Wednesday, April 30, 2014

My Moroccan Mains: Chicken Tagine with Maximum Yumminess

So about a month ago I found some bags of meyer lemons at WalMart and decided to make something I'd never had before--preserved lemons. Today is the culmination of that experiment, in which I made an elaborate tagine to highlight the lemons and the flavors of Morocco. I was inspired by Claudia Roden's book Arabesque, which I checked out of the library, though I may have to buy my own copy! I made 5 recipes from this one book, in one weekend--this has to be a sign of a book I should have in my collection.


1 tbs olive oil
2 onions
3-4 cloves of garlic
pinch saffron thread
1/2 tsp ground ginger
4 chicken thighs, 1 chicken breast
salt and pepper
juice of 1/2 lemon
2 tbs chopped cilantro
2 tbs chopped flat leaf parsley
Peel of 1 1/2 preserved lemons
18 kalamata olives
1 tsp harrisa paste
12 oz artichoke hearts

I cooked this up in my dutch oven from start to finish, so while any dish I have to start thinking about a month before hand is elaborate to me, this actually could be a one pot meal! The first step is to chop the onions really fine and saute them in a tablespoon of oil heated up in the pan until they soften. Then grate the garlic and add it, the ginger, and the saffron to the pot.

 I went to four stores looking for saffron--though actually all but one had saffron. I just couldn't spend 18$ on a bottle, so I kept looking. I ended up spending 10$, but it was the cheapest I could find. And that 10$ buys this teeny little baggy, so small! It does give a nice yellow color and an indescribable flavor that apparently can't be duplicated. The chicken goes on top of the onions and is generously seasoned with salt and pepper. Then about a cup and a half of water is added and the pot simmers for 15 minutes covered. I turned the chicken once and checked to add some more water if it dries out. At this point I remembered the harissa and added it--though it should have gone in at the beginning.

While that simmers away, I got out the preserved lemons, and the rest of the add ins. While I made the lemons for this dish, I've already used them, and may actually make another jar before citrus season is over. They are just that good--I could eat them plain, on veggies, with eggs, with fish. I thinly sliced them, rough chopped the olives (I prefer a little of the olives through out), chopped the parsley and cilantro, and juiced the lemon.

After 15 minutes simmering, I pulled out the chicken breast and let the thighs cook for another 25 minutes. At that point, I added in the artichoke and the fresh herbs, olives, preserved lemon and lemon juice and returned the breast to the pan. That cooked for another 15 minutes--I did take out the chicken and let the sauce reduce some more.

I served it with a cucumber yogurt salad and a spinach preserved lemon salad, and a little bread.

 The Verdict: Lemony, savory, salty goodness--this has just a hint of heat and is not the flavor profile I would have thought from my last tagine. I love the onions and artichokes, the tender thighs, and the sweet salty bite of the lemon. The breasts were a bit over cooked--in the future I would just do thighs or just breasts--though I think the ability to cook the darker meat longer helps develop the flavors. It went really well with the spinach and just a crust or two of fresh bread.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Moroccan Fruit Salad

According to Claudia Roden's Arabesque, a typical dessert to go after a hearty Moroccan meal is a light orange salad. I would love to say that I followed her recipe exactly to get the full experience, but the recipe in the book is so simple that my lack of orange flower extract left me with just sliced orange. So I experimented and added some things that I think stay true to the original concept and flavor profiles. This is a great winter dessert for when the stores are overflowing with all kinds of citrus!


2-3 oranges
2-3 tangelos
4-5 clementines
1 pomegranente
lemon zest
almond extract

This is a super simple dish--but has an interesting flavor profile that transports you across the world! Peal and chop the citrus, taking off as much of the pith as possible. If you want to be fancy, you can cut it out in segments, getting all the pith out. For the larger fruit I cut off the peal and then sliced and tore the pieces apart. As I slice them I put them in a bowl, trying to collect the juice as well. Next get the pomegranate seeds out of the fruit--there are probably better techniques, but I just cut it in half and used my hands to get the seeds out. They get tossed in with the citrus as well.

I drained some of the juice into a small bowl and added a dash of cinnamon, a small grate of an allspice berry, a drop of almond extract, and a quick zest of lemon. You can also whisk in some powdered sugar if your citrus isn't sweet. That is tossed over the citrus and the salad is chilled.

The Verdict: The warm seasonings with the cool citrus, and the crunch of pomegranate really elevate this fruit salad. Plus healthier than the almond cookies I'd thought to make. Use whatever citrus you can find in the store, different kinds mixed together make a nice contrast!

Two Moroccan Side Salads

Since I didn't want to go with couscous for my tagine, I decided to make a couple of salads to go with my chicken. One is a traditional cucumber yogurt dish made all over the Mediterranean; the other is a spinach and preserved lemon delight from the chapter on Morocco in my cookbook.

Cucumber Salad:

2 large cucumbers
Greek Yogurt
dried mint

Peel and chop the cucumber into half moon shapes, then lightly salt them and let some of the liquid drain. Then mix about 2/3 c of yogurt with 3/4 tsp mint, two cloves of garlic grated, and a dash of lemon zest.

Dry off the cucumbers, and add them to the yogurt mixture. Refrigerate if not serving right away. You may want to add a little salt.

Verdict: A good accompaniment to any hearty or spicy dish. Can be made with dill as well for a more Greek flavor.

Spinach Salad with Preserved Lemon and Olives

2 lbs fresh Spinach
3 cloves of garlic
1/4 c chopped olives
preserved lemon chopped

The recipe calls for the fresh stuff, but I want to try with frozen because it is cheaper and doesn't take so long! Anyway--the spinach is wilted in a giant pot, then it is well drained and dried. Then in the same pot, I sauteed the garlic with cooking spray. Once that had some color, the spinach is returned to the pan with the garlic, the chopped olives and preserved lemons. That is cooked for about a minute or so. It can be served hot or cold.

 The Verdict: This is unbelievably good--I would eat it alone all day. In fact the original recipe says this serves 8, but in realty this one pot could serve just me on one plate. It goes really well with the chicken tagine.

Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread

So I own one book on baking bread, but checked out two others from the library to explore other methods besides the long rise one. Kneadlessly Simple is the one I own, and I've baked from Artisan Bread Every Day from the library. Now I'm trying my hand at the Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day method. This is actually my second attempt at this recipe. The first was foiled by incorrect storage and inattention in the fridge. While this is my fourth batch of bread since I started baking, it is actually my very first attempt at making a sandwich loaf. All of the other bread I've baked has been in rustic crusty loaves, which is ironic because I actually prefer softer sandwich style bread. I just didn't have a loaf pan--until now!


3 c lukewarm water
1 1/2 tbs granulated yeast
1 tbs plus 1 tsp kosher salt
1/4 c Honey
1/4 c unsalted butter, melted
1/4 c rye flour
1/2 c oat bran
2 3/4 c whole wheat bread flour
2 3/4 c bread flour
cooking spray

This recipe makes enough for 3 loaves of bread, so you really need to start with a large bowl. And the bowl needs to have a non-airtight lid. I used my largest lidded bowl, and it was not quite large enough. Like all of the non-knead methods of bread baking I've tried, this is pretty simple. Lukewarm water, yeast, honey, and the melted butter are mixed together, and then the dry ingredients are added and stirred just until all the flour is incorporated. It is a pretty wet dough, so pretty easy to stir together with just a spoon. No need to get out a mixer or anything fancy.

Next the dough is set out for 2 hours until it rises and collapses--my dough reached the top of the bowl and met the lid and could go no further. Though that was a pretty impressive rise! Once this is done, supposedly the dough can go in the fridge to be portioned out and baked over the next five days. This is where I messed up the first time--the dough is supposed to be covered, but not airtight, and it got a really unpleasant crust on the top of the dough before I could bake it so I threw the first batch out.

For this second round, I made a loaf right away after this first rise. I cut off about a third of the dough and stretched the surface around to make a loaf shape and then set it in a greased loaf pan to rest and rise some more for about 45 minutes. The directions say that once the dough is refrigerated it will need an hour and forty minutes or so to rise.
It did increase in size during the second rise, but not as much as I would have hoped. It is kind of a small loaf.

I put it in the oven that had been preheated to 400 degrees, with a sheet pan underneath. A cup of hot water goes into the sheet pan and it is supposed to bake for about 50 minutes. I did not like how dark it was getting when I checked on it at 35 minutes, but baked it for another 10 minutes and then pulled it. I think the steam was unnecessary, as I like a soft crust, and I think that is what gave it the dark top.

The Verdict: I didn't expect to be impressed by this loaf, but now it is pretty much all I want to eat. It is SO good, an amazing texture, a complicated flavor that isn't too bitter or boring. As I've said, I could live off of bread alone, and this is probably the one I'd choose from the bread I've made so far. It slices nicely, and is good plain, with my eggs, or even as a sandwich!

Friday, April 25, 2014

Naughty Sarah's Salmon in Phyllo

Top shelf is books I've cooked from so far.
So yesterday was epic--EPIC, as in I chased after the police to get them to come back to handle a second issue requiring police intervention (also required an ambulance and for some reason a fire truck). Today on my day off, I treated myself to a bit of  shopping spree, going a little crazy at the thrift store and then at the grocery store. I once again failed to buy the clothes I need--but I have some new (and used) cookware, lots of fabulous ingredients, and the one guilty indulgence a whole stack of new cookbooks. Yes, I still haven't made it half way through the ones I have, no I have not even made all the recipes I want from the ones I have, but cheap cookbooks! Retro cookbooks! Healthy cooking cookbooks! Local cookbooks! I went a little crazy--but to make up for it, I came right home and looked through them and found a recipe that I actually had everything for in my house, and made it for dinner. I was going to have leftovers, but this was actually really easy and so delicious and fancy looking. Perfect for a party or a post shopping spree dinner!


3 Salmon Filets (4oz each)
1/2 lbs asparagus
4 oz brown button mushrooms
2 oz Greek yogurt cream cheese
1 tbs egg substitute
1/2 tsp capers chopped
1 tbs chopped onion
quarter of preserved lemon
1/2 tsp Greek seasoning
garlic powder
salt and pepper
red pepper flakes
6 sheets of phyllo dough 
cooking spray

I'm still kind of surprised I had all of these ingredients to make this with no planning ahead--but I've had phyllo dough defrosted in my fridge waiting to be used, and I'd bought some salmon on sale and frozen it. It is entering asparagus season and I couldn't walk past it at 1.28 a pound!

Anyway, assuming your salmon and phyllo is defrosted this comes together really fast. The recipe calls for parboiling the asparagus, but I prefer mine roasted. I put mine with the sliced mushrooms under the broiler, tossed with some very finely diced preserved lemon, some extra seasonings, and let that cook for about 3 minutes--though I like it pretty crispy, and mine was super tender young asparagus.

While that cooked, I mixed the cream cheese with the egg substitute, the chopped capers, onions, seasonings, and preserved lemons. Both the capers and lemon are pretty salty--even after I rinsed the lemon off, so I did not add any extra salt. This becomes a nice paste that brings together the rest of the dish.

Next is assembly time! On a baking sheet, lay out a layer of phyllo dough and spray with the cooking spray and then lay another. Spoon a third of the cream cheese mixture over the bottom, then lay a bunch of the asparagus on top of the cheese, and some mushrooms. On top of that goes the salmon filet, flesh side down. I did generously salt and pepper it and spread a little left over cheese mix on it. Fold the phyllo dough up over the salmon and carefully roll it up towards the top, making a little bundle. I tucked in the ends, though the original recipe says to trim off the ends.

These delightful packages are sprayed with the cooking spray and go in a preheated 400degree oven for 15-20 minutes until they are golden brown. It really depends on how thick your fillets are how long you want to cook it.

The Verdict: I have had a lot of salmon a lot of ways, and this has moved to the top of the list as one of my favorites. I love that there is no need for an extra carb, this one package was enough for my whole meal. The creamy cheese with the bite of lemon and capers, the crispy phyllo, the crunchy asparagus, it is a spring time meal fancy enough for company, but easy enough for an everyday dinner! My one caveat is that it is a little tricky to eat--since it is all together you need to cut it up to get a bit of everything in each bite. I might in future chop the asparagus into bite sized pieces before it goes on the cheese. But go forth and try this wonderful portion controlled salmon dish--you could add your own seasonings to the cream cheese to make this your very own! EDIT: I reheated the leftovers in a hot pan and it re-crisped the phyllo and actually made it even easier to eat.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Garlic Parmesan Pot Boile

So after the success of my first bread baking experiments, I wanted to make some when my family said they were having dinner. They always like bread--so while the menu wasn't set I planned to take a garlic Parmesan pot boile. Typically for me the second time I made stupid mistakes, demonstrating my need to follow directions ALWAYS, but especially when baking.

1 head garlic
1 tbs olive oil
1/4 c grated fresh Parmesan, plus extra for garnish
15 oz bread flour
5 oz whole wheat bread flour
2 tsp table salt
1 1/4 tsp instant fast rising yeast
2 c plus 2 tbs ice water

This is pretty similar to my first loaf of bread I made from this Kneadlessly Simple Book, with some added extras to make it more of a dinner bread. Before I could even get started on the bread, I needed to roast the garlic and grate the Parmesan. I usually do multiple heads at once because they are so delicious and go in so many dishes! The book's directions calls for using more oil and a custard cup than I usually use--I just cut off the tips, spray with cooking oil, and wrap in foil. The packets go in a preheated 350 degree oven for about 40 minutes. It is important that they cool down ALL the way before you put them with the Parmesan or it will create a greasy mess. I may have learned this the hard way. Once it is all cooled, take the garlic out of the skins and mash them really well with a fork to form a paste. Then add it to the grated Parmesan. This can be done in advance.

So in a big bowl whisk together all of the flours, salt, and yeast. Then in a measuring cup I mixed the water and the garlic mixture really well, and then added it to the dry ingredients. It takes a bit of stirring to combine, and you want to make sure you get all the garlic and cheese mixed through.  Once the dough is together, spray the top with cooking spray (olive oil would be nice). I stuck it in the fridge for about 6 hours, though as much as 10 hours. Then the dough raises in a cool space for between 12-18--I set it out around 9 or 10 before bed.

After the first rise, the dough is gently deflated with a rubber spatula and allowed to rise again for another 2 1/2 hours in a warm place. The real advantage to doing the first rise at night and the second in the day is that my apartment is normally cooler at night and warmer in the day--so it can actually stay in the same place.

Here's the part I messed up--the dutch oven goes into the oven and it all preheats to 450 in the last 20 minutes before the end of the final rise. Then the dough is gently turned out into the screaming hot pan, a little water is drizzled on top, and the remaining Parmesan is sprinkled on top. The lid goes on the pot and it gets shaken to settle the dough. Then (and this is the part I forgot) the oven is turned down to 425 degrees, the pot is returned to the oven, and it bakes for 45-50 minutes. I didn't turn down the heat, so it baked for the first 45 minutes at 450. At this point, the lid can come off if the bread hasn't browned--either way it cooks for another 10-15 minutes until it is done.

Verdict: It is a bit hard to see, but it got a little over browned, the crust was extra crusty. The garlic flavor was super strong, not as much the Parmesan. I thought it was good, though I think that the pesto version might balance out the garlic. Also we ended up eating it with a dinner of quesidillas and quinoa, which was strange. But my sisters nibbled away at the bread, and said they thought it was delicious. Even my picky niece ate a bunch of the soft garlicy center.

Monday, April 21, 2014

A Pot Pie by Any Other Name...

So I started off with a plan--lots of veggies, chicken, a savory sauce, a nice top layer of crust. I even had two different recipes marked to follow, but as is typical, I wandered off and made something pretty unrecognizable to the makers of the recipe. The one really appealing factor in this recipe is that while I ate it all week long (it made enough for 11 lunches/dinners, and I added veggies to my eggs a couple of breakfasts as well), there was quite a bit of variation in what was on my plate. A versatile base, with lots of ways to build off of it. Take this as a model and build your own!



1 small acorn squash
8 oz baby bella mushrooms
1 red pepper
1 red onion
2 bunches asparagus
4 small carrots
4 stalks celery
1 large head cauliflower
2 small bunches broccoli
4 small red skinned potatoes 
1 clove roasted garlic


2 chicken thighs
2 chicken breasts


chicken broth
1 tbs butter
1 tbs olive oil
3 tbs flour
1 1/2 tsp thyme
1 tsp ground mustard
1 tbs spicy brown mustard
dash cayenne pepper
Salt and Pepper to taste

The first step is epic amounts of chopping--each vegetable needs to be diced pretty small, so it will be small in the pie. I had pre-roasted the squash and cooled and peeled it. Once that was prepped, I heated the butter in the pan and added the butter and oil to make a roux. That cooked until nice and golden, and I whisked in the broth and the seasonings and let thicken. Then I added the longer cooking veggies--the carrots, potatoes, onions, celery, peppers, mushrooms, cauliflower. The chicken was chopped and added along with some more broth (I shouldn't have added as much as I did, next time I'd go easier on it.) This cooked down until the chicken lost that pinkness, and I added the broccoli, asparagus, and squash. This continued until the chicken was fully cooked, and the veggies had a little bite.

I divided the mixture into individual oven proof dishes (a new purchase that I LOVE--got them BOGO in a 6 oz and 12 oz sizes) After I'd split them up, I changed my mind and ended up just cooking 4 pies the first day and baking off 3-4 at a time through the week. The rest of the filling went into the fridge.

I used 4 completely different toppings for my top only pies--phyllo dough sheets, cauliflower mash, yogurt biscuits, and cornbread stuffing. The most successful, in my opinion, for eating over the week were the ones topped with the mash and the stuffing. Each baked for 15-20 minutes until the tops were done.

The Verdict: This is a comfort food classic for a reason--it is warm and satisfying. The variety of veggies provide a nice contrast of textures and flavors, and it allowed me to give into my desire to experiment whole heartedly. I love that I can eat a huge bowl of veggies, and have room for a biscuit or stuffing!

Friday, April 18, 2014

Citrus Chiffon Cake

Recently I was watching an episode of MasterChef New Zealand online--I have never even been there, but I enjoy cooking shows from all over the world. Anyways, they had a sponge cake challenge, a tricky combination of whipped egg whites folded into an egg yolk batter, cooked up high and fluffy. This is not a super common cake in the United States, where I tend to see more butter cakes with whole eggs used. My sister invited me to a family dinner and I decided I would try my hand at a version of this sponge cake. I found a lovely recipe for a chiffon cake--with lemon and orange zest for only about 215 calories a piece.  The chiffon cake is a sponge cake with huge whipped egg whites, usually made in a tube pan like n angel food cake. I do not have such a pan--but I do have a silicone bundt mold.

2 1/4 c cake flour
1 1/2 c sugar
1 tbs baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/4 c lemon juice
1/4 c orange juice
1/4 c cold water
1/2 c vegetable oil
5 large eggs and 2 extra egg whites
1 tbs orange zest
1 tsp lemon zest
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
First step is to separate the eggs--doing this when the eggs are cold is best, but the eggs need to be room temperature to mix up the batter. So do this well in advance of cooking. I saved the two extra yolks for another application. While those came to room temperature, I zested the lemon and orange--I used Meyer lemons because I really like the sweeter taste, and WalMart has bags of them for 2$. Then I juiced them--it actually took 1 1/2 of each to get the amount of juice I needed.

Once the eggs were room temperature I whisked together the dry ingredients, including most of the sugar. I didn't read that clearly and had to take some out. 1 cup of sugar added at this point, with a half cup reserved for the egg whites. The juice, egg yolks, zest and oil are supposed to be added at this point. Originally I had forgotten the oil and not put the extra water in (the recipe says to sub the 1/2 cup juice for the 3/4 c water) and it had looked super dry. So I added 1/4 c cold water, and then finally the oil when I remembered--glad I remembered before it was too late! I whipped it until it was nice and smooth.

The next step is the trickiest. I actually borrowed a bowl for it--my one glass bowl was in the fridge with bread dough in it. I made sure the beaters and bowl were clean and residue free. The room temperature egg whites and the cream of tartar went into the metal bowl and were beat until soft peaks form. I really thought I'd over beaten them, but added the sugar and kept beating until stiff peaks formed and it was glossy with the sugar dissolved.  A third of the egg whites are added to the yolk batter and folded ever so gently to combine. Then the rest is slowly folded in with a rubber spatula, being careful not to deflate the eggs.

The batter is poured into a bundt pan that was carefully cleaned of residue. It was a lot of batter for the pan, so I put some in cupcake molds as well. The pans bake in a preheated 325 degree oven. The cupcakes baked for 30 minutes, and the cake for about an hour and 15. I did put a tent of tinfoil over the top in the last half hour as it had started to get dark. I had baked them on a sheet pan as I wasn't sure of the stability of the silicone bundt on the rack, which I think resulted in a lighter cook on one side and darker on the other.

The cupcakes came out and cooled upside down. The silicone pan made it very tricky to balance the cake upside down. While the cake stuck nicely to the pan, the silicone tried to slip down the bottle and listed to one side or the other. I did rig up some cookbooks to hold it upright so I didn't have to stand and hold it.

A bit of the cake didn't come out of the mold right, but it was mostly in one piece. I made some raspberry-lemon and blueberry-lemon sauce to serve with it and some lemon or mango sorbet.

The Verdict: This is a delicious light and fluffy cake that isn't too sweet, with a hint of the tart lemon and orange. The texture was so airy, moist, but not too fragile. The sauce really helps the cake, adding that contrast of flavors and textures. Next time I try a chiffon cake I will use a different cake pan, but I do think I will try this again. My family said it was yummy and moist and cleared their plates.