Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Fake Meat: the Best Vegetarian Chili

If you don't want to deal with my long intro, skip down a ways to the recipe for vegetarian chili. But it will be your loss.

After we dropped Maya off at Beloit College in Wisconsin in August 2005, we headed for the Wisconsin Dells. This is a beautiful natural area that in recent decades has become the indoor-outdoor all-season water park capital of North America, and one of the schlockiest resorts anywhere. Think Lake George, only many times more so. We did this in part out of a sense of parental obligation. The time before she left for college (ok, let's say the previous 18 years) were very intensively about Maya. So we thought that at least some of the summer vacation should be about Harry too, and the Dells seemed like a dream come true for a 13-year old.

This is not to say that the Dells do not have their virtues. The water parks are fun and doubly so if you are stuck in the Upper Midwest in January and can splash around indoors. And there is the Hades roller coaster at the Mount Olympus water and theme park. (The theme is sort of Greek as in diner, rather than as in mythology.) But Hades was amazing. It is an old-fashioned wooden coaster and the first, incredibly high and steep drop is into the gaping mouth of hell, after which you find yourself racing and turning around in the dark, under the parking lot -- sheer terror and pure fun. However, this is not the kind of resort you expect to go to for the food, most of which consists of the usual chains and fast food restaurants (not that there is anything wrong with Culver's custard and fried cheese curds, as separate courses, but that is another matter).

However, we did happen on an excellent vegetarian restaurant called The Cheese Factory which was as out of place in this town as a Cossack in a Sukkah. It was right down the road from our resort hotel, the Kalahari (a desert themed water park?), so we tried it . Usually the vegetarian food that we go for is of the ethnic or locavore vegetable variety, but this place is nothing of the sort. It specialized in fake meat : omelets with vegetarian ham and pancakes with soy bacon for breakfast; vegetarian Reuben sandwiches (with seitan pastrami) and things like that for lunch; and tofu strogonoff, textured soy protein meatballs, and seitan chicken parmiggiano for dinner. It seemed to be run by some kind of Christian cult (growing up Jewish in Queens, any form of Christianity other than Catholicism was some sort of cult, but this was on a whole other level). The waitresses dressed "prairie-style" like Nicky and the polygamous sister wives from the compound on Big Love, and they smiled all the time all had names like Patience, Purity and Charity. It all sounds revolting, but the food was good and it converted me into of a devote of fake-meat. At this stage in my gastro-spiritual development, it is very convenient to be able to enjoy soy bacon on a grilled cheese sandwich, "fake-jitas" (fajitas made of soy or wheat gluten beef strips) that you can have with sour cream and cheese, and not to mention vegetarian chili with all the fixings including cheese and sour cream.

The following recipe is very liberally adapted from The Cheese Factory Restaurant Cookbook, on sale at the restaurant. It marks a departure for me in a few ways. It is much less stream of consciousness than my other recipes. As I made it this afternoon (special request of Maya, Andrew, Sarah and Helen), I wrote down the ingredients and what I did with them at every stage. Also, I am presenting this in more conventional style, with the ingredients first and then the procedure. It makes an enormous quantity. I suggest you set aside half without the beans and final seasonings and freeze it. Then add the beans and seasonings to what is left in the pot, which will serve 8-10 in any case. It is the kind of dish that it pays to make in quantity. For those to whom this matters, it is pareve (without the accompaniments of course) so you can use it in lots of interesting ways.

Vegetarian Chili

  • 4 cups Textured Soy Protein (TSP) or Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP), about 1 pound
  • 3 cups bullion (2 Telma pareve beef cubes dissolved in 3 cups boiling water)
  • 4 tablespoons oil (I use canola)
  • 3 medium onions, chopped (about 1 quart)
  • 3 carrots, trimmed, peeled and chopped
  • 4 stalks celery, trimmed and chopped
  • 10 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1 large green pepper, stemmed, seeded and diced
  • 1 large red sweet pepper, stemmed, seeded and diced.
  • 2 tablespoons ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper (about 45 turns of the grinder -- I counted)
  • 2 teaspoons thyme
  • 2 teaspoons "Ceylon" cinnamon (or 1/2 to 1 teaspoon regular -- see note)
  • 2 tablespoons paprika (preferably smoked sweet Spanish pimenton)
  • 1-2 tablespoons ground chipotle pepper
  • 4-6 tablespoons ground Ancho pepper (you can substitute a little ground pasilla or mulato and cut down on the chipotle if you can find them)
  • 2 28 ounce cans crushed or diced tomatoes (I use Muir Glen fire roasted)
  • 6 ounces tomato paste
  • 1-2 tablespoons of salt
  • 4 cups water
  • 28 ounce can red beans (I prefer small red beans to kidney beans)
  • 28 ounce can black beans
  • 2 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 4 teaspoons roasted ground cumin (you can probably substitute garam masala here, but I would cut the quantity to 2 teaspoons)

Accompaniments (any or all)
  • sour cream
  • chopped white onion
  • chopped cilantro
  • chopped green chili
  • white or brown rice or elbow macaroni
  • corn bread
  • shredded cheddar cheese
  • hot sauces
  • avocado cubes
  • toasted tortilla strips (take 12 tortillas, cut in half, cut into 1/4 inch ribbons, put on a baking sheet sprayed with vegetable oil spray, spray a little more, and bake in a 300 degree oven for 30 -45 minutes. They should be crisp but not burned. Guard these well until you serve them.)
  1. Put 1 tablespoon oil in a very large non stick skillet. Add the TVP or TSP and toast on medium low heat, stirring occasionally, until it turns several shades darker. I aim for the shade of caramel, you can try to darker but be careful not to burn.
  2. Add the bullion, stir, and set aside until ready.
  3. In a large (5-6 quart) pot, heat the remaining oil, add the onion, salt lightly, and saute on medium until soft but not brown.
  4. Add the carrots, celery, garlic, and peppers. You can prepare these while you are sauteing and add each to the pot when done. Saute until soft.
  5. Add all the spices (coriander through Ancho), and saute a few minutes on low until fragrant being careful not to burn them.
  6. Add the tomatoes, paste, and salt. Stir well and simmer about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  7. Add the soaked TVP/TSP stir well, and add up to 4 cups additional water.
  8. Simmer for about 1/2 hour stirring occasionally and being careful not to burn it.
  9. Take half of the chili, and set aside to freeze.
  10. Drain the beans, rinse very well, and add to the chili and cook another 15 minutes or more until well heated through.
  11. Add the cocoa and roasted cumin and serve with any accompaniments you would like.

  • The recipe sounds longer and harder than it is. It probably takes a 90 minutes beginning to end, not all of it active, and it is well worth the effort. Besides, you will have lots of dinners in the freezer.
  • Ceylon Cinnamon is true cinnamon and is used in Mexican cooking and available in good spice stores and as canela where Mexican ingredients are sold. What we generally call cinnamon is really cassia, which has a different flavor and should be used much more sparingly.
  • It doesn't matter whether you use Textured Soy Protein or Textured Vegetable Protein, either form of fake meat will do. They are yellowish tan in color and look sort of like a cross between coarse bread crumbs, corn flakes, and some kind of animal feed. Since most ground beef makes no noticeable contribution to the flavor of the dishes in which it is used, and since this is so vigorously seasoned, you can use TSP or TVP in confidence. They are healthier and more economical than ground meat, and pareve. Especially when seasoned with pareve bullion, it adds a meaty texture and flavor missing from bean or vegetable based vegetarian chili. I use Bob's Red Mill brand, which also happens to be heckshered.
  • Because I usually make this in large quantities, and for crowds I tend to make it on the mild side, and people can add chopped chile or hot sauce if they want. I usually use the minimum amount of chile powder in the recipe, but you can use the max or even more if you know who will be eating it.
  • It you tire of chile by itself, try chile dogs, chili veggie burgers, or chili cheese omelets.

Red cabbage soup (from leftover chicken with red cabbage)

We had about two cups of leftover red cabbage in the freezer from the chicken with red cabbage which I blogged about last time. If you find yourself with some of this, here is a great, quick soup you can make. It is adapted from a red cabbage soup of Marcella Hazan's without all the chazerai. A lot easier also.

Red cabbage soup with chicken sausage:
  1. Take 1/4 to 1/2 pound of fresh (i.e. not precooked) chicken sausage. cut into half inch slices, which is a lot easier if it is frozen. Brown in a medium pot in a little olive oil on medium heat. You could leave out the sausage but it adds a lot to the final dish.
  2. Add the defrosted cabbage. If there is any leftover chicken in it, bone it and add to the pot. Add 2 to 3 cups of chicken broth, preferably homemade (thought I used Tabatchnik which was surprisingly good; if you use bullion cubes you are on your own).
  3. Bring to a boil and simmer 5 minutes.
  4. Add a 15 oz. can of canellini beans, drained and rinsed very well -- all the foamy gunk should be washed out. (You could also use a cup to a cup and a half of fresh cooked white beans, but why bother?) Simmer another 5 minutes.
  5. As a finishing touch, saute 3-4 cloves whole, smashed, peeled garlic to 1 or 2 tablespoons olive oil in a small pot. Cook until light brown, and add about a teaspoon of dried rosemary. Cook another minute, and then pour through a strainer into the soup.
  6. Serves 2 people as a main course, 4 as a hearty appetizer. Of course, if you have more leftover cabbage, make more soup.
Fresh, kosher chicken sausage is available at Kosher Marketplace and is worth looking for elsewhere. You could also try it with the little spicy dried turkey sausages, but the effect would be very different -- more Spanish than Italian.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

A very Italian Hanukah

As the smell of oil and onions begins to clear from our apartment, and because I haven't blogged in a while, I think this is a good point to reflect on some of the better meals that we had during Hanukah, two of which were based on Marcella Hazan's Italian recipes. We skipped some of our usual favorites, especially homemade sufganiot (jelly doughnuts). The night we had planned on making them, we had a hoard of teens and twenty-somethings descend on our house, devour almost 100 latkes, and I didn't feel like making a double recipe. I hope we get to do them next year though. I generally don't cook many pastries, but these are lots of fun to make, and the dough is a soft as a baby's bottom. The recipe that we use is from Faye Levy's International Jewish Cookbook, which is one of those great cookbooks that doesn't seem to contain a single bad recipe (but which annoyingly includes the author's name in the title).

What we did have that night, which proved to be very popular, were ricotta fritters, which sort of come from Marcella Hazan's second cookbook, More Classic Italian Cooking. I say "sort of" because I couldn't find the book and didn't feel like following some of her rather strict directions anyway (she can come off a bit like an Italian Margaret Thatcher). It will come as no surprise to the readers of this blog that one of the reasons I don't cook many pastries and cakes is that I don't like having to follow precise directions. We winged it and it came out great. An approximation of my version is below, but don't get too hung up on doing it exactly as I say.

The funny thing was that our other very successful dinner was Hazan's chicken with red cabbage, with a little Filipino touch at the end. That night only Amy, Harry and I were home, and we enjoyed it with latkes, which are actually fun to make when you are only cooking for three. The combination of red cabbage with the latkes was more Middle European than Italian. Maybe this is what they eat in Tyrol. Again, my adaptation is below. It was surprisingly good, and Harry, a real meat and potatoes man, had seconds on the cabbage. There was quite a bit of cabbage with rich chicken juices left over, and one day I will turn it into a soup with chicken sausage and white beans. I'll let you know how it comes out. But meanwhile, the recipes:

Ricotta Fritters:
  1. Take one pound of ricotta cheese and smush it around with a fork to smooth it a bit. I used fresh ricotta.
  2. Beat in 2 large eggs.
  3. Season with a pinch of salt, about a tablespoon of sugar, a tablespoon or two of rum, and a good amount of freshly grated nutmeg. Add a teaspoon of vanilla if you feel like it. (The original recipe calls for grated lemon rind, and I didn't want to bother so I used the other seasonings. The funny thing is that everyone raved about how lemony the fritters taste anyway. So, why bother?)
  4. Mix in about 1/4 to 1/2 cup of flour. Don't overmix because the gluten will develop and it may get tough. (Think pancakes and muffins here.) Add a bit more if it looks too moist. The exact quantity will depend on the moisture level of the ricotta.
  5. You may either deep fry or pan fry these. The method is basically the same, but deep frying uses vastly more oil, and as a consequence produces less greasy results.  To deep fry, heat a minumum of 2 inches of oil in a fryer or Dutch oven to 375 degrees.  To pan fry, use a skillet and about 3/4 inch of oil. Bubbles will form around a piece of bread when you dip it in.
  6. Take tablespoons of batter and push them gently into the oil with another spoon. (Don't drop it from a height.)
  7. Turn over when the underside browns with a spatula and a fork, and fry another minute or two. Regulate heat so that they cook quickly but don't burn.
  8. Remove with a slotted spoon, seive, or tongs. Drain on crumpled paper towels.
  9. Transfer to a serving platter and drizzle with Middle Eastern date honey (also known as date syrup) or a flavorful bee honey. Serve as soon as possible.
  10. Serves 6-8.
If you are super lowcarb, you could also substitute ground almonds for the flour.

Chicken with Red Cabbage:
  1. Heat a tablespoon of oil in a pot or skillet large enough to accommodate all ingredients later, and add a medium onion, quartered, sliced and salted lightly and saute for a few minutes, stirring occasionally.
  2. When the onion is soft, add about 4 cloves of garlic, sliced, and saute a few more minute.
  3. Add about 1 to 1 1/2 pounds of red cabbage, quartered, cored and shredded finely. Season with salt and pepper and mix well.
  4. Cover and cook about 10 minutes until the cabbage begins to wilt.
  5. Add a smallish chicken (3 pounds or less), cut into 8 pieces. Mix into the cabbage, and pour 1/2 to 1 cup of red wine over it call.
  6. Bring to the boil, turn the heat down to medium low, and simmer about 45 minutes until the chicken is just done.
  7. Remove the chicken to a plate, and boil down the cabbage to reduce the juices as much as you want.
  8. Put the cabbage in a bake and serve dish, top with the chicken, skin side up, and broil in the middle of the oven until the chicken is well browned and the skin is crisp. (This is the Filipino touch, from Chicken Adobo, and it makes all the difference, especially if you hate flabby stewed chicken skin.)
  9. Serves 4, maybe with a little left over for lunch. Great with latkes. If not, serve roasted potatoes or a good baguette.
Note: You can easily double this recipe is you have a large enough pot. The ideal proportion is no more than 1/2 pound of red cabbage to pound of chicken. Don't be tempted to increase the cabbage or it won't be flavorful enough. If you want more cabbage, throw in some extra chicken backs or necks, or add some chicken stock and reduce it more.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The absolute best latke recipe

Hanukah starts tomorrow, so nobody should miss out on what I think is the absolute best latke recipe in the world, which is based on one that comes from, of all places, Reform Judaism magazine. (I may have some problems with the movement, but they do publish a good magazine, not like the dreck that United Synagogue produces for the Conservative movement.) The original recipe is by Tina Wasserman, and my version is fartaytscht und farbessert in some significant ways, but she deserves a lot of credit for making her method known to the world.

This is the only really good recipe that I have found using a food processor rather than a hand grater. Even most of today's hand graters don't work all that well -- the holes are too coarse or too fine. My grandmother used to use something that looked like a piece of wire fence, though I haven't seen anything like it in years. So save your knuckles, and try these.  Be aware that latkes, like pizza, bagels and chopped liver, are very personal foods.  They have to be just right (how your better-cook grandmother made them) or they won't quite do.  Some people like only coarse shreds so the latkes practically fall apart.  I think that they are crazy but who am I to argue.  Others like it much more onion-y.  I have even been told that my latkes lack tam (flavor).  Again, though I generally go for strongly flavored foods, I like my latkes with a whiff of onion and would prefer not to taste it all
night.  But if you swing differently, by all means use two onions instead of one. 

I recently made a double batch of these latkes  with six pounds of potatoes to freeze for a party.  It yielded about 60  latkes and took 90 minutes including cleanup.  Plan accordingly.

  1. Peel 6 large Yukon Gold potatoes, about 3 pounds. Put in cold water.
  2. Grate the potatoes in a food processor on the shredding blade. Immediately run under cold water and squeeze dry.
  3. Change the blade on the processor to the usual grinding blade and grind an onion to a coarse puree. Add about 1/4 of the grated potatoes and puree these as well. Add salt (lots, about a tablespoon of kosher salt) some pepper, and 2-3 eggs, and mix briefly.
  4. Stir all of this into the rest of the grated potatoes.
  5. Mix in about 1/4 cup of flour, though you will need more later. (Most recipes call for matzah meal, but after much experimentation, I think that flour works best here.)
  6. Heat fat in a skillet. We usually haul down my mother-in-law's old electric skillet for this one. Stainless or cast iron would also work, but non-stick is a waste here. For the fat, we usually use Crisco. You're frying latkes and you're going to worry about transfats? It should be at least 3/4 inch deep. The more fat, the less it cools when you put the latkes in, the crisper and less greasy they will be.
  7. If using an electric skillet, heat it to 375; otherwise, heat it on medium high and test the fat with a piece of bread. If it bubbles, it is ready. Use a frying thermometer if you have one.
  8. Put large tablespoons of the potato batter in the fat, but don't press them down. Fry about 3 minutes on a side. The later batches tend to cook quicker than the earlier ones. Try one latke first. If it looks to liquid (you will know that it is if it disintegrates in the skillet) add more flour. If it just spreads out into a pancake and holds together, you are good to go.
  9. Drain the latkes on crumpled paper towel on top of a paper bag. Serve as hot and as fresh as you can.
  10. As the batter sits, some of the juices will separate. Drain them out, and add about a tablespoon more flour at a time until the batter isn't liquidy. Also, you will probably need to skim out some of the solids so they don't burn and add more fat to the pan.  Just be sure to bring it back up to cooking temperature before adding more batter. 
Accompaniments? Some people like applesauce. (I think homemade is wasted here, but I am willing to be proven wrong.) I like sour cream, especially with a little smoked salmon on top. I think my mother-in-law said that when she was young, they would just sprinkle them with sugar. Before he had to worry about hypertension, my father liked them plain with some coarse salt.

How many does it serve?  Who knows?  The three pounds of potatoes will make about 25-30 latkes, which I would say serves 4-6 as the main event of the dinner.  But, a lot depends on what else you are serving.  With brisket?  Figure 2 each.  With sour cream and applesauce, maybe following a mushroom barley soup or tuna salad?   Figure 5 each.  Now that everyone is watching their carbs, it may go further.  If there are teen boys present, all bets are off.

Can I make them in advance? No, not really. But if you have a life and a large number of guests, say anything more than 3, you may want to. You can make them earlier in the day, drain them on toweling, and then leave them at room temperature for a few hours. Reheat in a 350 oven in a single layer on baking sheets. You can also freeze them, on sheets in a single layer, and then store them once frozen in a bag. Reheat them the same way, just a bit longer. For some reason, they tend to get gluey if refrigerated.

Why are these the absolute best latkes in the world? Coarsely shredded potato latkes fall apart and get too greasy. Latkes made from processed, pureed potatoes are just boring. This recipe gives you the texture of the shredding, the body of the ground potato and no bloody knuckles. Beyond this, there are many keys to latke success:  salting well, plenty of fat, frying soon after the mixture is prepared and adding flour or draining water as the mixture sits. Several factors keep the latkes from discoloring: rinsing and draining potatoes and shreds, working relatively fast so that the batter doesn't discolor, and using a light colored potato. There are few things as unappetizing as a gray latke.

To peel or not to peel? This is very controversial. If you use a light skinned potato and rinse quickly and properly, you should be OK. Don't even dream of trying this with russets (baking potatoes). Some people swear that the skins give incomparable texture and flavor. However, I think that the real reason that I peel is to make Bengali potato skins (potato skins sauteed in mustard oil with white poppy seeds, chick pea flour, and a touch of chili). Peeling potatoes for latkes makes Hanukah a great time to accumulate enough skins to make this dish, which is probably my daughter's favorite. She is coming home this weekend, so we will be prepared.

Why Crisco? I don't know. This is what my mother-in-law used so it is what I use. My grandfather said that in Pruzhane they would fry them in goose fat. I wonder if the fat could have gotten hot enough to crisp them, but they must have tasted delicious. There must be something about the crystalline structure of solid fats that contributes to the texture. And there is a certain visual poetry generally denied to Jews who don't cook with lard of seeing a vast amount of Crisco melt in a skillet. But use oil if you must.


One of the challenges of switching to kosher meat is that fewer cuts are available. The hindquarters are forbidden because they contain the sciatic nerve (in commemoration of Jacob's injury when he wrestled with the mysterious man at Jabbok). You can actually remove this, but it is expensive and time consuming. My grandfather said that in Pruzhane, the shtetl where they came from in Belarus, his father would stay up all night performing the process. In the US, as opposed to Pruzhane, where non-Jews are happy to buy meat from kosher slaughterers (and much prime meat is), hindquarters are not certified as kosher and the observant are restricted to the forequarter, which generally contains tougher cuts.

In transitioning to using only kosher meat, I have found myself experimenting with a lot of cuts that I didn't deal with before. Hence clod. Fairway market sells a kosher cut called clod, which is also known as minute roast, but clod has a certain poetry about it. I don't know the etymology, but it must mean something in Yiddish. I don't particularly care for it when cut into steaks,which I don't find particularly tender, and they have a thick vein of gristle running down the center which isn't very appealing. However, I have found that it makes a great pot roast, and if you pressure cook it, the whole deal takes about an hour, and the vein becomes soft and gelatinous, a pleasure for some of us (like me), and easy enough to cut out for the rest. Here is my recipe:

Clod with mushrooms and wine
  1. Sear a 2 pound clod roast on all sides in vegetable oil in a large skillet on high heat. (I use canola oil which contains Omega-3s to compensate for all the Omega-6s in everything else we eat, especially the grain- and soy-fed meat.)
  2. Meanwhile, saute one very large onion, halved, sliced, and lightly salted, in a little vegetable oil in the pressure cooker. Add about 4 cloves sliced garlic and saute come more.
  3. When the meat is seared, put it on top of the onions in the cooker. Add a 15 oz. can of crushed tomatoes (I like Muir's Glen roasted tomatoes), a half cup of red wine, some pepper, 2 bay leaves, a pinch of rosemary, and 2 cloves (these add a wonderful aroma.
  4. Close and seal the pressure cooker and bring the pressure up to high over high heat. (On my Kuhn-Ricoh, that means the second red ring is showing.)
  5. Turn heat to medium and cook for 45 minutes. Watch from time to time to make sure the pressure is constant.
  6. Meanwhile, pour the oil out of the skillet (it will have burned if you seared the roast properly) add a little more oil, and another large onion, quartered and sliced. Salt lightly and saute until golden.
  7. Add one pound washed sliced mushrooms. I like cremini. Forget about what people say about wiping them individually with a damp paper towel. Life is too short. Dump them in a large bowl of water and swish them around a bit. What dirt doesn't some off you can then remove with a paper towel.
  8. Salt lightly and saute on medium high until the mushrooms give off all their liquid, and then boil it all away. The mushrooms and onions will be nice and brown at this point. Shut the heat until the roast is done.
  9. After the 45 minutes, let the pressure come down naturally (i.e. don't run under cold water or press the button, it could toughen the meat). Remove the cover and the roast from the cooker. Boil down the juices until they are as thick as you want -- I like the texutre of a chunky tomato sauce. Stir occasionally so it doesn't scorch. Remove the bay leaves, and the cloves if you can find them.
  10. Slice the roast about 1/4 inch thick and put in in the skillet with the onions and mushrooms. Pour the sauce on top. Simmer a few minutes and serve. Goes very nicely with egg noodles or other pasta.
  11. Serves 4 .
You can probably make this stove top in a regular pot, but I would give it about 3 hours, and I don't know how tender the gristle would be.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Uighur-style Lamb Stew

Skip way down if you want to actually see this recipe, because I am going to ruminate and go off on a lot of tangents first.

I believe that the 1976 copyright act does not protect recipes. If my memory serves correctly, recipes were considered just a list of ingredients and procedures and not particularly original. There seems to be a bit of misogyny in this: is women's work worthy of the protection of the state? (The texts of cookbooks, that is the actual expressed words, are protected to the extent that other books and writings are, albeit with fair use protection for limited quotation.) However, recently, I think as a result of the proliferation of phenomena like highly visible chefs in the media, avant-guarde cuisine, and things like scientific and molecular gastronomy, some legal scholars have argued that some recipes deserve protection as intellectual property.

One day I will definitely blog on this, but to do so properly requires more time for research and reflection than even an underemployed job hunter has. (To put my cards on the table, I think that IP barriers are too high in general and that highly innovative industries like fashion do just fine without enforced IP protection, and may even depend on the lack of IP enforcement.) However, I think about this whenever I post recipes derived from other sources, as my next few blog postings will be. How original do my recipes have to be before I post them? How original are 99% of recipes anyway? How original is anything? At the same time, those who do the original and creation deserve credit, not to mention our everlasting gratitude. The principles that I follow are to acknowledge the source and link to it if possible. The recipe should be fartaytscht und farbessert, Yiddish meaning translated and improved, meaning that I should make at least some adaptation or improvement to them.

I am a big fan of the cookbooks of Naomi Duguid and Jeffrey Alford, and their recent Beyond the Great Wall: Recipes and Travels in the Other China is great. As with most of their books, it is a travelogue and cultural study as well as a cookbook, and this one deals with the cuisines of China's 100+ million minority people. Much of the food is surprisingly accessible. I wonder if some of this is simplified for Western kitchens. When I was in China for work in Guilin in the South/Southwest 3 years ago a friend and I hired a driver and guide for the day after our meetings ended for some touring in the vicinity. The guide was a young Dong woman, and when we asked her what the difference between her people and the Han Chinese, she answered that they were actually very similar, but that "We don't eat water buffalo. The water buffalo is our friend. But we do eat dogs." My friend, a great dog lover, gagged and blanched, and the guide responded:"Oh no! Don't worry. Not lovely dogs." This has forever changed the connotations of the word "lovely" for me as referring primarily to the kind of dog that one does not eat.

Anyway, Beyond the Great Wall includes a recipe for a sauce for lagman, a long noodle, a Uighur specialty. The Uighurs are a Turkic-speaking people from the far Northwest Xinjiang province. They are closely related to the Uzbeks who live in the FSU. In the Bukharan (kosher Uzbek, it is hard to find treyfe Uzbek food in the city) restaurants around New York, lagman is usually served as a rich lamb and vegetable soup with fettucine-type noodles. I have also had it drier, more like pasta with a stew-like meat sauce. In the book, the sauce is basically a stir fry that is the simmered briefly with peppers and tomatoes. I thought that the lamb (or at least most of the lamb that I can afford) would not be tender using their rather brief cooking, so I adapted it into a stew. My brother-in-law and sister-in-law were visiting this week, and we had it for Shabbat dinner (with celery and tofu salad seasoned with chili and sichuan peppercorn; daikon, tomato, cucumber and dill salad from Beyond the Great Wall; and roasted romesco cauliflower) and it made a big hit. We drank a South African Sauvignon Blanc which has green pepper undertones and nicely complemented the stew. For something that sounds so exotic, the flavors are very straightforward and no particularly unusual ingredients are required. My sister-in-law urged me to blog the recipe and I decided that the adaptations were sufficient enough to warrant it, so here is my version:

Uighur-style Lamb Stew
  1. Peel a very large onion, cut into quarters, slice, and saute with a little oil in a large pot. Salt it lightly to draw out the moisture. Cook stirring occasionally until the onions are soft and translucent.
  2. Slice or chop about 10 cloves of garlic (more or less to taste). Add to the onions and saute a few more minutes. Do not brown either the onions or garlic.
  3. Add 2 pounds lamb stew meat, in approximately 1-inch cubes. (I used Solomon's glatt lamb. It is natural, organic, hormone free, etc., and the Solomons are supposed to be nice to both their animals and their workers. For some reason, the Fairway market on 72nd street charges about $5 a pound less than the uptown Fairway for this. I can't figure out why, but I hope that they don't read this......) In general, shoulder or shank are the prefered cuts for lamb stew. Add a few lamb bones if you want a richer sauce.  You can also use lamb neck on the bone, which is cheaper and tastier, but you will need more, about 3 pounds, and it will take longer to cook.
  4. Saute a few minutes until the lamb looses its red color.
  5. Add a 28 ounce can of diced or crushed tomatoes. (I like the flavor of Muir's Glen fire roasted tomatoes.) If fresh tomatoes are in season, put them in a salad and don't waste them on a stew. If you want it a little saucier, add another 15 ounce can. If you want it drier, use diced tomatoes and drain them well. Add 1 or 2 tablespoons of soy sauce, and simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 90 minutes. The lamb should be just about tender now.  (Lamb neck will take close to 2 hours.)  You can also bake the lamb in a slow oven, 300 degrees, for about two hours.
  6. For a less soupy stew, remove the lamb with a slotted spoon and boil the juices down until they are a thick sauce. 
  7. Add two sweet red peppers and two sweet green peppers, shredded, and cook about 10-15 minutes. If you want some potatoes in the stew, one or two peeled Yukon golds cut into 1/2 to 3/4 in dice would be nice.  (If you have removed the lamb to boil down the sauce, return it at this point before adding the tender greens.)
  8. Add other vegetables as you like: I usually make this stew with bok choy cut into slices  and some spinach. Cook these for about five minutes or a bit more. It would also be nice with green beans (I haven't tried this yet), which I find have an affinity for lamb, but they take longer to cook and should be added shortly after the peppers. Total cooking time for the lamb should be about two hours.
  9. Taste for salt and add salt or soy sauce to correct seasonings. I find, esp. with kosher meat, it is plenty salty.
  10. Top with fresh chopped cilantro, or pass a bowl at the table. It is also nice with Chinese Jingiang black vinegar (you can substitute Worcestershire sauce if you must).
  11. Serve with or on top of some kind of noodle. We have found orrechiette (Pugliese ear-shaped pasta) to be the perfect accompaniment!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Brussels sprouts for breakfast, brussels sprouts for lunch, brussels sprouts for dinner

The reader of this blog may be excused for thinking that roasted cruciferous vegetables are a major portion of my diet, because they are. I do eat them in other forms (witness the Indian cabbage recipe/technique from a few months ago), and even boiled or steamed (we had an excellent marinated brussels sprouts with the roast beef birthday dinner I reported on a while back -- made according to the late lamented Laurie Colwin's recipe from the also late lamented Gourmet magazine in 1992 -- see http://davesgarden.com/community/forums/t/664658 ). But for most of them, especially brussels sprouts, cauliflower in all its varieties and broccoli, roasting is usually the way to go. I couldn't get my wife to eat brussels sprouts until we roasted them, and now it is hard to get her to stop. We'll start with two dinner recipes, then eat some leftovers for breakfast, and then another variation that I had for lunch today.

So, here is a basic recipe, based on that of Arthur Schwartz from his excellent site, The Food Maven ( www.foodmaven.com):

Roasted Brussels Sprouts, (For Dinner)

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Trim and split sprouts vertically.
  3. Line a baking sheet with foil, spray it with olive oil spray and sprinkle lightly with coarse salt.
  4. Put the sprouts on the sheet, leaving a bit of room between them -- you can either put them all cut side down or haphazardly, I like the latter. Spray the sprouts again, and sprinkle with some more salt -- we use Maldon here.
  5. Bake 15-25 minutes, depending on your oven, the size of sprouts, and how soft you like them.
  6. Broil for a minute or two to brown the top if you want.
  7. Eat hot or warm; nice with a squirt of lemon or drizzled with lemon infused olive oil, or drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with za'atar.
Variation #1: instead of spray, oil the sheet and toss the sprouts with oil and salt. The caloric difference is not that great after all.

Variation #2: Roast them whole for a bit longer.

Fancier Brussels Sprouts, for Dinner

  1. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Heat a large cast iron skillet on high for about 2 minutes.
  3. Put some olive oil in the skillet and spread around lightly, and sprinkle in some coarse salt.
  4. Put whole, trimmed brussels sprouts in the skillet, and cook on high heat for another minute.
  5. Put the skillet in the oven and bake about 20-25 minutes, maybe a bit longer. until the sprouts are tender.
  6. Broil for a minute or two if you want them browner.
  7. Remove the skillet from the oven, add a pat or two (or three or four) of butter, shake to melt, drizzle with a little good balsamic vinegar, swirl around and serve hot.
Brussels sprouts for breakfast

  1. Take about 1/2 cup of leftover sprouts from the first method, if there are any. You may wish to zap them briefly in the microwave to take the chill off.
  2. Make a 2 or 3 egg omelet. You can even make an omelet with egg whites out of the container and it will be good prepared this way.
  3. Put the sprouts in the middle of the omelet, add some grated cheddar or similar cheese, fold the omelet over, and cook until cheese melts and sprouts are warm.
  4. (The leftover sprouts also make a great frittata.)
Brussels sprouts for lunch

  1. This is a variation on the first recipe. I had it for lunch today after picking up some brussels sprouts at the farmer's market and used about 3/4 pound of sprouts, cooking them in a 9 inch square metal pan, cut side down.
  2. After the sprouts have baked, broil for 1 minute. Then top with a handful of grated parmesean cheese, a few spoons of breadcrumbs, some hot pepper flakes to taste, and drizzle with a little olive oil or spray with oil spray.
  3. Broil 2-3 minutes until the cheese melts and begins to brown. It will be crisp and unbelievably delicious and is really a meal in itself (for one person, if you like it as much as I do).

It should go without saying that you should use fresh, green brussels sprouts without yellow spots, mold or bruises for all these recipes.