Friday, July 31, 2009

The Forecast Calls for Flavor - Hilbeh (Yemenite Fenugreek Sauce) - MLLA13

Hilbeh 1

Summer in New York has been rather unseasonable this year. It's rained here on average four of seven days for several weeks. And I'm not just talking passing sun showers or soft overnight soakers, but furious downpours and volcanic thunderstorms that tear the limbs off trees and turn the gutters into the great Mississippi. They last for hours at a stretch. Noah is scheduled to float by any day now.

Even though I don't get what's going on with the atypical weather lately, it does teach a lesson that nothing is all that predictable, not unlike the legume recipe failure I experienced the other day. It wasn't a particularly complicated nor uncommon dish; I used dried beans, the go-to ingredient most cooks turn to when they prepare legumes. Disgusted with the grayish mud of a meal I labored over, I scraped the heap in the trash, and began rummaging around my cupboards for something that would soothe my mood. And there they were: a half-pound bag of fenugreek seeds, something I frequently use as a spice, but certainly not as a key ingredient. Fenugreek, though not generally thought of as a legume, is, indeed, a member of that nitrogen-fixing plant family best known for beans, string and otherwise.

Fenugreek Seeds

It wasn't at all easy to find a recipe that calls for a large amount of fenugreek seeds. I'm still not quite sure how I serendipitously landed on this fabulous Yemenite hot sauce, but I can pretty confidently predict that hilbeh will take you by storm. ~

Hilbeh 2

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Hilbeh - Based on several recipes I researched. Here is one of them, from 1 World Recipes.

Ingredients

2 tablespoons dried fenugreek seeds (Soaked overnight covered with cold water, then rinsed and drained. Soaked volume is 1/2 cup.)
1/4 cup olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup fresh cilantro leaves, packed
4-5 serranos or other comparably hot fresh peppers, seeds and membranes removed if you want to control the heat
1 large fresh tomato, peeled, seeded, and chopped
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground green cardamom
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
Juice of 1 lemon
1/2 teaspoon salt

Method

In a large skillet, warm olive oil briefly over medium heat, then add onion and garlic. Sauté until they are translucent and golden, stirring frequently (about 5 minutes). Add fenugreek seeds, cilantro, hot peppers,and tomato stirring to heat through. In a separate, dry skillet, toast the spices until they are fragrant and lightly browned. Tip spices into larger skillet and mix through. Remove from heat. Transfer hilbeh to food processor or blender and grind into a coarse paste (about 1/2 minute). Transfer to serving bowl. Top with lemon juice and salt, and gently toss with fork. Can be enjoyed warm or chilled. Makes approximately 2 cups. Serve with crackers, pita, or lakhoach, a traditional Yemenite flatbread (recipe link follows).
Lakhoach

Lakhoach - From the Lynne's Country Kitchen recipe
This recipe is so elementary that it's impossible to adapt. I have not rewritten it for this post.
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This post is for Harini (Sunshine Mom) of Tongue Ticklers hosting My Legume Love Affair 13. The round-up will be online in a few days. I can't wait to see what you all have gotten up to this past month.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Cutting Loose - Batata Chips with Ají Amarillo Crema Dip

Batata Chips with Ají Amarillo Crema

I keep it in a shoe box with a skull and crossbones hastily but earnestly drawn on its cover, in a cupboard looped with child-proof safeguards despite the fact that there are no children living here. If I was a slightly decadent romantic, I would nickname it "Mack the Knife." As a realist well versed in those occasional but very real dangers of running a kitchen, "The Demon Barber of Eat Street" is a more appropriate moniker. A mandoline is as much a guillotine for fingers as it is an essential tool for the execution of precise and uniform slices of fresh produce, where exactitude is mandated for cooking and/or presentation.

It is only now, two years after my purchase, that I could venture to gingerly take him out of his shrink wrapping. The need for a finely honed edge of steel trumped the wobble of working a hand-held knife against the rugged, gnarly knobs of Latin sweet potatoes. Tools, despite their hazards, are, indeed, implements that ultimately make a cook's life easier, as long as you take the flashing, militarist warnings of Achtung! seriously.

The Razor's Edge

Despite my fear, respect and deference to the sharpest cutting edge I have ever known, I must admit that its power made effortless the finest, almost transparent shavings of potato ever to float and crisp in a pot of roiling-hot oil. You could not, while running the vegetable holder against the blade, imagine that you are actually done nearly before you even started, expecting, instead, the slow creep of bloody cabochons and gaping slits decorating your fingertips, amid the wreckage of a pile of nasty, useless potato scraps.

The Barber is back in his box, now, back in his specially locked cupboard. I expect to take him out more often these days, to let him strut his stuff as he was stropped to do. And I will keep a keen eye on him in order to keep my fingers, to ensure he always performs the kindest cuts of all.
Batata Chips – My own recipe

Ingredients (Per serving)

1 large batata, approximately 8-inches long, peeled and nicked clean of rough edges and most pits (Some of the flesh will be patterned with dark and light colorations; this is normal.)
Large bowl of cold water, aciduated with the juice of a lemon
Flavorless vegetable oil, to fill a depth of 1 ½ inches in a skillet of your choice (I used safflower oil)

Method


Using a mandoline* set with its thinnest cutting attachment (about 1/16 inch), slice the batatas crosswise to create fine chips. Slip the chips immediately into lemon water to prevent browning. Heat oil to a temperature of approximately 350 degrees F. Blot chips with a towel and lower them individually into oil using long-handled metal tongs, allowing some small distance between chips to avoid overcrowding and reducing oil temperature. Watch chips vigilantly (do not leave hot oil unattended - ever), as you turn them repeatedly with tongs, taking care to ensure they are browned and crisped on both sides (about 5 minutes). Remove chips with tongs to plate lined with paper towels to drain excess oil. Proceed with each batch until all chips are fried. Remove skillet from heat and serve immediately. Allow oil to reduce to room temperature before discarding.

* You can also use a very sharp, hand-held knife, as long as your cutting surface and potato are perfectly motionless, and you have a very good eye for measuring width.

Ají Amarillo Crema – My own recipe
(You can easily substitute low-fat dairy products for any listed here.)

Ingredients


1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup sour cream
1 1/2 – 2 tablespoons ají amarillo paste (made with Peruvian hot yellow-orange peppers)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves, packed
1 2-inch scallion spear, sliced into circles, white and green parts
1 teaspoon cumin seeds, toasted briefly in a heavy, ungreased skillet

Method


In a small bowl, mix all ingredients except scallion and cumin seeds. Transfer to a serving bowl and top with scallion and cumin seeds. Makes approximately 1 cup, enough to serve 4 as a snack or starter.
Batata Chips

Ají Amarillo Crema

Batatas

This post is for Anna of Anna's Cool Finds, hosting Weekend Herb Blogging #194, for Haalo of Cook Almost Anything at Least Once, managing WHB for its creator, Kalyn of Kalyn's Kitchen.

Been There, Done That ~

Duchess Potatoes
Salsa Verde
Rosemary-Roasted Blue Potatoes

Other People's Eats ~

Blue Violette Potato Chips

Curried Potato Chips
Hot Pepper and Cool Watermelon Salsa
The OTHER Potato

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Singapore Sling Slush Cocktail - It's a Girl Thing

Singapore Sling Slush
The role of a defense attorney is not to believe in the innocence nor guilt of his client, nor to be made privy to more evidence than is necessary to defend the accused. How unfortunate, then, for Mr. Joyce of Messrs. Ripley, Joyce and Naylor of Singapore, that his client, Mrs. Leslie Crosbie, facing trial for a murder she committed in British Malaya, should open a complex abyss that sinks him into a perilous dereliction of legal ethics.
It is the 1920s, in a region of the world best known at the time for British imperialism, rigid racism and plantation commerce, that W. Somerset Maugham examines such an abyss in his compact and corrosive story, The Letter, one of six tales written under the umbrella of The Casuarina Tree. Maugham's Leslie Crosbie is as composed, dignified and well-bred a woman as she is a creature given to wild fits of rage, loathing and self pity. Joyce is as fascinated by her abrupt mood swings and the startling, pre-trial complications, as he is compassionate toward her husband, Robert, a hard-working and kind plantation manager. Were it not for the savage emotional toll that Leslie's arrest has exacted on Robert, and the growing possibility that she will, indeed, be executed for her crime, Joyce would never have bent his principles to procure a critical piece of damning evidence, the letter of the title.
The Letter
For Joyce, there is little comfort in the outcome of the trial, save the knowledge that his own wife is in every way exactly what Leslie Crosbie is not, a loyal, supportive, and sparkling woman of impeccable standards, and a gifted hostess whose "...million-dollar cocktail was celebrated through all the Malay States..."
Except for a passing reference to whiskey and soda, and a gin pahit, no other liquor is directly identified in the story, not even, surprisingly, Mrs. Joyce's renowned cocktail. Had the Raffles Hotel, the Singapore institution where W. Somerset Maugham was a frequent visitor, not already invented the feminine and stylish Singapore Sling, I could easily ascribe that libation to Mrs. Joyce as her very own mysterious concoction.
As is typical with classic recipes, the Singapore Sling has sprung all sorts of variations on its theme of pink gin. The one I'm serving here is my own riff, generally unaltered but for a quick whir in the blender to produce an icy froth that glitters in the sunlight as well as the brain. Cocktail geeks and other purists would likely disjoint their noses, but I trust that you will forgive my crime. After all, it's not exactly like I'm getting away with murder.
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Singapore Sling Slush - Based on the Drink Boy recipe

Ingredients (per cocktail)

2 ounces gin
1 1/2 ounces Kirschwasser (a clear German cherry brandy)
1 1/2 ounces pineapple juice
1 ounce Bénédictine (a French herbal liqueur)
2 teaspoons grenadine syrup
Juice of 1/2 lime
Juice of 1/2 orange
4-5 large ice cubes
Club soda
Maraschino cherry to garnish
Stirrer/sipping straw (optional)


Method

Select a large highball or other oversized glass. Fill the glass with ice cubes, then add all ingredients except club soda and cherry garnish. Top with club soda to fill. Transfer contents to blender container. Blend in a few short bursts, using the ice crusher button if your appliance has one, until the ice is pulverized and foamy. Pour into glass and stir once to distribute ice. Garnish with cherry and serve immediately.

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This post is for Simona of Briciole and Lisa of Champaign Taste, co-hosting their quarterly Novel Food event, which features recipes derived from or inspired by the food and drink we love to read about in our favorite literature.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Telling Lies – Crustless Cherry Cinnamon Pie

Crustless Cherry Cinnamon Pie
"When George," said she, "was about six years old, he was made the wealthy master of a hatchet! of which, like most little boys, he was immoderately fond, and was constantly going about chopping everything that came in his way. One day, in the garden, where he often amused himself hacking his mother's pea-sticks, he unluckily tried the edge of his hatchet on the body of a beautiful young English cherry-tree, which he barked so terribly, that I don't believe the tree ever got the better of it. The next morning the old gentleman, finding out what had befallen his tree, which, by the by, was a great favourite, came into the house; and with much warmth asked for the mischievous author, declaring at the same time, that he would not have taken five guineas for his tree. Nobody could tell him anything about it. Presently George and his hatchet made their appearance. "George," said his father, " do you know who killed that beautiful little cherry tree yonder in the garden? " This was a tough question; and George staggered under it for a moment; but quickly recovered himself: and looking at his father, with the sweet face of youth brightened with the inexpressible charm of all- conquering truth, he bravely cried out, " I can't tell a lie, Pa; you know I can't tell a lie. I did cut it with my hatchet."--"Run to my arms, you dearest boy," cried his father in transports, " run to my arms; glad am I, George, that you killed my tree; for you have paid me for it a thousand fold. Such an act of heroism in my son is more worth than a thousand trees, though blossomed with silver, and their fruits of purest gold."

From Chapter 2 – Birth and Education
A History of the Life and Death, Virtues and Exploits of General George Washington
By Parson Mason Locke Weems
It's a legendary anecdote familiar to nearly every American grade schooler, a devout and sincere tribute to “the father of his country,” and proof positive that the first president of the United States was a man of honor, integrity and truth. Too bad Parson Weems was lying through his teeth. Though George Washington continues to be held in high esteem as the indispensable keystone to the success of the American Revolution and the country's earliest government, there is no credence to the story that young George either cut down his father's cherry tree, nor that he honestly confessed to the deed upon questioning.

Things are often not what they seem to be. Why, just last week, I was wandering through lower Manhattan, where narrow, twisted streets, darkened in the shadows of financial skyscrapers, wind past venerated landmarks indelibly stamped in historic fact. So impressed I was by the grandeur and stateliness of Washington's statue presiding on the steps of glorious Federal Hall, that I had to stop to take a tourist picture.

George Washington at Federal Hall

Too bad the picture is lying through its teeth, too. Though carefully composed, it did require a strategic cropping out of a pair of police marksmen cradling their automatic rifles as they guarded the New York Stock Exchange entrance from a catecornered distance. I wonder what Washington would have made of it, or of Pastor Weems' folksy vignette, or of my crustless cherry pie. I have to be honest. Though this fruit-studded, spicy treat is billed as a pie, it is nothing remotely like a traditional American pie except for its shape and crumb top. More accurately, it is a dense wheel of very moist custard cake, a cross between a clafoutis and a bread pudding. I loved it for its rustic, comforting charm, butter-rich topping and chewy edges. And that's no lie.



Crustless Cherry Cinnamon Pie - Based on the Betty Crocker apple pie recipe

Ingredients

3 heaping cups pitted, halved sweet cherries (I used Bing)
(Fresh cherries work best. Do not use canned cherry pie filling; it is much too wet.)

1/2 cup self-rising flour
1 tablespoon shortening
1/8 teaspoon salt, optional
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup milk
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 batch crumb topping (recipe below)

Method

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Grease a 9-inch glass or porcelain pie, tart or quiche dish. Arrange prepared cherries evenly in dish. Reserve.

In a medium bowl, lightly rub flour, salt and shortening between your palms until a uniform, soft-crumbed mixture forms. It will look like very coarse meal. With a whisk, mix in cinnamon and brown sugar to combine. Add milk, eggs and extract, beating thoroughly to create a smooth batter. Pour batter over cherries in dish. Sprinkle crumb topping over entire surface of filling to cover it. Place on center rack of oven on a cookie sheet to catch any drips. Bake for at least 40 minutes, or until a knife inserted in center comes out clean. For a firmer, less moist texture, continue to bake an additional 10-15 minutes, until the edges are very brown (check every five minutes). Remove from oven and cool for 10 minutes before refrigerating. Pie will set best when fully cold, but can be enjoyed while still warm. For those who prefer a more cake-like texture, reduce milk to 1/3 cup or use only 1 egg. Serves 6-8. --

Crumb Topping (my own recipe)

Ingredients

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
½ stick (4 tablespoons) firm butter or margarine, coarsely cubed
1/2 cup chopped almonds (or nut of your choice)

Method

In a large bowl, combine flour and sugar. Lightly rub and toss butter and dry ingredients between your palms until a uniform, soft-crumbed mixture forms. Handle as little as possible. It will look like very coarse meal. Add almonds, tossing lightly just to distribute evenly.
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Since this recipe heavily features cherries, I'm sending it off to Lynne of Cafe Lynnylu, hosting Weekend Herb Blogging # 192 for Haalo of Cook Almost Anything at Least Once. WHB is the long-running weekly produce event created by Kalyn of Kalyn's Kitchen.

Cherries, currently ripe for the picking in northern climes, are not only one of the world's most cherished fruits, but are rich in Vitamin C, potassium, fiber and iron. At ninety calories per one-cup serving, naturally sweet black cherries are a guilt-free delight for most diets.

Bing Cherries
Bing Cherries - Black and Sweet

Been There, Done That ~

Cherry Almond Mini Tarts
White Peach Pie
Rosina Pie

Other Peoples' Eats ~

Cherry Pie - Two Ways
No Bake Cherry Cheesecake
Cherry Milkshake

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

MY LEGUME LOVE AFFAIR - PAST, PRESENT, FUTURE

Pink Bean Heart
(Photo: Getty Images/Susan Wolfe)

It's been eighteen months since My Legume Love Affair first debuted as a one-off event. As ancient, enduring, versatile, economical, and healthy as legumes are, I was not expecting such a thunderous turnout of amazing recipes hailing from all over the globe - twenty, maybe fifty, but surely not 116! You have all overwhelmed, delighted, and humbled me with your creativity, generosity, and community spirit. Given the breadth and variety of your contributions, and my own desire to encourage a gathering place where legumes, as a valuable food source, can be celebrated for the hidden gems that they are, I reintroduced MLLA as an ongoing monthly event in August 2008. Nearly one year later, the round-ups are still going strong with hosts signed up through 2010 (UPDATE: through 2011).

Today marks the official start of MLLA's second year with its auspicious 13th month. I am very pleased to announce that in addition to the prize I customarily purchase and ship worldwide, Hurst Bean is generously donating a six-bag assortment case of their dried beans whenever the randomly drawn winner is a U.S. resident. (Certain restrictions prohibit international shipping.) The winner can select from a variety of bean products that are suitable for all palates and dietary considerations. Hurst Bean Blog will also be a regular recipe contributor to MLLA.

FTC Notice: During May 2010, I requested two bean products from Hurst which I am not able to find in my local markets. This is the exception rather than my general operating policy. I have not received any other products. I do not receive any financial compensation from Hurst Bean.

This post will serve as an easy, one-stop destination for all MLLA-related information. It is a work in progress, to be updated as necessary. At the moment, it will house the host line-up as well as the round-up archives. I hope you will find these changes to MLLA to be as enriching as the beautiful recipes you set before us all. I thank each of you very much for your bounty - past, present, and future.

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THE HOST LINEUP


Please email me directly at thewellseasonedcook AT yahoo DOT com if you are interested in hosting.  Thank you.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

ROUND-UP ARCHIVES

* MY LEGUME LOVE AFFAIR - 1
* MY LEGUME LOVE AFFAIR - 2
* MY LEGUME LOVE AFFAIR - 3
* MY LEGUME LOVE AFFAIR - 4
* MY LEGUME LOVE AFFAIR - 5
* MY LEGUME LOVE AFFAIR - 6
* MY LEGUME LOVE AFFAIR - 7 (PART 1)
* MY LEGUME LOVE AFFAIR - 7 (PART 2)
* MY LEGUME LOVE AFFAIR - 8
* MY LEGUME LOVE AFFAIR - 9
* MY LEGUME LOVE AFFAIR - 10
* MY LEGUME LOVE AFFAIR - 11
* MY LEGUME LOVE AFFAIR - 12 (PART 1)
* MY LEGUME LOVE AFFAIR - 12 (PART 2)
* MY LEGUME LOVE AFFAIR - 12 (PART 3)
* MY LEGUME LOVE AFFAIR - 12 (PART 4)
* MY LEGUME LOVE AFFAIR - 12 (PART 5)
* MY LEGUME LOVE AFFAIR - 13
* MY LEGUME LOVE AFFAIR - 14
* MY LEGUME LOVE AFFAIR - 15
* MY LEGUME LOVE AFFAIR - 16
* MY LEGUME LOVE AFFAIR - 17
* MY LEGUME LOVE AFFAIR - 18
* MY LEGUME LOVE AFFAIR - 19
* MY LEGUME LOVE AFFAIR - 20
* MY LEGUME LOVE AFFAIR - 21 (PART 1)
* MY LEGUME LOVE AFFAIR - 21 (PART 2)
* MY LEGUME LOVE AFFAIR - 22
* MY LEGUME LOVE AFFAIR - 23 (PART 1)
* MY LEGUME LOVE AFFAIR - 23 (PART 2)
* MY LEGUME LOVE AFFAIR - 24
* MY LEGUME LOVE AFFAIR - 25 (PART 1)
* MY LEGUME LOVE AFFAIR - 25 (PART 2)
* MY LEGUME LOVE AFFAIR - 26
* MY LEGUME LOVE AFFAIR - 27
* MY LEGUME LOVE AFFAIR - 28
* MY LEGUME LOVE AFFAIR - 29
* MY LEGUME LOVE AFFAIR - 30
* MY LEGUME LOVE AFFAIR - 31
* MY LEGUME LOVE AFFAIR - 32
* MY LEGUME LOVE AFFAIR - 33
* MY LEGUME LOVE AFFAIR - 34
* MY LEGUME LOVE AFFAIR - 35
* MY LEGUME LOVE AFFAIR - 36
* MY LEGUME LOVE AFFAIR - 37
* MY LEGUME LOVE AFFAIR - 38 (PART 1)
* MY LEGUME LOVE AFFAIR - 38 (PART 2)
* MY LEGUME LOVE AFFAIR - 39
* MY LEGUME LOVE AFFAIR - 40
* MY LEGUME LOVE AFFAIR - 41
* MY LEGUME LOVE AFFAIR - 42
* MY LEGUME LOVE AFFAIR - 43
* MY LEGUME LOVE AFFAIR - 44
* MY LEGUME LOVE AFFAIR - 45
* MY LEGUME LOVE AFFAIR - 46
* MY LEGUME LOVE AFFAIR - 47
* MY LEGUME LOVE AFFAIR - 48
* MY LEGUME LOVE AFFAIR - 49
* MY LEGUME LOVE AFFAIR - 50
* MY LEGUME LOVE AFFAIR - 51
* MY LEGUME LOVE AFFAIR - 52
* MY LEGUME LOVE AFFAIR - 53
* MY LEGUME LOVE AFFAIR - 54 - IN PROGRESS DECEMBER 2012