In the beginning there was lamb and couscous….

I admit it. I have been a blogging slacker. I made this meal long ago in a galaxy far, far away.

What I remember is that this recipe includes a whole cup of dates…a whole cup! It was uber-super-sweet and if you like that type of thing then you will like this. Me…not so much. Makes my teeth hurt just thinking about it.  I piled on the green onions to counteract the sticky sweet dessert-ness of it. Because, as we have discussed on this blog before, I am not a big fan of super-sweet, not in food or in personalities…give me a little spicy, complicated, sharp, tangy, tart or salty with my sweet. All alone it is flat and boring. I’m just saying.

Classic Indian cooking weekend


Okay, the Lamb Rogan Josh recipe was from 499 Simply Delicious Recipes not from Julie Sahni.

And I don’t really understand “lentil broth” but the Mysore Rasam (Mysore Spicy Lentil Broth) was reasonably tasty. I do have the actual lentil puree in my freezer to be used later so at least nothing was wasted.

I made cheese, Paneer, for first time. I don’t think I did a good job of pressing it because it was an odd shape and crumbled a bit when I cut it, but it wasn’t a disaster and it was relatively easy.

Which then went into the Shahi Sabz Korma (Royal Braised Vegetables in Cardamom Nut Sauce) with some carrots, turnips, potatoes and ground almonds. And yes that then went into Shahi Sabz Biriyani (Royal Vegetable and Rice Casserole).

That cured the cooking bug. The next few days were leftovers, fine dining, and takeout!

gratin is good grub

Lamb chops with mint, pecans, feta and parsley. Yum. Although my apartment did smell like lamb for days. It was Mireille’s cauliflower gratin I loved, though.

  1. simmer cauliflower in skim milk with a little salt until tender
  2. put in a buttered casserole
  3. mix 1/2 cup of the milk with 1 egg, beat it up a little and pour over the cauliflower
  4. sprinkle over 1/2 cup of shredded cheese (I used some very yummy Jarlsburg), some dots of butter and some salt and pepper
  5. I also added some panko and parm. the recipe calls for you to put it under the broiler. I put mine in the oven and let the cheese melt and brown.

So easy, so delicious…and there isn’t really that much butter or cheese so I don’t feel bad about the gratin part.

North African food and xmas presents in action – parts 2 & 3

Part 2 – So this was the first recipe made from a cookbook I got for xmas, Moroccan Merguez Ragout with Poached Eggs. The book is called the The Food52 Cookbook with recipes that came from the web site food52.com. It sounds silly I suppose but I like my real paper cookbooks that I can hold on to and write in and drip grease and chili paste on.

Anyway, for this recipe there are 12 ingredients. 7 of them you will always find in my kitchen, 2 I might have or I may have to pick up, but the last 3: merguez sausage, ras el hanout and harissa, those cannot be found in the city of Chicago. Okay. They probably can but not in the 3 or 4 places that I looked and so I was forced to make them….okay not really ‘forced’, more like ‘happy to’.

  1. Ras El Hanout – Supposedly translates to “top of the shop.” Spice vendors would all make their own super secret blends. I got a very simplified recipe from the North Africa section of my Essential Mediterranean cookbook. I picked it because I basically had all the ingredients and because I like to use my scale to measure things.

    7 g tumeric
    15 g allspice berries ground allspice
    30 g black peppercorns
    1.5 2 smallish whole nutmegs
    1 whole clove
    10 cardamom pods
    1 cinnamon stick
    1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper
    3 rosebuds 2ish teaspoons of lavender flowers

    So I used what I had:  ground allspice, and although I looked for some edible rosebuds I did not find them so I substituted in a couple of teaspoons of lavender flowers. All went into my spice grinder. I was a little worried about the two nutmegs but I picked small ones and ground in short bursts to take layers off slowly. It is possible the blade on my spice grinder (old coffee grinder, that I believe was a hand-me-down from a college roommate) is ruined. I haven’t really tried to use it since then though.

  2. garlic paprika based spice mix in morter and pestleMerguez Sausage – The web site and cookbook offered possible substitutions and a suggestion for turning some ground lamb into this sausage. I then found this recipe online and I liked it because it uses sumac and I have some sumac. I just used ground lamb. I figured I would be perfectly happy without adding fat, buying a meat grinder or putting it in casing and then taking it back out again. The recipe also called for…
  3. Harissa –  A hot chili paste/sauce which I could not find. I used the recipe from my Suvir Saran cookbook that I have been wanting to try for awhile now. Traditionally it is made with dried piri piri peppers which I did not have. I had guajillos and pasillas. I rejected the pasillas and then went and got another a small bag of guajillos and also used some generically labeled ‘red peppers’ the kind you get in bottle in the spice aisle at the grocery store but don’t really know what type of pepper they are. I stemmed and seeded all the guajillos before weighing and soaking them, the little generic red ones I left all the stems and seeds. This is partially because I like hot but not ‘really hot’ in my food, also partially because I did not strain the chilies.  I can’t seem to find the right kind of strainer for this type of job. I would greatly appreciate suggestions.

This leads to xmas presents in action part 3 (see photo above); One of my new mortar and pestles smashing up the harissa, spices, and seeds with the garlic for the sausage.

Lamb sausage ragout with poached eggFinal product: It was a lot more meaty then the picture in the cookbook which may be that there is less grease because of the leaner meat… I guess. I also I struggled with poaching of the egg, most of the yolk was cooked. It was quite spicy and delicious and I now have extra merguez sausage in my freezer, a couple small jars of harissa in my fridge (I put some in John Ash’s Grandmother’s Bean Soup leftovers the other day… brilliant!) and a jar of ras el hanout in my spice cabinet. It is going to be an everything-North-African-flavored winter!

ethnic inspired…

lamb patties, greek chop saladI’m not always big on Rachael Ray’s ethnically inspired stuff generally her American and Italian inspired recipes are her best.  Her noodle bowls are far too bland and boring for example (needs fish sauce), but these 2 recipes were fast, easy and yummy.  In both cases it is the salad that I loved. The Greek one with feta, cucumber, tomato and Kalamata olives and just some fresh lemon juice, olive oil and parsley. perfect. And the quick saute of napa cabbage and carrots with some gari (Japanese pickled ginger). wonderful. The grilled lamb patties and grilled teriyaki chicken were really the sidekicks in both meals.

chickpeas and lamb chops (deja vu)

lamb, chickpeas, potatoesThis is a dinner from last week. I was out of town all week and I didn’t get around to posting.

The grilled smashed potatoes are delicious! It is a multi-step process: boil, smash, brush with olive oil and chopped fresh rosemary, and grill.  Mine were falling apart so I was glad to have the ceramic grill grates with lots of surface area. I don’t cook a lot of potatoes so this was a nice change for me. recipe

But more grilled lamp chops! These really are kind of a go.  Just a nice bite of meat to go with the rest of my dinner; marinade was a lemon vinaigrette. recipe

…and More Chickpeas! Warm Chickpea and Swiss Chard Beet Green Salad with Sumac; this is a middle eastern recipe and it is SWEET…I can’t say I like it. darn. I found, not exactly the same recipe but really close online.

chickpea salad for breakfast?

lamb chops zucchini fritters chickpea salad

I seem to have a taste for Mediterranean style recipes lately. Maybe it is just summer which feel so right for veggies like zucchini and cucumbers and quick, hot grilling.  Maybe it is the bright flavors of salads with only lemon juice, olive oil and a few fresh herb for dressing. The chickpea salad with cumin dressing was so delicious that even early the next morning when I looked in the fridge for to get some breakfast, I seriously considered it as an option but decided it wouldn’t go all that well with coffee.

This dinner was a bit ambitious to start as late that evening as I did, but I had left the chickpeas soaking all day so I had to make those….and then the lamb chops are easy they just require the food processor to make the marinade and then to crank up the grill. The zucchini courgettes and Turkish cucumber yoghurt salad were what ended up making this meal a late one. Both the cucumber and zucchini required grating, salting and then draining and or wringing out. The cucumber salad just required a bit more chopping. This Turkish version includes a fair amount of dill (yum) and has less garlic than the similar Greek cucumber sauce. The zucchini patties just had to be mixed a few other ingredients and fried.

I kind of felt like I used every pan, utensil and appliance in my kitchen..not even close.. but it felt like it. Especially when I was washing dishes at 11 pm.

Chickpea Salad

  • 1 cup of dried chickpeas (garbanzo beans)
  • water
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped flat leaf parsley
  • 1 small red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup of fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground cumin seed
  • a pinch of cayenne pepper
  • salt and pepper to taste

I didn’t actually measure anything. I soaked the beans all day while I was at work, drained and added fresh water, brought to a boil and then turned down to low and simmered for 1.5 – ish hours until tender. Drained and cooled

Toss all other ingredients in large bowl with chickpeas. Done.