Posted in Book Recipes, Dairy, Food, Grains, Mushrooms, tagged Barbara Massaad, Barley, Lebanese Food, Vegetarian, Yotam Ottolenghi on July 23, 2012 |
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This delicious vegetarian dish comes from Yotam Ottolenghi’s book Plenty. The chef is much better known in the UK where he runs a chain of “deli” shops that serve a huge variety of creative dishes, both vegetarian and non-vegetarian. He also has a weekly column in the Guardian newspaper. The website has a lot of his recipes and the book is actually a collection of these recipes. Plenty has quickly become one of my favorite books for recipes and inspiration. All recipes are vegetarian, very creative and full of Mediterranean (mostly) and exotic flavors.
This dish combines a rich stew of barley and mushrooms with quick flatbreads made with yogurt. The dish is topped with Greek yogurt and -my addition- sour plum paste. The barley mushroom stew is done by separately cooking the barley in plenty of water until tender but still a little chewy. Then I cooked a bunch of fresh mushrooms (brown, white button) with a handful of soaked porcini mushrooms and their soaking water. To that we add thyme and white wine and let the whole mixture cook and meld. Then the barley is tossed in along with chopped parsley, lemon zest and lemon juice.
The flat breads are done from start to finish in about an hour. The dough is a quick bread, meaning it is not a proofed bread dough with yeast. Instead it uses a chemical leavening agent, specifically baking powder. The dough consists of whole wheat and white flour and is flavored with a little chopped cilantro. After leaving it to “rest” for 30-40 minutes, I divided it up into 6 pieces and rolled them into rough circles. I cooked those on my cast iron griddle using a little clarified butter.
After plating the bread and the barley-mushroom stew I topped it with a heaping spoon of Greek yogurt and that aforementioned plum paste. The paste is such a unique and delicious condiment from Barbara Massaad’s book about Lebanese traditional Mouneh. I bought her book when I was in Lebanon a month ago and it is really an amazing piece of work filled with Lebanese pantry items, preserves, pickles, fermented and dried items. It’s the type of regional food that all grandmothers used to put up for winter and some still do. It’s great that Barbara went through the painstaking trouble of recording these procedures and recipes. This is the first recipe I’ve tried from it just because it looked interesting and new to me and because there are a bunch of plums in the market now. It’s really the equivalent of tomato paste but made with plums that are cooked down with nothing more than salt. The taste is tart, fruity and deep. It was great on top of this dish and I’m sure it will add an excellent dimension to meat stews and vegetable dishes.
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Posted in Book Recipes, Eggs, Food, Grains, Green Vegetables, Pastry, tagged Michel Richard, Pickled Mustard Seeds, Preserved Lemon, Summer Dish, Vegetarian, Yellow Tomatoes on August 28, 2011 |
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A while back I was making a chicken stew that included saffron, a Tagine really. The saffron needed to soak and flavor a portion of chicken stock that I had put in a white bowl. The color was so pretty with the deep rich yellow of the saffron threads slowly diffusing and swirling into the clear liquid. I decided then to make a plate of yellow food. Usually I go for the opposite and try to get a contrast of colors on a dish. This time yellow it will be and if it works out I might try my hand at different colors. I’m thinking blue might never make the cut though. As opposed to the many wonderful yellow foods, you just don’t see a ton of blue edibles. Anyways, yellow worked out perfectly.
I started by making a list of whatever yellow foods I could think of and started thinking of combinations that could work. Pretty soon I was sure that yellow tomatoes would be the centerpiece. Since saffron was what got me thinking about this whole theme, that was certainly going to be included. Corn was also a no brainer and to garnish it all I was using the virtual egg I made recently.
The tomato tart, like the virtual egg, is another recipe from Happy in the Kitchen, by Michel Richard. I did not follow the instructions exactly. My main deviation was to cook the tomato custard and the crust separately. I did that mainly to keep the crust crunchy and fresh, since the tomato filling might make the tart crust soggy if it was baked some time in advance. I made the filling from pureed yellow tomatoes and eggs with a few seasonings. The taste is pretty much pure tomato. I cooked the custard in a small loaf pan lined with plastic wrap to make it easier to remove later on. The crust is a straight forward 3-2-1 pie dough with the addition of yellow corn meal for part of the flour. I rolled it and baked it between two baking sheets. At service time, both the crust and the fragile tomato filling were layered, cut to shape and plated.
The corn was quickly cooked with butter and thyme. The combination of corn, butter and thyme works amazingly well, even in corn bread. Lemon also was part of the dish. I made a quick preserved lemon sauce of sorts. The sauce was quick, not the preserved lemon. These guys had been curing in the freezer for a few months. Curing in the freezer might sound odd, but with the amount of salt (and a bit of sugar) used, the lemons never freeze and they remain a brilliant yellow color. The recipe for the preserved lemons is from the Alinea cookbook. To make the thick sauce, I just pureed some of the lemon quarters with a touch of water and put it in a squeeze bottle.
I incorporated the saffron into a classic beurre blanc. Maybe in this case it’s a beurre jaune? The process is classic and involved simmering some shallots in wine and/or vinegar. In this case the white wine had a good pinch of saffron steeped in it. When the wine, white wine and shallots mixture was reduced to a glaze, I whisked in several generous knobs of butter. The sauce was seasoned and strained and was ready for plating. I garnished the plate with charred yellow tomatoes (I used a blowtorch…), inner leaves of celery, the virtual egg, saffron threads and a sprinkle of black lava salt for some crunch and a color accent. The garnish that looks like caviar is actually mustard. Pickled mustard seeds to be exact, from a recipe by David Chang. I’ve never had those before, but they are very nice. They have a soft but firm texture and the cooking/pickling dissipated their harsh bite leaving just a hint of bitterness and a mild mustard taste. Not to toot my own horn too much, but Yellow was pretty darn amazing. The dish looked beautiful and the flavors worked perfectly. There was just enough acidity, creaminess and crunch to make the dish a success.
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Posted in Book Recipes, Dairy, Food, Green Vegetables, tagged Egg Shapes, Gelatin, Michel Richard, Mozzarella, Vegetarian, Yellow Tomaotes on August 21, 2011 |
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Of course it’s a gimmick, but it is so cool. It’s also great to see the look on your guests face when they bite into one of these expecting a good old egg and then doing a double take. Their brain is telling them that this is an egg but the signals they are getting from their taste buds are totally wrong. It really is fun. Making one food that so looks like another has been done for centuries. Supposedly the British monarchs were very fond of “meat fruit” where meat, usually forcemeat or liver parfait, is formed and made to look like fruit (cherries, mandarins…). These “meat fruits” are a main feature in Heston Blumenthal’s new restaurant, Dinner. Click here to see a nice blog post about one of the recipes. As for the Virtual Egg in this post, well I made several of them to use in a dish that I will post about shortly.
First and foremost, I knew that the flavors and colors would work great with my dish and this particular recipe has been on my to-do list for a long time. Since I got Michel Richard’s “Happy in The Kitchen” years ago, the Virtual Egg that he uses to garnish a tuna dish caught my eye. Partly due to laziness, and partly because I did not want to buy egg-shaped molds I never got around to it, until Easter came around this year. That’s when I noticed that the eggs my kids got where perfect for the job. They are cut vertically as opposed to the cheap ones that are sliced through the equator. So, I confiscated them (I still let them eat most of the candy), washed them well and added them to my collection of molds.
To make the egg yolks, I used yellow tomatoes. The tomatoes are peeled, seeded and cooked down with some cream. They are then pureed and seasoned with salt and a small amount of mustard. Gelatin is added to them and they are allowed to set in hemispheric ice molds in the freezer. These can then be unmolded and stored until ready to be used. The white is made from fresh mozzarella cheese, milk and gelatin. This mixture gets poured into the egg shaped mold and a “yolk” is placed in the center. Since my makeshift egg molds are not designed to lay evenly on their side, I put them in a pan filled with dried beans to keep them straight. The whole thing gets to set in the freezer until fully solid. I then unmolded the eggs and stored them in FoodSaver bags. One downside to using these “molds” is that if you look carefully you can see the circle indent that’s on the inside of the molds imprinted on the eggs. Once quartered and served properly it does not matter though. Since I had more than I needed for my dish, we ate a few plain and some served on top of a simple salad. The taste is delicious and familiar, but in a very unexpected form.
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