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TartQueen's Kitchen


Archive for the ‘broth’


Black Beans (Frijoles Negros) 0

Posted on April 15, 2015 by Sahar

Years ago, as I was rifling through my pantry trying to figure out what to make for dinner because I didn’t feel like going to the grocery store, I came across 2 cans of black beans and a jar of pickled jalapeños (that I figured I needed do something else with besides make nachos).  Of course, these are pantry staples every Texan should have.

Hmm… I thought. What can I do with these?  After looking through my fridge and finding some cilantro, I stumbled upon it.  “Tart these beans up, Sahar”, I said to myself.

A no brainer, really.

At the time I came up with this recipe, Husband Steve was a vegetarian. And, honestly, me being a dedicated omnivore, there were times I struggled with figuring out what to feed him other than the same old dozen or so meals.  Thankfully, he liked this new concoction so much it became a semi-regular in the rotation.  I liked it because I was working a full-time job at the time and this was a quick & easy meal to make for dinner.  Cheap, too.  And, let’s not forget the most important part here – delicious.

I’m not even going to call this anything remotely like authentic Mexican cuisine.  I mean, I honestly don’t know of any interior Mexican recipe that uses pickled jalapeños.  However, I like to think I’ve at least kept to the flavor profile somewhat and honored the spirit, if not the authenticity.

 

A few notes:

1.  I really designed this recipe around black beans.  However, if you don’t like or can’t find them, pinto will do in a pinch.

2.  If you don’t have a jar of pickled jalapeños, you can use fresh. Use one, and, depending on the heat level you want, remove the seeds or not.  Also, in place of the jalapeño brine, use lime juice.

3.  I generally serve this dish with brown rice. It just seems to work.  However, white rice or even your favorite Spanish or Mexican rice recipe will be fine, too.

4.  Occasionally, I’ll dice up a tomato (after I remove the seeds) and add it to the beans when I add the second half of the cilantro.  I’ll let the tomatoes sit in the beans just long enough to warm through before serving.

5.  When I serve the beans with cheese, I’ll use Jack cheese or Queso Fresco as a general rule.  The rule being that I usually have one or both of those in my fridge pretty much all the time.  Honestly, they just seem to work.  However, if you decide to go the pinto bean route, cheddar will work, too.

6.  To make this dish vegan, use vegetable broth and omit the cheese.

7. If you’re feeling decadent and carnivorous, a small piece or two of salt pork or bacon cooking with the beans wouldn’t be a bad thing. Just watch the amount of additional salt you put into the beans.

 

 

 

The Ingredients

The Ingredients

2 cans black beans (frijoles negros), drained

2 tbsp. oil

1/2 c. onion, fine dice

4 cloves garlic, minced

From top going clockwise: garlic, Mexican oregano, pickled jalapeño, cumin, black pepper, salt, jalapeño brine

From top going clockwise: garlic, Mexican oregano, pickled jalapeño, cumin, black pepper, salt, jalapeño brine

1 tbsp. pickled jalapeño, chopped

2 tsp. jalapeño brine

1 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. black pepper

3/4 tsp. ground cumin

3/4 tsp. dried Mexican Oregano

1 bunch cilantro, chopped and divided

IMG_3104

1/2 c. vegetable or chicken broth, or water; more as needed

Rice, cheese, lime wedges, and tortillas or cornbread

 

 

1.  Heat a medium saucepan over medium-high heat.  Add the oil and let heat up.

2.  Sauté the garlic and onion until the onion is soft, about 2 – 3 minutes.

Sauteeing the onion and garlic. It's important to allow the saucepan to become hot before adding the oil. This helps even a non-stick saucepan or skillet to become more non-stick. Plus, this helps to cook the food more evenly and efficiently.

Sautéing the onion and garlic. It’s important to allow the saucepan to heat up before adding the oil. This helps the surface to become more non-stick than it otherwise would be (especially in a non-teflon pan or saucepan).  Plus, this helps to cook the food more evenly and efficiently.

Add the jalapeños and sauté for another minute.

Adding the jalapeños.

Adding the jalapeños.

3.  Add the salt, pepper, cumin, and oregano and sauté another minute or just until the spices begin to have a fragrance. Be sure not to let them burn.

Adding the spices.

Adding the spices.

4.  Add the beans, jalapeño brine, half of the cilantro, and the broth or water.

Adding the beans, half of the cilantro, and the jalapeno brine.

Adding the beans, half of the cilantro, and the jalapeño brine.

 

Lower the heat to medium-low, cover the saucepan, and let the beans simmer for 30 minutes.  Stir occasionally.  Be sure to taste for seasoning.  Add more broth or water if the beans become too dry.

After 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes.

5.  When the beans are soft and the broth has thickened, remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in the remaining cilantro and taste for seasoning.

Adding the other half of the cilantro. If you're using tomato, add it now.

Adding the other half of the cilantro. If you’re using tomato, add it now.

6.  Serve the beans with rice, cheese, a lime wedge, and cornbread or tortillas on the side.

Without cheese.

Without cheese.

With cheese.

With cheese.

¡Buen Apetito!

Mujadarah مجدرة 0

Posted on October 17, 2014 by Sahar

In the ongoing informal series of foods from my childhood, today, I’m going to introduce you to Mujadarah.

Admittedly, this wasn’t my favorite dish growing up.  I usually picked at it or ate it with lots of salad so I could get it down.  But, as happens with most of us, my palate changed and discovered that I, even if I don’t love Mujadarah, I like it.  It must have been the lentils.

The first record of mujadara dates back to  1226, in the Iraqi cookbook Kitab al-Tabikh by al-Baghdadi. It was known as “peasant food”.  Mujaddara is the Arabic word for “pockmarked”; the lentils among the rice resemble pockmarks. Generally consisting of rice, lentils, sometimes burghul (#3 or #4 coarse grind), and, very occasionally, meat, it was served during celebrations. Without meat, it was a medieval Arab dish commonly consumed by the poor. Because of its importance in the diet, a saying in the Eastern Arab world is, “A hungry man would be willing to sell his soul for a dish of mujaddara.”

Arab Christians traditionally eat mujaddara during Lent.  The dish is also popular among Jewish communities of Middle Eastern origin, in particular those of Syrian and Egyptian backgrounds; it is sometimes nicknamed “Esau’s favourite”. Jews traditionally ate it twice a week: hot on Thursday evening, and cold on Sunday.

(Some information from wikipedia and Rose Water & Orange Blossoms)

If the recipe looks somewhat familiar to you, I’ve made a dish similar before, Koshari.  The biggest difference is that Koshari has chick peas and pasta and is generally served with a tomato-cumin sauce.

 

A few notes:

1.  You can make this dish with white rice, brown rice, or burghul wheat. If you use burghul, be sure to use a #3 (medium coarse) or #4 (coarse) grind. If you use burghul, it will be the standard 2:1 ratio you would use for white rice.

2.  You can use either brown or green lentils.  Don’t use red.  They cook too soft for this dish.

3.  My mom uses just cinnamon as the spice (other than salt & pepper).  Play with the spices and come up with a combination you like.

4.  While some do make this dish with meat, I’ve always eaten it as a vegetarian meal.  If you want to add meat, follow the meat cooking instructions for Kidra.

 

The ingredients

The ingredients

The lentils. Use brown or green.

The lentils. Use brown or green.

From top left:

From top left: cumin, allspice, olive oil, black pepper, salt

 

1 c. brown or green lentils

2 c. white or brown long-grain rice

2 lb. onions, cut in half and sliced thin

4 c. water or broth (5 c. if using brown rice)

2 tsp. allspice

1 tsp. cumin

2 tsp. salt

1 1/2 tsp. pepper

1/4 c. + 2 tbsp. olive oil

 

1.  Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat.  Add the rice and saute for 1 – 2 minutes.

Sauteing the rice.  I used brown in this post.

Sauteing the rice. I used brown in this post.

Add the salt, pepper, allspice, and cumin.  Cook until the spices begin to give off a fragrance, about 1 minute.

Adding the spices. As you cook, the oils in the spices will come out and flavor the oil and rice.  Be sure to stir constantly so the spices don't burn.

Adding the spices. As you cook, the oils in the spices will come out and flavor the oil and rice. Be sure to stir constantly so the spices don’t burn.

Add the water or broth, bring to a boil, cover the saucepan, and turn down the heat to low.  Cook until the rice is done – 25 to 30 minutes for white, 45 to 50 minutes for brown.

2.  Meanwhile, heat the 1/4 cup olive oil over medium heat in a large, deep skillet.  Add the onions and a pinch of salt.  Stir occasionally, until the onions are soft and begin to take on color.

Cooking the onions. When you get to this point, make sure you watch them closely.  You want caramelization, not burning.

Cooking the onions. When you get to this point, make sure you watch them closely. You want caramelization, not burning.

Once the onions begin to brown, watch them more closely and stir more often; you want the onions to brown, not burn.  Cook them down as far as you like. (I prefer them to be fully caramelized.)  Depending on how dark you want the onions, it could take anywhere between 20 – 30 minutes to cook them.

I like my onions well caramelized. This took about 30 minutes.

I like my onions well caramelized. This took about 30 minutes.

When the onions are done, take them off the heat and set aside.

3.  About halfway through the rice cooking time, place the lentils in a medium saucepan, cover with water to at least 1″ above the lentils, and bring to a boil over high heat.  Cook the lentils, adding water as needed, until they are done, about 20 – 25 minutes.

Boiling the lentils.  Be sure to keep them covered with water so they don't dry out.

Boiling the lentils. Be sure to keep them covered with water so they don’t dry out.

4.  When the lentils and the rice are done, mix them together (I usually do this in the pot I cooked the rice in).  Mix in the onions.  Taste for seasoning.

5.  Mujadarah is usually served with either yogurt or a tomato-cucumber salad (basically tabouleh without the bulghur wheat).

Sahtein! صحتين!

Sahtein! صحتين!

 

 

Kidra قدرة 4

Posted on October 06, 2014 by Sahar

I’ve been feeling sentimental lately thinking about the foods from my childhood years.  I’d forgotten how good some of them were and still are.  It must also come with the realization that I’ve hit middle age and how I really need to eat healthier.

Kidra is another one of those dishes from our childhood that my sisters and I remember fondly.  It was an every-once-in-a-while dish; it was never one of Mom’s favorites, so we didn’t have it too often. But, when we did have it, my sisters and I would gorge.

Traditionally, it’s a recipe that is baked in a large narrow-necked clay pot called a tanour (التنور).  The pot was filled with the ingredients, sealed with a flour and water paste, and buried in an oven built into the sand where it was left to cook for hours and up to overnight.  Once cities started growing, people would send not only their bread to the bakeries, but their tanour pots as well.  In some very remote areas, the Bedouin still cook Kidra this way.

Now, many families have tanours made of lined copper that can be placed in the oven or on the stove (my parents have one) and it generally takes less than an hour for the Kidra to cook.

This is dish cooked all through the Palestinian regions and families in the Middle East, but it is most popular in Gaza, where, from what I can tell, the dish originated.

 

A few notes:

1.  If you don’t have a tanour, don’t worry.  I don’t either.  I used my Dutch oven.  It works well.

2.  Lamb is the most traditional meat to use in this dish.  You can use beef if you prefer.  Either way, be sure to use a stew meat (shoulder, round).

3.  Some people will use saffron or osfour (the stamen of the safflower) to give the dish a yellow color.  It is totally optional.  My parents never used either of these in this recipe, so I don’t either.

4.  Another traditional ingredient in this recipe is whole heads of garlic that are added just before the tanour goes into the oven.  My parents never used garlic in their Kidra.  After doing some research, I decided I wanted to add garlic in my own recipe.  However, instead of whole heads of garlic, I use peeled cloves. I like it.

Again, this is completely optional.

5.  If you don’t have whole cardamom pods for this dish, it will be fine without them.  However, you do miss out on some of the traditional flavor if you don’t use them.

6.  While white rice is most commonly used, you can use brown long-grain rice (brown basmati works well).  Just add an additional 1/2 cup of liquid and add 15 -20 minutes to the cooking time.

7.  You can make this vegetarian by using vegetable broth or water, omitting the meat, and adding more chick peas and/or fava beans.  If you’d like to add some green, use fresh green beans (not haricot vert) and saute them at the same time as you would the chick peas.

 

The Ingredients

The Ingredients

Clockwise from top left:

Clockwise from top left: ground cardamom, cardamom pods, black pepper, salt, ground cumin, ground allspice. Center: olive oil

If your garlic cloves are large, cut them down to make the cloves more equal in size.

If your garlic cloves are large, cut them down to make the cloves more equal in size.  Also, be sure to cut off the stem end because it doesn’t cook down and has an unpleasant texture.

1 lb. lamb or beef stew meat, cut into 1″ cubes

1 1/2 tsp. salt

1 tsp. black pepper

1 tsp. allspice

1/2 tsp. cumin

1/4 tsp. ground cardamom

2 tbsp. olive oil, more if needed

1 med. onion, chopped fine

1 head garlic, cloves separated and peeled, larger cloves cut in halves or quarters

1 1/2 c. long grain rice

1 15-oz. can chick peas (garbanzos), drained

6 – 8 cardamom pods

3 c. chicken broth or water, more if needed

 

 

1.  Preheat the oven to 325F.  In a medium bowl, toss the meat with the spices.

Spiced lamb.

Spiced lamb.

2.  In a Dutch oven, or, if you’re lucky, you have a tanour, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat.  Brown the meat in batches; you want to get a good sear on the meat.  If you crowd the pan, they will simply steam.

Browning the meat.  Don't crowd the pan or instead of a nice brown crust, you'll end up with grayed steamed meat.

Browning the meat. Don’t crowd the pan or instead of a nice brown crust, you’ll end up with grayed steamed meat.

After each batch of meat is browned, take it out of the Dutch oven and set it aside.  Repeat until all of the meat is done.

The finished (so far) meat.  I just put it in the overturned Dutch oven lid. It's a Dad thing.

The finished (so far) meat. I just put it in the overturned Dutch oven lid. It’s a Dad thing.

3.  Saute the onions and garlic in the Dutch oven, about 5 minutes.  If you need to keep the brown bits on the bottom from burning, add about 1/4 cup of water or broth to help deglaze the pan. (It doesn’t have to be an exact measurement. Just eyeball it.)  Stir frequently.

Cooking the onion and garlic.  If you need to, like I did here, add a little water or broth to deglaze the pan to keep the lovely browned bits from burning.

Cooking the onion and garlic. If you need to, like I did here, add a little water or broth to deglaze the pan to keep the lovely browned bits from burning.

4.  Add the rice and cook for another 2 – 3 minutes.  Stir constantly.

Adding the rice.

Adding the rice.

Add the chick peas and cook another 2 – 3 minutes.  Again, stir often.

Adding in the chick peas.

Adding in the chick peas.

Then add back in the meat, cardamom pods, and the water or broth.

Adding the meat, cardamom pods, and broth.

Adding the meat, cardamom pods, and broth.

5.  Bring the water or broth to a boil on the stove.  Cover the Dutch oven and place it on the middle rack in the oven and bake for 30 – 45 minutes, or until the liquid has been absorbed and the rice is cooked.

In the oven.

In the oven.

Alternately, you can cook this fully on the stove (especially of you don’t have an oven-safe pot) on low heat for about 45 minutes, or, again, until the liquid has been absorbed and the rice is cooked.

6.  Serve with plain yogurt or cucumber-yogurt salad.

If you use cardamom pods, be sure to let your guests know.  The pods infuse a wonderful flavor but aren’t great to bite into.

Sahtein! صحتين !

Sahtein! صحتين !

 

 

Lentil Soup شوربة دس and Artichokes with Coriander اضيوكي مع الكزبرة 2

Posted on September 28, 2014 by Sahar

I am now going to introduce you to two more dishes from the Middle East – one from my childhood and one I discovered more recently.  Lentil Soup and Artichokes with Coriander.

Lentil Soup (Shorbat Adas) is a very popular dish during Ramadan. Soup is a traditional way to break the fast and the heartiness of this soup is perfect for that.  Some people will put cooked ground beef or lamb in the soup, others balls of Kefta (basically, ground meat with onion, parsley, and spices).  Some will also use dried bread and puree it into the soup to thicken it. Sliced radishes are also a popular addition.

The Artichokes with Coriander (Ard al-shokeh ma’kuzbara) is a more recent discovery for me. It’s a dish popular in Jericho in the early summer when artichokes are in season.  Here, I’ve used frozen artichokes.  This way, I can eat this dish at any time of year.  Mainly, though, because I really don’t like to clean artichokes.

 

A few notes:

1.  The soup is really best with the red lentils.  They have a lighter, slightly sweeter flavor that’s best for the soup.  They’re much more readily available than they used to be.

2.  Be sure to wash the lentils.  They’re generally dusty when they’re packed.  While processing methods have become better, sometimes, especially if they’re from a bulk bin, they may also have small rocks or dirt. So, be sure to check them carefully.

3.  As with most soups, this is even better the next day and freezes well.  When you reheat the soup, be sure to add a little broth or water because it thickens up as it sits.

4.  If you want a smoother soup, then you can puree it.  However, I prefer a little texture in the soup.

5.  You can easily make the soup vegan by using either vegetable broth or water.

6.  Don’t use marinated artichokes packed in olive oil.  Be sure, especially with canned or jarred ones, that they are packed in water.  Or, if you’re using frozen, they’re unseasoned.

7.  If you don’t like cilantro (coriander), you can use parsley.  It obviously won’t taste the same, but it will work.

 

The ingredients

The ingredients

The lentils. Red lentils work best in this soup. They're much more readily available than in the past.

The lentils. Red lentils work best in this soup. They’re much more readily available than in the past.

From the top:

From the top: salt, pepper, olive oil, flour, cumin

Lentil Soup

1 1/2 c. red lentils, washed and drained

4 c. broth (chicken, beef, lamb, vegetable) or water

1 med. onion, minced

3 cl. garlic, minced

1 tbsp. flour

1 tsp. salt, or to taste

1 tsp. black pepper, or to taste

1 tsp. cumin

2 tbsp. olive oil

Juice of one lemon, or to taste

 

1.  In a large saucepan, place the onion, garlic, lentils, and broth or water.

Lentils, onion, and garlic in the saucepan awaiting the broth.

Lentils, onion, and garlic in the saucepan awaiting the broth.

Cover and bring to a boil.  Keep the saucepan covered, turn the heat down to medium-low, and simmer for 45 minutes.  Stir occasionally.

The boiling pot.

The boiling pot.

2.  Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix together the flour, salt, pepper, cumin, and olive oil.

The oil, flour, and spices mixed together. It smells lovely.

The oil, flour, and spices mixed together. It smells lovely.

Add the mixture to the lentils after the first 45 minutes of cooking.

 

The soup after the first 45 minutes of cooking time.  Sorry, the lentils don't stay red.  They turn to a dull gold-yellow.

The soup after the first 45 minutes of cooking time. Sorry, the lentils don’t stay red. They turn to a dull gold-yellow.

After adding the oil-spice mixture.

After adding the oil-spice mixture.

After you add the oil & spices, cook for another 15 minutes, uncovered.  Stir occasionally.

3.  Add the lemon juice and cook another 5 minutes.

My old-style lemon reamer. One of my favorite things I received from my mother-in-law.

My old-style lemon reamer. One of my favorite things I received from my mother-in-law.

Taste for seasoning.  Serve with a drizzle of olive oil over the top and some extra lemon on the side.

The finished soup.

The finished soup.  Perfect.

 

 

 

The ingredients

The ingredients

Salt, pepper, olive oil

Salt, pepper, olive oil

The artichokes.  I used frozen ones in this recipe. If you do get jarred or canned, bue sure they aren't marinated ones.

The artichokes. I used frozen ones in this recipe. If you do get jarred or canned, be sure they aren’t marinated & flavored  ones.

Artichokes with Coriander

2 lb. artichoke hearts (2 bags frozen-thawed or 6 cans drained)

4 tbsp. olive oil

3 cl. garlic, minced

1/2 c. coriander (cilantro), chopped

1 tsp. salt, or to taste

1 tsp. black pepper, or to taste

1/4 c. lemon juice, or to taste

 

1.  In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat.  Add the garlic and cook for 1 – 2 minutes.

Cooking the garlic.

Cooking the garlic.

Add the artichokes hearts and cook another 5 minutes.

Adding the artichokes. Be sure to continue stirring frequently to keep the garlic from burning.

Adding the artichokes. Be sure to continue stirring frequently to keep the garlic from burning.

Add the coriander (cilantro), salt, and pepper.  Cook another 5 minutes. Stir frequently.

Adding the coriander (cilantro).

Adding the coriander (cilantro).

2.  Add the lemon juice and cook another 2 minutes.  Remove the skillet from the heat and taste for seasoning.

The finished artichokes.

The finished artichokes.

3.  You can serve this either warm or room temperature.  This dish can also be made a day in advance.  Warm it slightly or let it come to room temperature before serving.

Sahtein! صحتين

Sahtein! صحتين

In this post, I served the soup with toasted split pita bread to make a sort of cracker.  You can also serve with warm pita or a cracker of your choice.  The plainer the better.

 

 

Stuffed Grape Leaves محشي ورق عنب 3

Posted on May 28, 2014 by Sahar

Stuffed Grape Leaves. In Arabic, محشي ورق عنب, or, spelled phonetically, mishi waraq ‘einab.  It was another one of those dishes my sisters & I ate gleefully growing up.  When Mom would make stuffed grape leaves, it was cause for great rejoicing. Especially for Dad.

Many know the Greek word, Dolmas.  Dolma comes from the Turkish word “dolmak” meaning “to be stuffed”.  In Arabic, “mishi” means “stuffed”.  There are literally dozens of variations of stuffed grape leaves all over the Middle East, the Mediterranean, the Balkans, Central Europe, and Central Asia.

Probably the most common way to make the grape leaves is to cook them in an olive oil – lemon juice based-sauce.  However, the way I was taught to make grape leaves was the way my grandmother made them; with a tomato-based sauce.

I was talking to my mom about this one day.  She said the first time she ever ate grape leaves, the sauce was made from sour grapes.  She said it was awful.  The next time she had the dish, my dad had made it the way he preferred and the way his mother made them – with tomatoes.

I like to call it Palestinian-style.

**********************

If you would like to make this dish vegetarian/vegan, substitute an equal amount of roasted eggplant for the meat, vegetable broth for the beef broth, and add 1/4 cup tomato paste to the stuffing (this will help the filling bind together).

If you would like to use brown rice in place of the white rice, be sure to add 20 – 30 minutes to the cooking time.

**********************

The Ingredients

The Ingredients

The spices clockwise from right:

The spices clockwise from right: Cinnamon, Black Pepper, Allspice, Salt

The grape leaves. be sure to rinse them thoroughly after remaoving them from the brine.

The grape leaves. Be sure to rinse them thoroughly after removing them from the brine; otherwise, the end result will be like a salt lick.

 

1  jar grape leaves

1 lb. ground lamb or beef

2 c. long-grain white rice

2 tsp. salt, or to taste

1 tsp. ground black pepper, or to taste

2 tsp. allspice, or to taste

3/4 tsp. cinnamon, or to taste

Lamb shanks, lamb chops, or beef short ribs, optional

1 large can (22 oz.) whole tomatoes

2 c. beef broth

 

 

1.  Take a large saucepan or stockpot and place a rack on the bottom. If you don’t have a rack, use a steamer that sits in the saucepan. (I like to use my pasta pot with the insert.)  This is done not only to keep the grape leaves off the bottom to keep them from burning but to help steam the stuffed leaves as they’re cooking.

If you are using shanks, chops, or ribs, place them on the rack or steamer.  Set aside.

My dad always used chops or shanks in the bottom of the steamer.  It adds a lot of flavor to the final dish. Plus, it's an extra treat.

My dad always used chops or shanks in the bottom of the steamer. It adds a lot of flavor to the final dish. Plus, it’s an extra treat.

2.  Carefully take the grape leaves out of the jar (take care not to rip the leaves) and rinse thoroughly.  You want to be sure that the brine is rinsed off. Usually, you will need to separate the leaves when rinsing.  I’ll also fill a large bowl with water and let the leaves soak for a few minutes, then drain.  You want the water to be as clear as possible.

3.  Parboil the rice:  In a large saucepan, place the rice and cover it with 1″ of water.  Over high heat, bring the water to a boil, stirring frequently to keep the rice from sticking.

Parboiling the rice. Be sure to stir occasionally to be sure it doesn't stick to the bottom of the pot.

Parboiling the rice. Be sure to stir frequently to be sure it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pot.

Boil the rice until it is about halfway cooked (take some rice out of the water and test it; it should be slightly chewy with a very crunchy center).  Drain the rice in a colander and set aside until it is cool enough to handle.

The finished rice.  Let this sit until it's cool enough to handle.

The finished rice. Let this sit until it’s cool enough to handle.

4.  In a large bowl, mix together the meat and rice (it’s best to use your hands for this).  Add the spices and mix thoroughly.

Starting to mix together the rice and meat. It's best done with your hands.

Starting to mix together the rice and meat. It’s best done with your hands.

After adding the spices. My mom says she knows when it's seasoned right because of the smell.  I've not yet mastered that technique.

After adding the spices. My mom says she knows when it’s seasoned right because of the smell. I’ve not yet mastered that skill.

To taste for seasoning, take a small amount of the mixture and place in a hot skillet to cook (the flavor will be closer to what the finished dish will taste like). Adjust the spices to your taste.

Cooking a small sample to taste for seasoning.  I also consider this cook's treat.

Cooking a small sample to taste for seasoning. I also consider this cook’s treat.

5.  Once you have finished mixing the filling, it’s time to stuff the leaves. Which I will explain in the following photos. (My husband took these photos across from me.  I rotated them so you could see them from my perspective. So, admittedly, they may look a little skewed. Apologies.)

The most important thing to remember is to not wrap the leaves too tight.  You want snug, but not tight.  The rice will continue to expand when the stuffed leaves are cooked.  If you wrap them too tight, they’ll burst.  Conversely, if you wrap them too loosely, they’ll fall apart.  A happy medium is preferred.

Cut off the stem with a sharp knife.

1. Cut off the stem with a sharp knife.

2. Lay the leaf flat with the vein (rough) side up facing you.

2. Lay the leaf flat with the vein (rough) side up facing you.

3.  Take some of the stuffing (this was a large leaf, so I used about 2 tablespoons stuffing), press it together loosely into a sort of log shape.  Please it on the bottom 1/3rd of the leaf.

3. Take some of the stuffing (this was a large leaf, so I used about 2 tablespoons stuffing), press it together loosely into a sort of log shape. Please it on the bottom 1/3rd of the leaf.

4.  Take one half of the bottom and fold it over the stuffing. ( I usually go right to left.)

4. Take one half of the bottom and fold it over the stuffing. ( I usually go right to left.)

5.  Repeat with the other side.

5. Repeat with the other side. The stuffing should be covered.

6.  Now, fold the sides over the filling.

6. Now, fold the sides over the filling.

7.  Repeat with the other side.

7. Repeat with the other side.

8.  Now, finish rolling the leaf until the stuffing is fully enclosed.

8. Now, finish rolling the leaf until the stuffing is fully enclosed.

8. Done!  You want to be sure that the amount of filling you use is proportional to the size of the leaf.

9. Done! Now, do this another 40 times or so.  You want to be sure that the amount of filling you use is proportional to the size of the leaf.

6.  As you make each roll, place it in the pot.  When you are about halfway through, crush a few of the tomatoes with your hands and lay them on the finished leaves.  Pour on some of the tomato juice. Finish stuffing the remaining leaves.   Crush the remaining tomatoes and place them on top.  Pour over the rest of the tomato juice and the beef broth.

The grape leaves in the pot ready to cook.

The grape leaves in the pot ready to cook.

7.  Cover the pot and bring the liquid to boil over high heat.  Lower the heat to low, keep the pot covered, and cook until the rice and meat are cooked, about 30 – 45 minutes.  You’ll need to take one out to test.

8.  When the grape leaves are cooked, place a serving on a plate, carefully pull out one of the shanks or ribs, and spoon out some of the broth to pour over the leaves on the plate.  You can also have some yogurt and pita bread on the side.

Sahtein!

Sahtein!

 

Admittedly, this is a dish that does take some time to put together.  But, the results are well worth it.

 

Sahtein!

Bean & Lamb Stew (Fasoulia فاصوليا) 2

Posted on December 13, 2013 by Sahar

As comfort foods go, Fasoulia was another one my sisters & I were rewarded with as we grew up.  It is a delightful stew consisting of (at least in the Palestinian tradition) of lamb, tomatoes, and green beans.

In fact, the word “fasoulia” in Arabic literally means “bean”.

Fasoulia is a dish that is found in several versions throughout the Middle East, Turkey, North & Sub-Saharan Africa, and southern Europe. There are versions that use white beans (Syria & Lebanon), red beans (Lebanon), with carrots (Ethiopia), and with olives and greens  (Greece).

The version I’m making is the one we grew up with (and the one I learned from my mom – who makes the best Fasoulia I’ve ever had, by the way).  It’s in the Palestinian style, with lots of tomatoes.

 

A few notes:

1.  You can make this dish vegetarian/vegan by simply omitting the meat and using vegetable broth.

2.  This dish is always served over rice.  I like to serve over saffron rice (because that was the way my sisters & I grew up eating it).  However, if you want to use plain white rice, or even brown rice (especially if you’re making the vegetarian version), go for it.

3.  If you don’t like or can’t find lamb, you can use beef.  Use chuck.  It’s meant for stewing and braising.

4.  Use regular, fresh green beans for this dish.  Don’t use frozen or haricot vert (French green beans).  They won’t hold up to the cooking time.

5.  This is generally served with browned pine nuts sprinkled over the top as garnish.  However, if you don’t want to go to the expense of or can’t find pine nuts, browned slivered almonds are an excellent substitute.

 

The Ingredients

The Ingredients

The lamb. Be sure to trim it of most of the fat.  Keep some, but get rid of any really large pieces.

The lamb. Be sure to trim it of most of the fat. Keep some, but get rid of any really large pieces.

The beans. Use regular green bean; not haricot vert or frozen. They won't stand up to the cooking.

The beans. Use regular green beans; not haricot vert or frozen. They won’t stand up to the cooking.

Clockwise from top: salt; black pepper; allspice

Clockwise from top: salt; black pepper; allspice

 

1 med. onion, finely chopped

2 lbs. lamb, trimmed and cut into 1″ cubes

2 lbs. green beans, trimmed and cut into 1″ to 1 1/2″ pieces

3 tbsp. olive oil or clarified butter

1 28-oz can whole tomatoes (try to buy without basil; if you do get basil, pick out the leaves)

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. ground black pepper

1/2 tsp. allspice

2 c. beef or chicken broth

 

1.  In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil or butter over medium-high heat.  Add the meat and cook, in batches if needed,  until it is browned.

Browning the meat. If you get the bone, use it. It adds a lot of flavor.

Browning the meat. If you get the bone, use it. It adds a lot of flavor.

2.  Add the onions to the saucepan and cook until they are softened, about 5 – 7 minutes.

Adding the onions.

Adding the onions.

3.  Add the beans and cook another 3 – 5 minutes.  Stir frequently.

And now for the beans.

And now for the beans.

4.  Add the tomatoes, spices, and broth.  Bring to a boil, then turn down the heat to medium-low.  Cook until the meat is tender, about 1 hour.  Taste for seasoning.

With the tomaotes, spices, and broth. And away we go.

With the tomatoes, spices, and broth. And away we go.

5.  Serve with rice with a few browned pine nuts or slivered almonds on top.

Perfect meal for a cold night.

Perfect meal for a cold night.

 

Sahtein!

French Onion Soup 0

Posted on December 09, 2013 by Sahar

Soup has been around probably as long as people have been eating.  It’s cheap, filling, restorative, and democratic.

Onion soups have been popular at least as far back as Roman times. They were, throughout history, seen as food for poor people, since onions were plentiful, easy to grow, and considered a restorative food.

The modern version of Onion Soup originates in France in the 18th C., made from softened onions and, traditionally, beef broth. Onion soups are likewise found  in early English cookbooks and American cookbooks from colonial days to present.It is often finished by being placed under a grill in a ramekin with croutons and Gruyère melted on top. The crouton on top is reminiscent of using bread as “sops”.

Here are a couple of examples of early written Onion Soup recipes:

[1651: France]
“Potage of onion.
Cut your onions into very thin slices, fry them with butter, and after they are fried put them into a pot with water or with pease broth. After they are well sod, put in it a crust of bread and let it boile a very little; you may put some capers in it. Dry your bread then stove it; take up, and serve with one drop of vinegar.”
The French Cook, Francois Pierre La Varenne, [1651] Englished by I.D.G. 1653, Introduced by Philip and Mary Hyman [Southover Press:East Sussex] 2001 (p. 130)

[1869: France]
“Onion Soup.
Peel 2 good-sized onions (say 7 oz.), cut them, in halves and then crosswise, in thin shreds:
Blanch, in boiling water, for five minutes, to remove their acrid flavour;
Put in a 6-inch stewpan, with 1 1/2 oz. of butter;
Stir over a brisk fire, and, when the onion becomes of a light brown colour, add a tablespoonful of flour, say 1 oz.;
Keep on the fire for two minutes longer;
Add: 1 quart of water; 2 pinches of salt; and 2 small ones of pepper;
Stir till boiling;
Simmer, for five minutes, on the stove corner; taste the seasoning;
Put in the soup-tureen 2 ox. of sliced dried roll, and 1 oz. of butter; our in the soup, stirring gently with a spoon to dissolve.
Serve.”
The Royal Cookery Book (Le Livre de Cuisine) , Jules Gouffe, translated from the French and adapted for English Use by Alphonse Gouffe [Sampson Low, Son, and Marston:London] 1869 (p. 38-9)

(sources: www.wikipedia.org, www.foodtimeline.org)

 

************************************************************************************************************************* A few notes:

For myself, I like a lot of onions in my soup; almost stew-like.  If you prefer a brothier soup, either reduce the amount of onions or increase the broth.

Because onions do sweeten as they cook down, I don’t recommend using sweet onions like 1015’s, Vidalias, or Mauis.  They will make the soup too sweet.  Regular yellow onions are just fine. Plus, they’re cheaper.

This soup is traditionally made with beef broth.  However, you can use chicken or turkey broth if you want a lighter soup.  Or, use vegetable broth to make this vegetarian (or vegan if you omit the Gruyère or use soy cheese).

The best bread to use with this soup is a good crusty European-style bread like a baguette, ciabatta, pain au levain, etc.  These will hold up quite well if you decide to make the soup a gratin.

 

The Ingredients

The Ingredients

2 tbsp. Olive Oil

5 lbs. onions, sliced about 1/4″ thick

4 cl. garlic, minced

1 tsp. sugar

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. dried thyme

1/2 c. dry white wine or unsweetened apple cider (optional)

4 c. beef broth or vegetable broth

Salt & Pepper to taste

Toasted bread or your favorite crackers

Shredded Gruyère, Emmenthal, or Swiss cheese

 

1.  Heat the olive oil in a stockpot or large saucepan over medium-high heat.  Add the onions, garlic, and the 1 teaspoon sugar and 1 teaspoon salt (these will help release the water from the onions and make them wilt more quickly).

The onions. I was quite weepy when I finished slicing.

The onions. I was quite weepy when I finished slicing.

Stir until the onions begin to heat through, turn the heat down to medium-low, cover and begin wilting the onions.

Covering the onions. This steams the onions and helps them to wilt more quickly at the beginning of the cooking process.

Covering the onions. This steams the onions and helps them to wilt more quickly at the beginning of the cooking process.

2.  After the first 30 minutes (stirring after each 15 minutes), uncover the onions (there will be a lot of liquid; it will cook down), add the thyme, and continue cooking until the onions are cooked down as much as you prefer, stirring every 15 minutes.  (If you are cooking your onions until they become very soft, you will want to stir them more often as they soften so they don’t begin to burn.)

After 15 minutes. The onions have begun to soften and release their liquid.

After 15 minutes. The onions have begun to soften and release their liquid.

After 30 minutes. More wilted and more liquid.

After 30 minutes. More wilted and more liquid.

Adding the thyme.

Adding the thyme.

At 45 minutes.  I generally cook them further down than this.  However, at this point, it's up to you how much further you'd like to go.

At 45 minutes. I generally cook them further down than this. However, at this point, it’s up to you how much further you’d like to go.

At 1 hour.  This is usually where I'll stop. I don't necessarily want the onions caramelized, just very soft and sweet.

At 1 hour. This is usually where I’ll stop. I don’t necessarily want the onions caramelized, just very soft and sweet.

You want your onions to be soft, but not necessarily caramelized.

3.  Once the onions are cooked to your preference, increase the temperature to medium-high, add the white wine or apple cider (if using) and cook until the wine has evaporated.

Adding the wine.  Let this cook down until most of it has evaporated.  If you don't want to use wine, use unsweetened apple cider.   Or, omit this step all together.

Adding the wine. Let this cook down until most of it has evaporated.
If you don’t want to use wine, use unsweetened apple cider.
Or, omit this step all together.

4.  Add the broth and bring to a boil.  Lower the heat to medium and cook for 30 minutes.  Taste for seasoning.

Adding the broth. You can also use chicken or vegetable broths.

Adding the broth. You can also use chicken or vegetable broths.

5.  If you want to do the more traditional serving method, here it goes:  Turn on your oven to broil and place the rack in the top position. Ladle the soup into oven-proof bowls (the best bowls are ones that have handles; you can buy these at any restaurant supply – if you don’t have bowls with handles, place them on a baking sheet), place a piece of the toasted bread in the center and sprinkle on a healthy amount of the cheese.  Place the bowls under the broiler for just a minute or two so until the cheese melts and gets brown and bubbly.  Carefully remove the bowls from the oven and serve.

If you don’t want to go that route, simply serve the soup with the bread and cheese on the side.

The best breads to use are crusty, day-old, European-style.  This is one I made a couple of days before.

The best breads to use are crusty, day-old, European-style. This is one I made a couple of days before.

Grated Gruyere. You can also use Emmenthaler or Swiss cheeses as well.  I'm not sure why these became the most common cheeses for Onion Soup, but they are perfect.

Grated Gruyere. You can also use Emmenthal or Swiss cheeses as well. I’m not sure why these became the most common cheeses for Onion Soup, but they are perfect.

I prefer to serve my soup this way.  Bread on the side with the cheese on top of the soup.  I find it easier to eat and a whole lot less mess to clean up.  Of course, if you prefer the more traditonal gratin method, go for it.

I prefer to serve my soup this way. Bread on the side with the cheese on top of the soup. I find it easier to eat and a whole lot less mess to clean up. Of course, if you prefer the more traditonal gratin method, go for it.

 

Enjoy and stay warm!

 

 

Ossobuco d’Agnello 0

Posted on November 14, 2013 by Sahar

This time of year provides the perfect excuse to break out some of the recipes that I would never make the rest of the year.  Which, in central Texas, means that I have only about 3 months to indulge in some of my favorite comfort foods.

Ossobuco is one of them.  With the rich lamb, sauce, and risotto, it’s a wonderful accompaniment to a cold night.

The name literally means “bone with a hole” (osso – bone; buco – hole).  Ossobuco is a dish (legendarily) created in the Milano area in northern Italy in the 19th century.  Some say it was created by local farmers as a way to cook tougher cuts of meat (i.e. shanks – the shin portion of the leg. The fore shank is the bottom part of the shin; the hind shnk the upper part of the shin.); others, it was created in an osteria.

The original recipe is made with veal shanks, cinnamon, and bay leaves with no tomato.  The more modern and more popular version is made with tomatoes, vegetables, and red wine.  And, while veal shank is still used widely, lamb shank is gaining in popularity.

As for myself, I prefer the lamb shanks.  I find they have far more flavor.  And, if you can get hind shanks, more meat for the money.

***********************

A few notes:

1.  In this example, I’m using fore shanks.  The butcher I bought these from didn’t have hind shanks that day.  But, they were large and worked well in this dish.  Also, I bought these still in the cryovac packaging.  The butcher had received them from the farm that morning and they hadn’t been fully trimmed yet.  More than likely, the shanks you buy will be already trimmed and ready to go.

2.  If you prefer not to use wine, then you can omit it all together.  As substitutions for red wine you can use extra stock for deglazing (you can add 1 tablespoon red wine or balsamic vinegar per 1 cup of  stock for tartness), or 100% cranberry or pomegranate juice; for white wine, you can use extra chicken or vegetable stock (you can add 1 tablespoon lemon juice or white wine vinegar to 1 cup of stock for tartness), verjus (a juice made from unripe green grapes), or unsweetened apple cider or juice.

3.  The traditional accompaniment for this dish is risotto.  However, of you prefer, you can also serve this with polenta, mashed potatoes, or pasta.  If you do use pasta, use a shaped pasta (such as campenelle or rotini)  or a wide pasta (such as paprdelle or bucatini).

4.  Gremolata is served alongside the Ossobuco as a way to cut through the richness of the dish.

 

The ingredients

The ingredients for everything.

The ingredients for the Ossobuco.

The ingredients for the Ossobuco.

The produce: Starting from top left - lemon zest, garlic; middle, from top - carrots, celery, onion; right, from top - thyme, rosemary

The produce: Starting from top left – lemon zest, garlic; middle, from top – carrots, celery, onion; right, from top – thyme, rosemary

Lamb shank fresh from the farm. If you can get hind shanks, do so.  These fore shanks were great.  I just had to clean them.

Lamb shank fresh from the farm. If you can get hind shanks, do so. These fore shanks were great. I just had to clean them.

Cleaning the lamb shank. You must remove the silverskin (or have your butcher do it). It doesn't cook down and your meat will be chewy and tough.

Cleaning the lamb shank. You must remove the silverskin (or have your butcher do it). It doesn’t cook down and your meat will be chewy and tough.

The cleaned lamb shank.  Admittedly not perfect, but a whole lot better.

The cleaned lamb shank. Admittedly not perfect, but a whole lot better.

 

Lamb Ossobuco

4 large lamb shanks (preferably hind shanks)

Salt

Flour

3 tbsp. Olive Oil

1 lg. onion, minced

2 carrots, peeled, either diced or cut into thin rounds

2 stalks celery, diced

3 cl. garlic, minced

1/2 c. tomato paste

1 c. dry red wine

2 sprigs rosemary

4 sprigs thyme

1 ea. 2″ strip lemon zest

2 – 3 c. chicken or beef broth (or a combination of both), more if needed

Salt & Pepper to taste

 

1.  Preheat the oven to 350F.  Lightly sprinkle salt on the lamb shanks.  Then, lightly flour the them, shaking off any excess flour.  Set aside.

2.  In a large Dutch oven or a deep, stove-proof casserole dish, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat.  Add the lamb shanks and sear until browned.  Cook the them in batches if needed.  Remove the shanks from the heat and set aside.

Browning the shanks. Do this in batches if you need to; don't crowd the pan or the shanks will steam and not brown.

Browning the shanks. Do this in batches if you need to; don’t crowd the pan or the shanks will steam and not brown.

3.  Reduce the heat to medium.  Add the vegetables and garlic and saute until the vegetables are slightly softened, about 5 minutes.

Sauteeing the vegetables.

Sauteing the vegetables.

Add in the tomato paste and cook another 3 – 4 minutes.

Adding the tomato paste. Let the paste cook until it begins to turn a burnt orange color.  This is the sugar caramelizing and helps to deepen the flavor.

Adding the tomato paste. Let the paste cook until it begins to turn a burnt orange color. This is the sugar caramelizing and helps to deepen the flavor.

Add in the red wine to deglaze the pan and cook another 5 – 7 minutes to reduce the wine and soften the flavor.

Cooking down the wine.

Cooking down the wine.

Then, add the rosemary, thyme, lemon zest, and 1 teaspoon each salt and pepper.  Simmer another 2 – 3 minutes.

Adding the lemon zest, rosemary, and thyme.

Adding the lemon zest, rosemary, and thyme.

4.  Lay the reserved shanks on top of the vegetables and add just enough broth to come halfway up the shanks.

Ready for the oven.

Ready for the oven.

Cover the casserole or Dutch oven and place in the oven.  Cook for 2 to 2-1/2 hours (flipping the meat halfway through) or until the meat is tender.  Check for liquid content, adding more if needed.

5.  After you take the baking dish out of the oven, remove the shanks and set aside.

So tender, it's falling off the bone.

So tender, it’s falling off the bone.

If you like, set the baking dish on the stove over medium-high heat to reduce the sauce.  Remove the rosemary and thyme stalks and discard.

I like to reduce the sauce a bit to concentrate the flavor. It's up to you, however.

I like to reduce the sauce a bit to concentrate the flavor. It’s up to you, however.

6.  Traditionally, the shank is served whole with the risotto and Gremolata.  However, if you prefer (and I do if I use fore shanks), trim the meat off the bone and mix it back into the sauce; then serve with the Risotto and Gremolata.

The meat trimmed off the bone. I prefer to do this if I use fore shanks.

The meat trimmed off the bone. I prefer to do this if I use fore shanks.

The meat back in the sauce. You can do this if you want to help stretch the meat. I like to do it when I use fore shanks.

The meat back in the sauce. You can do this if you want to help stretch the meat. I like to do it when I use fore shanks.

 

******************************************************************************************************************************

 

The ingredients

The ingredients

Saffron. The world's most expensive spice (currently about $3000/lb.). It comes fron the stamen of the Crocus flower. It takes approximately 50,000 - 75,000 flowers to make one pound of saffron.   Be sure to buy saffron that is in it's whole form. Don't buy powdered saffron; it's usually cut with turmeric.

Saffron. The world’s most expensive spice (currently about $3000/lb.). It comes from the stamen of the Crocus flower. It takes approximately 50,000 – 75,000 flowers to make one pound of saffron.
Be sure to buy saffron that is in it’s whole form. Don’t buy powdered saffron; it’s usually cut with turmeric.

 

Risotto alla Milanese

6 c. stock – beef, chicken, lamb, or vegetable

1 tsp. saffron, crushed

4 tbsp butter

1 small onion, finely diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 1/2 c. carnaroli or arborrio rice

1/2 c. dry white wine

3/4 c. fresh grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Salt & Pepper to taste

 

1.  Bring 5 cups of the stock to a boil in a medium saucepan.  Reduce the heat to low and keep the stock warm.  In a small saucepan heat the remaining 1 cup of stock with the saffron.  Again, reduce the heat to low and keep warm.

2.  In a large saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons of butter and the olive oil over medium-high heat.  Add the onion and garlic and sauté until softened, about 5 – 7 minutes.

Sauteeing the onion and garlic.

Sauteing the onion and garlic.

Add in the rice and sauté, stirring constantly, another 5 minutes.

Adding the rice.  This will help to flavor the rice and begin the cooking process.

Adding the rice. This will help to flavor the rice and begin the cooking process.

Add a pinch or two of salt, stir again, and add in the wine.  Stir constantly until the wine has been absorbed by the rice.

Adding the wine. At this point, constant stirring of the rice will help to release the starch.

Adding the wine. At this point, constant stirring of the rice will help to release the starch.

3.  Lower the heat under the rice to medium.  Begin adding the 5 cups of stock, 1 cup at a time, stirring after each addition until the broth has been absorbed.

Adding the broth. Be sure to constantly stir the rice.

Adding the broth. Be sure to constantly stir the rice.

After you have added the 3rd cup of broth, add in the broth with the saffron.  Continue stirring.

Adding the saffron broth. Now, the risotto will become its classic yellow color.

Adding the saffron broth. Now, the risotto will become its classic yellow color.

4.  After you have added the 5th cup of stock, begin testing the rice to make sure it is al dente.  You may not need all the broth.  When the rice is al dente (or to your liking), add the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and the Parmigiano.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Serve immediately.

Adding the butter and parmesan.

Adding the butter and parmesan.

 

******************************************************************************************************************************

 

The Gremolata Ingredients

The Gremolata Ingredients

 

Gremolata

Zest of 2 lemons

1 bunch of Italian (flat-leaf) parsley, minced

Salt to taste

2 tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive oil

 

Mix all the ingredients together in a small bowl and serve along side the Ossobuco.

 

The finished Gremolata. Easy.

The finished Gremolata. Easy.

 

 

Buon Giorno.

Buon Giorno.

 

Buon Apetito!

 

Mole Poblano 1

Posted on November 07, 2013 by Sahar

Once again, the weather has taken its temporary turn towards cool & comfortable here in Central Texas.  The perfect excuse to break out the mole.  Again.

I’ve made mole twice before on this blog –  Mole Verde (Oct. 9, 2012: http://www.tartqueenskitchen.com/?p=1120) and Mole Rojo (Oct. 30. 2012: http://www.tartqueenskitchen.com/?p=1170).

The mole I’m making this time is probably the best known as well as the original: Mole Poblano.

Legend has it that in the 16th Century this  dish was invented in desperation by the nuns of the Convent of Santa Rosa in Puebla de los Angeles.  They were an impoverished order expecting a visit from the Archbishop and they really had nothing to feed him.  So, they basically threw together what they had: day-old bread, chocolate, some chiles, nuts, an old turkey.  The results were, shall we say, heavenly.  Apparently, the Archbishop loved the meal. And a masterpiece was created.

*******************

For the last mole I made for you, Mole Rojo, I used exclusively chili powders.  This was to demonstrate that they could be used as a substitution for the dried chiles and makes the preparation much easier.  In this recipe, I do things the more traditional way, with dried chiles.  It takes longer, most definitely.  But, for mole purists, I hope I have redeemed myself with you.

A few notes:

1.  When using the dried chiles, make sure they are fresh-looking and pliable (a contradiction, I know).  If the chiles break apart when you try to bend them, it simply means they are too old and dried out (and possibly infested).  You want the chilies to have retained their essential oils.  That’s what gives them their flavor and aroma.

2.  The best place to find the chiles (and all the ingredients for this recipe) is at a market that caters to the Hispanic community. (Here in Austin, my favorite is El Rancho Supermercado.)  If they don’t have it, it’s pretty unlikely anyone else will.  Besides, it’s a great place to go to just explore and try new things. Plus I get to practice my limited Spanish.

3.  I used a 4-lb bone-in turkey breast for this example.  You can use leftover turkey and skip step 1.  However, be sure to use chicken or turkey broth instead of water.  Otherwise, you won’t get the flavor you’re looking for.

4.  This recipe makes a lot.  You can serve up to 8.  But, it does freeze beautifully.

 

The Ingredients

The Ingredients

Sesame and Anise Seeds

Sesame and Anise Seeds

Clockwise:

Clockwise: Brown Sugar, ground Cloves, ground Cinnamon

Clockwise: raw Almonds, Pecans, Raisins

Clockwise: raw Almonds, Pecans, Raisins

Masa

Masa

 

Onion, Garlic, Romas, Tomatillos

Onion, Garlic, Romas, Tomatillos

 

Mexican Chocolate disks

Mexican Chocolate disks

 

Chiles, left to right: Chipotle, Pasilla, Ancho, Mulatto

Chiles, left to right: Chipotle, Pasilla, Ancho, Mulato

 

Chipotle - smoked and dried Jalapeño

Chipotle – smoked and dried Jalapeño

 

Pasilla Chilie: dried Chilaca pepper.

Pasilla Chilie – dried Chilaca pepper.

Ancho Chile - dried Poblano Pepper

Ancho Chile – dried Poblano Pepper

Mulato Chile - dried Mulato Pepper

Mulato Chile – dried Mulato Pepper

 

4 c. chicken broth, turkey broth, or water

4 lbs. turkey

 

8 ea. mulato chiles

-or-

4 tbsp. mulato chile powder

 

6 ea. ancho chiles

-or-

3 tbsp. ancho chile powder

 

4 ea. pasilla chiles

-or-

2 tbsp. chile powder

 

1 ea. chipotle chile

-or-

1 tsp. chipotle chile powder

 

1 lg. white onion, peeled and cut into 1/4’s, stem left on

6 cloves garlic, peeled, stem removed

3 ea. tomatillos, papery skin removed and rinsed

4 ea. Roma tomatoes, rinsed

2 tbsp. sesame seeds

1/2 tsp. anise seeds

1/4 c. vegetable oil

1/2 c. raw almonds

1/2 c. pecans

1/2 c. raisins

1/4 c. masa

1/2 tsp. ground cloves

1/2 ground cinnamon (canela)

2 tbsp. brown sugar

2 tbsp. tomato paste

2 disks Mexican chocolate, chopped

Salt & pepper to taste

Additional sesame seeds for garnish

 

1.  Place the turkey and stock or water to a large stockpot and heat over medium-high heat.  Once the stock has come to a boil, turn the heat down to medium-low and simmer until the meat is cooked, about 30 – 45 minutes.  Once the turkey is done, take it from the stock and set aside until cool enough to shred.  Turn the heat off under the stock until all the other ingredients are ready.

2.  If you’re using whole chiles, remove the stems and cut the chiles open to remove the seeds.

Cutting open the chile. Using gloves is highly recommended. Tis not only keeps your hands from getting stained and sticky, it keeps the chile oils off your hands.

Cutting the stem off  the chile. Using gloves is highly recommended. This not only keeps your hands from getting stained and sticky, it keeps the chile oils off your hands. A pair of sharp kitchen shears helps, too.

Cutting open the chile.

Cutting open the chile.

The insides. You want to get rid of as many seeds and veins as possible.  They'll make the final mole bitter if you don't.

The insides. You want to get rid of as many seeds and veins as possible. They’ll make the final mole bitter if you don’t.

Removing the seeds and veins.  If you have a good dried chile, there will be some oil residue inside. This is a good thing.  And, again, the gloves are a very good idea.

Removing the seeds and veins. If you have a good dried chile, there will be some oil residue inside. This is a good thing. And, again, the gloves are a very good idea.

Dry roast the chiles in a heavy skillet over high heat for a few seconds on each side to soften slightly.

Toasting the chiles. This not only helps to soften them up a bit, but it also starts to cook the oils and enhance the flavor.

Toasting the chiles. This not only helps to soften them up a bit, but it also starts to cook the oils and enhance the flavor.

Place the chiles in a bowl and cover with boiling water.  Let sit for 30 minutes. (It’s OK if they sit a little longer.)

Soaking the chiles.  I like to put a small plate on top to keep them under water.

Soaking the chiles. I like to put a small plate on top to keep them under water.

Drain the chiles and discard the water.

The chiles after soaking for 30 minutes.  They'll increase in size and become lighter in color.

The chiles after soaking for 30 minutes. They’ll increase in size and become lighter in color. (The water hasn’t been drained off in this photo. Be sure to drain it.)

Puree the chiles in a food processor or blender (you’ll need to do this in batches) until you make a paste.  Set aside.

The pureed chiles.

The pureed chiles.

3.  If you’re using the chile powders, dry roast them over high heat in a heavy skillet until they just begin to release a scent.  Stir constantly to be sure the powders don’t burn.  Pour the powder onto a plate or another flat surface and spread it out to help it cool. (Basically, skip step 2 all together.)

4.  While the chiles are soaking, wipe out the pan.  Dry roast the onion quarters, garlic, tomatillos, and tomato.  You want black spots, but you don’t want to over-brown the vegetables.

Browning the fresh stuff: Starting with garlic.  You just want a few brown spots; don't over-brown.

Browning the fresh stuff: Starting with garlic. You just want a few brown spots; don’t over-brown.

Browning the onion quarters. Once these are cool enough to handle, cut off the stem ends.

Browning the onion quarters. Once these are cool enough to handle, cut off the stem ends.

 

The tomatillos.  Be sure they don't burst in the skillet.

The tomatillos. Be sure they don’t burst in the skillet.

The Romas. be sure they don't burst in the skillet. When they are cool enough to handle, peel off as much of the skin as you can, cut off the stem end, cut into quarters, and remove the seeds.

The Romas. Be sure they don’t burst in the skillet. When they are cool enough to handle, peel off as much of the skin as you can, cut off the stem end, cut into quarters, and remove the seeds.

Once you’ve roasted the tomatoes, peel and seed them.  Cut the stems off the onion quarters.  Set the vegetables aside.

5.  Take the skillet off the heat and let cool slightly.  Add the sesame seeds and anise seeds.  Quickly roast until the seeds are toasted.  Pour onto a small plate and set aside.

Toasting the sesame and anise seeds.  You want them to have an aroma and begin to "jump" in the skillet.  Immediately take them off the heat and pour onto a flat surface and spread out to cool.

Toasting the sesame and anise seeds. You want them to have an aroma and begin to “jump” in the skillet. Immediately take them off the heat and pour onto a flat surface and spread out to cool.

6.  Add the oil to the skillet.  Lightly fry the almonds and pecans.  Drain on paper towels and let cool slightly.

Frying the pecans and almonds.  You just want to do this until they begin to take on some extra color.

Frying the pecans and almonds. You just want to do this until they begin to take on some extra color.

Grind the almonds, pecans, sesame seeds, and anise seeds together.  Set aside.

The ground nuts and seeds.  This smells amazing.

The ground nuts and seeds. This smells amazing.

7.  Lightly fry the raisins until they just begin to puff.  Remove from the oil and drain on paper towels.

Frying the raisins.

Frying the raisins.

8.  Turn off the heat under the oil.  Add the masa and make a roux (don’t let it get too dark).  Pour the roux into a small bowl and set aside.

Making a roux with now a rather flavorful oil.

Making a roux with now a rather flavorful oil.

9.  Turn the heat back on under the stockpot with the broth to medium-high.  Add in the chile paste or powder, onion, garlic, tomatillos, tomatoes, ground nut & spice mix, raisins, tomato paste, brown sugar, cloves, cinnamon, and 1 teaspoon each salt and pepper.  Bring the mixture to a boil, lower the heat to medium-low, and cook for 45 minutes, stirring frequently.

Almost everything in the pot with the chicken/turkey stock.

Almost everything in the pot with the chicken/turkey stock.

10.  Meanwhile, shred the turkey.  Discard any bone, skin, and gristle.  Set the turkey aside.

Shredded turkey.  In this recipe, I used turkey breast; but, you can use whatever you prefer. If you have leftover turkey, use both dark and white meat.

Shredded turkey. In this recipe, I used turkey breast; however, use whatever you prefer.

11.  After 45 minutes, remove the stockpot from the heat and let cool slightly.

After 45 minutes.  The vegetables have softened and the ground nuts have helped to thicken the sauce.

After 45 minutes. The vegetables have softened and the ground nuts have helped to thicken the sauce.

Puree the mole with an immersion blender or in a blender or food processor.  If you want a super-smooth mole, after you’ve pureed it, you can pass it through a strainer.

Thoroughly puree the mole. Make sure the blender isn't running when you pull it out of the hot liquid. Bless whoever invented the immersion blender.

Thoroughly puree the mole. Make sure the blender isn’t running when you pull it out of the hot liquid.
Bless whoever invented the immersion blender.

12.  Put the mole back on the heat and add the masa roux and the chocolate.

Adding the masa roux and chocolate. They just melt right on in.

Adding the masa roux and chocolate. They just melt right on in.

Cook for 5 minutes.  Taste for seasoning.  Add the turkey and cook for another 15 minutes, stirring frequently.

Stirring in the turkey.  Almost there.

Stirring in the turkey.
Almost there.

13.  Serve the mole with rice and corn tortillas.  Sprinkle with sesame seeds for garnish.

The ultimate reward for all your hard work.

The ultimate reward for all your hard work.

 

Buen Apetito!

 

 

Cannellini Bean Soup 1

Posted on February 26, 2013 by Sahar

In the final throws of winter in Central Texas, my mind continues to turn to heartier fare.  Sometimes, beans sound delicious.

Admittedly, beans are not a food I eat often.  I do like them, but it’s not a food that immediately springs to mind when I’m deciding what to make for dinner.  They should, though.  Beans are almost the perfect food.  They have high amounts of fiber and soluble fiber. (One cup of cooked beans providing between nine and 13 grams of fiber.)  Soluble fiber can help lower blood cholesterol. Beans are also high in protein, complex carbohydrates, folate, and iron.

Beans are one of the longest-cultivated plants. Broad beans (fava beans) were gathered in Afghanistan and the Himalayan foothills. They’ve been grown in Thailand since the early seventh millennium BCE.  They were buried with the dead in ancient Egypt. In the second millennium BC did cultivated, large-seeded broad beans appear in the Aegean, Iberia and transalpine Europe. In the Iliad (late-8th century) is a passing mention of beans and chickpeas cast on the threshing floor.

Beans were an important source of protein throughout Old and New World history, and still are today.

The oldest-known domesticated beans in the Americas were found in Guitarrero Cave, an archaeological site in Peru, and dated to around the second millennium BCE.

Most of the kinds commonly eaten fresh or dried, those of the genus Phaseolus, come originally from the Americas, being first seen by a European when Christopher Columbus, during his exploration, of what may have been the Bahamas, found them growing in fields. Five kinds of Phaseolus beans were domesticated by pre-Columbian peoples: common beans (Phaseolus vulgaris) grown from Chile to the northern part of what is now the United States, and lima and sieva beans (Phaseolus lunatus), as well as the less widely distributed teparies (Phaseolus acutifolius), scarlet runner beans (Phaseolus coccineus) and polyanthus beans (Phaseolus polyanthus). One especially famous use of beans by pre-Columbian people as far north as the Atlantic seaboard is the “Three Sisters” method of companion plant cultivation:

In the New World, many tribes would grow beans together with maize (corn), and squash. The corn would not be planted in rows as is done by European agriculture, but in a checkerboard/hex fashion across a field, in separate patches of one to six stalks each.
Beans would be planted around the base of the developing stalks, and would vine their way up as the stalks grew. All American beans at that time were vine plants, “bush beans” having been bred only more recently. The cornstalks would work as a trellis for the beans, and the beans would provide much-needed nitrogen for the corn.
Squash would be planted in the spaces between the patches of corn in the field. They would be provided slight shelter from the sun by the corn, would shade the soil and reduce evaporation, and would deter many animals from attacking the corn and beans because their coarse, hairy vines and broad, stiff leaves are difficult or uncomfortable for animals such as deer and raccoons to walk through, crows to land on, etc.

Dry beans come from both Old World varieties of broad beans (fava beans) and New World varieties (kidney, black, cranberry, pinto, navy/haricot).

Beans are a heliotropic plant, meaning that the leaves tilt throughout the day to face the sun. At nighttime, they go into a folded “sleep” position.

(Information from www.wikipedia.org)

 

The bean varieties I eat most often are pinto and black.  Hell, I’m in Texas.  It’s almost a requirement.  I’ve also enjoyed garbanzo, fava, navy, red kidney, and, my personal favorite, cannellini.

I’m not sure what it is about cannellini beans that I enjoy so much.  Perhaps it’s the slight sweetness to them.  They’re also very versatile. Like pretty much all beans.

Now, to the recipe.

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The recipe is presented as vegetarian.  I generally keep it that way.  However, if you would like to make the recipe vegan, cook the beans from dried and omit the Parmesan rinds.  If you would like to add some meat to the recipe, a little leftover chicken or diced pork would work well.

I do used canned beans in this recipe.  Beans are a foodstuff that cans well.  It’s also quick, convenient, and cheap.

This is most definitely a dish one can make after a day at work.  It also freezes well.

As for the Parmesan rinds: if you have a good cheese section in your grocery store or a specialty cheese shop that cuts Parmesan down from the wheel, ask them to save you some of the rinds.  Sometimes you’ll be charged a nominal amount, sometimes you’ll get them for free.  Keep them in the freezer.  They add a lot of flavor ro many soups and stews without imparting too much extra fat or cheese.

The Ingredients

The Ingredients

The classic mirepoix. Equal parts carrot, onion, and celery.

The classic mirepoix. Equal parts carrot, onion, and celery.

 

2 cans cannellini beans, drained

1 med. carrot, diced

1 stalk celery, diced

1/2 c. yellow onion, minced

4 cl. garlic, minced

2 tbsp. olive oil

2 c. vegetable broth

1 tsp. dried sage

1/2 tsp. each salt and pepper, or to taste

Approx. 3 – 4 oz. Parmesan rinds (If they are large enough, you can leave them loose in the soup while cooking. Otherwise, wrap them in a cheesecloth for easy removal after cooking.)

Extra olive oil for serving

 

1.  In a medium saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat.  Add the vegetables (the mirepoix) and the garlic and saute until the vegetables begin to soften, about 5 minutes.

Sauteing the vegetables and garlic.

Sauteing the vegetables and garlic.

2.  Add the beans, sage, salt & pepper.  Saute another 2 – 3 minutes.

Adding the beans, sage, salt  & pepper.

Adding the beans, sage, salt & pepper.

3.  Add the broth and rinds.  Bring the broth to a boil, then turn the heat down to medium-low.  Cook for 30 – 45 minutes, or until the soup begins to thicken. Stir occasionally to be sure the rinds don’t stick to the bottom.

Adding the broth and the rinds.

Adding the broth and the rinds. 

4.  When the soup is done, taste for seasoning and adjust to your liking.  Remove as many of the rinds as you can before or as you serve. (The rinds are basically inedible.)  Drizzle some olive oil over the top of the soup if you like.

The finished soup.

The finished soup.

I like to have a good hearty country-style bread to serve with the soup.

 

Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

 



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