Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Spicy Chickpeas with Ginger for a Dark and Gloomy Night

A friend came over for dinner tonight, drenched. He warmed his hands over simmering, steamy chickpeas, and I realized how perfect this dish--warm, spicy, delicious--was for a grim night like tonight. It's also a good dish for a dark and stormy night since you probably have most of the ingredients on hand, and can probably avoid a trip to the grocery store. A good recipe to have on hand when in your city of residence every night is a dark and stormy night, or at least between October and May.

Rice, and crunchy vegetables like green beans or broccoli, work nicely as sides.

3 tablespoons mustard or vegetable oil
1 large onion, finely diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons grated ginger
1 bay leaf
2 teaspoons ground coriander
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tomatoes diced
1 1/2 cups chickpea broth or water
3 cups cooked chickpeas or 30-ounces canned, rinsed
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
Garnishes: chopped cilantro, onion, diced tomato, minced jalapeno

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, stirring, until well browned, about 12 to 15 minutes. Lower heat and add the bay leaf, spices, garlic, ginger, and 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and pepper, and the tomatoes. Cook for 5 minutes, then add chickpeas and chickpea broth (or water). Simmer until liquid is reduced to sauce-like consistency, about 15 to 20 minutes. Season with lemon juice, and extra salt if you so desire. Serve!

Credits go to Deborah Madison.

Monday, October 20, 2008

my mom never made this, but i hear moms do

let me set the scene for you: a crisp fall-turning-ever-too-soon-to-winter evening, an unexpectedly clean dining room complete with new navy blue table cloth, an assortment of mismatched chairs, and a sea of delightful company. on the table, a delicious feast complimented by the ever-present and ever-reliable premiere moisson baguette, and a symbolic bottle of fuZion, a versatile red. don't be jealous, just be a primate. you know, ape... like mimic, copy, borrow... god didn't any of you ever do crossword puzzles? ugh whatever.

on the table:

1. potato leek soup with sharp cheddar

2. beets with feta and carmelized onions

3. an innovative ginger/beet green combo a la madeleine

honestly, i can only help you out with items one and two, and if i really need to help you out with item two, well, amateur culinary feats are fine, but don't go into the business.

i ended up making the stock for the soup, though obvs i would never force this kind of endeavor on others. however, it just consisted of the green parts of the leeks, some crushed garlic cloves, and possibly a carrot all boiled up together for about 45 minutes. if that is not your cup of tea, just exercise your money muscle and buy some. stock. not tea.

4 leeks, chopped, white parts only
lots of little yellow skinned potatoes, maybe like 30? chopper-beeks help me out?
vegetable stock, between 4 to 6 cups
salt and pepper
some grated cheese, optional but not really optional

fry up the leeks in some butter, for a while, maybe 20 min, stirring. then pop them into the simmering stock. in the pan where the leeks were, fry the yellow potatoes, skins on and sliced thinly, for as long as you feel like. i suggest 15 minutes. when you're finished frying, dump them into the stock. simmer until the potatoes are cooked and then gingerly, especially if the available blender is one that has accompanied madeleine on her life's journey probably since conception, blend. texture is a great thing, so if you can't manage to smooth everything out, just pretend like you did it on purpose. salt and pepper and serve. the spanish actually have a verb for "to salt and pepper" but we of the english tongue have to take it one step at a time. drop some sharp cheddar in and stir. the spanish do not have a verb for this. sorry.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

spiced whipped cream with a side of pumpkin pie

This year, I made two important discoveries about pumpkin pie. The first was that you can eat and and revel in it all year round, not just while coloured leaves cling tenuously to their branches. The second was that whipped cream becomes infinitely more delicious when you throw in some spices.

Spiced Whipped Cream
3/4 cup whipping cream
2 tbsps sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
splash vanilla

Beat all the above together until peaks are formed in the whipped cream. Ideally, you have an electric beater, otherwise, you have a group of willing diners with strong biceps and a whisk. Serve with pumpkin pie and let autumn dance across your taste buds like a ballerina across the stage.

Pumpkin PiePreheat oven to 375˚ F, with rack placed in the middle
Pie crust (I usually buy one, but I have eaten this all-butter crust recipe and it was great)
2 large eggs, lightly whisked
2 cups freshly cooked or canned pumpkin puree
1 1/2 cups evaporated milk
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cloves or allspice
1/2 tsp salt

Mix together all of the above ingredients. Pour into the crust. Put in the oven!

Cooking time can really depend--in the Joy of Cooking Irma tells us that it is ready when "the filling seems set but quivery, like gelatin, when the pan is nudged, 35 to 45 minutes." In my experience, it takes quite a bit longer than that, more like an hour for it to be fully cooked.

After you have deemed it fully cooked (sticking in a fork for wetness helps), let it cool completely on a rack. Serve warm or cold, but definitely with spiced whipped cream.

Madrid's answer to the 4AM Fairmount Bagel

Okay, let's be honest: when I was going out in Montreal it was more like the 1AM Fairmount Bagel. Regardless, after a night out drinking there is nothing more sobering and satisfying than a warm, chewy and crunchy, sweet and delicious loop of dough. Then you arrive in Spain and they don't even have a word for bagel. Last night, however, I discovered that they don't need one. This is what churros were really meant for!

Churros, for those who haven't visited the hispanic world or ArchCafe, is deep fried doughnut in the shape of those red AIDS ribbons, circles, or sticks, served in Spain with either coffee or liquid chocolate for dunking. They're primarily a breakfast food here, which because they're so oily and lacking in nutritional content, is off-putting for a lot of people. What I've recently realized though, is that there is a whole crowd of people who enjoy these at 7am, not when they first get up, but after the bars close and before they've gone to bed.

My first experience was at San Gines, a fancy chocolateria in Madrid's centre that is open all night. The chocolate there is really good. Not Juliette et chocolat quality, but better than the average served here, which is a disconcertingly gelatinous brown-grey liquid. What really clued me in though, was stopping by a churreria, the place where the churros are made, at 6:30AM and picking up a brown bag of them fresh out of the giant vat of oil. The operation is not as elaborate as at Fairmount and St. Viateur, but the similarities struck me: the same narrow shop, no-frills aesthetic, and tired workers in white aprons, making thousands of these units all day and all night right before your eyes. You can pick up a carton of the sketchy chocolate there too, before heading home to heat up a cup, satisfy your munchies, and collapse into bed.

Now because this is a cooking blog and not my own personal travel blog, I will include a recipe. I warn you that I have not actually made these, but this comes from a trusted book by Janet Mendel called Cooking in Spain so if are feeling ambitious, I expect they will be good. Personally I prefer porras, which are thicker and chewier, cooked in a big spiral and then cut into 6-inch logs, but she doesn't have a recipe for that.

Breakfast fritters

(There's a hilarious introduction about papa taking the littlest child to market to buy churros for the whole family on Sunday morning, but I will spare you. I will note that Janet insists churros "were invented for the sole purpose of dunking." Also, "they must be eaten fresh and hot.")

250 mL water
75 mL oil
1 piece lemon rind
1/2 tsp salt
200 g flour
oil for frying

Put the water in a saucepan with the 75 mL oil, the lemon rind, and the salt. Bring to a boil. Skim the rind. Add the flour all at once and beat hard with a wooden spoon, working it on a low fire for a minute or two until it forms a ball. The batter will be quite stiff. Put it in a pastry bag and pipe long strips or rings of the batter into deep, hot oil. It takes a bit of muscle to push it through. Fry until golden brown, remove and drain. With scissors, cut long strangs into short lengths. Sprinkle generously with sugar. Makes about 30 strips.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Rainy day hash.

greetings fellow eating enthusiasts,

i'm currently in the process of writing grad school applications (and by that i obviously mean cooking too much and posting on the blog). you want more quick and dirty? this, my friends, is most certainly quick and dirty. it is also a food equivalent to drinking scotch on a cold day - warms up the insides, indeed. it is adapted from my favourite cook book of all time, moosewood new classics.

you need:
1 - 2 tbsp olive oil
3 medium sized sweet potatoes (about 6 cups, peeled and diced)
3 medium sized onions (2 cups, diced)
2 cloves of garlic, minced or finely chopped
1 jalapeno pepper (or if you are crazy like me, 4 small thai hot peppers)
1 tbsp cumin
1 tbsp dried coriander
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 can corn kernels, drained and rinsed
1 zucchini, chopped (or 2, if you're feeling wild like that)
1 tsp salt or to taste
chopped fresh cilantro to garnish
sour cream (optional. and i seriously mean optional, because i hate sour cream. but apparently, if you don't, it is good with this. alternatively, you could go for some raita, which i feel better about actually).

so here's what you do.

1. in a large pot on medium, heat up the olive oil. when sizzly, add the onions, stirring occasionally, and cook until they start to become soft. add the garlic and continue to saute for another minute.

2. add the sweet potatoes, cover and cook for 3 minutes or so.

3. toss in the jalapeno, cumin, coriander, and salt. mix it all up. cover and cook for 3 more minutes.

4. add the zucchini, black beans, and corn. stir until well combined. then let cook on medium heat for 10 more minutes, or until sweet potatoes are tender and your apartment smells delicious.

5. garnish with fresh cilantro and whatever else you might want (sour cream if you are not me. hot sauce from la chilenita if you are me.) presto!

note: if you find that the sweet potatoes stick during the early cooking process, you can add a little bit of water or orange juice to ease up the process.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Asparagus Sesame Salad

This is always a big hit, so much so that if prices are good and so are the appetites, I'd recommend doubling.

First: Put into a big pot of boiling water a bunch of asparagus, sliced diagonally into two-inch pieces. Keep a close watch, cooking for about one and half to two and a half minutes until cooked but still crunchy--the only way this salad can go wrong is if the asparagus overcooks. Once cooked drain immediately and then refill pot with cold water and let it sit until all heat has left the asparagus. Then, drain (dry) and refrigerate until cold, about an hour.

Second: prepare the dressing. Whisk together:
3 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
4 teaspoons white wine vinegar

4 teaspoons soy sauce 2 1/2 tablespoons sugar

Third: toast 4 teaspoons of sesame seeds, then add immediately to dressing

Fourth: when the asparagus is cold, and the dressing is ready, toss together. Eat!

go to Joy of Cooking

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Black Rice Pudding

First things first--the recipe calls for sticky black rice. Because I was unable to find any, I bought "Organic Black Rice," in the shape of a brick, from Bonanza/Segal's. Because of this, I modified the recipe slightly. So, I'm going to put the original recipe here (taken from Hot, Sour, Salty, Sweet), but I'll note the changes I made to accommodate for the non-sticky black rice.

You will need:
2 cups black (sticky) rice
3 cups water
2 cups canned or fresh coconut milk
3/4 cup palm sugar, or substitute brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt

Optional Toppings:
ripe mango, sliced (my favourite)
2 tablespoons dry-roasted sesame seeds
1/2 cup coriander leave
1/5 cup fried shallots

If you are using NON sticky black rice, presoak for about an hour. If sticky rice, don't. Place rice and water in a heavy pot and bring to a boil. Let boil vigorously for several minutes, stirring frequently, then cover, lower the heat to medium, and cook for 10 minutes. Lower the heat to very low, let simmer, still covered, for about 30 minutes.

Before the rice finishes cooking, put coconunt milk in a saucepan over medium heat, and stir in sugar and salt until completely dissolved. Heat just to a boil, then reduce heat to lowest point while waiting for rice to finish cooking.

If you are using sticky rice,
put the coconut milk into rice after it has finished cooking, remove from the heat, set aside from ten to 180 minutes, and then serve, adding toppings.

If you are not using stick rice
, I added the coconut milk to the rice while it was still on the stove, and let them cook together on low heat, stirring, for about ten minutes, trying to make the whole thing "stickier." You'll notice that when you pour in the coconut milk it seems very soupy--some of that will cook away, but it will also become less soupy after a few minutes off the stove. When you feel that you are happy with the liquid to rice proportions, take it off the stove, let it stand at least ten minutes, and then serve to everyone's delight.

Friday, October 3, 2008

everything in transit - the kitchen dilemma.

dear real life friends on the interweb,

with the exception of square-cesca, it has been a long long time since we have been posting. to be honest, i think about it every three days or so and make notes to get my shit together and do a little something something. but i don't and you don't and i fear that we are falling off what was once a very good bandwagon. so here i am, writing an e-apology to no one in particular but maybe to the concept of our technological mystical recipe circle. no more, she says! i find it very hard to feel comfortable in a new kitchen with new tools and new space (moving is the worst) - i know, i know. excuses. but seriously. i have been suffering from very poor motivation and inspiration with all food-related things these days. so let's get this show on the road, a'iiight? to quote my mother circa 3 minutes ago, "it's 5 o'clock and time to rock!" thanks.

the only thing i can offer at this time is... well, actually, it's pretty fucking good. rico and i made what will only be called "black velvet compote". mysterious? sultry? romantic? AFFIRMATIVE! i had no idea that this kind of apricot even existed until the one and only rico snogger dumpster'ed a bunch of super ripe ones from the goldmine of all dumpster-ing locations, jean talon market. so in a very large soup pot in a familiar kitchen with familiar things (saint joseph apartment), we sterilized 4 jars with proper canning lids. then, we sliced and diced all those black velvet apricots (i am still so fascinated by these. if you feel like wikipedia'ing these tasty delights, please do it. and tell me all about them. but i'm too tired for that kind of quality research for the post right now). because we wanted to make a lot of jam and only had something like 9 apricots, we also chopped up a whole bunch of juicy quebec peaches (at least 20). in the large pot on low/medium heat (but high heat in our hearts), we combined all of the fruit and let cook, stirring occasionally, for about 2 minutes. then we added 1/2 cup of sugar (a little more if you like it stickier - this version makes a fairly loose, chunky, real fruit compote), turned the heat to low, and let simmer for a bit more than an hour. when the jam appears to be doing what it should do, add the juice of half a lemon (or more, to taste), and let it simmer for another 5-10 minutes.

when all is said and done, put your jam into the sterilized jars (it will be very hot - this is good for the sealing process) and put them into a pot of boiling water for about 5-10 minutes until a seal is created (you will know when the top of the jar doesn't pop up anymore when you push on it).

the end!

note: you can make compote with anything you've got following those general guidelines. it is very easy and tastes about 700 times better than buying it at the store.