Tuesday, March 27, 2012

A Taste of North Africa

This weeks table was a bit of an adventure. Originally I had not planned to investigate the cuisine of North Africa, but after  some research I found the food to be interesting and decided to give it a try.  The spice combinations are some I have not worked with thus far.  A tagine is a cooking vessel  I have seen, but not used.  I substituted a cast iron pot and I think all came out as expected.  A combination of 7 spices are used in many dishes of the region; sweet paprika, hot paprika (I used cayenne pepper), black pepper, ground ginger, cumin, turmeric and cinnamon. Also lentils, chickpeas and couscous are common.  Here is what is on the Table:

Moroccan Seven Spice Vegetable Couscous
Chicken Tagine with Artichoke Hearts and Peas

The chicken pieces (skin on and on the bone) are seasoned with salt and pepper and browned in a heavy pot.  Chopped onion and chicken stock are added and brought to a boil. A mixture of saffron threads, ginger, coriander, cumin, paprika and turmeric are added to the broth.  The pot is covered and simmered over low heat until the chicken is cooked through and then removed from the pot, the skin is removed and discarded.  Minced onion, tomatoes, preserved lemon and artichoke hearts are stirred into the broth. The chicken is returned to the sauce and at the end a bag of frozen baby peas is added.   This was a wonderful dish. I expect to repeat it again.

I am a big fan of Israeli couscous.  I prepared it per instructions on the box, but substituted chicken broth for part of the water. Set this aside for serving. Onion slices are sauteed in EVOO and a bit of butter.  Saffron, crushed red pepper, turmeric, cinnamon, ginger and black pepper are added along with a bundle of parsley, chopped tomatoes and vegetable stock. Carrot coins, butternut squash cubes, sliced zucchini, chickpeas and a bit of sugar are simmered until vegetables are done.  The recipe called for raisins, but I used dry cranberries.  Season to taste and spoon over the couscous.  Toasted slivered almonds are a garnish.  The flavors of this dish are lovely as well as very fragrant.

My visit to North Africa was a big success.  Next week Spain is on the menu.  Stop by!

Monday, March 19, 2012

St. Paddy's Day

I have been doing this blog since 2008.  This Table is in the top 5 of the ones I have presented. So let's get started.

Corned Beef with Apricot Glaze
Colcannon Potatoes
Buttered Carrots
Irish Soda Bread Scones with Apricot Butter
Coffee Ice Cream with Irish Whiskey Caramel and Coffee Nut Crisp

For years I have prepared corned beef in the same way; boiled in water with the seasoning packet, cabbage, carrots and potatoes. Then it was spooned out, "carved" (as possible when the meat is stringy and fatty) and served.  This year, I decided to try something different. I put the corned beef in a pot as usual with water and the seasoning packet.  This meat weighed a bit more than 2 pounds so I simmered it for 2 hours.  The meat is then removed and placed in a roasting pan.  The broth is strained and a couple of inches of the broth is put in the roaster with the meat.  Both are cooled, covered and refrigerated overnight.The oven is heated, the fat trimmed off the beef.   A mixture of apricot preserves, brown sugar and soy sauce is spread on the meat and put in oven.  The glaze is painted on the meat every 10 minutes or so on both sides. Set aside to cool a bit.

Colcannon  is an Irish tradition.  I have never had it before, but tried it this year.  Loved It!!  Cabbage is shredded and cooked in salted water until just tender.  Remove from water and keep warm.  Add peeled quartered potatoes to water and simmer until just tender.  Drain and mash potatoes.  Heat milk, a bit of butter and chopped green onions.  Mash with potatoes and add cabbage, salt an pepper. Serve with chopped parsley.

Carrots are simply cooked until tender and tossed with butter and dill.

Irish Soda Bread Scones are made from a simple soda bread recipe, but there is a cup of cake flour in the mix,  I am not a fan of raisins as I have said before, but since  I was making apricot butter, I substituted chopped apricots.  Perfect.  The butter is equal parts soft no salt butter (In use Irish KerryGold butter) and apricot preserves.

Dessert was a Coffee Sundae with Irish Caramel and Coffee Nut crisp.  The caramel is made with  sugar, water, cream, and Irish Whiskey.  It is poured over coffee ice cream and topped with toasted coffee sweetened walnuts

A fabulous Table.  The leftovers will be enjoyed all week.  Next week I return to my tour of the Mediterranean.

Have a great week and try these recipes.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Stop Two on our Mediterranean Tour

Last week I began the food tour of the countries around the Mediterranean.  Most all of the countries share a love for fresh seafood.  This week the table features flank steak.  The recipe I chose originally was prepared with boneless butterflied leg of lamb.  However, a leg of lamb is a large piece of meat and I preferred to prepare a smaller version.  I chose a flank steak because is has little fat and is simpler to work with.  Here is what is on Marilyn's Table this week:

Mediterranean Stuffed and Rolled Flank Steak
Grilled Vegetable Salad

The stuffing for the steak is prepared in a blender or food processor.  Blended until paste like are chopped sun-dried tomatoes, kalamata olives, rosemary, thyme, oregano, Dijon mustard, garlic, EVOO, red wine vinegar and cracked black pepper.

The steak is put between two sheets of plastic, pounded until about 1/3 inch thick and scored on one side. Reserve a tablespoon of the stuffing mixture for the sauce and spread the rest over the surface of the steak.  Roll the steak tightly and tie with twine in about 3 or 4 places to hold together.  Place steak on a plate and refrigerate UNCOVERED at least two hours, overnight is better.  Preheat oven to 375 and bring steak to room temperature. Season steak with salt and pepper and sear in a very hot oiled pan until well browned.  The meat is then placed in a roasting pan on a rack. Under the rack mix together the reserved stuffing, water, Dijon mustard, chopped garlic, rosemary and a bit more EVOO.  Brush some of the sauce over the meat and roast about 20 minutes.  Let the meat rest about 15 minutes and slice.  Drizzle with the pan sauce to serve.  A very nice presentation and it was delicious.

The vegetable salad was easily assembled.  The vegetables are sliced into manageable pieces. They are: Sliced sweet onion, zucchini, red pepper, eggplant and a large parboiled potato. The vinaigrette is: EVOO, garlic, balsamic vinegar, mint, oregano, marjoram and salt and pepper.  Shake well in a covered jar and toss carefully with the vegetables.  Preheat a grill pan and oil surface lightly.  Grill vegetables until they are softened and have nice grill marks.  Serve at room temperature with a bit of crumbled Feta cheese.  I will use this recipe again perhaps with some different vegetables (but always red pepper for color)

This Table was colorful and full of flavor.  A success in every way.

Next week I will take a short break from the Mediterranean tour and prepare my St. Patrick's Day table.  The usual corned beef and cabbage, but in slightly different presentations.  Stop by and take a look.

Monday, March 5, 2012

A Mediterranean Tour

Last week I mentioned my interest in the foods of the Mediterranean.  Upon further investigation I  am rethinking the project.  I pulled out a map to see the countries and cuisines which surround the Mediterranean.  I'm not sure I am going to research North Africa, Turkey or the Middle East. I think I will have my hands full putting together Tables from Greece, Italy, Spain and the South of France.

This week Marilyn's Table has seafood as the focus.  Shellfish and other finned fish are plentiful in the towns along the coastal regions. Here is what is on the table:

Seafood Cioppino
Gratin of Salmon and Spinach
Asparagus-Morel Risotto

The Cioppio is a simple, yet flavorful stew. Onions, garlic and celery are sauteed in EVOO until soft.  Canned fire roasted tomatoes, clam juice and tomato paste are added and simmered until heated through.  Red wine vinegar, Italian seasoning, bay leaf and a bit of sugar are added..  Fish fillets which have been cut in chunks are folded in (I used haddock) and cooked until they flake. Shrimp which have been cut in half, one can each lump crabmeat and chopped clams complete the seafood mixture. When the shrimp are pink the stew is ready to serve with chopped parsley and garlic cheese bread.  It was a cold snowy Saturday and this really hit the spot and I look forward to reheating bowls over the course of the week.

Risotto is an excellent rice dish that is easy to prepare and very versatile.  There is no end of what to add to make a filling side dish.  This week the recipe called for chopped asparagus and morel mushrooms.  Morel mushrooms have a very short season in spring when they are fresh.  I keep dried morels so when I want to use this very unique mushroom, I have them at the ready. I reconstituted them in white wine.  After they are softened, I drained the wine into  chicken broth  heating on the back of the stove.  Diced onion is sauteed in EVOO and a bit of butter.  The chopped asparagus and mushrooms are added to the onion.  Arborio rice is mixed in until the grains are coated.  The warm stock/wine mixture is added a ladle at a time stirring until absorbed.  After all the stock has been added, the pot is removed from the heat and grated Parmesan cheese folded in.  The dish is served with minced parsley.

Whole Foods had some very nice Atlantic wild salmon.  I found a recipe using a gratin dish.  A bag of fresh spinach is wilted in a large saucepan, removed and rough chopped.  Onion and garlic are softened in EVOO.  A bit of Dijon mustard is stirred in and the spinach added. Most of the mixture is spread over the bottom of an oiled gratin dish.  The salmon is laid on top and the rest of the spinach is tucked around the sides.  Fresh lemon juice is squeezed over the top along with salt and pepper.  A handful of dry bread crumbs is sprinkled over the top. (I used Panko, my favorite)  Bake until the fish flakes.

The gratin and the risotto made an excellent meal and I found that mixing the two leftovers together a lunch to look forward to.

Next week I plan a Table from either Spain or the South of France.  Stay tuned and have a great week.