Sunday, March 14, 2010
Sunday, February 14, 2010
Mezze is a very comforting style of eating, sharing dishes with the entire table. Snowmageddon nearly derailed my plans to share this meal with a group of friends, but in the end, merely delayed it. Because of the delay, everything (except the pita) was made in advance and kept very well in the fridge overnight. The pita were cooked as our guests were arriving and the kebabs were mixed in advance, but grilled last minute (yes, grilled in the aftermath of the blizzard).
The pita recipe was easier than I imagined and all of my breads puffed nicely. I think it was quite warm in my kitchen, because it was a very quick rising dough and I came into the kitchen to find dough spilling over the edges of the bowl. I quickly got it under control, but it had more than doubled in less than 45 minutes. Even so, the bread was quick to roll out and easy to cook. I set my oven to its maximum heat of 550F and used baking sheets to cook them on. I was able to cook 3 pita at a time on my sheets. I also tried cooking one directly on the rack because it was the last one left and didn't quite fit on the sheet, so I drew on my grilled pizza experience and plopped it directly on the lower rack of the oven. It cooked quite nicely, though a little quicker than the others and it was slightly wavy from the rack lines. The bread came out tender and almost fluffy in texture, perfect for dipping. This was quite fun to cook in front of people, it was my new party trick to make bread balloons - no one guessed that the pita would make the pocket on its own!
The hummus recipe we were given was slightly different from what I've been used to making in that it contained no oil. I was initially excited by the calorie savings, but realized after pureeing the beans that I would definitely need the oil to get the texture I was after. My only complaint with the recipe is that it is aggressively lemony. I would cut the lemon back to the just one.
My favorite dish of the meal was the fava bean salad. I'd tried a variation on this recipe previously after trying a different fava bean dish made by a Syrian chef and then impulse buying a bag of frozen beans. Fava beans are a lot of work and fresh beans are difficult to find. Frozen beans are somewhat easier, but the quality suffers a little and you still have to skin them. Canned fava beans are an entirely different creature and should not be used in this recipe. The cheese was chosen quite haphazardly. My husband tried this cheese at the store and immediately was smitten and brought it home for me to do something with. It was fortuitous that I had the fava beans in mind at the time. I made a few additional tweaks in the herbs I used this time and really fell in love with this combination, but it is a very versatile recipe that can use all kinds of herbs and many varieties of cheese.
Recipe adapted from Flatbreads & Flavors by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid
2 teaspoons regular dry yeast
2.5 cups lukewarm water
5-6 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon table salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, sprinkle the yeast over the warm water. Stir to dissolve. Stir in 3 cups flour, a cup at a time, and then stir 1 minute to activate the gluten. Let this sponge rest for at least 10 minutes, or as long as 2 hours.
2. Sprinkle the salt over the sponge and stir in the olive oil. Mix well. Add more flour, a cup at a time and knead on medium speed for 8 to 10 minutes, until smooth and elastic. Transfer dough to another oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise until at least doubled in size, approximately 1 1/2 hours.
3. Place a pizza stone, or two small baking sheets, on the bottom rack of your oven, leaving a 1-inch gap all around between the stone or sheets and the oven walls to allow heat to circulate. Preheat the oven to 450F.
4. Gently punch down the dough. Divide the dough in half, and then set half aside, covered, while you work with the rest. Divide the other half into 8 equal pieces and flatten each piece with lightly floured hands. Roll out each piece to a circle 8 to 9 inches in diameter and less than 1/4 inch thick. Keep the rolled-out breads covered until ready to bake, but do not stack.
5. Place 2 breads, or more if your oven is large enough, on the stone or baking sheets, and bake for 4 to 5 minutes, or until each bread has gone into a full balloon. If for some reason your bread doesn't puff up, don't worry it should still taste delicious. Wrap the baked breads together in a large kitchen towel to keep them warm and soft while you bake the remaining rolled-out breads. Then repeat with the rest of the dough.
Recipe adapted from The New Book of Middle Eastern Food by Claudia Roden
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2-2.5 lemons, juiced
Salt to taste
4 tablespoons tahini
1 head garlic, roasted at 450 for 45 minutes
olive oil to thin as necessary
Puree the beans in a food processor with the lemon, garlic, salt and tahini, adding the oil as needed until you have a smooth paste. Garnish with additional oil and ground sumac.
Turkish Cucumber, Mint and Yogurt Dip
Adapted from Olive Trees and Honey by Gil Marks
1 large English cucumber, seeded and grated
1 small onion, grated
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 cups plain Greek yogurt
Aleppo pepper flakes
3 T chopped mint
2 T chopped flat leaf parsley
2 T olive oil
Place cucumber and onion in a colander and salt. Allow to sit for an hour to drain. Press out excess moisture.
Mix yogurt, garlic, pepper and herbs. Add cucumber, onion and oil and mix well. Chill before serving.
Adapted from Olive Trees and Honey by Gil Marks
2 jars roasted red peppers, drained and seeded
1 1/2 cups toasted and chopped walnuts
1/2 bread crumbs
1/2 cup olive oil
3 T pomegranate molasses
juice of 1/2 lemon
2 cloves garlic
Aleppo pepper flakes to taste
1/2 t ground cumin
1 t sugar
1 1/2 t kosher salt
Place all ingredients in a food processor and puree until smooth. Chill overnight and bring to room temperature before serving.
Fava Bean and Cheese Salad
Adapted loosely from Trattoria by Patricia Wells
2 packages frozen fava beans (or 2 pounds if you can find fresh), boiled and shelled
Extra virgin olive oil (I used the oil from the cheese)
juice of 1/2 lemon
3 T chopped flat leaf parsley
1 T chopped mint
salt and Aleppo pepper flakes to taste
8 oz marinated goat and sheep milk cheese (Meredith Dairy)
Boil the fava beans, then peel the inner shell. This is a lengthy process, but so worth it, the inner beans are tender and delicate. Toss with lemon juice, herbs and spices. Add cheese and oil and fold gently to combine. Taste and season as desired.
Adapted from The New Book of Middle Eastern Food by Claudia Roden
2 lbs lean ground beef
2 onions, grated
3 T chopped flat leaf parsley
1 T chopped cilantro
2 T chopped mint
1/4 t ground cumin
1/4 t ground coriander
1/4 t ground ginger
1/4 t cinnamon
salt and pepper
Mix ground beef well with all other ingredients. Chill for at least an hour. Form into kebabs on metal skewers. Grill on high heat for 8 minutes, turning once.
Friday, January 15, 2010
Satay are fun little skewers of meat, frequently known in our house as meat on a stick. The goal of this challenge, aside from making delicious food, was to explore marinating. Marinades are an easy way to tenderize tougher cuts of meat and add flavor at the same time. For this challenge, we could turn any kind of meat or vegetable into satay, so I chose turkey tenderloins, a meat that is already tender, but lacks somewhat in the flavor department. The night before we planned this for dinner, I put together the marinade in the food processor and it couldn't have been easier, though the turmeric gave it a somewhat radioactive hue that raised eyebrows. Then, the next morning, we put the turkey into the marinade and let it sit in the fridge all day to, well, marinate.
Now, we love to grill and we will do so, even the lowest of low temperatures, snow, ice or rain don't faze us. So, naturally, we grilled our satay, after waiting what seemed like an eternity for the grill to get hot enough (500F). I had reduced the amount of oil in the marinade somewhat, but had no trouble with sticking thanks to our fantastically well-seasoned cast iron grates. We cooked these about 8 minutes on the first side and 6 on the other, I would've let them go longer, but we were quite hungry. While my husband tended the grill, I quickly whisked up the peanut sauce to go with our satay. I only made half the recipe and found it to be more than enough for the pound of meat, but in case you like it saucy, I've listed the original recipe below.
Satay Marinade (with my adjustments)
1/2 small onion, quartered
2 T ginger garlic paste
2 T lemon juice
1 T soy sauce
1 T fish sauce
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
1/4 tsp dried chile pepper flakes (I used Aleppo, a mild chile)
1 T vegetable oil
1 pound turkey tenderloins (or other meat or veggie, cut into strips)
Puree everything except turkey in a food processor or blender. Pour over the turkey and refrigerate 12 hours for turkey (or 6-24 hours for other cuts of meat).
To cook: You may skewer your meat, if you wish, just make sure to soak wooden skewers 20-30 minutes in warm water so they don't burn on the grill. We did not skewer because we couldn't find our metal skewers and were too hungry to wait the soaking time for the bamboo ones. Discard leftover marinade and grill turkey on a grill preheated to 550F for 8-10 minutes per side, just until you get a little char on the edges.
3/4 cup coconut milk
4 Tbsp peanut butter
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1 Tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp brown sugar
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp dried red chile flakes (again, I used Aleppo)
Combine coconut milk and peanut butter in a microwave safe bowl and heat for about 15-20 seconds to soften. Whisk until smooth, then mix in other ingredients until blended together. Serve as a dip or drizzle over your satay.
Saturday, November 14, 2009
Preparation time: 1¾ hours (much of it inactive time)
2½ cups water
Sushi vinegar dressing
5 T rice vinegar
5 t sugar
1¼ t salt
Swirl rice gently in a bowl of water, drain, repeat 3-4 times until water is nearly clear. Don't crush the rice in your hands or against the side of the bowl since dry rice is very brittle.
Gently place rice into a strainer and drain well for 30 minutes.
Gently place the rice into a heavy medium pot with a tight fitting lid (if you have a loose fitting lid use a piece of aluminium foil to make the seal tight). Add 2½ cups of water. Set the rice aside to soak for 30 minutes, during this time prepare the sushi rice dressing.
Combine the rice vinegar, sugar and salt in a small bowl. Heat on low setting. Stir until the mixture goes clear and the sugar and salt have dissolved. Set aside at room temperature until the rice is cooked.
Bring rinsed and soaked rice to the boil. Reduce heat to the lowest setting and simmer, covered, until all the water is absorbed, 12-15 minutes. Do not remove the lid during this process. Turn off heat. Let stand with the lid on, 10-15 minutes. Do not peek inside the pot or remove the lid. During this time the rice is steaming which completes the cooking process.
Moisten lightly a flat thin wooden spatula or spoon and a large shallow flat-bottomed non-metallic (plastic, glass or wood) bowl. Do not use metallic objects since the vinegar will react with it and produce sour and bitter sushi rice. Use the spatula to loosen gently the rice and invert the rice pot over the bowl, gently causing the cooked rice to fall into the bowl in one central heap. Do this gently so as not to cause the rice grains to become damaged. Slowly pour the cooled sushi vinegar over the spatula onto the hot rice. Using the spatula gently spread the rice into a thin, even layer using a 45° cutting action to break up any lumps and to separate the rice. Don't stir or mash rice. After the rice is spread out, start turning it over gently, in small portions, using a cutting action, allowing steam to escape, for about a minute. Continue turning over the rice, but now start fanning (using a piece of stiff cardboard) the rice vigorously as you do so. Having an extra set of hands to help with the fanning is ideal - thanks, James! Don't flip the rice into the air but continue to gently slice, lift and turn the rice occasionally, for 10 minutes. Cooling the rice using a fan gives good flavour, texture and a high-gloss sheen to the rice. The vinegar dressing will be absorbed by the hot rice. Stop fanning when there's no more visible steam, and all the vinegar dressing has been adsorbed and the rice is shiny. Your sushi rice is ready to be used.
Keeping the rice moist:
Cover with a damp, lint free cloth to prevent the rice from drying out while preparing your sushi meal. Do not store sushi rice in the refrigerator leave on the counter covered at room temperature. Sushi rice is best used when it is at room temperature.
2½ cups prepared sushi rice
2 sheets of toasted nori, each sized 7”x8” (17.5cmx20cm)
Six assorted fillings, each filling should be the size of a pencil (see note below)
1 sheet 7”x8” (17.5cmx20cm) of toasted nori (dried seaweed sheets), cut into halves
1/2 Japanese cucumber
2 cups of prepared sushi rice
4 pcs imitation crab meat (crab stick)
Vinegared Water – ½ cup of water combined with a dash of rice vinegar
Various small amounts of sauces to use as the flames of the dragon (or legs of a caterpillar)
Yield: 14-16 pieces of sushi
2 cups prepared sushi rice
8 pairs of assorted toppings, 200 gms/7 ozs total of fish, meat or vegetables (see note below)
1 tablespoon Wasabi (paste, reconstituted powder) or any other paste to adhere topping to rice
Optional Garnishes include pickled ginger and thin strips of nori (for securing non-fish toppings)
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
When I first met my husband, he was a classic meat and potatoes man. Vegetables were an afterthought at best, exotic cuisine was Beef and Broccoli from the local takeout place and the first thing he ever cooked for me started from a little blue box – the less said about that, the better. The exception to this was pho. Probably half of our dates that first year were at his favorite pho restaurant. He loved pho and he taught me to love it, with its delicious fragrant broth, paper-thin onions, slurp-able rice noodles and thin slices of tender, just barely cooked by the heat of the broth, beef. As I got used to pho, I experimented with adding different amounts of hoisin and sriracha (more when you have a stuffy nose), as well as lime juice, bean sprouts (just a few, please) and fresh herbs (the tiniest basil leaves are the best). He was more adventurous with his choices of meat (tripe, anyone?), but we both enjoyed getting to know each other over steaming bowls of pho.
Several years later, we still turn to pho to provide a quick meal on a busy night, to warm us on chilly days or to cure what ails us – nothing beats it when you feel a cold coming on. Pho is one of our comfort foods. I’d played around with the idea of making pho from scratch in the past, but the recipes I found required hours of boiling stock and called for enormous quantities of oxtails and marrow bones and an industrial sized pot. That plan got quickly set aside. So I was thrilled when this month’s Daring Cooks’ Challenge was announced. I even squealed to my husband that he’d never guess what the challenge was. And he did – based solely on how excited I sounded. It’s amazing the things we’re willing to do when you throw in the words ‘daring’ and ‘challenge’.
Jaden of Steamy Kitchen provided us with the recipes for Pho Ga or chicken pho. She gave us the option of making Quick Vietnamese Chicken Pho from her new cookbook, which makes pho a weeknight option by using store-bought stock instead of homemade. Or we could live up to our Daring name and make the longer, more traditional version with either beef or chicken. I, of course, opted for the longer version found here because homemade stock would have only the flavors I wanted in it – most store bought stocks are made with vegetables that are not traditional in pho stock.
After some of the recent challenges, I felt lucky that I already had most of the ingredients on hand, even the spices and condiments. The stock making process was very similar to making an ordinary chicken soup. Plus I had a devoted four-legged volunteer ready to assist in the process, should I need him. He was very attentive to the entire process, since he usually gets some part of any chicken I butcher, but not this time – I needed all the precious bones for the soup. Jaden suggested a new-to-me method of par-boiling the chicken for five minutes to remove most of the impurities and discarding that water before starting over to simmer the stock. This drastically reduced the amount of skimming I had to do later.
There are two keys to a fragrant and rich-tasting pho: first you must toast the whole spices to release their oils before adding them to the simmering stock. This step is not included in the recipe link above, but it’s essential. Second, you must char the onion and ginger – I put it under the broiler while I was butchering the chicken. Neither of these steps took long at all, but they were absolutely worth it. I simmered my stock longer than suggested, closer to 3 hours, so the stock was probably reduced more than normal; we got four bowls of pho from it. When the stock was finished, it had a light, delicate flavor that only needed salt to round it out. I am used to the stronger beef version, so this was quite different. I will probably decrease the amount of water or double the chicken and spices when I make this again. I also sliced my chicken breast instead of shredding it, added sliced napa cabbage to get in an extra vegetable and used the red onions called for, though I’ll use white in the future because the red was too strong. I think I’ll try out the beef version soon, now that fall has really started. Most importantly, I’m no longer afraid of making my own pho and I’m more appreciative that my husband and I still have our pho place for those times when I just don’t feel like making my own.
Monday, September 14, 2009
I'm a big fan of Indian cuisine and have made several different varieties of breads before (chapati, roti, poori and paratha), but I've never made dosas. It's a simple pancake-like batter and cooked like crepes. I used chapati flour because I had that on hand and substituted coconut milk for the soy milk. I had trouble getting the batter thin enough, but was afraid of making it too thin. I'll definitely thin it even more next time since we only ended up with 6 dosas from the recipe. I asked my crepe-master husband to cook them for me and he had to shake the pan a lot to get the batter to spread across and we ended up with a couple that were irregularly shaped. It's definitely something we'll play around with, searching for the elusive paper dosas.
1 cup (120gm/8oz) spelt flour (or all-purpose, gluten free flour)
½ tsp (2½ gm) salt
½ tsp (2½ gm) baking powder
½ tsp (2½ gm) curry powder
½ cup (125ml/4oz) almond milk (or soy, or rice, etc.)
¾ cup (175ml/6oz) water
cooking spray, if needed
1.Combine the dry ingredients in a bowl, slowly adding the almond milk and water, whisking until smooth.
2.Heat a nonstick skillet over medium heat. Spray your pan with a thin layer of cooking spray, if needed.
3.Ladle 2 tablespoons of batter into the center of your pan in a circular motion until it is a thin, round pancake. When bubbles appear on the surface and it no longer looks wet, flip it over and cook for a few seconds. Remove from heat and repeat with remaining batter. Makes 8 pancakes.
The dosa filling was curried chickpeas. I have a chickpea curry made with yogurt that I make often so I was excited to try a vegan variation. It was a very simple and straightforward curry, much like those I've tried before. The only change I made was to use a red pepper rather than green. I mashed the chickpeas with a potato masher after I added them to the curry rather than pureeing them first to get a rougher texture. I wished that the filling was a little saucier, but it was otherwise a nice complement to the dosas.
Curried Garbanzo Filling
5 cloves garlic
1 onion, peeled and finely diced
1 carrot, peeled and finely diced
1 green pepper, finely diced (red, yellow or orange are fine too)
2 medium hot banana chilies, minced
2 TBSP (16gm) cumin, ground
1 TBSP (8gm) oregano
1 TBSP (8gm) sea salt (coarse)
1 TBSP (8gm) turmeric
4 cups (850gm/30oz) cooked or canned chick peas (about 2 cans)
½ cup (125gm/4oz) tomato paste
1.Heat a large saucepan over medium to low heat. Add the garlic, veggies, and spices, cooking until soft, stirring occasionally.
2.Mash the chickpeas by hand, or in a food processor. Add the chickpeas and tomato paste to the saucepan, stirring until heated through
My favorite part of the recipe was actually the coconut curry sauce. I really like coconut, a lot. A whole lot. Ironically, if I'd made this recipe outside of the daring cooks, I probably would have skipped the sauce, just for simplicity. I'm so glad I didn't. It was again extremely simple to make. I used chapati flour rather than spelt, but otherwise stuck to the recipe. The sauce provided a perfect complement to the dosas and really blended the flavors and brought the whole dish together.
1 onion, peeled and chopped
2 cloves garlic
½ (2½ gm) tsp cumin, ground
¾ (3¾ gm) tsp sea salt (coarse)
3 TBSP (30gm) curry powder
3 TBSP (30gm) spelt flour (or all-purpose GF flour)
3 cups (750ml/24oz) vegetable broth
2 cups (500ml/24oz) coconut milk
3 large tomatoes, diced
1.Heat a saucepan over medium heat, add the onion and garlic, cooking for 5 minutes, or until soft.
2.Add the spices, cooking for 1 minutes more. Add the flour and cook for 1 additional minute.
3.Gradually stir in the vegetable broth to prevent lumps. Once the flour has been incorporated, add the coconut milk and tomatoes, stirring occasionally.
4.Let it simmer for half an hour.