Archive for June, 2007

Paella on the Grill

The article in LAT reminded that we haven’t had paella in general and on the grill in particular for a while. On one thing i would disagree with von Bremzen is the choice of rice. Over the years i made paella with all types of rices mentioned in the article and there is no doubt in my mind that calasparra/bomba is superior in both taste and texture (and mind you i’m not a fan of al dente rice).


For a recipe i chose a chicken and prawns paella from Casa Moro with some modifications. Marinated shrimps and chicken thighs (halved and skinless on the bone) separately in a marinade for chicken paella from Casas’s Paella book. Skewered the chicken and grilled on high fire for about 10min. In the meantime soffrito of vidalia and green pepper, with garlic and haricots verts added towards the end was done stovetop. Rice (1 3/4 cup) mixed in and amontillado sherry (150ml) added, the alcohol boiled off a bit, and the paella pan with its content was moved to the grill. The boiling stock (4 cups)was added, and paella was simmered for 10mins, then chicken was placed on top for 10mins more, and then at last shrimp for couple mins. And finally a rest for 10mins before serving.

What a treat!


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So you might see from recent postings i’m that fixated on artichokes, and Wegmans carrying perfect (and very decently priced) specimens makes the indulgence easy…


I also appreciate subtle flavors these days – i remember one of my friends concern about eating a lot of spicy food – "i’m ruining my palate" she used to say and i tended to agree with her… But recently i found myself immersed in italian cooking fascinated by its understanding of the elemental stuff, vegetables especially…

So here it was, a perfect dinner of fingerlings, artichokes and garlic, pan roasted in plenty of good olive oil. Oh and a grassy american IPA was a brilliant match, consider Green Flash West Coast IPA…

And one last observation of the day. I always dream about perfectly fried potatoes from my childhood, the taste i wasn’t been able to recreate so far… it seems like tonight’s fingerlings were the best approximation ever, so maybe my next attempt would be the same dish roasted in sunflower oil… now i’ll go check russian books if they have anything to say on artichokes… brb…


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Picnic na Obochine

So you have an early morning meeting with a customer, about two hours of drive from your place, but since you absolutely need to be there in time and the morning traffic pattern is unpredictable you decide to drive at your leisure in the evening and stay overnight in some local hotel. But what about the dinner? So you go to Chowhound, read the contradicting reviews by people you know nothing about and shudder by the very image of "red sauce italian place, inexpensive but decent"…

But then, and what a novel thought, you decide to stop by Whole Foods on your way, and pick up some good picnic stuff – i chose a small chunk of raw ossau iraty cheese, several slices of great Framani sopressata, a small container of salad greens, local NJ blueberries for dessert, and a large bottle of Arrogant Bastard Ale.

My hotel room had a kitchenette including a set of tableware – though no bottle opener. I tried to but failed, to imitate H. how he opens beer bottles with a fork ( i thought for a moment i should call him but he’s literally on the other side of the planet at this moment..) At this point i observed the hotel room for a possible solution and bingo! – straight, sturdy and sharp metallic edge of the iron table did the job!   

As for the post title, i really couldn’t help myself – and readers who spent their formative years in russia will get the allusion, while those who didn’t can google and it won’t be that helpful – it’s translated as a "roadside picnic"but in reality it’s neperevodimaya igra slov (pretty much untranslatable that is).

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I wandered into Delicious Orchards to maybe get some red chiles but mostly because it’s a nice store to shop in; these days it got somewhat marginalized by neighboring Wegmans but still  offers a charming country store appeal backed by a great produce selection… Though i found no interesting chiles  (was looking for fresh fresno or cayenne) there were great fingerlings, and morels so i got both, plus plump watercress.

Back home with no obvious game plan i opened several mushroom as well as french cookbooks but found nothing particular enticing… Well, always count on Schneider’s Amaranth to Zucchini – this is what she had to say in the book – "to keep every drop of flavor, bake morels, covered, with petite potatoes to soak up their juices. Small yellow-fleshed potatoes, which have a waxy texture and rich flavor, are a must for the success of this simple dish, which looks casual but tastes elegant… set on a bed of cress, and you have a lovely dinner." What a happy coincidence!


And though i got rose fingerlings instead of yellow baby yukons they’re even waxier and flavor rich. Scheider calls for hazelnut oil, nutmeg and white wine, while i flavored the dish with rosemary and fino sherry. Baked it in individual cazuelas. Excellent!

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I posted about the dish before. But tonight’s version came out of the oven so voluptuous, almost obscene…


And it tasted exactly like it appeared!.. Marcella says this dish is a perfect example of the principle of insaporire (making tasty) – the artichokes are cooked on lively heat for about 30mins to allow them to become very dark and very tasty.

The only thing i changed is using pecorino toscano instead of mozzarella/parmigiano combination. It melts perfectly and has a pronounced flavor though not overwhelming delicate ingredients…


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One of my precious recent acquisitions is definitely Dubai – New Arabian Cuisine. This is where i found a recipe for araaya, a stuffed flat bread filled, in this particular case, with something that sounded like a middle eastern ceviche, and then toasted.


The book also mentioned that araaya is a favorite snack in countries of the Levant, and that a traditional filling would be of minced lamb with mint and roasted pine nuts… The googling didn’t help much but the filling sounded very familiar so i turned to Casa Moro just to find there a recipe for gozleme aka anatolian stuffed bread.

The filling of potato, scallions, caraway seeds and dill sounded right up my alley, to serve as a side for chorizo olives burgers. Along with a cabbage slaw with an avocado dressing…

Oh and of course i cheated – instead of going though an excruciating process of making, rolling out thin and frying the dough i split some decent store bought pitas, filled then and pan toasted weighted down like panini. Perfect.

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The original recipe for pancetta embossed chicken thighs goes back to the glorious days of eGullet. Tonight i decided to use the technique with soft-shell crabs.


Served on a bed of roasted asparagus and scallions, with tahini remoulade by Ana Sortun.

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