My sister slept over the other night, and in the morning we awoke to the smell of hot coffee and the sound of fresh fruit being chopped. Early morning grogginess quickly evaporated as Justin set down in front of us two bowls of his current favorite breakfast:
J's Signature Greek Yogurt
To kick off your day with this treat, just top a cup or so of Greek yogurt (you can find individual servings or larger tubs at the store) with a dollop of honey, a sprinkle of granola, and a handful of whatever fruit you have on hand (the combination of bananas, strawberries, and blueberries pictured above provides a perfect combination of textures and flavors). In addition to its health benefits over regular yogurt (more protein, less sodium), the Greek variety adds a tangy taste and beautifully smooth texture. I prefer nonfat as it cuts down on the richness – Justin believes the richer, the better!
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For the last night in our international cuisine challenge, we headed back to more familiar cooking territory: Italian food. Rather than pasta, though, I was in the mood for seafood, and found a recipe for pesce all’acqua pazza in Marcella Hazan’s “Marcella Cucina.”
I liked how Hazan’s recipe intro noted that she was at first turned off by the name of the dish, because I almost passed it up too – Fish in Crazy Water? But I was intrigued by the simplicity of the ingredient list for the sauce: tomatoes, water, garlic, parsley, red chili pepper, olive oil, and salt. I wasn’t expecting anything too exciting, especially after I cut open my apparently ripe tomatoes to reveal disappointingly light pink insides. So, I added a squirt of tomato paste to bump up the color and flavor, and hoped for the best.
We weren’t disappointed – after simmering for over 45 minutes, the ingredients married perfectly into a beautifully rich, flavorful sauce for our rockfish (a good alternative to the called-for red snapper, which is on the seafood watch list to avoid). Even Justin, who prefers meatier, oilier fish, said that this was his favorite dish of the week! I think it didn’t hurt that I served it with his favorite garlicky new potatoes… 🙂
One of the lessons from our experience this week is to not be afraid to get creative: we had no red chilies in house, so I substituted a spoonful of leftover piri piri sauce from the other night. Stay tuned for other thoughts about our international challenge!
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Posted in Books, Recipes, tagged Chinese food, chives, cookbooks, cooking, food, lo mein, Mark Bittman, mushrooms, shiitake on June 20, 2010|
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After our labor-intensive Indian meal, we were eager to prepare something a tad easier for our fourth day around the world. Simple but delicious? We knew we need look no further than Mark Bittman. He’s well-known for his New York Times column “The Minimalist,” which showcases his signature straightforward cooking style. He also has the cojones to write cookbooks with names like “How to Cook Everything” and “The Best Recipes in the World.” It was the latter in which we found a variation on beef lo mein which had on the table in about 15 minutes: saute Chinese chives and shiitake mushrooms until browned…add garlic, ginger, soy sauce, a little water, and cooked lo mein noodles…toss, and serve!
For such little effort, we were rewarded with big flavors. The satisfyingly chewy noodles provided the perfect stage for the mild onion taste of the Chinese chives (about two feet long before you chop them) and the subtle meatiness of the mushrooms. Bittman notes that this is a traditional dish at weddings and New Year’s parties, but the ease of preparation has earned it a place in our repertoire for much more humble occasions!
Almost as good as the meal itself was the trip to the Asian market for ingredients. I spent much longer there than necessary, taking in the giant sacks of rice and aisles full of fragrant spices and produce. The candy section made me feel like a little kid, and I couldn’t resist bringing home some chocolate “burgers” for dessert!
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I love Middle Eastern food, but I have to admit my attempts to cook it at home haven’t extended too far beyond falafel! Last night, we branched out to a main dish and dessert from two different cookbooks.
Up first, we prepared mihshi malfuf (cabbage rolls), a dish native to Lebanon, Syria and Jordan. The recipe comes from “Middle Eastern Home Cooking” by Tess Mallos, a beautiful cookbook with full-color photographs of each dish. We opted for the vegetarian filling, a mixture of fried scallions, rice, chickpeas, parsley, tomatoes and olive oil seasoned with allspice, salt, and pepper. The stuffed rolls are drizzled with a garlicky mint sauce, then simmered in water for 45 minutes to allow the rice to cook. Served with yogurt and warm pita bread, the finished product was quite tasty, but the flavors didn’t have the “wow” factor necessary to justify the intensive prep and cooking time, not to mention the 30 minutes the rolls had to rest before eating! Maybe we’ll try the meat filling if we make this meal again?
For dessert, we had burnt honey ice cream from Greg and Lucy Malouf’s “Artichoke to Za’atar: Modern Middle Eastern Food.” We were intrigued by the technique of caramelizing honey to the point that it becomes slightly bitter, then adding it to a custard base and letting the ice cream machine work its magic. The result was very rich, with an intriguing flavor that we weren’t sure about at first, but turned out to be very “more-ish” (my mom’s term for when you can’t stop eating something). The ice cream is pictured here topped with almonds and lingonberries (I know, not Middle Eastern at all! But a nice tart antidote to the richness).
Off to the grocery store…what country will we be visiting tonight?
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