Sunday, May 24, 2015

Pickled Carrot Sticks With Harissa & Honey

I have adapted this recipe from Epicurious somewhat by decreasing the amount of salt, swapping out the sugar for honey and replacing the dill seeds and garlic cloves for harissa. Last month while I was in LA, I picked up a jar of Moroccan Harissa from Jordan Market on Westwood Blvd. This stuff contains preserved lemon and is delicious!

The original recipe suggests blanching the carrots first. I didn't bother with that. I sliced my carrots a bit thinner and they turned out fine.

1 lb carrots, cleaned and cut into 4 x 1/4 inch sticks
1 cup water
3/4 cup cider vinegar
2 tbsp honey
1 tbsp harissa, or to taste
1 tsp salt

Place the carrots into a heatproof and nonreactive bowl. Set aside.

Bring the water, cider vinegar, honey, harissa and salt to a boil in a small saucepan. Reduce the heat and simmer for a minute or two. Pour the hot liquid over the carrots and cool, uncovered. The amount of liquid should be adequate as the carrots will shrink slightly as they cool. Add a bit of water, if necessary.

Cover and refrigerate for at least one day before serving. Will keep about one month.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Greek Style Shrimp with Feta

(3-4 servings)

I just returned from an extended trip to southern California. During my visit there I prepared this dish a couple of times for my aunt who loved it. This has always been one of my favorite ways to cook shrimp. It's quick and easy to prepare, especially if you can get your hands on pre-cleaned raw shrimp.

Don't add any salt during the preparation as the feta will more than likely be salty enough. Add it later, if you must.

1 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
3-4 tomatoes, roughly chopped
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/2  tsp dried oregano
1 tbsp double concentrated tomato paste
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 lb shrimp, shelled and deveined
6 oz feta cheese, cut into small cubes

fresh parsley, chopped for garnish

Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and when it gets fragrant (about 30 sec.) add the onions. Saute them until they soften. Add the tomatoes, ground pepper, oregano, tomato paste and wine. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally until the liquid evaporates, the onions and tomatoes soften, and the mixture thickens; 8 - 10 minutes. (Don't worry if the mixture seems too thick, once you add the shrimp it should thin out again. If it doesn't, then add a splash of wine or water.)

Turn up the heat a bit, add the shrimp and cook for 4-6 minutes or until the shrimp turn opaque. Take care not to overcook them. Gently fold in the *feta. Cook another minute or so.

Garnish with chopped parsley. Serve with crusty bread or cooked rice.

*I usually use regular feta cheese for this, but this time I tried one which contained bits of tomato and basil. It was quite nice.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Peppers Stuffed with Beef, Quinoa & Cheese

(6-8 servings)

I made a couple of batches of this until I realised I had to cook the quinoa first. Regardless of how "wet" I made the meat filling, the quinoa refused to expand like rice would have. Whenever possible I love skipping a step or two, but that wasn't the case here.

It always amazes me how much a dish can change just by the way it's seasoned. The smoked paprika and fried bacon gave this homestyle dish a nice twist making it a huge hit.

These stuffed peppers reheat really well and are a great candidate for freezing, in case you feel like doubling this recipe.

3 thick slices bacon, chopped
1 1/4 cup cooked quinoa
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
3/4 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 egg
2 tbsp ground flaxseed (optional)
2 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped or 2 tsp dried
1 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp lemon pepper
a pinch or two, cayenne
14.5oz can pureed or whole peeled tomatoes
1/4 cup water
2 tbsp sweet rice flour or all purpose flour (if gluten isn't an issue)
1 lb extra lean ground beef
4 small/medium red bell peppers

Place the bacon into a cold skillet and cook over medium-low heat until the bacon is crispy. Place the crisped bacon bits into a mixing bowl along with the quinoa and set aside.

Remove all but 1 tablespoon of the rendered bacon fat and fry the garlic and onions until they are soft and translucent. Add this mixture to the quinoa and bacon and leave to cool for a few minutes.

Add 1/2 cup of the shredded cheese, reserving 1/4 cup for later. Add the tomato paste, egg, flaxseed, if using, parsley, smoked paprika, salt, lemon pepper and cayenne. Set aside.

Stir together the pureed tomatoes, water and rice flour. If using the whole tomatoes, combine in a small blender until smooth.

Add 1/4 cup of this mixture to the stuffing mixture along with all of the ground meat. Gently mix everything together until just combined, taking care not to over mix. Set aside

Pour the remainder of the tomato sauce into a baking dish, large enough to hold the filled peppers snugly.

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Wash then cut the peppers in half, lengthwise. Remove the seeds and membranes. Divide the meat and quinoa filling equally between the pepper halves. Mound the meat mixture without trying to pack it in too tightly, otherwise the filling might become too dense.

When all of the peppers are stuffed. Sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup cheese evenly over the top.

Bake for 60-75 minutes or until the the dish is bubbling hot and the top has browned. Serve, with the sauce spooned over the peppers.

I like this dish even better the next day, reheated.