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Archive for October, 2007


Mahna Mahna… Muhammara!

Note: This recipe has been replaced with a newer, tastier version.

I’ve had The Muppets song stuck in my head for days now and cannot help the fact that it plays itself whenever I try to sneak in a thought. Granted it could be worse… perhaps Michael Bolton? Anyway, I digress. This entry is dedicated more to a delicious spread called Muhammara than to my random quirks. For my family, Muhammara is like the ketchup that is served alongside most of our meals. We eat it with toasted pita bread, as an accompaniment to meaty swordfish and even as a condiment for sandwiches. No one can deny Muhammara’s versatility, but what keeps me coming back for more is how easy it is to prepare.

Muhammara (محمرة)

Dating (à la gastronomique)

Restaurant Week is an epic, 7-day culinary affair that takes place in every fortunate metropolitan city from Los Angeles to New York. During this event an assortment the city’s finest, chic and most trendy restaurants offer a selection of their menu at an unreasonably low, fixed price.

I was in Washington D.C. this past summer when the gastronomic festivities began. Friends were contacted, reservations were made, and we immediately began eating our way through the seemingly endless list of fabulous restaurants.
If I had to play favorites, Mie N Yu, a small restaurant in the heart of Georgetown, wins my vote. Each dish was perfectly orchestrated from taste to presentation and offered sophisticated flavors in each bite. Many of the other restaurants, however, also had spectacular food; so, what sets Mie N Yu apart? Décor. It was absolutely stunning and perfectly complemented the entire dining experience. And if you visit, your experience would not be complete without a trip to their restroom, which has won numerous awards.
My favorite dish of theirs was an amuse-gueule that featured chorizo-stuffed medjool dates. The flavor profile was divine: the sweetness of the date was perfectly paired with the saltiness from the chorizo. Then the chef wrapped this heavenly concoction in crispy bacon and plated it over a bed of Spicy Moroccan Harissa Sauce.

Chorizo-Stuffed Medjool Dates

Chorizo-Stuffed Medjool Dates

Components

  • 4 oz. chorizo (1/4 lb.)
  • 4 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tbsp. lemon juice
  • 1 small fennel bulb
  • 1 medium shallot
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • 20 medjool dates
  • 20 slices of bacon, center cut
  • 1 tsp. harissa paste
  • 3 roasted red bell peppers, drained

Putting them all together

  1. To make the sauce, process the harissa paste, the drained roasted red bell peppers and lemon juice. Slowly drizzle 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil to create a light emulsion and add a pinch of salt for seasoning.
  2. Coat a large sauté pan with the remaining olive oil and set over medium-low heat. Slice the fennel and shallot thinly and sweat for 8-10 minutes, or until translucent (add the salt to help break down the veggies while cooking).
  3. Remove the wrapper from the chorizo and pulse in the food processor until it reaches a coarse ground consistency.
  4. Combine the fennel mixture and ground chorizo in a medium bowl and set aside to cool. In the mean time, pit the medjool dates and create a small nest for the chorizo filling.
  5. In a large baking sheet, par-bake (approx. 5-7 minutes in a 350 degree oven) the bacon in order to render some of its fat before wrapping. This can be done in advance and also allows the bacon to crisp up quicker when baking the second time.
  6. Stuff the pitted dates with the chorizo filling and individually wrap them with the par-baked bacon. Bake in a 400 degree oven for 5-7 minutes, or until crisp.
  7. Plate over a bed of the Roasted Red Pepper Harissa sauce and enjoy!

notes:: Inspired by DC restaurant, Mie N Yu. You can make the filling the day and par-cook the bacon the day before.

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Tapas gone Trendy

Us college students are often burdened with tons of school work, lack of time and, of course, our social obligation to party. These four (sometimes five) years have marked a period in people’s lives when refrigerators are primarily used to stock drinks and pantries sadly store endless supplies of ramen noodles or mac & cheese – the token caloric providers. Aware of these pressing circumstances, I wanted to come up with an hors d’oeuvre that would be practical for college students, yet fabulous for any swanky dinner party.

The task presented endless challenges. For starters, I needed to find something that was trendy, classy and impressive, but was constricted by factors of taste, affordability and ease. Surely, these criteria sound contradictory, but a simple solution lay in Spain’s most brilliant culinary creation: tapas!
Tortilla Española is a classic tapas served in bars and restaurants all over Spain. Fortunately, this version doesn’t require any fancy gadgets or expert techniques, just a mini muffin tin, potato, onion and eggs (chorizo is optional, but highly recommended).
Enjoy!

mini tortillas españolas

Mini Spanish Tortillas

(makes approx. 24)

Components

  • 3 russet potatoes, peeled
  • 2 medium onions
  • 4 eggs
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • chorizo picante (optional)

Putting them all together

  1. Halve the onions and then slice them into thin strips. Next, finely dice the potatoes.
  2. Coat a large non-stick sauté pan with olive oil and place over medium high heat. Add potato and onions, season with salt and pepper, and sweat the vegetables until tender (approximately 15-20 minutes).
    Note: Make sure to balance between heat and stirring so as to not get any color on the vegetables, but also not to over-stir so that the potatoes keep their shape.
  3. Whisk the eggs in a large mixing bowl.
  4. Add the cooked potato and onion mixture to the eggs and carefully spoon the mixture into greased mini muffin tins.
  5. Top each individual mini tortilla with diced chorizo and bake in a 400 degree oven for 7-9 minutes or until the tortillas have set.

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From: Rome, To: You

This entry is dedicated to Raquel, my friend who thinks making focaccia out of a box is OK.

Romans are credited with an array of modern marvels, from the arc to democracy; but how easily do we forget the gastronomic contributions they’ve brought forth to the culinary world. The taste of artisan bread perfumed with sprigs of rosemary and topped with a few crystals of sea salt is considered perfection in the eyes of gourmands around the globe. A predecessor to the pizza, focaccia’s extensive history has turned it into a versatile canvas for all sorts of delicious ingredients. Zesty sun dried tomatoes; briny olives; earthy crimini mushrooms, you name it and focaccia will deliver.
For me, caramelized onions, charred red bell peppers and creamy goat cheese stand out as favorites. Also, in my recipe, you will notice that store bought pizza dough has replaced the 20 minutes of hard labor kneading and hours of proofing required to make focaccia dough, which is essentially a pizza dough; so without further ado, lets cook.

Roasted Red Pepper, Caramelized Onion Focaccia

Roasted Red Pepper & Caramelized Onion Focaccia

Components

  • 28 oz. pizza dough, store bought
  • ¼ – ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsbp. balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tbsp. rosemary, dried
  • 2 red onions, sliced
  • 1 red bell pepper, julienne
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 3 oz. goat cheese
  • salt, to taste

Putting them all together

  1. Place the pizza dough in a bowl with a little bit of oil, cover and allow to proof in a warm dark place (inside a microwave does the job perfectly).
  2. In the mean time, coat a sauté pan with olive oil and cook the sliced onions for 30-45 minutes on low heat until they’re sweet and their flavors are concentrated. Deglaze the pan with balsamic vinegar, cook for another minute and set aside to cool.
  3. Salt the red bell peppers and place under the broiler until slightly charred. Then sauté them with olive oil and garlic for 7-10 minutes and set aside to cool.
  4. Coat a 10”x14.75” baking sheet (or one of comparable size) with olive oil and fit the proofed pizza dough. Sprinkle with the rosemary and make indentations along the entire dough to create nooks for the toppings and extra virgin olive oil to sink into.
  5. Top your focaccia with your cooled toppings and bake in a 400 degree oven for 15-17 minutes or until golden brown.

Note: Add a pinch of salt to the onions while cooking to help break down the cell walls, get rid some of the moisture and concentrate its sweet flavors.

Sprinkle a tiny bit of salt on the focaccia before baking for an authentic Italian taste.

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Now that you’re a pro at making your own bread, which always sounds impressive, explore its endless possibilities. Turn it into sandwiches, serve it as a side course, an afternoon snack, or dip it in olive oil and balsamic vinegar for an unforgettable taste – enjoy!