Posts filed under ‘Recipes and Food’
The Spring Quarter issue of Life Choices Magazine pp 30-32 features a new article by me on making killer tajines and setting beautiful tables.
Check out pages 30-32 for my now-not-so-secret recipe for tajine (also spelled tagine). This is a basic recipe that can be adapted to any kind of protein – or just veggies – mixing up the spices and herbs for a different result each time. You’ll also find ideas for what to serve with a tajine and tips on how to set a drop dead gorgeous table.
Link here – See pp 30-32: Life Choices Magazine feature Beauty and the Feast
Rendang Chicken Curry – (Indonesian Dry Curry)
For those who don’t know, a dry curry is simmered down until the sauce is very thick and coats the meat. Intense flavors of a bevy of spices, fish sauce and coconut milk give this recipe great depth and complexity. You’ll see by the list of ingredients what I mean. The big plump black raisins swell when cooking. I like to sprinkle fresh toasted coconut on just before serving. As my friend Suzanne would say, a real tongue erection!
While the curry can be made with beef or whole chicken cut into pieces, for ease of serving large groups, I prefer chunks of chicken thighs -or if serving a pot luck – drumettes. Serves 24 for potluck with approximately 1 drumette each.
Heavy Le Creuset-type (dutch oven etc) pot
Optional oven-proof flat dish
Optional Aluminum foil
Optional Food processor, either large or mini
Chicken parts equivalent to a whole chicken.
My preference: boneless chicken thighs cut into chunks OR
best for pot luck: wing drumettes (approx 24)
1 can coconut milk
1 large onion
4 gloves garlic
2 Tbsp brown sugar
3-4 tsp powdered ginger – or thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger
¾ tsp dry chili flakes or 1-3 deseeded red chilies (depends on how “hot” you like it)
1 tsp turmeric
1 heaping Tbsp ground coriander
1 Tbsp ground cumin
1 Tbsp curry powder
2 tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp nutmeg
¼ tsp ground cloves
1 tsp powdered star anise
4 tsp dark soy sauce (you can add more later to adjust taste)
4 Tbsp fish sauce – or equivalent fish base from jar
1 tsp shrimp paste – or 1 Tbsp seafood base – or 1 Tbsp additional fish sauce
Handful of big seedless raisins (Autumn Royal or Flame Seedless)
¾ Tbsp tamarind paste
2 Tbsp finely chopped lemongrass
Dry, shredded coconut (packaged, sweetened coconut from grocery store is fine)
Note: For making the sauce, a food processor is best. I use a mini-one for the onions and garlic. If you have a big processor, you can put all the SAUCE ingredients EXCEPT raisins in that. If you don’t have a processor, dice the onions, garlic, fresh ginger and optional lemongrass as small as possible. Would recommend powdered ginger.
Use a sturdy pot on top of stove.
Put coconut milk in pan.
Peel onions and cut into chunks.
IF using fresh ginger, peel and cut into pieces.
Put onion, garlic, ginger and optional lemongrass in mini-processor and mush.
Stir sauce ingredients together in a small bowl. EXCEPT raisins.
Add mixture to coconut milk.
Taste test and adjust. If need more salt, add more fish sauce or seafood base. If not spicy enough, add more chili.
Bring to a boil over medium heat.
Add the chicken, stirring well.
When curry comes to boil again, reduce to simmer for approximately one hour, stirring frequently so not to burn or stick. (see 2 techniques below)
If it seems to go “dry” (thicken) too fast, add more coconut milk or a little water.
Note: Best made as many hours before serving as possible. This allows the spices to meld.
If using chicken chunks, simmer, uncovered, stirring frequently.
You will want the sauce to reduce.
Add the raisins after 45 minutes.
Continue cooking until sauce is consistency of ketchup.
Turn onto serving dish and sprinkle with toasted coconut.
Serve bowl of remaining coconut on the side.
If using drumettes, cover the first 45 minutes, stirring frequently.
Add the raisins.
Simmer uncovered for 15 minutes.
Remove drumettes to an oven-proof dish large enough to spread them out.
Cover with foil and put in 300 degree oven while reducing the sauce. (Further tenderizes the drumettes without drying them out.)
Boil the sauce hard, uncovered until consistency of ketchup.
Remove chicken from oven and spoon sauce over.
Serve in the oven proof dish.
Sprinkle toasted coconut on top.
Serve bowl of remaining coconut on the side.
This is so easy, it’s embarrassing to accept the praise it always elicits.
Best made close to serving.
½ – 1 package shredded coconut
1 heavy skillet or hand wok
Heat pan on high fire.
Put coconut in hot pan.
Stir constantly, turning and turning.
Remove or lift from fire occasionally so doesn’t get too hot.
Coconut will gradually begin to brown.
When it’s all over golden, remove from heat and dump immediately onto a plate or flat pan to cool.
DO NOT leave in hot skillet as cooking continues.
Sandra adds “Although this reads like a complicated recipe, it really isn’t when you get down to it. Once you line up all ingredients, everything goes into a pot and cooks. I take the extra oven step with the drumettes, as I want them to be tender but not falling off the bone. You can easily skip the oven part.
The Secret: It’s all in the spices. I use Penzey’s for freshness and punch. It’s also very important to let the spices “cure,” which means giving them plenty of time to meld together. Make in the morning for an evening party. Can easily be prepared the day before.
The French Côte de Provence Domain de Beaupré was a rosé wine I’d been saving for a special occasion. It was delicious at the beginning of the meal but seemed to turn a little sour at the end. If I made this again, I’d go Italian all the way.
When I saw this delectable Italian artisan pasta (sagne torte) at our local deli, d’Paolo & Sons, I couldn’t resist. Too elegant and tasty to be smothered in sauce, I came up with the following recipe that accented the rabbit every bit as much as I’d hoped it would.
Sandra’s pasta con funghi
4 cups whole dark mushrooms, then chopped fine
6 scallions, chopped fine
2 garlic cloves, chopped fine
olive oil to cover bottom of frying pan
pat of butter
1/2 cup dry white wine
3 tablespoons crème fraîche
salt & pepper
au jus from the roasted rabbit
note: As always, I eyeball ingredients: oil, butter, white wine, crème fraîche. You must sense how much you need and add more if necessary. The sauce is not meant to be “runny,” so go easy on the wine. You achieve the right texture with the crème fraîche, which also binds the flavors. Salt and pepper is according to taste.
sauté onions and garlic in olive oil and butter for 3 minutes
add mushrooms, salt and pepper
sauté until soft, turning gently
add white wine
simmer 5 minutes
add crème fraîche and turn.
turn off heat and let sit until ready to eat.
boil pasta in salty water according to instructions (about 9 minutes, stirring every 1-2 minutes). DO NOT OVERCOOK!
while pasta is boiling, warm the sauce gently
drain pasta but do not rinse
turn onto a platter
add mushroom sauce and turn quickly and gently
spoon generous amount of the au jus (sauce) from the rabbit over the pasta
Using a pork loin roast in a tajine would be utter sacrilege in North Africa. Here in California, I can be creative. This tajine was not spiced as usual; I wanted to preserve the delicacy of the onions, pork and lemons.
I started, as always, with the sauteeing of onions (2 huge white) and garlic (many cloves very fresh) in virgin olive oil (the heavier the better for a tajine.) When the onions/garlic were soft, I removed them from the pan and browned the roast on all sides at high temperature.
The onion mixture went back in around the meat, which I left as an experiment in one whole piece instead of cutting into chunks. Sprigs of fresh rosemary pierce the roast. The lemons, which I preserved myself with salt, clove, bay leaf and cardamon, were scattered around. Rock salt and fresh ground black pepper came last.
To ensure there was plenty of sauce for my gravy-loving husband, I added one cup of white wine (also a big no-no in North Africa) with a dissolved heaping teaspoon of condensed chicken stock.
Put on the tajine lid and cook on low heat for a couple of hours. note: You can feel the top of the tajine lid to make sure it’s hot and all is cooking as it should.
The meat came out especially moist and tender. I think the center might still have been a bit frozen which turned out to be a plus.
Served with wholewheat coucous and a crisp Chardonnay.
This is a meal Elektra could have eaten in Roman North Africa, only instead of venison, the host might have served a young Barbary stag or oryx. Of course, my guests would have been reclining on lounges and served by slaves. And the Zinfandel would have been watered.
The recipe for the sauce comes from one of the most famous cookbooks of antiquity. Today it is known simply as the Apicius.
There is disagreement about whether the famous epicure of the Tiberian reign (1st c AD) Marcus Gavius Apicius was the original collector or the inspiration. Most probably, he had nothing to do with the book, De re coquinaria “On the Subject of Cooking,” which eventually became known by his name.
Most scholars believe the collection of Roman cookery recipes was compiled in the late 4th or early 5th century. The language in which it was written is closer to Vulgar than Classical Latin.
A huge hunk of frozen venison turned out to be three roasts when defrosted. I marinated all three for 24 hours in red wine, fresh rosemary and cloves of garlic.
The smallest roast was cut into chunks for a tajine (see photos) with onions, fingerling potatoes, chunks of carrots, and tons of peas topped with baby bell peppers. Spicing: cumin, cardamon, ginger, cinnamon, clove, smoked paprika and fresh ground black pepper.
The middle-sized roast was coated in cajun spices and slow-cooked on the charcoal grill. Real charcoal please with mesquite chips! I served the Cajun venison with cherry sauce.
The large venison roast (see photo at top) was browned on all sides in olive oil and then put in a 350 oven with a few strips of bacon on top. Venison is very lean.
Now we come to the sauce from a recipe translated from the original Apicius. [Thank you to the food blog Hunter, Angler, Gardener, Cook]
I had to substitute a couple of herbs. And I used the reduced marinade for a base. I’m sure Apicius would have approved.
Ingredients for the sauce
note: all herbs are fresh, some from my own garden.
rue (I used fresh rosemary)
lovage (I used celery leaves)
Thai fish sauce (in place of Roman garum, the salty cured fish sauce Romans used with almost all meats and that they stole from the Greeks)
sweet wine (I used Port)
salt and pepper
Not having a slave to grind the herbs into a paste, I threw them into a small food processor. You use the goodies from the bottom of the roasting pan to make a sauce much like gravies are made today. The end result should be something between a liquid and a syrup.
Salty and sweet with tons of herbs. That was the Roman taste. Also black pepper – lots of it. Even with syrupy pears.
Not sure if the Romans had cous cous, but they definitely had grain, so I suspect they might have discovered this primitive way of making pasta long before Marco Polo. I toasted slivered almonds and soaked giant raisins in brandy (until they are plump and soft) to put in the cooked cous cous.
In addition to remembering our own fallen heroes on a splendid Memorial Day, we stepped back a little further in history to remember the Romans. To borrow from the gladiators, “We who are about to eat, salute you!”
The table setting is my vision of Roman North Africa. Need to get some silver chalices!
At risk of this turning into a food blog – and what would be so bad about that, you’re saying? – I’m passing on the steps and ingredients to create the birthday cake you see above. Caution: You need 2-3 hours to put this together & clean up.
3 – 9″ cake pans
parchment paper (not necessary but works better than greasing pans)
double boiler – or saucepan that can balance inside a larger saucepan
note: smaller pan must hold at least 5 liquid cups.
small frying pan
2 shelves in oven
several size mixing bowls
measuring cups and spoons
flat blade (for spreading frosting)
recommend heat resistant glove
cream of tartar
chocolate cake mix (Yes! I CHEAT!)
Ingredients by steps:
I prefer Duncan Hines Triple Chocolate or Dark Chocolate Fudge. You can make from scratch, but really not worth it. IMHO
vegetable oil (not olive)
3 eggs whole
1/2 c butter (1 stick) ROOM TEMPERATURE (softened)
2/3 c unsweetened cocoa powder (my preference is Hershey’s)
2 c powdered sugar (sifted)
1/3 c milk (minimum – you’ll need a little more)
note: WARM slightly in microwave
1 tsp vanilla extract
pinch of salt
Red Raspberry Jam – I love Stonewall Kitchen, but other brands will do.
3 oz (half a package) Slivered Blanched Almonds (to be toasted)
Meringue-like Topping (known as 7 minute frosting):
1 1/2 c granulated sugar
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
1/8 tsp salt
1/3 c water
2 egg whites
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Put it together:
- grease 3 cake pans. Coat with cocoa powder instead of white flour. MUCH easier if you use parchment paper so guaranteed not to stick. Use both.
- mix according to directions
- using 1 cup measure, distribute batter evenly in 3 pans
- bake in 350 oven. Put shelves close together so baking as even as possible
- took about 18 minutes for 2 on top. Bottom shelf took couple of minutes longer
note: I use toothpick to test
- remove pans to rack or gas burners on top of stove and let cool 15 minutes. No more.
- remove layers from baking pans and set aside
TOAST ALMONDS while cake is baking.
- heat small skillet to hot on stovetop
- put almonds in pan – NO OIL
- stir constantly with wooden spoon
- lift up and down from fire if getting too hot
- keep toasting – KEEP TURNING – as almonds turn golden.
- remove from heat and keep stirring.
note: almonds will continue to toast in hot pan
- when desired color is reached, turn onto a plate and spread almonds to cool
CHOCOLATE FROSTING (makes about 1 1/2 c)
- soften butter in a small-medium mixing bowl (room temperature or few seconds in microwave)
- mash with rubber spatula
- stir in cocoa and salt, blending with rubber spatula until smooth paste
- using low to medium speed on electric mixer, alternately add sifted powdered sugar and warm milk
- beat on medium speed until spreading consistency and very smooth
- blend in vanilla extract at end
- Choose layer with highest top and set aside
- Using a bread knife, slice off rounded top of two remaining layers so they are relatively flat on both sides
- put one layer on cake plate
DRESSING the cake layers
- spread chocolate frosting generously on top of layer 1 (on cake plate)
- spread carefully (not thick) red raspberry jam on top of chocolate
- place layer 2 on top
- spread chocolate frosting generously on top of layer 2
- sprinkle toasted almonds, covering surface well
- place layer 3 (with rounded top) on top of layer 2
TOPPING with 7 minute frosting
note: this makes enough frosting to cover a cake. I pile it on top to show the layers. If stiff enough, topping will stand on its own and hang over the edges as above.
- place sugar, cream of tartar, salt, water and egg whites in the top of a double boiler (or smallish saucepan over larger one)
- beat with an electric mixer for 1 minute
- place pan over boiling water.
note: to avoid grainy frosting, make sure water doesn’t touch bottom of the top pan.
- beat constantly on high speed for 7 minutes (this is when I recommend a heat-resistant glove)
- remove from boiling water (heat) and beat in vanilla
- check consistency – MUST stand in peaks. Beat more if necessary.
- spread on cake right away
- sprinkle toasted almonds before frosting sets
- when frosting sets, it forms a delightful soft crust while the inside remains gooey – thus I call it “meringue-like”
Be sure to cover remaining cake under a cake dome, as the meringue frosting will get gooier over time.
Store any left-over almonds in an airtight container to sprinkle on salads etc.
Whew! Did I really do all that????