Thursday, November 16, 2017

Potatoes with Sumac and Z'attar

Thanksgiving or for that matter any festive meal is not complete without potatoes in my family. Everyone crowds into the tiny kitchen and snacks on the boiled potatoes and hover around till the potatoes come out of the oven or the skillet and very generously offer to be taste testers. The quantities provided in this recipe might seem alarming, but they disappear quickly. If you do have leftovers, they are great in a grain bowl or tucked into a wrap or sandwich or just warmed up for a snack.

Boiling and then cooking the potatoes in oil makes for a crunchy but melt in the mouth texture. The combination of Sumac and Z'attar elevates the deliciousness.

This is a technique more than a recipe. In my houshold, I have to figure 2 Yukon Golds per person.

8 Yukon Gold potatoes

4 tbsp of vegetable or peanut oil

1 1/2 tsp of paprika

1/2 tsp of Sumac + more to taste

1/2 tsp of Z'attar 

Salt and pepp to taste

Boil the potatoes until they are firm tender. Cut the potatoes in half. Put in a saucepan large enough to hold the potatoes ( at least a 1 gallon saucepan ) and add enough cold water to cover. Lightly salt the water and bring to a boil. Once the water boils, cook for about 10 - 12 minutes till the potatoes can easily be pierced with a paring knife. Drain the potatoes well and cut each half into 4 parts.

Or you can cook it in the microwave. Prick the potatoes well all over with a paring knife. Lay them on the microwave safe plate and cook. figure about 21/2 minutes per potato. i.e if you have 6 potatoes microwave for about 15 minutes. Once the potatoes are cooked, cool a little and cut each potato into eighths.

You can do this ahead of time and hold the potatoes in the fridge.

Heat oil in a large wok. When the oil is hot, reduce the flame. Add the Paprika, and about a teaspoon of salt to the oil. Now add the potatoes and gently lift and scoop to toss them with the seasoned oil. Increase the flame to medium -high and let the potatoes cook undisturbed for 3- 4 minutes till they have brown spots. Toss and cook for another 3 minutes. Do this until all the pieces have a bit of brown. Taste - add more salt if necessary. If the potatoes look dry add in a little more oil, a tsp at a time

Turn off the flame and add the Sumac and Z'attar and mix well. The potatoes should taste tart and bright. Adjust the flavorings if you have to.  Transfer to a bowl and serve immediately.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Katy's Cranberry relish

When I lived in Bangalore one of the Pizza chains had giant billboard all over town that said  "You won't eat Dosa with Cranberry sauce, why would you put Chiken Tikka on your pizza". I remember thinking the billboard to be rather snobbish and fantasizing about the combination of Dosa with cranberry sauce.   A year later when I came to Denver, I was told that Cranberry sauce came out of a can and it held its shape and is not something I should eat.  Dosa with Cranberry sauce dream died right then and there.
Fast forward a few more years and I discovered fresh Cranberries in Portland. My friend Katy brought in "Sugared Cranberries" to work and I fell in love with the fresh tart taste.  And then she introduced me to Cranberry Relish. Katy claims that her mom found this recipe on a bag of Ocean Spray many years back.  This is my interpretation of her instructions.

Katy's Cranberry Relish

1 lb of cranberries (fresh or frozen)
2 medium sized Navel oranges 
1/2 c of sugar + more as needed to taste
A dash of salt
Lime juice/Orange juice if needed.

For best results, make this a day ahead or at least 4-6 hours before you plan to serve it.
Wash the cranberries thoroughly and drain. Pick out any squishy ones. Chop the cranberries using the slicing blade of the food processor. Put into a bowl. Wash the oranges and dry. Take 1/2 c of sugar in a bowl. Zest the oranges into the sugar. Rub in the zest with a fork. Now supreme the oranges and add the segments to the bowl, breaking them into quarters as you go. Mix in the cranberries and a dash of salt.
Taste; the relish should taste tart and citrusy without being too sweet. Let sit for half an hour and taste again. If it is too tart, add more sugar. 
Let this rest in the fridge overnight or if you are planning to eat the same day rest on the counter for 4 to 6 hours. If you have refrigerated bring back to room temperature.
Taste again. Adds sugar or salt as needed. If it is not tart enough you can  add the zest and the juice of a lime a little at a time until you have the right balance.
Leftovers keep well up to a week. 

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Muhamra's cousin - Mu akhdar?

Muhammara is well loved in our household - all the versions: the Syrian, the Turkish and the Palestinian versions. All three versions have toasted Walnuts and Pomegranate molasses.
The Syrian version is made with Aleppo peppers, the Turkish version with red pepper paste and the Palestinian version with roasted red peppers.

For this week's rotation of spreads, I made a version with Poblano peppers. And I was wondering what to call it. My hypotheses was that the name of the dip came from the Walnuts but I was so wrong. Muhammara means  'Of red color' - at least according to Google. 'Mu' is a prefix in Arabic.
'Ahmar' is the word for red. So  would I call it "Akhdara"? Muakhdara?

Language lesson done, here is the recipe. It is pretty delicious whatever you choose to call it - Smoky, spicy and creamy with walnuts.

Here is the recipe


makes enough to fill a 12 oz mason jar. 
keeps in fridge for a week. can be frozen.

3 fresh Poblano/Pasilla peppers
1 small clove of garlic
Tiny finger pinch of red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp toasted ground cumin
1 tsp of Agave nectar
1 tbsp lime juice (roughly half a lime juiced)
1 cup of walnuts
2 tbsp Olive oil
salt to taste

Roast the peppers. You can do it by placing it directly on a gas flame. Cook on one side for 3 minutes, turn the pepper and cook on all sides till the skin is blackened. Or you could broil it in a toaster oven for about 10 -20 minutes. 
Put the peppers in a bowl and cover with a lid and allow to steam for at least 15 minutes. Peel when cool enough to handle and discard the skin.

Toast the walnuts. If you have a microwave, put the walnuts on a paper towel and cook in 30 second bursts  till the walnuts smell nice and toasty. Otherwise you can do this in a dry skillet on a medium flame. Stir constantly for about 8 minutes or so until the walnuts smell toasty and just begin to release oil.

Blend the peppers, red pepper flakes, garlic, cumin, lime juice, salt and Agave to a coarse puree. I used a food processor.  See notes below if you want to do it by hand*. Add the walnuts and pulse till they are chopped up to a grainy structure. Taste. It should taste smoky and the pepper should be the dominant flavor. Adjust salt, lime and Agave to balance out the flavors if necessary. 

Transfer to a bowl, top with the Olive oil and serve with  Carrots as a dip. Makes an excellent sandwich spread too.

*If you are using a mortar and pestle, start with the garlic and some salt, mash to a paste and then add the other ingredients. Or  you could chop it fine on a cutting board.

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