Monday, June 28, 2010

The Tropics Meet The Mediterranean – Papaya, Sesame Seed, and Za’atar Grilled Halloumi Salad

Battle 9: Sesame Seeds and Tropical Fruit (Papaya, Guava or Starfruit)

I entered the latest Foodie Fight and began thinking about a dish using sesame seeds and one of three tropical fruits. Not knowing much about papaya I purchased the large Mexican variety and the smaller Hawaiian fruit too.   I liked them both but they are different. The first thing I noticed was the variation in the color of the fruit and the seeds too. I thought the smaller one was sweeter and the Mexican variety was a little firmer. The papaya from Hawaii would have been prefect for the tart I had in mind. But the morning brought the warm weather we’ve been longing for here in Northern California and my kitchen was too darn hot for baking. So I turned off the oven and started thinking about lunch.

Not too long ago I purchased a small package of za’atar and I’ve been looking for a way to use it. Za’atar is spice mix used primarily in Middle Eastern cooking and sesame seeds are among the ingredients.  That was enough to get me started. With a little salt, olive oil and lemon I thought the Mexican papaya could easily go in a salad with a Middle Eastern flavor.  Grilled za’atar and sesame seed coated Halloumi would round out the dish.  Halloumi is a firm salty Greek cheese that holds up well when grilled. The cheese gets a nice crust, which only improves the flavor. The herbs, spices, and seeds in the za’atar benefit too when they get a little toasty. This cheese is popular in the Middle East and often combined with fruit.

The salad made for a delicious lunch. This amount could serve 6 to 8 as a starter salad but I would still like to see everyone get two pieces of cheese and would increase Halloumi accordingly. This should work just as well with the Hawaiian papaya.

The Tropics Meet The Middle East – Papaya, Sesame Seed, and Za’atar Grilled Halloumi Salad
Serves: 4

2 cups diced papaya (large dice)
1 Tbs. lemon juice
¼ tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. olive oil

8 oz. Halloumi cheese cut cross-wise into 8 slices
2 Tbs. sesame seeds
3 tsp. za’atar
Olive oil

8 cups, loosely packed, butter and red leaf lettuce, torn into bite-sized pieces
2 tsp. sesame seeds

Combine the papaya, lemon juice, salt and olive oil. Leave at room temperature until ready to serve.

Mix the sesame seeds and za’atar together in a pie tin or on a dinner plate. Warm a splash or two of olive oil in a medium size non-stick pan. Coat each side of the cheese with the sesame seed mix; lightly press it into the cheese. (Any remaining can be added to the dressing.) Place the cheese in the hot pan and fry for one minute. Turn the cheese and cook for another minute until the cheese is browned and crisp. 

Meanwhile, gently toss the lettuce with 8 teaspoons of dressing (recipe below) and divide between four dinner plates.

Place 2 slices of cheese and ½ cup of the papaya on each bed of greens. Garnish each salad with ½ teaspoon of sesame seeds. Pass the remaining dressing, if desired.

2 Tbs. lemon juice
½ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. pepper
¼ tsp. za’atar
1/3 cup olive oil

Mix together the lemon juice, salt, pepper and za’atar. Whisk in the olive oil.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Rye Berry and Garbanzo Bean Salad with Cherries

Waste not, want not; that is on my mind every time I step into the kitchen these days. It’s something I’ve considered for a long time but the challenge posed by One Hot Stove has encouraged me to keep track of some of the things I’ve been doing about it.  Here’s my latest creation, inspired by the recipe for Brown & Wild Rice and Barley Salad with Chick Peas from dinner by Julie and the folks at Foodie Fights.  I purchased some whole rye berries for the Rye and Cherry battle they hosted last week but I did not use them in the recipe I entered into battle.  I had everything on hand I needed to make the recipe post here.
According to Mark Bittman in his book How to Cook Everything Vegetarian this grain is popular in Eastern Europe and Russia. He says it’s very tasty but under appreciated here and that it can fill in for any whole grain you like. Replace it in recipes that use every thing from bulgur to wheat berries and even quinoa.  The cooking time on whole grains varies greatly and it’s best to taste it as you go to see if it’s done to your liking. I think next time I’ll cook the rye longer and allow more of the kernels to open. They were al dente this time and I liked them but some of my taste testers would have liked them cooked a little longer.
Two more thoughts:
Next time add one large punch of parsley, chopped. This was in Julie’s recipe but I didn’t have any here so I skipped it. I think the fresh greenness would be a welcome addition.
Rye berries don’t taste like rye bread.  I think it’s the caraway seeds that give the bread it’s distinct flavor, not the rye.
Rye Berry and Garbanzo Bean Salad with Cherries
1 cup rye berries
½ tsp. kosher salt
1 can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained

1/3 cup dried cherries

¼ cup chopped toasted pecans plus 2 tablespoons for garnish
2 oranges

1/2 cup parsley, coarsely chopped

2 Tbsp. sherry vinegar

2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 tsp. mustard

1 tsp. curry paste or powder
Place the rye berries and salt in a large pot, cover with water and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for about 60-90 minutes, until just tender. Add water as needed to keep the rye covered. Drain well and run under cool water to stop the grains from cooking. Transfer to a bowl and add the garbanzo beans and raisins.
Whisk together all the dressing ingredients (adjusting them if you like to suit your taste) and pour over top. Chill until the mixture is completely cool, or for up to a day.
Zest one orange into the rye mixture. Peel and section both oranges and add to the salad along with the green onions, parsley, and ¼ cup pecans. Garnish with remaining pecans and serve.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Foodie Fights Rye and Cherry Battle

 Rye Flour Crêpes with Make Mine a Manhattan Ice Cream (Rye Whiskey Cherry, a Rum Raisin Redo) and California Bing Cherry Sauce

Every week or so the folks over at Foodie Fights toss out two ingredients for an Iron Chef type challenge. All registered members are encouraged to enter the battle. The ingredients are posted on Wednesday and whether you have a recipe in mind or not you throw your name in the ring and on Thursday 6 members are chosen at random and required to submit a recipe by midnight on Monday.  I’ve never done anything like this but I thought I’d give it a try and my name was pulled from the hat.

This week’s challenge is rye and cherries.  Whole rye grain or rye flour may be used and either fresh or dried cherries. As soon as I saw cherries I knew I wanted to make ice cream.  Another member asked about using rye whiskey. I assume he was joking but a response made it clear that whiskey alone would not fit the bill. But this got me thinking, what about a redo of rum raisin ice cream?  Besides a Manhattan combines whiskey with a cherry. Make Mine a Manhattan Ice Cream was conceived and ultimately born. Wanting to take advantage of the wonderful Bing cherries now available I decided to use them to make a sauce.

But what about the rye?  A cookie? A cone? I settled on crêpes and was very pleasantly surprised with the results. I typically make crêpes with white flour and a little sugar and they are fine, mostly they serve to soak up the sauce and add a little heft to dessert. The rye crêpes on the other hand have a deeper flavor and a heartier texture. They bring to mind the wonderful buckwheat crêpes of Brittany (savoury galettes (crêpes salées). I am thrilled with this discovery. Rye will now be my go to flour for making crêpes. I can’t wait to make them in a larger pan and serve them with a savory filling.

Recipes follow assembly instructions. To serve: Fold the crêpes into quarters. Place 3 crêpes on one of 6 dessert plates. Place a large scoop of Make Mine a Manhattan Ice Cream in the center. Pour some of the cherry sauce over the ice cream. Serve extra sauce in bowl with a small ladle.  You will have extra ice cream and maybe sauce.  Save for another time or make your scoops extra large.

Make Mine a Manhattan Ice Cream  

1 cup (packed) dried cherries 
½ cup rye whiskey, such as Wild Turkey
½ cup sugar

8 large egg yolks
1 cup sugar
3 cups milk (do not use low-fat or nonfat)
1 1/2 cups whipping cream
1 tablespoon rye whiskey, such as Wild Turkey

Combine cherries, whiskey, and sugar in a small saucepan, simmer until cherries soften and the liquid reduces to thin syrup. 7-8 minutes. Put the fruit and syrup into a medium bowl, stir occasionally to coat and cool the fruit.

Whisk egg yolks and sugar in large bowl until blended.

Cook the milk and whipping cream heavy large saucepan over medium heat until almost simmering. Remove the milk and cream from the heat and gradually whisk into yolk mixture. Return mixture to saucepan; stir over medium-low heat until custard thickens, about 15 minutes (do not boil), add whiskey. Strain custard into bowl. Cool. Refrigerate until cold.

Transfer custard to ice cream maker and process according to manufacturer's instructions. Place ice cream in a storage container; fold in cherries and freeze ice cream in covered container until firm, about 4 hours. (Can be prepared 3 days ahead.)

Note: You can use your favorite vanilla ice cream recipe and replace the vanilla with whiskey. Or, even simpler, allow store bought vanilla to soften enough that you can fold in the cherries and freeze it until it is scoop able, about 3 hours.

Rye flour crêpes
1 1/2 cups milk
About ¼ cup melted unsalted butter, divided
3 large eggs
1 cup rye flour
1/2 teaspoon salt

Heat milk and 2 tbsp. butter together until warm to the touch.

Put eggs in a blender and pulse just to mix. Add flour, salt, and 1/4 cup of warm milk mixture. Whirl mixture to combine. With blender running, slowly pour remaining milk mixture into blender through lid opening to combine. Pour mixture through a strainer into a bowl.

Heat a small nonstick frying pan over medium heat. Brush pan with a little butter, then pour in about 2 tbsp.  of batter, swirling pan to coat evenly. Cook, turning once, until set and starting to brown, about 2 minutes total. Repeat with remaining batter, brushing pan with more butter as needed.

California Bing Cherry Sauce
(Emily Luchetti’s “Very Cherry Cherries” A Passion for Ice Cream, available on Amazon: Disclosure: Emily is my cousin by marriage and I tested recipes in this book before it was published. In spite of that connection, or because of it, I always reach for Emmy’s books first when making dessert.

I don't have any financial interest in the book.

2 ½ cups sugar
¾ cup water
1 ½ pound fresh Bing cherries, stemmed
1 ½ teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

In a medium pan, stir together the sugar and water. Bring to a boil over medium heat and cook until the sugar is dissolved and the liquid is clear, about 1 minute. Stir in the cherries and bring back to a low boil.  Simmer until the cherries are slightly shriveled and the liquid is red, about 5 minutes. Drain the cherries, reserving the liquid, and place them in a baking pan in a single layer.  Let the cherries cool to room temperature. While they are cooling, return the reserved liquid to the pan and cook over medium heat to reduce until slightly syrupy, about 2 cups.  Stir in the lemon juice and salt. Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature.

Remove the pits from the cherries by gently squeezing each one. The pit will pop out. Gently stir the cherries into the sauce. Cover and refrigerate.

Note: It is much easier to pit the cherries once they are cooked and the pits add to the flavor. I wear thin gloves, like the kind used in hospitals. They are sold at the drug store and probably Target.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Mark Bittman's Artichokes: Blog Bites 4

I was first introduced to the Blogosphere several years ago when I took a South Indian Cooking class at the Chautauqua Institution in New York. The teacher encouraged us to visit One Hot Stove for more ideas and inspiration.  I became a regular and avid reader and then one day Nupur went on hiatus. She was gone for months; I missed her but went on to discover many food blogs that I’ve added to my Google Reader list. I’ve learned so much about food from all them and look forward to any and all new posts. Still, I was very happy when Nupur returned.  She often challenges her readers to try things and share them.  Her latest challenge encourages us to use up what we have on hand.  Apparently, I’m not the only one with a pantry and freezer full of perfectly good food that is not getting used. 

I’ve been working away at using what I have on hand and whatever comes my way but this is the first thing I’ve taken a picture of. As a cook in the Sunset Test Kitchen I often get to bring unused items home. Most of the time I’m bringing home small things, half an onion, the unused portion of a can of coconut milk or the end of a brick of cheese. But every now and then there’s a large pile of beets, a head of lettuce, or even a family size portion of meat or fish.

Last weekend was Sunset’s Annual Celebration Weekend and we welcomed several thousand guests to our kitchen.  We had some lovely produce on display and those of us still in the kitchen at the end of the weekend divided up the bounty for our home kitchens. I took two beautiful large artichokes and used them in Mark Bittman’s newest treatment of this edible thistle.  I had all the other ingredients on hand, including a lemon given to me by one of my generous neighbors.

This recipe is very easy and produces a delicious dish. The sauce is very tasty; the lemon added to the chicken broth reminds me of Greek Avgolemono soup. I served the artichoke in a soup bowl and had a soupspoon handy so that I could drink every drop.

Thanks Nupur for inspiring me!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Spot Prawns - Leaping Grocery Bag Batman

Have you ever had your groceries try to escape? It happened to me yesterday.  I purchased some live spot prawns for one of the food writers at Sunset Magazine; she needed them to test a recipe from a chef in British Colombia. I was only getting the prawns so I didn’t have a cart, I felt the bag jump several times as I carried it through the store. Driving back to work I could hear them banging against the bag. I thought of “Hogan’s Heroes” and imagined them working on an escape plan.

None of this stopped me from enjoying the prawns once they were cooked and served with a delicious, homemade herb and onion mayonnaise. It will be awhile before Elaine's recipe gets published so until then think I'd like to try this spot prawn recipe I found over at 46th at grace.  Her photos are wonderful and the sandwich looks delicious.

I got the last of the Spot Prawns at Marina Foods in San Mateo but I'm sure they'll get more soon, call first. Marina is a great place to get groceries and produce needed for Asian cooking.

Fisherman and prawn photo: BC knows how to welcome the Spot Prawn.