Thursday, July 24, 2014

Pass the Cookbook: Shwarma! Assemble!




This month the Pass the Cookbook crew - under the leadership of Kita, the culinary force behind Pass the Sushi - is cooking from Julie of White Lights on Wednesday's pick: Emeril Lagasse's Kicked Up Sandwiches. 

This post contains an amazon affiliate link at the bottom - for the book.

Our three choices this month were for Almond-Poppy Seed Pound Cake with Lemon Neufchâtel, Turkey Waldorf Sandwich, or Beef Shwarma with Tzatziki Sauce. And, yes, I did pick the latter because of Julie's note: "Who doesn’t want to know what Shwarma is after seeing The Avengers?

I actually didn't remember the Shwarma reference...from the one time I saw the movie. But my boys - all three of them - were happy to oblige and watch it with me; it was the first time our little one has been allowed to see a PG-13 movie. Gasp! He was so excited...he's ten-and-a-half.

I found this still of the Avengers eating shwarma...from the extras of the DVD; we had watched it on netflix, so I didn't get to see the extras. It's too good not to share, right?

from reelz.com

The scene, in case you missed the shwarma reference, too: Iron Man has just saved the world from alien attack.

Tony Stark: [regaining consciousness] What just happened? Please tell me nobody kissed me.
Steve Rogers: We won.
Tony Stark: Alright. Hey. Alright. Good job, guys. Let's just not come in tomorrow. Let's just take a day. Have you ever tried shwarma? There's a shwarma joint about two blocks from here. I don't know what it is, but I wanna try it.

And we all wanted to try it, too. Perfect...I did skip the tzatziki sauce, subbing in homemade Tarator Sauce and using my Homemade Rose Harissa. 



Ingredients makes 4 to 6 sandwiches
Shwarma
  • ½ C plain Greek-style yogurt
  • ¼ C vinegar (I had a thyme-infused Pinot Grigio vinegar)
  • ¼ C plus 2 T olive oil
  • 1 T freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 T minced garlic
  • 1 t ground cumin
  • 1 t ground cinnamon
  • 1 t ground allspice
  • ½ t ground cloves
  • ½ t ground cardamom 
  • ½ t ground ginger
  • 2 lbs beef (I marinated and grilled mine whole - a NY strip - not sliced)

To Serve
  • 4 to 6 lavash breads
  • 2 tomatoes, sliced
  • grilled green onions
  • 8 to 12 lettuce leaves, washed and dried
  • 2 T fresh parsley. chopped
  • Homemade Rose Harissa (or use whatever harissa you have or can find at the store. Our local Whole Foods has at least three versions)
  • Tarator Sauce

  

Procedure
In a medium mixing bowl, combine all of the shwarma ingredients - except the meat -  and mix well. Add the beef and rub so that it's completely covered with the marinade. Cover and refrigerate for at least 8 hours and up to overnight.

Grill till desired doneness. Let stand for 5 minutes before slicing. Carve slices of the meat while you warm the lavash bread in the oven.


To serve, arrange the warmed lavash on a cutting board. Smear the bread with harissa, if using. Lay the grilled onions, tomatoes, lettuce, parsley, and beef on the bread. Drizzle with the Tarator Sauce. Roll up the lavash to form a wrap. Serve with extra sauces, if desired.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Clara, Spanish Lemon Beer




When the Nonni took the boys to a play last night, Jake and I headed out for a quick dinner date and opted for Mundaka, a local Spanish tapas joint. Unlike my usual  choice of sangria, I opted for a clara - beer + sparkling lemonade. It sounded refreshing...and it was!

I looked up a recipe when I got home. Easy! Equal parts beer and equal parts sparkling lemonade. I'll definitely be making this for the rest of the summer.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

A Whole Foods Journey {#FRD2014}



One of the month's challenges for the Jamie Oliver Food Revolution Ambassadors (I'm the Monterey #FRD2014 rep!) is to answer the following:


Why do you eat real food? 
We want to know what inspires you to eat real!

First, I want to say that I see eating whole foods as a journey; you'll encounter road-blocks and take detours. Just keep your eye on the destination. This journey is a conscious decision to eat fewer things from a package and more things from the ground. You don't have to throw out all of your packaged foods, though you can if you like, but I see that as a waste of money that you have already spent. Just make your way through it without replenishing the supply.

Second, learn to forgive yourself. We don't always have time to do everything from scratch. Don't beat yourself up. Just make small changes.

Okay, on to the question asked...and my answer.

I eat real food because, well, it's real. Why would I want to put something in my body that was created in a laboratory, or something that I can't even pronounce? I don't. And I see real connections between food and how my body reacts.

Funny story - and perhaps TMI - but my son had gotten a gift certificate to a chain restaurant that shall remain nameless. He did something good at school, but I put off taking him there. Finally, a friend of mine insisted that I let D use the certificate...and said he'd be a good sport and bring his two boys, too. So, off we went. We ate some awful food and washed it down with awful drinks. And on our way to the bowling alley (the boys' chosen activity post-dinner), both D's and my systems revolted. We dropped R and Jake off at the bowling alley with our friends and ran home to get sick. Yuck. Our digestive tracts were unhappy. Jake joked that his system "remembers eating crappy food, so [he was] fine." I can't explain R's imperviousness.

That's the answer to the question asked. Now, I want to delve into a few challenges and what I do to combat those.

(1) Not planning ahead and then grabbing whatever is available;
(2) Finding the time and energy to cook from scratch; and 
(3) Wanting quick and easy options.

Can you tell that most of the pressure, for me, is time? I know everyone has varying commitments, work schedules, numbers-ages of kids, access to farmers' markets, and more. I also know that what works for me and my family may not necessarily work for everyone else. And I am cognizant of the fact that not everyone will agree with my suggestions. However, this is how we eat real at home a majority of the time - how I stay on this side of sanity! If you read this in its entirety and glean even just one suggestion that might help you eat a little more ‘real’ on a regular basis, I’ll be a happy girl!

Not planning ahead and then grabbing whatever is available
I am not as disciplined as some who create a weekly meal plan. But I do plan ahead. For breakfast, if I have oatmeal, homemade granola (here's a Cacao Nib-Coconut Granola), eggs, chia seeds (for chia seed pudding - here's my 50-50 Chia Pudding), we're set for the week. Lunches are usually leftovers or have bread and tortillas for quick veggie wraps. And talking about dinner, I keep my staples - grains (rice, couscous, and quinoa) stocked; I make sure that I have three or four proteins (fresh seafood, pok tenderloin, ground beef, and chicken) in the fridge for the week; and I pick up our weekly CSA box so that we have plenty of vegetables. If I have all of those - grain + protein + veggie - I can pull together a fresh, home-cooked dinner easily. If any of those elements are missing, it's tempting to just grab something to go; those are usually unhealthy and expensive.

Finding the time and energy to cook from scratch
Cooking foods from scratch has simply become routine for me. But, breakfast consists of grabbing one of the  items I listed above; it's nothing fancy. Lunch, as I mentioned, is whatever is leftover from dinner. So dinner is really only the labor-intensive meal to cook from scratch. As long as I have food in the fridge, I can manage. I banish the kids to do their homework, I crank up some tunes, and get cooking. A good playlist definitely helps!

Wanting quick and easy options
My weekday dinners tend to be simple. No need to resort to packaged stuff just because you squeezed in a run between piano lesson and mandolin lesson and bedtime is in less than two hours! Breakfast for dinner is always a quick solution for us: omeletes, scrambled eggs and toast, or even waffles! If you have bread and cheese: grilled cheese. And my boys will never turn down a BLT. I know these might not be super-thrilling, but because dinners like these are more of a special occasion, I don’t feel badly serving them for dinner every once in a while. It keeps us from picking up take-out or ordering pizza for delivery!

So, I'll readily admit that eating real food does take some extra time and forethought. But remember this: if you don’t buy processed foods, you can’t eat processed foods at home! I truly believe that anyone can eat real if they really want to. You just have to figure out how to make it work for your family.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

La Fée Verte Olive Oil Shortbread




I wanted a little something sweet tonight, but I didn't want it badly enough to get dressed and go to the grocery store. My problem: I had no butter. Sugar, yes. Flour, yes. Butter, no. Argh!

 

So, I decided to experiment with an olive oil shortbread. I called it "La Fée Verte" because it has a splash of absinthe and a sprinkling of fennel pollen. This was easy to make - 7 ingredients in all, about 2 minutes active time, 50 minutes of baking, and 20 minutes of cooling. So, in your hand in less than 75 minutes. Awesome!


Ingredients

  • 3 C white whole wheat flour
  • 1 C organic powdered sugar
  • 1/4 C organic granulated sugar
  • 1 T absinthe
  • 1/4 t fennel pollen
  • 1/2 t fleur de sel
  • 1 C olive oil


Procedure
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. 

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, sugars, absinthe, fennel pollen, and fleur de sel. Pour in the olive oil and stir until the dry mixture is completely incorporated into a cohesive ball.

Transfer the dough to a 10" round baking dish. My stoneware didn't require greasing, but you might want to grease your dish first. Use your fingers to press the dough into an even layer. Prick the surface of the dough all over with a fork; I also cut score marks for the wedges. 

Bake until the surface feels firm to the touch and is slightly golden around the edges, approximately 50 to 55 minutes. Remove from oven, re-score the shortbread, and let cool for 20 minutes. 

Using a very sharp knife, slice the shortbread into the wedges. Let cool completely before removing from the pan.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Croques Monsieur et Madame for La Fête Nationale



Quatorze Juillet! July 14th is often thought of as France's Independence Day. More accurately, though, it's French National Day — called La Fête Nationale in French — and commemorates the day, in 1789, when crowds stormed the Bastille, a fortress used as a prison in Paris. The event marks the beginning of the French Revolution.

I wanted to make something French for dinner - and fast. I still had to meet a deadline after all. I finally decided on croque madame. The croque monsieur, is a ham and Gruyère sandwich slathered in cheesy béchamel; a croque monsieur becomes a croque madame when a fried egg is placed on top of it.


"What does that mean, Mommy?" asked the Lil' Wom.

Croque Monsieur is something like 'crunchy mister.' And Croque Madame is 'crunchy missus.'

"I get it! I get it!" he erupted.

Get what?

"I get why it becomes a girl when you put an egg on top."

[Deep breaths.] Okay. Why does it become a girl when you put an egg on top? [Am I going to regret asking this?]

"Girls have eggs...you know...in their ovaries. Eggs mean girls. Boys have sperm. Mommy, c'mon...."

Oh, right.

The boys wanted monsieur  - not sure if the ovary comment was deterring them or not - and Jake and I had madame. That was easy. Half and half.

Ingredients serves 4 - 2 monsieur, 2 madame

  • 3 T butter
  • 3 T flour
  • 1-1/2 C heavy cream
  • 1/2 C milk
  • cave-aged Gruyère, thinly sliced and enough to cover the tops of the rolls and the insides as well
  • ½ C finely grated Parmesan cheese
  • ½ C grated cave-aged Gruyère
  • salt and pepper, to taste 
  • freshly grated nutmeg, to taste
  • 4 Francese rolls
  • 4 T mustard
  • 8 thin slices baked ham
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 2 duck eggs (you can use chicken eggs, I just had duck)

Procedure
Make a béchamel sauce by melting butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in flour and cook, until smooth, approximately one minute. Whisk in cream and milk. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until slightly reduced and thickened, approximately six or seven minutes. Add ½ cup grated Gruyère and the parmesan, and whisk until smooth. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and nutmeg.

Apologies for the blurry photo. I only took the one. Whoops.

Heat broiler to high. Place bread - sliced in half - on a parchment or foil-lined baking sheet. Spread 1 T mustard on one half. Top each half with Gruyère and a slice of ham. Broil until cheese begins to melt, approximately one to two minutes. Smear some béchamel on one side of the sandwich.


Close the sandwich. Top of each sandwich with another smear of béchamel and slices of Gruyère.


Return to the oven and broil until cheese sauce is bubbling and evenly browned, approximately two to three more minutes. That's it for the Croques Monsieur...


Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add eggs, season with salt and pepper, and cook until whites are cooked but yolks are still runny, approximately four to five minutes for the larger duck eggs. Place an egg on top of each madame, and serve hot.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

SRC Orphan Rescue: Chicken Cafrael




I'm on Orphan-detail today for the Secret Recipe Club - for someone in my own group - and I am thrilled to be cooking from Searching for Spice.

One of the reasons I always volunteer to help out an SRC orphan is to meet new foodie bloggers. But, in this case, I've been reading Corina's blog for a little while now. So, I was doubly happy to help out.

Corina, like me, loves using spices and discovering new ones. Some of her favorite recipes are curries, stir fries and spicy salads. And as a mom of two, like me, she doesn't have time to spend hours in the kitchen and many of her recipes are quick and easy to make. A woman after my own heart. If you haven't have a chance to explore her blog, do!

There are so many recipes I love on this blog. On my short-list: Cassoulet with Confit Duck, Tepsi Baytinijan, Lamb Rogan Josh, and Piadina.

Today, pressed for time with this orphan rescue, I opted to do her Chicken Cafrael. It's a completely new-to-me dish. It’s a Goan dish of chicken, marinated in a vinegary green masala, which is then grilled, fried or baked. I opted for the grilled version because all I had to do was marinate it and my Grill-Master did the rest. Sweet deal for dinner! I did adapt a little to use what I had on hand.

Ingredients
  • 1 star anise pod
  • 3 cardamom pods
  • 3 cloves
  • 1 t coriander seeds
  • 1 t rainbow peppercorns
  • 1/2 stick of cinnamon
  • 1 T minced garlic
  • 1 T ginger paste
  • 1 C fresh cilantro
  • 1/4 C vinegar
  • 1/4 C olive oil
  • 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 1/2 C roasted, chopped green chiles

Procedure
Grind the whole spices in a pestle and mortar. Then put all the ingredients except the chicken and the green peppers in a blender.


Blend to a paste. Add in vinegar and olive oil until desired thickness.


Pour the sauce over the chicken and add in the peppers. Toss to coat the chicken. Let marinade for at least an hour.


Grill till done. I served this with a steamed coconut rice and grilled bok choy. It was an awesome poolside dinner! Thanks, Corina, for the inspiration.

SRC: Savory Fig-Chevre Truffles




It's time for Group B's Secret Recipe Club July reveal. This month I was assigned to Jane's Adventures in Dinner a blog written by - you got it! - Jane.


Jane loves food, loves to cook and, "a long, long time ago in a galaxy far, far away [she] trained as a chef." Gosh, I remember those "other lifetime careers." But she still feeds everyone with whom she comes into contact and throws lots of fun parties. Her husband calls her "the food pusher." She can push food my way anytime!

I seriously had to stop myself from sticking a fork in my monitor for many of her posts. I've been following Jane's adventures for awhile, as our culinary circles have collided in other cooking ventures, but it was great fun to actually sit down and explore her blog for awhile. I was intrigued by her Bacon Maple CocktailCoq au Vin Skewers, Chicken Curry Muffins, Saffron Orange Tapioca Pudding, and her Coconut Squash Soup. Those will all be finding their way onto my table soon.

But what I ended up picking for the SRC reveal today is a version of her Savory Truffles. I had made a version earlier - Savory Red, White, & Bleu Truffles* - but when friends gave me some fresh figs from their tree, it was a sign to make it again! Done.


Ingredients
  • 1/2 C chevre
  • 1 fresh fig,diced
  • 1 T parmesan
  • 1/2 t chilli paste
  • fresh figs for serving

Procedure
Halve your fresh figs for serving and gently scoop out the flesh. Mix the fig flesh with the rest of the ingredients, form into small balls that will fit into your figs. Press the balls into the figs and serve immediately.

*Here are the Savory Red, White, & Bleu Truffles I made with inspiration from Jane...these are my new go-to for easy, impressive appetizers!




Friday, July 11, 2014

Community Night @ Happy Girl: Making Plum Jam





Every now and then, Happy Girl Kitchen opens up their doors after-hours for a Community Night where you go, lend a helping hand, and earn a delicious dinner.

They had crates upon crates upon crates of delicious carmine plums from Thomas Farm in Aptos. So, we met up with friends to help HGK make their delicious plum jam. You know it's a great night when your face hurts from smiling so much...and you're covered in plum juice.
I'm not going to divulge the measurements because the recipe is TOP SECRET. See!


But I will tell you what we did. STEP ONE: Pit the plums. No gadget. No knife. Just clean hands!


 

Here's one full tub...



STEP TWO: Weigh the plums.


STEP THREE: Add in the sugar.
 

STEP FOUR: Pour in lemon juice, then mash everything together.





At that point, the kids were tired and hungry. So we stopped and feasted on rice, lentils with summer squash, kale with quinoa and cheese, and bread with butter. So delicious. Thanks, Zak, for leading the charge. And thanks, too, for the jars of jam. We'll be slathering our morning toast with delicious Happy Girl apricot jam and gorgeous quince jelly. Only one question: when's the next community night?! We'll be there.