Saturday, June 24, 2017

Summer of Salads: Cucumber-Honeydew Salad with Feta

Honeydew is always hit and miss with me, usually because it is either too sweet (overripe) or not ripe enough. I came across this recipe from Rikki Snyder (via Pinterest) however and was intrigued, because I was looking for something that would accommodate honeydew at almost any level of ripeness. It did not disappoint!
I did find that I didn't have the patience to use the melon baller on the entire thing, so that's why you see chopped honeydew in my salad. I'm sure there is some home economics maven out there who is incredibly disappointed in me. I'm sorry. However, I did find the strength to make just enough for a wonderful cocktail of my own devising:

  I made this with gin (Sapphire (TM))--I'd use Hendrick's (TM) next time---I muddled the honeydew and it is basically a G & T with muddled honeydew.  Very subtle. And the thyme garnish? Well, I've become a big fan of garnishing my cocktails with whatever herbs I have on hand. I had a nice martini at EVOO last night that featured torched rosemary. I'm not quite up to torching my garnishes...yet.

Served with grilled halibut and asparagus. The arugula is a must, in my opinion, and the entire salad would not be the same without it. I'd DEFINITELY use it if the honeydew is very sweet and you don't want fruit salad. The dressing is really wonderful and works well with the feta cheese. This will be a summer staple.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Other Cultures Cooking Project: Cannellini and Lamb Soup (Ottolenghi/Tamimi)

Cannellini and Lamb Soup from Jerusalem, p. 135, photo by RM

This is probably one of the best soups I have ever made and was absolutely perfect for the snowy wintery weather we've been having.

A few things.

It calls for 20 cloves of garlic.



This is my favorite tool to peel garlic. It shouldn't cost more than 2 bucks. You don't need anything fancier. All you need is a clean, stable, and dry surface. The older the garlic, the easier it is to peel.

This actually works, believe it or not, in removing garlic odors from your hands. Yes, I know, you can rub your hands all over your stainless steel kitchen faucet, but forgive me if I think this is more graceful. And a shout out here to Katie (over at Cook The Book Fridays) who sent me my steel soap one year for Christmas!


I made no substitutions, except that I used canned cannellini beans because planning ahead enough to soak dried ones never happens. I threw them in with the potatoes in the last 20 minutes of cooking time. I recommend letting your taste, smell, and sight guide you, rather than following the cooking times exactly. I didn't need a full hour to simmer the meat and the potatoes were done in about 15.

Also, if you've never used cardamom pods, you are missing out.

This particular recipe reflects the culinary influence Jews in Yemen who settled there in the 1950s. I'm not interested in getting political here on this blog, but I am interested in a cultural exploration of food. The cardamom, turmeric, and cumin were beautifully balanced. Ottolenghi notes that adding cinnamon would make it more in the tradition of Aleppine Jews.

We paired it with a good and relatively inexpensive red blend from South Africa. I suggest decanting and letting it breathe. My husband says I always say that, but with this wine, I really mean it! It was heavy on the berries and fruit, but became a much more interesting wine by the end of the glass.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Other Cultures Cooking Project: Monks' Salad with Garlicky Dressing (Malouf)

I will start this post with a pseudo-apology to the Ohio College of Clinical Pharmacy. Yes... in the unlikely event that my Other Cultures Cooking Project becomes more a more popular choice in Google algorithms, I apologize pre-emptively to anyone more interested in Zocor (TM) than za'atar.

With that out of the way...welcome to the first official Other Cultures Cooking Project Post! I did spend ample time agonizing over the name--I hesitate to use "other" as I am "other" to other others, but setting aside academic navel-gazing, I think we understand that it is contextual: "other cultures foreign to me." And we can understand that I'm not even sure what constitutes my "culture" so there's that too.

What started this is that I believe food is one of the most important (and enjoyable) ways to learn about people--culturally, socially, economically.  I like to learn. I like to cook. I like to eat. So, a no-brainer, in other words.

I will still feature occasional recipes that are fairly close to home, but I'm making a concerted effort to break out of my culinary comfort zone (sometimes named "Ina Garten") to learn about the larger world, especially as we become increasingly and frighteningly insular in this country. Yes, that is political commentary.

For Christmas I received Greg and Lucy Malouf's Saha: A Chef's Journey through Lebanon and Syria. It seemed a perfect place to start this journey. The book itself is gorgeous and informative. I'm enjoying reading the prose and learning about a part of the world about which I know little, save for the horrific images on the TV and in newspapers right now. The recipe featured in this post comes from a section of the book that illuminates the Bekaa (Beqaa) Valley, one of the major agricultural regions in Lebanon. In contrast to the lovely photographs of greenery and produce, the Maloufs describe a poor and unsupported sector that never fully recovered from the civil war. The valley is home to a variety of Christian, Catholic, and Orthodox sects so in this respect, the name of the recipe is not surprising.

Monks' Salad with Garlicky Dressing (Saha, p. 137)
Recipe: 4/5 stars
Ingredients*: baby turnips, baby carrots, baby leeks, shallots, cauliflower, baby green beans, olive oil, sherry vinegar, garlic, cilantro, coriander seeds, black peppercorns, allspice berries, red bird's eye chili
Good as leftovers: YES! See below.
Ease: 5/5
  • Obtaining certain ingredients at local grocery store (namely allspice berries and a red bird's-eye chili).
  • Using half my body weight in olive oil  (slight exaggeration)
Alterations/Substitutions: Baby veggies were hard to come by in New England winter, so I used fully grown carrots, turnips, and leeks--chopping them to more manageable size.

Notes for next time: The recipe calls for one clove of garlic. Perhaps my Italian-American heritage will not allow me to appreciate the subtlety in a single clove. I'll be using at least two next time, particularly if we claim that the dressing is "garlicky." 

Evidently, "boiled vegetable salads" are common to the eastern Mediterranean. My mouth does not water when I hear "boiled vegetables," but this was a delightful surprise. First, the vegetables are "boiled" in olive oil, not water. The thought of using this much oil for anything other than frying has never occurred to me, but I can see the benefits! The oil infuses the vegetables with the subtle spices of the bouquet garni (or Malouf's far less pretentious "spice bag") and the sherry vinegar dressing highlights--rather than competes with--the natural flavors of the vegetables (in particular the leeks).

Better yet--storing the vegetables (out of the oil) in the fridge overnight yields a wonderful chilled/pickled salad for the next day!

*Quantities of ingredients are left out in order to protect copyright