Archive for January, 2009

Borscht, Vaguely

Still cold and just plain nasty outside. Craving some hearty soup. I think a spicy mussels and tomatoes. But there are plenty of cooked chickpeas in the fridge, and a bunch of beet stems and leaves. Let’s do some borscht, well sort of…
The shopping list – bag of mussels, can of plum tomatoes, poblano and scallions. From the fridge – the above mentioned chickpeas, beet leftovers, as well as some dill and parsley.
Mussels go first – steamed in water and vermouth, with bay leaves. Liquid reserved, mussels shelled and put aside. Now charred and peeled poblanos got sauteed with scallion whites and chopped beet stems.
Some garlic and diced tomatoes added. Then some more vermouth. And the mussels broth. And couple of dill stems. The turn for chickpeas to be gently simmered for about 20-30mins.
To finish i add sliced beet leaves, chopped scallion greens, dill and parsley. Bring to boil. Add mussels…


    And then slowly devour the result, with pumpernickel toasts and creme fraiche…


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Recession Delicious

Couple of weeks ago i got some family pack of chicken thighs (bone in skin on). Cut the meat around bones for fried chicken bits i made that day and froze the rest, meaty bones that is. Yesterday pulled it out and made a stock for thai chicken galanga soup…
I had a package of wonton skins in the fridge lingering there for couple days because of plans changed. And all of a sudden it occurred to me that i can use the cooked meat as a filling for dumplings: pulled the meat off the bones, shredded, squeezed garlic out of skins (several cloves cooked as part of the stock aromatics) . Added chopped parsley and some chopped kalamata olives and made meat boxes moistened with a bit of the stock. Delicious 9 large dumplings made like from nothing!

Chcken Meat Boxes

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Belmar in Winter

After moving back to jersey from MA we often bitch about how it was all scenic there and not enough worthy outdoor destinations here. Which of course is not true. In fact this weekend we hit two places in one day – Apple Pie Hill followed by the lunch at the excellent burger place in Belmar called Boom and then a walk along the beach. The weather was terribly windy and cold but this contributed to the grand colors of water and skies. And nothing could beat the atmosphere of deserted for winter beachtown.

Belmar Boardwalk

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Fish department at Wegmans does really a great job. Their fresh mussels and squid (not the frozen one – avoid this) are excellent. I used it for some crazy fusion of two recipes – turkish for pilaf and sardinian for fregola paella. Strangely (or maybe not) both recipes have a lot in common so it was not difficult to imagine that the resulting dish might actually belong to both cuisines – same seafood and spicing (dill!).

Fregola with Mussels and Squid

Served with eggplant allioli.

The recipe is pretty straigforward – steam 2lbs of mussels in 1cup of water until opened (usually 4-5mins). Shell and save the liquid – this is your stock for paella. Warm some oilve oil, add whites of scallions (abour 1bunch), add cut up squid (3/4 lb), cook for a min, add spices (used cinnamon stick and a bit of dill) and green raisins, add 1.5 cup of fregola and pour the stick (2cups). Steam until squid and fregola are ready – about 10-15mins more. Stir in mussels and some more dill and scallion greens. Done.

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Apple Pie Hill

Apple Pie Hill is a local destination of sorts. There is an abandoned fire tower from which you could see endless Pinelands and even Philly. We learned about this place a year ago and since then tried to find it couple of times. Finally yesterday equipped with the GPS and precise long/lat of the destination we made it.

Apple Pie Hill

The weather was very windy and cold. I started to climb stairs and in the middle almost decided to turn back, it was that scary,
In the middle
but it would have been a shame to miss the view from the top.

From the top of the tower

We were lucky to have the place all to our own so had time to enjoy unobstructed 360-degree panoramic view from every possible angle.

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Apple Feta Fritters

I blogged about wonderful mukver – turkish zucchini and feta pancakes before, and meant to make them today for breakfast.
But then i forgot to buy zucchini, was too lazy to go to the store and decided to use apples instead…
Well should i mention that my version was superior? 🙂

Apples and Feta Fritters

0.5 lb feta, 2 large golden delicious grated in food processor – skin and juice and all, 3 eggs, 3/4 cup of flour, 3 scallions, 1 tbs of dill.
Drop the batter on the hot saute pan by 1/3 cup measure (not full), flatten and fry for about 3mins on each side.
Serve with yougurt. Delicious with smoked fish.

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Lidia Bastianich once said – i don’t go to shrink, i cook. Or something like this. Indeed cooking and food shopping have this therapeutic quality to them. So i’m making a mussels-squid fregola paella with eggplant alioli tonight.
The fresh sea water smell of mussels is enough to lift the mood and now add to this the coffee aroma coming from eggplant broiled in the oven. Life is good.

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