Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Beauty that rivals taste

Sometimes I feel like all I do is rip off other people's ideas. What's the quote, "I'm not original, I'm resourceful"? Yeah. That. Maybe originality is overrated. I don't know. Anyway, I was talking the other day with someone about salads, and thought, "Salads. That's a great idea." And so, a few days later, when it was 90 degrees and I could not be paid to turn my oven on, a salad graced our dinner table.

Now, there is nothing particularly "original" about this salad. Salads in our household are made in much the same way I make my soups, which is to say, with whatever needs to be used up in the refrigerator, but I just happened to have a particularly harmonious group of ingredients lying around. I started with a mix of spring greens, topped with paper thin slices of strawberries and cucumbers, followed by chopped coconut, avocado, shrimp, and some fresh Greek basil, then drizzled with a lite raspberry vinaigrette and accompanied by "homemade croutons" (or, ummm...the last bit of stale baguette coated with butter and garlic powder and stuck under the toaster oven's broiler for a few minutes.) This salad's beauty quite rivals its taste.

Monday, May 24, 2010

An excuse

Today's short little post is really just an excuse to direct you here, to a wonderful alternative to Nutella which uses, instead of hazelnuts, you guessed it....tahini! (Thanks, Gaps!)

Ants on a Log, using the tahini-tella instead of raisins.

This is, for now, the maximum quantity of this stuff I an allowing myself to eat at one sitting, as I really could eat it by the spoonful.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

A holdover

Not much about a cloudless, 75 degree evening screams Chana Masala, so I'm not sure why I passed up the grill, winking at me from its new patio spot, to spend an hour over a hot stove top. But I did. I blame it on my inability to repurpose the chickpeas I bought a few weeks ago, while it was still chilly, with the intention of making Indian food. Sometimes I get a one-track mind, and I just can't let go. At least momentarily turning my kitchen into a sauna was worth it.

This recipe is an adaptation of Molly Wizenberg's, over at Orangette. I've been following her blog for about a year and half, have read and proselytized her book, and even had the pleasure of meeting her a few months ago...(and looking all silly when I waited for an hour after her reading to thank her and tell her what an inspiration she is. I might have even gotten teary. I can't be sure. Let's move on.)

Chana Masala

1/4 cup good-quality olive oil
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
2 medium cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp fresh, minced ginger
1 tsp garam masala
1 tsp ground cardamom
1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes
1/2 pint diced grape tomatoes
1 tsp kosher salt, or to taste
1 Tbs cilantro leaves, roughly torn, plus more for garnish
1 28-ounce cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed

* 6-8 Tbs plain whole-milk yogurt, optional
A few lemon wedges, optional

Saute the onion in the olive oil over medium heat, stirring frequently, until deeply carmelized, and even charred in spots. Be patient. The more color, the more full-flavored the final dish will be.

Reduce the heat to low. Add the garlic, ginger, cumin, garam masala, and cardamom, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add ¼ cup water, and stir to scrape up any brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Cook until the water has evaporated away completely. Pour in tomatoes with their juices and the salt.

Raise the heat to medium, and bring the pot to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer the sauce gently, stirring occasionally, until it reduces a bit and begins to thicken. Taste, and adjust the seasoning as necessary. Add the chickpeas, stirring well, and cook over low heat for about five minutes. Add 2 Tbs water, and cook for another five minutes. Add another 2 Tbs water, and cook until the water is absorbed, a few minutes more. This process of adding and cooking off water helps to concentrate the sauce’s flavor and makes the chickpeas more tender and toothsome. Taste, and adjust the seasoning as necessary.

Stir in the yogurt, if you like, or garnish with lemon wedges and cilantro. Serve.

*I chose to leave out the yogurt of mine.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

I'll take that in a gallon size, please

A few friends and I were eating at a creperie in NYC and mounted on the wall, like a prize buck, was a gallon sized jar of Nutella. This of course made me wonder, "If you could have one over sized pantry item, what would it be?" Joe went with the Nutella. I can't remember what Rachel picked. Mine? Tahini. I'm not sure it would be my all-time, definitive answer, though thinking about it now, I can't think of what I'd rather choose. It's strange I should pick tahini because I'm not very knowledgeable about Middle Eastern food, but the few things I've had it in I could eat daily, my favorite being tarator to go on things like kibbe, shwarma, and just about anything other poor vegetable or meat that happens to be helplessly trapped in my fridge.

Yesterday, during my first trip to a Lebanese bakery and market I came across this...

Do you know what that is? It's Tahini. In a BUCKET!!! And if I wasn't on such a minuscule budget, I might have brought it home. (Forgive the pixelated stock photo. I couldn't bring myself to embarrass my poor friend by whipping out a camera in the middle of the tiny market, though the thought did cross my mind.) I was a good girl and only brought home a little jar, some Arabic bread and a spice packet of sumac, which I have no idea how I'll use, but it was such a gorgeous red I couldn't resist.

Tonight I put the tahini and Arabic bread right to use, along with the shwarma seasoning that's been taunting me from my spice cabinet the last few months and made a (non authentic, but at least in the ballpark) chicken shwarma wrap, along with asparagus and roasted potatoes with a garlic-cilantro pesto. I don't think shawarma is supposed to be grilled, but it was an unseasonably warm night, and L surprised me with supplies for a bonafide cocktail hour so there was no way I was going to spend the evening's waning light inside.

I marinated the chicken for 4 hours in a 1/2 c. of malt vinegar, a few tablespoons of oil, 1/4 cup of sour cream (because I didn't have plain yogurt,) a few tablespoons of shwarma seasoning, a teaspoon or so of allspice, and a few pinches of sumac and cardamom. Oh, and of course a little salt.

The potatoes came from a site a friend recently turned me on to... Taste of Beirut, which I haven't had a chance to properly explore, but will, especially since I now know how to get to both Lebanese markets.

Link to the potato recipe.