Musings about Food & the Politics of Food.

TartQueen's Kitchen



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!

Waldorf Salad – My Version 0

Posted on July 08, 2014 by Sahar

The origin story of Waldorf Salad is a fairly straightforward and simple one.  It was the creation of the long-time maitre d’ of the Waldorf Hotel (later to become the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel) in New York City, Oscar (“Oscar of the Waldorf”) Tschirky, in 1896.  It became an instant favorite with diners at the hotel.  Oscar, while not a chef, was the creator and inspiration of many of the dishes in the Waldorf’s first half-century. (He stayed with the hotel from 1893 until his retirement n 1943).

The original recipe consisted of simply apples, celery, and mayonnaise.  Not long afterwards, walnuts were added and became an important component of the salad.

Later variations have included turkey or chicken, dried fruit (especially raisins), lemon juice, orange zest, grapes, and yogurt.

It’s really a dish that simply lends itself to interpretation.

While I’ve stayed with the basic version of the salad, I have added my own variations as well.  Somewhere along the way, I thought, why not add some blue cheese?  It goes well with apples and walnuts as well as cutting some of the sweetness of the dried fruit.  Besides, I just like blue cheese.

 

A few notes:

1.  I like to use a mix of apples.  As always, whenever I use apples in a recipe, Granny Smith apples are my base.  I’ll add Pink Ladies, Gala, MacIntosh, or, if I’m feeling extravagant, Honeycrisp.  The flavor contrast works well.

2.  I’ve used both walnuts and pecans in this recipe.  It just depends what I have on hand.

3.  If you want to use yogurt in the salad, I would recommend going half-and-half with the mayonnaise.  Yogurt alone would be too strong a flavor.  Also, use a full-fat yogurt.  Fat-free – yuk.

4.  My preferred blue cheese in this recipe is either Amish Blue or Maytag Blue.  These are both excellent American blue cheeses and are readily available.  European-style blue cheeses (i.e. Stilton, Gorgonzola, Roquefort, Cabrales), while delicious, are simply too strong.

5.  I don’t peel my apples.  You shouldn’t either.

6.  I use very little celery in my recipe.  Unlike the original recipe, I use it for flavoring, not as a main component.  However, if you prefer to use more celery, feel free.

7.  To make this dish vegan, simply omit the cheese (if you still want the cheese flavor, use nutritional yeast to taste), and use vegan mayonnaise.

 

The Ingredients

The Ingredients

Granny Smith and Pink Lady Apples

Granny Smith and Pink Lady Apples

Maytag Blue Cheese

Maytag Blue Cheese. Good stuff.

Walnuts. Not my favorite nut, but they work well here.

Walnuts. Not my favorite nut, but they work well here.

 

4 lg. apples, approx. 1 1/2 – 2 lbs.

1 lg. stalk celery, finely diced

1 1/2 c. walnuts or pecans, chopped (If you would like to toast them, put the nuts in a 350F oven for 5 – 7 minutes. Let cool before adding to the salad.)

1 1/2 c. dried fruit – one of each or a combination: cherries, cranberries, diced apricots, raisins, sultanas (gold raisins)

4 oz. (1/2 c.) Amish Blue or Maytag Blue Cheese, crumbled

1 c. mayonnaise

Salt & Pepper to taste

 

1.  Cut and core the apples.  I like to use a melon baller to core out the apple and cut out the blossom and stem ends with a “v” shape cut.  With the flat side down, cut the apple in to 1/2-inch thick slices.  Then, with 2 – 3 slices laying flat on the cutting board, cut the apples into 1/2-inch dice.  Place the apples into the bowl.

I find using a melon baller very effective for coring apples. Plus, it's safer than either a knife or an apple corer.

I find using a melon baller very effective for coring apples. Plus, it’s safer than either a knife or an apple corer. (I frankly find apple corers to be completely useless.)

Core. Out.

Core. Out.

Remove the stem and blossom ends by cutting out a v-shaped piece at each end.

Remove the stem and blossom ends by cutting out a v-shaped piece at each end.

Blossom end cut out.

Blossom end cut out.

Apples cored, cleaned,  and ready

Apples cored, cleaned, and ready

2.  Add the celery, nuts, and dried fruit.  Toss together.

All mixed together.

All mixed together.

3.  Add the cheese and mayonnaise.  Mix together until well incorporated.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

Ready.

Ready.

4.  Traditionally, Waldorf Salad is served on a bed of lettuce.  I generally don’t.  However, if you would like to, go ahead.   I like to serve the salad with crackers or a good crusty bread.

 

Enjoy!

 

 

 

Caesar Salad 0

Posted on June 16, 2014 by Sahar

The classic Caesar Salad can make a diner recall the days of martini lunches, 2-inch steaks, paneled dining rooms, and the Rat Pack.  In short, it’s an American classic.

An American classic that originated in Tijuana, Mexico.

Legend has it that Caesar Cardini, a restauranteur in San Diego, invented the salad in 1924.  He also operated a restaurant in Tijuana to circumvent Prohibition.  According to his daughter, the Caesar Salad was invented out of sheer necessity when the kitchen supplies were depleted.

After a rush on the restaurant one July evening,  Cardini made do with what he had, adding the dramatic flair of the tableside preparation by the chef.  And thousands of tableside performances were born.

So, now you know. It has nothing to do with Julius Caesar (other than the fact that both he and Caesar Cardini were both Italian – technically). And, when my sisters and & I were kids, our dad try to convince us that it was invented by Caesar Romero. (You know, the Joker in the 1960’s “Batman” series.)

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

A few notes:

1.  I (and many others) use anchovies in the dressing.  The original recipe didn’t use them; the anchovy flavor came from Worchestershire sauce.  If you would prefer to leave them out, go ahead.

2. To make this dressing vegetarian/vegan, omit the egg, anchovies, and Worchestershire Sauce and use vegan mayonnaise and vegetarian Worchestershire Sauce.

3.  If you find the addition of all extra virgin olive oil too strong, you can cut it with half pure olive oil or an unflavored oil like vegetable or grapeseed.

4.  Since this recipe does use raw egg yolks, it is best not to serve this to anyone who might have a compromised immune system. Healthy adults should be fine  – especially if the eggs are fresh.  However, if you are concerned about using raw eggs, substitute the mayonnaise.

5.  Croutons are essential in this recipe.  You can buy them, but they are easy to make.  I’ve included instructions.

6.  When you grate the cheese, don’t use a Microplane; the cheese will be too fine.  Either do shavings of cheese with a vegetable peeler or a larger grater.

7.  The most common proteins served with Caesar Salad are grilled chicken or shrimp.  However, this does go with almost anything. Or, alone.

 

The Crouton Ingredients

The Crouton Ingredients

The seasonings I used:

The crouton seasonings I used: (clockwise from top: Italian Seasoning; Kosher Salt; Cayenne Pepper; ground Black Pepper)

The Caesar Salad Ingredients

The Caesar Salad Ingredients

Clockwise from top: Dijon Mustard; Worchestershire Sauce; Black Pepper, Red Wine Vinegar

Clockwise from top: Dijon Mustard; Worchestershire Sauce; Black Pepper, Red Wine Vinegar

 

2 heads Romaine Lettuce, cleaned and cut into bite-sized pieces

 

Croutons:

4 c. day-old bread, cut into 1/2″ cubes

1/4 c. olive oil (you can use either extra virgin or pure)

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. black pepper

up to 2 tsp. additional seasoning, if desired

 

Dressing:

3 cloves garlic

6 ea. anchovy filets

2 egg yolks  -or- 1/4 c. mayonnaise

1 tsp. Dijon mustard

1 tsp. red wine vinegar

1 tbsp. lemon juice

1 tbsp. Worchestershire sauce

1/2 tsp. black pepper, or to taste

Pinch salt

1/2 c. Extra Virgin Olive Oil

 

Grated Parmesan, Grana Padana, or Romano cheese

 

1.  Make the croutons: Preheat the oven to 250F.  Line a large baking sheet with foil and lightly coat with pan spray or line with parchment paper.  Set aside.  In a large bowl, toss the bread cubes with the oil, salt & pepper, and whatever other seasonings you like.  Spread the cubes out in an even layer on the baking sheet and place in the oven.

Croutons ready for the oven.

Croutons ready for the oven.

2.  Bake them for one hour, or until they are dried and crispy.  Set aside and let cool.

The finished croutons. Easy, right?

The finished croutons. Easy, right?

3.  Meanwhile, make the dressing: Have a blender or food processor running.  Drop in the garlic and anchovies and let them chop.  Turn off the blender or processor and add all of the other ingredients, except the oil.  Blend or process until all the ingredients are incorporated.

Everything except the oil

Everything except the oil.

4.  With the processor or blender running, slowly add the oil.  (You don’t want to add it too fast or it won’t incorporate and your dressing will separate.)

Adding the oil. Be sure to do this in a slow, steady stream.

Adding the oil. Be sure to do this in a slow, steady stream.

When you’re done processing/blending the dressing, taste it for seasoning.  It will be thick.

The finished dressing.

The finished dressing.

5.  Place a couple of big handfuls of the lettuce in a large bowl.  Drizzle over about a tablespoon or two of the dressing and toss until the leaves are lightly coated. (You don’t want the leaves soggy, just lightly coated.)  Place the lettuce on a plate and add some of the cheese and croutons on top.  Some people also like to sprinkle on some additional black pepper as well.  Have a bowl of the dressing on the side in case anyone wants more.

Buen Apetito!

Buen Apetito!

The dressing will last 3 – 4 days in the refrigerator if you use eggs and up to 1 week if you use mayonnaise.  The croutons will keep a week in an airtight container.

 

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!

 

 

Knafeh كنافة: The Nabulsi Treat 4

Posted on October 31, 2013 by Sahar

Go anywhere in the Leventine and you will be presented by one of the greatest amalgamation of shredded phyllo, farmers cheese, and sugar known to humankind: Knafeh.

This sweet traces its origins back to the Ottoman Empire and can still be found in various forms all through the former empire’s dominion.

However, all through the Middle East, the city of Nablus is the place where everyone knows the best knafeh is made.  An entire knafeh culture exists there and Nabulsis take great pride in their craft (http://tinyurl.com/knlv2zh).  In fact, the World’s Largest Knafeh was made in Nablus in July 2009 (http://tinyurl.com/jw83r29).  (Videos from YouTube)

And, wherever Palestinians have settled, they have taken the art of Knafeh making wherever they go.

Trays of knafeh in Amman, Jordan. I could've sat there all day eating this.

Trays of Knafeh in Amman, Jordan. I could’ve sat there all day eating this.

Now, I have to honestly say my dad and ‘Amto (aunt) Siham make the best Knafeh I’ve ever tasted.  I don’t know what they do, but it’s simply etherial.

However, I think my recipe is pretty good, too.  And, now, I’m going to share it with you.

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

A few things about Knafeh:

1.  The cheese:  This uses a farmers cheese called Jebne Nabulsi (literally translated “Nablus Cheese”).  Here in the States, it is always packed in brine.  Of course, this is done for preservation.  But, it also makes the cheese semi-hard and salty rather than young, soft, and either unsalted or lightly salted in the Middle East.  To rid yourself of the salt and to somewhat soften the cheese, you have to soak and simmer it.  A good alternative is fresh mozzarella.  However, if you can’t find unsalted mozzarella, you’ll need to soak it as well.

2.  Buy the dough already shredded.  Don’t try to shred sheets of phyllo yourself.  You’ll never get them as fine and it’s a huge hassle.  Any good Middle Eastern market will have the dough in the freezer section.  Let it thaw overnight in the fridge before using.

3.  Coloring the top of the knafeh a bright orange color is traditional.  However, Knafeh coloring isn’t necessary.  There is a powdered coloring available in Middle Eastern markets especially for Knafeh.  However, unless you plan on making a lot, don’t buy it.  Some people use gel color (for coloring icing).  Don’t use regular food coloring, however.  It’s not fat soluble.

4.  Using Rose or Orange water is up to you.  I prefer the orange.  Others, rose.

5.  Don’t skimp on the syrup.  I know that when you first begin to pour it over, it looks like too much.  Believe me, it’s not.

6.  Clarified butter is absolutely necessary to this dish.  Regular butter will burn.  See the end of the post on how to make clarified butter.

 

The ingredients

The ingredients

The Nabulsi Cheese and orange Blossom Water.  These are my two favorite brands.  The cheese isn't too salty and the Cortas, along with being and excellent product, is readily available in upscale and Middle Eastern markets.

The Nabulsi Cheese and Orange Blossom Water. These are my two favorite brands. The cheese isn’t too salty and the Cortas, along with being and excellent product, is readily available in upscale and Middle Eastern markets.

 

 

Thin Qatr (Ka-tr) (simple syrup)

2 c. sugar

1 1/2 c. water

1 tsp. lemon juice

1 tbsp. orange or rose water (optional)

 

Knafeh

1 lb. knafeh dough (kataifi), thawed

2 lb. Farmers Cheese (Jebne Nabulsi) or fresh mozzarella

1/4 c. sugar

1 1/4 c. clarified butter

1 tsp. knafeh coloring (optional)

1/4 c. chopped pistachios (optional)

1 recipe Qatr (see above)

 

1.  Make the Qatr: In a medium saucepan over medium heat, mix together the sugar and water until the sugar is dissolved.

Starting the Qatr.

Starting the Qatr.

Bring to a boil.  Let the syrup boil for 3 minutes and then add the lemon juice.  Boil for 2 more minutes.  Remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in the orange blossom or rose water, if using.  Set aside and let cool.

The finished Qatr. Once you put the orange or rose water in, the fragrance is amazing.

The finished Qatr. Once you put the orange or rose water in, the fragrance is amazing.

2.  Make the Knafeh:  Prepare the cheese – If using the Farmers cheese, you will need to soak and cook the cheese to remove the salt.  To do this, thinly slice the cheese (almost to the point of shaving it) and place in a large bowl.

The cheese. Slice it as thin as you can; almost to the point of shaving it.

The cheese. Slice it as thin as you can; almost to the point of shaving it.

Cover the cheese with water and let soak for two hours, changing the water every 30 minutes.  After you have soaked the cheese, drain it and place in a large saucepan and cover with water.  Bring the water to a simmer (do not let it boil – it will harden the cheese) and cook the cheese for 10 minutes.  Drain.  Repeat the process at least 2 more times or until the cheese is salt-free. (Taste as you go.)

If you are using fresh mozzarella, buy salt-free.  If you don’t find any, thinly slice the cheese and soak it in water for 30 minutes  – 1 hour.  Drain and taste.  Repeat if needed.

Drain the cheese on paper towels to remove some of the excess moisture.  Place the cheese in a medium bowl and toss with the 1/4 c. sugar.

The cheese after its been de-salted and tossed with sugar.

The cheese after its been de-salted and tossed with sugar.

3.  Meanwhile, take the knafeh dough and, with a very sharp knife, chop the dough into approximately 1″ pieces.

How the Knafeh dough comes out of the package. Kind of like a soft brick.

How the Knafeh dough comes out of the package. Kind of like a soft brick.

The chopped dough. Use a very sharp knife and quite a bit of caution when cutting the dough.

The chopped dough. Use a very sharp knife and quite a bit of caution when cutting the dough.

Have 1 cup of the clarified butter heating in a large saucepan over medium heat.  Add the dough to the saucepan.

Stir and cook the dough until it has absorbed the butter.  Remove the saucepan from the heat and let sit until cool enough to handle.

The Knafeh dough after it's been tossed with the hot butter.  I personally use wood spatulas to complete this step.  I have literally seen my dad and aunt stick their hands into the hot saucepan to mix the dough and butter together.  If I decide to do more mixing ith my hands, I generally wait until it's at least warm.

The Knafeh dough after it’s been tossed with the hot butter. As a general rule, I personally use wood spatulas to complete this step. I have literally seen my dad and aunt stick their hands into the hot saucepan to mix the dough and butter together. If I decide to do more mixing with my hands, I generally wait until it’s at least warm.

4.  Preheat the oven to 400F.  Prepare 2 baking sheets by lining with foil and spraying with non-stick spray. (I use 9″ x 12″ x 1″ sheet pans from a restaurant supply. Invest in some. You won’t be sorry.)  Pour the remaining 1/4 c. butter in the bottom of one of the baking sheets and mix in the knafeh coloring (if using).

Mixing the coloring and butter together.  While it isn't necessary to color the butter, it is traditional.

Mixing the coloring and butter together. While it isn’t necessary to color the butter, it is traditional.

5.  Take 1/2 of the Knafeh dough and spread it as evenly as possible over the bottom of the baking sheet.

Spreading the first half of the dough over the sheet pan.

Spreading the first half of the dough over the sheet pan.

Spread the cheese over the top in an even later.  Top the cheese evenly with the remaining dough.

The cheese layer.

The cheese layer.

The final layer of dough on top. This will eventually become the bottom.

The final layer of dough on top. This will eventually become the bottom.

6.  Place the baking sheet in the lower 1/3 of the oven and bake for 25 – 30 minutes, or until the top is a golden brown.

The Knafeh after the first baking. Now, time to flip.

The Knafeh after the first baking. Now, time to flip.

Take the baking sheet from the oven, place the second sheet on top, face down, and carefully flip the Knafeh.

Getting ready to flip.  Have the courage of your convictions when you do this. Along with an apron and very good potholders.

Getting ready to flip. Have the courage of your convictions when you do this. Along with an apron and very good potholders.

A perfect flip. This doesn't happen often. At least to me.

A perfect flip. This doesn’t happen often. At least to me.

Place the new baking sheet with the knafeh, now bottom-side-up, back in the oven for another 10 minutes.

7.  Once the knafeh is done, take it out of the oven and set the baking sheet on a rack.  Pour the Qatr over the knafeh as evenly as possible.

Pouring over the Qatr. Don;t skimp on this. It will soak in.

Pouring over the Qatr. Don’t skimp on this. It will soak in.

Top with the chopped pistachios (if using).  Let cool slightly and allow the syrup to soak in before eating.

The finished Knafeh.

The finished Knafeh.

Sahtein!

Sahtein!  P.S. This is excellent with a cup of strong Arabic coffee.

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

Clarified Butter

At least 2 lbs. of unsalted European or European-style butter (it has a higher percentage of fat than American butters. American butters tend to have more water.)

Basically, clarified butter (also known as ghee or samneh) is butter where the milk solids have been removed.  When butter burns, it’s these solids that burn, not the fat.

Cooking with regular butter is fine, as we all know, in most cases.  In fact, sometimes browned butter is a beautiful thing.  However, for desserts like this, or even direct high-heat cooking, clarified butter is the way to go.  It has a much higher smoke point (about 450F as opposed to 325F for regular butter) as well as a longer shelf life (I’ve had some for at least 6 months and it’s still good).

It’s very simple to make.  It just takes a little patience.

Here is a lovely essay on clarified butter written by Edward Schneider for the New York Times in 2008: http://tinyurl.com/lj6ozhr

******

I generally like to do at least 3 pounds at a time and store it in the refrigerator.

To begin, place the butter in a medium to large saucepan over very low heat.

 

Starting the process.

Starting the process.

Allow the butter to very slowly melt.  This is done to help the butter separate slowly and let the milk solids settle on the bottom of the pan.

The butter almost ready for skimming.

The butter almost ready for skimming.

Remove the pan from the heat.  With a large spoon, begin to carefully skim off the milk solids on top.

Skimming off the foam.  Some people save it for using on popcorn, in dairy recipes, or on rice.  If I don't have an immediate use for it myself, I tend to just discard it. It's up to you.

Skimming off the foam. Some people save it for using on popcorn, in dairy recipes, or on rice. If I don’t have an immediate use for it myself, I tend to just discard it. It’s up to you.

The remaining milk solids and little bit of butter in the bottom of the pan.

The remaining milk solids and little bit of butter in the bottom of the pan.

Once you have skimmed off all (or most) of the solids, carefully pour them into a clean container.  Some people will pour the butter through a cheesecloth as well to be sure to get every bit of milk solid out of the clarified butter.  However, if you are fine with a few bits of milk solid, you can skip that step.

The finished clarified butter. I generally get 4 1/2 cups from 3 lbs. of butter.

The finished clarified butter. I generally get 4 1/2 cups from 3 lbs. of butter.

 

 

Enjoy!

 

 

My Arabic Breakfast فطوري العربية 3

Posted on September 30, 2013 by Sahar

One of the great things about having a parent, or parents, who were born and/or grew up in another country is getting to learn and experience mores, manners, customs, and, yes, food that are different than what you might experience daily in the wider world.

My sisters and I grew up with just such a parent.  Our father is Palestinian.  He’s originally from a town called Nablus.  When he was born, it was a part of  western Jordan. Now it is in the Occupied West Bank under the supervision of the Palestinian Authority.  Dad came to the US in 1960 to go to college.  Eventually, he met and married our mom, graduated from college with an engineering degree, co-raised three girls without losing his mind, worked for the same company for 40 years, and happily retired.

Along the way, Dad did impart in us some of his old-world wisdom.  Or, at least tried to.  And while we didn’t always appreciate the lessons he tried to teach – especially Arabic, which I’m still struggling to learn – we always appreciated the food.

And while my sisters and I certainly ate with glee the kibbeh, sayadieh (fish with rice), mjudarah (lentils and rice), mishi waraq (stuffed grape leaves), and knaffeh (sweet  shredded phyllo dough with cheese) our parents made (Mom and Dad each have their specialties), we especially enjoyed breakfast with unrestrained glee.

Breakfast at my aunt's home in Jordan

Breakfast at my aunt’s home in Jordan

Breakfast in the Middle East isn’t necessarily a rushed thing.  Well, it isn’t unless one has to rush off to work or school. Breakfast usually starts about 8 or 9 with a nice long chat over coffee.  Then, the food comes out.  It can be as simple as some jam, bread, and cheese on up to dips, za’atar (spice mix made with thyme, sumac, sesame seeds, and salt), fresh fruit and vegetables, olives, pickles, eggs, and occasionally leftovers from the night before.

Unlike in the West, coffee isn’t drunk at breakfast.  It’s used as an aperitif, digestive, at social gatherings, and with the desserts the Middle East is so famous for.  Juice, water, or hot sweet tea is drunk at breakfast.

Just to make you hungrier, here’s a picture of my family at the restaurant my cousin Salam owns with her husband. Tarweea. It serves breakfast 24 hours a day.  And it’s amazing.

The family at Tarweea. Damn good food. And company.

The family at Tarweea. Damn good food. And company.

So, welcome to my version of Arabic Breakfast.

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

The recipes I’m showing you are ubiquitous throughout the Middle East.  Like anywhere else, there are regional variations for each dish.  That being said, I’m going to show you the way I grew up eating these dishes and the recipes I learned Palestinian style.

The Ingredients

The Ingredients

I will be making several recipes in this post:  Ful Mudammas (Fava Bean Dip), Baba Ghannouj (Eggplant Dip), Tomatoes and Garlic Poached in Olive Oil (not sure if this is authentic, but my dad makes it on occasion), and Hummous (which I’ve already made for you, http://www.tartqueenskitchen.com/?cat=63).

Hummous. Mmm... Click on the above link to get the recipe.

Hummous. Mmm…
Click on the above link to get the recipe.

The additions will be some lovely olives and turnip pickles:

olives, pickles, cucumber

Clockwise from top: Persian cucumbers, turnip pickles (the red color comes from a beet put into the brine), Moroccan Oil Cured Olives, Lebanese Green Olives

Plates of olive oil and za’atar.

Olive Oil and Za'atar

Olive Oil and Za’atar

Bread is dipped in the olive oil and then the za’atar.  It has a wonderful savory-slightly tart flavor.  Some people will also make a paste of the two, spread it on bread and toast the bread until the top is nice and bubbly.  It’s divine.

We also have some lebneh.  It is essentially yogurt cheese.  A lovely, delightfully slightly sour treat. Try it spread on bread with some tomato. Oh. Yeah.

Lebneh in olive oil. This stuff is the bomb.

Lebneh in olive oil. This stuff is the bomb.

Some farmers cheese is always essential on the table.  Jebne Nabulsi (Nablus Cheese) is our cheese of choice.  Farmers cheese is used in both sweet and savory dishes.  For sweet dishes, it’s usually boiled to remove the salt.  The cheese we get in the US is always packed in brine. If you’re able to buy it in Jordan, it’s much fresher. The difference is striking.

My favorite brand of Nabulsi Cheese. it's not too salty and cooks well.

My favorite brand of Nabulsi Cheese. it’s not too salty and cooks well.

 

The first recipe I’ll show you is for Ful (pronounced “fool”) Mudammas (فول مدمس).  It’s a breakfast dish made with fava beans. It’s a dish that’s been traced back to ancient Egypt and is still a very popular breakfast choice throughout the Middle East and parts of Africa.

Now, I use the canned ones.   However, if you want to use fresh or used soaked dry beans, it’s up to you.

The ingredients for Ful Mudammas.

The ingredients for Ful Mudammas.

1 can fava beans, drained, liquid reserved

1/4 c. onion, finely minced

2 cl. garlic, minced

2 – 4 (depending on size and heat level) tabasco or pepperoncini peppers, minced

1/4 c. parsley, minced

Salt and pepper to taste

Lemon to taste

Olive oil

additional minced parsley for garnish, optional

 

1.  In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, mix together the fava beans, onion, garlic, peppers,  about 2 – 3 tablespoons of the reserved liquid from the beans, and a pinch of salt & pepper.

Beans in the pot.

Beans in the pot.

Beans, onion, garlic, and peppers waiting to make me happy.

Beans, onion, garlic, and peppers ready to make magic.

Heat the mixture slowly, stirring occasionally.  Cook about 20 minutes.  Add more liquid if the beans become too dry.

Cooking the beans and vegetables. Be sure to not let the beans get too dry.

Cooking the beans and vegetables. Be sure to not let the beans get too dry.

2.  Once the mixture is cooked, taste it for seasoning and some lemon to taste.  Remove the saucepan from the heat and mash the beans, leaving some texture.  In other words, don’t make them a smooth mash.

Mashing the beans. Leave some texture. Don't make too smooth a mix.

Mashing the beans. Leave some texture. Don’t make too smooth a mix.

3.  Place the ful on a plate, drizzle over some olive oil and additional parsley.

The finished dish. Enticing, isn't it.

The finished dish. Enticing, isn’t it.

 

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

The next dish I’m going to show you is Baba Ghannouj (بابا غنوج.). It’s a smooth dip made with eggplant.  It can be served as a mezze, a salad, or a side dish.  It is sometimes served with sliced or finely diced vegetables on top.  Some will use parsley or mint.  In some parts of the Arab world, particularly Syria, pomegranate seeds or syrup are used as well.

Traditionally, the eggplant is grilled over an open flame until it’s soft and charred.  However, I’ve found the oven is an excellent alternative cooking source.

When buying eggplant, look for ones with a smooth unblemished skin and no soft spots.

The Ingredients

The Ingredients

1 eggplant

3 cl. garlic

1/4 c. tahineh, more if needed

Salt and lemon juice to taste

Olive oil for garnish

Pomegranate seeds or syrup for garnish, optional

Parsley for garnish, optional

 

1.  Prep the eggplant.  Heat your oven to 400F.  Line a baking sheet with foil and spray with non-stick spray.  Drizzle some olive oil on the bottom and spread to cover.

Take the eggplant, cut off the top, then cut in half lengthwise.

The eggplant. You want the flesh to be white to off white.  And not too seedy.  A lot of seeds can make the eggplant bitter.

The eggplant. You want the flesh to be white to off white. and firm. And not too seedy. A lot of seeds can make the eggplant bitter.

Place the eggplant cut side down on the baking sheet.  Drizzle to top with a little more oil and put in the oven.  Bake the eggplant until it’s soft, about 20 – 25 minutes.

Eggplant ready for the oven.

Eggplant ready for the oven.

2.  Meanwhile, if you are using pomegranate seeds, time to get the seeds out.

Hello.

Hello.

When buying a pomegranate, make sure there are no soft pots, the skin is smooth and free of blemishes, and be sure to check for pinholes in the skin.  That’s a sign of infestation or spoilage.  If you open a pomegranate and any of the seeds are brown or dried out, discard them.

Cut around the equator of the pomegranate just until you break through the skin.  Don’t cut all the way through or you’ll lose some seeds.

Pull the halves until they separate.  This takes a little doing, but it will happen.

An excellent pomegranate. The seeds are bright, red, and juicy. The membrane is firm and a nice creamy color.

An excellent pomegranate. The seeds are bright, red, and juicy. The membrane is firm and a nice creamy color.

I suggest wearing gloves for this next part. It is now time to separate the seeds from the membrane.  It’s really not difficult.  Just time consuming.  if you can remove the seeds in clusters, all the better.  The trick is to break as few seeds as possible and not include any of the membrane (edible, but very bitter).

Removing the seeds from the membrane.  Not difficult, but time consuming.

Removing the seeds from the membrane. Not difficult, but time consuming.

The remains.

The remains.

You will be rewarded for your hard work.

Your reward. They look like jewels.

Your reward. They look like jewels.

3.  Check the eggplant.  Give it a quick poke with your finger or a fork.  If it feels soft, it’s ready to come out of the oven.  Take the eggplant halves off the baking sheet and set aside until cool enough to handle.

The baked eggplant.  You want the char.  It adds a smky flavor to the final dish.  However, be sure not to let the eggplant burn.

The baked eggplant. You want the char. It adds a smoky flavor to the final dish. However, be sure not to let the eggplant burn.

4.  when the eggplant is cool enough to handle, carefully peel off the skin and discard.

Peeling the skin off the eggplant.

Peeling the skin off the eggplant.

Place the peeled eggplant in a small bowl or dish.  Set aside.

5.  With a food processor running, drop the garlic cloves down through the feed tube and chop them.

The chopped garlic.

The chopped garlic.

Add the eggplant, tahineh, and a little salt.

Ready to mix.

Ready to mix.

Puree the ingredients until a smooth consistency is achieved.  Add a little lemon juice through the feed tube while the machine is running.  When the lemon is mixed in, taste the baba ghannouj for seasoning.

6.  Place the baba ghannouj into a bowl and garish with a little olive oil, some parsley, and a few of the pomegranate seeds.

This is delicious. And I don't like eggplant.

This is delicious. And I don’t like eggplant.

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

As for the Poached Tomatoes and Garlic, I really don’t know if it’s an authentic part of the meal.  However, I remember my dad making this dish from time to time, so I do, too.  My husband and I  like this dish, so I make it for that reason as well.

The ingredients

The ingredients

 

4 large tomatoes, quartered, core (blossom end) cut out, and seeded

10 – 12 cloves garlic, smashed

3/4 c. olive oil

1 tsp. salt

 

1.  Place all the ingredients in a large skillet or shallow saucepan over low heat.

The ingredients ready to be poached.

The ingredients ready to be poached.

2.  While the ingredients cook, you can mash them a bit if you like. Just cook until the tomatoes have completely broken down, about 30 minutes.

Cooking down the tomatoes and garlic.

Cooking down the tomatoes and garlic.

All done.  Yes, it's a lot of olive oil. It tastes lovely.

All done. Yes, it’s a lot of olive oil. It tastes lovely.

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

Fried Nabulsi Cheese

1.  Take a few pieces of the Nabulsi cheese and cut them into smaller pieces (I usually cut them in half crosswise and then again lengthwise).  Place them in a bowl and rinse with water several times until it runs clear.  Let the cheese soak in the water to remove some of the salt.

Some of the cheese. The shape and saltiness of the cheese depends on the brand,

Some of the cheese. The shape and saltiness of the cheese depends on the brand.

Soaking the cheese

Soaking the cheese

Before you get ready to fry the cheese, take it out of the water and drain on paper towels.

2.  In a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat, melt 2 tablespoons of butter with 2 tablespoons of olive oil.  Once the butter starts to foam, place a few pieces of the cheese in the skillet to cook.  Cook until each side is golden brown.

Frying the cheese. Not the most healthy way to cook it, but hey, why not?

Frying the cheese. Not the most healthy way to cook it, but hey, why not?

Drain the cooked cheese on paper towels and eat while still warm.  It doesn’t really keep once it’s cold.

Believe it or not, this is excellent on warm pita bread with a little jam.

Believe it or not, this is excellent on warm pita bread with a little jam.

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

Of course, the one indispensable ingredient for the whole meal. Bread. Khubuz خبز

 

The bread.  The most indespensible ingredient of all.

The bread. The most indispensable ingredient of all.

And, here is the final table.

The final table. Invite a few friends.

The final table. Invite a few friends.

Sahtein!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Two Pestos 1

Posted on July 11, 2013 by Sahar

While I love to cook any time of year, unfortunately, it’s a little more difficult in the throes of a central Texas summer.  The thought of turning on the oven or the stove makes me want to stick my head in the freezer.  So, while it may not always be possible to avoid the extra kitchen heat, it can be minimized.

And one of those ways is making some pesto.

Pesto originated in Genoa in the northern Italian province of Liguria.  The name comes from Italian word pestare  (Genoese: pesta) meaning “to crush; to pound”.  It is traditionally made with garlic, basil, and pine nuts blended with olive oil, Parmigiano Reggiano (Parmesan cheese), and Fiore Sardo (cheese made from sheep’s milk).

The ancient Romans ate a paste called moretum, which was made by crushing cheese, garlic and herbs together. Basil, the main ingredient of modern pesto, likely originated in India and was first domesticated there. Basil took the firmest root in the regions of Liguria, Italy and Provence, France. The Ligurians around Genoa took the dish and adapted it, using a combination of basil, crushed garlic, grated cheese, and pine nuts with a little olive oil to form pesto. The first mention of recipe for pesto as it is known today, is from the book La Cuciniera Genovese written in 1863 by Giovanni Battista Ratto.

While pesto was introduced in the US is the 1940’s, it didn’t become popular until the 1980’s.

(some information from wikipedia.org and thenibble.com)

The pestos I’m showing you today aren’t the traditional recipe that many have come to know and love.  While I’m very serious about traditional recipes, sometimes experimentation isn’t a bad thing.

Now, on to the recipes.

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

A few notes:

1.  Splurge and buy the freshest ingredients you can.  And that includes buying imported cheeses.  While America makes many wonderful cheeses, we aren’t too good with hard Italian cheeses.  Since pesto is essentially a raw product, you want the best.

2.  I don’t recommend using oil-packed/cured sun-dried tomatoes.  They’re usually flavored and I can’t control the amount of oil in the pesto.  Plus, somehow, they always taste cooked. Buy plain sun-dried and you won’t be sorry.

3.  You’ll no doubt notice in the instructions that I use a food processor for these recipes.  It is simply for ease in preparation.  If you feel like going all traditional, go for it.  But, it’d be a safe bet to say those tomatoes would be a bitch to beat down with a mortar and pestle.

Also, I keep the processor running through most of the prep.  This helps greatly when adding the “harder” ingredients like the garlic and nuts.  If you add them to the bowl and then turn on the processor, you won’t get a fine or consistent chop, which is what you want.

4.  When I serve these pestos, I always have some extra cheese on hand, some minced parsley (for the sun-dried tomato) and some halved cherry tomatoes (for the cilantro).  You don’t have to have these, but I thought I’d pass it along.

5.  As we all know, pesto is good on so many other things than just pasta.  Spread it on bread, use as a dip for vegetables, top grilled meats, seafood, or vegetables.

6.  Pesto will keep in the refrigerator for about a week.  I don’t recommend freezing.

Cilantro Pesto

The Ingredients

The Ingredients

Toasted pine nuts. These aren't inexpensive, so watch them very carefully.

Toasted pine nuts. These aren’t inexpensive, so watch them very carefully. If they begin to small like popcorn when you’re roasting, you’ve gone too far.

 

4 -6 cloves garlic, depending on size

1/2 c. pine nuts, roasted (350F for 3 – 5 minutes)

-or-

1/4 c. raw, unsalted pistachios

1/4 c. walnuts

1 tsp. red pepper flakes

1/4 c.  Romano cheese, fresh grated

1/2 c. Parmesan cheese, fresh grated

2 – 3 bunches cilantro, depending on size, large stems removed (It’s OK to have some stem. No need to pick the leaves.)

Juice of 1/2 lemon (approx. 1 1/2 tsp.)

1/4 c. olive oil, more if needed

Salt & pepper to taste

 

1.  Have your food processor running.  Drop the garlic through the feed tube and chop. Add the pine nuts and pepper flakes.

The garlic, pepper flakes, and pine nuts in the food processor.

The garlic, pepper flakes, and pine nuts in the food processor.

Turn off the processor, remove the lid, and add the cheeses, salt and pepper.  Turn on the processor again and let the cheese mix in.

The cheese has been added. I could spread this on toast at this point.

The cheese has been added. I could spread this on toast at this point.

2. Again, with the processor running, push the cilantro down the feed tube.

The trimmed cilantro. Seriously. Just make sure you discard any brown or slimy leaves. Oh, yeah. And wash it, too.

The trimmed cilantro. Seriously. Just make sure you discard any brown or slimy leaves. Oh, yeah. And wash it, too.

Pushing the cilantro down the feed tube.

Pushing the cilantro down the feed tube.

 

Add the oil and lemon juice.

Adding the oil.

Adding the oil.

Continue processing until the mixture becomes a paste.  Add more oil if you want a thinner pesto.

Beautiful.

Beautiful.

3.  Taste for seasoning and adjust to your liking.

*****

Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto

The ingredients

The ingredients

 

Sun-Dried Tomatoes ready for their close-up.

Sun-Dried Tomatoes ready for their close-up.

Shredded Parmesan and Romano.

Shredded Parmesan and Romano.

Toasted pecans.  Again, nuts aren't inexpensive, so take care when roasting.

Toasted pecans. Again, nuts aren’t inexpensive, so take care when roasting.

3/4 c. sun-dried tomatoes (not oil-packed; see note above)

1/2 c. roasted pecans (350F for 5 – 7 minutes)

4 cloves garlic

1/4 c. Parmesan cheese, shredded

1/4 c. Romano cheese, shredded

1/4 c. olive oil, more if needed

Juice of 1 lemon (approx. 1 tbsp.)

Salt & Pepper to taste

 

1.  Place the tomatoes in a medium bowl and cover with boiling water.  Let the tomatoes sit for 20 minutes.

Soaking the tomatoes.  Reserve some of the soaking liquid when you get ready to drain them.

Soaking the tomatoes. Reserve some of the soaking liquid when you get ready to drain them.

Drain the tomatoes, reserving some of the soaking liquid. Set aside.

The soaked tomatoes.

The soaked tomatoes.

2.  Have a food processor running and drop the garlic down the feed tube.  Let it chop.  Add the pecans the same way.

Adding the pecans to the garlic.

Adding the pecans to the garlic.

Turn off the processor and add the cheeses, salt and pepper.  Again, process until everything is mixed.

3.  With the processor running, add the tomatoes down the feed tube.

Adding the tomatoes.

Adding the tomatoes.

Pour in the oil and lemon juice.  Turn off the processor and check for seasoning and consistency.  If the pesto is too thick, add a little of the soaking water  or oil and process until it becomes the consistency you like.

Mmm...

Mmm…

The most common way to serve pesto is over pasta.  So, cook your pasta of choice according to the directions.  Be sure to save some of the pasta water before you drain the pasta.

I generally like to place a serving of the pasta in a medium bowl, spoon over the amount of pesto I want, and begin to toss them together.  I’ll use some of the pasta water if I need to.

I’ll place the pasta on the plate, garnish a little, and serve.

The completely optional garnishes:  Tomatoes for the Cilantro Pesto; Parsley for the Tomato Pesto; Cheese for both.

The completely optional garnishes: Tomatoes for the Cilantro Pesto; Parsley for the Tomato Pesto; Cheese for both.

Serving Suggestion #1

Serving Suggestion #1

Serving Suggestion #2.

Serving Suggestion #2.

 

Enjoy! Buon Appetito!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spinach & Mushroom Pie 4

Posted on June 14, 2013 by Sahar

Savory pies, or their fancier cousin, quiches, are a great way to use a combination of leftovers, pantry items, and your imagination.  Like with sweet pies, a savory pie can make you use your creativity in new and surprising ways.

Plus, it’s a good, quick meal after a long day at work.

A few tips on making savory pies:

1.  Frozen pie crusts are fine.  That’s what I used in this recipe.  I know some will think it’s cheating, or, at worst, sacrilege, but I think it works perfectly well for this recipe.

2.  Keep the pie crust frozen until just before you’re ready to fill it.  Otherwise, it will become soggy during baking.

3.  Always have whole milk and eggs on hand.  They’ll make the custard, or base, of the pie.  Don’t use 2%, 1%, or skim milk.  They won”t stand up to the heat.

4.  If you’re using a cooked filling in the pie, make sure it’s cooled off before you put it into the crust.  Otherwise, it will begin to melt the crust too early and/or cook the eggs too quickly.

5.  Cheese is always good.

6.  When you bake the pie, take it out of the oven when it has a slight wobble in the center.  Let the pie sit for 10 minutes before cutting.  This will allow the pie to settle and finish setting up in the center without overcooking the eggs,

 

Now, to the recipe.

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

The ingredients

The ingredients

A whole nutmeg seed.  Like most spices, it's so much better to buy the whole seed and grate or grind just what you need.

A whole nutmeg seed. Like most spices, it’s so much better to buy the whole seed and grate or grind just what you need.

A grated nutmeg seed.  It smells wonderful, looks really tiger-stripe cool, and lasts a long time.

A grated nutmeg seed. It smells wonderful, looks really tiger-stripe cool, and lasts a long time.

For my money, the perfect nutmeg-grating tool: the mini Microplane.

For my money, the perfect nutmeg-grating tool: the mini Microplane.

The flavoings: fresh rosemary, black pepper, salt, fresh ground nutmeg

The flavorings: fresh rosemary, black pepper, salt, fresh grated nutmeg

 

2 tbsp. olive oil

1 c. sliced mushrooms

1 c. spinach, chopped (if you’re using baby spinach, don’t worry about chopping)

1 c. whole milk or half-and-half

3 eggs

1/2 tsp. nutmeg

1 tsp. rosemary, chopped

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. black pepper

1 c. shredded Gruyère cheese

1 ea. frozen 9-inch pie shell

 

1.  Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat  to 425F.  Prepare a baking sheet by lining it with foil (this is to transport the pie to and from the oven).  Tear a long piece of foil in half lengthwise; fold each piece in half again lengthwise.  You will use these to wrap the edges of the crust before you add the filling. (The foil will keep the edges of the crust from burning in the oven.)

2.  Heat the oil in a large skillet over rmedium-high heat.  Add the mushrooms, a pinch of salt, and saute until they soften, about 5 – 7 minutes.

Sauteing the mushrooms.

Sauteing the mushrooms.

Add the spinach and cook until it just begins to wilt.

Adding the spinach. In this example, I actually used a spinach-arugula salad mix.  It worked very well.

Adding the spinach. In this example, I actually used a spinach-arugula salad mix. It worked very well.

Remove the skillet from the heat and let the mixture cool. (To cool the filling faster, take it out of the pan and  spread it onto a plate.)

3.  In a large measuring cup or medium bowl, mix together the eggs, milk or half-and-half, rosemary, nutmeg, and salt & pepper.  Set aside.  This is the custard mixture.

The custard mixture.

The custard mixture.

4.  Take the pie crust out of the freezer and place it on the baking sheet.  Take your two reserved pieces of foil and wrap them around the outer edge of the pie crust.  There will be some overlap.  Be sure the foil doesn’t go down the sides of the crust where the filling will be.

The wrapped pie shell.

The wrapped pie shell.

5.  Line the bottom of the crust with the grated Gruyère.

Mmm... Gruyere.

Mmm… Gruyère.

Next, spread the spinach-mushroom mixture as evenly as possible over the cheese.

Layer #2.

Layer #2.

Lastly, slowly over the custard to fill the pie.

Pour the custard mixture over slowly so it has a chance to soak into the spaces around the cheese and vegetables.

Pour the custard mixture over slowly so it has a chance to soak into the spaces around the cheese and vegetables.

Ready for the oven.  Be sure to put it in immediately after filling the crust.

Ready for the oven. Be sure to put it in immediately after filling the crust.

6.  Place the pie in the oven and bake for 25 – 30 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean and there is a very slight wobble in the center of the pie.  Let the pie stand for about 10 minutes before cutting and serving.

How can you resist this?

How can you resist this?

Enjoy!

Nice lunch or a light dinner. Either way, you can't go wrong.

Nice lunch or a light dinner. Either way, you can’t go wrong.

 

 

Tomato Soup & Welsh Rarebit Souffles 1

Posted on May 23, 2013 by Sahar

“What exactly is Welsh Rarebit?” you’re probably asking yourself.

Most of us know this dish as basically cheese on toast.  Not a bad thing.

It’s actually a dish that was born of poverty in 18th Century Wales.  At that time, only the wealthiest could afford meat.  Cheese was the “meat” of the poor.  Over time, “Rarebit” became the bastardization of “rabbit”.

Most recipes that I’ve found contain some sort of alcohol, generally ale.  However, I wanted a recipe that didn’t have any alcohol.  And, I finally came across one written by Jennifer Paterson of “Two Fat Ladies” fame.  It is different than traditional Rarebit, which is generally a cheese sauce, in that this recipe is more of a souffle-style.

This won’t behave like what most would think of as a souffle.  It certainly doesn’t rise like one.  The souffle-style comes from the base  (cheese and egg yolks) folded into beaten egg whites which makes the topping a souffle effect.

The tomato soup is just a natural paring.

Tomato soup goes with just about everything.

Welsh Rarebit mixed with tomato soup or tomatoes is known as “Blushing Bunny”.  Huh.

 

Now.  To the recipes.

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

Now, of course, with either of these recipes, you can serve them separately with a simple salad to make a nice lunch or a light dinner.  Together, they make a rather hearty end-of-day vegetarian supper.

For the Rarebit, if you want to use other cheeses or all of one or the other, go ahead.  However, cheddar is the most traditional.  Be sure to use a sharp cheddar.  Once you add the egg whites, it will neutralize the flavor of the cheese mixture, so you want a stong-tasting cheese.  Longhorn cheddar won’t do.

With summer coming up, fresh tomatoes will be abundant.  If you want to use your fresh home-grown tomatoes, by all means, do.  Use the equivalent amount to fresh tomatoes.  Depending on how “rustic” you like your soup, you can peel and seed your fresh tomatoes before using them in the soup if you prefer.  It’s up to you.

As for canned, I use Muir Glen Fire Roasted.  If you want to use your fresh tomatoes but would like the roasted flavor, you can either roast your tomatoes on the grill or slow-roast in your oven.

 

Tomato Soup:

The ingredients

The ingredients

The spices (clockwise from top): Red Pepper Flakes, ground Bleck Pepper, Kosher Salt

The spices (clockwise from top): Red Pepper Flakes, ground Black Pepper, Kosher Salt

 

2 tbsp. olive oil

1 small onion, diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes, optional

4 tbsp. tomato paste

1 lg. (28 oz.) can tomatoes

1/4 c. balsamic vinegar

1 lg. sprig rosemary, left whole

4 c. vegetable broth

Pinch sugar

Salt & Pepper to taste

1 bunch fresh basil, julienned

Shredded Parmesan or Romano

 

1.  In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, saute the onions and garlic until the onions begin to soften, about 5 minutes.

Sauteing the onions and garlic.

Sauteing the onions and garlic.

2.  Add the red pepper flakes, if using, and cook another minute.

3.  Add the tomato paste and, stirring frequently, cook until the tomato paste begins to take on a rust-colored appearance (this indicates the sugars in the tomato paste are caramelizing).

Cooking the tomato paste. The paste is beginning to turn a burnt orange color.

Cooking the tomato paste. The paste is beginning to turn a burnt orange color.

4.  Add the tomatoes, rosemary, vinegar, broth, sugar, salt & pepper.  Stir until the soup is well mixed.  Cover and bring to a boil.  Once the soup has come to a boil, uncover, lower the heat to medium-low, and cook for 30 minutes.  Stir occasionally.

After adding the tomatoes, broth, rosemary, vinegar, and spices

After adding the tomatoes, broth, rosemary, vinegar, and spices

Bringing the soup to a boil.

Bringing the soup to a boil.

5.  After the first 30 minutes of cooking, remove the soup from the heat and remove the rosemary stem.  Let the soup cool slightly.

After 30 minutes of cooking.

After 30 minutes of cooking.

6.  With either a stand blender (in batches) or a stick blender, puree the soup.  Make it as smooth or as texture as you like.  If you want a super-smooth soup, then pour the pureed soup through a strainer.  Taste for seasoning.

Pureeing the soup with a stick blender. (I find the stick blender easier and it uses fewer dishes.)

Pureeing the soup with a stick blender. (I find the stick blender easier and it uses fewer dishes.)

7.  Put the soup back on the stove to reheat over medium heat and just bring back to a boil.  Turn off the heat and add the basil.  Set the soup aside and let the basil “steep”.

 

Adding the basil and letting it "steep" in the soup.

Adding the basil and letting it “steep” in the soup.

 

Meanwhile, while the soup is cooking, make the Rarebit.

 

The Ingredients

The Ingredients

The Spices (clockwise from top center): Paprika, Kosher Salt, Cayenne Pepper, dry Mustard, Black Pepper

The Spices (clockwise from top center): Paprika, Kosher Salt, Cayenne Pepper, dry Mustard, Black Pepper

Cheddar and Gruyere cheeses

Cheddar and Gruyere cheeses

1 c. grated extra sharp Cheddar Cheese

1 c. grated Gruyère or Emmenthal Cheese

3 eggs, separated

1/4 tsp. cream of tartar

1 tsp. dry mustard

1/2 tsp. cayenne

1/2 tsp. paprika

1 tsp. Worcestershire Sauce

Salt & pepper to taste

4 thick slices bread (sourdough or country loaf works best)

 

1.  In a large bowl mix the cheese with the egg yolks, Worcestershire, dry mustard, cayenne, paprika, salt & pepper.  Set aside.

The cheese mixed with the eggs and spices.

The cheese mixed with the eggs and spices.

2.  Preheat the oven to 450F.  Place the bread on a baking sheet lines with foil and parchment paper and toast the bread until it is lightly toasted on both sides.  Set aside.

Toasted bread.

Toasted bread.

3.  In a mixer, beat the egg whites with the cream of tartar until the whites reach stiff peak stage.

Stiffly beaten egg whites.

Perfectly beaten egg whites.

4.  Take 1/4 of the egg whites and mix them into the cheese mixture to lighten it up a bit.

Folding in the egg whites.

Folding in the egg whites.

5.  Take the remaining egg whites, 1/3 at a time, and fold them into the cheese mixture.  Don’t worry about making a homogenous mixture.  You just want to get a good mix with the cheese.

Ready for the bread. Don't worry about making a homogeneous mixture.

Ready for the bread. Don’t worry about making a homogeneous mixture.

6.  Divide the mixture evenly between the pieces of bread (there will be quite a lot).

Ready for the oven.

Ready for the oven.

 

Place the baking sheet in the oven and bake for 10  – 12 minutes or until the souffles are brown and have risen slightly.

The finished rarebit. Golden brown, slighly puffy, a little crispy.

The finished rarebit. Golden brown, slightly puffy, a little crispy.

 

Finish the meal:  By this point, the soup should be finished and the basil “steeping”.

Spoon the soup into a bowl and sprinkle some Parmesan or Romano over the top.

The finished soup.

The finished soup. Parmesan to be added.

Place one of the Rarebit on a plate.

The finsihed Rarebit.

The finished Rarebit. Molten gooddness.

Suppertime!

Supper!

Supper! Yummy, yummy supper.

 

Enjoy!

 



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