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Archive for the ‘onions’ Tag


Mejillones in my new Kitchen

If you knew the kind of things I’ve been eating the past ten days, you’d be appalled. After I made the Moroccan chicken and olives dish a couple weeks ago, I carefully set aside some left overs and packed up my entire life into a 14-foot U-Haul. After that, my will to cook was nowhere to be found. I’m sure it was hidden somewhere behind the fortress of boxes that consumed my new apartment, but, for the time being, I was happy with my daily bowls of cereal and occasional sandwiches. A diet devoid of fruits and vegetables – like I said, appalled.

The unpacking process was just as painful because the towering boxes were the first things to greet me as I walked through the door after a long day at work. Slowly though, everything started finding it’s place. Since I do most of my blogging from my kitchen, I thought I’d show you my new digs; nothing fancy, but I made sure to find something spacious. My eat-in kitchen was transformed into an extension of the kitchen, where I created an additional 8 feet of counter space by simply propping a dining room table on top of bed stands.

my homemade countertop

Since the weather has been beautiful the past few days, my will to cook was still nowhere to be found – even though my apartment is now fully unpacked. On my first run to the grocery store, I saw some mussels out of the corner of my eyes that I knew I couldn’t pass up. 

mise en place

In Spain there’s a popular tapas called Mejillones a la vinagreta, or simply Mussels in a vinaigrette; and that is what I set out to make. It’s a dish that can be eaten cold and is extremely refreshing and simple to make. The base ingredients for la vinagreta are tomatoes, onions a splash of vinegar and maybe a squeeze of lemon juice, but none of this is set in stone. I’ve seen some people add hard boiled eggs, others add long green peppers, you get the picture.

wash & scrub each one

To avoid getting sick you’ll want to carefully wash your fresh mussels in cold water, remove their beard and toss out the ones that are open or chipped before cooking. They should also smell like the sea and not fishy. Once their cooked most of them will open up, but if you have a couple stubborn ones in the bunch, simply pry those open and enjoy. (Updated: 06/12)

don’t forget the bay leaves (like I almost did)

Once you’ve got all your mussels prepped, the cooking part is simple. You throw them in a large skillet with a glass of white wine you’ll be drinking that evening and a couple of bay leaves, cover them and let them steam in the wine for a 3-4 minutes, or until they all open up. Once they cook, I like to serve this dish cold, so I throw them in the fridge while I whip up la vinagreta.

bright summer flavors

In the end, after changing my mind a couple times of what should go in my vinagreta (after I took the mise en place photo), I decided to throw in some Italian parsley and garlic.

mejillones a la vinagreta

This month we’re in Spain for A Taste of the Mediterranean, being hosted by the beautiful Núria from Spanish Recipes. The theme this month is to make tapas – any tapas. I’ve neglected the contest a bit with my moving, but Núria has gone all out and prepared a post full of Spanish inspiration. Check out her blog, get inspired by how beautiful, simple and delicious Spanish tapas are and then venture to make your own. iGourmet is sponsoring this contest and is giving away a $50 gift certificate to the winning tapas post.

Mejillones a la Vinagreta

serves 6-7 appetizer portions

Components

  •  2 lbs fresh mussels
  • 1 glass of pinot grigio
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3 tomatoes, finely diced
  • 1 red onion, finely diced
  • 1/3 cup Italian parsley, finely diced
  • 1 roasted pepper, finely diced
  • 1-2 garlic cloves, minced
  • juice of 1 lemon and 1 lime
  • 1 teaspoon of white wine vinegar
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Putting them all together

  1. Clean mussels in cold water by removing their beard and make sure to toss any that are open before cooking.
  2. Add the cleaned mussels to a large skillet with the white wine and bay leaves, cover and cook for 3-4 minutes or until they’re all open.
  3. Toss any mussels that didn’t open and cool the rest in the fridge.
  4. Make the vinaigrette by tossing all the remaining ingredients in a bowl, cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
  5. To serve, remove half the shell from each mussel and top each one with a tablespoon of the vinaigrette.

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signs of a good time

Middle Eastern Yogurt Soup

It’s almost February, it’s cold and it’s the perfect time for soup, if there ever was one. Keeping true to my kibbeh promise from my last post, I made kibbeh b’laban (كبة بلبن او كبة لبنية), which literally translated means kibbeh cooked in yogurt. Not only was it my first try at making this on my blog, but it was my first attempt ever. In order to get everything right, I called my sito (grandmother in Arabic) and stayed on the phone with her until I got every last detail of this dish right. It also took a long time since I had to convert her measurements of “handfuls, half-handfuls and pinches” into more relative quantities. All in all, it was lots of fun and in retrospect, a major success. 

mise en place

If you want to go for the absolute traditional method, you’ll want to use goat milk yogurt instead of cow’s milk. Although either works fine for this dish. The other main ingredient I want to talk about is the habra, which is basically ground inside round (with absolutely no fat) and then processed in the food processor with some salt, a little ice water and a tiny amount of baking soda. This makes the traditional meat paste used in every kibbeh recipe. I’ll usually prepare kilos of habra at a time and keep 500g portions stored in the freezer for whenever I want to make kibbeh.

forming the kibbeh

The meat itself has absolutely no fat, and is mixed with the soaked bulgur wheat to form the outside of the kibbeh balls. For moisture, the kibbeh is stuffed with grated onions and a tiny dab of cold butter. As the kibbeh balls cook in the yogurt, the butter will melt and combine with the grated onions to make for a sweet surprise in each bite.

rice helps stabilize the yogurt

The yogurt is the foundation of the dish and requires some cleverness to avoid it from curdling over the heat. The first step is to cook about a quarter cup of rice in 3/4 to 1 cup of water (way more than you usually need) until it turns into complete mush. Once it cools a bit you’ll want to blend the mushy rice with the yogurt, egg and a teaspoon of cornstarch. The egg, cornstarch and rice all act as stabilizers for the yogurt. A final precaution would be to cook the sauce over low heat and stirring only in one direction (either clockwise or counterclockwise). Don’t ask me why, but it works… if anyone knows a more scientific reason to this, I’d love to know it.

kibbeh bil-laban (كبة باللبن)

Once the yogurt begins to simmer, cook the kibbeh balls in the yogurt at a low simmer for about 7-10 minutes (depending on the size of your kibbeh) and you’ve got a fantastic Middle Eastern soup. Sprinkle with some dried mint and enjoy. 

Kibbeh B’Laban

4-6 servings

Components

  • 500 g. habra
  • 300 g. bulgur wheat (finely ground)
  • 1 large onion, grated
  • 1/2 stick of butter, cut into tiny cubes
  • 2 liters of goat or cow yogurt
  • 1/4 cup rice
  • 1 tsp of cornstarch
  • 1 egg
  • dried mint, for garnish
  • 1/2 tsp ground allspice
  • ice cold water, as necessary*

Putting them all together

  1. Soak the bulgur wheat in water for 10-15 minutes (use enough water to cover the bulgur entirely by about 1/4 inch).
  2. Mix habra, allspice and soaked bulgur together and set aside.
  3. Cook the rice in 3/4 cup of water until mushy. 
  4. Blend the rice with some of the yogurt, the egg and the cornstarch. Mix this mixture with the rest of yogurt and place over low heat. 
  5. Stir occasionally and once it comes to a small simmer, add kibbeh balls and cook for another 5-10 minutes (depending on the size of the kibbeh).
  6. Garnish with dried mint.

note: use the ice water to form the kibbeh balls. This will help make them smooth. For more specific step-by-step instructions read the blog post.

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dried mint + paprika are optional garnishes