- Your News
By Peter Covino
Before moving on to the good stuff in this week’s dining column, it isn’t all good news on the dining front.
Kissimmee lost two of its favorite downtown haunts this week, the long-established Mrs. Mac’s restaurant and newcomer, by comparison, Quokka Coffee.
Mrs. Mac’s shut its doors on Monday and the coffee house closed Friday.
Hopefully, both locations will house dining spots of one type or another in the near future.
There is more on both closings at the News-Gazette website Aroundosceola.com.
It’s time to get sauced.
No, we’re not talking binge drinking, but it is North American Cranberry Harvest time.
The harvest, in states that include New Jersey, Massachusetts, Wisconsin and Oregon, as well as British Columbia and Eastern Canada, will include some 11.5 million barrels of cranberries and is already underway, according to Ocean Spray Cranberries, Inc.
The cranberry, which is reknowned for its health benefits, just doesn’t get enough credit for what it can do in the kitchen.
A group of area foodie type media found out the versatile cranberry is more than just a sideshow at Thanksgiving at a media event at Epcot’s International Food and Wine Festival last week.
While Epcot visitors got to try out some of the newest chef creations at the festival, the foodie media feasted on a six-country extravanza featuring everything from cranberry & sea salt cured wild salmon and Crasin glazed pork belly (Canada) to Craisin infused five spice char Kobe beef with Srirachi Craisin vegetable fried rice.
It didn’t stop there. From Mexico, the chef’s selections included mole shrimp quesadilla with cranberry salsa and pulled chicken craisin tamales, while the United Kingdom offered up English mustard dusted Scotch egg with cranberry marmalade and beef and Crasin sheppard’s pie.
From France, artisan cheese stuffed mini Craisin brioche and Crasin, bacon and brie potato gratin
Finally, from the U.S., it was seared free range chicken with craisin moonshine pearls; and roasted sweet potatoes with Craisin ketchup.
While the Ocean Spray folks didn’t share the receipes for those tasty creations, you can try some simpler pleasures with cranberries and Craisins.
Here are a few supplied by Ocean Spray.
Effortless Spinach Salad
8 ounces fresh spinach
1/2 cup feta or goat cheese, crumbled
1/4 small red onion, thinly sliced
1/2 cup Craisins Original Dried Cranberries
2 tablespoons toasted sliced almonds, optional.
1/2 cup bottled balsamic vinaigrette salad dressing
2 tablespoons orange juice
1 teaspoon orange zest, optional.
Wash and clean spinach. Tear into bite size pieces and place in a serving bowl. Add half of the feta or goat cheese and onion; toss to combine.
Combine dressing ingredients in a small mixing bowl. Pour over salad and toss to coat. Sprinkle with remaining cheese. Top with dried cranberries and almonds. Serve immediately.
Makes 4 servings.
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1 1/4 cups Ocean Spray Fresh or Frozen Cranberries
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon finely shredded lemon peel
(25) 3 1/4-inch square wonton wrappers
(1) 8-oz Brie round, cut into 24 3/4-inch cubes
Preheat oven to 350°F and spray mini-muffin cups with nonstick cooking spray. Combine sugar and water in a medium saucepan; bring to a boil. Add cranberries; return to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer about 3 to 4 minutes or until cranberries pop and mixture thickens slightly, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat; stir in lemon juice and peel.
Press 1 wonton wrapper gently into each muffin cup, let ends extend above. Spray edges of wonton wrappers with nonstick cooking spray. Bake for 12 to 14 minutes or until bottoms begin to brown. Place 1 cube of Brie in each cup; place sheet of aluminum foil over each pan to prevent excessive browning. Bake 3 to 5 minutes or until Brie is soft. Remove from oven; top each with about 1 teaspoon cranberry mixture. Makes 24 appetizers.
You can visit the Ocean Spray cranberry bog throughout the Epcot festival. There is almost always someone in the bog ready to answer questions about cranberries and the annual harvest.
The visit to the bog is made even more enticing because you can get a a free package of Craisins (those are dried cranberries like raisins if you didn’t already know) at a kiosk right next to the bog.
You can find more cranberry recipes and a whole lot more about the cranberry at Ocean Spray’s website, www.oceanspray.com.
My cooking on the homefront is nowhere near as adventurous as what was served up at Epcot, but I have been keeping the homefires burning with some samples sent through the mail of Texmati rice, the first basmati rice successfully grown in the U.S. some 35 years ago.
I have kept things fairly basic — a really nice rice pudding (with some Craisins of course); a curried rice added to some pork chops and a salad using brown rice. I usually just buy whatever rice is on sale, but this stuff is really good.
Unless you are in a really big hurry, rice is really easy to make and cooking rice from scratch is so much better than any instant variety. I have cooked up the Rice Select varieties about four times now, and it seems pretty fool proof to me.
Rice Select makes basmati and jasmine rice varieties, as well as brown rice, couscous and even the Italian pasta, orzo.
Here’s a recipe from their website using Texami Brown Rice for a really nice, relatively simple salad, with a Greek touch.
1/3 cup oil packed dried tomatoes, drained and chopped, reserving marinade
1 pound turkey cutlets, cut into ¼ inch thick strips
3 cups cooked Texmati Brown Rice
1 cup thinly sliced green onions
1 (2.25oz) can sliced black olives, drained
1 cup feta cheese, crumbled
¼ cup prepared Caesar salad dressing
Heat 1 tablespoon of the reserved marinade in large skillet over medium-high heat until hot; discard remaining marinade; reserve tomatoes. Add turkey; cook and stir 4 to 6 minutes or until browned and cooked throughout. Remove from heat; set aside to cool.
Combine turkey, rice, reserved tomatoes, onion and olives in large bowl. Gently stir in cheese. Pour dressing over salad, toss to combine; serve immediately over bed of lettuce.
Yield: 4 Persons
Preparation: 10 Minutes
Cooking time: 50 Minutes
There are more recipe ideas, information and (sometimes) even coupons at the website, www.riceselect.com.