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Saturday, July 26, 2014

Orange Anise Almond Cookies

I've recently decided it's a good idea to drink perrier with a squeeze of orange juice for a change instead of lime or lemon.  It's such a good refreshing idea that I now find myself with a constant supply of oranges full of sweet nectar and waiting to be consumed at any time of the day, in my perrier, or with my eggs at breakfast, or just any time of the day when I open the fridge an spot one.
This morning I had a cookie flash.  Fresh oranges in a cookie.  Hey it worked with ruby red pomelos and I really enjoyed the citrus touch of those ones.  The nice twist on these is that they are gluten free.  That happened unintentionally and I only realized it as I started to list the ingredients.  It's nice to know that even if you are condemned to do that GF dance, you can still eat delicious cookies!
The addition of anise seeds was supposed to give a subtle background licorice flavor, but it was too subtle.  Next time I'll put a whole tsp of seeds.
Yield 4 dozen cookies
Ingredients
1/2 cup (110g) room temperature butter
3/4 cup (185g) brown sugar
1 large egg, beaten
1 Tbsp orange marmelade
zest from 1 orange
juice from 1/2 orange
175g (6oz) ground almonds
125g (4.4oz) buckwheat flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp anise seeds, ground
1/4 tsp salt
slivered almonds for topping
Directions
1.  Sift together the flour, ground almonds, baking powder, salt, anise, and ginger.
2.  In a separate mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar together, then add the egg and beat well until homogenous.
3.  Add the orange juice, zest and marmelade and mix well.
4.  Ditch the whip and switch to a wooden spoon.  Add the dry ingredients little by little, while mixing until all incorporated.  The end result should not be dry and should stick to your fingers.
5.  Chill the batter while you preheat the oven to 350°F 175°C.  If you chill the batter it will be easier to manipulate.
6.  Take a scant tablespoon size amount of dough and plop it onto you cookie sheet.  This might be easier with an ice cream scooper.  I don't own one of those.  Sprinkle with a bit of slivered almonds.  Keep about 2 inches of space around each one since they are going to expand.
7.  Bake for about 12-14 minutes or until they are just about to golden.  Remove and let cool on a wire rack until they set.

These are very orangey and PEPpy.  They are quite chewy, not cakey or crunchy, but bursting with deliciousness.
Perfect for this strange hail/sun/rain/heat weather we're having right now!

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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Golden Eggs in Coconut Yam Curry

The little voice over my shoulder was very present today.  Upon arrival in my kitchen, images of golden eggs and yam were floating around.  I was trying to come up with something that would work well with both starlets when the voice kept sending me coconut whispers and aromas.  How does that little voice manage to feel so real all the time?
I decided to take it Indian style, and rework something I had done before.
This recipe is very similar (meaning exactly the same as) the Egg and Brinjal Curry I've done before, except for swapping of yam for eggplant, and a lot less pre frying, which makes it healthier.
Serves 4
Ingredients:
6 eggs, steamed or hardboiled and shelled
1/4 cup oil for frying
1 medium yam, cubed
3 dried curry leaves
3 cloves
1/2" cinnamon stick
1/2tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp fennel seeds
1 onion, sliced
1/4 tsp turmeric
some chili powder
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp tandoori chicken masala
1 tomato, chopped
1 can (400mL) coconut milk
chopped cilantro to garnish
Directions:
1.  In a wok or heavy based pan, heat the oil with a pinch of turmeric and a pinch of tandoori masala, then fry the eggs, carefully turning them on each side until their skin starts to blister.  Remove and set aside on some paper towels.
2.  Toss the oil but leave 1 Tbsp. Heat and add the curry leaves, cloves, cinnamon, cumin seeds, and fennel seeds.  Heat until it starts to crackle and pop.
3.  Add the onion.  Stir and cook until it colors, then add the yam.
4.  Add the turmeric, chili powder, coriander, and tandoori masala.  Stir to coat evenly.
5.  Add the tomatoes and coconut milk and bring to a boil, then simmer uncovered for about 15-20 minutes, until the yam is cooked through.
6.  Before serving, cut the eggs in half and drop them into the curry.

Serve over some basmati rice and garnish with cilantro.

It's funny how you can change one ingredient and rediscover a whole new world..

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Monday, July 21, 2014

Chicken Soup with Ras el Hanout

 I know it's the middle of July, but it's raining today and I've been feeling slightly under the weather.  There's nothing like a good chicken soup to knock you back into shape..
well, that and a bit of Motivation.
I was planning on making a minestrone type of soup, but something North African swept underneath my soul and the lovely smell of Ras el Hanout materialized in my brain and before I knew it, I was swept off my feet.  Eating this really gave me the peps I was lacking and I'm sure tomorrow I will be just as energized as I usually am.  It reminded me of couscous, but that must be the wonderful workings of the spices.
Serves 4
Ingredients
 2 chicken breasts
1 Tbsp EVOO
1/2 yellow onion, diced
2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
1 large tomato, chopped
1 Tbsp tomato paste
1 Tbsp harissa
1 heaping Tbsp ras el hanout
1 cube lamb bouillon (or chicken or veg)
4 or more cups water
1 bell pepper, chopped
1 handful fresh spinach
few cracks fresh pepper
pinch of salt (if needed)
Garnish:
squeeze of lime
chopped scallions
chopped cilantro
Directions
1.  In a large pot, heat the olive oil and sweat the onions until translucent.  Add the carrots and stir about 1-2 minutes.
2.  Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, harissa, and ras el hanout.  Stir into a paste, then add the bouillon cube and the water.
3.  Bring to a boil, then add the whole chicken breasts.  Let boil for 5 minutes, then cover, remove from heat, and let sit for 10 minutes.
4.  Remove the chicken breasts and let cool before shredding with your fingers.  I really like this part.. it's like string cheese but with chicken!
5.  Place the soup back to a simmer and add the bell pepper.  Cook for about 5 minutes.
6.  Throw in the spinach and let wilt.  Stir the shredded chicken back in and heat through.  Add a few cracks of fresh pepper.  Taste and adjust the seasoning and water level if needed.  I didn't need any salt.

Serve garnished with some lime juice, chopped cilantro, and chopped green onions.
This little creation works very well as a soup, but would be equally satisfying over some couscous or bulgur..
Oooh that gives me an idea for leftovers!
Needless to say, I feel much better..

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Saturday, July 19, 2014

Minty Peanut Butter Muffins

I'm not sure how I came up with this one.  I had started my basic muffin batter and knew there would be handfuls of freshly chopped mint going in, but the banana and lime just invited themselves into the mix.  The lime was begging for a good zesting and the banana wanted a good mashing.  What's the deal with the peanut butter?  Well, it pairs so nicely with banana that I ended up asking it to join.  A request gladly accepted.
I was planning to use watermelon instead of banana and peanut butter, but I just imagined a watery unwatermelon-tasting muffin, which would beat the entire point of using watermelon.
So the real question is, do all these flavors really go together?
The blueberry lime basil muffins did, so I thought there would be a good chance for these to make it to the."Strange but Delicious" list.
Yield 15 muffins
Ingredients
2 eggs, well beaten
2 bananas, well mashed
150g (5.3oz) cane sugar
1 packet vanilla sugar (or 1 tsp vanilla extract)
3 Tbsp peanut butter
40g (1.4oz) canola oil
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
zest and juice from 1 lime
2 handfuls finely chopped fresh mint
150g (5.3oz) organic whole wheat flour
crushed peanuts for garnish
Directions
1.  Beat together the eggs, sugar, mashed banana, peanut butter, lime juice, zest, and oil.  Beat it well, then fold in the mint.
2.  Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Carefully stir in the flour mixture until just combined.
3.  Fill your buttered muffin tins 3/4 full, top with crushed peanuts and bake for 18-20 minutes at 180°C 350°F or until a toothpick comes out clean.

It turns out the flavors DO go extremely well together.  The lime is subtle, the peanut butter is not overpowering, and the mint is an excellent enhancer.  It leaves you with a refreshing pleasant aftertaste and has you coming back for more..
sort of like Pain d'Epices...

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Friday, July 18, 2014

Roasted Eggplant in a Salad

Yet another unmade bed salad has appeared before me nicely arranged and tidy, full of colors, each item in its place, some hot, some cold, some raw, some having once lived and squirmed during its short life.
All this wonder on a bed of baby spinach and oak leaf lettuce.. sending me deep into a satisfaction coma.
I have found yet another way to enjoy my eggplant.  Cut into little triangles (or more like arcs) and oven roasted to a crispy outside and creamy center, still hot and tossed into a lovely salad.
To accompany my main event were some tomato slices, roasted with the eggplant so that they were "confites," meaning that they cooked in their own juices and naturally concentrated in their sweet tartness, and still warm.
The shrimp does make this salad interesting, but it's really not the main attraction.
Everything happening around that eggplant is the main attraction.
The garnish was some feta and cilantro, a drizzle of EVOO, some lime, pepper, and a drizzle of cider vinegar.
All these items together in one dish makes the whole evening worthwhile...
(the olives were eaten before making it into the salad)

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Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Sichuan Chicken Noodle Salad

I've been craving cold noodle again.  The weather chilled for about a week but the match has struck again, and my life is ablaze.. again.  What I was looking for was the "chaos out of order" effect visually, and the mala numbing spicy effect taste wise, but refreshing all at once.  Here is the perfect match to my mood swings.. there is chicken, vegetable, crunch, tang, spice, and it's all served cold... as is revenge..
Inspired by ChinaSichuanFood
Serves 4
Ingredients
For the chicken:
2 chicken breasts
1 tsp whole Sichuan peppercorns
1 green onion, sliced lengthwise
2 slices fresh ginger
1 tsp doubanjiang (PiXian broadbean chili paste)
enough water to cover

Noodles:
8 oz (230g) sweet potato starch noodles (or whatever noodles you want) cooked and drained
2 tsp sesame oil

Chili oil:
1 tsp ground Sichuan peppercorns
1 tsp red chili powder (mine is extra spicy)
2 star anise
4 slices ginger
3 Tbsp canola oil

Dressing:
3 cloves garlic, grated
1 Tbsp light soy sauce
2 Tbsp black vinegar
2 Tbsp rice vinegar
2 Tbsp mirin (or sugar)

Toppings:
2 julienned carrots (or cucumber)
1 green onion, chopped
crushed peanuts
fried shallots

Directions
1.  Place all the "For the chicken" ingredients in a pot of water.  Bring to a boil, let boil 5 minutes, then cover, remove from heat, and let sit 10 minutes.  Drain and cool the chicken in cold water, then shred and set aside.
2.  Cool the cooked noodles under cold running water, then toss in sesame oil and set aside.
3.  Make the Chili oil.  Place the Sichuan pepper and chili powder in a bowl.  In a pan, heat the oil with the ginger and the star anise.  When it starts to bubble, remove the ginger and pour the rest into the bowl.  Let infuse and cool.  When cool, remove the star anise.
4.  Make the dressing.  Stir it all together.
5.  Assemble.  Normally you are supposed to just toss everything together, but as you may have noticed, I like to make the bed before tearing it apart.  Neatly place everything as you wish,
then add the chili oil and dressing and make a big hot mess...
... a really really hot mess..

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Monday, July 14, 2014

Chipotle Black and Pinto Beans

This morning as I woke up with a sudden craving for black beans.  Some nice Tex-Mex spicy black beans.  The type of beans that have you eating right out of the pot after dinner while doing the dishes.  I instinctively jumped up and plugged in my slow cooker, rummaging through my legume cupboard in search of my pearly black beans.  When I found them, peacefully waiting to be chosen, I found I only had 1/2 cup left.
What should I do, voice over my shoulder?  Should I change my plans and go for some kala channa or whole urad daal?
I was going to eat black no matter what at this point.  The voice over my shoulder started to whisper non related suggestions into my ear...so I had to take care of it later, but my half cup of black beans had locked eyes with some pinto beans.  They soon struck up a conversation and when I went to place them back in their places, was surprised to find them in deep osmosis, refusing to be separated.  All this devotion to one another was making me weak in the knees, and I eventually gave in to their pleas.  Why not?  They will give my smokey chipotle black beans some nice depth of flavor and add a different texture.
"I told you so..." said the little voice over my shoulder.
All this time I thought it was trying to tell me an inappropriate story, but it was suggesting all along to give in to the fusion, speaking of the beans..
Serves 4-6
Ingredients
1/2 cup dried black beans
1/2 cup dried pinto beans
3-4 cups water
1 chicken or vegetable bouillon cube
1 large chopped onion
1 large carrot, peeled and chopped
4 cloves garlic, grated
3 chiptole chilis in adobo sauce, chopped into chunks
1 tbsp tomato paste
1/4 tsp ground cumin
Juice from 1 lemon
1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 Tbsp EVOO
Pinch of salt
Garnish:
chopped cilantro
chopped scallions
Directions
1.  Heat the olive oil in a heavy based pan and add the onions with a pinch of salt.  Let color a few minutes, then add the carrots.  Cook for about 5-10 minutes.
2.  Add the garlic and cook another minute.
3.  Transfer the lovely mixture into a slow cooker, followed by all the other ingredients.
4.  Cook on low for 7-8 hours.
This is beautiful on its own, but I served mine with some roasted chicken thighs, rice, and avocado slices.
I'm very happy I listened to that little voice over my shoulder.  The mixture of the two beans take this to a whole other level.  The smokiness of the chipotle peppers infuses differently into the black bean than the pinto bean.
Aren't I a lucky one to be able to satisfy myself to this magnitude..all it takes is that little whisper..

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Saturday, July 12, 2014

Apricot Fig Pie with Pistachio Almond Sand

I was recently gifted with fresh juicy apricots and figs.  Fresh figs off the tree, so juicy and fabulous, you can't help but let out a little sigh when taking the first bite.  When I cut them for this pie, I felt amazed at how intricate their interior design is.  It's like post modern meets classic.  Then I saw them blush for having their intimate parts are so rarely exposed fresh.  The apricots are equally amazing, but their interior design is minimalist, yet eternally classy.
I have to admit when I started making this pie, I had no idea where I was going with it, apart from the fact I wanted apricots and pistachios in it.  As I went along, I realized I didn't have enough apricots to cover the whole pie..so I grabbed the last 2 figs and completed the filling.  As I doubted myself, my little voice told me to keep it up, even if the figs weren't enough, we'll find something.  The best part of traveling is the journey, not the destination, right?
Serves 6-8
Ingredients
400g (about 8 whole) apricots, pitted and cut into 8ths
2 large juicy figs, carefully cut into 8ths
2Tbsp ground almonds
2Tbsp ground pistachios
2Tbsp dark brown sugar
1 shortcrust, poked and precooked 5 minutes
Directions
1.  Mix the ground pistachios, almonds, and brown sugar together.  This is your sand.
2.  Cover the bottom of you shortcrust with the sand.  Keep about 1 Tbsp of it for the topping.
3.  Lay your apricot 8ths into the sand, making sure you keep them nice and snuggled together.  I had them side spoon eachbother to the right on one round, then to the left on the other round.  Lay your fig 8ths in the center, following the same logic as for the apricots.
 4.  Sprinkle the rest of the sand over the top.
5.  Bake at 210°C 410°F for 15 minutes, then lower the temp to 180°C 350°F and bake for another 35-40 minutes.
Let cool to room temperature before eating.

As you may have just realized, this is quite simple, but it's grade A material.
That pie is perfect in so many ways (as is the ginger laced crust).  The idea came naturally, the flavors combined well, the juiced from the fruit were soaked up by the sand, it wasn't too sweet, the fruit still had flavor, and it didn't need any whipped cream or any sort of adornment at all.
I'll definitely be making similar things in the future.. but lets not make any projections just yet..

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Sardine Hammam

 There is nothing new going on here, but I thought these little ladies were so pretty marinating in their little mixture, waiting for their turn on the plancha, that I needed to photograph them.  That's 2 and a half layers of orderly sardines drizzled in lemon juice, garlic, piment d'espelette, and olive oil.
Nothing beats bbq season like fresh Mediterranean sardines.  This is the first of many I'm planning for the summer.
Followed by some excellent firm shrimp marinated in orange juice, garlic, fleur de sel, black pepper, and chopped parsley.

Can Life get any better than this?

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Thursday, July 10, 2014

Floor Yourself Salad with Apricots and Feta

Ok, so.. this was not a planned event.  The planned event was a big honking griddled steak and a simple salad.
A simple salad for me is just some red oak leaf lettuce and batavia leaves in some tangy vinaigrette made of mustard, special olive oil, and cider vinegar.  That's how it started, really, but then I heard some incredible siren-like voices that seemed a bit muffled.  I started searching and placing my right ear onto windows and cupboards, trying to figure out the source of the hypnotizing voices.  I eventually evolved toward the fridge, where the song sweetened.  "No... pobrecitas!" I thought, "The lovely things are trapped inside!"  After opening the pleasure box (or pleasure prison, depending on who's side you're on) I discovered my lovely tree-to-my-hands apricots in a harmonized acapello, dedicated to me.  Moved by their lullaby, I plucked one from the group and inspired its aroma.  It softly whispered to me, "take me now.. I am ready."  This is obviously an offer I can't refuse, I must find a way to integrate this beauty into myself through a dish. In response to the pleads, I sliced the plump sweet organic apricot and sprinkled it over my greens.
Now what?  The Happy Place drawer is calling.  I knew right away that my pine nuts were dying to participate, after hearing all the commotion.  I indulged their wants by sprinkling a few over my apricots and greens.
"This salad is starting to have some personality," I thought to myself, "but something is missing..."
And that's when the feta pranced in, taking this nice interesting salad into an all out Floor-Yourself-In-The-First-Bite salad.
Of course the griddled steak was good, that's a constant truth..

... but this salad..

.. there are no words..

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