Sticky Asian Ribs

IMG_1641I admit it – I love ribs. I didn’t grow up in a Kosher home and although over the years, I have learned most of the laws for keeping Kashrut, it just is not essential to my Jewish identity. I respect those who do and I will leave it at that.

The apartment we moved to about eight years ago has a lovely large terrace and my husband and I were sure that once we could have a grill we would since we both adore BBQ and grilled meat and veggies. Somehow though each year has passed without our buying one. I have since found ways to make lovely grilled vegetables and meats in a grill pan on my gas stove. So I wondered if I could also make good ribs in the oven. These are wonderful! They don’t have the smoky BBQ flavor of a Texas or Kansas City rib, but they are tender, delicious and REALLY, REALLY satisfying. I call these Asian ribs, but truthfully they are only Asian-inspired. The sauce is also wonderful on chicken so if you don’t eat pork, you can still enjoy the great taste. I used some left-over sauce with a whole chicken and it cooked up incredibly tender and juicy.

The first time I made these I used what are known as St. Louis Ribs. They are flatter and fattier than BabyBack Ribs, which are more curved and usually more expensive. Either one will work in this recipe; the only difference will be in the cooking time. Since Baby Backs are leaner (and what I am using this time around) the cooking time will be about 45 minutes to an hour less than for the St. Louis Ribs. My husband and I decided that while the Babay Back Ribs were meatier than the St. Louis Ribs, there wassoemthing aboutthe extra fat that added flavor and tenderness. It’s personal preference – they both are delicious.

Sticky Asian Ribs

Yield: 2-4 portions depending on the number of sides (I really love the ribs, so for us this is 2 portions!) with extra sauce

Ingredients

One 3 to 3.5 pound rack St. Louis or Baby Back style pork ribs

4 cups of dark brown sugar

3/4 cup of Sake or Vodka

1/4 cup of soy sauce (I always use reduced sodium)

1/4 cup Hoisin sauce

1 Tablespoon Kosher salt

1 Tablespoon minced fresh garlic

1 rounded teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder

1 rounded teaspoon ground ginger

4 to 5 star anise

2 Tablespoons Oyster sauce

3/4 teaspoons red pepper flakes OR ground cayenne

1/2 cup orange or blood orange jam/marmalade, with pieces of peel (You could also use apricot jam or Damson Plum preserve imstead.)

1 Tablespoon toasted sesame seeds for garnish (optional)

Directions

  1. Cut your rack in half or quarters, depending on how many people you are serving
  2. In a large bowl, mix all of the ingredients for the sauce. It will be a little grainy in texture which is just fine. Separate off about 1/2 to 1/3 of the sauce to save for later. Divide that amount as well to keep some for eating with the ribs or for another use. I kept mine in the fridge in a glass jar for up to a week.
  3. In one or two large heavy-duty plastic bags with a good seal, place your ribs. Pour in one half of the sauce and smoosh around until the ribs are well covered. Seal the bag(s) carefully, place inside an additional bag and refrigerate overnight (or even for 2 nights).
  4. When you are ready to cook the ribs, preheat your oven to 300 degrees F. and line a baking sheet with 2-inch sides with heavy-duty aluminum foil. Place the ribs on the pan.
  5. Cook for 3 to 3.5 hours if using St. Louis ribs and for 2 to 2.5 hours if using Baby Back ribs, basting every 30 minutes with some of the reserved marinade. Do not use leftover marinade from the bag where the ribs were after the first 30 minutes. You don’t want to use sauce from the raw meat on the cooked meat.
  6. Once the ribs look done (you will know when you see them, trust me), turn the oven temperature to broil. Turn the ribs over, basting the bottom well and broil for about 4 to 5 minutes. Turn over again and baste one last time. Broil for an additional 4 to 5 minutes. IMG_1637Enjoy! You likely don’t need it, but if you want additional sauce, you have it.

NOTE: I used extra sauce to marinate some chicken breasts that I will cook tomorrow or Wednesday.

Mini Berry Tarts

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I love berry tarts, and generally I’ve always made the large(ish) 10-12″ ones.  But whenever my sister used to visit, I would always go to a local French bakery and buy one of these super small but adorable, bite-sized fruit tarts since I knew she loved them.  Recently, my friend and I decided to try recreating them ourselves, with Matthew providing “quality control” and we all couldn’t get over how delicious they were!  (As an aside, as part of our baking adventure we also made this rhubarb snacking cake and it was also fantastic.)

I had researched a bunch of fruit tart recipes and was generally underwhelmed or maybe overwhelmed with the ones I was reading when it occurred to me that I had one awesome pie crust recipe (from Lisa, of course) and one great filling recipe from a tart I had made years ago (that I had nearly forgotten about), and together they were a perfect pairing. (As my friend pointed out, these little tarts also were very reminiscent of Olaf… just saying, not saying.)  I also splurged and bought this mini muffin tray, mainly because I figured it would be much easier than trying to bake and clean 20 some-odd mini tart molds, and since I figured I could reuse it for a muffin party.

Crust

2 cups all-purpose, unbleached flour
1⁄4 tsp. Kosher salt
2 T granulated sugar
8 T margarine (unsalted) from the freezer cut up into approx. 16 pieces
4 T unsalted, sweet butter from the refrigerator, cut up into approx. 8 pieces
2 large egg yolks
3 T ice water
1⁄4 tsp. pure almond extract

Directions for Crust

1. Place the flour, salt and sugar in the bowl of a food processor with the steel blade. Pulse twice to mix.

2. Add the shortening and the yolks and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs

3. Add the ice water and almond extract, preferably while the machine is running. Let the machine run until the pastry begins to ball-up at the end of the blade.

4. Gather the pastry carefully and handling as little as possible, form a ball over a piece of waxed paper. Flatten with your hand to form a disk.  (For best results, stick this into the fridge covered with plastic wrap for about an hour or more if possible, but I was in a rush and didn’t do this and given how small the tart shells were, it worked out okay.)

5. Turn the dough as you roll it out and use even pressure going from the center out to the edge. If a crack appears, take a bit of dough from an edge and cover the crack, sprinkle with flour and roll over it.

6. Have your muffin tray ready, and cut out about 3″ diameter circles (I used a small Ball jar lid for this) and press into the mini muffin tray slots.

7. Bake for about 25 minutes, or until browned.

Filling

1/3 cup confectioner’s sugar
1 tbsp lemon juice
12 oz mascarpone cheese
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Directions for Filling

1. Combine lemon juice, mascarpone cheese, vanilla extract and confectioner’s sugar.  Mix thoroughly until silky smooth.  Refrigerate until ready to use.

Putting it all Together!

1. After the tart shells have come out of the oven and cooled off, use a teaspoon to dollop filling into each of the tart shells.

2. Dice about 1 pint of strawberries into quarters (or whatever shape you would like) and rinse some blueberries and place them on the mini filled tarts.

3. Refrigerate until ready to serve, or serve immediately and enjoy!

 

 

Tehina Shortbread Cookies

Tehina (also sometimes spelled tahini) is a paste made from sesame seeds.

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It’s got great flavor to pair with meats or salads, but also, apparently, works well as an ingredient in dessert. These cookies remind me a bit of peanut butter cookies, although they’re lighter and, obviously, don’t pose the same risks to people with peanut allergies. More importantly, they’re delicious!

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Ingredients:

  • 1.75 sticks (7 ounces) of unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 1 cup tehina (the best brand is Soon)
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder

Start by combining the room-temperature butter with the sugar in a stand mixer on medium speed, or in a large bowl with a hand mixer, for about 2 minutes.

Add the tehina and keep mixing until you get a uniform consistency.

Preheat the oven to 350 Farenheit.

In another mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and a pinch of kosher salt. Whisk them together and then add to the tehina mixture. Beat the everything together until they’re just barely incorporated.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, or even better, overnight.

Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Using a tablespoon, put the batter onto the parchment paper in small uniform heaps.

Bake the cookies for about 15 minutes.

Let cool for 10 minutes on the sheets, then move to wire racks.

The cookies should last for at least 1 week at room temperature if stored in a sealed container. The dough can surive in the freezer for months.

Enjoy!

From Michael Solomonov’s Zahav

Braised Curried Chicken with Star Anise

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Week-nights it can be difficult to motivate me to cook for just the two of us – especially when I never know exactly when my husband will be home from work. This comforting recipe from The Thousand Recipe Chinese Cookbook by Gloria Bley Miller is a wonderful choice. The recipe doesn’t require a million ingredients, is not expensive and can be made ahead and reheated. This cookbook dates from before ethnic cooking was so widely popular and is a wonderful Chinese cookbook primer. It’s recipes are very flexible and surely everyone can find things they would enjoy. I have adapted this recipe, but the inspiration is definitely from GB Miller. If you are feeling particularly stressed for time, buy pre-chopped garlic and ginger root. My chicken will be served with some fresh, bright green sugar snap peas that I have quickly stir-fried with a little salt, garlic and sugar and a splash of sesame oil before dishing out.

Braised Curried Chicken with Star Anise

Yield: 4-6 servings

Ingredients

6 chicken drumsticks, skin removed

4 chicken thighs, skin removed and cut in half

2 medium onions, chopped

1 Tablespoon finely chopped garlic

1 Tablespoon, finely grated or chopped fresh ginger root

4 Tablespoons vegetable oil, divided (I used Canola oil)

1 Tablespoon all-purpose flour

2 Tablespoons curry powder (If you want it spicy, use “hot” curry powder)

1 Tablespoon granulated sugar

2 Tablespoons soy sauce

2 cups chicken stock (I always try to use unsalted stock)

1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt

4 cloves of star anise

1 pound potatoes, peeled and cut into large dice (I used red baby bliss but Yukon Gold would also be good)

Directions

  1. Heat 2 Tablespoons of the oil in a Dutch oven and stir-fry the onions until they soften. Then add the garlic and stiry-fry for a bout 3 more minutes.
  2. Add the additional 2 Tablespoons of oil, ginger, flour and curry powder and stir through to blend well over a low heat.
  3. Turn the heat up to medium-high and add the chicken. Stir through, turning the chicken to coat.
  4. Add the sugar, soy sauce, salt and star anise. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer, cover and cook for 30 minutes. Then add the potatoes and cook for about 30 more minutes or until the potatoes are tender and the chicken is cooked through
  5. If making ahead, about 35 minutes before serving, gently bring the dish to a simmer and warm through.

Minty Sweet Pea Spread

minty_pea_spread_3_garnishedFresh English peas are in season and available in most markets. Please feel free to go ahead and buy them and blanch them for this recipe. I however, am taking the lazy way out and using a good quality frozen pea – something which I always have on hand in my freezer. However, there is absolutely no acceptable substitute for fresh mint or lemon. I came across this simple spread on one of my new favorite food blogs, the kitchen. It’s incredibly simple to make, has a gorgeous bright green color that just sings spring and is fresh tasting. I lightened it up a bit and in addition to using as a dip with fresh veggies, it worked well as a sandwich spread and over grilled chicken. That’s an awful lot to get from something that is so simple to make.

Minty Sweet Pea Spread adapted from the kitchen

Yield: About 3 cups

Ingredients

2 cups of fresh English peas shelled and blanched or frozen peas, defrosted

1 large clove garlic, minced

1 lemon, zested and juiced

1/3 cup of fresh mint leaves

2 Tablespoons mascarpone

6 Tablespoons plain non-fat Greek yogurt

1/8 teaspoon ground sumac (optional but this makes the citrus flavor pop!)

Kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Add the peas, garlic, lemon zest, lemon juice and mint to the bowl of a food processor and process until smooth.
  2. Pulse in the mascarpone and yogurt and ground sumac, if using, until smooth and the desired consistency. If you want it a little thicker, you can add a bit more yogurt.
  3. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Add more lemon juice if desired, but you don’t want to overwhelm the fresh pea taste. This is not heavy or spicy. It is fresh and vegetal.

Moong Dal and Lemony Ground Lamb

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My birthday was Saturday and my wonderful son and daughter-in-law sent me the perfect gift – a cookbook by Madhur Jaffrey, amazing spices and a gift certificate for cooking lessons of my choice at a local school. I adore Indian food so I immediatelyt started reading Jaffrey’s book over my morning coffee. Some women get seduced by a new pair of shoes. My downfall is cooking ingredients and gadgets. We have some wonderful Indian/Pakistani stores in Chicago and I have things in my pantry that caught my eye, but somehow never got used.

I came across Jaffrey’s recipe for Moong Dal and since I never met a lentil that I didn’t like, I kept reading. While, it’s true that the average American cook doesn’t just happen to have moong dal and asafetida in the pantry, I actually do. I’m sure that I bought both after reading some recipe and then never got around to making it. Well, I am making it now! Jaffrey serves it with Basmati rice, which I always have on hand and she mentions Lemony Ground Lamb with Mint and Cilantro. Coincidentally, I have all of those ingredients and so am planning a mini-feast. It’s only a shame that Frances and Matthew aren’t here to share it with us since I know that they would enjoy this meal as well. Andrew and I are looking forward to many happy meals thanks to our children!

Of course, if you are a vegetarian or a vegan, the Moong Dal and Rice together are a wonderful meal, perhaps with another vegetable dish added. This is real comfort food.

Every Day Moong Dal by Madhur Jaffrey

Yield: 4 to 6 Servings

Ingredients

1 cup (7 ounces) moong dal (hulled and split mung beans) washed and drained

1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric

3/4 teaspoon Kosher salt

2 Tablespoons olive oil

1/8 teaspoon asafetida

1/2 teaspoon whole cumin sees

1 to 2 dried hot red chilies (the short cayenne type) or ground cayenne pepper to taste

1 medium shallot, peeled and cut into fine slivers

Directions

  1. Put the dal in a medium pot and add 3.5 cups of water. Bring to a boil and skim off any froth.
  2. Add the turmeric, stir to mix and partially cover the pot. Turn the heat to a gentle simmer and cook for 45 minutes.
  3. Add the salt and stir through. Turn off the heat.
  4. Pour the oil into a small, heavy frying pana nd set over medium heat-high heat. When the pan is hot, add the asfafetida, cumin seeds and chilies, quickly and in that order. As soon as the chilies darken (a matter of seconds), add the shallots. Stir and cook until the shallots brown and then quickly pour the contents over the cooked dal. Stir to mix and serve with the rice.

Lemony Ground Lamb by Madhur Jaffrey

Yield: 3-4 portions

Ingredients

2 Tablespoons olive or canola oil

2 2-inch sticks of cinnamon

1/4 cup chopped onion

1 pound ground lamb (on the lean side)

2 teaspoons very finely grated, peeled fresh ginger

3/4 teaspoon Kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste

1/4 tp 1/3 cup finely chopped fresh mint leaves

1/4 to 1/3 cup finely chopped cilantro leaves

Juice of one lemon

3/4 teaspoon garam masala

Directions

  1. Pour the oil into a large, heavy-duty frying pan (I like cast iron) and set over medium high heat. When hot, put in the cinnamon sticks. Allow them to sizzle for a few seconds, until fragrant. Add the onions. Stir and fry the onions until the edges turn brown.
  2. Add the lamb and ginger, breaking up the lamb with a wooden spoon. Stir and fry for about 5 minutes.
  3. Add 3/4 cup of water, the salt and cayenne. Stir and bring to a simmer. Cover the pan, turn the heat to low and simmer gently for about 40 minutes.
  4. Add the lemon juice and garam masala. The dish can be made ahead of time up to this point. When ready to serve, bring the mixture to a simmer and add the mint and cilantro, stirring through. Heat uncovered for about 5 minutes.

Serve with Basmati rice and the Moong Dal, Naan and any chutney of your choice. This can be wrapped in the flatbread and eaten as a wrap, with some chopped fresh tomatoes.

Ma’Amoul – Moroccan Stuffed Tartlets

IMG_1535 In Morocco, Israel, and most Sephardic communities, there’s an actual holiday to celebrate the end of Passover, called Mimouna. While I am of Ashkenazi origins, I have come to appreciate Sephardic cooking.

Mimouna was originally celebrated by Moroccan Jews, and like most timeless traditions, there are many theories behind its origin. Mimouna is not only a feast, but a symbolic and spiritual event that marks the beginning of spring–a time full of hope for wealth and abundance in the coming year.

Muslims took part in the celebration too, bringing milk and honey, hametz flours and couscous to their Jewish neighbors. Entire communities would come together, wishing for mutual productivity and prosperity for the coming year. People traveled from house to house, tasting sweets and celebrating with their neighbors.

One traditional treat that is served is ma’amoul, a delicious pastry stuffed with chopped nuts or dates. The cookies are perfumed with either rose water or orange blossom water and simply melt in your mouth. There is actually a special tool to use for decorating the ma’amoul, however, since I don’t have one, I used tweezers to make the traditional pattern that helps the confectioner’s sugar to adhere to the outside of the pastry. Stored in an airtight tin, the ma’amoul will keep for a long time – well, in theory they will. I challenge your family to not gobble them all up almost as quickly as you can serve them!

These can be made vegan by simply substituting the butter for vegan buttery sticks. Since I cannot choose which filling I prefer, I simply will make both. I will also make a dozen ma’amoul stuffed with mini-chocolate chips for my godchildren. It may not be authentic, but I’m sure that they will enjoy them. Not just for after Passover!

Ma’Amoul – Moroccan Stuffed Tartlets from A Book of Middle Eastern Food by Claudia Roden

Yield: About 40 ma’amoul

Ingredients

For Pastry

2.5 cups of unbleached, all-purpose flour

2 sticks (1/2 pound) of unsalted butter or vegan butter substitute at room temperature

1 Tablespoon orange blossom or rose water

3 to 4.5 Tablespoons milk or water

Date or Nut Filling

Sifted Confectioner’s Sugar

For Date Filling

1/2 pound of pitted Medjool dates (This assumes that you will make all 40 cookies with the date filling)

About 1/4 cup of water

For Nut Filling 

1 cup of finely chopped walnuts, pistachios or almonds (This assumes you will make all 40 cookies with the nut filling. Either filling can be halved if you wish to make both.) Any extra filling can be used up in other cookies, pastries etc.)

1/2 cup of granulated sugar

1 Tablespoon of rose water OR ground cinnamon

Directions

  1. Prepare the fillings first. For the date filling, place the pitted dates in a saucepan with the water and cook over low heat, stirring until the dates have softened into a homogenous mass. If the dates don’t seem to be softening, add more water, one tablespoon at a time. You want the filling to be thick.
  2. For the nut filling, mix the chopped nuts with the sugar and then add the rose water if you are using pistachios or almonds and cinnamon if you are using walnuts. (I actually used orange sugared almonds from Nuts.com and so I added rose water but did not add any additional sugar to mine. I also do not like things sickeningly sweet and the ma’amoul are covered with confectioner’s sugar after all.
  3. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.
  4. Sift the flour into a large mixing bowl. Using your fingers, work the butter into the flour until they are throughly combined. Add either the orange blossom water OR the rose water, followed by the milk OR water , and work the dough until it is soft and malleable and easy to shape.
  5. Take a walnut-sized (that means a walnut in the shell!) lump of dough and roll it into a ball. Using your thumb, hollow out the center so it looks as if you have a tiny bowl. Using your fingers, press the sides up to make a pot with firm but thin sides.
  6. Fill the hole with either of the fillings. Do not over-fill.You want to be able to cleanly and completely cover the filling.
  7. Then press and pinch the sides back over the filling making a little ball shape. Place the pastries on a baking sheet covered with either parchment or Silpat. Leave them about an inch apart as they don’t really spread during baking.
  8. Using a fork or tweezers, decorate the tops of the pastries, making little dents.
  9. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes. Do not allow the pastries to brown or they will become hard and not taste right. Leave them on the pan for about 2 minutes before removing them to a cooling rack. This will allow them to harden just enough to keep their shape. When they are almost totally cool, roll them in confectioner’s sugar.