LEBANESE LENTIL SALAD AND A COOKBOOK REVIEW!

Not too long ago I reviewed a cookbook by a fellow member of The Secret Recipe Club, remember? Well, here I am once again to share with you a recipe and a little overview of the beautiful cookbook just published by my friend Susan, Simply Vegetarian Cookbook. She is also a former-secreter, someone I used to have a ton of fun with “behind the curtains.” Good times, good times indeed!  I miss those days, although we are still in touch through our blogs and Facebook. I actually prepared two recipes to feature, so I tossed a coin (literally) to pick this one. The second will go as I often do, as a teaser. No recipe, just a photo. I’ve been called a teaser more than once in my lifetime. There are worse adjectives out there, so I accept the label with a smile.

LEBANESE LENTIL SALAD
(slightly modified from Susan’s Simply Vegetarian Cookbook)

3 cups vegetable broth or water
1 cup French green lentils
1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
3 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups peeled and diced cucumber
1½ cups halved cherry tomatoes
½ cup crumbled feta cheese
¼ cup fresh mint leaves, thinly sliced
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Bring the broth (or water) to a boil in a medium pot. Add the lentils and ½ teaspoon of salt. Reduce the heat to a simmer, cover, and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the lentils are tender and the liquid is absorbed. If there is any liquid remaining, drain it.

In a large bowl, whisk together the sherry vinegar and Dijon mustard. Whisk in the olive oil until emulsified. Add the cooked lentils, cucumber, tomatoes, feta cheese, and mint, and toss to coat. Season to taste with the remaining ½ teaspoon of salt and the pepper.

Serve at room temperature.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: There are many types of lentils out there. For this particular recipe (and in fact, anytime you want to make a lentil salad), it is worth searching for French green lentils (such as Puy). They hold their shape after cooking, which is what you want in a salad, nothing worse than a mushy grain mixed with crunchy veggies and dressing. I love Susan’s approach of making the dressing right in the bowl you will serve the dish, one less item to wash. I normally do that even with leafy salads. I just don’t mix everything in advance. Place the more sturdy leaves (like Romaine lettuce) at the bottom, add the other components and toss them all when we are ready to eat.

I served this colorful and flavorful salad with grilled pork tenderloin on day one. Next day leftovers were amazing for lunch, re-visited with the highly fashionable fried egg (I know, many are tired of the fried egg omnipresence, but I happen to love it).


And now it’s time for a virtual tour of Susan’s book… come with me!

and please, make sure to visit Susan’s site too

The book is organized in a very clever, non-traditional way. Chapters are organized by method of cooking instead of course, or type of food.

CHAPTER ONE: Meatless Made Easy, is a great write-up on what to consider if you’d like to either become fully vegetarian or reduce the overall intake of meat in your diet. Susan cooks and eats mostly vegetarian dishes, but her husband is a full-blown carnivore, so she includes in her recipes little final tips she calls “flexitarian tips.” How the same recipe could be served or made to include some animal protein. Pretty clever, and definitely expands the usefulness of the book. I am a full-blown omnivore, and appreciate that aspect of the book.  As I like to do in my reviews, I will pick 2 or 3 top favorite recipes from each chapter, so you can get an idea of what it’s all about.

CHAPTER TWO: NO COOK RECIPES. Tough to pick just a couple of examples. She starts with smoothies, all pretty tempting. But I think the ones that truly called my name are Mediterranean Wrap with Spicy Chickpeas (I cannot have enough chickpea recipes), White Bean Wrap with Jalapeno-Apple Slaw, and her beautiful Lemony Romaine and Avocado Salad (I actually made a departure on it).

CHAPTER THREE: THIRTY MINUTES MAX. Who does not love that type of recipe, when we work all day and come home starving? From this chapter comes the featured recipe, Lebanese Lentil Salad, which is a winner all the way! But I had my eyes set on Middle Eastern Cauliflower Steaks, and Smashed Chickpeas and Kalamata Pasta (I considered making it with zoodles for a low-carb version full of flavor).

CHAPTER FOUR: FIVE INGREDIENTS. Another non-fuss chapter, which makes her book so appealing, you just know it will be an easy culinary project to get the meal ready. My favorites: Baked Sweet Potato Latkes (I know you just drooled), Delicata Squash and Black Bean Quesadillas (my favorite squash that I should bring home more often), Caprese Avocado Grilled Pitas (talk about creativity!).

CHAPTER FIVE: ONE-POT AND SKILLET. I went crazy for the recipes in this chapter, truly difficult to select just a few. I loved the idea of her Spicy Skillet Eggs, Cilantro-Lime Cauliflower Rice, and Crispy Black Bean Burgers. Just to share a few.

CHAPTER SIX: SHEET PAN AND BAKING DISH. Chapter opens with a huge contender, I almost made it to feature today: Kofta-Style Chickpea “Meatball” Pitas. Curried Cauliflower Tetrazzini, and Baked Cheesy Broccoli with Quinoa make my top list too.

CHAPTER SEVEN: SLOW-COOKER and PRESSURE COOKER. Well, those are dear to my heart. I love using both cooking gadgets, and have a huge collection of recipes waiting to be made. My top choices from this chapter include: Tomato-Mushroom Ragu, Butternut Squash and Barley Risotto (these two are made in a slow-cooker). For the pressure cooker, I will go with Chickpea and Coconut-Curry Soup and Tomato Biryani.

CHAPTER EIGHT: KITCHEN STAPLES. Now that’s an interesting chapter. I confess that in every single cookbook that includes this type of chapter, I don’t look twice. I am never that interested in making a bunch of sauces or dressings and saving them in the fridge. Just not my style of cooking. What ends up happening is that I forget all about them and next thing I know, they get moldy, and into the trash they go. Now that I confessed my capital sin, let me say that I was pleasantly surprised by my reaction to Susan’s Kitchen Staples. Lemony Breadcrumbs, Miso Butter, Smooth and Creamy Hummus, Tahini Miso Dressing? I want them all… Go figure.

She ends the book with a big reference guide to cooking all things veggie. Quite useful if you are considering venturing more and more into this type of nutrition. A very comprehensive list, with all the details for optimal preparation.

Before I leave you, let me offer the teaser recipe. This was soooo delicious! Another colorful salad, a Lebanese Chopped Salad (from Chapter Two) with torn pita bread. The dressing involves buttermilk… I say no more. Amazing! You need the book, and you know it (wink, wink).

Susan, thanks for allowing me to publish one recipe from your beautiful book, and I wish you the best of luck with it… I can imagine the amount of work involved from the conception to the publishing of a cookbook, so congratulations are in order!

ONE YEAR AGO: Cottage Loaf

TWO YEARS AGO: Sourdough Loaf with Cranberries and Walnuts

THREE YEAR AGO: Sichuan Pork Stir-Fry in Garlic Sauce

FOUR YEARS AGO: Our Green Trip to Colorado

FIVE YEARS AGO: Ditalini Pasta Salad

SIX YEARS AGO: Celebrate Wednesday with a Thai Seafood Curry

SEVEN YEARS AGO:  Post-workout Breakfast

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Semolina Barbecue Buns

NINE YEARS AGO: Lavash Crackers

 

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SEEDY CRACKERS FOR A FUN PARTY!

Remember The Secret Recipe Club? Oh, how I miss those fun times…  But, even if it’s over, many of the virtual ties made over the years stayed strong. One of the “secreters”, Sid, has just published a nice cookbook, and organized this Virtual Tapas Time Party in which bloggers pick one recipe to highlight, everyone posting together today. I am thrilled to be part of it, and share with you a delicious take on crackers. They leave anything you can buy at the store in a smoke. They are hearty, tasty, crunchy, and I must also say… addictive (sigh).  Some serious self-control is needed. They are awesome even naked. Yeah, some jokes come to mind, but I’ll exercise self-control there too, and skip them.

SOMETHING’S SEEDY CRACKERS
(from Sid’s Nibbles and Bites)

2 cups bread flour
1 cup mixed seeds – equal amounts of each of Flax – Chia – Sesame
1 1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. baking powder
3 Tbsp. olive oil
3/4 cup water (enough to moisten the dough, maybe a little more if needed)

Heat oven to 450 F.

Mix all ingredients together, and let rest for about 15 minutes.  Divide the dough into either thirds or quarters, and roll out each piece 1/8 thick. Cut into squares and place on a baking sheet.

Bake for about 12-15  minutes, or until the crackers start to brown around the edges. Remove from pan, cool on a rack and serve.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: I rarely make crackers. Some of the store-bought products are so good and convenient, I truly do not mind opening a package and serving them at dinner parties. Take Ak-Mak, for instance. They are simply perfect with hummus, cheese, tapenade. But Sid’s book gave me the push I needed to bake a batch, and I must admit, they are much, much better than those commercially available. Plus, you can customize them the way you like, using different seeds, or even some spices. And fun to make too. I could have rolled them a little thinner, because they do puff up a little during baking. It’s the baking powder speaking.  Oddly shaped pieces should be baked too, I think they look great and the pointy edges are perfect to stab into a creamy spread.

A little overview of Nibbles and Bites

I share my two top favorites of each chapter, so you can have an idea of what the book is all about.

SPREADS, DIPS AND MORE… Mini-Dried Cranberry and Pistachio Balls (they look adorable, and I imagine taste great). Jalapeno Popper Dip (definitely my kind of a dip).

HUMMUS… A full chapter on my favorite appetizer in the known universe! Hard to choose only two, but here we go: Curried Carrot Hummus, and Chocolate Hummus (intriguing, but I bet it works, the combination of tahini with chocolate is becoming a classic).

RETRO… Who does not like a good old retro concoction?  Smoked Salmon Pinwheels, and Egg Salad Pinwheels make my list, most definitely.

CRACKERS… The recipe I featured, absolutely delicious! The second contender which I almost made, Lemon and Rosemary Crackers. No justification needed.

EGGS… Basic Deviled Eggs (I am addicted, always searching for new takes on it), and Snowmen Eggs, which would be a perfect culinary project to do with kids.

WINGS AND THINGS… Cranberry-Orange Wings, and Chutney Wings called my name… I think chutney is one under-rated food, a bit retro perhaps, but so delicious!

SEAFOOD THINGS… Definitely the Blackened Mango Shrimp on a Stick… and Carrabelle Crab Cakes, a recipe that won People’s Choice Award two years in a row! Talk about a great endorsement…

PLAIN FUN STUFF… Tomato Bites (adorable) and Vegetarian Potstickers make my favorite pair.

I hope you enjoyed the featured recipe and the virtual tour of Sid’s book. Make sure you stop by Sid’s blog to see what our friends made from Nibbles and Bites.

ONE YEAR AGO: Brutti ma Buoni Low-Carb Soup

TWO YEARS AGO: Turkey Stir-Fry with Almond Butter

THREE YEARS AGO: Secret Recipe Club: Tailgating Party!

FOUR YEARS AGO: One Million Page Views!

FIVE YEARS AGO: Tlayuda, a Mexican Pizza

SIX YEARS AGO: Paradise Revisited 

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Feijoada, the Ultimate Brazilian Feast

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Vegetable Milhojas

NINE YEARS AGO:  Italian Bread

PARISIAN FLAN AND COOKBOOK REVIEW: TASTING PARIS

After so many years of blogging, I tend to quickly group food bloggers into two categories, those who have been doing it longer than me, and those who are “younger” (for lack of a better term). Clotilde is part of the first group, in fact Chocolate and Zucchini was one of the first food blogs I started to follow years and years ago. Not only she is still actively blogging, but she has written several cookbooks (I own them all, in case you are wondering), and – wait for it –  writes the blog in two languages, English and French. I tried to do that when I started, writing each post in English and Portuguese, but after a few months, I gave up. It is a lot of extra work, so I truly admire her for doing it. This is a long overdue post. I had Clotilde’s newest book pre-ordered, the moment I got it in the mail I asked her permission to publish a recipe. She is the most gracious person ever, quickly answered with an enthusiastic “bien sûr”, but it took me a couple of months to finally share it with you. In part because I had a pretty tough time deciding which recipe to feature.  But I am very happy with my choice, it is a real classic…

PARISIAN FLAN
(published with permission from Clotilde’s Tasting Paris)

for pastry dough:
7 ounces (200 g) all-purpose flour (about 1½ cups)
3 tablespoons sugar
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
7 tablespoons (100 g) cold unsalted butter, diced
1 large egg
Ice-cold water, if needed

for filling:
2½ cups (600 ml) whole milk
¾ cup (150 g) sugar
⅔ cup (70 g) cornstarch
3 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract (I used vanilla paste)
⅔ cup (160 ml) heavy cream
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, for greasing tart pan

Make the crust, preferably the day before. Prepare the filling 5 to 8 hours before serving.

For the crust: In a food processor, combine the flour, salt, and butter. Process for 10 seconds, until you get a bread crumb–like consistency. Add the egg and process for a few more seconds, until the dough comes together into a ball. If the dough seems a little dry, mix in a little ice-cold water, 1 or 2 teaspoons at a time, until the dough does come together.

Tip the dough onto a clean work surface and knead lightly for a few seconds. Using a rolling-pin and working on a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out and transfer to a greased 10 inch round tart or quiche pan, pressing it up the sides to adhere. Prick the bottom with a fork. Freeze until needed.

Make the filling: In a medium saucepan, combine the milk and 6 tablespoons (75 g) of the sugar and bring to a simmer. In a large bowl, combine the cornstarch with the remaining 6 tablespoons (75 g) sugar. Add the eggs and vanilla and whisk until smooth. Whisk in the cream and the simmering milk, little by little. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan and return to medium heat. Bring to a simmer, whisking as the custard thickens, about 4 minutes. It is ready when the whisk leaves clear traces, and will continue to thicken as it cools.Pour the custard into a baking dish or other large vessel, cover, and cool to room temperature, about 2 hours.

Heat the oven to 400°F (200°C). Whisk the custard to break it up, pour into the frozen tart shell, and smooth the surface with a spatula. Bake for 25 minutes, then increase the temperature to 450°F (230°C) and bake another 10 minutes, watching closely, until the top of the flan has dark brown spots. If you find the exposed sides of the crust are browning too quickly, drape loosely with strips of foil. Cool the flan for 1 hour, then refrigerate until cold, about 1½ hours.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: I really liked the way this tart is prepared, freezing the crust and adding the custard to it still frozen. It baked very nicely, absolutely no soggy bottom, perfect texture. I did not have to protect the edge with foil, but watched it closely as a hawk in the final minutes, those brown spot start to show up pretty quickly.

The flavor and texture improve a lot once you bring the tart to room temperature, but it is mandatory to cool it in the fridge for a few hours after baking. Just plan your schedule and you won’t have problems. I made the crust on a Saturday evening, made the filling next morning, and baked it mid-afternoon.

This flan really brought me memories of Paris. I cannot say it was something I enjoyed often while living there, but because every boulangerie proudly sells them, just the image was enough to transport me back. Creamy, sweet but not cloyingly so. A perfect dose of indulgence.

Now let me take you through Clotilde’s book for a virtual tour.

What I love the most about Clotilde’s book is how it covers not just your typical French cuisine, but the many flavors that surround people living in one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world. During times  in which prejudice, racism, general anti-foreign feelings are getting way too common – worse than that – way too accepted as the new normal, it is nice to see a book that embraces differences, that shows that if you live in Paris, one cool thing to do is to walk all the way to Faubourg-St Denis arrondisement, and dig into a juicy Lahmajoun. I had never heard of it, even though I did enjoy many of the “exotic” delicacies found in often small, almost hidden places in the city.  Food joins cultures, and in her book Clotilde does exactly that. I cannot praise it enough.

The book is organized in a pretty cute way. Chapters are linked to times of the day: Morning, Noon, Afternoon, Early Evening, Evening, Late Night.  How cool is that? Let me offer you my favorites of each chapter.

Morning (Le Matin)

Poached Eggs with Bread Crumbs and Pickled Onions... it makes the humble poached egg perfect. Bread crumbs for texture, the sharp bite of pickled onions (probably the only way I truly enjoy them, apart from slowly caramelized).

Chocolate Bread... I don’t think I need to say anything about this one.

Fruit Compote with Yogurt... I tell you, the French know how to pull this one like nobody’s business. I definitely intend to make it for a post-exercise treat, as I don’t eat breakfast.

Moroccan Crumpets... My heart missed a beat. That’s what I’m talking about when I tell you she embraces the many cultures around town. Crumpets, so British, and all of a sudden she introduces you a version that screams Middle East. They look gorgeous, and I cannot wait to make them.

Also in this chapter you’ll have recipes for Croissants, Deviled Avocados, and many more.

Noon (Le Midi)

That’s a chapter I would love to cook everything from, but one recipe that intrigued me is the very first one… Potato Chip and Chive Omelette…  Clotilde got her inspiration from a Michelin-starred restaurant, if you can believe it, and I bet it is amazing, the texture of a potato chip adding a lot to the humble omelette. What a clever idea!

Frisée with Bacon and Egg… I’ve had this so many times in Paris, it’s filling and light at the same time. Love it.

Croque Madame, another super classic, you simply cannot go to Paris and not have one.

Turkish Lamb Flatbreads… These are the Lahmajoun I mentioned in the beginning.  A flat bread made with yogurt in the dough, a bit like a naan, and topped with well-seasoned ground lamb. Seriously good, I am sure.

Buckwheat Crepes... These have been on my list to make for a long, long time. Not surprised she included them, they are sold everywhere in Paris, not only in bistrots, but also as street food.

Carrot Chickpea Crepes… a departure on the crepe subject, another Middle Eastern twist on a classic. I almost picked this one to feature in the blog, but the Parisian Flan won me over.

Chocolate Mousse, Raspberry Mille-Feuille, and Floating Islands with Caramel and Strawberries are three desserts from this chapter that made me dream.

Afternoon (L’Après Midi)

With this chapter, Clotilde explains the famous “Le Goûter“, that time in the end of the afternoon in which your light lunch has been used up, and dinner is still a bit far away. Keep in mind that in France no one has dinner before 8 or 9pm. Le Goûter is a small offering of goodies to keep you going, or to give the kids when they arrive from school. Fifteen recipes total in this chapter, including the Parisian Flan I featured.

 

Here is my shortlist of favorites:

Earl Grey Madeleines... Nantais Cake (a very moist almond cake)… Chocolate Ice Cream with Nuts and RaisinsChestnut Cream Meringue (this looks absolutely spectacular)… Simple Chocolate Macarons (nothing like finding my obsession waiting for me)… But I guess my all time favorite would be Salted Caramel Flaky Pie. It is so tempting I must show you a picture from the book…

Don’t you feel like going to the kitchen and making it right now?

Early Evening (L’Apéro)

Another French habit is to have a drink and light food before going out for dinner, a show, or a movie. In this chapter, Clotilde offers 11 recipes, including a few drinks.  Some of my favorites:

Armenian Byoreks…   Armenian food is found mostly in the 9th arrondisement of the city, the original neighborhood that received the first immigrants back in the 1915’s. Byoreks are delicious parcels of flaky dough, usually shaped as triangles, and filled with many different types of delicacies, from meat to veggies or cheese. Her version uses spinach, cheese, and pastrami.

Butternut Kibbeh with Spinach…  I adore kibbeh, and normally have a meat-loaded version (I have one in the blog from years ago), but this one is definitely calling my name. So unusual!

Oven-Puffed Pancake... Baked Camembert with Honey and Apple Cider... Olive and Goat Cheese Quick Bread... The quick bread brought me memories of a couple of friends we visited often for dinner. She always prepared one of these quick breads as an appetizer if we were having dinner with them or perhaps going out for a meal somewhere. You know, just as a warm up to the evening.  I actually blogged about one version with zucchini in the distant past.

Evening (Le Soir)

What could be more magical than spending a romantic evening in Paris? Tough question. In this chapter, Clotilde talks about special recipes that you can cook at home but will have the aura of a fancy restaurant.  I could happily cook (and eat) every single one, but here is my selected list:

Roasted Squash Soup with Curried Cheese Quenelle…  Quenelle makes any meal feel special. Just a simple technique to shape it is all you need, and Clotilde explains how to do it.

Rice and Ginger Soup... when simplicity meets elegance, I so want to make this one when the weather cools off (well, hopefully not anytime soon!)

Cauliflower Brioche. You have no idea how cool that looks. Get the book, then we can talk more about it (wink, wink)

Tfaya Chicken Couscous… have you heard of tfaya? It is a condiment made with caramelized onions and raisins, in this case used to perfume couscous. O.M.G.

Spice-Crusted Duck Maigret… how could she not include a duck dish, right? So Parisian…

Mushroom Bourguignon… a vegetarian take on one great classic French dish. Must make it!

Every single dish in this chapter seems fit for a special dinner, either for a romantic evening with just you and your favorite human, or a couple of very dear friends. Some sweets included are the classic Pears Poached in Spiced Red Wine,  Caramelized Arlette Cookies (a version of them was a technical challenge in the Great British Bake Off years ago), and the recipe from the book’s cover: Ice Cream Puffs with Chocolate Sauce (no additional remarks needed).

Late Night (Tard dans la Nuit)

One recipe in the chapter. French Onion Soup. I don’t even know how many times I’ve enjoyed it with the most perfectly broiled Gruyere cheese on top of a perfect crusty slice of bread, cut in the exact thickness to make it stand against the hot soup without dissolving into nothingness. Au Pied du Cochon is a restaurant that still serves this soup pretty much the whole night. I’ve had the experience once. Yes,  Tasting Paris brought me a ton of fond memories indeed!

Clotilde, thank you for allowing me to share the flan recipe in my blog… 

For those interested in the book, it’s available in amazon.com. I am not affiliated, and won’t get a single penny from your purchase. I only recommend books I fall in love with, and this was definitely one…

ONE YEAR AGO: Beef Goulash, Slow-Cooker Version

TWO YEARS AGO: Post-workout Chia Yogurt Bliss

THREE YEARS AGO: Tomato Tatin

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

FIVE YEARS AGO: Farofa Brasileira

SIX YEARS AGO: Thai-Inspired Pork Tenderloin

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

EIGHT YEARS AGO:  Summer’s Tomatoes

NINE YEARS AGO: Leaving on a jet plane… 

 

 

 

SAVORY OATMEAL WITH BACON AND CHEDDAR AND A COOKBOOK REVIEW

This is a long overdue post. I made this recipe last month, but have been meaning to write about this cookbook ever since I bought it, back in October. Seven long months ago. Shocking.  Oatmeal is definitely something associated with breakfast, and served on the sweet side. With milk, brown sugar, cream, maybe some stewed apples or bananas. In her book Adventures in Slow-Cooking, Sarah di Gregorio shares a version for savory oatmeal and raves about it. I had to try it. It was really tasty, and she gave me permission to share the recipe with you… So, without further ado…

SAVORY OATMEAL WITH BACON, SCALLIONS, AND CHEDDAR
(published with permission from Sarah Di Gregorio)

1 cup uncooked steel-cut oats
Kosher salt
½ pound thick-cut bacon
5 scallions, trimmed, light green and white parts thinly sliced
8 ounces sharp cheddar, grated (about 2 heaping cups)
Freshly ground black pepper
Fried or poached eggs, for topping (1 per person)

Generously butter a 5- to 7-quart slow cooker. Add the oats, 4 cups water, and I teaspoon salt. Cook until the oatmeal is thick and tender: on LOW for 4 hours or on LOW for 2 hours followed by WARM for 6 to 7 hours.

Put the bacon into a cold large skillet and bring the heat to medium. Cook, flipping a couple of times, until the bacon has rendered a lot of its fat and is deeply browned and crisp, about 10 minutes. Drain on paper towels, then coarsely chop. You can do this right before serving the oatmeal or the day before, in which case store the crisped bacon in an airtight container in the refrigerator and bring it to room temperature before using.

When the oatmeal is done, stir in the bacon, white and light green scallion slices, and about three-quarters of the cheese (about 6 ounces). Taste for seasoning and add more salt if necessary and a few grinds of pepper. Serve in bowls topped with the remaining cheese, the dark green sliced scallions, and eggs, if you like.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: I’ve always been intrigued by the use of oatmeal in savory dishes. I am not an oatmeal fan in traditional breakfast preparations, but decided to open my mind and give it a try. I don’t normally eat breakfast and found that this meal was perfect at lunch time. Kept me full until dinner, and was full of flavor.  I also made a vegetarian version using sautéed mushrooms instead of bacon. Worked great too, I made sure to brown them well and added a touch of soy sauce at the end. Delicious! In Sarah’s words:

Speaking of the egg: I know most people are tired of the image of egg yolk flooding whatever is served underneath, but forgive me… this was too good to skip…

OVERVIEW OF ADVENTURES IN SLOW-COOKING

by Sarah di Gregorio

First, let me share with you the review I wrote for it at amazon.com

I fell in love with this book at first page. I don’t have much patience for long introductions and considered just skipping that part to dive into recipes. Well, I could not stop reading. Sarah is a talented writer and definitely knows how to use the slow-cooker the way it is intended to be used. No dump and run approach. This is slow-cooking for gourmet cooks, those who will not accept anything with the “crock pot texture.” I bought this book even though there was only ONE review about it. Took a big risk, right? Well, I am so glad I did. I own more than 500 cookbooks, and this might very well be my favorite for slow-cooking. Awesome. Just awesome. Buy it and you will not be disappointed. Now, if you are part of the team of dump it and forget it, this book is NOT for you. This is not a criticism to you, just a warning that you might not like it that much….

That pretty much explains why I had to review it here, I think that anyone who owns a crock pot will benefit from this book. I have a file in my computer (way out of date) called “The Best from Each.” In that file I list recipes from my Kindle cookbooks that appeal to me. Sarah’s cookbook broke the record for the largest proportion of recipes that made into that folder. From 120 recipes, 35 made the cut. That’s almost one-third of them. Pretty impressive.  Here is a cut-and-paste job from my computer:

Classic Chicken Stock (wings)

Winter Tomato Sauce (Marcella Hazan)

Lentils, beans, chickpeas method

Grains, farro, barley, black rice etc method

Smoky Chipotle Ketchup (interesting)

Crisp Chicken Wings with Szechuan Caramel

Chawan Mushi (interesting savory custard)

Pistachios, Coconut, and Cardamon Granola

Savory Oatmeal with Bacon, Scallions and Cheddar

Crustless Quiche with Smoked Salmon

Summer Tomato, Basil and Burrata Grain Bowl

Roasted Red Pepper, Caper, Walnut and Tahini Grain Bowl

Creamy Barley with Corn and Green Chile-Lime Salsa

Farro Puttanesca

Shakshuka with Feta and Olives

Caramelized Cherry Tomatoes

Stuffed Meatballs in Lots of Sauce

Spiced Lamb Meatballs in Harissa Tomato Sauce

Smoky Barbecued Brisket

Chipotle Almond Braised Beef Tacos
(Quick Pickled Onions) – to go with it, very nice method

Orange, Olive and Fennel Chicken Tagine
(Turmeric Yogurt) – to go with it

Miso-Butter Roast Chicken and Potatoes

Buttery Duck Confit 

Harissa Pork Chili with Toppings Galore

Sticky Gochujang Pork

Za’tar Roast Chicken

Sticky Toffee Pudding with Maple Caramel

Coconut Banana Cake with Brown Butter Caramel Sauce

Matcha-White Chocolate Pots de Crème

Vietnamese Coffee Pots de Crème

Cannoli Cheesecake with Biscotti Crust

Dark Chocolate Cheesecake with Earl Grey Cream

Cardamon-Molasses Apple Upside-Down Cake

TEASER RECIPE:  from the list, I made the Farro Puttanesca. To die for! Farro cooked in the crock pot has perfect texture, this preparation was luscious, perfect by itself or as a side dish for roast chicken, grilled salmon, steak, pretty much anything you’d like. A very creative way to serve farro. Made a lot, but froze well too…

 

Sarah, thank you and your editors for allowing me
to publish one of your recipes.

 

ONE YEAR AGO: Air-Fried Carrots, Two Ways (most popular post on my blog!)

TWO YEARS AGO: Five Minutes in L.I.T (a tour of our laboratory!)

THREE YEARS AGO: Chicken Thighs with Artichokes and Capers

FOUR YEARS AGO: Pea Pancakes with Herbed Yogurt

FIVE YEARS AGO: Mushroom Stroganoff

SIX YEARS AGO: Tomato Sourdough

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Gamberetti con rucola e pomodori

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Flirting with Orzo

 

 

 

 

 

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PAUL HOLLYWOOD: THE WEEKEND BAKER

In the past year, I was hit hard by two addictions. The Game of Thrones, and The Great British Baking Show. Odd to see them mentioned together in the same phrase. I caved to GoT despite my adamant stance against violent movies. That show is awesome, brilliant, irresistible. I can hardly wait for the next season, already feeling deprived. But The Great British Baking Show is a lot easier to watch, and so much better than ANY cooking show made in the US, it’s not even funny. They really hit a magical formula to entertain and teach at the same time. The right amount of humor, the right amount of anxiety, great atmosphere among the contestants, and so much talent! I also love the fact that they do blind judging of the technical challenge, to me that immediately sets the show on a higher level.  Then, there is the chemistry between Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry. I realize she won’t be part of the new season, and from what I heard the new person does a stellar job too, the show should follow its natural path of glory. Paul is something else. Those penetrating blue eyes probably turn the blood of some contestants cold when he deeply stares at them and asks “have you really tried this before?“, or “is this slashing going to be alright?”    Analogy for my hard-core biochemist readers: if Paul asks “are you telling me that a low Kd means higher affinity for this enzyme? you sure about that?”  you would probably doubt all the biochemistry that until then was solid in your brain…

When you are so in love with GBBS. you do two things.

  1. You move to binge watching Master Class, in which Paul and Mary actually bake all that stuff they inflicted on the contestants, spilling some of the secrets for success.
  2. You buy their cookbooks. I now own several written by Paul and Mary, as well as a few from the show itself. Yes, I have a problem. No, I do not intend to go for therapy.

One of the cookbooks I own is The Weekend Baker by Mr. Hollywood. And I got his and Penguin Books permission to share with you one recipe from it (insert happy dance here). After a lot of mental struggles to pick just one, here it is. Chocolate to the limit, an Italian classic from Capri. Gluten-free, which might be a bonus to some, and decadently rich. A small slice will be enough, making it perfect to share with many friends, or in my case, co-workers. A certain Monday morning was made quite a bit sweeter in our department.

TORTA CAPRESE
(Reproduced from THE WEEKEND BAKER by Paul Hollywood, published by Penguin Books Ltd (2016). With permission from Penguin Books Ltd. Recipes © Paul Hollywood, 2016. Photography © Issy Croker)

 to buy the book, follow this link:  The Weekend Baker

for the cake:
100 grams (3.5 ounces) blanched whole almonds
50 grams (1.75 ounces) plus 160 grams (5.6 ounces) superfine sugar
1 whole egg, plus 5 eggs, separated
265 grams (9.3 ounces) dark chocolate, melted and cooled
50 grams (1.75 ounces) chopped almonds

for the topping:
70 grams (2.5 ounces) water, plus for softening the gelatin
90 grams (3.2 ounces) superfine sugar (superfine)
30 grams (1 ounce) cocoa powder
25 grams (.9 ounces) liquid glucose (I used light corn syrup)
2 gelatin sheets (about 2.4 grams/.1 ounces)

Candied lemon peel or chopped almonds, for decorating

Heat the oven to 180 degrees C/Gas 4 (355 degrees F). Grease a deep 20-centimeter (8-inch) round cake tin. To make the cake, grind the whole almonds with 50 grams of fine sugar in a food processor. Reserve.

With an electric mixer, beat the whole egg and 5 yolks with the 160 grams fine sugar until the mix is pale and creamy and leaves a trail on the surface. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites to soft peaks. Do not over mix.

Add the cooled melted chocolate with the egg yolk mixture. Stir in the ground almond mixture and the chopped almonds. Beat in a spoonful of the egg whites to loosen the mixture. Now, a spoonful at a time, gently fold in the remaining egg whites.

Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan and bake for 40 to 45 minutes. Once the cake is cooked, leave it in the pan to cool before turning it out onto a serving plate.

To prepare the topping, place the water, fine sugar, cocoa powder and glucose (or corn syrup) into a saucepan and bring to the boil. Simmer for 5 minutes and stir.

Soften the gelatin sheets in a little water. Remove the saucepan from the heat. Squeeze any liquid from the gelatin sheets and then add the sheets to the pan. Stir until the gelatin has dissolved. Leave to cool. Once cool, but still liquid, pour the chocolate topping just onto the surface of the cake and decorate with candied lemon peel or extra chopped almonds.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: Please notice that instead of almond flour, Paul prefers to grind whole almonds with sugar. He states to get better taste and texture this way. So resist grabbing that bag of Bob Mill’s you’ve got on your pantry. The glaze. Oh, the glaze. Very intense chocolate flavor topping a cake that also has a punch of chocolate, but mellowed down by the almonds, both in taste and texture. In fact, when you look at the Torta Caprese you’ll expect your classic flourless creature, very fudge-like. It is not, the ground & diced almonds turn it into a different type of cake, one that in fact will feel a tad bit less rich. When I bite into a flourless chocolate cake, I always have the filling that it is so rich, a small slice seems tricky to finish.  This cake? Not the case. It is rich, but you’ll feel that keep working on that slice is the most natural move… Consider yourself warned. Plus, the glaze… Oh, the glaze…

 

And now, a quick virtual tour of Paul Hollywood’s book.

 

The book is organized in ten chapters, and contrary to most cookbooks, these are not your regular ‘Breads”, “Pies”, “Cakes” categories. Instead, Paul dedicates one chapter to each place he’s been to, showcasing the recipes that impressed him most during his visit.  Consider it a gastronomic tour. His introduction to the book will have you excited to jump on a plane (or as he puts it, start a very long swim from UK all the way to New York), and, book in hand, try every one of the delicacies he talks about.  So, without further ado, a few of my favorites from each chapter.

SUN BAKED, MADRID: I’ve never been to Spain, so baking from this chapter would be a nice way to tempt myself to finally go visit. My favorites include Churros and Spanish Hot Chocolate (for dipping them into), as churros were actually quite popular in Brazil when I was growing up.  But how about Iberico Ham and Manchego Empanadas? I am crazy for Manchego… Buñuelos de Viento sound great too, these are very light puff pastry entities, filled with chocolate or cream. But I am really intrigued by the last recipe in this chapter, quite simply called Torta. It is like a focaccia, but made with 70% olive oil in its formula. I bet it is amazing!

LA DOLCE VITA, NAPLES: My showcased recipe, Torta Caprese, comes from this chapter, where you will find many of the most authentic examples of Italian baking, like Pizza Margherita, Ciabatta, Focaccia. But the one that captured my imagination is Gatto di Santa Chiara, a cross between a quiche and a pie. The dough calls for some mashed potato in it, which I know results in incredible texture. Definitely something to make in the near future.

FRENCH FANCIES, PARIS: My home away from home! He opens the chapter with royalty, Croissants… And offers some other classics like Quiche Lorraine, Eclairs (be still, my heart), and Madeleines (made with brown butter). Baguettes are there too, just in case you are wondering…  I have my mind set on Chocolate and Hazelnut Meringues, though.

PUDDING LANE, LONDON: A city I visited three times, and find absolutely amazing, definitely want to go back. You will find a basic recipe for Scones that you can adapt for any flavor you like, the famous Victoria Sponge, Chelsea Buns, Lemon Drizzle Slices (similar to a cake I just blogged about, but with fancier icing), and Battenberg (a two-color cake that is calling my name).

DANISH TASTIES, COPENHAGEN: Another place I’ve never visited but hope to stop by some day, to get fully acquainted with the meaning of hygge, a very fashionable word. Danish is in there, a version with Apricot and Passion Fruit,  Seeded Rye Bread, and the recipe I almost picked to showcase, Danish Raspberry Slices. They look so cute, I know I’ll be making them for our graduate students in the very near future.

BAVARIAN BITES, MUNICH. I’ve been there, years ago, ate superbly well. Beautiful place! Paul offers a recipe for Pretzels that has some unexpected twists, I am a lover of soft pretzels, and have been meaning to try and bake them at home for…. forever.  Stollen, the famous bread is in this chapter, as well as Lebkuchen Biscuits, a sort of soft spice cookie that I’m sure I would fall in love with at first bite. Prinzeregententorte (say that three times fast) seems like the kind of cake that could be the weapon of my self-destruction. Seven layers of sponge cake that must be absolutely identical, as they represent the regions of Bavaria in 1886. Are you amazed yet?

AMERICAN PIE, NEW YORK: There we are at the Big Apple, the chapter opens with Bagels, rightfully so! Also a big nod to Bittman’s No Knead Bread, New York Cheesecake with details for baking that definitely take it to the smoothest consistency ever.  I really want to try my hands at it. So many recipes, so little time!

FUN IN THE SUN, MIAMI: Still in the US,  dear friends…  Paul loved the beat of Miami – who doesn’t? – it is packed full of Brazilians (sorry could not resist a little wave to my home country). Great items in this chapter, starting of course with Key Lime Pie, passing by  Best- Ever Chocolate Chip Cookies,  Waffles, and American Pancakes.

PRIDE OF POLAND, WARSAW: Would I be repeating myself too much if I say I’d love to visit Poland? Not only I have great Polish friends, but all my friends who visited were mesmerized by it. Seems like a fantastic place indeed.  Here are the recipes I loved the most: Babka, for obvious reasons. A bread, beautifully swirled with chocolate. And Polish Cheesecake. Yes, I need to get to know this, if not in Warsaw, in our kitchen.

THE RUSSIAN OVEN, SAINT PETERSBURG: Paul was really smitten by that city, and I also heard plenty of great things about it. Of course, I would never go in the winter, just looking at the photos of Paul in full winter gear when he landed there, made me cringe. No, a Brazilian cannot face that ever. But the recipes seem just amazing. Russian Pies (much more involved and complex than the name implies), the famous Blinis, Medovik (a gorgeous honey cake), Sweet Berry Pancakes, but what really won my heart is something call Vatrushka. Go ahead, google, and drool…

So there you have it, my little tour of Paul Hollywood’s The Weekend Baker is over. The book has a little introduction to each recipe, with interesting bits about them, gorgeous photos, not only of the finished product, but of the places he visited.  Well-balanced, actually. You will not be bombarded with personal photos like some cookbook authors do (not naming any names), but you’ll have enough to tease you, make you dream about that plane trip to see the world.

Paul, thank you and Penguin Books for allowing me to publish your recipe.

Before I leave my dear readers… yes, a lower Kd will always indicate higher affinity. For any enzyme in the known universe. I am sure you can all sleep better now…

 

ONE YEAR AGO: Texas Sheet Cake

TWO YEARS AGO: In My Kitchen, September 2015

THREE YEARS AGO: Sour Cherry Sorbet: A Labor of Love

FOUR YEARS AGO: In My Kitchen – September 2013

FIVE YEARS AGO: Raspberry Sorbet at Summer’s End

SIX YEARS AGO: When three is better than two  (four years with Buck!)

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Grating Tomatoes (and loving it!)

EIGHT YEARS AGO: A Peachy Salad for a Sunny Day

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ROSE, CARDAMON AND COFFEE SQUARES: CHETNA MAKAN’S COOKBOOK REVIEW

Last year I binge-watched The Great British Bake Off, originally aired in 2014. One of the reasons it took me so long to go for it, is my intense dislike of ANY food competition. I was never too wild about Iron Chef, barely stand the countless versions of Chopped, and despise Cutthroat Kitchen with every cell of my body. There. I feel better. But, despite all that, one day I sat down and put the first episode of The Great British Bake Off to play. I was hooked. First and foremost for the friendly atmosphere. When you watch any of the competition shows from FoodTV-USA, it is impossible to ignore a certain mean streak in the competitors. Each one wants to win so bad, they keep hammering on why they are clearly better than all others. The blatant arrogance really bothers me. I also prefer the format of the British show, particularly when all contestants need to make the exact same (very challenging)  recipe and it gets evaluated in a single-blind way. Today I share with you a recipe from the cookbook of my favorite contestant,  Chetna Makan. She made it almost to the end, facing all sorts of challenges with poise, grace, and a warm smile. And after the recipe, I will walk you through The Cardamon Trail. What a beautiful name!

ROSE, CARDAMON AND COFFEE DESSERT SLICES
(published with permission from Chetna Makan) 

200g (7oz) chocolate digestive biscuits
50g (1 ¾ oz) unsalted butter, melted, plus extra for greasing
225ml (8fl oz) milk
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 tablespoon coffee granules
3 large egg yolks
75g (2 ¾ oz) granulated sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 tablespoon boiling water
2 teaspoons powdered gelatine
250g (9oz) mascarpone cheese
1 teaspoon rosewater
white chocolate curls to decorate

Heat the oven to 180 ° C (350 ° F).

Grease a 20cm (8in) square cake tin and line it with nonstick baking paper. Put the digestive biscuits in a plastic bag and bash them with a rolling-pin to crush them to crumbs. Transfer the crumbs to a bowl and pour in the melted butter, mixing thoroughly so that the crumbs are completely coated. Tip the mixture into the prepared tin and press down firmly with the back of a spoon to create a smooth, even base layer. Bake for 15 minutes, then set aside to cool completely.

In a small pan, slowly heat the milk to scalding point. Add the ground cardamom and coffee granules and mix well, then remove the pan from the heat. In a bowl, whisk the egg yolks, sugar, cornstarch, cocoa and 2 tablespoons of the spiced milk together to form a smooth paste. Slowly add the remaining milk, whisking the whole time. Tip this mixture back into the saucepan and cook over a low heat for 2– 3 minutes until it thickens enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon. Strain through a sieve into a clean bowl, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 10 minutes until lukewarm.

Put the measured boiling water in a small bowl and sprinkle in the gelatine. Stir until the gelatine powder has dissolved. Add this to the lukewarm pastry cream and mix well. In another bowl, beat the mascarpone and rosewater together. Fold this into the pastry cream and pour the mixture over the biscuit base. Cover the tin with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight to set.

When ready to serve, carefully remove the cake from the tin and cut it into squares. To finish, sprinkle with white chocolate curls (or any decoration you prefer). The slices will keep, refrigerated, in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: Chetna described it perfectly! This is a dessert for grownups. It has that exotic quality, the barely there sweetness, a very unique and complex mixture of flavors. I loved it!  I must confess I messed up big time, though. I used the wrong type of  cookies for the base. She specified chocolate digestifs for the base, but our grocery store carried only two types: regular digestifs, or some with a coating of chocolate at the bottom, very similar to these beauties made from scratch by my friend Karen. After I made the dessert, I exchanged emails with Chetna and she told me I could have used the digestifs either plain or with the chocolate coating, but the type of cookie I used (very thin chocolate Goya Maria brand) would need tweaking, probably some other binding agent to properly work. Learned a lesson there. The result is that the base got a bit too crumbly rather than giving a nice support to the deliciously smooth top layer.  I intend to make it again soon, but did not want to wait any longer to blog about it. So make sure to gather the right tools for the job…

TEASER RECIPE

On the very same day I made a batch of her Clove, Cinnamon and Chocolate cookies… 


OVERVIEW OF THE RECIPE

The cookie dough is made with self-rising flour, butter, two types of sugar, a touch of cinnamon and ground cloves. Then chocolate chips and diced pistachio nuts are mixed in.  I substituted white chocolate because I found out that I had 4 bags of white chocolate chips and not a single one of semi-sweet. Apparently every time I go to the grocery store I tell myself “you better get a bag of white chocolate chips, because you only have the dark ones.”  In case you did not know, I do research for a living. Shocking, I know. Once again, Chetna describes these gems very well:

Yes, everyone thought they come together beautifully….

And now that I shared a recipe and teased you with another one, let’s take a walk through
The Cardamon Trail: Chetna Bakes with Flavours of the East..

Chetna opens the book explaining that it is all about her culinary journey. It brings her food memories in the form of lovely bakes and new taste sensations. She grew up in Jabalpur, a city in central India, and her cooking is heavily influenced by her Mom, who cooked every single meal from scratch while Chetna was growing up.  Her book is divided in six  chapters, as follows:

Cakes. Each of the twenty cakes featured is enticing to me. Always some unexpected flavor that takes them to a higher level.  The very first one, Pear and Cardamon Caramel Upside Cake, already got me dreaming. You might remember that I have a very weak spot for cardamon, so obviously this cake speaks dearly to me.  Second one? Mango, Cardamon & Coconut Cake. Next? Rose and Honey Cake.  But so many more: Rose, Mint, and White Chocolate Cheesecake, Orange and Cinnamon Mini-Cakes (I almost picked them to showcase in this post).  Pistachio, Cardamon, and White Chocolate Cake… Saffron Meringue Cake…  Masala Chai Cake…. Black Sesame and Lime Cake… I tell you, it’s one temptation after another, a showcase of interesting flavor combinations.

Pies and Tarts. This chapter brings savory stuff to the game. I list my favorites: Peach, Star Anise, and Almond Tart…  Chocolate and Mango Tart (beautiful photo!)…  Passion Fruit, Lime, and Ginger Tart. On the savory front,  very creative recipes like Moong Dal Pie, Curry Onion Tart, and Chickpea Curry Pie. I definitely do not bake pies and tarts often enough. Hubby is usually the one in charge of those concoctions. But I need to get more practice and make them by myself.

Sweet Things. Twenty seven goodies for you there… She opens this chapter with something called Saffron Rasgulla, and I think it’s something I had once at a party and fell madly in love with. A little soft ball of curdled milk and saffron, cooked in a simple syrup. I could enjoy that every day of my life without ever getting tired of it. It seems a bit involved to make, but Chetna says it’s not that hard. It is a specialty from Western India.  Now, are you ready for this? Fig and Chocolate Macarons. Yes, my obsession of the past few years! She shares a great take on this French classic. Which of course, I intend to make in the near future. The only reason I did not pick them to feature, is the fact that I have two macaron recipes already waiting in line. The Rose, Cardamon & Coffee Dessert Slices come from this session of her book, as well as the Clove, Cinnamon and Chocolate Cookies, my teaser recipe.  I also bookmarked Sweet Baked Samosas (I am addicted to the savory version),  Mango and Passion Fruit Baked Yogurt, and Star Anise and Rhubarb Profiteroles. She does incredibly nice variations on classic desserts, I love it!

Savory Small Bites. A lot of savory things to tempt you here, I will just list the ones that would be my top choices. Corn Rolls: these are inspired again by one of her Mom’s recipes, Chetna uses phyllo dough to make little parcels with sweet corn kernels mixed with ginger, chilli, and other spices.  They get baked and served warm with chutney. O.M.G. Coriander Chicken Parcels made with puff pastry seem like perfection to me…  Tapioca Vada is another intriguing recipe, different from anything I’ve ever tried. Tapioca pearls are mixed with water to form a kind of dough that gets mixed with mashed potatoes, crushed roasted peanuts and spices. The mixture is fried until golden brown, forming little patties that I am sure are addictive.  I was also quite taken by her Buckwheat Potato Pakoras, I never skip ordering pakoras when I go to an Indian restaurant. Vegetarians will love her Cashew Nut and Paneer Koftas, which use desiccated coconut to improve texture.  But my favorite of this chapter might very well be her Savory Semolina Cake, with spinach and spices such as ginger, turmeric, and black mustard seeds. The photo is drool-inducing.

Breads. Twenty options to make any baker happy.  She opens the chapter with a show-stopping bread: Savory Potato Couronne. It is simply gorgeous, but you don’t have to take my word for it.

The dough is enriched with milk, eggs, and butter, then some grated boiled potatoes are mixed in. The exotic ingredient amchur (mango powder) is also included in the dough. Obviously, I need to get some. Tomato and Paneer Loaf is a nice example of a quick bread, made in a loaf pan. Another absolutely gorgeous picture included. Now, how about some Cumin Bread with Smoked Eggplant? I swear, it’s just one amazing twist after another. Another great temptation for yours truly, Chocolate and Chilli Loaf.  As Chetna put it:

This beautiful loaf has the indulgent feel of a cake yet is, in fact, very light…
The cocoa creates a deep-colored loaf, while the chilli provides a real kick to the aftertaste.

A couple more examples for you, Star Anise, Date, and Chocolate Bread (amazing shaping), and a Lemon Challah with Coconut Paneer. She closes the chapter with several options for Parathas, and a Chicken Naan. Yes, you read it correctly. A version of the quick bread naan, turned into a full meal with ground chicken and plenty of spices. To die for, I am sure!

Accompaniments. In this chapter, she offers little goodies that will go well with many of the recipes in the book. Seven types of chutney, two types of pickles (beets, and cauliflower), Indian Coleslaw, and three types of Raita, the classic cucumber, plus Boondi and Bhindi Raitas. Curious? Boondi are fried chickpeas… Imagine them as a base for raita… Bhindi is okra. Not my favorite veggie in the world, but I bet that prepared the way Chetna describes, I would eat it all with a big smile!

So that wraps up our walk through The Cardamon Trail.  In my mind, it is a perfect cookbook because I adore spices both in savory and sweet concoctions. As I watched the Great British Bake Off, Chetna’s confidence and creativity with the use of spices left a huge impression on me. This book simply confirms her skills. I could not wait to start baking once I got the book downloaded, but then was sort of paralyzed by the number of recipes I picked as “top” choices.

To order the book, click here

I would also like to mention that Chetna has a blog and is also very active uploading videos on her youtube channel.  On youtube you can see her cooking with her kids, with her Mom, it’s really nice!  I subscribe to both blog and videos, so I never miss anything new coming from her.

Chetna, thank you for giving me permission to publish one of your recipes…
I am just about to start a batch of your Black Sesame and Macha Tuiles…
looking forward to enjoying them!

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ONE YEAR AGO: When Side Dishes Steal the Show

TWO YEARS AGO: Venting on Vaccines

THREE YEARS AGO: Prime Rib Roast, Mexican Style

FOUR YEARS AGO: Sourdough Bread with Walnuts and Dates

FIVE YEARS AGO: Braised Brisket with Bourbon-Apricot Glaze

SIX YEARS AGO: The Real Vodka Sauce

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Pork Tenderloin and Blue Cheese

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.

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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.

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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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