Recipes from Marche, Italy

For this entry, I made two recipes. Neither of them were especially good, but I don't blame the people who posted the original recipes or any of the traditions they came from, I blame myself and my propensity for Googling things that might kill me.

Recipes from Marche, Italy: Brodetto

A seafood stew with mussels and clams, minus the Vibrio.

Recipes from Marche, Italy: Filone Casereccio

An Italian bread that will come out much better than mine did if you use fresh brewer's yeast and steam.

Recipes from Malta

This is actually the third time I’ve cooked a meal from Malta. The first time, I cooked the meal and then just did not write the blog post. Years went by.

Recipes from Malta: Imqarrun

Imquarrum (also called Imqarrun il-forn) is descended from a dish served in Sicily, but the Maltese have adopted it as a traditional staple. The key to making this dish is to be patient.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Recipes from Guadeloupe

Once, I used to complain about how many nations there are in the Caribbean. Can you imagine that? In my defense it was really more because of my abnormal love of variety. If you want to know what I'm talking about, ask my poor kids, who never know what to expect at the dinner table, and not just on blog nights. I only have a handful of recipes that I make regularly, and by regularly I mean a couple of times a year on average. The rest of the time I'm filling their plates with scary, scary experiments. And then when I actually do cook something they like they have to wait another six months before I get around to making it again.

So I got kind of tired of the Caribbean in those early weeks of this blog. But now, I really, really wish I was spending as much actual time in the Caribbean as I've been spending there this month. There is some good food in the Caribbean. I don't know if this is because the tourist trade compels all those excellent chefs to come up with new and flavorful dishes or if it's just the climate and all the lovely and exotic ingredients that grow there. Anyway Caribbean food is tasty and I should be happy to make more of it.

And that brings me to Guadeloupe, a small group of five islands in the Lesser Antilles. I'm sure you will be shocked to hear that people have been fighting over this particular 629 square miles since the 8th century, when the Caribs fought the Arawak, or so sayeth Wikipedia, the Source of All Knowledge (citation needed). After that Christopher Columbus came along and "discovered" the pineapple on the islands, which had actually been grown in parts of South America for who knows how long but hey, Columbus didn't actually "discover" America, either.

So then the Spanish fought the Caribs and the British fought the Spanish and then somehow the French ended up owning it all, which of course pissed off the British and then they all started fighting each other again. Eventually the French came out on top and now the islands are an overseas region of France. Hope it was worth it.

Le Gosier, Pointe-À-Pitre, Guadeloupe. Photo Credit: rachel_thecat
All this fighting and changing of hands did have the happy side effect of contributing to a unique and delicious cuisine, which is largely Creole in character with shades of African and Asian flavors. Despite the small size of Guadeloupe it was actually difficult to narrow down my menu and I had to leave one or two things out. Here's what I finally settled on:

Bokit au Poulet
(I am missing the source for this recipe. Does anyone recognize it?)

For the rolls:
  • 1 1/3 cup flour
  • 1 tsp lard
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup warm water
For the filling:
  • One 3 1/2 lb chicken
  • 1 whole allspice
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 onion
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp French 4-spice blend
  • 3 1/2 tsp oil
  • 3/4 tsp red pepper paste
  • 1/4 tsp mixed dry herbs (I used a poultry seasoning)
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 3/4 tsp colombo powder
  • 4 turns of the pepper mill
  • 2 green onions, chopped
Creole Avocado
(This recipe comes from
  • 2 avocados
  • 2 tbsp uncooked long grain rice
  • 1 can crabmeat
  • 4 tbsp mayonnaise
  • 1 tsp mustard
  • 7/8 cup oil
  • 1 tbsp ketchup
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped herbs
  • salt and pepper
Pigeon Peas
(This recipe is from Recette Guadeloupe)
  • 2 lbs dried pigeon peas
  • 6 tomatoes, blanched and peeled
  • 2 onions
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 1 carrot
  • Chives
  • Parsley
  • 1 bouquet garni
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 3/4 lb bacon
  • Olive oil
Pineapple Banana Cake
(This recipe is from Bananas Guadeloupe & Martinique)
  • 2 bananas
  • 4 pineapple rings
  • 6 tbsp salted butter, softened
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 1/8 tsp active dry yeast
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp ginger
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
First the cake, since it can be made ahead:

Preheat your oven to an unspecified temperature. I chose 350 degrees because the recipe didn't say otherwise.

Now cut up the pineapple. Cream the butter with the sugar then add the eggs. Now you will note that this instruction caught me by surprise, since the ingredient list said nothing about eggs. So I decided to use two, which may not have been the right decision.

Now mix the yeast with the flour and water.

These very vague instructions also didn't say anything about letting the yeast become foamy, or about allowing time for the cake to rise, which is kind of what I thought yeast was for. I'm thinking now that you should mix it all together and then let it sit for an hour before baking it. However that's not what I did.

Now add the flour mixture to the the butter/sugar/eggs. Stir in the bananas and pineapple (I just used my electric mixer to make sure the bananas were well incorporated, then I added the pineapple).

Bake for 45 minutes. Wonder what went wrong.

Now for the pigeon peas:

The instructions were for a pressure cooker, but since my peas were canned I was kind of scared of what might happen to them in a pressure cooker. So I did my peas like this:

First cut up the carrots into small pieces, but not so small that you won't be able to pick them out, because cooked carrots are gross. Now saute the onions and garlic in the oil, then add the bacon.

Add the tomatoes and carrots and the bouquet garni and stir for five minutes.

Add the pigeon peas, parsley, chives and salt and pepper. Cook for 15 or 20 minutes and serve hot.

And the avocados, which I think are generally served as appetizers, though I served mine as a side:

Boil the rice according to how you usually boil rice. Drain and let cool, then transfer to a large bowl. Mix in the mayo and mustard, then add the salt, pepper, lemon juice and ketchup.

Halve the avocados, scoop out the insides (taking care to keep the rinds intact) and dice. Toss with the crabmeat and rice mixture. Now stuff the rinds with the mixture and sprinkle with the chopped herbs. Chill and serve.

And now for the bokit:

Proof the yeast in 3 tbsp of the water. Meanwhile, mix the flour with the lard and salt, then when the yeast is frothy add it to the flour with the rest of the water. Knead for one minute or until you get a firm dough.

Put the dough in a bowl and cover with a damp cloth. Let rise in a warm place for two or three hours.

Meanwhile preheat your oven to 395 degrees. Blend the onions with the garlic and allspice in a food processor until you get a paste. Transfer to a bowl and add the spices, dried herbs, pepper, Colombo powder, red pepper paste, oil and lemon juice.

Now loosen the skin on the chicken but don't remove it. Rub the spice mixture evenly under the skin. If there's a little left over, put that inside the cavity.

Pour a little bit of water into the roasting pan with the chicken and bake for 50 minutes, or until an thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the thigh reads 175 degrees. Let rest for 10 minutes, then remove the meat from the bones and shred it. Set aside.

Now that your dough has risen, punch down and then shape into individual balls. Let rise another 15 to 30 minutes, then flatten each ball slightly with the palm of  your hand.

Heat a little bit of oil in a frying pan and cook each roll for a few minutes on each side, turning when golden. Drain, then cut each roll in two and put the filling inside with the chopped green onions.

Here's what we thought: The bokit was really delicious. At least me and the kids thought so, Martin is always so reluctant to rave about anything that isn't the most incredible thing he's ever eaten. He's very conservative with his praise, so whatever. He said it was a very good meal, but he refused to rave. Anyway I thought the chicken all by itself would have been a good Sunday roast, but added to those freshly-made rolls it was quite seriously delicious. The avocados were good too, really really good in an "I would have paid $12 for that as an appetizer" kind of way. The pigeon peas, well, I adore pigeon peas as you may already know. But I didn't like these. It was probably mostly the carrots, but I just thought all that other stuff got in the way of that earthy pigeon pea flavor. I much prefer them simpler, cooked with rice. But I guess they were edible anyway.

As for the cake, well, something went wrong and I don't know what it was. It was heavy and tasted doughy even though I'm fairly sure I cooked it all the way through. As you probably gathered the directions were incomplete and some ingredients were missing, so I can't take full responsibility this time. I might go scour the internet to see if I can find another version at some point, but not today. 'Cause it's Halloween! Oh by the way, happy Halloween!

Next week: Guam

For printable versions of this week's recipes:

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Recipes from Grenada

OK, Grenada. I knew the name rang a bell, but I wasn't sure why. As it turns out, it's because the US invaded Grenada back in the 80s. Yeah, I know, I'm really ignorant of modern history, but hey, it was the 80s. I was still a kid, I swear.

So you probably know why we invaded Grenada but I needed a refresher, so I'll just repeat what I learned from the Source of All Knowledge, Wikipedia. Grenada is an island nation in the southeastern Caribbean Sea. In 1983 we invaded it in an operation codenamed "Operation Urgent Fury." Which mostly begs the question, why can't the US military come up with less lame names for its military operations?

Anyway the invasion was because of the Big Bad Communists, which we were all so terribly afraid of back in the Regan era. How did that work out for us? Well, we got rid of the Communists. I'm not really sure what else came out of it, because I don't think we've really heard much more about Grenada since American troops left later that year.

So besides being the site of a kind of dumb invasion 30 years ago, Grenada is a big producer of many delicious things, including cinnamon, cloves, mace, ginger, allspice and chocolate. It is also the world's second largest producer of nutmeg. So really, you can thank Grenada the next time you make an apple pie or mulled wine, because if your spices didn't come from Grenada, well, they could have.

Meldrum, Saint Patrick, Grenada. Photo Credit: fakelvis.

The food of Grenada is Caribbean in nature, relying of course on crops that are typical of the region. The national dish is called "Oil Down," which I really wanted to make but didn't because it contained more than just one hard to find ingredient: breadfruit and taro leaves (callaloo) for a start, both of which I'd have to buy canned down in Sacramento if I was going to use them. So instead I opted for this, and am oh-so-glad I did because it immediately hit my list of favorite recipes for this year:

Roast Pork Calypso Style with Black Bean, Heart of Palm and Corn Salad
(This recipe comes from the message board at

For the pork:
  • 3 shallots, chopped
  • 2 bay leaves, crumbled
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3/4 tsp ground allspice
  • 3/4 tsp ground ginger
  • Pepper to taste
  • 2 3/4-pound pork tenderloins

For the sauce:
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh orange juice
  • 1/4 cup minced shallots
  • 3 tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp minced peeled fresh ginger
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3/8 tsp ground allspice
  • Pepper to taste
For the salad:
  • 1 16-ounce can black beans, rinsed, drained
  • 1 10-ounce package frozen corn, thawed, drained
  • 1 7 1/2-ounce can hearts of palm, drained, cut into 1/4-inch-thick rounds
  • 2 large tomatoes, seeded, diced
  • 1/2 red onion, minced
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 3 tbsp fresh lime juice
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • Salt and pepper to taste
For the presentation:
  • Fresh spinach leaves
  • 2 avocados, peeled, pitted, sliced crosswise
  • Minced fresh parsley

Now, because this is essentially a two-recipe recipe, I felt excused for only choosing one additional recipe. I did keep the pork and salad recipes together, though, because presentation demands that they be prepared and served together.

So the other recipe I chose is this one:

Grenadian Spice Cake
(from Island Recipes)
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 cups white sugar
  • 1 cup chilled butter, cubed 
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 1/2 tsp lime zest
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp allspice
  • 1/2 cup milk
I liked this choice because it takes advantage of all those lovely spices grown in Grenada. So that's my menu and here goes, starting with the pork:

Preheat your oven to 450 degrees. Mix the shallots with the bay leaves, salt, allspice and ginger. Grind a generous amount of pepper into the mixture, then rub into the pork.

Place the pork roast on a rack in a roasting pan, then roast until a thermometer reads 150 degrees. You could really go as low as 145, because the USDA recently decided that 145 was a safe cooking temperature for pork after many years of insisting you had to cook it to 160.

Now take the pork out of the oven and let cool slightly (the recipe says to serve at room temperature, but I wanted mine to be hot so I'm afraid I broke that rule).

Meanwhile, make the sauce. Combine all the ingredients in a small saucepan and let simmer until thickened (I let mine go for maybe 30 minutes until it was the consistency I wanted, and believe me it was worth it).

Now toss the salad ingredients together. When the pork is ready, line a serving platter with spinach. Make sure you use the best looking platter you own because this dish looks amazing when you serve it. Pile the salad in the center of the platter.

Slice the pork and lay it out around the salad, alternating with avocado slices. Fish the bay leaves out of the sauce and then drizzle it over the pork and avocado. Sprinkle with a little bit of parsley and serve.

Now for the cake:

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Butter a springform cake pan and set aside.

Sift the flour with the baking powder and salt. Cream the butter and sugar together and beat in the eggs one at a time. Stir in the lime zest and spices.

Slowly add the flour mixture, alternating with a little bit of milk.

Transfer the batter to the buttered pan and bake. Now, the recipe said 75 to 90 minutes but mine only took an hour. It would have burned if left in for much longer than that, so keep checking. Let cool for 10 minutes before removing from the pan.

OK, so, this was an absolutely amazing feast. It looked amazing and it tasted amazing. Martin and I both ate way, way, way too much of it. My kids devoured the pork but I'm sure it will not surprise you to hear they were scared of the salad, which was ridiculous because the salad was delicious. Of course you can't tell that to children who think anything with vegetables in it must have come straight from Hell.

So how about the spice cake ... that was delicious, too. My kids thought it tasted like gingerbread and they were mostly right, since (like this recipe) a lot of gingerbread recipes I've seen in this country don't contain any actual ginger. Now, if I made this cake again I might dress it up, maybe with a dusting of powdered sugar or a thin layer of frosting, but seriously it didn't need much. I ate it for breakfast, lunch and dinner until it was gone, and believe me it was gone pretty quickly.

So yes! Huge TBS success with this one, and I hope you'll try it. This meal was a real find.

Next week: Guadeloupe

For printable versions of this week's recipes:

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Recipes from Greenland

Well it was autumn here for a few days, so I was ready for a little bit of food from a frozen land. But then Ms. Weather changed her mind and we're looking at another week of 80+ temperatures. Lame.

I really love the summer, but when the kids go back to school and the Halloween decorations come out, I'm done. I'm ready for hot chocolate and for that damned swamp cooler to come down out of the living room window so I can have my view back.

So this would have been a great October meal, if it had actually seemed like October when I was cooking it.

Greenland as you know is a massive big chunk of ice up there in the Arctic Circle, or more accurately just partly in the Arctic Circle. Greenland is an autonomous country but it is actually within the Kingdom of Denmark. It is also the world's largest island, and the least densely populated country in the world.

I would not have actually guessed that it would be tough to find recipes from places like Greenland and the Faroe Islands. It is in fact particularly difficult, but not for the reasons you would imagine. There are actually resources online for Greenlandic recipes but because of its location, Greenland doesn't use a lot of what we would consider "standard" ingredients like pork and chicken. I'm guessing, though I can' t really say for sure, that this is because the chickens and pigs would all turn into vaguely chicken- and pig-shaped icicles if Greenlanders tried to raise them in Greenland itself. So instead, the local cuisine is based on game like marine mammals, reindeer, seabirds and fish. Now I have made reindeer before, but it's cost prohibitive for me to do it again, at least not right away. And I'm pretty sure I'm not legally allowed to go shoot a whale or a seabird, nor would I want to. So that leaves fish.

Fortunately I did find plenty of Greenlandic fish recipes, though all of them were in Danish. Also fortunate was that they all called for cod, which is easy to obtain out here in California. And I found a pretty good side as well as a bread and cake recipe too, so I was happy. Here's the menu:

Boiled Cod with Mustard Sauce (This recipe comes from The All Times Cookbook)
  • 1 lb cod filets
  • cold water
  • 1 tsp of salt*
For the sauce:
  • 1/3 cup fish stock
  • 1/3 cup potato water
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp mustard (I used dijon)
  • 1 tbsp chopped parsley
  • 2-3 hard-boiled eggs, chopped
  • 2 tbsp grated horseradish
  • 1 tbsp melted butter
*The original recipe called for a "handful" of salt. I interpreted this to mean a very small handful. Also, like so many of these translated recipes, there were no measurements included so most of the measurements you see above are my guesses.

The rest of these recipes came from The Greenland Surveyor:

Kartoffelsalet Varm (Hot Potato Salad)
  • 2 3/4 lb potatoes
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 1 1/4 cup chicken stock
  • 1 cup vinegar
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • salt and pepper
Chef's Bread
  • 4 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/2 cups lukewarm water
  • 4 tsp active dry yeast
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp butter or margarine
  • 1 egg, beaten (for brushing)
  • Poppy seeds to taste
Chef's Dream Cake
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup butter or margarine
  • 1 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla sugar
  • 2 cups milk
For the filling:
  • 1/2 cup butter or margarine
  • 1 1/8 cup coconut
  • 1 1/8 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup milk
First the bread:

Dissolve the yeast in the water. Add about a third of the flour, then the rest of the ingredients. Gradually add the remainder of the flour and knead until you get a smooth dough.

Place in a warm area and let rise for 30 minutes. Punch down and transfer to two loaf pans.

 Let rise for another 30 minutes. Brush with the egg wash and sprinkle with poppy seeds. Bake at 395 degrees for 45 minutes or until golden.

Now for the cake:

Cream the eggs and sugar. When ready, the eggs should make ribbons and be a pale yellow color.

Now sift together the flour, baking powder and vanilla sugar and gradually add to the eggs and sugar. Warm the milk and butter and add to the rest of the batter.

Line a baking pan with waxed paper and bake at 395 degrees for 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Meanwhile, combine the ingredients for the filling in a small pan and heat on your stovetop. Spread over the top of the cake and return to the oven for five minutes at 430 degrees.

Just a note about this cake: 2 cups of milk seemed like way too much. I double checked the ingredients and conversions and they matched the original recipe, but I don't know if something got mucked up in translation. I can't promise this recipe is correct, I can only tell you how the translation said to make it.

Also, I wanted my topping to caramelize a little so I left it in the oven longer.

OK now for the fish. Dice up the cod filets and sprinkle with salt. Return to the fridge for 4 or 5 hours, then rinse and transfer to a pot of water. Add 1 tsp of salt and then bring the pot to a boil. By the time the water reaches the boiling point the fish should be done.

Reserve 1/3 cup of the boiling water for the sauce. You can also use the potato water from the potato salad, so don't pour that away either. Mix together the stock, potato water and milk.

In a separate pan, make a roux from the butter and flour. Pour in the stock mixture and bring to a simmer. When the sauce has thickened, add the parsley, hardboiled eggs, horseradish and melted butter. Pour over the fish and serve.

Finally, the potato salad:

Boil the potatoes in their skins, then peel and cut into cubes. Sauté the onions in the oil, then add the vinegar, stock and sugar. Season with salt and pepper.

Reheat the potatoes and add to the onion mixture. Serve hot.

I liked this meal. I would have liked it better if it had been cold outside, but there you go. The fish was really good—I liked the sauce a lot and might actually make it again the next time I want to liven up a boring piece of fish. The potato salad was a nice side that went well with the fish. The bread was OK, but I feel that way about any whole wheat bread (as you already know if you read this blog). Martin thought it needed more salt, which was annoying because this time I really didn't forget the salt.

The cake was very strange. It had an odd sort of spongy texture only with less air in it. I attribute that to the amount of milk called for in the recipe. I keep thinking I made a mistake somewhere, maybe in the conversion of the ingredients, because I'd be surprised if that was the right texture. But I swear, I did double check so I guess I'll just have to shrug my shoulders. The flavor was fine and I really, really liked the topping, especially after it caramelized in the oven and developed a nice crunch to it. Although I did wonder about the whole coconut thing—I really can't picture palm trees in Greenland.

Next week: Grenada

For printable versions of this week's recipes:

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Recipes from Greece

It seems like I should have eaten a lot of Greek food. It's one of those cuisines that you see all the time and think you understand, but honestly I can really only remember one Greek meal, unless you count Akrotiri. Well, there was also Martin's Moussaka,which I didn't particularly like (eggplant, ew) and at least one piece of baklava, but as far as an actual Greek meal is concerned the only one I can remember is the one I had at a Greek restaurant on Valentine's Day 2000.

Except I can't actually remember the meal. The only thing I can really recall is that Martin had been dragged around an airport by a go-cart just a few hours earlier, had refused to get stitches and was convalescing in the far corner of our table while a Greek belly dancer tried to convince him to give up a dollar. And I think there was cheese.

Yes, I did say "dragged around an airport by a go-cart." Which was actually a Kenny death on Southpark, too. True story.

Anyway flash forward 13 years (yikes!) and now I'm going to try making a Greek meal. But first, of course, a little bit about Greece. You may know it best as the country with all the cool ruins, lovely scenery and suffocating debt crisis. Sadly, that latter part is what's been making the news for the past couple of years, which has made a lot of people forget all the wonderful things about Greece, you know, birthplace of democracy and Western philosophy, motherland of Western history, seat of the Olympics and the place of origin for many major scientific and mathematical principles. Founding member of the United Nations. Little things like that.

Temple of Poseidon (Rear), Sounio, Greece. Photo Credit: nouregef.

Ah and the food. Greek food is on the whole pretty healthy stuff, and is in part the basis for the Mediterranean diet you've probably heard something about. Greek food uses a lot of fresh vegetables, herbs and grains. Wine and olive oil are also important, as well as cheese and yogurt. Wine: healthy. Olive oil: healthy. Cheese: healthy. Yes it is! That's why I eat so much of it, right?

Which brings me to my menu.

Yes, I had to choose something with cheese in it. Of course. But first the main course, a one-pot meal that sounded pretty good:

Chicken Giouvetsi
(from ala Greek)

  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 cubanelle pepper, chopped*
  • 1 1/2 cups orzo
  • 6 cups chicken stock
  • 1 cup tomato puree
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 whole chicken, cut into pieces
* A cubanelle pepper is sort of a long, tapered pepper similar to a poblano, except that I've never seen red poblanos. I used a red bell pepper as a substitute.

And for the cheese, I mean the bread:

Tiropsomo (Greek Cheese Bread) (from Authentic Greek Recipes)
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup tepid water (more or less)
  • 1 3/4 tsp active dry yeast
  • 1/2 tsp honey diluted in water
  • 9 oz feta cheese, crumbled
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
And the dessert:

Greek Baclava (of course)
(also from Authentic Greek Recipes)
  • 1 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, ground
  • 20 sheets filo pastry
  • 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
For the syrup
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 4 tsp glucose*
  • 1/2 cup water
* You can get glucose at some craft stores in the candy making aisle. I got mine on

OK here we go, bread first:

Put everything except the oil, cheese and oregano in your bread machine and press "start." Or:

Dissolve the yeast in a small amount of the water with the honey. Put the flour in a mixing bowl and sprinkle evenly with the salt. Make a well and add the yeast mixture. Mix it a little (you won't get a dough yet) and then let it rest for 15 minutes in the warmest part of your kitchen. Now add the rest of the water. The dough should be smooth and not sticky. Knead for 10 minutes on a floured surface and shape into a ball, then cover and let rise until doubled in bulk.

Now brush a shallow, 14-inch pizza pan with the oil and add the dough. Flatten with your hand until the dough covers the whole pan. Sprinkle the cheese over the top and then dust with the oregano. Brush the edges with olive oil and then pour the rest of the olive oil over the top of the bread. Let rise for another 30 minutes.

Bake at 480 degrees for 30 minutes. That's what the recipe said, anyway. I thought that seemed way too hot so I turned my oven down to about 400. Of course, my oven is possessed by something unholy so don't trust that number. Make sure you watch your bread and take it out when it's a nice golden color.

Now for the chicken. Saute the onion and pepper in the oil until tender, then add the orzo and let toast for two or three minutes. Then pour in the stock and tomato puree, seasoning with salt and pepper.

Place the chicken in a baking dish. Meanwhile, bring the sauce to a boil, then transfer to the baking dish with the chicken. Bake at 375 degrees or until most of the liquid has been absorbed and the chicken is cooked through (45 minutes or so).

Some of the orzo got a little crispy in the oven, the rest overcooked.

And now the grande finale: the baclava. Or as I like to call it, Mostly Butter.

First mix the cinnamon with the crushed walnuts. Set aside.

Now melt the butter. Get out your thawed filo dough (Yes! I used thawed filo instead of making it like a chump. Because the recipe told me I could.) and cut into the right shape to fit your pan (I used an 8x8 pyrex dish). Butter the bottom of the dish and lay down your first sheet of filo. Butter it. Put down the next one and butter it. Now put down another one and butter it, too. Keep going until you've put down 20 squares of dough.

Spread the walnut mixture over that top sheet of dough and then put another sheet on top of that. Butter that one too, and each individual additional sheet you put on afterwards (another 20). Now transfer to the fridge for 10 minutes.

Cut the baclava up into shapes (diamond is traditional) making sure you go all the way through to the bottom. Spray the top of the dough with a little bit of water and transfer it to your oven. Bake at 300 degrees for 90 minutes or until you can't stand waiting any more, which may mean your baclava doesn't get cooked all the way.

Just before you're ready to take the baclava out of the oven, make the syrup. Just put all three ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Let boil for 3 minutes.
Take the baclava out of the oven and while it is still warm pour the syrup over. Now hide the whole pan from your family and eat it in secret.

What we thought: Well, the orzo was overcooked. I kind of expected that after 45 minutes in the oven, though. I'm not sure if that's what it was supposed to be like, but Martin was a bit put off by the slimy texture. I thought it was fine, but years of college dining on Rice-A-Roni with orzo prepared me for the experience. The sauce was pretty basic, too, and while it tasted good I didn't really think it was anything special.

Now the bread, well, what's not to like. It was really just a pizza without the red sauce and mozzarella. Delicious, fresh bread topped with tasty, slightly browned feta cheese. You really can't go wrong can you?

As for the baclava, if you don't like baclava I think you might have damaged DNA. This was so delicious I once again had to give it away to friends or risk eating the whole pan myself. When my kids got home the next day they were pretty mad that there wasn't any baclava left. But in my defense, there wouldn't have been any baclava left even if I hadn't given it away, and Mom probably would have been feeling kind of ill.

Next week: Greenland

For printable versions of this week's recipes:

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Recipes from Goa, India

Yay, Indian food! I love cooking curry so I've been looking forward to this meal for a few weeks.

Indian food has very different characteristics from one region to another, which is why I decided early on to divide India up and tackle it by region. Of course my other reason was that it would allow me to cook more Indian food, but you didn't hear that from me.

This week we're in Goa, which is actually India's smallest state by land mass. At just 1,429 square miles (smaller than the state of Rhode Island), it is a tiny little spec on the western coast that also happens to be India's wealthiest state. The lucky residents of Goa are, on average, about 2 1/2 times wealthier than everyone else in India.

Most of Goa's wealth comes from tourism and mining. Goa is the destination for about 12% of Indian tourists as well as foreign tourists—Eurpoeans like Goa because of its warm winter climate, and Indian tourists are drawn to Goa during the summer holidays. Inland Goa is rich in minerals such as silica, iron, manganese and limestone.

The Sal River in Goa, India. Photo Credit: Cajie
Because of its location along the Arabia Sea, it probably won't surprise you to hear that Goan curries are usually seafood-based. So I went with a very simple meal of fish curry with a chickpea curry on the side and some bread to mop it all up. Here's the menu:

Xitt Codi (Goan Fish Curry)
(This recipe comes from Goan Food Recipes, which is a site that kind of made me laugh because it features graphics that make you think it's the homepage for an American café.)
  • 1 mid-sized sized pomfret*
  • 6 dried Kashmiri chilies
  • 1/2 coconut, scraped
  • 1 small piece of ginger
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 5 to 6 peppercorns
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds
  • Pinch fenugreek seeds
  • Small ball of Tamarind
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 2 15 oz cans coconut milk
  • 1 mango
  • 1 green chili pepper
  • Salt
*You can't get pomfret at our Safeway. I don't know about other Safeways. Evidently an acceptable substitute for pomfret is Chilean sea bass, but of course you can't use Chilean sea bass either because it's extremely endangered. The recipe also mentions kingfish or halwa (also called black pomfret), two other fish that aren't readily available around here. Tilapia is a substitute for kingfish, so that's what I used. You could also use grouper, a substitute for black pomfret.

Chana Tondak (Goan Chickpea Masala)
(from Raksha's Kitchen)
  • 1/2 cup dried chickpeas or 1 1/2 cups canned
  • 1 potato, chopped
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 2 onions, sliced
  • 4 red chilies, chopped
  • 5 tbsp grated coconut
  • 1 1/2 tsp coriander seeds
  • 4 to 5 peppercorns
  • 2 to 3 cloves
  • 4 to 5 garlic flakes
  • 1 marble sized ball of tamarind
  • 1 tsp turmeric powder
(from Masala Herb)
  • 4 cups whole wheat flour 
  • pinch salt
  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 1 cup water (more or less)
  • Ghee
We'll do the chickpeas first, since they have to soak (if you're a sucker, that is; I used canned ones).

Soak the dried chickpeas for 4 to 6 hours. Then boil some salted water and add the chickpeas and potatoes. Cook until the potatoes are just tender, then drain and set aside. (Because I was using canned chickpeas, I boiled the potatoes by themselves, then mixed them with the chickpeas).

Add the oil to a skillet and cook the onions with the chilies until the onions turn a nice, deep brown.

Add the garlic and let cook for one or two minutes. Now turn the heat down to low and add the grated coconut.

I think I messed this bit up: the recipe doesn't say what to do with the spices beyond just adding them to the pot, so I followed faithfully. I think though that they needed to be ground first, which is what I recommend doing.

So when the coconut turns brown, add the ground spices and continue to cook until fragrant. Remove from the heat and stir in the turmeric. Let cool for five minutes or so.

Now put the onion mixture into a food processor with the tamarind and pulse until you get a smooth paste. Add water as necessary.

Return to the pot and stir in the chickpeas and potatoes. Season with salt to taste.

Now for the chapati:

Stir the salt into the flour, then make a well in the middle and pour in the oil, then the water. Knead until you get a smooth dough, then dust with flour and let rest for 10 minutes.

Now divide the dough up into golfball sized pieces and shape them into balls. Dust with more flour and roll flat, then spread a little bit of ghee over the surface of the dough.

Now you're going to fold the dough into a little packet. Start by folding two sides in until they touch, like this:

The fold in the other two ends.

Turn over, dust with a little more flour and roll flat to about the thickness of a tortilla. You'll end up with a square piece of dough.

They should actually be a lot thinner than this when you're done rolling.

Now transfer the dough into a preheated pan and spread some more ghee on top. Flip and spread ghee on the other side. Let cook on both sides until you're starting to get some dark spots on the surface. Serve hot.

And finally the fish, which is pretty quick and easy:

Salt the fish pieces on both sides and set aside. Place the Kashmiri chilies into a food processor with the coconut, ginger, garlic, peppercorns, coriander, fenugreek, Tamarind, turmeric and cumin. Grind, adding a little water until you get a paste.

Heat the coconut milk and add the paste.

Cut the green chili in two and put that in the pot with salt to taste. Bring to a boil, then add the fish and the mango. Boil until the fish flakes easily with a fork.

I personally enjoyed this meal very much. Martin did too, but he thought that the chickpeas needed a little more flavor. He was right of course, and I attribute that to the fact that the spices weren't ground before I put them in the pot.

I really thought the fish curry was delicious, though. You don't have to do it with coconut milk (water will give you a different sort of dish) but I love coconut milk in a curry so there really wasn't any other choice for me. I'm glad I did because the flavor was really stupendously tasty. The chapati, on the other hand—they were just OK. Martin liked them more than I did. I thought they were really meh, but probably because I just don't like whole wheat flour all that much. Don't criticize—I love multigrain and oatnut breads, so I do eat healthy breads,  just not whole wheat.

That's another Indian region to check off my list—only 10 to go.

Next week: Greece

For printable versions of this week's recipes:

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