Cooked Salsa

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This salsa recipe is the one that I make in abundance during the summer months for canning purposes. That way, in theory, we have lots of salsa to open during the winter months.

Last year’s salsa only made it to October. So either we eat a lot of salsa, which we do, or I really need to make a lot more. I’m determined to do that this month.

I refer to it as a cooked salsa, as opposed to my go-to fresh salsa, shown below, which requires summer ripe tomatoes.

The great thing about making your own salsa is that you can make it to your own specifications. My husband doesn’t like salsa that’s too vinegarry and I don’t like them sweet, which many purchased salsas are.

I will give you an approximation of my cooked salsa recipe, but I encourage you to create your own recipe that fits you. I don’t like my salsa to be burning hot, but I do like heat and lots of flavor flavor. This salsa recipe contains all of the important basic ingredients that guarantee a wonderful, flavorful salsa. But tweak it as you like.

Cooked Salsa

Lots of tomatoes, about 5 pounds, of any variety but all red
4 tablespoons oil of choice, I use olive oil
3 white onions, finely chopped
1 red bell pepper, diced
6 green chile peppers like Anaheim or Hatch chiles, finely chopped
6 jalapeno peppers, diced
1 head of garlic, peeled, minced
2 – 28 ounce cans crushed tomatoes, or equivalent product
2 bunches of fresh cilantro, mostly leaves, chopped
1 heaping tablespoon cumin
1 tablespoon coriander
1 tablespoon dried oregano
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
A few pinches of cayenne pepper, optional
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
Juice of 1 lemon

To begin, peel and seed the tomatoes. To peel tomatoes, get a pot of water boiling on the stove, and have a bowl of icy cold water set to the side. Cut a shallow X opposite the stem end of each tomato, and place a few at a time in the boiling water for about 45 seconds. Remove them to the icy water and repeat with the remaining tomatoes. Let rest on towels once they’re out of the cold water for about one minute. With a paring knife, the peel with come off easily. Then core each one, and remove the seeds.

Chop and place in a bowl; set aside.

Next, chop the onions, finely chop the red bell pepper, stem, de-seed and chop the chile peppers, and dice the garlic. I used a gadget for much of this chopping.

In a large pot, pour in the oil and heat it over medium heat. Add the onions and sauté them for about 5 minutes. Then add the bell pepper, chile pepper, and garlic dice to the onion mixture and cook gently for about a minute.

Add the fresh and canned tomatoes. Notice I’m using New Jersey crushed tomatoes. It’s a great product!

Cook the mixture, uncovered, for at least 30 minutes. It should not be watery. If it is, cook a little longer. Then add the cilantro and seasonings. Taste.

Stir in the vinegar and cook for about one minute, then stir in the lemon juice. The theory is that the zing is needed from the vinegar, but the lemon juice removes the odor from it. Turn off the stove and let the salsa cool before adding to sterilized jars, if you’re canning..

This post is not a primer on canning but I recommend doing it. We’ve all worried that food will explode, but it won’t! Get yourself a few products, plus a good book. There are safety concerns, but canning is not a big deal.

I hope you enjoyed this recipe. If you want to make salsa during winter months, you can simply use all canned tomatoes, perhaps a mixture of diced and crushed, depending how chunky you want your salsa.

One can certainly get more creative as well, using roasted chile peppers, including chile pepper powders, adding other ingredients like beans, corn, and peaches. It will all work!

Chicken Biryani

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When I first made biryani a million years ago, or so it seems, it was a fun dish for me because it was a perfect vehicle for leftovers – leftover rice, leftover chicken, even a leftover curry. But one can also make it purposefully from scratch, creating a custom version of what you like.

Biryani is an Indian dish, with many variations, which is perfect for the way I like to cook. It’s basically rice and meat, and you can sprinkle the dish with cilantro or green onions, serve with sour cream. It’s fun and flavorful and filling.

I’m not using an actual recipe, simply so I can show you how to make it from scratch and how easy and straight forward biryani is. I’m using the basic Indian-inspired seasonings, basmati rice, and prepared chicken.

After I’d created the seasonings for this biryani, I discovered an actual biryani seasoning mixture that I bought a few years ago. I need to go through my spice drawers!

Chicken Biryani
Printable recipe below

3 tablespoons ghee or butter
1 onion, finely chopped
1 – 1” piece of ginger, minced
4-5 cloves garlic, minced
1 3/4 cups basmati rice, I’m using brown
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon of cayenne pepper, or to taste
Approximately 3 1/2 cups of good chicken broth
4 grilled chicken breasts
2 tablespoons ghee
1 red bell pepper, cut into slices
1 green bell pepper, cut into slices
4 hard-boiled eggs
1 bunch cilantro, chopped

Melt the ghee in a pot over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté for about 5 minutes.

Add the ginger and cook for a couple of minutes. Add the garlic, give it a stir, then pour in the rice followed by the spices.

Add the broth and give everything a stir. Bring to a simmer, cover the pot, and cook for about 30 minutes. Brown rice takes a bit longer so test it. If your rice is done and there’s still some broth, give it a stir, keep the lid on, and give it about 10 minutes; the rice will absorb the liquid. Set aside and keep warm.

Cut up the cooked chicken breasts into bite-sized pieces. I put sweet paprika on mine before cooking, which is why they’re red; paprika is not an Indian spice. Set the chicken aside.

In a skillet, heat the ghee over medium-high heat, and sauté the pepper slices for about 5 minutes, getting some good caramelization on them, turning once. You might have to do this in two batches. Set the slices on a plate.

Add the chicken pieces, turn off the heat, put on a lid, and let the chicken heat through.

Peel the hard-boiled eggs and slice in half; make sure they’re at room temperature.

To serve, place the aromatic rice on a serving platter, then cover with the peppers and chicken. If you prefer, you can mix the chicken with the rice instead.

Decorate the biryani with the egg halves, and sprinkle the dish with cilantro.

If you don’t want to grill chicken breasts, pick apart a rotisserie chicken and coarsely chop the meat.

If you want to use less chicken, include a can of drained chick peas to the rice.

Now you can see how you can come up with your own recipe for biryani. It’s fun and easy!

 

 

Guiso de Carne

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At our favorite Mexican restaurant in town, I typically order one of two favorite items. One is shrimp Saltado, and the other is guiso de carne This is what is looks like at the restaurant.

It’s tender beef in a rich red sauce – not spicy, but very flavorful, served with rice, beans, guacamole, pico de gallo, and sour cream.

Recently I decided to make guiso de carne at home, and I immediately had challenges. The first was that this didn’t exist in any of my Mexican cookbooks, and then online, the name guiso de carne was most often changed to carne guisado. I tried to figure out the difference, but hit a dead end.

Carne Guisado is beef braised in a seasoned red sauce, and at this point I’m thinking its a Tex-Mex creation.

So I created my own recipe, and is it exactly like what I love at the restaurant? I’d have to do a side-by-side taste test. But it’s really good.

Guiso de Carne

2 pounds beef chuck, cut into 1/2 -inch pieces
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
Grapeseed or canola oil, divided
1 medium white onion, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 guajillo chile peppers, stemmed, seeded
8 ounces hot chicken broth
2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon ground ancho chile pepper
8 ounces tomato sauce

Place the cut up beef in a large bowl. Add the salt, pepper, cumin and coriander and toss so that all the beef is seasoned.

Starting with 1 tablespoon of oil in a large Dutch oven, brown the meat in batches over high heat, without crowding, then place in another bowl. Continue with remaining beef.

Reduce the heat and add a little more oil if necessary, and sauté the onion; don’t caramelized much.

Meanwhile, place the hot chicken broth in a small blender jar with the guajillo peppers, broken up slightly, the chipotle peppers, the oregano, and ground ancho chile. Let sit for about 5 minutes before blending until smooth.

Add the tomato sauce and blend again; set aside.

Once the onions are sautéed, stir in the minced garlic for barely a minute, then pour in the tomato sauce mixture.

Bring to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes.

Add the beef and its juices to the sauce, give everything a stir, and simmer on low for 1 hour.

Check halfway through cooking – add some more broth if necessary. Make sure to give the meat a stir to make sure there is no sticking.

Serve the guiso de carne on a plate with your desired side dishes and toppings.

Rice and beans are great accompaniments, as are flour tortillas.

If you prefer eating guiso de carne in tortillas, like tacos, it’s best to make sure the pieces of chuck aren’t bigger than 1/2″.

Rosey Harissa Chicken

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Susan Spungen is a name you might not recognize, although she’s been everywhere. She published her 3rd book, Open Kitchen, in 2020. It’s a cookbook of “inspired food for casual gatherings.” That’s exactly what I enjoy!

So, if you aren’t aware of who Ms. Spungen is, here is Amazon’s summary of her accomplishments:
Susan Spungen is a cook, food stylist, recipe developer, and cookbook author. She was the Founding Food Editor at Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia from its inception until 2003. She was the Culinary Consultant and Food Stylist on the feature films Julie & Julia, It’s Complicated, and Eat, Pray, Love. She is the author of Recipes: A Collection for the Modern Cook, What’s a Hostess to Do?, and Strawberries (A Short Stack Edition) and co-author of the best-selling Martha Stewart’s Hors d’Oeuvres Handbook.

The recipes in this cookbook are good. I bookmarked 15, which is a lot for me. They’re definitely inspired, and not fussy or over-the-top. The recipe I chose to make first is Rosey Harissa Chicken, which is a whole chicken marinated overnight in kefir and harissa. Then the chicken is roasted, and sprinkled with Rosey Harissa. After carving the chicken, you throw rose petals over the top!

There are many ways to buy harissa, both in paste form and powdered. You can also make harissa easily yourself.

Below are ground harissa, and the recommended brand of rosey harissa, which contains rose petals!

Rosey Harissa Chicken
serves 4

1 1/2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1 – 4-5 pound chicken
3/4 cup kefir
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
4 garlic cloves, grated
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves or 1 teaspoon dried thyme
3 tablespoons harissa, plus more to taste
2 large or 4 small shallots, cut in half with skin on
1 head of garlic
1/2 lemon
3 to 4 sprigs fresh thyme
1 1/2 tablespoons New York Shuk-brand Rosey Harissa
Dried edible rose petals, optional

Combine 1 1/2 tablespoons of the salt and the pepper in a small bowl. Place the chicken in a wide, shallow work bowl and season it inside and out with the mixture. Separate the skin from the breast.

In a separate bowl, combine the kefir, lemon juice, grated garlic, the remaining 1 teaspoon salt, they thyme, and plain harissa. Place the chicken in a 1-gallon plastic bag. Pour the mixture over the chicken and use a rubber spatula to help coat the chicken all over, inside and out, with the mixture.

Push some of the marinade under the skin. Squeeze as much of the air out of the bag as possible. Refrigerate for at least 8 hours and up to 24 hours, turning occasionally.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Scatter the shallots in a small roasting pan or other heavy 9 x 13″ pan. Remove the chicken from the marinade and let the excess coating drip off, leaving a thin coating, and put it in the pan. Cut off the top third of the garlic head. Put the large part face down in the pan and the small part in the cavity. Put the lemon half cut=side down in the pan. Sprinkle the thyme sprigs on top. Add 1/4 cup water to the pan.

Roast the chicken for 45 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F.

Sprinkle the chicken with the Rosey Harissa and start basting with whatever juices have collected in the pan and in the cavity.

Roast, basting every 15 minutes or so and adding 1/4 cup water if the pan looks dry, until the leg feels very loose when jiggled, 1 hour and 30 minutes to 1 hour and 45 minutes. (I only did 1 hour and 30 minutes, for fear of overcooking.) The idea is to let it dry a little so the flavors and juices caramelize but do not burn. Always add 1/4 cup water before it starts to burn.

Transfer the chicken to a carving board to rest. Squeeze the lemon and garlic into the pan juices and mash the shallots with a fork. Strain the juices through a mesh sieve, pressing hard on the solids to extract all the juice.

Spoon off some of the grease, if needed. Whisk in extra harissa if you want extra heat.

Pour the jus on a platter. Carve the chicken and arrange it on the platter to soak up the sauce but maintain crispy skin.

As you can see I put the delicious jus in a small bowl. It definitely needed to be de-greased.

Crush the rose petals over the top of the chicken, if using.

I enjoyed dipping the chicken in the jus.

So, this was a fun recipe. I love harissa, and the kefir bath worked similarly to buttermilk. The basting was fun, but it’s really only for the skin. The chicken, not surprisingly, was on the dry side. But mostly I really didn’t enjoy eating rose petals. So I won’t be making this chicken again unless I cook it like I would normally roast a chicken. And omit the rose petals!

But it was all a great experience.

Yewollo Ambasha

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If you decide to make this traditional Ethiopian bread, your life will be changed forever. I can guarantee you that. It is fragrant, delicious, and perfect for Ethiopian stews, or wats. I just like saying the name – yewollo ambasha!

My first experience with Ethiopian cuisine was when I still lived at home. My mother owned the Time-Life set of cookbooks called “Foods of the World,” and she tore through them like it was nobody’s business! Every week we’d be served food from a different country, whether we liked it or not! (My only bad experience was with Chinese fried tiger lilies.)

The set consisted of spiral-bound, small recipe booklets, and a larger companion book with photos, history, and stories. This is the cover of the African cookbook.

Being the geek that I was, I loved to look at the photo-filled book. I was enamored with the different-looking people, the colors of their food, and various cooking equipment.

I’ve mentioned that I began cooking seriously in 1982, when I got married. My husband was limited, shall we say, in his experience with food growing up – quite the opposite of me. However, I didn’t really know this, so I cooked through cuisines naively and we ate. More importantly, he ate.

As a girl, I never dreamed of my wedding, but I did dream of eventually having Thanksgiving turkey, something my mother refused to make…. something about French people not liking turkey. (Enter eye rolling.)

The first year my husband and I were married, I got my wish! A full-on turkey with all the fixins. The second year? My husband asked for Ethiopian food. Yes, I created a food monster!

I don’t remember what all I made, but I know this bread was a part of the menu.

Yewollo Ambasha
Spice Bread
Makes 1 – 12” round loaf

1 package plus 1 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
2 cups lukewarm water
10 tablespoons niter kebbeh, melted over low heat, divided
2 tablespoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 teaspoon fenugreek seeds, pulverized
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
2 teaspoons salt
4 1/2 to 5 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon berberé

In a large mixing bowl, sprinkle the yeast over 1/2 of the lukewarm water. Let the mixture stand for 2 – 3 minutes, then stir to dissolve the yeast completely. By habit, I always add a little sugar on top of the yeast.

Set the bowl in a warm, draft-free place for about 5 minutes, or until the yeast bubbles up and the mixture almost doubles in volume. Add the remaining 1 1/2 cups of lukewarm water, 8 tablespoons of the niter kebbeh, the coriander, cardamom, fenugreek, white pepper and salt, and stir with a whisk or spoon until all the ingredients are well blended.

Stir in the flour 1/2 cup at a time, using only as much as necessary to make a dough that can be gathered into a soft ball. Also by habit, I always start with a slurry, using only a small amount of flour, and let that rise first, then proceed.

On a lightly floured surface, knead the dough. Sprinkle the dough with a little extra flour if it sticks to the board. Repeat for about 5 minutes, or until the dough is smooth but still soft.

Tear off a small piece of dough, roll it into a ball about 1/2” in diameter and set aside. Place the remaining dough on a large untreated baking sheet and pat and shape it into a flattened round about 10” in diameter. To decorate the loaf in the traditional manner, make the impression of a cross on top of the loaf by cutting down 1/2” with a long, sharp knife into the dough, “dividing” it into equal quarters. Then with the point of the knife, cut 1/2” wide slits about 1/2” deep and 1/2” apart crosswise along both cuts of the cross so that the cross looks like the map symbol of railroad tracks. Holding the tip of the blade steady at the center of the cross, make shallow cuts at 1/4” intervals all around the loaf to create a sunburst or wheel design on the top. I did the best I could. Flatten the ball of dough and press it firmly into the center of the loaf.

Set the loaf aside in a warm, draft-free spot for an hour; it should double in bulk. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Bake the bread in the middle of the oven for 50-60 minutes, until it is crusty and a delicate golden brown.

Slide the loaf onto a wire cake rack. While the bread is still warm, combine the remaining 2 tablespoons of niter kebbeh and the berberé and brush the mixture evenly over the top.

Yewollo ambasha may be served while it is still warm, or may be allowed to cool completely.

It’s so pretty I almost hate cutting into it, but the fragrance is so lovely that it’s never stopped me!

Berberé

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Before one can make any traditional dishes of Ethiopia, it is necessary to make the wonderfully complex spice paste called berberé. It is paprika based, but also contains onion, garlic, and many wonderful spices that add to the complexity of this unique seasoning mixture. These include cayenne, ginger, coriander, cloves, fenugreek, cardamom, and more.

The recipe I use is from the Time-Life series called Foods of the World.

It doesn’t take much time at all to make berberé, and the toasting spices will make your whole house smell wonderful.

Once you have this spice paste, as well as the other unique seasoned butter called niter kebbeh, you will be able to make a number of authentic Ethiopian dishes.

Berberé
Red Pepper and Spice Paste
Makes about 2 cups

1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground fenugreek
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
2 tablespoons finely chopped onions
1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic
2 tablespoons salt, divided
3 tablespoons dry red wine
2 cups paprika
2 tablespoons ground cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups water
1 – 2 tablespoons vegetable oil

In a heavy skillet, toast the ginger, cardamom, coriander, fenugreek, nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon, and allspice over low heat for a minute, stirring constantly.

Then remove the skillet from the heat and let the spices cool for 5-10 minutes.

Combine the toasted spices, onions, garlic, 1 tablespoon of salt and the wine in the jar of an electric blender and blend at high speed until the mixture is a smooth paste.

Combine the paprika, cayenne, black pepper and the remaining tablespoon of salt in the saucepan and toast them over low heat for a minute, until they are heated through, stirring the spices constantly.

Stir in the water, 1/4 cup at a time, then add the spice and wine mixture. I used some of the water get get more of the wine mixture from the blender jar.

Stirring vigorously, cook over the lowest possible heat for 10 – 15 minutes.

With a rubber spatula, transfer the Berberé to a jar or crock, and pack it in tightly.

Let the paste cool to room temperature, then dribble enough oil over the top to make a film at least 1/4″ thick.

Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to use. If you replenish the film of oil on top each time you use the Berberé, it can safely be kept in the refrigerator for 5-6 months.

Now, you can buy powdered berberé, like I did when I visited Kalustyan’s in New York City, but you can see I’ve never opened it. I’d much rather make the paste from scratch.

Schug

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I’m so excited! I’ve discovered a new condiment called Schug, and my husband even loves it!

It originates from Yemenite cuisine, but has spread in popularity throughout the Middle East, from what I’ve read. It’s typically used over falafel or shawarma, but it can be used on fish, eggs, and just about any meat.

So what is schug? It’s a really bright green mixture of jalapeño peppers, cilantro, parsley, and olive oil. I’ve seen recipes with cumin; some also list cardamom, and some list coriander. I’m using both. If you want to read more about schug this is a good article here.

Schug

8-10 jalapeño peppers
1 bunch cilantro, coarsely chopped
1 bunch parsley, coarsely chopped
10 small cloves garlic
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
Pinch of ground white pepper
1/4 olive oil

First remove the stems of the jalapeños. Holding them vertically with a latex-gloved hand, slice the flesh of the jalapeños downward, avoiding the inner seeds. This technique works well with all kinds of peppers if you want to avoid seeds as well as the membrane.

Place the jalapeño slices, the cilantro, parsley, garlic, and all of the spices in a food processor.

Add the olive oil and process with the pulse button. Add a little more olive oil if necessary. Leave some texture in the sauce.

Place the mixture in jars; it can be frozen.

When you’re about to use it, it can be thinned with a little more olive oil first.

What I’m doing with the schug today is drizzling it on a salad of tomatoes, beets, and fresh mozzarella.

Tomato, Beet and Mozzarella Salad with Schug
Serves 2-4

3 medium-sized tomatoes, sliced
Equal number of beet slices, from a jar, drained well
Equal number of fresh mozzarella slices
Schug, thinned with some olive oil

Layer the tomato, beet, and mozzarella slices on a serving plate.

Generously drizzle the salad with schug.

Sprinkle the salad generously with flaked salt.

I can also see the sauce mixed with mayo or sour cream, or even a bechamel to create creamy schug!

Curried Pumpkin White Bean Soup

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My first introduction to pumpkin was probably like every other American’s – pumpkin pie. I had no idea that this lovely pie was made with a vegetable! The horror! I was married and just learning how to cook when I figured this out.

Pumpkin, the squash, does not taste like pumpkin pie. It’s kind of plain, really, but with some sweetness. But boy does it lend itself to all things sweet and savory.

When my kids were little, I snuck canned pumpkin into just about everything, from oatmeal and pancakes to soups, stews, and pastas. To me, the pumpkin just increased the nutrition of whatever I was making, and the girls never minded the color. Puréed spinach is a different story!

The only way to get canned pumpkin in the “old” days, was in cans. Nowadays, I purchase puréed organic pumpkin in cans or aseptic cartons. I learned a long time ago not to buy inferior brands of pumpkin. They are tasteless and watery.

If you want to be a purist, grab a cooking pumpkin, chop it in half, remove the seeds. If desired, drizzle the flesh with a little olive oil and season (if you’re using the pumpkin for something savory.) Cover the halves securely with foil, then bake in a 350 degree oven for 2 hours.

After the pumpkin has cooled, remove the flesh and place it on paper towels or a clean dish towel to remove the water. This step takes a couple of hours. If you want to expedite this, place a heavy baking dish over the paper towel-wrapped pumpkin flesh. This isn’t as critical of a step if you’re using the pumpkin purée for a soup.

Baking a pumpkin from scratch is an important thing to do once. It’s fun. Afterwards, you figure out it’s much easier to buy good puréed pumpkin! Plus, you know the weight of the pumpkin in the can, if you’re using a recipe.

You might have noticed this post published the day after America’s Thanksgiving event. That is because pumpkin to me is something that can be used year around. It isn’t just for autumnal dishes.

Curried Pumpkin White Bean Soup
serves 4
printable recipe below

2 tablespoons butter or ghee
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
1” piece of fresh ginger, sliced
4 cloves garlic, peeled, halved
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 – 15 ounce can pumpkin purée
1 – 15.8 ounce can Great Northern beans, well drained
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 – 1/3 cup heavy cream, or other options, below

Heat butter in a stock pot over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté for about 5 minutes; a little browning is okay.

Add the ginger and garlic and sauté gently for about 2 minutes.

Pour in the chicken broth, let boil, then reduce the liquid by about half.

Add the pumpkin and beans and stir well. Add the seasoning and taste. Let cool before adding to the blender.

Now you’ve got curried pumpkin and white beans and you have options.

1. For a less creamy soup, use broth to blend the pumpkin and beans to your desired consistency. Serve with a dollop of yogurt or creme fraiche.

2. Use heavy cream to blend the pumpkin and beans for a super creamy and rich soup, and serve with cilantro and cayenne pepper flakes.

3. Use either of the above liquids, and top your soup with bacon bits or slices of grilled sausage. And the curry powder ingredients are optional, of course.

Because I’m a sucker for rich soups, I opted for number 2, using heavy cream. You can use 1/2 and 1/2, evaporated milk, or even goat milk. They will all work.

Stop blending when the soup is as thin as you want it; I prefer thicker soups, especially during cold months.

If you haven’t used white beans in a soup before, they’re a miracle worker. They thicken, just like potatoes, but they also add a creaminess and healthy fiber, without adding any significant flavor. It would be like adding tofu for creaminess, fiber, and thickness, which also works well.

Once you use white beans for a soup, you’ll be hooked. I promise.

 

 

Chicken Shawarma

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After eyeing a beautiful, drool-worthy photo of lamb shawarma on a blog one day, shown below, I so wanted to make it, except for the fact that my husband won’t eat lamb.

So I searched the same blog, Recipe Tin Eats, for chicken shawarma and found a recipe I knew we’d both love.

It is Nagi’s recipe, who lives in Sydney, Australia, although she was born in Japan. I’ve enjoyed her blog for a few years now; her recipes are always fresh and innovative. Nagi also has the cutest dog, Dozer, who makes his appearance in every blog post.

Shawarma is Middle Eastern in origin, and refers to beef, lamb, chicken, or veal, grilled on a vertical spit that rotates.

If you’ve ever been to a döner kebob spot, you’re familiar with a close shawarma cousin. Similarly, the meat is sliced and placed on flatbread, sometimes offered with cucumber and tomato, or even hummus.

Except that shawarma is more about this lucious, spicy marinade that coats the raw meat and crusts up when the meat is grilled.

Why I never made any kind of shawarma at home before now is beyond me.

Chicken Shawarma
Slightly adapted from Recipe Tin Eats

2 pounds chicken thighs (I used breasts)
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 tablespoon ground cardamom
2 teaspoons smoky paprika
1 teaspoon ground cayenne
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon finely ground pepper

Slice the chicken into uniformly-thick pieces and set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine the remaining ingredients and stir well. Yes, I’ve never used a tablespoon of ground cardamom in a dish before either, but don’t hesitate. Use it!

Add the chicken and make sure all of the pieces are coated. Place the chicken and marinade in a large zip-lock bag and refrigerate for 1 or 2 days.

Ideally the chicken should be grilled outside on a barbecue, but on this day I used my indoor stove-top grill.

Bring the chicken to close to room temperature. Grill the chicken until just done; you don’t want the meat dry, especially if you’re also using chicken breasts.

To serve, set out the platter of grilled chicken, flatbreads, hummus, sliced tomatoes, and cucumbers.

You don’t have to add all of the “goodies,” but I do!

I made a parsley-laden tabbouleh, and also served a “salad” of tomatoes and cucumbers.

Nagi included a yogurt sauce on her same blog post for chicken shawarma, and I preferred it over the hummus.

Yogurt Sauce

1 cup Greek yogurt
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
Squeeze of lemon
Salt
Pepper

Whisk together the yogurt with the garlic, cumin, and lemon. Season with salt and pepper, and serve at room temperature.

I even made a quick pickled radish condiment for the shawarma, but it wasn’t really necessary.

For this feast, I had to share with friends, so I served all of the dishes buffet-style, and friends created their own shawarma. It’s so similar to serving fajitas!

Everyone had a good time. I served a Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir which went perfectly with the chicken and other Middle Eastern flavors.

My White Bean Dip

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Hummus is wonderful. Don’t get me wrong. I love it. But when one makes hummus, one is limited to garbanzo beans, tahini, and lemon. With white bean dips, you can add anything and everything because there’s not one recipe!

You can add herbs like rosemary, or seasoning mixtures like harissa, paprika creme, pumpkin or carrots, pesto or sun-dried tomatoes. There are limitless options.

I also prefer white beans for their texture. I’ve ordered many a hummus, even at Middle Eastern restaurants, and it’s often dry and mealy. To me, a soft creamy texture is preferable, which is what you get when you use canned white beans.

Don’t buy Italian Canellini beans because they’re twice as expensive as Great Northern.

Today I’m posting on a dip I created ages ago, using cumin, coriander and cayenne. It is the most popular with my family, and was actually published in Gourmet magazine.

It was on my blog quite a few years ago, but the photos were terrible. These are somewhat improved although, not being good at styling, I can’t seem to make an attractive swirl.

Mimi’s White Bean Dip
printable recipe below

1 – 16 ounce can Great Northern beans
1 clove garlic, germ removed if necessary
Good extra-virgin olive oil, about 1/4 cup, plus more
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
Cayenne pepper, to taste
Pinch of salt
Flatbreads, pita crisps, crackers

Drain the beans in a colander and lightly rinse.

Place the beans in a food processor jar and add the garlic and seasoning.

Begin processing the beans, adding olive oil until the beans are smooth and the garlic is fully processed.

Scrape out the bean dip into a serving bowl. The mixture should be fluffy.

Add a little drizzle of good olive oil.

Serve with bread, crackers, pita chips, or whatever. I used baked Terra chips because they’re pretty.

The dip recipe can easily be doubled or tripled. One can of beans is enough to make a dip for two people.

Not only does this dip take a few minutes to make and is easy, it’s also extremely inexpensive to make, which is why during our lean years I often made it for company. But, it was always enjoyed and appreciated, especially by people who’d never heard of a bean dip.

No dips are really beautiful. If you want to make a prettier presentation, spread some dip on crostini to make canapés of sorts. Sprinkle with a little paprika for color, some chives, or a little basil leaf.

Years ago, my husband and I used to enjoy sandwiches on road trips with this dip as the sandwich spread. Our car always smelled like garlic!