Friday, May 28, 2010

That's the way the cookie crumbles - Chai Cookies


We were suppose to have friends over this weekend for an Indian dinner. I was testing out something to serve after dinner because those day glo desserts in the Indian market are not my favorite (that is what my mom told me to say when I didn't like something when I was a kid instead of "I HATE THESE"). I decided to make a chai cookie. I was going to invent something with garam masala and then went with chai. I have a horrible sinus infection and been pretty darn lazy so I checked things out on the internet for a cookie recipe in which I was imagining (nothing is original these days).

So, I brewed up some of my favorite chai tea (which I get from Feather Heart Trading) I have to say that these teas are my absolute favorite. Feather Heart is a girl after my own heart! I also buy fun balms and stuff from Feather Heart (ok, so I still wear patchouli, don't be a hater). My favorite tea is the Harold and Maude tea which is Oatstraw Tea....If you want to sing out sing out! Ooops, I digress.


This recipe that I will not name for certain reasons that will become clear directed me to brew chai tea AND use chai tea from teabags. My brain was working enough to know that I didn't want to be picking herbs and tea out of my teeth after eating this morsel. So, I bought so chai tea powder to use in the Indian food store.


Um, yeah so I mixed all the ingredients such as honey, flour, egg, and butter (make a good play dough) together and followed the directions which was to make three logs out of it (the picture was too obscene for a photo op). Ok, I will say it... It looked like a dog turd. It is then refrigerated and cut into slices.


Then I was directed to frost them with powdered sugar and some of the brewed chai mixed together. Hmmmm.

I promised my "pretend babies" nextdoor COOKIES! I never go back on my word so I delivered. They ate them and asked for more but my sweetheart Habtamu said to his mother after I left "Mom, can I have some water?" What a polite boy. I love him.

I promptly came home and went to go trash these little cookies and I dropped them. My dog came in for the kill and stopped in her tracks. It almost looked like a cartoon dog skidding to a stop.


Hell NO I won't eat that! I know that is what she was thinking. Even the thought of eating them made her mouth dry.


She had to go to the groomer today to get the smell off of her.


So, the moral of the story is that not everything always is what it seems. Seems to me that with people photoshopping the things they post (food for god sake) and people always talking about perfection, I wanted to show the foibles of being a home cook. Then again, I never said I could bake.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Fava bean pesto with shrimp


I scored some fresh fava beans at the asian market and wanted to use them. I also had planned a pretty mundane middle of the week (PMMW) shrimp and pasta dish for dinner. I then went looking on the intertubes for maybe an idea to spruce it up a little. I happen to find a killer recipe by one of my favorite chefs ever. I "borrowed" his pesto idea. I would have to say that Manresa is my favorite restaurant that I have ever been to (and I have been to many) in Northern California.

So, I boiled the shrimp as he said to do and I made some spaghetti.


I made the Fava bean and mint pesto


I threw it all together and voila!


See that dainty little portion on that plate? I could have eaten my dish of it as well as Dr. Foods, but he gets grumpy and dangerous if I try to steal his dinner.

Below is the recipe that *I* made but if you want what David Kinch (god) made you can check it out at Cravings- Food and Wine Pairings website.

David Kinch

Fava bean, almond, and mint pesto
1 cup shelled young fava beans (about 50, from 1 pound unshelled)
1 clove garlic
10 fresh mint leaves
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 olive oil–packed anchovy fillet, finely chopped
10 almonds, lightly toasted and salted
3 tablespoons grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
About 1⁄2 cup extra virgin olive oil
Few drops of fresh lemon juice (optional)

8 large shrimp
cooked angel hair pasta (I used about 1/4 of a package.

1. First, make the pesto, which is best started in a mortar and finished in a food processor. If you don’t have a mortar, a food processor can be used for the whole process. Bring a saucepan filled with salted water to a boil. Add the fava beans and blanch for about 30 seconds. Drain immediately and immerse in cold water to cool completely. Squeeze each bean to free it from its tough outer skin. Set aside. (This can be done up to 1 day in advance; cover and refrigerate until needed.)

2. Using a mortar and pestle, crush together the garlic, mint, and a pinch of salt until a rough purée forms. Add the anchovy, followed by the almonds and continue to crush and pound the ingredients until a paste forms, then transfer to a food processor. If you don’t have a mortar and pestle, combine the garlic, mint, anchovy, almonds, and pinch of sea salt in a food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped. If the chopping is labored, add 1 tablespoon of the olive oil.

3. Add the fava beans to the processor and pulse until well combined but some texture remains. Be careful not to overwork the mixture, as you want it to have some texture. Add the cheese and pulse until well mixed. Then, with the motor running, very slowly add the olive oil in a fine stream until the mixture is the consistency of a pesto. Season with salt and the lemon juice, transfer to bowl, and set aside.

4. Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil. Drop in the shrimp, then immediately remove the pan from the heat, cover the pan, and let stand until the shrimp turn pink and are opaque throughout, 3 to 5 minutes. Drain the shrimp in a colander, and peel and devein while still warm.

5. To assemble, toss the pesto, pasta, and shrimp together.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Just another Sunday...Pakistani Lamb Biryani


It all started off the same as most Sundays, "I want to cook something good today" Dr. Food was on it like cat hair on black pants. He was leafing through the magazines at top speed. He found the recipe for Pakistani Lamb Biryani in Sauver magazine and the rest was history. It didn't hurt that we had every ingredient in the house already.

The "other" trinity which consisted of ginger, chilies, and garlic.


Some of our killer lamb.


Not sure why it says Lamb chops on there because that isn't what it was.


Lots of chopped tomato.


Music. There always has to be music playing while you cook.


A strawberry margarita (ok, so we went multicultural here)


Lots of saffron. We are lucky enough to have amazing kids that know what Mommy likes. So when they went to Spain they sent me this and a bunch of other neato stuff.


The color is incredible.


The smell was even better. I wish the internet had smell enhancement options.


This dish really wasn't hard to make. Takes tons of spices and if you don't have them already that can be a drag, but it isn't hard to make if you have the stuff on hand.


After simmering for about an hour the rice and lamb are layered in a pot to steam for a few minutes.

Ok, let me take a second to explain what you are going to see next. You see, I have been sick all week and I have a sinus infection. I really didn't feel like cooking anything TOO elaborate AND our friends are coming next weekend for dinner and we are doing Indian food then. Also, the dog ate the other recipes before I could cook them.





I have to admit that they were pretty darn good.

Meantime I wanted to show you my padron peppers. I have to plant them outside soon.


I bought a Keffir lime tree!


and Dr. Food gave me a lemon tree for my birthday. We will have to bring these in winter time.


Did I make you forget that I made a couple frozen indian dishes for my dinner yet?


It was really good!

This recipe comes from SAVEUR kitchen assistant Ambreen Hasan, a native of Karachi, Pakistan.

Pakistani Lamb Biryani

1 cup canola oil
3 large yellow onions, thinly sliced
2 tbsp. garam masala
1 tsp. crushed red chile flakes
1⁄2 tsp. turmeric
18 black peppercorns
9 pods green cardamom
3 pods black cardamom
2 2" cinnamon sticks
6 cloves garlic, minced
6 tomatoes, cored and minced
5 serrano chiles, stemmed and minced
1 1 1⁄2" piece ginger, peeled and minced
2 lbs. trimmed lamb shoulder,
cut into 2–3" pieces
Kosher salt, to taste
1⁄2 cup plain yogurt
3⁄4 cup roughly chopped mint leaves
1⁄4 cup roughly chopped cilantro
40 threads saffron, crushed (heaping 1⁄2 tsp.)
2 1⁄2 cups white basmati rice, soaked in cold
water for 30 minutes, drained
1⁄2 tsp. cumin seeds
4 whole cloves
2 dried bay leaves
Rose water or kewra essence (optional)
Red/orange food color (optional)

1. Heat 1⁄4 cup oil in a 5-qt. skillet over high heat. Add onions; cook, stirring occasionally, until dark brown, 20–25 minutes. Transfer to a bowl; set aside.

2. Heat remaining oil in a 5-qt. pot over high heat. Add garam masala, chile flakes, turmeric, 10 peppercorns, 5 green cardamom pods, 2 black cardamom pods, and 1 cinnamon stick; cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add garlic, tomatoes, chiles, and ginger; cook, stirring, 2–3 minutes. Add lamb, season with salt, and cook until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Cover, reduce heat to medium; cook until lamb is tender, about 1 hour. Add fried onions, yogurt, 1⁄2 cup mint, and 2 tbsp. cilantro; cook, uncovered, for 15 minutes more. Set aside.

3. Put saffron into a bowl and cover with 1⁄2 cup hot water; set aside. Bring 4 cups of water to a boil in a 5-qt. saucepan. Add remaining peppercorns, green and black cardamom, and cinnamon, along with the rice, cumin, cloves, and bay leaves, and season with salt. Cook rice until al dente, 5–10 minutes; drain rice and set aside.

4. Transfer half the lamb curry to a 5-qt. pot. Top lamb with half the rice. Pour half the saffron mixture onto rice along with a few drops of rose water and food coloring (if using); mix into rice with your fingers. Top with remaining lamb curry and remaining rice; drizzle with remaining saffron; mix. Steam, covered, on low heat until rice is tender, about 10 minutes. Garnish with remaining mint and cilantro.

This article was first published in Saveur in Issue #128

Monday, May 17, 2010

Rick Bayless is my imaginary BFF - Cochinita Pibil dinner


It is another Sunday and we want to cook. I have many cookbooks in the house but I always seem to be drawn to two of my favorites. I would have to say that my cooking idol (the person that I most would want to cook with and learn from) is Paula Wolfert. Her cooking is diverse and I have never been disappointed with anything of hers that I have made (big statement there). My other favorite for a fun day of cooking and never fail happiness is Rick Bayless. This Sunday we went with Rick. I figured it was a great excuse to drink some mighty fine margaritas. So, of course Dr. Food was up for this dinner. As a matter of fact, he picked the recipes and I must say that they were fantastic.

We started off by deciding on the Slow-Cooked Achiote Pork (cooked in Banana leaves). It is called Cochinita Pibil. It is from "Mexican Everyday" which really isn't my favorite because I usually like a bigger challenge but this looked so good we had to go with it.

Our only problemo is that the Achiote that we had looked like it had been unearthed from a time capsule. So, we pulled out a cookbook by Zarela Martinez and found a recipe to make our own. It was well worth it.


It started off with toasting Achiote in a LITTLE bit of lard (shut up, lard is ok when it is a tiny bit).


It then soaks in orange juice for a few hours or overnight. Some of the seasonings are toasted and then the whole thing is pulverized into a paste.


We then started the pork dish. The recipe says that you can use a slow cooker but we went with the oven option. We lined a pot with the banana leaves.


We then poured the marinade over the pork. A thing of beauty.


Onions are dumped on top


Banana leaves are folded down roughly over the pork.


Meanwhile Dr Food made a pot of beans. Another Rick Bayless recipe that is wonderful.


About 4 hours later the fun began...

I put on a little music.


Dr. Food whipped up some margaritas (oooh boy).


and more cooking started. We decided to make Zarela Martinez's Calabacitas con Queso (Zucchini with Cheese). All I can say is YUM. This is a new favorite.


Some Poblano Chiles were roasted.


Corn and tomatoes and onions and zucchini cooked. Don't worry the recipes for this stuff will follow.


I marinated some onions for the Pork. Meanwhile the unveiling!


This dinner was one that we will certainly make again. We couldn't think of anyone that would have wanted to share it with us so the two of us had another margarita and devoured it ourselves. Now we will have Leftovers! I think we may make tamales out of the leftover pork.

Pasta De Achiote (Achiote Paste)
Adapted from Zarela Martinez - Food from My Heart

2 Tbsp. Lard or vegetable oil
1 c. Achiote
3 c. Fresh orange juice, heated, or possibly boiling water
1 Tbsp. Cumin seeds
1 tsp Black pepper corns
1 Tbsp. Dry Mexican oregano
4 lrg Garlic cloves, unpeeled
1 tsp Salt, or possibly to taste


1. Heat the lard or oil in a small or medium size skillet over medium-high heat till almost smoking.

2. Add in the achiote and saute shaking the pan constantly, for 5 min.

3. Place the achiote in a heatproof bowl and cover with the orange juice.

4. Let soak overnight in the refrigerator or at least 3 to 4 hrs at room temperature. All the liquid should be absorbed and the seeds should be somewhat softened.

5. Heat a small, heavy skillet or over high heat till a drop of water sizzles on contact. Add in the cumin seeds and toast, shaking the pan frequently, till fragrant. Set the toasted seeds aside.

6. Toast the peppercorns in the same manner and set aside.

7. Toast the oregano and set aside. Work carefully while toasting the spices so which they don't scorchscorch; remove them from the pan as soon as their fragrance is released, 1 to 2 min.

8. In the same skillet, roast the garlic cloves over high heat, turning several times, till dark on all sides and somewhat softened, 5 - 10 min. Peel the garlic and set aside with the spices.

9. Place the soaked achiote, salt and spices in a blender or food processor fitted with the steel blade. Grind thoroughly with a pulse motion, adding more water or orange juice, if necessary. Work in batches, if necessary.

The mix should be a smooth paste. Chill till ready to use.

Can be stored, tightly covered, in the refrigerator several weeks, or possibly indefinitely in small containers in the freezer.
YIELD: about 3C

Slow Cooked Achiote Pork (Cochinita Pibil)
adapted from Rick Bayless' Mexican Everyday


Half a 3.5 ounce package achiote seasoning (We used about half of the paste that we made from the recipe above)
3/4 cup fresh lime juice (divided use)
1 3-pound bone-in pork shoulder roast
1 large white onion, sliced about 1/4 inch thick
1 large red onion, thinly sliced
1about 1/2 cup roasted fresh chile salsa
or bottled habanero hot sauce (such as Yucateco and Frontera brands)

1. Place the achiote paste in a small bowl. Pour in 1/2 cup of the lime juice and 2 teaspoons salt. Then use the back of a spoon to work the mixture into a smooth, thickish marinade.

2. If you have the banana leaves, cut two 2-foot sections and use them to line a large (6 to 8 quart; at least 12 inch diameter) heavy pot, preferably a dutch oven, (or a crockpot).

3. Place the pork and pour the marinade over and around the roast. Scatter the white onion over the meat, dribbling the water around the meat. Fold up the banana leaves (if using) to roughly cover everything).

4. Set the lid in place and braise in a 300 degree oven for about 2-1/2 hours to 3 hours until the pork is "fall off the bone" tender. If using the crockpot slow cook on high for 6 hours.

5. While the meat is cooking, combine the red onion with the remaining 1/4 cup lime juice in a small bowl. Sprinkle with about 1/2 teaspoon salt, toss and set aside to marinate, stirring from time to time.

6. Use tongs to transfer the meat (it will easily break into delicious-looking pieces) and onions to dinner plates. Spoon off any rendered fat that's floating in the juices. If there is a lot of brothy sauce -- 2 cups or more -- boil it down to about 1 cup to concentrate the flavors. Taste the sauce and season with salt if you think it needs it, then spoon it over the meat. Top with the lime-marinated red onions, and serve with the salsa or hot sauce -- and plenty of hot tortillas, if that appeals.

Calabacitas con Queso (Zucchini with Cheese)
Adapted from Zarela Martinez - Food from My Heart

1 1/2 lb Zucchini, unpeeled -- cut in 1/4" cubes
1 C Water
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tb Vegetable oil
1 lg Garlic clove
1 C Finely chopped onion
3/4 lb Chopped tomato
2 C Corn kernels
2 Poblano peppers -- peeled and chopped
5 oz Evaporated milk or 1/3 C heavy cream
1/2 lb Sharp cheddar cheese, finely diced (about 2 C)

1. Place diced zucchini in medium saucepan with water, season lightly with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil and simmer, covered, overmedium heat until slightly tender but still crunchy, about 2 minutes. Set aside without draining.

2. Heat oil in large skillet over high heat until hot but not quite smoking. Reduce heat slightly; add garlic and onion and cook,stirring, until onion is translucent, about 2 minutes.

3. Stir in tomato and cook until liquid is partly evaporated, about 5 minutes.

4. Stir in corn and poblanos and simmer 5 minutes.

5. Add undrained zucchini and cream to corn-chili mixture andbring to a boil.

6. Reduce heat to low, stir in diced cheese and cook until the cheese melts.

Serve hot (from 4 to 6 people).

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Ethiopian Dinner - Part II - T'ibs Alich'a


So the party continues. Of course I had to make injera, which I can do in my sleep now.


We decided to do a beef dish called T'ibs Alch'a


We also did a veg. I love Kale so I went with Zelbo Gomen which is "Boiled Kale"


We also went with a lentil dish that was awful so don't pay too much attention to this.


The dinner was a success! I didn't post the Doro We't (chicken stew) because I have already posted it.


To end the meal I did something that was not Ethiopian but it cooled our tastebuds off. This recipe came from a collection of old recipes in Gourmet. My favorite issue because it has all of the favorites over the years. It is a lemon curd, ice cream and meringue. I have also posted this recipe before.

Ugly but good.


Mild Fried Beef Stew
adapted from Exotic Ethiopian Cooking

2 C red onions, chopped
2C spiced butter (recipe to follow)
2 lbs beef, cubed
1/2 tsp garlic
1 tsp ginger, grated
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp turmeric
2 -3 anaheim chili
2C water
salt to taste

1. Cook onions over a low heat without grease making sure it does not burn. Add spiced butter and stir.
2. In a separate pan, fry the meat, without grease, until tender.
3. Add the meat to the onions and stir gently.
4. Add spices while still stirring and cook 15 - 20 minutes.
Add the water, stir and let simmer.
5. Wash and cut the peppers into long slices and add to sauce.

Serve hot.

Spiced Butter (Niter Kebbeh)

2 lb. unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 onion, coarsely chopped
3 tablespoons minced garlic
4 teaspoons finely chopped fresh ginger
2 teaspoons ground turmeric
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 cinnamon stick (approximately 1" long)
1 whole clove
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1. In a large saucepan, melt the butter slowly over medium heat; do not let it brown. Then bring butter to a boil. Stir in the onion, garlic, ginger, turmeric, cardamom, cinnamon, clove, and nutmeg. Reduce the heat and simmer uncovered and undisturbed for 45 minutes. Milk solids on the bottom of the pan should be golden brown, and the butter on top will be transparent.

2. Slowly pour the clear liquid into a bowl, straining through cheesecloth. It is important that no solids are left in the niter kebbeh.

3. Transfer the kebbeh into a jar. Cover tightly, and store in the refrigerator.

Zelbo Gomen - Boiled Kale
Adapted from Exotic Ethiopian Cooking

1 lb kale
1 C red onion, chopped
1/4 C vegetable oil
1 Tbsp garlic, mashed
1 Tbsp ginger, mashed
4 C water
salt to taste

1. Wash Kale in cold water.
2. Tear the leaves from the stem, peel the stem and cut into small pieces.
3. Add the water to the kale and bring to a boil.
4. Stir in the salt, oil, onion, garlic, and ginger.
5. Cook until kale is tender (about 20 minutes)

Serve hot or cold.