Monday, July 14, 2014

Rescue Ramen

It started as soup.
This was a refrigerator rescue I concocted whilst house sitting awhile back. I was a stones throw away from my favorite Asian market, New May Wah on Clement Street & 8th Avenue. I love their amazing assortment of frozen dumplings and other potsticker type bites. Along with the array of sauces and the lure of DirectTV back at the house, I was a hermit for close to 3 days, resurrecting my old New Years Eve tradition of an enormous dumpling appetizer dinner, Cosmopolitans and a Sex & the City marathon. Good times.
The leftovers found their way into the pot.
I had also picked up a bag of ramen noodles, six curly compressed rounds packaged much like rice cakes.There was an unfortunate clamshell of grape tomatoes in my host refrigerator that begged to be rescued. Of course I slow roasted them. I also had a bag of mixed frozen vegetables at home. This was much more dense than my usual 3-1 broth-to-stuff ratio.


bring a big pot of water to a boil-this was 6 quart dutch oven with about 4 quarts of water, then reduce to a simmer.
Better Than Bouillon Vegetable Base-about 2 tablespoons- let it dissolve and taste.-just enough that the water takes on some flavor. Add some salt at this point if necessary. Seasoning at this point is more for flavoring the noodles that will cook in the broth.
a garlic clove or two finely chopped & smashed with coarse salt using the side of a knife
add potstickers if you have them-either your leftover cooked ones or frozen (let them cook through for about 7-8 minutes)
   *I used both ramen and potstickers just because I had them-but either one alone is fine
frozen vegetables
a bunch of scallions, thinly sliced, white parts in the pot first-hold off on the greens until the end
any raw vegetables you're trying to use up, diced
ramen noodles-I used one of the cake rounds
add the roasted tomatoes-THIS is what takes the soup up to a brilliant level!!
add salt & pepper to taste
finish with the scallion greens
you can also use up leftover cooked chicken-shred it or dice it.
leftover cooked vegetables work too-dice them up and add them at the end

This particular batch was big and dense. It lasted through the house-sit.  By the last day, most of the broth had been reduced away leaving behind the perfect nest for a couple of poached eggs.
I felt pretty smug whilst OCD'ing on all that foodTV.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Turkey Zucchini Burgers with Sour Cream Sumac Sauce

Another Jerusalem fave. I've made these tasty little sliders several times now and I just can't get enough-they are so flavorful and the sumac sauce just puts it over the top. I double the recipe so I can revel in the leftovers. The first time I made these & packed the leftovers for my office lunch, the aroma wafting from the microwave followed by the visual at my desk had my office mates & bakery peeps mesmerized and fairly disgusted with their $10 deli sandwiches. I made these with the Basmati & Wild Rice in the previous post. This morning I chopped up 3 burgers and tossed the colorful little bites in amongst the rice, nuked it for a minute and topped it off with a poached egg. Needless to say, bliss in a bowl.
The great thing about these burgers and the rice dish is that the flavors are at their best at room temperature or slightly warmed so you can make this ahead of time if you decide (and rightly so) you're gonna make this for guests.

Turkey & zucchini burgers with green onion & cumin
from Jerusalem the Cookbook

1 pound ground turkey

1 large zucchini coarsely grated -about 2 cups
3 green onions, thinly sliced
1 large free-range egg
2 tablespoon chopped mint
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
About 6 ½ tbsp of sunflower oil, for searing

sour cream & sumac sauce

scant 1/2 cup sour cream
scant cup Greek yogurt

1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 small clove garlic, crushed
1 ½ tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon sumac
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Make the sour cream sauce by placing all the ingredients in a small bowl. Stir well and set aside or chill until needed.
Preheat the oven to 425°F. In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients for the meatballs except the sunflower oil. Mix with your hands and then shape into about 18 burgers, each weighing about 1 ½ oz.
Pour enough sunflower oil into a large frying pan to form a layer about inch thick on the pan bottom. Heat over medium heat until hot, then sear the meatballs in batches on all sides. Cook each batch for about 4 minutes, adding oil as needed, until golden brown.

Carefully transfer the seared meatballs to a baking sheet lined with a silpat or parchment paper and place them in the oven for 5-7 minutes, or until just cooked through. Serve warm or at room temperature, with the sauce spooned over or on the side.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

BLTCA pinwheels

This is another one of my office lunch go-to's, a super simple make ahead using either leftover chicken or grill up a chicken breast or two. I cooked up and crumbled some bacon and mixed it with my home made mayo. I added a little adobo sauce to the mayo for some kick, that's why its pink.
Bacon, lettuce, tomato, chicken & avocado.

A great everyday lunch wrap or you can fancy it up by slicing it into pinwheels. Tightly roll, wrap with plastic  twisting the ends. Chill for at least an hour or overnight if you want to make several  up on a Sunday and have one for lunch the next day. This is also a great way to use up leftover salad that's gone wilty.
There's really no recipe for this but here are the components:

cooked chicken breast diced up
cooked bacon crumbled
salt & pepper to taste

Mix everything together in a bowl and set aside.

several leaves of lettuce, stacked and tightly rolled, then sliced into a chiffonade (thin strips)
one tomato-diced
several basil leaves, stacked and tightly rolled, then sliced into a chiffonade
one avocado halved, then quartered-make a bunch of diagonal cuts to, but not through the skin, scoop the  slices out of the skin with a spoon

On a large tortilla spread about a half cup of the chicken over two thirds of the tortilla. On the top third spread out just some of the mayonnaise so the tortilla will stick at the end.
Top the mix evenly with lettuce, tomato, basil and slices of avocado. Finish with a couple of turns of fresh cracked pepper. 
Beginning at the filling end, tightly roll up toward the plain end, you don't need to tuck the sides in.
Tear off a sheet of plastic wrap and lay it flat on your work surface. Place your roll on the bottom edge and center it. Roll it up and then twist the ends tightly. Refrigerate for at least an hour.


Friday, June 6, 2014

Basmati & Wild Rice with Chickpeas, Herbs & Fried Onions

The latest from Jerusalem, the best cookbook I've never owned.
I have problems cooking rice. Seems so simple “follow package directions”. Never fails, it’s usually undercooked and burning to the bottom of the pan before it’s done…just a whisper of a flame and I still end up with scorched rice.
Add more water and I end up with clumpy moist rice. Not good either. Then I came across Jamie Oliver’s method of boiling, draining & steaming rice, now this is how I cook all my grains. This requires a little more attention & the use of a couple of tools but it results in more control and a grain that ideally suits it's final purpose.

The Jamie Oliver Method of cooking white rice:

Get a large pot of salted water boiling.
Add 1 1/2 cups of well-rinsed rice (in a mesh strainer-run it under cold water for about a minute-until the water runs clear)_
when the rice starts dancing around, boil for 5 minutes** from that point on.
Strain the rice in a colander and cover with aluminum foil, pressing it down onto the surface of the rice. Add an inch of water back into your original pot and bring that back to a boil.
Reduce the heat to a simmer and place your colander of foil-covered rice back into the pot and place the pot cover back on as well.
Let it simmer and steam for 10** minutes.

**These times will vary depending on the grain-white rice being the quickest cook and farro taking the longest. At the first point, you're looking for the grain to be chewy but still slightly underdone. The grain is finished when you think it's finished-the simmer & steam time can take up to 30 minutes depending on the grain. Taste it every 10 minutes & check that the water hasn't boiled away.

This dish has two different types of rice which require preparation separately. You can choose to go with one type if you want but what works here is the two different textures that are going on. Basmati is lighter & fluffier while the wild rice is firmer.
As I sit here and eat this I’m struck by two things: It’s beautiful to look at, I hope my pictures do it justice. The rice is yellowed from the curry and flecked with loads of fresh bright green herbs and the deep red from the dried cranberries and finally the crispy brown of the fried onions. Ottolenghi loves his fried onions for good reason. They add a level of crispiness and savory complexity. I added a bunch of chives I’d just trimmed the flower off. They were teetering on the edge of the compost bin.

Basmati & Wild Rice with Chickpeas, Herbs & Fried Onions
adapted from Jerusalem the Cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi & Sami Tamimi

⅓ cup wild rice
2 ½ tablespoons olive oil
2 ¼ cups basmati rice
boiling water
2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1½ teaspoons curry powder
1 ½ cups cooked and drained chickpeas (canned are good)
¾ cup sunflower oil
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
1 ½ teaspoon all-purpose flour
⅔ cup currants
2 tablespoons chopped flat leaf parsley
1 tablespoons chopped cilantro
1 tablespoons chopped dill
I added about 2 tablespoons fresh chives-just what I had on hand and not be wasteful=)
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Rinse the wild rice in a mesh strainer and place in small sauce pan. Fill with water and bring to a boil. Continue to boil until the rice is chewy then transfer to a mesh strainer or small colander and steam it (as directed above) to it's finish.
To cook the basmati rice, pour 1 tablespoon of the olive oil into a medium saucepan with a tightly fitting lid and place over high heat. Add the rice and ¼ teaspoon salt and stir as you warm up the rice. Carefully add the boiling water filling the saucepan about 3/4 full, once the rice is boiling and dancing around, continue to boil for 5 minutes, then transfer into a colander and simmer & steam to it's finish. Turn off the heat, remove the foil and place a clean tea towel over the pot and place the lid back on. Let it sit for 10 minutes.
While the rice is cooking, prepare the chickpeas. Heat the remaining 1 ½ tablespoons of olive oil in a small saucepan over high heat. Add the cumin seeds and curry powder. Wait for a couple of seconds, and then add the chickpeas and ¼ teaspoon salt; make sure you do this quickly or the spices may burn in the oil. Stir over the heat for a minute or two, just heat the chickpeas then transfer to a large mixing bowl.

Wipe the saucepan clean, pour in the sunflower oil, and place over high heat. Make sure the oil is hot by throwing a small piece of onion; it should sizzle vigorously. Use your hands to mix the onion with the flour to coat it slightly. Take some of the onion and carefully (it may split) place it in the oil. Fry for 2 to 3 minutes, until golden brown, then transfer to paper towels to drain and sprinkle with salt. Repeat in batches until all the onion is fried.
Finally, add both types of rice to the chickpeas and then add the currants, herbs, and fried onion. Stir, taste and add salt and pepper as you like. Serve warm or at room temperature.
This makes a lot of rice. Perfect for leftovers and cookin’ up for a morning fried rice.

This is really, really good.

Sunday, May 25, 2014


Mayonnaise has it's lovers & haters. I was neutral like Switzerland. Lovers are generally divided into Team Hellmans/Best Foods or Team Miracle Whip. Back when I used to purchase commercial mayo I would probably be on the bench for Best Foods, not my go to condiment but useful at times.
A couple of years ago I caught an episode of America's Test Kitchen where Julia was making mayonnaise to go into a potato salad. I thought, "how easy is that?" I had all the ingredients on hand and had just been pondering an egg salad for my morning bagel but had no mayo and I was seriously intrigued by ATK's choice of ingredients using Tabasco & Worchestershire. I subbed Sriracha since I had no Tabasco.
That serendipitous moment propelled the little kitchen to much greater things.
My tweaks to the original recipe continue to be Sriracha only because it'll take me 2 more years to finish that bottle, a squeeze or two of Agave Nectar added at the very end-I like the honey mustard flavors in my finished mayo. I also amp up the Dijon 'cuz I love it. The final steps: add a big pinch of salt & blitz. Taste. Repeat if necessary.
Some tips:
Use a neutral vegetable oil. Olive oil is fine but make sure to taste it first to make sure it's not bitter. My first few attempts at this were foiled by the inexpensive supermarket extra virgin olive oil that I didn't realize was so bitter. It's fine to cook with, but mayonnaise is something like 75% oil-Use something that tastes good on its own.
Use a good quality organic egg if you're freakish about Salmonella. I've made this in the past with cheap supermarket eggs and lived to tell the tale.

Homemade Mayonnaise
adapted from America's Test Kitchen

into your food processor/or mixing bowl:

1 whole large egg
salt & pepper
2 teaspoons lemon juice
dash of Tabasco sauce or Sriracha
dash of Worchestershire Sauce
1/4 teaspoon Dijon-I use a whole teaspoon because I love Dijon-stick with the original measure if you prefer a more neutral mayo. 

Process or madly whisk until it's light yellow.

Sloooowwwwly drizzle in 1 1/4 cup vegetable oil whilst continuing to whisk madly or: see that tiny hole in the middle of the feed tube pusher thingy in your food processor? That's what it's for. Fill that tube with the oil and continue until your measuring cup is empty while the food processor is going.
As soon as the oil is mixed in, taste it. This is where I like to drizzle in some Agave Nectar to give my mayo the honey mustard flavors.
Adjust the taste to your liking by adding pinches of salt, more lemon juice or more hot sauce.
This is great to play around with.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

savory layer cake

The sign of a successful new recipe, or more likely just my kitchen OCD, is when I'm already planning my next shopping list so I can immediately make it all over again-knowing full well that it will take me 2 or 3 days to finish the dish that's sitting right in front of me. I mean, you can never have too much of a good thing...can you? I tell myself "At least wait until day 3 and see how it holds up to the reheat".
I can attest to the fact that this just gets better. I heated a fat slice of it last night after getting home from a crazybusy day and working the closing shift at the market. I was famished by the time I pedaled my bike home and up that last hill that seemed to go on forever...grateful to have this ready to go and thankful to my wine buddy at the market for the remains of a bottle of Pinot Noir. I cracked open a new mystery I picked up from the library earlier in the afternoon and my evening was complete.
This savory layer cake comes from Jerusalem, one of my favorite cookery books.

The chef's behind this collection of recipes are Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi, owners of the wildly successful Ottolenghi restaurants in London. They call this an Open Kibbeh, a non-traditional take on a classic Lebanese Kibbeh. There are versions of Kibbeh throughout the Middle Eastern culture, but basically a kibbeh is a meat filled croquet or deep-fried dumpling that includes bulgur wheat (cracked wheat), spicy ground meat with fresh herbs, pine nuts and tahini sauce for dipping.
In this version, each of the components are layered into a spring-form pan and baked, then left to cool to room temperature-at which point it's released from the pan, holding into wedges better and the flavors are at their peak.
This is really super simple to make. I'm fortunate to work in the place that I do with access to the best food in the city. I also have this great Armenian market out in my hood. It is a constant source of wonder when I peruse its aisles while I attempt to build my Ottolenghi pantry. My shopping list consisted of ground lamb (ground beef works too), bulgur wheat  & pine nuts. I've never used bulgur wheat so I neglected to write down specifically "fine" bulgur wheat. I was slightly overwhelmed by the vast array of bulgur wheat on the shelf- 2 brands each with 4 grades from fine to coarse ground. I guessed and chose medium-fine. It worked fine though, the fully hydrated grain was slightly bigger than couscous and a tad grainier in texture.
At the butcher counter, the ground lamb they offered was called "lamb lulu". The raw lamb was seasoned with herbs and spices (I can't remember what they were but it sounded good) and spread squarely and evenly onto a long, narrow white platter, indented with an angular cross-hatched pattern and covered tightly with plastic wrap. It looked so beautiful.

Open Kibbeh
Yotam Ottolenghi’s & Sami Tamimi’s Jerusalem: A Cookbook.

scant 1 cup (125g) fine bulgur wheat
scant 1 cup (200ml) water
6 tablespoons (90ml) olive oil
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 medium onions, very finely chopped
1 medium jalepeno, very finely chopped
12 ounces (350g) ground lamb
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground coriander
2 tablespoon roughly chopped coriander
1/2 cup (60g) pine nuts
3 tablespoons roughly chopped parsley
2 tablespoons self-rising flour (or 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour + 1/8 teaspoon baking powder + pinch of salt)
Salt and black pepper
3 1/2 tablespoons (50g) tahini paste
3 1/2 tablespoons (50ml) water
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon sumac

Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Brush an 8 inch springform pan with olive oil and line with parchment paper. Put the bulgur wheat into a bowl, add water to cover the bulgur, and set aside for 30 minutes.
Heat four tablespoons of oil in a large skillet. Sauté the garlic, onion and jalepeno on medium-high heat until soft, remove from the pan, return it to high heat and add the lamb. Cook for five minutes, stirring, until brown. Return the onion mix to the pan, along with the spices, coriander leaves, salt, pepper and most of the pine nuts and parsley (saving a bit for the finish). Cook for a couple of minutes, remove from the heat, taste and adjust the seasoning.
Check the bulgur to see if all the water has been absorbed (strain if not). Add the flour, a tablespoon of oil, a quarter-teaspoon of salt and a pinch of black pepper and, with your hands, work into a pliable mixture that just holds together. Press firmly into the base of the springform pan  so that it is compact and level, I use the flat bottom of a pint glass. Spread the lamb mix evenly on top and press down. Bake for 20 minutes, or until the meat browns further and is very hot.
Whisk together the tahini, lemon juice, water and a pinch of salt for a very thick, yet pourable sauce. Remove the kibbeh from the oven, spread the sauce on top, sprinkle with pine nuts and parsley, and return to the oven. Bake for 10-15 minutes, until the tahini is just set and the pine nuts are golden. Remove and leave to cool down to room temperature.
Before serving, sprinkle with the sumac and a drizzle of olive oil. Remove the ring of the pan and carefully cut the kibbeh into slices.
This is great for leftovers too. I just microwave for one minute to take off the chill.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Chevre and Roasted Tomato Toasts with Fresh Za'atar

A while back, I spent a rainy "weekend" in the little kitchen cooking up my favorite condiments -The Three Amigos - slooowww roasted tomatoes, caramelized onions, & roasted red peppers. I then cooked up big batches of barley and white beans for the freezer,  hard boiled some eggs, and made a batch of fresh za'atar, (a Middle Eastern herb & spice blend of thyme, oregano, toasted sesame seeds, salt & sumac),
A day in the little kitchen makes the work week meals a breeze.
Simple omelets and grilled cheese sandwiches take on a whole new level of flavor, a quick blitz of  white beans and roasted peppers or slow roasted tomatoes (along with olive oil & lemon juice) in the food processor make up a lovely spread - the perfect snack with some toasted pita chips. Spread all over a big flour tortilla + egg salad + fresh herbs, or sliced lunch meat + caramelized onion + a generous sprinkle of za'atar, roll it up and you're good to go or slice it into pretty pinwheels.
My favorite quickie meal is a tartine or open-faced, loaded toasts. This one consists of slices of crusty country loaf which were brushed with olive oil and toasted in the oven, then rubbed with garlic, next spread with a mixture of chevre & za'atar, topped with slow roasted tomatoes and another sprinkle of za'atar.