Sunday, June 30, 2013

Yotam Ottolenghi's Falafel with Spiced Chickpeas and Fresh Vegetable Salad

Falafel is one of the first things I wanted to make when I first opened up my copy of Jersualem.  Those little fried balls made from dried chickpeas and various spices were beckoning me like crazy.  As much as I dreamt about eating hot crunchy falafel sandwiched in a warm pita I was feeling rather unmotivated for the hours of cooking and cleanup the recipe required.

 Last week I gave myself the necessary pep talk to work my way through the recipe, little by little.  I soaked the chickpeas one night, made the spiced chickpea and veggie salad the next day, and then mixed and fried the falafel on the third day.  It was a long process with endless chopping, mixing, and washing dishes BUT the final product was in fact everything I hoped it would be!  The falafel were delicious on their own.  I also enjoyed them with a warm drizzle of tahini and the spiced chickpea and veggie salad on the side.  Other times I loaded the falafel, tahini, and salad into a warm pita and enjoyed it that way. 

A few quick notes about both recipes.  The directions for the falafel say to use either a meat grinder or a food processor and mix until the falafel mixture is finely chopped but not mushy or pasty.  Pay special attention that the falafel mixture actually holds together.  The falafel balls are hard to shape and don't really hold their shape well unless you achieve the right consistency.  Also, regarding the salad, you may want to go heavier on the chickpeas.  The recipe calls for 1/2 cup dried chickpeas. The chickpeas in the veggie salad were pretty much nonexistent.  I would actually increase the chickpeas to at least 1 full cup. I think the key is to actually detect the chickpeas in the salad. Other than that, both recipes are perfectly delicious and worth the time and cleanup involved.  I'd definitely recommend them both!

Adapted from Jerusalem
by Yotam Ottolenghi & Sami Tamimi
Serves 4

1-1/4 cups dried chickpeas
1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley
2 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3 tablespoons water
1-1/2 tablespoon all-purpose flour
about 3 cups canola/sunflower oil, for deep-frying
1/2 teaspoon sesame seeds, for coating

Place the chickpeas in a large bowl and cover with cold water at least twice their volume.  Set aside to soak overnight.

The next day, drain the chickpeas well and combine them with the onion, garlic, parsley, and cilantro.  For the best results, use a meat grinder for the next part.  Put the chickpea mixture once through the machine, set to its finest setting, then pass it through the machine for a second time.  If you don't have a meat grinder, use a food processor.  Blitz the mix in batches, pulsing each for 30 to 40 seconds, until it is finely chopped, but not mushy or pasty, and holds itself together.  Once processed, add the spices, baking powder, 3/4 teaspoon salt, flour, and water.  Mix well by hand until smooth and uniform.  Cover the mixture and leave it in the fridge for at least 1 hour, or until ready to use

Fill a deep, heavy-bottomed medium saucepan with enough oil to come 2-3/4 inches up the sides of the pan.  Heat the oil to 350F.  

With wet hands, press 1 tablespoon of the mixture in the palm of your hand to form a patty or a ball the size of a small walnut, about a scant 1 ounce (you can also use a wet ice-cream scoop for this).

Sprinkle the balls evenly with sesame seeds and deep-fry them in batches for 4 minutes, until well browned and cooked through.  It is important they really dry out on the inside, so make sure they get enough time in the oil.  Drain in a colander lined with paper towels and serve at once. 


Spiced Chickpea & Fresh Vegetable Salad
Adapted from Jerusalem
by Yotam Ottolenghi & Sami Tamimi
Serves 6-8

1/2 cup dried chickpeas
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 small cucumbers (10 oz/250g total)
2 large tomatoes (10.5oz/300g total)
8-1/2 ounces/240g radishes
1 red pepper, seeded and ribs removed
1 small red onion, peeled
2/3 oz/20g cilantro leaves and stems, coarsely chopped
1/2 ounce/15g flat-leaf parsley, coarsely chopped
6 tablespoons olive oil
grated zest of 1 lemon, plus 2 tablespoons juice
1-1/2 tablespoon sherry vinegar
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1-1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon ground cumin
Greek yogurt (optional)
salt and black pepper

Soak the dried chickpeas overnight in a large bowl with plenty of cold water and the baking soda.  The next day, drain, place in a large saucepan, and cover with water twice the volume of the chickpeas.  Bring to a boil and simmer, skimming off any foam, for about an hour, until completely tender, then drain.

Cut the cucumber, tomato, radish, and pepper into 2/3-inch dice; cut the onion into 1/4-inch dice. Mix everything together in a bowl with the cilantro and parsley.

In a jar or sealable container, mix 5 tablespoons of the olive oil, the lemon juice and zest, vinegar, garlic, and sugar and mix well to form a dressing, then season to taste with salt and pepper. Pour the dressing over the salad and toss lightly.  (Take care when dressing the salad.  I found I only needed about half of the dressing).

Mix together the cardamom, allspice, cumin, and 1/4 teaspoon salt and spread on a plate.  Toss the cooked chickpeas in the spice mixture in a few batches to coat well.  Heat the remaining olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat and lightly fry the chickpeas for 2 to 3 minutes, gently shaking the pan so they cook evenly and don't stick.  Keep warm. 

Serve this salad on a plate, in a large circle with the warm spiced chickpeas on top.  You can drizzle some Greek yogurt on top to make the salad creamy.  You can also serve this salad with falafel.

Theme: Got A Pulse?

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Sandwich Cookies

Chocolate chip cookie dough stuffed between two chocolate chip cookies makes for one heavenly and decadent sandwich cookie.  These cookie sandwiches are going down as legendary in my house. Everyone went absolutely crazy for them and for good reason.  These are pretty much perfect in every way! The best part: you don't have to worry about any raw egg in the cookie dough.  The cookie dough filling is egg-free!  Do yourself a favor and make them the next time you're in the mood for a little treat.  Just make sure you have someone to share them with or things might get ugly.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Sandwich Cookies
Adapted from The Cookie Dough Lover's Cookbook
by Lindsay Landis
Makes 20-24 sandwich cookies

For Cookies:
1-1/2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup light brown sugar, packed
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 cups mini semisweet chocolate chips

For Cookie Dough:
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup mini semisweet chocolate chips

For the cookies:  In a large mixing bowl, beat together butter and sugars until no lumps remain, 1 to 2 minutes.  Beat in eggs and vanilla, scraping the sides of the bowl to make sure all ingredients are incorporated.  Add flour, baking soda, and salt and mix until smooth.  Stir in chocolate chips.  Cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour or overnight.

Once cookie dough has rested (1 hour or overnight):  Roll chilled dough into smooth, tablespoon-sized balls, about 1 inch in diameter.  Flatten balls slightly into 3/4-inch thick disks.  Arrange about 2 inches apart on parchment-lined baking sheets.  Bake 9 to 11 minutes, or until edges are lightly golden.  Let cookies cool on baking sheet about 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

To prepare the cookie dough filling:   Beat together butter and brown sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes.  Mix in flour, powdered sugar, and salt on low speed until incorporated.  Slowly add heavy cream and vanilla and beat until fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Stir in chocolate chips.

To assemble cookie sandwiches:  Sandwich 1 heaping tablespoon of filling between two cookies.  Press cookies lightly until filling spreads to edges.  Repeat with remaining cookies.  Sandwiches can be stored, refrigerated in an airtight container, for up to 3 days.  Let them sit at room temperature for 30 minutes before serving.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Yotam Ottolenghi's Basmati Rice & Orzo

This week I was feeling under the weather so I was craving something mild, easy, and basic.  Ottolenghi's Basmati Rice & Orzo was wildly aromatic but also perfectly comforting and very kid-friendly.

This is a rice dish that would be great with just about anything.  I served this rice with sausage and caramelized onions and it was really a fantastic meal that received high praise from my husband and daughter.  

This recipe is a little more time-consuming than cooking a pot of long-grain rice, but I like to change things up now and then so I feel like the extra time is worthwhile.  Also, cooking rice can be a tricky thing. Stir the rice too much and it will be a clumpy gluey mess.  I think the key to good fluffy rice is NOT STIRRING AT ALL, or rather stirring as little as possible.  Another important tip is to take the rice off the heat when it is done cooking and allow it to set for at least 10 minutes before you fluff it.  If you follow those steps you will almost always get perfect results. 

Basmati Rice & Orzo
Adapted from Jerusalem
by Yotam Ottolenghi & Sami Tamimi
Serves 6

1-1/3 cup basmati rice
1 tablespoon melted ghee or unsalted butter
1 tablespoon olive or canola oil
scant 1/2 cup orzo
2-1/2 cups chicken stock
1 teaspoon salt

Wash the basmati rice well, then place  in a large bowl and cover with plenty of cold water.  Allow it to soak for 30 minutes, then drain.

Heat the ghee and oil over medium-high heat in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan for which you have a lid.  Add the orzo and saute for 3 to 4 minutes, until the grains turn dark golden.  Add the stock, bring to a boil, and cook for 3 minutes.  Add the drained rice and salt, bring to a gentle boil, stir once or twice, cover the pan, and simmer over very low heat for 15 minutes.  Don't be tempted to uncover the pan; you'll need to allow the rice to steam properly.

Turn off the heat, remove the lid, and quickly cover the pan with a clean tea towel.  Place the lid back on top of the towel and leave for 10 minutes.  Fluff the rice with a fork before serving. 
Theme: Potluck

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Hummus Kawarma (Lamb) with Lemon Sauce

In his cookbook, Jerusalem, Yotam Ottolenghi says this of Hummus Kawarma with Lemon Sauce, "Hummus Kawarma is the Lebanese name given to freshly made hummus, topped with fried chopped lamb.  It is a small meal or a starter in a bowl and one of the most sensational things you can put in your mouth."

I am in agreement with him.  Hummus Kawarma with Lemon Sauce is in fact sensational and heavenly in every way.  Fried bits of perfectly seasoned ground lamb, topped with toasty little pine nuts, and a tangy refreshing lemon sauce served atop a very smooth and creamy bowl of hummus. You know how people mention the "mouthfeel" of a dish?  This dish has a wonderful mouthfeel.  The hummus just feels so cloud-like and velveety.  In fact, everything about this dish just feels seductive to me, including the part where you eat it with your hands.  You'll find yourself dunking the warm pita into the bowl with an eagerness to devour.  I would highly recommend this dish and cannot wait to make it again! 

Hummus Kawarma with Lemon Sauce
Adapted from Jerusalem
by Yotam Ottolenghi & Sami Tamimi
Serves about 6

Basic Hummus:
1-1/4 cups dried chickpeas
1 teaspoon baking soda
6-1/2 cups water
1/2 - 3/4 cup tahini paste, or to taste
4 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
6 cloves garlic, minced
6 tablespoons ice-cold water

Note: To make the Hummus Kawarma you will need to reserve 4 tablespoons of the cooked chickpeas for the garnish.

The night before, put the chickpeas in a large bowl and cover them with cold water at least twice their volume.  Leave to soak overnight.

The next day, drain the chickpeas.  Place a medium saucepan over high heat and add the drained chickpeas and baking soda.  Cook for about 3 minutes, stirring constantly.  Add the water and bring to a boil.  Cook, skimming off any foam and any skins that float to the surface.  The chickpeas will need to cook between 20 and 40 minutes, depending on the type and freshness, sometimes even longer.  Once done, they should be very tender, breaking up easily when pressed between your thumb and finger, almost but not quite mushy.

Drain the chickpeas.  You should have roughly 3-2/3 cups now.  Place the chickpeas in a food processor and process until you get a stiff paste.  Then, with the machine stilfHl running, add the tahini paste, lemon juice, garlic, and 1-1/2 teaspoons salt.  Finally, slowly drizzle in the iced water and allow it to mix for about 5 minutes, until you get a very smooth and creamy paste (I had to add a little more ice-cold water than called for to achieve a smooth paste).

Transfer the hummus to a bowl, cover the surface with plastic wrap, and let it rest for at least 30 minutes.  If not using straightaway, refrigerate until needed.  Make sure to take it out of the fridge at least 30 minutes prior to serving. 

Hummus Kawarma with Lemon Sauce

Basic Hummus, recipe above, plus 4 tablespoons of the reserved cooked chickpeas
chopped flat-leaf parsley, to garnish
1/4 - 1/2 cup pine nuts, fried in a little butter until golden brown

1 pound of ground lamb
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon allspice
good pinch of grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon za'atar or oregano leaves
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon chopped mint
1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon unsalted butter or ghee
1 teaspoon olive oil

Lemon Sauce:
1/2 ounce flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
1 jalapeno, finely chopped
4 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
2 clove garlic, minced or sliced
1/4 teaspoon salt

To make the kawarma, place all the ingredients, except for the butter and oil, into a medium bowl.  Mix well, cover, and allow the mixture to marinate in the fridge for 30 minutes.

Just before you are ready to cook the meat, place all the ingredients for the lemon sauce in a small bow and stir well.

Heat the butter or ghee and the olive oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat.  Add the meat and stir to fry.  The book says that the meat should be light pink the middle, but I fried the lamb until it was well done and a little crispy on the edges (the crispy edges were what I was after for texture).

Divide the hummus among 6 individual shallow bowls, leaving a slight hollow in the center of each.  Spoon the warm kawarma into the hollow and scatter with the reserved chickpeas.  Drizzle generously with the lemon sauce and garnish with some parsley and the pine nuts. 
Theme: A Little Bit of Sunshine!

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Baby Spinach Salad with Dates and Almonds

Tender leaves of baby spinach, sweet chewy dates, thin slivers of red onion, crispy pita bread croutons with crunchy slivers of almonds kissed with the exotic blend of sumac and red chile flakes, all tossed together in a bright citrus dressing.  It all comes together to create a very delicious and rather unique salad.  

This is a salad for the senses.  Sweet, chewy, tender, crispy, crunchy, citrusy,  with mild onion flavor, and bright citrus notes.  It looks a bit exotic.  It tastes a bit exotic.  It feels indulgent and it is.  However, it's also perfectly healthy.  I encourage you to give it a try.

 A few words about dates.  I absolutely love them because they are so sweet and chewy.  In fact, they almost taste like candy to me.  I do have trouble sourcing them.  The only place I've ever found Medjool dates has been at Trader Joe's in the produce section.  The dates from Trader Joe's are nice and plump and lend themselves perfectly for stuffing, wrapping, or eating out of hand.  I buy them whenever I visit.  However, Trader Joe's is almost an hour away from my house and I can't always get there.  So, this time around, I thought I'd try the Sunmaid dates sold in the dried fruit section of my local supermarket.  To be honest, I wasn't expecting them to be anything wonderful.  Boy was I happily surprised.  Turns out the Sunmaid brand was every bit as tasty as the fresh dates from Trader Joe's.  The only difference was the size.  The Sunmaid brand were considerably smaller.  The smaller size is not necessarily ideal for stuffing, but they are perfectly suitable for this salad, any type of dessert, or even for eating out of hand.  I'd definitely recommend them in a pinch. 


Baby Spinach Salad with Dates & Almonds
Adapted from Jerusalem
by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi
Serves 4

1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1/2 medium red onion, thinly sliced
3-1/2 ounces/100 grams pitted Medjool dates, quartered lengthwise
 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 small pitas, about 3-1/2 ounces roughly torn into 1-1/2 inch pieces
1/2 cup whole unsalted almonds, coarsely chopped
2 teaspoons sumac
1/2 teaspoon chile flakes
5 ounces baby spinach
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

Put the vinegar, onion, and dates in a small bowl.  Add a pinch of salt and mix well with your hands.  Leave to marinate for 20 minutes, then drain any residual vinegar and discard.

Meanwhile, heat the butter and half the olive oil in a medium frying pan over medium heat.  Add the pita and almonds and cook for 4 to 6 minutes, stirring all the time, until the pita is crunchy and golden brown.  Remove from the heat and mix in the sumac, chile flakes and 1/4 teaspoon salt.  Set aside to cool.

When you're ready to serve, toss the spinach leaves with the pita mix in a larger mixing bowl.  Add the dates and red onion, the remaining olive oil, the lemon juice, and another pinch of salt.  Taste for seasoning an serve immediately.  

Theme: Something Sweet!

Every Sunday @ Kahakai Kitchen