Sunday, November 21, 2010

Acili Ezme - Turkish Red Pepper and Walnut Dip

Açili Esme (Turkish Red Pepper Dip)

One of the most mouthwatering of the Middle Eastern meze dishes, acili ezme is a vibrantly red Turkish chopped vegetable dip creased with rivulets of olive oil and jolted with hot pepper paste. It strikes a perfect balance of raw heat and heart-healthy ingredients that will give the spice lover in you just enough color in your cheeks without punishing yourself with the physical pain of swallowing some of those other high-octane chile recipes.

While you can blend a batch with yogurt and dried cayenne for those with sensitive palates (as with this Clifford A. Wright recipe), I prefer the stark, clear flavors of finely chopped bell peppers, onion, tomato, garlic, parsley, and walnuts, stirred into a dense and oily relish that only improves with age if you can keep away from it long enough. My love for this recipe is so large that I will dispense with the glorious, seed-topped pide, or any dipping bread for that matter, and dive into the bowl with an equally large and well-poised spoon. Though effortlessly vegan, it is also an excellent, robust filling for an omelet or dolloped on squares of grilled halloumi cheese.

The tradition of hand chopping each ingredient into precise dice or mince can be time consuming if you are impatient. A food processor will hurry things along, but only if you pulse the vegetables briefly and separately, rather than combining everything and over processing into a purée. This particular recipe's appeal is as much distinctively textural as it is tantalizing. Get out that spoon and taste for yourself.

Acili Ezme - Adapted from the My Kitchen Turkish Food recipe

Serves 4-6 as a starter


1 large red bell pepper, cored and seeded, then cut into quarters
1 large green bell pepper, cored and seeded, then cut into quarters
1 medium red onion
3 cloves garlic
2 medium tomatoes, cored
1 handful fresh, flat-leaf parsley
1/3 cup olive oil
1/4 cup lemon juice
2-3 tablespoons hot red pepper paste (I used harissa)
2 tablespoons canned tomato paste
1 handful walnuts, coarsely chopped then toasted briefly in a dry skillet over medium heat (about 5 minutes, tossing frequently with a large spoon)
Salt and pepper to taste (optional; harissa is highly seasoned)

Garnishes (optional)

Toasted walnut halves
Kalamata olives
Parsley leaves, flat-leaf or curly variety


Pulse the peppers, onion, tomatoes, garlic, and parsley separately in a food processor, only enough to chop each ingredient into fairly uniform pieces. Empty chopped ingredients into a large serving bowl, including any liquid produced during processing. Stir all chopped ingredients together, then add olive oil, lemon juice, hot red pepper paste, and tomato paste. Stir again to combine well. Taste for optional additions of salt and pepper. Dip is ready when the oil rises and separates from the other ingredients, but is best when allowed time for all flavors to meld. Garnish as desired. Serve with traditional pide, pita, or crackers.

This recipe is for Anh of A Food Lover's Journey, hosting Haalo's Weekend Herb Blogging, which just celebrated its fifth year of sharing the glories of cooking and baking with everything edible from plants.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Vegetarian Avgolemono Soup with Quinoa - No Croutons Required: Quinoa

Avgolemono Soup with Quinoa

Avgolemono, the stellar Greek combo of egg and lemon makes for a brilliant bowl of pure sunshine which you can beat up quickly without missing a beat. Applying hot broth to raw egg is not nearly as intimidating as it sounds; the likelihood of wrecking the batch to curdling is slim if you temper the tangy mixture slowly up to a general warmth that the eggs can handle. If this method fails you, you can, at the slightest sign of egg separation, rub the mixture quickly through a cheese cloth-lined sieve. But you must act with lightning quick speed. This will save your soup and your neck if you are planning on serving it to guests. Quinoa, the high-protein South American grain-like seed, is obviously not a traditional ingredient, but adds an off-beat beauty and texture that pair well with the zesty, creamy broth. For a light and satisfying meal, serve with small crusty rolls smeared with soft goat cheese. Drizzle olive oil on the cheese and top with a few crushed Kalamata olives and curls of orange rind.

Vegetarian Avgolemono Soup with Quinoa - My own recipe, generally based on the classic trio of ingredients: broth, eggs, and lemon juice. It is garnished most often with dill.

Serves 4.


1 cup dried quinoa (prepared with plain water according to the package directions)
1 quart vegetable broth
3 eggs
1/3 - 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice, strained of pit and pulp (use 1/2 cup if you prefer a very sour taste)
1 large carrot, peeled and grated
1 small handful fresh dill fronds
Additional salt and pepper to taste (optional, depending on how seasoned your broth is)
Lemon wedges


In a large saucepan, heat vegetable broth. Do not boil nor simmer. Remove from heat. Test its temperature by taking up a spoonful then dipping your pinkie in the broth. If it is uncomfortably hot, it will also be too hot for the egg. Allow to cool slightly before testing again.

In a large bowl, beat eggs with lemon juice until they are very smooth and foamy. Using an 1/8 cup measure, transfer warm broth to egg-lemon mixture, beating very quickly with a whisk to disperse heat after each measure. Continue adding and beating one measure at a time until the mixture is very warm to the touch; you can tell by cradling a hand around the bowl. Pace yourself; the egg must be slowly introduced to incremental heat to prevent curdling. When broth in saucepan cools to comparable temperature of egg-lemon mixture, pour mixture into the saucepan, quickly following with a thorough whisking. Over the very lowest burner flame or setting, heat the soup, whisking constantly to prevent it from engaging with the bottom of the pan, closest to the heat source. Do not let soup even come close to a simmer. As soon as soup begins to steam, remove from heat and pour immediately into serving bowls to prevent stored saucepan heat from overcooking the egg. Adjust salt and pepper per bowl if necessary. Add a generous scoop of cooked quinoa to each bowl, then garnish generously with carrot and dill. Serve immediately with lemon wedges on the side.

This recipe is for lovely Lisa of Lisa's Kitchen, hosting No Croutons Required: Quinoa. Lisa and Jacqueline of Tinned Tomatoes created No Croutons Required, the long-running vegetarian monthly event featuring soup and salads.

Been There, Done That~

Greek Mushroom Filo Cups
Stuffed Grape Leaves with Avgolemono Sauce
Baklava-Stuffed Figs

Other People's Eats ~

Greek Lemon Soup - The Nourishing Gourmet
Avgolemono Soup - Closet Kitchen
Lemony Quinoa with Butternut Squash - FatFree Vegan Kitchen

Monday, November 15, 2010

Weekend Herb Blogging #259 - The Round-Up

Thanks to everyone who makes Weekend Herb Blogging special every week. The fifteen recipes highlighted below are a testament to the enduring good taste, culinary ingenuity, and endless generosity of the food blogging community. It's always a pleasure when my hosting week comes up every few months. I encourage others who have not yet enjoyed being a host to contact Haalo of Cook Almost Anything at Least Once in order to give it a try. It's an easy, manageable, low-pressure gig. You will thank her for it, as I always do. Haalo herself is organizing the current week's round-up #260, The Fifth Anniversary. I am planning to prepare something to help her celebrate. I hope you can, too.


Stirring a pot of rice and musky mushrooms stirs the
decades-old memories of a cook for her friend and teacher.

Risotto with Porcini and Morels
Katherina - Culinary Flavors
Athens, Greece


Go ahead and pile your plate high with parathas. You will
have little guilt with a fruit-filled recipe free from most fat.

Raw Papaya Parathas
Megha - Live to Eat!!!
Mumbai, India


Sweet onion and savory sage mellow the bitter bite of
a bullet of radicchio mixed in a classic rice recipe.

Medallions of rare fish glow on the plate when trimmed
with the golden crunch of autumn's favorite seed.

Pumpkin Seed-Crusted Tuna
Yasmeen - Heathnut
Ohio, U.S.A.


Though the recipe's name escapes her, a minimalist cook
picks up a fancy trick for a memorably spicy dish.

Apple-like Asian pears pair well with a fall-favorite squash
in a golden bowl of soup strewn with toasted walnuts.

Zuppa di Zucca e Pere Arrosto (Roasted Pumpkin-Pear Soup)
Simona - Briciole
Northern California, U.S.A.


Small and sugar-sweet, seckel pears drizzled with
syrupy, spicy cider are a sexy still life of a dessert.

Cider-Baked Seckel Pears with Rice Pudding
Lynne - Cafe Lynnylu
Georgia, U.S.A.


Meat-rich Spanish cuisine is a challenge for vegetarians, but you can
make everyone happy when you make your own animal-free links.

Mexican Oregano Vegan Chorizo Sausages
Saveur - The Taste Space
Toronto, Canada


Black Forest flavors deepen and darken when a
bottle of brew is blended into a fruitcake batter.

Cherry Chocolate and Stout Loaf
Haalo - Cook Almost Anything at Least Once
Melbourne, Australia


Giant coins of semolina are a savory and sensational departure
from a more familiar recipe for Italian artisan dumplings.

Butternut Squash Gnocchi alla Romana
Val - More than Burnt Toast
British Columbia, Canada


A medley of colorful vegetables tossed with cheeses and
crumbs makes a tasty argument for a meat-free meal.

Veggie Balls
Brii - Brii Blog in English
Lake Garda, Italy


A scooped-out squash is the perfect edible vessel for a
spicy stew that pays homage to a land a world away.

Indian-Spiced Chili in a Winter Squash "Bread" Bowl
Joanne - Eats Well with Others
New York, U.S.A.


A mélange of glistening, creamy vegetables tops toast
rounds for an elegant platter to pass around with cocktails.

Autumn Crostini
Cinzia - Cindystar
Garda Lake, Italy


A handful of home-harvested herbs enchants a simple
pitcher of water with its citrus and woodsy touch.

Tisane of Thyme
Christine - Kits Chow
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada


Savory, starchy disks of unripe banana spark and
satiate the appetite when twice fried up to a crisp.

Tostones with Mojo Sauce
Susan - The Well-Seasoned Cook
New York, U.S.A.

As always, please let me know of any errors or omissions. I will correct them as soon as I am notified. Best wishes for a wonderful week!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Going Bananas - Tostones with Mojo Sauce for Weekend Herb Blogging #259

Tostones and Mojo Sauce

My mind is so full these days, it feels as cluttered as an Escher drawing. I need simple food which I can cook and eat with minimal fuss that leaves me recharged and not feeling the least bit deprived. Carbs and fried food, preferably together, are always the answer for me. Not healthy, you say? I hear you. But this classic Latin combo of twice-fried green plantain rounds with a side of shrieking garlic and lime dipping sauce is far less damning than indiscriminate and desperate fingers in the candy dish.

Plantains (Musa paradisiacal), like other fruit of the banana family, are loaded with fiber, potassium, and other nutrients. In their unripe green state, they are far less naturally sugared up than when yellowing and covered in black bruises (although this metamorphosis creates its own culinary delights; see maduros link below).

Despite the indulgence, this dense, savory snack fills you up fast on just a few pieces. Now, if only I could empty my mind just as quickly. ~

Tostones - A generic, historic recipe which I learned from Latin women in my neighborhood when I was growing up.

If you are being careful about your fat intake, my take on the recipe uses a fraction of the oil of the deep-frying method. If you want to avoid it entirely, this recipe from Pioneer Thinking looks very promising.

Serves 2 - 3.


1 large very green unripe plantain
Olive oil
Sea or flaked salt, if not pairing with mojo sauce


Cut stem ends from plantain. Slice fruit through its skin into rounds 3/4-inch thick. Make a few even, tiny cuts around each piece without cutting into the flesh. Peel the skin off and discard. (The traditional method for peeling the skin in one piece is here.)

Pour just enough oil into a large skillet to easily cover the bottom by gentle swirling. Heat the oil on a medium-low burner for a few seconds until it thins. Add plantain pieces, leaving space between them. Shallow fry the pieces for approximately 2 minutes on each side; they will be pale golden. Do not let them brown. Turn off burner. Transfer pieces to a cutting board lined with 2 sheets of paper towels. Place another 2 sheets of paper towels on top of the pieces. With the flat bottom of a heavy glass or jar, press evenly on each piece until it flattens to half its height. Peel off paper towels. If the pieces stick to the bottom paper towels, gently lift them off with a fork. Reheat oil in skillet to medium. Arrange pieces in hot oil and fry them to a golden brown (about 2 minutes each side). Since the pieces will be larger than the originals, you will have to fry two batches. If you find the second batch is a little dry, drizzle in a minimal amount of additional oil. Serve immediately while still hot, either salted or with mojo sauce for dipping.

Mojo Sauce - Adapted from the Whats4Eats recipe


4 large garlic cloves, peeled
2 tablespoons olive oil
Juice of 2 limes
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground cumin


Whir all ingredients in a food processor until smooth. Pour into small bowl to serve.

This is my contribution to Weekend Herb Blogging #259, which I am hosting. I will have the round-up online tomorrow evening, Monday, November 15, New York time. Thanks to all who have participated. There are a number of posts which I received today; I will acknowledge them tonight before I turn in. Thanks are always in order, too, for Haalo of Cook Almost Anything at Least Once for continuing to champion the WHB cause started by Kalyn of Kalyn's Kitchen, the creator of the event.


Been There, Done That ~

Green Plantain Soup
Batata Chips with Ají Amarillo Crema

Other People's Eats ~

Tostones - Mobile Test Kitchen
Maduros - Apartment Therapy - The Kitchn
Chifles - Laylita's Recipes


Saturday, November 13, 2010

Weekend Herb Blogging #259 - Here This Week


I am very pleased to announce that I am currently hosting yet another round of Weekend Herb Blogging, the popular weekly food blogging event, going strong in its fifth year. The rules are easy to follow, and you still have plenty of time to send me a recipe post before the Sunday, November 14, deadline. The round-up will be online Monday, November 15.

I will be preparing an easy recipe with green plantains, although if I don't get cracking, they will ripen right before my eyes.

Big thanks to all who have already sent in their posts, and special thanks to Haalo of Cook Almost Anything at Least Once for another opportunity to host this always fun and low-stress event.


Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Indian Spiced Tamarind Cooler for My Legume Love Affair 28

Indian Spiced Tamarind Cooler

This post was supposed to be all about candy, tamarind candy: those little earthy, sweet, and tangy Thai nuggets rolled in coarse sugar, bursting with bite, their gummy texture clinging to your teeth, their smoldering undercurrent of spice clinging to your tongue. It was supposed to be a snappy exotic departure from all the squash that is lined up in my kitchen for an assortment of cakes, custards, cookies, soups, and the pies that I swore I would resist baking. So I stirred up a pot of tamarind syrup that bubbled (quite appropriately for Halloween) into the foulest black pit of tar ever to spit up at the witches of Macbeth. Such is the magic of candy making.

The slag heap cooled off more quickly than I did; hovering over a hiss of hot sugar for twenty minutes will sweat out every toxin you've ingested for a month. You will be cleansed, but exhausted, and you will want to reach for that chilled high-fructose can of soda, as dewy and dripping as your cheeks. But don't let that extra tamarind go to waste. As simple as preparing chai, you can pour yourself an icy drink as earthy, sweet, and tangy as those Thai hot rocks. If you can't stand the heat, go ahead and get out of the kitchen for a while.
Indian Spiced Tamarind Cooler - From a gorgeous recipe in my print copy of Silk Road Cooking - A Vegetarian Journey
I prepared this recipe without adaptation. It is not available online which prevents me from linking to it. I am also prohibited by copyright to reproduce it here without permission. What I can tell you is that I boiled 1 part tamarind pulp to 4 parts water, then strained the liquid before adding minimal sugar and pinches of powdered ginger, fennel, green cardamom, cumin, and cloves. I've also garnished each glass as instructed with a lime slice and mint sprig. For those who prefer an actual recipe to follow, I have found another stunner: Tamarind Ginger Fizz by Wanderash via the food52 site. This version has a fire ring of chili salt tracing the rim of the glass.

Tamarind Pod

This beverage is for Divya of Dil Se who is wrapping up MLLA 28; her round-up with be online later this week.

Lisa of Lisa's Kitchen is manning the fort for this month's MLLA 29. Do be on lookout for her announcement coming in next day or two. I will have a link in my sidebar as soon as it goes online.


Been There, Done That ~

Peach Oolong Almond Milk Bubble Tea
Japanese Cherry Blossom Tea
Iced Darjeeling Chai Tea

Other People's Eats ~