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Dear family and friends

I need to make amends

There’s a secret I wish to confess

And blogger rumors I need to address

It’s true, it’s true! Food is what I blog about

On these pages I have finally come out

And to celebrate, here is my trifle

Do give it a try, it’s easy to assemble!

 Here is how this trifle began

                                                          

Sugar syrup

1 and a 1/2 cups of sugar + 1 cup water. Heat to dissolve.

Pumpkin Sauce

Mix 1/2 cup sugar syrup to every cup of  pumpkin puree [no sugar or spice added] and blend well.

Cream cheese sauce

Mix 1/2 cup warm water to every 1/2 pound [16 oz/2 regular packages] of cream cheese and hand blend to a smooth consistancy.

                                                                                              

Layer.

                                                                                                                                                              Decorate.

                                                       

Here is a little back story on this trifle. I had a group of friends coming over, and it was Thanksgiving time. I was going to get a few pound cakes with the different seasonal flavors and assemble this trifle. Luckily for me Krispy Kreme had a buy one dozen get another dozen free offer. So I used donuts instead. [Here I used pumpkin spice and glazed]

It is true, my family didn’t know about my blogging nor did any of my friends until now.

Thanks for dropping by.

Best, S.

 

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Thai soup stock made with some of the herbs from my garden, to be frozen for later use.

An annual rite of passage for these plants is to be brought in to protect them from the winter cold. They will adorn my bathtub until spring of the following year. A good amount of the kaffir lime leaves have already found its way into my freezer and a few will go into my stock. The Jasmine and Curry plants are as you can see, in hibernation mode.
I tap the pots several times to get rid of the bottom feeders that cling to the pots. I move them onto stands and spray the underside of the pots with a homemade insecticidal soap, so any remaining creepies, crawl out. I keep it on elevated stands, away from the ground and check for insects for a week or so. Then one more final spray and I bring it in. I downsize the plants to just a few leaves for photosynthesis.
The Thai basil is an annual in this zone, so it is time to strip it of all remaining leaves before frost renders them unusable. I am going to chop up the leaves and mix it with oil and feeze it. Haven’t done it before, so I am curious as to how it is going to turn out. A few of the Thai basil leaves will go into my soup stock. The seeds, I’ll preserve for next seasons planting.

I pulled the lemongrass out. The tender inner core I will chop and store. The tough outer leaves not suitable for cookin, will flavor my stock.

A couple of the Tabasco peppers will go into the stock as well and the rest will be dried.

                     

I put the above highlighted pickings from my garden along with some garlic and cilantro stems in a pot, added 5 cups of water  and made a stock out of it. Cooled and strained, it is ready  for the freezer. Next time a Thai soup will be a cinch, but most importantly I feel like I have put to good use, the last remnants from my garden.

                                                                                                                                                                     I I did not want to throw away the strained flavoring, I crushed it, added a cup of water and heated it to make a secondary ‘frugal’ stock’. Added galangal, a few vegetables at hand and tofu for a simple flavorful soup.

                                                                                                                                                                  

Thanks for dropping by,

Best, S.   

Sending this to ‘A way to garden’ for the fall festival.

Lentil and Vermicelli salad

And

Honeyed Labneh with a Date and Fig sauce

 

I am going to be making a few assumptions here about Lebanese cuisine,

-that for most part it is down to earth, healthy and rustic, using simple and humble ingredients

-that many everyday dishes like hummus and tabouleh which have become synonymous with Lebanese cuisine probably don’t have a long ingredients list.

       Now you’ve probably heard this before, to assume is to make an ass of u and me! That could well happen here as it did when we went to Egypt a few years ago. I have this quirk when I travel, to rustle up some of our meals in the hotel room. As markets are always included in my sightseeing agenda, that is easily accomplished. So I fantasized about slathering creamy hummus on pita bread and dusting it with sumac, picked up from a jaunt through an Egyptian market. Never mind I hadn’t tasted sumac before but I was drawn to its color and who wouldn’t want to try a new spice mix?

 
         Well, I saw nothing that resembled a pita nor did I come across any hummus and forget about sumac. I went to the spice stalls and they appeared quite amused by my blatherings about sumac. When asking for hummus, I said it in every possible way, hummus, homus, homuus, hammus to get through to the people in our hotel, that I wanted to get my hands on some. They just looked at me strangely. I could not believe I was in a middle eastern country and the staples that I assumed I’d find here, were not available.

 
        Fast forward to earlier this year, I was taking Arabic lessons and my Moroccon teacher asked me how I made my hummus. What! she wanted me to preach to the choir? but since she asked, I told her about pureeing chickpeas and so on and she kept saying no, no how do you prepare ‘your hummus’ and we went back and forth this way. Then I asked her to describe the hummus she was referring to. She said she has it all the time in Indian restaurants and the humus is in a thick dark brown sauce. Was she referring to Chole? Bingo! It hit me, hummus is an Arabic word for chick peas and the dip as we know it, may not be prepared in every middle eastern country! No wonder I got strange looks from the hotel staff. Why is this chick obsessed with chick peas? Isn’t she supposed to be chasing pyramids like the rest of the tourists?!
      

          Anyway, based on my assumptions right or wrong, I wanted to pay tribute to the simplicity of everyday Lebanese cuisine for the Monthly Mingle hosted by Beth of DKS. I am so glad the challenge was not to just create a Lebanese themed dish but to use ‘unexplored and secret to the west’ ingredients. In my travels in the middle east or for that matter in restaurants here, I have not seen dishes with dates or labneh on the menu. So I decided to work with these ingredients. As I rummaged through my kitchen cupboards I was seeing many items that I could easily use, which prompted me to add a challenge of my own; to only use ingredients that I had at hand. I had so much fun experimenting and ta-da, I present to you a simple lunch that could have easily come from a Lebanese kitchen! I am of course assuming that is so!

Quite thrilled with unexpected find of grape vinegar, a forgotten purchase from an earlier trip to a Persian store.

Lentils and vermicelli salad

 For the salad
1/2 cup green lentils, cooked per packet direction
1/2 cup vermicelli, scroll down for cooking tips
Salt to taste

 
For the topping of fried onions
2 tablespoon butter
2 cups thinly sliced onions

 
For the dressing
1/4 cup grape vinegar
3 red chilies, mild
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons of your favorite olive oil
3 tablespoon zatar seasoning
1 tsp salt

 
For the garnish
Cilantro or parsley

Preparation
Soak the red chillies in the vinegar.

 
Cook the lentils per packet direction.

 

Warm butter in a broad shallow pan. Wait till the butter turns slightly brown, turn up the heat and add the sliced onions and spread it on the pan. You want to cook the onions to a deep crispy brown and not a soft mush. Remove the onions when done and set it aside.

 

Add the vermicelli to the pan in which you fried the onions. In the residual butter, toast the vermicelli to a golden brown. Add 3/4 cups of water, some salt and let the water come to a rolling boil. Now reduce the heat to a simmer put a lid on and cook for a few minutes till the vermicelli is done al dente. Remove the lid and fluff the vermicelli right away so it doesn’t clump together.

 Blend the chillies and vinegar together. Add the olive oil, zatar seasoning and salt and whisk everything together to mix well.

Putting it all together.
Add the lentils, vermicelli and 4 tablespoons of dressing and gently toss. Garnish with parsley or cilantro. Top with the fried onions and it is ready to serve.

Honeyed Labneh with Date and Fig sauce

For the Labneh

2 lb tub of full fat yogurt

Honey

For the sauce

4 Medjool dates

2 figs

Honey

For the garnish

Toasted white sesame seeds

To make the Labneh

Line a colander with a few layers of cheese cloth. Rest the colander into a deep bowl. Put the yogurt on the cheese cloth and tie around it. Leave it for 4 hours. A lot of whey drains away and you are left with a creamy yogurt cheese or Labneh. Yields 1 and 1/4 cups of  Labneh.

To 1/4 cup of Labneh  add 1 teaspoon of honey and mix well. This is the base for the dessert.

To make the sauce.

Soak the pitted Medjool dates in a 1/4 cup of warm water for 15 minutes. Puree it with the fresh figs and add a drizzle of honey.

For the garnish

Toast the sesame seeds.

Putting it all together

Serve the sweetened Labneh with some sauce and garnish with toasted sesame seeds.

 

Best S. 

 

 

 

 

This was our lunch yesterday.

 We eat salad meals quite often and this was the first salad of the season with fall vegetables and fruits. There can be so many permutations from this platter that everyone really eats a different salad and these MYO combos are such a fun eating experience. We felt so good that we had done our part in eating healthy, that we gave ourselves a pass and packed away platefuls of rice at lunch today! That’s how it goes in this family.
I have an urge this time of the year, to roast vegetables. So I decided to mix up some roasted beets and butternut squash with some figs, pears, fingerling potatoes and some spring and bitter greens. I made a very sweet dressing, and to contrast that, another slightly tart and bitter dressing. I can say this, you will eat with all our senses except the sense of sound, as words will be superfluous.

                                                                                                                                                     Roasted the beets and butternut squash in a 375 degree oven. Scrubbed the beets thoroughly and trimmed the top and packaged it in aluminum foil and roasted for an hour. Check to see if it is done, by piercing a fork and if it slides through easily, it is ready.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         Diced the butter nut squash and roasted for about 30 minutes in the same 375 degree oven. I did not use any oil with the beets or the squash, nor did I have to turn the squash during the roasting  process. It was firm on the outside and soft inside. Check to see if it is done to your specs, you might want to leave it a little longer if you want it softer.  As soon as the beets and squash came out of the oven I seasoned it with some salt. [peeled and diced the beets first, ofcourse]

Scrubbed the potatoes clean and boiled in salted water till done. Best to do a taste test for this. Left them with skins on.

Dressing #1;  An apple cider reduction vinaigrette.

The sweet dressing complimented the mostly sweet fruits and vegetables. An apple cider reduction dressing without any oil, that’s right NO OIL. The reduction makes the apple cider so syrupy that the dressing is creamy enough without any oil.

I cup apple cider

1 tablespoon spicy brown mustard

1/2  tablespoon apple cider vinegar

1 tsp salt

Pepper to taste.

Reduce a cup of apple cider to a 1/4  cup. Add the rest of the ingredients and whisk.

Dressing #2; A wine reduction vinaigrette.

A faintly bitter dressing, to contrast the sweetness and compliment the radicchio and Belgian endive. This is a wine reduction dressing. I had some left over wine from my brother and sis-in-law’s visit and I wondered if a wine reduction would work well in place of an acid in a salad dressing.? A little bit of experimentation later, I think I may have a fancy schmancy vinaigrette and probably this is the closest I’ll ever come to french cooking!

1 cup white wine [a 2007 New Zealand Reisling which was really, my relative’s choice of alcohol]

4 tablespoons of shallots very finely chopped

6-8 cloves of garlic cut into halves

3-4 tablespoons of good quality extra virgin olive oil

1 tsp salt

Pepper to taste

Herbs of your choice. Optional. [I used 1/2 a teaspoon of chopped sage and rosemary combined]

Add the shallots and garlic to one cup of wine and gently heat in a stainless steel saucepan. The longer it takes to reduce the more infused the wine is with the flavors of garlic and shallots.

Reduce the wine so that when you strain the shallots and garlic, you get a 1/4 cup of liquid. Whisk in the olive oil and add the salt, pepper and herbs if using. This is a light dressing, so as not to overpower the natural taste and flavors of the salad.

The rest of the players in this medley.

Spring greens, Radicchio and Belgian Endive

Figs

Red and D’Anjou pears

Craisins

Candied pecans and parmesan cheese crisps. See my previous post on how to prepare them.

Make your own [MYO] plate, choose your dressing or combine both, add your toppings or not and have it any which way you pretty please.

Or even add eggs as one of my children did.

 Do let me know when you try it and please give me your feedback.

BEST, S.

Every fall without fail, I make batches of spiced and candied nuts, those deadly calorie bombs that you can’t stop yourself from eating. They make great holiday gifts and I usually reserve a batch for topping salads. This time I thought, why not make batches of other salad toppings, like parmesan crisps and croutons and store them as well? Fall salad lunches for large holiday gatherings will be much quicker to put together.

Parmesan Crisps

The first time I set eyes on these lacy creations, Martha Stewart was demonstrating how to make them on her TV show, more than 10 years ago. They are so easy to make, yet add a very special touch to any salad and are bound to be a conversation piece.

I make them on the stovetop, though they can be made in the oven as well.

Bring a non stick pan to a medium heat. Put ½ a heaped tablespoon of grated parmesan cheese on the pan in a mound. Then gently spread it to form a circle, about an inch and a half across. Wait for 40-50 seconds and you will see the cheese melt and  get a little brown.

Lift with a spatula and set aside. At this stage the cheese round is very pliable and you can shape it if you want. They will get crisp as it cools.

I make about 4 cheese crisps at a time. By the time I have spread the fourth cheese mound, the first cheese crisp is  done. Then, one after another the rest are ready to be removed.

Here are a few that I have shaped.

Candied Pecans.

Put a stainless steel pan on the stove and melt 1 tablespoons of butter. Then add 2 heaped tablespoons of sugar. [ I used raw cane sugar]

Keep stirring while the sugar melts and looks like this.

Now add I cup of toasted pecans and keep stirring for a minute or so till all the pecans are coated. Turn off  the stove and add salt and  a few pinches  cinnamon and paprika.  

Croutons

Melt a tablesspoon of butter in a pan. Add about 3/4 – 1 cup of  day old cubed bread or french bread. Fry the croutons till they are golden brown. Add chopped seasonal herbs of your choice, salt and pepper to taste.

Yipee! we now have our ready made salad toppings. Watch this space! A big, bold and beautiful fall salad recipe to follow soon.

FOOD NOTES

  • This post is more about the technique. Measurements of ingredients are not that critical. I have highlighted the quantities in purple.
  • These toppings have stored well so far for three days now.  UPDATE; The parmesan crisps are still crisp after13 days, stored in a tin box lined with parchment paper . The nuts have lasted in perfect condition for upto a week at least in previous occasions.
  • The nuts are lightly candied here, for candied nuts I’d use more sugar and less nuts. This can be tricky as sugar might harden and won’t be able to coat the nuts. A few tries and you’ll get the hang of it.
  • I packed everything in tins lined with wax paper.

Best, S.

Sending this off to fall fest event started by Margaret Roach from ‘A Way To Garden’.

 I stumbled upon your blog like a minute ago and your story pulled at my heart strings.

My heart  has the auspicious colors of  turmeric yellow and vermillon which are associated with celebration in India. May you continue to celebrate your life as you chronicle in your blog.

The heart is inscribed in turmeric powder which has wonderful medicinal properties and research is being done on its possible anti cancer properties. May there be a cure for cancer soon.

Wish you the best. S.

For more about Barbara’s story, please visit http://www.winosandfoodies.com/

and read about herA Taste Of Yellow event.

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