Habeas Brulee » Kitchen Staples http://habeasbrulee.com Sun, 17 Mar 2013 03:04:28 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8.21 Pickled Garlic Seeds http://habeasbrulee.com/2008/10/13/pickled-garlic-seeds/ http://habeasbrulee.com/2008/10/13/pickled-garlic-seeds/#comments Mon, 13 Oct 2008 20:42:23 +0000 http://habeasbrulee.com/2008/10/13/pickled-garlic-seeds/

After garlic scape season is over, garlic flowers are ready, full of garlic seeds. You don’t usually see these at the greenmarkets unless you ask a kind farmer to bring them in for you, but if you do, they are just wonderful, a rare treat.

The garlic flowers are bursting with seeds like tiny cloves of garlic, packed all around the surface of the spherical flower. When you get them home, it takes some work to pull the seeds off the flowers, but you can pickle and can them and enjoy the tiny intense bursts of flavor for the rest of the year.

We pickled our garlic seeds earlier in the summer, back when there were garlic seeds to be found. My partner, Dave, went to the farmer at the greenmarket and asked for garlic seeds. The farmer laughed at him and told him that garlic grows from garlic cloves, not from seeds! Well, we knew this already, and Dave was prepared for this line of argument.

“But my friend said you’d sell them to me so I can pickle them!” he said, or something like that (I wasn’t there). Oh, oh, the seeds in the flowers, sure, the farmer said he could have them for us the next week.

The next week, I went back. By then we’d probably convinced our farmer that we were some sort of collective, a secret organization bent on getting garlic seeds at any cost and sending over a new person each time to try to pry them from his grasp. He had forgotten them at home, he told me. Try again next week.

The next week, Dave went back, and finally, triumph! He bought garlic flowers full of seeds like sunflowers, and took them home to pry them out and prepare them for the pickling.

We’ve been serving these a lot at the restaurant (where I really ought to take more photos to share with you guys), and people always ask us for the recipe. Here it is! And if you stop by my apartment, I will you feed these to you by the spoonful, because I have an absurd number of jars of them filling up the jam shelves in my living room. (Yes, my living room has jam shelves. Yes, really. It’s a life I’m proud to live.)

And just as a brief aside: So, Dave and I were recently in California, where we stopped by Le Sanctuaire. It was a great showroom, with many interesting things to see and taste. We came home with a canister of pumpkin seed puree that has been inspiring us ever since. And I was thrilled that the charming gentleman running the showroom, Ben, had heard of this humble blog. (Hi, Ben! It was a pleasure to meet you during our trip!)

2007: Horchata
2006: Lamb Tagine with Pearl Onions, Dates, and Sugar Snap Peas

Pickled Garlic Seeds
(from Baconbit of Greenmarket Report, who adapted it from The Joy of Pickling by Linda Ziedrich)
1/2 C white wine vinegar
1/2 C white wine
1 small dried chile pepper
1 small thyme sprig
1 small rosemary sprig
1 small bay leaf
10 black peppercorns
2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp pickling salt (a finely ground salt with no additives; you can use an equivalent amount by weight of kosher salt instead)
1 C garlic seeds

Put all of the ingredients except for the garlic seeds into a large non-reactive saucepan. Bring to a boil, then gently boil for 5 minutes. Add the garlic seeds, then return to a boil, cover the pan, and remove from heat.

Let stand at room temperature for 24 hours.

Sterilize canning jars in boiling water, then set out to dry a bit.

Bring the pickle to a boil again, then divide the seeds and the liquid among your sterile jars.

Process the jars in boiling water for at least 15 minutes, then set them out on the counter. As the jars cool, you can hear the lids pop down as the vacuum seal is formed in each. Store them in a cool dark space, and wait at least a week before tasting.

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Olive Oil Fraud http://habeasbrulee.com/2007/08/18/olive-and-other-oils/ http://habeasbrulee.com/2007/08/18/olive-and-other-oils/#comments Sun, 19 Aug 2007 02:01:19 +0000 http://habeasbrulee.com/2007/08/18/olive-and-other-oils/

The photo above is a bead I made (I’ve expanded my hot glass activities to include lampworking as well as glassblowing, lately). I love making glass jellyfish! It is completely unrelated to this post, which is about an interesting article I came across regarding olive oil fraud.

On Monday, the New Yorker published an article on olive oil fraud entitled Slippery Business: the trade in adulterated olive oil by Tom Mueller. The article describes the incredible pervasion of olive oil scams in terms of drug rings, with a lot of fascinating descriptions of how the European Union’s official olive oil tasting panels ferret out the frauds. I was surprised to read that:

More sophisticated scams, like Domenico Ribatti’s, typically take place at high-tech refineries, where the oil is doctored with substances like hazelnut oil and deodorized lampante olive oil, which are extremely difficult to detect by chemical analysis. In 1991, the E.U., recognizing that laboratory tests fail to expose many acts of adulteration, instituted strict taste and aroma requirements for each grade of olive oil and established tasting panels, certified by the International Olive Oil Council, an office created by the United Nations, to enforce them. According to the E.U. regulations, extra-virgin oil must have appreciable levels of pepperiness, bitterness, and fruitiness, and must be free of sixteen official taste flaws, which include “musty,” “fusty,” “cucumber,” and “grubby.” “If there’s one defect, it’s not extra-virgin olive oil—basta, end of story,” Flavio Zaramella, the president of the Corporazione Mastri Oleari, in Milan, one of the most respected private olive-oil associations, told me.

Musty, fusty, cucumber, and grubby! Cucumberish olive oil sounds like it would taste wonderful to me! What could the other dozen official olive oil taste flaws be?

My research uncovered the Olive Handbook, which revealed that the International Olive Oil Council’s standards for Olive Oil and Sensory (Organoleptic) Assessment list the sixteen official taste flaws as:

fusty, musty-humid, muddy sediment, winey-vinegary, metallic, rancid, heated or burnt, haywood, rough, greasy, vegetable water, brine, esparto, earthy, grubby, cucumber.

The Nibble provides an article on The Flavors & Aromas of Olive Oil, which includes a glossary defining the terms for the various desirable and undesirable flavors/aromas in olive oil. Reading that list was quite an education, let me tell you. It defines “cucumber” as

An off flavor that can develop if oil is kept in sealed bottles or tin cans for a prolonged period.

I would never have guessed that on my own! Poor, maligned, tastytasty cucumbers, I feel for you.

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Amaretto Brownies with Saffron Creme Anglaise and Bee Pollen Spice Mix http://habeasbrulee.com/2007/05/10/amaretto-brownies-with-saffron-creme-anglaise-and-bee-pollen-spice-mix/ http://habeasbrulee.com/2007/05/10/amaretto-brownies-with-saffron-creme-anglaise-and-bee-pollen-spice-mix/#comments Thu, 10 May 2007 12:42:16 +0000 http://habeasbrulee.com/2007/05/10/amaretto-brownies-with-saffron-creme-anglaise-and-bee-pollen-spice-mix/

Dave wanted something chocolate and something creamy. I wanted to play more with Aki and Alex’s bee pollen spice mix, and thought saffron would pull everything together.

I hesitate to call these brownies. They were based on a brownie recipe, but adjusted and baked in muffin tins so that they were practically transformed into rich chocolate cakes. But still, since they remain brownies, this recipe is my entry for browniebabe of the month #2.

The bee pollen spice mix just sings here, adding this wonderful earthy sizzling brightness to the entire dish. It works as brilliantly with desserts as it does with savory dishes.

Matching it with saffron is perfectly sexy, since saffron threads are nothing more than the stigmas of the saffron crocus. The stigma is the part of the plant that receives the male gametes, known as pollen.

Point being, this is easily the sexiest dessert I have ever created – chocolate, a known aphrodisiac, supported and uplifted by male and female sex organs and gametes of flowers.

Spring is here! And Cole Porter is right: “Birds do it, bees do it, even educated fleas do it – let’s do it, let’s fall in love!”

Amaretto Brownies with Saffron Creme Anglaise and Bee Pollen Spice Mix
Make amaretto brownies (recipe below). Serve with saffron creme anglaise (recipe below) and bee pollen spice mix (recipe below).

Amaretto Brownies
6 1/2 oz chocolate (I used Scharfenberger 70%)
5 tbsp butter
3/4 C sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 tbsp amaretto
1/2 C all-purpose flour
1 egg
2 egg whites

Preheat your oven to 350º.

Whip the egg whites to soft peaks.

Melt the chocolate, butter, and sugar together. (I prefer to do this in a double boiler, by which I really just mean a smaller pot in a larger pot with some water in the larger pot.) Remove from heat, and stir in the amaretto and salt. Stir in the egg, followed by the whipped egg whites. Finally, stir in the flour, and beat with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula for a minute or two, until thick and glossy.

Butter and flour a [smallish but not miniature] muffin tray. Fill each muffin tin about halfway with brownie batter. Bake for 17 minutes, or until done.

Saffron Creme Anglaise
1/2 tsp or so packed saffron threads
1 vanilla bean
1/2 C heavy cream
4 egg yolks
1/2 C sugar
3/4 C milk
2 tsp honey

Infuse the saffron and vanilla bean (split in half, seeds thrown in, pod thrown in, too) into the cream by heating it to the point of steaming, then turning off the heat, covering the pot, and letting it just sit together for a while. Use more saffron if need be, until it is as intense as you want it to be. Strain the saffron cream and discard the saffron threads and vanilla bean.

Whisk the egg yolks with 1/4 C sugar until pale yellow.

Set up a bowl in an ice bath.

Mix together the infused cream, milk, honey, and 1/4 C sugar and bring to a boil. Slowly and carefully pour a third of the milk mixture into the yolk mixture, whisking all the while, then pour the yolk mixture into the pot with the rest of the milk, stirring constantly. Continue to stir as you slowly raise the temperature to 182º. Strain it into the bowl in the ice bath, and continue stirring until cool.

Bee Pollen Spice Mix
This is just our approximation of Aki and Alex’s brilliant inspiration. We used equal amounts of bee pollen and grains of paradise, with much smaller amounts of sugar and salt added in. Grind everything together fairly coarsely and you’re done.

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Malaysian Beef Curry with Thick Onion Sauce (Daging Nasi Kandar) http://habeasbrulee.com/2007/01/22/malaysian-beef-curry-with-thick-onion-sauce-daging-nasi-kandar/ http://habeasbrulee.com/2007/01/22/malaysian-beef-curry-with-thick-onion-sauce-daging-nasi-kandar/#comments Mon, 22 Jan 2007 12:56:53 +0000 http://habeasbrulee.com/2007/01/22/malaysian-beef-curry-with-thick-onion-sauce-daging-nasi-kandar/

Winter means constant braising, and stew, and curry. Curry means flipping through half my cookbooks before finally settling on this recipe from Madhur Jaffrey’s Far Eastern Cookery. With a few changes, the most important being some fresh galangal and ground cardamom thrown in to add much-needed high notes to perk things up and bring them together, this is one curry we’ve been making again and again this winter.

It can be hard to find fresh galangal, but if you’re lucky you may find an ethnic market that keeps frozen galangal on hand. I was extra lucky, and my local food co-op very briefly had actual fresh galangal for sale. (Then some of it got moldy, which led to people not buying it, which led to them not bothering to order any more or keep it in stock. Damnit.) Like ginger, fresh galangal always comes in larger quantities than you can actually get around to using before it goes bad – left to its own devices, that is.

What I couldn’t use immediately, I stored the same way I always store extra ginger – peeled, cut into largish chunks, and kept submerged in white wine in a container in the fridge.

This method of storing ginger was suggested to me a few years ago by a friend who had then recently graduated from the French Culinary Institute, and I have been using it ever since. It keeps ginger (or galangal) so well that you can substitute it whenever a recipe calls for the fresh stuff, with no noticable depreciation in flavor. As a perk, you also end up with intensely flavorful ginger wine (or galangal wine), that can be used to great effect when making sauces.

So, you see, storing ginger or galangal in white wine in the fridge is economical, convenient, and gives you an extra pantry item to play with later on.

If you can’t find galangal, which is like a sharper, more floral, and citrusy version of ginger, you might try substituting a combination of ginger and preserved lemon.

Actually, it just occured to me – let this also constitute my entry to the new food blogging event, Waiter, There’s Something in My… Stew.

Malaysian Beef Curry with Thick Onion Sauce (Daging Nasi Kandar)
(adapted from Madhur Jaffrey’s Far Eastern Cookery by (you guessed it) Madhur Jaffrey)
8 medium onions, thinly sliced
1/2 C vegetable oil
4 dried birdseye chilies, crushed (or more to taste, or substitute other hot chilies)
3 tbsp fermented black beans
2 tbsp oyster sauce
2 lbs beef, cut into 1 1/2″ chunks
3 sticks lemongrass, keeping only the bottom 4-5″, outer layer removed
20 curry leaves (optional)
2″ cinnamon stick
3 tbsp tamarind paste
1 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp grated galangal
1 tsp cardamom
~3C stock or water
Salt and black pepper to taste

Cut off the bottom end of each lemongrass, and the strawlike top, leaving only the bulbous 4″ or so at the bottom. Remove the toughest outer leaf and rinse. Bruise by crushing them a bit.

Rinse the black beans, and mash them up with the oyster sauce.

Pour the oil into a large, deep pan (or saucepan) and stir-fry half the onions until dark and crispy, then remove them from the pan with a slotted spoon and set aside on a paper-towel-covered plate to drain.

Add the other half of the onions to the pan and stir-fry until they are somewhat browned, but soft and translucent, not crispy. Add the chilies and stir-fry for just a moment. Add the black bean and oyster sauce mix and stir-fry for another moment. Then put in everything else (except the original crispy fried onions, which should remain set aside), and simmer, covered, for about an hour and a half or until tender and done.

Remove the cover, raise the heat, and reduce the sauce until nice and thick, stirring occasionally so that it does not burn to the bottom. When trying to gauge what constitutes ‘nice and thick’, remember that the onions will soak up some sauce and thicken it still further in the end.

Stir in those original fried onions from the beginning. Lower the heat back to medium and cook for another two minutes, and then add salt and black pepper to taste.

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Green Curry Shrimp http://habeasbrulee.com/2007/01/10/green-curry-shrimp/ http://habeasbrulee.com/2007/01/10/green-curry-shrimp/#comments Wed, 10 Jan 2007 16:56:04 +0000 http://habeasbrulee.com/2007/01/10/green-curry-shrimp/

My partner Dave and I spent a fun evening a few weeks ago making green curry paste over at a friend’s new apartment, a portion of which was ours to take home and freeze. It’s always fun trying to follow recipes with our fussy friends – does the recipe call for ginger? Pfeh, we have some fresh galangal we found. Cilantro? The friend we’re with doesn’t like cilantro, so surely we can make a parsley-based green curry paste instead. And there is no such thing as too much lemongrass (there is, really, but we didn’t hit it this time).

I’ve actually developed the ability to be selectively blind when it comes to reading recipes. I’ll be glancing through a cookbook, and I’ll point out a recipe I think looks good.

“You won’t like that,” Dave will say. “It has nuts in it.” Or whatever the issue may be.

“What? Oh, no, not my version,” say I. “I’ll use cocoa nibs instead, or oats, or I’ll grind the nuts first.”

Or something like that.

Point being, parsley-based green curry paste for our friend was a tasty example of how well this can work out. Next time, I think I want to try basing the green curry paste on something more interesting instead, like basil or sage.

Our green curry paste was not as spicy as the storebought brands I’ve tried, but it was worlds more flavorful. You can buy red curry paste and make do (Mae Ploy is the brand that comes most highly recommended, and I liked it when I tried it), but for green curry paste, nothing will suffice but to make it yourself. Luckily, that’s not really a difficult or complicated endeavor. It requires little more than a shopping trip and a few minutes with your food processor.

This was our way of playing with it for the first time. Dave insisted on the shrimp, and I really wanted to play with the rock sugar I’d picked in Chinatown. I read a few recipes for Thai shrimp curries, then put them all away and threw in a dash of this, a sprinkle of that, until it started to taste like dinner.

Green Curry Shrimp
2 lbs. large shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 C chicken stock
15 oz. coconut milk (approximately)
1 medium red pepper, seeded, thinly sliced
1 medium green pepper, seeded, thinly sliced
2 or 3 handfuls of green beans, ends snapped off and discarded
3 tbsp green curry paste, or to taste (recipe below)
2 carrots, julienned
1 large onion, thinly sliced
1 shallot, thinly sliced
1 tsp Chinese rock sugar, ground into small chunks (you can substitute brown sugar or palm sugar)
1 tbsp fish sauce (or to taste)
1-2 big handfuls of fresh basil leaves
3 scallions, cut at an angle into thin slices
1 tsp sesame oil (or to taste)
salt to taste

Brown the onion and shallot in olive oil (or whichever oil you prefer) at high heat until they are somewhat browned, but not meltingly soft. Add the curry paste and stir-fry for just a moment, then add the chicken stock and coconut milk and lower the heat to simmer. Add all other ingredients except the shrimp, basil, scallions, and sesame oil.

Simmer for a little while, stirring occasionally, until it tastes right. You need to fuss with the quantity of curry paste, fish sauce, and salt until it is to your taste. Me, I keep adding more curry paste until my nose starts to drip, and then I’m happy.

Add the shrimp and basil and simmer, stirring, until they just turn opaque. Remove from heat and stir in the scallions and sesame oil last.

Serve with rice or rice noodles.

Green Curry Paste
15 green serranos, stemmed, seeded
4 large green jalapeno chiles, stemmed, seeded
4 sticks lemongrass, bottom 4-5″, outer layer removed
2 medium shallots
20 medium garlic cloves
1/4 C cilantro (or parsley, or whatever green herb you like)
3 tbsp fresh galangal (you can substitute ginger if necessary)
2 tbsp ground coriander
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tbsp vegetable oil
4 tsp grated lime zest
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 tsp anchovy paste

Coarsely chop all the fresh ingredients.

Toast the coriander and cumin in a dry pan until fragrant.

Blend everything together in your food processor until it forms a smooth paste, or close enough.

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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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Basil Sorbet with Lemon Olive Oil http://habeasbrulee.com/2006/07/19/basil-sorbet-with-lemon-olive-oil/ http://habeasbrulee.com/2006/07/19/basil-sorbet-with-lemon-olive-oil/#comments Wed, 19 Jul 2006 14:21:49 +0000 http://habeasbrulee.com/2006/07/19/basil-sorbet-with-lemon-olive-oil/

I came across this recipe for basil or mint sorbet by Sara Kate over at Apartment Therapy: the kitchen, and of course had to give it a try. I followed Sara Kate’s recipe almost exactly, except that I used apple lambic instead of apple juice, and added it when I added the basil, because I thought the texture of the sorbet would be improved if I made sure not to cook the alcohol away.

I really disliked the sorbet when I first tasted it. It was too uncompromisingly tart for me, actually. The green apples seemed to intensify the basil flavor rather than mellowing it, to the point where I really wasn’t up to taking a second bite. I can’t blame that on the original recipe, though – it was dramatically representative of the fruit and herbs involved, which I would say made it a complete success. I just couldn’t handle it.

Then I remembered the lemon olive oil we recently picked up at O & Co.

We were there to taste olive oils on Dave’s birthday, and the lady handed me a tiny spoon of this lemon oil with just a dot of their balsamic vinegar in the center of it. It blew me away. I haven’t been paid or offered anything to make a product placement, and I intend to try to find a less expensive lemon olive oil in the future, but this stuff was still worth every cent we paid for it. The first thing we did when we got home was drizzle a bit of it on some chocolate sorbet, and oh, my, that was gorgeous. Pure, perfect lemon flavor, but smooth as can be, without any of the acidity.

So, I poured a tiny drop of lemon olive oil onto a spoonful of basil sorbet, and dared to taste it again. It wasn’t just better. It was good. Really, really good.

No recipe this time. Just links to follow, and my sheer glee at the usefulness of this latest addition to our pantry.

(This is also my entry for Sugar High Friday #21: Ice Ice Baby. And though I posted about them before the SHF theme was announced, I also want to enter my sour cherry almond milk sorbet and chocolate cassis sorbet. Consider this post a gateway sorbet to the rest, perhaps.)


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Sour Cherry Sage Flower Jam http://habeasbrulee.com/2006/06/17/sour-cherry-sage-flower-jam/ http://habeasbrulee.com/2006/06/17/sour-cherry-sage-flower-jam/#comments Sat, 17 Jun 2006 07:34:05 +0000 http://habeasbrulee.com/2006/06/17/sour-cherry-sage-flower-jam/

As soon as I saw the flowering sage at the farmer’s market, I just knew I had to use it in my entry for The Spice is Right #3: The Perfumed Garden, which called for us to use edible flowers in our cooking. And as I was saying, I have this extreme overabundance of sour cherries right now.

It just amazes me when I see the flowering herbs at the farmer’s markets. I knew that at least some herbs blossom, sort of, because I’ve had sage honey and thyme honey. But since I always kill my plants long before they manage to bloom, it never really clicked for me until I saw those bundles for sale. And I certainly never expected the flowers to actually share the flavor of the leaves I’m used to using. Those little purple sage flowers do add a taste of sage as well as beauty, but I steeped the cherries with bundles of sage leaves as well for a stronger overall melding of flavors. I love the way the flowers look like dark shadows in the jam.

To give credit where it is due, I must admit that I was inspired by the memory of Tania using sage-poached cherries in her salad. That’s one of the best things about food blogging – the way recipes or even flavor pairings evolve as we bounce ideas off of each other in the community.

I’m on a serious home canning kick right now, actually. Our apartment is starting to get over-crowded with jars. Dave and my mother agree that once we’re even more stocked up, we may have to get a table at a farmer’s market and sell a few of these, if only to make space for more.

Sour Cherry Sage Flower Jam
1 quart pitted sour cherries and sour cherry juice
5 C granulated sugar
2 tsp calcium water
2 tsp powdered pectin
2 large handfuls sage leaves
2 1/2 C loosely packed sage flowers

Blend the cherries and juice with the sugar until you have a mush. Rinse off the sage leaves and tie them into one or two bundles in cheesecloth. Bring the cherry mush to a boil with the sage bundles in, then cover and leave to steep, stirring and tasting occasionally, until the sage flavor comes out strongly enough to suit you.

Remove the sage bundles and press to drain as much liquid from them as possible back into the pot. Discard them. Add the calcium water. Bring the mix to a boil, then add the pectin and boil hard for a minute or so, or until you have reached the appropriate gel stage. The easiest way to test this is to have a bowl in the freezer. Drip a few drops of your jam into the bowl and see what the texture is like as it cools. If it wrinkles and moves as a single unit when you nudge it with your finger, it is ready. At that point, remove from heat and stir in the sage flowers.

Pour into sterile canning jars and process in boiling water for at least 15 minutes. As the jars cool, you can hear the lids pop down as the vacuum seal is formed in each.

If you want to make sure the flowers are dispersed throughout the jam instead of just floating at the top, give each jar a shake after it has started to gain some structural integrity but before it has completely gelled.

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Ramp Butter http://habeasbrulee.com/2006/05/20/ramp-butter/ http://habeasbrulee.com/2006/05/20/ramp-butter/#comments Sat, 20 May 2006 20:47:49 +0000 http://habeasbrulee.com/2006/05/20/ramp-butter/

Spring is here, but it won’t be for long. Hurry! Rush to the farmer’s market! Buy those ramps. Blanch them briefly. Throw them in your food processor, along with plenty of butter. Line your ice cube trays with plastic wrap or tinfoil, leaving plenty hanging over the edge to grab later, then fill them with ramp butter and freeze. Once they’re frozen, pop out the cubes of ramp butter, wrap each one individually in plastic wrap, and throw them into a ziplock bag and back into the freezer.

Having ramp butter in your freezer is a wonderful thing. Ramps are only in season for a few short weeks, but you can freeze the butter for at least a few months. I’ll still be cooking with ramp butter once fall comes, and probably even into early winter. Last night, we used it to saute blanched fiddleheads and some beeves (plural of ‘beef’, at least in this household). I’d generally use it as more of a finishing butter, and for making sauces.

This barely even constitutes a recipe, but I wanted to plant the thought in your minds before it is too late.

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Gunpowder Carrot Chutney http://habeasbrulee.com/2006/04/26/gunpowder-carrot-chutney/ http://habeasbrulee.com/2006/04/26/gunpowder-carrot-chutney/#comments Wed, 26 Apr 2006 12:22:00 +0000 http://habeasbrulee.com/2006/04/26/gunpowder-carrot-chutney/

TeaChef has this ongoing project where each month they give away free samples of a different tea. The catch (and it is hardly a catch) is that if you get a tea sample from them, they want you to cook with it and send them a recipe including it.

I can handle being honor-bound to cook with free tea once a month.

Have I mentioned that I dearly love making anything that ends up sealed in a jar? Chutneys, preserves, jams, anything. Something about having sealed jars full of wonderful homemade stuff is very satisfying to me. Whenever I go apple picking, I end up with row after row of jars of apple butter and apple tomato chutney to give away. The joy is in making it, after all.

When I was a kid, my father and I would make jam every year from the grapes that grew on the vine that roofed our back porch. We had this big wooden hand-cranked machine we would use to crush the grapes after we’d spent hours trying to reach as many of them as we could without getting stung by the bees who were also attracted to the grapes. And then we’d simmer and simmer, and finally seal our jam into all those wonderful little jars. The grapes are still growing out back, but it has been years since we actually did anything with them. I miss that, but neither of us has had quite enough oomph to make it happen in a long time.

Gunpowder Carrot Chutney
2 lbs carrots
2 onions
1 clove garlic
2 big handfuls raisins
1/2 C cane sugar
1 1/2 C strong-brewed gunpowder tea
1 1/2 C cider vinegar
1 1/2 tsp mustard seeds
8 Thai birdseye peppers (ground)
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp coriander
1/2 tsp clove
1 tbsp curry powder
olive oil
salt to taste

Peel the carrots and chop them to whatever size and shape suits your fancy. Chop the onion into small bits, and mince the garlic rather finely. Crush the peppers. Brew the tea – use about twice as much tea as you normally would, and your regular brewing time, in order to make it nice and strong.

Brown the onions first, then throw in the garlic and mustard seeds. Next go the rest of the spices, then the carrots. Finally, the raisins, sugar, tea, and vinegar. Let it all boil together, then lower the heat and let it cook down until the carrots are soft and the liquid has reached a thick, jammy consistency. You can boil it until it reduces if you are short on time, but I do think that simmering it down morely slowly gives you a richer flavor in the end.

That’s it. Jar and seal. This is a wonderfully complex chutney, sweet and sour and spicy and earthy, and makes a great condiment to go with most anything served with rice.

Note: A chutney is generally blended into a thick sauce, and you may want to puree your carrots in order to get that texture instead. Because I tend to prefer chunky chutneys, I chopped my carrots so as to end up with a chutney that was mostly chunk.

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