Ginger Spiced Hot Chocolate and “Star Crossed Lovers”

I’ve been feeling rather nostalgic all morning since listening to Pepper Adams play the baritone saxophone.. It’s made me miss my baby.. Unfortunately this whole time since I’ve been home, my horn’s been in the shop.. so, I can’t wait to get it back tomorrow and get back to it. In the meanwhile, I made something super warm and comforting to go along with an incredibly beautiful melody by Duke Ellington, ♫”Star Crossed Lovers”. Here’s my recipe for ginger spiced hot chocolate and a homemade cinnamon whipped cream.

What you need:

  • 4 cups milk (any type your prefer- I used whole)
  • 1 cup chocolate, chopped from the block (combination of dark and semisweet for me- but use whatever kind you like)
  • 1 1/2 tsp fresh grated ginger
  • 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp cardamom powder
  • 1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg (or nutmeg powder)

For the whipped cream:

  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tsp cinnamon

In a medium stock pot over medium heat, heat milk, stirring occasionally. Once hot, whisk in chocolate. Then, whisk in ginger, cinnamon, vanilla, cardamom, and nutmeg. Whisk until smooth. Set aside. In a stand mixer, mix heavy cream and the cinnamon until the whipped cream creates soft to medium peaks. Pour hot chocolate in your favorite mug, top with the whipped cream and enjoy!

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Seared Bay Scallop/Baby Clam Scampi: Improvising in the kitchen

Last night I put my improvisational skills that come along with being a jazz musician to the test in the kitchen. I decided to head over to New Jersey to surprise my parents for dinner. Without having stopped at the grocery store first, I took a look around the kitchen in search of something I could throw together, and it worked!

 I put a twist on your usual shrimp scampi, due to the lack of shrimp, I decided to use bay scallops and baby clams instead. I wanted some texture on the little “flavor bubbles” of bay scallops so I seared them first then tossed them in with the pasta later.
What you need:
  • 1 lb favorite pasta (I used a really fun fusilli lunghi bucati)
  • 3/4 lb bay scallops
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 lb baby clams
  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 5 cloves garlic crushed, peeled, diced
  • 1 medium spanish onion diced
  • 2 tomatoes de-seeded. diced
  • salt/pepper
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 lemon juice
  • Handful fresh parsley chopped
Method: 
Bring generously salted water in a large stockpot to a boil for the pasta. Add pasta when ready. Meanwhile, place scallops on a paper towel to absorb any moisture. Melt 1 tbsp of butter in a pan over medium heat, sear scallops for 30 seconds without touching them. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper. Toss quickly then set aside. You might have to do this in 2 batches. In order to get a good sear on something, it needs space in the pan to do so.
With a little bit of water in a large pot steam clams until they open up. Discard any clams that don’t open. Set aside.
In a large pan heat 3 tbsp olive oil over med high heat. Add garlic. Cook for 1 minute. Add onion cook until translucent. Add tomato. Cook for another minute. Season well with salt and pepper. Add white wine. Cook down for 2-3 minutes. Toss in clams and clam juice. Be careful not to pour in any sand from the clams. Once pasta is al dente (firm to the bite) toss in pan with clams and sauce. Toss in juice of 1 lemon and taste. Season accordingly. Plate. Garnish with parsley and fresh extra virgin olive oil.
Adi’s Tips:
  • Prepare everything ahead. Get all the chopping out of the way, so you won’t be stressed about pulling things together at the right time. In food and in music, timing is everything!

You can improvise:

  • Try using a different type of pasta.
  • Want to make a red sauce instead of white? Try a touch of red wine and adding a can of San Marzano tomato sauce or canned whole tomatoes then crush them with your wooden spoon.
  • Use different seafood.
This just goes to show, that you can make a dish into anything that you want, given the ingredients that you have. Be creative and confident, and it’ll work out in the most delicious way!
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Here’s to one of my favorite improvisers, Sonny Rollins!

Embrace the leftover rice and alternate takes!

Don’t waste your leftover rice! It’s just as valuable as those alternate takes the cats recorded in the 50’s and 60’s! Is it just me, or were there lots of alternate takes on those recordings? Like, all those Freddie Hubbard, Miles Davis, Horace Silver, Cannonball albums?

*Jazz Lingo: For those non musicians out there (an alternate take is when musicians decide to put two different versions of the same song on one recording)

The point is, is don’t let the rice or the alternate takes go to waste! Don’t skip over them. The alternate take can be just as good as the other version of the tune, if not better!!

Like this one for instance..

♫ Freddie Hubbard “You’re My Everything- Alt. Take” 

With my extra brown rice from the Thai place, I made a stir fry with all the leftover veggies I had in my refrigerator. I started with 2 tbsp olive oil in a pan over med heat. I added 2 cloves minced garlic, 1 tbsp grated ginger, 1 red chili (thin slices- deseeded if you don’t like it too hot) But hey, I like it hot. Sidenote: Be careful what you do with your fingers after touching the chili. Don’t touch your nose.. err.. like I just did. It burrnnnns! Ok back to the cooking:

Cook for 2-3 minutes. Tear a handful of kale in the mix. Add a little water if too dry. Cook for a minute. Add rice. Make a well with the rice. Scramble 1 egg in the middle of the pan. Toss with rest of mix. Add soy sauce. Season to taste. Finish with fresh chopped spring onion. 

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Voila! Super fast meal in five minutes, and you didn’t waste a thing!

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Smoothie Diaries: Adi’s Ultimate Green Smoothie

The beautiful thing about green smoothies is you’ll get a full serving of veggies without tasting them! The key to doing this is adding a sweet frozen fruit. This one’s one of my favorites. It’s packed with so many vitamins, the perfect thing to kick your metabolism in high gear, and gives you a ton of energy to start off your day. On this morning’s listening list is also one of my favorite, most fun and energetic musicians, Cannonball Adderley.

What you need: 

  • 3 cups loosely packed kale
  • 1 green apple
  • 1 banana
  • 3/4 cup frozen pineapple
  • 3/4 cup coconut water
  • 1 tbsp flaxseeds
  • 1inch x 1inch fresh ginger

Method:

Blend!

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What kind of music do you like to start your day off to?

Good morning, baked steel cut oats and Nancy Wilson!

As I’m adjusting to this chilly weather (which I’m loving!) I decide to warm up the kitchen this morning with some oatmeal and Nancy Wilson! This oatmeal isn’t just any oatmeal. It’s baked steel cut oats! It’s a swingin’ twist on regular stovetop oatmeal. I prefer steel cut oats just because they are a bit healthier for you than the instant rolled oats. This breakfast is super healthy, satisfying, and delicious! Just like Nancy Wilson is for the soul:

What you need:

Serves 4-6

  • 1 Cup steel cut oats (the 5 minute cooking kind- see picture below)
  • 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds
  • 1/4 cup cranberries
  • 3 cups milk
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup apple sauce
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • pinch salt
  • 2 bananas sliced
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • cinnamon

Method:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Stir together oats, seeds, and cranberries. Whisk together  milk, egg, apple sauce, brown sugar, baking soda and salt. Stir oats into wet ingredients. Pour into a casserole dish (or in my case I just baked it in a skillet). Place sliced bananas on top, drizzle with honey, and sprinkle with cinnamon. Bake for 30 minutes, do a taste test, and check to see if it’s done. Once tender to the bite and golden,  remove from oven and serve with more honey, cinnamon, or whatever you like. You can serve it just like this or put it in a bowl and add more milk.

You can improvise: 

  • To make this healthy breakfast a little more sweet, top with homemade whipped cream.
  • Try adding different nuts or berries.
  • Use a different type of milk.

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I hope you all have a nice and easy morning!

See you, Australia! Hello, Fish Tacos and home!

Thank you so much Australia and New Zealand! It was yet another incredible leg of the Mrs Carter Show with Beyonce. I can’t wait to visit again, but dang what a long flight! I just got back last night after traveling for 30 hours and to my surprise I was actually able to sleep through the night and so far, (thank goodness) I’m not really that jet lagged! (*knocks on wood*)

I hit the ground running back in New York, running errands and taking care of business today. I went super market hopping today (one of my favorite past times), lugging around my brand new mortar and pestle from Sur La Table, picking up a whole bunch of ingredients for some upcoming recipes.. I could not wait to get back into the kitchen after being away from mine for a month! The first thing that popped into my head was fish tacos with a homemade sweet chili sauce. The tacos are light and fun and the chili sauce is sweet, zingy, and packs a serious punch.. Kind of like the perfect track to pair up with this recipe.. Christian McBride’s “I’m Coming Home” from his “Family Affair” album. It just seems oh so fitting.

Check it out!

You’re going to need a mortar and pestle for this. If you don’t have one, it’s seriously a great investment for the kitchen. Great for grinding up spices, making pesto, guacamole, and much more. (Mine was $25 from Sur La Table)

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Recipe makes 4 tacos

Sweet Chili Sauce:

  • 2 red chilis deseeded and chopped (see Adi’s Tips below)
  • 2 cloves garlic crushed and peeled
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1.5 tsp salt
  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
  • Juice from 1/2 a lime
  • 2 green onions chopped
  • 2 tbsp fresh cilantro chopped

Method

Combine chilis, garlic, sugar, and salt in mortar and grind with pestle until smoothish. Stir in olive oil, vinegar, lime, onions, and cilantro. Taste. Season accordingly.

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For the Fish:

  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 lb firm white fish (I used 2 basa fillets)
  • Garlic powder
  • Paprika
  • Chili powder
  • Black pepper
  • Shredded radicchio
  • 1 small red onion sliced finely
  • Squeeze of lime
  • 4 flour tortillas
  • any other garnishments you like

Warm tortillas in a 300 degree F oven while fish cooks. In a pan large enough to fit the fillets of fish, heat olive oil over medium high. Season fish on both sides. Place in pan lying the fish down away from you so the oil doesn’t splash you. The fish should sizzle, if it doesn’t you need to wait longer for the olive oil to heat up. Cook fish 3-4 minutes on one side, then flip for an additional 1-2 minutes. Once cooked through, cut fillets into 4 servings and construct tacos with sweet chili sauce, radicchio, onion, and lime.

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Can you tell how excited I am to be home and cooking again!? haha

*Adi’s Tips: 

  • In order to de-seed a chili pepper you can pretend you’re the most killin’ drummer on the face of the planet and they are your drum sticks and jam out on your kitchen counter. (I’m serious) By tapping the pepper against a surface you release all the seeds, so once you cut the top off they will all pour out.
  • If your fingers start to burn because of touching the inside of the pepper rinse them with lemon juice. It’ll relieve the burn.

You can improvise:

  • Experiment with different garnishes like cabbage instead of radicchio, or by adding sour cream or guacamole, etc.
  • Use a different type of fish
  • Bread the fish with japanese bread crumbs by first dredging it in beaten eggs, flour, and then panko bread crumbs, then sear.

Stay tuned for more recipes! I’ll be cooking and playing up a storm the next 2 and a half weeks!