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XMAS 2013 FIXINGS

CHICKEN TAGINE WITH PRUNES & ALMONDS

This recipe is adapted from the Moroccan cooking master, Paula Wolfert. It is the closest thing I’ve come to an authentic tasting Moroccan dish made at home. The sweetness from the prunes and cinnamon mixed with the melted down spiced onions and the chicken that falls off the bone is undeniable. Soak it up with some couscous and a salad on the side is refreshing.

INGREDIENTS:

One 3 1/4 pound chicken (preferably organic), 2 teaspoons of cumin (or more for the rub), 2 teaspoons of Ras El Hanout (optional), 12 ounces of moist prunes (pitted), 3 teaspoons of ground cinnamon, 2 large yellow onions (halved and cut lengthwise), 1 teaspoon of turmeric, 1 teaspoon of ground ginger, sliced almonds for garnish, 2-3 tablespoons vegetable oil for frying

INSTRUCTIONS:

When you pick up for chicken, have the butcher cut the breast in 4 pieces, and the wings, thighs and drumsticks cut off so you don’t have to at home. Rub all the individual pieces with salt, pepper, cumin and Ras El Hanout by hand. Let stand for an hour.

Meanwhile, cover the prunes with cold water in a small saucepan and add the cinnnamon. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 10 minutes. Set aside.

Place the onions in a wide, shallow casserole and stir in the turmeric, ginger, salt and pepper to taste, and 1/4 cup of water, and steam with the cover on for 15 minutes on a medium-low flame.

Brown the chicken on all sides in the vegetable oil on a medium-high flame. Watch out for the hot oil that splashes back. Transfer the chicken to the steamed onions, mix together, and cover the casserole with a piece of parchment. Let it cook on the lowest possible flame for 1 hour and 15 minutes.

Get rid of the parchment paper, and add the prunes along with their cinnamon liquid to the chicken and onion and bring to a boil. Remove from heat.

I served this with cous cous to soak up the amazing sauce this creates and topped it with sliced almonds.

HERB AND BUTTER ROASTED POTATOES

I ended up putting these in a frittata with spinach, cheddar, scallions and chives, but they are a great brunch side on their own!

INGREDIENTS:

1 1/2 pounds of baby multi-colored potatoes (sliced), 2 sprigs of rosemary, 5 sprigs of thyme, 1 teaspoon of red pepper flakes, 2 tablespoons of butter (melted), 1 tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil, 6 cloves of garlic (with skin on), salt and pepper.

INSTRUCTIONS:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Toss the sliced potatoes with the herbs, butter, olive oil, red pepper flakes, garlic, and the salt and pepper in a large bowl.

Lay a piece of parchment paper on a baking sheet, and cook the potato slices in batches so that they aren’t stacked on each other while baking. Leave them in the oven until they develop some golden color, about 15-20 minutes. You can cook them longer or slice them more thinly if you want them crispier. You can use the roasted garlic cloves afterwards to spread on a nice piece of bread!

BUTTERMILK CURRANT SCONES

I really started getting into baking because of the Tartine cookbook. Tartine has had a steady following for years, where people from all over the place come and line up to get some of their out-of-this-world bread or other in-house baked goodness. These scones come out simultaneously chewy and crisp — try to get them while they’re hot, with a dollop of jam and a cup of breakfast tea.

Preheat the oven to 400F and lay some parchment paper down on a baking sheet.

INGREDIENTS:

3/4 of a cup of Zante currants (cover with warm water so they get plumped up), 4 3/4 cups of all-purpose flour, 1 tablespoon of baking powder, 3/4 teaspoons of baking soda, 1/2 of a cup of granulated sugar, 1 1/4 teaspoons of salt, 1 cup + 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, very cold, 1 1/2 cups of buttermilk, 1 teaspoon of grated lemon zest, Melted butter and crystal sugar, for topping

INSTRUCTIONS:

Sift the flour, baking powder, and baking soda into a large mixing bowl. Add the sugar and salt and stir to mix with a wooden spoon. Cut the butter into 1/2” cubes and scatter over the dry ingredients. Cut together, either with a pastry blender, 2 table knives, or a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, but don’t over-mix. You want to end up with a coarse mixture with pea-sized lumps of butter visible.

Add the buttermilk all at once along with the lemon zest and currants and mix gently with the wooden spoon. Continue to mix just until you have a dough that holds together. You still want to see some of the butter pieces at this point, which will add to the flakiness of the scones once they are baked but you can also add a bit more buttermilk if it’s too dry.

Dust your work surface with flour, and turn the dough out onto it. Using your hands, pat the dough into a rectangle about 18” long, 5” wide, and 1 1/2” thick. Brush the top with the melted butter and then sprinkle with the sugar. using a chef’s knife, cut the dough into 12 triangles and transfer to the prepared baking sheet.

Bake the scones until the tops are lightly browned, 25 to 35 minutes. Remove from the oven and serve immediately.
I like to check on my scones after about 15 minutes and then I rotate the pan in the opposite direction.

Also, you can add a different dried fruit to the scones in addition to or instead of the currants. Nuts are also welcomed.

EGGPLANT CAPONATA & HERBACEOUS LENTIL SALAD DINNER last night

This vegetarian dinner really hit the spot. The caponata is so rich, sweet and vinegary and makes a great topping with bread and cheese, or over fish or meat. It’s traditionally a staple of most Sicilian grandmama’s homes, so you can follow suit and save your extras in a jar for a sandwich or a rain day. The secret ingredient for my caponata is bittersweet chocolate, divulged to me by a real, live Sicilian mama! I served it with the crunchiest baguette from Bien Cuit Bakery and some Pyrenées de Chèvre cheese and a Rioja red wine. The lentil salad is also super versatile, but I always like to add a dressing to it to give its earthy flavor a little tangy kick. I also discovered that rosemary and lentils exist very happily together.  The dessert was from Bien Cuit: a Chocolate Banana Bourbon Tart — pretty bold!

CAPONATA INGREDIENTS:

1 large eggplant (cubed), 1/2 can of whole San Marzano tomatoes, including liquid (chop the tomatoes), olive oil, a few sliced up olives, 3 tablespoons of capers, flat-leafed Italian parsley (run over with the knife once so as not to lose essential oils and flavors of the herb), 1/2 of a yellow onion (chopped), a few cloves of garlic (sliced), 2 tablespoons of wine vinegar, 2 tablespoons of sugar,  salt and pepper to taste, 2 tablespoons of pine nuts, and a handful of bittersweet chocolate chips (secret ingredient!)

CAPONATA INSTRUCTIONS:

Heat up a large pan on a medium-high flame with a generous amount of olive oil. Once it’s begun to heat up, add the chopped onions and sliced garlic. While this is happening, rinse, dry, and dice up the eggplant. Add the eggplant in batches so it cooks evenly, and add more olive oil and salt and pepper for each round, it takes about 3 batches and it shrinks down (see picture #2 above). Half a can of Marzano tomatoes will yield about 4 tomatoes — cut those into cubes and to the more or less cooked eggplant.  Then add the olives and the capers and mix. Then the chocolate and sugar (to taste and mix until the chocolate is melty. Finally add the vinegar and pine nuts and incorporate. The caponata should be soft, dark in color and glistening.

LENTIL SALAD INGREDIENTS:

1 cup of lentils (rinsed and sorted through), 1-1 1/2 cups of water (or chicken or vegetable broth), 1/2 of a yellow onion (diced), 2 cloves of garlic (sliced), 1 teaspoon of paprika,1 teaspoon of cumin, 3 bay leaves, 5 sprigs of thyme, 1 sprig of rosemary and a few leafless sprigs from the Italian parsley for flavor (rinsed & tied all together in kitchen twine to make an herb bouquet, which makes it easier to discard afterwards),2 tablespoons of currants, 2 handfuls of arugula, and some goat cheese.

Dressing ingredients: 3 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil, 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar, 1 teaspoon of vinegar, 1 teaspoon of Dijon mustard, 5-6 chives (chopped), 1 teaspoon of pomegranate molasses, juice from 1/2 a lemon, salt & pepper (to taste).

LENTIL SALAD INSTRUCTIONS:

Heat up a small pot on a medium-high flame. Once it’s heated up, add chopped onion, garlic and the herbs. Once the onion is a bit translucent, add the lentils and cover with liquid. Bring to a boil, and then lower to a simmer and add the paprika, cumin, currants, salt & pepper. Cook 20-30 minutes, or until the lentil taste soft enough. Drain in colander and let rest a bit. Once it’s cooled, discard the herbs. For the dressing, start with the Dijon mustard, add the olive oil and whisk. Then add the vinegars, pomegranate molasses, lemon juice, chives, salt & pepper and whisk until emulsified. Combine the lentils and the dressing in a medium bowl. Add broken up bits of goat cheese (however much you want) and the arugula and mix.

Yotam Ottolenghi’s Parsnips and Sweet Potatoes with Caper Vinaigrette

This is the most delicious fall/winter salad! The flavors harmonize so wonderfully together, with the sweet earthiness of the sweet potatoes and parsnips with the tartness of capers, lemon and tomatoes. It’s mouthwatering!  I served it with some chicken breasts that I baked with a spice rub in the oven at 425 for about 20 minutes in a cast-iron skilled — once the chicken was cooked through, I covered it with chopped up flat-leafed parsley, and let it sit in the oven for another few minutes. I reduced a glaze for it on the stove in the same cast-iron pan and then drizzled it oven the chicken. This meal is so full of flavor, I’d recommend a nice hunk of toasted bread along with it.

INGREDIENTS:

4 parsnips (700 g total), 4 medium red onions, 150ml of olive oil, 4 sprigs of thyme, 2 sprigs of rosemary, 1 head of garlic (halved horizontally), 2 medium sweet potatoes (600 g total), 30 cherry tomatoes (halved), 2 tablespoons of lemon juice, 4 tablespoons of small capers, 1/2 tablespoon of maple syrup, 1/2 teaspoon of Dijon mustard, 1 tablespoon of toasted sesame seeds (optional), Salt & Pepper.

INSTRUCTIONS:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Peel the parsnips, cut into 2 or 3 segments (depending on their length), then cut each piece lengthwise into two or four. Peel onions and cut each into 6 wedges. Place parsnips and onions in a large mixing bowl and add 120ml of olive oil, the thyme, rosemary, garlic, 1 teaspoon of salt and some pepper. Mix well and spread out in a large roasting tin. Roast for 20 minutes.

While the parsnips are cooking, top and tail the sweet potatoes, cut with skins on, widthways in half, then each half into 6 wedges. Add the potatoes to the tin and stir well. Roast for another 40-50 minutes.

When all the veggies are cooked through and have taken on a golden color, stir in the tomatoes and roast another 10 minutes. Meanwhile, whisk together the lemon juice, capers, maple syrup, mustard, remaining oil and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Pour the dressing over the roasted vegetables as soon as you take them out of the oven. Stir well, taste and see if you need to adjust the seasoning. Scatter the sesame seeds over the vegetables if using and serve at the table in the roasting tin.

BANANA BREAD WITH HUNKS OF BITTERSWEET CHOCOLATE

Banana bread is a great thing to make when you have some spotty, darkening bananas lying around the kitchen. Also known as “Jacked Up Banana Bread,”courtesy of Smitten Kitchen, this recipe is a real standout! The extras are what make it extra special and delicious, with combo of cinnamon, bourbon and chocolate bits (which I added to the mix) to spice things up.

Ingredients: 3 to 4 ripe bananas (smashed) 1/3 cup of melted salted butter, 3/4 to 1 cup of light brown sugar (depending on how much of a sweet tooth you have), 1 egg beaten, 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract, 1 tablespoon of bourbon (optional), 1 teaspoon of baking soda, 1 teaspoon of cinnamon, (pinch of ground cloves and 1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg option, I omitted) pinch of salt (I used vanilla fleur de sel, oops!), 1 1/2 cups of flour and 6 ounces of bittersweet chocolate (chopped).

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. With a wooden spoon, mix the mashed banana and melted butter in a large mixing bowl. Mix in the sugar, egg, vanilla, bourbon and then the cinnamon (plus other spices if you decide on using them). Sprinkle baking soda and salt over the mixture and mix in. Add the flour last and mix until almost fully incorporated, then add the chocolate chunks and mix. Pour the mixture into a buttered loaf pan and bake for 50 minutes or until the tester comes back batter-free (mind you this a rather dense loaf, so it does take a while to cook evenly). Once it’s rested a bit, cool on a rack, remove from pan, slice it up, and dig in!

Huevos del Diablo
This recipe is super easy! A cast-iron skillet is pretty key for this dish and it’s a great thing to have in your kitchen in general. Being able to cook and serve a meal from a pan is always ideal, especially when you’re cooking for one.
Use one of my tomato sauces: http://bit.ly/XKiBuX or http://bit.ly/VaKPie or one of your own! If the sauce isn’t at room temperature and you’re just taking it out of the fridge, heat it up a bit before adding the eggs, on a medium flame.
Crack 2 eggs directly over the sauce and let cook to your preference. I like my eggs over hard, so I usually put a lid over the pan and let them cook through. I also sliced some cheddar and parmesan over the eggs. Some toasted up bread to help spoon this dish into your mouth is a must. I used the miche from Bien Cuit Bakery and served it with a broccoli salad with a simple lemon vinaigrette and some slices of parmesan.

Huevos del Diablo

This recipe is super easy! A cast-iron skillet is pretty key for this dish and it’s a great thing to have in your kitchen in general. Being able to cook and serve a meal from a pan is always ideal, especially when you’re cooking for one.

Use one of my tomato sauces: http://bit.ly/XKiBuX or http://bit.ly/VaKPie or one of your own! If the sauce isn’t at room temperature and you’re just taking it out of the fridge, heat it up a bit before adding the eggs, on a medium flame.

Crack 2 eggs directly over the sauce and let cook to your preference. I like my eggs over hard, so I usually put a lid over the pan and let them cook through. I also sliced some cheddar and parmesan over the eggs. Some toasted up bread to help spoon this dish into your mouth is a must. I used the miche from Bien Cuit Bakery and served it with a broccoli salad with a simple lemon vinaigrette and some slices of parmesan.

Double Brownie Vision

Got the recipe for these bad boys from Smitten Kitchen. They turn out relatively thin, compared to most dense brownies, and are sticky and chewy with a bit of crunch in the crust.

8 x 8” pan for brownies, cut into 16 2-inch squares, or 25 smaller squares, or bite-sized.

Heat your oven at 350 degrees.

Line the baking pan with parchment paper, and butter it (or spray with nonstick cooking spray)

INGREDIENTS:

3 ounces (85 grams) unsweetened chocolate (roughly chopped), 1 stick (115 grams) unsalted butter (plus extra for pan),1 1/3 cups (265 grams) granulated sugar, 2 large eggs, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, ½ teaspoon flaky sea salt or ¼ teaspoon of table salt. 2/3 cup (85 grams) all-purpose flour

In a medium heatproof bowl over gently simmering water, melt the chocolate and butter together, until only a couple unmelted bits remain.

Take it off the stove, and stir until smooth and melted. Whisk in the sugar, the eggs (one at a time), the vanilla & salt. Stir in flour with a spoon or flexible spatula to scrape batter into the prepared pan, spread until even. Bake for about 45 minutes, but test to make sure it’s done by inserting a toothpick into the middle – if it comes back clean then they’re ready. Let them cool because these are some fudgy, sticky brownies. Dust with some powdered sugar when cooled, if desired.

           

Mushroom, Eggplant & Zucchini Lasagna with Tomato Sauce

Tools: 8” x 8” cooking dish, 1 cookie sheet, pot for the sauce. Serves 4 people.

Bump your oven up to 375 degrees.

Lasagna Fixings:

One large eggplant (sliced in circles), 1 zucchini, sliced in circles, a couple handfuls of cremini mushroom (sliced), a nice, big hunk of mozzarella (sliced), whole milk ricotta, Parmesan (grated, no boil pasta sheets

Tomato Sauce:

1 jar of whole tomatoes (San Marzano is a good choice), 1 large yellow onion (cut into 4 wedges), a few cloves of garlic (sliced), ½ cup of red wine, ½ stick of butter, splash of olive oil, some fresh thyme and flat Italian parsley (optional, but if using, tie the thyme with some twine to make a little herb bouquet that you can easily discard afterwards, and if you using parsley, run over with a knife once or twice – don’t want to loose those essential oils!), red pepper flakes, salt (Maldon) and pepper to taste

INSTRUCTIONS:

Get your sauce going first because it’s best when it cooks for 4 minutes or more, and you can cook the veggies during this time. This sauce is extremely easy because you can throw all of the ingredients in at once. I like to start with the oil, butter, garlic and red pepper flakes first for a few minutes, but it’s unnecessary. Make sure the onions are submerged. Keep it at a low simmer throughout, stirring every now and then, until you have a nice saucy consistency.

Eggplant retains a lot of water, so after you’ve sliced it up, salt each piece, and let it rest in a colander. After about 15 minutes, you’ll see little droplets of liquid, which you can dry off with a paper towel. Place the eggplant slices on a cookie sheet, then drizzle with a generous (but not too generous because they absorb oil very quickly) amount of olive oil salt & pepper, and pop them in the oven for about 15 minutes. Do the same with the zucchini and mushroom slices.

Now it’s time to layer all of this goodness up in the your cooking dish. The sauce will have those huge pieces of onion leftover in them (they should be completely translucent and soft), but those are great layers in the lasagna, so don’t discard them. The steps go:

  1. Sauce
  2. About 3 pasta sheets, pushed down into the sauce
  3. Eggplant, zucchini, mushroom combo
  4. Dollops of ricotta throughout
  5. Mozzarella slices
  6. Then repeat, starting with the sauce again.
  7. Finish with the cheese on top (this is when you can add some added parmesan)

Let it cook until the top gets golden, and the pasta is done. This takes about 45 minutes but everyone’s ovens are different, so check it by cutting into it about 35 minutes into the baking time and see where it’s at. Eat it up!