Monday, August 31, 2009

Spicy Chili-Infused Olive Oil

This special middle eastern recipe comes to the blog courtesy of Haifa's dad. Spicy red chilis are drained of their moisture before they release their flavor and heat. The result is an olive oil that enlivens just about everything from hummus to grilled meat.

Spicy chili-infused Olive Oil

1 cup fresh red chilis (we used thai chilies, but peperoncini or any very hot variety will do
olive oil

chili peppers

Using rubber gloves, remove the stems and puree the chilis in food processor until roughly chopped. Using a spatula, move the chili mixture to a mesh strainer and sprinkle generously with salt (see below).

strain chilis

Put something wide and heavy (e.g., a container filled with water) directly on the chilis, then pace the strainer over a bowl in the refrigerator. Let sit for 2 days to allow any water to drain from the chilis. Move the chilis to a small container and cover with about half an inch or more of extra virgin olive oil. Stir the mixture every so often for a couple of days to let the flavors blend. As you use the oil, be sure to add a bit now and then to prevent mold from forming.

chilis draining

Thursday, August 27, 2009


We eat this classic Ligurian sauce with linguine at least once a month. There really isn't a "recipe" for pesto, just a few basic ingredients. Because of this, the quality and proportions of the ingredients are the limiting factors. Use the freshest basil, olive oil, and cheese possible, and experiment with different amounts of each ingredient as you build the sauce. Each batch will be different than the last, and this variability is what makes pesto special.

pesto pasta

2 1/4 cups tightly packed basil leaves, washed and dried thoroughly
2 cloves garlic
about 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
sea salt
freshly cracked black pepper
about 1/4 cup pine nuts
parmiggiano-reggiano (or grana padano) cheese
linguine (or any type of pasta), fresh if possible

Toast the pine nuts over medium heat until golden brown. Be careful as they near the end of cooking, as they tend to burn quickly. Crush with a mortar and pestle, or with the back of a knife, and set aside.

Puree the basil, 1/4 cup of olive oil, and garlic in a food processor. Add more olive oil, salt, and pepper in small increments, tasting after each addition, until the sauce tastes good to you. Remember to make it a little stronger than you think is necessary, because it will be somewhat diluted when you add the pasta. Also, be careful not to add too much oil. If you do, the sauce doesn't absorb into the sauce quite as well. Pour into a deep bowl and mix in the nuts. Some recipes recommend blending the nuts with the sauce, but we prefer to add them later to preserve their texture.

Boil your pasta until al dente. Move about a tablespoon of the cooking water to the bowl of pesto before you drain the pasta. After well drained, add the pasta to the pesto and top with an extremely generous portion of grated parmiggiano-reggiano cheese and mix until pasta is coated.

The easiest way to improve your pesto is to use high-quality olive oil. In fact, a good (and usually expensive) bottle of olive oil is always good to have around to supplement a less expensive bottle used for cooking. We started using Palestinian oil and haven't looked back.

If you are really serious about pesto, you can use a mortar and pestle instead of a food processor. Crushing each leaf by hand breaks down the fibers and tends to make a more flavorful sauce. But be warned, you might be too tired to eat by the time you are done.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

No-Knead Bread

This bread is a miracle. You get an outstanding loaf for nothing more than the price of some flour, salt, and yeast. And as the recipe says, you don't have to knead the dough. The only catch is that you have to plan in advance to accommodate the 18-hour rise time. Well worth it.

no knead bread

2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/4 teaspoons sea salt
1/3 teaspoon active dry yeast, or 1/4 teaspoon instant yeast

Mix the flour, sea salt, and yeast in a large bowl. Add 1 and 5/8 cups room temperature spring water. Mix with a spatula until a shaggy ball forms. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rise for 8-18 hours. You know it is ready when bubbles form on the surface.

Dust your countertop and hands with flour. Move the dough to the counter and fold over on itself a couple of times. Place the dough, folded side down, on a cotton towel dusted with plenty of flour. Then place another floured towel over the other side. Make sure the towels aren't terry cloth, and that you use a lot of flour to prevent the dough from sticking. Let rise another 2 hours.

Half an hour before the two hours has passed, heat your oven to 450 degrees fahrenheit with a 3-8 quart heavy covered pot inside. We used a cast-iron dutch oven coated with porcelain, but an enamel, pyrex, or ceramic pot should work too. When heated, remove the pot from the oven and gently place the loaf in the pot, folded side down. Cover and bake 30 minutes. Remove the lid and bake 15-30 minutes more, until a nicely browned crust forms (15 minutes was enough for us).

This is the dutch oven we used (anything from 3 to 6 quarts is fine):
Lodge 6-qt. Enameled Color Enamel Round Dutch Oven, Blue

**The New York Times No Knead Bread Recipe called for rapid rise yeast, but dry active yeast works well if you use more.

Lemon Slices in Olive Oil

This is the first recipe that we have tried from a book called Mediterranean Hot and Spicy, by Aglaia Kremezi. You can chop up the lemon peel and mix it with a salad or even eat it by itself! And the oil should take on the flavor of the lemons and work well in dressings or marinades, or wherever "preserved lemons" are called for. If nothing else, you will have a cool looking jar on your countertop. It stays fresh 3-6 months in the fridge, but we have it out at room temperature for now to let the flavors develop. So yes, we haven't even tasted it yet.

lemons in spicy olive oil

3-4 lemons
4-6 tablespoons sea salt
2-3 dried chilis
extra virgin olive oil

Wash the lemons and dry thoroughly. Slice them 1/8 of an inch thick, placing the slices in a colander. Sprinkle the first layer very generously with salt. Form new layers of lemon slices and salt until you run out of both. Place the colander over a bowl in the refrigerator and let the moisture drip out of the lemons. After 24 hours, place the lemon slices on a couple paper towels and carefully press down with more towels to extract most of the remaining moisture. Cut the chilis with a pair of scissors almost up to the stem. Layer the slices in a large jar, placing the peppers in between a couple of the slices. Cover the lemons completely with extra virgin olive oil. It should take some time for the flavors to mix, maybe even a couple of weeks.

Mediterranean Hot and Spicy

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Sauteed Shrimp with Parsley and Garlic

Few meals offer so much reward for so little effort. We always order sauteed shrimp when we go out for tapas, but it tastes even better when you make it at home!

sauteed shrimp

1 lb shrimp
2 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
red pepper flakes (optional
lemon juice (optional

Mash the garlic in a mortar or with the back of a knife. Combine with the parsley.
If the shrimp still have their shells, you may prefer to remove them. If you do, you may also like to de-vein the shrimp by making a shallow incision along the bottom where you might see a dark line (see image below). Remove the digestive tube. This isn't necessary, but who want shrimp feces in their dinner? Not us. Pat the shrimp dry with a paper towel.

Heat the olive oil over high heat in a large non-stick pan. When the oil is very hot, add the shrimp and stir occasionally for 2-3 minutes. They are just about done when they turn pink. Add the garlic and parsley and cook for another minute. You may also want to add a pinch of red pepper flakes at the end of cooking. Serve immediately with fresh lemon juice.

deveining the shrimp

Shrimp purchasing advice
Almost all shrimp is frozen immediately after being caught. So-called "fresh" shrimp at the grocery store is most likely shrimp that used to be frozen and has been sitting around all day (or maybe even longer). So unless you live on the coast, you might as well buy it frozen and thaw it yourself. The price should be the same. If you are buying frozen shrimp, make sure they were individually quick frozen (IQF), and that the bag contains no other ingredients than shrimp. Shrimp are often given ambiguous names like "jumbo" and "large." The best way to know their size is to check the number on the bag.

U/12: Super-colossal
U/15: Colossal
16/20: Super-jumbo
21/25: Jumbo
26/30: Extra-large
31/35: Large
35/40: Medium
40+: Cocktail

Most shrimp sold in America come from tropical waters like the Gulf of Mexico. White and pink shrimp are usually considered to be the best. Brown shrimp are popular as well.

Learn everything you need to know about seafood in this book... we did!
Fish & Shellfish

Rick Bayless is unbeatable

Although this isn't a recipe - I just wanted to see if anyone caught the finale of Top Chef Masters last night. As we expected Rick Bayless was announced the winner! Was there ever any doubt? We've written about several Rick Bayless recipes on the blog (with more to come) and I wanted to point out specifically which ones are his:

Two different recipes for salsa verde one using raw serrano chilis, and one with roasted dried red chilis.

Guacamole is always good, but this is the best we've ever had.

Tim made me steak and plantains on the grill for our first Valentine's dinner. We've used this spice rub on beef, chicken, and fish ever since!

All these recipes came from the same Rick Bayless cookbook: Mexican Everyday. We're obsessed!

Mexican Everyday

Monday, August 17, 2009

Thai Green Curry

You will probably never see made-from-scratch curry paste featured as a 30-minute meal from Rachel Ray. We can live with that. Yes, it takes a long time. But curry paste made at home has a fresh taste you will never get out of a can, or probably at most restaurants. Double the portions and save what remains in the freezer to make your efforts worthwhile. The following entry contains recipes for green curry paste, jasmine rice, and green curry (cooked with meat or vegan style). We've adapted these recipe from a wonderful cookbook called True Thai.

thai spices
Green Curry Paste
1/2 tablespoon whole coriander seeds
1/2 teaspoon whole anise (fennel) seeds
12 whole white peppercorns
2 and 1/2 teaspoons minced fresh Kaffir lime or domestic lime peel
1/3 cup chopped cilantro stems
2 stalks lemon grass. Tough outer leaves discarded, chopped
1/3 cup finely chopped fresh ginger
1/4 cup chopped garlic
1 cup chopped shallots
1/2 cup sliced serrano chilis
6 leaves romaine lettuce (for color)

Roast the coriander and anise seeds in a dry pan over medium heat for 5 minutes, until fragrant. Crush with a mortar and pestle (or in a plastic bag with something broad and heavy). Mash the rest of the ingredients in batches in a mortar and pestle to break down the fibers, then blend in a food processor until smooth.

Jasmine Rice
Run cold water over 1 cup of jasmine rice in a mesh strainer until it comes out clear. Mix the rice with about 1.5 cups cold water in a small pot, then bring to a rolling boil. Cover, reduce heat to low, and cook for 18 minutes. Remove from heat and let rest 10-30 minutes.

Green Curry (meat version)
1 cup green curry paste
18 ounces coconut milk
1-2 tablespoons light brown sugar
fish sauce
2 chicken breasts, chopped into bite-sized pieces
2-3 cups vegetables (e.g., green pepper, green beans, japanese eggplant), sliced
handful of thai basil

Mix curry paste with the coconut milk in a fairly large pan over medium heat to a low boil. Add the chicken and cook on a low boil for 3 minutes. Add a few dashes of fish sauce and the sugar, and stir until blended. Add the vegetables and cook another 3-4 minutes until they have softened to your liking. Turn off the heat, add plenty of thai basil, and serve over jasmine rice.

Green Curry (vegan version)
1 cup green curry paste
18 ounces coconut milk
1-2 tablespoons light brown sugar
soy sauce
1 box firm tofu, place on a paper towel to let excess water run out, then sliced in to cubes
2-3 cups vegetables (e.g., green pepper, green beans, japanese eggplant), sliced
handful of thai basil

Mix curry paste and coconut milk and bring to a low boil over medium heat. Add a few splashes of soy sauce and brown sugar and mix well. Add vegetables and cook to your desired tenderness. Add tofu and mix thoroughly. Turn off heat, add a handful of thai basil and serve over jasmine rice.

Salsa Verde, Two Ways

Roasted tomatillos make a solid base for these two salsas. The first is the most common, and gets a fresh type of heat from raw serrano chilis. Roasted dry chilis give the second version an unusual smoky flavor. Make them both so everyone is happy.

roasted tomatillos

What are tomatillos?
They are like tomatoes, only with a tangy kick. Then can be used raw, but searing mellows them out, and in our opinion, makes a superior salsa. They are encased in their husks, which must be removed prior to use.

Classic Salsa Verde

salsa verde

4 tomatillos
2 cloves garlic, whole
1-2 serrano chilis
1/3 cup cilantro

Cut the tomatillos in half. Place the tomatillos (cut side down) and the garlic cloves in a dry pan over medium-high heat. Sear for 4 minutes per side (or until browned). When cooled to room temperature, blend the tomatillos and garlic with the cilantro and chilis in a food processor until smooth. Add salt to taste.

Salsa Verde with Roasted-Dried Arbol Chilis

Dried Arbol Chilis

4 tomatillos
3 cloves garlic, whole
4-8 dried arbol chilis

Sear the tomatillos and garlic (see instructions above). Break each chili in half and dump out the seeds, saving the dried skins. Add 2 tablespoons vegetable oil to a frying pan over medium heat. Cook the chili skins in the oil for about a minute, or until darkened. Remove from the heat and let dry on a paper towel.

Blend the dried chilis with the tomatillos and garlic in a food processor. Add salt to taste.

chips and salsa

We found both recipes in Rick Bayless' Mexican Everyday cookbook!

Mexican Everyday

Hickory Smoked Nuts

We cooked these nuts as a snack when a vegan friend (Chris) came to visit. After 20 minutes of smoking over hickory chips, these nuts tasted a lot like bacon. He didn't complain. 

hickory smoked nuts

1 teaspoon light brown sugar
1 teaspoon rosemary, chopped
1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
2 cup mixed salted nuts (pecans are mandatory, cashews, almonds, etc)
2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
2 handfuls hickory wood chips, soaked in water for a couple of hours 

Mix the brown sugar, cayenne pepper, and rosemary. Pour the nuts in a 9 x 13-inch heavy-duty foil pan (or any pan coated with foil, as shown below). Add the oil and seasonings and coat the nuts. 

Prepare a two-zone fire for low heat (250 -350 degrees Fahrenheit). Basically, you want to let the coals heat up until they turn gray and move them to one end of the grill. Put the lid on and wait for the temperature to stabilize. Drain the water from the bowl of wood chips and dump one handful on the hot coals. 

When the chips begin to smoke, place the tray of nuts on the grate, away from the coals. Close the lid with the vent holes open over the nuts so the smoke passes over them on the way out. Let the nuts smoke for 10 minutes. Then open the lid, stir the nuts, place another handful of chips on the coals and close the lid for another 10 minutes. Remove the nuts and let cool in the aluminum tray. 

Smoked nuts recipe can be found in the Weber's Charcoal Grilling cookbook that Tim got for Christmas (best present ever?)

Weber's Charcoal Grilling--The Art Of Cooking With Live Fire

New & Improved Baba Ganoush

Check out the newly updated baba ganoush recipe. We made it again this weekend for Chris, and added some new tips and pictures. We also remembered how yummy this is, and wondered why we don't make it more often!

baba ganoush
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