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

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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

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.

King Arthur Flour comes to Chicagoland

Scanning through the local paper can prove to be a rewarding endeavor for the thrifty cook these days. I found myself lucky to see a tiny ad in the Chicago Tribune about the King Arthur Flour Company coming to Palatine, IL for a free baking class, one of their many free national classes!)

There were actually two classes taking place in the Hotel Indigo that day (Thursday, November 13)- one in the early afternoon called “Sweet & Savory Yeast Breads”, the one I attended; and another in the evening called “Festive Cookies & Pies”. I was fortunate to see the ad Wednesday night, sufficient time to plan my day around this opportunity.

I arrived at the Hotel Indigo early enough to get a good seat near the front where I could clearly see and hear our baking instructor. I didn’t want to miss a thing- sort of a deja vous of my college days attending lectures by famed authors or politicians.

I was kindly greeted by a friendly, slender young woman in a black fleece vest who handed me a booklet entitled “Baking with King Arthur Flour”. At my seat, I perused the book for a few minutes, skimming through the various bread recipes. There were tips and hints on baking and on the last page a valuable coupon towards the purchase of any variety of King Arthur Flour. I made a mental note to hit my local Shop ‘N Save on my way home, knowing full well they carried this brand of flour—and it was on sale this week.

Before the class started, an employee, baker and editor of King Arthur’s bimonthly baking newsletter, The Baking Sheet, Susan Reid, warmed up the crowd by testing our knowledge of baking and even telling a personal story about how she joined the 100% employee-owner company of King Arthur Flour, located in Norwich, VT. She also explained the interesting history behind this company, which dates back to Boston in 1790.

Once the actual program began, all eyes were on the instructor, Carolyn Hack. Her gentle and inviting presence seemed to make everyone comfortable. As planned, she began to introduce the Sweet Bread Dough recipe she was to prepare.  Her witty humor about dough, baking and life garnered everyone’s attention, even the latecomers that filled up the back rows quietly. From Carolyn we all shared in the experience of learning valuable instructions about yeast, water temperature, flour and eventually kneading the dough. Here are just a few of the things I was surprised to learn:

  • Water to proof the yeast should be like the temperature of warm bath water
  • When putting water in your yeast, if it’s too hot for you, it’s too hot for your yeast
  • Yeast is a living thing. You “proof it” in order to see if it’s viable
  • Once the yeast is in water (proofing), you don’t have to get all the lumps out, just get everything wet
  • If your yeast doesn’t proof properly, it could be due to one of the following reasons: the yeast was improperly stored; maybe there was soap left in the container you used to proof; there could be too many chemicals in your water; perhaps the water used was too hard or too soft.
  • It’s very important to measure ingredients properly when baking.
  • If you bake a lot it might be a good idea to get a kitchen scale, for accuracy.
  • Sprinkle flour into your measuring cup- don’t pack it in, otherwise you’ll be using more flour than necessary
  • Don’t sift flour unless your recipe calls for it.
  • Cake yeast has a very short shelf life.

When the dough was finished but not yet baked, she explained some creative ways it could be used. One idea was to make an almond-filled braid out of the dough; another to make a batch of cinnamon swirls. Both ideas sounded delicious. Ms. Hack made these seem so easy to make, I thought even I (the lazy baker) would be willing to give a try to the braided dough recipe.

At the end of the program, the company gave out door prizes to many lucky winners- dough whisks, aprons, and gift cards among them.  Although I wasn’t too disappointed that I didn’t win any of these, my heart broke when I didn’t win the only King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking book given away. And then, just as if the employee-owners read my mind, they wouldn’t let us leave empty-handed. Everyone- yes, everyone- was given a $10 King Arthur Flour gift card, a ¼ oz. package of Red Star Active Dry Yeast and a King Arthur Flour  labeled dough scraper. We even got free samples of whole grain bread on our way out.

A free program, door prizes and even more gifts upon leaving, made possible by the generous sponsorship of the Red Star Yeast company. I must say, not only was I impressed but it made me want to give my business to Red Star Yeast and of course to this quality company, King Arthur Flour, made up of nice people who love to bake, love to educate and are generous with their knowledge and time.  Needless to say, I immediately used my gift card to purchase a King Arthur dough whisk, a tool Ms. Hack taught me was an important baking tool and one that would probably last me a lifetime.

(For a complete list of King Arthur’s free national baking classes, go to: http://www.kingarthurflour.com/baking/national-baking-classes.html

For information on their free online baking classes, visit: http://www.kingarthurflour.com/baking/online-baking-classes.html

If you’d like to order their newsletter, “The Baking Sheet”, go to: http://www.kingarthurflour.com/bakingsheet/bakingsheet.htm

For more information about the King Arthur instructor at this program, go to:

Carolyn Hack: http://www.kingarthurflour.com/baking/national-baking-classes.html#nbc-instructor

Yeast products recommended in this program can be found at:

SAF Yeast: http://www.safyeast.com/

Red Star Yeast: http://www.redstaryeast.com/products.html

 

Breakfast to Go

In a rush to get out the door in the morning, it’s often difficult to make something portable, easy to handle and tasty, all in one. I came up with this very simple and quick breakfast sandwich and would like to share it with you busy (or not so busy) folks out there.

Here’s what you need (per person):

  • 2 bread slices- any of your favorite. I choose Trader Joe’s Italian Loaf, which arrives pre-cut
  • 2 small pats of softened, real butter for each slice of bread (no margarine, please!!)
  • 1-2 tsps. creme fraiche (French style cultured cream) for each slice of bread. I like to use Vermont Butter & Cheese Company’s Creme Fraiche, sold at Trader Joe’s
  • 2 Tb. of your favorite jam for each slice of bread. I love the Organic, Reduced Sugar Raspberry Preserves sold at Trader Joe’s

Preparation:

Toast your bread, or warm to preference. Then, spread the softened butter on each slice of bread, followed by the creme fraiche and then finally the jam or preserves you’ve chosen. It’s that simple!

I love to pair this breakfast with a homemade cup of cappuccino made my way. Here’s what you need:

  • Trader Joe’s Fair Trade Organic Bolivian Blend Medium Dark Roast, Sweet Caramel Flavor, Medium Body Coffee. It comes whole bean in a 14 oz. container.
  • Whole milk
  • a pinch of ground cinnamon
  • organic raw cane sugar, to taste.

Preparation:

Grind the coffee in a coffee grinder. If you have whole cinnamon, just put about 1/2 cinnamon stick in the coffee grinder at the same time so the flavors mix well.  The amount of ground coffee that you put in your coffee maker depends upon the size of your coffee maker and the amount of coffee you would like to prepare. While my coffee is heating up, I put my milk in the microwave (1/3 of the coffee cup I’m going to drink out of). When both the coffee and milk are done, I add about 2 tsps. of sugar and enjoy it with my breakfast, nice and warm.

Resources:

As you can see, I am a fan of Trader Joe’s. They have a great variety of healthy food choices with fewer and less complicated ingredients in their products than I have found elsewhere. Their prices are not unreasonable and often times cheaper than the large supermarkets in my area. Their excellent customer service should not go unnoticed- it really is the best around. Here’s how you can find a Trader Joe’s in your area:

http://www.traderjoes.com/locations.asp

If you’d like to order creme fraiche from the Vermont Butter and Cheese Company, visit their website. You can also see that this product is kosher-certified and their site has a downloadable pdf document you can view as proof. It also lists eight other products that are kosher, which should reassure us that there are no pork by-products in these items:

http://butterandcheese.net/cremeFraiche.html

If you’d like to read more about Fair Trade and Fair Trade coffee specifically, please see this website:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fair_trade

http://coffeeonlinemagazine.com/buying-fair-trade-coffee-why-its-important-where-to-get-it/

And, as always, please let me know how you’ve enjoyed this post.

Asalaamu’laikum!

Processing Summer Garden Tomatoes

Just as soon as spring approached, we began contemplating what to plant in our summer garden. The consensus was that we wanted plenty of homemade tomato sauce all winter long, coming from fresh, organic produce. After renting out our community garden from our local park district, we made calculations and designs for our 20 x 20 plot (which was actually a bit larger once we saw it). We planted 25 tomato plants, 20 basil plants, 2 thyme, 2 oregano, 1 marjoram and 2 globe basil plants. Needless to say, we’ve been making a lot of pesto, tomato sauce and numerous other things that can be made with these vegetables and herbs.

 

 

I thought I could share with you a step-by-step process I take to easily remove the skins from my tomatoes. Once the tomatoes are peeled, you can then decide what you want to do with the tomatoes. Some options include: 1) freezing the tomatoes whole; 2) jarring or canning the tomatoes whole; 3) chopping and making a sauce, salsa or curry. I’m sure you have other ideas, as well.
 
Please leave your ideas or suggestions in the comments box. I’d also like to know if this step-by-step illustration was helpful to you.
 
Step 1) This is not by any means a necessary step. I just happen to have learned that it is so much easier to skin the tomatoes after they are boiled if you have cored them first. If you already have a tomato corer (available at food specialty or kitchenware stores), by all means use it. I simply use a paring knife.
 
Step 2) Bring a large dutch oven (or two, if you have a lot of tomatoes) to a rolling boil, which means you should see the bubbles rolling around in the water in a continuous boil. It’s a good idea to start the water while you core the tomatoes.

Step 3) Add the cored tomatoes to the dutch oven. In about 2-3 minutes, the tomato skins should begin to crack.  Remove as soon as the skin cracks, as you don’t want to cook the tomato. 

Step 4) Here you can see what the tomatoes look like once they begin to crack (click photo to enlarge). You will be able to see the pink flesh of the tomato.

Step 5) Be sure your ice bath bowl is large enough to fit as many tomatoes as you are cooking in your dutch oven.  Begin preparing the ice bath as soon as you drop the tomatoes into the pot of boiling water. I like to use large ice bags for this project, as it is quicker to refill than using small ice cube trays. If you have an ice machine on your refrigerator, that should work just as well. 

Step 6) Add the cracked tomatoes to the ice bath and let sit until cool, about 1-2 minutes, but not much longer. You will know when each one is ready to be removed when it no longer feels warm to the touch.

Step 7) Proceed to move the tomatoes to a colander or strainer, as some juices and water may flow out.

Tomatoes can stay in the colander until you are ready to process further, but should not exceed a couple of hours.   

As you will see in the last photo (crushed tomatoes), I decided to crush the tomatoes with a potato masher in order to make a chunky tomato sauce. You could opt to skip this step and simply freeze the peeled tomatoes as is until you are ready to decide what you want to use them for.  In my case, I sauteeed onions and garlic in olive oil and added this beautiful sauce to the pan. I simmered for several hours while in between I added freeze-dried basil, dried thyme and oregano, a dash of cinnamon and sugar and a pinch of salt. The sauce keeps for several days in the fridge. I used it the next day on angel hair pasta mixed in with ground turkey. Yummy!

       

 

                                                                                                                                                                       

 

 

 

 

 

                                                                                                            

 
 
 
Published in: on September 24, 2008 at 4:46 am  Comments (12)  
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