Thursday, November 26, 2009

Last minute Thanksgiving...

The title couple of weeks ago would have been 'Who wants breakfast for dinner anyways, a Thanksgiving family recipe feud' :)....but time have past, and this morning while all he wanted to do is sleep in, Jonathan found himself at 8am, waiting in line, outside the front door of the 'Pie Gourmet' in Vienna, Virginia. There are few things you don't mess with when someone else perfects them, one is a Pie Gourmet's coconut cream pie. They were sold out, but we were lucky to come out with a banana cream pie, we, as in Jonathan. Honestly, until the 'Pie Gourmet' I haven't cared for pies much. Had an excellent, complex recipe for it, but Sagie said why make it when someone else makes it so well....he's got a point !! In the category of don't bother to make it cause someone else makes it better, falls Whole Foods corn bread and cheddar jalapeno bread, and these mini cocktail samosas I find in local Indian grocery stores. This year is the first year in ten years I am not hosting Thanksgiving in my house, our long time friend Geri is hosting it at her house. Since another friend of hers is making stuffing with sausage, I was assigned to make an alternative sausage-free version. I might add, we are the trouble makers who do not eat sausage. There are many Thanksgiving stories including the one of my first year roasting a turkey, we ended up eating at 9pm that holiday, or Geri's new method of roasting this year at 500F with cheese cloth, I will let you know about that one....but need to wrap up and give you my recipe for stuffing. This time I did not have a bird for stuffin' but normally I would.

Stuffing:

Ingredients:
1 whole baguette
2 medium onions diced
3 ribs of celery with leaves diced
2 tart apples peeled cored and diced
2 pears peeled cored and diced
Handful or more dried cherries
4 garlic cloves minced
1/4 bunch plus of parsley chopped
3 stems of fresh thyme leaves only
Salt
Fresh black pepper
Canola oil
Maple syrup
2 cups plus chicken stock (can use more stock for more moist stuffing)

Directions:
1. Cube baguette spread on baking sheet lined with parchment paper, sprinkle canola oil, salt and pepper and toss together. bake in a 350F oven until golden. Remove to a large bowl and add 1 1/2 cups of chicken stock, toss together.
2, In a large skillet saute onion, garlic and celery in canola oil until soft, add apples, pears, parsley, cherries and thyme and cook until pears and apples are really soft. Salt and pepper and add a touch of maple syrup or according to taste. Add remaining 1/2 cup chicken stock and cook for few minutes longer. Turn off heat. The cooking in canola oil plumps the cherries, saves you a step of immersing cherries in warm water prior in order to plump them. Make sure not to overcook them so that you don't lose the bright sheen and color of the cherry.
3. Add skillet ingredients to bowl with baguette mixture and mix.
4. Pour to a baking dish, this time I baked in a pie dish, sprinkle on top with some of the drippings from the turkey, and bake at 350F for 10 min, or until golden on top.

Chestnuts and wine:
To make this recipe a Thanksgiving must add chestnuts, broken into pieces....and make it a day ahead. You can find shelled and roasted chestnuts anywhere these days. Also a touch of red wine enhances the flavor. If adding wine you might want to exercise some restraint with the maple syrup or skip it altogether. Stuff the turkey to gain the delicious drippings.

Stuffin' muffin':
Alternatively, let the combined mixture cool down, add an egg, mix and scoop to greased muffin tins for stuffin' muffins. bake at 350F for 10 minutes or until golden at top. Let cool and remove from tins.

Happy Thanksgiving!!

Pie Gourmet
507 maple Ave. West
Vienna, VA
703-281-7437
http://www.piegourmet.com/

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Pre-game-day carbs














Simplicity, the theme continues........Perfect for pre soccer game day carb intake. Every time I served it to Sagie and some of his friends before games, they won! I take full credit for their victories!! As surprising as it may sound pasta sauce was my achilles heel, I think the right tomatoes are key here, the proportions are key and keeping a light handed attitute is critical. In the past I did not stop at garlic and tomato, it takes some expreience, confidence and restraint to have that right touch, just so. After years of playing with different versions of pasta sauce recipes, whether adding artichokes or mushrooms, paprika or Roma tomatoes, sometimes canned crushed whole tomatoes or onions and an assortment of herbs, I came to this perfection of a sauce. The purest, tastiest, what's left is to jar it and give it away!!

Ingredients:
1 lb pasta
4 tomatoes medium to large (on the vine), grated, with a knife make a cross at bottom of tomato and grate, discard skin
1 15 oz can of tomato sauce (I use Hunt's regular, careful not to pick salt free or with herbes/garlic accidently)
One head of garlic peeled, minced
Canola oil
Red pepper flakes (optional especially pre game day)
salt
Fresh black pepper
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, or according to desire

Directions:
1. Boil pasta with a bit of salt as directed on box al dente, drain
2. Sweat, cook garlic in canola oil, make sure it's really soft and cooked, add grated fresh tomatoes and cook for few more minutes, add canned tomato sauce and keep cooking on medium, add red pepper flakes, salt and pepper to taste. Turn off heat.
3. Add drained pasta to sauce gently to avoid a splash, , add Parmesan cheese and fold pasta, sauce and cheese gently and let sit for about 10-20 covered with a lid so that the pasta will absorb (drink) the sauce.

String beans for pre-game or for Thanksgiving:
1/2 - 1 lb fresh string beans, ends snipped, rinsed and drained
1/2 - 1 head of garlic peeled and crushed with the handle of the knife
Canola oil
Salt

In a frying pan put bit of oil, string beans, crushed garlic and some salt. Cook on low/medium and stir ocassionaly until string beans are soft. Make sure garlic turns soft and does not burn, at most turn golden, see pic!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Shoshi's twenty minute whole trout


Photos: Asian market two bottom pics, Mackerel and Bok Choy. Top two pics -Trout

It's funny how I am fond of slow cooking, and complicated methods, all I am posting in this blog are easy and quick recipes. Over the years came to the realization that simplicity is an art form by itself. Sometimes less is more as in this fish. Been to many fish restaurants and often came out so disappointed, just wished for a simply grilled fish without the crab cream sauce on top, just the purest, perfectly grilled or baked whole fish, the perfect moist flaky morsel of a bite with a touch of garlic and lemon. But there was some hope, in the form of Jaleo, a Tapas restaurant in the DC area who has a seasonal item on their menu that reminded me very much of the Mediterranean restaurants back home. The Old Jaffa fish restaurants on the beach just south of Tel Aviv, opening a table with a sea of mezzes and the one, Idi, further south on the Mediterranean, nestled in an industrial area, in my hometown of Ashdod. When you have a pilgrimage from Tel Aviv to Ashdod then you know the restaurant and the fish must be good...it's sort of crossing the American Legion Bridge from Maryland to Virginia for a beltway metaphor or for a historical reference the Mason Dixon line. Look for the the seasonal Mediterranean sea bass at Jaleo and you will understand!! Never mustered the courage to cook a whole fish although had many recipes for it. Felt that I will do it injustice, until my friend, Shoshi nonchalantly baked it almost every Friday and gave me the push to experiment with it. First try was a huge success, I can actually make it, in fact made it twice in a row!! Of course it was baked, perfectly moist in twenty, did not make sense, only twenty?!...so at risking perfection I kept it in for five minutes longer. Sometimes I just can't help myself!!

Ingredients:
2 whole butterflied fish (whole or can ask for guy at the counter the take head off)
Few fresh garlic cloves minced
salt
Freshly grounded black pepper
Lemon

Direction:
1. Rinse Fish and pat dry with paper towel. My sister, I don't, squeezes lemon on it and lets it sit for few minutes in the refrigerator to take all impurities and smell out, and then proceeds to rinse and pat dry. My sister's process actually cures the fish on the way.
2. Salt and pepper and squeeze some lemon inside out.
3. There are two options with the garlic, whether to spread minced garlic inside the fish prior to baking, or sweat garlic in a frying pan in a bit of oil until cooked, add squeezed lemon, salt and pepper to make a garlic sauce, let cool for couple of min. and pour inside the fish prior to baking. Reason is, first time I spread the garlic inside the fish prior to cooking, it cooked perfectly. the second time, the garlic did not cook thoroughly and it had a raw sharp edge to it.
4.Wrap fish individually in a foil envelope and bake for twenty minutes at 400F. Open the top of the envelop to expose the fish and broil for 5 minutes longer unwrapped, to get a golden, bit of a crisp on top, although crispy skin is not the signature of this preparation. Squeeze some more lemon, adjust for salt, and serve right out of the oven. Enjoy the delicate tender flavor of the fish.
Garlic freshness tips:
I think the fresher the garlic is the more tender is its flavor and it will cook beautifully inside the fish, but the less fresh the garlic is, the sharper the flavor will be, and won't necessarily cook inside the fish well. There are two signs the garlic is fresh, when you see purple coloring on the peel and when mincing it's translucent.

Fish freshness tips:
Shoshi is an avid HMart, Asian market shopper. She says that by shear numbers of the seafood consumers at the market, the turnover is immense and therefore insure the freshness of the fish. She's got a point!! It's quite an experience to go to the Asian market, I highly recommend it. Don't be shy to ask to smell the fish, I ask even at Whole Foods to the other shoppers curiosity and the fish counter guy's smirk and giggle.
In DC, there is a Fish Market by the water at 1100 Maine Ave SW, Washington, DC 20024. It's worth the trip downtown.

Shoshi's whole trout variations:
1. Add Italian (flat leaf) parsley or any other fresh herb you have in the fridge (rosemary, thyme, sage, etc.), in addition to the garlic, lemon, salt and pepper, inside and outside the fish cavity prior to baking.
2. Smear the inside the fish with store bought or home made pesto in addition to the garlic, lemon, salt and pepper.

I do not use pine nuts in my pesto due to allergies.

Pairing: Goes well with Orzo and mushrooms dish, in previous entry 'Mushrooms two ways and fish along the way'.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Mushrooms two ways..........and some fish along the way




















The simplest of meals. I like to use portabella mushrooms for their meatiness, texture and taste. portabellas have a lot of substance especially in meatless meals...although the first recipe, orzo and portabella dish is not a substitute for proteins, and especially meaty proteins, it feels as fulfilling as one. You can absolutely use any assortment of mushrooms in this dish. Apropo proteins, we like this dish with simply seared white fish fillets....see recipe at the bottom. Mushrooms and eggplants are two of our most favorite vegetables. I should take it back, until this past Summer, it is at the Ferry Building Farmers Market, by the water in San Francisco, that our son acquired the taste for mushrooms. Thanks to his friend, who bought some mushrooms at the market, and to my son's amazement was eating them raw. Our son does eat radishes and bell peppers, string beans and asparagus, mangos and lychees among many many other vegetables and fruits. Bananas, avocados, raw tomatoes, mushrooms and eggplants he was not too fond of. Bananas and avocados we conquered at different stages over the last several years, mushrooms this past Summer in San Francisco. We have yet to see about eggplants, that is a tough one, and lastly raw tomatoes. At the bottom you can find my son's favorite mushroom dish made with baby button mushrooms, you can use it as a small dish if having tapas inspired dinner, as an appetizer or just accompany a meal as a warm side dish.

Orzo and mushrooms

Ingredients:
1 lb orzo
Canola oil
2 large portabella mushrooms, or any other assortment of mushrooms, sliced or cubed
1 large onion diced
Salt
Fresh black pepper
Chopped parsley as a garnish

Directions:
Cook Orzo as directed on box, like pasta in salted water, al dente, and drain. In a frying pan saute onions first, until soft, then add sliced mushrooms and cook until mushrooms are cooked. Salt and pepper the mushrooms onion mix. Add the two mixtures together and adjust for salt and freshly grounded black pepper. Garnish with parsley.

Taste excellent at room temperature and the next day as well. When reheating the next day, just heat to room temperature or warm.

Goes really well with seared fish fillets. Bit of canola oil, few minced garlic, let garlic sweat. Add the fish and sear few minutes on each side, salt and pepper both sides. Squeeze lemon on top and stick in oven at 350 for final cooking if needed. Garnish with parsley.

Sagie's favorite mushrooms recipe:

Ingredients:
1 package baby button mushrooms
10 minced fresh garlic cloves, sometimes I will use a whole head of garlic, minced
Canola oil
Lemon, freshly squeezed
Salt
Baguette

Directions:
In a frying pan pour little canola oil, add garlic and sweat. Really important to be patient with the garlic on low medium heat to make sure it soft and cooked. Add mushrooms whole or halved and cook in garlic, add lemon and salt. Cook the mushrooms, I like the mushrooms cooked throughout but make sure not to overcook and shrivel them. If the garlic lemon sauce reduces too quickly add a some water or more lemon juice. Serve Immediately!! Really delicious with baguette, dip into lemon garlic sauce.

Variation, NOT Sagie's favorite:
Add fresh thyme leaves to button mushrooms dish for a lemon garlic thyme sauce to dip in.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Indian inspired mung bean salad



This salad tastes great same day but even better the next day when flavors sit and blend in. Mung beans are these small green capsules that are rich in fiber and protein among other nutritional values. Big in South East Asian cooking, and as I recently discovered, they can be used as a savory as well as a sweet dish. I am only familiar with Indian savory mung bean dishes. I remember my mom making a very dried, almost smokey version of it with some garam masala, and a side dish of green mango chutney or salsa. This recipe is incorporates some elements from both the mung bean masala dish and the chutney. Recently, I have been having it often for lunch. Mung bean can be bought in the bulk section of Whole Foods, local Indian grocery store or pre-bagged in any other grocery store. You can get the garam masala or curry at a local Indian store or at any local grocery store's spice isle. Use this recipe as a guide....adjust flavors to your liking. Some add basil leaves, some seeded and cubed tomatoes. Enjoy!!

Mung bean salad

Ingredients:
1/3-1/2 lb mung beans
1 green mango peeled and cubed
1 red bell pepper cubed
1/2 medium red onion cubed
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
1-2 jalapeno peppers sliced into thin rings
1 teaspoon plus garam masala or curry powder
1/3 bunch of cilantro leaves chopped
1-2 limes
5-10 plus fresh mint leaves chopped
Canola oil
Salt

Directions:
Rinse mung beans in cold water. Add fresh water to a pot and cook mung beans in water until soft. Bring to a boil and reduce to low medium for about twenty minutes. You have to watch that the water won't overflow when cooking, so a quick stir now and then is suggested. We want to keep the capsules whole but soft, if overcooked they will turn to mush. Drain and let cool a bit. Add cubed green mango, cubed bell pepper, and cubed red onion to mung beans. In a frying pan toast cumin, mustard seeds and sliced jalapeno in oil until all the flavors and aromas are released for few minutes. Add seeds and jalapeno mixture to mung bean mixture. Add chopped mint, cilantro, lime juice and garam masala or curry. Mix and adjust lime, salt, garam masala and herbs according to taste.

You can smoke garam masala a bit, prior to adding to salad, if you wish. In a heated pan with NO oil in it, put the spice, and let it realease it's oils and aromas for couple of minutes, add to mung beans. Makes the flavor more vibrant!

Arugula addiction

Arugula is an acquired taste, but addictive once you acquire it. Today, I am obsessed!! I can't bring myself to make salads with different leaves. I have the arugula with the same mustard maple syrup vinaigrette, but dress it up for different occasions. Must credit to my friend and neighbor, chef and caterer, Sandra, who has the most exquisite of tastes, for getting me into the 'habit'. She is now living her dream life in Paris for the next four years. Sandra introduced me to arugula with her balsamic vinegar dressing. The baby arugula leaves are at best in the Fall and the Spring when weather is somewhat cooler and moderate, I would drive around different markets to find the most beautiful, perfect leaves. Can't really say tender since it has a peppery bite. Today I will share the recipe for arugula with strawberries, bell peppers and shallots, I have had often for the last ten years. In the Fall especially, when pomegranates and figs are in season, make arugula with pomegranates, or baked figs, stuffed with cheeses and traditionally walnuts on top of the stuffed figs. My son has severe tree nuts allergy, so at our home I never cook or bake with nuts. In the future I will post how I got into organic food, what do we substitute for nuts, and give a tree nut free power bar recipe. But, I digress, this allergy matter deserves a whole new entry on its own. Going back to the figs, this past September, I was hoping to get some figs from a soccer mom friend, who has a fig tree in her yard. She had the most beautiful, juicy and plump organic figs, I have ever seen. I was execrcising some restraint, when seeing figs at grocery stores or markets, looking forward to having Diane's. Unfortunately, with the cool Summer and colder weather coming upon us earlier, her figs never ripened. Looking forward to next year though!!
Arugula salad

Salad:
2 Plus handful bunches of baby arugula
1 shallot diced
1 bell pepper diced
Few strawberries sliced
Seasonal: Pomegranates or stuffed figs

Vinaigrette:
4 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1/2 plus teaspoon country dijon mustard
2 teaspoon plus maple syrup
Salt
Fresh black pepper

Directions:
Arrange salad in a serving bowl, with strawberries, bell peppers and shallots on top of greens. Toss in all Vinaigrette ingredients in a separate small bowl and emulsify with a small whisk. Toss into greens before serving. Always taste vinaigrette and adjust to your liking.

Arugula wilts easily so the salad needs to be tossed moments prior to serving. Also, even if you dress up the salad with different ingredients, always, always use the shallots, they are a key ingredient for the flavor reached with this vinaigrette. A little portion of vinaigrette takes you a long way.

Again, use this recipe as a guideline, some say that oil to vinegar proportions should be 3:1, I like it more acidic, and the maple syrup cuts the acidity for balance. Some might like more mustard in it. I do use certain products like Grey Poupon Country mustard and Terra Medi red wine vinegar. I also used a murky (as in good murky) cold pressed , reasonably priced, olive oil I found at Trader's Joes, but haven't seen it in awhile. The one is in the picture is another one I picked up from the shelf. I was first introduced to Terra Medi red wine vinegar at Wegman's but have not seen it there in months, Whole Foods carries it. It's pricey in my opinion, but this sort of addiction I do not wish to shake!! Now that I gave a shout out to almost all the grocery stores around, in all seriousness any brand will work!

This salad has been a huge success!!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Shakshuka, for every college kid's hot plate





I was debating what should be my inaugural recipe and post for this blog of mine. Should it be my Arugula salad with baked stuffed figs and a homemade vinaigrette?!, should I share one of my mom's traditional Indian recipes?!, or my all time favorite recipes from two of my favorite cookbooks?! There will be plenty of time to share all of that, but this post will be dedicated to a discussion we had at home, with my son, about his college culinary life. Some of his friends from his high school varsity soccer team, who graduated, try to lure him to come to their college, by saying, you know when you are in college, the one thing you can't wait for is to come back home to your mom's home cooked meal, but here, the food is so good, that thought won't cross your mind. Another friend who graduated Facebooked him that the down side of his campus is the lack of Chipotle, but rumor has it it's coming next year. These boys know FOOD and as odd as it sounds, do think about it when thinking about their college life. Our son, now a senior, is on a mission to collect some recipes for his hotplate in his dorm room. Something simple, something to share, extremely filling and delicious. This is the first of his collection.

This recipe is a guideline you can adjust according to taste. We, for example, like a bit of a kick in our food but not everyone can handle it.

Shakshuka

Ingredients:
2-4 garlic cloves sliced
1 medium onion, diced
1 jalapeno sliced
Canola oil or any vegetable oil (few tablespoons)
4-6 med./large tomatoes (diced roughly)
Tomato sauce up to 8 oz - small can (instead of tomato paste)
8 eggs
1 teaspoon plus paprika according to taste
Red pepper flakes (optional)
Salt
Black pepper
Fresh cilantro leaves (chopped or whole leaves) to garnish (optional although gives the dish another layer of flavor)
Fresh baguette, or any other fresh loaf

Directions:
In a deep frying pan sweat garlic, onion and Jalapeno in a bit of oil on low to medium. Do not brown or burn garlic, it will turn bitter. Add tomatoes and cook for about ten minutes on medium, add tomato sauce, paprika, salt and fresh black pepper according to taste. Crack eggs and drop gently one by one into sauce, next to each other in the pan and cook on low/medium according to desired level of doneness. You are sort of poaching the eggs in the tomato sauce....traditionally the yellow of the eggs should be runny when serving. If more firm eggs are desired cover the pan with a lid. Garnish with fresh cilantro leaves but not a must. Can break bread and eat directly from the pan as a communal meal, or can be served individually.

Variations:
Can cube  red bell pepper and sweat/fry it with garlic and sausage possibly too. We use merguez spicy Moroccan lamb sausage or turkey sausage, but any sausage will be fine.
If adding other vegetables, always, always cook with garlic,onion and oil as a first step to cook/soften them.
Improvise, be creative, use your imagination!!