The classic Istanbul fish sandwich is simple, easy, and delicious. Fish, bread, a little spices, onion, lettuce, lemon. That’s it. Some recipes will include mayo, which isn’t my bag. Others get more complex with the salad topping. I like to keep it simple, to let the taste of the fish shine through.
Photo by Daniel Roy
The best lunch I’ve ever eaten was ceviche in Lima. Hands down.
Traditional Peruvian ceviche is amazingly simple. Seafood, lime juice, red onion, and chile. That’s it. Plus sweet potato and corn on the side.
As I said in the episode, you probably won’t be able to make the real thing, because your seafood, as fresh as it might be, won’t be as fresh as the seafood in Lima. Fed by the Humboldt Current, caught that morning, and served for lunch because dinner would be too late: that’s Limeño ceviche.
But if you do have good seafood available, this will get you pretty darn close!
Lanzhou, the capital of Gansu province, is justifiably famous for this dish, a delectable, spicy beef broth served over hand-pulled noodles, with layers of beef and daikon radish on top. Restaurants all over Gansu ladle out this dish as a pick-me-up breakfast.
You can’t make the real thing, because some of the actual ingredients are only available to restauranteurs in China and because hand-pulling noodles is incredibly challenging — they even have schools for it in Lanzhou.
So this is a legitimate home version from the terrific cookbook All Under Heaven.
Really exciting: it’s an excuse to use that InstantPot you got for the holidays and have been struggling to find uses for. Woot! You can do this without a pressure cooker, of course, but it will help to have one.
The challenge here is getting all the ingredients. It will be hard to do if you don’t have access to an Asian grocery.
One last note: this dish will taste much, much better if you let it rest for a day or so to let the flavors blend. Prepare it the day before you plan to serve it, then reheat on the stove.
As usual with red meat, I won’t get to make this at home, so if you can get the ingredients and try it out, please let me know!
Recipe adapted from All Under Heaven: Recipes from the 35 Cuisines of China by Carolyn Phillips
Photo from user N509FZ on wikipedia
Pašticada is a long-simmered piece of beef, the kind of beef that would normally be tough and chewy, but when you cook it low and slow melts in your mouth. Flavored with vinegar, fruit, veggies, and spices, it’s a traditional holiday or Sunday night meal,
Basically, you take a big ol’ slab of top round, or silverside in the UK, stick cloves of garlic and pieces of prosciutto inside it, douse it in vinegar, and leave it overnight to marinate. The next day, you quickly sear it Then you roast it with veggies like onion, celery root, carrots, plus prunes, and wine and olive oil. Low and slow in the oven.
When it’s done, as the meat rests, you puree the fruit, veggies, spices, wine, and drippings into a succulent sauce. And serve it all over njoki (gnocchi if you’d rather), which is far easier to make at home than you think.
Every Croatian grandmother has her own recipe; this is one that seems like a winner to me. Since, as I may have mentioned, my wife doesn’t eat red meat, I’m reliant on you to try this out.
Recipe adapted from https://www.petersommer.com/blog/another-bite/pasticada
Ma’amoul (Date Cookies)
Ma’amoul are shortbread cookies, filled with a sweetened date puree, baked until just golden, and dusted with powdered sugar. They are traditionally served for Eid, as a welcome sweet reward following the fasting of Ramadan, and for Easter, as a welcome sweet rewards following the fasting of Lent, for Rosh Hashanah for a sweet new year… Basically, no matter what your religion, in the Levant, if you want a sweet treat, these cookies are your go-to.
Making them traditionally requires two things you likely don’t have, but I’ve got ways to work around those. First, you probably don’t have the traditional wooden mold that you use to shape the cookies - but that’s OK. You can use your palm or anything else you have on hand to mold small cookies. Or you can order one online.
Second, traditionally, these cookies include mahlab, a spice made from cherry pits, which gives an amaretto-like flavor. Easy to find at a Middle East specialty market, but not accessible anywhere else. You can substitute almond extract or just leave it out.
Building the cookies are easy. Mix up the dough, knead it and let it sit.
Pit and chop the dates - I like medjool dates for this, but if you have deglet noor, those work too, they just aren’t as sweet. Letting the dates cook a bit helps to break down the fibers, enrich the spices, and build up the sweetness.
Roll out the dough into little balls, then take one, press it out in your hand, add some dates, and fold the dough around it. If you have a mold, put the cookie into it, press gently to get the shape, and then whap onto the counter to release it. If you don’t have the mold, it’s fine - consider using a fork to make indentations to form a pattern.
Then bake until just golden - do NOT overbake - and dust with powdered sugar.
So good. IF you like dates.
FOR THE DOUGH
FOR THE FILLING
Recipe adapted from https://www.munatycooking.com/maamoul/ Image from the Guardian
Kibbeh are delicious Lebanese dishes made of ground meat (usually beef or lamb), bulgur wheat, onion and spices. Very simple, very delicious. Sometimes kibbeh comes as a baked casserole, like a meatloaf, and sometimes it’s a deep-fried croquette, shaped in balls. Sometimes, it’s eaten raw, like steak tartare.
I genuinely like fried kibbeh best, but it’s pretty similar to falafel in looks, and you might be tired of fried food, so y’know what, we’ll try the baked variety. I think you’ll like it, and maybe your arteries will too!
A couple of things: If you can’t get the meat for the kibbeh layer ground finely from the butcher, you’ll need to grind it super-fine yourself, but if you’re like me, you don’t have a meat grinder lying around. So what to do? You may have to use a food processor to grind it down. Not great, but it’ll do.
Second, the meat will stick to your hands. Having ice cold water on hand to moisten your hands and keep them free from stickiness will help a lot. Just make sure not to get too much water into the meat.
For bulgur mixture (kibbeh)
Recipe adapted from Maureen Abood’s Rose Water and Orange Blossoms (https://www.maureenabood.com/baked-kibbeh-you-say-meatloaf-i-say-meatlove)
Photo from sbs.com.au
The trick to wonderful couscous is to steam the grain over the sauce so that the flavors of the stew seep into every little piece. Much fluffier and more flavorful than the store-bought boiled method you’re probably familiar with.
This version also steams onions and chickpeas with the same method. You soften the couscous with chicken stock first, then make a simple stew of chicken thighs, onion, tomato paste, salt and Libya’s favorite Five Spice blend: Hararat. Hararat is cinnamon, coriander, cumin, cayenne, and allspice - I love that concept of earthy, spicy, slightly sweet.
As that simmers, put a steamer over the pot and steam a ton of onions and chickpeas. After they’ve softened, you’ll transfer them to a separate pot to caramelize. Then put the couscous in the steamer and let it steam until pure fluffiness. Then pile it up: couscous, stew, and onions on top.
Recipe adapted from Umm Obabdiah’s website (http://ummobaidahcooks.blogspot.com/2011/11/libyan-couscous-bil-busla-couscous-with.html)
The sadhya is a traditional Keralan feast: a banana leaf covered with small servings of 20 different items, from rice to curries to breads to a banana for dessert. It’s pretty awesome.
It’s also not something you’ll make for a weekday meal. So what I’ve done is to take three vegetable curries and combine them for you for a mini-sadhya of sorts. Delicious, redolent of Keralan flavors, and just fun.
Each dish has a different texture, so even though the flavor profiles are complementary, the tastes are very unique. I loved how they all worked together, so I’m going to present them as such. If you want to make each individually, I got all three recipes (plus the rice) from the cookbook Savoring the Spice Coast of India: Fresh Flavors from Kerala by Maya Kaimal.
Each recipe has its own spice mix, or masala. You’ll note that they are each slightly different, and that difference matters.
Curry leaves are the hardest part of this to get and also the most important. I bought a bunch for $1 at a local Indian grocery, so I’d recommend that. You can also order them via mail, but the premium for shipping has to be crazy.
Read through this first and build your mise en place before starting. Several of the steps go VERY quickly, so it’s best to have everything chopped, mixed, and prepped before you turn on the stove.
This is going to be a bit messy and will use five pots: I’ll note which recipe you’re working on as you go - what can be made first and what can wait until the end.
Start with the:
Move on to the:
Back to the:
Next comes the:
SPINACH with COCONUT (Spinach Tharen)
Proceed to the:
Wow. 23 steps. I know that seems like a lot, but it’s all about careful planning your mise en place.
Trust me - you’ll love this. I did. The chickpeas are my new go-to recipe, and the spinach with the coconut was particularly outstanding.
Recipe adapted from Savoring the Spice Coast of India: Fresh Flavors from Kerala by Maya Kaimal (2000).
Artichokes are a special part of a Roman spring. Jewish-style artichokes are flattened and fried, and are delicious, but they can be devilishly difficult to cook at home. Roman-style artichokes, on the other hand, are, as I’ve learned, only regularly difficult to cook at home.
The cooking isn’t the problem. It’s the cleaning.
Artichokes are spiny, woodsy, challenging, and inside there’s the nasty, inedible, fluff-ridden choke. Why on earth do we bother?
Because they’re delicious.
I’ve seen some recipes which only call for the hearts, while others allow more of the leaves. Here’s what I’d recommend: trim the outer leaves, using a y-shaped vegetable peeler to remove all the woodsy bits. Then cut the tops off the artichokes, so that you can spoon out the nasty choke. Put them into lemon juice infused water - this well keep them from browning.
Once they’re cleaned, slather them with herbs and plop them in a pot with olive oil and wine. Braise them until they’re tender and enjoy!
Recipe from https://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/2017/10/carciofi-alla-romana-roman-italian-braised-artichoke-recipe.html - They have a terrific page on cleaning artichokes, complete with video!
I know I promised you huaraches. I even described them in the episode. But can I be honest? Yes? I like to keep these recipes to things you can do on a weeknight: delicious and authentic, yet not overly complicated. Well… huaraches were getting too complicated.
So instead, I give you a very simple and delicious dish with its roots in Puebla, a city between Mexico City and the Gulf Coast, where the Mexicans defeated a French Army in 1861 on May 5, forever remembered as Cinco de Mayo.
Cinco de Mayo is NOT a significant holiday in Mexico, which will surprise the many Americans who celebrate with tacos, margaritas, and more margaritas. It’s big in Puebla, but how it became big in the US is simply a marketing thing. The weather is usually nice on May 5, and early May lacked a good alcohol-driven holiday. Mexican Independence Day (September 15) is too close to Labor Day and would be less festive, I guess.
Anyway, Puebla is famous for its mole above all else, which I’ll get to eventually, because mole poblano is one of the world’s best dishes, bar none. For now, though, I introduce the tinga: shredded meat, combined with chipotle peppers, onion, garlic, tomatoes and spices. Traditionally, it’s served on tostadas, crispy fried tortillas.
This recipe, from Rick Bayless’ Everyday Mexican is adapted for a slow-cooker, so it’s great for a weekday meal. This is one of my absolute go-to recipes. Set it up in the morning, and come home with the house smelling like absolute heaven.
It’s not completely traditional. It’s got potatoes, which are not typical but which make for a nice additional filler. The slow cooker doesn’t allow for browning, hence the Worcestershire sauce to bring in umami.
I prefer tinga as a taco filling rather than as a tostada topper. It’s just less greasy that way.
I will vouch all day for this recipe. ¡Feliz cinco de mayo!
Recipe adapted from Rick Bayless’ Everyday Mexican, a cookbook that I have used more than all my other cookbooks combined. Every recipe is fantastic.
Rick Bayless is a Chicago-based chef, who has made a career of bringing out the best in regional Mexican cuisine. You may have seen his show "Mexico: One Plate at a Time" on your public television station. I appreciate that he is white and that calls for cultural appropriation reign down upon him. But he has a passionate love for Mexico which shines through. Generations of young Mexican chefs have passed through his kitchen, to start their own successful restaurants. Every year, he shuts down his restaurants to take the entire staff, from busboys to sous-chefs to a different state in Mexico, to sample the cuisine, explore the markets, appreciate the local flavors. I believe there is a massive difference between appropriating culture (like bars doing Cinco de Mayo) and showing honor and respect. If you want cultural appropriation, may I introduce you to hipster white dudes selling "Nashville Hot Chicken"? OK, soapbox over. Try this recipe and enjoy it.
You shouldn’t need a recipe for bruschetta. It’s so simple, after all. And yet, you’ve had bad bruschetta. We all have. The bread isn’t crisp enough or maybe too crisp. There’s too much topping or it’s too wet. And so, as a public service, I give you SIX EASY TRICKS to PERFECT BRUSCHETTA.
#1. The bread: Use good crusty Italian bread. Day old is preferable. Slice to about half an inch thick. Grill it if you can, toasting is an acceptable alternative.
#2. The tomatoes: fresh, ripe, local is best. Peel and seed before chopping. Most people miss this step and it makes for a less pleasant experience. Peeled and seeded tomatoes will melt in your mouth.
#3. The garlic: Slice a clove in half width-wise, squeeze the half a little bit and rub it on the top of the toast.
#4. The olive oil: Use good Italian olive oil, extra virgin, unfiltered if available. Aim towards a fruity variety, rather than a more bitter variety.
#5. The salt: Kosher salt only please, or sea salt with largish crystals.
#6. The basil: Fresh and bright. The best is the kind you grow yourself. In fact, if you live in an apartment or house or anywhere, and have a southern exposure that gets sunlight, you can grow basil. It’s worth it to do - you can use it on all sorts of things and it’s so wonderful when you pick it yourself.
Recipe adapted from http://memoriediangelina.com/2013/08/04/bruschetta
Traditional Hanukkah foods are fried in oil, and among Israeli Jews, that means sufganiyot: jelly doughnuts.
The word sufganiyot comes from the sword sfog, meaning sponge, and North African Jews brought a long tradition of frying doughnuts with them to Israel. There, they mixed with Eastern European jews who brought their own doughnuts, with jelly. These ponchkes in Yiddish are the Jewish version of the Polish pączki (pronounced "paunch-key". Pączki are Mardi Gras treats, best known in America as the reason there’s a line out of every Polish bakery in Chicago in February.
So, to make sufganiyot, you need to be able to manage yeast and dough. I can’t. I’ve tried several times. Once the water was too cold, and the yeast didn’t bloom. Another time, the water was too hot, and the yeast died a tragic scalding death. A third time, the yeast seemed OK, but I kneaded the dough too much.
But if you have skill with baking, try this recipe, and let me know how light and fluffy they are. This recipe has an orange zest, which adds some zing to the dough, and raspberry or strawberry filling. That’s great, but if you’d rather lemon zest and blueberry, I won’t be mad at you.
Serves 4 at least
Everyone loves grilled chicken, right? Especially cooked on an open flat grill and served in a warm sandwich? Yes, please.
Jerusalemites have their own version, the Jerusalem mixed grill, or me’orav Yerushalmi. Chicken bits, sautéed with spices. Supposedly concocted in the Mahane Yehuda market, just a bit west of the Old City, the mixed grill was based on English mixed grill, brought by the British. It has a twist though.
While you can make it with breasts and thighs, traditionally the mixed grill is hearts and livers. That’s often enough to deter the squeamish, but don’t let it!
This is the easiest recipe I’ll post. Dice up the chicken into small pieces, and marinate with thin-sliced onion and spices. Then sauté on a hot skillet. Easy peasy.
When I tried it, I used breast, because of squeamish family members, and I loved it. The spice mix I used had slightly different flavors than the usual shawarma blend: in addition to cumin and paprika, the mix has allspice, cinnamon, black pepper, and cardamom, which give a sweetish warmth and kick on the forefront of the tongue. It’s just pleasant. And in a warm pita with hummus and tahini sauce, marvelous.
Serves 4 at least
Recipe adapted from http://www.girlcooksworld.com/2011/02/jerusalem-mixed-grill.html
Photo from wikipedia because I forgot to take a picture of what I cooked, which was great. The onions, man, the onions made it all so magnificent.
You’ve heard of a cronut, right? Some New York baker took a croissant and fried and glazed it like a donut and made bajillions? Well, feteer is a cro-izza. It’s flaky and buttery like a croissant; in fact, some think it was the ancestor to that noble pastry. But it’s thrown, stuffed, topped, and eaten like a pizza.
It’s fiendishly simple, which is why I haven’t tried to make it yet. I tend to do really badly with fiendishly simple things involving dough, because fiendishly simple dishes often require an expert technique or skill to make them terrific, since they don’t have the complex flavors that come from many ingredients or a more complicated process.
In this case, it sounds too easy to be true. Flour, water and salt in a mixer to create a very sticky dough. Roll into four balls and let sit in a bath of melted butter. This sounds crazy and fattening, but it will make the flour much easier to roll out, and you’re going to use the butter anyway, so why not?
Take a ball, put it on a wide flat and floured surface, and roll it as thin as you possibly can. If you can see through it, that’s ideal. Put your stuffing, whether sweet or savory, in the middle, fold over the sides, and then do the same with the other layers.
Try this, then let me know how it turns out!
Serves 4 at least
Recipe adapted from https://amiraspantry.com/alexandrian-feteer-e-pizza-feteer
Soupe au pistou is a classic Provençal dish: ripe vegetables, fresh herbs, inexpensive ingredients. Soul-warming, bone-sticking nutrition in a bowl. It’s sort of like minestrone: a bean soup, flavored with fresh herbs, then with any vegetable you can think of thrown in, but especially tomatoes, then some pasta to provide a little thickening. Traditionalists say it requires haricots vests, zucchini (or courgettes, if you go that way), potatoes and tomatoes, but others say it’s whatever you have handy.
The secret to soupe au pistou, though, is the pistou itself: a dollop of basil/garlic/olive oil sauce on top. Don’t call it pesto - that would contain pine nuts, which pistou does not. Again, traditionalists say no cheese either, but I find a little Gruyere helps to make it smooth and delicious.
There are countless recipes for soupe au pistou out there. This is one I used, and it came out great. Well, I didn’t exactly. I didn’t have the cabbage and forgot the zucchini. I think both would help boost the flavor.
Two other notes: I didn’t have a bay leaf and used rosemary, which was nice but obviously quite different. The most important thing here is to ensure that you have the herbs ties up or contained; otherwise, they fall apart and you’re left with random rosemary needles.
Second, If you’re using green beans, make sure they are cut into small lengths so they’ll fit on a spoon.
The thrill is stirring that bright green dollop of pistou into the soup. It’s delicious. My son loved this one, especially with a fresh, warm baguette to soak up the soup. We also had some French butter on hand, which was very pleasant with the bread.
Be forewarned: this makes a LOT, so don’t make a vat of it the day before you go away on a four-day business trip. Bon appétit!
Serves 8 at least
FOR THE SOUP
FOR THE PISTOU
Recipe adapted from https://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/1013986-soupe-au-pistou. Image from wikipedia.fr
This is the easiest pasta to make, and the easiest pasta to mess up. There are four ingredients:
You’d think this would be so easy. I mean, it’s basically Roman mac n’ cheese. But you’d be surprised how easy it is to get really greasy or clumpy or both. You’re trying to make a creamy sauce from a hard cheese. But it can be done!
Here’s secret one: grate the Pecorino as fine as you can. The finer it is, the easier it will emulsify into your sauce.
Secret two: save a little pasta water - that’s the water you cook your pasta in. Makes a huge difference in making your sauce silky since the water contains starch, which will again help to emulsify.
Secret three: don’t try to make this a one-pot dish. You’ll end up overcooking the cheese, which leads to lumps. Instead try this. Cook your spaghetti in well-salted water. And yes, spaghetti really is the winner here. Not so thin that it falls apart, but not so thick that portions get uncovered in sauce. Short pastas would be less appealing here too. Before you drain your pasta, be sure to save a cup or so of your pasta water.
OK. Now add the warm pasta water to a separate pot with your finely grated cheese, about 2 cups or 110 grams. Stir until it’s all completely melty and beautiful. If it looks as though it’s breaking, add a little more pasta water. Then tong in the pasta and mix it all up so it’s all coated. Buon appetito!
Xi’an, being on the silk road, sits at a fascinating middle ground between east and west, only in this case, west means not Europe but the steppes of Central Asia.
This soup reflects that heritage: it blends Chinese spices and flavors (ginger, star anise, sichuan peppercorns) with lamb, a very Central Asian meat, and bread. The bread is almost a homestyle flour tortilla or naan, meant to be ripped apart and doused in the soup, to thicken and dissolve in the broth.
Noodles make an appearance as well, and the entire experience is one of warmth, both temperature, spiciness, and soul-warming home-ish-ness. That’s not a word.
I think I’m going to try this with chicken, since my wife will go for that. Its won’t be the same! But at least it’s close. Try this out and let me know what you think!
Recipe adapted from All Under Heaven: Recipes from the 35 Cuisines of China but Carolyn Phillips and from https://liviblogs.blogspot.co.uk/2016/08/yang-rou-pao-mo-recipe.html
One of the special pleasures in life is a cold spread coating a piece of warm, fresh-from-the-oven bread, and this one from Greece is my favorite.
It’s fiendishly easy and magnificently garlicky. If you don’t like garlic, then give this a pass. Not for vampires.
Basically, you boil potatoes, and mash them until they’re smooth. I find it a lot easier to boil potatoes you’ve already cut into chunks.
In the meantime, you make a puree of garlic, lemon juice, olive oil and an additional thickener. Almonds are standard, but if you’re nut-free, bread crumbs will do in a pinch. Puree the garlic in the lemon juice - the acid will remove some of the garlic bite while keeping the flavor.
Then spoon it all together. If it’s too thick, a little water will do, but not too much. You want this to be thick enough to spread onto something, but not thin like mayonnaise or anything like that. Slather it onto bread or fish or basically whatever you want. It will be worth it.
So I have searched every website out there to find an acceptable spanakopita, sorry, I mean spanakotripita, recipe, and I think this one will work.
Here’s the thing: phyllo dough is an absolute pain in the backside to work with. It freaks me out every time. So kudos to those who choose to make their own. Even the frozen kind is challenging for me.
I found this recipe at https://www.themediterraneandish.com/spanakopita-recipe-greek-spinach-pie. The best thing about this site is that they have many photographs and even videos really documenting each step.
Check their website out. Honestly - it’s so well done. They make it look actually easy to do.
Another note: I got into a significant argument with a Greek-American colleague about whether a spinach pie with feta was spanakotiropita or just spanakopita. He was insistent that all spanakopita included cheese - it didn’t need to be mentioned specifically. Note that this is counter to the point that Darby made in the episode. We ended up at a Greek restaurant in Chicago (Greek Islands!) and they listed their spinach and cheese pie as… spanakotiropita! Victory. Nike.
Just go to https://www.themediterraneandish.com/spanakopita-recipe-greek-spinach-pie and follow the step-by-step there. It’s brilliant.
There are few dishes as stereotypically Greek as roast lamb. With the weather starting to get cold as we move towards Autumn, what better way to celebrate stick-to-your-ribs comfort food?
If we were REALLY doing this right, we would roast a whole lamb on a spit in your front yard. But that might upset the neighbors, the police, and the homeowners’ association, so we’ll do something in the oven
Arni sto Fourno (αρνι στο φουρνο), which means “oven-roasted lamb,” is a recipe I’m using from the restaurant where I met my wife 15 years ago. In fact, this is the very dish I had that night, which is a good way to know that it’s the real deal - I mean, it was fifteen years ago.
The restaurant, the Greek Islands, calls it Arni Fournou, but whatever you call it, it’s super simple. Chunk up some potatoes, throw in chopped tomatoes, garlic, oregano, lemon juice, olive oil, and salt and pepper. Then nestle in four lamb shanks, of about a pound each (500 g).
This recipe (http://checkplease.wttw.com/recipe/arni-fournou) comes from the Greek Islands, via the files of Check Please!, a public television staple in Chicago, in which each of three average viewers invites the other two to their favorite local restaurant. I wish every town had that show - it does a terrific job in introducing viewers to cuisines, neighborhoods, and establishments they would never have considered otherwise. (http://checkplease.wttw.com).
Sesame halva is well known throughout the world, and can be purchased at most Middle Eastern stores or Jewish delis. I don’t care for it though, so I’m trying out a different version: one based on flour rather than sesame.
It's smooth, sweet - but not too sweet, with a nuttiness that comes from toasting the flour after blending it with butter. I omitted the almonds because my kids are allergic, but they would probably give an amazing added crunch.
This recipe comes from the New York Times: https://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/1017926-turkish-flour-helva
1. In a medium pot over medium heat, melt the butter. Whisk in the flour, a little at a time to prevent clumping; reduce heat to very low and cook, stirring often with a heatproof rubber spatula or wooden spoon, until the flour is deep golden brown and butter separates and floats to the top, about 1 to 2 hours. The higher the flame, the quicker it will cook, but the more you will have to stir it.
2. Meanwhile, in a medium pot, combine sugar, 1 1/2 cups/355 milliliters water, and milk; bring to a low simmer over medium heat. Turn off heat, cover to keep warm, and reserve.
3. When flour mixture is toasted and browned but not burned, slowly whisk in the warm milk mixture and a pinch of salt if you like. (It's O.K. if the milk has cooled to room temperature; it should not be cold.) Raise heat to medium-high and cook, stirring with a heatproof rubber spatula or wooden spoon, until mixture comes together in a paste-like texture and no longer sticks to sides of the pot. (Make sure to stir in the corners and bottom of pot.) Whisk the mixture occasionally, if necessary, to create a smoother texture and get rid of any lumps. Cover pot with a cloth and a lid, then let cool.
4. In a medium skillet, toast the almonds in the dry pan over medium heat. Sprinkle almonds and cinnamon over cooled helva. Spoon onto plates or into small bowls to serve.
Involved? Yes. But worth it. Really worth it. Here's a couple of tips:
Chicken, skewered and grilled, is a classic Persian dish, one that has been cooked for centuries. And it’s magnificent. The key is two-fold: 1) the marinade: a tangy blend of yogurt, lime juice, olive oil and saffron, which does wonderful things to the chunks of chicken breast, and 2) the charcoal grilling, which lends that lovely char that so nicely offsets the tenderness of the meat.
Chicken alone is nice; I like to pair with vegetables like onions, peppers, and tomatoes. Make sure you cook those on different skewers, as they and the chicken take different times to cook.
Above all, you need a starch to go with this, and the best without doubt is the chelo, the rice. It’s officially just a standard steamed basmati rice, but if you do it right, you get this lovely crust (or tah-dig) at the bottom of the pan that is so mind-blowing.
This recipe comes from Azita from the top-notch Persian food blog Turmeric and Saffron (http://turmericsaffron.blogspot.com/).
Start with marinating the chicken (6-8 hours before meal)
Move to rice (3.5 hours before meal)
As the rice steams, heat the grill and get the chicken ready to go.
Involved? Yes. But worth it.
This week’s recipe comes courtesy of Vivek Vasan, our special guest and host of the Historical India podcast. The recipe is based on his mother’s recipe, so you know it’s gotta be good. I haven’t been able to try it yet, mainly because finding many of the ingredients require a special trip to the local South Asian grocery, but I will be trying it soon.
It sounds complex, but each of the four major steps require some rest time, leaving plenty of time to proceed to the next. Start with making the dough, then build the filling while the dough rests. While the litti cooks, you can make the baigan chokha. To bake the chokha, you can bake in a conventional oven, since you’re likely not to have either a Tandoori oven nor to fuel said oven with upla (animal dung). While they bake, chop, sauté and season the eggplant. Then all will be ready.
To make dough:
For Stuffing (Pitthi)
For Chokha – this is one option for the accompaniment - Eggplant or you can try the Potato one
Prepare dough for Litti
How to make Stuffing for Litti
How to make Litti
How to make Chokha for Litti
Aaloo (Potato) ka Chokha
Courtesy of Vivek Vasan
This recipe comes from the excellent Indian Home Cooking, co-written by Suvir Saran, who is a friend of a friend, and who has been personally kind and generous to me for years now. Buy his book(s).
Indian cuisine is fantastic if you are a vegetarian, and one of the hallmarks of typical Indian cooking is dal, or lentils, stewed up and served over rice or with quick-fired bread.
This recipe is great for weeknight dinners. It’s easy, flavorful, a little spicy, and totally good for you. My 10-year-old son loves it. I don’t have mango powder, but I find that the lemon works really well to bring that bit of acidity to balance the turmeric and cumin.
Try this out with rice - I like to use basmati and to do a pilaf (toasting the rice in cumin-studded oil before rehydrating). I think you’ll enjoy it!
Recipe from: Indian Home Cooking, Suvir Saran and Stephanie Lyness
(I forgot to take a picture - I will next time)
Traditionally, this dish requires carp caught from the Yellow River. You won’t have access to that in all likelihood, so use any good firm mild-flavored fish. Whole fish looks really cool, but if you’re not trying to impress, filets work just as well. Bass, trout, halibut, all would work fine. I used grouper, which worked fantastically well. The recipe is for the whole fish, but cooking a filet is easier.
Basically, score the skin of the fish if you’re using whole fish, coat it with cornstarch and then flash-fry it in a very hot wok. Then drain the oil, and make a simple lightly sweet and vinegary sauce in the wok and serve with rice and veggies. The sauce is not fluorescent orange. The key is the black vinegar. I had never heard of this. It’s a rice-based vinegar, but aged so it becomes dark and umami-rich. It’s kinda like balsamic but more magical, and the way it mingles with the sugar, garlic, scallions and ginger… wow. You can use the sauce on chicken, tofu, pork… I bet it’s really good with strips of lean beef stir-fried. Try it. You will like it.
1 whole or filleted fish (1 1/2 lbs)
1 tsp salt
oil for frying (peanut or vegetable or similar)
2 green onions, chopped fine
2 tbsp fresh ginger, peeled and chopped fine
3 cloves garlic, chopped fine
1/4 cup black vinegar
3 tbsp sugar (preferably turbinado)
2 tbsp soy sauce
1/4 chicken stock (unsalted)
1 tbsp cornstarch dissolved in 3 tbsp cold water
Adapted from All Under Heaven: Recipes from the 35 Cuisines of China by Carolyn Phillips