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Sep. 1st, 2010

Master of my domain

Hello friends,

Please join my new blog at wordpress:  http://onioncloute.com

hearts and bones,

Jan. 31st, 2010

Kibbeh and bits

Recent trips to local Labanese gem www.azizasonmain.com have left me in la-la-la-love with Lebanese food.  Foody compatriot Jonny D has joined me on my culinary flight to the Middle East and requested that I make Kabees el Lift, the fun-colored turnip pickles that fill jars adorning Lebanese delis aplenty.  From my beet bounty, as you may recall, I whipped up some fantastic beet greens.  Do see the last post for that tidbit! 

During my first visit to Aziza's, Jon introduced me to kibbeh, a lovely ground meat and bulghur mash-up with tinges of mint.  We've since speculated that Aziza's may, in fact, use ground beef, whereas my recipe calls for lamb.  Also, if you were to google kibbeh, or even order it in another restaurant, you would likely find a torpedo-shaped concoction that somehow marries a crunchy ground-meat outside with a smoother ground-meat inside.  It's a delicate process that involves creating an egg-shaped mound of ingredients and then stuffing them with an almost identical filling, much like a croquette. 

I'd certainly never made kibbeh or seen it made before, so I just went for flavors and a bit of texture.  I believe I accomplished something of both of those essential elements, though my kibbeh is by no means 'traditional.'


1 lb. ground lamb
1 c. bulghur wheat
1 small onion
I c. fresh mint
2 T. pine nuts
1 clove garlic

Preheat oven to 350.  Mince the onion, garlic, and pine nuts.  Chop mint.  Combine all ingredients, and work well with your hands - You want to thoroughly combine and then sort of 'knead' the mix.  Unlike typical meatloaf recipes where you want to be gentle with the ground meat, the key to kibbeh texture is to work all the ingredients so that you end up with an almost pasty texture.  Spread kibbeh mix evenly into a pan-sprayed 9 x 9 casserole dish.  Bake for approximately 30 minutes or until the kibbeh "shakes," or has rendered away from the sides a bit.

To serve the kibbeh, cut into desired shapes, (go nuts:  I chose triangles) and then pan fry in a dab of olive oil so that each side gets a lovely golden crust.

Resident piggy pony Boo Boo Darlin' sampled the kibbeh and remarked, "It's so good.  You can taste each individual ingredient."  While Jonny D said, "Yum.  Are those pine nuts?  Nice."  I served mine with tabouli and a snazzy roasted tomato hummus* and the following:

Pickled Turnips (Kabees el Lift)

3 large turnips, peeled and cut into 1/4" batons
1 beet, peeled and quartered
2 cloves garlic, smashed
2 c. water
1 c. white vinegar
2 T. salt

Combine all ingredients.  Cover tightly and leave alone for 10 days, at which time the pickly feasting may begin!

* A note on snazzy roasted tomato hummus and pita:

I prefer Thomas' Sahara Pitas in, get this, the wheat variety!  Yes, it's true.  I'm usually a pretty white-pita kind of girl, but one dreadful day the Cary St. Kroger had only the wheat to sell.  Slave to hummus and pita that I am, I naturally had to get something, so I threw them in the cart went ahead to the self checkout.  Turns out they're fabulous.  Who knew?!

And as for the hummus, I made a standard hummus recipe:  chick peas, lemon juice, tahini, garlic clove, salt, a scosh of vegetable stock, and vrrrrrrh, blendy blendy.  Then, I added some of those Divina Roasted Tomatoes, to which I am a sincere devotee.  Tangy.  Tomatoey.  Waaay Garlicky.  Dip some of those wheat pitas or a bite of kibbeh in there, and badaaaaah!


Jan. 20th, 2010

Single and Starving: Rainy Day Beet Greens

In order to make Lebanese-style pickled turnips, or kabees el lift, I was compelled to buy beets at the market:  beet root is what gives the briny turnips their characteristic pink hue.  My bunch of beets came topped with lovely beet greens, something I know better than to waste. 

My initial impulse was to braise the greens like collards with saltpork and cider vinegar, but being impatient as I was, I instead opted for what I call the Edo's/Mama zu treatment:  Olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, and pine nuts.  The result was a delicious mound of steamy greens with a lovely bitter-sour flavor and little bursts of "fatness" from the pine nuts.  If you've got a plethora of root greens, as you must in the winter months, please do give them the same treatment; you'll be stoked, I promise.

sexy greens outdoors

and looking figgity fly indoors...


Jan. 13th, 2010

Single and Starving: Chicken Liver Pate w/ Lychee Gelee

Recently I was inspired to make chicken liver pate.  The inspiration came from two things:  first, my realization that a pound of chicken livers could be procured for a mere $1.50 at the market and second, the Millie's employee party at mama zu, whereupon I attempted to beat the record for pate consumption (and later consumption in general.) 

As it turns out, it could hardly be simpler to make this pate.  That and its low low cost make it prime Single and Starving material.  One can make googobs of the brandy-spiked pate for an hors d'ourve or gift with little effort or expense. 

Chicken liver pate is pretty standard party fare.  Type it into google, and you'll likely find hundreds of recipes very similar to my own.  To keep this pate from being just another ho-hum addition to the collection, I topped mine with a lychee gelee.  I had some leftover lychees from martinis, so I reduced the juice and added some gelatin, et voila - a not-too-sweet protective coating for my precious pate.  Does making a gelee intimidate you?  It shouldn't.  Have you ever made jello?  Well there you go...One word of advice, though, I would recommend gelatin in its powdered form.  I find it easier to measure and store.  Both powdered gelatin and sheets are stupidly easy to work with, however, and I recommend doing so for funsies whenever the mood should strike you.  I had a fair bit of the lychee gelee leftover so I added a bit of vodka and made little lychee martini jello eggs with this weird jello-jiggler egg mold I found at the Elder Lebow Ranch.  I could devote a whole blogisode to the awesomeness of these things:  You can't have just one, but you probably should...

  Lychee martini eggs and a wee lychee.  Very Ferran.

Chicken Liver Pate with Lychee Gelee

1 pound chicken livers - trimmed, rinsed, patted dry
3-4 T. butter
1 yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves minced garlic
1 c. chicken stock
1/4 c. brandy
a handful of thyme, some parsley stems, and a bay leaf
1/4 c. chopped parsley
PLENTY of salt
ground pepper to taste

2 c. lychee juice (you can do this gelee with any juice you like except pineapple.  Apple would be lovely.  You can also use a sweet wine like a Sauternes.)
1 packet powdered gelatin.

Simmer onion and garlic in melted butter until translucent.  Add chicken livers, stock, and herbs, and allow to simmer until the livers have only a sliver (hah) of pink in the middle.  Add the brandy and simmer for a minute or two more.  Remove the simmered herbs and transfer to a blender or food processor.  Add the chopped parsley and some salt and pepper.  Thoroughly blend the pate.  Taste for seasonings, and add as necessary.

When the pate is complete, pour into serving vessels of your choice.  I chose to ramekins of several different shapes and sizes just to play around, but the same process is true for whatever you put your pate in:  Tap the container on a flat surface to allow the pate to settle and any air pockets to go away, and then smooth the surface with a small offset spatula.

To make the gelee, sprinkle 1/2 cup of juice with the gelatin packet, and allow to sit while bringing the remaining 1 1/2 c. juice to a boil.  Whisk congealed juice into the boiling juice.  To top the pate, pour the mixture CAREFULLY over the surface.  You want to avoid just dumping it on top because the juice will 'kick up' little bits of pate and look cloudy, aka gross.  If you feel unsteady, try pouring the mixture over the back of a spoon to allow it to flow evenly and slowly.  Refrigerate and prepare to enjoy.  You should most definitely do this ahead of time.  You could get away with a mere 12 hours, but 24 to 48 would be ideal.

bon appetit!

Jan. 11th, 2010

Single and Starving: A Very New Smitty's Christmas

The holiday season is finally over (except for my birthday, which happens in just FOUR short days.)  Every year, I do essentially the same things:  covet high-dollar presents and lust for etsy gems, watch Scrooged and Home Alone, and of course, feast.  This year carried on the traditions of the past but was somehow even awesomer than I could've imagined.  I owe this awesomeness to the company I received for A Very New Smitty's Christmas -- My mom and her husband, my bff Jonny D, and my boo Josh.

There was still some snow on the ground when we woke up Christmas morning.  I made coffee and set the record player up for a day of some soulful-ass gospel tunes.  As I began to assemble my mise en place, I gazed dreamily out the kitchen window, recalling the sweet success of Christmas Eve.  (Two Words:  Couples' Snuggie.)  Every fifteen minutes or so, I wandered back to the bedroom to pester a sleeping Boo with pinches and giggles.  Eventually, we were both up, making rounds of Christmas calls to faraway family and snacking on spinach dip (Oh the dip!)

After a few hours of cooking and last-minute present wrapping, my guests began to arrive.  We exchanged gifts and feasted on sweet potato gratin, smoked turkey, bacon-wrapped scallops, stuffing, fried oysters, green beans, and spinach dip.  I LOVE KNORR'S SPINACH DIP.  I kind of need some right now...you know, the dip in the packet to which you add water chestnuts, spinach, mayonaise, and sour cream.  LOVE IT.  CHRISTMAS MIRACLE. 

When the festivites were nearly over, we cut into the apple pie.  True to my promise to Josh's dad, Bobby Joe, I adorned this apple pie with a little dough jesus.  Delish.

So Christmas was fun, and winter is great, but now that it's over, I'm ready for Spring and......BASEBALL!


Dec. 21st, 2009

Lord Keevil's Gluten-Free Birthday Cake

Recently the cast of Millie's hatched a plan to throw a surprise birthday party for Paul.  Deidra commissioned me to make a birthday cake for the event.  I was honored but a little nervous -- there would be thirty-some people sampling my cake.  It had to be delicious and, due to Paul's Celiacs disease, it had to be gluten-free.
My gluten-free baking trials have taught me that combining multiple "flours" often yields the best results.  For this cake, I used white and brown rice flour and tapioca starch.  Also, I usually try to go out of my way to avoid adding xanthan gum; I often can detect a metallic aftertaste in the finished product.  However, since I was working with cocoa powder, chicory root extract, and dark chocolate chips, I decided to include it.  The result was a lovely texture with no discernible aftertaste.  Chicory root extract is commonly used as a dietary supplement.  It's a great source of soluble fiber, and it compliments the bittersweet taste I was trying to achieve with this cake.  win-win.

Dark Chocolate Cake

12 oz room temperature butter
1 c. granulated sugar
3/4 c. brown sugar
3 eggs
2 egg yolks
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. chicory root extract
1/2 c. white rice flour
1/2 c. brown rice flour
1/2 c. tapioca starch
1 c. cocoa powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
2 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 1/2 tsp. xanthan gum
1 1/2 c. buttermilk
1 1/2 c. bittersweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350, and spray two 9 in. round cake pans with pan spray.  Sift together all the ingredients from white rice flour to xanthan gum.  Cream butter and sugars together until light and fluffy.  Add eggs and yolks, one at a time, allowing time to incorporate between each addition.  Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula.  Resume mixing.  Alternate adding dry ingredients and buttermilk.  Fold in chocolate chips. 
Divide evenly between two pans, and bake for approximately 30 minutes.

Chocolate Espresso Frosting

1/2 c. melted butter
2/3 c. scharffen berger cocoa
3 c. powdered sugar
1/3 c. milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Combine melted butter and cocoa.  Alternate adding powdered sugar and milk/vanilla until smooth and spreadable.

  I also whipped up some coconut rum cupcakes with the gluten-free Betty Crocker cake mix.  It was very semi-homemade, but I was worried there wouldn't be enough cake, so I needed something quick.  The Betty Crocker mix is really great; I look forward to making more box-cake variations with it in the future.  For this one, I added a little rum to the batter, and I made a simple cream cheese frosting (with a little more rum, for good measure) and topped it off with toasted coconut.  Resident Glutard "Little Mama," aka Katherine Purvis purpotedly ate 6 of the little buggers within the first hour of the party!  Awesome.

Dec. 3rd, 2009

Jamaican Beef Patties + Apple Walnut Turnovers

'Tis the season for pies and turnovers. The nip in the air, the naked trees, fingers in mittens all demand one thing: crust. I've made two dishes lately that fulfill this wintery crust-lust. The first, Jamaican beef patties, are curry-spiked pockets of spicy beef. The second is a simple apple turnover that derives much of its awesomeness from the sauce that accompanies it -- a thick, creamy cheddar sauce -- a play on the Southern classic of apple pie with cheddar cheese.

Often on my days off I know that I want to cook something but have little inspiration beyond a vague desire to be in the kitchen all day. That's where resident food-lover and besty Jonny D comes in. By gently suggesting beef pies to my dear mother on facebook (what is the world coming to?) Jon ensured that I would have the inspiration I lacked and that he would have the beef patties he craved. Everyone wins. Having never eaten or made authentic beef patties before and being only familiar with them as the frozen aisle staple that I never cared to try, I wasn't sure how to begin. But after a quick stop at the world wide internet and a generous donation of allspice and cloves from mother's pantry, I was well on my way to beef pie. Turns out these little buggers are way easy to make. Check it:

Jamaican Beef Patties

2 c. flour
2 tsp. curry powder
pinch salt
1/4 c. butter
1/4 c. shortening
1/3 c. water

Sift together dry ingredients. Cut in butter and shortening. Add water a little at a time until dough comes together. Roll into a ball and wrap with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for about an hour.

Meanwhile, prepare the filling:

1 lb. ground beef
1 medium yellow onion, diced
1 bunch scallions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 scotch bonnet pepper, seeds removed, minced (ideally, wear gloves, wash your hands, and by no means pick your nose after this step; trust me.)
2 tsp. curry powder
2 tsp. turmeric
2 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. allspice
1 tsp. ground cloves
1 tsp. ground thyme
2 c. stock (I used vegetable because I had it on hand, but beef or chicken would work fine)

Egg wash:
1 egg
1/2 c. milk
1 tsp. turmeric

Saute onions, garlic, pepper, and half of the scallions on medium high heat. Add ground beef and raise heat to high. Add dried spices and stir, continuing to cook until ground beef is almost entirely cooked. Add stock and allow to simmer for approximately 10 minutes, until most of the liquid is gone. Add the remainder of the scallions and remove from heat, allowing the residual heat to "cook" the scallions slightly. Preheat oven to 400.

Remove the dough from the fridge to a floured surface. If your work surface is on the small side (as mine most certainly is,) cut the dough in two pieces, and work with one at a time. Dust dough ball with flour and begin rolling out until you have a large dough circle no more than 1/4 in. thick. Using a large biscuit cutter or, say, a mug from mug night at the Green Leafe, cut dough into circles. Repeat with remaining dough ball.

Place a small scoop of filling in the middle of each dough disc, keeping a 1-inch border of dough all the way around. Fold the dough over, and crimp with a fork. Line up patties on a baking sheet. Whisk together the egg wash ingredients and brush each patty. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until GBD.


And speaking of GBD (golden brown & delicious,) these apple turnovers are crazy easy thanks to the use of puff pastry.

Apple Walnut Turnovers with Cheddar Creme Anglaise

1 sheet puff pastry, cut into 8 squares (there will be a little trim if the squares are perfectly square)

3 apples, peeled, cored, and diced in 1/4 in. dice
1 c. walnuts, chopped
1/4 c. granulated sugar
1 Tbs. cornstarch
1 Tbs. cinnamon
2 tsp. nutmeg
2 tsp. coriander
1/4 c. butter

1 egg
1/2 c. milk
1 packet (or 1 Tbs.) turbinado sugar

Preheat oven to 425. Combine apples, walnuts, and dry ingredients. Place a spoonful of apple filling on each dough square, allowing a 1-inch dough border to remain. Dot each square with butter. Fold squares into triangles and crimp with a fork. Brush each triangle with eggwash and sprinkle with turbinado sugar. Bake turnovers for 20 minutes or until GBD.

Cheddar Creme Anglaise:

2 c. heavy cream
6 egg yolks
1/2 c. sugar
1 1/2 c. white cheddar cheese

Bring heavy cream to a boil. Whisk together egg yolks and sugar. Once cream has reached a boil, slowly temper it into the egg yolks. Strain and return to the stove. Slowly whisk in cheddar until totally incorporated. Season with a pinch of salt if necessary (if you use a sharper cheddar, you may not need any salt.)

Serve turnovers with a generous ladle-ful of sauce and some chopped walnuts.


Sep. 28th, 2009

Single and Starving: Potstickers and Turkey Burgers

It's been a whole month since my last post - and what a month!  One of the most notable highlights was an evening with friends, watching top chef, and gorging on Asian Turkey Burgers.  No, please, keep reading:  These turkey burgers are delicious and not, as you might have thought, gross.  I remember once my Stepmom and I declined attending a cook-out when we heard turkey burgers were being served, but these are special, delicious, Asian Turkey Burgers.

  see, gorging!

It all started...Collapse )

Aug. 28th, 2009

Bye, Bye, Tomato Pie

When I can tell that tomato season is nearing its end, when back-to-schoolers are clogging the aisles at Target, when I start seeing mittens for sale at the tanning salon (I know, weird, on so many levels,) I get a a sort of instant nostalgia for all the things the tomato means to me.

I'd have to say that the tomato is my favorite food.  I have very early memories of walking outside and grabbing a warm, dirt-speckled tomato off the vine in my Dad's garden and biting into it before I could make it back to the kitchen.  I remember once when I was about 10, I found a worm wriggling around in a pocket of tomato seeds.  I freaked out: "DAAAAAD, THERE'S A WORM IN MY TOMATO."  To which he coolly replied, "you have to learn to share sometime."  Later that same year, I received one of those posters you see in silly Italian restaurants with different kinds of tomatoes on it; I loved it, and it moved with me for years until it essentially disintigrated off the wall.

Then in high school I used to walk by the co-op at least once a day and buy a huge, gnarly tomato (at a buck a piece, which I still find outlandish,) and eat it on the way to or from not going to class.  I've always loved devouring a whole tomato - it was only recently that I started adding a pinch of salt as I bit my way through seeds and flesh; until then I enjoyed them au natural.  

This being my first summer in Richmond, I was introduced to the Tomato Pie.  As soon as I heard the term, I knew it was brilliant.  How could two such magical words combine to create anything less than...um...magical?  And it turns out I was waaay right.  My own conception of the pie before seeing the recipe was more of a tomato tart tatin, which still sounds great, but this is better:  pie crust, salty tomatoes, and a gooey, cheesy pillow of deliciousness just perfect for lodging little surprises -- like, ohh, bacon, or green onions or olives and capers.  Whatever Trevor.

For my first tomato pie, I stuck with an all veg pie, flavoring the cheesy mixture with green onions and a bit of basil.  I served the tart (all three quarters of it, to myself) with hashbrowns and some sliced cucumber.  yumtimes.


Tomato Tart

1 recipe [KB's pie crust]

1/2 c. sour cream
1/2 c. mayonaise
1/2 c. parmesean cheese
1/2 c. cheddar cheese
1/4 c. scallions
1 T. basil
approx. 6 tomatoes, depending on size (enough to slice, salt, and cover the pie crust in a single layer) + some kosher salt

Roll out and bake off a pie shell according to [standard pie procedure].

Slice tomatoes roughly a quarter inch thick.  Place them in a single layer on a clean kitchen towel (or paper towels if that's better for you) and sprinkle with kosher salt.  Allow to sit about 10 minutes.  This allows the tomatoes to render some of the water that would otherwise make your tomato pie a shloopy mess.

Combine the first 6 ingredients.  Place sliced tomatoes inside the baked off pie shell and cover with creamy goodness.  Bake for 25 to 30 minutes at 350.  Remove from oven and allow to cool on a baking rack for at least 10 minutes before slicing.

Consider eating this pie for breakfast.


Aug. 12th, 2009

Single and Starving Double Feature: Chicken Noodle Soup and Quinoa-Stuffed Tomatoes


Chicken Noodle Soup (for flu-addled Chris Bopst)

All around me, friends are coming down with the late-summer flu, a horrible mess of a flu that renders its victims useless for at least 48 hours and afterward, dehydrated and generally feeling icky.  When yet another friend and workmate came down with this nasty little bug, I decided to hop to action and throw together a quick chicken noodle soup. 

Earlier in the week, I had roasted a chicken with some thyme and garlic.  I was planning on using it for chicken salad, but when there's a call for chicken noodle soup, I answer it.  I diced up a bit of mirepoix and defrosted my frozen chicken stock, threw in some peas, a little bay leaf, egg noodles, and the aforementioned roast chicken, and voila, I had delicious, homemade soup in about a half an hour!  I must confess, though, I have a secret weapon when it comes to making a restorative, traditional chicken soup -- a ramen noodle seasoning pack.  I keep 'chicken flavor' ramen on hand at all times just in case I should, heaven forbid, come down with something.  Occasionally, I'll liberate a seasoning packet and forsake the noodles in the name of making a more savory, albeit MSG-riddled, soup.  

Quinoa-Stuffed Tomatoes

When it feels like 115 miserable degrees in my kitchen, I like to have a lot of little easy snacks I can eat out of the fridge without having to heat a single thing.  Enter the quinoa-stuffed tomatoes.  Ok, you boil water once and cook the quinoa with it; once that's done, you've got a dozen little tomato crowns staring up at you, just begging to be plucked up and eaten.

The salad is a simple mix of the tomato guts, sans some seeds and liquid, cucumber, red onion, avocado, basil, chives, red wine vinegar, and olive oil.

Whenever I say 'quinoa,' my Dad says 'keen-waaaaaaah!?'  and it gets me every time.

Keep Eating,

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