Sunday, April 30, 2017

Boston Lettuce with White Asparagus and Oil Cured Olive Vinaigrette Marinated Mushrooms

     A Café Style Marinated Mushroom Salad!
     Marinated Mushroom Salads have been popular off and on in cafés and fine dining restaurants during the last 50 years.  It seems like the dining public takes interest in Marinated Mushroom Salads for a few months, then it is practically impossible to give one away.  From what I have noticed, overbearing vinegar flavors or poor preparation methods are usually to blame for lulls in Marinated Mushroom Salad sales.  
     I used to make a Fennel Marinated Mushroom Salad at a Northern Italian restaurant that sold quite well.  A hearty salad like this is a nice antipasti course.  Marinated Mushroom Salads also sell well at old fashioned steakhouse restaurants, because they are a nice accompaniment for beef.  Marinated Mushroom Salads may be old fashioned, but they still have a place in a chef's repertoire.       
     The vinaigrette for today's salad is made with minced oil cured black olives, so it has a deep flavor that pairs well with mushrooms.  The mushrooms are marinated in the rich tasting vinaigrette and the deep olive flavor thoroughly saturates the mushrooms.  Blanched White Asparagus Spears add a crisp elegantly light flavor that offsets the heavy marinated mushrooms.
     Hard boiled eggs that are cooked so the yolk is gelled and not fully cooked have been en vogue in recent years.  Boiling a large egg for 9 minutes, instead of 12 to 15 minutes, will yield a soft cooked yolk.
     White Asparagus Spears: 
     This recipe yields 1 garnish portion.
     Step 1:  Peel 4 or 5 white asparagus spears.
     Trim the stalks, so the spears are about 4" to 5" long.
     Step 2:  Blanch the white asparagus spears in salted boiling water, till they are cooked al dente.
     Remove the blanched asparagus from the boiling water and cool the spears in a container of ice water.
     Step 3:  Drain off the water.
     Chill the white asparagus spears till they are needed.

     Oil Cured Olive Vinaigrette: 
     This recipe yields about 3/4 cup.  (Enough for 2 Marinated Mushroom Salads.)
     Step 1:  Place 2 tablespoons of red wine vinegar in a mixing bowl.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of Dijon Mustard.
     Add 3 tablespoons of minced pitted oil cured black olives.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of minced garlic.
     Add 2 pinches of sea salt and black pepper.  (to taste)
     Stir the ingredients together.
     Set the mixture aside for 5 minutes, so the flavors meld.
     Step 2:  Slowly add 3 tablespoons of virgin olive oil while constantly whisking.
     Slowly add 3 tablespoons of pomace olive oil while whisking.
     Step 3:  Place the Oil Cured Olive Vinaigrette in a container.
     Set the container aside or chill it for later use.
     Oil Cured Olive Vinaigrette Marinated Mushrooms:
     This recipe yields 1 garnish portion. 
     *The mushrooms should be marinated shortly before serving the salad.  Do not marinate for too much time or the mushrooms will become soggy!
     Place 1/3 cup of thin sliced Button Cave Mushrooms in a small mixing bowl.
     Add 3 tablespoons of the Oil Cured Olive Vinaigrette.
     Toss the ingredients together.
     Marinate the mushrooms for 5 to 10 minutes.
     Boston Lettuce with White Asparagus and Oil Cured Olive Vinaigrette Marinated Mushrooms:
     This recipe yields 1 salad entrée.
     Step 1:  Place 6 large trimmed Boston Lettuce leaves on a plate, so the stalk ends of the leaves overlap on the center of the plate.
     Mound 1 1/2 cups of coarsely chopped Boston Lettuce on the center of the bed of lettuce leaves.
     Sprinkle the Oil Cured Olive Vinaigrette Marinated Mushrooms on the mound of lettuce.
     Step 2:  Place 2 very thin slices of Bermuda Onion on top of the mound of lettuce.
     Place 2 thin tomato slices on the onions.
     Place the blanched white asparagus spears on top of the tomato slices.
     Drape a few thin strips of roasted pimiento over the asparagus spears.
     Step 3:  Pour 2 to 3 tablespoons of the remaining Oil Cured Olive Vinaigrette over the asparagus spears.
     Place 1/2 of a hard boiled egg on the top of the salad.  (9 minute egg)

     Oil Cured Olives have a deep rich aged olive flavor that is much milder tasting than Kalamata Olives.  The oil Oil Cured Olive Vinaigrette is perfect for the white asparagus and mushrooms!

Friday, April 28, 2017

Karnibahar Kizartmasi

     Turkish Fried Cauliflower with Garlic Yogurt and Red Pepper Dill Butter!
     Karnibahar Kizartmasi is a nice tasting cauliflower dish that is light and healthy.  It seems like cauliflower recipes in America are limited to buttered cauliflower or cauliflower smothered with cheese sauce.  The most popular French cauliflower topping is Polonaise, which is like a fancy butter sauce with egg and this recipe was common in classic American fine dining restaurants.
     When looking for more alternatives for preparing cauliflower, it is best to search the traditional source of this vegetable.  The Mediterranean region offers many great cauliflower preparations.  Sicily offers many cauliflower recipes and many colorful cauliflower hybrids were created on this island.  Persian, Arabian and North African cuisines all offer hundreds of great cauliflower recipes.  Turkey is one of the great culinary capitols of the world and Turkish cuisine has been revered as great tasting food since ancient times.  Turkish cuisine offers many traditional finger food recipes that are popular afternoon snacks in modern cafés.  Today's Turkish cauliflower is good example of café style healthy afternoon snack food.  Karnibahar Kizartmasi can also be served as a light meal or side dish.
     Garlic Yogurt Sauce:
     This recipe yields 1 garnish portion.  (About 1/3 cup)
     Step 1:  Place 1/4 cup of goat milk yogurt (Greek Yogurt) in small mixing bowl.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of minced garlic.
     Mix the ingredients together.
     Step 2:  Add 1/2 teaspoon of water at a time, while stirring, till the yogurt becomes a medium thin sauce consistency that can coat a spoon.
     Step 3:  Place the Garlic Yogurt Sauce in a container.
     Chill in a refrigerator for 30 minutes, so the flavors meld.

     Red Pepper and Dill Butter:
     This recipe yields 1 garnish portion.  (A little more than 1 ounce.)
     Spiced warm clarified butter (ghee) is often used as a finishing touch for many Turkish recipes.
     Step 1:  Heat a small sauce pot over medium low heat.
     Add 2 1/2 tablespoons of unsalted butter.
     Simmer till the water and liquid milk fat evaporates and the butter is clarified
     Step 2:  Reduce the temperature to very low heat.
     Add 1 pinch of crushed dried red pepper.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of Turkish style Harissa Sauce.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of dried dill weed.
     Add 1 pinch of sea salt and black pepper.
     Stir the ingredients together.
     Step 3:  Remove the pot from the heat.
     Pour the Red Pepper and Dill Butter into a ceramic cup.
     Keep the butter sauce warm on a stove top.
     Turkish Style Fried Cauliflower:
     This recipe yields 1 portion.    
     Step 1:  Cut 1/2 of a head of cauliflower into medium size florets.  (About 2 1/2 to 3 cups in volume.)
     Step 2:  Boil enough water in a sauce pot over high heat to cover the cauliflower florets.
     Add the cauliflower.
     Blanch the cauliflower till it starts to become tender and it still has a fairly firm bite.  (al dente)
     Drain the water off of the cauliflower and set the florets aside to cool.
     Step 3:  Place 2 large eggs in a mixing bowl.
     Add 2 pinches of sea salt and black pepper.
     Whisk till blended.
     Step 4:  Add enough flour, while whisking, to form a medium thick batter.  (About 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup.)
     *The batter should be a little bit thicker than pancake batter and it should slowly drip from a spoon.
     Step 5:  Heat 6" of vegetable frying oil in a high sided pot to 360ºF.
     Step 6:  Place a few of the blanched cauliflower florets in the egg batter.
     Completely coat the cauliflower florets.
     Drop one floret at a time into the hot frying oil.  (Try to keep the florets separate, so they do not stick to each other!)
     Stir the florets in the hot oil occasionally, so they fry evenly.
     Fry the florets till they are a golden color.
     Step 7:  Use a fryer net to remove the golden fried cauliflower florets from the hot oil and set them on a wire screen roasting rack over a drip pan to drain off any excess oil.
     Step 8:  Repeat Step 6 and Step 7 till all the cauliflower florets are fried.
     Keep the fried cauliflower warm on a stove top.

     Karnibahar Kizartmasi:
     This recipe yields 1 portion.
     Place the fried cauliflower florets in a shallow soup bowl or small casserole dish.
     Spoon a generous amount of the garlic yogurt sauce over the cauliflower.  (1/4 cup to 1/3 cup)
     Drizzle the red pepper dill butter over the garlic yogurt.
     Sprinkle 1 pinch of dried dill weed over the cauliflower.

     This is a tasty Turkish Fried Cauliflower recipe that is well worth trying!

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Tomato Leek Crème Soup

     A Great Tasting Soup!
     I have made so many different kinds of soups while working in restaurants.  When deciding on a soup du jour, I often relied upon classic soups that fine dining customers easily recognized.  Customer favorites are an easy way to generate sales, but offering the same soups repeatedly will cause regular customers to become bored.  Creating soups becomes easy to do, especially when working as a sous chef with the goal of eliminating waste in a restaurant kitchen.  When there is only small amounts of odds and ends in a cooler after a busy night or if an overstock situation exists, a soup can be created to use up the small quantities of food items or sell slow moving perishable items.  For example, if tomatoes were overstocked and they are becoming overripe, then design a soup the requires plenty of tomato.  If there is two pounds of snapper and three pounds of grouper leftover from the night before, then design a Portuguese style chowder that required tomato and fish.  As one can see, soup can reduce stock and eliminate waste.
     As a sous chef, I became so famous for creating great soups at a French café that the French chef from Corsica decided to put seven different soups on the menu.  Needless to say, I was quite busy making soups and the soups sold well.  I was given room to make one soup du jour for lunch and one for dinner each day.  When exerting waste control was not necessary, I focused on creating soups that were customer favorites.
      Potato Leek Soup is a customer favorite nearly everywhere and I have made this classic soup hundreds of times.  Potato Leek Soup is a good seller on a chilly day, but when the weather is warm, lighter soups are more appealing.  Just by switching tomatoes for potatoes, a lighter soup with a good leek flavor can be made.
     Tomato Leek Crème Soup actually is one of the best selling soups du jour that I have ever cooked.  Tomato Leek Crème Soup is light enough to appeal to customers when the weather warms up, especially during the spring season.  Some chefs puree every soup that they make as if they are working in a geriatric ward, but a soup can benefit from having some texture.  Small pieces of tomato add a nice rustic character to a crème soup.
     Tomato Leek Crème Soup:
     This recipe yields about 4 1/4 cups.  (2 large portions)
     Step 1:  Heat a wide sauce pot over medium low/low heat.
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of unsalted butter.
     Add 1/2 cup of brunoise diced leek.  (brunoise = 1/8" dice)
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of minced garlic.
     Add 2 tablespoon of brunoise diced carrot.
     Add 2 tablespoon of brunoise diced celery.
     Gently sauté and sweat the vegetables till they are tender.
     Step 2:  Add 1 1/2 cups of diced peeled and seeded overripe tomatoes.  (Italian canned peeled seeded Plum Tomatoes can also be used.)
     Sauté and occasionally stir till the tomatoes just start to become tender.
     Step 3:  Add 1 cup of tomato juice.
     Add 1 1/2 cups of light chicken stock.
     Add 1 1/2 cups of milk.
     Add 1/2 cup of cream.
     Step 4:  Add 1 bay leaf.
     Add 2 pinches of dill weed.
     Add 1 pinch of basil.
     Add 1 pinch of cayenne pepper.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of Spanish Paprika.
     Add 2 pinches of sea salt and black pepper.  (to taste)
     Step 5:  Raise the temperature to medium heat.
     Stir the soup occasionally as it comes to a gentle boil.
     Step 6:  Heat a small sauce pot over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 3 1/2 tablespoons of unsalted butter.
     Add an equal amount of flour while constantly stirring with a whisk to make a roux.  (The roux should look shiny and smooth, not caky.)
     Constantly stir till the roux is pale golden color.
     Step 7:  Remove the roux pot from the heat.
     Slowly add the roux to the soup while constantly stirring with a whisk.
     *The soup will thicken to a very thin consistency.
     Step 8:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Gently simmer and reduce till the soup is a medium thin consistency that can coat a spoon.  The finished volume should be about 4 cups to 4 1/4 cups.
     Step 9:  Remove the bay leaf.
     Keep the soup warm over very low heat or in a 135ºF bain marie.
     This recipe describes 1 large portion.
     Ladle 2 cups of the Tomato Leek Crème Soup into a shallow large soup bowl.
     Place the soup bowl on a doily lined serving plate.
     Garnish with an Italian Parsley sprig.
     Served with bread on the side.
     The bits of tomato add character to this soup.  The basil and dill are nice herbs for a tomato cream soup.  The gentle flavor of leek is perfect with the tomato!

Monday, April 24, 2017

Tabbouleh with Za'atar Tonir Lavash

     A Classic Refreshing Arabic Parsley and Bulgur Wheat Mezze!
     Over 500 years ago, minced herb salads became popular in Arabic cuisine.  Tabbouleh originated in Syria and Lebanon.  This region is one of the original wheat cultivation regions in history and many well known wheat grass strains were developed in this area in ancient times and Bulgur is one of the earliest wheat products ever made.  Parsley has been used extensively in local Middle East cuisines since ancient times too.  It was a natural for Syrians to combine parsley and Bulgur Wheat to create Tabbouleh and it turned out to be one of the greatest salads of them all.
     Many chefs and diners do not completely understand the importance of parsley in a gastronomical sense.  Parsley acts as a mellowing or toning agent in sauces, soups and chilled food items.  One might say that parsley is capable of creating a little bit of extra space between peak flavors and parsley can unite different flavors as well.  Parsley also helps to mellow intense flavors, so they do not overpower the tasting palate.  
     Part of gastronomy is understanding the medicinal effects of food and parsley offers many benefits.  Parsley is a well known natural breath freshener, because it has a high chlorophyl content.  Parsley also helps to alleviate digestive problems associated with protein rich diets and this herb helps to alleviate gout symptoms.  Parsley is a mild anti carcinogen and it actually fights tumor growth.  Parsley is has antioxidant qualities an it is a source of several beneficial micronutrients.  The medicinal benefits of parsley are stronger when parsley is consumed fresh, but the effects do not diminish significantly when parsley is cooked.  
     There are several varieties of parsley and some taste stronger than others.  Curly Leaf Parsley is very mild tasting and it is most often used as a garnish, but it can also be used in recipes that do not require a strong parsley flavor.  Italian Parsley is a bit stronger tasting and it is used extensively cuisines worldwide.  Dark Flat Leaf Italian Parsley is strong tasting and it is most often used for flavoring sauces.
     Bulgur is wheat kernels that are par boiled, then dried and cracked.  Usually only a small portion of the bran is removed when making Bulgur, so Bulgur is a good source of fibrous carbohydrates.  Durham Wheat is the most popular for making Bulgur and several other well known wheat varietals are used to make Bulgur too.  Public interest in lesser known ancient wheat grass strains has also opened the door for making ancient styles of Bulgur in modern times.
     High quality Bulgur is uniform in size and the size is measured with a numerical scale, so it is easy to find a Bulgur size that best suits a particular recipe.  Bulgur can be soaked till it becomes tender or it can be boiled till it becomes tender.  Bulgar has a nice light nutty flavor, which increases when the Bulgur is sautéed or roasted.  Pilaf was originally made with Bulgur, not rice and the start of a Pilaf involves sautéing the grain to increase the nutty flavor.  When added to a salad like Tabbouleh, the nutty flavor of the wheat reacts with parsley in an interesting way.
     My step grandfather was a great Syrian Lebanese chef.  He used a nifty technique when making Tabbouleh and similar salads.  Most people combine the salad dressing ingredients ahead of time, then add the dressing to the Tabbouleh.  Instead of combining the dressing ingredients ahead of time, he added each individual salad dressing ingredient while gently tossing the Tabbouleh.  This technique produced a noticeably brighter flavor profile.

      Jordan Za'atar Tonir Lavash:
      This recipe yields 2 portions. 
      Tonir Lavash was the first ancient lavash recipe.  Tonir Lavash is made with whole grain wheat.  Tonir Lavash can be purchased at Mediterranean food markets.  Making fresh Tonir Lavash is an option too.  To make Tonir Lavash at home, you will need a hot stone slab in the oven.  
     Za'atar Spice mix varies from family to family and from region to region.  It is much more economical to purchase a container of Za'atar at a Mediterranean food market than to purchase the spices separately.  The Za'atar Spice blend for today's recipe came from the country of Jordan.  Jordan Za'atar has a high proportion of Wild Thyme in the mixture, which creates an interesting flavor.
     Step 1:  Select 1 or 2 large rectangle sheets of fresh Tonir Lavash Bread.  (Tonir Lavash is usually shaped as 10" x 12" to 14" sheets.)
     Cut the Tonir Lavash into 6 large long triangle shapes.
     Step 2:  Place the Tonir Lavash triangles side by side on a sheet pan.
     Brush the tops with virgin olive oil.
     Sprinkle a generous amount of Jordanian Za'atar Spice mixture on the bread.
     Use your finger tips to gently rub the spice with the olive oil onto the bread, so the spice does not remain dry.
     Step 3:  Place the sheet pan in a 350ºF oven.
     Bake till the Tonir Lavash is crisp.  (This only takes a few minutes.)
     Keep the Jordan Za'atar Tonir Lavash warm on a stove top.

     This recipe yields about 2 1/3 cups.  (Enough for 2 guests to share.)
     Step 1:  Place 1/4 cup of medium size Bulgur Wheat in a small sauce pot.
     Add just enough water to barely cover the bulgar.
     Place the pot over low heat.
     Gently simmer the bulgar till it is tender, yet slightly al dente.  Add water as necessary.
     *Only add enough water to keep the Bulgur moist as it simmers!  The idea is to not dilute or leach out the natural nutty flavor.  When the bulgar is close to becoming tender, do not replenish the water.  Allow the bulgar to soak up the last of the water in the pot, so no flavor is lost.
     Step 2:  Drain off any excess water.
     Set the Bulgur aside to cool.
     Chill the Bulgur to 41ºF in a refrigerator.
     Step 3:  Finely chop 1 bunch of Italian Parsley.  (Enough for about 1 1/3 cups.)
     Step 4:  Place the chopped parsley in a mixing bowl.
     Add the prepared Bulgur.
     Add 3 tablespoons of small chopped fresh mint. 
     Add 2 tablespoons of small chopped seeded Plum Tomato.
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of finely chopped Bermuda Onion.
     Add 1 tablespoon of a finely chopped green onion.
     Step 5:  Add 1/4 teaspoon of dried Sumac Berry Spice.
     Add 2 pinches of Kosher Salt.
     Add 1 pinch of black pepper.
     Toss the ingredients together.
     Step 6:  Add 1 tablespoon of fresh lemon juice while gently tossing the salad ingredients.
     Add about 1 1/2 tablespoons of virgin olive oil while gently tossing the salad ingredients.  (Just add enough oil to barely coat the ingredients with flavor.)
     Serve the Tabbouleh immediately, while the flavors are crisp.
     *This salad cannot be made ahead of time and it should not be chilled, because it will wilt!
     Tabbouleh with Za'atar Tonir Lavash:
     This recipe yields 1 Mezze Platter that can be shared by 2 guests.
     Step 1:  Place the Tabbouleh in serving bowl.
     Garnish with Italian Parsley sprigs.
     Garnish with sliced Persian Preserved Lemon.
     Step 2:  Place the bowl of Tabbouleh on the center of a large oval serving platter.
     Arrange 3 Jordan Za'atar Tonir Lavash triangles on each end of the platter.

     Refreshingly and healthy!  Tabbouleh is one of the tastiest salads that there is and the Jordan Za'atar Tonir Lavash add even more classic flavor!

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Bucatini e Broccoli Agrodolce

     Sicily looks like a small island on a map, yet there are so many culinary influences that have their roots in Sicilian cuisine that one would swear that Sicily was a large continent!  Agra Dolce is a good example of a unique Sicilian style flavor combination that has influenced many chefs worldwide.  Agra Dolce is a unique sweet sour flavor combination that is often featured in food item that one would not expect to taste a sweet sour flavor.  Sicilian Agrodolce definitely has a way of pleasantly awakening the senses!
     There are several Sicilian recipes for pasta with broccoli.  Some recipes call for tomato sauce and some are made with an olive oil sauce.  The savory simple flavor of broccoli is featured in some recipes, while others use anchovies to add umami sensations.  Some Sicilian broccoli pasta recipes are made with an Agrodolce Sauce, which adds an exciting flavor.
     Agrodolce Sauce has a balance of sweet and sour flavor that is enriched with dried fruit.  The addition of herbs, spices, nuts and garlic makes the sweet sour flavor even more complex.  Toasted seasoned breadcrumbs are often added as a finishing touch, which offsets the extreme flavors of the Agrodolce.  As one can see, a lot of thought and experience goes into a Sicilian style pasta that features Agrodolce flavors.  One taste is all it takes for guests to smile.    

     Raison Preparation:
     This recipe yields enough for 1 pasta portion.
     Place 2 tablespoons of minced raisons in a small bowl.
     Add 1/4 cup of warm water.
     Let the raisons soak till they start to become tender.  (About 1 hour.)
     *Do not discard the soaking liquid.

     Garlic Bread Crumb Topping:
     This recipe yields enough for 2 pasta portions.
     Step 1:  Heat a small sauté pan over medium low heat.
     Add 1 tablespoon of virgin olive oil.
     Add 1 minced garlic clove.
     Sauté till the garlic is a light golden color.
     Step 2:  Add 3 tablespoons of fine ground plain Italian breadcrumbs.
     Constantly stir till the breadcrumbs are lightly toasted.
     Step 3:  Remove the pan from the heat.
     Place the garlic bread crumb topping in a small bowl.
     Keep the bowl warm on a stove top.

     Toasted Pine Nuts:
     This recipe yields enough for 1 pasta portion.
     Heat a small sauté pan over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 2 tablespoons of pine nuts.
     Shake the pan as the pine nuts toast.
     Toast the pine nuts till they turn a light golden color.
     Set the pine nuts aside in a small bowl.

     Bucatini e Broccoli Agrodolce:
     This recipe yields 1 pasta entrée.
     Step 1:  Start cooking 1 portion of Bucatini Pasta in a pot of boiling water over medium high heat till it is al dente.
     *The sauce can be made while the pasta cooks! 
     Step 2:  Heat a wide sauté pan over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil.
     Add 2 minced garlic cloves.
     Add 3 tablespoons of minced onion.
     Sauté till the onions and garlic are a light golden color.
     Step 3:  Add 1 chopped imported Italian anchovy filets.  (About 1/2 teaspoon.)
     Briefly sauté for a few seconds, so the anchovy becomes aromatic.
     Step 4:  Add 1 cup of chopped broccoli florets.
     Sauté the broccoli till it just starts to cook.
     Step 5:  Add 3/4 cup of water.
     Add the reserved soaked raisons and the soaking liquid.
     Add the reserved toasted pine nuts.
     Add 2 teaspoons of red wine vinegar.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of raw sugar.
     Add 1 pinch of crushed dried red pepper.
     Add 1 pinch of Crocus sativa Saffron.
     Add 2 pinches of chopped Italian Parsley.
     Add 1 pinch of sea salt and black pepper.
     Step 6:  Bring the liquid to a gentle boil.
     Step 7:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Simmer and reduce till only about 1/3 cup of liquid remains in the pan.  (There should only be enough Agrodolce Sauce in the pan to coat the pasta with flavor.)
     Remove the pan from the heat.
     Step 8:  When the pasta is cooked al dente, drain the water off of the pasta.
     Step 9:  Place the sauté pan of Agrodolce Broccoli over very low heat.
     Add the Bucatini Pasta to the sauce.
     Add 1 teaspoon of virgin olive oil.
     Toss the pasta with the sauce and broccoli, till it is warm.
     Step 10:  Remove the pan from the heat.
     Use a long tine carving fork to mound the pasta on a plate.
     Pour any sauce that remains in the pan over the Bucatini Pasta.
     Step 11:  Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of fine grated Pecorino Romano Cheese over the pasta.
     Sprinkle about 1 1/2 tablespoons of the reserved Garlic Bread Crumbs over the pasta.
     Garnish the pasta with an Italian Parsley sprig.

     Bucatini e Broccoli Agrodolce will please guests that crave bold complex flavors!

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Cairo Molokhia

     Cairo Style Shrimp Molokhia!
     Molokhia is spelled several different ways in Middle East language dialects.  Molokhia is the edible leaves of the Jute plant.  The inedible fibrous Jute stalk is used to make fabric and carpet, so it is easy to see why this plant has been cultivated since ancient times.  Jute may have originated in India, but the use of Molokhia and Jute fibers actually predates the ancient age of the Pharaohs in Egypt, so this plant sprecies spread to the Nile basin long before written history came to be.
     Before the age of the Pharaohs, Molokhia was a common food item that was used to make soups and stews.  During the age of the Pharaohs, common people were banned from consuming this leafy vegetable.  Apparently the Pharaohs believed Molokhia was one of the foods of the gods.
     Just like okra, Molokhia is mucilaginous after it is cooked, so a Molokhia Soup does not need to be thickened.  Molokhia is a good source of vitamins, minerals and beneficial dietary fiber.  Molokhia also eases many digestive ailments which include constipation, so this may be part of the reason why the ancient Pharaohs held this leafy green vegetable in such high regard.            
     Molokhia leaves are usually finely chopped and made into a soup or stew.  Molokhia is one of Egypt's most famous foods and there are many regional recipe variations.  Chicken meat and chicken broth are most often used to flavor Molokhia Soup.  In Cairo, Egypt, shrimp is added to Molokhia Soup.  The slightly bitter aromatic flavor of Molokhia does taste nice with shrimp.
     Fresh Molokhia is not usually available in the western world, but frozen prepared Molokhia is available in Mediterranean food markets.  Frozen prepared Molokhia is easy to work with, because it is already very finely minced.  I used a small package of frozen minced Molokhia to make today's recipe photo example.
     Cairo Molokhia:
     This recipe yields about 3 1/2 cups.  (2 portions)
     In a culinary sense, when the word Molokhia is used on its own in a recipe title, it can refer to stewed Molokhia Leaves or a thick soup made with Minced Molokhia Leaves.  The Molokhia is prepared as a soup in this recipe. 
     Frozen prepared minced Molokhia is available in Mediterranean food markets.      
     Step 1:  Cook 2 portions of Basmati Rice or Long Grain White Rice ahead of time.  (About 1/4 to 1/3 cup dried rice.)
     Keep the rice warm on a stove top or in a 135ºF bain marie.
     Step 2:  Place 3 cups of shrimp broth in a sauce pot.
     Add 2 cups of thawed prepared Molokhia.  (Frozen Molokhia is usually already finely minced.)
     Add 1/2 cup of small chopped onion.
     Add 1/4 cup of chopped tomato.
     Add 1 tablespoon of minced seeded Green Serrano Chile Pepper.  (Use Green Jalapeño for a milder flavor.)
     Step 3:  Add 1 teaspoon of coriander.
     Add 3 tablespoons of minced cilantro.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of cumin.
     Add 2 pinches of black pepper.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of sea salt.
     Step 4:  Place the sauce pot over medium high heat.
     Bring the soup to a boil while stirring occasionally.
     Step 5:  Reduce the temperature to medium low/low heat.
     Simmer and reduce till the Molokhia Soup is a medium thin thin puree consistency.  
     Step 6:  Heat a small sauté pan over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 3 tablespoons of Ghee.  (Clarified unsalted butter.)
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of chopped garlic.
     Sauté till the garlic turns a golden color.
     Add the hot garlic butter to the Molokhia Soup while stirring.
     Step 7:  Add 16 peeled large shrimp.  (Remove the tails.)
     Gently simmer and reduce till the shrimp are fully cooked the soup is a medium puree consistency.
*The consistency will be quite mucilaginous (slimy).  The soup consistency is correct, when it is just thick enough to float a large shrimp on.
     Step 7:  Add the juice of 1/2 of a lemon.
     Keep the soup warm over very low heat.
     This recipe describes 1 portion of Cairo Molokhia Soup.
     Step 1:  Place 1 portion of cooked Basmati rice in a custard cup.
     Invert the cup onto a shallow large soup bowl.
     Tap the rice mold against the bowl to release the molded rice.
     Remove the custard cup mold.
     Step 2:  Use a slotted spoon to remove the shrimp from the Cairo Molokhia Soup.
     Set the Shrimp aside on a platter.
     Step 3:  Ladle about 1 3/4 cups of the Cairo Molokhia Soup in the soup bowl around the rice.
     Place about 8 shrimp on the surface of the Cairo Molokhia Soup in a decorative manner.
     Step 4:  Garnish the rice with 1 tablespoon of Thick Harissa Sauce (or minced roasted red bell pepper).
     Garnish the Harissa with a few Italian Parsley leaves.
     After simmering, the Molokhia becomes very fragrant.  The aroma is like a very pleasant rare flower.  For those who relish the thought of tasting something different and delicious that has been made since ancient times, Molokhia is a must to try!

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Alaskan King Crab Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms

     Classic East Coast Style Stuffed Mushrooms Made With Alaskan King Crab!
     Crab Stuffed Mushrooms have been popular in east coast restaurants for more than 100 years.  Crab Stuffed Mushrooms are a standard appetizer menu item in casual eateries, classic fine dining restaurants and especially at old fashioned east coast seafood restaurants.
     At an old school seafood restaurant, the same Crab Stuffing that is made for shrimp, fish and lobster is used to make Stuffed Mushrooms.  Chesapeake Blue Crab is the top choice for making a traditional Crab Stuffing.  The classic stuffing is made with Blue Crab, minced aromatic vegetables, bread crumbs, egg, herbs and a little bit of broth.  In recent years, many restaurants have switched to using a heavy mayonnaise and Blue Crab concoction that is marketed as Crab Imperial, which it is really not.  The heavy mayonnaise and crab stuffing may be easy to make, but it leaves plenty to be desired.    
     When I originally published today's recipe in 2009, the Gulf of Mexico and the East Coast Gulf Stream was contaminated with the British Petroleum oil spill and toxic cleanup chemicals.  Purchasing Gulf Seafood or Blue Crab for recipes posed a health threat.  When considering that it takes 50 years for oil spill chemicals to break down, it is still too soon to safely recommend seafood from these waters, so I still tend to minimize featuring seafood from these fisheries.
     Alaskan Crab is a good alternative choice for Blue Crab from the Gulf of Mexico and Gulf Stream fisheries.  The Alaskan Crab Fishery is well managed and it heavily protected.  Alaska currently is the leading state for providing sustainable seafood, so using Alaskan Crab for old fashioned recipes is a good choice.  Better still, Alaskan King Crab is easier to work with than Blue Crab and the meat has a classic "sweet" crab flavor.
     Portobello Field Mushrooms come in many different sizes.  Small to medium size Portobello that range from 1" to 2" wide are best for making stuffed mushrooms.  Portobello have a rich flavor that goes well with crab.

     Alaskan King Crab Stuffing:
     This recipe yields a little more than 1 cup.  (About 9 ounces.)
     It is better to have a little too much crab stuffing than not enough.  Any extra crab stuffing can be used for more stuffed mushrooms or other recipes. 
     Step 1:  *The size of King Crab Legs can vary greatly.  About 1 pound of whole King Crab Leg (with the shell) will yield about 3/4 pound of clean crab meat.
     Crack the shell to expose the crab meat.
     Pull the crab meat out of the shell.
     Remove any cartilage.
     Coarsely chop the crab meat.  
     Step 2:  Measure 8 ounces of coarse chopped shelled Alaskan King Crab Meat.  (About 1 loose packed cup.)
     Step 3:  Place the chopped Alaskan King Crab Meat in a mixing bowl.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of minced celery.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of minced onion.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of minced red bell pepper.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of thin sliced green onion top.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of minced garlic.
     Step 4:  Add 1 small pinch of thyme.
     Add 1 small pinch of tarragon.
     Add 1 small pinch basil.
     Add 1 small pinch of oregano.
     Add 1 small pinch of Spanish Paprika.
     Add 1 small pinch of cayenne pepper.
     Add 1 pinch of sea salt and black pepper.
     Step 5:  Add 1 tablespoon of whisked egg.
     Add 2 tablespoons of plain fine French bread crumbs.
     Gently mix the ingredients together.
     Step 6:  Place the Alaskan King Crab Stuffing in a container.
     Chill for 1 hour, so the stuffing becomes stiff and the flavors meld.

     Alaskan King Crab Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms:
     This recipe yields 1 appetizer portion.
     *The amount of mushrooms needed depends on the size of the small casserole dish.
     Step 1:  Select an individual portion size round casserole dish that is 6" or 7" in diameter.
     Step 2:  Select enough small Portobello Mushrooms to fill the casserole dish, by placing the mushrooms side by side in the dish.
     The Portobello should be 1" to 1 1/2" wide.  About 10 to 14 small Portobello should be enough.
     Step 3:  Brush the Portobello clean.
     Remove the stems.  (Save the stems for another recipe.)
     Step 4:  Place the Portobello Mushroom Caps in the casserole dish, so they fit tightly next to one another.  (The gill side must face up.
     Use a small Sorbet Scoop (or your fingers) to scoop enough of the crab stuffing to fill each mushroom cap with a small mound of stuffing.
     Gently press the stuffing in place, so it looks uniform.
     Step 5:  Drizzle a small amount of melted unsalted butter over each stuffed mushrooms.  (About 1/4 teaspoon per stuffed mushroom.)
     Drizzle a small amount of olive oil over each stuffed mushroom.  (About 1/4 teaspoon per stuffed mushroom.
     Add 1/4 cup of dry white wine to the casserole dish.  (Try not pour the wine over the stuffed mushrooms.)
     Squeeze sprinkle 1 tablespoon of lemon juice over the stuffed mushrooms.
     Step 6:  Place the casserole dish in a 350ºF oven.
     Bake till the mushrooms are fully cooked and golden highlights appear on the crab stuffing.  (About 8 to 10 minutes)
     Step 7:  Remove the casserole dish from the oven.
     Temporarily remove 1 stuffed mushroom from the casserole dish.
     Use a spoon to baste the stuffed mushrooms with the butter-olive oil-wine jus that is in the casserole dish.
     Return the reserved stuffed mushroom to the casserole dish.
     Step 8:  Place the Alaskan King Crab Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms casserole dish on a doily lined serving plate.
     Garnish with an Italian Parsley sprig.

     The aroma of freshly baked crab stuffed mushrooms is simply divine!

Monday, April 3, 2017

Ginger Beet Crème Soup

     A Tasty Soup For The Change Of Seasons!
     When cold winter weather first strikes or when warm spring weather first arrives, the body and mind can feel out of balance during the adjustment period.  When physical balance is out of kilter, allergens and bacteria become more of threat.  Fresh ginger improves immune system strength, circulatory efficiency and respiratory function.  The antioxidant effects of ginger act as a tonic that helps the body to regain balance during a change of seasons.
     Beets are loaded with minerals and vitamins that are essential for good health.  There are several beet varieties and colors.  I chose beets that stain a deep red color for today's soup, because bright colors are appealing during the spring season.  The best way to cook a beet is to roast the beet in an oven.  Boiling raw beets causes color and nutritional loss.  Roasting seals the color and flavor in the beet.
     I use the term Light Vegetable Stock (or Light Vegetable Broth) in many recipes.  Light Vegetable Stock is made with no tomato and no roasted vegetables that would turn the stock dark.  Light Vegetable Stock has a pale color, yet it is full of flavor. 
     Roasted Red Beet Preparation:
     This recipe yields enough for 2 portions of soup.
     Step 1:  Select 2 to 3 trimmed whole Red Beets that are about 2 1/2" in diameter.  (About 14 ounces after the beet green tops are removed.)
     Place the beets on a roasting pan.
     Roast the beets in a 325ºF oven till they are tender.
     Step 2:  Allow the beets to cool to room temperature.
     Use a towel to rub the skin off of the beets.
     Trim the top and bottom of the beet.
     Rinse the beet briefly under cold running water.
     Step 3:  Chop the beet into small pieces.
     Place the chopped roasted red beets in a container and set it aside.

     Ginger Beet Crème Soup:
     This recipe yields about 4 cups of soup.  (2 large portions)
     The idea is to not add too much milk and cream, so the red beet color of the soup is bright! 
     Step 1:  Heat a sauce pot over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 3 tablespoons of unsalted butter.
     Add an equal amount of flour while constantly stirring with a whisk to make a roux.  (The roux should be smooth and shiny, not caky.)
     Constantly stir till the roux is a pale golden color.
     Step 2:  Add 4 1/2 cups of light vegetable stock, while stirring with a whisk.
     Stir the soup occasionally as it comes to a gentle boil.
     *The soup will be a very thin consistency at this time.
     Step 3:  Add 1/2 teaspoon of minced garlic.
     Add 2 tablespoons of minced onion.
     Add 2 tablespoons of minced celery.
     Add 1 tablespoon of ginger paste.
     Add the reserved chopped roasted red beet.
     Return the soup to a gentle boil.
     Step 4:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Add 1 teaspoon of lemon juice.
     Add 1 pinch of allspice.
     Add 1 pinch of cardamom.
     Add sea salt and white pepper to taste.  (2 to 3 pinches)
     Step 5:  Gently simmer the soup till the vegetables are soft and the volume is about 4 cups.
     Step 6:  Remove the pot from the heat.
     Allow the soup to cool to a safe temperature.
     Use an emersion blender, food processor or blender to puree the soup.
     Step 7:  Pour the soup through a fine mesh strainer into a second sauce pot.
     Place the sauce pot over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 1/3 cup of milk.
     Add 1/4 cup of cream.
     Bring the soup to a gentle boil while stirring occasionally.
     Step 8:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Gently simmer and reduce till the volume is about 4 cups and the soup is a thin consistency that can coat a spoon.
     Keep the Ginger Beet Soup warm over very low heat or in a 135ºF bain marie.
     Step 9:  Pour a 1 1/2 to 2 cup portion into an extra large soup cup (or shallow soup bowl).
     Place the soup cup on a doily lined serving plate.
     Garnish with a few very thin bias sliced green onion slivers.

     This is a simple delicious soup that is perfect for seasonal changes!