21 February 2011

February Spice Rack Challenge – Citrus

Posted in events, food at 9:47 pm by Tricia

The spice rack challenge this month is citrus. A citrus-reliant recipe from my archives is Orange Chocolate Chip Scones – once known as “breakfast cookies” in our house. It uses grated orange rind and thawed orange juice concentrate and is very tasty.

But for this month, I branched out into new territories – the Gulf States of the Middle East, to be precise! I was looking for something to do with lamb, and turned to my copy of The Complete Middle East Cookbook, by Tess Mallos. I was intrigued to see that a common ingredient in the Gulf region is loomi, or dried limes. Aha! Spice Rack Challenge! I didn’t have any dried limes on hand, but the author says it is possible to substitute the thinly peeled rind of a lemon (although it is said to be a poor substitute).

spiced chicken with rice (Machbous ala Dajaj)

spiced chicken with rice (Machbous ala Dajaj)

All the lamb dishes that intrigued me were not going to work out for that night’s dinner, so I ended up making a chicken dish: Machbous Ala Dajaj, also known as spiced chicken and rice. It is a fairly labor intensive recipe, but the taste was well worth it. It reminded me somewhat of Indian food, which is not surprising given the spice trade between the region. Quoting Tess Mallos:

Their rice dishes are of the kind one would expect, knowing the colourful history of the Arabs, as it was they who opened the spice routes to India and the East, and to the West, trading their own cardamom, coriander and cumin for cinnamon, nutmeg, cassia ginger, pepper, turmeric and cloves. The most popular spicing is a mixture of most of these, called baharat, and it is used in rice, soups, fish, poultry and meat dishes, usually with the addition of whole spices to emphasize certain flavours and turmeric or saffron for colour.

The cookbook specifies how to make 2 cups, starting from whole spices. I did not have a spice grinder so I decided to use ground spices. I worked out the proportions and used teaspoons instead of 1/4 cups. Here’s how I mixed it up:

Baharat (mixed spices)

2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp coriander
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp cloves
1.5 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp cardamom
1 tsp nutmeg
2 tsp ground paprika

If you are using whole spices, mix all but the nutmeg and grind. Then grate the nutmeg and blend into spices with ground paprika. If you are starting from ground spices, mix everything together. Store in an airtight jar.

Here is the recipe for the chicken dish I made with it. I used brown basmati rice – with all the color from the spices, nobody is going to know what the rice looked like beforehand, so you can sneak in extra fiber and protein to anyone who might object to brown rice. Also, I used boneless chicken breasts instead of a whole chicken (because that’s what I had on hand), so the cooking time was reduced – I simmered for 20 or 30 minutes in step 3 and it was certainly sufficiently cooked.

Machbous Ala Dajaj (spiced chicken and rice)
The Complete Middle East Cookbook, page 255

Serves: 4-6
Cooking Time: 1 3/4 – 2 hours

2 large onions, chopped
2 tablespoons ghee (I used 1 Tab olive oil + 1 Tab butter)
1 Tab Baharat (see above)
1 tsp turmeric
1 chicken, about 3 lb, joined
1 1/2 cups chopped, peeled tomatoes
3 cloves
1/2 tsp powdered loomi (dried lime), or 1 strip lemon rind
2 pieces cinnamon bark
6 cardamom pods
3 tsp salt
2 1/2 cups water
2 cups basmati rice
2 Tab chopped coriander leaves
2 Tab chopped parsley

1. In a deep, heavy pan, gently fry onion in ghee until transparent and beginning to brown. Stir in baharat and turmeric and cook two minutes longer.

2. Add chicken pieces and turn in onion mixture over medium heat to brown lightly. Add tomatoes, cloves, loomi, cinnamon, cardamom pods, and salt; stirring well to combine.

3. Add water, cover and simmer over gentle heat for 45 minutes.

4. Meanwhile: pick over rice to remove discoloured grains. Place in a bowl and wash with cold water until water runs clear. Drain.

5. Stir rice gently into pot contents, add herbs [I didn’t have them on hand, so skipped it] and bring back to a slow simmer.  Cover with lid and simmer on low heat for 35-40 minutes until chicken is tender, stirring gently once or twice during cooking. Remove from heat and leave aside for 10 minutes.

6. Pile onto large platter with chicken pieces in centre and serve hot with pickles, salad, and khoubiz (flat bread). [I skipped the pickles and used frozen naan from Trader Joe’s.]

A week or so after I made the chicken dish (and still having quite a bit of baharat remaining), I stopped at one of the middle eastern groceries in our town to find some dried limes. They did not have any, but I picked up some dried lemons and used them in a lentil soup, Shaurabat Adas. It tasted similar to lentil soup that you can get in many Middle Eastern restaurants around here, except the baharat made it much less bland. I’m not sure I could taste anything particularly citrusy in this recipe. I think the spicing might have been a bit weak for the amount of lentils in the dish. Or maybe I really need to go get some loomi and try again!

Shaurabat Adas (lentil soup)
The Complete Middle East Cookbook, page 250

Serves: 6
Cooking time: 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours (maybe less)

1 1/2 cups small red lentils
water
1 large onion, finely chopped
1/4 cup ghee or oil
4-5 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tsp baharat
2 cups chopped, peeled tomatoes
2 loomi (dried limes)
salt
1 cup crushed fine noodles, optional (I used 1/2 cup orzo)

1. Pick over lentils, place in a sieve and rinse under cold running water. Put into a large pot and add 6 cups water. Bring to the boil, skimming if necessary.

2. In a frying pan, heat ghee or oil and add onion. Fry gently until transparent, do not brown. Stir in garlic and spices, cook a few seconds, then add tomatoes.

3. After the lentils come to the boil, add onion mixture to lentil pot with dried limes, each pierced twice with a skewer or fork.

4. Return to the boil and boil gently, uncovered, for 40 minutes. [This seems long for red lentils – I think you could get by with less time, especially if you add noodles as the next sentence specifies.] Add noodles, salt to taste, and a little more water if soup looks too thick. Simmer gently for further 25-30 minutes, uncovered, until lentils and noodles are tender. Stir occasionally.

5. Serve hot in deep bowls with khoubiz (flat bread), salad, and pickles. [Again I skipped the pickles, but this time I had flat bread from the Middle Eastern grocery!]

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18 January 2011

Spice Rack Challenge – Remembering Rosemary

Posted in events, food at 11:43 pm by Tricia

This year I’m planning on participating in The Spice Rack Challenge – after all, it’s local! :^) The challenge this month is rosemary. Rosemary is for remembrance, so this seems like a good way to start the year: brushing up our memory for the taste of summer (maybe it’s just me, but I consider rosemary to be a summer taste), piqueing our memory to experiment with spices for the rest of year, or just doing what Mom said :^)

One of my most common uses for rosemary is with roasted potatoes: toss potato chunks or slices with rosemary (fresh or dried, whatever you have on hand), and salt. Roast in a 400 or 450 oven until they’re done. Feel free to toss in some feta chunks for the last few minutes. But I didn’t make those potatoes since the challenge was issued, so it doesn’t count.

Here are two rosemary dishes I did make:

The first was inspired by some tomatoes-on-the-vine that I needed to use up. Why tomatoes when the ground is covered with snow? Visiting relative insisted on buying them, then didn’t use them all up herself. ‘Nuff said. I chopped one tomato, tossed it with some salt and a tablespoon of dried rosemary, then put that in the pan to cook with the regular proportions of couscous and water. Delicious and easy, plus it salvaged an otherwise insipid tomato!

A few days later, I made an orange-rosemary roasted chicken. The directions are a bit vague because I didn’t write it down at the time, but this is less a recipe than an approach anyway. I roasted mine in a clay pot (which we won in a raffle at a charity auction and now treasure), but the method can be adapted to however you roast chicken. For what it’s worth, I was using up some clementines that were looking a bit dodgy (squishy and on the edge of fermentation).

Orange Rosemary Chicken

3 clementines or other tangerines, peeled and sectioned
2 (or more!) cloves of garlic, chopped
2-3 Tablespoons olive oil
2 (2-inch?) springs of fresh rosemary, coarsely chopped
salt
chicken to roast
clay pot for roasting

1. Chop or press the garlic and put in a small bowl with the olive oil and salt. Add half the rosemary. Chop one of the clementines into small pieces, and add to the olive oil mixture. Squish it around to get some juice out.
2. Rub the olive oil – rosemary – orange mixture all over the chicken, and put some under the skin if you’ve mastered that technique. Sprinkle with additional salt if you feel led.
3. Put the remaining oranges and rosemary inside the cavity. Toss in a few more garlic cloves if you love garlic.
4. Roast the chicken. (For our clay pot, we put the pot into a cold oven which then gets turned on to 450F. Bake for about an hour, then remove lid and roast uncovered 5 to 10 minutes more to brown skin.)

The chicken came out quite fabulous. Neither the rosemary nor the orange was overpowering but definitely added flavors and aromas to the chicken. I used the drippings and the carcass to make chicken stock and then chicken noodle soup – and wow, was that tasty! Again, the flavorings were not readily identifiable, but the stock had a really interesting taste. I’ll be doing this again.

8 September 2010

Paper Chef 56

Posted in events, food at 10:21 pm by Tricia

It’s Paper Chef time – the monthly food blog event that challenges us to be creative with 4 ingredients as revealed by the guest host. This month’s host was Asa and the ingredients were: capers, peaches, pumpkin/squash, and lemon grass, with a theme of “vegetarian.”

picture of squash, nectarines, capers, and tomatillos

some of the ingredients I used for Paper Chef 56

Peaches – ah, I love peaches! I look forward to them all summer. The strawberries get me revved up, the cherries sustain me while I wait, but the peaches send me into bliss. Actually, the nectarines do (no fuzz to work around), but I consider the two pretty much the same thing (fuzz notwithstanding).

I interpreted “squash” to be winter squash, because of the pumpkin connection. Our CSA was not yet delivering winter squash, except for spaghetti squash, so that’s what I decided to use. As I thought about the ingredients, I imagined a mound of spaghetti squash, topped with a spoonful of sauce, surrounded by peach slices and artfully arranged (decorative) lemongrass spears, finished off with a sprinkling of capers.  I wonder how many other erstwhile paper chefs imagined the same thing? Generic “sauce” morphed into mole, until I realized that lemon grass would probably be overwhelmed by the chocolate. Since I had a nice collection of tomatillos from the CSA, the sauce evolved into a green salsa (infused with essence of lemongrass – surely tomatillos and lemongrass are complementary flavors?).

True confessions time: I’ve never used lemon grass or capers in my cooking. I’ve seen them in recipes, and have planned to get some one day, but never did. This was the push I needed! And I thought I’d be able to call my dish “Renters to the Rescue!,” because a recent tenant(s) in our rental house left some capers and some lemon grass (among other items, some of which ended up in trash or compost). I don’t mind living on the edge, so I’d brought the capers (organic! from Whole Foods!) over to my own fridge (besides, maybe my mother-in-law was the one who left them – right? maybe? nah…she left many other worthy edibles, but not those). I thought I brought the lemongrass as well, but digging around in the freezers did not reveal it. Drat! And by the time I was able to actually cook (holiday weekend + first day of school on Tuesday => me not cooking so much the past few days), it was too late to get lemon grass. So I skipped that  ingredient. I guess I still won’t know if lemongrass and tomatillos are complementary. But let’s just pretend they are, for the sake of argument.

Spaghetti Squash with Tomatillo Salsa and Nectarines
serves 4

spaghetti squash
10 ounces tomatillos
chiles (I used 1 anaheim + 1 cayenne + 1 unknown small but hot one – maybe a Thai bird pepper?)
5 cloves garlic
sufficient quantity of lemon grass (or sub 1/2 tsp dried lemon peel if you’re a nimrod like me and don’t have lemongrass on hand and don’t have time to go buy any)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp green chile powder
2 tsp cornmeal (possibly optional)
3 or more nectarines
1 Tab capers
optional: a few tablespoons pine nuts, toasted

1. Prepare the spaghetti squash. Preheat oven to 375° F. Slice squash in half, put the halves face down in pan, add water to pan until it is about 1/4 inch deep. Cover pan with foil. Cook 45 minutes to an hour (until squash is done).

2. Meanwhile, start the salsa. Puree the tomatillos, deseeded chiles, minced lemongrass, and garlic in a food processor. Put in small sauce pan with 1 cup water, salt, and green chile powder. Bring to a simmer. [For deeper flavor, it might help to first saute some onions in olive oil for 5 to 10 minutes, add garlic for a minute, then add the rest of the ingredients. I skipped all that in the interest of time.]

3. If you are going to have decorative lemon grass sprigs on your plates, prepare that now. Slice the nectarines into thin slices. Toast the pine nuts.

4. About 5 minutes before you are ready to eat, add a couple teaspoons of corn meal to the salsa if you think it needs thickening. Adjust seasonings. For example, I added half a nectarine, chopped fine, to add a touch of sweetness (perhaps this should be added at the beginning).

5. When the squash is done, remove it from the oven and spoon out the seeds. Then, using a fork, scrape out the strands of squash. (This is where a first-time has the aha! moment: now you know why it’s called spaghetti squash!) Using a large saute pan, heat up a tablespoon or two of butter, then put in the squash and heat through. This is optional, but adds a certain nuttiness and butteriness to the squash that is useful if you aren’t drenching it in sauce.

6. To serve: put a mound of squash on the plate. Add a ladleful of sauce. Artfully arrange nectarine slices around the sauce. Sprinkle a few pine nuts (if using) and capers on the sauce. Even more artfully, arrange your (invisible, in my case!) lemon grass sprigs on top.

photo of squash and nectarines and such

it tastes better than it looks...

Although the photo is not great (the light was fading and i was rushed when it was time to eat, plus that salsa is not very photogenic), the arrangement was pretty and the final result really tasty! The squash provided a nutty base. The salsa was tart and tangy and spicy hot (although clearly needing lemon grass! :^), which was a nice contrast to the sweetness of the nectarines and the salty crunch of the capers. (To be honest: capers? I still don’t quite get the point. I need enlightenment!) My husband said he would eat it again, but suggested it would be better as a side dish to a piece of chutney-covered grilled chicken. He might have a chance: we have leftovers! Although I am also tempted to use the spaghetti squash in a gratin recipe from James Peterson’s Vegetables (source of my squash cooking directions, including the pan saute step).

P.S. If you need instructions for cooking with lemongrass, I suggest reading this [Thaifood at about-dot-com] or this (Thaigrocer-dot-com) or this (ochef-dot-com).

1 September 2010

Hunger Action Month

Posted in events, food, social justice at 9:11 pm by Tricia

September is Hunger Action Month – go to their web site to get ideas about how to fight hunger in your community, and sign the pledge to say you will take action this month. There are also links where you can find local participation or advocacy events happening during September. For readers in my area, you can get a downloadable PDF calendar with some info about local events direct from Food Gatherers of Washtenaw County. Check it out!

14 July 2010

Paper Chef 54 – Super Supper Salad

Posted in CSA, events, food at 6:27 pm by Tricia

Paper Chef ingredients

lovely assemblage of ingredients

This past weekend was Paper Chef weekend. The ingredients, selected by the host Karen of Prospect: The Pantry, were raspberries, beans (any kind), zucchini, and cereal grains. I forgot about this entirely until late Monday, so figured I’d have to pass again. But then when my CSA box included green beans AND squashes (zucchini and others), plus raspberries are in season at the farmer’s market – well, I just had to pull together a last minute entry. I can’t think of a clever name, so I’ll just give the ingredients and directions.

Herbed Grains and Green Beans

Ingredients:

1 cup (before cooking) of your favorite grain mix

4oz (~115 gr) green beans, cut into pieces
8 oz (~225 g) squash, cut into chunks
1 garlic scape, chopped
1 tab olive oil

1 medium sized (~5 oz) tomato
2 to 4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
fresh raspberries (optional)

Dressing
1 Tab olive oil
2 Tab raspberry vinegar
1 fresh raspberry (or more) (which you will squash)
leaves torn from a sprig of fresh thyme
leaves torn from a sprig of fresh oregano
fresh basil (at least 4 big leaves)
sprig of fresh rosemary
1 clove garlic (chopped fine or squashed through a garlic press)

1. Prepare the grains as directed. (I used a brown rice – daikon radish seed – black barley mix from Trader Joe’s. It takes about 35 minutes to cook. In the spirit of full disclosure and in conflict with the ingredients list above, it’s not my favorite grain mix, but it’s what I had on hand!)

2. While the grain are cooking, toss the green beans, squash, and garlic scapes with olive oil in a baking dish. Roast them in a preheated 450F oven for 15 minutes. (I don’t like the smell of roasting chopped garlic, but the scape added a nice garlicky flavor without that smell.)

3. As they roast and the grains cook, chop the tomato roughly and toss with some salt in your serving bowl.

4. Mix up the dressing: finely chop all the herbs together, then stir into the oil and vinegar mixture. Stir in the minced garlic and 1 raspberry (or more if you prefer) that you squash up as you stir. (Hey, maybe I should call this “grains, beans, squash, and squashed raspberries”! :^)

5. When the roasted vegetables come out of the oven, toss them with the tomato, crumbled feta, and dressing. By doing this while the vegetables are still warm, the tomato and feta will get softened a bit and release some more juices.

6. When the grains are ready, stir them in. Serve when you’re ready to eat (this salad will taste great warm or cold) – and top with a few more raspberries so you feel more in the spirit of the challenge!

I really liked the salad, and my husband praised it as well. If I were to change anything, I might use a little less dressing – or, alternatively, more green beans and squash and perhaps tomato. I used all the beans I had, but the grains easily could have stood up to double the amount. The fresh herbs were a fabulous addition – I could detect them in various bites, yet the flavors all melded so well that it wasn’t a distraction but a nice burst of tastiness. (As an aside, one of the things I really appreciate about my new CSA this year is that we can take small amounts of all the herbs she has available, not just a big clump of one variety.)

I added some fresh raspberries on top because it felt like a bit of a cheat to just resort to raspberry vinegar. They were a pleasant addition, but really felt like an add-on. I intended to add some lightly toasted pine nuts (the ones I currently have on hand don’t provoke pine mouth!) but totally forgot since I was running late and we needed to get the middle child to his baseball game. Maybe the combination of nuts and berries would feel more integral.

We had this salad with the first bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwiches of the season – using lettuce and a tomato from the farm share, bacon from a local farm (Ernst Farms), and naturally leavened bread that my husband makes. Yum! What a delightful summer supper!

BLT and salad

Paper Chef 54 dinner!

If you’re keeping score, all ingredients in the salad were local except for the grains mix, the olive oil, vinegar, and salt. And all the local ingredients except the raspberries (and including the flowers in the first photo) are from Capella Farm (our CSA)!

(And speaking of score, middle son hit two triples and a double at the game for at least 4 RBIs. His bat was on fire! Their team won the game, by a score of 16-6.)

12 April 2010

Paper Chef 51: Lots of ginger, lots of pans

Posted in events, food at 11:44 pm by Tricia

Finally, after a long dry spell, I have managed to make and blog a dish for Paper Chef. The ingredients were selected by Adele of Will Work for Biltong, who won last month. Actually, her darling (gourmand!) daughter drew them, and she randomly selected lobster, apricots, and orange; with ginger added by Mama Adele.

Huh. Lobster?? I’ve eaten lobster twice: once in a seafood-leaning restaurant in Boston’s Chinatown, and once grilled at a local cookout. The only time I’ve even come close to cooking with lobster was faux lobster, and I’m not sure that counts. (Aside: Jonski Papa asks “if faux crab is spelled with a K, should faux lobster be spelled with a lambda?” It shall.)  I looked at our primary general-purpose grocery store, and they had 8 ounce packages of faux-Λobster chunks for $3, and frozen lobster tails for $15. They might still sell live lobsters, but I wasn’t even going to consider that option! Especially given my recent history of buying ingredients and not following through (saffron for PC#47, vanilla beans for PC#36). I was tempted to substitute crab meat since it’s more of a known quantity for me, but figured as long as I was slight-substituting, the faux-Λobster was the way to go. But that brings up the taxonomic/zoological question: is it closer to substitute an ingredient in the same Linnean Order (lobster and crabs are both Decapods), or something made to allegedly taste like the item but from a completely different Phylum? (faux-Λobster is made from pollock, which is a fish and thus a vertebrate!)

Enough nattering, what did I create? Apricot-ginger rice cakes, with sauteed spinach, and orange-ginger lobster chunks. Or maybe I should call it “ginger, ginger, everywhere, and many pans to clean!” My paper chef entries tend to be a bit minimal, in that they stick pretty closely to the 4 ingredients, but I expanded my horizons somewhat here, with a total of 10 ingredients (if you don’t count olive oil and green chile seasoned salt).

ingredients for paper chef 51

Ingredients for Paper Chef 51

Orange-Ginger Lobster Chunks on a bed of Sauteed Spinach and Apricot-Ginger Rice Cakes

Ingredients:

olive oil
salt to taste (I use Tia Rita’s Green Chile Seasoning Salt)

Rice Cakes:

2 cups (already cooked) brown rice
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 Tab orange juice
3 oz (~ 1/2 cup) finely chopped dried apricots
1 Tab finely diced fresh ginger

Spinach:

half a package baby spinach, sliced into wide ribbons
1 garlic clove, finely diced

Sauce: (mix in small bowl and set aside until needed)

1/4 cup orange muscat vinegar
3/4 tsp ground ginger
1 thin round of fresh ginger, finely diced

Lobster:

4 oz (faux) lobster chunks, mixed with
even more diced ginger (another diced round)
1 Tab butter

Directions:

1. To prepare the rice cakes:

  • Moisten the rice with orange juice. Stir in the eggs, dried apricots, and ginger.
  • Heat the griddle to medium low, then film with olive oil. Dollop out 1/2 cup measures of the rice mix for each rice cake. Press to desired thickness and roundness and let cook. Turn when the bottom seems to be browning, and the cake is firming up.

2. Meanwhile, cook the spinach:

  • As the rice cakes are cooking, put a medium sauce or saute pan over medium high heat. Film with olive oil. Once the oil is heated, stir the garlic ever so briefly (don’t want it to burn) then add in the spinach. Cook until wilted to your preferred consistency.
  • Remove spinach to serving bowl. Splash a little bit (1 or 2 Tab?) of the vinegar into the pan, stir it around until heated through and any spinach or garlic bits are loosened, then dump it over the spinach. Or you could stir it in during the last minute or two of cooking, but I have this suspicion that changes the color of the spinach.

3. Next, cook the lobster:

  • Melt butter over medium low heat in a small saucepan. Stir in the lobster chunks. Salt if desired. Cook, stirring frequently, until it is warmed through and looks done. (Since I was using faux-Λobster that was fully cooked, I have no idea what kind of time you might need for raw lobster. Because, after all, I’ve never cooked raw lobster! Can one even get raw lobster if it’s not alive??) Remove to serving bowl.

4. Finally, the sauce:

  • In your lobster cooking pan, melt a small bit of butter (maybe 1/3 Tab?) and pour in the vinegar. Cook over medium-low to low heat until it is reduced and starting to thicken – about 1 minute less than what I did (mine almost got too thick!). Pour / scrape into a small serving dish.

5. Plating the meal: (do I sound fancy or what??)

  • Put a rice cake on the plate. Spoon 1/4 of the spinach on top of the rice cake, then 1/4 of the lobster, then top with some sauce.
finished food

Finished, but not plated

So how did it turn out? Quite nicely! My husband said he felt like he was dining at a fancy restaurant (except our wine was in Ikea plastic cups, and we ate off Corelle dishes).

I started out with only 1 egg in my rice mixture, and the cakes seemed like they were going to fall apart, so I quickly cracked another egg, beat it, and spooned it over the rice cakes. This helped – that’s why I put 2 eggs in the recipe above. But they were still a bit crumbly. Jonski Papa reminded me that the rice was a bit under-hydrated to begin with, so maybe properly cooked rice – or sticky/short grain rice – wouldn’t suffer from this problem. Or maybe rice cakes need another ingredient to fully firm up?

On to the taste: the apricot in the rice cakes was not quite as prominent as I had imagined, but it was present. I liked them. Sauteed spinach with a splash of orange is one of my favorite ways to simply prepare it, so I knew I’d like that. The Λobster was tender and sweet and mild. It was a good mix of textures. The real winner was the orange-ginger sauce – a zingy splash of flavor. Altogether, it was a really nice dinner – very tasty, and very satisfying.

The orange muscat vinegar that Trader Joe’s sells is my all-time favorite product in the store (okay, favorite non-chocolate product!). It adds a special touch to any dish that it’s compatible with. I’m not sure the best way to replicate this meal without it – perhaps use a mixture of orange juice (maybe thawed concentrate) and a white wine vinegar? Or just OJ concentrate and something to thicken it?

We served 2 hungry adults with this dish, but you could probably stretch it to 4 (especially if you increased the spinach and maybe the lobster). I would definitely make this again! And I can, because I have all the ingredients…

14 March 2010

Pi(e) Day, Year 2

Posted in events, food tagged , at 1:59 am by Tricia

rolling pin and cookbook

heritage rolling pin and pastry recipes

Once again, we are celebrating Pi Day (3.14) with a big party. Hopefully, I’ll remember to take a few pictures this year. But in the meantime, I present my pie crust recipe – flaky butter pastry from The Heritage of Southern Cooking, by Camille Glenn. I received this cookbook from a Chinese grad student in my first grad school career, and I don’t know if I’ve used any other recipe in this book (although I just noticed one for rhubarb cream pie that I plan to try this summer!). I’m not sure why not – it’s a lovely cookbook, with historic photos, illustrations, and advertising images, along with short but interesting introductions to each section.

Flaky Buttery Pastry

2 1/4 cups (11 ounces) sifted all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp salt
14 Tab (1 3/4 sticks) butter, chilled and cut into pieces
1/3 cup ice water, or as needed

1. Sift the flour and salt into a mixing bowl. Cut the butter into the flour with a pastry blender until the mixture resembles coarse meal.

2. Sprinkle on the ice water a little at a time, blending it quickly into the dough by gathering up the mixture, working it lightly with your fingers, then squeezing it together. (Work fast, as the mixture must stay cold.) The dough should be soft enough to easily form into a ball. If it is not, add a little more water.

3. Form the dough into a ball. Cut it in half, and roll each half out at once on a lightly floured surface or pastry cloth. (Or cover and refrigerate until ready to use.)

4. As soon as it has been rolled out, fit the bottom crust into the pie pan. Then it can be covered and refrigerated or frozen until ready to use. Roll out the top crust, place it on a wax-paper-lined baking sheet, cover with foil, and refrigerate or freeze until ready to use.

My experience: This recipe can also be used for 2 bottom crusts.

Variation for a 1-crust pie: Use 1 cup plus 2 Tab (5 1/2 ounces) flour, a pinch of salt, 7 Tab butter, and about 1/4 cup ice water. This will give you a little extra pastry dough, but don’t try to change the proportions. Use the extra to make turnovers or toast fingers.

I had a few trimmings left over after rolling out my 2 crusts, so I popped them in the toaster oven as I started typing this up. Warm, flaky, buttery – yum! Glenn states that the butter crust is the easiest to learn, but recommends her shortening-based standard pastry recipe for rich or sweet pies – such as the pecan pie that we will be baking on Sunday. And given how rich it is, I’m sure she also would have recommended it for chocolate chip pie. Oh well, I guess I’ll ignore her advice on that point, because I just love this pastry!

By the way, the rolling pin in that photo is heritage as well – my great-grandfather made it for my maternal grandmother, as a wedding gift. My mom gave it to me when we were visiting this past Christmas, since she doesn’t use it any more. I already had two rolling pins, but given the history, I couldn’t turn down this one!

While searching the interwebs for a cookbook link (none of them show the same cover as I have!), I found this newspaper article that came out during the book tour for the cookbook. I also discovered that Camille Glenn died in January at the age of 100. God speed, Mrs Glenn – even though I ignore your advice on which crust to use in which pies, I use your recipe every time I make pie.

6 March 2010

Done did fondue

Posted in events, food tagged at 9:39 pm by Tricia

Sometime in the 70s, my family acquired a fondue pot – avocado green, needless to say. One year my family had chocolate fondue – I remember arguing with my sister who wanted to use semi-sweet chocolate, while I thought the only chocolate worth eating was Hershey’s milk chocolate. She won. My current self looks back on that incident with shame – although I will admit that once I realized chocolate chips were semi-sweet, I was sold on the idea. But our typical fondue meal (which wasn’t very often – maybe once a year?) was  swiss cheese with wine. Jonski Papa’s family had meat fondues – expensive cuts of meat, sliced very thin, cooked in oil and dipped in various tasty sauces. They never had cheese, we never had meat, so the first time we had fondue together (in Brazil, one Thanksgiving in the mid 90s) we ordered both.

avocado green Fondue Pot and Cookbook

Straight from the 70s - avocado green fondue gear

At some time in the past 20 years, I acquired the fondue pot from my parents. It came in handy on Saturday night when I went to a MLFB fondue party, hosted by Victoria who blogs at eclecticgrub. I didn’t have my camera so have no photos of the event, but others did and they may show up at their blogs eventually. Wanting to branch out from my childhood experience, I made a cider fondue.

Cider Fondue

2 to 3 Tab butter
2 lbs grated cheese (I cubed it, small cubes)
2 cups dry cider
1 tsp corn flour
1 tsp dry mustard
Salt and pepper to taste

Blend the corn flour and mustard with 1/2 cup cider. Melt butter in a saucepan. Add the cheese and remaining cider. Stir constantly over low heat until mixture is melted and smooth. Add corn flour mixture and seasonings. Blend well. Pour into fondue pot and serve.

I took chunks of (fresh, homemade) bread and chunks of apple to dip. Some of the veggies and cooked meats also ended up in there! I wasn’t quite sure what dry cider meant, but rather than look it up I decided to use our favorite non-alcoholic cider. I used a mix of cheeses: a sharp white Wisconsin cheddar and a bit of mild (yellow) Wisconsin cheddar (both from Busch’s), and 3 white cheddars from Trader Joe’s: New Zealand sharp, Dubliner, and something I’m forgetting.

We also had a beef broth (Victoria) and oil (Jeanette) for cooking meats and veggies, as well as a pizza fondue (made by Patti) that was amazingly flavoricious and chunky. Even after all that, we weren’t done – for dessert, Amy (who did not run with her spatula while there) brought a slightly spicy chocolate fondue along with a pound cake, fruit, and many crunchy treats. We did our best to finish it, but she had lots left over, so I got to bring some home (score!).

My boys have only ever had chocolate fondue (via fountains), so I guess we need to introduce them to this interactive dining experience. I’m thinking the cider fondue will be a good one to start with – they like cheddar, and it has no strange alcoholic overtones to set off their taste buds.

11 December 2009

Bizchochitos

Posted in events, food at 1:07 am by Tricia

bizcochito cookies

bizcochito snowmen - they melt in your mouth, not in the street

I’m going to a cookie exchange tonight, and I’ve prepared the Official State Cookie of New Mexico (really! you can read about them at wikipedia! and see the recipe at wikibooks!). You either gotta love or wonder deeply about a state that takes the time to recognize a state cookie. Then again, Michigan has a state soil. I doubt anybody here has a Christmas tradition of eating Kalkaska sand. But hey, what do I know – I didn’t grow up here!

Anyway, this also happens to be a Christmastime favorite at my house and at my sister’s. My mother got this recipe from Cocinas de Nuevo México, a cookbook she got from the Albuquerque gas or electric company in the late 60s or early 70s. I typically half the recipe (because it makes lots!), so those are the amounts I’ve provided here.

Bizcochitos

Ingredients:

1/2      pound (.25kg) butter/shortening (lard is traditional)
3/4      cups (75g) sugar
2         tsp. (10g) anise seed (crushed)
1         egg, beaten
3         cups (200g) flour
1.5       tsp. (15g) baking powder
1/2       tsp. (5g) salt
1/4       cup (65ml) brandy (I use orange juice)

cinnamon sugar: mix 1/4 cup sugar + 1 tablespoon cinnamon

Instructions:

  1. Cream the shortening, sugar, and anise in a large mixing bowl. Add eggs and beat well.
  2. Combine flour, baking powder, and salt in a large mixing bowl.
  3. Alternately add flour and brandy/OJ to creamed mixture until a stiff dough has formed. Let dough set in refrigerator until easy to handle.
  4. When ready to proceed, preheat oven to 350° F (180° C).
  5. Knead dough slightly and pat or roll to a 1/4 to 1/2 inch (.5 to 1cm) thickness.
  6. Cut into desired shapes. (The cookbook we had says “fleur-de-lis is traditional” but triangles were traditional at our house! They’re also much quicker to produce. I like to use simple Christmas cookie cutters, like stars, bells, and trees.)
  7. Dust with (or dip in) cinnamon sugar.
  8. Bake in an oven preheated to 350°F (180°C) for 10 minutes or until golden brown.

11 August 2009

Cross-Cultural Casserole – Paper Chef 43

Posted in events, food at 1:28 pm by Tricia

It’s time for my favorite food blog event – Paper Chef! (okay, it’s pretty much the only food blog event I’ve participated in more than once, but that’s because it’s my favorite!)

Basic idea: the host selects 3 events at random from a list, then adds a fourth to heighten the challenge. Participants have a weekend to make one or more dishes that incorporate the ingredients. This month’s host is Javaholic and she challenged us with couscous (preferably toasted Israeli couscous), chiles, peaches, and rosemary. I wasn’t phased by the peaches and chiles because there’s a peach salsa that I find really tasty, but peaches and rosemary? or even chiles and rosemary? Huh. Not sure I’ve mixed those before.

I have rosemary growing in a pot on my porch, and I keep stocked up on peaches this time of year. Chiles are not yet abundant at our Farmer’s Market (the summer has been cool), but I did manage to find a few that were allegedly anaheims, but pretty darn skinny if you ask me. And I stocked up on Israeli couscous at our local co-op on my way to the Farmer’s Market.

Paper Chef 43 Ingredients

Paper Chef 43 Ingredients

Then I mulled around ideas. The obvious idea was a summer salad incorporating the four ingredients. I briefly considered making a dessert, kind of like mango sticky rice, only peach sticky couscous [uh, with chile strips as a topping! ?? !!]. What I really yearned to make was chiles stuffed with couscous, similar to the stuffed bell peppers my mom used to make, but alas, the chiles at the market were too skinny for that to be feasible.

So I made a casserole. Any self-respecting cook who grew up in New Mexico and/or El Paso knows a dish that includes some combination of squash, tomatoes, chiles, onions, maybe corn (usually topped with corn chips and melted cheese). This is similar, with the peaches standing in for the tomatoes. I’m calling it “cross cultural” because the peaches (in my mind) add a sort of midwestern fusion, and the Israeli couscous [or any other couscous, for that matter] certainly never appears in my Savoring the Southwest cookbook!

Cross-Cultural Casserole

Ingredients:

6 to 8 chiles
1ish medium (yellow) summer squash, sliced thin
1 medium onion, sliced thin
1 peach, sliced
1 egg
milk
few tablespoons parmesan [note: I probably would change this]
1 garlic clove
rosemary, minced – 1 Tablespoon
tarragon, minced – 1/2 Tab? I didn’t really measure
1 cup Israeli couscous
1.25 cup water
2 (more) medium peaches, sliced (~1 cup), optionally tossed with 2 tsp brown sugar and 1 tsp cinnamon
green chile salt

Directions:

Chile prep: roast your chiles (over a gas grill, or under a broiler). Let them sweat and cool in a paper bag, then remove the skin and seeds. Cut into slices.

Preheat oven to 375 F.

Use an 8×8 baking dish. Film with olive oil.
Cover the bottom with a layer of squash. (I needed slightly more than 1 squash worth of slices.)
Layer on the onions.
Layer on the green chile strips until you are out (I used all my chiles, and had 3 layers).
Top with chunks from the first peach.
Mix 1 egg with milk in a small bowl or cup. (I poured the milk into the biggest half of the egg shell, twice – so about an egg’s worth of milk!) Beat lightly. Add parmesan. Pour over the top of the veggie layers.

Bake at 375 F for about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile:
chop garlic clove, rosemary, and tarragon.
Using small sauce pan, saute garlic, rosemary, and tarragon in olive oil until fragrant.
Pour water – bring to boil – add couscous. Cover pan, lower heat to simmer, and cook for 6 to 8 minutes.
Add the peaches + cinnamon sugar and cook for 2 minutes more.
It’s okay if it’s still a bit soupy. When the couscous is al dente, pour the mixture over the casserole and let it cook in the oven for 5 to 10 minutes more (while you pull everything else together).

The result? Pretty tasty, although not particularly photogenic.

Out of the oven...

Out of the oven...

Jonski Papa was initially hesitant about the couscous (see our recent run in with pearl tapioca) and couldn’t figure out where the sweetness came from at first (the peaches), but he really liked it. He thought it needed a crunch element, so got some pita chips from the pantry (must be that corn chip crust he’s missing!). I felt like the rosemary was overwhelmed – I couldn’t really taste it at all. Use more? Add it at the end? Not sure the best way to address that.

What I would change: I’m still trying to decide if it needs a cheese element. Maybe some Mexican cheese in the casserole? Or a goat cheese added at the end? Oh shoot, there’s an idea: goat cheese with rosemary ‘crust’, that probably would have provided more of a rosemary oomph! I could have gotten some at the market.

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