September 17, 2017

Salade Niçoise et Libanaise


Having recently come to appreciate a perfectly cooked green bean, I have been keen to find interesting ways to serve them. This dish contains the wonderful arrangement of Salade Niçoise, along with the Lebanese-type tahini dressing. It was a perfect confluence of tuna dishes that I wished to make, namely samke harra (a sesame-smothered fish dish from Lebanon) and the classic salade composée from Nice (whose ingredients are a hotly debated subject anyway).

I was sorely tempted to name it Salade Libaniçoise.

You can pretty much see everything in the picture, but I'll lay out the recipe for your entertainment, anyway. The tuna and the capers are the only elements served warm - I used the same skillet for both - the other parts can be prepared in advance. The purple potatoes are a type called Quartz, here in Germany, but you can of course use any kind of waxy potato that you like. These were too pretty not to showcase.

Salade Niçoise et Libanaise

Serves 2

150 grams mixed greens (I've used lambs' lettuce with arugula and shreds of beetroot)
2 eggs, boiled
125 mL Niçoise olives, stones in
30 mL capers, rinsed & fried in olive oil
100 grams potatoes, boiled, cooled, & sliced
100 grams haricots verts, or other fine green beans, steamed and quick-cooled in ice water
a few cherry tomatoes, halved
200 grams of tuna steak, pressed with sesame seeds and lightly seared on all sides (do not overcook!)

Tahini Dressing

45 mL (3 tablespoons) tahini, stirred well
big pinch of coarse/kosher salt
Juice of half a lemon
1 clove garlic, pressed
15 mL olive oil
cold water, if necessary, to made a thick salad-dressing consistency

In a small bowl, combine the dressing ingredients, mixing well with a fork or stick blender. Add a little cold water, a tablespoon at a time, and stir until it becomes creamy and the texture of pourable salad dressing.

Layer the ingredients onto the platter. If you green beans are still wet, lay them on some paper towel to dry off, so they don't sog out the salad. Arrange the greens around the bottom, and then place the potatoes, egg halves, beans, and tomatoes, however you like, but leaving a space to put the tuna. Tumble the olives into all the nooks and crannies between the other elements.

As soon as the tuna and capers are added to the platter, drizzle the dressing as artistically as you can manage over the various elements of the salad. I see from this that I really need to invest in a sauce bottle with a nozzle, so that I can better control the flow - this one got a bit blobby-looking.



It was really quite filling, and completely delicious.

September 10, 2017

Farmer's Skillet Dinner: Bauerntopf mit Hackfleisch


This is a speedy one-pot meal of ground meat and potatoes that is also a perfect use for those small, new-harvest nugget potatoes that are just coming into markets now (my potatoes were a bit bigger than that, but still good). If you are chopping up larger potatoes, be sure to choose waxy ones that won't turn mushy when you stir them. It's also an excellent hiding place for a zucchini; none but the most dedicated of examiners will be able to find it in amongst the richly seasoned gravy.

Here in Germany, this dish is often made with a "fix" - that is, a prepared seasoning packet from a company such as Knorr or Maggi. However, when I looked at the ingredients in the packet and discovered that it really only contained powdered tomato paste, dehydrated onion, paprika and a few other seasonings (including way too much salt for my taste), I decided to make it from scratch - a "fix ohne fix" as it were. The zucchini was my own inspiration, but it adds another vegetable to make the dish more of a complete meal.

You can use any kind of ground meat you like, but here I've used the standard German mixture of beef and pork. In fact, you don't even need to use meat at all - you could easily cook up and drain some lentils to use instead (add them after the onions), or a mixture of finely chopped mushrooms and walnuts could also fit the bill.

Double this if you like - but you'll need to use either a very large skillet or a dutch oven.

Bauerntopf mit Hackfleisch

Farmer's Skillet Dinner

Serves 2

250 grams lean ground meat
1 small onion, finely diced
150 grams zucchini, grated
300 grams nugget potatoes, quartered into wedges
2 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
60 mL tomato paste
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
1 pinch smoked paprika (optional)
1/2 teaspoon marjoram (optional)
1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt (or coarse sea salt)
1 teaspoon beef or chicken stock base (optional, low-sodium preferred)
1 cup water

In a large skillet, break up and brown the ground meat (use a little oil if you don't have a non-stick pan). Add the onion and sauté until translucent. Add the garlic and zucchini (it will seem like a lot, but don't worry - it shrinks down) and stir through. Add the salt. Continue to cook, stirring frequently, until the zucchini wilts down and its water evaporates.

Next add the tomato paste and the paprika, marjoram, and white pepper, and stir through. The mixture will be quite thick, but stir it through until everything is coated. Add the quartered potatoes, and stir them through gently until they are coated with the seasoned tomato mixture.

As soon as the potatoes are added, add the water, and stir through gently until it is all incorporated. Bring the temperature up to a simmer, and then reduce to the lowest setting and cover the pan. Cook, stirring gently two or three times throughout, for 25 minutes. If your mixture is still very wet (it shouldn't be) leave the lid off and cook for another five minutes. Divide between bowls or plates, and tuck in.



Now, then, can you see the zucchini?

September 03, 2017

Pajeon: Korean Scallion Pancake


Pajeon (파전) is the green onion version of the Korean pancake family -- a rich family indeed, with many variations from kimchi to seafood, to combinations thereof. There are quite a few different techniques, as well - some mix the egg into the batter, some mix an assortment of vegetables right into the batter, and some use more advanced layering techniques than the one below. This is a somewhat plain version, but it is no less delicious for its simplicity.

Pajeon can be eaten all by itself --it makes a great lunch-- or as a side dish (banchan) for a more elaborate meal. Apparently enjoying pajeon is particularly associated with rainy days in Korea.

If you have access to a Korean grocery store, you can buy the pancake mix ready to go - just follow the instructions on the package to make the batter. If you can get Korean scallions, they are much less thick than the western type, and do not need to be sliced vertically in the recipe below.

Pajeon (Korean Scallion Pancake: 파전)

Makes 1 large pancake
Serves 1-2 (more if served as banchan)

2-3 whole scallions (or other green onions)
50 grams cake flour (low-protein flour)
20 grams rice flour (or rice dumpling flour blend)
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
125 mL (1/2 cup) water
1/2 to 1 tablespoon peanut oil (1 tablespoon = crispier)
1/2 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1/2 egg, beaten

Dipping sauce

Stir together:

1 tablespoon less sodium soy sauce
1/2 tablespoon rice vinegar
pinch of sugar (optional)
pinch of pepper flakes (Korean ideally, but Turkish are also good)
toasted sesame seeds
1 small clove garlic, minced or pressed (optional)

Prepare your green onions by cutting them into 6cm lengths, and then slicing them vertically to make medium-fine strips.

Combine the flours, salt, and water in a mixing bowl, and whisk lightly until smooth. You don't want to whisk it more than that, or you might toughen the batter. You could also use a food processor with a cutting blade, which reduces gluten-strand formation. The batter should be a bit thinner than regular pancake batter, but a bit thicker than crêpe batter. It should pour easily.

In a 28cm nonstick skillet (or equivalent), heat the peanut oil over moderately high heat until very hot. Add the green onion, and stir fry lightly for about 30 seconds or so. Use the spatula to spread the onion out evenly in the pan - there needs to be lots of gaps for the batter to flow into, to hold it all together.

Pour the batter evenly over the onions, and let the pancake cook for a few minutes. Then, when the edges are starting to get a bit dry-looking, gently pour the egg over the top of the pancake. It doesn't have to cover it completely, just pour it around and it will be fine. Let the pancake continue to cook (if you can smell it browning too fast, turn your heat down to medium, but it should be fine) until the egg mixture is thickened a bit, and not as runny, and the edges are looking dry and a bit golden. While it cooks, you can easily stir together the dipping sauce ingredients.

Use a large spatula to slide under the pancake to flip it over, as quickly and smoothly as you can. If you can do the one-handed pancake flip, bless you and go right ahead. Let the pancake cook for a few more minutes, letting the egg start to turn golden. While it cooks, brush the sesame oil over the pancake, and then just before serving, flip it again to give it a final quick blast on the other side, because you want the edges to be a little crispy. Slide the finished pancake onto a cutting board (egg-side up), and use a knife or pizza wheel to cut it into squares. Serve with dipping sauce.

While I like the stark simplicity of scallions alone in this dish, I think next time I might sneak a few slices of hot chile pepper in, too, just for fun. And I'm definitely looking forward to making Haemul Pajeon, which adds a layer of seafood, too.