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White Magic (seasoning)

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When I was a young cook coming up the chef that I trained under would make us mix bins of this stuff and we used it in everything. It is a general purpose seasoning mix and so easy to make but at the same time so flavorful. There are plenty of versions of this which one can purchase but it is very simple to make. At home I use the reduced salt version (which is posted here) but at work I up the salt to equal proportions with the other seasonings. Anyhow, adapt it to your liking, keep a small bowl or container next to your stove and you will always have a simple but flavorful seasoning at hand. 


White Magic Seasoning
Makes just shy of ½ cup

2 tablespoons granulated garlic
2 tablespoons granulated onion
2 tablespoons ground black pepper
1 tablespoon kosher salt

Stuffed Bread…

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This was delicious. There, I said it. If you notice I also used the past tense as it no longer exists. But yes, it was delicious.

Anyhow, this began as something else. I had a hankering for a vegetarian version of a Lebanese grilled pita sandwich (arayes) but it ended up being more of a calzone or some sort of savory stove-top pie. Anyhow, as stated, it was super delicious. Made with fresh vegetables and 100% whole wheat dough it is healthy, too.  Here’s how I made it…

Start by making a quick bread dough. Any one is fine so long as it is one you like. There are plenty on this blog from which to choose (click here for bread dough recipes). You will not need an entire recipe for a single pie; the rest of the dough recipe can be frozen or baked into a loaf of bread.

While the dough is rising make your filling. The pie can literally be filled with whatever you like; I choose all vegetables but meat is also acceptable. For this filling I sauteed (in olive oil) onion, mushrooms, garlic, hot peppers, kale, beet greens, and sun dried tomatoes. I also added cheddar cheese; I would have preferred feta but had none in house. After the filling is done, transfer it to a plate and allow to cool to room temperature.

Roll the dough very thin to a circle shape. Place the filling on half of the dough and fold it over. Crimp the edges to keep everything in. Heat a skillet to high, then lower to medium. Place the pie in the pan (without oil), press it gently, then cover the pan. After a few minutes turn the pie over and recover the pan. Cook and flip the pie a couple times to ensure it is cooked but the dough doesn’t burn.

The final instruction is the most important. Eat and enjoy.

Urban Simplicity

Fasoulia!

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So a couple things. One is that I haven’t posted in more that a month, one of the longest stretches since starting this blog. My apologies; it has been a hot and busy summer. Thus said, here’s a very simple but really delicious and nutritious recipe for a Lebanese-style bean stew. This normally does not have greens in it, I added kale simple because I like it.

It seems like every culture has some sort of rice and beans recipe in their repertoire, the Middle East is no different. This recipe is often eaten for breakfast (I am told) with a fried egg on top, not unlike Mexican huevos rancheros, I suppose. Tonight I ate this for dinner over basmati rice. Lastly, two words of interest here. The word fasoulia is simply the Arabic word for beans, and the word baharat, means spices. If you do not have or do not feel like making baharat, use what you like or have, and the beans can be interchanged to your liking as well. Enjoy.

Fasoulia
(Lebanese Spicy Bean Ragoût)

Serves 3-6

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon baharat (7-spice mix), see below
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon crushed hot pepper
2 (15 oz) cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 (15 oz) can diced tomatoes
1 cup vegetable broth
5 ounces baby kale, washed

Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat in a heavy pot, then add the onion. Cook the onion while stirring for about 5 minutes or until it begins to brown. Add the garlic and cook for another minute or two while stirring. Stir in the baharat, soked paprika, and crushed hot pepper; cook for just a minute while stirring. Add the beans, tomatoes, broth, lemon juice, salt, and kale. Bring to a boil then lower the heat to a very low simmer. Cook for 10 to 15 minutes before serving.

Baharat
Lebanese Seven Spice Mix


Makes about ¼ cup

1 tablespoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon ground allspice
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground ginger

Mix the spices together and store in an airtight container, or use as needed.

Sweet Crispy-Crunchy Cheddar Corn Fritters.

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These are so simple to prepare you’ll wonder why you never have before. And by the way, they are super delicious…bet ya can’t eat just one.

Corn Fritters
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon sugar
1 large egg
½ cup milk
¾ cup cheddar cheese, shredded
2 cups frozen corn, thawed
vegetable oil for frying

Combine the flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar in a bowl and mix together. In a separate bowl, mix together the eggs and milk. Add the egg-milk mixture to the flour mixture. Stir until it forms a thick batter. Add the cheese and corn and mix thoroughly.

Heat a couple inches of  vegetable oil to 350F, then carefully add spoonfuls of the corn batter into the oil. Fry until golden and cooked throughout. Drain on absorbent paper.

Asparagus with oil and garlic…

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Before I begin I have to chant the mantra for all, or at least most, of the recipes which I post on this blog…this is so easy to prepare, and it is delicious and nutritious. Okay, that out of the way, this is a classic recipe for aglio e olio (oil and garlic). Most Mediterranean countries have versions of this, and nearly any foodstuff can be prepared in this manner. The classic, of course is pasta, but it is great with vegetables, potatoes, and even seafood or chicken. The key is in browning the garlic and hot peppers…it should be started in a cold pan then heated slowly until light golden-brown. At that point lemon juice is added, which forms a temporary emulsion and creates a light sauce which is literally bursting with flavor (see the two photos just below. Once you have the sauce nearly anything can be added. In this instance I added asparagus, but as aforementioned, it is applicable with a large variety of foods, especially pasta. For mare recipes cooked like this click here. The recipe which correlates with this photos is below.

Asparagus Aglio e Olio 

1 pound asparagus  

¼ cup olive oil 

3 cloves garlic, minced 

1 teaspoon crushed hot pepper 

½ teaspoon sea salt 

2 tablespoons water 

3 tablespoons lemon juice 

Trim the asparagus of their tough ends, discard the ends, then set the asparagus aside. Combine the olive oil, garlic, hot pepper, and salt in a skillet then place it over medium-high heat. Stir the garlic and peppers in the pan as it heats. Stir and cook the garlic continuously until it is golden-brown, then add the water and lemon juice. Stir the ingredients together then add the asparagus. Turn the asparagus in the sauce, then cover the pan with a lid for just a minute or two. Remove the lid and baste the asparagus with the garlic, oil, and peppers. Cook the asparagus until it changes color but is still crisp, al dente. Transfer to a plate and pour the sauce over the asparagus.

The Eggplant and the Angry Tomato.

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Okay. So this is more about the angry tomato than it is an eggplant. Or, more specifically, the angry tomato sauce. But I’m jumping ahead. 

This past summer I ate at an Italian restaurant here in Buffalo and had a pasta dish with arrabbiata sauce. Oddly–for someone who cooks for a living and who really enjoys Mediterranean food–I had not heard of this sauce. I asked the server about it and they simply said it was a “spicy tomato sauce.” Hmm…I thought. Nonetheless, it was delicious. But I also thought $17 was a bit pricey for a plate of pasta and tomato sauce.


Anyhow, this past weekend I was in Toronto with family and we ate at an Italian restaurant. I saw the same dish on the menu so decided to order it. Again, it was delicious, but also pricey @ $21. 

I decided to look into it further to recreate it for myself. It turns out that the word, arribbiata, is Italian for “angry,” making reference to the spiciness of the sauce. And the server that waited on me last summer was correct, it is simply a spicy tomato sauce. 


Arribbiata sauce, it seems, is part of a trilogy of spicy Itlian tomato sauces. It is also the simplest. They all contain hot peppers, but of the other two, Fra Diavolo (Brother Devil) also contains anchovy, red wine, and usually shellfish, while putanesca (whore sauce) contains anchovy, olives, and capers. Arribbiata sauce, though, simply contains crushed red pepper…it could be, in a way, the base sauce for the others. 

This said, in the recipe I included below I added red wine, which is an option and also makes it closer to a Fra Diavolo sauce. I also added a bit of sugar, simply because I like it, but this is also an option. While the sauce simmered and pasta cooked I also diced and sauteed an eggplant, to which I then added some of the sauce, simply to make a heartier dinner. The recipe below represents just the sauce. 

In conclusion, this is about as simple a sauce as you can get but it is packed with flavor. It can be made in a half-hour or less and can be used for a base for others. Add meat or seafood or other vegetables if you like. If you’d like a recipe for Fra Diavolo, with historical info, read this earlier post.

Arrabbiata Sauce

(Angry Sauce)

Makes about 5 cups

¼ cup olive oil

1 small onion, diced

4 cloves garlic, minced

2 teaspoons crushed hot pepper

1 cup red wine

1 cup water

1 tablespoon sugar

1 (28 oz) can crushed tomatoes

1 teaspoon salt

1 bunch fresh basil, chopped

Heat the olive oil in a heavy pot over medium-high heat, then add the onion. Cook the onion, while stirring, for about 5 minutes, or until it just begins to brown. Add the garlic and crushed hot pepper and cook for another couple minutes, or until the garlic begins to brown. 

Stir in the red wine and water, bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer. Cook the liquids for a couple minutes, then stir in the tomatoes, and salt. Simmer the sauce for about 10 minutes, then add the chopped basil and simmer another 10 minutes or so.

Cookin’ Like Summertime….

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Tomatoes2 (small).jpg

Fresh tomatoes. Beautiful aren’t they? But you may be asking yourself what am I doing with fresh tomatoes in January. Well, I work in a grocery store. And as we all know grocery stores portray food as if everything were always in season. But also, one of the benefits of working in the particular store that I do is that food that is culled from the shelves and deemed unsalable (for a variety of reasons) is offered to the employees before being given to various organizations. This said, there were a bunch of packages of fresh tomatoes in which the seals were broken, thus they were not able to be sold. So this is how I found myself in possession of these beautiful tomatoes and cooked dinner with them on a cold, grey, and rainy January evening.

Anyhow, my son came over for dinner last evening and I made us Pasta Fra Diavolo (to read about the origin and etymology of the recipe, read this post). There is a recipe below for this dish, but the one that I made with these tomatoes was slightly different in that I used fresh tomatoes. The fresh tomatoes were first processed and then simmered down to a thick puree. The recipe that is listed is actually more appropriate for this time of year as it uses canned tomatoes. And as usual, this recipe is not carved in stone, it is simply a suggestion. Add or delete or interchange ingredients to suite your tastes.

sauce2

Penne Fra Diavolo with Halibut

Yield: 4 portions

3 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 small onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

4 anchovy fillets

1 teaspoon crushed red pepper

2 teaspoons minced parsley

1/2 teaspoon basil

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

2/3 cup red wine

2 cups tomato purée

1 pound diced halibut

1/2 pound penne rigate

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Combine the olive oil, onion, garlic, anchovies, red pepper, basil, parsley, and salt in a skillet over medium heat. Stir and mash the ingredients with the back of a wooden spoon until the onion and garlic is translucent but not browned. Stir in the wine and simmer it for a minute or two, then add the tomato puree. Bring sauce to a simmer and cook it for 5 or 10 minutes. If the sauce becomes too thick thin it with a little water. While the sauce is simmering boil the pasta until al dente. Stir the fish into the sauce, bring it back to a simmer and poach it for about 5 minutes. When the fish is cooked gently fold in the pasta. Remove the pot from the heat and let it rest for about 5 minutes, allowing the flavors of the sauce and fish permeate the pasta.

Urban Simplicity.

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