Thursday, June 30, 2011


Turkish Cucumber Salad!  Or soup!
     Turkish cucumber mint salad is a refreshing summer appetizer.  Turkish cacik is similar to Grecian tzatziki.  Cacik is usually thinner and "soupier" than tzatziki.  Tsatziki is meant to be a sauce that clings.
     Cacik can be served thin like a soup.  Cacik can be served as a salad or as a dip for bread.  This recipe is very simple to make.  Cacik can have a chopped cucumber texture or it can be made like a refined smooth puree.
     For this recipe, the seeds are left in the cucumber.  The watery seed section adds to the refreshing qualities of cacik.  A food processor can be used to puree the cucumber and mint, if a smooth texture is preferred.
     Place 2 cups of finely chopped peeled cucumber in a mixing bowl.
     Add 2 minced garlic cloves.
     Add enough goat milk yogurt to thoroughly coat and cover the chopped cucumber.
     Add 3 tablespoons of finely chopped mint.
     Add 2 to 3 pinches of sea salt.
     Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil.
     Stir the ingredients together.
     Add enough water thin the yogurt to a milk consistency.
     Place the cacik into a shallow serving dish.
     Garnish the rim of the dish with mixed baby lettuce leaves.
     Set the cacik dish on a serving platter.
     Heat a pita bread in an oven.
     Cut the pita bread into small triangles.
     Place the pita bread triangles next to the dish of cacik on the platter.
     Cacik has one of the best "I gotta have more of this!" kind of warm weather refreshing flavors!  Yum!  ...  Shawna    

Friday, June 24, 2011

Minestra di indivia e basilico con Midolline Pasta

Minestra di Indivia e Basilico al Pasta Midolline!  Italian Endive, Basil and Melon Seed Pasta Soup!
     Endive has a mild bitter flavor that mellows when it is cooked.  The combination of fresh basil and lemon adds a very unique flavor to the broth.  Midolline is melon seed shaped pasta.  Midolline is perfect for soups.  This is a great tasting Venetian style vegetarian soup that is perfect for summer!
     Minestra of Endive and Basil with Midolline Pasta:
     This recipe makes 1 large serving of soup!  Many Italian soups are a la minute (cooked to order).  This soup should be made shortly before serving and it should not kept kept warm in a soup warmer. 
     Heat a sauce pot over medium/medium low heat.  
     Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil.  
     Add 1 minced garlic clove.  
     Saute the garlic, till it becomes a golden color.  
     Add 3 tablespoons of diced carrot.  
     Add 2 tablespoons chopped portobello mushroom.  
     Add 1 tablespoon of finely chopped onion.  
     Saute till the onions turn clear in color.  
     Add 1 cup of coarsely chopped endive lettuce.  
     Saute till the endive starts to wilt.  
     Add 8 whole fresh large basil leaves.  
     Saute till the basil leaves wilt.  
     Add 2 3/4 cups of light vegetable broth.  
     Add 1 bay leaf.
     Add 1 small pinch of oregano.
     Add sea salt and black pepper.  
     Raise the temperature to medium high heat.
     Bring the soup to a boil.  
     Add 1/4 cup of midolline pasta.  
     Stir the soup occasionally as the pasta cooks.  
     Boil till the pasta becomes cooked al dente.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of lemon juice.   
     Remove the bay leaf.  
     Ladle the soup into a shallow soup bowl.  
     Float a thin slice of lemon on the surface of the soup.  
     Place a basil sprig against the rim of the soup bowl as a garnish.  
     The midolline pasta does look like mellon seeds in this soup.  The small amount of onion and carrot helps to "sweeten" the broth.  No celery is needed for the soffritto vegetable mixture in this soup.  The broth has such a refreshing light flavor!  Ciao Baby!  ...  Shawna         

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Kangaroo Kufta Kebab

Kangaroo gone Arabic street vendor style food!
     Minced lamb or beef kufta kebabs are popular street vendor food in the middle east.  Minced meat is highly seasoned with traditional spice mixtures.  The minced meat is then shaped on a skewer.  The minced meat can be pressed into fancy shapes like balls, conical or like the plain cylinder shape in the pictures above.  The minced meat kufta kebabs are often oven roasted before being placed on a char grill.  They can be cooked on a flat top grill or directly on a char grill without being roasted in an oven first.
     Gourmet street vendor food has been the rave in Las Vegas and other trendy cities for a couple of years.  Kufta is a gourmet item on its own.  Kufta meatballs are among the greatest tasting meatballs in the world.  I have posted a few recipes for kufta style meatballs in my blog so far.
     I have never heard of anybody making kufta with kangaroo meat.  Kangaroo meat has become popular in the last few years.  The flavor of the meat is about as strong as lamb or mutton and the flavor is appealing.  Kangaroo only contains 2% fat.  Since it is such a lean meat, it is recommended that it should be cooked rare to medium at the most.  Kufta kebabs are always fully cooked.  The basic kufta recipe has to be modified for the lean kangaroo meat.
     A lamb kufta kebab requires about 15% fat.  I thought of adding ground lamb or beef to the kangaroo to increase the amount of fat, but that would defeat the goal of cooking a low fat kufta meal.  Pork fat was out of the question, since this is an Arabic style kebab.  Many kufta recipes call for rice, millet or cracked wheat.  Many chefs compare kufta to meat loaf and gyro meatloaf actually is a Lebanese kufta recipe.  The ground kangaroo kufta is best when soft basmati rice is added to the mixture.  A small amount of egg and flour helps to hold the very lean ground kangaroo meat together.  Olive oil takes the place of meat fat in this recipe.  Butter or ghee could be used if you prefer a richer flavor.
     Pre-made kufta spice mix is available in Persian and Arabic markets.  If you have never tasted kufta, then a pre-made kufta spice mix is a good choice.  Kufta spice mixes are sometimes closely guarded secrets, just like old family za'atar spice mix recipes.  There are many regional variations to kufta spice mix and the mixture can vary from home to home.
     I went to the local Persian Arabic market today to do some shopping.  At this market, they cook kufta, pastries and several other nice items.  The aroma in that market is mouthwatering!  I bought some very nice quality Persian pickle products, freshly made khubz arabi (pita bread) and a few other items.
     The Iranian lady behind the counter at the Persian market offered the freshly cooked kitchen items to me as I was checking out.  I said "No thank you.  I am cooking kufta tonight!"  She smiled and we chatted for a minute.  I asked if she had ever eaten kangaroo.  She looked at me and said "No, no, no..." while shaking her head and laughing!  Kangaroos are funny animals and the thought of eating kangaroo causes many people to smile and laugh.  I mentioned that kangaroo tastes kind of like lamb and that I was making my kufta with ground kangaroo meat.  She had an "interested" look on her face, but she was still laughing hysterically about the thought of a kangaroo!  It was a funny moment!
     In the Persian and Arabic countries, pork is taboo.  One of the reasons that pork is taboo is because pork carries disease and it cannot be eaten raw, so the ancient people banned the consumption of pork.  Kangaroo is disease free and it can be eaten raw.  I hope that the wild game kangaroo meat does not fall into that same category of being taboo to eat like pork in the middle east.  Wild game has always been eaten in the middle east and the hunt is cherished by all.
     In modern times, the gourmet and wealthy folk in the middle east have acquired a taste for the exotic, just like chefs in Las Vegas.  Wild game is commonly found on menus in gourmet Las Vegas restaurants.  This kangaroo kufta kebab could bounce right into the limelight!
     Kangaroo Kufta Kebab:
     This recipe makes enough kangaroo kufta mix ture for 2 kebabs.  The rice requires some extra water in the recipe, so the rice will cook very soft.  Use the extra rice to stuff some grape leaves.
     Boil 2 cups of water in a sauce pot over high heat.
     Add 3/4 cup of basmati rice.
     Boil the rice for a few minutes.
     Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Cover the pot with a lid.
     Simmer the rice, till it becomes fully cooked, soft and mushy.  There should be no excess water left in the pan.
     Add 3 or 4 drops of rose water.  (Bottled rose water is available in Persian Arabic markets.)
     Set the rice aside and let it cool.
     Place 6 ounces of ground kangaroo meat in a mixing bowl.
     Add 2 minced garlic cloves.
     Add 1 1/2 teaspoon of minced ginger.
     Add 1 tablespoon of finely minced onion.
     Add 2 pinches of fenugreek.
     Add 4 pinches of coriander.
     Add 3 pinches of cumin.
     Add 2 pinches of sumac berry spice.
     Add 2 pinches of black pepper.
     Add 1 pinch of ground fennel.
     Add sea salt.
     Add 2 pinches of marjoram.
     Add 2 pinches of minced mint leaves.
     Add 2 pinches of chopped Italian parsley.
     Add 1 pinch of cayenne pepper.
     Add 2 tablespoons of the mushy basmati rice.
     Add 1/2 teaspoons of lemon juice.
     Add 1 tablespoon of whisked egg.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of olive oil.
     Mix the ingredients together.
     Add just enough fine bread crumbs or chick pea flour, while mixing, to thicken the mixture to a firm stiff consistency.  The mixture should be smooth, slightly sticky and it should hold its shape when rolled into a ball shape.
     Refrigerate the kangaroo kufta mixture for 1 hour.
     Place the kufta mixture on a cutting board.
     Divide the mixture into 2 equal size portions.
     Roll a portion of the kufta into a long cylinder shape that is about 3/4" wide.
     Press a water soaked bamboo skewer lengthwise into kufta.
     Roll the kufta and skewer together till the skewer is sealed in the middle of the kufta.
     Repeat these steps for the second kufta skewer.
     Brush a baking pan with olive oil.
     Place the kufta skewers on the baking pan.
     Drizzle a little bit of olive oil over the kufta skewers.
     Roast the kangaroo kufta skewers in a 325º oven.
     When the skewers become fully cooked, use a spatula the carefully free the skewers from the pan.
     Roll the skewers over.
     Return the skewers to the oven and roast them till they become lightly browned.
     Keep the skewers warm on a stove top.
     Rose Water Rice Stuffed Grape Leaves:
     Cut the stem and thick end of the vein off of 5 or 6 pickled grape leaves.
     Place a small dab of the extra rose water basmati rice on each of the grape leaves.
     Fold the edges of the leaves over the rice.
     Roll the grape leaves, so the rice is completely sealed in.
     Brush a small baking pan with olive oil.
     Place the stuffed grape leaves in the the pan.
     Squeeze a little bit of lemon juice over the stuffed grape leaves.
     Drizzle a little bit of olive oil over the stuffed grape leaves.
     Bake the stuffed grape leaves in the 325º degree oven for about 4 minutes, till they become hot.  (Bake these while the kufta kebab is in the oven.)
     Keep the stuffed grape leaves warm on a stove top.
     Za'atar Khubz Arabi:  
     Za'atar spice mix is available in Persian Arabic markets.  Za'atar has a high proportion of ground toasted sesame seed, wild thyme, sumac berry and several other spices.
     Brush a pita bread (Khubz Arabi) with olive oil.
     Sprinkle a generous amount of za'atar spice mix on the pita bread.
     Drizzle a little bit of olive oil over the za'atar on the pita bread.
     Gently rub the za'atar on the pita bread.
     Place the za'atar khubz in the 325º degree oven.
     Bake till the pita bread becomes hot and lightly toasted.  (Bake while the stuffed grape leaves and kangaroo kufta kebabs are in the oven.)
     Remove the za'atar khubz from the oven and cut it into triangle shaped pieces.
     Kangaroo Kufta Kebab Presentation:
     Place the triangle shaped za'atar khubz pieces across a plate as a bed for the kebab.
     Place the roasted kangaroo kufta kebab on the za'atar khubz.
     Place the rose water rice stuffed grape leaves on the plate.
     Place a few Italian parsley sprigs on the plate.
     Place some persian pickles and olives on the parsley sprigs.
     Persian pickled wild cucumber, pink pickled turnip, scratched green olives and a rolled up piece of roasted red bell pepper are the pickles in the pictures.
     The complex mixture of kufta spices, garlic and ginger are good tasting with the flavor of kangaroo.  Because of the heavy spicing, there is no gamey flavor in the kangaroo meat.  Because the kangaroo meat is so lean, it will cook to a lighter color than ground beef or ground lamb.
     This is a great tasting casual exotic wild game kangaroo kefta kebab platter!  Much of Persian and Arabic food is fun casual social finger food.  This is a fun meal to eat!  Boing, Boing Boing!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Roasted Corn and Chile Morita Cheddar Soup

A tasty southwestern soup!
     California style Cal Mex and Texas style Tex Mex cuisine both were originally modified Mexican cuisine.  Little has changed in those two cuisines.  Southwestern cuisine is a little bit different.  Southwestern cuisine is both traditional and creative.  New Mexico is where modern southwestern cooking first became very popular.  Southwestern cuisine features Native American and Mexican ingredients.  Southwestern cuisine features native southwestern desert vegetables that many people are not familiars with.  Southwestern cuisine also makes use of some ingredients that were introduced to the American southwest by europeans.  Many presentations of southwestern cuisine infuse Native American art.  Creative southwestern fine desert cuisine is what the original New Mexico southwestern cuisine was all about.  Southwestern cuisine is unique.
     Today's soup recipe has a well balanced flavor.  Only enough cheddar cheese is added to create a delicate flavor.  Roasted corn adds a nice lightly roasted sweet corn flavor.
     Chile morita is a smoked dried red jalapeno chile pepper that is similar to a chipotle.  Chipotle is also a smoked dried jalapeno.  Morita peppers and chipotle peppers are both jalapeno peppers, but the flavors are quite different.  Chile morita is a highly prized variety of red jalapeno that is native to Chihuahua Mexico.  The flavor of chile morita is much more complex and robust than a chipotle pepper.  Morita peppers are on the spicy hot side.  Only a small amount of chile morita is needed per serving of this soup.
     Many chefs say that all dried peppers have to be dry roasted in a pan for any western cuisine.  This simply is not true.  Some recipes benefit from roasted chile flavors, while other do not.  Some dried chiles do not take well to dry roasting.  If the dried chiles are in top condition and are aromatic, dry roasting will ruin the crisp flavors.
     Most of my southwestern recipes do not require roasting dried chiles, because I purchase good aromatic dried chiles.  I prefer the true chile flavor, rather than masking the dried chile flavor with a borderline burnt flavor.
     Dry roasting chiles can add a slight burnt chile flavor that is not a plus.  Some chefs describe this as mellowing the chile flavor, but it truly only masks the flavor.  If chile peppers were meant to be mellow, then they would all taste like green bell pepper.  The best way to tone down a hot chile pepper is to add less of it or blend it with milder varieties of chile pepper that have complimentary flavor profiles.  
     Roasted Corn and Chile Morita Cheddar Soup:
     This recipe makes one large serving!
     Select 1 dried chile morita pepper that is the size of a tablespoon
     Remove the stem and seeds.
     Soak the chile in a little bit of water, till the chile becomes softened.
     Cut a 4 inch long section of shucked sweet corn.
     Grill the corn ear section in a dry cast iron skillet over medium heat or over a char grill.
     Grill the corn, till the tips of the kernels turn a caramelized brown color.
     Cut the roasted kernels off of the corn cob.
     Set the roasted kernels aside.  
     Heat a sauce pot over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 4 pats of unsalted butter.
     Add 1/4 cup of small chopped onion.
     Add 1 minced garlic clove.
     Add 1 tablespoon each of these brunoise cut (1/8"x1/8"x1/8") vegetables:
     - carrot
     - peeled celery        
     Saute till the mirepoix vegetables become tender.
     Add just enough flour, while stirring, to soak up the butter in the pan.
     Stir the roux, till it becomes combined and till it becomes a golden color.
     Add 1 1/2 cups of chicken stock while stirring.
     Chop the reserved softened chile morita and add it to the soup.
     Add the roasted corn kernels.
     Stir the soup as it heats and thickens.
     Add 1 1/3 cups of milk.
     Add 1/4 cup of cream.
     Stir the soup, till the milk combines with the thickened broth.
     Add sea salt and white pepper.
     Add 1 pinch of cumin.
     Add 1 pinch of coriander.
     Add 1 pinch of oregano.
     Add 2 pinches of paprika.
     Add 1 small bay leaf.
     Bring the soup to a gentle boil.
     Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Gently simmer for about ten minutes, till the flavors meld and the corn becomes tender.
     Add 1/4 cup of grated sharp cheddar cheese, while stirring with a whisk.
     Stir till the cheese melts and becomes part of the soup.
     Reduce the temperature to very low heat.
     Simmer and stir occasionally for about 5 minutes.
     Remove the bay leaf.
     Ladle the soup into a shallow soup bowl.
     Sprinkle some very thin bias sliced green onion tops over the soup.
     This soup should be a medium thin sauce consistency and it should not be too thick.  The rich smokey flavor of chile morita is very nice with the sweet roasted corn and cheddar flavors.  This roasted corn and chile morita cheddar soup is a nice southwestern style cream soup!  Yum!  ...  Shawna