Take Me Out To The Ball Game!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Moroccan Chickpea Soup (Harira)

This is a great recipe I found on epicurious.com when I cooked dinner party for my aunt and uncle and some of my cousins.  (If you haven't checked out http://www.epicurious.com/, do it!  It's a go-to favorite of mine and it's just loaded with great tasting and expertly tested recipes.) I wanted to create a special theme on the night and make food that had amazing flavor and stories to go with it.  I thought, what a better place to start than the cradle of civilization, the Persian Empire?  I'm so glad I did too, because it sparked a deep interest and passion in me to cook and prepare ancient foods that's been satisfying both appetite wise, and from a culinary anthropology point of view too.  I think to love cooking is to really love people and to appreciate the beauty and uniqueness of cultures all over the world.

With the Harira I also served homemade falafal, hummus, stuffed grape leaves and a pistachio tarte.  These dishes were all brand new to my family and though the flavors of the evening were wildly out of their comfort zones, I think they enjoyed it.  I know my dad did, but then he's always been VERY adventurous and fearless when it comes to food!

Okay, enough story telling, here's the recipe:

1 1/2 cups dried chickpeas (you can also used canned of course, @ 2 cans should work fine)
8 cups water
1 (35oz) can whole tomatoes, drained (I also use fresh plum tomatoes)
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 small celery rib (including leaves), finely chopped
3 TBS unsalted butter
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
4 cups vegetable broth
1 cup lentils
2 oz dried capellini, broken into 1 inch pieces, or fine egg noodles (3/4 cup)
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley

Accompaniment: lemon wedges

Prepare chickpeas: soak chickpeas in water to cover by 2 inches for 8-12 hours.  (You can also "cheat" like I often do and bring @ 8cups water to a boil and then soak the chickpeas covered (or whatever bean you're using for that particularl recipe) in the water for @ 1 hour.  Rinse and drain then put in a pressure cooker and fill the pressure cooker no more than 1/2 with cold water.  Check the chickpeas after @ 25 minutes and see if they are done.  They should be cooked through but not mushy)

Drain chickpeas and rinse well.  Transfer to a large saucepan and add 8 cups water.  Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer, uncovered, until tender, @ 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours.  Cool chickpeas and drain, reserving the liquid.  you should have @ 2 1/2 cups liquid (if not, add more water).

Coarsely puree tomatoes in a  food processor.

Cook onion and celery in butter in a 4 quart heavy pot over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally until softened.  Add turmeric, pepper, and cinnamon and cook, stirring 3 minutes.

Stir in tomato puree, 1/3 cup cilantro, chickpeas with reserved liquid, vegetable broth, and lentils.  Bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, until lentils are tender, about 35 minutes.

Stir in past and cook, stirring, until tender about 3 minutes.  Stir in parsley, remaining 1/3 cup cilantro to taste.

Makes 6 (main course) servings

Creme Andalouse

This is a recipe that's VERY close to my heart because it's from one of my first favorite cookbooks, "Sundays At Moosewood Restaurant" by Mollie Katzen.  It's a recipe I tried way "back when" when I wanted desperately to cook amazing food and yet was paralyzed by the fear of failure.   I LOVED the Moosewood Restaurant cookbook because Mollie made everything sound so accessible and "doable" and by doing so she helped break my fear of failure, one recipe at a time.  Of course Ms. Katzen has not only authored the "Moosewood" series, she's also the author of an untold number other cookbooks (at least I haven't counted them), nearest to my heart is "The Enchanted Broccoli Forest", which simply an AMAZING "how to" cookbook for anyone wanting to use whole food to create incredible culinary delights.  Ms. Katzen is truly a hero of mine and I've used many, many of her recipes in my personal chef business, much to the delight of all of my clients.  And because all of my personal chef clients have been real live families, they're great family-tested recipes too!

Serves 6

Leeks, tarragon, and cream add a French touch to this sophisticated version ofa  Spanish soup.

2 TBS butter
3 leek bulbs (whites only), rinshed and chopped (the best way to clean leeks that I've found is to first cut off 
   the green parts, then the root end and then slice horizontally and let cool water run in between all the layers
   of of the plant.  Leeks are pulled from the ground the dirt likes to hide in between the layers)
6 fresh tomatoes, chopped, or 4 cups undrained canned tomatoes
7 cups vegetable stock or water
4 medium potatoes, cubed
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp dried tarragon
1/8 to 1/4 tsp cayenne
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup heavy cream

Herbed croutons
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

   Saute the leeks in the butter until soft.  Add the tomatoes and simmer for 10 minutes.  Add the remianing ingredietns, except the lemon juice and cream.  Simmer until the potatoes are thoroughly cooked.

  Puree the cooked vegetables in a blender (I've always used my immersion blender), adding the lemon juice and cream.  Gently reheat, taking care not to boil which could cause it to curdle. 

   Garnish with croutons and parsley. 

Deceptively simple and oh SO wonderful!!

Orzo And Bulgar Salad

I found this in a magazine years ago and it's so yummy!  It has some sweet, some tang and some creamy cheesy texture;  a great sensory experience while being SUPER healthy.....what more could you ask for?

1 cup bulgur
1 cup orzo
1/2 cup finely chopped celery
1/2 cup shredded carrot
1/2 cup chopped, seeded cucumber
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/3 cup olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup coarsely snipped fresh parsley
2 TBS finely chopped shallot
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp dry mustard
1/2 tsp fennel seed, crushed
1/4 cup chopped green onions
1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese

1. Place bulgur in a 2 cup glass measure; set aside.  Cook orzo according to package directions.  Drain orzo, reserving cooking water.  Pour enough of the hot cooking water in the glass measure with the bulgur to equal 2 cups.  Let bulgur stand for 45 ninutes or until all the liquid has been absorbed.

2.  In a large bowl combine cooked orzo, celery, carrot, cucumber, and cranberries.  Add the bulgur; set aside.

In a medium bowl whisk together olive oil, vinegar, parsley, shallot, sugar, muystard, fennel seed, 1 tsp salt, and 1/4 tsp pepper.  Add to the bulgur mixture; toss well to combine.  Cover and chill for 4 to 24 hours.  Stir before serving.  Top with green onions and feta cheese.  Makes 10 - 12 servings.

Szechuan Noodles with Green Beans and Cashews

I like this dish because it has lots of interesting flavors, it has some heat, which is very healthy to incorporate into your diet, and my kids love noodles!  It's also easily amended to accomodate food allergies (like using corn/rice pasta for gluten allergies).

Serves 4 as a main course

The Sauce:

1/4 cup tamari soy sauce
1/4 cup Asian sesame oil (I use toasted sesame oil because I like the strong flavor it brings)
2 TBS natural-style peanut butter (I use almond butter because both my kids have mild-moderate peanut
1 TBS sugar
1 TBS Chinese wine vinegar or red wine vinegar
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1TBS minced fresh ginger
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes, or more to taste
1/2 tsp salt
8 ounces green beans, cut in half (@ 2 1/2 cups)
1 lb spaghetti
3 scallions, very thinly sliced
1 cucmber, peeled, cut lengthwise, seeded, and sliced 1/4 inch thick (I use Persian cucumbers so I don't
   have to peel and deal with the seeds)
1/2 cup roasted cashews, preferably unsalted, roughly chopped
3 TBS finely chopped cilantro (optional....but cilantro brightens the flavor of the whole dish so use it if you  

1.  Combine the sauce ingredients ina blender (preferably) or a food processor (that's what I've always used and I can't tell difference between that and the blender) and process until smooth.  Pour into a small bowl.

2.  Bring a large stockpot of water to a boil.  Drop in the green beans and cook 5 minutes, or just until tender yet still slightly crunchy.  Removed with a strainer, place in a bowl, and cover with cold water to stop any further cooking (I always use an ice bath and then take out the ice with a spider/colander with a handle--super easy).  Pour off the water and cover again.  Let sit a few inutes so they can get completely cold.  Drain well, then place on a kitchen twel and pat dry.

3.  Put the spaghetti in the boiling water and cook until al dente, about 12 minutes.  Do not overcook it.  Drain thoroughly in a colander.  Rinse under cold running water until cold.  Shake the colander vigorously to remove any excess water.  Place the noodels in a very large bowl.

4.  Mix in the green beans, scallions, cucumber, and cashews.  Pour on the sauce and use tongs to toss, coating well.  Let the noodles marinate at least 30 inutes before serving.  Garnish with cilantro, if desired.

TIP:  If you prepare this dish more than 30 minutes in advance, pour on only 3/4 of the sauce, and then just before serving add the reamining sauce and toss well. 

Recipes By Demand

I've had some requests to post my recipes and I'm happy to share! First I must make the disclaimer that I haven't conjured up these recipes from my own little head.  Nope, I'm a recipe-hound for sure, and many recipes I've had since I was a child (what, you didn't read recipe books like Nancy Drew mysteries??)  I will always give credit when I know the source the recipe and I'll add my extra notes and helpful tips where I can.  Some of these recipes I've used for my personal chef clients and some are just some of my personal favorites.


Romain Salad with Creamy Garlic Dressing & Roasted Garlic Croutons
Emeril Lagasse, 2005 Food Network

For the Roasted Garlic Puree:
10 heads garlic (@ 1 1/2 lbs)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

For The Croutons:
1/2 loaf French bread, cut into 16 (1/4 inch thick) slices
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper

For The Creamy Garlic Dressing:
1/2 cup homemade or store bought mayonnaise
1/4 cup reserved Roasted Garlic Puree
3 TBS freshly grated Parmigiano-Regiano
2 TBS buttermilk
1 1/2 TBS fresh lemon juice
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

For the Salad:
1 head romaine lettuce, separated into leaves, rinsed, and patted dry
3/4 cup thinkly sliced red onions
1/4 cup freshly shredded Parmesan, for garnish

To prepare the Roasted Garlic Puree:
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or aluminium foil

Cut the top quarter off each garlic head so the cloves are exposed.  Place the cut side up on the prepared baking sheet.  Drizzle the oil over the garlic and season lightly with salt and pepper.  Turn the garlic cut side down, Roast until the cloves are soft and golden brown, 1 - 1 hour 15 minutes.

Let the garlic cool.  Squeeze the soft garlic flesh from each head into a blow.  Mash the flesh with a fork to blend it into a puree.  (The puree can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.)  Reserve 1/4 cup of the puree for the croutons and 1/4 cup fo the puree to make the dressing.

To prepare the Croutons:
Increse the oven temp to 400 degrees F.

Spread the slices of bread on a large baking sheet.  Brush both sides of the slices with the olive oil, then season wtih the salt and pepper.  Bake until lightly golden brown, 10-12 minutes.  Cool slightly.  Spread the croutons with 1/4 cup fo the reserved raosted garlic puree.  Set aside.

To prepare the Dressing:
Mix the mayonnaise, reamining 1/4 cup of the garlic puree, cheese, buttermilk, and lemon juice in a medium bowl with a rubber spatula.  Season the dressing with salt and pepper.  (The dressing will in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 24 hours.)

Tear the large leaves of the lettuce into bite size pieces, and leave the smaller, tender leaves whole.  Toss in a large salad bowl with the sliced onions and desired amount o f dressing.  Adjust the seasonings with salt and pepper, to taste.  Divide the greens among four salad plates and arrage four croutons on the side of each salad.  Garnish the tops of each salad with 1 TBS of shredded Parmesan.