Friday, March 30, 2012

Lamb with Onions (do piaza)

This is from a book, Madhur Jaffrey's Indian Cooking, I've only used a few times as it's only been recently that I've started to get the hang of Indian cooking, both in appreciation and the cooking of it. It's not that I didn't like Indian food, in fact I've always loved the spices and the HEAT! (especially the HEAT!) but it's only now that I'm starting to understand the various types of dishes in the cuisine and getting a feel for combining the flavors inherent to it. Of course it would take another lifetime to live in the culture and eat it everyday as it is such a wide and diverse world of culinary delights but I'm starting to like the dishes from it that I've been making lately.

I tailored this recipe slightly in order to prepare a small dinner for my wife and myself and am writing that version here but I'd recommend checking this or any of Ms. Jaffrey's books if you're also new to cooking in the Indian cuisine and want to get an introduction to it.

Garlic and fresh ginger

Sauteéing the onion slices

Garlic and ginger blended with water

Cinnamon, cardomom pods, and cloves

Lamb chunks from the leg

Cooking the lamb with the spices

Sauteéing the onions in the lamb fat and oil

The final cook with the yogurt

3 large onions peeled - 2 thinly sliced as half-moons, 1 diced - kept separately
6 cloves garlic halved and peeled
1 inch chunk of fresh ginger coarsely chopped
4 cups water
10 tablespoons peanut oil (or other vegetable oil)
1 cinnamon stick
10 cardamom pods
10 whole cloves
1 pound lamb leg cut into 1-inch chunks
1 tablespoon coriander seed ground
1 tablespoon whole cumin ground
6 tablespoons natural yogurt beaten lightly (I use a Greek one like Fage)
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper powder
1 teaspoon garam masala

The basic premise is to sauteé the onion rings until dark and deeply caramelized, then sear the lamb chunks with the spices, then cook the diced onion in that oil finally braising everything in a sauce with the pan covered for about an hour.

Prepare the garlic and ginger by blending with 1/2 cup of the water to a paste and put aside. 
Add the oil to a wide heavy pan (I used a 14-inch iron skillet) and set over medium-high heat. When hot, add the half-moon onion slices and frying until deeply caramelized, stirring often, but making sure not to burn them. Remove the cooked slices with a slotted spoon and set aside in a bowl.
Into the skillet with the remaining oil add the cardamom pods and cloves to cook over the medium-high heat for a few seconds then add in half of the lamb chunks to sear. Turn the chunks while cooking in order to brown all sides without completely cooking through. Remove from the skillet with the slotted spoon to set aside in its own bowl and cook the second half of the chunks in the same manner, setting aside with the first half when done.
Add the diced onion to the skillet to cook in the remaining oil with the spices until fairly well-browned. Stir in the prepared garlic and ginger paste, cooking to allow the liquid to boil away. Reduce the heat to medium and add the ground coriander and cumin to cook for about 30 seconds. Add 1 tablespoon of the beaten yogurt to combine into the ingredients in the skillet. Once it is incorporated, add one more tablespoon and continue in like manner until all of the yogurt has become part of the sauce.
Once the sauce is coming together, add back all of the lamb chunks that have been set aside and any accumulated juices from the bowl into the skillet along with the remaining 3 1/2 cups of water, the cayenne and a healthy pinch of salt. Stir to mix and bring to a simmer. Cover, tunr the heat to low and cook for about 45 minutes. Just prior to serving add in the cooked sliced onions that had been set aside at the beginning along with the garam masala to cook and heat uncovered for a few minutes.
You can then remove from heat and allow to sit for a few minutes longer if you like.
A very nice dish that is great as make-ahead or as a leftover for a meal on a second night. I love to add various chutneys, Indian relishes and pickles on the side along with some nice garlic naan and basmati rice. (the photo shows with brown rice which is ok but the basmati seems to go with this a lot better) Yum!

Served with brown rice

Hey, while you're checking out this post, please feel free to drop a comment below! It would be great to know what you think about this dish, if you've tried cooking it yourself, or are planning to. A little feedback goes a long way!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Giant Roast Pork with Tangy Carolina Slaw

Couldn't help myself from taking a crack at one more recipe from Bi-Rite Market's Eat Good Food before moving on. I've already blogged about a couple of porcetta dishes so this is one more. I modified a few steps on the Bi-Rite recipe so I'd recommend checking the one in the book as well. Hell I'd highly recommend buying the book anyway as it's a great resource for any home cook.

 Before (pardon my twining)
Pork and skin sliced for serving
 Carrots grated
 Seasoning for the dressing
 Dressing for the slaw

A few discrepancies from the published recipe apply here. I used a pork shoulder I purchased from Marin Sun Farms in Oakland. I ordered the pork asking that it be from a heritage pig with the skin on but never did get a straight answer whether or not the pig was indeed heritage. Regardless, I've never had anything from them that was not very good and well worth the extra cost. However when I got it home and opened the wrapping, the skin was separate from the cut and twined together with the meat which I found a bit strange - the whole package turned out great anyway. I cut the twine in order to butterfly the cut in order to marinate it before tying it up again in my own clumsy manner.
After leaving the pork in the frig overnight to marinate, I did the first 30 minutes of searing in the oven at the higher temperature before transferring it over to my Big Green Egg for the remaining 3 hours of cooking at the lower temperature using some hickory wood to get a nice smoky flavor to the meat.

Roast Pork Shoulder

6 pound boneless pork shoulder skin on

6 cloves garlic peeled
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
1 teaspoon crushed red chile pepper flakes
1 teaspoon fennel seeds, lightly toasted
kosher salt
fresh cracked black pepper

Make the marinade by adding the garlic to a mortar with the remaining ingredients and pound into a paste. 
On a cutting board sit the pork with the skin-side up and score the skin in a crosshatch pattern of 1 inch squares taking care not to cut all the way through to the meat. I found that besides tenderizing the skin a bit, this step also makes it much easier to cut it into crackling at serving time. Turn the pork skin-side down to cut in half horizontally so that it opens like a book, cutting along the natural seams as much as possible. Spread most of the marinade paste over the meat before closing it back up into the original shape. Spread the remainder of the paste over the closed meat then turn it back over to skin-side up in order to twine at 2-inch intervals.
Put the roast onto a rack set over a baking sheet to sit in the frig overnight (or up to 72 hours).
An hour prior to when you are ready to cook the roast, take it out of the frig and allow it to come to room temperature. Meanwhile preheat the oven to 425F. 
When the pork has warmed, put it directly into a roasting pan and then into the preheated oven to sear for 30 minutes. Turn the temperature down to 300F and allow to cook for about 3-4 hours or until the pork is done. 
The book suggests that the pork will be done when it is visibly wobbly and a fork can enter the meat with little resistance, but I cheated and used a thermometer to get a reading of at least 145F internal temperature to determine when it was done. I then removed the pork and moved it back into the oven to keep warm at 140F covered with foil while I cooked the rest of the meal.
Let the roast rest on a cutting board for at least 15 minutes or longer, then slice the meat into 1/2-inch slabs and the skin into 1-inch squares for serving.

Carolina Slaw

1 medium head Napa cabbage (about 1 1/4 pounds)
3 medium carrots, peeled and grated
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon honey
1 teaspoon fennel seeds, lightly toasted and crushed
kosher salt
fresh cracked black pepper

Quarter the cabbage lengthwise and then crosswise into thin strips. Place in a large bowl along with the carrots. 
In a small bowl whisk together the oil, vinegar, mustard, honey, fennel seed, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper. (I add everything to a small jar with a cover then shake to emulsify and mix.) About 10 minutes prior to serving, drizzle the dressing over the cabbage and carrots and toss well. Let rest about 10 minutes then toss again, adding more vinegar and salt to taste.

Hey, while you're checking out this post, please feel free to drop a comment below! It would be great to know what you think about this dish, if you've tried cooking it yourself, or are planning to. A little feedback goes a long way!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Red Lentil Soup with Lime

Another nice dish from Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking For Everyone. We have a Bearss lime tree that's busting out fruit so this recipe caught my eye as I was looking for a soup to make as it's been a while since I've made one. This has a real Indian flavor so would go good with Indian lamb or a curry.

Red lentils, tumeric and buttah!

 Cooking the lentils with the butter

 Whole cumin and mustard seeds ground in the mortar.

 Onions getting soft
 Cilantro and limes (yes limes! Bearss mature yellow)
 Finished broth
Wilting the spinach.

The directions in Madison's book are a little unclear so I went with what I thought would work and the method here is how I did it.

2 cups red lentils rinsed and drained
1 tablespoon tumeric
4 tablespoons butter
1 large onion diced (about 2 cups)
2 teaspoons cumin seed ground
2 teaspoons mustard seed ground
1 bunch fresh cilantro (about 1 1/2 cups)
Juice of 3 limes
1 bunch fresh spinach leaves
Greek yogurt

Add the lentils to a soup pot with 2 1/2 quarts cold water, the tumeric, 1 tablespoon of the butter and 1 tablespoon salt. Bring to a boil then lower the heat to allow the soup to simmer, covered, about 20 minutes.
Meanwhile heat a medium skillet over medium-low heat, add 2 tablespoons of the butter to melt, then add the diced onion with the ground mustard and cumin. Cook gently until the onion is soft, about 15 minutes.
Just prior to when the lentils are done, add the cilantro to the skillet with the onion to cook for a couple of minutes, then add the contents of the skillet into the soup pot to combine with the lentils. Stir then take off the heat and allow to cool for a few minutes. (At this point I decided to blend the contents of the pot with an immersion blender but that's an optional step for this dish. I liked the smooth and thin consistency the blending lent to it.)
Just prior to serving add the last tablespoon of butter to the skillet. Once it has melted, add the spinach to wilt, a couple of minutes in all.
At the table add some of the wilted spinach, a good dollop of the Greek yogurt and, if necessary, salt to taste.

Hey, while you're checking out this post, please feel free to drop a comment below! It would be great to know what you think about this dish, if you've tried cooking it yourself, or are planning to. A little feedback goes a long way!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Battle Pork Chops

Background to this dish: We'd been having a lot of vegetarian meals the past week so thought it was time to bring back the meat! We both craved pork and as we hadn't had any chops recently, there was the plan. Since we're spoiled now on heritage pork we went to Berkeley Bowl to see if they had any Becker Lane chops and they did! (Having eaten heritage pork for the past couple of years I now swear by it and will avoid almost any other type of pork in the stores.) While we were waiting to be served, I noticed that there were both loin and rib chops, the loin being slightly more expensive. When our turn came up, I asked the counter guy what the difference was in the flavor. He said there really wasn't any, the price difference was due to the fact that a pig will yield less loin chops than rib chops but that some people prefer the tenderness of the loin portion of the chop. I thought this called for a personal taste test. So last night was Battle Pork Chops - rib vs loin.

L. rib chop - R. loin chop
The left hand round side of the loin chop is the loin. 

 Positions switched here in the pan: L. loin chop R. rib chop
 Cooked rib chop
 Cooked loin chop
The scene of the Battle (w/ some roasted potatoes).

2 full-sized pork chops from a heritage breed
kosher salt
fresh-cracked black pepper
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Prepare the chops with plenty of pepper and salt on each side. If you are using thick chops like I did here, preheat an oven to 375 with rack in the middle.
Heat a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high to high heat and add the oil. Once the oil begins to smoke add the chops to sear on one side for about 4-5 minutes without moving them at all. Turn the chops over and again leave them alone for another 4-5 minutes. If, like in my case here, the internal meat is not cooked enough at this point, move the skillet into the heated oven for another 4-5 minutes. When done, remove the chops from a pan to a plate, cover with foil and allow to rest for 10 minutes before cutting, slicing or serving.

The Judging:
We split the loin portion of the loin chop and, like with a filet mignon cut of beef, it was more tender but noticeably more well done than the remainder part of that chop, not as moist and not quite as tasty. The remainder of the loin chop, as well as the rib chop, was much more moist, still had some pink color and was considerably tastier.

The Verdict and Winner: Rib chop. Cheaper, though not considerably, and much easier to cook.

Hey, while you're checking out this post, please feel free to drop a comment below! It would be great to know what you think about this dish, if you've tried cooking it yourself, or are planning to. A little feedback goes a long way!

Brussels Sprouts Salad

Here's another dish I made from my latest favorite cookbook, Bi-Rite Market's Eat Good Food. We love Brussels sprouts to the extent that I now grow them in the Fall so any new take on preparing them is something I like to check out whenever possible.
This recipe doesn't so much cook the sprouts as marinate them in lemon and vinegar with warm bacon fat as a dressing; very nice dish!

 Bacon slices and sliced sprouts.
Horseradish root and pistachios as a garnish and flavor enhancement. 

 Want yer nuts toasted?
 Yum, bacon with anything!
 Final mix in the bowl.

1 pound Brussels sprouts
2 slices organic applewood smoked bacon
1/4 cup bacon fat
extra-virgin olive oil
juice of 1 lemon
1 1/2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1 shallot minced
2 cloves garlic minced
1 teaspoon honey
kosher salt
1/2 cup chopped toasted pistachios
grated horseradish root

Prepare the sprouts by cleaning them, slicing off the root end, and removing any outer discolored leaves. Slice each sprout lengthwise in half then slice each half very thinly crosswise - about 1/16 widths. Put all of the sliced sprouts in a mixing bowl.
Meanwhile pan fry the bacon slices over medium low heat, turning often until they are crispy done. Drain on paper towels and reserve the remaining fat. If you have stored bacon fat, add to the pan to have about 1/4 cup of fat in total once it is melted. Otherwise add olive oil to bring the amount of total fat to 1/4 cup.
Crumble the drained bacon as bits into the bowl with the sprouts.
Pour the fat in the pan into a bowl and whisk in the lemon juice, vinegar, shallot, garlic, honey and a healthy pinch of kosher salt. Drizzle this dressing over the sprouts and bacon bits in the bowl and combine well seasoning with more salt if necessary. Allow to marinade for about 30 minutes in order to tenderize the sprouts.
Meanwhile toast the pistachios in a dry skillet over medium-high heat making sure to keep them moving so as to prevent burning. They should exude a nice aroma within a few minutes. Remove and allow to cool then chop roughly.
Just prior to serving, toss in the toasted pistachios and finely grate the horseradish root into the bowl. Do a final mix then serve.

Hey, while you're checking out this post, please feel free to drop a comment below! It would be great to know what you think about this dish, if you've tried cooking it yourself, or are planning to. A little feedback goes a long way!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Flank Steak with Red Onion and Chimichurri

On doing some research online for some new cooking resources I came upon Bi-Rite Market's Eat Good Food book. I'd seen the store in San Francisco's Mission District but only just found out about the book recently. I highly recommend checking it out as it goes into considerable detail on how to shop, what to look for and how a high quality retail food market operates. It also has some amazing recipes, like this one on which I based a recent dinner at home. The recipe calls for a bavette steak, which is a popular cut in France but not nearly as common here, so I used a grass-fed flank steak from Estancia.

Steak and onions served with the sauce, roasted potatoes and steamed cauliflower

1 pound grass-fed flank steak sliced into two pieces
1 large red onion, peeled and sliced into 1/4 rounds
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
fresh cracked black pepper

Chimichurri Sauce:
1/2 cup fresh cilantro
1/2 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 cloves garlic peeled and smashed
1/4 cup extra-virgin  olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon kosher salt

Dry marinate the steaks by salting and peppering them and letting them come up to room temperature.
Make the sauce by putting the smashed garlic into a blender to roughly chop. Tear the cilantro and parsley by hand adding them into the blender with the olive oil, vinegar and salt. Puree until it becomes a paste and adjust seasoning as necessary.

For the steaks, add 2 tablespoons of the oil to a large skillet (I use a 12-inch well-seasoned iron skillet) over medium-high heat. Once the oil is beginning to smoke, add the steaks and allow them to sear undisturbed on one side for about 2 minutes. Turn the steaks over and allow to cook until they reach medium rare, about 125 internal temperature. (I use the touch method as flank tends to be pretty slender and easier to tell for me when I hit the right point in the cooking.) Remove the steaks to a cutting board and cover with foil making sure to allow them to rest for at least 10 minutes.
While the steaks rest, add the remaining oil to the hot pan. Then add the onion slices with a healthy pinch of salt stirring the onion around to pick up any drippings left in the pan from the steaks. Cook until the onion has softened and is starting to pick up some coloring. Add the vinegar and cook, stirring, as the vinegar evaporates, about another 1-2 minutes. Remove from heat.
Slice the rested steaks across the grain and on the bias into 1/2 inch thick slices. Serve with the onions with the sauce on the side.

Hey, while you're checking out this post, please feel free to drop a comment below! It would be great to know what you think about this dish, if you've tried cooking it yourself, or are planning to. A little feedback goes a long way!

Mujadarrah (lentils, rice and caramelized onions)

I've been making this dish for years, it was a fantastic introduction for me to French green lentils and the wonders of deeply caramelized onions. Now it serves as an easy weeknight vegetarian meal, tasty and filling. The recipe is based on several versions I've seen but mostly on Deborah Madison's in the Vegetarian Cooking For Everyone book that has long been a staple in my kitchen library.

Lots and lots of onion that cooks down in a healthy dose of good extra-virgin olive oil to a fraction of the raw state

Preparing the lentils before adding the brown rice to absorb the cooking water.

1/3 cup olive oil
2 large onions peeled and sliced into 1/4 inch rounds
1 1/4 cup French green lentils
3/4 cup brown rice

Heat the oil in a large skillet (an well-seasoned iron skillet is perfect for this dish) over medium-high heat. Add the onion slices and allow to cook for a while (about 15-20 minutes) so that they develop a dark and deeply rich color keeping an eye on them and moving them around in order to prevent burning.
Rinse the lentils well under running water then add to a saucepan with 1 quart of cold water, a good amount of fresh cracked black pepper, and a healthy pinch of salt. Bring the pot to a boil then allow the lentils to simmer covered for about 10-15 minutes. Rinse the rice well under running water then add to the pot with the lentils, bring back to a simmer and cover to cook for about 30-35 minutes, until the rice and lentils have absorbed all of the water.
Empty the rice and lentils into a serving bowl, stir in the onions and allow to sit for a few minutes so that the combined flavors can settle in together. Adjust salt and pepper seasoning as needed.

The dish is served here with some steamed broccolini and baguette,

Hey, while you're checking out this post, please feel free to drop a comment below! It would be great to know what you think about this dish, if you've tried cooking it yourself, or are planning to. A little feedback goes a long way!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Chard and Ricotta Frittata

I came up with this dish when from memory I mistakenly confused a couple of Deborah Madison recipes; one for chard and ricotta lasagne and another for a chard-gruyere trouchia. Once I realized it though I though it would be worth trying out anyway.

 I made the ricotta myself the day before and got some very fresh chard from the El Cerrito Natural Grocery.

6 large eggs
1 cup fresh ricotta
1 bunch fresh chard stems removed and leaves chopped
1 red onion halved and thinly sliced
several branches each of fresh thyme leaves and fresh parsley leaves
3-4 cloves garlic peeled
1 tablespoon butter
3 tablespoons olive oil

Heat a 10-inch skillet over medium-low heat, add 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, and slowly sauté the red onion slices until it is quite soft but not yet colored. Meanwhile add the chard in bunches to the skillet to reduce the leaves in size. You want to allow the onion and chard to cook slowly to allow the flavors to coalesce well. Once cooked thoroughly, empty it into a mixing bowl that in turn is sitting inside of a larger mixing bowl partially filled with ice water in order to cool the mixture before adding to the eggs.
Pound the peeled garlic in a mortar with a pinch of salt, then add the herb leaves to process into a paste.
Crack the eggs into a bowl, add the herbs, salt, and pepper, then use a fork to beat the eggs making sure to break up and distribute the herb paste thoroughly in the mixture. Add the cooled chard mixture and the ricotta into the eggs, again making sure it is all mixed thoroughly. 
Prepare a broiler with a rack about 4-6 inches from the heat source.
Heat the skillet again over medium-high heat, add the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil to the pan with the butter then pour the egg mixture into the pan allowing it to set for about a minute. Turn down the heat to low then allow the eggs to cook for about 10 minutes or so until well set but still a tad runny on the top. Move the skillet into the broiler to brown the top which should only take a few minutes. Keep an eye on it to not burn! (I've made that mistake a few times!)

Remove the skillet from the broiler, run a butter knife around the edge in the pan to make sure the egg is separated from the pan and let it sit for a couple of minutes. You can then either serve from the pan at the table or invert onto a plate for serving. Slice into 6 even pieces.

Hey, while you're checking out this post, please feel free to drop a comment below! It would be great to know what you think about this dish, if you've tried cooking it yourself, or are planning to. A little feedback goes a long way!