Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Biscochitos - New Mexican Spiced Cookies

As you can tell, I'm on a cooking roll. Lately I've been into crisp, thin cookies (thanks mom for the King Arthur Flour Baking Cookbook!). These cookies are the state cookie of New Mexico and traditionally served at Christmas. I made biscochitos a couple of weeks ago using shortening, but this time I tried it with more authentic lard. The shelf-stable stuff you find at the grocery store is hydrogenated and tastes funky, so I made a special trip to the Midtown Global Market and found the real deal (hopefully I can find good lard up on Central too).

Here's yet another photo I haven't managed to fit the subject into:


This recipe makes a ton of cookies (~ 3-4 dozen), but if you want even more you can double it.

1/2 lb. lard or shortening
3/4 + 2 Tbsp. sugar
2 tsp. cracked anise seed (can be found at Penzey's)
1 egg, beaten
1 tsp. orange zest (optional)
3 1/4 c. flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 c. brandy or sherry
1/4 c. sugar
2 tsp. Ceylon cinnamon (canella)

Cream the lard, sugar, anise seed, and orange zest together in a large bowl. Beat in the egg. Sift together the dry ingredients in a medium bowl. Mix in the dry ingredients alternately with the brandy. At this point you can refrigerate the dough for a few days before using it.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Roll out the dough to 1/8-1/4" thickness. Cut into pretty shapes and transfer to cookie sheets covered with parchment paper (or greased lightly). Mix together the sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle this mixture over the cookies. Bake for 10-12 minutes until the edges get slightly browned. Transfer immediately to a rack to cool.

Notes:

Originally I used a star-shaped cookie cutter and they looked so much cuter, but I couldn't find it this time :( Apparently a fleur-de lis shape is traditional, but cutting them into diamonds is a LOT easier.

I strongly encourage you to use Ceylon canella cinnamon (not Vietnamese cassia). It's more authentic and it has a delicate, red-hot flavor that goes better with the anise.

Lard will make a more delicate, crisper cookie, while shortening makes them a more cracker-like (though still good). Transferring them to the rack quickly also helps keep them crisp. I like to store them in a tin.

If you're wondering about the difference in flavor, the shortening gives it a more neutral taste, but the lard adds a little depth. I haven't had any trouble with the mouth-coating aspect of lard.

And here's another photo for the heck of it:

These are great with coffee in the morning!

Tacos de Res, Frijoles de Olla, y Arroz Amarillo

Tonight was Mexican food night here, and it turned out delicioso! Amazingly, tri-tip beef is available at Coborn's Grocery in Ramsey, so that's what I used, but I think that a "sirloin tip roast" is a similar cut, and easier to find.


Meat:

Put your meat in the freezer for an hour or two, so that it gets firm but not frozen through. Slice as thin as possible, against the grain, with a sharp knife. Marinate with:

Some chopped onion or shallot
2-3 crushed garlic cloves
2 tsp. salt
1/2 c. Coca-Cola (preferably Mexican style, with sugar instead of corn syrup)
1 tsp. cayenne
1/2 tsp. ground cumin

Mix the meat around from time to time when it's marinating. I keep it at room temp so it absorbs more flavor and cooks faster. When you cook it, heat a large frying pan up as hot as you can get it and add a generous dollop of lard or shortening, and cook as briefly as possible. Serve immediately on hot corn tortillas.

The most traditional way to serve the tacos is with diced onion, cilantro, radish slices, and salsa verde. I recommend avoiding the gringo-style iceberg lettuce and grated cheese.

Beans:

1 lb. red beans, soaked overnight or quick-soaked
6 strips of bacon, sliced into bits
1 onion, chopped
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 Tbsp. epazote (optional)
salt and pepper

Mine weren't frijoles de olla, so much as frijoles de pressure cooker, but the end result was the same. In your pot, cook the back until it just starts to get crisp. Add the red pepper flakes and the onion and cook for a couple of minutes. Add the beans, garlic powder, and epazote. Epazote is an herb in the lambs-quarters family from Mexico that is traditionally added to beans to reduce flatulence and kill intestinal worms (supposedly). Cover the beans with water and cook for 1-2 hours until they are tender. Season with salt and pepper. (In the PC this only takes about 10 minutes).

Rice:

I think I've posted this before, but basically cook your rice with chicken broth, adobo powder, turmeric, butter, and salt, and then mix in some finely chopped cilantro at the end.

Meat Blintzes and Sweet and Sour Coleslaw

I made this a while ago and just now found the pictures. I guess I was in the mood for spending an entire day cooking, so I made blintzes and they were really yummy. This is another recipe from The Art of Jewish Cooking--it just has such great recipes for cold weather, and hooo boy is it cold outside! The coleslaw is my own concoction.

Blintz wrappers:

3 eggs
1 c. milk or water
1/2 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. salad oil
3/4 c. sifted flour
butter or oil for frying

Beat the eggs, milk, salt, and salad oil together. Stir in the flour until the lumps are gone. Heat a little oil or butter in a 6-inch skillet. Pour 2-3 Tbsp. batter in, tilting pan to coat the bottom--just use enough to make a very thin crepe. Let the bottom brown and turn out into a paper towel, brown side up. This should make about 20 pancakes.

Filling:

1 lb. ground meat, cooked
1/2 onion, grated finely
1 egg
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
2 Tbsp. minced parsley

Mix all ingredients together and season to taste. I think I added a touch of Worchestershire sauce. Place 1 Tbsp. filling on the brown side of a pancake and roll up like an egg roll (the pale side will be out) and carefully place in a baking dish (butter the dish if you're going to bake the blintzes--see below).

Now you've got a choice: you can fry the blintzes for extra yumminess, or you can bake them for ease and slightly less butter in your diet. If you bake them, place the dish in a 425 oven and bake until lightly browned (only about 10 minutes). Otherwise, fry them in oil, taking care not to unwrap them.

I chose to brown them in the interest of time, but I can attest that they would have been tastier if I'd fried them. The original cookbook has a bunch of other filling options, and I'll try some more at some point. This dish is a lot of work but it's worth it. I served the blintzes with plain yogurt, mashed potatoes and coleslaw.

Sweet and Sour Coleslaw:

1/2 green cabbage, finely shredded
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
1 red pepper, thinly sliced
1 carrot, julienned
1 tsp. celery seeds
1/4 c. rice vinegar
3 Tbsp. oil
1 tsp. pomegranate molasses or sugar
1 tsp. salt
a few cranks of black pepper

Toss and let sit for a few minutes. The pomegranate molasses really makes this one, and you can get it at Holy Land. In general it's great for adding sweet tanginess to salads. I used grapeseed oil, which is my favorite oil--it is both good in salads, and can be heated up to insane temperatures for frying.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Braised Cabbage and Apples

Here's a tasty winter side dish that adds some magenta to the plate. It's not quick-cooking but it's worth the wait. This is my interpretation of the version in The Art of Jewish Cooking. Preheat the oven to 350.

1 small-ish red cabbage, chopped finely
4 Tbsp. butter
1 red onion, slivered
2 tart apples, chopped finely
3/4 c. broth or water
1/4 c. red wine vinegar
1/4 c. red wine mixed with 1 Tbsp. flour until smooth
1 1/2 Tbsp. brown sugar
2 t. salt
1 Tbsp. yellow mustard seeds (optional but fun to eat)

In an oven-safe, heavy pot with a lid (not cast iron, unless it's enameled), melt the butter and sweat the onions until they're translucent. Mix in the cabbage and apples and simmer 10 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients and heat until boiling. Put the lid on and place in the oven for 45-60 minutes (or longer if you're distracted, like me), stirring occasionally. Adjust seasonings with salt and vinegar at the end.

It's great to see everyone posting with their worldly recipes! I'm thinking of growing Jew's mallow in my garden year--I found the seeds at Kitazawa Seed Co.

Haricots verts avec saucisse merguez et couscous a la tunisienne

Made a tasty green bean dish based on the harissa (tunisian chile sauce) I found in the supermarket. I'll try those ingredient lists Lillian seems so insistent upon.

Some garlic
Some sausage
Green beans
Onions
Harissa
Couscous

In this particular case I would estimate I used 400 g of green beans, 2 smallish merguez sausages (sorta a maghrebin chorizo; in fact I bet chorizo would be great for this dish) amounting to about 100 g, 4-5 cloves of lightly crushed garlic, 1 small onion, and a good spoonful of harissa.

So I sweated/lightly fried the sausage garlic, and onions (julienned) until the sausage was cooked, the onions becoming clear, and the garlic soft. The green beans, halved and with the stringy bit at the end cut off followed. I gave the whole a dash of red wine and balsamic vinegar (add those to ingredient list), set phasers to 3 (out of 10, so medium lowish?), and let it all cook with periodic tossing. Green beans are done when you bite them and they don't taste like grass; alternatively, when they get kinda pale green. Maybe 10 minutes.

The couscous I had was leftover and already cooked, so I just tossed it in with the harissa and took the whole thing off the heat to mix it up together. I imagine you could get the pan really hot, add the appropriate amount of liquid, and make the couscous right on top of everything else if you were starting from fresh.

Without my spice cabinet, the only garnish is lemon, but that isn't much complaint. I will be reprising this dish frequently this semester, it was very good and the most sinus clearing thing I've had since my arrival.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Syrian Style Melukhiyya (Jew's Mallow) with Chicken, served with Vermicelli Rice

So, this is the second in my multipart "What my friend Reem taught me to cook" series of Syrian recipes. This entry is "melukhiyya", known in English as "Jew's Mallow" for who knows what reason.

There are two versions of this recipe apparently - the Egyptian(and Jordanian style) consists of a more soup like consistency with very finely cut leaves that tends to be much more "mucusy" (incidentally the equivalent word is used in Arabic to describe it) i.e. viscous as a result of the nature of the leaves. It's basically the same kind of stuff that's in okra. The Jordanian version, as I've had it, is generally served in small portions as a soup eaten straight from a bowl. In viscosity and serving size, it's much like egg drop soup (though not at all in flavor).

The Syrian and Lebanese styles are quite different - there is generally much less liquid involved, there is generally some form of meat included (chicken here, though sometimes it's made with lamb) and is served with rice(usually on top of the rice). I will give the recipe exactly as Reem made it, though you can feel free to experiment. She really hates the mucusiness of the Egyptian version, for example, but presumably if you like that you can ommit some of the cleaning steps. Also, I've seen it served in restaraunts with a whole chicken thigh+leg rather than in pieces as here. Reem's way was just easier to share with an entire family.


Melukhiyya
(proportions very approximate and based soley on observation. Nothing was measured):
4-5 cups of Jew's Mallow (presumably frozen from your local Arabic supermarket e.g. Holyland)
5-7 cloves garlic chopped
1 bunch cilantro minced(optional, but tasty)
Arabic spice mix "baharaat"
Coriander
Curry powder
Salt

3 thigh+legs of chicken
Cinnamon stick
Handful of bay leaves (Reem threw in maybe 6-7 small leaves)

Chicken:
1) Boil chicken with cinnamon stick and bay leaves. Though this is partially to cook the chicken, it's also to produce broth. Therefore, you can cook for as long as you like.
2)When finished cooking, remove chicken from bone.

Jew's Mallow:
1) Boil enough water to submerge the jew's mallow.
2) If you get the jew's mallow fresh, you should remove the pithy stem in the middle of the leaves. I don't know if the frozen kind comes with this in or removed, so you be the judge.
3) Once the water has boiled, remove from heat and soak the jew's mallow for about 30 minutes.
4) Drain, then rinse in cold water, then drain.
5) Submerge in cold water (and boy, was the water damn cold, since she doesn't have a water heater), then grab handfuls of the stuff, squeeze out the water, and set the little balls aside.
6) Repeat step 5.
7) Put aside, spreading it out a bit so it dries off somewhat.
Note that most of the above steps are to reduce the mucusiness, so feel free to omit them if you want more viscosity.

The dish:
1) Sautee the chicken and garlic in some oil for a bit, until the chicken is browned a bit and the garlic has lost a bit of it's edge.
2) Add the jew's mallow and cilantro, stir and cook for a while(10-15 minutes) until the jew's mallow is softened a bit.
3) Add maybe 1/2-1 tsp Arabic spice powder(sometimes called "baharaat", not sure what's in it exactly. It's kind of like Arabic curry, since there's no exact standard, but it's all the same idea. You can get this at an Arabic market), coriander, curry powder, and maybe a little cumin if you like.
4) Add enough broth from the chicken to create a stewier rather than soupy consistency. Just enough to have a nice sauce for the rice.
5) Cook for a while, until the leaves are pretty soft - like cooked spinach (which you might be able to use instead of the Jew's Mallow, frankly, though you'd have to cook everything for a really short time or else the spinach would completely break down)
6) Adjust seasonings to taste - you may wish to add more garlic if it's not garlicy enough for you. Conversly, if too garlicy, just cook longer. The jew's mallow stands up well to a lot of cooking, as you'll no doubt have noticed by this point.
7) Serve with the standard Arabic vermicelli rice, as detailed below.

Arabic Vermicelli Rice (whenever people serve something with rice, this is what they serve - rarely plain rice)
Vermicelli(I believe this is the English word for it. Very thin, twisty noodles. I believe they are wheat based)
Rice
2x water/quantity of rice.
Oil, butter, or fat (Damascus is famous for using cow fat when making rice. Presumably in the US, lard is pig fat.)
Cube of chicken bullion (optional. One could probably use any extra chicken broth from the above recipe as well)

1) Heat oil/whatever, then crumble(if its not pre-chopped into 1/2-1 inch or so pieces) and brown the vermicelli. You have to make sure to properly brown it, or else it will become one with the rice upon cooking. Though it can be easy to burn it.
2) Add the rice. Reem prefers to cook it for a little while in the oil, though her mother's recipe calls just for water at this point.
3) Add water, bring to boil. Cook until done(it seemed a little longer than 20 minutes, but we didn't time it).
4) When serving, spring a bit of the Arabic spice mix on top.
5) Some people also like to throw peas(frozen, canned, whatever) on top at the end and then mix them in with the rice.

Serve the Melukhiyya either atop or next to the rice, with fresh lemon juice, or the Lebanese melukhiyya sauce.

Lebanese Melukhiyya Sauce
1 onion, minced finely
Ground sumac berries (again, available in Arabic grocery stores)
Apple cider vinegar
Water(1.5-2x as much vinegar, I think)
Salt

Combine the ingredients, with each to taste. The onion gives a nice crunch to the meal, and the vinegar adds a nice bit of acidity that is normally provided by the fresh lemon.

Excuse the lack of pictures, but I forgot my camera at home when we made this stuff.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Moules montpelliardes

At least one thing is cheap in (this part of) France: Shellfish! At 2E40 a kilo, mussels are a downright bargain. I actually went to the big fish farm at Sete where they are grown about an hour away from Montpellier so I can attest to their freshness. So last Saturday I threw a little party chez moi, where I fed 9 people with nothing but mussels (6 kg) and bread (and pasta for anybody who wanted it). Total bill for food: about 20E, making it approximately the cheapest meal any of us have eaten since we arrived.

So, mussels are pretty damned easy, and I didn't actually get many pictures (since I was cooking batches as the party was in swing) making this a somewhat useless post. I do get to gloat, however.

So here are all my ingredients for the mussel portion of the night's entertainment:


Those are leeks, some kind of green onion thing ( I didn't even catch the name in french) lemons, and so many mussels my kitchen did not come equipped with a large enough container for them all. All the veggies ran something like 4E50 at the sunday market in the arab quarter, and the mussels were 14E40 for the set.

I prepped everything with my tiny little cutting board and crap knife that I sharpened on the bottom of a casserole. Cleaning and de-bearding 6kg of mussels takes a really long time, and clogged my sink pretty badly. Et voila:

Not pictured: bathtub full of disgusting mussel flotsom. Also, mussels. Pictured: to bottom left, some homemade aioli. Chopped up a bunch of garlic, mixed into mayo with spicy dijon mustard, salt, and pepper. Turned out nice and hot and tasty, good to dab lightly on the mussels.

This is the part where I don't have pictures, but it's ok since mussels are easy (qed). I melted copious amounts of butter with a healthy dash of white wine at what I would guess is medium heat (4 out of 10 on an idiosyncratic electric stove) and tossed in a couple dozen mussels with some healthy handfuls of leek and onion. Close the top to steam, and as soon as they open they're ready to come out. Any that don't open should be disposed of with great alacrity. Since 6 kg requires batch cooking, I threw the resulting panful of coquillage with its sauce into a dish in the oven and started over. I was able to catch one blurry shot of the results in between stove and gullet.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Orange Glazed Chicken Drumsticks

Here's a great and cheap weeknight recipe. You can make it with any cut of bone-in chicken, but I use the extra-cheap chicken drumstick family packs. Preheat the oven to 400 and throw some rice on to cook.

1 large package chicken drumsticks
2 -3 oranges, juiced (or 3/4 c. OJ)
zest of one orange
1/4 c. vinegar, any kind
3 Tbsp. brown sugar
1 Tbsp. molasses
1 tsp. soy sauce
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. white pepper
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. cayenne
1 pinch allspice or cloves

Combine the above to make 1 1/2 c. liquid. Add more vinegar or some broth if it's not enough. Simmer on the stove until the liquid reduces by 1/2. Taste the sauce and adjust the seasonings as necessary. Turn flame to lowest setting and whisk in:

3 Tbsp. sherry (or cold water) combined with
1 heaping Tbsp. cornstarch

Once the sauce thickens, pour it into a large bowl. Pat the chicken dry and place it in the bowl. Add:

1/2 medium red onion, finely chopped
1 medium red pepper, finely chopped (optional)
3 cloves garlic, minced

Toss the chicken, vegetables, and sauce together until the chicken is well coated. Grease a shallow baking dish and place the chicken in it, spooning the remaining sauce over it. Bake for 45 minutes (maybe less--just until chicken is cooked through) at 400, occasionally basting with the glaze. Remove the pan and then run it under the broiler for 5-8 minutes. Turn the chicken pieces and spoon sauce over, and then broil for another 5-8 minutes.

You could save time by boiling the chicken first, applying the glaze, baking for only 10-or-so minutes and then doing the broiling step.

I serve this with rice and stir-fried veggies (just veggies, garlic, soy sauce, and sesame oil). It's tasty and zingy and looks great on a plate. It's also good for potlucks and can be made with chicken wings or drummies as an appetizer.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Caldo Verde

Here's a hearty, comforting soup made with just a few ingredients, originally from Portugal. Base your potato:broth ratio on on how thick you want the finished product. I recommend getting the sausage at Kramarczuk's, but really any sausage would do. I can't find the cable for my camera, so here's an image I yanked from the internet, and it looks a lot like what I made:



Recipe:

3/4-1 lb sausage cut into slices or cubes, preferably linguica or chorizo
1 onion, sliced thin
4-6 white potatoes, peeled and cut into large cubes
6-8 c. broth
1 large bunch kale or collards, washed and cut into 1/8-1/4" strips
3 cloves garlic, minced
S & P
Olive oil or butter to garnish

Heat some oil (I used bacon grease) and slowly sweat the onions until they start to caramelize. Crank up the heat and add the sausage, stirring until it begins to brown. Add most of the garlic and all of the broth and bring to a boil. Add the potatoes and boil 45 min or pressure cook 10 min until they start to fall apart. Smash to your liking with a potato smasher. Add the greens and the rest of the garlic and simmer for 5-10 min, or until the greens are tender. Season generously with salt and pepper (I couldn't resist seasoning more and I added a pinch of sage). Serve with a drizzle of olive oil or pat of butter melted in the middle. Best with nice crusty bread.

Notes:

Slice the greens as thin as possible ('chiffonade' them). This is best done by rolling several leaves up into a tight tube and slicing them very thin with a knife or mandoline.

If you think your greens will be bitter or if you want to be extra sure they stay a nice bright color, blanch them first. This recipe works great with blanched, frozen kale if you have any.

You can use any hearty green, such as savoy cabbage or turnip greens.

You can puree the soup (ie with an immersible blender) with most of the sausage in it, but retain some whole pieces for garnishing the finished soup. Recipes vary about when you're supposed to smash things up, so just go with whatever works best for your setup.

I have made this with all kinds of sausage: pan sausage, Italian sausage (both sweet and hot), linguica, even turkey Kielbasa...I think it will be good no matter what. If you use a more plain variety, add some paprika.

Also yummy with some grated parmesan cheese on top.