Sunday, December 30, 2007

French Fry and Lamb Soup

After almost two months hiatus due to extreme busyness, Extra Schmaltz! returns. This is a tasty, comforting soup that Alex and I had in Jordan. You can use either lamb or kufta, which is a ground, seasoned meat that can be found at Holy Land (or you could season your own). I don't have a photo, but the soup should be fairly brothy and red, with meat chunks and, of course, french fries in it. In Jordan the fries are sort of soggy and lame, but they're really good in this soup.

  • ~1 lb meat: either kufta in 3/4" meatballs or cubed lamb
  • 1 Tbsp. oil
  • (optional: stew bones)
  • red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 1 onion, slivered
  • 3 Tbsp. pepper or tomato paste
  • 4 c. chicken broth
  • 1 c. (1/2 can) tomato sauce
  • 1 tomato, chopped
  • 1 medium spicy pepper, slivered (ie Hungarian wax or Anaheim)
  • 1 tsp. ground coriander
  • 3 handfuls wedge french fries or Jo-jos
  • salt and pepper to taste

In a soup pot or pressure cooker, heat the oil on high and brown the meat. When the edges begin to crisp, add the onions and cook until they begin to soften. Add the red pepper paste or tomato paste and stir so it coats the meat and onions. Pepper paste can be found at the Middle Eastern market and is much yummier than tomato paste. If you have stew bones, add them now.

If using a pressure cooker, add ~1/2 c. of the chicken broth (or enough to cover the meat half-way) and cook on high for 6 minutes, then release pressure using natural-release method. Otherwise, simmer the meat in 2 c. of broth for 45 minutes. Once the meat is tender, add the remaining broth, tomato sauce, tomatoes, peppers, and coriander. Simmer for 20 more minutes.

Add the french fry wedges and season the soup with salt and pepper to taste.

So, hopefully that's more interesting for the blog than the mac 'n' cheese and instant udon that I've been living on. Let's keep this blog going!

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Gnocchi alla lefto'versi

Step 1: Make gnocchi. I had lots of leftover potatoes that were starting to go all mushy. I'm sure we all know how to trot the gnocchi tango, but heres a quick recap:

Boil peel and mash potatoes
a) Add about a cup of flour and one egg per pound potatoes. And lots of salt.
b) Mix it all up until doughy like.
c) Make it into whatever shape you damn well please
d) Boil em until they float
e) Profit!

Now I've got about 5 pounds of gnocchi to use. The other night I killed some leftovers birds with one doughy stone (hah!)

I like my gnocchi fried in butter/olive oil until nice and crispy on the outside and soft and doughy inside, so that's what I did.

Then, I sautéed some thin sliced carrots, diced red onions, and copious scallions. Oops, I guess we're in step 2 now.

Added some leftover red sauce and meatballs. Tossed it all together, shaved parmesan on top, and a final garnish with tarragon.

Lillian weighs in:

Hi there! I love to make gnocchi too and I have a few more tips:
  • you can use any kind of starchy vegetable: sweet potato, squash, etc...; some people use all AP flower or part semolina. It's a very flexible recipe.
  • I add a little ground nutmeg and sometimes white pepper to the dough.
  • Keep the dough very soft, and use a potato ricer if possible when you mash up your starch so that they're nice and fluffy.
  • If you want to freeze some of your dough for later use, freeze the formed gnocchi before you boil them. Place them spaced apart on a floured tray in the freezer until they're hard, and then scrape them off into a plastic bag. Then when you're ready to use them, throw the gnocchi (still frozen) into boiling water.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Red Wine Bok Choi

Hello all,

Here is a recipe from my friend and co-worker Kristine (there's a link to her photography on the side-bar). Looks like she measures things the same way we do! This makes a great veggie side-dish or light meal:

Try this very simple recipe when you have some bok choi. I've made it twice so far and really like it! I'm calling it red wine bok choi.

Coarsely chop a mound of washed bok choi and saute it with about 1/2 cup of walnuts and ~1/2 cup of dried cranberries. I was pleased using safflower oil. Add a couple spills of red wine (I'm guessing that translates to a little less than a 1/4 cup). Add salt to taste. Saute for about 10-15 minutes or until bok choi is still a little crunchy. That's it! Serve over quinoa (rinse this grain well then saute with garlic before cooking) and top with parmesan cheese.


Making Mozzarella

So, this weekend I finally tackled mozzarella. My friends Kevin and Ranae have a cow and are selling awesome raw milk to folks in the department (on the down low, of course). I didn't have great luck with making yogurt, since I had no idea what I was doing, so for some reason I decided to try an advanced cheese--mozzarella. The amazing thing is that it turned out great! I didn't take photos because it basically looked just like the ones on Dr. Fankhauser's Cheese Page. This guy is my new hero, and I urge you to check out his page before starting any dairy projects. So, the take-home message is that: yes, mozzarella can be done! Mom, you should definitely try it out because it's soooo yummy. I even got the Italian seal of approval from Toni, even though I don't have a damn water buffalo in my back yard, as the slow-foodies insist is necessary. Also, I recommend getting an old electric blanket for the incubations, because that helped me a lot and will also fix my yogurt problems. Good luck!

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Hungarian Goulash & Spaetzle

Here's the perfect dish for a cold night and several subsequent cold days as tasty planned-overs. I use an 'authentic' (supposedly) version, rather than the Lutheran church cookbook version that has all kinds of crazy things in it, like macaroni and tomato sauce. In this version the only thickening comes from the potatoes as they break down from cooking. I make mine a touch spicy, since that's just how I roll, but that's probably not 'authentic'. The dish will be much yummier if you add some stew-bones or oxtail, so try not to omit those. I threw in some parsnips, which added a lot to the flavor.

2-3 oxtails or stew-bones
2 lbs cubed boneless chuck
2 Tbsp. lard, shortening, bacon drippings, or oil
2 large onions
4-5 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into large chunks (you can also sub-in parsnips, rutabagas, or turnips for some of the taters)
3 heaping Tbsp. sweet Hungarian paprika (I sub-in 2 tsp. sharp paprika)
1 qt. water
S & P

In a large, heavy pot, brown the oxtail and beef in the fat. Get things really hot and don't do too much meat at a time, or it will start releasing its juices too soon. Set the meat aside and in the remaining fat, brown the onions over medium-low heat. Add the paprika and a few good grinds of pepper and stir. Add the meat back in and combine with the onion mixture, turn the heat down further, put the lid on, and allow the meant to stew in its own juices for one hour. Add the water and a tablespoon of salt and simmer, covered, one more hour. Add the potatoes and other root vegetables and boil gently until they are tender and the edges are starting to get indistinct. Add some more pepper, a ton more salt, and if it needs it, a dash of vinegar. If you think it's missing something, just add more salt and it will be fine (this is axiomatic for soup).

Serve with: Spaetzle!

Set a large pot of salted water a-boiling. You want it to be at a full, rolling boil. Also, melt a couple of tablespoons of butter. This makes a lot, so unless I'm feeding a crowd I usually halve the recipe. In a bowl, combine:

2 c. flour
2 eggs
3/4 c. milk
pinch salt

Beat together with a fork (should be smooth and fairly runny) and let sit for a few minutes. Squish the batter through a ricer and into the boiling water in several batches. There are other ways to do this, depending on your equipment. e.g. You can also cut the batter into the pot in thin ribbons with a knife (look online for pictures). Boil for 1-2 minutes until the spaetzle rise to the top, and skim them off. Set them in a dish, tossing with the melted butter, and keep warm. Place some spaetzle in each serving dish and scoop goulash over them. Yummmm!

When your meal is finished you can go two routes: put the planned-overs directly into tupperware while still warm, because the goulash will be hard to scoop out when it's cold (the collagen and potato starch and all). Or you can leave it to cool in a big pot, then remove the orange fat from the top. This stuff is GREAT for frying potatoes in. Makes 'em crispy, red, and flavorful. I suppose you could do both, but are you really going to save the fat when you're nuking your lunch at work?

This recipe totally hit the spot for me, especially with the cool weather arriving. It's definitely worth the cooking time and the expense of the meat because it's so stick-to-your-ribs.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Iftaar with Christians

So the other day, while playing cards at my friend Rim's house, we got to talking about cooking, and I mentioned that I really don't know how to cook any Syrian food. She offered to show me how to cook some upcoming Friday(her day off). We ended up deciding to make it an iftaar, since we tried to invite our other friend Rasha (that didn't work, since iftaars are usually a family thing, and therefore she ended up eating with her family) and because Kathleen from my program is fasting. In the end, it was a bunch of Christians (and me) having an iftaar, but it was a lot of fun. Due to the chaos of the whole event, I didn't witness the cooking of everything, but I've listed the recipes for most of the stuff below. She also cooked some stuff the day before, and so I don't have the recipes for that stuff. I didn't annotate those dishes in the picture of the spread below:

Here're the recipes:
Maqluuba("Upside down") with meat

Maqluuba is one of the Palestinian national dishes(along with kunaafa) - it's called maqluuba "upside-down"(pronounced in urban centers as "ma'-LUU-ba" where ' is a glottal stop) since it is a huge break with the normal tradition of putting meat on top of rice(in this case, it goes under the rice in a mind boggling switch-er-roo). However, silly name aside, it's quite delicious and other than frying up the eggplant, is actually a pretty simple dish that can be scaled up really easily to feed a large number of hungry mouths. It can be made either with chicken or meat, this is the meat recipe.

This recipe is based on watching my friend make this dish, so it's not super duper precise. The meat she used was veal(mystery cut), which is pretty cheap and readily available here, but you can obviously use any meat that you think would be appropriate. In fact, she didn't actually know what kind of meat("lahm" 'meat' in Arabic means anything that isn't chicken or fish. Theoretically it would include pork I think, but practically it does not) it was until I asked, since someone else in the family bought it, so no need to be too picky.

Basic ingredients:
1 pound boneless meat, cut into small pieces
Eggplants, probably 2-3 sufficient depending on size
Tomatoes(optional), skinned
Spices: Curry, Cinnamon, S&P

Cut eggplants lengthwise, with skin on. Fry(in normal cooking oil, no need to blow a bunch of olive oil or anything) until golden brown (you may want to make a bunch and use it for musaqqa3a, below). Then skin and cut tomatoes into thin slices(I don't recommend the boiling water method here, as that will liquify the tomatoes too much)

Sautee meat in large saucepan for a little while(she didn't seem to have any particular time limit, just until we were done cutting up the tomatoes). Then put a layer of eggplant above the meat, followed by a layer of tomatoes. You can throw some salt and curry powder into these layers if you wish. Then add rinsed rice in a layer above the vegis and meat. Pat down gently(important). Throw curry powder, cinnamon(this is apparently the secret), salt and pepper on top of the rice. Add 1.5x as much water/chicken broth (she used bullion cubes) as rice, then bring liquid to a boil, cover, turn flame to lowest setting, and wait 30 minutes(You can leave the flame higher if in a hurry, but its best to take your time.) Do not stir or otherwise agitate.

When finished, put a serving pan on top of the saucepan, flip, and serve with yogurt sauce/salad below(placed beside the dish on the plate, not on top).
The eggplant being placed above the meat:

The rice with spices on top - next you add the liquid.

Basic Yogurt Sauce
Dried Mint(one can use fresh mint if available and feeling particularly energetic)
Garlic(crushed used a mortar and pestle, not probably entirely necessary)

Mix. Enjoy.

Musaqqa3a(completely different from the Greek dish, but still involving eggplant)

Musaqqa3a is really, basically, like pasta sauce that you eat with khubz. This is the way Riim made it. I've done it differently, but the effect was quite similar.
Green bell pepper
Garlic (we used 2 cloves or so super smooshed, but we accidentally added it quite late, so you may want to add quite a bit more if you add it early on and its best with larger chunks of garlic IMO)
A large quantity of tomatoes(ripe tomatoes are quite cheap here, but feel free to use whatever canned variety you like).
Fried eggplant(as per the maqluuba recipe)
Optional seasonings:
Parsley(just a little bit)
Crushed hot pepper(a very little bit)

Cut the onion and bell pepper as you would for fajitas. Peel the tomatoes (the boiling water method is recommended here), smoosh in bowl after removing any hard or otherwise inedible bits. Fry eggplants as per above.

Cook onion and peppers until soft, add tomatoes and garlic. Cook until liquidy. Add eggplants. Cook somewhat longer(mostly for flavors to mingle).

To serve, use a slotted spoon, so that it's saucier than soupy and can be eaten with Arabic bread.


I didn't see the final stages of the recipe, so it might be missing some steps near the end. I'm not sure if/when olive oil was added, but this being Syria I assume it was.

Onion(relatively little)
Garlic(crushed as per above)
Thin, preferably stale Arabic bread.
Watercress(Not sure if this is what it was, but its optional anyway)
Either: Lemon or Pomegranate molasses.

Chop an approximately equal quantity of cucumber and tomato into smallish(under 1" square) bits. Then mince a small quantity of onion - we used one small white onion for maybe 5 tomatoes and cucumbers, add this along with garlic. Squeeze lemon or pour pomegranate molasses on top of vegis. Add herbs(w/o stems, obviously) - I don't think the mint needs to be chopped, though the parsley might be better that way. Mix everything. This is the point where one presumably adds a certain quantity of olive oil, salt and pepper, but I didn't see it.

Chop thin pita bread(presumably thicker stuff can be used, but if you can find the thinner loaves it will be better. And this shows that it's actually good for something.) into approx. 1" squares. Fry. Sprinkle on top of salad. Enjoy.

Harrat bi-Isba3o

Ok, this is a pretty famous dish around here, but I think it's a little overhyped. However, it was part of the meal and I annotated it in the picture, so here's the recipe:
Green lentils
Thin Arabic bread
Something acidic, such as lemon, pomegranate molasses, or I have a feeling cider vinegar would be good as well.

Cook lentils and macaroni separately. Add macaroni to lentils, allow to absorb excess lentil juice. Add acidic thing, mix. Add some salt. Put in medium sized bowl.

Fry bread as per fattoush recipe. Cut onions into very thin strips, carmelize - towards the end, add a lot of cilantro. Put onions on top, then bread, then sprinkle bread with a bit more cilantro, cooked or raw.

Our highly scientific experiments indicate that it tastes a lot better warm. It has a very strange appeal, which you will understand after you've eaten a serving of the stuff. However, it is traditionally served cold, though you may want to put on the bread chunks after retrieving from the fridge, otherwise they'll get kind of limp. Do not serve as a main dish unless you are a very poor Syrian housewife.

There are great similarities between this dish and the Egyptian dish kushari, which by all accounts is much better.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Squash and Buttermilk Soup

Tonight we had a lovely gathering at the Byway with a few friends, which we'd coordinated at our volleyball game on Tuesday. We had a couple of soups, buttermilk biscuits, and many desserts. My contribution was a vegetarian squash soup (to go with Manny's meaty vegetable soup). There are as many ways to make squash soup as there are, uh...other numerous things. So these are just guidelines (as usual). If I hadn't been making it for a crowd I probably would have made it roaringly spicy, but as it was it got good reviews:
  • 1 big winter squash (mine was mysterious lumpy green one)
  • 1 large onion, chopped finely
  • 3 carrots, chopped finely
  • 2 red peppers (roasted or not), sliced into thin, 1" strips
  • 1 qt. good vegetable (or otherwise) broth
  • 1/2 c. buttermilk
  • 4 Tbsp. butter
  • olive oil
  • black pepper
  • nutmeg
  • ground chipotle or cayenne
  • salt
  • minced chives to garnish
Cook the squash however you like--I cut mine into quarters and seeded it, brushed it with olive oil, and baked it for an hour at 400. Scoop it out. In a heavy pot, sautee your onions and carrots in the butter until they start to get caramelized. Add the pepper strips and cook for 2 more minutes. Add the squash mush and broth, adding water if it's too thick (it will thicken up more later, too), and simmer for 30 min. Puree the soup to your desired texture using whatever equipment you have available--I used a potato ricer (RIP immersible blender). Add your seasonings and simmer 5 more minutes. Turn off the heat and let cool for a couple of minutes, then stir in the buttermilk and chives. When reheating, do not boil, since you'll curdle it.

Like I said, you could do just about anything with the seasonings, including making it extra spicy, gingery, curry flavored, rosemary--whatever. I'd also been thinking of keeping it thick and pouring it over gnocchi, but that was just too much to do on a weeknight. Also, using a good broth helps--I used "Better than Boullion Vegetable", which has a lot of roasted carrots in it, so it went well together (but look out for the high salt content). You could substitute any other dairy for the buttermilk, and adjust the acidity with vinegar.

Also, I made my concord pie again, this time as a crumble, with a shortbread crust and streusel topping. I'm happier with the pie, since it allows the grapes to speak for themselves more (so I won't include the crumble recipe). The fun part of this dish is it dyes your dinner guests' teeth blue! Just remember not to take photos after you eat ;)

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Chana Dal and Amaranth Leaves

Doing some research for the weed science class I'm TA-ing, I stumbled across a wonderful food blog (Mahanandi) of the cuisine of southern India, specifically a recipe that uses amaranth leaves (right here). Amaranth is considered a weed in the US, but the grains and greens are used worldwide in cooking. The recipe is for 'chana dal', which are similar to chick-peas, but much smaller and faster-cooking. I found them at the co-op, but I've also seen them at the large grocery store here. Soak them overnight for best results. Also, you could use spinach instead of amaranth, but the amaranth is so good that you should try to find it (I got mine at the Chinese grocery) or collect it from the garden yourself. I think I like it more than spinach, and from now on I will harvest the weedy volunteers in my garden. You should do your best to follow the recipe on the original site--I had to make a bunch of substitutions, but it still turned out really well and even looked just like the picture. Here's the recipe as I would make it if I had all the ingredients, with the substitutions I used in parentheses).

5 small, hot green chilis (2 green Hungarian peppers)
2 Tbsp. grated, unsweetened coconut (2 Tbsp. coconut milk)

1. Grind these together in a food processor or mortar & pestle. I think it should make a fairly dry paste, but mine was more liquidy. This didn't seem to be a problem, though.

1/2 c. chana dal, soaked overnight and drained
1 large bunch amaranth leaves, washed and chopped
1 red onion, finely chopped (yellow onion)
1 Tbsp. oil
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. black mustard seed (yellow mustard seed)
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
chapatis (flour tortillas)

2. Heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed pot over medium. Add the cumin, garlic, and mustard seeds. Stir these until the garlic is soft and just starts to brown (my mustard seeds started popping, so I just held the lid a little bit over the pan.).
3. Add the chana dal and onion and increase the heat. Stir these until the dal is a bit roasty and the onion is soft.
4. Add the amaranth and green chili/coconut paste, and stir a couple of times. Put the lid on and cook several minutes until the leaves are well wilted.
5. Remove the lid and cook the liquid off. Salt to taste.

Serve this hot with chapatis or warmed flour tortillas. The dal will be rather dry, but I think that's how it's supposed to be. If you don't like it that way you can add some liquid and cook longer, which is fine because the amaranth holds up better to cooking than spinach. I know this may seem like a crazy recipe full of ingredients you don't have, but it is really good and worth a try, especially if you have amaranth in your yard or find it at the store. Amaranth is also known as: thotakura (India), red spinach, Chinese spinach, hinn choy (Chinese), tampala (Sinhalese?), callaloo (W. Indies). Basically if you find a smooth, broad-leafed, tender green with reddish/purplish veins in the center of the leaf, it's probably amaranth. Check out the original recipe for good pictures.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Spicy chicken stew

On a recent cold rainy fall day, I had something of an epiphany for how to use a whole chicken I had that was about 45 seconds away from starting to turn. I was tired of soup, but I wanted sauce, spice, and flavor. Solution: Stew. I also forgot pictures because I was too cold, hungry, and grumpy.

I quartered my chicken and browned the quarters in my heaviest pot in some olive oil. I should have removed the wings because they ended up disintegrating and just adding boney bits. Oh well. Once the chicken had some decent browning going on, I poured on a can of whole peeled tomatoes. These are basically the best thing ever for making sauce from scratch, because they have a minimum of processing and are 95% as tomatoey as fresh tomatoes, at maybe 1/5th the price. The rest of the veggies were carrots, peeled and halved; some small white onions quartered and little pearls kept whole; and lots and lots of garlic (maybe 8-10 cloves).

Sinus-clearing action was called for, so I added half a dozen dried Thai chiles I got at the St. Paul farmers' market, seeded and stemmed but otherwise whole. I dropped in a few bay leaves, some healthy pinches of dry basil and rosemary, a handful of blanched almonds, and a few tablespoons of turmeric. Then, a few tablespoons of lemon juice and balsamic vinegar. Lastly, I poured on about 1.5 quarts of stock, or whatever it took to cover. Wine would be good here, but my cellar didn't cooperate. Oh, and a couple good splashes of olive oil.

The best step in stew making: cover, simmer, wait. After about 90 minutes, the chicken was falling off the bone, and the tomatoes had more or less dissolved into the sauce. I removed the chicken and added a half can of tomato paste and boiled the sauce for a few minutes to thicken it up. I served it up with couscous with golden raisins, peas, and scallions, and garnished with some basil chiffonade and squirts of fresh lime.

Today, the leftover stew (we ate all the chicken) got mixed with a box of pasta and some shredded leftover roast chicken breast to make a nice chicken noodle pasta kinda thing.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

A Yankee Meal: Navy Bean Soup, Parker House Rolls, and Concord Grape Pie

Tonight we have the first frost advisory of the year here in Ithaca, so it's a good night to stay home and have a comforting meal. Also, I didn't feel like doing my homework, so I basically got food (at the farm and farm-stand) and cooked the whole day. I even took pictures this time! Tonight's meal was truly all-American, all-Yankee, in fact. A navy bean is also known as a Yankee bean, so the soup is self-explanatory. The Parker House rolls originated at a swanky hotel in Boston; I made the cloverleaf version. The concord grape pie may be more hard to believe, but it does exist and is a regional delicacy. Concord grapes are a 'labrusca' variety, which means they're descended from the native North American grape. I'm not sure if you can find concords in MN, but I hope so, since the pie smells delicious (it's still cooling, so I don't know how it tastes). I think that you can use any other black-skinned grape whose skins slip off readily.

Yankee Bean Soup - Lillian's original recipe

1 lb. navy beans, soaked overnight or using a quick-soak method
1.5 lb. smoked ham hocks (try to find meaty ones)
2-3 qts. meat stock (I used pork from the roast I made a few entries back)
3-4 carrots, finely diced
1 large onion, finely diced
1/4 c. ketchup
3 Tbsp. brown sugar or 3 Tbsp. molasses + 1 Tbsp. sugar
2 tsp. powdered mustard
1 1/2 tsp. white pepper
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp. thyme
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 pinch tarragon

1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. white pepper

In a heavy pot, saute the onions and carrots in some oil or bacon drippings until they begin to soften. You can cook the veggies separately and then add to a crockpot, or just cook them in a Dutch oven and use that for your cooking. Add the dried spices and stir. Add the beans, ham hocks, and enough stock to cover generously (about 1-2 inches over the beans). Stir in the ketchup, Worch. sauce, and sugar/molasses. If you're using a crockpot, go do your thang and come home and deliciousness will have occurred. If you're using the stove-top, cook the soup for as long as possible (I cooked it for about 4 hours). Remove the ham hock, cut off the meat, and add it back to the pot. At the end, add the extra salt and pepper and adjust the sweetness if necessary. It should be rather sweet, with some tangy zip from the mustard and pepper. You can whomp it a bit if you want a smoother soup.

Parker House Rolls

Ok so I'm cheating on this one and not including the recipe. You can find it in any number of places--I got mine from The Joy of Cooking. The key is to brush with butter at basically every step of the process. For this meal, any starchy bread thing would be good. Be creative! My rolls turned out great, which was a relief since I haven't made a yeast-leavened bread in ages.

Concord Grape Pie

Thsi pie recipe is almost identical to the one in The Joy of Cooking. Pre-heat your oven to 425.

1 two-sided pie crust, chilled and ready to use
2 lbs. concord grapes, or other black-skinned grapes whose skins come off easily
3/4-1 c. sugar
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1/8 tsp. salt
1/2 lemon, zested and juiced
3 Tbsp. quick-cooking tapioca or corn starch

Slip the skins off of the grapes, so that the guts go into a saucepan and save the skins in a separate dish. This doesn't take nearly as long is it sounds like it would, and is actually much easier than peeling and slicing apples by hand. Simmer the grape guts for 5 minutes, until the seeds loosen from the rest of the pulp. Squish this stuff through a fine strainer into a medium bowl. While it's still hot, whisk in the sugar, butter, salt, lemon juice, and zest. Then mix in the peels. Allow the filling to cool, and then whisk in the tapioca or corn starch. Meanwhile, roll out the crust and place the bottom half into the pie pan. Pour the grape filling in, and cover with the other half of the crust. Make it pretty and brush it with beaten egg and sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 55-65 minutes. Remove and allow to cool before slicing.

Caveat: I felt that this high temperature was too much for too long. If I did it again, I would reduce the heat to 375 or so for the second half of the cooking. Also, your pie will erupt with liquid hot MAGMA, so you will probably need to put a pizza pan underneath it towards the end. It also needs some tinfoil over the crust after the first 15 minutes. Like I said, it's still cooling so I don't know how it turned out yet. I sure hope the bottom isn't burned!

Wowee check out that keen grape detailing!

So that was a taste of the Northeast for Dan, before he leaves in a couple of days. The soup was one of the best I ever made, especially since I found some righteously meaty ham hocks and cooked it for ages and ages. Sorry for the fuzzy, yellow-ish photos, but there's hardly any light in the kitchen here, and this is the best I can do without the flash.

Coming up soon, I might need to post some apple recipes, since it's that time of year again. I've finally caught the baking bug again!

UPDATE: So the pie is incredible! It's not, as I'd worried, like eating grape jelly in a pastry crust. I'ts more like the super-concentrated Welch's grape juice, with a very pleasant level of sweetness, and the texture came out well too: smooth, with little bits of innocuous grape skins in it. I definitely hope I can find the grapes for this in MN. I did a little research, and it sounds like "Bluebell", "Fredonia", "Van Buren", and "Worden" are hardier black, seeded, slip-skin, grape varieties, though none are as high-quality as the Concord. I know you can buy the rootstocks for these varieties, but I don't know where you find the fruit for sale. Some of the orchards in Pepin County might be good places to look, as well as the farmers' markets--let me know if you find any.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Stuffed Fried Eggplant

Here is a recipe from Alex:

Stuffed Fried Eggplant

This is actually something I made up, though I based it on something I
ate in Turkey(this is actually much better). It may actually be
identical to the dish "Imam Bayaldi," but it looks like there are many
variations on that dish anyway. I only made one eggplant, since it was
left over from another meal - it didn't take long at all, maybe 30

  • Little Mini Eggplants(I had just one - the more, the easier the whole thing is, obviously) - ie, about 4-6" long, not including stem.*
  • Onions (enough to fill the hollowed cavities of the eggplants.)
  • Garlic
  • Hot peppers(to taste)
  • Cumin
Optional(but delicious):
  • Pomegranate molasses("dabas rumaan")(Worth having in the house anyway- very good with salads, or drizzled on top of the baba ghanouj from Lillian's recipe. Available at nearest Middle Eastern grocery store, or ethnic food aisle. Different from grenadine, I believe.)

Cut onions into thin strips, hot peppers into small pieces, mince
garlic. Skin eggplants, cut off bottom, hollow out center(try to
retain a little "plug" if you can for keeping the stuffing in.) You
need not remove the stem(it makes it look nicer when you bring it to
table, also). You can mix the eggplant innards with the onions and
stuff, or you can choose not to. I cooked the innards.

Sautee onions, hot peppers and garlic(and optionally innards) until
nice and soft. Remove to another dish. Add cumin and salt to
mixture(just a bit - and you could probably add it while cooking, but
I couldn't find it until I was done sauteeing. Our cupboard is a
catastrophe). Stuff mixture into eggplants. Plug if possible. Fill pan
with a small layer of oil (olive oil will taste best, but you'll have
a very smokey kitchen. We only have olive oil.), then fry the
eggplants until brown and crispy on the outside, and soft enough to
poke through really easily. Remove from pan, drizzle with small
quantity pomegranate molasses (this really makes everything way
better). You can skatter any leftover filling around the finished

The whole thing ends up looking pretty fancy, so it's good for serving
to guests, etc as an appetizer/side dish to some sort of meaty main,
or as a bigger appetizer among a group of small ones (hummus, baba
ghanouj, etc). However, it's not really easy to divide up, so you
should probably cook 1/guest.

*Is there a special term for this in English? Aubergines? Or is that
just British for "eggplant"? I do not guarantee the results if you use
one of the big honking ones.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Sweet Kugel, Peppery Pork Roast, and Braised Greens

Considering it was the 'day of rest', we at the Byway did anything but. We got up, made a big breakfast (french toast, bacon, and fruit salad), and then set to cleaning the basement. It looks SOOO much better now! The shale foundation still seeps water when it rains (as it is currently doing), but now at least we got rid of most of the clutter, cobwebs, and fixed a dryer ventilation problem. To reward all our triumphant and weary workers I decided to make a nice dinner. I'd been wanting to make a sweet kugel, what with the high holy days rolling around (not that I'm religious--I just like the food), and I thought this would be a good night for it. I wanted to accompany it with a beef roast, but since Melanie can't eat beef we had a pork roast instead. I really have a habit of making one dish from a kosher or halal culture and accompanying it with pork--probably because pork is so versatile and I'm burned out on chicken.

This will be lengthy:

Roast Peppery Pork
  • 5 lb. bone-in pork loin roast
  • 1/2 c. brown sugar
  • 2 tsp. coarsely ground black pepper
  • 2 tsp. white pepper + some more
  • 2 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp. ground coriander + some more
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 c. white wine
  • 1 c. broth
  • 2 tsp. arrowroot powder (or corn starch)
Preheat the oven to 450. Allow the roast to warm up to room temperature, then pat it dry. Combine the seasonings to make a rub, then press it onto the roast. Place the roast directly into a lightly oiled roasting pan with the ribs facing down (they will serve as the rack). Bake at 450 for 15 minutes, then turn the oven down to 250 and roast for 2 hours, or until the internal temperature reads 155 degrees. Allow to rest for 5-15 minutes before carving. (If the drippings get too hot while roasting, add some hot water to the pan from time to time).

Remove the roast from the pan and set it on a carving board. Deglaze the roasting pan by setting it over a burner with the white wine and broth and allowing the alcohol to cook off. Season with more coriander and white pepper. Dissolve the arrowroot in 3 Tbsp. of cold water, and whisk in slowly, simmering the sauce for 3 more minutes. Carve the roast into pieces and serve it with the sauce on the side.

Sweet Kugel
  • 1 bag extra wide egg noodles, cooked
  • 1 lb. container cottage cheese
  • 1 lb. container ricotta cheese
  • 6 eggs
  • 1 stick butter, melted and divided
  • zest and juice of 1/2 large lemon (or 1 small one)
  • 1/2 c. brown sugar + 3 Tbsp.
  • 1/2 c. slivered almonds, divided
  • 1/2 c. sultana raisins
  • 1/3 c. matzo meal
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon + 1/4 tsp.
  • 1/2 tsp. garam masala
  • a few grates of nutmeg
This recipe is really off the hook--it's like eating dessert for dinner! Traditionally it, and other sweet food, are eaten at Rosh Hashanah to symbolize a sweet new year.

Preheat the oven to 375 and grease a large casserole dish with 1 Tbsp. of the melted butter. Mix the eggs and sugar together very well in a LARGE bowl. Add the lemon zest and juice, 5 Tbsp. melted butter, cinnamon, garam masala, and nutmeg and mix well. Stir in 2/3 of the almonds, and the raisins, cheeses, and noodles (you may need to mix with your hands). Pour the noodle mixture into your casserole. In a small bowl, combine 2 Tbsp. melted butter, the matzo meal, 1/4 tsp. cinnamon, 3 Tbsp. brown sugar, and remaining almonds. Sprinkle this topping over the kugel. Bake for 50-60 minutes.

Braised Greens
  • A big bunch of kale or collards, washed, ribs removed, and sliced into thin ribbons
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 Tbsp. oil or fat
  • 1/2 tsp. white pepper
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • dash of tabasco
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • salt to taste
  • pinch of sugar
Heat the oil/fat in a frying pan with a close-fitting lid. Sauté the garlic slowly so that it softens but doesn't turn brown. Add the kale and cook, stirring frequently, for 1 min. Add a couple of tablespoons of water and put the lid on, simmering for 15 min. If it runs out of water, add more. Remove the lid and add the pepper, nutmetg and salt, cooking the liquid off. At the end, add the lemon juice, tobasco, and pinch of sugar. As you can tell, this isn't a very exact recipe but it comes out great every time ;-)

So this meal turned out to be a great combo, as well as having good individual dishes. The pork was tender and juicy (definitely get the bone-in roast), with a crisp, flavorful rub and simple, complimentary sauce. The sweetness of the rub played along well with the sweet kugel, but had enough spice to balance it. I made the kale because, well, I have tons of kale and thought we could use some roughage. It also has a slight sweetness that highlighted the meal, along with some lemony zing.

The only trouble with the meal was that the roast cooks at such a low temperature that I had to cook the kugel after it was done. Fortunately I started early, but I wouldn't recommend making it with another baked dish for this reason.

I really should have taken some pictures this time because it looked fantastic, but I couldn't move another inch after this crazy day. It is such a relief to have the basement cleared out, and will keep all our belongings from rotting into the earth. I guess we'll have to find somewhere new to hide all the dead undergrads.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Kasha Varnishkes

Here is a fantastic side-dish that has the added benefit (?) of smelling like every Jewish home I visited as a kid. It also uses buckwheat groats (when cooked, called kasha), which is a nutritional and agricultural powerhouse. Like quinoa, buckwheat is a seed rather than a grain, and contains tons of high-quality protein and many vitamins and minerals (and if you go by the articles about it, cures and prevents nearly every ill). Buckwheat is a great cover-crop for farmers and it grow very quickly.

The recipe calls for bow-tie noodles, which--face it--are just plain fun. It goes really well with roasted chicken. This is modified from The Art of Jewish Cooking by Jennie Grossinger:

  • 1/2 box of bow-tie noodles, cooked in salted water
  • 1/3 c. butter or schmaltz
  • 1 large onion, diced or sliced finely
  • 1 tsp. thyme
  • 1 tsp. black pepper
  • salt to taste
  • 1 1/2 c. roasted buckwheat groats, whole or cut
  • 2 1/2 c. boiling water
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 egg, beaten
First, cook your noodles. Heat up a large pot and begin caramelizing the onion pieces in the butter or schmaltz in it.

In a separate sauce pan with a tight-fitting lid, stir the groats and beaten egg over low heat until the grains separate (I'm still not sure what this means, but it's what the recipe says. I just stir them until the egg is cooked and dry). Add the boiling water and salt and cover the pot (heat still on low) for 15 min. If there is extra liquid, pour it off. Now you have a pot full of kasha.

When your onions are caramelized, add the thyme and black pepper, then stir in the cooked noodles and kasha. Add salt and pepper to taste and serve. You can also stir in grebenes (rendered chicken skin and onions; mom cooks it with chicken liver). Tonight we had this with a grocery store roast chicken and salad and it was the perfect combo. It also didn't heat the kitchen up too badly--it was in the mid-90s today and it's still in the upper 70s at a quarter past 11. Sweatin' here, boss.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Eggplant Salad (aka Baba Ghanoush) - Zamos style

This recipe has countless variations, so I present the version that mom taught me. Some people add tahini, but I think that ruins it--I like the zingy flavor this version has. This recipe is best made in late summer, when you have the grill going.
  • 2 or more pounds eggplant, preferably small tender ones
  • 3 bell peppers, green or red
  • 1/2 red onion, diced finely
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 1/3 c. good olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp. fresh parsley, chopped finely
  • salt and pepper - be generous with both
  • 1/2 tsp. ground coriander
  • pinch of sugar
  • pinch of cayenne
Place the eggplants and 2 of the bell peppers on the grill and roast until blackened all over. You can use a gas stove or a broiler, but make sure to pull the batteries out of the smoke detector! Remove from the grill and place in a plastic bag for several minutes until they're cool enough to handle. Remove the roasted skins from the eggplants and peppers, and chop them finely into a bowl. Rinse the onion in cold water to reduce its stinkiness, then add to the bowl. Mix in the olive oil, lemon juice, parsley, sugar, salt and pepper, sugar, and cayenne. Don't be shy with the salt or olive oil. Chop the remaining pepper and stir it in unroasted. Serve with toasted pita triangles or yummy bread. This goes over great at potlucks.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Red Beans and Rice

I'm posting this picture 5/27/2012 (4 yrs 8 months after the original post)--just to prove that this recipe delivers again and again over the years!
This is a hearty, simple meal that will feed you all week long. I make it with a pressure cooker because it is SO much faster that way, but you can simmer it on the stove if you prefer. The recipe is based on one from the cookbook that came with my pressure cooker. I didn't take photos because I find that bean dishes look horrible in them so you'll just have to use your imagination.

First soak one pound of red beans overnight. I use "small red beans", but they're kind of hard to find, so you could use pink beans, roman beans, pintos, or even red kidney beans for this. If you didn't soak them overnight, you can put them in a pot of water, bring it to boil for one minute, and then turn off the heat and let them sit for 4 hrs. When you cut a bean in half there should be no pale starchy spot in the middle.

  • 1 lb dry red beans, soaked overnight
  • 1 ham hock or 1/4 lb. slab bacon
  • 1 lb sausage, andouille is best, but pan sausage or Italian will work
  • 1 large onion, chopped finely
  • 4 celery ribs, chopped finely
  • 1 bell pepper, chopped finely
  • 1 spicy pepper, chopped finely
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 Tbsp garlic powder
  • 2 tsp thyme
  • 2 tsp white pepper
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • dash cayenne
  • 1 Tbsp hot sauce (to taste)
  • A pinch of sugar
  • white rice
  • chicken broth
  • S&P
  • butter
  • parsley
For the rice, cook your rice in the broth, S&P, and butter. Stir in finely chopped parsley at the end. Keep warm until dinner time.

For the red beans, if you're using slab bacon, cut it into small chunks and cook it in your pressure cooker pot until it starts to brown. If you're using a ham hock, add it later. Heck, you can use both and it will be delicious. Sautee in the bacon drippings or in some oil the veggies. Add to the pot the soaked beans, all the seasonings except the sugar, and the ham hock. Cover with water (just enough to submerge) and bring to a boil. Put the lid on and cook at full pressure for 10 min, then allow pressure to escape naturally. In lieu of a PC, cook for 1 hr (yikes!).

Open the PC and remove the ham hock to cool. Meanwhile, brown the sausage in a separate pan and then add it to the beans. Cut whatever meat you can find off of the ham hock and add that to the beans. Bring back to a boil and then replace the pressure lid. Cook at full pressure for 10 more minutes and then allow pressure to escape naturally. If you're using a regular pot, continue cookin the beans until they are tender

Once beans are tender, adjust the seasonings with a pinch of sugar, black pepper, and more hot sauce to taste (though you can keep this recipe as mild as you like). Serve over seasoned rice with additional chopped bell peppers to garnish. You will not go hungry with this in the house! Tastes even better the next day.

PS...The original recipe I used is called "Cajun", but trusty Wikipedia tells me that red beans are a Creole item, so that just goes to show the cookbook authors. What do you expect from the Swiss? Anyway you call it, this is a good recipe from somewhere in Louisiana.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Spiedies - A regional delicacy

So, the Chowhound message boards describe Upstate NY as a culinary wasteland, and while that's mostly true, there are a few local jems, like Beef on Weck, Salt Potatoes, Buffalo Wings, and other things I'm probably forgetting or haven't tried. One such tasty treat is the "Spiedie". The spiedie is simply any kind of meat that's been cut into chunks and marinated in a highly seasoned vinaigrette, grilled on a skewer and basted with more of the marinade, and then pulled off the skewer with a slice of Italian bread.

There are countless recipes for spiedie, handed down in the Italian communities of Endicott and Binghamton, and every year there's a festival and contest for the best version. In the grocery stores around here they sell pre-marinated meat, and at speidie stands you can buy pre-made sauce. I decided to try my hand at the sauce, so here's what I used:

  • 2 lbs. chicken thighs, cut into 1.5" chunks
  • 1 c. oil, 1/2 oilve and 1/2 whatever
  • 3/4 c. red wine vinegar
  • the juice of one lemon or lime
  • 1 onion
  • 4-6 cloves garlic
  • 1 handful each of fresh parsley, mint, and basil (or their dried equivalents, but try to use fresh)
  • 2 tsp. each of thyme, marjoram, and oregano
  • 3 bay leaves, crumbled up
  • 1 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 3 + Tbsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. paprika
  • 1/2 tsp. sugar
The ingredients can be varied any way you like. Also, any meat can be used, such as chicken, turkey, lamb, beef, etc... Be sure to reserve about 1/2 c. of the sauce to serve on the table. Marinate the meat for as long as possible--up to several days, mixing occasionally. Pack the meat chunks densely onto skewers and grill on a medium-hot fire for as short a time as possible, basting every couple of minutes. Slide the meat off the skewers with a slice of bread and eat as a sandwich, or serve with rice and salad. Mine are still marinating, so I'll let you know how the grilling turns out. It sure smells good, though. Enjoy your taste of Upstate!

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Fish Tacos

A delicious and simple dinner idea--and with the benefit of requiring no wheat. I bread and fry the fish and serve it with corn tortillas, cabbage, avocado, and pico de gallo.

  • Allow about 1/2 to 1/3 lbs. white fish per person. Shark or swordfish will be denser, cod or tilapia will be flakier, and halibut will melt in your mouth.
  • 1/4 c. corn starch
  • 1/4 c. yellow corn meal
  • 1 egg
  • adobo seasoning (I get it from Penzey's--one of my favorite spices!)
  • ground cayenne or chipotle
  • salt and pepper
  • oil that gets good and hot (I use corn or grapeseed oil)
Cut fish into 3-4" chunks that can easily be moved around in the pan. Pat the fish dry with a paper towel, then sprinkle with seasonings to taste. Mix the dry ingredients in a pie pan, and beat the egg smoothly in another pie pan. Dredge the fish in the flour mixture and allow to sit for several minutes, while heating the oil good and hot. Dip the fish chunks in the egg right before frying. Fry 3 pieces at a time until brown and crispy on the outside, and flaky on the inside. I like to finish them in the broiler for a couple of minutes while I get other things ready. Cut the fish chunks into taco-sized pieces as you assemble them.

  • 1 ripe avocado, sliced
  • 1 c. cabbage, sliced infinitesimally thin
  • any dairy things you like, such as sour cream or mild cheese
  • lime slices
  • pico de gallo:
    • 2 juicy tomatoes, cubed
    • 1 mild onion, diced
    • 1 jalapeño, seeded and diced
    • juice of one lime
    • some chopped cilantro
    • salt and lots of black pepper
    • 1/2 tsp. sugar
    • a tiny pinch of cumin
  • corn tortillas, warmed in a little oil in a pan
Assembling the tacos is pretty straightforward, and they're good with refried beans and yellow rice. I never get sick of this meal, and it is a great for summer and any time you want more fish in your diet. The fish is surprisingly filling, so don't feel the need to over-buy. Mmm...with a frosty brew or a Coke with tons of ice and a twist of lime, this sounds good to me already, and I'm still full from dinner. Salud!

Saturday, August 25, 2007


I don't have a picture to go with this one, but we all know what tabouleh looks like (though I'm not sure how to spell it--Al, is this right?). It's the perfect recipe for late summer, with the hot weather, ripe tomatoes and cukes, and waning kitchen inspiration. Here's how it goes:

  1. Soak 3/4 or 1 c. bulgur in the juice of one lemon and enough water to cover generously for at least 2 hours, or overnight if you remember. If you don't have time, then put it in a sauce pan, bring to a boil, then turn off the heat and let it soak for 15 min. You can also use any other pre-cooked grain, like quinoa or spelt berries if you're some kind of hippie ;). Drain and squeeze out the bulgur in a fine sieve or cloth.
  2. Chop 1 large tomato, 1 small cucumber (optional), 1/2 red onion or a handful of scallions, all into smallish cubes. If you use red onions, soak the pieces in cold water for a minute before adding. Place in a large serving bowl.
  3. Mince at least 1/2 bunch parsley and a handful of fresh mint (or use 2 tsp dried mint), and add to the bowl.
  4. Squeeze in another lemon (or half--use your judgement), pour over 3 Tbsp. olive oil (or more), and a generous portion of salt--seriously, if you think something is missing you probably need more salt. Season with tiny pinches of cinnamon, allspice, and a ton of black pepper.
  5. Serve with romaine leaves as scoopers.
  6. Other optional ingredients include: a jalapeño pepper, powdered sumac (makes it sour), purslane leaves, crushed garlic. I have used cider vinegar and bottled lemon juice when I am out of fresh lemons.
I know the more authentic versions use tons of parsley, but I'm not so keen on it--probably because of the leathery parsley from the store here (I think stuff from the garden would be better). I'm told that my recipe kicks the pants off of the Holy Land version, which I think is much too lemony. Keep in mind: 3/4 c. of bulgur goes a long way, making this a great recipe for potlucks when you don't want to spend much money or make anything laborious. I could eat this stuff all day long. Also, it seems to be a great side with nearly everything.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Cool enough for risotto!

It's been a hot coupla weeks here in Lake Wobegon, my hometown, so when the weather cooled down and the rain started, I was ready to stand over the stove a spell. I have been craving risotto and have so many lovely vegetables to add from my garden that I was inspired. I found a recipe that used green beans. You can follow any risotto recipe, which is basically 1 1/2 cups of arborio rice to 6 cups of broth and 1/2 cup of wine. First you saute whatever you want in some olive oil (I used onions, carrots, shallots and garlic) briefly, add the rice, stir and saute for about 3 minutes, then start adding broth, 1 cup at a time. Stir pretty continuously. You don't want it to stick to the bottom of the pan (I use a large iron skillet). When most of the broth is absorbed, add the next cup and stir more. Keep it on a medium/low flame. The entire process will take about 45 minutes. When you have added 5 cups and it has been absorbed, add the wine and stir. Once that is absorbed, add the final cup of broth and the colorful things. Prepare them in advance so they don't need cooking. I blanched the green beans in boiling water for 4.5 minutes. They had lost their squeakiness but were not overcooked. Also be sure to add about 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese at this point. This gives the dish the signature creaminess that is so delicious. The final dish will be creamy and al dente. Eat immediately if possible. It is difficult to reheat if you don't have a microwave, so eat it all up.
As a side dish, we had fresh baby collard greens sauteed in butter and schmaltz. Some people like to use bacon for this, which is very good. I melted the butter and schmaltz (about 1.5 tablespoons each), added sliced shallots and garlic and cooked until they were soft. Then I added the cleaned and chopped collards, turned the heat to low, put on the lid and waited about long enough for one song on my iPod. Then I added two tablespoons of kombucha, a fermented tea. Most Magidows add vinegar or lemon juice at this point, but I had a batch of kombucha that was smelling a lot like vinegar, so I tried it. It is a marvelous beverage and tonic, and is very nice for salad dressings or anything that calls for an acidic ingredient. The result was quite marvelous. Jeff made fresh bread and we picked some sweet cherry tomatoes from the garden to round out the meal:

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Das schweinefleisch

Oh shit, pictures!? En garde, vagabondress!

For my inaugural visit to Costco, I decided to avail myself of their farcical pricing in the form of that most irresistible of commodities, flesh. Porcine, in this case, and plenty of it. A ~7 pound raw loin, to be exact, for just under $15! (forgot to take a picture of this part; imagine your arm, but made of pig meat)

So, I hacked off about 1/3rd of it to serve 2 with 1-2 servings worth of leftovers. I blended up a dry rub of fresh black pepper, brown mustard seeds, rosemary, oregano, and a pinch of salt, and coated the piggy nice and good like:

This goes in the fridge to set up the crust. Meanwhile, contemplate sides. I happened to have a big bag of fresh-from-Mom's-garden green beans (and some red ones?). Into a heavy pot (this one has a nice thick SS-clad aluminum bottom and cost around $10 at Saver's) with loads of butter, a couple halved cloves of garlic, a diced slice of extra thick, extra yummy, uncured bacon, (from Kramarczuk's, and only $4.49 a pound!) bay leaf, and some salt:

Low temp and covered while you do everything else. Lillian will likely interject some public service announcement about the magic of pressure cookers, but it takes longer to finish the pork than for these guys to get nice and tender so just ignore her, or maybe mention depression-era home food preservation techniques as a diversion. Meanwhile, a big dose of olive oil was getting hot in my other SS thrift store pan (not sure if this one has any aluminum in it, but it heats evenly enough), and the piggy was ready for the sweet embrace of the flames:

Kept this on medium high, and thought sauce. I assessed my pantry, and decided upon a honey mustard demi-glace, with a spicy twist from the fresh horseradish they now carry at Cub. Peeled the radish, and readied it for grating:

I got about 1/4th of the way in with the microplane before realizing that was stupid, and Osterized it as god intended:

After maybe 40 minutes, with some turning as it blackened, the pork looked like this:

Meaten sie hier! I am currently bereft of thermometers, but I made sure it was done by slicing a corner off. It wasn't, so I turned it down, covered it, and gave it another 15 or so. At some point the green beans finished, and for some reason all turned green. If only I had a plant biologist in my immediate family to explain why. After a dash of white wine to loosen up the yummy on the pan, they got to sit in their sauce and ruminate while the rest came together:

The loin leaves the pan for some R&R (at least 15 minutes under tin foil, so all the juice doesn't shuffle off its meaty coil when we get our carve on). Pan sauce time.

Out drains the excess oil, and while a deglaze is effected via white wine and stock, some shallots, mustard seeds, and grated horseradish (not that whole amount I ground; just a good handful) make their appearance. At this point, I believe In The Midnight Hour was playing, so Wilson Pickett receives partial credit for the end product.

Simmer and reduce, until the mustard seeds start to get kinda mushy, indicated you've extracted their flavor as much as necessary. Strain, reduce some more, give it a splash of cider vinegar, and a big dollop of honey at the end so it doesn't caramelize:

I was really hungry since conflicting schedules conspired to have me in Costco at dinner time, so I didn't reduce this anywhere near the demi-glace consistency I had wanted. Oh well, tastes more or less the same; just doesn't stay put on the plate. Remember kids, always slice meat on the bias (slanty like), and garnish is for flavor and presentation (here, some dried tarragon and a little dab of that freshly grated horseradish):

The result was a strong bacon and garlic flavor in the beans, while the pork was very sweet from the shallots and honey, with a hint of heat from the horseradish and black pepper. Bold flavors, while retaining subtlety, I paired it with a nice hoppsy brew (Summit EPA).

And for dessert, a motherfucker of a storm!

Monday, August 13, 2007

Stuffed Peppers

For my final performance of the weekend, I made stuffed green bell peppers. The farm share included the most tender, juicy little peppers, so I knew this would be a good choice (since the grocery store peppers are often oversized and leathery). I combined a few recipes (using the one in almostturkish as the backbone) to arrive at my own, and they turned out adorable and delicious. You will need:

  • 7-8 small peppers, stems carefully removed to make little 'lids' and hollowed out
  • 1 lb. ground beef (or lamb if you can find it)
  • 1.5 plain white or jasmine rice (soak this in water while you core the peppers)
  • 3 medium onions
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 bunch parsley
  • 2 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 Tbsp. fresh or dried dill + 1 tsp. for sauce
  • 2 tsp. fresh or dried mint + 1/2 tsp. for sauce
  • 1 tsp. oregano
  • 1 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1 Tbsp. salt
  • 2 c. chicken broth
  • 1 Tbsp. tomato paste
  • 3 Tbsp. butter
  • 1/2 c. heavy cream (optional)
Chop the onions and garlic very fine using a food processor (it's OK if it gets liquidy). Add the parsley or chop by hand. In a large bowl, mix the onions, garlic, parsley, and all the other seasonings (minus those for the sauce) into the meat. Add the rice (drained) and mix well.

Prick the bottom of the peppers several times with a fork. Fill with meat and rice mixture and place 'lids' on. Lightly oil a large skillet that has a tight lid. Place the peppers inside so that they will stay upright. I used a zucchini as a spacer and to get rid of the damn thing.

Mix the tomato paste into the chicken broth and add the remaining dill and mint. Pour this liquid into the pan, adding water until it reaches halfway up the peppers. Dot with bits of butter, bring to a boil, reduce to a light simmer, and cover the pan. Simmer gently (so you don't destroy the peppers) for 30-40 minutes, until rice is cooked.

Remove the peppers carefully and keep warm while you make the sauce. Reduce the remaining liquid in the pan until it's thick. Remove from heat and stir in the cream. I served the sauce on the side for guests to add as they liked.

These were mmm...mmm good, and nowhere near as bland as stuffed peppers I'd had in the past. If I had it to do over again, I wouldn't have packed the filling in so much (I was trying to use it all up). This recipe has the added benefit of impressing people with the cuteness of the peppers with their little caps, and the sauce will knock your socks off. Enjoy!

P.S. Actually the last thing I made this weekend was Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies, and I followed The Joy of Cooking recipe exactly (well, I doubled the chocolate chips. Come on--who adds 1 cup when there's 2 in a package?). They turned out fabulously and also used up 3.5 cups of oats, which I'm hoping to consume before the flour moths do.

Pasta with Eggplant and Olives

Ok, for those not obsessed by pickling, here's a tasty recipe my housemate, Liliana made with the remaining eggplants. Oh and did I mention that she's Italian and loves cooking? Yes, we are lucky here at the Byway. I don't have a picture, but it's basically pasta with a reddish sauce. You will need:

  • One box of linguine
  • 2-3 small eggplants, diced
  • 2 bell peppers of various colors, diced
  • One large can of plum tomatoes, diced
  • One medium onion, diced
  • 1/2 c. kalamata olives (pits removed), and chopped coarsely
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • An armload of fresh basil, washed and chopped
  • 1/4-1/2 c. grated parmesan cheese + more to taste
Set a pot of water to boil for the pasta, and salt well. Saute the onions for 2 minutes, then add the eggplant and peppers. Cook on medium until eggplant is mostly tender, then add the tomatoes and their liquid and the olives. Continue to cook until the eggplant is completely tender. (Meanwhile, cook the pasta al dente). Add the garlic to the eggplant mixture and cook for one minute. Add the basil and cook one minute more. Heat the sauce until bubbling and add the pasta, stirring and coating. Mix in the cheese and serve.

I'm no 100% sure this is the process she used (I will verify), but this will probably get very similar and tasty results. We had this with grilled chicken and other veggies. The olives are surprisingly mild and compliment the eggplant's flavor.

Pickled Eggplant and Okra

I cooked up a storm this weekend! I got a nasty cough/cold last week and even though I probably should have been taking it easy, I got bored and decided to mix up watching The Sopranos and hacking my lungs out with cooking. Also, I picked up the farm share on Saturday and had a ton of raw materials to work with.

First, I made Lebanese Pickled Eggplant Stuffed with Garlic, from The Joy of Pickling. These little guys were just so cute at the farm that I took home a huge bag of them, knowing I'd find a way to use them. These ones are white with purple streaks and are smaller and more tender and mild than the ones we're used to. Also, the fresh garlic I've been getting from the farm is killer. It's a pretty simple recipe (makes one quart):

Fresh and steamed eggplants

1) Wash and trim 1.25 pounds small (4-5") eggplants (about one quart)
2) Crush the cloves of one bulb of garlic into a dish, add 1 tsp. cayenne pepper and one Tbsp. of pickling salt.
3) Steam the eggplants for 5-7 min., until tender but not mushy. Allow to cool.
4) Bring to a boil: 1.5 c. red wine vinegar + 3/4 c. water + 1 tsp. pickling salt, then allow to cool.
5) Slit the eggplants lengthwise most of the way through and spread with the garlic mixture.
6) Pack the eggplants into a sterile quart jar, add the cooled liquid, and cover with a plastic cap.
7) Let jar stand in a cool place for 1-2 weeks. Store in fridge.

I haven't tried them yet, and I don't even know if I like pickled eggplants, but I need to use the veggies somehow. I'll let you know how they are in a couple weeks.

The next recipe I made was for pickled okra (also from TJoP). For some reason the farm planted 3 rows of okra, but only 1/2 row of peas, so people were fighting over peas and now no one knows what to do with the okra. Oh well...I only wish Alex were here because he would love this stuff. The okra is so amazingly fresh compared to the sad brownish specimens in the store. I halved the recipe to make two pints:

1) Was the okra and slice the stems off, taking care not to cut the pod itself.
2) Slice 2 cloves of garlic an place one clove in each jar (I upped this to 4 total)
3) Add one tsp. dill seed to each jar (I also added hot pepper flakes and whole coriander to one as an experiment in flavor).
4) Boil: 2 c. cider vinegar + 2 c. water + 1 Tbsp. pickling salt.
5) Pack the okra in to the jars tightly. Ladle the hot vinegar mixture over the okra, leaving a 1/2" headspace.
6) Cap with hot lids and rims and process in a boiling water bath for 15 min. Keep in a cool dark place for 3 weeks before eating.

Again, I'm not sure how I'll like it, but it's a fun experiment and not too hard. I know none of you are inclined to try pickling, but I figured I'd post this stuff anyway. Next I'll included some more instantly-edible recipes.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Mujaddara - Lentils and Rice

Here's a recipe that Alex sent me since he's not able to post to the site easily. Alex: we miss you!!!

Heya Lily,

Here's a recipe for y'all's blog, which you'll have to post for me
since blogspot seems to be banned at the moment. It's called
"Mujaddara" and I'm not totally clear on the origin. I feel like
someone said it's Palestinian, but seeing as everyone makes it that
doesn't seem to be a terribly convincing statement. This is how I was
taught to make it by an Allepan girl who's friends with my roommate

1 smallish glass of brown lentils(probably 1/2-3/4 c.)
1.5 smallish glasses of rice.
Onions (the more the merrier)
Olive Oil

Arabic spice mix (called "baharat" - available at your local Arab
grocery, or there are probably recipes online. Should involve
allspice, and have a sort of darker brown color.)

Cook lentils in water until soft. Add rice, and 1.5x of water(Leaving
the water from the lentils in the pan). At this point, you should add
salt to taste, and if you want, Arabic spice mix(again, to taste).
Allepans apparently do not add this, while Jordanians do. Cover, cook
until rice is done. You may need to add more water.

Now here's the part that makes this more exciting (slightly) that
being just sad vegan fare. Put a goodly amount of olive oil in a pan.
Slice onions very thin. Add to olive oil, cook until carmelized and
crispy. Pour extra olive oil over the rice-lentil mix. Add onions to
each serving individually.

I serve it with plain yogurt, which I quite like. It's a really simple
recipe, not fancy at all, in fact kind of boring. But when it's
ungodly hot(it was 107 when I made it last), it makes a really
refreshing meal with the yogurt. I also put out a plate of olives and
sliced middle eastern style pickles (i.e. no dill).

Miss you,

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

TIP: Job Chae - Korean Noodles

Another yummy recipe to check out is Maangchi's jobchae video-recipe. I link to her Blogger page on the right-hand panel, and she has a number of great recipes, but I will also insert the video here:

I had no idea how easy this delicious recipe is, and it uses yam starch noodles, which are perfect for mom's gluten-free diet. These are the grayish/purplish ones that come in large packages, called "dang myun". (I made it with some other Asian noodles I had, and it still turned out fine) . Jobchae can be made with chicken rather than beef, for Jeff. Since the recipe is relatively inexpensive to make it will hard to pay restaurant prices for this dish in the future. I want to make some more!

Porky Kraut

This recipe has one of the greatest deliciousness:ease ratios that I know of. I learned it from our Hungarian cousin Kriszti, and I can't remember the Magyar name for the life of me, so I made this one up myself. All you need is:
  • 1.5 lbs pork shoulder roast, cubed or sliced fresh Polish sausage
  • 2 big jars/cans of sauerkraut
  • 1 bay leaf
  • white pepper
  • nutmeg
In the example photos I used the Polish sausage and home-made sauerruben (pickled turnips), because I'm an overachiever.

Brown the pork/sausage in oil or fat in a heavy pot. Rinse the kraut in a colander and squeeze out (if you like it milder, rinse less. Knowing our family, you won't rinse at all). Dump the kraut on top but do not stir. Grind some white pepper and nutmeg on top and stick a bay leaf in, if desired. Trust me--even without any seasonings this is delicious. Add some water or broth so that there is moisture in the pot, but I wouldn't add more than a cup. Bring to a boil and then reduce to simmer for 45 min - 1 hr. More liquid will have appeared and the pork will be incredibly tender and tasty. Stir and season with S & P. Serve over egg noodles, spaetzle, or mashed potatoes.

I love this recipe: it's a total crowd pleaser, makes the lousiest cut of pork decadently tender it and has the added benefits of preventing scurvy and promoting regularity. It can be made in the crock pot or oven. I strongly encourage you to try it. Enjoy!

Monday, July 23, 2007

Too Much Zucchini?

Forget about the dang pancakes already! This is something you have to taste - The recipe is taken, shamelessly and without editing, from the Joy of Gardening Cookbook with frosting from Grandma Gwen's recipe box. It is so incredibly delicious and if I am doing my arithmetic right, it is about 75% zucchini. (Just don't tell anyone that claims they don't like squash in any form).


4 ounces unsweetened chocolate
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
2 cups sugar
3 eggs, beaten
1 TBSP vanilla (yes, TBSP!)
2 cups flour
1/3 cup cocoa
2 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1/3 cup buttermilk or sour cream
3 cups coarsely grated zucchini
(I left out the nuts, but you can certainly add some)

Preheat oven to 350. Grease and flour two 9" round pans.

Melt the chocolate and oil in a small saucepan over very low heat. Cream the butter until light; add the sugar, eggs, and vanilla. Beat well. Add the melted chocolate and mix well.
Sift together the dry ingredients and add them to the batter with the buttermilk. Mix the zucchini and optional nuts into the batter. (I squoze the moisture out of the zukes while I was doing the rest. I think that is a good idea. In fact, I salted the grated zukes to help draw out the moisture instead of adding salt to the dry ingredients).
Divide the batter between the pans. Bake on the middle shelf of the oven for 40 mins. or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool the cake completely before frosting.


(Gad, I sure miss my mom. This is one of her killer "secret" recipes that she used for every birthday cake she made, and so did our Aunt Ettie. I can still see her look of determination when she tried to stir the dang roux for 10 minutes!)

2 1/2 TBSP flour
1/2 cup milk

Mix over low flame until thick. Cook while stirring 10 minutes. Let cool. Go sit and have a beer now that you are exhausted.

1/2 cup butter - room temperature
3/4 cup powdered sugar

Cream butter with powdered sugar until smooth. Add thickened paste and beat until light and fluffy. Fold in 1 tsp vanilla.



On another note, I finally found the perfect photo opportunity. I have been searching on all of our road trips for the ideal Van Gogh field. Know where I found it? Yup - St. Paul Campus!

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Beef Borscht - Lillian's Way

This week we got beets from the CSA. They're still small but already perfect for borscht! These ones have light-colored insides, so they're better for beef borscht (rather than the all-veggie cold borscht, which I prefer to be magenta).

First I made beef broth from scratch. I think this step really makes the soup, but obviously it's more convenient to use canned or crystalized. I roasted oxtails and boiled them with the usual: 2 bay leaves, 4 whole cloves, 1/2 bunch parsley, carrots, celery, and onions.

Meanwhile, I boiled the beets in one pot, and peeled potatoes in another pot (add a lot of salt to the potatoes). Drain each when cooked. The potatoes will be sliced into the soup at the very end. Once the beets are tender and cooled, slip their skins off (I think this step is the most fun part) and slice (or grate) into thin shreds. Pretty, huh?

Next you need to prepare the other vegetables--2 carrots, one large onion, and 1/2 of a small cabbage (green or red). These will all be made very fine. Chop the onion finely, slice the cabbage into fine shreds, and grate two carrots. Saute all veggies until in oil soft and slightly caramelized.

In your soup pot, heat up 2 Tbsp of oil or schmaltz until quite hot. Dredge in flour and black pepper one pound of stew beef cut into cubes, and then brown in the oil. Add 6 cups of beef broth to the soup pot, bring to a boil and lower to a simmer for 30 min. And the sauteed veggies to the soup and simmer 30 more min.

Before serving, add the shredded beets and adjust the flavors by adding: 2 Tbsp. pickle juice or vinegar, juice of one lemon, 2 tsp. dill (fresh or dried), plenty of salt and pepper, and a pinch of sugar if needed. Slice the boiled potatoes into your serving bowls and pour soup over them.

I served the borscht with sliced pickled turnips and summer squash with garlic and fresh basil:

Ok so where are your recipes?! Mom, maybe you should post your pancake recipe here once and for all! You don't have to put photos up here if you don't want to. I'm just putting them up for the heck of it. I hope you are all doing well.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Stuffed Zucchini - Kousa Mahshi

This is a pretty exciting recipe because it uses power tools. I meant for this blog to be more of a collection of our favorite recipes, but it is also fun to add new ones along with photos (such as this one).

This recipe was inspired by the arrival of zucchini season and by the tasty dishes I had in Jordan. I tend to steer clear of labor-intensive recipes that involve stuffing things, but I had to make an exception for the tender zukes clogging up my fridge and the crazy plan I hatched for breaking in my electric drill. I asked Alex to get me the zuke-hollowing tool that's common in the Middle East (where, alternately, you can buy vegetables pre-hollowed), but since he won't be back for ages I had to take matters into my own hands. In the end the recipe wasn't really that bad too make and I had fun doing it. I based it on two recipes I found online, one because it uses a pressure cooker (hooray!) and the other because it sounded tastier and was closer to the amounts I needed.

I'm a reluctant photo-taker, so the entire process isn't documented, but here are the highlights.

1) Get 6-7 small zucchini and if you're cool like me, cut the ends off and hollow them out with a spade drill set. I learned this from Alton Brown, but my version was way more bad-ass because the bits didn't fit in the chuck (grrr...they were even the same brand!), so I risked my fingers each time.

Take that you good-for-nothin' squash!

1.5) (oops numbering) While you're working, place hollowed zukes in a bowl of cold water to which you've added 1 tsp dried mint and 2 tsp salt. I don't know how critical this step is, but I did it anyway and it smelled good. Drain before stuffing.

2) Meanwhile, saute one chopped onion, add a large can of crushed tomatoes, and a few grinds of pepper and some salt. Simmer 10-15 min.

3) In a large bowl, knead together (with your hands) : 1 pound of ground lamb or other meat with 2/3 c. rinsed uncooked white rice, 1/2 tsp garam masala, 1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg, 1 tsp pepper, and 1 tsp salt. There was no ground lamb to be had around here, so infidel that I am, I used 1/2 ground beef and 1/2 ground pork.

4) The recipe say to beat the rice and meat with a wooden spoon until 'fluffy'. What that means I didn't know, but my arm tired quickly, so I just laid into it with the electric mixer for a few minutes. Worked like a charm--I think.

5) Meanwhile, in the bottom of my pressure cooker, brown some beef oxtails or stew bones in a touch of oil.

6) Push the stuffing into the hollowed zukes, working only from one end to limit air bubbles, and make sure it's packed in there well. I had too much filling, probably because I didn't have a way to weigh meat when I combined it, so I put the remainder in blanched kale leaves (I would have used cabbage if I'd had it).

7) Stick the stuffed zucchini into the pot around the stew bones, making sure they lie flat (if you have more than will fit, make another layer). Cover with the tomato mixture, bring to low pressure, and cook for 20 minutes.

8) Release pressure by opening valve or using cold water method. Remove zucchini to a serving dish and reduce the remaining sauce until it is thick and flavorful.

9) Stir into the sauce: 3 minced cloves of garlic combined with 1 tsp dried or fresh mint, 2 tsp salt, and the juice of 1/2-1 lemon and then simmer 3 more minutes. This is critical for yumminess.

10) Serve warm or cold. I slice them into 2-inch segments and set them on end in a serving dish so they make a little skyline of zucchini and then spoon the sauce over.

Okay so this is not the easiest recipe I ever made, but it wasn't as hard as I thought it would be and there were no major mishaps. It really came out well and, in fact, I think it was better than the stuffed zucchini I had in Jordan. The tomato sauce was particularly good with the added garlic/mint mixture. Even the impromptu kale-rolls stayed together! I would definitely make this again and would use a similar approach to stuffed cabbage (but increase the rice). You could probably vary the stuffing a lot, and a quick Google search gives many ideas, but I like the simplicity of this approach.

Alex and I were theorizing about how in many countries were women are badly oppressed often have extremely elaborate food. I looked at a site with Levantine recipes and all of the vegetable recipes were 'mahshi' (stuffed)! I remember this kind of multi-step, many ingredient, fussy cooking in Indian cookbooks as well. The entire preparation took me 3-3.5 hrs (I was doing a couple of other things at the same time), and it is definitely a labor of love, but not intolerably so. However, I can't imagine making these as well as numerous other dishes at the same time, and I think the theory has more than a little truth. I cook because I love it and it's my art, but I'm sure glad I can bust out a box of Velveeta mac'n'cheese from time to time.