Search this blog


Sunday, November 30, 2014

Roasted Roots and Apple Salad Topping

As I was piecing this meal together, I had no idea which direction I would be taking.  I started chopping the vegetables I wanted.. then added an apple.  Apples mesh well with many savory dishes. I'm only now discovering that.
Then I had to figure ou the rest.  For some unknown reason, I had started cooking some chana dal on the stove top.  I can not explain it.. I didn't even realize it until they were almost cooked.  It's as if I had a cooking absence.  Maybe the voice in my head had a different idea for dinner than the one at the tips of my fingers.  Either way, I do not waste.  I integrated it.  Aaah I shall make it into a warm salad.  And this marvelous salad topping was born.  I may have used it as a topping because it wasn't enough for a full side dish.  My voice must have known this.
The kohlrabi and apples make an interesting taste contrast to the orange fellows.  I love it and will be experimenting with this mix again.  Ooh!
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
1 kohlrabi, peeled and chopped
1 small sweet potato, peeled and chopped
1 apple, peeled, cored, and chopped
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp fleur de sel
few cracks black pepper
2 Tbsp olive oil
1.  Chop everything to approximately equal cubes.
2.  Sprinkle with the paprika, fleur de sel, and black pepper, then toss with olive oil.
3.  Arrange on a baking sheet and roast for about 30 minutes at 200°C 400°F.  Everything should be nice and golden.

Use as a salad topping or even as a side dish.  I made a salad with some bite tender chana dal that was still warm with a heavy squeeze of lemon and some sautéed spinach that was equally warm.  I decided to add some feta but that is optional.

I served this with a bite of Prasopita Leek Pie and a few Marinated Sardines.

Print Friendly and PDF

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Baked Herring with Onions and Long Pepper

It is herring season.  There is a season for herring?
Well, yes.  You can find herring all year long, but they are the tastiest right now.  The females are full of roe and and males are full of milt.  Both are nice and plump, full of zooplankton and krill.  Forage fish such as these, sardines, mackerel, and anchovies are the most nutritious in terms of fatty acids.  Since these types of fish are most likely caught instead of farmed, they usually are not hormone fed.  Best of all, they are surprisingly part of the least expensive types of fish to buy.
I ended up with 6 females full of roe (which I later pan fried and ate with my fingers before I even snapped a shot.)
I decided to bake them.  Baking may not be the best solution if you are a first-time herring taster.  What you must know about herring is that it has very fine bones.. but a ton of them.  Baking them in this way will give you the freshest herring taste, but you have to be ready to pick the bones out of your plate.  That doesn't bother me so much, but it does bother many.  The way to make the bones dissolve is by pickling.  I may have to try that one day.
Serves 3-4
6 whole herrings, scaled and gutted
12 long Javanese pepper berries
juice from 1/2 lemon
drizzle olive oil
few pinches fleur de sel
few pinches piment d'espelette
small handful chopped cilantro
1 onion, sliced into moons
1 Tbsp olive oil
1.  Heat 1 Tbsp olive oil in a heavy based pan or wok and sautée the onions until golden.
2.  While this is happening, arrange the herring in a baking pan.  Mix together the lemon juice, fleur de sel, piment d'espelette, and olive oil.  Rub this mixture all over the outside and inside of each herring.
Place 2 long Javanese pepper berries in the cavity of each fish and top with the chopped cilantro.
Add the sautéed onions onto the prepared fish.
3.  Bake at 200°F 400°C for 15 minutes.

I served mine with some roasted carrots and a shredded red cabbage salad.

The long Javanese pepper is very important for the flavoring.  It gives it a subtle smokey flavor.. and everyone knows herring loves to be smoked.

Print Friendly and PDF

Monday, November 24, 2014

Kadai Chole (Punjabi Chickpea Curry)

I rarely ever use normal white chickpeas in an Indian dish unless they're split chana dal.  I don't know why, because I really enjoy chickpeas.  For some reason, whole white chickpeas were always reserved for hummus, falafel, or couscous, whereas black chickpeas (kala chana) were always for Indian food.
I've made Chole Masala before, but it's probably the only other time I've used whole white chickpeas.  Chole is very popular in Punjabi cuisine.  It comes out to play for every big event, and when done properly can really knock your socks off.  What attracted me to this recipe was the broth and the ajwain.  Usually, beans are slow-cooked in plain water and then a curry is made around them.  In this recipe, the beans are cooked in water infused with whole spices and .. what.. black tea!  I had to use black tea for lack of alma (which I've never seen with my current eyes).  I first thought it was an aesthetic aspect, but after tasting the broth before adding it to my curry, I found it sacrifices something of its inner self when transformed into this Kadai Chole.  It no longer serves its purpose as just tea, but now has become something essential in my secret box of kitchen tricks...
Borrowed from VegRecipesofIndia.
Serves 5-6
1 cup chickpeas, rinsed and soaked 12-24 hours
1 inch stick cinnamon
1 black cardamom
3 cloves
2 pieces alma (sub 1 black teabag)
1 Indian bay leaf
2 Tbsp oil
3-4 slit green chiles (I sliced 1 green and 1 red Moroccan chiles)
1/4 tsp ajwain seeds (carom seeds)
1 onion, minced
1/2 inch ginger, grated
4-5 cloves garlic, grated
1/2 tsp turmeric
chile powder to taste (mine didn't need it)
1 tsp garam masala
1 can tomato pulp (or 2-3 chopped tomatoes)
1 tsp amchur mango powder (or pomegranate powder)
salt to taste
plain yogurt for garnish (optional)
chopped cilantro for garnish (I didn't have any)
1.  Cook the chickpeas.  Make sure to rinse the chickpeas well and change the water 2-3 times during the soaking period.  Place the soaked chickpeas in a slow cooker with 4-5 cups water, the cinnamon stick, black cardamom, cloves, bay leaf, and alma or tea bag.  Cook on low for at least 8 hours.  You want the chickpeas to be very well cooked with little resistance when pinched between your fingers.. or smashed against the roof of your mouth with your tongue.  When done, remove the whole spices and teabag.
2.  Make the curry.  Heat the oil in a wok and add the ajwain.  Cook until fragrant.
3.  Add the sliced chiles and onions.  Cook until translucent.
4.  Add the ginger and garlic.  The raw smell of ginger should come tickle your nostrils, then leave you with a distant memory.
5.  Add the tomato, turmeric, and garam masala.  Stir and keep cooking on high.  Now is the time to decide if you are going to add the chile powder or not.  I just took a taste and decided not to, because it was already spicy enough.  Cook until it all comes together as some sort of thick paste, and oil will seep out.
6.  Add the cooked chickpeas and about half the cooking liquid.  Stir well and add the amchur.  Bring to a boil, then simmer.  It will thicken.  Add more of the cooking liquid to thin it out.  I ended up adding most of the cooking liquid.  Let simmer for about 10 minutes on low heat.
7.  Taste and add salt if needed.  Adjust the spice as well.  At this point, it was pure perfection.

Serve with basmati rice and top with some plain yogurt if you so desire.  
Do add cilantro if you have it.   I used it all and haven't replenished my supply.

This is a wonderful meal on its own, but of course, it would be perfect in a thali.  I've been in a simple state of mind lately.
The ajwain really gives this dish character.  I'd only ever used it in samosas, but it works well as a kadai seed fry base for a curry as well.  Its flavor is so distinct that I almost want to rename this Ajwain Chole.
The creaminess of the long-soaked chickpeas make this just as much of a comforting meal as it is a healthy meal.
If only it could heal all my wounds...

Print Friendly and PDF

Monday, November 17, 2014

Khus Khus Brinjal Curry (Poppy Seed Eggplant Curry)

I am discovering the many facets of poppy.  As a sprinkled topping on a bagel or muffin, rolled into a pastry, or used as a base for a thick rich vegan curry.  Poppy is used across the world but quite differently each time.  Not only is it used differently, but there are different types of poppy.  The blue-black is mostly used whole in Eastern European baked goods.  The white is used in Indian curries, as a topping for dhokla, and even in bhakarwadi.  The brown is used in Turkish pastries and baklava.
When soaked and ground, it becomes a luscious butter such as tahini or peanut butter.  The consistency is somewhere in between.  The one I used for this recipe is a Turkish brown poppy paste. The traditional Indian version calls for white, which is less bitter, but I just couldn't restrain myself from substituting the creamy brown paste in this eggplant curry recipe.
First of all, there is eggplant.
Second of all, eggplant is the main ingredient.
Third of all... did I mention the sensual purple lady making her decadent mid-fall appearance?
By the way, eggplant is happening.
Serves 4-5 as a side
1 kg (about 2 lb) brinjal or eggplant, sliced into 1/4 inch slices and then halved
3 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp mustard seeds
1/4 tsp fenugreek seeds
2 cloves garlic, grated
1/2 inch piece ginger, grated
1 red chile, diced (I used Moroccan)
1 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 1/2 cups water
3 Tbsp khus khus paste (or ground poppy seeds)
1 Tbsp tamarind pulp
juice from 1 lime
1 Tbsp jaggery or cane sugar
salt to taste
chopped cilantro for garnish
slices of lime for garnish
1.  Heat 1 Tbsp oil in a wok and add half the sliced brinjals.  Cook until brown and set aside.  Repeat for the other half with 1 more Tbsp oil.
2.  In the same wok, heat the last Tbsp oil and add the cumin seeds, mustard seeds, and fenugreek seeds.  Cook until they start to sputter.
3.  Add the garlic, ginger, and chile.  Cook for 1-2 minutes until fragrant.
4.  Add the poppy seed paste, turmeric, coriander, and water.  Bring to a boil, then add the grilled eggplant slices.
5.  Add the tamarind, lime juice, and sugar.  Lower the heat and simmer for about 15 minutes or until the sauce thickens.  If it thickens too much, add more water.
6.  Taste and add salt if needed.  Depending on the poppy seeds you use, the curry will be more or less bitter.  Adjust the sugar and lime until it tastes like heaven.  This happens at a precise point.  It will taste strange.. and then all of a sudden, it will taste just like heaven.

Serve garnished with chopped cilantro and some more lime for your personal squeezing pleasure.
This Purple Princess curry is best accompanied by some basmati rice.  I added some roasted tandoori spiced chicken thighs to complete the thali.  Poppy seeds contain as much protein as chicken, so this can easily be a balanced vegetarian meal with dal in the thali instead of the chicken.

That purple princess has never ceased to amaze me...

Print Friendly and PDF

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Tuna Piperade tossed with Lumaconi Rigati

I know I tend to downplay the typical French palate and its ability to handle heat or spice.  If I never changed my mind, I wouldn't be an intelligent human being.  The Basque region in the south west of France is the home of the most protected chile pepper I've ever encountered, the Piment d'Espelette.  This chile is completely French and has an incredible marketing agent.  Little by little, spice and heat is becoming more acceptable to the average French person.  They might not want to taste it, but they will not turn their noses up to you eating it at their table.  The Basque region has a variety of dishes that include some form of spice or heat.  Poulet Basquaise is one of them, and Piperade is another.  I'm not going to claim that my Piperade recipe is the authentic one.. first of all because I didn't really realize I was making a piperade until I was trying to find a good name for my excellent pasta dish that came out of some hidden part of my brain at a certain moment of the week.  Second of all, because Piperade is usually a side dish to some grilled meat or in an omlet, not as pasta sauce with an egg yolk on top.
Either way, I was happy to realize that my creation was very plausibly French despite all the heat that went into it.  That's enough to make me smile..
Serves 5-6
1 onion, chopped
5 cloves garlic, grated
1 bell pepper, diced
1-2 red chiles, diced
1 can tuna, drained
1 can tomato pulp + 1 can water
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp dried basil
1 tsp cracked black pepper
salt to taste
500g (1 lb) package of lumaconi rigati pasta, cooked al dente
1 egg yolk per plate
red pepper flakes
extra cracked black pepper
1.  Heat the olive oil in a wok or heavy based pan.  Add in the onions and cook until translucent with a pinch of salt.
2.  Add in the garlic, bell pepper, and red chiles.  Love it.  Stir fry for a few minutes.
3.  Add the dried basil and tomato pulp with the can of water.  Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer for about 5 minutes.
4.  Add the tuna and lots of black pepper.  Stir in, taste, and adjust the seasoning if needed.
5.  Toss with the al dente lumaconi rigati over medium heat.  You want it to be nice and piping hot.  There should be enough sauce in there to coat each one of those little crevices, but just in case, reserve a bit of the pasta water if you need to thin out the sauce.

Serve ladled in bowls with an egg yolk and sprinkle with grated parmesan and red pepper flakes for the extra topical spice.
The egg yolk with make the sauce nice and rich when you stir it in your plate.

Print Friendly and PDF

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Sardines in Piment d'Espelette Olive Oil

When life hands you apples... well, marinate some fish!
Life has been handing me lovely delicate little surprises such as piment d'espelette olive oil.  There must be something going on around my aura that screams PIMENT D'ESPELETTE LOVER wherever I go.  I can randomly go somewhere for work or just to pick up some potatoes at a friend's house and come home with fresh piment d'espelette from a garden or some piment d'espelette olive oil.  Why?  I don't know.. but I'm not going to as many more questions because I don't want it to stop!  By the way, if you know me in real life, know that I do not like flowers, I'd rather something edible.. but if you know me, I don't need to explain that..
This is insanely similar to my Marinated Anchovies, but also quite different for in this method, there is only one "bath."  The lemon juice and olive oil cure the filets instead of going through a vinegar cure.
1 kg (approx 2 lbs) fresh whole sardines
juice from 1 lemon
3/4 cup piment d'espelette olive oil or other chile infused olive oil
2 cloves garlic, sliced
few pinches fleur de sel
few cracks black pepper
flat leaf parsley for garnish
1.  Filet the sardines by cutting off the head and tail, then splitting it through the belly.  Carefully remove the central bone, then rinse and pat dry.  This step takes longer with sardines than with anchovies, I learned.  I thought I'd spend about 30 minutes on this part but ended up spending an hour and a half.  Do plan ahead.
2.  Prepare the marinade by whisking together the olive oil and lemon juice.
3.  Arrange the sardines, skin side down in a container.  Sprinkle some fleur de sel, pepper, and some garlic slices, then pour on the marinade until level.  Continue layering on the sardines and marinade until you don't have any more left.  If you run out of marinade, just add more lemon juice toward the end.
4.  Let marinate at least 3 hours.  I let mine overnight in the fridge.

Serve garnished with some parsley and just a touch of the marinade over the top.
Again, I'm not sure about the etiquette on how to eat these, but I have a tendency to just use my fingers.  I think some people may eat these with some steamed potatoes or slathered on some crusty bread.  I approve of all these methods.
What I enjoy (as with the anchovies) is that the real sardine taste is preserved.  Of course, this is completely different than grilling them, and the flesh doesn't have that "cooked" feel.  The best part about this is being able to rediscover one of my favorite foods in a completely different way.

Print Friendly and PDF

Friday, November 14, 2014

Rugelach with Poppy Seed Filling

Some poppy seed paste just seemed to appear into my life, and I pondered for a long time what to do with it.  It's a serious question, especially when you know you only have a small amount, and want to make the best of it without having it go to waste.  I had a similar feeling with Kaya... and in no way do I regret my choices for the nectar, but I do wish I had an emergency supply of it for my impromptu kaya desires.  The poppy seed paste, after a finger dip (aaAaaahh!) gave me plenty of inspiration.  There were the traditional "replace the peanut butter or tahini in weekly cookies" ideas, but I wanted to make it even more special.  After doing a bit of research as to how to glorify poppy seed paste, I consistently stumbled upon rugelachs.. and my childhood memories started to rush through me.  I don't know why rugelachs are such an integral party of my cookie eating history, because I probably did not eat them very often.  When I did, though, they were a real treat.  They were so common that I never thought of their origins or tried to recreate them.
Until this week...
Rugelachs in the US are part of the Eastern European and Russian culture, mostly Jewish, that have become part of daily life, such as bagels or hummus.  The difference is that rugelachs are mostly holiday fare, whereas bagels, pastrami, and hummus are everyday fare.  Poppy seed filling is the way I remember them best, but variations include honey, nuts, jam, and even chocolate filling.
Poppy seeds are the best in my opinion, and are used in many other Eastern European pastries which I may have a chance to make.. unless I make khus khus curry with the remaining paste...
Yield 64 Rugelachs
250g (8.8oz or 2 cups) flour
1/4 tsp salt
160g (5.6oz) cubed cream cheese
150g (5.3oz) cubed butter
1 tsp vanilla extract (I used maple syrup)
1 egg yolk, beaten
115g (4oz) poppy seed paste (or ground poppy seeds)
1/2 cup whole milk
pinch salt
50g (1.7oz) sugar
1 beaten egg
zest from 1/2 lime
juice from 1/2 lime
2 Tbsp cane sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
pinch nutmeg
1.  In a stand mixer or with your fingertips (as I did) mix the butter and cream cheese with the flour and salt.  Add in the beaten yolk and vanilla extract and mix well.  This will be quite messy if using your hands.  Just try to form it into a ball.
2.  Separate into 4 equal parts and wrap in plastic wrap.  Once wrapped, press into discs and refrigerate at least 2 hours.  Overnight is probably the best bet.  Do not skip this step, or you will never be able to roll the dough.
3.  While the refrigeration process is happening, make the filling.  Heat the milk and sugar in a pan until almost boiling.  Pour some of the mixture into the beaten egg and whip well.  Beat in the poppy seed paste, lime, and zest.  Pour back into the pot and heat, whisking until thickens slightly.  Remove from heat and let cool.
4.  Prepare your sprinkling.  Stir the sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg together.
5.  Get ready to roll.  Remove a disc from the fridge.
Use parchment paper to prevent from sticking.  Sprinkle some of the spiced sugar onto each side of the disc.
With a rolling pin and parchment paper on each side, roll into a 10 inch diameter, 1/4 inch thick circle.  Similar to a pie crust.
Spoon 2 Tbsp of the poppy seed filling on.  Spread it around, then cut into 16 slices, as if it were a pie.
To roll the rugelach, start from the outside of the "pie" slice and roll toward the center.
Repeat with each slice, and for each disc.
6.  Sprinkle on some more spiced sugar and bake at 190°C 375°F for 20 minutes.
Let cool for at least 15 minutes before tasting.

The zest will pleasantly surprise you long after the rugelach as been swallowed.
That is a sign you have paid attention to the details..

Print Friendly and PDF

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Celeriac Soup with Caramelized Grannies

Please check out my exact state of mind during this creation.  There are no (real) words that describe my psyche better than that video.
This came out of an almost empty fridge and an intelligently stocked freezer.  I had 1/4 head of red cabbage and 1 apple in my fridge.  The rest was wind blown into a piece of clay to form life.
And yes, of course I did stick my fingers in it and scream.
Serves 3
1/2 celiac head (celery root) peeled and cubed
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 leek, cleaned and sliced crosswise
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 handful cauliflower florets
1 Tbsp olive oil
4 cups water (enough to level)
1 cube chicken or vegetable bouillon
1 sprig savory or thyme
lots of fresh cracked black pepper
pinch nutmeg
pinch angel hair chile
1 Tbsp cream (optional)
1 Grany Smith apple, peeled and diced
1 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp brown or cane sugar
Some shredded red cabbage for garnish
1.  Heat the olive oil in a large pot and add the sliced leeks.  Now, I always save my leek greens when a recipe calls for the whites.  In a soup, you don't really care if there are greens because you are going to be blending that bad boy.. so now's the time to use that emergency freezer bag of chopped leek greens unless you care about the color.  Mine was slightly green in the end.. but that doesn't bother me.
2.  When the leeks start becoming fragrant, add the garlic, celery stalks, celiac, and cauliflower.  Stir around and cook for a few minutes.  Let the juices flow and combine.
3.  Add the savory sprig and bouillon cube and enough water to level.  You don't want to drown it.  4 cups was enough for me.  Bring to a boil, then let simmer for about 15 minutes or until the celiac is tender.
4.  Remove the savory sprigs.  Usine an immersible hand blender, purée the soup.  If you're feeling dangerous, do this in a blender, but why dirty all those unnecessary dishes if you don't absolutely have to?  Immersible blender is the way to go for this.
5.  Add lots of black pepper, nutmeg, and a pinch of the angel hair chile.  Simmer while you prepare the apple topping.  At this point, you can taste and adjust the seasoning.  You may or may not want to stir in a bit of cream.  I was not going to... but then my insane Turkish voice told me to DO IT!  No regrets.
6.  Prepare the Grannies.  Melt the butter in a separate pan.  In this case, butter is the only way to go.  Add the diced Granny Smith apples and cook until they start to color.  Add the cane sugar and continue cooking until nicely golden and caramelized.  Set aside.

Serve ladled in bowls with a bit of caramelized apple and shredded cabbage.

This soup hit the spot exactly the way it should.

Print Friendly and PDF

Monday, November 10, 2014

Spiced Chili from Dry Kidney Beans

Chili is a dish that has as many "authentic" versions as there are stars on the American flag.  The only real rules to chili is that it's got to have meat, tomatoes, and chiles or chile powder (at the very least).  It can be mild or spicy, but it's always better when it's spicy, but deep flavorful spice... not necessarily heat spice.  I like both.  Obviously.
Depending on the location, it can include beans.  Some are very passionate about whether or not Chili includes beans.  I like beans, so my chili always has beans, and the beans that I choose for chili are kidney beans.  The variations are taken to another level by the way chili is eaten.  In Tennessee, the chili is served in a bowl with some tamales on the side.  Chili with a spoon, tamales with your fingers.  In Ohio, it is served over spaghetti with lots and lots of cheddar cheese.  In Alaska, they make it with moose and eat it as soup.  In California, you can order it over fries.  In Texas, they eat it with rice.  You can find chili in various places such as in an omelet, over a hot dog, over a baked potato, or even in a burger.
I like my chili with beans and over rice.. and with toppings that crunch and melt.
Now that we've gotten that out of the way, I want to tell you about kidney beans.  I'd never cooked them from dry before because of the high level phytohaemagglutinin toxin they contain when raw or undercooked.  You must cook them for 10 minutes at least at a high enough temperature for the toxin to be killed off, and I wasn't sure my crock pot would do the job.  If you're not feeling it, precook them in boiling water.  My crockpot cooks at an already high enough temperature on the low setting, so I figured at the high setting for a few hours would do the trick.  I did check to make sure there were simmering bubbles during cooking though.  Nobody was sick, so I will be using this method again for kidney beans... and they DO taste much better when cooked from scratch rather than from a can.  There is no comparison..  
Serves 7-8
1 1/2 cups dried kidney beans soaked overnight
550g (19oz) lean ground beef
2 bell peppers pick 2 colors, chopped
1 red chile, chopped (mine was Moroccan)
1 green chile, chopped (Moroccan as well)
1 large onion, chopped
5-6 medium tomatoes, chopped
5 chopped cloves of garlic
2 tsp cumin
2 tsp oregano
2 tsp basil
2 tsp turmeric
1 tsp chile powder
lots of freshly cracked black pepper
2 tsp coarse sea salt
2 bay leaves
chopped green onions
shredded swiss cheese
sour cream
shredded cabbage
1.  Place the soaked beans in the slow cooker with 6 cups water, 1 tsp of the sea salt, and the bay leaves.  Cook on high for 3 hours.
2.  Drain but keep 1 cup of the cooking water.  Place everything but the garnish into the slow cooker and cook on low for 6-7 hours.
3.  Taste and add salt if needed.
4.  Assemble with the garnish.
Make sure to mix it around in your plate, "unmade bed" style, before indulging.
Pure delight which is also comfort food at its peak.
This is basically Obama's Chili recipe that was publicized during the 2008 elections, but with a few additional touches that take it up a notch.

Print Friendly and PDF

Buffalo Cucumbers and Dill Filled Celery Sticks

When you have recurring guests, you must activate your creative juice so as to not bore them with recurring appetizers and hors d'oeuvres.  Using similar ingredients, this is somewhat a challenge.  I usually like to have raw veggies at my happy hour as opposed to potato chips and peanuts.  Don't get me wrong, those sometimes make an appearance, but maybe not all by themselves.  My peanuts will be a topping or a filling, and my potato chips will be.. um.. wait.. no.. I never serve potato chips.  Sorry.
I sometimes have tortilla chips to use as a vessel for salsa or guacamole or whatever dip I'm serving.. but potato chips are never really invited to the party.  Can't really do much with those...
My usual veggies include carrots and cucumbers.  I like cucumbers as a vessel for hummus because that creamy mixture of passion and chickpeas is made to be shoveled into the mouth on the end of a cucumber stick!  Oh yes, with some Lebanese bread as well, but I just have a thing for cucumbers.  This week, though, I invited celery.  Celery is the perfect vessel for dipping.  It has that naughty little curve that is just made for scooping.  Its acidity balances out any peanut butter or cream it may encounter, and is a delight to munch on, so this time, I decided to go Buffalo-style with my cucumbers drenched in a Frank's Redhot vinaigrette and the little celery companion for the creamy aspect to counter the tangy RedHot.
Buffalo Cucumbers
1 long cucumber, semi-peeled and cut into sticks
3 large cloves garlic, unpeeled
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 small shallot, diced
1/2 cup Frank's RedHot sauce (do not substitute anything else please!)
crushed peanuts for garnish
crumbled blue cheese or feta (optional)
1.  Roast the garlic in their sheaths for about 15 minutes at 200°C 400°F.  Remove and squeeze out the garlic into a bowl.
2.  Make the vinaigrette by whisking together the mashed garlic, olive oil, and Frank's.  Stir in the diced shallots.
3.  Toss the cucumber sticks with the vinaigrette and set aside in the refrigerator to let the juices develop for at least 20 minutes.
4.  Toss again to redistribute the juices and serve with some crushed peanuts.
Serve as a salad or as finger food for happy hour.  With some crumbled blue cheese or feta it would be quite a fiesta of flavors.
Dill Filled Celery Sticks
stalks from 1 bunch celery, cut into sticks
1 clove garlic, grated
juice from 1/2 lime
3 sprigs fresh dill, chopped
5-6 celery leaves, finely chopped
few cracks black pepper
pinch fleur de sel
pinch piment d'espelette
3 Tbsp cream cheese
1 Tbsp cream
Whip together all the ingredients and spread it into the celery crevices.
*this one is not vegan.. don't be silly now

This works just as well as a spread on bagels, dip for carrots or breadsticks, or even on some toast with a few capers.  I just wanted to fill the celery wedges with something tangy.
This was the perfect American-themed happy hour (with carrot sticks and artichoke dip, of course) to go with my All American Spiced Chili dinner.

Print Friendly and PDF

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Granny Smith Tart with Fig Lining

It is no longer peach and apricot season.. and figs have been weaning away from the stalls for some time now.  Fall is the season for apples and pumpkin, sugar and spice.  How can you spread one last drop of summer into a fall dessert?  Use some of your summer preserves.. if you are so lucky to have some.  This summer, I made many offerings to others and was, in turn, rewarded with several gifts of various forms.  Homemade fig preserves was one of those gifts I've been enjoying from time to time on some bread with goat cheese, or even in some thumbprint cookies.  I hadn't given those preserves their proper turn at sublimation, yet.. until this tart.  Mixing figs and apples is just as genius an idea as mixing apples and cinnamon.. and while we're doing that, add in some cinnamon and ginger.. because it is fall, after all.
Serves 6-8
3 Granny Smith apples, peeled and sliced into wedges
1/4 tsp ginger powder
1/4 tsp cinnamon
2 eggs
3-4 Tbsp fig preserves
30g cassonade or brown sugar (omit if your preserves are very sweet)
1 handful slivered ground almonds
dash milk
shortcrust (I used half buckwheat, half T80 flour and added cinnamon and ginger)
1. Cover the rim of the uncooked shortcrust with foil, poke the bottom a few times with a fork and pre-cook it for 10 minutes in the oven at 190°C 375°F.
2. In a large mixing bowl, whip together the eggs, sugar, 1 1/2 Tbsp of the fig preserves, and a dash of milk.
3. Spread the remaining 2 1/2 Tbsp fig preserves into the precooked crust
Lay the wedges down
Sprinkle on the almond slivers
 and pour in the egg mixture.
4. Bake for 1 hour at 175°C 350°F.
 5.  Let cool at least 30 minutes before attacking it.
This apple tart is exactly my type of dessert (until I get a sorbetière.)  It's not too sweet, just enough fruit, a bit of spice from the ginger, a crust that always gets rave reviews... with a naughty mix of fig and apples to make it unique.

Print Friendly and PDF

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Marinated Anchovies

Today the sun seeped into my skin and whispered to me, "they are ready to be welcomed by you."
That could only mean one thing.. I'm going to be marinating fresh anchovies for happy hour tonight.. and nothing going to stop me.
With respect to my rule C of dinner parties, these will make for quite a happy happy hour.
When I buy anchovies, I always buy the marinated ones, never the salted ones.  I don't enjoy all the grime and salt as much as I enjoy the pure filets with their exquisite texture.  During these past few weeks, I've been lingering around my fishmonger waiting for fresh anchovies to become available.  There comes a time in one's life when one feels ready.  Ready to take it to the next level.  Ready to do it my own way.  Ready to cook using something other than heat.
Unfortunately, all the fishmonger was able to offer me were sardines.. which are great, but my one tracked mind was not fixated on marinating sardines today.. I wanted ANCHOVIES!  I almost started the debate about whether or not the anchovy is the sardine's spawn, but I let it slide, knowing that he would call me over when he did finally have anchovies.  You can't rush such things.
I was right about feeling ready.  It was just the right time for these marinated anchovies to be happening in my life..
450g (1 lb) fresh whole anchovies
1st marinade:
juice from 1/2 lime
1/2 cup balsamic white vinegar (or white wine vinegar)
1/4 cup cider vinegar
2nd marinade:
few pinches fleur de sel
1/2 tsp chili flakes
2 large cloves garlic, sliced
few cracks black pepper
3/4 cup very good quality olive oil
1.  Prepare the filets.  Cut the heads and tails off the anchovies and with a sharp knife, slit the bellies. Using your fingers, remove the guts.  Remove the central bone.  You don't need any magic tools here, just your fingers.  It all comes off easily.
Rinse the filets well and pat dry.  This is important.  Don't leave any gut slime on there.
2.  Prepare the first marinade.  Mix all the ingredients together.  Place a layer of anchovy filets in a container and pour the marinade mixture over until the filets are just covered.  Add another layer of filets and cover again with the vinegar mixture.  Do this until you no longer have any filets or vinegar.  If the filets are not submerged, just pour on some more vinegar or lime juice.
Let marinate in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours.  During this time, the filets will cure, but will retain their real anchovy flavor.  Use good quality vinegars because your filets will have the vinegar aftertaste in the end.  Adjust the lime-vinegar quantities as you wish.
3.  Bathe.  After about 4 hours, the marinade might be a little off-putting.  Mine was murky and I was afraid it wasn't going to cut it.
Rinse the filets in cold water, then pat dry.
4.  Prepare the second marinade.  Place a layer of anchovy filets in a container and sprinkle a bit of fleur de sel, chili flakes, pepper, and a few slices of garlic.  Cover with olive oil and repeat the process until you no longer have filets or olive oil.  If the filets are not submerged, add more olive oil.
Let marinate in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours.
They will keep for a week in the fridge as long as they are submerged in olive oil... but they won't last you that long anyway..

I'm not sure about proper anchovy-eating etiquette, but I have little escargot forks that I use to grab a filet or 2 and put it directly into my mouth.  I may get a few drops of oil on the table, but that doesn't bother me.

These were a great success.  They retained their real anchovy flavor instead of being pure salt as the ones you buy in cans.  The flesh stays firm and the happiness emanates throughout the room.  Needless to say, every last one of these was eaten with great respect.

Anchovies, I hope you are finding great comfort within me... I will always be ready and willing to welcome you..

Print Friendly and PDF

Monday, November 3, 2014

Chipotle Black Eyed Pea Dip

The time has come again for yet another Happy Hour evening followed by game night.
No, not video games... we haven't killed off enough brain cells to enjoy those yet.. (no offense to anyone who indulges in said activity.  I just don't get it.)
Although I try to change up the rotation regularly, there are always certain things to expect when crossing my threshold:
There will be a dip and it will most likely involve beans.  Be it hummus, artichoke, eggplant, pinto, or even blended dal, you will be practicing the art of dipping.
There will be heat.  At the very least, one of my offerings will be spicy, if not 80% of them.  That's how I roll.  If I know ahead of time about your less than stellar scoville stamina, I may make minor adjustments, but there will be at least one item you won't eat.  Your loss. 
There will be something from the sea.  It will be shrimp, anchovies, sardines, or all of the above, but they will represent.  This time there were shrimp and kelp caviar (which I didn't photograph) but was rather excellent.
There will be music.  Really really good music.. on vinyl.  That is non-negotiable.  I have a large selection, but don't bring a cd or a usb drive.  That just doesn't cut it here.
You will discover something.  Yes.. I like to have something to share that will make you say "ooh" or "aaah" or "wtf?"  Sometimes all three.  It isn't necessarily food related, but most of the time is is.

Once those conditions are re-united, the evening can begin.  
Here is my a. criteria for the evening which is similar to my chipotle black beans, but with a few minor touches that completely make the difference.
Serves 4-5

3/4 cup dried black-eyed-peas, soaked at least a few hours
1/4 cup dried pinto beans, soaked as well
5 cups water
1 sprig sage, chopped
1 chicken or vegetable bouillon cube
3 chopped shallots
2 Tbsp tomato paste
4 cloves garlic, grated
3 chipotle chiles in adobo sauce, some chopped
1/4 tsp ground cumin
Juice from 1 lemon
1 Tbsp cracked black pepper
1.  Put everything in the slow cooker and cook on low for 7-9 hours.
2.  If you decide to make it a dip, remove some of the beans with liquid and blend.  Garnish with grated cheese if you wish.  
I suggest not blending the entire batch, that way you can have several options;  dip, breakfast, lunch, soup, etc..
I served mine with some tortilla chips and carrot sticks (strangely, not shown in this photo).  There were also some lemon chile pepinos to keep with the Mexican theme.
What are those toasts in the background?  Aah a dill spread to which I later added capers, and some goat cheese with red chile jam which everybody thought was strange at first, but then asked for more.. to which I had to refuse.. because that jam was made for me for my personal stiletto moments. So.. no, sorry.
The next day, I spooned some of the non-blended beans over my morning egg.
Then again, over some rice with some extra garnish such as avocado, chopped tomatoes, and shredded cabbage..
 Oh yes lets get messy!! Yes Yes!!
I love beans.. have I ever mentioned that?

Print Friendly and PDF

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Long Pepper and Cardamom Cookies

After doing some research on what to do with some Javanese long pepper and having already tried it in some risotto for a satisfyingly tingly sensation, the long pepper cookie idea was incepted into my brain and I haven't been able to shake the thought since first inhaling the sweet aroma of those little berries.
This recipe is completely my own, and I let the energy flow through me in a natural way for this outcome.  I have a basic butter cookie rule that allows me to freestyle.  It's approximately 1:1:2 ration of fat, sugar, and flour.  Fat can be butter and tahini for example.  Flour can be normal or ground almonds.  With that ratio and a feel of what I want my dough to be before baking, I am able to let the creative part take over the rest.. which contributes to my zen-therapy.
Yield 2 dozen cookies
110g (3.9 oz) softened butter
100g (3.5 oz) cane sugar
2 Tbsp molasses
6 cardamom pods
15-18 Javanese Long pepper berries
1 tsp ground cinnamon
90g buckwheat flour
100g whole wheat flour
Pinch salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1.  Dry roast the cardamom and Javanese long pepper until fragrant, then grind in a spice grinder.
2.  Cream the butter and sugar together, then add the molasses and mix until homogenous.
3.  Sift the flours, salt, baking soda, and ground spices together.
4.  Gently add the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and mix with a wooden spoon until it all comes together.
5.  Ditch the wooden spoon and use your hands to knead it into a nice ball.  Not too wet, but not too crumbly either.  It should stay in a ball if you shape it without fallong apart but should not come off onto your fingers after shaping.  I'm now realizing that it is not that easy to describe the consistence if something with words.
I now understand why grandmothers use "until it looks or feels right" in their recipes.
6.  Preheat your oven to 175°C 350°F.
Make tablespoon sized balls with the dough and press them down onto a cookie sheer.  Press some extra cane sugar on the tops of the cookies so that they'll have a bit of sparkle and glamor when they're done.
7.  Bake for 13-15 minutes or before the edges start to darken.  These will harden if cooked too long so be careful!
8.  Quickly transfer to a cooling rack.  And try to wait at least 20 minutes before digging in.

The result?
Intriguing.  The long pepper is slightly smoky and lingers in a similar way that cardamom lingers.  The pair go well together and the aroma wafting from this creation will hypnotize every being within you...

Print Friendly and PDF

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Sucrine du Berry and Black Trumpet Pizza

If there were ever to be a pizza in this world to scream luxury and sensuality, this would be it.
This is not just your average pizza where the ingredients are slapped onto the dough and then cooked together for the final outcome.  I've made something similar before, but as a fine cheese ripens, my skills intensify with time.
This is a pizza where each layer was carefully mapped out and "cuisined" to bring out the best in the next layer... although the dough is always my standard recipe with fresh yeast.
Lets start with the base.
A cream base instead of tomato or pesto..but into my cream, I whipped in 1/2 clove grated garlic, a few cracks black pepper, and a dash of nutmeg.  These last 3 are to bring out the best in the grated sucrine squash that would be the succeeding layer.  The cream base also had a drizzle of truffle infused olive oil and was made an hour before spreading so the flavors could infuse.
The grated sucrine would then be delicately positioned over this cream base and turn into pure pleasure during the cooking process.
The next layer, the black trumpets, are truly a gift from above in the mushroom department.  Of all the lovely little mushrooms this world has to offer, the black trumpets are the ones tha tickle my T-Spot most of all.  It may also be visual, since they are black, but the texture is pleasant and they have an earthy fall flavor that sits well with garlic, cream, and most certainly the sucrine.  Mushrooms and squash go well together in general, but here on my luxury pizza, we have the best of both worlds.  A butternut type squash, which is the Venus of squash, and the black trumpet mushroom, which is the Zeus of all (affordable) mushrooms.
The black trumpets were sauteed in a bit of butter with some garlic until they released their nectar, then were cooked until they reabsorbed their nectar with a small spoon of the cream infusion before being spread over the sucrine.
To remind myself that this is indeed a pizza and not Manna, some buffalo mozzarella was added to the last layer along with some grated raw milk gruyere.
The masterpiece was cooked on its throne, the pizza stone, on the bottom rack of the oven at the highest temperature, 250°C 480°F, for 13 minutes.
The last hommage was a drizzle of truffle infused olive oil at the end for the mouth envelopping truffle sensation confirming that this is truly a divine creation.
A pizza such a sthis is best enjoyed hotter than warm, but not piping hot, because the cooked sucrine might burn the roof of your mouth, preventing you from enjoying the gifts offered by each and every being invited onto that pizza...

Print Friendly and PDF