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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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Sunday, October 9, 2016

Mixed Vegetable Korma

This weekend, I needed a taste of India.
Fresh curry leaves have been located somewhere in Lyon, but I don't know exactly where... all I know is they made their way into my hands.
For as long as I have been cooking Indian food (which means a reasonable number of years) I've been longing for curry leaves.  When I first went to India I tried to source some but I didn't know what to call them in Hindi.  Now I know, it's Kadi Patta.  But over there, they sold me Tej Petta which I later figured out are bay leaves.  I thought all was lost when I finally discovered the Indian supermarket in Lyon where they (sometimes) carry dried curry leaves in little baggies.  After cooking with them for the first time, I became enamored.  They add such a distinct flavor to daals and vegetable stir fries, they're almost like a secret ingredient, unable to be replaced or substituted.  They were my little best kept secret... until I was told that they were seen fresh in town.
Fresh curry leaves?  But they grow only in hot climates and only stay fresh for a few days!  How can this happen in Lyon?  Everyone I know that cooks with fresh curry leaves doesn't buy them.. they grow them.. in India, California, and Malaysia.. never in France.
So when they were gently handed to me as proof that when you really long for something, it becomes reality, I may have concealed my happiness in order not to make a scene in public.
This offering surpasses all others.
This offering is more than just a thing, this is the deepest understanding of my desires.
Thank You.
Inspired by VegRecipesofIndia
Serves 6-7 as a side
Ingredients
Spice paste:
1 inch piece cinnamon stick
2 cloves
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 green cardamom
1/2 Tbsp coriander seeds
2-3 dried red chiles, deseeded
1 tsp poppy seeds
6 Tbsp grated coconut
6-8 cashews
1/2 Tbsp chickpea flour
4 cloves garlic, chopped
3/4 inch piece ginger, grated
1/2 cup water for grinding
Korma:
3 Tbsp oil
1 onion, chopped
1 tsp freshly grated turmeric
2 sprigs fresh curry leaves
spice paste
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
1 large tomato, diced
2 large handful fresh green beans (about 1 cup), tailed and cut in half crosswise
1 handful snap peas
1 1/2 cups cauliflower florets
1 red bell pepper, sliced
1 cup water
2 Tbsp yogurt (optional)
salt to taste
chopped cilantro for garnish
Directions
1.  Make the spice paste.  Dry roast the cinnamon, cloves, fennel, cardamom, coriander seeds, chiles, poppy seeds, and cashews until fragrant, then add the coconut, and chickpea flour and dry roast a few more seconds.  Transfer to a blender with the rest of the spice paste ingredients and grind into a thick paste.  Set aside.
2.  Prepare the Korma.  Heat the oil in a wok or heavy based pan, then add the onions, turmeric, and curry leaves.  Cook until onions are translucent.
3.  Add the spice paste and fry while stirring, making sure it doesn't burn.  
4.  When the oil starts to separate, add the carrots, tomatoes, and 1/4 cup water.  Cover and simmer for about 10 minutes.
5.  Add the rest of the vegetables along with a few pinches of salt.  Cook on medium heat, stirring for another 15 minutes.  Add water as needed.
6.  Before serving, stir in 2 Tbsp plain full fat yogurt.  This step is completely optional and only adds decadence to the dish.  It is perfectly delicious without the yogurt.  Heat through, then remove from heat.
Serve hot or warm topped with chopped cilantro.

I served mine in a thali along with some saffron basmati rice, toor daal, rotis, and some whole roasted tandoori chicken.
Now I just need to get the intel on where exactly to find these next time... for everyone has their secrets and this one was not shared with me...

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Saturday, October 8, 2016

Caramelized Garlic Tart from Plenty

As I leaf through Ottolenghi's Plenty and marvel at the way his mind works, I stumble upon something that makes me react out loud, the "Funny Onions" chapter.  The more I read the introductions and the compilations of his recipes, the more I realize that this is the real way to compose.  I tend to focus one one ingredient that I want to make shine, and then create the recipe around that one ingredient, with other vegetables used to elevate the importance of the initial ingredient.  So the "Funny Onions" chapter is all about making bulbs sublime.  This speaks to me, for I am a garlic and onion lover.. sometimes I don't know which to choose, so I use both.  I love shallots, and can easily cook them whole and eat them as a side, for they sweeten when cooked.  I love fennel bulbs, raw or roasted, paired with just about anything.  Never in my mind had I ever thought of making a garlic tart.  Onion tart, yes.. onion soup.. yes, but Garlic Tart?  You mean a pie full of garlic?  What a genius idea!
This tart has almost 3 whole heads of garlic in it.. but it is relatively mild, since the garlic is left whole and par-boiled, then caramelized.  The result was mind blowing.  Mild, slightly sweet, and most importantly, making the garlic shine like the star she really is.
Adapted from page 38 of Plenty.
Serves 6-8 as an appetizer
Ingredients
1 rosemary paprika buckwheat shortcrust (original uses an all butter puff pastry)
2 1/2 heads garlic, separated and peeled (original uses 3)
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
1 cup water
3/4 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp chopped rosemary
1 tsp chopped thyme
150g cubed feta (original uses 2 different goat cheeses)
1 handful roasted cubes butternut squash (not in the original recipe..I had leftovers)
1 large handful cherry tomatoes (not in the original)
2 eggs
200mL yogurt (original uses double cream and creme fraiche)
salt and cracked black pepper
Directions
1.  Place the shortcrust or puff pastry in a 28cm fluted tart tin over parchment paper, lightly stab it with a fork, and cover the edges with foil.  Pre-bake it for 15 minutes at 180°C 360°F.  In a lower oven rack, place the cherry tomatoes so they can get a head start and lose their water.
2.  Make the caramelized garlic.  Place all the garlic cloves in a saucepan and cover with water.  Bring to a simmer and blanch for 3 minutes.  Drain, but reserve 1 cup of the water.
3.  Dry the garlic and the sauce pan, then heat the olive oil and the whole blanched garlic cloves on high heat.  Fry for around 2 minutes, then deglaze with the balsamic vinegar and garlic water.
4.  Bring to a boil, then simmer gently for 10 minutes.  Add the sugar, rosemary, and thyme along with a pinch of salt.  Leave to simmer until the garlic cloves are coated in a dark syrup (around 10 minutes).  Set aside.
5.  Assemble by placing the feta cubs into the pre-baked crust along with the butternut squash cubes and blistered cherry tomatoes, then add the garlic cloves and their syrup, making sure to spoon it evenly all over the other vegetables and cheese.
6.  In a separate bowl, make the custard by beating the eggs until frothy, and then adding the yogurt and beating well.  Add some salt and pepper to this mixture before pouring it into the crust over the rest, making sure to fill the gaps but can still see some veggies and cheese over the surface.
7.  The recipe says to bake at 160°C 320°F for 45 minutes, but after 1 hour, mine was still not done, so I turned it up to 170°C 350°F for 20 more minutes.  You want the custard to have set and the top to be golden.  By this time the house smells so lovely you just can't handle it anymore.. you just want to dive into the oven and swim through all that magnificent caramelized garlic.
8.  Let cool at least 20 minutes.  You can do it!
I served mine with a crunchy salad of baby romaine, shredded cabbage, chickpeas, lime, cilantro, and olive oil.

So.. how did it taste?  That first bite is transcending.  It's crunchy from the caramelized garlic that crisped in the oven and creamy on the inside.  The sharpness of the feta mixed with the tang of the oven roasted cherry tomatoes dance as if to thank you for having elevated them to this high ranking status.
That tart is honored to be your guest.  This is genius at its best..

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Thursday, October 6, 2016

End of Summer Garden Spaghetti

There's something romantic about picking the vegetables and aromatics from your own garden and eating them the very same day.
The fresh taste of each tomato, eggplant, bell pepper, and chile slice becomes gourmet.. with very little need to adorn.
I used about 5 baby eggplants, quartered them, sautéed them in some olive oil with a sliced up serrano, then added some garlic slivers, a sprig of rosemary, 2 sliced bell peppers, a bowl full of cherry tomatoes, and about a cup of leftover cooked chickpeas. 
In another pot I boiled some spaghetti died with squid ink, reserved about 1/2 cup of the pasta water, drained, then tossed it all with a generous filet of olive oil from Nyons.  I added that pasta water back in to make it saucy.
And all it needed at this point was some black pepper and a sprinkle of pink Himalayan salt, topped with fresh basil.
The only thing NOT from the garden or somewhere sexy was the spaghetti and the chickpeas.
Even the olive oil was special.
I've been making this with different variations of pasta all summer long.
This one was the most beautiful.
Perhaps it is the last until next summer...

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