Monday, September 29, 2008

Lamb, Okra, and Tomato Stew

Whenever the question is asked, "how can I meet new people?" there seems to be one consistent answer: join a club. Personally, I've never taken this advice. Joining a club involves going somewhere on your own and meeting new people, and the thought of being surrounded by people I don't know kind of gives me panic attacks.

But last week I stepped outside of my comfort zone to go to a meeting of the Brooklyn Kitchen's Foodie Book Club, and I'm so glad I did! I guess the reason people are told to join clubs is to find other people with common interests (really now), and I'm definitely interested in food, so it was a perfect fit. (My friends, for the most part, are not interested in food at all. In fact, my closest guy friend either eats out or eats frozen tortellini - with no sauce - for every. single. meal.)

The book for last week's meeting was Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver which is about one family's attempt to produce as much of their own food as possible for a year, and supplement it almost exclusively with local products. Members of the book club are asked to bring a dish inspired by the book, so I picked up some extra ingredients during my most recent greenmarket trip. I would have loved to include something home-grown but the tiny basil plant on my fire escape is not too happy that the days are getting shorter. Apparently 5 minutes of direct sunlight a day isn't really enough to keep it growing. Anyway, at the market, I saw a giant pile of okra, and I remembered a dish I had at a Turkish restaurant a while back that had okra, lamb, and tomatoes. I thought I'd try to recreate it so I picked up some fresh lamb stew meat from another market vendor and this is the recipe I came up with. Sorry it's so vague - my camera died, so I don't have any pictures, so I wasn't really planning on blogging the dish. But it was well received at the event last night, and Taylor (one of the owners of Brooklyn Kitchen) asked me for the recipe, so here's what I remember!

Lamb, Okra, and Tomato Stew
serves 4-6ish

3/4 lb lamb
1 lb fresh okra
olive oil
1 onion
a few cloves of garlic
4 plum tomatoes
salt and pepper
honey (optional)

knife and cutting board
saucepan or dutch oven-type pot
wooden spoon

Prepare the okra by rinsing it and gently rubbing it try to remove some of the fuzz. Trim the tops leaving a little bit of the "cap" on. Put the okra in a bowl and drizzle some vinegar over them, then set it aside for half an hour (you can get everything else ready in the meantime).

Cut the lamb into bite-size pieces and season with salt and pepper. Heat some olive oil, maybe 1-2 tbs, in a Dutch oven or something similar, then add the lamb and brown it on all sides (~10 mins). While the lamb cooks, chop the onions and the garlic. Add to the pan and cook until the onions turn translucent.

For the tomatoes, I chopped two of them finely and two of them in larger pieces, but once everything cooked down together I'm not sure it made a difference, so cut the tomatoes to whatever size you want. You can also peel them beforehand if you are feeling fancy. I didn't bother. Either way, once the onions and garlic are cooked, add the chopped tomatoes, okra (drained), a splash of the vinegar the okra were sitting in, and water to almost cover everything. Stir it all up, season with more salt and pepper to taste, and if you added a little too much vinegar (*raises hand*) you can balance it out with a small spoonful of honey.

When the water starts to boil, cover the pot and lower the heat. Let it simmer for a while, however long it takes to shower and watch the Daily Show - probably an hour. Check to see if the okra are tender and the lamb is cooked through. If they are, remove the cover and turn the heat up a little until some more liquid boils off and it thickens up a little, maybe 15 minutes longer. And you're done! This also works ahead of time -- in fact I'm pretty sure it tasted better at the book club the next day than it did when I first made it, and the leftovers the following day were even better.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Cod with Stewed Eggplant

When I first saw this recipe posted at Anticiplate, it really appealed to me, though on the surface it's hard to say why. Couldn't be the cod, which I like, though it's not a type of fish I'd get excited about. Definitely not the cilantro, and I have a love-hate relationship with eggplant. I like the taste, but I hate when it's really mushy, and I hate how much oil is required to crisp it up. I think the reason why this jumped out at me is the combination of coconut milk and heat, which works wonderfully in Thai and Indian food. However, I've never seen coconut milk with Latin-type spices. Maybe it's really common and I've just missed it, which is very possible. Either way, the combination worked really well, and the eggplant didn't get too mushy, and this dish was delicious.

For the fish, I used scrod from the Greenmarket - the woman behind the counter described it to me as being very similar to cod, but milder and more delicate. I tend to think of cod as mild and delicate to begin with, so I worried the fish would have no flavor at all, but it was cheap so I got it anyway. And it was really good! I don't think I'd make a piece of scrod the highlight of a meal, like I would with salmon or tuna. Here, though, the mild flesh cut through the spicy stew in a similar way that rice would have. I think scrod would also be great deep-fried as the fish half of fish and chips. Yum.

Anyway, I followed the recipe pretty closely, with only a few modifications. I replaced the capers and cilantro used as garnishes with some chopped scallions, I used my slow-roasted tomatoes instead of sun-dried ones, and I cut the whole recipe in half. My modified version is below.

Cod with Stewed Eggplant
recipe by Daisy Martinez for Every Day with Rachel Ray

4-5 small Japanese eggplants, diced
1 plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 cup slow-roasted or sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
1/2 cubanelle pepper, thinly sliced
1/2 an 8-ounce can tomato sauce
1/2 cup coconut milk
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup flour
2 6-ounce cod fillets
Handful chopped scallions

knife and cutting board
large skillet
saucepan or dutch oven-type pot
wooden spoon

In a colander, salt the eggplant; let stand for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, in saucepan, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes and pepper and cook for 7 minutes.

Pat the eggplant dry. Add to the skillet with the tomato sauce, coconut milk, cumin and water; season with salt and pepper. Lower the heat, cover and simmer, stirring once, until the eggplant softens, 15 to 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, season the cod with salt and pepper; coat with the flour. In a large skillet, heat the remaining 2 tbs olive oil over high heat until hot. Add the cod and cook until golden, 2 to 3 minutes; flip and cook until opaque, about 1 minute more. Drain on paper towels.

Divide the stewed eggplant among 2 plates and top each serving with a cod fillet. Sprinkle with chopped scallions.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Slow-Roasted Tomatoes

In addition to the meme bandwagon, I've also recently hopped onto another bandwagon, and a much tastier one at that: slow roasted tomatoes.

I first read about them a year ago at Kalyn's blog, and while I found the idea incredibly intriguing, I couldn't imagine turning the oven on for 9 hours in the summer and then staying home the whole time to make sure they turned out okay and nothing spontaneously caught on fire. Then tomato season came to a close, and I promptly forgot about the idea... until I saw Deb's version. She used cherry tomatoes and claimed that 3 hours was long enough -- a much more reasonable time commitment, and I fully trust Deb, because, let's face it, the woman knows how to cook.

So I picked up two pints of cherry tomatoes from the greenmarket over the weekend, and on a weeknight when I had no other plans, I rushed home after work to prepare my crack tomatoes.

They got a quick rinse, then I cut them in half and drizzled with olive oil, salt, pepper, and a little fresh rosemary. Three hours later, I pulled this out of the oven:

and I tasted one, and oh my gosh I nearly fell over. Then I ate another one, and another, and then my roommate came into the kitchen and had one, and another, and suddenly I felt possessive of these little shriveled jewels and I cut her off. "Okay, time to put them away!" I said, even though I could have kept eating until the whole batch was gone. Seriously, if you gave me a bowl of slow-roasted cherry tomatoes and a bowl of good chocolate chips, I'd take the tomatoes every time. And I love me some chocolate.

So hurry up and make yourself some slow-roasted tomatoes before the season ends! I know how I'm going to be spending my weekend... and this time, hopefully I'll make enough that they'll last me more than a few days. Coming next, a delicious seasonal dish made even better by the addition of slow-roasted tomatoes!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Oh hello, bandwagon. Room for one more?

I feel like everyone and their mother's cousin's brothers-in-law have done this except me, but I am nothing if not a follower.

Wait, that didn't come out right. What I mean to say is that the Omnivore's 100 List has shown up everywhere and I started to wonder how many of the items I myself had eaten, and then once I went through the list I figured I might as well post it here. So here goes.

The Rules:
1) Copy this list into your blog or journal, including these instructions.
2) Bold all the items you've eaten.
3) Cross out any items that you would never consider eating.
4) Optional extra: Post a comment at linking to your results.
5) Optional extra #2 [from me]: Italicize the items you haven't eaten but would like to.

(Is rule 5 too much? It might be. But there are some items that I actively would like to try, while there are others (haggis, for example) that I would taste if they were placed in front of me but I wouldn't seek them out. Hence the italicizing.)

1. Venison
2. Nettle tea
3. Huevos rancheros
4. Steak tartare
5. Crocodile (I think I've had alligator, though)
6. Black pudding
7. Cheese fondue
8. Carp
9. Borscht
10. Baba ghanoush
11. Calamari
12. Pho
13. PB&J sandwich
14. Aloo gobi
15. Hot dog from a street cart
16. Epoisses
17. Black truffle (in very, very small pieces)
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes
19. Steamed pork buns
20. Pistachio ice cream
21. Heirloom tomatoes
22. Fresh wild berries
23. Foie gras
24. Rice and beans
25. Brawn, or head cheese
26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper (spicy = good. setting fire to my mouth = bad.)
27. Dulce de leche
28. Oysters
29. Baklava
30. Bagna cauda (hadn't heard of this before but it sounds delicious!)
31. Wasabi peas
32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl
33. Salted lassi (I think -- is this different from a "plain" lassi?)
34. Sauerkraut
35. Root beer float
36. Cognac with a fat cigar (cognac, sure, but no thanks on the cigar)
37. Clotted cream tea
38. Vodka jelly/Jell-O
39. Gumbo
40. Oxtail
41. Curried goat
42. Whole insects (maybe if they were coated in chocolate?)
43. Phaal (see #26)
44. Goat's milk (only had it in cheese form)
45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth £60/$120 or more
46. Fugu
47. Chicken tikka masala
48. Eel
49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut
50. Sea urchin
51. Prickly pear
52. Umeboshi
53. Abalone
54. Paneer
55. McDonald's Big Mac Meal
56. Spaetzle
57. Dirty gin martini (hate gin, hate olives, so...)
58. Beer above 8% ABV
59. Poutine
60. Carob chips
61. S'mores
62. Sweetbreads
63. Kaolin (rumor has it this used to be in McDonalds' milkshakes... also I use it at work and have probably ingested a whole lotta dust)
64. Currywurst
65. Durian
66. Frogs' legs
67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake (all of the above!)
68. Haggis
69. Fried plantain
70. Chitterlings, or andouillette
71. Gazpacho
72. Caviar and blini
73. Louche absinthe
74. Gjetost, or brunost
75. Roadkill (I mean... maybe? Would really depend on the circumstance)
76. Baijiu
77. Hostess Fruit Pie
78. Snail
79. Lapsang souchong
80. Bellini
81. Tom yum
82. Eggs Benedict
83. Pocky
84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant. (I wish!)
85. Kobe beef
86. Hare
87. Goulash
88. Flowers
89. Horse
90. Criollo chocolate
91. Spam
92. Soft shell crab
93. Rose harissa
94. Catfish
95. Mole poblano
96. Bagel and lox
97. Lobster Thermidor
98. Polenta
99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee
100. Snake

At 62 out of 100, I don't think I'm doing too badly, but there's always room for improvement! Now where'd I put that Kobe beef and Lobster Thermidor...