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Posts Tagged ‘leeks’

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All images © Dina Avila

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Remember how I was complaining about being bored with all of my cookbooks? Well, ask and you shall receive. My dear friend, Ryan, was in the midst of clearing off his bookshelves when he read my post, and short story short, after a visit with him I walked home with a stack of books knee-deep.

One of those books is Les Halles by Anthony Bourdain. You may hate him, many do, but I love him. I have been following his adventures since Kitchen Confidential and I believe No Reservations is partly to be thanked for my adventurous appetite. I used to be a picky, and I mean picky eater. I wouldn’t eat orange cheese when I was a kid because it was too strange. I didn’t eat ketchup for the first time until I was in my twenties. I ate mayonnaise on rice (a Hawaii thing) and my hamburgers had to be plain and dry. Up until my early thirties I would get plain beans and rice and flour tortillas at Mexican restaurants. Always. Then I started watching No Reservations and the clenched, slightly alarmed and nauseated stomach eventually shifted to intrigue and curiosity. I noticed I became hungry when I watched his show and my tongue would spontaneously salivate. Then I moved to Portland where I photographed a chef breaking down a whole pig whose face he later served me confited and served on tortillas and I ate them with relish. Sweetbreads? Yes, please. Oxtail soup? OK! Funny how people change.

There are still things I won’t eat. Sour cream being one of them. Cream cheese? Don’t see the point. Bell peppers, well, I’m actually allergic to those, but as the above chef once told me, there are classier peppers to cook with. I still tend to eat simply when cooking at home. In our daily lives we live off of soups, stews, roasted chicken, and when we’re feeling especially lazy a simple meal of spaghetti and olive oil. But if I’m out and you put a bone marrow luge in front of me? You better believe I’ll be scraping out ever last bit of bone marrow buttery goodness.

Cheers!

spoonhome

Leeks Vinaigrette with Sauce Gribiche

Adapted from Les Halles, by Anthony Bourdain

This dish is not the most adventurous recipe out of the pages of Les Halles, but it’s simple and brilliant.
I wanted a veggie dish to serve with roasted chicken and this leeks vinaigrette was just the ticket.
The sauce gribiche is bright and tangy and a breeze to make.

Ingredients:

6 leeks

Salt

Sauce Gribiche:

1 hard-boiled egg, finely chopped

4 cornichons, finely chopped

1 tablespoon capers, finely chopped

1 parsley sprig, finely chopped

About 4 tablespoons olive oil

About 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

Sea salt and pepper

~

Trim your leeks cutting off the green bits and the roots.

Slice lengthwise cutting almost all the way through the leek and stopping at the base. You want a little boat.

Soak the leeks in cold water briefly to get all of the sand and dirt out. Rinse, soak again, rinse and drain well.

Bring generously salted water to boil.

Drain the washed leeks and tie them together with kitchen twine.

Place the leeks in the boiling water and let cook for about 12 minutes, until tender.

Have a bowl of ice water ready.

Using tongs, gently place the cooked leeks in the ice water to stop them from continuing to cook.

While the leeks cool, prepare your sauce gribiche.

Stir all of the ingredients except for the oil and vinegar together in a small bowl.

Slowly fold in the oil and vinegar.

Add salt and pepper to taste.

Remove twine and place your cooled leeks on a serving platter gently opening up them up at their slits.

Generously spoon in the sauce gribiche and serve immediately.

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I love photographing noodles. There is something so beautiful in their monochromatic straight lines when they’re uncooked.  Gentle and unassuming. Toss them in a pot of boiling water and them become wild and unruly, curling towards the heavens bursting to be tossed in the perfect sauce. Only then, is their true nature revealed. A nutty, starchy carrier inflated with the intricacies of olive oil, tomatoes, coarse sea salt.

I wanted to cook something simple for this weeks post and my weekly inbox newsletter from Food and Wine was the source of inspiration: Spaghetti with Lamb and Mint. Lamb and mint are two words that will unquestionably get my attention. Individually, each will kick in salivation and a grumbling stomach. Bring the two together and everything stops. Mint’s bright, refreshing tanginess is the perfect balance to lamb’s gamey earthiness. Both warming and invigorating. I don’t know who figured out how amazingly wonderful lamb and mint are together, but I wouldn’t be surprised to find wild mint growing in places where lambs roam…

Cheers!

Whole-Wheat Spaghetti with Lamb and Mint

Adapted from Food and Wine

What you’ll need~

Olive oil

1 shallot, thinly sliced

2-3 cloves of garlic, coarsely chopped

2 leeks, washed and sliced, white and tender green parts

1 pound ground lamb

1 tablespoon ground cumin

1 can chopped tomatoes, drained

1-2 tablespoons tomato paste

1-2 teaspoons sea salt

1 lb whole-wheat spaghetti

Black pepper, freshly ground

1/2 cup chopped fresh mint

Handful of Moroccan Beldi olives

In a large pan warm olive oil of medium heat.

Toss in shallots and leeks stirring until softened.

Add garlic and lamb, cooking until the lamb is no longer pink.

Stir in cumin, tomatoes, tomato paste, and salt.

Cover and simmer for about 15 minutes.

In the meantime, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.

Add the spaghetti and cook until just barely done, about 15 minutes.

Working in batches, use your tongs to pull cooked spaghetti from the pot and drop in the pan with the simmering sauce.

Toss it all together, add your mint, olives and pepper and serve steaming hot.

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I have a confession to make, I’ve never really been interested in Asian food. I’m not sure if it’s because grew up on an, albeit, weird amalgam of it. If you’ve ever been to Hawaii, you know exactly what I mean. Teriyaki chicken with macaroni salad and a ball of white rice with, let’s not forget, a blob of mayonnaise on top (although, I admit, mayonnaise and rice was a staple of mine through my early 20’s). Somehow, and sadly, Hawaii has managed to strangle the life out of food. Filipino, Hawaiian, Japanese and Portuguese. Cultures that offer amazing foods, smooshed down to a sodium-laden box lunch.

Or if it’s because Chinese food, at least the Chinese food we get here in the States, is sticky, salty, MSG laden and, well, not very interesting. Not to mention, from what I understand, it’s nothing like real Chinese food.

Or maybe it’s because I don’t like bok choy.

Whatever the reason, Asian cooking has never been a part of my repertoire. But lately, there’s been a shift. I usually skim articles in food magazines that take you to Asia. When Bourdain travels to Indonesia or China, I watch with only half interest. If at all. I’ve never really understood the intense obsession chefs have with the foods of South East Asia and China. Frankly, I always thought they went there for the woman. Who would say no to a gorgeous Thai girl offering you a massage?

But that shift I mentioned? I think I’m beginning to understand why chefs are drawn to the Far East. It’s the challenge. Mediterranean foods, in a way, are easy. Vegetables of the Mediterranean grow fairly successfully in the States. There is no lack of cookbooks on the subject. Cookbooks that take you to a country, to a region, to a village, even to a family in a specific neighborhood in Italy, France or Spain. For many of us, it’s in our blood. We’re drawn to cooking with olive oil and roasted garlic. It’s innate. We’re born craving bruschetta. But mung beans? Water chestnuts? Well, not so much.

Cooking Asian food requires the hunt. Especially if you don’t have a functioning Chinatown nearby. Not even Whole Food’s has more than half an aisle devoted to Asian foods. Even then, it’s generally the stuff we’re all familiar with. Then, of course, there are the tools. And us cooks love any excuse to shop for new kitchen tools. Well if I’m going to cook Chinese food than I need a wok!

But the biggest challenge is the flavors. Bringing together and balancing lemongrass, black sesame seeds, bamboo shoots, chilies that will damn near burn your tongue off, in a way that sings on your palate? Instead of choking you? Now those, my friends, are fighting words.

So, I’m intrigued. Just like that. Maybe it’s because spring is right around the corner and I’m craving lighter foods. Maybe it’s because I’m ready for a challenge. I don’t know, but I sure am excited about it. The other day at Powell’s I bought a Japanese noodle book. Homemade udon noodles from scratch are so on the list.

Cheers!

This recipe was inspired by the lovely Heidi Swanson of 101 Cookbooks. I can always count on Heidi to inspire me with a gloriously healthy and delicious dish.

Turkey Curry Udon

Adapted from Super Natural Cooking by Heidi Swanson

What you’ll need~

1-package Udon noodles

2 tablespoons coconut oil

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 leek, thinly sliced

2 teaspoons green curry paste (more or less depending on how spicy you’d like it)

About a pound of a protein of your choice, cut into chunks. I used turkey, Heidi used tofu.

1 can of coconut milk

2 or more cups of chicken or vegetable stock

2 teaspoons ground curry or turmeric

1 handful torn dulse (Heidi used shoyu which I didn’t have on hand)

1-2 stalks of lemongrass, bulb cut off and dry leaves peeled off.

Splash of rice vinegar

1 scant tablespoon natural cane sugar

Juice of 1-2 limes

Handful of sliced almonds

1 shallot, thinly sliced and gently and briefly caramelized

Handful of chopped fresh cilantro

Cook your noodles according to package directions. Drain and set aside.

Warm your coconut oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat.  Stir in garlic, leeks, and turkey. Stir in curry paste. Cook until turkey is no longer pink in the middle.

Pound peeled lemongrass with the back of your knife to release the lemongrass essence (do take a deep breath at this point), then finely slice it. Stir in coconut milk, stock, curry powder or turmeric, dulse, lemongrass, rice vinegar and sugar. Bring to a simmer and let cook for about 5 minutes.

Remove pot from the heat and stir in lime juice and noodles. Noodles might stick together, just use your spoon to gently separate them.

Serve noodles in bowls sprinkled with sliced almonds, shallots and cilantro.

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Walking outside I can smell fall in the air. The light is changing and you can see just the hint of autumn in the leaves.  But summer hasn’t quite left us yet. Portland is finally getting a dose of late summer rain and with it high humidity. If there was any question as to whether the Moors invaded the Iberian Peninsula, just take a look at my hair when the humidity spikes. No amount of leave-in conditioner calms my frizz.

This weather reminds of spring in Austin and I find my cravings lean towards a lighter fare.

I found inspiration in Louisa Shafia’s Lucid Food– a gorgeous cookbook of simple, healthy and often unique dishes. Her version of Green Rice is laced with lime powder, dill, and pistachios. I didn’t have lime powder on hand so I sprinkled a generous bit of sumac powder to offer the tanginess you might get from lime powder.  I also squeezed a bit of fresh lime in to the finished dish. I added some French lentils I had on hand in lieu of her choice of pistachios. I wanted the dish to be more of a one-pot meal so we could have leftovers for a few days.

I served this dish with some sautéed red chard and fresh filets of tilapia. Tilapia is our go-to summer fish. It’s very inexpensive and light. I find it’s delicate flavor lends well to seasoning. We sometimes generously season it with Cajun spices, but often we just add a squeeze of lemon and fresh herbs from our kitchen garden.

Late Summer Golden Rice

What you’ll need:

1-2 cups basmati rice, cooked (I used brown basmati)

1 tsp saffron threads

2-4 tbsp olive oil

2 leeks, green and white parts, sliced and/or chopped

2 tsp or more sumac powder

1 cup chopped Italian parsley

1 cup chopped cilantro

1 cup French lentils, cooked

A few splashes of champagne vinegar. (or whatever white vinegar you have on hand)

Salt and pepper to taste (I used freshly ground green peppercorns for a bit of a bite)

Place your rice in a sieve and rinse for several minutes under cool water.  Add one cup of rice to two and a half cups of water in a pot and bring to a boil. Turn down to a hard simmer for about 20 minutes. Lower to a softer simmer until all water is absorbed. Turn off the heat and let you’re your rice rest. There are probably better instructions floating around on the Internet, but this is, more or less, how I do it.

Rinse lentils well and place in a pot and add water to about two to three inches above them. Bring to a boil and then turn down heat to a hard simmer. Cook until lentils have softened. About 20 minutes.

Place saffron in about 2 tablespoons of cool water and set aside.

Warm a few tablespoons of olive oil in a large saucepan on medium and sauté leeks until they begin to soften and turn golden. Pour the saffron through a sieve in to your leeks and rice. Slowly start folding in all of the other ingredients. You’ll probably want to taste your rice here and there to see if you need to add more spices or vinegar.

Place lid on saucepan and remove from heat. Let sit so the flavors can meld. Taste after a few minutes and add more spices if needed. I found the rice and lentil absorbed much of the flavor so I had to continue adding a bit of a salt and sumac.

Make sure your tilapia is fresh and natural. The fish we get at Whole Foods (and New Seasons) is farm-raised, and abide by Whole Foods strict farm standards. Trust me, if you care at all for our environment you don’t want to eat wild tilapia. They are bottom feeders, which means, first, who know what they’re eating thanks to what us humans dump in the ocean. Secondly, the fishing practices are very questionable. Can you imagine the damage that can be (and is!) done to the ocean environment when you have nets trawling the bottom of the sea? I don’t even want to think about it.

Tilapia is not a thick fish. It usually takes only a few minutes to cook through.

Warm olive oil in a skillet. While pan is heating up rub a bit of olive oil, a squeeze of lime or lemon, salt, pepper (I used crushed green peppercorns) and fresh herb of your choice in to the tilapia.

Place fish in warm pan and let cook for about 3-4 minutes, depending on thickness, on each side. I find the tilapia is done when it’s not spongy or rubbery when you poke it with your spatula. You want your tilapia buttery and flakey.

Serve over a bed of golden rice and red chard with a cup of Moroccan mint tea. Look out the window and watch fall come around the corner.

Cheers!

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