December 29, 2003

Muhommorah (fondly referred to in our house is Mahna Mahna) is a lovely Mediterranian/Turkish spread made with walnuts, pomegranate molasses, and red peppers. It's sweet, spicy, and savory, and stands nicely alongside hummous, tofu spread, or cheese. You can serve it with crackers, bread, or pita, or even raw veggies. I first had it at Paul K - and made it for both our tree-trimming party and Christmas dinner this year. My recipe is adapted from this one over at Cakebread Cellars.

2 cups walnuts, toasted
16 oz roasted red peppers, drained
2 tbsp pomegranate molasses
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp chipotle powder

1/3 c. extra virgin olive oil
salt to taste

Combine the walnuts, roasted red peppers, pomegranate molasses, garlic, and spices in the bowl of a food processor. Start your engines. Drizzle in the olive oil, and continue to process until smooth. Add salt to taste. Adjust pomegranate molasses and chipotle if necessary. You want it to have a sweet note up front, but a tang through the middle, and finish with a mild burn on your tongue. The spread should be smooth throughout.

Posted by shock on December 29, 2003
Christmas Dinner 2003

Another holiday, another holiday dinner...
This year we had our Christmas dinner on the 27th, so that most of Russell's family and all of mine could join in, at our new place. A little crazed, and a lot of fun. A few things had to change when i was at the market in the morning to suit the ingredients, but all in all, i think the menu came off quite nicely!

An assortment of cheeses
Muhommorah & crackers
Garlic-stuffed olives

Crab bisque
Asparagus and shiitake soup

Citrus potatoes with hedgehog mushrooms
Baby artichoke hearts stuffed with with crab, parmigiano, and hazelnut oil

Del Papa ravioli
Saffron-sausage pasta sauce
Brussels sprouts with bacon and parmigiano
Caesar salad

Andrea's ginger-lemon poached pears with chocolate-ginger-lemon sauce
Katie's rum balls
Freida's pecan pie

Posted by shock on December 29, 2003
December 16, 2003
veloutÚ sauce

I'm ramping up to some Thanksgiving recipes, but you should know how to make veloutÚ sauce before we jump in whole hog (or turkey, or timpano, as it may be). It's great on a number of fronts - you can make it as rich as you want, or you can use it to lighten up a bechamel-type sauce while still keeping that lovely creamy smooth mouthfeel intact. You can use it to make a vegan "cream" sauce that substitutes nicely for one that uses butter and cream or milk. You can use it to start a gravy, or thicken a soup that's too watery when you don't want to add a potato or rice or bread. This is one of the building blocks i use a lot when adapting traditional cream or cream-based sauces for people counting calories or dairy.

Some kind of fat: butter or olive oil
White flour
A flavorful liquid: I always use some kind of stock.

Get 1 part fat, 1 part flour ready. If you're not worried about dairy, I like to use butter for its flavor. I've used duck fat or the fat of the meat i was saucing in the past, too. For a vegan sauce, i prefer olive oil.

Warm the fat over medium heat; whisk in the flour. Lower the heat. Cook for at least 10 minutes - you're replacing the raw flour taste with a mildly nutty one. Keep the heat LOW - you want to cook for 10 minutes without turning your roux dark. At most, you want it to barely take on some color.

After 10 minutes, start adding your liquid. You can use stock of any persuasion, milk, wine, etc. I generally start with stock, and add cream, milk, vermouth, or soy creamer near the end as a flavoring. Even with just stock, this has a lovely creamy mouth feel and appearance. Keep whisking, and add your liquid slowly. It's better if the liquid is warm or room temperature, but certainly not required. A tablespoon each of fat and flour will take a little more than a cup of liquid to make something of light gravy consistency.

If you add too much liquid, you can raise the heat and simmer the sauce a little. It will reduce a bit and thicken right back up. You can flavor it with herbs, cheese, roasted garlic, etc.

Posted by shock on December 16, 2003
December 13, 2003
bacon and cheddar dog cookies

since i have a little time on my hands i thought i would try making some doggie cookies. i purchased 4 special cookie cutter, 3 really small, fire hydrant, kitty, and bone and a larger 3" paw.

i altered it, this way

2 cups whole wheat flour
1/4 cup wheat germ
3/4 cups soy flour
1/2 cup milk
1 egg
1/4 cup bacon fat
1/2 cup cold water
1 cup cheddar cheese

directions mix ingredients together throughly. roll out on a foloured surface to 1/2 - 1/4" thickness. bake for 20-23 minutes on a greased cookie sheet in a 325 degree oven.

i think they need more bacon grease or something in them. the dogs look at them as if they are health food snack. will have to work on it. if anyone has any suggestions I am open to them.

it took a little bit, the dogs love them. trillian tried to climb onto the counter to help herself. the only thing that should be changed is cooking them longer.

Posted by karine on December 13, 2003
December 11, 2003
mexican yummy

I haven't felt like doing much of anything lately, much less cook, so I looked for the easiest menu I could find in the December 2003 Cooking Light for tonight's house dinner:

Cumin-Spiced Pork with Avocado-Tomatillo Salsa
Seasoned Black Beans
Warm flour tortillas

Almost-instant soft tacos! I loved the all-green salsa, though I edited out the peppers and onions throughout these recipes so I could eat them. If you can't find fresh tomatillos, substitute 1/2 cup chopped drained canned tomatillos or 1/2 cup chopped green tomatoes.

For the pork, preheat oven to 425 degrees.

To prepare pork, combine 1 teaspoon ground cumin, 1 teaspoon chili powder, 1/2 teaspoon paprika, 1/2 teaspoon lemon pepper, and 1/8 teaspoon salt, and rub over 1 (1-pound) pork tenderloin, trimmed. Place pork on a jelly roll pan. Bake at 425 degrees for 25 minutes or until a thermometer registers 160 degrees (slightly pink). Let the pork stand 5 minutes before slicing.

To prepare salsa, discard husks and stems from 2 tomatillos. Finely chop tomatillos; place in a medium bowl. Add 1/2 cup diced peeled avocado, 1/2 cup chopped peeled cucumber, 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro, 1 teaspoon lemon rind, 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1 minced seeded jalapeno pepper; toss well. Yield: 4 servings.

For the beans, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add 3/4 cup chopped onion, 1 tablespoon chopped jalapeno, and 2 teaspoons minced garlic; cook 5 minutes or until tender, stirring frequently. Add 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar, 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano, and 1 (15-ounce) can black beans; cook 5 minutes or until thoroughly heated, stirring frequently.

Posted by astraea on December 11, 2003
December 03, 2003
lemony shrimp salad

Lately I haven't been able to 'reach' to cook myself dinners after work for all the usual reasons: I'm too tired, I'm missing key ingredients, it will take too long, etc.. Basically, bullshit lazy reasons! Short on bedtime fiction, I took a couple cookbooks to bed last night in search of some healthy, super quick, simple dinners I could whip up and get myself out of my cooking rut. I found this gem in Nigella Lawson's Forever Summer. Nigella is all about easy dishes and I hit the jackpot with this one: the dressing has already been committed to memory and has been added to my personal permanent cooking repertoire. Here goes...

Lemony Shrimp Salad
1 lemon
2 cloves garlic
1 scallion, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons peanut oil
5 tablespoons olive oil
1 large head of romaine lettuce
12 oz. meduim raw shrimp, shelled and deveined
small bunch of chives, choppped

Peel the lemon by cutting the tops and bottoms off, sit it upright on one end, then cut away the zest and pith from top to bottom with a sharp knife. Chop it roughly and toss into a food processor with one clove of garlic and the scallions and blitz. Pour peanut oil and 3 tablespoons of the olive oil down the processor funnel with the processor on. Dressing done! (How cool is that? In under 3 minutes, I might add! )

Tear up the lettuce (in the spirit of being 'easy' I used some baby spinach I had on hand), then toss with the dressing and divide between two plates.

Heat the remaining olive oil in a frying pan and gently heat the second garlic clove until golden to infuse the oil. Remove the garlic clove and toss the shrimp into the pan. Cook for about 5 minutes until the shrimp is cooked through. Spoon over the dressed salad greens and voila! 10 minutes start to finish, I promise! I tupperwared the second serving for a snack tomorrow. Serves 2.

Posted by rebecca on December 03, 2003
December 02, 2003
persephone's punch

While i'm no Ardent Spirit just yet, i quite enjoy developing cocktails here and there - especially when i have a particular event in mind. I wanted to serve a couple of signature cocktails at Tammy & Todd's engagement party; I knew that one would be a Damiana margarita, at Todd's request. I set out to design a second drink that i thought Tammy would love.

It's loosely based on the Persephone's Undoing cocktail i created for jD & Logan's Oban party, which is mixed like a cosmo, but includes pomegranite juice. I wanted something a little more flirtatious, a little more festive for the engagement party. I think the end result was quite well received. My drink-development tasters were Heidi and Russell fo this round - send a few thank-yous their way if you had one of these treats!

2 parts pomegranite juice (I was using Pom this time)
1 part vodka (I used Ketel One, my house vodka)
2 parts champagne (I used Echo Brut)
A dash of sugar syrup (about a dash per drink you'll be serving)
A squeeze of lime (about a half a lime per drink)

Mix all but the champagne well over ice, strain into a glass, and top with champagne. If you're serving to a large crowd, mix a pitcher full, and serve in wine goblets over crushed ice.

Posted by shock on December 02, 2003
December 01, 2003
Aloo Barbatti Charchari

I attended a small potluck yesterday, and the theme was indian food. It's been ages since I made my own, and even longer since I cooked vegetarian indian food, so I went to the expert, jeanne buffa, for a recipe recommendation.

The one she provided rocked the house, and everyone at the potluck loved it and requested the recipe. So, thought I would share it with you all :)

Aloo Barbatti Charchari

2 medium tomatoes, peeled & chopped
2 bay leaves or 8 curry leaves
5 potatoes (1 1/4 lb) cut into cubes
2.5 cups trimmed green beans
3 springs basil
1-2 whole red chilis
1/2 tsp tumeric
1/4 tsp asafetida
salt and pepper
6 tb ghee or butter
2 cups water

1. Place all ingredients in a heavy 3-quart pan (needs to be an iron pan or something that will be okay charring food upon), starting with the tomatoes & ending with the water. Bring to a boil over mod. high heat, reduce to moderate and boil 5 minutes

2. Reduce heat again & gently boil, partially covered for 20-25 minutes. Water should be absorbed.

3. Raise heat to high & don't stir until it begins to char. When satisfied (7-8 min?) remove from heat & let stand 5 minutes.

4. Stir and remove chilis

Carrie's notes and changes:

All crazy spices and such purchased from bombay bazaar on valencia between 16th and 17th.

I wimped out on peeling my own tomatoes, and bought canned.

Could not find any basil at safeway, went without.

Also could not find whole red chilis so just sprinkled in some chili flakes. Diced jalapenos would work too I bet.

Had to let it simmer longer than above. Either I put in too much water, or had the heat down too low, although it was always at a boil.

I felt like i wimped out on the charring a bit, when i poked at the bottom, it looks like it was more of a burning than a charring, so I stopped that part, but upon tasting, it really did have that yummy smoky flavor, so i think it worked.

I think I figured out this would be about 34 points for the whole thing (24 for the ghee, 10 for the potatoes (I used yukon gold). 5 of us at the potluck ate about half of it. I would say that it would serve about 8, at 4-5 points per serving.

Posted by carrie on December 01, 2003
Thanksgiving 2003

I think we can safely call this year's Thanksgiving a resounding success! 15 people at tables threaded through my living room, laughing and talking and telling stories, and eating great food. (Even though i forgot to serve the ridiculous mushrooms. There's always one thing i forget to serve, you know.) Big props to Russell and Heather, my fearless sous-chefs, and to the folks who brought lovely pies and icebox cakes - Naomi, The Leckmans, Heather, and Patrick! I think this year i had things much more under control than the last large Thanksgiving i hosted - i'm definitely getting better at letting go of a few things as the day progresses rather than just getting further and further into the weeds. We served dinner at 6:30, and i don't think anyone went hungry. ;)

(pictures coming soonish - i'm waiting for some images from Forrest's camera)

Cocktail hour:
Pumpkin Martinis
Petit Basque, Drunken Goat, and Emmenthaler
Tofu spread
Roasted red pepper & artichoke spread
Crackers & olives

The main event:
Roasted butternut squash soup with pumpkinseed oil and fried sage leaves

Free-range turkey, grill-roasted with vermouth and butter
Timpano with carrots & sage, chestnuts, spinach & garlic, shiitakes & thyme, and pasta with mushroom veloutÚ

Gravy two ways: roasted garlic herb gravy & classic turkey gravy
Charred shallot mashed potatoes
Savory herbed bread pudding with mushrooms & leeks
Rosemary-port cranberry dressing
Carrots & celery root with verjus & grand marnier
Brussel sprouts salad with bacon
Audrey's biscuits (Heather's specialty!)
Ridiculous mushrooms (oops - we're still eating these leftovers)
Salad with fig balsamic vinaigrette, dried cherries, pistachios, and Pt. Reyes Blue cheese

The sweets:
Chocolate silk pie (vegan) - The Leckmans
Pumpkin pie - Heather
Apple pie x 2 - Naomi
Chocolate icebox cake - Patrick

The wines:
A lovely assortment of reds
Roederer Estate Brut RosÚ

Posted by shock on December 01, 2003