Tag Archives: gluten-free

Wine and Stinky Cheese Party, Starring a Damn Fine Pâté

Spread for Wine and Stinky Cheese Party
I know, I know, I know. It’s been forever. What can I say? Between a full time job, and a full-time dissertation, blogging has become a low-priority luxury. The truth is, that I’m trying to spend less time in the kitchen these days, not more. But certain people have been nudging me for the recipe for this pate de campagne for a while now, so I thought I’d share my wine and stinky cheese party with you.Right before the madness of the semester descended, I threw a final winter break, savor-your-freedom-while-you-still-have-it party. The best way to deal with below zero evenings, I find, is to invite all of your friends over to your house, so you don’t have to go anywhere.I stole the idea of a wine and stinky cheese party from my sister. The idea is that your friends bring great cheese and wine, and you can use the occasion to make a damn fine, country-style pâté.In addition to the pâté and several cheeses, the party featured several baguettes from my favorite bakery, giant beans baked with leeks and red peppers, platters of fruit, gravalax with capers and lemon, olives, cornichons, and macrona almonds. I also baked a lemon tart. But the pâté was definitely the star.Unlike the elegant liver pâté, pâté de campagne is a farmhouse specialty, a way of using up the liver, fat and tougher cuts of the pork. Rich, meaty, swathed in bacon, you would never guess that pâté de campagne came from such humble beginnings. The taste of the pâté makes you itch to buy a plane ticket to France, where such pates are ubiquitous and involve no more work than a trip to the charcutier. One bite and I was transported to vacations past, to long afternoons filled with leisurely picnic lunches of baguette, pâté, runny cheeses and perfect sweet juicy fruits.

Those of us who can’t run off to France at a moment’s notice can make pâté de campagne at home, invite some friends over, and imbibe large quantities of wine. No, it’s not the same thing, but in a pinch, on a cold January night with the beginning of the semester looming, it will do.

Pâté de Campagne

The charcutier makes this with a meat grinder. If you don’t happen to have a meat grinder, process half of the meat until smooth in a food processor, and chop half very finely by hand.

A word of warning : This recipe is enormous. I sent large chunks of it home with guests, then ate it for the next week.

1/2 lb. pork liver
1/2 lb. pork fat
1 lb. pork shoulder
1/2 tbsp. fresh ground black pepper
tiny pinch allspice
5 cloves garlic
3 shallots, thinly sliced
5 oz. cognac
1 tbsp. finely chopped parsley
1 tsp. fresh thyme
1 tbsp. salt
1 egg
10 slices bacon

Run meat, fat, and liver through a meat grinder, or process half in the food processor and chop the other half very finely by hand (Sharpen your knife first!). Combine with all other ingredients except egg and bacon and refridgerate overnight.

The next day, fry a little of the meat until done and taste for seasonings. Adjust to taste.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line a 9×5 in. loaf pan with bacon by laying strips of bacon across the width of the pan. Let the bacon hang over the edges. Fill pan with meat mixture, then fold excess bacon over meat. Gently hit the pan against the counter top to knock out any air bubbles.

Place terrine in a roasting pan, then place in oven. Bring a kettle of water to a boil, then dribble boiling water into roasting pan until water comes to 1/2 in of the top of the loaf pan. Bake for 1 1/2 hours or until internal temperature of the pate is 160 degrees.

Let cool, then refridgerate several hours before serving.

Source:  Leite’s Culinaria’s posting of Anthony Bourdain’s recipe (whew!) 

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Holiday Pâté

This Christmas, for the very first time in my life, I am hosting my family for Christmas. My parents arrived about a week ago, followed soon after by my sister. I thought the long-awaited end of the semester would provide ample opportunity to post recipe and after recipe here, but it turns out, the opposite is the case. Even with my parents taking it upon themselves to shovel snow and feed my cats at 7:30 every morning, organizing a household is hard work. Since they arrived, I have made a nourishing Moroccan harira, a fiery Malaysian panang curry, various pastas, and light-as-air chocolate crisp cookies. The problem is that I’ve photographed none of it. I had good intentions, but the idea of clearing a space in the mess (my family’s arrival coincided with an explosion of stuff that covers every surface in the house) and finding my camera right before dinner just seemed like so much trouble after a whole evening of cooking.

Luckily, right before they arrived, I made this pâté for a potluck. At some other time, I will tell you about my quest to learn to like offal. Suffice to say, I have succeeded with this pate. One pound of liver from free range chickens (at a cost of a whopping $2.00) made enough pate for the potluck, for a casual dinner the next night, and pre-dinner munchies for my family for the past week. Sexy, silky, and lightly spiked with cognac, this pâté will be welcomed at any New Year’s Eve party. Make it at least three or four days early, as the liver flavor mellows with time. But be careful not to make it too early, as the pâté may be too tempting for your loved ones to resist.

Pâté de Foie de Volaille

8 oz chicken, goose, or duck liver
2 shallots, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp thyme
1 bay leaf
1 1/2 sticks butter, at room temperature
2 tsp cognac
salt and pepper, to taste

Place livers in saucepan with 1/2 c. water, one of the shallots, half of the clove of garlic, and the herbs. Bring to a boil, then cover, lower heat and simmer for 5 minutes, until the center of the livers are the barely pink.

Saute the remaining shallot and garlic in 2 tbsp of the butter until golden. When liver mixture has cooled, drain water, and process with in food processor until finely ground. Add butter, two tablespoons at a time until smooth and well blended. Add sauteed shallots, garlic, and cognac. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Chill for three to four days. Serve with cornichons and toasted pieces of baguette.

Source: Jacques Pepin’s Pâté

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Beginner’s Mind: Thai Green Curry with Chicken and Eggplant

Ingredients for Thai Green Curry Paste

While they say that the best way to learn to cook is at your mother’s elbow, I have learned as much from reading cookbooks cover to cover. I learned to cook Mexican food under the tutelage of Rick Bayless, who guided me through the intricacies of roasting, soaking, and blending dozens of varieties of chilies. For Moroccan food, my teacher was Paula Wolfert, whose 1973 Couscous and Other Good Foods from Morocco introduced me to the rich flavors of the land of olives and preserved lemons.

My introduction to Thai food, however, has been completely different, because now I am a food blogger, and have discovered the marvelous community of inventive, knowledgeable cooks who are so willing to share their recipes with the world. My culinary education in Thai food has been overseen by Pim, Barbara, and Karen. When it came time to expand my Thai repertoire beyond bottled curry pastes and beef salads, I turned to their blogs before any cookbooks.

Thai green curry, unlike it’s red counterpart, can never be a convenience food, because the fresh, fruity, herbacious flavor of the chile paste itself does not hold up in the freezer. And the only way to get that smooth, unctuous texture in the finished curry is by meticulously pounding the ingredients for the paste in a mortar and pestle: lemongrass, galangal, garlic, shallots, coriander root, chilies. While not convenient by any stretch of the imagination, it is deeply satisfying to watch the plant fibers smash under the weight of the pestle, release their fragrant oils, then come together again into a smooth,wet paste. And lest you missed your weekly trip to the gym, a solid hour of pounding has to be the equivalent of a good workout, right?

Chicken, pork, or fish usually form the backbone of this curry, to which is added the silky-crunchy texture of Thai eggplants. You can use these apple eggplants, but I used these, because that’s what was at the farmer’s market last Saturday.

In a pinch, you could use the long, slender Japanese eggplants, cut into bite-sized pieces, but you may miss the seedy crunch of the small eggplants in the finished curry. The curry is finished by a long simmer in rich coconut milk, the aromatics tamed by three sucessive reductions, the flavors rounded out by fish sauce and palm sugar.

This recipe comes, for the most part, from Chez Pim. I have only made a few changes to her recipe. While most Thai cooks simmer the raw meat in the curry, I prefer to quickly saute the chicken in hot oil, locking in the juiciness of the meat and deepening the flavor of the finished curry by scraping up the browned bits on the bottom of the pan. I also use boneless, skinless chicken thighs because they taste better.

Thai Green Curry with Chicken and Eggplant

Curry Paste:
10 Thai Bird’s Eye Chilies
12 Serrano Chilies (or 4 jalapenos)
3 stalks lemon grass, bottom part only
2 large shallots
2 heads garlic, peeled (that’s right, heads)
1 in piece of galangal
1 tsp shrimp paste
1/2 tsp white pepper
1 tsp coriander
1/2 tsp cumin
2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cilantro root (You can also use the cilantro stems)

1 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs, chopped into bite sized pieces
1 14 oz can coconut milk
1/2 lb small Thai eggplant
1 tbsp fish sauce
1 tsp palm sugar (I use brown sugar.)
A few branches of Thai basil

Drizzle chicken with a few teaspoons of fish sauce.

Make the curry paste: Finely slice all ingredients, then pound in a stone mortar and pestle. I only have a small m&p, so I had to do this in batches. I was at it for an hour. You can also whiz in the food processor to speed things up, but you must finish in the mortar and pestle, or the paste will be dry and fibrous.

Finish the curry: Heat 1 tbsp. peanut oil in a wok or medium saute pan until very hot. Add chicken in small amount, making sure not to crowd the pan. Cook for 2-3 minutes, then remove chicken from the pan.

Add another tablespoon of oil to pan. When hot, add the curry paste. Stir constantly, scraping the bottom of the pan, and fry until paste starts smelling fragrant. Add just the cream from that can of coconut milk, stir into paste, and cook again until oil begins to separate. Now add the remainder of the coconut milk, palm sugar, fish sauce, and any juice that the chicken has exuded, stir into paste, and let simmer 5 minutes.

Add chicken and eggplant, simmer 5-10 minutes, or until eggplant has cooked. Taste and adjust seasonings. Serve garnished with Thai basil leaves, atop a steaming mound of jasmine rice.

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The Comfort of Carrots and Ginger

Carrot-Ginger Soup

How I had longed for fall! During the global-warming induced spell of unseasonable heat and humidity a couple of weeks ago, all I could think about were the lovely stews and slow roasted vegetables I was going to make as soon as it got cold. I passed by the butternut squash, apples and collard greens at the farmers’ market, knowing that it made so sense to buy them as long as tomato season insisted on hanging around well into October. I longed for the crisp cool weather that would inspire me to spend time in the kitchen again.

But crisp, fall weather seems to have passed us by, and instead rain falls day after day in a never-ending drizzle. This week? Exactly through hours of sunshine. I was in a meeting and missed them. This month? We’ve had three days of sunshine since the beginning of October. The less sun I get, the more I feel like staying in bed all day, eating chocolate and rebelling against nature’s sick, sad sense of humor.

Still, one has to eat, and in order to eat, one has to cook. I crawled out of bed to chop vegetables for this soup, then crawled right back in while it simmered. I let it cool while still in bed, got up to puree it, and I had a little dish of sunshine: pure, carrot-y goodness, flavored with the warmth of ginger to dispell the cold that has settled into my bones.

The secret to the soup lies in the ginger: rather than sauteing the ginger with the other aromatics, grate it, then squeeze the precious ginger juice directly into the finished soup just before it’s served. This gives the ginger a brightness that is lost if you simmer it with the other ingredients.

No, the soup doesn’t make up for the weather. It doesn’t even come close. But things would be worse without it.
Carrot-Ginger Soup

You could add a dollop of creme fraiche, but I just use whole milk yogurt because that’s what I happen to have in my fridge most of the time.

As always, these quantities are just a guideline. One caveat: Be sure that you maintain a high carrot to celery proportion. Too much celery and the soup will lose that warm orange color, and look like something the cat puked up instead.

2 lb. carrots, coarsely chopped
2 stalks celery, coarsely chopped
1 med yellow onion, thinly sliced
3 tbsp. olive oil
1 tart apple, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 quart chicken broth
1 in. piece of ginger
1/2 c. plain yogurt
2 tbsp. parsley
salt and pepper

Heat olive oil in large, wide bottomed dutch oven. Add onions, and saute until wilted. Add carrots and celery and saute, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are bright in color and fragrant. Add garlic and apple and saute 2-3 minutes more.

Add chicken broth. Bring to boil, then lower to a simmer. Simmer, partially covered, until carrots are very, very soft. You should be able to mash one against the side of the pot with a wooden spoon.

Let cool completely, then puree in batches in a blender. Return to pot, heat slowly. Grate ginger, then squeeze to extract juice, adding to soup. Stir yogurt in a small bowl, then add to soup. Taste and adjust seasonings to taste.

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Hybrid Cuisine: Mjaddarah travels

Mjaddarah with South Indian Spices

I have always been suspicious–some would say insufferable–about fusion-cooking, and after some of the things I’ve seen, I think I have good reason to be. At a fancy restaurant this weekend, I encountered a “Vanilla butter poached lobster with sweet onion risotto and a red curry reduction.” Seriously? Curry and vanilla? How could that possibly, possibly taste good? People in the know say that these kinds of lunatic flavor combos are indicative of the youth of Minneapolis’ culinary scene, but still.

A recent food blog kerfuffle over Pad Thai got me thinking more about authenticity, innovation and fusion. As much as I rail against such atrocities as vanilla flavored curry reductions, I’m not as much of a purist as I pretend; I do mix cultures and flavors in my kitchen and on my plate. I just hope that I can respect and understand my ingredients a little better than Chef Vanilla-Curry, who I doubt knows a curry (whatever that is) from a curry leaf.

I don’t know what Lebanese or Jordanian cooks would say about this spin on Mjaddarah, the Middle Eastern dish of rice, lentils, and caramelized onions. I’ve adapted it by adding the holy trinity of mustard seed, curry leaves and dried red chile. I’ve also increased the proportion of rice to lentils, making this version a close cousin of the South Indian family of flavored rice dishes.

But I hope I’ve kept the essence of Mjaddarah: Thick wedges of onions, slowly simmered in a pool of fragrant, green olive oil. The onions caramelize over the course of half an hour, acquiring the sweet, deep, dark, rich flavor that only comes from slow, gentle heat. The result is a mild, subtly perfumed side dish that still manages to be richly luxurious (it’s all the olive oil). It’s heterodox origins make it compatible with almost everything: Grilled butternut squash, sauteed bitter greens, pan-roasted fish, tandoori chicken, or, as I did this week, with Paula Wolfert’s kefta. But for the love of God, don’t toss in any vanilla beans.

Heterodox Mjaddarah

Use good rice. Don’t skimp on the olive oil. Or if you do, don’t tell anyone you got the recipe from here.

1 c. basmati rice
1/3 c. green lentils (I use French Le Puy)
1/2 c. olive oil
1/2 tsp mustard seed
1/2 stick cinnamon, crumbled a bit
1 small handful curry leaves
1 dried red chile
2 med. yellow onions, sliced thickly

1. Soak basmati rice in water to cover. Set aside.
2. Boil green lentils in 2 1/4 cups water for 10-20 minutes. (Use the longer time if using French Le Puy lentils.)
3. While lentils are boiling, start the caramelized onions: Heat olive oil in wide, shallow pan. When oil is hot, add mustard seeds. Mustard seed should spit and crackle. Lower flame to medium and add cinnamon, curry leaves, and red chile. When aromatic, add onions. Lower flame to medium low and let onions simmer 30 minutes. Keep an eye on them, stir occasionally, and remove from heat if they get too dark.
4. Here’s where things get tricky. If you feel confident in your rice cooking abilities, drain rice and add to lentils. Add more water if you think it’s needed. If you aren’t used to eyeballing the rice/water proportion, drain lentils into a colander, reserving lentil cooking water. Measure cooking water and add or drain water as needed to make 2 cups of water total. Return lentils, rice, and water to pot.
5. Bring to boil, add 1 tsp of salt to rice. Cover, lower heat, and leave to cook for 20 minutes.
6. Remove rice from heat and let stand five minutes. Pour caramelized onions over rice, mix gently as not to break the rice grains, and taste for salt.

Sources: Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, Vimala Maguire

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A Chorus of Pickles

Kassie, her husband, another friend and I all survived the great pickle tasting, so it’s time for some recipes. Although there are three pickles in the above picture I only have two recipes for you: the achaarro and the tomato pickle. Of the four pickle taste testers, only one liked the cornichons. The rest of us found them overly sharp and vinegary. The cornichon-loving friend is going to find himself getting a bottle on his birthday, and another for Christmas, and yet another for New Year’s…

The clear winner was the tomato pickle, ranked first by every tester. I understand now why my parents wax nostalgic every time I asked about them. It has all the tang and concentrated tomato-y goodness of ketchup, but fresher and spicier. The versatility of this pickle already has already cracked my anti-fusion puritanism, as I use it in everything from mixing a homemade barbeque sauce for smoking to slathering it on a grilled pork sausage to garnishing a simple bowl of curd rice.

The achaaro came a distant second to the tomato pickle, but was also delicious. The vegetables had retained their color and crunch after their long soak in vinegar, and the spicy mustard, sweet vegetable and sharp vinegar are well-balanced. I have been munching on these with almost every meal as well.

I now understand the appeal of having pickles around the house. Aside from the practical concerns preserving the harvest through the winter, pickles make every meal special . They cut through the heavyness of meat and make every mouthful come alive. At times of the year when fresh vegetables weren’t available, they taste alive and fresh. Pickling has been around a lot longer than canning (which Kassie tells me wasn’t invented until the early 18th century); when I pickle, I think of my great-grandmothers pickling chilies, limes, and mangoes in Sri Lanka. And here I am, many years later, thousands of miles away, keeping tradition.

And besides, it’s just so pretty.

South Indian Tomato Pickle

They don’t make this in Sri Lanka. My parents found the recipe in Charmaine Solomon’s Complete Guide to Asian Cooking, my mother’s only cookbook for many years.

10 lbs roma tomatoes, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 golf-ball sized sphere of tamarind, soaked in hot water
1 tsp turmeric
1/4 c. cayenne pepper
1/4 c. peanut oil

1 tbsp mustard seeds
1 large handful curry leaves
10-20 green chilies
1 small head garlic, cloves peeled and chopped
3 inch piece of ginger, finely chopped
1/2 c. peanut oil
Salt to taste

1. Wring out tamarind and discard fibrous material. Heat oil in large stockpot, add tomatoes, tamarind water, cayenne pepper and turmeric. Simmer until tomatoes are dark and thick, stirring occasionally. This will take a long time. Ours were on the stove for almost four hours.

2. When tomatoes are ready, heat 1/2 c. oil in a large frying pan. When oil is hot, add mustard seeds, curry leaves, garlic, ginger, and fresh chilies. Saute until garlic is golden. Careful not to burn it!

3. Add garlic-ginger mixture to tomatoes, simmer ten minutes. Pour into sterilized bottles and seal. Kassie and I agreed that the antibacterial properties of the spices and the acid of the tamarind and tomatoes would keep us safe from botulism and other scary germs, so we didn’t bother to process. You’re welcome to, if that’s a concern for you.

Sources: My mom, Charmaine Solomon’s Complete Guide to Asian Cooking, Kitchenmate, Saffron Hut.

Achaaro*

This is a mixed vegetable pickle. It’s impossible to give exact ingredients and quantities. Use a mixture of carrots, cauliflower, green beans, shallots, garlic, fresh chilies, and banana peppers.

Enormous quantity of cider vinegar sufficient to cover the vegetables once they’re in their bottles.
1/2 c. mustard seed, soaked overnight in white vinegar to cover
2 inch piece of ginger

1. Open all your windows and get a couple of exhaust fans going.

2. Grind mustard seed, vinegar, and ginger in blender.

3. Bring vinegar to boil and blanch vegetables in it. Arrange vegetables in sterilized jars. Place 1 tbsp of mustard mixture in each jar. Pour vinegar over the vegetables. Seal and process if you wish (we didn’t).

*Achaaro comes from the Hindi word Achaar. It’s called achaar all over the Indian Sub-Continent and all over Southeast Asia, except in Sri Lanka, where it’s called achaaro. Don’t know why.

Sources: My mom, Suharshini Seneviratne’s Exotic Tastes of Sri Lanka

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The Art of Culinary Recycling

Huevos Rancheros

I have been busy lately. I know everyone says that, but I have been busier than I have been in years. After years in graduate school, my reprieve on a real job is finally at an end. Although full time work comes with compensatory financial and psychological benefits (it’s depressing to be unemployed, broke and overeducated), a distinct disadvantage is that I no longer can spend my days pottering around and planning my meals. No, these days, it’s all work, and I’m somehow expected to squeeze meal planning in between the hours between work and falling asleep exhausted.

This means that I don’t have the luxury of cooking every single night. When I cook, I’m looking for dishes that give you the best bang for the buck. It’s not only about freezing leftovers in individual proportions (like I’m that organized). It’s about finding dishes that, with minimal effort, can be endlessly reinvented for breakfasts, lunches, and dinners. Yes, I could make chili in six gallon quantities and be set for the next month, but I want to feel like I’m eating something new, different, and exciting every day.

Which is why I always look forward to these Huevos Rancheros, a dish that can be composed almost entirely from leftover odds and ends of the Mexican food I’ve consumed during the week. The dish reinvents those beans I boiled this week as a side for tacos. And don’t let those few tablespoonfuls of homemade salsa go to waste, use the leftovers to top your eggs. I used to feel guilty that I never would get around to frying those stale tortillas, but here, they appear as a base for the eggs.

The best part is that these eggs might possibly be the most satisfying brunch dish ever. What is it about this combination of textures and flavors that makes it so much more luxurious than the sum of its peasant-food parts? Perhaps it’s the combination of the unctuousness of soft fried eggs with the homeyness of beans, set off with a spicy salsa and a shower of chopped cilantro. This combination is great by itself, but with a perfectly ripe sliced avocado on the side? You would never guess that you’re eating leftovers.

Huevos Rancheros

The recipe is long, but each component can be recycled into another dish. I usually make at least a couple of beans and freeze half for a busy weeknight when I don’t even have the energy for take-out

Makes 1 portion; double, triple or quadruple as needed

1 egg
butter or oil for frying
1 tortilla
2-3 tablespoons tomato-habanero salsa (recipe follows) or other homemade salsa
1 tablespoon feta cheese or queso fresco, crumbled
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
1 large spoonful seasoned beans (recipe follows)

½ avocado, sliced and seasoned with lime juice, salt, and pepper

1. Over medium heat, heat butter in a non-stick frying pan, until butter foams, then quiets again. Break egg into pan, turn heat to low, then gently cook until white is barely set but yellow is still bright.

2. Heat tortilla over gas flame. When warm and pliable, top tortilla with egg, followed by salsa, cheese, and cilantro.

3. Serve with beans and avocado on the side.

Mexican Pot Beans

1 pound dried black, pinto, or kidney beans, soaked overnight
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
5 branches of cilantro
1 heaping teaspoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 jalapeno pepper, halved
salt

1. Drain beans, replace water, and bring to a boil with other ingredients.
2. Lower to simmer. Cook until tender.
3. When beans are completely tender, salt generously to taste

Tomato-Habanero Salsa

1 pound tomatoes (use canned tomatoes in winter)
1 habanero chile, halved
½ yellow onion, finely sliced
peanut oil for sautéing
salt

1. Roast tomatoes under broiler until charred and blackened. Peel. (Skip this step if using canned tomatoes.)
2. Chop tomatoes. Heat oil in saucepan, add onion and sauté until golden brown.
3. Add chopped tomatoes and chile. Simmer about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
4. Salt to taste.

Source: Mexican Kitchen, Rick Bayless

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