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Archive for the ‘garlic’ Tag


refreshing pasta

A few days ago, when I wrote about my grandfather, I was touched by the support I received in the form of emails and comments. I called my grandmother actually, and read her a few of the messages bloggers and non-bloggers had left describing their personal relationship between food and family. At the expense of sounding sappy, it made me realize how much I enjoy blogging. I really do. As for my grandmother, she said I ought to cook a nice dinner for everyone. Since we’re all scattered around the world, however, I thought I’d share with you the next best thing, a post on one of my favorite refreshing pasta dishes you can enjoy all summer. 

mise en place

This dish takes approximately 11-13 minutes to put together – depending on the time it takes to cook your favorite kind of pasta. For this dish, and most others in fact, I go with farfalle. I like how they look on the plate; butterflies or bow ties, they have a simple elegance to them. Perhaps I can also argue that the perfectly-pinched middle creates deep nooks ideal for the yogurt sauce to settle in, but this dish isn’t that fussy, in fact, any pasta shape will do – and if you want more sauce, go ahead and eat with a spoon, no one’s looking.

garlic paste

For this dish you’ll want to mince, or pretty much smash, the garlic into a smooth paste. If you add salt to the garlic while you’re mincing, the friction will help break down the cell walls of the garlic and also help create a smooth, paste-like consistency. 

yogurt sauce with dried mint & garlic

The sauce is the what makes the dish special. Throughout the Middle East, Greece and the rest of the Mediterranean, yogurt is predominantly used for savory dishes. The yogurt has a cooling effect that helps counteract the spicy heat of the raw garlic and also acts as a smooth, creamy sauce for pasta.

Pasta with Mint Yogurt Sauce

approx 4-6 servings

Components

  • 1 lb pasta
  • 24 oz plain, whole milk yogurt (3/4 large container)
  • 1 1/2 – 2 tbsp dried mint
  • 1-2 cloves of garlic, finely minced
  • salt, to taste
  • extra-virgin olive oil, optional

Putting them all together

  1. Make sauce by mixing together yogurt, garlic and mint. Set aside at room temperature.
  2. Bring water to a boil, season with plenty of salt (1-2 tbsp), and cook pasta according to instructions on the box.
  3. Once pasta is done cooking, drain very well and mix with yogurt sauce that has been sitting at room temperature.
  4. Season with salt and drizzle with a little extra virgin olive oil.

notes: If you want a thicker sauce, try using a combination of Greek (strained) yogurt and regular yogurt. I prefer mine to be more on the light refreshing side, so I only use regular yogurt. 

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pasta with refreshing yogurt sauce

A Holiday Brie from Mr. Man

I know it’s been a while and I’m sorry, really. Luckily, though, I don’t have a laundry list of excuses for you – just one: I got a new job. On weekends I get paid to sell cheese at Whole Foods; yes, you read correctly, PAID to be at Whole Foods.

Many families bring their children along and encourage them to try different cheeses. I think that’s great! One family has the most adorable child that always calls me Mr. Man. Every weekend his parents greet me at the cheese counter and I give them the low down on all the new and interesting cheeses we carry. Once they make their selection and are ready to go, the little kid always yells, “bye, Mr. Man!” This weekend I shared this brie recipe with them and thought it would be appropriate to share here, as well.

I understand the holiday season is here and everyone is up to their necks in shopping, cleaning, traveling – the works. You won’t need any measuring spoons, fancy equipment or unusual ingredients for this one – just garlic, honey, a wheel of brie and preferably a warm baguette. 

mise en place

I make this brie all the time for dinner parties and it has never let me down – never. My good friends Marilyn and Diane are huge fans of this appetizer and it always makes me happy to hear their success with this recipe.

slathered in garlic

We’re off to a good start with the garlic. You want to smash it really finely with the side of your knife so as to create a smooth paste. A sprinkling of salt helps with this process. Once this bakes covered by a layer of honey, the garlic will roast and caramelize.

healthy squeeze of honey

Now comes the sweet part. You’ll want to coat your garlic-covered brie with your favorite honey and don’t skimp either. Any excess honey will drizzle down to the bottom of your ramekin while baking and form a nice sauce for later.

stringy brie

As difficult as it may be, let your brie cool for about 5-7 minutes once it comes out of the oven. Otherwise you’ll end up with a pool of brie and miss out on the stringiness. Remember that warm baguette? This is where it would come in handy.

sweet & savory brie

Don’t forget to scoop out some of the liquid honey sauce that settles at the bottom of the ramekin.

Happy Holidays!

Baked Brie

approx 8 servings

Components

  • 1 wheel of brie
  • 3-4 cloves, garlic
  • honey
  • 1 warm baguette

Putting them all together

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Smash garlic into a smooth paste using the side of your knife and some salt. The salt will help brake down the garlic even more.
  3. Spread the garlic over the brie and cover with honey.
  4. Bake in a slightly larger ramekin for 15-20 minutes and enjoy with warm bread.

note: You don’t want to use your fanciest brie for this recipe. A standard, good-quality brie works just fine.

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This is how I roll

With winter quickly approaching, everything gets pushed off to the back burner. Getting out of bed, hopping out of the shower – the basic tasks that were once a drag begin to feel even more impossible. I had originally intended on writing this post last night, but I failed. I was laying in bed, snuggled under my warm blankets with my powerbook perched over a pillow, typing away. The arrangement seemed perfect… except, I woke up the next morning to the annoying sound of my alarm, my laptop around my arm and a blog post that was complete rubbish. Needless to say, I’m writing at my desk today. 

Stuffed grape leaves were a treat growing up. Mom, grandmas, and aunts would always gather around the same square table, each with their own pile of grape leaves to roll, while my cousins and I ran around getting into all sorts of trouble. When we were exhausted we would offer the grown ups our finest grape rolling services, but they always kindly declined. The adults sometimes handed us a few leaves to entertain ourselves with; but beyond that we were instructed to play more in order to get hungry and eat more later on. If you’re familiar with Middle Easterners, or most Mediterranean cultures for that matter, you’ll notice that the more you eat, the happier mom is, and the better off you are. 

This past weekend I decided to make mom proud and make my own stuffed grape leaves. They’re different from the Greek or Turkish dolmas in that these are thinner and are served hot after slowly simmering in a garlic-lemon broth. They’re a staple in Lebanon, Syria, Palestine and Jordan and have different names depending on where you’re from: يبرق (yabraq)، ورق عنب (waraq a’nib)، ورق عريش (waraq a’reesh) are some of the more common ones.

mise en place

Traditionally you won’t find pork chops used in this recipe. Instead, lamb chops or beef ribs are used to keep the stuffed leaves from burning. I couldn’t find beef ribs and the lamb chops looked kind of shady, so I opted for the pork chops.

just keep rolling, just keep rolling

Rolling the grape leaves is where some technique is involved. It takes time to get used to, but you’ll have plenty of tries to perfect your skills. The trick is not to roll them too tight (or you end up with a dry dish) and not to roll them too loose (or the broth floods the leaves and you end up with mush).

halfway there

Although this amount is certainly child’s play  for a veteran cook like my grandma, it was a major feat for a newbie like me. Luckily for me though, I had my mac and the wonders of youtube to get me through the mission. **Bonus for whoever can name that very famous Lebanese singer that is on my computer screen. 

you can never have to much garlic

Another important part of the dish is aligning the rolled grape leaves into the pot. This will ensure even cooking and safe unveiling when you go to flip the pot after cooking. Once you line the bottom with the meat and any leftover/torn up grape leaves, you want to carefully position your rolled leaves in a circular fashion. I suggest positioning them in the 3-6-9-12 (clock) position first and start filling in the gaps accordingly. Halfway through you’ll want to throw in the garlic cloves that will become soft and sweet after cooking. 

yabraq (يبرق)

At the end, your hard work doesn’t go unrewarded. This, my friends, is what it’s all about. صحة و هنا … saha w hana (bon appetit in Arabic).

Stuffed Grape Leaves

approx 6 servings

Components

  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1/2 lb rice
  • 3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 lb of grape leaves
  • pork or beef ribs
  • salt, to taste
  • 2 tsp allspice
  • 15-25 cloves of garlic (to taste)
  • 1 cup lemon juice
  • 3 cups water

Putting them all together

  1. Soak rice in water for 10-15 minutes, then drain water.
  2. Mix rice, ground beef, olive oil, salt, pepper and allspice together until well mixed.
  3. Fill and roll all the grape leaves with the meat mixture as displayed in the picture.
  4. Season the pork or beef ribs with salt and allspice.
  5. Line the bottom of a large pot with the meat, followed by any unused/torn up grape leaves – this prevents the rolled leaves from burning.
  6. Carefully align half the grape leaves on top in a circular fashion.
  7. Distribute garlic cloves over the top.
  8. Finish layering the rest of the rolled grape leaves.
  9. Mix the lemon juice and water with some salt and pepper to make the “broth.” 
  10. Pour the broth over the grape leaves, making sure the liquid reaches the top layer of the grape leaves. 
  11. Cover with a medium plate and bring to a boil. 
  12. Once at a boil, cover the pot with a lid (leave the medium plate inside to serve as a weight) and cook on the lowest heat for 1 and 1/2 hours.
  13. Turn off the heat and drain the broth.
  14. Flip the cooked leaves onto a large decorative platter and enjoy.

note: You can find grape leaves at any Middle Eastern market and some specialty supermarkets.

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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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foodies (not so) anonymous

Are you a food blog junkie? Do you stop your friends from eating your culinary creations before they’ve been thoroughly photographed? Do you wake up and check your feed for new posts from your fave food blogs?  Most importantly, have you made online foodie friends?

If you’ve answered yes to these questions, it must come at no surprise that you’re a foodie.

foodie haiku
foodie haiku

Last week, Diane and Todd from White on Rice Couple sent me the best graduation gift a foodie could ever ask for.  It was a care package filled with a bottle of epicurean extra virgin olive oil, a hand-crafted wooden serving platter, exquisite dark chocolates, Vietnamese goodies and pretty party napkins that made for excellent shock absorbers during delivery. The gift also came right after they inspired me to plant my own herb garden (READ: 1 basil and 1 rosemary plant).  This week, as you can tell, my basil plant is out of control.  I pluck and it just keeps growing!  So to show my thanks, I’ve decided to write a post using my homegrown basil and a couple of their gifts. 

mise en place
mise en place

When I opened the bottle of extra virgin olive oil they sent, I was immediately taken aback by its bold fragrance. It was like sticking my nose up close into a big bowl of Mediterranean olives. This kind of oil is certainly not meant to go anywhere near heat and is perfect for salads and dunking bread.  I opted for the latter choice, and went with a warm baguette from my local baker.

basil confetti
basil confetti

Infused oils is something my mom always makes for when guests are coming over. It’s extremely simple and tastes even better when made a day in advance. This recipe is for a spicy basil-infused olive oil and it is by far my favorite variation from my mom’s collection. 

good quality extra virgin olive oil
extra virgin olive oil

The oil is out-of-this-world! The minty subtleties from the basil play really well against the robust flavors of the unfiltered olive oil.

bread’s best friend
bread's best friend

After the oil has had about a day to rest (overnight if you’re too impatient), there’s probably not much that wouldn’t taste amazing with a little drizzle of this concoction.  Seriously, drizzle this over some grilled chicken, spread some inside your sandwiches, heck, go at it with a spoon? OK, maybe that’s a bit much, but that’s not to take away any of its awesomeness.

basil-infused olive oil
bread's best friend

Thanks again, D & T for the amazing gifts!  I’m looking forward to using the rest of the oil and the other treats you guys included.  The chocolates were gone by the second day, but that was to be expected.  You guys are the best!!

Basil-Infused Olive Oil

(yields approx. 300 ml)

Components

  • 250 ml extra virgin olive oil, high quality
  • lots of basil leaves
  • 1 or 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • pinch of red pepper flakes
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Putting them all together

  1. Chiffonade your basil leaves (i.e. make basil confetti)
  2. In a pretty container, combine basil, red pepper flakes, garlic, salt & pepper and cover with the oil.
  3. Cover with plastic wrap and allow the oil to sit over night.
  4. Serve with bread (or anything, really) and enjoy.

Note:  You can store the oil in the refrigerator, but make sure to bring it back to room temperature before using again.  It is normal for the oil to congeal in the fridge.  

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