Sunday, May 27, 2012

The pièce de resistance...

One more Mediterranean dish, and then I'll play another record, I promise. But how can we depart this ethnic cuisine before dessert? How about some baklava (again, made with authentic phyllo from Marché Adonis in Montreal) filled with walnuts, cinnamon and brown sugar, and topped with a lemon-infused simple syrup, honey, and vanilla glaze? That's what I thought you'd say. Just LOOK at it:

And now, let's make it! I used the following recipe from All Recipes, and I liked it a lot. The only thing I would do differently next time is cut back on the butter a bit between each layer--yes, I said cut back on the butter, which says a LOT coming from me. Oh, and as for my own adaptations, I toasted and cooled the walnuts ahead of time, added about a cup of brown sugar to the nut filling, and I sliced up a lemon to infuse in the simple syrup. DELISH!

(Source: adapted from All Recipes)

1 pound chopped nuts (I used walnuts this time, but wouldn't pistachios be YUM?!)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon (um, or a TABLESPOON!)
1 cup brown sugar (optional)
1 (16 ounce) package phyllo dough, thawed
1 cup butter (I would try to hold this to one stick next time, and no more than a stick and a half)
1 cup water
1 cup white sugar
1 lemon, sliced (optional)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (a vanilla bean would be even better)
1/2 cup honey

1.Preheat oven to 350 degrees F(175 degrees C). Butter the bottoms and sides of a 9x13 inch pan.
2.Chop nuts and toss with cinnamon and brown sugar (if using the latter). Set aside. Unroll phyllo dough. Cut whole stack in half to fit pan. Cover phyllo with a dampened cloth to keep from drying out as you work. Place two sheets of dough in pan, butter thoroughly. Repeat until you have 8 sheets layered. Sprinkle 2 - 3 tablespoons of nut mixture on top. Top with two sheets of dough, butter, nuts, layering as you go. The top layer should be about 6 - 8 sheets deep.
3.Using a sharp knife cut into diamond or square shapes all the way to the bottom of the pan. You may cut into 4 long rows the make diagonal cuts. Bake for about 50 minutes until baklava is golden and crisp.
4.Make sauce while baklava is baking.* Boil sugar and water with lemon (if using) until sugar is melted. Add vanilla (or vanilla bean) and honey. Simmer for about 20 minutes.
5.Remove baklava from oven and immediately spoon sauce over it. Let cool. Serve in cupcake papers. This freezes well. Store uncovered, as it gets soggy if it is wrapped up.

*I tried some advice from reviewers on All Recipes. I made the simple syrup infusion ahead of time, and stored it in the fridge overnight. There are those who say that the secret to a crisp baklava where the sugary goo doesn't all puddle at the bottom (making that layer soggy) is to either have cold baklava and apply hot syrup or cold syrup poured over hot baklava. I went with option B, and it seemed to work--all the layers were evenly saturated.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Need a summer potluck idea? I've got your back!

Ever since visiting Marché Adonis in Montreal recently, I'm marinating in Mediterranean flavors. Today, I made this delicious orzo salad with tomatoes, slivered onion, minced garlic, black and green olives, feta cheese, fresh parsley, and a lemony vinaigrette.. It's an easy recipe that would be perfect for your summer picnics, potlucks, and barbecues. (You're welcome.)

Greek-Style Orzo Salad

1 lb. box orzo, cooked according to instructions, drained and cooled
about 8 Campari tomatoes, diced
half a large red onion, slivered
4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
approx. 36 marinated olives, pitted and chopped
1 1/2 cups feta cheese, small dice or crumbled
1/2 bunch parsley, roughly chopped
juice of two lemons
1/4 to 1/2 cup olive oil
drizzle of honey (or big pinch of sugar)
1 teaspoon dried oregano
salt and pepper, to taste

Combine and chill until serving.

Friday, May 25, 2012

The Weeping Pig: Your Tastebuds Will Cry with Joy!

A few months ago, a local bakery that I "like" on Facebook was advertising a sandwich special that was hilariously dubbed "The Weeping Pig" (pictured left). It featured ham, bacon, and prosciutto, and it was dressed with balsamic onion marmalade and roasted garlic mayo. Ham, bacon, AND prosciutto? Poor piggy! (Hence, the name. Although maybe it should have been called "The Weeping Cardiologist!")

I never made it downtown to check it out on the appointed day, but the sandwich was listed as a special again today. I had just finished a four-day education workshop (rewarding, but exhausting!), so I thought I might treat myself to a porcine luncheoon at Delish. As I anticipated, "The Weeping Pig" was savory and decadent, so much so that I was going on and on about it to my roommate that evening. Not surprisingly, she was miffed that I didn't bring her one. (Sidebar: It should be noted that I DID call from the bakery, but she said she and her co-workers had already had lunch brought in from someplace--so there!).

Therefore, I took it upon myself--as I so often do--to recreate the sandwich at home, or my own version of it, at any rate (pictured below). I bought some off-the-bone ham and prosciutto, fried up some thick-cut pepper bacon, unearthed some onion confit that I had preserved many moons ago and zhooshed it up with some balsamic vinegar, mixed some smashed garlic (raw, not roasted) into good-quality mayo, and added slices of extra-sharp cheddar. Finally, instead of a baguette, I made the sandwiches on these crusty cheddar-garlic rolls that I found at Price Chopper. The verdict? CRAZY GOOD! (Sorry, piggy.)

Monday, May 21, 2012

Quickie Midweek Gyros: OPA!

For dinner tonight, we had some quick but delicious chicken and beef gyros using frozen chicken and beef fajita strips dressed with this thick, rich tzatziki that I recently bought at the Adonis Market in Montreal and a wonderful homemade Greek salad that I chopped up like a salsa and used as a topping on the pita sandwiches.

The Greek salad was made with Roma tomatoes, slivers of red onion, lots of minced garlic, chopped green olives, fresh parsley, olive oil, fresh lemon juice, salt, pepper, and a drizzle of honey. (It would normally have cucumbers in it, too, but the tzatziki already had plenty of cucumber.) SO GOOD!

*After I took this picture, I realized that I forgot to add some diced the feta cheese, also acquired at the Middle Eastern market in Montreal. Oops.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Luscious Lumaconi! (You do, and you'll clean it up.)

It's not that my roommate CAN'T's that she mostly chooses not to. So imagine my surprise when I come home from work at the end of a long day, and she has found a special recipe, shopped for the ingredients, and prepared the most DELICIOUS pasta dish EVER! This one is a winner, and is definitely going into the rotation around here.

*The original recipe used a snail-shaped pasta called lumaconi, but anything that would hold the creamy sauce would work.

Creamy Lumaconi with Italian Sausage and Spinach
(Source: Bev Cooks)

1 head garlic, end sliced off
1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 cups lumaconi (or any similar pasta--Cyd used large ribbed shells)
2 Italian sausage links, casings removed
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup milk
1 thyme sprig, leaves removed
1 oregano sprig, leaves removed
2 cups chopped spinach
coarse salt and freshly ground pepper

Preheat oven to 400. Place the garlic head in a small piece of aluminum foil, drizzle with oil, seal and roast for 35 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.

In a small sauce pot, melt the butter. When the foaming subsides, add the flour. Whisk constantly for one minute, and then slowly add the milk, continuing to whisk another five minutes or so until the sauce gets thick and creamy. Add in the herbs, a pinch of salt and pepper and whisk a little more. Transfer cream sauce to a small food processor, add the roasted garlic cloves and pulse until very smooth. Cover to keep warm.

In the meantime, heat a medium skillet over medium high. Add the sausage and break up with a wooden spoon, cooking until browned all over, six minutes. Also, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and boil until al dente. Just taste it to test it. Drain and return to the pot.

Pour the cream sauce over the pasta, along with the chopped fresh spinach and the cooked sausage. Toss to coat and combine everything. Serve with good parmesan cheese or a chiffonade of basil...or both.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Rhubarb Chutney, Revisited

Since we gobbled up the half-pint of spiced rhubarb-orange chutney that my friend Jay made, it seemed necessary for me to make a batch of my own, especially as we are at the beginning of our local rhubarb season.  I made a test batch of the rhubarb chutney tonight, but I sort of went my own way with it. I used tangerine juice and zest (because that's what I had on hand), omitted the allspice, doubled the peppercorns, ginger and garlic, added a big pinch of red pepper flakes, and a teaspoon of celery seed. Also, I swapped out golden raisins for brown. Finally, I added some extra vinegar to account for the slight increase in low-acid ingredients. Ultimately, my version of the chutney is lighter in color and flavor, but has a little more heat. My roomie Cyd declared mine the summer version and Jay's the autumn spice variety. Both equally yummy, says my official taster!

Sunny Days Tangerine Ginger Rhubarb Chutney

20 whole black peppercorns
1 tablespoon mustard seeds
1 tablespoon pickling spice
1 teaspoon celery seed
4 tablespoons grated tangerine zest (I probably only got 2T at most)
2/3 cup fresh tangerine juice
6 cups chopped rhubarb
5 cups lightly packed brown sugar (next time, I might cut this back by a cup)
4 cups cider vinegar
3 cups chopped onion
1 1/2 cups golden raisins
4 tablespoons finely chopped garlic (2T would be plenty for most folks!)
4 tablespoons finely chopped ginger root (ditto)
1 tablespoon curry powder
big pinch of red pepper flakes

1.) TIE peppercorns, mustard seeds, pickling spice, and celery seed in a square of cheesecloth, creating a spice bag. Set aside.
2.) COMBINE tangerine zest and juice, rhubarb, brown sugar, vinegar, onions, raisins, garlic, and ginger in a large stainless steel saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly. Reduce heat and boil gently, stirring occassionally, for 45 minutes.
3.) ADD curry powder, pepper flakes, and reserved spice bag; stir well. Boil gently, stirring frequently, until thick enough to mound on spoon, about 30 minutes.
4.) PREPARE boiling water canner in the meantime. Heat jars and lids in simmering water until ready for use. Do not boil. Set bands aside.
5.) LADLE hot chutney into hot jars leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Remove air bubbles. Wipe rim. Center hot lid on jar. Apply band and adjust until fit is fingertip tight.
6.) PROCESS in a boiling water canner for 10 minutes, adjusting for altitude. Remove jars and cool. Check lids for seal after 24 hours. Lid should not flex up and down when center is pressed.

Saturday, May 05, 2012

¡HAPPY CINCO DE PORKO, mis amigos!

WOWZA, is our dinner going to be delish! All we did was season a pork shoulder liberally with salt, pepper, paprika, cumin, and granulated garlic, then browned it all over in a large skillet with a little olive oil. Then we threw it in the crock pot with two jars of Herdez salsa verde, and cooked it on high for about four hours (6-8 hours on low would work fine, too). It's not quite done yet...just turned it down to low and snuck a taste. SO YUMMY! When the meat is tender, I will shred it by hand and add it back to the liquid in the pot.

And in yet another crock pot, I'm cooking some small but sturdy Rancho Gordo Santa Maria Pinquito Beans in the traditional (but quicker) method: clean the beans, cover with about three inches of water, bring to a boil, turn off the heat and let soak for an hour. In the meantime, sauté some aromatics like an onion, a few stalks of celery, several cloves of garlic, and--in this case--a couple/few jalapenos in a couple of tablespoons of olive oil. Add the sautéed veggies to the crock pot, then the (drained) beans, and enough chicken or vegetable stock to cover by a couple of inches. Throw in a tablespoon of dried Mexican oregano, a teaspoon of black pepper, and a couple of bay leaves. Cover and cook for 3-4 hours on high, or 6-8 hours on low.

The beans should be ready about the same time as the chili verde pork.
Then serve the beans and pork in warm tortillas with your favorite taco/burrito toppings. ¡OLÉ!