Thursday, January 27, 2011

Angel Food Cake with Blueberries

Monday was Seth's birthday - the big 3-2 - and the first birthday we were able to spend together (last year I was in Uganda, the year before in the States.) My Thai cookbook includes a recipe for Shrimp Pad Thai (Phat Thai.) Seth had expressed interest in it back in December and, not to keep on the edge of your seat, that's what I made him for dinner. It would also have been the subject of this post except I had trouble juggling the order of ingredients and couldn't be bothered with taking pictures of the process. Plus I overcooked the noodles and, honestly, I didn't like it. Seth and Ryan loved the dish but I thought it was slightly bland and I think it's possible I don't like shrimp much anymore. That possibility horrifies me so I'll ignore it for now and give you some cake instead.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Tuna Two Ways

Browsing through my recent posts I realize that the vast majority are cookbook recipes, as though I don't cook anything of mine - at least, nothing worth sharing with you. And that's not true, it just happens that when I make something off the cuff I don't pay much attention to what I am doing and so when requests come from my husband or friends to remake a certain dish I attempt to retrace my steps and, more often than not, am left with a blank. I am sure I am not the only one! But for the past couple weeks I have been watching MasterChef America and MasterChef Australia (which, by the way, I think is much better than the American version) and decided that, damn, I need to cook my own recipes more often and earn my keep.

And then the Sultan Center had fresh Saudi tuna on display so I decided I would also tackle my fear of cooking fish. Never a recipe for disaster, right? I am not uncomfortable with all seafood: I love shellfish and find preparing them fairly easy, except for maybe scallops and lobster. Fish, on the other hand, just seems tricky and temperamental. Maybe it will come out dry, maybe raw, maybe with hidden little bones - and what's this poaching in oil thing I've heard about? Fascinating.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Tangia (Slow-Cooked Beef with Herbs)

Kites flying in the Kuwait desert aren't beef stew, I know, but my photo mojo is currently at zero, what with the move and all, especially the anxiety and stress with attempting to export my cat out of Kuwait. I have a stop in Dubai and all animals flown into Dubai have to go as cargo, so once I land I will have to go pick up Umberto, clear him through customs, then check him in as excess baggage - if I can even do that. My next stop is in London and everyone - the woman helping me with all of this, the man at Emirates SkyCargo and the airlines - are worried because usually pets are flown cargo into Heathrow and, what with England's strict quarantine rules, there is a possibility that Umberto might be whisked away to a 6-month quarantine, while I'm thinking, seriously? I am the first person to attempt to travel through Heathrow with a pet in transit?

But enough of my problems: let's discuss this amazing beef stew. I love slow-cooked meat because, as long as you keep it moist, it's almost impossible to screw it up. The meat literally melts in your mouth, all the flavors blend together to make even a vegetarian drool and you wonder why you want to start a diet and give up something so delicious. Harissa, a hot chili paste, should be easy to find in many stores, though be careful because are hotter than others. The 1/2 teaspoon used, however, adds a gentle heat rather than overpowering fire. The recipe calls for a cooking time of 3 1/2 hours, but I couldn't resist the smell after 2 1/2; luckily, my beef was still like butter. Sop up the delicious juices with pieces of your freshly baked kesra.

Now off to raise my anxiety level to %180 while I try to work out my pet travel woes. Enjoy!

The Food of Morocco

2lb (1 kilo) chuck steak or boneless beef shin
1 1/2 brown onions, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2tsp ras el hanout spice mix*
1/2tsp harissa* (or to taste) or1/4tsp cayenne pepper
1/4tsp freshly ground black pepper
3 rope tomatoes
1 1/2 preserved lemons or finely grated rind of one lemon
2tsp honey
1tbsp chopped cilantro
2tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsely

1. Trim the beef and cut into 1-inch pieces. Place beef in a deep casserole dish along with the onion, garlic, oil, ras el hanout, harissa and black pepper. Season with salt.

2. Toss the meat with the marinade. Preheat the oven to 275F (the meat will marinate while you prepare the remainder of the recipe and your oven heats.)

3. Halve the tomatoes crossways and squeeze out the the seeds. Coarsely grate the tomatoes down to the skins, grating them straight into the casserole. Discard the skins. (I used canned tomatoes because delicious ripe tomatoes don't exist in Kuwait and squeezed them right into the casserole.)

4. Rinse the preserved lemons and remove the pulp and membranes. Chop the rind into chunks, reserving some for garnish, and add to the meat along with the honey, cilantro and 1 tablespoon of parsley. (Conversely, add grated lemon straight into casserole.)

5. Stir well, then cover and cook in the oven for 3 1/2 hours. Juices from the meat should keep the dish moist, but check after 1 1/2 hours of cooking and add a little water if necessary.

6. When meat is very tender, transfer to a serving dish, scatter over the reserved lemon rind (if using) and garnish with the remaining parsley.

Ras el hanout

A spice blend used expansively in Moroccan cuisine can be purchased online (and probably at some specialty stores, depending on where you live) or you can make your own. Recipes vary, but this is the one included in my cookbook. I divided it half for use in the tangia.

1/2tsp ground cloves
1/2tsp ground cayenne pepper
2tsp ground allspice
2tsp ground cumin
2tsp ground ginger
2tsp ground turmeric
2tsp ground black pepper
2tsp ground cardamom
3tsp ground cinnamon
3tsp ground coriander
2 nutmegs, freshly grated (or 6tsp ground nutmeg)

Mix together and store in a cool, dark place.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Kesra (Moroccan Bread)

I have no willpower. Just four (maybe five?) days after starting the Master Cleanse diet I gave up - I couldn't take it. I suppose I should have been drinking more of the lemonade but regardless, the only time I felt okay was when I was sitting or lying down - any movement made me light-headed. Seth made me take my phone with me everywhere in case I should pass out (I don't know how I would have called, though) and I tortured myself by watching marathons of cooking shows and browsing all my favorite foodie websites. So on the fifth day I gave in and decided to return to the tried and true technique of "eat less, exercise more" - to make a pie with my remaining maple syrup.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Tom Khaa Kai (Chicken, Coconut and Galangal Soup)

I am loving my new Thai cookbook; I haven't even bothered to read the introductory chapter because I have full-on into the recipes. And of the ones I've made, damn, they are delicious - and surprisingly simple. Take this soup: nothing to saute, brown or what-have-you, just dump your ingredients in a pot and simmer until done. Bang. Of course there are complicated recipes I've yet to tackle - and may not tackle until I get to the States - but who wants to fuss over a soup? This will have dinner (or lunch, or breakfast, if that's how you roll) on your table in less than 15 minutes, so my mind is already in step with the working people of the world.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Deep-Fried Mini Chickens

My regular readers may have noticed a slight difference in tone in my recent posts, as though I have only a passing concern for this blog - which I do. It's not that I am already tired of posting recipes but rather that I have been dealing with the aftermath of news Seth and I received during my trip to the States in December: we are leaving Kuwait in February. Oof. So my days have been filled with culling our clothes, packing up foot lockers, working to get Umberto (our cat) his export papers - plus it took me until yesterday to my body's clock on the proper time zone. When I continued to wake-up at 3am day after day I thought it would give me extra time to get my tasks (writing, cooking, packing) done, but really it just left me in a semi-conscious daze all day. Woe is me, I know.

Luckily I can still drool over my new cookbooks - and occasionally cook something from them, even if my pictures are currently lacking. How could I resist something as simple as deep-fried little birds? The recipe calls for quails, which I knew I could find if I went to a live bird market, but laziness struck me so I substituted mini chickens (which about a pound each) cut in half. The marinade is quick and delicious, with a light hint of star anise, and the chickens came out of the fryer crisp and juicy in all the right places. I used brown sugar instead of palm but all other ingredients were easy enough to find - and how often can I say that in this blog?

Want to make your own dipping sauces? Try here and here.

Deep-Fried Mini Chickens
The Food of Thailand

5 white peppercorns
5 coriander seeds
1/4tsp cumin seeds
1 star anise
2 garlic cloves
2tbsp soy sauce
1/2tsp brown sugar
2 mini chickens cut in half (or 4 quails, whole)
oil, for deep-frying
dipping sauces such as sweet chili sauce or roasted chili sauce

1. Using a pestle and mortar, pound together the peppercorns, coriander seeds, cumin seeds, star anise and a pinch of salt. Add the garlic, soy sauce and brown sugar to a paste.

2. Rub the paste all over the chicken halves, cover and marinate in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours.

3. Heat the oil in a wok or other deep pan to 350F (or until a piece of bread dropped into it sizzles and turns brown. Pat the chickens dry with paper towels. Add the chickens to the oil and deep-fry for about 10 minutes, turning them so they cook on all sides. (I had to do this in two batches in order not to over-crowd my pan.) If using whole quails, be sure the oil gets inside the birds, as well.

4. Drain well and sprinkle with a little more salt. Serve with desires dipping sauces and enjoy.