I like to say I was born with a stainless steel thumb - my culinary equivalent of the green thumb - and that's a lucky thing for me since my passion in life is food and cooking, and everything that comes a long with it.
What do I do with my life? I dream food, think food, look at food, read about food, work in the food business, travel via food, talk about food, use food as my artistic muse, teach others about food, and clearly, cook, play with and EAT food!
Food is my compass.
I sometimes have a strange...yet SERIOUS hankering for Middle Eastern food. I can't go too long without a nice creamy hummus, a smokey baba ghanoush, or solid grilled shisk taouk with garlic sauce. Some may say that's the Metro Detroit in me....but I frankly say it's because it's all downright delicious. No funny business - just straightforward ingredients with amazing spices to boot.
For the record, a favorite place of mine in the 'burbs of Detroit - Pita Cafe - literally has some of the best food ever. I have to make a stop there anytime I'm home. Their shish taouk is UNREAL. A chicken kebab you say? That exciting? Dang right it's exciting! A few years back we heckled the owner for the marinade - he gave us the ingredients, and we just played around. Still not 100% of what the original is, but it's pretty on point. I may give you that soon...all I can say is that white pepper is involved.
But on the note of Middle Eastern food, I do love myself some good tabbouleh. Garlicky, parsley-ey (?), refreshing, and simple. You just can't go wrong! For the following recipe, I must say I did not come up with it.....but it's from a certain Dr. Alejandro Junger. It is SO GOOD. I've made it in the most famously large batches, and it has gone SO quickly that it's ridiculous. And might I add that it's a power food? Yeah, it is. So hop to it!
2 C quinoa, cooked (red, regular, whichever you please!)
1/4 C currants
1/4 C almonds, chopped
1/2 C carrots, diced
1/4 C mint, chopped
1/4 C scallions, thinly sliced
1/4 C parsley, chopped
1/4 C lime juice
1/2 t cumin
1 t sea salt
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
This recipe makes life so food. Put all ingredients in a bowl and stir to combine - let the flavors meld together for at least 20 minutes before serving. Dig in and enjoy!
So this may seem like a silly recipe. But let me assure you, it is not. There is something about this "tabbouleh" that is just right. It may be the quinoa, it may be the mint. It may even be the currants! I'm not sure what exactly it is, but it is just downright delicious. You get a nice puckery pungency from the currants, along with a nice caviar-esque pop, while the cumin gives the entire dish a deep, earthiness. The raw carrots and almonds also give a nice textural crunch to the whole situation.
This is a great side, a great salad as a meal, and a great snack. You can make it in huge batches, and have it around the house for a moments notice! If you see currants anywhere, pick them up and be sure to make this!
The last thing you'd think to make on a hot summer's day is a spicy stew. Well, apparently, every culture in the world eats something SPICY to cool themselves off - it forces them to sweat. Ergo, hot sauce, et al. Maybe not stews. But what's stopping me? I stopped off at the market to find some beautiful fresh chickpeas, and I couldn't resist picking them up. I'm pretty sure that if it weren't for Lani's Farm, I would never even know how chickpeas grew (that's sad). Needless to say, they look like mini edamame. They are peas, so I should've figured as much!
I contemplated what to do...maybe a deconstructed hummus? That may still be an option. Bon Appetit jumped on the bandwagon and made griddled fresh chickpeas (jerks). But I couldn't help myself but to make a traditional Tunisian stew out of them. You know what they say about fresh ingredients!? Yeah, you know what they say. So I figured I may as well make something fresh out the box as opposed to "fresh out the can" or dried. And that I did!
Lablabi. Say that three times fast! It's fun, I promise. Basically, lablabi is a Lebanese dish of stewed chickpeas in a very light, delicate sauce. The condiments are where it's at. The great thing about this dish is that it really allows the chickpeas to shine through, as opposed to just being a sidebar to whatever dish they're placed into. Delicious-ness!
8 ounces (1½ cups) dried chickpeas, sorted and soaked at least 4 hours (or 2 15½-ounce cans of chickpeas, rinsed and drained...or similar amount FRESH!!!)
6 garlic cloves, peeled
1 bay leaf
4 t cumin seeds, toasted and freshly ground
1 T Tunisian harissa, plus more for serving
½ preserved lemon
3 T olive oil, plus more for garnish
Juice of 1 lemon
4 T parsley, chopped
2 sun-dried tomatoes packed in extra-virgin olive oil, thinly sliced
2 T capers, rinsed and coarsely chopped
Poached eggs - 1 per serving, if you want! (Do it)
If you're using dried garbanzos:
Drain the chickpeas and add them to 2 quarts water in a large sauce pan. Add 3 garlic cloves and the bay
leaf, bringing to a simmer over medium heat. Cover, adjust to a very gentle
simmer, and cook until barely tender, about 45 minutes. Add 1½
teaspoons salt and continue simmering until tender, another 15 to 30
minutes. Discard the bay leaf.
If you're using canned or fresh chickpeas (shell them!) proceed from here!
Mince the remaining garlic clove, add it to the chickpeas, and simmer for 25 minutes. If using fresh or canned chickpeas, add 5 cups water (not in addition to 2 quarts!) plus the garlic cloves. Cover and simmer gently for 25 minutes.
While simmering, prepare the garnishes! Take the pulp out of the preserved lemons and cut into thin strips - do the same with the sundried tomatoes. If using eggs, poach them until the whites are just set (about 3
minutes) and transfer to a bowl of cool water until ready to serve. I like to use the standard Julia Child method - boil for 5 minutes, 45 seconds, place in cold water then peel. PERFECTION.
Add 3 tablespoons olive oil and the
juice of half a lemon to the soup, simmer for another 5 minutes. Taste and season with salt and pepper - not too much though because the garnishes are salty as well!
To serve, divide the chickpeas and broth among four bowls. I think it's best to leave the garnishes out and allow everyone to place whatever they want in their bowls. But seriously...urge them to put EVERYTHING in their bowls. Including the poached egg. Lord have mercy! The flavors are just epic. The plain old chickpea and harissa broth is taken three levels up by the garnishes. And the egg yolk (if used) transforms the sauce into a thick and creamy spicy concoction. Absolutely stunning.
This is definitely one of those dishes that you can actually taste transforming as different flavors hit your tongue. Don't skimp on ANY of the garnishes!
Seriously, I don't know how to make chickpeas look super appetizing, but just looking at this makes me hungry. So, so good. And so, so healthy. Don't be scurred - get your chickpea on!
Sometimes we all go on an ingredient kick...right? Well, I obviously do, and my current ingredient happens to be goat's milk. Pretty random, I know, but would you expect anything less from me? The goat's milk panna cotta was pretty poppin' - a delicious little savory custard if I do say so myself. And I freakin' love goat cheese. (Especially Ardith Mae - gimme gimme!) Beet green crostini with goat cheese? CHECK MATE! Ok, I think you get the point. Anyway, I haven't made my way into the cheese making realm - I'd like to get my own goats/pygmy goats first - so I took the next best route. Goat's milk ICE CREAM! And lawd was it delicious.
Of course, earlier in the day (before deciding to make said ice cream), I phoned my mom to see if they made SMALL ice cream machines. 1QT is even too much for me, and we all know I have too many contraptions in my kitchen, with much too little space. I then tried to do some research to see if our good inventors of Easy Bake Oven came up with something novel. Sidenote: Easy Bake Oven? Brilliant. Just saying. My mom internally proceeded to question my maturity, but instead stated aloud that a small child's ice cream maker would break too quickly. I'll just have to SEE FOR MYSELF! (Baskin-Robbins made something - $15? Worth playing with.)
Needless to say, this was fun and the results were refreshing and well worth the mental anguish.
Honey-Peppered Goat Milk Ice Cream with White Figs and Pistachios
For the ice cream:
2 cups goats milk
3 T good honey
~1 t fresh cracker black pepper
Pinch of salt
Well, this couldn't get much easier! I didn't go the route of full on ice cream making (creme anglais style, eggs, etc.), but instead decided to make some straight up frozen milk. The fat solids in goat milk make this do-able so it doesn't just turn to shards of milk. Instead, it comes out as a smooth, creamy sorbet-esque texture. Anywho. Mix all ingredients together. If you have an ice cream maker, follow the instructions and go from there. If you're like me, follow these steps! Combine the ingredients in a ziploc bag large enough to hold the mixture. Place in the freezer to chill for about 20 minutes.
Now the fun part! Get another larger ziploc bag and fill that puppy with ice about halfway up. Sprinkle over a tad bit of salt (remember science class?), and toss in your goat milk bag - make sure it's properly sealed! I am not sponsored by ziploc, but by all means, get those guys with colored seal so you KNOW it's closed! Nobody has time for spilled milk.
With oven mitts on, start tossing and turning. And keep tossing and turning. Watch a show, pretend it's a game of hot potato with your friends, whatever. But keep tossing! Keep it up at least 20 minutes, until the mixture has thickened a bit. Toss the ice cream back (not the ice bag!) back in the freezer, and squish it around every ten or so minutes until thick enough to be considered....ice cream! Once it was ready, I ended up scooping mine out into a pint container...and expected not to make anything until the next day. And then I tasted it. I have never whipped together a dessert so fast in my life. The HONEY and the PEPPER! Lord help me.
To finish the dish, I sliced a few fresh white figs (purple figs are fine as well!), placed a quenelle of the ice cream on top, and finished it with some chopped, toasted pistachios. Add a nice drizzle of the honey that made the ice cream oh-so-delicious, and a little crack of black pepper, and you're off to the races.
THIS my friends, is where dessert is at. The goat milk ice cream was so subtly goat-y that it may even go by undetected if you weren't paying attention and ate too quickly - you have to let it linger on your tongue and warm up a bit for the full effect. That flavor together with the honey and the pepper was absolutely out of this world. It makes sense - I've had regular old goat cheese with the combination. But add in a nice cooling effect, a velvety smoothness of ice cream, and you can't go wrong. The white figs were a nice compliment to the ice cream as well - they weren't overly fruity, but had a subtle flavor just like the ice cream. The big bang of flavor definitely came from the pistachios, as well as a nice added crunch. Overall, this is one of the most refreshing, light desserts I've made in some time, and definitely perfect for a quick summertime treat. Have at it!