Thursday, July 27, 2017

Mustard Greens Pancakes with Sesame-Soy Dipping Sauce

I really do like greens. It’s not a matter of tolerating them when they appear or making use of them from time to time. I really want to eat greens every day, and I can find ways to include them in just about any meal. Just ask Kurt. So, the new book from Jenn Louis, The Book of Greens: A Cook's Compendium of 40 Varieties, from Arugula to Watercress, with More Than 175 Recipes of which I received a review copy, is a delight for me. Also, Jenn Louis’s last book was about making pasta and dumplings, and some of those elements, that I happen to love creating in the kitchen, find their way here into dishes incorporating greens. This all adds us up to quite a lot that makes me very happy in this new book. Now, the only issue with greens is that the sturdy, earthy, serious greens like kale, chard, and collards thrive in cooler weather and aren’t part of our local, summer produce. But happily, this book covers the full spectrum of greens, including a few I’d never thought to bring into the kitchen before, and there are hot weather options too. The book is organized alphabetically by the name of each green, and there’s general information about each variety followed by recipes for it. Since locally-grown arugula is available almost year-round, I was happy to try the Arugula Salad with Red Grapes, Feta, and Dukkah. It comes with a suggestion for trying it with plums in place of the grapes which I did, and it was fantastic. The Dandelion Salad Sandwich is a smart combination of a sweet butternut squash puree with dressed slivers of dandelion greens and slices of hard-boiled eggs. The Miso Soup with Turmeric, Wheat Noodles, and Gai Lan would also be great with bok choy or chard in place of the gai lan, and why have I never thought of taking miso soup in a direction like this? There’s a section just for herbs, one for lettuces, and one for root, fruit, and vegetable greens. It’s a great reminder that squash leaves, sweet potato greens, and tomato leaves are edible and available in the summer. I tried the Tomato Leaf-Egg Pasta with Butter and Fresh Tomato Sauce and highly recommend it. And, while I have enjoyed nopales from cactus plants, I’ve never harvested aloe vera stalks for juicing. There’s a cocktail made with aloe juice and tequila in the book, and I can’t wait to try it. The point of the book is, of course, to highlight greens, but the recipes grab attention first for the mix of flavors and textures. They just happen to be made with all sorts of different leaves. 

When I read about the Mustard Greens Pancakes, I marked the page immediately. These were made with baby mustard greens that I was able to get at Boggy Creek Farm. They’re like scallion pancakes, and I’ve made a similar flatbread before. But here, the dough is layered with fresh, chopped greens before completing each pancake. It’s a fun process. A simple dough of flour and boiling water was made in the food processor. After it was kneaded and allowed to rest, it was divided into four pieces. Each piece was rolled into a disk, brushed with sesame oil, the disk was rolled up into a cylinder, the cylinder was then coiled like a snail, and then rolled into a disk again. The second time, that dish was brushed with sesame oil, topped with sliced mustard greens, and the cylinder and coil rolling was repeated before flattening the dough into a final disk shape. The pancakes were cooked in untoasted sesame oil for a few minutes per side until golden. A dipping sauce was made with soy sauce, rice vinegar, sesame oil, green onion, and ginger. The crisp pancakes were cut into wedges to be dipped into the sauce. 

These pancakes are easy to like with their crispiness after being cooked in oil. More traditionally, they would be made with scallions layered into them rather than mustard greens, but I loved this take on the concept. Here and with most of the recipes in the book, the type of greens used can easily be changed without any problem. Just choose some greens, any greens, and this book will give you great inspiration for using them. 

Mustard Green Pancakes 
Reprinted with permission from The Book of Greens: A Cook's Compendium of 40 Varieties, from Arugula to Watercress, with More Than 175 Recipes by Jenn Louis, copyright © 2017. Photography by Ed Anderson. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC. 

These aren’t like breakfast pancakes; they are like the scallion pancakes you might find in a Chinese restaurant. If you love the sharp, strong flavor of mustard, then you will love these. Or if you don’t want so much of a vegetal flavor, consider subbing in a milder green, such as spinach or chard. The dipping sauce drives home the Asian flavor. 

Makes 4 pancakes, serves 4 

2 cups [280 g] all-purpose flour 
1 cup [240 ml] boiling water 
1/4 cup [60 ml] toasted sesame oil 
1 ounce [30 g] thinly sliced mustard greens (tender stems are okay) 
1/4 cup [60 ml] neutral vegetable oil 
Kosher salt 

Dipping Sauce 
1 tablespoons soy sauce 
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar 
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil 
1 tablespoon thinly sliced green onions (green parts only) 
1/2 teaspoon peeled and grated fresh ginger 
2 teaspoons sugar 

Put the flour in a food processor. With the motor running, slowly drizzle in 3/4 cup of the boiling water. Process for 15 seconds. If dough does not come together, drizzle in more water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until it just comes together. Transfer to a work surface and knead a few times to form a smooth ball. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rest for 30 minutes at room temperature. 

Divide the dough into four even pieces and roll each into a smooth ball. Working one ball at a time, roll out into a disk, about 8 inches [20 cm] in diameter. Using a pastry brush, paint a very thin layer of sesame oil over the top of the disk. Roll the disk up like a cylinder, then start at the end and coil the dough like a snail’s shell. Flatten gently with your hand and roll again into an 8-inch [30-cm] disk. 

Paint with another layer of sesame oil, lay an even layer of one-quarter of the sliced mustard greens, and roll up like a cylinder again. Again, coil like a snail shell, flatten gently, and re-roll into a 7-inch disk. Repeat with the remaining dough and mustard greens to make three more pancakes. 

Combine all the dipping sauce ingredients and set aside at room temperature. 

To cook the pancakes, heat the oil in an 8-inch (20-cm) nonstick or cast-iron pan over medium- high heat. When the oil is hot, after 2 to 3 minutes, carefully slip one pancake into the hot oil. Cook, shaking the pan gently until the first side is an even golden brown, about 2 minutes. Carefully flip with a spatula or tongs and continue to cook until the second side is and even golden brown, about 2 more minutes. Season with salt, cut into 6 wedges. Serve immediately with the sauce for dipping. Repeat with the remaining pancakes. 

nettles, spinach, lamb’s quarters 

I am a member of the Amazon Affiliate Program. 

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Eggplant Crostini

When seasonal dishes collide with beautiful presentation, the combination gets my attention every time. In Simple Fare: Spring and Summer, that beauty of presentation extends to the book itself with a clean, modern layout and large, stunning photographs reminiscent of the style of Donna Hay. As I read my review copy, I quickly fell for this simplicity that comes packed with special touches. The author, Karen Mordechai, believes “food should capture your spirit.” What you cook and what you’re drawn to evolves as you do, and food “is at the foundation of our cultures.” By sourcing the best of the current season and sharing meals with family and friends, “we help sustain a beautiful cycle of goodness.” The Burnt Carrots dish is just carrots roasted with a coating of maple syrup and olive oil, but it’s served with marinated labneh, toasted hazelnuts, and nigella seeds. The Ricotta Gnudi is plated with an easy mix of brown butter and purple basil leaves, but the dumplings are made with a mix of plain, homemade if possible, ricotta and smoked ricotta. The Cured Eggs are shown with two variations. They can be pickled with a beet to turn the outside pink or with saffron to turn it yellow, and the pink option looks lovely in the bowl of White Miso Soup. There’s nothing too complex or time-consuming about these dishes, but they all offer nice, added touches. For instance, for the Eggplant Crostini shown here, there’s a flavorful tahini spread that holds everything in place on the toasted bread, a tangy black garlic dressing, and toppings of pickled red onion, toasted pine nuts, and fresh basil. I had just brought home some farm-fresh eggplant that was perfect for it. 

Wedges of eggplants were cut and tossed with olive oil, salt, and pepper before being roasted until browned and crisp. The tahini spread was made by mixing tahini with a minced garlic clove, some lemon juice, and olive oil. Next, the dressing was made by pureeing black garlic cloves with pomegranate molasses, lemon juice, sumac, cocoa powder, salt, and olive oil. I had made the pickled red onion in advance by thinly slicing an onion and covering the slices with a brine of white vinegar, lime juice, and salt with a bay leaf. The roasted eggplant wedges were tossed with some of the dressing before building the toasts. To put it all together, toasted bread was spread with the tahini mixture, the dressed eggplant wedges were nestled into the spread, more dressing was drizzled on top, and garnishes of pickled red onion, toasted pine nuts, and basil leaves were added. 

I love a composition that’s put together well like this. The tahini spread is an excellent glue to keep everything in place as you pick up each piece of bread. A great punch of flavor is delivered here by the black garlic dressing. The sweet and funky, fermented garlic combined with pomegranate molasses, lemon, and sumac made the roasted eggplant sing. Simple, fresh food with interesting details, that’s as pretty as it is tasty, never goes out of style.  

Eggplant Crostini
Recipe reprinted with publisher's permission from Simple Fare: Spring and Summer. 

This eggplant dish is warm and bright. It works well as a starter or as a light meal, served with a side of greens. The roasting technique is inspired by a method from London-based chef Yotam Ottolenghi. 

For the eggplant 
3 to 4 (about 31⁄2 pounds/1.6 kg total) eggplants 
4 tablespoons (60 ml) olive oil 
1⁄2 tablespoon salt 
Freshly ground black pepper 

For the tahini spread 
3⁄4 cup (180 ml) tahini 
1⁄2 garlic clove 
Juice of 1 lemon 
4 tablespoons (60 ml) olive oil 

For the black garlic dressing 
3 black garlic cloves, peeled 
1 teaspoon black sesame paste 
1 teaspoon pomegranate molasses 
Juice of 1⁄2 lemon 
1⁄2 teaspoon sumac 
1⁄2 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder 
1⁄4 teaspoon salt 
3 tablespoons olive oil 

For the toast 
1 loaf miche, cut into slices 1⁄2 inch (12 mm) thick 
1⁄4 cup (60 ml) olive oil 
1⁄2 cup (75 g) Pickled Red Onion 
1⁄4 cup (35g) pine nuts, toasted 
1⁄4 cup (10 g) fresh basil leaves, torn 

Preheat the oven to 400oF (205oC). Cut each eggplant into half lengthwise, and cut each half into half widthwise. Cut each quarter into thirds to create thick wedges. In a large bowl, toss the wedges with the olive oil, salt, and some pepper. Arrange the wedges on two parchment-lined baking sheets and roast until golden and slightly crisp, but not dry, 35 to 40 minutes. 

For the tahini spread: Combine the tahini, garlic, lemon juice, and olive oil in a food processor and blend until smooth. The mixture should be spreadable, but not overly thick. If you wish to thin your tahini, add a thin stream of up to 1⁄2 cup (120 ml) ice water to the mixture with the motor running until your desired consistency is reached. Set aside. 

For the black garlic dressing: Pulse the garlic, sesame paste, molasses, lemon juice, sumac, cocoa powder, and salt in a food processor to form a paste. With the motor running, add the olive oil in a slow and steady stream until completely incorporated. Remove the eggplant from the oven and, while still warm, gently toss it in a large bowl with the black garlic dressing until completely coated. Set it aside to let the flavors meld. 

For the toast: Heat a grill to medium-high or a grill pan over medium- high heat. Brush each slice of bread with the olive oil and toast for about 2 minutes on each side, until lightly brown. 

To serve, spread each piece of toast with a bit of the tahini spread and top with a few wedges of warm eggplant. Garnish with pickled red onions, a sprinkling of pine nuts, and basil leaves.

I am a member of the Amazon Affiliate Program. 

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Tacos with Roasted Vegetables in Cascabel Chile Oil with Homemade Queso Fresco, Guajillo Tortillas, and Salsa de Arbol

I do not ever get tired of tacos. It’s not possible. There are infinite combinations when you consider types of tortillas, fillings, cheese or no cheese, and the choice of a salsa or two. I had tacos for breakfast yesterday and will have tacos for dinner tonight. But, the tacos shown here today are special. The tortillas were homemade, the cheese was homemade, the vegetables were roasted in homemade cascabel chile oil, and they were the most delicious tacos I’ve had all year. The recipes are from Nopalito: A Mexican Kitchen , and I received a review copy. I should be clear that this book is so much more than just tacos. It’s a collection of favorite authentic Mexican dishes from Gonzalo Guzman, the chef of Nopalito restaurants in San Francisco. The recipes are true to their origin with inspiration from seasonal, local ingredients in California. Because of Guzman’s upbringing in southern Mexico in Veracruz, corn was “the king of Mexican ingredients.” And, freshly made corn tortillas are key to several dishes. The Basics chapter includes information about nixtamalization, making your own masa, and turning that into fresh tortillas. There’s also a recipe for wheat flour tortillas even though corn is preferred. Then, the chapters take you through small plates, big plates, drinks and desserts, and salsas. The Ensalada de Pepinos y Verdolagas caught my eye because it’s made with purslane and cucumbers and both are in season right now. Also, the dressing is an interesting vinaigrette thickened with pureed pepitas. There are quesadillas, tacos, and tamales with meat, fish, and vegetable fillings. And, there's a lovely looking Huarache de Huitlacoche y Hongos. I’ve never found huitlacoche available locally, but I’d love to try this with all mushrooms instead. The braised meat dishes, adobo-rubbed trout, and enchiladas would all be inviting for parties. And, I have to try the Smashed Shrimp with Eggs and Salsa served with tortillas and refried black beans and the Breaded Chicken Sandwiches on homemade cemitas or sesame rolls. The fresh, bright, and spicy flavors are evident, and I couldn’t wait to jump in and try several things. 

First, I made the Queso Fresco which is similar to making fresh ricotta except the curds are pressed to form a firmer cheese. There is a typo in this recipe, though, as the amount of vinegar listed is too much for the quantity of milk. The milk will over-acidify, separate, and not curdle. Rather than using the amount of vinegar listed, once the milk comes up to about 170 degrees F, turn off the heat and just dribble in a tablespoon of vinegar at a time while stirring until the milk begins to form curds. I used less than one-quarter cup of vinegar for a half gallon of milk. After curdling, the milk was left to sit for 20 minutes before the curds were drained in a cheesecloth-lined strainer. The liquid was squeezed from the cheesecloth, salt was added, and the cheese was weighted down with a bowl to press more liquid from it. It was placed in the refrigerator for eight hours. Next, I made tortillas. I used store-bought masa harina rather than making homemade masa, but I took inspiration from the book for adding pureed, reconstituted dried chiles to the dough. I used guajillos, and they gave the masa a pretty, orange color. Rolling balls of dough and flattening them in a tortilla press is one of the funnest things to do in the kitchen. Just be sure to line the tortilla press with pieces of plastic cut from a storage bag to prevent sticking. The pressed tortillas were cooked for a few minutes per side on a griddle and kept warm wrapped in a kitchen towel. Meanwhile, I also reconstituted some cascabel chiles that were combined with another guajillo and pureed with a clove of garlic and olive oil. That oil was used for roasting vegetables. In the book, the roasted vegetable recipe includes winter vegetables like broccoli and butternut squash, but I used the technique for summer squash, eggplant, sweet peppers, and potato. Chunks of vegetables were coated in the chile oil and seasoned with salt and pepper before roasting in a 400 degree F oven until tender and browned. One last item was the Salsa de Arbol. Dried arbol chiles were heated in a tablespoon of olive oil and then pureed in the blender with canned tomatoes, a chopped tomatillo, a clove of garlic, and some salt. All of these components came together for the freshest, most flavorful tacos. 

The texture and flavor of the homemade queso fresco was on another level in comparison to the store-bought variety. And, the farm-fresh vegetables roasted with chile oil were addictive all by themselves. But, wrapped in the warm, chile-flecked tortillas with the bright, tangy, and not-too-spicy salsa de arbol and dotted with chunks of queso fresco, they were divine. I’m not sure if I’ll be baking cemitas next or gathering everything for a mole sauce, but I’ll be cooking more things from this book. 

I am a member of the Amazon Affiliate Program. 
Blogging tips