Brown and orange lentils (masoor dal)

A traditional Fourth of July dish, file this one under U.V. (unintentionally vegan). The recipe combines brown (whole) and orange (split polished) lentils and is pressure-cooked with curry leaves, cumin, coriander seed, black mustard seed, fenugreek seed, garlic, turmeric, tomatoes, chili powder, fresh cilantro and lemon juice. I used fresh grated turmeric instead of the powder.

It’s easy to make without a pressure cooker too. (If you can’t find curry leaves, substitute leaves from celery stalks.) The recipe comes from onelifetoeat.

Spaghetti with white clam sauce

I mixed a bunch of recipes for this. Clams were Manila, which approximate most closely to Adriatic ones. I used a pound of clams in their shells for two people. Tap clams against side of the sink and discard any open ones that don’t close.

Put water on to boil and cook pasta until just al dente or a bit short of that. Meanwhile, time the following so that the clams will be open when you are draining the pasta.

Slice some garlic paper thin and heat in olive oil until light brown. Add crumbled dried red chile flakes and stir to combine. Turn heat to high, add clams, and stir for 30 seconds. Splash in half a cup or more of dry white wine, along with a generous slug of good quality clam juice or canned clams in their juice, season (keeping in mind that juice or canned clams may be well salted), lower heat, cover, and cook until clams open fully, 3-6 minutes.

Drain pasta and add to clams, stir well, add chopped parsley, cover for 30 seconds, toss again with a tablespoon of olive oil, and serve.

Dominican food

(photo: Village Voice)

There used to be an incredible Dominican restaurant in New York on 14th Street just west of Seventh Ave, called Sucelt Coffee Shop. It was a family-run hole in the wall serving up some of the most delicious food in the city. It closed about five years ago.

Sucelt had an incredible cubano sandwich, great beef empanadas, orange juice freshly squeezed to order in a squeezing machine in front of you and insanely cheap, all kinds of stews and beans, luscious sweet fried maduros (plantains), and a deeply complex and spicy homemade agrio de naranja (bitter orange salsa) sitting in plastic dispensers on the counter.

But my favorite was the chicken stew with rice and black beans, pictured above. I’ve been trying to reverse-engineer it at home. The new and much lauded Latin, Caribbean and Central American cookbook, Gran Cocina Latina, unfortunately does not contain a recipe. Instead I’ve had to troll blogs and online recipes for pollo guisado, with mixed results.

This chicken stew recipe, from Dominican Flavor, contains some of the odd instructions you get from non-professional recipe writers, such as “bring the oil to a boil.” What I got from following the instructions more or less to a T was the following:

It looked good and tasted good, but the meat was too dry, and it certainly wasn’t the same as the Sucelt recipe. Not enough tomato, no potato. The beans here were Rancho Gordo’s new negro de arbol variety, prepared the simple RG way, and certainly had the right blackness and depth of flavor.

Next up was another non-professional recipe, this time from the Burden Clothing website. The photo certainly looked right, but once again, the recipe suffered from various confusing inconsistencies: potatoes are pictured but not listed in the ingredients; the ingredient list is not in the order called for in the instructions; and there is much vagueness on levels of heat, cooking times, etc. Sometimes vagueness can be a virtue, because it encourages you to experiment more, and in fact this version of the dish came much closer to the ideal.

There were also distinct similarities to the first recipe, such as caramelizing white sugar in the oil before you brown the chicken, which made me think I was getting closer to the real thing. At the same time, it called for adding water to the oil, which maybe is what the first recipe assumed you were doing when it told you to “boil the oil.” Adding water and cooking with the lid closed of course results in steaming the meat, and the result was – no surprise – less dry.

The chicken was moist and falling off the bone, there was the distinct green bell pepper aroma in the stew, and the potatoes were perfect. The only problem was that it could have braised/steamed a bit longer, needed a bit more salt, and perhaps a bit more depth of flavor. It could possibly use chicken stock instead of water, or even a dash of Worcestershire sauce (which is apparently genuinely used in Dominican cuisine). I’ll be trying that next time.

The beans this time were Rancho Gordo’s midnight black beans. The bean recipe this time was Cuban, from Three Guys In Miami. (Black beans are more Cuban; Dominicans normally use red beans, but Sucelt gave you a choice of either one.) I can recommend this recipe unreservedly, though I think I want to use a blacker, denser bean than RG’s midnights next time. I subbed red pepper for green pepper.

Two Sichuanese vegetable dishes with chilli bean paste

Here are two vegetable dishes from Fuchsia Dunlop’s new book, Every Grain Of Rice. I’m linking to the British edition because that’s the one I own.

These are both fairly simple and don’t call for too many outlandish ingredients, but there’s one that is an absolute necessity: chilli bean paste from Pixian. Do not buy the standard brands like Lee Kum Kee, which are Cantonese and have a completely different flavor. Look for the word “Pixian” on the label, or the characters 郫县. Dunlop has written a mini-essay on this subject HERE.

The first is twice-cooked Swiss chard. The chard is blanched, stalks and leaves separately, and later stir-fried in the wok, hence twice-cooked. The seasonings include Pixian bean paste, garlic, ginger, fermented black beans, chopped celery, scallion and cilantro. This is a true vegetarian dish – vegan in fact.

The second dish includes a small amount of meat (1/5 lb ground beef), like many Chinese vegetable recipes. It’s simpler to make and focuses more on getting the right degree of wok-sear on the beef and the vegetable. It is “Send the rice down” chopped celery and minced beef, so called because you use it to send the rice down… the ingredients in this one also include Pixian bean paste, of course, plus ginger and Chinkiang (black) vinegar.

Namaa’s fatoush

This Levantine chopped salad looks forward to summer. It’s essential to get the best ingredients – tomatoes at this time of year are particularly problematic, so I recommend getting the smallest, ripest ones you can find on the vine. If even those are mealy or tasteless, try getting a lot of grape tomatoes – they tend to have a fair amount of concentrated sour-sweetness at any time of year. It’s also important to try to get Lebanese-style mini-cucumbers. Full-size supermarket cucumbers are watery and tasteless.

Adapted from Ottolenghi and Tamimi’s Jerusalem.

1 cup plain full-fat Greek yogurt and 3/4 cup plus 2 tbs whole milk
3 stale pitas, torn into bite-size chunks
Plum, cherry or grape tomatoes to equal 3 large tomatoes in season, cut into 2/3-inch dice
3 large radishes, thinly sliced
3 Lebanese or mini-cucumbers, peeled and cut into 2/3-inch dice
2 scallions, thinly sliced (green and white parts)
2 tbs flat-leaf parsley, coarsely chopped
2 tbs fresh mint leaves
1 tbs dried mint
2 cloves of garlic, crushed in a mortar and pestle or on the chopping board
3 tbs freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 cup olive oil, plus extra to drizzle
2 tbs white wine vinegar
3/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tbs ground sumac, or more, to garnish

Whisk the yogurt and whole milk together in a bowl and leave in a cool place or in the fridge for a minimum of 3 hours, or better yet, overnight, so that bubbles form on the surface. It’s a less sour version of a sort of homemade buttermilk.

Prepare all the ingredients about half an hour prior to serving.

Place the pita bread chunks in a bowl and cover with the buttermilk. Pile all the other ingredients on top except the sumac and mix well. Allow to sit for 10 minutes so that all the flavors combine.

Serve into bowls, drizzle extra olive oil on top, and sprinkle generously with ground sumac.

Tart garlic chicken from Burma: Rivers of Flavor

Another recipe from Naomi Duguid’s new Burma: Rivers of Flavor.

Tart garlic chicken, from the Shan region of Burma, may not look like much, but boy it packs a chickeny-lime wallop. It’s a simple hearty dish that is perfect for the winter cold season. The ingredient list is incredibly simple: chicken, garlic, ginger, long green chiles, cilantro and lime juice.

The broth picks up added richness from the hacked bones, but there’s not much else to it.

Served with kachin pounded beef with herbs again, a sort of salad made in a mortar & pestle and infused with Sichuan peppercorns from neighboring China. Plus Burmese tart-sweet chili garlic sauce on the side.

Make your own lime pickle!

Key limes are in season right now and cheap. They are closer in size and rind thickness to Indian limes (confusingly often called lemons there) than our limes, which makes them perfect for pickling.

This recipe from Mahanandi takes only 2 weeks and is extremely easy. Don’t omit the fenugreek seeds (methi). I had some of the finished pickle last night and I’m not dead yet.

Orzo with chickpeas

Adapted from various sources.

Serves 2.

1/2 cup dried chickpeas, cooked (preferably in a pressure cooker), cooking liquid reserved
1/4 lb salt pork or pancetta
1/2 onion, finely chopped
celery greens, finely chopped
1 long stalk celery, finely chopped
1 large carrot, finely chopped
1-2 tbs fresh rosemary, finely chopped
1 large clove garlic, minced
4-5 leaves fresh sage, minced
3 tbs olive oil
1/2 cup orzo or other soup pasta like pastina
1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped
1/4 cup freshly grated parmigiano reggiano, plus more for the table
salt
freshly ground black pepper

Separate the fat from the salt pork or pancetta, and render. Meanwhile, dice the lean. Discard the cracklings.

Heat the rendered pork or pancetta fat in a large saucepan over a medium flame, and add the lean. After it colors all over (about a minute), add the celery greens, celery, carrot and rosemary and saute, stirring occasionally, until soft and fragrant, about 8-10 minutes. Add the garlic and sage, and saute for another 2 minutes or so.

Add chickpeas, most of the parsley, orzo, and chickpea water to cover by about 1/2 inch, along with salt and pepper. If needed, add more water. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 20 minutes. Check during simmer and add more water if needed (though not in the last 5 minutes if possible). Add the grated cheese, stir in well, and serve in bowls with the rest of the parsley and more reggiano to add on top.

Kachin pounded beef with herbs

This Kachin pounded beef salad with herbs comes from Naomi Duguid’s excellent new book, Burma: Rivers Of Flavor. The book is absolutely gorgeous and also contains a fantastic introduction to the cuisines of Burma. Kachin State in the northeast of the country borders China, and this dish contains Sichuan peppercorns two ways. It’s extremely easy to make (especially if you have a large stone mortar and pestle), and explodes with flavor. Would make an excellent accompaniment to a few cold beers.

The hot sauce on the side also comes from the book – tart and sweet chili-garlic sauce, and it’s one of the tastier hot sauces I’ve made recently.

An Orgy of Self-Congratulation, Grandstanding & Overconsumption : Matador Artists & Staff Select Their 2012 Favorites

(above : angry mob reacts to the news that at least two or 3 people didn’t even mention the Total Control 7″)

Around this time every year, your overpaid overworked editor attempts to coax a list of favorite recordings, books, television programs, life events, etc. out of the label’s artist roster and our rock biz colleagues. In the past, the exercise has been an arduous process, fraught with nagging, teeth-gnashing and no shortage of reluctant participants. In more recent times, however, the serial oversharing epidemic that’s run rampant throughout all online activity has infected our bands and staff alike. The rhetorical question, “who fucking asked you?” cannot be applied in this instance, because they were all asked. For some historical perspective, here’s last year’s pile. Questions or comments about our lousy tastes and/or blatant omissions are welcome (but not necessarily appreciated). And away we go!

Continue reading “An Orgy of Self-Congratulation, Grandstanding & Overconsumption : Matador Artists & Staff Select Their 2012 Favorites”

Goat chops

As temperatures drop around here, thoughts turn to goat. Goat chops, or to be precise, kid chops, are tender and can be patted dry, salted and brought to room temperature just like lamb loin chops. A quick 3-4 minutes per side under the broiler produces this succulence.

These chops were quite thick, so depending on how well done you like your goat, you should adjust your cooking time.

Char siu with dipping sauces and sauted baby bok choy

Char siu is Cantonese barbecued pork and something I’ve wanted to make for a long time. This is a two-day preparation. The recipe is mainly based on posts in this thread on eGullet, as well as some comments in this post on the Food Canon blog from Singapore.

I used pork belly instead of loin, resulting in a lot more fat and fatty, chewy pieces.

Serves 2

1 lb pork belly, sliced into 1″ x 2″ strips containing fat and lean, pricked all over with a fork

Marinade:

(a) marinade base:

1/2 cup dark soy sauce
1/2 cup water
1/2 stick cinnamon
2 1/2 star anise
1 tbs cloves
1 tbs cumin seeds
1 tbs coriander seeds

(b) other marinade ingredients:

1 tbs dark soy sauce
1/2 tsp five spice powder
1 1/2 tbs brown bean sauce
1 tsp brown sugar
3 cloves of garlic, mashed and lightly chopped
1/4 tsp – 1/2 tsp salt
pinch of MSG (optional)

First make the marinade base. Simmer the first 1/2 cup dark soy sauce with the water and whole spices for an hour. Be sure to keep the flame very low so that the whole spices don’t burn. It should be a bare simmer.

Discard the whole spices, and combine the liquid marinade base in a medium-sized bowl with the other marinade ingredients and mix thoroughly. Taste and adjust balance for sweet / salty.

Add the pieces of pork to the bowl and combine thoroughly with your hands, rubbing the liquid into the pork. Put in fridge and marinate overnight.

About 2 hours before you want to eat, remove pork chunks from bowl, reserving marinade (discard the pieces of garlic). Thread the meat on skewers, leaving a small space between chunks. Use a set of two skewers for each set of chunks of pork, so that you will be able to turn them easily. (I used wooden skewers similar to these, which needed soaking in water so they wouldn’t burn – if you have metal ones, so much the better – just make sure they’re long enough to stretch to both sides of your roasting pan.)

Put oven rack in middle of oven and preheat to 300F.

Basting liquid:

1 1/2 tbs hoisin sauce
1 tbs brown bean sauce
1 tbs Shaoxing rice wine
1 1/2 tbs honey
1/4 tsp five spice powder
Excess marinade

Mix thoroughly, and adjust sweet / salty balance to taste.

Put about 1/2″ water in a roasting pan narrow enough to balance the skewers on, and place the skewers on top so that the pork is above the water. Place in oven.

Bake for 1 hour 10 minutes, turning every 20 minutes.

Now raise the heat to 425F and brush the meat with the basting liquid. Cook for 20 minutes more, basting frequently.

Carefully take the pork from the oven and remove from skewers when cool enough to handle. Chop into 1/4″ pieces and set on a plate to rest for at least 30 minutes. Do not cover or keep warm – char siu should be eaten at room temperature!

Above: dipping sauces: light soy sauce, hoisin sauce, Chinese mustard.

Serve with steamed rice, and a vegetable foil – something like this baby bok choy (recipe from Steamy Kitchen).

A nice Sunday supper – roasted pepper salad and pasta with lemon and ricotta

Due to some unfortunate incidents on my trip to Europe last week, I have to be eating milder food. This meal even works for the vegetarians (sorry, not for the vegans).

The bell pepper salad couldn’t be easier – just char them all over above a gas flame, seal in a plastic bag for 10 minutes, peel, slice, sprinkle with salt, pepper and olive oil.

The pasta with lemon and ricotta is scarcely more difficult. The full recipe can be found over on food52. It calls for the best ingredients, but I used Foodtown ricotta and Earthbound Organics arugula from the supermarket and it was delicious.

You will do well to listen to Brahms’s First Piano Concerto in the recording by Clifford Curzon while eating these dishes. Obviously nobody expects you to own the SXL but maybe the Ace Of Clubs reissue? [edit: there appears to be no Ace Of Clubs version] Paying special attention to the French horn bits as always with Brahms:

http://youtu.be/vd7t-HVjPdc

Tagine of chicken in tomato sauce

First, listen to the new A.C. Newman song while you start preparing the recipe.

This is an adaptation of tuna and tomato sauce from the Tagine Deck. The result is a sort of Moroccan version of puttanesca.

I did this in an unglazed tagine, but you could use a glazed tagine or just a saucepan or dutch oven.

1 lb chicken thighs, patted dry and slashed three times on the skin side
1 lemon’s worth of juice
1 tsp salt
2 cups fresh or canned tomatoes, diced in their juice
1 tbs tomato paste
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tbs fresh hyssop, chopped
1 preserved lemon, rinsed and pulp discarded, the remainder julienned
2 tbs capers, rinsed
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/8 tsp pimentón de la vera (dulce)
1/4 cup olive oil

Marinate the chicken in the lemon juice and salt, rubbing the mixtures into the meat and the slashes, for at least one hour at room temperature. Turn once during that time.

Meanwhile, prepare the other ingredients. Put the tomatoes and tomato paste in a skillet and cook at medium heat until reduced and saucy, at least 15 minutes. Add the garlic a few minutes before the tomatoes are ready. Stir in the hyssop, preserved lemon, capers, cayenne pepper and pimentón and cook for 5 minutes more or until the flavors are mingled.

Oil the tagine and arrange the marinated chicken thighs inside it. Add the sauce from the skillet and move the chicken pieces around until they are well coated. Slowly bring to a simmer, using a flame tamer if necessary for the health of the tagine, then cover and cook over very low heat until tender, about 45 minutes. Taste and adjust for salt.

(the original recipe called for 18 pitted black oil-cured olives as well, which I did not have on hand. I think they would make an excellent addition. be sure to coordinate your salt though because there are a lot of salty ingredients in this dish.)

Murgh cholay

Another variant on the endless quest for the perfect chole (also called chana masala), is this Lahori dish, which combines chickpeas with yogurt-braised chicken. The recipe is courtesy of Meenal’s Kitchen. It’s fairly straightforward; I’ll just note the following:

– I used chicken thighs, bone in
– I used ghee instead of oil
– the “1/2 cup curd” in the ingredients list is yogurt – I combined with some sour cream
– dhania powder is ground coriander seed
– despite their place in the list, the chopped green chiles belong in the garnish at the end
– when she says “add dry spices” she is referring to the whole dry spices, not the ground spices. despite this, I sauted both before adding the onion-yogurt mixture

This dish is almost unbelievably delicious, pretty easy, and you can skip the chickpeas if you like.

Also, check out the comments to the recipe, someone completely insane got in there.

Aloo chat

Aloo chat is an Indian street snack that makes a great summer dish. Recipe adapted from Julie Sahni, Classic Indian Cooking, which is more than a collection of recipes by the way.

1 tbs chat masala (buy pre-prepared or use recipe below*)
1/3 cup cold water

5-6 waxy potatoes (I used Elba Golds from North Haven’s Turner Farms)
2 cups ripe tomatoes (I used heirlooms from the Union Square Greenmarket)
4 tbs finely chopped onions
1 finely chopped jalapeno or habanero (optional)
3 tbs roughly chopped cilantro
1 tsp cumin seeds, toasted for 2 minutes in a small pan over a low flame, shaking the whole time, then ground
1 tbs kosher salt (or more, to taste)
juice of a whole supermarket lemon (or more, to taste)

Mix chat masala* thoroughly with the cold water in a small bowl.

Boil the potatoes until they are tender but not falling apart. Plunge into cold water and peel. Cut into 1/2″ chunks. Place in a large bowl and cover with chat masala+water mixture stirring gently to coat thoroughly, and allow to sit for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, slice tomatoes into 1/2″ chunks, and prepare the rest of the ingredients. Now place the tomatoes, cilantro, onions and optional chopped chiles on top of the potatoes and DO NOT MIX. Put the bowl in the fridge for 30 minutes.

Remove from fridge add the cumin, salt and lemon juice. Now stir the entire mixture gently. Adjust seasoning – you will need to balance the salt and lemon juice to get the right mix of salty and sour. Serve immediately.

Note:

* Chat masala recipe (if you want to buy premixed, I’ve heard Everest brand is good):

3/4 tsp cumin seeds (toasted and ground as above)
1/4 tsp cayenne
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp ground asafoetida (or hing – the better stuff comes in blocks)
1/4 tsp amchoor (dried mango powder)
1/2 tsp black salt
3/4 tsp kosher salt

All masala ingredients should be thoroughly ground and combined. The black salt is critical for chat. Do not be put off by its sulfurous smell in its raw form.

Chole (chana masala)

Vegan alert.

Still trying to figure out how to make the perfect chole, or chana masala. This recipe comes from Sailu’s Kitchen and was tangy and spicy. But it didn’t come close to the unctuous, layer-of-flavor chickpea curries that you can get from the 24-hour taxi driver places in Manhattan, like Lahore Deli on Crosby or Punjabi Deli on E. 1st St.

Any cooks out there have any suggestions?