly made up a soup that turned out quite good and even  freezes quite well too!  So it’s a win win…Since I was both the contestant and the judge (not to mention the ONLY contestant), I decided I was the “Chopped Champion” with my Bacon Cabbage Soup with Garlic Croutons and best part, not only did I rescue all of my groceries from a future burial in the trash but now I also have quick and easy leftovers to warm up for those days I just don’t feel like cooking….Oh, let’s actually make it a win win win because, this recipe only requires one pot to be washed and with my extreme hatred toward doing the dishes this recipe definitely deserves the third win!

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Yields 6-8 Servings

Prep Time: 15 Minutes

Total Time: 1 Hour 20 Minutes

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INGREDIENTS:

For Soup:

3 Carrots (Peeled and Chopped)

1 Onion (Peeled and Chopped)

10 Small Red Potatoes (Scrubbed and Chopped)

2 Fresnos (Seeded and Chopped)

3 Garlic Cloves (Chopped)

6 Slices of Smoked Bacon (Chopped to about 1″ Pieces)

10 Cups of Filtered Water

1 Head of Cabbage (Sliced into Ribbons)

1 Bundle Rainbow Chard (Sliced into Ribbons)

1 Ear of Corn (Corn removed from the Ear)

2 TSP Dried Oregano

2 TSP Dried Parsley

1 TSP Bay Leafs (Crumbled)

1 TSP Dried Sage

1 TSP Dried Thyme

1/2 Cup Pecorino Cheese (Shaved)

Salt and Pepper to Taste

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For Croutons:

8 Slices Baguette (or Any Bread cut into 1″ Cubes)

2 TBSP Olive Oil

2 Garlic Cloves (Minced)

Salt to Taste

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DIRECTIONS:

1.  Preheat Oven to 350.

2.  In a large pot, on Medium-High heat, add bacon and allow to render for 3-4 minutes.  You want the fat to render and bacon to slightly brown but the bacon should not be crispy.

3.  Stir in carrots, onions, and potatoes.  Cook until all vegetables are lightly browned.  Approx. 8-10 minutes.

4.  Stir in corn, fresnos, garlic and all the dry herbs and cook until fragrant.  Approx 1 minute.

5.  Add the water and stir and bring to a boil.

6.  Reduce to a simmer, add cabbage and chard, and continue to cook until reduced by 1/4.  (You should have about 3/4 of the initial broth).

7.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

8.  While the soup is reducing, add minced garlic and salt to olive oil and sprinkle over baguette slices.  Place on a foiled sheet tray, and place in oven until bread is browned and crispy like crouton then remove from oven.

9.  Top soup with Pecorino and Croutons.

10.  Add a pinch of love.

11.  Share and Enjoy!

You see, It’s truly simple: take some good quality ingredients, add a pinch of love to your cooking and bonappetit…..a delicious homemade meal for you and your loved ones!!!!

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Blue Cheese and Pancetta Stuffed Figs with Savory Honey Sauce

 

As if figs weren’t tasty enough, this recipe packs even more flavor into fresh picked figs and all you need is 6 simple ingredients and a few minutes to make em!  Each bite beautifully warms  your mouth combining the sweet nutty flavor of the fig, the pungent creaminess of melted blue cheese, the salty savoriness (is that a word???) of the crispy pancetta, and it finishes with the silky sweetness of the Savory Honey Sauce!  The best part is that there is no waste as we utilize every part of the fig to make the yummy sauce out of the scraps.  These little guys were my dinner tonight and I thought they went great with a simple earthly green such as fresh Mizuna or Watercress tossed up in a bit of white balsamic vinegar!

Yields: 8 Figs

Prep Time: 10 Minutes

Total Time: 25 Minutes

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INGREDIENTS:

8 Fresh Figs

1/4 Lb Blue Cheese

4 Slices of Pancetta (Small Diced)

1-1/2 TBSP of Heavy Cream (Temper to Room Temperature)

2 TSP Local Honey

Black Pepper to Taste

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SPECIAL EQUIPMENT:

Small Melon Baller

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DIRECTIONS:

1.  Pre-heat oven to 425.

2. In a medium saute pan, on medium heat, cook pancetta until slightly crispy.  Remove from pan and pat off the excess grease with paper towels.  Keep a 2 TSP of the grease in the pan and set aside (you will use this grease to make the Savory Honey Sauce).

3.  Cut the top off of each fig (About 1/4 of the way down) and set aside the tops.

4.  With the melon baller or with a small sharp knife, gently remove the meat of the figs and set aside.

5.  Firmly stuff figs half way with blue cheese and then add the pancetta on top to finish stuffing the fig.

6.  Place figs on a sheet tray and place in oven until Pancetta is perfectly crisp (Approx 5-7 Minutes)

7.  While the stuffed figs are in the oven, add the left over fig meat (no skins) that you removed and the honey to the pan grease.  Cook on medium-low heat trying to smash the figs and break down the meat into the sauce.  Slowly whisk in the heavy cream and continue to cook until all ingredients are incorporated and smooth (Approx 2-3 Minutes).  Season to taste with fresh cracked black pepper.  Please note, sauce will not be completely smooth because it will have the yummy seeds of the figs.

8.  Remove stuffed figs from oven and lightly drizzle with the Savory Honey Sauce.

9. Add a pinch of love.

10.  Share and Enjoy.

You see, It’s truly simple: take some good quality ingredients, add a pinch of love to your cooking and bonappetit…..a delicious homemade meal for you and your loved ones!!!!

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White Truffled Mushroom Mac and Cheese

Fall is definitely making itself welcome in Northern California as today was quite the chilly one.  These cooler temperatures had me craving some nice hearty comfort food, so, as always, I made my way to the farmers market to see what I could score!

As I walked around the market I was drawn to the local cheese vendors…I have always noticed them before but am usually too preoccupied with the beautiful produce to give them a second glance.  But…with comfort food on the mind, I decided to befriend them and found myself buying an assortment of cheeses.

Next, I met the mushroom man!  strangely, mushrooms are my ultimate comfort food!  You see, as a child, I was a little different from the other kids who begged for candy and chocolate…I had a couple year stint in which I would throw daily temper tantrums until my poor mother would toss me up sautéed mushrooms and butter…I wanted them for breakfast with eggs, in my lunch box, and was completely satisfied with nothin but a big ol bowl oft sautéed mushrooms at the dinner table as well…These ridiculous memories are, well, comforting to me and I mean, that is the point of comfort food…right?

Sooooo…add the two together, toss in some pasta, class it up with an aromatic white truffle oil….VIOLAAAAAA comfort food not only packed full of family memories but also an extremely elegant dish that satisfies my inner child and the only slightly more refined adult version of me as well!

Yields 7-9 Servings

Prep Time: 25 Minutes

Total Time: 50 Minutes

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INGREDIENTS:

5 oz Talleggio Cheese (Roughly Torn)

4 oz Gruyere Cheese (Shredded)

3 oz Fontina Cheese (Shredded)

2 oz Pecorino Cheese (Shredded)

2 Portabella Mushrooms (Rough Chopped)

2 Cups Oyster Mushrooms (Rough Chopped)

2 Cups Shiitake Mushrooms (Rough Chopped)

1 lb Pasta Shells (Cooked-Follow Directions on Package)

2 Cups Whole Milk

1/2 Cup Heavy Cream

7 TBSP Butter

3 TBSP Flour

4 Garlic Cloves (Minced)

1 Large Shallot (Minced)

1 TBSP White Truffle Oil

1 TBSP Champagne Vinegar

Salt and Pepper to Taste

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DIRECTIONS:

1.  Preheat oven to 450.

2.  In a large saute pan, on med-low heat, add 4 TBSP of butter and let melt.  Add shallots and allow to cook until translucent (Approx. 3 Minutes).  Add all mushrooms and sautéed until cooked.  Add garlic and cook for an additional minute or until fragrant. Remove from heat and toss mushroom mixture with a TBSP of champagne vinegar.  Set aside.

3.  In a small sauce pan, combine milk and heavy cream and bring to a simmer.

4.  In a medium sauce pan, on medium heat, melt the remaining butter then slowly whisk in the flour to form a Blonde Roux.  (Should be golden in color and have the consistency of wet sand with a faint nutty smell-Approx 5-7 minutes).  Slowly whisk in the milk mixture until very smooth and bring back up to a simmer.

5.  Slowly incorporate Talleggio, Fontina, and Guryere into the simmering milk mixture until all cheese is fully melted and sauce is smooth and creamy.  Salt and Pepper to taste.

6.  Place cooked noodles in a 9×13″ pan or a similar sized dish and toss with the mushroom mixture.

7.  Pour cream sauce on top f noodles and mushrooms.  Lightly tap dish so cheese sauce settles to the bottom.  Sprinkle the top with Pecorino Cheese.

8.  Place in oven and cook until bubbling and golden.  Approx. 7-10 Minutes.

9.  Remove from oven and lightly sprinkle with White Truffle Oil.

10. Allow to sit for 10 minutes.

11.  Add a pinch of love.

12.  Share and Enjoy!

You see, It’s truly simple: take some good quality ingredients, add a pinch of love to your cooking and bonappetit…..a delicious homemade meal for you and your loved ones!!!!

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Candied Jalapenos with Cream Cheese and Homemade Garlic Olive Oil Crackers with Sea Salt

A few weeks back,  some friends and I went out to our favorite little bar in town to grab a couple brewskies…inevitablely, after throwing a few back, the drunken munchies kicked in and I decided to try some of the gourmet bar snacks they sell.  Torn between the pork belly rillete and the smoked salmon spread, somehow I heard a “more” sober voice in my head telling me to avoid the saturated fats and I choose the Candied Jalapenos with Cream Cheese….and ….your right, so your probably thinking that cream cheese is loaded with saturated fats and yes you are most definitely right! ….but don’t forget the several beers that prefaced this decision…(I still pat myself on the back for even having that little voice attempt to help me make the health conscious decision, although that voice was struggling and obviously slurring a bit at this point)!

Regardless of how I ended up with the jalapenos, the jalapenos are what I got and let me tell ya, from the very first sweet, creamy, spicy bite, I knew I made the right decision.

I sat there in all my candied jalapeno glory, first in complete and utter awe as to how something so simple could be so delicious, second, contemplating how I have managed to lived 30 years without ever tasting this magnifigant treat before, and third, trying to figure out how I coud replicate this recipe at home in mass quantities….

….and that’s just what I did, despite a minor hangover, I woke early as to be the first at the farmers market because I wanted to buy 3 pounds of farm fresh jalapenos.  Since then, I have tried several different recipes and I think I finally hit it on the head with this one!  But the most important thing I have learned is that 3 pounds is no where enough as I can’t keep these guys on my shelf….I reccomend AT LEAST doubling this recipe.  Candied Jalapenos and Cream Cheese with homemade Sea Salt and Garlic Olive Oil Crackers are perfect for football tailgating parties or any other get together with beer present.  Once candied, put them in cute mini mason jars or containers with the cream cheese for a cute homemade gift or lunch box treat.  I shared a jar with my friend and she has even been spreading the goodness on bagels for breakfast every morning!

Now, I told ya to make a lot of them because sometimes you will even find yourself skipping the cream cheese and tossing them into a salad, topping a burger, or,… who am I kidding, straight outta the jar, onto the spoon, and directly into your mouth! ahahah….Guilty!

Another great bonus of making these guys homemade is that your left with a lot of candy-ing liquid, now, jar it up as well and you have yourself an uber delicious glaze for any grilled fish or tofu recipe!  I hope, as you read this post, you can feel my excitement about these little guys…they simply make me happy and I hope you will try them too so they can do the same for you!

The jalapenos are most definitely awesome but lets not forget about the super crisp golden brown homemade crackers your going to be spreading them on…Wow I just love everything about this post………Now get to it so we can share the same happiness!

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CANDIED JALAPENOS WITH CREAM CHEESE

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Yields 3 Cups

Prep Time: 30 Minutes

Total Time: 2 Weeks (If your like me, its hard to wait the full 2 weeks, feel free to eat them as soon as they cool…they will     still be yummy but if you can hold out for the 2 weeks they are extra special and words cannot describe their perfection)

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INGRIEDIENTS:

1-1/2 LBS Fresh Jalapenos (Sliced 1/4″ Thick)

3 Cups Sugar

1-1/2 Cup Apple Cider Vinegar

1 TBSP Stone Ground Mustard

3 Whole Garlic Cloves

1 TBSP Whole Fennel Seeds

1 TBSP Whole Celery Seeds

1 TSP Whole Coriander Seeds

1 TSP Marjoram

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SPECIAL EQUIPMENT

1.  Canning Kit and Mason Jars.

2.  Cheesecloth and Kitchen Twine or Tea Mesh Ball.

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DIRECTIONS:

1.  In a large pot, on medium-high heat, combine vinegar, sugar, and mustard until dissolved.

2.  Add all spices to a cheesecloth and tie with twine or place in the tea mesh ball and  put it into the vinegar solution.

3.  Add jalapenos to pot and bring to boil stirring constantly.

4.  Reduce to a simmer and cook for 10-14 minutes or until jalapenos are soft and liquid same consistency as maple syrup.

5.  Divide jalapenos amongst 3 – 8 OZ Mason Jars (2/3 full with Jalapenos and fill with liquid until 1/4″ from top.

6.  Jar remaining liquid for glazing purposes.

7.  Follow proper canning procedures and store in refrigerator for 2 weeks before serving.  Check out http://www.canning-food-recipes.com/canning.htm for more information.

8.  Serve with Cream Cheese.

9.  Add a pinch of love.

10.  Share and Enjoy!

You see, It’s truly simple: take some good quality ingredients, add a pinch of love to your cooking and bonappetit…..a delicious homemade meal for you and your loved ones!!!!

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HOMEMADE SEA SALT AND GARLIC OLIVE OIL CRACKERS

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Yilds 10 Large Crackers

Prep Time: 20 Minutes

Total Time 1 Hour 15 Minutes

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INGREIDIENTS:

1 Cup All Purpose Flour

1 Cup Semolina FLour

2/3 Cup Warm Water

1/4 Cup Olive Oil

1 TSP Kosher Salt

3 Garlic Cloves (Peeled and Samshed)

2 TBSP Coarse Sea Salt

1 TBSP Garlic Powder

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1.  Add Garlic Cloves to Olive Oil to infuse flavor into the oil.  Let sit for 10 minutes then strain.  Discard Garlic.

2.  Preheat oven to 450.

3.  In a medium bowl, combine both flours and salt.  Then add water and olive oil and incorporate with  a wooden sppon.

4.  Flour clean counter top, and knead dough with hands for 7-8 minutes.

5.  Form a ball and seperate into 10 smaller balls.  Rub with Olive Oil and cover with plastic wrap and let sit for 40 minutes.

6.  Flour clean counter top and roll out indivisual crackers the thinner you can make them the better as long as they are manageable.  Feel free to cut shapes into the crackers but I like them big and rustic.

7.  Sprinkle them with sea salt.

8.  With a fork, poke wholes through out the dough then transfer to a flour sheet tray and bake for approx 7-8 minutes.  Keep an eye on these suckers as they can easily go from raw to burnt ….When golden brown, remove from oven, slightly sprinkle with garlic powder, and let cool.  Serve with Candied Japaepenos with Cream Cheese or eat alone!

9.  Add a pinch of love.

10.  Serve and Enjoy!

You see, It’s truly simple: take some good quality ingredients, add a pinch of love to your cooking and bonappetit…..a delicious homemade meal for you and your loved ones!!!!

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Mexican Inspired Ceviche with Creamy Avocado Sauce

I was encouraged to post my Mexican Inspired Ceviche after a long phone conversation with my dad yesterday.  You see,  he loves my ceviche and always asks me to prepare it for him when I go home to visit.  The thing is, after all these years he still cannot pronounce it correctly therefore the majority of our conversation was consumed with slowly spoken syllables as I tried teaching him the proper phonetics of the word.     So in case, you too, are wondering: Ceviche is pronounced Se-V-CH-ay.  It is a citrus-y fish dish that originates in Peru in which small pieces of fresh raw fish are marinated in lemon or lime causing a completely natural reaction which technically “cooks” the fish.  My Mexican Inspired Ceviche is marinated with a whole buncha of mexican herbs and veggies paired with a Creamy Avocado Sauce that combines to make a super delish appetizer or light meal!  In Peru, ceviche is traditionally served with boiled sweet potatoes which not only adds a healthy starch but also a bit of sweetness to balance out the dish!  You will be amazed how pleasing this recipe is and all you have to do is a little squeezing and a bit of some chopping…no heat necessary!

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Yields 2 Servings

Prep Time: 15 Minutes

Total Time: 12 Hours

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INGREDIENTS:

For Ceviche:

2 Filets of Tilapia (Diced into 1″ Cubes)

7 Lemons (squeezed and Strained)

2 Oranges (Squeezed and Strained)

12 Cherry Tomatoes (Quartered)

2 Small Garlic Cloves (Minced)

1 Jalapeno (Small Diced)

1 Ear Sweet Corn (Remove Corn Kernels from Ear)

1 Avocado (Peeled and Diced)

1/3 Cup Red Onion (Sliced)

1/4 Cup Bell Pepper (Any Variety-Diced)

1/8 Cup Cilantro (Chopped)

1/8 Cup Scallions (Chopped)

1 TBSP Olive Oil

1 TSP Organic Agave

1 TSP Salt

1 TSP Black Pepper

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For Creamy Avocado Sauce:

1 Ripe Avocado (Peeled and Pitted)

2 TBSP Heavy Cream

1 TBSP Olive Oil

1 TSP Sriracha

Salt and Pepper to Taste

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DIRECTIONS FOR CEVICHE:

1.  In a large air-tight container (Tupperware with a tight lid will do), combine all juices, agave, olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper and mix until well incorporated.

2.  Add in the Tilapia.

3.  Add all remaining items on top of the Tilapia.  You can stir them in to coat them with the juice but just make sure all fish is completely submerged in the liquid.

4.  Cover and let refrigerate for 12 hours .

5.  Strain.

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DIRECTIONS FOR CREAMY AVOCADO SAUCE:

1.  Place all ingredients in blender and liquefy until smooth and thick.

2.  When ready to serve, spoon sauce into a small bowl or martini glass and then top with the strained ceviche.

3.  Add a pinch of love.

4.  Share and Enjoy!

You see, It’s truly simple: take some good quality ingredients, add a pinch of love to your cooking and bonappetit…..a delicious homemade meal for you and your loved ones!!!!

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