A Giant Kinda Night

One of the (10,000 bazillion) reasons Chris and I work so well together is that we play to each other’s strengths, we complement one another. For example, when we plan vacations, I like to hop around to tons of places, he likes visit 1-2 spots and really hone in on them. We usually compromise at 2-3. When we painted our kitchen together a few weeks ago (notice the teal in the back?), I agreed to do the tedious taping of the trim and mind-numbingly boring detail work, as long as he promised to do the big areas of rolling and lots of the cleanup. When I make dinner, he (usually) does the dishes. I drive, he navigates.

You get the point, right?

And when major holidays or events roll around, he likes to stick to tradition, and keep things as they usually are. I’m fine with that, as long as there’s good food involved, which there always is. For July 4th, we always make burgers. These are still one of my favorites. For Thanksgiving, we don’t do anything crazy with the turkey, and we can’t change the stuffing, but I have free reign over most of the other dishes (which even I, Miss I-Hate-To-Make-Things-More-Than-Once, usually only rotate out the green veggie dish and keep the rest the same, too). There is usually a time of the year that we find a reason to make pulled pork (like watching a season of The Walking Dead. Get it – pulled pork?! shredded meat?! bwa ha ha), and there’s always another holiday, like Memorial Day perhaps, where we just plain ol’ grill.

Let there be no doubt in your mind that Super Bowl Sunday is its’ own holiday, too. And when Super Bowl Sunday rolls around, it’s chili time – 20 degree weather outside or not.

Mind you, a move West hasn’t changed a single one of these traditions – somehow we manage to really gravitate towards the same type of people no matter where we live – the ones that like to eat, drink, and have a shit-load of fun together. And as per usual, we have no issue with hosting, again playing to the “as long as we get to make good food” mantra.

This time around, instead of making 1 chili for everyone to eat, we made 2 different chili recipes – watch out! The recipe below is adapted from a Texas-style all-beef chili. For you Texans-to-the-core out there, don’t hate, but I put beans in it, too (!). I won’t be caught walking an alley of Texas alone (does Texas have alleys?), that’s for sure, because I’m about to let ya’ll know that this girl LOVES beans in chili. Plus, even though we doubled mostly everything in the original recipe, I couldn’t quite bring myself to dump 8 lbs of beef into a pot, but by all means, if you prefer beef to the beans, go for it. I liked the additional texture of pinto beans, and clearly I need just a little more ammo in my nightly “Dutch ovens“, so there you have it ;).

The other recipe satisfied the gluten-free and white-meat-only eaters out there, and was another tasty concoction – a white bean and chicken chili, with loads of chili powder. Maybe I’ll share that one a little later on.

And of course, there’s no such thing as chili without some cornbread, and we all know how much I love cornbread, right?! No pics of it, and no leftovers either. Sad faces.

But when it came to the chili, we were happy to eat it for another couple of nights. Happy faces!

Oh, and GO, Bears! 49-ers? Ok, ok, YAY GIANTS!

 

Beef & Pinto Bean Chili with Ancho, Mole, and Cumin
Adapted from Bon Appetit, February 2009 via Epicurious; serves 12-16

I should add here, that the serving sizes are NOT generous (maybe 1 cup each). They’re based on the fact that this chili was eaten after tons of other snacks were consumed, so ginormous bowls of chili were not had. If you’re making this chili for dinner, I’d guess that this exact recipe yields closer to 10-12 servings. But it’s hearty, so consider yourself forewarned!

printable version

time commitment: at least 4 1/2 hours, most of which is inactive

ingredients
chili
2 T cumin seeds
8 bacon slices, chopped
1 4-pound boneless chuck roast, trimmed, cut into 1/2- to 3/4-inch cubes
2 large onions, chopped (about 4 c)
8 large garlic cloves, chopped
7 c beef broth, divided, possibly more
1/4 c pure ancho chile powder
1/4 c chili powder
2 T mole paste
1 T salt
4 t apple cider vinegar
1 T dried oregano
1 bottle of stout beer
4 15-oz cans of pinto beans, rinsed and drained
1/4 c masa (corn tortilla mix)
1/4 t cayenne pepper

garnishes
Chopped green onions
Queso fresco
Sliced fresh  jalapeño chiles
Tortilla chips

instructions
Toast cumin seeds in heavy small skillet over medium heat until fragrant, stirring often, 4 to 5 minutes. Cool; grind finely in spice mill or in mortar with pestle.

Meanwhile, sauté bacon in large pot over medium-high heat until brown and crisp. Using slotted spoon, transfer bacon to large bowl. Sprinkle beef with salt and pepper. Working in 3 batches, sauté beef in drippings in pot until browned, about 5 minutes per batch. Transfer beef and most drippings to bowl with bacon. Add onion and garlic to pot. Sauté until onion begins to brown, about 5 minutes. Add 1 c broth to pot. Bring to boil, scraping up browned bits. Return beef, bacon, and any accumulated juices to pot. Mix in ancho chile powder, chili powder, mole paste, salt, vinegar, oregano, and cumin. Add 6 cups broth, stout, and pinto beans; bring to boil. Reduce heat to very low and simmer gently uncovered until beef is very tender, stirring occasionally and adding more broth by 1/2 cupfuls if chili is dry, about 2 1/2 hours. Mix in masa by teaspoonfuls to thicken chili or add more broth by 1/4 cupfuls to thin. Season chili with salt, pepper, and cayenne, if desired.

Chili can be made up to 3 days ahead (and making it ahead does give flavors time to meld, so try to make it at least a day in advance). Let cool at stovetop for an hour, then refrigerate. Rewarm over low heat before serving.

Set out garnishes as desired. Ladle chili into bowls and serve.

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The New Staple

There comes a time in all of our lives that we eventually have to grow up and start fending for ourselves. Specifically, we have to feed ourselves; the days of coming home to mom and dad’s fresh-baked meatloaf, fried chicken, and steak n’ potatoes fade into the past, quickly becoming memories as opposed to everyday life.

For many of us, we have college as a “buffer” from the inevitable days of reality. We have the dining halls serving up lukewarm pizza, cereal in bins with pitchers of warm milk at the adjacent counter, and last but certainly not least – yesterday’s leftover fruit, usually a lot of honeydew melon and grapes. And let’s not forget the $.10 ‘oodles of noodles’ (chicken flavor! Oriental flavor!) that saved me from ordering Gumby’s pizza on many the occasion.

Eventually, the dining halls also fade into the background as we are forced to get “real jobs” and become part of a functioning society. Takeout still serves its purpose, but there becomes a point sometime after college that the pounds start to pack on a little more quickly, and walking from the dorm to lecture hall no longer constitutes the requirement of exercise. Oof.

Despite what some of you might believe, my time in the kitchen was not always spent with perma-grin. I was not “born to cook”, and I didn’t grow up begging to wash dishes, or wait impatiently in hopes of being allowed to add paprika to the deviled eggs at Thanksgiving. I didn’t even want to learn how to make my gramma’s pound cake – as long as she had one waiting for me every Sunday I was as happy as a pig in pooh.

But even so, I had a “go to” dish – spaghetti. I’d get home and quickly throw some noodles into a pot of boiling water, and I’d cook those noodles until they nearly fell apart (I didn’t have a freakin’ clue what al dente meant until probably 4 years ago). Usually, I’d have a jar of Newman’s Own marinara sauce in the pantry and I’d toss some into the microwave and dump it atop my pasta with a nice hefty shake or two of the Kraft “parmesan”. If I was feeling fancy, I’d put some red pepper flakes in the sauce, but otherwise that was it.

I’ll bet you have your go to dish as well. My problem, if you can call it a problem, is that I don’t have that go to recipe anymore. I make a dish once usually, twice if it’s really good and it’s posted here (which means I still have the recipe), and then I’m finished with it. I can’t seem to shake the habit, but maybe it’s just because I’ve never found a replacement for the spaghetti dish from years ago.

Until now. I’ve had this recipe bookmarked for weeks (remember the curry meatballs?) – weeks! I never read through it, and I simply assumed it would take a long time and we haven’t had any nights where I had a long time to cook in the last month or so. But this past weekend, I picked up the book again and went straight to the page of this dish. It looked easy! It sounded amazing, as it always has, and I knew I’d be giving it a try. All I needed to do was procure some amchur (dried mango powder – duh) and I was set.

I promise you – it took me 30 minutes, and there is limited prep, limited chopping, and lots of goodness. Honestly, it tastes just as good as the restaurant versions. For serious. It’s gonna get made a whole helluva lot around here, now that I’ve realized these facts. And the only problem with this new plan? I’ll have to find another staple dish to order when we want Indian takeout, because I’m not quite sure I’ll be able to pay $10 for a dish I can make in 30 minutes, with 4 servings, for much less than that. Something tells me that isn’t much of a problem either, though.

 

Chana Masala
Adapted from Madhur Jaffrey’s An Invitation to Indian Cooking; serves 4 as a meal

time commitment: 30 minutes

printable version

ingredients
3 T coconut oil (or vegetable oil)
1 t cumin seeds
1 large onion, diced
1/4 t g cinnamon
1/4 t g nutmeg
1/4 t g cloves
1 t g coriander
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 t grated ginger
4 T tomato paste
2 tomatoes, diced
2 cans chickpeas (save ~ 4-5 T of liquid)
1/2 t salt
1/2 t cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon amchur*
1 c uncooked basmati rice
garlic naan, for serving
cilantro, for garnish

instructions
Heat coconut oil in a large, deep skillet over medium-high heat. Add cumin seeds and once they begin to darken (will happen quickly), add onion. Saute until starting to brown (about 8 minutes).

Turn heat to low and add cinnamon through coriander. Mix together, then add garlic and ginger. Turn heat up a little and sauté for 2-3 minutes. Add the tomato paste and tomatoes.

Add chickpeas and the saved liquid. Add salt, cayenne, and amchur. Mix well, cover, and cook on medium heat for about 10 minutes. Stir gently every couple of minutes.

Meanwhile, cook basmati rice and warm garlic naan in the oven. Once chana masala is cooked, garlic with cilantro and serve atop some rice and with naan.

 

*amchur (or amchoor) is available at Indian markets and here. Jaffrey says you can sub in 1 T lemon juice if you can’t locate it.

Juicing It

Last week is a week I hope not to repeat any time soon. Not because I had a lot of work to do, and not because traffic was rough most mornings, and certainly not because I was sick or anything of the sort. Last week sucked because Chris and I did a 3-day juice detox.

Exactly.

Sure, vacation was great and all, but somewhere along the way we became pretty disgusted with ourselves and all of the greasy, processed, yummy food we were eating. Our pants were a lot tighter (remember? I said bring your fat pants on a Deep South trip) and our tummies much gassier than usual, which, for me, is saying a lot. Too much detail? Never! Anyhoo, let’s just call it the straw that broke the camel’s back, and leave it at that. A 3-day diet of nothing but juice seemed like the perfect punishment answer.

To be honest though, it wasn’t the most horrible event to ever happen in my life. And we did choose to do it (and pay a ginormous amount to do it, also). The juices were tasty, at least most of them (I actually miss the almond drink at night), and we certainly weren’t starving since we were drinking water and/or juice almost constantly. But damn, I missed eating. I missed chewing. I missed the variety of tasting something different every day if I chose to. The worst part about it all? We had a lovely weekend beforehand including extra-amazing pulled pork, coleslaw, and baked beans, and I couldn’t even eat the leftovers since we had to go vegan for two days before the juicing started.

Let’s chalk that up to poor planning on our part. We ran out of weekends in September and October, and we had to have a “shredded meat + zombie show marathon” party before the season 2 premiere of The Walking Dead this past Sunday, so there really was no way around it whatsoever. I want to say it was worth it, but all day Sunday I thought about my friends Elizabeth and Kevin and just knew they were tearing into the leftovers we’d forced on them. If they didn’t live all the way on the other side of the bridge I would have stolen it all back come Wednesday, so clearly it’s best that we just got the leftovers out of our sight, right?!

Of course, now that we’ve advanced to solid foods (yay grown ups!), we are trying our best to keep things on the lighter side. Juicing was not only a great way to get rid of a lot of toxin buildup, but it was also a good kickstart to some better eating around these parts. Don’t get me wrong – we’ll still be eating butter, heavy cream, cheese, and our fair share of red meat around here, but hopefully just a little bit less than we have the past few months.

The tacos you see here were eaten the night before and the night after three endless days of nothing but juice our wonderful, exhilarating detox. They were inspired by Joy the Baker’s recent post, primarily because I had everything on hand but the sweet potatoes. Her recipe also included a crunchy component, a cabbage slaw, which is certainly a great idea. I was in no mood to have extra food lying around, so I skipped it. But seriously, crunch is always welcome in a taco, so feel free to add something similar if you’re feeling the need.

As for me, I gotta say – these tacos were great, easy to throw together, and perfect for pre- and post-detox requirements, but this week, I’m ready to have something with actual meat in it. Hallelujah.

ps – if you live in the Bay Area and wanna give the juice detox a try, use Juice to You. They use organic, local veggies and reusable glass jars – super duper green! Outside of the Bay Area? Try BluePrintCleanse, the national company that ships it to ya like nobody’s business.

 

Black Bean & Sweet Potato Tacos
inspired by  Joy the Baker; makes 8 hefty tacos

time commitment: ~45 minutes (most inactive)

printable version

ingredients
1 sweet potato, peeled and diced
2 T + 1 t olive oil
salt and pepper
1 t chipotle chile powder
1/2 t ground cumin
1/2 onion, diced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
8 corn tortillas, warmed in the oven
1 T cilantro, plus more for garnishing
lime juice, for garnish

instructions 
Preheat the oven to 375 F. Toss the sweet potato with 2 T olive oil, salt and pepper, chipotle chile powder, and cumin onto a baking sheet and bake for ~30 minutes, or until sweet potatoes are soft. Remove from oven and set aside.

Heat remaining teaspoon of olive oil in a medium skillet and toss in the onion. Saute on medium for about 5 minutes, until soft, and toss in the garlic for another minute. Then add the black beans and cook until heated throughout. Meanwhile, get the tortillas heated up in the oven. Once the black beans are heated, mix in a tablespoon of cilantro and then dump the beans and sweet potatoes into a bowl together.

Finish off with cilantro and lime juice, then scoop into corn tortillas.

Otto-who? Otto-what?

Over a year ago, I had this crazy idea of going vegetarian. Okay, I’m not telling the truth here. I had the idea of going pescatarian, and only for a month – it was not to be a permanent change. It seemed doable, and this is coming from someone who tends to really like meat. I fought my way through it, even tossing away a lovely piece of pork that I mistakenly ordered, thinking it was a dish full of wheat berries and ramps (don’t ask how I screwed up there….). I didn’t order beef pho the first time I went to a place that served it, and at a tapas restaurant, I chewed on cheese and peppers, drank lots of wine, and tossed back mussels like it was my job.

All in all, it wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it would be. Would I ever give up meat completely? I seriously doubt it. For one, I couldn’t imagine a visit to the South without barbeque (not the fake stuff). And two, I love the smell of cheeseburgers on the grill. Also, bacon is pretty awesome.

But sometimes, I do manage to go a few days without eating meat, and I can honestly say that I usually don’t even notice it. I’d even go further to say that, sometimes, eating vegetarian is a lot healthier, as long as you watch the cheese and carbs.

It seems that every time I talk about vegetarian food, I feel the need to insure you people that I do not intend to eat this way full-time. I’m not sure why? Maybe because I know many of you enjoy the meaty posts, and I assure you they are here to stay.

But the other day, I discovered lentils. Don’t ask me why I’ve never cooked them before; I have no intelligent answer. A friend of mine let me borrow a cookbook of hers that is all-vegetarian, and while I didn’t expect this to be the case, I have a lot of the pages marked and as a result, wonder if I should just buy the dang thing myself.

Yottam Ottolenghi’s Plenty is that book. And of course, I’ve cooked a slew of things (no, I haven’t written about them all) from Heidi Swanson’s new book too, which also happens to be vegetarian. What I’ve realized is this: as long as flavor is brought to the dish, I don’t miss the meat. But the second you make something bland and boring, I may as well be eating tofu from the container. Or tempeh, which is still gross to me.

Ottolenghi seems to know what’s up on that front. His secret? He’s not vegetarian. Of course, some people seem to have a problem with that, but for me, it’s a match made in heaven. He knows that meat tastes good, and he knows that many vegetarian dishes lack flavor. The result? He makes his recipes scream with flavor, belting out ingredients like mustard seeds and curry powder, fenugreek and pomegranate molasses – and it works.

Also! he made me fall madly in love with lentils, an ingredient I’ve never really taken an interest in before. So yeah, maybe I just realized that I’m probably never giving this cookbook back to my friend (shhhhh!), and maybe as long as I locate vegetarian recipes that are actually locked and loaded with flavor I’ll be able to eat somewhat like a ‘flexitarian’, or whatever it’s called. But at the end of the day, I’m sticking to my beliefs – and that’s that meat is meant for me to eat, and I was meant to eat meat.

Spiced Red Lentils with Cucumber Yogurt
adapted from Plenty; serves 4 as a light dinner 

time commitment: 1 hour, about half of which is active

printable version

notice the piece of naan tucked alongside this dish. I didn’t make it this time, but you can. Or you can just buy some :). also, one of these spices is possibly tricky to find: fenugreek. It’s nice, if you have it, but don’t sweat it if you don’t.

ingredients
1 c split red lentils
1 1/2 c water
half a regular bunch of cilantro
1 small onion, peeled and quartered
1 1-2″ piece of fresh ginger, peeled
3 garlic cloves, peeled
1 green chile
1 1/2 t black mustard seeds
4 T sunflower oil
1 1/2 t g coriander
1 t g cumin
1/2 t g turmeric
1/4 t sweet paprika
3 Roma tomatoes, diced
2 t sugar
1/4 t fenugreek (if you can find it)
1 small container of Greek yogurt
1/2 of a cucumber, finely diced
1 1/2 T olive oil
3 T butter
1 1/2 T fresh lime juice
salt and pepper

instructions
wash the lentils under cold water and pour into a bowl with the water. let soak for 30 minutes. get the rest of your ingredients ready and chopped.

meanwhile, cut the cilantro bunch halfway between the top and bottom. give the leaf top a rough chop and set aside. add the bottom stalky part to a food processor along with the onion, ginger, garlic and chili. pulse a few times until ingredients are broken up, but not pasty.

grab a heavy pot (Dutch oven time!) and turn on medium heat. add the mustard seeds and when they start to pop, add the chopped mixture and the sunflower oil. cook on low heat for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. add the coriander through the paprika, and continue cooking/stirring for five minutes. the mixture may appear very dark, which is just fine.

add the lentils and their soaking water, tomatoes, sugar, and fenugreek, as well as a little salt. cover and simmer for 30 minutes, or until lentils are cooked. you’ll probably want to check on them occasionally, as mine were about 5 minutes overdone since I abandoned the kitchen for too long…

meanwhile, make the  yogurt by whisking the yogurt, cucumber, and olive oil together. add salt and pepper to taste.

once the lentils are cooked, stir in the butter, lime juice, and most of the cilantro leaves. season with salt/pepper if needed. divide into 4 dishes, topping each with a large dollop of yogurt and cilantro leaves to garnish.

What Barbeque Isn’t

It has become widely apparent to me that there are some key differences between the East and the West. And now, I don’t mean the World here, I just mean the wee ol’ United States. The red, the white, and the blue. Happy Belated Birthday, by the way, America. The San Francisco fireworks in your honor were just plain lovely, after I stopped thinking about the regretful act of not wearing socks that night.

There were a plethora of other lovelies this past holiday weekend too: grillin’ out with friends on Saturday, starting to walk through a great new book on Sunday, and a baseball game finished off by said fireworks on Monday. Why can’t all weekends be that awesome (minus the sunburn)?!

But let’s get back to the matter at hand. Throughout the course of the past week, I have without a doubt deduced one clear, glaring difference between East and West, and this isn’t to say that there aren’t quite a few, but alas. I have what may be the most important discrepancy: the definition of “barbeque” (aka barbecue).

I’d like to direct your attention to the following article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barbecue. Yes, Wikipedia, the source of all sources.

You can read through the whole article, if you wish. It’s actually rather interesting. But what I’d like to call your attention to is the following paragraph:

“The word barbecue is also used to refer to a social gathering where food is served, usually outdoors in the late afternoon or evening. In the southern USA, outdoor gatherings are not typically called “barbecues” unless barbecue itself will actually be on the menu, instead generally favoring the word “cookouts”. The device used for cooking at a barbecue is commonly referred to as a “barbecue”, “barbecue grill”, or “grill”. In North Carolina, however, “barbecue” is a noun primarily referring to the food and never used by native North Carolinians to describe the act of cooking or the device on which the meat is cooked.”

Here’s the issue: I found myself eating around a grill 4 separate times this past week from Thursday through Monday. Not once did I partake in, or make use of a, barbeque. Often times, I had to confusingly ask for clarification. Here’s one example.

Co-worker: “Are you coming to the barbeque at lunch today? It’s free.”

Me: “Free? Yes! Where is the pig being cooked?”

Co-worker: (insert strange look on face) “Huh?”

Me: “Oh, yeah, right. What you mean to say is there are some meat items that have been grilled, and that is free, right?”

Co-worker: “Yeah. A barbeque.”

Either way, the grilled meat was good. But it ain’t barbeque.

And neither is this chicken, although a grill was most certainly part of the festivities. It doesn’t make it less good, I promise. But there is right and there is wrong in this world, and to say barbeque for something that has a pig nowhere in sight is just plain wrong. Although, I should be clear here, and state my one exception: you can called chicken ‘barbequed chicken’ IF there is a barbeque sauce involved, but that’s still a stretch, and in that sense it really is only referring to the fact that it’s chicken, with barbeque sauce, and not necessarily grilled, either.

Agree? Agree to disagree? Tell me more. Maybe one day I’ll learn to turn the other cheek at this craziness; probably not. And since I am out West, and unlikely to find any truly original REAL barbeque, I’ll settle for grilled meats instead. Because, really, what’s not to love about a grill, anyway?

Grilled Chicken with Za’atar
adapted from Bon Appetit, July 2011; serves 4

time commitment: ~3 hours, plus overnight marinating (most is inactive time; everything can be made in advance, leaving only grilling chicken for the day of)

i’m including the original recipe amounts here, but this is easily adaptable to a crowd, as we practically quadrupled the recipe with no problems, scaling back on the marinade just a tad. the chicken is great by itself, or with either/both of the dipping sauces below. also, I don’t tend to remove seeds from peppers, as we like things spicy in our house, and we like to torture our guests. feel free to remove them if you’re feeling sheepish.

printable version

ingredients
marinade
2 heads of garlic, top third cut off
5 T olive oil, divided
1 1/2 t lemon zest
3 T fresh lemon juice
1 T chopped fresh rosemary
1 small serrano chile, minced
2 t dried marjoram

za’atar
1 T chopped fresh marjoram
1 T sumac
1 T ground cumin
1 T roasted sesame seeds
1 t kosher salt
1 t freshly ground black pepper

1 whole chicken, cut into 6 pieces (breast, wing, thigh/leg)
salt/pepper
1 T olive oil

instructions
Preheat oven to 400 F. Put garlic on a large sheet of foil. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon oil and wrap tightly with foil. Roast until tender and golden brown, 45-50 minutes. Let cool.

Meanwhile, prepare the remainder of the marinade and the za’atar. In a medium bowl, add 4 tablespoons oil, lemon zest and juice, rosemary, chile, and marjoram; whisk to blend. When garlic is cooled, squeeze roasted cloves out of skins and into the same bowl; mash into a paste with the back of a fork and whisk all ingredients together.

For the za’atar, combine marjoram through black pepper in a small bowl.

Place chicken pieces in a glass baking dish or large bowl. Sprinkle 2 1/2 tablespoons za’atar over chicken. Pour marinade over chicken; turn to coat. Cover; chill overnight.

Season chicken with salt and pepper; let stand at room temperature 30 minutes. Meanwhile, heat a gas grill to medium-high. Brush grill rack with remaining 1 tablespoon oil. Grill chicken, turning occasionally, until skin is crisp and browned and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the deepest part of thigh without touching bone reads 160°, about 40 minutes, more or less for some pieces and depending on the size. Transfer chicken to a platter, sprinkle with remaining 1 1/2 tablespoon za’atar, and let rest 10 minutes.

Serve by itself, or with cumin aioli and green harissa (recipes below).

 

Cumin Aioli
from Bon Appetit, July 2011; makes 1 cup

printable version

ingredients
1 t cumin seeds
2 large egg yolks, room temperature
1 T fresh lemon juice
1 small garlic clove, minced
1/2 c grapeseed oil
1/4 c evoo
Kosher salt

instructions
Stir cumin in a small skillet over medium heat until fragrant, 2 minutes; let cool. Coarsely grind in a spice mill. Whisk yolks, lemon juice, and garlic in a small bowl. While whisking, slowly pour in grapeseed oil drop by drop, then olive oil, whisking vigorously until emulsified. Whisk in cumin and 1/2 t water. Season with salt. Cover; chill.

 

Green Harissa
from Bon Appetit, July 2011; makes 1/2 cup

printable version

ingredients
1 c chopped fresh cilantro
1 c chopped spinach
1/4 c evoo
1 garlic clove, minced
1 serrano chile, minced
1/4 t ground coriander
1/4 t ground cumin
Kosher salt

instructions
Combine first 7 ingredients in a food processor and purée until smooth. Season harissa to taste with salt.

 

Sorry John, I’m 5 Years Late on the Chicks!

spice rubbed cornish hens
I’ve talked about my best friend a few times before (like here, and here, and oh, here too). I think she holds the record of “blog nods”, not counting the hubby of course because mentioning him just sorta, well, it comes with the territory so to speak. Have I ever talked about her husband though? I didn’t think so.

So here goes: Kris & John were married 5 years ago (yeah, 5!). As if you had to ask, I was the maid of honor. Well sorta, I was a “half” maid of honor, since I had to share the title. Begrudgingly, I did it. What are best friends for, anyway? (and plus, I knew deep down I was the real MOH anyway, right Kris?!) So yes, 5 years. I remember the days of their wedding planning just as vividly as I remember that dog chasing me on my bike years ago. Not for the same reason, of course. It was great fun. The wedding planning, I mean. The dog-chasing not so much.

chris me kris john in cancun


If you’ve ever been involved in these events, you’ll know that, in general, the dudes kinda sit back and chill. Sure, if you’ve got a good one, he’s obedient when prompted. If you’ve got a real good one, he’ll even plan most of the music and burn 200 CD’s. John, he’s a good one (and so’s mine – he burned those CD’s like nobody’s bizness) – he was around when needed, he gave his opinion (usually only when asked, which is key), and he kept his mom outta our hair as much as possible. But when it came to the food, he would. not. shut. up. He insisted on Cornish game hens.


cornish hens



This should come as no surprise, but Cornish hens were not eaten at that reception. I don’t remember what was, but there were no baby chickens to be had, that’s for certain. So this post, this is for you John.


Having recently eaten Cornish hens, I am now, 5 years later, inclined to agree with John. That sure would have been scrumptious for that reception. And if any creature without a head can be elegant, un jeune poulet would be. No doubt.


Outside of culinary school, this is the first time I’ve made Cornish hens. One of their best qualities is that they cook in half the time it takes to roast a chicken, so you can have these on a weeknight with no problem. But maybe because they’re half the size, and half the age of your standard chicken. You see, Cornish game hens are not game birds at all. They’re young chickens, and can be either male or female, so they aren’t even always hens. Whoever gave them the name must have been a bit off because quite frankly, nothing about the name is accurate. Nevertheless, these little buggers are tasty. Especially made this way.


cucumber mint sauce


The little chickies are rubbed in a blend of fragrant spices (cumin & coriander), and then they’re roasted in the oven. They come out with a great tan and are moist and succulent. And while the little chicks are roasting, you can make the sauce. It’s a sauce not to be forgotten. I was a little sneaky, and didn’t tell Chris it was primarily a cucumber sauce. And whatdya know, he loved it. So I’ve found one kind of cucumber he likes – pureed and incognito. But the sauce, really, is a great compliment to the sharpness of the spice rub. It’s cool and fresh, and leftover sauce would go great with pita bread or grilled veggies, I bet. As a side item, serve up some Israeli cous cous, which, to keep with the theme here, isn’t cous cous but is pasta. But so yummy – almost like the texture of tapioca pearls in bubble tea.

So John, if you haven’t gotten your Cornish hen fix since your attempts 5 years ago, try this. I think Kris might like it. Plus, you can use that Magic Bullet thing to puree the sauce – score!!

And the rest of you? Any Cornish hen recipes, thoughts, suggestions?

Spice-Roasted Cornish Hens w/ Cucumber-Yogurt Sauce
Adapted from Bon Appetit, June 2009; serves 4



ingredients
2 Cornish hens, split lengthwise
2 t cumin
2 t coriander
1 t salt
3/4 t black pepper, fresh ground
olive oil
4 oz cucumber, peeled, cubed
1/3 cup plain lo-fat yogurt
8 fresh cilantro sprigs
3 garlic cloves, peeled
1 heaping T sour cream


instructions
  1. Position rack in top third of oven; preheat to 450 F. Arrange hens, skin side up, on large rimmed baking sheet.
  2. Brush hens with oil. Rub spice mixture (cumin through pepper) over both hens. Roast until cooked through, about 30-35 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile (or up to a day before), combine all remaining ingredients in food processor (mini size is perfect). Blend until almost smooth, and season with salt and pepper. Serve with hens.


Last-Minute Israeli Cous Cous
Serves 4-5; NOT gluten-free


printable recipe

ingredients
olive oil
1/2 cup diced onion
1/2 t cumin
1 box Israeli cous cous
2/3 cup of mixed dried fruit (I used apricots & currants cause I had them)
1/4 chopped nuts (whatever you have, I didn’t use any this time)
salt & pepper


instructions
Pour about 1/2 T olive oil into saucepan on med-hi. Saute onions until browning, about 5 minutes. Cook cous cous according to package (2:1 water to pasta ratio, bring to boil, blah blah). One the mixture is to a boil, add in fruit and nuts. Season once cooked through.