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Archive for March, 2008

My lovely aunt has given me the most wonderful gift – the gift of Persian style rice. I don’t think I’ll ever make it any other way.

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As you can see, the rice is really not the highlight of the rice. Does that make sense? It’s early. Directly from my South-African by location, Persian by marriage, Southern Californian by birth auntie. Didn’t I say I have a multicultural family?

Chelo

basmati or long-grain rice – about 3 cups
2 or 3 potatoes peeled and sliced about ¼ inch thick
Butter / oil
salt

Wash rice two or three times (fill the bowl of rice with water, gently move the rice around with your hand to release the starch and drain) and soak in water for 3-4 hours, then drain the water.  Pour water in a large non-stick pan until it is half-full and bring it to a boil. Add rice and a spoonful of salt and continue boiling until rice slightly softens.  Pour rice into a large strainer and wash it with slightly warm water.

Melt a few spoonfuls of butter and cooking oil into the pan.  Place the potato slices in the bottom of the pan and then add the rice taking care not to pack it too tightly.  The rice should be in a bit of a cone shape in the pot.  Add a couple knobs of butter to the top of the rice and then about a ¼ cup water.  Cover the pan and cook over low heat for about an hour.  A delicious crispy layer of rice and potato (called ta-dig) will form at the bottom of the pan.

 Now, instead of fighting over the ta-dig with my cousins, it’s all mine!  Bwah-ha-ha!

Thanks, MP.

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Aside from these beautiful, happy broccoli, Lynelle and I now have a blank canvas on which to plant. Chris snapped this picture as we came home from the gym last night – it gives a sense of our new space. The back bed is still going strong, with those strong artichokes, nasturtiums and cauliflower, and I’m starting to clear out some of those winter veggies.

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We’ve already planted some tomato seedlings in amongst the broccoli, figuring that when they’re coming up, the broccoli may be on its way out – we’ll see how that works out! The rest will go according to the plan .  I started some melon and squash seeds, all the while knowing that they don’t like to be started.  They apparently can’t take the stress of transplant, so you’re supposed to direct-seed them into the ground.  Well, I couldn’t wait, so I tried it anyway.  I’ll test the prevailing garden wisdom – I’m sure that’ll work out fine.

My garden approach is guilt-free, because I fully expect to kill everything the first time I attempt to plant it.  That way, when some plants grow and thrive, I’m thrilled.  It’s all a learning experience.

I’m encouraged by all the gawking from people passing by – we’ve had many people come by and say that they’ve become inspired!  It is a little disconcerting to look out your front window and see strangers staring at your house, but ultimately exciting.   Time to get to growin’!

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A Martha Moment

Oh, Martha. It’s just so easy, isn’t it?
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I’ve had this cookbook for EVER, and have only made a handful of dishes – really challenging things like pancakes and mashed potatoes. I’ve thumbed through it quite a few times, thought, and there’s one page in particular that’s caught my attention.

With a newly painted and organized kitchen, it was time. Bring it, Martha.

Martha Stewart’s Fancy-Pants Chicken Potpie slightly adapted from Martha Stewart’s Favorite Comfort Food

1 three-to-four pound chicken
4 cups Chicken Stock (or, ahem, water. Let the adaptations begin)
1 large yellow onion, split in half
2 dried bay leaves
1/2 tsp whole black peppercorns
1 small bunch fresh thyme
1 rib celery, cut into thirds
1 cup plus 5 Tbsp flour
2-1/4 tsp salt
15 Tbsp butter
2 large egg yolks
9 ounces red potatoes, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
12 pearl onions, peeled and cut lengthwise if large (or, ahem, one large white onion, cut into pearl onion sizes)
1 medium leek, white and light-green parts only, sliced into 1/4-inch-thick rounds and washed
2 medium carrots, sliced into 1/4-inch-thick rounds
6 ounces button mushrooms, halved or quartered if large
1 cup milk
2 Tbsp chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Zest of 1 lemon
1/2 tsp pepper
1 Tbsp heavy cream

Whew. I mean, the ingredient list alone is enough to put a girl off of this recipe for a couple of years. I’m exhausted. Time to soldier on – don’t let her beat you!

I decided to make this recipe into a bunch of individual potpies instead of one big deal – that way I still have a bunch in the freezer to enjoy on those don’t-feel-like-cooking days. Much nicer than frozen pizza.

First, combine the chicken, stock, onion, bay leaves, peppercorns, 3 thyme sprigs and celery in a large stockpot and add enough water to cover the chicken. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for one hour.

While that’s cooking, you can prepare the flaky, wonderful, thyme-specked crust. Combine 1 cup flour, 1/4 tsp salt and 1 Tbsp thyme leaves in a food processor. Add 10 Tbsp chilled butter cut into small pieces and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal. While the processor is running, add 3 Tbsp ice water and 1 egg yolk and process until the dough holds together. Turn onto plastic wrap, flatten into a circle and wrap up = refrigerate at least 1 hour.

Drain the chicken and reserve the stock. Remove the skin and pick the chicken clean. Shred the meat into bite-sized pieces and set aside. Strain the stock and set aside 2 cups. Put the rest in the freezer so that next time you take on a Martha recipe, you’ll have fancy homemade stock on hand.

Melt 5 Tbsp butter in a large saute pan over medium high heat. Add the potatoes and onions and cook until the potatoes begin to turn golden. Add the leeks, carrots and mushrooms, and cook 4-5 minutes more. Add 5 Tbsp flour and stir 1 minute. Stir in the 2 cups stock and milk and bring to a simmer. Cook until thick and bubbly, stirring constantly, 2-3 minutes. Add the chicken, parsley, 2 Tbsp thyme leaves, lemon zest, 2 tsp salt and pepper and remove from the heat. Transfer into either a large casserole dish or, if you’re like me, single-serving ramekins.

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Check out that crease – you can see straight through to the food-porny mashed potatoes recipe!

Heat your oven to 375°. Roll out the dough to 1/4 inch thick, then chill 15 minutes. Mix together the remaining egg yolk and heavy cream to make an egg wash. Working quickly, place the dough on top of the chicken mixture, and tuck extra dough around the edges. Cut slits on top to allow steam to escape. Brush the tops with egg wash, and place on a baking sheet. Bake 35-40 minutes until crust is golden.

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Aw, damn. These are decadent, and so cute! I immediately gave half of them away, just because I was so proud of these little beauties, and the rest are waiting for me in the freezer. I might have a little Martha in me after all.

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It’s gonna be a good summer.

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So, how’re things?  What’s that?  Where in the hell have I been?  Uh…

Well, it began with THE LAWN. I’m pleased to report that, aside from a little edging and compost-adding, the garden has grown. As soon as it’s pretty enough to post, it’ll be here in all its glory. My seedlings are still doing really well (thanks, Ikea!), so I can’t wait to put them in the ground now that things have warmed up around here.

Then the project-monster expanded his reach. He crept inside the house, approached the kitchen, and knew he’d found his prey. In reality, Chris gave me the lovely Valentine’s Day present of re-vamping my kitchen – new paint, new grout, new shelves, new butcher block table, new everything. I was tickled pink at the idea and so pleased to see the results, but in between I got a little cranky and impatient. It’s tough to take a girl out of her favorite room for a week and a half!

Anyway, it’s almost all done and beautifully shiny and bright. I’ll be making up for lost time in the days to come!

Before the turmoil, I had been reading Julia Child’s My Life In France, inspired by a book club on The Kitchn. Although I don’t have half the patience or ambition of this amazing woman, I was inspired to get a little French up in this biz.  Enter the soufflé.

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Dude!  Souffles aren’t that hard – I had no idea! 

Provencal Goat Cheese and Herb Soufflé (adapted from Epicurious)

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
5 tablespoons all purpose flour
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 1/4 cups whole milk
1/4 cup dry white wine
6 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon minced fresh basil
1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme
1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary
1 cup crumbled chilled soft fresh goat cheese (such as Montrachet)
1/2 cup (packed) grated Gruyère cheese (about 2 ounces)
8 large egg whites

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Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 400°F. Generously butter one 10-cup soufflé dish or six 1 1/4-cup soufflé dishes (I used six individual soufflé cups and had overflow, so I filled the above dish also.  This makes a lot – invite friends)!  Heat olive oil in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add flour and minced garlic. Cook without browning until mixture begins to bubble, whisking constantly, about 1 minute. Gradually whisk in whole milk, then white wine. Cook until smooth, thick and beginning to boil, whisking constantly, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Mix egg yolks and salt in small bowl. Add egg yolk mixture all at once to sauce; whisk quickly to blend. Mix in 1 tablespoon basil, 1 tablespoon thyme and 1 teaspoon rosemary. Fold in cold goat cheese and Gruyère cheese (cheeses do not need to melt).

Using electric mixer, beat whites in large bowl until stiff but not dry. Fold 1/4 of whites into lukewarm souffl
 base to lighten. Fold in remaining whites. Transfer soufflé mixture to prepared dish. Sprinkle with ground black pepper.

Place soufflé in oven; reduce heat to 375°F. Bake soufflé until puffed, golden and gently set in center, about 35 minutes for large soufflé (or 25 minutes for small soufflés). Using oven mitts, transfer soufflé to platter and serve immediately.  And they mean immediately.  I snapped some pictures before the sagging happened, and it happened so quickly! 

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Oh yeah – a rimmed baking sheet is helpful.  Forgot to mention that.  Add some nasturtium-studded salad, and you’ve got a beautiful meal that even Julia would be proud to serve – Bon Appetit!

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