Plov

plov.jpg

When in doubt, add more garlic!

Plov is a popular Russian rice dish that came to Russia via central Asia. Everyone makes it differently. For example, some time after we came to SoCal, my mom had an idea to use cayenne instead of black pepper, which I’m pretty sure is a non-standard, but, in my opinion, awesome change.

Before we start, I have a few quick ingredient explanations and advice on substitutions. Firstly, if you don’t like chicken organ meat, the best alternative would be lamb. Secondly, barberries are a small, sweet and tart red berry, but they are kind of hard to find in the US. If you can’t find them, I think a good substitute would be pomegranate seeds or cranberries (but in a smaller quantity). Finally, although I like to cook for family, I don’t consider myself a chef, so please don’t take the numbers below too seriously– do experiment with the amount of spices to your taste (I usually put even more garlic and cayenne). Enjoy!

Plov

  • 2/3 lbs (300 grams) chicken hearts and/or gizzards (or other meat)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 cups (200 grams) white rice
  • 6-8 cups (1.5-1.8 liters) water (approximately)
  • 1/2 tablespoon (7 grams) whole coriander (or ground)
  • 1/2 tablespoon (7 grams) whole cumin (or ground)
  • 1/2 tablespoon (7 grams) red pepper flakes (or ground cayenne)
  • 2 tablespoons (30 grams) dried barberries (or other fruit)
  • 1 small onion
  • 1 medium carrot
  • 1/2 head of garlic, peeled (yes, half an entire head, at least)
  • vegetable oil for frying
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Dried barberries. Yum!

Wash the gizzards thoroughly, and clean off any fatty/tough bits off of the hearts. (They don’t always do a good job of it at the store.) In a pot, brown the meat with a little bit of oil. Cover with 6 cups of water, add the bay leaf, and bring to a boil. Then turn to medium, and cook until tender (around 30 minutes if using chicken hearts/gizzards).

In the meantime, dice the onion and shred the carrot (e.g. on a cheese grater). Heat up some vegetable oil in a pan. If using whole coriander/cumin, roast them in the pan for a few seconds before adding the onion. Cook the onion until soft (around a minute) before adding the carrots. Cook for another two minutes.

Once the meat is tender, put two cups of white rice directly into the water. Add more water if too much has boiled out; it should be approximately 2:1 ratio of water to rice. Add the onion/carrot mixture to the water. Add the red pepper flakes/cayenne to the water. If using ground coriander and cumin rather than whole, add that to the water now now too. Mix it all together, and cook on medium until the rice is almost ready (around 18 minutes).

In the last few minutes, stick the whole cloves of garlic deep into the rice at regular intervals. Make sure they are well covered by the hot rice. Let stand until the garlic is soft (around 3 minutes). Then mix in the barberries (or other fruit), making sure they are evenly distributed as well. Serve hot.

Carrot Top Quiche

quiche

Quiches are just a cross between omelettes and pies.

One of the perks of living in Portland is the amazing year round farmer’s markets, boasting seasonal produce from local sources. Buying produce at the market has caused me to cook seasonally, which has  expanded my horizons in terms of ingredients, but carrots are one of the few veggies available almost all year round and are one of my favorite staples. At the farmer’s market, carrots are sold with their tops. The tops go great in recipes calling for parsley, such as in herb pesto, or cooked in place of spinach. Today, I decided to use them in a quiche with a white wine dough. It was a good way to use up the rest of my carrot tops from last week’s market.

By the way, when I buy carrots with carrot tops, I usually cut all the tops off and store them separately in a plastic bag in the fridge, otherwise they seem to suck the life out of the carrot roots, and make them go floppy.

If you can’t get carrot tops, don’t worry. You can replace them with another leafy green like spinach, or just omit them altogether. A quiche is just a savory pie with egg filling — you can actually put in anything you like!

For the dough:

1 3/4 cup flour
2-3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 teaspoon salt

Put all ingredients into a bowl. Mix to make a dough ball (using a spoon at first and then your hands). If the dough ball seems too shaggy, add a little bit more olive oil until you can get it to stick together. Roll the dough ball out to the size of your pie dish and gently transfer it to the dish.

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Cooking seasonally: putting basil in everything all summer long.

For the filling: 

around 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 medium sized onion
1/2 bunch carrot tops
1 medium sized tomato
a handful of fresh basil leaves
1 cup shredded cheese (any kind you like)
4 large eggs
2 cups milk
a pinch of salt

Roughly chop up one medium onion and about the same amount of carrot tops. Heat up a pan with the vegetable oil, and throw in the onions. Cook until they start to brown (around 15 mins), and add the carrot tops. Cook another 10 minutes. Also chop up one medium sized tomato and tear up a handful of basil leaves.

Finally, whisk together 4 large eggs, 2 cups milk and 1/2 cups of the cheese.

Assembly and cooking:

Throw the onions, carrot tops, tomatoes, and basil into the quiche and spread them all out. Cover with the egg mixture, then top with the remaining 1/2 cup cheese. Cook on 400 degrees F for around 30 minutes or until the quiche is set and slightly golden. Let cool a little and enjoy! (Be careful cutting into it at first since it will be molten.)

Pistachio-Lavender Shortbread Cookies

Since I’ve moved to Portland, Ken’s Artisan Bakery has become one of my go-to places for lunch, bread, and sweets. They have these amazing hazelnut shortbread cookies that I kept buying, so one day I decided to try my own shortbread, and I am pretty proud with the result. These cookies have a bit less sugar than usual since I prefer my sweets less sweet. Even though they are crumbly (from the old meaning of the word “short”), the pistachios actually make them feel creamier as well, and the lavender gives a fresh fragrance. I’ve made these a few different times now, so I will add some hints as I go on how to get them just right.

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Pretend this picture includes a bag of flour, sugar, and cornstarch too.

  • 16 T butter (2 sticks)
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 and 3/4 cups flour
  • 1 cup cornstarch
  • 1 cup shelled roasted pistachios (unsalted is better)
  • 1-2 T lavender flowers, to taste

First, throw 1 cup of pistachios and 1 to 2 tablespoons lavender flowers into a food processor and whirl them around until the pistachios are finely chopped up. In a bowl, combine 3/4 cup sugar and 2 sticks of butter and mix using either a pastry knife or your hands. Then throw in the 1 and 3/4 cups flour, 1 cup cornstarch, and the pistachio mixture.

Nice and chopped.

Nice and chopped.

Mix together until you get a dough ball. I usually just use my hands for this. It might be a little crumbly, but you should still be able to form it into a dough ball (it shouldn’t be a smooth paste). Depending on the creaminess of your butter and/or if you are working at a higher elevation, you may need to add a little bit of extra flour to get the right consistency.

Now tear the dough ball into two evenly sized pieces. Lightly flour a surface and roll the pieces into logs. Wrap with cling wrap, and put in the fridge until it firms up. This should take around 30 to 60 minutes, but you can also leave it in there overnight if you’ve got other stuff to do. On the other hand, if it still seems a little soft after 30 minutes, it’s possible that you actually don’t have enough flour in the mixture. This is ok, the cookies will still taste delicious, they might just be a little extra buttery.

A slightly crumbly dough ball.

A slightly crumbly dough ball.

If you have a cookie cutter that you want to use, you can also throw them in the fridge just as a ball and roll them out after chilling. I think the logs are easier though. When ready, take the logs out of the fridge, and use a knife to cut them into 1/2 inch (1 cm) thick slices. Place the slices on an un-greased baking dish, and bake  at 325 degrees for around 20 minutes, or until the edges start to turn a little golden. If the edges are getting dark or turning brown, it means they are starting to burn, and I would take them out. Don’t panic, they still taste good even if they are a little darker brown.

After taking them out, transfer to a cooking rack (or a plate) and let cool. When taking them off the cookie sheet, they will be a little crumbly, but if they seem to completely come apart and crumble into pieces, this likely means you didn’t cook them for quite long enough. I would throw them back in the oven for another 5-10 minutes, but watch them very carefully for over-browning on the edges.

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Thick, crumbly, creamy.

That’s it! The final product should look a little bit like this. Store in a paper bag outside of the fridge for up to a week. I like serving them with tea or ice cream, or just on their own!

Fried-Egg Soup

Today I made “Fried Egg Soup” from A Platter of Figs by David Tanis. I’ll let you in on a secret… this is probably the third soup I have ever attempted to make. I love eating soup when I go out, but somehow, homemade soup (at least homemade by me) doesn’t quite appeal to me; however, I think this recipe has completely changed my position on the matter. It was so amazing, and so easy too!

I made a few very slight alterations to the recipe. Most notably, I quartered the original recipe since I was only cooking for myself today. Even quartering it made enough broth for me to have dinner tonight, breakfast tomorrow, and to freeze some broth for later. Maybe I don’t eat very much.

Below is the recipe as I made it, although I highly recommend you take a look at Mr. Tanis’ book for both the original recipe, and for other amazing recipes and techniques!

Fried Egg Soup with a round of toasted baguette, and white ginger-pear tea from Tea Forté.

Fried Egg Soup with a round of toasted baguette, and white ginger-pear tea from Tea Forté.

This soup starts out with the light broth:

1.5 pounds raw chicken wings
1/2 onion, diced
1 carrot, diced
1/2 leak, slivered
1 thyme branch
1 bay leaf
cooking oil (I used canola)

Warm up a large saucepan to medium heat. Put a little bit of cooking oil into the saucepan, and then toss in the onions. Cook uncovered until they are see-through (about 2 minutes). Put in the chicken wings and let them cook until they are no longer pink (I think it took me about 15-20 minutes). Pour in 6 cups of cold water, throw in the carrot, leek, thyme, and bay leaf. Optionally, add some peppercorns. (If all that stuff doesn’t fit into your saucepan, just transfer the onions and chicken to a big pot and use that– I don’t happen to have a big pot right at the moment, and the saucepan was big enough.) Bring to a brief boil, then turn down to simmer. Simmer for 40 minutes.

Instead of straining and skimming the broth, I decided to leave it as-is for my soup. I don’t mind avoiding chicken and leeks to ladle my broth, and I like the extra flavor from the carrots and onions directly in my soup.

The next part is adding the aromatics:

2 cloves of garlic, sliced
1/2 inch ginger, finely chopped
1 cup of baby bok choy leaves, slivered (or use adult bok choy or spinach)
salt

Add garlic to your soup and simmer for five minutes. Then add ginger and simmer for five more minutes. Add salt to taste. Just before serving, add the slivered baby bok choy leaves. They will take a minute or two to wilt.

Next comes the fried egg:

1 fresh egg per bowl of soup
salt to taste
cayenne (or black pepper) to taste

When you put the garlic into your soup, while you’re waiting, begin frying an egg sunny-side up, leaving it mostly runny. Season it with salt and cayenne pepper to taste (or black pepper if you prefer). This is also the time to drizzle some baguette slices with olive oil and give them a good toast, as well as to start steeping some tea. A white tea will go well with this recipe.

He likes food even more than I do!

This guy likes food even more than I do!

Place the fried egg into a shallow bowl. Ladle over the soup broth, making sure to pick up some of those carrots and bok choy leaves. Garnish with sliced green onions and serve immediately!

By the way, once the food was ready, I pulled my chair out onto the balcony, and ate it in the afternoon sunlight. Here is the view from my balcony.

Spicy Carrot-Egg Salad (no mayo)

I’ve never been a big fan of egg salad, mainly because of the mayo. So a few days ago, I decided to devise an easy egg salad recipe to destroy all other egg salad recipes! I find that the cooked carrots in this recipe blend well with the egg, while adding a little extra colour and texture to the salad. As usual, my measurements in this recipe are rough estimates, so please feel free to experiment and fine-tune it to your own tastes.

Great in sandwiches, on rye toast, or on its own!

6 eggs
1 large carrot
2-3 cloves garlic, grated or finely minced
1 sprig of green onions, chopped
1 teaspoon spicy mustard (Dijon, Chinese hot mustard, or similar)
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
a pinch of salt

Hard boil the eggs, peel, and chop them up into rough chunks. Boil the carrot until it is semi-soft, and chop it up into rough chunks. (You can boil the eggs and the carrot in the same pot.)

Mix the rest of the ingredients in a small mixing bowl using a fork to make a dressing. Feel free to adjust the levels of spice in the dressing to taste. When adjusting the spice levels, keep in mind that you don’t want to overpower the flavour of the carrots and eggs. Mix everything together in a bowl and serve on sandwiches, rye toast, or as a side to a main dish, garnished with a sprig of parsley.

If you are not a fan of egg yolks, this salad can also be made with egg-whites only. Carrots can be substituted with celery (or perhaps used as an addition to celery).

Enjoy, and let me know how yours turns out!

Two-bite Breakfast

*Takes four or five bites to consume

Perfect for breakfasts on the go, or work lunches.

Today I tried a new breakfast recipe, the Two-bite Breakfast, and just wanted to share my success! These delicious bites of heart-attack are made with cheesy toast on the bottom, bacon strips wrapped around, and one wholesome egg in the middle.

To head in a slightly more healthwardly direction, I recommend low-fat, low sodium bacon (which I prefer anyway) and whole wheat bread. You can also scramble the eggs and add in some veggies for an omelette breakfast cup. The variations possible for this recipe are limitless.

To avoid wasting bread, use one slice per one cup and make bunny-in-a-holes the next day, or cut two holes out of each slice and use the bread scraps for bread pudding.

Since this was my first try at the recipe, I only made a few slight tweaks:

First of all, I didn’t bother separating the egg yolk from any of the egg white, because I like the egg whites as much as the yolks. As a result, my Two-bite breakfast was more like four or five bites.

Second of all, I let the eggs bake for a little bit longer, until the yolk was almost completely hard. This is, of course, a matter of preference. However, having a harder yolk also allows for easier transportation, and these little cups of heaven are just perfect for breakfast on the go, or lunches at work.

Finally, I had four rows of three breakfast cups, so I put four different herbs on top: oregano, tarragon, paprika, and none. I have to say that the tarragon probably tasted the best, with paprika coming in close second. I also used three different cheese combinations along the three rows. The result was that each breakfast cup was unique. =)

The credit for this recipe goes to Meseidy over at Nosherry, and a big thanks to her for posting it online! Mine don’t look as good as the picture on that post, but I think they were just as tasty.

Green Olive Swai

Green Olive Swai

Sounds fancier than it is.

For dinner tonight I made green olive swai in a white wine sauce. (It sounds fancier than it is.) The recipe is down below.

Disclaimer: This dish, like most of my dishes, was just thrown together from whatever I had lying around.  This is all out of my head– I usually eyeball my ingredients. I also like “some fish with my toppings,” (i.e. loads of toppings), so you might want to hold back on them a bit.

 

Green-Olive Swai

  • 2 swai fillets
  • 4-6 green olives, diced (use less olives if you like a stronger fish than toppings flavor)
  • 1 clove of garlic, diced (optional)
  • 1tsp dried tarragon
  • 1/2 tsp fennel seed
  • 1/2 tsp capers
  • 1 cup white wine
  • pinch of salt (optional)

Grease a pan with cooking oil (or Pam). Optionally sprinkle some salt over the pan. Place swai fillets on the pan. Sprinkle the swai with the tarragon, fennel seed, capers, diced green onions, and optionally diced garlic. Bake in the oven at 365 degrees for about 10 minutes. Pour the wine over the fish, and bake for another 15 minutes (this is for frozen fillets) or until the fish is white and tender.

In the last 3-5 minutes of baking, I placed a few apple slices with the fish as it was finishing up. Usually I use pears or plums, but all I had this time was apples. For sides to the meal I had a fresh salad and a pasta cheese casserole.