INCREDIBLY SIMPLE TIMES FOUR

Every once in a while I like to group very simple recipes in a single post, like I did last February and again in June.  Today’s post has three really simple recipes and one slightly more involved, but  still uncomplicated enough to justify hanging out with the others. A meaty main dish, a cute skewer-salad, a side dish, and oh-so-very-trendy kale chips. Yeap, I am jumping on that bandwagon, and you should too because when my beloved loses all self-control next to a bowl of kale, it means a lot. Seriously, it was a scene never before witnessed in gastronomic history.

 

POUNDED FLANK STEAK

This non-recipe was in a recent issue of Bon Appetit. Get a flank steak, lay it over a cutting board, place a saran-wrap over it. Pound it with gusto with the flat side of a meat mallet. With gusto. You want to really get at the fibers and tenderize them. Try to go for less than 1/2 inch width all over. Season with salt and pepper, give it a very light coating (or spray) with olive oil. Grill to your desired degree of doneness. It will be medium-rare very quickly, a couple of minutes per side on a super hot grill. In fact Bon Appetit called it “minute steak” for good reason. Let the meat rest for 10 minutes before slicing against the grain.

We loved it so much I made it three times within a ten-day period.  Very good paired with a red cabbage-cucumber salsa, but I need to tweak that recipe a little before sharing with you.


WATERMELON-FETA SKEWERS

Cut seedless watermelon into cubes. Do the same to the best quality you can find feta cheese. If you find real Greek feta, go for it. Place in wooden skewers cubes of feta and watermelon separated by pieces of fresh mint leaves. Make a simple dressing with olive oil, lemon juice, a touch of balsamic vinegar, or, if feeling particularly trendy, add a bit of pomegranate molasses. Whisk all together and drizzle over the skewers, seasoning lightly with salt and pepper (keep in mind that feta is very salty).

Only two pointers for success: use good quality feta (repeating this point because it is really important), and do not skip the mint. It offers the exact right counterpart to all other flavors. Great also as a little appetizer for a dinner party. Can be prepared in advance and kept in the fridge for a couple of hours.

 

TOMATILLO RICE

TOMATILLO RICE
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

for the tomatillo sauce:
8 large tomatillos cut in half
2 medium shallots peeled
1/2 Serrano pepper, cut in half lengthwise, seeds removed
salt and pepper
1/2 cup chicken stock or water
1/2 cup cilantro leaves
juice of half a lemon

for the rice:
1 cup rice, rinsed
1 tablespoon olive oil
salt

Place the tomatillos, cut side down, shallots and Serrano pepper on a baking sheet and roast at 425 F until soft and the tomatillo skin is starting to get brown, about 30 minutes. Transfer everything to a blender shallots to a blender, add half a cup of chicken stock or water, a bunch of fresh cilantro leaves and the juice of half a lemon. Process until smooth. Adjust seasoning. Sauce is perfect over fajitas, or seafood. To make rice, you only need 1/2 cup of it.

Sautee one cup of rice on a little bit of olive oil, add 1/2 cup of tomatillo sauce and 1 + 1/2  cups of water. Cover and cook for about 18 minutes, until done. Leave it covered for 10 minutes, fluff with a fork, and serve.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

This rice is addictive.

 I could easily eat it every day for a year.

Yes, that’s how much I love it. 

 

KALE CHIPS


Remove the stems from a bunch of fresh kale, cut the leaves in large pieces. Wash and dry them well, a salad spinner is the best way to approach it. Add very little olive oil to the leaves, massaging them briefly. Add them to the basket of an air-fryer at 390 F, and fry until done, shaking the pan every couple of minutes.  It will take less than 10 minutes to finish. Season with salt, pepper, and spices of your choice if so desired. No air-fryer? No problem. The hot oven works the same way, only a bit slower. Also, make sure to have all leaves as a single layer. As to the seasoning, cumin and paprika go very well with kale, on my next batch I will try nutritional yeast, as I heard it gives it a very intriguing flavor. And of course, it would take the trendy quotient of this dish to the highest possible level. I don’t do trendy often. But sometimes, when that special mood strikes…

Phil went absolutely crazy for these chips. He showed up at the kitchen as I was preparing dinner, and mumbled his usual “hummm… kale.”  Not the yummy-anticipating-hummmm… it was the “how-to-escape-this-hummm….”. So yes, I was unprepared to have to fight for the last four chips sitting at the bottom of the bowl. Go figure.

 

I hope you enjoyed these four simple recipes, and give some (or all) a try, even if kale might not be your thing, or watermelon in a savory dish a bit too much of a stretch for your taste buds. Sometimes it’s fun to try something different, especially when the preparation is so simple.

 

ONE YEAR AGO: Going naked, and my husband loved it

TWO YEARS AGO: Cream Cheese Mini-Pancakes with Smoked Salmon

THREE YEARS AGO:  Star-Shaped Chocolate Brioche Bread

FOUR YEARS AGO: Blueberry-Banana Bread 

FIVE YEARS AGO: Into the Light Again

SIX YEARS AGO: Five Grain Sourdough Bread

SEVEN YEARS AGO: The Nano-Kitchen

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Kaiser Rolls

 

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BRUNCH BURGER

We almost never eat at chain restaurants, but there is one situation in which we almost look forward to them: road trips. They usually have fast service, and the menu offers a ton of options. Recently, during our trip to Colorado, one of our stops to charge the car was Hays, Kansas. The charging station is located right by a little Applebee’s.  If you don’t live in the US, Applebee’s is a restaurant chain that started in the 80’s and now has over two thousand spots all over this and 15 other countries. We decided it would be a good option for lunch during our 40 to 50 minute stop to fully charge the battery. We ordered their signature Brunch Burger: beef patty, a thin layer of hashbrown potatoes on top, bacon, cheese, and a fried egg. Ok, now that you’ve read the description you can get up and do a few jumping jacks or else you’ll be a pound or two heavier. We softened the caloric damage by ordering it without a bun. We like it naked (wink, wink). It was so tasty, I could not wait to get home and make my own version. Here it is…

BEWITCHING BRUNCH BURGER
(inspired by Applebee’s)

turkey burgers (use this recipe)
air-fried carrots (use this recipe)
melting cheese (any kind you like, we used Morbier)
sunny side up fried egg
salt and freshly ground black pepper
lettuce and avocado slices
bacon (optional)
hamburger buns (optional)

Cook the burger to your liking. Add cheese in the final minutes on the grill. Place on a plate over lettuce leaves (or a bun, for more traditional presentation).

Add a good layer of air-fried carrots (or roasted in super hot oven), top with a fried egg, well-seasoned with salt and pepper.

A little Sriracha adds a nice punch. Avocado slices sprinkles with lime juice and Tajin go well with it too.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

No air-fryer? Use a 425 F oven until done…

Comments: The turkey burger recipe became my default ever since I blogged about it. This time I made two very small changes, using regular mushrooms instead of Portobello and cilantro instead of parsley. Other than that, exactly as posted. I don’t worry too much about precise amounts. I grabbed one of those little boxes of mushrooms pre-sliced from the grocery store, and after processing with the other ingredients, added that mixture to one and a half pounds of ground turkey.

The air-fried carrots are considerably lighter than hashbrown potatoes, but of course if you’d like to indulge, go for the Applebee’s version. What really makes this recipe amazing is the fried egg. The warm yolk forms a natural, luscious sauce and turns this burger into a very satisfying and complete meal, even without any bread. Phil is already lobbying to get it into our weekly rotation. And I will be more than happy to make it happen…

ONE YEAR AGO: Mango Salsa with Verjus

TWO YEARS AGO: Raspberry Bittersweet Chocolate Chunk Brownies

THREE YEARS AGO: Scary Good Pork Burgers

FOUR YEARS AGO: Review of exercise program Focus25

FIVE YEARS AGO: Celebrate Wednesday with a Thai Seafood Curry

SIX YEARS AGO:  Post-workout Breakfast

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Semolina Barbecue Buns

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Lavash Crackers

 

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BEEF GOULASH, SLOW-COOKER VERSION

I realize it’s not the time for goulash, at least not where we live. But, having just spent a week in Colorado. I also realize this classic Hungarian dish could come in quite handy mid-August.  Highs of low 60’s in the middle of the day, cooling down to 40-something in the evening? That’s goulash-friendly all the way. Come to think of it, using the crock pot in the summer is a pretty nice way to approach cooking. And yes, I’ve been known to enjoy a hearty beef stew in Kansas at the height of the summer and not even feel awkward about it. It is not a common meal for us during this season, but when I get that craving for comfort food, I listen to my body and go for it.

 

CROCK POT BEEF GOULASH
(inspired by America’s Test Kitchen)

2 medium shallots, minced
1/8 cup sweet paprika
¼ cup tomato paste
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 garlic cloves, minced (optional)
1 teaspoon caraway seeds
2 cups chicken broth
⅓ cup soy sauce
1 tablespoon Minute tapioca
2 bay leaves
1 piece of boneless beef chuck (4 to 5 pounds),  cut into 1½-inch chunks
Salt and pepper
⅓ cup sour cream
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley

Season the pieces of beef with salt and pepper and reserve.

In a small skillet, heat the oil, saute the shallots until translucent, add the paprika, tomato paste, garlic, and caraway seeds. Stir until fragrant, transfer the mixture to the slow-cooker. Add the chicken stock, soy sauce, tapioca, and bay leaves. Place the seasoned beef  over the sauce, mix it to coat the pieces.

 Cover and cook until beef is tender, 9 to 11 hours on low. Discard bay leaves. In a bowl, combine 1 cup hot stew liquid with sour cream, then stir the mixture into stew. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Serve with fresh parsley sprinkled on top. 

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: If you happen to own this product reviewed a while ago by Mimi, definitely put it to use in this recipe. I have used it in the past, but ran out of it and completely forgot to re-order, Not the type of ingredient easy to find where we live.  As to the recipe, do not get pre-cut stew beef. It is simply not the same as getting a beautiful, marbled piece of chuck roast and cutting it yourself. Especially using the crock pot for so many hours, it makes a difference in the texture of the meat.  The packages sold at the grocery store are usually cut too small and often go through some process to tenderize them. No bueno.

I have a confession to make. After enjoying goulash as it was meant to be enjoyed, over a hot, delicious bowl of buttered noodles, I’ve been known to push the boundaries of fusion cuisine. Leftover goulash going on a date with a corn tortilla might sound a bit odd, but… I find it truly delicious. And if you crumble feta cheese on top, you won’t be hurting my feelings… I might do the same later…

ONE YEAR AGO: Post-workout Chia Yogurt Bliss

TWO YEARS AGO: Tomato Tatin

THREE YEARS AGO: Best Thing I Ever Made: Chocolate Chip Cookies

FOUR YEARS AGO: Farofa Brasileira

FIVE YEARS AGO: Thai-Inspired Pork Tenderloin

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

SEVEN YEARS AGO:  Summer’s Tomatoes

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Leaving on a jet plane… 

 

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BRISKET TACOS: ANOTHER ONE FOR THE OMG FILES

Apologies to my vegetarian friends, this one is all about the meat. Brisket, in a very simple preparation, cooked in the crock pot for hours, until the connective tissue surrenders in all its glory. Chipotle peppers in adobo sauce. A small can holding a simple ingredient that imparts so much flavor and just the right amount of background heat. Love it. I found this recipe online and did a quick cut and paste of the ingredients, promptly forgetting to write down the link. Proper credit is not possible at the present time, if I ever find it again I’ll edit the post to include it. However, I modified the recipe a bit, so here’s to hoping that my crime is not worthy of too heavy a punishment. The recipe makes a ton of meat, which for us means leftovers galore. You can always have a taco party and invite ten of your best friends over…They can bring their pets too.  It will be a huge batch of taco-happiness!

SLOW-COOKER BRISKET TACOS
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

4 bacon slices, cut in pieces
2 shallots, chopped
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 beef brisket, trimmed, about 4 pounds
1 cup chicken broth
2 canned chipotle peppers
2 tablespoons adobo sauce (from the can)
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon honey
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
Place bacon and chopped shallots in a 6- to 8-qt. slow cooker. Stir together salt and pepper; sprinkle over all sides of brisket. Place brisket over the bacon/shallot mixture.

Process broth and all ingredients except apple cider vinegar in a blender  until smooth; pour mixture over brisket. Cover and cook on low for  7 hours or until brisket is fork-tender. Transfer brisket to a 9- x 13-inch baking dish; cover with aluminum foil to keep warm.

Pour sauce through a fine wire-mesh strainer into a medium saucepan, and cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, reducing it for about 10 minutes. Stir the apple cider vinegar. Coarsely shred the brisket, add the sauce and mix. Serve over tortillas, or white rice, with your favorite toppings.  I served with avocado slices and crumbled Cotija cheese. 

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Didn’t I tell you it made a H.U.G.E. batch?  I tell you another thing, it was better a couple of days later. The interesting thing is that the heat of the chipotle peppers seemed to dissipate a little instead of getting stronger. Maybe it just permeated the dish in a more uniform manner. That’s probably the case.

You can enjoy it over tortillas. Corn, please, the flour ones are so heavy you will have to lay down and spend a few hours thinking about the Big Bang, the Heinzenberg’s Uncertainty Principe, and how on Earth could you feel so stuffed…  You can serve them wrapped in a sturdy Romaine lettuce (messy but good), or over white rice. You can go for the kill and indulge on a nice helping over polenta. Just be ready for that Big Bang frame of mind. Yeah, brisket and polenta. It could conceivably kill me…

Next on my list? Short-rib Tacos. Go visit Karen’s site, and be ready to swoon!

ONE YEAR AGO: Aloha!

TWO YEARS AGO: Baby Back Ribs with Tomatillo Glaze

THREE YEARS AGO: Ten Years Ago

FOUR YEARS AGO: Someone Got a Summer Shave

FIVE YEARS AGO: Border Grill Margaritas

SIX YEARS AGO:  Goodbye L.A.

SEVEN YEARS AGO:  Vermont Sourdough

 

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MISSISSIPPI ROAST AND THE OPEN MIND

As I’ve mentioned before, I am a huge fan of FoodTV’s The Kitchen. The crowd brings a mixture of different types of talent and cooking styles, they are funny, witty, it’s a great way to spend an hour on Saturday mornings. Often they will have guests, but for the most part I don’t care that much for them. Usually they are hosts from other cooking shows in need to advertise their cookbook, some are so in love with themselves that they get me into that state of non-stop eye-roll.  A particular OMG-We-ARE-So-Cool American-Italian couple comes to mind. I had to fast-forward that one, I have my limits. A few months ago they featured Robin Chapman, a nice older woman to share her recipe for a slow-cooker concoction called Mississippi Roast. I know, roast in the slow-cooker seems like a contradiction in terms, but that’s how the recipe goes. Anyway, apparently Mississippi Roast got stellar reviews all over the internet, went fully viral on Pinterest, to the point of calling the attention of Sam Sifton from The New York Times. He went searching for the original author. And that’s how she ended up at FoodTV. As I watched her preparing it, my shock and horror kept growing. I could not picture myself making it for us. A real dump and forget approach to the slow-cooker, involving a bag of powdered ranch dressing to make things more “interesting.”  The fun part was watching Geoffrey Zakarian trying to keep his cool. I would love to know his real thoughts as the cooking went on. Of course, I promptly removed the recipe from my mind. Then, one day I got notification of a new post by Mike, the blogger behind The Iron You. My chin dropped. He made it. He raved about it. He tweaked it with a few modifications (taking it on the same path Sam Sifton suggested), which definitely improved the recipe. No more powdered ranch (wink, wink). I caved. I made it. I absolutely loved it. Have already made it three more times. If you are a meat lover, grab your slow-cooker, and try this one.

MISSISSIPPI ROAST
(slightly modified from The Iron You)

3 lbs boneless chuck roast or top or bottom round roast
2 teaspoons fine grain salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
3 tablespoons grapeseed oil
3 tablespoons butter
8 pepperoncini peppers (I used jarred)
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill
¼ teaspoon sweet paprika

Rub salt and pepper all over the roast.

Heat oil in a large pan over high heat until it is shimmering and almost starts smoking. Place the roast in the pan and brown on all sides, about 4 to 5 minutes per side, to create a crust. Remove roast from the pan and place it in the insert of the crock pot.

Make the ranch dressing by mixing mayonnaise, vinegar, dill and paprika. Whisk well to emulsify.  To the meat in the crock pot add butter, pepperoncini, and the ranch dressing. Cook on low for 6 to 8 hours.

Using two forks, shred the meat and mix it with the gravy surrounding it.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here


Comments: This was scrumptious. As usual, brown food is pure ordeal to get a nice picture, so you better trust my words. I had never tried pepperoncini and was not sure what kind of flavor they would contribute. It is a very nice pepper, mild, almost lemony. One of the changes I made from Mike’s version was to omit the cornstarch coating of the meat. My sauce turned out a bit thin, but we don’t mind that. I served this “roast” with mashed cauliflower (shown in the picture). with spaghetti squash the second time around, and with rice and beans on the third. Leftovers were always consumed with corn tortillas for a Tex-Mex version. Some Cotija cheese crumbled on top, a little guacamole and we were all set. The original version from Robin Chapman uses a full stick of butter on top of the meat. To me, that is overkill, but if you’d like to try it as initially conceived, jump to the FoodTV link and check it out.

I am very fond of any type of meat that you can shred with a fork, to me it says comfort food right away, and holds the promise of many tasty meals ahead.

So there you have it. I learned a lesson with this one. Don’t twist your nose at something just because it’s not exactly your style of cooking. A few tweaks here and there, and you might end up with a recipe that will win a spot in your regular rotation.  Of course, now I’m wondering if there’s really anything to be said for ham braised in Coca-Cola. Hey, I’m not making that up. It is a real thing!

😉

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ONE YEAR AGO: Walnut-Raisin Bran Muffins

TWO YEARS AGO: A Star is Born!

THREE YEARS AGO: Chestnut Flour Sourdough Bread

FOUR YEARS AGO: Kinpira Gobo and Japanese Home Cooking

FIVE YEARS AGO: Walnut Sourdough

SIX YEARS AGO: Thai Chicken Curry

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Zen and the art of risotto

SHORT RIBS WITH CHICKPEAS AND CHARD & LONDON COOKBOOK REVIEW

In my previous post I mentioned I’ve been mesmerized by all things Middle East. True. But there’s more. I’ve been also enjoying a virtual love affair with the United Kingdom in general and England in particular. A fascination that started many years ago when I got obsessed by Henry VIII. To the classic question ‘which book would you take to a desert island?” my answer comes quickly, The Autobiography of Henry VIII, a masterpiece composed by Margaret George. A real tour de force in historical research and writing. More recently, shows like Outlander, The White Queen, The Tudors, and The Crown have only added to my fascination with the UK. So, when amazon.com suggested The London Cookbook: Recipes from the Restaurants, Cafes, and Hole-in-the-Wall Gems of a Modern City I wasted no time investigating it further. Next thing I knew, it was in my  shopping cart. The book, written by Aleksandra Crapanzano, is pretty much a declaration of culinary love to one of the most amazing cities in the world. I’ve been to London a few times, a couple of those super briefly on a weekend break while living in Paris. Reading the book gave me an intense desire to buy a ticket and fly back. With the book in hand, following Aleksandra footsteps. Speaking of it, she opens the book with a nice walking tour that passes by… Ottolenghi’s spot, in search of his legendary Tahini Cookies.  A book that starts like that… is a book I must own. Aleksandra was kind enough to allow me to publish a recipe from it, so without further ado, here I go…

short-ribs2

SHORT RIBS WITH CHICKPEAS AND CHARD
(published with permission from Aleksandra Crapanzano,
recipe from The London Cookbook).

1 tablespoon sea salt
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon ground caraway
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
4 pounds bone-in beef short ribs
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 yellow onions, thinly sliced
6 cloves garlic, peeled and halved
1 bunch Swiss chard, stems removed, leaves coarsely chopped
2 cups cooked chickpeas
6 cups chicken stock
Salt and pepper, to taste
2 lemons
1 cup labneh or full-fat Greek yogurt

Combine the salt, cumin, caraway, coriander, and paprika. Sprinkle half of the spice mixture over the ribs. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. The next day, pat the ribs dry with paper towels.

Heat the oil in a large sauté pan. Add the ribs and cook for 2 to 3 minutes on each side, until golden brown. If your pan is on the small side, work in batches so as not to overcrowd the pan. Transfer the ribs to a plate, leaving the oil behind. Add the onions to the pan and sauté over a medium-low heat until they are soft and nearly translucent. Stir in the garlic followed by the chard and the remaining spice mixture. Stir and cook for 5 minutes longer. Add the short ribs and chickpeas, pour in the stock, and bring to a boil. Skim any foam that floats to the surface and then lower the heat, partially cover, and simmer for 2 to 3 hours, basting occasionally. The ribs are done when the sauce has thickened and the meat pulls away from the bone. Season with salt and pepper and the juice of 1 lemon. If you have labneh, use it. Otherwise, vigorously whip the yogurt and olive oil together with a fork. Season to taste. Serve the stew with a dollop of labneh and a wedge of lemon.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: Short ribs are the definition of comfort food, but when chickpeas and chard are added as supporting actors, you have a show-stopping dish that spells comfort in capital letters. I knew it would be hard to get a good picture, because well, that is the problem with brown food, but allow yourself to go past the photo and trust me, the taste is sublime. Plus, Aleksandra’s choice of labneh to spoon on top fulfills the circle of my fascination, joining Middle East and England in one amazing dish. There’s something about labneh, you must try it if you are a labneh virgin. Easy to make if you cannot find it at your grocery store, just follow Sawsan’s recipe and be ready to be amazed.

shortribs

And now, a virtual tour of Aleksandra’s book…

First, let me say that she is a delightful writer. She doesn’t simply offer you a recipe, she will show you why that particular restaurant made the cut to be showcased in her book. The quality of the food matters, but it’s clear that behind great food and service you’ll find genuine, hard-working people with the passion to share their cooking with family, friends, and customers. You will read fascinating stories about places that have been in business for a long time… She offers the perfect amount of prose before each recipe, with a nice balance of wit and knowledge. The recipes are for the most part quite straightforward to make at home, Aleksandra often suggests adaptations for ingredients that might be hard to find.  As you know, I have no partnership with amazon.com or any other company, and only review cookbooks I fall in love with. This was definitely one of them.

The book is divided in 10 chapters.

Chapter #1 – Light Fare. The first recipe of the chapter is a perfect example of what the book is all about. A wonderful praise of Ruth Rogers, from The River Cafe, the way she runs her restaurant with “no shouting, no swearing, no fear.”  The recipe, a Crab and Raw Artichoke Salad. Have you ever considered shaving artichokes to enjoy in its raw form? I had not. Intriguing…  Other favorites from the chapter: Potted Shrimp, from Rules, a place dear to my heart, since Phil and I enjoyed two very romantic dinners at Rules years ago; Shrimp Aguachili Seviche with Jalapeno and Citrus; Grilled Leeks, Chevre, Brown Butter & Smoked Almonds. Smoked almonds, now that’s something to dream about.  In this chapter you will get to know interesting facts about Ottolenghi, in the introduction to one of his recipes – Mung and Haricots Verts. As Aleksandra puts it, the recipe is “very Ottolenghi.” The mung beans are Asian, the haricots verts French, the spices Indian. The recipe for the classic Welsh Rarebit comes with a delightful description of two gentlemen enjoying it at St. John. All very proper, as you must expect for all things London.

Chapter #2 – Soups. My heart missed a beat with the description of the Fennel and Watercress Soup from Newman Street Tavern. Fennel is like green candy for Aleksandra, and I was left nodding in full approval. She mentions walking in blizzard-like conditions in New York to get some fennel juice at City Bakery, and that made me want to go to London with a stop at JFK with enough hours to allow for a quick Uber drive to that spot. If you live in New York, go sip a glass and tell me all about it.  She follows with Smoked Paprika, Piquillo Pepper, and Tomato Soup with Chevre Toasts. Yes. To. All. How about Roasted Corn and Chorizo Chowder? But the recipe that had me mesmerized for good was Celeriac and Chanterelle Soup. I made it. I absolutely loved it. Here it is, as a teaser for you. Simply spectacular.

parsnipsoup2
Chapter #3 – Pasta, Rice, and Grains.  This whole chapter is a must-cook. Just to give you a couple of examples, consider the Cinnamon-Scented Porcini Duck Ragu, from Mission. If I had easy access to duck meat, I would definitely make it.  Another dish that almost made it to my choice to feature the book: Pork Shoulder, Black Pepper, and Mascarpone Ragu. Totally understandable, right?  But maybe the very best is a Chestnut Straccetti with Mushrooms and Chestnuts. You make the pasta from scratch using chestnut flour. OMG.  Her description says it all: This dish is, quite simply, a knockout.  The photo, folks, the photo is almost too much to stand. You need to host a dinner party for your very best friends and bring that to the table.

Chapter #4 – Vegetarian.

text1

This session opens with Spiced Heritage Carrots, Freekeh, and Labneh, which prompted her profession of love for cardamon, which I totally share. In fact, I also open the jar and take a good sniff just for the pleasure of it. It makes me feel like riding on a magic carpet to far away lands. This recipe has my name written all over it and I know I’ll be making it soon.  It follows with Roasted Squash, Braised Lentils, Soft-Boiled Egg, Garlic Yogurt, and Dukka. A symphony. Potato Chaat with Pomegranate, Mint, and Rose Raita also quite enticing to me, and apparently to everyone who dines at Gymkhana: almost everyone who walks through the door of Gymkhana orders this potato chaat before even being shown to a table. Talk about endorsement!

Chapter #5 –  Seafood. Scallops with Corn Puree and Chile Oil is maybe my favorite choice in this nice chapter.  Of course, she includes the classic Fish and Chips, her version coming from Tom’s Kitchen.  In her words: They are indisputable. A fact of British life. “Since the days of Charles Dickens and his chips with reluctant drops of oil“.  How cool is that? But there’s also Sugar-Brined Salmon with Radish, Cucumber, and Pea Shoot Salad, Ginger and Cilantro Spiced Cod with Cauliflower Couscous (love this one!), or my favorite fish in the world, Sea Bass with Hot Paprika Vinaigrette, from Moro a must-visit restaurant.

Chapter #6 – Fowl.  I would gladly cook (or eat) every single one of the recipes in this chapter. Period.  It starts with Chicken Scaloppine with Mushrooms and Marsala, you simply cannot go wrong with that. But how about Indian Chicken and Pumpkin Curry?  In fact, the chef behind that recipe, Mark Hix, from Tramshed, was one of the first to offer recipes, encouragement and introductions to Aleksandra when she started her research for this book.   Chicken Berry Britannia is a very interesting recipe too, the name pays tribute to a very famous place, Bombay’s Britannia. Americans will flip for Buttermilk Fried Chicken in Pine Salt. Yes, pine salt. Or some Honey-Glazed Duck Breast with Roasted Plums and Bok Choy

Chapter #7 – Meat. The recipe I shared with you comes from this chapter, obviously. The chapter is full of unusual recipes, counting three different takes for the fashionable pork belly: Kakuni (Japanese Braised Pork Belly), Ottolenghi’s Pork Belly with Apple and Yuzu Puree with Black Bean Sauce, and finally Treacle-Cured Pork Belly. You will also find the super classic Beef Strogonoff, a version coming from The Delaunay. Her words: strogonoff has lost its reputation, having appeared too often and never well, on one too many cafeteria lines and airplane trays. So true!  This recipe will do away with unpleasant  memories… I should try it, as Beef Strogonoff is a favorite of ours.

Chapter #8 – Desserts.

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I would make every single one of the recipes. There, I said it. And I don’t even like sweets that much. Starting with Chocolate Nemesis, described as “this is the real thing.” But how about Ras El Hanout and Buttermilk Loaf?  Irresistibly intriguing. Muscovado Custard. OMG. My favorite perhaps would be Orange, Mint, and Rose Petal Cake. I almost chose it as featured recipe. Bakewell Tart from Rules also called my name. By the way, did you know that Rules Restaurant opened the same year that Napoleon began his campaign in Egypt? Yeap, 1798, making it the oldest restaurant in London.  And was a favorite spot for Clark Gable, Charles Chaplin, amongst others. A total of 22 mouth-watering recipes to choose from in this chapter.

Chapter #9 – Chilled Desserts. Baked Alaska is in there, but the recipe that has me absolutely mesmerized is Black Sesame Panna Cotta. I even bought black sesame paste and intend to try it soon. Her description (and the photo) is enough to make me drool in anticipation.  Of course, Orange Blossom and Milk Pudding, Burnt Orange Chocolate Sorbet (swoon!), and Marsala Raisin Ice Cream would be more than welcome to wrap up a dinner party.

Chapter #10 – Cocktails. I confess that the “idea of a cocktail” appeals more to me than actually having one. But if you enjoy them this chapter will be quite amazing.  From River Cafe you’ll find White Peach Summer Martini, and Blood Orange Winter Martini. There’s also a Mumbai Martini from Benares, one of the most sophisticated restaurants in London.  This particular drink has notes of curry and ginger. Maybe I should turn it into a tea? (just kidding).  But, speaking of tea the Cinnamon Bellini would be perfect for tea lovers, as it mixes Assam tea leaves with cinnamon schnapps (Godschlager). Ottolenghi shines in this chapter too, with a Sage and Cardamon Gin with Pineapple and Cloves.  All quite enticing!

I hope you enjoyed my little virtual tour of  The London Cookbook. Consider making a little place for it on your bookshelf, even if it is a bit crowded, like ours. Or, go Kindle for a guilty-free experience, which is exactly what yours truly did.

Aleksandra, thank you once more for allowing me to publish one recipe from your wonderful book! I simply must go back and go straight to Ottolenghi to grab a nice portion of tahini cookies. Then, keep calm and carry on!

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ONE YEAR AGO: Asian-Style Short Ribs 

TWO YEARS AGO: Herbed Goat Cheese Souffles

THREE YEARS AGO: Barley Risotto with Peas

FOUR YEARS AGO: Jammin’ Blueberry Sour Milk Pancakes

FIVE YEARS AGO: Scallops with Black Pasta in Orange Cream Sauce

SIX YEARS AGO: Stir-fried Chicken with Creamed Corn

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Potato, Cheddar, and Chive Torpedo

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SECRET RECIPE CLUB: FRESH STRAWBERRY YOGURT BUNDT CAKE & A BONUS RECIPE

First Monday of August, summer going at full blast, many many days in the triple digits which means triple joy for yours truly. I know it will end too soon, but for the time being, allow me to celebrate the joys of this fantastic season…  Apart from the weather, I have even better reasons to celebrate: this month at The Secret Recipe Club I was paired with a food blogger who is very dear to my heart, Dorothy from Shockingly Delicious. Both Dorothy and I are “old timers”  with the group, we’ve been members for many years, together first in Group D, and now in Group A. A lot goes on behind the curtains in the club, did you know that? For instance, we have a closed Facebook page in which announcements are made, reminders are sent by the moderators so that no one forgets to sign up for next assignment, or to post on Reveal Day. And of course there is a bit of chit-chat that goes on.  Years ago I noticed that Dorothy is incredibly efficient. Assignments would go out, and within a day or two she would come back and say that her post was pretty much ready to go. Everyone else was perhaps only starting to stalk the assigned blog. To make a long story short, we  became fierce friendly competitors, every month trying to beat each other  in picking the recipe, cooking it and composing the post.  I always have a ton of fun with it, although she is pretty hard to beat. But seriously, now, she is a top-notch blogger, with 25 years of experience in food writing. Did you get that part? Twenty-five years. And she is quite active in recipe development, as you can tell by the many recipes listed here.  I urge you to read her About page, because it reflects so well the type of person she is: witty, positive, intelligent, upbeat. We almost met in person last month, but unfortunately she had family issues that prevented her from joining a fun lunch I had with two other fellow secreters, Karen, from Karen Kitchen’s Stories, and Lauren from Sew you Think you can Cook. We had a blast! Next time, I hope she can join us…   But, back to her blog, I’d like to quote one paragraph from her About page, one I could sign below with gusto (literally!):

Even if I trim the fat, or salt, or sugar, it has to taste fabulous. If it tastes like cardboard, I don’t care how healthy it is, no one will eat it. And where’s the joy in that?

I have a shockingly long list of stuff that I bookmarked as possibilities for this post. A few examples to water your mouth are: Farro Date Salad with Mango and ArugulaChicken Brie and Apple TurnoversSticky Lemon Oregano ChickenPopeye Pasta… World’s Best Smoky Burger (oh, yeah…), Angel Hair Pasta with Lemon, Kale, and PecansFlourless Oat Caramel Cookies (swoon!)…  Crunchy Granola Bars better than Nature Valley… or how about Slow-Cooker Paleo Ribs in Tablecloth Stainer Sauce? So, what did I pick? I had to go with two recipes, just because…. first, a Fresh Strawberry Yogurt Bundt Cake, because if you cannot face your cake baking demons in the name of a great food blog, there’s gotta be something wrong with you! And the following week I made the cutest meatloaves ever: Cherry Chipotle Meat Loaf Cupcakes.  Both were… how should I put it?  Shockingly Delicious!  

Fresh Strawberry Bundt Cake

FRESH STRAWBERRY YOGURT BUNDT CAKE
(from Shockingly Delicious)

for the cake:
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
Zest of 1 lemon
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, at room temperature
2 cups sugar
3 eggs
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon almond extract
8 ounces plain or vanilla Greek yogurt
12 ounces fresh strawberries, diced
for the glaze:
1 1/4 cups powdered sugar
1-2 tablespoons lemon juice
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Heat oven to 325 degrees. Grease and flour a 10-inch Bundt pan and set it aside.
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In a bowl, stir together flour, baking soda and salt. Mix in the lemon zest and set aside.
With an electric mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then stir in lemon juice and almond extract. Alternate beating in the flour mixture and the yogurt, mixing just until incorporated. Gently stir strawberries into the batter.
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Pour the batter into the Bundt pan. Bake for 70-75 minutes, or until a wooden pick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Allow to cool 25 minutes in the pan, then turn out onto a wire rack and cool completely. Once cooled, whisk together the powdered sugar and lemon juice in a small bowl. Drizzle glaze over top of the cake, letting it drip down the sides.

Makes 12-16 slices.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

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Comments: One of the things I loved about this cake is that the recipe calls for enough batter to actually fill the Bundt pan to the appropriate level. More often than not, I face the problem of the disappearing cake batter: no matter how closely I follow the instructions, it seems the amount is never adequate. Not this time. And the smell, while baking was intoxicating, in the best possible way…   Of course, un-molding a cake from a Bundt pan can be quite stressful, I could feel my heart pounding as I negotiated the big hot pan, the rack underneath it, the kitchen cloth, and the hot pad. Tap, tap, tap, hope, hope, hope, and voilà the thing of beauty, smooth and fragrant, out of the pan in a single piece!  There was a happy dance. With a shriek (a la Karen).  I glazed the cake next morning, very early, then sliced it and took the full batch to our department, because the best part of baking a cake is sharing it. The cake disappeared fast. It was exactly what Dorothy promised it to be, very moist, excellent lemony flavor, the sweetness of the strawberries a perfect addiction to the smooth crumb.

pieces

Of course, where there is cake, there is agony. Turning the Kitchen Aid on with the paddle still up, that was a mistake. Flour in the eyebrows, anyone? And the correct place for icing is definitely not the human thigh, although the pups could disagree. They were following me around for a while even after I washed it all off.

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Strawberry Bundt Cake, from Bewitching Kitchen

Before I say goodbye, one more featured recipe from Dorothy’s great blog!


BONUS RECIPE


Meatloave Cupcakes221

CHERRY CHIPOTLE MEATLOAF CUPCAKES
(slightly modified from Shockingly Delicious)

2 teaspoons olive oil
1 medium shallot, finely chopped
3 carrots, peeled, trimmed, finely chopped
2 celery stalks, trimmed, finely chopped
1 cup sliced mushrooms
1/2 yellow bell pepper, chopped mini sweet bell peppers, stemmed, finely chopped
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
A few grinds black pepper

1 pound organic ground grass-fed beef
1/4 cup almond flour (or almond crumbs, see notes)
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 egg, beaten
1/4 cup Cherry Chipotle Not Ketchup
1/2 cup minced Italian parsley

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Make vegetable mixture: Heat oil in a skillet on medium heat. Add shallots, carrots, celery, mushrooms, peppers, oregano, thyme, salt and pepper and sauté until vegetables are soft, about 5 minutes.  Turn heat off and remove pan from burner; set aside to cool for 5-10 minutes.

Make meat loaf cupcakes: In a large mixing bowl, combine vegetable mixture, beef, almond flour, Dijon, egg, Not Ketchup, and parsley. Use hands to combine well. Lightly oil 8 muffin tins. Divide meat loaf mixture among 8 muffin cups. Bake for 25 minutes or until cooked through. Remove pan from oven and cool for a couple of minutes.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

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Comments: How could I resist meatloaves in cupcake format? User friendly, impossibly cute, and giving me the chance to try a new product, the “Not Ketchup”, praised by Dorothy in her blog. Not Ketchup comes in several flavors and is  produced by another food blogger I follow, Erika from Erika’s Kitchen.  It is very tasty, like a grownup ketchup with very complex flavor and not as sweet as your regular kind.  I loved it so much that I placed another order for her Tangerine Hatch Chile version, apparently even lower in carbs.  For the meatloaves I replaced regular breadcrumbs with Toasted Almond & Pecan Breading, a product that was a bit of an impulse buy on amazon. They often show a list of suggestions based on your previous searches, and I fell for this one. I do realize I could make my own almond-based crumbs, but every once in a while I like to splurge. I was very pleased by this product, actually. It smells amazing, and offered the right texture to the loaves, not dry at all.  If you’d like to try it, click here. (I am not affiliated with amazon, and will not make a single penny from your purchase).

We loved these little loaves!  The recipe made eight little servings, half of them were gone for our dinner, the others enjoyed for lunch two days in a row, they re-heat beautifully in the microwave. Between you and me, they taste fantastic straight from the fridge, but if you do that, be discreet and take tiny morsels from the bottom, so no one will notice.

Cherry Meatloaf Cupcakes, from Bewitching Kitchen

Dorothy, as you imagine, I could hardly contain  my excitement when the email arrived with your blog as my assigned site to stalk…  I hope you had a blast with yours too this month!  And be ready to jump on the next one, because I am revving my engines, baby…. 

As usual, my readers are invited to browse through the collection of recipes posted by other members of Group A of The Secret Recipe Club. Just poke the frog and be ready for some virtual fun!

ONE YEAR AGO: Quinoa Salad with Red Grapes and Avocado

TWO YEARS AGO: Strawberry Coffee Cake

THREE YEARS AGO: Lemon-Poppy Seed Muffins

FOUR YEARS AGO: Mascarpone Brownies

FIVE YEARS AGO: Salmon Tacos

SIX YEARS AGOCinnamon Turban Bread

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Summertime Gratin