Friday, July 15, 2011

8 July and 15 July Friday Lunches

Yikes, already mid-July.
Missed last week so I'll give you the menu and a recipe. I'm working on two chapters concurrently: Africa with Morocco, Ethiopia and Senegal and Latin America with Mexico and the Caribbean. So most lunches reflect that curve.
Big thanks to Martha Eldrige (SP?) and Mary Buschell for their help!!!!!!! They are indispensable.

8 July 2011

Moroccan Harira with Dates and Lemons
Harira soups are full of legumes (chickpeas, lentils and beans), herbs and spices with a little meat and vegetables for flavor. Ingredients and seasonings vary, but the addition of the tadawira, the tomatoes and paste and a flour and water or sourdough batter (for velvety texture) is universal. Eaten as a one-dish meal for dinner or breakfast, during Ramadan cooks serve harira with lemon wedges, dates and honey cakes.

Ethiopian Collards with Buttermilk Cheese and Spices
Simmer diced collards until very soft, drain and toss with clarified butter in which you've heated minced onion, chili powder, minced ginger, minced garlic and ground cardamom. Toss with buttermilk cheese (see recipe below).

Blackeyed Pea Fritters with Hot Sauce
These are Senegalese and surprisingly tasty. Soaked black-eyed peas, drained and ground with a little raw onion, ginger root, water, salt and pepper. Hauled out the Meijer Fry Daddy and Martha made almost 100 of the tasty buggers. Great dipped in the Harira.

Dal with Split Yellow Peas, Leeks, Onions and Herbs
Just an improv dish with lots of flavor.

Moroccan Harira
Harira soups are full of legumes (chickpeas, lentils and beans), herbs and spices with a little meat and vegetables for flavor. Ingredients and seasonings vary, but the addition of the tadawira, the tomatoes and paste and a flour and water or sourdough batter (for velvety texture) is universal. Eaten as a one-dish meal for dinner or breakfast, during Ramadan cooks serve harira with lemon wedges, dates and honey cakes.
Adapted from Arabesque by Claudia Roden
Yields 24 cups, 12 to 18 servings

6 ounces chickpeas, 1 cup
Optional: 2 marrowbones, blanched in boiling water
1 pound trimmed lamb or beef shoulder or neck, 2 cups diced into 1/2-inch cubes
16 ounces onions, 4 cups diced 1/2-inch
4-1/2 to 5 ounces brown lentils, 3/4 cup rinsed
16 ounces tomatoes, 3 cups peeled and diced
or 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
4 ounces celery, about large 4 stalks, 1-1/4 cups diced
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon ground ginger
Two 3-inch cinnamon sticks
1/2 teaspoon saffron
or 1 teaspoon turmeric
1 ounces all-purpose flour, 5 tablespoons
5 ounces orzo pasta or broken vermicelli, 3/4 cup
1 lemon, about 4 tablespoons juiced
1-1/2 ounces trimmed cilantro, 3/4 cup chopped
1/2 ounce trimmed Italian parsley, 1/2 cup chopped
For Serving: 3 lemons, quartered
Optional For Serving: 24 to 36 dates

1. Rinse chickpeas. Cover with cold water and 2 teaspoons kosher salt. Quick soak or soak overnight. Drain and rinse. Place blanched bones, meat, onions and chickpeas into a heavy 8-quart pot. Cover with 13 cups cold water and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Remove scum that rises. Cover pot partially and lower heat. Simmer 1 hour.

2. Remove bones and scoop out marrow back into soup, if using. Discard bones. Stir in lentils, tomatoes, celery, tomato paste, pepper, ginger, cinnamon sticks and saffron or turmeric. Bring to a boil and lower heat; simmer soup until lentils soften, 15 minutes. Season soup with salt.

3. Pour flour into small saucepan and whisk in 2 cups cold water; beat until smooth. Place on medium heat and stir constantly until mixture thickens. Lower heat and simmer flour-water mixture 10 minutes.

4. Slowly whisk flour mixture into simmering soup. Stir soup constantly and vigorously; simmer 2 to 3 minutes. At this point harira can be refrigerated up to two days.

5. Ten minutes before serving: Stir pasta into soup and simmer until tender, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in lemon juice, cilantro and parsley. Serve soup with lemon wedges and dates.

Vary! Improvise!
*Vegetarian Harira: Omit meat and bones. Use vegetable broth or water and decrease liquid from 13 cups to 10 cups.
*Chicken Harira: Substitute 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs for meat and 2 quarts chicken stock and 6 cups water for the 13 cups water.

Ethiopian Buttermilk Cheese (Ayib or Iab)
Made from buttermilk, this lightly tangy soft white curd cheese (similar to Indian paneer) is often flavored with herbs and spices and served as a last course in lieu of dessert. High fat buttermilk with no additives from a local dairy makes the best cheese.
©2011 Nancy Krcek Allen
Yields 3 cups, 1-1/2 pounds

3 quarts buttermilk
Optional Spiced Cheese
2 ounces niter kibbe, 1/4 cup
1/4 to 1/2 ounce garlic, 1 clove peeled and halved
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom

1. Heat buttermilk in 6-quart pan over very low heat and stir occasionally until an instant read thermometer measures 120 to 145 degrees F (but no higher the cheese will take on a cooked flavor). The whey will separate and large mass of curds will form float on top, 25 to 30 minutes.

2. If making spiced cheese: In a small pan on low heat, simmer niter kibbe with garlic 1 to 2 minutes. Remove pan from heat and cool butter. Remove garlic and discard.

3. Set up a strainer lined with cheesecloth over bowl or saucepan. Pour buttermilk curds through and drain 1 hour without pressing. Discard whey or use to cook greens. The cheese is ready for use.

4. For Optional Spiced Cheese: Crumble cheese and mix with niter kibbe, salt, pepper and cardamom. Set aside at room temperature until ready to use, or refrigerate up to 1 week.

Vary! Improvise!
*Stir 4 tablespoons lemon juice into buttermilk before simmering for a tarter flavor.
*Herbed Ayib: Fold in a mixture of fresh and/or dried herbs like parsley and basil. Season with salt and pepper.

15 July

Today's lunch continues the theme of Africa. Jenny spent time traveling in West Africa so it was great that I made a classic West African stew. She said she ate a lot of palm oil and chilies in Senegal. It was fun to cook the stew and it made a lot. I also have been working working working on testing Ethiopian injera bread. I've got it pretty close to what I like in Ethiopian restaurants with teff and white flour and a sourdough starter. Yum. You'll see a photo. No recipe today. But two from last week.

Senegalese Peanut Chicken
Skinned chicken dipped in flour and browned then set aside. Onions and red bell pepper browned, garlic added then ground peanuts and water, cayenne and the chicken added and simmered 1 hour. Chicken removed and kept warm. Peeled diced sweet potatoes and turnips simmered until tender. Vegetables transferred to chicken and sauce reduced so it thickens. Just before serving, spinach (or chard in this case) or cabbage wilted in the hot sauce and it's poured over the chicken and vegetables. Nice technique: shows the French influence in Senegalese cooking.

Ethiopian Lentils
This dish was similar to Indian dal, with small pink lentils, Anaheim chilies (yes, they use a similar chili there), onion, ginger root, Berbere powder and garlic. I think it needed to be thicker and longer cooked for Ethiopia though. I kept thinking India.


Mediterranean New Onion and Garlic with Broccoli, Squash and Basil
The vegetables were so fresh and tasty that Mary, my cooking buddy, simply sautéed them with olive, salt and then added basil at the last minute.

Ethiopian Injera Bread
Like a spongy pancake and made with teff, an East African dark flour made from a sort of millet.
Africa is so full of "undiscovered" foods that we in our judging minds pass up. Many foods came from West Africa via the slaves, Caribbean and Mexico.

Friday, July 1, 2011

4th Friday, 1 July 2011

Didn't post last week. Too tired. Last week was Thai coconut curry and South Indian rice pilaf with curry leaves and roasted nuts, rice noodles with an Indonesian non-spicy sambal and coconut oil, and tempura garlic scapes. Alison and Conrad Heins' daughter Roo was here from Japan so she made the tempura. I had the bright inspiration to tempura the prolific snaky thing. I'll post the recipe below so you too can tempura your scapes, too. I bought a "Frydaddy" at Meijer just for tempura.

I'm still recipe testing so this week we made:

*Walnut and mint gremolada on shaved fresh fennel
*Persian beet boriani--a sort of side or "salad" made with whole milk yogurt strained through cheesecloth 2 to 3 hours and mixed with cooled, steamed diced beets, mint and lemon juice.
*Split pea dal with ponch phoran
*A huge hotel pan of chard-spinach and ricotta cannelloni covered with tomato sauce.

Recipe for gremolada, an Italian batuto in the same family as pesto follows. It's great on ripe tomatoes or tossed into a vinaigrette or on shaved or steamed vegetables.

Technique: Gremolada—Shameless Attention Grabber
Italian cooks stir gremolada, a chopped and dry or lightly moist raw mixture, into soup or stew at the last minute, sprinkle it over hot vegetables or hot pizza or stir it into olive oil. With the first bite, a gremolada wakes up the diner and gets her attention. Notice the balance of pungent herb, sparkling citrus, deep flavored garlic and fat or oily nuts. Choose a combination of herb leaves, citrus zest, garlic and even nuts. Classic gremolada goes over osso buco (braised veal) before serving. Both are great on sautéed vegetables or tomatoes—just before serving to preserve fresh flavor.

*Classic Gremolada
Yields about 1/4 cup
1/2 ounce trimmed Italian parsley, 1/4 cup minced
1/4 to 1/2 ounce garlic, 1 large clove, 1-1/2 teaspoons peeled and minced
1 large lemon, preferably organic, 2 to 3 teaspoons minced zest

*Mint and Walnut Gremolada
Yields about 1/2 cup
1/4 ounce mint leaves, 2 tablespoons chopped
1/4 ounce trimmed Italian parsley, 2 tablespoons minced
1/4 to 1/2 ounce garlic, 1 large clove, 1-1/2 teaspoons peeled and minced
1 ounce walnuts, 1/4 cup broken pieces
or 1 ounce toasted pine nuts, 1/4 cup
Zest of 1 medium lemon, preferable organic, 2 to 3 teaspoons chopped zest
Optional Additions
2 tablespoons olive oil
or 2 to 4 tablespoons cream
or 1 to 2 tablespoons walnut oil
2 to 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1. Finely chop each ingredient by hand and mix together, or pulse-grind ingredients in food processor until chunky-smooth.

2. Optionally, stir olive oil and lemon juice or cream or nut oil into gremolada before tossing on vegetables. Season with salt and ground pepper.

Vary! Improvise!
*Try making sage, fennel, celery leaf or wild leek gremolada.
*Toss gremolada with finely shaved fennel, sliced ripe tomatoes or stir into vinaigrette.

Signature Technique: Japanese Tempura
Low gluten flours like cake flour, rice flour, arrowroot or cornstarch will make a crisper batter than higher gluten all-purpose flour.
4 to 6 servings

*Fish Tempura
8 ounces skinned fish fillets, cut into 1/2- to 1-inch wide “fingers”
*Shrimp Tempura
8 ounces shrimp, shelled and de-veined—tail shell left on
*Vegetable Tempura
1/4 pound carrots, 1 cup matchstick slivered
1/4 pound green beans, 1 cup matchstick slivered
5 ounces sweet potato, 1 medium, about 1 cup peeled and sliced into 1/8-inch thick half moons
Dipping Sauce of choice
3 to 4 ounces daikon, peeled

*Batter One
Yields about 1 cup
3 ounces cake flour, about 3/4 cup
1/8 teaspoon salt
6 to 7 fluid ounces plain seltzer or soda water
*Batter Two
Yields about 1 cup
5 ounces cake flour, about 1 cup
1/2 teaspoon baking soda or baking powder
1 egg yolk
About 7 fluid ounces ice water
Oil for deep-frying

1. Cut fish, shrimp or vegetables uniformly and small or thin enough to cook through in a couple minutes. Make 2 or 3 shallow crosswise cuts on underside (NOT the back) of shrimp. Gently pull shrimp out flat. Arrange tempura ingredients on half sheet pan.

2. Prepare dipping sauce (page XX) and set aside. Grate daikon radish finely and set aside.

2. Assemble batter ingredients: mix dry ingredients together, but not wet.

3. Heat deep-fat fryer, or an empty wok over low heat before adding oil. Oil should be at least 3 inches deep. The oil will rush up when you add food. Use fresh oil every time for best-flavored, lightest tempura. Don’t use fishy oil for vegetables.

4. Using chopsticks, mix dry and wet batter ingredients as the oil heats, not before. Make a well and stir in 3/4 of the liquid. Liquid (water) should be ice-cold. You may actually add ice-cubes to batter as it sits to keep it cold. This helps keep batter light and crisp. Adding 50% to 100% carbonated water will make a lighter batter. Don't overmix. Check consistency and add more water if necessary. Batter should adhere lightly, but run off food. It should be the consistency of heavy cream.

5. When deep-frying avoid distractions and pay attention.

6. Heat oil a little higher than you need. When you add food the temperature will lower. Cook vegetables between 340F to 350F; shrimp 350F to 360F. If oil is too hot food browns, but doesn't cook. Too cool, oil seeps in and makes tempura soggy and greasy. Stable oil temperature is critical to successful tempura. Use a candy/deep fat thermometer to regulate. Don't overfill and crowd oil. This lowers oil temperature.

7. Dry food and dredge damp foods like shrimp or fish in flour before dipping in batter. Shake off excess. This will help batter to stick.
*Seafood Tempura: Dip prepared fish or shrimp in batter and let excess run off 2 to 3 seconds. Place in hot oil and fry until golden and fish is cooked through.

*Vegetable Tempura: Place carrots and green beans together into batter. With chopsticks, pull out a small batch, drain 1 to 2 seconds, and set into hot oil—hold onto them 30 seconds so they stay together. Flip and cook remaining side. Drain. Dip sweet potato into batter. Let it run off and fry until tender and cooked through.

8. As you cook food, remove all of one batch before adding fresh uncooked pieces to oil. Let oil come back up to temperature in between batches. Skim away burnt bits frequently. They contribute to off flavors. Salt breaks down oil so use none or very little in deep-fry recipes.

9. Drain hot tempura on rack set over pan or on paper towels—don't let pieces touch-and sprinkle with salt. Serve tempura immediately with dipping sauce and freshly grated or shredded daikon radish.

Texture Tip: save cooked bits of tempura batter for your next spicy tuna sushi. Add crunchy bits for a textural and taste temptation.

Vary! Improvise!
*Try making tempura herbs or fruit. What types would you choose and what combos would you arrange?

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Second Friday Lunch 17 June 2011

Today was Indian food. Abby, Jon's sister's daughter, who is around 16, drove up from Grand Rapids with her mother to cook with me! What a sweet day that was. Abby learned about mis en place (literally everything in its place), which is the foundation of all cooking. She also learned to clean as she went. She cleaned and chopped chard and garlic, deep-fried pakora and was unfailingly hard working, polite, delightful and cheerful. Lucky me, huh?

Abby has a close girlfriend who's family is from Delhi. She hopes to visit there with her friend. I advised her to avoid the summer. I went in December and it was around 68 F, very pleasant, but when we returned from 3 weeks in the south, Delhi temps had gone down to 36 degrees F! I bought a coat.

I had a few recipes that needed testing for my culinary textbook. So our menu was:

*Saag Paneer
I made paneer cheese. With the farm's lovely spinach and rainbow chard this dish was a natural.

*South Indian Coconut Basmati Rice
The toasted nuts, toasted unsweetened coconut shreds and a spice tempering of black mustard seeds, green chilies, urad dal, curry leaves, ginger and asafoetida strewn through the cooked rice gives this pilaf its Southern flair.

*Vegetable Pakora
Made with an all chickpea flour batter and deep-fried in my new Fry-Daddy, these were a hit.

*Cilantro Chutney
The cilantro came from the farm and is a simple purée of cilantro, water, lime juice, jaggery (or maple syrup), fresh ginger and salt. It's great on rice or pakora. Remember that cilantro is a chelator of heavy metals like mercury. This is a good way to cleanse along with those wonderful Jenny Greens.

Signature Technique: Paneer Cheese
Chewy, non-melting paneer cheese is a good meat substitute in Indian dishes. Making it is a simple process—its delicate fresh flavor makes it worth the time.
Adapted from Ipshita Pall in Culture Cheese Magazine
Yields 11 to 12 ounces cheese, 2 cups cubed

2 quarts whole milk (preferably organic)
1/4 cup white vinegar

*The higher the milk fat content, the softer the cheese
*Substitute fresh lemon juice for vinegar. Rinse wrapped curds before pressing.
*Leftover whey can be used for making Indian breads like chapatti.

1. Heat milk in heavy 4-quart saucepan over medium heat. Stir occasionally. Line a fine strainer with a double layer of cheesecloth or clean, thin cotton towel, and set over a bowl or pan.

2. When milk comes to a boil, turn off heat. Gradually and gently stir in vinegar. Curds will form and separate from the whey—remove pan from burner and continue to gently stir until curds form and vinegar smell dissipates.

3. Gently ladle curds and whey through strainer. (At this point, while paneer is warm, you may add spices or herbs to season paneer.)

4. Form paneer into an even square—still wrapped in cheesecloth—and lay on a cutting board. Lay another cutting board on top and weight paneer 2 hours.

5. Remove paneer from cheesecloth, seal in storage container and refrigerate if not using immediately.

Paneer Cheese and Spinach (Saag Paneer or Palak Paneer Sak)
There are many ways to make this classic North Indian dish: with ginger or garlic or without, with tomato or cream or without, browning paneer or not. The simplest version just includes spinach, paneer, chilies, cumin seeds, lemon juice and cream.
Yields 6 cups, 4 to 6 servings

2 pounds trimmed, washed and drained baby spinach
or two 10-ounce boxes frozen chopped spinach, thawed
1 ounce jalapeño chili, 1 large, 2 tablespoons stemmed and seeded
Wet Spice Masala
1/2 ounce ginger root, 2 to 3 teaspoons peeled and minced
1-1/2 teaspoons ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon red chili powder, more to taste
4 to 6 tablespoons ghee or oil
11 to 12 ounces paneer cheese, 2 cups diced into 1/2-inch cubes
2 ounces garlic, about 4 large cloves, 2 tablespoons minced
8 ounces tomatoes, 1 medium, 1-1/2 cups finely diced
1/2 to 1 teaspoon garam masala
3 tablespoons cream or whole milk yogurt
For Serving: Roti or hot cooked basmati rice

1. Place spinach leaves in 8-quart pot and over medium-high heat, steam over medium-high heat until wilted. Transfer spinach and liquid into a food processor with the chili. Coarsely purée vegetables and set them aside.

2. Prepare wet spice masala: In a small bowl, mix ginger, coriander, turmeric, cumin and chili powder with 1/4 cup water, and set aside.

3. Optional: Heat 6 tablespoons ghee or oil in 6-quart Dutch oven or wok (with a lid) over medium-high heat until hot, but not smoking. Blot paneer cheese very dry. Place cheese cubes into hot fat and cook until browned, turn and brown second side. Remove paneer to bowl with slotted spoon. Don’t worry if it sticks to pan.

4. Lower heat to medium, and stir in wet spice masala, garlic and tomatoes. Scrape up browned bits and simmer masala until tomatoes soften. Add spinach. Cover pan and cook mixture until heated through, 3 to 4 minutes. Uncover, turn spinach, cover and cook until hot and very soft, another 3 to 4 minutes. Season with salt.

5. Stir in paneer, garam masala and cream or yogurt, cover and simmer 5 to 10 minutes more. The dish should be thick, but juicy. Taste and adjust seasonings (and consistency if necessary). Serve with roti or steamed basmati rice.

Vary! Improvise!
*Substitute 2 pounds trimmed Swiss chard or stemmed kale for the spinach.
*Add grated carrot or squash for color.

Friday, June 10, 2011

First Friday 2011, 10 June

Cold cold cold today, and that after almost 100 degrees F this week. Crazy making.

I cooked alone today until Jane Watts and Carole Waters came to help. We all ate inside.
The bok choy reminded me of a Dr. Oz piece on antiangiogenesis. When cells (cancer cells in particular) grow, they need lots of blood. So they grow new blood vessels. Bok choy stops this process and so protects against cancer by "starving" rogue cancer cells of their ability to grow. Strawberries, artichokes and flounder are up there too. Google William Li or antiangiogenesis to find out more.

*Chinese hot and sour soup
*Thai peanut sauce (a quick one) with steamed bok choy picked about an hour before
*Chinese peanut noodles with farm scallions

I have no photos today, but will post the Thai peanut sauce recipe. The flavor depends on the Thai curry paste.
I recommend Maesri--it comes in a small "cat food" like can.

Thai Peanut Sauce
Even Thai cooks use canned red curry paste—make sure it is fresh or this simple sauce will be bland. Use with satay, as salad dressing or with grilled vegetables.
Yields about 3-3/4 cups

2 ounces tamarind paste
9 ounces roasted peanuts, 2 cups
14-ounce can coconut milk
2 tablespoons Thai red curry paste, or to taste
2 to 3 tablespoons fish sauce (substitute soy sauce for vegetarians), more to taste
2 ounces palm sugar, scant 1/4 cup
or 1/4 cup maple syrup
3 to 4 tablespoons fresh lime juice, about 1 large lime, more as necessary
1 teaspoon tamarind concentrate (Tamcon brand from Indian grocers)
or 3 tablespoons tamarind purée (see What Tamarind Yields page XX)

1. Pour roasted peanuts into food processor and grind until finely chopped and begin to clump.

2. Heat coconut milk and curry paste in saucepan; simmer 3 minutes. Stir in ground peanuts, fish sauce and sweetener. Bring sauce to a boil and lower heat. Simmer until thickened, 3 to 5 minutes.

3. Stir in lime juice and tamarind. Sauce will thicken as it cools. Thin with 1/2-cup water and re-season if necessary with lime, tamarind, fish sauce or curry paste.

Vary! Improvise!
*More Heat: Add more curry paste.
*More Flavor: add 1 tablespoon minced ginger root, 2 teaspoons minced garlic and 2 tablespoons minced cilantro stems to curry paste in step 2.

Friday, October 8, 2010

8 October plus the last two Fridays....

Sorry that the last two Fridays I didn't post. Long story, but had a big bad flare of arthritis on my left knuckle. Hands are still weak and sore so I won't write much today.

I do want to tell this story though. I don't have children, my small family lives downstate, and Bill and I live a somewhat isolated life--me a writer and him an artist. I sometimes I feel at a loss for family connections so the Meadowlark community means a lot to me. Jenny told me this story (it's as I remember it...) a few weeks back and it stayed with me. It's about how important are our connections to one another. Maybe more than food...

This September, Jenny and Ella drove out from the farm on Ella's first day at West Junior High (after being home-schooled since elementary school). All the dear faces of everyone who makes the farm possible--I can't name them all--passed by as Ella and Jenny drove out. They waved and wished her well. Ella looked at her mother and said, "They're all my family too aren't they?"

It's this wider, luxurious scope of "family" that I've learned here in northern Michigan (for almost 35 years!). My Eastern European born parents and relatives trusted only the family tribe. They were suspect of the "other". It breaks my heart open to think that Ella has had the opportunity to learn, on her own, to trust the people and the world around her. Maybe each generation will lean more and more towards trust. Sigh. We need it.

I like to think that little pieces of each of us, and huge pieces of her mom, dad, brother and family, have helped to build the courage that it took for Ella to break out into her new complicated life.

Many hugs to our Meadowlark for her great food and you, the larger community for supporting her.

Here are highlights of the food in photos and recipes from today and the past two weeks. See you next year!

Briami--a Greek dish of oven-braise-roasted vegetable melange with lots of olive oil and fresh herbs tossed on at the end.
Mary is holding the pan of it. Sometimes it's layered with sliced vegetables instead of tossed diced vegetables.

Turkish yogurt soup with mint yuzune (infusion into clarified butter)

Beet tzatziki (see recipe)

Turkish "sigara" filled with feta, scallions and dill, rolled in a 4-1/2 inch by 12 inch strip of phyllo without fat then fried in olive oil.

Pierogi made with same filling--we had leftover. Plus we filled some leftover dough with apples.

Turkish vegetarian kofte wrapped in lettuce leaf--big hit around the farm. (See recipe.)

Nancy's favorite coleslaw (see "recipe")

Technique: Yogurt-Cucumber-Garlic Salad/Sauce
Serve Greek tzatziki as a sauce or dip with toasted pita, with grilled or fried fish or chicken, or with boiled, sliced beets, fried eggplant or zucchini. Turkish cacik is tzatziki’s diluted cousin.
©2010 Nancy Krcek Allen
2 cups, 4 to 6 servings

16 ounces plain Greek or whole milk yogurt, 2 cups
12 to 14 ounce English cucumber, 1 cup packed peeled, seeded and grated
2 cloves garlic, peeled
Juice of 1/2 lemon (2 tablespoons), more to taste
or 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar, more to taste
2 to 3 tablespoons chopped fresh dill, mint leaves or Italian parsley
or 1 tablespoon each: chopped dill, mint and parsley
1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil

1. Prepare yogurt: Line a strainer with dampened cheesecloth and set it over a bowl. Pour yogurt, preferably whole milk, into it and refrigerate 1 to 2 hours—it should reduce volume by half. Drink or discard watery whey. (Whey is full of beneficial bacteria.)

2. Prepare cucumber: peel, seed and grate cucumber. Squeeze grated cucumber and drain. One and 1/2 pounds cucumber yields about 2 cups squeeze-drained grated cucumber.

3. Prepare garlic: mince garlic until pasty with salt to soften its flavor.

4. Combine yogurt, cucumber and garlic. Stir in vinegar or lemon juice, herbs and olive oil. Taste tzatziki and season with salt to taste.

5. Chill 1 hour to blend flavors. Taste again and re-season.

6. Place mixture in serving bowl. Garnish with a drizzle of olive oil if desired.

Vary! Improvise!
*Greek Beet Tzatziki
Boil 1/2 pound beets until tender. Cool. Peel and grate or finely dice beets (yield about 1 cup) and mix with 1 cup drained yogurt, 2 cloves minced garlic, 1/2 cup chopped Italian parsley, 1/4 cup chopped dill, 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice and salt and pepper.

Technique: Turkish Red Lentil and Bulgar Kofte (Mercimek Köftesi)
This vegetarian favorite is often served rolled into lettuce leaves. It’s the perfect canvas for a host of flavors—the only constants are lentils and bulgar. The kofte will firm as they cool. The flavors are best after 1 to 2 hours or overnight.
©2010 Nancy Krcek Allen
Makes 5 cups, about 30 (2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon size) kofte

7 ounces split red lentils, 1 cup
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for rolling
8 ounce onion, 2 cups finely, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, 1 tablespoon minced
1 tablespoon Red Pepper Paste (page XX)
or 1 tablespoon tomato paste
or 1 tablespoon chopped sun-dried tomato
5 ounces fine-grain bulgar, 1 cup
Optional: 2 green onions, finely minced
1/2 cup finely chopped Italian parsley
1 lemon, juiced
To serve:
30 small lettuce leaves, whole
Choice of fresh herbs: Italian parsley, mint, cilantro leaves or tarragon leaves
Onion-Sumac Salad, page XX

1. Pour lentils in large saucepan with 3 cups water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and partially cover pan. Simmer lentils until mushy, 30 minutes. Stir occasionally to keep lentils from sticking to bottom of pot and burning.

2. Heat oil in skillet over medium heat and sweat onion until soft, 5 to 7 minutes. Add garlic and cook 1 minute longer.

3. Stir red pepper paste, onion-garlic mixture and salt into lentils. (Slightly oversalt lentils as they and the bulgar will absorb salt.) Remove saucepan from heat and fold in bulgar and green onions. Set aside 30 minutes to allow bulgar to absorb moisture.

4. Stir in parsley and season mixture to taste with 2 to 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, salt and pepper.

5. With oiled hands, place 2 heaping tablespoons of the mixture in the middle of your palm. Squeeze lightly into an elongated oval (like an eye) while you smooth the outer surface.

6. Arrange each kofte on top of its own lettuce leaf and arrange in a sun-ray pattern on a large serving platter. Garnish each kofte with herb leaves.

7. Serve kofte with onion-sumac salad. Eat kofte rolled up with herbs.

Vary! Improvise!
*What spices might you incorporate into kofte? Toasted and ground cumin seed? Coriander? Nigella? Curry powder?
*Cook 2 to 3 tablespoons grated carrot with onions and garlic.
*Fold 1 tablespoon tahini or 2 tablespoons finely chopped walnuts into lentil-bulgar mixture.
*Roll kofte in ground nuts.

Nancy's Red Cabbage Coleslaw
Use any type of cabbage, but red cabbage gives the most eye appeal!

1 head red cabbage, washed, drained and blotted dry
Kosher or sea salt
Red wine vinegar, preferable Eden
Extra virgin olive oil
Options: Italian parsley, cilantro, shredded carrots, caraway seed, chopped walnuts or toasted pine nuts

Quarter cabbage and remove core. Cut into chunks that fit into your food processor tube for grating. Shred cabbage.

Toss cabbage with salt, vinegar and olive oil to taste. Rest cabbage 1 hour. Toss again and re-season. This coleslaw should be highly seasoned, lots of contrast. If it doesn't call you for more bites add more salt, oil and vinegar until it does!

Friday, September 10, 2010

10 September 2010 Chilly Morning

This day dawned chilly. It was a day for gloves and hat and even a down jacket! It warmed to the promised high 60's or maybe 70 in the sun. Beautiful. Melancholy threatens to overtake me as I rush to get the last few nectarines and tomatoes into my freezer. I'm roasting tomatoes tonight at home.

I harvested some grapes from my parents' grape arbor near Detroit. It had some green, unripened and non-sprayed grapes that the birds were probably waiting on...I nabbed them to make verjuice--the Greeks and other Mediterranean-Eastern Mediterranean cultures juiced unripened grapes and used the sour juice in place of vinegar or lemon. Boil the juice with a little salt, and can or freeze it.

Here are photos of the crew peeling garlic, a never-ending job that leaves slivers under your fingernails like the old Chinese torture we used to imagine as kids. EEK. One photo is of Eli and Jon, his dad, two of the Meadowlarks, filling our boxes. Another is of the artichokes Jenny and Jon grow and added to our boxes today. Amazing, right? Makes me feel better about leaving California.

Dick Flowers brought over goat milk and cheese, which they sell through goat shares. Everyone who tries Mary Buschell's (Dick's wife) goat cheese raves.

Lunch today was Turkish pink lentil soup with mint and bulgar (we've had this before) and lots of onion and garlic.
Maureen roasted some of Meadowlark's beautiful potatoes with thyme and rosemary plus olive oil and salt.
I brought cracked wheat and made a bulgar wheat pilaf with roasted walnuts and parsley. See recipe below.
Maureen and I cleaned, chopped and cooked a bunch of collards and kale. We heated lots of olive oil and minced shallots until the shallots (drowning in oil) began to brown. I tossed in lots of snipped chives, salt and red wine vinegar then tossed it with the greens. I could not stop eating the greens!
Maureen sliced some tomatoes and Eli picked basil for them. Salt and a little olive oil and that was salad.
Jenny donated some feta and everyone ate it on bread or sprinkled it on their tomatoes.

We all agreed that this was a starch happy day. I was so exhausted today--and so hungry--everyone seemed to crave the starch--Robert says that we eat more when tired. That's so for me. Plus the corner seasons and changing weather just seem to catch you off guard...this one has me in its clutches and won't let go...

Greek Bulgar Pilaf with Walnuts
If you avoid wheat, substitute quinoa and simmer it 10 to 15 minutes.
4 to 6 servings

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
8 to 10 ounces onion, 2 cups finely diced
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup coarse-ground bulgar
1 bay leaf
5 to 6 ounces walnuts, 1 cup toasted and finely chopped
2 ounces Italian parsley, about 1 cup chopped

Heat a medium saucepan over medium and add oil and butter. When butter melts, add onion and salt and cook until soft, 7 minutes. Heat a kettle with water.

Add bulgar to onions and stir and cook 1 minute. Pour in 1-1/2 cups boiling water, bay leaf and salt. Bring pilaf to a boil, lower heat, cover and simmer 5 minutes. Remove pot from heat and rest pilaf 10 minutes.

Fold in walnuts and all but 1 tablespoon parsley with fork; fluff bulgar—don’t stir. Taste bulgar and season with freshly ground pepper and more salt as necessary. Pile pilaf into serving bowl and garnish with reserved parsley.

Sauté other vegetables with the onions like chopped chard, minced carrots or finely diced tomatoes, or toss in cooked chickpeas with the bulgar.