Archive for the ‘Everyday recipes’ Category
I didn’t mean to take off nearly the entire summer. I meant to write frequent posts on the many and varied meals that I’d cooked using fresh produce from farmers markets across the land (a good swath of it anyway). I meant to improve my photography skills. To cook new and exciting dishes. To develop my recipe writing skills. To come to terms with the irrational squeamishness that I feel when confronted with soft-boiled eggs.
What did I do instead?
I traveled, read, cooked, ate, and indulged my desire — nay, my need — to spend long, lovely days with my daughter who starts school later this week. Mimi calls her new school the “working” preschool to distinguish it from the “playing” preschool where she spent three days a week during the spring. She’ll spend five morning a week at the working school, which means that our family will officially make the shift from toddler parenting to school-age parenting. With the shift comes more time for Jim and I, of course, but as any parent knows, it also marks another big step away from precious babyhood.
I thought about this step a lot this summer as Mimi and I ran on beaches, splashed in pools, and lounged about. I definitely thought about it when she danced with the seriousness of a professional at her end-of-camp ballet recital. I kept it in mind as we drove from one mid-Western city to the next, and I decided to enjoy these lovely days with my — for now — baby, knowing that I would have more time in the fall for blogging and other writing projects.
I did cook often this summer, mostly simple, laid-back, enjoyable meals. This is, of course, the best way to cook during the hot months. And, since we’ve returned home I’ve enjoyed cooking with the fabulous local produce, especially tomatoes, which we’ve eaten practically every day.
We’ve been eating a lot of a Greek food, specifically the tangy Macedonian spread called htipiti, which translates into “that which is beaten.” It’s made with feta, oregano, garlic, and lemon and is the easiest thing in the world to whip up (or “beat up,” I guess) and slather over warm pita. Htipiti is perfect summer food — no fear of breaking a sweat — and makes a great addition to a mezze, a fabulous way of eating during these sultry Dog Days.
8 ounces of feta, crumbled
1-2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 tsp. Aleppo pepper
1/4 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. black pepper
1/2 tsp. dried oregano, preferably Greek or Turkish
The juice of about two lemons — you might not need it all
2 tbs. olive oil, preferably Greek
1 roasted red pepper, sliced into strips (optional)
In a large bowl. combine the first 6 ingredients and stir gently with a rubber spatula. Add the lemon juice, a splash at a time and stir until everything is just moistened. Slowly drizzle over the olive oil while continuing to stir gently. Stop when the feta mixture is softened but not soggy. Refrigerate for about an hour to allow the flavors to meld. Adjust seasonings. Top with the slices of red pepper, if using, and serve with warm pita.
My most recent batch of htipiti did not photograph well. As you might guess, the spread is a little on the white side, one reason why the red peppers make such a nice addition. Unfortunately, I didn’t have any red peppers on hand so there was nothing to provide that much needed contrast. The photos were not fit to post. Sadly, I also immolated the pita — such a silly, rookie mistake — which didn’t help matters. No matter: we managed to polish off the entire batch of htipiti quite happily.
Expecting something on three of my ex-boyfriends?
Think again. As satisfying as that might be for me, it would not be of much use to you. Instead, I offer something truly valuable: recipes for my three favorite dinner party starters, muhamarra, tapenade, and hummus.
Served alone, any one of the three would be a satisfying way to welcome dinner guests. Serve the three of them together, however, and you will impress your guests with your worldly sophistication, easy generosity, and all around culinary brilliance. At the very least, they will know that you care.
I’m not sure when I started serving all three dips together, but now I feel sort of lazy whenever I make only one or two of them. I wish I could come up with a catchier phase to call them: “the three dips?” Not exactly sophisticated. Fortunately, even if the name doesn’t inspire, the combination does. The dips belong together somehow. Sweet, salty, and earthy; red, black, and beige — however you configure them, they play well together.
Besides, once you haul out the food processor to prepare one, it makes a lot of sense to prepare all three. They share a number of ingredients — garlic, lemon juice, and red pepper — so, you know, while you’re at it.
I’m never able to single out a favorite. Each one tastes wonderful slathered onto triangles of warm pita (especially pita you make yourself–another post). The three distinct flavors also work really well in tandem. Besides this important fact, there are other advantages to serving the triumvirate to guests. They look pretty together on the table and they are just exotic enough to seem special. All three are vegan (or can easily be made so). Best, the dips taste best made the day before, which frees you from some kitchen prep on the day of your event. In fact, even if the dips are all that you serve, your guests will be thrilled.
A word about muhammara, which is a traditional Persian dip. While most of its ingredients are easily found, you will need to look around for the pomegranate molasses since it is an essential component of the dish. Its flavor is both sweet and tart, a common profile in Persian food. I’ve found pomegranate molasses at Zingerman’s and the Spice House, and it keeps forever in the refrigerator. However, don’t despair if you absolutely cannot get some; either reduce 2 cups worth of pomegranate juice (you’ll wind up with about 1/2 cup of molasses) or double the specified amount of lemon juice and add 1 tsp. dark brown sugar.
Finally, I recommend Aleppo pepper in all three recipes, but regular crushed red pepper makes an adequate substitute. If you do use crushed red pepper, reduce the amounts recommended by about half and adjust from there. The muhamarra and tapenade should both be fairly spicy.
1 7 or 8 oz. jar of roasted red peppers, drained
2/3 cup walnuts
3 cloves of garlic
Juice from 1 lemon
3 tsp. pomegranate molasses
1 tsp. Aleppo pepper
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/4 – 1/2 cup olive oil
Put the first 8 ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and process using short pulses. You want everything coarsely chopped. Once you have the texture you like, add the olive oil in a steady stream while the food processor whizzes away. Adjust seasonings. Garnish, if you’d like, with mint leaves. Serve with warm pita.
1 12 oz jar of pitted Kalamata olives, drained and rinsed
2 tbs. capers, drained and rinsed
3-5 garlic cloves
Zest of one lemon
Juice of one lemon
Scant 1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. Aleppo pepper
1/4 – 1/2 cup olive oil
Place the first 6 ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and process using short pulses. When all is coarsely chopped, add the olive oil in a steady stream while the food processor whizzes away. Adjust seasonings. Serve with warm pita. Sometimes, I add some crumbled feta cheese to the finished tapenade. If you plan to do this, bear in mind the fact that feta is salty so you’ll want to add less salt to the tapenade.
1 8 oz. can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed (although you could make your own chick peas for even better results), separated
2 tbs. tahini (roasted sesame paste)
3-5 cloves of garlic
Juice of two lemons
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. Aleppo pepper
1 tsp. salt
1/4 – 1/2 cup of olive oil
Place half of the chick peas and the next 5 ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and process using short pulses. When all is coarsely chopped, add the olive oil in a steady stream while the food processor whizzes away. Add the rest of the chick peas to the processor and pulse 3 or 4 times. Adjust seasonings. Serve with warm pita.
The hummus can also be served warm. If you want to go this route, make the hummus as recommend above. Then, preheat the oven to 400 degrees; put the hummus in an oven-proof casserole; melt 1 tbs. butter in a sauce pan. Add 1 tsp. Aleppo pepper, 1/2 tsp. cumin seeds, and 2 tbs. pine nuts. Stir over medium heat until everything is coated with butter. Pour over the hummus and bake for 20 minutes. Serve immediately.
Our friends Jeff and Karen and Scott and Laura came for dinner on Saturday and I served the three dips before this lentil soup and this marmalade cake. In our Straw Poll, the hummus and the muhamarra more or less tied. We finished up the hummus on Saturday, but Mimi and I enjoyed the leftovers for lunch today. It was a fabulous way to celebrate Meatless Monday.
It says a lot about my life these days that my posts for Meatless Monday are written and published on Wednesdays. I assure you, the meals described are prepared and eaten on Mondays, in accordance with my pledge. I’m just not in a position to write anything about them until later in the week.
Inefficiency is one reason; I’ve been plagued by a rash of it lately. For instance, on Monday I forget the diaper bag somewhere and had to track it down with phone calls. Once located, I hade to find time in my work day on Tuesday to retrieve it. The temporal toll of forgetting that one small item? About 45 minutes–a fairly significant amount of time, when you consider it. Add this to the hour and a half I spent at the doctor’s office having my ear drum punctured (yippee! — seriously) and we’re talking about much time lost.
That said, Monday’s meal was a delicious model of efficiency. Ribollita is one of those wonderful Italian dishes that manages to be both thrifty and sublime at the same time. Take the remnants of day old soup — typically minestrone or the old Italian classic, beans and greens — pour it over some day old bread; douse everything with olive oil; sprinkle it with good parmesan cheese; bake at 400 degrees for about half an hour. Hey, presto — Buon appetito!
I followed a recipe from Heirloom Beans by Steve Sando and Vanessa Barrington, although this is a dish that doesn’t really need a recipe. It does require a good quantity of soup though, which I made with some of Rancho Gordo’s delicious borlotti beans.
I suppose I should just accept my addiction to Rancho Gordo beans. These beans are always in my thoughts: when did we have them last? who will notice that we just had them? is it okay to eat them for both lunch and dinner? am I talking about them too much? is it too soon to order some more?
See? These are some of the same kinds of questions addicts ask. At least I don’t have to lurk around in dark alleys to get Rancho Gordo beans, although I would if it came to that.
Fortunately, there is a much more efficient way to get Rancho Gordo beans. Just click on this link and order away. And, I promise you, I’m not on the RG payroll or anything.
Back to the ribollita: it’s a great way to use up leftover soup and bread and it takes no time at all to pile the ingredients up in a casserole dish and bake them. Jim told me that it’s the best thing he’s ever eaten. He’s generous with his praise, but I liked it a lot, too. It’s warm and filling, perfect food for a cold January evening. Sando’s recipe calls for stacking the bread in layers in the casserole dish or dutch oven and then pouring the soup over each layer. I wasn’t wild about the resulting texture though. The bottom layer was a bit mushy. Next time, I’ll make ribollita with just one layer so that all the bread winds up with a nice, crunchy topping.
Here’s a very basic recipe for Ribollita. My own version happened to be vegetarian, in honor of Meatless Monday, but there’s no reason that the soup cannot contain meat if that’s what you have on hand. Also, these measurements and pan sizes are approximate. Adapt the recipe to accommodate the amounts of leftovers that you have.
Ribollita (my riff on a recipe found in Heirloom Beans)
Around 4-6 cups of brothy soup (minestrone, vegetable, etc. Anything with beans and cabbage is nice)
6-8 slices of good day old bread, sliced about 1/2 inch thick and rubbed on both sides with a garlic clove
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
Preheat over to 400 degrees. Pour 2 inches worth of soup into a 9×12 inch baking dish with 4 inch sides or other appropriately-sized baking dish. Layer the bread on top of the soup and dunk it in to moisten the slices. Sprinkle with olive oil. Top with the cheese and bake, uncovered for 25-30 minutes (until the ribollita is bubbly and the top is nicely browned). Serves about 4.
By the way, the ribollita itself did not make great lunch leftovers. The bread became gummy and unpleasant from soaking up all of the broth. Microwaving did not help matters. It is better to make the ribollita in small batches than to make a big pan of it and reheat it.
Garlicky falafel from Aya Sofia in St. Louis
Everyone around here is sick with some kind of upper respiratory virus, what the Victorians used to call a “violent cold.” Indeed. I’m on day four; I think Jim is lagging behind me by a day or two. Misery. All parts of a cold are awful, but the worst part for me might be the olfactory deprivation. It’s worth bearing in mind that much of what we think of as taste is actually smell. Colds knock out the nose and, so it seems, the ability to taste anything that lacks a truly assertive smell. These days, I can barely tell the difference between chicken and pork. Texture is the only sure thing right now.
Bad timing too, since Jim’s parents offered to babysit for us last night so that we could go out to dinner. We still went, mind you. A little illness isn’t much of a deterrent, and after all, who would reject such a kind offer? However, instead of going to Niche, the acclaimed restaurant that we’d that planned to visit, we went to Aya Sofia, a Turkish restaurant that is one of our favorite places in the city. I was afraid that the food at Niche will be too subtle and refined for our deadened senses. Besides, we both really needed to eat some garlic.
Humans have been eating garlic for something like 6,000 years. It’s often been regarded as a powerful medicine. Recent students have validated its medicinal properties, citing its ability to reduce various forms of inflammation, including inflammation of the nasal passages. Some studies indicate that it might lessen the severity and duration of common colds. It could help reduce blood pressure and improve memory. Even Nyquil can’t make that claim.
Aya Sofia is an excellent Turkish restaurant and a perfect place to get a powerful wallop of allium. I could do without the belly dancer, who shows up on weekend nights at around 9:00, but other than that, it’s a fabulous place to eat. It’s boisterious without being noisy. The waitstaff is professional and the prices are well within the stratosphere. They also have a good wine list, featuring a number of excellent Spanish wines, my current favorites.
And, of course, the food is good. Other than the tapenade, which they used to serve as a sort of amuse bouche, my favorite thing to eat there is the Imam Bayildi. It’s one of those things that is easy enough to make at home — containing only olive oil, eggplant, onion, tomato sauce, and garlic, lots and lots of garlic.
Imam Bayildi was a good choice for my condition, riffing nicely, on my general sense of wooziness. The phrase translates to “the Imam fainted,” and the story behind that unusual title goes something like this. An Imam’s new bride wanted to impress her husband with her cooking skills so she invented a recipe for eggplant that contained quite a bit of garlic. It was so delicious that the Imam apparently fainted after eating it. A rather less generous version of the story has it that the bride used an excessive amount of olive oil, which, of course, made it a rather expensive meal, and the Imam was so overwhelmed by her poor judgement that he fainted. I prefer the garlic version.
Jim and I came home last night fairly reeking of garlic, but no one seemed to mind. I was happy that the delicious food penetrated my deadend olfactory system. Perhaps the garlic is beginning to work its magic and will start to heal our dreaded colds.
Imam Biyildi is really pretty easy to make at home. It’s also a good cure for anything that might be ailing you.
Imam Bayildi, Pearl Cous Cous, and Crunchy Green Beans, Aya Sofia
6 Asian eggplants, sliced in half lengthwise
1/2 cup olive oil
10 cloves of garlic (yes, ten, trust me), very thinly sliced
1 Spanish onion, cut in half lengthwise and thinly sliced
Spicy tomato sauce (recipe follows)
Place the eggplants on a rimmed cookie sheet and salt generously. Leave alone for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, make the tomato sauce. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Rinse the eggplants well and place them in a 9×12 baking dish. Drizzle with olive oil. Scatter the garlic and onion over top and bake for 10 minutes, covered with aluminium foil. Remove from oven, top with the tomato sauce. Cover the pan again and cook for 35 minutes. Remove the foil and cook for about 10-15 minutes more. Serve with pita bread to soak up the juices.
Spicy Tomato Sauce
2 tbs. olive oil
5 garlic cloves, very thinly sliced
1 28 ounce can of whole organic tomatoes with juices
2 tbs. cider vinegar
1 tsp. Aleppo pepper (or more, if you’d like)
1 tsp. dried mint, crumbled
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp black pepper, freshly ground
1 tsp. ground cumin
In a large sauce pan, saute the garlic in the olive oil over medium high heat until fragrant. Add remaining ingredients and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes, breaking up tomatoes. Keep at room temperature until needed.
I’ve been thinking a lot about ancient foods lately, partly because of all the chestnuts I have piled up around here, partly because I’m teaching Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma this week, and partly because of my friend Amy, who has been writing about related issues and featuring lovely photos of farro and pistachios over at The Roving Locavore.
Ancient foods are those foods that humans have been eating since we slithered out of the sea and eventually became the land-dwelling creatures with complex brains that we are (errr…some of us, anyway–Sarah Palin’s book is on the bestseller list, isn’t it?). Humans and our ancestors have been eating foods like farro, chestnuts, chick peas, lentils, beans, nuts, rice, quinoa, bulgur, fish, yogurt, and greens for many millenia. These are the foods that sustained us on our evolutionary journey, the foods that gave us our large brains, the foods around which many of the world’s culinary cultures revolve (R.I.P., Claude Lévi-Strauss).
But these foods don’t play major roles in the American diet in the year 2009, a fact that Michael Pollan, Eric Schlosser, Marion Nestle, and others argue contributes to the high rates of obesity and chronic illnesses experienced by a large percentage of the American population. It should not surprise me as much as it does, since I can see it for myself, but the obesity rate in my home state is 34%, according to the most recent CDC figures. Of course, the sedentary lifestyles of my fellow citizens undoubtedly contribute to that figure, but popular local foods like chicken fingers, hot wings, and fried macaroni and cheese (I kid you not) are also likely culprits.
And while Alabama is one of the fattest states in the nation, it is by no means the exception. So many people have written about the poor American diet and the repercussions of our terrible eating habits that it seems unnecessary to do that now. Instead, my purpose here is to celebrate one these ancient wonders in the best way that I can think of: by cooking and eating it.
And, of course, by sharing the recipe for farro with roasted butternut squash. Farro may be one of the oldest foods that humans eat as well as one of the healthiest. It’s very easy to cook (just boil it until it softens, but still retains a nice, chewy texture) and also happens to taste quite good. Really very good, in fact. Although a bit expensive and difficult to find in these parts, it can be purchased on-line from Earthy Delights.
Farro with Roasted Butternut Squash and Goat Cheese
1 cup of farro
1 large or two small butternut squashes, peeled, deseeded, and cut up into 2 inch pieces
1 tbs. olive oil
1 tsp. dried sage
1 small log of goat cheese (preferably Belle Chevre brand), crumbled
1 large handful of Italian parsley, coarsely chopped
1 large handful of fresh basil, coarsely chopped
Good quality balsamic vinegar, to drizzle over the top (optional)
Preheat over to 425 degrees. In a large sauce pan, completely cover the farro with water; bring to a boil over high heat, reduce heat the low and simmer farro for 30 minutes or until slightly chewy, but cooked through.
Meanwhile, toss the squash with olive oil, sage, salt and pepper. Spread out squash in one layer on a large, rimmed cookie sheet. Roast for 35-45 minutes, until the squash cooks through and caramelized. Drain the farro and place on a large serving platter. Add salt and pepper to taste. Cover with the farro with the roasted squash, dot the squash with pieces of goat cheese, sprinkle with parsley and basil. Drizzle with a teaspoonful or so of good quality balsamic vinegar, if you’d like. Serve immediately. Yields 3-4 servings.
This has been a busy week filled with birthdays, guests, illness, and car trouble. We’ve managed to eat well though by relying upon a battery of easy meals made from pantry staples.
Here’s one of my favorites: Cauliflower with Almonds, Olives, and Caramelized Onions served over Cous Cous, which I’ve adapted from a recipe by Deb at Smitten Kitchen. I’ll give my version of the recipe later on, but for the moment, I’d like to ponder the nature of adaptation.
I use recipes in a variety of ways. There are some –not very many though — that I follow to the letter. These are mostly for baked goods, where precision matters. Other recipes — that is to say most of them — I use as guides more than anything else. Still others function as inspiration for radically different uses of technique or ingredients.
I suppose all cooks work this way. My question is: when does a recipe become my own? When can I claim a recipe as my own original intellectual property? I guess it’s the same question that my students have in mind when they ask me if they should cite something like the date that Columbus sailed the “ocean blue.” (It’s the same issue at work in the Charlie Kaufman film Adaptation, except without the unexpected crocodile.)
So, what is an original recipe? Are there any — well, are there any that aren’t products of molecular gastronomy? Is there anything new under the sun or deep in the ocean blue?
The cauliflower recipe — which Deb adapted from a recipe by Michael Anthony of the Gramercy Tavern, and is, therefore, an adaptation of an adaptation — is the easiest thing in the world to make and awfully tasty at the end of a long weekday, when you feel like you’ve been drowning in the ocean. And even though my own version is quite a bit different from Deb’s, I’m not prepared to call this one original property.
Cauliflower with Almonds, Olives, and Caramelized Onions (adapted from a recipe by Deb at Smitten Kitchen)
2 large onions, cut in half and thinly sliced
3 tbs. olive oil
1 large head of cauliflower, or two small heads, cut or broken into large segments
1 tsp. ground cumin
2 tbs. Sultanas (golden raisins)
1 tbs. cider vinegar
1 tbs. water
2 tbs. pitted, sliced Kalamata olives
2 tbs. toasted almonds, chopped
1 large handful of cilantro, chopped
1 1/2 cups prepared cous cous
1 Tbs. Argan oil* (optional)
1/4 tsp. Baharat **(optional)
Salt to taste
Preheat oven to 425 degrees (F). To caramelize the onions: in a large frying pan, heat 1 tbs. of the olive oil until shimmering. Add the onions and cook over medium heat for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until onions are golden brown. Meanwhile, toss the cauliflower in the remaining olive oil and cumin. Scatter cauliflower onto a large rimmed cookie sheet, making sure that the cauliflower remains in one layer. Roast for 25 minutes or until the cauliflower turns golden brown.
In a small saucepan, combine the vinegar, raisins, and water. Bring to a simmer over medium high heat and cook for 2 minutes.
Cook cous cous according to the package directions.
When the cauliflower is brown and caramelized, transfer to a large, deep serving dish. Add half of the caramelized onions, toasted almonds, raisins with liquid, and olives. Toss carefully until all is combined. Scatter the remaining carmelized onions on top, along with the cilantro.
Pour the argan oil and baharat over the cous cous and gently combine with a fork. Serve cauliflower on or beside a mound of cous cous. Serves 2 adults and one three year old with a passion for olives.
* Argan oil is the oil of the argan tree, which grows only in Morocco. Said to have miraculous healing properties, the oil is delicious on cous cous and in Greek yogurt. It tastes a bit like almond or hazelnut oil, both of which make adequate substitutes. I get organic argan oil from Zamouri Spices.
**Baharat is a very hot spice blend that is the traditional spice for cous cous. Use with caution. It’s available at http://www.thespicehouse.com.
I’m interested in all things green today, even though it’s more of an orange kind of week. Ah well…here’s a photo of some tiny green Seckel pears that I bought today at the market.
The annual Opelika Dog Parade, known officially as “Howl ‘OWeen,” takes place tonight. It’s a colorful event, involving costumed pets and their ambitious owners. Lots of barking and tat–like a low-rent dog show. We love it.
If the weather holds out — it’s forecast to rain this afternoon — Mimi and I will walk into town to catch the action. Last year, we saw a Standard Poodle with day-glo-pink fur: reason enough to head over.
I’ve made dinner in advance of tonight, something colorful to match the spirit of the evening: Caldo Verde, Portuguese ‘Green Soup.’ Typically, Caldo Verde is a hearty potato soup tinted green with kale and studded with small Portuguese sausages. My version retains all of the traditional ingredients, but I usually make it using more chicken broth than potatoes. Still, it’s definitely verde.
Caldo Verde is soup for cool weather– thick, spicy, and filling. It’s easy to make and tastes even better after a good, long spell on the stove or in the refrigerator. It smells ridiculously good while cooking and is a treat for the eye.
1 tbs. olive oil
1 onion, finely diced
3 cloves garlic, smashed
1/4 lb. spicy pork sausage (preferably Conecah brand), cut into 1/4 inch pieces, divided
8 cups water or chicken stock
4 large russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes
1 cup shredded cabbage (optional)
3 cups kale, preferably Lacinato kale, hard ribs removed, thinly sliced
1 oz. can of garbanzo beans (optional), drained and rinsed
1 tsp. smoked paprika
Salt & pepper
Sauté onion, garlic, and half of the sausage in the olive oil. If necessary, drain off any oil in excess of 1 tbs. Add the potatoes and water or chicken stock. Bring to a boil and simmer on medium heat until potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes. Roughly mash the potatoes until soup is thick and somewhat creamy. You want some chunks of potato to remain. Add the kale, cabbage, grabanzo beans and the remainder of the sausage. Simmer until the greens are tender and the sausage is cooked through, about 10-15 minutes. Add smoked paprika and salt & pepper to taste. The soup can simmer on low heat almost indefinitely. Add some water if the soup looks too thick. Adjust seasonings and serve hot with some crusty, warm bread.