Saturday Morning Market

Sun-ripened tomatoes, yellow squash, swiss chard with wet mud still clinging to the roots…  I love visiting the farmer’s market on Saturday mornings.  Today’s top find was fresh peaches and last week we discovered homemade apple pie and new potatoes.  I can still smell the beeswax candles that I tucked into a package for Mom.  And my family can tell you about my somewhat irrational love affair with Berryhill grilled (really – grilled)  “fish tacos of the gods” (according to the Houston Chronicle).  Berryhill’s cooks must sign a non-disclosure agreement and the recipe for their secret sauce is closely guarded.  The tacos are that good.  And they’re available for only $2.00 at my local market.

I appreciate the seasonal variety, just-picked produce, handmade goods and regional specialties.  What I enjoy most is the energy and the human interaction.  It’s nice to place money in the hands of the person who baked your pie and to see the regulars that line up to buy kettle corn, Texas BBQ sauce or Philly water ice.  I like getting tips from the shopper standing next to me and to learn how to cook the vegetables available this week from the people who planted and picked them.  There are musicians playing, food cooking, talking and laughter.  It’s a sunny Saturday morning and it feels like community, celebration and home.

Sugar Land Farmer's Market

Sugar Land Farmer’s Market

Squash & Carrots

As delicious as it looks...

As delicious as it looks…

Water Ice with a Philly Accent

Water Ice with a Philly Accent

Grower & Buyers

Berryhill Baja Grill

Berryhill Baja Grill

Swiss Chard & Carrots Haul of the Day

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Beyond Ramen: Students Abroad Seeking Inspiration!

Ramen

You’re far from home, renting a room and dealing with limited resources and unfamiliar ingredients.  It’s the middle of winter and the schedule is busy but you’ve got to eat and stay healthy.  You can’t eat out every day but don’t want to eat leftovers all week.  What’s a student to do?

Here’s the challenge!  Find a few recipes that are:

  • quick and fairly easy – prep shortcuts welcome
  • nutritious, including several food groups and some variety
  • inexpensive, with limited ingredients and waste
  • made with readily-available ingredients (anywhere in the world)
  • vegetarian or fish
  • made on the stove (no oven available)

I’ve been cooking for the multitudes since I was 15 and have a walk-in pantry and more than enough gear – so cooking for one on a hotplate is a distant memory.  Daughter and I are both doing some research, but I know that all of you are a great resource!  Please comment with your best tips.

Around the World #7: Moroccan-Inspired Vegetable Stew & Couscous

Moroccan Market

Creative Commons: Adam Greig

I dream of someday exploring the markets or souks of Marrakesh.  I see a clash of colors, with slippers of every hue piled high, stacks of pottery, piles of beads and textiles draped across the ceilings.  The sounds of music playing, vendors shouting and people talking are overwhelming and spicy scents fill the air…

Wait – that is just the lingering aroma of our Moroccan-inspired dinner!

This post is dedicated to my father-in-law, a Spaniard born in Morocco, and my daughter, a student and explorer of North African cultures.

Moroccan Vegetables

Moroccan-Spiced Sweet Potato Medley

Serves 6

(this recipe was borrowed and adapated from Good Housekeeping’s Simply Vegan!)

2 teaspoons olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped fine

3 garlic cloves, pressed

1½ teaspoons curry powder

1½ teaspoons ground cumin

¼ teaspoon ground allspice

1 can (14½ oz.) diced or crushed tomatoes

1 cup vegetable broth

1 cup garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained

1 large sweet potato, cut into ¾” cubes

2 small zucchini, cut into ¾” pieces

¼ cup frozen peas

1 cup couscous (prepare as directed)

Heat oil in large nonstick skillet over medium heat until hot.  Add onion and cook until tender and golden, 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Stir in garlic and spices and cook 30 seconds.

Add tomatoes, garbanzos and sweet potato; cover and heat to boiling over medium-high heat.  Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.

Stir in zucchini and peas, cover and cook until vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare couscous according to package directions.

Serve stew over couscous.

Good with warm naan or pita bread and a salad.

Around the World #6: Tunisia, Shakshuka and Salad

Tunisia

House on the Mediterranean (photo credit:  Valerie Montes)

The smallest country in North Africa, Tunisia is bordered by Algeria, Libya and the Mediterranean Sea.  Tunisian culture is mixed due to a long established history of conquerors such as Phoenicians, Romans, Vandals, Byzantines, Arabs, Turks, Spaniards, and the French who all left their mark on the country.  In January, 2011, Tunisia made headlines around the world when a campaign of civil resistance led to the removal of longtime President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and eventually to protests throughout the Middle East known as the Arab Spring.

This post is dedicated to my eldest daughter, a courageous world traveler who spent some time in Tunisia and came to love its beauty, food and blend of French, Berber and Arab culture.  Her stories have made me want to visit this little-known place so full of natural beauty and history.

Tunisian Market

Tunisian Market (photo credit:  Valerie Montes)

Shakshuka is a flavorful egg dish that can be served for breakfast, lunch or dinner.  Perfect meal with a salad and bread.  I accompanied this with a cheap and cheerful German Gewürztraminer – the fruity sweetness of the wine was a nice contrast to the spicy salad.

Shakshuka

¼ teaspoon cumin seeds
1 tablespoon olive oil or vegetable oil
1/2 onion peeled and chopped

1 clove garlic, pressed
1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped

1 yellow bell peppers, seeded and chopped
2 tsp brown sugar
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon fresh thyme, minced
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, minced
2 tablespoons fresh coriander, minced
3 ripe roma tomatoes, roughly chopped
¼ teaspoon saffron strands (optional)
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper
¾  cup water
4 eggs

2 green onions, sliced

In a skillet, dry-roast the cumin on medium-high heat for about two minutes, until fragrant and golden brown.  Add the oil and sauté the onions for two minutes.  Add the garlic, peppers, sugar, bay leaf, thyme, parsley and coriander, and cook on medium-high heat until vegetables are tender. Add the tomatoes, saffron, cayenne, salt and pepper. Cook on low heat for 15 minutes, adding just enough water to keep it the consistency of a pasta sauce.  Taste and adjust the seasoning.  You can prepare the sauce in advance.

Make 4 wells in the tomato mixture and break one egg into each well.  Cover the skillet and cook gently for about 8 minutes, until the eggs are set.  Top with green onion and serve with pita bread or French baguette.

Tunisian Shakshuka

Tunisian Salad
3 large roma tomatoes, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped

1 yellow bell pepper, choppedPeppers and Tomatoes
2 small serrano peppers
1/2 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, pressed
3 eggs, hard-boiled and quartered lengthwise
1/8 teaspoon ground coriander

1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 small can light chunk tuna or albacore, drained
10 olives (black or green)
Romaine lettuce leaves

Place eggs in cold water in a saucepan, bring to a boil, turn down heat and simmer for 10 minutes.  Drain hot water and fill with ice water.  Peel and quarter hard-boiled eggs.

Preheat oven broiler and place serrano peppers on a broiler pan.  Broil peppers for 4 minutes, turn over and broil another 4 minutes until skin is charred.  When cool, peel charred skin off carefully. ( **Use latex gloves or similar when handling peppers, if possible and be sure not to touch your eyes).  Once peeled, cut in half lengthwise, remove seeds with a knife or small spoon, and chop peppers finely.
In medium bowl, combine tomatoes, bell peppers, roasted serrano peppers, onion and garlic.  Sprinkle lightly with salt and allow to sit for 15 minutes.   In a small bowl, mix coriander, red pepper flakes, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper.  Pour over vegetables and toss.  Chill for 30 minutes.  On a serving platter, arrange romaine lettuce leaves.  Mound vegetable mixture on the leaves, then top with tuna chunks.  Arrange eggs and olives around edges.  Drizzle with additional olive oil and sprinkle with paprika if desired.  Serve with a French baguette or loaf of sourdough bread.  Serves 3 – 4.

Tunisian Salad

Tunisian Salad

Around the World #5: Chocolate con Churros in Spain

Photo Credit: Leslie Montes
Inviting fruteria on a rainy night in Madrid

It’s Thanksgiving, and I think of two of my daughters who are far away:  one in Cairo and the other in Madrid.  Although I can’t travel to Spain, I will imagine the busy streets of Madrid and take you there with a couple of recipes to make a typical Spanish breakfast.  There’s so much I could write about Spanish food, with all of its flavor and regional variety but I’ll keep it simple!

When visiting Madrid, a traditional way to start the day is to stop by a local cafeteria for chocolate con churros.  This breakfast treat is inexpensive and delicious, but not exactly a dieter’s delight!  The hot chocolate is thick, almost like pudding, and churros are sticks of fried dough meant to be dipped in the chocolate.  Churros can be sprinkled with powdered sugar or cinnamon sugar (Mexican style) and come in 2 sizes:  thick (porras) or thin (churros).  Places like Chocolatería San Ginés in Madrid’s center are popular and open all night long if you’re on Spanish time and prefer late night to early morning.

Photo Credit: Leslie Montes

Spanish Chocolate

Mixing the Chocolate

3 tablespoons cocoa powder (preferably Dutch or dark cocoa)

1/4 cup sugar

2 tablespoons corn starch

1/2 cup water

2 cups milk

1/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate (chopped bar or chocolate chips)

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Mix cocoa powder, sugar and corn starch together in a saucepan.  Slowly add water until mixed thoroughly.  Place on a burner, turn heat to medium high and bring to a boil, whisking constantly.  Watch very carefully as the mixture will become very thick and come to a boil quickly.  Take off the heat and whisk milk in slowly until well blended.

Turn down heat to medium and return to the burner.  Do not bring to a boil again – just heat.  Whisk in semisweet chocolate until thick and smooth.  Turn off heat and stir in vanilla.  Chocolate will be thick – almost like pudding.  If too thick, add a little milk until it’s the consistency you like.

Dough goes into the churro press

Churros

1 cup flour

1 cup water

1 tablespoon canola or vegetable oil

1 teaspoon salt

(oil for frying)

Powdered sugar or cinnamon sugar

Mix water, salt and oil.  Heat t0 a boil and add flour all at once, stirring quickly with a wooden spoon until a soft dough is formed.  Let cool.  When cold, spoon into a pastry bag, cookie press or churro press fitted with a star tip.  Heat oil in a deep fryer or heavy pan.

Press churro dough into long strips into the hot oil and fry.  You may need to cut with a knife or kitchen shears.  Fry until golden brown and remove to a plate lined with paper towels.  Once slightly cooled, arrange on a serving plate and sprinkle lightly with powdered sugar or cinnamon sugar.

Serve warm with Spanish hot chocolate.

Around the World #4: To England with Bangers and Mash

Scarsdale Tavern – Edwardes Square, London

This one is dedicated to my youngest daughter – born in London and an Anglophile through and through.

Bangers and Mash is a traditional English dish (aka sausage and mashed potatoes).  It can be served with onion gravy and I topped with fried onions.  You’ll find bangers and mash on pub menus and it’s a simple and hearty meal.  According to legend, the term “bangers” came about during WWII, when sausages were made with water and were likely to explode if not cooked carefully.  Today’s upscale chefs often create exotic variations on this simple fare, but my version is pretty plain jane.  I did use a vegetarian Tofurkey sausage in addition to fresh Italian sausages from Whole Foods and admit that my first impression of the veggie version is “just ok.”  Maybe I’ll get used to them.

Here’s to pub grub for autumn weather!

 

Bangers and Mash

Sausages:

2 teaspoons olive oil

1/2 sweet onion, thinly sliced

4 Italian Sausages (or vegetarian sausages)

Beer (if desired – I used Guiness)

Ingredients

Mash:

4 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks

1/4 sweet onion, diced

2-4 tablespoons half and half

1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese

1 tablespoon butter or margarine

2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley

Dash of salt

In a saute pan, heat olive oil on medium heat.  Add sliced onion and brown slowly for about 5 minutes.  Move to the side of the pan to continue cooking.  Add sausage and brown on all sides, turning at regular intervals.  Add beer to cover bottom of pan, turn down heat and simmer for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring salted water to a boil for potatoes.  Add potato cubes and diced onions, turn heat down and simmer for 20 minutes.  When cooked through (you can test with a fork), drain and put into a large mixing bowl.  Add half and half, cheese and butter and mash potatoes until smooth (a staff mixer works well, or use a potato masher).  Add parsley and mix well.

 

Serve mashed potatoes and sausages on a plate and top with onions and some sauce from the sausage pan if desired.  Bangers and mash are also good with coleslaw on the side.

 

Around the World #3: South Korea and Dolsot Bibimbap

This week’s dish is dedicated to two special family members:  my sister Lori, who was born in South Korea, and my cousin Jake, who will compete in Alpine Skiing at the 2013 World Winter Special Olympics in South Korea!

Dolsot Bibimbap is a Korean dish consisting of steamed rice, vegetables and meat (bibimbap) and served in a hot stone bowl or pot (dolsot).  We have eaten at a nice place called Seoul House, where the bowls are heated over a fire and the hot stone coated with oil gives the rice a sizzling, crispy bottom.   This is a vegetarian version, but I’ve also tried the dish with barbeque beef (bulgogi) and enjoyed it.  I don’t have a Korean “dolsot“, so I used a small cast iron skillet instead.

Dolsot Bibimbap takes some prep work, but if you can enlist a volunteer or two, it’s fun and well worth the effort!

Vegetarian Dolsot Bibimbap

serves 3-4

Dolsot Bibimbap ingredients

 3-4 cups cooked rice (jasmine is great)

1 baby cucumber, cut into matchsticks

Salt

8 oz. firm tofu

Soy sauce

Toasted sesame oil

1 carrot, or several baby carrots, peeled and cut into matchsticks

1 cup bean sprouts

3-4 cups baby spinach (fresh)

Toasted sesame seeds

Small sheet Nori seaweed, cut into thin strips (I use kitchen shears)

1 egg

Korean barbeque sauce

Sprinkle cucumber with salt, leave to drain in a colander while you prepare the remaining ingredients.  Gently squeeze to remove excess water and set aside.

Rinse and drain tofu and cut into 1/2″ slices.  Place some paper towel on a plate, arrange tofu slices, top with more paper towel and another plate, and place a skillet on top to press the tofu.  After about 15 minutes, heat 1 tablespoon of sesame oil in a skillet.  Sprinkle tofu lightly with some soy sauce and then fry the tofu, turning once, until golden.  Remove from pan, let cool and cut into thick strips.

While cucumber and tofu are draining, heat 1 tablespoon of oil in skillet.  Add matchstick carrots and stir fry until tender-crisp.  Remove from pan and set aside.

Bring about 2 cups of water to boil in a pot.  Add salt and blanch sprouts briefly, just until slightly wilted.  Remove sprouts with a slotted spoon (reserving hot water) and plunge into ice water to stop cooking.  Squeeze out excess water and set aside.

Bring water to a boil again and slightly blanch fresh spinach until slightly wilted and still bright green.  Plunge into ice water, drain and squeeze gently. to remove excess water and set aside.

Now that everything is ready, it’s time to assemble the masterpiece.  Place a small cast iron skillet over medium high heat.  When hot, add 1 tablespoon sesame oil and swirl or use a paper towel to coat surface.  Add cooked rice and pack gently.  The rice will sizzle in the oil.  Arrange vegetables in sections on top of the rice.  Cook egg over easy in a separate skillet.  Place on top of vegetables and top with seaweed strips and a sprinkling of toasted sesame.  Cook for an additional 4-5 minutes until heated through.  Serve directly in skillet placed on a trivet on the table.  Each serving can be topped with a little Korean barbeque sauce (or a lot, if you like it hot!) and mixed into the rice and vegetables.

Enjoy this beautiful and healthy dish!

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