INCREDIBLY SIMPLE TIMES FOUR

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

 

POUNDED FLANK STEAK

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

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


WATERMELON-FETA SKEWERS

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

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

 

TOMATILLO RICE

TOMATILLO RICE
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

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

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

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

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

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

This rice is addictive.

 I could easily eat it every day for a year.

Yes, that’s how much I love it. 

 

KALE CHIPS


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

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

 

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

 

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

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

THREE YEARS AGO:  Star-Shaped Chocolate Brioche Bread

FOUR YEARS AGO: Blueberry-Banana Bread 

FIVE YEARS AGO: Into the Light Again

SIX YEARS AGO: Five Grain Sourdough Bread

SEVEN YEARS AGO: The Nano-Kitchen

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Kaiser Rolls

 

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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

SWEET POTATO CRUST QUICHE

This recipe captured my imagination the moment I saw it in Cooking Light and I could not wait to make it, because c’mon, we are talking quiche… I don’t know a single person who doesn’t like it. Ok, I take it back. My first husband didn’t. Obviously, things could not have ended well in that relationship. One wonders. Back to culinary issues, quiche is such a great recipe: it has elegance, it has substance, and you can come up with all sorts of variations for the filling. The only thing that gives me pause about making it is the pastry part, since it needs to be refrigerated, rolled out, etc etc. Not a huge deal breaker, but it definitely makes this delicacy less likely to show up at our table on weeknights.  This variation takes care of that problem. Instead of dealing with the dough, you grab a couple of sweet potatoes, peel them, slice them thin and call it a day. It also has the added bonus of being quite a bit lighter. What’s not to like?

Sweet Potato Crust Quiche

SWEET POTATO CRUST QUICHE
(adapted from Cooking Light magazine)

2 medium sweet potatoes
a few sprays of coconut oil
1 (5-ounce) bag baby spinach
1/2 cup full-fat milk
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
dash of freshly ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
4 large eggs
2 large egg whites
1.5 ounces feta cheese, crumbled

Heat the oven to 350°, then peel and slice sweet potatoes. Coat a pie dish with coconut cooking spray, then fill the bottom of the dish with a layer of sweet potato slices. Once the entire dish is filled, spray one more time with cooking spray and season lightly with salt. Bake for 20 minutes. Turn heat up to 375°.

For the filling, heat a nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add spinach; sauté 3 minutes. Remove from heat; cool. Combine milk with all the spices and eggs in a bowl, stir well with a whisk. Arrange spinach mixture in crust; pour egg mixture over spinach. Sprinkle with feta. Bake at 375° for 35 minutes. Let stand for at least 10 minutes; cut into wedges.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

quichecompotsite

Comments: I loved this recipe! To me it was close to perfection because I liked the slight sweetness offered by the potato crust in contrast with the sharp feta cheese. However, Phil would prefer the crust to be harder, and due to the nature of sweet potatoes, that is not an easy task. He thought maybe if I baked the crust longer and at a higher temperature it could work better. It’s definitely worth experimenting. One of the issues is “shrinkage.”  Baking for the time specified in the recipe already caused the sides to shrink down considerably. I guess I could add a bit more slices to the sides and see how it goes. But, even with a slightly soft crust Phil thought the quiche was flavorful and made for a delicious side dish for our dinner. I know most people would serve it with a light salad, but we are meat lovers and savored a nice T-bone steak with it, medium-rare in all its glory. My apologies to all our vegetarian friends and two of my nieces in Brazil.

slice2

So many flavors going well together here!

 

ONE YEAR AGO: Chicken Thighs with Artichokes and Capers

TWO YEARS AGO: Pea Pancakes with Herbed Yogurt

THREE YEARS AGO: Mushroom Stroganoff

FOUR YEARS AGO: Tomato Sourdough

FIVE YEARS AGO: Gamberetti con rucola e pomodori

SIX YEARS AGO: Flirting with Orzo

FETA-STUFFED TURKEY MEATLOAF

Let me set the record straight right now. This recipe is not going to win a beauty contest.  It is definitely not the best looking dish in the world, but sometimes beauty is in the eye of the fork-holder. Once again – in fact two posts in a row – I am joining spinach and feta to bring a humble ingredient (first cauliflower, now ground turkey) into the spotlight.  This meatloaf turned out moist, and quite flavorful with the salty bite of feta cheese in the middle.  I think this recipe could work very nicely made in muffin tins, with feta cheese in the center. Individual servings are always a lot of fun.  Note to self: try that next time.

TurkeySpinachMeatloaf

FETA-STUFFED TURKEY MEATLOAF
(adapted from All Day I Dream about Food)

1 large shallot, chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
1 package frozen spinach, thawed and drained
2 lbs ground turkey
1/4 cup coconut flour
1/2 cup chicken stock
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 cup crumbled feta cheese
.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and heat your oven to 325 F.
.
Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Stir in shallots, salt and pepper and saute until shallots are translucent but do not allow them to brown.  Add in spinach and stir until heated through. Allow it to cool before proceeding with the recipe.
.
In a large mixing bowl, combine sautéed shallots, ground turkey, coconut flour, chicken stock, egg and Worcestershire sauce. Mix until very well combined.  Place half of the turkey mixture on prepared baking sheet and shape into a flat rectangle, about 1 inch thick. Cover with feta cheese, pressing on feta to adhere to meatloaf. Place remaining turkey mixture over top of feta and shape the whole thing into a rough loaf.
.
Bake for 1 to 1 1/4 hours, or until
internal temperature reaches 160 F on an instant read thermometer.

Cut into slices and serve.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

thatsauce(image from Google database)

Did you know that there are some words in English that I am a bit afraid of?  Worcestershire is one of them.  I refer to it as “that sauce”, so that my dignity is preserved. In Brazil we call it “molho inglês” (English sauce), a clever move if you ask me.  Speaking of tricky words, I also avoid saying “beach” and “sheet” because apparently I tend to lead both words into the wrong direction.  But, I digress. That sauce is very important in this recipe, it adds the umami component so fashionable right now. Or maybe it was so fashionable a couple of years ago, and I’m slow to catch up.  Still, add it. If you can pronounce it correctly, even better!  😉

This topic of tricky words for foreigners made me think of the name of a city in the state where I was born, São Paulo.  Please try to say it before you listen to the correct pronunciation in the file below it. Ready?

The name of the city is… ITAQUAQUECETUBA

and now see how you did, by listening to yours truly…


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In closing, a little language trivia for you: the name Itaquaquecetuba comes from tupi-guarani, meaning “a place of abundant bamboo sharp as knives”.  

 

ONE YEAR AGO: Artichoke-Saffron Souffle

TWO YEARS AGO: Cinnamon-Wreath
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THREE YEARS AGO:
  Yeastspotting 11.11.11
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FOUR YEARS AGO:
 Oven-baked Risotto
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FIVE YEARS AGO:
  Potato-Roquefort Cakes with Ripe Pears

EDAMAME HUMMUS IN CUCUMBER BITES

If you’d like to especially please guests  who are low-carbing, or simply want to serve something very flavorful but kind to everyone’s waistline, this is a perfect option.   I’ve got a recipe for edamame dip already published, but this one knocked my socks off.  Another fascinating English expression that made me smile the first time I heard it.  No similar phrase exists in Portuguese, I must add, and as far as I searched, its origin is uncertain. Feel free to enlighten me with an explanation in the comments…  😉

The recipe comes from a great blog called “Tess’s  Japanese Kitchen”.  Tess became a real expert on the subject by working her way through the 250 recipes from this book by  Hiroko Shimbo. Pretty amazing!   If you are into authentic Japanese cooking, bookmark her blog and get ready to learn a lot from it. And, while you are at it, reserve a bookmark for Ms. Shimbo’s site, Hiroko’s Kitchen.

BRIGHT GREEN EDAMAME DIP IN CUCUMBER BITES 
(slightly modified from Tess’s Japanese Kitchen)

for the cucumber “cups’
3 cucumbers

for the dip
1 cup shelled edamame (frozen is fine)
2 ounces feta cheese
3 Tablespoons olive oil
3 Tablespoons non-fat yogurt (low or full fat is ok)
1  teaspoons salt
juice of half a lemon
a sprinkle of paprika for color contrast

Make the cucumber “cups” by peeling the cucumbers leaving streaks of unpeeled portions.  Cut in 3/4 inch slices, and carefully hollow each slice to form a small cup.  Discard the pulp. Reserve the cucumber slices, if they seem too wet place them over paper towels to catch excess liquid.

In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook the edamame until they are tender, 5 to 6 minutes. Drain them in a colander and rinse briefly with cold water to stop the cooking.  Let it cool slightly, then add to the bowl of a food processor.

Add all other ingredients, except the paprika.  Process to make a smooth paste, scraping the sides of the bowl midway through processing.  Taste, adjust seasoning, and spoon small portions of the dip inside the hollowed cucumber slices.  Serve any additional dip with crackers or crudites.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

If you want to go real fancy, take a Zen breath and try your hands at this beautiful preparation of cucumber cups, yet another courtesy of Tess. I imagine the dip would look pretty awesome in the center of those little flowers…

When I brought this platter to  a departmental get-together, most people were puzzled, trying to figure out where the green color was coming from.

“Avocado? could it be avocado?”

“No, I don’t think so…. I taste some cheese, but no avocado”…

“What is in it?”

Mysterious or not, everyone loved it! The feta contributes a nice salty bite, the yogurt mellows it down, and the edamame closes the deal with its umami aura, very special. My slight modification was to reduce the amount of olive oil (the original had 6 tablespoons instead of 3), use non-fat yogurt instead or regular, and add lemon juice because I am a lemon freak. Sounds a bit wicked, but… such is life.  😉

ONE YEAR AGO:  Headed to Brazil!

TWO YEARS AGO: Twice-Baked Goat Cheese Souffle

THREE YEARS AGO: Golly Moses: She’s  a Muffin!