Archive for January, 2012

January 29, 2012

Moms’ Recipes from All Over the World | Taste of OSU

This past Friday was the 2012 Taste of OSU.  Hosted by the OSU’s Office of International Affairs, the event brings some 4,000 guests to the Union to experience food and culture from all over the world.  More than 30 student groups provide the recipes, do the cooking and share a bit from their home countries.  Even more share cultural performances, from dragon dances to Bollywood showstoppers.

I love this event because people from all over the world who have joined the OSU family, come together to cook food that says, “this is what it tastes like in my country,” “this is what my mom makes on my birthday,” “this is the food that we have when we celebrate.”  These are moms’ recipes.  Moms that may be many thousands of miles away.  But at this event, it’s a chance to share a taste of something that reminds these students of home.  Proust’s madeline.

I had the good fortune to be asked to judge.  I was very excited.  Not only would I get a chance to sample a good variety of the entries from the 30 plus international student groups, but I got a chance to see some of the recipes.  Imagine my delight at being able to peruse the Russian Club’s beef stroganoff and blinis!  The Thai Student Association’s Green Curry Chicken!  The Somali Students Association’s rice!

The six finalists were the Russian Club, the Somali Students Association, Habesha Student Organization, Lebanese Student Association, the Organization of Arab Students and the Sri Lankan Student Association.  They all produced delicious dishes.

But the standout for us was the Habesha Student Organization.  And they won it with their lentils.  I scooped up some lentils with injera bread.  My eyes lit up.  This is something special.  Savory, perfectly seasoned.  Delicious.  Greedily, I flipped through the half-inch thick book of recipes.  Searching, searching.  I found the list of ingredients.

Crestfallen, I knew in a moment that there were not just three ingredients in that amazing lentil dish.

I knew Mom didn’t share her secret spices this time.  She didn’t share what makes her lentils better than anyone else’s.  Because sometimes, you have to grow up with her to be given the secret.  But if anyone asks her what makes it so special, I’m sure she’d smile and tell you it’s love.

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January 27, 2012

Why You Always Buy Beets with the Greens | Duck Fat Beet Greens

Growing up, this was just about the only way I would eat my greens.  I am more adventurous now, but I still love some good smothered greens.  This is an ultra-simple recipe, one my Grandma made frequently, making a quick gravy out of (usually) some rendered bacon fat, a little flour and some onions.  It is quintessential Great Depression cooking: making do with the leftovers.  Lowly ingredients that are greater than the sum of their parts.

This time I had some leftover duck fat from a spicy smoked duck breast to start the gravy.  If you don’t have it, use bacon fat.  It’s enough to turn a greens-phobic into a greens lover.

Beet Greens with Duck Fat and Onion Gravy, makes enough for two (but barely, if one of them is me)

Greens from one bunch of beets, stems removed, washed well and chopped

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January 26, 2012

Why You Always Buy Beets with the Greens | Beetroot and Blood Orange Salad

Beets make me happy.  I know.

But I love their color and their dense, earthy flavor, greatly enhanced by slow roasting them whole for what almost feels like too long.

I make sure to buy them whole, with their greens attached.  Because beet greens are delicious.  I’ll show you an old family recipe for that soon (updated with the addition of some duck fat).  But in the meantime, head out to the store, buy some whole beets and give this simple composed salad a try.  Diana Henry’s recipe will get lots of good vitamins in you during the dark days of winter, good for staving off, the best you can, all those winter colds.

Playlist included Game of Thrones Freestyle, by Gotye featuring Dice Raw.

January 17, 2012

Best Topping for Tacos | Cactus with Prickly Pear Vinaigrette

I was recently forwarded this Nigel Slater article that really drives home the importance of doing some big cooking on the weekend (such as this roast pork shoulder in the article) so that you have enough for several meals that require minimal prep for the rest of the week.  I love cooking in this way.  And pork shoulder is literally one of the most cooked cuts in this house.  It’s economical and super, super flavorful.

Our leftover roast pork was converted into tacos one night.  And one of the things I often find elevates the humble taco is the quality of the crispy cold salad on top.  At good taco stands, you’ll find some cold radishes, or perhaps some chopped onion and cilantro, maybe a bit of lime to squeeze on top of that rich carnitas or barbacoa.  I love the contrast in flavors, textures and temperatures.

This quick cold salad is tasty enough on its own for lunch, but is fantastic on some of that pork.  You can sub some radishes and apples (add lovely sweetness) for the cactus or jicama, if you have trouble finding them.   But the cactus is so full of gorgeous green flavor, and the jicama so sweet and crunchy, do make an effort to stop in a reputable Hispanic market with brisk turn over in its produce department to track some down to try.  Next time I make this, I might also toss in a green onion thinly sliced and perhaps some pomegranate arils for extra crunch.

Nopales and Jicama with Prickly Pear Vinagrette

For the salad:

1 small cactus pad, carefully trimmed well of all spines, rinsed, then cut into small batons

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January 16, 2012

Persephone’s Drinks Cabinet | Prickly Pear Rum Punch

Sometimes I need a bit of liquid en[courage]ment to get moving in the blog posting realm again.

Enter the cocktail.  I whipped up something with the few bits and bobs that we have ’round the house.  I know, I have prickly pears in my house.  In January.  Hush.

Because of this cocktail, I’ve been inspired again to dive into some typically Mexican edibles, primarily all things cactus.  Nopales, as they’re called, are eaten with great relish despite,

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January 11, 2012

Explorer | Long Beans

I am not a snob when it comes to where I’ll shop for ingredients.  I am very happy to pick up whatever looks good where ever I go.  I was at Meijer recently (which is a mid-western version of Wal-Mart) to pick up some Kinder for Cherub.  And batteries, for all the toys she got for Christmas that died faster than you can blink.  Le sigh.  I digress.

I am always so pleased to see the wide variety of produce they carry.  Not just limited to your typical cucumbers, lettuces and onions, Meijers in Columbus seem to have every manner of exotic produce that you can imagine: from fresh tamarind pods to bitter melon to long beans.

I have heard from a friend that the partial reason for this was a well-loved local chef/owner of a very posh restaurant used to stop at Meijer on the way to his restaurant to pick up the stray ingredient.  And the good folks at Meijer would order just about anything his heart desired.  Hence, local Meijers now stock rather comprehensive produce departments that are well worth a stop in and a meander.

I was inspired by the long beans that day.  Similar to green beans in taste and texture, they are only different in their magnificent length.  Which for the harried cook, means far less trimming!  Nice.

Long beans partner especially beautifully with Chinese cuisine, most notably buckwheat noodles.

But don’t let that stop you.

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January 3, 2012

Variations on a Theme | Caramelized Endive and Walnut Risotto

It might strike you as esoteric, caramelized endive.  But let me assure you that it is entirely devour-able, and not in the slightest way effete.

And the New Year is a perfect time to delve into comforting vegetarian dishes.  I just know you want to ease into your new-found resolve to eat more veggies, but dammit, it should taste good and be filling.

In this risotto, the endive is left to caramelize in a separate pan, given only a bit of olive oil, a garlic clove and salt to help it achieve its golden color.  Do this and you are rewarded with what looks a whole lot like oxtail and onions, only unabashedly vegetarian.  And simmering in another pot, a simple elixir of water, parsnips (crucial sweetness, in my opinion, to balance the bitterness of the endive), onion, bay and some seeds from the summer’s past garden (corriander in this case) round out the quick stock.

Combine it all and you have yet another version of one of my favorite things to cook for my family: risotto.  It is, after all, my lifetime dish.  One of those things I want to master perfectly before I die.  After all it is resolution season.

PK Tip: This dish is entirely versatile.  Sub kale and pecans for a thoroughly American take on the dish; radicchio and chestnuts for a U.K. variation.

Caramelized Endive and Toasted Walnut Risotto; serves two to three; inspired by this recipe in the Telegraph

For the stock:
1 very large parsnip, peeled and quartered length-wise

1 small onion, unpeeled and quartered

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