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Archive for the ‘paprika’ Tag


Sujuk, Armenian sausage, from scratch

There is something about making a dish completely from scratch that is wonderfully satisfying — a feeling of merited accomplishment. A mixture of happiness and relief. I’m sure this is true of most things, really, not just food. It comes with any craft you can pour your soul into. With food, you appreciate individual ingredients; you savor every ounce of effort that goes into preparing a dish. Something magical happens in the cooking process; a part of you, your essence, probably while you’re mixing ingredients and not particularly paying attention, dives into the bowl and adds that special something to the dish: warmth, brightness, love, something you can’t really put your finger on, but everyone knows it’s there. It’s what the French refer to as je ne sais quoi.

It’s been a while since I posted a recipe here. Partly because it’s not easy converting my aunt’s dashes and handfuls into teaspoons and cups, but also because my aunt does most of her cooking early in the morning, before the sun or I are even up.

In Syria, particularly Aleppo, wintertime means it’s time for sujuk, an Armenian sausage made with beef, lots of garlic and a mix of aromatic spices. Sujuk is bold; it’s a stick-to-your-ribs kind of sausage. And when it gets cold out, it’s what my heart and stomach crave. Yes, sujuk is pretty fantastic.

In Aleppo you can find sujuk all over the place. This is one of the culinary gems the Armenian community brought with them when they moved to Syria. One of my favorite places to eat sujuk outside of home is Shtoura. Shtoura, named after the Lebanese town, is a 24-hour fatayer place famous for their heavenly dough creations. I’ve become a regular.

shtoura (شتورة) at 11:11pm
shtoura

Nothing is better late at night than a couple Shtoura palm-sized pizzas topped with classic tomato sauce, liberal amounts of shredded mozzarella, and dotted with nuggets of spicy sujuk.

pizza sujuk
pizza suju

My aunt, luckily for me, makes her own sujuk at home. And to my surprise, it’s pretty simple, and actually borders on effortless. It’s a matter of combining a blend of spices with meat and allowing the mixture to air-dry in a cool place, away from any sunlight. Prep-time is no more than 15 minutes, tops. No sausage casings or fancy equipment necessary; my aunt stitches her own bags from scraps of cloth that are clean and have not been treated with scented detergent.

mise en place
mise en place
lots of garlic
garlic
spices: fenugreek, allspice, cumin, paprika, salt
spices

After asking a few of my Armenian friends in Aleppo, I’ve discovered that it is not common to add ground fenugreek to sujuk. If you can’t find fenugreek, you can certainly leave it out, however, I like the taste it adds to the sausage.

mix well
mix
bags of sujuk
bags

My aunt uses her balcony to air-dry her sujuk. She moves the rack of sujuk bags depending on the time of day to keep them away from any sunlight. Once the bags feel firm and dry to the touch, the sujuk is ready. This usually takes 3-5 days depending on the weather and the thickness of your sujuk bags.

Once they’re done drying, my aunt and I keep all the bags, except one, in the freezer and bring them down to the fridge as we go through them.

sujuk sandwiches
sujuk

Sujuk is an extremely versatile sausage that you can eat any number of ways. It’s great over pizza or mixed into pasta sauce. It’s delicious with eggs for breakfast — a different take on the classic sausage and eggs. In Syria and Lebanon, however, it’s popular to make sujuk sandwiches with pita bread. The grease from the sausage melts over the heat and toasts the bread to a pleasant crisp. No extra butter or fat necessary; just good, homemade sujuk.

cheese
cheese
old school sandwich press
sandwich press
sandwich
sandwich

Sujuk Sausage

yields approx 1kg

Components

  • 1kg ground beef, freshly ground
  • 2 Tbsp cumin, ground
  • 2 Tbsp allspice, ground
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp fenugreek (optional), ground
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp paprika
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp salt
  • 1/4 cup garlic, minced

Putting them all together

  1. Mix all the ingredients together and refrigerate overnight.
  2. Stuff meat mixture into clean, porous stockings and let hang for 3-5 days in a cool, dry place away from any sunlight.
  3. Once pouches are dry and firm to the touch, remove from the hanging rod and store in the refrigerator — leftover pouches keep great in the freezer.

Notes:Make sure whatever you use to encase the meat is clean, but more importantly make sure it does not have any detergent scent. Sujok keeps great in the freezer. I bring down a pouch at a time from the freezer to the refrigerator as I go through it.

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Roasted Potatoes and my trip to Aleppo

I don’t know where to begin. This is the problem with neglecting a blog for more than a week. It really is. If you have a blog, I’m sure you know what I’m talking about. Carelessness quickly turns into neglect and finally begins to fringe on complete abandonment. I would never let it get to that.

The last time I signed off, my camera was broken and I was eating gelato — lots of gelato — to diffuse the pain. It worked. Actually, my mom says that if there’s anyone who could get through to insurance companies, it’s me. I wasn’t about to abandon my camera. I called almost daily. In the end, after plenty of hoop-jumping and legal rigmarole, the hotel’s insurance settled and reimbursed me for the damages. It was a relief, sure, but there’s more.

Originally, my plan was to keep this next thing a secret. It was going to be a surprise, but I’m too excited not to blog about it. A couple weeks ago, I finally bought my plane ticket to go to Aleppo. My grandmother is there now, visiting her sister, and I will get to join them in just a few days. I promise to return with plenty of pictures, recipes and maybe even a few videos.

On that note, I will keep this post short. I’ve been strategically trying to use all my produce and perishables for the past couple of weeks. A lot of times the dishes that result from this don’t make it to be photographed, but my roasted potatoes are different. I realize I’ve never written about them before, but my roasted potatoes have gotten me through some difficult times.

mise en place

Preparation is simple. It makes a big difference to scout out good potatoes for this dish: small, firm and tight skin. I prefer reds simply because they have a higher sugar content, so they tend to caramelize better than other potatoes in the oven.

a quick rinse

Since potatoes grow underground, you’ll want to give them a quick rinse before you roast them. Make sure to pat them dry so that the outsides crisp up.

room to breathe

It’s also important not to crowd the potatoes in a pan, otherwise they will still steam, regardless of how well you’ve patted them dry.

my secret weapon

Although I usually use Spanish paprika, or pimentón, it’s a lot easier to find the Hungarian variety at my local grocery store. My inspiration for using paprika in my roasted potatoes came from patatas bravas — a classic tapas made from fried tomatoes covered in a spicy pimentón-base sauce. If you can’t find Spanish paprika near where you live, Amazon is where I usually buy from.

oven roasted red potatoes

Once they come out of the oven, they can be eaten hot or at room temperature. Enjoy!

Oven Roasted Potatoes

yields 4-6 side dishes

Components

  • 2 lbs baby red potatoes
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tbsp dried rosemary (double if fresh)
  • 2 tsp spicy paprika
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic, finely minced
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Putting them all together

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.
  2. Wash potatoes and them pat dry.
  3. Cut potatoes into equal sized pieces (I usually quarter them, if they’re small enough).
  4. Mix together all the ingredients on a large baking sheet. Make sure the potatoes are not crowded so that they crisp evenly.
  5. Cover with foil and bake for 10-15 minutes, or until potatoes are slightly cooked.
  6. Uncover and continue baking for 30-40 more minutes, or until potatoes are golden brown and cooked all the way through.

notes:Sometimes the potatoes tend to stick to the tray because of their natural sugar content. I recommend lightly tossing them with a spatula a couple times while cooking.

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the delicious taste of procrastination

In t-minus 3 days, all my things should be in boxes, ideally, and ready for my big move. Except I know myself. I know that in 3 days, I’m going to look at my room, or my kitchen, in dismay and ask myself what in the world I’ve been doing. Something my mother would ask in the most disapproving of voices. This is when I would blame youtube for my perpetual procrastination, and thank Warda for her amazing chicken and olives recipe. If you need a break from anything, life, packing, the economy?, turn up your speakers and listen to this song. If you’re hungry afterwards, do what I did, and make this incredible North African chicken and olives recipe (aka دجاج بالزيتون). Everything else can wait.

mise en place

My plan is to pack up the rest of my room today and make a dent, at least, in the kitchen department. Since I was in the mood to relax and cook last night, I went with a whole chicken, but you could’ve just as well gone with already-cut, bone-in chicken. The bone is important here because that is what will keep the chicken moist during the cooking process.

happily marinated

The marinade for this dish is one of the best I’ve tasted in a long time. You basically throw in the spices, ginger, onion, and half a preserved lemon into a food processor with some olive oil and you’re set. You can technically skip the preserved lemons, but if you feel compelled and don’t have some laying around, Whole Foods and other specialty stores should carry them. If you want to start getting a jar ready for 6-months down the road, you won’t regret it.

chicken & olives (دجاج بالزيتون)

Rice, cous cous or bread are all perfect sides for this dish. This dish is also being featured for this month’s A Taste of the Mediterranean, where we’re showcasing the cuisine of North Africa throughout the month of May. iGourmet has agreed to sponsor the contest and is offering a $50 gift certificate for the winning dish. Make a variation of this meal, be creative and enter to win!

Chicken with Olives

serves 4-6 people

Components

For the Marinade:

  • 2 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp sweet paprika
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1 inch piece of ginger
  • 1 small onion
  • 1/2 preserved lemon
  • pinch of cinnamon
  • pinch of saffron
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

For the Dish:

  • 1 whole chicken, cut into pieces
  • small bouquet of parsley
  • small bouquet of cilantro
  • 1/2-3/4 cup water
  • 1 onion, quartered and sliced
  • 1 cup green olives
  • bread, rice or cous cous
  • extra parsley, for garnish

Putting them all together

  1. Make the marinade by pulsing all the ingredients in a food processor.
  2. Wash the chicken under cold water and butcher into 6 or 8 pieces. Dry and marinate over night (or at least 1 hour, if rushed).
  3. Tie the bouquet of parsley and cilantro with a string for easy retrieval after cooking.
  4. Place marinated chicken, with marinade, in a large heavy-bottomed pan (or tajine) along with the rest of the ingredients, except the olives.
  5. Bring to a boil, cover and cook for 30 minutes on medium-low heat (simmering), making sure to turn the chicken pieces in the sauce every once in a while.
  6. Remove the parsley and cilantro bouquets, add the olives and transfer to a 375 degree F oven to finish cooking.
  7. Serve alongside rice, cous cous or bread and enjoy!

notes: Recipe very slightly modified from Warda. Also, rinse olives if excessively bitter.

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packing my things

I’ve caught the Spanish bug

Spanish tapas have been on my mind ever since I made those croquetas the other day. They were a hit in the house and the leftovers treated me well (at least while they lasted). Once the last croqueta was gone though, my stomach went into what I’ve come to call, “pregnant woman mode.” Pregnant women may claim to have it bad, but a foodie-craving is no joking matter. I wanted more tapas, stat.

mise en place
mise en place

Champiñones al ajillo is exactly what I needed – literally garlic mushrooms. I set aside this weekend to be my relax/be-super-lazy weekend and so anything that took more than 10 minutes to make was out of the question. These mushrooms met all my stringent criteria, and the heaping mound of garlic only added to their appeal. If you don’t have the 10 5 minutes it takes to put these together, but you happen to be walking around Spain, you’re in luck. Any reputable tapas bar will gladly serve you up a plate of these mushrooms; although, if you want to blend in more with the locals, call them champis and don’t use their full name, champiñones al ajillo.

Spanish paprika
Spanish paprika

Recipes for this classic Spanish tapas will vary. Some will call for freshly squeezed lemon juice, while others want bread crumbs, but none of them leave out the Spanish paprika – a quintessential ingredient in Spanish cuisine. You can find this paprika in three varieties: sweet, smoked or spicy, but these champis pair perfectly with the spicy variation, which also happens to be my favorite. 

mushrooms cooked in lots and lots of garlic
champis al ajillo

From raw ingredients to what you see above takes no more than five minutes. If you don’t have Spanish sherry, a feasible substitute would be some marsala wine, but obviously, it won’t produce the same flavor. On the topic of substitutions, you can also substitute the mushrooms for some shrimp and you’ll end up with another classic Spanish tapas, gambas al ajillo.

champiñones al ajillo
champis al ajillo

OK, I’ve been rambling for way too long. You could’ve probably made two batches of these already but I’ve kept you, yet again. Go make some and enjoy!

Champiñones al Ajillo

serves approx. 6-8 people

Components

  • 1 lb button mushrooms, quartered
  • 5-6 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp Spanish paprika, spicy
  • 2 tbsp parsley, chopped
  • 3-4 tbsp olive oil, extra virgin
  • 1/4 cup Spanish sherry
  • salt & pepper, to taste

Putting them all together

  1. Heat up olive oil, garlic, and paprika in a large skillet.
  2. Once it starts to sizzle, add the quartered mushrooms and sauté for 3-4 minutes.
  3. Deglaze the pan with the dry sherry and cook until most of the liquid has reduced into more of a sauce. 
  4. Season with salt and pepper.
  5. Toss with chopped parsley and serve.

notes: OK, this recipe might take all of 8 minutes, but I still claim they’re well-spent. 

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