Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Muesli

I've developed a backlog of recipes that I haven't loaded up to the blog, but here's one I couldn't ignore. I've always loved muesli, but it's usually ~$5 for a tiny box that will only last for a few meals. I figured that it can't be hard to make and lo-and-behold, a little internet searching and I had a recipe.

This is for a lightly sweetened, roasted version that needs overnight soaking for breakfast*. I think that if I chopped the finished product up in my food processor, I could make a fast-soaking version (I'll update this when I try it). The fun part about this recipe is that you can customize it any way you want. The following recipe makes 7-8 finished cups of muesli. If you eat it a lot you'll want to double the recipe.

This is the un-soaked version. Imagine it pleasantly soggy the next day with the dried fruits plumped up and juicy.

Preheat the oven to 300.

4 c. rolled oats (or other rolled grains)
3 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1/2 c. honey or maple syrup (or experiment with other sweeteners)
1 tsp. vanilla (optional)
1 1/2 c. nuts of your choice, for instance:
  • blanched, slivered almonds
  • chopped walnuts
  • sunflower seeds
  • sesame seeds
  • chopped hazelnuts
  • chopped pecans
  • coconut flakes
1 c. dried fruit of your choice, finely chopped. For instance:
  • cranberries or other berries
  • raisins or currants
  • apples
  • apricots
  • papaya
  • mango
  • date pieces
1 tsp. spice, such as cinnamon or cardamom (optional)

Warm the honey or maple syrup in the microwave or saucepan so that it is free-flowing, and stir in the oil and (optional) vanilla. In a large bowl, add the oats and nuts and pour the honey-oil mixture over. Toss so that the oats are evenly coated.

Spread the oat and nut mixture on a baking sheet and roast for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally so that the edges don't scorch.

Meanwhile, chop the fruit and place it in the same large bowl you used before. When the oats are roasted, remove them from the oven and allow them to cool completely. If you want to grind the mixture, do it now. Mix the oat and nut mixture with the chopped fruit. Store in an airtight container.

To serve for breakfast, soak the muesli in milk or water or even apple juice overnight*. It can be eaten cold or warmed up. If you soak it in water or juice, it is best on top of or mixed with yogurt. You can even add more fresh fruit if you like!

*I'm not sure such a long soaking is necessary with modern rolled oats. Soaking it for as long as it takes to make some coffee and take a shower may suffice.

A few notes after making many batches of this:
  1. Make sure not to over-roast--doing so makes the muesli bitter. The oats harden up after they're removed from the oven, so it's ok if they still seem a little soft when you remove them. Err on the side of under-roasting. You can also try a lower temp for a longer time.
  2. Chopping the muesli seemed unnecessary.
  3. A standard cylinder of Quaker oats holds 6 c. oats, so it's 1.5x this recipe.
  4. So far my favorite combo is oats sweetened with maple syrup, with dried blueberries, almonds, and just a hint of cinnamon.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Latkes!

This is mostly a post to show off my fancy new graters.

I read somewhere about these "slaw cutters" from the Bluffton Slaw Cutter Company. The fact that an old school kitchen supply company can succeed manufacturing little more than stamped sheets of metal in the US in the 21st century should give you a hint about the quality of their product. The 3 piece set of slaw cutters with a handguard (trust me, you need one) is about $21 shipped.

These are basically big heavy plates of steel with the "knives" (not holes, knives) punched in such a way that they self-sharpen with use. Amongst other things (the one with big slots has 90% of the functionality of a mandolin, at 1/10th the price) they are fantastic for producing the original potato pancake with a really unique, delicious texture, with individual al dente strands of potato rather than a pulverized mush from a food processor.

Latkes:
Peel and grate some pototoes. Salt liberally and leave in a collander in the sink to let the excess moisture drain off. After 5 minutes or so squeeze them down to get them as dry as possible. Heat oil until almost smoking in a pan, and place a couple mounds of shredded spud in the pan, careful not to crowd the heat. Reduce heat to medium-high. Gently move latkes around until the bottom browns properly to prevent sticking. Smush them flat and flip them once the bottom is golden brown and crisp. Total cooking time should be about 3 minutes a side. Serve with practically anything (but fried apples are extra good)

Roasted pork ribs

I braise meat all the time and have posted an example of it, so I decided to do a dry heat method. This is essentially very similar to my jerk ribs, but in the oven rather than digging my grill out of a snowbank.

When it comes to roasting, there are a couple basic rules. The first is to use something to hold the meat up off the bottom of the pan, preventing blackening but also keeping parts of the meat from boiling in the juices. This is often done with a rack, but the best method in my opinion is simply to lay the meat on a bed of veggies, for reasons that will become apparent at the end.

Second is that you generally want to do something like a 80/20 method, where the meat is covered and on low heat for 80% of the cook time, and uncovered, often on higher heat, for the other 20.

For this particular example, I used:

1 rack pork spareribs
Onion
Potato
Carrot
Beer
Spices etc

I made a basic meat rub with sage rosemary salt and pepper and decked the meat up nicely. Throw the veggies in the pan and carefully lay the meat on top. For slow cooking, my preferred temperature is about 300 degrees.
Cover and bake at 300 for about 2 hours. The trick with checking the meat while slow cooking is that it will appear to be overcooked (rubbery and dead looking) before it starts to break down and becomes properly roasted. Check by trying to pull a piece of meat off the rack with a fork; if it pulls away cleanly, you're ready for high heat.

Finish by raising heat to 450 and removing the lid. Keep an eye here; you just want browning, the meat should be more or less fully cooked by the time you start it on high heat. 15-30 minutes should do it.
Remove the meat and cover in foil to rest while you finish prep. Here is where the veggies shine. Put the roasting pan on the stove and deglaze with something (I used a bottle of stout).

Once the fond is dissolved and the liquid is at a good boil, either transfer the whole caboodle to a blender or use your stick blender to puree the veggies. Press through a fine strainer, and season to taste. This will result in a gravy unlike any roux-based contraption you've ever encountered.

I served it with some mashed potatoes and Lil's southern style greens (which turned out magnificently!) on the side.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Skinless Roasted Chicken with Sweet & Spicy Rub

Hold the phones (or drumsticks) ladies and gents, because I have 'discovered' an amazing new way to cook chicken. Despite my efforts at creating the crispiest and tastiest exterior, Dan invariably pulls the skin off of the chicken I make. I can deal with that (it's his loss) but I knew that there must be a better way to get the flavor directly onto the meat without time-consuming and subtle brining.

Enter the skinless roast. Cooking chicken this way is fast and flavorful. You can even save the skin for making schmaltz later! The following recipe is enough for one cut-up whole chicken, so double it if you want enough for leftovers. This is easiest if you have kitchen shears.

Preheat the oven to 400.

1 cut-up whole chicken
4 Tbsp. brown sugar
2 Tbsp. Kosher salt
2 Tbsp. chili powder
2 tsp. ground black pepper
1/4 tsp. cayenne (to taste)
1/2 c. olive oil

Cut and pull the skin off of the chicken, reserving the skin and wings in the freezer for later use in schmaltz and chicken soup, respectively. On the drumsticks, snip the fibrous tendon. Cut the breasts in half crosswise so that they are the same size as the thighs.

Pat the chicken dry and place it in a roasting pan. Combine the rub ingredients in a medium sized bowl. Drizzle the olive oil over the chicken and toss it to coat, allowing the remaining oil to collect in the bottom of the roasting pan. One by one, take the chicken pieces out of the pan and place them in the rub bowl and press the rub on all surfaces; then return the chicken to the pan. Tilt the pan around to ensure that the entire bottom surface is coated in oil.

Place the pan in the oven and roast the chicken for 30 minutes, turning the chicken pieces once during cooking. If parts of the pan show scorching, tilt the pan so that they are coated in oil--as long as the meat doesn't scorch it will be OK, if messy. Remove the breast pieces when they are cooked (~160 internal temp) and continue cooking the dark meat for 5 more minutes (to ~170 internal temp).

Tasty hot or cold, with practically any side. I made mine with coleslaw and baked beans. Sorry for no pictures this time--gluttony got the best of us!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Tender Italian Meatballs

I wind up making this slightly different each time, but apparently if you follow the recipe as I wrote it down for mom it turns out great. The trick to tender meatballs of any kind is to add pureed onion (use a food processor or blender). Using a mixture of meats helps too. I often cook mine in the pressure cooker for extra tenderness, but that's optional.

Meatballs:

1/2 lb. ground beef
1/2 lb. ground pork
1 small or 1/2 large onion, pureed
1/4 c. matzo meal or breadcrumbs
1 egg yolk
1/4 c. parsley, minced
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. whole fennel seeds
1 Tbsp. salt
2 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. oregano
~1 tsp. red pepper flakes

Cooking:

~ 1/4 c. oil for frying
2 Tbsp. tomato paste
1/2 c. boiling water or broth
1/4 c. red wine

Combine all the ingredients thoroughly and form into 1-1.5" balls. Fry the meatballs in a generous quantity of oil in a single layer. Turn them carefully so that they are seared brown on as many sides as you have patience to fry (turn them at least once).

Mix the tomato paste, boiling water, and red wine. Pour this liquid into the pan so that the bottom of the pan is covered and 1/4-1/2" of the meatballs is submerged (add more water or wine if you need to, depending on the size of your pan). Cover and simmer the meatballs for 15-20 minutes or pressure cook for 12 minutes, making sure that the liquid doesn't evaporate completely.

Make the rest of your sauce however you were planning. Toss with spaghetti and enjoy!

NOTE:
The spices are merely guidelines. As long as you have pureed onion, fennel seeds, and red pepper flakes, you're on the right track. Experiment with using fresh basil instead of (or with) the parsley, or adding thyme or marjoram. Some people add parmesan, but I think that makes a mess in the pan.

Ethiopian collard greens

Part three in the Ethiopian series (parts one and two). This recipe is based on "Ye'abesha Gomen" but again, modified somewhat.

1 pound collard greens (I actually mixed collards and turnip greens)
1-2 cups water
3 tablespoons niter kibbe (see other recipes for recipes/comments)
1 cup chopped red onions
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
1/4 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
Salt, to taste
1 jalapeno, seeded and cut into thin strips (though more will spicy it up)

1) Wash greens thoroughly, and remove stems (I like to leave a little stem for the toothiness)
2) Cook greens whole in large saucepan with water until tender. Remove, and chop into 1" squares. Reserve liquid
3) In skillet, heat butter, and cook the onions till lightly brown. Add greens, reserved liquid, and remaining ingredients.
4) Cook uncovered until almost dry.

Ethiopian Butter Chicken

Part two of three in the Ethiopian series (part one here with a picture as well), this one is a somewhat drier dish (theoretically, it was actually a bit wet considering.) My recipe is based heavily on this recipe for "doro tibs", but I modified a little bit.

Ingredients:

1 onion, cut into larger chunks, but still pick-up-able
1 pack boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into cubes
1/2 c. niter kibbeh (see here for recipe but I didn't clarify it - I just smooshed in those ingredients)
1 jalapeno (more to taste), cut into rounds with seeds
1/2 bell pepper cut into the same size chunks as the onion
black pepper
garlic
grated ginger
1/4 cup white wine
salt to taste
1-2 c water/broth
1 lime (optional)

1) Wash and pat dry chicken - you can also soak it in water with lime juice. Not sure if that would make a huge difference
2) In a high sided pot (this would also probably work, if not be better, in a skillet), fry onions, garlic, ginger and jalapenos in niter kibbe.
3) Add chicken, brown a little, then add salt and pepper.
4) Add water and wine, cook chicken for 45 minutes.

Ethiopian Beef Stew with Green Beans

I made three Ethiopian dishes to use with the injeera I brought back from Minneapolis. I'll post each one separately so they're easier to search and index.
As for the weirder ingredients, I actually have this jar of berbere from ages ago, but time has actually taken the edge off of it and made it less spicy and more flavorful. The recipe for berbere from the Sundays at the Moosewood cookbook (upon which this recipe is based as well) can be found here. As for the Niter Kebbeh, you can get the recipe here but I was too lazy to actually clarify the butter, and so I just smooshed the spices into the butter, and everything turned out delicious.

The recipe is based primarily on the recipe in the Sundays at the Moosewood for "Yetakelt W'et", but with the important modification of a big ol' chunk of beef with a bit of bone (I used a bone in shank steak with a lot of meat on it) and a longer cooking time. The meat adds a lot of flavor, and makes it better in my opinion. It wasn't too spicy, so you could also add some hot peppers if you really want.

Ingredients
1 big chunk of beef/lamb with bones
1 c Onions, finely chopped
2 Garlic cloves, pressed
1 tb Berbere (dry)
1 tb Sweet Hungarian paprika
1/4 c Niter Kebbeh
1 c Green beans, cut in thirds
1 c Carrots, chopped
1 c Potatoes, cubed (I wasn't a huge fan of the idea of potatoes, but if you want them, go ahead)
1 c Tomatoes, chopped
1/4 c Tomato paste
~2 c Water or stock
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 c Chopped fresh parsley (optional - I added a handful, but I don't know if it made a huge difference)

Preparation:
1) Saute onions, garlic, berbere and paprika in niter kibbe until they start getting transparent
2) At this point, I pushed aside the onions, browned the meat really quickly, then removed it.
3) Add carrots, cook for a little while, then add the green beans and/or potatoes, and sautee for a bit.
4) Add chopped tomatoes, tomato paste, water/broth, and meat.
5) I stewed it for about 1.5 hours, then removed the meat, chopped it into chunks, and served on top of injeera.


Here's a picture of the result (this recipe is the red one):


PS - This recipe is also in celebration of reaching a gross (144) of posts here (this post not included)! Woohoo!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Chicken in a Clay Pot دجاج بالفخار

This dish is sort of the Levantine equivalent of a tajine - you'll note it's slightly different than a Moroccan tajine, though generally cooked in the same sort of container. We were lucky to have a clay pot at mom's house, but frankly you could use a ceramic casserole dish as long as it has a tight fitting lid. The recipe I'm using is basically a translation of the one here (which has lots of good pictures if you're interested).

Ingredients:
Diced:
5 Medium Onions (this is kind of a lot - you could get away with less
5 Cloves Garlic
Vegies (potato, carrots, winter squash, eggplant - this is more or less up to you)
Bell pepper

Tomatoes
1 can chick peas
Cilantro

Spices: Tumeric, Thyme, Cumin, Coriander
Chicken pieces

Preparation:
Sautee potato and carrots till lightly browned, put aside. Sautee squash and put aside. Sautee eggplant, put aside. Sautee onions, then add garlic, then add bell pepper, then finally cilantro.

Brown chicken pieces in the same pan you cooked the vegies in. Then put the chicken in the clay pot, and put the following spices on top:
Thyme, Cumin, Coriander, Salt, and Turmeric.

Mash the tomatoes with some water/chicken broth, tomato paste, Arabic spice mix (or allspice/cinnamon if you don't have any), curry powder and black pepper. It should be fairly liquid, otherwise it just hangs out on top of everything.

Put 1/2 of the onions mix on top, then the vegies, then the chickpeas, then the tomato sauce, then the rest of the onion mix. Add 1/2 cup water/broth. Bake for 2 hours at low temperature.

And here's the final product:

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Leftover pot-pie

This is how I used up some of my thanksgiving leftovers (weeks ago, of course), while simultaneously testing out a new kind of pastry crust I had read about: hot-water pastry. Wikipedia describes this form of pastry. In short, the process of making it is exactly the opposite of proper pie crust: melt fat in hot water and stir in flour vigorously. It's a very basic item, so use whatever recipe you find. The idea is to make a strong, moisture-resistant crust that will hold up to a gravy filling.

Here is the crust, pressed into the pan:I baked this until golden brown before filling. The filling was a basic mix of chopped turkey, veggies, and a roux-based gravy.As you can see, the pastry slipped down the sides of the pan a bit. It was a pretty greasy dough, and the pan was steep. This might work best using a regular pie pan, or at least something shallower.

The last step is to place the top crust and bake until golden brown (as the filling is precooked). Poke holes to prevent gravy explosion.

The edges of the crust burnt a bit, so I would recommend covering them with foil for at least half of the baking. It was about 30 minutes at 400.
The filling held together very nicely, and the pastry was astonishingly light and flaky for the way it's made. I would recommend it for any savory pie. It's also quite a bit easier than a cold fat crust.

Here is the recipe I used, from Fanny Farmer:

1/2 c. shortening (I substituted lard)
1 1/2 c. flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. baking powder

Melt fat in a pan, add water. Heat water to boil. Whisk in flour, salt, and baking powder. Turn dough out onto board, and knead into a consistent mass. (Here, the recipe called for resting the dough in the fridge for 4 hours, but I didn't bother with this step and it turned out fine) Press into shell, bake for 15 minutes at 425, fill, and top with second crust. Bake again at 425 until golden brown. As shown above, it is probably best to cover the edges with foil.

No-Knead Bread

Suffice it to say, it works:
I made this after both Lillian and my boss (now a reader of this blog!) suggested it. I basically followed the recipe exactly, but double. I made one loaf in a cast iron dutch oven, and a second in a ceramic casserole. They were pretty much identical.

Here is the NYT recipe, which links to the article describing it.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Middle Eastern Vermicelli Rice

I'm re-posting this - it was originally in the Melukhiyya with Vermicelli Rice entry, but I think it'll be easier to refer to it if it's in its own entry. I've updated it a bit, since I had a word translated wrong (I don't think that it's made with lard as I thought - I had mistranslated)

Arabic Vermicelli 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 clarified butter (Damascus is famous for using the latter)
Cube of chicken bullion (optional. One could probably use any extra chicken broth from the above recipe as well)

1) Heat the fat, 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, sprinkle 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.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Kufta Hotdish لحم بالصينية

So I realize that this is very similar to Lillian's previously posted Lamb Kibbeh Hotdish, however, this it is different enough that I figured it warranted a new entry. The Arabic name actually, literally means, "Meat in a Pan." It's relatively easy, but needs about an hour or more to cook. I originally learned this from Reem, so the credit is due to her, though in Syria you just get the meat pre-spiced from the butcher.

You'll need:
Potatoes
Tomatoes
Ground meat
Parsley
Garlic
Arabic spice mix (or equivalent)
Ground red pepper
Salt
Pepper


Heat oven to 350. Get out a large iron skillet, or round baking dish with high sides. Skin and cut enough potato to cover the bottom of the pan in a single layer, in 1/4-1/2" slices. Put the potato in the oven while you do the following steps, unless you have a microwave, in which case you can give them a quick zap and then it'll go a bit faster. Mix ground meat with spices to taste. The flavor of the meat is what really makes this dish, so you should spice it well. Remove the pan from the oven, then spread the meat on top of potatoes in a thin layer, then put sliced tomatoes on top. You may wish to add a small quantity of water, maybe about 1/2" on the bottom of the pan. Bake until the potatoes are done.

Here's a picture of the delicious outcome:

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Flaky Biscuits

The only problem with these biscuits is that they're likely to be tastier than whatever they're accompanying. The trick to these is keeping the dough soft and rolling and folding the dough with melted butter. This is an adaptation of the basic biscuit recipe from The Joy of Cooking. Makes at least six beautiful 2" biscuits, more if you count the deformed ones.

You can see the wonky biscuits in the back. They all taste good, though!

5 Tbsp. cold butter
1 3/4 c. A.P flour
OR 1 c. AP + 3/4 c. cake flour (ideal)
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 c. + 2 Tbsp. whole milk
2 Tbsp. butter, melted

Preheat the oven to 450.

Sift together the dry ingredients. Cut the butter into the dry ingredients with a fork or pastry mixer, until the largest butter bits are the size of peas. Add the milk and mix with a wooden spoon or spatula until the ingredients just come together and form a sticky ball.

Dump the dough out onto a well-floured board and toss it a few times to coat with flour. Knead gently 2-3 times until it comes together. Roll out the dough until it is a bit bigger than a sheet of typing paper. Brush it with melted butter. Fold it over once and repeat. Do this 3-4 times and then roll out the dough to 3/4" thick.

Cut out 1 1/2-2" biscuits (I use a tuna can with both ends cut off, though you can make them into squares for zero waste) and place them on an ungreased sheet pan*. Bake for 10-12 minutes, turning the pan around halfway through the baking, to ensure even browning. The edges should be golden brown and the bottoms should not be burnt.

*If you have extra dough left after cutting out circles, moosh it together into a couple of balls and make a divot in the center. Put a spoonful of jam in and bake with the rest of the biscuits.

NOTE:

These can be made with a food processor. Cut the butter up and put it in the freezer for 20-30 minutes so it's hard. Put the dry ingredients in the FP first, and pulse to mix. Then cut in the butter (careful not to grind it too much), and then add in the liquid. It should come together in one ball when it's done, after a couple of pulses.