Monday, May 23, 2011

Spices Make Global Local -- Recipes for Bahrat Tomato Sauce with Okra, Quick Zucchini Pickles and Roasted Asparagus

Quick Zucchini Dill Pickles
 When you try to cook local but eat global, authentic spices are often what you need to translate international recipes into home cooking.  The earthy whiff of cumin, the sweet smell of cinnamon or the tingle of ground peppers all bring the world to my dining table.

I recently interviewed two San Francisco Bay area spice purveyors (who happen to offer most spices with  kosher certification) for a recent article in the j. weekly.  from Bay area spice purveyors who have found that a hechsher (symbol of kosher certification) is good for business.  One of the companies, Whole Spice, was also featured the following Sunday in the San Francisco Chronicle food section

Whole Spice, based in Petaluma, specializes in ethnic flavors and seasoning mixes with a “special touch to make them more flavorful,” according to Israeli-born Ronit Madmone, co-owner of Whole Spice. Whole Spice’s freshly ground spices can be found in the company’s Napa store and online or call (707) 778-1750 for more information.

Another Bay area spice company is American Natural and Organic Spices, based in Fremont. John Chansar, senior customer service manager is proud of bringing the wide world of spices to everyone as well as the company's social values.

“We are also a green company and donate a portion of or sales to charities to support homeless children,” he said.

The company’s Spicely brand is widely available in the Bay area as well as online. For more information or for retailers, call (510) 440-1044.

Both companies also feature gluten-free and organic products. Below are recipes to take advantage of the wonderful spice mixes they offer. Substitute similar products from other manufacturers if desired.

Bahrat Tomato Sauce with Zucchini or Okra
Serves 6

Baharat means “spices” in Arabic. Whole Spice’s version of the traditional mix contains nutmeg, black pepper, coriander seed, cumin seed, cloves, cinnamon, cardamom, paprika, and chili. This recipe is adapted from the Whole Spice website.

2 Tbs. olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 fresh tomatoes, chopped
1 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
1 tsp. baharat spice mix
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
2 bay leaves
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. tomato paste
1 Tbs. fresh parsley, finely chopped
2 Tbs. fresh cilantro, finely chopped
1 lb. zucchini OR fresh okra, sliced
1 cup vegetable broth

In a large cooking pot, heat the oil and add the chopped onion, frying until golden brown about 10 minutes. Stir in the garlic and sauté for 2 minutes. Add tomatoes and cook for 3 minutes or until tomatoes are soft. Add paprika, black pepper, baharat, cumin, bay leaves, and salt. Mix well and cook for a couple of minutes to combine flavors.

Add tomato paste and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add parsley, cilantro, and okra or zucchini; mix all ingredients well. Add vegetable broth and mix. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer over until vegetables are soft. (Okra will take longer than the zucchini). Add water if sauce is getting too thick. Taste and correct seasoning. Remove bay leaves. Serve over rice.

Quick Zucchini Dill Pickles
Makes about 1 quart

Sometimes it’s hard to find good pickling cucumbers, so that’s when I make this recipe. Pickling spice mix usually contains coriander, mustard seed, and black pepper among other seasonings.

4-5 small zucchinis
4 garlic cloves, cut in half
1/4 cup dill sprigs, washed
1 1/2 cups of vinegar
1/2 cup water
1/2 tsp. salt
1 Tbs. pickling spice mix
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes

Wash and rinse well one quart or larger glass jar. Fill with boiling water and set aside.
Wash zucchinis well. Slice into ¼” rounds. You should have about 5 cups. Put vinegar and ½ cup water in a sauce pan with salt. Bring to a simmer.

Pour hot water out of glass jar. Layer cucumbers or zucchini, garlic and dill in jar. Scatter pickling spice and red pepper flakes in jar. Pour warm vinegar mixture to fill, making sure the vegetables are totally covered with liquid. Cover with airtight lid and store in refrigerator. Chill overnight before serving. Keep refrigerated.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

From My Recipe File: Roasted Eggplant-Pomegranate Casserole

I was looking through my recipe files for inspiration and found this vegetarian (vegan if you leave out the goat cheese), gluten-free casserole. I know eggplant is a bit expensive right now and pomegranate seeds can be too, if you are not extracting them yourself, however the tastes are spectacular for such a humble dish.  Try it with the millet if you can.

I also liked how it kind of fits the flavor profile I've been cooking with lately which is somewhat  Middle Eastern/Arabic/Turkish.

Roasted Eggplant-Pomegranate Casserole
4 Servings

Millet is available in bulk food bins. Four cups of cooked brown rice is a good substitute.

2 eggplants, 1 pound each
¼ cup olive oil, divided
1 medium onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
½ cup pomegranate juice
¼ tsp. red pepper flakes
½ tsp. ground black pepper
½ tsp. salt
12 oz. baby spinach
4 cups cooked millet (see below)
6 ounces crumbled soft goat cheese, divided
1/3 cup pomegranate seeds
1/3 cup chopped parsley and or mint

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Slice eggplants in half vertically, place face down on baking sheet greased with 1 Tbs. olive oil. Bake 30 minutes until cut side is browned and eggplant is completely softened. Let cool. Shred flesh with fork. Discard skins.

Lower oven to 350 degrees. In a large fry pan, heat 2 Tbs. oil, sauté onions until golden, add garlic. Sauté 1 minute. Add juice. Cook until syrupy. Add peppers and salt. Stir. Add half the spinach, sauté until cooked down. Add remaining spinach. Sauté. Mix in shredded eggplant and cooked millet. Combine thoroughly with two-thirds of the cheese. Turn into a casserole greased with remaining oil. Sprinkle remaining cheese on top. Bake for 40 minutes. Just before serving scatter pomegranate seeds and chopped herbs over top.

To cook millet: Rinse and drain well 1 cup millet. Heat 1 Tbs. oil in a large pot. Add millet and stir until lightly toasted. Add 2 cups of boiling water. Bring to a boil. Cover. Lower heat to simmer for 20-25 minutes until water is absorbed. Take off heat, leave covered for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork.

Monday, May 09, 2011

Turkish Flavors Meld in Lamb Stew

Not long after I returned from Turkey I made this stew.  It's a tasty amalgamation of several lamb and vegetable stews I had during my trip.  Many Turkish meat dishes are flavored with  fresh dill, so I incorporated that into this dish.  I served this with bulgur, a frequent Turkish side dish, but rice would also work well. 

Lamb Stew with Tomatoes, Peppers and Dill
Serves 4

1 lb. eggplant
1/2 tsp. salt plus additional if needed
2 Tbs. vegetable oil
1 lb. boneless lamb stew (1” cubes)
2 cups slivered onions
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups red bell pepper pieces, sliced into 1/2” strips
1/2 cup sliced carrots, cut into 1/4” rounds
2 cups cubed potatoes cut into 1/2” chunks
1 lb. tomatoes, chopped
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
1/2 tsp. hot red pepper (chili) flakes
About 2 cups chicken stock
1 Tbs. plus 1 Tbs. chopped fresh dill

Peel eggplant if desired. Cut into 1” cubes, toss with 1/2 tsp. of salt. Place in colander. Let sit for half hour. Rinse and drain well. Dry.

Heat oil in deep sauté pan or large pot over medium high heat. Brown lamb chunks. Remove from pan and set aside. Add onions and sauté until golden. Add garlic and sauté for one minute. Add eggplant, red pepper strips and carrots. Sauté for 2 minutes. Add potatoes, tomatoes, black pepper and red pepper flakes. Mix well. Add lamb pieces with any juices. Add stock until ingredients are submerged about 3/4 of the way. Bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally. Cover, lower heat and simmer for about 1 hour (until lamb chunks are very tender, time may vary), stirring occasionally and adding additional stock if necessary. Remove cover, stir in 1 Tbs. of dill. Cook for about 25 minutes until stew is thickened and meat is extremely tender. Taste and mix in salt if needed. Sprinkle with remaining dill.

Okay, Enough with the Excuses ...

Oh, almost enough excuses anyway:

Some things I've been working on:

Turkish recipes, including a killer adana kebob
Turkish spiced meatloaf
Black-eyed peas and greens tamales
Revised carrot cake
A trip through some of the Oakland-Berkeley ethnic markets

and so much more.

Hope this helps you wait for me to work my way through work and writing deadlines and personal issues unitl I can return to blogging on a more regular basis.  My mom used to call things like this a lick and a promise, a phrase I always liked but am afraid to use today because of the changing nature of slang, but that's what this is -- a little taste and a promise of more to come.

Thanks for hanging in with me.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Happy Cinco de Mayo

I'm still playing catch up but I've been working on new recipes and posts, so watch this space.
In the meantime, here's a link to all my posts about my experiences in Mexico and Mexican-related recipes.