Saturday, December 14, 2013

Spicy Pickled Cauliflower: For the Hipster In All Of Us

Ever woken up and thought, "Gee, I really would love to give all this up to live in an overpriced apartment in Willamsburg where I can wear skinny jeans, ride a fixie, smoke American Spirits, and eat trendy artisanal pickled foods"? 


Well grease up your fauxhawk, we're going to make what is absolutely the best and easiest pickled food known to humanity! Try it now, to hone your hipster cred before you drop that $7k deposit for the moldy, windowless basement room where you'll no doubt spend your best years in a PBR haze, frantically Googling "treatment for bedbugs." Because if your future life as a barista is going to suck, you should at least be able to eat well.

Prep time: 1/2 cocktail

1 head cauliflower, florets well broken up
6 Fresno chilies, sliced into thin rings
3 carrots, thinly cross cut at 45-degree angles
3 thin slices ginger
3/4 tsp whole cumin seed
1 1/2 tsp whole mustard seeds
3-4 cloves garlic, quartered
5 cups water
1 1/2 cup white vinegar
1 cup cider vinegar
2 1/2 TBSP salt
2 Pinches sugar
Tiny pinch turmeric (optional, if you want the cauliflower to take on a golden color)
1/2 onion, sliced into thin rings

Fill 3 one-quart jars with equal amounts of each of the pickle ingredients. In a saucepan, combine all the brine ingredients and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Let it all boil for 1-2 minutes, then pour over the pickle ingredients, making sure to get about equal amounts of onion in each jar. Let the jars cool, then place in the refrigerator for 3 days before eating.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Shepherdless Pie

It's decorative gourd season, motherfuckers! This means it's time to put a bunch of hearty fall vegetables into a big pan and cook it with a ton of cheese on top. Obviously. If you're a non-shepard vegetarian, you'll be substituting some veggies for what has historically been lamb or mutton or whatever it is that shepherds shepherd around and eat in pie form. True fact: shepherd's pie has been in existence since 1791, yet it has never been perfected until now. Really.

If you want to make this dish vegan, just substitute plain almond milk for the milk, olive oil for the butter, and omit the cheese. It's just as awesome either way.

Also, note that the filling is really whatever you want to make it. So feel free to swap out the mushrooms, beans, and corn for anything you might want more.

Prep time: 3 cocktails

2 pounds potatoes, cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes
4 TBSP butter, divided
1 1/3 cup milk, divided
4 sticks celery, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 pound mushrooms, sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
A few TBSP minced fresh herbs: sage, rosemary, thyme, oregano, and parsley are all great
1 1/2 TBSP arrowroot powder
1/2 can garbanzo beans, liquid drained
A handful frozen corn and/or peas
2 tsp lemon juice
A few handfuls grated extra sharp English cheddar
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 325.

Boil the potatoes in water that is salted to taste like seawater. Once they are soft enough to be pierced with a fork easily, remove and strain water. in a medium mixing bowl, mash the potatoes with 2/3 cup of the milk and 2 TBSP butter. Add more salt, pepper, butter or milk after everything is good and mashed, if you want to adjust the seasoning. They should taste like good old fashioned mashed potatoes.

In a large frying pan, melt the remaining butter over medium heat. Add the onions and celery. Saute about 5 minutes or until the onion starts to get transparent, stirring frequently. Add the mushrooms, garlic and herbs. saute 5 more minutes. as the mushrooms cook, combine the arrowroot in a small bowl or drinking class with 3 TBSP of the milk. Whisk with a fork until the arrowroot is fully dissolved. Then pour in the rest of the milk and stir. After the mushrooms have sauted with the onion mixture for 5 minutes, add the arrowroot/milk mixture, garbanzo beans, corn/peas, lemon juice. Stir as this simmers for a couple more minutes. Salt and pepper this mixture to taste.

Now assemble your pie: In a 9x13 Pyrex pan or baking dish, pour the mushroom/onion mixture. Smooth it all out evenly with a rubber spatula, then layer the mashed potatoes over this mixture in the same manner. Then sprinkle cheese over the top of everything.

Put the baking dish, uncovered, into the oven and cook about 25 minutes, or until it is bubbling more than just at the edges. Turn the oven up to broil and cook about 5 more minutes or until the top is looking extra bubbly and delicious, but not to the point that the cheese is dried out.

remove from the oven and let it rest at least 5 minutes before serving. Garnish with a sprinkle of paprika and some minced parsley, if you want to add some color.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Perfect Summer Garden Marinara

This is the raddest mid-summer pasta sauce you will ever make. Enough said. 

Don't have a garden? No problem. Head to the Farmers' Market and buy a big bunch of local (preferably heirloom) tomatoes. Mid winter? Substitute a 28-ounce can of whole San Marazano tomatoes and a couple tablespoons of raw sugar. Now stop making excuses and get into the kitchen! (And plant a garden next year!)

Prep time: 1-2 cocktails

24 ounces fresh garden or Farmers' Market tomatoes
½ cup loosely packed fresh basil
¼ cup loosely packed fresh oregano leaves
½ tsp ground dried thyme
Salt and pepper to taste
Red chili flakes to taste (optional)
5 cloves garlic, minced
¼ cup herb-infused olive oil (omit the garlic in the recipe)

Place all ingredients except herb-infused oil in saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to boil, then reduce heat to medium low, add infused olive oil. Simmer, uncovered until you have reached pasta sauce consistency, usually about 30-60 minute, stirring frequently.

Herb-Infused Olive Oil

This is a simple and awesome preparation that makes for a great stand-alone dip for bread, a good substitution for normal oil in homemade mayonnaise, and is a home run in homemade marinara.

You can also use other fresh herbs instead of (or in addition to) oregano... I love basil, arugula, parsley, rosemary, and even a bit of thyme or dill. Because I'm crazy like that. Fuck yeah. 

Prep time: 1 cocktail

1/3 cup good cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil
1 head of garlic, cloves separated BUT NOT peeled (optional)
1 very big handful FRESH oregano, leaves off the stalk, but not chopped
2-3 pinches salt (or to taste)

Put the oil in an 8" frying pan. If you're using a larger pan, you'll have to make a bigger batch. The oil must have a minimum thickness in the pan of about 1/4 - 3/8 inches. So if you're using a 10" or 12" pan, scale up your oil.

Heat the oil on medium-low heat. When the oil is hot, add herbs and garlic. Toss well. If necessary, adjust the heat as low as you can go. You want the oil to be just hot enough so that the garlic is barely sizzling… No hotter.

After a few minutes, add salt.

Stir every few minutes. Garlic is done when it becomes very soft. Depending on size and age of garlic this can take anywhere from 5 to 30 minutes. Remove the garlic. You can continue cooking herbs as long as you like. The longer you cook them, the richer the oil becomes. I've cooked the herbs and for oil for over an hour with great results. The herbs will become crisp and appear burned; don't worry—they're fine!

After removing, you can peel the 'roasted' garlic. You can spread the garlic on bread almost like butter, put it whole on pizza, or just eat it plain.

There's no need to remove the herbs, though you may wish to crush them up with a wooden spoon or by hand after it cools a bit.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Horseradish Black Pepper Vinaigrette

This is literally the best salad dressing ever. How do I know? I Googled "best salad dressing ever" and came up with a bunch of insipid, lame-as-shit recipes written by people with poor grammar and weird taste. And we all know that The Google don't lie. So this is therefore the best salad dressing ever. Airtight logic. Case closed.

Don't believe me? Go ahead and fix up a batch. Send me an angry email* if you don't like it.

*All angry emails will be ignored.

Prep time: 1/4 cocktail

1 TBSP prepared, hot horseradish
2 tsp fresh cracked black pepper 
1 TBSP white or cider vinegar
2 TBSP olive oil
1 tsp Dijon mustard
2 tsp light agave nectar
1 tsp soy sauce
Poppy seeds, dill, or sesame seeds (all optional)

Combine everything into a small jar with an airtight lid. Seal and shake until everything is well mixed. Dressing is ready! 

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Chermoula: The New Humble Star of Your Summer

While it looks like an unassuming--even lowly--green paste, don't be fooled. Chermoula can transform anything you make this summer into a hero's meal. Traditionally used as a topping or rub for fish or grilled meat in Moroccan cuisine, it is super versatile and can also be made into a mayonnaise for hamburgers (or beet burgers), added to marinades, incorporated into salad dressings, or snorted through a hundred-dollar bill off a hooker's belly. Yup, it's that good. It'll add a nice, exocitic ring to anything.

Prep time: 1/4 cocktail

4 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup coarsely chopped cilantro
2/3 bunch coarsely chopped Italian flat leaf parsley (don't use curly parsley)
1 tsp cayenne powder
1 pinch saffron (I know it's expensive. Get over it.)
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp grated ginger
Juice of 1 large juicy lemon
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup high-quality extra virgin olive oil

Put everything except the olive oil into the food processor. Pulse until it's broken down pretty well, but not to the point of being a smooth paste. Now, with the food processor running, drizzle the olive oil into the mixture. It's that easy!

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Nashif: An Ethiopian Breakfast (Kind Of)

After living in Ethiopia for two years, I saw this food only twice--at two restaurants on opposite sides of the country. I never saw anybody eating it at home, nor have I seen or heard of it anywhere else, including online. So I have no clue whether this is a legitimately common food someplace, or if a couple random restaurant owners are the only ones who offer it as a way to offload old bread. One thing I am sure of, however, is that this is a freaking amazingly delicious breakfast. It's kind of a stove-top savory bread pudding. And it will completely cure any hangover. Think of it as the African equivalent of chilaquiles. And there's really no reason this needs to be a breakfast food; you can really serve it for any meal.

Prep time: 2 cups of coffee

6 slices sandwich bread, left out overnight (preferably whole wheat)
1 small onion, minced finely, divided
3 TBSP butter
4 cloves garlic
3/4 tsp salt
2 jalepenos or fresno chilies, minced
1 TBSP berbere
1 cup water
2 eggs, beaten
Plain yogurt, lowfat or full-fat only (no nonfat)
A handful of chopped tomato

Cut the dry bread into 1-inch cubes and set aside.

Put a dry saucepan over medium heat and add all but a handful of the onions. Stir the onions frequently until they become fairly translucent, about 5 minutes. Add butter and stir until it's melted, then add garlic, salt, and chilies. Saute for another 3-5 minutes, stirring frequently. Now add the berbere and saute another couple minutes. Next add the water and stir in the bread. Stir really well until the bread is nice and evenly coated with the spices and all the water is absorbed. You want the bread to soften up, but not be totally mushy; it should still have a bit of texture to it, so add a bit more water if necessary and salt to taste.

Remove the bread mixture from heat and cover. On the same burner increase to medium-high and heat a bit of butter or oil in a frying pan and scramble the eggs.

Now dish it up by scooping the bread mixture onto two plates and topping with the remaining onion, eggs, tomato, and a few generous dollops of yogurt. Shit, that's good!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Poor Man's Red Pepper Hummus

So as a purist, I used to scoff at people who advocated using peanut butter in hummus as a cost-cutting work-around of having to use tahini. Mostly, I saw these people as an inferior class who deserved little more than spiteful disregard.

Then I became one of them.

I was at a friend's house making some hummus and they didn't have tahini. After I was done with my too-loud passive-aggressive sighs and eyerolls, I finally gave in and used peanut butter and threw in a roasted bell pepper to liven things up. Turns out the peanut butter and bell pepper compliment each other magically and the hummus was among the best I've ever had. From proud purist to hummus heretic, I've fallen from my pedestal. And it couldn't be more delicious down here.

Prep time: 1 cocktail

1 large red bell pepper
15 ounce can garbanzo beans, drained
2 TBSP peanut butter
1 clove garlic, chopped
Juice of 1 lemon
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup good olive oil
2 TBSP water
Fresh ground black pepper

Preheat your oven to broil. Poke holes in the pepper with a fork and set it directly on the oven rack. Cook until the top gets totally charred, then rotate with the tongs so a non-burned side is facing up. repeat until the entire pepper is well-blackened. remove the pepper from the oven and place in a small paper bag. Seal the top of the paper bag well and let cool 15 minutes. When it's cool, take the pepper under cool running water and remove the charred skin from the flesh with your hands. Also remove the top, seeds, and innards. Discard everything but the flesh.

Combine the red bell pepper flesh and all the other ingredients in a food processor and puree super well.

Optional garnishes include additional olive oil, paprika, and minced parsley.

I Love Rice, But Do Jollof Rice?

Sorry. That pun is Gawd-awful. Thankfully, the rice is much, much better!

Jollof rice is ubiquitous across West Africa. It's prepared differently in different areas. So consider this only a starter recipe. You can add about any types of vegetable, spice, or protein that you think would go well in here. I've added sauteed seitan, fried plantains, carrot, peas, corn, peanuts, and shrimp powder. Those who are meatier among us commonly add chicken or sausage.

This rice goes great with anything West African. We made it with some kick-ass roasted fish and veggies, but you can also serve it with red-red, meat, or anything else that grabs your fancy. Jollofit! (sorry)

Prep time: 1 cocktail (3 cocktails, if you count cooking time)

1 large onion, very finely minced
3 TBSP oil
1 1/4 cup rice (I usually just use long-grain brown)
3 ounces tomato paste
2" piece of ginger, chopped
1-2 habenero peppers, chopped
1 tsp thyme
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1 cup water
1 cup veggie stock
1 cup very finely minced tomatoes

Heat the oil in a big saucepan that has a snug lid over medium heat. Add onions and saute, stirring occasionally until the onions start to turn transparent, about 5-6 minutes.

While onions are cooking, combine tomato paste, ginger, habenero, thyme, cumin, coriander, and nutmeg in a food processor with a couple tablespoons of water. Puree it all into a smooth paste and set aside.

Once onions have turned transparent, add the tomato paste puree and the rice. Stir frequently for about 5 minutes.

Add water, veggie stock, and tomatoes. Stir well, bring to a boil, cover, and reduce to a simmer. Cook until all liquid is absorbed. If rice is still crunchy but all the liquid is cooked off, add some more water or stock. Cooking time takes over an hour. 

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Silk Road Spaghetti

Much like the Silk Road itself, this is a dish of East meets West. This recipe combines a Mediterranean-inspired tomato sauce with zingy Afghan spices, Indian yogurt and ghee, a Persian raisin/almond combination, and fiery Chinese-style chilies. If the Mongol hordes had just had this dish at home, it's unlikely they would have ever bothered with all that unfortunate pillaging and looting.

Prep time: 2 cocktails

10-12 ounces of dry whole wheat spaghetti 
1 ½ pounds fresh tomatoes, stems removed and quartered
3 ounces tomato paste
3 TBSP olive oil or ghee
3 cinnamon sticks
4 large bay leaves
1 large red onion, chopped
6 cloves garlic, minced
2-5 fresh cayenne pappers or spicy Chinese chilies, chopped
1¼  tsp salt
1 tsp dried oregano
1 TBSP Italian flat leaf parsley, chopped finely
1/4 cup chopped raisins
1/2  cup plain yogurt, use full-fat ONLY
Fresh grated Parmesan cheese
2 TBSP coarsely chopped or slivered almonds, optional

Cook pasta as you prepare all the other ingredients. When it’s done, toss with a bit of olive oil and set it aside in covered container.

Combine the tomatoes and tomato paste in food processor and puree into a totally smooth sauce. Set aside.

In large frying pan or wok, heat the oil or ghee on medium-high heat. When oil is hot, add cinnamon stick and bay leaves. Allow them to fry in the oil for 10 second before adding onions, and chilies. Sauté until onions become lightly golden brown, about 8 minutes, stirring frequently. Add garlic and sauté one more minute. Next, stir in tomato puree, salt, oregano, parsley, and raisins.  Bring to a simmer and reduce heat to medium. Cook sauce 6-8 minutes, stirring frequently.

Remove sauce from heat and allow to cool at least 5 minutes, uncovered. Stir in yogurt and almonds (if using). Adjust salt to taste.

In a large bowl, toss the pasta and the sauce well. If the pasta and sauce have cooled too much, return it all to the stovetop and heat it over medium heat, stirring constantly, until it’s warm enough.

Serve with Parmesan cheese on top. 

Monday, January 21, 2013

Habesha Gomen

Ethiopian habesha gomen is basically like any other sauteed greens. If you want to make them a little more Ethiopian, you can always add a sprinkle of berbere, even though I never really saw it done in Ethiopia.

If you've got other greens—such as spinach, kale, chard, or mustard greens—you can also use those for this recipe, but cooking times will vary, depending the toughness of your greens.

Prep time: 1/4 cocktail

1.5 TBSP oil
¼ cup minced onion
4 cloves minced garlic
2 hot chilies, chopped finely (optional)
1 bunch of leafy greens (such as kale or chard), spine removed and chopped pretty well
1.5 TBSP soy sauce
Ground black pepper to taste

In frying pan, heat oil over medium high heat. Add onion and garlic and sauté for a minute or two. Add greens and sauté for 90 seconds, stirring frequently.

Add soy sauce, black pepper, and a couple tablespoons of water. Reduce heat to medium and stir occasionally until greens reach desired, about 5 minutes. Add additional splashes of water if it cooks off completely.

Serve hot.

Shiro Tagabino!!!

Living in Ethiopia, this became my favorite meal. Filling, easy, delicious, and fast. Total comfort food.

Real tagabino is only found in the north. Elsewhere in Ethiopia, when you order tagabino, you get flavorless, watery glop that basically amounts to an 8-birr plate of disappointment.  But the true northern-style tagabino is pretty damn amazing. It's great as a standalone dish or served alongside any other Ethiopian dishes--such as mesir wot, quanta firfir, doro wot, gomen, or whatever else you like.

You can get stuff like shiro powder and teff for your injera online or at any big-city Ethiopian grocer. Note that shiro--a spiced chickpea powder--can vary in the amount of berbere that's added to it when it's produced. It can vary in color from white (no spice added) to deep orange (already very spicy). So you'll want to adjust your berbere and salt as you go. 

Prep time: 1/2 cocktail

2 onions, chopped
1/2 cup shiro powder
1/2 cup neutral oil like canola or avacado
1 cup water
1-2 tomatoes, finely chopped (optional)
1 tsp berbere (optional, depending on how seasoned your shiro powder already is)
Salt to taste (shiro powders vary in the amount of added salt, I find I usually have to add about 1.5 tsp to most)
Thinly sliced raw garlic slivers and jalepenos as a topping (optional)

Put onions in a food processor and pulse until they are a really finely chopped and just beginning to release some water--but not a total slurry. This is probably about 15 pulses. Make sure you scrape down the edges with a rubber spatula every few pulses.

Heat a saucepan over medium heat and transfer the onion to the dry, heated pan. Dry cook the onions until all the excess moisture has cooked off and they're slightly golden-brown, about 10-20 minutes, stiffing frequently. Add oil, shiro, water, tomatoes and stir it all in together. Then add berbere and salt to taste.

Remove from heat and serve with garlic and jalepeno slivers on top of injera!

Lead a Happy Life--Eat Bolani

Bolani is an Afghani stuffed flatbread that makes an amazing appetizer or main course. When served with the myriad of condiments mentioned below, this is one of my very favorite foods of all time. Of course, that's also probably at least partly because I'm a hopeless condiment whore. 

This recipe makes roughly 16 bolani—enough appetizers for about 12 hungry guests. If you’re hosting fewer people or are making it as a full meal for a few people, rather than an appetizer, cut the recipe in half. Bolani also refrigerates well. 

Bolani can have different fillings, including spinach, lentils, pumpkin, butternut squash, or leeks. So a potato filling is not mandatory. And also note that if you want to lighten this dish up, you don’t have to fry the bolani. You can just brush them with oil and bake at 400 degrees until the outsides begin to brown (flipping halfway through).

Finally, note that the potato filling from this recipe makes a pretty rad choice any time you want to try a new twist on mashed potatoes. 

Prep time: 2 cocktails

6 cups unbleached white flour
2 cup water room temperature
2 tsp salt
2 tsp olive oil

4 medium-sized russet potatoes
1 bunch finely chopped cilantro
1 bunch finely chopped scallions white and green parts
¼ cup olive oil
1 TBSP salt
2 tsp ground black pepper

Finishing touches:
½ cup canola or other vegetable oil
1 batch CilantroChutney 

First prepare the dough: Mix the flour and 2 tsp salt together in a large bowl.  As you continue to mix, slowly add the water and the 2 teaspoons of oil and mix the dough together, kneading it a little until it forms a ball.  If the dough is too dry to come together, add more water, a tablespoon at a time.  Once the dough is formed, knead it for at least 10 minutes on a lightly floured cutting board.  Put the dough back in the bowl, cover with a cloth and let it rest for one hour.

As the dough sets, prepare the filling: Boil or microwave the potatoes until soft in the center when pierced with a fork.  Remove from the water and, when cool enough to handle, slip the skins off the potatoes.  Put the potatoes, cilantro, scallions, olive oil, salt and pepper in a bowl and mash together with a potato masher until thoroughly combined. Some lumps are ok.

Now construct the bolanis: Take a small amount of dough the size of a golf ball and roll into a smooth ball.  Spread some flour on the wood board and roll out the dough using a rolling pin.  Continue to flatten the dough until it takes a round shape, is as thin as a tortilla, and about 8-10  inches across.  The thinner the dough the better.  Cut off any irregularities with a pizza cutter or knife so you have a perfect circle. Spread roughly 1/2 cup of potato mixture on one side of the dough, leaving a 1/4 inch border around the rim.  Fold the other half over and press the dough together with your finger to form a seal, as though you’re building a calzone.

Heat the remaining ½ cup of oil in a 10-12 inch frying pan over medium heat.  Brown the bolani, two at a time, until golden on both sides.  The bolani should sizzle when they hit the pan. Lay cooked bolani on a paper towel. Add more oil to your pan if your oil starts to reduce. Bolani are best served warm.

Just before serving, cut the bolani into wedges that are manageable as a finger food. The bolani pieces should be smeared with each of the three spreads when eating. It is pure heaven!