Tag Archives: ethnic food

Morocca-Tori

I’m always looking for inspiration in the kitchen.  When it comes to regional cuisine, a classic dish can often inspire me to bend the rules.  For example, I love Italian Chicken Cacciatore, with its tomatoes, garlic, onions and capers.  The challenge for me was, its traditional breading always sat a little heavy.  Why not lighten it up, leave the breading off, use Moroccan spices, chickpeas and feta?  The result?  Something similar, yet completely different in tone.  Vegetarian?  Leave out the chicken completely and replace it with roasted butternut squash or zucchini.  The real focus is what the regional seasoning does in relation to everything else.  The Moroccan or North African seasoning called  Ras El Hanout (which means: “top of the shop”) can contain anywhere from 10-100 different spices. I’ve included my version of this savory spice combination.  I highly recommend making it yourself, as you can easily control the heat. I’m hooked on it and keep finding different ways to use it.  You can also find it manufactured by several companies like McCormick or the Teeny Tiny Spice Company. Served over rice, couscous or quinoa, with a simple side salad of mixed greens tossed with vinaigrette and you have a dinner that’s comes together quickly and is sure to please.

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Moroccan Chicken Thighs:

  • 6 bone-in, skinless chicken thighs
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 Tablespoon butter
  • 1 medium onion, sliced vertically into thin strips
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 Tablespoon Ras El Hanout*
  • 1 28 oz. can Muir Glen Organic Crushed Tomatoes
  • 1 cup organic chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 1/4 cup (2 oz.) crumbled feta
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley, minced
  • 2 cups of cooked rice, couscous or quinoa

*Kim’s Ras El Hanout:

  • 2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 3 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 2 teaspoons turmeric
  • 2 teaspoons Kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cane sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sweet paprika
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper (add a bit more if you want more heat)
  • 1 teaspoon cardamom powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

Mix all the spices together and store in airtight container.

  1. Preheat oven to 375 F. Melt butter and olive oil in 12-inch skillet over medium heat.  Saute garlic and onion until soft, about 4-5 minutes.
  2. Add Ras El Hanout and simmer an additional 2 minutes.
  3. Add crushed tomatoes and stir to combine.  Take off heat.  Spoon about a 1/2 cup of the sauce into a 8 x 8 casserole dish.  Place chicken thighs on top of sauce.
  4. Sprinkle chickpeas around chicken.  Spoon the rest of the sauce over the chicken.  Sprinkle feta over sauce.
  5. Bake uncovered for 45-50 minutes, or until bubbly and chicken thighs are done.
  6. Remove from oven and sprinkle with minced parsley.
  7. Serve over rice, couscous or quinoa.

Serves: 3-4

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“The forest not only hides your enemies, but its full of your medicine, healing power and food.”  —African Proverb

Spicy Chicken Little

Spring in Michigan is often a practice in patience.  Just when you think she’s here for good, you wake up to a hard frost or an inch of snow.  Our tomato starts in the greenhouse struggled against stiff north winds and low temperatures.  Yet hope for spring returns when you step inside that greenhouse and are greeted by a bright green hum.  You plant seeds with the hope that each one produces the miracle called a plant.  It’s an exercise in faith.  I could never live in an area of the country where the seasons never change.  Seasons remind me to pay attention to the earth’s rhythms. As farmers, we are hyper-sensitive the many signs that nature provides; our livelihood depends on it.

Today, after helping our neighbor Lynne start rehabbing her pontoon, I wanted something simple and fast for dinner.  I love recipes that use ethnic flavors with common ingredients. Inspired by a recipe from the NY Times, I made some slight alterations and came up with a dish that balances warm spices with cool yogurt.  The arugula sprouts and baby potatoes, reminded me of the newness of spring.  You can adjust it to feed a few or a crowd.

Roasted Chicken With Baby Potatoes and Spicy  Yogurt:

  • 2 lbs. bone-in chicken thighs
  • 1-2 lbs. baby Yukon Gold potatoes, halved
  • 2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/2  tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 Tbsp. sriracha or thick hot sauce of your choice
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 5 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1/2 tsp. lemon zest, plus 6 lemon wedges
  • 1 cup plain yogurt (not Greek)
  • 2 Tbsp. fresh chives, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, pressed
  • 1-2 cups arugula sprouts
Spring fresh, arugula sprouts

Spring fresh, arugula sprouts

  1. Combine chicken and potatoes in a large bowl.  Season with 1 tsp. of the salt and all of the pepper.  In a small bowl, whisk together the sriracha, cumin and 3 Tbsp. of olive oil.  Pour over chicken and potatoes and toss to combine.  Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes, or up to 8 hours in the refrigerator.
  2. Heat oven to 425 degrees F.  Arrange chicken thighs and potatoes on sheet pan in a single layer.  Roast for approximately 40-50 minutes, or until everything is golden and slightly crisped.
  3. While the chicken cooks, whisk together the yogurt, chives, garlic and lemon zest.  Salt and pepper to taste.
  4. To serve, spoon yogurt sauce over chicken and potatoes.  Scatter arugula sprouts over mixture.  Drizzle remaining 2 Tbsp. olive oil and squeeze a few lemon wedges over the whole thing.  Pass extra yogurt sauce.

Serves: 4

Contrasts in flavor

Contrasts in flavor

“Each experience leaves an imprint, its transformation into something useful is a choice.”

Slow Dance Perfection

The snow is melting.  The deck was warm enough for morning coffee.  Bleu chased his Frisbee with abandon.  The slow dance of spring has started.  I’m a turtle personality by nature.  I’ve always preferred slow to fast (except in cars!) and like the length and depth of things in general.  This applies to the transition of the seasons, as well as the time it takes to produce a meat that is tender and succulent.  Although I prefer slow-roasting in the oven during winter; you cannot beat the convenience of a slow-cooker. We even use it during the summer since it doesn’t heat up the kitchen.

There is something about pork shoulder that makes me salivate.  First of all, it’s versatile; change up the spices and you can pair it up with several cuisines.  My favorites are Cuban and Mexican.  The cut is affordable and you can locate quality milk-fed pork locally.  Karin Uebbing from Woodbridge Dairy Farm has pork shoulders that are a perfect size, running approximately 3 pounds each.  This assures me that the pigs aren’t ancient, and overly fatty. They fit perfectly into a average size slow-cooker and turn into something luscious after 8-10 hours on low.  Bring on the Margaritas!

Brickyard Farms Pork Carnitas With Avocado Lime Dressing:

Healthy milk-fed local pork

Healthy milk-fed local pork

  • 3-4 lbs milk-fed pork shoulder
  • 2 Tbsp bacon grease
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 head garlic, peeled and sliced
  • 1 cup fresh squeezed orange juice
  • 1 Tbsp sea salt
  • 2 Tbsp ground cumin
  • 1 Tbsp ancho chile powder
  • 2 tsp Mexican oregano
  • 1 tsp green Tabasco sauce
  • 3 Tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped
  1. Smear the bacon grease on the bottom of the slow-cooker.  Pour orange juice over pork. Combine sea salt, cumin, ancho chile powder and oregano and sprinkle on top of pork shoulder.  Sprinkle onion, garlic and green Tabasco over the pork.
  2. Turn on the slow cooker on:  Low for 8-10 hours or High for 4-6 hours.  Once the pork is fork-tender, use two forks to shred the meat into the juices.  Pull out pork with a slotted spoon and place on platter.  Top with chopped fresh cilantro.
  3. Serve over rice, turn into a salad with chopped avocado, tomatoes and black olives; or make it Paleo friendly and place it on romaine leaves with the toppings of your choice.
Beautiful, tender carnitas

Beautiful, tender carnitas

Avocado Lime Dressing:

  • 2 ripe fresh avocado, put removed
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 cup soy-free or homemade mayo
  • 1/2 cup cold water
  • 3 Tbsp fresh lime juice
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 2 garlic cloves, pressed
  • 3 Tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp green Tabasco

Blend in a blender on low until thoroughly blended.

Flavorful carnita salad with avocado lime dressing

Flavorful carnita salad with avocado lime dressing

Carnita shell-less tacos

Carnita shell-less tacos

Perfect Margarita:

  • 1 1/2 oz blanco tequila of your choice
  • 3/4 oz Cointreu or triple sec
  • 3/4 oz fresh lime juice

Rim chilled cocktail glass with lime and salt.  Shake remaining ingredients with ice and strain into glass.

“Life without Mexican food is like no life at all!”  —unknown

Little Things Mean A Lot

Initially, when we went grain-free, we thought it might be a difficult transition.  Being foodies, we were anxious to understand the perimeters of this life-style approach and how we might use our creativity to still make food that excited us.  When looking for inspiration, I often go to my collection of ethnic cookbooks.  I was not disappointed; we love Middle Eastern, Indian and Mediterranean food.  I was soon mixing up a concoction of ground turkey, shredded zucchini, herbs and garlic into small meatballs that were first browned in a pan, then finished in the oven.  Topped with a soothing sauce of homemade yogurt, sour cream, lemon juice and sumac, they are perfect as an appetizer or served on top of a salad of tomatoes, cucumber, feta and sunflower sprouts.

Moral of the story:  change doesn’t have to be difficult, and little things mean a lot.

Zucchini and herbs at the ready

Zucchini and herbs at the ready

Turkey-Zucchini Meatballs With Lemon Sumac Sauce:

  • 1 lb ground turkey
  • 2 cups shredded zucchini
  • 3 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 large organic egg
  • 2 Tbsp fresh mint, chopped
  • 2 Tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, pressed
  • 1 tsp cumin seed, toasted and ground
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 2 Tbsp ghee

Lemon Sumac Sauce:

  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 2/3 cup homemade or Greek yogurt
  • 1 tsp grated lemon zest
  • 2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1 clove garlic, pressed
  • 2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp sumac (found in Middle-Eastern grocery stores)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
Browning in ghee

Browning in ghee

  1. First make the lemon-sumac sauce by placing all the ingredients in a small bowl.  Stir well and chill until needed.
  2. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients except the ghee.  Mix with your hands (you will really get a better result) then shape into small meatballs about the size of golf ball.
  3. Melt the ghee in a 12 inch skillet on medium-high heat.  Add meatballs, making sure to leave room between them.  Saute on each side until browned, about 4 minutes per side.
  4. Place browned meatballs on a cookie-sheet lined with parchment paper.  Place in oven and bake for 7-10 minutes.
  5. Place on platter and pass sauce; or place on top of salad.
Delicious and savory

Delicious and savory

“THE SECRET OF
CHANGE lS TO FOCUS
ALL OF YOUR ENERGY
NOT ON FIGHTING THE
OLD BUT ON BUILDING
THE NEW.”

Feel The Warmth

I’ve lived most of my life as a Michigander.  I love how the seasons change the landscape in front of my writing area.  Today the stillness of winter has struck just the right cord within me.  I feel the warmth of the wood-burner,and the sounds of Val getting our morning coffee.  I watch the birds at our feeders, their small feathered body’s puffed out against the cold.  In that stillness, resides a sense of gratitude and the accumulative effect is one of peace.  This inner peace is much needed as we head into the next phase of my physical journey.  I have been referred to a hematologist for a bone marrow biopsy and thorough blood workup.  A suspected blood disorder is looming large.  Again, we learn patience and perseverance.

Val built our home on 52 consecutive Sundays; you can feel the love seeping through the structure.  This is our house of God.  It is a home that has seen much history and celebration.  Today our neighbor Lynne, my older brother Bill and his girlfriend Deb are coming for dinner.  There are few things I enjoy more than filling our home with the scents of cooking and the anticipation of sharing that meal with those I love.  Good food is often like that, an invisible bridge connecting us to each other.  An expression of goodwill that transcends the simplicity of the moment into something larger, more intimate and we bask in its warmth.

Today’s meal will be a wonderful Brazilian fish stew called:  Moqueca De Peixe.  With aromatic garlic, onions, cilantro and red bell pepper, it has just the right amount of heat, which is tempered with the addition of coconut milk.  Loaded with tomato, fish and shrimp, it is a big bowl of warmth.  It invites you to eat the shrimp floating in the broth with your fingers.  I smile when I see Bill’s eyes closed with enjoyment.  This is why I cook.

Sauteing aromatics

Sauteing aromatics

BRAZILIAN FISH STEW:

  • 1/2 cup fresh lime juice
  • 1 tsp Kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 lbs firm white fish, cut in 1 inch pieces (I use cod)
  • 2 lbs wild caught fresh or flash frozen shrimp (21-24 count)
  • 2 Tbsp ghee or olive oil
  • 2 cups yellow onion, chopped
  • 3 cups red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 1 cup green onions, sliced thinly
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 14.5 oz cans Muir Glenn Fire-Roasted chopped tomatoes, with juice
  • 1 can tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro, plus more for garnishing soup, chopped
  • 2 cups clam juice or fish stock
  • 1 cup home-made chicken stock (or if you’re using a commercial product, make sure it’s stock not broth)
  • 1 14 oz can full-fat coconut milk
  • 1/2 to 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 whole lime, cut into wedges

Instructions:

  1. Combine the first 6 ingredients in a large bowl and set aside.  Add the ghee or olive oil to a large soup pot over medium-high heat, add onion and saute until soft, stirring occasionally.
  2. Add the red bell pepper, green onion, garlic and bay leaves. Saute for 10 more minutes or until vegetables are softened.  Add tomatoes and tomato paste, combine well and cook for another 5 minutes.
  3. Add the chicken and fish stock or clam juice, along with the cilantro and simmer until hot but not boiling, about 10-15 more minutes.
  4. Finally, add the coconut milk, fish and shrimp, including their marinade.  Cook until shrimp looses its opaqueness, about 3 minutes.  DO NOT OVERCOOK!
  5. Ladle into bowls and garnish liberally with additional cilantro.  Pass the lime wedges.
  6. Kiss the cook.

Serves 4-6

Just the right amount of heat

Just the right amount of heat

 

 “Worries go down better with soup.”  –Jewish proverb

Free Radicals

Sweet, salty and savory!

Food.  Humans have been obsessed with it since the beginning of time.  It defines us geographically, ethnically, culturally and economically. It has been a focus in my life since I made my first pie at age 10.  It is my vocation, entertainment, art form and passion.  As a vegetable farmer, I felt I was eating a balanced diet of the recommended vegetables, whole grains and proteins. Needless to say I was shocked when I had a life-threatening intestinal bleed-out in June of 2014 the repercussions I’m still sorting out.  What should I avoid?  How do I prevent it from happening again? When I discussed the food connection with my gastroenterologist, he was unconcerned since my tests proved inconclusive.

One thing I have learned since my health crisis, is that the medical profession for all of its wisdom, does not largely advocate diets that address the symptoms of the diseases they treat.  They adhere to their protocols using prescription medication to treat symptoms of disease, rather than the possible genesis of the disease through diet.

It was clear, that my partner Val and I would need to be proactive with our own research to help determine how I could avoid future frightening episodes.  We started reading in earnest, books such as Wheat Belly by Dr. William Davis.  The mere word ‘diet’ can sometimes freak me out.  Would I have to do this forever?  No artisan bread?  None the less, we decided to go gluten-free. Then came the shocker:  within 48 hours, my brain fog disappeared!   I had learned to live with its slowness for well over a decade, chalking it up to menopause or the aging process; but it was gone and has not returned.  Really?  My thinking was so clear that I became an evangelist for the gluten-free lifestyle. Although at one time I thought gluten-free was an over blown food fad, here I was subscribing to its tenants.  As we continued to connect the dots, our investigating lead to the Paleo Diet.  Now mind you, for a foodie like myself, I was nervous that I would not find enough variety to sustain this approach.  And could we just stop calling these approaches diets?

Paelo….my god is there material here!  Dozens and dozens of cookbooks, plans, pod-casts and blogs.  Still…I have, and continue to have reservations about its restrictions: no grains, no legumes, no dairy.  But like most things in my life; I jumped in with both feet.  Rather than focus on what I couldn’t have, I focus on the variety I do have.  When I consider the abundant approaches of ethnic food, I knew I would put my creativity to the test!  To that end my first recipe is a take on a Cuban Beef Picadillo.  I used our own roasted tomatoes, but you can use Muir Glen Fire Roasted Tomatoes with almost equal success.  It’s great over roasted spaghetti squash or as a lettuce roll-up.  My food future certainly seems less bleak.   Bon Appetite!

Sweet, salty and savory.

Sweet, salty and savory.

Perfect as a filling for tacos or a wrap.

Perfect as a filling for tacos or a wrap.

CUBAN BEEF PICADILLO

  • 3 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 lbs. pasture raised ground beef
  • 1/3 cup dry red wine
  • 1 medium yellow onion, minced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup Muir Glen fire-roasted tomatoes, pureed
  • 1/2 cup golden raisins
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 2 farm fresh hard-boiled eggs, chopped
  • 1/2 cup pimiento-stuffed green olives, chopped
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, minced
  • 1 spaghetti squash, halved and seeded
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Rub olive oil on cut sides of squash.  Place on jelly-roll pan, covered with parchment paper, cut side down.  Roast for 50 minutes.  Set aside.
  2. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the ground beef and cook, stirring occasionally and breaking up the meat with the edge of a spoon, until no longer pink, about 5 minutes.  Add the wine, onion and garlic; cook stirring occasionally, until wine is almost evaporated, about 5 more minutes.
  3. Add the tomatoes and raisins and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the liquid has almost evaporated, 2 to 3 minutes more.  Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Remove the skillet from the heat and stir in the chopped eggs, olives, and cilantro.
  5. With a fork, scrape some of the spaghetti squash into individual bowls. Top with sauce.

Serves: 4-6

“Ethnic diversity adds richness to society.”

—Gary Loche