Thursday, March 11, 2010

adventure dining

Normally my week is pretty full of...stuff. So our dinners generally consist of quick prep foods and a rather boring rotation of hamburger helper, encor frozen stuff, some type of soup, some type of chicken, some type of pasta, and then leftovers. I'm only home two nights a week during the week, so that's generally when the adventures happen, but they still aren't real adventurous.

This week, however, I had nothing going on during the week, so declared it to be "international week" at the casa de snark, and we've had a rather lovely parade of ethnic cuisines ranging from pastas to braised meats and back to soup. Some of the recipes have been rather flop-like, but some others have actually produced a rather orgasmic look from the other folks who live with me.

So, in addition to all the fabulous things that I do here... rant about sandwich rings and pittsburgh politicians, we're going to talk about food I've eaten that was yummy. So there.

Sunday we had ethiopian, Misr wat, a red lentil dish that was underwhelming. I've had it at Abay in East Liberty and it's amazing there. My home creation left a good deal to be desired.

Monday was Mexican Bean Soup, using a bag of Goya 16 beans and a packet of Goya ham concentrate. (Ham concentrate?) The soup was prepared just as the package said and it was... terrible. So, save yourself some time and divert from the back of the bag recipe.

Tuesday was Greek night, and I made Chicken Souvlaki, or Chicken with Cumin Yogurt, and a greek pasta salad. The pasta salad was really my own creation, so I can't guarantee that it was authentic, but it was yummy enough, so I'm posting the recipe below.

Wednesday was Middle Eastern night and we had Lebanese Kibbe and Afghani Qaubili Pilau. The kibbe was really good, but could have done with less onion (there were like 4 cups of onion in the dish), so I modified the recipe. The second is a rice dish that uses braised lamb and a sweet spice combination along with some carrots and raisins and almonds. It was absolutely to die for, so the recipe is again below.

Tonight is asian night, but I'm just making a salmon stir fry. Friday I'm making Italian Brassato with glazed root vegetables, and Saturday I'm making Irish Shepherd's pie along with soda bread. If those go well, maybe I'll share them too.

Anyways, my point here is that I think it's good to break out of your comfort zone in the dinner hour every now and again. At the very least I have a 13 year old who's not afraid to try new things and knows for a fact that he likes a few different, and pretty exotic, dishes.

Not bad for someone who sometimes pushes on pull doors...

Qaubili Pilau

½ cup vegetable oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 lb lamb, cut into 1 inch cubes
2 cups water
1 tsp salt
½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp ground cloves
½ tsp cumin
½ tsp cardamom
2 carrots, cut into matchsticks
another ½ cup vegetable oil
1 TB sugar
1 cup dark, seedless raisins
couple tablespoons blanched almonds
2 cups long grain rice
1 ½ tsp salt
1/8 tsp saffron

1. Heat 1/2 cup vegetable fat in a Dutch oven or pressure cooker, add 1 medium onion, diced, and fry until lightly browned. Add 1 lb. of beef or lamb, cut in 1 inch cubes, and brown. Add 2 cups water, 1 tsp. salt and 1 1/2 tsp. mixed spices (equal parts of cinnamon, cloves, cumin and cardamom, ground). Cover and simmer, or cook under pressure until the meat is tender.(275 degree oven for 2 hours in dutch oven-vw) Remove the meat and set aside - save the juice for cooking the rice.

2. Cut 2 carrots into toothpick size pieces. Heat 1/2 cup vegetable fat in a saucepan. Add 1 tbsp. sugar and the cut up carrots and simmer until tender. Remove carrots from fat, add 1 cup dark, seedless raisins, and cook until they swell up. (You may also brown a couple of tablespoons of blanched almonds.) Remove each and set aside.

3. To cook the rice, boil the meat juice and add 2 cups long grain rice, 1 1/2 tsp. salt, and sufficient water to bring the liquid 2 inches above the rice. Add the oil in which the carrots were cooked and 1/8 tsp. saffron (optional) to the cooked rice. (in the dutch oven this takes about 15-20 minutes, but check it early and often, about every 5 minutes –vw)

4. Put meat and rice in a large casserole, cover and set in a 300 degree oven for 20-30 minutes. Place meat in the center of a large platter. Mound the rice over the top and sprinkle with carrots, raisins, and almonds. Serves 6-8. (I’ve never baked it again after it was done, but it might add something. –vw)

Greek Pasta Salad:
This is a creation of mine that may or may not resemble something you'd eat in Greece.
8 oz orzo pasta
1 small can sliced black olives
8 oz feta cheese
1/2 cup diced red onion
1 cup quartered cherry tomatoes
1 package frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed of excess liquid
1 tsp dried mint flakes
2 Tb lemon juice
Salt & pepper to taste. Watch the salt, the feta is salty already.

1. Cook the Orzo per package directions. Drain the pasta. Leave the pasta to drain and cool in the strainer while you mix everything else in the pasta pot.

2. Put the spinach in the pot, and cook it around a bit to warm it and get the rest of the ice off, since you forgot to pull out the spinach until the pasta was already in the water. After it's warm, add the rest of the ingredients back into the pot, including the pasta, and stir around to incorporate.

3. This is served more towards the lukewarm side of things so the feta doesn't melt, but it's probably good piping hot as well. The mint and lemon really make it pop.

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