31 July 2011

Frozen Yogurt with Sour Cherry Compote

The title of this post should really be, "the easiest thing you will make all summer." Because it is. I have a thing for frozen yogurt, I always have. It's cold, it's tangy, it's light, and it satisfies my continual obsession with ice cream. The proliferation of frozen yogurt places in the U.S. (Sweetgreen, Yogenfruz, Pinkberry, etc) is great in my book because the frozen yogurt is tart and tangy and not overly sweet. There is one such place between my house and my yoga studio, and it taunts me every time I walk past, trudging home sweaty and tired. I have a rule limiting myself to one visit per week.

A few weeks ago I made the vanilla ice cream from David Leibovitz's ice cream book. (PS- For ice cream makers, this is the best ice cream recipe, and it even stays perfectly in the fridge for weeks without getting icy or anything, virtually unheard of in the land of homemade ice cream). Anyway, as I'm flipping though the book I alight (alighted? alot? ugh, you know what I mean) upon a recipe for tangy frozen yogurt. The recipe said stir together yogurt and sugar, process though ice cream machine.


With some amount of skepticism as to the simplicity of this endeavor, I whipped up a batch. The unfrozen mixture tasted exactly as delicious as I'd hoped it would. Surely, I thought, it couldn't be this easy? But it was, delicious, homemade frozen yogurt in literally a matter of minutes. My only qualm is that it does get rock hard and icy in the freezer after a few days, which is good news for my local frozen yogurt shop, because I'll still be keeping them in business.

P.S. Ramadan Kareem to all those observing!


Frozen Yogurt

It's optional if you want to add a splash of vanilla extract or other flavoring (Cointreau, orange flower water, almond extract, etc). I used good quality low-fat local yogurt for this. You can make a richer version by using thick Greek yogurt, but really whatever kind of yogurt you'd like, so long as it's plain, will work.

3 cups plain yogurt, cold
3/4 cup sugar

1. Stir together yogurt and sugar. Process through an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions. Transfer to the freezer to harden for about 1 hour. Best served fresh.

Sour Cherry Compote
1 1/2 cups pitted sour cherries
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup water

1. Combine in a saucepan. Boil until mixture is thick and syrupy and cherries have collapsed. Set aside to cool.

24 July 2011

Adana Kebab

I was thinking I wanted to get a good summer grilling recipe up here, but the ones that came to mind--my favorite Aleppo-style kebabs with the spicy tomato sauce, and the kebabs with the sour cherries, well I've already told you about them. And then I thought, of course, Adana kebabs!

Now, there are all kinds of kebabs named for different regions of Lebanon, Syria, and Turkey - Urfa kebabs, Sulimaniya kebabs, Iskander kebabs, and I admit I've always been a bit fuzzy about what all these regional distinctions specify. But Adana kebabs, named for the Southern Turkish city in the region of Anatolia, are the most popular of all and you're likely to find them at many Middle Eastern places in the U.S. and Europe. My friend Adam likes to tell a joke about one time he ordered Adana kebabs in a restaurant, and the older Turkish waiter said, "you know in Adana, we just call it 'kebab.' " This joke only works when told with a thick Turkish accent.

Adana kebabs are made of ground meat (lamb or beef) heavily seasoned with spicy chili. The meat is molded around a thick flat skewer, and Adana kebab is almost always served over flat bread with grilled spicy peppers and tomatoes on top or alongside of the meat. Remember the pide bread we talked about a few weeks ago? Here's where you want to use it.

The number one rule to making Adana kebab is season, season, season, and then... season some more. Ground meat can take a lot of seasoning (the same applies when making burgers, and if you think about it, this is really like a burger on a stick). And you want these kebabs to be spicy. You want rich fatty ground meat, something to make the grill flare up and give the meat a nice char. Other than that it's pretty simple- grilled ground meat, grilled vegetables, bread soaked with the meat juices. An easy summer meal.


Adana Kebab
It is important that you do not use lean meat- you may have to ask your butcher to grind a fattier cut for you, or you can add in fat (like chilled butter or preserved lamb fat). Whatever types of dried or fresh chilis you use, it is only important that they are spicy!

1 1/2 lbs ground lamb or beef, preferably 80% lean
2 teaspoons cayenne pepper OR 4 small Thai bird chilis, ground to a paste
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoon ground coriander
2 teaspoons ground black pepper
salt to taste

plum tomatoes, peppers, for grilling
pide bread, chopped parsley, and sumac, for serving

1. Knead together the meat with the seasonings until well combined and sticky. Chill one hour. Form the mixture around kebab sticks (preferably flat ones) making one long oblong kebab, or several smaller oblong oval shapes.
2. Prepare your grill. Thread the plum tomatoes and peppers on skewers for grilling if using.
3. Grill the kebabs over the flame. Place the tomatoes and peppers just to the side of the kebabs, slightly off the direct flame. Beware, the kebabs will flare up, that is desired. Grill until nicely browned on both sides.
4. Immediately place kebabs over pide bread. Place grilled vegetables on the side. Garnish with chopped parsley and sumac. Serve.

19 July 2011

What To Do with Summer

Well, first you eat it. All the summer peaches and corn on the cob and tomatoes and the last of the lettuce in your garden that is wilting in the heat, you eat all that you can. And then when you're done with that, when you've abundantly bought too many things at the market, when your table groans with berries about to go bad, then you preserve it.

You look up every Christine Ferber strawberry jam recipe (here, here) and decide they are all too complicated and you don't have two days to spend making jam, and instead you improvise your own version. Skimming, skimming, skimming the foam off the jam as it cooks ever so slowly. Then canning and preserving for winter.


You shuck fava beans and freeze them, you make tomato sauce out of those pricey beautiful huge heirloom tomatoes, peeling them, seeding them, chopping, using an old Marcella Hazan recipe. And in the end you discover it tastes like .... tomato sauce.


Sour cherries are available about 4% of the year (yes, I calculated) and so you buy up all you can, and then you spend so long pitting sour cherries and listening to pod casts that you get a neck cramp. Paul would advise you that sour cherry pie is the "the best thing ever," but I also like sour cherries in savory things like rice pilaf and kebabs.


And speaking of preserving, this little piece via the New Yorker just lit up my day. The title alone is great: Suicide in the Garden, Murder in the Kitchen.

It's funny how some of the things I've been making are so vibrantly flavored that they almost taste fake--the strawberries so intense they almost taste like imitation flavoring, tomatoes so naturally sweet without any added sugar. Has anyone else noticed this? Back soon with a recipe....

10 July 2011

Turkish Pide Bread


Pide bread is the Turkish version of flatbread. It is puffier and richer than other flatbreads in the region, and totally delicious. Traditionally shaped in a long flat oval, it can also serve as a bed for toppings, such as roast eggplant or tomato and cheese, the Turkish version of pizza. Pide bread can also serve as a vehicle for kebabs, placing the long kebab over the long pide bread and topping the whole thing with grilled tomatoes and peppers and chopped parsley.


The plain pide bread is either roughly dimpled with your fingers or scored with a knife in a cross hatch design. My pide shaping skills still need some work. Like most flatbreads, these are best the first day they are made, but they keep well and can refresh nicely when reheated in the oven or toaster.


Pide Bread

Adapted from Annisa Helou.

2 1/4 teaspoon yeast (1 package)
3 cups flour
2 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
warm water

optional: egg wash, sesame seeds

1. Dissolve yeast in 1/4 cup warm water in a large bowl. Stir in the flour, sugar, salt, and oil. Gradually add 2/3 cup warm water to form a dough. Knead the dough to form a smooth elastic ball of dough, about 10 minutes.
2. Rinse out the bowl, oil it, and cover with plastic wrap or a damp towel and allow the dough to rise in a warm place for 1 hour. Punch down the dough and let rise another 45 minutes.
3. Preheat oven to 425 F. Grease a baking sheet, divide the dough into long oval loaves (you can make one very long loaf or several smaller ones). Place on the baking sheet, cover with a damp towel until the dough is slightly puffed, 10 minutes. Dimple the dough with your fingers. If desired, brush with egg wash and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Bake 20 minutes for smaller loaves, 30 minutes for one large loaf, or until golden and firm. Eat fresh.

02 July 2011

Beef Tagine with Prunes


Jonathan Franzen writes of Washington DC, "the pedestrians in every neighborhood all seemed to have taken the same dowdiness pills. As if individual styles were a volatile substance that evaporated in the vacuity of D.C.'s sidewalks and infernally wide squares. The whole cite was a monosyllabic imperative directed at Katz's beat up biker jacket. Saying die."

I'm inclined to agree with Mr Franzen, and with this group of people. Don't get me wrong, I have a fantastic house here (the size of which I could afford about 8% of in New York), and a yard for gardening, a nice car and a good stable job and lots of good friends. And there's a lot more character in DC then there used to be, there's Birch and Barley and the lobster truck and movies at E Street and cool furniture shops on 14th Street. But a little bit every day, I feel the corporate government dullness of DC slowly sucking my soul.


People keep talking about this thing called my "career trajectory," which always makes me picture, with horror, that my job is a shooting rocket just dragging me in its path. So I'm thinking a lot about jobs and careers and is going back to school really the right thing in this economy and will anyone even want to hire me and do I really want to move and is having a career really such a bad thing, and why oh why are DC drivers so horrible?

And this uncertainty is probably why I'm making rich comforting stews like beef tagine in the middle of summer when my diet should be consisting of summer tomatoes, corn, and soft-shelled crabs. But the beef tagine my friends, is really fantastic. I've made it a few times now, cooking the beef over several hours with prunes and spices until everything melts together in a thick sweet sludgy mixture. Like many Moroccan dishes this verges on the edge of sweet, and though not traditional I like to add some chli flakes to keep things balanced out. The dish reminds me strongly of Mexican mole negro, also black and sweet and spicy. It's one of those recipe you make once or twice and remember how to do from memory, long slow cooking on a Sunday afternoon, something to bookmark and make on a day when you need something warm and comforting.

Beef Tagine with Prunes

2 lbs beef stew meat
salt, pepper
olive oil
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
2 teaspoons cumin
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
optional: 1 small diced chili or 1 tsp of Aleppo pepper or mild dried chili pepper
1 large onion, diced
12 oz prunes, diced
2 tablespoons honey
a few sprigs of cilantro leaves, diced
sesame seeds for serving

1. Season the meat with salt and pepper. Mix together the spices and toss with the meat to coat. Heat some olive oil in your tagine (or a dutch oven) over medium heat. Sear the beef until browned on all sides. Add water to just cover the meat, bring water to a simmer, put the lid on the pan and simmer on low for 45 minutes.
2. After 45 minutes, add the onions, chili if using, prunes, and honey and season with salt. Cover the pan again and simmer for 2 hours. Check on the mixture every 20 minutes or so, add more water if the mixture starts to look dry. Gently mash the mixture with the back of a spoon as it cooks, encouraging it to form one cohesive sticky sauce. As the sauce thickens toward the end of cooking, make sure it doesn't stick to the bottom of the pot and burn.
3. At the end of the 2 hours, the meat should be tender and falling apart, if it isn't keep cooking it gently. A few minutes before taking the dish off the heat, stir in the cilantro. The sauce should be thick and sticky. Taste for seasoning. Season with additional salt/chili/honey as necessary. Ladle the tagine over couscous. Sprinkle sesame seeds on top to serve.