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Sunday, August 28, 2016

Chickpea and Tomato Salad with Quinoa

They have declared a "heat wave" all over France.
It's true, it's hot.  It's officially a heat wave according to the government.  This means that for at least 3 days in a row, the highs have been over 32°C (90°F) and at night the lows haven't dropped under 20°C (68°F).  I have trouble calling it a heat wave because I grew up in Palm Springs, where these temperatures are relatively mild.  We call it springtime.
But to normal non-desert living people, yes, this is a heat wave.
So, the reason it is so "unbearable" here is that A/C is a rarity.  Some people have it, but most don't.  They don't even have it on public transportation.  The air is stuffy, and for those living in big cities, there is no air.  The buildings and concrete just make it hotter.
Also, not everyone has a pool here and people think drafts will kill you.  The lady sharing my office violently shut the window in the morning because I was letting a refreshing morning draft of 21°C into the office.
Running around in your underwear is not really a thing either.  It really should be though.
Anyway, it may go without saying, but I do not have A/C either, and my average indoor temperature is about 28°C (82°F).  To avoid making that number skyrocket, I've been avoiding the oven and trying to keep my stovetop activity to a minimum.
This is why having a crock pot is a blessing.  It doesn't add one degree to the indoor temp.. plus if it did, I could take it to the garage and run it down there.. which I can't do with my stovetop or my oven.  I also love coming home to a lovely wafting aroma.
This can only mean one thing...
It's bean time.

Serves 4-5
1 1/2 cups dried chickpeas, soaked overnight and rinsed
2 bay leaves
few pinches salt
1 tsp ground cumin
2 dried chile de arboles (or any dried chile)
6 cups water for chickpea cooking
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 fresh chile, sliced into rounds (I used a red Morrocan chile)
1 clove garlic, sliced
1 tsp caraway seeds
1/4 tsp turmeric
2 zucchinis, sliced into rounds and quartered
pinch fleur de sel
few cracks black pepper
1 cup quinoa, rinsed
1 cup water for quinoa cooking
3 large juicy tomatoes, chopped (or lots of halved cherries)
2 chopped shallots
2 cloves garlic, grated
handful chopped parsley
handful chopped cilantro
juice from 1/2 lime
few pinches fleur de sel
1/4 tsp ground cumin
lots of freshly cracked black pepper
1 Tbsp cider vinegar
2 Tbsp olive oil
handful cubed feta (leave out if vegan)
1.  Cook the chickpeas with the bay leaves, some salt ground cumin, chile de arboles in 6 cups of water.  I used a crockpot.  It's the best hands off method I've found to cook beans.  I left them on low for 6 hours.  You can simmer for 45 minutes in a normal pot but I've never done this.  You want them to still hold their texture, but be creamy on the inside.  Do not cook them to mush.  When done, remove the chile de arboles (to add to your plate), discard the bay leaves, and drain the chickpeas.  Set aside.
2.  Prepare the good stuff.  Heat 2 Tbsp olive oil in a pot (the same one you will be cooking the quinoa in).  Add the fresh chile slices and fry for about 1 minute.  Remove the chile slices and set aside.
3.  In that chile infused oil, add the caraway seeds and cook for another 30 seconds, then add the turmeric and wait for it to fizz.  Add the zucchini slices along with the garlic slices, a pinch of fleur de sel, and some black pepper.  Cook, stirring for about 5 minutes.  Remove the zucchini mix and set aside.
4.  If no oil is left after removing the zucchini, add 1 Tbsp more olive oil and the rinsed quinoa.  Toast the quinoa for about 1 minute, making sure not to burn it, then add 1 cup water.  Reduce heat to a simmer, cover, and let cook until the water is absorbed (about 10 minutes).  Then remove from heat and set aside.
5.  Now you are ready to assemble your salad.  Toss the drained chickpeas with the tomatoes, shallots, grated garlic, herbs, lime juice, cumin, black pepper, fleur de sel, vinegar, and olive oil.
6.  To serve, put the warm quinoa at the bottom of the plate or dish, then top with the chickpea salad.  Add the cooked zucchini, chile slices, and feta as garnish.

For extra heat and smokey flavor, add those chile de arboles from cooking the chickpeas to your plate.

When you start to interact with your dinner, you will feel several emotions at once.
The cold tomatoes contrasting with the warm chickpeas sets off dizzying hallucinations.  The quinoa cooked in in fused chile oil with caraway reminds you that life is beautiful.  The chile may be mild, may be not.  The uncertainty of each bite makes your heart skip a beat.
And then you remember why you love the way summer "heat waves" make you create.

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Saturday, August 27, 2016

Green Split Pea and Spinach Salad

To this day, I have only ever cooked split peas (green or yellow) to make Dal.  It's what they were put on this Earth for.  It's their primary mission.  
It always weirds me out to see recipes using bacon and ham hocks paired with split peas.. or even mashed split peas (unless it's a happy hour dip).  It's just as weird to me as seeing someone eating mussels with a fork and knife.
I was actually going to make dal last night with these green split peas when the melon I was munching on started putting refreshing ideas into my head.  It persuaded me to step out of my comfort zone and try them cold.
Cold?  Eww!
I let my heart take over my brain and added all the things that would make me happy at that precise moment.
It turned out to be a glorious event.  The little cold split peas presented themselves on a whole new level to me.  They explode in flavor when cold and paired with raw, dried, and pickled things!
A completely different experience than eating them hot.  I felt like I was being introduced to someone new.
Serves 2
To cook:
1 cup dried split green split peas, thoroughly rinsed
4 cups water
pinch salt
few cracks black pepper
To toss:
2 large handfuls fresh spinach, rinsed and dried
1 tomato, chopped
6 sundried tomatoes, chopped
1 shallot, minced
2 Tbsp capers
6-8 pepperoncini (or as many as you're comfortable with)
2 Tbsp chopped parsley
2 Tbsp chopped cilantro
juice from 1/2 lime
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
few pinches fleur de sel
lots of freshly cracked black pepper
nice handful cubed feta (leave out if vegan)
1.  Cook the split peas in the water with a pinch of salt and some black pepper.  Bring to a boil, then simmer for about 15 minutes, or until the peas are tender (not mushy).
2.  Drain, rinse, and toss with everything but the spinach.
3.  To serve, place a handful of spinach at the bottom of the plate or dish, then serve the split pea salad on top.

Such simple things bring so much joy..

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Monday, August 22, 2016

Aloo Gobi with Broccoli and Mutter Sabzi

India has been calling me by my first name recently.
She's been putting ideas into my brain, marinating them all day, then releasing them on the weekend.
I never get bored chit chatting with the Ba's from different regions.. in my head..

Loosely inspired by TheChefandHerKitchen.
1-2 Tbsp oil
1 tsp cumin seeds
pinch hing (asafoetida)
1/4 tsp turmeric
1 green or red chile, slit
1 onion, chopped
1 tsp grated ginger
1 tsp grated garlic
1/2 small head broccoli, cut into florets
1/2 small head cauliflower, cut into florets
2 medium potatoes, steamed, peeled, and cut into large cubes
1/2 cup green peas
1 tomato, chopped
1 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp amchur (dried mango powder)
1/4 tsp chile powder
1 Tbsp besan (chickpea flour)
pinch salt
chopped cilantro for garnish

1.  Heat the oil in a wok or heavy based pan.  Add the cumin seeds and wait until they start to crackle, then add the hing and turmeric.  They should fizz.
2.  Add the slit chile and chopped onion and cook until onion is translucent, then add the ginger and garlic and cook for another minute, stirring.
3.  Add the broccoli and cauliflower florets and stir.  Cook for about 5 minutes until almost tender, then add the potatoes and peas.
4.  Cook on high, stirring, for another 2-3 minutes, then add the tomatoes.
5.  Mix the ground spices and besan together and sprinkle all over the vegetables.  Mix gently, then remove from heat and cover.
6.  Let sit for at least 5 minutes before serving.

I served mine topped with chopped cilantro with Kala Chana Masala, Basmati rice, and Rotis.

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Saturday, August 13, 2016

Ginger Sesame Turkey Heart Skewers

Here's something strangely delicious to try out.
Go out and buy a bunch of chicken or turkey hearts, marinate them in some leftover Nuoc Mam Cham dipping sauce (or specially make a batch), add some sesame oil, and sesame seeds,
skewer them with cherry tomatoes, onions, and bell peppers,
and grill them alongside some corn on the cob on your BBQ.
It takes about 15 minutes on the grill, depending on the size of the hearts to get that grilled goodness on the hearts.
Have them with some hoisin dipping sauce and call it your own invention!
That's what I did anyway...

If the idea of eating hearts makes you somewhat squeamish, the real star in this is the marinade.
Nuoc Mam Cham Marinade
3 Tbsp nuoc nam (fish sauce)
4 Tbsp rice vinegar
1 Tbsp shao xing
2 cloves garlic, grated
juice from 1 lemon
1 thai chili, chopped
1/2 tsp freshly grated ginger
1 tsp chopped fresh lemongrass
1 Tbsp sesame oil
1 Tbsp sesame seeds

Think outside of the sausages and burgers...

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Saturday, August 6, 2016

Golden Egg and Nem Ran Bun

The best things in life come in layers.

Each layer adds depth to the previous, with texture, freshness, crunchiness, color, or tanginess.
That is the beauty of the Bun salads.
That is the beauty of Life.

This salad is a Bun Bo salad without the Bo (beef), with an added topping of Golden Egg.
A meal with so many layers, I felt I was eating a story...

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Sunday, July 31, 2016

Ensalada de Nopales

Say whaaaaat???
These couldn't have happened at a better time.  As I was planning a Baja Fish Burrito evening, I spotted nopales in the "exotic" section of my grocery store.  The dormant Baja Abuelita inside of me woke up and ripped out of my ribcage with such fierceness she took control of my nimble fingers and guided me through the process...
Usually, in France, the "exotic" section is Vietnamese, North African, or Antillais.  I usually find basics but then go to specialty stores for actual Chinese or Indian products.  Mexican food is destined to the boxed fajita items and jarred guacamole in the dry section.  Never in my life have I seen Nopales on this side of the Atlantic (which only means I've never seen them, but doesn't mean they're not here, somewhere).
As you may have imagined if you know me by now, I squealed with joy, right in the middle of other grocery shoppers.  It just naturally came out of me.  They were in a small basked next to the okra, and there were probably only 15 pads, spines already removed.  They didn't look the freshest (brown spots and floppiness), and I probably wouldn't have bought them looking like this in the US, but here,  this was the glowing treasure that came all this way just to be prepared by me.  It was a sign with big neon lights and blinking messages of love and tenderness.  It couldn't be any other way.
With all this positive energy happening around me, shoppers started to gather round as I selected about 1 lb of nopales.  
"What is that?"
"Is it edible?"
"How on Earth does one prepare this?"
"Can you describe the taste/texture?"
Everyone was intrigued.  Here in France, they eat the prickly pear fruit (Figue de Barbarie) but nobody would have ever thought to eat the Mickey Mouse Ears (Oreilles de Mickey) as they are called here.  The glory was all mine as I explained how, on top of being delicious, they are very nutritious and provide many health benefits.
So now, off I went for the preparation phase.  I've eaten nopales millions of times, but I'd never prepared or cooked them myself before.  There was always some woman higher up in the hierarchy who had the pleasure of preparing them long before I started to cook for myself.  I looked up boiling times on the internet and let the Baja Abuelita guide me for the rest.
It came from the heart, and it was perfect.

Ensalada de Nopales
Serves 3-4 as a small side salad

500g (approx1lb) whole nopales
To boil:
1/2 onion
2 chile de arboles
2 cloves garlic, peeled
small bunch cilantro (with stems)
pinch salt
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp dried oregano
lots of freshly ground pepper
To toss:
1 Tbsp minced jalapeno chile (optional)
1 small shallot or 1/4 red onion, minced
handful sliced cherry tomatoes
1 clove garlic, grated
juice from 1/2 lime
pinch fleur de sel
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp freshly chopped cilantro leaves
crumbled queso fresco or feta for garnish (optional)
1.  Prepare the nopales by scraping the spines and as much brown off with a knife.  Cut the stem part off.  Rinse well, then slice them into green bean sized pieces.
2.  Place them in some water with the "to boil" ingredients.  Bring to a boil and simmer for about 10 minutes.  This is to remove the "slime".  They can be eaten raw, but Abuelita said to cook them for my first time.  I still ate a piece raw and it wasn't bad.  I like the texture.
3.  Drain them, remove the boiled onion, garlic, and cilantro, and rinse.  Let cool while you do your other Baja kitchen activities, such as make guacamole, cascabel salsa, mango corn salsa, marinate the fish, make the white sauce, make black beans, rice, etc.  OooOo.
4.  Toss the nopales with the salad ingredients and refrigerate until ready to eat.  This can be a completely vegan salad without the queso fresco.. obviously.

Invite your Baja Abuelita to join you at the table.
This is all thanks to her, by the way..

I had this alongside some Fish Burritos last night.

And then made myself an egg & nopales breakfast burrito this morning.
Best. Breakfast. Of. My. Entire. 33. Years.

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Friday, July 22, 2016

Mexican Flan with Rapadura Caramel

My inner Abuelita feels the need to go traditional Mex and my outer Experimental self feels the need to add a touch of Steph... with burned fingertips...
I was recently gifted a package of rapadura, unrefined sugar crystals from sugar cane, also known as panela.  It is blondish brown (not cassonade) and has a deep lasting taste, similar to molasses.  If using sugar at all, it makes sense to use the queen of it all, Rapadura, you will adorn my Flan.

Serves 8 (or fills a 24x10x6 cm mould)

1 cup rapadura (panela) sugar
3 eggs + 3 yolks
1 cup whole milk
1 Tbsp cornstarch
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 cup heavy cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 Tbsp orange flower water
pinch cinnamon

1.  Prepare the caramel.  Pour the cup of rapadura sugar into a pan and heat on medium high, continuously stirring, until it melts into a liquid caramel mixture.  The continuous stirring makes sure it doesn't burn, but do not overcook it or it will burn.
2.  Pour the liquid caramel into the bottom of your mould.  Do not wipe the remaining caramel off your utensils with your fingers.  It burns.  I learned that the hard way.
3.  Prepare the flan mixture.  Beat the eggs and yolks together.  Stir the cornstarch into a bit of milk until it dissolves completely and leaves no chunks.  Then add to the eggs and beat well.  Add the rest of the ingredients an beat into a homogenous mixture.
4.  Preheat the oven to 175°C 350°F.  
5.  Pour the flan mixture into the mould over the rapadura caramel.
6.  Place the filled mould in a larger pan and fill the pan halfway up the mould with boiling water.  This is called a Bain-Marie.  Who is Marie?
7.  Cover the entire contraption with foil and place this whole ordeal (carefully) in the oven and cook for 1h10 or until the middle is only slightly jiggly.  I wonder if this would work in the crockpot...
8.  Refrigerate for at least 4 hours.

To serve, slip a sharp knife on all sides of the mould to loosen up the flan from its sheath.  Then, place a serving dish upside-down onto the mould and flip it all over.  It should slide out of the mould onto the dish.. with that lovely rapadura caramel dripping down on the sides.

Serve in slices.. and be satisfied.

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Thursday, July 14, 2016

Squid Grilled on the Plancha

When this happens.. I feel I have fully lived my life..

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Sunday, July 10, 2016

Onion, Cabbage and Coconut Tart with Cilantro Chutney

During my bouts of kitchen schizophrenia (yes I talk to my vegetables and yes they talk back to me), I couldn't bring myself to make any sensible clean cut decision.  I was to have some of my favorite French people over for an Appetizer Soirée and needed several ideas.  Usually, when I do this, I stick to a basic theme.  This time, I wanted it all.
All of it.
It was going to be my united cultures party.
And of course, since the only thing that was missing was the French flag, I put India in a quiche.
Just Brilliant.
I may not have invented the idea, but this recipe is 100% my own.

Serves 6 - 8 as an appetizer
100g (3.5 oz) butter
1 Tbsp nutritional yeast
1/2 tsp chile powder
1 tsp amchur (mango powder)
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp salt
100g (3.5 oz) buckwheat flour
120g (4.2 oz) whole wheat flour
1 egg yolk
5 cL water
use the method, then pre-cook for 10 minutes at 190°C 375 °F
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 tsp mustard seeds
3 dried red chiles
(if I had curry leaves, I would have added them)
1/4 tsp hing (asafoetida)
1/4 tsp turmeric
4 onions, sliced thinly
1/4 head cabbage, shredded
1/2 cup shredded coconut
few pinches salt
3 small eggs or 2 large
10 cL (3.5 oz) coconut cream
1/2 inch grated ginger

1.  Heat the oil in a wok or heavy based pan
2.  Add the mustard seeds and wait for them to crackle before adding the chiles and curry leaves.
3.  Add the hing and turmeric.  They should fizz.  I love that part.
3.  Add the onions and cook on medium-high heat for about 10 minutes, stirring.  You want them to slightly color.
4.  Add the shredded cabbage and a few pinches salt.  Cook, stirring, until onions are nice and golden.
5.  Add the shredded coconut and cook, stirring, for another 2-3 minutes.  The dried coconut gets toasty quick, so be careful not to burn it!  Taste, adjust the seasoning, remove the whole chiles so you can add them to your own slice later on, and remove from heat.
6.  While this is happening, whisk together the eggs, coconut cream, and grated ginger.
7.  In your pre-heated shortcrust, lay the onion-cabbage-coconut mixture down and pour the egg mixture evenly over it.
8.  Cook at 180°C 350°F for 35 minutes.. then let it cool down for at least 30 minutes.
Best served warm with some chutney.... the crumbly crust will melt in your mouth and subtly caress your senses.
Who knew this could actually work?
The next day, I had a slice in my thali with some Daal, Urad Pakoras, Papadums, and Cilantro Chutney.
Are you drooling yet?
I am...

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Saturday, July 2, 2016

BBQ Corn on the Cob & Veggie Skewers

 This is how Americans do BBQ.
Good old fashioned corn on the cob with hot sexy skewers of eggplant, bell pepper, cherry tomato, mushroom, and apricot.
And some nicely charred chicken.
My Grill is my new Happy Place

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