Archive for the ‘hors d’oeuvres’ Category

4
Feb

Pita Chips & Tzatziki

   Posted by: Livia Tags: , ,

The secret to my pita chips are the awesome thin pitas by local halal grocer carries. Really, extremely thin pitas result in light, crispy pita chips that are more addictive than potato chips.

The ones I buy are made by Soumaya & Sons Bakery in Whitehall, PA.

Pita Chips

So split the pitas open into two separate halves, and brush the bready side lightly with olive oil. And then stack them one upon the other so that both sides end up lightly greased.

Preheat the oven to 350F.

Cut the stacks into wedges and lay out a single layer of wedges on a baking sheet.

Mix together the following spice mix:

  • 2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 3/4 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp powdered garlic
  • a dash of thyme or oregano
  • a dash of sumac (or zatar that has been ground smooth in a mortar)
  • a few grinds of nutmeg
  • a few grinds of pepper
  • just the tip of a knife of smoked paprika, it’s strong stuff

Sprinkle spices over pita wedges. And then sprinkle kosher salt over to taste.

Bake on middle rack of oven until crisp, 8 to 10 minutes.

Tzatziki Sauce

Buy any old cheap brand of plain fat free yogurt, and turn it into awesome yogurt by letting it drain for several hours.

Peel a cucumber. Now it can be any kind of cucumber – I have used the long, fancy seedless cucumbers; regular eating cucumbers; big, fat pickling cucumbers; and, most recently, small pickling cucumbers. Actually, I think my favorite so far has been the small pickling cucumbers because they had hardly any water content. But, honestly, I’ve had great results every time. And the only time I worried about seeds at all was for the very thick pickling one.

So peel the cucumber. Then slice it lengthwise just as thinly as you can. And then the other plane lengthwise, so that you end up with long, thin strips. And then mince all the way down, so that you end up with wee tiny cucumber pieces. Dump them all into the thick yogurt.

And then I will often add about a 1/4 teaspoon of minced garlic from a jar. It’s better from ajar than fresh in this case because it has had a chance to mellow out a bit.

And then maybe a pinch of salt.

And that’s it. By the next day, everything is settled in and delicious.

3
Feb

Cooking with Catladies – March 15, 2009

   Posted by: Livia

Okay, so I am in the planning stages of making a lovely dinner party that will benefit charity. Which charity? City Kitties. As of now, the date is March 15th, but I will make another post when there is a real announcement with a graphic and everything.

Why City Kitties and not PAWS or some local SPCA group? Because while they are also awesome, I was reading back entries of a friend’s (friend from pilates classes) livejournal and came across an entry where they had done one of these a year ago, and it fills the dinner party void in my life. So there.

So here’s the menu planning part (I really would love your feedback and suggestions):

Beverages

  • We shall provide sangria with the appetizer course, and after that it is BYOB

Appetizers (3-4 of what is listed below based on availability of ingredients)

  • pita chips & tzatziki
    pita chips: (I think I’ll make a separate post about these)

    tzatziki: drain 1 qt yogurt. Peel and finely dice 1 large to 4 small cucumbers. Stir together with 1/4 tsp jarred minced garlic.

  • Sweet potato spears with dipping sauce
    sweet potato spears: toss cut sweet potatoes with olive oil, cumin seeds, powdered garlic, ground coriander, ground black pepper, ground chipotle, and ground thyme. Bake at 400F for 20-35 minutes (depending on size up spears). Sprinkle with salt.

    dipping sauce: Sweet hot Garlic Sauce

  • Asian-style Pickled Cucumber & Carrot
    Peel cucumber in stripes and slice into 2-3mm pieces. Cut carrots into as fine slices as possible. Also cut thin slices of purple onion. Combine in a water-tight container, sprinkle with (citrus-infused) sugar and pure over 1/4c rice vinegar. Shake to mix and let sit 8-36 hours.

Soup (Choice of 1)

  • *Carrot Ginger Coconut Soup
    Heat 1 can of foreign (full fat) coconut milk until the oils separate. Fry asaphoetida, 2 inches minced ginger, and a spice mix made up of (kala jeera, black cardamom seeds, fenugreek seeds, cumin seeds, nutmeg, cinnamon, coriander, black peppercorns, and salt). After 2 minutes, add 20-ish carrots, peeled and cut into large 2-3″ pieces. Add a can of lowfat coconut milk and vegetable stock until the liquids cover the solids. Check seasoning and add salt, pepper, juice of 1 lime, and 1 tsp creamy peanut butter. When thoroughly cooked, blend until smooth. Garnish with ground chipotle, toasted slivered almonds, and possibly arugula

  • Spicy broth with tofu and avocado
    Make my usual vegetable stock with extra garlic and three kinds of pepper (fresh jalepeno, powdered chipotle, dried cayenne). Marinate tofu strips in cumin, chipotle, oregano, and lemon juice. Add tofu to hot broth and garnish with strips of avocado (and maybe fresh red hot peppers).

Main Course – Build your own soft tacos (with optional store-bought tortilla chips?)

  • Beans
    • Curry Black Beans – Sabut Urad Lajawab
      adapted from The Ultimate Dal Cookbook by Mona Verma
      Soak block beans overnight. Heat olive oil and mustard oil in a pan and fry onions until translucent. Add minced ginger, garlic, and seeded jalepeno. After a couple minutes, add turmeric; garam masala; and ground mix of roasted cumin seeds, roasted coriander seeds, and dried chillies – fry a minute until fragrant. Add drained beans, salt, and tomatoes. Cook down. Season with lime juice near the end of cooking and adjust flavors.

    • Kidney Beans
      onions, garlic, jalepeno flesh cooked down. Add kidney beans and 2 cans of stewed tomatoes. Add 1 bay leaf, thyme, oregano, cumin, chili powder, paprika. Cook down until fairly thick and mushy.
    • Thai-inspired chickpeas
      Toast finely shredded fresh coconut in a dry skillet. Add olive oil. Add finely diced purple onion. When soft, add minced garlic, minced ginger, minced jalepeno, minced cilantro stems, minced lemongrass (if available). After 1 minute, add a conservative amount of thai green curry paste. Add chickpeas (from a can, drained and rinsed), lime juice, lime zest, and a bay leaf. After a few minutes, add a mixture of vegetable stock and water and let cook until no longer loose. Let flavors sit overnight.

  • Greens
    • Kenyan Collard Greens
      Cook down thin strips of collard greens in a tiny amount of water/oil. Add vegetable bouillon cube and 5 spice powder. Add diced tomato

    • Asian-inspired Kale – ETA: not served
      Cook down kale and add a mixture of soy sauce, wasabi, minced ginger, and lemon juice.

  • Root vegetables
    • Sweet potatoes
      Roast sweet potatoes and then mash with butter, cumin, chipotle, thyme, oregano, nutmeg, sumac, salt, and black pepper (and maybe a bit of smoked paprika).

      That’s just gilding the lily. Instead, mashed roasted sweet potatoes with roasted garlic and maybe some lime juice to keep things perky. And that’s it.

    • Beet/Cabbage Shred (based on this one)
      Slice beet as thin as possible. Shred purple cabbage. Slice a purple onion thinly. Seed and slice thin matchsticks from a jalepeno or two. Toss together and dress with the following pre-mixed liquid: sugar, finely minced garlic, and a wee bit of minced ginger, rice vinegar and red wine vinegar (equal parts), olive oil, and a decently generous amount of lime juice. Toss together. Grind some black pepper and sprinkle in some cilantro. Toss again. Let sit for 15 minutes.

  • Sauteed onions and peppers
  • Sauteed mushrooms – ETA: not served
  • Cheese
    • hand shredded extra sharp cheddar – ETA: not served
    • queso fresco
  • shredded lettuce, diced tomato, minced purple onion, sliced hot peppers – ETA: not served
  • sour cream and maybe Mexican crema
  • Salsas
  • Guacamole
  • Rice
    1 cup white rice, 1 jar salsa, 1/5 tsp turmeric

Salad – ETA: not served

  • *Carrot & Garlic Salad
    blanch 2 pounds peeled carrots, toss with lemon juice. Roast carrots, 8 peeled scallions, and a head of garlic until tender. Cut carrots and scallions and mix them with the blended mix (roasted garlic, zest and juice of 1 orange, parley, salt, cinnamon, cumin, ground ginger).

  • mixed greens
  • Salad dressings
      Southwestern Ranch
      make a French dressing base (mayonnaise and ketchup), heavier on the ketchup. Stir in 6oz plain yogurt. Add taco seasoning mix from a packet.

    • Sweet Garlic and Cumin dressing
      Roast 2 heads of garlic, and squeeze every clove into a small food processor. Add slightly less than a quarter cup of honey and 2 Tablespoons of good olive oil. Dry Roast 1 Tablespoon of cumin seeds. Add some whole and grind some in a mortar and pestle. Add 2 tsp sweet red wine. Season with salt and pepper. When smooth, taste. When it’s as good as you can make it while still being too strong and a bit too sweet, add cider vinegar until you reach a pourable (but still thick) consistency.

    Dessert

    Note: Adding asterisks to the recipes that need to be tested before the dinner, Anyone interested in tasting some of these things as I go? I especially need someone who likes chickpeas.

I’m leaving on a trip in a few days, so I am trying to make sure I eat everything perishable in the house.

First thing up – getting rid of the last of the green tomatoes that I picked when the garden season was ended by frost.

I split them in half, lay them on a baking sheet cut side down, and roasted them while I was also roasting a butternut squash. I wasn’t too sure what to do with them (because I knew I didn’t want to fry them), but I figured I could probably do anything to them I would do with tomatillos.

Green Tomato Salsa

Remove the peels from the roasted green tomato halves, and dice the tomatoes. Put the tomatoes and all of their juices into a container (but go ahead and compost the skins). I was using 1 very large one, 2 medium, and two very small. But juggle that around in your head and fix up the proportions to whatever you have – I certainly wasn’t being scientific.

To the diced tomatoes, I added roasted garlic pods. I just finished off a head, but I’ll say it was 1/3 of a head of garlic. Take the time to break up the garlic with a fork so that it will incorporate smoothly.

I added half a serrano pepper, seeded and minced.

1 tspn white balsamic vinegar, and then the juice of half a lime (squeeze a little, stir, taste, and then repeat until it tastes right).

Season with salt, pepper, nutmeg, a tiny bit of cinnamon and a decent amount (maybe 2/3 tsp) of oregano.

And it wasn’t quite perfect, so I looked in my spices and pulled out my newly acquired (but not on purpose) Penzey’s Turkish Seasoning – which includes salt, cumin, garlic, half-sharp paprika, black pepper, Turkish oregano, sumac, and cilantro.

It was tasting pretty good, but then I let it sit for a couple hours, and now it tastes amazing. This is the first preparation where I have liked green tomatoes.

~*~

A couple weeks ago, the grocery store had a sale on rib roast. Now usually I am cheap with meat and I’ll only buy meats that are under $2/pound without bones. But for some reason, rib roasts catch my eye when they occasionally go on sale at under $5/pound.

So there I was with my $25 piece of meat, and I was busy that weekend and I became rather worried that I was going to have t go bad before I had a chance to cook it.

Then I had a half day of work the Monday after the weekend to go shopping with my mother (because there was no way I was willing to brave a mall between Thanksgiving and Christmas any time other than 9am on a Monday morning). I came home and brilliantly thought to pop in the roast before I left for work at 5pm so that it’d be ready when I came home. (and that way, I wouldn’t have to start cooking the thing at 9:30pm).

Beef Rib Roast

Slice a few garlic cloves in half lengthwise. Plunge the knife into a meaty area, and then stuff garlic into the slit.

Now use the knife to lift a section of the fatty layer on top apart from the meat, and then feed a sprig of rosemary into the resulting tunnel (so the fat will rend, get flavored by the rosemary, and then season the meat).

I dusted the top of the layer of fat with garlic powder and some salt.

Then I put the roast into a very slow oven (250F) for about 45 minutes/pound.

(And don’t forget to save the ribs as you eat the meat away for stock-making later)

~*~

Quesadillas

I use quesadillas as a way to go through small quantities of leftovers. So an ounce and a half of cheddar cheese, 2 ounces of the beef rib roast meat, the green tomato salsa, half a seeded serrano pepper, and some lettuce, made a pretty delicious couple of quesadillas.

12
Nov

Playing with eggplant

   Posted by: Livia Tags: ,

So I liked the Imam Bayildi so much that I started making vows such as, “I shall never use any other method to prepare eggplant!”

And I immediately set out to bastardize the recipe. And since they are chinese eggplants I’ve got, I was thinking something vaguely chinese in flavor. Especially since I was reminded of the buttery texture of the stuffed and fried eggplant in black bean sauce at my current asian restaurant.

But I wasn’t about to start messing with pork mince and shrimp… actually, I could even be bothered to thaw a hamburger patty of (nothing but) ground turkey and repurpose it… but I did have a zucchini looking for a home.

So I actually ended up jumping out at bed at 2am after I made the Imam Bayildi to jot down notes for modifying it. But let me spoil the ending of the story and tell you that it just didn’t end up as perfect. I don’t know if it just needs tomatoes to have the perfect synergy of flavors or if it would have been perfect if I’d just added more sugar (or oil!), but I’m still liking the result enough that I will be tinkering with this recipe some more – even the disappointing version is entirely edible.

Tinkered Imam Bayildi

Peel 2 chinese eggplants in stripes, cut in half widthwise, and cut deep slits into each of the 4 pieces. Drop them into a pan with 1 Tablespoon hot oil (see, I’m still trying to minimize the oil, and maybe that’s just going in the face of the whole point of the original recipe), and turn them at intervals until the outside is evenly golden.

Meanwhile, fry cleaned leeks in 2 tsps oil until just starting to brown. (And this here is another place I might need to tinker. See – using all the way up the greens of the leeks was great when I was also capturing the chlorophyll taste of parsley, but it ended up being a bit too much damp green leek in this version. Then again, maybe it would have been better if the leeks had gone into the pan drier (or if there were more oil) – this experiment and reading about Orangette‘s perfectly cleaned and dried leeks has my pondering the purchase of a salad spinner.)

Once the leeks are soft, add minced garlic and ginger. A minute later, add zucchini diced a little smaller that 1cm (so it will stuff inside the eggplant nicely, but not so small that it loses justifiability). Cook just another minute or two longer – maybe with a splash of a stir fry sauce, if you have a good one. I had just finished a bottle, so I did without.

Turn the eggplants so they are slit side up, wiggle a spoon into the slit to open it up, and then stuff with the leek/zucchini. If there is any left, pile it on top.

Mix together – the juice of one lime, 1/2 tsp sugar (I ended up using a teaspoon of the lime simple syrup I had leftover), 2 tsp soy sauce (and I still ended up seasoning both versions with more plain salt while eating, but that might just be me), and 1/2 cup of water. Pour the mixture into the pot with the eggplant, put on the lid, and simmer on low for 45 minutes.

~*~

So, as I said, not perfect – nowhere near as exciting as the original – but still decently tasty.

And then I’ve been using the leftovers.

1 day I microwaved a whole stuffed eggplant piece and wrapped it in a piece of bread and ate it as a sandwich. :)

Another day, I made a salad of spring mix, 1 ounce sharp cheddar cheese pieces, a tomato, and a de-seeded and sliced serrano pepper. Topped that off with microwaved (and sliced into smaller pieces) Imam Bayildi. And dressed it with some balsamic vinegar stirred up with half a teaspoon of dijon mustard.

I think tonight I’ll make a salad with carrots and crispy noodles and top it with one of the modified versions (and dress it with black vinegar mixed with a 1/4 teaspoon chinese mustard).

So I went to the new (to me) farmers’ market, and now I have even more food.

This market had parsnips, which I recently noticed had been sadly lacking from my local sources. And there was a guy with a huge pile of purple cauliflower and romanesco. But I think I’ll be sticking to my regular market, since this one was clearly catering to a more affluent crowd – so I bought brandied duck sausage from Talula’s Table.

And I have just now for the first time discovered the amazingness of home popped popcorn. And my first recipe was brilliant (grate lime zest and cheddar cheese (finely) into the bowl. Sprinkle in chipotle. Pop popcorn. Immediately after, dump into bowl and mix thoroughly. Sprinkle with salt. Now I want to eat that all the time and ignore the vegetables.

Food I have
Produce
3 butternut squash (the largest one might be mature enough to crack open in a week)
1 delicata squash
2 apples 1 apple
red & green tomatoes
lots of hot peppers
6 carrots with their greens
12 radishes with their greens
salad greens
chinese broccoli
snow peas
2 leeks 1 leek
fennel greens
jar of coconut milk
1 lemon
3.5 limes
4 2 chinese eggplants
1 zucchini
2 parsnips
brussel sprouts
1 red bell pepper
no onions! plenty of onions
5 qts of vegetarian stock

starch
1/4c cooked brown rice
tortillas

meat
small jar condensed chicken stock
2 duck sausages
lots in freezer

Meal planning
Sunday, November 2
Microwave brussel sprouts and then roast them with bacon and an apple. Grill up sausage on the side.

ETA: So lots of people are RIGHT on the internet. Roasted brussel sprouts do turn out much better, if you microwave them first. That was a complete success.

Caramelized Brussel Sprouts with Bacon and Apples

Cut the bases off the sprouts so that you can pull off the outermost leaves and get down to the tightly packed, clean leaves. Then cut each on in half, bisecting the base. Dump them all in a container and microwave (1 pt was quite happy with 3 minutes).

Cut two slices of bacon into 1cm strips. Put them in a skillet (not a roasting pan for the oven because I like being able to watch my food cook) on medium-high heat. When the bacon is thoroughly limp and just going opaque again, add the brussel sprouts.

Once the sprouts are brighter green, add half of a crisp, tart apple, medium-small dice. I left the peel on (and just ate the other half).

Mix together: 1 tsp dijon mustard, 2 tsp balsamic vinegar, and 2 tsp maple syrup.

Once the apples start to get some nice brown color, drizzle the sauce on top by spoon until it sizzles and softens and just looks right without having any liquid that isn’t absorbed by the food.

Monday, November 3
pilates 9am
buy onions
Make Spicy Parsnip Soup
breakfast – saffron coconut sticky rice *done*
Dinner: Spicy Parsnip Soup (ETA: The only changes I made were adding a little bit of buckwheat honey to bring out the sweetness of the parsnips and I used nonfat yogurt instead of sour cream because that was what I had – very delicious)

Tuesday, November 4
vote
breakfast: Pesto Carrot Egg breakfast (uses carrots, red bell pepper, spinach chinese broccoli, and eggs)
dinner – salad with radishes, carrots, and a steamed chinese eggplant in oyster sauce

Wednesday, November 5
breakfast: bagel (mix cream cheese with thai green curry paste and see if that’s any good)
9:30 gym
dinner: Boil stock and make a soup with fish sauce, soy sauce, soba noodles, frozen roast pork leftovers, the rest of the chinese broccoli, 2 radishes, and the carrot greens. Top with toasted garlic and hot pepper (and snow peas)

Thursday, November 6
working 9-5
grab free breakfast @ Faculty Club
5:45 pilates
dinner: tofu hoagie (ask for half tofu and more filling)
7:30 belly dancing class

I love cream cheese. If I were poetically inclined, I would write odes to cream cheese.

It makes almost everything, sweet or savory, taste better.

But most especially – bagels!

And if you’ve been buying your fancy cream cheese spreads from the store, you’ve been missing out.

Cream cheese and scallions – I think stores must try to put them through a food processor or something to universally come up with bland, stringy (but I’ll still eat it!) scallion cheese. Let me tell you how to make this one better.

Take 1 bunch of scallions. Cut off the root bits and then peel them down until you have firm, clean skin left. (If you keep a bag of onion skins in your freezer for stock, wash off these scraps and put them into the bag, too) Then line up three or four of them, and slice the thinnest rounds you can (if anything is thicker than a millimeter, slow down and try it again). And keep slicing all the way into the green parts (pulling out any that are too wilty, and then slicing up the rest until you have just the tips left… and then those can go into the stock bits bag, too).

Dump the sliced scallions into a bowl. Dump an 8oz block of cream cheese into the bowl.

Ask yourself whether you want to be creative. If yes, also add some garlic (either minced from a jar or roasted cloves, but not fresh because that ends up just a little too potent) and maybe some chipotle. See what odds and ends are hanging around your fridge looking exciting. A dollop of heavy cream makes it a very sexy dip for company. A blob of mayonnaise makes it more spreadable. A drop of worcestershire sauce may sound like a good idea to me, but it just ends up making it taste a bit off, so don’t do that.

Mix it all up. It will be the best scallion cream cheese you have ever had, and people will ask for your secret. You will end up looking at those people like they are crazy, since it’s just scallions and cream cheese – why is it so hard?

roasted red pepper and cream cheese – okay, so it took me a while to make a better one than my bagel place, but I blame that on being a relative newcomer to the wonders of roasted red peppers. One warning though, since cream cheese mold often shows up first as orange dots and this is a fairly strong flavor so it’s basic nature will mask early signs of spoilage, you do want to be careful how long this sits in your fridge – this has never been a problem for me, though.

Roast red peppers. Remove skins. Have them hanging around your fridge looking lonesome.

Lay out a kitchen towel. On top of that, put a paper towel. (or you can have lots of paper towels… or 2 kitchen towels, if you are doing laundry tomorrow, otherwise the little scraps of red pepper will get ingrained in the fabric for a while.)

Cover half of the paper towel with roasted red pepper strips (you can strip some of the moisture with your fingers while you’re still dangling them over the container… and possibly with the container resting in the sink). Fold the other half of the paper towel and kitchen towel over top of the peppers, and then just plop your cutting board on top and maybe a pitcher of water. Read some food blogs. Come back. Set aside the pitcher of water, move the cutting board, and flip over the pepper/towel sandwich. Replace cutting board and pitcher. Oh, wait, have you checked your email? Better do that again.

Okay, so you’re bored and eager to eat breakfast now. Fine. Go open up your towels. Peel the red pepper off of the paper towel, tear it into smaller strips (and inch wide or so is plenty fine) and pile them onto your cutting board. So when you were tearing them, you noticed that peppers have a grain direction, right? It runs from stem to seat. Slice the peppers into thin strips opposite the grain direction.

Dump the strips into a bowl. Add one 8 oz. package of cream cheese. And then there’s just no question on this one, go ahead and add several cloves of roasted garlic. Mush it all up.

And try not to eat it all in the first day.

Chives, fennel, garlic, and cream cheese – or you can just be creative.

I lopped off a hunk of chives from the herbs on my patio, and then used scissors to cut them into wee tiny slices.

Pulled off some fennel fronds from the bulb [redacted] gave me (note: I have done this before with bronze fennel, and it doesn’t look nearly as appetizing as with green), sliced them up into tiny pieces as best I could.

And then tossed in the rest of the cloves from head of roasted garlic.

And a stick of cream cheese.

It was delicious! And all gone.

~*~

So I was hungry this morning, but I kind of didn’t want to make a new batch of sexy cream cheese because they haven’t been lasting well in my fridge (and the box of triscuits is getting low, too…). And I thought about making oatmeal, but I have a craving for cranberries to put in them, and I haven’t made it to Trader Joe’s, which I think will be my best bet. I considered making it with dates and apples, and while that sounds good, but it wasn’t what I really wanted and I only have sexy oatmeal that requires standing for half an hour. And Kundalini yoga kicked my ass on Sunday.

So I went for squash blossom quesadillas.

My neighbor has a butternut squash plant that is planning to take over the world, so we had already talked about how it wouldn’t be any problem for me to relieve her of a few blossoms.

Only my default for quesadillas is using them to get rid of any small leftovers I have, so it ended up including: half an onion, half a bell pepper, a jalepeno pepper, the last 2 of the tiny yellow summer squash, some mushrooms – and 8 squash blossoms. Seasoned with Penzey’s fajita mix. With plain old store brand sharp cheddar cheese from the grocery (which I usually wait to buy at $2/lb, but they haven’t had that price in a while and this is my last stick. Should I keep waiting, or buy a couple at 2 for $5 to tide me over).

It ended up being full of deliciousness, but I couldn’t have told you where the flavor of squash blossoms added a damn thing. But delicious. In my mouth.

I think I am excited about Autumn, since I was cooking a lot last week… but I’m still loving to cook with the available Summer produce. *shrug* who knows. It was tasty.

I cracked open the 1 pound (*cough* 14 ounces *cough*) package of tofu. Two of the blocks went in to marinate for my standard spicy tofu recipe (and are still marinating, so that should be exciting…), and the other half went to marinate for this Martha Stewart recipe for Sauteed Tofu with Bitter Greens.

So I did up the marinade according to the recipe (only cut for less tofu and longer time):

  • 1 teaspoon real soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon sambal oelek
  • 1/2 lime, freshly squeezed
  • a chunk of ginger, finely minced

And then I was on the phone with Meghan to help me pick out which of the prepped dinners I had available I should eat. And when I was describing this meal, it was a honey and soy sauce kinda thing. And then it wasn’t. But we both agreed that it really ought to have honey.

And she suggested corn starch because she says it fries up crispier and colors better with corn starch. Not having a comparison, I don’t know – but it sure was both gorgeous and tasty with the addition (because I trust the women completely when it comes to food).

So – I dropped 1 tsp of this lovely buckwheat honey I have into the marinade and shook it all up. And let me tell you – I’d been wondering what to do with such a dark, strongly-flavored honey, but one smell and this marinade and this honey were meant to have lots of hot sex together. I restrained myself to only one spoonful of it all raw.

And then I poured off the marinade and added more honey directly because it wasn’t sticky at all.

And then I put 2 teaspoons of cornstarch into the sticky tofu and shook it up. (We’d discussed the merits of dredging the tofu in cornstarch, but in the end I decided I was too lazy to wash an extra dish.)

Lay out a single layer of tofu in a pan with a teaspoon of oil… decide that really two teaspoons is a minimum for the oil here. And let brown. Flip. Let more brown. Guh. Because this is gorgeous – did I mention? So set them aside on a plate.

And I had some baby bok choi (well, more like teenage bok choi – 5-6″ and green all the way from tip to base) so I just washed them, shook them out, and then cut across into very rough strips about 1″ thick (and kept the very bottoms for my bag of bits for stock). That went into the same pan I’d cooked the tofu in.

And then I poured over the rest of the marinade.

I plated it up with the tofu, the greens, and a bit of short-grain white rice.

It was very very tasty, but I think the ginger ended up a little too strong – perhaps because it had longer to marinate that the recipe suggested.

~*~

And I finally made Muhammara, but I might have been led astray my westernized recipes.

So, right after reading the Vegetarian 100, I searched for a recipe and found a really tasty looking one.

So I printed it out and I took it home to put into my binder of recipes. And I did a bit of trimming of things (admitting that I will never be a great baker) and reorganizing of things (soups. then salads. then things that might be salads or might be side vegetables. side vegetables. vegetarian meals. vegetarian meals whose main bulk is beans. meals whose main bulk is tofu. meat. and then somehow I have a miscellaneous pasta dish (some vegetarians, some not) after the meats… you get the idea) I found that I already had a recipe for Muhammara (no, I can not find the link now without the paper right in front of me).

And I also had a recipe for a pomegranate & walnut spread.

Clearly, this is something I have been wanting to make for a while.

So I bought 6 large, juicy red peppers and roasted them. (and then realized that the recipe didn’t call for that many, but now I have a fridge full of tasty roast peppers) I also bought a tube of 5 heads of garlic and decided to roast them all, too, while I had the oven on anyway.

I pulled my bag of walnuts (from back when I was stuffing them in dates at the drop of a hat… no, the kind of dates that are a fried fruit/berry) out of the freezer and thawed a cup and 2/3rds.

So. my refrigerator is now its own country of abundance right there. It is so stuffed, that I had to give my new neighbor a half gallon of homemade hard cider so that I could get the door to close.

But I get ahead of myself.

In batches, toast walnuts on the stove. (I once tried to toast pecans in the oven… at 4am, just for the record… and there was no watching and hovering over them, so I swear that two second later there was a smoke alarm going off. Yeah, that was a good morning. So now I always toast nuts on the stovetop even though I secretly suspect that the innards get warmer and sexier when you do them in the oven. But no matter – because this way they get toasted only to a point where I can actually eat them.)

And then, because one of the recipes suggested it would be a good idea, I pounded the toasted walnuts in a mortar. Yes, I do have a wee tiny food processor, but I had not yet seen this Muhammara video to show me the perfect consistency and I am not used to having one available. Also, again with the liking to watch over the food.

I’ve been having a houseguest, and she asked, “So is there anything I can do to be helpful?” So I promptly told her to take over the toasting and pounding processes.

The same recipe (not the toomuchgarlic.com one) had suggested then grinding the roasted red peppers in the mortar – I, however, (because there was company) was wearing clothes. So I put the nuts into a separate bowl and then sliced three or so roasted red peppers (I find it hard to piece together whole peppers to know how many your are using when you are pulling them out of the container the next day) thinly against the grain and dumped them into the bowl, too.

Dump 1/3c. breadcrumbs into the bowl.

Add 1/4 c. Pomegranate molasses. Or you can make your own by boiling down 3 parts pomegranate juice to 1 part sugar. Me, I had bought some pomegranate concentrate from the halal down the street some months ago, and I was going to use that… with glee! Because concentrated pomegranate! I’d been looking for a use for that for months.

And then (possibly because I had decided my primary recipe source was going to be toomuchgarlic.com), I was supposed to add 12-16 cloves of garlic. The other recipe didn’t call for any. So I said to myself, “Wasn’t it clever of you to have roasted all that lovely garlic?” So I added 2 heads worth of roasted garlic (let’s call that 20 cloves). Plus 1 clove of raw garlic. And I kept her additional 1/2 teaspoon of garlic powder.

As I stirred it all together, I tried to mash between the tines of my fork the red pepper and the garlic cloves to make a more even paste.

Add pinch of salt, 1 tsp cumin, and the juice of 1/2 lemon.

And then I started playing.

Because the other recipe had included some birds eye peppers, I added a wee tiny pinch of chipotle pepper (I wasn’t too experimental with this because I was going to be trying to pass off some of this on my friends, and they have different standards of spiciness than I do).

Because my pomegranate concentrate didn’t have any sugar added at all, I gave it a pinch of sugar and then tasted it. And then I added a spoonful of buckwheat honey. I think this would have been just as good without sugar if we hadn’t added the lemon juice, either. So I went back and looked at the other recipes – no lemon juice in any of the others. Buggery.

So I think that, while tasty, this isn’t the conclusive version of Muhammara.

Oh, and then for my friends I also added the recipe’s amount of olive oil.

Too Much Garlic’s Muhammara Recipe

I think I should have done more research (since I found so much more while looking for that other recipe I printed out some time in the distant past). For other recipes, see:
The Washington Post, using tomato paste and suggesting that Aleppo peppers would make it more authentic.
The Perfect Pantry also believes in Aleppo pepper – and they have the order from Penzey’s to prove it
Unrequited Thai uses nuts other than walnuts to make this dip for a vegan passover.
Pikelet and Pie makes an (unorthdox) muhammara that swaps out balsamic vinegar for the pomegranate
Actually, I think I’m liking the simplicity of this recipe at Closet Cooking the best. Next time I try this dip, I’ll start here.

~*~

Also, I have reservations at Tinto, a tapas bar owned by the same people as my favorite tapas joint, for Center City Restaurant Week.

A friend of mine at work is getting married. So when word came around that there might be a bridal shower, I mentioned that I studied little tea sandwiches in college.

…sadly, this is not much of an exaggeration.

So I am contributing at least part of the food.

Here be menu planning
Limiting conditions:

  • I don’t want to give anyone food poisoning
  • *maybe* a microwave for heating things
  • Everything should come out in one go and appear effortless
  • Guest of honor does not like seafood

Coronation chicken (maybe with sultanas) in parkerhouse rolls with a bit of lettuce
– pre-bought rolls
– container with chicken
– stuff at work

Roasted tomatoes with basil & feta in parmesan cups
make parmesan cups ahead of time, cool, and just put in a plastic bag to transport
– roast tomatoes that morning so they don’t have a chill from the refrigerator and that should be warm enough

Veggie (& Chicken?) stir-fry in wonton cups
– again, make cups ahead and bring in a bag – no not trip on the way to work
– microwave stir fry and fill cups – with as little liquid as possible because that makes for a nasty surprise

[Redacted]’s bacon horseradish dip on triskets
– pretty container that can just be opened and put on a serving tray

And maybe some real little sandwiches, but I don’t have much patience for them.
I think I like this web page for that, and the likeliest suspects are:

  • Cucumber sandwiches
  • Pepper Cheese sandwiches
  • and possibly my own egg salad recipe

tomatoey goody on jewish shortbread
[cheese/herb shortbread recipe]

take a lovely pint of grape tomatoes, and just slice them all in half and put them on a roasting tray. Drizzle them with some olive oil and roast them in a hot oven. When they are warm through, but not caramelizing, pull them out and sprinkle with a fistful of shredded fresh basil leaves. After the leaves are wilted and the tomatoes have cooled off a bit, stir in some well-crumbled feta cheese (if it has been stored in brine, it is worth your time to do a soak in fresh water so that it won’t be as salty)

Serve over the shortbread (what makes the shortbread jewish?)

lil pancackes with trout
[lil pancake recipe with extra dill]

combine in a bowl:
1 tin of smoked trout
zest of 1 lemon
1/4 teaspoon minced dill
2 ground/pounded white peppercorns
some grated nutmeg, not much

add enough sour cream to make a stiff mixture, and then add heavy cream, one Tablespoon at a time, until you have a lose mixture.

Top each pancake with a schmear of trout, dust with paprika, and add a festive sprig of dill.

Hot pork on porn action

take lil breakfast sausage links (cut them in half?) and wrap them in (half?) a strip of bacon. Secure with a toothpick. Cook on in a pan, turning as necessary.

When done, drain on kitchen paper. While still quite warm, move to a serving dish and drizzle all over with a Tablespoon of maple syrup.

Note – as of now, some of these recipes are incomplete, but I will update as I find more information
ETA: Hah – the bready bits will never have recipes, but just so you are extra jealous, I’ll tell you they were gluten free bready things, too, and very tasty.

I have agreed to go to an SCA casual outdoor thingy this weekend, so now I have to make a potluck item… a potluck item authentic for prior to 1600.

So you get to help me with the joy of indecision mixed with compulsive planning. [ingredients I need to buy for the recipes will be in bold]

I made a poll to let people pick:

Medieval and/or Roman picnic food: At a picnic – in the heat & humidity – I’d want to eat [note: check the recipes, no really]

Nutty dates – 9 (50.0%)
Pickled cucumber – 5 (27.8%)
Asparagus frittata (served cold) – 7 (38.9%)
Mushrooms – 6 (33.3%)
Stewed Apricots – 4 (22.2%)
Pig liver “sausages” – 1 (5.6%)
Pears in compost – 9 (50.0%)
eh, screw authentic! I’ve a hankering for more strawberries in balsalmic vinegar – 6 (33.3%)

Nutty Dates
Stone dates, and stuff with nuts and ground pepper. Roll in salt, fry in cooked honey, and serve

Pickled cucumbers
Prepare cucumber with pepper, pennyroyal [lovage and oregano], honey or reduced wine, fish sauce, and vinegar. Sometimes asafoetida is added.

Asparagus frittata
Put in the mortar asparagus tips, pound, add wine, pass through a sieve. [note: I have a wee food processor now!] Pound pepper, lovage, fresh coriander, savory, onion, wine, fish sauce, and oil. Put puree and spices into a greased shallow pan, and if you wish break eggs over it so that the mixture sets. Sprinkle finely ground pepper over it and serve.

Mushrooms
Cook mushrooms in reduced (white?) wine with a bouquet of fresh coriander. When they have cooked, remove the bouquet and serve.

Stewed apricots
Take small apricots, clean, stone, and plunge in cold water, then arrange in a shallow pan. Pound pepper, dried mint, moisten with fish sauce, add honey, reduced sweet wine, wine, and vinegar. Pour in the pan over the apricots, add a little oil, and cook over a low fire. When it is boiling, thicken with starch. Sprinkle with pepper and serve.

Pig liver “sausages”
Make incisions in the liver with a reed, steep in fish sauce, pepper, lovage, and two laurel berries. Wrap in sausage casing, grill, and serve.

Pears in compost (note: only recipe not from Apicius – and, yeah, that’s what the title said – think compote)
Put 3/4 cup white wine, 1 tsp cinnamon powder, and 1/4 cup sugar in a large pot. Heat, and stir until the sugar melts. Add dates, pitted and sliced into thin strips; 1/2 tsp sandalwood powder [saffron & nutmeg]; 1 teaspoon ginger powder; and a dash of salt. Stir. Remove from heat and set aside. Put 2 firm ripe pears, cored and washed, in a 2-quart saucepan with enough water to cover [+ some wine for flavor/color] to cover them. Heat to boiling and cook for 10 minutes, or until pears are fork-tender. Remove pears from the water and cool. Slice the pears into eighths lengthwise and add slices to the wine syrup. Stir gently to coat the pears with the syrup. Heat the syrup to boiling and cook for 5 minutes, or until liquid is slightly thickened and turns red [yellow]. Remove from heat and pour the pears and syrup into a serving dish. Chill. Serve cold.