Friday, April 19, 2013

Vij's Marinated Lamb Popsicles with Corn in Fenugreek Seed Curry

It's Friday and with all that has transpired this week, coming together as a family at the dinner table tonight feels all the more special.  Chris and Maggie made a quick trip to Vancouver, BC earlier this week and upon their return, Chris pulled out the Vij's cookbook which our friend, Marcel, had given to me, and bookmarked a few items they had eaten there.  Tonight, I start with the Marinated Lamb Popsicles, the first recipe I've cooked from this cookbook.  

It's a simple enough recipe, which is what makes it even better.  I was not able to track down the dried green fenugreek leaves, so had to use ground fenugreek instead.  Two and a half teaspoons. I made the sauce ahead of time and rewarmed it to serve.

With the lamb, I made a broiled corn with fenugreek curry (which Chris and Maggie did not have there).  The recipe from Vij's cookbook is for asparagus and corn, but having not planned a side dish, I had to go with what I had in my refrigerator.  If it were not raining heavily out, I would have grilled the corn.  But as it is, here's what I did.
4 ears of corn
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Cut the corn off the cobb.  Toss with the olive oil and salt.
Place corn in a single layer in a large baking pan.  Set under the broiler and broil for about 4-5 minutes, stirring once during that time.
For the curry:
1/2 cup canola oil
3 tablespoons finely chopped garlic
3 tablespoons finely chopped ginger
1 cup canned crushed tomatoes
1 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper (the original calls for 1/2 tsp)
1 1/4 cups water (the original called for 2 cups.  I added to the taste and consistency I liked)s
1-2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

I used less cayenne for my kids, but otherwise, I would go with the 1/2 tsp for sure.
Heat the oil on medium heat for 1 minute.  Stir in the garlic and saute for 3-4 minutes, until lightly golden.  Stir constantly so that the garlic does not stick and burn on the bottom.  
Stir in the ginger and saute for another 4-5 minutes.  
Turn heat off.
Add the tomatoes and stir.  Add the fenugreek, salt and cayenne and turn heat back on to medium.  Stir together and cook for another 4-5 minutes until the top glistens with oil.
Add the water and stir, bringing to a boil.
Reduce heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes.  Turn heat off.

To serve, ladle the curry into the bottom of a shallow bowl.  You do not have to use all of the curry.  Use the amount you like.  Spoon the corn on top and serve with some fresh cilantro sprinkled over top.  Both were delicious, and more so with each bite.  
I have to admit, it is not the Indian with which I am most familiar.  This was more delicate.  The best and my favorite Indian food experience was at a tiny restaurant within the Chungking Mansions in Hong Kong circa 1991 when our friend Tim took us.  The Chungking Mansions


was a building primarily filled with hostel type rooms to be rented by the night.  It was, as Chris and his friends would say 'seedy'.  But they were all known to have spent at least a night or two there.  It was the best Indian food, and one of the most memorable experiences I have had in Asia.  


Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Roasted Chicken with Jerusalem Artichoke and Lemon and Mejadra

On a recommendation from my friend Berman, I purchased a new cookbook, Jerusalem.  I don't often buy cookbooks anymore.  I would love to collect and collect, but I don't have the room for them all and I can't keep track of them all either.  Once in a while, a friend or Chris will give me a good one, and I've been relying on that recently.  But I find that so many recipes can be found on the internet now, buying a large library of cookbooks isn't necessary.  I do like to have a good variety of well written cookbooks which, besides using them for recipes, I use to browse through for inspiration.  Tonight's dinner consists of the first items I've made from this cookbook and thankfully, my inner debate as to whether or not to type out the recipe for fear of copyright infringement, need not take place.  A quick search found a few links to the recipe online.  Here's the one Huffington Post posted.

My notes on the recipe are:
I used chicken thighs, legs and breast.
I was too lazy to remove the 1/4 cup of fresh thyme leaves, so I just estimated and threw in a bunch of whole thyme, including the branches.  Just toss the stems after cooking as the leaves will mostly fall off during the process.
As luck would have it, I had gotten some Jerusalem artichokes from the farmers market this past Saturday.  Having them in my refrigerator is what drew me to this recipe.  I only simmered the artichokes for 4 minutes.  10-20 minutes, per the cookbook, seemed too long for just tender.

The suggested accompaniment was Mejadra, a lentil and basmati rice dish with fried onions.      The recipe for this can be found at Epicurious.com.
For the onions, I used 2 cups of oil in a enamel coated cast iron pot and heated the oil to 380f initially and fried the onions in 3 batches.  The onions will be crispy when they don't bubble much in the oil and they are a deep golden brown.  Towards the end, they will brown quickly, so keep on top of them.
A word on cumin.  Somewhere along the line, I developed an aversion to cumin.  This has been a point of contention between me and Chris.  I am going to try to work myself back into it.  As part of this process, I am using 1 teaspoon of cumin, and not 2 as specified in the recipe.  
The suggested accompaniment for this is yogurt with cucumber which consists of basically Greek yogurt, cucumber, mint, lemon juice and garlic.

What a beautiful meal.  We devoured the chicken, and even Pacino got a few good bites in.  I really liked the lentils and fried onions and even the cumin did not deter me.  The yogurt and cucumber completed the plate.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Sweet and Sour Beef Short Ribs

Another visit to Suika Snack Bar spawned this creation.  When we entered the restaurant, what I noticed was the many tables that were being delivered a large beef short rib standing alone on a plate with just a scallion garnish.  Must order.  When it came, Stella's eyes widened, and with knife and form in hand, she dug right in.  I had just one bite and it was delicious.  I reminded me of David Chang's oxtail I had tried to recreate a couple of years ago.  I'm going to give this a similar treatment and hope it can measure up to Suika's short rib.

8 short ribs - about 4 pounds
1 onion, cut into large pieces
1/2 garlic head, cut in half crosswise
2 cups Simply apple juice
1/4 cup mirin
1/4 cup dark soy sauce
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

A word about the short ribs.  At Suika, they served a whole short rib, that is one that is one long rib.  At the store, the butcher has usually cut that in half and so you get a shorter rib, like the ones I'm using today.  I have bought short ribs in the long form before.  If you ask the butcher, they may have them in the back where they have not cut them up yet.  The long ones are good for serving as a single item, small dish, like Suika did.  But for us tonight, the shorter ones are easier to manage from a cooking perspective and since presentation does not matter as much, might as well make life a little easier.


In a large heavy pot, heat 1 tablespoon of oil over medium high heat.  Brown the short ribs in batches, so not to crowd the pot.  Set them aside on a dish after browning.  Once all of the ribs are browned, remove all but 1 tablespoon of oil and add the onion and garlic and saute for a couple of minutes.  
Deglaze the pot with the apple juice and then the remaining ingredients.  Bring to a  boil.
Return the ribs to the pot.  I put the meatier side down.  Cover the pot and turn heat to low.  Simmer for about 75-90 minutes, until ribs are tender, but not completely falling off the bone.
Remove the ribs from the pot to a dish.  Cover with foil so the ribs do not dry out.
Strain the sauce to remove the onion and garlic.  Remove the fat from the sauce.  I use a fat separator.  Or you can use a spoon to skim the fat off the top.
Return the sauce to the pot and boil until reduced to about 1 cup.  The sauce should be thick enough to lightly coat the back of a spoon.  

Fill a heavy skillet with about 1/4 inch of oil.  I chose to go with this method of frying rather than deep frying.  Less mess, less grease, and just to see if it makes a difference.
Heat the oil over medium to medium high heat, until it reaches 325f.
Uncover the short ribs and pat dry with paper towels.  This will help with oil splatter, but you should use one of those splatter guards as there will be splatter, so be careful.
Fry the ribs on all sides until they are lightly crispy, or just firmed up a bit on the exterior.  Do this in batches and remove the ribs to a paper towel lined dish to soak up and residual oil.
Toss the ribs in the pot of sauce before serving.  Serve extra sauce on the side.
For the garnish, very thinly slice scallions / green onions lengthwise.  Cut them into the size of 3-4" long strands of angel hair pasta.  Soak them in cold water and they will curl up.
I love a good short rib!



Roasted Potatoes with Soy and Sriracha Glaze

To go with the short ribs, I decided to make some sweet and spicy potatoes.  Though I think plain potatoes or a bowl of rice would have been just the ticket to go with the bold flavor of the sweet and sour short ribs, I wanted to try something new.

4 medium sized red potatoes, cut into large 1-2 bite pieces
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons light soy sauce
2 tablespoons fine sugar
1 teaspoon sriracha, or more to taste
1 teaspoon ketchup 
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
kosher salt

Par boil the potatoes for about 5 minutes.  Drain and dry the potatoes.
Heat the oven to 450f.  Put the potatoes in a baking dish and drizzle with the olive oil.  Toss the potatoes to evenly coat.  Sprinkle ever so slightly with salt.
Roast the potatoes for about 25-30 minutes, until golden brown.
In a sauce pan, combine the soy sauce and sugar and heat until the sugar is dissolved.  Add the sriracha and ketchup and bring just to boil.  Turn heat off, add the butter and stir to melt.

Toss the potatoes with the sauce, using the amount you like to taste.
Garnish with a little fresh cilantro.  Serve immediately.
A nice twang and actually a good accompaniment to the short ribs.

Sugar Snap Peas with Sesame Soy Dressing

I was excited to see bundles of snap peas and snow peas at the store today.  I realize both of these can be found year around, but in these quantities, it means we are not very far away from prime pea season.  I'll be looking for fresh English peas around the corner.  And I'm hoping the ones I bought today will be sweet and tender.  This is another side I served with the short ribs tonight.

1/2 pound sugar snap peas
1/3 cup toasted sesame seeds
1 tablespoon mirin
1.5 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar

Blanche the snap peas in boiling water for 2-3 minutes.  Drain and rinse under cold water to stop the cooking and also to maintain the green color of the snap peas.
To make the dressing:
You can toast the sesame seeds in a small pan over medium heat.  Or buy toasted sesame seeds.
Combine the sesame seeds with the remaining ingredients and process in a blender for just 15 seconds or so.  Do not over process or it will become pasty.  
Toss the dressing with the snap peas.  The amount of the dressing to use depends on your preference.  I used about half of what this recipe made.
Serve at room temperature.  
Fresh and delicious.  

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Fruit Tart

We are getting together today for my mom's birthday and we were asked to bring dessert.  Fruit tart!  My mom, like me, is not a huge sweets fan and so I went with something that's not too sweet.  I hope she likes it.  

For the tart shell (this makes two  7" tarts)
3 1/2 cups bread flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter, cubed
2 large egg yolks
6 to 8 tablespoons heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Combine the flour, sugar and salt in the bowl of a standing mixer.  Using the paddle attachment, mix on low until combined.  Add the butter and beat until the mixture is the consistency of cornmeal.

Whisk together the egg yolks and 6 tablespoons cream and add to the flour mixture.  Mix on low.  If the dough doesn't come together, add the remaining cream until it does.  I like a slightly wetter dough.  Gather the dough together and form 2 equal balls.  Flatten into a disk and wrap with plastic wrap.  Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or until you are ready to use it.  I used one and saved the other half for another use.  Store the unused dough in the freezer.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator and unwrap.  Roll the dough out so that it is at least one inch larger than the tart pan.  Lay the dough onto the tart pan and gently press into the pan and along the bottom edges.  Trim the top so it is even across the top.  I'm a crust gal, so I choose to make the edge of the crust even higher than the pan. 

Use a fork to prick holes into dough. Freeze for 30 minutes.
Heat oven to 350f.
Line the tart with parchment and use pie weights or dried beans to weigh the bottom of the tart down.  Bake for 5 minutes.
Remove the parchment and weights/beans.
Bake for another 5-10 minutes until the tart if light golden brown.
Let cool completely before filling.

For the cream filling:
1/2 cup mascarpone cheese
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons bakers sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Combine all the ingredients.  Using a hand mixer, whip the cream until soft peaks form.  Refrigerate until ready to use.

For the fruit topping:
Choose your mixture of fruit.  You'll need about 3 cups total.  I used strawberries, blackberries and blue berries.  

For the glaze:
1/2 cup pear jam
1 1/2 tablespoons water
1/2 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Combine and warm in a small sauce pan until it is just runny enough to brush onto the fruit.

To assemble:
Spread the cream filling evenly into the tart shell.  Top with the fruit and brush with the glaze. Refrigerate if not serving immediately and bring out of the refrigerator 15-20 minutes before serving.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Rigatoni with Lamb Ragu and Bonus Breadsticks

Sunday night we had a grilled leg of lamb for dinner.  Here's the second use for the leftovers.  Stella was not thrilled at the idea when we discussed it over lunch.  She asked if she could just have buttered noodles.  Let's see if I can make this work and pass the Stella test.  

1 lb ground lamb
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 sweet onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 1/2 pounds chopped tomatoes
1/2 cup beef stock
1/2 cup half and half
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
freshly ground black pepper to taste

Because we had a large enough leg of lamb, and I knew we'd have leftovers, I asked Chris to keep some of it cooked rare so that I could use it for another meal.  The lamb was butterflied and some sections were a bit thicker than others, so it was not too difficult to have the lamb cooked to different doneness.  
I cut the lamb into smaller pieces and used my grinder attachment on my standing mixer.  
Heat a large pan over medium heat.  Add the olive oil and then the onion and garlic.  Saute until onions are soft and translucent. 
Turn the heat up to high and add the tomatoes.  Cook the tomatoes for a few minutes until they are softened.  Then add the remaining ingredients.  
Turn heat down to medium, cover the pan and bring to a boil.  
Turn heat down to low and continue to simmer the ragu, stirring occasionally, for 30-40 minutes.  
Remove the lid, and simmer the ragu to reduce slightly, about 10 minutes.
One note on the lamb.. of course you can use freshly ground lamb and not a leftover lamb.  If you do, just brown the lamb first and then cook the onions, etc. 

Cook the rigatoni according to package instructions.  
Combine the rigatoni and the ragu and stir to combine.  Finish by adding the parsley and freshly ground pepper.  
We made it past the Stella test, but the hit of the dinner were the breadsticks I made from another second use item.
Last night I made pizzas using Jim Lahey's pizza dough recipe.  I wound up making two portions of the dough because I was worried the first dough I made was not rising properly.  Alas, both doughs came out perfectly and as a result, I had an extra recipe's worth. So, I brushed the dough with olive oil and sprinkled it with parmesan cheese, fleur de sel, and freshly ground black pepper.  Then I cut the dough into strips and baked at 500f for about 8 minutes.  Fantastic!  Best bread sticks ever!