Dukkah Fried Cauliflower with Fish Sauce

One of the more interesting dishes we ate at Momofuko Ma Peche last week was a vegetable side of fried cauliflower with fish sauce. Nicely golden brown, not greasy, and not even too salty, but with a delightful crispness and perfect even cook. I’d never tried to fry a cauliflower before, so looked for some guidance and ran across this recipe, which uses a magical substance from Egypt called “dukkah” that I’d also never heard of. So I did what I do, and smooshed the two together. They predictable weren’t quite as polished as the restaurant version, but had great flavor and made the normally bland and boring cauliflower quite lively and palatable.

Ingredients

    • 1/4 cup raw peanuts
    • 1 TB raw sesame seeds
    • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
    • 2 teaspoon caraway seeds
    • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
    • 1 tsp fennel seeds
    • 1/4 tsp whole peppercorns
    • 1/4 tsp cayenne
    • 1/4 tsp salt
    • 1 tsp sumac
    • 1/2 cup cornstarch
    • 1/2 tsp baking powder
    • 1 head cauliflower
    • oil for frying
    • 2 TB fish sauce, mild Filipino
    • 2 TB native vinegar, mild Filipino

 

Directions

  1. First, make the dukkah. Toast the peanuts and spices in a small dry pan over medium heat until they just start to color and release their fragrance.
  2. Finely chop or grind the peanuts, and pulverize the whole spices in a spice grinder, then mix together with the remaining spices. Adjust seasoning to taste, but go easy on the salt.
  3. Add the cornstarch, baking powder, and
  4. In a large frying pan with steep sides, heat 1″ of oil (preferably olive oil, but not the Good Stuff).
  5. Trim the cauliflower, and cut into even size florets. Toss well in the batter to coat evenly.
  6. Fry the cauliflower for 3 minutes, turning a couple of times to get it golden brown. Don’t overcrowd the pan, fry in two batches if necessary.
  7. Drain on a wire rack lined with paper towels.
  8. Mix the fish sauce and vinegar, and drizzle half of over the cauliflower, then use the remainder for dipping.

As you can see in the photo, the batter largely didn’t stick to the cauliflower. I think the oil wasn’t hot enough at first, and the batter was too watery. But it tasted just fine.

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Anthony Bourdain & Msabcha

I can’t say I was a huge fan of Bourdain, but I did enjoy eating at Les Halles, his book was entertaining, and I even saw a few episodes of one or more of his TV shows, which did seem a bit smarter than the typical informercial style travelogue.

One of the shows I caught was the one where he went to Israel. Which was referenced in this article in Haaretz, lamenting all of the food that he didn’t eat there, and in true Israeli fashion giving him posthumous advice on where he should have gone instead. Top of the last was the msabcha at Abu Hassan, which I have to agree is one of the most wondrous creations anywhere, and not to be missed.
The ingredients are roughly the same as the classic “hummus with tehina” but the texture is different, it’s served warm, and is a nice change of pace from the norm.

The recipe below is adapted from this post. As noted, this will be better if you start with dried chickpeas, but the shortcut using canned chickpeas is almost as good.

Ingredients

  • 2 cans chickpeas
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 cup tehina
  • 1/4 cup flat leaf parsley
  • 1 Serrano pepper
  • 1 lemon
  • olive oil
  • sumac
  • salt
  • pepper
  • hot paprika

Directions

  1. Make the tehina: Put 1/4 cup tehina and 1 minced clove of garlic in a mixing bowl, and slowly mix in 1/4 cup of water to make a smooth paste. Season with salt and the juice of 1/4 lemon.
  2. Make the hummus: drain and rinse 1 can of the chickpeas. Process in food processor, then add 2 cloves of garlic, the chili pepper (remove seeds for less heat or keep whole), 1/4 cup tehina, and the juice of 1/2 lemon. Slowly add water as needed (about 1/2 cup) to make a smooth paste, scraping down the sides of the bowl if necessary. Add salt and adjust seasonings to taste. It should be a bit thinner than normal.
  3. Make the chickpeas: drain and rinse the second can of chickpeas, season with sumac and black pepper, and heat in the microwave. Add a bit of water to keep them from drying out. They should be soft, so depending on how firm they were in the can, may need more cooking time.
  4. To serve, mix the hot chickpeas with the tehina and hummus, then drizzle with olive oil, the juice of the remaining 1/4 lemon, and garnish with some chopped parsley, sumac, and hot paprika. Scoop up with fresh pita and/or crudites.

 

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Mushroom Tomato Risotto

Last week I had an amazing risotto at Tocqueville, with intense earthy mushrooms and fresh ramps (“Ramp and Forest Mushroom Risotto, beurre noisette and parmigiano-reggiano“). It was super creamy and very rich, with a slick of brown butter lusciously floating on top, but a bit too salty. Today the NY Times posted a recipe for a tomato and basil risotto. Inspired by both, and using ingredients on hand, I made my own version.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups beef broth
  • 1 cup rice, preferably arborio
  • 2 cups Pomi chopped tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup red wine
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan
  • 2 TB fresh basil, chiffonaded
  • 2 small shallots
  • 1 package crimini “baby bella” mushrooms, 8 oz
  • 1 TB olive oil

Directions

  1. In a saucepan over medium high heat, warm the broth and tomatoes. Reduce heat to low to keep warm, but it shouldn’t boil.
  2. Chop finely the mushrooms and shallot. This is easily done in the food processor, pulse until there are no large chunks remaining.
  3. In a large nonstick frying pan, heat the olive oil. Add the rice and stir to coat with the oil. Cook for a minute to warm through and remove any remaining moisture.
  4. Add the mushrooms and shallots to the rice, and stir well to incorporate. Cook for a minute or two until the mushrooms start to release their moisture.
  5. Add the wine and cook for a minute to deglaze the pan.
  6. Add a ladle (about 1/2 cup) of the hot broth to the rice mixture, and stir well to incorporate. Repeat the process as necessary to keep the rice moist but not swimming in liquid.
  7. Continue to cook for about 20-25 minutes until the rice is just barely tender. If you run out of tomato broth, add some hot lightly salted water to keep the rice from drying out.
  8. Add one last ladle of broth, remove rice from heat, and stir in the Parmesan and basil.
  9. Serve spread in a thin layer, garnished with more Parmesan, a basil leaf, and freshly ground black pepper.

 

Waffle Sabich

A traditional Iraqi-Israeli breakfast on Shabbat, these have proliferated in recent years like avocado toast. Similar to a falafel sandwich, but with hard boiled eggs and fried eggplant instead of fried chickpea balls. There are a bunch of components, but they can be made in advance. Here I switched things up by using yeasted waffles instead of pita.

Ingredients

  • yeasted waffles: 2 cups flour, 2 cups milk, 2 TB butter, 2 eggs, 2.5 tsp yeast, 1 TB sugar, 1/4 tsp salt
  • eggs
  • 1 eggplant
  • olive oil
  • hummus
  • tehina sauce
  • eggs
  • amba sauce (see below)
  • Israeli salad, dressed with lemon juice, olive oil, za’atar

Directions

  1. First, make the waffles. This is easiest done by mixing up the batter the night before and letting it rise slowly in the fridge overnight. Melt the butter and warm the milk in the microwave. Add the sugar, yeast, and salt, and combine with flour until smooth. Cover the bowl and allow to rise at room temperature until double in bulk, or put in fridge. Then in the morning add the eggs and cook in waffle iron. They also freeze well and can be made in advance, then reheated in the waffle iron or a toaster.
  2. The eggs can be regular hard boiled, or cooked slowly overnight, but they come out fantastic in a 170F water bath. Use the sous vide heater in a large pot of water, no need to bag or vacuum seal, just put the eggs in whole and cook for 1 hour.
  3. Make the hummus in the usual way (chickpeas, garlic, lemon juice, tehina paste olive oil in food processor) or use a high quality store-bought version. Traditionally the tehina sauce is made separately and drizzled on at the end, but I’m lazy so just added a bit more tehina paste to the hummus. You can also add a handful of parsley or cilantro if you want it green.
  4. Wash and trim the eggplant, but do not peel. Slice into 1/2″ thick even slices, and sprinkle with kosher salt on both sides.
  5. Heat 2 TB of olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat, and fry the eggplant slices in a single layer, turning after a few minutes until golden brown on both sides and cooked through. Don’t crowd the pan, will probably take 2 batches. Replenish the oil between batches, and drain on paper towels.
  6. To assemble, put a layer of eggplant on top of a waffle. Add slices of egg. Drizzle with amba sauce. Top with a large spoonful of salad, and drizzle with tehina sauce. Spread a second waffle with hummus and place on top of the other one to make a sandwich.

Amba is traditionally made with dried green mangoes, a process that takes days. I used amchoor powder as a shortcut. Start with a glass jar with a tight fitting lid and add 2 TB amchoor, 1 tsp each ground fenugreek and turmeric,  and 1/2 tsp each ground coriander, ground cumin, and sumac. Add 1/4 cup of cider vinegar and shake well to dissolve. If too thick, add a tablespoon or two or water, or some lemon juice if not tart enough. Adjust the seasonings, add salt and pepper if needed.

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Bordelaise Sauce

A classic French sauce from the Bordeaux region, traditionally requiring a daunting multiple day commitment. But after having some at Tocqueville the other day, I was craving more, and decided to try a less elaborate version. The sauce is a reduction of shallot-infused red wine (Bordeaux of course), mixed with demi-glace, and fortified with melted bone marrow. Instead, I used the open bottle of Malbec from Cahors, and beef broth from a box. I relied on the rendered pan drippings from the steak to take the place of the marrow, and fortified the wine with a bit of Irish Whiskey. Results were surprisingly close to the real stuff, with a lot less work. Although intense, it’s relatively light and extremely silky, as it relies on reduction rather than thickening with a roux or with cream.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups beef broth
  • 3/4 cup red wine
  • 2 TB whiskey
  • 1 large or 2 small shallots
  • 1 tsp black peppercorns
  • 1 tsp capers (optional)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 TB butter
  • Rendered pan drippings from steak

Directions

  1. Slice the shallot thinly, and divide in half.
  2. Melt 1 tsp of the butter in a wide shallow pan over medium heat, and add half the shallots. Stir for a minute to coat with the butter, then pour in the beef broth, along with the bay leaf, peppercorns, and capers.
  3. Increase heat to high, and cook down until only ¼ cup of liquid remains.
  4. Meanwhile, in saucepan over medium heat, add the wine and the whiskey. Carefully ignite to burn off the alcohol more quickly. Once the flames have subsided, add the remaining shallots. Cook down until only about ¼ cup of liquid remain.
  5. Add the reduced broth mixture to the wine, and continue to reduce until the sauce is thick enough to coat the back of the spoon. Remove from heat, and whisk in remaining butter and pan drippings.
  6. Strain the sauce through a wire mesh strainer, pushing down on the solids to extract all of the juices. Stir in the pan drippings.
  7. Return the strained sauce to the saucepan and reduce further until only a few tablespoons of syrupy sauce remain.
  8. To serve, put a spoonful of the sauce on the plate, add the sliced steak on top, and drizzle the remaining half of the sauce over the top. Accompany with a nice Bordeaux.

Kushari Made Easy

Although not as exotic as Moroccan cuisine or as elegant as Turkish cuisine, Egyptian food is quite delicious, and comprised of elements from other cultures that have been absorbed through the millennia. No dish better represents this approach than kushari, which is widely considered the national dish of Egypt, yet is widely unknown here. Which is a shame, because it’s inexpensive, nourishing, and versatile.

So, what is it exactly? An unlikely concoction of lentils, rice, and macaroni, tied together with a tangy tomato sauce, laced with cumin and garlic, topped with fried onions. and garnished with whole chickpeas.

One of the downsides is that traditionally it involves cooking each element separately, then combining at time of service. If you are keeping track, that’s at least 5 separate pots and pans. As a result, people tend not to make it much at home, and there are specialty shops that serve nothing else (like the small ramen or pizza places here).

I made an extremely non-authentic variation today, partly out of laziness, and also because I didn’t have any lentils or small macaroni in the house, so made a few strategic substitutions. I also wanted to make it in one pan and one pot for the sauce. Not quite as good as the real thing, but tasty in it’s own right, and still in the spirit of the dish.

Ingredients

  • 1 TB olive oil
  • 1 onion
  • 1/2 cup rice
  • 1/2 cup Israeli couscous (or green lentils)
  • 1 package ramen instant noodles (or 1/2 cup vermicelli or small macaroni)
  • 1 can chickpeas
  • 1 cup Pomi chopped tomatoes (or canned tomato sauce, or 2 diced tomatoes)

    Sauce
  • 1 TB butter
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, minced.
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds (or ground cumin)
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 2 TB tomato paste
  • 1/4 cup cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne (optional, or other ground hot red chili pepper to taste)

Directions

  1. Cut the onion in half through the poles, and slice thinly equatorially into half rings.
  2. Heat the oil in a heavy pot large enough to hold everything. I used the 10″ cast iron pan that I use for most everything, but a wide 6 or 8 quart pot with cover would be better.
  3. Fry the onions in the oil for a couple of minutes until they start to brown.
  4. Add the rice and stir well to coat in the oil and onions.
  5. Add the couscous and do the same.
  6. Crumble the ramen noodles into the pan, and stir together for a minute or two to toast all of the grains lightly.
  7. Dump in the can of chickpeas, including the liquid. Add the tomatoes and another can of water, and season to taste with salt and pepper.
  8. Cover the pot and reduce heat to very low and simmer for about 20 minutes until rice is done.
  9. Meanwhile, make the sauce: melt the butter in a small saucepan, and add the garlic, cumin, and coriander.
  10. Cook for a couple of minutes until garlic is lightly brown, then add remaining ingredients. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  11. To serve, fluff up the kushari and scrape up any bits that stuck to the bottom of the pot. Drizzle the sauce over the top.

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Leeks Vinaigrette

Beautiful fresh leeks are in abundance this time of year. Usually I turn them into soup or use them instead of onions, but I decided to try them on their own. Should have done this a long time ago, they are easy to prepare this way and they seem quite fancy.

I used two donor recipes from the NY Times, but both seemed overly complicated and fussy for no good reason. But here they are for reference:

1) https://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/1014447-classic-leeks-vinaigrette?action=click&module=RecipeBox&pgType=recipebox-page&region=all&rank=2

2) https://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/1019000-leeks-vinaigrette-with-sieved-egg?action=click&module=RecipeBox&pgType=recipebox-page&region=all&rank=3

The proportions below will make 2 appetizer or 1 main portion, but can easily be scaled up. Next time I will double it to have leftovers.

Ingredients

  • 2 medium leeks
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp + 1 TB olive oil
  • 1 TB Dijon mustard
  • 1 TB red wine vinegar
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tsp peppercorns
  • 1 TB capers

Directions

  1. Trim the leeks, and wash them well, soak to remove all sand, split open to expose the hidden sand inside. Drain well and cut into thirds.
  2. Heat a pot of water to boiling, season generously with salt, the peppercorns, bay leaf, and 1 tsp olive oil
  3. Gently add the eggs to the water, and simmer for 5 minutes.
  4. Add the leeks to the water and bring back to a boil. Simmer for 8 minutes until tender.
  5. While the leeks are cooking, make the vinaigrette: smash the capers, and whisk together the olive oil, vinegar, and mustard.
  6. Drain the leeks well, and add to the sauce.
  7. Cool and shell the egg, and coarsely chop. Add to leeks and stir well to mix.

 

 

Shakshuka

I’ve mentioned in the past that I’ve never really been a big fan of traditional shakshuka. But I made a simple version today that was really good. The big difference is I started with fresh tomatoes, which cooked down to make a dense and flavourful sauce, without losing the freshness.

Ingredients

  •  2 eggs
  • 3 Roma tomatoes
  • 1 jalapeno pepper
  • 1 Serrano pepper
  • 1-2 clove garlic, optional
  • 2-4 TB Pomi chopped tomatoes, optional

Directions

  1. Coarsely chop the tomatoes and put in the container of an immersion blender.
  2. Trim and remove the seeds from the peppers, then coarsely chop and add to the tomatoes along with the garlic.
  3. Using the immersion blender, puree until smooth. Or use a food processor, or a blender. Pulse if you prefer the sauce a bit chunky.
  4. Heat a small frying pan (8″), and pour in the sauce. Season with salt and pepper. It will be quite liquid at first, cook over high heat for several minutes while stirring occasionally to reduce until it starts to thicken.
  5. Add the chopped tomatoes if using, or 1-2 TB tomato paste, stir well and cook for a few more minutes until the sauce is thick enough to make two depressions to hold the eggs.
  6. Carefully crack the eggs into the depression, reduce heat to medium, and cover the pan for a couple of minutes to cook the tops of the eggs.
  7. Remove the cover and cook for another minute or two until the egg whites are fully set, but the yolks are still a bit runny.
  8. Plate the eggs, and spoon the remaining sauce over the top. Garnish sparsely with a drizzle of olive oil, and a sprinkle of za’atar, salt and pepper, cumin, and sumac.
  9. Serve with warm pita or flour tortillas, or just eat plain for low-carb, the sauce is hearty enough to stand on its own.

Eggs Florentine

A lighter low-carb and vegetarian version of the classic dish, but if you don’t care about those things, you’d never know it.

Ingredients

  • 1 large bunch spinach
  • 2 portobello mushroom caps
  • 1 TB butter
  • 2 TB Neufchâtel or light cream cheese
  • Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1-2 TB grated Parmesan or Romano
  • 2-4 oz shredded Swiss gruyere
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 beefsteak tomato
  • Olive oil
  • Cider vinegar
  • Salt and pepper


Directions

  1. First, prepare the spinach mixture, which is the most complicated part of the dish.
    I prefer mature fresh whole spinach for this, as it has more flavour, but you could also use a bag of pre-washed baby spinach for convenience.
    Trim the spinach and remove the stems, keeping only the leaves.
    Wash the spinach well, if sandy you’ll need to fully submerge, swish it around, then lift out of the water, and repeat. If you pour the water out leaving the spinach behind, the sand will get right back into it.
    Spin dry in a salad spinner, or drain well and blot with a paper towel to keep from getting too soggy.
    Once clean and dry, coarsely chop up the spinach. If using frozen or bagged spinach, you can skip all of the above and jump down to here.
  2. Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat, and add the spinach. If it doesn’t all fit, add half and stir for 30 seconds until it starts to wilt and makes room for the rest.
  3. Stir in the cream cheese, season with nutmeg, salt, and pepper, Parmesan, and half of the shredded cheese. Cook it down until you have a nice smooth mixture, the spinach is tender, and the cheese fully melted. Set aside and keep warm.
  4. Prepare the mushroom caps by drizzling with olive oil and seasoning with salt and pepper. Broil a couple of minutes on each side until they just start to brown and soften, but still retain their shape.
  5. Slice the tomato to extract two thick slices from the center. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Broil for 1-2 minutes to warm up (to save time, add to oven when you flip the mushrooms).
  6. Eggs: Heat a shallow saucepan with generously salted boiling water, add a splash of vinegar, and keep at a gentle simmer. Swirl the water with a slotted spoon to create a whirlpool, and carefully break an egg into the center. Poach for 3 minutes, then remove and drain. Repeat with the second egg.
  7. Assembly: Start with the mushroom cap, with the top facing down on the plate, so it can be stuffed. Add a slice of tomato, then a generous heap of the spinach, and top with the egg, then garnish with the reserved shredded cheese.

Cornish Hen

These things are wonderful, and lately have dropped in price to almost the same as a regular full size chicken, but so much more fun. A really easy way to make a mundane chicken meal into a fancy feast. They are sometimes called Rock Game Hens, or Cornish Hens, or variations of the above. There is probably some technical difference, but at this point they are used interchangeably to mean “small chicken”. I have also not researched to lean how they relate to the French poussin or the Israeli paragiot. Just get the frozen ones by Purdue and move on.

Ingredients

  • 1 Cornish hen
  • 1-2 TB poultry seasoning spice mix
  • juice of one orange
  • 1-2 TB butter
  • 2-3 TB orange marmalade (and/or apricot preserves)
  • 2-3 cloves minced garlic
  • 1-2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • chopped fresh rosemary and/or thyme

Directions

1. For best results, brine first if you have the time. This has the advantage of defrosting while it soaks, and because they are small you can do it all in a medium bowl in the fridge overnight. Any brine solution for poultry will work fine, or just dump in some kosher salt and cover with water and toss in a couple of bay leaves, cloves, a stick of cinnamon, and peppercorns and leave overnight.

2. Remove from the brine a few hours before cooking, pat dry, and refrigerate uncovered until ready to cook so it can air dry further, which results in nice crispy skin.

3. If not brining/drying, you can start from this step. Using a heavy knife or poultry shears, spatchcock the bird by cutting down along the backbone, and splay open to butterfly.

4. Season liberally on both sides with your favorite poultry seasoning mix (e.g. Bells or rubbed sage, garlic powder, paprika, black pepper)
5. Roast in a preheated 450°F oven for about 25 minutes until cooked through and golden brown.
6. While it roasts, make the sauce: In a small saucepan, melt the butter and marmalade with the garlic until bubbly, then stir in the mustard, orange juice, and seasonings. Bring back to a simmer and reduce slightly. If too tart, add some honey.

7. After 20 minutes of cooking, remove bird from oven, and baste well with the sauce, then return and finish cooking for a few more minutes.

Cooked bird, before adding sauce:

The sauce will bubble and reduce when it hits the hot pan.