Friday, August 29, 2008

Izmir Kofte-- A Meatball Dish With a Hint of Cinnamon

Izmir Kofte Inside View

There are not many dishes that can claim to be regulars at our dinner table. I may love a dish and never make it again. After all, the culinary world is such a vast ocean to explore... The pleasure of discovery is what keeps me in the kitchen, happily creating and experimenting. One dish keeps coming back though, unapologetically breaking all rules.

Izmir Kofte

I first made Izmir Kofte fifteen years ago. I was a young bride then, barely venturing into ethnic cuisine. I immediately loved the pillow soft meatballs perfectly flavored with cinnamon and swimming in a sea of tomato sauce. The chopped pistachios and parsley, a beautiful contrast to the deep richness of the red sauce, only added to the experience. Over the years, I have made them many times for guests and never has one left my table without requesting this excellent recipe.

Izmir Kofte (serves 4)
If you are not watching out for wheat or gluten, feel free to use regular slices of wheat bread.

Ingredients for the meatballs:

1 lb of lean grass-fed ground beef
1 egg
5 oz of Gluten-Free bread, soaked in water, squeezed dried and crumbled
1/2 cup finely chopped onions
1/4 cup finely chopped parlsey
1 tsp sea salt
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
1 tsp cinnamon
olive oil

Izmir Kofte Browning in Iron Pan

Mix all the ingredients for the meatballs in a large bowl and mix really well- I like to use my hands for this step and the next. Then form ping-pong sized meatballs. Just make sure, to soap up your hands really well after handling raw meats and eggs. Heat a large pan, such as a seasoned iron pan or nonstick pan, with olive oil (about 1 tablespoon). In batches, if necessary, brown the meatballs and then transfer to a plate. You don't want to overcrowd the pan, this makes it more likely that the meatballs will fall apart or steam instead of browning properly.

Izmir Kofte in Pot

Ingredients for the sauce:

1/2 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup of finely chopped onions
1 can of tomato paste (6oz)
2 1/2 cans of warm water (use the tomato paste can)
2 tablespoons of lemon juice
1 tablespoon of brown sugar
1 tsp of salt
1/4 cup of chopped raw pistachios
1/2 cup of finely chopped parsley

In a dutch oven, heat the oil. Add the onions and saute until translucent. Add the meatballs in the pot.
In a bowl mix together the paste, water, lemon juice, sugar, salt. Pour mixture on top of meatballs and give a gentle stir. Bring to a boil and then cover and keep simmering for 45 minutes. Give another gentle stir at about halfway through the cooking process. Sprinkle the chopped pistachios and parsley on top. Serve over rice.

Izmir Kofte

If you enjoyed this post you might also enjoy:
Fig Chicken with Rosemary

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Peas, Patties, Please... Pea Vines That Is

Pea Vine Curlies

I came up with these patties after coming home with a bag full of pea vines. I had been wanting to try them for a while and couldn't resist purchasing some on my last trip to my Asian grocery store. There's something so pretty about the way this plant twirls playfully, it seems a shame that we only eat the fruit but neglect the vines and leaves.

Focus on Pea Vine Plant

I chewed on a bit of the raw leaf and after a quick analysis concluded that they tasted a lot like what peas would taste like if they were only slightly bitter, but not unpleasantly so. Having a serious penchant for indian food, I envisioned them as beautiful little green chickpea vegetable patties, with a yogurt sauce.

Pea Vine Patties

My family loved them and requested an encore. Even little Mr. Picky didn't gag in his usual dramatic manner--which we all find way too entertaining... He only does it when I try to feed him something leafy and green. It's quite comical because you can see the wheels turning in his eyes before he starts shaking his head, pursing his lips and looking disgusted. He makes sure all our eyes are on him then he proceeds to the next level and gives the full effect. He grabs his throat, squeezes and makes gagging sounds. It amazes me, even more so that no one is actually forcing him to eat the food in question-- but I am not about to tell him that. No matter how dramatic he gets, he still thanks me afterwards, unsolicited, for a yummy dinner. I just feel lucky that he only does that for us and not when we are guests at someone else's table.

Pea Vine Patties w/ yogurt sauce

Pea Vine, Zucchini Patties with Yogurt Sauce (serves 4)
This is great with pea vines but if you can't find any then substitute spinach or swiss chard for it.

1 1/2 tsp of olive oil + for the pan
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon of cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon of curry powder
4 cups of chopped pea vines
2 cups of shredded zucchini
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup of cooked chickpeas (canned okay), coarsely mashed
1 large egg
2 tablespoon of chickpea flour

1 cup of plain yogurt
1/2 cup of cilantro
juice of small lime (1 tablespoon)
1 garlic clove, put through a press
1 roma tomato, diced
1/2 teaspoon of salt

Preheat oven 375F.
Oil a cookie sheet with a thin layer of olive oil.
In a pan, heat the oil on a medium flame. Add the minced garlic and then the spices (cumin through curry powder). Add the pea vines or other greens (if using an alternate). Saute until leaves begin to wilt and then add the zucchini. Cook until zucchini becomes just translucent. Add the salt and the chickpeas. Transfer to a bowl and mix in the egg, followed by the chickpea flour. Mix well and using your hands form into patties (about 1/4 cup per patty). Place on the cookie sheet and bake in the oven for 20-30 minutes. Check after 20 minutes to see if patties are firm.

While the patties cook prepare the yogurt sauce by mixing the yogurt and the next five ingredients in a bowl. Refrigerate until needed.

If you liked this post, you will also enjoy:
Halibut Curry

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Zucchini Blossom Frittata

Zucchini Blossom Frittata

Zucchini blossoms are the prized gem of the plant. It puzzles me that it's not more common in American kitchens. After all, zucchinis are quite popular but to get the blossom one must look far and wide. My CSA was only too happy to have its members pick them right off the plants last week. Removing them balances out the energy the plant puts into the actual squash and makes certain people really happy...

I carried my 5 little beauties home and fantasized on what I would do to truly savor them. I decided to make a frittata with the blossoms, some zucchini, caramelized onions and fresh dill. It was so lovely, it tasted like a burst of summery sunshine. We mourned the loss of this wonderful dish when the iron pan sat empty in the middle of the table. My daughter turned to me and said: "you will make it again, won't you?"

Slices of Zucchini Blossom Frittata

Zucchini Blossom and Dill Frittata (serves 4-6)


1 1/2 teaspoon of olive oil
1/2 cup of caramelized onions, or regular sweet onions, chopped fine
2 garlic cloves, minced
5 zucchini blossoms, sliced into thin strips
1 medium zucchini, sliced thin
1/2 cup of red bell pepper, diced small
2 tomatoes, sliced
1/4 cup of fresh dill, finely chopped
4 large eggs
1/2 cup of egg whites
1/4 cup lowfat milk
1 tsp of salt
1/2 cup of shredded italian cheese mix (such as parmesan,asiago, and fontina)

Preheat oven to 350F.
In an oven proof pan (I used my iron pan), heat the olive oil. Saute the caramelized onions and garlic. Or, if you are using fresh onions, saute until cooked through and beginning to brown then add the garlic and saute a minute more. Add the blossoms, Zucchini and bell pepper. Cook for about 5 minutes or until zucchini is starting to look translucent. Add the dill and mix. Finally, add the tomato slices and spread them evenly over the top of veggies.

In a bowl mix the eggs, egg white, milk and salt. Add to the vegetables in the pan. Spread the cheese evenly on top and cook for about five minutes on top of the stove. Transfer to hot oven. Cook for 15 minutes and check for doneness. If need be continue cooking until the frittata is just set.

If you liked this post you might also enjoy:
Swiss Chard, Fennel Gratin
Eggs with Asian Tomato Salad

Monday, August 25, 2008

Oat Fig Bars

Oat Fig Bars with figs

This recipe was inspired by Aran's GF berry bars. Aran of Cannelle et Vanille, whose stunning pastry blog needs no introduction, is now a contributor on the blog Connor's Journey with Autism: a resource for families with autistic children. After reading her wonderful post, I decided to dust-off my recipe for oat bars. I happened to have a bounty of fresh organic figs, so I decided to make them with my homemade, quick and easy fig jam recipe.

These great bars are flavored with earthy oats and fragrant orange zest. We enjoy them for dessert, snack or breakfast.

Oat Fig Bar Pan

Oat Fig Bars (makes an 9" square pan)
Sucanat adds a nice earthiness to this treat but regular sugar will work as well.
I use roasted oils in salad dressings and baked goods-- they add a delicate depth of flavor. Feel free to substitute regular vegetable oil, such as canola, if you don't have any in your pantry. The bars will still taste great.

If you are not looking to cut out the gluten substitute 1 cup of whole-wheat white flour for the brown rice flour and omit the xantham gum.


2 cups GF Rolled Oats
1 cup almond meal
1 cup brown rice flour
1/2 cup sucanat or granulated sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp xantham gum
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup roasted almond oil, or other sweet vegetable oil (or canola is okay)
1/3 cup fresh squeezed orange juice
1 tsp of orange zest
1 cup of fig jam, homemade or store bought
2 figs, sliced thin (optional for decoration)

Preheat oven 375F.
Oil a 9" square pan

Oat Fig Bars

Mix the oats, almond meal, rice flour, sugar, baking powder, xantham gum, salt in a bowl together until well combined.

In a couple steps add the oil and mix. Then add the orange juice and zest and mix well to incorporate.

Take half the crumb mixture and pat it down at the bottom of the pan. Add a layer of fig jam. Then, sprinkle the rest of the crumb mixture on top and pat it down until it looks flat and somewhat even. Finish by decorating the top with thin slices of figs.

Bake for 35-40 minutes or until it looks cooked and slightly golden. Let cool before cutting and serving.

If you liked this post, you might also enjoy:
Blueberry Plum Clafoutis
Walnut Lebanese Cookies

Friday, August 22, 2008

Green, Frozen and Delicious: Green Tea Frozen Yogurt

Green Tea Frozen Yogurt Banner

If you think Rome has a monopoly on the best frozen treats, wait until your taste-buds get acquainted with this heavenly match. Eating it feels like a little piece of Alaska in the middle of the Sahara. Mix in some caramelized peanuts and you have yin and yang all in one. The best part is how easily it comes together with no need on a hot day to sweat some more over the stove waiting for the custard stage. No, all this silky beauty needs is a bowl, a whisk and an ice-cream maker.

Green Tea Frozen Yogurt Prep Bowl

Green Tea Frozen Yogurt with Caramelized Peanuts (makes a quart)

This is an amazingly simple frozen dessert. The peanuts really enhance the experience. The tanginess of the yogurt plays off the earthiness of the tea.
For this recipe I combined and altered recipes from David Lebovitz's The Perfect Scoop.

For the Frozen Yogurt:
32oz (4 cups) of whole milk yogurt
4 teaspoon of matcha green tea powder
1 cup of sugar

Pour all the ingredients into a mixer. Mix well until combined and sugar is dissolved (3-5 minutes)
Transfer to the bowl of your ice cream maker and proceed according to the manufacturer's instructions. Transfer to a sealed container and store in the freezer.

Green Tea Frozen Yogurt Bowl

For the Caramelized Peanuts:
1 cup of unsalted, not roasted peanuts (roasted peanuts will taste burnt...)
1/4 cup of agave nectar or pure maple syrup
1 tablespoon of brown sugar
1 teaspoon of coarse sea salt

Preheat oven to 350F. Mix all the ingredients for the topping in a bowl. Spread evenly on an oiled cookie sheet. Bake in the oven for about 20 minutes or until caramelized. Break peanuts apart when cool enough to handle.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Pomegranate Marinated Tofu

Baked PomegranateTofu

I don't know maybe it's still my sister's gift singing soft inspirations in my ear but I've been wanting to marinate tofu in a pomegranate sauce all week. It's one of those things, like a dark chocolate craving, that won't quiet until you've surrendered to it. I decided to make the marinade out of pomegranate concentrate because that's what I had on hand. The result was beautiful and the tofu baked to perfection, leaving the house smelling like a trip to the Middle East with a layover in China or Japan to pick up the tofu of course.

Pomegranate Marinated Baked Tofu (serves 4)

Ingredients Pomegranate Marinade


1/2 tablespoon of olive oil
1 small onion, chopped fine
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 teaspoon of ground cumin
1 teaspoon of ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon of ground turmeric
1/4 teaspoon of paprika
1/4 teaspoon of ground ginger
1/2 cup of chopped walnuts
1/4 cup of chopped cilantro
1 tablespoon of honey or 1/2 tablespoon of agave nectar
1/4 cup pomegranate concentrate
1/4 cup water
1 tablespoon roasted walnut oil
1/4 cup of cooking wine (such as sherry or sweet cooking rice wine)
Salt to taste
1 pound of firm tofu, cut horizontally in half and then into four equal portions (you'll have 8 pieces total)

In a pan, under medium heat, saute the onion and garlic in the olive oil until translucent. Add the spices and saute for a minute or two until well combined and fragrant. Then add the walnuts. Saute another minute, add the cilantro, honey or agave nectar and pomegranate concentrate. Mix well. Transfer to food processor, pulse a few times and add the remaining ingredients, except for the tofu. Pulse to obtain a sauce consistency.

Pomegranate Marinade

Put the slabs of tofu in a baking lasagna dish. Pour marinate over, rub gently with your fingers if necessary. Make sure that all pieces are covered on all sides by the marinade. Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour, longer is better (up to 24 hours).

Close-up Pomegranate Tofu

Preheat oven to 375F. Bake tofu for 30 minutes. Serve over rice and with a nice crisp salad. I served mine with imperial black rice and a refreshing fennel apple slaw.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

A Meal Worth Blogging About...

Sag Gonglu

I don't always post on Wednesday. It's kind of the day, I have assigned myself to lay low and catch up on other things. However, amazing meals happen and being a food fanatic I want to share. So here I am breaking my "No Blogging Wednesday" rule to write about the most delightful meal I had...

A little while ago I discovered a great food blog called Jugalbandi. I find myself visiting it regularly for the eye-catching pictures, the exotic tasty recipes and the witty writing.

Last night everything came together to make it easy for me to try one of their recipes. I came back from my CSA with an armful of turnips, chard, hot peppers, cilantro, all ingredients required for their Sag Gonglu, a turnip and green saute that is sure to become a regular meal in our house.

spices for sag gonglu

This melange of vegetable is so perfectly spiced, with just enough heat to tease your taste buds. The turnip is shredded and the greens chopped fine so that each morsel on your fork includes their distinct flavors. A squirt of lime, acts as a fireman and extinguishes the heat in exchange a hint of fruity citrus. Everyone in our family loved it, except for Mr. Picky who thought it was too green for him. But, what does he know? He is only six... My other kids, including my husband, thought it was the best... and it was. Thank you Bee and Jai!

This is how I served it (on home-made chickpea flour roti):

sag gonglu on chickpea flour roti

I gladly submit this dish to Zlamushka for Tried and Tasted. This is a fun event, where a blog is selected once a month from which all the participants try a recipe and post about it. The deadline for this event is August 31, 2008. Check it out and try out some of Bee and Jai's awesome recipes.

sag gonglu

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Caramelized Onions

Caramelized Onions

There is something so utterly decadent about a batch of onions which has basked in a hot oven for three hours. The seductive aroma lingers through out your home for days, as a sweet reminder of what may be. You could eat them right out of the bowl, or perhaps use them as the crowning jewel for your next recipe.

It may be peasant food, but there's nothing unremarkable about it. Foodies know that some of the best dishes have humble beginnings. It all starts with three pounds of onions lovingly sliced thin. Then, the slices are bathed in a mixture of balsamic vinegar, herbes de provence, sea salt and olive oil. Finally, they get a slow, long heat treatment which allows them to cook, then caramelize to golden brown perfection. It's not quite the Club Med, but for an onion it might as well be. The end result is onions so sweet and buttery, they practically melt in your mouth, leaving you gasping for air and begging for more.

Here's how I made my batch:

3 lbs of sweet yellow onions, peeled and sliced thin
1/4 cup of balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
1 1/2 tsp of sea salt
1 tablespoon of herbes de Provence

Preheat oven at 300F
Spread the onions evenly on an oiled cookie sheet. Pour the rest of the ingredients over the onions and mix well using your hands.
Bake in the oven for an hour. Stir the onions around. Bake for another hour. Give another stir and increase temperature to 350F and bake an additional hour or until the onion slices are a beautiful golden brown (see picture).

Caramelized onions are a wonderful addition to soups, stews, breads and make an awesome pizza (recipe will be posted soon).

Monday, August 18, 2008

Memories of Socca

Socca with Salads

I spent a big part of my childhood in Nice, France. On Wednesdays school would let out early, then my siblings and I had swimming lessons in the old part of town. The swimming instructor was a real drill-sergeant who would not take nonsense from anyone. I was the youngest one in the group by at least two years and had mastered whining to nails-on-the-chalkboard levels. One day, as I was dragging in my lane complaining that it was too hard, Monsieur Louis called me to the side and told me to close my eyes and open my mouth. I found the request amusing and obeyed his order. He inserted a pacifier in my mouth and ordered me to swim with it from then on. I'm not sure if I stopped complaining because of the cork or because I matured up. Either way, the best part of these afternoons was always the snack we would buy afterwards: either a slice of swiss chard tart or a portion of hot socca, a savory chickpea crepe. I loved them both but I have to admit that the socca stole my heart.

Socca: Savory Chickpea Crepes (serves 4)

This recipe is based on one I found in Spice: Flavors of the Eastern Mediterranean by Chef Oleana. A wonderful book with many delectable recipes. I have altered the recipe quite a bit but hers is excellent as well. She ends by sprinkling fresh parmesan on the crepes and crisping it in the oven. She also adds 1 1/2 tsp of ground cumin.

Socca: chickpea crepe

Put the following ingredients in a blender:

1 1/2 cups of chickpea flour
1 1/2 cups of water
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 tsp of ground cumin
2 tablespoons of parmesan (optional-omit for vegan version)
1 teaspoon of salt
olive oil for frying pan

Blend to combine. Let batter rest for at least 30 minutes.
Heat an iron pan oiled with a generous layer of olive oil. Pour the batter at the center of the pan and carefully rotate the pan to form an even circle. Cook until edges become golden (about 5 minutes). Flip with a spatula and cook for another 3 minutes or so.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Unusual Dessert: Beet Mousse with Cardamom


I love my CSA. The abundance of summer vegetables is pure joy to me every week. I get such a thrill of anticipation as I enter the produce barn and discover what I will bring home. My path often crosses Erick the farmer and his wife Wendy. Their smiles, enthusiasm and love of the land are contagious. It is their generosity that comes through in the colorful bounty we receive. This keeps us connected to them, the land and what we feed our families.

Amongst the many delights I get to bring home are sweet, plump lovely beets. Not the beets of my childhood, which came in a bottle labeled Borscht-- No, no, no we are talking the palatable, delectable kind of beets that one would be willing to eat at every meal. The bottle variety, lets face it, is a crime against humanity and thankfully will never show up in the beautiful barn of my CSA. These beets are pure crunchy sugar that can be eaten like an apple, their juice dripping on your chin like some horrible crime scene. My kids get a real kick out of that one. My six-year-old likes to point out that beets are full of blood. I correct him: "close, honey, full of antioxidants". It doesn't matter to him. He won't eat them. His siblings were like him and now they see only the benefits. I make it a mission in life to see how I can get him to eat what he won't eat. I have this philosophy that there is no food that a person doesn't like, it just hasn't been prepared the right way for them yet. So how do I get my little boy to embrace beets? I decided to turn it into a dessert.

I started out by doing some research. Isn't the internet wonderful? I found recipes for beet ice cream, beet chocolate cakes or muffins, and an indian beet halva. When I saw the ice cream recipes, I thought: mousse. When I saw the halva recipes, I thought: mousse. It seemed like a logical conclusion that I would venture into creating a beet mousse dessert, and in honor of the enticing halva recipes I decided that it should paired up with cardamom.

Prep bowl for Beet Mousse

The color alone is reason enough to make this dish. It transports you, envelops you, saturate your every pores with this deep, rich, sunny ocean of passion. That red is like no other, so strong it is purple, so playful it is dull and bright at the same time, so warm and inviting you want to dive into it head-first--or mouth-first in this case. It makes sense that a vegetable that elicits such emotions would be perfectly cloaked as the farewell to a fine meal. This mousse is light and delicate. The dark chocolate cup adds a depth of flavor which enhances the earthy flavor of the beets, the fruitiness of the orange zest and the hint of cardamom. The flavor is so unique and subtle that no one, unless you tell them, will be able to tell what the secret ingredient is. After all, some people have had one too many bowls of bottled Borscht in order to be open minded about having beets in their mousse... Know what I mean?

Close Up Beet Mousse

Beet Mousse with Cardamom (serves 6)
I used agar agar (available in health food stores) instead of gelatin. It does the same thing and I don't have to think about where gelatin came from. If you would rather, feel free to substitute with gelatin according to instructions on package. I used instructions found online for the chocolate cups . Except, I melted Traderjoe's imported dark chocolate instead of Kraft's. Make sure that you paint on a thick layer of chocolate on the walls of the cups or paint multiple layers, this will make it easier for you to remove the papers without breaking them.

1 pound of peeled beets, boiled and cooking water reserved
1 tsp of agar agar
1 1/2 tsp of ground cardamom
1 tablespoon of orange zest
1/4 cup agave nectar or simple syrup
1 cup of heavy cream
6 dark chocolate cups

For the garnish:
1/2 cup of whipping cream
1 tablespoon of agave nectar
1 tablespoon of orange flower water (optional)
Shaved dark chocolate

Transfer cooked beets to a blender. Take 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid and put in a small saucepan with the agar agar. Bring to a boil and whisk until well combined. This will take about 5 minutes. Transfer with the beets and blend together until creamy and smooth. Add the cardamom, orange zest and nectar or syrup. Blend a little more. Transfer to a bowl and refrigerate until mixture has cooled completely ( about 1-2 hours).

In a mixer, whip the heavy cream until strong peaks form. With a spatula, incorporate the beet mixture gently into the cream and refrigerate for 8 hours or more. Fill each cup with the mousse.

Prepare some more whipped cream in a mixer. when peaks form add agave nectar and orange flower water (if using). Garnish each mousse cup with whipped cream and some shaved dark chocolate.

Beet Mousse

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Caramelized Tofu with Green Onions and Gomasio

This recipe was loosely based on Deborah Madison's tofu recipe found in Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone. It's popular with adults and kids alike or adults who act like kids, or kids who, never mind... Everyone loves it! I have been feeding it to my kids for many years and cannot sing its praises enough.

Caramelized Tofu with Green Onions and Seaweed Gomasio
(serves 4)

Gomasio is a mixture of roasted sesame seeds, sea salt and various seaweeds. It is great on a stir-fry, udon soup or sushi. Replace with sesame seeds if you cannot find it. If you are worried about salt content replace 1 tablespoon of soy sauce for water. The tofu will still caramelize beautifully and taste wonderful, just less salty.


1 tablespoon of vegetable oil
16 oz of extra firm tofu, cubed
3 tablespoons of Gluten Free soy sauce, or other if gluten is okay
1 1/2 tablespoon of Grade A Pure Maple Syrup
2 tablespoons of Seaweed Gomasio (available at health food stores or asian markets)
1/4 cup green onions, thinly sliced

In a large nonstick pan, heat the oil on high. Add the tofu cubes, lower heat to medium high and saute, stirring frequently, until cubes are a light golden color.

In a cup mix the soy sauce and the maple syrup with a little whisk. Pour over the tofu and mix well. The sauce will bubble and caramelize. Keep stirring so that the sauce coats the tofu evenly. As the liquid evaporates the tofu will turn a gorgeous deep golden brown color. Add the Gomasio and give another stir. Add the green onions, saute for another minute and serve.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

A Nice Fish Swimming in a Sea of Curry

Halibut Curry

I have been exploring indian cuisine for many years and still have only managed to scratch the surface. I have a friend who is from India and she was shocked when she found out I made my own Naan. We were at her daughter's birthday party when the subject came up, immediately she called over her other Indian friends to share with them this little fact. They laughed and said: "Indian women don't make Naan, they buy it".

I have to admit that I have not tried to make this wonderful bread with gluten-free flour, but one of these days I will and I'll be sure to share the results with you. For today, I offer you a fish curry.

This wonderful little dish, is easy to put together and is worthy of your best company. Its richness comes from creamy cashew butter and yogurt. The melange of spices playfully compliments the mild, and delicate halibut. Serve it with some steamed rice, roasted cauliflower and green beans for a meal to remember.

Halibut Curry Close-Up

Halibut Curry (Serves 4)

1 1/2 lbs of Halibut fillets, skinless and cut into large bite size pieces
1/4 cup garbanzo bean flour
1 garlic clove, passed through a garlic press
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamon
pinch of salt
1 cup of plain yogurt
3 tablespoons of cashew butter
1 pinch of saffron, sipping in 2 tablespoons of boiling water for 5 minutes
1 tablespoon of grated fresh ginger
1/4 cup of chopped sweet onions
1/4 teaspoon of garam massala
1/4 cup of cilantro
1 garlic clove
1 teaspoon of salt, or less to taste
1 1/2 cup canned fire roasted tomatoes, diced

In a bowl mix the flour, crushed garlic, turmeric, paprika, cardamon, pinch of salt. Coat the fish with the mixture. Transfer to pre-oiled baking dish, cover and put in the fridge while you continue making the curry.
Preheat oven to 375F.
In the food processor combine yogurt, cashew butter, saffron and saffron water, ginger, onion, garam massala, cilantro, garlic clove and salt. Pulse until combined into a smooth sauce. Transfer into a sauce pan and cook under medium heat, stirring constantly, until thickened and simmering (about 5-8 minutes). Then add roasted tomatoes. Mix well together and pour over the fish. Mix gently and transfer to oven. Bake uncovered for 30 minutes.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Sweet... Lebanese Nutty Cookies

Blog post banner for Cookie post

I am bit picky when it comes to what qualifies as a good cookie. I like them buttery but not greasy. I don't appreciate gratuitous sweetness, it's like gratuitous violence in movies: totally lost on me. Sugar with a purpose is okay because it serves the very important purpose of balancing out the flavors or improving the texture of the crumb. Sometimes its essential job is just to sweeten my cup of tea.

Years ago, when I was new to exploring this wonderful culinary world, I made some middle-eastern treats. These were little logs, heavily perfumed with orange flower water and stuffed with dates and nuts. They were delightful and perfect with a cup of moroccan mint tea. Fast-forward to this weekend, I am looking desperately for the long lost cookie recipe when instead I come across the cutest, sweetest, nutty lebanese cookies.

Lebanese Walnut Cookies

I made one batch and asked for volunteers to try a few. After gobbling half a dozen, my kids were quick to suggest that we (meaning me) bake another batch... being their devoted slave, I obeyed their demands and promptly made another dozen. We were able to save enough to bring to our friends' house that night and they were a big hit with all.

If you try out this recipe, you might want to double the batch from the get-go because you're sure to have many more requests for these little gems.

I've decided to post both the gluten-free version, and the gluten-loaded version for all of you non-wheat limited individuals out there.

Lebanese Walnut Cookies

Lebanese Gluten-Free Walnut Cookies

100 g of unsweetened butter, softened at room temperature
1/2 cup of granulated sugar
2 tablespoon of orange flower water
1 cup sorghum flour
1/2 cup almond meal or walnut meal
1/2 cup tapioca starch
2 tsp xantham gum

For the filling, mix in a bowl:
1/2 cup of chopped walnuts
2 tablespoon of granulated sugar
1 teaspoon of cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350F.
Cream the butter with the sugar, until you obtain a white cream.
Add the orange flower water and mix energetically.
In a bowl mix the flour, meal, starch and xantham gum until well combined.
Slowly incorporate the flour mixture into the creamed butter. Mix well.

Form ping-pong sized balls with the dough. With your thumb create an indentation in each center. With the help of a small teaspoon, pour some filling into each each cookie center. Transfer to an oiled baking sheet and bake for 25-30 minutes or until cookies are slightly golden and have firmed up to the touch. Let cool on a rack.

Lebanese Walnut Cookies, the Gluten-Loaded Version

100 g of unsweetened butter, softened at room temperature
1/2 cup of granulated sugar
2 tablespoon of orange flower water
1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup almond meal or walnut meal

For the filling, mix in a bowl:
1/2 cup of chopped walnuts
2 tablespoon of granulated sugar
1 teaspoon of cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350F.
Cream the butter with the sugar, until a white cream is obtained.
Add the orange flower water and mix energetically.
In a bowl mix the flour and meal until well combined.
Slowly incorporate the flour mixture into the creamed butter. Mix well.

Form ping-pong sized balls with the dough. With your thumb create an indentation in each center. With the help of a small teaspoon, pour some filling into each each cookie center. Transfer to an oiled baking sheet and bake for 25-30 minutes or until cookies are slightly golden and have firmed up to the touch. Let cool on a rack.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Vacation, Booboos and Apricot Soup

Sometimes, a simple meal feels luxurious. I just came back from spending two glorious days cabin-camping on a beach on the banks of the Puget Sound. The weather was pretty ideal--not a given in this part of the world. The view was peaceful and delightful. We spent time with our friends, ate well, relaxed and even managed only one trip to urgent care-- which is pretty good considering the seven children we have between the two families. One of my twins tried but failed to jump over a low stone-wall and cut open her leg. In my rush to get to her, I manage to tumble over the same wall (klutziness is in our genes-- I'm only safe in a kitchen) and rolled onto the grass next to her, cursing out my pain for a fraction of a second, until the adrenaline rushed through me enough to forget my own booboos and deal with hers.

A trip to the local hospital and some skin-glue later (that's great stuff), we were back at camp for more Summer fun. Everyone had a great time. We were too exhausted when we got back home to consider cooking a "real" dinner. Light and fast was the recipe du jour. I pulled out the blender and whipped up a velvety apricot soup with blueberries.

We warmed up some of the "Almost Challah" and plated some fine cheeses. The meal was rounded up by a big salty, crunchy bowl of edamame. It was the perfect finale to a most perfect couple days (minus the bruises, cuts and other gross details that don't belong in a food blog).

I am passing this recipe on to Dhanggit of Dhanggits Kitchen for her perfect party dishes event. This dish will be great for her daughter's first birthday party because of its simplicity, visual appeal and wonderful refreshing taste.

Velvety Apricot Soup with Blueberries (serves 4)

I don't add any sugar or honey to this soup. However, I make sure that the fruit is really sweet and my lemon yogurt has fructose in it as well. The almond butter ties it well together and adds a wonderful richness to this dish. However, you can omit it if you would rather not invest in a jar. I live on the stuff and always have one in my fridge.

In a blender combine and blend until smooth:
6 large ripe apricots, pits removed (a little over 1 lb)
1/2 cup fresh blueberries
1/2 cup of orange juice
6 oz of lemon flavored yogurt (use soy yogurt for a vegan dish)
1 tablespoon of almond butter

To serve:
Serve the soup chilled. Divide the soup among four bowls and add some whole blueberries to garnish.

Salmon Rice Medley with Pistachio Swiss Chard Pesto

I often make what my family calls "mixtures" for weeknight dinners. It usually involves some sort of protein, some sort of cooked grain, some sort of vegetable (in this case swiss chard pesto), and lots of wonderful flavorings (usually garlic and spices), all mixed together into one dish. I add a salad to it and call it dinner. Leftovers are great in an omelet or as a stuffing for a gluten-free tortilla the next day.

Wild Salmon and Rice Medley with Swiss Chard Pistachio Pesto (Serves 6)

This makes more pesto than necessary for this recipe, but it's a good thing... really! You can refrigerate the leftovers and use it the next day over some pasta or with scrambled eggs. It's also dairy-free but you won't miss the cheese, it stands up on its own just beautifully.

To make the pesto:
In a food processor combine:
3 large swiss chard leaves, stems removed
2 garlic cloves
1/2 cup of shelled pistachios
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon of Tahini
1 tablespoon of honey
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 cup of olive oil

-Pulse, scraping the sides a few times with a spatula, until completely combined into a paste.

For the fish:
1 pound of Salmon Fillet, skin removed
1/4 cup of pesto

-Preheat oven to 400F. Rub the pesto on the fish and then transfer to oven. Bake for 15 minutes and change the setting of the oven to Broil on high. Cook for another five minutes and check for doneness. Fish should be flaky and about 145F internal temperature. This might take longer or less time depending on the thickness of your fillet.

To Assemble:
1 tsp of olive oil
2 cups of precooked rice (I like to use brown rice or a medley)
1 15oz can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/4 cup of pistachio pesto
Salt to taste
1 cooked pesto salmon fillet, flaked into bite-size morsel

-In a pan on medium heat warm the oil. Add the rice and saute until hot. Add the chickpeas and combine with rice. Saute a few more minutes. Add the pesto and cook an additional minute, mixing well to combine. Taste for salt, adjust to taste. Add the flaked salmon, mix and serve.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Adventures in Challah Baking

I started out wanting to make challah, a wonderful jewish egg bread. Not being able to use wheat changes many things in baking, including which bread you can enjoy. This bread turned out wonderful, rich and with a perfect texture. It's almost challah but not quite, the chewiness that you get with gluten is missing but its own texture is moist and delightful. I offer you two methods: one for breadmachines but still baked in your oven, and the other you can do in a mixer. You can also take this recipe and use regular flour if your diet doesn't require you to be off wheat or gluten. Either way, you are in for a treat.

Almost Challah:A Gluten-Free Bread (makes 2 loaves)

Wet Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups of water
3 large egg yolks
1 whole large egg
1/4 cup of vegetable oil
1/4 cup agave nectar, or honey

Dry Ingredients: Use the following flours or 4 1/2 cups of GF flour mix + the xantham gum, or for non-gluten-free version use 4 1/2 cups of all purpose flour, omit the xantham gum.

1 cup of white rice flour
1/2 cup of tapioca starch
1 cup of sorghum flour
1 cup of millet flour
1/2 cup of garbanzo flour
1/2 cup of soy flour
4 teaspoon of xantham gum
1 teaspoon of salt
1 tablespoon of yeast

Other Ingredients:
egg wash (1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon of water)
sesame seeds

Method 1 for the breadmachine:
1)If using a bread machine, put ingredients in according to manufacturer's instructions. Set the machine on basic dough cycle. Remove from machine when dough is done rising.

2)Divide into two loaves on oiled cookie sheet. I find it helpful to have wet hands when handling gluten-free dough. Cover with a clean towel and let rise again for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven at 400F.

3)Paint the loaves with an egg wash and sprinkle generously with sesame seeds. Bake in the oven for about 30 minutes or until the loaves are a beautiful golden brown and sound hallow when tapped underneath.

Method 2 for the mixer:
1)In a mixer, mix well the wet ingredients with the dry ingredients. Cover and let rise for 1 1/2 to two hours, or until doubled.

Continue with step 2 and 3 of method 1.

Monday, August 4, 2008

The Many Roles of Chermoula

If you go and see a one-man show, what you get is hopefully a very talented actor pulling off many different roles seamlessly. Either that or a bad trip watching someone with multiple personality disorder, and then it isn't so seamless. Chermoula is a talented actor who can perform no matter what under any savory circumstance. I was first introduced to it via moroccan cuisine and very quickly requested an autograph, oops... I mean recipe. It's a sauce that is typical of Tunisia, Algeria, and Morocco. This great lemony, garlicky and mildly spicy condiment is easy to make. You can use it, and this is where its ability to morph comes in, as a marinade or sauce on chicken, lamb, fish, tofu, eggs, fresh mozzarella, and cooked vegetables. It makes an amazing salad dressing if you thin it out with orange juice. It provides a great dip for artichoke or sandwich spread when mixed with some mayonnaise. It is insanely good on any type of indian dhal. It would be great over pasta and any type of grain. So go ahead play the role of the director and decide for yourself how it should perform in your show, you're bound to win a culinary Emmy.

Chermoula: A Versatile Sauce (makes a little over 1 cup)

Using regular paprika is okay too, but I find that the smoke paprika adds a depth of flavor and aroma that is so worth it.

Process together in the food processor until you have a smooth sauce:

2 lemon juice + zest
4 garlic cloves
1/2 cup of parsley
1/2 cup of cilantro
1 teaspoon sweet smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon of spicy smoked paprika
1 teaspoon of ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon of ground ginger
2 teaspoon of honey (or for vegan 1 teaspoon of agave nectar)
1/2 cup olive oil

Additional ingredients:
salt to taste
1 cup of coarsely chopped cilantro

Once you are done processing the mixture in the food processor, pour into a bowl and add chopped cilantro and salt to taste. The mixture will taste very lemony. Transfer to a jar and refrigerate for at least a couple hours. The flavors benefit from getting to know each other and result is delightful.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Rainbow Swiss Chard, Fennel Gratin

You've heard me say it before but this is one I don't mind saying again: the great things about being part of this blog foodie community is how we all have the ability to inspire each other. The Wednesday Chef had a beautiful post about Alice Waters' Chard Gratin. After coming back from the farm/CSA with an armload of Rainbow Swiss Chard I decided to create my own version. I started out by caramelizing some onions, then added ingredients such as fennel, turnip and chard. The mixture was mixed in with soy yogurt and goat feta cheese and crowned by flavored corn tortilla crumbs. This tastes even better than it looks.

Chard and Fennel Gratin with a Corn Tortilla Topping (serves 6 as a side-dish)


2 cups Swiss Chard stems, coarsely sliced
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1/2 a large onion, finely chopped
1 cup of fresh fennel bulb, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 cup of baby turnips, finely diced
3 cups Swiss Chard greens, cut into thin strips
1/2 cup of plain soy yogurt or dairy sour cream
1/4 goat feta cheese, crumbled
salt to taste

For the topping:
3 corn tortillas (6"), torn into quarters
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1/4 teaspoon of sea salt
1 small garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon of chopped fennel greens


Steam the chard stems for about 10 minutes, then drain.
Saute the onions, stirring often, in a thick bottom pan at medium to low temperature until caramelized. They should be a beautiful golden, brown color. (takes 15-20 minutes)
Add fennel, garlic, turnip and continue cooking for five more minutes, stirring often. Then, add the stems and chard greens and cook for five more minutes.
Transfer mixture to a bowl.
In another bowl, mix together yogurt or sour cream with feta cheese. Combine cheese mixture with the vegetables and mix well. Check for salt, adjust to taste. Transfer to a pre-oiled gratin round dish.

Preheat oven to 350F.

In a food processor, pulse all the tortilla topping ingredients together until mixture becomes a coarse meal (you don't want it too fine--see picture). Sprinkle evenly the topping on the vegetable mixture. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes or until topping becomes nice and golden.
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