Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Blogger Wanna Be

When I am not cooking or eating I am most always thinking, reading, writing or talking about food (except when I am at work, of course).  Or music.  Most likely I am focused on both.  Really guys, I am pretty simple to figure out.

Tonight while I was not cooking (but was listening to my new music boyfriend Ben Sollee) I was checking out my favorite blogs when I came across this MUST make dish.

I am comfortable in my own skin and my own adventures in the kitchen but from time to time I get a little chef envy.  A lot of time this emotion is felt when I log onto Smitten Kitchen.  It is not the amazing recipes or the skilled photography that makes me feel most inferior (she is far more superb than I can ever be but I have accepted this), it is the quantity and the quality of each post that makes me feel a little smaller on the food (making) chain.  There she is in a kitchen smaller than mine, creating cookbooks and writing and raising a small child but she still has the time to not only test out each recipe but document the whole process.  It is for this I am jealous but mostly the emotion I feel is culinary admiration. 

To honor her and her efforts I share with you the recipe that is next on my list when I finally get to the Dupont Farmers' Market on time and am actually in my kitchen and away from this computer. 

Straight from my favorite food blog and my wanna be blogger, Smitten Kitchen
Zucchini and Ricotta Galette
Crust adapted from Williams-Sonoma, filling adapted from a Cook’s Illustrated tart

I might be tempted to double the cheese filling next time I make this; it puffed beautifully in the oven but then deflated a bit. Then again, at their current levels, the zucchini and cheese balance each other nicely. There’s something to be said for not fixing what ain’t broken, right?

Since I oohed and aahed over this crust, for those that like to dissect recipes as I do, I thought I’d note that funnily enough, it’s an almost-match for my favorite pie dough, in technique as well, save two ingredients which apparently make all of the difference: 1/4 cup sour cream and 2 teaspoons of lemon juice. What this makes is an even flakier, softer pastry, the kind that leaves croissant crumbs everywhere. I know the next obvious question is “so, can I use this for a pie dough?” but I don’t advise it. It is too soft. It will get soaked and deflated under all of that heavy baked fruit. It is at its best when it is free form, just like this.

Serves 6
For the pastry:
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, chilled in the freezer for 30 minutes
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces and chill again
1/4 cup sour cream
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup ice water

1 large or 2 small zucchinis, sliced into 1/4 inch thick rounds
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon olive oil
1 medium garlic clove, minced (about 1 teaspoon)
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
1/2 cup (about 1 ounce) grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup (1 ounce) shredded mozzarella
1 tablespoon slivered basil leaves

1 egg yolk beaten with 1 teaspoon water

Make dough:
Whisk together the flour and salt in a large bowl. Sprinkle bits of butter over dough and using a pastry blender, cut it in until the mixture resembles coarse meal, with the biggest pieces of butter the size of tiny peas. In a small bowl, whisk together the sour cream, lemon juice and water and add this to the butter-flour mixture. With your fingertips or a wooden spoon, mix in the liquid until large lumps form. Pat the lumps into a ball; do not overwork the dough. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.
Make filling: Spread the zucchini out over several layers of paper towels. Sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt and let drain for 30 minutes; gently blot the tops of the zucchini dry with paper towels before using. In a small bowl, whisk the olive oil and the garlic together; set aside. In a separate bowl, mix the ricotta, Parmesan, mozzarella, and 1 teaspoon of the garlicky olive oil together and season with salt and pepper to taste.
Prepare galette: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. On a floured work surface, roll the dough out into a 12-inch round. Transfer to an ungreased baking sheet (though if you line it with parchment paper, it will be easier to transfer it to a plate later). Spread the ricotta mixture evenly over the bottom of the galette dough, leaving a 2-inch border. Shingle the zucchini attractively on top of the ricotta in concentric circles, starting at the outside edge. Drizzle the remaining tablespoon of the garlic and olive oil mixture evenly over the zucchini. Fold the border over the filling, pleating the edge to make it fit. The center will be open. Brush crust with egg yolk glaze.

Bake the galette until the cheese is puffed, the zucchini is slightly wilted and the galette is golden brown, 30 to 40 minutes. Remove from the oven, sprinkle with basil, let stand for 5 minutes, then slide the galette onto a serving plate. Cut into wedges and serve hot, warm or at room temperature.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

My Role as a Culinary Chameleon and My Never Ending Craving for Lamb

When doing an inventory of my closest friends I would say that 95% are vegetarian, 1% are vegan and the other 4% are omnivores.  I am a culinary chameleon (different from a Karma Chameleon sang by my brother, circa 1981 in a Boy George Look-Alike Contest--- yes, you read that correctly.)

Just like the little green gecko like creature, a culinary chameleon adapts to the lifestyle of those around her.  When I am with my veganites I have no problem giving up animal products.  I enjoy raw food with the best of them.  Last summer I did not eat meat for three months because of who was in my company.  I was happy.  Last night I made meatless Monday montage of sushi, white bean dip, carrots, dycon and broccoli.  Just like last summer and the three months of only veggies... I was happy.  I was fulfilled.  I craved nothing more than the vegetarian dishes that I had eaten.  Until...

An hour after my meatless Monday meal I had a chance encounter with a friend that had experience his own montage except his included quail, sausage and lamb.  The quail and possibly even the sausage I can live without but not the lamb.  Ah, lamb.  The one meat that I cannot give up no matter how fulfilled I am.

While walking home for the next 10 blocks I fantasized about a dish I used to get a small Turkish restaurant in Southern Virginia (yes, there were Turkish restaurants there they just called them "Mediterranean".)  At Arzu, they made this amazing Yogurt Kebab that I have yet to replace or recreate perfectly.  According to the chef, they marinade the lamb for days in olive oil and spices and then cook covering with rich yogurt, serving it over a bed of pita and spiced tomatoes.  I would fast for days before I ate there so I could manage to eat each piece of meat that they served me. 

I have my own version of this dish and not made it in a while.  I think the time is nearing soon.  Very soon! 

I actually marinade my lamb dish in yogurt.  Yogurt as a marinade is one of the oldest ways to tenderize meat. Here boneless lamb shoulder sits in a garlicky mixture for at least 2 hours, but preferably overnight.

Yogurt Kebab
2 pounds boneless lamb shoulder
1/2 cup plain whole milk yogurt for marinade, 1/2 cup strained or Greek Yogurt for top
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 tablespoon of oregano
Tomatoes cooked down with garlic and butter
Pita Bread

Lamb1. Cut the lamb into 1-inch cubes, discarding any fat.
2. In a large bowl combine the yogurt, garlic, salt, lemon juice, coriander, oil, cayenne pepper, and black pepper. Add the lamb and stir well. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and for as long as overnight. (I prefer over night)
3. Cook meat over broiler or on grill.  Cook the lamb until it is browned on the outside but still pink in the center.

The Bottom and TopMix the yogurt with the remaining salt and pepper and a squeeze of lemon.   
Line the plate with soft pita.  Cover pita with tomatoes reduced down with butter, garlic, oregano, salt and pepper.  Arrange the kebabs on a serving dish, pour yogurt on top and serve hot.

Best enjoyed with a rich red wine, great music and in the company of other meat lovers. 

Monday, June 21, 2010

Culinary MacGyver

Last night, amidst a salt and crunch craving, I tested my girl scout skills of the kitchen. I am embarrassed to say what I wanted was a chip--- you know, the carb filled,salt slathered, often processed version of a snack. But the healthy gal that makes smart decisions wouldn't even justify a trip to TJ's for the organic baked kind. If I wanted a salty snack I was to make do.

All I could find in my cabinets that had the characteristics of something that might partially work was seaweed. Hmmm--- what happens when you roast seaweed? Well, my friends, of you brush with a mixture of sesame oil and wasabi you get an addictive sea vegatable chip that is sure to satisfy a crispy craving.

As I contemplate what I want to be when I grow up I wonder what one said eagle scout cook can do with these resourceful skills? How do you translate this to a vita or resume? This skill, coupled with my ability to remember the lyrics of every song I have heard since circa 1978 must be of value somewhere... Right?