Sunday, November 23, 2014

Baked Sweet Potatoes with Marinated Feta and Black Olives

Walk into any grocery store this time of year and you'll be greeted with larger than life displays of sweet potatoes. You know what I'm talking about. A huge table with hundreds of sweet potatoes rocketing out of buckets, baskets, and/or barrels.  This avalanche of sweet potatoes explodes downward onto the table towards all the typical sweet potato accompaniments (brown sugar, marshmallows, marshmallow fluff, pecans, and jars of cinnamon).  Now I won't argue that these ingredients aren't delicious on a sweet potato but I will argue that sweet potatoes can be so much more than sweet. They can be just as wonderful served savory.

So now that we're thinking outside the box, let's bake our sweet potatoes and top them with some savory Mediterranean inspired ingredients.  Tangy crumbles of feta cheese mixed with a combination of rich salty olives and a spicy red chile marinating in a mixture of extra virgin olive oil, garlic, and fennel and coriander seeds.  It's one colorful combination that delivers a unique flavor sensation.  The sweetness of the potato is a nice contrast to the bright flavor of the salty olives, the tangy feta cheese, and the hint of spice from the red hot chile.  It's a complex dish that delivers sweet, salty, savory, and spicy. Save the brown sugar and marshmallows for dessert.  Trust me.


Baked Sweet Potatoes with Marinated Feta and Black Olives
Adapted from Crazy Water Pickled Lemons
By Diana Henry
Serves 4

For The Sweet Potatoes
4 medium sweet potatoes
a little olive oil
black pepper
handful of cilantro, roughly chopped

For the Marinated Feta
7 ounces of feta cheese, roughly broken up
4 ounces of kalamata olives
1/2 tablespoon fennel seeds
1 medium red hot chili, deseded and cut into slivers
1 garlic clove, crushed
2 teaspoon coriander seeds, crushed
extra virgin olive oil

Make the marinated feta mixture first so the flavors have time to meld.  Combine the feta, olives, fennel seeds, chili, garlic, coriander seeds in a small bowl.  Drizzle feta mixture with enough extra virgin olive oil to moisten it.  Cover and store this mixture in a cool place while the potatoes bake to allow the flavors to meld.

Bake the sweet potatoes in their skins in an oven preheated to 350F.  They should be just tender, which will take about 50 minutes, but do check with a skewer - it really depends upon the size of your potatoes.

When the potatoes are cooked, split them open lengthwise, like you would a baked potato.  Sprinkle with a little oil and freshly ground black pepper, and fill with the marinated feta.  Sprinkle each potato with roughly chopped cilantro and serve.

Theme: Sweet Cloves and Liquid Gold

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Chickpea Saute with Creamy Harissa Sauce

This week we introduced a brand new theme at I Heart Cooking Clubs.  Mystery Box Madness will be a new theme that runs each month.  During Mystery Box Madness week, participants will create a dish using at least three of the ten mystery box ingredients.  This week's ingredients were harissa, eggs, saffron, pumpkin, maple syrup, dates, rose water, oranges, spinach, and chickpeas.  Participants can also chose a recipe from any of our eleven IHCC chefs.  

Now that I've explained the mystery box portion it's time to talk about the madness.  Decision making is not my strong suit. In fact, I'm quite sure anyone is better at decision making than me.  So when I think about ten possible ingredients and the recipes of eleven chefs... well, it's almost as if my mind is afire with possibilities.  Which three ingredients will I chose? How many different ways can I combine them? Who should I cook with? Can I use more than three ingredients? What if I tried to use all the ingredients and make a three course meal? Madness.  Sheer Madness.

Finally I ran out of time and had to come up with something and here it is.  The ingredients reminded me of the six months we spent cooking with Yotam Ottolenghi so I picked up one of his cookbooks.  When I saw his recipe for Chickpea Saute with Greek Yogurt I was sold.  A quick mixture of chickpeas, carrots, spinach, herbs, and warm spices topped with a cool tangy yogurt.  The recipe did not include harissa, but I decided to add it into both the veggie mixture and also into the yogurt topping.  I also added a sliced hard-boiled egg on top for some additional color and protein.

So here I am squeaking in at the last minute with this hearty vegetarian main dish.  This dish is very comforting and satisfying without weighing you down.  Very much like a lightly spiced veggie chili topped off by a very zesty and creamy harissa sauce.  I'm looking forward to the leftovers already! 

Chickpea Saute with Harissa Sauce
Adapted from Plenty
by Yotam Ottolenghi
Serves 4

3/4 pound (8 cups) Swiss Chard, Kale or Spinach
1/3 cup olive oil, plus extra to finish
4 medium carrots, peeled and diced
1 teaspoon caraway seeds
2 teaspoons cumin
1-1/2 cups freshly cooked chickpeas 
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 tablespoon chopped mint
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
2 tablespoons harissa
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 cup Greek Yogurt
2 tablespoons harissa
1 tablespoon olive oil
hard-boiled egg, for garnish

Separate the chard, or kale, stalks from the leaves.  Blanch the stalks in plenty of boiling salted water for 3 minutes. Add the leaves and continue cooking for 2 minutes, then drain everything.  Refresh under cold running water and squeeze dry, then chop roughly.  (If using spinach no precooking is necessary.  Roughly chop the spinach and it can be added directly to the pan with the chickpeas).

Heat up the olive oil in a large heavy saucepan.  Add the carrots, caraway seeds, and cumin and saute for 5 minutes on medium heat.  Add the chard, kale, or spinach along with the chickpeas and continue cooking for 6 minutes.  Now add the garlic, herbs, lemon juice, 2 tablespoons of harissa.  Add salt and pepper to taste and stir to incorporate.  Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.

To serve, mix together the yogurt, the additional 2 tablespoons of harissa, 1 tablespoon olive oil and some salt and pepper.  Pile the vegetables on serving dishes and spoon the harissa/yogurt sauce on top.  Garnish with slices of hard boiled egg, if desired.

Theme: Mystery Box Madness







Sunday, November 9, 2014

Mangoes with Orange Blossom Syrup and Sweet Labneh

 
Some people are organized. They write weekly menus, always remember their appointments, and plan everything.  Then there are those of us who fly by the seat of their pants.  No organization whatsoever.  That would be me. 

So it should come as no surprise that I didn't plan for this recipe.  Labneh, a firm white cloud of strained Greek yogurt, is a beautiful thing, but it takes 24 hours to make.  You have to actually plan for it.  I have high hopes that one day I'll get my act together and make labneh in advance.  Until then, I will continue to use Greek yogurt as a replacement.  It certainly works in a pinch!

This is really a beautiful and somewhat exotic dessert.  Ripe juicy mango served with a side of creamy sweetened Greek yogurt, a heavenly syrup scented with orange flower water, and a sprinkling of crushed pistachios.  The sweet orange fragrance, the juicy mangoes, and the sticky syrup all make this dessert a little on the seductive side.  It's the type of thing that keeps you begging for more.
Mangoes with Orange Blossom Syrup and Sweet Labneh
Adapted from Crazy Water Pickled Lemons
by Diana Henry
Serves 4

3 just ripe mangoes
finely chopped pistachios for serving

For The Labneh
1-1/2 tablespoons confectioner's sugar
a pinch of ground cinnamon
10oz Greek yogurt

For The Syrup
6 tablespoons orange blossom honey
3 tablespoons orange juice
a good squeeze of lime juice
1-1/2 tablespoons orange flower water

 To make the labneh:  Add the sugar and cinnamon to the yogurt, put into a sieve lined with cheesecloth, and set it over a bowl in the fridge.  Let the yogurt drain for 24 hours, giving it a little help every so often by picking up the bag and squeezing it.

To make the syrup:  Gently heat the honey, orange, and lime juices together in a small saucepan.  Once the honey has melted, boil for 1 minute.  Add the orange flower water and taste.  Leave to cool.

Peel the mangoes and, using a really sharp knife, neatly slice the cheeks from each side of the stone.  Working along the shape of the stone, slice the flesh off the sides.  Cut the mango flesh into neat slices, about 1/8-1/4 inch thick, and pile them on top of each other on different plates.

Peel the cheesecloth from around the labneh, then divide it into quarters.  It isn't important, but the cheesecloth leaves such beautiful markings on the labneh that it's nice not to spoil it.  Put a chunk of labneh beside each plate of mangoes, spoon the syrup over the top, and scatter with pistachios.  
 
Theme: Stock Your Exotic Pantry

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Farareej Mashri {Eqyptian Grilled Chicken}


Sometimes it's the name of the recipe that catches your attention.  Farareej Mashri, or Egyptian Grilled Chicken, is definitely catchy.  One quick look at the list of ingredients and I was sold!  Boneless chicken thighs marinated in twelve cloves of minced garlic, olive oil, and lemon juice...now that's a recipe for success. 

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Sausage Balls in Mustard Sauce

Flavorful sausage balls swimming in a creamy sauce that hints of mustard.  Top it all with a scattering of chopped chives and you'll want to grab a skewer and shove one in your mouth quicker than you can say delicious.

I served these sausage balls in a heated cast iron serving dish as an appetizer.  I've also served them over egg noodles as a main course.  I can't decide which I like better.  It's hard to beat a meatball as an appetizer and anything over pasta is always a hit so either way is a win as far as I'm concerned.


Sausage Balls in Mustard Sauce
by Nigel Slater
Serves 4

The recipe
Remove the skins from 1 pound of really good-quality butcher's sausages. Roll the sausage meat into about 24 balls, slightly smaller than a golf ball. Warm a nonstick frying pan over a moderate heat and cook the balls until they color, turn them over and continue cooking until they are evenly browned. Tip away any excess fat and pour in 2 cups of beef stock. Bring to the boil, allow to reduce a little then pour in one cup of double cream and stir in a tablespoon of Dijon mustard. Season with salt and pepper and continue cooking for 15-20 minutes. Remove the balls to warm dishes, turn the heat up under the sauce – there will be lots of it – and let it reduce a little. It will not thicken. Pour the sauce over the meat balls and serve with a fork and a spoon for the sauce. A few snipped chives can be added if you wish.
The Trick
Get a good sausage. Perhaps something with plenty of parsley and pepper in it. To peel them, slit the skin from one end to the other with a knife, pull the skin apart and squeeze the filling out into a bowl. Beef up the seasoning a bit if you like, with some chopped thyme, crushed garlic, black pepper or grated parmesan. Use a good-quality stock.

The Twist  
Add chopped dill to the meatballs and sauce. Use crème fraîche instead of cream. For a less-rich dish, leave out the cream. For a milder version use chicken stock instead of beef. Serve with wide ribbon noodles, such as pappardelle. Instead of using shop-bought sausage meat, season plain sausage meat as you wish. Try juniper, thyme, garlic, cumin or ground cardamom.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Leche Merengada

 Leche Merengada actually means "meringued milk" and that's actually all it is.  An icy cold treat that is an easy blend of egg whites, milk, and cream. In this recipe for Leche Merengada a cinnamon stick is added to provide a lovely hint of cinnamon flavor.  The addition of cinnamon makes this ice cream the perfect pairing for just about any fall dessert, such as apple pie.  Best of all, this is a simple mixture of ingredients.  You do not need to fuss with making a custard.  You don't even need to own an ice cream machine.  Simple and fuss-free.  Just the way I like it.
Leche Merengada
Adapted from Crazy Water Pickled Lemons
by Diana Henry
Serves 8

2 cups milk
5/8 cup heavy cream
5-1/2 oz. sugar
zest of one lemon
1 cinnamon stick
1 tablespoon brandy
3 egg whites
ground cinnamon, for serving

Put the milk, cream, 3-1/2oz of the sugar, the lemon zest, and cinnamon stick into a saucepan.  Bring to just under the boil.  Remove from the heat and let the mixture infuse for about 40 minutes.  Strain the mixture through a sieve and add the brandy.

Whisk the egg whites with the remaining sugar until stiff.  (Note: I had quite a bit of trouble getting my egg white and sugar mixture to become stiff.  I added a dash or two of cream of tartar and this seemed to do the trick). Fold this into the cream and milk mixture - it will seem impossible to incorporate, but don't worry; it will all get beaten together during the freezing process.  Either still-freeze, beating the mixture from time to time with a hand whisk, or churn in an ice cream machine.  Sprinkle with cinnamon before serving.
Theme: Icy Cold

Sunday, October 5, 2014

A Nigel Slater Favorites Roundup


Over at I Heart Cooking Clubs  we have been cooking and celebrating the recipes of Nigel Slater for the past six months.  This is our very last week cooking with Nigel and I always like to end my six month run with a favorites roundup.

I can honestly say spending time in the kitchen with Nigel was a very pleasant adventure.  His recipes were simple, no-fuss, and very family friendly.  Everything we tried was delicious.  However, I ran across a few favorites that I have turned to again and again.  These were the recipes that were repeated in my kitchen over and over and have since become favorites.

 (click on recipe title for link to recipes)


Nigel's Roast Chicken Wings are so unbelievably delicious.  After spending some time in the oven the chicken wings become very crispy, sticky, and coated with flavor.  I actually prefer these wings to the deep fried version.  We have made these wings several times now and each time we change the flavor profile a little. We've tried them plain with salt and pepper, lemon and pepper, with a buffalo dry rub, and with Lawry's seasoning.  Delicious each and every time.



Nigel's Brown Rice, Carrot and Cashew Pilau looks like a really simple dish.  At first glance it might not really get your attention.  I'm here to tell you that it is an incredible rice dish!  I love the chewy texture of the brown rice, the sweetness of the carrots, and the crunch from the cashews.  I've made this rice dish nearly every week since.  It can be served as a side dish, but with a little broccoli or shredded chicken mixed in it is substantial enough for a main dish.


My daughter, who is a total pasta fanatic, loves Fettucine Alfredo.  Lucky for her this is a good thing because she actually needs to gain weight.  I've made different versions of Fettucine Alfredo in the past and they can be tricky and never really seem to turn out well.  This version of Fettucine Alfredo is the easiest I've tried and it's also the best I've tried.  Major Score!  Five simple ingredients and you are all set for an indulgent and comforting pasta dish.  Odds are you have everything you need to make this on hand.  I highly recommend this dish!




Stuffed peppers are a real favorite in my house so I may be a bit biased when it comes to them.  Saying that, these Peppers Stuffed with Pork were some of our favorite stuffed peppers ever!  Of course, I should take this time to say that pork is probably our meat of choice so again there may be a bit of bias going on.  These were so addictive and hard to stop eating. They went quickly.  Too quickly.



I'm ending my roundup with these Chicken Cakes with Lettuce and Mayo.  There's shredded chicken, bacon, and cheese and it's fried in bacon fat.  Enough said, right?  Pretty much speaks for itself.

Theme: Cheerio Nigel!
Next week we will begin cooking the recipes of Diana Henry.  Diana Henry has written seven cookbooks and writes a column for The Telegraph.  She has a plethora of recipes to chose from and it is going to be a very fun six months.  If you'd like information on joining us, head over to the I Heart Cooking Clubs Welcome page.