Sunday, July 26, 2009

Orange Blossom Jam Thumbprints - Cookie Variation

I wasn't sure if we needed another refrigerator cookie recipe posted, since mom posted her Jam Thumbprints recently. But, as you can see, the cookies look quite different and the recipes also differ substantially. I got mine from The Joy of Cooking. Since it's a refrigerator dough, chilling it for several hours is key, so plan ahead. My variation on it was using Orange Blossom Water instead of vanilla, which mingled nicely with the black raspberry jam (you could also use rose water). The basic dough can be used for all kinds of different cookies.

1/2 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 tsp. orange blossom water
1/4 tsp. (seriously, just a tiny drop) vanilla
2 eggs
2 1/2 c. sifted AP flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
~1/4 c. jam
powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 375.

Cream together the butter and sugar. Beat in the orange blossom water, vanilla, and eggs. Sift the dry ingredients together and mix in thoroughly. The dough should be stiff and only slightly sticky. Roll it into a 2 1/2" wide log and wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 3-4 hours. If you like, you can freeze half of it for later use.

Dust the counter with powdered sugar to keep the dough from sticking. Cut the log lengthwise into quarters. Cut the quarters cross-wise at 1" intervals. Roll each piece into a ball and place onto a greased cookie sheet. These cookies don't spread out too much, so they only need ~1" between them.

Place the jam into a plastic baggie and squeeze the jam into one corner. Snip a tiny (<1/4") piece off of the corner to make a hole for piping.

Bake the cookies for 5 minutes and remove from the oven. Using your finger, protected by a thimble if you prefer, gently poke a deep well into each of the cookies. Squeeze a small amount of jam into each well from the corner of the plastic bag. Fill the holes, but don't over-fill them (so that the jam doesn't bubble out later).

Return the pan to the oven and bake for 3-5 more minutes. Make sure that the bottoms don't burn. Remove and cool on a rack.

Szechuan Rice Noodles

This recipe was an improvised fusion between Szechuan spices, Korean japchae technique, and some rice noodles I had sitting around. I raided my cupboard and crisper for the ingredients and came up with deliciousness. It's another dish that uses Chili Black Bean Sauce, like Ma Po Tofu. (Amusingly, the last post in the blog features chilis and black beans, but in a completely different way).

It's a true stir-fry, with each ingredient cooked separately and removed from the pan, so be prepared with a nice slotted spoon or 'spider'. In the end the ingredients are combined in a large bowl (pick one that you can cover with some kind of lid to keep things warm), so you don't have to worry about fitting the noodles into your wok or frying pan.

1 quart rice noodles, soaked in hot water until tender
1 lb protein, cubed (I used tofu)
2 c. stir-fry vegetables, cut into small pieces or slivers, such as:
  • carrots
  • blanched greens
  • onions
1.4 c. water
3 Tbsp. chili black bean sauce
3 Tbsp. light soy sauce
2 Tbsp. mirin or cooking wine
1 Tbsp. sugar
2 tsp. sesame oil
-->combine the above seasonings into a sauce

3 green onions, slivered
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp ginger, grated
-->combine green onions, garlic, and ginger in a small bowl

1 egg per serving
oil for frying

Heat 2-3 Tbsp oil in a large frying pan or wok until very hot. Add 1/3 of the ginger/green onion combo bowl. Stir for 30 seconds. Add the cubed meat or tofu and sprinkle with a little salt. Cook over high until the edges are crisped and the meat is almost cooked through. Add a dash of the seasoning sauce and cook for 30 more seconds. Remove from pan into large bowl and cover.

Repeat the process with each vegetable individually: start with oil and garlic/ginger/green onion. Cook briefly over high and add a little sauce. Remove to bowl and keep warm. You should finish with half of the sauce left over.

If the noodles have cooled, run them under hot water until they warm up and loosen. Drain and add the to the bowl. Toss with the remaining sauce. Serve with a crisp fried egg on top.

Chili Black Beans with Roasted Brown Rice

I say: you can never have too many bean recipes! They're cheap, filling, flavorful, and, um...euphonious. This one is enhanced by serving it with brown rice that has been roasted, to release the nutty flavor. Some hearty avocado slices make a nice addition too. This is based off a Whole Foods (gasp!) recipe.

I have discovered that I only like brown rice if it has been cooked for a very long time, which is not possible on the stovetop without scorching. I use the 'brown rice' setting on my rice cooker, but you can accomplish the same thing by cooking it for an hour in a very slow oven.

Roasted Brown Rice, oven style

2 c. brown rice
4 c. water
1/2 tsp. salt

Preheat the oven to 225. Heat the rice on the stovetop in a Dutch oven, stirring constantly until it is lightly roasted. Add the water and salt and bring to a boil. Put the lid on and place the pot in the oven for one hour. Fluff before serving.

Chili Black Beans

1 lb. black beans, soaked overnight
1 large ham hock (or smoked turkey hock)
2 Tbsp. oil or bacon fat
1 large onion, diced
1 red or green bell pepper, diced
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. chili powder
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. back pepper
1 can diced tomatoes (including liquid)
water to cover
1-2 Tbsp. salt
1 c. chopped cilantro
avocado slices for garnish
lime or orange wedges for garnish

Preheat oven to 300 if using oven instead of pressure cooker.

Cook the onion and peppers in the fat until they begin to soften. Add the garlic, chili powder, cumin, and black pepper and stir in. Add the ham hock, black beans, diced tomatoes, and cover with water. Bring to a boil and pressure cook for 25 minutes, or place in oven for 2 hrs. Remove ham hock, slice meat off and add back to pot. Check bean texture and cook longer if need be. Salt to taste and stir in fresh cilantro. Serve with avocado wedges and orange slices.

Shepherd's Pie

What would our family's cool-weather menu line-up be without Shepherd's Pie? Thank you, Tina! Over the years I've found that it turns out best if you use a combination of ground beef and lamb and make sure to use lots of meat, so you don't wind up with too much potato on top. I like to season the meat well so that it stands up to the potatoes.

2-3 lbs. ground meat, ideally beef and lamb
4-5 strips bacon, cooked and chopped into small pieces (optional)
2-3 lbs. potatoes, made into mashed potatoes using your usual approach
1 large onion, diced small
2 stalks celery, diced small
1 can beef broth
3 Tbsp. dry sherry or vermouth (optional)
1 c. frozen peas
2 Tbsp. flour
2 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
2 Tbsp. ketchup
1 Tbsp. ground yellow mustard
1 Tbsp. salt
1 tsp. dried thyme
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/2 tsp. marjoram (optional)
sprinkling of paprika

Preheat the oven to 350.

Cook the bacon in a large frying pan, then remove it and chop it into small pieces. Brown the meat in the remaining fat. (I like to cook it fir 15 minutes in the pressure cooker for extra tenderness).

Add the onions and celery and cook until they begin to soften.

Add the mustard powder, thyme, black pepper, marjoram, and flour, and stir so that they're well-distributed throughout the meat. Increase the heat and cook for 2-3 minutes, so that the flour begins to brown a little.

Add the broth, dry sherry, Worcestershire sauce, and ketchup, and simmer, scraping any crusty bits off the bottom of the pan, until the gravy thickens. If it doesn't thicken enough, add a spoonful of mashed potato. Stir the peas and chopped bacon into the meat and gravy.

Place pour the meat and gravy into a greased casserole. Top with mashed potatoes, texture the potatoes with a fork, and sprinkle with paprika.

Bake for 40-50 minutes, or until the gravy is bubbling, the entire dish is piping hot, and the top is browned.

Kielbasa and Peppers Skillet

I always keep a turkey kielbasa on hand for weeknight desperation dinners. The turkey kielbasa aren't as greasy as the regular ones, and they keep forever in the fridge or freezer. This recipe is more to serve as inspiration than as something to follow in great detail. You can add the noodles to the pan or serve them separately. I have also used potatoes or pierogies as a starchy substrate. For veggies just use what you have on hand. Adding fresh herbs at the end is a nice touch if you have some on hand.

1 turkey kielbasa, sliced
2-3 c. veggies, in this case: colorful bell peppers, sliced
1/2 lb. pasta, potatoes, or pierogies, cooked
1 c. broth (any kind)
2 Tbsp. cornstarch or potato starch
2-4 tsp. spices, in this case: sage, red pepper flakes, and and white pepper
1 handful fresh herbs, chopped (optional)
oil for cooking

Heat 2-3 Tbsp. oil in the skillet. Cook the noodles (or potatoes or pierogies) on medium high, tossing frequently, until the edges are crisp and browned. Remove from the pan and set aside.

If needed, add more oil to the skillet. Cook the kielbasa slices, stirring, until they begin to brown at the edges. Move the kielbasa toward the edges of the pan and add the veggies and spices. Cook until the veggies are tender, tossing gently while cooking. Add small amounts of broth, if necessary.

Mix the remaining broth with the cornstarch. Add the pasta/potatoes/pierogies back to the pan. Add the broth and starch mixture, tossing the contents of the pan to combine, and simmering so that the sauce thickens. Add the fresh herbs and adjust the seasonings if necessary.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Palak Paneer, Aloo Gobi (Spiced Cauliflower), and Cumin Rice

This combination of dishes makes a nice meal and great leftovers. I like to use paneer when I can get it easily, but the recipe works well with firm tofu or even chicken (though then I guess it's a different dish). These recipes are based around Manjula's Kitchen, though I altered them a little to avoid hard-to-find ingredients. Check out the videos if you want step-by-step instructions or more recipe ideas.

My most recent attempt. I didn't have cilantro to add to the aloo gobi, but it's still delicious without it.

Palak Paneer

1 1/2-2 c. paneer, cubed (or extra-firm tofu, cubed and patted dry)
1 box frozen spinach, thawed, drained well, and chopped
2-3 plum tomatoes, pureed, or 1/2 can tomato puree
2 Tbsp. grated fresh ginger
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 Tbsp. salt
2 tsp. whole cumin seed
1/2 tsp. turmeric
1/4 tsp. cayenne
3 Tbsp. flour
1/4 c. water + more water
1/2 c. heavy cream or half and half
2 Tbsp. butter
oil for frying
tomato slices for garnish

Fry the paneer or tofu in a moderate amount of oil, so that the cubes seal and begin to turn slightly golden brown and crisp on the edges. Drain and set aside.

In a deep saute pan, heat up 2 Tbsp. oil until quite hot. Add the ginger and garlic and stir for a few seconds until it begins to brown. Add the remaining spices and stir for a few more moments (but don't let them burn). Add the tomato puree to the pan and bring it to a brisk simmer for a few minutes, stirring frequently, until the liquid is reduced and the mixture is thick.

Add the spinach,~1/2 c. water, and salt. Combine the 1/4 c. water with the flour to make a slurry. Add to the pan and stir, simmering until the mixture thickens.

Gently fold in the paneer and butter and heat until the paneer is warmed through and the butter is melted. Adjust the salt level. Remove the pan from heat and stir in the heavy cream. Serve with tomato slices on top (they really make it good!).

Aloo Gobi

1 cauliflower, cut into large florets
2-3 medium red potatoes, cut into ~6 wedges each
2 Tbsp. butter
2 Tbsp. fresh grated ginger
3 Tsp. ground coriander
1/2 tsp. turmeric
1/4 tsp. cayenne
1/4 c. water + 1/2 c. water
1-2 jalapenos, seeded and slivered
2 bay leaves
2 Tsp. whole cumin seeds
2 Tbsp. salt
1 Tbsp. sugar
2 Tbsp. tamarind sauce (or 2 Tbsp. lemon juice)
1/2 c. chopped fresh cilantro

Heat the butter over medium in a large pot with a lid, until it just begins to brown. Mix the ginger, coriander, turmeric, and cayenne together in 1/4 c. water. Pour the spice + water mixture into the hot butter and stir as the spices sizzle and get fragrant.

Add the jalapeno slices, bay leaves, and cumin seeds and stir for a few seconds, as the jalapenos cook.

Add the cauliflower, potatoes, salt, and 1/4 c. water and toss gently to combine. Bring to a simmer and put the lid on, cooking for 7-8 minutes. Check the tenderness of the vegetables, stir gently, and add more water if necessary. Return to a simmer and cook until they are the desired texture.

Stir in the tamarind sauce (thinned in water if need be) and sugar and taste. Adjust seasonings if necessary. At the end, toss with fresh cilantro.

Cumin Rice

2 c. jasmine rice
adequate water
2 Tbsp. butter
2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. whole cumin seeds

Cook the rice as you normally do, but with butter, salt, and cumin seeds

Looks like I made this months ago, took pictures, but never added the recipe :-P. You can see I added peas to the palak paneer (making it palak muttar paneer?). I also made the paneer from scratch. The rice is just plain jasmine rice.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Moroccan style cucumber and tomato salad

This is a favorite of Melanie's and is definitely an example of something that is greater than the sum of its parts:
Cucumbers, skinned and diced
Tomatoes, skinned, de-seeded and diced as well
White vinegar
Vegetable oil

Combine. Enjoy.

Magidow style cucumber salad

Here is our classic summer barbecue cucumber salad recipe. The recipe is pretty approximate, but here goes:
Cucumbers, peeled, and slices into rounds
White onion, chopped into 1.5" or so long chunks.
Sour Cream

Sprinkle a large amount of salt on the cucumbers and onions, let them sit for a little while, then add sour cream, and possibly more salt, and pepper. Let sit for a couple hours for best results. Use more salt than you think.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Pig head, part 1

Watching lots of Anthony Bourdain will definitely give you a hankering for some odd cuts, so here's the first in what will hopefully be a series of snout-to-tail classics.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Chicken Kabsa كبسة دجاج

Kabsa is a Gulf/Saudi recipe, yet another variation of meat and rice, but it's pretty damn tasty. Wikipedia has an entry on it, for further background information.

The quantities were pretty approximate, so take them with a grain of salt.

Chicken pieces (I used two giant breasts, but I think it would be better to use a breast and a couple thighs)
Large Onion, cut into thin slices

5 or so garlic cloves
1 can pureed tomatoes
2 medium tomatoes
2 medium carrots, grated
Grated peel of 1/2 orange and 1/2 lemon, OR 2 black/dried lemons
2-4 whole cloves
2-3 whole cardamom pods (or 1/2 tsp ground)
1-2 cinnamon sticks
Pinch saffron
Pinch cayenne pepper
Black peppercorns

3 c. liquid (water or broth)
1.5 c. rice (preferably basmati)

Raisins (option) and slivered almonds and/or pine nuts (optional, but much better with) for decoration.

1. Sautee the onions until they start to carmelize, then add chicken pieces and brown. Add tomatoes, cook for 1 minute.
2. Add 3 cups liquid, and all the spices and vegies. Cover and cook 30 minutes.
3. Remove chicken from the liquid. Roast rice briefly till some of the kernels turn a more opaque white. Add rice to liquid, cover and cook for about 20 minutes.
4. Before the rice finishes, stick the chicken in the broiler until it crispifies a bit.
5. Soak the raisins in warm water a bit, and you can optionally fry them lightly. Put all the rice and chicken on a large plate, then sprinkle with raisins and nuts.
6. Serve with yogurt on the side to put on top if you like. American yogurt tends to be a bit too thick, so I recommend diluting it a bit with water.

The version in the picture below used tomato paste instead of canned, pureed tomatoes. In an ideal world, it would be best to use fresh tomatoes I think. Basically it should be a bit more yellow and less red than it turned out.

Mmmmm...cookie dough!

Had a hankering the other day for some cookies. Since I am wheat intolerant, I can't just reach up into the cupboard and raid Jeff's, so it takes some thought and planning. I found a recipe in the King Arthur Flour Cookbook that makes enough for 3 batches of refrigerated dough. I substituted spelt flour for the wheat flour and it worked just fine. Refrigerating the dough ripens it, which means that it changes its nature to make cookies that are thin and crisp rather than thick and chewy. These cookies are best made small.

The beauty part of this scheme is that you can cook a batch on three separate nights, and add different flair to each batch. They are all baked at 400 degrees for 8 minutes. The first batch I just did was plain;I sliced pieces off from the roll of dough and baked them. They were very good, and excellent vehicles for milk-dipping behavior. (I think I made them too big, as they were thick and chewy). The second batch is fabulous - I pinched off pieces, rolled them in between my hands, put them on the cookie sheet, and pressed my thumb into each one. Into the dent I put chocolate buttons, rhubarb jam, and peach spread. Well, not all at the same time. Here is the recipe:

Basic Refrigerator Cookies

1 cup (2 sticks) butter (at room temp)
3/4 cup white sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1 tsp. vanilla
2 eggs

In large bowl, cream butter and sugars together until light; add vanilla and eggs and beat until fluffy.

4 cups flour
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 cup milk

Combine dry ingredients. Add about 1 cup to butter mixture. Blend in milk and the remaining dry ingredients. It will be thick and sticky and get all over everything.

Plop about 1/3 of the dough along one edge of a piece of waxed paper. Roll up into a tube-like shape. Cover in plastic wrap to keep from drying out. Continue until all dough is rolled up.
Refrigerate for at least 2-3 hours, or for several days.

Bake on ungreased cookie sheet at 400 for 8 minutes. Slide onto a cooling rack right away.

I think the next batch will be made like a jelly roll and then sliced and baked. Sounds pretty!