Monday, December 28, 2015

Want to Be Rich and Famous? Make This Fattoush.

If you'd like to be famous in life, make this Middle-Eastern salad next time you have company over. By then end of the first course, your guests will be falling all over themselves to compliment you. They'll be live-tweeting their meal. They'll call their loved ones to rave about the meal they're having. It will go viral. Paparazzi will start following you. The President will call you for advice in matters of great national importance. Sexy young underwear models will throw themselves at your feet when they realize that you're the Fattoush guy. Your whole life will change. That's the power of this salad. You've been warned.

If you forget to leave the pita out overnight, you can pan-fry it. Heat a frying pan with vegetable oil over medium heat. Fry the pita until nice and golden brown but not burned. Pat off excess oil, allow to cool, and use as you would the day-old stuff.

Also, this is a salad that must be served fresh. It won’t keep for even a few hours, let alone overnight. So if you don’t think you’ll eat enough of it fresh after making, then cut the recipe in half.

Prep time: 1 cocktail

1/2 cup high quality, first cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil
Juice of 2 lemons
1 large clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon salt
3-4 pieces pita bread, left out to dry overnight, torn into small pieces
1 small head romaine lettuce, cut into shreds
1 cucumber, quartered lengthwise, then sliced thinly
1 pound plum, cherry, or garden heirloom tomatoes chopped
4 scallions, chopped
2 TBSP dried ground sumac
½ cup chopped Italian flat-leaf parsley
¼ cup chopped fresh mint
3 ounces crumbled feta (optional, but highly recommended)
1 medium diced orange bell pepper or a handful of sliced radishes (optional)
½ cup Kalamata olives, pitted and coarsely chopped (optional)

Prepare the dressing by combining olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, and salt in a small bowl. Whisk well and set aside for a few minutes.

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Top with dressing and mix well. Serve right away. 

Homemade Pita Bread

Fresh, homemade pita is infinitely better than the dry, tasteless garbage at the grocery store. So stop wasting your money! And simple to prepare in the background as you assemble other awesomeness for dinner.

Note that you can vary the ratio of whole wheat and white flour. You can make this recipe using up to 100 percent whole wheat flour or up to 100 white. Just adjust the liquid accordingly.

Prep time: 3 cocktails

3 cups flour (I typically use 50/50 whole wheat to white)
1.5 tsp salt
1 TBSP sugar
1 packet yeast (or 2 tsp)
1.25 cups warm water
¼ cup olive oil

Combine all the dry ingredients and mix well. Then stir in water and oil and stir everything well, until the dough forms a ball. Add a couple TBSP of water if the ball is too dry to absorb all the flour.

Knead the dough by hand or with mixer for 10 minutes.

Place the dough in a mixing bowl that has been brushed with oil. Cover with a damp towel and let rise at room temperature for 90 minutes, or until the ball doubles in size.

After dough has spent 30 minutes rising, preheat oven to 500 (or as high as the bake setting will go) with a pizza stone or non-glazed terra cotta tiles inside. If you have neither, a cast-iron frying pan in the middle rack will suffice.  

Punch down the ball and divide the dough into 8 balls. Cover with a damp rag or plastic and allow to sit for 20 minutes. Roll each ball out with a rolling pin on a floured surface until they are about ¼ inch thick (or even a little less) and about 6-7” in diameter. Let sit uncovered an additional 10 minutes.

When ready, place the pitas directly into the pizza stone and cook for about 3-4 minutes. Serve warm.

Ribollita Makes Being A Medieval Peasant Look Good

This is a classic Tuscan peasant stew made with old bread, white beans, and greens (usually kale). The name ribollita means “re-boiled,” because this soup was typically made by combining leftover vegetable soup in a clay pot and re-cooking it with additional vegetables and olive oil.  So feel free to mix it up with whatever herbs, vegetables, and beans you have lying around. I’ve had success adding rosemary, eggplant, leek, oregano, savoy cabbage, chard, parsnip, and dried mushrooms. Common additions can also include sausage or prosciutto. No matter what you add, it will make for a hearty, delicious winter soup. In fact, it's so good, it makes you wonder if being a poor medieval Italian peasant was actually all that bad after all. 

Prep time: 2 cocktails

¼ cup top-quality, extra virgin olive oil (plus extra for serving)
4 cloves garlic, minced… plus 1 additional clove, whole
1 medium red onion, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
6 cups veggie stock
2 cups water
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
2 bay leaves
A touch of fresh herbs (8 cut basil or sage leaves, or a thyme sprig are all great)
2 potatoes, chopped into 3/4” cubes
2-3 bunches kale
1 tsp salt (or more to taste)
1 tsp fresh ground pepper
2 14-ounce cans cannellini beans, drained
6 slices stale bread (or enough to make 6 cups once you cut it into 1”cubes)
Fresh-grated, top-quality Parmesan cheese (optional)

Start by cutting the kale. Remove leaves from the stems and coarsely shred the leaves. Then take the stems and cut them up fairly well—into about 1/4-inch pieces. Transfer all your kale bits to a big bowl.

In a large soup pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Toss in minced garlic, onion, carrot, and celery. Sauté for a few minutes, until the veggies begin to soften up. Then stir in the stock, water, tomatoes, bay leaves, fresh herbs, potatoes, kale, salt, and pepper. After that, take a fork and mash the beans up in their cans a nice bit then add those as well. Increase to medium high heat and bring to boil, stirring frequently. Once boiling, reduce to a simmer and cook, uncovered, for 75 minutes, stirring occasionally. If you like a less-thick soup, add a couple extra cups of water.

As the soup finishes up, toast the bread to medium darkness in the oven. Once toasted, take your last remaining garlic clove, peel, and slice it width-wise. Rub the garlic, cut-side-down, on each slice to give it a wonderful garlic infusion. Cut the bread into bite-sized cubes and stir half of it into the soup. Remove soup from heat and let sit 15 minutes before serving.

When you dish the soup, throw a few cubes of the remaining bread in the bottom of each bowl and ladle the soup over the top. Finish with a generous additional drizzle of olive oil and Parmesan, if using.