Monday, January 28, 2013

COTM: Jerusalem, family dinner

So I could not help myself and made another round of shakshuka for dinner last week.  How is it possible that it tasted even better?

Well January is coming to a close and I wanted to make at least one more recipe from the book before the Chowhoud Cookbook of the Month (COTM) changed.  I even tweeted back and forth with one of the authors about what he recommended I try.  (Yes, that completely made my night, thanks Sami.)

The meal started off simply enough with my intentions on making roasted chicken.  Then I decided I wanted to try the spicy carrots.  Then more people were coming to dinner and I needed to make another side dish and didn't want a plane salad so the spicy beet and walnut salad was added.  Okay, ready to go..and then the middle sister asked me what dessert was.  Okay, Coconut Marmalade cake was now on the list too.  Does this sound familiar to anyone?  If you give a mouse a cookie... So the final menu came down to this:

Main Course
Roasted Chicken with Clementines & Arak

Side #1
Spicy Carrot Salad

Side #2
Spicy Beet, Leek, & Walnut Salad

Semolina, Coconut, & Marmalade Cake

Once again, this book is amazing.  First of all, my house smelled like citrus and spice the whole time the chicken was cooking which kept making my stomach growl.  The roasted chicken with fennel and clementines (tangerines in my case) was a show stopper.  First of all, the smell would convert a vegan.  Second, the presentation looked unreal with the bits of char on the chicken and fennel and tangerines made this dish look like something straight out of a magazine.  Third, and most importantly, the chicken tasted like the best chicken ever!  I am not a dark meat fan and for some reason have not yet come to love chicken cooked on the bone and with skin.  That was until last night.  I have been converted.  So easy to make and yet the effort paled in comparison to the finished product.  Ottolenghi and Tamimi you rock!

My dad said his favorite dish was the spicy carrots.  I of course like anything cooked with chili sauce or harissa which of course this dish had a touch of.  The carrots were huge and from the farmers market that morning which might have made the taste go up a level as well.  In all the carrots were, in my opinion, delicately seasoned and a perfect side.  (I am going to make another batch to have with lunch with week.)

Spicy beet salad I of course loved with the exception of the leeks.  I just could not seem to find the right texture for them.  Other recipes tryers had the same problem and we all agreed to wither leave the leeks out next time or to try artichoke.  Other than that I loved the dressing and the walnut paired with the beets.  Another great side dish.

Last came the cake/bread.  I wish I had more dazzling pictures for this but in truth the cake was easy to make and to dress it up would have taken away from the simplicity of the dish.  Citrus and coconut marry in the dense but moist cake with a tough of ground almonds to give it a bit of texture and background flavor.  I can see this dish being translated to a lovely tea party for a warm afternoon.

Now for the problem.  I had checked this book out from the library and it now seems I need to purchase it for my collection and to support the chefs.  Well good thing that I named this year the "Year of Cooking and Cookbooks"!

(photo credit everyAugust)

Monday, January 21, 2013

Week 15 Donna Hay: Summer Supper


So January has been mostly Paleo eating for me and the family but I had to make another Donna Hay meal which of course was not.  I am not holding myself to rigid restrictions when it comes to Paleo but I am trying to make most of my meals fit into that category.

Last night the menu was Summer Supper.  Yes, I do live in California and yes it is winter here, the complete opposite of Australia.  I sent my guest 4 choices and this was the winner.  Now for the dishes...

Goat's Cheese Tarts

These suckers were quite a hit and why not when they were made with puff pastry, caramelized onions, and goat's cheese.  The trifecta combination for food.  The only prep was caramelizing the onions and cutting the disks for the pastry.  My sister said this would be a great dish to take to a party and make one big plate and cut it into slices.  I agree.

Main + Side
Crispy Peppered Salmon + Fennel and Celeriac Slaw

I am not a big fish fan and certainly not a salmon fan.  When I do eat salmon I only like the taste of wild caught.  Yes I know, I am a bit persnickety.  So I spent the extra dough for the Alaskan wild caught salmon.  Crisp the fillets up over high heat to make a nice sear.  The slaw I made ahead of time which had a lemon, mayonnaise, and horseradish dressing.  I have a confession: this is the first time I have ever cooked celery rot.  I liked it.  In fact, I really liked it and want to explore more with this forgotten vegetable.  It does not taste like celery to me but in fact a muted soft flavor that I cannot quite describe.  The salmon was cooked perfectly and I liked the slaw.  Next time I am going to use fresher horseradish as the jar I used from my sister might have been a little old and had lost a lot of its flavor.  Still, the flavors were mellow and nice.

Coconut Plum Crumbles

Alas, plums are not in season and when that is the case you have a hard time finding them in our grocery stores as more people are trying to buy local and seasonal.  I was lucky to find a bunch of pluots and substituted them instead.  Dessert was nice and refreshing.  The ice cream however, stood out to me more than the coconut fruit.  I think I will cook them longer next time to further melt the plums/pluots and make the coconut even more golden.  I will say, dessert was the perfect size and subtle enough to finish off the meal.

Will I make these recipes again?  Yes.  Are they stand out?  Not really, but they might be perfect, as the title suggests, for a causal Summer Supper.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Chowhound Cookbook of the Month: Jerusalem

So off and on for the past couple of years I have logged on to this cooking site call Chowhound and read about their Cookbook on the month thread.  Each month a moderator allows members to vote on the Cookbook of the month and once decided every cooks from the books and reports back on their stories of cooking, tasting, and sharing.  

Upon the turn of the New Year one cannot help but to reflect on the past and to look forward to change in the future.  I realized that I have not been happy in certain aspects of my life but that I had been really happy in others and had not paid much attention.  I love to cook.  I love to have dinner parties.  I love to sit down to a nice dinner with family and friends.  I love trying new things and finding ways to improve upon things tried.

It hit me that reading the reviews and quips on Chowhound actually made me smile and I had secretly been longing to join in the chatter and to try new books and recipes too.  January on Chowhound was the book Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi.  To be honest I had never heard of it so I went down and checked it out from the library.  Well actually I went to the library and sat and read and flipped through the book before I even got out the door.  The stories, recipes, and pictures drew me in and I knew I would love this cookbook.

My to my middle sister's chagrin, I love eggs.  I mean I could eat them at every meal and sometimes do.    So when I say the picture for a dish called Shakshuka I had to make that my first dish.  After reading the ingredients list I realized that they were everyday staples items and I would not have to buy a jar of some random sauce that would cost $19 and I would most likely only use once.

I scheduled a night and invited the usual recipe review guests.  The house smelled so good while cooking.  I mean making a sauce out of garlic, cumin, tomatoes, peppers, and chili sauce has delicious written all over it.

I set the plates down and we dug in.  I all but licked my plate.  In fact, if I had not invited dinner guest I might have just eaten out of the pan and more than one serving.  I expected the sauce to be spicier but upon further thought I think it was just perfect.  So mild yet rich tasting.  The eggs were cooked in a way I had never really made before.  They were slightly poached in the tomato-pepper sauce and cooked for about 10 minutes on the stove.  They were not runny but the yolk was extremely soft and can I say quite addicting.

Oh, and did I mention this dish is extremely healthy and qualifies as Paleo? It looks like a lot of the recipes in the book would be considered Paleo and super tasty.

I cannot wait to try another recipe but to be honest I am sold on just the Shakshuka itself and am planning on making it for dinner again this week.
(photo credit EveryAugust and me)

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

More Tested Meals from the Well Fed cookbook

Okay, so I have been testing so more recipes from the Well Fed cookbook.  The next two were a hit and I am definitely making again.  I made the Coconut-Almond Green Beans and The Best Chicken You Will Ever Eat

The chicken took a bit of forethought as the recipe calls for bringing the chicken breasts, yes flavorless chicken breasts, for at least 2 hours up to 3 days.  I brined the chicken for 24-hours in the refrigerator, drained, made spice rub and coated, then plopped them on my grill pan as it is way to cold to grill outside.  (Yes, I was born and raised in Southern California).  I took the chicken off the grill and let it rest for a bit but not before snagging a little piece for me to sample.  While I was cooking the spices were enticing but after tasting I realized they were actually intoxicating.  No one was around for me to revel in my victory of the BEST CHICKEN I EVER ATE so I made some phone calls to share my joy.

Equally delicious smelly and scrumptious were the Coconut-Almond Green Beans.  I will admit, I bought these green beans and was planning on making another dish but last minute decided to try one more recipe.  My kitchen again smelled like a gourmet Moroccan restaurant and I all but licked my plate with these suckers.  I could have easily devoured the entire batch they were that good but decided to exercise some sort of self restraint and managed to save some for another meal.  They were still good reheated. 

This book has been so inspiring with all of the flavor and spice combinations.  I have a few more recipes on my list to make but for now my refrigerator is full and I am satiated.

AS Julie Child says (currently reading "My Life in France"), Bon Appetit!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Paleo in January

I have to say, if you had asked me a year ago if I would ever eat Paleo I would have laughed in your face.  Now truth be told, I was slightly misinformed as to what Paleo entailed, but still would have been quite resistant to trying it out.  As it turns out, trying new things can be quite rewarding. 

From what I have read, heard, and gathered thus far, Paleo eating is eating meat directly from the source, tons of vegetables, and some fruit.  Consumables not included in Paleo include alcohol, sugar, and processed food. So to sum up you are eating food directly from the source which I must admit I try to do more often than not.  (Although I do love my wine.)

How this all started was my brother-in-law decided to do Paleo in December for health reasons (worst month to give up booze and sugar, I know) and my sister jumped on board to support him.  As it turns out I had a very close friend have some recent health issues as well and was leaning towards trying this lifestyle in January.  All of them had started reading the book "It Starts With Food" by Melissa and Dallas Hartwig.  (Visit their blog HERE.)  I was not fully committed for January until my sister then picked up the cookbook "Well Fed" by Melissa Joulwan.  (Visit her blog HERE.)  I started flipping through the book and decided to give it a go after reading that she had a recipe for SCOTCH EGGS. 

Yes, Scotch Eggs.  If you have not had the opportunity to try these tasty nuggets let me describe them to you.  You take a hard-boiled egg, wrap it up in some seasoned pork, coat in bread crumbs, and usually fry it up.  Holy crap the flavors will knock your socks off.  The Well Fed version uses the baking verses frying method and uses crushed pork rinds (Chicharrones) instead of bread crumbs. 
Scotch Eggs from the Well Fed cookbook
You might not be able to tell from the picture, but these suckers were huge!  Some notes on the recipe and my future alterations.

1. The spice combination was delicious!  Not going to change a thing there.
2. Umm..Pork Rinds are delicious.  Thank you for reintroducing those to me.
3. Holy crap, way to much meat!  I think next time I will cut the amount of pork in half for each egg.  I have some leftover and intend to cut each egg in half for a serving size. No thank you to food babies.
4. These were too salty for me.  Good, but apparently I am not used to that much salt.  (Reduce salt by half)
5. I am a fan of calorie counting and nutrition tracking.  These tasty morsels (or giants) had a lot more fat than I am used to eating and made me feel a bit weighed down.  Also, just because Paleo sounds healthy does not necessarily mean that recipes you find are.  Each egg was 450 calories from the version I made which did not have the egg wash or second coating of pork rinds.  With so much meat you need tons of vegetable to eat along side so I would definitely scale down the size of the portions in this recipe in her book and calculate the nutrition on your own.

All that to say, the next night the family and I had these suckers...
Citrus Carnitas via Well Fed cookbook
Citrus Carnitas which were pretty tasty but I might modify a bit for my flavor palate.  A pinch of salt was needed (as opposed to the last recipe) and a bit more citrus.  We paired this is salad, jicama, and sweet potato "fries". 

Tonight, a new adventure!  I am going to try brining my chicken breaks and grilling with a spice rub.  I have never eaten this much meat in my life!  And thanks Melissa Joulwan!