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Monday, June 30, 2014

Repurposing a Failed Attempt into a Delight

So.. I tried making deviled eggs recently and failed terribly.  I underestimated the cooking time because of a much larger egg size and ended up with soft boiled eggs instead of almost hard.
The thing is, I had already peeled and halved most of them, so giving them an extra few minutes cooking time was no longer an option.  Given that the deviled eggs are supposed to be served on the half shell (well, technically, the half white) I had completely destroyed my original attempt.
I ate 2 of those eggs on the spot out of mere fury, so I was left with 4 chopped gooey soft boiled eggs with chopped cucumbers and a spoonful of dijon-black current mustard.
There is no way I would waste such good food, so I put this "dressing" into a tupperware and thought I might be able to use it on a salad.
Oh yes was I able to use it on a salad!
It turns out that the next day, the cucumbers had "sweat" making the goop into a perfectly textured chunky salad dressing.  All I had to do was put a salad together and call it dinner!
Since I had grilled up a few veal cutlets, I decided to use part of one as a topping and then wing it from there.  It was actually delightful.  If I would never have told myself that this was just a way to figure out how to not throw out those gooey chopped eggs, I never would have guessed!  The best part is there is absolutely no added fat.  It's creamy enough as it is.
Serves 2
4 extra large steamed or soft boiled eggs, cooled, peeled, and chopped (preferably in a bowl)
few handfuls torn batavia leaves (or whatever salad you want, really)
1/4 cucumber, diced
1 tsp dijon-black current mustard (or normal dijon mustard)
few cracks black pepper
just a small squeeze of lime
pinch of fleur de sel
1 Tbsp capers
1 veal (or chicken or turkey) cutlet, grilled and sliced
1 handful chopped basil
baked split gram (channa daal) for crunch
I know some of these things don't really seem to go together, but trust me, this works.  Just toss it all together.

Never judge a book by it's cover.. you'd be sorry to miss the adventure inside...

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Sunday, June 29, 2014

Sesame or Peanut Buckwheat Cookies

I know I've already posted several versions of Tahini cookies, and also several versions of Peanut Butter cookies.. and both versions are excellent and essentially the same except for the flavor element.
One uses tahini and is topped with sesame seeds, the other uses peanut butter and is topped with peanuts.
Other than that major factor, the doses and quantities are exactly the same, which is why I'm showing both of them.
What I did this time was swap out the ground almonds for buckwheat flour.  That's it.  And it yields a completely different cookie.  These ones are light and crunchy, unlike their dense counterparts.  It's amazing how buckwheat makes everything seem so light and airy.. light you're floating with your cookie, naturally, flying above your life.
I no longer need to look at the recipe when making these types of cookies (or muffins by the way.. they just.. happen).
Who said you can't freestyle with baking?
Yield 40 cookies
130g (4.6oz) buckwheat flour
170g (6oz) whole wheat flour
100g (3.5oz) room temperature butter
150g (3/4 cup or 5.3oz) cassonade or brown sugar
pinch of salt
1 packet vanilla sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
200g (7oz) tahini or peanut butter
various colors of sesame seeds or crushed peanuts
1.  Sift together the flours, salt, cinnamon, and cinnamon.
2.  In a separate mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugars together, then add the tahini or peanut butter and beat until smooth.  
3.  Get rid of your whip and switch to a wooden spoon.  Add the dry mixture little by little into the wet mixture until all incorporated.  The end result should be crumbly, but should come together if you pack it into a ball.  You may need to add 1 Tbsp water or milk at this point just to help the dough come together.  Sometimes I need to, sometimes I don't.  Knead it well.
4.  Get your toppings ready.  Take a tablespoon sized amount of dough, make a ball with your hands, then dip it into one of the toppings and press it onto your cookie sheet to the shape you want.  Since there is no baking soda or egg in this recipe, the cookies will not expand or change shape while cooking.  
5.  Bake for 180°C 350°F for about 20 minutes.  Carefully remove and let cool on a wire rack.

The correct way to enjoy these is to take a bite.  The brittleness of the cookie will have you getting crumbs everywhere.  This is ok.
Breath in deeply.
Taste the aroma and smell the flavor as it melts on your tongue and fusions with the inside of your mouth.
Now try the other one.  Do the same.
Try to decide which one you like better.  Try to compare..
but fail because they are both equally delicious and incomparable.
Both win.

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Blueberry Basil Lime Muffins

Fresh blueberries make me wild.  They do to me in a fruity way what eggplant does to me in a veggie way...except it´s a rare occasion that I stumble upon fresh blueberries at all.. Not to mention finding them at a reasonable price.
It may be a color thing.  I may be wildly attracted to all purple food.
Raspberries vs Blackberries?  The blackberry wins hands down.
My female bearded dragon goes wild when she sees orange.  She just lights up and I can feel her excitement.  Purple food does this to me.  Beets, Eggplant, red cabbage, and...blueberries!
I've made muffins with fresh blueberries before, and they were excellent.  But here, we have something different.  Zesty, fresh, and bursting with berry.  I may be over using the word burst, but I like it, and it adequately describes the way I feel nowadays.
Yield 15 muffins
2 eggs, well beaten
150g (5.3oz) cane sugar
1 packet vanilla sugar (or 1 tsp vanilla extract)
1 plain yogurt
60g (2oz) canola oil
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
zest from 1 lime
1 tsp lime juice
1 handful finely chopped fresh basil
75g (2.6oz) organic corn flour
75g (2.6oz) organic whole wheat flour
1 cup fresh blueberries
1.  Beat together the eggs, sugar, yogurt, lime juice, zest, and oil.  Beat it well, then fold in the basil.
2.  Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.  Carefully stir in the flour mixture until just combined.  Fold in the blueberries.
3.  Fill your buttered muffin tins 3/4 full and bake for 18-20 minutes at 180°C 350°F or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Now try to wait until they cool down before digging in.
I had a flash when I saw the blueberries on sale while inhaling the scent of the basil in my hands.
These two would fusion well together...I'm going to have to make that happen.
And so, these muffins were born, and they will probably have similar cousins next week.. and I may be using herbs in all my future muffins from now on...OooOoh!
Except the Tahini Muffins.  Those are sacred.

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Saturday, June 28, 2014

Sunburst VegetableTartelettes

Nothing screams summer like feta, olive oil, basil, and vegetables bursting with sunshine.  All those things in a mini buckwheat crust tart, and you've got yourself something tasty and cute.  I'd always gone for the "normal" sized pie before, but it is more complicated to eat as finger food, and every slice is exactly the same.  The advantage of making tartelettes is that you can customize some of them.  I added tahini and lemon to some, went all zucchini or all tomato in another, and mixed everything in the rest.
Oh and did I mention there is eggplant happening tonight?
Ooo I hope nobody's hungry tonight so I can eat them all!
I had originally intended to make this mini quiches, but then had this marvelous idea to make deviled eggs with dill and capers alongside the tartelettes.. which would mean too much egg in one sitting.  I'm quite happy to have made these all veg.  The creamy eggplant just melts into all the nooks and crannies in a way that satisfies me so.
Unfortunately, I completely failed my deviled eggs... having missed my friday morning market (since I was out of town) I bought "other" eggs that were much much bigger and so I messed up the cooking time.  I steamed them for 8 minutes, but instead of hard boiling, they were soft boiled, and completely unusable for my deviled eggs.. so now I have a 6 egg sort of cucumber caper dill dressing just sitting in a tupperware...really pissed off.
Anyway, the tartelettes were enough to fill the guests, who didn't even notice half of the happy hour plan went down the drain, which is always a victory.
Yield 12-14 mini tarts (almost bite sized)
For the Buckwheat Shortcrust:
125g (4.4oz) buckwheat flour
125g (4.4oz) whole wheat flour
100g (3.5oz) room temperature butter
1 Tbsp yeast extract (non active)
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp thyme
1 egg yolk
approximately 5 cL water
use the method, then divide into the number of tarts you want to make

For the Filling:
1 spirelli'd zucchini
1 medium eggplant, cubed
2 chopped tomatoes
2 loves garlic, minced
handful chopped basil
about 1 Tbsp crumbled feta per tartelette
random squeezes of lemon
few random tablespoons tahini
few pinches fleur de sel
couple grinds of black pepper
some olive oil

1.  Season the vegetables separately with some fleur de sel, pepper, and a drizzle of olive oil.  Squeeze some lemon juice on the eggplant as well.
2.  Find whatever moulds you can to make a small enough sized tartelette.  I used silicone muffin moulds and then some cookie cutters and then some flat round dish I found.  You can also be a normal person and use tartelette tins.  Press the dough into each mould.  Do not precook the dough.
3.  In each mould, place a bit of basil, garlic, and then whatever order of veggie you want.  I made some with a zucchini contour and tomato and eggplant center, covered with feta and drizzled with olive oil.  In others I did eggplant with a bit of tahini, lemon, feta, and olive oil.  In another, only tomato, in another, only zucchini.. etc.  Fill each mould completely and press everything in so it is nicely packed.
4.  Bake at 180°C 350°F for about 1 hour, then remove and let cool at least 15 minutes.

These almost bite-sized little wonders are the definition of summer.. especially with that light crunchy buckwheat crust that makes them so easy to pop you just can't stop!
Welcome to the beginning of Summer.
I don't know why but I feel this one is going to be spiritually memorable...

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Friday, June 27, 2014

Simple and Fabulous Tomato Feta Egg Salad

When the tomatoes are ripe, juicy, and full of sunshine, there's not much you need to add to make them special.  There are people who do not like tomatoes, and I think those people have maybe never tasted the good tomatoes... I mean, I too would be traumatized if my only tomato experiences had been the bland starchy ones.  I even had one of those not too pleasant tomato experiences this very week at the cafeteria, which is probably what inspired me to want to eat my nice juicy vine tomatoes upon returning home.
The preparation of this salad filled me with a large quantity of joy.  The cutting, arranging, spooning of the olive oil, sprinkling of the fleur de was all like an orderly ritual preparing my soul for the reception of a simple meal that would procure nourishment as well as fresh fireworks of quality for my tongue.
I felt very relaxed.
I don't know why being in my kitchen has that effect on me.
Serves 1
2 ripe tomatoes, sliced
1 small shallot, minced
2 eggs, steamed 6 minutes or soft boiled, peeled, and halved
1 Tbsp chopped cilantro
1 Tbsp cider vinegar
1 Tbsp EVOO
2 Tbsp chopped feta
Few cracks black pepper
Pinch fleur de sel
1.  Arrange the tomato slices on your plate.
2.  Sprinkle the chopped shallots over the tomatoes.
3.  Continue with the feta and cilantro.
4.  Spoon the vinegar and the olive oil over the arrangement, then add some pepper and fleur de sel.
5.  Gently place the egg halves on top.  The yolks should be slightly runny.  Oh how I love my eggs this way..and oh how they pair perfectly with tomatoes this way.

The addition of the eggs makes this a wholesome meal.  When you go "unmade bed" style on this salad, the egg will fusion with the tomato and thicken the vinaigrette, making something "gourmand" out of almost nothing.
Of course you will need some excellent crusty bread to sop up all the tomato goodness.

The best part of going away is returning...

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Monday, June 23, 2014

Sweet Potato Bun Trung Chien (Omelette Noodle)

I may be going through something inexplicable, but I want to do "Unmade Bed" salads all the time.  I know I've been doing 3 days straight of this, but I can't get enough.. and most importantly, I keep changing up the ingredients so it's really never the same salad.  The thing is, I'm crazy about the order/disorder parallel.  I can't get enough.  It's a blatant brain tease.  You are usually in one of the two categories.. orderly, or chaotic.  But here, you are both, and it's wonderful, and you can just hope it lasts because your basil "tree" is now anorexic so you don't have much more time.. maybe this is the last one before a long period of abstinence...  
Are you following me here?
I can do it Vietnamese style, I can do it Lebanese style, I can do it Chinese style, but today I'm doing it my style.  I suppose this is Vietnamese, but I put some Doubanjiang in my Trung Chien.  For those not fluent in Cantonese or Vietnamese, that means I put some spicy Sichuan broad bean paste in my omelette.  I cooked it while imagining Korean Gyeran Mari, except I didn't roll it while cooking, but rolled it afterwards.  Ooo I'll be serving that for happy hour one of these days.
Then I added avocado to my toppings.  
Yes I needed more protein in there and I am from SoCal after all.  And avocado goes with everything.
Here I go again.. in quadruple fusion.
Serves 2-3
200g sweet potato noodles, cooked, drained, and cooled
Trung Chien(Omelette):
3 large or 4 small eggs, beaten
1 small zucchini, julienned
1 small green onion, chopped
1 1/2 tsp doubanjiang (Pixian spicy broadbean paste)
1/2 Tbsp sesame oil
Fresh Toppings:
1 carrot, julienned
1/2 cucumber, julienned
handful mung bean sprouts
1 large avocado, cubed
Herb Toppings:
handful chopped basil
handful chopped cilantro
handful chopped scallions
Crunchy Toppings:
handful crushed peanuts
handful fried shallots
Nuac Mam Cham sauce:
1 Tbsp nuac nam (fish sauce)
1 1/2 Tbsp rice vinegar
1 tsp mirin
1 cloves garlic, grated
juice from 1/2 lemon
1 thai chili, chopped
1 Tbsp water
1/2 tsp freshly grated ginger
1.  Make the Trung Chien Omelette.  Heat the sesame oil in a pan and add the zucchini.  Cook, stirring until lightly colored.  Beat the chopped green onion and doubanjiang with the eggs.  Pour into the pan and turn the heat down to medium low.  Cook until the top is barely jiggly, then transfer to a plate.
If you want to do it Gyeran Mari style, roll it while you cook and then slice it into sushi.  I didn't do it quite like that (but I will soon).  Slice up the omelette and divide it into the number of plates you are planning to make.
2.  Make the Nuac Mam Cham sauce by stirring all the ingredients together.  Set aside.
3.  Assemble.  This is my ultimate favorite part.
Place a portion of those freakishly sexy sweet potato noodles at the bottom of the serving plate and arrange the sliced omelette, cucumber, carrot, and bean sprouts in a semi circle. 
 Keep adding things in the circle.. the scallions, cilantro, basil, avocado
 Don't forget the crunchy goodness!  Peanuts and fried shallots!
And then the sour goodness.. a few tablespoons of the Nuac Mam Cham sauce.
Then comes the Chaos.. take a deep breath, admire the ephemeral beauty of each item in its place.. then mix it all together like a crazy person with your chopsticks.
Feel relieved that the orderly plate was just temporary.

Live in the moment or forever hold your peace...

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Sunday, June 22, 2014

Split Chickpea Salad with Tahini Dressing

Anything served cold is now a salad, ok?
Ah I feel better now that I let that out...a salad doesn't always need to be leaves and vinegarette.  It can be noodles, veggies, eggs, and yes, beans.  When I say beans, I mean beans, lentils, and split peas.  Here is a mix of all three..split chickpeas.  In hindi, they are called Channa Daal.  Daal is usually lentils, although any split pea or split bean are included in the term.  Since I'm in a major fusion mood these days, I'm going to fuse some Indian beans with some Lebanese dressing, and some Asian style toppings.
I like it because I'm reaching a part of my path where I'm less looking at recipes and more listening to my inner desires, which break all boundaries.
I'm starting to feel like maybe Europe was the right choice for me...even if every once in a while, I would rather this country have borders.
Serves 4 ish
1 cup dry channa daal/split gram (chickpeas), rinsed well and soaked a few hours in cold water
1 small carrot, julienned
1/4 cucumber, julienned
2 small tomatoes, chopped
1 large handful mung bean sprouts
1 whole bell pepper (I used yellow) halved and seeded and oiled with some EVOO
2 steamed or hard boiled eggs, halved (optional)
1 avocado, cubed
1 handful chopped scallions
1 handful chopped basil
1 handful chopped cilantro
1 handful chopped feta (optional)
4 romaine or large batavia leaves
3 Tbsp tahini
juice from 1 lemon
1 Tbsp EVOO
2 Tbsp water
1 large garlic clove, grated
sprinkle fleur de sel
lots of fresh cracked black pepper
1.  Place the soaked channa dal in a pot and cover with 2-3 inches water above level.  Bring to a boil and simmer for about 20 minutes, skimming the surface of foam every once in a while.  The daal should be bite tender but not mushy.  Drain and rinse well with cold water.  You want them to cool completely.
2.  During this time, roast the oiled bells skin side up at 210°C for about 25 minutes.
3.  When the channa dal is done, roast a small handful of it for about 10 minutes.
4.  Make the dressing.  Stir all the ingredients together until well incorporated.  Set aside.
5.  Assemble.  This is the best part, really.
First, place the large romaine or batavia leaf in the serving plate and add a few tablespoons of channa daal.
Then add the veggies and herbs, tomatoes, carrots, cucumber, bean sprouts, basil, cilantro, and scallions
Then add the half egg, some avocado, and roasted bell
Then add the feta and sprinkle some toasted channa daal onto the mix... this will give it some crunchy texture
Then add a few tablespoons of dressing and mix it all around until it climaxes into this incredible salad of equal parts of joy.
I'm really digging this unmade bed analogy and the montage part of dinner...

it's the only way to live in the moment..

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Bun Bo Xao (Beef Noodle)

While looking at my plate, I thought to myself...THIS is a Happy Meal.  How we came to imagine tiny crappy burgers as happy meals is beyond me.  Marketing has really destroyed the world through Pavlovian techniques, and though I never eat at those low end fast food places, the words "happy meal" still bring that nasty food image to my mind.  If we were to start over, a Happy Meal would be something that makes you happy just knowing you are going to eat it, extremely happy while eating it, and most importantly, no regrets happy when you're finished, with no side effects a few hours later.  THAT should be the definition of a real Happy Meal, and this Bo Bun is exactly that meal.  It is a perfect mix of hot, warm, cold, crunchy, chewy, salty, sweet, sour, meaty, light, and fresh.  When first served, it's like a music festival in your plate.  Each element nestles comfortably in its place, waiting for the music to start.  To enjoy, the best is to toss everything together so that you have equal amounts of pleasure in every bite.
I've made a similar version before with shrimp and sweet potato noodles (Bun Tom), but this is the real version, with no substitutes.  The original Bo Bun.
The longest part of this meal (not counting the egg rolls) is chopping all the vegetables and herbs.  The rest is just assembly and clean up with a quick last minute stir fry.  It's actually pretty simple if you have a bit of organizational skills.
Serves 3
350g steak, sliced thinly (about 1 steak per person)
1 small onion, sliced
6 hot Cha Gio/Nems/Egg Rolls, cut into chunks (2 per person)
300g rice noodles, cooked, rinsed, and cooled
1 Tbsp oil
3 tsp nuoc nam (fish sauce)
1 Tbsp chopped fresh lemongrass
1/4 tsp turmeric
Nuoc Mam Cham sauce:
3 Tbsp nuoc nam (fish sauce)
4 Tbsp rice vinegar
1 Tbsp mirin
2 cloves garlic, grated
juice from 1 lemon
1 thai chili, chopped
1 Tbsp water
1/2 tsp freshly grated ginger
1 tsp chopped fresh lemongrass
Fresh Toppings:
1 carrot, julienned
1/2 cucumber, julienned
handful mung bean sprouts
handful chopped romaine or batavia leaves
Herb Toppings:
handful chopped basil
handful chopped cilantro
handful chopped mint
handful chopped scallions
Crunchy Toppings:
handful crushed peanuts
handful fried shallots
1.  Mix the marinade ingredients together and rub into the sliced beef.  Refrigerate for at least 2 hours. I let mine sit overnight.
2.  Heat the 1 Tbsp oil in a wok and sautée the sliced onions until tender.  Add the marinated beef and stir fry for a few minutes.  This and the egg rolls will be the hot part.
3.  Make the Nuac Mam Cham sauce by stirring all the ingredients together.  Set aside.
4.  Now for the fun part.  Assembly.  Get your serving dishes ready and place the noodles in first.
Then arrange the hot ingredients, the cooked beef and the egg rolls,
then add the fresh toppings, the bean sprouts, carrots, cucumber, and romaine leaves,
then add the herbal toppings, the scallions, cilantro, basil, and mint,
Then add the crunchy toppings, the crushed peanuts and fried shallots, and pour a few tablespoons of the sauce over it all...
then take a deep breath while observing the beauty before mixing it all together with your chopsticks so the bits of flavor are evenly distributed.
Then realize it is equally beautiful, though less tidy.  Breath in the fresh scents of the different herbs and the lemongrass from the beef...
.. and enjoy.

Now.. isn't this a REAL Happy Meal?

*Gluten free if egg rolls made with rice paper.

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Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Eggplant Zucchini and Tomato Tian

Today I wanted to consume beauty...because I'm worth it.
And beauty often lies within vegetables with their different colors and textures.  One of my favorite vegetabes is eggplant.  It is the most sexy vegetable in this world.  It almost rivals with salmon...
Wait..salmon is not a it?
It has the ability to be meaty, creamy, or crisp and alway always gives me ultimate satisfaction.  Whenever I see them on sale, I buy them..and the best part is when I buy several, and I can make different things through that one grouped purchase.  Sometimes I forget I still have some, and while I'm rummaging through the fridge looking for something else, I stumble upon one, and my entire meal plan goes out the window and is replaced by something invloving this magnificent creature...err vegetable.
Today was not one of those days.  That last eggplant has been in the back of my mind for a few days, and as I was driving home today, it materialized in my brain into this tian..or flan..or whatever.
To me, making something beautiful using eggplant is like putting an evening gown on a beautiful woman.  She would be beautiful dressed in a trashbag, but when you put her in an evening gown, she glows from within.  It's like a sign of respect to her perfection.
My eggplant's evening gown is from the different colors presented on each, green, white, and purple, slightly browned from the's a custom made dress she will wear only once in her life...
Before I devour her
Serves 4-6 as an appetizer
1 long eggplant in 3mm slices, soaked in salted water
2 small zucchinis in 3mm slices
2 large tomatoes in 3mm slices
1 large onion in 3mm slices
2 tsp dried basil
2 Tbsp EVOO
1 tsp piment d'espelette
1 1/2 tsp fleur de sel
1 tsp cracked black pepper
Handful crumbled feta
4 well beaten eggs
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup milk
1.  Oil a deep baking dish, such as the one you might make quich in.
2.  Arrange the sliced vegetables vertically.  I started with a pattern of eggplant-zucchini-tomato-zucchini-onion-zucchini-eggplant until I ran out of onion and tomato, and then did eggplant-zucchini-eggplant.
3.  After everything is arranged, springle the basil, salt, pepper, and piment d'espelette and pour the EVOO over the slices.
4.  Beat the eggs with the milk and cream well, then pour over the arranged vegetables in the dish.
5.  Bake at 180°C 350°F for about 1 hour.  You'll want to remove it at 45 minutes.  Resist this urge no matter how hard it calls to you.

Serve with a salad or with something grilled.
I labelled this as an appetizer, but I had it for dinner with an avocado laced salad, which was like pairing glass slippers to the evening gown on the beautiful barefoot woman...

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Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Tandoori Game Hens with Yam Sabzi

I feel as though I have emerged from a coma filled with plenty of ideas for Fusion...
Cornish game hens, or Coquelets are not actually hens, but very young chickens not yet reached puberty.  Aww the poor things! But if I were a chicken, I would rather be slaughtered before puberty than live my short life as a castrate, so these youngins actually have a sweet life.  Short, but sweet.
So after rubbing my game hens with oil ans tandoori spices, I roasted them whole.  Whole chicks would be such a great idea to cook hanging in a tandoor, but at this point in my life, I do not have one, so my oven will do the trick.
The side to this little preparation is Yam cooked with fried whole spices.  Yam is such a fun vegetable.  I live its natural sweetness and the way it can be the star of the show or enhance the meat it is served with.  Does candied yams ans roast turkey ring a bell?  Well here, it's the same concept, but Indian favorite style..
Serves 4
Tandoori Game Hens:
2 game hens or coquelets
2 1/2 Tbsp tandoori spice
2 Tbsp oil
1 tsp salt
1 large onion, sliced thickly
1/2 lemon juice

Yam Sabzi:
1 large yam, peeled and cubed
2 Tbsp oil
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 handful dried curry leaves
1/4 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp garam masala
1/4 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp amchur (mango powder)
salt to taste

Yogurt Sauce:
1 plain yogurt
juice from 1/2 lemon
handful chopped mint
1/2 tsp grated ginger
1/2 tsp sugar
few cracks black pepper
1.  Prepare the young chickens by making a rub out of the oil, tandoori spice, salt, and lemon juice.  Massage the birds well, making sure to get that good stuff into each nook and cranny.  I didn't marinate, but I suppose an overnight marination would better infuse the flavors.
2.  In a baking dish, lay the sliced onions and place the birds breast side down.  Bake at 190°C for 1 hour, then flip over and bake at 210°C for 30 minutes.  Don't forget to baste.
Mmm perfect!
3.  During those last 30 minutes, make the yam sabzi.  Heat the oil in a wok and add the cumin and mustard seeds until they crackle.
4.  Add the curry leaves, chili powder, and turmeric.  It should fizz.  Then add the yam, stir to coat evenly, then cover and cook on low until tender.. about 15 minutes.
5.  Add the garam masala and amchur and mix.  Taste and add salt if needed.
6.  Make the yogurt sauce.  Mix all the ingredients together.

Serve 1/2 game hen per person with some yam and yogurt sauce.  I added some batavia leaves with some cherry tomatoes for garnish and freshness.
Don't forget to eat with your hands and lick all the wonderful flavors off your fingers.

These young adolescent birds worked perfectly in tandoori spice, just as I had imagined.  The flesh is delicate and infuses easily.
Good boys..

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Monday, June 16, 2014

Chinese Cucumber Garlic Salad

I wouldn't call my apartment a greenhouse, but it retains heat like no other place I've ever lived.  Once the temperature is up, it's hard to cool it.  Even creating a draft only slightly works, especially since it faces west.  After a very long day, I wanted to come home to something fresh.. and since the home was hot and muggy, I decided my dinner would be cooling.
This cucumber salad is perfect.  I repurposed a few pieces of duck since I didn't have anything else for dinner, but this is a perfectly lovely salad on its own.
Inspired by Yi Reservation.
Serves 2
1 large or 2 small cucumbers, julienned
2 small cloves garlic, grated
1 Tbsp black vinegar
2 tsp light soy sauce (or GF alternative)
1 tsp mirin
1/2 tsp sesame oil
1/2 tsp roasted sesame seeds
drizzle chili oil
few halved cherry tomatoes (for color)
1 thai chili
some shredded Five-Spiced Duck (optional)
1.  Seriously, it's a salad.  Do I need to give directions?  Ah yes here's a tip I use often.  Place all the ingredients in a tupperware and close it.
2.  Shake shake shake.
3.  Arrange to make it pretty (if that's your thing) and serve.

And that's another delightful way to enjoy cucumber!

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Hand-Picked Cherry Bursting Muffins

It may be too late, but I felt incredibly connected today.  After a long period without inner communication, I found much comfort in the energy flowing through me.  This energy told me to go outside and pick cherries.  Why?  Because there are 2 cherry trees in my neighborhood.  One of them has plump juicy cherries that were ripe at the end of May, and I only got to eat a few although a ton of them gorged in sweet sunlight were just begging for me to come get them.  The kids picked all the ones at my height, and after trying and failing many times to climb the tree before giving up, realizing that I might be getting "too old to climb trees barefoot" or maybe just not strong enough, the cherries had been eaten by the birds.  The other tree is not right next to the playground, so the kids don't see it, and the cherries are much much smaller, therefore uninteresting to the little monsters.  They ripen a month later than the other one, so I've been patient..waiting for the right time.  Today, the energy took me under that tree and had me pick the ripest cherries of the bunch that I could reach.  While picking, I knew exactly what I would be doing with them.  No, no..
I want to make muffins bursting with cherries.
Yes!  The same way they burst when I use fresh blueberries.
And there will be almost more cherry than there is muffin.
Yield 18 muffins
2 well beaten eggs
90g (3oz) canola oil
100g (3.5oz) cane sugar
1 tsp Pain d'Epice spice (or allspice)
1/4 cup milk
1 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
pinch salt
60g (2oz) ground almonds
70g (2.5oz) whole wheat flour
70g (2.5oz) white flour
400-420g (14-15oz)  pitted cherries
juice from 1/4 lemon
1.  Squeeze the lemon juice over the pitted cherries and let them macerate while you prepare the rest.
2.  Beat the eggs, oil, sugar, spices, and milk together.  Go ahead and give it all you've got.  Make it nice and frothy...
3.  Beat in the salt, baking powder and soda, salt, and ground almonds.  Mix well.
4.  Ditch the whip and switch to a baking spatula.  Gently stir in the flours until incorporated.
5.  Fold in the macerated cherries until evenly distributed in the batter.
6.  Grease your muffin tins, fill them to 3/4 full, and bake at 180°C for about 20 minutes.
7.  Remove and let cool before removing them or even tasting them.

These aren't the most spectacular or strange muffins, but they are delicious muffins bursting with cherries.. exactly what the energy was expecting...

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Sunday, June 15, 2014

Five-Spiced Duck Legs with Lotus Root

Today is Father's day.  If I were lucky enough to spend the day with my father, I would most likely treat him to one of my numerous culinary creations.  I probably would not make any Sichuan recipes for him because he spends 3 months of the year in the Sichuan province of China and is an expert in fine Sichuan dining.  I probably wouldn't make Indian food for him either, because he makes his own state of the art Indian food and gets enough of it when he's visiting family.  If I were to cook for my father today, I would make some sort of fight food with special spice, French fusion using noble products, and not make such a fuss in preparations, because the best part of the day would not be eating, it would be when he would look at me with his tender eyes after seeing what I had planned, and would say to me "Oh Niiniii.." with a soft smile while pulling me toward him for a hug and letting out a little laugh.  Yes, that's how it would go if he were here.  Right this second, he is in Chengdu in China, which is why I decided to make this very tasty duck.  I wouldn't call this authentic, because I'm not sure the crockpot is used often in China, but I know duck legs very well, and the best way to enjoy them is after they have been "confites," or slow cooked to a moist meat-falling-off-the-bones sort of nirvana.  The spices and marinade used are what make it typically Chinese.  (The authentic way would be to steam a whole marinated duck, then deep frying it to make it crispy..that was not about to happen today in my kitchen).  To go with the duck legs is a section of lotus root.  The magical vegetable often used in Chinese medicine ground to a powder and taken to help boost the immune system, mood, digestion, blood pressure, and even lower body temperature in case of fever.  It's quite interesting in texture for it stays crunchy and is delicately sweet.  The slices are also very beautiful.  This meal I'm sure my father would approve of.  Cooking Sichuan style makes me feel closer to him, so it was a perfect choice for today, given the distance circumstance.
Serves 4-6
For the Duck:
4 duck legs
3 tsp five spice powder
1 Tbsp ground Sichuan pepper
2 Tbsp hoisin sauce
2 Tbsp black vinegar
2 tsp doubanjiang broadbean chili paste
1Tbsp soy sauce
For the Lotus:
1 section sliced lotus root (about 1 lb), soaked in water, then rinsed
2-3Tbsp duck fat (or oil)
1 red chili
1 green chili
2 tsp light soy sauce
1 inch ginger, sliced
2 cloves garlic, sliced
1 Tbsp corn starch
1 beaten egg
1.  Prepare the duck.  Make a marinade out of all the ingredients and rub it well into the legs.  Let marinate overnight.
2.  Place the marinated duck legs into the crock pot and cook on low for about 6 hours.  Some fat should have rendered.  Scoop it out and save it for the lotus.
3.  Make the lotus.  Toss the drained slices into the coating.
4.  Heat some of the fat in a wok and add the coated lotus slices in.  Cook until crispy on each side, maybe about 1-2 minutes each side.  Work in batches so to not overcrowd your wok and add the fat as needed.  Reserve the cooked lotus but leave the fat in the wok.
5.  Add the chilis, ginger, and garlic to the wok and stir fry until fragrant.  Add the crispy lotus back into the wok and deglaze with the soy sauce.  Remove from heat and cover until ready to serve.

I served mine with a mix of basmati and red rice.  This all worked perfectly together.  The spices infused into the duck meat and the lotus provided a perfect crunchy texture to counter the moist melt in your mouth duck.
I think he would be proud...

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Saturday, June 14, 2014

Seared Salmon Filets with Sauteed Spinach

I spent 10 hours on the back of a motorcycle today.  That is a lot of time where you can't really busy yourself by reading or watching TV or making muffins.
I thought almost exclusively of one thing today (besides hoping not to die in an accident during the crazy storm).
My perfect wild caught salmon I would be enjoying later on... and about all the delicate preparations I would bestow upon it.. and the sweet aroma that would waft from it when lightly seared... and the bed of sautéed spinach I would make for it, being careful to massage each leaf in order to properly receive my dear salmon.
I would first make its skin sizzle, then let it lightly color flesh side, giving a perfect harmony of textures when brought to my mouth, letting my tongue dismantle it and savor the flavor of the warm cooked top and the raw creamy inside....
Serves 1
150-200g skin on salmon filet
1 bunch spinach, washed and spun
2 Tbsp EVOO
3 small garlic cloves, grated
1 tsp fresh cracked pepper
juice from 1/2 lemon
some fleur de sel
1 tsp piment d'espelette
1.  Toss the spinach with 1 1/2 Tbsp EVOO, garlic, 3/4 tsp pepper, 1/4 juice of lemon, 1/2 tsp piment d'espelette, and some fleur de sel.
2.  Sautee the spinach in a wok until wilted.. about 3-4 minutes, stirring.
3.  Rub 1/2 Tbsp EVOO all over the salmon filet, along with 1/4 tsp pepper, 1/4 juice lemon, 1/2 tsp piment d'espelette, and some fleur de sel.
4.  Heat a heavy based pan to high and sear the salmon skin side down for about 2 minutes, then flip it over and sear for another 2 minutes.
It should be seared on the outside, and warm but still raw in the center, which gives it that addicting tenderness you cannot refuse under any circumstances.

This is soul food, if your soul is noble enough to handle it.

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Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Lamb Shank Confit with Cilantro Mint Ratatouille

I may be committing Ratatouille sacrilege, but there is something so exciting about stepping outside the cookie cutter boundaries of traditional French food, I just can't help myself.  Something feels so wrong but so right about using cilantro and mint in place of basil or thyme, and using chilis instead of bell peppers.  It gives the ratatouille a whole new identity that is magnified by the Lamb Shank Confit.  Confit is a French word used to describe cooking something in sugar (like jam) or low and slow in it's own juices (like duck legs).  Cooking lamb in it's own juices is something that is just amazing and incredibly easy with a crockpot.  Everything just magically happens on its own, even the browning.  Lamb shanks are especially perfect for this cooking method, and it won't heat up your kitchen in this blistering heat!
The best part of the confit is sucking the marrow out of the lamb bones when nobody is looking.  It's so rewarding and delicious..
Serves 4
For Lamb Shank Confit:
2 lamb shanks
1 onion, sliced
4 cloves garlic, sliced
2 Tbsp EVOO
3/4 cup water
1 tsp salt
few cracks pepper
3 Tbsp dried thyme
For Ratatouille:
1 very large eggplant, cubed
1 large zucchini, cubed
juice from 1/2 lemon
1 large shallot, chopped
3 cloves garlic, grated
2 bell peppers (I used Moroccon light green chilis), chopped
2 large very juicy tomatoes, chopped
3 Tbsp very fine quality EVOO
1 large handful chopped cilantro
1  handful chopped mint
2 chopped scallions
1 tsp fresh cracked pepper
2 (or more) tsp flake salt/fleur de sel
1.  Prepare the confit.  Place all the lamb shank ingredients in the crockpot and cook on low for 6-7 hours, turning the meat once (since it will be above the liquid level and will brown.  After this time, the meat should be falling off the bones.
2.  Prepare the Ratatouille.  Soak the cubed eggplant in a large bowl of salted water for about 15-20 minutes, then drain.  This will prevent the eggplant from being an oil sponge.  I learned this method from a Sichuan eggplant recipe and find it to work beautifully.
During this time you can prep your other ingredients or go over the day's events, contemplating whether or not you made the right choices, or if the right choices were made for you, but then realizing those choices were made out of love for you, so in some way you should be grateful, but your heart just doesn't beat in a way that makes sense..
and then reflecting on all the wonderful experiences you've had and may never have again.
The show must go on.....I suppose.
3.  Heat the olive oil in a wok and add the shallots.  Cook until translucent, then add the soaked eggplant cubes.  Stir well so all the pieces are coated with oil add lemon juice, some fleur de sel and pepper.  Cook for about 5 minutes then push to the side of the pan.
4.  Add the zucchini cubes.  Stir well and cook for a bit longer than the eggplant, then push to the side.
5.  Add the garlic and bell peppers.  Stir fry about 1-2 minutes, then add the tomatoes.  
6.  When the tomatoes start becoming a bit mushy (maybe 2-3 minutes) add most of the scallions, cilantro, and mint, keeping enough to sprinkle on as garnish.
7.  Stir, cover, and cook on low heat for about 20-30 minutes, making sure that nothing sticks to the bottom of your wok.
8.  Add some more fleur de sel and cracked pepper to taste.

Serve hot or warm.  I served it over some bulgur/quinoa mix and sprinkled with some punchy herbs.
This is comfort food, but stil rather healthy.. it's a great twist to the tradition!

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Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Deviled Eggs with Tuna

Deviled eggs has been requested many times, but I've never gotten around to making them because;
-It was never the right "time"
-I didn't have enough eggs at the time of request
-I thought I had to "snow" egg whites for some unknown reason and I'm not a big fan of that
-Peeling hard-boiled eggs is annoying with an ugly result

Well, it turns out that;
-Any time is the right time..guests or not, hors d'oeuvres or dinner..deviled eggs are always welcome
-I've since increased my weekly egg purchase, so this week I did have enough eggs
-There is no eggwhite beating involved, only forkmashing
-If you steam the eggs, peeling is easy and beautiful!

So without any reasonable excuse and the motivation inspired by my bamboo steamer basket, deviled eggs happened tonight for dinner...and the best part is I made enough for tomorrow's lunch as well, whiwh makes the pleasure last much longer than just popping one or two at happy hour.
Yield 16 halves (4 meals if served with sides)
8 farm fresh medium eggs
1 can of tuna, drained
1 1/2 Tbsp good quality mayonnaise
1 1/2 tsp strong mustard
Juice from 1/4 lemon
2 Tbsp chopped scallions
1 Tbsp chopped cilantro
1/8 tsp crushed piment d'espelette
1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper
Crumbled feta for garnish
Paprika sprinkled for garnish
1.  Steam the eggs on high for 7 minutes, then place in an ice bath to stop the cooking.
2.  Peel and halve the eggs.  They should be hard boiled, but not chalky, as so..
3.  Scoop out the yolks into a bowl and add the tuna, mayo, lemon juice, mustard, pepper, piment d'espelette, scallions, black pepper, and cilantro.  Stir well with a fork until the mixture is even and scoop worthy.
4.  Place one heaping tsp of the mixture into each egg half.  Garnish with some crumbled feta ans a shake of paprika.
Refrigerate until ready to serve.  I ate this immediately alongside some roasted asparagus and a salad with chopped cucumber, tomatoes, capers, and aah yes, feta.
Goat feta.  It is driving me crazy.  I don't know if I should ask forgiveness for trespassing its purity or feel grace that I have been blessed enough to reveal its ability to comprehend...

These are known as Oeufs Mimosa in French.  I am unable to correctly label this as either French or American, so I labeled as both.  I suppose the feta is more European, but these are clearly cross cultural with those scallions and cilantro!

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Monday, June 9, 2014

Sweet Potato Bun Tom (Shrimp Noodle)

 Vietnamese cuisine is very popular here in France.  One of the most popular summer dishes is one called Bo Bun, which is a simple hot curried beef strip on cold rice noodle salad with lots of raw toppings and a Nuac Mam Cham vinegarette.
Bo is beef and Bun is Noodle in Vietnamese, but here, they tend to call any combination "Bo Bun" which is perfectly fine since it makes it more familiar coming off the French tongue and this less "scary" to eat at a non-French restaurant.  The real word for shrimp in Vietnamese is Tom, which is why I named my dish Bun Tom (also because I promised my friend Pascale I would wait for her before making Bo technically, I haven't made it yet and I will make it the "real" way when she gets back).  The other change I made from the traditional Bo Bun is the choice of noodles.  During my recent trip to Asian Wonderland, I found these noodles made from sweet pototatoes.  After doing some research, I found they keep their chewy al dente texture after being cooked, they are low calorie, low carb (but also low protein), but work well in hot stir fries just as well as in cold noodle salads.  they are most widely used to make Korean Japchae, but I had never seen such intriguing noodles before.  After cooking, the texture is a bit like glass noodles but they swell thicker and are pleasantly chewy.  I think these are my new favorite noodle (other than linguine)!
So after a long hot day of being outside under the sun, a cold meal seemed like the perfect remedy to cool down my inner parts.
Ooh I really should watch what I say... That sounds kind of exciting..
Serves 2
150g (approz 5.5oz) sweet potato noodles
4 Cha Gio (Nem or eggroll) thickly sliced
1/4 cucumber, julienned
1 medium carrot, julienned
400g (14oz) cooked shrimp, peeled and halved
1 handful chopped scallions
1 handful chopped mint
1 handful chopped cilantro
1 handful crushed peanuts
Nuac Mam Cham minus sugar
1 tsp dried lemongrass
1 tsp grated ginger
Pinch turmeric
1 Tbsp mirin (instead of sugar in the nuac mam cham)
1.  Cook the sweet potato noodles in a pot of boiling water for 5 minutes (or follow package instructions.  Drain and soak in an ice bath to cool.  This is a cold salad.  Noodles need to be cold.
2.  Make the sauce by mixing all the ingredients together.
3.  Assemble.  Place the noodles at the bottom of a serving bowl, then place the shrimp, herbs, veggies, and cha gio pieces along the circumference..because if you can't integrate geometry or calculus words into your recipes, what would be the point?
Place the chopped peanuts in the center.

Spoon some of the sauce over your bowl before tossing it around with your chopsticks.
Here it looks a bit messier, but isn't the best part of a perfectly made bed the satisfaction you get in tearing it open?

*Fight food without the egg rolls
**Gluten free if egg rolls made with rice paper only.

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Sunday, June 8, 2014

Pizza with Roasted Veggies and Goat Feta

I am at a time in my life where I will cross cultural boundaries with no shame...and I will put feta on everything.
Yes, everything.
On over easy eggs, on roasted eggplant, of course in salads, in quiche, and today on pizza.  Why not?
This is very similar to the Grilled Veggie Pizza I've made before, but with that extra punch that feta delivers so well...
And it works beautifully with the roasted zucchini, bells, and tomatoes on a watercress pesto spread.

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Friday, June 6, 2014

Cha Gio/Egg Rolls/Nem Ran

 As I continue my Asian Persuasion, I have landed yet again in Vietnam, where I have tinkered before, but never to this glorious extent.
Cha Gio or as they are more commonly known in France, Nems, or Egg Rolls, have been on my list of recipes to try again but actually succeed at.  My nimble 30 year old fingers can now expertly shape falafel, samosas, and pakoras, so egg rolls shouldn't be such a mystery.
They are NOT a mystery, but a rediscovery!  The best nems I'd ever had in my life were from that little Cambodian restaurant where I used to live in Picardy, Le Angkor.  I don't have very many homemade eggroll memories from Asian friends..I actually have more Chile Relleno and Ceviche memories than anything else.
Mmmm Chiles Rellenos...on a side note, I may have found the perfect European substitute for California Chiles used in Chile Rellenos, but that will come later on after I figure out how to make Queso Fresco.
Back to my Cha Gio!
I received my Kenwood Meat Grinder yesterday and after cleaning it I just couldn't wait until Friday to be able to actually put it to good use.  Of course, I was expecting the lovely auto-gift, so I casually had the mint, spring roll wrappers, wood ear mushrooms, cellophane noodles, and random turkey pieces ready to go.  All I needed was to have those turkey pieces ground into something homogenous and cooked to put into my eggroll mixture.
That thing is amazing!  Sure it's very loud and very slow, but I don't really mind waiting 3 minutes for 1 lb of meat to be ground with quality steel cutters.
Ooh I liiike it!
So once you figure out the correct nem rolling technique, the secret is really in the filling.  Actually, the correct rolling technique is just as important as the quality and flavor of the filling.  Maybe that's why eggrolls may seem scary to beginners (as I once was).  You can get one part spot on but completely screw up the other part, which ruins the whole experience.
Recipe inspired by KL's Cooking with Mom.
Yield exactly 40 Cha Gio
1 packet (40) Spring Roll wrappers
1 lb ground turkey (or mix of turkey, chicken, crab, shrimp or pork)
1 Tbsp oil
1 Tbsp dark soy sauce
1 section (2oz) bean thread noodles, soaked, drained, and cut
1 cup (80g - 2.8oz) dried wood ear mushrooms, soaked, drained, and sliced
4 medium carrots, julienned
1 small kohlrabi (or cabbage), julienned
1/2 onion, diced
1 2-egg thin omelet, sliced
1 handful chopped cilantro
1 Tbsp fish sauce
1 Tbsp sugar
1 Tbsp ground white pepper
1 egg yolk
oil for frying (I used a mix of sunflower and canola)
1 beaten egg white for sealing

For wrapping:
Romaine or Batavia leaves
Mint leaves

Nuac Mam Cham (Dipping Sauce) for 20 Nems:
2 1/2 Tbsp fish sauce
3 1/2 Tbsp rice vinegar
2 cloves garlic, grated
1 piment oiseau (birds eye chili) chopped and seeded
1 tsp sugar
2 Tbsp lemon juice

1.  Brown the ground meat with the 1 tbsp oil and dark soy sauce until fully cooked.  Drain and let cool in a mixing bowl.
2.  Add the cut bean thread noodles, mushrooms, carrots, kohlrabi, onions, omelet, cilantro, fish sauce, sugar, white pepper, and yolk to the ground meat and stir well to mix everything evenly.
3.  Assemble.  Place a heaping tablespoon of filling on one corner of a wrapper.
4.  Tuck in the bottom corner and roll halfway into the egg roll.
5.  Fold the sides in, then tuck and roll until you reach the last corner.  Brush some egg white wash on the corner before finishing the roll so that it seals.  For a more native description of how to do this, check out SteamyKitchen.
They should be tightly rolled as so
6.  Fry.  I realized I didn't have enough sunflower oil to do any frying as I was already 3/4 the way done rolling my nems.  You think that's going to stop me?  I had enough canola oil to complete the deal.
Here's a funny story.  The French think you will be poisoned if you use canola oil for anything other than seasoning.  They have strict indications to never use it for cooking.
Bah.. nobody else in the world follows those rules anyway.
In hind site.. it works very well for frying.. although I probably wouldn't reuse the same oil.  I'd use fresh each time.  It darkened a bit toward the 40th spring roll.
Fry until golden on all sides, about 5 minutes, being sure to turn them at least once to check the other side.
7.  Reserve onto paper towels.

Serve hot with some batavia or romaine and mint leaves accompanied by a sexy hot dipping sauce.

These were crunchy, non greasy, full of freshness and flavor, and full of intense satisfaction.  They come very very close to the ones from Angkor so its nice to know that Yes I Can!
I froze over half of them and will reheat them in the oven when needed, as I do with samosas so they stay crunchy.  They are going to be killer on a Bo Bun Noodle salad!!
This is exactly what I was hoping for out of D-Day 2014!

* these can be GF if rice paper and GF soy sauce is used instead of spring roll paper.
See GF recipe here.

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Monday, June 2, 2014

Grated Carrot Kohlrabi and Herbed Salad

I'm on yet another carrot craze.  I want to put them everywhere.. desserts, roasted, raw, alone, with friends, but most importantly, in my welcoming mouth.
After hand grating a bunch of carrots for the halwa cookies, I switched grates and started on these.  I have no idea what motivates me sometimes..
I had a few slices of that delicious spinach thing over there to finish and I'm quite enjoying the contrast of warm/cold on the same plate.
Then this salad was born.. and the mint leaves wanted join the fun!
Serves 3-4 as a side
3 medium carrots, coarsely grated
1 small kohlrabi, coarsely grated
juice from 1 lime
2 Tbsp EVOO
pinch fleur de sel
some freshly cracked black pepper
1 handful chopped cilantro
1 handful chopped mint leaves
3 Tbsp pitted sliced olives
1 tsp caraway seeds
1/4 chopped red onion
few more olives for garnish
few marinated anchovies for garnish (optional)
Toss together and serve cold.

The mint gives it a nice bite and mixes well with the sweetness of the kohlrabi.
This was another perfect side to my slice of Spinach Feta Quiche.. and if I had more feta I would have added it to the salad as well!

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Carrot Halwa Cookies

I love halwa.  I love all the sweet cardamom nutty goodness that leaves a long lasting aftertaste.
Halwa, however, is not very portable or easily distributable, and it's usually best after having eaten Indian cuisine.  Cookies are appropriate anytime, anywhere, are and don't need to be refigerated or heated.
So...I created the halwa cookie.  The carrot halwa cookie.  And let me tell you, I'm very happy I did since I don't have any Indian cuisine ready to eat after which it would be appropriate to eat normal carrot halwa.
Yield 44 cookies
100g (3.5oz) room temperature butter
300g (10.6oz) sweetened condensed milk
200g (7oz) finely grated carrots (about 5 medium)
1/4tsp cinnamon
8 cardamom pods, dry roasted and ground (about 2 tsp)
140g (5oz) whole wheat flour (or just 1 cup of each)
100g (3.5oz) almond powder
100g (3.5oz) chickpea flour
pinch of salt
2 handfuls raisins
unsalted cashews
1.  Sift together the flours, almond powder, and salt.  Set aside.
2.  In a separate mixing bowl, cream the butter and add the condensed milk, cardamom, and cinnamon.  Beat well.
3.  Get rid of your whip and switch to a wooden spoon or spatula.  Fold in the finely grated carrots.   Then add the dry mixture little by little into the wet mixture until all incorporated.  The end result should be very sticky, but not as if the dough had eggs in it.  This is eggless.  Fold in the raisins.
4.  Get your toppings ready.   Take a tablespoon sized amount of dough and kindly shape it onto your cookie sheet.  Press on the pistachios and cashews (or whatever other nuts you see fit) and repeat for the rest of the batch.  I didn't have enough pistachios so half of the batch has both pistachios and cashews, and the other half has cashews only.
5.  Bake at 185°C 350°F for about 20 minutes.  Carefully remove and let cool on a wire rack.

These were exactly as I imagined them to be.  Chewy yet structured, bursting with bits of different flavors at a time with that happy aftertaste of cardamom that lingers...

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Sunday, June 1, 2014

Tahini Fig Muffins

This morning I woke up with 3 ideas floating around..
I need a meat grinder
I want carrot halwa
I need to try putting tahini in a muffin
As I'm writing this, my snazzy meat grinder will be arriving on thursday.. (Major event), I have a batch of Indian fusion cookies finishing up in the oven, and my tahini muffins are staring at me from the table, inviting me to nibble their earlobes.
Yes..they are a major success!  I might not be the first person in the world to do it, but I freestyled the recipe from beginning to end, hoping they would come out like a muffin (and not like custard as the avocado ones did) and I'm very proud to say that they are rather delicious, especially with those baby dried figs hiding inside them!
Yield 16 muffins
2 eggs, well beaten
100g (3.5oz) cane sugar
1 packet vanilla sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/3 cup milk
1 plain yogurt
200g (7oz) tahini (I used Cortas)
60g (2oz) canola oil
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
150g (5.3oz) whole wheat flour
chopped dried figs for filling
Sesame seeds for garnish
1.  Beat together the eggs, sugar, cinnamon, vanilla, milk, yogurt, oil, and tahini.  Beat it well.  The mixture should not be pasty.  If it is, add just a bit of milk.  The tahini will cramp up at first, and then relax.  You need to be gentle with her.. she's new to muffins..
2.  Sift together the flour, baking soda and salt.  Carefully stir in the flour mixture until just combined.
3.  Fill your buttered muffin tins 3/4 full, drop in some chopped figs (and make sure they are covered by the batter), sprinkle some sesame seeds on top and bake for 18-20 minutes at 180°C 350°F.

Tahini can almost be used interchangeably with peanut butter, so I was almost sure this would work, but I had no idea how delectable and addicting these would be!

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Spinach Feta Quiche in a Sumac-Laced Shortcrust

It is officially quiche season!  It's actually always quiche season, but as the weather warms, it's nice to be able to sit down to some not so steaming hot food with a nice cold salad.  That is exactly what quiche brings into the picture.  It can be made ahead of time, then eaten when slightly cooled, or cooled completey, especially when that quiche has festive ingredients such as spinach, feta, red onion, and mint!
Here I used finely chopped frozen spinach, but tis the season for fresh.. go for it if you have it:
I also did a little twist on the shortcrust.  Instead of paprika, I added sumac and za'atar.  Since it's been a while, I've reposted my shortcrust ingredients with the new little twist.  The only thing I change is the spices and egg to water ratio.  When I use the whole egg, I use less water.  When I make a dessert shortcrust, I usually add about 1 Tbsp sugar.

Serves 6 as a meal, 8 or more as an appetizer
For the Sumac-Laced Shortcrust:
125g (4.4oz) buckwheat flour
125g (4.4oz) whole wheat flour
100g (3.5oz) room temperature butter
1 Tbsp yeast extract (non active)
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp sumac
1 tsp za'atar
1 egg yolk
approximately 5 cL water
use the method and precook at 200°C (400°F) for 10 minutes

For the Quiche:
1 slightly precooked shortcrust
350g (12oz) thawed spinach (or lightly cooked fresh)
200g (7oz) feta, crumbled (I used Gazi)
1/4 red onion, sliced
1 Tbsp chopped cilantro
3 Tbsp chopped mint leaves
3 beaten eggs
3/4 cup heavy cream
1 cup milk
1 tsp piment d'espelette
pinch nutmeg
fresh cracked pepper
pinch of salt

1.  Beat the eggs very very well until they become bubbly, then add in the cream, milk, piment d'espelette, pepper, and salt and beat well.
2.  In your delicious precooked shortcrust, place a layer of spinach, then sprinkle on the cilantro, some of the red onion, and most of the feta.  Add the rest of the spinach, red onions, and feta, and sprinkle on the mint leaves.
3.  Pour the beaten egg mixture "appareil" all over the filling into the shortcrust.
4.  Bake for 45-55 minutes at 180°C (350°F).
Remove and let cool at least 20 minutes before tearing it apart.

I absolutely loved this.  I cut it into 6 and 1 slice was more than enough (along with a tomato salad and all the raw veggie and anchovy happy hour business that preceded this).  It's funny how something so simple can be so satisfyingly filling!

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