Friday, November 20, 2015

an edible bouquet

As we all know, I don't really do baking...but when I DO, I generally decide to make something absurd.  Because really, if I'm going to challenge myself, I might as well go big as opposed to solely stressing myself out with just having to specifically measure things (read: I do not like doing this).  Anyway, it's that time of year when all I'm thinking about is food....wait, that's everyday.  Ok, let's reword this - Thanksgiving time I think a little more strategically about food.  We all know it is UTTERLY important to have the closest thing to a Normal Rockwell-esque Thanksgiving as humanly possibly, so basically that means... MAKE IT NICE. 

And what better to make it nice than a rose apple tart? A pastry chef to make it for you, that's what.  But where's the fun in that?  Nowhere to be found. So, roll up your sleeves and get ready for baking! 

A few notes - you can definitely use pre-made pie/tart dough, but let's be honest, it's more exciting to just make it yourself? The pate brisee needs to chill for at least an hour, so factor that in when you're making it.  ALSO! This recipe is made with a walnut cream - you could use frangipane (which I'll be trying next), even some kind of jam, or just omit completely if you want straight up apple flavor! This recipe really is open to variation, so have fun with it!

Pate Brisee
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 t sugar
1 t salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
1/4 - 1/2 cup ice water

In a food processor, process all of the dry ingredients until mixed, just a few seconds.  Next, add the butter and press until the mixture becomes coarse and crumbly.  With the mixer running, slowly stream in 1/4 cup of ice water.  If the mixture is still too crumbly, continue adding water until the mixture can be squeezed together into dough - just make sure it's not wet and sticky.

Separate the dough into two balls, flatten into discs, and wrap with plastic wrap.  Place in the refrigerator for at least one hour.  Mind you, this recipe makes quite a bit of pate brisee - you can make a variety of pies and tarts with it, and the dough can even be frozen for up to a month! I made one 8-in tart and still had over half of the brisee left to use.  Half the recipe if you don't want as much.

Walnut Cream
1/2 C walnut halves, toasted
1/4 C sugar
1 T all-purpose flour
1/4 t ground cinnamon
3 T unsalted butter, softened
1 large egg, room temperature
1/4 t vanilla extract

In a food processor, place the walnuts, sugar, flour, and cinnamon - process until all chunks are ground and the mixture is finely ground.   In a mixing bowl, beat the butter until creamy.  Add about half of the walnut mixture and beat to combine.  Next add the egg and remaining nut mixture, and beat together until all is incorporated.  Finally, add the vanilla, mix, and refrigerate until about 10 minute before assembling.

Apple Roses
A bunch o' apples! I used honeycrisp, and used only 3 for an 8 inch tart
Juice of 1 lemon
Big bowl of cold water
1 cup sugar
1 t ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 425F.

*Start here if using the pate brisee* You'll need some butter, a little flour, and about 2 cups of dried beans of sorts (or pie weights if you have them!)

Remove the dough from the refrigerator and allow to "warm up" so it becomes pliable enough to roll out.  Lightly butter your tart pan, and place a parchment paper disc (also buttered) on the bottom.  On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough until it's about 1/2cm thick,  slowly drape over the tart pan and press into the edges, pressing any air out.  Pinch together and remove any excess dough.  Prick the bottom of the tart with the tines of a fork.  Make a small base out of aluminum foil inside the tart and fill with the beans or pie weights - this ensures the dough doesn't puff up.  Cook for 5 minutes at 425F, then reduce heat to 350F and cook for another 20 minutes. Remove from oven, remove beans, and let cool.

Alright - here we go! This is where the fun begins, and amounts start getting a little less specific.  Variation occurs because all apples aren't the same size, and you may need more or less depending on the thickness of your apple slices.  If you have a mandolin (one of my favorite kitchen contraptions), now is the time to bust it out! I sliced mine paper thin, about 1-1.5 mm.  If you don't have a mandolin, just slice as thinly as possible! When prepping the apples for a recipe like this (necessitates flat edges and uniformity), I don't cut it right into quarters and slice out the core.  Instead, I slice straight around the core, leaving me with  a rectangular center to throw away (or compost?).  This is your best bet to get the straight edge needed to make the 'roses'.   

When slicing the apples, you want to place them in acidulated water to prevent browning. lemon water.  Just mix the lemon juice in with your water and voila! Apples stay crisp and bright.  

Now for the fun part - making the roses!  This is probably the most 'labor intensive' part of the recipe, but I think it's pretty fun and super easy too!  Toss together the sugar and cinnamon in a bowl and set aside.  I'm a little OCD and didn't want my roses to unravel, so I had some ramekins and little bowls around to pack them in. (which I realized, after taking a step back, that I look like a crazed lunatic in the kitchen, but whatevs). Take some of the apple slices out of the water and place on paper towel to dry a little bit.  Make straight rows of apple slices, overlapping one another, on the baking sheet.  My rows were probably about a foot in length - obviously, length dictates what the final size of the rose will be in diameter. Sprinkle each row with a good amount of the cinnamon sugar mixture.  Place in the oven until the apples are soft/pliable enough to roll and not snap in half - again, the time depends on how thick your apple slices are, so check every so often.  To expedite the process, you can also use a microwave and zap em in about 15 second intervals (if you're doing this, you don't need to have the oven on yet).  Microwaves confuse me.  

Get rolling! Start from the left end and slowly start to roll - once you've started DO NOT STOP until you've reached the end! Slowly pick up and place into a tiny bowl that can contain the rose. Repeat with the remaining rows, and pack the roses together so they don't unravel. Repeat, repeat, repeat, until all of your apples are gone.  My tart used 24 roses - it's better to have more than less! I find it easier to have all of your roses rolled before placing them in the tart.  

TO ASSEMBLE!! Remove the walnut cream from the fridge about ten minutes before you fully want to put the tart together.  Make sure your oven is as 350F at this point.  With an offset spatula, spread a thin layer of the cream on the bottom of the tart - about a centimeter thick or so.  Since this has egg in it, it will puff up a little bit.  The cream also helps to anchor the apples in the tart as well.  Start from the outside in and start placing your roses! Don't worry about squeezing them together, make sure their packed in there so the tart holds form. 

Sprinkle the entire tart will cinnamon sugar.  If you're so inclined, you can place a small dot of butter in the center of each rose.  Place in the oven and cook for 30 minutes.  Again, you may need to adjust depending on thickness of your apples, but by this point you should be good to go.    When my tart was done, I brushed the top with a mixture of rose syrup and orange blossom water (because yes, I casually have that laying around the house) and placed back in the oven for a couple minutes.  Not a necessary step but I wanted to add a bit of a floral element to it.  
Let cool a bit and EAT!! This is delicious on it's lonesome, but also great with some french vanilla (or cinnamon!) ice cream. Round two I may be making an apple juice/cider reduction/glaze to drizzle over the top of this pie to amplify the apple flavor. 

Sunday, October 18, 2015

You butternut skip THIS recipe!

Fall is here! (Despite the fact that there was FROST on the ground yesterday morning, and about four inches of snow four hours north of here.....) But fall means squash,warm spices, hearty herbs, and most importantly, soup! Butternut squash soup basically is the quintessential fall soup - am I right? And sage is the quintessential fall herb. Obviously this is why these two are a match made in heaven. And not only does this soup TASTE delicious, but it also makes your kitchen smell like Thanksgiving, which in my book is a win.  Yes, yes, I know, it's not even Halloween yet, but I'm just sayin'.  One other note - a lot of people make this kind of soup as a "bisque".  Frankly, I think that is SACRILEGE.   If you do it right, this really needs no dairy whatsoever - no butter, no cream, no nothing.  Which in turn makes this absolutely the most delicious healthy soup in the universe.  And maybe the easiest. That being said, get off your bum and make some!

Butternut Squash Soup
1 medium butternut squash, peeled, deseeded and coarsely chopped (about 4 cups)
1 medium sweet onion, roughly chopped
2 medium carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
2 ribs celery, chopped
2 garlic cloves, smashed
2 stems rosemary
3 sprigs thyme
16 sage leaves
1/2 t red chili flakes
3 T olive oil
2 t salt
1 t fresh ground pepper
2 C chicken stock

Preheat the oven to 350F.  Take 5 sage leaves and roughly chop them - set aside the rest.  Place all ingredients (minus the chicken stock) into a large roasting pan, and toss with the olive oil, salt, pepper, and the chopped sage leaves.  Place into the oven and roast for about 45 minutes, or until the squash is fork tender.   Remove the rosemary and thyme.

While the vegetables are roasting, fry up the remaining sage leaves.  In a small frying pan, heat up 1/4 cup olive oil over medium-high heat.  Get the oil heated, but NOT smoking.  When hot, place sage leaves in the oil, in batches - about 4 at a time.  Fry until crisp, about 8 seconds (depends on the size of the leaves) - remove with a fork and place on a paper towel.  You'll know the leaves are done when they stay stiff when picked up with a fork.  Sprinkle the leaves with salt and set aside. 

Let's hope you have a VitaMix - really, no other blender holds a candle to this bad boy - it makes soups the consistency of velvet.  If you don't have one, it'll still taste just as delicious.  Place your roasted ingredients into a blender or food processor - with the motor running, slowly pour in the chicken stock until smooth.  If you have an immersion blender, you can also use that - just place the ingredients into a sauce pan.  Once the soup is smooth, taste for seasoning.  Add more salt and pepper if necessary.

Dependent on what temperature you like your soup, you may want to heat it up a bit more before serving - otherwise you can just plate away!   Place about a ladle full in each bowl, and crush some fried sage over top.  Grab a spoon and you're good to go! 

Let me tell you - this is fall soup in its perfect form.   Hearty, warm, and delicious! The fried sage adds the perfect texture to this soup.  If you want, you can serve with a crisp slice of baguette that has been toasted with a bit of parmesan on top.  The color of this soup is stunning - once again, HELLO FALL! It's the color of the changing leaves, the color of HALLOWEEN, and quite frankly, the color of deliciousness.  (Also, beta-carotene, Vitamin A and Vitamin C, but let's not get all scientific here). Oh, and for all you vegetarians out there, you can make this with vegetable stock, NO problem!

No excuses, get these ingredients and make this soup immediately.  You will thank me, I promise.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Viva Cuba!

So if you know me, you probably know my obsession with Cuban sandwiches.  To the point of I-can't-resist-this-when-I-see-it-on-a-menu kind of situation.   Yellow mustard? Check. Pickles? Check. CHEESE? Check. I'm fairly convinced that you could make this sandwich with basically any type of meat and have it still be delicious, but the standard pork and ham generally takes the cake.  But if you don't eat pork, have no fear! You don't have to miss out on this delectable concoction - use turkey! Or chicken. Or just bread, probably. Anyway, enough of this nonsense, let's get down business - I decided to make a deconstructed Cubano. At first though, it seemed kind of crazy, but why not give it a shot? 

First thought - cheese.  What do I do with this cheese situation to make it into an actual DISH, not a sandwich? Cheese sauce....Mornay! But no.  The Cubano is not a delicate sandwich - therefore, one cannot use such a refined kind of sauce.  I mean, if you're really going to try to get the flavors of the Cubano full-force, they're pretty aggressive, and a mornay would probably be overshadowed by the other ingredients.  Next, please.  Fondue? YES PLEASE!  I have never made fondue in my life, and quite frankly, I don't think I have ever actually even had legitimate cheese fondue.  I know, it sounds crazy, but alas I was not alive in the 1970s when fondue was all the rage.  Literally....all of the rage.  Okay, let's get this party started.

Deconstructed Cubano
1 spice-rubbed pork tenderloin

For spice rub:
1 t ground cumin
1 t ground cinnamon
2 t salt
1/2 t ground pepper
1 t ancho chili powder

Mix together the spices and coat the entire tenderloin with it.  You can double or triple this spice rub, because really it's good on anything! Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.  If you're strapped on time, it doesn't need to rest, although it gives a little more kick if you do so. 

While the pork is chillin', go ahead and make the remaining components.  The fondue doesn't take long so that should be started around the same time that you grill/saute the tenderloin.  When it comes time to cook the pork, decide whether you want to grill or sauce/roast.  I always pick grilling over the latter because I think it lends a nice flavor to it, but we don't always have that option! To grill, cook the pork over high heat, 10 minutes a side, and let rest for ten minutes before slicing. 

To saute/roast, preheat the oven to 350F.  Heat a couple tablespoons of olive oil in an oven-proof sauce pan over medium heat.  Sear all sides of the pork, about 4 minutes, and place in the oven to finish, about 20 minutes. Let rest for 10 minutes.  Right before plating, slice the tenderloin into about 1/2 inch slices. 

Remember! For both of these, you want the interior or the tenderloin to be a little "blush" colored, not hard-cooked and the consistency of shoe leather.  The meat should be tender and juicy, not dry! 

Cornichon Relish
1/4 c chopped cornichon
1 T chopped capers (rinsed and drained)
1 T chopped parlsey
1 T chopped chives
1 T olive oil

Mix all components, and drizzle with olive oil.  Stir to combine and set aside. 

2 slices of bread - I used Ezekial Sprouted Grain this time around, but pumpernickel would be fabulous! Any type of bread works, really.

Preheat oven to 350F.   Place bread slices in a food processor and pulse until it has the consistency of fine crumbs.  Spread on a baking sheet, and bake for about 5 minutes until brown and crisp.  Set aside to cool.

Green Beans in a Mustard Vinaigrette
1/2 lb green beans, stems trimmed
2 T olive oil
1 T apple cider vinegar
1 t whole grain mustard
Ground pepper

In a jar, mix the oil, vinegar, mustard and season to taste with salt and pepper. Shake until emulsified. Set aside.  Boil water in a heavy bottomed saucepan with a steaming attachment.  When the water is boiling, place the green beans in the steamer and cover.  Cook until al dente.   When finished, toss with the mustard vinaigrette and set aside.

Neuenburg Fondue
1/2 lb emmental swiss cheese, cubed
1/2 lb gruyere cheese, cubed
2 T cornstarch
1 garlic clove, peeled and halved
1 C dry white wine
1 T lemon juice
1 T cherry brandy
1/2 t dry mustard
Pinch ground nutmeg

In a small bowl, toss the cubed cheeses with cornstarch and set aside.   Rub the bottom and sides of a heavy-bottomed saucepan with the halved garlic cloves. Next, pour in the white wine and lemon juice  and bring to a simmer.  

Toss in the cheese, and stir.  These are very meltable cheeses, so it won't take too long.  Continue stirring until the mixture is smooth, then add the remaining components. Keep warm until ready for plating. 

Now we're ready to plate! In a shallow bowl or plate, place a good amount of fondue on the bottom - enough to get enough cheese with each bite of pork.  On top of the cheese, place a bundle of green beans, and about 5 slices of pork.  Sprinkle the relish and breadcrumbs on top, and get ready to dig in!

As odd as this dish sounded initially (fondue? what?), it turned out DELICIOUS!! A refined version of a classic, every day dish that can be presented at any dinner in town.  And great flavors!  As much as there are multiple components to this dish, it really is easy to make, and doesn't involve TOO much time management and coordination.  Definitely give this a try!

Monday, September 7, 2015

Holé Molé

Alright. Let’s get back in action.  It’s been over a year and I, along with some others, find/found it highly unacceptable that this site became basically defunct.  ‘Twas a function of many components, and among MANY things, the lack of capability to acquire FABULOUS ingredients was truly not helpful.   Fortunately, cooking for me is like riding a bike, although I sometimes thought I needed to bring the training wheels back out.  But I decided to rock with the Big Wheels instead…nay, rock a vintage Triumph (that’s for you Gizzo) and get myself back in the game.  But enough with bikes, let’s talk food.  Football season is upon us (GO GREEN), I’m in Northern Michigan, it is MAD CHILLY outside, and there was some magical, wild venison loin in the freezer.  Yes, the freezer, because that’s what you do when you’re a hunter and have to process entire animals. (I’m not the hunter, but luckily for me my NEIGHBOR IS!) Also, store-bought venison generally costs a trillion dollars AND is farmed, which ain’t nobody got time for.  For general cooking purposes though, this dish could probably be done with a duck breast, or even a not-too-gamey-lamb…but if you can get your hands on some deer, I highly recommend t his!

So let’s talk venison for a minute.  1) it’s delicious.  2) it generally gets a flavor combination of fruit and/or some type of sweet factor.  So, naturally my mind wandered to chocolate.  And naturally, chocolate thoughts led me to MOLE THOUGHTS!  Mole negro to be exact.  The problem with legitimate mole, though, is that it also takes nine thousand hours to make and quite frankly, is a pain in the behind, BUT it is well worth the wait.  Plan of action: all of the general components of mole, but NONE of the time.

So let’s hop to it!

Mole Spiced Venison
Serves 2

2 venison loins

Spice Rub
1 T brown sugar
1 T ancho chili powder
1 t dried oregano
1 t cinnamon
1 t kosher salt
1 t fresh ground black pepper

Oven-Roasted Tomatoes
10 tomatoes, on the vine
2 T olive oil
Kosher salt
Fresh ground pepper

Chocolate Sauce
2 oz dark chocolate (I used 74%)
1 t adobo sauce (from canned chipotles, more or less depending on your spice tolerance)

2 T white sesame seeds, toasted
2 T sliced almonds, toasted
Fresh oregano leaves
Fresh cilantro leaves
Cotija Cheese

First step: preheat your oven to 250F (for your tomatoes!).  Forewarning, the tomatoes take about an hour to cook.

This recipe makes mole flavoring look easy! It takes about 1/16th of the time.  Alright, while I know that a perfect mole calls for a few different dried chiles, reconstituted, pureed (ancho, guajillo, etc.), it’s a bit unnecessary for the spice rub, and the ancho chili powder manages to get the job done!  Mix together the spices in a bowl and rub the spice onto each loin.  Place the loins, covered, into the fridge.  When I cook, I generally like to have my meats come to room temperature but venison is SO lean, and so tiny that you wouldn’t be able to get a nice crust, while still having the protein itself come out to a nice, seared rare temp without keeping it refrigerated.  

ONTO THE TOMATOES! Again. Easiest thing ever. And good for a multitude of other uses! Ready? Place tomatoes on baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Place in oven. Done. The tomatoes will be done once they start to split.  If done ahead, these can be reheated as well! Set aside until ready to plate.

While the tomatoes are cooking, get started on your chocolate sauce.  In a double boiler, makeshift or legitimate, get your chocolate to melting.  You really don’t need much water in the bottom, just enough to ensure that it doesn’t evaporate completely!  Bring the water to a boil, and place the chocolate into the top portion of your double boiler - stir until completely melted.  Mix in the adobo sauce – again, you can use less than 1 T if you’re not too keen on spice, but taste as you go along.  You definitely don’t want to cover up the flavor of the chocolate here!  This can be made ahead of time and reheated to melt, but if you’re doing everything simultaneously, you can just lower the heat to ensure the sauce doesn’t firm up.

Onto the cooking!!! I used a cast iron pan, but if you don’t have that available and sauté pan will work out. Heat that bad boy up!!!! You’re going to want your pan hot enough that you can really get that aforementioned crust on it without overcooking the meat itself.  Once your pan is SMOKIN’ hot, place those bad boys in.  I cooked mine for 2 minutes a side, until that crust formed.  Immediately remove from the pan, and let rest about 7 minutes or so.  

While the loins are resting, get ready to plate! You don’t want to overwhelm the venison too much with the chocolate sauce.   Take a basting brush and make a nice clean stroke on the bottom of your plate.  It should still be thick enough that it leaves a pretty solid amount of sauce.   Next, slice the venison loins – I cut mine about 1 cm thick.  Again, since it is such a thin loin and quite heavily spiced, you wont want to cut it really any thicker – the rub will overwhelm the flavor of the loin itself.   Sprinkle each dish with sesame seeds, almonds, cilantro, oregano, and cotija cheese and DINE AWAY!!!!

I figured this dish would be tasty, but it turned out better than expected.  And it really did taste like mole!!! The flavors are pretty deep, and definitely appropriate for fall weather.  It warms you up from the inside out!  The “deconstruction” aspect of this dish really is what makes it shine.  I love mole negro, but it is quite the heavy sauce, to say the least.  This representation really allows the flavors to single themselves out and shine, yet still work together.   The tomatoes bring a perfect acidity to the dish to balance out the depth of flavor that comes with the chocolate/adobo sauce, and that sweetness from the chocolate helps to balance out the spice from the rub, and the smokiness from the adobo sauce.  The addition of the fresh herbs and cotija help create a nice hot/cold juxtaposition and really brighten the dish up in general.  Overall a DELICIOUS dish! I shared with my hunter neighbor (from whom the venison was from) and he couldn’t stop raving about it for days.  That being said, I suggest you go ahead and make this! The fact that it is SO easy really makes it unbeatable!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

lamb, peach, olive. CHARCOAL.

I have not cooked in three months.  This is true.  How did this happen!? I'm quite ashamed of myself. It's been way too long.  I'm in a different place, new kitchen, and new goods.  Quite frankly, it took me a hot second to figure out how to navigate the kitchen...I'm still not used to it! But hey...everyone needs to get used to new surroundings.  On the bright side, I now have a PORCH.  A GRILL (albeit mini).  AND a mini garden!! Some items that were used today....and tomatoes to come.  I can't tell you how excited I am.  

It's a whole new stainless steel.  Green thumb may actually be a part of my life now if I find I have a knack for it!  Sadly, I don't have as much access to all of the fun stuff that I had in the city (you don't know what you got til it's gone...thanks Joni), so now I have to be REALLY creative.  

Regardless, it's good to be back in the kitchen.  I can't remember the last time I grilled...let alone on a charcoal grill.  Oh wait, yes I do.  College.  Burgers and beer bongs.  Clearly shouldn't use that as a barometer of cooking.  So let's just say this was a first!

First thing I saw at the store...yes, the store. No more markets. So sad! I digress....first thing I saw - PEACHES.  So good.  I love peaches and haven't gotten my fair share of them at all.  And what is better to grill than peaches? Lots of things, but that's not the point.  I was on the hunt for duck, although this lovely establishment had no I opted for lamb.  Of course, I befriended to butcher, Mr. Caputo, who promised he would give me a butchering lesson.  I'll believe it when I see it!

Lamb, peaches...olives?! Sure!! Why not! I figured I could do something with it.  And we all know I have enough spices in my life to come up with something. But I didn't want to go too heavy handed on the spices...I wanted to let the grill flavor shine on it's own. So that's what I did.  

Sidebar: I have a wood porch. And a charcoal grill. And I live in a wood home.  This was a very exhilarating experience for me to say the least! 

On we go!

Rack of Lamb, Grilled Peach & Olive, Szechuan Peppercorn
Serves 4
2 racks of lamb, trimmed of fat
2 peaches, halved and pitted
1/4 cup chopped olives, preferably castelvetrano
1 serrano pepper, minced
1 t szechuan peppercorns, crushed
1 t apple cider vinegar
2 sprigs fresh mint
Olive oil
Kosher Salt
Fresh ground pepper

Alright.  This is super easy.  But delicious!! I'd suggest cutting your racks in half just for ease of cooking.  They can be served whole, but slicing leads to a better presentation.  On we go! Season heavily with salt and pepper, and allow the racks to come almost to room temperature.

While that is happening, light you're grill! If you have a gas grill, you're lucky.  Put that 'isn on medium.  If not, light that charcoal up! I'd say you want it to be about 400F, but I have no thermometer with my little grill.  Looks like this blog is taking a turn for the worst....moving on! With charcoal, light and let the fire die down.  It's better to cook with dry heat than anything else.  Once that happen, place the lamb fat side down on the grill.  Allow the fat to render (it will flare up), and get a nice crispy exterior.  About 6 minutes.  Flip and get a nice char on the remaining side.

Cook for about 5 more minutes and remove from heat - allow to rest.  While resting, cook the peaches!!  Season with salt, pepper, and a drizzle of olive oil.  Place cut side down on the grill and allow to caramelize a little bit.  Cook until there are some nice char marks, flip and cook for about a minute more.

Once the peaches are finished, prepare the olive and peach salad.  For presentation, you can sliver off the charred side of the peach, but it's not necessary.  Chop the peaches into nicely sized chunks, and toss in with the olives.  Drizzle with about 1 T of olive oil, and toss with a pinch of salt, a few grinds of pepper, the serrano, vinegar and the mint.  Place in the fridge to chill for a bit!

PLATE!!! Slice each individual rib to serve.  Sprinkle all of the ribs with a tad bit of szechuan peppercorn.  Divide the peach salad atop each plate.  Prepare and devour.

Such a fun dish! Lamb had a great charcoal char on it (not lighter fluid mind you) but paired very well with the peach and olive salad.  Both are ingredients that would play well with lamb on it's own, so I figured, why not test it out together?! The chill on the salad was a nice place with the warm lamb and the "warmness" of the dish in general, especially with the grilling aspect.  The mint brightened up the whole dish as well.  Overall success!!

Cooking, it's good to see you again. It's been too long.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Short Hiatus!

Hello readers!

Just wanted to drop a quick note - I have some new developments, and have obviously had to take some time off from the blog. I will be back up and running soon!

Saturday, March 15, 2014

nothing says springtime like lamb

FULL DISCLOSURE: bon appétit magazine had this recipe a long time ago...and I REALLY wanted to make it but sadly, never did so.  Until today.  HOLY MACKEREL! This dish, when I first saw it, made me SO sounds delicious, looks beautiful, and has amazing ingredients. What can go wrong? Generally a lot of things.  Our eyes ARE always bigger than our stomachs. In this case, I wish my eyes were a BIT bigger...this dish is so delicious, that the portions I offered to myself were way too small.   The ingredients are pretty standard of North African dishes - the spices, the pistachios, and the pomegranates.  All things that add a certain "je ne sais quoi" to dishes.  Beyond that, we all know that I have a strong affinity towards North African cuisine - Tunisian, Moroccan, Algerian, you name it.  I can imagine this "stir-fry" would make a stellar partner to couscous!

On to the recipe - fortunately, it's that time of year where lamb is king.  Springtime, Easter-time-ish, all that fun stuff.  I know, Easter is a month away, but us cooks have to practice and prepare!  Acquiring pomegranate is questionable since it is more of a seasonal item, but these days you shouldn't have trouble - especially just the seeds.  This recipe is EXTREMELY easy, and quite frankly foolproof.  You don't even have to be a lamb lover to get excited about this dish!

Cumin-Spiced Lamb with Pomegranate, Pistachios, and Aromatic Herbs
Serves 4
2 t cumin seeds
1 t coriander seeds
1.5# boneless lamb leg, thinly sliced
1 t paprika
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 T red wine vinegar
4 T olive oil
Salt & fresh ground pepper
1/2 C Greek yogurt
1 red onion, cut into 8 wedges
1/4 c pomegranate seeds
2 T pistachios, toasted and chopped
Fresh herbs - I used chervil, cilantro, and mint, picked from the stem

First, prepare the spice rub.  Toast the cumin and coriander seeds in a small pan until fragrant - be careful not to let them burn, which happens quickly! Once they are nicely toasted, place them in a mortar and pestle and grind away.  It doesn't have to be the finest powder, but fine enough to stick and coat the lamb pieces.  In a large bowl, combine the lamb, cumin, coriander, paprika, garlic, vinegar, and 2 T of oil.  Add about 1 teaspoon of salt and a few grinds of pepper.  Toss to combine and let chill for at least 15 minutes, if not longer.  The longer the better!

When you're ready to cook, heat 2 T oil in a large cast iron pan until hot.  Depending how big your pan is, you may have to cook in batches, but if you have a behemoth of a cast iron pan, you can do it all in one fell swoop.  Cook the lamb, stirring occasionally, until browned - about 5 minutes.  Transfer to a plate/or bowl and set aside.  Add the red onion to the skillet and cook, stirring often, until they become just tender.  Add 1/2 C water, season with a bit of salt and pepper, and cook until the water is evaporated.  Be sure to stir often and scrape up any bits that were left on the pan from the lamb.  When the water has just evaporated, add the lamb back in and toss to combine.  Heat through, and season to taste.

While the onions/lamb are cooking, stir the Greek yogurt with about 2 T water, and season with salt and pepper.

To plate, divide the stir-fry mixture amongst 4 plates or bowls.  Scatter the pomegranate seeds and pistachios all around (don't be light handed here!), and finish with a scattering of all the herbs and a dollop of yogurt.  Grab a fork and dig in!

Although there are seemingly a lot of components to this dish, they all combine harmoniously.  The pomegranate seeds add a nice refreshing pop, along with the fresh flavor of the herbs and yogurt - they really play well with the deep spices of the lamb.  All together, they are DELICIOUS!  This dish was devoured by friends, employees, and significant others within about a millisecond.  Sadly, I did not have an entire lamb to cook, but it's so popular that that may have to be the case! Definitely a recipe for the ages!