Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Tutu à Mineira

The mashed beans from our Brazilian night. This recipe is enough for three hungry, wintered-in Seattlites - scale up, by all means. We used flaky, toasted manioc flour (farofa) instead of the fine manioc flour, and it was tasty.

Tutu à Mineira
1/2 lb black beans
(optional: sprig of epazote)
water to cover
3 cups beer or salted water (1 tsp per cup)

1 1/2 Tbl extra-virgin olive oil or canola oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
1 large tomato, chopped (if you're feeling ambitious, peel, core and seed)
1 green bell pepper, cored, seeded, and chopped
1/2 cup flaky manioc flour
1/2 tsp fresh oregano, chopped (or 1/4 tsp dry)
1/4 cup fresh curly parsley, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup scallion greens, chopped (save the white bulbs for another use)
  1. Pick through the beans for any rocks or broken pieces. Rinse.
  2. Soak the beans overnight, or quick-soak the beans by putting in a saucepan with enough water to cover by an inch, cover, bring to a boil for 2 minutes, and remove from heat and let sit for an hour.
  3. When ready to cook the beans (they should take about 45 minutes), rinse them and refresh the water to cover by 2 inches or so.
  4. Add additional beer or salted water and epazote, if using, and simmer on medium-low for 40-50 minutes. (Keep all bean-cooking liquid.)
  5. Meanwhile, chop vegetables.
  6. Sauté onion and garlic in oil over medium heat for about 5 minutes, until onion is translucent.
  7. Add tomato and green pepper and continue to cook until the peppers are limp and almost tender, about 4 minutes.
  8. Add manioc flour, toss, and continue cooking another minute.
  9. Add 2-3 cups of bean-cooking water, a little at a time and stirring constantly, until the mixture forms a light, wet paste (warning: this will be gluey!)
  10. Fold in the oregano and parsley and set aside.
  11. Season the beans with salt and pepper to taste, and drain (keeping cooking liquid!).
  12. Transfer beans to a food processor, pulse beans on and off in batches until smooth, adding a little bean liquid as needed to keep the mixture loose. You may not use all the bean liquid.
  13. Process in batches, as needed, until all beans are processed and are a smooth and soft, but not heavy, texture.
  14. Place the bean pureé in a clean pot. Add the vegetable mixture and fold together.
  15. Keep warm, preferably over a pan of simmering water, until ready to serve.
  16. Serve with scallions sprinkled on top, as a part of a meal with rice, kale, and a fried banana.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Amaranth Greens Picayune

Originally a dish I had with shrimp at the Water Street Oyster Bar in Corpus Christi, TX, this is one of my favorites. Although I was extremely hungry by the time I ate that dinner, it was terribly delicious and one that I have wanted to try as a base for other ingredients. Since one of our dinnertime guests in Seattle was allergic to shrimp, and we needed a veggie to go along with Alligator Jambalaya, the amaranth greens sitting in our refrigerator were the perfect solution.

Another option is to make a double batch of this, and keep it in a sealed container in the refrigerator. Use 2-3 fl. oz for every serving of either amaranth or shrimp, depending on whether you have some fresh, crusty bread to sop up the leftover sauce!

Amaranth Picayune
(adapted from the Water Street Oyster Bar's Shrimp Picayune)
Serves 6

1/2 cup olive oil
1/3 cup clarified salted butter
1/4 cup medium brown sugar, packed
2 Tbl Worcestershire
1 1/2 bay leaves
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup + 1 Tbl vermouth
2 tsp dried oregano
2 tsp dried thyme leaves
2 tsp garlic powder or granulated garlic
2 tsp salt (optional)
2 tsp pepper
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp rosemary
3/4 tsp Tabasco sauce
3/4 tsp poultry seasoning (if using shrimp)

1 large bunch amaranth greens, stripped of their leaves and stems cut into 1" lengths and smashed,
or 2 large bunches, using only the leaves
(or 6 shrimp per person, up to 4 servings)

  1. Heat broiler on High.
  2. Place all sauce ingredients in a saucepan and heat on medium, just until sugar dissolves.
  3. Place greens in a large, shallow oven-proof basin. Drizzle hot sauce over greens while stirring until well-coated.
  4. Place directly under broiler ~2-3 minutes. Using tongs, stir the greens so browned ones are on the bottom.
  5. (Shrimp: under broiler for 5-7 minutes. Best to use individual dishes for each serving)
  6. Repeat until you have a browned pile of sticky, sour, piquant greens!

Alligator Jambalaya!

When your younger brother is coming for a over with his girlfriend from NYC, what better way to test her out than alligator jambalaya? (she passed this test, btw, as well as the steak tartare and rillette (lard) test - we'll let him keep her). :) It was really good - sez the bona fide Southerner from Alabama we had at the table - creamy, well-spiced, and great flavors.

Alligator is apparently tough and stringy, so almost any recipe (unless you're cooking it for ages and ages) calls for pounding alligator fillets with a meat mallet. We did this, and found that the alligator disintegrated into the jambalaya, which was disappointing. Next time, we'll pound any fillets that we want to braise or fry, but simply cut into chunks without pounding for longer cooking.

(adapted from this recipe - it credits Chef John Folse, but I can't see where the original recipe comes from) We served this with Amaranth Greens Picayune.

Alligator Jambalaya
1 lb alligator fillet, thawed
1 lb hot Italian sausage, cut into 1" rounds
1 lb shredded pork butt (leftover BBQ is great for this!)
(or, substitute 1 lb shrimp or fish, 1 lb hot Italian sausage or andouille, and 1 lb pork, chicken or duck)

4 Tbl vegetable oil
1 cup green bell peppers, chopped
2 cloves garlic, pressed
1 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1 cup celery, chopped

2 (16oz) cans chopped tomatoes
1 (16oz) can fire-roasted tomatoes with green chilies
2 cups chicken stock
1 cup chopped green onion

2 Tbl dried basil
2 Tbl dried oregano
2 tsp dried thyme
2 (Turkish) bay leaves
1 tsp red pepper (paprika or cayenne, your choice for spiciness)
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp green peppercorns
1 Tbl salt, or to taste
2 cups raw medium or long-grain white rice

  1. Preheat oven to 350°.
  2. In a deep frying pan, saute the bell pepper, garlic, parsley and celery in oil.
  3. In another frying pan, brown the sausage in a little oil.
  4. While this is cooking, add tomatoes and their liquid, the chicken stock, and green onion to a pot with a lid that can cook on the stove and in the oven (Corningware, All-Clad, etc.).
  5. Add the sauteed vegetables, spices, rice and meats to the tomatoes and stock.
  6. Cook over medium-high heat until the liquid is absorbed, stirring occasionally to ensure rice doesn't burn.
  7. Bake, covered, in the oven for 25 minutes.

Detour do Brazil

Christmas itself is generally blah - all the leadup is great, but the actual day itself results in somewhat of a disappointment. Not this year - not only did I have a wonderful time, I got to eat great food, and picked up a new fun cookbook to boot! The book is Brazil; A cook's tour, by Christopher Idone. Although the layout is ghastly, with recipes sprinkled throughout in a somewhat willy-nilly fashion (they only hint at falling along regional lines... sort of), I was able to tag tasty-looking recipes with some removeable, colored Post-it tabs (color-coded by ingredients, of course: green for vegetarian dishes, yellow for poultry, etc.).

Although we only had the following five recipes from the book so far, I am a fan. We had a friend over for dinner, who was kind enough to be a guniea pig for this and a couple of other items - like Japanese prickly ash, which we didn't tell her makes your tongue numb until after she tried it. But, the dinner turned out surprisingly well, considering the simplicity. We started cooking the black beans in the afternoon, but otherwise took about an hour for the whole meal, including our somewhat imperfect version of chatting while hosting. For just us it would have taken about 30-40 minutes.

Brazilian, Take I
Couve (sauteed kale)
Banana Frita (fried ripe baby bananas)
Simple Farofa (uh - like dry breadcrumbs... kind of)
Tutu à Mineira (mashed beans)
Arroz (boiled white rice)

The menu was just about perfect, especially since all these are commonly served, normally together. Kale, which I think of as a cold-weather vegetable, is apparently a very common side dish to Brazilian beans and rice. It blended perfectly with the thick black beans and buttery rice, and the fried banana really tied everything together with a tang of sweetness.

The meal was missing at least one or two components. The hot sauce I missed - the meat I did not. Most of the recipes in this book involve meat, so that will likely happen soon, or we'll try to make a veg version of them. The following is what I would serve at a dinner with 6-8 people, if I had actually planned ahead for it.

Brazilian, Take II
Limonada Suissa (limeade)
Pão de Queijo (Brazilian cheezy-poofs)

Arroz (boiled white rice)
Couve (sauteed kale)
Banana Frita (fried ripe baby bananas)
Simple Farofa (uh - like dry breadcrumbs... kind of)
Malagueta Pepper Sauce (the national hot sauce)
Tutu à Mineira (mashed beans)
side of pork sausages and/or some exotic meat dish

dessert: banana butter, coconut sweets, Brazil nuts dipped in chocolate, or something

Monday, December 22, 2008

New favorite quick soup - Tom Yum Kung or Tom Yum Gai

As snow continues to blanket our beloved Seattle in over a foot of snow (with more on the way!), soup seems necessary. Thankfully, we had been shopping for the basics of Thai cooking before the worst of the snow, so we had everything on hand. After obtaining the short list of unusual ingredients, this hot and sour soup with shrimp is extremely simple and quick. We've had it now four days in a row, and are still looking forward to it every day. It is exactly how I remember it tasting in Thailand, so if you're on the lookout for authentic, here you are! Thanks to Brady and Serena for loaning us the cookbook for this one.

As a caveat, one of the 'authentic' elements of most Thai soups is the emphasis on large chunks of aromatics. These woody, membranous, chewy or otherwise inedible bits are simply picked out of the bowl at the table. Generally, this is considered too much work in Western minds, and almost rude of the chef to insist that the diners do all the work of taking out the large (though still edible) chunks. The Thai people are fairly self-sufficient, however, and are happy to share the workload. If you don't like the big chunks in your soup - by all means, strain them out before the soup gets to the table. But be warned, these soups are flavored by the aromatics, and should be served immediately as the soup is heated through. The more time you spend in the kitchen picking out lemongrass and lime leaves, the more the freshness of the flavors diminishes.

The Thai word for shrimp is 'kung'. If you can get shrimp with the heads still attached, great - you can make a quick, very flavorful, broth with these. What we had on hand was some homemade chicken stock and a bag of frozen, peeled, deveined prawns from Trader Joe's. The prawns have the last couple shell segments attached at the tail, so we pulled these off by warming just the frozen tips in water, and boiling these shells in chicken stock for a couple minutes. We've also tried cooking this with a mushroom stock by boiling sliced dried shiitakes, but it wasn't as good. The chicken version of this dish, Tom Yum Gai, is also tasty, but try the prawns if you get the chance; it's more exotic and unusual.

Thai hot and sour soup - Tom Yum Kung (or Tom Yum Gai)
makes 2 servings - easily doubled or tripled
adapted from the Chiang Mai Thai Cookery School cookbook by Sompon and Elizabeth Nabnian

1 1/2 cups water or chicken stock
4-6 prawns with some kind of shell, OR 1 skinless chicken breast

3 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed with the butt of a knife or a pestle
3 small (or 1 large) shallots, sliced
5 thin slices fresh (or 3 dried) galangal, skin removed
1 stalk lemongrass, lower 1/3 only, cut into 1-inch pieces

1/3 can straw mushrooms, halved (unpeeled ones are fun, if you can find them)
8 small cherry tomatoes, halved

2-4 small green Thai chiles, halved lengthwise
1 1/2 Tbl Thai fish sauce
3 magrood (kaffir) lime leaves, torn in half

1 Tbl freshly squeezed lime juice
1/4 cup chopped cilantro

  1. Have all ingredients sliced, smashed, and measured out before you begin - this soup is quick!
  2. Bring the stock to a boil in a small saucepan.
  3. Add the shrimp heads and peels (if using shrimp), and boil for 5 minutes.
  4. Add the garlic, shallots, galangal and lemongrass (and chicken, if using). Boil for 3 minutes.
  5. Remove the chicken when just barely pink in the middle, let cool. Shred.
  6. Add straw mushrooms and tomatoes. Boil another 2 minutes.
  7. Add chilies, fish sauce, and lime leaves. Cook 2 minutes.
  8. Add the protein, either prawns or chicken, and gently cook 1-2 minutes, or until just done.
  9. Remove from heat.
  10. Add the lime juice and cilantro only AFTER removing from heat. Adjust seasonings as necessary.
  11. Serve hot, with a small bowl or plate for pulling out lemongrass, galangal, lime leaves and/or chiles.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Thai Green Curry - Gaeng Kiew Waan

As one of the more distinctive dishes of international cuisine, Thai green curry is one of my favorites. Most of the Thai people I have met, in and outside of Thailand, have a thorough knowledge of balance in flavors. Foods must be sweet and sour, salty and bitter, fishy and floral, spicy and creamy, often over delicious Jasmine rice. If any dish represents the ultimate in Thai balance, it is green curry. The basis of this spicy curry is green chilies, then incorporates a fair representation of the Thai aromatics. Spicy curry paste and creamy coconut milk, sweet palm sugar and sour lime juice, salty fish sauce and bitter eggplants, floral Jasmine rice and aromatic holy basil. To make the best green curry, taste for the balance of all these flavors - not blended together so you can't tell they exist, but an equal balance of strong flavors.

This curry dish is quick, and the tricks to making really good green curry are simple. The ideal texture and flavoring of the coconut milk come from sauteing the curry paste first, then cooking the meat, and adding most of the coconut milk at the end, just long enough to heat it up. This is a quick process, and once the coconut milk is in the curry shouldn't be kept on the stove for long. Also, add Thai basil and lime juice only after it has come off the burner. I've made a number of green curries that were unbalanced and dimensionless, or separated, without these steps.

We made our own curry paste (recipe below), but most Thai green curry pastes will suffice if you follow the proper technique. The best flavor will come from a couple authentic Thai ingredients, even after the curry paste. Many of them are commonplace now in Asian markets, though: lime leaves, Thai basil, and Thai (green globe) eggplants. My personal favorites that make the dish especially authentic, if you can find them, are pea eggplants (the size of large green peas), and galingale, or krachai, a member of the ginger family. Galingale is similar in flavor to galangal, but differently shaped - while galangal looks like an overgrown, woody piece of ginger, galingale is a joined bunch of long, slim, smooth, finger-like rootlets. We found both of these (former pickled, the latter frozen) at Viet Wah, a large Vietnamese grocery store on 12th and Jackson in the International District of Seattle.

Thai Green Curry - Gaeng Kiew Waan
modified from Cooking Thai Food in American Kitchens, by Malulee Pinsuvana

Green curry paste

10 fresh green Thai chilies
2 Tbl chopped lemongrass
1 tsp chopped cilantro roots or 1 Tbl cilantro stems
1 Tbl chopped shallot
1 Tbl chopped garlic
1 tsp fresh or frozen galangal, chopped (kha)
1 tsp fresh or frozen galingale (krachai)
1 tsp pounded coriander seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds (yirah)
7 black peppercorns
1 tsp salt

1 tsp Thai shrimp paste (kapi)

  1. Dry-fry all ingredients except shrimp paste in frying pan until aromatic (don't let this get brown - it will lose its texture and complexity).
  2. Transfer to a mortar and pestle or a small hand blender, adding a little water if necessary, and grind to a paste.
  3. Keep in a sealed jar in the refrigerator. This will make 16 servings or so.

Curry dish

1 Tbl vegetable oil
1 Tbl green curry paste
1 can coconut milk, preferably Chakoah, divided
1 Tbl Thai fish sauce
1/2 lb. sliced firm tofu or sliced raw chicken breast
1-2 tsp palm sugar, or 1 tsp granulated sugar
1 Tbl sliced lime leaf
1/2 c. fresh or pickled pea eggplants (makurd poong) (optional)
2 round Thai (green globe) eggplants (makurd ploud), cut into quarters, or sliced zucchini
1 green and 1 red hot Thai chile (cut lengthwise)

1 Tbl fresh squeezed lime juice, plus more to taste
1 stem holy basil (bai holapa), leaves removed
1 Tbl chopped cilantro
1 finger of galingale (krachai), sliced thin on the bias

  1. Preheat the vegetable oil in a wok over medium heat
  2. Stir-fry the curry paste for about 1 minute.
  3. Add two spoonfuls of coconut milk, then add tofu or chicken and the fish sauce.
  4. When the tofu or chicken is cooked, add the rest of the coconut milk and bring to a BRIEF boil.
  5. Add the sugar, lime leaf, and pea and Thai eggplants (or zucchini).
  6. Simmer for a couple of minutes.
  7. Remove from heat, and stir in garnish ingredients.
  8. Add more fish sauce, sugar, or lime juice according to taste.
  9. Serve immediately over steamed Jasmine rice.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Back in business!

Thank you, to those of you who read this blog and have reminded us to keep it up!

Now that Tanya's computer is back up and running, there will be more cooking and recipe misadventures. Since the last post, we have:
  • visited North Carolina, with amazing BBQ and fried green tomatoes amidst beautiful fall color
  • visited the cuisines of Japan, Germany, the American South, Ethiopia, and Morocco
  • expanded our pantry to include ingredients possibly never found together in one place before
  • explored a healthy number of Seattle's imported food stores
  • put the garden to bed for the winter, and planted winter veggies
  • harvested over 30lbs of red and green tomatoes, as well as several crops of arugula, potatoes, cress, parsley, Swiss chard, and fresh baby carrots!
  • been sick as dogs for two weeks with a combination of strep throat and other illnesses
  • generally been settling in for the winter in dreary Seattle.
Thanks to those who subscribe, and all the wonderful friends we have been using, shamelessly, to test out our new kitchen strategies.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

What's Happening

We've got a few dishes planned for later this week, another Greek menu.

We'll start with a plate of olives, eggplant and pomegranite salad, feta, roasted peppers, wedges of pita, and -- of course -- that flaming cheese thing, saganaki. Next up is the classic egg and lemon soup, avgolemono. The third course is a trio of pasticio, giant lima beans in a light tomato sauce served au gratin, and a Greek salad. Dessert is a baklava of pistachios spiced with cinnamon and cardamom drizzled in a rose water and honey syrup.

Right now, we're starting on the stock for the soup. In a 12 quart stockpot on the stove is the carcass of a chicken, what's left after we ate the good parts: the wings, back, and ribcage. There's about a half teaspoon of black peppercorns and a similar amount of whole coriander seed. The rest is one medium onion, quartered, and about 10 cloves of garlic that are too small for anything else; that'd be about 2 regular large sized cloves.

After about 45 minutes, we're going to take the chicken out and strip off the meat that's left and add it to tonight's dinner.

Yesterday morning we started soaking a cup of black beans in a few cups of water, and a last night we cooked them with a half teaspoon of salt and a sprig of epazote. We've mentioned that before, but simply put, it's an herb in the same family as beets, chard, spinach, and amaranth. It's essential for cooking beans, and allegedly makes them more digestible. (We're still skeptical of that claim, though it does make them taste much better.) You can easily find it several stores in the area. We've seen it at the Roosevelt Whole Foods, at ABC market on Beacon hill, and at Uwajimaya. It's also available dried at most any tienda. We also have a very wild one growing in our garden. Just ask if you come up short.

Anyway, back to tonight. And the chicken. Gallo pinto the national dish of Costa Rica, ironically, contains no chicken even though it means 'painted rooster'. It's just beans and rice, but it's guuud. We'll have that with the chicken tarted up with something we haven't thought of yet. Tanya's working on a salad of corn, carrot, cilantro, bell pepper, and probably lime juice, garlic, and a few other things.

We've got some broccoli on deck and a few very delicate zucchini from the farmer's market.

I'd better get up and help out.

More later.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Rich stewed chicken thighs

This was simply amazing. Utterly, utterly yummy, and fully deserving of a Yummy Stuff post. A thick, rich stew with juicy chicken thighs, perfect over boiled Yukon Gold potatoes. This made a dinner for two, but could easily be scaled up.

There are two distinctive herbs in this recipe - lovage and chervil, commonly used in German cooking. In Seattle, you can find chervil regularly at Whole Foods. It has a very delicate green-anise flavor. Lovage you can sometimes find as part of a prepackaged "seafood mix" of herbs - it looks like large Italian parsley leaves, but tastes like celery leaves with a bizarre twist. Substitute with celery leaves only if you can't find lovage - it is worth it. If you live in Seattle and know Pat and Tanya, feel free to ask for some - we have it growing in our backyard. It loves the climate here.

Richly stewed chicken thighs
makes 2 healthy servings

2 organic chicken thighs, skins included (remove later, if desired)
1/4 c flour
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2-3 Tbl vegetable oil

2 Tbl flour
2 cups COLD chicken stock
1 large carrot, sliced
1 small bundle (10-15 stems) fresh chervil, 4 sprigs Italian parsley, and 2 sprigs fresh French thyme
1 Tbl lovage leaflets, whole
1/2 small McIntosh apple, cored and coarsely grated (or some other sweet, flavorful apple such as Gala)
2 small leeks, sliced 1/2" thick
2 tsp salted butter
1 tsp salt

  1. Combine the flour, salt and pepper, and put onto a large plate.
  2. Dredge the chicken in the flour, coating both sides well.
  3. Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat until hot.
  4. Brown the chicken, starting with skin side down, about 5 minutes on each side.
  5. Remove the chicken to a plate, and drain oil in pan to 2 Tbl.
  6. Return pan to medium heat, and sprinkle 2 Tbl flour over hot oil.
  7. Stir over medium heat with a spatula or wooden spoon, cooking just until the flour is cooked, just under 5 minutes or so. The roux should be barely a light tan, but no darker.
  8. Add the stock, a little at a time, whisking completely between each addition.
  9. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, and add carrots, herbs, and apple.
  10. Reduce heat to a simmer, return chicken to the stew, and cover loosely. Turn chicken once during cooking.
  11. While the chicken simmers, heat a frying pan over medium-high heat.
  12. When hot, melt butter in the pan. After foam subsides, saute leeks until just turning brown, about 7 minutes. (Do not crowd the pan - if you have too many to fit in one layer, do this in two batches. The leeks should be caramelized in butter, not steamed.)
  13. Add leeks to the stew as soon as they are done.
  14. Continue cooking chicken until just barely done, about 20-30 minutes. Near the end of cooking, add salt, and adjust seasonings as needed. If the sauce needs more body, add 1 tsp Dijon mustard.

Vegetarian German night

As we sat down to eat last night, we looked at each other and realized that virtually the entire meal we were about to eat was local and organic. Not only that, it was extremely delicious - it made us want to eat like this all the time. It reminded me of the food of my childhood, and I felt very connected to a long tradition of serving these foods during the fall harvest. Granted, there would likely have been a ham involved, but we just don't eat that much meat - it wasn't missed. The only improvement might be to find another vegetarian dish that appeals to the umami receptors a little better. The litmus test would be my father - if you can serve him a vegetarian meal and he doesn't say "it was very good, but I don't feel full without the meat," you've accomplished something great.

A German Night To Remember

Kase - A hard, local goat cheese
ApfelsoBe - Applesauce made with local McIntosh apples
Gurkensalat - Cucumber salad with tarragon vinegar and dill
Kartoffelsalat - Potato salad with chervil & lovage
Sauerkraut - Pickled cabbage with garlic
Kohlrabi mit butter - Kohlrabi (a turnip-like vegetable) with goat butter
Bohnen mit butter - Beans with goat butter
Waldmeister getranke - A drink made with infusion of sweet woodruff

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Traditional Japanese menu

We were lucky enough to have three friends over for a mid-week dinner party on Wednesday - as our (basically) first real dinner party together, we were a bit nervous. It turned out quite well, however - we had a blast. One thing we've learned about Japanese food, though, is that it takes a substantial chunk of time. Guests began arriving about 9pm, and we began eating around 9:30 or so. After a leisurely set of 4 courses, then something more to drink for a few of us, we had two guests independently enjoying the new couches in the living room. Our recommendation if you're making Japanese food, unless you serve it bento-style: start early, enjoy late!


Clear soup

(garnish: baby garden radish, enoki threads, and a fresh shitake)

Chicken teriyaki

Drenched radish

Green beans with sesame-miso dressing

(garnish: garlic chive scape, nasturtium petals)

Rice with shiso

Vinegared red lotus root

(garnish: cucumber strips)

Miso soup


Green tea

(deleted: bean cake
with chestnuts)

Plum wine

(recipes to follow soon)

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Spicy Amaranth Greens with Preserved Lemons

This dish was inspired by one made with spinach that we found online - since we're so in love with amaranth, it got these greens instead. Also, the few spices in it weren't enough for our heat-loving palates, so we added our own fresh harissa and balanced out the heat with some creamy, resinous raw pine nuts. This is super spicy, but that can be altered with less of the harissa. It is unusual to have cooked parsley and cilantro in a salad in the Western part of the world - it's too bad. The cilantro, parsley, and celery are in the same plant family (Apiaceae - the carrot family), so mirror the 'carroty' flavor of each other. Each has its own twist on the family jewels, however, and they all end up balancing each other out. The pine nuts are a must, as they do something special to all three of them.

1 lb amaranth greens
3/4 c parsley, finely chopped
1/2 c cilantro, coarsely chopped
1/2 c celery leaves, chopped
2 garlic cloves,minced/pressed
1 Tbl spicy harissa
1 preserved lemon quarter, finely chopped
1 Tbl lemon juice
1/4 c raw pine nuts
3 cherry tomatoes, stemmed and halved
  1. Trim off tough stems from the amaranth, remove bruised and yellowed leaves. Rinse well, drain, and coarsely chop.
  2. In a 5-6 quart pan, combine amaranth greens, parsley, cilantro, and celery leaves. Stir over high heat just until greens are wilted, 3-5 minutes.
  3. Pour vegetables into a colander set over a bowl. Press greens mixture to remove liquid; place vegetables in a serving bowl. (If made ahead, cover and chill up to a day.)
  4. Return drained greens liquid to pan; add garlic and harissa and whisk to combine.
  5. Boil, uncovered, over high heat until reduced to about 2 Tbl, 3-5 minutes.
  6. Add oil, preserved lemon, and lemon juice.
  7. Top greens with tomatoes and pour dressing over the vegetables.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Easy Poached Black Cod

For a quick, tasty poached fish, assemble the following:
  • 1 lb black cod fillet
  • 6-10 thin slices of fresh ginger
  • a few lemon or lime wedges
  • dry vermouth
Arrange the the ginger slices in a skillet big enough to hold the fish. Put the fish on top of the slices, skin side down. Set the citrus wedges around the fish. Pour just enough vermouth into the skillet to cover the bottom of the pan. Cover and put on simmer until fish is done, about 15 to 20 minutes.

Be sure to save the broth -- it's a great start to a soup.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Tomatillo trio - what's the best way to make salsa verde?

The night of the tomatillo trio, inspiration came from the little over a pound of tomatillos sitting there, staring, waiting, asking (no, crying!) to be used up. They begged to be made into salsa...but what's the best kind of tomatillo salsa? And if you're going to be making over a pound's worth of salsa, it better be the best, right? (all our friends are sniggering here)

The three most basic options revolved around cooking methodology: raw, roasted or cooked (simmered). Recipes don't seem to vary much in their ingredients - they involve tomatillos, garlic, chiles, onion, salt, lime juice, cilantro, and occasionally chicken broth and/or cream. All three methods seemed like they would have their own merits, so we gave them all a try! Armed with 6 oz of husked tomatillos, a clove of garlic, half of a small onion, half of a fresh chile (the purple kind), salt, cilantro, and lime juice for each one, the following three recipes came to a papery-husked fruition.

Several sets of people tried all three, and were not told how each was made. Pat's housemate, Evgenia, loved the cooked one with cream, then the roasted, then the raw. Tanya's workmates liked them all, too, in the order of preference based mostly on what kinds of foods they normally eat: the CSA worksharing kayak guide (a.k.a. self-described 'Seattle male action figure') liked the raw best, the southern California sparkly clever chica with a penchant for SoCal Mexican food liked the roasted best, and the ex-military geology/chemistry teacher from the midwest was on the fence between the cooked creamy one and the roasted.

Each of the three had its merits, and warrants a different usage. Since there wasn't a clear winner, the pros and cons of all three, as far as we can tell, are below. Enjoy all three!
The raw was extremely fast to make, using up a maximum of ten minutes' worth of procrastination time (directions: wash vegetables, put in blender, blend, eat). The fast timing was balanced by the fact that it took a day or two to really mellow out the flavors - by the third day, it was by far the yummiest. The flavor is sharp and acidic at first, and not really complex (has one, liberally two, dimensions). Uses for this one would be as a sauce on something that has a creamyness or saltiness to it already, and wants a small bit of sharpness to balance it out. Huevos rancheros, enchiladas, taco salad with lots of other ingredients, etc.
The roasted salsa verde did not take terribly long to make, either - since it was a small quantity, all the vegetables fit into the toaster oven quite easily on broil. Fifteen or twenty minutes later, blend, eat. The only thing to watch for is making sure the veggies get an even amout of char so you can get a really good fire-roasted flavor. This was, generally speaking, the best salsa for SuperBowl. It stands alone for tortilla chips with a couple layers of complexity, and is mellow enough for all the flavors to mingle right out of the blender. Try this with basic weeknight tacos, burritos, taco salads, nachos, or go straight for the chilaquiles in the morning with fire-roasted green salsa. Yum!
This salsa took the longest of the three to make. Involving chicken broth and cream, it was also the one that wouldn't fit on a vegan table. But, it was creamy and smooth, having a mouthfeel that mirrored avocado. The tomatillo flavor was there but much more even, without real acidity to speak of. This sauce is great if you're looking for an almost cheese-saucy kind of element. This could easily get used as a stand-alone salsa, but the fire-roasted will go more quickly. :) Use over something that's inherently smooth already, like TexMex enchiladas. We had it later in the week poured over some black cod steamed in ginger, lime and vermouth... heaven.


This recipe was not only a winner for its flavor and texture, but also its authenticity. Pat had this soup in Morocco, where it is traditionally served as the break for the Ramadan fast. A surprisingly velvety soup - the rich, silkiness of the broth are ideal for a winter's night, served with couscous and an assortment of Moroccan side dishes and salads. Even though this was a half recipe, it lasted us a while. It is also one of the recipes annoyingly cut-and-pasted throughout the web from recipe bots, along with all of the spelling and grammatical errors. We changed a couple things, but kept what we think is one of the most important parts: the flour, blended into the vegetables, added 20 minutes before the end of cooking.

serves 2 for three days, or 4-6 small servings
  • 1/4 lb lamb, diced
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1/8 tsp saffron
  • 1 Tbl paprika
  • 4-5 c chicken stock (not broth)
  • 1 soup bone
  • 1/2 Tbl butter
  • 1 Tbl salt
  • 1/8 tsp pepper
  • 1/4 c chana dal (baby chickpeas)
  • 1/4 c dried fava beans, washed and dried
  • 2 1/2 Tbl all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 c water
  • 3/4 lb tomatoes
  • 1/2 bunch parsley
  • 1/2 bunch fresh coriander
  • 1/4 c cooked or canned chickpeas
  • 1 /2 Tbl butter
  • 3 Tbl vermicelli
  • 1 /2 lemon, juiced
  1. Brown the lamb, onion, saffron and paprika (to taste) in a deep pan.
  2. Add 3 cups of chicken stock, soup bone, butter, salt, pepper, chana dal, and the dried fava beans.
  3. Begin soaking flour in 1/2 c. water.
  4. Simmer, covered, for 2 hours or more (4 hours is ideal).
  5. 20 minutes before serving, put the tomatoes, parsley, coriander, and flour/water paste in a blender and add to the soup pan with the chickpeas.
  6. Add 1 1/2 cups of stock, and when it returns to boil, add the vermicelli.
  7. When the vermicelli is cooked, add butter and lemon juice.
  8. Serve each bowl with a wedge of lemon.
*Note: Lentils may be substituted for chick peas; meat can be chicken; yeast may be used in
place of flour and water if that mixture was not made night before; rice may be substituted for vermicelli.

A soup served each night at sundown to break the Ramadan Fast.
This receipe is altered from COOKING IN MOROCCO by the American Women's Association of Rabat.

Lettuce and orange salad with walnuts and cinnamon

A simple salad that goes beautifully with a rich Moroccan dish, lightening it a bit but still echoing
the spices. Certainly one of our favorite winners, this could lighten a number of dishes, and was
very refreshing on a hot summer night.

Lettuce and orange salad with walnuts and cinnamon

Yield: 6 servings

1 head romaine lettuce
3 navel or temple oranges
2 Tbl fresh lemon juice
2 Tbl sugar
1 pinch salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tb orange flower water
3/4 c toasted walnuts; chopped

Wash lettuce and section into leaves, discarding the tough outer ones.
Drain; wrap in paper towels to dry. Store in refrigerator until

Cut off peel and white membrane from oranges using a small sharp knife.
Section the oranges by cutting away all the membranes from the orange flesh.
As you work, lift out each section and place in a small mixing bowl. Squeeze the
juice from the remainder of the orange over the sections to keep them moist.
Cover; keep chilled.

Make a dressing by mixing the lemon juice, sugar, salt, cinnamon,
orange flower water and 2 tb. of the orange juice. Blend well, then
taste. The dressing should be sweet.

Just before serving, shred the lettuce and arrange in a glass serving
dish. Pour the dressing over it; toss. Make a design around the
edges with overlapping sections of orange, then sprinkle the salad
with the chopped walnuts and dust with more cinnamon. Serve

Variation: Prepare as above, using 3/4 cup chopped dates and almonds
in place of the chopped walnuts.

Modified from Couscous and Other Good Food from Morocco by Paula Wolfert

Monday, August 25, 2008

No Cream of Broccoli Soup

OMG, this was quick - and easy - and tasty! It was a great way to use up a small amount of broccoli from the back of the fridge, but could also be used for a bright, fresh addition from the farmer's market, too. Julia Child offered a cream soup base for her broccoli soup, but I used her onion and rice base with a tiny bit of yogurt instead. Thank you, Julia, for all your wonderful soup bases!

The ways this soup could be modified are endless; just add 1-2 servings of any vegetable that you'd want to take a starring role: carrots, leeks, fennel bulb, spinach, red pepper, parsley, beets, Swiss chard, potatoes.... We may try each of these in turn, week by week, to see which ones fit better than others.

No Cream of Broccoli Soup
(makes two servings - a littler one and a bigger one)

1 cup sliced onion
1 Tbl butter
1/4 cup raw white rice
2 cups water
1 small head broccoli
3 cups additional water
1 tsp salt
2-4 Tbl Greek yogurt or sour cream
  • Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat.
  • Saute the onions, just until they are soft and translucent, about 7-8 minutes.
  • Add the rice and 2 cups water.
  • Bring to a boil over high heat and cover.
  • Lower the heat and let simmer for ~20 minutes, or until the rice is tender and falling apart.
  • Meanwhile, prepare the broccoli by cutting the flowerbuds into small florets. Peel the stem and cut into 1/4 inch slices.
  • Boil the broccoli in the additional water and salt until just done, 3 to 5 minutes.
  • Reserving the broccoli cooking water, strain out the broccoli and let cool.
  • Boil the reserved cooking water over high heat until reduced to 1 cup.
  • Puree broccoli and onion/rice mixture together in a blender or food processor until smooth.
  • Pour puree into the pot with the reduced vegetable cooking water, and simmer for 2-3 minutes to blend flavors.
  • Remove from heat and mix in yogurt or sour cream to taste.

Freekeh - a smoky substitute for bulgar or couscous

It's freekeh. Cool name.

Made of green wheat, freekeh (or farik in Arabic) is a very smoky base dish that would substitute well for bulgar wheat or couscous. The grains are harvested early, before they fully ripen and become dry, then the outer papery chaff is quickly burned off. The result is a smoky wheat that you can use just like bulgar. The generalized recipe for the whole (unbroken) wheat is: 4-5 cups of water to 2 cups of freekeh, adding 1 tsp salt and 1 Tbl olive oil if desired. Bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer 45 minutes.

As a base for tabbouleh, it was *awesome*! The smokiness made the whole dish much rounder on the palate, almost like a baba ghanoush version of tabbouleh. This is a new favorite, I'm sure we'll be using this as a staple for a while.

Freekeh Tabbouleh
(makes enough for two - a bigger and a littler appetite)

1 cup uncooked freekeh
2.5 cups water
1 tsp salt
1 Tbl Moroccan olive oil
1 large fresh tomato
1 small red pepper
1/2 cup minced red onion
1/2 cup minced fresh curly parsley (Italian is less tasty for this dish)
1/4 cup minced fresh dill
1/2 lemon, juiced
2 Tbl Moroccan olive oil
few grinds black pepper

  • Bring the freekeh in water, salt and oil to a boil in a small saucepan.
  • Cover, lower heat, and simmer for 45 minutes.
  • Take the pot off the burner and let it cool while you chop the other ingredients.
  • Chop tomato, pepper, and mince the other ingredients.
  • Whisk olive oil, lemon juice and black pepper together in a medium bowl.
  • Add the cooled freekeh and mix.
  • Fold in the other ingredients, and adjust seasonings as needed.
  • Let marinate for at least an hour. Serve at room temperature.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

On Chipotles in Adobo, and Mexican Slaw

Our new favorite ingredient: chipotles in adobo. Great stuff! It has smoked jalepeño peppers (chipotles) in a chile sauce that's thick, rich, hot and very smoky. The adobo sauce has tomatoes, vinegar, garlic, and some combination of spices. Use the adobo a teaspoonful at a time, or mince a small chipotle, to give body and heat to a sauce or salad dressing. Adobo, the Filipino dish, we'll tackle another day.

This slaw we made for a basic, quick lunch with tortillas, fresh tomatoes, avocado and some red onion. We had it alongside a yuca root (a starchy potato-like vegetable) I gave to Pat some 5 months ago - what can I say? It keeps.

Mexican Slaw

1/4 head shredded green cabbage, the fresher the better
1/4 cup minced or shredded onion

1/4 cup Best Foods mayonnaise (or half mayo, half sour cream)
1/2 lime, juiced
2 Tbl chopped cilantro
1 small chipotle in adobo, minced, with seeds
1/2 tsp adobo sauce
pinch salt, to taste
(optional: pinch of sugar, or to taste)

Mix dressing ingredients together. Adjust seasonings to taste. Pour over cabbage and onion, mix well, and let sit about 30 minutes to allow flavors to blend.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Amaranth Greens II - Mexican style

The same day we saw the amaranth greens at the farmer's market (Amaranth Greens I), there was another vegetable sold as 'Chinese Spinach'. It looked suspiciously like the amaranth greens, but didn't have the same magenta splotch in the middle of the leaves. Instead, it had fuchsia undersides and stems, so of course we decided to get it.

First, we tried searching online for both amaranth greens and 'Chinese spinach'. As we had suspected, they are both an amaranth. Beyond that, all bets are off. Any authoritative information about the genus Amaranthus is convoluted at best. Apparently, the species don't stay in their neat little boxes, deciding instead to look frighteningly alike and interbreed with each other. A number of plant genera do this, creating a mess for botanists. This assertion isn't stated for amaranth in as many places as it should. (Tanya is overly trained in this area, researched a group of plants that did this for a significant chunk of her life, and is very, very picky about authoritative information. If you want more info, ask!) We'll do some more research, but this post is likely to stand for a while.

The 'Chinese spinach' tasted very similar to the amaranth greens - until we do a taste test with the two together, we'll call them the same. Last night's foray into pozole was perfectly accompanied by these greens, with a dressing that we'll probably want to make again and again: ground pumpkin seeds, lime juice, chipotle...mmmmmmmm........

Amaranth greens, Mexican style
serves 2
  • 1 bunch amaranth greens or 'Chinese spinach', steamed until just barely done
  • 2 Tbl raw pumpkin seeds, finely ground in a coffee or spice grinder
  • 1/2 tsp adobo, from a can of chipotle chiles in adobo
  • juice from 1/2 lime
  • 1/4 tsp salad oil
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 Tbl chopped onion
  • pinch salt
  • 1-2 Tbl water (to desired consistency)
Blend/puree everything but the greens in a small mixer until smooth. Adjust seasonings. Top the greens with it and enjoy!

Saffron Orzo Salad

One of the best potluck dishes I know: very quick, easy, goes with anything at a potluck (maybe not sushi night, though), and super yummy. We had it Monday night, along with several other things that were decidedly NOT mole.

Saffron Orzo Salad
modified from Giada de Laurenti's Food Network show
makes about 6 heaping servings
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 1 teaspoon saffron threads
  • 1 pound dried orzo
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced
  • 1/2 tsp lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt, preferably with a high mineral content like Ile de Re
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley

In a large pot, bring the chicken stock to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low, bringing the stock to a simmer. Add the saffron, stir, and allow the saffron to bloom, about 5 minutes. Return the heat to medium and the stock to a boil, then add the orzo and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain orzo and transfer to a large bowl. Add the olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and parsley. Toss to combine.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Amaranth Greens I - Amaranth & Fennel Salad

The farmer's market has many new vegetables for us to try, things we haven't seen in the supermarket for one reason or another. A couple weeks ago, our trip to the farmer's market resulted in the purchase of amaranth and Chinese spinach, which looked pretty similar, but at the very least looked beautiful: dark green, rounded leaves with a large magenta splotch originating at the veins. We purchased them to see what they would taste like.

We were happily impressed! The amaranth wilted like a surprisingly sturdy spinach, and stood up to a fair bit of cooking with ease. It was nutty, with better flavor than spinach. If we can get it year round, I'm not sure we'll go back to spinach - it's that good, and supposedly that good for you (although after 30 minutes of online searching, there isn't much hard data about this).

Monday night's dinner salad of amaranth and fennel bulb was really, really yummy - here's how we made it, at least this time around.

Amaranth and Fennel salad
serves 2-3
  • 1 fennel bulb, sliced crosswise into 1/8" slices
  • 1 Tbl olive oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/3 c. chicken stock
  • 2 threads saffron
  • 2 Tbl chopped Italian parsley
  • 1 large bunch amaranth greens
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • (optional: fresh shavings of Parmigiano-Reggiano)
  1. Saute the fennel bulb in the oil and salt over medium-high heat until the fennel is soft.
  2. Meanwhile, wash the amaranth leaves and steam them in a large stockpot with a steaming basket until just barely done, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add the stock/saffron mix to the fennel.
  4. Mix the two together in a saute pan over medium heat until combined and amaranth is thoroughly cooked.

Monday, August 11, 2008

La Noche de Mole Negro del Diablo

Without going on too long about this, imagine a day consisting of:
  • Shopping, because you didn't get all the ingredients ahead of time
  • Rendering your own lard, because the recipe said to do so
  • Fire-roasting tomatoes, onions, garlic and tomatillos whole over a hot griddle (turning them constantly with your fingers, of course)
  • Sauteeing just about all the ingredients for mole in lard, including the raisins (ever tasted raisins sauteed in lard?)
  • Making a double batch of mole negro, including burning the chile seeds separately from burning the dried chiles
  • Steeping hibiscus flowers and reducing it to syrup for drinks
  • Making chicken stock out of the chicken feet you got at the farmer's market
  • Making turkey stock by poaching two very large turkey legs
  • Grinding your own corn to make masa for tamales
  • Washing, then cutting the banana leaves to size
  • Roasting fresh peppers for chili later in the week
  • Making packets of turkey tamales
  • Steaming them for an hour
  • Whipping together chile sauce from scratch
  • Making avocado ice cream
Oh, and did we mention we had guests? Coming over at 6:30?

Needless to say, we have incredibly patient friends -we finally ate the tamales at 9:30. Good thing the food turned out all right, especially since we have about 18 cups of mole now. Recipe posts to follow - we're both still exhausted from Sunday's menu, and it's already Wednesday.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Adventures in Cookery - Salsa & Pudding

Thanks to our wonderful friends Meagan and Leo, we got to participate in an Adventure - in Cookery. They designed a evening game that is very Seattle: ask multiple sets of people over to dinner, requesting they bring an ingredient. Any ingredient. You can choose to bring a supportive ingredient, something easy like eggs or milk, or a particularly difficult one, like pie crust or durian. Pairs are cruelly separated at the door, and forced to be on a team without their mate/partner/friend.

We misunderstood the intent, however. We understood that each pair of people brings the same ingredient, and the cruel separation is so that the two teams can compete, each trying to outdo the other with the same list of ingredients. On the contrary, the divisive cruelty was only intended to ensure people mingled with people they didn't know, and both people were allowed to bring a different ingredient.

Even in misunderstanding the rules of the game, we both had a blast - we were, indeed, cruelly separated onto different teams, both armed with our secret ingredient: fresh corn from the Madrona farmer's market. The two teams of four people made very different dishes, one a dinner and the other a dessert, but both came out wonderfully. Pat's team had a lentil pilaf with artichoke hearts, plated beautifully as a formed round on a bed of steamed Swiss chard, topped with a single blackberry. It was accompanied by a colorful salsa of blackberry, mint and fresh corn. Tanya's team made a sweet baked egg custard, made with acorn squash, roasted orange and yellow peppers, and roasted fresh corn kernels. The pudding was drizzled with a spiced chocolate sauce and a roasted red pepper coulis, garnished with caramelized squash rings.

While the food wasn't exactly balanced or perfect, it was a great start for truly thought-out yummy dishes to serve anywhere. Given the constraints of the game, we both were impressed with how random people were able to work together to make a spectacular show dinner. Both teams had something we want to make again, with tweaks and improvements, so here's what we remember.

Squash and Pepper Baked Custard
(serves 12-14 easily)
  • 1 yellow acorn squash, steamed and flesh scraped out of shell
  • 1 yellow and 1 orange pepper, roasted on a low-temp grill till charred & skins removed
  • 2 ears bicolor corn, roasted until thoroughly blackened on the same grill, and kernels separated (not cut) from the cob
  • 2/3 cup light brown sugar
  • 6 eggs
  • 3 cups whole milk (*note: the custard was a bit runny - maybe reduce this by 1/2 cup next time)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • Boiling water
Squash Ring Garnish
  • 1 long squash
  • dark brown sugar
  • sea salt
Red Pepper Coulis
  • 1 roasted red pepper, blackened with the other peppers on a low-temp grill and skin removed
  • cider vinegar
  • chopped onion
Spiced Chocolate Sauce
  • 1/2 bag Nestle chocolate chips
  • half and half
  • bourbon
  • 1 tsp Ethiopian hot pepper mix
*To make the custard
  1. Puree the squash, yellow and orange peppers until smooth in a food processor.
  2. Add the brown sugar and process to combine.
  3. Transfer to a medium mixing bowl.
  4. In a large mixing bowl, lightly beat the eggs.
  5. Add the milk and vanilla and whisk until well combined, but not foamy.
  6. Whisk a small amount of egg mixture into the squash puree until combined. Repeat with larger amounts until squash is fairly soupy, then put it all into the egg mixture and stir.
  7. Pour the custard base into either lots of ramekins or a large Pyrex baking dish, and place them into a larger Pyrex dish.
  8. Fill the larger dish with boiling water, up to 1/3 of the way up the dishes.
  9. Bake in a CONVECTION oven at 300oF for about 1 hour, until pudding is set.
  10. Cool slightly before serving. (We did this by replacing the water in the lower Pyrex dish with
  11. slightly cooler water, letting the pudding equilibrate slightly, then repeating twice.)
*To make the squash round garnish
  1. Slice the long squash thinly crosswise into rounds, removing seeds, and steam or parboil just until tender.
  2. Lay flat onto a baking sheet.
  3. Sprinkle with brown sugar and sea salt.
  4. After the pudding is done, broil until the rounds are caramelized, about 4 minutes.
*To make the red pepper coulis
  1. Put all ingredients into a blender. Blend until smooth.
  2. Cook in a saute pan over medium heat for 2-3 minutes.
  3. Cool, and reserve until serving.
*To make the spiced chocolate sauce
  1. Over a double boiler, melt chocolate chips and half and half.
  2. When melted, add bourbon.
  3. Whisk in more half and half as needed to thin, and add spice mix.
*To serve:
  1. Cut rounds of the pudding, one for each plate. (We did this with a spoon, crudely, but if the pudding has enough integrity you could use a cookie cutter and do it right.)
  2. Place one squash round on each plate, leaning up against the pudding round.
  3. Fill a ziploc sandwich or quart bag with the red pepper coulis, and make another for the chocolate sauce.
  4. Pinch one corner of the chocolate bag, and snip a very tiny bit off the corner.
  5. Using like a pastry bag, squeeze the chocolate in a thin drizzle attractively over the pudding and plate.
  6. Repeat for the coulis.
  7. Serve!

Corn-Blackberry Salsa
  • 2 ears fresh corn
  • 1 cup fresh blackberries
  • 1 tbsp minced onion
  • 1 tsp minced fresh mint
  • sugar, salt, and lemon juice to taste
Cut the kernels from the cob. Add blackberries and mint. Stir and adjust seasonings.

French or Japanese? Aïgo Bouïdo - Garlic Soup

This soup took a couple incarnations to be something we liked. Like most of the soups we've tried from Julia Child's "The Way to Cook", the recipes turned out to be great bases for other flavors. In this case, you really can use just a couple heads of garlic, papers included, to make a slightly garlicy soup base. It turns out very thin, however. The addition of the egg yolk/mayonnaise at the end was not enough.

Miso paste, however, and another head of fresh garlic, sliced, made this a great soup. A VERY GARLIC soup. As a Japanese soup, it's a great beginning - we haven't thought yet about how to keep it French and vegetarian, but for the record, here's how we made the Japanese style.

Aïgo Bouïdo
modified and twisted from Juila Child's "The Way to Cook"
  • 2 large heads of fresh garlic, cloves separated, unpeeled and smashed
  • 2 quarts water
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp black peppercorns
  • 2 whole cloves
  • 1/4 tsp sage
  • 1/4 tsp thyme
  • 1 medium Turkish bay leaf
  • 6 sprigs parsley
  • 3 Tbl fruity olive oil
  1. Combine all ingredients in a saucepan.
  2. Bring to a boil, and simmer, partially covered, for 30 minutes.
  3. Fish out the cloves of garlic, if you like, and purée those separately.
  4. Strain remaining stock, and use for the following recipe or something else that will be French. :)

Japanese version
  • 4 cups Aïgo Bouïdo recipe
  • 2 Tbl light miso paste
  • 2 cloves to 1 head garlic, peeled and sliced
  • 1/2 tsp fish sauce
  • 1 tsp tamari
  • 1 Tbl plum sauce
  • sliced scallions, wakame, etc.
Combine and simmer for ~10 minutes to allow flavors to mingle and to blunt the edge of the fresh garlic. Serve immediately.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Tuna Salad From Heaven

This recipe post was requested by Evgenia, Pat's housemate. I caught her off guard one morning, before 7am, after having made two mayonnaise-based salads the night before. She was sitting at the end of the teak table in the kitchen, sleepy-eyed in her nightgown and beautiful as always, opening up her laptop. "Hey, Evgenia! Try this!" The spoon zooms her way.... "What is it?" "Tuna salad." I get a crinkly face, but an open mouth, so she tries it. Her trust in me, however misplaced, resulted in her request for this post.

(The other salad, unfortunately, was my favorite potato salad. I somehow in my exuberance forgot she HATES potato salad and raw onions.... I'm still not sure if the awesomeness of the tuna salad forgave my indiscretion of feeding her kryptonite at that hour of the morning.)

I don't really think about how amazing this recipe is until somebody new tastes it. But it's an old standby that will wow and amaze at a potluck, or be a tasty lunch for two with the smaller recipe. Enjoy!

Tuna Salad From Heaven
(modified for two from Pasta & Company's book, Pasta & Co. By Request by Marcella Rosene, one of my very few cookbooks)
  • 1/2 cup Jasmine or Basmati rice, cooked and cooled to room temperature (this is important!)
  • 1/4 tsp freshly grated lime zest
  • 4 1/2 tsp fresh lime juice
  • 1 can tuna, drained (we use St. Jude's - line-caught and locally canned)
  • 2 Tbl buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup Best Food's mayonnaise (if you like Miracle Whip, I feel pity for you - but you could use it and delete the sugar and lime juice, and add these to taste if you like)
  • 1/2 tsp Tabasco sauce
  • 1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 clove garlic, pressed through a garlic press or grated on a microplane
  • 2 Tbl fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1 scallion, chopped
  • 1/4 cup frozen peas straight from the freezer
  1. Cook and cool the rice to room temperature before beginning
  2. Mix the lime and lime zest into a medium bowl. Flake the tuna into the lime and toss thoroughly.
  3. Add the rice, stir, and let sit while you mix the dressing and chop the parsley.
  4. In a small bowl, combine the buttermilk, mayonnaise, Tabasco, sugar and garlic. Pour over the tuna and rice.
  5. Sprinkle the parsley and scallion over the salad and stir just to combine.
  6. Add the peas about 15 minutes before serving - DO NOT cook them. They will thaw out in the salad, and also keep the salad chilled as it sits out. Any leftovers will have yellowed peas, so only add peas to what you'll eat in the next couple hours.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Leek and Potato soup - Hot. Take I.

I came home late from work on Monday night, and although we had a refrigerator full of food, the inevitable question came up: what to eat when you've got just vegetables on hand? Since potato-leek soup was on the list for this week, I thought we could at least prep the vegetables so we'd have a head start the next day. On pulling out Julia's "The Way to Cook", I discovered potato-leek soup is surprisingly easy - really easy. And fast. Chop potatoes, chop leeks, simmer in water or broth 20 minutes, blend it only if you feel like it (we did). Done. If you like it cold, you can chill it to make Vichyssoise, but the only modification is to use only the white parts of the leeks, not the light green parts.

The useful comments we can give about this soup are that it is certainly yummy, but is a real winner as a base for some other bright or loud flavor. We dolloped a bit of crème fraîche on the top, a bit of salt and pepper, and brainstormed about what could go in it. The flavor we used that night was a bit of minced scallion — a perfect light oniony foil for the thick, rich, and subtly flavored base. We'd have used chives, but we ran out.

As a matter of record: purple potatoes make gray soup. Just say'n.

Julia's Potato-Leek Soup, or Vichyssoise
Modified for two (one small appetite and one huge one)
  • 2 medium to large (not purple) potatoes, diced
  • 2 large leeks, sliced in 1/4" rounds to the light green part, soaked in water to remove grit
  • 3 cups Safeway Organics chicken broth (3/4 of the box) - Julia says you can use easily use water instead
  • 1 1/2 to 2 tsp salt
  • some crazy strongly-flavored something (2 Tbl scallions, 2 tsp lemon thyme, etc.)
  • couple dollops sour cream or crème fraîche
  1. Bring vegetables in the broth or water to a boil in a saucepan.
  2. Salt, cover partially, and simmer 20 minutes. If the veggies aren't tender, try another 10 min or so.
  3. Keep it as is with flavoring, or puree in a good blender with the flavoring of choice (careful of explosions!) if you feel like a velvety soup.
  4. Top with a dollop of crème fraîche.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Perfectly Boiled Eggs

Our recipe came from Julia Child. She credits the Georgia Egg Commission for its development.
You will need a
  • taller rather than wider saucepan or stockpot with a well-fitting lid
  • an egg pricker or a pin
  • and a large bowl of ice water
Take a quantity of eggs, which Julia recommends not exceed 24 with home equipment, and do the following:
  • Prick the large ends to at least 1/4 inch, popping an air bubble that may cause the eggs to crack while cooking.
  • Place them in a single layer in the pot, and cover with cold water by one inch.
  • Using high heat, bring just to a boil, and remove from heat and let rest, covered, for 17 minutes.
  • Place them in a bowl of ice water for 2 minutes, during which reheat the cooking water to boiling.
  • Up to 6 at a time, reboil them for 10 seconds, and then return to the bowl of ice water, cracking them gently in several places.
The result is an egg with a gentle white and cooked yolk, without discoloration at the boundary of the white and yolk, and thanks to the last two steps, with a shell that peels easily — in short, a perfectly boiled egg.

Oil & Lemon Dressing

Oh, goodness - this one is a keeper, for sure.

Oil and Lemon Dressing, à la Julia
Makes about 2/3 of a cup, only 2/3 of which we used for Salade Niçoise

  • 2 strips of fresh lemon peel (1 by 2 1/2 inches each) grated off a lemon with a microplane
  • 1/4 tsp salt, more if needed
  • 1/2 Tbl Dijon mustard
  • 1 to 2 Tbl freshly squeezed lemon juice (NOT NOT NOT the bottled, pasturized stuff)
  • 1/2 cup really tasty oil (salad oil or olive oil)
  • (optional - a clove of garlic, minced or pressed through a garlic press)
  • Freshly ground pepper
Puree all ingredients in a little salad blender. Put on any salad - light, fresh and yummy.

French Potato salad

Easily a great potluck dish, or a warm summer night side dish. Fresh, tangy and light. Serve at room temperature if you use the (optional) oil.

French Potato Salad
makes about 1 quart
  • 1 1/2 lbs baking potatoes, peeled and sliced into 1/4" cross sections
  • (we used purple potatoes - beware! the purple color turned sort of gray-purple when we cooked them)
  • 1 to 1 1/2 tsp salt per quart of water
  • 2 Tbl minced shallots
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup chicken stock or potato-cooking water
  • 1 1/2 Tbl tarragon wine vinegar
  • 2 Tbl minced parsley
  • (optional 2 to 3 Tbl olive oil, to finish)
  1. Pre-measure all ingredients before you begin, as once the potatoes come out you have 3 minutes before you have to start putting it all together!
  2. Rinse the potatoes as you slice them by putting into a bowl of cold water.
  3. Drain. Put the potatoes into a saucepan of cold water, salt, and bring to a boil on medium-high heat.
  4. Turn down the heat and simmer for 2 to 3 minutes, until just tender.
  5. Drain out the water (but keep 1/4 cup for later, or dump and use 1/4 cup chicken stock), and cover immediately with a lid.
  6. Let sit for 3 to 4 minutes (but not more than 5!!) to "firm up" the potatoes (still haven't figured this one out - we'll get back to you on that).
  7. Add the remaining ingredients except the oil and toss gently.
  8. Let sit 10 minutes at least, letting the flavors come together.
  9. Correct seasonings, and add the oil.
  10. Let sit for at least 30 minutes before serving.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Salade Niçoise

This salad is one of Pat's favorites, reminding him of earlier days in faraway lands. He's always complained about these salads in the US being 'not quite right', so we decided to try to make an authentic go of it last night. When we finally sat down to dinner (after an hour of prep), a happy, wistful smile spread across his face. It was just right. He closed his eyes to savor the flavors, and told me stories of dear friends, beautiful countryside, and memorable food.

The recipe we used is from Julia Child's "The Way to Cook". We are using her book as a way to learn new French techniques, and to stretch ourselves to eat/prepare foods we might not otherwise. This was perfect for a midsummer's meal - everything was fresh and in season from the farmer's market.

Salade Niçoise
  • 1/2 recipe French Potato Salad
  • 2/3 c. Oil & Lemon Dressing
  • 1 head Buttercrunch lettuce, washed, thoroughly dried, and torn in large sections
  • (get only fresh heads with soft, supple leaves - others will be bitter)
  • 2-3 Tbl olive oil
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 lb wax beans, blanched
  • 2 very fresh tomatoes, quartered
  • 1 can tuna belly, packed in oil (St. Jude's - available in Seattle supermarkets as our locally-canned line-caught tuna)
  • 1/2 c. Niçoise olives
  • 1/2 c. fresh shelled peas, blanched
  • 2 large duck eggs, perfectly hard-boiled and sliced
  • 8 anchovy fillets
  • 2 Tbl. fresh parsley, chopped

*To assemble the salad
  1. Drizzle the lettuce leaves with the olive oil, and sprinkle with salt. Pile into a large, shallow serving dish.
  2. Spoon between a tablespoon and a teaspoon of dressing on each of the following in separate bowls or plates: wax beans, tomatoes, tuna, and peas.
  3. Mound the potato salad in the middle of the lettuce.
  4. Place the pre-seasoned vegetables and tuna in small, attractive groups around the potato salad.
  5. Dress the salad with the remaining dressing.
  6. Place the egg slices around the perimeter, laying an anchovy fillet across each.
  7. Sprinkle with olives and parsley.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Un Menu de Provence

Wednesday night we had a small party of six friends over for dinner. We prepared an array of light French fare, and served it with a slightly chilled bottle of 2007 M. Chapoutier Belleruche, a tes-du-Rhône rosé.

Caramelized Onion Tart

This was incredibly tasty - the pizza crust was from scratch, a soft, pillow-like dough that came out *beautifully* when baked in the cast-iron Welsh griddle. We modified three things: we put about 1/3 cup Marsala wine in the onions, added a bit of Gruyère to the Parmigiano-Reggiano topping, and sprinkled it with fresh thyme after it came out of the oven.

The neat trick we learned from this recipe was to caramelize the onions under parchment cut to size. We've caramelized pounds and pounds of onions for French Onion soup, in cast iron or stainless, on the stove top or in the oven, covered or uncovered, fast or slow, and this little trick is worth the 30 seconds to cut a round of parchment. The parchment allows the liquid to escape, yet keeps enough of the vapor contained so that the onions cook throughout.

Although it was delicious, it too closely resembled onion jam pizza. We'll next make this with a gallette crust, and see how the soft, jammy onion texture goes with a flaky, crispy and buttery crust. The slight acidity often in this kind of crust (like cream cheese) might balance the Gruyère nicely.

Soupe au Pistou
This is a soup that doesn't need a whit of anything animal - all veg and hearty as anything. Unfortunately, it clashed a little with the delicacy of the other two dishes in its heartiness and strong flavor of the pesto; served between the two other dishes was...interesting. But good, nonetheless.

Changes: Instead of straining out half the vegetables in the stock, we blended them all (sheesh, why waste the fiber??) for extra body, making it thicker and more satisfying. The beans in this one are optional - probably will leave them out next time, unless it's midwinter.

Baby Greens Salad with Herbs, Roast Beets and Potatoes

OMG, this was GREAT! This is certainly the time of year for this salad, and we'll probably have it a lot in the coming weeks. The dressing is stupidly simple, but doesn't caress you unless you use the tarragon vinegar. We made some with a bottle of Spectrum organic white wine vinegar and a bunch of fresh tarragon sprigs - four days later, voilà!

We used dragon tongue beans, a beautiful, flattened low-string bean from the farmer's market, which were amazingly tender. With very light blanching they still lost some of their color, but it bumped up the sweetness a little. The baby Yukon gold potatoes were beyond incredible.... roasted, they were sweet with a delicious crust, well worth the extra time picking through the bins for equally-sized ones. We used calendula flowers instead of the nasturtium, which turned out even better (color/texture and taste-wise). The fresh herbs we used include two new favorites: chervil and lovage. These two are amazing together, and really helped make the salad the unusual delicacy it turned out to be. We also used the fresh tarragon, as well as 1/3 of fennel leaf we had left over from using the 'bulb' for soup.
**Note: this is not the best for 'family style' serving (a buffet, potluck, etc.). Plate everything out so everyone gets equal amounts of all the ingredients, and keeps it looking gorgeous!

Sour Cherries and Crème Fraîche
Finally, for a finish (as if that weren't already enough) we served sour cherries from the farmer's market. They are sour, profoundly red, and delicate with thin skins. We served them simply: cut in half, pitted, on a base of simple syrup with a drizzle of crème fraîche. (We made ours from a pint of warm organic heavy cream to which we added about 1/2 cup of Nancy's sour cream, then let stand at room temperature until it soured lightly. Refrigerated, it keeps for a while - we use it up before it grows anything fuzzy.)

Honestly, while we like the menu - apart from the somewhat incongruous soup - the salad and the cherries were the best parts. Fresh and local has become a cliché, but deservedly. We're fans.
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