Saturday, January 30, 2010
I have finished my first week of staging Merce Cunningham’s Summerspace for The Juilliard School’s spring concert, and in five short days, I’ve already been inspired by the work of these twelve gorgeous dancers. Diligent, curious, and so strong, they are not only eager to learn the steps and the particular way of moving involved in a Cunningham work, but also about the philosophies of Merce Cunningham and John Cage, and after a productive first week, I am confident that they will inhabit the piece with animal grace and integrity.
I was busy all week reviewing notes, DVDs, learning steps, and then transmitting them in nightly rehearsals, so I didn’t have much time to put together a decadent meal. I knew I would need something hearty and simple to sustain me during the week’s work, so cooked up some beautiful farmers’ market black beans, and made a strange black bean version of pasta e fagioli. Lovely it is not, but inexpensive and tasty it’s got in spades.
For easy meals after work, I kept the cooked beans separated from the cooked pasta, and then combined them and heated just as much as I wanted to eat at any given time. Later in the week I made a dill-parsley-walnut-garlic pesto and added a little bit of this to the beans, too, for a strangely delicious mix, and a bright, fresh flavor.
Penne Pasta e Fagioli (Pasta with Black Beans)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
3-4 large cloves of garlic, minced
red pepper flakes, or dried red chiles, to taste (I used a few crushed Mexican arbol chiles, because that’s what I had in the pantry)
1 1/2 cup dried black beans, soaked overnight (traditionally, this is made with white beans, but I used what I had)
water or stock
one large sprig of rosemary, chopped
one bay leaf
3/4 pound whole wheat penne pasta
pecorino di grotta, or parmigiano reggiano cheese, for grating on top
In a large heavy-bottomed pan, heat the oil and cook the onion until translucent. Add the garlic and the chile flakes, and stir briefly, until fragrant.
Add the beans, and enough water or stock to cover them by about an inch and a half or two inches, depending on how soupy you’d like your dish to be. Add the rosemary and the bay leaf. Bring the liquid to a boil, cover the pot, and reduce the heat. Simmer the beans until they are tender (about an hour), and then season with salt and pepper.
Cook the pasta according to the package directions, combine with the beans, and top with the grated cheese.
Tuesday, January 19, 2010
Me and phyllo dough have a rocky relationship. It’s sad. I’m half Turkish, and in mid-life, I haven’t yet figured out how to work with it properly. My American mother used to make her phyllo dough by hand, something I can’t even imagine attempting, what with the cursing I am already doing handling the pre-made kind. When the dough is not fresh or if it’s been frozen too long, the thin sheets stick together and make me want to tear the entire package of delicate dough into little pieces and patch them together in haphazard strips and ribbons, throw the rest at the walls, and tell guests I made an art project out of the börek, pie, or pastries I’m making. Forget uniformity. I’m a non-conformist phyllo dough user.
When I have purchased freshly made phyllo dough at the market in Turkey, it is much easier to handle. Turkish phyllo is a little thicker than the Greek kind, tears less frequently, and is easier to brush with butter without breaking the individual sheets. But alas, I used the Greek kind, and it was frozen, and I was impatient, and the sheets tore when I was laying them in the baking dish, and tore further when I tried to brush them with butter.
But there is some good news here. This delicious Greek recipe is like a Mediterranean chicken pot pie. It comes from an out-of-print cookbook, Mediterranean the Beautiful, and it’s scrumptious. I like this dish as is, but as I was cooking, I imagined it being nice with some carrots, or parsnips, or some other root vegetable added to the chicken. But even without the extra vegetables, served with a salad and some crusty bread, it’s a simple lunch or light dinner. It might not be the easiest dish to keep beautiful for leftovers during the week, but who cares? If you’re like me, and you’ve done a phyllo collage, a phyllo mâché, or even more of a phyllo decoupage, it didn’t look so beautiful to begin with.
Go ahead, pack it up and take it into work; I’m sure the flavors will blend wonderfully after a couple of days, and besides, after what has happened in Haiti recently, we should all feel so fortunate to have any kind of chicken pie to eat, even a messy looking one.
Chicken Pie Recipe (Kotopitta)
from Mediterranean the Beautiful Cookbook, Joyce Goldstein
Note from Banu: In lieu of chicken stock, I poached my chicken in regular water, but you could flavor it a bit with some parsley sprigs, a small cut-up onion, a couple of crushed garlic cloves, basically any aromatics you have lying around that match the flavor profile of this recipe. I then used this broth (be sure to remove the aromatics) to add to the butter/flour mixture, and it tasted great.
4 cups chicken stock (or water, see above)
6 chicken breast halves, boned, or 1 4 lb chicken, cut into serving pieces
1/4 cup unsalted butter, plus 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 cup chopped green onion
1/4 cup all purpose flour (I used spelt, with fine results)
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/2 cups crumbled feta cheese
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
4 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
4 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint (optional)
salt and freshly ground pepper
12-14 phyllo sheets
Pour the chicken stock (or water) into a saucepan and bring to a boil. Add the chicken pieces and simmer gently until the chicken is tender, about 25 minutes for chicken parts with bones, and 10 minutes for boneless breasts. Remove the chicken pieces from the stock and set aside to cool. Reserve the stock (or broth). When the chicken is cool enough to handle, remove the meat from the bones, if necessary, and shred into bite-sized chunks. Transfer the meat to a large bowl.
In a sauté pan over low heat, melt the 1/4 cup butter. Add the onion and sauté until tender and translucent, about 10 minutes. Stir in the flour and cook, stirring, for a few minutes. Gradually add 2 1/2 cups of the reserved stock (or broth), stirring well, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until thick, 8-10 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool slightly.
Add the sauce to the chicken. Then stir in the eggs, feta, nutmeg, dill, parsley, and the mint (if using). Season to taste with salt and pepper. (I only added pepper, because the feta contained enough salt to season the dish.)
Preheat an oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Butter a 9 by 12 by 3 inch or 9 inch square baking pan. Lay 6 or 7 phyllo sheets in the pan, lightly brushing each one with melted butter before adding the next. Spoon the chicken mixture atop the phyllo and spread it evenly. Lay the remaining phyllo sheets on top, brushing each one with butter before adding the next.
Using a sharp knife, score the top few sheets into large squares. Bake until golden, 40-45 minutes. Let rest for 5 minutes, then cut into squares and serve very warm.
Similar recipes from A Hungry Bear Won't Dance: Chicken and Tomato Curry Recipe, Ancho and Guajillo Chile Chicken Enchiladas Recipe, Oven Baked Börek with Mustard Greens, Feta and Walnuts Recipe
Tuesday, January 12, 2010
When I am blue I eat yogurt. Plain yogurt. Usually with garlic. In soup, or with noodles. Sometimes topped with cayenne pepper and mint. I’ve been eating a lot of yogurt lately. January is a depressing month for me, and, it appears, for lots of my friends, too. One friend wants to buy a grow light for facial sunning in order to avoid seasonal affective disorder, another is planning a trip somewhere tropical, a couple are taking flax oil for mood stabilization, and I’ve been eating a lot of yogurt.
I haven’t really gotten in the swing of things yet this year, and this week has prolonged my readjustment. I was assigned to a medical malpractice case at jury duty, which will last nearly a week, and will take me out of my first classes of the semester at Juilliard. I was looking forward to seeing my students, and to going back to being a little more physical than the holiday lump I’ve been the past few weeks, but, alas, no go. I do feel like a responsible citizen sitting on this jury, and perhaps the knowledge that I am an active part of our judicial system, even in some small way, may help pry me out of the winter doldrums, even without the physical activity of dancing. And if not, there’s always more yogurt.
This is a mashup soup recipe based on recipes from Ayla Esen Algar’s The Complete Book of Turkish Cooking: one for kofte made with rice, and one for yogurt soup. The following recipe is similar to mantı, minus the noodles or garlic, and why I had a difficult time not devouring all of it in one sitting. It is warming and soothing while in the midst of the type of frigid weather most of the United States has been experiencing the last few weeks. Try it, tell me how you like it, and please share with me your own favorite comfort foods. I may need them; spring is far, far away.
Yogurt Soup with Rice Filled Meatballs (Köfte) and Mint-Paprika Butter Recipe
adapted from Ayla Esen Algar’s Yogurt Soup with Mint, and Köfte in Broth, from The Complete Book of Turkish Cooking
Note from Banu: I am lucky to be the member of a food coop near me where I buy affordably priced, organic, grass-fed meat which is humanely raised on local, sustainable farms, and even this meat I eat rarely. If you are an omnivore, I would encourage you to purchase this type of meat when eating meat at all. It is more expensive, yes, but eating less of it, fewer times a month, and paying more for this sustainable meat will save your health, your wallet, and the planet in the long run.
For the köfte (meatballs):
1 pound of ground beef (or lamb, or a combination of the two)
1 small onion, grated
1/2 cup parsley, finely chopped
1/2 cup rice (I used brown rice)
1 teaspoon salt
pepper, to taste
For the soup base:
1 1/2 tablespoon olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoon butter
1 medium onion, chopped
6 cups of water
1 teaspoon salt (or more, to taste)
32 ounces yogurt
6 tablespoons flour (I used spelt flour)
4 egg yolks
1 1/2 cups water
For the topping:
butter (about 2 tablespoons)
paprika or cayenne pepper
Combine the ingredients for the köfte in a bowl; use your clean hands to mix everything together. Form the meat mixture into small balls, about one inch in diameter. Set aside.
Heat the butter and the olive oil in a large pot. Cook the onion over medium-high heat until translucent. Add the water and the salt, and bring to a boil. When the water is boiling, add the köfte, lower the heat to a simmer, and cover the pot. Simmer the köfte until done, about 20 minutes if you used white rice, 30 minutes (or longer) if you used brown rice.
Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine the yogurt, flour, and egg yolks. Whisk everything together until smooth. Add the water until a thin batter forms.
Once the köfte are cooked, slowly add the yogurt mixture to the broth, stirring constantly, and carefully so as not to break up the köfte. Simmer, covered for 10-15 minutes until the soup thickens a bit. If it becomes too thick, add more water. Adjust seasoning, if needed.
In a small saucepan heat the butter. When the butter has melted, add a little mint and a little paprika or cayenne. Heat until sizzling.
Serve the soup in bowls, topped with a little of the mint-paprika butter.
Similar recipes from A Hungry Bear Won't Dance: Pasta with Ground Beef, Parsley, Garlic Yogurt, and Paprika Butter (Piç Mantı), Ground Beef and Herb Stuffed Eggplant, Tomato, and Zucchini (Etli Karışık Dolma), Spring Fava Beans with Garlic Yogurt Recipe
Sunday, January 3, 2010
One cold, wintry evening in The Netherlands I ate stamppot and fell in love. I was in Amsterdam staging a dance of Merce Cunningham’s for the Dutch National Ballet Company, and, in my off hours, I was eager to discover more about traditional Dutch cooking. This stamppot was one culinary delight amongst many I experienced, and highlighted my memories of that evening: from the texture of the woolen green coat worn by my dining companion, and his fascination with the makes and sizes of the ubiquitous Dutch bikes, to getting lost on the circular canals, ending up where we started, and deciding to have a pre-meal drink of jenever, the strong, and less junipery, precursor to gin. That night, at dinner, we talked of the skill and science behind the Dutch ability to keep the persistent water (which is eagerly lapping at their door) from flooding their country, and, after learning more about the engineering, we understood why many scientists hired to shore up the levees in New Orleans after Katrina came from here.
When I told Dutch friends of the family about my fantastic meal they chuckled. “You like stamppot?” they asked incredulously. “Sure, it’s good, but it’s not something we, as a people, are so proud of.” I suppose, for the Dutch, stamppot is common, simple, winter fare. A staple. Meat and potatoes. For me, it is associated with a fantastic meal, and of lovely memories of Amsterdam: of views of the Queen’s palace from my centrally located apartment, of exploring the city’s art and canals, of visiting the charming town of Edam to sample the cheeses made there, of devouring a rijsttafel, the multi-course Indonesian meal the colonial Dutch helped create, and of taking special trips to food markets to eat krokets, spiced meat rolled in breadcrumbs and deep fried. I even ate at FEBO. Yes, I did.
True, The Netherlands is known for fabulous raw herring sandwiches, smoked fish, pancakes (and the smaller, puffier, poffertjes), stroopwafels, take-home-delicious aged Gouda cheese, and for those tiny, and heavenly, chocolate sprinkles used to decorate one’s morning toast, but this simple pot of greens and potatoes is what I will remember most. Make it, and you, too, might remember a trip you took to The Netherlands, or perhaps your imagination will take you there. In any case, you’ll be nourished and sated inexpensively and deliciously, and you might even think of drifting peacefully down a canal in a pedal boat, stroopwafel in hand, colored, tilty buildings passing you by, so crooked you'll question if you've had one too many jenevers to drink. Make stamppot and go on a trip; you won't even have to visit a Dutch coffee shop to do it.
Collard Greens, Broccoli Rabe, and Chicken Sausage with Potatoes Recipe (Stamppot)
Note from Banu: this hearty and nutritious mixture of potatoes, leafy greens, and some type of meat, is simple to prepare, and a comforting, wintry, one pot meal. I make it with whatever type of green is available, kale, dandelion greens, mustard greens, broccoli rabe, etc.; choose whatever hearty green looks fresh in your store. I prefer stamppot with more greens and less potato, so using even three bunches of greens for the amount of potatoes in this recipe might not be too much. And losing the meat, and making a vegetarian version is perfectly acceptable, and would be delicious, too.
Sometimes I use bacon instead of sausage, and traditionally, the entire sausage, along with a little gravy, would be placed on top of a serving of the mixture of greens and potatoes. I like to mix everything together so I can eat bits of it for several days, and pack it up to take with me for lunch. Experiment with proportions; this is a fool-proof meal.
4 red potatoes, cut into 1 inch square cubes (or thereabouts)
4 Yukon gold potatoes, cut into 1 inch square cubes (or thereabouts)
2 tablespoons olive oil
9 oz chicken sausage, cut into bite-sized pieces (but this can be bacon, or any other type of sausage, and you may use more that this amount, or leave it out entirely)
2 medium onions, chopped
one bunch broccoli rabe (leaves removed and chopped, and stems chopped and kept separate)
one bunch collard greens (prepared as the broccoli rabe)
2 large garlic cloves, minced
3/4 pint half and half (or milk)
Fill a large pot with water, add the potatoes, bring to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer, and cook the potatoes until they are fork tender. Drain them into a colander.
Meanwhile, in a separate large pot, heat the olive oil, and add the sausage (unless you are using bacon, or fatty sausage, in which case, do not add any oil until after you cook the meat and determine if you need more oil for the onions and greens’ stems).
Cook the sausage over medium-high heat for a few minutes, until brown. Remove the sausage (or bacon), and set aside. Add the onions (and more olive oil, if needed), and cook for a few minutes. Add the greens’ stems, and cook everything until tender, and the onions are translucent. Add the chopped leaves of the greens, and stir around until just wilted.
Add the cooked potatoes to the greens, and mash everything together with a potato masher. Stir in the garlic cloves and the half and half (or milk) and mix well. Stir in the sausage or the bacon, and serve immediately.
Similar Recipes from A Hungry Bear Won't Dance: Oven-Baked Pasta with Butternut Squash, Purple Kale, Crimini Mushrooms, White Beans and Nutmeg Béchamel Recipe, Pasta with Ground Beef, Parsley, Garlic Yogurt, and Paprika Butter (Piç Mantı), Swiss Chard, Lentils and Bulgur Wheat with Parsley, Garlic Yogurt Recipe