W is for Wales… not a sovereign state, but a country

Helô

Welsh_flag

Welsh flag

When I started this project a year ago I did some basic research to determine that there were countries that started with most of the letters in the English alphabet. Of course, in this day and age, we all know that the most absolute accurate purveyor of knowledge and authority on all things is Wikipedia (bu- bu- pipe down and go with it!). So, periodically I would look at the Wikipedia “List of sovereign states,” which led me to believe that there is no country that starts with the letter W.

I could’ve panicked, but instead, being the worldly and magnanimous lady I am, I decided I would cook a dish from Wales. So OK Wales is part of the UK, but it’s a place with its own distinct culture and so, it reasoned, it’s own distinct food.

Soon after I made this well-thought out decision I ran in to my friend Paul, a native of Wales, and I couldn’t wait to tell him of my generous gift to the good people of Wales; letting them be their own country for the sake of my blog. And so I excitedly told Paul all about this new project I was starting and then, building excitement as only the finest storyteller can I reached the crescendo and exclaimed, “and since there’s no country in the world that starts with a W, I’ll–”

“I’m sorry, what? There’s no country that starts with W? There is NO country that starts with W?” (You gotta hear that in your head with Paul’s Welsh accent, it makes the story funnier).

“I mean I know that Wales starts with a W,” I explained, “but I mean it’s part of the UK.” At which time Paul reminded me that the UK is made up of four distinct countries; England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. You see Wales is in fact a country, but not a sovereign state.

Well there goes my career in diplomacy!

I had invited my friend Anna over for dinner on Friday and since it coincided with the timing of my W recipe, I decided to serve Welsh Rarebit as an appetizer. Despite the name often being pronounced Welsh Rabbit (both are correct from what I hear), this is actually a cheese dish. Basically you make a fondue type sauce, pour it over toast and then throw it under the broiler. Melty, oozey, bubbly cheese and bread; yes please!

Apologies for the lack of photos, I was busy entertaining my guest.

pour

Welsh Rarebit

  • 3 Tablespoons beer (stout or ale)
  • 1 teaspoon English mustard powder (such as Colemans)
  • 2 Tablespoons butter
  • Worcestershire sauce; to taste
  • 1 Tablespoon flour
  • 6 oz Welsh cheddar or caerphilly cheese grated
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 2 slices of bread (can be whatever you like, but I suggest a heartier, crustier variety)

In a small sauce pan mix a bit of the beer with the mustard powder to dissolve. Add butter,  Worcestershire and remaining beer.

Once butter has melted whisk in flour until smooth. Allow to cook for one more minute.

Add cheese, whisking until melted. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly (mixture should still be warm).

Meanwhile toast the bread.

When the mixture has cooled to warm whisk in the eggs until smooth. Pour mixture over the toast and put under the broiler for 2-3 minutes until a bit browned and bubbly. Serve immediately.

Serves 2

spread

FINAL VERDICT: A-

I mean people, do I need to say it again!? It’s melted cheese and bread, could it really not be amazing!?

With some minor tweeks this would definitely be an A+ recipe. Anna and I both agreed that the dish was delish and the texture was pretty fabulous; soft, creamy cheese and nice crunchy crusty bread. I think I need to play with the ratios though as the cheese should’ve been a bit meltier/bubblier. Also because I used a stout and white cheddar, the dish was not the most appealing color brown. I think next time I’d try and get an orange cheddar which wouldn’t effect the taste, but should help the color.

rarebit


Archwaeth dda!

Advertisements

U is for… USA; Puerto Rico’s in America!

Hola!

flags_pr

Flags of the US and Puerto Rico

OK I fully admit that I took some creative license with this one, but to be fair Puerto Rico is a territory of the US. Besides, how could a musical theater nerd like me pass up the opportunity to make a West Side Story reference!? “Nobody knows in America, Puerto Rico’s in America…”

The largest population of Puerto Rican immigrants in the US proper reside in New York and New Jersey and they’ve definitely had a significant influence on the culture which piqued my interest in wanting to cook Puerto Rican food.

I’m one of the few people I know who grew up in this area that has never been to Puerto Rico and I really want that to change soon! (Girls trip anyone?). It is by all accounts a beautiful island with fantastic weather and of course great food. I’m not generally “sit on the beach and relax” kind of gal, but I’ve been told that one of the coolest things about PR is that there’s also a lot of history to explore in Old San Juan which is right up my alley. Also, Ricky Martin… adorable!

This recipe took quite a bit of research and leg work. I’ve eaten nothing but fish and vegetarian meals for the last two weeks (Meat Break!) so I knew I wanted a meat based recipe and with this freezing weather we’re having, I also wanted something warm and comforting. I settled on Pollo Guisado, Puerto Rican braised chicken stew.

There were a decent amount of recipes on the internet, but most of them called for various kinds of pre packaged seasoning mixes, like Goya Sazon, which are filled with chemicals and other artificial crap and that’s just not how I cook. So I did a lot of research to try and replicate those flavors with natural ingredients. I think I succeeded for the most part, though as you’ll see in the review, next time I’ll have to kick the spices up even more.

Speaking of artificial crap, if you haven’t been reading this blog from the beginning you should just assume that my food is made with mostly organic ingredients and hormone/antibiotic free meat. I’m just too lazy these days to write all that.

PR Collage

Pollo Guisado

  • 1.5-2 lbs boneless skinless chicken thighs
  • 1 medium onion; diced
  • 1 cubanelle pepper; diced
  • 6 cloves of garlic; crushed
  • 14 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 2 teaspoons oregano
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon powdered saffron (optional)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/4 cup pimento stuffed green olives; roughly chopped
  • 2 Tablespoons capers; roughly chopped
  • 2 large carrots; peeled and diced
  • 2-3 large potatoes; peeled and diced
  • 32oz low sodium chicken broth
  • 2 Tablespoons vinegar
  • 1 bottle of beer (I used a Corona because I saw it used in one of the recipes I looked up)
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilanto leaves; torn

Heat olive oil in a medium dutch oven and brown chicken on both sides, about 3 minutes a side. Remove chicken and set aside.

Add the onions and peppers and cook until they begin to soften, about 3 minutes. Then add the garlic and cook 2-3 more minutes until fragrant.

Add the tomatoes, all of the spices and the olives and capers, stir. Then add the potatoes and carrots, vinegar, chicken and any accumulated juices. Cover with chicken broth making sure to submerge chicken.

Bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer uncovered for one hour.

Add beer and cilantro and continue cooking uncovered for half hour.

Serve over white rice with extra cilantro on top if so desired

Serves 4-6

7serving

FINAL VERDICT: B+

I had a super hard time grading this recipe because any flaws have to do with my ratios and not the flavors in the dish itself. It smelled great and I loved the combination of all of the spices, but it needed more of those flavors. It’s wonderful comfort food, especially on a cold day and I would definitely make this dish again however I am definitely going to up some of the ingredients. If you make this at home my advice is to double all of the spices and garlic and also the olives and capers, which is likely what I’ll do next time. I think with those tweaks this would be a grade A recipe.

8closeup

She is a pretty dish.

¡Buen provecho!

T is for… Turkey; the country not the bird

Merhaba

Turkish_flag (1)

Turkish flag

After seeing Anthony Bourdain in Istanbul on No Reservations, there was no doubt that my T recipe would be from Turkey. I literally wanted to try everything Anthony ate and I was so excited that, despite Turkey being the gateway from Europe to the Middle East, there seemed to be very little that I wouldn’t be able to eat due to allergies.

I searched and searched for a recipe to make and was overwhelmed (especially when I found this blog) by all the amazing choices. Being a lover of eggplant, lamb and also all things cheesy and smokey; I settled on Hünkar Beğendi, aka Sultan’s Delight. I should say I settled on Sultan’s Delight for now since I know that when I have more time I’m going to go back and cook many of those other Turkish dishes that intrigued me.

Sultan’s Delight is a lamb stew served over a cheesy, smokey eggplant mash. There is absolutely nothing with that sentence, right?

Sultan’s Delight

For Lamb Stew

  • 1.5 lbs lamb stew meat cut in to one inch pieces
  • Olive oil
  • 1 medium onion; diced
  • 2 red bell peppers; diced
  • 1 Tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 can no salt added diced tomatoes; drained
  • 2 teaspoons oregano
  • 1 bay leaf
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1.5 cups hot water
Simmering lamb stew

Simmering lamb stew

For eggplant mash

  • 1 large eggplant
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup cream*
  • Juice of one lemon
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Large pinch of nutmeg
  • 1/4 cup kasseri cheese (or kashkaval or provolone)

*I had cream that I was trying to use up, but I don’t think the cream is necessary, you can just use 1 1/4 cups whole milk.

In a large dutch oven heat oil over medium high heat. Season the lamb meat then brown on all sides then remove to a bowl and set aside.

Toss in onions and peppers and cook until they begin to soften about 3-5 minutes.

Stir in the tomato paste, diced tomatoes and add the spices and lamb meat back to the pot.

Add water and bring to a boil. Lower heat and allow to simmer for one hour.

Eggplant process

Eggplant process

Meanwhile char the eggplant. To do this, first cover the area around the flame of your burner with foil (see picture) because the eggplant will give off water. Preheat the over to 325. Next prick the eggplant all over with a fork. Lay the eggplant directly on to the burner turning periodically until all skin is blackened. Then wrap the eggplant in tinfoil and bake for 20-25 minutes until very soft.

Allow the eggplant to cool, then peel off the skin and mash the flesh in a bowl. Set aside.

In a medium pan melt butter. Whisk in flour. Continue stirring for about 2-3 minutes. Slowly whisk in milk and cream making sure to get rid of any lumps.

Add the eggplant and stir to incorporate then add the lemon juice and spices.

Remove from heat and stir in cheese and nutmeg.

Serves 4-6

Dinner!

Dinner!

FINAL VERDICT: A

Well the smokey cheesy eggplant mash on its own would’ve gotten an A+ and the stew would’ve received an A-, so that averaged out to an A.

This was definitely comfort food and perfect for the bitterly cold week we had here in New York last week. I would definitely make this dish again and just up the spices (maybe add in some cinnamon and cumin too). I wouldn’t change a thing about the eggplant mash. If you’re a vegetarian you should still make the eggplant mash… trust me, I’m actually dreaming about that eggplant mash right now…

Afiyet Olsun

Dulce de leche brownie bars

I’m not a huge chocolate person. No, that doesn’t mean that I hate chocolate. I don’t mind chocolate and I think it can make a nice accompaniment to things, I just don’t get what all the hype is about. Since there were a few chocoholics at our Thanksgiving table though, I thought it only right to make a chocolate dessert. I decided on dulce de leche brownie bars.

They were a huge hit with everyone at the table and I will definitely be making these again. Though they take some time they’re actually really easy to make and they can be made several days ahead. The hardest part of the whole process is cutting them in to squares.

This recipe is adapted from the Grasshopper Squares recipe from Gourmet magazine (which I also plan on making at some point because I do love mint with chocolate). Enjoy!

Dulce de leche brownie bars

Brownie layer

  • 6 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 5-6 oz good quality semisweet chocolate chips (I just eyeball half the bag)
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 large egg plus 1 egg yolk; lightly beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 Tablespoons flour
  • 3 Tablespoons unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • Large pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 375°F. Lightly butter an 8×8, then line completely with foil leaving a 2 inch overhang on all sides. Butter foil.

Melt butter and chocolate with brown sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until smooth. Remove from heat.

Whisk eggs and vanilla in to chocolate mixture until combined. Then whisk in dry ingredients until just combined.

Pour batter in to foil lined pan as evenly as possible and bake 15-20 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with moist crumbs.

Allow to cool completely. Store in refrigerator.

Dulce de leche

  • 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk

Peel the label off of your can (only so it doesn’t make a mess in your pot). Place sealed can in a deep pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil and allow to boil for 2 hours making sure the water never dips below the can and adding more boiling water when necessary.

It is very important that the water not dip below the can because the pressure of this can cause the can to explode, which is not only messy, but dangerous. I suggest keeping a kettle of simmering water next to the pot to add when needed and check every once in awhile. Remember that the deeper your pot the better.

After 2 hours, gently dump the water and can in the sink (I usually do this through a colander to give the can a softer landing). Allow to cool until you are able to handle the can, but contents is still warm, which will take a few hours.

Pour warm dulce de leche over chilled brownies and smooth with an offset spatula. Chill completely in refrigerator.

Chocolate ganache

  • 5-6 oz good quality semisweet chocolate chips (ie the other half of the bag)
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream

Put chocolate chips in mixing bowl and set aside.

In small saucepan bring cream to a simmer.

Pour cream over chips and allow to stand one minute, then whisk until smooth.

Allow to cool slightly until ganache is still warm, but manageable. Pour over completely chilled dulce de leche layer and smooth with offset spatula.

Cool completely in the refrigerator.

Cutting, serving and storing

Once brownies have completely cooled remove them from pan by picking up the the foil overhang. Peel the foil from the brownies.

Run a long sharp knife under hot water and wipe dry. Cut brownies in to squares continuing to heat and dry the blade as necessary. This will take some serious upper body strength.


Remove from refrigerator a few minutes before serving.

Brownie bars can be stored layered between sheet of wax paper in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

Yields 12-16 bars

The world’s best cranberry sauce

You might think I’m overly confident, but facts are facts; I make the world’s best cranberry sauce and yes I do have many people who will back that up. I’ve received many of my most enthusiastic comments from people who’ve always hated cranberry sauce in the past, but found themselves loving mine. It’s not too sweet and not too tart. It doesn’t have weird thing floating in it or a weird gelatinous texture and it highlights the flavor of fresh cranberries.

My cranberry sauce recipe is not only my best, it’s also my oldest. When I was a kid, it was my job to make the cranberry sauce every Thanksgiving. We always used the basic recipe on the back of the bag of cranberries which consisted of cranberries, water and sugar. That recipe is actually quite tasty, but as my love of cooking grew I started experimenting more. About 10 years ago I finally perfected the recipe and I’m very proud of it.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Alli’s Cranberry Sauce

  • 1 3/4 cups water
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 whole cinnamon sticks
  • Zest of 2 large oranges
  • 2 12oz bags cranberries
  • 2 large oranges, supremed then roughly chopped (optional)
  • 1/4 cup Grande Marnier (or other orange liqueur)
  • Large pinch of kosher salt

In a large Dutch oven combine water, sugar, cinnamon sticks and orange zest and stir to dissolve sugar. Set over medium high heat. Bring to a boil.

Stir in remaining ingredients and bring back to a boil.

Reduce heat and allow to gently boil for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Cool completely then refrigrate several hours, preferably overnight

Cranberry sauce can be made several days in advance as sugar acts as a perservative.

Serves 10-12

********

10 Days of Thanksgiving: Day 6

Today I’m thankful for experiences that I’ve had living in various cities.

It should come as no surprise to you that New York is my favorite place in the world, but New York is not my adventure as it is for many people. I grew up in the suburbs, but growing up all of my grandparents lived in Brooklyn, my dad worked (and still works) in midtown. Weekends were often filled with trips to the city to go to Broadway shows or museums and even school trips often took us in to the city. So while I wasn’t raised a city girl, New York City still very much felt like my home.

As much as I’ve always loved New York City and as much as I knew I’d end up back here some day, I also knew that I would regret it if I never experienced anything different. I went to college in Providence, RI and fell madly in love with that city. I lived and worked therefor a couple of years after college as well and without the safety net of school, I really felt like I made that city my own. After I graduated college, I spent 6 months living in Copenhagen, Denmark and it became my second home. It was amazing to take a flying leap out of my comfort zone and in to a new culture. At some point after my second stint in Providence, I became a bit restless and ready to move on, but I wasn’t quite ready to come home yet so, on a whim, I decided to move to Boston where I met a group of amazing friends who remain some of the closest people in my life.

I am so thankful that I’ve been able to experience life in different cities and I would urge anyone else to do the same. Even if you love where you live, if you ever have the opportunity to spend even a few months living somewhere else I say go do it!

S is for… Slovenia; Soup for the sleep deprived

Pozdravljeni

Flag of Slovenia

It’s been acrazy few weeks for me between work, holiday planning, volunteering and about a million and a half other things. I’ve spent the better part of the last two weeks exhausted. I was really craving food that was simple and comforting so Slovenian mushroom soup, Gobova Juha, seemed to fit the bill.

Apparently Slovenian’s are crazy for mushrooms. Who knew? My original plan was to also make Slovenian bread dumplings because they sounded heavenly, but between my exhaustion and acknowledging that with Thanksgiving coming up I should probably keep it light, I stuck with just the soup.

Gobova Juha
  • 2 Tablespoons butter
  • 1 medium onion; diced
  • 2 cloves garlic; crushed
  • 1 Tablespoon flour
  • 1lb meaty mushrooms; cut in to chunks
  • 2 medium potatoes; peeled and cubed
  • 1 teaspoon marjoram
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 medium potatoes; cubed
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 4 cups water
  • 1/2 cup Riesling or similar white wine

    Ready for our bath!

Melt butter in a large pot over medium high heat. Add onions and cook until they just begin to soften about 3 minute.
Add garlic and cook for another 30 seconds. Stir in flour and cook for an additional 30 seconds.
Stir in mushrooms, spices, potatoes and water and bring to a boil. Lower heat and cover. Simmer for 20 minutes until potatoes are nearly cooked through.
Stir in wine and bring back up to a boil. Allow soup to gently boil for an additional 10 minutes.
Serves 4

Boiling away

FINAL VERDICT: B
I will definitely be making this soup again. Next time I make it, when I’m less concerned with authenticity, I’ll probably experiment with spices, but this was just a really nice, easy everyday soup. Most of the recipes I found suggsted serving this with a dollop of sour cream on top. I’m sure that would be amazing since it’s a commonly known fact that sour cream makes everything better, but the dollops of sour cream didn’t exactly fit with the whole eating light before Thanksgiving plan.
This is a grat vgetarian recipe to have around and could easily be made vegan by replacing the butter with something vegan friendly. I’m not well schooledin gluten substitutions, but I’m also guessing it wouldn’t be too hard to find a replacement for the flour to make this soup gluten free.

I feel so naked without my nice dollop of sour cream, but I’m still yummy!

Dober tek!

10 Days of Thanksgiving: Day 5

Today I’m thankful that I live in a city where I have access to so many amazing foods.

New York is probably the best place in the world when it comes to the diversity of food you can get here. Having people from all over the world all living in one city means that they bring their foods with them. The number ethnic restaurants you can find here is unblievable and while it’s often hard to me to experiment with new cuisines, it still makes my foodie heart sing to know that I live in a city that’s collectively excited to try new foods.

Living in a city that is so richly diverse also makes experimenting a pleasure. When I’m trying a new recipe I rarely worry that I won’t be able to find the ingredients I need. Of course you can’t get everything in New York, but I think it’s safe to say that you can get most things here and I am very thankful for that!

R is for… Romania; Better late than never

Alo

Romanian Flag

A couple of weeks ago I cooked a Romanian recipe. I figured I’d blog about it within a few days, but then we had that hurricane that you’ve heard me talk so much about and I kind of shifted my focus. This week I’m trying to get Back to Basics (a Christina Aguilera reference because I worship her like the Goddess she is and I’m so freaking excited that her new album came out today).

One of the guests at the United Noshes dinner I attended a few weeks ago had spent time living in Romania and gave me one major piece of advice; they eat a ton of polenta. Well that was music to this carb loving girls years! I had been thinking about making a soup, but I really wanted to gorge myself on enjoy some polenta (mămăligă in Romanian) so I chose to make Varza Cu Carne de Porc, a pork and cabbage dish.

Polenta and veggies and pork, oh my!

Varza Cu Carne de Porc

  • A couple of tablespoons olive oil
  • 1.5lbs pork shoulder; cubed
  • 1 onion; thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic; crushed
  • 1 green bell pepper; thinly sliced
  • 1/2 medium cabbage; shredded
  • 3 Tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 teaspoons caraway
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1lb sauerkraut
  • 1 cup water

Heat oil in a large dutch oven over medium heat. Add pork and brown on all sides, working in batches if necessary. Remove pork from pot and set aside.

Add onions and garlic and cook until onions just begin to soften, approximately 3-5 minutes.

Add pepper and cabbage and cook, stirring occasionally, until cabbage just begins to soften, approximately 5-7 minutes.

Stir in tomato paste and all spices. Add pork back to pot, stirring to coat.

Add sauerkraut and water. Lower heat. Cover pot with lid and simmer for 35 minutes until pork is tender.

Serve over polenta.

Serves 4-6

Ready to go.

 FINAL VERDICT: B

This was a really pleasant dish and would be especially well suited to a cold, rainy day as it’s definitely hearty comfort food. It’s also always great to add to the list of one pot dishes so there’s less cleanup later.

I love the way caraway and cabbage taste together. The two flavors are natural partners, much like Christina Aguilera and Blake Shelton dueting on the song, Just a Fool from her new album available today (yup I went there again). I also really liked the play of the fresh cabbage and the sauerkraut. The fresh cabbage retains just a bit of its coolness and crunch which cut through the tang of the nice soft sauerkraut. The only thing I’d do differently if I made this again is to double the spices.

Dinner!

poftă bună

*******

It’s Day #2 in my Ten Days of Thanksgiving inspired by Lisa.

On Sunday I spent all day at one of the Hurricane Sandy Relief hubs of Occupy Sandy. Yes, Occupy Sandy was started by Occupy Wall Street (OWS), but even people who disagree with OWS are commending them for their hurricane efforts and they have become the main relief organization in the city. If you call most local churches, synagogues, non-profits or community groups asking how you can volunteer they’re sending you to Occupy Sandy. During the brief new volunteer orientation you’re given, they do explain to you the principles OWS was founded on, but they also say, “It’s OK if you don’t agree with us, we’re just happy to have you hear volunteering for communities in need.”

My friends and I came to The Church of St Luke and St. Matthew at 520 Clinton St in Brooklyn ready to do whatever needed to be done including going out to the actual disaster sites. What we saw when we arrived was stunning. The church had been turned in to a massive base of operations. There was a communication center set up upstairs to field calls and emails and to communicate with those out in the field.

Downstairs were the kitchens where hot meals were being prepared and lunch bags with sandwiches and snacks were being packed. When Occupy Sandy began, the day after the hurricane  they were preparing 5,000 bagged lunches; they’re now up to 25,000 bagged lunches a day. The chapel on the main floor was home base for driver dispatch and donation drop off and pick up and though we had several jobs that day that’s where we spent most of our time.

If you ever need your faith in humanity renewed go spend some time at one of these hubs and witness the goodness of people. There were people there of all ages, races and economic circumstances. If you came with a laptop they needed your help up in communications. You’ve got a car, great they’ll send you out in the field; kitchen experience, head downstairs and have at it. If you show up they will find you a way to help.

One of the sweetest things I saw was the huge number of parents who came with their little ones. There were two main projects for kids. The really little ones were given crayons and paper to make cards for people affected by the storm. The slightly older ones were put to work making sandwiches and packing lunches.

Last time I posted that I was thankful for all of the amazing people around the country who were doing all they could to help us out. Today I am grateful for my own community, right here. I’m thankful that people can put aside politics and any other disagreements and just help. I have always believed that New York and New Jersey are filled with amazing people who will always be there for a neighbor in need and Sunday’s experience just hammered that home. So thank you to my neighbors, I am awed and humbled by all that you’re doing.

If you are able to please send items like cleaning supplies, first aid, adult diapers, flashlights, batteries, blankets and baby needs to:

Church of St. Luke and Matthew
520 Clinton Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11238