Patatas Bravas

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If you’re anything like me, when eating at a Spanish tapas restaurant you can’t pass up the quintessential tapas dish – patatas bravas. These little potatoes are a little spicy and a little tomato-y and just perfect dipped into a classic garlic aioli! We made a super garlicky aioli to go with ours, and it was delicious! Traditionally, these potatoes are fried and then topped with a spicy tomato sauce. But tonight we roasted our potatoes, after they had been tossed in the tomato sauce. The results were crispy and flavorful, with a soft interior to each bite. This is a great side dish for a group and is a pretty convenient dish to have to make when entertaining guests. So much can be done in advance – the potatoes can be chopped and tossed in the sauce well before cooking, and if you want to make an aioli (hint: you do!) that can also be done in advance.

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We had ours tonight with a less traditional accompaniment – steamed Chesapeake Bay blue crabs! Don’t be skeptical… they worked perfectly together! We ate this delicious summer smorgasbord with Ally’s aunt, uncle, and cousin. Up next we may just share the gorgeous summer salad you see in the corner of the picture below, courtesy of Ally’s cousin Emily!

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Patatas Bravas 

Ingredients: 
  • 4 Russet potatoes
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 tomato paste
  • 1 tbsp paprika
  • 1 1/2 tbsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tbsp dried thyme
  • 15 turns fresh ground black pepper
  • 1+ tsp salt
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
Instructions:
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Chop potatoes into bite-sized chunks.
  3. In a large bowl, stir together all of the remaining ingredients.
  4. Toss the potatoes in the bowl and coat with the sauce.
  5. Spread the potatoes out on a cookie sheet (or two), avoiding overcrowding. Roast for 45 minutes to an hour, flipping them over roughly halfway through.
Serves ~6 as a side
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Pickled Red Onions

 

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Pickles again? Didn’t we just do that? Yes, yes we did. I’ve been munching on the Midnight Quick Pickles from last week out of my fridge pretty much every day. Sorry for the repetition, but sometimes I can’t help the order of our culinary diary. This weekend, Selim’s parents came to visit us in Virginia, and we all joined my parents in Amherst for the day. Selim and I made dinner for the group, with a little assistance on the grill from my dad. Instead of brats and hot dogs, we grilled sucuk (a delicious Turkish sausage) and some spicy venison sausage (hunted & made by my cousin’s husband), with a variety of toppings. We quick pickled these onions earlier in the week, with the thought that they’d go well with the sucuk and feta cheese, but I thought they worked even better with the spicy venison sausage! The slightly sweet, very acidic pickled onions give your tastes buds a reprieve from the spiciness of the sausage with each bite.

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My sister recently ranted to us about how “pickles are the cool new thing,” and how “every restaurant is putting pickled vegetables in things that don’t need pickles.” I respect her opinion, but I totally disagree. I think pickles, depending on their variety, could go on just about everything. I think anything spicy or fatty or really rich is improved with some type of pickle on top. I also eat these guys plain, but I’m not sure I’m in the the majority on that one.

Standard Quick Pickle Disclaimer: As we’ve mentioned with previous recipes (see: Midnight Quick Pickles, Red Quick Pickled Cauliflower and Radishes), these are not shelf-safe “real” pickles. They should not be left in pantry or cellar for eternity. They must stay refrigerated. Hence they’re called “quick pickles” or “refrigerator pickles.” We skipped the step of sterilizing the jar and lid that keeps you from getting botulism when canned goods are left on a shelf for months on end.

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Pickled Red Onions

Ingredients:
  • 1 large red onion
  • 1 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tsp salt
Instructions:
  1. Slice the onion length-wise and place in a jar.
  2. Meanwhile, bring the remaining ingredients to a simmer. As soon as the salt & sugar are dissolved, remove from the heat.
  3. Once the liquid has cooled, pour over the onions. Refrigerate for 48+ hours prior to using.

Midnight Quick Pickles

Every time we visit my cousin and her husband, we always come home with more than when we arrived. They live in a more rural county, have a HUGE backyard garden, and freezers full of hunting spoils. We were there this past weekend to visit with them and their brand new baby 😍😍😍 We cooked dinner for the new parents, so we brought a fair amount of ingredients with us. But still, our bag was more full when we went home! They sent us home with a bounty of cucumbers and squash from the garden, three whole trout, and a package of venison sausage links from last hunting season! Even a cucumber lover like me can’t eat all those cucumbers before they go bad, so I made some pickles!

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If you take a quick glance at this recipe, you’re probably thinking that it’s a pretty standard dill pickle recipe. Vinegar, water, sugar, dill, garlic… they’re standard fair for dill pickles. Why then do ours look dark and why did we call them “midnight” pickles? For that, we have to thank Selim’s devotion to turbinado sugar, which turns liquid darker when dissolved, as compared to refined white sugar.

As we’ve mentioned with previous recipes (see: Red Quick Pickled Cauliflower and Radishes), these are not shelf-safe “real” pickles. They should not be left in pantry or cellar for eternity. They must stay refrigerated. Hence they’re called “quick pickles” or “refrigerator pickles.” We skipped the step of sterilizing the jar and lid that keeps you from getting botulism when canned goods are left on a shelf for months on end.

This recipes follows a 2 part vinegar / 1 part water / 1 part sugar pickling ratio by which we usually abide. Using that ratio, pickles can be infinitely adjusted for more or less produce, different vinegars, alternate sugars, and a variety of herbs & spices!

Midnight Quick Pickles

Ingredients:
  • 5-6 small pickling cucumbers
  • 1 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup turbinado sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1 tbsp black peppercorns
  • 1 tbsp dill
Instructions:
  1. Slice the cucumbers and place in a large mason jar or similar.
  2. Bring the remaining ingredients to a simmer in a saucepan. Stir and simmer until the sugar and salt are dissolved.
  3. Remove from heat. Leave sitting out or refrigerate until cool.
  4. Pour cool pickling liquid over the sliced cucumbers.
  5. Refrigerate for several days. (They’re edible essentially immediately, but will have more flavor if you leave them be for 48+ hours.)

Cheddar & Shallot Skillet Scones

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It seems like people have very strong feelings about cast iron skillets, positive or negative. Those who don’t own or use cast iron skillets regularly sometimes are scared of using them, because they think they’re hard to care for. The seasoning of the skillet is a little intimidating unless you’ve read a little bit about it. But on the other hand, those people who own and use cast iron skillets really love theirs. Prior to this past Christmas, we probably the only South Carolinians who didn’t own one.

We’ve been using it these past months for burgers and steaks, and we definitely are on Team Cast Iron Skillet now. But we also got a cast iron skillet cookbook for Christmas and had yet to make anything out of it. These scones were our first choice out of there and accidentally, were perfect for today! We didn’t plan it that way, but what is more perfectly British than a scone? And on today, Royal Wedding Day, where Americans pretend we didn’t rebel against the crown and join the rest of the world in being awe-struck by the pageantry of it all, what better day to share this scone recipe! We’ve now moved on from watching the Royal Wedding to English Premier League soccer football, so we’re basically British today 🇬🇧

We really enjoyed these scones. They aren’t overly cheesy, but have a nice flavor. We topped them with our Bacon Jam, which was basically magical. They stayed nice and moist in the middle, which is great since I think some dislike scones, thinking they’re too dry. And honestly, they’re really nothing like what you think a traditional British scone would be. You probably wouldn’t serve this with clotted cream or Earl Grey. They taste like they came from a Southern cook, instead of a British one, but we’ll pretend.

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Cheddar & Shallot Skillet Scones

(Adapted from Home Skillet, by Robin Donovan)
Ingredients:
  • 8+ tbsp very cold butter*
  • 2 cups AP flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1 cup grated sharp Cheddar cheese
  • 1 large shallot, finely diced
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tsp Frank’s Red Hot sauce
  • 3 turns fresh ground black pepper
*COLD butter is important. Try this: place the butter in the freezer for 30 minutes prior to making the scones. Use a grater to cut into small pieces.
Instructions:
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. In a large bowl, stir together flour, salt, and baking powder.
  3. In another bowl, combine the remaining ingredients. Whisk together the liquid ingredients and then stir in the cheese and shallots.
  4. Work the cold butter into the dry ingredients. Gently combine with your hands.
  5. Stir the bowl of wet ingredients into the dry bowl + butter. Don’t over-combine, as best you can.
  6. Once the dough has just come together, flour your hands and counter-top and then knead the dough just a few times.
  7. Grease the cast iron skillet with butter. Turn the ball of dough into the skillet and pat down until it completely covers the bottom of the skillet. Slice the dough about 2/3s of the way through into triangles. (Cutting 8 slices is easy, but you can go bigger or smaller.)
  8. Bake for 18-20 minutes.
  9. Allow to cool and finish the slice all the way through before serving.
Makes 8-12 scones

Quick Cuban Black Beans

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If you peruse our blog, you’ll notice that we try to minimize our usage of prepackaged or canned foods. I think that if you showed Selim a can of cream of <fill-in-the-blank> soup, he’d shrivel up like a vampire exposed to garlic and sunlight. Sometimes it’s unavoidable and sometimes the convenience outweighs all other factors, but we do try to err on the side of fresh ingredients. With that being said, I’m not going to lie. Soaking beans overnight in preparation for cooking them the next day just is not my cup of tea. I know there are many people out there who consider canned beans an anathema, but honestly I don’t think they taste much different and they’re SO convenient and time-saving. So we definitely use them.

Hence our quick version of Cuban black beans here. Certainly, they probably would be better (and certainly more authentic) if we used dried beans, soaked them overnight, and cooked them longer with the herbs and spices. But this quick version provides for a superior flavor to time ratio, in my opinion. You get to jazz up your black beans with just a few additions and barely any active time in the kitchen, allowing you to focus your energy (culinary or otherwise!) elsewhere.

Quick Cuban Black Beans

(Adapted from Bon Appetit)
Ingredients: 
  • 1 tsp neutral oil
  • 1/2 small onion, diced
  • 1/2 green bell pepper, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 15oz cans of black beans, rinsed & drained
  • 1/4 cup of stock (your preference)
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • Fresh ground black pepper
Instructions: 
  1. In a medium pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Once warm, add the onion, bell pepper, and garlic. Top with a few turns of fresh black pepper. Cook until softened and fragrant, approximately 6 minutes.
  2. Add the black beans, stock, and spices. Stir together.
  3. Lower heat to low-medium. Partially cover and cook for at least 10 minutes. With the heat turned quite low, you can cook long and allow the flavors to blend more!

Chermoula Carrots

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One of the best things about writing this blog is the introduction to foods and dishes that I didn’t know about beforehand. Today, I learned about chermoula! (Or charmoula – like so many words translated from the original Arabic, this one has more than one spelling.) When we decided to make our Tangy Moroccan Meatballs yesterday, I wanted to stick with the flavors of Morocco for the entire dinner. This lead us to this recipe, from a lovely site that I think I’ll visit again – Taste of Maroc.

Chermoula itself is a condiment in the pesto family in terms of texture or consistency. It is traditional to North African countries like Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, and Libya, although the Moroccans claim original ownership. It’s one of those things where there is no one single recipe – there are regional variations, as well as changes from neighbor to neighbor. The basics include fresh herbs (parsley and cilantro), olive oil, and lemon juice. The other ingredients can range from basic spices like cumin, paprika, and coriander to harissa paste to onions or even pureed grapes (Tunisian tradition)! The paprika and cumin additions we used tonight seem to be fairly common in Morocco, at least as my internet perusing has informed me.

These carrots are basically just a vessel for the chermoula. It makes them (and anything else you might feel so inclined to cover with chermoula) into a bright and herbaceous dish. These are a perfect side dish to any meat, especially something that’s heavier or spicy. Furthermore, the flavor and lovely presentation belies the fact that it really takes you no time to prepare the dish. As I was eating (and enjoying!) this last night, I also thought that it probably would be equally as delicious and maybe a little fresher tasting if we’d cooked the carrots and just topped them with the chermoula without cooking the condiment at all. Note to self for next time.

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Chermoula Carrots

(Adapted from Taste of Maroc)
Ingredients: 
  • 6 large carrots
  • Water
  • ~1 cup chermoula
    • 6 cloves garlic, sliced
    • 1 1/2 cups fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
    • 1 cup fresh parsley, roughly chopped
    • 1/2 tsp salt
    • 1 tsp cumin
    • 1 tsp paprika
    • 3 tbsp olive oil
    • 1/4 cup lemon juice
    • 5 turns fresh ground black pepper
Instructions: 
  1. Slice the carrots on the bias, cutting pieces roughly the size of a baby carrot.
  2. Steam the carrots in a pan. Depending on the size of your pan, add just enough water create a thin layer of water coating the bottom and place over medium heat. Add the carrots and cover with a lid to steam.
  3. Cook the carrots for ~ 8-10 minutes, until they are al dente.
  4. Meanwhile (or make ahead!), make the chermoula by combining all of the remaining ingredients in a food processor (or, if you’re cooler than we are and have a mortar & pestle, crush them that way!). Pulse briefly until you have a well-combined, but not obliterated sauce.
  5. Pour the chermoula into the pan with the carrots. Cook, with the lid on, over low heat for an additional 5 minutes.
Serves 2-4

Potato Latkes

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If there’s any dish that just screams ‘Hanukkah,’ it’s potato latkes. Latkes are traditional Hanukkah fare not for the dish itself, but for the oil its fried in. Hanukkah is known as the Festival of Lights; it celebrates the miracle of one day’s worth of oil lasting for eight days. Over 2000 years ago, the city of Jerusalem was under Syrian-Greek control. Specifically, the king Antiochus IV Epiphanes reversed the rule of his father in allowing Jews to practice their religion and began persecuting the Jewish people. Their religion was banned, they were ordered to worship traditional Greek gods, many were massacred, and the Temple in Jerusalem was desecrated. A Jewish rebellion broke out, led by the Maccabees, which eventually drove the Syrian-Greeks out of Jerusalem. Once this occurred, the Jews set about cleaning and restoring the Temple. Once the Temple was rededicated, there was only a small amount of oil, enough that would keep the menorah lit for one day. The flame was supposed to stay lit continuously, but no one knew how the oil would last. The miracle was that the oil lasted for eight days, until the supply could be replenished. Jewish sages of the time proclaimed this miracle and thus created the holiday of Hanukkah – the Festival of Lights!

For this recipe, I used Tori Avey’s recipe and tips & tricks to try to make this the best batch possible. The goal is to have a crispy exterior with a warm and soft interior. Traditionally, you would top your Hanukkah latkes with applesauce or sour cream, but since we ate our with the delicious Wine & Honey Brisket that had plenty of pan sauce in which to dip the latkes if needed!

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Potato Latkes

(Adapted from toriavey.com)
Ingredients: 
  • 2 medium Russet potatoes (~1lb)
  • 1 small onion
  • 1/2 cup matzo meal/crushed matzo crackers
  • 2 egg, whisked
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • Few turns of fresh ground black pepper
  • Oil
Instructions: 
  1. Peel and then grate the potatoes. Submerge the potato shreds in cold water while working.
  2. Quarter the onion and then run it through a food processor.
  3. Drain the potato shreds through a doubled cheesecloth.
  4. Add the onion to the potato in the cheesecloth. Squeeze as much of the liquid out as possible.
  5. Combine the potato and onion with the matzo meal, the egg, salt, and pepper.
  6. Pour enough oil into your pan to form a layer ~1/8th inch thick. Goal temperature for frying = 360-375 degrees – you can check with a candy thermometer if you have one.
  7. Form a small patty with your hands, roughly 3 tbsp worth. Test this first one to make sure your oil is a good temperature. Should be 2-3 minutes per side, yielding crispy brown edges with a soft interior.
  8. Set the latkes on a wire rack to cool, with paper towels underneath. Serve while still warm.
Makes 8-10 latkes