Whitefish and Shrimp Soup with Tomato, Basil, and Leek

8 03 2012

Feelers! Forever!

Robust, wholesome, herbaceous and piquant and acidic, even texturally compelling. Boldly serve this one with a glass of red (my selection). Sucking out the shrimp brains is optional but awesome.

Whitefish and Shrimp Soup with Tomato, Basil, and Leek

big splash good olive oil

Simmer over very low heat:
1 leek, chopped (D. Lebovitz on how to clean and prep the beasties)
3-4 cloves sliced garlic
several healthy shakes red pepper flakes, or dried chilis of some variety (optional, I suppose)
big handful fresh basil leaves, chopped roughly, plus a bit slivered for garnish
S&P to taste

Add and simmer a spell:
1 can tomatoes in whatever form (although I recently read that buying them enteros is much better as the cut up ones likely come from those damaged in the factory. Er, farm. … someone’s been reading The Omnivore’s Dilemma.)
1/2 – 1c stock of whatever variety. I’ve used veggie and seafood. Add more or less depending on consistency desired
zest of half a lemon

4 minutes before ready to munch, add:
a variety of seafood: I’ve previously used some combination of one small pescadilla (took it off the bones, tossed bones -and head!- in to bubble with the liquids), several uncooked shell-on langostinos/gambas, a few mussels, and a scant handful teeny clams. Squid would be lovely here. Seafood cooks very quickly; don’t be tempted to overdo it!

Garnish with basil slivers and serve with crusty bread or rice – I used brown jasmine.

Greek Chicken Stew With Cauliflower and Olives

19 02 2012

Spring’s here, and she demands parsley. This stew is healthy and easy and colorful and aromatic, light enough for the sun streaming in your kitchen window and rich enough to stave away any pesky winter winds asserting their waning presence. Kalamatas would be sublime; the green manzanillas I used were just dandy.

Make it with free-range chicken and you won’t regret it -I swear their liberty seeps merrily into the broth, saturating the cauliflower with wild chickeny depth you’d never squeeze out of cardboard-y 10-packs of pechuga.

Greek Chicken Stew With Cauliflower and Olives
adapted from The New York Times.

extra virgin olive oil
1 large red onion, chopped
4+ garlic cloves (to taste), minced
1 giant free-range chicken breast on the bone. Or thighs, or whatever – use your judgement here.
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 28-ounce can chopped tomatoes, with juice
1/2 teaspoon Saigon cinnamon
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 cauliflower, cored, broken into florets, and sliced about 1/2 inch thick
about 15 manzanilla olives (or kalamata if you got ’em), rinsed, pitted and cut in half (optional)
small handful chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 to 2 ounces feta cheese, crumbled (optional – I didn’t use it, but it would be a welcome addition)

1. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over medium-high heat in a large, deep, heavy lidded skillet or casserole and brown the chicken, in batches if necessary, about 5 minutes on each side. Remove the pieces to a plate or bowl as they’re browned. Add the vinegar to the pan and scrape up all the bits from the bottom of the pan.

2. Add the remaining tablespoon of the olive oil to the pan, and turn the heat down to medium. Add the onion and a generous pinch of salt and cook, stirring often and scraping the bottom of the pan, until it is lightly browned and very soft.

3. Add the garlic and stir together for a minute or two more, until the garlic is fragrant, then add the tomatoes and their juice, the cinnamon, thyme, and salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a simmer and simmer 10 minutes, stirring from time to time, until the mixture is reduced slightly and fragrant.

4. Return the chicken pieces to the pot, along with any juices that have accumulated in the bowl. If necessary, add enough water to barely cover the chicken. Bring to a simmer, reduce the heat, and simmer 15 minutes.

5. Add the cauliflower and olives and simmer for another 15 minutes, or until the cauliflower is tender and the chicken is just about falling off the bone.

6. Take chicken out of pot, remove from bone, shred, and re-incorporate. Simmer just a minute more, stir in the parsley, taste and adjust seasonings. Serve with grains – black rice is nice – with feta sprinkled on top if you like.

Cilantro-Almond Pesto

17 02 2012

Needed pozole yesterday (did you know it comes from the Nahuatl word for “foamy”? also, that it used to be made with human flesh? mine was, uh, chicken), so clearly required a heap of cilantro to crown it. The bunch was slightly mangy-looking even last night, thus necessitating immediate use – and what better than spicy cilantro-almond pesto on which to base an afternoon mexi-feast?

It’s rare that I cook beef, not due to any particular dietary concern but rather based on heavy veggie and fish preferences. Upon hearing my pleas for meaty advice, the carnicería guy across the street suggested lomo de entrecot, which I think refers to entrecôte cut from the sirloin. I rubbed it with a healthy coat of Evansville Magic Dust and let it come to just about room temperature, then seared it in a cast iron skillet with just a smear of olive oil. While I was supremely happy with the crust that developed, the center was reduced to a light pink – much too done for my taste. I had the heat cranked, the cut was perhaps 1/3 inch thick, and I did the first side 2.5 minutes and flipped for another 1.5 – will try shaving off a minute next time. Still mad delicious with the spicy, nutty pesto.

I modeled the salad after the constant accompaniment I remember from Cuautla, where you just dip a whole cucumber into chile powder and bite into crunchy spiced bliss. Today was cucumber slices and halved cherry tomatoes sprinkled with chile powder, cayenne, lime juice, and salt – not a bad facsimile.

Cilantro-Almond Pesto
slightly adapted from Simply Recipes.

2 cups cilantro, large stems removed
1/2 cup blanched almonds
1 small roughly chopped red onion
1/2 chopped and seeded serrano chile – next time I’d add the whole thing, but I’m a spice masochist.
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup olive oil – I used a bit less, I think. Added it by the teaspoon until the consistency looked right, and it tasted like I never wanted to stop eating it.

1. In a food processor – or with an immersion blender if you must (and I must) – pulse the cilantro, almonds, onion, chile, and salt until well blended.

2. With the food processor/immersion blender running, slowly add the olive oil in a steady stream.

Makes about 1 cup. Whatever you don’t use, you can freeze. Line a ice cube tray with plastic wrap and fill in the individual cube spaces with the pesto. Freeze and remove from the ice tray, put in a sealed freezer bag for future use.

The Hunger Games: Spiced Lamb Stew with Dried Plums, Tomatoes, Almonds, and Sesame

26 01 2012

I will admit inspiration from The Hunger Games.

Lamb’s natural flavor is so strong that it can support a serious amount of spice, hence adding a pinch of practically everything in your cupboard followed by hours of simmering. It fills every nook in your house with scents, warm cinnamon and nutmeg and cardamom, then sweetens the deal with engorged plums that melt their sticky way into the broth and wine. Chile flakes and slivers of mint alternatively lift and cool, and a sprinkled nutty crunch of crushed almonds and sesame seeds completes the panorama. Make no mistake, stewed lamb meat is the focus here – the symphony of additional elements simply serves as suitable tribute.

The flavor profile is Turkish in inspiration, but completely adaptable to whatever you’ve got on hand. This is an over-the-top Impress dish, best served with a spread of brown jasmine rice and hunks of fresh crusty bread.

Spiced Lamb Stew with Dried Plums, Tomatoes, Almonds, and Sesame

1 1/2 yellow onions, sliced
4-6 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 inch ginger, minced
1 1/2 tablespoon unsalted butter

1 leg of bone-in lamb – mine clocked in just shy of a kilo, or approximately 2 lbs – removed from the bone and cut into 1′ pieces

2 cinnamon sticks
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon chile powder
1/2 teaspoon cardamom
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon coriander
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon red chile flakes (or more…)
1 tablespoon Galician honey
1 tablespoon molasses
zest of 1/2 lemon
salt to taste

8-12 dried plums, pits removed and roughly chopped
28 oz can whole peeled tomatoes in their juice
1 1/2 c dry red wine
stock – I used chicken

cooked brown jasmine rice, for serving
crushed almonds
sesame seeds
torn mint leaves

1. Sautée onions, garlic, and ginger in butter over low heat until onion softens.

2. Mix in pieces of lamb, then spices, honey, molasses, lemon zest, and salt.

3. Add dried plum pieces, tomatoes and their juice, red wine, and 1 cup stock, plus the reserved lamb bones; bring to a simmer.

4. Let simmer for at least three hours, adding stock as necessary and occasionally skimming the surface of the accumulated fat. Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary.

5. Remove bones and cinnamon sticks. Ladle atop fresh brown jasmine rice and serve sprinkled with crushed almonds, sesame seeds, and torn mint leaves.

Chili Eggplant with Lentils, Parsley, and Lemon

19 01 2012

For lovers of eggplant and lentils, I bring you Eggplant and Lentils.

Given that you love these two elements – but of course you do – the remaining finer points of of this weeknight-for-one recipe just serve to highlight how sublime they both can be when coddled into their element. The eggplant is doused in olive oil and blackened, crunchy and delectably burnt crust hoarding creamy veggie bliss within. I simmered the lentils in homemade chicken stock until al dente like I like ’em; I also allowed the pot to dry and the lentils to stick from time to time, infusing them with a similarly darkened flavor palette, plus slightly crispy edges. The freshness of lemon and parsley enthusiastically lift up each of our star players here, the chile sings soft and warm in the background, and the cherry ‘maters are just beautiful. Aren’t they?

Chili Eggplant with Lentils, Parsley, and Lemon

olive oil
2-3 bird chiles OR red pepper flakes OR fresh chiles of your choosing
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 eggplant, diced. Peel it if you hate the skin; I love it.
handful cherry tomatoes, halved
salt n pepper
handful parsley, chopped roughly
~1/2 c lentils, cooked, in homemade stock should you have it on hand
fresh lemon juice

1. Heat chile and garlic in olive oil until fragrant; add diced eggplant and salt/pepper. Sautée until eggplant is golden and blackened on a few sides, as you like, then add tomatoes and heat through. Turn off the heat and mix in chopped parsley.

2. Put the lentils in a bowl and mix with a fat squeeze of lemon juice. Add the eggplant and tomatoes and serve.

Doro Wat – Spicy Ethiopian Chicken, Tomato, and Onion Stew

19 01 2012

Doro what?

Okay, the easy joke’s out of the way. Doro wat is one of the most popular dishes in Ethiopia, and exemplifies all aspects of the cuisine that keep me coming back to Malasaña’s own Nuria. I tend towards restaurants that fix foods I can’t make nearly as well myself, and the spreads of saucy veg, egg, and meats ladled across spongy, slightly sour injera has always been a special treat out on the town. The particular mix of spices in each dish mesh to produce flavors wholly distinct from other schools of cooking with which I am more familiar (Thai, French, Mexican, Arabic…), and I’ve somehow always categorized them as Beyond My Kitchen Expertise.

This stereotypical shot of a kaleidoscope amalgamation of spices should be a clear enough indication: no more unfounded excuses. Casu Marzu‘s inspired me again, this time with an image of scored egg submerged in tomato paste spiked with spice. I need it immediately. I spend the morning scouring the musty, earthy shops of Lavapiés for berbere, the complex Ethiopian spice mixture based primarily on heaps of ground chile. A recurring pattern of blank shopkeeper looks send me back to the original recipe, whereupon I discover that I have nearly all the recommended spices at hand. Missing are fenugreek and allspice, which gives me the ideal excuse to poke my head in a corner of Madrid that’s been on my list for well over a year.

One jaunt through southern Malasaña later, and Spicy Yuli becomes my favorite store in the city. Spices by weight! Whole and ground! Curry mixes, galangal, ground cardamom, kaffir lime leaves, Sichuan pepper! This last one I pick up for good measure, along with the afore-sought allspice and fenugreek. Upon my proclaimed affinity for the spicy, the shopkeep gifts me a tiny packet of dry harissa, which she recommends I infuse with oil and enjoy with bread and olives. Mm-hmm.

The berbere comes together as a spectacularly red mountain of powder, insidiously coating the insides of my nostrils with hot paprika more than once. From here the prep could not be simpler, and my slight modifications to the original write-up add a splash of color in a scarlet sea.

One taste destroys me. It’s hot and earthy in a way that links me to my memories of Ethiopian eats at restaurants, yet far better. Fresher, more complicated. I find myself wanting to eat enormous amounts of the tomato-onion blend, to gobble fiery, saucy eggs until I burst. I content myself with reserving leftovers, but only just.

A small warning: I found myself absurdly hyped up after munching this around 10.30 PM, utterly unable to get any shut-eye until well into the wee hours of the morning. This morning I read up on hot paprika, and, in addition to being a top-notch source of vitamin C, it appears to be a stimulant. Doro wat may be best as afternoon food, or, alternatively, as late-night rocket fuel for long lasting groovy moves.

Doro Wat
adapted from As Warm as a July Tomato

1 1/2 tablespoon butter
1 large onion, diced
4-6 cloves garlic
1/2 cup berbere
1 can tomato paste
1 can whole tomatoes
1 whole small chicken, skinned, de-boned, and divided
hard boiled eggs, one per person
several healthy handfuls spinach

berbere (makes 1 cup)
1/2 teaspoon fenugreek
1/4 cup ground chili
1/4 cup hot paprika
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon cardamom
1/2 teaspoon coriander
1/4 teaspoon garlic
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon clove
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
pinch allspice

1. Over low heat, sauteé the onion and garlic in the butter until onion turns translucent around the edges. Add in berbere and toss to coat.

2. Add tomato paste and mix well. Add can of tomatoes, dividing them with your spatula.

3. Add chicken pieces to pan plus some water until the mixture is semi-liquid; bring to a simmer and let cook about 20 minutes. Add more water along the way if mixture looks dry. You’re aiming for a thick stew-like consistency here.

4. Meanwhile, boil the eggs (one per person). Cool them under cold running water, peel, and score with a knife. Settle them in the pan and let cook with the rest for a minute.

5. Add spinach and mix. Let cook until wilted. Serve, with rice, couscous, or bread if you wish.

Ratatouille-style Ratatouille

3 01 2012

This dish got my dad to eat eggplant. That rodent totally knew what he was doing.

This is a massive upgrade to already hearty, healthy traditional ratatouille simply because it is pretty. Look at it! Have you ever before known such an aesthetically pleasing Meatless Monday?

Ratatouille-style Ratatouille
from smitten kitchen.

1/2 onion, finely diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 can tomato sauce
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 small eggplant
1 smallish zucchini
1 smallish yellow squash
1 longish red bell pepper
Few sprigs fresh thyme
Salt and pepper
Few tablespoons soft goat cheese, for serving

1. Preheat oven to 375°F/190°C. Pour tomato puree into bottom of an oval baking dish, approximately 10 inches across the long way. Drop the sliced garlic cloves and chopped onion into the sauce. Stir in one tablespoon of the olive oil and season the sauce generously with salt and pepper – if you’re me, especially generously with the pepper.

2. Trim the ends off the eggplant, zucchini and yellow squash. As carefully as you can, trim the ends off the red pepper and remove the core, leaving the edges intact, like a tube. With a very sharp knife, cut the veggies into very thin slices, approximately 1/16-inch thick.

3. Atop the tomato sauce, arrange slices of prepared vegetables concentrically from the outer edge to the inside of the baking dish, overlapping so just a smidgen of each flat surface is visible, alternating vegetables. You may have a handful leftover that do not fit.

4. Drizzle the remaining tablespoon olive oil over the vegetables and season them generously with salt and pepper. Remove the leaves from the thyme sprigs with your fingertips, running them down the stem. Sprinkle the fresh thyme over the dish.

5. Cover dish with a piece of parchment paper cut to fit inside. Bake at 375°F/190°C for approximately 45 to 55 minutes, until vegetables have released their liquid and are clearly cooked, but with some structure left so they are not totally limp. They should not be brown at the edges, and you should see that the tomato sauce is bubbling up around them.

6. Serve with a dab of soft goat cheese on top, perhaps with some crusty French bread, or atop quinoa if you’re partial to trendy complete-protein seeds (I am).