Brazilian Style Banana Pudding

Based on this recipe for Sombremesa de Banana com Queijo (Banana and Cheese Pudding)

Ingredients

  • 1 (14-oz.) can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 (12-oz.) can evaporated milk
  • 1 stick cinnamon
  • 4 green cardamom pods
  • 2 whole cloves
  • 4 ripe bananas, cut crosswise into 2″ pieces, then lengthwise into ¼”-thick slices
  • 12 oz. cream cheese, cubed
  • 14 tsp. ground cinnamon

Directions

  1. Heat oven to 350° F.
  2. Boil milks and whole spices in 12″ nonstick skillet over medium heat until reduced by half, about 30 minutes; discard spices.
  3. Spread ⅓ reduced milk over bottom of an 8″ x 8″ baking dish; top with half the bananas and half the cream cheese. Repeat layering, ending with reduced milk; sprinkle with ground cinnamon.
  4. Bake until bubbly, about 30 minutes.
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Shrimp & Sausage Tapas

A variation on a classic Spanish tapas, which is traditionally made with Spanish chorizo or Portuguese Chouriço .

Ingredients

  • 1.5 lbs extra large unpeeled shrimp*
  • 1 lb hot Italian sausage
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3-4 cloves garlic,sliced thinly
  • 6-8 oil cured black olives
  • 1 TB tomato paste
  • 2 TB sherry or gin
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 1 lemon
  • Olive Oil
  • crushed red pepper
  • hot paprika
  • smoked paprika
  • 1 TB chopped parsley (optional)

Directions

  1. Start by marinating the shrimp. Wash and drain well, then drizzle generously with olive oil, season with crushed garlic, freshly ground pepper, salt (or Old Bay), red pepper, and paprika. Set aside for at least a few minutes, or refrigerate for a few hours.
  2. While the shrimp marinates, brown the sausage evenly on all sides in a bit of olive oil over medium hot. Remove from pan, slice into 1/2″ thick slices, and return to pan in a single layer, then flip and cook on other side.
  3. While the sausage cooks, pit and chop the olives, grate a teaspoon of lemon zest, and mix with the sliced garlic. Mix the tomato paste with the sherry or gin.
  4. Once the sausage is well browned on all sides, remove from the pan and set aside.
  5. Add a bit more olive to the pan if needed, and sauté the shrimp in a single layer for a couple of minutes until no longer pink. Turn and cook on second side for two more minutes.
  6. Add the browned sausage to the shrimp, along with the garlic mixture. Then drizzle with tomato-sherry sauce.
  7. Deglaze the pan with the white wine, and cook for a couple of minutes until the shrimp is fully cooked and the sauce is slightly reduced.
  8. Remove the shrimp and sausage to a decorative serving bowl, and finish with freshly squeezed lemon juice and a drizzle of the best EVOO, and a sprinkle of chopped fresh parsley.

*I prefer to keep the shrimp with the peel, but you can also peel them first if desired. Frozen shrimp work fine, wash well and defrost first in a bowl of cold water for a few minutes. Then drain well.

 

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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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.

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