Showing posts with label oregano. Show all posts
Showing posts with label oregano. Show all posts

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Meatzza for #ForeverNigella

I was browsing through the internet the other day, as you do, (Tell me it's not just me!) and I came across a blog hop devoted to Nigella Lawson and food your family would love.  The original organizer of the blog hop is Sarah at Maison Cupcake, but the host this month is Sally from Recipe Junkie and the Attack of the Custard Creams.  I could appreciate Sally’s attachment to Nigella and baking.  She went through a challenging time when her child was quite ill a few years ago and baking from Nigella's How to Become a Domestic Goddess gave her structure and something she could control.  While my feeling-out-of-control issues are not on par with hers, with all our moving about, I could definitely relate.  If my kitchen is in working order, I am in a safe, familiar place.

I decided to join the blog hop by making a Nigella recipe from her latest book, Nigellissima.  Whenever we have pizza, my motto is always the more meat, the better.  And the thinner the crust, the better.  This recipe goes one step further on both counts.  No crust at all and it’s basically all meat.  I added cooked lentils because 1. I like them, 2. I knew they would taste good and 3. they would make me feel better about eating what is basically a big hamburger patty with tomatoes and cheese.  This is comfort food for sure.  If you are trying to restrict carbs in your diet, this is the perfect pizza, or rather, meatzza for you.

1 lb 2 oz or 500g ground or minced beef
3/4 cup or 100g cooked lentils
3/4 oz or about 20g Parmesan
Small handful fresh parsley
2 eggs
2 cloves garlic
Sea salt
Black pepper to taste
Olive oil
1 can 14 oz or 400g chopped tomatoes
1 teaspoon dried oregano
Crushed red pepper - optional
1 ball mozzarella – about 4 1/2 oz or 125g – plain or with basil
1 small bunch fresh basil – for garnish

Preheat your oven to 425°F or 220°C.

Chop your parsley and pour your canned tomatoes into a sieve to drain.  (Save the juice for soup or another dish.)

Put your ground beef, lentils, parsley and eggs in a large mixing bowl.  Grate in the Parmesan and one of the cloves of garlic and add a good sprinkle of salt and pepper.  Stir until just mixed through.

Oil a shallow, round baking tin.  For a thinner crust, choose a wider baking pan.  Mine was only about 8 in or 21cm so this was definitely a deep pan meatzz.  Press the meat mixture evenly into the bottom of the pan.

In another bowl, put your well-drained tomatoes, a little sprinkle of salt and the oregano.  Grate in the second clove of garlic and give it a good drizzle of olive oil.  Mix well.

Spread the seasoned tomatoes onto your meat and then sprinkle with some crushed red pepper, if using.

Slice the mozzarella and arrange the slices on top of the tomatoes.

Bake for 25-35 minutes, depending on the thickness of your meat layer.  I was a little bit concerned initially because the meat juices came up and around the tomatoes and cheese, which was not attractive.  But at the end of the cooking time, the top was browned and it was all good.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly.  Decorate with the basil and cut in wedges to serve.  I served a good wedge along side a salad of arugula or rocket with a simple vinaigrette to complete the meal.

Nigella’s recipe says it serves four to six people but even with a side salad and my addition of the lentils, I don’t think you could stretch this to feed more than four.   It was delicious though and I would definitely make it again.


And again, check out the other #ForeverNigella favorites in the blog hop right here.

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Thursday, August 9, 2012

Soupe au Pistou #CookforJulia

Julia Child’s first television show was aired in February 1963, just 19 days after yours truly made my world debut.  And yet, this woman has influenced me in tangible ways.  First off, I have learned that fear of failure has no place in the kitchen.  As Julia said, “In cooking you've got to have a what-the-hell attitude.”  Even as medical professionals were saying to avoid butter and eat lower fat margarine, I held to Julia’s belief that butter was not evil.  (And we were vindicated!)  “Everything in moderation, including moderation.”  I have learned to enjoy a glass of wine while cooking, at least on weekends.  I have learned to wing it, as if cameras were rolling, if something doesn’t go the way it should while cooking.  I have learned that we learn best by doing.  A quote from the famous fallen potato pancake episode:  “The only way you learn to flip things is just to flip them!”  Also, "every woman should have a blowtorch."  I agree, Julia, and I do!  I have learned that a cook should never deprecate her own food.  Accept compliments graciously.  And most importantly, share.  Share food, share skills, share recipes.  Thank you, Julia Child, for doing just that.  We have been blessed by your generosity.  Long may your legacy continue!

In honor of Julia’s 100th birthday, folks worldwide are cooking her recipes and PBS, where you can still see her shows, is celebrating one of its biggest stars.  Head over to their site and check out the recipes and cook one in honor of a great lady. 

I’ve chosen a recipe from Julia’s first and most famous book, Mastering the Art of French Cooking (mine is the 1971 edition) - a lovely summery vegetable soup finished with a sharp garlic tomato pistou that I believe honors her love of fresh produce cooked into the ultimate comfort food.   Who doesn’t feel better after a bowl of soup?

For the soup:
Good drizzle olive oil for sautéing vegetables
6 oz or 170g onions
7 oz or 200g carrots
10 oz or 280g potatoes
1 tablespoon salt (I used 1 tablespoon vegetable stock powder and 1 teaspoon of fine sea salt.)
7 oz or 200g fresh green beans
14 oz or 400g can cannellini beans
1 oz or 30g spaghetti or vermicelli.  (I used tagliatelle.  Because that’s what I had.)
1 slice stale white bread
A few good grinds of fresh black pepper
Pinch of saffron

For the pistou:
4 cloves garlic
4 tablespoons tomato paste
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil or 1 1/2 tablespoons dried basil (I actually used 1 tablespoon dried oregano.  Can’t seem to find fresh basil this time of year in Egypt and because I love the fresh stuff, I’ve never bought dried basil.)
1 oz or 30g Parmesan cheese plus more for serving, if desired
1/4 cup or 60ml fruity olive oil

Peel your onions and dice them finely.  Drizzle a little olive oil in pot big enough to hold at least 5-quarts or 4.75 liters.  Put your onions in to sweat over a low heat while you peel and chop your carrots and potatoes.

Peel the carrots and cut them into small squares.  Pop them in the pot with the onions and give it a good stir.  Give the pot another drizzle of olive oil, if it looks dry. 

Peel the potatoes and cut them into small squares.  Add them to the onion pot and stir briefly.

Add in three quarts or just under three liters of water.  Season with the salt or the stock powder and salt, if desired.  Cook over a medium heat for 30-40 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the pistou.  Put your tomato paste into a mortar with your fresh or dried herb and four cloves of garlic.  Bash it about gently until the garlic is no longer visible.

Grate your Parmesan and add it to the mortar.  Mix thoroughly. 

Add enough olive oil to loosen it up a bit – about 1/4 cup or 60ml.   Set this aside.

Top and tail your green beans and cut them into short lengths.  Crush your pasta of choice into small pieces as well.

Crumble your stale bread slice or cut it into tiny pieces with a serrated knife and rinse your cannellini beans and leave in the colander to drain.  (Sorry - forgot to take a photo of the bread!)

When you are about 20 minutes from serving, add the green beans, cannellini beans and pasta to the pot.   Give it a good stir and let it cook for a few minutes.

Add the bread and stir.  Cook for about 15 minutes.  The bread will disintegrate and thicken the broth deliciously.  If it is too thick for your taste, add a little more water. 

Season with black pepper and the pinch of saffron.

Remove some of the broth with a ladle or measuring cup and add it into the tomato pistou.   Stir to loosen. 

Some green beans slipped in.  Not a big deal.  Just try to mix without mashing them. 

Reserve two or three teaspoons of pistou (for garnish when serving) and stir the rest of it into the soup.  Taste for seasoning and add more salt, if necessary.  The Parmesan may have added enough, but it is a good idea to check before serving.

Serve each bowl topped with a reserved 1/2 teaspoon of pistou and some extra grated Parmesan, if desired.   (At our house, extra Parmesan is compulsory.)

Enjoy!  Now give this a try or go to the PBS site and choose yourself a Julia recipe!  Or at the very least, open a bottle of wine and raise a toast.  To Julia!

You might be interested in these other Julia Child recipes I have made:

Rustic Potato Bread - because there is nothing more divine that the smell of bread baking and you can't beat this potato bread for a soft crumb and crunchy crust.  No bread pan required!

and Coq au Vin with Cornish Game Hens - Julia's classic French dish with little birds

and Cherry Clafoutis - Once again, a classic French dessert.  Cherries in a eggy batter, baked to fluffy perfection.

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Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Charred Marinated Fresh Artichokes

So, I am sitting here and it’s dark and I think it must be very late since the afternoon/evening has been long and dear husband is traveling and it’s just the hound and I.  But it’s just 7:25.  I look around at the empty room and I think I should feel lonely (and I do, a little) but I have a comfy chair and a warm home and I went out to eat with a couple of new friends today and I was introduced to a huge mall with a Marks and Spencers and a Spinneys grocery store.  The biggest Spinneys I have ever seen!  And I bought some new tights in Markey’s.  So, all in all, today has been a good day. 

My very first Spinneys was a small affair in Abu Dhabi.  Way back when (1987) our Spinneys kept the same hours as the general working public.  9 a.m. – 1 p.m. and 4 - 7 p.m., so, if you worked, you really couldn’t shop there.   Simon and the hound (three Boxers back) moved there alone while I waited in Houston for my visa.  They wanted my birth certificate, our marriage certificate, copies of passports, copies of my university degree, two leaps through a burning hoop and, finally, I had to prove that I could pirouette on toe shoes.  Needless to say, the visa took a while.  (Damn those toe shoes; my feet have never been the same.)  The dog, on the other hand, needed a health certificate and he was IN.  They moved directly into a company villa, vacated by the previous family, who had kindly left all the edible food in the cupboards.  For the first few days, the dog was fed on chocolate cake because Simon couldn’t seem to find a store that was open when he was off.  And that was my introduction to Spinneys.  (You fed my dog what?!)

Meanwhile, here in my neck of Cairo, another of my blessings is a grocery store mere walking minutes from our home.  You can’t really plan a meal ahead because you never know if they will have what you were counting on, but sometimes gifts are dropped in your lap.  Yesterday, it was fresh artichokes.  We love them but every place else we have lived, when you can find them, they are not cheap.  Here they are about 50 cents each in US money.  I call that cheap.

So I took them home and decided to marinate them myself. 

Lemon juice – fresh or bottled
5 fresh artichokes
5 cloves garlic
Olive oil
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 lemon – for fresh juice
Sea salt
Black pepper

Fill a bowl with cold water and a few good squeezes of bottled or fresh lemon juice. This will be used for dipping your artichokes while you clean them and also to pop them in once the cleaning is done.  The lemon juice is supposed to help keep them from turning brown.

Clean your artichokes by trimming the end of the stem and cutting off the top inch and a half (about 3cm) of the leaves.

Rip the outside hard leaves off until you get to the tender inside leaves.  Try nibbling on a few to see how tender they are. 

The tender leaves are pretty tasty.
Once you get to the tender ones, trim the top again if you need to.  Peel the stem and the outside of the bottom.  Dip the artichoke in the lemon water.  

Cut the artichoke in half.

Using a spoon, place it at the top of the fuzzy bit (the choke) and use a twisting motion to remove all the fuzz.  Scrape the area clean with your spoon. 

Pop the artichoke in the lemon water.

Continue until all the artichokes are cleaned.  Change the water and add more lemon juice. 

Heat a non-stick skillet until roasting hot.  Lift the artichokes out a few at a time and give them a good shake over the sink to dry them as best you can.  Put them directly into the scorching skillet. 

Let them brown, checking  every few minutes by turning them over with tongs to peek.  When they are starting to brown, drizzle them with olive oil.

Meanwhile, slice your garlic very thinly.

When the artichokes are well browned, turn them over and do the same to the other side.

Once both sides are well colored, add in about a half a cup of water and put the lid on.  Cook until the water runs out and check for tenderness with a fork.  Add more water and put the lid back on until both sides are fork tender.

Turn the heat down to medium and season with salt and pepper.  Add a goodly amount of olive oil.  The artichokes don’t have to be knee deep but they should be at least ankle deep, so to speak. 

Add in the sliced garlic.  Let it cook until softened.  Add in the thyme and oregano.  Cook a minute or two more and then squeeze in the juice of your one lemon.  Turn the heat off. 

Allow to cool and then preserve in a sterilized jar or Ziploc bag.  Top with a little more olive oil to cover.  If you are using a bag, you can add some more olive oil but also try to get all the air out.  

Marinate for several days before eating.  (Actually you could probably eat them right now but I think the flavors will develop more with at least a couple of days of marinating.)  


UPDATE: We ate half of the artichokes last night as part of a tomato with fresh mozzarella salad and they were DIVINE!  After sprinkling the sliced tomato with a little sea salt,  I drizzled a bit of the marinade on the cheese and then used some more as the dressing on the baby leaf greens.

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