Monday, December 7, 2009

Ersatz Ethiopian

Berbere Roast Chicken with Spiced Yams and Injera Stuffing

I have been away wayyyy too long.

And I knew I would kick myself in the pants for not taking a picture of what I made last night...

I acquired some berbere seasoning, the bright red deliciousness you find meat and vegetables rolling in when you order nearly anything at an Ethiopian restaurant. I also acquired some injera, the flat sourdough pancake that serves as both plate and utensil. Traditionally, food is served on a large, round plate lined with injera, and scooped up with additional pieces of the same flatbread. Eating is a communal experience with everyone reaching for the same plate. Some people find this too darn weird, but I like it. The rich, spicy flavors are right up my alley, and what I made last night went really well with some tej, an Ethiopian dry honey wine, which can be found from Linganore Wineries right here in Maryland.

Since I had no idea what I was doing, I did as I assume the Ethiopians do and erred on the side of butter. I took my berbere, mixed it with butter and lemon juice, and rubbed copious amounts of this under the skin of a small fryer chicken. I sauteed some garlic, ginger, jalapenos, onions and leeks, then chopped them up with some injera and butter to make stuffing. I also roasted some spiced yams in the same pan. I served this alongside some kale and leeks, and some braised spiced turnips. And of course, more injera.

Berbere Roast Chicken

1 small chicken (mine was about 3 lbs.)
3 tbsp berbere seasoning
1 tbsp butter
2 tsp lemon juice

Injera Stuffing

1 tsp garlic, minced
1 tbsp ginger, minced
2 tbsp jalapeno pepper, chopped fine
1/2 cup onion, chopped
1/2 cup leeks, chopped
1 cup injera, sliced in ribbons
1 tsp butter

Spiced Yams

1 large yam, in 1" cubes
1 tbsp brown sugar
2 tsp lemon juice]
1 tbsp berbere seasoning
1 tbsp oil

Preheat oven to 450.
In a skillet, sautee the garlic, onion and leeks until lightly browned. Add ginger and jalapeno pepper and cook together until flavors are incorporated. Let cool briefly, then mix with injera and butter.

Rinse chicken and pat dry. Mix butter, lemon juice and seasoning together. Work seasoning up under skin of bird wherever possible, and inside cavity to be stuffed. You can do this a few hours in advance, then wrap and leave bird for up to 6 hours. When ready too cook, make sure stuffing cool enough to touch, then stuff into chicken. Make sure the cavity is as closed as much as possible, then tie the legs closed with cooking twine. Place the chicken on a rack in the center of a roasting pan, and scatter yams around the edges (the pan should be just big enough to hold everything; if things are scattered too much, they will dry out.)

Rub oil, sugar, lemon juice and seasoning over cubed yams. Arrange around chicken in roasting pan and cook alongside.
Roast chicken for 20 minutes on 450 to seal in juices, then lower heat to 350 and roast 20 minutes for each pound (1 hour, in this case). Turn yams and baste chicken halfway through cooking. Serve with injera.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Flirting With Disaster

Seafood Stew with Bacon, Mushroom Risotto

Sometimes I have an idea, and then halfway through I throw caution to the wind and start tossing in things I think will taste good. Inspired by the Basil Queen's "Pesce Alla Acqua Pazza", I set out to make a fish dish of my own. However, I lack her subtlety, and Adele's light and graceful preparation soon gave way to a rich tomato stew flavored with bacon. I also added a whole bunch of onions, a shallot or two, and then said what the hell and threw in some shrimp. I did follow her suggestion in using tilapia, though, which worked nicely and held together in tender morsels. Adele is the true chef among us; my variation is probably more suited to dockside dining. But have you ever had a hot chowder on a cool seashore in September? That's the stuff.

I accompanied this with my first attempt at risotto. Both of these dishes, I realize, could have ended in disaster. Luckily, though, the risotto came out creamy and infused with mushroomy goodness, the stew was flavorful and the fish not overcooked. I served this up with some steamed broccoli, and called it a meal.

Seafood Stew with Bacon

2 strips bacon
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 shallot, minced
1/2 cups onion, sliced thin
2 large beefsteak tomatoes, seeded & diced
1 cup white wine
1 lb tilapia filet, in 1" chunks
10-12 large shrimp, peeled & veined
3 cups chicken stock
Juice of 1/2 lemon
2 tsp dried parsley, crushed
1 tsp dried basil, crushed
2 tbsp fresh basil, shredded
Black pepper to taste
*Salt (if desired)
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

In deep pot, using a small amount of oil, cook the bacon until crisp; remove and set aside. In the bacon-infused oil, sautee the garlic, shallot and onion until browned. Add the tomatoes and sautee until liquid is released and oil acquires a reddish tint. Add the white wine and cook briefly, then add the chicken stock and stir. Add the tilapia and shrimp and bring to a boil, then season to taste with lemon juice, salt, pepper, and dry herbs. Save the fresh basil for the end, and toss in at the end of cooking along with a drizzle of olive oil. Shut the gas and allow to sit for a minute before serving. Top with bacon and more fresh basil for presentation.

Mushroom Risotto
(This recipe came straight off the box of arborio rice)

2 tbsp butter
1/2 cup onion, chopped fine
1 cup mushrooms, chopped
1 1/2 cups arborio rice
3 cups chicken stock
Black pepper to taste

Sautee the onion in butter until lightly browned, then add the mushrooms. Add the rice and stir together to incorporate flavors before adding liquid. Add 1 cup of stock, stirring until it comes to a light boil. Add the remaining stock 1/2 cup at a time, stirring in between, adding the next cup when the rice absorbs the last and begins to thicken again. When the last cup is added, continue to cook and stir until a creamy consistency is reached. The rice should be cooked at the center but still firm. Turn off heat and let sit for 5 minutes before serving. Season with black pepper if desired.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Squid Vicious

Thai Squid Salad

Squid is kind of like the Sex Pistols; many find it offputting, but those who love it feel there is no substitute. It has a bad reputation for being sort of fishy and can be tough if overcooked, but fresh, well-prepared squid is tender and mild, and goes well with a range of flavorings.

You can get squid in a variety of styles; I used fairly large squid with bodies about 6-8 inches long, cut them in strips and then scored them with a cris-cross pattern on the inside. Squid is also readily available frozen in little rings (which come from smaller squid), and you can get the legs, too. I like the legs best, but many people skeeve tentacles. This salad is seasoned Thai style, with ginger and lime juice and a serious dose of spice. It's brazen and in-your-face, it might make you cry, and it wants to do unnatural things to the Queen. Enjoy.

Ingredient of the Day: Sambal Oelek
This Indonesian chili-pepper paste is indispensible in much Southeast Asian cooking. You can find it at nearly any Asian market and, more recently, in many grocery stores.

Thai-Style Squid Salad

1 lb of fresh squid
2 tbsp lime juice*
1 tbsp fresh cilantro
1 tbsp fresh basil
2 tsp fish sauce
1 tbsp light soy sauce
1 tbsp brown sugar
2 tsp sambal oelek
1/2 tsp lemongrass (either fresh or powdered)
2 tsp fresh ginger, minced
1/3 cup carrot, shredded
1 head romaine lettuce, shredded

*You can use 1 tbsp of Rose's Lime Juice, or 2 tbsp fresh with 2 tsp of added sugar.

Prepare your sauce, adding the lime juice, soy sauce, ginger, lemongrass, sambal oelek, fish sauce, basil and brown sugar together. Slice and score your squid, then cook in boiling water for 3 minutes, removing promptly. Stir the squid and sauce together, and pour over lettuce and carrot, and top it with the cilantro and any extra basil. I like to eat this alongside some rice.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Impressing Vegetarians

Sicilian Chickpea Fritters, Pasta with Artichoke Hearts

Hello again! I return from a triumphant eight weeks in Moscow, Russia. Lacking a kitchen in my dorm room on Ulitsa Skakovaya, I've done almost nothing but make up for it since my return, and have been cooking almost non-stop. After revisiting old favorites already posted, I tried something new last night- and I actually took a picture of it!

You see, my roommate brought someone over for dinner- he's a vegetarian, and I wanted to serve up some veggie-friendly protein that wasn't a bean salad. So I modified a Sicilian recipe I'd been meaning to try for a while. Panelles are a simple fritter traditionally made from chickpea flour with some parsley, salt and pepper, lightly pan-fried. Since these aren't true panelles, I won't call them that- I substituted a can of chick peas for half of the flour in the original recipe. You can eyeball this one- the texture will let you know when it's ready. I served this alongside a very simple but extremely tasty veggie pasta, and a simple tomato basil salad.

In case you were wondering, I usually fry and sautee in either vegetable or safflower oil. This time I used sunflower oil, which gives everything a nice buttery, nutty flavor while still being fairly healthy. Olive oil has a low smoking point and I don't prefer it for high-heat activities like frying or browning garlic. Long exposure to heat messes with the delicate taste of olive oil and its healthy properties, so I usually reserve it for use as a flavoring, adding it at the end of cooking.

Sicilian-Style Chickpea Fritters

1 can chickpeas, drained
1 1/2 cups chickpea flour
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp anise seeds
2 cups water
2 tbsp fresh chopped parsley
*1/2 tsp hot pepper flakes (optional)
1/4 cup vegetable or sunflower oil (for frying)

In a pan over medium heat, mix together the chickpeas, chickpea flour, seasonings, and water, stirring constantly. Mash up the whole chickpeas as much as possible while you stir. If the mixture begins to thicken too fast, add a little water. Once the mixture reaches a boil, it will begin to thicken fast- when it becomes a dense paste (after 5-8 minutes), remove it from the heat, and pour it out onto an oiled cookie sheet, pressing it into a layer about 1/2 inch thick. Let the mixture cool, and once it is cooled and firm, cut it into evenly-sized pieces at least 2 inches across. Fry them in a small amount of oil until golden brown on both sizes, and serve.

Pasta with Artichoke Hearts

2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 large shallot, chopped
1 12 oz. jar marinated artichoke hearts
1 12 oz. can diced tomatoes, drained
1 cup white wine
2 zucchini, sliced
2 tsp. capers in vinegar, rinsed
juice of 1/2 a lemon
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tsp dried basil, crushed
2 tbsp fresh basil, shredded
1 tsp black pepper
Salt to taste
*sprinkle of sugar (if needed)
3/4 lb. angel hair pasta

In a pan on medium heat, sautee the garlic and shallot in a small amount of vegetable oil. Add the wine, artichoke hearts in their liquid, and tomatoes, and stir. Add the zucchini, lower heat, and simmer until the alcohol in the wine has cooked off. Season to taste with lemon juice, salt, pepper, basil, and capers, adding a sprinkle of sugar if it seems too tart. Once the pasta is cooked, strain and toss with the sauce, adding the olive oil.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Hot Peppers on the Lamb

Lamb and Rice Stuffed Red Peppers

Ok, so I ripped off my title from an old episode of AMC's Dinner and a Movie. "Two Hot Peppers on the Lamb" was what they cooked when the featured film was "Thelma and Louise". I always thought that was brilliant. Now then...

These stuffed peppers have a little Middle Eastern influence, since the stuffing was inspired by the heavily spiced ground lamb kebabs known as kofta. I had tried this before and been disappointed; getting it right meant putting in more rice, more egg, more salt and more lime juice, and all of this translated into more delicious. I topped the roasted stuffed peppers with a little spicy tomato sauce, and served them with couscous and a spinach salad in strawberry-balsamic vinaigrette (see last summer's entries for the dressing recipe).

Lamb and Rice Stuffed Red Peppers

1 lb ground lamb
1 shallot, chopped
1 tsp garlic, minced
1 cup cooked rice
2 eggs
2 tsp salt
1 tbsp lime juice
1 tbsp sumac (available at Middle Eastern markets)
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp oregano
2-3 bell peppers (depending on size), halved
2 tbsp olive oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Rub the peppers in some of the olive oil and grease a deep pan with the rest. Mix the ground lamb and other ingredients and seasonings well, then press the mix into the peppers, heaping about a 1/2 inch over the top of the pepper. Brush a little olive oil on top of the peppers and set in the oven for 45 minutes. Top with spiced tomato sauce and serve.

Spicy Tomato Sauce

1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp garlic, minced
2 tbsp tomato paste
1/2 cup chicken stock
2 tsp aleppo pepper (available in Middle Eastern markets)
1 tbsp fresh chopped basil
1 tbsp fresh chopped parsley
1 tsp lime juice

In a small pan, sautee garlic in oil briefly, then mix ingredients together over low heat until fully blended, and simmer for 1-2 minutes before serving over the peppers.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Swordfish is the Password

Swordfish Steaks, with Turnip Greens,
Harukei Turnips, Asparagus and Potatoes

The farmer's market has just started up and the pickings are still slim, but yesteday I came upon some very interesting little vegetables called harukei turnips. They taste like a cross between a radish and asparagus, and the farmer told me they would be excellent either raw or roasted alongside some actual asparagus. I had some asparagus at home, some swordfish in my freezer (an excellent deal at Trader Joe's), and the good fortune of a boyfriend who is exceedingly fond of both swordfish and asparagus. He likes potatoes, too, as do I, so I also roasted some of those. The greens from the turnips looked wonderfully fresh, so I sauteed them and served them as well. I don't care to dwell on it, but this must have been a damn healthy dinner.

I'm not even going to include a recipe for the roasted potatoes and vegetables, since all I did was set my oven to 350, rub a little olive oil, salt, pepper and lemon juice on everything, and cook it. The potatoes stayed in for about 45 minutes; I stuck the turnips and asparagus in a separate pan and cooked them for about 25 minutes.

Swordfish Steaks

2 tbsp vegetable oil
2 swordfish steaks
2 tsp olive oil
1 tsp crushed basil
1 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp Northwoods seasoning (from

Rub the above mixture onto your swordfish steaks and cook on medium heat until brown on both sides, about 10-15 minutes if the steaks are about an inch thick. That's it.

Turnip Greens with Mushrooms

1 tbsp oil
1 tsp garlic, minced
1 shallot, chopped
1 cup mushrooms, sliced
1/2 cup white wine
1 bunch turnip greens
2 tsp lemon juice
salt & pepper (to taste)

Sautee the garlic in oil, then add the shallots and mushrooms and cook until lightly browned. Add the wine, then toss in the greens. Lower heat to lowest setting and cover for 2-3 minutes. Stir occasionally, and once greens are tender turn off the heat. Sprinkle with lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste before serving.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Georgia on my Mind

Lobio, Kasha, and Khachapuri

First, let's get something straight: I mean Georgia the COUNTRY, not the US state! Georgian food is still waiting to be discovered as a cuisine over here, but I think it has a bright future. I discovered it in a little family-run cafe on the Fontanka in St. Petersburg, and it took a lot of self-control to keep myself out of there every day. Everyone I know who has experienced Georgian food it will tell you it is exceedingly tasty and fairly simple to prepare. The ingredients are easy to find in the US, and there's little that the American palate will find threatening.

Lobio is a savory bean dish that has numerous variations, all dubbed "Lobio", so I'm including my own recipe, which gets pretty close to the version I first ate in the Georgian cafe. I used canned beans simply because they're faster. It may or may not be traditional to serve this with buckwheat kasha, but I love the stuff and think they're great together.

The real crowd pleaser, though, is bound to be the khachapuri, which is Georgian cheesy bread. Likewise, this dish seems to come in a variety of shapes and styles, so I felt fine taking a few liberties. I used a blend of sharp cheddar and asiago to mimic the salty Georgian cheeses you'd find baked into traditional khachapuri.

Lobio (Georgian Bean Stew)
1 tbsp oil
1 tsp garlic
1 shallot, chopped
1 can red kidney beans or fava beans, rinsed
1 can cannellini beans, rinsed
1/2 cup white wine
1 cup chicken stock
1 cup chopped kale (optional)
1 tsp oregano
1 tbsp seasoning blend*
2 tsp lemon juice

*I used a prepackaged Georgian seasoning blend containing black pepper, salt, paprika, turmeric, oregano, basil and fenugreek. A goulash seasoning, or a blend called "Khmeli-Suneli" would also work well, but the seasoning of this dish seems to be wide open.

Sautee the garlic in oil on medium heat until lightly browned, and add the shallot. Add the beans and stir together, letting them cook for a minute or so before adding the wine. Keep stirring and add the chicken stock and kale. The consistency should be like a thick soup- feel free to add more stock if needed. Add the seasonings and lemon, and lower heat. Stir occasionally- it should be ready when the kale is cooked.

Buckwheat Kasha

1/4 cup oil
1/2 onion
1 cup buckwheat kasha
2 cups chicken stock
1 tsp dill

First make sure to inspect your kasha for small stones and whatnot; even the best American brands might have a pebble in them somewhere, but kasha is delicious and worth the effort. On medium heat in a deep saucepan, sautee the onion in oil until brown. Then add the dry kasha and toast it lightly in the oil for a few minutes, stirring constantly. Add the chicken stock and dill and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and cover. Let it simmer while stirring occasionally until the liquid is absorbed (a 2:1 ratio of liquid to kasha usually works). Remove cover and stir, letting some liquid evaporate- the kasha should be soft, but the individual grains shouldn't be so mushy they stick together.

Khachapuri (Georgian Cheesy Bread)

1 packet quick-acting yeast
1 cup warm water
1/2 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
2 tsp *seasoning blend (optional- see above)
2 cups all-purpose flour
4 oz sharp white cheddar, in small cubes
4 oz asiago, in small cubes
2 tbsp olive oil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a mixing bowl, dissolve the yeast in warm water along with the sugar and salt. Add the seasoning (if desired) and flour, mixing together. When well-mixed, cover and let sit in a warm place for 5 minutes. Then knead the dough for one minute on a floured surface. Divide the mixture into four parts, pressing each into an oval. Fill each with a mix of cheddar and asiago cubes, then pinch the narrow ends of the oval up until it looks like a boat (see picture). Be sure the sides are securely closed, and leave an opening at the center. Leave some flour on the underside of each boat to prevent sticking, and brush the tops with olive oil. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until golden brown.