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Posts Tagged ‘garlic’

I’ve just returned from a week of travel, and the refrigerator is a tad bare.  But I’m hungry.  And we need to eat lunch.  There’s half a shallot from last night, some feta cheese that is still good, a jar of roasted red peppers, and four eggs.  A rummage through the fruit drawer leads me to two lone grapefruits.  Ladies and gentlemen – we have a lunch!

It is very interesting how some of the most delicious things that I’ve eaten for lunch have been discovered through the use of odds and ends ingredients and the benefit of a well stocked pantry and spice cabinet.  I will never forget the day the kitchen sink eggwich changed my life… 

Anyway, as I was sauteeing the red peppers, shallots and garlic, I added a little pinch of dried basil and a little pinch of dried oregano.  Everything was smelling fragrant and delicious.  I started feeling sassy and added a splash of dry sherry to deglaze the pan and WOW.  Sherry and eggs and shallot and garlic and feta and basil and oregano and roasted red peppers equate to very, very tasty and wonderful scrambled eggs.  The salty feta is such a wonderful counterpoint to the other flavors.  I think my humble little eggs felt very fancy with the addition of that dry sherry.

Now if we ever have any fancy people show up for brunch, I’ll serve them these scrambled eggs; they’re the best I’ve ever had.  In the meantime, I plan to add this to the regular rotation, finished with two juicy little grapefruits drizzled with honey or any other fruits hanging out lonely in the fruit drawer.  A handful of lettuce tossed in vinaigrette will also make a very tasty addition. 

scrambled eggs – fancy pants style

serves two

  • two cloves of garlic, minced
  • one small shallot or half of one large shallot, chopped
  • one roasted red pepper, chopped
  • four eggs, cracked into a bowl and whisked with a splash of milk, salt and pepper
  • a pinch of dried basil
  • a pinch of dried oregano
  • about two tbsp of dry sherry
  • about 1/3 cup of crumbled feta
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • a splash of extra virgin olive oil
  1. heat a non-stick pan over medium heat and add enough olive oil to thinly coat; add the garlic, shallots and roasted red peppers, and cook until just beginning to brown – stir regularly to prevent the garlic from burning
  2. slowly pour in the sherry, stirring to coat the vegetables (you should hear the sherry sizzle in the pan)
  3. reduce the heat to low and add the eggs, stirring constantly around the edge of the pan to gently “scramble” the eggs
  4. when the eggs have reached their desired consistency, gently stir in the feta
  5. garnish with some chopped chives or parsley if you have fancy people dining with you
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A few years ago I met the most extraordinary Lebanese woman named Diana.  She was living with my in-laws while completing her Master’s Degree in Counseling.  I think she may have secretly been an angel sent straight from heaven; she taught me about Lebanese food and fed it to us in copious amounts, and she consoled our family as we helplessly waited day after day at the hospital, my father-in-law dealing with a devastating illness that nearly claimed his life.   

I relished the time we spent chatting on the sofa for so many reasons, but I found it especially interesting to discuss our different worldviews and the cultural nuances that shaped us both as young, independent, determined women.  For instance, when I hear a rumble of thunder, I think of the spectacular storms that I grew up with in Texas.  Diana wonders where the bombs are falling.  

Apparently Diana cast a spell on us with those meals, because I have been intensely passionate about Lebanese food ever since (and when I say “intensely passionate,” I really mean crazed).  She sent me home with precious little baggies of za’atar, sumac, seven spice and white pepper, but I had high hopes of discovering the exact components of seven spice to simply mix the spices myself.  No such luck.  Between my English and Diana’s mom’s Arabic, we couldn’t get it completely figured out.  Internet research will lead you down varying paths, but the mixture can vary from family to family.  I definitely know that clove, cinnamon, allspice, pepper and nutmeg are the heavy hitters; it gets tricky with the remaining two spices.  Some say ginger and fenugreek, some say caraway and cumin…  I can’t stand to waste a meal not getting it exactly right, so I buy my seven spice from the patient and diligent owner of Leon’s International Bakery and allow it to remain exotic and mysterious. 

The first time I visited Leon’s I arrived armed with my tiny ziploc baggies of Diana’s spices.  I believe I made a memorable impression that day, and not just because I was caught dancing in the aisle to the Arabic music that was playing.  I called the gracious owner of Leon’s over to his spice rack and I held open each little baggie, focusing especially on the seven spice.  “Please smell this,” I said.  He raised an eyebrow and sniffed.  “Please tell me if you are selling exactly this mixture here at your store,” I said.  He assured me that it was likely to be very close.  “This is from Lebanon,” I said.  He nodded.  “I’m very intent on getting this exact mixture because I want to replicate certain dishes – please do sniff again – my bag first and then your spice mixture.”  That blessed man sniffed again, offering his sincere assurance that I would be satisfied.  As I said, “passionately intense.” 

I made my purchases that day, and needless to say, his mixture is the best I’ve tried yet.   During my last visit I was explaining this to him – that I have tried blends from other reputable providers in many U.S. cities, and that his is the absolute best.  “Because it is the original,” he says.  I continued on in my monologue, assuring him that his offerings are unmatched in taste and aroma.  This must qualify me as an expert, because he turned and asked me if I was originally from Lebanon. 

There are so many Lebanese dishes that we eat with great frequency in our home, and I want to share all of them with you.  My favorite dishes call for generous amounts of lemon and garlic and olive oil, astringent sumac for a tangy zip and lots of seven spice for depth and deliciousness.  However, they deserve to be discussed one at a time, so I’m starting with the first dish that Diana served to us – chicken and potatoes.  I haven’t found this exact recipe in the one hundred or so Lebanese cookbooks that I’ve looked through, so I assume that the combo of chicken and potatoes is one that Diana’s mom prefers.  I like that. 

Diana’s way is good enough to have Jon and I pine after it like forlorn lovers, but I recently applied that high heat, miraculous roast chicken method to the recipe, and our lives changed forever.  This post is already exceedingly long, so I’ll spare the finer points of why cooking chicken this way in the oven is really the only way to do it.  You can check the details out in chapter one and chapter two of the fabulous roast chicken saga. 

Let me instead tell you about how the potatoes and will soak up this heady blend of spices, and will cook to perfection doused in lemon and garlic.  The chicken will be succulent and juicy and flavorful and silky and fabulous.  The olive oil and spices and lemon and garlic will meld together in the baking dish to form the most glorious sauce that has ever graced a silly little potato or a humble piece of chicken.  Your house will smell glorious.  Your life will change.  You may cry tears of joy.  And while you belly dance your way through the kitchen to drink the remaining olive oil directly from the baking dish, you too can be transformed into an honorary Phoenician, changed forever by Diana’s chicken and potatoes. 

chicken and potatoes – serves four or two really hungry and over indulgent people

  • one bone in skin on chicken cut into pieces, or two bone in skin on breasts, or several bone in skin on thighs – decide based on the number of people that you are serving
  • three to six russet potatoes, peeled and cut into half inch medallions
  • four or five cloves of garlic, grated with a microplane zester or smashed to a paste in a mortar and pestle
  • two or more lemons, juiced
  • two heaping tbsps of Lebanese seven spice
  • one heaping tbsp of allspice
  • one heaping tbsp of cinnamon
  • 1/2 heaping tsp of ground white pepper
  • kosher salt to taste, about one tsp
  • a generous amount of olive oil
  1. mix all of the spices and salt together in a small bowl, and add enough olive oil so that the spices and oil together form a thick, soupy mix – you don’t really want a paste, but you also don’t want a soup – you want a well stirred homogenous mixture
  2. grate the peeled garlic into another small bowl, and juice the lemons into the same bowl – whisk together
  3. put your chicken in a large glass baking dish, cover the chicken with the spice and oil mixture – be sure and generously coat the chicken, making sure to put plenty of the mix under the skin – then, carefully spoon a small amount of the lemon and garlic mixture UNDER the chicken skin, taking care to keep any of the lemon and garlic mixture from getting on the top of the chicken skin
  4. place the chicken on the very top shelf of a five hundred degree oven, and bake for fifteen minutes
  5. meanwhile, peel the potatoes and cut them into half inch medallions
  6. cover the potatoes with cold water in a saucepan and bring to a boil – simmer for ten minutes and then drain
  7. when the chicken has baked for fifteen minutes, pull the pan out of the oven and add the potatoes, covering them generously with the remaining oil and spice mixture – give the entire pan a few extra glugs of olive oil – be generous
  8. bake the chicken and potatoes for an additional fifteen minutes
  9. pull the chicken and potatoes out and pour over the lemon and garlic mixture, and bake for five more minutes
  10. remove from the oven and serve, with the olive oil sauce poured over the chicken and potatoes

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I love it when I make something from scratch and have enough left over to store some in the freezer.  It makes me feel so prepared… so wholesome (which is excellent since “prepared” and “wholesome” probably aren’t the first words that come to mind when describing myself).  It also makes me feel smart, because making something from scratch that you would normally buy jarred from the store tends to be much tastier, much cheaper, and much better for you.   

the components

In fact, I love this so much that one may assume by the looks of my freezer that an eighty-five year old woman lives at my house.  My freezer is full of little labeled bags, each one containing enough of some little morsel or ingredient to be used for a specific serving amount.  Didn’t use an entire can of tomato paste or chipotle chiles?  Just divide the rest up and put it in a little bag, I say!  Who doesn’t love stretching one dollar across four meals?!  If only I exercised this level of mindfulness and precision with my laundry or, I don’t know, our budget.

accidental art

Back to making things from scratch; I’ve been really into this lately.  The discovery of very inexpensive spices that can be found at international markets (basically any place that sells food outside of your conventional chain grocery store) opens up a new world of possibilities in this realm.  I’ve always been a relative purist in terms of cooking meals from scratch; I keep it simple and fresh with veggies, grains, meats and bread.  Now I’m moving on to condiments.  I have big plans for some Guiness mustard, a fantastic worsteshire sauce, Harissa paste and maybe ketsup.   Once you deconstruct a sauce or flavor component that you use regularly and typically pick up at the store, you discover that the ingredients in a store bought item tend towards fillers and artificial ingredients that diminish flavor and aren’t really good for you.  Homemade marinara or Bolognese sauce, for instance, is a revelation after years of stuff from a jar.

possibilities

Anyway, I started this journey with Thai Red Curry paste.  The beauty of Thai Red Curry paste (aside from the fact that it is utterly delicious) is that it has so many uses: stir a little into noodles, add some to rice, slather on meat for a marinade, whisk some into soup, add to oil and vinegar for a unique salad dressing… Having some of this curry paste on hand means that a can of coconut milk, shallots, lime and a pound of mussels is all it takes to quickly put together an elegant and exotic meal.  I love this!  I enjoy so much the complilation of all these ingredients, coming together to make something fantastic.  There may be a little extra work on the front end, but I’m so thankful when I pull my well marked baggie out of the freezer for instant flavor.  This little trend has started to extend to a multitude of other genres… spice blends, jams and jellies… I’m actually dreaming of getting my hands on some veal bones to make my own demi glace this Fall.  

the end result

In the meantime, I’ll just share this recipe that I used from Saveur; I hope someone will try it and share with me in the unusual satisfaction that comes from a freezer full of tiny baggies.  

thai red curry paste

  • 8 dried chiles de arbol, stemmed and seeded
  • 1 tbsp corriander seeds
  • 2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp white peppercorns
  • 3 cardamom pods
  • 1/4 cup roughly chopped cilantro, with stems
  • 2 tbsp canola oil
  • 2 tbsp fish sauce
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
  • 5 gloves of garlic, smashed
  • 3 shallots, roughly chopped
  • 2 holland or fresno chiles, stemmed, seeded and chopped
  • 2 stalks of lemongrass, tough outer layers discarded, tender interior layers finely chopped
  • 1 one inch piece of ginger peeled and roughly chopped
  1. break the chiles de arbol into pieces, transfer to a small bowl, and cover with one cup of boiling water; let them soak until softened – about 20 minutes
  2. meanwhile, add corriander, cumin, peppercorns, and cardamom to a small skillet over meadium head; toast spices, swirling constantly, until very fragrant – about 4 minutes
  3. transfer spices to a grinder (I use an electric coffee grinder) and grind to a fine poweder – set aside – (if you’re feeling really rustic, you could smash and grind them with a mortar and pestle)
  4. strain the chiles de arbol through a sieve, reserving the soaking liquid
  5. in a food processor, combine chiles de arbol, ground spices, fish sauce, cilantro, oil, salt, nutmeg, garlic, shallots, fresh holland chiles, lemongrass and ginger – puree until paste is smooth, about 2 minutes (sprinkle in a tbsp or two of reserved chile soaking water to help paste grind)
  6. refrigerate for up to three weeks or freeze for up to three months

Thai Red Curry paste doesn’t have the flavor that many people associate with the traditional Indian Yellow Curry; the word “curry” is used in both Indian and Thai cuisines to indicate a pungeant and flavorful spice paste or mixture, and is not indicative of one specific flavor or aroma.

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you be the chef

 

The sky is the limit.

Money is no object.

Add anything you like.

Use all of these ingredients.

What is your creation?

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tastes as beautiful as it looks

tastes as beautiful as it looks

If you want to sing because you have just eaten something delectable – if you want to feel like you are dining in the manner of aristocrats – if you want an absolute slurpy flavor explosion with each little bite of food, then you need to prepare and eat the mussels that I just had for lunch.  Seriously.  I’m getting really passionate again about my lunch but it’s completely valid. 

Mussels are so good and easy to make.  The strangest thing is trying to guard their little lives so much from store to home, then confirm that they’re all healthy and thriving, only to quickly extinguish those little lives in a steaming pot.  I would be kind of sad about it if they weren’t so extravagantly delicious. 

I have been craving mussels and a  smattering of left over ingredients from the week came together very quickly to make an absolutely glorious broth that obviously gets me very excited.  A pinch of saffron and the addition of a tiny anchovy filet (both pantry staples in my house) added an extra layer of flavor to ingredients that are already outstanding.   Imagine this bite: one tender little mussel swimming in a fragrant broth that tastes of wine and lemon and garlic and fresh parsley and summer with a hint of thyme and saffron.  I realize that I sound a bit over dramatic sometimes when I talk about some of these things, but when food tastes this good it makes me want write poetry.  And love letters.  Food love letters, if you will. 

We ate these mussels with some toasted slices of french baguette, rubbed with a clove of raw garlic and drizzled with olive oil and salt and pepper.  If you haven’t eaten bread this way, you are missing out on one of life’s great and simple pleasures.   

The recipe below serves two and the entire meal took about twenty minutes to prepare; there really isn’t any excuse for you to not share in this experience with me.  I want everyone to experience these little tastes of the good life – together.  Let’s start with these mussels. 

tender mussels in fragrant wine broth

  • a pound and a half of mussels, scrubbed and debearded if necessary
  • a cup and a half of white wine
  • three cloves of garlic, chopped
  • a quarter of an onion or a couple of shallots, chopped
  • a generous handful of fresh parsley, chopped
  • four or five sprigs of thyme, leaves removed and stems discarded
  • half of a lemon (meyer is best)
  • one little anchovy fillet
  • a pinch of saffron (maybe five or six small threads)
  • one tbsp of butter
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • about one tsp of kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  1. add the saffron to the wine and let soak while you begin cooking
  2. heat the butter and olive oil in an appropriately sized sauce pan over medium heat, and add the chopped onions, salt and pepper and stir frequently for about two minutes
  3. add the garlic, anchovy and thyme and cook for a minute or two more, stirring frequently
  4. add the wine (with saffron) and about two thirds of the fresh parsley and bring to a boil
  5. gently add the mussels, cover and reduce to medium, cooking for six to seven minutes (all mussels should be open – discard any that do not open)
  6. ladle the mussels and plenty of the broth into wide bowls and garnish with the rest of the fresh parsley; serve with crusty garlic bread

All mussels should be scrubbed and inspected before cooking; discard any mussels that have cracked or broken shells.  If a mussel is open, gently tap it on the shell; if it doesn’t close it should also be discarded. 

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eggwichBoy howdy, I’ve been eating some good lunches this week!  I mean, they must be good to make me say things like, “boy howdy.”  Hot damn, even!  My knack for saving things in the freezer in the manner of eighty year old grannies combined with my need to use up any leftover ingredients manifested themselves today into the best eggwich that I’ve ever eaten.  Ever.  An absolute work of impromptu eggwich art.  A sandwich so good as to inspire a spontaneous and uncharacteristic “boy howdy” must be shared. 

I didn’t ever eat eggwiches before Jon turned me on to them.  In fact, does anyone else use the term “eggwich” or did we just make that up?  Either way, I love them now and today’s eggwich is going on the menu of my imaginary cafe.  We had some left over fresh mozarella and pancetta from a pizza earlier in the week; these precious ingredients cannot go to waste.  Those plus some french hamburger rolls from the freezer, some thin slices from a red onion, a few frozen artichoke hearts, and a little schmear of mayonnaise spiked with dried basil amounted to rich, creamy, delectable, gooey eggwich heaven. 

These are some of the best flavors in the world – salty bacon, runny yolk, basil, mayonnaise (or just fat in general), artichoke hearts, fresh mozarella cheese – all on a chewy, soft french roll.  Hallelujah!  I love this eggwich.  I wanted to make out with this eggwich.  I know it’s weird, but I don’t care.  Are you ever this in love with your food?!  We ended our lunch with some fresh green grapes – it was a perfect finish to the richness of the sandwich.

I hope you are inspired by this kitchen sink eggwich.  You should make it exactly as is and discover what kind of random, joyful expletives burst out as you devour every perfect bite.  OR – you should make your own kitchen sink eggwich with your left over ingredients and tell me all about it.  Either way – bon appetito!

best ever impromptu kitchen sink italian eggwich

  • two eggs
  • a few slices of pancetta, quartered
  • a tbsp or so of mayonnaise
  • one tsp or so of dried basil
  • three artichoke hearts, chopped
  • a few thin, half moon slices of red onion or shallot
  • one garlic clove
  • two balls of fresh mozarella cheese, torn into smaller pieces
  • two french hamburger buns
  1. warm whole hamburger buns in a 400 degree oven for five minutes; remove them, cut them in half, rub a little garlic on each cut side and add the torn mozarella cheese; cook for five to seven minutes more or until bread is soft and cheese is gently melted but not brown
  2. meanwhile, mix chopped artichoke hearts, dried basil and mayonnaise together; season with a pinch of salt and ground pepper
  3. heat a skillet over medium heat and crisp up the pancetta with a small drizzle of olive oil; remove and drain on a paper towel
  4. add eggs, one at a time, to warm skillet and cook them over medium; the yolk should be a little runny (cook for a minute and a half and then gently flip over and cook for about one more minute on the other side)
  5. assemble the sandwiches with the mayonnaise, egg, pancetta and red onions – glory!

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tasty and wonderful

tasty and wonderful

The last time I was in Israel I arrived in Tel Aviv at dawn.  I left Athens for Israel at one in the morning, and it took many hours of travel before I finally reached Tiberias, my first stop on the journey.  Tiberias is a beautiful little city that occupies a short stretch of the coast along the Sea of Galilee.  There are small and winding stone alleys, a lively beach scene, elegant boutique hotels and crumbling, ancient minarets left over from the Ottomans.  Ignore the young teenagers carrying machine guns; it’s a charming town.  Tiberias is particularly special to me because it is where I met my husband.  I can easily conjure the colorful, swirling, exhilarating memories of the night that we met, so you can imagine how excited I was to return with him three years later.

However, our reunion with this cherished city was not the picture of romance that I envisioned.  We were tired, confused, starving.  We had been up for hours.  We were hangry (a unique physical/emotional state brought on by low blood sugar; hunger+angry=hangry).  People that know me know about hangry.  Hanger must be attended to.  We ended up at a small place called Little Tiberias.  We ate quite a few dishes that day, but I only remember the fried cauliflower.  Is it terrible to say that my memories of the fried cauliflower run alongside my memories of meeting Jon? 

off the coast of tiberias

off the coast of tiberias

I don’t know if I have ever loved a vegetable the way that I loved that cauliflower.  It could have been because I was starving but I’m pretty sure its because it was out of this world.  It was tender and crispy all at the same time, warm and smothered with garlic and olive oil and lemon and coriander leaves.  My mouth is watering as I write this.  My passion for this cauliflower was so intense that the chef came out and shared the recipe with me, which basically consisted of “loads and loads of garlic” and “tons of lemon and olive oil” and “good white cauliflower dropped in a lot of hot oil.” 

Cauliflower is an underused vegetable, pushed aside all together or covered in fake, melted cheese.  Yuck.  I have always enjoyed its earthy flavor and prefer it  roasted in the oven with lemon or nutmeg or paprika, but ever since that day I really love my pretend Little Tiberias version.  I don’t technically fry the cauliflower (although I’d like to try one day) and I swapped the coriander leaves for arugula, but it still tastes delicious and reminds me of Israel and love and beach and sunshine.  I also added a little bit of paprika – no idea why.  The cauliflower gets nice and browned and lemony and garlicky – the wilted arugula a perfect complement.  Please try this immediately and tell me all about it or share one of your favorite ways to prepare cauliflower!    

lemony garlicky cauliflower and wilted arugula (and love)

  • one head of cauliflower, cut into bite sized florets
  • four or five cloves of garlic, chopped
  • one large or two small lemons (meyers are best)
  • one generous handful of arugula
  • one teaspoon of paprika
  • kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • extra virgin olive oil
  1. heat a very generous amount of olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat and add the cauliflower, cooking for a few minutes untouched until they begin to brown
  2. add the paprika, salt and pepper and give the florets a turn or a shake to encourage nice browing on their opposite sides
  3. once cauliflower is browning nicely, squeeze half of a lemon over the florets, add a splash of water, reduce heat to medium and cover, cooking for about 8 more minutes or until cauliflower is tender (be sure and check temperture level and add a little water as necessary to keep from burning)
  4. in the meantime, whisk the rest of the lemon with some extra virgin olive oil and a pinch each of salt and pepper to create a simple vinaigrette
  5. in the last few minutes of cooking, add the chopped garlic to the cauliflower and stir, watching carefully so that the garlic doesn’t burn
  6. when cauliflower is finished, toss it with the arugula and the vinaigrette

I like to serve this will something simple like chicken or salmon or steak.

You could substitute the arugula for cilantro, a cousin to the coriander leaves that they use at Little Tiberias.  I don’t use cilantro because I hate it, which goes to show just how good the version in Israel was!

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