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Archive for April, 2007

Got Juice?

There was this idea to serve non-alcoholic drinks during meals. Plain water seemed quite boring but raw juices either fruit and vegetables sounded great. So we used our anniversary as a reason and excuse and finally got a juicer: Breville Juice Fountain JE95XL.

First attempt was cautious – we went with Granny Smith apples and strawberries but the juice was amazing.

Chicken_and_broccoli      

The dinner itself was chicken rissoles stuffed with raclette and roasted broccoli spiced with urfa and sumac. Both excellent. I changed the recipe for chicken a bit. Used a 1lb of chicken meat, crumbs made of one sturdy and fat country bread roll, whites with a bit of greens from one bunch of scallions and some sage. It was enough for 6 rissoles. Cheese was cut into batons 1/4"X1/4". During the cooking cheese didn’t leak out but almost dissipated into meat giving it an incredible texture and flavor.

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Yesterday for dinner: deconstructing a favorite tuscan dish of cavolo nero and beans. I made fagioli al fiasco and served them on top of roasted black kale. With a can of sardines and some eggplant caviar it was a very nice light dinner.

If you search the web there are plenty of recipes for roasted kale though i think the version in Food&Wine magazine is the best: Preheat the oven to 400F, cut out ribs from the leaves, arrange the leaves on the baking sheet, sprinkle with salt and drizzle with olive oil. If the cabbage is in one layer it should be done in 10mins. Chop and servce warm. Just be aware that a standard bunch is barely enough for 2 people.

And i finally found a perfect recipe for fagioli al fiasco: it is based on Aliza Green’s Beans book. She calls for fresh cranberry beans but after several attempts i think i got it right. Soak 1cup of beans ( i used Rancho Gordo’s Yellow Eye) in 3cups of water. Preheat the oven to 325F. Put beans and soaking water in to a earthenware pot, add several sage leaves, 3 fat garlic cloves, 1/2 cup of olive oil and some arbol chiles broken in half. Slowly heat the pot stovetop: heat the lid in the oven in the meantime.When the water is nearly boiling, cover the pot, put it in the oven and reduce the temp to 275F. Depending on how fresh the beans are they can be ready in less than 2 hours.

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I don’t cook any russian dishes get nostalgic about them, with very few exceptions like various mock caviars. So i’m glad that my recent attempts were quite successful.

First i made a mushroom caviar, mostly based on a recipe from Please to the Table. About pound and a quarter of equal amounts of portobello and shiitake chopped into a tiny dice. A bunch of scallions also finely chopped. A juice of half lemon, less than 1/2 cup of sour cream, and about 2tbs of dill. Warmed some olive oil in a large saute pan, quickly cooked scallions until glassy, added mushrooms, lemon juice and cooked over med-high heat stirring for about 10mins. Off the heat mixed in sour cream and dill. The flavor was nice but i decided to add some urfa pepper which was actually a great idea giving a big flavor boost.

Next day i tried a mixed eggplant/zucchini caviar mostly because there were leftovers of soused vegetables made from Malouf’s Arabesque: it’s basically pan roasted eggplant and zucchini marinated after in honey/sherry vinegar marinade with garlic and herbs (i used mint). I just whizzed leftovers with a bit of olive oil and yes, urfa. Came out quite nice too.

The texture is important – the dish is not called caviar for nothing: you want to have vegetable particles tiny but distinct.

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Smoked Chicken

One more masterpiece from the pit master:

Perfectly_smoked_chicken

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The recipe for slow-poached shrimp in this week food section of LAT came quite handy for a quick dinner:

Sous_vide_shrimp_and_dips_3

Two dips to accompany shrimps – jalapeno spinach (i wrote about it recently) and spicy carrot. The latter (adapted from Claudia Roden’s daughter’s) was quite successful and unusual, worth to be added to the repertoire.

A bunch of sweet carrots (about a pound) is cut into 2" lengths, steamed until very soft, about 35 mins, and then whizzed in food processor with a smashed garlic clove, 1/2tsp of ground caraway, 1/2tsp of ground ginger and also harissa, pomegranate molasses and olive oil. I hesitate to give amounts for those as i started with about a tbs of each but then just added more of this and that until i got to the right balanced flavor and texture.

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Yesterday leafing through Zakarian’s Town & Country i got intrigued by his approach of slowly roasting soft shell crabs (15mins on each side!). Now that’s a novel idea – any other recipe would suggest you’re done in less than 7-8 mins total. But Zakarian’s argument is quite convincing: "…one of the risks of deep frying or quick sauteing soft shell crabs is that they’re liable to pop open in your mouth with an explosion of gritty juice when you bite down…And it’s one of the reasons i prefer to cook soft shell crabs much more slowly over lower heat, allowing them to come to a delectable crispy crunchiness in their own good time…"

Slow_cooked_soft_shell_crabs

i tend to agree with his sharp observation of somewhat gritty mouthful, and am quite excited that his method is a definite improvement in both texture and flavor of crabs… Though i couldn’t help myself guiding the lily by sprinkling crabs lightly with chipotle powder before cooking – very nice (as i mentioned before Spice Islands chipotle powder is outstanding and i find its flavor more subtle then spanish paprika).

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One of these days: everything was wrong starting with the weather, and on global as well as personal levels. So just before the dinner i forced myself into a grocery store hoping ideas will come in situ. The shopping pattern was predictable – produce (grabbed some asparagus and scallions) and then fish section (one more safe bet – gulf shrimps). Oh and i decided to finally try this southern thing – pimiento cheese, so got some cheddar and red bell peppers.

Back at home i made the cheese spread and decided to pan roast asparagus with green onions and walnuts. I was thinking of poaching shrimp in olive oil for succulent treatment but then somehow stumbled on gambas al ajillo recipe, a famous spanish tapa i approached with a certain trepidation, for the dislike of any hint of burning garlic. Well, this particular recipe called for a lot of olive oil so it was sort of similar to poaching…

The final verdict?.. Unexpectedly and unanimously voted the best shrimp dish!..  So it’s probably worth to write the recipe down: 1.5lb of brown gulf shrimp, 5 minced fat garlic cloves, 6 small hot small dried red chiles, 1 cup of minced parsley, zest of 1 lemon. Quickly marinate peeled shrimp with some parsley, garlic and all of lemon zest. In the meantime heat a cup of olive oil in a big sauce pan, add the rest of parsley and garlic and stir it for some 20secs until aromatic but not letting it brown. Dump the shrimp with its marinade, distribute it in one level and cook it undisturbed for 2mins (keeping the heat high but not allowing anything to brown). Turn the shrimp and cook for additional 2mins. Pure and simple – the ultimate shrimp confit?

btw the pimiento cheese was very good, ditto for pan roasted asparagus.

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