May 10th, 2013 — 8:53am
Garbanzo and Preserved Lemon Dip
I really enjoy a good hummus. But more often than not it is served a bit too oily or garlicky for me. Of course the olive oil makes it taste very rich and silky. But if I want to taste olive oil I can just drink it out of the bottle. And the over-garlicky pandemic sponsored by the the Food Network has become just too much to bear. It is a bit disingenuous to think that if we add more salt, oil, and garlic to a recipe it is going to be appealing to the taste buds. What ever happened to subtlety in cooking?
While on our preserved-lemon jag, I came up with the idea of using garbanzo beans and preserved lemon to create a tasty but more healthy spread than the usual hummus. (I am not condemning hummus.) To me it has a lighter, brighter flavor while still featuring the beans. You can add one clove of garlic, or none, and still come out with a pretty close interpretation to the original concept; something to dip your pita bread into while watching the news after work. I used it in place of mayonnaise on a sandwich one day and the idea of an all-purpose spread came to mind.
So as not to be confused with hummus, the recipe does call for some changes. including, preserved lemon, cumin, cilantro, and a hot pepper. You have to watch the amount of salt you use, the preserved lemon is quite salty. If you want to cut back on the oil I found that some chicken or vegetable broth can substitute for some of the olive oil. And, of course, the garlic is optional.
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May 1st, 2013 — 9:12am
Moroccan Chicken with Preserved Meyer Lemons
While researching ways to use Meyer lemons, quickly, I came across the idea of preserving them. Preserved lemons came up as a staple of Moroccan cooking. Apparently using them to make sauce for lamb or chicken (in that order) is the most common way of using them. Not being a big fan of lamb I naturally migrated to chicken for my first recipe.
Recipes for Moroccan chicken have many variations. I am sure like most recipes for every grandmother in Morocco there is a chicken recipe ostensibly handed down for generations in the family. Most of these chicken recipes do not even call for preserved lemons. Olives and dried fruits seemed to be common ingredients for most recipes. And the use of a a tangine, a Moroccan clay cooking vessel, seems to be the preferred method for cooking.
I had gone to all the trouble of making preserved lemons, so I included them in my recipe. I included olives and omitted the dried fruit. I wanted the dish to be more savory than sweet. And with no tangine I found that a dutch oven, or covered saute pan worked just as well. I am amazed by the subtlety of the lemon flavor when it is preserved. It gives the dish a silky, lemony flavor without screaming “lemon.” And the mix of spices, olives and lemons give the dish a unique taste and texture. It comes together in about 45 minutes which makes it a convenient weeknight dish. So even without a Moroccan grandmother you can make a tasty version of Moroccan chicken.
2 comments » | Recipes
April 28th, 2013 — 11:43am
Preserved Meyer Lemons
As with most things in our garden we either get nothing (like our paltry tomato crop) or you get so much all at one time you either start eating the crop three meals per day or you end up composting the rest. Our Meyer lemon tree burst forth with fruit last year, most of it ripening within two weeks. I love lemons, but 40 in two weeks is a bit much to handle. A bit of quick research led to the idea of preserving lemons.
Unbeknownst to me preserved lemons are apparently an important part of Moroccan cuisine. I guess they have the same issues we had: too many lemons and not enough time to use them up before they go bad. Although the Moroccans do not use Meyer lemons I figured the sweeter Meyer lemons could be preserved just as well.
The process is very simple. It does require some waiting before you use the preserved lemons. Since you use the whole lemon, the rind has to soften first in the liquid. The result is a taste that is surprisingly subtle. You would think the use of the whole lemon would overwhelm a dish. The preserving process, which is essentially a brining process, takes the lemon notes to a very low level. It really produces some unique results in flavor that are hard to describe.
So first the recipe for brining. We will follow up with a couple of recipes, one borrowed from Moroccan cuisine and another of pure, delicious invention.
1 comment » | Gardening, Recipes
April 23rd, 2013 — 4:28pm
The silence on the blogging front does not mean that nothing meaningful has been going on at the Busy Gourmand. The hiatus was a means of going back to basics and included a period of experimentation in the garden and in the kitchen. There have been plenty of new recipes developed. We have figured out better ways to get more out of the garden. And we have even been able to figure out improvements in the ways to use herbs and spices along with producing our own spices.
Preserved Meyer Lemons
The new recipes will dribble out slowly as we are sure they have been perfected. And the gardening tips and techniques will be shared so you too can have the freshest of herbs and spices in your kitchen. As with life the journey from idea to recipe is often more interesting than the outcome. We will include more narrative so you can figure out what the heck has been going on here in North Texas.
Deep Dish Pizza
The recipes will be as diverse as deep dish pizza and a kind of hummus-like spread. The new techniques will include smoking meats and peppers as well as the best way to use dried oregano (warning it can be a bit messy). I do not want to spoil all the fun on the front page of the blog. If you want a syllabus of what is to come you can find out more at the link here. In the mean time it is great to be back at the keyboard. I hope our time away will prove fruitful for your cooking ideas as well.
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July 22nd, 2012 — 8:17am
Curry-Marinated Grilled Chicken Breasts
Sometimes I just crave an unadorned piece of grilled meat. One that does not require sauce or condiments. In the case of a steak I am perfectly happy sprinkling the meat with salt and pepper, letting it rest for an hour or two and then grilling to medium rare. Between the outer char and the seasoning the steak can stand on its own without any further support. You could of course dress it with some compound butter or a complex sauce. For me the simple steak is all I really need.
Other cuts of meat tend to present a challenge. Chicken and pork are hard to cook on their own due to the lack of fat. Lamb is one of the meats I also feel needs a bit of an assist with something more than a bit of salt and pepper. My go-to option in these cases is a relatively long marinade in something salty and savory. Unfortunately I am usually stuck in a rut, using the same marinades over and over again.
This week I decided to try something new with chicken breasts. I used many of the usual ingredients. To speed things up I used powdered versions of ginger, and garlic and added some curry, the sweet version, to see what would happen. I find that marinades with chopped ingredients tend to get flavor hot spots. In an earlier version where I use chopped ginger and garlic you come across bites that have a more intense flavor of either or both. Not entirely unpleasant, but not really the idea behind the marinade.
This new version had a very subtle ginger and garlic flavor with a more intense flavoring from the curry. The new marinade also had the added benefit of an incredibly mouthwatering smell while the chicken was grilled. The curry gave the chicken a bit of a yellow hue to contrast with the deep brown grill marks. Nothing better than a dish that looks, smells, and tastes good. This chicken marinade has the added benefit that it takes about 5 minutes to prepare (no chopping). It is hard to imagine a more simple and tasty grilled chicken breast.
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July 20th, 2012 — 8:01am
Chicken Meatballs in the Baking Dish
I am never really sure from where recipes come. Often the inspiration comes from laziness. I do not want to go to the store, therefore I use whatever is on hand. Many recipes are borrowed ideas that are rearranged and approached from a different perspective. Other ideas come from the “it’s on sale” mentality. Too cheap to pass up and no recipes to choose from.
Sometimes the recipes work. Other times they do not work. Sometimes the inspiration leads to other recipes. On a few occasions the inspirations get you into trouble. (When your sister tells your parents you borrowed some of the wine in the refrigerator to put in the carrots for example.) More often than not they are not really good enough to write down, passing into the oblivion of forgotten “good ideas.”
In the case of chicken meatballs the inspiration comes from taking a different perspective on an old dish, and the fact that both ground chicken and chicken sausage filling were on sale at the same time. Although I have to admit the “too cheap to pass up” motive was probably the more potent driving force.
The ground chicken and the chicken sausage filling collided with the usual ingredients to create an incredibly tasty, moist, satisfying meatball. There was enough interesting flavor from the sausage filling without screaming “sausage.” The added ingredients kept the meat moist in the absence of any real fat content. It is hard to say “satisfying” and “low in fat” in the same sentence. I often think combining the statements is oxymoronic. In this case, however, it really works. I might even pay full price for this meat combination in the future!
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July 16th, 2012 — 8:35am
Smoked Turkey Legs With White Beans
Another day, another trip to the grocery store, and of course another unintended purchase while suffering from food boredom. In this case smoked turkey legs were mixed in among the usual poultry products. It was clear that this was some sort of purchasing mistake as the grocery store had marked them down to $0.99 per pound and three smoked legs came to $1.99. How could I pass that up?
I did not feel like creating a new recipe so I tried the smoked turkey legs as a substitute for smoked pork shank braised with white beans, and a couple of days later I substituted the smoked turkey for roasted turkey in the Asian-style turkey soup. The smoked turkey legs in the white bean recipe tasted remarkably like the smoked pork shank. I guess the smoky flavor takes over in the long braise. The pork version contains more fat so the meat is a bit more tender and juicy. And with more fat the beans take on more flavor. In order to overcome the fat deficit, and to help use up an avalanche of peppers from the garden, I spiced up the turkey version with some serrano peppers worrying that the turkey and white beans might be a bit bland together. The peppers added just enough heat to give the beans a good depth of flavor without being too hot. I think if you can afford the pork shank, which usually runs about $8 per recipe, that would be the better option. But the smoked turkey provides a leaner, less expensive, though still tasty option.
The Asian-style turkey soup was a toss up between roasted versus smoked turkey. In either recipe I prefer the turkey legs with their dark meat. The question really comes down to how much you like smoky flavor in your food. Unlike the braised, smoked turkey legs, the smoked turkey in the soup still tasted like turkey with the smoke adding a bit more character to the recipe. This recipes probably comes down to which type of turkey you have on hand at the time. I usually only make this soup around Thanksgiving weekend to use up leftovers. However, if you find some turkey legs on sale it is a tasty soup just about any time of year.
From The Garden: Plumeria
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June 22nd, 2012 — 7:16am
Chorizo and Beef Meatloaf
Every once in awhile I do crave something very basic for dinner. Macaroni and cheese, lentil soup, and meatloaf often pop into my head when I am looking for some home cooking. No matter how hard I try it is pretty difficult to make an inspiring meatloaf. Sure you can play around with the meat mixture, add some hot sauce, or make it extra moist by draping it with bacon. I have tried all those variations. The meatloaf is always pretty good, but not what I would call extraordinary.
While leafing through some cookbooks from the western culinary tradition, I saw a ho-hum meatloaf recipe which had an added footnote. “For something special try mixing the ground beef with chorizo.” I filed the idea way back in my brain waiting for the time when I would have some ground beef and some chorizo at the same time. It turns out that this week the fates placed the two ingredients in my refrigerator and the “special” chorizo and beef meatloaf was born.
I wanted it to be moist without adding a bunch of fat. I finely diced some celery, onion, carrot, serrano peppers and garlic using the food processor, reducing the vegetables to a fine confetti. I also wanted to add some intensity so I added some fresh oregano and basil along with some ground cumin and curry powder. And to make sure it had a spicy topping I added some chipotle hot sauce to the usual mixture of ketchup, mustard, and honey which baked on top of the loaf for the final 30 minutes.
I can see why the cookbook author referred to this as something special. The spicy chorizo really added some zing to the meat mixture. The vegetables were spread throughout and gave the loaf an interesting texture and kept it moist. The hot sauce in the topping rounded out the spiciness of the whole meat loaf. If spicy is not your thing you could skip the serrano peppers and the hot sauce. You will still get some spice from the chorizo. But honestly, go for it! You only live once.
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June 18th, 2012 — 6:49am
My sister called the other day. Her complaint; she had too much basil from the garden and no idea what to do with it. I would have suggested pesto, but it is not one of her favorites. Instead I suggested pureeing the basil like pesto and making ice cubes with it for use when fresh basil is not available. Problem solved.
Then I realized that I had my own basil problem. Not only did we plant two new basil plants, but four basil plants sprouted in the garden from seeds dropped by last year’s crop. I use basil in just about everything savory just to use the leaves up as fast as possible. And it sometimes ends up in unusual places with some very nice consequences. Last night I prepared Lyonnaise potatoes layered with basil. Usually I would opt for some thyme with Lyonnaise potatoes. But the basil was delicious and added a depth of character that placed the dish in the “over-the-top” category.
I took the extra step of using the mandolin to cut extra-thin slices of potato and onion. Normally I would slice the potatoes free-style. But honestly the layering allowed a better dispersal of all the flavors. And the two layers of basil leaves really made the dish seem more like a potato galette without the crust. Come to think if it, a bit of crust might have been a great addition!
1 comment » | Herbs, Recipes
June 11th, 2012 — 9:00am
Writing a food blog can be a lonely pursuit. I can actually measure the number of visitors to my site daily, noticing the trend over time keeps going up. I can also figure out which recipes are visited most frequently. Unfortunately strangers tend not to leave comments on the site so I am never really sure how well it is received.
I was honored when a Brazilian travel magazine featured my Buenos Aires restaurant reviews along with the New York Times reviews. I guess you cannot get closer to being taken seriously than that. I also see my food pictures and recipes featured on Pinterest. But who bestows this recognition is hard to figure out.
My good friend David Allen who has written for the blog and posts comments fairly regularly took another step for me and nominated me for a Food Stories Award for Excellence in Storytelling. I read his blog Cocoa and Lavender weekly. Sometimes it is just fun to look at the pictures. He goes to a lot of effort to make his food look great. Something to which I am not so dedicated. So, thank you David. It is nice to know at least one person who enjoys my posts! And if you enjoy it as well please feel free to post a comment.
2 comments » | Musings