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.

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Brunch is Served

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

Copyright My Halal Kitchen 2009

Copyright My Halal Kitchen 2009

Every weekend morning I have the same dilemma- make a quick and usual breakfast, or make it an occasion by serving special foods that are timely to prepare but sure to please.

The need-to-please disease I have tells me that small breakfasts should induce guilt. But what if I could serve a sizeable breakfast without all the struggle and extra time in the morning? I didn’t want to just put any old leftovers together- that would be a bit too obvious….

Luckily my husband isn’t a picky guy and doesn’t snub food the same way I would if I didn’t like it, which actually made me want to do a nice thing- not take up too much time in the kitchen (which throws off our entire schedule entirely), without skimping on the food, either.

I decided to serve up eggs baked in ramekins, a savory pastry filled with spinach and feta cheese, a mixed salad, and sliced grapefruit. Not too fancy, but just enough to please, I hoped.

I prepared the baked eggs or ‘Oeufs en Cocotte‘, according to the base of a recipe I saw on a Julia Child French Chef episode. I changed some things to make each dish of two eggs baked in a ramekin then set in hot water to our own liking: Mine was mixed with leftover homemade buttermilk dressing and on my husband’s I poured a simple, plain leftover tomato sauce (see details below). After about fifteen minutes of baking in the oven, they were done. In the meantime, I was able to set the table and prepare the next dishes.

The savory pastry is a favorite in our home, mainly because the smell of baked phyllo puts me in a wonderful mood. Based on a combination of a recipe for Turkish borek from my dearest friend, Inci, and a Greek recipe for spanakopita handed down loosely to me from my cousin’s Yaya (grandmother), I have finally found a recipe that works for us. This one was prepared yesterday, but we really couldn’t finish it last night. It was too hot to eat and this is one dish where patience allows you to enjoy it more. The cheese has time to set and the dough is not as flimsy when it’s cooled. Today three pieces were reheated in the microwave for about two minutes and resulted in a perfect, warm taste. The cheese was set and the spinach had time to mingle with it, just enough time to complement each other nicely (recipe below).

The salad was super easy. In my conscious effort to eat up the largest carton of mixed organic greens possibly for sale at Costco, I decided now was a perfect time to eat it up- and give my husband an excuse to eat something green. Just throw the greens in a large bowl, top with sliced tomatoes and drizzle the mix with olive oil, a pinch of salt and dried parsley flakes. Voila! It’s done.

I almost forgot to mention the proud addition I just had to put on the table- a small bowl of my homemade crème fraiche, which I had been experimenting with all week. Until I get it perfect, I suggest you just buy the best one on the market today: the Vermont Butter and Cheese Company’s Crème Fraiche, sold at Trader Joe’s stores or online at: http://butterandcheese.net/cremeFraiche.html

The last addition was the plate of peeled and sliced grapefruit, a great way to end the meal and clean the palate after all the dairy at the table. The important thing to remember about grapefruit is that if it’s peeled properly, you won’t taste any bitterness; instead it will taste sweet and refreshing. It’s a bit of work, but don’t have it any other way.

Brunch was prepared and served today within a half an hour. It was delicious, healthy and very pleasing to both of us. There were no excuses left for today’s schedule to go awry. Uh oh, what have I started?

Please see recipe information for Buttermilk Dressing, Eggs Baked in Ramekins (Oeufs en Cocotte), and Savory Spinach Pastry:

Buttermilk Dressing (by Tierra Miguel Farm, which I found in the book Slow Food Nation’s Come to the Table: The Slow Food Way of Living, p. 118)

Ingredients:
2 C buttermilk
1 whole hard-boiled egg
¾ cup olive oil
10 sprigs parsley
5 sprigs celery leaves (optional)
2 cloves garlic
4 scallions, green and white parts chopped
1 handful of any fresh green herbs on hand, such as sorrel, nettle, watercress, or cilantro
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Method:
Mix buttermilk, egg, oil, parsley, celery leaves, garlic, scallions, and herbs in a blender or food processor until smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Makes 6 to 8 servings of dressed salad.

Resource:
Heron, Katrina, Ed. with a foreword by Alice Waters. Slow Food Nation’s Come to the Table: The Slow Food Way of Living. New York: Rodale Books, 2008.

Eggs Baked in Ramekins (Oeufs en Cocotte) can be found in Mastering the Art of French Cooking: Fortieth Anniversary Edition, Volume One, pages 123-124. It was written by Julia Child, Louisette Bertholle and Simone Beck. New York, Alfred A. Knopf. 2001.

Savory Spinach Pastry
You will need:
One package of phyllo dough
1lb. bag of frozen spinach
1 lb. feta cheese
2 eggs
approximately ½ cup each of olive oil and cold milk, mixed together in a cup
large rectangular pyrex dish
black seeds or sesame seeds to taste

Buy one package of phyllo dough typically used to prepare baklava. When the dough is cold, but not frozen, open it up to its full length. Lay the dough down so that it looks rectangular. With kitchen shears or scissors, cut the dough in half vertically. Reserve half in the fridge to keep cold and keep the other half out to prepare on your counter.

Using a pastry brush, ‘paint’ the bottom of your pyrex dish with a mixture of ½ cup olive oil and ½ cup milk (this should be in a cup next to you as you work). Lay a sheet of phyllo dough on top of it, then continue to paint each sheet one by one until you have finished this half of the dough.

Mix the feta cheese, eggs and frozen spinach in a bowl until well mixed. Pour on top of the phyllo dough you have painted in the pyrex dish. Pat the mixture down so it lies flat.

Bring out the cold dough from your fridge and continue to pain each layer individually until you are finished. Paint the very last layer generously and then add either sesame seeds or black seeds, but not both.

Bake in a 375 degrees oven for approximately 35-45 minutes, depending on your oven. Allow to cool before eating.

*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.

To Roast a Duckling

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To roast a duckling is an endeavor not meant for the faint-hearted of the kitchen. I’ve cooked duck in the past and it was disastrous- tough, pan-seared breast that I never researched how to make in the first place. How hard could it be, really?

It was the early years of marriage and my sweet husband ate every tough-to-chew last bit of it, while I looked at my plate deciding not to finish the ‘mistake’ on my plate. I knew then he was much too nice- or much too hungry. He argues that a person can be both, and that I must agree with.

Well, that was seven years ago and I have since broken down and learned that it doesn’t mean I’m not a natural in the kitchen if I have to read a recipe or study particular cooking techniques, especially in preparation for roasting poultry and game that are not regulars at our dinner table.

While recently shopping at our favorite Mediterranean grocery store, I scanned the frozen food aisle just to see if anything was new in prepared foods such as pizzas and falafel and meats like halal burgers and sejouk, or spicy sausages. I’m not a fan of frozen foods, but once in a while I do find something useful, especially at this store, which sells only halal products- very exciting in its own right.

Much to my surprise, sitting right next to the halal turkeys, I spotted a smaller frozen bird of some sort. I thought it was probably just another whole chicken but it seemed a tad bit larger so I turned it around to look at the label, not expecting it to be anything I would actually purchase (we already had an entire lamb being prepared for us as we shopped). Sure enough, it was the first frozen halal duckling I had ever seen before. I plopped it into the cart and hoped for the best, hoping I wasn’t kidding myself into thinking I could actually make up for the last bird.

At the checkout, the store clerk commented that the roast duckling would be ‘an extravagant meal’. “Great,” I thought. Just what I needed- not only to mess up the duck, but to waste money and ‘extravagant’ food in the process. “I’m in trouble now,” I murmured to myself.

I spent a couple of weeks letting the little duckling continue its destiny deep in the depths of my standing freezer. I thought about it often, trying to come up with my own recipe in my head, and then came to my senses: “NO! Not again, I will ruin the reputation of roast duckling for my husband forever if I do THAT again! I need the perfect recipe.”

Once again, Julia Child came to my rescue, renewing my hope in ever being able to successfully bring a duck to an edible level. My husband’s only preference this time around was not to make the orange sauce that traditionally accompanies this bird dish. “No problem, I’m sure Julia has a recipe for that,” I thought.

Life has a way of allowing you to surprise yourself once in a while. It just so happens that my newfound love of all things Julia Child ever created has brought me to remember the poultry pages of Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Fortieth Anniversary Edition.

Simply put, “Caneton Roti”, or Roast Duckling, had real instructions I could follow on two pages (274-275), and I had all the ingredients in tow.

I followed the recipe exact, like an apprentice following a master chef in hopes of earning a Le Cordon Bleu diploma at the final exam. If I messed this one up, I would be traumatized. That’s why I chose the easiest of all the duck recipes, and the only one listed for roast duckling, not duck- aren’t they older, anyway?

I trussed it, cut off the wing tips and stuffed its cavity with fragrant herbs, just as instructed. I poured cut onions and carrots at the bottom of the roasting pan and laid him down gently out of the way of the vegetables. No water or broth needed for this baby- it would generate more fat than I could ever imagine. No need for basting, just keep removing the fat.

After a few hours (much longer than the recipe suggested, due to the funny temperament of my oven), it was finally done- successfully. Served with a side of garlicky mashed potatoes, it was worth the wait–and the work–and the need to follow a recipe, at least once in a while.

If you’d like to try this recipe, you can find it in Julia Child’s book, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, 40th Anniversary Edition, Volume One. Alfred A. Knopf. 2001. http://www.amazon.com/Mastering-Art-French-Cooking-Fortieth/dp/0375413405

To find your own halal duckling, check out Midamar’s website at: http://www.midamarhalal.com/scripts/products.asp?C=Halal+Chicken. Each duckling costs $15.00.

If you live in the Chicagoland area and want to take a drive out to the western suburbs to buy your halal meats, including a frozen Midamar duckling, check out our favorite spot: Mediterranean Oasis Mart Inc., 357 E Bailey Rd., Naperville, IL 60565; Telephone: (630) 420-9507. Ask for Abu Shoosha- he’ll take great care of you.

Keeping Warm, French Style

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This winter, I’ve snuggled up to more than my fair share of Julia Child cookbooks and DVDs of her cooking shows, “The French Chef”. So far I’ve seen countless hours of her slapping dough around to make croissants and French bread, demonstrating brutally tedious sauce-making techniques and offering 1960’s style video of her own shopping tours around Paris and the south of France. Nevertheless, I’m addicted to learning from this woman.

As a result, for the first time I’ve made homemade French Onion Soup, following Julia’s recipe verbatim. It turned out perfectly. Even my husband was “warmed” up to the idea of eating enormous amounts of onions and butter and cheese in this hearty dish. He even warmed up to the idea of learning a little something from Julia. I think he’s enjoying himself, ever so slightly, because Julia was a practical woman and a wildly demonstrative teacher who made it easy for us to understand and learn from- something all teachers should be, in my opinion.

One thing I’ve learned from reading other books and blogs about French culture, cooking techniques, style and form is that the French, particularly Parisians, really love to warm themselves up with a hot bowl of soup during the chilly winter months. Check out David Lebovitz’s blog about living in Paris and his article about celery root soup at: http://www.davidlebovitz.com/archives/2008/12/celery_root_soup.html

Here’s a quicker version of French Onion Soup than in Julia Child’s book I used (Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Fortieth Edition, Vol. 1 by Julia Child, Louisette Bertholle and Simone Beck, p. 43-45). It’s Emerille Lagasse’s recipe found on the Food Network website:
http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/emeril-lagasse/french-onion-soup-recipe/index.html

Substitute ½ cup red grape juice for the sherry and remember to use only your own homemade chicken and veal stock, made from dhabiha halal animals. If you don’t have that, use a halal canned or carton broth (let me know if you see that in any stores), or a can or carton of kosher stock or broth.

You can also use beef stock instead of chicken or veal stock but the taste will be a bit more “meaty”. And you can also just use one type of stock (i.e. only chicken as opposed to the combination), just make sure the stock is dark. Don’t make this dish if you will only be able to use water- it just isn’t worth sacrifice in taste.

Bon Appetit! Let me know how your soup turns out…

Yvonne

Marcella Hazan on the Martha Stewart Show

Today I learned about a renowned food writer I thought you should know about: Marcella Hazan- and she appeared today on the “Martha Stewart Show” preparing a Tortelloni Stuffed with Swiss Chard, Prosciutto and Ricotta served with a heavy cream tomato sauce. She also talked about her new book, Amarcord: Marcella Remembers, available online at: http://search.barnesandnoble.com/booksearch/isbninquiry.asp?r=1&popup=0&ean=9781592403882

The base of this dish is prepared with “prosciutto”, an Italian word for ham that has been seasoned, cured or air-dried. It is often used as a fat base for flavoring (thus referred to as “pancetta” or offered in sandwiches as a deli meat or part of an appetizer tray with other cured meats, cheeses and olives.
 
 In this particular recipe, we Muslims can simply delete this item without sacrificing any great taste at all, or we can substitute it with a wonderful halal alternative, such as the Midamar Halal Beef Soujouk, a type of beef sausage. You can find it in many halal supermarkets or online at: http://www.midamarhalal.com/scripts/products.asp
 

Marcella. Hazan is renowned for teaching culinary techniques and methods, which I noticed while watching her on Martha’s show. For example, she says when you drain pastas like ravioli, that you shouldn’t just throw them in the colander, but try to catch them first with a ‘chinese spider’ type of handled colander because the weight of the water will break the raviolis. What a great tip!

You can find these types of colanders online at: http://www.amazon.com/6-diameter-Bamboo-Skimmer-Strainer/dp/B00012F3U4

 

Ms. Hazan is not teaching cooking as she used to in the past at the famed French Culinary Institute but is now retired and lives with her husband, Victor, in Florida.

 

To find the exact recipe mentioned in this post, please click on the link below for the Martha Stewart show:

http://www.marthastewart.com/recipe/tortelloni-stuffed-with-swiss-chard-prosciutto-and-ricotta?lnc=38f9cf380e1dd010VgnVCM1000005b09a00aRCRD&rsc=showmain_tv_the-martha-stewart-show

 

You can read more about Marcella Hazan’s interesting background online at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marcella_Hazan

 

 

 

 

 

Making Homemade Yogurt Has Never Been Easier

I was attracted to the book, French Women Don’t Get Fat: The Secret of Eating for Pleasure by Mirielle Guiliano, not because I wanted to diet (no thanks!), but because I sincerely wanted to re-affirm what I already felt to be true about healthy eating. In it, she describes the benefits of eating yogurt and how to make it both the old-fashioned way and with an electronic yogurt maker. (p. 148-153)

(As an important side note, I need to mention the fact that Ms. Guiliano advocates drinking wine, which is absolutely not halal, therefore I do not advocate nor condone that part of the book)  

It was my belief that not only French, but most European, Asian, South Asian, and more–don’t get fat, at least not like we do here. I have been in Europe, North Africa, Mexico and Central America and have never seen the severe obesity problem we have in this country. However, I fear that with the export of processed foods, fast food chains and chemically-treated and preserved foods, we are severely-and perhaps permanently-damaging the dietary habits of other global culinary traditons. Needless to say, that’s another topic in itself to discuss on my spinoff blog at www.everydayhalal.wordpress.com.

Today’s post is to demonstrate how easy it is to make yogurt at home. I have tried it the old-fashioned way by boiling milk and adding the yogurt culture and letting it sit for hours and hours in my own pots. Sometimes it would work, other times it wouldn’t. I felt very horrible “expirementing” with perfectly good milk when the yogurt would not turn out right; and elated and surprised when it (rarely) did turn out to be yogurt.

As an economical and much less-wasteful solution, I decided to make the investment in an electronic yogurt maker- a Donvier brand, as suggested by Mirielle Guiliano in her book. A variety of yogurt makers are available online at http://www.amazon.com for between $30-60 plus shipping. Just type in “yogurt makers”.

Let’s get to the process so you can see how easy it is to do yourself. Please refer to the photos below:

 

1. Get yourself any electronic yogurt maker!  (http://www.donvier.com/site/eng/search_result.aspx)

2. Boil the milk for at least 20 minutes, or until you see the bubbly foam at the top. Immediately turn off heat and remove any film collected at the top.

3. Use a thermometer to continuously check the temperature of the milk. It should be between 110-115 degrees F when you add the yogurt culture. At this point, if you are using a Donvier or similar type of yogurt maker, you will need 1 TB. of plain yogurt (at room temperature). I like to use whole milk plain yogurt only because the result is smooth, thick and creamy. The best yogurt for starter (in my opinion) is Stonyfield Farm Yogurt (http://www.stonyfield.com/OurProducts/WholeMilkYogurt.cfm). It is organic and certified Kosher, as well. Mix the 1 TB. of yogurt with one plastic container of milk (this should come with your yogurt maker). Pour this mixture back into your pot of boiled milk.

4.  Stir this mixture very well so that there are no clumps of yogurt throughout the boiled milk.

5. Next, pour this mixture into each of the plastic glasses that comes with your yogurt maker and use the caps to cover. My Donvier comes with 8 plastic glasses and caps.

6. Set the electric time for 10 hours. The red light (of a Donvier) should indicate that it is “on”. Do not open any of the glasses during this entire time, as it may tamper with the delicate process of cultivating the yogurt.

7. At the 10 hour mark, your yogurt maker should indicate with a beep that it is ready to be shut off. Do not keep the yogurt on longer than this. Each glass should be immediately stored in the refrigerator.

The great thing about this is that you can enjoy the yogurt plain or add fruit, nuts and/or honey to your liking– all without any preservatives or unhealthy elements like high fructose corn syrup (yes, some commercial brands DO contain it!).

Bon Apetit!

P.S. I’d love to hear your comments about this post.

Published in: on October 11, 2008 at 5:25 am  Comments (4)  
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