June 18, 2013

It’s too damn hot

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no photos, please

June 18, 2013

40 clove chickpeas and broccoli

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There is not much to be said about cooking with a busy schedule because usually with a busy schedule, there is not much to be said about cooking. In our Franco-American household, either we take 2 hours to cook (a mechouia, for example) or we order pizzas, because somewhere in between those two extremes, we just don’t know how to handle it. With one Masters student and one PhD student, some days there just isn’t enough time to take a break and cook. But we are learning, slowly but surely, how to make quick, delicious, hearty low preparation dishes.

This recipe comes from the book of my dreams at the moment, Appetite for Reduction — though who said anything about reduction (didn’t I mention pizzas just before?) What I really like about this book are the recipes with few and basic ingredients. We just don’t have the time to go on a full blown mission in search for haloumi!

If you like garlic, this recipe is for you, though I must admit, the Beard said we could even add more next time. Roasted garlic becomes less offensive than its raw twin.

40 clove chickpeas and broccoli

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Serves 4

What you’ll need:

  • 1 lb broccoli, cut into large spears, stems chopped into 1/2″ pieces
  • 1- cloves of garlic, smashed (break them into individual cloves and then smash them with the flat side of your knife, you can peel off the skin, the clove will be relatively whole still)
  • 1 15oz can chickpeas, drained & rinsed
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tsp lemon zest
  • 1 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 cup vegetable broth

Now what?

  • Preheat  oven to 400. Put the broccoli, garlic and chickpeas in a 9×13″ baking pan, or some sort of vessel where they can be spread out. Drizzle with a reasonable amount of olive oil (2 tsp to be precise), salt, pepper, lemon zest and dried oregano. Toss to coat every bit of it. Spray it with some cooking spray (or a little more olive oil) and throw it in the oven.
  • After about 15 minutes, flip the mixture. Bake for 15 minutes more, and then remove from the oven to flip one final time. Once all is flipped to assure even cooking, add the vegetable broth. With a spatula, scrape all of the delicious stuck pieces off of the bottom of the pan and put back in the oven for another 15 minutes.
  • Once it is done, the broccoli will be slightly browned and the garlic nice and tender.

We ate this with some lemony couscous!

Bon app!

June 15, 2013

Mechouîa | A guest post by the Beard

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Since we’ve been waiting for Spring for at least nine months now, and since this wonderful lady has been playing hard to get, I decided I’d bring Spring in our home on this St Barnaby. The best way to do so is to go back to the atmosphere of my lovely youth and taste what my all my Tunisian friends were so lucky to find on their table at dinner time: mechouîa, or literally “grilled pepper salad.” (pronounced may-shoe-uh)

Before I get on to ”mechouîng,” there is a little something you should know while reading these lines. In fact, the Guide and I recently relocated to a bigger and better-looking 150 year-old French building in which we’ve settled in a very bourgeois apartment. We’d post pictures, but I’m sure our roommate Aristide (our black cat, in fact) would sue us for copyright infringement 🙂 In any case, the good news is that the Guide and I noticed we spend most of our time together in our brand new kitchen! I just noticed how living has been made easier by just adapting to wiser eating habits. Not that I had bad eating habits before, but I am French… and I still can’t find a single article online that would prove me right in saying that one can take care of their figure by just shoving down 1.5 kilograms of cheese every day. So my cheese intake depends now on my bribing skills… et c’est pas plus mal!

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Our friend Christophe (the market gardener) is depressed, because the weather is so ugly that he can’t grow anything and business has therefore been horrible, to say the least. So to cheer him up, we bought 3 times the amount of food we usually get on a Saturday morning. And I ended up with 4 lbs. of banana peppers… and so what? I just thought about how the smell of roasted peppers freshly taken out of the oven could put a smile of the Guide’s face when she gets home. The smell of Summer, with a refreshing taste of happiness on the table. And a possibility for me to bribe the Guide into allowing me to go get a fresh mozzarella di Bufala Campana

Mechouîa salad

(adapted from omafaim)

Serves 4-6

What you’ll need:

  • 4.5 pounds of fresh banana peppers
  • 6 red tomatoes
  • 3 garlic cloves, unpeeled
  • 1 lemon
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

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Now what?

  • Turn on the radio, and start singing along the tunes from back in the 1970s.
  • Place the peppers on a baking sheet and broil them in the oven. They must turn almost black, so that you can peel the skin off more easily. Half way through the broiling process, place the three (unpeeled) garlic cloves amidst the peppers, so that the smell of garlic spreads to the broiling veggies. Once they’re well cooked, let them cool down in a large bowl, and make sure you cover it with a lid.
  • While the peppers cook, bring water to a boil. Slash the top of each of the 6 tomatoes and place them in the boiling water. Remove after 15 minutes and let them cool down.
  • Bring another pan to a boil, and pour yourself a nice cup of jasmine tea. It helps with your singing. Change the radio and turn to the hits from the eighties.
  • Once everything has cooled down, start peeling the peppers and tomatoes and take the seeds out. Quick tip: don’t use a knife to peel the peppers, just open its lengthways with your hands and use your fingers to remove the pepper flesh on a cutting board. The peppers need to be long and ropy (just like the tomatoes, which you will cut with a knife, obviously).
  • Drain the peppers and tomatoes in a colander in the sink for at least two or three hours. Too much juice would turn the mechouîa into a mushy soup.
  • Once it has drained, mix the preparation with the garlic paste (after you press it out of the skin) and the juice of one lemon, as well as 2 teaspoons of cumin and 2 tablespoons of olive oil. I tend to add a bit of black pepper (Malabar, preferably) and a pinch of coarse sawlt.
  • Place it in the fridge for 2 hours.
  • Finish your cup of jasmine tea and imaging what the Guide’s smile will be like, craving your mozza-ball.

Bon app!

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June 11, 2013

Big Schnooze’s Lite Summer Salad

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Summertime is upon us here in Strasbourg. Or at least I think. The weather has oscillated between scolding hot and blistery cold for the past month. The only solid sign I have that summer is almost here is the giant mosquito that is torturing me each night. Otherwise, the changing of the seasons is a most promising feeling when you get your produce from a market each week. The French rarely eat out of season, which for me meant discovering a ton of new produce (like, what the hell was a leek? and rhubarb? I’m sorry, that just doesn’t grow on Long Island!) and THEN having to learn when to get excited for what. Poor old me who thought strawberries were a year ’round fruit.

Now I know the simple joys of asparagus season — those few, beautiful weeks where you eat so much asparagus that your pee stinks for weeks. Or cantaloupe season — those magnificent round delights that migrate north from the Provence region of France (think Beauty and the Beast) around this time every year. Ah eating seasonally.  Maybe people do it in the United States, I just never had before. Shame on me.

This recipe is simple, easy and reminds me of a good dear Schnooze. Her invention perhaps? Or perhaps she was just the one to introduce me to this medley of flavors. But when summer time roles around, big Schnooze’s lite summer salad comes out and it brings me back to Strasbourg : Summer 2011, 2012.  For a lack of better name, I have named this one after you, Schnooze.

Big Schnooze’s Lite Summer Salad

Serves 4-6

What you’ll need:

  • 1 cantaloupe, cut into cubes
  • 1 cucumber, scraped out and cut into cubes
  • 1 red onion, cut into bite sized bits
  • 1.5 cups feta, cut into cubes
  • as much chopped fresh mint as needed to cover the dish — preferably from the Beard’s mom’s garden…

Now what?

Easy. Cut each ingredient into a bite size cube. Mix in a bowl. Eat chilled. (Can be kept in fridge if you haven’t finished yet! But I would eat this quickly since it can get soggy after about 2 days.)

Serve with wine. Gewurztraminer is a good idea.

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What are we listening to in the kitchen in honor of Schnooze? Postcards from Italy – Beirut

Bon app!

June 9, 2013

Banana Bread Crepe Cake | gâteau aux crêpes

crepecake

Here is a cake that trumps all cakes.A crepe that trumps all crepes.

The kind of cake that makes the French tremble in their booties.  What a sacrilegious idea to combine crepes to make something other than a traditional crepe, egg and ham dish? Though they all shudder at the thought of a crepe cake, they always come back, eye-ing the photos, interested, wondering if they could put their culinary preferences aside for the moment in order to engage in such an American spin on the crepe.

This is the kind of cake that says “I am sorry but I don’t have a birthday present for you.” This is the kind of cake that says “breakfast, lunch and dinner”. This is the kind of cake that says “squish” when you cut into it. This cake is divine. The recipe seems long and daunting but once you have mastered the crepe technique (which is essentially the pancake technique but easier) this cake is a breeze. No oven needed. Can be stuck in the freezer for faster consolidating results. Even the most anti-banana beards on the planet have approved the subtle hint of banana that infiltrates the palate. It marries perfectly with the cream and the butterscotch. There really is no other way to eat 10 crepes in one bite than this way.

crepecake2

Banana Bread Crepe Cake with Butterscotch

adapted from Smitten Kitchen

(serves a many, but was eaten by 2.)

What you’ll need:

Crepe batter

  • 4 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled slightly, plus extra for greasing pan
  • 1 large ripe banana (should yield about 1/2 cup peeled and squished)
  • 1 cup (235 ml) milk
  • 3/4 cup (95 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons (25 grams) light brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon table salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • Pinch of ground cloves

Cream cheese yogurt filling

  • 8 ounces (225 grams) cream cheese, well-softened
  • 1 1/2 cups (345 grams) plain Greek-style yogurt
  • 1/3 cup (65 grams) granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Walnut butterscotch topping

  • 1/2 cup (120 ml) heavy whipping cream
  • 1/4 cup (50 grams) packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon (15 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup (about 50 grams) chopped walnuts, toasted
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon flaky sea salt, or to taste

Now what?

  1. Crepe batter: Mix together banana and butter in a food processor or with a hand mixer until smooth. Add the remaining ingredients, mixing until obtaining a smooth liquid. Let the batter rest in the fridge for 1 hour minimum. This part is essential since it helps your crepe batter thicken up significantly. If possible, overnight will yield the best results.
  2. To make the crepes: Heat a non-stick skillet or a crepe pan on medium heat. The best part about France is that a crepe pan will cost you 2 euros whereas in America where it will be deemed a specialty item. Melt a nub of butter in the pan. Using a 1/4 cup measure, pour the crepe batter in the pan as you swirl the pan around so that the batter spreads out evenly and thinly across the whole pan. Emergency fill in any open holes carefully with fresh batter if need be. The French will argue that an ideal crepe is a thin one. Let the crepe cook, untouched for 2-3 minutes. Once it is ready to be flipped, the crepe will be golden brown and it will peel right off and flip easily. Cook for 30 seconds on the second side, and transfer to a plate. Repeat with the remaining batter, you should get 10-11 crepes. Cool crepes completely before assembling the cake.
  3. Cream cheese filling: Beat cream cheese until fluffy, then add the greek yogurt, sugar and vanilla and beat for another minute, until fluff-city.
  4. Cake assembly: Lay the very first cake on your cake platter or plate of choice. Spread with 1/4 cup of the cream cheese filling and then place another crepe on top. Repeat until the crepes or the cream cheese filling runs out, but be sure to end with a crepe hat on top.
  5. Butterscotch topping: Combine the cream, brown sugar and butter in the bottom of a medium, heavy saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and let it simmer for 10 minutes.  Be sure to stir occasionally in the beginning and more frequently as it reduces and thickens. After 10 minutes, once it smells toasty and feels thick to the touch, remove from heat and stir in the vanilla and salt, then walnuts. Immediately pour over stack of filled crepes. Spread the butterscotch over all of the “hat” so that everyone gets their share of butterscotch topping.

Bon app!

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