Showing posts with label lamb. Show all posts
Showing posts with label lamb. Show all posts

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Things I Am Loving This Week: Lamb Curry, Cookbooks, Local Products & By The Way... I'm Published!

If you are a long time reader of this blog you might remember a little feature called "Things I Am Loving This Week" where I highlight those (mostly) food-related things I am enjoying and want to share. It's been a while since I have written a TIALTW post. (Tuesday, November 2nd to be exact--my sister pointed that out to me the other day. Apparently she missed it!) It's not that I have not loved anything in the past three months, I just didn't get it together enough to post about it. So here we go!

First up I happened to find a small package of lamb shoulder nearing its sell-by date at the store and discounted 30%. Discount meat may not sound appealing ;-) but I love a good lamb curry and I love a value, so I bought it and went to the mother of all curry cookbooks, "660 Curries" by Raghavan Iyer to find a recipe. I am delinquent, because although I have had this book for a few years now I had not cooked anything from it yet--which is too bad because it is a fabulous book--curries for every mood and main ingredient.

The Cashew Lamb with Coconut Sauce sounded delectable and although it seems like a lot of ingredients, it goes together pretty easily. I ended up with a flavorful bowl of heavily-sauced tender lamb with a full, complex flavor. The cashews and coconut milk make it rich and creamy, the vinegar gives it a nice tang and the cayenne adds a good little kick of heat at the end. I loved this curry and intend to cook more (finally) from this book--only 659 curries to go. ;-) Served on top of some brown rice, with a little warm naan bread, it was a bowl of delicious curry love and comfort.

Iyer says, "There is a lot of sauce in this curry--all the more reason to serve it atop a mound of steamed white rice. The addition of ground red pepper at the end provides a sharp flavor, prized by many a Christian Goan, especially when it comes to vinegar-based dishes like this one."

Cashew Lamb with a Coconut Milk Sauce (Kaaju Nariyal Gosht)
"660 Curries" by Raghavan Iyer
(Serves 4)

1/2 cup raw cashew nuts
1 1/2 tsp coarse kosher or sea salt
1 lb boneless leg of lamb, fat trimmed off and discarded, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 Tbsp canola oil
1 large red onion, cut in half lengthwise and then into 1/4-inch cubes
1 Tbsp coriander seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp fennel seeds
1/4 tsp cardamom seeds from green or white pods
6 whole cloves
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
7 lengthwise slices fresh ginger (each 1 1/2-inches long, 1-inch wide, & 1/4-inch thick), finely chopped
6 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2cup unsweetened coconut milk
1/4 cup distilled white vinegar
1 tsp cayenne (ground red pepper)
2 Tbsp finely chopped fresh cilantro leaves and tender stems for garnishing

Combine the cashews, 1/3 cup water, and the salt in a blender jar. Puree, scraping the inside of the jar as needed, to make a smooth marinade. Pour this into a medium-size bow, add the lamb, and stir to coat the lamb with it. Refrigerate, covered, for 30 minutes or as long as overnight, to allow the mellow cashew flavor to penetrate the meat.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and stir-fry until it is caramel-brown, 8-10 minutes.

While the onion is browning, combine the coriander, cumin, fennel, and cardamom seeds in a spice grinder. Add the cloves and grind until the texture resembles that of finely ground black pepper. Set it aside.

Add the lamb, including the marinade, to the skillet. Cook over medium heat, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is completely absorbed into the meat, 8 to 10 minutes.

Sprinkle in the ground spices along with the turmeric, ginger, and garlic. Cook, stirring , until the spices are aromatic. 1 to 2 minutes. Pour in 1 cup of water and stir to deglaze the skillet, releasing any collected bits of spice and onion. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover the skillet, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the lamb is fork-tender, 18 to 20 minutes.

Stir in the coconut milk, vinegar, and cayenne, and continue to simmer, uncovered, to allow the added flavors to blend in, 2 to 4 minutes.

Sprinkle with the cilantro and serve,

Tip: If you are allergic to cashew nuts, feel free to substitute any other nut that might be safe for you. If all nuts are taboo, puree 1/2 cup coarsely chopped onion instead of the cashew nuts. It is obviously not a substitute for the nuts, making for a more pungent flavor, but it is an acceptable alternative that provides yet another layer of flavor to the wide world of curries.

I am always happy to find local products and businesses to love--especially when they involve food. I have written about all of these local businesses before--but I having been loving a few new treats from them that I thought I would highlight.

I have had lunch three times so far from the Melt truck--featuring gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches. Luckily, those lunches have been shared with friends so I have been able to try their tomato soup and six different sandwiches--Triple Cheese, Bacon Melt, Pastrami Melt, Harrisa Melt, Capicola (salami & tomato) and their very decadent special Duck Confit Melt and Foie Gras Soup. All of the sandwiches have been delicious--the bread crispy and buttery, the cheese oozy and good, the flavor combinations interesting. The duck with the super rich foie gras soup and the plain triple cheese dipped in tomato soup are my favorites so far. The down side--they are pretty spendy and not too good for the arteries --but what a way to go. Also the operational side lacks--they have seemed disorganized on all three visits, slow and the customer service needs a boost--there's just not a whole lot of friendly interaction going on. You wait... they stare at you... you stare at them... you try to make a little awkward conversation... it's a little painful, like a bad blind date. When paying $6-$8 average for a sandwich plus another $2 for soup I'd like to feel like they are happy to see me and have them engage a bit. ;-) Still, when the lure of the grill cheese siren makes its call, I am sure I will go back again and it is fun to have a few fun food truck options like Melt here in Hawaii.

Other new favorite products that I am happy to support on the "sweets" side include my new obsession Madre Chocolate. (Read my post from last week about the awesome class I took and the company here.) Dave from Madre was at the Hawaii Kai Farmers Market this past Saturday with two bars I had not yet tried. In the interest of research (you don't have to thank me), I thought I should try both. The Hawaiian Passion Fruit Dark Chocolate (see it in the top right corner--isn't it a pretty bar?!), takes passion fruit (or lilikoi) from The Big Island and pairs it with their 70% cacao. It is slightly tangy, a little sweeter than the hibiscus bar previously tried and the pairing works really well--a fruity bar, smooth texture and lots of flavor. The Triple Cacao Dark Chocolate is a unique combination of cacao in three of its forms--the dark chocolate, combined with the slightly tangy cacao fruit pulp and the roasty cacao nibs. I loved this bar for it's complex flavor and textures--it is full of chewy and crunchy bits worked into the smooth chocolate.

I have talked about Ono Pops before, Mexican-style fruit paletas made with locally-sourced ingredients in wonderful combinations. I try to keep a few in my freezer for an occasional treat. This week their special was the Chocolate-Strawberry, a delicious fruity strawberry pop was dipped in a thick layer of dark chocolate. So ono! After enjoying it I really wished I had bought more than one--both the bar and the chocolate coating were excellent.

Cake Couture is the cupcake place about 2 miles from my house that I try to avoid whenever possible as my hips do not thank me for going there. However, a few weeks ago when I saw an new addition to their Friday line-up--Cinnamon Toast Cupcakes, I had to try one. This is a moist cinnamon cake, topped with a fluffy, creamy vanilla icing, sprinkled with cinnamon and topped with a little piece of Cinnamon Crunch cereal. Yum! This may top their Coconut-Lime as my favorite flavor--although I may have to try the special Caramel Banana again to be sure. ;-)

Finally, if you are going to buy only one ginormous 864 page, 600 recipe cookbook this year it should be "One Big Table: 600 Recipes From the Nation's Best Home Cooks, Farmers, Fishermen, Pit-Masters, and Chefs" by Molly O'Neill because I am in it! I keep forgetting to mention to all of you that I was lucky enough to have a recipe included in this book which I love because who doesn't love seeing their name in print?! ;-) It's kind of a funny story and happened so long ago I had almost forgotten about it until the book came out just before the holidays (guess what one of my Mom's Christmas presents was?), and my Fennel Frond-Yogurt Dressing was in it.

Almost two years ago, I got an email from a very nice researcher working with cookbook author Molly O'Neill saying they had been reviewing recipes and were looking for "a yummy yogurt-based salad dressing to round out the salad section of the book" and asking if I would consider sharing an original recipe they had seen on my blog with them. I had to laugh when I saw which recipe it was, as the Fennel Frond-Yogurt Dressing was a part of an Foodie BlogRoll Royal Foodie Joust entry I had done featuring fennel, dairy, and parsley as the three ingredients. (That's a photo of the sauce on the fennel frito I made below--it is from the very early days of my blogging adventures so please ignore picture quality.)

Satisfied that it was the recipe they wanted, much back and forth ensued about what the dressing could be used on and I filled out a questionnaire some of which became the basis of the intro to the recipe. It does sound a bit like I go around my tiny kitchen drizzling this dressing on everything I eat which isn't quite the case, but I do make it or a variation of it when I have leftover fennel fronds that I don't want to waste. It is fun to have a recipe out there and I really do love Molly O'Neill and especially her "The New York Cookbook" so it is an honor to be involved in something with her name on it. There are so many recipes in this book that sound delicious and I can't wait to get around to trying some of them.

So those are the very delicious Things I Am Loving This Week, brought back especially for my sister Phyl, and hopefully back again more often that it has been. ;-)


BTW--I am sending the luscious Cashew Lamb with Coconut Milk Sauce to the Hearth and Soul Blog Hop hosted by my friend girlichef and some other fabulous bloggers because nothing is better for the soul than grinding and mixing homemade curry powder. Check out the round up of links for lots of wonderful recipes and ideas.

So, what things are you loving right now?

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Mark Bittman's Lamb & Bulgur Burgers with Garlicky Avocado-Yogurt Sauce

It's Potluck time again at I Heart Cooking Clubs and I was craving a burger. Since I had Mark Bittman's recipe for Lamb & Bulgur Patties tagged and waiting to be made, I decided to make them into larger patties and turn them into Middle-Eastern-style lamb burgers. Wanting a fun sauce to go with it, I chose Bittman's Simplest Yogurt Sauce recipe and made the avocado-yogurt variation. I slathered the yogurt sauce onto 100% Whole Wheat Buns (part of a "bun" package sent to me from Nature's Pride as part of the FoodBuzz Tastemaker Program), and added local lettuce, red onion and cucumber slices for a hearty, healthy, delicious burger.

I pulled both recipes up on my "How to Cook Everything" iPhone application.

Lamb and Bulgur Patties
"How to Cook Everything" by Mark Bittman
(Makes 4-6 Servings)

1 lb boneless lamb, preferably from the shoulder, excess fat removed (I used already ground)
1 medium onion, quartered
salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 cloves garlic, peeled (I used 3 cloves)
pinch cayenne (I used a large pinch)
1 tsp ground cumin (I used 1 Tbsp)
(I added the zest of 1 lemon)
1 egg
1 1/2 cups soaked bulgur, drained until dry
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves (I used 1/3 cup parsley & 1/3 cup mint)
2 Tbsp neutral oil, like grapeseed or corn if panfrying

Cut the lamb into large chunks and put in a food processor with the onion, a large pinch of salt, some pepper, the garlic, cayenne, cumin, and egg. Process until smooth, stopping the machine and scraping down the sides if necessary. Mix in the bulgur and parsley by hand.

To panfry: Shape the kofte into 8 small patties. (I made 3 larger, burger-sized patties and 5 small patties.) Put the oil in a large skillet, preferably nonstick, over medium heat. When hot, add the patties, rotating as necessary and turning once or twice, until crisp and golden on each side, about 10 minutes. Serve hot or at room temperature.


Simplest Yogurt Sauce (Avocado-Yogurt Sauce Variation)
"How to Cook Everything" by Mark Bittman
(Makes a bit over 1 cup)

1 cup yogurt, preferably whole milk (I used Greek 2%)
1 tsp minced garlic (I used 1 very large clove)
salt and freshly ground black pepper
freshly squeezed lemon juice (I used 1/2 lemon)

Combine the yogurt with the garlic, a pinch of salt, and a grinding or two of pepper. Taste and adjust seasoning, adding some lemon juice if necessary.

Serve immediately or refrigerate for up to a few hours; bring back to near room temperature before serving.

For the Avocado-Yogurt Sauce:Variation: Stir in (or puree in a food processor 1/2 ripe avocado or more along with a little extra lemon juice)

Notes/Results: Very tasty, with a good texture, especially the crispy-golden outside. I added a lot of extra spice to these--lots more garlic and cumin, a good pinch of cayenne and also chopped mint and lemon zest and thought they tasted great--I think they may have been a bit too mild for me the way the recipe was written. Since I bought ground lamb rather than doing it myself, I put the onion and garlic in the food processor to get it finely minced and added it to the lamb, along with the egg and spices before stirring in the bulgur and herbs. This was great as a burger but also good as just the patties with the yogurt sauce over salad the next day. The sauce was delicious--I added more garlic and lots of lemon which was perfect with the patties. I would make both of these recipes again.

Nature's Pride Buns: I received a large box the other day from Nature's Pride and the FoodBuzz Tastemaker's Program, and inside it were three packages of Nature's Pride new Premium Harvest Buns and Rolls. There were the 100% Whole Wheat Bakery Buns, the Country White Bakery Buns and the Country White Deli Rolls. Since I don't eat a lot of "white" flour breads and products, I tried one of the deli rolls and gave the rest of them and the white bakery buns to a friend who was having a barbecue, and kept the whole wheat buns for myself. Both the white rolls and wheat buns were soft, held together well and tasted good. With 4 grams of Fiber and 9 grams of protein, no trans fats or artificial colors or preservatives, they are a pretty good option for a commercial burger bun.

You can see what the other IHCC participants made for their Potluck selections by going to the site and following the links here.

BTW: Although the burgers and sauce are quite lovable, my semi-regular Tuesday feature "Things I Am Loving This Week" is taking a short break and will be back next Tuesday.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Greek-Style Orzo Pasta Salad part of a Mediterranean Dinner for "Girls Night In"

It's Girl's Night In at I Heart Cooking Clubs this week. My opinion is that if you are having your favorite girls over for an evening of fun--whether it is inside, or out on the deck or lanai, is that it should be fun, delicious, and most of all easy! (And if you can slip some healthy in there too--it makes me happy!) I chose to go with Mark Bittman's Greek-Style Orzo Salad this week, which fits all of the above criteria as you can make it the night before, so the flavors meld, and then just sprinkle feta on top and serve.

Combine it with some quick and easy grilled lamb chops--on the table in minutes, some homemade hummus, made a few days ahead, and warmed pita bread and you have yourself a Mediterranean-style dinner party. (Of course some festive fruity cocktails would be a nice addition--but go easy on yourself and assign one of your friends as bartender or make up a picture of your favorite drink--check out the cocktails or Simple Saturday Sippers tabs on my side bar for some good ones to try.)

Of course I used Bittman's recipe (from "How to Cook Everything Vegetarian") as a starting point and added a few extra goodies--cucumber, artichoke hearts, and capers to my salad. My changes are in red below.

Greek-Style Orzo Salad
adapted from "How to Cook Everything Vegetarian" by Mark Bittman
(Serves 4)

8 ounces about 1 1/2 cups orzo (I used whole wheat orzo)
1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp olive oil
Juice of 1 lemon (I used two)
freshly ground black pepper

1 1/2 cups chopped, ripe tomato (I used cherry tomatoes, halved)
(1 Japanese cucumber, chopped)
3 scallions, thinly sliced
1/2 cup black olives, pitted and roughly chopped (I used kalamata olives)
(1 can artichoke hearts, quartered)
(3 Tbsp capers, drained)
1 cup mixed fresh herbs like basil, parsley, mint or oregano, stemmed and chopped (I used parsley, mint, dill, and lemon thyme)
1/2 cup grated aged (firm) feta cheese or ricotta salata (I used crumbled feta)
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Put a large pot of water on to boil and salt it. Drop in orzo and cook until tender, then rinse in a colander under cold running water. Transfer the cooked and cooled orzo to a large mixing bowl.

Dress the orzo with the olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper and toss it to coast the pasta. Taste and add more acid or salt if necessary.

Add the tomatoes, cucumber, scallions, olives, artichoke hearts, capers and herbs to the dressed orzo; toss them through once or twice. If possible, let the salad rest at room temperature for an hour before serving. Just before serving, sprinkle the cheese over the salad.

Notes/Results: A wonderful, not-too-heavy, but very full-of-flavor dinner! The salad is easy to make and tastes great, especially the next day. Vary the herbs with whatever you have on hand--I especially loved the lemon thyme (from my lanai) and the mint and dill. I also added an extra lemon's worth of juice--I like lots of lemon. I snuck some fiber in the salad and pita by using whole wheat orzo and a whole wheat pita/flat bread--I do like to keep my girls healthy! ;-)

I like my lamb chops cooked simply--especially when they are paired with a full flavored salad and hummus. These are just rubbed lightly with olive oil and sprinkled with salt and pepper and grilled in my grill pan about 2-3 minutes per side--so it is still pink in the middle--perfect for me. Not a lamb fan or have girlfriends that don't eat it? Throw a few big shrimp on skewers and grill them for another fast-cooking option or do some of each for a surf and turf. All-in-all, the perfect low-effort, big results dinner making it a wonderful choice for a weeknight gathering when you don't have the time or desire to fuss over entertaining. I will make all of this again.

Besides going to IHCC, where you can see all the other fabulous Girls Night In creations by going here and following the links, I am sending the orzo salad to Presto Pasta Nights, founded by Ruth and hosted this week by my wonderful friend Pam from Sidewalk Shoes. She'll be rounding up all the incredible pasta dishes on her site on Friday--so stop by and take a look!


Sunday, March 14, 2010

Lamb and Guinness Stew with Potato Scones for Souper (Soup, Salad & Sammie) Sundays

It seemed like a good idea... make a Lamb and Guinness Stew that could do double duty both here at Souper Sundays, and serve as my dish for Regional Recipes: Ireland, hosted by one of my very favorite blogging friends, Joanne at Eats Well With Others. Not to mention that St. Paddy's Day is this week and it also gave me a chance to cook and post from another book in my collection and get me closer to my "Cook from Each Book" initiative. OK, so that is actually quadruple duty, even better. Plus I found a recipe for some Potato Scones in yet another cookbook to go with it that sounded wonderful too. So how did I go from my perfect master plan to a stew salvage and recovery effort? Can this stew be saved? For the answer, you will just have to keep reading below.

The recipe for the stew came from "The Gourmet Slow Cooker: Simple and Sophisticated Meals From Around the World" by Lynn Alley, a book I have had for a while but had not cooked from. The original recipe called for beef but Alley also mentions subbing in lamb shanks and I went a slightly different route, using some lamb shoulder pieces to keep it a bit more lean. I had the lamb, some nice locally-grown potatoes, carrots, onion and thyme and a large bottle of Guinness stout and it all went together smoothly. I didn't think the 2 cups of Guinness was going to give me quite enough broth, so I also added a cup or so of some low-sodium beef stock to the mix, browned my lamb and popped everything in the slow cooker. After the appropriate amount of time, the stew was cooked, the veggies just right, the lamb very tender, and the broth... well the broth was ...bitter. And not just slightly bitter, or beer bitter, this was nasty, bordering on inedible bitter. I've had Guinness and liked it, I have cooked a corned beef brisket in Guinness and loved it, but this stew was pretty bad. Tempted to toss it, I decided to search online and see if I could find a solution. The main suggestion that came up was brown sugar, so I added a tablespoon. Better but still more bitter than I wanted. I then found this article by Cook's Country suggesting bittersweet chocolate to "enhance the beer's complex coffee / chocolate flavors" and added an ounce and continued cooking the stew on low for another 30 minutes. Surprisingly, it was much better but still not quite right. I decided to let it rest overnight in the fridge and try it again in the morning. (I will not accept defeat!) The next day, I skimmed off the bit of fat that had collected on the top and using the rest of my beef stock, put together a roux, added the meat, veggies and about half of the broth into it and heated it through allowing the roux to thicken, then seasoned to taste with salt and pepper. It actually was good! Still with the complex flavor of the Guinness, but softened, not bitter and more than edible. Not my favorite stew ever but tasty and mission accomplished because I didn't have to toss it.

Alley says, "Root vegetables are always found in the cuisine of cold northern climates. In this delicious traditional Irish stew, beef is paired with carrots, onions, potatoes, and hearty Guinness stout. For a completely different flavor using basically the same ingredients, try using lamb shanks rather than beef. Both are Irish favorites."

Lamb & Guinness Stew
"The Gourmet Slow Cooker" by Lynn Alley
(Serves 4-6)

3/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 1/2 lbs very lean stewing beef or lamb cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
2 to 3 large potatoes, peeled and cut into bite-sized pieces
2 to 3 carrots, peeled and cut into bite-sized pieces
2 large yellow onions, quartered
1 to 2 sprigs thyme
2 cups Guinness stout or other dark, hearty beer
1 tsp salt
hopped fresh parsley, for garnish

Place the flour in a resealable plastic bag. Add the beef to the bag, several pieces at a time, and shake to coat completely. Heat a large saute pan over medium-high heat and add the oil. In batches if necessary, add the beef and cook, turning , for 8-10 minutes, until browned on all sides. Using tongs, transfer to paper towels to drain.

Place the beef, potatoes, carrots, onions, and thyme in the slow cooker and pour the beer over the top. (If you prefer the vegetables with more texture, let the stew cook for 1 hour before adding the vegetables.) Cover and cook on low for 8 hours, or until the meat is very tender. Season with salt. Remove and discard the thyme.

Transfer to a serving bowl and garnish generously with the parsley.

Notes/Results: Although it ended up working out, I won't be making this particular recipe again but I will try others from the book. I wouldn't have thought of the brown sugar and chocolate, but they really helped with the bitterness and saved the stew. The Cook's Country article also recommended adding Guinness in at the beginning and then at the end for a fresh kick, but I didn't have any more Guinness and decided to leave things as they were. A good learning experience and speaking of good experiences, lets get to these tasty little Potato Scones.

I was looking through a used cookbook I bought called "Nothing Fancy: Recipes and Recollections of Soul-Satisfying Food" written by Diana Kennedy, noted author and authority on Mexican Cooking when I came across these Potato Scones, basically griddled little potato and oat cakes. The book is written from her ranch in Mexico and features the food she likes to cook and eat at home and recipes from around the world.

Kennedy says, "These doughy potato scones, a speciality of Scotland and Ireland, can become addictive, especially if you love potatoes as I do. They are generally made with white flour or rough oatmeal mixed with peeled mashed potatoes, and are eaten hot spread with butter. When I lived in Scotland, I used to eat them for breakfast with a fried egg on top, but they are also good with bacon, with melted cheese on top...what you will. Sometimes I add coarsely ground whole wheat flour (2 ounces) instead of the oatmeal."

Potato Scones
"Nothing Fancy" by Diana Kennedy
(Makes about 10 scones)

1 1/2 ounces (rounded 1/2 cup) quick oats
1/2 pound unpeeled potatoes, cooked and roughly mashed with their skins
1/4 tsp finely ground sea salt
1 Tbsp unbleached, all-purpose flour, plus flour for kneading and rolling
1 1/2 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted

Put the oats into the blender jar and blend for about 3 seconds. They should be broken up rather than ground. Add them to the potatoes, together with the salt, flour, and melted butter. Knead well. Sprinkle the pastry board lightly with flour and roll out the dough to approximately 1/8-inch thick. Heat a griddle and brush with butter.

Cut the scones with a round 3-inch cutter, prick them well, and cook for about 3 minutes--by this time the underside should be lightly browned--turn the scones over, and cook for a further 3 minutes on the second side. As soon as they are cooked, cover with a napkin and keep warm until ready to eat. you can freeze them and then reheat on a well-buttered griddle.

Note: It is easier to work with the dough if the potatoes are still slightly warm.

Notes/Results: Kennedy is right about the addictiveness of these little potato cake-like scones, they are yummy. They are easy to throw together, cooking the potatoes is the longest step, and I liked the texture of the oats. I added some black pepper to them because I add black pepper to most things. ;-) They are a great little side dish and were excellent reheated with some eggs for breakfast. I also think they would be fun to make a bit smaller and top with some smoked salmon as a little pupu. I will definitely be making these again.

So one recipe that worked out well in the end and one with two enthusiastic thumbs up. Joanne will be recapping all of the Regional Recipes from Ireland at the end of the month on her blog so go take a look.

Let's see who is in the Souper Sunday kitchen this week and what delicious dishes they brought with them.

Olivia from Cooking with Libby is here again this week with a delicious Backyard Garden Tomato Soup. She says, "This is another recipe from the cookbook, Prevention's Quick and Healthy Low Fat Cooking. Just by glancing at this picture, you can tell that this isn't your normal, average Tomato Soup. I have never been a Tomato Soup fan. However, I made a vow to myself that I was going to try to make every single recipe in this low-fat cookbook, so I made this soup a couple of days ago. I have no regrets either :) It is chock full of tomatoes, onions, and red pepper. Since the recipe is low-fat, I was scared it was going to taste like cardboard and lack the flavor of most normal soups. But I'm happy to write that it is not bland, nor is it robust. It's perfect :) I also topped mine off with some grated parmesan cheese."

Tomatoes are popular this week! Joanne from Eats Well With Others has Michael Symon's Spicy Tomato and Blue Cheese Soup to share this week. She says, "Now. It's a commonly known fact that I'm not really a soup person. But this wasn't soup. This was heaven. In a bowl. I ate it hot. And I ate it cold. Sometimes both. In one day. Yeah it was that good. It tasted almost like a pink pasta sauce with a blue cheese/sriracha twang to it. And with that being said. I would consider pouring it over pasta. If I weren't pretty sure that I would just end up sipping it from the pot with a straw."

Like Joanne, Natashya from Living in the Kitchen with Puppies has Symon's Spicy Tomato and Blue Cheese Soup and also his Shaved Fennel Salad with Oranges, Lemon, Dill and Cress. She says that the soup is "made with Sriracha hot sauce and creamy, pungent blue cheese. This was an elegant soup to serve but very daring in flavour. Not for the faint of heart - we loved it."

And about the salad Natashya says it is "a light and crunchy salad with citrus and anise flavours. The key to the salad is to shave the fennel very thin - you will need a mandoline or it will just be too thick. We did enjoy this salad, it is light and crunchy with unique flavour, but I have to say the soup was my favourite."

Christine from Kits Chow has a unique Hot Nappa Cabbage Salad with Pancetta. Christine says, "I am making kimchi with Napa cabbage. I used the leafy part and was left with a big pile of white Napa pieces. What to do with the leftovers? I thought of making pickles but didn't have enough vinegar. Then I saw a little hunk of pancetta in the refrigerator. That's it. I'll braise the cabbage with the pancetta. Cabbage and bacon go very well together and I figured this combo would be good too. The salad was very good - crisp vegetables, crunchy, salty pancetta with a garlicky, sweet and sour dressing."

Last but certainly not least with have one glorious Reuben Sandwich from the talented Foodycat, who not only cured and smoked her own pastrami meat, but baked her own rye bread too. Foodycat says, "A good slice of bread, thickly smeared with mustard (we used Dijon), topped with overlapping thin slices of the pastrami, then forkfuls of well-drained sauerkraut and slices of gruyere cheese. That went under the grill until the cheese melted and the sauerkraut and pastrami was hot through. Topped with a second slice of bread and served with tall glasses of German beer, this was pretty much the perfect sandwich experience, and made a really delicious lunch. Genuinely worth the effort!"

Some really wonderful recipes this week--thanks to everyone who joined in. If you have something to share for Souper Sundays, just click on the logo on the side bar for all the details.

Have a great week!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Cherried and Chickpea'd Couscous (Actually Farro) by Nigella & Ground Lamb Patties w/ Tahini Sauce: A Delicious Middle Eastern Dinner

I lied...I said I would have a normal Tuesday "Things I Am Loving This Week" post today but alas, life got the best of me last week and although I had things I loved, I didn't have time to get it all together for a post. I shall strive to get one up next week. Still, there is a lot to love with my easy and delicious Middle Eastern meal below--a Cherried and Chickpea'd Farro Salad adapted from Nigella for this week's "Great Grains" theme at IHCC. The salad makes a wonderful side dish for some Ground Lamb Patties or "Kefta" from Claudia Roden that are topped with some Tahini Dressing from Jill Dupleix. The entire meal is going to Regional Recipes, a monthly event hosted by one of my very favorite blogging friends, Joanne from Eats Well With Others. Regional Recipes is stopping in the Middle East this month and since it is some of my favorite food to make and eat, (and I love Joanne!), I had to join in. Two fun events, three recipes from three great cooks--never let it be said that I can't multitask!

First up the Cherried and Chickpea'd Farro was meant by Nigella to be couscous, and although couscous, technically a pasta made from semolina or the middlings of durum wheat is great, I decided to go with a greater grain--farro. Farro is an ancient grain, a cousin of wheat and closely related to spelt. It is a complex carbohydrate and for roughly the same calories as couscous it has more than twice the fiber and more protein too. Sure, it takes longer to make than couscous, but really no more effort--just a bit of time. If you have not tasted it, it has a great slightly nutty taste and a chewy texture.

The recipe can be found in "How to Eat" by Nigella Lawson on page 186. My changes and cooking instructions for the farro are in red below.

Nigella says, "Now, normally I hate fruit in savory concoctions, but the sour cherries here really do work. There is an authenticity to the mixture of sweet dried fruit and waxy nut and fragrant buttery grain. But if you don't like the idea of sour cherries, just leave them out. The couscous will taste better if it has been steeped in stock rather than water, but by making stock I don't mean anything more arduous than stirring half a stock cube into boiling water."

Cherried and Chickpea'd Couscous Farro
Adapted from "How to Eat" by Nigella Lawson
(Serves 6)

1/2 vegetable boullion cube (Used 2 cups low-sodium chicken stock)
2 cups quick-cooking couscous (Used 1 cup farro)
1/4 cup sour dried cherries
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup pine nuts
1 can (14 oz) chickpeas
2 Tbsp unsalted butter (Used 1 Tbsp olive oil)
3 scallions (white and green parts), cut into thin rings
harissa, for serving (optional)

Pour boiling water into a measuring cup to get 2 cups, add the half boullion cube, crumbled, then pour into a saucepan and bring to the boil again. Add salt to taste. Put the couscous in a bowl and mix in the cherries, cumin, and cinnamon, and then turn into the saucepan of boiling water. Wait until it starts to boil again, put the lid on, and take the pan off the heat.
(For farro: Place stock, cumin, cinnamon and rinsed and drained farro into a medium size saucepan. Bring to a boil, cover pot, turn down heat and simmer about 20 minutes. Add the dried cherries and continue to cook covered another 10 minutes or until most all of the stock is absorbed and the farro is tender. Taste and add salt as needed)

Meanwhile, put a heavy frying pan on the stove and, when it's hot, toast the pine nuts. When they are beginning to turn golden, remove them.

Heat the chickpeas with their liquid in a saucepan. When the couscous (farro) is tender and has absorbed the liquid, about 10 minutes, add the drained warm chickpeas, stir in the butter (olive oil) , then half the pine nuts, and turn out onto a large heated plate and sprinkle with the remaining pine nuts. You will probably have more couscous than you need here, but I feel that making less than this looks so miserable and unwelcoming. Anyway, it tastes good the next day. The best way of reheating it is either by steaming it (a strainer suspended over a saucepan of boiling water will do it) or a quick burst in the microwave. Stir in the scallions and eat hot with the harissa to the side.

Notes/Results: Yum! I love the hearty, chewy texture of the farro in this salad/side dish--it really stands up to the chickpeas. The tart cherries and toasted pine nuts both add good texture and flavor to the dish. A great combination of ingredients and a tasty, healthy salad--I would make this again, most likely with the farro.

I bought some ground lamb and since I was headed to the Middle East with the side dish, I thought some spiced lamb patties would be a good choice. I pulled out "Arabesque" by Claudia Roden, one of my favorite cookbooks and one that should be in your collection if you want to learn more about Middle Eastern foods, (Actually any Claudia Roden book is a must-have addition to your collection--she is amazing). Although I could have made these more traditional on skewers, I took the easy way out (Claudia says it is fine), and just formed the mixture into small patties, that I cooked on the stove top in a pan lightly brushed with olive oil. I made a half-batch with one pound of the lamb, but doubled the dried spices (I like big flavor). With the half batch, I got six small patties.

This recipe can be found in "Arabesque" by Claudia Roden on page 99.

Claudia Roden says, "In Morocco, men are masters of the fire, in charge of the brochettes, the small kebabs threaded on little wood or metal skewers, which are traditional street food. The ground meat kebabs are deliciously aromatic--full of fresh herbs and spices. The meat is usually pressed around skewers and cooked over dying embers, but it is easier simply to pat the meat into sausage or burger shapes and cook them under the broiler or on a griddle. There should be a good amount of fat (it melts away under the fierce heat), enough to keep the meat moist and soft. otherwise work 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil into the paste. Bite-size keftas can be served as appetizers at a party, but en famille burger-size ones, accompanied by a salad, represent a main dish."

Ground Lamb Patties (Ground Meat Kebab or Kefta Kebab)
"Arabesque" by Claudia Roden
(Serves 4-6)

2 pounds fatty ground lamb or beef
1 small onion, finely chopped or grated
large handful of chopped flat-leaf parsley
large handful of chopped coriander
handful of chopped mint
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
good pinch of ground chili pepper

Put all the ingredients together in a bowl. Mix well and work with your hands into a soft paste. Wash your hands and rub them with oil. Take lumps of paste the size of a tangerine and roll them into sausage shapes about 3/4 inch thick, then press them around flat wooden skewers. Alternatively, shape the meat into burgers.

Place the keftas on a heat-proof serving dish or on a piece of foil on a baking tray and cook under the preheated broiler for 10 minutes, turning them over once, until browned on the outside but still pink inside.

Serve hot with good bread and a salad of cucumber. tomato and red onion, dressed with lemon juice and olive oil.

Notes/Results: Excellent! A nice combination of herbs and spices that give the lamb wonderful flavor. Although I didn't find my lamb to be very fatty, I didn't add any extra oil and they were still juicy and delicious. This is a simple, quick recipe that tastes great and I would make it again.

Finally, I was craving some tahini sauce with my kefta so I used a simple recipe from Jill Dupleix that is one of my go-to sauce and salad dressings. (It is excellent on tomatoes--see that post here).

Tahini Sauce
"Good Cooking" by Jill Dupleix

In a blender, work 2 crushed garlic cloves with 1 tsp sea salt, 2 Tbsp lemon juice, 3 Tbsp tahini paste, 1/2 tsp ground cumin, and 2 Tbsp water. Add a little extra water until creamy.

Notes/Results: Creamy and good. I like the roasted tahini rather than the raw in this recipe, as it has more of a toasted nutty taste and is less bitter. It was great on the lamb patties and it is also wonderful for veggies or as a salad dressing--you can add additional water to get it to the consistency you want it.

A delicious Middle Eastern Meal for Regional Recipes and a delicious salad/side dish made up of some "Great Grains" for IHCC. Joanne will be doing the RR round-up at the end of the month and you can see the grain dishes the other IHCC participants made this week by going to the website (here) and following the links to their posts.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Nigella's Aromatic Lamb Meatballs with Nutty Couscous--Exotic and Delicious!

This week at I Heart Cooking Clubs we are traveling to "Exotic Destinations" for our theme. I am combining two delicious Nigella recipes for a journey to the mysterious Middle East; her Aromatic Lamb Meatballs from "Feast" and the Couscous (with cardamom and nuts), from "Nigella Bites." Of course I wouldn't be me if I didn't make a few small changes to the recipes--so I baked the little meatballs instead of frying them (easier, faster, healthier and less messy) and made them a bit bigger for dinner rather than the teeny appetizer ones Nigella gives directions for. For the couscous, I used whole wheat for a little extra fiber, added some golden raisins and subbed in some pumpkin seeds for the pistachios (I had a bunch in the freezer I needed to use!) Also, Nigella's recipe has the couscous cooked and then steamed--I am sure it is wonderful that way, but it is too much bother for me. My simpler way of making it and other changes are in red below.

Nigella says about the meatballs: "I find a tremendous amount of use for these: to pick at over drinks..., much as they are here, lowered into a vat of sweet vegetable stew with couscous, piled into warm pita with salad and hummus, or just piled over plain steamed rice and sprinkled with tasted pine nuts and freshly chopped cilantro."

Aromatic Lamb Meatballs

"Feast" by Nigella Lawson
(Yields Approximately 78 Meatballs) (I made mine larger and got 40)

1 pound ground lamb
1/4 cup finely chopped scallions
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons semolina
1 egg
Vegetable oil, for frying

Put the lamb into a bowl and add the scallions. Sprinkle over the spices, salt, and semolina, and then beat the egg adding to the bowl. Work everything together thoroughly with your hands, and then cover with plastic wrap and leave in the refrigerator for half an hour.

Line a baking sheet with plastic wrap and scoop out a scant teaspoon of the mixture. Roll in your hands to form the meatball and place on the lined baking sheet. Have a bowl of cold water beside you to dampen your hands with; this helps them not get too sticky for rolling the meatballs.

When you are ready to cook them, heat about 1/2-inch of oil in a frying pan. Line another baking sheet with kitchen towel, and when the oil is hot, fry the meatballs in batches without overcrowding the pan. Cook them for about a minute a side, or until golden brown all over. (I made my meatballs roughly the size of cherry tomatoes and baked them on a foil-lined cookie sheet at 400 degrees F. for about 15 minutes).

(Nutty) Couscous
"Nigella Bites" by Nigella Lawson
(Serves 6)

2 3/4 cups (18 ounces) couscous (Used whole wheat couscous)
2 tsp salt
4 cardamom pods
approx. 2 Tbsp unsalted butter in two slices
2 Tbsp sliced almonds
scant 1/4 cup pine nuts
2 Tbsp pistachios (subbed 2 Tbsp raw pumpkin seeds)
(added 1/2 cup golden raisins)

Fill the bottom of a steamer, or base of a couscoussier should you possess one, with water and bring to the boil. When it looks like it's almost ready to boil, fill the kettle and put it on, then empty the couscous into a glass bowl, add the salt, crush in the cardamom and mix with your fingers, then pour over a litre of boiling water from the kettle and place a plate on top of the bowl. Leave to stand for 5 minutes, then drain and empty into the steamer or couscoussier top and sit this on top of the boiling water beneath. Add the slices of butter on top of the couscous then clamp on the lid and let steam for 7-10 minutes, by which time the couscous should be tenderly cooked and the butter melting. (You can do this a simpler way, if you prefer, by just steeping the couscous in the boiling water for 10-15 minutes, but the grains will be more dense and more likely to clump. It's not disastrous, however, and you must decide what you're prepared to do.) Meanwhile, toast the almonds by frying them in a dry pan till fragrant and golden, remove them to a plate then do the same to the pine nuts. Chop the pistachios. Once the couscous is cooked, tip into a bowl, fork through (and always use a fork for mixing or fluffing up couscous; a spoon will crush it and turn it stodgy), sprinkling in the almonds and pine nuts as you do so (and taste for seasoning at the same time, too). Now fork in most of the pistachios, and sprinkle those that remain lightly on top.

Easy & Not Clumpy ;-) Couscous Directions: Heat 3 cups water or stock to a rolling boil. Place couscous in a large glass bowl. Add salt, golden raisins and crushed cardamom pods and mix in with your fingers. Pour boiling water over couscous and stir with a fork. Cover bowl with a dinner plate and let sit for 5 minutes until all water is absorbed. Add butter and fluff couscous with a fork. Mix in most of the toasted nuts, sprinkling the rest on top to serve.

Notes/Results: Delicious! The lamb meatballs are nicely flavored with the cinnamon, cumin and allspice. Baking them instead of frying in oil still gives them a light crunch on the outside and they are tender within. By rolling them larger than Nigella instructs, I got about 40 small meatballs and served them on small skewers on top of the couscous, which along with a simple green salad made a nice light dinner. The leftover meatballs I am going to make into a sort of Middle Eastern-inspired spaghetti and meatballs later this week. The couscous turned out fluffy and not clumpy at all--a little butter or oil helps with that, and it is subtly flavored with the cardamom, so the toasted nuts and sweet golden raisins really stand out. The raisins plump up nicely in the couscous and are a nice compliment to the crunchy nuts. It's a wonderful and very fast side dish. Both recipes are easy and go together quickly once the meatballs are rolled. I would make both recipes again with my changes.

Cooks Notes: Not sure what a "couscoussier" is? It is basically a Moroccan pot with a large base for stewing meat or vegetables with a steamer basket on top for steaming couscous or rice. Here is Nigella with one.

You can see the "exotic destinations" the other IHCC participants journeyed to by visiting the IHCC site (here) and following the links.