SECRET RECIPE CLUB: PAALAK PANEER, A FAREWELL POST

the-end11Not sure even how to break this to my readers. This will be my last post with The Secret Recipe Club. Not because I am leaving, but because the club as a whole will be shutting down. It is sad, very sad, I’ve been a member for a long time. My first post was in October 2011. Five long yeas, and I enjoyed every single month of it. But, many members were quitting, not enough new members joining, so that is that, folks. We knew about this for over a month, and I’ve been dreading this post with the bitter taste of farewell. Farewell to a good thing. Anyway, my last assigned blog was My Hobbie Lobbie, hosted by Trisha and I can say it allowed me to close this blogging chapter with a golden key. I learned so much by stalking her site, Trisha cooks a lot of authentic Indian food, a cuisine I adore but find a bit intimidating.  I had a mile-long list of stuff bookmarked, will share a few of my choices to give you a taste (pun intended) of what her site is all about.  For starters, her take on Tiramisu…   But then, she tempted me with Homemade Samosas (sigh). Or Methi Namakpare, something you probably don’t know what to make of, but jump over there to start dreaming about it.  Her take on Chicken Tikka is another show-stopper. But the one that I really wanted to make and if life was a little less frantic I would have: Chicken Biryani, the very best according to Trisha. I even bought all the ingredients to make it, just never got to it. Not yet, that is…  Another heavy contender – a very unusual daal using black chickpeas. Guess what? I found those in our Oriental market, so stay tuned, it will be on the blog sometime soon. Anyway, you can see how much I adored getting her blog for my final assignment.  Final assignment. This is really sad.

Note added after publication. For this final adventure in SRC, my blog was assigned to Sawsan, from Chef in Disguise. I woke up today to read her post that shall stay with me forever.  I am touched beyond words. If you’d like to see what she cooked from my blog (it’s a great bread!), visit her wonderful site.

paneer

 

PALAAK PANEER
(slightly modified from My Hobbie Lobbie)

750 g spinach, washed and drained
3 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 shallot, chopped
1 1/2 tbsp finely chopped ginger
1 green chile, whole
2 tsp coriander powder
250g Paneer cheese, cut into cubes
1/2 – 1 tsp garam masala powder
6 tbsp whole milk
1-2 tsp lemon juice, or to taste
Salt, to taste

Blanch the spinach in hot water till wilted. This should take about 3 minutes.

Drain using a colander and run under some cold water till it cools down. This will help maintain its lovely color and will prevent it from cooking any further. Blend it to a smooth paste and set aside.

Heat oil in a large pan. Add the cumin and fry till it is fragrant. Don’t let it burn. Add the shallot and let it fry on low heat till it turns soft. This should take about 5-6 minutes. Add the ginger  and chile and cook for another minute.
Add the coriander powder and salt and cook for 30 seconds.

Add the spinach puree and a tiny splash of water if necessary. The puree should be loose, but not watery.  Bring this to a boil and simmer for 3 minutes. Add the garam masala powder, paneer cubes and milk. Stir and cook for a few minutes till the spinach is nice and creamy. Add lemon juice to taste. Serve over rice.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

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Comments: I’ve had Paalak paneer in Indian restaurants quite often. Love the stuff. The creaminess, the spices, but I never attempted to make it at home. Like sushi, palaak paneer is something I reserved for dining out. Once I got this assignment and spotted the recipe on Trisha’s site, I could not quite get it out of my mind. Plus, our Oriental market carries paneer cheese, so the trickiest ingredient involved did not pose a problem. My only advice is, get a lot of spinach. A LOT. I did not bother weighing, but I just got a lot more than I thought I needed, and that was a wise decision. I intended to  make some of her Jeera rice, but ended up serving it with normal, plain Basmati. My favorite rice in the whole wide world.

served

After we enjoyed it at dinner, there was a little bit of Paalak left. Not enough to stand on its own as a side dish. I considered adding to a frittata or omelette for my lunch next day, but then it hit me: why not use it as the flavoring base for a soufflé? At first I tried to fight that idea. The spices seemed wrong and out-of-place. But shouldn’t we try to open our horizons instead of accepting preconceptions?  I went ahead with it. Used my basic Julia Child’s method, and… one word for you: WOW!

indiansoufflee
We devoured this soufflé with abandon… it was spectacular. So, yes, I recommend that you not only make the Paalak paneer, but then save a little bit of it to use in this quite successful fusion cuisine experiment.  It was creamy, tasty, the spices made it absolutely special.

creamyDinner is served: Paalak Soufflé with grilled flank steak and mushrooms… 
Life is good!

goodnight

Well, folks this is it for the Secret Recipe Club. It was great while it lasted, that’s for sure.
Like the beautiful full moon that was shinning the night we enjoyed the Paalak Paneer…

A big thank you to the organizers, moderators, members,
that kept such great atmosphere in the background.
I had a blast with all of you.

palaak-paneer-souffle-from-bewitching-kitchen

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ONE YEAR AGO: In My Kitchen, November 2015

TWO YEARS AGO: Helen Fletcher’s Oatmeal Cookies

THREE YEARS AGO: Thai-Style Pesto with Brown Rice Pasta

FOUR YEARS AGO: Shrimp with Spicy Orange Sauce

FIVE YEARS AGO:  A Simple Appetizer (Baked Ricotta)

SIX YEARS AGO: Sour Cream Sandwich Bread

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Pasta with Zucchini Strands and Shrimp

SECRET RECIPE CLUB: LITTLE BITES OF PARADISE

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

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

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

little-bites-of-paradise

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

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

Heat the oven to 325 F.

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

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

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

Bake for 15 minutes.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

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

bite

A LITTLE BITE OF PARADISE INDEED!

 

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

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

little-bites-of-paradise-from-bewitchingkitchen

ONE YEAR AGO: Coxinha de Galinha: A Brazilian Delicacy

TWO YEARS AGO: Prosciutto-Wrapped Shrimp Skewers

THREE YEARS AGO: A Simple Dinner

FOUR YEARS AGO: Brown Butter Tomato Salad

FIVE YEARS AGO:  Spelt and Cornmeal Rolls

SIX YEARS AGO: Roasted Potato and Olive Focaccia

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Multigrain Bread Extraordinaire

 

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SECRET RECIPE CLUB: TEXAS SHEET CAKE

September is here!  The month that brings with it the end of the summer, and the beginning of Sally’s foul mood. Aren’t you thrilled? Well, I cannot let meteorology ruin the mood of my favorite event in the whole blogosphere: The Secret Recipe Club‘s Reveal Day is here, for us members of Group A.  My assignment was the blog Crazed Mom, hosted by Nicole, from St. Louis. Crazed Mom, what a cute name for a site, it tells it all. Nicole is a mom to five teenagers. Let’s make a brief pause to let that sink in. Five teenagers. She also takes care of a toddler and a newborn on a regular basis. Five teenagers. One toddler. One newborn. I have a full-time job that demands quite a bit of energy and commitment, but I am always in awe of women whose job is to take care of one or several kids. How do they do it? I know there are plenty of rewards, but imagine having to deal with kids at different phases, one going to school, dealing with homework, sleepovers, another too young to leave your radar, some very picky eaters, some with food allergies. And of course, you are also a woman, a wife,  a daughter, maybe a sister, with goals and dreams for yourself. Not easy to find balance.  But Nicole does it all and blogs about a ton of interesting stuff, in fact she’s been a presence online for 12 years! Unreal!  I had a lot of fun browsing her site, even if this past month was particularly sad and stressful for us.  I did not have as much time as I normally like to indulge in the stalking process, but still composed a list of possibilities to share with  you today. Here they are:  Chicken Kiev with a Twist,  The Best Blueberry Muffins,  Caramel Coconut Cupcakes, and Spicy Gingerbread with a Mocha Glaze (if that doesn’t make you go weak in the knees, you need therapy).  But once I saw her take on a Texas Sheet Cake, I decided I had to make it. I’ve often heard about it, but had never tasted or even seen one face-to-face. I had to take matters into my own hands, and jump on this opportunity to enlighten myself on this American classic.

Texas Sheet Cake

TEXAS SHEET CAKE
(from Crazed Mom)

for the cake:
1 cup butter
1 cup water
1/4 cup cocoa
2 cups sugar
2 cups flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla

for the icing:
1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup cocoa
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons milk
1 box (1 pound) confectioners’ sugar (sift it first to remove lumps – otherwise icing remains lumpy)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

For the cake: In a saucepan, combine the butter, water and cocoa over med. heat until the butter melts. Don’t let it cook too long. In a separate bowl, combine the sugar, flour, salt, eggs, and baking soda. Add the butter mixture to the dry ingredients. Careful, it’s hot. Add the sour cream and vanilla and mix well. Pour into a sheet cake pan or jelly roll pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.

For the icing: In a saucepan, combine the butter, cocoa and milk over medium heat and bring to a boil. Immediately remove from heat and combine with confectioners sugar and vanilla. Mix well with a mixer to remove lumps. Spread over the sheet cake while it is still hot.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

compositesheet

Comments: This is a rich cake. Very rich. As Nicole says, eat a slice and go take a walk. But I tell you one thing, it is decadent delicious, it’s the kind of cake that with each bite you feel more and more naughty, which is a good feeling to have every once in a while.  I took it to our department and it was basically gone within 45 minutes. I also got several visits to the lab of colleagues thanking me and giving me hints of “you can bake this one again anytime!”  I guess by now they realized that a food blogger rarely repeats recipes and once something really good shows up in the mail room, they better enjoy. Be Zen. Savor the moment. Literally.

Confession time… My friend Gary is my guru for all things involving baking. I was wondering about the size of pan to use and wanted to run a question by him, so I texted.  Then I told Phil about it. I just texted Gary, I had a question about that sheet cake I’m making today.  Phil almost lost it, laughing so hard – “what kind of cake are you making????” It turns out that my spoken sheet apparently sounds exactly like another word that starts with SH.  It’s a good thing accents don’t travel by text.

Nicole, I loved stalking your site, and agree with you, this is one amazing cake, I am not surprised that you requested it every year for your Birthday. If we have to get one year older, might as well celebrate in style!  

And, for all my readers,  you can delight yourself with the recipes made by my virtual friends with a poke in the blue frog smiling quietly at the end of the post.

Texas Sheet Cake from Bewitching Kitchen

ONE YEAR AGO: In My Kitchen, September 2015

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

THREE YEARS AGO: In My Kitchen – September 2013

FOUR YEARS AGO: Raspberry Sorbet at Summer’s End

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

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

SEVEN YEARS AGO: A Peachy Salad for a Sunny Day

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
.
Heat oven to 325 degrees. Grease and flour a 10-inch Bundt pan and set it aside.
.
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.
.
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

compositecake

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

 

SECRET RECIPE CLUB: FALAFEL & A BONUS RECIPE

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

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

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

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

served-3

 

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

This recipe makes 35 falafel patties

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ENJOY!

to print the recipe click here 

falagelcomp

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

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

ontheplate

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

Falafel, from Beiwtching Kitchen


BONUS RECIPE

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

Grilled Peach Salad with Lavender Dressing

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

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

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

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

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

Drizzle the dressing on the salad right before serving.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

saladcomp

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


Grilled Peach Salad, from Bewitching Kitchen

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

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

 

ONE YEAR AGO: In My Kitchen, July 2015

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

THREE YEARS AGO: Roasted Strawberry Buttermilk Sherbet

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

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

SIX YEARS AGO: Blueberry Muffins

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

SECRET RECIPE CLUB: BUCKLE UP FOR RASPBERRIES

First Monday of the month, it’s time to share with my readers one more post as part of The Secret Recipe Club. If you don’t know what it’s all about, the club joins two food bloggers in secret, one is the stalker, the other the stalkee… When Reveal Day comes, everyone blogs about a chosen recipe at the exact same time. A virtual thrill like no other, right?  The blog I was assigned to this month was Things I Make (for Dinner), hosted by Sarah from Ontario. I’ve only been to Canada once and fell in love with it and its people, although the snowstorm in the middle of the summer trip was a bit uncalled for. I am sure I told this story before, but for newcomers, here we go with the short and sweet of it: the late June snowstorm caught me wearing shorts and a tank top. My mood dropped to what in temperature would be approaching zero Kelvin. Anyway, I digress. Sarah has a great sense of humor, her posts are a delight to read. I found myself smiling and nodding my head all the way through the lengthy stalking process. Keep in mind she’s been blogging since 2007, so there’s a ton of stuff to choose from in her fun site. Obviously, I had a hard time settling on a recipe.  Take a look at my “short” list: Chicken Tikka Kebabs, Soft Pretzels (I cannot believe I still haven’t try to make those, they’ve been on my to make soon list for a decade!), Spicy Chicken Skewers, Thai-Style Steak Salad,  Lemon Bonbon Cookies (I actually bought all ingredients for it), Blueberry Cheesecake, Nutella Ice Cream (triple sigh of pure desire), Upside Down Black Forest Cake (yes, you read that right). So, what do I have for you? A Raspberry Buckle. Love the name.  Buckle is a dessert that has been around for centuries, very popular in New England. It refers to a coffee cake in which fresh fruit is mixed with a yellow cake batter. Very easy to make and I tell you it was a huge success in one of the several receptions we hosted last month. Believe it or not, I made it after arriving home from work, still had time to clean up the kitchen and serve it for the reception at 8pm. I felt like Super Woman after a successful mission. And, that – quoting Martha Stewart – is a good thing.

Raspberry Buckle1

RASPBERRY BUCKLE
(from Things I Make for Dinner)

1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar
3 eggs
1 cup flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 pint fresh raspberries
Heat oven to 350F. Grease a 9″ square baking pan. Clean raspberries. Stir together flour, salt and baking powder in a small bowl and set aside.

Cream butter and sugar with an electric mixer. Add eggs, one at a time, until well incorporated. Gradually add flour mixture, being careful not to over mix. Spread in prepared pan, and scatter raspberries over the surface. Bake at 350 for 35 minutes, or until golden brown and a tester comes out clean.

Cool 20 minutes, sprinkle with icing sugar and serve with whipped cream, if so desired.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

bucklecomposite

Comments: Life has been busier than ever for us. For those who do not know, when we moved from OU to KSU four years ago, Phil became the Head of the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics. With that, commitments and challenges intensified more than we anticipated. Not only he has our research lab to consider in his professional life, but all the other things associated with running a department, from budget problems to teaching issues, from hiring new faculty to personnel evaluations. The list is huge, and the deadlines and pressure just keep building up. It is challenging for both of us, but I must say we enjoy it all.  The underlying feeling that we are trying to accomplish something on several fronts pump us up, keeps us on our toes. Recently he went through an intense process to hire a director for a particular center at KSU. Every candidate’s visit involved a reception in our home. I wanted to prepare something special for each of the three candidates, and this Raspberry Buckle was my best choice ever. If you need something simple and delicious, look no further. Sweet, tart, melt-in-your-mouth good…

Sarah, thanks for a great recipe that pleased all the guests who had a chance to try it. Nothing was left next morning to take to the department, which is a huge compliment to your Raspberry Buckle!

baked2

As usual, I invite my readers to click on the smily blue frog at the end of this post. She will direct you to a list of blog posts published by my virtual friends at The Secret Recipe Club.  Enjoy the ride!

Raspberry Buckle

 

ONE YEAR AGO: Seafood Gratin for a Special Dinner

TWO YEARS AGO: Cooking Sous-Vide: Sweet and Spicy Asian Pork Loin

THREE YEARS AGO:  Farewell to a Bewitching Kitchen

FOUR YEARS AGO: In My Kitchen. June 2012

FIVE YEARS AGO: Goodbye L.A.

SIX YEARS AGO: 7-6-5 Pork Tenderloin

 

SECRET RECIPE CLUB: CHOC-ORANGE MINI CAKES & A BONUS RECIPE

13082596_1327954120553739_3054889855668038106_n(Reprinted with permission from Adrienne Hedger)

And here we are landing firmly in the month of May. This year is flying by, if you ask me… First Monday of the month means fun. It is Reveal Day for The Secret Recipe Club, that event in which bloggers are paired in secret and cook a recipe from their assigned site.  This month I got a food blog that was new to me: Chit Chat Chomp, hosted by Leigh, who blogs from Melbourne, a place I would love to visit one day. Leigh’s site is a thing of beauty, very stylish, elegant, amazing photos, and great prose. Basically, a must-read food blog!  She summarizes her approach to cooking in a delightful way:

Recipes inspired by my travels through France, adapted for everyday simplicity and filled to the brim with nutrition.  Mostly gluten and refined sugar-free, my recipes lean towards food that inspires, heals and nourishes, but above all else, it’s fresh, organic and simple.

Recipes inspired by my travels through France… She’s got my full attention!  In fact, she describes herself as a lover of all things French. You can imagine the smile I opened when I read that line, right?  I spent quite a bit of time stalking her blog, but jumped on a recipe right away for a reason I will classify as “The Swedish Effect.” Small parenthesis is needed.  We have an undergraduate student from Sweden in our lab called Olivia. She happened to mention that April 15th was her “name day” back home.  I was puzzled, but then learned that in Sweden each day of the year is associated with a particular name, as you can see in this site. April 15th is the name day for Olivia (girls) and Oliver (boys). Olivia said that her Grandma always gave her a nice card on that day to celebrate the occasion. So, I thought it would be cool to bake something starting with the letter O and bring to the lab on that day. Orange-Chocolate mini-cakes seemed perfect! Obviously, I jumped on the recipe with no hesitation whatsoever. But, my decision had a small problem associated with it, which led me to make a second recipe for today’s reveal. Read on…

Choc Orange Mini Cakes
ORANGE-CHOC MINI CAKES
(from Chit Chat Chomp)

Makes 6 mini-cakes

1 orange
1 cup almond meal
1 tsp baking powder
2 large eggs
1 Tbsp raw cacao powder
1 Tbsp rice malt syrup or raw honey
handful of raw cacao nibs
handful of sunflower seeds (I omitted for lack of sunflower seeds)

Heat oven to 320 F and line a mini cupcake pan with 8 cupcake papers

Place the orange in a pot and cover with water. Bring to the boil then reduce the heat to low and simmer for 1 hour. Allow to cool.

Chop the cooked orange into chunks and place in a blender and blitz until smooth. Add all other ingredients (except cacao nibs and sunflower seeds) to the blender and pulse until combined.

Divide the batter between your cupcake papers, filling close to the top as they will not rise by much, and top with the cacao nibs and sunflower seeds. Pop into the oven for approximately 30 to 40 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted in the middle.

ENJOY!

to print the mini-cake recipe, click here

orangecakecomp
Comments: As Leigh mentioned, the only tricky part of this recipe is to boil the orange. Tricky in the sense that you need to dedicate one hour for that step. Essentially hands-free, though. The smell in the kitchen as the orange simmers…. wonderful!  Once the orange is ready and cooled down, the batter will be ready in minutes. Now, let’s talk about the “small problem.”  The recipe made six cupcakes, enough for each of our lab members to enjoy, but Phil and I could not have any. In short, I made a recipe for The Secret Recipe Club, but never got to taste it. I had only one way to restore my dignity as a blogger: choose a second recipe from Chit Chat Chomp, and make it too… and that’s what I did, so today you get two recipes instead of one. How’s that for problem solving?

Without further ado… my bonus recipe from Leigh’s great blog:

Veggie Bread

VEGGIE BREAD
(from Chit Chat Chomp)

1 + 1/2 cup almond meal
3/4 cups arrowroot flour
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
5 eggs
1 + 1/2 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1 large zucchini, grated
1 large carrot, grated
1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons pepitas.

Heat the oven to 325 F and line a standard loaf pan with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, mix together the almond meal, arrowroot, salt and baking soda. In a separate bowl whisk the eggs lightly with the apple cider vinegar. Add zucchini, carrot and cheese and mix well.

Add the egg mix to the dry ingredients. Mix to combine. Pour the dough into the prepared loaf tin and sprinkle with pepitas.

Bake for 35-40 minutes or until the top starts turning golden and a skewer comes out clean. Remove from the oven and transfer to a wire rack. Allow to cool for five minutes before cutting into slices.

ENJOY!

to print the Veggie Bread recipe, click here

veggiecomposite

Comments: We loved this bread! It is obviously gluten-free, no regular flour, but the texture reminded me of quick breads, except that this had considerable more moisture. Not too dense like some gluten-free breads turn out.  Leigh said it freezes well, but we did not get to test that, in three days it was gone. I enjoyed a slice at lunchtime, and was surprised that Phil did that too, he prefers his bread to be loaded with gluten. This one had so much flavor that the lack of wheat flour was not a big deal.  Once it sits in the fridge for a while, the best way to bring it back to life is toasting it…  paired with juicy tomatoes, it was out of this world delicious!

toasted

I wanted to try to make croutons out of it.  Not sautéed because I am afraid they would crumble, it is a very delicate bread. But maybe spraying the croutons with coconut or olive oil then toasting them in the oven. I bet they would turn out amazing on a kicked-up version of Caesar salad, or over a massaged kale concoction. Definitely a bread to play with.

I must say it was not easy to decide on which recipe to make as the bonus.  I really wanted to make her Savoury Muffins, not only because the recipe enticed me, but for the write-up about it. You gotta go and read it… it has to do with France…   And, if the weather was a little more appropriate, I would love a bowl of her luscious Carrot Soup… Another heavy contender was the Zucchini Noodle with Kale Pesto, which is pretty much my favorite type of meal these days.

Leigh, I loved getting your blog as my assignment this month, and feel sorry I could not taste those cute mini-cupcakes… Thinking back, I should have made a double batch, but I only thought about it after they were all baked and I had no time to boil another orange and start over. It was getting close to bedtime then… oh, well. Such is life!

Please make sure to click on the blue frog sitting patiently at the end of this post, so you can marvel at the posts that my virtual friends from Group A made for their assignments.

Adrienne, thank you again for allowing me to share your cartoon on the blog!
I love your work!

ONE YEAR AGO: In My Kitchen, May 2015

TWO YEARS AGO: P90X3, a Review of Tony Horton’s Latest Fitness Program 

THREE YEARS AGO: Pasta and Mussels in Saffron Broth

FOUR YEARS AGO: Triple Chocolate Brownies

FIVE YEARS AGO: Shanghai Soup Dumplings

SIX YEARS AGO: Bite-sized Chocolate Pleasure