Monday, October 16, 2017

The skinny on season's eatings

(Six more fabulous, worldly chickpea recipes coming soon!)

The days are shorter, the air is cooler and the food should be heavier. Mother Nature's hints are everywhere. Gone are water-filled berries, melons, tomatoes and cucumbers--mainstays of a proper summer diet when a sweating body needs all the moisture it can get. They've been replaced from the ground up with roots like potatoes, rutabagas, turnips, celeriac and sun chokes plus all the mushrooms sprouting in tree shaded soil. Slowly but relentlessly, these foods have been absorbing all the minerals earth can offer, all the vitamins solar energy sends to their green shoots. They're here now to fortify us for the winter to come. Ditto slow growing cabbages, leeks and parsnips which slowly release their treasury of nutrients in our bodies. Times have changed but not excitement, flavor and color from farm to table.

Say goodbye to tomatoes by slicing them, brushing the slices lightly with olive oil, sprinkling with salt and a bit of garlic and roasting them at 350º until they start to turn golden and caramelize. Enjoy them straightaway on goat cheese, a pizza, polenta, grilled fish, with farro olives and scallions as a salad or in an omelet. Or store them in the freezer for a hit of Vitamin C in mid winter.
Or turn to green tomatoes:
Green Tomato Curry

2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 heaped tsp small black mustard seeds
1 heaped tsp cumin seeds
1 medium onion
1 clove garlic
1 1/4 lbs green tomatoes
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
1/2 tsp ground coriander 
1 tsp ground cumin
1-2 tsp red chilli powder more as you wish
Handful fresh cilantro chopped

Thinly slice the onion and garlic. Chop the tomatoes into 1" chunks.
Heat the oil in a wok or large saute pan that you might stir fry in.
When the oil is hot add the mustard and cumin seeds, Stir for a minute with a fork (not wooden spoon as this will absorb the spices you are about to add.) Add the tomatoes and the rest of the spices, Stir until all the spices are well combined.  Keep tossing the onions and tomatoes with the fork a few minutes, If anything sticks, add a little more oil or water. Do not overcook.  The onions should not go totally limp but have a bite and the tomatoes should keep their shape.
Pour into a bowl, top with the chopped cilantro and serve immediately.  This dish does not keep well so try not to have leftovers.

Make salads sturdier:

Fennel Orzo Salad
This is an oldie that's always in style this time of year.

Serves 4-6 depending on how much you like it.

2 fennel bulbs, cleaned and chopped, greens too
1 2/3 cups orzo (about ½ lb)
3 seedless mandarins, or clementines, peeled and pulled apart
1 lemon
½ lime
16-20 pitted prunes, coarsely chopped
3-4 tbsp olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
salt to your taste

Put a few of the fennel fronts aside to chop for garnish.
 Cook the orzo according to package instructions, until just al dente.
 Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a small skillet and sauté the chopped fennel 4-5 minutes. Midway, add the garlic and blend.  Pour the contents of the skillet into a salad bowl.
Add the mandarins and prunes and blend.

Remove the zest from half the lemon and dice it. Add to the salad.
Juice the lemon and lime, mix and add to the salad.
 Drain the orzo. Salt them to your taste. Add to the salad
Stir to blend everything. Chop the reserved fennel fronds and top the salad.
Refrigerate an hour before serving.

Kale Celeriac Salad with Walnuts
This recipe from Ottolenghi with candied walnuts serves up to 6.

½ or less lb Tuscan kale, thick stalks removed and discarded, leaves cut into thick slices
1 garlic clove, peeled and roughly crushed with the flat of a knife
Finely shaved peel of 1 lemon, plus 2½ tbsp lemon juice
Salt and black pepper
½ large celeriac, peeled and coarsely grated
1 tbsp parsley leaves, finely chopped
1 tbsp white-wine vinegar
3 tbsp olive oil
1/4c pomegranate seeds (about ½ from a medium pomegranate)

1/4 c maple syrup
2 tbsp caster sugar
1/4 c walnut halves, lightly toasted
Start with the walnuts. Put the syrup and sugar in a small, heavy saucepan on a medium heat. Stir in a tablespoon of water, then leave to bubble gently 5 minutes, not stirring, until the mixture is golden brown, foamy and bubbly-- the hard ball sugar stage. Quickly stir in the nuts, then pour everything onto a baking sheet or tray lined with parchment paper and let it harden into brittle. When it has, roughly chop and set aside. 

Mix the kale, garlic, lemon peel, lemon juice and ¼ tsp salt in a medium bowl, massaging it all together until the kale turns a bright, dark green and begins to soften and look cooked rather than raw. Set aside for 10 minutes, for the flavors to meld.
Pick out and discard the garlic and lemon peel from the salad mix, then add the celeriac, parsley, vinegar, oil, 1/8 tsp salt and a generous grind of pepper. Mix to combine, then transfer to a platter or individual plates. Scatter with the pomegranate seeds and the walnut brittle to serve.

Turn up the heat with slow cooking.

Tashkent Beef and Cabbage Soup 
serves 8-10 (half it if you prefer)

2 lbs beef brisket
9 cups water (2 qts plus 1 cup) or half beef broth/half water
3 tbsp unsalted butter
1 lg onion, peeled and diced
1/2 med green head cabbage, shredded
1 can/box (28 oz) whole peeled tomatoes with juice
2 tbsp tomato paste
10 prunes (dried plums), pitted
1/4 c golden raisins
salt to your taste but you may need a lot
1 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
4 tbsp brown sugar
2 tbsp honey
2 tbsp chopped fresh dill
To serve: sour cream

Remove excess fat from the brisket and put it in a large cast iron pot of Dutch oven. Add the water/broth, bring to a boil over high heat, reduce heat to medium and cook 30 minutes. Skim off foam and impurities.

In a med/lg sauté pan melt the butter. Add the onion and sauté over medium/low heat until it's soft, 3-5 min. Add the cabbage and continue to sauté another 5 min. Add half the tomatoes with their juice. Continue cooking 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Pour the cabbage mixture into the beef pot and add the remaining tomatoes. Stir in the tomato paste, prunes, raisins, salt, lemon juice, brown sugar, honey and 1 tbsp of the dill. Bring the soup to a boil, drop heat to low, cover the pot partially and simmer 60-90 minutes until the meat is very tender and ready to fall apart. Remove the brisket from the pot and cut it into small cubes or shred it, whichever is easier. Put it back into the pot and heat the soup through.

To serve: add the remaining tbsp of dill and put a bowl of sour cream on the table for people to dab on top.

Go back to your roots. Every year this time I post great simple recipes that make them tastier than you imagine so scroll down to find root vegetable stew or potpie, potato-rutabage gratin, rutabaga timbales, potato tart, carrot soup and more.  For now here's Ottolenghi on parsnips:
Parsnip Gratin with Apples

1½-3/4 lb parsnips, peeled
1 garlic clove, peeled and halved
1 tbsp butter
125ml double cream
125ml creme fraiche
200ml whole milk
6 sprigs thyme, leaves picked
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
75g ground almonds
1-2 tbsp extra-virgin olive (or rapeseed) oil, to drizzle
For the aioli
2 apples, peeled, cored and cut into chunks
2 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
3 tbsp cider vinegar
1 c mild olive oil
Heat the oven 400º. Thinly as possible slice 2/3 of the peeled parsnip (use a mandoline, if you have one) and coarsely grate the rest. Rub both cut sides of the garlic around a medium-sized baking dish, then smear it all over with the butter. Arrange the parsnip slices in rows over the base of the dish, overlapping slightly. Once you’ve used up all the slices, scatter the grated parsnip on top.
In a bowl, whisk the heavy cream, creme fraiche, milk and thyme leaves, then season with 1 tsp salt and lots of freshly ground black pepper. Pour this over the parsnips, making sure they’re just submerged. Sprinkle the ground almonds over the top. Drizzle with oil, cover the dish with foil and roast for 15 minutes. Remove the foil, lower the oven to 350º and bake another 30 minutes until the cream has been absorbed, the top is golden and the parsnips are tender.
While the parsnips are roasting, put the apple chunks in a small pan, cover with water and cook on a medium heat 8 minutes, until they are soft. Drain and transfer to a food processor with the garlic and vinegar, and puree. With the motor still running, add the oil a drop at a time, until you’ve added about 1/3, then increase pouring speed to a trickle, then a slow, steady stream, until all the oil is in the mix. Season generously to taste and serve in a bowl alongside the gratin.

Next time: Get out the grains! Way to go barley, farro, freekah, short grain rice and more.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Part 5: Chickpeas, the little black dress of the kitchen

There's no end to the worldly joys a can of chickpeas offers any time of year. Here are six to celebrate autumn. Coming soon in Part 6: Chickpea chaat, Arroz al horno, Moroccan Harira (lentil, beef and chickpea stew), Roman pasta with chickpeas and more! There's always more!

Catalan Braised Chickpeas with Almonds, Garlic and Tomatoes
serves 4
2 cans of chickpeas, washed and drained
6 tbsp olive oil
1 sm garlic clove, mashed and minced
1 sm yellow or white onion, diced
2 tbsp chopped flat leaf parsley
2 lbs tomatoes, peeled and chopped (you can used boxed)
1/4 c vegetable broth
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp pine nuts
2 garlic cloves
2 oz blanched almonds (1/8 lb)

Heat the oil in a large sauté pan and fry the onion until it's soft. Add 1 tbsp chopped parsley, the minced garlic clove and tomatoes. Simmer, crushing the tomatoes with the back of the spoon, until you have what looks like sauce. Add veg broth and chickpeas. Simmer 10 minutes.

While that's happening, grind the almonds, pine nuts and garlic into a "pesto" which in this recipe is called "picada."  Stir it into the chickpeas and simmer another 10 minutes. Add a tbsp of veg broth if it looks too dry. Stir in the final tbsp parsley, season with salt and pepper and serve with bread and cheeses.

Kale Chickpea Soup
A Tuscan (Italian) favorite

Serves 4-6
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp fennel seeds
1-2 tsp chili flakes
3-4 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tbsp grated ginger
1 c chopped tomatoes (fresh or boxed)
Zest of ½ lemon
2 c cooked/canned chickpeas (drained weight)
1 1/4 lbs kale, shredded
1/4 c orzo pasta (or other small pasta shape)
4 c vegetable/chicken broth
Salt and black pepper
 To serve
Lemon zest
Extra virgin olive oil

Heat the oil in a large saucepan, add the fennel seeds, chili flakes, garlic and ginger. Cook gently a few minutes until fragrant. Add the chopped tomatoes and the lemon zest and continue to cook until tomatoes have softened, about 5 minutes.

Add the chickpeas, kale and orzo, stirring to blend. Pour in the broth. Bring to a boil and immediately reduce the heat to simmer. Cover and cook until the kale and orzo are soft. Check for seasoning, adding salt and black pepper to taste.

To serve, sprinkle with fresh lemon zest and drizzle with olive oil.

Asian Stir-fry Chickpeas
4 garlic cloves, smashed
1/4 c vegetable oil (canola, corn, sunflower, peanut,)
2 cans chickpeas, rinsed and drained
2 tbsp soy or Tamari sauce
1 tbsp sugar
2 bunches gai lan (this is Chinese broccoli green), cut into 1" pieces
2 tbsp sweet chili sauce
1 tbsp Sriracha
juice of 2 limes
1/4 c peanuts (ground)
1/2 c coconut water
1 red chili, minced

In a large saucepan over medium heat, heat oil and stir-fry garlic 2 minutes. Add chickpeas, soy sauce and sugar. Continue to stir-fry until there's no liquid in the pot. Add the gai lan, chili sauce, Sriracha, lime juice, fish sauce, coconut water and minced chili. Stir-fry another 2 minutes just to heat everything evenly.

Spicy Roasted Pumpkin and Chickpea Soup
from Yotam Ottolengthi

Serves 6
1 small pumpkin or butternut squash, cut in half, seeds removed, peeled and flesh cut into bite-size pieces
¼ c olive oil
Salt and black pepper
2-3 shallots, peeled and finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
2 tsp ground cumin
¼ tsp ground cardamom
2½ tbsp harissa paste
½ tsp rose water
4 c vegetable or chicken stock
2 cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
7 dried apricots, thinly sliced
1½ small preserved lemons, cut in half, the flesh discarded and the skin roughly chopped or zest of two lemons
1 tbsp cilantro leaves, roughly chopped
1 c Greek yogurt

Heat the oven to 425º. Mix the pumpkin with two tbsp of oil, ¼ tsp salt and black pepper. Spread out on a parchment-lined baking tray and roast 25 minutes, until golden-brown and soft. Set aside.
Put 2 tbsp oil in a large sauté pan on a medium-high heat. Once hot, fry the shallots for 8 minutes, stirring a few times, until they are soft and caramelized. Add half the garlic, half the cumin, all the cardamom, a teaspoon of salt and lots of freshly ground black pepper. Fry 2 minutes, then stir in the harissa, rose water, stock, half the chickpeas, the apricots and the preserved lemon skin. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium and simmer 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the roasted pumpkin. Cover to keep warm.
Put two tbsp. oil in a medium frying pan on a high heat and, once hot, add the remaining chickpeas, garlic and cumin, ¼ tsp salt and lots more pepper. Fry 7 minutes, stirring occasionally and crushing some of the chickpeas until they are browned and crisp.
Warm the soup through and divide between six bowls. Sprinkle with the chickpea mix, scatter over some cilantro, spoon over the yogurt and serve.

Moroccan style Rice and Chickpea Salad with all kinds of dried fruits
 serves at least 4
1 c rice
1/4 c raisins
2 tbsp currants
3 tbsp brown lentils
1 tbsp split peas
8 dried apricots, chopped
2/3 c cooked chickpeas, drained
4 scallions. chopped
1 cup chopped spinach
1/2 c whole roasted almonds
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
freshly chopped cilantro leaves for garnish
For the dressing:
3 tbsp orange juice
1/4 c olive oil
pinch ground cinnamon
pinch ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp orange flower water
1/4 tsp orange rind

Cook the rice with the raisins, currants, brown lentils and split peas. When it's done, drain excess liquid. Stir in the apricots, chickpeas, scallions, spinach, almonds, salt and pepper to your taste.
Make the dressing by whisking together all ingredients. Pour over the salad. Garnish with cilantro leaves

Uzbek Meat and Chickpea Soup (Mokbora)
1 tbsp veg oil
1/2 lb stewing beef or lamb cut into tiny cubes
1 tsp ground cumin
1 sm onion, peeled, halved and thinly sliced into half-moon rings
3 med carrots, diced
1 1/2 c crushed tomatoes
2 tbsp tomato paste
6 cups beef broth or water
salt and pepper to your taste
2 med potatoes, peeled and diced into 1/2" pieces
1 c cooked chickpeas
1 tbsp chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
2 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro

In a heavy gauge casserole pot or Dutch oven, heat oil until it's very hot. Brown the meat on all sides over med/high heat. Reduce heat to medium, sprinkle the cumin over the meat and add the onions and carrots, stirring to blend. Cook until these vegetables start to soften, maybe 4-5 minutes. Add the crushed tomatoes and tomato paste, blending. Cook over medium/low heat 5 minutes.  Add the water/broth, raise heat to bring it to a boil, then lower heat. Season with salt and pepper. Cover the pot and simmer 30 minutes. Add the potatoes and chickpeas. Simmer another 20 minutes. Taste for seasonings. Add the parsley and cilantro to serve. Have good flatbread ready!

Monday, September 25, 2017

Time to fix those leeks

Back in the 1980s, as I reached over and pulled a leek from the supermarket pile, a little old thin haired lady screwed her face up and shrieked: "What the devil is that nasty thing!?!"  Leeks were exotic in still meat and potatoes America back then even though for centuries they'd been the kitchen mainstay on the British Isles. The history of what we call Great Britain is so entwined with leeks that a stalk is the ancient symbol of Wales, cockaleekie soup arguably the most famed traditional Scottish dish because people don't gag hearing about it as they do for haggis. An enterprising New England scholar wrote an entire book on the hidden influence of leeks on our lives. Did you know our word garlic comes from the early British word to describe that unfamiliar bulb familiarly as garleek? The other people who love leeks are French; they call them poireau and made them the centerpiece of their widely known and beloved Vichyoisse: leek and potato soup. I've posted the recipe in earlier years. This year's batch of recipes is all new so if you want more go back to September 2016.

And you do want to eat your leeks. These sophisticated sweet cousins of pungent onion and chive, leeks share many of the Allium family’s magical medicinal qualities. They are excellent caretakers of the cardiovascular system and help reduce the minor chronic inflammation that leads to rheumatoid arthritis, type 2 diabetes and atherosclerosis. They contain iron. Best of all they bring a graceful almost ethereal sweetness to eggs, mushrooms, pork and vegetable soup.


Chicken or Pork Cutlets with creamy leek sauce
serves 4

4 pork fillets or chicken cutlets, flattened with a rolling pin
1 egg, beaten in a bowl
1/2 c panko or matzah meal or breadcrumbs (the first two are lighter)
2 med leeks, washed
4 tbsp butter
5 tbsp olive oil
3 gherkin pickles, sliced into disks
1/2 c heavy cream
1 tbsp green peppercorns
1 tbsp salty brine from peppercorns or capers

Dip the pork or chicken cutlets into the beaten egg, then roll in the crumbs and be sure they are well coated. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. In a large shallow frying pan, over medium heat, melt 2 tbsp butter with 3 tbsp olive oil. Using tongs, put the cutlets in the pan and let them fry 3-4 minutes or until the crumbs are golden, then flip them and cook the other side. Keep the heat low enough so the crumbs don't burn and the meat has time to cook.  Drain on paper towels.

Halve the leeks lengthwise, then halve the halves and dice the leeks. In a saute´ pan, over low heat, melt 2 tbsp butter with 2 tbsp olive oil. Add the leeks and sauté stirring regularly about 5 minutes or until they have softened. Don't brown them. Add the gherkins, green peppercorns, cream and brine. Stir to blend and heat on low just until the sauce is warm. Serve over the cutlets.

Leek and Cauliflower Soup
serves 4
3 med leeks, washed
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp olive oil
1 2 lb cauliflower, leaves removed
4 c vegetable broth
2 bay leaves
1/4 tsp dried thyme or 1 sprig of fresh
Sea salt to your taste
1/3 c shredded gruyere cheese
2 tbsp fresh chopped flat leaf parsley
handful fresh arugula

Remove the coarse green leaves from the leeks and chop them. In a soup pot or deep pan, over medium heat melt the butter with the olive oil. Add the leeks, cover the pan and cook over med/low about 5 minutes or until the leeks are soft. Don't brown them. Slice up the cauliflower and add to the pot, stirring to blend. Add the vegetable broth, bring to a boil, add bay leaves, thyme and salt. Lower heat and simmer 15-20 minutes until the cauliflower is cooked (soft).

Blitz half the soup in a blender, add parsley to the other half and then slightly blitz it too so you get a chunky soup. Put it back in the pot, stir in the cheese and heat just until the cheese melts. Top with arugula and serve with garlic croutons.

Ham and Leek Fritatta with Dill
Lovely summer into fall flavors here
serves 4

1 lg leek, cleaned and sliced into thin rings
3 tbsp butter
1/2 c (1/4 lb) baked ham diced into bite sized pieces
6 jumbo or extra large fresh eggs
1/4 c milk
pinch red pepper flakes
1 tbsp pimentos (these are roasted red peppers so if you have your own just mince)
Sea salt to your taste and lots of freshly ground black pepper
2-3 tbsp chopped fresh dill
1/4 c shredded gruyere or mozzarella cheese

 Preheat the oven to 400º.
In a large ovenproof frying pan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the leeks, stirring to break them up and sauté until they're soft, maybe 4-5 minutes. Do not brown them! Add the ham and continue cooking another 5 minutes on med/low heat.

Meanwhile break the eggs into a large bowl and whisk in the milk, red pepper flakes, salt and freshly ground pepper to your taste. Whisk so the mixture is light and fluffy. Pour it into the pan, turning the pan so it spreads evenly. As the bottom starts to solidfy, add the pimentos. Turn the pan again so the uncooked egg oozes to the sides and underneath. Add the fresh dill. Cook until the only runny egg is in the center of the top, maybe a circle 3-4" in diameter.  Put the cheese into the runny egg and put the pan into the oven for 8-10 minutes until the fritatta has browned on top and set firmly. It should puff a bit too. Cut in wedges to serve.

Cockaleekie Soup
This meal in a bowl is the famous age-old Scottish dish, traditionally made to dress up a tough old bird. It features all the trappings of the land: chicken barley, leeks and dried fruit. The prunes (dried plums) add a rich sweetness.
serves 6

1 tbsp veg oil
1 med chicken, in pieces
3/4 lb smoked slab bacon, cut into small chunks
2 carrots, peeled
2 celery stalks
2 leeks, washed and cut into thick disks
1 tbsp white wine
2 bay leaves
5 thyme sprigs or 1 tbsp dried thyme
16 pitted prunes
1/3 c pearled barley
Salt and pepper to your taste

In a large heavy soup or sauce pan, heat the oil and fry the chicken pieces (in batches if necessary) until golden brown on all sides.(it will cook more later.) Remove from the pan and add the bacon, carrots, celery and the tougher tops of the leeks. Sauté until it all starts to brown, 5 minutes or so. Pour off excess fat. Add the wine to degrease and boil rapidly, scraping the pan bottom. Put the chicken pieces back in with thyme and bay leaves. Cover everything with cold water, slowly bring to a boil, lower to simmer and cook 40 minutes until the chicken is very tender. Remove the chicken from the pan and cool. Strain the soup into a clean pot, discarding everything but the carrot and celery. Cool and skim off any appearing fat.

Pull the meat off the chicken bones and add it to the clear broth.  Chop the cooked carrot and celery and add. Add the leeks, prunes and barley with 1/2 c hot water and simmer for 25 minutes, adding water if necessary. Season with salt and pepper to serve.

 Asian Fried Chicken with Leeks
This is essentially a small plate/appetizer for 4.

2 lg boneless chicken thighs
½ tbsp soy sauce
½ tbsp sake
Rice flour
peanut oil for deep frying
for the leek sauce:
½ c soy sauce
2 tbsp vinegar
1 tbsp sake
1 ½ tbsp sugar
1 leek, chopped
½ tbsp vegetable oil
1 red chili, chopped
optional for serving: shredded lettuce

Pierce the chicken all over with a fork so it will absorb the seasoning. Mix the soy sauce with the sake and pour this over the chicken, making sure it seeps into the meat. Set aside while you prepare the leek sauce.
Combine the soy, vinegar, sake and sugar in a bowl. In a small sauté pan, heat the oil and lightly sauté the chopped leek until it’s soft. Pour in the soy sauce mixture and chopped red chili. Stir until the sugar has dissolved. Remove from the heat and set aside.
Coat the chicken with the rice flour, then deep-fry in peanut oil. For crispier chicken, raise it out of the oil from time to time. When fried to a golden brown, cut the chicken into bite-size pieces. Serve dressed with the leek sauce and optionally shredded lettuce.

Leek Mushroom Risotto

Serves 4

¼ cup olive oil
3 lg. garlic cloves, peeled and minced
8 Brussels sprouts, washed and quartered, put in the lemon juice until ready to use
1 lg. leek, washed and diced
24 baby Shitake mushrooms, cleaned, stems removed and coarsely chopped
2 tbsp. sunflower seeds
1 tsp. celery seed
1 tsp. dried thyme leaves
1 tsp. dried oregano leaves
1 tbsp. dried sage
1 tsp. ground cumin
½ tsp. ground coriander
1/8 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. cracked black pepper
1/8 tsp. red pepper flakes or ground cayenne if you like it spicy
juice of 1 lemon
2 tsp. butter
1 ½ cups Arborio rice
1 qt. mushroom broth (it comes in a box at the supermarket)
2- 2 ½  cups vegetable broth or boiling water
¼ cup dry white wine
A small wedge of Parmesan cheese to grate for garnish
One lemon cut in wedges for garnish
½ cup chopped flat leaf Italian parsley for garnish

Bring the mushroom and vegetable broth or water to a boil in a large saucepan and keep it simmering as you work.  You can combine the broths, no problem.

Melt the butter over medium heat in a medium or small sauté pan. Toss in the mushroom caps and stems with a pinch of the sage and the sunflower seeds and brown to glistening. Turn off the heat. Stir in a pinch of salt.

In a medium or large heavy gauge casserole or Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Add the garlic, black pepper, celery seed, thyme, cumin, coriander, oregano and ½ the sage and stir to blend, flavoring the oil. Add the leeks and stir-fry until they are soft and translucent, five minutes at most. Add the rice, half the Brussels sprouts and all red pepper flakes or cayenne. Stir to coat the rice and sprouts with all the flavors in the pan. Add more olive oil if necessary to keep the rice from sticking and continue stirring until the rice is hot, maybe three minutes.

Pour in the wine, stirring vigorously. Pour in one cup of the hot broth, and continue stirring vigorously to be sure it gets under the rice and sprouts.

As the liquid gets absorbed but you still see a little left, add more broth, one cup at a time, continually stirring. After the third cup, toss in the remaining Brussels sprouts. After the fifth cup add the lemon juice and remaining sage. Add the mushrooms and sunflower seeds by turning the entire contents of the sauté pan into the risotto. Continue stirring.

Add the salt with the sixth cup.  As the liquid evaporates, taste to see if the rice is soft and creamy yet and if the seasonings are to your taste. Adjust seasonings, especially salt, pepper and sage.  If more liquid is needed to finish the rice to a creamy texture, add another ½ cup of broth or water, still stirring.  Cook until the liquid has evaporated and turn off the heat. The rice should have an earthy color and soft consistency.  The cooking time to get here is around 45 minutes.

Let the risotto sit on the stove and steam to a finish for a few minutes.  Serve garnished with freshly grated Parmesan or any dry and salty cheese, lemon wedges and chopped fresh flat leaf Italian parsley.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Last Call and First Alarm

An alarming scientific article says changes in the atmosphere due to changes in the climate have robbed or reduced the nutrients in our food. There is no there there. Essentially our food is the mechanism that transforms solar energy into fuel that powers our body and pollutants in the atmosphere are significantly interfering now. Likely, supermarket food is fast becoming useless, pretty but nourishment free. Best bet remains your local farmer: if there's any nutrients the ground can supply that food will have them.

This said, time is running out for the watery vegetables and fruits of summer. So here are a few delicious goodbyes to superior farm fresh produce. And of course, easy does it. You can make a meal of them, as the photo suggests. What you see are fresh corn fritters, farm fresh heirloom tomato sliced and salted, chard stuffed baby peppers, roasted cherry tomatoes atop goat cheese on olive bread, figs wrapped in prosciutto, Armenian green beans (see Veggiyana, the Dharma of Cooking and earlier blog posts on green beans) and olives. All together leaves room for chocolate torte. ;o)
NOTE; This is a very vegetarian post.

Himalayan Sesame Cucumbers
Another recipe from my cookbook in progress: The Himalaya: A Cook's Tour
 Serves 4-6

2 ripe med slicing cucumbers, peeled, split and seeded or 4 Persian cucumbers
1 tsp coarse including kosher salt
1 tbsp (heaping) sesame seeds (if you can find roasted that speeds this up)
½ tsp ground turmeric
1 large lemon, juice only
1 sm green chili, seeded and minced
1 tbsp mustard oil or 1 tbsp veg oil with 1/8 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp fenugreek seeds
optional garnish: a handful of chopped fresh cilantro leaves

Dry roast the sesame seeds in a small nonstick frying pan if they are not already roasted. Cool slightly and grind them to powder (a coffee grinder is perfect) or smash them in a mortar.

Cut the cucumbers into 2” lengths, then slice off thin strips into a medium bowl.
Blend in ½ tsp salt and let the cucumbers stand for 15 minutes. Drain off any water that’s accumulated and pat the cucumbers dry. 
Blend in the ground sesame, turmeric, lemon juice, minced chili, and the remaining ½ tsp salt.
 Heat the oil in a small pan. Fry the fenugreek seeds about 30 seconds until they start to color. Pour the oily seeds over the cucumbers.
 Optionally garnish with the cilantro and serve.

Provencal Tomato Soup
An oldie but always goodie because it's so simple, so yummy, so pure in nourishment and it freezes well to boot.

Serves 4-5

2 lbs. fresh tomatoes, skinned (optional) and chopped
2 lg. onions, peeled and finely chopped
3 tbsp. olive oil
1 tbsp. butter
1 mildly hot small pepper minced or pinch of chili pepper flakes
2 tbsp. dried thyme
1 bay leaf
¼ tsp. salt
freshly ground black pepper to your taste
2 tbsp. minced fresh parsley (5-6 sprigs)
Optional garnish: buttered garlic croutons

In a medium sized heavy gauge casserole, heat the butter and olive oil together until the butter melts. Stir in thyme and stir-fry 30 seconds. Add onions, bay leaf and a pinch of ground black pepper. Stir to blend and sauté over medium low heat until the onions are soft and glistening.

Add the tomatoes and hot pepper and mix well. If the tomatoes aren’t juicy, add ½ cup water to avoid burning. Cover and simmer on low for 20-25 minutes, until the tomatoes become soupy. (If the soup is too thick and pasty, add either another ¼ cup of water or dry sherry if you’d like.)

Remove the bay leaf and remove from heat. Your choice: blitz the soup into a puree or eat it chunky. Stir in the parsley.  Adjust salt and pepper to your taste and serve with or without garlic croutons.

Imam Bayildi 
I'm repeating this famous Turkish eggplant dish I posted in the book How to Fix a Leek ... because right now just about all the featured ingredients, especially eggplants, are piled high at market stalls.

For 8

4 small eggplants, the large Japanese work fine (about 1½-1 3/4 lbs)
¼ cup olive oil
¼ cup plus 2 tbsp best quality extra virgin, first cold pressed olive oil
2 med onions, peeled, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
6 lg garlic cloves, peeled and minced
2 ripe tomatoes, peeled* and chopped
¼ cup (about 1/3 bunch) parsley leaves, chopped
2 tbsp fresh dill, chopped
¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
juice of ½ lemon
½ -3/4 cup water

Image result for imam bayildiCut stems off eggplants and peel strips of skin off at 1” intervals, for a striping effect.  Cut each eggplant in half lengthwise. Make a deep slit lengthwise through the fleshy side of the eggplant (the non-skin side), being careful not to cut all the way through and puncture the skin. If any of the halves do not lie perfectly flat on the skin side, slice off a tiny, thin piece so they do. Salt the exposed flesh, turn upside down and put on paper towels for 30 minutes to drain out the bitter juice. Rinse and dry.

In a very large skillet, heat the ordinary olive oil over high heat until it’s crackling or smoking. Put in the eggplants, flesh side down, and fry until golden brown, about 4-6 minutes depending on heat capacity, burner size and size of pan. Remove and drain on paper towels. Lightly salt.

In the same skillet, heat ¼ cup quality olive oil over medium high heat. Add onions and garlic. Sauté until the onions are soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir frequently so nothing burns. 

Pour the contents of the skillet into a medium-size bowl. Add tomatoes, parsley, dill, pepper, pinch of salt and 1 tbsp quality olive oil.  Blend well.

Arrange eggplant halves slit side up in the skillet. Carefully stuff each slit with as much onion mixture as you can and then cover all exposed eggplant with it. Sprinkle lemon juice over all eggplants.

Put 1 tbsp quality olive oil into the skillet. Add ½ -3/4 cup water, enough to cover the entire bottom so nothing will burn. Cover the skillet (use foil or a cookie sheet if you have no lid) and simmer over low heat until eggplants are soft, about 50-65 minutes, again depending on how big the burner is relative to the skillet. Check every 10-15 minutes to see if you should add water because there’s no juice in the bottom.  Cool to room temperature. Pour any remaining skillet juices over the eggplants to serve.

Small Peppers stuffed with Cheese and Chard
Overwhelming just now the amount and color of peppers pouring into farmers' markets before frost. Usually I stuff mine with rice, dill, pine nuts, lemon zest or tomatoes. Sometimes I stuff them with orzo, tomatoes, parsley and tuna. This is a carb-free lighter version with surprisingly zesty flavor.

Serves four to six.
2 tbsp olive oil
1 large bunch chard, trimmed, stalks and leaves finely chopped
Salt and black pepper
2 garlic cloves, peeled, crushed and minced
2 mild red chilies, deseeded and very finely chopped (roasted ones are even more yummy)
2 tsp dried oregano
1 tbsp pine nuts, lightly toasted and roughly chopped
3 tbsp pecorino romano or parmesan cheese, finely grated
1/3 c shredded or grated mozzarella
2 lbs mixed baby peppers (ie, about 20 baby peppers)

Heat the oven to 400º. Line a baking pan with parchment paper.
Heat the oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat, then for 15 minutes fry the chard, ¼ tsp salt and a generous grind of black pepper, stirring often, until the stalks are soft and starting to brown. Add garlic, chili and oregano, fry 1 minute, then remove from the heat. Cool, then stir in the pine nuts and cheeses.
Cut a little V from the stalk of each pepper down almost to the base and scoop out and discard the seeds. Stuff each pepper with the chard mix, then lay them all cut side up on the lined baking pan. Roast 20 minutes, until the peppers are soft and caramelized. Cool at least 10 minutes and serve warm or later at room temperature. (These make great picnic and boat food.)

Roasted Tomato Sauce (Achar in Nepali)
Another treasure from the collect of recipes in The Himalaya: A Cook's tour
It beats ketchup! Great with omelets, dumplings, baked potatoes and fish, for starters.

2-3 sm/med not so juicy tomatoes (avoid heirlooms and try Romas for this)
2 garlic cloves, peeled
½” piece of ginger, peeled
3 dried arbol chilies or one small fresh hot red chili pepper
½ tsp. tumeric, ground
1/3 bunch cilantro, leaves only
1/8 tsp. salt (more if you like salt)

Roast the tomatoes(a toaster oven at 450º works just fine) on a tray until they blister and the skin starts to peel off. Remove from heat and cool enough to handle. Core and peel.

In a blender or small food processor combine all the ingredients and puree until they form a thick sauce. Taste for salt and adjust.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Easing Into Autumn, emphasis on ease

HIgh tide has hit farmers markets bringing what I call "the but season." It's all too much and we really can't cook or eat any more BUT it might not be there next week so we'd best buy, prepare and preserve what we can. It's that time of year I call great gorge   Here from around the world--remember, everybody cooks because everybody needs to eat-- are a few spectacular and spectacularly easy ways to indulge in the astonishing bounty. Seven recipes mean a treat every day of the week.

Glazed beets with their greens
From Central Asia comes the silky molasses glazed red beet with its greens, a new taste sensation that's...well sensational!  The recipe requires pomegranate molasses but the $3-4 investment in a bottle will be worth it because you'll make this again throughout winter.
Serves 4

4 medium beets with greens
2 tbsp butter
1 sm red onion, thinly sliced in disks
4 garlic cloves, smashed and slivered
3 tbsp pomegranate molasses
1 tbsp chopped fresh tarragon leaves or 1 tsp dried
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Separate beets from their greens. Wash and coarsely chop the greens. Peel the beets and cut each into slightly larger than bite sized wedges, maybe 4 per beet.

Melt the butter in a lidded sauté pan large enough to hold the beets in one layer. Add the onion and cook until it softens, 3-5 minutes. Add the beets in one layer and sprinkle on the garlic. Drizzle the molasses evenly over the beets. Season with salt to your taste. Add water to about 3/4 of the beet depth. Do not cover the beets. Bring to a boil. Cover the pan, reduce heat to simmer and cook 20 minutes or until the beets are almost tender to a fork. Remove the lid, raise heat again and boil off the water until you see beets covered in a syrupy glaze.  Scatter the greens over the beets, reduce heat to low, cover the pan again and cook 5 minutes.  Uncover. Add the tarragon and freshly ground black pepper to your taste. Taste for salt and adjust if necessary.

Pasta with browned zucchini and mint
This Sicilian one dish meal, a new way to treat zucchini, can be thrown together in about 20 minutes if you start boiling the pasta water when you start frying the zucchini. 

Serves 4
2 lg zucchini
2 garlic cloves, smashed and sliced
scant 1 c good quality olive oil
1 lb pasta of your choice
1/2 tsp dried oregano
pinch red pepper flakes
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 c grated pecorino or parmesan cheese
2 tbsp chopped fresh mint

Slice the zucchini into 1/4" thick disks and half these.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil for the pasta. While that's happening:
in a med/lg skillet, heat the olive oil and over medium heat fry the garlic 45-60 seconds just until it's fragrant. Don't brown it. Scoop it out and mash it and save it for the final moment.

Fit as many squash half moons into the pan as you can in one layer and fry on both sides until each is blistered and golden brown. Use a slotted spoon to lift them out onto paper towels. Season with salt and continue frying in batches until all the zucchini has been cooked.

Cook the pasta with lots of salt until it is al dente. Using tongs or a slotted spoon, get the pasta into the pot with the oil still warm from zucchini frying. Coat it carefully. Then using a slotted spatula move the pasta to a serving bowl or plate. Season well with salt, pepper, oregano and pepper flakes. Stir in half the cheese and most of the mint. Top with the zucchini, more freshly ground black pepper, the remaining mint and cheese. 

Serve with a fresh tomato/basil salad.
 Roasted Cherry Tomatoes
You can freeze these in little snack bags, that is if you don't eat them all first. I used the Juliet plum shaped tomato which is close to a regular paste tomato, less juicy, so it roasts really well.  If you don't freeze them, you can put each atop a cracker or crostini of goat cheese or paté, throw them over pasta or into rice, lay them on the cream cheese smeared over your bagel or roasted eggplant salad on olive bread, lots of etc.

There's no exact recipe for this, just a method--and it couldn't be easier. Cut each tomato in half or in three, place the slices in a single layer on a baking sheet, season with sea salt and drizzle with olive oil. Optionally you can grate one clove of garlic over the tray. Roast at 350º 45-60 minutes until they are soft and fragrant.  Cool to freeze. In a closed container with a bit of olive oil added, they will store in the refrigerator about a week.
Bhutanese Pork with Bok Choy and Cauliflower
This is one of my Himalayan recipes, tasty and simple.

Serves 4

1 medium sized cauliflower, cut into florets
1 c water
2 tbsp corn, mustard or canola oil
1 med/lg onion, peeled and quartered
2” fresh ginger, peeled and cut into thin strips
1 large jalapeno or small Serrano chili pepper, seeded and cut into thin strips
3 cloves of garlic peeled and sliced into thin strips
1 lb pork filet cut into thin strips (use shoulder, country rib or boneless chops)
1 tsp crushed chili flakes
¼ tsp ground star anise or ½ star crushed
2 teaspoons salt
3 large bokchoy, cut into strips
2 tbsp freshly squeezed orange juice
for garnish: 1 bunch cilantro leaves, roughly chopped

In a medium saucepan, combine the cauliflower florets and 1 cup water with a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat to low and cook 3-4 minutes until florets just start to soften. Remove from heat.

Break the onion layers apart. Heat the oil in a large wok or sauté pan over medium/high flame. Add the onion, garlic, ginger and chilies and stir-fry 2-3 minutes until they soften slightly. Add the pork, crushed chilies, star anise and stir-fry another 3 minutes to brown the pork. Add salt and continue to stir-fry until pork is cooked through and not pink anywhere. Add bokchoy. Drain the cauliflower keeping the water, and add along with up to 1 cup of that water. Blend everything and continue to cook 5 minutes until everything is soft and cooked through. Squeeze in the orange juice. Taste to adjust salt and crushed chili flakes to your liking. Add the cilantro leaves, stir to blend and serve with Bhutanese red rice and cucumber/cheese salad.

Silky soft butter Potatoes
Another winning dish from Central Asia and one of my favorites because it's so easy, tasty and comforting. Goes with just about anything too. Pictured are the perfect size potatoes, available now!
serves 4

3 tbsp butter
2 tbsp olive oil
2 yellow onions, thinly sliced
1 1/4 lbs waxy (e.g. Yukon gold) new potatoes, scrubbed
3 garlic cloves thinly sliced
Sea Salt
Freshly ground black pepper or cracked peppercorns
2 tbsp chopped fresh dill

 Cut the unpeeled potatoes into 1/2" thick disks.
In a large frying pan, heat the butter with the oil until the butter is totally melted. Add the sliced onions and sauté on med/low heat until they are soft and golden. Go slowly so they don't burn. Stir in the potatoes and coat them with the butter/oil and onions. Season with salt to your taste (more is better), put heat on simmer, cover the pan with a lid or foil and walk away. Let the potatoes simmer 45 minutes, checking occasionally that they are not burning. Add butter if necessary. IN the end, stir in the fresh dill and black pepper. Serve and savor the happiness this dish brings.
Green bean and mashed potato cake
This is great for kids.
Serves 4 –6
1¼ lbs potatoes, ideally 3 the same size
1 lb green beans1 tsp ground thyme
100g parmesan cheese, grated
3 eggs, lightly beaten
Salt and black pepper
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
1 tbsp olive oil
Fine breadcrumbs
Preheat oven to 350º. Scrub, but don’t peel, the potatoes. Cover with cold water, bring to a boil,  reduce heat to simmer and cook until tender. Drain and cool. Bring a medium pot of salted water to a rapid boil. Add the beans and thyme and cook about 8-10 minutes or until the beans are starting to feel soft but remain firm. Drain well and chop into small, rough pieces. You can use a scissors as well as a knife.
Once the potatoes are cool, peel and mash them. Mix the mash with the cooked beans, cheese, eggs, salt, pepper and nutmeg.
Oil the cake tin, using more olive oil if you need to, then dust it with fine breadcrumbs. Scrape the mixture in, level out the top, sprinkle with more breadcrumbs and zigzag the top with a drizzle of olive oil. Bake 50-60 minutes, until the cake is slightly puffed up and golden on top.
4 Let it cool 20 minutes before running a blade around the edge and then turning it out on to a plate. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Peach, plum or fig butter cake
You can whip up this classic European coffee cake without much effort and delight everyone with your expertise. You can also freeze all or part of it. Use whatever fruits you have too many of. I used peaches one day, figs the next--a change from always using plums.

serves 8 but you might get 10 slivers if you need to

For the butter cake:
1 stick (8 tbsp) unsalted butter
3/4 cup white or better turbinado (raw) sugar                                  
2 extra large eggs
1 tsp baking powder
1 cup unbleached flour, sifted
pinch of salt        
1 tbsp light brown sugar
2 tbsp melted butter

For the fruit:
Peaches: 5-6 small or 4 large ones, cut into petal like thin wedges.
    Season the cake with ½ tsp ground nutmeg, ¼ tsp ginger and ¼  tsp ground cinnamon. Sprinkle flour over the peaches to absorb their juices. Sprinkle a little fresh lime juice over them, then pinches of cardamom.
Figs: 6-8 fresh figs thinly sliced (maybe 3 slices per fig)
    Season the cake with a pinch of ground cloves, ¼ tsp ground cinnamon, ¼ tsp ground cardamom and sprinkle 1 tbsp lemon juice and  ½ tsp anise seed over the figs.
Plums: 8-10 sm/med fresh plums cut in half and pitted. (don’t worry if the halves look ragged.)
   Season the cake with ½ tsp ground ginger and a pinch of ground cloves. Sprinkle 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice and pinch of ground cinnamon over the plums.

Preheat over to 350º. Lightly butter an 8, 9 or 10” spring form pan.
In a mixer or a large bowl with a hand mixer, cream butter and sugar. Add flour, baking powder, salt and eggs. Beat well. Spoon thick batter into the prepared pan and with a spatula level the top. It will be gooey.
Arrange fruit around the top: the peaches like daisy petals, the plums skin side up, the figs anyway you wish. Season accordingly.
Mix the melted butter with 1 tbsp brown sugar and spread this over the fruit.
Bake 35-40 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes before releasing from the spring form pan.
  To freeze, double wrap in aluminum foil and slip into an airtight freezer bag.