INCREDIBLY SIMPLE TIMES FOUR

Here I am to share with you not one, not two, but four recipes that are so simple you could make them in your sleep. Each delivers a lot more than you’d expect in flavor and you will find yourself making them again and again. Not necessarily in your sleep.

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From top to bottom, left to right, here they are:

CHEESE JALAPENO CRACKERS. Credit should go to Angela, from Divalicious Recipes.  Recently she composed a post with 50 ideas for low-carb appetizers very well-timed for a Super Bowl party.  These crackers are pure cheese, with a kick of Jalapeno. I made only eight for the two of us. There was a bit of an argument over the last one, we could not quite agree on who had the right to grab it. I won. Determination is everything.

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My version, 50:50 Monterey-Cheddar & Parmigiano.
Baked at 350F for about 10 minutes.
Watched them like a hawk.

MARINATED CUCUMBER SALAD. I saw this recipe at FoodTV the other day, a show I don’t normally watch called Valerie’s Home Cooking. I admit to having a bit of a problem with Hollywood folks turned into FoodTV chefs. Maybe I should open my mind a little? Nah, I like my mind the way it is… Anyway, her recipe sounded great but I adapted on my second time around because she used too heavy a hand on the sesame oil. It pretty much overpowered the delicate cucumber.

cucumber

In a small bowl mix and whisk well:

1/2 cup rice vinegar (unseasoned)
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon white sugar
1 teaspoon dark sesame oil.

Slice one cucumber as thin as you can make it, a mandoline could be helpful. I used a Persian cucumber, so I did not remove the seeds, but if you only find regular ones, removing the seeds is a nice touch. Delicately mix the cucumber slices with the dressing, refrigerate for half an hour if you have the time, but it’s good right away too.
So refreshing!

FRIED EGG OVER LABNEH WITH ZA’TAR. This is unbelievably good!  I confess I’m addicted and have it several times each week for my lunch.  I know you will find the combination a bit odd, but trust me, it is to die for. Just smear some labneh or thick Greek yogurt on a plate. Squirt a bit of lemon juice and a little salt (no need for salt if using labneh). Sprinkle za’tar all over, use a heavy hand if you are a za’tar lover.  Fry an egg whichever way you prefer, for this concoction I like a little bit of a crisp edge. Rest the egg on top of the cold labneh or yogurt mixture. Swoon!

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I use different spices sometimes.  Sumac goes well, Ras El Hanout is superb, but za’tar is hard to beat. There’s something about the mixture of the runny egg yolk with the cold seasoned yogurt, I never tire of it.  I first saw this combination at Maureen’s beautiful blog, she also included in her cookbook Rose Water and Orange Blossoms, which I own.

BLUEBERRY CHIA PUDDING.  I am usually pretty slow to jump on fashionable ingredients, and most of my adventures with chia seeds have been unremarkable. Not this one. It turned out so good I would serve it for company without thinking twice. It is creamy, sweet and tangy at the same time, the coconut flavor so subtle it would not offend those who are not too fond of it.  All you need to do is remember to soak the chia seeds the day before, or at least a couple of hours in advance.  A minute in the blender, and there you have, Nirvana in a bowl.  You can find the recipe here, but I highly recommend you get the book My New Roots, where you’ll find this one and a multitude of other interesting recipes.

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for the recipe, visit Les Petites Pestes

Sometimes simple is all we need…

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ONE YEAR AGO: Raspberry Chocolate Truffles

TWO YEARS AGO: Red Velvet Cupcakes

THREE YEARS AGO: Valentine’s Day: The Finale

FOUR YEARS AGO: Almond Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

FIVE YEARS AGO: Dan Dan Noodles

SIX YEARS AGO: Sophie Grigson’s Parmesan Cake

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Antibiotics and Food

THE BEST, THE VERY BEST HUMMUS

We eat hummus all the time. Almost always store-bought, because we actually like the two brands available in our neck of the woods: Sabra and Athenos. Sometimes I refresh it with a little lemon juice, olive oil, some cumin or paprika, but sometimes we just dig in, straight from the container. I have quite a few hummus-like recipes in the blog, departures from the classic, using avocado, edamame, even pumpkin. Oddly enough, I never posted the classic, chickpea-tahini entity. Until now, that is. The recipe I tried this past weekend was a revelation, and I am still kicking myself for taking such a long time to try it, when bloggers and cookbook authors have been raving about it for ages. This is the way hummus is prepared in the Middle East. The prominent flavor is exactly what is intended to be: chickpeas and tahini. No distractions. The texture, unbeatable. Absolutely nothing to do with the grocery store variety. This might just spoil you forever.  I adapted the recipe from a few sources, including Ottolenghi, to make a version that has a little bit less tahini and more lemony. Play with it, but don’t mess with the cooking of the chickpeas.

hummus
THE VERY BEST HUMMUS
(adapted from several sources)

1 cup dried chickpeas
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup tahini (best quality you can find)
juice of 1 lemon
1/4 cup cold water
red pepper flakes (optional)
cumin or paprika for decoration (optional)

The night before making the hummus, cover the chickpeas with enough water to cover by 2 inches and soak them for 12 hours. Drain and rinse the chickpeas and place them in a large saucepan with the baking soda. Cover them a couple of  inches of water and bring the water to a boil. Simmer for an hour or until very tender. Drain the beans, let them cool slightly and add to a powerful mixer (Vitamix is available). If you don’t have a Vitamix, use a food processor.

Add the lemon juice, tahini, salt, and blend until very smooth. With the motor running, drizzle in the water and continue to blend for a few more minutes. Taste and season with additional salt if needed. Add the red pepper flakes, if using, and mix gently. Transfer to a serving dish, top with a drizzle of olive oil, maybe some cumin or paprika sprinkled on top. If you like, a little bit of fresh lemon juice brightens up the flavors.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: When Phil tried the first bite of Ak-Mak cracker with this creamy hummus spread on it, he was silent for a few seconds, then told me it was the best hummus he’s ever had. Followed by… you know you’ll have to make this all the time now, right? I have to agree, the texture is three logs of magnitude better than any hummus you can buy or make by simply opening a can of chickpeas. I guarantee you it is worth the time you’ll have to wait for the beans to get tender. Just go for it, do it on a Saturday morning, while you sip your coffee, your tea, while you read the newspaper. Just remember to soak the beans the evening before. That is all.  You will notice there is no garlic in my version. It is listed as optional by some, mandatory by others. I am very partial to the pure flavor of chickpeas and tahini and find that garlic would throw this delicate balance off. You should do what your taste buds tell you to…  Olive oil? Only drizzled on top at the time you serve it. In the hummus itself, water is the best emulsifier. Just think about it, tahini is extremely oily, adding more oil to the dip makes no sense.   It is soooo creamy, I tried to capture the texture on my first photo, it has the feeling of a luscious mousse. Everyone was mesmerized by its looks. Everyone.

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Go ahead, make my day and pin me!

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ONE YEAR AGO: Cheddar Cheese Crackers

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TWO YEARS AGO: A New Take on Cauliflower Puree
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THREE YEARS AGO:
 In My (NEW!) Kitchen
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FOUR YEARS AGO:
 
The Lab Move and New Beginnings
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FIVE YEARS AGO:
 Honey-Oat Pain de Mie
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SIX YEARS AGO:
 Carrot and Leek Soup
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SEVEN YEARS AGO:
 Chicken Parmigiana 101

 

SECRET RECIPE CLUB: LITTLE BITES OF PARADISE

First Monday of October, and here I am to divulge the recipe chosen from my assignment in The Secret Recipe Club. Life has been beyond busy for us lately. Allow me to take a little detour. In our work we are subject to the “publish or perish” doctrine. Once we gather enough data, we write a scientific article and submit it for publication. A group of referees reads it and the assigned editor comes back with the verdict. Accepted or not. But the usual outcome, instead of a simple yes or no answer, turns out to be a lengthy series of requests from each referee for clarification, objections to this or that, “suggestions” of additional experiments. Sometimes the requests are valid, sometimes they are not. But even when they are not, we need to address them and, using as much tact as possible, explain our rationale. Obviously, you never win by getting nasty with a referee. Never. It turns out we have two articles in this final stage of negotiations, so it is a bit of a roller coaster at the moment. What does it have to do with The Secret Recipe Club? Usually I jump on my assignment right away and have the post ready to go within a couple of weeks. This month, believe it or not, I am composing this post mere 24 hours before Reveal Time.  Talk about living on the edge!  I hyperventilate a little as I type. This month, I was assigned the blog Lori’s Culinary Creations.  I must share with you Lori’s motto, which I find perfect:

Today is life-the only life you are sure of. Make the most of today.
Get interested in something. Shake yourself awake. Develop a hobby.
Let the winds of enthusiasm sweep through you.
Live today with gusto.

That is pretty much what we should all be doing, shaking ourselves awake, paying attention, enjoying the ride. Do not sweat the small stuff might be too cliché of a phrase, but it is always a valid point to keep in mind.  Lori is from California but now lives in Utah with her husband and a bunch of pets. Her recipes are geared for busy empty nesters. For the most part they are recipes that you can put together quickly but then she also enjoys making more complex creations during the weekend. Busy empty nester. It describes me to a T. I stalked her site and saved a bunch of options to share today. Like Spanish Meatball Appetizer (which I would love to have as my lunch); Seafood Crepes for a Romantic Valentines Brunch (write that down, folks, V-day will be here before we know it); Savory Griddle Cakes (I adore this type of concoction); Sweet Potato Burger with Roasted Jalapeno; Chickpea Carrot Burgers; and strangely enough I just saved one dessert, her Easy and Delicious Peach Blueberry Hand Pies. Am I losing my sweet mojo?  I hope not. So, what did I fell for? The very first recipe I bookmarked because I could not shake it off my mind. Little Bites of Paradise, made with Brie, Canadian bacon (I used prosciutto), and green apples.  Are they adorable or what?

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PROSCIUTTO, BRIE & APPLE WON TON APPETIZER
(slightly modified from Lori’s Culinary Creations)

2 medium Granny Smith apples (chopped small)
2 tablespoons pomegranate vinegar
12 won ton wrappers
3 slices prosciutto
3 oz brie cheese, cut in chunks
chopped chives

Heat the oven to 325 F.

Place the chopped apples in a bowl and add 2 tablespoons of pomegranate vinegar. Set aside.

Spray a mini muffin pan lightly with cooking spray. Lay the won ton wrappers in the cups, filling every other cup and pinch the four sides as you go so it forms a flower bowl. Pinch the sides, not the corners.

Sprinkle an equal amount of prosciutto pieces on the bottom of the won ton cups. Place a small chunk of brie in each cup. Top with the apples, then with the chives.

Bake for 15 minutes.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

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Comments: This was SUCH a fun recipe to put together!  Won Ton wrappers are quite versatile, and in this type of shaping they turn into cute flowers, waiting for you to pick them and…. wolf them down. There goes the poetic image…  But, seriously, these were awesome. A perfect combination of salty and sweet, apples and brie are one of those matches hard to beat. I baked them in our small toaster oven and it took  a little longer than 15 minutes, maybe closer to 20 minutes. The idea is to get the edges crisp and golden brown. By that time the Brie will have melted and be all comfy with the diced apple. As you can tell, I forgot the chives before baking them. I sprinkled some all over once the appetizer was out of the oven, and pretended it was meant to be like that.  Oh, well… Perfection is overrated.

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A LITTLE BITE OF PARADISE INDEED!

 

Lori, it was fun to stalk your site, I hope you enjoy my post on your beautiful Culinary Creation!

For my readers, click on the frog below to see what my friends came up with this month. For those interested in the ongoing friendly war between me and Dorothy, she gave me a royal beating this month. But I lose a batter. Never the war! Bring it, Dorothy, bring it!

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ONE YEAR AGO: Coxinha de Galinha: A Brazilian Delicacy

TWO YEARS AGO: Prosciutto-Wrapped Shrimp Skewers

THREE YEARS AGO: A Simple Dinner

FOUR YEARS AGO: Brown Butter Tomato Salad

FIVE YEARS AGO:  Spelt and Cornmeal Rolls

SIX YEARS AGO: Roasted Potato and Olive Focaccia

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Multigrain Bread Extraordinaire

 

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GOING NAKED… AND MY HUSBAND LOVED IT!

Obviously, I am talking naked tomatoes. Obviously. Another almost non-recipe that went from spotting on a site to preparing and blogging in record time… The source for this little gem is the video blog Food Wishes, hosted by Chef John. I’ve been following his site for a long time, he always posts interesting stuff, but I admit to rarely watching the videos. I am a very impatient person. Give me the recipe, if possible with just a photo or two, and I’m a happy camper. But, I must say whenever I watch his videos, I feel happy I did. He is a natural teacher, concise, and very witty. Anyway, these naked tomatoes intrigued me. I read his post while we were away in Portland. We landed back in town, and stopped at the grocery store on our way home. I made a beeline for the fresh produce stand. Not a single cherry tomato to be found. However, gorgeous grape tomatoes said hello to me, so I asked “do you mind if I take your clothes off?”

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NAKED GRAPE TOMATOES
(adapted from Food Wishes)

a bunch of grape tomatoes
salted boiling water
ice water bath
a little patience and loving care
extra-virgin olive oil
white balsamic vinegar (or regular balsamic, or sherry vinegar)
dried thyme to taste
salt and pepper to taste

Make two very small and not too deep incisions in each grape tomato on the side opposite of the stem.

Drop them in salted boiling water for just a few seconds. The moment the skin starts to curl up, remove them quickly and dump them in ice water until cold.

Carefully peel off the skin, one by one. Be Zen. It is good for you.

Add them to a small bowl. Whisk the olive oil, vinegar, thyme (or another herb of your choice), salt and pepper. Pour over the tomatoes, cover with plastic and leave at room temperature until serving time.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

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Comments: I will not lie to you, peeling small tomatoes is a labor of love. But worth it. If you have a dinner party, these would be amazing as appetizers. Grab a toothpick, pop one of these naked cuties in your mouth, repeat. I also envision them served over crostini, a nice smear of ricotta underneath, maybe even baked ricotta. Have you ever had baked ricotta? Here is a recipe for you, just to make things easier. Both Phil and I loved these tomatoes, the resulting texture is wonderful! The dressing, instead of slipping off the tomato skin, permeates delicately through its flesh. Is that sexy or what?

dinner-servedDinner is served: Turkey Portobello Burgers, avocados,
and Naughty Grape Tomatoes… 

naked-grape-tomatoes-from-bewitching-kitchen

ONE YEAR AGO: Cream Cheese Mini-Pancakes with Smoked Salmon

TWO YEARS AGO:  Star-Shaped Chocolate Brioche Bread

THREE YEARS AGO: Blueberry-Banana Bread 

FOUR YEARS AGO: Into the Light Again

FIVE YEARS AGO: Five Grain Sourdough Bread

SIX YEARS AGO: The Nano-Kitchen

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Kaiser Rolls

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RIO OLYMPICS 2016: A GOLD MEDAL MENU

Corcovado_statue01_2005-03-14By Klaus with K – CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1970179

Olympic games are going at full speed, these are two exciting weeks! So much to follow, we tend to stay up late trying to catch up with the events we enjoy the most: swimming, running, track and field, synchronized diving, gymnastics, volleyball, beach volleyball, soccer, and this time even golf  is keeping us glued to the TV screen… Three words for you: Simone Biles rocks. 

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In this post I share a full menu with Brazilian goodies published in previous years, but first I offer a new take on Shrimp Moqueca, adapted in honor of the games.

 

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SALLY’S GOLDEN SHRIMP MOQUECA
(from Bewitching Kitchen)

1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 tablespoons coconut oil (or dendê oil, if available)
1 onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 Serrano pepper, minced
salt and pepper
roasted bell pepper, cut in large squares (preferably yellow)
2 cans (15 ounce) yellow tomatoes, drained, briefly processed in blender
a lot of cilantro (a lot)
about 1/2 cup coconut milk (full fat, please)
lemon juice to taste
hot sauce to taste

Squirt a little lemon juice all over the shrimp and reserve.

Heat the coconut oil in a large saute pan with a lid. Add the onions and cook until golden and fragrant. Add the Serrano pepper and roasted bell pepper, cook for a couple of minutes, stirring often.  Add the garlic, cook for about 30 seconds, seasoning lightly with salt and pepper. Now pour the processed yellow tomatoes, season with salt, pepper, a dash or two of the hot sauce of your choice. Cover the pan and let it all simmer for about 10 minutes in very low heat.

Add the shrimp, simmer until cooked, just for a few minutes, then add coconut milk and cilantro to the pan, stirring until warm. Adjust seasoning with salt, pepper, and more hot sauce to taste.  If you’d like, sprinkle fresh lemon juice right before serving. Perfect over white rice.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

If you don’t have canned yellow tomatoes, use red.  I like to process them to have a smoother sauce. Yellow bell peppers would reinforce the golden color of the dish, but our store did not have any this time.

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A BRAZILIAN MENU TO CELEBRATE THE OLYMPIC GAMES

Let’s get a trio of appetizers going, starting with Pão de Queijo (Brazilian Cheese Bread).  This is a very easy recipe using a blender and a few minutes of your time. If you’ve never had Pão de Queijo, don’t blink. Make them right now!  They were born gluten-free, which is an added bonus to many.

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For the recipe, click follow this link.

Another great, traditional option,  Pastéis (a bit like empanadas, but fried).

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for the recipe, follow this link.

And perhaps my favorite, the one that gets the Golden Medal of Appetizers,
Mandioca Frita (Fried Yucca Root)

mandiocafrita1For the recipe, follow this link. 

To serve with the Golden Moqueca I recommend basic white rice and a nice helping of Brazilian Farofa, to help soak up the flavorful tomato-coconut sauce.

farofa

For the recipe, follow this link.

 

You definitely need the Brazilian national drink to get into the Olympic spirit!

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recipe for Caipirinhas can be found here.

Finally, for dessert, let’s share a triple round of goodies, starting with Brigadeiros,
because how could you not have brigadeiros during a Brazilian feast?

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For the recipe, click here

But it’s hard to beat the level of deliciousness of Cocada de Forno (Baked Coconut)

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to get the recipe for Cocada de Forno, jump here.

 

And perhaps my favorite of all, as Brazilian as Brazilian gets, Mangas Flambadas, served  comme il faut, with vanilla ice cream (but if you use Dulce de Leche it won’t hurt my feelings at all).

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For the recipe, click here.

Top the meal with what my Dad used to call um cafezinho esperto (a smart coffee), and dream with Gold, Silver, and Bronze medals around the neck of your favorite athletes.
Let’s keep in mind that medals are great but the effort each athlete puts into being there to compete, that’s what impresses me the most. Imagine the personal ordeals they go through to finally be part of the Olympic team.  Commitment, hard work, mental and physical struggles most of us could never face.

Quoting a great phrase from an advertisement for Under Armour: 

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Watch the video in full here. It is moving, truly mesmerizing.

Golden Shrimp Moqueca, from Bewitching Kitchen

ONE YEAR AGO: Tomato Tatin

TWO YEARS AGO: Headed to Colorado! 

THREE YEARS AGO: Farofa Brasileira

FOUR  YEARS AGO: Thai-Inspired Pork Tenderloin

FIVE YEARS AGO: A yummy Brazilian cake: Bolo de Fuba’

SIX YEARS AGO:  Summer’s Tomatoes

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Leaving on a jet plane… 

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FOCACCIA WITH GRAPES, ROQUEFORT AND TRUFFLED HONEY

Truffled honey. Can I get a group OMG going? I hope so… that stuff could probably be under a list of controlled substances…  I better use mine up before it does makes into the list.  But back to the focaccia. I wanted to bake something for a departmental get-together, scheduled for a Thursday evening. Weather forecast for that week was high 90’s, low 100’s, so turning the oven at 450F seemed wrong on many levels. But the weekend before we got a little break with some rain and cooler temps, so I decided to get the baking out of the way as early as possible on Saturday, then freeze my production until showtime.  I also wanted something a little different from the same old same old, and a grape focaccia came to mind. In Tuscany, it is called  a Schiacciata con l’Uva, a name that beats grape focaccia into submission. I found a recipe at epicurious, but ended up winging it myself. Rebel is my middle name.

Grape Focaccia

FOCACCIA WITH GRAPES, ROQUEFORT & TRUFFLED HONEY
(from The Bewitching Kitchen)

3/4 cup very warm water
1/8 cup milk, full-fat
1  teaspoons sugar
1 + 1/2  teaspoons active dry yeast
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons olive oil for dough plus more to spread
seedless black grapes
Roquefort cheese, crumbled
dried thyme to taste (or fresh)
Maldon salt flakes
truffled honey (or regular honey)

In the bowl of a KitchenAid type mixer stir the warm water, milk, sugar, and yeast.  Add the flour, salt and  Add the flour, salt olive oil (2 tablespoons) to the bowl, then knead with the dough hook for about 5 minutes. Remove the dough from the bowl, and knead it by hand briefly, a minute or so longer.

Place the dough inside an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let it rise for 90 minutes. It will more than double, depending on the temperature of your kitchen.

Brush a half-sheet baking pan with olive oil, transfer the risen dough into it, and allow it to rest for a few minutes to relax the gluten. Add olive oil on top (about 3 tablespoons)  and spread the dough to cover the baking sheet.  Cover it again and let it sit for 45 minutes at room temperature.  While the focaccia is in its second rise, turn the oven to 450F.

Top the dough with grapes sliced in half, the crumbled Roquefort cheese, thyme, add coarse salt all over, then drizzle the surface with a little truffled honey.  Do not add too much, as the flavor is very potent.

Bake for 15 to 20 minutes. If the top is getting too dark, reduce the temperature to 425 F after 10 minutes.

Cool it on a rack before slicing in squares.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

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Comments: Before anyone criticizes me for taking liberties with the thickness of the schiacciata, let me state upfront that I like my focaccia to be thick and pillowy. If you want to stick to tradition, stretch the dough to the extension of a full baking sheet instead of half.  It will then be thinner and crispy. The combination of grapes with blue cheese is a classic, but when truffled honey was added to it, I’d say I hit that one out of the park. And I don’t even like baseball!  One word of caution, the stuff is potent. When you open the bottle, the intensity of the truffle smell will surprise you. Use it sparingly or it will overpower every other flavor in the focaccia. Of course, if you don’t have truffled honey, use a regular honey instead.  Maybe you own a bottle of truffle oil? In that case, put a small amount of it to use, maybe mix a few drops with regular honey… I suppose that could work well too.

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Grab a piece or four… and be happy!

Grape Focaccia, from Bewitching Kitchen

ONE YEAR AGO: Moroccan Carrot Dip over Cucumber Slices

TWO YEARS AGO: White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookies

THREE YEARS AGO: Cilantro-Jalapeno “Hummus”

FOUR YEARS AGO: A Moving Odyssey

SEVEN YEARS AGO:
 
Shrimp Moqueca

 

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SECRET RECIPE CLUB: FALAFEL & A BONUS RECIPE

The Secret Recipe Club is an event that pairs two food bloggers in secret. Once we get our “assignment”, we have about 3 weeks to browse through the site, choose a recipe from it, cook and blog about it at midnight of Reveal Monday. I’ve been a member for a long time, but I still remember exactly how it felt when I joined. Those “newbie” feelings, never quite sure if your write-up, photos, chosen recipe were good enough. I got to know amazing food blogs through the SRC, and that is a bonus like no other. Long before I joined the club, I was a faithful follower of a very unique blog, called Chef in Disguise. At some point in the not too distant past, Sawsan, the hostess of that site, joined The Secret Recipe Club, and when I learned about that, my heart missed a beat, out of pure thrill. And then it missed another beat, from disappointment. Disappointment because she was not in my group. At that time there were four different groups. I was part of Group D, she was placed in Group A. Bummer. But it so happens that major changes took place, instead of four separate groups we now have three, bloggers moved around, and voilà: I found myself sitting in Group A.  But, what’s even better, today I have the greatest honor and pleasure of cooking from her site.  Those are incredibly big shoes to fill, Sawsan is an outstanding cook, photographer, and writer. But having interacted with her over many years through emails and comments I also know she is an amazing human being. Kind, generous, loving, devoted to her family, friends, profession, and culture. Through her blog, I learned so much more than cooking. Just to offer you a very small but representative example: in this post she explains Ramadan and does so in a beautiful, profound and touching way.  But that’s just one example. Sawsan’s mission is to open her kitchen and home to people all over the world. You’ll find stories of her family as she grew up, stories of her kids adventures in school or how they are all dealing with moving from Jordan to UAE.  You will also find recipes ranging from straightforward to incredibly sophisticated. There is simply nothing she won’t try and then excel at. You don’t believe me? Take a look at this cake she made for her son. Or this one for her daughter. And when she does this type of challenging projects, she makes sure that anyone can follow her steps, by writing very detailed tutorials.  These “how to” posts are amazing sources of information, a bit like having a teacher holding your hand.

As usual, I like to make a list of the recipes that I considered for this Reveal Day. From Chef in Disguise, my list was a mile long, but I will take a minimalist approach: Pão de Queijo (because I was thrilled to see her making a typical Brazilian concoction),  Date Bread Rings, Cheese and Anise Flat Bread,  Mille-feuille for home-made Napoleon, Braided Date Bread (almost made this one…), Lavender Chicken, Pavlova (always wanted to give this one a try), Kabsa (irresistible rice and meat concoction from the Arabian gulf).  But I also want to offer you four examples of tutorials that are a must-read: How to make Labneh Cheese How to make Feta Cheese…  How to make mozzarella and armenian string cheese… and another one very dear to my heart: Sourdough starter 101: how to create your sourdough starter from scratch.

So, what did I pick? For starters, Falafel. Not an easy choice, because a couple of years ago I had an epic disaster in the kitchen attempting to make them. Our dear friend Cindy had traveled all the way from Oklahoma to visit us and one of our goals was to make falafel together. Things seemed to be going well, but when we got to the part of frying them, they disintegrated in the oil, every single one of them!  It was a royal mess, we had to resort to a plan B for our dinner. I confess that when I have this type of problem with a recipe, I usually avoid attempting it again for a while (in Sally’s speak: for a while = forever).  But Sawsan’s post was my chance to do it right.  I was quite nervous about it, but here I am to report back: HUGE SUCCESS!  A personal culinary demon has been exorcised for good!

(Just when I finished editing and scheduling this post, Sawsan published a new article.
I won’t say a word about it. Because once again, she’s said it all).

served-3

 

FALAFEL
(slightly adapted from Sawsan’s Chef in Disguise)

This recipe makes 35 falafel patties

500 g soaked chickpeas (measured after soaking)
125 g soaked peeled fava beans (measured after soaking)
½ cup parsley leaves (remove stems)
½ cup cilantro leaves (remove stems)
1 medium shallot
¾ teaspoons salt
¾ teaspoons ground cumin
¾ teaspoons ground coriander
½ teaspoon all spice
½ teaspoon black pepper

to add 10 minutes before cooking
¼ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda

for the tahini sauce:
2 Tablespoons of yogurt
1 tablespoon Tahini
1 teaspoon lemon juice
a dash of salt

Prepare the Falafel Mix: Soak the fava beans and the chickpeas in water in separate containers overnight. The following day drain the fava beans and the chickpeas, rinse them with fresh water. You should weigh them after soaking, and place the required amount in the bowl of a food processor. Process the grains together until smooth, remove from the processor and add the shallot, parsley, cilantro, salt, peppers, and spices to the empty processor. Process until a paste forms, add the grains back and process everything together until very smooth.  Scrape the sides of the bowl a couple of times so that  you’ll end up without large chunks of grains.  You can freeze the mixture at this point or place it in the fridge for a few days.

Ten minutes before frying, sprinkle baking soda and baking powder on the falafel mix, knead and let rest.

When ready heat 1 inch deep of cooking oil in the frying pan on medium heat. Scoop the falafel by using a specialized Falafel scoop, an ice cream scoop, or by using 2 spoons whereby you scoop the falafel paste in one, and press the other spoon against it to compact it into an oval shape. You can also use your hands to roll the falafel into balls. Drop the falafel gently into the frying pan. no more than 4-5 because if you add too many the oil will cool down and the falafel will fall apart Fry for a few minutes until the falafel turns brownish, flipping it once to brown both sides.  Take the falafel out and place it on a paper towel to get rid of excess oil.

Make the sauce: mix the Tahini sauce ingredients in a small bowl until you get the right texture, you can add a bit more water or lemon juice if necessary. Taste and adjust seasoning. Serve as a dip or spoon some over the falafel on your plate.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe click here 

falagelcomp

Comments: To make this wonderful recipe, you’ll need two special items. First dried, peeled fava beans (although you could use all garbanzo beans if you cannot find fava). I will add a little note here. Sawsan once offered to send me a bag of dried favas straight from Jordan, so that I could have the best possible product to make falafel from scratch!  Can you imagine? I told you she is very kind… So, for this recipe I searched for the very best product I could find through amazon.com as far as reviews from customers go.  The second item, which is not mandatory, is a falafel maker. You can see what it looks like in the photo below  I advise you to buy a large one, because some available are way too small. The one I got is this model. It is described as extra-large. Trust me, you don’t want anything smaller. Of course, you can make falafel shaped with spoons or your hands, but I wanted to make sure I did a good job. Remember, it’s Sawsan’s blog I am talking about…

gadget1
I made the falafel mixture two days before actually frying them.  Kept the bowl in the fridge, then kneaded the baking powder and baking soda right before cooking them, as instructed by Sawsan. To my amazement, not a single one dissolved in the oil, and the taste… out of this world delicious! I used a heavy hand with the herbs, so mine turned out a bit more green than Sawsan’s.

ontheplate

These tender, flavorful little morsels were perfect served with the tahini sauce…

Falafel, from Beiwtching Kitchen


BONUS RECIPE

And now that we got the Falafel talked about, I must share with you a bonus recipe. In part, I made it because I wanted to have a backup post in case the falafel turned into oily crumbs. But I am so glad I picked this salad, because it was one of the best things I cooked so far this year.  Grilled peaches ROCK!

Grilled Peach Salad with Lavender Dressing

GRILLED PEACH FETA SALAD WITH LAVENDER DRESSING
(slightly modified from Sawsan’s Chef in Disguise)

for the salad:
3 cups greens (I used a spring mix)
3 tablespoons of feta crumbled, or to taste
2 peaches cut into segments

for the lavender dressing:
4 tablespoons lemon juice
5 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon mustard
½ teaspoon dried lavender flowers
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar (I used white balsamic)

Make the dressing: In a bowl add the lemon juice, salt, mustard ,lavender, and balsamic vinegar and whisk Slowly drizzle the olive oil while you continue whisking until you have added the entire amount.

Prepare the salad: On the grill or in a pan on the stove top, lightly grill the peach segments. In your serving plate, arrange the greens, topped with the grilled peach segments. Crumble the feta cheese on top.

Drizzle the dressing on the salad right before serving.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

saladcomp

Comments: What a wonderful salad this was!  I made the dressing one hour before dinner, because I wanted to make sure the lavender taste would sip through the dressing, and I think that was a good move… I coated the grill pan very lightly with a coconut oil spray, and the peaches were done in a couple of minutes, beautiful marks all around. I allowed the slices to come to room temperature before assembling the salad. A winner, all the way!  I am definitely incorporating grilled peaches in our diet, and might even be daring and grill some fresh apricots next time, use a mixture of the two fruits…


Grilled Peach Salad, from Bewitching Kitchen

Sawsan, I cannot tell you how happy I was to get your blog to cook from! Having been a reader for so long, your place feels like home in the blogosphere…  I hope you also enjoyed your assignment this month!  Happy Reveal Day!

I invite my readers to click on the blue frog. She will take you to the collection of recipes my virtual friends prepared this month. And of course, I wish everyone in the USA a Happy 4th of July!

 

ONE YEAR AGO: In My Kitchen, July 2015

TWO YEARS AGO: Sous-vide Pork Chops with Roasted Poblano Butter

THREE YEARS AGO: Roasted Strawberry Buttermilk Sherbet

FOUR YEARS AGO: Amazing Ribs for the 4th of July!

FIVE YEARS AGO: Baby Back Ribs on the 4th of July

SIX YEARS AGO: Blueberry Muffins

SEVEN YEARS AGO: A Pie for your 4th of July