Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Moroccan style vegetable stew (p.246)

So people told me that the Moroccan-style vegetable stew (p.246) was particularly good, so I was looking forward to trying it. This is a fairly complex recipe with a TON of ingredients. I think it would be best to make if you had a garden--which we don't. In fact, I have a black thumb--I kill plants that my mom says are impossible to kill, which is depressing.

I also knew that I just had to make myself happy with this one--my favorite tester hates cardamom and chickpeas, so he was extremely unlikely to like this dish.

The first step of the recipe is to make your spice mix--cumin, chili, cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. Frankly, this mixture was scaring me a little--it smelled a lot more like I was making a pie than a stew. And I don't like cinnamon. I know--everybody likes cinnamon. But I never have...

The mixture was then mixed over a butternut squash and one potato. It didn't seem like it was going to be enough spice, but they are pretty potent spices.

Carrots, onions, raisins, and garlic were then mixed in. The mix is getting stranger and stranger...plus chicken broth (veg broth would make it vegetarian)...but it doesn't seem like there will be enough broth to cook all of these veggies!

You then have to place foil over the surface and cover it with a lid. I thought this was a bizarre step. And surprisingly difficult. The pot kept wanting to burn me.

You then mix in zucchini, chickpeas, olives, salt, and pepper. I love zucchini and olives...but with cinnamon?? And nutmeg??

I made some couscous. It was surprisingly good! Strange...extremely strange...but good! Is this what northern African cuisine is like? Anyone know? This recipe kept really well--in fact, it was even better the next day.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Beef satay with peanut sauce (p. 81), Potato leek soup (p. 130), and Vichyssoise (p.130)

Every day I look at the wooden skewers that sit on my counter. I never knew what to do with them. So I decided to make Beef satay with peanut sauce (p. 81)--conveniently using wooden skewers!

You have to soak the skewers for at least an hour before using them. I soaked them in the sink because I didn't have a bowl big enough to lay them in.

I decided to combine the coconut milk, shallots, brown sugar, soy sauce, garlic, cumin, and coriander in the food processor...the smallest food processor in the world.

The before shot:

And after:

I have to say that coconut milk is one of those ingredients that I just don't like working with. It creeps me out. I mean, come on, it's half liquid and half solid. I'm not sure how to use it--do you mix it up first? Try to use an equal amount of both? Just use the solid or the liquid? I have no idea! (**update**I actually like working with coconut milk now--it really has a tasty flavor and adds a lot to recipes)

You take the mix from the food processor and dump the strips of beef into it...there is a ton more marinade than beef. It's easier to slice the beef thin if you put in the freezer for fifteen minutes or so. Otherwise, it's a fight to get the beef sliced. You need to leave this out for at least an hour--I left it out for a few.

While this is marinating, you can make the sauce. This recipe uses a lot of ingredients that you will have if you make a lot of Asian food, but might not be a staple of your pantry if you don't, such as curry paste and my personal enemy, fish sauce. Fish sauce is horrifying. We keep it in the very back of our pantry but I would keep it in a locked box if I could. While getting it for this recipe I spilled some on my hand and almost threw up. I washed and washed my hands but the smell wouldn't even fade! Imagine rotting fish--and double it--and you have fish sauce.

Here is the sauce cooking--apparently the coconut milk doesn't play well with others.

And after cooking--nice and smooth...but still to watery--or at least, too watery for me. So I cooked it down further...

At this point, the beef is tossed in the marinade and threaded through the skewers. It took me a while to do this and apparently it was a problem...Josh later told me that if you don't want the skewers to burn you have to have them really wet. I also read in Ready_made magazine that they won't burn if you put aluminum foil on the revealed ends.

We've never grilled skewers before, so we didn't know how to place them. The solution was to randomly place them. One of them got the penthouse shelf.

Josh did the grilling...TJOC says they only need 2-3 minutes to cook, which made me nervous. We didn't brush them with vegetable oil because I couldn't figure out how to do it without taking off the marinade!

Yum! The finished product. Cooked perfectly but with burned skewers :(

After this picture was taken, I dropped the twin to this plate and it shattered like nothing I've ever seen before! Shrapnel EVERYWHERE--in the food, in the stove, all over the floor, cutting my hands. It was terrible. After cleaning the mess, we threw out the companion plate--I never wanted to go through that again!

Since the kitchen was already dirty and I had to wait for the meat to marinate I made Potato Leek Soup (p. 130) which I transitioned into Vichyssoise (p.130). I LOVE vichyssoise (which I have no idea how to pronounce)--but I don't like it cold. Cold soup is gross to me. But vichy tastes delicious hot. My uncle Denny and aunt Ginny make a great version of this soup--but I've never attempted it before.

Leeks can be intimidating. I mean, heck, there is a pokemon who has a leek as a weapon.

Pretty much, you just have to soak them (cut up) in some water. It gets the silt out. Leeks are like tastier, lighter onions--or like enormous scallions. The thing that makes me angry about leeks is that you end up throwing out about half of what you paid for--only part of them are edible!

Here are a few pictures of the leek-y potato-y mixture. It smelled so delicious!

So, after you blend it, you get potato leek soup. If you add cream, you get vichy! And who doesn't want to add cream? Cream is so yummy! Look how smooth it is...

Another new item in my kitchen...the immersion blender! I love it! So much less dangerous than pouring soup from a stainless steel pot into a blender--and then blending--so scary. The blender solves the problem--plus it makes excellent whipped cream!