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Sunday, March 19, 2017

Single Layer Carrot Cake with Olive Oil

It took me 3 rounds of baking this cake before I actually got a chance to snap a shot of a slice, let alone post the recipe.
That's how fast it goes.
The last time I made it was for my Mother in Law, who had never had carrot cake before, and thought the idea was interesting.  As I grated my carrots and prepared the olive oil, I could literally see the question marks above my in-law's heads as I told them I was making a cake for dessert.  They really thought I was pulling their legs and I was making some sort of appetizer.

Everything was settled once they had a slice and made 2 break through discoveries:  
1.  Carrots can be used in dessert!
2.  The French are not the only ones who can do dessert!

Come on now, everyone who has eaten at my table several times has had carrot or beetroot halwa before.. this really shouldn't be a surprise to anyone!

So I now present to you the most requested dessert (and easiest one to make) in my house, 
the Single Layer Carrot Cake with Olive Oil.

Serves 10-12
Ingredients
Wet:
170g (6oz) brown sugar
180 mL (3/4 cup) Olive Oil
60g (1/4 cup) plain yogurt
3 large eggs
Dry:
2 tsp vanilla extract or 1 packet vanilla sugar
250g (2 cups) flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp freshly ground java pepper (or quality black pepper)
Fold in:
260-280g (2 cups) grated carrots (approximately 6 medium)
1 inch freshly grated ginger
60g (1/2 cup) raisins or 3/4 cup chopped pecans
Frosting:
100g (3.5oz) room temperature cream cheese
50g (1.76oz) softened butter
50g (1.76oz) icing sugar (powdered sugar)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 Tbsp plain yogurt
1 tsp freshly grated ginger
pinch freshly ground java pepper

Directions
1.  Combine the dry ingredients and set aside.
2.  Beat the brown sugar, olive oil, and yogurt together for at least 1 minute.
3.  Add the eggs in one at a time, beating them in, then add the vanilla.
4.  Add the dry ingredients into the wet and stir until just combined.  This means not to mix it too much, but enough so the pockets of flour have disappeared.
5.  Fold in the grated carrots, ginger, and raisins very gently.
6.  I don't have one of those cake pans where the bottom drops out, and I don't believe I really need one, so I used a 20 x 25cm (8 x 10in) rectangular pan lined with parchment paper.  The parchment paper makes it easy to remove the cake from the pan and cut it nicely at the end.  Pour your batter into this and distribute it evenly.
7.  Bake at 180°C 350°F for 32-38 minutes.  Check for doneness by poking a toothpick into the center.  It is done when it comes out almost clean.  If it is totally clean, the cake will be less moist.
Each oven is different, so it's hard to give an exact time.  In my oven, it is perfect at 33-34 minutes.
8.  Remove from the oven and let cool to room temperature before frosting it.
9.  Make the frosting.   Beat the butter and cream cheese together, then incorporate the sugar, vanilla, ginger, and pepper.  It should be rather stiff.  To make it easier to spread, add the yogurt.  It should not be runny!  Don't screw this up!
10.  Apply the frosting with the back of a spoon or a frosting spatula so there is a nice thick even layer covering the entire top of the cake.  I'm not usually a frosting person, but trust me, this is necessary.  Don't think to hard about it.. just do it.
Cut the cake the way you like, into sizes you like, and serve at room temperature or cold.
You can add chopped pecans or raisins to each slice to make it pretty, instead of just plopping it onto the table, parchment paper and all the way I usually do.
The result is so moist and decadent, not too sweet, but just enough with a touch of zesty happiness.
No, you can't taste the olive oil.  No, it doesn't taste like a salad.
It actually gets better the next day...
and the next..
and the next after that..

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Sunday, December 11, 2016

Tandoorified Cauliflower "Steak"

Does that mean you can make thick slices of cauliflower that don't fall apart and grill them?
I cannot believe how much diversity you can find in vegetables!  This is one of my many gifts this week.  But this one, I procured for myself.
(The other ones were indoor skydiving, a dinner cruise, and the new Steve n Seagulls album).
So, the only downside is that you can only make 2 "steaks" out of 1 cauliflower head.  The rest are just florets.. but I'll tell you what to do with those.. it's actually not really a problem.
Serves 2 steaks + 2 servings of florets
Ingredients
1 head cauliflower (mine was green cauliflower)
2 tsp tandoori spices
2 Tbsp olive oil
juice from 1/2 lime
chopped cilantro for garnish
Directions
1.  Make the slices.  Remove the outer leaves of the cauliflower head without cutting the stem.  Place it upside down on the cutting board, stem up (like a head stand) and slice right down the center of the stem to have 2 halves.. like a human brain.  Then slice each half once more, making a 1.5 to 2cm steak with each half.  The rest will break off as florets.  Keep those aside.
2.  In a saucer, stir the tandoori spices and olive oil together.  Brush this mixture generously all over the steaks.  Toss the rest of the mixture with the florets.
3. Take care of the florets.  Preheat the oven to 400°F 200°C.  Squeeze just a touch of lime juice over the florets, place them in an oven proof dish or sheet pan, making sure they are well separated, and bake for about 25 minutes.
4.  Now for the steaks.  Heat up your grill, plancha, or griddle pan to high heat.  Grill the steaks for about 2-3 minutes on each side, until they start to get grill marks.  Drizzle a touch of lime juice will this is happening.
5.  Remove from the grill/plancha/griddle and place in the oven.  I griddled on a cast iron skillet and just transferred the skillet to the oven.  Cook for about 15 minutes.  This will have the outside crispy and charge and the inside tender enough without being mushy.
This is perfection.
6.  Serve the steaks drizzled with lime juice and chopped cilantro.  The florets can be served the same way, but without the "steak" look.
I served mine with some Toor Dal, basmati rice, and some sauteed spinach.

Let me tell you about that spinach real quickly.
I took some nigella seeds (also known as black onion seeds) and threw them into some hot olive oil, then added some sliced garlic, and then threw in the spinach and cooked until it wilted.  Then I seasoned with a bit of fleur de sel and added 1 Tbsp dried pomegranate seeds for crunch.
I don't know where that idea came from, but it was a great idea and nicely complemented the rest.

So about those steaks.. there is something ultimately satisfying about tandoorifying vegetables.  The char marks from the grill give the veggies that superior dimension and tandoori spices complement that texture perfectly.
The result is eye-candy.. we rarely see the cross-section of cauliflower heads, nature is truly beautiful.

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Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Roasted Delica Morreti and Feta Quiche

Keep the skins on.
That's the secret.
The best squash varieties are by far Ms. Butternut and Ms. Delica, pictured blow.
 
Both can be held in one hand, do not need to be peeled if roasted, do not become mush when cooked, and have a distinct sweet flavor that is not watery or pumpkiny.
In 3rd and 4th place come Mrs. Bernettine and Mrs. Sucrine du Berry, pictured below. 
 They are both larger versions of the first two with the same qualities, but need to be held with 2 hands.  They are perfect for pie or larger families.
Ms. Red Kuri (Potimarron) is all the rage in France, and it is very tasty, but on my list, it comes 5th, pictured below.
Although it can be held in 1 hand, there is not much flesh and once cooked, it doesn't stay as firm as the others.  The distinct full flavor is less present as well.
I love my life.

So with this in mind, my full bodied Delica was cubed, skin on, brushed with olive oil and a pinch of fleur de sel, and roasted on a sheet pan with parchment paper for about 30 minutes at 400°F 200°C.
The rest is just a quiche with a garlic panko almond crust.
Ingredients
crust:
3 Tbsp panko (use something else if GF)
1 clove garlic, grated
pinch fleur de sel
few shakes red pepper flakes
few cracks black pepper
3 Tbsp ground almonds
1 Tbsp olive oil
the works:
1 cubed oven roasted Delica or something of the sort
1 onion, sliced into moons (preferably roasted with the squash)
100g feta, cubed
appareil:
3 eggs well beaten
3/4 cup milk
3/4 cup yogurt or cream
1/2 tsp dried thyme
pinch fleur de sel
pinch nutmeg
few cracks black pepper
Directions
1.  Make the crust directly in the baking dish by mixing everything but the olive oil together.  Then pour in the olive oil and spread out the mixture evenly in the bottom of the dish.
Pre-toast the crust by placing it in the oven at 400°F 200°C for about 10 minutes.  Remove the dish and get ready for the next step.
2.  Place the works into the dish, making sure to arrange everything to your liking.  The feta should be evenly distributed and not all clumped on one side.  Apply yourself.  This is easy.
3.  Make the appareil by beating everything together until foamy.  Pour this into the dish with all the other people waiting.
4.  Cook at 350°F 180°C for about 40-50 minutes.
5.  Remove and let cool.  This is important.  At least 15 minutes.  This is also the hardest part.  During this excruciating time, make a salad or something.

I served mine with a salad.
The skin?  Ha!
It makes it crispy and utterly enjoyable without clearly being identified as skin.
I shall never remove skin from any of the smaller squashes again!

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Sunday, November 27, 2016

Panko Crusted Coalfish Burger with Tartar Sauce

As I drift from the traditional all beef patty, pre-seasoned and char-grilled to perfection, I'm opening up to things I may never have tested before, as long as my OG burger was available.
It is unfortunate to cling to ideas of "The Perfect Burger" because you completely pass by opportunities to taste exceptional things such as Black Bean & Beet Burgers.. or my new best friend, this crusty Coalfish Burger!
So here's the thing with me and fish.  When it's whole, it's either on the BBQ/Plancha or in the oven.. whole.  That is the tastiest way in my opinion.  If I'm going to be cooking it in a pan.. there is no other way for me than crusted.
The crust is where it is all concentrated.  If you can get that right, you can make it any style you want, and be worshipped.  Indian style with curry leaves, mustard seeds, and coconut rice.  American style in a hamburger bun with tartar sauce.
Oh yes.
This crust is perfection in a bun.
Let me explain.

Serves 2
Ingredients
1 thick cut of fish (mine was coal fish, about 350g - 12 oz), cut in half
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp butter

Crust:
3 Tbsp ground almond
1/4 cup panko
2 cloves garlic, grated
1/2 tsp fleur de sel
1/2 tsp freshly grated black pepper
3 Tbsp finely chopped parsley
1 tsp dill
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
3 Tbsp grated parmesan

Tartar sauce:
1 plain yogurt
2 Tbsp dill
1 cloves garlic, grated
juice from 1/2 lime
pinch fleur de sel
1/2 tsp freshly cracked black pepper
1 shallot, diced
4 baby cornichon (tiny French pickles) diced
1 tsp cider vinegar

Directions
1.  Make sure your fish does not have any bones.  Remove them with tweezers if needed.  This is important.  You lose the "fun" of the burger if you don't do this.  Pat dry.
2.  Prepare the crust by mixing all the crust ingredients together.  Make sure to stir well so there are no clumps.  Put this on a small plate.
3.  Press the fish into the crust.  Make sure there is crust all over each piece of fish.  Press with your fingers if you must.
4.  Make the tartar sauce by stirring all the ingredients together.
5.  Cook the fish.  Heat the oil and butter in a stainless steel pan.  Place each piece of fish into this.  Do this on high heat.  Cook for about 2 minutes, then carefully flip, reduce heat, and cook for another 2 minutes.  Remove from heat and cover for about 1 minute (the inside will steam while you get all your burger things ready).  The cooking time will vary depending on the thickness of your fish.  The thinner it is, the quicker it will cook (and possible fall apart so get a thick piece).
Serve by slathering tartar sauce on each side of your toasted burger buns.  I put tomato, lettuce, and a roasted green chile in mine and served with some oven roasted fries.

This was perfection.  Crusty on the outside and tender on the inside.  The tartar sauce was tangy with some fresh crunch.
Look no further, we have found each other...
Welcome to my table, crusty fish burger!

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Saturday, November 26, 2016

Juicy Vegetarian Potstickers with Lotus Root Stir Fry

I've made Vegetarian Jiaozi Potstickers before, and I preferred them to the standard meat-filled ones.  I've noticed this on several occasions.. the vegetarian ones are always more surprising.  No two veg jiaozi recipes will yield the same flavor, and that's the beauty of it... there are endless variations possible for equally delicious outcomes.
Since I've been in a cabbage mood this week, when I stumbled upon a cabbage mushroom filling, just the thought of that savory umami madness made me salivate, and off to work I was..

Ingredients
Potstickers: Yield 3-4 dozen dumplings, recipe from TheWoksofLife
3-4 dozen dumpling wrappers (mine were store-bought)
3 Tbsp oil
1 Tbsp grated ginger
1 onion, chopped
1 green chile, diced
2 cups (250g) shiitake mushrooms, chopped
1/4 head or cabbage, shredded (1 1/2 cups)
2 medium carrots, grated (1 1/2 cups)
1 cup chopped garlic chives (or leeks or scallions)
1/2 tsp white pepper
2 tsp sesame oil
3 Tbsp shaping wine
2 Tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp sugar
1 egg or 2 Tbsp oil
Dipping sauce:
1 tsp sesame oil
1 small clove garlic, grated
1 tsp Doubanjiang (broadbean and chile paste)
1 Tbsp black vinegar
1 tsp rice vinegar
juice from 1/2 lime
2 Tbsp soy sauce
few pinches sesame seeds

Lotus Root Stir-Fry: Serves 4 as a side
2 Tbsp oil
1 clove garlic, grated
1 tsp ginger, grated
1 slit green chile
1 lb (apport 500g) lotus root, sliced into 1 cm pieces and placed in a bowl of water
1 large zucchini, halved lengthwise, then sliced into 1 cm pieces
1 tsp sesame oil
1 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp black vinegar
1 tsp sesame seeds
chopped cilantro for garnish

Directions
1.  Make the potsticker filling.  Heat the oil in a wok or heavy based pan and add green chile and grated ginger.  Cook until fragrant, then add the onion and cook until translucent.  Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring for about 10 minutes on medium heat, until the mushrooms have released their liquid and it has mostly evaporated.  Add the cabbage and carrots and cook, stirring until tender.  This should take about 5 more minutes.  Remove from heat, stir in the chives, pepper, sesame oil, shaking wine, soy sauce, and sugar.  Set aside and let cool.
2.  While the filling is cooling, make the dipping sauce.  Stir it all together and set aside.
3.  Go back to your filling.  You want it to be cool enough to handle.  Stir in the last Tbsp of oil.. or egg.  I used egg because I thought that was a bit too much oil.  I don't regret my choice.
4.  Get wrapping.  Dip your finger in some water and run it along one edge of the wrapper.  Place about 1 tsp of filling in the center of the wrapper, then fold in half and seal by making pleats or ruffles with the side of the wrapper your ran your wet finger on.
Ok, it's kind of hard to explain.  Here's a video that shows the movements.  I did the crescent moon one.  Place them on a floured surface while you finish doing the rest.
5.  Make your stir fry.  Drain the lotus root slices from the water.  Heat the oil in a wok and add the slit green chile, garlic, and ginger.  Cook until fragrant, then add the lotus root slices.  Cook, stirring for about 5 minutes, then add the zucchini slices.  Cook, stirring for another 5-10 minutes, depending on how crispy you like your veggies.  Deglaze with some soy sauce.  Remove from heat and stir in the sesame oil, black vinegar, and sesame seeds.
6.  Cook your potstickers.  In a large flat pan, brush a bit of oil.  Place the potstickers one by one in the pan, making sure they do not touch each other.  Do this in batches if needed.  Let fry for about 1 minute, then add 1/4 cup water, cover, and let steam until the water evaporates (about 2 minutes).  Set aside and repeat.
Now your "hard work" may be rewarded.
Serve as many potstickers per person as desired with a bit of dipping sauce and a serving of stir fry garnished with chopped cilantro.

I only had 25 wrappers, so I ended up with quite a bit of leftover filling.
This was not a problem.. I served it over rice the for leftovers but could have easily worked it into an omelet or stir-fried with rice noodles.
Each day is a new day..

Doesn't it feel good to have magic in your fingertips?

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Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Cardamom-Roasted Red Kuri Squash with Marinated Limes and Black Chickpeas

I love squash season.
It makes me happy.
I also love that you can eat the skin.
I just discovered this.  When it is well roasted, most squashes skin is edible, and even quite enjoyable!
Since this discovery, I've making a squash dish once a week.  Actually, I had already been making weekly squash dishes, but this makes it so much more exciting for me.  No tough peeling!
Lucky for me, there is a whole chapter on Squash in Ottolenghi's Plenty.  This one is mostly his recipe, but I added some sweetly spiced black chickpeas and some quinoa to make it a filling meal.  If those are left out, this can be an appetizer.

Plenty, page 65
Serves 4
Ingredients

Roasted Squash:
1 red kuri or butternut squash, seeded and sliced int 1-1.5 cm thick slices, skin on
2 Tbsp cardamom pods, powdered with a mortar and pestle, pods removed
1 tsp allspice
3 Tbsp olive oil
few pinches fleur de sel

Marinated lime:
2 limes
1 Tbsp olive oil
pinch fleur de sel

Tahini Yogurt Sauce:
1 greek or plain yogurt
1 Tbsp tahini
1 Tbsp lime juice
2 Tbsp water

Topping:
2 sliced green chiles
handful chopped cilantro
crumbled feta

Black chickpeas (not from Plenty, this is my own thing):
1 cup dry black chickpeas, soaked overnight
1 star anis
2 black cardamom
1 green cardamom
1 bag black tea
2 dried red chiles
1 inch piece cinnamon
1 tsp black peppercorns
2 Tej Petta (Indian bay leaf)
1 tsp salt
6 cups water

Directions
1.  Place all the "Black chickpeas" ingredients in your slow cooker and cook on low for at least 7 hours.  This is very hands off.  If you don't have a slow cooker, cook in a pressure cooker under pressure for 15 minutes, opening only after cooling.  Otherwise, simmer stovetop for 1 hour and 15 minutes.  This is why I love my crockpot.
2.  Whenever you feel ready, preheat the oven to 210°C 410°F.  In a small dish, mix the powdered cardamom, allspice, olive oil, and salt together.  Brush this mixture onto the squash slices and place on a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Cook this for 20 minutes or until tender when poked.  This doesn't need to be served piping hot.  It's actually better warm.
3.  While that is happening, make the marinated lime.  Trim off the tops and tails of the limes, stand them on a cutting board, and cut the skin off following the natural curve of the fruit.  This should remove most of the bitter white part as well.  Then quarter the limes from top to bottom and cut each quarter into 1-2 mm slices.  Place these slices in a small bowl with the olive oil and fleur de sel.  Set aside.
4.  Make the tahini-yogurt sauce.  Whisk together the yogurt, tahini, and lime juice.  The tahini should tense up, but then relax.  Add water as you stir.  If the sauce is too thick, add a bit more water. You should be able to pour it.

To serve, I put some quinoa and some of the drained black chickpeas in the plate, then arrange some of the roasted squash slices over it all, spoon some of the lime slices with their juices, and scatter the garnish of sliced fresh green chiles, cilantro, and feta.

This seems like so much, but really is hands-off except for the sauces and lime.  The oven and crockpot do most of the work.  The stove-top only had quinoa going, and the rest was just lingering cooking time.
I like using the full potential of my equipment.  It makes all the "hard work" looking types of meals like this one so effortless, but so beautiful.  The textures of all the combination of elements is surprising with each bite.  This is hands down state of the art.  I would have dedicated a chapter of my life to squash as well.  As would any brilliant person.
There is something about that orange color....

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Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Leek Fritters with Cilantro Garlic Dressing

Whenever I buy leeks, I never know ahead of time what to do with them.  It always reminds me of a woman I met in a grocery store in Florida while doing my weekly shopping.  I grabbed leeks, and she looked at me with awe and admiration and asked,
"What in the world can you do with those?"
This made me smile inside and out, because I love to share food knowledge with anyone willing to chat with me, and I'm usually on the receiving end of the knowledge, so being on the giving end made my heart warm.
I don't remember what I told her exactly, but I must have given her examples (stew, slice and sautée, use the greens, etc..)
That day, the woman bought leeks for the first time in her life, and I really hope she enjoyed them, because leeks are fabulous.  They are like giant sweet green onions.  No, they aren't like them, they are them.  They pair superbly well with seafood, but they also pair extremely well with themselves!
Naturally, as I cook my way through Plenty, I knew this recipe would be another lesson in life.  The funny part is, as I was cooking, I was reminded of the method of Japanese Okonomiyaki.  This is really like a Mediterranean version of the Japanese pancake.. with a bit of egg snow genius, of course.  Brilliant, as usual.

From Yotam Ottolenghi's Plenty, Funny Onions page 36.
Yield 8 "burgers"
Ingredients

Main Event:
2 Tbsp olive oil
3 leeks, trimmed and sliced into 2 cm slices
5 shallots, diced
few pinches fleur de sel
cracked black pepper
1 fresh red chile, seeded and diced
handful chopped parsley
3/4 tsp coriander powder
1 tsp cumin powder
1/4 tsp turmeric (I used freshly grated)
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp sugar (optional and totally unnecessary)

Batter:
2 eggs, whites separated
150 mL (5 fl oz) milk
30g melted butter
120g (4.2oz) self rising flour (I used normal + 1/2 tsp baking soda)
1 Tbsp baking powder
enough olive oil to cook the patties

Cilantro Garlic Dressing:
1 plain yogurt (125g or 4.4oz)
1 handful fresh cilantro
1 handful parsley
3 cloves garlic
juice from 1/2 lime
pinch salt
cracked black pepper
drizzle olive oil
Directions
1.  In a wide heavy based pan, heat the oil and sautée the leeks and shallots with a few pinches fleur de sel and some cracked black pepper.  Cook, stirring on medium heat for about 15 minutes or until tender.
2.  Transfer to a large mixing bowl and stir in the rest of the "main event" ingredients.  Let cool.  You don't need it to cool down to cold, but you don't want it so hot that the batter cooks as you mix it in.  
3.  While you are waiting for the main event to cool, make the dressing.  Blend the dressing ingredients together.
There, you're done with that dressing.  That took about 3 seconds.
4.  Make the batter.  In a separate mixing bowl, beat the egg yolks with the melted butter, then beat in the milk until homogenous.  Add the flour and baking powder and beat well.
5.  Pour this part of the batter into the bowl with the leeks and stir to incorporate.
6.  In another bowl, make snow with the egg whites.  Or to be less poetic, beat them stiff.  Carefully fold this into the leak and batter mixture.  This is the secret weapon part.
7.  You are ready to cook the patties into fritters or burgers or pancakes or whatever you want to call them!
Heat about 2-3 Tbsp olive oil in your wide heavy based pan and spoon the leek mixture into approx 4 large patties.  These should be burger sized (not oversized burger, but to give an idea).  Cook them for 2-3 minutes on each side or until golden and crisp.  Remove onto paper towels and keep warm while you do the next batch, adding oil each time.

I served mine over some salad and baby spinach with daikon and sweet potato fries, drizzled with the dressing.

This was such a lovely creation.  It was a huge success.  The texture was crispy on the outside, creamy on the inside, full of spice with a bite of garlic in the dressing.
This is real art.

This would do well as an appetizer in smaller "patties" dipped in the dressing as finger food as well.  It is actually so versatile I've been eating it for 3 days and I'm still not tired of it.
Pair it with pasta, with chickpeas, with tomato salad... dream of it, have the aroma follow you to work, look at the remaining patties longingly.. plan to make it again..

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Sunday, November 6, 2016

Griddled Marinated Quail Egg Skewers with Basil Salt

So apparently, you can give a woman a fish, and she'll feed you for a day.  Teach a woman how to fish, and she'll feed you for a lifetime... until there are no more fish to be caught, and she'll have to teach her how to dig up mushrooms.
Oh man, that started out nicely but I killed it.
Besides the overfishing bit, I believe this to be true.  These marinated eggs are the result of a certain method of fishing I learned earlier this year.  The fishing lesson was Asian Style with dark soy sauce, and my new creation is Balsamic & Olive oil with Basil salt.
I never would have imagined doing this to quail eggs if it wasn't for that very first discovery, so thank you Yotam for releasing your genius in me.
Griddled marinated cherry tomatoes are also the bomb.  Thank you, Me.
Makes 18-24 skewers (depending on how many quail eggs are packed together)
Ingredients
pack of fresh quail eggs
1 cherry tomato per quail egg
toothpicks for skewers
Marinade:
3 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
juice from 1/2 lime
1 Tbsp olive oil
pinch salt
Topping:
6-7 leaves fresh basil, finely chopped
few pinches Pink Himalayan Salt or other special salt
few cracks black pepper
Directions
1.  Soft boil the quail eggs.  To do this, I placed them in my steamer basked and steamed on high heat for 3 minutes, then let them cool before peeling.  They were perfect.. not too liquid, but velvet cream style.
2.  Make the marinade by mixing the balsamic vinegar, lime juice, salt, and olive oil.  Make the skewers by placing 1 egg and 1 cherry tomato on a toothpick.  Place the skewers in the marinade.  Let marinate for at least 1 hour.
3.  Get ready to grill.  I  used my stovetop griddle pan.  Drain the eggs from the marinade and place on the very hot griddle pan for about 1 minute, making sure to turn them at least once so they get the char marks on 2 sides.  Don't discard the marinade.  Use it on a salad or drizzle it on some grilled veggies.  Don't be wasteful.  Balsamic vinegar is delicious.
4.  Top with some cracked black pepper, pink Himalayan salt, and finely chopped basil.  Don't use table salt.  If you don't have Himalayan salt, use another specialty salt or at the very least, fleur de sel.  You don't want this to have an overly salty taste  but you want it to have texture with the special salt.
Serve at happy hour or as an appetizer.

The marinade was not as strong as the Asian style griddled eggs, but the slight balsamic hint of flavor was definitely there, and much appreciated by my tasters.
This works out so perfectly because you can really taste the grilled part.  The slight char marks make a big difference in taste and texture.  This really is a fool-proof situation here.
I love the bite size-ness of quail eggs and I LOVE that they are easy to find here.  This would transfer well on large skewers on a bbq with other things as well.

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Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Crispy Leeks with Tangy Yogurt Caper Dressing

Of all the things I could have dreamed of making with leeks, never would I have thought to bread and crisp them.
Cooking my way through Plenty is like following the path less traveled on.  It makes so much sense.  Why wouldn't I bread and crisp leeks?  This man is brilliant.
Adapted from p. 42 of Ottolenghi's Plenty 
Serves 4 as a salad topping or appetizer
Ingredients
3-4 leeks, whites, cut into 5 cm parts
3-4 serrano chiles (optional)
150 mL sunflower oil for frying
Breading:
1 cup panko crumbs
1 tsp coriander powder
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1/2 tsp chile powder
few cracks black pepper
1/4 tsp fleur de sel
1 egg, beaten
Dressing/Dipping sauce:
juice from 1/2 lime
1 1/2 Tbsp capers
2 small green onions, sliced thinly at an angle
2 - 3 Tbsp yogurt
1 1/2 Tbsp olive oil
pinch fleur de sel
few cracks black pepper
Directions
1.  Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, then add the leek pieces, reduce the heat, and simmer for about 15 minutes.  You want the leek pieces to be tender, not mush.. but not hard either.  Drain and pat dry (or let dry).
2.  While the leeks are blanching, prepare the breading stand.  Mix all the breading ingredients except the egg together on a plate.  In a separate bowl, have the beaten egg ready.
When the leeks are dry, dip each piece into the egg, then roll around in the breading.  I added 4 serranos from my garden in this step.
3.  Heat the sunflower oil in a sautée pan on high and fry each breaded leek piece for about 30 seconds on each side.  You may need to do this in batches.  They should be nice and golden.  Do this with your serranos as well.  Set aside onto paper towels.
4.  Make the dressing or dipping sauce.  Stir all the ingredients together.
5.  Serve as finger appetizers or as a salad topping.
I did both.  I couldn't help it.
Once salad, and then the leftovers were finger food appetizers.

The texture is insane.  Crunchy on the outside, creamy on the inside, hot vs cold sauce.  The dipping sauce has that tang that pairs perfectly with the crunch.
This will be making an appearance at my next happy hour evening... and I'll make people guess what they are.
Oh and the serrano?  Best decision I've made all week!
This is delicious beyond words.. why didn't I think of this myself?

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Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Butternut Squash Couscous

When I read reviews about Ottolenghi's recipes, I see many people are put off by the number of ingredients.  I find that funny because most of his recipes are things I can make without going shopping for extras.  A well stocked spice drawer (or spice room) is the key to being spontaneous.  Plus, many things can be exchanged without altering the heart of the recipe.  Don't have parsnips?  Who cares, use a different vegetable or extra carrots.  Don't have dried apricots?  Use dried figs or raisins.
Serves 4-5
Ingredients
2 carrots, peeled and chopped into chunks
8 shallots, peeled but left whole
2 cinnamon sticks
4 star anise
3 bay leaves
4 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground turmeric
1/4 tsp hot paprika
1/4 tsp chile flakes
1 small butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and chopped into chunks the same size as the carrots
1 zucchini chopped into chunks (original uses parsnips)
1-2 whole serrano chiles
1 handful dried raisins (original uses dried apricots)
200g (7 oz) cooked chickpeas (I cooked mine in the crockpot)
35-40 cL (11-14 floz) chickpea cooking liquid or water
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 cups dried couscous
large pinch saffron threads
1 1/2 cups boiling vegetable stock
1 Tbsp butter or more olive oil
1-2 preserved lemons, pulp removed and skins finely sliced
harissa and chopped cilantro for garnish
Directions
1.  Place the carrots, shallots, serrano peppers, cinnamon, star anis, bay leaves, 4 tbsp oil, few pinches salt, and all the other spices in a large baking dish.  Mix well and bake at 190°C 375°F for 15 minutes.
2.  Add the butternut squash and zucchini to the baking dish, stir well, being careful not to break the pepper, and bake for another 40 minutes.  The vegetables should be slightly tender.
3.  Add the chickpeas with their cooking liquid along with the dried raisins, stir well, and cook for another 20-25 minutes.  It should start to smell amazing.
4.  About 15 minutes before serving, place the couscous in a heat safe bowl that can be covered.  Drizzle a pinch of salt, a bit of olive oil into it and add the saffron threads.  Pour the boiling vegetable stock onto the couscous, then cover and let sit for 10 minutes.  The couscous will drink up the saffron infused water.  Open and add a pad of butter or a more olive oil and fluff with a fork.

Serve the couscous with the baked goodness topped with some preserved lemon slices topped with some harissa hot sauce and chopped cilantro.
That roasted serrano pepper went onto my plate.  It was divine intervention.

This meal was full of pleasant flavor.. the cinnamon and star anise make a nice fragrant broth that infuses the vegetables.  The butternut squash and shallots are nice and sweet, the chickpeas roast a bit while being heated by the fragrant broth.
Partaking in this feast was like breathing in Love..

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