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Archive for the ‘pistachios’ Tag


Mortadella, an Aleppan variation

Almost every lunch, dinner, or formal event in Aleppo begins with an endless spread of mezze. Tabletops brimmed with plates of appetizers. Hummus and Muhammara. Labne and cured olives. Roasted nuts and homemade pickles. These are some of the popular ones. There is also yalanjii, vegetarian stuffed vegetables, which I still have to blog about. Every family has their favorites, their own style of hosting, but the common theme is abundance. The food should appear endless — this is the unspoken rule of Middle Eastern hospitality. You’d be hard pressed to find a gap between the plates.

A popular mezze in Aleppo is the Mortadella Halabiye, or Aleppan Mortadella. Not to be confused with the popular Italian cured meat, Aleppan Mortadella is much smaller in size and is blanched, not cured. Also, Italian Mortadella is made from pork, whereas the Aleppan version is made with either beef or lamb. On a couple of occasions, however, I’ve seen chicken varieties, as well.

Aleppan Mortadella is usually served as a starter as part of a spread of mezze — leftovers go into sandwiches. This is how my aunt taught me. You take fresh bread — pita or baguette — add a liberal shmear of hummus, cover with slices of Aleppan Mortadella, fanned out, and voilà. It’s that simple. If you add some muhammara to the sandwich, even better; it gives it a spicy contrast, not enough to make you cry though, just smile.

Now, to make Aleppan Mortadella, you want to start out with kaak (كعك), a Middle Eastern kind of bread stick that is incredibly crunchy and usually served alongside tea. Middle Eastern or Mediterranean stores should have it. If you can’t find kaak, however, you can use breadcrumbs; ultimately, its goal is to bind the mortadella.

kaak (كعك)
kaak
Middle Eastern style breadcrumbs
middle eastern bread crumbs
mise en place
mise en place

The next ingredient is the habra, which is basically very lean meat, essentially fat-less. A good habra should have no fat. I’ve blogged about it before. Habra is the basis of all kibbeh, which makes it readily available at any butcher in the Middle East. In the States, however, I usually ask my butcher to ground for me top-round beef, with all its fat removed. My butcher even goes the extra length to ground my meat early in the morning, before they ground any other meat, so that fat inside the machine doesn’t get into my habra. Then, once I get home, I process the meat in my food processor with a few ice cubes until a paste is formed — that’s all habra is.

The rest is mixing the ingredients together.

seasoned mixing
mixing

I noticed my aunt doesn’t mix the ground kaak with the meat all at once, only handfuls at a time. The reason being you might not need it all. The best mortadella, she told me, is made with as little kaak as possible. Only mix in as much as you need. The goal is a mixture that barely comes together and holds its shape.

oh, there’s garlic, too
garlic
add the pistachios into the center
steps

The reason for not mixing the pistachios in the beginning is so that they remain in the center of the mortadella. This is for presentation purposes.

cover and into the fridge
covered
H2O
water
some apple cider vinegar
vinegar
simmer
cooking mortadella
Aleppan Mortadella (مرتديلا حلبية)
Aleppan Mortadella

Aleppan Mortadella

4-5 logs

Components

  • 500g habra
  • 1/2 cup kaak, grated*
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup unsalted pistachios
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1 Tbsp allspice, ground
  • 1 Tbsp salt
  • 8 cups water, for blanching
  • 2 cups apple cider vinegar
  • ice water, for forming the mortadella
  1. Prepare habra, the lean meat that comes from the top-round.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, mix together the habra, ground kaak (or breadcrumbs), minced garlic, sliced garlic, and egg, until well incorporated.
  3. Divide the meat mixture into 4 to 5 equal pieces.
  4. To form the mortadella: flatten a piece of the meat mixture, sprinkle with pistachios, fold closed, and form into a smooth log. Use ice water to smooth the meat mixture if you feel that it is a bit sticky.
  5. Refrigerate until ready to blanch (can be done a day in advance).
  6. Prepare the blanching liquid by mixing 4 parts water to 1 part apple cider vinegar.
  7. Bring the blanching liquid to a simmer.
  8. Add the mortadella and cook over medium heat for 30 minutes or until the middle is no longer pink.
  9. Refrigerate until ready to eat.

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hummus + muhammara + mortadella = best friends
muhammara hummus, and mortadella

Nut your Typical Eclair

I still remember the day I stumbled upon the Daring Bakers. Do you? I thought it was odd. Why did everyone all of a sudden decide to blog about French bread? And why were they all using Julia Child’s recipe? I was sure I had found some sort of freaky food cult, but there was no way around it. Every blog, every comment, everyone was going on and on about these breads. It was like being the new kid in school all over again; only this time all the cool kids were talking about food & baking.

Orange Logo

This is my 6th month now as a Daring Baker and I got to cohost the August challenge with the amazing Meeta from What’s for Lunch Honey. She took me under her wing a few months ago and we immediately started scouring cookbooks for the ultimate recipe.

mise en place
mise en place

We began by brainstorming via e-mail and quickly settled upon an eclaire recipe from Meeta’s sugar daddy, and king of French pastries, Pierre Hermé. This was great since I had never made éclairs, but consider myself a professional éclair eater. Of course, the best part of any challenge is modifying the recipe and having the complete Culinary Freedom to bake whatever you want. I decided to make profiteroles (ie tiny, round éclairs), filled with an almond pastry cream, glazed with a hazelnut chocolate glaze and topped with finely chopped pistachios. Here is how it all went down: 

choux dough
choux dough

Choux dough is extremely easy to make, to my surprise. French pastries don’t exactly have the best reputations for being the ones you could whip up in no time. But for this dough there is no worrying about cold butter or overworking the gluten by stirring it for mere seconds. Nope, all this is left behind when entering choux paradise. Once these babies puff up in the oven, you’ve got yourself an empty canvas perfect for filling with whatever your foodie heart desires.

profiterole work flow
filling the profiteroles

I opted for an almond-infused pastry cream, and let me tell you: this pastry cream could be a dessert on its own. I had no problems eating it straight from a spoon as the profiteroles were baking away in the oven. Eventually, though, I had to exercise self control in risk of not having enough filling for the pastries. Next time, I’m doubling the the recipe for the cream – mark my words!

triple nut profiteroles
triple nut profiteroles

I’ve got to hand it to the French – they know exactly what they’re doing when it comes to cuisine (especially pastries). I will definitely be making these again in the near future.

I want to send a big thank you to all the Daring Bakers who joined us this month in baking eclairs! Finally, I also want to send a big hug to Natalie of Gluten A Go Go and Helen of Tartelette for helping us tackle any choux questions and offering their pearls of wisdom on how to achieve eclair bliss. 

Triple Nut Profiteroles

makes approx. 35-40 profiteroles

adapted from Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Hermé

Components

  • 900 g almond infused pastry cream
  • pâte à choux
  • 1 cup hazelnut chocolate glaze
  • finely chopped pistachios

Putting them all together

  1. Pipe choux dough onto a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake at 375 degrees F for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown and dry.
  2. With a serrated knife gently slice open each profiterole and pipe pastry cream into the bottom half.
  3. Replace cover, drizzle with hazelnut chocolate glaze and top with finely chopped pistachios.

notes: The individual recipes are posted under “Read more…”

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made to be eaten
a big bite

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Tartalicious

Aside from not having stable internet for an entire week, nothing irks me more than to have to deal with the providers to come fix the problem.  The customer “care” service probably qualifies as some sort of psychological warfare/torture; what with the annoying elevator music loops during hold and the machine constantly reminding you, “you’re call will be answered in the order it was received, please hold for the next available representative.”  It’s enough to make any sane person go mad!

As I’m writing this post the internet problem has finally been resolved, but the past few days have not been pleasant. To help ease my discomfort, I turned to baking. I didn’t want to make cookies or brownies… I needed something bright; something that would be sure to lift my spirits.

mise en place (dough)
mise en place

I needed fruit tarts.  To me, plump berries and fresh fruits epitomize summertime. For the regular shortbread crust, I gussied it up with some finely ground pistachios. It takes away from some of the bland flour taste and adds a tasty nutty undertone. I brought those pistachios with me from Aleppo - a Syrian city internationally renown for its pistachios. Of course, once these babies run out, that doesn’t mean I’ll stop making this amazing nutty crust.  High quality pistachios work just as well. 

crumbly buttery flour
crumbly buttery flour

I use my food processor to form the crust because it cuts the butter into the flour perfectly. You pretty much want to end up with tiny beads of butter running throughout the flour.  The dough will seem a bit dry, but that’s perfectly normal.  Once it just barely comes together, you’ll want to wrap it in plastic wrap and throw it in the ice box to chill out for a bit.

poke, poke, poke!
docking the dough

Once it’s chilled you can easily roll the dough out into your favorite tart molds.  I like these little ones because I could quickly convince myself to go for seconds since they’re so darn tiny.  Don’t dwell on the amount of butter in the dough – just look at the pretty specks that the pistachios leave.  

beans, beans their good for your tarts
beans, beans their good for your tarts

I couldn’t resist with the title of this photo. After poking the dough with a fork so it doesn’t rise while baking, throw some dry beans on top to secure the job.  This will also prevent the crusts from browning too much while you’re blind baking them.  Now on to the pastry cream.

mise en place (pastry cream)
mise en place

Pierre Hermé is a culinary genius.  I adapted this pastry cream recipe from his collection and can say without a doubt that it is one of the best pastry creams I’ve made at home.  I infused mine with some grated orange zest and a vanilla bean.

the possibilities are endless
mise en place

I usually don’t like to toot my foodie horn, but these tarts were so yummy.  I even went on to make another batch (this time with an almond-infused pastry cream) and they were all so good.

fruit tarts
mise en place

Part of the fun was assembling the tarts and coming up with neat little designs.  You seriously can’t go wrong with such pretty fruit, though. So make sure to make some fruit tarts (or anything with fruits) before summer’s long gone. For the Ausies and Kiwis reading this post, sorry for the tease… soon your summer will come and we’ll be the ones keeping warm with soups and stews.

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