Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Guinness Stout Ginger Cake Recipe

Guinness Stout Ginger Cake

My friend Sarah knows what she is talking about. “I know what you should blog about,” she said enthusiastically, offering me a slice of her homemade ginger-Guinness cake. Proud she was right to be; the spiced and not-too-sweet richness of this moist cake urged me to ask her for the recipe and make it for my sister and parents over the holiday break. A wonderful cake at this time of year, it triples as a sweet breakfast, a dessert, and an afternoon snack, and is so extraordinary it caused me to involuntarily dance around the house while singing these ridiculous made-up songs. Thanks, Sarah...

Sung to the tune of O, Tannenbaum:

O ginger cake, o ginger cake, you look like chocolate but you aren’t.
Not too sweet, and awfully moist, the epitome of holiday cake,
O ginger cake, o ginger cake, I’ll like you so much always.

O ginger cake, o ginger cake, I know you’ll never come out blue.
Easy to make, and not a pain, you barely stuck in the bundt pan,
O ginger cake, o ginger cake, please don’t be sad when we eat all of you.

O ginger cake, o ginger cake, you are so spiced and lovely.
Yes, I know, this song is dumb, but you are not, and there’s the rub,
O ginger cake, o ginger cake, friends we’ll be forever.

And, to the tune of Dreydl, Dreydl:

I have a tasty beer cake;
I think it’s really neat.
And when it’s baked and ready,
A beer cake I will eat.

Beer cake, beer cake, beer cake,
You’ll never let me down.
In twenty minutes or less,
I’ll be whirling round and round.

Finally, a beginning to the tune of Jingle Bell Rock:

Ginger cake, ginger cake, ginger cake freak. Ginger cake week, and ginger cake cheeks.
Dancing, and chanting, and singing out loud, I’m so lucky that no one’s around.

See what this cake has made me become? A multicultural dancing and singing fool, prancing around the house, waxing ridiculous about its merits. Make it for yourselves and your families for New Year and I’ll look forward to reading (and humming) the resulting songs. Come on, don’t be shy...

Guinness Stout Ginger Cake Recipe

by Claudia Fleming, from The Last Course: The Desserts of Gramercy Tavern

1 cup Guinness stout
1 cup molasses
1/2 tablespoon baking soda
3 large eggs
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
3/4 cup grapeseed or vegetable oil
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons ground ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 tablespoon grated, peeled fresh ginger root


1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter a 9- X 5-inch loaf pan, line the bottom and sides with parchment, and grease the parchment. Alternatively, butter and flour a 6-cup Bundt pan.
2. In a large saucepan over high heat, combine the stout and molasses and bring to a boil. Turn off the heat and add the baking soda. Allow to sit until the foam dissipates.
3. Meanwhile, in a bowl, whisk together the eggs and both sugars. Whisk in the oil.
4. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, ground ginger, baking powder, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and cardamom.
5. Combine the stout mixture with the egg mixture, then whisk this liquid into the flour mixture, half at a time. Add the fresh ginger and stir to combine.
6. Pour the batter into the loaf pan and bake for 1 hour, or until the top springs back when gently pressed. Do not open the oven until the gingerbread is almost done, or the center may fall slightly. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Similar recipes from A Hungry Bear Won't Dance: John Cage Cookies Recipe, Raspberry and Blueberry Whole Wheat Muffins Recipe, Maple-Pecan Cookies Recipe

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Maple-Pecan Cookie Recipe

maple pecan cookies

The final leg of our tour was Geneva, Switzerland, a place with which I have a love-hate relationship. On the positive side for Geneva is a cool lake for summer swimming, and, after a eucalyptus sauna at Les Bains de Pâquis, for winter cold-plunging. On clear days, visible snowy-peaked mountains hover in the distance, and give Geneva a ski-resort feeling, enlarge the small town, and illustrate that there is a world beyond its confining borders. There’s a fantastic women's consignment shop, where the rich wives of the city’s bankers discard their gently worn designer garments, and where, in 2002, I purchased a gorgeous pair of high-heeled slouchy red leather boots for a mere thirty dollars that I still wear. I love a few food-related spots here: an Italian trattoria that may serve the most flavorful Italian food I’ve eaten outside of Italy, a dingy but amazing Eritrean/Ethiopian restaurant, and a grocery store, Manor, where one can find all the fresh seafood available, an abundance of French and Swiss cheeses, and, for an American, luxury items like duck tenderloins, champagne, and decadent chocolates in every form. And there’s even a cafe on the upper floor with a view of those lovely Alps.

These things about Geneva I will miss, and I am even a little sad knowing that I will not create new memories in these places with my Swiss-from-Geneva soon-to-be-ex-husband. It was a challenging end of our tour, with him there, performing with us, his presence reminding me of our time together in that city, but I was surrounded by wonderful friends, also dancing in the project, and they kept me laughing, and helped me to make it through the few days without suffering a meltdown of women-in-dramatic-French-films magnitude, and with a bellyful of foie gras and fresh oysters to boot.

Our participation was requested in one of the events planned in Geneva: a debate concerning the legacy plan for Merce Cunningham, and whether the dance company should fold, as planned, after a two-year world tour, or continue. We had a show the previous night, so it was difficult to wake up and bare the snow, ice, and frigid temperatures to head to Carouge, one of the only architecturally charming sections of Geneva, but, after our talk, we were encouraged when we noticed platter after platter full of oysters waiting for us, along with tiny toasts topped with homemade foie gras, and cheese plates that included Gruyère, the Queen of Swiss cheese (perhaps of all cheese, in my opinion), and a perfumy one with black truffles embedded near the rind.

We drank a Sicilian white wine, freed the oysters from their shells with forks, and sucked them down, one after the other, a few drops of lemon the only ingredient necessary to create a delicate meal in a mouthful. These Prat ar Coum oysters grown by Yvon Madec in the north of Bretange may be the perfect oysters. They are cultivated in a place called Abers where the sweet water of the river meets the sea, an area that is dry in low tide. A balanced combination of American East Coast oyster brinyness with French oyster cucumber/watermelon flavor, they exuded sensual subtlety as well as the magnetic pull of the sea.

Cheerful and corpulent, Francis Tressens, the oyster man, is known all over town as a seafood connoisseur; he also cultivates his own biodynamic garden, and is familiar with all the hidden gem restaurants in Geneva. Wanting to retire from years of restaurant work, but still very passionate about food, he sometimes teams with Emmanuel Delaby, a young and talented chef, the maker of that foie gras, and the chef de cuisine at Flux Laboratory, the art gallery that hosted us.

Unable to resist, I bought some of Emmanuel’s Sauternes infused foie gras to take home to my parents and sister for Christmas. I love knowing the person attached to the hands that make or cultivate my food, and when I eat delectable bites of this rare treat over the holidays, accompanied by a glass of champagne, and surrounded by family, I’ll remember the good things about Geneva. Bad thoughts be banished; I’ll be dreaming foie gras induced dreams of oysters disguised as dancing sugar plums. Sugar plum oyster dreams, foie gras, champagne, and good family; what more does a girl need? Happy holidays, everyone; I hope that you all feel as fortunate as I do, challenging times or not.

Maple-Pecan Cookies

This recipe is a variation on John Cage Cookies, and comes to me courtesy of Laura Kuhn, director of the John Cage Trust. It was created by the Dia Beacon kitchen staff, who, in early 2009, participated with the John Cage Trust and transformed their cafe into a macrobiotic eatery.  

1 1/4 cup ground pecans
1 cup ground oats
1/2 cup whole oats
1/2 cup white spelt flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup walnut oil
1 tablespoon vanilla

16 or so pecan halves

Mix the dry ingredients together.  Mix the wet ingredients together.  Mix both together.  Roll into small balls and press a pecan half into each.  Bake in a 350 degree Fahrenheit oven for about 13 minutes.

Note from Banu: I usually make my cookies a little large, and therefore increase the cooking time by a few minutes.

Similar recipes from A Hungry Bear Won't Dance: Raspberry and Blueberry Whole Wheat Muffins Recipe, John Cage Cookies Recipe, Sweet Potato-Pecan Drop Biscuits Recipe

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Oven-Baked Butternut Squash, Purple Kale, Crimini Mushrooms and White Beans with Nutmeg Béchamel Pasta Recipe

I am on a three day break from my month-long tour and decided to take a side-trip to Brussels to spend some time with my old friend Cheryl. She and I have known each other for nearly nineteen years, danced together long ago with Merce Cunningham, and have only now reunited as colleagues for this Boris Charmatz dance project. She and her French husband now live with their adorable new baby in a charming and typical Belgian apartment, and yesterday, despite the bitter cold, we ventured out to the gilded and ornate Grand Place to take another look, and revisit memories of being in Brussels years ago, when we premiered Merce Cunningham’s Ocean at Le Cirque Royal.

Freezing in the Belgian cold, we cruised through the Christmas village where they were selling tartiflette Savoyarde (a decadent mixture of reblochon cheese and lardons and potatoes, mixed together in a massive cauldron and served in nearly every Christmas village I’ve visited while in France or near France), hot, mulled wine (also ubiquitous in Christmas villages in Europe, including Vienna, where we have just visited), Belgian waffles, or gaufres (in multiple flavors, and unique to Belgium, it seems), an array of sausages, and trinkets from the global market. Wanting to test out some Trappist beers, we ducked into a nearby brasserie to share a slightly bitter red Westmalle, a Rochefort 6, and, in honor of our ‘old times’ memories, a light Vieux Temps.

Reminiscing about ‘vieux temps’, we told stories of touring silliness, like when our friend Jared, who shared a boyish likeness to the Mannekin Pis, gracefully tumbled into the fountain, naked, tipsy, and peeing, while starring in a late-night video project by our friend Frédéric. We cried remembering when a colleague called the front desk and said, “Je ne suis pas le papier de toilette” (I am not toilet paper), when instead she wanted to say that she didn’t have any (avoir, not être), and we laughed about Cheryl’s predilection for stealing interesting glassware from several post-performance receptions, sometimes along with bottles of champagne meant for said glasses.

I am happy to be here, now, creating new memories with my good friend, Cheryl, and barring some strange and horrible circumstance, I am confident we will be sharing these memories in another nineteen years. Tonight, I will clink my Vieux Temps glass with hers and toast to us, and to all the old friends out there, friends so close they feel like family. Stolen glass or not, lucky us, lucky friends.

Oven-Baked Pasta with Butternut Squash, Purple Kale, Crimini Mushrooms, White Beans and Nutmeg Béchamel Recipe

Note: this recipe makes a massive amount of healthy, delicious and texturally varied food! I filled one large baking dish and another small one, so if that seems like too much for you, simply cut down on the amount of pasta and veggies.

Also, when I created this, I was in the mood for a creamy and rich pasta dish, but in my tasting, I found it equally delicious without the béchamel or cheese. If you’d like to make a vegan version of this, simply plate the dish after stirring all the vegetables together with the cooked pasta, and skip the baking in the oven step.

For those of you who want a little creamy heaven, don’t worry: this recipe is just creamy and rich enough to satisfy a craving, but there is relatively little cheese and milk and butter compared to healthy veggies, so go ahead and indulge.

For the pasta and vegetable mixture:

1 small butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1 to 1 1/2 inch square cubes (about three cups, but you can cut this down to two cups if you’d like to decrease the amount of food this recipe makes)
3 tablespoons olive oil, plus 1 tablespoon for coating the squash while roasting
1 medium onion, chopped
1 bunch of purple kale, stems chopped, and leaves roughly chopped
2 cups of crimini mushrooms, sliced
2 cloves of garlic, sliced thinly
1 14 ounce can of Great Northern Beans (or you can use fresh beans, if you’d like to make your own)
1 14 ounce can of diced tomatoes
1 pound of whole grain (I used whole wheat) pasta shells, fusilli or penne
salt and pepper, to taste

For the béchamel:

2 tablespoons of butter
2 tablespoons of flour
2 cups of milk
about 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg, or a touch more, depending on your taste
salt, to taste

For the topping:

1/4 cup grated parmigiano reggiano
1/4 cup grated mozzarella

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees, Fahrenheit.

Put the cut-up pieces of butternut squash into a roasting pan, coat with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and a little salt. Roast, turning them a couple times during cooking, until fork tender, about 30 - 40 minutes. Remove from the oven.

Turn the oven temperature down to 375 degrees F, once the squash has cooked.

For the pasta: put a large pot of salted water on the stove to boil, and when the water is boiling, add the pasta, and cook until al dente.

For the vegetables: Heat 3 tablespoons of oil in a large pot, add the onion and the kale stems, and cook until the onions are translucent and the kale stems have softened. Stir in the mushrooms, and cook until soft. Add the kale leaves, and cook until wilted. Stir in the garlic, the beans, and the tomatoes, and bring everything to a low simmer. Add salt and pepper, to taste. Cover, while you make the béchamel.

For the béchamel: in a medium saucepan, and over medium to medium-high heat, melt the butter. When the butter has melted, add the flour, whisking constantly, until the flour turns golden brown, about a few minutes. Slowly whisk in the milk, making sure to smooth out any lumps that form. Keep whisking at a simmer (lower the heat if the milk begins to boil), until a thickish sauce begins to form. Add salt and nutmeg.

Combine the cooked vegetables with the roasted squash and the pasta. Put this mixture into one baking dish (or two, depending on how much you have made) and pour the béchamel sauce evenly over everything.

Sprinkle the grated cheese over the top of the pasta, cover with foil, and bake in the oven for 20-30 minutes or so. Uncover the baking pans, and bake a bit more, until the cheese has melted and turned golden brown.

Similar Recipes from A Hungry Bear Won't Dance:
Pasta with Ground Beef, Parsley, Garlic Yogurt, and Paprika Butter (Piç Mantı), Conchiglie (Pasta Shells) with Gorgonzola and Garden Orache (or Radicchio) Recipe, Creamy, Thyme Scented Fusilli with Purple Asparagus, Green Peas, and Bacon

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Pumpkin Seed and Black Sesame Seed Cornmeal and Whole Wheat Cracker Recipe

Wow, there’s nothing like being honored as a Blog of Note on Blogger to get one back on track with the postings. Sheesh! 6,432 page views in a day and a half! Over 150 new followers! Welcome, everyone; this is exciting. Thank you all for your comments and for your interest, I hope you will find useful recipes here, and enjoy reading about my life and travels.

I am working hard here in Paris, after having been working hard in Vienna, and before that working hard in Montpellier, and will soon head to Brussels, and then Geneva before packing for my Brooklyn home and a little rest. I am dancing in a project for Boris Charmatz, a French choreographer, and having a blast on stage with lots of old friends and colleagues from the Merce Cunningham Dance Company, where we all danced at some point in our lives. My body is achy from intense rehearsals and more shows than I’m used to, but what fun it is to be performing regularly again, and sharing the stage with such amazing talents.

Not only have I been away from my New York City home, but I have also been away from a kitchen of any sort until my arrival at the Citadines Hotel in Montmartre, where I have created a healthy one pot pre-performance meal of pumpkin, lentils, mushrooms, and chard. I like having a kitchen, because I can do familiar things like juice a lemon into my glass of water in the morning, make green tea, spread some olive oil on whole-grain toast for breakfast with a little avocado, or slice of cheese, or hard-boiled egg. There is a phenomenal organic market in Paris where I stocked up on provisions for my humble kitchen, but even these small comforts make an impersonal hotel room more like home.

Yes, I am aware that the picture I posted above looks like one of chocolate chip cookies, and I’m very sorry to disappoint those sweets lovers out there, but you will be happy to know that these pumpkin seed and black sesame seed crackers make a perfect vehicle to scoop up some feta-walnut spread, the subject of the previous post. I made these crackers over a month ago, and somehow managed to lose track of the sites I’ve adapted the recipe from, but as I recall, I combined two recipes and added my own ingredients, too, so let’s just call this an original. Impressive, simple, and inexpensive, after my first cracker attempt I’ll never go back to store-bought.

Pumpkin Seed and Black Sesame Seed Cornmeal and Whole Wheat Cracker Recipe

1 1/2 cups cornmeal
1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/3 cup pumpkin seeds (be creative here and add any type of seed or herb, even, that you like)
4 teaspoons black sesame seeds
1/3 cup olive oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit

Combine all the dry ingredients and mix well. Add the olive oil and combine. Form the dough into small balls and press onto a lightly oiled baking sheet (or one covered with a silicone silpat), until about 1/8 inch thick, leaving a little space between crackers. Bake until golden brown. Makes about 3 dozen palm-sized crackers.

Alternatively, and for a more free-form and less chocolate chip cookie look, one could press the dough into a thin sheet covering the baking pan, cook until golden, and break them apart once cooled.

Other spreads from A Hungry Bear Won't Dance that would be delicious with these crackers: Almond and Sun Dried Tomato Basil Pesto, Hummus Recipe, Fresh Ricotta and Mint Recipe: a Spread with Purple Garlic and Olive Oil

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Feta-Walnut Spread Recipe

feta walnut spread

I make this feta-walnut spread regularly. Inspired by a popular Turkish appetizer, I have modified my version from the recipes I have seen, and it only contains, feta, walnuts, olive oil, paprika, and cayenne pepper.

Walnuts are high in Omega-3 fatty acids, protect your heart from atherosclerosis, may help lower cholesterol, and have also been found to help prevent gall stones. I add nearly equal parts walnuts to feta in order to maximize these benefits, and usually seek out a more richly flavored sheep’s milk feta, too, which is generally easier to digest than cows’ milk.

I like this spread on toast in the mornings, or on a sandwich for lunch with some tomatoes and sprouts, or as an hors d’oeuvre at a party with some crackers. It is so simple to make, and surprisingly flavorful; guests at my house who have eaten this are usually baffled by what’s in it, and invariably ask for the recipe. Now, they have it, and you do, too.

Feta-Walnut Spread Recipe

2 cups walnuts
1 pound feta , crumbled (Bulgarian feta, or Turkish feta, either cows' milk or sheep’s milk; Greek feta is usually too mild for me, but some people might prefer it)
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup water
2 teaspoons paprika
cayenne pepper, to taste

In a food processor, grind the walnuts until they are in very small pieces. Add the crumbled feta and the olive oil to the bowl of the processor and mix until a smooth paste forms. If it is too thick, add the water now, slowly, through the feed tube, until a smooth paste forms. The spread shouldn’t be too thick, nor too thin, so add the water slowly. You may need more than 1/4 cup. Add the paprika, and the cayenne pepper. Mix well.

Spoon the spread out into a serving bowl and top with a drizzle of olive oil and some paprika. Serve with crackers or toasted pita bread wedges.

Similar recipes from A Hungry Bear Won't Dance: Hummus Recipe, Almond and Sun Dried Tomato Basil Pesto, Fresh Ricotta and Mint Recipe: a Spread with Purple Garlic and Olive Oil

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Hoppin’ John Recipe

Last weekend, after feasting on fifteen intricate and gorgeous courses prepared by chef Curtis Duffy at Avenues Restaurant in Chicago’s Peninsula Hotel, I am having a difficult time blogging about my simple peasant food. The meal there was a work of art and an inspiration, and I will post about it as soon as I have gathered my thoughts about its fabulousness, but in the meantime, I’ll get back to the simple and practical basics. Here goes.

I make this bastardized version of Hoppin’ John frequently when the weather begins to turn cooler. It is easy to make, filling and flavorful, and goes well with the sweet potato-pecan biscuits I posted about a couple of weeks ago. I use bacon instead of ham hock (but this could be a tasty vegetarian dish without either), and I generally skip the rice, but with it, or with another carbohydrate, this makes a filling and nutritious meal. Playing off the typical Southern New Year's meal that's purported to bring luck and money, I add the collard greens directly to the Hoppin' John, instead of cooking the greens separately. I prefer it this way, stirring the greens in at the last minute, as the greens keep their integrity and don't end up mushy and over cooked. This stew is easy to pack up in a container to heat up for lunch, make as spicy as you like, and change the vegetable choices around according to what’s available.

This one-pot meal is inexpensive to make, and the counter to last Friday's decadence. Last week I was sipping champagne with good friends at the chef’s table in the lovely Peninsula Hotel, was waited on by a professional and attentive staff, and had a meal prepared for me by one of the most talented chefs in the city. Lucky girl. Now it’s back to my tiny kitchen, a few pots, and my artists’ budget. Good and simple Hoppin’ John sure makes me appreciate the very occasional truffles and Wagyu beef...

Hoppin’ John Recipe

2 cups dried black-eyed peas, soaked in water overnight
6 slices of bacon, cut into small pieces
1 large onion, chopped
2 medium carrots, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 large clove of garlic, minced
4 large Roma tomatoes, peeled and chopped, about 2 cups (or 1 14 oz can of crushed tomatoes)
6 cups of water
2 bay leaves
1 bunch of collard greens, chopped into medium-sized pieces
cayenne pepper, to taste
salt and pepper, to taste
scallions, chopped, for garnish

Heat a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the bacon, and cook until slightly browned.

Remove the bacon from the pot, keeping the bacon fat to cook the onion. If there is not enough fat in the pan, add a little vegetable oil. Cook the onion until translucent.

Add the carrots and the celery stalks, and cook until soft, but not mushy. Stir in the tomato paste, and cook for a minute or so. Add the garlic, the tomatoes, the water, and the bay leaves. Bring the mixture to a boil, and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook until the beans are tender, and the vegetables are cooked.

Stir in the collard greens, and cook until wilted.

Add cayenne, salt and pepper to taste. (I sometimes like Tabasco sauce in this, so feel free to add it, if you like.)

Serve over rice, or with sweet potato pecan biscuits, or both.

Similar recipes from A Hungry Bear Won't Dance:
Swiss Chard, Lentils and Bulgur Wheat with Parsley, Garlic Yogurt Recipe, Quinoa Salad Recipe, Sweet Potato-Pecan Drop Biscuits Recipe

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Sweet Potato-Pecan Drop Biscuits Recipe

After I left Merce Cunningham’s dance company, I went to culinary school. The final part of our instruction entailed an internship at a restaurant, and since I had work in Chicago for a few months staging a piece of Merce’s, I decided that I’d like to work for a Chicago-based chef. I did a little research, and found Grant Achatz, molecular gastronomist, and now of Alinea Restaurant fame, who was then the chef at Trio restaurant in Evanston, Illinois.

There is a restaurant camaraderie that doesn’t exist in most jobs. Forced to spend hours and hours together, and work through stressful situations, an easy closeness develops in a short period of time. At 34, I was the oldest person, and only woman in the kitchen, and what might have been a recipe for disaster, turned out to be a wonderful experience. The chefs encouraged me, respected me, and guided me through the difficult work of a Mobil guide five star restaurant, one of only 13 in the country at the time.

Soon after beginning at Trio, chef Achatz sent me into the pastry kitchen to work under chef Curtis Duffy, now chef de cuisine at Avenues in Chicago’s Peninsula hotel. Immediately intimidated by his knife skills while watching him swiftly cut papaya into perfect brunoise (1/8 inch x 1/8 inch x 1/8 inch cubes), I was nervous to do much of anything for fear of messing up, but Curtis’s welcoming nature helped me to feel part of the kitchen, and he and another talented chef, John Peters, became my friends.

Chef Curtis has been asking me to come to Chicago to eat at his restaurant for awhile now, and next weekend I’m finally going. John Peters and I will be joined by two other friends, and we’ll sit at the chef’s table with a view of the action in the kitchen. Curious to eat chef Curtis’s highly acclaimed food, which I will surely discuss here afterward, I am also interested to see the interaction of the people in the kitchen, and hope they are learning as much and having as much fun as I did.

Sweet Potato-Pecan Drop Biscuits Recipe

from Peter Berley’s, The Modern Vegetarian Kitchen

1 1/2 cup shelled pecans, roughly chopped
1 pound sweet potatoes, peeled and diced (about 3 cups)
1 cup water
1/3 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup pure maple syrup or honey
2/3 cup olive oil, unrefined corn oil, or melted unsalted butter (I use olive oil)
2 cups unbleached all-purpose or white bread flour (I use flour with the germ intact)
1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cut cornmeal
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons fine sea salt
2 teaspoons freshly milled black pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Lightly oil 2 baking sheets.

2. Spread the pecans on an ungreased baking sheet and toast in the oven for 8 minutes. Transfer them to a bowl to cool.

3. Steam the sweet potatoes until tender.

4. In a blender, combine the water, sweet potatoes, vinegar, oil, and maple syrup. Puree until creamy. Alternatively, pass the potatoes through the medium disk of a food mill into a bowl, then whisk in the water, vinegar, oil, and maple syrup.

5. In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and pepper.

6. Using a rubber spatula, fold in the sweet potato mixture and the pecans. Do not over mix -- a few lumps won’t matter, and you will wind up with lighter, fluffier, biscuits.

7. Drop the dough 1/2 cup at a time 2 to 3 inches apart on the baking sheets and bake for 15 minutes. Rotate the baking sheets for even browning. Bake for another 10 to 15 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the middle of a biscuit comes out clean.

8. Serve warm.

Yield: 1 dozen biscuits.

Similar recipes from A Hungry Bear Won't Dance: Raspberry and Blueberry Whole Wheat Muffins Recipe,
German Good Friday Pancakes Recipe, Cauliflower, Mint, and Olive Quiche with Spelt and Rye Flour Crust Recipe

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Coconut Curry Chicken Noodle Soup Recipe (Curry Mee)

curry mee coconut curry chicken noodle soup

When I was in college, I skipped breakfast, ate popcorn and diet coke for lunch, and made tuna fish sandwiches or pasta with red sauce for dinner. It’s a wonder I’m still alive. My students at Juilliard are fortunate to receive nutrition counseling, and I am impressed to see them eating fruit, yogurt, and nuts between classes (protein and carbohydrates are necessary for muscle recovery, especially immediately after exercising), and from tupperware containers packed with leafy greens, sweet potatoes, lean meats or beans, and whole grains for their main meals.

The following recipe is for my former student Doug, who lives in Israel now. Doug is a recent graduate of The Juilliard School, an excellent dancer, and is making his way as a young member of the Batsheva Dance Company. He wrote to me a while ago saying that he is interesting in expanding his culinary repertoire, and that a recipe he made for coconut curry from The Joy of Cooking was lacking. Actually, what he said was, “I just made a chicken coconut curry recipe from The Joy of Cooking and it sucked.  Edible but uninspiring.”

This one doesn’t suck. It is from the New York Times, and has been tested by them and by me, more than a few times. Forget conventional chicken noodle soup; to me, these complex, spicy citrus flavors are the ultimate comfort when autumn arrives. Enjoy, Doug; this is heaps better than a tuna sandwich for dinner, and more fun to make, too.

Coconut Curry Chicken Noodle Soup (Curry Mee): a recipe from the New York Times located here.

Note from Banu: This time I poached a whole cut-up chicken for 45 minutes in a couple of big pots of low-simmering water infused with some cilantro stalks, a few crushed garlic cloves, some curry leaves, and a sliced up onion. I removed the chicken pieces, shredded the meat as I picked it off the bones, and returned the bones to the simmering broth for about another hour and a half. I strained the stock, used half of it for the soup, and froze the other half for another use. Since the chicken was already cooked, I added it at the last minute, along with the noodles. I like this soup with chicken, but I am sure this would be fantastic with some shiitake mushrooms and tofu, for a vegetarian version.

I ate little bits of this soup all week, so cooked the noodles (I used mung bean noodles this time) at the last minute, so they wouldn’t get soggy. Also, I garnished with sunflower sprouts instead of bean sprouts, and I forgot to garnish with the cilantro for the picture, but it's a lovely addition to the flavors of this soup.

Time: 45 minutes

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 small onion, minced
1 tablespoon minced ginger
1 tablespoon minced lemon grass or pale green cilantro roots
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dark red chili paste, such as sambal, more for serving
3/4 pound boneless, skinless chicken thigh or breast meat, thinly sliced and cut into bite-size pieces
3 tablespoons curry powder, preferably Malaysian, Thai or Vietnamese
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 can (14 ounces) unsweetened coconut milk
1/2 cup half-and-half
4 cups chicken stock
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 tablespoon sugar, more to taste
About 12 kaffir lime leaves or curry leaves, fresh or frozen (optional)
8 ounces dried thin rice noodles (bun or vermicelli), or other Asian noodles such as udon or lai fun
Salt to taste
1 cup bean sprouts
3 tablespoons chopped cilantro
2 scallions, cut into thin rings
2 shallots, thinly sliced and deep fried in vegetable oil until brown (optional)
Quartered limes for serving.

1. Heat oil in a medium pot over medium heat. Add onion, ginger and lemon grass and cook, stirring, until softened, about 10 minutes. Do not brown; reduce heat if necessary. Add garlic and chili paste and stir until fragrant. Raise heat, add chicken and stir-fry one minute. Add curry powder and paprika and stir to coat. Then add coconut milk, half-and-half, chicken stock, turmeric, fish sauce, sugar and lime or curry leaves. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until chicken is cooked through, about 7 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, cook rice noodles in boiling water according to package directions (about 4 minutes). Rinse and drain.

3. Taste broth and adjust seasonings with salt and sugar. Divide noodles into large soup bowls. Bring broth to a boil, then ladle over noodles. Top with bean sprouts, cilantro, scallions and fried shallots, if using. Pass limes and sambal at the table.

Yield: 4 main-course servings.

Note: To make this rich soup more substantial, boiled potatoes are sometimes added to the simmering broth and cooked until very soft.

Similar recipes from A Hungry Bear Won't Dance: Roasted Winter Squash and Apple Soup Recipe, Mushroom-Studded Tortilla Soup with Chipotle Chiles and Goat Cheese Recipe, Sorrel and Stinging Nettle Soup Recipe

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Enchiladas Verde with Tempeh, Leeks, Goat Cheese, and Maitake Mushrooms Recipe

Except for breakfast, I haven’t been so hungry lately. In the mornings, I might have whole grain toast with a little flax oil, some cheese (maybe a goat milk gouda, or some chive-spiked English Gloucester), perhaps a bit of avocado, some cherry tomatoes, green tea (or coffee, depending on the amount of sleep I’ve gotten), and a piece of fruit. If I have a sweet tooth in the morning (unusual, but occasional), I’ll have some granola with yogurt, or peanut butter or almond butter on toast with honey in the comb or jam, or, if it’s the weekend, I might imagine making biscuits or French toast to share with a virtual someone. But the part of my day that involves eating in the hours after breakfast is being largely ignored lately.

After traveling for much of the summer, I’m only now again embracing the routine of cooking to pack my lunches, and last week I made some very weird food. To satisfy the Mexican food craving that inevitably hits after a long trip to Europe, I made enchiladas filled with tempeh, leeks, chipotle chiles, goat cheese, maitake mushrooms, and topped with salsa verde. Immediately out of the oven, I hated everything about my improvised meal, but packed for lunch the next day with some refried beans, additional chipotle chiles, and sour cream, it was actually pretty tasty, and reminded me why eating food at lunchtime is not a bad idea.

But the most memorable thing I ate this week is a burger I had at a friend of a friend’s house, on the rooftop, from the grill. Not for the burger itself, but for the accidental semi-raw entire piece of garlic I found in the burger, a piece of garlic that I didn’t remove, but chewed up eagerly, thinking I was likely to head home soon, and wouldn’t further talk to anyone I didn’t know. I don’t think I’ve been in a relationship with someone who didn’t like garlic, so I’ve generally had a partner eating the crushed cloves in my simple tomato sauces, the cloves that my friend Julia’s Roman boyfriend, while instructing me in the traditions of Italian cooking, advised me to take out once the sauce has finished simmering. I have not been alone in smearing the roasted cloves on toast, devouring the crispy ones whole, Mexican-style, with some toasted arbol chiles and peanuts as a snack, or eating the intense raw garlic yogurt sauces that are so popular in Turkish cooking.

When I was just out of college, I was seduced by the lingering smell of cut garlic on my future boyfriend’s hands; a sign that he was generously cooking dinner for his friends and family, that he understood the sensuality of food and cooked with my favorite flavors. I’m single again, now, yeah, and I’m sure that any new guy I’d like to share food with will not be bothered by a little garlic breath. He will probably have it, too.

Enchiladas Verde with Tempeh, Leeks, Goat Cheese, and Maitake Mushrooms Recipe

For the salsa verde:

about 16 tomatillos, husked, washed, and quartered
1 medium onion, quartered
2-3 cloves of garlic
1 jalapeño, cut into pieces
half a bunch of cilantro, chopped
salt and pepper, to taste

For the filling:

1 medium leek, trimmed, cleaned, and chopped
2 8 oz packages of tempeh (I used flax seed tempeh), cut into medium-sized cubes
about 4 oz of fresh goat cheese, crumbled
1 large maitake mushroom, cut into pieces
1 chipotle chile in adobo sauce, minced, plus a little of the adobo sauce
salt and pepper, to taste

about 12 corn tortillas

To make the salsa verde:

Purée the first four ingredients in a food processor until smooth. Heat the sauce in a saucepan over medium heat and cook gently for about fifteen minutes. Stir in the cilantro, and set the sauce aside.

To make the filling:

Heat a little oil in a large pan and sautée the leeks until soft. Remove them, set aside, and let cool.

Pan-fry the tempeh in a little oil until browned on all sides. You may have to do this in batches, so you don’t crowd the pan. Set aside to cool.

In a medium sized bowl, mix all the ingredients together, and set aside.

To make the enchiladas:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Heat a small pan over medium heat and gently warm the corn tortillas until pliable.

Pour a little of the salsa verde into the bottom of the pan you will cook them in so the enchiladas won’t stick to the bottom.

Fill the corn tortillas with the tempeh-leek mixture, roll them up, and place them next to each other, seam side down, in the pan.

Smother the enchiladas with the salsa verde, and cook, covered, for about 30 to 40 minutes.

Similar posts from A Hungry Bear Won't Dance: Ancho and Guajillo Chile Chicken Enchiladas Recipe, Mushroom-Studded Tortilla Soup with Chipotle Chiles and Goat Cheese Recipe, Chipotle Chicken Salad Tacos Recipe

Monday, September 21, 2009

Pineapple, Red Pepper, Jalapeño, and Basil Salad Recipe

I have done a lot of dancing in my life. I began studying ballet when I was six, danced seriously through high-school, continued, though not as rigorously, in college, and for the last eighteen years I have been traumatizing my body in various ways by performing, teaching, and staging the works of Merce Cunningham. Ok, it hasn’t always been painful, but age, and the ferocity with which I approach my profession (both physically and mentally) have taken a toll.

Lately, my back has been bothering me so much that even bending to shave my legs in the shower has been painful. I was worried I’d soon end up like old cats who develop hair mats when they can no longer groom their haunches, and, unwilling to accept this unattractive fate, quickly called the doctor. An x-ray revealed a severe lessening of space between the L-5 and L-4 vertebrae (in my lumbar spine), and likely arthritis. I did a little research, and read that ginger is very effective in decreasing the inflammation associated with arthritis, and saw the same thing about vitamin C-rich pineapple, which also contains a mixture of enzymes called bromelain, which is known to relieve the swelling associated with several other conditions, too.

Dancer or not, it can’t hurt to add these anti-inflammatory foods to your diet. They will help relieve pain, and may also reduce the risk of some cancers. My acupuncturist prescribed the ayurvedic anti-inflammatory herb boswellia, and I’ve been eating about a tablespoon of raw ginger every morning after breakfast. I went to a yoga class specifically geared for back care, and between these natural remedies and the following pineapple salad, I am in much less pain, and my legs are, again, as smooth as silk.

Pineapple, Red Pepper, Jalapeño, and Basil Salad Recipe

adapted from Savoury Pineapple Salad from World Food Cafe by Chris and Carolyn Caldicott

One pineapple, peeled, cored, and cut into large chunks
One red pepper, seeded, and cut into strips
One jalapeño, chopped into small pieces
A handful of basil leaves, torn into pieces (I used purple basil this time)

Combine everything, and serve chilled.

Similar recipes from A Hungry Bear Won't Dance:
Quinoa Salad Recipe, Green Beans with Mushrooms Recipe (Sem Aur Khumbi), Gingered Tofu and Seaweed Salad with Shiitake Mushrooms and Sesame Seeds Recipe

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Purslane and Cherry Tomato Yogurt Salad Recipe

purslane and cherry tomato yogurt salad

Last night, anticipating a vibrant sunset, I poured a glass of wine and went up to my roof to listen, look, and think. Watching the planes come in to land at La Guardia, all in a lineup, five in a row, I wondered if anyone in those planes was passing above their house, like I sometimes do, and perhaps saying to a seat mate, “See, there? The tall building at the edge of the green, there? That’s my house; I live there,” and I wasn’t sure why I felt connected to all those people up there flying around.

I was comforted by the meditative white noise of the whirring cars on the BQE, and by watching the F trains come and go, shuttling thousands of people from work and play and adventures, taking them to and from events filled with grief, euphoria, or perversion. I wondered about the crimes of the people housed in the nearby prison, and I felt for those falsely accused. They don’t feel this perfect breeze on their skin, watch the ferries pass; they don’t see the pink and red ribbons appear in the sky and turn Manhattan a kind of glowy steel color in contrast, the imminence of the city’s lights a given.

I wondered if the new cell phone tower on my roof made my landlord any money, and if the waves were giving us all cancer. And then I dismissed this thought, imagining the thousands of cell phone towers all over the city projecting waves out and around, and I painted the waves in color, and I bet they look like a giant 70s thread sculpture/wall-hanging thing of a light blue and dark blue ship with tall sails, and I bet our brains are right in the middle of all those threads, between the pins at the edge, getting incessantly bombarded from the bow and the stern and the mast. Bad for our health, yeah. Probably doesn’t matter if there’s a tower right above my head.

The smell of the baking bagels from the roof is even stronger than from my apartment. These bagels are a tease: cinnamon and raisin, onion, blueberry, it doesn’t matter; these bagels are not for sale. Hermetically bagged for shipment behind those walls, I wouldn’t even know it was a bagel factory were it not for the mistakes they throw away in the dumpsters outside and for the bagel-making people hanging around, smoking, transparent shower caps on their heads, and wearing what look like white nurse outfits. Maybe they're saving the misfit bagels from the rats.

I am as at peace in that moment on my roof as I may have ever been. This is one of those try-to-remember moments when things aren’t going right. You know, when you're alone, and you try to zip your dress, and you can’t quite get the zipper to the top, and you're unable to find the single-girl gadget that your sister gave you to elongate your reach when no one is around to help you attach your bracelet, or zip your dress, so you have to change clothes, and you're uncomfortable, and you hate what you have on because it isn’t the original thought? Or when there’s a nor'easter, and hail is pelting you in your face; water is leaking into your boots; your scarf is strangling you in the wind like it did Isadora (but not all the way); you’re late for teaching class because the trains are flooded; a stranger yells at you for bumping her accidentally with your bag, and you find out someone has charged trips to South Africa and Thailand on your debit card? During those kinds of days I will try to remember this moment. This moment, up here with the breeze and the planes and the strangeness and the millions of people all around me; this moment feels like home.

Purslane and Cherry Tomato Yogurt Salad Recipe

Without the tomatoes, this is a classic Turkish recipe from the Aegean region, commonly served cold in the summertime. Purslane, a weed, is one of the most nutritious plants on the planet, and contains even Omega-3 fatty acids. If you can’t find purslane, you could easily substitute baby spinach, or any other tender green of your choosing.

a substantial amount of purslane (or spinach), washed and trimmed
some cherry tomatoes, halved
a quart of yogurt (I used goats’ milk yogurt)
one garlic clove, minced
salt, to taste

Combine everything in a bowl, stir, and chill.

When ready to serve, drizzle with a little olive oil.

Similar recipes from A Hungry Bear Won't Dance: Zucchini Pancakes with Dill and Feta Cheese Recipe, Fresh Ricotta and Mint Recipe: a Spread with Purple Garlic and Olive Oil, Spring Fava Beans with Garlic Yogurt Recipe

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Poached Eggs in Red Wine Sauce (Oeufs en Meurette)

In my life, lately, a phony has been masquerading as the real deal. I got married to someone who committed to me, for better or for worse, in sickness and in health, as long as we both shall live, and then mysteriously bailed on me after a mere year and a half. And In Lyon, France, once the gastronomic capital of the culinary world, the cooks in those marvelous traditional bouchons are using Maggi bouillon cubes instead of long-cooked homemade stock. The workhorse of French cooking, stock is the basis for everything here, soups, sauces, and without it, you have a house with no foundation, a choreography with no dancers, a marriage without a husband.

Planning some blog entries, and wanting to make something traditional, from the bouchons, I looked at the menu of my favorite one, Café des Fédérations, and saw oeufs en meurette listed. I’ve been curious about these poached eggs in red wine sauce for a while now, and having only Saturday to cook, I thought it would make an excellent, and very French, brunch.

At the market I found shallots, eggs, garlic, poitrine de porc (to make the tasty ham strips called lardons), freshly churned butter, parsley, and hearty whole wheat bread. A tannic red, a Bourgogne, came from the wine shop, and poultry stock or veal stock from? I was stuck. I couldn’t roast bones and make stock in my tiny apartment kitchen, and didn’t want to use chemical-laden bouillon cubes, but this is France, surely there is homemade stock available somewhere.

I asked at the butcher, and they drew me a map to Picard, a strange and antiseptic store full of only freezers and frozen foods, but no frozen stock. I asked at the grocery store. No. I asked at the bouchon called Chez Paul, across the street from Café des Fédérations, and they directed me to a gourmet shop around the corner. Yes, they will have it, I was assured. It comes in a small container, just what we use, she said. Yet, once at the shop, they presented me with Maggi bouillon cubes. No, not that, “Je cherche le vrai fond de veau ou volaille,” So, as a last resort I hesitantly entered my favorite bouchon.

This bouchon is where my future husband and I celebrated our engagement with our invited families. Mine came from the US, his from Switzerland and France, and there we ate our way through the various specialties of Lyon: lentil and poached egg salads, quenelles with crayfish and lobster sauces, roasted leg of lamb, tripe sausages in mustard sauce, and Saint-Marcellin and cervelle de canut cheeses for dessert. The food at this restaurant was phenomenal, and the convivial atmosphere begged for a repeat visit.

I entered the restaurant and told the manager that I had been looking all over for real veal or poultry stock, and would they please just sell me a small container of it, I would be most appreciative, s’il vous plait.

“On n’a pas le vrai fond de veau,” she said, dropping the news like a week-old baguette. You what? You don’t have real veal stock? What with all the sauces you are making? Oeufs en meurette is on your menu, for crying out loud, and you don’t make your own stock? No, she says, we use bouillon cubes from the store, like everyone else.

So, armed with the truth, I've got a plan. Before my departure to NY, I'd like to eat at a bouchon as a farewell to Lyon, and I have decided that I will first call up a few places to ask which ones use homemade ingredients, including stocks, before choosing my destination. How I wish it were as easy with people. Hello, husband? Are you the real deal? Do you roast your own bones? What time is the last service? Oh, and are you insistent on turning tables, or will you let me stay awhile?

Poached Eggs in Red Wine Sauce (Oeufs en Meurette)

adapted from a recipe at épicurien

Note from Banu: In keeping with the tradition of this post, I will call this kinda sorta phony oeufs en meurette, because I've seen recipes that appear more authentic than this one, and now that I look carefully, the recipe I used as a guide is Belgian! Other recipes use a bouquet garni (an assortment of herbs assembled to add flavor and fragrance to the broth), and ask you to poach the eggs directly in the sauce, before reducing it. As a novice egg poacher, I like this recipe because the eggs are poached in a separate, albeit milder (more boring) broth, but the filaments of egg white that remain after novice egg poaching will float around in a sauce you discard, and not one you eat. This is a fairly simple way to get the main idea of the oeufs en meurette, while still using real stock, which is easily found in liquid containers in most grocery stores in the US. Or, for the realest deal oeufs en meurette, you could make your own.

8 very fresh eggs
3 shallots, chopped
about a cup of bacon or pancetta, chopped (or, if you’re in France, poitrine de porc, demi sel - lard)
one bottle of tannic red wine, such as Bourgogne or Syrah
1 1/2 to 2 cups of veal stock or poultry stock
4 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
8 small slices of crusty wheat bread
2 garlic cloves, halved
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 stalks of fresh parsley, chopped
salt and pepper

Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a large pan, and add the bacon or pancetta or lardons, and cook over medium high heat. When the pork is browned slightly, remove the meat from the pan, and saute the shallots in the butter, until soft and translucent. Add 3/4 of the bottle of red wine and the stock, and let the mixture reduce over low flame until 2/3 of it remains. Add the pork back to the sauce. Stir in the chopped parsley, and remove from the heat. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Meanwhile, bring a liter of water, the remaining red wine, and the red wine vinegar to a very low simmer (the bubbles should barely break the surface). Very carefully, add an egg to the water, cooking them one at a time, so the whites don’t break up. Poach, gently, in the liquid for 3-4 minutes, or until the yolk is cooked a little, but still soft. Take out the egg, and let it rest on a paper towel, to soak up the extra liquid. Repeat with the other eggs.

Toast the slices of bread, and rub them with the garlic halves.

Just before serving, incorporate the flour into the remaining two tablespoons of butter by cutting them together with a knife, or a fork. Stir this butter and flour mixture into the sauce.

Place a little sauce on a plate, place two slices of toast on each plate, and top with an egg each. Pour a little more sauce over the eggs. Serve immediately.

Similar recipes from A Hungry Bear Won't Dance: Cauliflower, Mint, and Olive Quiche with Spelt and Rye Flour Crust, Raspberry and Blueberry Whole Wheat Muffins,
German Good Friday Pancakes and Homemade Sausage Patties

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Lunch in Lyon

On my way to the market this morning, a crooked gray-haired man with leathery sunned skin and a basketful of summer’s harvest under his arm, leaned in as he passed, and, cigarette dangling from his lips, said to me, “très jolie.” Ah, you made me smile little Frenchman, and I remembered an experiment I’ve wanted to try: instead of giving weight to the things that annoy me in life, I’ve wanted to see what would happen if I commented on all the nice thoughts that pass through my mind.

In France, that translates to forgetting the time in Paris when the server questioned why I needed a paper napkin with my coffee, and when I answered honestly, and in French, that I had a cold, and didn’t have any tissues with me to blow my nose, the server replied, “this is a café , not a pharmacy,” and delivered my coffee straight, no napkin. It also means ignoring the time in Lyon when the shopkeeper pulled the carpet up from under my feet as I was passing by, unconcerned that I might have fallen, and it means forgiving the Tabasco incident a while ago, when the French waiter refused to bring the hot sauce for my brunch potatoes because “it is not done”.

It involves a new way. It involves seeing the lovely things here: the pastries that look like lacquered jewels in shop windows (and taste as rich), the red terracotta tiled rooftops sloping with the slow shift of the earth, their brick chimneys rising haphazardly like an obstacle course at dusk for the flying swifts. It means taking in the fragrance of the market (and the character of the brusque but jovial farmers who sell there), the thyme-infused tapenade, the wine soaked goat cheese studded with cloves, the summery rosé with just a hint of pink. It involves appreciating the beauty of a culture that names a fruit mirabelle, that takes an hour and a half for lunch, and funds the arts because, for the French, art is as essential as food. I am smiling as I wander these twisty intimate streets, the sun shining on and shadowing different bits of facades with each turn. The rivers. The churches. The fountains. The old town. The market. The cobblestones. The golden tiptops of buildings. Très jolie...

Monday, August 17, 2009

Pasta with Ground Beef, Parsley, Garlic Yogurt, and Paprika Butter Recipe (Piç Mantı)

After a breakup, comfort food is in order. Growing up in a half-Turkish household with an adventurous American cook for a mother, I am aware that my comfort food may be someone else’s challenge. I was born, and spent the first 18 months of my life in Turkey, and, as a baby, I rejected milk and adored yogurt, so consequently, many of my most soothing dishes involve it. Mantı is my favorite food of all time: a dish created by East Asians and introduced to Turkey by itinerant Turkic and Mongolian tribes, it consists of hand made dumplings filled with a mixture of ground lamb or ground beef, parsley and onion, and it is served with a warm garlic yogurt sauce, paprika butter drizzled on top. Because of the labor involved in making and rolling out the pasta dough, my mother copied a friend’s version, and used pre-made dried pasta from the store. Because it isn’t true mantı, my parents’ friends named this iteration piç mantı, or bastardized mantı, and this is the name I knew it by, even as a small child.

Two weeks ago, in the midst of a life change, I couldn’t cook. At the Union Square market I decided that I would purchase things that I could simply cut and eat, no cooking involved. I bought whole grain organic bread, to cut and toast, and added heirloom tomatoes, to cut and put on the bread with a little olive oil and sea salt. I bought some raw milk cheddar cheese to eat with those tomatoes and bread, and Persian cucumbers, to eat whole. I found some organic purslane, one of the most nutritious plants in the world, containing even Omega 3s, that I would wash, and eat entire stems of out of the refrigerator. Same with some purple kale. And I bought kimchee, rich in vitamin C, no cutting needed. Then I saw some grass fed ground beef and fresh goats’ milk yogurt, and comforting piç mantı was then added to the menu; I’d only have to cut the onions and parsley.

On a Turkish summer vacation once, when I was a child of about 7 or 8, and not knowing what the piç part of piç mantı meant, I returned home, confused and in near tears, after my Turkish friends made fun of me when I told them the name of my favorite food. Now I make both types of mantı, the hand rolled type when feeling ambitious, and the quick way when even cutting seems like a chore. Bastardized mantı, you did the trick: I’m in Lyon, France now, having just returned from the glorious market with plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables to cook up. This life is too beautiful for wallowing; onward!

Pasta with Ground Beef, Parsley, Garlic Yogurt, and Paprika Butter (Piç Mantı)

1 pound pasta shells (I used fusilli, because that’s what I had, but I prefer it with shells, because it holds the sauce better)

For the yogurt sauce:

1 quart yogurt (usually this dish is prepared with cows' milk yogurt, but I made it with goats’ milk this time, and it was fine, if a little more unusual)
1-2 cloves of fresh garlic, chopped (this is to your taste. I love garlic, so can add even more than 2 cloves. Use your judgment.)
Salt, to taste

For the meat mixture:

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 pound ground beef (or lamb)
1/2 cup flat leaf parsley, chopped
salt and pepper

For the butter topping:

2 tablespoons of butter
1 teaspoon paprika (or a little more, depending on your taste)

At the table:

I serve this with sumac, which can be purchased at Penzey’s, and with cayenne pepper. Some people like it with dried mint flakes. Serving all three at the table, so your guests can choose their own preferred combination would be ideal.

Put a large pot of salted water over high heat to boil.

Put a large bowl somewhere warm (I put it near the stove), and add the yogurt, garlic and salt to the bowl. Let it come to room temperature while you execute the other steps.

Heat a large skillet over medium high heat, add the onion, and let it cook until translucent, but not browned. Add the ground beef, and cook until browned. Turn off the heat, season with salt and pepper, and stir in the parsley.

When the pasta is cooked through (according to the package directions), remove from the heat, drain, and save a little of the cooking water for adding to the yogurt sauce.

Combine the pasta, yogurt sauce, a little of the pasta’s cooking water, and ground beef. Mix well.

Quickly, in a small saucepan, heat the butter and the paprika until sizzling. Serve the pasta, yogurt and meat mixture in individual bowls, and top each bowl with the sizzling paprika butter.

Serve with sumac, dried mint, and cayenne pepper.

Similar recipes from A Hungry Bear Won't Dance: Ground Beef and Herb Stuffed Eggplant, Tomato, and Zucchini (Etli Karışık Dolma), Conchiglie (Pasta Shells) with Gorgonzola and Garden Orache (or Radicchio) Recipe, Creamy, Thyme Scented Fusilli with Purple Asparagus, Green Peas, and Bacon

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Quinoa Salad Recipe

This summer is tumbling me off my very practiced balance. It is a summer of grief, of loss, of endings; it has made me lose my appetite. An unwelcome heaviness has curled up on my chest, and that same inhibiting force convinces me to sit on the couch and hazily watch Top Chef Masters, episode after episode, instead of picking up a knife and making something. It enables me to step over my still-unpacked suitcase and rummage around in it, attempting to find something clean and vaguely cool so the world isn’t immediately aware of the inside mess my outside is only a wayward outfit away from becoming.

After making nearly 200 works, and sustaining a company for 60 years, Merce Cunningham, the choreographer with whom I worked, died on July 26th, 2009, at the age of 90. Merce, a dedicated macrobiotic, cheated on his diet from time to time. I know, we toured together, and sometimes ate together in various cities around the world. Once, at a Persian restaurant in Orange County (or was it LA?), I ordered a minty yogurt spread, and Merce, seated across from me, and hearing how phenomenal it was, sneakily reached over his glass of Oregonian merlot to have a bit of forbidden dairy. But mostly, he was committed to macrobiotic eating, and my memories are of tour meals at carefully chosen couscous restaurants, or, while working in NYC, of watching Merce eat pita bread with hummus or almond butter for lunch, raisins for dessert.

One time, my friend and colleague, Tom, and I were invited to Merce’s house to make dinner for him. I nervously grilled salmon fillets on his indoor grill, practicing achieving the lattice work grill marks I’d learned in culinary school, and then, through a friend, I happily learned that Merce had talked positively about that salmon for over a week. Later, after marrying, and to celebrate with the man who brought us together, I made baked tempeh over vegetable quinoa, and a warm bok choy salad with shiitake mushrooms and scallions. Merce said he wasn’t sure when I asked him if he liked tempeh, but a request for seconds, and a clean plate was the evidence.

My regular diet is home-cooked, mostly vegetarian, nearly one-hundred percent organic, and full of beans, grains, nuts, seeds, fresh vegetables and fruits. After recent escapist meals of late-night San Loco tacos, slices of pizza, and restaurant nachos, I knew I needed to break the trend. This salad is refreshing, delicious, and full of antioxidant rich vegetables and protein rich quinoa. Merce, I’ve been cheating on my diet, too, and in a much unhealthier way than a couple of bites of yogurt. Here is my first attempt on the road to recovery. I miss you, Merce.

Quinoa Salad
From Peter Berley’s The Modern Vegetarian Kitchen

Note from Banu: I often change the ingredients of this salad, depending on what’s at the market. Sometimes I leave out the corn; I might leave the red onion raw. This week I made it with raw beets and sweet potatoes. It lends itself to lots of variations, so experiment. This is truly one of my favorite things to make when I am in need of a healthy meal. It is light, flavorful, filling, and dense with nutrients.

For the Salad:

1/3 cup hulled sesame seeds
1/3 cup hulled sunflower seeds
1/3 cup hulled pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup arame
1 1/2 cups water
1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt
1 cup quinoa, rinsed and drained
Kernels from 2 ears sweet corn
1 red onion, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 bunch red radishes (8 to 10), trimmed and cut into matchsticks
1 large carrot, grated

For the Marinade:

1/2 cup cider vinegar
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 small bunch cilantro (about 1 cup), trimmed, leaves and tender stems chopped
2 scallions, white and green parts, trimmed and sliced
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
1 garlic clove, minced
Coarse sea salt
Freshly milled black pepper

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit

Spread the seeds on a baking sheet and toast in the oven for 12 minutes, or until golden brown. Pour them into a bowl and set aside to cool.

Combine the arame with 2 cups warm water and set aside to swell for 10 minutes, until soft. Drain and set aside.

In a small saucepan over high heat, bring the 1 1/2 cups water and salt to a boil. Add the quinoa. When the water returns to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes, or until all the water has been absorbed. Spread the quinoa on a baking sheet to cool.

In a pot fitted with a steamer, combine the corn kernels with the red onion. Steam for 3 to 5 minutes, until crisp-tender. Remove to a colander and chill under cold running water. Drain thoroughly.

To make the marinade, in a large mixing bowl, combine the vinegar, oil, cilantro, scallions, jalapeno pepper, garlic, 2 teaspoons salt, and black pepper to taste. Whisk well.

Add the toasted seeds, quinoa, steamed vegetables, red pepper, radishes, carrot, and arame to the marinade. Mix well and refrigerate for 20 minutes to marry the flavors.

Taste for seasoning, add more salt and black pepper, if desired, and serve.

Yield: 4 - 6 servings

Similar recipes from A Hungry Bear Won't Dance: Millet and Quinoa with Beets and Scallions Recipe, Swiss Chard, Lentils, and Bulgur Wheat with Parsley and Garlic Yogurt Recipe, Gingered Tofu and Seaweed Salad with Shiitake Mushrooms and Sesame Seeds Recipe

Monday, July 6, 2009

Ground Beef and Herb Stuffed Eggplant, Tomato, and Zucchini (Etli Karışık Dolma)

Switzerland is too perfect for me. There, I said it. I want to unbutton your shirt, Switzerland, replace your shiny dress shoes with a pair of worn in ankle boots, muss up your hair, and arrange you in a slouchy position with a drink in your hand. I like things a little rough around the edges, and you, with your rules, and your schedules, and your clean, clean living, you’re bringing me down.

Sometimes, on the train, I want to reach through the window and smudge the cows into the clouds, and the grass into the lake, and the churches into the gardens, and then swirl everything all together like a three year old would with some finger paints. You look too good to be true, Switzerland. Like those sad people from online dating sites who substitute a stranger’s anonymous gorgeousness for self-representation, you are ridiculous with your clear mountain peaks and your drinkable mountain streams. We don’t believe you, Switzerland. Put up a real picture. The one with the thinning hair and the wrinkles, and the pot belly. The one with the trams that steal your money, the heroin addicts, the racism. Give me honesty over your polite concealing smile, a late R train over your predictable ones, a messy Pollock over your singing Mannerist angels.

Yes, I know that wide, wide walkway by the river is especially for you and your puffy poodle, Switzerland, but must you wag your finger at me and point to the bike lane when I am nowhere near you? And you, over there, playing catch by the lake with a beach ball: it’s really funny when your aim is off, and your irreverent ball veers off course and hits a man on the head. Laugh! Use your outdoor voices! Go ahead; break out! And do you really need a six foot high hedge around your house? What are you hiding in there?

I think you might just be excellent fling material, Switzerland. Couple of weeks, a month, here and there. Your shoulders are broad; you smell good; and you speak four languages. You’ve got a great car, a manicured lawn, and damn, you know your way around a fondue pot. You call when you’re supposed to, and never get too close. Your flaw, Switzerland, is your outward perfection, and I think we can work around that if we’re not too serious. Anything long-term and you’re just going to have to get a new wardrobe and dress up like Istanbul or New York or something. And be convincing, will you? I’ll know the difference.

Ground Beef and Herb Stuffed Eggplant, Tomato, and Zucchini (Etli Karışık Dolma)

2 medium eggplant, trimmed and cut into half
2 medium zucchini, trimmed and cut into half
4 medium tomatoes, tops cut off
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 pound of ground beef
1/2 cup dill, finely chopped
1/2 cup parsley, finely chopped
1/4 cup rice (I used brown rice)
salt and pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 cup of water or stock

Core the eggplant and the zucchini so that only about 1/2 inch edge remains, and the interior of each of the four halves is an empty cavity. I use a knife to cut the edge, and a spoon to scoop the interior. Keep the bottom of the vegetables intact, so that the filling will not fall out.

Remove the seeds and the interior of the tomato so that you have an empty cavity. Keep the seeds and the tomato pulp for addition to the sauce later.

Combine the onion, ground beef, dill, parsley, rice, and salt and pepper in a bowl. Use your clean hands to incorporate all the ingredients.

Place the vegetables in a large pot (it’s ok if they don’t fit in a single layer), and fill the cavities of each with a little of the meat mixture. Be careful not to overfill, as the mixture will expand a little as the rice cooks.

Add the reserved tomato pulp to the bottom of the pan, along with the tomato paste. Pour the water (or stock) over the dolma before placing on the heat.

Place the pan over medium high heat and bring to a bowl. When the liquid begins to boil, lower the heat, cover the pan, and simmer until the vegetables are fork tender, and the rice is cooked, about 30 to 40 minutes.

Serve immediately with garlic yogurt sauce.

Similar recipes from A Hungry Bear Won't Dance: Zucchini Pancakes with Dill and Feta Cheese Recipe (Mucver), Turkish Red Lentil, Bulgur, and Mint Soup (Ezogelin Çorbası), Swiss Chard, Lentils and Bulgur Wheat with Parsley, Garlic Yogurt

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Zucchini Pancakes with Dill and Feta Cheese Recipe (Mucver)

My friend Daniel has wanted cooking lessons for some time. In New York, we started briefly with some knife skills, prepping lots of veggies for two cold noodle salads I would prepare for my 40th birthday party, and now that I’m in Geneva, we decided on a transcontinental lesson, by Skype, no less.

Daniel’s family is Jewish and keeps a Kosher household, so I was told that if we were using dairy there could be no meat, and vice versa. Thinking Jewish, and reminding me of potato latkes, I came up with the idea of making zucchini pancakes with dill and feta cheese. Daniel’s mother had planned to make fish as the evening’s main dish, and, with the promise of an explanation of the Biblical justification for this to follow, I was assured that the cheese in the pancakes would not break with tradition. I emailed Daniel a list of ingredients to purchase, set up a temporary work station on a free end of the desk, and angled my computer’s camera toward my cutting board. Away we went.

I was surprised by how simply this worked. When Daniel had a question about whether he was chopping too much dill, or if his mixture looked too watery, he held the bowl up to the camera, and I was able to help him answer his question. With new technology, we were able to share information, catch up with our personal lives, and create the same dish at the same time, more than three thousand miles away.

Daniel reported later that the notkes, as he called them, were a smash hit, and wondered what we were making next. Hmm...let’s see? Notzo ball soup? Fauxllah bread? I’m all for it, Daniel; let’s do it.

Zucchini Pancakes with Dill and Feta Cheese Recipe (Mucver)

3-4 medium sized zucchini, grated
3-4 scallions, finely chopped, including the green tops
1/2 cup dill, finely chopped
1/2 cup parsley, finely chopped
1/2 to 2/3 cup feta cheese, crumbled into small pieces
2 eggs
1 to 1 1/2 tablespoon flour
pepper, to taste

Place the grated zucchini in a colander in the sink and sprinkle with a little salt. Don’t add too much salt; the zucchini will not be rinsed before forming the pancakes. Let the moisture drain out as you prepare the other ingredients.

Combine the scallion, the dill, the parsley and the feta cheese in a bowl.

Squeeze the moisture out of the zucchini, and add it to the bowl with the dill mixture. Beat the eggs briefly with a fork, and add them to the bowl. Sprinkle in the flour and season with a little pepper. Form the mixture into small, not too thick, 3-4 inch diameter pancakes, and cook them in an oiled skillet over medium heat for a few minutes on each side, making sure the interior of each pancake is cooked before removing it from the heat.

Serve immediately. You may serve these plain, or with a little garlic yogurt sauce.

Similar recipes from A Hungry Bear Won't Dance: Fresh Ricotta and Mint Recipe: a Spread with Purple Garlic and Olive Oil, Wilted Dandelion Greens with Dried Figs and Pine Nuts, Almond and Sun Dried Tomato Basil Pesto

Friday, June 26, 2009

Grilled Sardines and Anchovies Recipe

To celebrate a recent family birthday, we grilled sardines and anchovies on our new mini balcony grill, and I made a polenta ‘lasagna’ as an accompaniment. I had grilled sardines several times on my own, attempting, usually, to recreate the memory of an amazing simple meal of sardines and french fries I shared with my father once in Slovenia. I have made them at home, in a regular pan on the stovetop, and I have made them, and had them made for me, by my friend Cheryl, outside, on an outdoor grill, like this time. But anchovies on the grill I had never tried.

One summer, four years ago, I was teaching in Rome for a couple of weeks, and needing a little single girl alone time, took the middle weekend, and off I went to Naples, Pompeii, Sorrento, Positano, Amalfi, and back to Naples by boat. Once I saw the sweeping views from the first stop in Positano, I jumped off the bus attempting to find a place to sleep, and viewed, and quickly paid for, a room overlooking the Italian coastline, and the colorful villas dotting the surrounding cliffs. After a refreshing swim in the pool, and washing off all the Pompeiian dust, I headed down the hill for a look at the sea and a bite to eat.

The Italians were often baffled that I was traveling alone, and eating alone was no different. Assuming they felt sorry for me, I got lots of free stuff. My gorgeous meal of Italian flag red cherry tomatoes, twelve butterflied and grilled anchovies from the water my feet could almost touch, and a substantial arugula salad enhanced with olive oil and acidified by a squeeze of the ubiquitous Amalfi lemon, was followed by a gift: a curvy glass of the local liquor with a wild strawberry floating in it. After that meal, the idea of grilling fresh anchovies became as dreamy as memories of my Mediterranean adventure.

I was worried they would stick on the grill if I butterflied them, so I cleaned them and grilled them whole, and left them for just a minute over the heat. These anchovies were an experiment, a little appetizer before the foolproof sardines, fragrant with fresh thyme sprigs, and imbued with smoky flavor. Now that I know I can do it, next time it’s twelve anchovies for each of us, and a small glass of limoncello, perhaps, for the strawberries.

Grilled Sardines and/or Anchovies Recipe

Clean the sardines and/or anchovies by cutting the head off on an angle behind the gills, and then make a small slit in the belly area. Remove the head and then the guts from the slit you just made, and rinse the inside with water. For a prettier presentation, you may leave the head on. Remove any scales on the sardines by running your knife gently the wrong way against them. Rinse again, and set the cleaned fish aside. There’s no need to do this with the anchovies, and there might even be debate about cleaning them at all; they are so small.

I bought my sardines already cleaned by the fish monger, and disappointingly, they removed the tail, too. The tail is my favorite part, not only because it gets nice and crispy on the grill, but also because you can use it to pull all the bones out with one fell swoop once the fish is cooked and on your plate. After you get over a little blood, it’s really easy to clean the fish yourself, and saves money, too!

Dry the sardines and anchovies well, and fill the belly of all the sardines with a thyme sprig. Rub the surface of the fish with plenty of olive oil, and season lightly with salt and pepper.

Make sure your grill is hot, and the coals are well distributed. Put the sardines and anchovies on the grill, being careful not to crowd them. Cook the sardines for a minute and a half to 2 minutes on each side, turning them carefully. Cook the anchovies for barely a minute on each side.

Remove from the grill and serve immediately with fresh lemon, and arugula salad, if you like.

Other recipes from A Hungry Bear Won't Dance: Wilted Dandelion Greens with Dried Figs and Pine Nuts Recipe, Fresh Coriander, Ginger, and Chile Crepês Recipe (Rava Dosa), Turkish Red Lentil, Bulgur, and Mint Soup (Ezogelin Çorbası)

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Turkish Red Lentil, Bulgur, and Mint Soup Recipe (Ezogelin Çorbası)

I have had a lot more cheese, here in Switzerland, than I have even written about. I have shared fondue, and cheese tarts, and for breakfast, I just cannot turn down the earthy gruyère on my toast with a little Swiss alpine butter. It’s great, but I needed a break. This is not my usual diet, and for some grounding, I made a favorite Turkish red lentil soup from my childhood. It is disappointingly chilly here, so instead of sunbathing at the bains de paquis, and then relishing the cooling effects of the clear lake, I bought a pair of shoes that aren’t sandals, and to warm us, I made soup.

One of the few inexpensive places to eat in Geneva are the Turkish and Kurdish kebab houses. While tasty, I’m sad that kebabs have become the quintessential Turkish food outside of Turkey, when there is enormous variety and sophistication to the country’s food left unrepresented. No matter, I’m happy to eat a good döner kebab when I can, so one day, caught without lunch, we stopped in for one. The Swiss are polite and kind, but the Turks are warm, welcoming, and once you’re friends, friends you are for life. In Turkish, there are even two words for the word friend, highlighting the spectrum of possible closeness. At first meeting, one may be referred to as an arkadaş, or usual friend, and if the relationship becomes longer-term, more like family, then one is called a dost, an intimate, or kindred spirit.

After having eaten at this local place, and speaking briefly in my flawed Turkish with the server and with the owner, Turks from all over the neighborhood began to recognize me. Now, if my husband and I enter a different kebab house and ask, in French, for a savory yogurt beverage called ayran, I’ll hear someone sitting at a nearby table alert the owner, saying, “onlar Türkler”, meaning “they’re Turkish”, and they’ll switch from French to Turkish. “They” are Turkish, not “she” is Turkish. My husband, looking clearly western European, welcomed, too, into the warmth of the Turkish culture, even from Switzerland. Thank you, Turks, for helping make chilly Geneva feel more like home.

Turkish Red Lentil, Bulgur, and Mint Soup (Ezogelin Çorbası)

adapted from The Sultan's Kitchen, By Özcan Ozan
Serves 4-6

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons unsalted clarified butter (I don’t bother clarifying the butter, and you could use only olive oil if you wanted to leave out the dairy)
1 large Spanish onion, finely diced (3/4 cups)
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 medium tomato, peeled,
seeded and finely chopped (1/2 cup) (or you may use 1/2 cup of tomato sauce or diced tomatoes)
2 tablespoons paprika
1/2 teaspoon Turkish red pepper or ground red pepper (you may use cayenne, or leave it out)
1-1/2 cups red lentils
1/4 cup long-grain white rice (I sometimes use brown rice here)
6 cups chicken stock or water
1/4 cup fine-grain bulgur (you may also use regular bulgur. I find the resulting textural contrast nice)
1 tablespoon dried mint
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Plain bread croutons (optional)
Lemon wedges

For the Topping:

2 tablespoons unsalted butter (or olive oil, but butter really makes it here)
1 teaspoon dried mint
1/2 teaspoon paprika (I also add spicy Turkish pepper to this mixture for a little heat)

In a heavy medium-sized saucepan, heat the olive oil and the butter over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook gently for about 2 minutes, or until they're softened but not brown. Stir in the tomato paste, chopped tomato (or tomato sauce or diced tomatoes), the paprika, and Turkish pepper. Add the lentils, rice, and stock. Cover the saucepan and bring the liquid to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 30-35 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the rice is cooked and the lentils have blended with the stock. Add the bulgur and mint, and season with salt and pepper. Cook for another 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. If the soup is too thick, add a little water.

To make the topping, melt the butter in a small saucepan over low heat. Add the mint and paprika, and stir the mixture until it sizzles. Ladle the soup into individual bowls and drizzle the butter mixture over each serving. Top with the croutons, if you're using them. Serve at once with lemon wedges.

Similar recipes from A Hungry Bear Won't Dance: Sorrel and Stinging Nettle Soup Recipe, Oven Baked Börek with Mustard Greens, Feta, and Walnuts Recipe, and Spring Fava Beans with Garlic Yogurt Recipe.


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