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Monday, June 22, 2015

Razor Clams and Trout on the Plancha

 Thanks to these little razors marinated in garlic, ginger, lime and olive oil,
 these big boys stuffed with red onion, red bell, and piment d'espelette...
nicely grilled, back to front..
and some heavenly grilled zucchini and asparagus that I was allowed to have a moment of sanity in my head this weekend...
Enough said.

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Sunday, June 14, 2015

Salmon 'Ota 'Ika with Mango

The last time I made Poisson Cru à la Tahitienne, I was smitten.  Everything about it was perfect, delicate, refreshing, and nourishing.  I couldn't wait to get a chance to make it again with a few tweaks here and there.  The thing is.. I haven't seen fresh white albacore tuna on the stalls at all.  It's as if he just made a cameo appearance to give me a taste of his beauty just to leave me there, lusting for his unattainable passion.  I've been wanting to pair him with a sweet tangy mango and watch the chemistry happen.  Last night I gave in.  With no tuna on the horizon, I let myself be seduced by salmon.  The two have nothing in common in terms of taste, but both make me swoon in different ways.
As it turns out, salmon works wonderfully with coconut milk, avocado, and of course, mango.  It's almost as if it was made to be..
Serves 7-8 as a starter
500g (1lb) fresh salmon, cut into cubes
1 large mango, cut into cubes
1 carrot, grated
1/2 cucumber, diced
2 tomatoes, diced
4 cloves garlic, grated
3 green onions, chopped
1/2 red onion, diced
1 avocado, chopped
1-2 green chiles, diced
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
1/2 bunch cilantro, chopped
1/2 can premium coconut milk (about 1 cup)
juice from 3 limes
few grinds black pepper
Stir everything together and reserve in the fridge for 30 minutes to 1 hour.
Serve cold as an appetizer alone or as a meal along with hot basmati rice.
I served as part of a trio of appetizers alongside some fresh spring rolls and grilled sardines.  It was a very emotional event.

As soon as I move and unpack, I'm buying better a better small dish service.  I don't have many matching small bowls or verrines, so when there is company nobody has the same size or shape.  We all know it's not the plate that makes the meal a hit, but now that I'm a grown woman and a homeowner, I will be upgrading certain things in my kitchen.

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Thursday, June 11, 2015

Green Puy Lentil Salad with Feta

Sometimes you don't really have much to say except that you want to be cooled down by your dinner eaten in a hot appartment.
This is one of those.. except I NEED chile.. so I added chopped pepperoncini and a spoonful of harissa to make this classic French lentil salad my own.  Is it sacrilege?  Maybe.  But the French don't really take their lentils as seriously as they do their Choucroute... so I'm pretty safe.
Serves 4
To Simmer:
1 heaping cup green puy lentils, well rinsed
2 sprigs savory (sarriette)
1 tsp coarse sea salt
3 cloves garlic, grated
2 bay leaves
1 pinch angel hair chile strands
1 handful chopped celery ribs
4 cups water
1 Tbsp mustard
1 Tbsp extra special olive oil
1 Tbsp white balsamic vinegar
1 shallot, minced
1 clove garlic, grated
1 Tbsp capers
10 baby pepperoncini, halved
many grinds of black pepper
1 handful chopped parsley
1 handful crumbled feta
1 cup shredded cabbage
jarred harissa (not that tube stuff) - optional
1.  Place all the "To Simmer" ingredients together, bring to a boil, then cover and simmer for about 15 minutes, or until lentils are al dente.
2.  Drain, remove bay leaves and savory, then quickly rinse under cold water in a colander and let cool.  Don't overdo the rinsing or you'll wash away the flavor.
3.  Mix all the "Dressing" ingredients together and toss with the cooled lentils.

Plate with the garnish.. realize the inner beauty.. then realize the outer beauty... then let your eyes roll back

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Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Agua Fresca de Jamaica

I have many things, but here are a few things you can't find in my home.
A vase.  Seriously... I like flowers, but I like them outside in plant form.  I hate being offered flowers for the simple reason that I have no idea what to do with them except for putting them in a vase.. which I don't have, and I don't want, because I don't really care for being offered flowers.
Plus, it takes up all the space on the table and just gets in the way and all you're really waiting for is for them to get ugly enough to throw out.  Oh.. and changing the flower water makes me gag.  I don't mind cleaning lizard poop, but flower water.. bleh!!
People who know me well know that the only flowers or plants I love being offered are the edible ones.  
Bouquet of basil?  oh you just made me blush...
Chiles in any form?  oh yes yes yes!
Ok ok, if you absolutely must, offer me flowers.. but make sure they're chive flower, zucchini flowers, or in the dried form.. hibiscus flowers!  Besides, the only purpose for which I would ever use a vase would be as a pitcher (which I don't have either, but for no apparent reason).
Yes, this is my guest etiquette and it's kind of an understanding.. never anything I actually impose.
I've been making hot hibiscus tea for some time now.. just the flowers steeped with no additions, but the weather has been getting sweaty hot, and although it is recommended to drink warm or hot when hot, I just can't bring myself to do it.  I want and crave ice cold water and iced tea!  The upside is that hibiscus has a cooling effect on the body (so does cucumber), so even if you drink it cold, it eventually ends up cooling you.
I grew up drinking agua de jamaica any time I had the opportunity.  I was never one for soda and mostly would just drink water, but whenever this iced tea was available, I would dive head first into it.
On top of being refreshing and deliciously tart, hibiscus has many health benefits.  It is loaded with antioxidants, can lower blood pressure, and reduce chronic inflammation.  Why wait?
Yield 2 Liters/Quarts
1 heaping handful dried hibiscus flowers
1 inch piece fresh ginger
1 cinnamon stick
2 Liters water
1/4 cup sugar or to taste (I completely omitted)
1.  Place the hibiscus, ginger, cinnamon, and sugar in a large enough bowl.
2.  Boil the water and pour over the arrangement in the bowl.
3.  Steep for 10 minutes, then strain.
4.  Let cool, then refrigerate.

Enjoy chilled, any time of the day.  This is a great "anytime" beverage.
I enjoyed it with happy hour to accompany my Nocellara del Belice amazing olives, slices of cold juicy melon, and some homemade hummus and dipping paraphernalia.
I love the tartness of this drink. Although the restaurants serve it with lots of sugar, I like it better the way I make it at home, sugar free.  Many people find it too sour, but I prefer it this way.

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Monday, June 8, 2015

Chile Cumin Meatballs

So in case you were wondering, here is how I function:
While writing about one recipe, I may need to link back to a different one, which is a good way for me to reread or to just not forget some of my concoctions of the past.  This leads me into rediscovery mode and urges start sprouting up here and there.  I become fixated on making that fixation become reality and my mind races through all the delicious things I'll be preparing.
Then, at the last minute, while still fixating on the initial idea, I completely change directions and do a whole different thing and it ends up bringing out of me things I had forgotten.
This recipe is the different thing.
The other day, while I was going on and on about black cardamom and how it's crazy different from green cardamom, I searched for that one other time I had used it.  Chole Masala became my fixation and I prepared some chickpeas that I would let soak overnight.  Since that moment I've been hallucinating the taste of chickpeas cooked in a tea and spice broth with an almost smokey flavor all Indian style.  As I changed the chickpea soaking water, I imagined crushing one with my tongue and the roof of my mouth and letting its creamy goodness explode.
Up until the moment I placed them in my crockpot, I thought I was making Chole... and then I decided I wanted to make Lebanese style meatballs and have hummus on my plate.
I didn't actually search for this recipe.  I must have seen it peripherally while scrolling through my blog feed which had mostly Chinese recipes on it and my brain must have captured that one non-Asian recipe of the list and tricked me into soaking those chickpeas for this exact purpose.
Thank you brain, but I'm not completely forgetting about Chole, ok?
Adapted from Seamus Mullen via Lottie+Doof
Yields 27-30 meatballs
1 1/4 lb ground lamb (I used a mixture of veal and beef)
1/4 onion, minced
8 cloves garlic, grated
1 Tbsp parsley, chopped
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp sage
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1 Tbsp kosher salt
1 tbsp rice flour
2-3 Tbsp olive oil to cook
1.  Mix together with your hands or a food processor.  I always use my hands..
 2.  Shape meatballs into 1 1/2 inch balls, then cook in olive oil until brown.  You may want to do this in batches.

Chile Sauce
3 dried pasilla chiles
1 tsp crushed red pepper
1 Tbsp cumin seeds
1/4 cup mix of red and white balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp paprika
1 clove garlic
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
salt to taste
1.  Dry roast the pasillas, cumin seeds, and crushed red pepper until fragrant, then grind.
2.  Blend everything together while streaming in the olive oil a little at a time.  You may not use all the oil.  Bring it to desired thickness.

Plate Assembly
Sexy Salad:
1 sliced cucumber
chopped mint and parsley
1/2 red onion, sliced
1 chopped tomato
1 1/2 cups shredded red cabbage
juice from 1 lime
drizzle olive oil
few cracks black pepper
feta (Gazi)
Additional Ingredients:
beaten yogurt stirred with 1 clove grated garlic to sit under the meatballs
red pepper flakes
hummus with extra virgin olive oil
That one on the far right is Falafel.. you mix your Mezze however you want, right?
Things I didn't do but would work well:
romaine lettuce and/or man'ouche for wrapping

These were as much a pleasure to eat as they were to conceive..

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Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Three-way Daal

No Indian meal is ever complete without daal.  This is an undisputed fact (in my house anyway).  Dal holds a precious place in my heart and stomach.  It is great as a side, a whole meal, hot, warm, cold, for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.  It's true!  Sambar is pretty much daal and it is mostly eaten in the morning with idlis or dosas.  I love it not only because of it's varieties of participants along with their different tastes and textures, but also for all the nutritional power the little beans contain.  I ate a bowl of this dal for breakfast one morning and an hour later I wanted to make an obstacle course, run through it, and do push ups to no end.  Unfortunately I was at the office when this urge crept up on me, so I had to contain my energy and focus on my current projet.
This dal is a nice spin on an ordinary dal (does that even exist?  any dal I've ever made has been extraordinary) because of the blend.  It's like having 3 recipes in one!  The toor dal stays firm and gives texture to the dish.  It is also the most vegetable tasting dal.. probably because they are split peas and not really lentils.  For me, the toor dal stimulates the sides of my mouth.  The split urad dal becomes creamy and almost melts.  The urad stimulates the center of my tongue.  The split mung has a more subtle flavor, but provides the energy in the dish.  These stimulate my throat.  The mung is also essential to my diet because it balances out all the heat I take in through chiles.
I don't know how to explain, but each and every dal is appealing to a certain part of my mouth, tongue, throat, or stomach.  Sometimes the happy euphoric feeling happens as I am eating, other times it's 30 minutes later.  Either way, there is always some sort of euphoria associated with eating daal.. which is why it is always an integral part of my Indian works of art.
Serves 6-8
1/3 cup split mung, unhusked, rinsed thoroughly
1/3 cup toor dal, rinsed thoroughly
1/3 cup split urad dal, unhusked, rinsed thoroughly
4 cups water
1 bay leaf
1 tsp coarse sea salt
1 Tbsp oil
1/4 tsp turmeric
1 pinch hing (asafoetida)
1 onion, chopped
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp chile powder
tadka seasoning:
1 Tbsp oil
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 pinch hing (asafoetida)
1 sprig curry leaves
2 cloves garlic, grated
1 tsp ginger, grated
1 slit green chile
squeeze of lime
chopped cilantro
1.  Simmer the different daals in the water with the bay leaf and salt until almost tender, about 15 minutes.
2.  Heat the oil in a wok and add the turmeric and hing until they fizz, then add the onion and cook until soft.
3.  Add the cumin powder, garam masala, and chile powder an stir evenly.  Add this mixture to the simmering daal and cook for 5 minutes more or until tender.
4.  Make the tadka seasoning.  The the oil in a wok and add the cumin and mustard seeds until they sputter.  You should have this down to a science by now if you are a regular reader.
5.  Add the hing until it fizzes, then add the curry leaves, garlic, ginger, and green chile.  Cook, stirring until the raw aroma disappears, then add this seasoning to the simmering daal and stir.
6.  Let simmer a few more minutes, then remove from heat until ready to serve.

Garnish with a squeeze of lime and some chopped cilantro (which I didn't have this time).
I served it many ways.. one of which was in a thali with some Punjabi Chicken Curry and Paneer Korma.
I don't know which way I liked it best.  Each and every time I have daal leftovers, it is a distinct experience..

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Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Punjabi Chicken and Cauliflower Curry

While looking through various chicken curry recipes, my heart stopped at this one.  The ingredient that spoke to me was Ms Black Cardamom.  Before actually holding one in my hands, I was persuaded that black and green cardamom were interchangeable, such as black and yellow mustard seeds, and that one was maybe a riper version of the other.  After buying them, I thought the black was the whole cardamom and the green was just the pod inside, much like when you buy whole nuts that you must shell to get to the good stuff.  As it turns out, the two are more like cousins.  They each come from a different variety of cardamom plants and have absolutely nothing in common taste-wise.    I've noticed it's more often used in Punjabi cuisine than any other type of Indian cuisine.  I've used it once before in Chole, but I didn't really grasp the distinct flavor of it then as I do now.  Ooh Chole!!  I shall be doing that again soon.
The black is slightly smokey and gives off a unique flavor after being simmered for some time.  It is unique, just as its green cousin is, but in a different world...
Serves 4 if served alone.
Inspired by IndianKhana.
300g (10.6oz) chicken (I used thigh meat)
300g (10.6oz) cauliflower florets
2 Tbsp oil
1 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp fennel seeds
1/4 tsp hing (asafoetida)
2 tej patta (Indian bay leaves)
1 black cardamom
2 green cardamoms, crushed
4 cloves
1/2 inch piece cinnamon
3 onions, chopped
1 Tbsp grated ginger
1 Tbsp grated garlic
2 green chiles, slit
2 tomatoes, chopped
1 tsp chile powder
2 tsp ground coriander
1 cup yogurt, beaten
1 cup water
1 tsp garam masala
salt to taste
1.  Heat the oil in a wok or heavy based pan.  Add the cumin and fennel seeds and cook until they sputter, about 30 seconds.
2.  Add the hing and wait for the fizz, then add the bay leaves, black and green cardamoms, cloves, and cinnamon.  There should be an interesting aroma wafting around you.
3.  Add the green chiles, onion, ginger, and garlic.  Cook until the onion softens and lightly browns, then add the chile and coriander powder and stir.
4.  Add in the chicken pieces and coat.  Cook 10-12 minutes on medium heat, stirring, then add the cauliflower florets.
5.  Add in the yogurt and let come to a simmer.  Cook this way until the oil starts to come to the top, about 5 minutes.
6.  Stir un the water and add a bit of salt if needed.  Bring to a boil and simmer until the chicken is cooked through, about 5 more minutes.
7.  Add the garam masala, stir, then cover and remove from heat.  Let sit so the flavors meld together. When ready to serve, place back onto the heat for a few minutes.

I served mine in a thali with Paneer Korma, Basmati Rice, and Three-way Daal.

This dish was a nice contrast to the creamy korma.  It would work well with just naan as well.  I loved the depth the black cardamom offered.  This type of cuisine takes my brain to a completely different level, where I turn inside out and enjoy the moment from within.

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Monday, June 1, 2015

Paneer Korma

Sometimes you just need to satisfy yourself...make yourself feel appreciated and give yourself a thoughtful gift.. a homemade gift.
Today is one of those days.  I made myself a feast, and then people were summoned to my table to observe me in my passion.  Guests are completely peripheral when I'm in one of these moods.  I wanted to make a silky royal Indian feast, and that I did..
What makes this dish such a gift is the process which is relatively methodical, but in which each step reveals its necessity in the end.
The creaminess and richness comes from the cashew paste.  The original recipe does this with almonds, but I could not get the cashew image out of my mind.  It was driving me to desire.  I needed to make cashew korma!!
Serves 6 as a side
Borrowed fron VegRecipesofIndia, a site that never lets me down.
Cashew paste:
22 cashews soaked in 1/4 cup boiling water 40 minutes
4 Tbsp of the soaking water
Onion paste:
2 chopped onions
1/4 cup water
200g (7oz) cubed paneer
2 Tbsp oil
1/2 tsp caraway seeds
1 inch piece cinnamon stick
3 green cardamoms, cracked
4 cloves
1 bay leaf
1 green chile, slit
3 strands mace (I subbed angel hair chile)
6 cloves garlic, grated
1/2 inch piece ginger, grated
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp coriander powder
6 Tbsp beaten yogurt
1 cup water
3 Tbsp heavy cream
1 tsp rose water (I wish I had this)
saffron for garnish
1.  Make the cashew paste by grinding 4 Tbsp of the soaking water with the soaked cashews.  Set aside.
2.  Make the onion paste by cooking the chopped onions directly in the water until onions turn soft.  This should take about 10 minutes.  Blend into a paste and sed aside.
3.  Make the curry.  Heat the oil in a heavy based pan or wok and add the caraway seeds, cinnamon, cardamoms, and cloves.  Cook until the seeds sputter, then add the bay leaf, green chile, and mace.
4.  Add the onion paste, stirring, being careful not to brown it.
5.  Add the ginger and garlic and cook until the pungent smell disappears.
6.  Add the cashew paste, the pepper and coriander powder and stir, then add in the beaten yogurt 1 Tbsp at a time while continuing to stir until it makes a paste.
7.  Add the water while continuing to stir, making an even sauce.  As it cooks, it will thicken.  Simmer for 5 minutes on low heat.
8.  Add the paneer cubes and cook for another minute.
9.  Remove from heat and stir in the cream.  Add the saffron and let sit until ready to eat.

This is best served over rice.
I served mine in a thali along with some Punjabi Chicken Curry and Three-way daal.
The paneer in this recipe is glorified in its slightly spice rich golden cashew sauce.  The rice enhances the flavors by absorbing the curry, every mouthful making you feel like Royalty. 

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