August 12, 2017

Cherry Clafoutis


Clafoutis defies a truly comprehensive description. It's part custardy flan, part pancake, part coffee cake, and a distant relation to the soufflé -- while not really being any of these things. What it actually is, is an iteration of the amazingly versatile eggs/milk/flour matrix that comprise the batter for crêpes, Yorkshire puddings, and Dutch babies (and more), neatly proportioned to create a simple French country dessert.

Just like the eternal cakey vs fudgy brownies debate, there are different styles for clafoutis. This one is decidedly more like a set custard than a cake, with a glossy interior revealed when sliced up to serve. A bit more flour would make it cakier, but might therefore also benefit from a bit of leavening agent.

The quality of the cherries counts, here. If your cherries are bland, the clafoutis will not be as good.

Clafoutis aux Cerises

Adapted from Everyday French Chef

400 grams fresh, sweet cherries
70 grams (1/3 cup) flour
80 grams (1/3 cup) granulated sugar
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
175 mL (3/4 cup) whole milk
2 tablespoons whipping cream
1 tablespoon icing sugar

Butter, for greasing the casserole dish.

Preheat the oven to gas 180°C (350°F), with a rack in the middle.

Wash and gently dry the cherries, remove any stems, and remove the pits (I use an olive pitter).

Lightly butter a small (1 litre / 4 cup) casserole or baking dish. Add as many of the cherries as you need to form a single layer (not too tightly packed - there needs to be a little room for the batter).

In a small mixing bowl, combine the flour, sugar, and salt. Whisk to combine.

In a medium mixing bowl, whisk the eggs thoroughly until they are perfectly integrated and foamy.

Add the dry ingredients to the eggs and stir through. Next, add the milk, cream, and vanilla extract. Mix until smooth.

Pour the batter evenly over the cherries. Place the dish in the oven and bake for 25 minutes, or until the clafoutis is golden and still a little wobbly in the middle. Sift the icing sugar over the clafoutis and return it to the oven until it is firm in the middle, about 5 minutes more. Check for doneness with a toothpick or sharp, clean knife in the middle. If it comes out clean, the clafoutis is ready. If not, bake it for a few minutes more.

Serve warm. If you are preparing the clafoutis in advance, reheat it gently before serving. Serves 4.

August 06, 2017

Buffalo Chicken Pizza


Buffalo wings have run deliciously amok. What started out as a simple bar snack, has since become everything from pasta to dip to casserole to pizza, and gone through some interesting ingredient iterations: some folks swap out the blue cheese dressing for ranch, and some even switch the chicken with cauliflower. The configurations seem endless, and that's good news for those of us who love our hot sauce oriented food.

This particular pizza is a pretty stripped down version of the classic combination of Frank's Red Hot sauce, chicken, and blue cheese dressing. Because it's pizza, I've added a final layer of shredded mozzarella, just to tie it all together. I've dispensed with the traditional carrot and celery sticks, although you could either serve them alongside (which would be appropriate) or dice them finely and use them as a topping - but I think they would be a bit of a distraction there. So.

Buffalo Chicken Pizza

1 Standard pizza

! batch pizza crust dough (see below)
125 mL (1/2 cup) creamy blue cheese dressing (or more to taste)
350 grams cooked, shredded chicken
60 mL (1/4 cup) Frank's Red Hot sauce (original)
1 tablespoon butter
200 grams shredded mozzarella

Dough

3/4 cup warm water (not hot)
1-2 teaspoons active dry yeast (use 1 tablespoon if you have the time to let it rise)
1 tablespoon olive oil
Approximately 2 cups of all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon coarse salt

Test the water by sticking your impeccably clean finger in it. If it's pleasantly warm, but not hot, you're good to go. If not, adjust as needed. Pour warm water into a medium sized mixing bowl. Sprinkle sugar and yeast over the water and let stand for about five minutes. The yeast will soften, and gradually start to foam up to the top of the water. This usually only takes a few minutes, but if your water is quite cool it might take a little longer. Once the yeast has gotten foamy, stir in the olive oil (or canola, if you don't have olive oil) and 1/2 cup of the flour.

Stir until combined into a sort of paste, and then beat vigorously for 100 strokes all in the same direction. It sounds silly, but this is the basis for a very smooth dough, and it doesn't actually take very long at all. A wooden spoon is ideal for the job. Once your mixture is smooth and silky-looking, add the salt and 1 cup of flour. Stir until the flour is mostly incorporated - it gets very stiff very quickly - and then turn out onto a clean counter to knead. Add more flour as you need it, if the dough seems sticky or wet.

Knead the dough briskly for about five minutes, or until it comes together in a satiny ball and is no longer sticky. Let the dough rest on the counter while you wash out the bowl that you started it in. Wash and dry the bowl, and spritz with a little oil. Place your dough into the bowl (turn it over once so that a little oil gets on the top) and cover with a towel while you prepare your toppings. The dough doesn't need to rise double in size (although it's fine if it does) but it should show some signs of life when you get back to it - be softer and a little risen.

Turn the oven on to preheat to 220°C / 450°F, with the rack placed in the middle. Prepare a pizza pan by sprinkling a generous amount of cornmeal in a thin layer over it, or lightly oiling.

Toppings

In a small skillet, heat the butter and hot sauce together and stir well to integrate (a whisk might help). Add the shredded chicken and toss/stir to thoroughly coat.

Press the dough out evenly on your pan. If the dough is still a bit tense, it might take a little longer, but this amount of dough will fit a full sized pizza pan. Just be patient and keep pressing it out, even if it tries to spring back, or let it rest for 5 minutes and try again. Once the dough is stretched to the full size of the pan, spread the blue cheese (or ranch, if you must) dressing evenly over it, leaving a little uncovered around the edge. Use a big spoon or your fingers to distribute the sauced up chicken over the dressing, and then add your mozzarella.



Slide the pan into your preheated oven and bake for at least 12 - 15 minutes (depending on your oven, maybe a little more), or until the crust is golden and delicious.

Slide pizza onto cutting board and pretend you're going to share. Put the rest of the bottle of Frank's Red Hot on the table...and try not to burn your mouth from devouring everything too quickly.

Note about foil: If you have cleverly put down a layer of foil in the bottom of your oven to protect it from drips, know that this is going to have a negative impact on the cooking time and browning of your pizza - especially the bottoms thereof. Put a baking sheet down there if you must, but foil really screws with the heat flow in an oven, and things take much longer to cook (and don't brown evenly). It might not affect other recipes, but it's terrible for pizza and pie crusts.



I added an extra perimeter of cheese and popped mine back in the oven for a couple of minutes, because it seemed like a good idea. It was. If you have some nice, mild, crumbly Danish blue cheese, that would go perfectly here.

July 29, 2017

Loco Moco


Loco Moco is Hawaiian comfort food suitable for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, and is such a hometown favourite that it appears everywhere from takeaway windows, to diners, to fine dining restaurants.

Four essential ingredients comprise the classic Loco Moco: white rice, ground meat patty, fried egg, and brown gravy. The number of patties and eggs is variable, but even the petite offering shown here, of a single patty and a single egg, makes for quite a substantial meal.

There are other variations, of course. Fried rice instead of rice, being one. The meat patty could be replace with fried spam, and there may or may not be mushrooms in the gravy. Some places ask if you want sautéed onions or not, but in this version they're already right in the gravy. Loco Moco often appears as an option on Hawaii's famous Plate Lunch, which pretty much guarantees a scoop of macaroni salad on the side. In Japan, where Loco Moco has migrated quite happily, it is often served with Tonkatsu sauce instead of brown gravy, which gives it an altogether different effect.



Serving the egg as the topmost layer is picture pretty, but most places drench the egg with extra gravy - sometimes so much so that the takeaway container threatens to overflow. It is big food. Generous food. Comfort food.

So here's how you make it:

Loco Moco

Serves 2-4

3-4 cups hot cooked long grain white rice
4 hamburger patties in brown gravy (or Salisbury Steaks with a little soy sauce spiking the gravy)
4 fried eggs

Divide the rice between the dishes (pasta bowls work really well for this). Top the rice with one or two hamburger patties and a big spoonful of gravy. Top the patties with the fried eggs, and ladle extra gravy over it all. Serve with soy sauce and/or hot sauce on the side.

This is also a great way to use up extra Salisbury steaks, if you have some in the fridge, but if you want to make the patties up from scratch, it can still be done up pretty quickly:

500 grams lean ground beef (or beef/pork mixture)
1/4 teaspoon kosher or coarse sea salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
Pinch of ground cumin
Pinch of ground cayenne
1 shake of Tabasco pepper sauce
a bit of all-purpose flour to dust the patties
1 teaspoon butter or oil for frying

For the gravy:
1 medium onion, sliced pole-to pole
2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1-2 teaspoons Low-Sodium Soy Sauce
3 cups beef broth (or stock from a prepared base, such as Better than Bouillon) - preferably low sodium
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour (shaken together with 125 mL (1/2 cup) cold water to make a slurry)

Put the rice on to cook first. While it cooks:

Mix together the meat and seasonings with a fork or your impeccably clean hands, and shape into four flat patties. Sprinkle the patties with flour on each side, and shake of any excess. Fry them in a large, hot skillet (in which you have melted the butter or heated the oil) over medium heat until well-browned on each side. Don't worry about cooking them through, they will finish cooking in the gravy.

Once the patties have been nicely browned, remove them to a plate while you make the gravy. To the emptied pan, add the onions and garlic, and stir them through, scraping up the fond on the bottom of the pan. Add the Worcestershire sauce, and soy sauce, and stir and cook until the onions turn translucent and start to get tender. If the pan is too dry, lower the heat a bit and add a tablespoon of water or so at a time until there's no danger of scorching.

Add the beef broth and stir through, being sure to scrape up the flavourful bits on the bottom of the pan. Make a slurry of the flour with the cold water to make a smooth, thick liquid, and add it to the skillet, stirring. Stir it all through until it is thoroughly integrated with the onions and stock. It will start to thicken the gravy immediately, but it will take about 20 minutes of cooking for the flour to cook through and lose its paste-like raw taste, so don't be impatient if it doesn't taste great right away. Return the patties to the sauce, lower the heat to it's lowest setting, and continue to stir periodically, until the gravy has a delicious meaty flavour. You can cover the pan if you like, but I don't usually find it necessary. If it gets too thick, add a little water to thin it to your preferred gravy consistency.

If your patties didn't brown very much, your gravy might be pale in colour. It should still taste good, though, but you can get a nicer colour by adding a few drops of dark soy sauce (not regular). It's on point for the dish flavour-wise, and it's a near miraculous gravy-browner.

When the rice is cooked and the patties and gravy are ready, fire up another skillet and fry up some eggs. Sunny side up is traditional, but over easy (or over hard) is fine if that's how you roll.

Layer the ingredients quickly and dive in.

July 22, 2017

Turkish Breakfast, Wrapped


Full disclosure, you're probably not going to get this anywhere in Turkey. If you want an actual Turkish breakfast wrap, I'd suggest gözleme, but that's not what I've made here. This is more of an homage to the wonderful breakfasts of Turkey, but wrapped up in a flatbread. You could vary the flatbread based on what you have at hand: Dürüm would be a good (and very Turkish) choice, but I had Arabic-style thin pita bread, so that's what I used.

There's so many things that I could have used in this. Ajvar could be swapped in for the hummus, for example, and I didn't manage to sneak any peppers in, due to lack of room. Next time, it will probably be different - just because of what I have on hand in the kitchen. And there WILL be a next time, oh yes. Because this was delicious.

Turkish Breakfast, Wrapped

Serves 2

2 large flatbreads, (ideally, warmed enough to be pliable)
2 heaping tablespoons hummus
166 grams sucuk sausage (I like the spicy garlic one), peeled and sliced
1 medium pickled cucumber, julienned
2-3 eggs, lightly beaten
30 grams feta
1 large roma tomato, deseeded & chopped
6 cm long english cucumber, deseeded and chopped
1/2 cup chopped parsley
1 thick slice of red onion, minced
1 tablespoon lemon juice
pinch kosher salt
pinch Isot (aka Urfa) chile flakes or Sumac (optional)*
1 tablespoon olive oil, divided
2-3 tablespoons tahini dressing
1 tablespoon hot sauce (I used green zhug)

First things first: I already had the tahini dressing and the hummus leftover from the day before, but if you need to make them, do that first. Next, I made the chopped vegetable salad by combining the tomato, cucumber, parsley, red onion, lemon juice, 1/2 the olive oil, and chile flakes. Stir well. Set aside.

Julienne the pickle.

Peel and slice the sucuk, and fry gently in a skillet until they darken and get a little bit crispy of each side.

Lay the flatbreads on plates, and smear the hummus over half of each flatbread. Lay the fried sucuk on top of the hummus, and top that with the pickles.


In a small skillet, heat the remaining olive oil and add the beaten eggs. Stir briefly, and crumble the feta into the pan. Stir again until soft curds form, and then divide the egg mixture between the flatbreads.

Add a big spoonful of the chopped salad to each bread, and then drizzle the tahini over the egg mixture. Finish with a smear (or a more generous amount) of the hot sauce, and then prepare to eat.

By prepare to eat, I mean, take it to the table, have napkins on hand, and the beverage of your choice standing by. Once you roll this bad boy up and start eating, you're probably not going to want to put it down before you're finished. It will probably be a bit messy.

Once you're ready, roll up the flatbread into a bulky wrap shape, pinching one end closed with one hand while you raise it up to take your first bite. Some juggling may be required, depending on how friable your flatbread is, but it will soon be in your mouth, and you probably just won't care about a bit of escaped juices - which, of course, you can lick off of your fingers.

Enjoy.

* Isot (or Urfa) pepper is a dark, not-too-spicy condiment that often takes the form of oiled pepper flakes. You could substitute ancho powder for this - the flavour is different, but in the same "spicy raisin" family.

** Sumac is an earthy, lemony, mild seasoning.

July 14, 2017

Smoked Duck & Artichoke Lasagna Bianca with King Oyster Mushrooms


This recipe was partly inspired by the fact that I had a can of artichoke bottoms to use up, and partly inspired by the fantastic smoked duck & artichoke étouffée that my husband makes. It's such a great combination, and I figured it would translate well to lasagna. And boy, did it ever! I decided against a tomato base for this lasagna because I thought bechamel would better offset the smokiness of the duck between the layers of pasta.

We served this with Prosecco (highly recommended), and chased it with a bright-tasting, lightly dressed, veggie-packed salad.

Smoked Duck & Artichoke Lasagna Bianca

Serves 6

one 20 x 30cm baking dish

Ragú Layers

1 smoked duck breast (about 300 grams), finely chopped
75 grams pancetta, finely chopped
1 400 gram can artichoke bottoms (220 grams drained weight), chopped
1 medium onion, finely chopped
3 large King Oyster Mushrooms, finely chopped (about 3 cups)
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons duck fat
1/2 cup duck broth/fond
2 sprigs fresh thyme
pinch coarse salt
2-3 tablespoons dry vermouth or dry white wine
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
water, as needed

Ricotta layer

250 grams ricotta
1 egg, beaten
2 tablespoons minced parsley
2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese

Bechamel layers

3 cups whole milk
60 grams all-purpose or blending flour
65 grams butter
1 bayleaf
pinch white pepper
small pinch nutmeg

Noodles

Enough fresh or no-boil lasagna noodles to cover the bottom of your pan three times.

Extra

1 1/2 cups coarsely grated parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons parsley, for finishing

Process is rather important here, so make sure you have a very clean space to work in - it's about to get messy.

Prepare the ragú layers first: Heat the duck fat in a large skillet, and sauté the onion and the pancetta. Add the mushrooms, and continue to sauté while you chop up the duck and the artichokes. Add the thyme, and the pinch of salt, and stir through. Deglaze the pan with a tablespoon or so of vermouth or dry white wine, as needed. Add the duck and artichokes to the pan, and stir well. Add the minced garlic, and stir through again. Sauté until the ingredients start to catch, and the mixture has become dry. Add a bit more vermouth, and stir again. If the mixture is still quite dry, add a couple of tablespoons of water. Sprinkle the flour over the mixture, and stir it in. Allow the mixture to simmer very gently on the lowest heat, covered, while you prepare the other elements. Stir occasionally, and if it looks like it's drying out, add a little more water.

Grate the parmesan cheese and chop the parsley, including the amounts that you need for the ricotta layer.

Combine the ingredients for the ricotta layer in a bowl, and set aside.

For the bechamel layer: you can make this using the roux method, but given the long cook-time in the oven, it's not strictly necessary. Combine the cold milk and flour in a saucepan, and add the butter. Over medium heat, stir the mixture until the butter melts and the sauce begins to thicken. Stir carefully, scraping the bottom, to ensure nothing burns. Add the bayleaf, the white pepper, and the nutmeg. Be very discreet about the nutmeg, you just want a whisper. Continue to stir and cook until it is nicely thickened, and then stir in a pinch of salt, and remove from the heat. It is time to start layering.

First, preheat your oven to 350°F/ 180°C, with a rack in the lower-middle position.

Prepare your baking dish: either spritz it with a bit of canola oil, or a thin layer of butter, as you wish. Place a small amount of bechamel in the bottom of the dish, and spread it around thoroughly. This helps keep the first layer of noodles from adhering to the dish.

Add a layer of noodles, and then half of the duck mixture. Sprinkle with 1/3 of the grated parmesan, and dollop the ricotta mixture (all of it) over the parmesan. Spread the ricotta so that it makes a more-or-less even layer. Drizzle with a third of the remaining bechamel. Add the second layer of noodles, and repeat the duck mixture and parmesan layers. Top those with half the remaining bechamel (you have already used all the ricotta in the layer below), and add the third layer of noodles. Pour the remaining bechamel over the third layer of noodles, and spread it around so that it perfectly covers everything. No noodle bits should be bare, no duck bits should be peeking out of the sides. Cover the Bechamel with the last of the parmesan, and sprinkle with parsley.


Place the dish, uncovered, in the oven, and bake for 30 minutes. If the top is not nicely spotted with golden flecks, crank up the broiler and give it another couple of minutes (watch closely!) until the surface is attractively browned, and then remove from the oven and place on a hot pad. Allow the lasagna to stand, uncovered, for 15 minutes once it comes out of the oven, to make for easy, mess-free slicing. Use a serrated knife to cut into six portions (and loosen the lasagna from the edges of the dish, and use a lifting spatula/flipper to ease each piece up and onto a plate.



Once again, Prosecco is the perfect drink with this.





July 08, 2017

Thai-inspired Peanut Chicken Salad Bowl



Every summer, I make some version of this salad. Sometimes it has rice noodles, sometimes it has rice instead of noodles, and sometimes it has dried ramen (not the instant ones) or mie noodles. But you can vary that bit to your heart's content. The important thing to remember, if you're using noodles of any kind, is to quick-chill them in an ice water bath as soon as they're cooked (otherwise they soak up all the sauce, leaving your chicken and veggies high and dry).

Like many great recipe notions, this is infinitely customizable. The varieties of vegetables are completely up to you - what have you got in your kitchen today? I particularly like zucchini bâtonnets in this salad, although I didn't have any zucchini on hand when I made this particular one. And even the chicken - poach some freshly to shred for the salad, or use last night's roast chicken leftovers. Roasted peanuts give a satisfying toasty crunch that is entirely different from the fresh crunch of the cabbage.

So what's in this one bowl?

Thai-inspired Peanut Chicken Salad Bowl

1 nest of non-instant mie or dry ramen noodles, cooked
1 chicken breast, poached and shredded
1/3 cup purple cabbage, finely shredded
1/4 red bell pepper, finely sliced
1/2 green onion, sliced on the diagonal
1/2 medium carrot, shredded on a box grater (large holes)
3 tablespoons roasted salted peanuts
cilantro
lime wedge
1/2 recipe Peanut Dressing (see below)

If you are starting with raw chicken breast, place it in a shallow pan half-filled with cold water (or chicken stock), and bring to a simmer. If you have some fresh ginger, you might want to throw a couple of slices into the cooking liquid. As soon as it simmers, turn the chicken over, cover tightly with a lid, and turn off the heat (you can leave it on the same burner, though). Set the timer for 25 minutes. When the timer goes off, remove the chicken from the liquid, and shred using two forks or your fingers (it will be a bit hot). This can be done ahead, if you like, and stored tightly covered in the fridge.

Cook the noodles in plenty of boiling water, and when they are done, drain them and plunge them into an ice water bath to stop the cooking. The noodles can stay in the cold water while you prepare the vegetables, but then you want to drain them really well in a colander before assembling the salad. It's okay if they're still damp, but you don't want them dripping liquid.

Chop the vegetables into bite-sized pieces (I shred the purple cabbage as though making coleslaw).

To assemble the salad, I like to put a small spoonful of dressing in the bottom of the bowl, and then add the drained noodles. Arrange the chopped vegetables and shredded chicken however you please, adding the peanuts last. Drizzle with remaining dressing, and serve - each person can mix up their own bowl as they see fit.

Here's my foundation recipe for the dressing - it too mutates from time to time, but this is my gold standard.

Peanut Dressing for Salads & Salad Rolls

Makes enough for 2 salad bowls or six summer rolls - a bit more than half a cup.

60 mL (1/4 cup) unsalted smooth peanut butter
1 tablespoon Hoisin sauce
1 tablespoon less-sodium soy sauce
1/2 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
1 clove garlic, minced or pressed
1/2 medium lime, juice only, about a tablespoon
1 tablespoon brown or raw sugar
1/2 tablespoon Sriracha
60 mL (1/4 cup) water

Place all the sauce ingredients in a blender cup and process until smooth (I use my stick blender for this, but a mini-prep or small-cup blender would be fine). Drizzle over composed salad for individual diners to mix as desired, or serve in small bowls for dipping summer rolls.

As you can probably imagine, this salad travels well for work lunches or picnics. It keeps well in the fridge overnight if you're a meal prepper, too - just hold off, ideally, on the dressing until ready to eat.

July 01, 2017

Tahini-Swirl Brownies


It seems like everyone's making tahini-swirl brownies these days, and there's a darn good reason for it - they're simply fantastic. The nutty note of the tahini plays beautifully in a slightly dense (fudgy) darkly chocolate square that delivers flavour beyond all expectations.

Better still, these are cocoa brownies - no melting of chocolate required, but all of the rich chocolate taste you could want in a brownie. You only need one egg. Seriously. No fancy mixer required.

And finally, the pièce de résistance: this is a small batch brownie that you can make in a loaf pan. Seriously. So even if you live alone and are scared to be in the same house as a whole pan of deliciousness, you can make these without fear - there's just enough for a bit of immediate indulgence, and a few treats for upcoming lunches (or desserts). I cut mine fairly small, so for me this makes 8 small brownies, or 4 big ones. Use your best brownie judgment.

It is correct that there is no leavening in these brownies - the small amount of lift is from a brief but vigorous attention with a wooden spoon.

Tahini-Swirl Brownies

Lightly adapted from Dessert for Two

1/4 cup (60 mL) butter (salted, or unsalted)
1/2 cup (125 mL) sugar
1/3 cup (6 tablespoons) unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg
1/4 cup (60 mL) cake/pastry flour
2 tablespoons (30 mL) pure tahini (well stirred)

Preheat the oven to 165°C (325°F), with the rack in the lower third of the oven.

Line a 9"x5"x3" loaf pan with parchment paper, leaving enough overhang to hold so that you can lift the brownie-block right out of the pan after baking.

In a small bowl on the stovetop, melt the butter without browning it. Add the sugar and cocoa powder on top of the melted butter, and stir well. Remove from the heat and stir in the salt and vanilla. Stir for a couple of minutes to cool the mixture, and then scrape it into a regular mixing bowl.

Crack the egg directly into the bowl with the chocolate mixture, then grab your wooden spoon and stir the heck out of it. Stir until the egg disappears completely into the batter, about 20 strokes. This is also aerating the batter, so don't be afraid to be thorough.

Next, add the flour to the batter, and then beat well again - 40 strokes or so. Again, this is adding air, so be vigorous about it.

Scrape the batter into the parchment-lined pan, and smooth the mixture out evenly. Dollop the tahini in two places o the battter (one on the left side, one on the right) and then use the back of your spoon to gently swirl it through the top layer of the batter.

Bake on the lower rack of the oven for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out with only moist crumbs clinging to it. If your oven is a bit slow, it might need as much as 30 minutes. Let cool slightly, and then remove the brownies from the pan to cool completely. You can just pull up on the parchment paper to lift and transfer the brownies to a cooling rack.



Slice into however many pieces you like. Or, you know, break out the ice cream and get yourself a spoon.

If you don't have tahini, this works really well with natural peanut butter, too.

June 24, 2017

Hobak Bokkeum: Korean Stir-fried Zucchini (Zucchini Banchan)


Those of you who saw last week's post of Korean-Mexican Braised Short Ribs are (hopefully) already looking forward to this recipe, which was the highlight banchan (반찬, side dish) of the meal, and quickly earned itself a repeat performance and a permanent spot on The List. It's very quick to prepare and delicious both hot and cold, so even if you don't have time or space to do it right before serving, you can happily make it in advance. I...may have eaten some straight from the refrigerator at some point during the night. Yeah. So.

Hobak Bokkeum (호박 볶음, Korean Stir-fried Zucchini)

Adapted from Herbivoracious

1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
1 small zucchini (about 300 grams), diced small
1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 teaspoon chipotle gochujang (or regular gochujang)
2 tablespoons fresh ginger, grated or very finely minced
1 teaspoon toasted black sesame seeds

Heat the sesame oil in a small skillet over high heat. When it shimmers, add everything but the black sesame seeds. Stir fry until tender-crisp with lightly browned bits, which only takes a minute or two. Scrape into a small bowl and sprinkle liberally with black sesame seeds (you could, of course, substitute well-toasted white sesame seeds). Serve warm or chilled.

The second time I made this dish it was for our follow-up dinner with the braised short rib meat. Still playing with the Korean-Mexican fusion theme, we had tacos.



Verdict? Delicious!

Freshly made corn tortillas (I can't buy them ready-made in this town), shredded short rib meat (mixed with the thinly sliced braised mushrooms), zucchini banchan, sliced fresh jalapeños, and freshly made Yucatecan-style quick pickled red onions. And, of course, a little extra chipotle gochujang to top each taco.



For an all-veggie version of these tacos, you could swap out the braised short rib for braised tofu, or maybe all shiitake (braised without meat stock, of course) and/or Mexican (or Cuban) thick seasoned black beans.

June 17, 2017

Korean-Mexican Braised Short Ribs (and Bibimbap)



My first experience of Korean-Mexican fusion was a Korean Taco Truck in Vancouver a few years back. Almost immediately, curiosity overwhelmed confusion and I decided that this was something I really needed to try. So, I bellied up to the window and got myself an order of mixed tacos - Galbi (short rib) and Bulgogi (shredded beef). On the plate, it's easy to see why these two amazing cuisines can come together so deliciously, despite the huge geographical distance and cultural differences.

Since that first unexpected demonstration of fusion that really works, the combination of Korean and Mexican has shown up again and again, and it seems to get tastier each time. And then I received a package from some friends in Australia, which included a bottle of Chipotle Gochujang sauce from their local restaurant, Hispanic Mechanic.

Gochujang is an essential ingredient in Korean cuisine; a spicy, fermented chilli paste that is used either on its own and as a base for other sauces. The spiciness of this condiment predates New World peppers, with the heat in those earlier versions being likely provided by sancho (Zanthoxylum piperitum) and black pepper, although chillies have been used since at least the early 1600s. This particular fusion iteration relied on chipotle, a smoked, dried jalapeño pepper, and is more the texture of a thick Mexican-style hot sauce.

Now, I'm not gonna lie, the first date the sauce had in our house was with some pork neck steaks in a presentation that skewed neither east nor west (but was delicious), but after gawking at the Hispanic Mechanic menu, I was determined to hunt down some beef spare ribs. I wasn't able to find the thin, flanken cut that would be closer to what is used in a traditional Korean Galbi recipe, so I opted for braising rather than grilling - Galbijjim (갈비찜, Galbi Jjim, or Kalbi Jjim), more or less, rather than grilled Galbi. I'm looking forward to trying this sauce with pulled chicken, too.

Korean-Mexican Braised Short Ribs

1 kg Short ribs, browned in 1 Tablespoon peanut oil
5 fresh large shiitake, sliced in half (stems removed)
1/4 cup less sodium soy sauce
1/4 cup sake
2 Tablespoons chipotle gochujang
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
1/2 tablespoon honey
3 scallions
4 cloves garlic
2 cups beef or veal broth
1 inch ginger, chopped
3 red chiles, deseeded

Braise 3 hours in an oven preheated to 170°C (340°F), remove the meat from bone, shred, mix with some braising liquid. There may be some fatty bits, and you don't want to wholly discard those. Chop up some of it and mix it in with the meat and braising liquid. If you have a lot of fat, you won't want to use it all or it will be too rich. Thinly slice the shiitake mushrooms and set aside as a separate item.

And what did we do with this marvellous, meltingly tender and unctuous short rib meat? We made Bibimbap, of course.



Bibimbap (비빔밥) is Korean for "mixed rice" and is generally made by adding various toppings to a base of one of a number of different rice varieties. It is often served in a (very hot) heated stone bowl, but not always. There is a tremendous variation from one bibimbap to the next, as it is infinitely customizable depending on what toppings are available and/or selected, from all vegetarian, to a mixture of meat and vegetables, to raw egg (or egg yolk) added at the last minute (usually in the hot stone bowl versions). There is a wonderful array of different flavours and textures to enjoy.

For our Bibimbap, I went with plain, white, medium-grain rice, the shredded short rib meat and braised shiitake mushrooms, ginger-soy braised cabbage, sesame carrot, and an absolutely fantastic zucchini bokkeum (볶음, stir fry) that is good hot or cold and makes a terrific banchan (반찬, side dish). It will get its own post very soon (I note that banchan are normally served in the middle of the table, for diners to help themselves, but I couldn't resist putting it right in the bowl for the picture). Final garnish was shredded green onion, although if I'd had them at the time, I would have added Mexican pickled red onion. In fact, we made tacos from the remaining short rib meat a couple of days later, for which I whipped up a batch of the pickled onions expressly.

While there are an assortment of different sauces used as the finishing touch on a bowl of bibimbap (including, for example ssamjang, sesame sauce, citrus-soy, and a variety of spicy options, often based on gochujang) we went with more of the chipotle gochujang, which amplified the flavours used in the braising liquid.

June 10, 2017

Chicken Parmigiana


Chicken Parmigiana is a bit of a process, but it doesn't have to be an ordeal to make at home. Moreover, there's one truly excellent reason to do so: leftover chicken parmigiana makes simply amazing sandwiches.

It helps lighten the workload if you have some good homemade basic tomato sauce on hand (I like to keep some in the freezer), but you could use a purchased one. The chicken itself is shallow-fried rather than deep fried (you could also bake them), and the cooking time is actually pretty quick. You might want to have your side dishes already to go when you lay the chicken in the pan, because the cooking time is mostly active and it can be challenging to do tend to two items that are highly active at the same time. Fortunately for me, my chosen side dish of spaghetti aglio e olio wasn't time or labour intensive (and the mise en place was done in advance), which minimized the juggling.

Restaurant versions of chicken parmigiana often are a bit light on the parmesan cheese, and for extra gooey-ness include a lot of mozzarella. Now, I like mozzarella just fine, but I didn't want its rich presence to overshadow the parmesan itself, so I simply went to town with a lot of parmesan before it went into the oven, and a renewed layer of freshly grated parmesan when it came out.

It's always important to maintain good kitchen hygiene when working with raw chicken, so I lay out the breading bowls in a straight line, to ensure I'm not going back and forth.

Chicken Parmigiana

Makes 4 cutlets

2 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/2 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
1 egg, beaten
2 cups coarse, dry breadcrumbs, such as panko

1 cup basic tomato sauce

1 cup freshly grated/shredded parmesan

canola oil - enough to cover the bottom of a large skillet about a centimetre deep

Before you start with the chicken, get your pan ready with the oil - you'll want it heated to about 180-190°C (350-375°F) if you have the ability to control/set the temperature. Otherwise, set it over medium heat for now. Turn the oven on to preheat to 200°C (400°F) with the rack in the middle of the oven. Place the tomato sauce in a small skillet or saucepan to warm up.

Using a sharp knife, slice each chicken breast horizontally into two thin cutlets. With a mallet or other meat-flattening device, gently pound the cutlets until they are about a quarter bigger than they were, and the meat is as even as you can make it. Move your four cutlets to the start of your breading line (be sure to have a clean plate and the end of the line, to hold the breaded cutlets).

Mix the flour with the salt and pepper (you can add a pinch or two of dried basil or oregano if you like) in a wide, shallow bowl wide enough to fit the flattened cutlet. In the next bowl, place the beaten egg. In the final bowl, the breadcrumbs.
Without hurrying, dip the first cutlet into the flour mixture to thoroughly coat it on all sides, and give it a good shake to remove any excess flour back into the bowl. Then, dip the floured cutlet into the egg, again, coating it thoroughly, and letting any excess drip back into the bowl. Next, lay the cutlet in the breadcrumbs, and press it down firmly so the breadcrumbs really stick to it. Turn it over and press again. Lift gently (no need to shake this time) and lay it on the receiving plate at the end of the line. Repeat until all four cutlets are breaded.

When your oil is ready (it may already be ready - test it by sticking a wooden skewer or raw spaghetti strand in, and if it bubbles immediately it's good to go), lay the first two cutlets side by side in the pan (I use tongs to gently lay them in the pan). While they fry, place a metal baking/cooling rack on a sheet pan and have it standing by to receive the fried cutlets. When the bottom side is golden brown, use the tongs to flip the cutlets over to the other side. It doesn't take longer than a couple of minutes, because the cutlets are so thin, so pay attention to them. When the first two are done, remove them to your rack-on-the-baking sheet, and start frying the remaining two cutlets the same as the first. While they are frying, grate your parmesan.

When the second pair of cutlets have finished frying and have joined the first pair on the rack, spoon a little of the tomato sauce onto each cutlet, spreading it to cover the top surface (you might have some sauce leftover). Next, add a hearty layer of grated parmesan on top of the tomato sauce, and then transfer the whole rack & sheet to the oven for a few minutes until the parmesan is melted and the dish comes together as a glorious whole. Remove the rack from the oven, add a fresh layer of parmesan, and serve immediately.



But wait...I mentioned sandwiches, right?



So, if you planned to have some cutlets leftover, leave them on the rack to cool completely, and then transfer to an airtight container in the fridge. When you are ready to turn them into sandwiches, take them out of the fridge and place them in a dry skillet over medium heat for a few minutes, to take the chill off of them. Then, they are ready to slide into a lightly buttered bun (you don't need other condiments, although if a few fresh basil leaves happen to mysteriously fall into the sandwich it wouldn't end the world). Slice each bun in half, and serve - or wrap well in greaseproof paper for a picnic.

You could of course use other bread, but I find a nice, fresh bun has the sturdiness to cope with such an imposing filling. It also means that the cutlet will just slightly overhang the bun, which is an ideal ratio of bread for this kind of sandwich.

June 03, 2017

Jam Buns



Jam buns are such a quick and easy dessert (or lunchbox treat) to make that it almost seems too good to be true.

It's almost more of a serving suggestion than a recipe. You simply press unbaked plain biscuits into muffin tin holes, and dollop a bit of jam into the middle before baking as usual. You can leave them "open" style, or pinch the edges closed over the jam, however you like. Bake as if they were regular biscuits.

But, just in case you don't have a biscuit recipe handy, this is the one my mom used.

Jam Buns

Makes 12

2 cups all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
2 teaspoons sugar
1/3 cup butter
3/4 cup milk
1/4 cup jam

Preheat the oven to 450 F.

In a medium mixing bowl, sift together the dry ingredients - to be fair, I don't really sift, I aerate them with a whisk, but do whichever pleases you most. Add raisins, herbs, cheese, or any other additional flavourings at this time. Using a pastry-blender or a fork (and a lot of patience) cut in the margarine until the mixture is crumbly and the little lumps of fat are about corn-kernel sized. At this point, you can cover and refrigerate the mixture for up to a week before mixing up the biscuits.

Create a well in the middle of the mixture and pour the milk in all at once. Hold the bowl steady and, using a fork, stir rapidly and briefly until the dough comes together in a ragged mass. Quickly dump it out onto a clean counter, and knead very lightly and briefly until the flour is incorporated. You may need to add a little extra flour, but probably not. Go cautiously - too much flour makes tough biscuits.

Pat out the dough into a rough rectangle, no more than a centimetre thick (3/4 is better), and slice into squares. Push each biscuit into an ungreased muffin-tin well. Spoon a teaspoon of jam (whichever kind you like) into the middles. Don't over-fill them or the jam will boil over and make a mess when they cook (not the end of the world, but more work to clean up). You can leave them open, or pinch the corners closed, according to your preference. Bake for 12 - 15 minutes, or until they have gotten tall and golden. Let them cool for a few minutes, and then use a fork or spatula to lever each one out and onto a rack to cool.



Oh, and one more thing? You don't have to do the whole batch (although they're sure nice to have around). If you're making biscuits anyway, why not make a big batch, and put a few sweet ones in the mix? Perfect for smaller families.

May 27, 2017

Coliflor a la Huancaína: Cauliflower with Peruvian Spicy Cheese Sauce


Salsa a la Huancaína, a spicy, Peruvian, fresh cheese sauce made with yellow Ají Amarillo chiles, is normally served over cold, boiled potatoes. It is a very popular appetizer, and like many Peruvian dishes, is often served with hard boiled eggs and black olives as a garnish.

The sauce itself takes very little time to whip together if you are using jarred Ají Amarillo puree, as it requires no cooking - just a brief stint in the blender or food processor (you could, of course, go full traditional and use a mortar and pestle). I used an stick/immersion blender.

As you can see, I've served it over roasted cauliflower instead of potatoes. This is partly because I had some cauliflower that was in desperate need of use, and partly because the potatoes in my pantry had started to grow, taking them effectively out of the equation. But we know that cauliflower loves cheese, so it seemed like a pretty good alternative to the potato. And it was. You could of course use cold boiled potatoes - one medium potato per person. Because the cauliflower was warm, the sauce melted a bit, becoming a bit thinner than it would be otherwise.

Coliflor a la Huancaína: Cauliflower with Peruvian Spicy Cheese Sauce

(sauce adapted from Peru Delights)

Serves 6

Half a head of cauliflower, separated into florets, roasted and let cool to room temperature.

Salsa a la Huancaína

1/2 cup Aji Amarillo yellow hot pepper paste
1 cup evaporated milk (⬅︎ not sweetened condensed milk!)
4 soda crackers
1 cup queso fresco (or substitute 1 cup Ricotta Cheese and 30 grams Feta Cheese)

Garnish

3 boiled eggs, quartered
12 mild black olives
Parsley and/or lettuce (optional)

Scoop the cheese into the bowl of your food processor/blender (I used a stick blender for this, and it was fine). Break up the crackers over the cheese. Add the chile paste, and slowly pour in about half the milk. Start to process, adding more milk as necessary (you might not need it all, depending on your crackers and your cheese) until you get a smooth, yellow sauce thick enough to generously coat the cauliflower (or potato). It should not be as thick as bean dip, but able to flow a little when poured. If not using right away, cover tightly and refrigerate for up to two days.

Plate the cauliflower (you can place it on some lettuce, if you like, for presentation purposes) and spoon the sauce over each piece. Garnish with eggs, olives, parsley (if you like), and enjoy.

While this is traditionally an appetizer, we had it alongside some pork neck in an escabeche sauce, and a baked sweet potato.

May 20, 2017

Kefta Mkaouara: Moroccan Meatball & Egg Tagine


The very first meal that we had in Marrakech was a wonderful feast prepared by the cook our our riad (traditional Moroccan boutique hotel), featuring a variety of salads, and this iconic meatball & egg tagine. Arriving late at night after a significantly delayed flight, we were extremely grateful for two things: first, that we had arranged a driver through our riad to bring us in from the airport, and second, that this meal was waiting for us when we finally staggered through the door.

There are a lot of recipes for this dish out there in the wilds of the internet, and I initially tried one I found that looked pretty good but ended up swimming in copious amounts of a sauce more reminiscent of a displaced marinara. So, I researched a little harder, and then dug into my notes from our trip to Morocco. This is the result, which feels much closer in spirit to what we had in Morocco. There is enough sauce to provide a condiment to the meatballs and also to cook the eggs, but not an excessive amount.

Tagines are traditionally served with bread, rather than rice or couscous, so I picked up a couple of khobz-like flatbreads from a local bakery, and served the tagine with lemony, Moroccan-style carrot salad and spiced olives on the side.

Kefta Mkaouara
(Moroccan Meatball & Egg Tagine)

Serves 4

550 grams mixed ground beef and lamb
1 large whole egg, beaten
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
1/2 cup panko-style bread crumbs
2-3 teaspoons Ras el Hanout* spice mixture, divided
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup parsley, divided
1 1/2 cups canned diced tomatoes (low sodium preferably)
1 medium yellow onions, diced somewhat finely
2 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon chili flakes
4 eggs

In a large mixing bowl, beat the egg and add the panko, a teaspoon of Ras el Hanout, and half the parsley. Stir together.

Break apart the ground meat in little pieces (I use my fingers for this), letting it fall on top of the egg/crumb mixture, and then season with salt and white pepper. Use a fork to gently (but thoroughly!) combine the ingredients into a homogenous mixture, being sure to distribute the breadcrumbs well throughout the meat. Shape into very small meatballs with a tablespoon or very small disher. You can leave them rough or rolls them between your palms to make nice rounded meatballs, each a bit smaller than a walnut. You should get 24 meatballs.



Heat the oil in a medium skillet (the one above is 23 cm) over medium-high heat, and brown the meatballs in batches (don't bother cooking them all the way through at this stage, and don't overcrowd the pan). Remove the browned meatballs from the pan to a plate, and add the diced onion and the garlic into the emptied pan. Sauté until the onions are translucent, then add the tomato paste and stir through. Sprinkle the turmeric, a teaspoon of Ras el Hanout, and the chile flakes over the onions, and stir through. Add the can of tomatoes with their juices. stir through. Cook altogether until it starts to resemble a sauce, about four or five more minutes. Turn the heat to low, and add the meatballs (and any juices that may have collected on the plate). Cover and cook for 10 minutes.



Make a "nest" in the meatballs to create space for each egg - one per person is usual. Crack an egg directly into each nest, season with a bit of salt and pepper, and cover. Continue to cook on low heat for 5 - 10 minutes more, depending on how done you like your eggs. If you plan to have meatballs leftover for a future meal, just cook the number of eggs that you need for the moment. The eggs can be freshly cooked when you warm up the meatballs and sauce the next day (or you can skip the eggs on the second pass, and just stuff the (warmed up) meatballs and sauce into a hollowed-out flatbread for a fantastic meatball sandwich. When reheating, you may need to add a tablespoon or two of water to loosen the sauce to an optimal consistency.

* If you are unable to find a premixed Ras El Hanout blend (we brought ours back from Morocco, but it is often available in grocery stores that stocks North African and/or Middle Eastern spice mixtures), you might want to make your own: This one, and this one both look like decent options.

May 13, 2017

Chicken Salad with Feta & Mint


The combination of yoghurt, feta and mint give a bit of Persian flare to this salad, and make it so fresh tasting. You can use leftover roasted chicken if you like, but I like to make this with chicken breast that has been steeped or gently poached in chicken broth (or stock) for the juiciest, most tender chicken salad imaginable.

It's important to use a yoghurt whose flavour you like. If you choose a very sour yoghurt, that will be reflected in the finished salad. If you think your yoghurt might be a bit too sour, you can always cut it half-and-half with a mayonnaise or crème fraîche, to soften the flavour - although that will of course make for a richer salad overall.

Chicken Salad with Feta & Mint

Makes about 2 cups

225 grams cooked chicken breast
50 grams plain feta cheese (not marinated)
3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint
1/4 cup julienned de-seeded cucumber
1/4 cup plain Mediterranean-style thick yoghurt
1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
Salt to taste, if necessary
Ground sumac to finish (optional)

If you are freshly cooking the chicken just for this recipe, set it aside to cool while you prepare the other ingredients.

Finely dice the chicken breast and heap it into a mixing bowl. Crumble the feta over the chicken.

Cut a 5-6 cm piece of cucumber, and slice it into quarters, lengthwise (if it is a thick-skinned cucumber, peel it). Slice away the seeds from each quarter, and then finely julienne the remaining cucumber flesh (you don't want the pieces too long - very short lengths work best. I usually eat the seeds while I'm doing this, because they're tasty, but they are too wet to leave in the finished dish. Blot the sliced cucumber pieces dry with a bit of clean kitchen towel, and add them to the bowl with the chicken and feta. Sprinkle the white pepper over the chicken mixture, and use a fork to thoroughly stir everything together.

Add the yoghurt and the chopped mint, and stir through. Taste, to see if it needs salt (if your feta is very salty, it probably won't, but if it's milder, it might). Cover tightly and refrigerate for an hour or so to give the flavours a chance to meld. Use as a sandwich filling, or simply scoop it onto some greens for a light meal.

If you happen to have some ground sumac, sprinkle a bit lightly over the filling before closing up the sandwich. The lemony-earthy note of the sumac complements the other flavours very nicely.



While it works very nicely in a traditional two-slices-of-bread sandwich, it is also excellent as a wrap filling (I've used both tortillas and lavash to great success), or stuffed into a pita. As you can see, I fill my sandwiches quite generously, using about a cup of salad per sandwich, but if you are doing flatbread roll-ups to accompany a soup, you might want to make them a little smaller.



This salad keeps well overnight in the fridge, but you probably don't want to leave it longer than that, or the enzymes in the cucumber will start to break down the yoghurt, making it watery.



May 05, 2017

Spicy Cauliflower & Ground Meat Skillet Dinner


This is quick, delicious, and oh-so-easy. We use habanero peppers, because we can get them more easily than we can jalapeños, but you can use any chile pepper you like, really. Kind of a cauliflower hash, as it were, but not so...hashy?

What it is, is very filling and satisfying. It's also low carb, if that interests you, or are just looking for something different from the cycle of potato-pasta-rice-bread that make the foundation of so many dinner calendars.

Spicy Cauliflower & Ground Meat Skillet Dinner
Adapted from Gluesticks & Gumdrops

Serves 2

1/2 large head of cauliflower, separated into small florets
250 grams ground beef or beef/pork mixture
1/2 tablespoon canola oil
1/2 large onion, finely diced
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 habanero chile pepper, de-seeded
1/4 teaspoon cayenne or other powdered chile
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt
60 grams cheddar cheese, grated
black pepper, to finish
cilantro, for garnish
Water, as needed

Do your mise en place first: separate the cauliflower, chop the onion, mince the garlic, grate the cheese, and de-seed the hot pepper (carefully). Wash and dry the coriander, and tear the leaves off of the thicker stems (you don't need the stem here).

Heat the canola oil in a large over medium-high temperature, and add the ground meat. If your meat is a bit fatty, you might not need the oil at all, or you might need to spoon a little off after it's fried. You want a bit of oil to thoroughly brown the meat, but not so much that it becomes greasy. If you are using lean meat, you shouldn't have to drain anything.

Break up the meat with a wooden spoon or spatula as it fries, and let it get some nice golden brown colour before you add anything else. Don't just fry it until it loses the pink - you don't get good flavour from grey meat. When it is satisfactorily browned, add the onion and garlic, and stir through. When the onion turns translucent, add the chile pepper and the salt, cayenne, cumin seasonings. Stir and continue to fry until the onions are tender and a bit browned at the edges.

Add the cauliflower and stir it through, coating it with the spicy juices already in the skillet. Add a couple of tablespoons of water, and stir through again. Continue to cook and stir, adding splashes of water where necessary to keep the mixture loose an not burning, but not enough to make a gravy. You can also put a lid on and turn it to low for a few minutes to make sure the cauliflower gets cooked through to your satisfaction.

When the cauliflower is tender, it's time to finish. Scatter the grated cheddar evenly over the pan, and put a lid on for a few minutes - just long enough to melt the cheese. Use a wide spatula to lift sections from the pan onto the plate, trying to keep the cheese top-most if possible. Garnish with black pepper and cilantro. Devour.

You can of course use more cheese to make this an even more deluxe dish, but it's lovely the way it is, and perfect for someone looking for a lighter (but still satisfying) meal.

Not hot enough? You can always top it with the fiery hot sauce of your choice.

April 29, 2017

Gored Gored: Ethiopian Spiced Raw Beef


I am a big fan of Ethiopian cuisine. Its richly layered seasonings can be searingly spicy or pleasantly warm, but are always complex flavours borne of a long, unique culinary heritage.

I also like raw beef dishes, generally: carpaccio, tartar, kitfo (another Ethiopian dish, as it happens) are all wonderful, but the intense seasoning and the richness of the butter lift gored gored into a class of its own.

While I've eaten gored gored many times in restaurants, when I decided to make it myself, I found very few recipes to work from, and even fewer in English. I set about watching cooking videos on YouTube and scouring cookbooks, but there didn't really seem to be a consensus on any sort of master recipe, so I've constructed my own based on the bits of information that I've uncovered, as well as hands on (quite literally) analysis through consumption of versions prepared by professionals. The dish is not always served raw - sometimes it is lightly seared - but I prefer it raw.

This was a full on Ethiopian meal, with the other dishes being shiro wat (recipe still under development), okra stew with onions and tomatoes, and of course, injera - that wonderful Ethiopian flatbread that serves as a literal foundation upon which the other dishes are served, as well as the utensil with which to eat them. My injera really, really needs more practice, but the gored gored turned out beautifully.



Berbere spice mixtures can often be purchased pre-mixed, but if you can't find it, there's a link in the recipe below.

Gored Gored

Serves 4 - 6 (as part of a multi-dish meal)

225 gram piece of high quality raw beef, suitable for tartar
3-4 tablespoons warm Ethiopian spiced butter (Nit'r Q'ibe) (I used a modified version of this recipe from Saveur: I added a teaspoon of Berbere seasoning)
1 (extra) teaspoon Berbere seasoning (I used this recipe from Epicurious) You'll also need this to make the Awase seasoning
3-4 tablespoons Awase seasoning (I used this recipe from Markus Samuelsson)

Once you've gotten all of the seasonings sorted out, this dish is extremely simple. On your extremely clean cutting board, using a very sharp knife, cut the meat into small cubes. I cut mine very small, for the best spice-penetration, but it's normal to cut them a bit larger than this.

In a small serving bowl, add the Awase and the extra Berbere seasoning, and stir well to thoroughly coat all sides of each bit of meat. Add the warmed spiced butter, one tablespoon at a time, stirring completely through, until the meat has a glossy sheen.

You can keep any leftover gored gored until the next day, covered well in the fridge, and either sauté it for the next day (if you must), or warm it very gently over a low heat for a couple of minutes, stirring constantly, just until the butter loosens up and the meat approaches room temperature, and then swiftly plate to prevent it from cooking.

April 22, 2017

Pear and Arugula Salad with Pine Nuts & Pomegranate


Pears are one of my favourite fruits for flavour and texture. The fact they work so well in salads is a wonderful bonus.

The name of this salad was long enough already without mentioning the sherried walnut vinaigrette, but I really do think that's the element that really ties it together. It's quite fragrant, and the saltiness and hint of garlic and mustard nicely offset the sweetness of the fruit.

This recipe was developed to use what I had on hand, and I'm so happy with the result that it's now on my favourite salads list. If you have some pomegranate seeds leftover from making Harak Osba'o, this is a good thing to do with them.

Pear and Arugula Salad with Pine Nuts & Pomegranate Seeds

Serves 2

100 grams arugula, washed and dried well
1 Bartlett pear, cored and sliced
2-3 tablespoons toasted pine nuts
2-3 tablespoons pomegranate seeds
Sherried Vinaigrette Dressing (see below)

You can clean the arugula, toast the pine nuts and prepare the pomegranate seeds in advance, but the slicing the pear is best left until just before serving.

To toast the pine nuts, I use a small dry skillet over low heat, shaking gently from time to time, until the kernels turn slightly golden and you can smell the toastiness. Remove from heat and immediately transfer to a small bowl to let them cool without risking burnt nuts.

I like to slice the pear in half, and then use a melon-baller to remove the core. Then, a couple of quick v-cuts with a sharp knife to remove the blossom-end and the tough stem-thread. Then you can easily slice into very tidy and elegant strips.

It makes sense to have the arugula on the bottom, but otherwise arrange however you like on a small plate or salad bowl. Spoon the dressing over just before serving. If you're making this for a crowd, and have one of those long, trencher-style serving plates, this would look very elegant served that way, too.


Sherried Walnut Vinaigrette

Serves 2

1 tablespoon walnut oil
2 teaspoons dry sherry
1 tablespoon Condimento Bianco (or white wine vinegar with a pinch of sugar)
1 small clove garlic, crushed
1/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard
pinch salt

In a small bowl (or small plastic cup with a securely sealing lid), combine all of the ingredients. Whisk well (or shake vigorously, holding the cup tightly closed) until emulsified into a pretty pale yellow. Taste, and adjust for salt (or more sherry!) as needed. Drizzle over salad just before serving.

I note that you can use sherry vinegar, if you're lucky enough to have some on hand, instead of the sherry and condimento listed above.

April 15, 2017

Harak Osba'o -- Damascus-style Lentil Noodle Stew


Lentils and rice are such a natural and common combination, that it's almost odd to think of them apart, let alone with an interloper. Lentils and pasta? You don't see them together all that often, outside certain soups (such as Harira), and the occasional vegetarian adaptation. However, the textures are surprisingly complementary, and these lentils definitely hold their own as a rightful ingredient that isn't a substitute for ground meat.

The name "Harak Osba'o" translates to "He burned his finger" suggesting an overeager cook who couldn't wait to tuck into an irresistible creation. The pomegranate molasses and tamarind concentrate give an enticing mild tanginess.

This version is adapted from a few different online versions, including one from The Food Obsessive and one from Taste of Beirut.

The garnish of cilantro and pomegranate seeds give a lovely burst of tart freshness to each bite.

Harak Osba'o
Damascus-style Lentil Noodle Stew

Serves 4

1 cup (200 grams) dried brown or green lentils, washed and drained
150 grams long pasta, broken into short lengths
2 medium yellow onions, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced or crushed
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup cilantro leaves, roughly chopped, plus more for garnish
3 cups vegetable broth or water
1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses
1 teaspoon tamarind concentrate
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt (more if using water instead of broth)
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 cup pomegranate seeds to garnish (optional)
Ground sumac to garnish
Extra hot water (eg. from a recently boiled kettle) as needed (1 to 2 cups)

In a soup pot, fry the onion in olive oil over medium heat until softened and a little browned, about 10 minutes, then add the cilantro and garlic and fry a further few seconds, while stirring. Spoon out half of the onion-garlic-cilantro mixture into a small bowl and set aside to use as garnish at the end.

Add the lentils to the remaining onion-garlic-cilantro mixture, and add the water (preferably hot, from a recently boiled kettle, but cold is fine, it will just take longer to come up to a simmer). Add the salt. Salt won't make the lentils hard, but adding it now will help them keep from falling apart. Simmer the lentils on low until tender, 15 - 30 minutes, depending on the type, so watch them carefully!

Add the tamarind and pomegranate molasses and stir through. Add the pasta. You can use broken long pasta or short pasta such as small shells. There needs to be enough liquid for the pasta to absorb, resulting in a thick stew once the pasta has finished cooking, so you'll probably need to add a bit more water - start with about a cup - and then add the black pepper and other spices and stir them through.

Simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes, or until the pasta is tender and the mixture is no longer watery. Keep an eye on the amount of liquid, and if it's getting too thick, add more water, a little at a time. Taste, and adjust seasoning if necessary.

Turn out into a large serving bowl or tureen, and garnish with the remaining onion-garlic-cilantro mixture and sprinkled with sumac (or, individual serving bowls, topped with the onion-garlic-cilantro mixture, and sumac). Fresh pomegranate seeds are also a nice garnish, if available, offering colour, texture, and juicy freshness.

If you don't have tamarind or pomegranate molasses? Try lemon juice or a little apple cider vinegar to bring the tanginess to the party. The simplest versions that I found call only for black pepper instead of the mix of spices, so you can do it that way, too, if you're so inclined. There are probably as many variations as there are cooks.

April 08, 2017

Arancini: Italian Rice Balls


Aranicini means "little oranges", and you can find them in many parts of Italy, often as a bar snack. They can be served hot, or at room temperature. It is a way of upcycling leftover risotto into a dish that feels wholly different, while still packing all the same satisfaction. These arancini were made using leftover Risotto alla Milanese, and filled with fresh buffalo Mozzarella. You can make this with pretty much any leftover risotto, although if there are any large featured ingredients, you will want to remove them and either dice them finely and add them back into the rice, or add them to the filling. You can use any melty cheese you have on hand.

I don't deep fry things very often, partly due to the mess, partly due to general anxiety about deep frying, but I'll make an exception for these. As a killer bonus, once these are made, you can reheat them for 15 minutes in a very hot oven a day later with no loss of quality! Can you say...party food? Look at this one -- it's a day old, reheated, and is still fantastic:


Added bonus: you can make them any size you like.

Arancini

About 6 large or 12-14 small

About 3 cups leftover risotto, such as Risotto alla Milanese
1 egg, beaten
100 grams fresh Mozzarella, such as buffalo
About a cup of panko or other dried breadcrumbs
Oil for deep frying

While the oil heats to 175°C / 370°F, loosen the risotto gently with a fork. Add the beaten egg, and stir very gently to thoroughly combine. Turn the mass of risotto out onto a cutting board, and divide into the number of arancini you want to make. I've made 6 larger ones and one smaller one. Dice the mozzarella (or other melting cheese, such as Provolone or Fontina, for example) into at least the same number of arancini you are making. Don't make the cheese cubes too huge, or you'll have trouble closing the rice around them.

Set a clean cutting board or plate as a receiving plate for the completed arancini. Then, pick up the risotto for the first ball, and flatten it in your hands into a rough disc. Place a piece of mozzarella (or two, if you find you've chopped them quite small) in the centre of the disc, and curl your fingers up to start to enclose it. Get your other hand in there to help close the rice completely around the cheese, and shape into a nice round ball. Roll the ball in the breadcrumbs. Set aside on the receiving plate, and repeat until all of the rice has been formed into arancini.


Wash your hands, which will be sticky and coated with egg/risotto goo. Prepare a receiving plate for the fried arancini by lining it with a few paper towels.

When the oil is ready for frying, lower one arancino (singular) into the oil, using a mesh skimmer or spider. Let it cook for about a minute before adding another. Do not have more than four of the larger ones in the pot at the time, or the temperature of the oil will drop too far, and the arancini will not fry as nicely. Let each arancino cook for about five or six minutes, turning them from time to time, and then retrieve from the oil with your spider, and place on the paper towel-lined plate. They should be golden-y, orange-y brown and incredibly tempting. Repeat until all the arancini are cooked, and then serve and devour.


Arancini are often served with a dipping sauce - often a simple basil and tomato pasta-type sauce, but these ones are so creamy they don't strictly need it.

I served these with a lentil soup made from the leftover braised beef shanks that had accompanied the original risotto.

April 01, 2017

Risotto alla Milanese


Risotto (alla) Milanese, also sometimes called Risotto Giallo Zafferano, is a luxurious dish. It is not cheap to make, nor is it vegetarian; alongside its famously expensive saffron, the other signature ingredients include bone marrow and meat stock. The risotto kits that one can find on supermarket shelves tend to include only the merest whisper of saffron (if at all) and rely on turmeric or other colorants for the vivid yellow colour. They may make a serviceable side dish of sorts, but you would be in for a disappointment if you expected it to live up to the magic of a traditional Risotto alla Milanese.

I've made saffron rice dishes before, and while I've always enjoyed the flavour, I'd never achieved the deep, dark golden hue that is one of the signatures of this, one of the most famous Italian dishes. It turns out, it very much matters no only what kind of saffron one uses, but also how fresh it is. After recently making a saffron risotto that was underwhelming in colour, texture, and flavour, I decided to set aside what I've learned making other risottos, and learn how to do this one in all of its traditional glory.

I had used up the last of my good Persian saffron in the previous batch. While that saffron was indeed top quality when I received it, I had been eking it out over a few years, and gradually the remaining strands had greatly diminished in both their pungency and the amount of colour they provided. So I bought a new tiny tube of beautiful, dark red threads, and used them generously. Note that not all saffron is created equal. Don't be deceived by "safflower saffron", Carthamus tinctorius AKA "American saffron" or "Mexican saffron" or even "Dyer's saffron" (it has colour, but no flavour). It's not even from the same type of plant as true saffron. The one you want is Crocus sativus.

One departure from other risottos that I've made is that this one has you boil the onions in wine before adding the rice. This made the onions virtually disappear into the dish, adding a depth of texture to the sauciness of the dish. I note that Claudia Roden's other The Food of Italy (so, not the region-by-region version from which the below recipe is adapted) has a slightly different recipe given for Risotto alla Milanese, with slightly different proportions of some ingredients and, more importantly, with the wine added after the rice, following the more classic risotto-building method. Undecided at first, I eventually chose to go with the unusual version, which turned out to be nothing short of glorious.

Risotto alla Milanese

Adapted from Claudia Roden's The Food of Italy: Region by Region

Serves 4

300 grams rice for risotto - eg. Arborio, Carnaroli, Vialone Nano
30 grams butter
30 grams beef or veal bone marrow
1 litre (4 cups) beef or veal stock, warm
125 mL dry white wine or dry white Vermouth
1 small onion, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt (only if your stock is not too salty)
60 grams freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
3/4 teaspoon saffron threads
50 mL hot water (from a recently boiled kettle)

As always, risotto is best (and the cook less harried) when the mise en place, the advance preparation of all necessary ingredients, is done before actually starting to cook.

Risotto needs near constant attention, but it does not require continuous stirring, no matter what you might hear. A stir once per minute will suffice. If you overstir, especially if you are making a drier, non-soupy style, your rice will be half way to congee by the time you've added all your stock. So: stir frequently, and gently, but not continuously.

Chop your onion very finely (try to match the size of a grain of rice), grate your Parmesan, warm the stock in a small pot on the stove, and prepare the saffron infusion: in a small mug or measuring cup, pour the 50 mL hot water from a recently boiled kettle, and crush the saffron over it, letting the dark red dust fall into the hot water. You can crush the saffron with a spoon, a mortar and pestle, or simply use your fingertips. Let the saffron steep in the hot water, which will gradually turn bright yellow.

Melt the bone marrow in a medium-sized saucepan over medium heat. When it has all melted, add half the butter (a tablespoon) and let that melt, too. Next, add your very finely chopped onion, and let it sauté for a few minutes, and then add the white wine. I used dry Vermouth for the wine, which is my usual risotto practice, but you could also use a nice Pinot Grigio or Soave. Let the wine boil almost dry, until the mixture of fat, onions, and wine looks syrupy, and then add the rice. Stir the rice around well, to coat each of the grains with the viscous liquid. Stir in the salt.

Add a ladle of stock to the rice, and give it a few stirs. Let it simmer, lid off, until much of the liquid has evaporated, and then give it another stir, and another ladle of stock. Stir again, and let it be for a minute. Repeat this process, stirring about once per minute or as needed (if you need to stir more often, turn the heat down), until half of your stock is gone, about 12 - 15 minutes in. You may stir more than once between each addition, of course.

When half of your stock has gone in, add the saffron and its steeping liquid and stir it through, marvelling at the abrupt change of colour, and intense fragrance! I like to add a bit of stock to the emptied saffron cup, and swirl it about to make sure I get every last speck of saffron into the risotto. Continue with the stirring and the adding of stock as before, until all of the stock has been added and mostly absorbed, and the grains of rice are just on the verge of being tender. Turn off the heat, and stir in the remaining tablespoon of butter and the parmesan cheese. Partially cover with a cocked-lid and let it stand for a few minutes while you plate any other elements of your dinner (in case of the above, braised beef shank and cauliflower mornay), and then spoon the risotto onto the plate last. If you like a very wet style of risotto, you may wish to use a shallow bowl to serve, instead.


Should you be lucky enough to have any leftover, they make wonderful arancini (Italian rice balls). Coincidentally (cough cough), that is next week's recipe. Stay tuned!