Monday, March 21, 2016

It's Easter So I'm Egging You On

More than lamb, the egg is the symbolic food of Easter, celebration of Spring, i.e. new birth. We hunt eggs, dye eggs, fill plastic ones and eat them in every conceivable form. Slavic cultures probably go wildest with their babkas and egg shaped cakes filled with whole eggs to double down on the message. Jewish Passover requires dipping hard boiled eggs into salted water to symbolize the bitterness of life. Lots of meaning, lots of eggs. So here are eight ways the world loves eggs, all excellent to serve for breakfast, brunch, supper or midnight snack on Easter. (with apologies for the way this blog looks: Blogger is a dastardly platform that refused to work right. It just keeps making changes of its own, for the worst.)

My Smoked Salmon Stuffed Eggs
This is for 4 but you can double it
4 hard boiled eggs
2 scallions, minced
1 tbsp chopped fresh chives
1 heaping tsp capers, carefully drained
 1 1/2 slices smoked salmon, cut into tiny bits
1/3 tsp prepared white horseradish
1 heaping tbsp chopped fresh dill
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to your taste
1-2 tbsp creme fraiche, sour cream or whipped cream cheese

Slice the eggs in half lengthwise and carefully remove the yolks. Put these in a medium size bowl. Add everything else but the final creme fraiche/sour cream/whipped cream cheese, and blend well with a fork to mash the yolks. Add enough creme fraiche/sour cream/whipped cream cheese to totally bind everything into a thick paste. Carefully fill the egg white holes with this paste and spread some over the edges so the top of the egg is completely covered by the yellow mixture. To serve, sprinkle on more fresh chopped fill or chive flowers, salmon roe caviar or drained capers.

Migas: Spanish scrambled eggs with yesterday's bread

Serves 4
1 medium loaf of stale white bread (around 2-3 days old)
Extra virgin olive oil
4 garlic cloves, crushed with the skin on
1/2 lb morcilla, chorizo or pancetta, cubed
4 shallots, finely chopped
2 tsp smoked paprika
A small bunch of parsley, chopped
1/4 c sultanas, soaked (either overnight or 2-3 hours before) in sherry
2 tbsp hazelnuts, toasted and crushed
1 tbsp pine nuts, toasted
8 large eggs
Lardo (optional), thinly sliced, to serve
Salt and black pepper

Remove the bread crusts. Cut it into 2cm cubes. Sprinkle with water to make damp. Keep aside in a Tupperware box or in a bowl with a damp tea towel over it until needed.Put a sauté pan on a medium and cover the bottom with extra virgin olive oil. When warm add the garlic. When the garlic is halfway to caramelized, add the morcilla, chorizo or pancetta and cook 2 minutes until the fat is released. Lower heat and add the bread.Toss steadily 4-5 minutes. BUT after 2 minutes, add the shallots and smoked paprika. Add the chopped parsley, sultanas, hazelnuts and pine nuts and stir well. Cook just until the bread is crispy on the outside but still moist and chewy inside. Do not make croutons. Immediately divide the bread mix among four plates.

In the same pan, fry the eggs, making sure they’re crispy on the outside (with a skirt) and runny in the middle. Place two each on top of the plated bread mixture. If you have lardo, place a slice or two on top of the eggs so that it melts. Season and serve.

Persian Parsley Omelets
This recipe is from Veggiyana, the Dharma of Cooking.Makes 15 2-3” “pancake” omelets 
1 lg bunch fresh flat leaf parsley, cleaned 
2 lg garlic cloves, peeled 
¼ tsp fresh cracked or ground black pepper 
6-7 scallions, cleaned 
6 eggs 
¼ tsp salt 
3 tbsp olive oil

Put parsley, garlic, pepper and scallions in the bowl of a food processor and chop. Or chop each individually, mincing the garlic, and combine. Whisk the eggs in a large bowl and blend in salt. Whisk in the parsley mixture.

Heat a large flat skillet over medium heat and coat with 1 tbsp olive oil. When oil is hot, put in 2 tbsp of egg mixture as though making a pancake. Scrap the ooze to try to keep a reasonably round shape 2-3 inches in diameter. Do this again 2 or 3 times until the skillet is full but there is space between the omelets. Cook until the edges start to brown and flip. Cook another minute and remove from heat. Continue making omelets until the egg mixture runs out.
  Serve these warm or at room temperature. They are delicious wrapped in lavash with a dollop of sour cream or yogurt and thinly sliced cucumber.

Spanish Tortilla: a pancake of eggs, potatoes and onion 
from Veggiyana, the Dharma of Cooking
Serves 4-5

2 tbsp olive oil (extra if your pan is large) 
4 round potatoes about 2” in diameter 
1 med onion, peeled and diced 
1 tsp salt 
5 eggs

Cut potatoes in half, then cut the halves in half again, and cut each into uniformly thin slices. Heat a frying or sauté pan on medium high. When it’s hot, coat the bottom with olive oil and heat until it is almost smoky. Cut heat to low and add potatoes, stir frying to coat them with the oil. Continue to sauté potatoes 3-5 minutes until they are soft, then cover the pot and continue cooking until they just start to brown, about 5 minutes. (Fresh or new potatoes will cook faster.) Add onion and salt. Cover the pot and continue to cook on low until onions are soft, 10-12 minutes.

Meanwhile beat eggs in a medium or large bowl. Have ready a flat plate as large as the pan you are cooking in, at least as large as the tortilla will be. When the onions and potatoes are soft and golden, pour contents of the pan into the scrambled eggs and blend.

Return the emptied pan to the stove and raise heat to high. If there are not still have droplets of oil all over the bottom, add a tsp of olive oil and heat it. When pan and oil are very hot, cut heat to low and pour in the egg mixture. Spread and level it. Cover the pan and cook on low 3-5 minutes, or until the bottom half of the tortilla is firm.

Put a large plate over the top of the tortilla, remove the pan from the heat and flip it so the tortilla lands on the plate. The cooked side will be up. Slide the tortilla back into the pan with the cooked side up. Cover the pan, return to low heat and continue cooking another 3-4 minutes until the entire tortilla is firm. Immediately invert the tortilla onto a serving plate. Cut into wedges and serve warm. Served with grilled artichokes and zucchini in Romesco sauce for a memorable Spanish meal.

Chinese Tea Eggs
This recipe is from How to Fix A Leek and Other Food From Your Farmers' Market

6 extra large or jumbo eggs 

3 tbsp soy sauce
2 star anise
2 tbsp leaves or 2 bags of strong black tea like Russian Caravan or Labsang Souchong or best quality Darjeeling
1 cinnamon stick
1 tsp sugar

In a large saucepan, cover the eggs by 2” with water, bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and boil 3 minutes. Remove eggs from pan but do not discard water. When eggs are cool enough to handle, with the back of a teaspoon, gently tap the shells to delicately crack them all over while still keeping them intact. Return eggs to the water, and add the other ingredients. Bring to a boil and immediately reduce heat to simmer. Cover and simmer 40 minutes, turn off heat and let eggs steep for 4 hours. Remove shells and serve whole to show off the marbling.

Menemen: Turkish scrambled eggs with tomatoes and peppers

serves 4
8 eggs
6 medium/large tomatoes, peeled and chopped into small chunks--or 2 c boxed chopped
2 Anaheim/Fresno/ Hungarian hot wax or other medium hot peppers cut into small chunks

2 green bell peppers, diced
2 onions, sliced into thin disks that are halved then halved again

1 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp ground Aleppo or ancho pepper
1/2c olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Beat the eggs in a bowl and add a little salt and pepper
Warm the olive oil in a large pan, then lightly fry the onions and peppers without browning for 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes and spices. Cook until all veggies are soft--around 7-8 minutes, and the juice reduced by about half.
Pour in the eggs and stir continually until they begin to firm. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. When eggs are firm, immediately remove from heat before they dry out. Serve immediately with fresh flat bread.

Shakshuka: poached eggs in spicy tomato sauce from Tunisia originally
I've published this on the blog before but this dish is always in season.

Serves 4

3 tbsp fruity olive oil
3 lg garlic cloves, minced
1 lg red onion, diced
1 med green bell pepper, seeded and chunked
1 sm yellow bell pepper, seeded and chunked
1-2 hot chili peppers like Serrano or real jalapeno, seeded and minced
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
½ tsp caraway seeds, smashed or ground
1-2 tsp smoked paprika
¼ tsp dried mint leaves
¼ tsp turmeric
¼ tsp ground cayenne or arbol chili powder
pinch ground cinnamon
1 tsp wine/balsamic vinegar

½ tsp honey
1 tsp tomato paste
2-3 cups chopped tomatoes in their juice
black pepper to taste
8 eggs
1 bunch fresh cilantro, stemmed, washed and chopped for garnish
optional add ons: feta cheese, pitted black kalamata olives, chopped spinach

        In a large heavy-gauge sauté pan that has a lid, heat olive oil. Sauté onions, bell and chili peppers and garlic over medium heat til soft, about 5 minutes.  Add the spices—cumin through cinnamon—and heat until fragrant, maybe 60-90 seconds.

       Stir in vinegar, tomato paste, honey and tomatoes.  Season with salt and pepper.
Cook until the sauce thickens, maybe 10-12 minutes depending on how juicy the tomatoes were.  Taste for flavor and add seasonings to your taste.

        Get the sauce very hot and bubbly over medium heat and have the pan lid handy.  Carefully create 8 small pockets in the sauce and crack an egg into each one. Try to nudge a little sauce into the eggwhites.  Cover and continue cooking to poach the eggs to your liking.
        Uncover the pan. Add the optionals you desire. Let them heat up 1 minute. Remove pan from heat. Garnish with chopped cilantro and serve right out of the pan.

Shakshuka variation: poached eggs with chickpeas and Pernod/Ouzo/Ara  
serves 6
3 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, peeled and roughly chopped
1 large carrot, peeled and roughly chopped
2 fennel bulbs, trimmed and roughly chopped
2 tbsp harissa
1 15 oz can chickpeas, drained
1 tsp cumin seeds, toasted and lightly crushed
2 tsp fennel seeds, toasted and lightly crushed
1/3-1/2 c Pernod, Ouzo or Arak
1 15/16 oz box chopped tomatoes
2 1/2 c vegetable broth
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 eggs
1/4 lb soft goat’s cheese, broken into roughly 2cm pieces
2 tsp fresh dill, roughly chopped

On a medium-high flame, heat the oil in a large sauté pan for which you have a lid. Fry onion, carrot and fennel about 15 minutes, stirring a few times, until soft and golden brown. Add the harissa, chickpeas and spices, stir through for a minute, then add the Pernod. Let it bubble for 30 seconds, then stir in the tomatoes, stock and a half-teaspoon of salt. Return to a boil, turn the heat to medium and continue to cook for 25-30 minutes, stirring a few times and crushing some of the chickpeas, until the sauce is thick and rich.

        Take off the heat, make six indentations in the mix, then crack an egg into each gap. Sprinkle the eggs with a generous pinch of salt, dot the goat’s cheese around and about, then cover and return to the heat for five to six minutes, until the egg whites are set and the yolks still runny. Remove from the heat, sprinkle with dill and serve.
Scotch Eggs: hardboiled and rolled in sausage
for 4 and baked instead of deep fried

4 large hard boiled eggs, peeled
1 lb ground pork sausage
1 sm onion, minced
salt to your taste
1 egg beaten
3 tbsp white flour
3/4 c panko breadcrumbs or crushed Cornflakes

Heat oven to 400º.  In a large bowl, combine pork, onion and salt. Shape mixture into 4 flat patties. Wrap each around an egg trying to cover it entirely. Then roll the covered egg in flour. Roll it next in the beaten egg and finally in the bread or Cornflake crumbs, covering completely.  Put on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 400º 35 minutes or until sausage is thoroughly cooked where it meets the egg.

And if none of this is good enough, you can always make a fritatta.
 Happy Easter, happy eats.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Spring Eating: Easter Lamb

Turn away today, vegetarians, because one of the two foods traditionally associated with Spring and its twin celebrations Easter and Passover is lamb. Carnivores, the bad news is lamb is not particularly popular on the American table, so the little you find in a supermarket is not homegrown but mostly flown from New Zealand. The good news is you can often find it at a farmers' market, fresh and clean. And, yes, relatively costly compared to, say, pork or chicken. I always get sticker shock when I buy farm fresh lamb. But it's a once a year tradition to mark Spring with this particular meat, so if you can handle it, here are some traditional lamb recipes from around the world.

Gigot d'agneau
This French roast leg of lamb is the Gallic go-to Easter feed. It's simple, tasty and very friendly to anything else you serve. The French frequently accompany it with white beans stewed in tomatoes, parsley, garlic and rosemary that echo the spicing of the lamb.
serves 6-8

8 lb leg of lamb, trimmed of fat
4-5 garlic cloves minced
1 tbsp dried rosemary
1 tsp ground cumin (this is not traditional but I do love the flavor it gives lamb)
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp olive oil
Sea Salt

About 2 hours before you're ready to roast, remove the lamb from the fridge. Wash it and pat it very dry. Let it sit on the counter, warming up.

Preheat oven to 450º. Anyway you can, make a paste of the garlic, rosemary, black pepper, optional cumin and olive oil. Cut a few tiny slits in the lamb. Rub a little extra olive oil all over the lamb, then rub on the spice paste, shoving some down into those slits. Salt the lamb. Roast it at 450º 20 minutes to get a brown crust on the outside. Lower heat to 375º and roast about 2 hours. Turn the meat over after an hour so it browns evenly.  Check after 90 minutes; if it's pink inside and that's the way you like, stop here.
    Remove lamb from pan and wrap it in foil for 10 minutes to rest and stay warm. Remove all the fat from the pan, leaving the scrapings and drippings and burnt bits. Pour in 1/2 c red wine and 1/2 c broth or water. Put the pan on the stove on medium heat and stir to get all those bits into the liquid to make a simple thin gravy.  This should take 2 minutes.
    Serve the lamb sliced with spoonfuls of sauce on top and chopped fresh flat leaf parsley for garnish.

Greek Lamb "Youvetzki": Lamb with Orzo
  serves 6-8
2 lbs boneless cubed lamb
2 tsp dried oregano
1 lb orzo pasta
8 oz tomato sauce or puree (canned or boxed)
6 tbsp butter (unsalted)
½ cup dry white wine
1 lg onion, thinly sliced
salt to your taste plus ¼ tsp fresh black pepper
3 garlic cloves, minced
grated Parmesan or pecorino cheese to garnish
¼ cup freshly chopped flat leaf parsley
Preheat oven to 450º. In a large heavy-gauge casserole, over medium heat, melt 2 tbsp butter and add lamb, onion, garlic, oregano, salt and pepper. Brown lamb and onions, stirring frequently. Add wine, cover and put in the oven 20 minutes. Add 1cup water, reduce heat to 350 and bake until meat is tender, about 40 minutes. Remove meat to a plate and to the pot add 3 cups water, tomato sauce, 4 tbsp butter and pinches of salt and pepper. Cover and bake 10-12 minutes.  Meanwhile in a large pot of heavily salted boiling water, cook orzo 5 minutes. Drain and add to the casserole with the lamb. Bake 10 minutes more. Garnish with parsley and serve with grated cheese.

Tibetan Lamb Curry with potatoes
serves 4
1 lb boneless lamb, cubed into bite sized chunks 
1 tsp ginger/garlic paste (for the marinade)
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp chili powder
1 c plain yogurt
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp cooking oil (corn, canola, safflower, mustard)
2 large onions, peeled and coarsely chopped
2 tomatoes
1 tbsp ginger/garlic paste
2 star anise
1 cinnamon stick
6 whole cloves
2 bay leaves
3 medium potatoes, cut into bite size chunks and boiled 5 minutes until almost tender
chopped fresh cilantro leaves for garnish

Combine 1 tsp ginger/garlic paste, ground cumin, chili powder, salt and yogurt and stir to blend. Marinate the lamb in the spiced yogurt overnight or at least 3 hours.

In a heavy medium casserole heat the oil. Add chopped onions and ginger/garlic paste. When the onions are soft and translucent, add the lamb, marinade and all. Cook over medium high heat for a few minutes to brown the onions and lamb. (The lamb may not exactly get brown and crisp due to the yogurt but don’t worry.) Add the star anise, bay leaves, cinnamon stick and cloves and blend. Continue cooking two minutes.
Chop the tomatoes and add them with enough water to cover everything. Add a pinch of salt and cook until liquid boils. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer 45 minutes or until the lamb feels tender when you put a fork in it. Check from time to time that there is 
enough liquid in the pot and add water if necessary.

     To serve: skim the solidified fat off the top. Add the pre-cooked potatoes. Cover the pot and bring to a boil over medium heat. Lower heat and simmer to warm thoroughly.   Remove the star anise, bay leaves and cinnamon stick. (It is imperative to remove the bay leaves as these if eaten can cause severe digestive distress.) Garnish if you’d like with chopped fresh cilantro leaves. Serve with rice or naan—something to mop up that aromatic sauce.

Palestinian Lamb with Chard and Chickpeas
I've posted this before because it's so popular and easy to make.
Serves 6

1½ -3/4 lb boneless lamb stew meat, lean if you can get it
2 tsp ground allspice
1 lg yellow onion, finely chopped
3-4 tbsp olive oil, 1 reserved til the end
1 lg cinnamon stick
4 whole cloves

5 cardamom pods, cracked to release the seeds
½ tsp ground nutmeg
1 lg bay leaf
2 tsp salt, divided (1 tsp of coarse sea salt if you have it)
3½ -4 cup water or vegetable broth or combination of the two
½ cup medium grain or paella rice or Fregola or Farro
1 14-0z can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 bunch chard, thick stems removed, washed, leaves chopped
Freshly ground black pepper to your taste
6 garlic cloves
½ cup lemon juice, freshly squeezed
Lemon wedges for garnish

Coat the lamb with the allspice. Cover the bottom of a heavy gauge lidded pot with 2-3 tbsp of olive oil and warm over medium heat. Add onions and sauté 2 minutes to soften. Add the lamb. Sauté until meat is brown, 5-7 minutes. Add cinnamon, cardamom seeds, cloves, bay leaf, and nutmeg. Stir to blend. Add the water/broth (use 4 cups if you plan to use farro), bring to a boil, cover and lower heat. Simmer 90 minutes or until lamb is tender.
   Stir in 1 tsp salt, black pepper, chickpeas and the rice or fregola or farro. Raise heat to bring to a boil, then immediately lower to simmer and cook until grain is soft. (Rice will take 10-12 minutes, fregola 12-15 and farro 15-20.) If you need more liquid, add water. Remove bay leaf and cinnamon stick. Add chopped chard leaves, stirring them in as you go.
     Mash or mince the garlic cloves with 1 tsp coarse sea salt. Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a small frying pan and brown the salted garlic, 1-2 minutes. Add to the stew and blend. Remove the stew from the heat. When ready to serve, stir in the lemon juice. Taste for seasoning and adjust if necessary. Serve in bowls with lemon wedge and pita.

Swedish Lamb with coffee
serves at least 6

1 leg of lamb, 7 to 8 pounds, boned, rolled and tied
3 tbsp butter mixed with 3 tablespoons chopped parsley
1 carrot, sliced
1 onion, sliced (optional)
1 tsp salt
6 black peppercorns
4 c hot stock (lamb or chicken) or water
1 c hot coffee with sugar and cream

Preheat oven to 450º. Prick the lamb all over with the point of a sharp knife and rub the butter and parsley mixture into the holes. Butter a roasting pan lightly, put in the meat, carrot and onion and brown in the oven 15 to 20 minutes.
    Lower the heat to 350º, sprinkle the meat with the salt and add the peppercorns and 2 cups of stock. Baste every 15 minutes, adding the coffee and the remaining stock gradually. Cook until the roast reaches the internal temperature desired (140 degrees for rare lamb, higher for well-done).
  Remove the roast to a platter and keep it warm. Strain the pan liquid and skim off the fat. To make a roux, combine 1 tbsp butter and 1 tbsp flour for every cup of liquid in a skillet, cook it briefly over medium heat, add the pan liquid, whisk until smooth and boil until it starts to thicken. Simmer 10 minutes. While this is happening, slice the lamb. Pass the sauce with the lamb.

Armenian Lamb Shanks with Chickpeas
serves 4
olive oil to coat your pan
4 lamb shanks, trimmed of fat and gristle
4 lg tomatoes, peeled and chopped
2 medium red onions, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp dried rosemary
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp paprika
1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cayenne or chili pepper
4 c heated vegetable broth, or water
1 20-oz can chickpeas (2 c), rinsed and drained

Preheat oven to 450º. Coat the bottom or a large roasting pan lightly with olive oil. Cover with lamb shanks and roll them to coat in the oil. Roast 30 minutes, turning halfway so they brown evenly. Remove pan from oven and reduce heat to 400º. Cover the lamb with the tomatoes and onions. Add the garlic, herbs, spices plus salt and pepper to your taste. Pour the hot broth or water around the meat. Cover the pan and return to the oven. Roast 1 1/2 hours.
   Uncover, stir and add chickpeas, stirring them into the sauce, and roast another 20-25 minutes. By now the lamb should be close to falling off the shank bone. If not, keep roasting.
Serve garnished with chopped flat leaf parsley and flat bread to mop up the yummy sauce.

Other lamb dishes you might explore are Moroccan tagines, Turkish moussaka, Scotch shepherds pie, and Mogul kebabs.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Delicious Spring cleaning

Not much to say just now except a reminder to recycle your "trash" and save money you don't need to spend. I'm talking about those carrot greens, tops of scallions and leeks, parsley stems, fennel bulb stalks, outer cabbage leaves, kale stems and English/garden pea pods.  Just cut it all to fit a medium or large soup pot, pile it in, more than cover it with water (at least 1" higher), add salt, put a lid on the pot and bring to a boil. Then lower to simmer, walk away and come back in 30 minutes. Turn off the heat and let your new vegetable broth continue cooking on its own steam for another 30 minutes. Put a large strainer over a large container and pour your fabulously nutritious and delicious vegetable broth in.  When it cools, you can freeze it or refrigerate it. Use it for risottos, paellas, vegetable soups, dhals, braising meat, even pasta.

It's almost spring cleaning time so get into your fridge and pull out all those odd scraps of vegetables you've been meaning to use, including those that have gone soft on you.  You can make a luscious vegetable soup to eat immediately or freeze for later. For basics, you just need some good broth like the one in the paragraph above, an onion, a stalk or two of celery, a carrot or two and shards of a green like kale or chard or spinach. Even beet greens. After that, whatever vegetable lurks will enhance the soup. In addition to kale, i just used up the top half of a leek, some green cabbage, a piece of white turnip, and a handful of fresh dill.

What to do? Heat olive oil in a medium soup pot or large saucepan. Dice the onion and toss it in with some dried oregano, rosemary and sage plus a grind or two of black pepper. Dice the celery and carrot and toss them in. Stir to blend and cook 3-5 minutes over medium heat until the veggies start to soften. Chop up the rest of what you have into bite sized pieces and toss in the pot. Add salt to your taste and a shake of crushed red pepper flakes. If you have some smoked Spanish paprika you can add a large pinch. If you have old Parmesan rind of any size, here is where it does magic, so toss it in.  Add enough vegetable broth to cover everything with at least 1/2" over the top. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat to simmer and cook until veggies are all tender. This could be 20 minutes if you're hungry or longer if you're not. If you want a hardier soup, halfway through add a drained can of cannellini/white kidney beans. When everything is soft and hot, toss in a handful of chopped herb: parsley, dill, cilantro. Taste for salt and fix. Enjoy your amazing trash with great bread and cheese.