17 July 2011

Spice Rack Challenge – Asian Slaw

Posted in CSA, events, food at 8:35 pm by Tricia

Update: I found out this week that what I thought was savoy cabbage was actually yukina savoy, a tasty green in the mustard family (sort of like tatsoi). Jennifer left us a note to “use it like spinach.” I guess that’s one reason it worked so well in a raw dish! I’m updating the term below because it was hard to find info about it online.

I’ve been negligent the past few months and have missed posting for the Spice Rack Challenge. May was coriander. I was getting fresh cilantro from Capella’s spring CSA, plus I have a couple of go-to recipes that include ground coriander: Spanish-style greens with chickpeas (we eat this regularly, with a variety of seasonal greens), or green beans with cumin and coriander (my favorite way to spice up green beans). But I didn’t post anything. June was mint, and I could have posted the Three-Herb Chimichurri (parsley, cilantro, and mint) from Raichlen’s How To Grill.  I originally made it to serve with grilled steaks but found it was really good on all sorts of things (such as rice, bland veggies, as a salad dressing, or whatever). But once again, I never got around to it.

The challenge for June is basil. I did intend to grow some of my own this year. I had a holy basil seedling that I potted up before leaving on 10 days of vacation. I forgot to line up anybody to water it, and left it on my porch – and it died. The other seedlings right next to it did fine, which was weird, but there you go: no home grown basil for me. But I did get some this past week from Capella Farms, so all was not lost. I’ve been planning to serve roll-your-own Vietnamese spring rolls for dinner, which ideally include Thai basil. Instead, while shopping at a Korean grocery for spring roll wrappers, I got seduced by their thinly sliced bulgogi meat. Tonight I assembled a mostly Korean feast, and included a cabbage dish from Vegetables Every Day by Jack Bishop. The inspiring recipe is called “Napa Cabbage Salad with Southeast Asian Flavors.” I had savoy cabbage yukina savoy and no fish sauce, so modified it somewhat. I’m not big on cole slaw – or cabbage for that matter! – but this combo was really fabulous – the mix of fresh herbs is a great taste sensation. If I were given to hyperbole, I might say something like “a party in your mouth,” but instead I will bow to Bishop’s words when he writes that “the flavors are bright and crisp.” A bright, crisp, flavorful party in your mouth…

Bonus! This recipe actually includes basil AND mint AND coriander (in the form of fresh cilantro), so it kind of makes up for missing the past two months!

green (and orange!) ingredients from Capella

Asian Slaw

yukina savoy cabbage, chopped into thin strips
2 medium carrots, peeled and shredded on the large holes of a box grater
12 large basil leaves, cut into thin strips
12 large fresh mint leaves, cut into thin strips
2 Tab minced fresh cilantro leaves
2 Tab lime juice
a few drops of worcestershire sauce (original recipe calls for 1.5 Tab fish sauce)
1 or 2 Tab diced green chiles from the freezer (recipe calls for 1 small Thai red chile, stemmed, seeded, and minced)
1 tsp sugar
1 Tab toasted sesame oil (original calls for 2 Tab roasted peanut oil )
1/4 cup roasted peanuts, roughly chopped

1. Place the yukina savoy cabbage, carrots, and herbs in a large bowl.

2. Whisk the lime juice, worcestershire, chile, and sugar together in a small bowl. Stir occasionally to help the sugar to dissolve, about 10 minutes. Whisk in the oil.

3. Pour the dressing over the salad and toss to combine. Add the peanuts, toss, and serve immediately.

leftover slaw (bright crisp party in the bowl)


Tasty Turnips

Posted in CSA, food at 3:39 pm by Tricia

Turnips are not one of my favorite foods – or rather, I’m not all that comfortable cooking turnips, because I don’t have a repertoire of go-to recipes. But they show up in my CSA share, so I try to find interesting recipes to use them up. Here is the most recent success, courtesy of (what else?!?) World Vegetarian. I took it to a pot luck and it got gobbled up. I certainly enjoyed it!

(By the way, am I the only one who does that – takes new dishes to pot lucks? I figure a large audience like that is bound to have a few adventurous eaters, unlike my own family that is only adventurous on other people’s turf. I almost always taste test it first, and if something was a true disaster I wouldn’t take it along…)

Turnips with Yogurt and Tomato

Shaljam Lajavaab

1 cup plain yogurt
1 tsp salt
2 lbs turnips, peeled and cut into 1.5 inch dice
3 Tab peanut or canola oil
1 tsp whole cumin seeds (original recipe calls for 1/2 tsp)
2 large shallots (about 1.5 oz), peeled and cut lengthwise into fine slivers (I used a small leek and part of a garlic scape)
2 medium tomatoes (8 oz), peeled and chopped (I only had a small tomato, so I used diced tomatoes from a can!)
1/8 to 1/4 tsp cayenne

Put the yogurt and salt into a large bowl. Beat lightly with a fork or whisk until the yogurt is smooth and creamy.

Pierce the turnip pieces on all sides with a fork and then put them into the bowl with the yogurt. Mix well and set aside for at least 3 hours. (You can leave the turnips in the yogurt for up to 8 hours, but refrigerate after 3.) Strain, but save the yogurt since you will be using it.

Put the oil in a large nonstick frying pan and set over high heat. When hot, put in the strained turnips. Stir and fry until the turnips are lightly browned on all sides, about 6 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Turn the heat down to medium-high. Quickly put in the cumin seeds and stir once. Put in the shallots; stir and fry for 1 to 2 minutes, or until the shallots are lightly browned. Put in the tomatoes and cayenne. Stir and fry for 1 minute. Put in the turnips and reserved yogurt. Bring to a boil. Cover, turn the heat to medium, and cook for 10 minutes, stirring every now and then. The yogurt will curdle as it cooks, but that is okay.

Next, turn the heat down to low and cook another 10 minutes, stirring every now and then. Do not allow the turnips to stick to the bottom of the pan. If necessary, sprinkle a little water if they seem too dry.

Serves 4 to 6.

ETA: After posting this, I looked for other turnip recipes on my blog and found a very similar one, braised turnips with tomatoes and cumin – the main difference being that one doesn’t have the yogurt.

20 April 2011

Chard Pie (with dill!)

Posted in events, food at 8:19 pm by Tricia

The Spice Rack Challenge this month is dill. Dill. Should be easy, right? Except I don’t like dill. In fact, it is perhaps my least favoring herb/spice/seasoning. I’m not entirely sure why – maybe because it reminds me too much of (dill) pickles, and I don’t like pickles. I guess that really makes this a challenge!

I was flipping through my collection of vegetable-leaning cookbooks this weekend, looking for something to use up some of the greens I’ve been getting from my Capella Farm spring CSA. In particular, the kale and chard have been feeling neglected and unloved in my fridge. In From Asparagus to Zucchini, I noticed a recipe called Micah’s Yummy Chard Pie that includes dill! Ha, proverbial two birds with one stone. So tonight, I made it.

The recipe is for two pies. I just made one – it’s easy enough to half the ingredients. I also made mine in an 8×8 baking dish, because I was using a sheet of puff pastry from my freezer (in the interest of saving time).

Micah’s Yummy Chard Pie
8 servings per pie
page 57 in From Asparagus to Zucchini: A Guide to Cooking Farm-Fresh Seasonal Produce

2 Tab olive oil or canola
1.5 cups chopped onions
1 Tab minced garlic or several chopped garlic scapes
1 very large bunch or 2 med bunches Swiss chard, stems removed and leaves chopped
6-8 eggs (I used 3 in my 1 pie)
2 cups milk or half-and-half (I used milk)
1 tsp salt
2 8-inch deep-dish pie shells
2 cups grated cheddar or Swiss cheese (I used manchego and cheddar)
chopped ham, cooked bacon, diced tomatoes, chopped basil, blanched peas, or green beans (optional)
1-2 Tab chopped fresh dill

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium flame. Cook the onion, stirring occasionally, until tender. Add the garlic in the last few minutes of cooking (to avoid burning it). Add chopped greens and cook, stirring often, until they wilt. Turn off heat

Beat eggs, milk, and salt in a bowl. Spread chard mixture in bottom of pie shells. Add cheese. Pour egg mixture over top. Add one or more of the optional ingredients, if desired. (Sorry, Micah, I didn’t use any!) sprinkle with dill (this I did – and I used quite a bit, in the spirit of the challenge.)

Bake at 400 degrees F until the pies are no longer jiggly in the center, 30-40 minutes.

I’m not that big on eggy tasting dishes, so I often avoid recipes that have lots of eggs, but not this time. I’m glad I tried it – it really was yummy, and it wasn’t even very eggy. The only problem is that my audience all disappeared (to a $1/ticket college baseball game) when I put it in the oven, so I ate alone. I guess I know what we’ll be having for dinner tomorrow!

yummy chard pie

square quiche-like chard dish: it really is yummy!

About the dill: we’ve been getting herbs in our weekly share, but not dill. I stopped at a local grocery store on my way home, but they were out of dill in the fresh herbs section. Then I noticed they were selling live herb plants – including dill. Given my dislike of it, I was really tempted to just pinch some off the plants and sneak it out in my pockets. I’d be helping prune the plants, right? A service? But no, that would be stealing. So I bought one. (Now what am I going to do with a dill plant? I suppose I could try some of the other dishes arising from this challenge!)

And you know what? I couldn’t even taste it! It was overwhelmed by the onions or chard. I’m thinking that’s kind of cheating, for the purposes of the Spice Rack Challenge. I should make something else – maybe one of the recipes where I usually leave out dill… such as feta-stuffed cucumber boats, or spanakorizo. I’ve already made one batch of spanakorizo using my share, I suppose I could make another with this week’s spinach and some more pinches from the plant. I’ve never added the dill, so perhaps I should!

Two notes: as I was typing this up, I noticed another recipe for chard pie at the top of the page. The main differences? No suggestion for optional add-ons, and no dill! And then when I was turning to the cucumber section to see if this book is the source of a dish I remember leaving dill out of, I saw they have a dill section! Granted, it’s only 4 recipes on one page, but there you go.

photo of live dill plant

Anetham graveoleus, with carminative properties!

19 March 2011

Cardamom Challenge

Posted in events, food at 9:46 pm by Tricia

Being the procrastinator that I am, I was waiting until this weekend to prepare my dishes for the March Spice Rack Challenge. But as it turns out, we also picked this weekend to install the remaining drawer and door fronts in our kitchen. (We have an appraisal being done soon. The previous appraiser thought our house was too much “under construction” – the perpetual plight of DIYers! – so we’re tying up a few loose ends before this one arrives – nearly 2 years later. Have I mentioned that we procrastinate?) This is what the kitchen looked like when it was time to cook dinner:

messy half round counter

piles of drawer fronts on the table

other messy counter

piles of door fronts on another counter. stack on floor not visible!

March madness indeed!

The challenge spice this month was cardamom. I could refer you to my February entry, since cardamom is an ingredient in baharat, a spice mix (common in the Arabian Gulf States) that I used in my dish last month. Instead, I will give you the recipes for the dishes I was planning to make: muhammar (sweet rice, aka Bahraini pearl divers’ rice) and bathala theldada (Sri Lankan sweet potatoes with cardamom and chiles), which I would serve with a nice lemony roasted chicken or maybe some grilled lamb kebabs. If I had enough cardamom pods left, I would also make an ancient Indian drink called panaka (the variation described as ‘a cold ginger-cardamom drink with lemon and mint’). In fact, I hope to make all of these in the week to come – once the counters are again cleared of hammers, drills, and drawer fronts!

p 249 in The Complete Middle East Cookbook

serves 5-6 (“1 if you are diving”)

1/4 tsp saffron threads
3 cardamom pods, cracked
2 Tab rose water
2 cups basmati rice
6 cups water
1 Tab salt
1/3 – 1/2 cup granulated sugar or honey
1/4 cup ghee or butter

1. Place saffron and cardamom in the rose water and leave aside to steep.
2. Pick over rice and wash until water runs clear.
3. Bring 6 cups water to the boil in a heavy pan. Add salt and rice and stir occasionally until water returns to the boil. Leave uncovered and boil for 8 minutes. Drain in a colander.
4. Pour sugar or honey onto hot rice and mix through with a fork.
5. Heat ghee or butter in pan in which rice was cooked and add sugared rice. Sprinkle rose water mixture on top. Make 3 holes in rice with end of a wooden spoon.
6. Cover rim of pan with a paper towel and place lid on tightly. Cook rice over low heat for 20-25 minutes until tender.

This almost sounds like a dessert, but the author recommends you “Serve with grilled fish and roast lamb.” She also explains that it was eaten by pearl divers on the belief that “they could dive more frequently and with less ill-effect if they had sweet […] and sustaining foods” beforehand. This recipe has two less common ingredients (besides the cardamom pods), but as it turns out, I do have saffron on hand (purchased for a Paper Chef challenge that I didn’t actually complete) and rose water (purchased with this cookbook in mind, but not yet opened).

In addition to the rice and in the spirit of multicultural eating, I was also intrigued by this sweet potato recipe in my favorite cookbook (Madhur Jaffrey’s World Vegetarian, as frequent readers may recall). I figure the heat from the chiles will be a nice foil to the sweet rice and mild chicken. Tonight I would have made a half batch, because I’m down to 1 sweet potato.

Bathala Theldada
(Sri Lankan sweet potatoes with cardamom and chiles)
p 285 in  Madhur Jaffrey’s World Vegetarian
Serves 6

2 very large sweet potatoes (about 2.5 lbs)
1/4 tsp ground turmeric
5 Tab peanut or olive oil
3 whole dried hot red chiles, broken into halves
2 whole cardamom pods
1 (3-inch) cinnamon stick
20 fresh curry leaves (“substitute fresh holy basil or basil leaves for a different but equally interesting flavor”)
3 onions (about 1 1/4 lbs), cut into halves lengthwise and then into very fine half rings
1 to 3 tsp coarsely crushed dried hot red chiles
1 1/4 to 1 1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 Tab fresh lime juice, or to taste

Peel the sweet potatoes and quarter lengthwise, then cut into chunks about 3/4 inch. Put in large pot and cover well with water. Add the turmeric and bring to a boil. Stir well to mix in the turmeric. Boil, uncovered, for 5 to 6 minutes, or until the sweet potatoes are tender but still firm. [I suspect you should drain them, but it doesn’t specify in the recipe.]

Put the oil in a large frying pan and set over medium-high heat. When hot, put in the red chiles. Stir once and when the chiles darken, a matter of seconds, put in the cardamom and cinnamon. Stir once or twice and put in the curry leaves. Stir once and put in the onions. Stir and cook the onions for 5 to 6 minutes, or until they are lightly browned. Put in the sweet potatoes. Stir and fry for 5 minutes. Put in the crushed red chiles, salt, and lime juice. Stir and cook, lowering the heat as needed, until the sweet potatoes are tender enough for your taste.

Remove the cinnamon stick and cardamom pods before serving.

And finally, I was intrigued by this drink recipe, also in World Vegetarian (I told you it is my favorite!). Jaffrey writes that it was popular “about three thousand years ago. It does not exist today. That is probably a dangerous statement to make. There may well be some pocke of India […] that still prepares it […]. Perhaps I should say that I have not seen it served, nor have I ever seen a full recipe for it, just a mention in ancient texts.” But it seems to me like (non-fizzy) ginger ale with cardamom, so it can’t be too bad… I’m definitely going to try this soon.

p 644 in World Vegetarian
serves 6

2-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped
6 Tab dark brown sugar (or Jaggery if you have it)
10 cardamom pods, lightly crushed
6 Tab fresh lemon juice
fresh mint

(cold lemony-minty variation) Combine the ginger, sugar, cardamom pods, and 2 cups of water in a pan and bring to a boil. Simmer on medium low heat about 15 minutes, or until you have 1.5 cups left. Strain and cool. Add lemon juice, mix, and refrigerate. Serve in small quantities with lots of ice and mint springs. (I might mix it with fizzy water, if it’s as sweet as I suspect.)

15 March 2011

Pi(e) Day Eve

Posted in events, food at 10:48 am by Tricia

Pi Day (March 14th – 3.14 by American date conventions) was on a weekday this year. The youngest child had complained bitterly that Pi Day was a school day, and he wanted to stay home from school to have a party, etc. etc. By sheer random coincidence, he was assigned snack duty for that day. I asked his teacher if we could send in a pie (along with some healthy (and round!) tangerines) and she was fine with it. I also got the school librarian to buy a copy of Sir Cumference and the Dragon of Pi for the library, so the teacher read it to the kids on Monday morning. Not sure they quite got the concept, but maybe it’ll be easier next time they encounter it (yeah, right). They definitely enjoyed the pie!

So on Pi Day Eve (Sunday), we held our Third Annual Pi(e) Day Party. Of course, I made pecan pie (increased the pecans, used some dark Karo in place of the standard). Knowing that I was going to make a chocolate chip pie to send to school, I convinced the youngest to let me make something different for the party. I thought about making cherry pie, but heard a rumor that someone else was bringing one. I flipped through my Moosewood Desserts cookbook and was intrigued by the lemon chess pie (we had some lemons in the fridge) but decided to make the mango pie (using a package of mango chunks from the freezer). I almost used the crust from peach pie in a gingerbread crust, but decided to stick with my standard flaky buttery pastry recipe. However, it did inspire me to add diced candied ginger to the mango. Too bad I didn’t use cardamom, or it could have been my entry for this month’s Spice Rack Challenge! My version of the recipe follows.

Starry Mango Ginger Pie

starry, starry pie...

Mango Ginger Pie
based on Moosewood Restaurant Book of Desserts, p 56

top and bottom pie crust (use your favorite)
4 1/2 cups mango cubes
1 tsp freshly grated lime peel (I had to resort to lemon)
2 Tab fresh lime juice (I used jarred)
1 scant cup sugar (next time I might just use 3/4 cup)
1/4 cup chopped candied ginger
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
a pinch of ground ginger
3 Tab cornstarch

Preheat the oven to 375° F.

Roll out half the pie crust and arrange in the pie pan.

Combine all of the filling ingredients in a large bowl. Toss to coat the fruit evenly. Fill the pie shell with the fruit mixture.

Roll out the remaining crust and place on top of the filling. Trim the top crust and then crimp and flute the edges. With the tip of a paring knife, cut small sits in the top crust to allow steam to escape (or use my friend Roger’s trick, and cut out the shape of the pi-symbol).

Bake for 45 to 60 minutes, until the filling is bubbling and the pie is lightly browned. (Mine baked for 55 minutes.)

Somewhere in the past couple of weeks, I saw a lovely pie that was covered with star-shaped crust cutouts (and a solitary moon) – maybe this one at Instructables? I thought that would be more fun than a solid crust, so that’s what I did. It didn’t require that much extra time.

8 pies in a circle

pies, before cutting (and before the peach arrived)

With about 30 people, 9 pies (including one savory; see above – peach not shown), 1 homemade batch of raspberry sorbet, lots of chatting, a round of capture the flag in a muddy field, and a post-party D&D game, I’d say the party qualified as a big success! I liked the mango ginger pie, although it was not a huge hit (nearly half remained at the end of the party). T-boy tried pecan pie for the first time since he didn’t have his standard chocolate chip available, and he liked it. Now if I could just convince myself to like it, it could be the family standard!

Next year Pi(e) Day will be on a Wednesday – maybe we should have a mid-week pie dinner party? We can’t start at 1:59, but traditions have to be flexible if they are to survive…

pies, after eating

at the end of the party

27 February 2011

Indispensable Kitchen Tools

Posted in events, food at 11:23 pm by Tricia

I agreed to host a blog posting event for the Michigan Lady Food Bloggers for February, and my topic was “indispensable kitchen tool.” Of course, being the procrastinator that I am, my own post is going up past the deadline I gave everyone else, but since it’s my party, I can be fashionably late if I want to. :^)

digital scale, analog ruler, paper sticky labels

Can you find three indispensable kitchen tools in this photo?

Some years back, I got a digital kitchen scale, having read that it was indispensable for great baking – weights are vastly preferred to measuring cups and spoons! However, not many American cookbooks are written with weights, at least not for the kinds of baking I lean towards (the sweet stuff). On the other hand, the bread baker in the family relies on it all the time, so it’s definitely indispensable for our continuing consumption of homemade naturally leavened bread. And since I’m not good at estimating sizes, I also keep a ruler in my kitchen, for all those recipes that call for things to be rolled out or chopped to certain dimensions. (I’m not so anal that it things must be exact, but I do want to know if e.g. my pie crust is closer to 1/4 inch or 1 inch!)


broken kitchenaid mixer

Well-used and worn-out Kitchen Aid

Of course, given that we have a bread baker in the family, one of our indispensable tools has been our Kitchen Aid stand mixer. We got it at a yard sale around 1990 for $20. Sadly, it died last week: metal fatigue from multiple years of kneading lots of loaves of bread led to the head falling off (in the middle of kneading!). Jonski Papa started making naturally leavened (aka sourdough) bread for us a few years back, and even had a very small bread baking business for almost a year (until he got a new Real Job With Benefits last June). He’s in the market for replacement parts or an old KA; failing that, is looking for a new mixer. Apparently bread baking forums are full of reports that the new KA-branded mixers are not up to snuff for hard core bread kneading so he’s looking at other brands. Since the unfortunate incident on Thursday, I have been using a hand-mixer that my eldest child won me at an auction a few years back – he didn’t know that I had one that I received as a wedding shower gift from one of my 5 year old Sunday School students [or more accurately, his mom!], way back in 1987. My son probably never saw me use it – we had a stand mixer, after all!

roll of labels

My beloved labels. Only 1 1/4" left on the roll - what will I do when I run out??

What I really had in mind when I came up with this topic is something very mundane and low-tech, and that is a roll of sticky labels. Labels, you ask? Why certainly! Way back in 2002, I got two GIANT rolls of these labels at The Scrap Box. If I recall correctly (and if the box they were in was accurately marked), they were discarded by a large book store company based in our town. I’ve used them as toddler entertainment while traveling; I use them to label boxes for storage, things going to school, mailing envelopes: but day in and day out, I label leftovers and other things going into the fridge (I’ve even been known to mark the ‘date opened’ on certain quick-to-perish commercial items). Almost nothing goes into the fridge without a label (because if it does, we are likely to forget what or how old it is.) The roll pictured here is my 2nd – I used up the first a while back. I don’t know what I’m going to do when this one is gone!

food containers with labels

Sometimes I tear the labels in half - I'm thrifty that way!

What are your indispensable kitchen tools?

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
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)
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!]

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
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.

not just candy…

Posted in candy making, food, Z-boy at 10:56 pm by Tricia

The middle child’s class studied the Netherlands for our school’s annual multi-cultural fair. He wanted to do a project on candy, which got further refined into a project on licorice. In case you didn’t already know it, the Netherlands has the largest per capita licorice consumption in the world (average of 2 kilos per person per year!).

photo of commercial licorice

five varieties of licorice, awaiting their taste test...

In addition to his reading and research, we ordered three varieties of licorice from dutchsweets.com: a sweet caramel licorice, a light salt (the boy insisted on this one for obvious reasons – i rolled my eyes), and a medium salt. We also got sample sizes of a double salt and another sweet. If I’d checked with my friend Annet beforehand, we might have ordered different varieties, but alas, I did not. Here are my tasting notes:

#1: caramel surrounding licorice.  Tastes like molasses – I like it. 6 out of 10.

#2: pink candy coated licorice. Tastes pink – strawberry, perhaps? No anise-y flavor of licorice, just very very sweet. 5 out of 10.

#3: “DZ”, the dubbel zoute, aka “double salt.” This is very tough – you can’t bite it. Instead, you have to suck on it for awhile. It gets saltier as it stays in your mouth. No licorice (anise) flavor at all, and no sweetness. Ick. 2 out of 10.

#4: the boy. This is not as hard as the DZ, but not soft either. You kind of have to break it off, rather than bite it. There is a little bit of taste beyond the saltiness, but I can’t describe it. “Semi nasty” is what I told Z (when he asked me if it was nasty). 2 out of 10.

#5: the smiley face. This is the worst of all – salt plus ick. I had to spit it out. 1 out of 10.

Afterwards, I told my husband: “this isn’t candy, it’s a cultural experience!” Needless to say, I’m not a big fan. On seeing my face, and hearing my “it’s not entirely nasty” comment, middle child didn’t try any of the salt varieties – he just tasted the four different colors of our sweet sample. I thought we should send the remainder to school for another taste test, ala the cupcakes, but he was afraid of being perpetually ostracized (I might be exaggerating here), so we didn’t.

cooking candy

the candy man - er, boy!

And finally, we made a couple of versions of licorice. After consulting with friends at the Michigan Lady Food Bloggers, I discovered that anise extract is easily located in your local grocery store (right in the midst of all the other flavorings at mine). Black food coloring is easily found there, too, but the thought of that squicked me out. I entertained the idea of following Patti’s lead and mixing food coloring until black appeared, but that seemed unnecessary for our goals – we were focused on taste, not appearance, so I decided we would make “au naturel” colored licorice.

photo of hard candy licorice

drizzling molten sugar is fun!

First was this one, a hard candy with anise flavoring. The child thought it was too anise-y flavored (he had added more than it called for, and too early in the process), but I liked it. Most of his classmates did, too. (We should have let them try the salt licorice – maybe somebody would have liked it!)

licorice caramels, cooking on the stove

the two thermometers do not agree... time to calibrate, I suppose!

We also made this recipe (a half batch), which is essentially caramels with anise flavoring. The child insisted on going easy with anise, while I wanted to double it. He thought the flavor was just right, I thought it was too mild. His class liked these as well.

I wanted to try this one – flour and powdered licorice root – but was put off by the imprecise directions, poor review, and lack of time. Maybe next month…

29 December 2010

700 Bags

Posted in food at 9:00 pm by Tricia

trader joe's grocery sacks
We were reusing grocery bags long before it was cool, ’cause I’m cheap (thrifty!) like that. One (or more?) of my grocery stores offer a credit of 5 cents per bag when you provide your own (providing you don’t go through the self-checkout, you’re out of luck if you do that). At the local Trader Joe’s, you get entered into a drawing for a $35 store credit. They draw 2 names per week, for a total of 8 winners per month. Most times when I hand over my entry, I say something along the lines of “I’m bound to win some day.” And this month, I finally did! As any proficient 2nd grade mathematician could calculate for you, that’s the equivalent of 700 bags reused. I doubt I’ve bought 700 bags of groceries at the store since it opened, so I figure I’m currently ahead of the game. Here’s to 700 more! Because surely somebody has to win twice, right??

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