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July 2015 COTM: The Cooking of the Eastern Mediterranean, Chapter 14 & Appendices

It sure looks nice!

about 11 hours ago
nomadchowwoman in Home Cooking

August 2015 COTM - Nomination Thread

Yes--I'm not sure what it is. It's not that it's light food, but more, I think, that it's the kind of food that shows up on picnic tables.

August 2015 COTM Announcement: THE NEW SPANISH TABLE and MY KITCHEN IN SPAIN

I didn't vote this month as I'll be gone most of August, and that's something of a relief as I don't feel compelled to buy one (or two!) books to move in with the other (mostly neglected) Spanish books already on the shelves! But if I can find some of the recipes online that appeal, I'l participate as I can. But I'll be following you all in your romp through Spain.

about 11 hours ago
nomadchowwoman in Home Cooking
2

August 2015 COTM Announcement: THE NEW SPANISH TABLE and MY KITCHEN IN SPAIN

No Spanish or international markets that would carry these things in Toronto, BC? That seems so odd since even a few of the supermarkets here carry a nice selection of Spanish vinegars, smoked paprikas, etc.--and we have no Spanish culinary presence here at all.

(On the other hand, I can't ever find a decent cookbook in a thrift store here!)

about 11 hours ago
nomadchowwoman in Home Cooking

August 2015 COTM - Nomination Thread

I'm thinking AGP, especially for folks farther north, but even down here, would probably be better-suited to September than October. It just seems that most dishes that strike me as distinctly "southern" are also "summery."

about 11 hours ago
nomadchowwoman in Home Cooking
1

April 2015 COTM: POLPO - Chapters 1 & 2, Cichèti & Breads

Stracchino, [Prosciutto], and Fig Bruschette, p. 88

I have been waiting for fresh figs so that I could try this. The figs are here, and I found the stracchino--but for some reason had prosciutto in my mind as the other key component. By the time I realized this, I was home, after a shopping excursion that took me a breath away from the shop that sells the most exquisite fennel salami. I improvised with prosciutto, laying it atop grilled ciabatta slices rubbed with garlic and spread with the cheese; figs went on top. All drizzled with EVOO.

These were merely ok: prosciutto on garlic-scented ciabatta is going to be good regardless, but the cheese was surprisingly tasteless (an American brand that makes perfectly good mozzarella but failed to impress with this) and so were the figs. With great ingredients, this bruschette would be, I'm convinced, pretty wonderful. Especially with the fennel salami. Definitely worth another try.

July 2015 COTM: The Cooking of the Eastern Mediterranean, Chapters 5-8

Lebanese Tomato, Onion, and Spiced Cheese Salad, p. 137

I finally got around to this easy little salad. Like everyone else, we really enjoyed it. I think the next time I make it, a little diced cucumber would make a nice addition.

July 2015 COTM: The Cooking of the Eastern Mediterranean, Chapters 5-8

That vintage reamer is beautiful!

July 2015 COTM: The Cooking of the Eastern Mediterranean, Chapters 1-4

>So I got out our brand new Black and Decker handheld vacuum, and sucked up black crumbs.<

I went from sympathetic horror to cracking up as I read that sentence! (But, hey, you might be on to something--a food vacuum. We could all probably use one.)

Good save! In the end, your börek looks (and sounds) delicious, LN. I am adding another bookmark to my book.

July 2015 COTM: The Cooking of the Eastern Mediterranean, Chapters 9-13

Glad you liked it. (Love that serving dish!)

June 2015 COTM: VERDURA - Side Vegetables and Desserts - pp. 245-300.

LEMONY GRILLED EGGPLANT (Melanzane all Griglia con Limone), p. 313

I needed a quick side and to use up some of the eggplant that I overbought so I settled on this easy recipe. The result was okay (not to DH!), but would have been a lot better had I sliced the eggplant more thinly (VLP suggests 1/4-inch, but mine were probably more like 1/2-inch) or grilled mine longer.

I used a white eggplant and did not salt as directed, but oiled the slices and grilled them until I though they were "ready" (which is as precise as these instructions get). After that, they got doused with a simple lemony vinaigrette (juice of one lemon, 1/4 c EVOO, chopped garlic, 2 T ea. chopped parsley and basil, salt & pepper). I love these flavors so I think this is worth another try.

Cookbook Challenge

Hope your kitchen is big enough for two toques!

ETA: where the heck were such camps when I was a kid? All I remember were mosquitos and popsicle stick art!!

Cookbook Challenge

That tart sounds fabulous!

Jul 14, 2015
nomadchowwoman in Home Cooking

July 2015 COTM: The Cooking of the Eastern Mediterranean, Chapters 9-13

This is a piece of cake compared to PW's cassoulets!

Believe me, I had the same reaction as many of you. Those pages and pages on kibbeh *are* intimidating. (I find all Wolfert's books intimidating.) But mostly Wolfert is explaining the zen of kibbeh, if you will, and all the whys and hows of each step and ingredient. There wasn't anything actually hard about making kibbeh, but it is somewhat time-consuming. So is lasagne. Now, if the dough had been difficult, that would have been another story, but it was very easy to work with--in both cases.

BTW, until reading this recipe, I had no idea that kibbeh shell dough contained meat! So I was starting as an ignoramus.

Jul 14, 2015
nomadchowwoman in Home Cooking
1

July 2015 COTM: The Cooking of the Eastern Mediterranean, Chapters 9-13

I guess it depends on what the objections are. This is much simpler (lentils, rice, onions); its only spices are salt and pepper, and it has a high lentil-to-rice ratio. If it's the mush factor, this version is not really mushy (I've had versions of megadarra that really are). To me, the fried onions make the dish. Absent them, this would be very bland.

Jul 14, 2015
nomadchowwoman in Home Cooking

July 2015 COTM: The Cooking of the Eastern Mediterranean, Chapters 9-13

The last time I made it, the recipe called for short-grain rice. I like the longer grain in this much better. I forgot to mention that I made the yogurt-garlic sauce (but we mostly used it as a sauce/dip for the kibbeh, out of habit, as it is always served w/kibbeh at our favorite ME restaurant).

Had some leftover megadarra for a late dinner last night. I think it was even better.

Jul 14, 2015
nomadchowwoman in Home Cooking
1

Cookbook Challenge

I'm not even a fan of burritos, but your photo and commentary make me want one--for breakfast!

July 2015 COTM: The Cooking of the Eastern Mediterranean, Chapters 9-13

You all are so kind! Thank you. Without the inspiration and encouragement I find in these threads, I'd never have attempted these kibbeh (which weren't that hard, after all, despite pages of intimidating instructions!) or many other things. And I know only you can understand "giving up" a whole weekend to putter--and often sputter--in the kitchen.

July 2015 COTM: The Cooking of the Eastern Mediterranean, Chapters 9-13

RICE AND LENTIL PILAF MEGADARRA, p. 237

According to the recipe, this serves four. I scaled it down to 2/3 (and quantities below reflect that), and it made enough to feed 8-10 by my way of thinking.

I cooked brown lentils in a quart of water for 20 minutes (lacking a specific instruction, I timed it from the time the water started to bubble. At the 20-minute mark, I added 2/3 c. basmati rice, about ¾ tsp salt and 1 ½ tsp. pepper, covered the pot, lowered the heat to a simmer, and cooked another 20 minutes.

While the lentils are cooking, fry the onions (I upped these to 2 c. as the onions are my favorite part of the dish) in olive oil (1/3 c), removing half once they’re golden brown, to drain and crisp, and cooking the remaining half to a deep brown.

Once the rice and lentils are done, stir in the darker onions with the frying oil (just a little in my case). Before serving, top the pilaf with the crisped onions.

I’ve made this (purportedly biblical) dish a few times, and this version is as tasty as any I’ve ever had—which is good as there are lots of leftovers!

July 2015 COTM: The Cooking of the Eastern Mediterranean, Chapters 5-8

OKRA BRAISED WITH TOMATOES AND ONIONS, p. 189

Farmers Market bins are overflowing with okra right now, so I bought a pound of small and tender pods, with this recipe in mind. It involves a more elaborate prep for okra than my usual treatment, but I really liked it (and even the okra hater-in-residence had a hefty helping).

Whole, trimmed okra is tossed with white vinegar (¼ c) and coarse salt (1 T) and then sits for an hour. (After rinsing and drying, it is browned quickly in olive oil in a non-stick skillet, removed, and set aside. (Though PW recommends doing this in two batches, I opted for four to facilitate browning.) Thinly sliced onions (2) and garlic cloves (5) are added to the skillet with a little more oil and cooked until wilted and golden, which takes considerably longer than the recommended two minutes.

I must be doing something wrong, but grating fresh tomato was no picnic and resulted in nicked knuckles; I think canned, whole plums would be just fine here. But I did add my cup of grated tomato, 1 tsp. sugar, ½ c water, salt, and pepper to the onions, covered the skillet, and simmered everything for about 10 minutes.

Into a lightly oiled skillet, the okra are arranged, and the onion-tomato mixture is spooned over. As directed, I pressed down gently and put a crumpled, wet sheet of parchment atop the veggies and then inverted a plate over that. The skillet is covered and everything cooks over medium-low heat for 20 minutes. After a short cooling (10 minutes), you are meant to spoon off the juices and invert the okra onto a platter. Those juices are meant to be stirred into chopped cilantro (1 ½ T) that has been sizzled in oil with garlic pureed w/salt. Since I lost most of my juices in the inverting they didn’t make it into the cilantro oil that got poured over the okra. No worries, though: this okra, served at room temperature, was just lovely—tender pods, not a trace of slime.

July 2015 COTM: The Cooking of the Eastern Mediterranean, Chapters 5-8

Can't wait to hear how you like this.

Jul 13, 2015
nomadchowwoman in Home Cooking

July 2015 COTM: The Cooking of the Eastern Mediterranean, Chapters 5-8

Good to know. I wondered about that sauce with greens although the brothy treatment sounds appealing. I do love beet greens.

Jul 13, 2015
nomadchowwoman in Home Cooking
1

July 2015 COTM: The Cooking of the Eastern Mediterranean, Chapters 5-8

Eggplant with Pomegranate Sauce, p.155

Another thumbs up: we loved this tarting up of the humble eggplant. (I was a bit worried that my husband wouldn't as he is far from an eggplant enthusiast and wasn't crazy about last week's lemony grilled version from Verdura). I subbed a globe-type (Rosa Bianca) for the Japanese variety, to no negative effect as far as I could tell. No pomegranate seeds here, either, but chopped parsley and mint was perfect.

We had leftovers for lunch today. Even better after a 24-hour rest, with softer, rounder flavor. This will be on the table for a small dinner party this weekend.

July 2015 COTM: The Cooking of the Eastern Mediterranean, Chapters 9-13

EXTRA-CRISP OVALS STUFFED WITH PISTACHIOS, p. 271

The filling for these is not that different from the previous kibbeh. Chopped onion (1/2 c) is softened in olive oil; ground lamb shoulder (5 oz.) is added and lightly browned; water (½ c) is added, and all is cooked until the water evaporates and the meat is browned and crisped in "its own fat." Chopped nuts (in this recipe, 1/4 c ea walnuts and pistachios), spices—½ tsp Aleppo pepper, ½ tsp. black pepper, dashes of cinnamon and allspice, salt, pepper—and chopped parsley (2 T) are added and it all cooks for a couple more minutes. To the cooled meat, 2 T Greek yogurt is stirred in.

The main difference between this dough and the previous is the addition of potato (1 sm., boiled & mashed) and a bit less lamb (6 oz. ground leg) and bulgur (½ c). Start by processing grated onion (¼ c) w/ meat and spices (salt, ½ tsp. black and 1/8 tsp. Aleppo pepper) into a paste and then adding rinsed and drained bulgur. I wasn't exactly sure how to incorporate the mashed potato, so I hand-kneaded it into the dough and proceeded with shaping and stuffing the shells. I ended up with fourteen kibbeh, slightly smaller than those in the first recipe, and froze those until dinner time, when I deep-fried them. The exteriors were indeed crisp. Verdict: delicious.

For both kibbeh recipes, I had a couple of spoonfuls of filling left. So I sprinkled it atop a plate of hummus (from my favorite ME restaurant). With pita, it made for a nice lunch today.

July 2015 COTM: The Cooking of the Eastern Mediterranean, Chapters 9-13

KIBBEH OVALS STUFFED WITH NUTS, p. 270

I almost didn’t go through with these. The cashier at the shop adjoining the nearby Middle Eastern restaurant asked casually, as I was checking out, if I was making kibbeh. “Yes—first time,” I replied. He raised his eyebrows and asked if I knew about “this,” making a gesture with one cupped hand and the opposite forefinger that I recognized from PW’s instructions and illustrations as the shell making technique. I said, yes, I had a good recipe. “Hard, very hard,” he warned as he got a faraway look in his eyes and told me how he dreams of his mother’s kibbeh, with the impossibly thin shells. The reverie ended with his shrugging and telling me that after I bought all my ingredients and went to all that effort, I’d probably discover I’d just as soon have the ones from the restaurant. (Those kibbeh *are* good and, at $4 for a rather large one, not very expensive).

After reading and re-reading the instructions on shaping kibbeh shells, I decided it sounded a lot like making pottery and got a second sinking feeling. I warned DH, who was very enthusiastic about my kibbeh endeavors, that this foray may end up like my foray into pottery, with my creations heavy and thick-walled.

Maybe it was all the trepidation, but the process wasn’t nearly as onerous as I expected. Since I was trying two recipes and grinding my own meat, I stretched out the project over two days. On Day 1, I made the filling. Chopped onion (1/2 c) got softened in olive oil; ground lamb shoulder (5 oz.) was added and lightly browned; water (½ c) added; all cooked until water evaporated and meat browned further. Toasted pine nuts (¼ c), spices—Syrian Mix #1 (I used an almost identical purchased blend), salt, pepper—and chopped parsley (1/3 c) went in and the lot cooked for a couple more minutes. To the cooled meat, I folded in Greek yogurt (3 T).

On Day 2, I made the dough. I rinsed and drained ¾ c bulgur (extra fine). In the FP, I pulsed 8 oz. ground leg of lamb with 2 T. grated onion and seasonings (1 tsp salt, ¼ tsp. black pepper, ¼ tsp of Syrian Mix 1, pinches of cayenne and nutmeg) to make a paste, drizzling in almost 3 T ice water. I dumped in the bulgur, processed it all briefly, then removed and kneaded the mixture by hand. PW then instructs you to halve it, and knead each half in the FP, so I did that.

Next, the shell shaping: to my great surprise and delight, the dough was quite easy to work with, and hollowing out and then stuffing the shells to make the little footballs (with hands dipped into a bowl of cool water with cornstarch and salt) went pretty quickly. I ended up with 13 kibbeh, which I promptly froze. At dinner time, I fried a few of these and a few from my other batch. I don’t know how they’d have measured up to my cashier friend’s mother’s, but they were every bit as good as those at our neighborhood restaurant!

Ultimately, I don’t know if it’s worth the time involved when really good kibbeh is so readily available, but I don’t have to worry about that for a while as I have many ready-to-cook kibbeh in my freezer. Next time I will try pan-frying or baking them.

July 2015 COTM: The Cooking of the Eastern Mediterranean, Chapters 1-4

Yogurt-Garlic Sauce, p. 27

I made this to go with our dinner last night: Greek yogurt, a bit of water, garlic pureed w/salt, a little lemon juice, and some chopped mint stirred in at the end. We ate it (mostly) with our kibbeh.

(What a lovely photo, indeed, Breadcrumbs!)

*May/June 2010 COTM - GOURMET: Salads and Vegetables

Thanks for solving the mystery of purslane. I do not think I have ever laid eyes on it (unless I've been unknowingly pulling it as a weed from my tiny garden!)`, but glad to know of workable substitutes.

Jul 09, 2015
nomadchowwoman in Home Cooking

Eating our way through Asheville

Unfortunately, the shop right next door (which appeared to be part of the same operation) had closed at 7 (I think), which struck me as crazy given all the people clamoring for ice cream.

Jul 08, 2015
nomadchowwoman in Southeast

July 2015 COTM: The Cooking of the Eastern Mediterranean, Chapters 5-8

Gorgeous looking dishes, all!

Eating our way through Asheville

Just returned from a few days of wonderful dining in Asheville.

On our first night, we hit an old favorite, Cucina 24. It wasn’t the best meal we’ve ever had there, but it was quite good (and a marked improvement over the last). Crisp sweetbreads were excellent as was my mountain trout, nicely sauced and served with lady peas and broccoli rabe. The crudo veggies with burrata and verjus just didn’t work: vegetal flavors took over, and the burrata was lost. My husband’s pasta (rigatoni w/bacon and chilis) was overwhelmingly smoky and spicy and had us wishing he’d ordered one of the other lovely-sounding pasta dishes. He found solace in dessert, something involving ice cream.

Finally—finally—had the presence of mind to plan a little and get a reservation at The Admiral, which we’ve been trying to do for a few years. All the accolades are entirely deserved: We both thought this easily the best meal we’ve ever had in Asheville, the best anywhere in recent memory. Food like this, at these prices, is rare. And we quite liked the funky dive vibe and relaxed (but never lacking) service. (A minor snafu with one dish was rectified without attitude and so quickly that we forgot it immediately.) The hardest thing was making selections from a very enticing menu, but we were happy with ours. The skewered sweetbreads, served with wild mushrooms and radish slices, an unusual prep--divine. We loved the perfectly cooked and spiced mussels in coconut milk (lemon grass, cilantro chimichurri). Arugula salad was very nice (julienned granny smith and nuts) as a between course, before expertly cooked rack of lamb (Mediterranean spices and garnishes) and fabulous duck “adobo” (ginger, soy, sesame). We finished with a deconstructed carrot cake (a square of wonderfully moist cake, fresh carrot curls, and a separate little pot of icing), simply perfect. We marveled at the tab for this stellar meal: food plus a cocktail and two glasses of wine (pre-tip) came to under $100. We’ll be in Asheville in September—and my reservation at The Admiral will be made well ahead of time.

We hit reservation pay dirt this time, and also snagged one for Cúrate. And now I understand the fuss about this place, too: The best ingredients, simply and expertly prepared. We started with sparkling rose, triangles of pan con tomate w/manchego, and bites of a trio of cured hams (Iberico ans Serrano), followed by a sandwich of exquisitely fried squid on crisp, airy bread smeared with housemade mayo that stands up to (though is much lighter than) any po-boy in my hometown. (We ordered it out of curiosity, could not believe how insanely good it was.) Even if the impossibly tender, delicious slices of grilled octopus had not been the best we’d ever had, we’d have swooned over the accompanying potato puree. We intended to order something green, but couldn’t manage another bite after finishing off the honey-drizzled fried eggplant (with the whitest, creamiest flesh). We let that serve as dessert. Another memorable meal, another favorite restaurant.

On this trip, we also grabbed a reliably good burger at Farm Burger, and on one morning walked to the Indigo to have the best breakfast deal in town in their café—the $9 bagel and lox plate, with all the trimmings, which easily feeds two. We had the excellent lunch buffet at Mela (tandoori chicken was incredible!) one day.
Lots of superlatives in my report, I know, but this was an exceptional stretch of dining. (We did have a couple of misses--a very mediocre breakfast in our hotel and a mostly mediocre meal at The Noodle Shop (although my husband liked his moo shu wrap. And while the ice cream from The French Broad Chocolate Lounge was very good, I didn’t think it worth the 45-minute wait in line.)

For a city this size, the dining scene is pretty amazing.