Brazilian Shrimp Stew - Moqueca de Camarao - with Black Beans

Two dishes going out to Joanne (also known as the Energizer Bunny), for her Regional Recipes get together, featuring Brazil this month.  Since I had  black beans that needed to be used muy pronto.  And, shrimpies in the freezer, whipping up some Feijoada to go with a Brazilian Shrimp Stew,  was  definitely doable.

The stew was slightly adapted from a recipe in Ruth Reichl's Gourmet Today, They substituted black pepper for the malagueta pepper and I used Hawaiian chili pepper.  Also, an orange and a yellow bell pepper for the green one, being what I had on hand.

As far as dendê oil goes, with a bit of research, I realized that it is not a product of coconut palms or coconuts, as I had assumed, but of a particular African oil palm, Elaesis oleifera if we're being scientific, grown in Africa and in Brazil.  The oil is thick, dark, reddish-orange (like the nuts) and strong-flavored. Extensively used in cooking in West Africa and in Brazil, particularly in Bahia.  I love how trying the foods of other lands introduces us to flavors and ingredients we would never have known.  Now, if only I can find some dendê oil, to try..  And, preferably without paying a $45 shipping charge.  Using a bit of turmeric for the color was my substitution.

Moqueca de Camarao originates from the  Brazilian state of Bahia, hot and tropical, as it is located below the equator.  Most dishes from Bahia, called “comida baiana”, are very spicy, just as in many other hot places of the world.  Probably to fire up our drooping taste buds.  I think the Black Beans dish, or Feijoada, is popular all throughout Brazil, though it also originates from the south east of the country.  In preparing that recipe I was inspired by a video demo at Cuca Brazuca.  However, I didn't add in all the hog bits.  Just a little Canadian Bacon for some pork flavor.

For lovely visuals of Bahia, Brazil, check out this site. You may decide to visit and try their food first hand.


Cod and Asparagus in a Packet of Parchment

My CSA friend, Sarah, introduced me to a wonderful concept.  New to me, perhaps not to you.  A piece of parchment paper enfolds a meal.  I must have heard about this at some point, but never acted on it?  Anyway, what a brilliant idea.  No pots or pans to clean up, tasty, simple and easy.  Who could ask for anything more?  For those of you who like watching it done, I found this video version by Jaden over at Steamy Kitchen.

A French method of cooking, called en papillote, it is almost infinitely variable.  What type of fish you use (or chicken even), vegetables, herbs, spices, added fats (olive oil, coconut cream, butter) or none at all.  I am smitten with the idea.  Will be doing it lots.

These packets contained cod, asparagus, red onion, and from our garden, lemon slices, thyme, and chives. Super good.  You should definitely do this.  I'm thinking next maybe a version of  Laulau, which is a Hawaiian dish, usually done with pork, butterfish, and  luau (taro) leaves, all enclosed in banana or ti leaves, and steamed.  A curried take would also be wonderful, with coconut cream (just a tad) and Indian spices.  Or, how about salmon with sliced fennel, topped with a sprinkling of fennel pollen?

A benefit of doing individual parcels is the little thrill of opening up your very own packet, maybe with your initial on the outside.  That way if a (clueless) person does not want any vegetables they can have the one with only tomato sauce in it.  Some kids do not realize that tomato sauce (like on pizza??) contains vegetables.   Perhaps an individual would prefer not to have carrots, or you name it, in theirs. I put a "B" on Bob's so he could have the bigger piece of fish.  Because he's bigger.


Corkscrews with Lentils and Kale

Hope all you U.S. folks are having a wonderful Thanksgiving.  This recipe (which has nothing to do with the Holiday) was adapted from my beautiful Gourmet Today cookbook.  Thank you Sunny.  I say adapted because we did actually start out with the exact version (above photo), which Bob thought was fine, but to me tasted boring.  Yes, I said the b... word,  forbidden in my childhood.  We were (all 7 of us) told not to use it, and vehemently exhorted, "Only the bores are bored."  Which, I can actually understand coming from a mother with seven children and not having a lot of excess time to be in entertainment mode.  But what is under discussion here is taste, or lack of it.  The caramelized onion note was missing from the symphony.  I was ready for dinner before they were completely golden brown.  So....   not enough oomph.  I like some gusto in my food, flavor that sings to me.  And,  I'm not sure if that missing element would have been sufficient by itself.  Not saucy enough for my taste either.

Thus, we have reprise #1:
Since the recipe made a gargantuan amount, I tried a portion for lunch to see what might be done.  Added some fresh arugula, and avocado, a squeeze of kafir lime, salt, and a splash of my vinaigrette.  Now, that was great, served as a yummy cold salad for lunch. This Reprise #1, I'm linking to Let's Do Lunch this week, over at My Sweet and Savory.

I will give the original recipe and you can vary it if you like, as I did in reprise 1, or reprise 2 - the dinner, which follows.


Millet, Lamb and Vegetable Soup

This is another one of those dishes that arrive by mischance, or serendipity.  A better word for it.

I bought a packet of lamb loin chops, which according to the Pioneer lady would be fabulous baked up Italian style with fresh tomatoes.  Okay, maybe on her planet.  Or, the lamb I bought was inferior.  Don't really know, but I do know that I won't be buying any more of that particular cut or anyway from that ranch.

To make a long story longer, the tough, hardly any meat, gristly bones were plucked out of the nice sauce, boiled up for awhile longer in my chicken stock, with some added millet, and more veggies, at which point  the original sauce was added back in, and they became a whole new thang.  A better thang too. Topped off with fresh mint from my garden.  A hearty, tasty stew/soup for those chilly Fall days.

To be honest, I was looking for barley and realized we were totally out.  However, there being an exact cup of millet that needed desperately to be used.....  it was.


Passionate Starfruit Cranberry Chutney

 I normally have passion fruit off and on during the year, but some kind soul dropped off a bag of the purple ones, at our office yesterday, which needed to be used, yesterday.  So, I just whipped up a batch of passion fruit syrup, which is excellent on cheese cake, as well as pancakes.  And, there was a tad extra.....so.....

Next we have starfruit, or carambola, dropping off the tree.  You see where this is going, combined with a smallish basket of imported pricey cranberries, this should make a totally excellent chutney.  Maybe some hot pepper flakes, a bit of ginger and cardamom could be added in. Yes, I do think so.  A different take from the one I made last year.


Hawaiian Mushroom Reprise

Some mushrooms just call out to have their photos taken.  Popping up between other plants....odd little mycelium stools for wandering toads.  And, what a pretty net skirt, and strange brain-like head. My goodness.

It's supposed to be edible, when in this early stage.  But, anything called an orange-netted stinkhorn is not something I want to put in my mouth.  Especially with a notation in Mushrooms of Hawaii that reads:  "Odor strongly fetid."  I do want to cultivate some known, tasty, edible mushroom, since my great shitake experiment was a total failure.  Not one of the little plugs produced anything.  However, I did read today (whilst trying to identify some of these) that oyster mushrooms are the easiest to cultivate.....so......we shall try.

Now this one is harder to identify. I'm working on it.  Indoors, we can do a spore print, look at the gills and annulus or lack of, etc.  There are some little nibbles out of one.  Apparently the snails think it's tasty.  Even with the book, I'm not sure here.

Another odd fellow.  He's a sort of a black coral guy.  Can't find him in either of my books, but for now will call it Black Coral Fungus.  The photo doesn't really do them justice.  They are definitely black, with lighter tips, but I need a better camera, looks like.  If any of you can identify this sort, leave a comment.  Growing in mulch under a Wi Apple seedling.

These are the mushrooms that did grow, on the logs into which I carefully stuck shitake plugs. Turkey-tail Polypore.  Very seasonal.  They are beautiful, as a bright side to the story.  And a variety now known to be an immune system enhancer.  Has been used in China to treat various types of cancer. The little fallen blossoms are cacao.


Aztec Spinach and Teriyaki Tofu

 At one time I considered doing a "Meat free Monday" event, but then figured I didn't need any more things with deadlines in my life.  Just eating less meat, semi-consistently will be enough, besides which those events are being done now.

I try to have tofu on hand, as an easy meatless alternative.  If you have a block, slice into about 3-4 equal sized wedges, slip them in a small freezer bag, and  freeze;  it will be ready whenever you are, and no need to worry about it going stinky in your fridge.  Mainly though, freezing alters the texture (for the better), and makes it more absorptive.

When you're ready to use the tofu, get a large pot of water boiling.  I use a big pasta pot.  Turn off the heat, then slip in your tofu slices.  After about 15 minutes, they will be thawed, so you can lift them out with a slotted spoon and remove to a colander to drain.  When cool enough to handle, squeeze out the excess water.  Now you have some little protein sponges, ready to soak up whatever marinade you want. Keep that pot of hot water for a quick blanch of some Aztec Spinach, chard or regular spinach in a bit.

Aztec Spinach - until now another veg I'd never heard of.  It was in our CSA box last week, and what fun!  I love trying new things.  This was not only beautiful, but so tender and delicious.  It reminded me of Swiss Chard more than spinach.


Black and White Orzo Cheesey Bean Bake

 The inspiration for this delectable bake was a bag of black and white orzo (actually labeled tuxedo orzo), which I had purchased on a whim.  It sounded fun.  Then the bag sort of sat around, despondently, waiting for me to do something clever with it. Today, wanting some pasta for dinner, I remembered that orzo, and decided  it should be the star of a new feature.  One involving lots of cheese - some ricotta that needs to be used pronto, some (white) cheddar, a bit of Parmesan - and keeping with the black and white theme, how about black beans?  They would also round out the protein factor.  Onions are white, thus they could be included, and garlic.  There you have it, the growth of a theme recipe.
Here in Hilo we have, about this time of year, what is known as Black and White Night, a Friday evening and actually, I do believe it was last week, so I missed it again.  Ah well, the idea  must have been floating around in the ether, and I only just picked up on it.  Once in a while we even go out and catch one.  I'll wear black and white tonight when I serve this meal.

Salt and pepper are black and white, and allowed in.  Black olives, maybe white bread crumbs.  But, they don't stay white, so maybe not.  We're being really strict here.  Racking my brains for tasty inclusions......creating a recipe.


Ginger Salt on Double Chocolate Cookies

If you (like me) are one of those bloggers who did NOT get sent any Ginger Salt, fear not.  There is a solution.  One which does not involve traipsing from  grocery store to supermarket,  looking for it in the spices section, or finding and ordering online.  You might say to yourself, as I did, "I can do that...."

What does it take, after all?  Salt and ginger.  You grate the ginger, then mix with Kosher salt.

Simplicity itself.

Spread your mixture out in a glass baking dish (I was afraid the raw ginger might react with metal, but could be wrong on that), and let it dry at a low temperature in your oven.  Easy, peasey.

Then, if you're the sort who saves empty jars, you might fill a few.  And, if you want to remember what the heck it is, put on a label even.  Now all that's left is to sprinkle it on top of a roasted puimpkin, rib-eye steak, a baked potato with sour cream, a filet of mahi mahi, etc., etc., etc. I'll leave where to put it up to your imagination.  Very nice on our tenderloin last night.  But, the piece de resistance might just be these Double Chocolate Cookies, topped with Ginger Salt.

Originally Pierre Hermé's recipe, they were called Korova Cookies by Dorrie Greenspan in her book, Paris Sweets: Great Desserts from the City's Best Pastry Shops.  She named them after Hermé's restaurant Korova on the Champs-Élysées.  In a more recent book, she calls them World Peace Cookies.  I found them when Deb of Smitten Kitchen posted the recipe. Though, I just noticed they were also in my Sept. issue of Bon Appetit.  So, these oft named and copied cookies have been around the block and back.  A few times.  I like the idea of world peace spreading as everyone eats a few cookies.  Realistically speaking, they are more likely to cause a few minor wars over possession.  Because they are to die for.  Especially with a sprinkling of Ginger Salt on top.  I apologize in advance for these seriously addicting little items.  Perhaps should be called Butter and Chocolate Overload Cookies.


Roasted Pumpkin Feta Cake

I have recently been admiring those French savory cakes, and especially the cauliflower one Ottolenghi did and, which Deb of Smitten Kitchen adapted, hers with added black sesame seeds on the sides.  The guy who does the ordering at our grocery says there is some sort of disease affecting those seeds, so no supply for the time being.  And, I did like the way it looked.  Pooh.  Perhaps poppy seeds would work. Also, the cauliflower here hasn't been all that appealing.   So......... what I had was left-over, spicy roasted pumpkin, which would normally  go right into a Pumpkin Curry Soup.  But hey, we've been there and done that enough times to have a yen for something different.

You may have been hearing good things lately about Ottolenghi, London restaurant owner, author of the cutting edge cookbook, Plenty, and Guardian columnist.   I tried a few of his very creative dishes when the Guardian did a special feature about his book, including numerous recipes.  One was an awesome salad of fried white beans, sorrel and feta, which I should do again and post about.

This savory sort of cake is, apparently a traditional French  thing, a crustless variation on the quiche.  We Americans are more used to the Impossible Pie Bisquick version, at least those of us old enough to remember when we, or our mothers made them, back in the day.


Heat by Bill Buford

 Heat: An Amateur’s Adventures as Kitchen Slave, Line Cook, Pasta Maker and Apprentice to a Dante-Quoting Butcher in Tuscany, by Bill Buford, our current Cook the Books Club selection, was a fascinating glimpse into life behind the scenes, at the three-star New York restaurant, Babbo.  Buford, a reporter and editor at the New Yorker, took on the commission of a profile on Mario Batali, larger than life, restaurant owner, Chef, TV personality, and author, with an extreme dedication.  This book is his account of the experience, which brought him to not only hook up with Batali, but to work for him, learning the food business firsthand, which he continued to do, even after his profile, The Secret of Excess, was completed.  Heat incorporates all that and much more, with  frequently humorous reflections on food, cultural influences and history.

I truly admire Buford's incredible verisimilitude in reporting.  To go through learning all the steps, from hours, months of mundane prep work, to apprenticing at the stations for pasta, grill work and plating, not to mention, of course, enduring the intense heat (physically and emotionally) back there in the kitchen, including real abuse from some of the chefs.  His book could have alternatively been titled, Life on the Line.  It sounded like hell to me.  Not anywhere I'd want to be.  Though, I'm glad he did, so we could read about it.  An outstanding read, which I truly enjoyed, perhaps excepting only the last section of the book, where for further hands on experience, he apprentices with a butcher in Tuscany.  Vegetarians should be forewarned. Too much gory detail, but hey, at least he got to hear Dante quoted in between times.  Didn't Dante write about hell?

All of which brought to mind a recent article in Bon Appetit, written by Molly Wizenberg, of the popular blog Orangette, entitled, "If you can't stand the heat...."  It was penned shortly after she had worked four months as a cook at Delanceys, Seattle, the restaurant Wizenberg and her husband had just opened.  As she tells it:
"But a restaurant kitchen operates at a speed and on a scale that few home kitchens will ever know...Great restaurant cooks thrive under pressure.  They're performers.  They may swear and sweat, but they like the challenge, the intensity, the urgency.  I am not a great restaurant cook.  I don't know if it's a matter of genes or temperament or both, but when faced with a dozen orders, I do not get an adrenaline rush.  I get weepy....
I didn't understand this until I worked in our restaurant, but for me, cooking is not a performance.  It's more intimate, more private than that.  I like a small kitchen."
Yes, exactly, as I frequently feel that way in my very own, quiet, little kitchen.  I often want out of there, it's just too darn hot.  And, the pressure!  I mean, getting a meal on the table that tastes good, is composed in a balanced way, and served some time before The Late Show?  As intense as I want to get.  Actually, to be honest, I don't like entertaining all that much, for the above reasons.  It's not entertaining me any.  I'd rather go out, let someone else do the sweating.  Don't get me wrong, I do enjoy cooking, trying new things, serving delicious food to the people I love, .....eating.  But, no pressure.  Mixed feelings, I guess.