Paleo Tabouleh

Although I don’t subscribe to the whole paleo thing, I’ve been trying to eat more vegetables. I got a head of cauliflower, and just steaming it seemed boring. I stumbled across a YouTube video of someone using cauliflower as a substitute for rice or other grains, simply by pulsing it a few times in the food processor. They made a grain-free tabouleh, which looked pretty good, so I decided to try it myself. Came out really good, and aside from the pale colour you probably would have a hard time guessing what the main ingredient was if noone told you.

Ingredients

  • 1 head cauliflower
  • 6 radishes
  • 1 bunch parsely
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 small cucumbers
  • 2 tomatoes
  • juice of one lemon

Directions

  1. Wash all veggies and dry off.
  2. Peel garlic and pulse in food processor until broken up into tiny pieces and stuck to sides
  3. Cut cauliflower into smallish pieces and pulse in food processor (with garlic) about 6-10 times, until the pieces are roughly the size of grains of rice. Remove to large bowl. If there are any large chunks left over, leave in processor.
  4. Cut cucumbers and tomatoes into eights, split radishes if large, and add to food processor along with parsely and any remaning cauliflower chunks. Pulse until chopped into very small pieces. Add to cauliflower. 
  5. Squeeze in lemon juice and mix well. Season to taste with EVOO (leave out for fat free), salt (leave out for sodium free), and freshly ground black pepper.  

Notes

  1. Some colourful bell peppers would be good, or a jalapeno for heat. Zucchini would also go well, perhaps instead of the radishes.
  2. Be careful not to overprocess the veggies or they will turn to mush. Pulse slowly, and scrape down the sides a few times as you go to make sure everything is chopped evenly. Even with the pauses, it’s still a lot less work than chopping everything by hand.

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Lamb w. Pomegranate Sauce

I just made one of the best meals I’ve had in a while.

The other day I reread a short story [1] set in ancient Alexandria. Back before the library was destroyed, when the city was at the height of its power. It opens with a magistrate feasting on roast rack of lamb dipped in butter-pomegranate sauce. My mouth watered just reading about it, and I knew I would have to try to make something similar in the near future.

I looked in my favourite cookbook [2] for inspiration, and found something called “Lahma Mahshi bil Karaz”, a Syrian roast shoulder of lamb with sour cherry (or apricot) sauce and rice stuffing. The supermarket didn’t have a large selection of lamb, but I was able to pick up a nice 1 kg chunk of boneless leg of lamb, which worked well. A full leg of lamb with the bone would be even better. The recipe was fairly plain, with the meat simply roasted, and the stuffing mildly seasoned. I of course opted to spice things up a bit.

I started by using a Tunisian inspired harissa-based marinade for the meat. I happened to have a container of pre-packaged Israeli harissa, but homemade would of course be better.

The recipe may seem a bit complex with the three parts, but they can be prepared in parallel so it’s not that bad. And otherwise you’d have to make a separate side dish anyway. I served it with fresh sourdough baguettes and a 2008 Galil Meron (69% Syrah, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, 21% Petit Verdot. Currently on sale for $19.95 at Skyview, really good price). Was going to make some sautéed spinach, but ran out of time and energy. Will do it tomorrow with the leftovers.

 

Lamb

  • ½-1 tsp cumin seeds, roasted and ground
  • 1 tsp raw coriander seeds, roasted and ground
  • 1 tsp hot paprika
  • 1 tsp achiote (annatto), ground
  • ½ -1 tsp black peppercorns (or freshly ground black pepper)
  • 1 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1 TB harissa
  • 2-3 TB lemon juice
  • 2-3 TB olive oil
  • 2-3 TB water
  • Salt
  • 5 lb leg of lamb

 

  1. Roast the cumin and coriander seeds together in a small skillet over medium heat for several minutes, tossing occasionally, until fragrant and starting to brown. Allow to cool, then grind with other whole spices in spice grinder (or by hand with mortar & pestle)
  2. In a cup or small bowl, whisk together the harissa with liquids and spices. Adjust salt and seasonings to taste. Should be slightly hot and bitter and sour, strong but balanced. Consistency should be a paste thick enough to adhere to the meat without clumping or running off.
  3. Rub the marinade paste all over the lamb in a shallow layer. This can be done in advance (or even overnight) and left in fridge. If pressed for time, leave on counter for at least 30 minutes as lamb comes to room temperature while oven preheats.
  4. When ready to cook, preheat oven to 400F (convection roast) and roast on rack, fat side up. I forgot to add salt to the marinade before applying, so sprinkled the lamb with Goya Adobo seasoning before putting in oven.
  5. Roast until thermometer reads 140F in thickest part of lamb. Allow to rest for a few minutes before carving.

 

Rice Stuffing

  • ½ lb ground beef (I used a beef/veal mixture)
  • 5 cups rice, long grain
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded and chopped fine
  • 1 onion
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1-2 TB marinade (see above)
  • 1 packet Goya sazón con cilantro y achiote (or salt)

 

  1. Finely chop onion, sauté in olive oil until translucent
  2. Add meat and stir well to mix in with onions
  3. Optional: Roast tomatoes over flame (or under broiler) until skin is black. Peel then chop.
  4. When meat is mostly not pink anymore, stir in rice and coat with oil.
  5. Add pepper and garlic, cook for a few minutes until rice loses its raw look.
  6. Add tomatoes and spices.
  7. Transfer rice-meat mixture to rice cooker. Deglaze pan with 2 cups hot water, add to rice.
  8. Cook in rice cooker per usual setting.

 

Sauce

  • ½ lb dried cranberries (original recipe called for sour cherries, pitted. Dried apricots are also a traditional variation)
  • 4 TB butter
  • Pomegranate molasses
  • 1-2 TB marinade (see above)
  • 2 oz elderberry honey wine (optional)

 

  1. Put dried fruit in saucepan. Cover with warm water and allow to soak for 30 min while prepping rice.
  2. Without draining, bring to boil over medium heat.
  3. Allow sauce to reduce and thicken, about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add additional water if too dry.
  4. Stir in pomegranate molasses until desired sweetness/sourness is achieved (~3-4 TB)
  5. Deglaze with wine if desired.
  6. Stir in reserved marinade. If there isn’t any left, season with salt and pepper and hot paprika to taste.
  7. Cook a few minutes on low heat to incorporate flavours. Sauce should be balanced between sweet, sour, and bitter, with a hint of heat on the back of the throat.
  8. Remove from heat, and swirl in 3 TB butter.
  9. Transfer to blender (or possibly use an immersion blender if you have one. Try not to make a mess). Blend until smooth.
  10. Strain sauce through a mesh strainer into gravy boat. Swirl in remaining 1 TB butter.
  11. Serve drizzled over lamb and rice and as dipping sauce on side.

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Footnotes
[1] The Weight of Gold by Thomas K. Carpenter
[2] The Book of Jewish Food: An Odyssey from Samarkand to New York by Claudia Roden. Recipe appears on p. 392, marinade is on p. 385

Hot Chocolate for Grown-Ups

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup high quality cocoa (min. Ghirardelli. Valrhona, Scharffen Berger, Maison du Chocolat, or other premium brand preferred.)
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 TB cornstarch
  • 1/3 cup hot water
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
  • ¼ tsp cinnamon
  • 4 cups (or 1 liter) unsweetened vanilla almond milk
  • ¼ tsp freshly ground nutmeg
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • Kahlua (optional)

Directions

  1. Mix dry ingredients except nutmeg in 4-quart saucepan. Add hot water and stir to incorporate over high heat until it boils. Start with 1/3 cup and add up to ½ cup if necessary to prevent from burning.
  2. Slowly pour in milk while stirring.
  3. Heat until hot, stirring occasionally, until almost at a boil. But do not bring to boil.
  4. Remove from heat, stir in vanilla and nutmeg.
  5. Ladle into mugs and add 1 TB Kahlua per cup.

Notes

  1. Splurge for the “good stuff”, the quality of the ingredients makes all the difference. The cocoa, cinnamon, and vanilla should be the best you can get your hands on.
  2. For an extra kick, add a shot of espresso. Then top with some frothed milk. Just like your favourite coffee shoppe, only much better, and 1/8 the price.

 

Kid’s Version

Follow the directions on the side of Hershey’s cocoa box. Essentially the same as above, but use ¼ cup Hershey’s coca, ½ cup sugar, 1 quart cow milk, omit spices and Kahlua, and top with mini marshmallows.

Creamy Kale Leek Soup

I wanted to make potato leek soup but didn’t have any potatoes, and also clam chowder but didn’t have any milk, so ended up combining the two with the help of two heavily modified Mark Bittman recipes for vegetable soups.  The result is virtually fat free and quite delicious, and pretty easy to make.

Ingredients

3 leeks (1 bunch)

2 bunches kale
1 jalapeño
1 can corn (15 oz)
1 can lite coconut milk (13.5 oz)
1 can chopped clams (6.5 oz)
1 bottle clam juice (8 oz)
1 TB fish sauce
1 TB curry powder
1/2 TB garam masala
6 oz plain fat-free Greek yogurt
Directions
  1. Wash leeks and kale really well to remove sand, and slice. Remove stem and seeds from jalapeño. Add to large (8 qt) pot with a bit of water to steam, and cover for a few minutes until wilted.
  2. Puree the leeks and kale with the corn and jalapeño, add water if necessary. You may need a large bowl to hold the pureed vegetables while blending in batches.
  3. Return pureed vegetables to pot, bring back to a boil and add a bit more water to make a “soupy” consistency.
  4. Season with fish sauce, curry powder, and garam masala.
  5. After the kale no longer tastes raw, add clam juice and canned clams. Stir and simmer for a minute to incorporate.
  6. Remove from heat and stir in yogurt, mix thoroughly. Adjust seasonings to taste.
  7. Ladle into soup bowls and serve with croutons or a crusty baguette, and a nice Pinot Noir.

Bukharan Eggplant Salad

There are lots of different kinds of eggplant salads. Each country has their own version, from Italy and south of France, to Turkey, Israel, morocco, etc. I usually make Israeli style baba ghanoush, but wanted something chunky and colourful this time. There is a fried one that’s really good, but I was looking to make it fat free. So no oil, tehina, mayonnaise, etc. somehow I got it in my head that I wanted was Bukharan Style. But I couldn’t find any recipes on line, and according To my cookbooks, bukharan style eggplant salad is completely plain and unseasoned. So I must be confused with some other place over there. But regardless, what I was looking for was something “exotic” tasting, halfway between middle eastern and Eastern European. And the results were perfect.

Ingredients
1 large eggplant
1 green bell pepper
1 red bell pepper
1 jalapeño
1 tsp red wine vinegar
1 small onion
1 small head garlic
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp coriander
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp paprika
Juice of 1/2 lemon
2 tsp concentrated tomato paste
1/4 cup chopped flat leaf parsley
1 TB Olive oil (optional)

Procedure

  1. preheat oven to 450F
  2. cut off top of garlic, drizzle with olive oil
  3. wash eggplant and peppers, prick with fork, spray with light coating of olive oil, roast in oven alongwith garlic until soft and beginning to char. Turn once or twice to cook evenly. Eggplant may take longer, garlic less time
  4. once cool, peel and seed peppers and cut into small bite sized pieces
  5. peel roasted garlic, and chop coarsely
  6. cut up eggplant into bite sized pieces. Remove any tough or burned skin but leave some pieces with the peel intact. Drizzle with the vinegar
  7. finely chop onion
  8. add spices and other ingredients, mix well in large bowl. Adjust seasonings to taste
  9. serve right away at room temperature, or chill in refrigerator to allow flavours to mingle

Notes: if made without the oil, this has 0 points and is quite filling. Add some sliced lamb and a pita for a full meal.
Instead of adding the oil to the salad, I used the mister to spray on a light coating just before serving.

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Ham Latkes

Since the Hanukah Ham was such a success, I decided to branch out (like a Menorah) tonight, and make some Ham Latkes (aka Ham Croquettes for the Goyim reading this).

No real recipe, and I didn’t measure anything, but the following description should be sufficient to get you going.

Pull off a bunch of ham, about as much as you would serve two people as a main course. Its ok to use the ugly bits, because it’s getting all munched up in the food processor.

Added a chunk of Italian Gorgonzola Dulce (“sweet” blue cheese), but any sharp cheese will do.

A large dollop of sour cream (or gvina levanah or labaneh or “Greek” yogurt, whatever you have).

Season with British dry mustard (i.e. Coleman’s) and black pepper. Some chopped fresh herbs would be good too, but I was too lazy. Add an egg (I use the egg white in the container) to hold together, and a bit of Matzah Meal (or bread crumbs or flour) as a binding agent.

The “secret ingredient” is a small Israeli pickle, which adds texture and a great flavor to the mix.

Pulse in food processor just until everything is chopped up and sticks together, but not too much or it will turn into a gummy mess.

Form into patties, and dredge in seasoned flour. Then dip into beaten egg (again I used the egg white from the container) with some hot sauce mixed in. Then dip in panko and/or seasoned breadcrumbs. For a crispier coating, do a second dip in the egg and breadcrumbs. Then fry in small batches canola oil until golden brown on both sides.

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Callaloo Soup

I’d never had callaloo before, or even knew really what it was, but there bunches of it at the store the other day and I’m trying to eat more veggies so figured I would try it. If you’ve never seen it either, it’s a leafy green, sort of halfway between spinach and kale, looks like the sort of plant that grows along the side of the road that the old Arab women harvest in season. Although its Caribbean not middle eastern, I picture the old women in Jamaica and Trinidad doing the same. The traditional island recipes mostly call for coconut milk and crab, I had neither so improvised slightly. The result was delicious, and would most likely be an amazing hangover cure.

Ingredients

1 bunch callaloo leaves
8 oz okra, sliced
1/4 cup Goya frozen sofrito
1 onion, chopped
2-4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 mild green pepper (eg cubanelle, Italian frying pepper), seeded and chopped
1 hot pepper (eg jalapeño, scotch bonnet), chopped. (Leave seeds in for extra heat)
Old bay seasoning
Black pepper
3 sprigs fresh thyme
4 oz rib bacon, with bone, cut into small chunks
1 tsp olive oil
3 cups water (or chicken stock)

Directions

Heat oil in large pot
Sauté the bacon, onion, garlic, and peppers in the olive oil for a minute until starting to wilt
Remove tough stems from callaloo, coarsely chop, and wash well. Add to pot.
When leaves start to wilt, add thyme, sofrito, water, and seasonings.
Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until somewhat soft, about 20 min
Meanwhile, cut the ends off the okra, then slice and add to soup.
Cook another 10 min or so, until the okra softens
Remove rib bone and thyme stems, then purée entire contents of pot in blender until smooth.
Adjust seasoning, pour into bowls, serve with bread.

Notes
I used one seeded jalapeño, gave it just a hint of heat and stayed well balanced. Chili heads will want more.
I used water, next time I would use chicken broth for more depth, a can of coconut milk, and add a black cardamom pop and a sprinkle of garam masala for a more exotic touch
Would also be good with some shrimp cooked in the pot, add after okra for final few minutes of cooking (but don’t purée!)

Crustless Quiche

Made something that was a cross between a baked pancake, frittata, and a quiche, based on a recipe in the King Arthur cookbook.

    Ingredients

1/2 cup egg whites (or 2 eggs)
1 eggplant
1 leek
1 tb butter
1 cup milk
1/4 cup king Arthur white whole wheat flour
1/2 cup white all purpose flour
5 oz Cabot 75% fat free cheddar
2 t chopped mint or other fresh herbs
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp cider vinegar

Start by making batter. Beat egg whites until soft peaks form. add 1/2 cup milk, and flour, mix until blended and set aside. Best if made an hour before use.
Preheat oven to 425F
Slice leek, wash well, drain, sauté in 1/2 tb butter in heavy cast iron pan.
Cut eggplant into bite size pieces, and add to pan. Sprinkle with sugar and vinegar. Cook over medium heat until lightly brown and mostly soft.
Cut cheese into small cubes.
Add remaining 1/2 cup of milk and chopped herbs to batter.
Coat bottom of pan with remaining 1/2 tb butter. Cover vegetables with cheese cubes. Add batter, and bake for about 20-25 min until golden brown.

Next time I would add some garlic and mushrooms, and maybe use some stronger cheese. Also add a dash of nutmeg and cayenne to the batter, and season the vegetables with salt and pepper while cooking.
A version with zucchini, onion, and tomato would also be good, with some Parmesan. Like a frittata, but with a crepe/quiche consistency.

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Garlic Cheese Bread Kale Sandwich

Just made one of the best sandwiches ever.

    Ingredients

Half loaf Italian bread
1 bunch kale
3 cloves garlic,
Butter
Olive oil
Garlic powder
4 slices pancetta
4 slices Deli turkey
3 slices Provolone

    Directions

Preheat oven to 375F
Parboil kale for 5 minutes
Meanwhile sauté pancetta Until rendered and slightly crisp, reserve on paper towel
Drain kale and sauté in olive oil in same pan as pancetta
Cut bread in half, spread both sides with butter, crushed garlic, olive oil, garlic powder
Add cheese to bread, wrap in foil, and bake until hot and crispy and cheese is melted while kale cooks
Remove bread from oven, open and add turkey, reserved pancetta, and kale, season with pepper
Slice into 4 pieces and devour

Crab Soup

I just made the most amazing crab soup for lunch. Seriously, its the best crab soup I’ve ever had. Unfortunately I just threw it together as an experiment with low expectations, so hopefully I’ll be able to reproduce it.

The crabs came from the fish store, pre-cooked in a plastic bag. Not whole crabs, just the arms and claws of blue crabs, boiled with Old Bay or Zatairans. $3 per bag, or 2 for $5. The first bag I fought with to eat as is, and it was dry and overcooked and a pain in the ass to extract from the shells, which were brittle and the meat clung to them. Hence the idea to make soup with the remaining bag. I didn’t weight them, but it was probably 1-2 pounds.

I smashed the crabs with a meat tenderizer while still in the bag, to expose the meat and break up the shells.

Into the saucepan (next time use a 4 qt stock pot) went 2 TB of butter, then a small sliced onion, 2 cloves garlic, a stalk of celery, a peeled carrot, and a bay leaf. I also added the wing tips, heart, gizzard, and neck of a chicken for extra depth and meatiness. Cook chicken and vegetables over medium heat until browned on both sides.

Add crab bits, and stir to mix with vegetables. Sprinkle about 3 TB of flour, and mix well to coat evenly and make a roux, cook for a minute or two.

Deglaze with a healthy splash or two of brandy or cognac, and about 1/2 cup of sherry, stirring well to incorporate into the roux and form the base of the soup. Season with a few TB of Goya Sofrito (I use the frozen kind that comes in the plastic coolwhip container) and a dollop of Goya Recaito in the tall glass jar. Mix in a small can of unsalted tomato sauce.

Season to taste with cumin, red pepper flakes, and garam masala.

Add about 1 liter of boiling water, bring back up to boil, and simmer over low heat for about an hour.

Strain through wire mesh strainer into soup bowls, garnish with whatever crab meat you can pick out of the shells.

Very simple and easy to make, and tasted like the $16 bowls of soup at a fancy restaurant, you’d never know its humble origins.