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Kip of the Week: Pantera’s Faisanjan. July 5, 2009

Posted by panterazero in chicken, entertaining, exotic!, fruit, Kip of the Week.
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Persian food is distinctively delicious because a lot of its flavors are strong and unusual at the same time.  Few other cuisines are as enthusiastic about combining fruit and/or nuts with meat, and I don’t know of another one that’s as devoted to sour sauces.

For years I shrugged off this dish because I couldn’t abide the idea of juicing half a dozen pomegranates.  Then suddenly, bottled pomegranate juice became an antioxidant darling of my supermarket’s cold case, and — hey!

Try this on a night when you feel tired of everything you’ve ever cooked.  Trust me, it’s different.  Allow two chicken thighs per serving, and make lots of rice.

four to eight chicken thighs
two tablespoons butter
one large, or two medium, onions
two cloves garlic
one cup walnuts
one cup pomegranate juice
two cups boiling water
one-quarter cup dried cranberries
eight fresh or dried apricots
one small cinnamon stick
salt and pepper to taste

Put the cranberries in a cup and, if you’re using dried apricots, dice them and add them too. Pour the boiling water over the fruit and cover the cup with a saucer.  Let this sit while you do the rest. If you’re using fresh apricots, chop them and set them aside.

Mince (don’t slush) the onion.

Process the walnuts, garlic, and pepper together, to a paste.

In a pan large enough for the whole dish, brown the chicken thighs quickly and thoroughly.  Set the meat aside and pour off and discard the fat, keeping as much of the nice brown stuff in the bottom of the pan as possible.  Add the butter to the pan, let it melt, add the chopped onion and sauté it till it’s golden.

Add the walnut-and-garlic paste and stir thoroughly.

Add the pomegranate juice, the fruit with its liquid, and the cinnamon stick, and bring the sauce just to a boil.  Return the chicken to the pan.  Cook at a simmer for 30 to 40 minutes, until the chicken is very tender.  Add the chopped fresh apricots if you’re using them, and salt as needed.

Serve with rice.  If you want to be really Persian, serve a green salad with crumbled feta cheese, mint leaves, and lightly toasted walnut pieces.

©  /KC July 2009

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KotW: Beet-and-carrot curry. June 23, 2009

Posted by panterazero in exotic!, Kip of the Week, vegetarian.
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This is an adaptation of the curried beet recipe to be found at http://curryinkadai.blogspot.com/2007/11/cant-beet-this.html, to which I’m deeply indebted.  I had a few more vegetables to add and, sadly, not quite as wide a spectrum of Indian ingredients; before I make this again, I mean to go to Berkeley and scout up some curry leaves.  Regardless, this was delectable, and I regard it as an excellent candidate for additional development.

one bunch fresh beets (2 to 4, with greens)
four to eight small or medium carrots; if tender and thin-skinned, don’t peel
one cup frozen green peas, slightly thawed
1 cup medium or hot salsa verde or, if you’re lucky, New Mexico green chile sauce
two tablespoons skinless red lentils (masoor dal)
two tablespoons finely chopped ginger
one teaspoon yellow mustard seeds
one teaspoon black mustard seeds
one teaspoon whole cumin
one-quarter teaspoon ground turmeric
two tablespoons corn or canola oil

Cut greens off beets, stem the greens and soak them thoroughly in cold water.  Put beets in a saucepan with cold water to cover, bring water to a boil, and cook beets for five minutes.  Remove beets from water, allow to cool, and rub skins off beets under running water.  Drain and chop beet greens; combine greens with frozen peas.
Cut beets and carrots into chunks.  In food processor, julienne beets and carrots.

Heat oil in wok or sauté pan.  Add lentils, cumin seeds, black and yellow mustard seeds, sauté until mustard seeds start to jump; then add beets, carrots,  and ginger, and stir-fry until vegetables are almost tender.  Add the greens, peas,  and turmeric, and continue to stir-fry until greens are barely limp and peas are fully flawed.

© /KC June 2009

KotW: Pork with Pears, Lentils, and Plum Sauce February 5, 2009

Posted by panterazero in all-in-one, exotic!, fruit, herbs & spices, Kip of the Week, pig pig pig.
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[In North America we have an odd attitude toward fruit; we want to cook it only when it’s perfectly ripe. That insistence makes for great apple and peach pies and strawberry jam, but in other contexts it’s awfully limiting. For example, what would the great Cuban beef dishes –- picadillo or ropa vieja or boliche -– be without a side of fried plantains? Unripe fruit is an estimable staple in savory cooking.

So find a few really rock-hard pears and try this. I give two slightly different versions, one using fresh plums if it’s the right time of year, the other substituting dried fruit and factory sauce. ]

1 1/2 cups green or brown lentils
two cups boiling water

two medium yellow onions, chopped
two tablespoons oil
one pound boneless lean pork, sliced

two to four unripe hard green pears, peeled and cored (depending on size, enough to make four cups chopped)

If you can get them:
four tart purple plums, seeded and cut up
Otherwise:
eight dried apricots
one-half cup Chinese or Japanese plum sauce, from a jar

four to six cloves of garlic
a piece of fresh ginger the size of a walnut, peeled and sliced
one-quarter cup dry sherry
one-quarter cup cider vinegar or rice wine vinegar
one tablespoon sriracha, or more to taste

Put the lentils in a large measuring cup, pour the boiling water over them, and let them sit. If you’re using the dried apricots, put them in a smaller cup, pour boiling water over them to cover, and let them sit too. Chop the pears.

Sauté the chopped onions in the oil, allowing them to brown generously. Add the sliced pork and stir until the meat loses its pink color. Add the chopped pears, the lentils, and the soaking liquid, stir, and leave at a simmer.

Drain the dried apricots, if you’re using them. In a food processor, mince the garlic and ginger till it settles on the walls of the tank. Add the cut-up plums OR the dried apricots, and purée. Add the sherry, the vinegar, the plum sauce if you’re using it, and the sriracha, and blend.

Pour the plum sauce over the meat-lentil-fruit mixture, turn up the heat and bring it to a boil. Ideally, the pears will still have a tiny bit of crunch, and the lentils will be nutty-tasting and firm. Correct the seasoning.

© /KC September 2008

Peppers (yes!) sausage (yes!) January 24, 2009

Posted by panterazero in exotic!, herbs & spices, pig pig pig, restaurants, reviews, Uncategorized.
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Sometimes I chase after peppers, and sometimes I stumble over them.  Last week in Southern California, I had a surprise roughly comparable to the existence of Saeng’s Orient — the discovery of a fine Hungarian restaurant and deli in a tiny town in the high desert.

Hungarian cuisine is legendary for its promotion and extensive use of paprika peppers, whether in the dry ground form also called paprika, the lip-stinging and lipstick-red preserve called lecsó, or simply as a vegetable to be sliced and cooked in soup or stew.  Of course, various types of fresh hot peppers can be found — and are inventively used — all over central and southern Europe, but many Hungarians are convinced that the best European hot peppers with a pointed shape grow only in Hungary.  (Sounds like New Mexico.)

Cut to the barely known community of Littlerock, California, which is about half the size of NetHeadChef’s “P’ville,” with one post office instead of two, and without the university.  It’s a pleasant place, and various farm stores advertise specialties like jerky, fresh fruit, homemade candy, etc.  So far it’s not too different from some other towns in the California high desert.

But in the 8800 block of Pearblossom Highway, Valley Hungarian Sausage & Meat Company offers 36 kinds of homemade sausage — most European, some not — together with sliced cold cuts, Hungarian plate lunches, pierogies, an amazing range of Hungarian specialties in jars, cans, and bags (even Hungarian pasta!), and, naturally, homemade dill pickles.  Their fresh Hungarian sweet sausage is exceptional, and I say that without fear of contradiction.

Littlerock is about 40 miles east of Santa Clarita, or about 70 miles northeast of downtown LA.  It’s worth the drive, but I would call or e-mail first to confirm hours:

Valley Hungarian Sausage & Meat Company
8809 Pearblossom Highway
Littlerock, CA 93543
Ph: (661) 944-3351
vhsm@sbcglobal.net

Curried Brussels Sprouts January 22, 2009

Posted by panterazero in all-in-one, exotic!, herbs & spices, Kip of the Week, tomato, vegan.
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Brussels sprouts can be one of the most assertively delicious vegetables that are easily available — even in winter.  Unfortunately, they also tend to be one of the most mistreated.  Your average brussels sprout ends up camouflage-green, soggy, leaky, smelling like overcooked cabbage and tasting worse.  What a sad fate for a truly aristocratic vegetable!  Forget steaming, or water in general, entirely, and do this instead.

two pounds very fresh brussels sprouts
four or five medium-to-large fresh tomatoes
two tablespoons corn or canola oil
two large, or three medium, shallots
two tablespoons curry powder
one-quarter teaspoon cayenne pepper, or one teaspoon chili powder
one 15-ounce can light coconut milk

Stand unopened can of coconut milk in saucepan full of warm water, possibly over very low heat.  (This is so all the coconut milk will come out of the can when you want to pour it in.)

Trim the stem end of the brussels sprouts and slice them in a food processor.  (They’ll come out a nice mix of slices and shreds, which is fine.)  Reserve.

Skin and chop tomatoes, but don’t drain.  Reserve, separately.

Mince shallots.  Mix thoroughly with curry powder and cayenne pepper or chili powder.

Heat oil in a wok or sauté pan.  Stir-fry shallot and spice mixture over medium heat just until everything starts to smell really good.  Add tomatoes with their liquid, turn up the heat, and stir-fry until almost all the liquid is gone.

Add brussels sprouts and stir-fry until green parts of sprouts are really bright green.

Pour in warm coconut milk and stir thoroughly until mixture is boiling.  Serve with rice or noodles.

© /KC January 2009

Thai Vegetable Stew January 3, 2009

Posted by panterazero in chicken, exotic!, Kip of the Week, soups and stews, Thai.
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Okay.  Our international readers don’t have this problem, but in the United States, the two holidays when turkey is classically served — Thanksgiving and Christmas — unfortunately happen to be only a month apart.  After two turkeys in the space of a month, it’ll probably be six months before you want to even think about cooking and eating another turkey, and six months after Christmas, you can’t find one to buy.  So, whether for personal or logistical reasons, we’re all through with turkey for the moment.  Let’s tackle something that in its format, in its ingredients, and in its seasoning is a complete relief.

Complicated?  Yes.  Healthy?  Yes.  Bliss-inducing?  Surprisingly.

First Day

Prepare stock:
2 quarts water
1 quart box chicken stock
6 boneless, skinless (Costco) chicken thighs; no need to thaw first
one whole stalk celery with leaves
a piece of fresh ginger the size of your thumb, peeled, and cut in quarters lengthwise
two bay leaves

Bring the water to a boil.  Add the stock and bring to a boil again (you don’t want to boil box stock very long).  Add all other ingredients, cover pot and put in 225° oven for 2 hours.

Take the pot out of the oven.  Remove the chicken thighs, put them on a plate or in a bowl, and refrigerate them.  Return stock to oven for another 2 hours.  Remove and discard the celery, ginger and bay leaves.  Cover the stock and refrigerate it overnight.

Second Day

Skim the fat off the stock, strain it if necessary, and warm it slowly.

Prepare garlic:
10 cloves garlic
2 T corn or canola oil

Chop garlic (a food processor helps) and mix it with the oil in a small microwave-safe bowl.  Microwave one minute at a time, checking, till the garlic takes on color, then thirty seconds at a time till the garlic is golden brown.  (This should take about three minutes total, but that depends very much on your microwave.  Don’t take it beyond golden brown or it may be unusable.)

Add to the stock:
the prepared garlic
one large yellow onion skinned and chopped
six medium carrots pared and cut in thick hunks
1 lb. white mushrooms washed and sliced thick

Bring to a boil, then simmer on lowest heat (you don’t want the carrots to disintegrate) for about an hour.  Meanwhile

Prepare the topping:
1 or 2 cloves garlic, peeled
2 green onions, white part and healthy-looking green part, sliced
1 cup Trader Joe’s Lime and Chile Peanuts [or:
1 cup roasted peanuts
half teaspoon red flake pepper
zested rind of one small lime ]

In a food processor mince the garlic, add the green onions and mince, add the peanuts and pulse-chop till everything is sort of chunky and sticky.  Put the mixture in a serving bowl and refrigerate.  Take the poached chicken thighs, remove and discard any fat, and shred the meat.

Stem and soak your greens (see below) if they’re not prewashed.

Add to the soup:
the shredded chicken
one 14-oz can coconut milk
2 to 4 small zucchini, diced
one 1-lb bag baby spinach
one bunch broccoli rabe, stemmed and chopped

Bring the soup to a boil and stir just until the zucchini is tender.  Serve very hot with the topping on the side; the serving spoon for the topping should hold a generous tablespoon (e. g. Chinese soup spoon).

© /KC January 2009

KotW: Taste of Nepal [review] August 14, 2008

Posted by schizodigestive in cookbooks, entertaining, exotic!, herbs & spices, Kip of the Week, salads, tomato, vegetarian.
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TASTE OF NEPAL
Jyoti Pathak
New York: Hippocrene Press, 2007
ISBN 0-7818-1121-X
470 pp. hardcover
$27.50 list

The cuisines of the roof of the world — eastern Afghanistan, eastern Pakistan, the Punjab, Tibet, Nepal, Sikkim and Bhutan — are as distinct from each other as the great cuisines of Europe, and they’re all terrific. But dishes from these countries aren’t easy to find in most restaurants, and recipes on the net are sparse. This is a pity, because good Afghani, Tibetan or Nepali food will truly expand your culinary horizons.

I was introduced to Nepali food when Adri, fresh from a trip to Kathmandu, sat down with me in my kitchen and we tried to figure out how to make dal bhaat that tasted real. At that time, I had never been able to find a Nepali cookbook in English, still less a comprehensive one. Today, happily, that lack is remedied with Jyoti Pathak’s Taste of Nepal, which is a pleasure to read, a joy to cook from, and as authentic as could be.

The book begins with a section on snacks and appetizers, which are a national tradition in Nepal — partly because Nepalis eat two meals a day and fill the interim with enthusiastic snacking, and partly because local hospitality demands that any visitor, even a surprise visitor, be welcomed with food ready on the spot. Nepali snacks (khaajaa) somewhat resemble Indian chaat, except that they’re tastier, more adventurous, and often more complicated; many of them involve cheura, or pressed rice flakes, a Nepali nibbling staple.

Nepali cooking offers a wide variety of carbs, and meticulous attention is paid to rice, to dal (beans, lentils, and peas), and to bread (roti); there are over a dozen bread recipes in this book, some quite exotic. Vegetable recipes, meanwhile, draw from far-flung sources, so that some here seem almost Chinese, some Indian, and some Pacific.

In Nepal, as the author says, “meat is a high status food and does not feature frequently in the regular diet of most people,” so the majority of meat recipes here are for banquet dishes, with long lists of ingredients and complex preparations. Many call for goat, the staple meat of Nepal. There are also recipes for lamb, pork, and venison, but not for beef, since most Nepalis are of the Hindu faith and avoid beef for religious reasons.

Many of the poultry dishes here, including tandoori chicken, seem very Indian, but the recipes for Cornish hen, turkey, quail, and pheasant are far off that beaten path. Again, many of these dishes are meant for holidays and festivals, but for the right occasions, elaborate preparation would be worth it.

Fish is popular in Nepal because it signifies good luck, prosperity, and happiness. Ocean fish is not available; fish is line-caught from Himalayan rivers and either prepared as fresh as possible, or smoked or dried for storage. Preparations here are simple and are mostly fish fries or curries.

Momo (dumplings) may have originated in Tibet but are wildly popular in all Himalayan countries, and a real delicacy. Filled with chicken, lamb, pork, or mixed vegetables, these are bigger, juicier, and more substantial than either Chinese wonton or Korean-Japanese gyoza. Usually they are steamed, but they can also be sautéed like potstickers.

The section on salads, chutneys, and pickles is worth the price of the book, and rather than go into tedious detail, I’ll give one recipe here:

NO-COOK TOMATO CHUTNEY (Na Pakaayeko Golbheda ko Chutney)

This recipe is my daughter Sapana’s favorite way of preparing a quick chutney. The amount of chili may be adjusted to suit your taste.

6 medium tomatoes, roughly chopped (about 6 cups)
8 to 10 fresh hot green chilies, roughly chopped
1/2 cup finely chopped cilantro
2 medium cloves garlic, peeled
2 teaspoons peeled and roughly chopped fresh ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon Szechuan pepper (timmur), finely ground with a mortar and pestle
1 teaspoon mustard oil
1 tablespoon fresh lemon or lime juice

Place the tomatoes, green chilies, cilantro, garlic, ginger, salt and timmur in a food processor or blender and process until smooth. Transfer to a bowl, and mix it with the mustard oil and lemon juice. Taste, adjust the seasonings, and serve immediately or cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. The chutney keeps refrigerated for 2 to 3 days.

Makes 4 to 6 servings.

The book is rounded out with a nice section on desserts — most of which, unsurprisingly, are milk-based — one on drinks, mostly teas, and one on “after-meal refreshers,” which are highly spiced or intensely fruit-flavored savory snacks. In short, Nepali cuisine and its materials and methods are covered here from end to end, and you could rely on this book when you prepared a banquet, working from the banquet menus in the book’s last section, “Planning and Serving Nepali Meals.”

If you find some ingredients unfamiliar — and I certainly did — you’ll find comfort in the extensive glossaries of ingredients and of Nepali-English culinary terms. Finally, this book proudly includes an index detailed enough to be usable, which is a great asset especially to a cookbook.

I can’t say enough good things about Taste of Nepal, although I’ve tried. You could try a recipe from this book every day for a year, and you wouldn’t run out. Recipes were obviously developed in collaboration and extensively tested; nothing here is faddish, flippant, or obvious. Finally, as a matter of meticulous production, each recipe is complete on one page or on two facing pages so you can put the book in your cookbook holder and get going. It’s a small thing, but the whole book shows that kind of care.

If you’re at all interested in expanding your culinary repertory, you deserve to have Taste of Nepal on your kitchen bookshelf.

(c) /KC August 2008

KotW: Beef & Lime Pasta Salad August 7, 2008

Posted by sarawr in entertaining, exotic!, Kip of the Week, red meat.
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[This week’s post is the long-awaited beef & lime pasta salad. It’s a great summer recipe for using up all those leftover grilled steaks, and it’s novel enough to serve when you want to impress. Let’s give a big hand to Kip, the only Schizo who’s not also a slacker!]

I often think that limes get a bad rap. Too often, lime is thought of merely as a dessert ingredient while its blond and blowsy cousin, the lemon, gets to star in an amazing variety of productions. The line gets much more respect in countries with truly sophisticated spicy cuisines, like Cuba, India, and Thailand. This recipe uses lime juice and zest as the top notes for a dinner salad that’s a little different.

1 lb. fusilli, penne, farfalle, broken-up perciatelli, or elbow macaroni
2 cups medium to medium-rare roast beef or steak, slivered
1 cup stock
1/2 cup pine nuts or slivered almonds
2 to 4 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup good olive oil
1 large or 2 small limes, zest and juice
shredded Romano cheese, to taste
romaine leaves

Start cooking pasta. In a largish pot, saute the minced garlic and nuts in the olive oil till golden, pour in the stock to stop the cooking. Keep mixture at simmer and, when pasta is cooked al dente, add the pasta and the beef. Refrigerate.

Before serving, add the lime juice, the lime zest and the cheese, and mix again. Serve on romaine leaves.

This recipe is somewhat of a work in progress, and I could see adding ingredients like shredded ginger, shredded basil, nam pla, coconut milk, roasted red bell peppers, roasted cherry tomatoes, diced mango…depending on which direction you want to take it. If you feel like trying this and think of any other exhilarating additions, please mail me at panterazero[AT]gmail.com!

(c) /KC July 2008

KotW: Chicken Yassa. July 28, 2008

Posted by sarawr in African food, exotic!, herbs & spices, Kip of the Week, poultry.
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This week’s post by Kip is, uh… actually last week’s post by Kip, because I was insanely busy last week. It’s worth the wait, though, I promise — this is, hands-down, the best chicken I’ve ever tasted. I promise you guys will love it.

This is from the Casamance in Senegal, is about the best barbecued chicken ever, and is a beautiful introduction to African food. If you serve this to guests, it’ll knock their socks off.

Two pointers right up front. First, once this is all together, you need to let it marinate refrigerated overnight, so this is a start-the-day-before recipe. In Africa, long marinating copes with the fact that free-range chicken can be tough! In the United States it answers just the opposite — battery-raised chicken doesn’t taste like much. Second, this really, really is best if you’re able to grill it; the other cooking methods work, but that little bit of char and crunch puts this dish over the top.

six tablespoons peanut, corn or canola oil
one chicken cut into serving pieces (yes, you can use boneless breasts and thighs, but this is a lot better with bones and skin)
four to eight onions, roughly chopped
half a cup mixed citrus juice — lemon, lime, orange, tangerine, grapefruit; fresh-squeezed if feasible
half a cup cider vinegar or rice vinegar
two bay leaves
four to eight cloves garlic, minced
one-third cup Dijon mustard
one or two tablespoons soy sauce (to taste)
one serrano pepper, or other fresh medium-hot pepper, cleaned and finely chopped (not jalapeno which loses flavor when cooked)
flaked red pepper (to taste)
black pepper (to taste)
salt (to taste — it may not need any)
one small green cabbage, cut into chunks
four to six carrots, peeled and cut into chunks

The amounts of onion, fruit juice, garlic and hot pepper given here look excessive. No way. More the better.

Combine everything except the cabbage and carrots in a glass or stainless bowl or enamel casserole and refrigerate overnight. Remove chicken from the marinade and reserve the marinade. Cook the chicken until it’s ALMOST, not quite, done:

    over a charcoal fire or
    on a gas grill or
    in a hot oven or
    in hot oil in a skillet, just about in order of preference.

Try for nice browning in any case.

While the chicken is cooking, scoop the onions out of the marinade and sauté them for a few minutes, in a pan big enough for the finished dish. Add the cabbage and carrots and remaining marinade and bring to a slow boil. Add the chicken pieces, cover and simmer until the chicken and the carrots are done.

Serve with white or brown rice or, better yet, couscous.

(c) July 2008 /KC