Monday, May 25, 2009


We spent a beautiful day in the park and decided to extend the day outdoors and barbeque on the roof for the first time this season. I had marinated some buffalo sirloin cubes earlier in the day so when we got home, we just soaked some bamboo skewers and arranged red pepper, tomato, pineapple chunks, and the sirloin cubes. We invited a friend over at the last minute, and she contributed some tomatillos and green peppers to the mix. We added some fresh local asparagus from the farmer's market and it was a feast.

Buffalo Roofkebabs

1 lb sirloin cubes (you can use beef, we used buffalo)
1 tbsp honey
1 tbsp tamari
1 tbsp olive oil
3 minced garlic cloves
3 tsp minced ginger
salt, pepper, drops of sriracha sauce
1 green pepper, cut into squarish pieces
1 cup cubed pineapple
1 red pepper, cut into large squarish pieces
3 tomatillos and one large red tomato, cut into chunks

Marinate the meat cubes in all of the ingredients mixed to the green pepper for the day (at least two hours). Arrange pieces of each ingredient on bamboo skewers and cook over grill until meat is seared and vegetable/fruit browned. Serve with some veggies or over rice, we served our kebabs with asparagus.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

When in doubt...

...or when creativity eludes, we opt for burgers. We always use local and/or grassfed beef or buffalo. Very little fat, and the taste is so much different (and better) than cheaper burgers. A pound of ground sirloin is around $6, and you get at least four meals of out it (you figure, 1/4 pound burgers, plus we add in a lot of stuff). The mixture is always a little different, but in general, this is how we make it. We had mini-burgers with broccoli, mushrooms, and green peppers on the side.

Simple Grass-Fed Burgers

1 lb ground sirloin
1 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, diced
splash of soy sauce or tamari
squeeze of barbeque sauce
splash of steak sauce
squeeze of sriracha sauce
chopped green pepper
chopped mushrooms
breadcrumbs (optional)
salt, pepper, paprika

Form into burger-sized patties, cook in olive oil in a cast iron skillet. Serve with veggies and splashes of hot sauce (chipotle and green tobasco sauce pictured here).

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Frozen Salmon Dilemma

We read an article recently about the dangers and disadvantages of farmed fish; afterward, we vowed to only eat wild-caught fish. Unfortunately, wild fish are expensive, and there's still the problem with overfishing.... What to do if you love fish? I'm not sure. I guess all things in moderation. I was at Trader Joe's a few weeks ago and saw Wild Alaskan Salmon on sale. I called D and asked if I should pick a few packages up, and I think he was distracted and work and said: "why not?" Well, frozen fish is simply just not something he does, having worked at a fish restaurant in the past, so he was not pleased with the purchase when he saw it: there was freezer burn, the color wasn't right, the texture wasn't right.... Back into the freezer went those fish, and I spent some time thinking about what to do with them. I ate one piece when he was out of town (it tasted fine to me), but then found this recipe from Eating Well (Winter 2004). I modified it a little bit, and the results were delicious.

Salmon Cakes with Creamy Yogurt-Dill Sauce

1 lb salmon
1 medium onion, finely chopped
3 minced garlic cloves
1.4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2 tbsp teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 cup fresh whole-wheat or unseasoned breadcrumbs
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
olive oil
Creamy Dill Sauce (recipe follows)
1 lemon, cut into wedges

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and spread or spray a light coating of olive oil on a baking sheet. Set aside. Heat olive oil in a cast iron frying pan and saute the onions and garlic until the begin to brown. Remove them from the heat. Flake the salmon into small pieces with a fork. Mix in parsley, mustard, egg, and pepper. When the onions have cooled a bit, mix those in and add the breadcrumbs. Shape the mixture into 8 equally-sized patties. Heat some more olive oil in the pan over medium heat. Add 4 patties and cook until the undersides are golden, 2 to 3 minutes. Using a wide spatula, turn them over onto the prepared baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining patties. Bake the salmon cakes until golden on top and heated through, 15 to 20 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare Creamy Dill Sauce. Serve salmon cakes with sauce and lemon wedges. We served ours on a bed of wilted baby spinach, pan-fried tomatoes, and a half an ear of corn.

Creamy Yogurt-Dill Sauce

1 cup yogurt
2 tbsp mayonnaise (optional)
3 diced garlic cloves
3 tbsp chopped fresh dill
season with salt and pepper

Mix together, chill, and serve over salmon cakes.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Hmmm, seitan? No thanks.

D and I are flirting with the idea of a raw diet cleanse, but at the very least, cutting down on our meat consumption which has admittedly been really extravagant of late. I picked up some seitan (wheat gluten) at Fairway last week to use as a meat-substitute in my tagine. The flavor was okay, but that's because seitan really picks up the flavor of whatever you cook it in. I'm not crazy about the texture of seitan cubes, and D thinks that its too processed and doesn't fit into our ethos of cooking with whole, unadulterated foods. I suppose we could make it at home, but why? Seitan is a good protein source for those who have entirely given up meat (and apparently, a good substitute particularly for duck meat), and it's low in fat and calories, but there aren't really too many other benefits that make it worth doing this again. Check out some info on seitan here:

Here's the recipe I used, though. I made it up.

Ginger-Seitan Tagine

1 lb package of seitan
3 tbsp sliced ginger (I used matchsticks)
2 tbsp diced garlic
1 tbsp diced jalapeno
2 small onions, or one medium one (sauteed until browned)
1/2 cup garbanzo beans/chick peas
1/2 cup diced tomato
1/4 cup currants
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tbsp honey
1 cup vegetable broth
squeeze of lime juice
salt, pepper, paprika

Even though the seitan is pre-cooked, I decided to marinate it anyway in the olive oil, honey, lime juice, salt, pepper, paprika, ginger, garlic and jalapeno. It sat in that mix for a few hours, and then about an hour and a half before dinner, I combined the entire mix with the browned onion, chick peas, tomato, currants, and vegetable broth and placed in the base of the tagine. 400 degrees, an hour and a half later = yummy tagine. I served it over couscous cooked with parsley and scallion, seasoned with only salt and pepper.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Spicy Tofu with Mushrooms and Spinach

We've been eating a lot less meat lately, and the tofu from the Korean place a block away is terrific: $1.50 for about 16 ounces of firm, white tofu. I don't know how they do it, but I like it. It's not overpackaged and it always seems fresh. This dish has become a staple because its so easy to prepare the night before and cook up quickly after a long day. I've been using spinach and mushrooms from the farmer's market.

Spicy Tofu with Mushrooms and Spinach

12 ounces firm tofu
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
8 ounces fresh mushrooms, chopped
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon ginger, peeled and chopped
1 tablespoon garlic, chopped
6 ounces baby spinach, chopped

Slice the tofu into squares that are about 1/2 inch thick. Place the blocks of tofu in a clean kitchen towel and press down gently to try and soak up as much water as possible without breaking the tofu. Cut into 1/2 inch cubes. Whisk together the soy sauce, vinegar, honey, cornstarch, sesame oil, and crushed red pepper. Add the tofu, and gently combine. Cover and place in the fridge overnight. You can marinate for as little as an hour, or as long as 48 hours (I've never kept something marinating for longer than that, but you might try it). When you're ready to cook, take the tofu out and drain, reserving the leftover marinade in a separate blow. Set a wok or large iron skillet over high heat. Pour the 2 tablespoons of the oil in pan and heat until smoking hot. Add the tofu, stirring gently and occasionally until the tofu is browned, about 2 minutes. Remove the tofu and place in a separate bowl. Pour in the rest of the oil, and then add the mushrooms, ginger, and garlic. Stir and cook for about a minute. Add the spinach and the marinade. Cook until the spinach has wilted, and then add the tofu back in. I serve this over soba noodles, brown rice, or if I'm feeling decadent, jasmine rice. Sometimes we even eat it all by itself. This recipe makes enough for two dinners and two lunches for the next day.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Venison Virgin

There's something about looking an animal in the eye before taking its life for food that really appeals to me. Michael Pollan wrote about a meal that he cooked for a group of friends that entailed not only foraging for wild mushrooms, but also stalking and killing a wild boar. What a terrific essay. Pollan explored the conflicting feelings he had as a hunter of excitement, disgust, guilt, and satisfaction. I'm pretty sure the essay was included in his larger work, The Omnivore's Dilemma, but it also appeared in the New York Times ( I don't know if I'll ever be a hunter, but D has a friend who is, and this friend hunts deer with a bow and arrow for meat that lasts him through the year. He generously gave us a pound of venison tender loin. Neither D nor I have ever had venison before, so we decided to prepare it as a tagine with north African spices. I rooted around on the internet and adapted this recipe from the a website in the UK: Seriously Good Venison:

Venison Tagine with Apricots

1 lb cubed venison
1 large onion, chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp ground ginger
1 teasp turmeric
½ tsp ground coriander seed
½ tsp cinnamon
a few threads of saffron
½ tsp ground black pepper
1 bell pepper, de-seeded & cut into chunks
½ head of garlic cloves, peeled & halved
12 dried apricots--the French ones are better than the Turkish ones for this dish
Few slices of chopped salted lime
Handful of fresh cilantro, chopped
1 cup whole wheat couscous
1 tbsp oil
2 cups vegetable stock
1 1/4 cup water

Heat the oil an a pan and toss the onion, garlic and meat in it till a little brown. Add the spices and fry them too for a minute. Add the bell pepper. Place the meat, onion, and vegetable mixture into the base of a tagine and add apricots, cut in half. Cover with 1 cup of vegetable stock, and pop in the oven at 400 degrees. Let stew for about an hour. Add preserved lime slices 20 minutes before serving. To cook the couscous, stir olive oil into one cup of couscous in a medium bowl and season with salt and pepper. Boil 1 1/4 cup of water and pour over the couscous. Cover and let stand for 15 minutes, or until the couscous has absorbed all of the water. Stir in fresh cilantro and fluff with a fork. Spoon the tagine over the couscous and enjoy!

Saturday, May 2, 2009

From leftover chicken to spicy Asian-style soup

We had friends over for dinner one night and cooked a whole chicken that had been marinated in lemon and parsley. There was quite a bit of meat left on the bird when we were through (four hearty meals and two lunches later: $12, organic, free-range, definitely worth it), and I didn't want to waste the tastiness of the marinade, so I threw the chicken in a pot and boiled it into stock with leftover meat. I didn't want to make the same old chicken soup, so I scrounged around online for something different. I had almost all of the ingredients on hand, but had never made anything like it before. I love anything with peanut butter, but add these flavors and I'm in heaven. Our friend from South Africa brought back a red pepper paste: Hot & Sweet Mazavaroo. I want to use it, but I rarely find the right occasion. The mazavaroo worked quite well in this soup as a substitute for chopped red chili pepper.

Malaysian Lemon Peanut Chicken Soup

1 3 lb chicken (you can use leftover carcass)
1/2 tsp turmeric
2 tbsp red pepper chili paste (or if you have mazavaroo on hand...)
2 cans of coconut milk
2 chopped carrots
1/2 cup chopped mushrooms
1 diced red pepper
1/2 cup sliced cabbage
3 tbsp ginger, in slivers
2 tbsp chopped garlic
2 cups of water
2 tbsp lemon juice
4 tbsp peanut butter
3 scallions; sliced
1 tbsp fresh coriander/cilantro; chopped
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Make stock out of a leftover chicken carcass: this is always going to make better soup than cubed or canned stock. Sautee ginger, garlic, red pepper, mushrooms, carrots, and cabbage in olive oil sprinkled with turmeric. Add the tender, spiced vegetables to the chicken stock, along with the lemon juice, peanut butter, and coconut milk. Add red pepper chili paste, mazavaroo, or any other type of spicy seasoning to your liking--remember, it will get hotter as it cooks and sets. When the soup has simmered for at least 40 minutes, you can serve hot with scallions and fresh cilantro. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Creamy Turkish Treat

A friend in London brought a lovely semolina pudding-type dish to the bar mitzvah a few weeks ago. He's the only one who brought homemade food, so of course I was charmed. But it was also super delicious. He hasn't yet shared the recipe with me, but I found this one online, and made it soon after my return. His dish was Turkish, but semolina-type desserts are common in many areas of the world. Apparently, its a favorite among Hare Krishnas. That's cool.

Suji Halva

2 3/4 cups water
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon saffron strands, soaked in 1 tablespoon boiling hot milk
140 g unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups semolina
1/3 cup sliced almonds
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/3 cup currants

Combine the water, sugar and the soaked saffron in a saucepan. Place over moderate heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to very low and cover with a tight-fitting lid. Melt the butter in another saucepan over low heat, stirring occasionally. Add the semolina, and slowly and rhythmically. Stir-fry the grains for about 20 minutes, or until they darken to a tan colour and become aromatic. Add the flaked almonds to the grains towards the end of the toasting process. Raise the heat under the syrup, add the cardamom and the raisins and bring it to a rolling boil. Raise the heat under the semolina for 1 minute, stirring continuously. Remove the saucepan of semolina from the heat, and slowly pour the hot syrup into the semolina, stirring steadily. The grains may at first splutter, but will quickly cease as the liquid is absorbed.

Return the halava to the stove and stir steadily over very low heat until the grains fully absorb the liquid, start to form into a pudding-like consistency, and pull away from the sides of the pan. Place a tight-fitting lid on the saucepan and cook over the lowest possible heat for 5 minutes. Removed the covered saucepan from the heat and allow the halava to steam for an additional 5 minutes. Serve hot.

I served ours with a bowl of labne, which complemented the custard well.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Sustainably harvested fish & chips

Visiting the local chipper is one of my top three favorite things to do when I'm in London. My friends recently moved to a new area, so there was a new chipper to try: The Sea Cow. The old chipper was wonderful: a dingy little place where the fish was dripping with grease and they still wrapped everything in newspaper. I kind of missed it, and in fact, after visiting Sea Cow, one of my friends made a vow with me to seek out a new, dingy chipper for my next visit.

The Sea Cow fit in nicely with my local and sustainably produced food agenda; the ambiance and the tastiness of the food made the trip perfect. Unfortunately, I didn't snatch a "guide to the fish" sheet that was available with the menu, but the menu itself states: "All of our fish is sourced and delivered daily from the coast or Billingsgate Fish Market. We try and take advantage of the seasonality so our menu may change from time to time."

M and I chose the locally-harvested cod and chips--the most traditional of the fish and chips selections. P's mum ordered the Plaice and chips, and P ordered the grilled organic salmon. Everything was delicious. They had a good wine selection (with suggestions about how to pair the wine with the fish) as well. This place is a winner. I would definitely return.

A Welcoming Mezze

Advice for people hosting overseas houseguests: the best way to welcome a travel-weary visitor is with a mezze plate like this one. I recently took an overnight flight to London, and when I arrived late-morning, my friend put this dish in front of me. Delicious whole-grain pita, grape leaves, grain salad, roasted peppers, and the best homemade babaganoush I've ever tasted. Mmmmm. Mezze is such an awesome concept: so many different cultures enjoy some version of the mezze, and there are so many different kinds of dishes that you can include: olives, yoghurt, roasted cauliflower.... (see: Mezze is served as an appetizer to share at some restaurants.

The baba I had could be made with the following recipe:

Garlic-Dill Babaganoush

1 eggplant
1 red bell pepper
2 cloves garlic
handful of dill
3 tbsp non-fat plain yoghurt
2 tbsp tahini (optional--makes it thicker)
olive oil
lemon juice
salt and pepper

Roast the eggplant and garlic until mushy. Dice red bell pepper. Mix together with the fresh chopped dill, 1 tbsp (or so) of olive oil, yoghurt, a few squeezes of lemon juice, and season with salt and pepper. Simple. Elegant. Healthy.