22 February 2013

Roast Cabbage Wedges with Mustard-Preserved Lemon Dressing


This recipe started from my frustration with another recipe that we recently made for dinner. Paul had wanted to make this cabbage with sausage recipe, using our local merguez sausages, and I took the extremely rare step of actually following a recipe to the letter. I am a terrible recipe follower - I tinker, I tweak, if I'm out of one thing I'm happy to substitute for another. Sometimes I change a recipe because I know a better technique, or because I'm trying to be healthier, but most of the time it's simply because I prefer things done certain ways. I like roasted carrots better than boiled, I'm partial to slicing my onions very thinly when caramelizing them, etc.

The dinner recipe was delicious, but it irked me that the recipe had you blanch wedges of cabbage. Instead of the beautiful picture of perfect cabbage wedges, as I predicted my cabbage wedges all drifted into disparate pieces while blanching, landing in a tumble on the plate. As I was puzzling over how to present cabbage in lovely shaped wedges, I thought of roasting them. Roasting cabbage had never occured to me before, but it's great. The outer edges curl up and crisp like those oh-so-popular kale chips, while the center cooks until just barely soft and tender. Top with a vinaigrette and they're a nice side dish to whatever else you're having with dinner.


Roast Cabbage Wedges with Mustard-Preserved Lemon Dressing
A bit of shaved pecorino cheese and some chopped chives on top would be a nice way to dress this dish up a bit.

1 small head of green cabbage (any variety), sliced into medium wedges with the core still attached
olive oil, salt, and pepper
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
juice of 1/2 a lemon
1 preserved lemon, chopped
1 teaspoon capers

1. Preheat oven to 425F. Rub baking sheet with oil, place cabbage wedges on top, and drizzle with oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast the cabbage for 20-30 minutes, until the outer leaves are slightly blackened and the inner core is tender when poked with a knife. Use your judgement, it may take more or less time depending on the size of your cabbage..
2. Meanwhile whisk together all the dressing ingredients. When ready to serve, place the cabbage wedges on a plate and spoon the dressing over top.

05 February 2013

In the Midnight Kitchen

with Warm Yogurt Soup with Freekiah and Herbs

Gingerbread Cookies

Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

Paul's Pear Frangipane Tart


Often I don't document the things we make at night, sometimes because I take terrible pictures in the dark, other times because it's the end of a long workday and I'm tired and just throwing something together. Cooking here in Algiers is not just a hobby but a necessity. Other than pizza, schwarma, omelets, and ice cream, take-out or pre-prepared food of any kind is almost non-existant here. Which is why you might find me padding around the kitchen late at night, sliding some bread out of the oven or making cookies, or prepping lettuce for a salad the next day. I'm probably wearing my workout clothes from earlier in the evening and a big pair of hand-knit socks and listening to one of my favorite podcasts.

It's been a while since I've written about yogurt soups and yogurt-based sauces, but they seem to have had a bit of a resurgence on the interwebs. I still believe that to make true yogurt sauce you stabilize the yogurt and let it come to a full boil (see here for more). However, stabilizing and then lightly heating the yogurt works nicely too and is a bit less stressful. A warm yogurt soup is super-simple and comforting on a cold winter evening. You literally whisk together the yogurt ingredients in a pot, and then heat them to steaming - that's it for the yogurt base. Then I like to put in whatever I have lying around the fridge - like leftover rice or wheatberries from a previous dinner, some chickpeas or beans, perhaps some vegetables. Add in plenty of chopped herbs, a drizzle of good olive oil, and dinner is served. You can dress it up by infusing your olive oil with saffron or spices.


Warm Yogurt Soup with Freekiah and Herbs
Plain yogurt varies in thickness, so use your judgement when adding the broth to the soup. If the soup is still very thick you may want to go with 2 cups of broth. If your broth is very salty go easy on any added salt. Freekiah is available in Middle Eastern groceries, wheatberries make a nice substitute. 

3 cups plain yogurt (preferably not fat-free)
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 egg white
1 cup cooked freekiah (cracked green wheat)
1 1/2 cups chickpeas
1 cup of chopped mixed herbs (any mix of parsley, cilantro, mint, chives, fennel fronds, etc)
1 1/2 cups of vegetable broth (or water)
salt and pepper
pinch of saffron
olive oil for drizzling

1. Place the broth, cooked freekiah, chickpeas, and 1 teaspoon of salt in a pot, and place over low heat, you just want to warm the mixture.
2. Whisk together the yogurt, cornstarch, and egg white in a pot off of the heat. Whisk until well combined. Place the pot on the heat at medium heat. Stirring occasionally let the mixture heat until it is very warm and steaming, but does not boil.
3. Gently stir in the chickpea and freekiah mixture with the broth. Stir everything together over low heat until very warm again. Add in the herbs and stir well.Season with salt and peper
4. Ladle the soup into bowls. Crumble a pinch of saffron over top and drizzle with olive oil. Serve warm, with good crusty bread.

02 February 2013

Algerian Cookies: Griwich


The little bodega near our house, where we often pick up milk and yogurt and drain cleaner (local plumbing lacks some basic construction concepts), carries boxes of cookies made from a local bakery. There are your classic Arab cookies - the dome-shaped shortbread gharabiya, the semolina cookies sandwiched with date paste (makroud), European linzer cookies, and some more local varieties.

This local cookie is called griwich, and is made of a simple semolina dough which is cut in a series of strips, twisted around, deep fried, and then coated in honey. I don't usually like the fried and syruped cookies, things like Syrian awameh and those Indian gulab jamun, they are always too heavy to my taste. However these are surprisingly light and manage to keep a good crispiness even when stored for a few days. You can see them being made here - they also sell little plastic cookie cutters to cut the griwich shape.