New International Recipes Up!

Slowly but surely I’m continuing in my international food project.  For the last fifteen years I’ve been coking foods from different world cuisines, alphabetically.  I’m still at the “G’s”.  It may not seem like much, but in these fifteen years I have explored 134 cuisines and cooked 441 recipes – and more are coming!

I just uploaded a few cuisines I’ve been working on in the last couple of months (or more). They are:

Among the best recipes from these cuisines there is a Bavarian onion pie to die for, a simple and delicious Bordelaise chicken and a great stewed beef.

Check them out!


Gabonese & Greek Menus Up

No, I have not forgotten my international food project, though I always progress much slower than I want to.  I’ve cooked dishes from a 133 cuisines so far, and I’m still only a little into the “G”.  Still, I have now finished two more “G” cuisines.

My Gabonese menu features recipe for fish in peanut sauce, chicken in palmnut sauce and a great recipe for baked bananas.

My Greek entry has recipes for pastitsio, chicken, beef stew and a custard pie.

One of the reasons for my slow advance in the Gs is that even as I go ahead with this project, I discover cuisines I have ignored from earlier in the alphabet.  A few months ago, I bought a great cookbook, Copeland Mark’s Sephardic Cooking, at a library sale and now I have a plethora of cuisines from the Jewish diaspora to explore.  I may skip those that are too close to the host cuisine for notice, but some of these Jewish cuisines do represent the merging of multiple traditions and they merit a real exploration.  I’m currently working on dishes from the Baghdadi Jewish community in Calcutta and the Bene Israel in Bombay.

 


Xmas Eve Menu 2013: Back to the Past with an International Flavor

Another year, another complex Xmas Eve menu.  This year, my 11-yo daughter Mika said she wanted a 13-course dinner.  She didn’t know why, that number just came to her head, but she wanted it.  I could have argued against it, but I figured with a little bit of creativity I could get there.  And Mika didn’t particularly care what the courses were, as long as she had 13.  And she did – even though I overcooked one of the courses so it ended up almost inedible.

The key to cooking and serving a 13-course menu all by yourself is advanced planning AND advanced cooking, as well as flexibility. To make it easier I decided to revisit some of my favorite recipes, which come from all over the world.  I did decide on a new one as my main dish,  Orecchiette al Ragu di Braciole, basically beef rolls stuffed with cheese and cooked in a tomato ragout, but it didn’t work out.  I made it the day before the meal, and discovered that the sauce was pretty bland and one-dimensional and the meat rolls were not what I would call attractive.  So decided we would just have that for dinner that night, and sent my husband to get a roast.

Roasts are great main dishes because not only because they are simple to put together, but because they look impressive on the table.  Sure, they are expensive, but it’s Xmas.  On the minus side, a roast requires the use of the oven, which means displacing other dishes.  My second and third courses needed to be broiled,  but my oven can’t bake at 300 and broil at the same time.  I baked them at 300, which wasn’t ideal for either – but I overbaked the shrimp, making them barely edible.

In any case, this is what I came up with.  At the end of the night I asked each guest what their favorite part was. There wasn’t a consensus (the soup, the bastilla and the roast were all mentioned), but at least not one said “the cheese”.

  1. Beignets au Fromage èt a la Menthe
    These Corsican goat cheese & mint fritters are delicious, but I did discover that they’re best if fried right before they are served.
  2. Camarao Grelhado com Molho Cru
    Unable to either grill or broil these Angolan marinated shrimp, I baked them and almost dessicated them. However, my guests did like the cumin sauce.
  3. Bacon Wrapped Bananas
    This recipe from Antigua doesn’t actually need a recipe. Take a thick slice of banana, wrap it with half a slice of bacon, secure it with a toothpick and broil it for 3-5′. Baking it at 300F wasn’t a good alternative, as it dried out the outside of the banana without making the bacon crispy enough. But it still tasted good
  4. Blood Orange Sorbet
    Sorbets are great as palate cleansers, and this store-bought one from Ciao Bella is just delicious.
  5. Mixed Green Salad with Gorgonzola Vinaigrette
    This salad is an old favorite, it never disappoints.
  6. Mushroom Soup
    Another old favorite that tastes better if cooked the day before. But make or add the dried mushrooms in advanced. Doing it made them so tough and chewy as to be inedible.
  7. Bastilla
    This Moroccan Chicken Pie was a favorite of several guests, including my daughter. I will admit it came out perfectly. Because it only requires 15 minutes cooking, I was able to put it in the oven after I took out the roast to let it rest.
  8. Lemon Sorbet
    A 13-course dinner deserves two palate cleanser. My second one was also store-bought, Häagen-Dazs
  9. Ribeye Roast with Madeira Sauce and Roasted Rosemary Red Potatoes
    Perfection! The roast was perfectly cooked, the Madeira sauce was delicious and gave it an unexpected nutty taste and the potatoes were easy and loved by everyone.
  10. Cheese Course
    Featuring Spanish and Italian cheeses.
  11. Chocolate Peppermint Cake
    My Grandmother’s recipe. It was great! I made it earlier that day, which allowed the mint cream to settle. It looked beautiful and was very tasty.
  12. White Hot Chocolate
    I thought it was delicious, but nobody else was as fond of it as I 🙁
  13. A Lemon Square
    Bought frozen at Trader Joe’s and defrosted. Delicious.

I served dinner with a Chateau Souverain Estate Bottled 2003 Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

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Xmas Eve 2012 Menu

It’s that wonderful time of the year again, when I forget how I swore last year that I’ll never cook Xms Eve dinner again, and revert to doing it anyway.  It’s not that I mind cooking a huge Christmas dinner.  I do enjoy it, in particular now that Camila will help me with some of the preparations and I’ve become wise enough to chose mostly dishes that can be made in advance or require little preparation the day of the event.  But what I don’t enjoy is getting the house clean and ready for the event.

My favorite part, however, may be making and tweaking the menu, trying to make sure the dishes flow into one another and trying new recipes.  I rarely have the chance to make appetizers or soups (or even desserts) in my regular cooking, so this is fun.

Anyway, this is my planned menu, which I’ve already started cooking.  Recipes will follow and I will make a full post, with what I ended up cooking and how it turned out in a few days.

Christmas Eve 2012 Menu

Leek & Cheese Tarts, as an amuse bouche
Plantain and Coconut Soup with Shrimp, Tomato and Avocado Salad
Home made eggnog, in tiny cups as something to occupy guests with while I cook the catfish
Catfish and Asparagus a la Meuniere
Lemon sorbet, as a palate cleansar
Braised Short Ribs (new recipe) with garlic mashed potatoes and braised red chard
Cheese course
Peanut Butter Trifle

And that’s it 🙂

Now, the question, what will I end up /not making/ because I run out of town or was too exhausted?


New International Menus Up

I’ve cooked quite a few international dishes in the last few months, but I haven’t actually updated this blog about the cuisines I’ve “finished”.  I actually have a few more to write up, but if I wait until I’m done with those, I’ll forget all about it.

So, the new cuisines I’ve done are those of:

Ancient Persia – a nice khoresh and chilau made a great weekday meal.

Dominica – included one of the best chicken dishes I’ve ever eaten

Dominican Republic – wasn’t too successful with this one 🙁

Holland – you have to try the pancakes!

Dum Pukht – this is not a place but a style of cuisine that emerged during the Mogul empire in India.

Dalmatia and Denmark are also finished, but I have to write them up.  Hopefully I’ll get to it later today.


One Hanukkah, Two Briskets, Dozens of Latkes

Dec. 2013 UPDATE: I repeated this same menu at my Hanukkah party this year.  Making the latkes at the last minute was great in that they tasted amazing, BUT I did spend half the party in the kitchen, so I will have to come up with another strategy. Of the two briskets, the one with ketchup was the most popular one, though I still prefer the one with onions.

(Almost) every year I hold a Hanukkah party for my Jewish and semi-Jewish friends.  It’s my excuse to make latkes and socialize with people I may not see every day.  My Hanukkah parties used to be more involved, but getting my house clean is complicated enough nowadays, so this party had 3 menu items only: latkes, brisket and store-bought doughnuts.

For the latkes I used my old trusty recipe from epicurious.com.  They couldn’t be simpler or more delicious. I served them with store-bought sour cream and apple sauce.

For the brisket, I decided to go with a pretty traditional ketchup-based recipe for Jewish Style Sweet and Sour Brisket that I found at allrecipes.com.  It got great reviews and was also very simple.  I made it using half of the 15lb brisket Mike had bought (which I thought was excessive for my dinner party), but after I removed it from the oven it had shrunk so much that I didn’t think those 7.5lbs would serve 10 adults and 10 children (though I personally don’t believe children ever eat actual food at parties).  So I decided to use the rest of the brisket and cook it in the morning using a different recipe (which would have to be simple and only use ingredients I had at home).  Fortunately, I came across this recipe for Beer-Braised Brisket with Onions, which fit both requirement.  Both briskets turned out great.  I received lots and lots of compliments from my friends, some who even dared say they might be better than their own versions.  Of the two, I think I prefer the latter, specially because the leftovers kept getting better and better as the days went by.

Now, the secret of the briskets is, of course, slooooow cooking.  Don’t overcook, however, as it may become too soft to cut.  As with any braise, resting overnight helps fortify the flavors.  And make sure you wait until it’s cold to slice, and then reheat in the sauce. —

Latkes

The secret to great latkes is to make them right before serving them.  I see it as a two-person operation.  One peels them, while the other one shreds them.  Once they are ready to cook, one person can fry multiple batches (it helps to have plenty of frying pans), while the other one drains and serves them.  I did find, however, that if the person doing the frying is 8-years old, you may end up with lots of broken latkes and bad heat control. Make sure to shred the potatoes into a bowl of cold water.  This will slow down the oxidation process considerably. Also, drain the latkes on a cooling rack rather than on paper towels, to avoid them getting soggy.  Finally, make sure you have LOTS of olive oil at hand 🙂 Ingredients per 2  guests

  • 1 lb. potatoes (3 cups shredded potatoes)
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • olive oil for frying

Directions Peel potatoes, and shred them into a bowl full of water.  Drain the potatoes and place them in the middle of a thick towel.  Add the chopped onions, roll and squeeze – you are trying to remove as much liquid as possible.  Transfer the potato mixture into a large bowl and mix in the egg(s) and salt. Heat a thick layer of olive oil in each frying pan over medium-high heat.  Scoop about 2 Tablespoons worth of mixture with your hand, squeeze to remove some of the liquid and drop onto the pan.  Flatten with a spatula.  Fry on each side until golden.

Adapted from this epicurious.com recipe.


Jewish Style Sweet and Sour Brisket

  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 8 lbs. beef brisket
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 2 cups ketchup
  • 1 cup white vinegar
  • 4 onions, sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 cups brown sugar
  • 2 Tbsp. salt

 Directions

Remove excess fat from brisket.

Heat olive oil in a large, deep skillet or dutch oven over medium-high heat.  Put brisket and brown on all sides.  Add the rest of the ingredients, bring to a boil, cover and reduce heat to medium-low.  Simmer until tender, turning occasionally, for about  3 hours.  Alternatively, place in a 300F oven for about the same amount of time.

Remove brisket from sauce and let cool, reserving the sauce.  Slice the brisket against the grain, and place in a baking pan (glass preferably).  Pour sauce on it, cover and refrigerate overnight.  Remove excess fat from the surface and reheat in a 300F oven, or transfer to a pot and reheat on the stove.

Adapted from this allrecipes.com recipe


Beer-Braised Brisket with Onions

  • 8 lbs. beef brisket
  • kosher salt to taste
  • black pepper to taste
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 4 lbs onions, thinly sliced
  • 2 Bay leaves
  • 20 oz beer
  • 1 1/2 tsp. Better than Bouillon beef base or 1 1/2 cubes beef bouillon, crumbled
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar

Directions

Pat brisket dry, remove excess fat (though making sure a thin layer remains), and sprinkle with Kosher salt and pepper.

Heat oil over medium-high heat in an oven-safe pot or skillet large and deep enough to accommodate the brisket.  Add brisket and brown on all sides.  Remove and set aside.

Turn heat to medium and add onions and bay leaves.  Cook until golden, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes.  Turn off heat.

Remove about half of the onions from the pot and set aside.  Flatten the rest and lay the brisket on top of them.  Top with the remaining onions.  Add the beer, beef base or bouillon cube and balsamic vinegar, turn on heat to high and bring to a boil.  Turn off heat, cover the pot and place in the oven for about 3 hours.  Remove and let the brisket cool in the sauce, uncovered, for about half an hour.  Remove the brisket and slice.  Place in a deep serving plate, season the sauce with salt and pepper and pour over the brisket.  Serve.

Adapted from this epicurious.com recipe.

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Christmas Eve 2011 – Menu & Recipes

One more Christmas, one more Christmas Eve celebration with my sister Kathy, my niece Nikki and my best friends Lola and Iggy.  I usually make elaborate multi-course meals but this year I was tired and not very inspired or enthusiastic.  I wouldn’t have minded just getting Chinese takeout (our Christmas day staple), but the family wanted more so I complied.  Still, this year my menu was completely streamed down.  I loved it!

I mostly made dishes that I could get ready in advance (at least one day before), and that were not “time sensitive”.  That’s important because often times I make stuff that needs to be baked/roasted and that means that it has to go into and out of the oven at a set time (specially if I’m juggling multiple oven dishes).  As my guests are not always punctual (or predictably unpunctual) I have to guess both at what time I’ll start serving dinner and how long it will take to go through each course – I’m often wrong and then the pacing of the meal doesn’t work well.  This menu consisted mostly of dishes that I started warming up half an hour before my guests were supposed to arrive, and then I could leave over very warm heat on the stove until I was ready to serve them.  This was great! It meant I was able to spend more time at the dining table than in the kitchen, which is very rare for me during Holiday dinners.  From now on I’m determined to give up on roasts (I’ve cooked all the ones I wanted to anyway) and instead serve great braises as my main dishes.

My menu this year consisted of:

Curried Butternut Squash Soup

Now, if it was up to me I would have made my adored mushroom soup.  But Mika wanted butternut squash soup and, again, I complied.  Alas, the recipe I made, while good, was a bit too spicy so she didn’t really eat much.  Now I have a whole tureen-worth ready to eat by myself.  I’m not too excited, but the soup was good.

Caramelized Onion and Blue or Goat Cheese and Mushroom Pastries.

I made the former last year and they were delicious.  This year they were a favorite as well.  I also tried them with goat cheese instead of blue cheese, and while good the blue cheese ones are better.  I made another sheet with sauteed mushrooms, good but not as much either.

Mixed Greens Salad with Sesame Ginger Dressing

Store bought, but delicious.

Wine Braised Short Ribs with Mashed Potatoes

This recipe was quite good, though I probably should have salted the ribs more.  Still, we all enjoyed them and they were perfect with the mashed potatoes.

Tres Leches Cake

This was Mika’s idea and it was a great one.  The cake wasn’t as delicious as other ones I’ve had (the problem may have been I didn’t sit overnight), but it was quite good anyway.  I’ll definitely try other versions in the future.

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I’m finished with the “Cs”!

It’s taken many, many years, but I’m finally finished cooking all “C” cuisines, all 38 of them.  I’m now on to the “Ds,” which fortunately for me consist of only seven cuisines (and I’m almost done with two of them).  I hope that by the end of the year I’ll be able to finish the “E” cuisines as well (there are seven of them as well).  We’ll see if the muse stays with me.

Of the last cuisines I cooked, I was particularly fond of the Canadian dishes I made and was comforted by the Castilian ones. I discovered one amazing Cayman dish and had fun making the sole Chechen dish I attempted.


International Menus Up

I actually cooked these dishes quite a while ago, but I haven’t made a Colombian, Cape Malay or a Congolese dessert yet, so I haven’t “officially” finished these menus.  Still, I figure I’d announce the last cuisines I’ve cooked as I have no idea when I’ll get to the desserts.  Next on the menu: Castilian, Cajun and Canadian (yes, Canadian).

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Costa Rican & Creole Recipes up

Continuing with my international cooking project, I’ve posted the Costa Rican and Creole dishes I made. Yum!