Showing posts with label entrees. Show all posts
Showing posts with label entrees. Show all posts

Monday, June 6, 2016

The Book Tour Starts Here: A Review of 'Mystic Summer' by Hannah McKinnon, Served with New England-Style Crab Cakes with Two Dipping Sauces

Happy Monday! I am happy to be kicking off the TLC Blog Tour for the perfect read for the season, Mystic Summer by Hannah McKinnon. Along with my review, there is a recipe for some tasty New-England-Style Crab Cakes, inspired by my reading.

Publisher's Blurb:

A chance run-in with a college boyfriend puts a young woman’s picture-perfect life in perspective in this warm-hearted and lyrical novel—from the author of The Lake Season.

Since finishing graduate school, Maggie Griffin has worked hard to build an enviable life in Boston. She’s an elementary school teacher in a tony Boston suburb, a devoted sister, and a loving aunt. With her childhood best friend’s wedding quickly approaching and her own relationship blossoming, this is the summer she has been waiting for.

But when Maggie’s career is suddenly in jeopardy, her life begins to unravel. Stricken, Maggie returns home to seaside Mystic, Connecticut, where she expects to find comfort in family and familiarity. Instead, she runs into Cameron Wilder, a young man from her past who has also returned home, and whose life has taken a turn that puts Maggie’s city struggles in harsh perspective. When tragedy strikes for Cameron, Maggie is faced with big decisions as she weighs what matters most and strives to stay true to the person she’s become.

Set against the gorgeous backdrop of a New England summer when past and present collide, Mystic Summer is a gorgeous novel about looking back, moving forward, and the beauty that blooms when fate intervenes.

Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Atria/Emily Bestler Books (June 21, 2016)

My Review:

It's not that you couldn't crack open Mystic Summer in the dead of winter for a bit of an escape to a warmer place, but it truly is a book meant for a summer weekend--the kind of book you want to relax on the lanai or by a pool with, or tuck in your beach bag and read by the ocean. I am a sucker for books set in New England, a place where I have spent little time beyond Boston, but always intrigues me--especially the picturesque coastal towns. The author describes the town of Mystic, Connecticut with such detail and obvious love, that it feels like it is almost another character in the story. I have a soft spot for the movie Mystic Pizza, which pops up in the book, along with the pizza place that it was named for. In fact, as I was trying to determine a dish to pair with Mystic Summer, I looked up a few other places mentioned like Mystic Drawbridge Ice Cream and Bartleby's Cafe and was pleased to find they existed, making me feel even more like I was actually seeing the town as I read.

Maggie is is likable character, a caretaker of others, a good friend, and a caring teacher, daughter, sister, and aunt. I especially enjoyed the humorous scenes between Maggie and her sister's three young children. She's maybe not the best girlfriend--as in the process of determining what she wants, she vacillates between Evan and Cameron to the point of unfairness to both of them. There is a fairly obvious choice between her current relationship and her past love for Maggie to make, so there are no real surprises in the story, but it has enough charm, humor, and heart to keep it interesting. Mystic Summer is an engaging, light read about finding yourself, love, family, and friendship. If you are looking for a beach book with a bit of romance and a setting that will transport you to a sunny summer in New England, add it to your TBR pile.


Author Notes:  

Hannah McKinnon is the author of The Lake Season and Mystic Summer. She graduated from Connecticut College and the University of South Australia. She lives in Fairfield County, Connecticut, with her family, a flock of chickens, and two rescue dogs.

Connect with Hannah on her website, Facebook, or Twitter.


Food Inspiration:

There was food to be found in Mystic Summer, like restaurant fare in Boston--salty margaritas, ceviche, garlic shrimp, mussels, chopitos (fried baby squid), and chorizo croquetas at a new tapas place, a key lime martini and shrimp tacos, and red curry, coconut soup and dumplings at a Thai restaurant. In Mystic there was the obvious choice of (Mystic) pizza, as well as meatball subs, ice cream, cupcakes, popcorn and carrot sticks, blueberry pancakes, organic quinoa casserole, iced coffee, and cocktails (Cosmos, Moscow Mules, and the intriguingly-named "High-Tide Painkiller"). Planning for Erika's wedding included a tasting with grilled shrimp with pesto, Vietnamese summer rolls, and salmorejo (tomato bread soup) in tall shot glasses, Dover sole with mango chutney, filet mignon stuffed with crabmeat, and a three-tier Swiss dot vanilla cake. 

Of course there was seafood--lobster rolls, fried clams, oysters, crab cakes, calamari, a clambake and a lobster dinner cruise. Since the book did such a great job of making me "feel" New England, I wanted to maintain that Mystic coastal vibe and pair this book with seafood. I adore crab cakes and have been craving them so although only mentioned briefly in the book as part of a dinner at a Mystic-area bistro for Maggie and Erika, New England-style crab cakes quickly became my dish of choice. (Yes, sometimes pairing books and food is one part tie-in to the book and two parts what I want to eat!)

There are few things better than a good crab cake and nothing so disappointing as a poorly-made one. Once I decided on crab cakes, I went to the master, Seattle Chef Tom Douglas who grew up on the East Coast but moved to Seattle, making him a fan of all kinds of crab cakes, enough to write I Love Crab Cakes!, with recipes for a variety of crab cakes and sauces. I was on a business trip to my old stomping grounds in Seattle a decade (yikes!) ago when this cookbook came out and was trying to eat in all of his restaurants before I left--starting with crab cakes for breakfast at Etta's. On my last night there, with friends at Dahlia Lounge, I bought a signed copy of this cookbook and then we ran into the chef as we were leaving and I promptly shoved it in his hands and begged him to personalize it. He did as you can see below. The Chesapeake Bay Classic Crab Cakes in the book seemed like a good example of a classic New England crab cake and a good match for the book. (Crab On, Tom Douglas!) ;-)

Tom Douglas notes that the traditional crab meat to use in these crab cakes is East Coast blue crab but if you can't get it fresh, you can use pasteurized crab from a refrigerated case--not canned crab. Thanks to Costco, that's what I did, using a super lump crab meat.  
For sauces, Douglas says you can serve them with tarter sauce, although he likes a red or green cocktail sauce with a 'tangy zip' to off-set the creaminess. Since I had leftover rémoulade sauce from a delicious Curtis Stone recipe using local tombo ahi made a few days prior, I decided to use it for one of my sauces. It has a wonderful tangy flavor from the capers and lemon. For a second sauce, I used the extra aïoli from making the rémoulade sauce as the mayonnaise for my favorite Red Curry Mayo--a simple recipe I use a lot with fish tacos or veggies  

Chesapeake Bay Classic Crab Cakes
From I Love Crab Cakes by Tom Douglas
(Makes 8 Large Crab Cakes)

1 large egg yolk
1 Tbsp Old Bay Seasoning
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp grated lemon zest
1 1/12 tsp fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 tsp cider vinegar
1/2 cup peanut or canola oil
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper
1 Tbsp minced scallions, both white and green parts
1 lb lump blue crabmeat, drained and picked clean of shell
4 cups fresh bread crumbs (I used panko)
1/4 cup chopped parsley
about 4 Tbsp unsalted butter
sauce and lemon wedges to serve

Put the egg yolk, Old Bay, mustard, lemon zest and juice, and vinegar in the (small) bowl of a food processor or blender and process until smooth. Gradually pour in the oil with the machine running until the mixture emulsifies and forms a mayonnaise. Season with the salt and pepper. 

Transfer the mayonnaise to a bowl and, using a rubber spatula, fold in the scallions and the crabmeat until well combined. Combine the bread crumbs and the parsley in a shallow container. Form the crab mixture into 8 patties about 3 inches wide and 3/4 inch thick and drop them into the bread crumb mixture. Dredge the crab cakes on both side. If you have time, leave the crab cakes in the container of bread crumbs, cover with plastic wrap, and chill for an hour or more. 

When you are ready to fry the crab cakes, put two large nonstick skillets over medium heat. Add about 2 tablespoons of butter to each pan. When the butter is melted, add 4 crab cakes to each pan, patting off excess crumbs first. Slowly fry the crab cakes until they are golden brown on both sides and hot through, turning once with a spatula , about 4 minutes per side. If the crab cakes are browning too quickly, reduce the heat. The internal temperature of a cooked crab cake should be 155 degrees F. on an instant read thermometer. 

Transfer the crab cakes to plates, 2 per person, and serve with your choice of sauce and lemon wedges. 


The Sauces: 

Curtis Stone's Rémoulade Sauce (Find recipe here)

Red Curry Mayo Sauce
By Deb, Kahakai Kitchen

1/2 cup Aïoli (recipe here) or good mayonnaise
1 Tbsp Thai Red Curry Paste (I used Thai Kitchen brand)
1 Tbsp lime, juice, or to taste + zest, finely grated
2 tsps honey or agave
Tabasco or other hot sauce to taste (I used about ½ tsp), optional
1-2 tsp caper or pickle juice

Combine mayo, red curry paste, lime zest and juice and honey in a small bowl. Gently whisk until thoroughly mixed. Taste and add hot sauce if desired until spicy enough for your taste and caper juice to taste. You can add additional honey or salt to taste too. Curry mayo should be a good combination of spicy, tangy and sweet.

Place mayo in a jar or covered container and chill an hour or two in fridge. Will keep about a week, covered in fridge.


Notes/Results: Oh crab cakes! Why are you so darn delicious?! These crab cakes are crisply-crusted, tender and creamy on the inside, and full of flavor. I really like Old Bay Seasoning, but I was worried that the amount of it in the mayo might overwhelm the delicate crab. Not so--it just made for lots of great flavor. These are simple crab cakes--the breading on the outside and the crab and the mayo mixture to bind them. I am not sure I could pick a favorite from the two sauces for this crab cake pairing. The tarragon and capers in the rémoulade sauce went well with them, but the heat and spice from the red curry was excellent too. Lucky I didn't have to choose. ;-) Definitely delicious and splurge-worthy, I would happily make these crab cakes again.  

I'm linking up this review and recipe to the Weekend Cooking event at Beth Fish Reads, a weekly event that is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share. For more information, see the welcome post. 

Note: A review copy of "Mystic Summer" was provided to me by the publisher and TLC Book Tours in return for a fair and honest review. I was not compensated for this review and as always my thoughts and opinions are my own.
You can see the stops for the rest of this Book Tour and what other reviewers thought about the book here.


Thursday, April 10, 2014

Nigel Slater's Goat Cheese Bubble and Squeak--Served with Salmon & 'Uplifting Green & Piquant Sauce'

British food has the best names--like bangers & mash, toad in the hole, Eton mess, spotted Dick, the list goes on and on... I am sure it is much easier to get a child to the table when you are making bubble & squeak rather than calling it fried cabbage and potato cakes. ;-) This week we are making foods that are 'Fit for a Brit!' at I Heart Cooking Clubs, finding and making Nigel Slater recipes for more traditional British fare. 

We are going traditional-ish here at Kahakai Kitchen. Nigel Slater's version of Cheese Bubble & Squeak from Tender adds a less common ingredient--goat cheese--to the potato cake mix. Nigel says that two of these patties with a spinach salad  are ample as a main course, but I was thinking they would be a happy side dish for some grilled salmon. White fish would have been more 'traditional' for a British fish dinner, and while I have cod in the freezer, I was feeling the salmon instead. To green things up a bit, I went back to the 'Uplifting Green & Piquant Sauce' from Nigel that I made for his '30-Minute Fish Supper' a few years ago when we read  "Eating for England" for Cook the Books. (Note: If delving deeper into the subject of British food interests you, Slater's 'Eating for England' is an entertaining and humorous romp that you should check out.)

(From Tender) Nigel says, "Bubbles, squeaks and rumbledethumps: Colcannon, rumbledethumps, pyttipanna, biksmad, roupa velha, and stampot--the local names used throughout Europe intrigue and delight but they all describe the same thing, a stir up of potatoes and greens. In some cases, the two components are served freshly mixed; in others they are fried or baked to acquire a crust. Either way, this is good food at its most frugal. The ingredients may be cooked fresh or taken from yesterday's leftovers. Roupa velha is Portuguese for 'old clothes'.

"Bubble and squeak is generally shaped into rounds and fried in a pan, or left in one large cake, which looks splendid but is difficult to turn in the pan. Either way, the name comes from the sound it makes as it fries in the pan."   

Goat Cheese Bubble and Squeak
(Makes 4 Cakes: Enough for 2)
greens of choice (Savoy cabbage here) --7 oz (200g)
cooked potato -- 3/4 cup (200g) coarsely mashed
goat cheese -- 3 1/2 oz (100g)
nutmeg (optional), salt and pepper to taste
all-purpose flour --1 Tbsp + extra for coating patties
a little olive oil

Wash greens thoroughly, then cook in deep salted water until bright green and tender. Drain carefully and coarsely chop, discarding any tough stalks. 

Mix the mashed potatoes and greens, then cut/crumble goat cheese into small pieces and add to the potatoes and greens. Season generously with salt, black pepper, and if you wish, a very little nutmeg. Stir in the tablespoon of flour. 

Divide the mixture into fourths and shape each one into a rough patty 2 1/2 - 3 inches (6 to 7.5cm) in diameter and about 1/4-inch (6mm) thick. Put patties on a lightly floured plate, turning them once in the flour. 

Put a thin layer of olive oil in a shallow, non-stick pan. Get it hot, then lower the patties into the pan and cook for about 4 minutes on each side, until golden and lightly crisp. Drain briefly on paper towels and serve.

Uplifting Green & Piquant Sauce
Adapted from Appetite by Nigel Slater
(Makes about 3/4 cup)
A blender salsa verde is another idea. The piquancy of the capers and the saltiness of the anchovy are singularly appropriate with the white fish. My basic recipe is to whiz all of most of the following in the blender: the leaves from a large bunch of flat-leaf parsley and a few sprigs of mint, 6 anchovy fillets, a couple of cloves of garlic, a spoonful of Dijon mustard, a couple of tablespoons of capers, and 2 tablespoons of lemon juice. Now pour in enough olive oil to reduce it all to a lumpy slurry the color of that green stuff that floats on the pond in summer. Taste and check; you might find you want it with more mustard or lemon.

Notes/Results: Crispy, golden crust, soft and creamy within--these are some yummy little potato cakes. The bites of goat cheese add just the right amount of tangy to the mix. I'm not normally a nutmeg fan and Nigel has had me using it twice so far since it was in last week's pasta. I didn't use a lot of it in these cakes but I think it did give them a little something extra as it did in the Alfredo sauce. He may just convert me. ;-) 

I would have been happy with the potato cakes as the entree, although they paired nicely with the salmon and sauce. The verde sauce stands up well to the salmon's flavor and the whole dinner worked well. In retrospect, if serving them as a side again, I would make the patties smaller. I didn't really measure/weigh my cabbage or potato, using one small head of savoy cabbage and a fairly large russet potato and I got six good-sized patties. I think some of the extras will be crisped up for breakfast tomorrow with a runny egg on top. A great use for leftover potatoes and greens but worth cooking them up for too, I will make them again. 

You can see what Nigel Slater dishes the other IHCC participants found Fit for a Brit! by checking out the picture links on the post. 


Thursday, April 3, 2014

Nigel Slater's 'Needs Must' Fettuccine Alfredo

It's our first week cooking along with Nigel Slater at I Heart Cooking Clubs and we are making any of his recipes to welcome him and kick things off for the next six months. I have been a Nigel Slater fan for awhile now, have several of his cookbooks and have made several of his recipe over the years (check out his label on my side bar if you want to see them). 

I had narrowed down my welcome dish choices to a handful of recipes but then I was paging through my newest Nigel book, the gorgeous Notes From the Larder: A Kitchen Diary With Recipes, and came across his April 23 entry titled, "Needs must." I was caught by his description of a simple fettuccine Alfredo and his need for it. 

"Tonight I have a fancy--or more truthfully, a need--for a plate of creamy pasta. I am not one of the world's greatest pasta eaters, and rarely marry the ribbons, shells, or twists of dough with a cream-based dressing, but right now this is what is called for. A pot of cream aside, there is very little in the kitchen with which to dress a pasta, so I make a version of fettuccine Alfredo, the creamiest pasta dish of all.
-Nigel Slater, Notes From the Larder

Like Nigel, I am not much of a creamy pasta sauce eater but he made it sound so enticing and since I had about a cup of leftover heavy cream in the fridge, I decided to make it. I totally get having an intense need for a certain food at a certain time, and, a plate of indulgent comfort is good for the soul now and then.

'Needs Must' Fettuccine Alfredo
Notes From the Larder by Nigel Slater
(Enough for 2)

fettuccine: 9 oz (250g)
heavy cream: 1 cup (250ml)
butter: a thick slice
grated Parmesan 3 1/2 oz, about 3/4 cup (100g)

Boil the fettuccine in deep, heavily salted water till al dente. Put the cream in a saucepan with the butter and warm over gentle heat. Grate in a little nutmeg. Stir in most of the grated Parmesan and a generous amount of black pepper, then toss in the lightly drained pasta. Toss gently and serve with the remaining Parmesan 

Notes/Results: Simple but luxe. The creamy sauce is just cheesy enough and the nutmeg and pepper add a little spark of extra flavor. I used fresh pasta and a local butter that has a touch of Hawaiian sea salt. A very fast and easy dish to make--especially with the fresh pasta, it takes just minutes to get it to the table. Although not a healthy dish to be enjoyed often, it certainly hits the spot when you have a fancy, or a serious need for something and satisfying. I would happily make it again.

Check out the IHCC site where we are having "A Welcome Toast to Nigel Slater" this week and see what dishes everyone made to kick off our 6-months of cooking with Nigel.


Thursday, March 17, 2011

Chickpea Picatta with Mashed "Caulipots" from Isa Chandra Moskowitz: The Wearing of the Green Done a Little Differently

I know, I know... it's St. Patrick's Day today so there should probably be corned beef and cabbage or at least some kind of Irish dish or ingredients on my post. Part of me was tempted--but at the end of the day I listened to my body which said it needed lighter, healthier fare. Of course don't get me wrong if one of girlichef's or Natashya's gorgeous Reuben sandwiches with that delectable home-cured corned beef suddenly showed up at my door I would ecstatically devour it but as far as cooking my own and having a bunch of corned beef sitting around, I just didn't need it.

I decided to still put on at least a little green for the holiday with a vegan version of picatta (one of my very favorite Italian dishes ever), that uses chickpeas instead of chicken or veal, is served on top of arugula (there's the green), and with a mash of potatoes (that's Irish-like!) and cauliflower. I have been drooling over this recipe for weeks, it's from "Appetite for Reduction: 125 Fast & Filling Low-Fat Vegan Recipes" by one of my favorite vegan chefs and authors, Isa Chandra Moskowitz of "Veganomicon" and "Vegan With a Vengeance" and other wonderful vegan cookbooks fame. Moskowitz has the ability to make uncomplicated vegan fare with big flavors and her newest cookbook is no exception.

My copy of the book looks like a package of tape flags exploded all over it. Recipes like Goddess Nicoise Salad with Green Goddess Garlic Dressing, Pad Thai Salad, Silky Chickpea Gravy, OMG Oven-Baked Onion Rings, Cranberry-Cashew Biryani, Eggplant Kibbeh, Jerk Asparagus, Chipotle Lentil Burgers, Black Beans in Red Velvet Mole, Bistro Broccoli Chowder, Curry Laksa, Quinoa, White Bean & Kale Stew and Cashew Miso Mayo all have tabs on them. Great global flavors, vegan, all made with with real food using "pantry-friendly ingredients" and most dishes coming in at under 400 calories per serving with some even coming in at under 200 calories--really what more can you want?!

This book is about planet-friendly, satisfying foods and lifestyle not diet, which I love. There are plenty of tips, tricks and nutrition information--making it a handy resource for vegan cooking. It is well worth the money I spent on it. (I used a discount coupon but the book retails for $19.95 U.S. and has it for $11.93 right now.) So if you are trying to eat less meat, eat healthier, lose weight, save money or the planet, etc., this is a great book to add to your collection.

This Chickpea Picatta captures all the traditional lemony garlic flavors of the classic dish with the chickpeas providing protein, fiber and satiation. It's served on a bed of arugula and Moskowitz also recommends serving it with her Cauliflower Mashed Potatoes or "Caulipots," also in the book. Together it makes for a very satisfying and delicious meal with just enough "wearing of the green" to make sure I don't get pinched. ;-)

You can find the recipe in "Appetite for Reduction" on pages 115-116 or on Isa Chandra's blog, Post Punk Kitchen here.

Moskowitz says, "Picatta is like an instant fancy dinner. One second you’re just sitting there, all normal like, but the instant that first forkful of lemony wine bliss touches your tongue you’re transported to candlelight and tablecloths, even if you’re sitting in front of the TV watching Dancing With The Stars. This version is made with chickpeas which make it superfast, and it’s served over arugula for some green. I know lots of people are accustomed to picatta with pasta, and that is the Italian tradition, but my first picatta was as a vegan and we vegans loved our mashed potatoes, so that is what I suggest serving it with. If you’d like to bulk it up even further, try a grilled or roasted portobello. Nutritional info is listed down below."

Chickpea Picatta
"Appetite for Reduction" by Isa Chandra Moskowitz
(Serves 4)
Active Time: 15 Minutes / Total Time: 30 Minutes

1 teaspoon olive oil
1 scant cup thinly sliced shallots
6 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons breadcrumbs
2 cups vegetable broth
1/3 cup dry white wine
A few dashes fresh black pepper
Generous pinch of dried thyme
1 (16 oz) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/4 cup capers with a little brine
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
4 cups arugula

Preheat a large heavy bottomed pan over medium. Saute the shallots and garlic for about 5 minutes, until golden. Add the breadcrumbs and toast them by stirring constantly for about 2 minutes. They should turn a few shades darker.

Add the vegetable broth and wine, salt, black pepper and thyme. Turn up heat and bring to a rolling boil and let the sauce reduce by 1/2, it should take about 7 minutes.

Add the chickpeas and capers to heat through, about 3 minutes. Add the lemon and turn off the heat.

If serving with mashed potatoes or "Caulipots"--place the arugula in a wide bowl. Place the mashed potatoes on top, and ladle the picatta over the potatoes. The arugula will wilt and it will be lovely. If you are serving solo, just pour right over the arugula.

Nutritional Information: Serving: 1/4 recipe: Calories-190, Cal from fat-30, Total fat-3.5g, Saturated fat-0g, Trans fat-0g, Fiber-5g, Protein-9g, Cholesterol- 0mg, Niacin-730mg, Vitamin A-20%, Vitamin C-25%, Calcium-10%

Notes/Results: An inventive idea and a fabulous recipe. The flavors are excellent, the texture of the chickpeas works with the tasty lemony sauce and the peppery arugula and creamy potato-cauliflower mix both compliment it well. (You don't really see the sauce in the pictures but trust me it is there softening the arugula and soaking into the caulipots.) I did make just a couple of very small changes--instead of veggie broth I used Imagine Organic No-Chicken Broth, slightly diluted with water. I like the seasoning in it and the fact that it tastes more like chicken. I also added the zest of the lemon to the dish--I hate to waste zest. I threw in two (15 oz) cans of chickpeas--I always seem to want extra beans and there is a strong possibility that some additional capers jumped in as well. ;-) The Caulipots are a good way to enjoy mashed potatoes with less calories--with half cauliflower they come in at about 190 calories per serving which makes the whole dish about 380 calories--excellent for such a filling meal. Although the arugula works very well in this dish, I think baby spinach or even kale would be good choices too. A delicious, easy dish that makes me happy and that I will definitely make again.

Happy St. Patrick's Day.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Mark Bittman's Swedish / Danish Meatballs Lightened-Up and Dairy-Free

"Dining with Dad" is the theme this week at I Heart Cooking Clubs and looking for a Mark Bittman dish inspired by my dad, I chose the Swedish Kottbullar or Danish Frikadeller (Meatballs) from "The Best Recipes In the World: More Than 1,000 International Recipes To Cook At Home."

My dad was half Swedish and half Danish. "Swedish Meatballs" were a favorite dish of his, and my mom used to make his mother's meatball recipe for him. I decided to keep the traditional cream sauce (optional in Bittman's recipe), but lighten up the dish a bit to reduce some of the fat and calories, and make it dairy-free to make it fit better into my eating preferences. I did that by using almond milk in place of the cream and milk, and using a slurry of brown rice flour and milk (in this case almond milk), a little trick I learned a while back for making lower fat white and cheese sauces. The brown rice milk dissolves easily into cold milk and when heated, thickens the sauce nicely. My changes are in red on the recipe below.

Bittman says, "In general, these are milder than Italian-style meatballs, with cooked onion and no garlic or cheese. Often served with a cream sauce (and lingonberries), they can be made without one, skewered on toothpicks, and passed at parties. A combination of pork, veal, and beef is best here, but if I had to choose only one meat it would unquestionably be pork."

Swedish Kottbullar or Danish Frikadeller (Meatballs)
"The Best Recipes In the World" by Mark Bittman
(Makes 12 or more servings)
Time: 45 minutes

1/2 cup bread or cracker crumbs
1 cup cream or half-and-half, 2/3 cup optional (replaced with unsweetened almond milk and used 1 1/2 cups total)
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter, 1 tablespoon optional (omitted butter & used olive oil)
1 medium onion, minced
salt and black pepper to taste
1/2 pound each ground pork, veal, & beef, or 1-1/2 pounds ground pork (I used pork & veal)
pinch of ground cloves or allspice or 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger (I used a pinch each of ground cloves, allspice and 1 tsp ground ginger)
2 tablespoons flour, optional (used brown rice flour)
3/4 cup beef or chicken stock, preferably homemade or water, optional

Soak the bread or cracker crumbs in 1/3 cup of the cream. (I used almond milk.) Put 1 tablespoon of the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and a bit of salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion softens, about 5 minutes. Turn off the heat.

Combine the bread crumbs, onion, meat, and spice, along with some more salt and pepper; do not overmix or overhandle. With wet hands or wet spoons, shape the meat into small meatballs (I would say as small as you have the patience for, but no more than an inch in diameter).

Put 2 tablespoons of the remaining butter in the skillet and turn the heat to medium-high. When the butter melts, begin adding the meatballs, a few at a time; you may have to cook in batches. Brown nicely on all sides and turn off the heat. Serve immediately or proceed to the next step.

Bittman's sauce: To make a sauce, remove all but a trace of fat from the pan. Return the pan to the stove over medium heat and add the remaining butter and, after it melts, the flour. Stirring constantly, add the stock and cook until slightly thickened. Add the remaining cream and continue to cook for a few more minutes or until thickened. Taste and adjust the seasoning, then pour the meatballs into the sauce to reheat before serving.

For my dairy-free sauce: Remove most of the fat from the meatballs from the pan. Add stock and stir, scraping the "brown bits" off the bottom of the pan. Heat stock over medium heat until it is hot. Meanwhile put brown rice flour in a small bowl and slowly whisk in enough almond milk to form a paste. Then add the remaining almond milk, whisking as you do, making sure that no lumps remain. Add flour-milk mixture to the stock and simmer, stirring frequently until the mixture begins to thicken and is warmed through. Add salt, pepper and allspice to taste, pour meatballs into sauce to reheat before serving.

Notes/Results: Really good--the meatballs were tender and juicy with good flavor and the sauce still rich and creamy without all the butter and cream. I ended up with a mix of ground pork and veal for the meatballs, and I did add more spice than was called for to the meatballs--which I would recommend as they are mild. I also used some allspice in the sauce for an extra touch of flavor--and extra black pepper--I think I got my love for it from my dad! I usually bake my meatballs, but in this case I cooked them in the pan so that I would have some pan drippings for the sauce. I replaced the butter with olive oil, and as mentioned above used almond milk for the cream, making this a dairy-free dish. Served with a simple green salad and with the meatballs and sauce on top of fresh pasta tossed with a bit of olive and parsley, it was a rich and hearty dinner--just a bit more figure and heart friendly than the original. ;-) I am sure my dad would have preferred my grandmother's recipe, but this is a still a good one that I would make again.

You can check out what the other IHCC participants chose to make for Dining with Dad by going to the post here and following the links.

My dad is no longer with us, having passed away almost 16 years ago. I miss him very much, but I have lots of great memories to treasure. This is my dad in his 20's--about 20 years before I was born. I think this picture, in his Navy uniform is fun. ;-)

Happy Aloha Friday and Happy Father's Day Weekend to all the dads out there.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Clear Turmeric Soup with Fish & Stall-Style Minced Beef Stir-Fry for Cook the Books: "A Taste for Adventure"

Our first Cook the Books selection for 2010 is "A Taste For Adventure" by Anik See, hosted by the wonderful Rachel at The Crispy Cook. A delectable blend of travelogue, foodie memoir and cookbook (there are close to 40 recipes throughout the book), Anik See writes of her adventures around the world on a bicycle. Journeying to Malaysia, Singapore, Patagonia, Thailand, Georgia, Turkey, Armenia, Indonesia, Argentina, Iran, Mexico and Canada, See's
descriptions of the people she meets and the incredible food she shares with them are vivid and transport the reader to the many exotic places she visits. It was a fun book to read and I particularly enjoyed her chapters on Malaysia and Singapore and Thailand, three countries I traveled to frequently for business in a previous life. Although as a business traveler primarily (with a few pleasure trips thrown in on the side), I didn't have the same type of adventures and experiences See did but we did share the pleasure of wonderful food and incredible people. For my representation of the book I chose to journey to Thailand and cook two recipes, the first Clear Turmeric Soup with Fish (Tom Kamin Pla) from my own Thailand experience, and the second, Stall-style Minced Beef Stir-fry (Neua Pad Keemao) from the book.

One of my worst and best travel experiences happened on the same trip in Thailand where a long trip full of workshops in multiple countries with a co-worker was scheduled to end in Thailand with a long weekend on the island of Phuket. The bad part, I got the WORST case of food poisoning I have ever had. I won't go into all the details ;-) but I spent a miserable week flat on my back in the hotel room assuming I was going to die in Thailand and wishing it would happen already and end my suffering. (Yes, a bit dramatic but it was pretty bad!) By Friday I was at least able to hold down the crackers and 7-up the hotel doctor was making me eat, so my co-worker and I continued with our plans to relax in Phuket and arrived that afternoon to our hotel, Mom Tri's Boathouse. The kind people at the Boathouse took very good care of us and although I went to dinner the first night planning only on continuing my bread and 7-up, the waiter talked me into lemongrass tea, jasmine rice and a simple, clear turmeric soup with fish and mushrooms, that he felt would be good for my stomach. It might sound weird that it was my choice for my first real food in days, but it was delicious and I felt much better almost instantly. We were scheduled to take the hotel's weekend cooking class and I was feeling good enough to enjoy it. The chef Tummanoon Punchun was a kick--very funny and patient and our group was made up of people from all over the world. We bonded over food and even made a version of the soup I had eaten the night before. We all got a copy of "The Boathouse Cookbook" to take with us, signed by Punchun, the author-chef.

Clear Turmeric Soup with Fish (Tom Kamin Pla)
"The Boathouse Cookbook" by Chef Tummanoon Punchun
(Serves 4)

350 g (12 oz) fish (or chicken)
4 shallots, peeled
150 g (5 oz) turmeric root, peeled and roughly chopped
12 stalks lemon grass, outer skins removed
4 Tbsp chopped galangal
4 Tbsp chopped cilantro root
6 cups chicken stock
(added 1 can straw mushrooms, rinsed and drained)
4 tsp sugar
1/2 cup Thai fish sauce (nam pla)
(added the juice of 1 lime and cilantro to garnish)

Slice the fish and set aside. In a food processor, blend together the shallots, turmeric, lemon grass, galangal and cilantro root to make a smooth paste. Heat the chicken stock, then add the herb and spice paste and bring to the boil. (Note: I simmered the herb paste in the broth for about 10 minutes, then poured it through a fine mesh strainer to remove any solids then brought it to a boil and added fish and a can of straw mushrooms). Add the chicken of fish and simmer until it is just cooked. Season with sugar and fish sauce, and serve immediately. (Note: I reduced the amount of fish sauce by 1/2, added the juice of one lime and garnished with chopped cilantro).

Notes/Results: Still delicious and although Tom Kha Gai (coconut soup with chicken) will always be my favorite Thai soup, this one brought back the good memories of the trip. A visit to the Thai store gave me everything I needed to make the soup, and it goes together easily. I did realize why I never make it though, making the paste in the food processor gives ample opportunity for getting yellow stains from the turmeric root all over. My dishwasher is hopefully removing most of them as I type this. If you make it, I recommend straining the solids from the broth before adding the fish as outlined in my notes in red on the recipe. It was fun to pull out the cookbook and my folder of notes from the class (I still have it almost 10 years later!), to make this recipe.

I wanted to try one of the Thai recipes from the book and since I love lettuce wraps, the Stall-style Minced Beef Stir-fry sounded great and easy too. I used ground bison in place of the minced beef and since I got a half head of green cabbage in my CSA box, I used wedges of it to "scoop" up the beef.

From the book: "The cart owner peers at me from under a large, conical straw hat, then, grinning, he grabs a piece of meat and places it on a chopping board so worn into concavity it could be used as a bowl. In a rapid staccato of metal on wood, he attacks the meat with two cleaver, mincing it in a matter of seconds. After he pours a bit of oil into the wok, he stirs it with a pair of chopsticks and with his other hand tosses in a constant stream of ingredients--garlic, chilis, shallots, lemongrass, chopped coriander and it's root, the minced beef. A sharp, spicy smell hits my nose and drifts around me. Deftly he adds some liquid, a bit of sugar, then lines a large plastic bowl with lettuce leaves. He spoons the beef into it and pushes it towards me, smiling, showing me how to take one of the lettuce leaves and fold it so it is sturdy enough to use as a spoon."

See says: "This is a popular late-night snack on the streets of Bangkok. Bird chilis, lemongrass, palm sugar, and rice wine are available at any Asian food market. Cilantro with its roots still attached should be easy to find there too."

Stall-style Minced Beef Stir-fry (Neua Pad Keemao)
"A Taste for Adventure" by Anik See
(Serves 4 as a snack)

2 Tbsp oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 inch fresh ginger, grated
2 bird chilis, fresh or dried, chopped
2 shallots, chopped
2 inches fresh lemongrass, chopped, or 2 Tbsp dried lemongrass
1/2 bunch cilantro, with roots, chopped
1 lb minced beef (I used bison)
1/2 cup beef stock or water
2 tsp palm sugar
2 tsp soy sauce
2 Tbsp rice wine or sake
1 head lettuce, separated into leaves (I used cabbage instead)

Heat the oil in a large wok over high heat. Add the garlic, ginger, chilis, shallots and lemongrass and cook for 2 minutes. Add the cilantro and beef and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, breaking up the beef as you stir. Add the stock, palm sugar, soy sauce, and rice wine. Bring everything to a boil and cook for another minute. Serve in bowls with lettuce on the side for scooping.

Notes/Results: This was delicious, nicely spicy with lots of layers of flavor. It's a bit spicy and a bit sweet with a nice little tang to it and its perfect scooped up on cold cabbage leaves (or lettuce if you want to use it). With all the liquid--stock, sake, soy sauce, it is different from the dry beef in most lettuce wraps or the larb (ground meet mixture) I get at my local Thai restaurant and I think it is a great alternative. I will make this one again.

Great food for a great book--that's what Cook The Books is all about. Thanks to Rachel for picking such a fun and interesting book for this round! Rachel will be posting a round-up of all the dishes from "A Taste for Adventure" at the Cook the Books site soon. BTW--I am hosting the next book, one of my favorites and a foodie classic, "Like Water for Chocolate" by Laura Esquivel. (We will be reading and posting a dish for this book by March 26th). If you want to join us and read or re-read this wonderful book, you can get all the Cook the Books details here at the CTB site.