Sunday, March 29, 2009
(images are clam pizza and baguettes made with the same dough)
Ever wonder what to do with those cans of clams that are always on sale? They may not be better than fresh ones, but they're a heck of a lot cheaper. When combined with tons of garlic and mozzerella cheese, they're terrific too.
Lately we've been making pizza with Peter Reinhart's versatile pain a l'ancienne dough recipe. It somehow gets around the problem that home ovens are a lot cooler than professional ones. But we're not going to share that recipe, because a) we don't plagiarize, and b) you'd be better off buying The Bread Baker's Apprentice. It is a fantastic book.
However, we're aware that others on the Internets don't share our scruples. So if you just must cut and paste those words in the Google—have at it. If you do, please feel poorly about yourself—not to mention sorry for Mr. Reinhart, whose fabulous breadmaking skills cannot have contributed positively to his long term cardiovascular health. In any case, we owe this pizza to him.
(serves 1/4 of a true gourmet)
1 serving pain a l'ancienne dough
½ can chopped clams (drained, with liquid reserved)
¼ cup chopped garlic
1. Place pizza stone in oven.
2. Preheat your oven as hot as it will go, keep heated for at least 20 minutes
3. Place cornmeal on pizza peel or back of cookie sheet.
4. Stretch and toss dough to desired shape.
5. Place on pizza peel.
6. Add clams and garlic.
7. Top with mozzarella.
8. Add a small amount of reserved clam juice.
9. Place on hot stone.
10. After eight minutes or sides of pizza are brown, remove.
11. Drizzle with olive oil
12. Serve and eat ravenously.
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
Even if you don't get polenta, this recipe should turn your mind around. The concept comes from Romania and Moldova, where "mamaliga," a thick polenta, is the national bread. It's served, in flush times, with a strongly-flavored meat or fish, some sour cream and grated sheep's cheese. The idea is to take a bite sized piece of polenta (in your hands), dip it in sour cream, dip it in cheese, and then use it to grab a piece of meat. Try it, it's yummy.
The traditional meat for this is an artery-clogging piece of pork or chicken stewed in fat. This has strong points in its favor. But we hope to reach 50. So, we found some inexpensive pork tenderloin and subjected it to a Chinese marinade. The side of asparagus offers a contrast to the richness of the rest of the dish. When we're being lazy, which is often, we substitute pickles or pickled tomatoes for the asparagus.
(try to cook it this way if you have the time, otherwise cut the cooking time to 30 minutes)
1 cup coarse ground cornmeal (you can use regular cornmeal, and we often do)
1. Bring four cups of water to a boil.
2. Whisk the cornmeal in, pouring it in a thin stream from your fist.
3. Bring back to a boil and turn heat as low as it will go.
4. Cook slowly for about three hours, stirring every 20 minutes or so to ensure that it doesn't burn. Reincorporate any crispy bits on the side.
5. Add water (boiling if possible) as necessary.
6. When polenta turns a pale shade of white, add salt and butter to taste.
7. Make sure it's reasonably thick.
8. Pour into a small bowl, and allow to sit while you cook the pork and asparagus.
9. Reverse the bowl on to a plate to make a cake.
20 sprigs (or so) asparagus
1. Heat oven to 400.
2. Place asparagus in a roasting pan and lightly toss with oil.
3. Roast for about 5-7 minutes or until cooked through and lightly browned.
4. Remove and sprinkle with salt and vinegar.
5. Allow to sit until ready
Pork and Serving Instructions
1 pork tenderloin
Char Sui sauce (a popular Chinese marinade)
Cooked Polenta cake
Pecorino cheese (or something like that, parm is ok, so is Kasseri, if you feel you must go native)
1. Mix Char Sui and water to form a marinade. Add Sriracha to taste.
2. Place tenderloin and marinade in a ziplock bag.
3. Allow to sit for 2-3 hours minimum.
4. Remove and dry.
5. Cut thin disks of pork.
6. Heat a grill or grill pan as hot as it will go.
7. Brush disks with oil, then grill for about 2-3 minutes per side, more if pork scares you
8. Allow to rest while you assemble the plates.
9. Cut polenta cake in wedges. Put wedge or two on each plate. Add a dollop of sour cream, a mound of grated cheese, and asparagus.
10. Arrange the pork over the polenta in an artsy, nonfunctional way (see image), so that your guests must rearrange their food before eating.
11. Enjoy (see intro for eating instructions.
Monday, March 23, 2009
This one goes out to all of the true skinflints in the world (Let's unite for a beer. You pay.). We'd saved leftover pasta from a couple of meals. The rest is kitchen detritus. The results were lunch.
2 cups cooked, leftover plain pasta
4-5 cloves garlic, chopped fine
2 tbsp tomato paste (When opening a can of tomato paste, don't use the whole can. Freeze the rest wrapped in plastic sprayed with oil. When you need it, cut off a piece with a serrated knife and defrost in the microwave.)
¼ cup Neufchatel cheese (or cream cheese)
1 tbsp half & half
Dried oregano & dried basil
Crushed red pepper flakes
¼ cup pine nuts
1 tbsp chopped parsley
Olive oil (unimpressive)
1. If you have two or more types of pasta, chop it until everything is roughly the same size.
2. Toast the pine nuts in a skillet, remove and chop roughly.
3. Put a bit of olive oil in the same skillet, and cook the garlic gently over low heat.
4. When it is fragrant, but before it is golden, add the tomato paste.
5. Fry for a few moments, then add about half a cup of water. Stir to incorporate the tomato paste, and let simmer for a few minutes.
6. Season with a small bit of kosher salt.
7. Add the Neufchatel cheese and half & half, stirring to combine. Keep the sauce simmering.
8. When the cheese has been completely incorporated, add the oregano, basil, and red pepper flakes.
9. Let the sauce simmer for a few moments more before adding the parsley and about half the chopped nuts.
10. The sauce might need a pinch of sugar here. Taste and adjust the seasonings.
11. Toss pasta through. Serve garnished with more chopped nuts.
Sunday, March 22, 2009
Saturday, March 21, 2009
After crisscrossing the world looking for cephalopod recipes, it's nice to come back to a good old mac-n-cheese. There's nothing like it for providing comfort if you need it, and tasting great if you don't. It also helps use up all of the scraps in your cheese drawer.
Every mac and cheese recipe has to fit in your roasting pan nicely. That makes writing a recipe a little bit of an exercise in guess work. We usually test the amount of pasta we'llneed by filling up the pan we're going to use. The amount of cooked pasta should be about ¾ to the top of the pot. Then we remove that to a bowl, make a little extra sauce, and combine the right amount to cover it.
1 pound pasta, cooked to a hard al dente
2-3 cups grated scrap cheese, cheddar, monterrey jack, etc.
3 oz Velveeta (yes, that stuff, it adds a nice texture)
1 onion, chopped
1 tsp dry mustard
1 tbsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp cayenne
1 tbsp flour
1 ½ cups milk (or so)
2 tbsp butter
½ cup frozen peas
½ cup bread crumbs or crumbled Ritz crackers
1. Heat oven to 400
2. Fry the onions briskly over medium high heat until yellow
3. Lower heat, add butter, and flour and stir to combine.
4. Add spices and cook briefly
5. Add milk, stirring vigorously. Bring temp up.
6. Add butter, and melt
7. Add Velveeta and dissolve
8. Slowly add cheese a little at a time, making sure it dissolves. Sauce should be thickened but still a little watery (the pasta will thicken it further)
9. Add peas to thaw
10. Taste and season
11. Combine all the ingredients in a bowl, mix, then pour into baking dish.
12. Cover with bread crumbs, dab with butter, put in oven
13. Bake about 20 minutes. If the top starts to brown too much, cover with foil
14. Allow to rest five minutes before serving.
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
Our last hurrah with our octopus was a simple ceviche served with popcorn. Why popcorn? Ask the Ecuadorans, we're merely following orders.
When it comes to ceviche, many people are hung up on the fact that South American limes are different from North American limes. This is entirely true. And it would have a big impact on you if you wanted your ceviche exactly how mom made it—provided that mom happened to come from South America. Luckily, our remaining mom wouldn't eat octopus ceviche if it could restore her 401K to its former glory. So, we gave it a whirl with lemon juice and liked it quite a bit.
½ cup cooked octopus
½ jalapeno, sliced very thin
½ medium onion, sliced
1 tbsp cilantro
1 tbsp oil (neutral)
1. Toss the first four ingredients together, cover with the fifth and sixth, and add the seventh to taste.
2. Wait 20 minutes and serve with popcorn.
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
We think there's no greater testimony to the commitment of a vegetarian than the meatball. We could with regret forgo lamb chops and pork roasts, but giving up meatballs is like giving up French fries, sex, or peanut butter. It takes character.
Whenever ground beef goes on sale, we usually grab a bunch of it, some of which inevitably ends its days as flavored meatballs. Normally, we make at least two kinds at once. This involves getting a couple of bowls, divvying up the flesh, and adding different seasonings and thickeners. Then we fry them and freeze them.
Many of them, of course, disappear in the process. There is something about a freshly fried meatball, a hunk of crusty bread, and a dab of mayonnaise that could tempt a devout Hindu, we're sure. But the surviving meatballs make an interesting ingredient for those times when you just don't have time to cook something special.
Pasta and Spanish-Flavored Meatballs
1-2 pounds ground beef
½ head garlic, minced
1/3 cup bread crumbs
2 tbsp parsley
1 tbsp Spanish paprika
½ tsp sumac (optional)
½ tsp cayenne (optional)
1. Mix, form into small balls, and fry in olive oil over medium heat until cooked through. (it's a good idea to check your seasoning by frying a small patty first, before forming the lot into balls)
2. Freeze on a sheet tray lined with parchment paper
3. Place in a zipper bag and store for future use.
½ pound pasta
8 small Spanish-flavored meatballs
1 medium onion, sliced
5 cloves garlic
2 tsp smoked paprika
1 tbsp chopped parsley
Cheese for garnish
1. Cook pasta until al dente, reserving ½ cup pasta water.
2. Sliver one clove garlic and fry in 1 tbsp oil until lightly browned. Remove and set aside.
3. Fry onion in medium hot oil until yellow.
4. Add garlic, paprika and saffron. Wait until your kitchen starts smelling great, then:
5. Add meatballs and heat through.
6. Add cooked pasta and enough water to create a thick sauce. Add salt, if necessary.
7. Add parsley and remove from heat.
8. Garnish with garlic chips and cheese.
Monday, March 16, 2009
Thai curry is one of those things that can either be simple and quick, or absolutely backbreaking. We learned it the backbreaking way, pounding it out in heavy granite mortars at one of Thailand's ubiquitous cooking schools. My memories of the lessons include walking home, bleary eyed and dehydrated, with aching shoulders. The truth is that making your own curry paste is better, but it's something we do only once in a while.
For weeknight meals, we recommend a simpler route, and one taken by nearly every Thai family: Get it premade. You can find a tub of curry paste for a couple of bucks at any Thai market (we tend towards the Mae Ploy brand, which is a little salty, but otherwise ok). It will keep in your refrigerator forever, and be ready to kick out a cheap, quick, and delicious meal in no time.
This recipe is made by combining leftover ingredients from the Lomo Saltado and the Pasta with Octopus.
Final note: Somewhere on the internet, we found (and subsequently can't find again) a recipe where someone braised the octopus from scratch in a Thai coconut curry. This strikes us as capable of producing an infinitely better result, and we're going to try it some time.
Yellow Curry Octopus
2/3 cup octopus, cooked and skin removed
2/3 cup onions, sliced
½ cup potatoes, cut into small pieces
½ cup grape tomatoes
2 tbsp yellow curry paste (though you may need to add more)
1 can coconut milk
Sugar (start with 1-2 tsp)
2 kaffir lime leaves, sliced (optional)
1 tbsp basil, chopped (Thai holy, if you can get it)
Jasmine rice, cooked
1. Heat a frying pan and oil and tomatoes and sear until skins start to break. Remove
2. Clean out pan again, heat. Then add coconut milk and heat until it starts boiling around the edges.
3. Add curry paste and stir until incorporated.
4. Add onions and potatoes, and cook until tender.
5. Taste. If necessary add sugar, fish sauce and adjust.
6. Add tomatoes, octopus, and kaffir lime leaves, and heat through.
7. Remove from heat and add the basil.
8. Serve over rice.
Saturday, March 14, 2009
The best octopus dish we've ever had was the deceptively simple Pasta con Pulpo at the Hotel Terrasol in Grenada, Nicaragua. No, it's not Nicaraguan. The chef, Victor Chamorro, is from California, where he was executive chef at uber-ritzy supermarket Drager's in the Bay Area. He and his wife, Katya, had long dreamed of moving back to her hometown and opening a small hotel and restaurant. We're glad they didn't stop at dreaming. The hotel is cozy and the food is fantastic, a mix of local ingredients and California culinary sensibility. It's worth a long stop if you ever visit Grenada, which you should do.
This is our attempt to recreate the dish. It's a fair approximation, delicious, but not as good as the original. Don't overdo the basil; it really brings out the flavor of the octopus.
Pasta with Octopus
3/4 pound thin spaghetti(cooked normally)
1cup cooked octopus, skin removed
¾ head garlic, chopped fine
¾ cup fresh tomatoes, chopped
1 tbsp basil
Cheese for garnish
1. In a large, hot frying pan, add about 3-4 tbsp oil
2. Add garlic and cook briskly for about 15 seconds
3. Add tomatoes and a sprinkle of salt
4. Cook two minutes or so, stirring
5. Add octopus, heat through
6. Add the basil and toss through
7. Add the pasta and combine
8. Serve with cheese
Thursday, March 12, 2009
Lomo Saltado is Peru's most enthusiastic contribution to culinary performance art. To make it, a chef flambées four different ingredients four separate times over a 40,000 BTU burner. Beef, tomatoes, onions and aji amarillo peppers go into a pan one by one, where they receive a shot of Pisco and then explode in a burst of fire. The taste is smoky, but except in the hands of a very experienced chef, the results are disappointing.
Enter us. Minus the 40,000 BTUs, the aji amarillo peppers, the necessary experience, and the Pisco. We also have low ceilings. On the plus side, we did find a rather nice piece of steak and some grape tomatoes—the only ripe tomatoes at this time of year in the Northeast. The rest of it we knew how to do. In the end, you don't end up with Lomo Saltado, but you do get something rather nice.
Lomo Saltado (not really)
½ pound beef, cubed in ½ inch pieces
1 medium onion
1 jalapeno pepper, diced
2/3 cup grape tomatoes
2 cloves garlic, chopped
3 medium red potatoes (or any potatoes)
Cooked white rice (leftover)
Sriracha sauce (optional)
Toasted sesame oil
To make the fries (easy way)
Cut your potatoes into 1 cm slices or sticks. Cover in cold neutral oil in a pan. Turn the heat on high. After five minutes, turn the potatoes gently to avoid sticking. In roughly 15-20 minutes, potatoes will turn golden brown and crispy. Remove from heat and drain. Do not salt until serving.
1. Mix ½ cup soy sauce, 1 tbsp vinegar, ½ tbsp Worchestershire sauce, 1 tsp toasted sesame oil in a bowl, and Sriracha sauce. Taste and adjust, adding water or sugar as necessary.
2. Heat a frying pan or wok. Add oil and put down meat. Allow to brown on one side, turn, allow to brown on a second side. Then toss until no longer pink. Set aside in a bowl.
3. In the same pan, add the onions. Stir fry for 2 minutes until brown at edges.
4. Add peppers and garlic. Stir fry an additional minute or so.
5. Add tomatoes and pinch of salt. Fry, tossing occasionally until skins start to slip from tomatoes.
6. Add liquids, turn down heat. Add beef, and heat through. Remove from heat to a bowl.
7. Serve with rice, fries, and a garnish of scallions.
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
Isn't that beautiful? A three pound octopus recently defrosted. Why this beast isn't more popular we don't know. It tastes great and it's one of the healthiest things in the world. It's extremely low in fat, high in protein, low in mercury, and has no cholesterol. It is better frozen than fresh, and it's not usually very expensive.
It also swims. It swims to nearly every great food culture in the world: Japan, China, Italy, Spain, Greece, Peru, South East Asia—need we add West Africa? There are great octopus recipes as far as your imagination can reach.
One thing. Octopus usually must be pre-cooked before using. For some reason, there are as many old wives tales about how to do this as there are about how to tell if you're carrying a boy or a girl. It's all silly. Octopus is not remotely hard to cook. You don't need to boil it with a cork, beat it with a rolling pin, or slam it into your sink. The Spanish even advise you to dunk the octopus three times in boiling water—before boiling it in water.
All you need to do is simmer it (try for around 190-200 F) until the thickest part of the tentacles are tender and you can pierce them easily with a knife. This may take a few hours, depending on its size. Think of it as a big slimy potato with eight arms.
Then you've got a great ingredient ready for anything.
We know that this isn't the season for artichokes, and we were expecting to do something else with our leftover aioli. But at a local farm store, we were surprised to find a pile of them, absolutely fresh and not terrible expensive.
We snatched up two and a fresh lemon. Back at home we steamed the artichokes for 20 minutes. Meanwhile we added fresh lemon zest to our old aioli and let it sit for a bit. The results? Short lived.
1. Cut off the top ¼ of the artichoke
2. Cut off the stem and peel
3. Peel off the outer leaves.
4. Cut in half.
5. Sprinkle cut side with lemon juice or it will discolor. (Or don't bother. Brown artichokes taste just as good as green ones)
6. Remove the fibrous choke with a spoon.
7. Steam for 20 minutes or until ready (20 mins works for a medium-sized choke. To test your choke, peel off a leaf with a tongs, bite off the edible part, and see if it's ready.)
8. Dip in mayonnaise and enjoy.
9. Go work out. You'll need it after eating all that mayonnaise .
Sunday, March 8, 2009
Paella puzzles us. We've never had it except when it contained expensive, overcooked shellfish. We've never seen a recipe for it that didn't involve overcooking expensive shellfish. This all seems to be in the service of creating a crust on the $6 per pound Valencia rice that's also utterly essential for the dish. We're sure somebody makes great paella. But the list doesn't include us.
There's another Spanish (or Catalan) technique that we've always preferred to paella. We call it "fideo," which is really just Spanish for pasta. It's a kind of stew that involves building a spicy broth and then cooking inch-long sticks of vermicelli in it. They give off their starch and create a spicy goop that you mix with a fresh mayonnaise spiked with raw garlic. The combination is unctuous and delicious.
If a Catalan grandmother read this recipe, she'd probably dive straight for her rosary. But it reflects what we had lying around: a link of Spanish sausage, a half of a bell pepper, and some leftover roast cauliflower. It would have been greatly improved by a handful of bay scallops, or mussels, or calamari rings tossed in at the end, but when you don't have them, well you don't.
Make this first, as you need time for the garlic to infuse the mayonnaise. You can substitute store bought mayonnaise mixed with garlic, water, and parsley, but it won't react in quite the same amazing way when it hits the fideo.
1 egg yolk
1 tsp lemon juice
1 cup canola oil
1 tbsp chopped garlic
1-2 tbsp finely chopped parsley
1. Place egg yolk, salt and lemon juice in the bottom of a small mixing bowl.
2. Put the oil in a cup next to the bowl.
3. Take a spoon in one hand and a whisk in the other.
4. Whisk the egg yolk mixture briskly and unceasingly, while dribbling oil drop by drop from the spoon. It should start to form a semi solid.
5. After half the oil is incorporated, you can pour the rest into the mixture in a thin stream.
6. When finished, stir in garlic and parsley and set aside for at least 15 minutes.
7. Loosen with water until it's just pourable.
1 large sausage (uncooked Spanish chorizo—not Mexican chorizo. We've also made it with breakfast sausage, and simply increased the spicing)
1 medium onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
2/3 bell pepper chopped (all three of the above ingredients should be roughly equivalent)
2 tbsp or more chopped garlic
2 tsp each of bittersweet, sweet, and smoked paprika (or what you have)
½ tbsp oregano
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 big tbsp tomato paste
1 cup canned tomatoes, tomato sauce, etc. Puree them if you can
1 tbsp sherry vinegar
1 tsp sugar (these two ingredients are optional, but if you leave out one, leave out the other)
½ cup roasted cauliflower (optional, or substitute scallops, shellfish, etc.)
1/2 -1 pound fideo (or take the same amount of vermicelli and break it into small pieces)
Parsley to garnish
1. Cut sausage in slices and put oil in 10 inch frying pan. Cook over low heat to release oil, then at the end turn up the heat to brown.
2. Remove sausage and pour out most of the oil. Wipe to remove about half of what's left. (Yes, we know we're throwing out flavor, but you don't want that much flavor.)
3. Add more oil and sautee onions, bell peppers, and carrots over medium heat until onions are translucent.
4. Add paprikas and tomato paste and sautee for 2 minutes or so to bloom.
5. Add sherry vinegar and cook for 15 seconds.
6. Add tomatoes, oregano, and about one cup water.
7. Add salt and sugar, and a few pieces of sausage (again, don't add all or they'll totally take over)
8. Simmer for approximately 15 minutes, adding water as necessary.
9. Taste and adjust.
10. Add about 1/2 cup water and the fideo. Be careful with the fideo. It's going to release a lot of starch and puff up.
11. Cook until pasta is done. Add water to maintain a thick but viscous consistency.
12. Add the rest of the sausage and cauliflower and heat through.
13. Fold in parsley.
14. Remove from heat. Serve in a bowl with a good dollop of aioli. Diners should mix the two together before eating.
Saturday, March 7, 2009
This looks kind of like a combo appetizer plate at a Greek diner: falafel, tabouleh, pitas, and hummus. But it's mostly leftovers from the last few nights tossed together. One of us made everything you see (including the bread) in about 40 not-terribly-rushed minutes. Rachel Ray would be proud. Or perhaps jealous. Though she makes $6 million per year, so it's unlikely.
We drew our inspiration (if you want to call it that) from the old couscous from the Moroccan stew, which had a great texture, even though it tasted like cardboard. And we found a bag of lentils that we've had since the Clinton administration.
For the pitas, we had reserved half the dough from the other night, rolled it into balls, put them into plastic wrap (oiled) and stuck them in the fridge. Dough keeps for days that way. You merely have to take them out an hour before you need them.
For the hummus, we had plenty left from the other night. It dried out a bit, but sprang back with a little water and oil.
Now for the new stuff.
1 cup leftover couscous (bland and tasting like sawdust, if you can find it. Trader Joe's whole wheat couscous really fits that bill.)
½ - ¾ cup chopped parsley
¼ tbsp pureed garlic
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp harissa
Splash of kalamata olive oil (or any olive oil)
Salt and Pepper
1 cup old lentils you need to get rid of
3 tbsp parsley
1 tbsp pureed garlic
1 medium onion, grated
1 tbsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp coriander seeds
4-5 cardamom seeds (optional)
Rice flour (optional, but cheap and available at any Asian or Indian grocery)
Salt and pepper
1. Rinse the lentils thoroughly and soak for several hours.
2. Put them in a pan with ample water, bring to a boil and cook five minutes or until they are al dente
3. Meanwhile, heat a dry pan, add the cumin and coriander. When they begin to smell nice, remove them.
4. Grind cumin, coriander, and cardamom in a mortar and pestle.
5. Drain the lentils, transfer to a bowl and mash with a potato masher until pasty (some can still be whole).
6. Add the onion, garlic, parsley, and spices. Toss to combine.
7. Now's the best time to taste and make adjustments.
8. When you're happy with the flavor, add 1 tbsp flour and knead slightly. Continue adding flour until the lentils are able to be formed into balls.
9. Pour rice flour out on to a sheet pan or cutting board. You can leave the rice flour out, but it makes a nice and completely unauthentic crust.
10. Roll the mash into golf ball sized pieces. You may need to wash your hands from time to time to remove the excess. Don't worry about waste, you're working with about $ .10 of ingredients here.
11. When each one is finished, flatten it into a disk, and toss it in the rice flour and set aside. (If deep frying, leave them round.)
12. Heat ¼ inch of oil in a frying pan. Cook until brown.
This recipe can also be used to make a veggie burger.
Friday, March 6, 2009
There are date plantations in Death Valley, and a trip there brought us in close contact with one of the rarest things in the entire United States: a reasonably priced date. We bought a few pounds and devoured most of them. But when we got home, they went uneaten for several months. The reason is not that we don't like dates. It's that we had stored them behind the chocolate. In our house, nothing behind the chocolate ever gets eaten.
The recipe we used was from the King Arthur Flour Baking Companion. It is low fat and surprisingly healthy. Here you see it served with cream cheese and a happy cat. The cat recipe follows.
Happy Black Cat
1 stray, neglected cat (black)
Tons of affection
Parmesan cheese (Reggiano, of course)
1. Find cat, or let it find you
2. Shower it with the affection
3. Give it the parmesan
4. Repeat steps 2 and 3
Thursday, March 5, 2009
In the past few years, hummus has become an industry. Factories now crank out more flavors of hydrogenated chickpea fluff than you can count. Confession: we haven't found any we like. If we have come over to your house and raved about the one you served us, we were simply showing our good breeding.
Real hummus is a simple and delicious thing that asks for almost no adornment. To make it is easy but it takes a while. The key is to flavor it exactly how you like.
2 cups dried Indian chickpeas (accept no substitute)
Garlic cloves (we use one)
Tahini (we start with about 3 tbsp)
Olive oil (no more than half the amount of tahini)
1. Soak the chickpeas overnight or for 24 hours.
2. Place them in a large sauce pan with two quarts of water.
3. Cook for about 45 minutes, until chickpeas are coming apart. Drain.
4. Chop the garlic and put into a food processor.
5. Put the chickpeas into food processor and process until smooth. (Hold off on the rest of the ingredients. Otherwise it won't be as smooth).
6. Add tahini, oil, salt, and lemon juice. Pulse and taste until you like the flavor.
7. Then blitz the processor on, and drizzle water in until you get the fluffiness you desire.
8. Serve with a nice splash of your most pretentious olive oil.
Homemade pitas are also delicious and easy to make—the recipe we use comes from King Arthur Flour. One note on that: they suggest dough improver, which makes the dough easier to roll out. You don't need that. Follow these steps instead.
1. Simply roll it out the best you can.
2. If it's not thin enough and keep snapping back, don't fight it. The dough will win every time.
3. Instead, use guile.
4. Cover the partially flattened disk with plastic wrap.
5. Walk away.
6. Enjoy half of a glass of wine.
7. Return to your dough. You will now find it cooperative.
8. Roll it out to the desired size.
You'll see we also enjoyed ours with some of the extra harissa and cooked cauliflower from the other night.
So says the apparently brilliant folks at Culinary School Guide. Their list has lots of other good blogs too. Check it out.
We're continuing to attack our legume drawer. Yes, you read the title right. These are pancakes (dosas) made almost entirely from split yellow peas. The idea comes from South India, where people have been turning nothing into tasty food for eons. We found the recipe at Manjula's Kitchen. She also has a video, so visit her to find out how to do it (fair warning, it's informative but not gripping television.)
Here's some thoughts. If you balk at the high oil content, you can make the pancake with less oil than she does, but it will be a little less crunchy and not spread as easily in the pan.
Don't be a slave to the recipe. You may use any spicing you like. We put in salt, cumin seeds, cayenne, and some finely diced green pepper we happened to have lying around.
To serve it, we used some leftover Indian food. One thing to note is that you do not need much leftovers for this. Typically, Americans like to eat a big bowl of curry with a small amount of rice and bread. Indians do the reverse: the bread is the centerpiece, the rest of the food is a condiment. If you strongly flavor your dosa, you don't need a lot of (or any) curry.
Secret: For breakfast, Nicole likes plain salted dosas with maple syrup.
May have to rethink that title. The New York Times had a recipe for something that involved whole wheat couscous and Moroccan-spiced chick peas. Which got us to thinking. In our pantry we have a drawer filled with many different kinds of legumes that we never use. Not to mention a box of whole wheat couscous that has followed us around for five years, traveling more than 4000 miles in the process. We don't know where it came from, and we think it's been secretly mocking us.
We didn't care for the recipe (the instructions were all backwards), so we set out on our own. This was beyond good, by the way. A good harissa with some preserved lemon really makes this, but don't despair. You can substitute Tabasco or Sriracha, or even Frank's hot sauce.
Chickpea Stew with Cauliflower and Harissa
1 cup dried chickpeas (Don't do this with canned chick peas. In fact, don't do anything with canned chick peas except exercises.)
1 large onion, sliced thin
1 ½ tbsp cumin whole
2 tbsp coriander whole
½ tsp cayenne pepper
2 tbsp tomato paste
Salt to taste
3 tbsp chopped Italian parsley
1 cup couscous
Canola or other neutral oil
1. Rinse the chickpeas until the water runs clear. Then soak them for 8 hours, or overnight.
2. Prepare the couscous by adding one cup boiling water, 2 tsp butter, and salt. Cover and let sit for 5 minutes. Then fluff and rub through your hands.
3. Cut the cauliflower into florets and chop the stems. Put oil in a very hot pan. Brown the cauliflower, then add a half cup of water, lower the heat, and cover. Steam until al dente.
4. Heat a dry pan, add the cumin and coriander. When they begin to smell nice, remove and grind in a mortar and pestle. Or spare yourself the bother and use pre-ground.
5. Heat a large saucepan over medium high heat. Add the onions.
6. Cook, stirring until they are just ready to brown.
7. Lower the heat. Make a well in the center of the onions and add the tomato paste. Flatten it out and let fry for a minute or so. Then mix with the onions.
8. Add most of the cumin and coriander (reserve a little to add later, if needed). Fry for a few minutes.
9. Add the chickpeas, 1 tbsp of harissa, some salt, and about a quart or so of water. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer until the chickpeas are soft and tasty.
10. Add cauliflower and season to taste. You may need to add additional water, or cook it down to enrich the flavor. Remove from heat and stir in parsley.
11. Combine the sour cream with equal parts water.
12. Make a small layer of couscous in a bowl. Pour the stew over it, garnish with sour cream and a dollop of harissa.