Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Spiced Lamb or Lox Pizza Made on the Grill

Making a grilled pizza is fast and delicious.  This one is dairy free.
How did a nice Jewish girl with roots in Iraq, India and China become an expert on grilling pizzas? Dianne Jacob did it by making every one of the more than 75 recipes repeatedly in Grilled Pizzas & Piadinas (DK Publishing), her cookbook on the topic with Chef Craig W. Priebe.

Jacob is a Mizrachi Jew whose family traces its lineage back to first Iraq and then India before settling in Shanghai.  Her parents immigrated to Canada after World War II.  She doesn't recall eating pizza before she was an adult.  Jacob, who lives in Oakland, also never did much grilling before working on the cookbook, but working on the cookbook made her a fan.

 “Grilled pizza isn't about being perfect; it is not about have the exact shape, it’s rustic,” she said.  “You don’t need a pizza stone or any special equipment.”

You also don’t need a grill.  You can make also make these pizzas on an indoor grill, grill pan or skillet. To do so, preheat until hot, brush with oil and cook until crust is golden brown.  You can also use commercially available dough or crusts or sturdy flat breads instead of homemade dough.

Turn the extra tomato sauce into a classic pizza by brushing the top of a grilled crust with 1 Tbs. olive, dusting with 1 tsp. grated Parmesan cheese, 1 cup of the sauce and 1-2 cups of shredded cheese(s) of your choice.  Finish on the grill as directed below.

All recipes below adapted with permission from Grilled Pizzas & Piadinas by Craig W. Priebe with Dianne Jacob.  

The Millennium
Makes 1-12” pizza

1 grilled crust (see recipe)
1 Tbs. olive oil
1 Tbs. plus 1 Tbs. tahini
1 cup tomato sauce (see below)
1/2 cup thinly sliced red onions
12 pitted Kalamata olives, halved
Spiced Lamb (see below)
1 Tbs. pomegranate molasses

Brush the grilled side of the crust with oil.  Drizzle 1 Tbs. of tahini and drop spoonfuls of tomato sauce on top.  Add onions, garlic olives, and Spiced Lamb.  Drizzle with remaining tahini and pomegranate molasses.  Cook as directed in Grilled Crust recipe.

Tomato Sauce:  Chop 1 small clove garlic and 8 large fresh basil leaves until fine.  Mix with 1 1/2 lbs. diced, cored tomatoes (or use 2-14.5 cans, drained). Mix in 2 Tbs. tomato paste, 1 tsp. kosher salt, 3/4 tsp. ground black pepper and 1/2 tsp. sugar.  Stir well.  Add more tomato paste if watery.  Chill for an hour. Makes 2 cups.

Spiced Lamb: Brown 8 oz. ground lamb.  Stir in 1 tsp. dried oregano, 1/2 tsp. dried thyme, 1/4 tsp. ground allspice, 1/2 tsp. salt, 1/2 tsp. ground black pepper, 1 minced garlic clove and 2 Tbs. red wine vinegar. Simmer for 5 minutes.

Variation: Sprinkle on crumbled feta cheese to taste after you drizzle on the pomegranate molasses.

The Ballard Lox
Makes 1-12” pizza

1 grilled pizza crust (see recipe)
2 Tbs. olive oil, divided
1 Tbs. grated Parmesan
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella
1/2 cup shredded Fontina
4 cups roughly chopped arugula
1 lemon, halved
6 oz. thinly sliced smoked salmon
10 small cherry tomatoes, halved and seasoned with salt and pepper, optional
Freshly ground black pepper, optional

Brush grilled side of crust with 1 Tbs. of oil.  Sprinkle with Parmesan, mozzarella and Fontina cheese. 

Place remaining oil in large skillet, heat on high.  Add arugula and squeeze lemon over it.  Toss greens just long enough to wilt.  Immediately transfer to pizza in small clumps.  Roll salmon slices into small bundles and place atop arugula.  Cook as directed in Grilled Pizza Crust recipe. Garnish with tomatoes and black pepper.

Grilled Pizza Crust
Makes 2 Crusts

Basic Dough (see below)
Flour as needed
Cornmeal as needed

When dough is ready to use, punch down dough. Lightly flour work surface.  Flatten dough to about 1” thick. Cut in half with a knife. Put one piece in center of floured space. Sprinkle a little flour on top.  Roll out to a rough circle about 12” in diameter and 1/8” thick. Sprinkle with fine layer of flour. 

Flip a cookie sheet so bottom is up.  Sprinkle generously with cornmeal so dough with not stick.  Pick up crust with two hands and fold in half. Transfer to back of cookie sheet and unfold, stretching out again if needed.  Repeat with second crust (or refrigerate for up to 3 days).

Preheat charcoal or gas grill until medium heat or medium high (about 400 degrees) according to manufacturer’s directions.  Using tongs transfer crust from cookie sheet. If it folds over itself, quickly spread open.  The dough should take about 3 minutes to cook.  Bubbles should form on top.  Don’t check until dough begins to firm up.  Lift underside. It should be golden brown with grill marks.  Bits of char add flavor.

Using tongs and or spatula return crust to back of cookie sheet. Flip so grilled side is up.  Add toppings.  Shift grill to indirect heat. Slide pizza onto side without coals or flames.  Grill for about 5-8 minutes. Move pizza around grill if necessary. Slide pizza onto cutting board. Cut and serve immediately

Basic Dough: Add 1 packet dry yeast (2 1/4 tsps.) and 1/2 tsp. sugar to 3/4 cup warm water. Stir until yeast dissolves. Let stand until foamy (about 5 minutes) to make sure yeast is active.  Stir together 1 1/2 cups unbleached flour, 1/4 cup whole wheat flour, 1 tsp. kosher salt and 2 Tbs. cornmeal in a large bowl. Mix in yeasted water and 2 Tbs. olive oil.  Mix well with a strong spoon.  Lightly flour a clean, dry work surface.  Form a ball of dough and knead for 8 minutes until smooth.  Add only enough flour to prevent it from sticking.  Add 1/4 tsp. olive oil in a medium bowl.  Place dough in bowl and turn to coat in oil. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and place in draft-free, warm place for 2 hours until it almost doubles in size.  Chill dough in bowl for 1 hour or overnight in refrigerator.
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A version of this post first appeared in the j weekly.  October is National Pizza Month so celebrate with a homemade pizza!

Friday, October 17, 2014

Sour Cream Chocolate Chip Cake from Dairy Made Easy

My mini bundt cake version of the cake
I often get feedback on the recipes I share in my j weekly  newspaper column.  Lately people have been raving the most about this Sour Cream Chocolate Chip Cake recipe.  Irony is that it is not my recipe, but written by the authors of the cookbook I was reviewing.

It was one of the recipes I featured from a new cookbook called Dairy Made Easy: Triple Tested Recipes for Every Day by Leah Schapira and Victoria Dwek. The book offers contemporary dishes including soups, pizzas, pasta, sandwiches and desserts. It includes lots of helpful tips on cooking with cheese.

The recipe recommends a spring form or bundt pan, but I made my version in mini-bundt pans which was great for eating some now and freezing some for later.  Depending on the size of the mini bundt pans, the recipe will make 6-8 mini bundt cakes (each cake serves 2 or so folks). Baking time for the mini bundts is about 40-50 minutes.

For more on the cookbook, go to http://www.artscroll.com/Products/DMEP.html.  To read my piece in the j with two additional recipes (for Roasted Vegetable Pasta and Pomegranate and Apple Salad with Creamy Parmesan), click here.

Recipe below from Dairy Made Easy by Leah Schapira and Victoria Dwek. Reprinted with permission from the copyright holders: ArtScroll/Mesorah Publications.

Sour Cream Chocolate Chip Cake
Serves 12

1 cup sour cream (do not use vegan, low fat or fat free)
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 cup    butter
1 cup plus 1/4 cup sugar
2              eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. almond extract
1 tsp. baking powder
2 cups flour
10 oz.      chocolate chips
2 cups coarsely chopped walnuts
1 tsp. cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 10” inch tube or bundt pan. In a medium bowl, combine sour cream and baking soda. Sour cream should bubble and expand. Set aside.

In the large bowl of an electric mixer, combine butter and 1 cup sugar. Beat until light and creamy. Add eggs and extracts. Add baking powder and half the flour. Add sour cream mixture, then remaining flour. Beat until just combined. Do not overmix.

Combine chips, walnuts, cinnamon, and remaining sugar. Sprinkle some of the chocolate-nut mixture into the pan. Add half the batter over it, then half of the remaining chocolate-nut mixture. Add remaining batter. Top cake with remaining chocolate-nut mixture. Bake for 50-60 minutes, until top is firm and crispy. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pan.
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FYI: Since this was originally written for a mainstream media publication, the j weekly, no disclaimer is needed as per FTC regulations.


Thursday, October 09, 2014

How to Find my j. Weekly Columns and More (Including Playing Jewish Geography in the Produce Aisle)

For the last five years, I have had a regular Jewish cooking column every other week at the j weekly, a print and on line publication based in San Francisco and covering the Bay area and northern California.

It is a joy to work with my editors and the publication and I get a lot of opportunity to speak to Bay area groups about Jewish food, especially some of its international roots and traditions because of my connection to the j.  I also get to talk to and share recipes with some pretty amazing folks from home cooks to restaurant owners to cookbook authors as part of the research for my j. pieces.

I also get recognized a bit, usually in the supermarket and usually in the produce aisle.  Folks will stop me and we will play "I know I know you, I just don't know how" for a bit and then it will finally dawn on me that we really don't know each other and they have just seen the photo the j prints alongside my column (see photo at left.  The j uses a cropped version of it).

I'll ask if they subscribe to the j.  Then I'll ask if they read the recipes.  If they say yes but still don't have a clue, I'll ask if they ever cut out the recipe columns and hang on the fridge. Bingo. My face is staring down at them as they work in the kitchen and I've become so familiar it seems like I'm an old friend.  

An encounter like this makes my day, to say the least.

I do often get questions from non-subscribers (you really should subscribe, it's a great paper.  For a free four week subscription to the j, click here and be sure to let them know Faith sent you!) out-of-area readers and those who have misplaced their clipped out columns how to find my recipes and other writing on the j. website. 

The easiest way to find a relatively current column is to go to my author archive at the j at
http://www.jweekly.com/article/author/959/faith/ for the last five or six months worth.  If it's longer ago than that, check out the paper's cook archives at http://www.jweekly.com/cook/archives/ and select the appropriate year.  The archives also feature the work of my co-columnist Josie A. G. Shapiro, and the columnists that came before us.

One of the great resources the j (formerly the Jewish Bulletin) offers is the recipe index where you can search my and others' recipes by ingredient (use keyword sort), holiday (use category sort), etc. 

I am always reaching out to folks with ideas for columns and recipes (I especially like to feature locals with a foodie connection, long-time family recipes, or cuisine expertise but always with some sort of Jewish connection).  If you have an idea or question for me - leave a comment on this post or email me at clickblogappetit AT gmail DOT com.

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Make a Cookie Sukkah for a Sweet Sukkot

My cookie sukkah!  Notice the hanging fruit.
There are some very specific rules for building a sukkah (hut) when celebrating the Jewish holiday of Sukkot, which starts this Wednesday night. The sides and roof have to be built a certain way and the sky must be seen through the roof when you sit inside. The Cookie Sukkah below doesn't adhere to any of these rules and you definitely can’t eat in it, as is the Sukkot tradition, but you can actually sit down and eat the sukkah.

This family project can be a good discussion starter about Sukkot, also known as the Festival of Tabernacles or Booths.  It commemorates the shelters ancestors built for protection during the Exodus and during harvests in Israel. It uses filled, rolled wafer cookies to build a log-cabin style sukkah. There are many brands and flavors of these cookies (several certified kosher). Cookie lengths vary, so adjust directions if needed to keep dimensions proportional. (I used Pepperidge Farm Pirouettes.) Buy extras since breakage (and snacking) is inevitable. When assembling, use enough frosting for the cookies to adhere but not so much as they slide off one another. Decorate with fruit-shaped candies. Use the sukkah for a centerpiece or eat it for dessert. Either way it will help make a sweet holiday.

If you don't want to use or can't get the rolled cookies, pretzel rods or hard bread sticks will also work, although you might have to fuss with the dimensions a bit.

It can be made up to 48 hours in advance and kept very loosely wrapped at room temperature. Try making a etrog and lulav (the traditional Sukkot symbols) out of marzipan tinted with food coloring. (Or use a Lemonhead candy for the etrog and springs of green herbs for the lulav.)

Cookie Sukkah
Inside sukkah

Makes 1 Sukkah

About 8 oz. 6” long, filled, rolled wafer cookies (you'll need at about 24 or so of the 6" cookies)
3/4-1 cup purchased white frosting
Assorted fruit-shaped candies, cereal and or fruit snacks

Have ready a flat tray, parchment or waxed paper, ruler, serrated bread knife, aluminum foil, needle, and thread.

Cover tray with parchment or wax paper. Set aside 18 of the 6” long cookies. Gently saw rest with serrated knife into 8-1” long pieces and 8-2”long pieces.

You will be building this "log cabin" style, using the frosting for glue.  If at any time the structure seems precarious, stop and let frosting set a bit or add in support while it dries.  (See Level 3.)

Building sukkah before roof

Level 1
Smear bottom of 1-6” long cookie with frosting. Press gently to adhere to tray 2 and 1/2" from the middle. This will be the back of the sukkah, side “A.” Frost bottom of 2-2” pieces. Press them down 5” from the first, with the outside ends of the short pieces lining up with the outside ends of the 6” cookie and parallel to side “A.” This will create the opening for the door.  This is side “B,” or the front of the sukkah.

Cover the bottom of 2-6” cookies with frosting. Lay them perpendicular to sides “A” and “B” log cabin style, allowing the ends to protrude 1/2" over “A” and “B.” Press gently to secure. This makes sides “C” and “D.”

Frost the bottom of 2-1” pieces. Press them down perpendicularly across the 2” pieces but parallel to sides “C” and “D” and indented 1/2" from the inside ends of the 2” pieces.

Level 2
Frost the bottom of 1-6” cookie and lay atop side “A.” Frost 2-2” pieces and lay perpendicular to the 1” pieces on side “B.” (So the 2” pieces are parallel to the “A” side.)  Press gently to secure. Cover the bottom of 2-6” cookies with frosting. Place on top sides “C” and “D.” Next, frost the bottom of 2-1” pieces. Lay perpendicular to “A” and B” across the 2” pieces as in level 1.

Level 3
Repeat Level 2 directions. If necessary, crumple up balls of foil to help support inside corners. (This is when I started needing the supports.)

Level 4
Detail of front construction

Repeat level 2 directions.

Level 5
Frost the bottom of 2-6” cookies. Place one atop side “A” and one atop side “B” (to create a door way header). Cover unused frosting.

Let structure sit for 1 hour. Remove foil supports. Frost back of candies and gently press on to inside and outside walls. If using soft candies such as gummies or fruit snacks, thread needle and poke through candy. Tie off ends to make 1” loops. Hang on the 4 remaining 6” cookies. Frost cookie bottoms. Place each about 1” apart across sukkah top parallel to sides “C” and “D” to make roof, with candy dangling down. Store at room temperature, loosely covered with parchment or waxed paper.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Chicken Soup 101: From Bird to Broth

Before it is soup
Chicken soup is more than a recipe and eating it is more than an act of physical sustenance.  It’s almost religious for it is representative of a lifestyle enriched by food symbolism and at-home, meal-based traditions and celebrations.  From Shabbat dinner to the High Holiday table to Passover and beyond a bowl of rich, fragrant golden broth has become a defining part of the Jewish lifestyle whether it is served with homemade noodles, rice and lemon juice, matzo balls, kreplach, liver dumplings, Italian chicken meatballs or Iranian gondi, dumplings of chickpea flour and chicken.

(For a vegetarian substitute, see My Not Chicken Soup recipe.)

Some History:

In Biblical times soup was made in earthenware pots from vegetables and lentils and flavored with onion and garlic.  It was called marak in Hebrew –a name that survives today in the Yemenite marak which is a beef or chicken soup and in marag, the traditional soup for Jews of Calcutta.

Chicken broth has only been made for the past several thousand years. At first it was served for its restorative, medicinal affects (which Maimonides and later science has since supported.)  Chicken soup was part of the Mizrahi (Middle and Near Eastern) and Sephardic culinary experience at least since the early medieval period, long before it entered Ashkenazi cookery, but it was among the Eastern Europeans and their American descendants that it found its greatest appreciation as a traditional Friday night dinner starter.

Chickens were domesticated in India 45,000 years ago and spread widely as the Romans, Persians and Greeks were fans of cockfighting.   Romans were also fond of eating the fowl and in ancient Rome they became a feature in Jewish cooking.  With the fall of the Empire the taste for the bird declined.  Not until the 12th century did they become widely eaten again, mostly because of meat shortages.

For central European Jews, the goose was the bird of choice.  Raising geese was an important source of income for Jews there, but in Eastern Europe Jews favored the easier and cheaper to raise chicken.  In the Sephardic world and elsewhere it was not as much of a staple since it was a more expensive form of protein.

Chicken Soup Tips and Tricks:

Every cook has their own recipe and technique for making chicken soup.  Many of mine are reflected in the recipe that accompanies this post. I prefer to use a whole chicken instead of just pounds of parts.  I use lots of root vegetables to give the soup a deep flavor and add ginger to compliment the richness of the broth.  Sometimes I will add a few tablespoons of lemon juice to the finished soup before serving.  Mostly, I am always conscious that I am making soup, which needs to stand on its own, not stock, which will be enriched by other ingredients. I also don’t let the soup come to a full boil at any stage.  That’s how I was taught and I do think it results in a chicken soup with superior taste and color.

Others have their own tips.  Some add chicken bouillon cubes to enrich the broth.  Karen Bloom’s grandmother disclosed on her deathbed that her secret was adding a can of chicken stock to her broth. (If you try either of these tips, add salt after tasting because of the sodium in the canned stock and bouillon.)  I know at least one cook who adds beef bones to her pot for extra flavor.

Judy Bloomfield swears by adding celery root (celeriac) to the soup pot. Carol Robinson’s grandmother advised parsley root was the secret ingredient. (Parsley root looks like a parsnip but the flavor is different.)  Roz Aronson adds some fresh lemon juice or ginger and like many of us garnishes her soup with fresh dill.

My Chicken Soup Recipe
Makes about 12 cups

My recipe will make enough to for about eight or more servings depending on add ins, serving size and appetites. I’ve broken the recipe down into steps so I can explain what I do and why I do it, but the recipe is really pretty straightforward.   I’ve given exact measurements, but feel free to vary.  I like the peppery sharpness the turnip gives the soup.  Leave it out if it is not to your taste.

My aim is to make a deeply flavored, golden chicken soup with a full taste and a satisfying texture and mouth feel.

If you don’t need soup for eight, freeze some of the plain soup broth for future use and defrost as needed.  It stays well for months and works as soup or as a rich chicken stock.

Part One:  Making the Soup

Start the day before if possible.

1-5 lb. whole chicken
12 cups water
3 medium carrots (8 oz.)
1 large parsnip (6 oz.)
1 medium-large onion (unpeeled) (8 oz.)
1 large turnip (6 oz.)
3 large stalks of celery with leaves (7 oz.)
4 large cloves of garlic, peeled
1” slice of fresh ginger root, unpeeled and cut in half
1 large leek (10 oz.)
Small handful of fresh parsley stems with leaves (1 oz.)
1 large or 2 small bay leaves
1/4 tsp. whole black peppercorns
1/2 tsp. salt plus more to taste as needed
1/8 tsp. saffron threads (about a pinch)
Ground black pepper to taste as needed

Remove internal organs and any excess fat from inside of chicken and discard. (Save the neck if available and add to the pot with chicken.)  Be sure all little bits of deep red tissue are removed from inside the chicken (they can turn a broth bitter).  Rinse chicken inside and out.  Place chicken in a large, deep soup pot.  Add water.  Leave uncovered and put on medium heat and begin to bring to a simmer.  Meanwhile prepare the vegetables.  Do not peel the carrots, parsnip, onion and turnip.  Scrub well and trim root and stem ends, then cut into 1” chunks and add to soup pot.  Wash and trim celery, leaving leaves on, and cut into 1” chunks and add to pot along with the whole garlic cloves and ginger root.  Trim roots and deep green ends off leek.  Cut in half lengthwise and rinse well to remove any sand or soil.  Cut halves into 1” pieces and add to pot with parsley, bay leaves, peppercorns and salt.  Bring back to a simmer.  Crumble saffron into water.  (Saffron helps give the soup a golden color.) Cover and keep at a simmer lowering heat if necessary, but don’t let it come to a rapid boil.

Simmer for about three hours, stirring occasionally and skimming off and discarding any foam that might form a scum at the top of the pot.  Cook until the chicken is falling off the bone, the vegetables are very soft and the broth tastes rich and full of flavor.  Add additional salt and ground black pepper to taste as needed.  Let cool until safe to handle.  Strain or sieve the soup into a large container. (I ladle soup through a strainer, press on the solids to get out any liquid and put solids in a separate bowl.)  Taste the chicken meat.  If it still has good texture and flavor keep to serve with the soup.  If it is tasteless, dry, stringy or cottony, discard.  Discard soup pot vegetables.

Cover and store soup in refrigerator overnight.

Part Two:  Serving the Soup

Here are some serving suggestions, but your soup is your canvas.

1 recipe chicken soup
Salt to taste
Ground black pepper to taste
4 cups chopped vegetables (see below), cooked until just tender, optional
16 cooked matzo balls or 2-3 cups cooked rice or cooked thin, small noodles, optional
2-3 cups cooked shredded chicken (see below), optional
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh dill OR parsley leaves (or a mixture)

Remove soup from refrigerator.  Skim off fat as desired.  (I find that leaving some fat makes a better soup.  This recipe generally does not produce a lot of fat so I usually don’t skim it off, but do so if it is your preference.)  Place in soup pot, put on medium heat and bring to a simmer (do not let it come to a rapid boil). Taste and add more salt and pepper if needed.  If using, add cooked vegetables, matzo balls, rice or noodles and shredded chicken.  Keep at simmer until add ins are heated through.  Serve in bowls topped with dill.

Chopped Vegetables:  Scrub, peel and chop into 1/4" pieces 1 medium parsnip, 3 medium carrots, and 1 large turnip. Trim root end and dark green part of 1 large leek.  Cut in half and rinse out any sand. Chop into 1/4” pieces. Trim 2 large celery stalks and chop into 1/4" pieces.  Combine in pot with salt and pepper to taste and cook in about 2 cups water or chicken broth until just tender.

Cooked, Shredded Chicken:  If the soup pot chicken is not usable, poach 1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken thighs with salt and pepper to taste in chicken broth or water until cooked through.  Cool and shred. If using soup pot chicken, discard skin and bones and shred.

Chicken Soup Trouble Shooting:

If soup is too salty, cut a large, scrubbed, unpeeled potato in half and simmer in the strained broth until soft and discard.  It should absorb the excess salt.  Repeat if necessary.

If soup is not “chickeny” enough, poach about 1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken thighs in strained, simmering soup until cooked through.  Remove thighs and save to serve with soup or for another use. Taste and adjust seasonings. Strain soup again before proceeding.  If the broth is only slightly watery tasting, try simmering strained stock with cover off until it soup is reduced somewhat and taste is intensified.

If soup needs “something” and you don’t want to add more salt or pepper, try stirring in a tablespoon of fresh lemon juice. Taste and add more as needed.

If the soup is not “golden” enough, try adding 1/4 tsp. of turmeric to the simmering, strained soup.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

A Confession

It's been too long since I've posted.  I have lots to say, lots to share, a back up of posts written in my head but not typed out, recipes tried, photos that need to be cropped and more, but somehow the link between intent and actually doing something has been broken.

This is made worse by the longer it's been since I've posted.  I keep thinking I have to come back with something super, super special.  Which makes by blogger's block even worse.

I promise you I have been creating and thinking and recording and I will soon get back to sharing. (Maybe even later today).  But first off I needed to confess.

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Currying Favor -- Meal for One with an Assist

Tonight's meal is based on Trader Joe's Curry Simmer Sauce, a favorite pantry short cut, as well as it's arugula and cubed butternut squash.  The protein is Gardein "beefless" ground beef. Eaten over whole wheat pasta.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Low-Hanging Fruit --- Backyard Plums, Over-The-Fence Loquats and a Plum Clafoutis Recipe

Our neighbor's loquats
I cook, I don't garden.  I know with some bloggers you get a kind of two for one.  Not here, you don't.  To be honest, this column is about our accidental fruit.

We don't really do anything for the plums, they just grow and drop. The plums are about the size and color of a cherry tomato and they are sweet-tart. They are too small to do too much with so we occasionally snack on them, but usually they feed the birds. What I really love about them is the early Spring blooms, pale pink and white and just lovely.

The loquat branches drop over our side fence. The loquats taste like an apricot crossed with a lychee with a firmer texture and a slightly astringent skin. There is not a lot of flesh on each fruit.  Inside are two large seeds.  We don't get too many of these, since after all the tree is on the other side of the fence.

Unlike the plums, they are freestones so they are easier to eat or use in recipes.  The fruit bruises easily and you rarely see it commercially available.  I've had a great loquat vinegar (by Lulu, I think), other than that I don't know of any processed foods using them.

I have a soft spot for loquats because my sons attended a preschool with a loquat tree in the yard and they would come home splattered with loquat juice thrilled by the experience of picking and eating them.

Backyard plums swaying in breeze
If you are not fussy about pitting them, the plums would work well in a clafoutis,  just warn folks to watch for pits. Try this recipe, which is egg and dairy free, and which first appeared in the j weekly.  If you have small,  hard to pit plums like the ones at left, leave them whole and warn eaters to be aware.

The clafoutis (pronounced without the final s) recipe is very adaptable and can be made with any other fruit.  I frequently use cherries (easiest if you skip the pitting) or berries.

It's a nice brunch dish or dessert on it's own or try serving it with ice cream and or whipped cream (vegan or not).

Plum Clafoutis
Serves 6

2 Tbs. oil, plus extra for greasing pan
1 lb. fresh Italian prune plums or other small, sweet plums (about 20)
1 cup flour
3 Tbs. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup unflavored, unsweetened almond milk
1/4 tsp. almond extract
1/4 tsp. vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 8” x 12” baking pan. Halve and pit the prunes and place evenly, cut side up, on bottom of prepared baking pan.

Stir together flour, sugar, salt and cinnamon in small bowl. In large bowl mix eggs, almond milk, almond extract and vanilla extract until well combined. Slowly add the flour mixture to the egg one, whisking well until very smooth. Pour over plums. Bake for 50-60 minutes until firm and golden.  Let cool slightly before serving. Serve warm or at room temperature.



Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Wok Me Up -- Meal for One

Another in my continuing series of meals for one, this dinner was based on a House product, a packaged combo for tofu and sauce that you add veggies to called Wok Me Up Spicy Orange. 

Pretty simple and not complicated to do yourself, but still it made my meal for one easier to just get started. (Sometimes just getting started can be hard for me when I'm only feeding myself.) I was pretty ashamed that I needed my tofu cut into little pieces for me, however it still took a crisis of will to get me to chop some veggies to throw into the stir fry.  (The directions specify 6 oz., I tossed in about double that.)

I served it over Trader Joe's frozen brown rice nuked for 3 minutes, I used about half the mix for my serving only to find that the package claims it contains 3.5 servings. I snorted out loud. Even with the extra veggies and rice it would barely feed two.

Monday, June 23, 2014

The One That Didn't Get Away --- A Tuna Salad Story with Recipe (andHot Lime Pickle)


Often I get an idea for a recipe that seems perfect until I actually get to the kitchen, make it and have my first bite.  This tuna salad, filled with the flavor of Indian hot lime pickle, was almost one of those near misses but I tinkered with proportions and condiments and was able to reel in a tasty winner.

Two Indian ingredients are used in the recipe. In the tuna salad itself you'll need achar -- pickled, spiced lime rinds.  Different companies make it in different degrees of hotness and chunkiness. Since it will be chopped it doesn't matter if you get the relish style (somewhat smaller pieces of lime rind) or regular hot lime pickle.  The pickle adds a little heat, spices, acid and astringency to the the salad.  Serving the mango chutney mayo with the tuna salad smoothes and adds a bit of sweetness to the combo.  Serve as small tea sandwiches as in the recipe below or use fresh or moistened lavash (or large flour tortillas) and roll and slice for party appetizers.

I first envisioned this recipe for my friend Mona's grand baby's "welcome party" when I made the lavash version.  I adapted to this easier tea sandwich version when her Indian auntie came to tea recently.  I've also made it with mashed tofu instead of tuna and with vegan mayonnaise for a vegan version. I haven't tried it yet but I think it would be delicious with smashed chickpeas instead of the tuna. 

A word about the ingredients. I used Patak's hot lime relish, which is fairly widely available on line and in specialty, Indian and Middle Eastern grocery stores. This is the first time I've used tuna in several years and I used Sea Fare Pacific wild caught albacore packed in salt-free natural juices. The chutney was from Trader Joe's, but any Major Grey's style or sweet mango chutney will work fine. I also used 1 oz.-sized King's Hawaiian sweet rolls. (Note I'm writing this on my ipad and will update to include the links later)

Hot Lime Pickle Tuna Salad with Mango Chutney Mayo
Makes 8 tea sandwiches or about 4 regular sandwiches

1-6 oz. container of tuna, drained well and flaked
1-2 Tbs. hot lime pickle or relish, finely chopped
3 Tbs. mayonnaise 
1/8 tsp. ground black pepper
1/8 tsp. salt (optional)
1 1/2 Tbs. mayonnaise 
1 1/2 Tbs.mango chutney, finely chopped
8 small sweet Hawaiian or Portuguese style rolls
16 very thin slices of cucumber
8 very thin slices of tomato, drained on paper towel

Mix together tuna, 1 Tbs. lime pickle and pepper.  Stir well.  Taste.  Gradually add in second tablespoon of pickle by teaspoonfuls and mixing and tasting as you go until you get the right level of heat, spice and astringency for you. I like it with the full 2 Tbs. You can probably go a bit hotter than normal for yourself since the bread and mayo will be sweet. Taste again and decide if you want to add salt.. Both the pickle and tuna probably have enough salt you won,t need to add more.)

Mix mayo with chutney.  Spread inside top and bottom of each roll with mayo mixture. Arrange 2 cucumber slices on bottom of roll, top with 1/8th of tuna salad and then with tomato slice. Close roll.  Repeat with remaining rolls and adjust if using larger rolls. (I also like this mounded on top of a tomato half with dollops of mango chutney mayo on top.)