Habeas Brulee » Grains http://habeasbrulee.com Sun, 17 Mar 2013 03:04:28 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8.21 Cranberry Pecan Stuffing http://habeasbrulee.com/2008/12/27/cranberry-pecan-stuffing/ http://habeasbrulee.com/2008/12/27/cranberry-pecan-stuffing/#comments Sat, 27 Dec 2008 05:01:18 +0000 http://habeasbrulee.com/2008/12/27/cranberry-pecan-stuffing/

I know, I know, Alton Brown says you should always make your stuffing separately, not actually stuff your bird with it. But we made this stuffing when friends from out of town were visiting, and it was splendid stuffed right into the duck we roasted for dinner one night.

I’ve had a cold for the past few weeks, and Dave is just starting to come down with the same thing now. We spent part of the holidays visiting his family down in Philly, and head home tomorrow. I’m ready for some easy comfort food like this, to help us limp through New Year’s and towards better health together. Have to build up my strength – I have at least one trial on in January, and more to come. Life, it is still not boring.

While I’m on a total tangent, let me ramble a bit about the latest turn my practice has taken. I feel like an old country doctor lately. I’ve been doing house calls and hospital visits to execute powers of attorney and wills and such for elderly patients who simply can’t make it out to my office on their own. It’s very satisfying – I like to pretend that I’m traveling old country roads instead of the NYC subway system, that I’m visiting in the dead of night in the middle of a storm instead of in early afternoon during a light flurry of snow and sleet and rain. It’s a small part of what I do lately, but it has a sort of fun that I just don’t find anywhere else.

As soon as I turned 18, my Dad started taking me to visit his elderly clients at home and in hospitals to witness will signings. It’s weirdly one of the real cozy pleasures of the business, being able to do that.

It’s on my mind this month, since I did a few earlier in the month, and over the holidays and bouts of sneezing, coziness and home are very much on my mind. I always have to resist the urge to bring along gifts of homemade cookies when I head out for these signings. Probably inappropriate, under the circumstances. But it’s all tied together in my head.

It’s like feeding people. A way of reaching out to take care of each other.

It’s a grand life.

Happy new year, in case I don’t have a chance to post again this week! May your 2009 contain joy, health, and interesting times in only the very best of ways.


Cranberry Pecan Stuffing
1/2 C wild rice
1/2 C dried cranberries
1 shallot, finely chopped
leaves from 3 sprigs rosemary, chopped
leaves from 1 sprig thyme
1/4 C pecans, coarsely chopped
Olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Cook the wild rice in salted water and some duck stock, if you have it. This should take 20 minutes in a pressure cooker at a high pressure, or you can cook it on the stove for longer. When the rice is done, set it aside to finish up the rest.

Gently saute the shallot, rosemary, thyme, and pecans in olive oil for about ten minutes. Towards the end, stir in the dried cranberries, and finally, stir in the rice.

You can use this stuffing to actually stuff a duck or other fowl before roasting, or serve it separately as a side dish on its own.

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Creamy Kimchi Grits with Shredded Brussel Sprouts, Shrimp, and Pork/Beer Sauce http://habeasbrulee.com/2008/03/31/creamy-kimchi-grits-with-shredded-brussel-sprouts-shrimp-and-porkbeer-sauce/ http://habeasbrulee.com/2008/03/31/creamy-kimchi-grits-with-shredded-brussel-sprouts-shrimp-and-porkbeer-sauce/#comments Mon, 31 Mar 2008 18:00:52 +0000 http://habeasbrulee.com/2008/03/31/creamy-kimchi-grits-with-shredded-brussel-sprouts-shrimp-and-porkbeer-sauce/

When Aki and Alex posted about making kimchi broth, I was inspired. It seemed like the perfect excuse to finally make some grits, which I’ve been meaning to do and yet not getting around to for a long time.

These grits are spicy, brilliantly flavored, creamy, meaty from the pork stock, and just an all-around success. I love them to bits, really. The shredded brussel sprouts are crispy, satisfying, and also meaty from bacon grease. And who could complain about shrimp with pork and kimchi? (Only my mother, and she only keeps kosher on the high holy days as is.)

I actually made this a few weeks ago, when Dave was sick with some sort of food poisoning or stomach bug that laid him low for two weeks. Despite his stomach cramps and general misery, he wanted to go back for second helpings. If that’s not a great endorsement, I don’t know what is.

2007: Raspberry Pomegranate Urfa-Biber Brownies
2006: Carrot Cake

Creamy Kimchi Grits
1/2 C coarse stone-ground cornmeal
1/2 C pork stock
1 1/2 C kimchi broth (puree 2 C kimchi with 1 C water, strain through fine mesh or cheesecloth)
1 1/2 tsp butter
1/2 C heavy cream

Boil the pork stock and 1/2 C kimchi broth. Add butter. When the butter melts, stir in the cornmeal and lower the heat. Simmer 10 min. Stir in heavy cream and simmer another 10 min. Stir in 1/2 C kimchi broth, simmer another 5-10 minutes, stir in another 1/2 C kimchi broth, simmer another 5-10 minutes until desired consistency is achieved.

Shredded Brussel Sprouts

Shred some brussel sprouts. Stir-fry in half safflower oil, half bacon grease, with salt and pepper.


Stir-fry some shrimp (shells removed, deveined) in safflower oil, salt and pepper. Add some pork stock when they are halfway done. Then remove the shrimp from the pan and leave the stock.

Pork/Beer Sauce

Add a bit of beer to the pork stock. Boil it down some. Finish with butter.

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Forbidden Rice with Persimmon and Coconut http://habeasbrulee.com/2007/12/02/forbidden-rice-with-persimmon-and-coconut/ http://habeasbrulee.com/2007/12/02/forbidden-rice-with-persimmon-and-coconut/#comments Sun, 02 Dec 2007 15:31:28 +0000 http://habeasbrulee.com/2007/12/02/forbidden-rice-with-persimmon-and-coconut/

Before I explain this dish, I just want to announce that the 2007 Food Blog Awards are now open for nominations. You can nominate your favorite food blogs in various different categories here. Hurry up, because nominations end in just a few days, on Wednesday, December 5th!

Because I am proud of my work, I just might suggest that you nominate my humble blog for food blog of the year, best food blog – writing, or best food blog – photography.

And if I were completely shameless, I would specifically recommend nominating my Kitchenaid Upgrade post, my Cucumber Salad in Two Grandmotherly Styles post, my Beginning Charcuterie: Bacon post, my Apples Doused in Cardamom Wine post, or any other particular post that you like for best food blog – post. And I am completely shameless! It is one of the necessary virtues of being a trial lawyer. There is absolutely no way to get up in front of a jury unless you are willing to embarrass yourself for the sake of your client.

That said, please don’t forget to also nominate the other amazing food blogs out there that are completely worthy of your praise and attention. I’ve already done that part myself.

Enough about contests; let’s talk about the food!

This is another dish inspired by The Orphan’s Tales: In the Cities of Coin and Spice by Catherynne M. Valente. In her layered maze of story within story, I found persimmons and coconuts to play with.

The Basilisk lived in “his little courtyard full of persimmons and coconuts”, in the spice city of Ajanabh. A girl who was somehow safe from his gaze, who refused to turn to stone, befriended him and visited him often. She cared for him, hurt and alone, after his tongue was torn out by the companions of a dead Star, who needed it to tell their tale the only way they could.

Another girl, who looked just like his friend, came to visit one day, and the Basilisk was surprised and dismayed when she turned to stone before his eyes.

“Holding his grief before him like a lamp, the Basilisk left the city of Ajanabh. And holding his rage before him like a pike, he stared hard at everything he passed: fence-posts, stables, windmills. Basil-fronds. Garlic-patches. Red-pepper fields and black-pepper fields, the green peppers and the pink, and the cinnamon-groves, and the coriander-fields, and the saffron-fields, and the cumin-farms, the salt flats with their crystals like hard, cutting snow, the mustard-plants, the paprika-bushes, and the vanilla beans, thin and dark on the vine. “

After the Basilisk left, I like to think that his friend remained, and that she gathered persimmons and coconuts from the courtyard where she used to visit him. I like to think that she brought them home to to make desserts like this Forbidden Rice with Persimmon and Coconut to eat in remembrance of the Basilisk.

Forbidden rice is a purplish black rice, supposedly called that because in ancient China it was forbidden to be eaten by anyone other than the Emperor. I don’t know if the tale is true, but since this is a dessert grown from a story to begin with, another story should fit in just fine. And more importantly, forbidden rice is a very tasty indeed.

This is my second entry to my food blog event ending on December 17th, A Recipe From the Crease of My Right Eye. Better hurry up and get your entries in soon! Remember, there is a prize at the end for the winning entry!

And while I’m at it, I am submitting this entry to Novel Food as well.

Forbidden Rice with Persimmon and Coconut
1 C forbidden rice
2 C water
2 tbsp sugar
1 14 oz. can coconut milk
1 tsp cardamom
Salt to taste
Fuyu persimmons

Cook the rice with 1 tbsp sugar and salt to taste, until tender.

Simmer the coconut milk with the remaining 1 tbsp sugar, cardamom, and salt to taste. Stir it into the rice.

Peel and dice your persimmons. Serve with the rice.

If you like, serve with dried persimmons slices. These are made by slicing fuyu persimmons thin on a mandoline, laying them out on a baking sheet, and cooking them in a low oven (about 140 F) for a few hours, flipping them occasionally.

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Horchata, and a Deadline Extension for the Garlic Event http://habeasbrulee.com/2007/10/08/horchata-and-a-deadline-extension-for-the-garlic-event/ http://habeasbrulee.com/2007/10/08/horchata-and-a-deadline-extension-for-the-garlic-event/#comments Tue, 09 Oct 2007 00:24:38 +0000 http://habeasbrulee.com/2007/10/08/horchata-and-a-deadline-extension-for-the-garlic-event/

Many of you are probably familiar with the horchata you can buy at Burritoville, a pale, dairy imitation of the real thing made with fat-free milk, rice powder, cinnamon, and sugar. It’s potable, but doesn’t even begin to compare with horchata made with actual rice and almonds, cinnamon and vanilla, with no milk in sight.

Horchata is a sweet, creamy beverage that I love to drink when eating spicy foods. When Dave first tried it at a nearby Oaxacan restaurant a few weeks ago, he went on a horchata-making binge. And y’know what? I am totally okay with this!

In other news, I’m extending the deadline for Yes, Of Course You Can Pair Garlic With That! a week until next Monday, October 15, 2007 – a lot of people wrote in and said that they’d just run out of time, and honestly, I’m too busy to post the round-up this week, anyway.

Please take advantage of this extra week to get me some more wonderfully creative garlic pairing recipes!

(adapted from Josh Friedland’s recipe, which was adapted from Gale Gand)
1 C basmati rice
2 C blanched, peeled almonds
4″ piece of cinnamon
5 C water
3/8 C sugar
2 vanilla beans

Grind the rice into a fine powder using a coffee grinder. Place the ground rice, almond, and cinnamon into a large bowl with 3 1/2 C water. Cut the vanilla beans in half the long way, scrape the seeds into the bowl, and then throw the beans in after them. Cover and leave overnight.

The next day, add the sugar and 1 1/2 C water. Puree everything in your blender, then strain. The best tool we’ve found for straining is a Thai tea sock, which is basically a fine cotton mesh on a metal ring with a handle. Serve chilled.

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Butternut Squash Risotto http://habeasbrulee.com/2007/01/13/butternut-squash-risotto/ http://habeasbrulee.com/2007/01/13/butternut-squash-risotto/#comments Sat, 13 Jan 2007 06:33:09 +0000 http://habeasbrulee.com/2007/01/13/butternut-squash-risotto/

Okay, this is probably the last post I’ll be making to clear out my old photos taken with my Canon PowerShot S400. (I want to post only better photos taken with my new 30D from now on.)

When we were visiting Dave’s mother, Barbara, she suggested that we make some butternut squash risotto, having been inspired when she saw my link to the Frankenstein’s Butternut Squash Risotto posted on Scrumptious Street a while back.

But we didn’t really have any computer access at her place, so we had to throw together our own recipe. It came out very different than I imagine Stephanie’s must have been, but also very delicious.

After we went home and made it again several days later, I knew I had to share the recipe with you.

If you are already familiar with making risotto, a few things about my recipe may jump out at you as, oh, wrong. Around here I prefer to call them different. My understanding is that in a traditional risotto, the onions are never browned, because the color would be inappropriate. But I think browned onions are tastier, the darker the better, so I do them that way. As you can see, they melted into the risotto and didn’t stand out as weird-looking anyways.

Also, most risotto recipes call for it to be finished with some sort of cheese. As Dave does not eat cheese, this step was edited out. I considered finishing it with cream instead, but the extra bit of stock at the end, along with that last bit of butter, really did the trick.

Butternut Squash Risotto
Approximately 5 C chicken stock
A splash of white wine
3 tbsp unsalted butter
1 tbsp olive oil
1/3 C finely minced onion
1 large shallot, finely minced
1 1/2 C arborio rice
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp finely minced fresh parsley
3/4 C roasted butternut squash puree
1 C butternut squash 1″ cubes, roasted
Salt and pepper to taste

Peel and seed the squash, then cut it into 1″ cubes, and roast it until it is dark and sweet. This seems to take a different amount of time every time I do it, so just check in on it once in a while and take it out when you’re happy with it. It can go a long time before it burns, so don’t worry too much. Keep 1 C of the cubes, and create 3/4 C puree.

Bring the stock to a simmer and keep it warm.

Melt 1 tbsp butter until it starts to sizzle, then add the onion and shallot and brown them nice and dark. Risotto recipes typically ask that you saute your onions until they are soft but not browned, but if you listen to me and brown them, you’ll add great depth of flavor. They end up melting into the risotto and don’t even stand out unappealingly, as you can see from the photo.

Once they are browned, add another 1 tbsp butter and 1 tbsp oil, along with some salt and black pepper to taste. When the butter has melted, add the rice, and stir to coat.

Add a splash of white wine and stir until it is absorbed.

Start adding the stock a ladleful at a time, stirring after each ladleful until it is absorbed before adding more. Once the rice reaches a texture you like (yes, taste it as you go!), turn off the heat. Stir in the squash, lemon juice, and parsley, then add another small ladleful of the stock. Finish the risotto by stirring in that last 1 tbsp butter.

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Truffled Gruyere Risotto http://habeasbrulee.com/2006/12/03/truffled-gruyere-risotto/ http://habeasbrulee.com/2006/12/03/truffled-gruyere-risotto/#comments Sun, 03 Dec 2006 18:51:58 +0000 http://habeasbrulee.com/2006/12/03/truffled-gruyere-risotto/

I know it’s past the deadline for Hey Hey It’s Donna Hay Day #8: Tempo di Risotto, run by Cenzina at il cavoletto di bruxelles, but nonetheless, this risotto was so tasty and such fun to make.

Truffle salt is my latest discovery.

Truffle salt is just a blend of ground dried truffles and sea salt, but it is like magic. You sprinkle it on food, and it makes things more delicious. Yes, it is as simple as that.

That is exactly why Dave thinks of it as cheating. It’s sort of like MSG, which adds umami to food, making it more delicious. The primary Japanese brand name for MSG, Ajinomoto, means “essence of taste.” He’s right; it does seem wrong to use white powder (or even truffle salt) as the essence of taste instead of crafting disparate ingredients together into a complex masterpiece. Of course, I do it anyway, because it’s just that good.

Dave thinks that adding a magic seasoning is cheating, because it is harder and somehow better to build flavor without having to rely on something as versatile and dramatically effective as truffle salt.

Still, you’ll note that he does not feel the same way about salt.

Truffled Gruyere Risotto
2 1/2 tbsp butter
1 onion, chopped finely
2 large shallots, chopped finely
1 clove garlic, chopped finely
1 C arborio rice
A splash of white wine
Approximately 4 C beef stock
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 C grated gruyere
1-2 pinches truffle salt

Set the stock to simmer and keep it there.

Melt 1 tbsp butter in a pan, and brown the onions in it. It helps to cover the pan and sweat the onions over medium-low heat for a bit first, so they end up meltingly tender. The remove the cover, raise the heat, and stir them occasionally as they brown. Once they reach a color you like, add another 1 tbsp butter and, after it melts, the shallots and garlic. Saute those a bit, then add the rice. Stir the rice so that each grain is covered in butter. Add just a splash of white wine, and stir until it is absorbed by the rice.

Add the simmering stock one ladleful at a time, stirring until the stock is absorbed each time before adding more. I happen to like my risotto so soft that the grains are barely distinguishable as discrete entities; if you like it more al dente, you will end up using less stock than I do.

When the rice has reached the texture you want, add the gruyere and stir it in as it melts. Remove the risotto from the heat and add one last 1/2 tbsp butter, then sprinkle on a pinch or two of truffle salt, and stir it all in.

Note: I like to add salt and black pepper repeatedly during the course of cooking, in small quantities each time. I find that that technique helps ensure that I add precisely the amount that I want, because I can adjust it very precisely as I taste the dish during each stage of cooking.

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Kabocha Beef Tagine with Chickpeas and Preserved Lemon http://habeasbrulee.com/2006/11/29/kabocha-beef-tagine-with-chickpeas-and-preserved-lemon/ http://habeasbrulee.com/2006/11/29/kabocha-beef-tagine-with-chickpeas-and-preserved-lemon/#comments Wed, 29 Nov 2006 16:12:36 +0000 http://habeasbrulee.com/2006/11/29/kabocha-beef-tagine-with-chickpeas-and-preserved-lemon/

The preparation for this dish must begin a month in advance, unless you already have a jar of preserved lemons lying around. The lemons are preserved in water and salt with a layer of oil on top, and for the first week you must shake the jar daily to redistribute the salt. After that, the lemons sit and cure. They must cure for at least a month before you can use them.

Under the cut, I have included instructions for preserving lemons and steaming couscous.

This is slow food. The long wait for the lemons to cure, and all the anticipation as you check in on them and tilt the jar to watch the increasingly viscous fluid flow. The soaking of the chickpeas overnight. The time taken to cut the meat and kabocha squash into chunks of equal size, and to grate the onions. The long, low simmering of the tagine. The rinsing of the couscous and the time for it to soak, followed by two or three steamings with additions of cold water and oil as you rub the lumps between your fingers to break them up. This is not the thing to make if you are in a rush, or not in a position to plan in advance.


All right, I confess: The kabocha squash was a last-minute thought, because we happened to have one lying around. You can use canned chickpeas instead of soaking dried ones overnight, and it will be fine. You should set up a jar of preserved lemons right now in any case, because you will think of something to do with them once they’re ready to be used. (For example, they’re brilliant when finely chopped and slipped under the skin of a chicken along with some garlic and parsley before you put it in to roast.) The tagine does take a few hours to simmer, but if you’re willing to eat late, you can get it started when you get home from work without a problem. A good vegetable cleaver makes the chopping go quickly, and costs less than $10 in Chinatown. Steaming couscous is a meditative, enjoyable task, and only requires a few minutes of attention in between steamings, with plenty of down-time where you needn’t worry about it at all.

It’s nice to think that we take the time to do things right, the slow way, the old way. It is also nice to think that we have time for activities other than work and cooking.

It can be frustrating to think about slow cooking when we lead such busy lives. My friends here and I are all typical overscheduled New Yorkers. Getting together requires taking out our calendars and planning weeks, if not months (and often, yes, it has to be months) in advance. Many of us work long hours, and when I get home from work, I’ve started to take on pro bono cases that fill my evenings. We take classes, go to events, spend time with our families and friends, and there is very little left for us.

It is strange to realize that my time is so much more valuable than it used to be. (This thought occurred to me as I was taking my time to sort cocoa nibs out from among bits of husk the other day, and realizing that I would rather spend a little more for pre-sorted, pre-roasted nibs in the future.) In school, I grew used to thinking of myself as having a lot of time, and very little money. Now, I have very little time, and a little more money, if not much. I have learned that sometimes I am willing to spend money in order to save time. A few years ago, I would never have considered that a reasonable exchange.

Still, we make it work. While tagines simmer, we work on other projects. When we go out, we make quick meals, and I can admit to having a penchant for frozen pelmeni. Dave and I try to set aside a weekend to ourselves once a month or so, where we slowly simmer stock for hours to freeze for later use, and cherish the time we have together without any other obligations as the stock cooks. We have to be fairly vigilant, or those weekends slip away too easily; there is always a last-minute invitation to an event we’d love to attend that weekend, and it is hard to turn those things down. But it is important to us to have that time together, so we do.

We want to make it work without having to sacrifice anything. We want to work hard at our jobs, spend time with our friends, work on many and varied projects, learn all there is to learn about the things that interest us, have time alone and time alone together, read constantly, and cook the sort of food that can’t come together in half an hour.

How do you make it work?

Kabocha Beef Tagine with Chickpeas and Preserved Lemon
(Adapted from Paula Wolfert’s basic beef tagine recipe.)
2 lbs. beef stew meat, cut into 1 1/4″ chunks
1 small Kabocha squash (the smallest you can find), peeled and cut into 1 1/4″ chunks
1/4 tsp turmeric
1/4 C vegetable oil
1 1/2 tsp csípős (hot) paprika
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cumin
1 pinch cayenne
2 onions, grated
1/8 C chopped cilantro
1/8 C chopped parsley
2 1/2 C soaked and peeled chickpeas (a/k/a garbanzo beans)
1 preserved lemon
salt and black pepper to taste

One month in advance.

Set up a jar of preserved lemons.

Get a jar, a carton of kosher salt, and a lot of lemons. Organic, thin-skinned lemons are better than regular lemons, and Meyer lemons are better still.

Pour about a tablespoon of salt in the bottom of the jar. Quarter each lemon the long way, making sure the cuts stop about 1/2″ from the stem end of the lemon, leaving the quarters still attached. Pack the cuts with plenty kosher salt, at least a tablespoon per lemon. Press the lemons firmly into the jar, pushing them down as much as you can. You only use the skin when cooking anyway, and you want to squeeze the juice out so that it will cover the lemons. If you like, you can still more salt in between layers of lemons. Fill the jar as tightly as you can. Add another tablespoon salt on top. Pour some olive oil on top to keep out the air.

If some lemons are still sticking out at this point, it is okay. Over the next few days the lemons will release more of their juice and settle down further. Shake the jar once a day for the first week to help distribute the salt. If after a few days all the lemons are not actually covered with juice, add more freshly squeezed lemon juice and/or weigh down the lemons with a non-reactive object such as a clay or glass weight or a ziplock bag full of water.

It is important that you not stick your fingers into the jar after you’ve finished filling it up. That may introduce bacteria to make it go bad. Paula Wolfert says that if the lemons go bad, they will smell like furniture polish, and otherwise they are fine.

Let the lemons cure for at least a month. You’ll notice that the liquid gets thicker and the lemons more translucent as the lactic acid fermentation takes place and the pith begins to dissolve in the brine.

Once you open it up again, keep the jar in the fridge from then on. They probably don’t do that in Morocco, but I do, just in case.

When you use the lemons, you peel out the pith and flesh and throw them away. It is astonishing how easily they part from the skin. Then you rinse the skin well to remove the oil and brine, and you can use it in many dishes.

One day in advance.

Soak dried chickpeas overnight. If you are using canned chickpeas, skip this step.

Starting the tagine.

Remember, a tagine must be heated slowly and cooled slowly. Never add anything cold to a hot tagine or hot to a cold tagine.

Put the oil, spices, grated onion, and herbs into the tagine and stir them into a homogenous paste. Add the chunks of kabocha and coat them in the paste, then remove them. Add the chunks of beef and coat them, then pile the beef in the center and bottom, and pile the kabocha chunks on top.Add very little water; when you check in on it, you want to always make sure it has just enough water to keep from burning, and no more.

Turn the heat on low under the tagine. Bring it up to a slow simmer. Simmer it for several hours, or until the beef is tender. Check in on it from to time, adding water if need be (which is very unlikely).

Prepare the chickpeas (if you are using dried ones)

If you are using dried chickpeas, boil them in lightly salted water until they are tender.

If you are using canned chickpeas, just drain and rinse them.

Rub the chickpeas to remove their skins, and set them aside until later on.

An hour (for two steamings) or hour and a half (for three steamings) before the tagine is done.

Rinse the couscous in a lot of water. Drain the water, and leave the damp couscous to absorb what remains for about ten minutes. Spend the next ten minutes raking through the couscous as it continues to dry, breaking up any lumps with your fingers.

Steam the couscous over broth or water for twenty minutes. I covered the steaming rack of my rice cooker with a paper towel and poured the couscous onto it. Leave the couscous uncovered as it steams.

Pour the couscous out into a deep baking pan or large bowl. I like to wear nitrile or latex gloves for this step to protect my hands from the heat. Cover your hands in olive oil and add cold water slowly, raking the couscous and breaking up any lumps with your fingers as you do so. The couscous expands more from the cold water it absorbs during the raking than it does from the steaming. The oil you are rubbing into the couscous helps keep the grains separated. Add enough cold water for the couscous to stay damp and absorb, but not so much that you soak it. For two cups of couscous, I probably added about a cup, cup and half cold water.

After about ten minutes of raking, return the couscous to the steamer. Steam twenty minutes, uncovered. Remove from the steamer and repeat the process above with the cold water and oil and raking. At this point, you can either serve the couscous or return it to the steamer for yet another twenty minutes of steaming followed by another addition of cold water. For store-bought couscous, two steamings is certainly adequate.

This process makes couscous that is fluffy, silky, and tender. It is entirely unlike couscous cooked in water according to the instructions on the package. Yes, this method takes some time, but most of it is spent ignoring the couscous as it steams, and it is worth the effort, at least for me, and at least once in a while.

Half an hour before the tagine is done.

Pull the pith and flesh from one preserved lemon and discard. Rinse the peel well. Chop the peel finely, leaving some long slices for garnish.

Note: The preserved lemon flavor becomes very strong after the leftovers spend a night in the fridge. If this worries you, use the peel from only half a preserved lemon instead, or invite enough people over to avoid having leftovers.

Stir the chickpeas and preserved lemon into the tagine, and let it continue to simmer until done.

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Dave’s Autumn Rice http://habeasbrulee.com/2006/10/29/daves-autumn-rice/ http://habeasbrulee.com/2006/10/29/daves-autumn-rice/#comments Sun, 29 Oct 2006 19:23:54 +0000 http://habeasbrulee.com/2006/10/29/daves-autumn-rice/

Originally I was not going to bother posting this recipe, because it is such a simple thing, and not all that much to look it. Never mind that it is delicious and addictive and goes unbelievably well with our favorite skirt steak for a quick and easy autumn dinner. Never mind that it is an orchestra of flavor, full of tomatoes, onions, saffron, cinnamon, sultanas, mustard oil, port, and more. But then Dave pointed out something very important.

“Anything I have to make again twice,” he said, “is worth posting about.”

Twice again within a week of the first time he made it, that is. At my request both times. He’s right, it’s probably best to save the recipe at this point.

This recipe calls for mustard oil, which you can find at most Indian groceries or high-end gourmet stores. I get mine at Kalustyan’s. It is often labeled with “For use in ethnic cooking” and with “For external use only,” both statements on the same jar. The reason for this is that mustard oil is high in erucic acid, which is believed to be carcinogenic. However, mustard oil imported from Australia has a much lower concentration of erucic acid, and is safe for use in cooking. This is what we use.

Mustard oil is a thrilling ingredient to play with, so if you can get your hands on some of the Australian stuff, give it a try. It has a pungent aroma and subtle flavor that tends to help bring dissonant tastes together into a coherent dish. It is a wonderful tool to have in your arsenal.

Dave’s Autumn Rice
1 C basmati rice
2 1/2 C chicken stock
1/8 C tawny port
3/4 tsp cinnamon
1 (big!) pinch saffron threads
1 tsp honey
1 tbsp tomato paste
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 C sultanas
1 onion, chopped and browned separately
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1 1/2 tsp mustard oil
3/4″ cube(ish) chunk ginger, grated

Put everything except the onion into your rice cooker and mix together, then set it to cook. When the rice is almost ready, stir in the onions.

That’s it.

If you want to make it somewhat richer, you can add 1/2 C water after the rice is entirely done, then spread it in a 9″x9″ or so baking pan and bake at 350º for 15 minutes.

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Mujaddara http://habeasbrulee.com/2006/07/24/mujaddara/ http://habeasbrulee.com/2006/07/24/mujaddara/#comments Mon, 24 Jul 2006 13:38:43 +0000 http://habeasbrulee.com/2006/07/24/mujaddara/

I was at Kalustyan’s the other day, looking through their spices, when I wandered up to the second floor to check out their tea selection. There is a small deli section up there, where they sell prepared foods, which I had never examined before. I glanced over, and the man behind the counter thrust a plastic spoon full of nondescript goop at me.

“You try this!” he insisted.

Who am I to argue? I put it in my mouth, and boy am I glad that I did. I tend towards a diet of meats and sweets, but this vegetarian mush was heavenly. So, I took Dave back there with me, when we were hungry and out shopping for more chipotle. We got a container of the mush and settled down at a table by the window with the carton and two plastic spoons.

An old man sitting between our table and the deli counter became very upset, seeing us like that. He tried to insist that we get a platter, a sandwich, something, not just eat it straight from the container. When we finally managed to convince him that this simple meal was all we wanted, he smiled. Dave asked the man if he had made the mush we were so happily devouring. Yes, he had, and he asked us if we wanted to know the recipe. Oh yes, indeed, please, thank you.

“Do not write it down,” he said, “just remember. Three, lentils. One, bulghur wheat. You put in salt and cover with water and cook like rice.”

“I don’t really know how to cook rice,” I admitted. I really don’t. That’s my weak spot. Luckily, Dave does. “He does, though. He’ll do this part.”

“You must know how to cook rice.”

“He can cook rice.”

“Okay, he will cook it. You cook it like you cook rice. Then, you pour on olive oil. Yes? And then onions.” Caramelized onions, obviously, and plenty of them. “He will cook, and you will eat. Sometimes only I cook, and my wife eats. But I never cook at home.” We laughed, and I assured him that I cook, too; I just rely on my rice steamer when I have to.

I was amazed. I asked him whether you add pepper, even, or any other spices, but he said no. It really is just this: three cups lentils, one cup bulghur wheat, salt, some caramelized onions (we used about two huge massive onions, and I want to use at least three and probably more next time), and some olive oil (quite a lot, really, and the taste of high-quality olive oil really shines through in so simple a dish as this). That is all it takes to make one of the most savory, satisfying vegetarian meals I have ever tasted.

According to the Torah, Esau sold his birthright as firstborn son to Jacob for a bowl of lentil soup (nizeed adasheem) when he returned hungry from the hunt. I have wondered all my life how stupid, how unbearably ravenous Esau must have been, to trade away his rights for something so unpalatable as lentil soup.

It turns out that some interpretations of the story are a little different – they say that Esau sold his birthright for a bowl of mujaddara (or mujadara, m’jadra, dargah, koshary, khichri, imdardarah, mojadara..). Now, that I can understand.

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