Monday, June 30, 2008

German Potato Salad

This summer standby is traditionally served warm. It doesn't take too many ingredients and it's a reliable crowd-pleaser. I used Yukon golds, but any waxy or semi-waxy potato would work. This recipe makes a moderate amount, and can easily be increased for more people.

2 lbs. waxy potatoes
6 strips thick-cut bacon
6 green onions, sliced thin
1 shallot, minced finely
1/4 c. cider vinegar (or more for zingier salad)
1/4 c. cold water
2-3 tsp. honey or Golden Syrup
2 tsp. whole grain mustard
1-2 tsp. black pepper
2 + tsp. salt

Boil the potatoes. For the best texture, boil them whole in their skins. When they're 90% tender, remove from heat and drain. When they cool slightly, hold them in a dishtowel and peel with a paring knife. Cut into large cubes.

Meanwhile, cook the bacon until mostly crisp and drain on a paper towel, reserving 2 Tbsp. of the bacon grease. (You can do this all in one skillet if it's large enough and your bacon doesn't crust onto the bottom.) Heat the bacon grease in a large skillet, add the shallots, and cook for 1 min. or until softened. Add the potatoes to the skillet and toss gently a few times until they're heated through. If some potatoes start to get crisp, that's fine--it will add to the flavor.

Combine the dressing ingredients. Chop the bacon into small pieces. Once the potatoes are warm, transfer them to a serving bowl and toss them with the dressing. Gently stir in the green onions and bacon pieces, and salt to taste. Serve warm.


In other news, Dan and I are settled in here in Zumbrota. Country living is good! I'm very relieved to have internet, and with my lovely new kitchen I'll be back to updating regularly soon!

Friday, June 20, 2008

Sweet Potatoes with Peanut Sauce

Well, this recipe is totally out of season (much more of a winter thing) but I felt like cooking it, and I had all the ingredients. As with most of my recipes, it does consist of a bunch of stuff smooshed together, with rice on the side, but I do like a chronic state of lack of tupperware and fridgespace, so this is what I'm used to making. It would be good with some vegi item on the side, like steamed broccoli.

Also, this is a very, very approximate recipe, and therefore I won't be providing quantities.

Sweet Potatoes with Peanut Sauce
2# sweet potatoes, boiled and peeled
1 small onion, diced
1/2 large bell pepper, diced
1-2 jalapeno peppers, to taste, diced
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
3 medium shallots, minced
3 carrots, diced
4-5 tomatoes, diced
(optional) tofu or chicken breast, diced

1/4 c. peanut butter
1 tsp. soy sauce
2 Tbls. cilantro
1 tsp fish sauce/Worcester sauce
1 Tbl. curry powder
Juice of 1 lemon

Chop sweet potatoes into large chunks, then boil until soft. Pour into colander, remove skins.

Sweat onion, bell pepper, garlic and jalapenos on low heat in heavy bottomed, high sided pan (eg. dutch oven) until softish, then add carrots, again cooking until softer. Add half of the shallots, reserving the rest for later. Cook briefly before adding tomatoes (You can use canned tomatoes, but it's not as good, though if you do, mix some of the juice from the can with the peanut butter before adding it to make things easier to mix), cook until a good amount of liquid forms. Add peanut butter, mix until it's worked it. Add curry powder, lemon juice, soy sauce and fish sauce. Throw in the remaining shallots(these are to add a little crunch), cilantro and the yams (and optional tofu), mix and cook on low until flavors mix and everything is coated in the sauce. Test and adjust for deliciousness. It should be spicy. You could sprinkle on some peanuts as well if you like.

Serve over brown rice or quinoa, with a slice of lemon on the side. For more spicy, you can add sriracha at the table.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Black-Eyed Peas and Southern-Style Greens

Here are a couple of components to a Southern style meal. You could accompany these with any number of delicious things, such as cornbread, grits, mac 'n' cheese, sweet potatoes, biscuits and gravy, etc... I like to keep the peas very simple and dress up the greens a bit.

Black-Eyed Peas

1 lb. black-eyed peas, soaked overnight and rinsed a few times
1/2 block salt pork, diced (remove rind or see below*)
1 small onion, chopped
salt and pepper

In a heavy pot, cook the salt pork until the fat renders and the meat is crisp. This works best if you start over moderate heat and slowly increase it. * One trick for easy removal if you don't want to eat the salt pork later, is to leave the rind intact and cut the pork into segments (like a mango). Then you can pull out one large piece at the end.

Once the pork is browned and crisp, add the onion and cook until they are beginning to get crispy and brown. Add the beans and just cover them with water. Add a few grinds of pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook for 1-1 1/2 hrs, until tender. Salt at the end and add more pepper. Remove the salt pork if desired.

Southern-style Greens

This recipe is a bit more free-form. I like it better with a variety of greens, so just buy one of each in the store and throw in some stuff from the garden. You should probably start with at least 2 large bunches of greens such as: collards, mustard, turnip, kale, curly endive, or savoy cabbage. Never use something like spinach, which would turn into slime.

2 or more large bunches of greens, washed well and chopped roughly into 2" pieces
bacon fat
1 medium onion, sliced into crescents
red pepper flakes
1 ham hock
broth or water
brown sugar
vinegar (I use a combo of red wine and cider)
1 clove garlic, minced
hot sauce
salt and white pepper

In a large pot, melt the bacon fat and add the onion, some red pepper flakes, and salt. Cook until the onions soften. Place the ham hock in the bottom of the pot. Add the greens as your pot allows, putting the lid on and steaming for a few minutes to wilt the leaves if you need to make room for more. Add 1-2 cups of water or broth, salt and white pepper, a few glugs of vinegar, and a couple of spoonfuls of brown sugar. Simmer for 45-60 minutes, stirring once or twice. When the ham hock is tender, remove it and cut off any meat to return to the pot. When the greens are sufficiently tender, add more sugar and vinegar, hot sauce, 1 clove garlic, and S & P and cook for 5 more minutes. Serve with a slotted spoon. If you are feeling under the weather, drink some of the broth from the bottom of the pot!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Muhammara (Roasted Red Pepper and Walnut Dip)

Another Arabic recipe - Muhammara. This is a dip, much like hummus, and can be served in the same contexts - with bread, carrot sticks, etc. I've adapted it from this recipe with fairly insignificant alterations. Requires a food processor,but otherwise almost entirely brainless.

3 large roasted red peppers (it may be cheaper to buy a jar of roasted red peppers depending on the season). The original recipe recommends roasting them in a cast iron pan in the oven so you can preserve their liquid, which you'll need to keep things juicy. If using the jarred peppers, pour their liquid into the recipe when you add them.
1-1.5 cups walnuts
2 cloves garlic
1 cup bread crumbs
1/3 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon cumin or to taste
1 Tablespoon pomegranate molasses
1 teaspoon salt
red chili flakes to taste (this is supposed to be spicy to some degree. This is the main reason we ordered it in Syria, since very little is spicy)

Toast walnuts for a couple minutes on medium. During that time, grind breadcrumbs and garlic in food processor. Then add walnuts, grind, then add everything else except olive oil. Grind till combined and paste like. Taste for adjustments. Slowly drizzle in olive oil while food processor is running.

Plop some of this onto a plate. Hold a spatula in the center, then spin the plate to distribute. If you rock the spatula, it'll look fancy. Pour some more pomegranate molasses on top, then more olive oil. Here's a picture:

Beef Soup with Greens and Homemade Egg Noodles

Looking for a meal that uses some spring greens but can also fortify you through an evening of thunderstorms? I have the soup for you! I'm basically on a quest to Re-Master the Art of Jewish Cooking by Jennie Grossinger (a la Julie Powell's Mastering the Art of French Cooking in Julie/Julia), but not quite as ambitiously or confessionally as Julie. I intend to haphazardly work my way through the cookbook, updating the recipes for modern palettes and throwing Kosher-ness to the wind. I started this project a while back (though I didn't announce it), so I'll go back and label the recipes: AoJC. I don't intend to hijack the blog with this venture, but I thought I'd let you know why I'm making so many recipes from The AoJC. Carry on posting as usual.

Beef Soup with Greens

In the AoJC, this recipe is known as flanken soup. Flanken-style short ribs are beef short ribs cut against the bone, similar to what you'd find in a Korean restaurant. More commonly you'll find short ribs cut with the ribs, known as English style. You can use any kind of meaty beef bone for this recipe, such as oxtails, or a combination of stew bones and meat. The end result will be beef broth with small bits of beef and lots of greens, so you don't need a lot of meat. For the greens, pick something with body (I used curly endive), and if you're concerned about bitterness, blanch them first. This makes enough for 2 people with leftovers--feel free to scale it up.

~3/4 lb. flanken-style short ribs (1 pack.)
1 onion, sliced thin
1 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 rib celery
1 carrot
3 cloves garlic
2 bay leaves
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp. allspice
1 tsp. sugar
1 large bunch hearty greens, blanched if necessary
3 Tbsp. chopped parsley
Worcestershire sauce
salt and pepper

In a heavy bottomed pot, heat some oil to very hot. Pat the meat dry and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Sear the meat quickly so that it has a crispy brown exterior and remove from the pot. Lower the heat and saute the onions with red pepper flakes and a pinch of salt until they begin to caramelize. Add the carrot and celery (roughly chopped), 2 cloves garlic, and spices and cover with water . Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer for 1.5 hrs or more.

Strain the soup and get rid of the onions, carrots, and celery. Cut the meat from the bone and return it to the pot. Chop up the greens and place them in the pot. Bring back to a low boil and cook the greens 10 minutes. Stir in the parsley and the remaining garlic clove (minced) and adjust the flavor with sugar, Worcestershire sauce, salt, and pepper. Serve with fresh or homemade egg noodles.

Homemade Egg Noodles

These are soooo worth the effort of making them. If you have a pasta maker, all the better. I don't have one so I just use a rolling pin and a lot of patience.

2 c. all-purpose flour
2 eggs
1/2 tsp. salt
1-3 Tbsp. cold water

Start some pasta water a-boiling and salt it well. Place the flour in a mound on the countertop and make a well in it. Break the eggs into the well and add the water and salt to it. Begin mixing the dough with one hand (leaving the other free to add more water or flour the board). Knead until it combines to make a smooth and elastic dough that is stiff enough that it doesn't stick to the counter. Roll it as thin as possible with a pasta maker or rolling pin. Cut into any shape you like, tossing the noodles with flour when they're cut so that they don't stick together.

When the water is at a rolling boil, add the noodles and cook for 5 minutes. I recommend doing 2-3 batches for better texture. Drain the noodles and toss them in melted butter to set aside until you're ready to use them. Heck, just eat them with the butter if you like. Pasta dough can also be frozen before it is boiled (be sure to flour well). If you want the noodles to look funky, you can substitute the water and/or one of the eggs with something colorful, like beet water or spinach puree.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Syrian Style Fetteh (revised)

I'm revising this recipe that I wrote back in 2008 to be clearer, a bit easier to follow, and to include some changes I've made in how I make the recipe. This is a heavy dish from Syria, often eaten for breakfast, but still popular for all meals. It's sold in steamy shops that that specialize in anything involving chick peas or fava beans, with big round kettles cooking the beans all day long. These were some of my favorite places to eat out during the cold Syrian winter because they were just so warm and cozy.


1 can chickpeas

1 cup yogurt
1 small lemon juiced (about 1/4 c. lemon juice)
½ tsp salt
1/3 cup tahini
1-2 medium cloves garlic crushed with a dash of salt (traditionally done in a mortar and pestle, but you can do it with a fork on a plate or cutting board)
1/4 cup chickpea juice

1 loaf pita bread, toasted and broken into chunks, or cut into squares and fried
1/4 cup chickpea juice.
¼ cup pine nuts (optional)

The chickpeas from a can will not be quite cooked, so either warm them (with all of their juice) on the stove-top until they are soft, or put them in a bowl and microwave 2-3 minutes. Drain them, reserving the chickpea juice.

Combine the yogurt, lemon juice, salt, garlic, tahini and 1/4 cup chickpea juice. On low heat, warm this sauce in a saucepan just until a little warm and the garlic loses some of its edge. If it tastes too lemony, add a bit of tahini and chickpea juice.

The pita bread can either be toasted until crispy, which is easiest, and then broken into chunks. Traditionally, this is done in the mornings with yesterday's bread, so you see shopkeeps spreading out chunks of bread in the morning sun, and then shooing away opportunistic pigeons. However, if you're making a recipe that calls for fried pita pieces anyway, such as fattoush, you can cut the loaf of bread into squares, and then fry it in oil in a heavy pan.

Right before you serve the dish, pour 1/4 c. chickpea juice over the bread chunks, swirl quickly to moisten them, then pour the chickpeas on top, followed by the warm sauce.

Now here's the fun part - this is supposed to be served (of course) with oil on top, but it should be hot. In Syria, they ask you if you want olive oil or (aged?) ghee, called سمن. The ghee is tastier. They heat it, then pour it on top, all sizzling (and dangerous - be careful). If you want to use pine nuts, throw them into the oil at the last moments before adding it to the dish, since they can burn very fast.

I also like to garnish the top with pieces of tomato, as in the picture:

Eat this dish with a spoon. Traditionally, you also get a complementary side plate with Arabic pickles (Turnips, cucumbers, cauliflower, brined in a salt solution), raw onion and fresh tomato wedges. This is a very heavy dish - you probably won't have to eat again for at least 12 hours.

Note: The yogurt sauce portion of this is very versatile. You can also use it with the chick peas without the stale bread, or with large whole fava beans. If you do do that, top with room temperature olive oil, and diced fresh tomato. Eat with Arabic bread, but be prepared to have messy hands. Also served with pickles.

I just realized I have an in-situ picture of fetteh, next to the variants without bread in them ("hummus bi-laban" chickpeas in yogurt, and "ful bizzayt" favabeans (and chickpeas) in a lemon-oil sauce), and you can see the florescent turnips, pickled with some beet juice:

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Barley Vegetable Stew with Mandlen

Tonight I made two more dishes in my "The Art of Jewish Cooking" by Jennie Grossinger cookbook series. The barley stew was thick and hearty, almost like a congee. I accompanied it with mandlen, or 'soup nuts'--little round crackers.

Barley Vegetable Stew

I took a few liberties with the original recipe and I'll try to point out where I followed it and where I changed things. I took my time and made a batch of chicken broth first, which I used as the base for this soup and also for the chicken meat (and to have broth on hand). I think this extra step made the final product deliciously complex, so I strongly suggest using your own broth rather than bullion.

My first alteration was using a ham shank, because I'm a heretic like that. I think the recipe would still be good without it, or you could use a smoked turkey leg, or hell you could just keep the whole thing vegetarian. I used a leek instead of the original onion, and I think it also added a lot to the soup. You could add more liquid if you want a soup instead of a stew, but I don't think it would be as satisfying and flavorful.

1 onion or large leek, sliced thinly
4 carrots, grated
4 Tbsp. butter
1 c. barley
2 quarts broth
2 bay leaves
2 Tbsp. chopped parsley
1 Tbsp. cider vinegar
salt and black pepper

Optional Ingredients:
  • 1 soup bone
  • 2 medium Yukon gold potatoes (or any hearty root vegetable), cubed
  • 1 c. leftover cooked chicken
  • 1 c. greens or green beans
Melt the butter in a heavy bottomed soup pot. Cook and stir the onions/leeks until soft. Add the carrots and continue to cook until beginning to brown. Add the barley, broth, bay leaves, soup bone (if using), 1 Tbsp. of salt and several grinds of black pepper. Bring to a boil and reduce the heat, simmering for 1 hour and stirring occasionally. If you used a soup bone, remove it at this point and cut off any meat to add to the soup. Add the cubed potatoes and cook for 15 minutes. Add the leftover chicken and greens and cook for 15 more minutes. Salt and pepper liberally and stir in the parsley and vinegar. Adjust seasonings as necessary. Serve as is or with crackers such as mandlen.

Mandlen aka Soup Nuts

1 1/2 c. flour
3/4 c. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
2 eggs
1 1/2 Tbsp. vegetable oil

Preheat oven to 375. Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Beat the oil and eggs together. Add the egg mixture to the flour and mix well, kneading until smooth. Roll into narrow (1/4") snakes and slice into 1/2" rounds. Place the rounds on a greased cookie sheet and bake for 20-25 minutes, shaking a few times, until browned and semi-crisp. Remove from oven and allow to cool. Store in a well-sealed container until ready to use.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

JiJY's Special Marinade and Thai Pickled Cucumbers

It's grill season and I think it's time to post a fantastic marinade recipe from my former roommate JiJY. She brings this sweet, sticky, Asian style marinade from her homeland, Thailand. It can be used on any meat, but is particularly good on fatty pork. I recommend cooking it on the grill, but in a pinch you can use a George Foreman grill or even cook it as a stir-fry. I try to marinate overnight with this recipe, but it's still good if you can only get a few hours in.

At some point I'll scan this in, but for the time being you should click on the photo for big:

Innit cute, folks?

The marinade should be pretty sticky and heavy on the sugar and black pepper. I like to use pork or beef on skewers and serve it with sticky rice and:

Thai Quick-Pickled Cucumbers

Equal parts:
  • rice vinegar
  • water
  • sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
dash fish sauce (optional)
Asian cucumbers, sliced thinly
red chile peppers, minced
shallots, chopped
dry roasted peanuts, chopped
cilantro for garnish

Combine the vinegar, water, sugar, and salt in a measuring cup or saucepan and heat so that the sugar dissolves (I use the microwave). Let the liquid cool to room temperature and stir in a dash of fish sauce, if desired.

Toss the cucumbers, chile peppers, and shallots together in a medium bowl. Pour the vinegar mixture over it no more than one hour before serving. Place in small dishes and garnish with peanuts and cilantro.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Potato and Veggie Kugel

I developed this recipe to use up end-of-summer vegetables, such as zucchini and carrots, but it can be made just a deliciously with potatoes alone. Any dense and starchy vegetable will do, including potatoes, carrots, sweet potatoes, parsnips, celeriac, etc... Whatever veggies you choose to use should make 1 1/2 quarts after you grate them, pack them down, and squeeze out the liquid.

This recipe can easily be scaled up and is delicious served hot or cold, so I recommend making planned-overs.

1 large zucchini
2-3 potatoes, grated and placed in ice water to prevent oxidation
1-2 carrots, grated
1 small onion, grated
4 eggs
1/2 c. matzo meal
1/2 tsp. baking powder
4 Tbsp. melted butter or schmaltz
salt and pepper
chopped fresh parsley (optional)
paprika (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 and grease a 2 qt. casserole.

Remove pith and seeds of zucchini, grate, sprinkle with salt, and drain in a colander for 30 min. Squeeze out remaining moisture before using. Grate other veggies and squeeze or spin to remove liquid.

In a large bowl, beat the eggs until smooth. Add grated veggies, matzo meal, baking powder, melted butter, and s & p. Combine well (this works best if you use your hands) and mix in the parsley, if using. Dump the mixture into the casserole and sprinkle with paprika if desired. Bake for 45-60 minutes until browned on top and firm in the middle (time depends on the amount of moisture in your kugel).