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Saturday, October 18, 2014

Brussels Sprouts with Garlic and Angel Hair Chile

This morning, shortly after waking, I crossed paths with something incredibly intruiguing.
Tianjin angel hair chile.
I'm not sure if this northern Chinese chile grows as angel hair or if it is just sold that way, but either way, the fact that a new element was introduced to me turned my energy dial from 5 to 10 (10 being the maximum.)
Now, brussels sprouts are something I've never cooked before.  They are a vague distant memory of something quite disgusting, usually mushy and with a foul aftertaste.  But now with a few years of experience and a partly mature brain, I couldn't quite possibly imagine why brussels sprouts would not be delicious.  I mean, they're like baby cabbage.  Cabbage is delicious.  Anything miniature of anything else is also usually delicious (baby carrots, baby corn, baby romanesco, etc).  My challenge of the day was to cook brussels sprouts myself and make them delicious, which in the end was not very difficult to do, especially when you let them keep some texture instead of becoming mush.
Serves 2
300g (10.5oz) brussels sprouts, halved
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 sprig rosemary
2 Tbsp EVOO
juice from 1/2 lemon
few cracks black pepper
pinch Tianjin angel hair chile
1.  Heat the oil in a wok and add in the brussel sprout halves and rosemary.  Cook for about 4-5 minutes until lightly colored, then shake around.
2.  Add in the garlic, black pepper, and angel hair chile.  Cook for another 1-2 minutes, deglazing with the lemon juice.
3.  Remove the rosemary and serve.

Do NOT, pair it with salt cod filets.
DO serve alongside any other non salted fish, chicken, or steak.
You see how the last 3 recipes I've posted go with just about "anything?"

I just learned tonight that salt cod (morue salée) is meant to be eaten in a soup or stew.
That stuff is SALTY!!  Even after rinsing and soaking... please do NOT cook them as filets.  It is not their business being a filet.  It is their business being a condiment or a base for some sort of fish stock.

That angel hair chile worked wonders with the brussels sprouts.  They are not very spicy.  Similar to piment d'espelette.. which have a very distinct flavor and mild heat. 
I very much enjoyed the pairing with this vegetable subzi.
I'd rather warn you.. it will be making an appearance hear and there in many of my dishes from now on.
I'm hooked...

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Friday, October 17, 2014

Leek and Artichoke Quinoa Risotto

Sometimes these things just happen, and they satisfy you when you feel you cannot be comforted.  Thus is the emmersion of this quinoa risotto.
The unplanned event of all these different ingredients came together almost naturally, before I even realized what the final result would be.
That phenomenon has been happening regularly to me lately.  It's as if I'm in a zone where I'm not consciously making any decisions, but just going with the flow.  It's relaxing and surprising at the end as well.  I know I did it, but I don't know why or what was motivating me.
I don't experience moments like that very often in general.. usually only when I'm cooking.
Serves 4 as a side
1 cup quinoa, rinsed
1 can artichoke hearts, drained and squeezed
1 leek, sliced down the center, then sliced crosswise
handful torn kale (or spinach)
1 small diced red chili (mine was not strong at all)
2-3 Tbsp EVOO
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp plain yogurt
1 1/2 cups vegetable broth
lots of cracked black pepper
handful parmesan
chopped basil for garnish
1.  In a heavy based pot, heat half the olive oil, then add the artichoke hearts.  Cook for a few minutes, turning them around so they color evenly.
2.  Add half the garlic, cook for another 2 minutes, then reserve the hearts.
3.  In that same pot, add the rest of the olive oil and brown the leeks until tender while stirring continuously.  This can take about 5-10 minutes.
4.  Add the kale, chile, and rest of the garlic.  Cook until the kale is wilted.
5.  Add the quinoa, black pepper, and broth.  Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer on low until the liquid is absorbed.  The quinoa will become pearly and beautiful.
6.  Before serving, stir in the yogurt and parmesan.  This should make it nice and creamy.

Serve garnished with some chopped basil.
I served mine alongside some roasted chicken thighs.  The next day with an over-easy egg, and then another time with half an avocado.  This really pairs nicely with anything or can be eaten on its own as a meal because.. well, isn't risotto a meal?

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Thursday, October 16, 2014

Roasted Roots drizzled in Raspberry Vinegar

Roots have been lingering...
I was longing for something sexy and spicy at the same time.  Sexy because there are purple and orange vegetables.  Spicy with red and green chile peppers, tangy with the raspberry vinegar.  I knew it would be a winning combination I wanted to pair with something I recently bought in the "Spanish" section of the grocery store called angulitos.  The angulitos in their little can called out to me so loudly that I was already in line ready to pay for my groceries when the urge was greater than my resistance.  I held up the line while I ran back to the "world" aisle to grab that little can of angulitos.
Judging by the name and the picture on the cardboard box, I had assumed they were mini eels in olive oil.  My multilingual brain must have played a trick on me.  In French, anguille is an eel, so in Spanish, angulito must be small eel, right?
I think this fish stuff was made to look like small eel, but is actually just a sort of shredded surimi in olive oil.  It doesn't make it bad, but I was expecting somewhat of a marinated anchovy party of baby eels..
Anyway, it worked well as the protein part of my roots.
Have I mentioned I love purple vegetables.. especially when mixed with orange ones.. ooh I think I just now this instant got excited for fall!
Serves 2
3 carrots, peeled and cut into sticks
1 large beet, peeled and cut into sticks
1 medium sweet potato, peeled and cut into sticks
1 red chile, seeded and cut into chunks
1 green chile, seeded and cut into chunks
3 shallots, peeled and cut into chunks
2 Tbsp EVOO
1 Tbsp thyme
1/2 tsp fleur de sel
1/2 tsp cracked black pepper
Few drizzles raspberry vinegar
3 Tbsp chopped cilantro
1.  Toss all the vegetables with the thyme, fleur de sel, and olive oil.
2.  Spread out evenly on a baking sheet and cook for 30 to 40 minutes in a 190°C 375°F oven.
3.  Remove and serve topped with chopped cilantro and a drizzle of raspberry vinegar.

I served mine with angulitos, but this would have gone well with just about any fish, meat, or egg.
The flavors were perfectly balanced with the natural sweetness coming from roasting the beets, carrots, and sweet potato.  The roasted shallot chunks added another dimension of sweet depth, and the chiles gave it just the right amount of heat.  All was nicely balanced by the tangy drizzle of raspberry vinegar.
I suppose you could use balsamic vinegar as well, but it might stain your pretty orange beauties...

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Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Butternut Squash and Leek Soup with Truffle Oil

The weather is not really cold, but there is definitely a change of mood in the air.. which inevitably implies change of season.  I wasn't ready for this, but sometimes time just taps you on the shoulder, giving you a mega wake up call.
Today was one of those days.. and to drown it out, I wanted to nourish my soul with something healthy but hearty as well as indulging.  This soup is exactly that.
Anything involving butternut will be hearty and healthy, but the addition of that black truffle oil takes it out of the box.  You can see it a bit in the photo.. drizzled on with a delicate hand...mine.
If nothing else can feel comforting, this may make its way into your heart..
Serves 4
1 butternut squash, sliced lengthwise and seeded
2 leeks, tender parts thinly sliced crosswise
3 Tbsp EVOO
3 sprigs fresh savory (sarriette)
3-4 cups vegetable broth
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp cracked black pepper
1 tsp dried piment d'espelette (or other chile powder)
pinch fleur de sel
ground pumpkin seeds
dollop greek or turkish yogurt (optional if vegan)
drizzle truffle oil
1.  Heat your oven to 190°C 375°F.  Place the butternut squash halves face down on a baking tray and cook for about 40 minutes.
2.  While that is happening, heat the olive oil in a pot and cook the sliced leeks along with the savory sprigs, stirring, for about 10 minutes.  They should soften and start to stick to the pot.
3.  Deglaze with balsamic vinegar, then add just enough of the broth to cover.
4.  Scoop the butternut flesh out of the halves (being careful not to burn yourself like I did) and add them into the pot along with the black pepper and piment d'espelette.
5.  Add more broth to level.  Bring to a boil, then simmer another 5 minutes.
6.  Remove from heat and puree the contents.  I used an immersible blender for several reasons: to avoid burning myself even more, and to avoid having unnecessary dishes to wash.  That last reason is probably the most important one.
7.  Put back on low heat.  Taste and add salt if needed.  It should be velvety and delicious.

Serve with some ground pumpkin seeds, a pinch of fleur de sel, a dollop of yogurt, and most importantly, a health drizzle of truffle oil.
There's something about that truffle oil that just pairs so magnificently with squash.  I've drizzled it on a squash pizza before and it elevated me to a whole other dimension of pleasure.
This makes the soup refined while still keeping its integrity.  No flavor masking.. flavor enhancing!

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Monday, October 13, 2014

Paneer Mapo Tofu

Despite what the mainstream has been telling us for years, tofu is not the healthiest substance.  I say substanc, because it is originally a bean.. A bean that should not be eaten raw, but rather fermented.  I call it a substance because it has been transformed into items ranging from fake beef to ice cream.  Its oil is used as an emulsifier and its protein count is used as an excuse to indulge in soy products without counting.  I'm not a nutritionist, but I've done my homework on the subject and the bottom line is this:
to get anything good out of soy, it must be fermented and preferably organic, otherwise it works as a nutrient absorption inhibitor, much like raw chickpeas.. but nobody would eat chickpeas raw!  I mentioned organic because, aside from wine grapes, soy producers use the most transgenics and pesticides than any other producer.  I always look for organic or non gmo fermented soy products.
To make things clear, edamame and mung bean and their sprouts are not the same species as soy, and have no issues.  Soy sauce, doubanjiang, and duo chi are fermented, while soy milk and tofu are not.  For this reason (and the hormone reason I haven't mentioned) I've decided to replace anything involving tofu with (homemade) paneer.
You can do your own homework about that issue.. I just wanted to explain why I "sabotaged" a perfectly authentic Sichuan recipe by replacing tofu with paneer.
I may have also made a slight other change.  The original recipe calls for ground pork.
I just like mini pigs too much to knowingly buy ground pork.. so I use ground turkey, which is a great pork replacer in recipes such as this one or egg rolls.. or pretty much anything.  Not to mention, pork isn't very nutritious, so let Babe live and eat the gobbler!
The Ma La in this dish is out of this world.  I never thought something so pungent would be so quick to put together (if you have all the ingredients, that is).
Inspired by ChinaSichuanFood
Serves 3-4
250g (9oz) paneer, soaked and drained
200g (7oz) ground turkey, cooked plain
1 Tbsp coconut oil
1 1/2 Tbsp Doubanjiang (Pi Xian broadbean paste)
1 tsp Dou hi (fermented black soy beans)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 Tbsp light soy sauce
3/4 cup water
1 Tbsp corn starch mixed with 4 Tbsp water
3 green onions, chopped
1 tsp Sichuan peppercorns, dry roasted and ground
1.  Heat the oil in a wok and stir fry the dou chi, doubanjiang, and garlic until a fragrant aroma starts wafting.
2.  Add the paneer.  Stir to coat and heat until bubbly.
3.  Add the water and corn starch mixture.  Simmer for about 2 minutes.  The sauce should thicken.
4.  Add the cooked ground turkey, most of the green onion, and half the ground Sichuan peppercorns.  Stir to heat through.
Serve with rice and garnish with chopped green onions and a pinch of ground peppercorns.

Rant and food choices aside, this Mapo Tofu has been on my mind since my quest to find a special ingredient you can only get in Asian Wonderland, dou chi.  The original reason I wanted to buy that was to make Mapo Tofu.. it's just that I hadn't gotten around to buying turkey and grinding it in my meat grinder since.. well.. the middle of summer!
The result is a silky spicy tangy mix of textures and flavors that pairs just magically with the rice.
It might almost help you forget the present...

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Sunday, October 12, 2014

Pepinos con Chile y Limon (Chile Lemon Cucumbers)

It's like going back in time...
Before coming to France, the only way I ever prepared cucumbers were with lemon and special Mexican chile powder used on various fruits and vegetables.
Ah the wormhole I was sucked through when I was offered some Tajìn and limon with the offered shot of Patron at a Mexican restaurant in Lyon, Chango Mamboo.  I was happier about the Tajìn than the tequila (and the entire meal by the way).  I just kept licking the palm of my hand and sprinkling it on, and licking it off.  Before leaving I asked the waiter where I could get some.  I wanted to relive the pepino experience and maybe even sprinkle it on a sour mango if I could get my hands on one.
"You can't get it here.  I have it sent from Mexico."
I must have gone from bubbly to flat when he told me that.  I turned and told him thanks.  He hesitated for a minute, poured out half the Tajìn into a glass and held out the rest of the bottle for me to take home.  The bubbles came rushing back into my smile as I thanked him several times, then left.
1 long firm cucumber, peeled and sliced into spears
2 tsp Tajìn (or other chili powder)
juice from 1/2 lemon
1.  Toss together.
2.  Let sit, refrigerated for at least 30 minutes so the juice renders.

Don't forget to drink the juice at the end!
I served mine at happy hour with some kale chips and other various goods.
Those kale chips were a big hit as well!

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Friday, October 10, 2014

Roasted Chayote and Sweet Potato with Green Chile

Chayote is one of those strangely interesting vegetables.  It's like a cross between an apple, cucumber, and a zucchini.  It's pear shaped with the odds and ends neatly tucked in, like an old lady without her dentures.
It's a pretty green with a somewhat thick skin, which becomes slightly slippery when removed.  Chayote is a sensual and playful vegetable.  It likes to be taken many different ways, and likes to slip out of your hands while you undress it...only to come back wanting more.
Yes, these are the thoughts going through my mind as I prepare dinner.
Doesn't everybody communicate with their vegetables?
By the way, that is an Opinel vegetable peeler.  It is top quality and cut through the chayote and sweet potato skin like butter.  I'll be progressively switching to the Savoy-made cutlery from now on...
Serves 2 as a side
2 medium chayotes, peeled and sliced into 1/4 inch pieces
1 sweet potato, peeled and sliced in half crosswise, then lengthwise into 1/4 inch pieces
2 green whole chiles (I used Moroccan)
3 garlic cloves, grated and split into halves
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp piment d'espelette
1/2 tsp thyme
some fleur de sel
some cracked black pepper
hefty drizzle olive oil
some crumbled feta (optional if vegan)
1.  Make a dry mix of the paprika, thyme, piment d'espelette, salt, and pepper, and divide in half.
2.  Prepare 2 oven trays.  One with the chayotes, the other with the sweet potato.
3.  Toss the chayotes with the dry mix, half the garlic, and a healthy drizzle of olive oil.  Do the same with the sweet potato.
4.  Place into a 420°F 215°C oven along with the whole green chiles.
For the chiles:
Cook the chiles for about 10 minutes on each side.  Remove from oven and place in a plastic bag for 5 minutes to "sweat."  Remove from the bag and scrap the skin off.  Make a slit to remove the seeds, and sprinkle some feta.  Place back in the oven for 5 minutes (just so it heats through and the cheese melts.. because, yes, feta does melt)
For the chayotes and sweet potatoes:
Cook the pieces spaced apart on a baking tray for 30 minutes, then turn the trays around, lower the heat to 400°F 200°C for another 15-20 minutes.

Serve sprinkled with a touch of feta.
I served mine with some roasted chicken legs, which makes this a lot less vegetarian.. but this is about the sides, remember?
If chayote is new to you, let it introduce itself in its roasted form.. it's the most seductive form in my opinion..

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Thursday, October 9, 2014

Split Dal in Coconut Chutney

I'm in this mood lately where all I want to eat is beans and lentils.  I went completely nuts with my black beans this week, scarfing them down for 2 meals a day until they were gone.. and I licked my plate each time to savor the last drop of that black bean juice.  The week before I had an Indian dinner party and did the same with my leftover toor dal.  Now I want it again.  I'm finally home for at least a whole week and my first cooked meal of the week absolutely had to involve split something if not everything.   I didn't have any overnight soaking time so I went straight for the quickly cooked dal.
Tonights guests are chana dal, green split peas, and split beans.  After rummaging through my freezer for inspiration, I found a tupperware of some coconut chutney that usually goes with dosas.
Aaah I shall cook the dal in this with a bit of water and see what happens.
As it is simmering, the house is filled with that lovely dosa memory from India.  That chutney is really to die for.  I guess it was hidden under the mole and lazy hummus so I didn't see it at each freezer opening.
Serves 4-5
1/3 cup chana dal, well rinsed
1/3 cup green split peas, well rinsed
1/3 cup dried split fava beans, well rinsed
1 cup coconut chutney
3 cups water
1 cup chopped cauliflower
3 green chilis, seeded and sliced (I used fresh piment d'espelette)
1/4 cup shredded cabbage
1/4 cup green peas
1 Tbsp black mustard seeds
1 sprig curry leaves
pinch of hing (asafoetida)
1/4 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp chili powder
2 Tbsp oil
juice from 1 lime
salt to taste
chopped green onion for garnish
1.  In a pot, add the rinsed chana dal, split peas, and split favas with the water and the coconut chutney.  Bring to a boil, then simmer on low for about 20 minutes.
2.  Make the seasoning.  Heat the oil in a wok.  Add the mustard seeds and cook until they crackle, then add the curry leaves, hing, turmeric, chili powder, and chilis.  Cook for a few seconds, then add the cauliflower, peas and cabbage.
3. Stir fry for a few minutes, then add to the dal.
4.  Bring to another boil, then turn off heat.  Add lime juice.  Taste and add salt if necessary.

Serve over rice with some chopped green onion and more chili if necessary.
I like to add my little signature Thai chili from time to time.. it makes it special and makes me melt with pleasure..

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Sunday, October 5, 2014

Breakfast of Champions: Eggs and Black Beans

So, last night I had a "Happy Hour Evening" party and I had made these marvelous black beans which I had blended into a dip alongside some perfect guacamole and some tuna rillettes to use as dips for tortilla chips, carrots, and various other dippable vegetables.  My table was beautiful and I was very happy with my offerings, but the guests just couldn't contain themselves and wreaked havoc on the order of things before I could take an appropriate picture.
The good news is that I take that as a major compliment so it's really not a disappointment.
I must have anticipated this behavior, for I had set aside a large part of the bean batch unblended to have for breakfast the next morning.  This morning to be exact.  I rarely photograph my breakfast, but since this one is very deserving.
Having beans, eggs, cabbage, and avocado for breakfast is truly the best gift you can give to yourself as a first meal.  It is high in vitamins, protein, and heat.  You really can't go wrong with a meal like this...
I'm probably going to do this again for dinner...
Serves 4-5
1 cup dried black beans, soaked at least a few hours
5 cups water
1 bay leaf
1 chicken or vegetable bouillon cube
1 large chopped onion
1 can non GMO corn (yes that still exists!)
4 cloves garlic, grated
1 can chiptole chilis in adobo sauce, some chopped
1 chopped tomato
2 minced green chilis
1/4 tsp ground cumin
Juice from 1 lemon
1 Tbsp cracked black pepper
shredded red cabbage
chopped cilantro
chopped green onions
crumbled feta (or queso fresco if you have it)
diced avocado
extra chipotle chilis for their inner beauty
Eggs however you want them (over easy is my way)
1.  Put everything but the garnish in the slow cooker and set on low for 7-8 hours.  Remove bay leaf.
2.  Cook your eggs.
3.  Arrange your garnish directly in your bowl of beans, on a side plate, or even spoon the beans over your eggs and garnish.
Rules are for the weak...

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Saturday, October 4, 2014

Buckwheat Chestnut and Fig Thumbprint Cookies

It's been way too long since I've made any cookies... the insanity had to stop.  I've been imagining putting chestnut puree in cookies for a few weeks now, but my recent weekend time has been being used up by things not involving my kitchen.  Sometimes it's a good thing, other times I daydream about what I could be doing with my time had the decision been up to me, and the answer has always been MAKING COOKIES WITH CHESTNUT PUREE!!!
So now I've been able to do it.. and I had to do it on a weeknight to be sure to fit it into the schedule.  
These are actually quite similar to my other buckwheat thumbprint cookies but with a bit of chili powder to add some kick.
Yield 3 dozen
Dry ingredients:
200g (7 oz) buckwheat flour
80g (2.8 oz) whole wheat flour
50g (1.75 oz) ground almonds
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 Tbsp milk (optional)
Wet ingredients:
80g (2.8 oz) room temperature butter
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla sugar
180g (6.3 oz) cane sugar
1 Tbsp poppy seeds
chestnut purée
fig preserves
blackberry jam
whatever your sweet little heart desires
1.  Sift the dry ingredients together and set aside.
2.  Cream the butter and sugar together.  Beat in the egg and the rest of the wet ingredients until smooth.
3.  Mix the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until it forms a ball of dough.  It shouldn't be too crumbly.  If it is, add a bit of milk and knead it into a ball. 
4.  On a cookie sheet or parchment paper, make tablespoon sized balls with the dough and roll them between the palms of your hands.  Press your thumb into the middle of each one and fill it with the topping of your choice.  I really loved the chestnut puree idea..
5.  Bake at 350°F 175°C for 18-20 minutes until very very lightly golden.

Now that it's done it's such a relief on the psychological side (that little lingering idea I had last month has finally materialized.. so relief is the correct word), and so gratifying on the tastebuds.
Any cookie with buckwheat will just have this nutty deep flavor that I love, but the addition of chestnut puree makes it creamy goodness with a nice contrast of textures.  Crunchy on the outside, creamy and chewy on the inside.
I also did some with fig preserves that were gifted to me.  The fig works well here too, as do the blackberries, but the real star is the chestnut.
Thank you for existing...

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