Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Falafel

I'm a big fan of Middle Eastern and Mediterranean foods. I love the fresh veggies, tangy yogurt, big pinches of hot dried peppers and bright, sunny citrus juice that come together in dishes like hummus and lahmacun.

One of my close friends finally took the hint after I constantly ranted about food from the other side of the world and bought me Jerusalem: A Cookbook. After making a few dishes out of it, I'm certain it would be the one thing I would save if my house were on fire. I highly recommend it.

Earlier this week, I made falafel and I just had to share the recipe. It was so good! I served mine on flat bread with a chopped salad of tomatoes and cucumbers and a yogurt sauce similar to tzatziki.

Like a lot of Israeli food, there is a fair amount of "wait time" in this recipe. You have to soak the chick peas overnight and then you have to let the falafel mixture rest for an hour until you use it. I recommend starting it one or two days before you're going to make it. I soaked the beans on a Saturday night, whipped up the falafel mixture on Sunday and then cooked them on Monday. It took just 20-30 minutes to prepare on serving night since I had done all the heavy lifting beforehand.

FALAFEL
From Jerusalem: A Cookbook

Serves: 3-4
Preparation: 40 minutes hands-on time, plus 8-9 hours wait time

1 1/4 c. dried chickpeas
1/2 medium onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 Tbsp. parsley, chopped
2 Tbsp. cilantro, chopped
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. ground coriander
1/4 ts. ground cardamom
1/2 tsp. baking powder
3 Tbsp. water
1 1/2 Tbsp. flour
vegetable oil, for frying
1 tsp. sesame seeds
salt

1. Cover the chickpeas with water in a large bowl and soak overnight.
2. Drain the chickpeas and stir in the onion, garlic, parsley and cilantro. In small batches, food process the mixture for about 30-40 seconds. It should be very finely chopped but not the texture of hummus.
3. Transfer to a bowl and add the spices, baking powder, flour, water and 3/4 tsp. salt. Mix well by hand. Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour.
4. Form tablespoon-sized balls from the mixture and set on a plate. Line a colander with paper towels and set on a plate.
5. Fill a medium saucepan with oil, until the oil comes 2-3 inches up the sides of the pan. Heat over medium-high heat until hot, about 5 minutes. Test the heat of the oil by frying one falafel. Drop into the oil and let fry for 2 minutes. Then, using a slotted spoon, turn the falafel over so the other side can fry. Fry for about 3 more minutes, until nice and brown on the outside.
6. Remove the falafel  from oil using the slotted spoon and set in the colander. Allow to cool before testing for doneness. The falafel should be brown and crunchy on the outside and bright green and cooked through on the inside. If so, the oil is hot enough. Fry the rest of the falafels in the same manner, frying 5-6 at a time. Drain and enjoy.




Thursday, 27 March 2014

Tempeh enchiladas

I've mentioned before that I'm experimenting with different meat substitutes. I think I found my favorite one yet! I cooked with tempeh for the first time this week, and loved it. The texture is so much better than tofu, it actually has some flavor since it's fermented. The nutritional profile isn't as great as seitan, but let's be real, my favorite sauce is made almost exclusively from butter so ... nutritional profile, shmutritional profile.

Anyways, I turned that tempeh into freaking delicious enchiladas, with inspiration from this recipe. It's a real winner. I tried it when my husband was out of town because he's not a fan of non-meat protein, but I would not hesitate to make this for him. You don't miss the meat one bit.

TEMPEH ENCHILADAS
Serves: 3-4
Preparation: 45 minutes

2 Tbsp. butter
1/4 c. white onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 package tempeh
1 Tbsp. chili powder
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/2 c. frozen corn
2 c. enchilada sauce (here's a great homemade recipe)
8 small corn tortillas
1/2 c. feta cheese
1/2 c. cheddar cheese, shredded
Salsa and guacamole, for serving




1. Preheat the oven to 350.

2. Start by preparing the corn tortillas. Heat individually in a dry frying pan over medium heat until warm, about 30 seconds per side. Cover to keep warm and set aside.
3. Heat the butter in a frying pan over medium heat until melted. Add the onion and fry until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and fry for another 2-3 minutes before adding the tempeh.
4. Saute the tempeh for 2-3 minutes before adding the spices. Mix well and add the frozen corn and 1/4 c. enchilada sauce. Cook until corn is warmed through and tempeh is done, about 8 minutes. Stir in 1 Tbsp. of each of the cheeses. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
5. To assemble the enchiladas, spoon about 1/4 c. of the tempeh mixture into each tortilla. Roll and place seam side down in an 8x8 inch pan. Cover with remaining cheese and enchilada sauce.
6. Bake until cheese is melted and bubbly, about 10-15 minutes.



Friday, 21 March 2014

Greek nachos

Oh lordy, this is a yummy recipe. I originally wanted to make Greek pizzas, but then my flat bread was stale, so I made nachos instead. You could do whatever you wanted with the main ingredients of this recipe: an open-faced sandwich, a pizza, a salad, etc.

I have this awesome seasoning from a restaurant in South Carolina where my friend's sister works. She brings us regular shipments and I need a new bottle soon; I am going through it as if it were chardonnay in a box in my fridge. You can order it online here, or use your Greek seasonings of choice.


GREEK NACHOS
Serves: 2
Preparation: 20 minutes

1 Tbsp. butter
1 lb. ground beef
1 Tbsp. Greek seasoning
2 c. tortilla chips
1/2 c. mozzarella cheese, shredded
1 c. spinach
1/2 c. feta cheese, crumbled
1 cucumber, shredded
1/2 c. cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
1/2 large red onion, minced

Sauce:
1/2 c. Greek yogurt
1/4 c. mayonnaise
1/4 c. feta cheese
4 garlic cloves


1. Preheat oven to broil.
2. Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the ground beef and break into small pieces with a spatula. Add the Greek seasoning, mix well and fry until no longer pink; about ten minutes.
3. While the beef is cooking, put the ingredients for the sauce in a food processor. Pulse until smooth; set aside.
4. Assemble the chips on two oven-safe plates in an even layer. Layer half of the mozzarella cheese, 2 Tbsp. of the sauce, half of the spinach, half of the meat and half the feta cheese on each plate of chips.
5. Place under broiler, watching carefully. Remove when the cheese is melted; about 4 minutes.
6. Top with cucumber, tomatoes and onions. Drizzle on sauce to taste.



Thursday, 20 February 2014

Spicy baked chicken

Oh, chicken. I love chicken because it has so many great attributes -- low in calories and fat, high in protein and so versatile. But it's so damn easy to overcook.

I found this recipe when I was looking to spice up some chicken breasts. I absolutely adore the finished product, but definitely overcooked the little guys, so try to avoid that.

I served this crispy, spicy, cheesy chicken with fried chunks of polenta and a side salad with a honey-lime dressing.

Apologies for the dreadful photography -- I WAS HANGRY.




SPICY BAKED CHICKEN
Serves: 2
Preparation: 30 minutes

2 chicken breasts, flattened with a mallet

Marinade:
1/2 c. Greek yogurt
2 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes

Breading:
1/4 c. panko bread crumbs
1/4 c. crushed tortilla chips
1/4 c. shredded marble jack cheese
1 Tbsp. chopped jalapeno
Salt and pepper

1. Mix the marinade ingredients in a bowl. Add the chicken breasts and coat completely. You may immediately move on to the next step or marinate chicken up to 24 hours.
2. Preheat oven to 450*. Mix the breading ingredients in a large, shallow bowl. Dip the chicken breasts in and coat completely with crumbs. Place on an ungreased baking sheet.
3. Bake until no longer pink in the middle, 15-20 minutes.

Sunday, 2 February 2014

Sweet and sour chicken

I've always loved those red-and-white place mats at American-Chinese restaurants that all owners seem to order from the same warehouse. Textured paper, a thick red border and gold text describing the zodiac animals and their various traits provided plenty of entertainment for me as a child waiting for my sesame chicken. The zodiac pairings were always of the most interest, predicting whether a relationship would be successful or not. I'm positive that quizzing my parents for their birth years countless times at The China Cafe is the only way I remember the dates (as a tiger and a pig, they are a good match). 

As for me, I should've been looking for a dog but ended up with an ox, which means unfortunately, we will part.

Whatever. Bottom line is, I'm a horse and as of the Chinese New Year (last Friday), it is MY YEAR.

In celebration (okay, it was more of a coincidence), I made sweet and sour chicken. It's a hallmark of all American-Chinese restaurants -- basically popcorn chicken swimming in a sticky, sweet, thick sauce. I imagine you'd be hard pressed to find a similar dish in China, but they are just missing out.

Thank you to Damn Delicious for the recipe. You'll need at least and hour and a half to whip this up -- but if an impatient horse like me can do it, so can you.

Cook up some brown rice, steam some broccoli to serve on the side and enjoy. 



SWEET AND SOUR CHICKEN

Serves: 2
Preparation: 1 hours 30 minutes

Ingredients
Chicken:
2 medium boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cubed
Salt and pepper
1/4 c. corn starch
1 egg
1/4 c. vegetable oil
1/4 c. sesame seeds

Sauce:
3/4 c. white sugar
1/2 c. apple cider vinegar
1/4 c. ketchup
1 Tbsp. soy sauce
1 tsp. sriracha sauce
dash garlic powder
dash onion powder

1. Preheat oven to 325*. Coat a medium, shallow baking dish with coconut oil.
2. Whisk together the sauce ingredients over low heat; bring to a simmer. Cook down for 5-10 minutes until it thickens.
3. Mix the cornstarch, salt and pepper together. Coat the chicken pieces in the corn starch mix and then the egg.
4. Heat the vegetable oil over medium-high heat in a large frying pan. Add the chicken and cook for 5 minutes, flipping halfway through. When golden brown, transfer to paper towel-lined plate.
5. Mix chicken and sauce together in baking dish. Cook for about 45 minutes, stirring two or three times.
6. When the chicken is almost done, toast the sesame seeds in a nonstick pan over medium heat until golden brown. Serve chicken over rice and top with seeds.

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Asian chicken noodle bowl



I have been hibernating lately thanks to these recent cold snaps. Whether you blame the polar vortex, the bombogensesis, or just plain winter, it's been freakishly cold. That's all I know. It was -18°F when I woke up. Just seeing that number on the thermometer makes me cold, so I bundled up for the trek to the office -- a cardigan and a blazer, long johns under my jeans and, of course, wool socks. Top it off with my normal winter uniform of hat, scarf, puffy jacket and mittens and I miraculously avoided frostbite on the walk to my car.

Anyways, the only cure for my winter blues is brothy chicken noodles. Spicy, Asian-infused chicken noodle bowls. I was inspired by smitten kitchen's recipe but I skipped a lot of the extra steps and specialty ingredients because I do not leave the house when it's this cold. I will do a post soon on how to make chicken broth from scratch, but you can check out this link if you don't know how to do it. Otherwise, the store-bought kind would be okaaaaaaaaay I guess. 

Notes:
-I didn't have a lot of chicken, but you can definitely use more than 1 cup if you'd like.
-This is more of a noodle dish with a little bit of broth. You can easily add more broth or reduce the noodles to make a true soup.
-I used black bean garlic sauce to get an Asian flavor, but you could use any Asian flavorings you like. You can experiment with your favorite stir fry sauce or use a combination of fish sauce, soy sauce, sriracha sauce, fresh lime juice, hoisin sauce, etc. to achieve your ideal flavor. 

SIMPLE ASIAN CHICKEN NOODLE BOWL
Serves: 4
Preparation: 30 minutes

6 c. chicken broth
1 tsp. fresh ginger, sliced
1/3 c. black bean garlic sauce
A generous handful of linguine noodles
1 c. chicken, cooked and chopped
Olive oil
4 eggs
2 c. bean sprouts 
Cilantro, Asian chili-garlic sauce and fresh jalapenos, for garnish

1. Mix the broth, ginger and black bean garlic sauce together and bring to a boil.
2. Add the noodles and cook according to package instructions, subtracting 2-3 minutes from the recommended time.
3. Remove soup from heat and stir in the chicken. Cover and set aside.
4. Heat olive oil in a frying pan over medium-low heat. Add eggs, season with salt and pepper and cook to medium doneness.
5. Divide the bean sprouts into four bowls and pour the soup over them. Plop a fried egg on top and add cilantro, chili-garlic sauce and jalapenos to taste. 


Sunday, 8 December 2013

Black bean seitan and veggie stir fry

Seitan is a meat substitute made with wheat gluten. I've never cooked with it, so I decided to try it out by making a stir fry. (If you care about why I ever use meat substitutes, I wrote a freaking novel at the end of this post.)







BLACK BEAN SEITAN & VEGGIE STIR FRY

Serves: 3
Preparation: 50 minutes

1 c. brown rice
1.5 c. water
1/4 c. black bean garlic sauce
1 Tbsp. sriracha hot sauce
2 Tbsp. red wine (I used a Cabernet)
1 Tbsp. olive oil
4 cloves garlic
1 tsp. sugar
8 oz. seitan, cubed
Coconut oil
1 small white onion, sliced
1 c. crimini mushrooms, sliced
1 red pepper, sliced
1 c. snap peas

1. Bring the water to a boil over medium heat. Add the rice, reduce heat to low and cover. Cook for 50 minutes.
2. Mix the next six ingredients (black bean garlic sauce to sugar) in a bowl. Add the seitan, coat well and put it in the refrigerator to marinate.
3. Heat about 1-2 Tbsp. of coconut oil over medium-low heat. Add the onions and saute for 3-4 minutes. Add the mushrooms and saute for 5 minutes. Add the red peppers and saute for 5 more minutes.
4. In the meantime, steam the snap peas in the microwave. Put in a shallow bowl, add about 2 inches of water and cook on high for 2-3 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water.
5. Add the snap peas, seitan and sauce to the vegetables and cook over medium-high heat until warmed through. Serve over rice.




ON EATING MEAT

I'm not really a pet person. Not at all, actually. I sporadically had dogs and a couple of cats when I was growing up, but I never formed a strong attachment with a pet. I can take them or leave them, and people who treat animals like members of their family kind of weird me out.

In addition, I've seen a lot of dead animals turned into tasty cuts of meat and I don't feel particularly bad about. I live in a rural area and lots of our friends and neighbors grow cattle, pigs and chickens for meat. My brothers and nephews are avid deer and pheasant hunters. The delicious sausage, steaks and bacon we get as a result is part of a not-so-pretty butchering process. However, I know how these animals lived and I know they were slaughtered with care and gratitude.

The point is, I'm not an animal freak haha.

But when I see videos or photos of animals being raised in filthy, enclosed spaces and suffering their entire lives for the sole purpose of providing me food -- that is hard to stomach. I do my best to buy humanely raised meat instead of conventional farm-raised meat, but it's a jungle out there. We get a lot of meat from the aforementioned friends and neighbors, but I still need to buy some. The U.S. doesn't have particularly strict food-labeling laws, so just because ground turkey says it's "humanely raised" or "free range" doesn't really mean anything. Beyond that, free range meat and eggs are pricey.

I'm not a purist by any means -- buying only humanely raised meat is a lofty goal that I am reaching for but haven't even come close to achieving. In the meantime, I'm focusing on getting protein from more plant-based sources like tofu and beans (and Greek yogurt, but I haven't looked into the moral implications of Chobani; I don't even want to know haha). I've heard a lot about seitan, which is sort of like tofu but made from wheat gluten instead of soy beans, so I thought I'd give it a shot. The protein content is really impressive -- 21 grams in just 120 calories -- and I like the texture better than tofu.