Thursday, March 30, 2017

Another Appetizer for the Renaissance Festival

As I wrote in my previous blog, this year the fundraiser for the Boys and Girls Club of Aberdeen is called Renaissance Festival. I find the title odd, to say the least, but it was necessary to change it, and so it is. . .

I have been continuing to work on things that can be done from this remove. The event itself is on April 8th, at the Ward Hotel, from 6:30 to 10 PM. I wrote about making the little tamales, and they are mightily good, but I had yet to finish making the amount needed. That was finally done 2 days ago. They are all safely frozen, needing only to be reheated before the event.

Lamb Burgers with Feta and Tapenade
Lamb Burgers with Feta and Tapenade

Another of the items I wanted to make were a version of my lamb burgers, on tiny buns. Due to the fact that these burgers are so divinely flavorful, each time I have made them, they have been totally devoured before I ever think to get a photo. In making the mini versions last week, while I didn't eat them all, they were made and frozen. Since I didn't have the buns made yet, I really couldn't assemble one to shoot photos. So, once again, I am talking about these heavenly burgers with no true photos to speak of. I did take a few photos at table. I had just enough of the mixture left after making the amount of tiny slider patties, and I made two normal sized burgers for my husband and me for supper, shown above.  

Simulated Mini Greek Lamb Slider on bun
Simulated Mini Greek Lamb Slider on bun
The recipe (made as the regular recipe size) makes enormous burgers, far larger than my usual, and no one ever leaves a single bite behind. The one thing I did differently this time was instead of grilling the Feta cheese, which I would never have time for just before the fundraising event, was to grate the cheese and add it to the burger mixture. I fried all the tiny mini slider patties, each one just between 21 to 23 grams apiece. Each one was measured and weighed. I wanted these little sliders to stay together, making it easier for people to grasp the little sandwich without having it slip and slide and fall apart in their hand. Trying to have a slice of Feta on the little slider would make these way to hazardous to walk around and eat, so grating the cheese into the meat seemed ideal. And it was.

While the cheese is not immediately noticeable, you can detect a few bits in the photo above. And it all tastes just the same. I made the same Greek olive tapenade as I have made for these Greek Lamb Burgers before, and I plan to put a dab on each of the little sliders at the event. In case you, like me, are leery of making tapenade, I have to say this: I love Greek olives, yet avoided going the extra step for the tapenade. Finally I did give it a try and I have to say, the tapenade really and truly makes that ultimate OMG moment even better. That first bite into these heavenly burgers is amazing anyway, but the tapenade just takes them totally over the top. MAKE it! You won't regret it!

I started with just a bit over 6 pounds of ground lamb, and with all the additions, including the Feta, I got 162 little slider patties, at 21 to 23 grams each. I tried frying up one patty at the very start, to see how they looked size-wise, and as it fried, the patty shrunk up to a very teensy diameter, but very high. This was not what I had in mind, so I stood there in the kitchen looking around, trying to come up with a "press" of some sort. As it happens, I have some plastic water glasses with a totally flat bottom, about 3-inches in diameter. I used this to press down each round ball of the meat mixture, making the initial patty very thin. As they fried, they shrunk to about 2-inches diameter, which was just perfect. This took me all afternoon, but they are now done and frozen, so one more item off my to-do list. 

The next thing was to make the little slider buns. I wanted a very simply flavored bun, something that would not interfere or detract from the slider flavor, which is plentiful. I had a recipe for Potato Rolls or Buns, but if you click that link you will see that they have both honey and egg in them. I wanted something even simpler. I played with the recipe, keeping the potato flour and switching to a much smaller amount of sugar in the recipe, and no honey at all. Potato flour, even in a small amount, makes for a very tender dough, making these buns soft and pillowy. This should suit the Greek Lamb Sliders perfectly. This is my updated recipe for the little buns, which could also make the same larger sized buns or rolls as my previous recipe.

Potato Mini Buns

Makes 20 regular sized buns or about 80 tiny slider buns
Potato Mini Buns, just baked
Potato Mini Buns, just baked

3½ cups (28 fl. oz.) lukewarm water
1 tablespoon (13 grams) sugar
2 teaspoons (11 grams) salt
½ cup (4 fl. oz.) olive oil
6½ cups (904 grams) bread flour, divided
1 packet instant rise yeast (about 7 - 8 grams)
1 cup (164 grams) potato flour (NOT potato starch) 
¼ cup (32 grams) dry milk powder

In a mixing bowl, combine the first 4 ingredients. Add in about half of the bread flour, the yeast, potato flour and milk powder. Using a dough hook (or stir with a wooden spoon) on low speed, mix to incorporate the dry ingredients into the wet. Add in the remaining bread flour, a bit at a time, kneading until it is all incorporated. Knead the dough for 10 minutes, 12 if by hand. If it remains too sticky, add up to 2 tablespoons more flour. 

The mixing process when using potato flour (or even fresh baked potato) in a recipe is a bit different. The potato makes a more tender crumb to the bread, but also seems like the dough is way too dry at first. Have faith and keep beating or kneading. Soon it will begin to puddle back into the bowl, leaving a far more wet and "difficult" dough, if a little more flour is not added. I did use the extra 2 tablespoons of flour, which left the dough manageable; not too sticky.

Once kneaded, cover the bowl and allow the dough to rise to about double is size. Once risen, if making regular buns, turn the entire mass out and divide the dough into 20 to 24 buns or rolls. If making tiny slider buns, I used 20 gram sized balls (0.65 ounce), yielding about 80. These are very tiny. Once baked they are just about 2-inches in diameter. Flatten each ball as much as possible and set them about an inch apart on a greased baking sheet. Allow them to rise to almost doubled in size and then bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 7 to 8 minutes. Mine did not even color on top, but were above 85 degrees internal temp, so they were perfectly baked. 

My passion is teaching people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and passing along my love and joy of food, both simple or exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me also at A Harmony of Flavors on Facebook, and Pinterest and sign up for my Newsletter.

Friday, March 24, 2017

This Year it is called Renaissance Festival

This April marks the 5th Annual Fundraiser event to benefit the Boys and Girls Club of Aberdeen. In past years it was called Winefest Renaissance, but this year due to some technical difficulties, it is called Renaissance Festival. However, "a rose by any other name" and all that; it is the same event. 

This year, I got started on the menu first, due to the lateness of the first meeting. Usually, I select the wines that interest me, then build an appetizer that fits the flavor profile of the wine. In the past years I have created wine and food pairing sheets for just this reason, and have been adding to them each year. I search the internet diligently to find the wine varietal and it's flavor characteristics. These are helpful when pairing a food, as they help point the way. Then I search for any suggested food pairings for that particular varietal. One site in particular has been invaluable: Wine Folly. It is a blog, or an informational site, and when one searches for food pairing with a certain varietal, such as Petite Sirah, this site pops up more times than not. Check it out here:

This is not the only site I search, so between all the places I can find suggestions to pair a wine, I amass all the suggestions and compile a list. 

Sweet Potato Bourbon Tamales with Country Ham and Cheese and Fig Apricot Preserve
Sweet Potato Bourbon Tamales with Country Ham and Cheese and Fig Apricot Preserve
Anyway, I started doing things in reverse this year and came up with some proposed foods to make, hoping I could find proper wine pairings from the list, yet to be provided at the time. I did research on the foods I planned, trying to match the wine that had the most hits in the food pairing column. Two foods in particular were so much a match for particular wine varietals that I prayed these might be on the wine list. One of the foods was my recipe for Lamb Burgers with Feta and Tapenade. I planned to make the burgers into mini size, and add the Feta, grated, into the burger rather than try to grill it and keep it atop the little slider. I have already made these and frozen them. I will reheat them before heading to the venue. I made the tapenade also, which just absolutely makes these burgers pop. When searching my lists, Petite Sirah was the only wine that held all the flavors involved: lamb, strong cheese, oregano, mint, olives.
Image result for bob's red mill corn flour for tortillas
I looked through the wine list when it finally arrived and hurrah! there was one, and only one, Petite Sirah. I pray it is available for me.

Then the other food I planned to try was a version of Tamales. My version bears little resemblance to the flavors of a Mexican Tamal, but I am using corn tamale flour (masa harina) as a base ingredient, and the corn husks to wrap them! I used Bob's Red Mill brand of corn flour for one batch, and Maseca brand for another batch. The corn flour has to be the kind that has been treated with limewater and ground, not cornmeal. 

Outside of that is where the other non-traditional flavors come in. I am calling them "Sweet Potato Bourbon Tamales with Country Ham and Cheese and Fig Apricot Preserve." Long name for these tiny, two-bite tamales, but then they are truly long on flavor. I researched all the possible wines that might fit this flavor profile and two were standouts: Chenin Blanc and Viognier. And guess what? There was one wine on the list - and it contained BOTH these varietals! It is a Terra d'Oro Chenin Blanc/Viognier. I actually found this wine in our local grocery, so since I had already gone ahead and made half the tamales, I thawed 2 for my husband and me to try with the wine. When I opened the wine, the bouquet was immediate and definite. Aromas mainly of fruit, tropical fruit, maybe flowers. It smelled so very inviting. I knew it would taste wonderful. And it did. Then I worried that it might not fit the flavors of the tamales. But after taking a bite, savoring the amazing flavors (if I do say so myself!), then sipping the wine again - well, it could not have been a more perfect match.
Sweet Potato Bourbon Tamales with Country Ham and Cheese
Tamales just steamed and unwrapped

The goal I strive for in these wine and food pairings is that the wine taste good (or even better) with the food, and also the reverse. It is imperative that the food be enhanced when tasting the wine with it. In this case, it was both and amazing.

My learning curve on making the tamales was a little steep. I had never made Mexican style tamales before, and not even the Guatemalan ones that are quite similar but called Chuchitos. Getting used to the varying ideas and ways of making these little antojitos (AHN-toe-HEE-toes), or "little cravings," took a little bit of study, but once I got going, they went easily enough. They do take quite some time to make, but with the flavors that come out, they are well worth the effort.  

Sweet Potato Bourbon Tamales with Country Ham and Cheese and Fig Apricot Preserve

Makes 62 mini tamales

MASA (batter):
2 cups corn masa flour for tamales (I used both Bob's Red Mill for one batch and Maseca brand for another)
2 cups hot water, plus more if needed
10 ounces lard
½ teaspoon Kosher salt
¼ teaspoon baking soda
2 tablespoons bourbon whiskey
1 tablespoon maple syrup
12 ounces baked, cooled, peeled, smashed sweet potato
Dried Corn Husks

5 ounces country ham, minced (or substitute Prosciutto or Serrano ham)
5 ounces Chevre or Montrachet soft goat cheese
4 ounces smoked Fontina, or regular Fontina

Earlier in the day, combine the Masa Flour with the hot water and stir to make sure all the flour is wet. If it is so dry that stirring comes to a screeching halt, add more hot water, until the mixture is somewhat stiff, but not dry. More water can be added later if needed. Cover and set the masa aside to fully hydrate, about 2 or 3 hours.

Meanwhile, bake the sweet potato and have it ready. Prepare the filling by setting the minced ham into a bowl. Crumble the chevre and grate the Fontina on a large holed grater. Stir the cheeses together with the ham and set aside.

When ready to mix the masa, place it into the bowl of a stand mixer. It should be perfectly cooled (not cold). Add the lard and salt and beat to combine, then beat on medium high speed for about 2 - 3 minutes. Add in the baking soda, bourbon, maple syrup and sweet potato. Beat on medium high for another 3 or more minutes. If the mixture is not the consistency of hummus, adjust by adding more masa flour (if they are too wet) or more water (if they are too dry).

Place the dried corn husks in a large bowl and pour boiling water over them. They will soften within a couple of minutes. You will need corn husks that are between 6 and 8-inches wide at their wider end. Many will be wider than this, in which case, just rip off any excess. You will also need narrow, ¼-inch wide strips torn from those leftover pieces to use for tying the husks closed for steaming.

measure out masa, spread, place filling inside, bring edges together
measure out masa       |         spread           |     place filling inside      |   bring edges together

Filling the husks is easiest with two level 1-teaspoon scoops; regardless, use two teaspoons of the masa set about ⅓ of the way up from the wider end of the husk. Spread it to about ¼-inch deep, making a roughly square blob about 3x3-inches. Down the length of the masa, place about 1 teaspoon of the filling. Start lifting both edges of the husk to encase the filling in the masa, then tuck the edge of the husk around the masa and roll to fully encase.
roll the packet, fold end upwards, leave space when tying, set upright in pot
roll the packet    |    fold end upwards    |    leave space when tying    |    set upright in pot

Now, lift the little roll and fold the narrow end upwards, pushing the masa towards the wider end and letting the pointed end meet the open end. Using one of the narrow strips of corn husk, tie a loose band around the middle of the packet, to prevent the husk from unfolding and spilling all your work right back out. There should be adequate space in the opening for the tamal to "grow" while steaming. There may be some overflow, but hopefully not too much.

Set the little tamale packets standing upright into a large pot with a rack in the bottom (or two - I set two of them, criss-crossing each other). This is to prevent the tamales from actually setting in water. Continue standing, or just slightly leaning the tamales against each other as you roll and tie them shut. Once finished, or the pot is full, put water in the bottom, just to the very bottom of the tamales. Do not have them standing in water. Cover the pot and bring the water to boil, reduce the heat to a simmer and steam the tamales for 30 minutes. Keep an eye on the water level, that it does not burn dry!

Finished batch of tamales cooling
Finished batch of tamales cooling

Once they are steamed, use tongs to remove them to a surface to cool. Store them in a zip-top bag in the refrigerator, or freeze for up to a month. To reheat, either set them on a rack in a lidded pan to steam for 10 to 15 minutes (half-hour if frozen), or set them onto a pan with foil to cover tightly and reheat slowly at 250 degrees for about 15 to 20 minutes. If they were frozen, they will take a bit longer, up to 30 minutes.

The Fig Apricot Preserve is not a total necessity - these little two-bite tamales are amazing on their own. The fruit compote just adds a flavor dimension, so if you want, here is the recipe:

Fig Apricot Preserve

Makes about 4½ to 5 cups

1½ cups dried figs, chopped
1¾ cups dried apricots, chopped
zest of one orange
juice of one orange
3 cups water, divided
⅓ cup balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon ancho chili powder
½ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons Bourbon, or Port, optional

Place the figs, apricots, zest and juice with 1½ cups of the water, the balsamic vinegar and ancho powder. Bring to boil, lower heat and cook gently, covered for about 20 minutes, until the fruit is well softened.

Set aside to cool slightly, then pour into a food processor with the remaining water, salt and Bourbon, if using. Puree until very smooth. Return to the pot and cover. Bring back to simmer, then remove from the heat to stir, return to heat, and repeat. The mixture is thick, so as it boils, it will splash very hot blobs. Be very careful. Let the mixture simmer for about 5 to 7 minutes, to meld flavors. Once cooled, store in glass jars in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

My passion is teaching people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and passing along my love and joy of food, both simple or exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me also at A Harmony of Flavors on Facebook, and Pinterest and sign up for my Newsletter.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Guinness Chili con Carne ReMake

A few years ago, I got ambitious and made a huge pot of chili con carne. It was amazing. I used a couple of bottles of Guinness stout as the liquid, and oh, my! This Guinness Chili con Carne filled my large crock pot to the very top with goodness.

Guinness Chili con Carne Remake
Guinness Chili con Carne
But, not everyone needs a huge pot that will feed up to 12 people, and on more normal days I use a scaled down version. While I am not using all the extra Anaheim chilies, nor the third pound of meat, it can be customized and still have amazing, rich flavors, and still use the Guinness. I am fond of using Guinness stout in cooking, though I don't care for it as a drink. My taste in beer runs to the very bitter and very hoppy types. Guinness is just too "sweet" for my taste. Used in cooking though, it imparts a wonderfully rich, round flavor and depth. 

On normal days, making chili just for my husband and me, I scale the recipe back and use 2 pounds of meat. This still gives us dinner for a few days, which is great. I always use a pound of hamburger meat, and then alternate between using plain ground pork or pork sausage as the second pound of meat. I usually buy sweet Italian sausage, but hot Italian sausage can be substituted if you prefer the heat. If using sausages, remove from the casings and break up the meat as it cooks, as with the hamburger meat. 

My husband loves beans. I mean he LOVES beans. So when I would make this chili with one can of kidney beans, he asked if maybe I could add in another can of them, please? So, I use two cans of beans, but obviously this is a matter of taste. 

Up here in South Dakota, we just had our lovely spring-like weather turn into a blizzard this morning. It's still snowing, since early this AM. It seems like a really great time to make this Guinness Chili con Carne to me!

Guinness Chili con Carne

Serves 6 to 8 

Guinness Chili con Carne Remake
Guinness Chili con Carne
3 - 4 slices bacon 
1 pound ground beef
1 pound ground pork or pork sausage
1 large onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 green bell pepper, chopped
2 small (4-ounce) cans "chopped green chilies" 
2 tablespoons chili powder
2 teaspoons Barbecue Spice Mix, optional
2 teaspoons Kosher salt
1 - 2 bay leaves
¾ teaspoon dried oregano leaves or 2 teaspoons fresh leaves, minced
½ teaspoon cumin seeds, crushed
½ teaspoon fennel seeds, crushed
1 (15-ounce) can tomato sauce
2 (6-ounce) cans tomato paste
1 or 2 (15-ounce) cans dark red kidney beans, drained & rinsed
1 bottle Guinness Stout

Heat a large soup pot. Cut the bacon across in ¼-inch widths and saute the bacon in the pan. Remove the bacon to drain on paper toweling, leaving 1 to 2 tablespoons of the bacon grease in the pot. Add in the ground beef. If using ground pork, add this in also. If using sausage, either use bulk sausage or Italian sausage. If using links, remove from casings. Break the meat up in the pot and fry until browned. Add in the onion, garlic and bell pepper and toss well until softened. Add in the chopped green chilies, chili powder, Barbecue Spice Mix, salt, bay leaves, oregano, cumin and fennel and stir in. Add in the tomato sauce and paste, then the kidney beans, reserved bacon and the Guinness stout. Stir well and bring to a simmer. Cover with a lid and allow to simmer on low for at least 30 minutes or up to an hour, stirring occasionally to prevent the chili from sticking to the pot.

Serve hot with cornbread on the side. Garnish with sour cream, shredded cheddar and/or chopped onion.

My passion is teaching people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and passing along my love and joy of food, both simple or exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me also at A Harmony of Flavors on Facebook, and Pinterest and sign up for my Newsletter.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Chicken Tikka on my Menu

I have made all kinds of Indian dishes over the last many years, but had yet to get around to Chicken Tikka Masala. I made it once quite a lot of years back with my daughter. I had gotten her a huge cookbook, and the Chicken Tikka recipe looked interesting. At the time, all I could think is how very many steps it took to make, though I recalled liking the dish when it was served. 

My Chicken Tikka Masala
My Chicken Tikka Masala

I think one reason I never hunted down another recipe, or tried to create one is that it seemed more a British thing than strictly Indian. A TV show recently made the statement that Chicken Tikka is just about Britain's signature dish. I like to create Indian foods that appear to be more mainstream Indian than Americanized. Granted, making a food in a different country will require some changes. Our yogurt may not be of the same consistency. Some (or many) of the spices called for may not be easily available. When I tried making a Thai Green Curry Paste some time back, there were a lot of changes, substitutions or things left out, simply because of unavailability (read about that adventure here). I am familiar with that particular kind of problem. Still, I want to taste an Indian dish close to the "real thing". Having never had the pleasure of visiting India and trying the foods first-hand, I endeavor to create them here in my home, as closely as possible to that "real thing."
Recently, some friends gave me an Indian cookbook called "My Indian Cookbook," by Amandip Uppal. It is slightly simplified, in most of the recipes, rarely calling for anything too terribly out of the ordinary. If it does, it will say "optional." In a first glance through, I felt it might not be my favorite of Indian cookbooks. I have at least 8 or more Indian cookbooks, with about three used on a regular basis. Still, since it was a gift, I went back and actually read through many of the recipes, and certainly perused every page. If it was something I would likely never make (like shellfish, since I have an allergy), I only glossed over it quickly. On this second perusal, I found a lot of interest.

The first thing I tried was a recipe for Naan. I used one recipe that called for making a filling for the Naan, thinking this would make a great thing better. On the plus side, the Naan itself has to be the very best I've ever made. They were so soft, with so lovely a texture. On the negative side, the fillings were really not at all noticeable. I made them a second time yesterday, using twice the filling, and still there seems to be no apparent flavor from the fillings, though the bread is so easy to make and so soft and good. The simple Naan recipe is a real keeper. 

Meanwhile, I tried two other recipes, both quite delicious. And then I finally thought I would make the Chicken Tikka. Her recipe for this chicken is in the appetizer type foods, where the skewered meat is set onto a Naan bread and some onion and tomato are added in to eat as a hand food, or street food. There was no sauce made for the dish as a meal. So I set about, as I usually do, searching my other cookbooks, and online recipes to see what others do. 

The marinade for the chicken pieces is a separate recipe in the book, and as I read that one, the amount of chicken I was using was more than she used, so I started tinkering with the amounts after reading other recipes. As it turned out, though many of the ingredients are the same no matter where one reads the recipe, there were some variables. The variations in amounts for a given ingredient were all over the board. Ultimately, after tasting the chicken once it was grilled, I absolutely loved that marinade and would do that again in a heartbeat. While the final sauce was good (my husband raved), for me it detracted from the great flavor of the chicken on its own! I did not hate it, or even dislike it. I just felt that as it stood, my sauce recipe needs a little more work. I will set it out here, because my husband really loved it, so obviously there is nothing innately amiss with it.

Chicken Tikka Marinade
Chicken Tikka Marinade

My Chicken Tikka Masala

Serves 6

1 cup plain, Greek yogurt
2-inches fresh ginger, peeled and minced
4 cloves fresh garlic, minced
1 green chili, minced, optional
1 tablespoon paprika
1 tablespoon Garam Masala
2 teaspoons Tandoori Spice
2 teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
½ teaspoon ground dried chillies (not "chili powder" for Chili con Carne!)
¼ teaspoon ajwain seeds (optional)
¼ teaspoon saffron threads, soaked in 1 tablespoon hot water
2 tablespoons vinegar

2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken, cut in 1-inch cubes

Combine all the marinade ingredients, stirring to distribute all the spices evenly. Add the chicken pieces and stir to coat well on all sides. Cover and refrigerate for a minimum of 2 hours or up to a day in advance.have wooden skewers soaking for an hour in water before proceeding with the next step. Or, use metal skewers.

When ready to grill, either heat the grill very hot, or preheat the broiler. Grill the chicken until done on all sides, turning as necessary. If broiling, set the rack at the second level down and broil until nicely browned and cooked through, turning as needed to cook evenly. 

2 - 4 tablespoons ghee or oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
1 tablespoon fresh garlic, minced
1 - 3 Serrano chilies (depending on taste), minced
add spices to fried onion, mix, add tomatoes, cook
add spices to fried onion, mix, add tomatoes, cook

1 tablespoon paprika
2 teaspoons kasoori methi (dried fenugreek leaves)
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon turmeric
black & green cardamom, kasoori methi, combining the spices
black & green cardamom, kasoori methi, combining the spices

2 whole cloves
Chicken Tikka Masala
Chicken Tikka Masala

1-inch true cinnamon
3 green cardamom pods
1 black cardamom pod
1 tej patta, or Indian bay leaf, optional

1 (14.5-ounce) can petite diced tomatoes
2 tablespoons tomato paste
½ cup raw cashews, ground to powder
½ cup heavy cream
cilantro, for garnish

In a large skillet heat the ghee or oil and add in the onion. Cook over medium low heat until the onion is turning golden brown. Add in the ginger, garlic and chilies, if using and continue to saute for about 5 minutes more. 

A Note on the Whole Spices: The whole spices can be distracting while eating. Often I will grind those spices also and add them in. One black cardamom pod yielded about ⅛ teaspoon of seeds, and three green cardamom pods yielded just about the same amount. If grinding these spices, leave the tej patta leaf out of the grinding. As with our bay laurel leaves ( NOT the same leaf!), it is best to leave whole and remove before serving.

Stir the ground spices and whole Masala spices into the mixture in the skillet and mix well. Add the tej patta leaf, if using. Add in the can of petite diced tomatoes and stir well. Allow the mixture to cook for about 10 minutes, simmering, until the oils begin to separate out. Add the ground cashews, and then add in the heavy cream, a little at a time. The sauce should be similar to spaghetti sauce consistency. Water may be needed to thin it from time to time in the cooking.

Serve the chicken tikka by removing the grilled chicken from the skewers and adding to the sauce.

As a side, I cut up one green bell pepper and grilled it alongside the chicken skewers, and it was a wonderful accompaniment.

My passion is teaching people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and passing along my love and joy of food, both simple or exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me also at A Harmony of Flavors on Facebook, and Pinterest and sign up for my Newsletter.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

An Unusually Delicious Breakfast

I love breakfast. Most often, I eat traditional "breakfast" foods: eggs, toast, bagel, bacon, muffins, pancakes, French toast, oatmeal, and others. This is pretty evident, if anyone looks at my Index and the breakfast items that are listed there. Then, there are just times when none of those foods, no matter how much a favorite they may be, just do not - quite - fit the bill on a given day. Nothing sounds quite right, and nothing appeals.

Poached Egg & Brussel's Sprouts on Salsa Verde
Poached Egg & Brussels Sprouts on Salsa Verde

This does not happen often, for sure. I love all those foods, and trying to keep portions under some control is difficult for me. I love food. I love to eat. I love the flavors of certain foods. I enjoy breads of most kinds. I try to keep away from plain white-flour breads, but there are some. When I got into making breads from rye flour and/or sprouted flours, I found a great love for the whole grain breads. Eggs themselves are a particular favorite, though I now have to keep cholesterol in mind. You may get the drift.

Salsa Verde, and Steaming Brussels Sprouts
Salsa Verde  |   Salsa in bowl   |     Brussels sprouts in steamer pan    |    timed for 8½ minutes   |    perfectly steamed
So a couple of days ago, I was in this particular rut. I stood there in the kitchen, running through in my mind all the foods I would normally have for breakfast. And still I stood there, undecided. I opened the fridge and looked. Nothing. No ideas. I stood there some more. And then I thought maybe I should think outside of my particular box, for a change. 

I have done this before, at times. When I first found I had diabetes, I ate leftover (my own) stir fry for breakfast with all sorts of veggies in it. It was satisfying, and I love my stir fry, so no problem there. With that thought in mind, I opened the fridge again and looked. I noticed a jar of opened Salsa Verde. Love that stuff, so, okay, that came out. And then I saw a bag of Brussels sprouts that I had yet to open. Hmmm. Not sure, but got them out anyway. I closed the fridge while I thought some more. 
Finished Dish of Poached Egg & Brussels Sprouts on Salsa Verde
Poached Egg & Brussels Sprouts on Salsa Verde

Somehow, Brussels sprouts and Salsa Verde seemed an odd combo, but to me, at that moment, they sounded good. 

If I was going to eat Brussels sprouts, I prefer to steam them. Just barely cooked through, at about 8 to 8½ minutes, while they are still a beautiful bright green, they are so delicious. I got out my steamer. I set a pan of water to boil while cleaning the sprouts. I cut them into quarters, just so they would cook through quickly. I set them into the steamer part of the pan and used my "Misto" sprayer with olive oil and spritzed them a bit, then sprinkled salt over. I find that this way, the salt clings to the vegetables while they are steaming, and they are perfectly seasoned when done. Okay, that part of things was underway.

Then, thinking about the Salsa Verde. Normally I make my own (see my recipe here), but one day on a whim I bought two jars of Stonewall Kitchen Salsa Verde. I opened one a couple of weeks back, and it was really hot-spicy. Much more than my husband would tolerate, so I fried an onion with green pepper and garlic and added this to the salsa from the jar I was using, to tame the flame a bit. It was still spicy, but very tolerably so. I scooped some of this out into a wide bowl.

Making a poached egg
Boiling water from the sprouts    |    add vinegar    |     stir into a whirlpool     |   set spoon aside      |      crack in the egg

At this point in the process, I thought I would just have an egg with the sprouts. I got out a skillet for this purpose and set it on a burner to heat. As the Brussels sprouts were done and I lifted off the steamer insert, I thought about the boiling water in the lower pan and thought, "Poached Egg!" I haven't made poached eggs in forever, it seems, and here was the perfect opportunity. I turned off the burner under the skillet and instead added a dollop of vinegar to the boiling water and vigorously stirred the water into a whirlpool. I gently cracked the egg into the center of this whirlpool, turned down the burner to very low, and allowed the egg to poach for about 2 minutes, at which point it was just perfect: whites were set and yolk still runny.
Assembling the dish
Salsa Verde in bowl    |    Steamed Sprouts on Top    |    Poached egg ready to place

I had already toasted some of my Finnish Hapanleipa Rye bread and set it aside. The salsa was already in the bowl. I poured the Brussels sprouts on top of the salsa, then set the just-poached egg on top. A little grating of salt and pepper, and it was one beautiful dish. I broke the yolk, and sighed. It was a beautiful sight, for sure. Still, I hadn't yet tasted it, so that was still waiting. 

When I sat down to eat and took that first bite, I was in heaven. It so exactly fit something I had been craving without knowing what that was. Despite the odd combo of Brussels sprouts and salsa verde, it was wonderful. The egg was just that one added dimension. It was absolutely amazing as a flavor profile. The really dense Rye bread was a perfect accompaniment. It was so delightful, I decided to have it again this morning.

Poached Egg & Brussels Sprouts on Salsa Verde

Serves 1 
Poached Egg & Brussels Sprouts on Salsa Verde
Poached Egg & Brussels Sprouts on Salsa Verde

½ cup Salsa Verde (any brand you prefer, or home made)
5 Brussels sprouts

a sprinkle of olive oil
a sprinkle of salt
2 - 3 teaspoons vinegar
1 egg 
Salt and pepper for serving

Place the Salsa Verde in a wide bowl and set aside. In a steamer pan put in enough water so the steamer insert is not setting in water. Bring the water to boil. While that is happening, cut off a bit of the stem end of the sprouts and discard, along with any damaged outer leaves. Cut the sprouts into quarters, lengthwise and place them in a steamer basket. If you have a Misto-type sprayer, mist the sprouts with olive oil. Otherwise, simply drizzle a little oil over them and toss gently. Sprinkle lightly with salt. When the water is boiling, set the steamer over top, turn down the heat to a simmer and cover. Time for about 8 minutes, or until they are just barely tender when pierced with the tip of a knife. Lift off the steamer basket and set aside. 

Turn the heat down if the water in the pan is still boiling too vigorously. Add in about 2 - 3 tablespoons of vinegar. Using a large slotted spoon, quickly stir the water in a circle to create a whirlpool. Set the spoon aside and quickly, but gently crack the egg into the center of the whirlpool. Do this just barely over the surface of the water, so it doesn't splash and/or disintegrate. Time the egg for about 2 minutes for a still-runny yolk. 

Pour the Brussels sprouts onto the Salsa in the bowl. Lift out the poached egg with the slotted spoon and set on top. Season with salt and pepper if desired. 

My passion is teaching people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and passing along my love and joy of food, both simple or exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me also at A Harmony of Flavors on Facebook, and Pinterest and sign up for my Newsletter.