My Halal Kitchen Has a New Address!

An important note to all My Halal Kitchen readers: this site has been officially moved to a new domain, http://www.myhalalkitchen.com. Please visit there to see what’s cooking in, well…my halal kitchen! I’ve been off for a while, but insha’allah soon there will be more great ideas for recipes and kitchen projects I have in mind.

Also, if you read the Everyday Halal Living blog, that site has also been officially moved to a new domain, http://www.everydayhalalliving.com.

Thanks for all your visits, comments and feedback. Please, keep them coming!!
Asalaamu’alaikum

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Published in: on March 20, 2009 at 8:32 am  Comments (2)  

The Quickest Fruit Compote Isn’t Just For Dessert

This site has been officially moved to a new domain, http://www.myhalalkitchen.com. Please visit there to see what’s cooking!

If you’re anything like me, you buy a whole bag of apples with the intention of providing healthy snacks for yourself and your family all week long. The problem in my case is that I try to convince myself that two people in a household can finish them before they lose their crunch.

Copyright © 2008-2009 My Halal Kitchen

And sometimes husbands request an apple dessert, not just an apple. How quickly the suggestions for applie pie and apple tart came forth from mine. He even offered to buy the crust.

I wasn’t in the mood for tarts and pies and I surely didn’t want a store-bought crust (unless it was the Trader Joe’s brand, which is the closest to homemade I’ve ever had). In fact, I was just too tired to bake.

I decided to come up with this quick fruit compote that would be a versatile dish, not just for dessert, but also a snack with yogurt or a topping on tomorrow’s breakfast oatmeal. I hope you’ll enjoy it using your own local, freshest combination of fruits.

Copyright © 2008-2009 My Halal Kitchen

Ingredients
8 small Michigan Golden Delicious apples, cored and seeded, but not peeled. Cut into quarter pieces
3/4 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen
1/8 cup of sugar, or more to taste
3 TB. real lemon juice
1/2 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature

Preparation
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees farenheit.
2. Butter the bottom of a large, oval or round Pyrex baking dish.
3. Place apples and blueberries in dish. Sprinkle with sugar and let sit for 3-5 minutes.
4. Add lemon juice. Cut butter into small pieces and put in different places around and under fruit.
5. Bake for approximately 1/2 hour or until apple skins have browned well.
6. Remove from oven and use a spoon to turn fruit to mix. With the back of spoon, mash up the apple pieces and combine with blueberries, but don’t over mix (unless you want applesauce!). Remove apple skins if you desire.

Serve warm as-is or on top of ice cream. You can also add to oatmeal or farina at breakfast. Or, top the compote with creme fraiche, whipped cream or real heavy cream for a delicious and elegant dessert.

Bon Appetit!

Published in: on February 21, 2009 at 9:30 am  Comments (2)  
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Olives Plus Oranges Equals…Brownies?

This site has been officially moved to a new domain, http://www.myhalalkitchen.com. Please visit there to see what’s cooking!

Last October I visited the Queen Creek Olive Mill just outside of Scottsdale, Arizona. I never knew this region could cultivate olives until I heard about the mill from a relative who lives nearby. After doing a bit of research on the place, I just had to see it before heading back to the Midwest. We sure can’t grow olives in Chicago!

Copyright 2008-2009 My Halal Kitchen

Copyright 2008-2009 My Halal Kitchen

I’ve always been interested to know how any type of Mediterranean food grows. I suppose I feel the need to learn so that one day I might be able to grow any number of them myself: olives, pomegranetes, lemons, dates, apricots, almonds. I’d probably need an orchard first, though. Right?

Copyright 2008-2009 My Halal Kitchen

Copyright 2008-2009 My Halal Kitchen

I really feel bad that for the number of times I’ve visited Sicily, I’ve never really gone to the olive groves to learn more about from where some of the best olive oil in the world really comes. I enjoyed eating- a lot– in Sicily, yet never really bothered to venture further than the wonderful jovedi (large Thursday market) where I could delight in the colorful produce and fresh, exotic Mediterranean seafood. There, things like olives and cheeses were very expensive, yet tempting enough to buy just a handful and be comforted to know that this land of olives would forever supply us with them.

Copyright 2008-2009 My Halal Kitchen

Copyright 2008-2009 My Halal Kitchen

Needless to say, upon hearing about the Queen Creek Olive Mill, I was instantly interested in going there to see first-hand just how and when olives are hand picked and perfectly pressed to make the purest olive oil one can find in the U.S. Who would have known that in this little Arizona town one could grow olives when conventional thinking would lead you to believe that California is the only American place cultivating these precious trees?

1132553_olives_

Upon arrival, we decided to take the $5 tour of the mill where we would learn all about the process of olive cultivation, picking and pressing. We were first escorted out onto the terrace where a young employee of the company explained to us the very basics of how the Queen Creek Olive Mill was started and about the unique temperature here that makes it possible for these olives trees to flourish.

Copyright 2008-2009 My Halal Kitchen

Copyright 2008-2009 My Halal Kitchen

The business of producing olive oil for sale started just over five years ago here at the base of the San Tan Mountains, an area known for its fertile soil. In this micro-climate, the olive trees will amazingly not experience any mold or fermentation.

Harvesting goes from mid-October to mid-December, so our visit was just two weeks shy of the olive picking season. During the season, olives are harvested at this pesticide-free grove daily by raking and combing them off the trees. Fallen olives are never used because they are considered to be either over-ripe or invaded by pests.

Each olive tree will give anywhere between 50-200 lbs. of olives. One ton of olives will go on to produce 55 gallons of the extra virgin olive oil. Queen Creek’s trees include a variety of Italian, Spanish and Greek ones such as the Mission, Manzanillo, Sevillano, Pendolino, Grappolo, Lucca, Frantoio and the Kalamata.

Olive Fruit on the Tree

Olive Fruit on the Tree

During the harvesting season Queen Creek bottles their olive oil every three weeks and blends their oils every three to five weeks. Their base oil produced from these trees is made of a Tuscan style blend, from which they make some very interesting flavored and cold pressed oils (Meyer Lemon and Blood Orange were two of my favorites), all of which you can taste yourself before purchasing at the store.

Copyright 2008-2009 My Halal Kitchen

Copyright 2008-2009 My Halal Kitchen

Copyright 2008-2009 My Halal Kitchen

Copyright 2008-2009 My Halal Kitchen

Back in the mill we learned more about the technicalities of the oil extraction process and the machines that make that happen. For example, the motors on the machines are all from Italy and preventative maintenance is done on them before and after the harvesting season. The owner even goes to Italy every summer to continue educating himself about olive cultivation and the oil-making process.

Before you can dip your tasty bread into a dish of golden olive oil, these tiny fruits must go through quite an ordeal for you. A defoliator will remove the stems and leaves and the olives will then get a two-stage bath. Afterwords, they must be put through the three main parts of the mill: 1) the mill itself, which pulverizes the meat, pit and seed into a paste; 2) the malixer, which without it there would be no oil; and 3) the centrifuge, where as the paste enters all the solids and water in the olives is extracted.

After learning the delicate process of growing and pressing the olives into oil, who would want to spoil this healthy food? We were given additional tips on selecting the best oils and storing them properly that I’d like to pass on to you:

*There is no such thing as black olives- they are lye-cured and chemically-altered to turn black. Choose only naturally-cured olives (brine-cured)
*Never let your oil smoke
*Every oil has a regional flavor. For example, Tuscan oil is spicy; Spanish oil is fruity; and Greek oil is heavy.
*If you go away for a period of time, you can store your oil in the fridge for 2-3 months
*The shelf life is about one year, but olive oil prefers an ambient temperature- it can be safely kept at anywhere from 80-95 degrees farenheit

I learned many interesting things during my visit to Queen Creek, but the one thing I know will help me the most was this: you cannot change the nutritional value of oils. As a result, you must select your product wisely and in order to do that, you must know what all of the labels mean. The owner of Queen Creek explained the following:
Extra Virgin Olive Oil– means the oil is extracted without heat (all extra virgin olive oil is cold pressed, otherwise, it cannot be called ‘extra virgin’); 100% natural
Pomace Oil– 100% refined, with heat and solvents; made of olive pits and flesh after pressing; could be moldy
Extra Light Olive Oil– made with 95% Pomace oil and 5% Extra Virgin Olive Oil

So you may be wondering when I’ll get to the brownies- and what in the world is a blood orange? Well, you’ll be relieved to know there isn’t any blood in a blood orange, it simply refers to the noticeable red color that runs through this citrus fruit.

As far as where the blood orange comes into play in the brownie recipe, I was really surprised and impressed to see that someone came up with the idea of mixing chocolate with this unique citrus fruit in the form of a flavored oil.

I’ve known about blood oranges since I was a child because of my Sicilian heritage, as this is a popular fruit on the Mediterranean island, but it is virtually unknown in the typical American diet. I actually found the recipe at the Queen Creek Olive Mill store where they give away for free many recipes utilizing their olive oil products.

Blood oranges contain a high amount of vitamin C, potassium, carotene and dietary fiber. Use them in salads, to make juice or cut up as a snack like you would eat any other type of orange. They are a releatively recent crop for U.S. growers in Florida, California and Texas, so look for them in your grocery store. (obiolla.com)

Blood Orange (Stock.xchng Photo)

Blood Orange (Stock.xchng Photo)

In this particular recipe, you will not need to buy any blood oranges becauase the oil is already so aromatically flavored. Below are the ingredients and the instructions for the Blood Orange Olive Oil Brownies. Please see the resource list at the end of this post to find the special ingredients in this recipe.

You can also find the recipe online at http://queencreekolivemill.com/borangebrownies.jsp.

I have, however, made a few changes to the recipe by adding my personal suggestions for ingredients and instructions based on my experience making them. Feel free to take a look at this one and the original to see which works best for you. Buon Appetito!

Ingredients:
4 oz. unsweetened chocolate (try 60-70% dark, organic chocolate)
1 oz. bittersweet chocolate (mine were orange-flavored, but yours definitely don’t have to be)
1 cup all-purpose flour, unbleached (I recommend King Arthur Flour brand products)
1 tsp. baking powder (try to find it without aluminum, as many baking ingredients contain it. I use the Hodgson Mill brand)
3/4 tsp. salt (if you are using sea salt or kosher salt, be sure it is finely ground before baking)
1-2 cups raw cane sugar (amount depends on how sweet you like your desserts & how sweet your chocolate is)
1/2 cup butter (measured before melted)
1/2 cup Queen Creek Olive Mill Blood Orange Olive Oil (you can also use grapeseed or sunflower oil, but do not use a very heavy extra virgin olive oil as the flavor will overpower the entire dessert)
4 medium eggs, preferably free-range
1 TB. vanilla (be sure to use either imitation extract or 1 real vanilla bean. Pure extract is normally obtained by soaking the vanilla beans in vodka)
1 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped (optional)

Preparation:

1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and then measure all ingredients before beginning. It’s best if you have a digital food scale to measure accurately, especially for the chocolate. In baking, accuracy is a must!

Copyright © 2008-2009 My Halal Kitchen

Copyright © 2008-2009 My Halal Kitchen

2. Spray or grease a 9 x 12 baking pan and line the bottom with parchment paper (can be found at such stores as Wal-Mart, restaurant supply stores or gourmet food shops). This helps prevent the batter from sticking when done.

3. In a small saucepan, melt all of the chocolate over low heat. Stir constantly. When completely melted, set aside to cool.

4. In a separate bowl, sift flour, baking powder and salt. Add the sugar to this mixture.

5. Melt butter. In a large mixing bowl, pour the melted butter, then add the Blood Orange Olive Oil or your oil substitute. Add one egg at a time to this mix, incorporating each one fully.

Copyright 2008-2008 My Halal Kitchen

Copyright 2008-2008 My Halal Kitchen

6. Add the vanilla (extract or bean) to the cooled chocolate mixture and combine well. Add this mixture to the butter and olive oil mixture in step 5. Then, fold all of the dry ingredients plus the walnuts into your large mixing bowl with all of the previously mixed ingredients. Combine everything well, but don’t over mix the batter.

Copyright © 2008-2009 My Halal Kitchen

Copyright © 2008-2009 My Halal Kitchen

7. Pour the entire mix into baking pan and bake for 25-30 minutes or until brownies pull away from the side of the pan.

Copyright © 2008-2009 My Halal Kitchen

Copyright © 2008-2009 My Halal Kitchen

Copyright © 2008-2009 My Halal Kitchen

Copyright © 2008-2009 My Halal Kitchen

Copyright © 2008-2009 My Halal Kitchen

Copyright © 2008-2009 My Halal Kitchen

Buon Appetito!

Resources:
Queen Creek Olive Millhttp://www.queencreekolivemill.com/index.jsp
Viovi Organic Blood Orange Juicehttp://www.viovi.it/
Hodgson Mill– for all natural baking ingredients. http://www.hodgsonmill.com/
King Arthur Flour– for baking tools, ingredients and products. http://www.kingarthurflour.com/

Healthy, Inexpensive Breakfast Served Up in No Time

This site has been officially moved to a new domain, http://www.myhalalkitchen.com. Please visit there to see what’s cooking!

I made the mistake of not preparing this breakfast the night before. If I had, I am guessing this morning instead of taking 40 minutes to set the table and serve the food, it might have taken me not more than 10 minutes to do.

This breakfast is so healthy and so simple to make, not to mention inexpensive. Instead of sugary and expensive cereals, breakfast bars and muffins, I opted for more protein and healthy dairy, fruit and herbal tea this morning.

On the menu:
Cheese and Olive Plate: Feta, smoked mozzarella, sour cream and cream cheese- each sprinkled with dried parsley flakes and olive oil; mixed olives in the middle

Hard Boiled Eggs: Thinly sliced, these were great with the bread and cheeses.

Artisanal Wheat Bread: If you don’t have time to bake your own, buy from a grocery store, bakery or farmer’s market. Be sure to buy only whole grain bread for optimal health benefits.

Plain Yogurt: Goes great on your bread and with the eggs. You could also mix some fruit in it to reduce some of the sour taste of plain yogurt.

Fruit Plate: Today I arranged dates, oranges and sliced bananas because that’s what I had on hand. Serve whatever is fresh and seasonal.

Blueberry Flavored Herbal Tea: This Bigelow tea was absolutely delicious. I love all flavors of herbal teas and coffees in the morning, so long as it’s nice and hot and goes along with the meal. Just makes the morning a bit easier… (http://www.bigelowtea.com/)

What are your ideas for a quick, healthy and inexpensive breakfast?

Copyright 2008-2009 My Halal Kitchen

Copyright 2008-2009 My Halal Kitchen

Copyright 2008-2009 My Halal Kitchen

Copyright 2008-2009 My Halal Kitchen

Copyright 2008-2009 My Halal Kitchen

Copyright 2008-2009 My Halal Kitchen

Tuna Patties for a Quick Lunch and Easy Dinner

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I just love fish. But, fish is a precarious food. It has to be fresh or not served at all, in my opinion.

Although I’m not a fan of any canned food, I have to say that canned tuna and salmon really do save the day-and save you the guilt of feeling like you’re eating unhealthy. They should be canned when fresh, preserving that freshness, and when canned in olive oil you can get even more health benefits otherwise just purchase tuna or salmon in water.

The recipe below is not for your typical tuna fish sandwich; it’s for a Mediterranean style fish pattie whose preparation method is so similar to the way us Sicilians flatten, dip in egg, bread and pan-fry everything from eggplant and zucchini to chicken, veal, lean beef and fish. The only difference with this dish is that you really only need one mixing bowl to mix up all the ingredients that you would normally include in separate steps for the others I mentioned.

The best thing about this recipe is that it is so quick to make. I had a few friends over for lunch recently and actually asked one of them to make the patties so she could learn hands-on how it was done- and how quick and easy preparation was.

I served the lunch patties with an accompanying soup, salad, a cheese plate, roasted vegetables and pita bread. At dinner, I made them again for my husband’s dinner by making them an accompaniment to his chicken & rice soup and a hefty ciabatta bread bun. Yumm!

Below is a recipe for four people (8 patties) and some photos to show you the frying and the end results. Just imagine the different types of your favorite bread you could serve it on.

Ingredients:
2 small cans tuna or 1 8oz. can of salmon
2 small eggs
approximately ½ cup unseasoned bread crumbs, preferably home made (many store-bought brands contain MSG)
1 TB. parmesan cheese
dried parsley, to taste
salt, to taste
black pepper, to taste

2 TB. extra virgin olive oil, or more if necessary

Method of Preparation:

Mix all ingredients well, except olive oil in a bowl. Form flat, round patties, adding more bread crumbs if necessary to keep their shape. Do not add more eggs, as this will make the patties too difficult to form.

Heat the olive oil on medium-high in a shallow frying pan until hot, but not burning. Fry patties for about 6 minutes on each side, depending on the size of your flame, if using gas stovetop.

Lay on a plate with paper towels to drain excess oil. Serve up as a sandwich, as a side dish or on top of a salad. Any way you choose will be delicious!

Copyright 2008-2009 My Halal Kitchen

Copyright 2008-2009 My Halal Kitchen

Copyright 2008-2009 My Halal Kitchen

Copyright 2008-2009 My Halal Kitchen

Copyright 2008-2009 My Halal Kitchen

Copyright 2008-2009 My Halal Kitchen

Published in: on February 1, 2009 at 9:37 am  Comments (1)  

You Can Serve a (Halal) Presidential Inauguration Luncheon, Too

This site has been officially moved to a new domain, http://www.myhalalkitchen.com. Please visit there to see what’s cooking!

White House Lawn in Winter

White House Lawn in Winter

If you’re like many other Americans today, you’ve been keeping a close eye on all of today’s historic Presidential Inauguration events. For foodies like myself, what was being served up at this afteroon’s luncheon was of key interest to me.

I’ve heard the Obamas are healthy eaters who also like Mexican food (particularly that which is served up at Rick Bayless’ restaurant, Topolobampo, right here in Chicago). http://www.fronterakitchens.com/restaurants/restaurants.html

This made me wonder if there would be organic food on the menu. What about Mexican food? I was interested to know but never imagined that the menu, let alone the recipes, would be available online!

Served to the President, First Lady and Congressional Staff:

First course: Seafood Stew
Second Course: Duck Breast with Cherry Chutney , Herb Roasted Pheasant with Wild Rice Stuffing, Molasses Whipped Sweet Potatoes and Winter Vegetables.
Dessert: Cinnamon Apple Sponge Cake

Some tips for you to make these recipes halal:

-Leave out the vermouth (a type of alcohol) listed in the Seafood Stew recipe

-For the Duck Breast with Cherry Chutney recipe, substitute kosher grape juice for the red wine and do not use the Dijon mustard called for in the recipe, as most Dijon mustards have red wine vinegar in them. I would not substitute with any other kind of mustard, as they are mostly too ‘yellow’ and may discolor the end result. Just leave it out. And, If you’ve been a reader of this blog before, you know where you can find a halal duck, (http://www.midamar.com), or scroll down to find the article “To Roast a Duckling” where you can read more about halal ducklings.

-For the Herb Roasted Pheasant with Wild Rice Stuffing, if you can’t find a halal pheasant, try roasting a halal quail instead. They can be found, usually frozen and sold in packets of two, in most Middle Eastern or Mediterranean marts. Online they can be found at http://seattlediscountwarehouse.com/Quail%20page.htm, however, I have never bought from this merchant and cannot comment on their quality, taste or halal certification.

-The dessert calls for vanilla extract. Do not use the pure vanilla extract because it is stripped with alcohol, usually vodka, to bring out the extract of the vanilla bean. Instead, try using your own vanilla bean or an imitation vanilla extract- those usually don’t contain any alcohol at all.

Here’s the link to the pages where you can download the menu and the recipes listed above.

http://inaugural.senate.gov/documents/doc-2009-recipes.pdf

Grapefruit and Curried Shrimp Saute

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I wouldn’t normally make this type of recipe out of the blue or just for having both grapefruit and shrimp somewhere in the kitchen. I made this recipe because a fellow website editor was asking for recipe writers, cooks and cookbook authors to come up with a recipe where ‘grapefruit is the main feature’.

This is my own version of a recipe for Grapefruit Shrimp Curry I saw in an old cookbook from Florida that’s been on my shelf for years. If you would like the information for the original recipe and cookbook, please see the information at the end of this post.

I made this recently, and I can tell you, it is wonderful! It tasted like a restaurant-made dish from a Thai restaurant. It was very filling, but not too heavy.

I served it on a bed of rice. You might also want to add a small bowl of fishy or vegetable soup afterwards.

Step 1: Make the Roux

Copyright 2009 My Halal Kitchen

Copyright 2009 My Halal Kitchen

Step 2: Add the Coconut Milk

Copyright 2009 My Halal Kitchen

Copyright 2009 My Halal Kitchen

3. Properly Blend the Sauce

Copyright 2009 My Halal Kitchen

Copyright 2009 My Halal Kitchen

4. Add the Shrimp

Copyright 2009 My Halal Kitchen

Copyright 2009 My Halal Kitchen

5. Add the Grapefruit

Copyright 2009 My Halal Kitchen

Copyright 2009 My Halal Kitchen

6. Blend Till Shrimp Turns Pink

Copyright 2009 My Halal Kitchen

Copyright 2009 My Halal Kitchen

7. Voila! Grapefruit and Shrimp Curry Saute

Copyright 2009 My Halal Kitchen

Copyright 2009 My Halal Kitchen

Grapefruit and Curried Shrimp Sauté

    Ingredients

4 TB. butter
3 cloves garlic, smashed
pinch of saffron

1 small yellow onion, finely chopped (about ½ cup)

5 TB flour
2 tsp. salt
½ TB. curry powder (1 TB. if you like really spicy!)

2 cups coconut milk
½ cup freshly-squeezed grapefruit juice (about ½ grapefruit)

2 pounds fresh shrimp, peeled, deveined and cleaned
1 cup grapefruit meat (skin removed), quartered and cut in half

4 Tb.(or more, to taste) fresh cilantro, roughly chopped

    Method of Preparation

*Note: Prepare all ingredients ahead of time and organize them well. Once you begin this recipe, the steps go fast and you will not have time to leave the stove lest you burn the butter, dry out the roux or curdle the sauce.

1. In a small saucepan, melt the butter on low with the garlic and saffron, approx. 5 min. Do not burn. There is no need to stir.
2. Once the butter mixture is done, pour into a separate large sauté pan. Add onions. Over medium-high heat, sauté the onions but do not brown them, approx. 5-7 minutes.
3. With a wooden spoon, blend in the flour to make a rough paste, or roux. Add the salt and curry powder and blend. Keep blending to avoid burning the roux, until all ingredients are well mixed.
4. Turn heat to medium-low. Add coconut milk and blend until the roux is completely free of any lumps. Add grapefruit juice and keep stirring to smooth out the mixture and avoid curdling of the coconut milk. Cook until thick, approx. 3-5 minutes.
5. Add shrimp and stir, until you see that some have begun to turn pink. Next, add the grapefruit sections and continue stirring the mixture to avoid anything from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Turn heat to low, if necessary. Be sure that shrimp is cooking well by turning pink and becoming a bit smaller than when raw. This may be a bit difficult to see through the pinkish color of the sauce, but keep turning the shrimp in the pan to look for this color. Cook in this manner for approximately 10 minutes.
6. Serve on a bed of white sticky or jasmine rice and top with roughly-chopped cilantro.

Serves 4-6, depending on the appetites!

The original recipe was for Grapefruit Shrimp Curry, found in Maurices Tropical Fruit Cookbook, by Maurice de Verteuil. Great Outdoors Publishing Compnay. 4747 28th Street North. St. Petersburg, FL 33714. p. 30

Ingredients:
5 TB. butter
1 small onion, finely chopped
5 TB. flour
2 tsp. seasoned salt
1 tsp. curry powder
1 chicken bouillon cube
2 1/2 cups milk
1/2 cup grapefruit juice
2 pounds cooked shrimp, peeled
1 cup grapefruit sections, cut in half or bite size

Method of Preparation:

1. Saute onions in butter. Do not brown.
2. Blend in flour to make a roux. Add seasonings and bouillon cube. Blend.
3. Add liquids. At this point, you must stir constantly to avoid curdling. Cook until thick.
4. Add shrimp adn grapefruit sections and heat through over low heat. Serve on a bed of rice.

Published in: on January 12, 2009 at 10:54 pm  Comments (2)  

Duck Fat in a Roasted Red Pepper and Cheese Sandwich?

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Ok, I know this isn’t the most exciting notion of a sandwich, but scroll down and see the pics of this creation and you’ll at least wonder if it tastes as good as it looks.

Are you back?

Ok, give me credit- I creatively reused -instead of wasted-that plethora of duck fat that came from my duckling last week (scroll down to read my post, To Roast a Duckling).

Well, I don’t deserve a whole lot of credit. It really wasn’t my notion of ‘reusing’ that spurred me into this frenzy of finding dishes I could cook using it; it was more of my gourmet-obsessed mind to create dishes that look like they’ve come straight out of a (fancy) restaurant. I read about how all the best chefs in the world tout the incredible flavor that drips from this bird. I want to be like them, in my own kitchen (and without all the stress). Besides, did I forget to mention that Julia Child told me (not directly, of course) to use this fat, too?

You might be thinking that this fat isn’t very healthy, comparing its thick texture when cold to hydrogenated oils, hardened vegetable oils used to line your baking pan, or even lard, but duck fat doesn’t fall anywhere near those oils in comparison. In categories of taste, versatility and healthiness, it beats out all of them.

I’m not a doctor or a nutritionist, so I can’t give you clinical study results or medical advice, but I can suggest you read more about what the experts have to say about it. There is a long, but particularly interesting article about saturated fats by Dr. Mary Enig and Sally Fallon in the link below. They mention duck fat by name in their reference to how the French have a ‘lower rate of coronary heart disease than many other western countries’. http://www.health-report.co.uk/saturated_fats_health_benefits.htm

I also really love a book called Real Food by author Nina Planck. The information she provides in her book really helped me to release my fear of eating butter, cheese, whole milk and animal fats (halal only, of course). In fact, she provides solid and clear arguments about why you shouldn’t choose otherwise. Foods that are processed, chemically altered, genetically modified, unnaturally preserved, and even some that are pasteurized really come into question in her book. I suggest anyone interested in getting healthy or responsible for feeding and raising young children should read this book cover to cover.
http://www.ninaplanck.com/index.php?page=real_food_book

Ok, so I got off topic for a minute- but found a great opportunity to share one of my favorite authors with you….

Back to the roasted peppers.

I had an enormous bag of ‘Mysteriously Sweet Red Peppers’ from Mexico- yes, that was on the label- that I had to do something with. They were nice enough to stay firm in my refrigerator’s crisper until I could figure out what I wanted to do with them for a week or two.

I decided on roasted vegetables- an easy dish because all you have to do is spend a few minutes to loosely chop your items, throw on some salt, a bit of sugar, any seasoning you like and add some fat. Put them in an oven-safe dish and throw them in the oven at 350-375 degrees and wait for your nose to tell you they’re done, not burnt. Mine took about 40-45 minutes to get really nice and brown.

In this particular dish, I added red onions and whole, peeled garlic cloves to add flavor. I used about 4 TB. of the cold duck fat, but a great alternative is extra virgin olive oil. You could add eggplant or zucchini- any type of vegetable with a similar cooking time. Carrots or potatotes would need longer to cook unless they are blanched, so don’t use them unless they are.

When your dish is done, serve with French, Italian or pita bread and dip your peppers into them. You could also serve as a side dish to chicken, or top a pasta dish that needs a bit of jazzing up.

Copyright © 2009 My Halal Kitchen

Copyright © 2009 My Halal Kitchen

One thing I must say is that this dish is even better the second day when the flavors have married.

That’s where this sandwich comes in.

Copyright 2009 My Halal Kitchen

Copyright 2009 My Halal Kitchen

I didn’t want to eat it in the same way the next day, so I got out a sandwich bun and toasted it. Meanwhile, I warmed up my roasted peppers in the microwave with a slice of Tillamook swiss cheese on top. When everything was ready, I ate it with pure delight, realizing I couldn’t have gone out and had a better sandwich elsewhere.

It’s not only the gratification of making your own food, without difficulty or waste, but the gratification of knowing that home really is the best place in the world to eat, making a mini meal like this worth the effort.

So, are you convinced yet? Make this sandwich yourself- or just the peppers as an appetizer with bread- and you’ll become a sort of taste believer.

And, umm, you don’t really have to use duck fat- unless of course you roast a duckling, too.

Quick Creamed Spinach Soup For a Last Minute Dinner

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Does this ever happen to you? You’ve planned a gourmet dinner for the evening (ok, semi-gourmet) and, just when you think you’ve got enough time and everything is under control, something seriously breaks your pace- a stove that needs to be calibrated, a husband coming home earlier than anticipated, meat that isn’t completely defrosted, or a recipe you’ve just read to the end and realized you need two hours to cook instead of one?

Well, most people would only be afflicted with one of these problems per dinner drama, but last night, I had all of them to deal with. My Navarin Pantier (Lamb Stew with Spring Vegetables) was my recipe project of the day, another of Julia Child’s delights I was trying to master. (No wonder the cookbook it comes from is called Mastering the Art of French Cooking).

I made the fatal flaw Julia always warned about in her TV episodes of The French Chef: “Read the recipe before you begin to cook”. Well, I thought I did, but in reality I’d only read half– the part where she tells you to cook the lamb for an hour. The next page is where she tells you, “Regulate heat so liquid simmers slowly and steadily for about an hour longer….”

I had no ‘Plan B’, knew my husband was famished, and I had very few exciting ingredients in the house to play with.

Taking one look around my fridge and counter, I had to think quick about what I could do with apples, cheese, spinach, onions, tomato paste, odd pieces of cheese, and various experimental jars of homemade creme fraiche. It was like playing ‘Iron Chef’ against myself.

Ok, it has to be soup and salad tonight. Soups without pasta, rice, potatoes or meat are usually not hearty enough to fill a hungry stomach, but I knew if I made a simple soup with creme fraiche added, we could eat it with hearty bread and a salad, which would be perfect for the late dinner we would have.

I decided on a Creamed Spinach Soup made by sauteeing onions in butter and olive oil and adding tomato paste and water to fill half the pan. I let it cook till it came to a boil. I then added spinach and let it simmer for about 10 minutes, just enough time for me to cut the cheese and peel and slice the green apple for my salad. I left the slices to soak in cold water until I was done so they wouldn’t brown.

I returned to my soup and tickled it with my handy immersion blender- a tool every soup maker should have, in my opinion. I blended a little at at a time, until the entire pan was a creamier version of the original. I let it simmer for a minute or two, then added 2 heaping tablespoons of my homemade creme fraiche, stirring it in until all of the whiteness of the creme disappeared. Two minutes later, I was satisfied that it was finally a creamed spinach soup.

Copyright 2009 My Halal Kitchen

Copyright 2009 My Halal Kitchen

Copyright 2009 My Halal Kitchen

Copyright 2009 My Halal Kitchen

Copyright 2009 My Halal Kitchen

Copyright 2009 My Halal Kitchen

Copyright 2009 My Halal Kitchen

Copyright 2009 My Halal Kitchen

Returning to my salad, I rinsed and drained the baby greens then gave them a whirl in my other kitchen favorite- my salad spinner. I dried the greens with a paper towel and laid them gently in a bowl, added rough cubes of white cheddar and slices of the green apples I’d cut earlier. Later they were dressed in a simple mix of extra-virgin olive oil, salt and apple cider vinegar.

Copyright 2009 My Halal Kitchen

Copyright 2009 My Halal Kitchen

Sitting down to a simple, quick dinner of Creamed Spinach Soup, Greens Salad with Apples and White Cheddar and a hearty slice of flame-warmed pita bread was a great end to the drama that plagued my kitchen only about a half an hour earlier.

Published in: on January 8, 2009 at 9:19 am  Comments (12)  
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A Sundae to Ease into Sunday

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Copyright My Halal Kitchen 2009

Copyright My Halal Kitchen 2009

On a cold winter day, what excuse can we give ourselves that a homemade sundae isn’t a great idea?

I don’t want to think about it.

They say ‘necessity is the mother of invention’ and we needed this.

Ok, we didn’t need it but we wanted something to accompany our Saturday evening movie night and the thought that tomorrow would seem like it’s really Monday.

If you’ve been reading my blog, you’ll know that I’m a huge fan of Trader Joe’s products, so need I say more about where I got the ice cream for our sundaes? (No, they do not pay me to write about their products– but hey, if somebody out there from TJ’s wants to hire me to do that, I’ll give it some thought).

Ok, back to serious business: ‘Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream- Super Premium’ was the main ingredient. And, since I’m not trying to be over-complicated or wasteful here, I only used two other ingredients lurking in my cabinet and fridge: Hershey’s Chocolate Syrup and Salerno Butter Cookies.

All three ingredients were layered in a plastic, hand-me-down parfait cup and on top a finale of the chocolate syrup was drizzled. If I had any more whipped cream left over from last month’s pumpkin pie fest, you bet I would’ve topped it with that, too.

I think the chic-flick I made my husband watch tonight was a bit easier for him to get through…

Where to find these products:

Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream-Super Premium: http://www.traderjoes.com/

Hershey’s Chocolate Syrup– any retail grocer should have it, but if you happen to be in a remote location or somewhere outside of the U.S. (or on another planet), you can go to the Hershey’s website and they will ship it to you: http://www.hersheygifts.com/?sc=WG959&HG_ID=HG_Google:30860

Salerno Butter Cookies: These cookies aren’t just for adults with a sweet tooth, like us. They are particularly good for teething babies. I buy mine at Jerry’s Fruit and Garden in Niles, IL (located at 7901 N. Milwaukee Avenue. 847-967-1440) for 99 cents a box! They’re hard to find for a decent price online, but you could try to contact the company that manufactures them: Archway and Mother’s Cookie Company, PO Box 762, Battle Creek, MI 49016, United States, (269) 962-6205, (269)962-8149 fax, http://www.cpequity.com

*Disclaimer: The opinions expressed here are entirely based on my own personal tastes, which may obviously be different for others who try the same product(s). The reviewer also declares that she has not received any monetary or non-monetary compensation from the restaurant or food product company for writing this review.

Copyright © 2009 My Halal Kitchen. All rights reserved. The information contained in this blog may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the prior written authority of My Halal Kitchen.