Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Lamb and Dried Fruit Kefta with White Beans and Harissa







     I posted a similar recipe a few months ago for Algerian style kefta, chickpeas and a dried paprika harissa.  I used pre-made harissa sauce from a jar to make today's recipe.  The harissa color is much brighter than a dried paprika harissa sauce version.
     Beans of any kind are commonly called hummis in most parts of the middle east and North Africa.  It does not matter if the beans are whole or mashed into a hummis paste.  Beans are also referred to by their specific names in this region.  This can put recipe translators to the test.
     White beans are known as cannellini or white kidney beans.  White beans are available in most grocery stores.  Many different brands of harissa are available at Persian and Arabic markets.  Harissa paste can thinned to a sauce consistency.  Harissa sauce is ready to be used as is.
     
     Lamb and Dried Fruit Kefta:  
     This recipe makes enough for 4 or 5 meatballs.
     Soak 1/2 cup of basmati rice in water for 1 hour.
     Rinse the rice with cold water, till the water runs off clear in color.
     Heat a sauce pot over high heat.
     Add 3/4 cup of water.
     Add the soaked rice.
     Bring the water to a boil.
     Reduce the temperature to medium low/low heat.
     Simmer the rice for 10 minutes, so the rice becomes only halfway cooked.
     Drain the water off of the rice with a fine mesh strainer.
     Cool the rice under cold running water.
     Drain the water off of the rice.
     Place the half cooked rice into a mixing bowl.
     Add about 6 ounces of ground lamb.
     Heat a saute pan over medium heat.
     Add 3 pats of unsalted butter.
     Add 2 tablespoons of minced onion.
     Add 1 tablespoon of minced celery.
     Add 4 minced garlic cloves.
     Saute till the onions begin to caramelize.
     Set the vegetables aside to cool.
     Add the sauteed vegetables to the stuffing in the mixing bowl.
     Add 5 dried apricot halves that are diced into small pieces.
     Add 1/4 cup of chopped golden raisons.
     Add 2 pinches of cinnamon.
     Add 2 pinches of cumin.
     Add 3 pinches of coriander.
     Add 1 pinch of ground cardamom.
     Add 1 pinch of cayenne pepper.
     Add 1 pinch of marjoram.
     Add 2 pinches of dried mint leaves.
     Add 1 pinch of nutmeg.
     Add 2 pinches of turmeric.
     Add 1 pinch of saffron.
     Add sea salt and black pepper.
     Thoroughly mix the stuffing ingredients together.
     Use a scoop to portion 4 or 5 medium size meatballs.
     Use your hands to roll the meaball portions into smooth round ball shapes.
     Brush a baking pan with oil.
     Set the meatball on the baking pan.
     Bake in a 325º oven, till the meatballs become fully cooked and till they become a light brown color.  (About 20 minutes.)
     Be sure to turn the meatballs as the bake, so they cook evenly.    
     While the meatballs are baking, the sauce can be made.
  
     Harissa Sauce:
     Heat a saute pan over medium heat.
     Add 5 pats of unsalted butter.
     Add 3 minced garlic cloves.
     Add 1/3 cup of minced onion.
     Saute till the onions just begin to caramelize.
     Add 1/3 cup of harissa sauce or 3 tablespoons of harissa paste.
     Add 2 pinches of black pepper.
     Add 3 pinches of coriander.
     Add 2 pinches of mild paprika.
     Add 2 cups of light chicken broth.
     Stir the sauce.
     Simmer and reduce the harissa sauce, till it becomes medium thin sauce consistency.
     Keep the harissa sauce warm over very low heat.
     
     Lamb and Dried Fruit Kefta with White Beans and Harissa:
     When the meatballs finish baking, add the meatballs to the harissa sauce.
     Add 1 cup of rinsed cooked white beans or rinsed canned white beans.
     Add 1/2 cup of chicken broth.
     Simmer till the ingredients become hot and till the sauce reduces enough to cling to the white beans.
     Place the ingredients in a shallow casserole dish.
     Place the casserole dish on a serving plate.
     Garnish with a parsley sprig.

     This is a nice tasting plate of North African style food!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Morrocan Lamb and Dried Fruit Stuffed Pepper









     Moroccan cuisine offers many recipes that combine dried fruit and meat.  Lamb is often the meat featured in those dried fruit recipes.  This style of dried fruit and meat stuffed pepper is popular in North Africa, the middle east and Turkey.
     I could not find the traditional Moroccan name for this recipe.  The Moroccan recipes that I have referred to in the past for this entree were all written with English titles.  I do not know the languages of Morocco well enough to take a stab at the translation.  The translation web sites do not always give English phonetic spellings of words.  Like anywhere else in the world, the recipe could have been given a regional name or a slang name that may have nothing to do with the featured ingredients in the recipe.  Using translation websites can be tricky.
     Moroccan cooks are experts at using complicated spice mixtures.  The flavor of the spice mixture for this recipe is very aromatic and good tasting.  If bland tasting stuffed peppers have lost their appeal, then this recipe will liven thing up!
  
     Moroccan Lamb and Dried Fruit Stuffed Pepper:
     This recipe makes enough of the stuffing for 2 small bell peppers or 1 large bell pepper.  Any extra stuffing can be formed into meatball shapes and baked in the pan with the stuffed pepper.  The meatballs can be used for another recipe.
     Soak 1/2 cup of basmati rice in water for 1 hour.
     Rinse the rice with cold water, till the water runs off clear in color.
     Heat a sauce pot over high heat.
     Add 3/4 cup of water.
     Add the soaked rice.
     Bring the water to a boil.
     Reduce the temperature to medium low/low heat.
     Simmer the rice for 10 minutes, so the rice becomes only halfway cooked.
     Drain the water off of the rice with a fine mesh strainer.
     Cool the rice under cold running water.
     Drain the water off of the rice.
     Place the half cooked rice into a mixing bowl.
     Add about 6 ounces of ground lamb.
     Heat a saute pan over medium heat.
     Add 3 pats of unsalted butter.
     Add 2 tablespoons of minced onion.
     Add 1 tablespoon of minced celery.
     Add 4 minced garlic cloves.
     Saute till the onions begin to caramelize.
     Set the vegetables aside to cool.
     Add the sauteed vegetables to the stuffing in the mixing bowl.
     Add 5 dried apricot halves that are diced into small pieces.
     Add 1/4 cup of chopped golden raisons.
     Add 2 pinches of cinnamon.
     Add 2 pinches of cumin.
     Add 3 pinches of coriander.
     Add 1 pinch of ground cardamom.
     Add 1 pinch of cayenne pepper.
     Add 1 pinch of marjoram.
     Add 2 pinches of dried mint leaves.
     Add 1 pinch of nutmeg.
     Add 2 pinches of turmeric.
     Add 1 pinch of saffron.
     Add sea salt and black pepper.
     Thoroughly mix the stuffing ingredients together.
     Cut 1 large green bell pepper in half lengthwise.
     Carefully trim the stem, seeds and ribs off of 1 half of the bell pepper.
     Fill the bell pepper with the stuffing, so that the stuffing is mounded higher than the pepper.
     Smooth the stuffing, so it looks nice.
     Brush a baking pan with vegetable oil.
     Set the stuffed pepper on the baking pan.
     Bake in a 325º oven, till the stuffing becomes fully cooked and the stuffing becomes a light brown color.  (About 20 minutes.)
     While the stuffed pepper is baking, the two sauces can be made.
  
     Harissa Sauce:
     Heat a saute pan over medium heat.
     Add 5 pats of unsalted butter.
     Add 3 minced garlic cloves.
     Add 1/3 cup of minced onion.
     Saute till the onions just begin to caramelize.
     Add 1/3 cup of harissa sauce or 3 tablespoons of harissa paste.
     Add 2 pinches of black pepper.
     Add 3 pinches of coriander.
     Add 2 pinches of mild paprika.
     Add 2 cups of light chicken broth.
     Stir the sauce.
     Simmer and reduce the harissa sauce, till it becomes medium thin sauce consistency.
     Keep the harissa sauce warm over very low heat.
  
     Garlic Mint Yogurt Sauce:
     Place 3 ounces of goat milk yogurt into a small bowl.
     Add 1 minced garlic clove.
     Add 1 pinch of sea salt and black pepper.
     Add 3 pinches of dried mint leaves.
     Add 1 pinch of finely chopped Italian parsley.
     Add 1 tablespoon of virgin olive oil, while stirring.
     Add a few drops of water at a time, while stirring, till the sauce becomes a thin sauce consistency.
     Set the sauce aside for a few minutes, so the flavors meld.
  
     Presentation:
     Place the lamb and dried fruit stuffed pepper on a plate.
     Spoon a generous amount of the harissa sauce onto the plate around the stuffed pepper.
     Spoon the garlic mint yogurt sauce over the middle of the stuffed pepper.
     Garnish the plate with an Italian parsley sprig.
  
     The aroma and flavor of this lamb stuffed pepper is captivating.  There is a hint of fruit flavor in every bite.  This is a great tasting stuffed pepper entree!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Cairo Molokhia







Egyptian Molokhia in the style of Cairo!
    
     Molokhia is spelled several different ways in the middle east.  Molokhia has been consumed since ancient times.  Molokhia at one time was a meal reserved only for Egyptian pharaohs.
     Molokhia is better known as jute.  The molohkia leaves are edible and the rest of the jute plant is used to make fabrics and rugs.  Molokhia leaves are usually finely chopped and made into a soup or stew.  Molokhia is one of Egypt's most famous foods.  The Egyptian molokhia recipe changes from region to region.
     Chefs in Cairo are famous for adding shrimp to the molokhia.  Chicken and rabbit are very popular meats to add to the soup in other regions of Egypt.  Molokhia has a slightly bitter, exotic aromatic flower flavor.  It does get a little bit mucilaginous or slimy when it is cooked and it is a great source of dietary fiber.  Molokhia is almost always served over rice as a soup or stew.  Chicken broth is almost always used to make this soup, but because shrimp are the featured ingredient in this Cairo molokhia version, shrimp broth was used instead.
     Molokhia is available fresh or frozen in middle eastern markets.  Frozen molokhia is easy to work with, because it is very finely minced before packaging.  I used a package of frozen minced molokhia to make this recipe.
     
     Cairo Molokhia Recipe:
     This recipe makes enough for 1 large portion!
     Cook one portion of white basmati rice or white long grain rice ahead of time and keep it warm.
     Place 3 cups of light shrimp broth into a sauce pot.
     Add 2 cups of finely minced molokhia.
     Add 1 small handful of chopped tomato.
     Add 1 chopped seeded green serrano chile pepper.
     Add 1 handful of chopped onion.
     Add sea salt and black pepper.
     Add 1 teaspoon of coriander.
     Add 1 small handful of finely chopped cilantro.
     Add 2 pinches of cumin.
     Place the sauce pot over high heat.
     Bring the soup to a boil while stirring.
     Reduce the temperature to medium low heat.
     Simmer and reduce the molokhia for about 20 minutes, till it becomes a rich medium puree consistency.  (Add more shrimp broth, if the soup gets too thick.  The soup should have a medium puree stew texture and it should not be thin or brothy for this recipe version.)
     Keep simmering the molokhia soup warm over medium low heat and add shrimp broth if necessary, while preparing the finishing ingredients.
     Heat a saute pan over medium heat.
     Add 6 pats of unsalted butter.
     Add 6 chopped garlic cloves.
     Cook the garlic butter, till the garlic turns a golden color.
     Add the hot garlic butter to the molokhia soup, while stirring.
     Add about 8 or 10 fully peeled large shrimp.
     Add the juice of 1/2 of a lemon.
     Simmer the molokhia for about 5 more minutes.
    
     Presentation:
     Place 1 portion of cooked basmati rice into a rice mold or a custard cup.
     Invert the cup onto a shallow bowl.
     Tap the rice mold against the bowl.
     Remove the rice mold.
     Ladle the molokhia soup around the rice in the bowl.
     Try to expose the shrimp on the surface of the molokhia in a decorative manner.
     Garnish the rice with a spoonful of harissa.
     Garnish the harissa with a few Italian parsley leaves.
    
     After cooking, the molokhia flavor and aroma seems to wake up.  The molokhia becomes very fragrant.  The after taste from eating molokhia is indescribably nice!  The aroma is like a very pleasant rare flower.
     The spices in this recipe accent the flavor of molokhia.  Molokhia is much less bitter tasting than kale.  The molokhia seems to absorb and conquer the flavors of the garlic and hot pepper too.  Those flavors were barely noticeable in this thick soup.  Molokhia is a must if you wish to try something different and delicious!  ...  Shawna        

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Prosciutto and Canary Melon with Baby Lettuce and Scallion Mint Yogurt Dressing










Italian Prosciutto e Melone with a modern mediterranean style presentation!
  
     I posted a standard Parma Prosciutto e Melone recipe several months ago.  For that recipe, I used the finest imported Italian Parma prosciutto and honeydew melon.  I mentioned in that recipe, that I prefer canary melon for making prosciutto e melone, but canary melon is not always available.
     Yesterday, I found a canary melon at a local market.  Exotic fruit is not easy to come by in Chicago.  Chicago people are kind of middle of the road as far as trying something new goes.  Exotic food and fruits do not catch on quickly in the midwest.  I noticed that I am usually one of the only people who frequents the exotic fruit section in a local Chicago grocery store.  Everybody else heads straight for the apples and oranges.
     Where I come from in Las Vegas and Florida, exotic foods are the norm!  Especially in Florida, where locally grown exotic tropical fruits and seafood are abundant.  Food items are delivered by air or freight from all points of the globe to Las Vegas.  Where there is a demand, exotic foods are delivered.  Las Vegas has the highest demand for quality exotic food of any city in the world, because visitors come from everywhere.  Las Vegas takes pride in accommodating the tastes of high rollers and casual tourists.
     Las Vegas is also a high tech food industry center.  A huge shrimp farm was just approved for the Las Vegas area.  Maine lobsters that are raised in Las Vegas are of the highest quality.  In fact, a very large supply of Las Vegas farm raised Maine lobster was recently shipped to the state of Maine, because the lobster count in that state was low.  If a lobster could talk, you may be surprised to hear the lobster say that it was from Las Vegas and not Maine!  Hard to believe, but true.  It would be funny to see a cook lose a poker game to a Las Vegas lobster card shark!
  
     Scallion Mint Yogurt Dressing:
     Place 1/4 cup of goat milk yogurt into a small bowl.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of virgin olive oil.
     Add sea salt and black pepper.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of finely minced mint leaves.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of very thinly sliced green onion tops.
     Stir the ingredients together.
     Add a few drops of water at a time, while stirring, till the dressing becomes a thin sauce consistency.
     Set the dressing aside.
  
     Canary Melon Balls:  
     Cut a canary melon in half lengthwise from top to bottom.
     Set one half of the melon aside for later in the recipe.
     Gently scrape the the seeds and pulp out with a spoon.
     Use a melon baller (parisienne scoop) tool to cut as many whole round canary melon balls as you can.
     Place the canary melon balls in a bowl and set them aside.
     (Snack on the remaining fruit that remains in the shell with a spoon.  Eating the fruit that remains in the shell is one of the perks of being a cook!)
  
     Prosciutto and Canary Melon:  
     It is better to place each piece of prosciutto wrapped canary melon directly on the plate, rather than to set the wrapped pieces on a temporary dish.  The prosciutto is paper thin and it is easily damaged.  By making this salad this way, there will be far less frustration.
     In fine Italian restaurants, the melon is always wrapped with prosciutto to order and it is never wrapped ahead of time.  Prosciutto e melone that is made ahead of time is easy to notice.  The prosciutto will discolor and the melon will become mushy where it makes contact with the meat. 
     For the prosciutto, I suggest an imported Italian certified Parma prosciutto or an imported Italian certified Volpi prosciutto.  American and Canadian prosciuttos are second rate products.
     Be patient when working with thin sliced prosciutto.  A good Italian delicatessen will always place paper or plastic wrap between each slice, so the slices do not stick together.  The sliced prosciutto will stick to itself and it is nearly impossible to separate the meat without tearing it to shreds.  Treat the prosciutto like it is some kind of sticky tape and do not stack the slices!
     Use a spoon to remove the seeds and pulp from the reserved half of the canary melon.
     Use a knife to remove the rind from the canary melon half.
     Cut the melon into thick long wedges.
     Wrap each wedge with a thin layer of prosciutto.
     Cut the prosciutto and melon wedges into cube shaped large bite size pieces.
     Place the prosciutto wrapped melon pieces on a plate, in a large 7" to 8" wide circle.
     Repeat these steps, till a ring of prosciutto wrapped melon pieces is created on the plate.  (Save any extra melon pieces for another recipe or snack.)
  
     Prosciutto and Canary Melon with Baby Lettuce and Scallion Mint Yogurt Dressing:
     Place a small mound of mixed baby lettuce on the plate inside the circle of prosciutto wrapped canary melon.
     Spoon some Scallion Mint Yogurt Dressing over the baby lettuce on the plate.
     Arrange the canary melon balls on top of the dressing and lettuce.
     Drape 2 whole slices of the prosciutto over the center of the canary melon balls.
     Garnish the prosciutto with long thin strips of green onion top.
  
     Delicious, modern and pretty!  All the flavors on this plate compliment each other.  Yum!  Ciao Baby  ...  Shawna

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Collard Greens and Smoked Neck Bones ... Soul Food!









One of my favorite greens dishes!
  
     Soul food was not always called soul food.  Before the 1960's, soul food was simply called home cooking.  In the south and farm communities, down home cooking is done with tender loving care.  Slow simmered recipes that are rich in nutrients are the hallmark of good southern home cooking.  Soul food is a great name for this kind of cooking.  This old fashioned kind of food is cooked not only to satisfy the body, but to also satisfy the soul!
     Soul food puts meat on the bones!  There was once a champion bodybuilder who used to preach about the benefits of eating soul food.  Soul food adds strength and definition to muscles.  Slow simmered cartilaginous bones and joints, like trotters hocks and neck bones, create a rich broth that increases tendon strength.  A good rich broth like this is call pot liquor.
     I was raised on this kind of down home country style southern cooking.  I was an athlete when I was in high school.  I can honestly say that soul food did make me feel stronger and healthier.  Coordination also seemed to improve after eating this kind of down home cooking.
     Collard greens have the most nutrients of all leafy greens.  The flavor of collard greens is one of a kind.  Smoked neck bones provide plenty of flavor for the collard greens and the combination makes a great tasting savory pot liquor.  There is plenty of meat on neck bones.  Smoked neck bones are cure fully cooked ready to eat items, but after smoking the meat is drawn tight to the bone and it can be tough.  Slow simmering loosens the smoked meat on the neck bones and the meat becomes very tender.
     Just like ham hocks, neck bones provide the body with soft, easy to digest cartilaginous tissue.  This type of soft cartilaginous compound does help to build strong tendons, heart valves and joints in the human body.  By all means, nibbling the meat and soft cartilage on the neck bones is welcome at the table!
     Pot liquor is the name of a simmering meat and greens broth that is cooked down and reduced till it becomes a rich broth.  After a pot of collards and neck bones have been simmering for a long period of time, the reduced pot liquor becomes very rich in nutrients.  Never discard the pot liquor from a slowly simmered soul food recipe!  The broth should be poured over the greens and neck bones, before serving.  Corn bread or sliced bread is great for sopping up the pot liquor.  Any excess pot liquor can be drank or used for another recipe.
  
     Collard Greens and Smoked Neck Bones:
     This recipe makes 1 or 2 servings, depending on how big the appetite is!
     Trim the tough stems and thick leaf veins off of 1 bunch of washed collard greens.
     Cut the collard greens into large pieces, that are about 2 to 3 inches wide.
     Set the greens aside.
     Heat a sauce pot over medium heat.
     Add 1 pat of unsalted butter.
     Add 1 minced garlic clove.
     Add 1/3 cup of chopped onion.
     Saute till the onions and garlic become fragrant and tender.
     Add the collard greens to the pot.
     Add 3 very large pieces of smoked pork neck bone.  (About 1 to 1 1/2 pounds of meaty smoked neck bones is plenty for this recipe.  Be sure that there is plenty of meat attached to the bones!)
     Cover the greens and smoked neck bones with 1" of extra water.
     Add sea salt and black pepper.
     Add 1 pinch of crushed red pepper.
     Add 1 tablespoon of white vinegar or cider vinegar.
     Raise the temperature to medium high heat.
     Bring the liquid to a boil.
     Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Cover the pot with a lid.
     Gently simmer the greens and neck bones for 1 hour.
     Remove the lid from the pot.
     Simmer the ingredients for 1 more hour with the pot uncovered.
     Simmer and reduce the broth, till it becomes a rich pot liquor.
  
     Presentation:
     The entire contents of the pot can be placed into a large bowl, if this recipe is served family style.
     For an individual plate portion, remove a portion the collard greens and smoked neck bone pieces from the pot liquor and place them on a plate.
     Pour some of the pot liquor over the greens and neck bones.
     There should be plenty of pot liquor on the plate.
     Any extra pot liquor can be served on the side in a soup bowl.
     Serve with sliced bread or cornbread on the side.

     Bread is great for soaking up the pot liquor on the plate.  Plain old white bread, baked corn bread or pan fried corn bread are traditional.
     This was an awesome tasting plate of simple southern home cooking!  The smoked pork neck bones were high quality and they had plenty of meat on the bones, as you can see in the pictures.  The collard greens are deliciously tender and healthy tasting.  The pot liquor has a very rich flavor from the onions.  Some of the small onion pieces literally melt into the broth.
     The neck bones and greens add plenty of flavor to the pot liquor.  My granny from North Carolina used to say that pot liquor was like drinking good healthy medicine!    

Monday, July 11, 2011

Lebanese Gyro









A classic Lebanese kafta minced meat meatloaf gyro!
  
     Gyros are popular in Greece, Turkey, the middle east, America and just about everywhere.  In America, gyros can be found on almost every Greek restaurant menu.
     The vertical slow turning meat loaf on a large skewer roasting next to a flame is called a doner kebab.  Doner kebabs originated in Turkey.
     Many food historians say that pita bread (khubz arabi) was created in Turkey or Persia.  Some historians say the India is where pita bread was first made.  The only thing that is certain is that pita bread was popular in Arabian countries long before it became popular in Greece or western countries.  In western countries, the name was changed from khubz arabi to pita bread for marketing purposes in late 1900's.
     America, Lebanon and Turkey are where the meatloaf style gyro is popular.  Lebanese gyro meat loaf is usually a kafta minced meat recipe or a modified kafta recipe.  The meatloaf style kafta for gyros originated in Lebanon.
     Gyro meat loaf (kafta mince meat) is highly seasoned.  Kafta minced meat can be served as a meat loaf, kebabs or as meatballs.  The minced meat can be shaped around small skewers or a very large doner style skewer.  The word kafta sometimes refers to the minced meat mixture, but the word kafta literally translates to meatball or a ball shape.  There are many ways to spell the word kafta in regional dialects.  There are many kafta seasoning mixes, but most recipes share a similar basic spice and herb foundation.
    Many people become confused about the difference between Lebanese gyro and Lebanese schawarma.  Schawarma is a whole roast of meat on a doner skewer and it is not minced meat.  Lebanese gyro is always made with minced meat.  Schawarma looks like sliced roasted meat.
     Gyros are popular in Greece.  In Greece, a gyro is rarely made with the minced kafta meatloaf.  A real Grecian gyro is usually made with sliced roasted pork or lamb.  I used to get sliced roasted pork gyros and sliced roasted lamb gyros at a Greek restaurant in Philadelphia.  The pressed meatloaf style gyro meat was not even on the menu.  The cook at the restaurant said that meatloaf gyros are not really Greek, they are middle eastern.
     During the early 1900's in America, many middle eastern people opened Greek restaurants, because Americans recognized and liked Greek food.  Arabic food was not easy to sell at that time.  My step grandfather was Lebanese and he joked about how sometimes he had to be Greek in the restaurant business.  He then attempted to hide his big Lebanese Arabic nose in a comical way to entertain us kids.  After researching this topic, I now know what he meant by saying "sometimes I have to be Greek."
     The early 1900's is when the Lebanese pressed kafta meatloaf style gyro meat was first introduced in America.  Now nearly every Greek restaurant in America offers kafta meatloaf gyros.  Even the Greek restaurants that are owned by Greeks offer the meatloaf style gyros.  Grecian roasted meat gyros are now not easy to find in America.
     The standard sauce for a Lebanese gyro is tzatziki sauce, but tzatziki has a different name in Lebanon.  Every country in the middle east, Greece, the Balkans, Turkey and India all make a sauce, soup, salad or dip out of cucumber and goat milk yogurt.
     In Lebanon, gyros are considered to be an appetizer, snack or lunch.  The aroma of a good Lebanese kafta meatloaf gyro is mouth watering!  The flavor is rich with garlic and spices.  Tabuli is a Syrian Arabic chopped salad of tomato, onion and parsley and it is sometimes placed on Lebanese gyros.  Most Lebanese gyros have sliced onion and tomato on the sandwich with no lettuce.
  
     Lebanese Gyro Meatloaf:
     Depending on how much meat is put in the gyro, this recipe makes enough for 2 to 3 gyros!
     Place 7 ounces of ground lamb in a mixing bowl.
     Add 3 ounces of ground beef.
     Add 1/2 cup of fine bread crumbs.
     Add 1 whisked egg.
     Add 6 cloves of finely minced garlic.
     Add 1/3 cup of finely minced white onion.
     Add 2 tablespoons of finely minced mint leaves.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of finely minced Italian parsley.
     Add 4 pinches of oregano.
     Add 2 pinches of basil.
     Add 3 pinches of marjoram.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon.
     Add 2 teaspoons of cumin.
     Add 1 teaspoon of coriander.
     Add 1 teaspoon of fenugreek.
     Add 3 pinches of allspice.
     Add sea salt and black pepper.
     Thoroughly mix the ingredients together.
     Refrigerate the meat mixture for one hour, so the flavors meld.
     Shape the meat mixture into a thick, rectangular meat loaf shape.
     Place the meat loaf on a roasting pan.
     Bake the meat loaf in a 300º oven, till it becomes fully cooked and lightly browned.
     Allow the meat loaf cool to room temperature.
     Place the meatloaf on a plate.
     Cover the meatloaf.
     Refrigerate the meatloaf for 24 hours.  (The meat loaf must be refrigerated, so the juices gel.  This step will keep the meatloaf from crumbling, when it is thinly sliced!  The flavors will also mellow and meld after 24 hours.)

     Tzatziki Sauce:
     This recipe makes 3 to 4 servings of tzatziki!
     Place 1/2 cup of finely minced peeled seeded cucumber in a mixing bowl.
     Add 3 tablespoons of finely minced mint leaves.
     Add 1 clove of minced garlic.
     Add 1/2 cup of plain Greek style goat milk yogurt.
     Add sea salt and black pepper.
     Add 3 tablespoons of virgin olive oil.
     Mix the ingredients together.
     Add just enough warm water, while whisking, to thin the tzatziki to a medium thin sauce consistency.  Be careful not to add too much water!
     Chill the tzatziki sauce in a refrigerator for 1 hour.
  
     Lebanese Gyro:
     Cut about 7 or 8 long thin slices of of the Lebanese gyro meatloaf.  (A 6 to 8 ounce portion is large.  A 5 ounce portion is average.)
     Place the meatloaf slices on a baking pan.
     Add 1 tablespoon of water.
     Reheat the meatloaf slices in a 300º oven.
     Just bake the meatloaf slices, till they become warm and not browned.
     Warm an 8" to 10" pita bread (khubz arabi) in the oven.
     Place the pita bread on a cutting board.
     Place several slices of tomato on one half of the bread.
     Place some thin sliced onion rings on the tomatoes.
     Place the warm gyro meatloaf slices on top of the tomato and onions.
     Spoon a generous amount of the tzatziki sauce over the gyro meat.
     Fold the sandwich in half.
     Pin the sandwich together with a long toothpick or bamboo skewer.
     Garnish the toothpick with an Italian parsley sprig.
     Place the gyro on a plate.
     Garnish the plate with an Italian parsley sprig, Persian pickled wild cucumber, Persian pickled pink turnip and Arabic scratched green olives.
  
     This is a great tasting gyro!  The gyro meatloaf looks much better than frozen pre-made gyro meat that is sold at grocery stores.  The tzatziki sauce adds a very nice cool refreshing flavor.
     Frozen pre-made gyro meat has a high amount of low quality fillers. Excess fat is converted into a solid "meat like" substance with a slurry making technique that is similar to how cheap hot dogs are made.  That is why many people get a sour tummy from frozen pre-made gyro meat.  Fesh home made gyro meat has a better quality and flavor.
      If you have been looking for a better gyro recipe, then you will be pleased with this old original Lebanese gyro meatloaf recipe.  Yum!  ...  Shawna

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Cajun Fried Chicken and Socca with Vanilla Cognac Syrup












Cajun Fried Chicken and French Chickpea Flour Pancakes!
  
     Fried chicken and waffles has been a trendy item for several years now.  Chicken and waffles is a traditional soul food entree and it can be served for any meal.  I posted a Las Vegas restaurant review of the Hash House A Go Go restaurant's Sage Fried Chicken and Waffles a few months ago.  That was quite a nice plate of food!  It seems like every modern chef has added their own personal touch to the old fried chicken and waffles recipe.  I will probably post a chicken and waffles recipe someday too.
     I gave today's recipe some thought for a few days.  Most fried chicken recipes for breakfast are lightly seasoned with savory herbs.  Many modern chefs use boneless chicken breasts for chicken and waffles.  Boneless chicken is no where near soul food style fried chicken.  Soul food style fried chicken always has the bones and skin attached to the meat.
     For today's recipe, spicy Cajun fried chicken was a good choice.  Boneless chicken breasts are too refined.  Old fashioned traditional fried chicken with the bones attached adds down home character.  Presenting a towering stack of fried chicken gives this entree some eye appeal.  A bamboo skewer can be used to make the tower stable.
     Instead of waffles, socca seemed like a good idea.  Socca are chickpea flour pancakes that originated in Italy.  Unleavened gram flour roti that is like socca are also made in India.  Socca are popular in the French Riviera region.  Socca are usually flavored with onion, rosemary or fine herbs.  Socca is usually served as a bread and it can also baked with focaccia style toppings.  The chickpea flour socca pancakes for this recipe have a nice savory onion and herbs de Provence flavor.
     I thought about making a fruit syrup for this recipe, but vanilla cognac syrup turned out to be a good choice.  Vanilla is used for sweets and it tastes nice in a syrup, but it also is nice with spicy or savory flavors.
  
     Cajun Fried Chicken:
     Heat 6" of vegetable frying oil in a high sided pot to 360º.
     Cut 1 chicken thigh, 1 chicken wing and 1/2 of a chicken breast for this recipe.  Trim the excess fat off of the chicken pieces.  Leave the skin and bones attached.
     Place 2 1/2 cups of flour into a mixing bowl.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of each of these ingredients:
     - sea salt
     - black pepper
     - paprika
     - marjoram
     - tarragon
     - oregano
     - basil
     - garlic powder
     - onion powder
     Add 1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper.
     Stir the Cajun seasoned flour, till it is blended.
     Dredge the chicken pieces in the seasoned flour.
     Dip the floured chicken pieces in a small bowl of milk.
     Dredge the chicken pieces in the Cajun seasoned flour a second time.
     Carefully place each of the chicken pieces into the hot frying oil.
     Fry the chicken, till it becomes a crispy golden brown color and till it becomes fully cooked.  (A probe thermometer should read 165º as a minimum temperature.  )
     Use tongs or a fryer net to place the Cajun fried chicken pieces on a wire screen roasting rack on a pan to drain off any excess oil.
     Keep the Cajun fried chicken warm on a stove top.
  
     Socca:
     Chick pea flour is called gram in India.  Chick pea flour can be found at Indian markets.  Chick pea flour is 100% gluten free.
     Place 1 cup of chickpea flour into a mixing bowl.
     Add 1 cup of water.
     Add about 2 tablespoons of olive oil.
     Add sea salt and white pepper.
     Add 4 pinches of herbs du provence.
     Whisk the ingredients together, till they become blended.
     Add 1/4 cup of very thin sliced onion.
     Stir the mixture.
     The batter should be a thin consistency like a thin pancake batter.
     Let the batter stand for 30 minutes.
     Heat a cast iron skillet in a 450º oven.
     Remove the hot skillet from the oven.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of blended  olive oil to the pan.
     Pour enough of the chickpea flour batter into the pan to form a round thin pancake.  (About 2 ounces to 2 1/2 ounces.)
     Place the pan back in the 450º oven.
     Bake the socca, till it is lightly browned on the edges and so it is firm.
     Set the socca pancake aside.
     Repeat these steps to make 3 socca pancakes.
     After the pancakes are done baking, place the pancakes on a baking pan.
     Pass the pancakes under a broiler, to lightly brown the top of the pancakes.
     Brush the pancakes with melted unsalted butter.
     Keep the pancakes warm on a stove top.
  
     Vanilla Cognac Syrup:
     Heat a small sauce pot over medium high heat.
     Add 1 cup of water.
     Add 1/3 cup of sugar.
     Boil the sugar liquid, till it reduces to a syrup.
     Cook the sugar, till it starts to turn a ligh amber color.
     Add 1/2 cup of cognac.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla bean extract.
     Add 1/2 cup of water.
     Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Stir as the seized sugar returns to a liquid state.
     Reduce the sugar liquid to a syrup consistency.
     The syrup should be thin and it should be able to lightly glaze the back of a spoon.
  
     Cajun Fried Chicken and Socca with Vanilla Cognac Syrup:
     Cut the socca pancakes into pie shaped pieces.
     Place the socca pieces on a plate, so the slices overlap each other.   Form 4 rows of socca slices, so each row is on opposite sides of the plate and so the wedge shapes point toward the center of the plate.
     Use a bamboo skewer to stack the Cajun fried chicken pieces up on the middle of the plate.  (Insert the skewer through the chicken pieces.)
     Sprinkle some diced roasted red pepper over the socca slices and the plate.
     Spoon the vanilla cognac syrup over the Cajun fried chicken, the socca and the plate.  (Do not flood the plate with the syrup!  A small amount is all that is needed.)
     Sprinkle some thin bias sliced green onions over the socca and plate.
     Garnish the Cajun fried chicken stack with an Italian parsley sprig.
  
     The crispy spicy Cajun spiced fried chicken has a mouth watering flavor.  The savory socca chickpea flour pancakes are not like regular wheat flour pancakes.  They look like they are dense, but they are actually light.  Yum!  ...  Shawna