Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Carrot Salad with Raisins

I sort of invented this salad tonight, but I feel like I may have had something very similar before. It's very refreshing and light. All ingredients below are approximate and should be adjusted to taste. I gave the measurements for the dressing just for an idea of proportions.

Combine:
Carrots, grated
Raisins, blanched and cooled
(Optional) walnuts, crushed slightly

Add dressing:
1 lemon
1/2 tsp white wine vinegar
2 tbsp salad oil or light olive oil
a bit of pomegranate molasses (or balsamic vinegar and some brown sugar)
a very tiny pinch of ground cloves
salt
a small amount of pepper

Enjoy!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Omelet Fillings

So I was making omelets the other day, and I was thinking it might be fun to have a list of interesting omelet fillings, for those days when you want to try something new. Since I can't figure out how to let us all edit this post, we should add more ideas in the comments.

Tomatoes with Browned Garlic, Mozzarella, Parmesan and Basil:
Dice tomatoes, garlic, and optionally green onions. Brown garlic in olive oil, add green onions briefly, then add tomatoes - remove from heat, but keep stirring. Add the mix to the omelets with mozzarella, Parmesan and fresh basil leaves.


Mushrooms in Wine, with Basil and Rosemary:

Cut mushrooms into small chunks (I liked to leave them a little chunky). Brown in lots of butter (again, optional green onions), salt, add white wine. Cook down. Add basil and rosemary to the eggs. You could do this with or without cheese. I think I used Parmesan, cause that's what I had.

Za3tar:
Mix za3tar spice mix with olive oil until it makes a liquidy paste, then add to the omelet. It is also good with some green olives.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Moroccan Bread



This is a recipe for the basic bread used in Morocco in the same way flatbread is used in the eastern Mediterranean, i.e. to pick up food items, especially from very liquid dishes such as tajines. It's a somewhat trickier technique - you want to get larger pieces that are flatter than the loaf as a whole, so I generally take a piece from the top or bottom. It's also traditional to score it with a cross on the top so it can be easily torn into 4 pieces.

This recipe is based mostly on the one from here

This recipe calls for a bit of wheat flour, but you can make it only with white if you want:
Ingredients:
* 2 cups whole wheat flour (I think it would be better to use less of this, so it's not a 1-2 ratio)
* 2 cups white flour
* 2 teaspoons salt
* 1 tablespoon yeast
* 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
* 1 or 2 tablespoons honey
* 1 1/4 cup warm water
* additional flour for kneading
* Optional: 2 tsp. anise seeds
* Optional: 2 tsp sesame seeds
* cornmeal, semolina , barley grits or oil for the pan (I used cream of wheat, since that's what I had)

Preparation:
1. Proof yeast in water with honey, add to flour sifted with salt. Mix, knead until smooth and elastic.

2. Divide into 2-3 loaves (I did 3). Shape into rounds, let rest 10 minutes until a damn towel.

3. Dust the pan you plan to cook them on with some sort of gritty grain meal. This helps them get the right crusty outside, and keeps them from sticking. I like to get this on both sides personally.

4. Flatten rounds until .25-.5" thick. Let rise until dough springs back when pressed lightly.

5. Bake around 20 minutes at 435, rotating pans. They're done when they sound hollow.

6. To serve, score with a cross shape and break into 4.

Bastilla بسطيلة

Bastilla or Pastilla (pronounced "ba-still-a" in Arabic) is sort of the national dish of Morocco. It's a sweet-savory pastry - some people are put off by the idea of powdered sugar on a savory pastry, but it's much much more delicious than it sounds.

This is a complicated recipe, but it's good if you want something fancy for a party that's sure to impress.

One thing that you MUST remember is to thaw the phyllo dough before you do this. There should be instructions on how to do so on the package. We had some success using a short trip to the nuke, but it's better to think ahead.

Ingredients:

Phyllo dough
1 small chicken (4# or so)
5 medium onions, diced
Oil
Butter, melted for the phyllo dough.
Cinnamon
Saffron
Dried Safflower for color (or a small amount of turmeric)
1 bunch parsley, minced (I recommend a food processor for that)
8 eggs (+ 1 yolk)
1# blanched peeled almonds
Lots of powdered sugar
Rosewater (optional if you really don't like it - you can use orange blossom water also)
Honey

Preparation:
1. Sautee onions in oil for a little while, then add 1/2 tsp black pepper, 1/2 tsp cinnamon, salt, small amount of coloring agent (safflower or turmeric), and a pinch of saffron. Stir, then add the chicken, and brown it a bit. Five minutes before your done cooking the onions, add the parsley. Add enough water to cook the chicken, but you're going to have to cooking it away, so err on the side of too little water. Cover chicken and cook on low for about 30 minutes or so, until the flesh comes away from the bone easily.

This turned out to be about the right amount of liquid, though it still took a while for it to reduce in the next step:


2. Remove the chicken from the broth, and allow to cool so you can strip off the meet later. Leave the broth on a low flame, and crack in the 8 eggs. You do not need to beat them first- just slowly move them around in the broth, so there are white and yellow chunks as they cook. Now you are going to reduce the broth-egg mixture until it is more or less dry.

Here it is halfway through the reducing process:


And at the end:


Set the mixture aside.

3. Fry the almonds in oil in batches, until nicely browned. If you over-brown one batch, under-brown the next one so it evens out. The almonds in this picture may be a bit too browned, but the batch that's hiding under them is a bit whiter:



Once they have cooled, stick them in a food processor with 1-1.5 c. of sugar (we are not sure how to translate the kinds of sugar, so we used powdered sugar, but normal sugar is probably fine) and 1-2 Tbsp. of rose-water (it sounds like a lot, but it's not too overpowering)

4. If you haven't done so yet, pick the chicken clean and shred the meat. Pour 1-2 Tbsp of the oil from the almonds into the chicken meat.

5. You are now ready to assemble the pie. Get the phyllo dough out, and put one sheet, folded over, into the bottom of a pie pan. Baste with melted butter. Put four more sheets, also folded over, so that they go over the sides but overlap in the center. Baste all with melted butter.

Put the onion-egg mixture down first in a layer, then the chicken, then most of the almond mixture (reserve some if you like for the top), so you have three distinct layers.

Here's the onion-egg layer, and you can see the phyllo configuration. It might have been a thicker variety, so maybe I didn't need to double fold the sheets, but it's up to you:


Once you have added all the layers, fold in the phyllo dough and baste with butter. Add another piece of phyllo to cover and make everything pretty. Tuck it into the sides. Baste the top with butter and an egg yolk.

Bake at 350 until the top is browned (around 30 minutes)

When you remove it from the oven, it'll look like this:


It is traditional to spread about 2 Tbsp honey on the top, then decorate it with powdered sugar and cinnamon and some of the nuts. This was my attempt to show some school spirit with a longhorn pattern (rather indistinct):

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Wild Rice-Stuffed Chicken Breasts

This recipe is for 6 chicken breast halves, which will make good planned-overs, but you can scale it back for 2-4 breasts.

6 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves

Stuffing:
1 large onion, minced
2 ribs celery, minced
2 medium carrots, minced
3 c. cooked wild rice
10 mushrooms, chopped (optional)
1/4 c. roasted sunflower seeds (optional)
4 Tbsp. butter
1 Tbsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper
1 tsp. thyme
1 tsp. rosemary
1/2 tsp. sage
2 Tbsp. chopped parsley
additional salt and pepper

Gravy:
1 can Cream of Something soup
1 can milk or water
1/4 c. dry sherry or vermouth

Pat the breasts dry with paper towels. Preheat the oven to 350.

In a skillet, cook the onions, celery, and carrots in 2 Tbsp. butter until the onions are translucent and begin to brown. If you are using mushrooms, add them and cook them until tender. Add the seasonings and cook 1 minute. Stir in the wild rice and sunflower seeds (if using) until it is well combined with the other ingredients. Check the seasonings and then allow the stuffing to cool enough to handle.

Use a thin, sharp knife to cut a pocket inside the chicken breast, with the entry hole at the top of the breast. Take care not to cut a pocket in your hand. Alternatively, you can butterfly the breast and wrap it around the stuffing.

Stuff the breasts. If you wind up making some extra holes, it's OK--just stuff them as best you can. Sprinkle the breasts with salt and pepper.

In a frying pan or a stove-top safe roasting pan, heat the remaining butter to medium-high. Fry each breast briefly, doing your best to keep the guts inside (it will still taste good). Place the breasts in the roasting pan and surround them with any remaining stuffing.

Mix the cream soup with the milk and sherry (this is easiest if you heat it in the microwave). Pour it over the breasts and wiggle them around a bit so that the soup mixture coats the bottom of the pan. Place in the oven, uncovered, and bake for 18-20 minutes, or until the breasts reach 155 in the center. Remove from the oven and allow them to rest 5 minutes. Serve with gravy spooned over, green veggies and cranberry sauce.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Pig face: slow-cooked bonus!

While I was trying new things with new ingredients I figured I'd go for what is often mentioned amongst foodies in a hushed, reverent whisper: pig cheeks, especially smoked. So, pig face #2, rather than being rolled up with seasonings, was butchered into its constituent parts.


I only have a humble Weber sphere grill, so smoking means placing a big pan of boiling water underneath the meat and continually feeding wood chips to the fire which is off to the side. Here is a pretty good setup which is far more sophisticated than what I used, using only tinfoil. I will not attempt here to give a thorough overview of smoking meat on a grill, when so many already exist online.

Long story short, pig cheeks are not unlike a very fatty bacon in their composition, and are delicious.


Dip them in BBQ sauce and enjoy.

Pig head: Part 2

Continued from here

After curing the face overnight, cooking time arrived. I rolled the face up, resulting in this somewhat grim device:

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Migas

A standard of Tex-Mex cuisine, migas are a great way to use up old, stale corn tortillas. The ingredients are mostly up to you, but this is sort of the standard:

Old corn tortillas, cut into squares
Onion, minced
Bell peppers, diced (this is optional, but I like it)
Jalapenos (if you don't like this too hot, use pickled jalapenos, they're not normally too hot)
Tomatoes or chunky salsa
Cilantro
Eggs
Cheese (cheddar, pepper jack,whatever)

Saute tortillas in some oil until they get a bit more transparent (they're gonna get cooked a lot more, so don't overdo it too much), then add onions and cook until halfway to transparent, then add peppers. I like to add some of the cilantro here. When everything's pretty well cooked, add tomatoes or salsa, cook for a bit. Eggs should be beaten with s&p, cilantro and some milk if possible. Pour eggs over everything, stir, and towards then end add cheese. I like to brown the whole mass a bit.

Serve with lots of salsa on top. Traditionally you're given even more tortillas to eat this with, but I prefer a fork.