Monday, May 28, 2012

Classical Coleslaw--With a Twist

Last week I was doing my shopping at the local Harris Teeter. A nice and chatty young guy, by his own admission a college student already on vacation, was helping me at the cash register. While scanning my items he was going on and on about his life and his 48-hour long shifts at the store until he stumbled on a head of cabbage. He looked puzzled at me and asked "And that would be?..." I let him guess. "Iceberg?" he said. I corrected him. "Then I must have never tried it" he replied.

Coleslaw is one of the most popular American salads, sold at every salad bar and most often served at BBQ parties. It is said that coleslaw was brought to the US by Dutch migrants, although I am inclined to believe that, like many cabbage dishes, it rather comes from Polish tradition.

I posted many cabbage recipe already and they still belong among the most popular posts on my blog, but that conversation convinced me that it was time for another cabbage salad, especially that the grilling season has just officially started this weekend. Today, it will be then the most traditional coleslaw salad, but with the that I hope makes it more interesting.

Coleslaw with Nuts and Fruits
(Serves 4-6)

1/2 head of medium cabbage, shredded,
2 medium carrots,cut julienne,
1/2 cup dried apricots,
1/2 cup raisins,
1/2 cup roasted hazelnuts,

3-4 stalks of spring onion, sliced,
1/2 cup mayonnaise,
1/2 cup low fat yogurt, preferably Greek,
salt and pepper to taste.

1. Place the shredded cabbage and carrots in a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper and mix together.

2. Cut dried apricots in slices. Add them to the cabbage together with raisins and roughly chopped hazelnuts.
3. In a medium bowl mix mayonnaise and yogurt. Pour over the cabbage and toss all the ingredients. Set aside in a refrigerator for 30 minutes to let all the ingredients marinate in a dressing.
4. Sprinkle with chopped spring onion shortly before serving.

Serve with grilled meats or cold cuts.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Lemon Meringue Pie--Classic Delicacy

Lemon meringue pie comes to my mind always when the weather gets hot. The sourness of the filling and the lightness of the meringue topping make it a wonderful spring dessert. I have eaten lemon meringue pies several times but, surprisingly, never made one myself. I often make lemon desserts or tarts but not this pie.

The other day I was invited to a friend for dinner. His cook--yes, he has his private cook, prepared a lemon meringue pie for dessert. And it was delicious. I am very fastidious when it comes to crust--it should be very delicate and not too sweet--but I must admit that his was absolutely perfect. Too full after the whole feast I was able to try only a small piece of the pie. On the next day I regretted it very much and dreamed about another piece of lemon pie to go with my afternoon coffee. Well, then there was the only solution--to make it myself.

Next time I visit my friend I will ask his cook for his recipe for the crust but meanwhile I drew on my own recipe, which I use for all kind of pies and savory tarts. It does not contain eggs, which I like as there are many already in the filling. And of course I made it in a blender, which speeds up the whole process. For the filling I used juice and peel from fresh organic lemons and organic eggs. In no time my lemon meringue pie was ready.

Lemon Meringue Pie
(For a 9-inch baking pan)

The crust

1/2 stick (1/4 cup) sweet unsalted butter,
1/4 cup vegetable shortening,
1 and 1/3 cup all purpose unbleached flour,
1/2 tsp salt,
1 tsp sugar,
3 tbsp ice cold water.

1. Cut butter and shortening into smaller pieces and place in a food processor. Add flour, salt, and sugar. Run a mixer until the mix turns into crumbles.
2. Add 2-3 tbsp ice cold water and pulse the mixer until the crumbles turn into a smooth dough. Stop right after.
3. Roll the dough on a working surface slightly dusted with flour to about 10-inch diameter. Using a rolling pin transfer a dough to the form. Push gently, form edges, and let it cool down for at least half an hour or overnight.
4. Bake at 370 F for about 30-35 minutes until crust becomes gold. When the crust bakes prepare lemon filling.

Lemon Filling

1/2 cup sugar,
1/2 cup corn starch,
1 and 1/2 cup water,
1 tbsp unsalted butter,
four eggs (separate yolks from whites),
1/2 cup lemon juice (from about four medium lemons),
peel from one lemon.

1. Put sugar and corn starch in a medium pot. Mix them together. Add water and mix again until you obtain a smooth paste. Cook it until it becomes thick and starts to bubble.
2. Remove from the heat, beat the yolks slightly with a fork and add them gradually to the mixture. Return it to the heat, bring the mixture to boil, and remove from the heat again.
3. Add gradually lemon peel and lemon juice. Mix well.

4. Transfer the mixture onto the already baked pie crust.


4 egg whites,
1/2 tsp vanilla,
1/2 cup sugar.

1. Beat the egg whites in a large bowl until stiff but not dry. Add sugar in three steps while beating continuously for about 2 minutes between each sugar addition.
2. Add vanilla essence, mix, and pour over the pie with the filling.
3. Bake at 375 F for 10-15 minutes, or until the meringue becomes slightly brown.

Let the pie cool and serve it.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Lamb With Rhubarb--Traditional Afghan

Last time I saw my Afghan friend, all of a sudden we started talking about food that we often ate in our childhoods. And although we come from very distant countries and cultures, we discovered that in late spring both of us often and enjoyed fresh rhubarb.

Rhubarb was growing like a weed in my parents' yard. Next to radish it was the first spring vegetable. Broken off fresh from the bush we ate it raw. Just dipped in sugar we crunched this sweet and sour crispy snack. Sometimes, rhubarb was cooked with sugar to make a sweet beverage. Sometimes we made with it cakes or preserves. Either way we always added sugar to the rhubarb and because of that I considered it a fruit rather than a vegetable.

In Afghanistan rhubarb is used more as a vegetable. My friend also ate fresh rhubarb straight from the garden, but instead of sugar they dipped it in salt. Rhubarb was also used to prepare many dishes but savory and spicy. My friend's favorite dish was lamb cooked with rhubarb. I got so curious of such combination that right away I asked for a recipe and next day I made this dish, as in DC we are in full rhubarb season.

Traditionally, this dish is made with lamb,but it is also can be made with veal and actually my friend prefers such version as she does not like the strong smell of lamb meat. However, when I made that dish with lamb I noticed that a generous amount of onion, spices, and also rhubarb completely neutralized that aroma and the taste of meat turned very mild.

Lamb in Rhubarb
(Serves four to six)

2 lb boneless, lean lamb or veal, preferably from the shoulder.
4-6 rhubarb stalks,
2 large onions,
3 garlic cloves,
1/2 cup fresh coriander leaves, chopped,
1 and 1/2 tbsp ground coriander seeds,
1/2 tbsp turmeric,
1 tsp red chili pepper,
3 tbsp grape seed oil,
salt and pepper to taste.

1. Peel off the onions and chop them very finely. Heat the oil in a shallow medium frying pot and fry the onions slowly for about 10 minutes, until almost caramelized. Add chopped garlic, turmeric, and dried coriander and mix everything well.
2. Salt and pepper the lamb meat and add it to the pot. Let the meat get coated with onion. Cook until the meat is brown, stirring occasionally.

3. Add about a cup of water and simmer until the meat becomes soft. You may add extra water during the simmering if it evaporates but the meat is not yet soft. That may take 40-60 minutes depending on the quality of the meat.
4. Peel off rhubarb and cut into slices.

5. When the meat is soft, all the water evaporates, leaving only the thick onion sauce, put rhubarb on top of the meat and let it cook for about 5 minutes, until the rhubarb is soft but not mushy. Sprinkle chopped coriander leaves and chili pepper on top and let it cook for about 3 minutes.

Serve with basmati rice.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Dragon Fruit Granita--The Dragon Fruit Sequel

For the first time this year, dragon fruits appeared again in my Asian market. A simple recipe that I shared for a salad made from them a long time ago is one of the most popular posts on my blog. Almost two years later I am standing in front of a pile of these intriguing fruits thinking what this time I could make from them. Dragon fruit is mostly very interesting to look at, but its delicate taste can be barely distinguished in any dish. Therefore I think it is best eaten fresh in salads. I could not resist it again and bought two large and perfectly pink dragon fruits.

During the recent heat wave in DC I was experimenting with frozen desserts. This time it was all about granitas. They are easy to make, can be prepared ahead, and make a light and cooling dinner finish on a hot day. So being in the experimenting mood, this week I came with an idea to make a dragon fruit granita. I made two different portions of granita--one with mint syrup, the other with lime. I think that mint totally overshadowed the subtle taste of dragon fruit and the whole thing tasted almost artificial. But the granita with lime turned out very nice. And even more interesting was the final look of that dessert

Dragon Fruit Granita
(Serves six)

1 dragon fruit (about 1 lb),
1/2 cup sugar,
1/2 cup water,
juice from one lime or lemon.

1. Gently peel off dragon fruit and cut its flesh into small cubes.
2. In a medium pot bring to boil water and sugar stirring occasionally. When the sugar is dissolved, let the syrup simmer for about 3 minutes.
3. Remove it from the heat, cool slightly, and add lime juice. Stir it.
4. In a food processor purée dragon fruit and syrup. Transfer to a shallow metal dish and place it in a freezer. When the mixture starts to thicken stir it with a fork. Repeat it two, three times until the granita is completely frozen.

Before serving use again a fork to loosen up the granita and divide between glass goblets. Serve decorated with mint and pieces of dragon fruit.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Cold Asparagus Soup--For the Hot Days of May

It is asparagus season and they are in all stores on display more fresh and appetizing than ever. And I have just realized that I have never posted any recipe with asparagus as the main ingredient, although they are one of my favorite vegetables, especially in the late spring. I used to make many dishes with asparagus but these days I serve them most often in salads or pastas. I do not cook asparagus in water but sauté them on a pan drizzled with oil and a splash of water. This way I can have them perfectly green and still al dente, tender but not too soft or too hard. I usually serve asparagus as meat accompaniment, or make a salad plate with green salads and asparagus drizzled with truffle oil and Parmesan cheese.

Today, because the weather is getting hot again for this weekend I decided to make cold asparagus soup. I used to make it very often in Switzerland where on Friday farmers market I could get all kinds of very fresh asparagus. For this recipe, I use green asparagus the most thin kind as it is more tender and the soup does not need to be strained. This soup is a perfect dish to be served at lunch or dinner on a sunny and warm days as today.

Cold Asparagus Soup
(Serves six)

2 lb green asparagus, the thin type,
1 large onion,
2 tbsp olive oil,
4 cups chicken or vegetable broth,
1 cup table cream,
salt and peeper to taste.

1. Cut off the ends of asparagus--I usually cut off one third of their length to make sure that all the wooden parts ale left out. Then from about 12 asparaguses cut off just the tips and blanch them in boiling water for about 2 minutes. They have to be still tender and green as they are needed for decoration.

Cut the rest of the asparaguses into inch-long sticks.

2. Heat oil in a medium, high wall pot. Add chopped onion and fry until transparent. Add asparagus and fry together on a medium heat for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently.
3. Add chicken stock and bring to boil. Let it boil for about 20 minutes until asparaguses are soft.
4. Using food blender purée the soup until very smooth. You need to try the soup and if you can feel the hard parts the soup needs to be strained on a colander.
5. Pour cream to the soup, season with salt and pepper, and cool down to room temperature. Then transfer the soup to the refrigerator.

On very hot days, I like to serve it chilled, on warm days, just room temperature.

Before serving decorate each plate with blanch asparagus tips.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Rich Quinoa Salad---Mexican-Inspired

I have been very much into quinoa recently. I buy it by pounds at Whole Foods, most often red or multicolored variety and serve it at least once in two weeks. It has a very neutral taste and I was able to convince my kids to eat it sometimes instead of rice.

Last couple of days in DC have been again very hot. On days like these, salad is all I often serve for dinner. For quite some time I have been thinking of making a salad with quinoa, similar to the Mediterranean salads with bulgar wheat or cous cous, but dressing it differently.

Quinoa is an ancient grain coming from South America, so I thought that its very delicate taste could be enhanced by adding some Mexican ingredients. I used still slightly warm quinoa and tossed in all the ingredients. I have started with tomatoes. First time I used roasted tomatoes but recently I made it also with fresh tomatoes. I also added pablano peppers, which I roasted and peeled off. Than I added avocado cut into chunks and red onion. I seasoned everything with lime, sprinkled with cilantro and, at the end, with roasted unsalted peppitas--pumpkin seeds. Finally, salt and pepper and my salad was ready. It is a particularly good idea to make it when you have some quinoa leftovers.

I did not add any oil to this salad but at the very end I put a dollop of Mexican cream. Maybe it added some calories but tasted really good.

Rich Quinoa Salad

1 cup multicolored or red quinoa, uncooked,
3 pablano peppers,
3 Roma tomatoes,
1/2 medium onion,
1 avocado,
juice from one lime or lemon,
1/3 cup chopped fresh coriander leaves,
2 tbsp roasted pumpkin seeds,
2 tbsp crema fresco (Mexican crème fraîche) to finish (optional),
salt and pepper to taste.

1. Cook quinoa (one cup of quinoa in 2 cups of water) until water evaporates. late it cool to room temperature.Transfer to a medium bowl.
2. Roast the pablano peppers under a broil, let them cool and peel them off. When cold, cut them into strips and add to the quinoa.
3. Cut tomatoes into small cubes. Toss them into the salad. Cut an onion in half, cut in thin slices, and add to the salad.
4. Peel off avocado, remove the stone. Cut each half in two and then cut into thick slices. Add to the salad.
5. Squeeze juice from one lime. Pour over the salad. Add chopped coriander, pumpkin seeds, salt and pepper. Gently mix all the ingredients.

Decorate with crema fresco and serve.