making food from anywhere, with anything

Posts tagged “herbs

at last, a reprieve

Hello everyone.

This weekend, I took a micro-vacation to visit my aunt and uncle in Indiana. Before heading out there, I received a challenge:

It is your job to plan (and assist cooking) our meal for the Saturday evening you are here. The requirements are vegetarian only, no eggplant, keep it simple.

Vegetarian food (by the by, I added a vegetarian tag for my posts…). How would I plan a menu without relying on pasta? Or veggie burgers? Wait, no eggplant?

In any case, I began scouring the blogs I most frequently turn to when in need of something easy, impressive, and adaptable.  I also did some consulting (thank you, Alex), and decided I would throw together my take on Iranian food.

Nearly the minute after I got to my aunt and uncle’s house, the cooking began.  I began by making Mast o Khiar, which is just yogurt, cucumbers, and mint.  We didn’t have any mint, so I substituted with dill.  Really, though, you could use whatever herb you have on hand if mint eludes you.  It’s probably one of the easiest side dishes to make.  All I did was add one English cucumber (the long, seedless variety) to one 16oz tub of plain greek yogurt.  I chopped up as much dill as I thought necessary, sprinkled a little salt and pepper, and threw it in the refrigerator to chill for an hour or so.  Initially, I was a little skeptical about using greek yogurt out of fear it would be too thick, but it loosens some with the liquid from the cucumber.  I would only use greek yogurt for this recipe because I really dislike thin, soupy yogurt.  This dish is cool, refreshing, light, and perfect for hot and humid days.  With mint, it would have been even better because it’s such a bright herb.  I’d even recommend adding a teaspoon of rosewater to add a wonderful aromatic component.  Rosewater is wonderful on super hot days.

Up next was my take on a Shirazi salad.

(excuse the poor photography)

Again, we had no mint, so I switched things up a bit.  This is another insanely easy dish to make, and is something you can prepare about an hour or so ahead of time.  It calls for cucumber, tomato, red onion, lime juice, a little bit of olive oil, and mint.  I won’t bother giving you measurements, because it’ll depend on how many cucumbers, tomatoes, and onions you plan to use.  Because we didn’t have mint, I just added salt, pepper, and garlic.  (I had to sneak some garlic in somewhere.)  Personally, I should have used more lime juice.  All in all, it was quite comparable to a salsa.  While I wasn’t as enthusiastic about this side dish, fresh vegetables are always an awesome addition to any meal.

And finally, for our main meal, I attempted kuku sabzi.  Kuku sabzi is essentially an intensely-herbed frittata.  Really, the eggs are more or less a vehicle for the herbs.  For about 6 eggs, you should use a cup of fresh: parsley, cilantro, dill, and chives.  You can add in about 1/3 cup of walnuts, if you want, and you must also add 1 tsp of baking powder.  The baking powder makes the eggs fluffy and sponge-like.

kuku sabzi

(I promise, the other side of the kuku sabzi was much more herb-dense.  The herbs floated to the top of the mix while cooking, which is to be expected.)

Procedure:

1.  In a large mixing bowl, combine 6 eggs, salt, pepper, and baking powder.  Whisk to combine.

2.  Add your chopped herbs and walnuts to the mixture and whisk again.

3.  To a medium nonstick skillet, add some olive oil over medium-low heat.  Once the oil is hot, add the egg mix and cook for approximately 20 minutes over medium-low heat.  Check the bottom of the egg every once and a while to ensure nothing is burning.  It should get to be a nice brownish color.

4.  Now.  You have two options.  You can get out two spatulas and try to flip this thing yourself, or you can cut it into quarters and carefully flip each piece.  I opted for the two spatula method, with my aunt holding the skillet.  After three or so flip attempts, the kuku sabzi flipped with no spillage.  Cook the other side for another 20 minutes over medium low.  (I got impatient, as I often do, and cranked up the heat so it would cook faster.)

Cut into pieces and serve.

The kuku sabzi was really cool, actually.  It was light and airy, and really flavorful because of the herbs.  The herbs are the star of this show, so I resisted the urge to add any sort of spices like turmeric or something.  Salt and pepper do the job well, allowing the herbs to stand their ground.  While some lemon zest would’ve been a nice accompaniment, why mess with tradition (especially on the first time making it)?

As another side dish, I attempted to make hummus without tahini.  Word to the wise (or perhaps the not so wise), this doesn’t work.  Don’t even.

Before I began my marathon dinner preparation, my aunt and I made this awesome bunt cake a la Betty Crocker.

awesome cake

It came out sooooo good.  While I’m not a confident baker, this cake was rather easy to make.  It used sour cream, and we put this awesome cinnamon-sugar-walnut mixture between layers of batter.  And who doesn’t love gooey cinnamon sugar in their cake?

So, what did we learn today?  Vegetarian food doesn’t always have to involve pasta, eggplant, or processed soy.  It can be bright, inventive, flavorful, and best of all, simple.

Have fun:

Which cheese is the best?
(polls)

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you’ll need many a napkin to eat this sticky rack of deliciousness.

Good morning all.

My life has been overrun by my part-time job, internship, and now the World Cup.  What will I watch when the World Cup is over?

Anyway….We celebrated Father’s Day a few days early this year.  Initially, my plan was to make some delicious hanger steak.  I’ve seen hanger steak at this one grocery store I often turn to for my foodie needs.  However, (as predicted) the store did not have hanger steak in stock when I was, of course, looking for it.  So, Plan B?  Barbecued beef short ribs.

rubbed ribs getting ready for the oven

I started off by rubbing the ribs with a nice spice mix.  For two slabs of ribs, I used (adapted from here):

4 TBSP brown sugar

2 TBSP smoked paprika

3 tsp kosher salt

2 tsp freshly cracked black pepper

1 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp celery salt

1 tsp cayenne pepper

1 tsp ground cumin

I let the ribs sit in the rub all day so all the flavors could marry.  If I had things my way, I would’ve smoked these ribs for about 4-6 hours over low heat with hickory wood chips and such.  Buuut, I don’t have a smoker.  So instead, I opted to braise the ribs first, then finish them on the grill.  In a roasting pan with a rack, add 1 16oz bottle of beer and some water so that there is about an inch of liquid in the pan.  Place the ribs that you rubbed at least 12 hours ago on the roasting rack and put them in the pan.  Cover with foil, and place in a preheated 250F oven.  Roast for 1.5-2 hours.  Check your ribs after an hour to be sure there is enough liquid.  When the ribs are done (the meat on mine was falling off the bones – a challenge to get on the grill, but so worth it), slather (and I mean SLATHER.  BATHE those ribs) in some barbecue sauce and grill for about 10 minutes.

While you’ve got some time on your hands as the ribs are braising, you may as well make your own barbecue sauce, right?  Well, I did.  I had no idea what I was doing, and it thankfully came out really well.  I adapted this sauce from a variety of sources in an attempt to combine the best of both tomato-based and vinegar-based sauces.  My sauce started out involving about…

1 1/2 cups of apple cider vinegar

1/2 cup of ketchup

1 TBSP molasses

2 tsp cayenne pepper

2 tsp paprika

some freshly cracked black pepper

2 tsp ground cumin

2 TBSP brown sugar

sweet and spicey short ribs

Whisk all the ingredients together in a saucepan and bring to a boil.  Then, reduce to a simmer.  Cook until the mixture has reduced and thickened to your desired consistency.  I think I cooked mine for about 20-30 minutes.  It was perfect timing, really.  Once I put it in the refrigerator, the sauce thickened up really nicely.  The sauce was REALLY vinegary at first, but it sweetened throughout the cooking process.  Throughout cooking, I added a few more shakes of paprika for an additional smokey flavor, and a few more shakes of cumin for….well, mostly because I enjoy cumin a lot.  The sauce was sweet, but had a nice kick.  A perfect blend.

fresh garden herbs

Now that the ribs are figured out, it’s time for the side dishes.  I decided to make grilled vegetable kebabs with summer squash, cherry tomatoes, onion, and little bell peppers.  To go along with the vegetables, I made a sauce inspired by the chimichurri sauce native to Uruguay and Argentina (and probably other countries, too).  It’s an awesome sauce, traditionally made with parsley, garlic, pepper and olive oil.  I needed all of my parsley for the crab cakes I planned to make, so I used basil, oregano, and cilantro.  The recipe is adapted from here.   It turned out really nicely.  Cilantro is such a powerful herb, and when combined with garlic, it stands out with such an intensity.  I minced the garlic VERY finely (almost to a paste) so it functioned on an aromatic level, as well.  (Yesterday, I spread some of the sauce on some bread and made a sandwich with it.  I hope to use the rest of the leftover sauce as a marinade — it’d be awesome with chicken.)

Along with the grilled vegetable kebabs, I made some crab cakes.  I used the same recipe as in here, except I added a little more mustard and worcestershire sauce.  The difference ended up being minimal, but the cakes were still REALLY good.

jumbo lump crab cakes

Completing the compendium of side dishes was some awesome Mexican-inspired grilled corn on the cob, adapted from here.  I grilled the corn for about 20 minutes, rotating the cobs every now and then to ensure even cooking.

a riff on Elote

Then, I deviated from the original recipe a bit and spread only a little butter and mayo on the warm cobs.  I felt 1 TBSP of each was waaayy too much.  I grated some cotija cheese, sprinkled it on the cobs, and dusted with a little smoked paprika.  The cobs were still fairly warm, so the cheese ended up melting slightly.  The mayo and cheese added a nice salty bite to the juicy, sweet corn.

And that was that!  It was a fantastic and flavorful dinner.  I don’t usually like barbecue sauce (I have been rather vocal about my dislike  — the bottled nonsense is always way too sweet…), but thought this was deliciously savory, sticky, sweet, spicy, and perhaps most importantly, addictive as all hell.  I could’ve eaten an entire rack of short ribs (in all fairness, there isn’t THAT much meat on ribs).

whew!

Happy Father’s Day to all, and Happy Summer, too!


Embarrassment.

Hello everyone.

Hopefully you’ll forgive me for my disappearance.

I really haven’t cooked at all since I’ve been back home, with the exception of Mother’s Day.  Within the last year or so, my Dad and I have successfully joined forces in the kitchen to make good food for my Mom (hi Mom!) – whether for her birthday or Mother’s Day.

This year, I unfortunately had to work the evening of Mother’s Day, but we made an awesomely huge lunch to make up for it.

First up is grilled lamb chops.  Yes, lamb.  As many of you may have observed, this blog is called everything but the baa.  I’ve undoubtedly explained this in the past, but will reiterate here.  I try to avoid eating lamb.  Not because it tastes badly, but because of how much I enjoy living lambs.  I make exceptions for occasions such as these, because lamb is one of my Mom’s favorite things.

Having said that, here is roughly what we did.

grilled lamb chops

with a bright lemon-herb sauce

I have to say, I highly prefer grilled lamb over roasted.   Then again, I find I tend to have a preference toward almost anything grilled.  I enjoy the smokey flavor.  Initially, we thought the sauce’s recipe called for too much lemon zest so we halved it.  Personally, I would have appreciated the full amount, but even with half it tasted wonderfully.  The lemon serves two purposes here.  The zest functions as an aromatic enhancement, while the juice brightens the intensity of all the herbs.  I thought the combination of mint and rosemary with lamb seemed a little tired, and was so happy to find this recipe.  The thyme and parsley pair quite well with lamb.

We decided to go with a surf-and-turf theme and make some serious crab cakes.  Seafood is one of my favorite food groups (in fact, I think it may be THE favorite), but I make it a point to avoid restaurant crab cakes at all cost.  In fact, you should avoid commercial crab cakes as well.  It’s well-known that the cakes are nothing but filler (be it bread crumbs, crushed crackers, or whatever other non-crab ingredient they throw in there).  I actually quite pride myself on these cakes, adopted from here.

UBER crab cakes

I only had 1 lb. of jumbo lump crab meat, so I adjusted the recipe accordingly.  The bottoms were a little crispy, at which I initially freaked out.  However, it worked out well, because crispy crab meat is delicious.   After they came out of the oil, I set them on a plate lined with two paper towels.  Do this, otherwise the oil will sit in the cakes and make them soggy and greasy (and who wants that?).  Next time, I would probably increase the amount of Worcestershire sauce a little bit, as well as the mustard.  I love the taste of crab (more than lobster, if I’m honest), but I wanted some more of the other flavors in the cakes.  Nevertheless, these cakes were great because I was able to control how much filler went into them.  Once you make these, there is no going back to those….excuses you get at most restaurants.

And finally, for the vegetable component to the meal, I blanched some green beans and tossed them in olive oil, salt and pepper.  Simple, but so good with lamb.  The beans were so crunchy and full of vibrancy.  In fact, a squirt of lemon juice over them would’ve been great.

crunchy green beans

And that is that!  I made blackberry souffles (first try ever!) for breakfast, but never took pictures.  They turned out nicely, but I wasn’t that enthusiastic about them.  I guess I expected something different (I’ve never had a souffle before).

Oh, fun fact.  I turned 21 this past Tuesday, and to celebrate, I got cannolis instead of a birthday cake.  If you are in the Central Jersey area, PLEASE go to this bakery.  They have a location in Brooklyn (which is what the site links to), and one on Middlesex Ave in Metuchen.  They have some of the finest cannolis I have had the pleasure of eating.  Good bakeries are dying out, so SUPPORT THEM (but leave all the cannolis for me)!

screw cake


breakfast for dinner, a wonderful thing.

Happy Hump Day, everyone.

Usually my Wednesdays are leftover days because I get out of class rather late.  However, I strayed from routine and ate my leftover chicken biryani yesterday.  Paying for overpriced popcorn and candy didn’t really appeal, so I ate while waiting in line to see a free screening of “Shutter Island” (which comes out Friday and I highly recommend seeing it).  Tonight’s dinner choices are fairly limited, as the only leftover meal I have thawed in the fridge is pasta (ugh).  I totally forgot I bought eggs this Monday (I rarely buy them), and decided to experiment (at least within the limits of my pantry).   Eggs could not be easier to cook (I say this without having poached one), and while terribly bored at work, I came up with this recipe for a light dinner – of course, this could be a breakfast and lunch dish as well. Since I had Manchego cheese on hand, I ran with a Spanishesque theme. Why the hell not.

Scrambled Eggs with Caramelized Onions, Paprika, Manchego cheese, and toast
serves 1
2 eggs
1 1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 sprig rosemary, minced finely
3 sprigs thyme, minced finely
1/2 onion, thinly sliced
2 slices of manchego cheese cut into small pieces, plus more for garnish if desired
freshly ground pepper & salt to taste
1 slice rye bread, toasted (or two, depending on the size of your bread, your hunger, etc.)
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2-1 tbsp butter
water or milk

Scrambled Eggs

method

1.chop herbs, onions, cheese, etc.
2.in a small skillet, heat up the 1/2-1 tbsp butter over medium-high heat.  once foaming, add the sliced onion.  you can season these with pepper or whatever other spice you want.  sautee until completely caramelized – about 8 minutes or so.  stir every now and then to avoid sticking and burning.
3.while the onions are happening, whisk egg and milk/water together in a mixing bowl.  add the paprika, rosemary, thyme, sliced cheese, salt & pepper to taste.  you might want to throw your toast on now, too.
4.in a larger skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat.  once fragrant, dump the egg mixture in.  assuming you’ve never made scrambled eggs before, rake your spatula from all sides of the pan toward the center, creating lumps in the egg mix.  continue this, swirling and stirring as much or as little as you want.  you want chunks of egg to be your result, basically.  it takes maybe about 5-7 minutes for this to cook.
5.remove eggs from skillet, put on a plate.  garnish with some paprika and cheese.

note: you can opt to add the cheese once the eggs are in the skillet instead of putting it in the egg mixture.  I did not use milk because I have none, and felt that the cheese would add a little extra fluff to the eggs if combined beforehand.

I love breakfast for dinner. Had I any challah or brioche, I would’ve made french toast instead. Nevertheless, this light and fragrant dish wins.

Tomorrow? Golabki!!