Monday, March 21, 2011


This menu for the last couple of weeks was all over the board, in regards to the nation of India. We covered almost every region in two weeks; from the North, South, East and West. Our menus consisted of a pineapple smoothie, vegetable samosas, Chicken korma kashmiri style, cucumber/tomato/onion Katchumber, Spinach with Curd Cheese, Red Kidney Bean Dal, Mushroom Rice, Flat Bread, Banana Erccherry, fermented lentil crepes with potato masala stuffing, shrimp curry, kerala-style lamb, cauliflower fritters, basmati rice, deep-fried puff bread, yogurt with cucumber and mint, and spiced tea.

The pineapple smoothie was very easy...just add the ingredients and blend. It included buttermilk, fresh pineapple, sugar, yogurt, and a dash of salt. We garnished the drink with chopped pistachios and lime zest. The vegetable samosas reminded me of another stuffed pastry with veggies and seasoned with lemon juice. The Kashmiri chicken was relevant to the three stage Indian cooking style. First I warmed the spices in the hot oil and added the vegetables to the gravy; I then stewed the pan seared chicken in the gravy until done.

John made the cheese for the spinach curd cheese dish and it turned out great. It was made my mixing milk and yogurt; then adding lemon juice and salt to create the curd. It was hung to dry in a cheesecloth (finally making cheese in a cheesecloth; not just tying up spices) until it was firm. careful not to overcook your spinach; finish browning the cheese before you start on the spinach.

The red kidney bean dal is a mixture of cooked kidney beans; some mashed with heavy cream, garam masala, dried chiles, lemon juice and salt. It was actually very good...kind of reminded me of Indian re fried beans. The banana erccherry is a mixture of ripe banana, coconut, mustard seeds, green chiles (jalapeno), curry leaves and then made into balls and fried golden brown. I loved these was a mixture of sweet, spicy and savory. Here are some of the photos of our work...please excuse the blurry photos; the camera didn't want to focus that day.





Monday, March 7, 2011

Wrapping up Africa

In finishing our tour of the African cuisine; I have found that use of local ingredients and the application of heat were important in practically every dish. Our menu consisted of banana and chili fritters, Congo chicken soup, lamb/pork kebabs,  yellow rice with raisins, grilled tilapia (we used hog snapper), African hot sauce (we used guajillo peppers), and Irio (a mash of potato, spinach, corn and peas).

Ryan made the banana fritters and they were awesome! They are made by mashing together bananas, onion, tomato and chilies. Add ginger, salt, flour and water to the mixture; be careful not to overwork the mixture. Deep fry the fritters (shapped into balls) and drain on paper towels. You can serve them hot, cold, as a snack or with a meal. We served the fritters with the African hot sauce. To make the hot sauce you combine chili peppers (with seeds and stems removed), green bell pepper, garlic cloves, onion, tomato paste, water, granulated sugar, and salt in a food processor. After you make the paste heat it over medium heat; simmer for about an hour, cool and serve. The sweet fritters were great with a little heat from the African hot sauce.

The Congo chicken soup is a peanut butter and chicken soup. You start by simmering the chicken in chicken stock and then shredding the meat. Saute garlic and onion in olive oil until translucent; add red pepper flakes, diced tomatoes and bring to a simmer. Combine the chicken broth used to simmer the chicken with tomato paste, peanut butter and stir till smooth. Finally combine all the ingredients and simmer until soup is thickened. We served it hot with slices of jalapenos and chopped peanuts over the top of the soup.

I made the kebabs; which featured lamb and pork along with dried apricots which were cooked in sherry. The meat was marinated in tamarind paste, garlic cloves, diced onion, white vinegar, apricot jam, granulated sugar, olive oil, garam masala, and a slurry made with red wine/ cornstarch. Make sure you soak the wood or bamboo skewers so they don't burn on the can also cover the tips with tin foil. Drain the meat from the marinade and reserve the rest...thread the lamb, apricots and pork onto the skewers grill till nice char is formed and place in the oven if possible (if no oven slow cook them on the grill to make sure the pork is not pink).

Natalia made the yellow rice with raisins and grilled hog fish. The rice is made by coiling water and dissolving the dry ingredients...turmeric, sugar, salt, butter, cinnamon stick, raisins, and lemon zest. Add the rice after the dry ingredients dissolve and reduce to a simmer; cover and simmer for about 20 minutes. Remove the cover and cook for about another 5 minutes; then fluff with a fork and remove the cinnamon stick when serving. As for the hog fish, Natalia marinated the fish in a mix of vegetable oil, onion (diced), green bell pepper (diced), fresh lemon juice, vinegar, cayenne and salt. After marinating for about an hour remove the fish from the marinade, grill, broil or saute...and serve with the African Hot Sauce. We served the fish sauteed on top of a bed of the yellow rice and a swatch of African hot sauce.

The final dish was a side dish for the kebabs and it was made by simmering diced raw (skinned) potatoes, fresh spinach, sweet peas and corn. After simmering and the potatoes are tender, drain the liquid and mash the combination. It looks like baby food and it's really good! Overall the menu had a lot of heat in it and we executed it on to India.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Northern Africa

This past week we made food inspired from the sands of the Sahara. The menu consisted of Harira (lamb and vegetable soup), fava bean salad, tagine of chicken, couscous, harissa, fish chermoula, carrots with black currants, and date cookies.

John made the lamb and vegetable soup which was complimented nicely with the fresh lemon juice. The soup is made with sauteing onion, lamb, spices, and ginger. You add clear or white stock, celery, salt, chickpeas and lentils; then bring to a simmer. Add parsley, cilantro, tomatoes, bring to a boil and add broken vermicelli. Once the pasta is done pull the soup and adjust seasoning with lemon juice. Some add a beaten egg for shine and added protein. This thick peppery soup is usually eaten traditionally after sundown during the month of Ramadan to break each day's fast. We made the fava bean salad utilizing lima beans along with onion, salt, olive oil, lemon juice, cumin, garlic, cilantro, white pepper, green onions, red radishes and black olives. If the beans are cooked it's a lot easier to make and you can combine all the ingredients. We used the olives and radishes to garnish the salad.

I made the Tagine of Chicken which is made by marinating chicken (cut into eight pieces) in garlic, olive oil, and black pepper. After the chicken has marinated; brown all the pieces in olive oil and hold. Saute spices (cumin, cinnamon, coriander, ginger, saffron) for a minute in the same olive oil and then add diced onion. Sweat the onions and add stock (2 cups) bringing to a boil. Add the chicken to the tagine and pour the sauce over the top. Place the tagine into a hot oven of 350 degrees and bake for approximately 45 minutes. The chicken was served on top of fresh couscous which I made from instant couscous and sauteed chickpeas. The sauce will stay soupy so do not be alarmed; Northern Africans cook in sauce to braise meat. A spicy sauce which we served on the side was made with a pulverized mixture of cumin seeds, chili peppers, paprika, onion, flat leaf parsley, lemon juice, olive oil and salt. The mixture is called Harissa and is a staple on tables in Northern Africa.

The fish chermoula was made by Ryan and was made by marinating a flaky fish (we used snapper). The marinade is made with cilantro, parsley, garlic, paprika, cumin, cayenne, olive oil, salt, and lemon juice. After marinating the fish you wipe some of the marinade off, dip them in all purpose flour, shake of excess and pan fry in olive oil. We garnished the plate with fried flat leaf parsley and lemon; along with the harissa of course. Ryan also made the carrots with black currants; which is made by soaking the dried black currants and reserving the liquid. Next heat butter, add cinnamon, cayenne and carrots. Add orange juice, the currants and reserved soaking liquid; cook until the carrots are tender, correct seasoning and serve family style.

Natalia made the date cookies and I could've eaten the whole sheet tray; they were really good. You start by preheating an oven to 350 degrees and start sifting 3/4 cup of all purpose flour with 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder. Combine 6 eggs, 1/3 cup sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, and 1/2 cup melted butter in a mixer. Gradually add the flour a little at a time, then nuts and dates. Mix well and pour into a square cake pan; bake 30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Serve in shapes of brownies and dust with powdered sugar. Overall a very good menu and the date cookies were my favorite.


Sunday, February 20, 2011


The week of Greek food was awesome to make...and eat. We made spanakopita (spinach rolls/pies), Greek salad, Artichokes with Egg and Lemon Sauce (Avgolemono), Bean Soup (Fasoulatha), Baked Shrimp (Garithes Sganaki), Afelia with Pourgouri Pilafi (Fried Pork with Coriander and Pilaf of cracked wheat).

The spanakopita is awesome to make but a little difficult if you work with if you have dry or old phyllo dough. I made triangles and a roll from the phyllo dough I was supplied with for the recipe. You start by wilting spinach in a pan with sauteed onion; once soft add chopped leeks, green onions and cook until all is soft. Cool the mixture and squeeze out as much moisture as possible; then combine with chopped fresh dill, chopped flat leaf parsley, nutmeg, feta cheese and one beaten egg. Season the mixture with salt and pepper and place to the side while you butter the phyllo dough. Brush lightly the top sheet of four phyllo sheets with olive oil. Flip the sheet over and brush the other side; pick up both sheets and flip over again until all are brushed with olive oil. To make the triangles cut a long strip from top to bottom of the phyllo dough; about 3 to 4 inches wide and the dough should be long from right to left when you cut the strips. Place a little of the mixture onto the bottom of the strip and fold over from right to left into a triangle; continue to fold over itself as a triangle much like a paper football. Brush the outside of the triangles with olive oil and place on a parchment paper lined pan. Bake the triangles in a preheated 350 degree Fahrenheit oven for approximately 30 minutes. I added the squeeze of half a lemon (minus the pits) to the mixture after it was combined to add another dimension.

The Greek salad is made with Romaine lettuce cut into strips (wide chiffonade) and then topped with diced tomato, red onion slices, kalamata olives, feta cheese, cucumber (skinned), green bell pepper and fresh dill. To make the dressing combine 1 tablespoon of red wine vinegar, 1 tablespoon of fresh lemon juice, 1 mashed garlic clove (garlic paste made with a dash of sea salt), fresh oregano, salt, pepper and a 1/4 cup olive oil. Whisk the ingredients together, pour over salad and toss well.

The Artichokes can turn grey on you so make sure you keep them in water at all times. Cut out the heart from the choke and cook in boiling salted water with lemon juice and olive oil until tender. To make the avgolemono sauce use half stock and half artichoke water. Add slurry to the boiling stock until thickened and bubbling; gradually pour thickened hot stock to a beaten egg until well combined (like hollandaise) and return the beaten egg mixture to the heat and cook the egg. The mixture should thicken enough to coat the back of a spoon; DO NOT BOIL. Remove from the heat, continue stirring and correct the seasoning. Serve the sauce immediately with the cooked artichokes; sprinkle with chopped dill and parsley. The bean soup is a Greek version on Minestrone; it starts with sauteing celery, carrots and onion for about 3-4 minutes. Add chopped garlic, tomatoes and tomato paste; combine white beans which are simmering in water or stock. Bring the combination to a boil and cook until soft or desired tenderness. Stir in chopped parsley, cayenne pepper and lemon juice. You can thicken the soup by crushing some of the white beans and stirring the soup.

The baked shrimp was very easy to make and was very good! Start by cleaning the shrimp of veins and shells; place them in a non-reactive container and add 2 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice. While the shrimp are marinating in the lemon juice prepare the mix-ins. Mince pepperoncini, garlic cloves, green onions, parsley, oregano and dice concasse tomato. Saute diced onion until transparent; add pepperoncini and garlic until aroma of garlic is reached. Next ass green onion and tomato cook for about 5 minutes; add white wine and bring to a bubble. Add about half of the chopped parsley and oregano to the mixture, stir and add the shrimp. Spoon the sauce over the shrimp and add crumbed feta cheese on top. Place in a preheated oven around 450 degrees or salamander; cook until cheese is soft or melted. Be careful to not overcook the shrimp. Sprinkle the finished product with remaining parsley and oregano; serve with warm crusty bread.

John made the pork and it starts by combining cubed pork with red wine, salt and 1 tablespoon of coriander seeds, cinnamon stick and fresh pepper...lots of pepper! Marinate the meat as long as possible and drain the pork; while reserving the marinade. Pat dry the pork before you move on as to not burn your arm hair. Heat oil in a pan and add pork...saute stirring frequently until browned and just cooked through. Discard most of the fat from the marinade and add remaining toasted coriander seeds along with the marinade (minus the cinnamon stick) to a pan. Reduce the mixture until about 1/4 cup and add the pork; toss to coat and serve with the pilaf. The pilaf is made by sauteing onion until transparent; stir in broken vermicelli and cook until the pasta absorbs the oil. Add stock and bring to a boil; then add the cracked wheat and bring a boil again. Simmer until all the moisture is absorbed and season to taste.

Overall the menu was great and the shrimp was a knockout hit! I loved making this menu and I hope some of you enjoy making what I described. The spanakopita is killer; but like I mentioned remember to stir in a squeeze of fresh lemon juice to the mixture before you add it to the phyllo dough.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Middle Eastern Cuisine

For two weeks in World Cuisine we made food from the Middle East (ex Ottoman Empire). Our menus consisted of: Hummus Bi Tahini: Chickpea and Sesame Dip; Fatayer Sbanikh: Triangle Spinach Pies; Tabbouleh: Cracked Wheat and Herb Salad; Khobz: Whole Wheat Flat Bread; Kukuye Mohi: Fish Omelet; Bamia: Lamb and Okra Casserole; Muaddas: Rice with Lentils; Khoshaf: Dried Fruit Compote; Qahwah: Arabic Coffee; Borani Chogondar: Beet and Yogurt Salad; Falafel: Dried Bean Croquettes; Khubz (Khoubiz): Arabic Flat Bread; Baba Ghannouj (Moutabal): Eggplant Dip; Morgh Polou: Chicken with Rice; Adas Bis Silq: Lentil and Swiss Chard Soup; Baklawa “Be'aj”: Fillo and Nut Pastries.

I had the pleasure of being involved in practically every single one of these dishes and all were great. John made two dips; hummus and baba ghannouj. The hummus is extremely easy to make and is made by combining garbanzo beans, lemon juice, tahini (sesame seed paste/butter), garlic and salt. Blend the mixture till smooth and then serve in a large bowl. Make swirls with a spoon and drizzle olive oil into the grooves made by the swirls. We dusted the dip with cayenne powder, but you can use sweet paprika as well. Baba Ghannouj is a roasted eggplant dip; and is made by first roasting an eggplant over an open flame. You then peel away the charred skin from the eggplant and then make a paste out of the skin with the tahini, lemon juice, salt, and olive oil. You then combine paste with the eggplant, parsley and garlic. Serve the dip in a bowl and top with fresh ingredients. Serve both dips with either the Khubz (Arabic Flat bread) or Khobz (Arabic wheat flat bread).

Speaking of the breads...they were different because one used yeast and the other leavened over time. The wheat flat bread was a little dry and the other flat bread was incredible. The white flat bread is made by blooming yeast; adding it to the mixture of flour; salt and milk. Proof the formed dough ball in an oiled bowl and then punching it down and forming smaller portions when proofed. You then can pan fry the dough on a lightly oiled pan until puffed and slightly brown. The wheat Khobz is made using almost the same method but the dough ball is made by using salt, water and whole wheat flour. The ball rests and made into smaller balls; then flattened and pan fried like the other bread.

Falafel and beet yogurt was great together on the Khubz with a little tahini sauce. The falafel is similar to middle eastern start by combining fava beans (or white beans), chickpeas, onion, garlic in a food processor. After the mixture is slightly chunky but smooth you combine with ground chili pepper, coriander, cumin, baking soda, salt, pepper, chopped parsley and chopped cilantro. Let the mixture rest for about half an hour and prepare the tahini sauce in the mean time. The tahini sauce is made by combining water, lemon juice, tahini paste and garlic paste (minced garlic crushed with sea salt). Shape the bean mixture with flour and make 1 1/2 inch thick patties. Fry the patties in olive oil and place on paper towel to drain; serve hot with the tahini sauce. The beet yogurt dish is made by combining roasted/boiled cubed beets with drained Greek yogurt, salt, pepper, chopped mint, and lemon juice. The yogurt is an acquired taste but the mixture together with something else is very good.

The picture you see at the top is of the lamb dish Ryan made; which is a casserole of lamb and okra. The dish is made by browning cubes of stewing lamb in clarified butter; place the meat aside and add onion until translucent. Add cumin, diced tomatoes, tomato paste and cook with the onions; add stock to deglaze the pot and return the meat to the pot. Correct seasoning and add a pinch of sugar; cover and braise in a slow oven or stove top for about an hour and a half or until meat is tender. When it is done add sauteed, stemless whole/ sliced okra. You can also top the meat with a garlic sauce called ta'leya which is made by crushing garlic with salt in a mortar to make a paste. Add the paste to hot clarified butter in a pan until golden brown; then stir in coriander and crushed hot pepper while the mixture is still very hot. Serve the lamb in the center of rice and lentils. The lentil rice is very easy to make...saute onion in some clarified butter and toast the rice in the butter and onion. Add lentils to the rice and stir...then add boiling water and sea salt; bring to a boil, reduce and cover. Fluff the rice with a fork and adjust seasoning if needed; serve with the lamb and garlic sauce.

As most of you know I am not a big fan of eggs so for me the Kukuye Mohi was not a big hit. It is a fritatta made with salted white fish which is mixed with turmeric, coriander and flour. Again not a big fan but some people liked it a lot...aside of the fish fritatta everything else was great. Especially the Chicken with rice Ryan made the following week. You start by browning chicken in samneh (clarrified butter) and set aside while you saute onions in the same butter. Add dried fruit and cook with the onions, stir in cinnamon and add water to degalze the pot/pan. Take slightly cooked rice and combine with the mixture; add chicken and bake the mixture. Just before serving add saffron liquid over rice and stir gently...served piled on a platter or in a tangine.

I made tabbouleh which is NOT made with couscous...the salad is made soaked bulgur wheat. You combine the dried bulgur (after being soaked for 30 minutes) with chopped parsley, green onion, mint, olive oil, lemon juice, salt, black pepper, and concasse tomato. The last entree was Fatayer Sbanikh or triangle spinach pies...the pies take a lot of time but are very good. They are another version of spanikopita (Greek) and the dough is made by soaking yeast in warm water for 5 minutes, combing salt and flour and then adding oil to the water yeast mixture. Make a well in the center of the flour mix and gradually add yeast mix; combing as you add the liquid. Knead the dough for 10 - 15 minutes until soft and not sticky. Cover and let the dough rise for about 1 - 1 1/2 hours or until doubled in size. The spinach mixture is chopped wilted spinach cooked in olive oil with pine nuts, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Place a spoonful of the mix into the center of the 4 inch of punched-down rolled out dough. Fold over into triangles and seal completely; place on slightly oiled baking pan and brush with olive oil. Bake at 350 degrees for about 10 to 15 minutes and serve warm.

On to dessert; the dried fruit compote is very easy to make. You start by simmering chopped dried fruit (apricots, prunes, white raisins) in water; add sugar, lemon rind, allspice, 2 cloves, and dissolve. Simmer gently until fruit is soft but not mushy and syrup is thick. Remove the rind and the cloves; chill well and serve in dessert glasses with chopped walnuts. The baklawa is awesome and is made by first whipping one egg white until peaks form. Gradually stir in 1/4 cup sugar slowly to the egg white; add coarsely chopped almonds/walnuts and a teaspoon of rose water. This mixture will be the filling for the pastry which is formed by first buttering 10 sheets of filo dough, leaving the top and bottom unbuttered. Cut the dough into squares and butter the top of the squares. Add a small amount of the filling onto each square and pinch close...bake in the oven at 350 degrees for 30 min; reduce to 300 degrees and cook for 15 minutes longer. Top with atar syrup which is made by dissolving sugar in water over high heat, add lemon juice and orange flower water, bring to a boil, remove from heat, add rose water, and cool. After topping the pastries with syrup add chopped pistachio nuts in center. Both pastries go great with the final recipe of Turkish Coffee (Qahwah); the coffee is brewed with bruised cardamom pods and served hot.

This was a great two weeks and I look forward to Turkey, Greece and Crete next...

Monday, January 24, 2011

Spanish Tapas

Hello everyone...sorry for the LONG delay. I have been so busy with the new chapter in the life. Good news I will posting a lot more with the new class; World Cuisine.

Our first week in world cuisine we made tapas from Spain. The menu consisted of: Aceitunas Verdes Rellenas de Pimiento y Anchoa: Green Olives Filled with Piquillo Peppers and Anchovy; Queso Idiazábal: Cheese with Fresh Herbs; Pan Con Tomate: Tomato Toast; Calamares Encebollados: Squid with Caramelized Onions; Garum: Black Olive, Anchovy, and Caper Spread; Croquetas de Jamón: Serrano Ham Fritters; Bacalad Al Ajo Arriero: Bacalao Hash; Tortilla de Patatas: Potato Omelet; Gambas Al Ajillo: Sizzling Garlic Shrimp.

We found that the menu could worked even better if given time to rest; for instance the cheese needed time to marinate over night with the fresh herbs. I made the Queso Idiazábal; which is cubed Idiazábal cheese marinated in extra virgin olive oil with fresh herbs (rough chopped rosemary, thyme),  crushed garlic and peppercorns. Still a very good dish but even better if marinated longer...we paired the cheese with the croquetas de Jamon and the stuffed green olives.

The stuffed green olives were stuffed with anchovy filets and piquillo peppers; then marinated in olive oil, garlic, orange zest and sherry vinegar. The croquetas were made with a bechamel combined with jamon serrano; a very traditional ham of Spain. The mixture is hardened in the fridge/freezer and then hand rolled into a traditional breading procedure. The croquetas are fried in an olive oil filled pan and served hot.

We also made an omelet of scalloped potatoes, thinly sliced onions, whipped egg, and salt. You start by thinly slicing skinned potatoes and then lightly frying/browning them in hot olive oil. Remove the potatoes and dry on paper towel while lightly frying the thinly sliced onion in the same olive oil. Combine the potatoes, onions, eggs and salt...then pour the mixture into a small amount of the remaining oil. Just like a frittata lightly fry the mixture and slide onto a plate and then flip onto the pan to finish the other side. Serve the tortilla as a whole to the table; we choose to cube the tortilla and use as a tapas.

I was not a big fan of the squid and onions; the procedure asks us to cook the squid twice for about 20 seconds and I believe it made it chewy. The tomato toast was surprisingly good but boring. We didn't have ripe tomatoes to broil in order to get the amount of juice needed for the toast; the garum spread was good and made the toast but again not appealing to the eye.
My favorite by far was the Bacalao Hash; we choose to de-salt the cod by slowly cooking in milk until it flaked with apart with a fork. The bacalao is mixed with the shaved potatoes, sauteed onions, peppers, sweet paprika, tomato sauce, wine and piquillo peppers. When the hash rests it begins to develop its flavor intensely and served with warm sliced baugettes.
Overall we had a good first class and the food was pretty good; I wish we could have done the other half of the Spanish menu but we were only able to get the first course done....tapas.

Garlic Shrimp

Monday, October 18, 2010

Start of a New Life...

So it's been a little over a week now and Vino e Olio has been great. I am loving my new surroundings and profession. In fact I have already learned so much in the last week, I have begun practicing at home. Today I made our pepper sauce, ravioli in beet root sauce, gnudi, and acquacotta. We'll find out what the family thinks, but I know one thing practice makes perfect, and that is exactly what I intend to do...

Here are some pics of the sauces I made so far; along with a few pics from the restaurant.





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