Musings about Food & the Politics of Food.

TartQueen's Kitchen



Nashville Hot Chicken 0

Posted on July 09, 2016 by Sahar

In my travels, I’ve eaten a lot of dishes – some great, some good, and some that should be buried in the backyard.

In my travels to Nashville, I’ve come across something that could only be described as one of the great ones: Nashville Hot Chicken.  It’s a wonderful amalgamation of fried chicken and spices that, up until 3 years ago, I’d never seen anywhere else.  Now, Hot Chicken is spreading all over the country with even KFC getting into the act (ugh.).

Here’s a brief history of the originators of Nashville Hot Chicken from wikipedia:

“Anecdotal evidence suggests that spicy fried chicken has been served in Nashville for generations. The current dish may have been introduced as early as the 1930s, however, the current style of spice paste may only date back to the mid-1970s. It is generally accepted that the originator of hot chicken is the family of Andre Prince Jeffries, owner of Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack. She has operated the restaurant since 1980; before that time, it was owned by her great-uncle, Thornton Prince III. Although impossible to verify, Jeffries says the development of hot chicken was an accident. Her great-uncle Thornton was purportedly a womanizer, and after a particularly late night out his girlfriend at the time cooked him a fried chicken breakfast with extra pepper as revenge. Instead, Thornton decided he liked it so much that, by the mid-1930s, he and his brothers had created their own recipe and opened the BBQ Chicken Shack café.”

Now, I have not had the opportunity to eat at Princes on my visits to Nashville; but, just by luck, Husband Steve & I have stayed at a hotel across the street from another very popular Hot Chicken stand, Hattie B’s.

Hattie B's

Hattie B’s

A typical Hattie B's plate

A typical Hattie B’s plate

If you want a seat, especially on Sunday, get in line early before they open.  It’s almost like the Franklin Barbecue of Nashville.

Now, of course, when Steve & I were back home, I wanted to be able to make this. I was spurred on by Steve actually wanting me to figure out how to make this so we didn’t have to wait for another trip to Nashville. (Although there are many great reasons to go there.) As an added incentive, Younger Nephew – Food Enthusiast – has pretty much requested I make this every time he visits.

I started by looking up what might be the authentic Hattie B’s recipe.  I made it and liked it quite a bit.  However, it seemed something was lacking; I wasn’t sure if this was simply an interpretation of the original, something was left out (which happens more often than most realize), or I missed something in the preparation.

I decided to take the recipe I found and tailor it more to my tastes – slightly more smokey and sweet-heat.  I still keep most definitely to the spirit of the original, but here is my version of Nashville Hot Chicken (as inspired by Hattie B’s).

 

The Ingredients

The Ingredients

The Spices

The Spices. Clockwise from top left: black pepper, salt, hot sauce, Spanish paprika, dark brown sugar, ground garlic, ground onion, paprika, cayenne

 

Marinating:

1 whole chicken, about 3 1/2 to 4 lbs. -or- the same weight of chicken in parts (i.e. wings, drumsticks)

1 tsp. salt

1 tbsp. hot sauce (i.e. Tabasco, Original Louisiana)

 

Dip & Dredge:

1 c. whole milk

2 eggs, beaten

2 c. all-purpose flour

2 tsp. salt

1 tsp. black pepper

 

Spice Coating:

1/2 c. hot cooking oil

1 tbsp. cayenne (more or less to taste)

2 tbsp. dark brown sugar

1 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. black pepper

1/2 tsp. paprika

1/2 tsp. Spanish (smoked) paprika

1/2 tsp. ground garlic

1/2 tsp. ground onion

 

Unflavored oil and/or lard for frying (approximately 4 cups total)

 

 

If you are using a whole chicken, cut it either into quarters or into 8 pieces. (I usually have the back as a separate piece and generally throw it into the freezer bag with  other chicken pieces for stock. However, if you want to fry it up, too, go for it.)

The chicken cut into quarters, plus the back, using my new favorite tool, chicken shears.

The chicken cut into quarters, plus the back, using my new favorite tool, chicken shears.

If you’re using just one type of part, like the wing, you can, of course, skip this step.

 

In a large bowl, toss the chicken with the 1 teaspoon of salt and the hot sauce making sure it is evenly coated.  Either keep the chicken in the bowl covered with plastic wrap or move it to a large zip bag and place in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours or up to 24.

The chicken ready to be marinated.

The chicken ready to be marinated.

 

After the chicken has marinated, take it out of the fridge and set aside.  Have a plate ready for the breaded chicken and a baking sheet lined with paper towels.

Have 2 large bowls. In one, beat together the milk and eggs. In the other, mix together the flour, 2 teaspoons salt & 1 teaspoon pepper.

The dip and the dredge

The dip and the dredge

 

First, lightly dredge the chicken in the flour, making sure it is fully coated, making sure to shake off any excess flour.

First dredge. It's a messy business.

First dredge. It’s a messy business.

Second, dip the chicken into the dip; again, making sure the chicken is completely coated and letting any excess dip drip off.

The dip

The dip

Third, dredge the chicken again in the flour, once again making sure it is fully coated and making sure any wet spots are re-coated with the flour.

The dredged, dipped, and dredged chicken ready for the fryer.

The dredged, dipped, and dredged chicken ready for the fryer.

Set the chicken aside and heat the oil and/or lard to 350F. I like to use a half & half blend of oil and lard.  I find lard alone to be too strong a flavor even though I like the way it cooks the chicken; so, I cut it with the oil and it is fine for me.  You do what you prefer.

*I know the more traditional amongst you will be appalled at the fact I use an electric skillet for my frying rather than cast-iron.  The fact of the matter is, I’m usually doing other things as well and I simply don’t have the time, patience, or attention span to constantly monitor the heat of the oil.  Hence, the electric skillet.

Once the oil is at the correct temperature, place the chicken in the hot oil and let it fry for 5 – 7 minutes before turning over.

Frying the chicken. As a general rule, white meat takes less time to cook than dark. A good rule of thumb is 15 - 18 minutes for white meat, 20 - 22 for dark meat.

Frying the chicken. As a general rule, white meat takes less time to cook than dark. A good rule of thumb is 15 – 18 minutes for white meat, 20 – 22 for dark meat.

I will admit here I am the queen of turning over my chicken frequently in the skillet as it fries.  It’s easier for me to control how browned it becomes and I can more easily gauge the doneness of the chicken.

A note on frying: There are three basic mistakes everyone has made when frying: oil too cold, oil too hot, pan overcrowding. 

Problem One: Oil too cold – If your oil is too cold when you put in your food, it will absorb oil. A lot of oil.  The food must sizzle when you put it in; this is a result of the moisture pushing back against the heat of the oil. This is what helps to keep your food from becoming greasy. While frying foods will most definitely absorb some oil, they don’t need to be greasy, sodden messes.

Problem Two: Oil too hot – If your oil is too hot, it pretty much should go without saying that the exterior will be done, and even burn, long before the inside is done.

Problem Three: Pan overcrowding – If you overcrowd your skillet, the oil temperature will drop too low, the food will take too long to cook, become greasy, and if you have any coating it will fall off. Make sure that you have plenty of real estate for your food and that it doesn’t touch anything else in the skillet. Another added bonus, it’s easier to turn the food when the skillet isn’t crowded. This can be said for frying and pan searing. You want your food to fry, not steam or become greasy.

 

After several turns

After several turns.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, thoroughly mix together the cayenne, brown sugar, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, the paprikas, the ground garlic, and the ground onion.

The spice mix

The spice mix

Once the chicken is done, take it out of the oil and set aside to drain. You can make sure the chicken is done one of 2 ways: a) Make a small slit on the underside and if the juices are clear, the chicken is done; b) you can also carefully use an instant read thermometer by sticking it into the thickest part of the meat making sure not to hit any bone (avian bones are hollow and absorb heat faster, so if you hit one, you will get a false reading). It must be at least 150F for the chicken to be done. (I’ve also gone so far as to make a slit in the meat all the way down to the bone to make sure there was no pink.)

Take 1/2 cup of the hot oil and carefully ladle it into the spice mixture and whisk together. (The hot oil cooks the spices and makes them taste less raw.)

The oil and spices

The oil and spices

You can put this blend on the chicken one of two ways: either toss the chicken in the spice coating (which works well if you’re using a part like wings), or brush it on (which works best for larger pieces).

Brushing the coating on the chicken. ake sure to get both the oil and the spices as you dip the brush in (The spices don't really dissolve and will settle at the bottom of the bowl, so frequent stirring is necessary).

Brushing the coating on the chicken. Make sure to get both the oil and the spices as you dip the brush in. (The spices don’t really dissolve and will settle at the bottom of the bowl, so frequent stirring is necessary.)

Traditional accompaniments with the Nashville Hot Chicken are white bread (think Mrs. Baird’s or Buttercrust) and pickles; additional accompaniments can be greens, macaroni & cheese, sweet potatoes (mashed or fried), cole slaw, beans, potato salad, and fried okra.

The chicken served with potato salad and fried okra. I discovered too late I did't have pickles.

The chicken served with white bread, potato salad and fried okra. I discovered too late I didn’t have pickles. I’ve never seen chicken served on white bread anywhere else except in the deep South. It’s another way to sop up the juices. Husband thinks it’s the best part.

 

Happy Eating!

 

Carrot Tart 0

Posted on December 05, 2013 by Sahar

One again, it’s time for Quick Meals You Can Make After Work.

This time, it’s Carrot Tart.  I guarantee you, even the kids will like it.  As well as any meat-and-potatoes eaters in your house. You can make it as a light dinner (or lunch) with just a salad, or, as a heartier meal with wild rice and a green vegetable or salad. (This is also an excellent cold-weather dish, believe it or not.)

Not too many extra notes for this recipe, really.  It’s pretty self-explanatory.  If you don’t have or prefer not to use honey, you can use maple syrup (the real stuff, not Mrs. Butterworth’s), or raw or brown sugar.

And, yes. I did use a frozen pie crust.

 

The Ingredients

The Ingredients

Clockwise from top:

Clockwise from top: ground ginger; salt; fresh ground nutmeg; dry mustard; fresh ground black pepper; allspice

Carrots. I just thought this was pretty.

Carrots. I just thought this was pretty.

 

1 ea. 9-inch frozen pie crust or your favorite savory pie crust recipe

2 eggs

1 c. whole milk or half-and-half

1/2 tsp. dry mustard

1/2 tsp. ground ginger

1/4 tsp. allspice

1/2 tsp. nutmeg

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. black pepper

2 tbsp. butter

2 tbsp. honey

4 large carrots, grated (you want approximately 2 c. grated carrots)

2 tbsp. parsley, minced

-or-

1 tbsp. chervil, minced

 

1.  If you are using a frozen crust, keep it frozen until you’re ready to fill it.  If you’re using a from-scratch crust, par-bake the crust at 425F for 15 minutes and let cool.

2.  In a medium saucepan, melt the butter and honey together over medium heat.

Melting the butter and honey together.

Melting the butter and honey together.

Add the carrots and toss in the butter-honey mixture.  Continue cooking until the carrots have softened slightly and all the liquid has evaporated, about 7 – 10 minutes.

Cooking the carrots. You want to cook them until they are just slightly softened. Remember, you're going to cook them more in the oven.

Cooking the carrots. You want to cook them until they are just slightly softened. Remember, you’re going to cook them more in the oven.

Remove the carrots from the heat, spread out onto a plate or other flat surface and let cool for about 15 minutes.

3.  Mix together the milk, eggs, spices, and parsley or chervil.  Set aside.

The custard mixture. In this example, I used parsley. if you use chervil, you'll have a slice anise flavor.

The custard mixture. In this example, I used parsley. if you use chervil, you’ll have a slight anise flavor.

4.  In the waiting pie shell, spread the carrots as evenly as possible over the bottom.

The prepared pie shell. I like to wrap the edges so they won't burn in the oven.

The prepared pie shell. I like to wrap the edges so they won’t burn in the oven.

Carrots in the pie shell. Spread them as evenly as possible.

Carrots in the pie shell. Spread them as evenly as possible.

 

Slowly pour in the custard mixture.

Adding the custard. be sure to pour slowly so the custard can seep into the carrots.  If you pour too quickly it can overflow out of the shell.

Adding the custard. be sure to pour slowly so the custard can seep into the carrots. If you pour too quickly it can overflow out of the shell.

Bake the tart at 375F for 30 – 35 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean.  Let sit for about 10 minutes, then serve.

The finished pie. Mmm....

The finished pie. Mmm….

Make this meal as light or as hearty as you like. It's a great cold-weather dish when it's served with wild rice and a lovely green vegetable like green beans, asparagus, or a bitter green like kale or mustard.

Make this meal as light or as hearty as you like. It’s a great cold-weather dish when it’s served with wild rice and a lovely green vegetable like green beans, asparagus, or a bitter green like kale or mustard.

 

Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

Spiced Peach Butter 0

Posted on July 03, 2013 by Sahar

Another post in my informal series on bottling Summer, I’ve moved on to peaches.

There are few fruits that say “Summer is here!” more than peaches.  Their smell, fuzzy skin, and their taste are some of the things that make summer in Texas almost bearable.

Peaches originated in China where they were cultivated since the early days of Chinese culture where they were considered a favorite fruit of the emperors. They were mentioned in Chinese literature as early as 2000 BCE.  Peaches likely reached the Middle East, then the Mediterranean, by way of the Silk Road, a 2,500-mile trade route that stretched from East Asia to ancient Persia (present-day Iran). Peaches were introduced to Europe by Alexander the Great (an example of a rare good thing coming from conquest). Later, the Romans called peaches “Persian apples” (Prunus persica).

Some historians believe peaches came to North America in 1562 with French explorers who established settlements in the area of present-day Mobile, Ala. However, it’s certain peaches also arrived in 1565 with the Spanish colonists who settled in St. Augustine, Fla. These ancient peach cultivars, described as hardier and more productive than today’s peaches, quickly naturalized into groves so widespread that later colonists believed the peach was a native American fruit.

Spanish explorers are credited with bringing the peach to South America and then eventually to England and France where it became quite a popular, but rare, treat. During Queen Victoria’s reign, it is written that no meal was complete without a fresh peach presented in a fancy cotton napkin.

Finally in the early 17th century George Minifie, a horticulturist from England, brought the first peaches to the New World colonies, planting them at his estate in Virginia. It was the early Native American tribes who actually spread the peach tree across the country, taking seeds with them and planting them as they traveled.

But it wasn’t until the 19th century that commercial peach production began in Maryland, Delaware, Georgia and Virginia. Today, peaches are grown commercially in California, Washington state, South Carolina, Georgia, Colorado, Texas, and Missouri. As well as numerous backyards all over the country.

(information from homecooking.about.com and baderpeaches.com)

 

Now, on to the recipe.

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

A few notes:

1.  You can use fresh or frozen peaches in this recipe.  I will admit I used frozen for this post.  Because of weather conditions not only here in central Texas, but through most peach-growing regions, fresh peaches haven’t been as good as they could be.  Also, with a smaller supply, they’ve become rather expensive.  Frozen peaches do well in a pinch and are easier on the wallet.

However, if you can and want to use fresh peaches, do so.

2. You can use either clingstone or freestone peaches.  Clingstone peaches tend to be juicier and sweeter while freestones are less juicy.  (There are many online resources to find out which peach varieties are which.)

3.  As for the spices, use as many or as few as you prefer.  Or none.

4.  This is a soft-set butter. Meaning, that it hasn’t set up as solidly (for lack of a better word) as jelly or jam.

5.  For a complete hows and whys of making sweet preserves, please see my August 10, 2012 post, Classic Strawberry Jam (http://tinyurl.com/l67ymj4).

 

The Ingredients

The Ingredients

5-1/2 lbs. fresh peaches, peeled, pitted, and cut into wedges

-or-

5 lbs. frozen peaches, thawed, juices saved

1-1/2 c. peach nectar

3-1/2 c. sugar

Up to 4 tsp. sweet spices (cinnamon, ground or grated nutmeg, ground ginger, ground cloves, ground allspice)

 

Peaches. Lovely peaches.

Peaches. Lovely peaches.

Spices I used (clockwise from top): ground ginger, ground allspice, ground cinnamon, fresh grated nutmeg, ground cloves)

Spices I used (clockwise from top): ground ginger, ground allspice, ground cinnamon, fresh grated nutmeg, ground cloves)

 

1.  In a large saucepan, mix all the ingredients together.

The ingredients in the pot.

The ingredients in the pot.

Begin cooking over medium heat, stirring constantly until the sugar dissolves.

Sugar dissolved and we're ready to go.

Sugar dissolved and we’re ready to go.

2.  Cover the saucepan and bring the peach mixture to a boil, stirring frequently.  Uncover and boil for 30 minutes.

Beginning to boil the peaches.

Beginning to boil the peaches.

The peaches after boiling for 30 minutes. The darker color is due to the spices.

The peaches after boiling for 30 minutes. The darker color is due to the spices.

3.  Remove the saucepan from the heat and let cool for about 10 – 20 minutes.

4.  Depending on how smooth you want the butter, you can either use a potato masher or a stick blender to crush or puree the peaches.

Pureeing the peaches with a stick blender.  Unlike my apple butter, I like a smooth peach butter.

Pureeing the peaches with a stick blender. Unlike my apple butter, I like a smooth peach butter.

The pureed peaches. Lovely amber color.

The pureed peaches. Lovely amber color.

5.  Place the saucepan back over medium heat, cover, and bring to a boil, stirring frequently.  Uncover, reduce the heat to medium-low, and cook for about 1 hour or until the mixture is thick.  Again, stir frequently.

Boiling the peach butter. At 15 minutes.

Just starting to boil the peach butter.

After boiling for 30 minutes. The butter begins to thicken, becomes shinier and darker.

After boiling for 30 minutes. The butter begins to thicken.

The butter after 1 hour of cooking. It should be thick and shiny.

The butter after 1 hour of cooking. It should be thick, shiny, and a beautiful amber color.

One way to check for proper thickness is to run a spatula through the butter, lift the spatula up and watch how the butter flows off of it.  If it comes down in sheets, the butter is thickening properly.

One way to check for proper thickness is to run a spatula through the butter, lift the spatula up and watch how the butter flows off of it. If it comes down in sheets, the butter is thickening properly.

6.  Pour the butter into hot, sterilized jars, leaving 1/4″ headspace.  Clean the jar rims, seal, and process for 5 minutes. (Begin timing after the water comes back to a boil.)

The finished peach butter. Yummy.

The finished peach butter. Yummy.

Makes 6 – 7 half-pint jars.

 

Enjoy!

 

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.

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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!

 

Vegetarian Chili (I promise it tastes great!) 1

Posted on January 02, 2013 by Sahar

In Texas, the preferred chili is called “Bowl of Red”.  No beans.  Slightly to very  spicy.  Lots of chiles.  Beef.  Slow stewed.

Now, of course, this could be seen as sacrilegious in certain quarters, but I do have a recipe for vegetarian chili.  At one time, my husband, Steve, was vegetarian.  So, I came up with this recipe for him some time ago. (He has since returned to the dark side. He relapsed on barbecue.)

It is a recipe, if I do say so myself, even ardent chili lovers will enjoy.  Well, I’d like to think so, anyway.

I use canned pinto beans in this recipe. (If you know anything about traditional Texas chili, beans are always verboten.)  They work great and are inexpensive.  However, if you want to use different beans (i.e. black, cannellini, garbanzo, etc.) or a combination, feel free.

I admittedly have a lot of spice in this chili.  Feel free to adjust it to your taste.  And, instead of commercial chili powders, I use dried, ground chiles and spices you would normally see in mixed chili powders.  I find I can adjust the flavors much more easily.  However, if you have a chili powder blend in your pantry, feel free to use it.  However, you will have to omit and/or adjust the other spices.

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Now, to the recipe.

The Ingrdients

The Ingrdients

 

2 tbsp. vegetable oil

1 med. onion, minced

8 cl. garlic, minced

3 tbsp. Ancho chile powder

1 1/2 tsp. Chipotle chile powder (very spicy; use less or omit if you want less spicy)

2 tbsp. paprika (if you want a smokier flavor, substitute some or all with Spanish paprika)

1 tbsp. ground cumin

1 tsp. Mexican oregano

1 bay leaf

2 tsp. brown sugar (doesn’t matter whether it’s light or dark; dark is sweeter, though)

1 tsp. salt (kosher or sea)

1 tsp. ground black pepper

1 lg. (28 oz) can chopped tomatoes (I like Muir Glen Fire Roasted)

Vegetable broth or water as needed

2 ea. 15-oz cans pinto beans, drained

2 tbsp. masa flour, mixed with 2 tbsp water or vegetable broth to make a slurry (optional)

 

Clockwise from top: Chipotle Chile Powder; Paprika; ground Cumin; Mexican Oregano; Ancho Chile Powder.

Clockwise from top: Chipotle Chile Powder; Paprika; ground Cumin; Mexican Oregano; Ancho Chile Powder.

Clockwise from top: kosher Salt; ground Black Pepper; Bay Leaf; Brown Sugar.

Clockwise from top: kosher Salt; ground Black Pepper; Bay Leaf; Brown Sugar.

 

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

Sauteeing the onions and garlic.

sauteing the onions and garlic.

2.  Stir in the spices and cook until the aroma begins to come up, about 1 – 2 minutes.  Stir frequently to be sure the spices don’t burn.

Cooking the spices with the garlic and onions.

Cooking the spices with the garlic and onions.

3.  Add the tomatoes and 1 cup water or vegetable broth. Mix well, cover, and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat to medium-low, keep the saucepan covered, and cook for 20 minutes.  Stir frequently.

After adding the tomatoes and vegetable broth.

After adding the tomatoes and vegetable broth.

After cooking for 20 minutes.

After cooking for 20 minutes.

4.  Add the beans and cook another 20 minutes, uncovered.  The chili will begin to thicken as the beans cook.

Adding the beans.

Adding the beans.

After 20 minutes, if using, add the masa slurry.  Cook for another 5 minutes.  Taste for seasoning.

The chili after 20 minutes and adding the masa slurry.

The chili after 20 minutes and adding the masa slurry.

5.  Serve the chili with cornbread or tortillas, chopped onion, shredded cheese, and sour cream, if you like.

Chili with a little sharp cheddar.  Yummy.

Chili with a little sharp cheddar. Yummy.

 

And, like other chilies, this tastes even better the next day.

 

Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Maple Apple Butter 0

Posted on December 05, 2012 by Sahar

I can’t really say what my favorite food season might be. They each have their own delights.

But, I will say Autumn ranks in the top 4.  Especially when the apples really begin to show up.

Malus Domestica.  The fruit that brought down Adam & Eve.  Ubiquitous in myth and symbolism since, well, forever.

Likely the earliest fruit tree to be cultivated.

I enjoy an apple on its own, with some really good cheese, or in a pie.  But, I have to honestly say, my new favorite way is in apple butter.

Enjoying apple butter is a new thing for me.  In the past the ones I’ve eaten have all been your basic commercial brands.  I always found them either too sweet or too bland.  So, when I finally began to make it myself, I realized that, yes, apple butter could be good. Delicious, even.

If I do say so myself.

However, I have to say I can’t take full credit for this recipe.  It’s an adaptation of a recipe from a wonderful book, Tart & Sweet. (Kelly Geary & Jessie Knadler. Rosedale Books, 2010).  The big differences between my recipe and theirs is that: a) I use maple syrup as opposed to maple sugar.  Maple sugar can be difficult to find and very expensive (generally $15 for a 6-oz jar).  Maple syrup, while not cheap, is an excellent alternative that is easily found in just about any grocery store; b) I use brown sugar. I prefer the flavor over white sugar; c) I use a larger mixture of sweet spices; and, d) I don’t puree the apples.

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Now, to the recipe.

A note:  If you want/need a more thorough explanation of the how’s and why’s of making sweet preserves, please go to my August 10, 2012 post “Classic Strawberry Jam”.

The Ingredients

My sweet and spice (clockwise from top): Brown sugar. ground ginger, ground cloves, ground allspice, grated nutmeg. Center: kosher salt, star anise

I prefer to use whole nutmeg instead of ground. The flavor is so much better. And, as with all spices, it lasts much longer in its seed/whole form.

The whole nutmeg seed.

My nutmeg grater. A very small Microplane. It’s the best one I’ve ever owned.

The inside of the nutmeg seed. It looks strange. But smells lovely.

 

4 lbs. mixed apples, peeled, cored, and cut into 1/4’s

1 cup maple syrup (Be sure it’s pure maple syrup. Not the fake stuff.)

1 cup light brown sugar

1/2 tsp. Kosher salt

2 whole star anise (optional)

3 tsp. total mixed sweet spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, allspice, ginger)

Juice of 1 lemon (about 1 tbsp.)

 

I used 3 varieties of apples in this recipe.  My base apple is always Granny Smith.  I love its sweet-tart taste and firm texture.  It’s generally considered one of the best cooking apples.  My other 2 apples are Honeycrisp and McIntosh (use any varieties you like).  I like the taste of both and it adds a depth of flavor to the final product.  However, if you want to use all one variety, it’s up to you.

Of course, I begin the prep by peeling and coring the apples.  I use a vegetable peeler for the apples.  I know some who use a paring knife to peel apples, but I’ve never mastered that technique.  I also use a melon baller for coring.  I find the tube-style corers don’t actually core the apple, rip them up, and are rather useless in general.

Peeling the apples.

Be sure you have a sharp peeler or paring knife. You want to take off the peel, not rip up the apple.  Also, a dull peeler or knife will slip and you could get a rather nasty cut. Not fun.

Peeled.

Coring the apple. Note the use of the melon baller.

Ta Da!

Cutting out the stem and blossom ends.

Cleaned and ready to go. Now, just do that another dozen or so times.

If you are using star anise, you want to wrap it in a bit of cheesecloth before you put it in with the apples.  I learned this the hard way.  The star anise can break up during cooking and stirring.  And, if you don’t get out all the pieces, someone will get a rather unpleasant surprise.

Whole star anise.

The wrapped star anise.

1.  Place the apples, syrup. sugar, salt, star anise (if using), spices, and lemon juice in a large heavy-bottomed stockpot.

All the ingredients ready to cook.

Cover the stock pot and bring the mixture to a simmer over medium heat.  Stir occasionally.

2.  Lower the heat to medium-low, partially uncover the stockpot, and cook until the apples are soft.  Stir frequently.  The apples will begin to soften within 15 – 20 minutes. (I like to leave the stockpot partially covered so I don’t lose the moisture too quickly and risk burning the ingredients.)

Partially uncovered stockpot.

After 15 minutes. The apples are beginning to soften.

After 30 minutes. The apples are beginning to break down.

After 45 minutes. The apples are now soft enough to mash or puree.

2.  After 45 minutes, remove the stockpot from the heat.  With either a potato masher or an immersion blender (depending on what texture you prefer), carefully mash or puree the apples. (Be careful of the little packet of star anise.  Just pull it out when you get ready to process the apples and put it back in when you’re done.)

I prefer a little texture in my apple butter, so I use a potato masher on the apples.

After mashing the apples.

 

3.  Place the uncovered stockpot back on the heat.  Turn the heat down to low.  Cook for another 15 – 30 minutes, depending how thick a consistency you want. Stir frequently.

The finished apple butter. Close-up view.

Pull out the packet of star anise and discard it.

4.  Carefully ladle the apple butter into hot, sterilized jars, leaving 1/4″ of headspace in the jar. (See my August 10, 2012 post “Classic Strawberry Jam” on how to process jars for canning.)

Ladling the apple butter into jars.

Filling the jar to the correct level.

Checking the headspace in the jar. It’s extremely important that this is correct.

Check for and remove as many air bubbles as possible.

Removing the air bubbles.

Wipe the rims clean with a damp towel. (This helps the jars to seal properly.)

Wiping the jar rims with a damp paper towel.

Place the lids on top and then the ring. Screw on the rings to finger-tight. (Be sure not to over-tighten. The air needs to escape during processing.)

Put the jars back into the hot water.  Process for 15 minutes. (Start timing when the water comes back to a boil.)

Processing the apple butter.

After the apple buter has been processed, carefully remove the jars from the canner and set on racks to cool. (I use a towel lined baking sheet to transport the jars. It’s safer and easier.)

Let the jars sit and cool.  As the jars cool, the lids should seal.  You’ll hear a “ping” sound as they begin to seal.  This can take up to 24 hours.  After the jars are sealed, you can tighten the rims.  If you have a jar that doesn’t seal, refrigerate and eat the apple butter within 3 weeks.

Be sure to label and date the jars.  The apple butter keeps for a year, unopened (recommended).  Once it’s opened, eat within 3 weeks.

Yields 4 – 6 half pints.

Yummy, yummy, yummy.

 

Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mole Rojo 0

Posted on October 30, 2012 by Sahar

Now that the weather is finally beginning to cool off and the Central Texas version of Autumn is beginning to take hold, it’s time to pull out the comfort foods in earnest.

As I said in my post on Mole Verde (Oct. 9), Mole is one of my favorite comfort foods as well as one of the things I love most about living in Texas.

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My version of this recipe may have mole purists askance.  Well, perhaps not so much the dish itself, but the fact that I have made this dish with ground rather than whole chiles.  I give the equivalent whole chile amounts as well.

I feel slightly guilty about this because I’m such a purist about Arabic food.  But, I do honestly feel if you can at least keep the spirit and flavor of the original dish, experimentation isn’t a bad thing.

Admittedly, using the ground chiles does save time in the preparation.  And, to me anyway, makes no difference in the flavor of the dish.

You should be able to find the whole dried chiles in any grocery with a good produce department.  If you live in an area with a large Hispanic population, there will likely be a grocery/supermercado and, most likely, there will be dried chiles available.  If not, they’re available online.

Try it both ways, and see which way you prefer.

Now, to the recipe:

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Mole Rojo (Red Mole) is a slightly sweet, moderately spicy mole.  You can certainly adjust the heat as you like.

The Ingredients

4 c. chicken stock, pork stock, or water

3 lbs. pork shoulder or butt, cut into 2″ pieces (if you get a bone with the shoulder, keep it)

-or-

4 – 4-1/2 lbs. chicken (whole chicken or leg quarters)

 

6 ea. ancho chiles

-or-

3 tbsp. ancho chile powder

 

6 ea. pasilla chiles

-or-

3 tbsp. pasilla chile powder

 

1 ea. chipotle chile

-or-

1 tsp. chipotle powder

 

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

6 cloves garlic, peeled, stem end removed

3 ea. tomatillos, papery skin removed and rinsed

3 ea. Roma tomatoes, rinsed

1/4 c. vegetable oil

1/2 c. whole raw almonds

1/4 c. raisins

2 tbsp. tomato paste

1/2 tsp. ground cloves

1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon (canela)

1 tbsp. brown sugar

1 disk Mexican chocolate, chopped

Salt & pepper to taste

1/4 c.masa

Clockwise from top: Raw Almonds, whole Garlic Cloves, Raisins

Clockwise from top: Ancho Chile Powder, Pasilla Chile Powder, Chipotle Chile Powder

Clockwise from top: Mexican Chocolate, Pepper, Brown Sugar, ground Cinnamon, ground Cloves, Salt

 

1.  Heat the meat and stock or water in a large pot over medium-high heat.  Once the stock comes to a boil, turn down the heat to medium-low and simmer until the meat is tender:  for chicken, about 60 – 75 minutes; pork, about 1-1/2 – 2 hours.

Cooking the pork. If you get a bone with a shoulder cut, use it in the broth. If you’re using chicken, make sure you use the bones & skin. You’ll add more flavor to the stock.

Once the meat is done, take it from the stock and set it aside until cool enough to shred.

Meanwhile, while the meat is cooking, prep the other ingredients.

 

2. If you’re using whole dried chiles, remove the stems and cut the chiles open (a pair of kitchen scissors will work best) to remove the seeds. (The dried chiles should still be somewhat pliable.  If they’re dry and crumble easily, then they’re too old.  Also, it is a good idea to wear kichen gloves to keep your hands from becoming sticky, stained, and keep the capsaicin off your fingers.)  Open the chiles flat  and dry roast them in a heavy skillet over high heat for a few seconds on each side (you’ll need to do this in batches) until they become soft and begin to blister.  Take the chiles off the heat and put into a bowl.  When you are done heating all the chiles, cover them with boiling water and weigh down with a small plate.  Let the chiles sit for 30 minutes. (If they sit for a little longer, it’s all right.)

After 30 minutes, drain the chiles and discard the soaking water (it will be bitter).  Puree the chiles in a food processor or blender (you’ll need to do this in batches) until you make a paste.  Set aside.

3.  If you’re using chile powder (like I am in this example), mix them together and dry roast the powder in a heavy skillet until it just begins to release a scent.  Stir constantly to be sure the powder doesn’t burn.

Toasting the chile powders.

 

Pour the toasted powder onto a plate and allow to cool.

Cooling the toasted chile powder

 

4.  Wipe out the skillet.  Dry roast the onion quarters, garlic, tomatillos, and tomatoes.  You want black spots, but doen’t over-brown or burn the vegetables.

Browning the onions.

Browning the tomatoes

Browning the tomatillos and garlic cloves

 

Once you’ve roasted the tomatoes, remove the seeds and stem ends.  Cut the stem end off the onion.   Set the vegetables aside.

 

5.  Take the skillet off the heat and let it cool slightly.  Add the oil and let it heat.  Lightly fry the almonds, about 2 – 3 minutes.

Frying the almonds.

 

Remove the almonds from the oil and drain on paper towels.  Let cool.

Now, lightly fry the raisins in the oil until they just begin to puff, about 30 – 60 seconds.  Remove them from the oil and drain on paper towels.

Frying the raisins.

 

Turn off the heat under the oil.  Add the masa, dissolve into the oil, and make a roux.  Pour the roux into a small bowl.  Set aside.

 

6.  In a small food processor, blender, or, with a lot a patience by hand, grind or chop the almonds until they make a fine meal.  Set aside.

Toasted chile powder, fried raisins, ground almonds

 

7.  Turn the heat back on under the stockpot and heat the stock over medium-high heat.  Mix in the chile paste or powder, onion, garlic, tomatoes, tomatillos, ground almonds, raisins, tomato paste, brown sugar, cloves, cinnamon, and 1 teaspoon each salt and black pepper.

Mixing the ingredients into the stock.

Bring  the mixture to a boil, lower the heat to medium-low, and cook for 45 minutes.  Stir frequently.

If the mixture begins to stick to the bottom of the stockpot, take it off the heat,  pour it into a clean stockpot, and place it back on the heat.  Don’t scrape the bottom of the stockpot.  You don’t want any of the burnt mole sauce.

The sauce after 45 minutes. It will thicken as it cooks.

 

8.  While the sauce is cooking, shred or chop the meat.  If you’re using pork, discard any bone, gristle, and excess fat.  If you’re using chicken, discard any bone, gristle, excess fat, and skin.  Set aside.

Chopped pork ready for the sauce.

9.  Remove the stockpot from the heat and let cool slightly.  Puree the mole sauce with an immersion (stick) blender, or in a blender or food processor. (You’ll need to puree the sauce in batches if you use a blender or processor.)

Pureeing the mole sauce.

I like some texture in my mole sauce; but, if you prefer a smoother texture, strain the sauce through a fine strainer.

 

10.  Put the mole sauce back on the heat and add the roux and chopped chocolate.

Adding the roux and chocolate.

 

Cook for 5 minutes, then taste for seasoning.  Add the meat back to the sauce.  Cook for another 15 minutes, stirring frequently.

Mole sauce after adding the roux and chocolate.

11.  Serve the mole with rice and corn tortillas.

¡Cena delicioso!

The finished mole.

 

And, as with most sauces, stews, chilis, and soups, this is better the next day.

I also like to take the leftover mole and heat it up with some eggs poached on top.  Great breakfast.

 

Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Arabic Style Savory Pies 6

Posted on September 30, 2012 by Sahar

Just about every cuisine in the world has it’s own version of savory pies.  The Latin World has empanadas; Austrailia has Meat Pies;  Great Britain has Pasties and Scotch Pies; India has Pakora.

And, in the Middle East, they have Fatayer (فطاير), Sfeeha (صفيحة), and Sambousek (سمبوسك).  They can be eaten as mezze or as part of a main meal (the way I like to do it).

 

A Primer:

Fatayer are baked triangle-shaped pies that are usually filled with cheese or spinach.

Sfeeha are open-faced pies usually with a meat topping, but other ingredients can be used as well.

Sambousek are essentially half-moon shaped pies that can either be baked or fried.  They usually have meat or cheese filling.

And they are all delicious.

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For my post, I’ve made the Fatayer and Sambousek.  I used spinach in the Fatayer and lamb in the Sambousek.  No frying, though.

And now, on to the recipes.

The Ingredients

The spices. (L – from top clockwise) Black Pepper, Allspice, Cinnamon, Salt;
(R) Sumac

 

The pies in these recipes use a yeast dough.  I generally don’t proof my yeast (although I probably should).  I just pay attention to the expiration date on the package and use my yeast quickly.  However, if you want to proof, here’s how you do it:

Fill a measuring cup with 1/4 cup of warm (95F – 105F) water.  Mix in 1/4 teaspoon of sugar, then 1 package of the yeast. (Yeast loves warm temperatures and food.  Hense the warm water and sugar. It’s basically a fermenting process.) Let the yeast dissolve in the water (you may have to do a little stirring to accomplish this).  Set the measuring cup aside in a warm place and let the yeast do its thing.  If it begins to bubble and rise, then it’s good.  If the yeast does nothing, then either your water wasn’t the correct temperature or your yeast was bad.

There is a spice I use for the spinach filling that you may not be familiar with: Sumac.  Sumac can generally be found growing wild throughout the Middle East.  It’s “berry” has a thin skin and flesh surrounding a very hard seed.  These “berries” are ground down to make a powder.  Sumac has a tart, slightly astringent, almost lemony flavor.  Look for sumac that is brick red to dark burgundy  in color and is an even grind.  You want it to have a bright scent.  If it smells like dirt, don’t buy it.  It’s old.

Don’t go and pick berries off a sumac plant if you see one.  It’s most likely “poison sumac”.  Just buy the dried ground in the store.

Sumac is used for Zaatar (a spice mix that also has thyme, sesame seeds, and salt), in kebabs as a seasoning, on vegetables, eggs, in meat dishes.  It’s a ubiquious spice in the Middle East.

Sumac.

 

Pastry Dough

6 c. all-purpose flour

1 package yeast

1 tbsp. salt

1 tsp. sugar

1/4 c. olive oil

2 c. warm water (95F – 105F), more if needed

 

I prefer to mix my pastry dough by hand.  However, if you like to use a mixer or a processor, by all means, do so.

1.  In a large bowl, mix together the flour, yeast, salt, and sugar.

Dry pastry ingredients

Add the olive oil and mix it in.

Adding the olive oil

Add the water.

Adding the water.

 

Now, mix throroughly.  You want to have a dough that is slightly sticky.  I’ve found that it’s all right if it isn’t perfectly smooth.  However, you want to work the dough as much as possible without having to add any additional water or flour if you can.

Trust me, it will come together.

(Apologies for the following photos. I didn’t stop to “pose” while Husband was taking them, so they’re a little blurry. But, I think you’ll get the point.)

Mixing the dough.

Mixing the dough. In the beginning there will be a lot of dry compared to wet. Keep working the dough.

The dough is coming together. I haven’t added any additional flour or water.

The dough has come together and the bowl is fairly clean. Which is what you want.

2.  Knead the dough for about 5 minutes. You can do this in the bowl or turn the dough out onto a flat surface. Or, if you’re using a mixer, use the dough hook.

3.  Pour a little additional olive oil to grease the bowl.  Place the dough back in the bowl and rub a little olive oil over the top.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set it in a warm placce to rise.  About 2 hours.

4.  Meanwhile, make the fillings:

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Spinach Filling for Fatayer

1 1/2 lbs. spinach (I like to use baby spinach.  I don’t have to trim the stems or chop it)

1/4 c. sumac, or to taste

1 tbsp. salt or to taste

1/4 c. lemon juice, or to taste

1/4 c. olive oil, more if needed

 

1.  In a very large bowl, mix all the ingredients together.  Taste and adjust the seasonings.

The spinach filling mixture.

2.  Pour the spinach mixture into a large colander and place the colander over the large bowl.  The spinach will basically (chemically) cook as it sits and release moisture.  The colander allows the excess moisture to drain away.

Toss the spinach occasionally.  Because it’s essentially cooking, it will wilt.

The colander sitting in the bowl. This will allow any moisture to drain off as the spinach sits.

The excess moisture from the spinach mixture after about 2 hours.

 

And you may ask the questions: Well, why do this in advance then? Why not wait until just before making the pies before mixing the spinach?

Because, wilting the spinach and allowing it to drain will get rid of any tannins in the spinach and will make it easier to fill the pies bacause you don’t have to contend with leaves flying all over the place.

 

Meat Filling for Sambousek

2 tbsp. olive oil

2 lbs. ground lamb or beef (I like to use an 80/20 grind. I find it has more flavor)

1 sm. onion, minced

2 cl. garlic, minced

2 tsp. salt, or to taste

1 tsp. black pepper, or to taste

1 tsp. allspice, or to taste

1/2 tsp. cinnamon, or to taste

 

1.  Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the onion and garlic and saute until the onion has softened, about 3 – 5 minutes.

2.  Add the meat and continue cooking until it is cooked through and there is no pink left.

3.  Add the spices and cook another 2 – 3 minutes.  Taste for seasoning.

Cooking the meat filling.

4.  Put the meat filling into a large strainer or colander and allow any fat to drain off.  Set aside and allow to cool.

The fat after the meat has been drained. Gross, but, there it is.

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5.  Prepare several large baking sheets (I usually do 4) for prepping and baking.  Line the baking sheets with heavy duty foil (saves on clean-up later) and then line the bottom with parchment paper.  Set the pans aside.

The prepared baking pans

6.  After 2 hours, the dough should be ready for forming.

The dough after the first rising.

Punch down the dough and knead it until it forms a smooth ball.

Punching down the dough to start releasing the excess air. Plus, it’s fun.

Folding the dough over on itself. I’m kneading and releasing the excess air.

The dough after kneading. Almost back down to its original size.

 

Now, take the dough and pinch off roughly golf ball -sized pieces and shape them into balls.

Pinching off the dough to form smaller balls for the pies.

Take each piece of dough and begin tucking under the edges to form a smooth ball of dough.  Well, as smooth as you can make it.

Forming a ball of dough.

Tucking under the ends.

 

Lay the balls of dough on one of the baking sheets as you finish them.  I generally keep them about 1″ apart.

Laying the dough on the tray.

Cover the try with plastic wrap and set aside to let the dough rise again.  About 30 minutes.

A finished tray of dough.

The dough 30 minutes later. This is the reason you keep them 1″ apart.

7.  Preheat your oven to 400F.  Have a rack in the center of the oven.

8.  Now, to form the pies.  Lightly flour a flat surface and a rolling pin. (Don’t over-flour.  It will make the dough harder to work with when you form the pies.) Take one of the balls of dough and place it on the board.  Roll out the dough into a roughly 4″ – 5″ circle.

Rolling out the dough.

Rolling out the dough.

Rolling out the dough.

Not exactly round. More like an amoeba shape. But, you get the point.

Fun tip:  I have also used my tortilla press to make the dough circles.  Just line your press with plastic wrap first.

 

9.  Fill the pies.  For the fatayer, place roughly 2 – 3 tablespoons of the spinach filling in the center of the dough (you’ll basically need to eyeball this measurement).

Placing the spinach on the dough.

The spinach on the dough. I like to spread it out a bit. Make it into, normally, a rough triangle shape.

Now, to form the pies:

Begin by taking the left side of the circle and folding it over at an angle towards the center, forming a partial peak at the top.

Folding over the dough to form the pies.

Take the right side and repeat the process.

Folding over the right side

Fold the bottom side over towards the center, forming the triangle.

The final side folded over.

Now, pinch the seams closed.

Pinching the seams closed.

The finished pie.

Lay your finished pies on a baking sheet.

Many finished pies.

Note:  As you get further down into the colander, you’ll want to squeeze some of the excess moisture out of the spinach.  While the spinach on top may not have as much moisture, gravity is doing its work and drawing the moisture down and, of course, the bottom will have more than the top.

 

To fill the Sambousek:  Roll the dough out as you would for the Fatayer.

Spoon roughly 2 tablespoons of the meat filling over 1 side of the dough.  Be sure to leave about 1/4″ of dough uncovered on that side for sealing.

Filling the Sambousek.

The meat filling for the Sambousek.

Fold the empty side over the top and cover the filling.

Folding over the dough.

Press and then pinch the seam closed.

Pressing the seam closed.

Pinching the seam closed.

The finished pie.

Lay the finished pie on the baking sheet and continue with the rest of the dough and filling.

Many finished pies.

10.  To bake the pies:  Bake the pies for 15 – 20 minutes or until golden brown.  I like to bake mine for 10 minutes, turn the baking sheet, and bake for an additional 10 minutes.

Now, especially with the Fatayer, some of the pies may come open during baking.  It happens to me all the time.  Don’t despair. Consider them a cook’s treat.  Also, even though you have do doubt worked diligently to remove as much moisture as possible from the spinach, some will remain.  Occasionally, the moisture will cause the spinach to break through the bottom of the Fatayer.

To remedy this,  either make larger balls of dough when you form them after the first rising (roughly somewhere between golf ball and baseball-sized; the dough for the pies will be thicker, but you will have fewer pies); or, simply roll the dough thicker to make smaller pies.

Otherwise, don’t worry about it. It’ll still taste great.

Hey, it’s homemade.

The finished Fatayer.

The finished Sambousek.

 

The pies can be eaten either warm or at room temperature.

 

Enjoy! Sahtein!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kibbeh – Arabic Comfort Food 1

Posted on August 24, 2012 by Sahar

For my next blog post, I decided to make a dish that is near and dear to my heart; one of my ultimate comfort foods – Kibbeh.  My sisters and I grew up eating this dish.  Rather ravenously, I might add.   It’s part of our heritage.  Putting it together was a collaborative effort for our parents.  Mom always made the filling, Dad put it together – whether as little footalls for the fryer or in the baking dish for the oven.  It was always a much appreciated treat.

Kibbeh (كبة‎) is a popular and much-loved dish throughout the Middle East.   It is generally made with cracked wheat (burghul), spices, minced onion and ground  meat, gnerally beef, lamb, or goat, or a combination.

It can be shaped into stuffed croquetes (basically little footballs) and deep fried for mezze or made into layers and baked for a main dish. Some folks also eat raw kibbeh. Like Arabic Steak Tartare, minus the quail’s egg and capers.

In Israel, Kubbeh matfuniya and kubbeh hamusta are staples of Iraqi-Jewish cooking. Kubbeh soup, served in many oriental grill restaurants in Israel, is described as a “rich broth with meat-stuffed dumplings and vegetables”.

A Syrian soup known as kibbeh kishk consists of  stuffed kibbeh in a yogurt and butter broth with stewed cabbage leaves.

Fried, torpedo-shaped kibbehs have become popular in Haiti, Dominican Republic and South America – where they are known as quipe or quibbe – after they were introduced by Lebanese, Syrian, and Palestinian immigrants in the early 20th Century.

(some historical information from www.wikipedia.org)

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Now, on to the recipe.

I make this with a combination of beef and lamb.  You can use all of one or the other if you like.  Goat is also very popular (in the Middle East, anyway) in Kibbeh as well.

As I stated in my Hummous post (3/19/12), I’m pretty much a traditionalist when it comes to my Middle Eastern food.  The one thing I have in the traditional recipe I’ve changed is the amount of onion I use.  Most recipes can call for up to 4 onions.  I use 1 medium-sized one.  Otherwise, it’s pretty authentic.

 

The ingredients

Spices (clockwise from right): Black Pepper; Kosher Salt; ground Allspice; ground Cinnamon

Pine Nuts. These are not inexpensive. They can go for upwards of $20 per pound depending on where you shop. If you decide you don’t want to go to the expense, slivered almonds are a good substitute.

 

Kibbeh Filling

2 tbsp. clarified butter

2 tbsp. olive oil

1 medium onion, minced

1 1/2 lbs. ground lamb or beef (use 90/10 ground)

1/2 c. pine nuts or slivered almonds

1/2 tsp. salt, or to taste

1/2 tsp. black pepper, or to taste

1/2 tsp. ground allspice, or to taste

1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon, or to taste

 

Raw Kibbeh (the top and bottom layers)

2 lbs. ground lamb or beef (use 90/10 ground beef)

2 cups cracked wheat (burghul)

1 tsp. salt, or to taste

1 tsp. ground black pepper, or to taste

1/2 tsp. ground allspice, or to taste

1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon, or to taste

 

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In this recipe, I call for clarified butter.  I don’t use much, but it’s a necessary traditional flavor component.

A note on clarified butter:  I always like to have it on hand.  It has a much higher smoke point than regular butter (450F vs 350F) so it doesn’t burn as quickly.  Plus, it’s delicious. There are some chefs who deep-fry in clarified butter.  You can buy it off the shelf in Indian and Middle Eastern Groceries (Ghee and Samneh, respectively).  When buying, make sure the container indicates that the clarified butter was made with milk.  If it says “vegetable” anywhere on the container, it’s essentially margarine.

However, clarified butter is very easy to make at home.  It keeps for several months and tastes a whole lot better.

Here’s a lovely essay on clairfied butter from the New York Times (5/6/08): http://tinyurl.com/bobsuje 

Basically, clarified butter is butter where the milk solids have been removed.  It can be made with either salted or unsalted butter. (I prefer to use unsalted. I can control the amount of salt in my recipes.)  It’s always best to use European style butter.  It has a lower water content and a higher butterfat content.  Not only will it taste better, you’ll end up with a higher yield.

To make clarified butter, slowly melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. (I usually do 2 pounds at a time. I recommend doing at least 1 pound.)

Melting the butter.

 

Once the butter has melted, take it off the heat and, with a large spoon,  carefully begin skimming the milk fat off the surface.

Milk solids on the surface of the melted butter.

Skimming off the milk solids.

I generally discard the milk solids, but some people do use them for other things.  Like spreading on toast or pancakes.  It’s certainly up to you.

After skimming off the milk solids.

Carefully pour the butter into a storage container or into a measuring cup.  Leave any residual milk solids and water in the saucepan.

About 3 cups clarified butter is my yield from 2 pounds of butter.

What’s left in the saucepan is mostly water and any residual milk solids.  Go ahead and discard.

The water and residual milk solids left over.

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Now, time for the Kibbeh.

1.  Make the Kibbeh Filling:  In a large skillet,  heat the butter and olive oil.  Add the onion and saute until it begins to soften, about 3 – 5 minutes.  Add the meat (in this illustration I used lamb) and cook until it is no longer pink.  Add the pine nuts or almonds and cook another 2 – 3 minutes.  Add the spices and mix thoroughly.  Cook another 3 – 5 minutes.  Taste for seasoning. Remove the skillet from the heat and allow the filling to begin cooling. (There may be some extra fat in the skillet. If there is, go ahead and drain it off.)

The completed Kibbeh filling. Yummy. I have a hard time not standing there with a spoon over the skillet eating.

 

2.  Make the Raw Kibbeh: Put the bulghur in a fine-meshed strainer and rinse it off under cold running water.  Do this until the water runs clear.  Let it drain.

Close-up of bulghur wheat. I like to use a medium sized grain. Too fine a grain will give the kibbeh too soft a texture.

Rinsing off the bulghur.

Put the bulghur in a medium bowl and cover with water.  Let the bulghur soak until it begins to soften; about 20 – 30 minutes.  Drain in a fine sieve, pressing out as much of the water as possible, and set aside.

Soaking the burghul.

 

3.  Take the meat and put into a large bowl. (In this illustration, I used beef for the Raw Kibbeh.).  Add the bulghur.

The meat and burghul. Getting ready to mix together.

 

Now, time to use your hands.  Dig in and mix the ingredients together.  You want them to be thoroughly mixed.  Add the salt, pepper, cinnamon, and allspice.  Mix until the spices are well incorporated.

The meat, burghul, and spices all mixed together.

 

Now, you need to taste for seasoning.  For me, the best way to taste for seasoning is to take a small amount of the mixture and give it a quick fry on the stove.  That way, I’ll get a better idea of how the finished dish will taste once it’s been completely cooked. Plus,  I won’t be eating raw ground beef.

Heat a small skillet over medium-high heat.  Add a little of the clarified butter.  Take a small amount of the mixture and form it into a roughly quarter-sized patty.  Once the butter is hot, add the patty to the skillet and cook.  It should take about 2 – 3 minutes.  Take the patty out of the skillet, allow it to cool for a minute, then taste.

Adjust the seasonings as needed.

 

Cooking the mixture to taste it for seasoning.

Or, you could be like my mom or my Arab aunties and just know by smell when the seasoning is right.  I’ve not ever been able to master that skill.

4.  Once you’re happy with the raw kibbeh, prepare a baking dish.  (In this illustration, I used a 12″ x 18″ dish, and it was a little large.  Use something closer to an 11″ x 15″.) Give it a quick spritz with non-stick spray or grease it with butter or olive oil.

Take half of the raw kibbeh and spread it over the bottom as evenly as you can.  It’ll take some doing, but you’ll get there.  If you wet or grease your hands, it’ll help make the process a little easier.

Begin preheating the oven to 375F.

The raw kibbeh spread in the bottom of the baking dish.

5.  Take the Kibbeh filling and spread it evenly over the bottom layer of the Raw Kibbeh.

Kibbeh filling added to the baking dish.

6.  Time to put the top layer on.  Because of the filling, you won’t be able to spread the top layer the same way as the bottom.  So, a different method is needed.

Take small amounts of the raw Kibbeh and flatten them out into thin pieces and lay each piece on top of the Kibbeh filling.

Putting on the top layer.

Be sure to fill in any little gaps as needed.  I know that it will seem like you’ll not have enough for the top layer; but, if you persevere, you will.

7.  Once you have finished completing the top layer, cut through the layers in diamond or square shapes approximately 2 inches each.  This will help with even baking and make cutting the finished Kibbeh easier.

Cutting the Kibbeh.

 

If you like, take some extra pine nuts or almonds and press one into the center of each diamond or square.  Drizzle a little clarified butter or olive oil over the top.

Kibbeh ready for the oven.

8.  Put the Kibbeh in the oven and bake for 35 – 40 minutes, or until it is well-browned.  If you like, turn on the broiler for about 3 – 5 minutes after the initial cooking time to make the Kibbeh golden brown.

The Finished Kibbeh. De-licious.

 

Let the Kibbeh sit for about 10 minutes before serving.

 

9.  It’s a good idea to serve this dish with a bit of yogurt on the side.  It will help cut the richness of the dish.

However, I prefer to make a quick salad with the yogurt.  I’ve based this on a recipe very similar that Mom always made.

The salad ingredients.

1 cucumber (If you can go with Hothouse [English] or Persian. If you use standard cucumbers, peel and remove the seeds)

1/4 c. fresh mint, chopped

3/4 c. plain yogurt (I like to use full fat Greek yogurt)

Salt & black pepper to taste

 

Cut the cucumber into whatever size pieces you like. Mix all the ingredients together in a medium bowl.  Adjust the seasonings if you like.

The finished salad.

 

10.  Serve.

Dinner is ready. It tastes much better than it looks in this photo. I promise.

 

Enjoy! Sahtein!

 

p.s.  If you like this, I’m teaching even more classic Eastern Mediterranean dishes on Sunday, September 16, at Central Market, 4001 N. Lamar Boulevard.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



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