A Food Fiction

There is nothing like food fiction. Some of my favorite books and movies are culinary. It's not for my obvious passion for food but rather the romance of preparation. There is something so romantic about it...

Here's my latest book discovery that I wanted to share with you, Brocolli and Other Tales of Food and Love by Lara Vapnyar. It is a collection of short stories that take their inspiration from food.

Salmon Sashimi in Ponzu Sauce

help...need new flash :(

Tart Tatin: Apples and Maple Syrup

A bag of honey crisp apples left behind by my mother in law inspired this dish. This was the last hurrah for these apples this season, until next year.

4 apples, peeled and cored
1/2 cup of real maple syrup
zest and juice from 1 lemon
1/4 cup of butter

crust dough:

1 cup butter
1/3 cup water
2 cups flour
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp sugar

Melt butter in an over proof pan, on stove top. Add in apples sliced into circles, about 1/4 inch thick. Add in maple syrup, zest and lemon juice. Let cook for about 7-10 minutes on stove top on medium-high heat. If there is a lot of juice (read: covers the apples), add in about 1 tbsp of flour after you remove from heat.
Roll out dough 1/8 of an inch thick. Lay over pan contents, tuck the sides in and under. Place into a preheated oven at 400F for 35 minutes or until the crust is golden.

Remove from oven and flip over into a plate. Don't wait too long to do this as the butter cools it'll be hard to remove. How easy is that!?


Olivie Salad (салат оливье)

Many family feuds began over a mixing bowl similar to this one. It's not the bowl, nor the spoon, but rather what's in it that keeps this, one of the most bipolar recipes in Russian cuisine. What's even more interesting is that it originated with a Frenchman, Lucien Olivier. It was invented and served by him, according to some sources, in the mid 19th century in a luxe hotel-restaurant in Moscow. It makes me feel good to say those that argue the content of their version is right are generally so far from the original it's entertaining. The first recipe contained "grouse, veal tongue, caviar, lettuce, crayfish tails, capers, gherkins, cucumbers, hard-boiled eggs and soy beans" (wikipedia:Russian salad).

The generalized common version made in most Russian households retains only two of the original ingredients, hard-boiled eggs and gherkins. Generally there is a pretty consistent agreement that potatoes and mayonnaise (for dressing) are included, beyond that different schools of thought exist.
Pea and boiled carrot people.
Fresh cucumber users.
Apple eaters.
Onion persons?!
I am sure I missed a few... luckily, in the former 15 Republics, the schools of thought enjoyed the separation by geography. They still live in peace and harmony never arguing over the dinner table. Never in fear of designating this half-salad, half-entree as a potluck item to someone. They are unafraid of someone marring into the family and producing a foreign version, because they know there is power in numbers. When reaching for a spoonful, they know that the mayo-veiled components will not surprise them, but delight with comfort of old expectations.

Here, in the melting pot of refuges and immigrants, salad battles rage regularly. It's tough, but occasionally one makes a salad to enjoy behind closed doors, and it feels just like home.

4 potatoes, boiled skins on
2 kosher dill pickles
3 hard-boiled eggs
3 chicken breast fillets, steamed and cubed
1/2 granny smith apple, peeled
2 tbsp mayo
1 tbsp olive oil

Before you start working make sure the ingredients are at room temperature. Peel potatoes and cut into 1/4 inch cubes. Toss the cubed potatoes in a large mixing bowl with a little salt, pepper and olive oil. Do so carefully to keep them intact. Add the other ingredients chopped (this is a small cubed dice, consistent for all ingredients, except potato which is slightly larger). Add mayo and mix carefully until fully incorporated. Taste and add mayo and/or salt to taste. This salad is great fresh, wonderful as leftovers and will generally keep in the fridge for up to 2 days.

- signed "apple eater"
Source: bowl photo apartmenttherapy.com

Cuban Panini, Take 2

In this version, roasted pork loin, smoked Gruyere cheese, prosciutto, pickles and hot mustard, on Brazilian cheese buns from a local bakery.

Much better then the previous cop out to sliced bread...


Apricot Coriander Beef Stew

I bought some beef round for stew, but wanted to make something with an updated flavor, maybe even with a zing. I found a few lamb recipies and adapted parts of about 5 of them together to make an apricot coriander stew. I used both dry and fresh coriander, i.e. cilantro, to reinforce that flavor. I know this isn't for some people, you know who you are :-)

~1.3 lbs of beef round, cut into large cubes
2 cups of low sodium chicken stock
1 orange
1/2 tsp ground coriander seeds
2 tbsp finely chopped cilantro
1 cup of dry apricots, sliced lengthwise
1 leek
1 head of garlic
1/4 cup of butter

In a heavy saucepan (lidded) melt butter on low heat, add peeled garlic cloves and chopped leeks. I used the white part only since it's more tender. When the leek is translucent, add half the apricots, some pepper, coriander, and meat. Mix all the components and cover with stock. Cover with lid and cook for 90 minutes, or until the beef is very tender (keep checking once in a while to make sure you have enough liquid in the pot). Season with salt and additional pepper to taste.

Add in the rest of the apricots, cilantro and orange slices. Enjoy!


Roasted Chicken Jus Cous Cous with Peppadew

As I was roasting a chicken I was pondering ideas for a side dish, going through my pantry. I found a box of Israeli cous cous and decided it would be a perfect way to reuse the pan sauce from the chicken.
serves 2 people

6 scoops of cous cous
1 1/2 cups of separated pan juices
1/2 cup of water (this really depends on the flavor of the juices, usually they run a little over seasoned, so adjust accordingly)
1/2 tbsp olive oil

Roast cous cous in a saucepan on olive oil for about 5 minutes, mixing frequently. Add the water and pan juice, reduce heat to medium-low and let cool for about 15 minutes. Make sure to watch the water level during the last half of cooking time, you want all the water to evaporate, however you don't want it to do so until the cous cous kernels have fully cooked. There should be no need for seasoning, assuming your chicken was seasoned, but taste to check.

Serve with the warm chicken and peppadews for a spicy kick!

Pumpkin Seeds


Potato Dumplings (картофельные вареники)

In retrospect, this isn't the best photo, but if memory serves me well, I think there was probably 3 seconds between this photo and my husband helping himself to this plate. He is always certain that this isn't his favorite dish, and that the time I invest into making the dumplings would be much better spent on a plum tart, steak or a chocolate brownie. That said, somehow I always end up with a smaller portion and him standing over my shoulder asking if he can eat the filling before I manage to get it into the dough wrapper.

If these didn't disappear so quickly, I would have loved to add a roasted wild mushroom ragu on top....but that's all in retrospect.

You can find the recipe on the process in a previous entry, but here's the detail of the filling:

4 boiling potatoes
1 tbsp butter
1 onion, cut into half rings

Boil and mash the potatoes with butter. Add the roasted onion and season. The finished product should be able to keep its shape well, i.e. denser then a regular mashed potatoes dish.