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

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

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..

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

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

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

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

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"

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)

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
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)
pack of fresh quail eggs
1 cherry tomato per quail egg
toothpicks for skewers
3 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
juice from 1/2 lime
1 Tbsp olive oil
pinch salt
6-7 leaves fresh basil, finely chopped
few pinches Pink Himalayan Salt or other special salt
few cracks black pepper
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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