Our Sunday family dinner triggered by Sarah’s barley tabbouleh turned into a festive Mediterranean-influenced evening. Carol brought an elegant tray of vegetables and a delicious spread of butternut squash and tahini. She had used a recipe from the beautiful cookbook, Jerusalem: A Cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi (Ten Speed Press, Berkeley, 2012).
I had thought about making pita bread, but instead I found some at the market. Home made will have to wait. The main attraction was a lamb and chick pea tagine. The purists will insist that it is not a real tagine: I browned the lamb; I used chicken stock; I used big chunks of onion so they could be picked out by the onion deniers; I braised it in the oven for hours; and I used a heavy pot instead of a classic tagine. In spite of all of that, the lamb was fork tender with Moroccan smells and tastes; served with couscous it was a big hit with everyone.
Don’t be intimidated by the long list of ingredients. Many of them are herbs and spices that you probably already have in your pantry. You can easily find the others at the grocery store. Or you can just leave out one or two. Probably nobody but one of the purists will notice.
Lamb and Chick Pea Tagine
- 1 cup dry chick peas
- 3 pounds lamb shoulder steaks, bone and heavy fat removed and cut in 1 inch cubes
- 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 2 teaspoons paprika
- ¼ teaspoon ground turmeric
- ½ teaspoon ground cumin
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
- ½ teaspoon ground cardamom
- ½ teaspoon ground ginger
- ¾ teaspoon garlic powder
- ¾ teaspoon ground coriander
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 4 cups chicken broth
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger root
- zest and juice of ½ lemon
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1 large white onion, peeled and root trimmed but intact, cut into 8 wedges
- 4 medium carrots, peeled and cut into obliques
- ½ cup dried apricots cut into 1 inch squares
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 tablespoon corn starch stirred into 1 tablespoon water to make a slurry
- In a saucepan, cover the chick peas with at least 2 inches of extra water and let stand overnight. Drain and set aside.
- In a large bowl, combine the lamb, 2 tablespoons of olive oil, paprika, turmeric, cumin, cayenne, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, ginger, garlic powder, coriander, and salt. Mix until the lamb is completely coated. Cover tightly with plastic wrap, and refrigerate over night, stirring occasionally.
- In the morning, place the chick peas and marinated lamb in a heavy oven-proof pot. Add the chicken broth and bring to the boil over a medium-high flame. Stir in the garlic, ginger root, lemon juice and zest, tomato paste, and honey. Cover and transfer to the middle of an oven preheated to 200°F. Braise for at least 6 hours, stirring occasionally.
- About 3 hours before you plan to serve the tagine, add the onion, carrots, and dried apricots.
- When you are ready to serve, correct seasoning with salt and pepper. Transfer the meat and vegetables to a large serving platter. Place the cooking pot with the cooking liquid over a high flame and bring to a boil. Add the cornstarch slurry and stir until thickened. Serve in a gravy boat alongside the tagine.
The first time I ever ate tabbouleh was nearly 50 years ago at a backyard potluck for our laboratory work group. The offerings included several varieties of potato salad, lots of baked beans, and delicious barbecued chicken. But the standout – and by far the most exotic – was some refreshing tabbouleh brought by our secretary who came from a large Lebanese family. I could have eaten the whole bowl, and I am sure that I made a pig of myself. Since then, our family has made tabbouleh many times, and often for potluck dinners. We keep a bag of bulgur in the refrigerator so that we can make tabbouleh whenever the craving hits. I have never thought of using anything but bulgur – until I tasted some tabbouleh from Sarah’s refrigerator during our recent visit. She had substituted barley, and it was delicious. I gave it a try for our latest Sunday family dinner. It wound up becoming the inspiration for a Mediterranean-themed evening. The downside of tabbouleh is that it involves a lot of chopping and dicing. The upside is that once the chopping and dicing are done, it only takes a few minutes to assemble. I like tabbouleh with a distinctly lemon taste, so I used the juice of 2 lemons. If that’s too much for you, cut back to one lemon.
- ½ cup pearled barley
- 2 cups salted water
- olive oil
- 2 large bunches parsley
- 1 bunch mint
- 3 large Roma tomatoes
- 2 small Persian cucumbers
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- juice of 2 lemons
- ¾ cup extra virgin olive oil
- salt and pepper to taste
- Stir the barley into boiling salted water and cook at a low boil for 45 minutes or until soft with a little crunch. Drain, rinse, and toss with olive oil to prevent the grains from sticking together. Set aside.
- Wash and shake dry the parsley. Trim the leaves of stems. You should have about 6 cups of unpacked parsley leaves. Chop finely or pulse several times with a Vita-Mix set on “3”. Set aside.
- Wash the mint and remove the leaves. You should have about 1 cup of unpacked mint leaves. Chop finely or pulse several times with a Vita-Mix set on “3”. Set aside.
- Blanch, peel, and seed the tomatoes. Cut into ¼ inch dice. Set aside.
- Dice the cucumbers into ¼ inch pieces. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, combine the cooked barley, chopped parsley, chopped mint, tomatoes, cucumbers and minced garlic. Stir in the lemon juice and olive oil. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Chill in the refrigerator for one hour. Serve.
A dish of tabbouleh
A while back, I wrote about sweet cherry season and a request for cherries jubilee. I wound up making a cherry galette instead, with the promise that if there were cherries still around I would make cherries jubilee for the next Sunday family dinner. Cherries are still around at the market, so here’s cherries jubilee, flames and all. It is said that the dish was invented by the famous chef, Escoffier, for a dinner celebrating the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria. That was in the era when flames at tableside were considered very fancy. Inventions of the time included Crepes Suzette and Baked (or Bombe) Alaska.
The next rush of flambéing was in the middle of the twentieth century with its epicenter in New York City and the restaurants favored by “cafe society”. Steak Diane made its appearance then, as did Bananas Foster (invented in New Orleans), After that, fashion moved on and the popularity of tableside service, especially with leaping flames, virtually disappeared. I am not certain, but I think there may be a resurgence of interest; at least in our family there has been a recurring request.
There are many recipes for cherries jubilee on the internet, and there are lots of variations: most call for fresh cherries, but you can make cherries jubilee with canned cherries, ready-made cherry pie filling or even cherry Jello. The best version that I could find, and the one that seemed most likely to be true to the original was that recorded by Ethan Becker in his revision of The Joy of Cooking. I used that recipe as a template with my own revisions. The result turned out to be a celebratory conclusion to our last family dinner. The good news is that no one was burned, and the smoke alarms did not go off. As an aside, to be fool-proof, you should heat the brandy before you try to light it, but be gentle with the heating to avoid burning yourself.
- 4 cups ripe sweet cherries
- ¼ cup Kirsch
- ¾ cup turbinado sugar
- juice of 1 lemon, strained
- ¼ cup brandy
- Wash and pit the cherries. In a large bowl, combine them with the Kirsch, cover and refrigerate for 6 hours, gently stirring occasionally.
- When you are ready to serve, transfer the Kirsch-soaked cherries to a chafing dish or large flat-bottomed pan along with the sugar and lemon juice. Over medium-low heat, heat the mixture until the cherries release their juices and the sugar is dissolved. Continue to simmer until the sauce is slightly thickened.
- In the meantime, heat the brandy in a small saucepan over low heat. Do not boil. Light the heated brandy by tilting the pan slightly over the flame or with a long match or fireplace lighter. Pour the flaming brandy over the cherries and allow the flames to extinguish themselves. After the flames have died down, stir the mixture gently.
- Serve immediately over individual bowls of vanilla ice cream. Serves 6.
Pitted cherries soaking in Kirsch
Cooking down the sauce before the flame
RT Rotisserie has been chugging along since its opening, refining the menu, adjusting staffing patterns, getting the delivery system worked out, and tinkering with other details related to opening a new restaurant. One issue that they have faced from the beginning is what to do with roasted chicken left at the end of the day. Planning supplies is one of the most difficult challenges that a restaurant, especially a new one, faces. Of course, you don’t want to run out while a customer is waiting for his or her order, and you don’t want to have so much leftover that it gets tossed out. If rotisserie chicken is your thing, the solution is to turn roasted chicken into chicken soup. Whole roasted chicken makes a delicious takeout, and roasted chicken on a Dutch crunch roll with a choice of sauces is what many customers are after. Unfortunately, chicken soup gets second billing. That’s too bad, because as far as I’m concerned, RT Rotisserie chicken soup should get star treatment. It is unlike any other chicken soup that I have ever eaten. It has a robust, earthy flavor, and it is filled with chicken and what I judge to be farro. As well, the broth is brimming with unusual vegetables and a blend of herbal flavors. It should be obvious that RT Rotisserie is not going to reveal their recipe, so I have tried to reconstruct the soup. Let me hasten to note that this is not the original version – and it is nowhere as good as the original. Still, it is a pretty good chicken soup in its own right. Since I don’t have a brass and enamel French Rotisol rotisserie in my kitchen, I had to do some substituting. I fried the chicken with barbecue dry rub and then finished it off in chicken stock. That gave the stock a roasted flavor that mimicked the real thing. You could use more or less farro, or you could substitute wheat berries or barley. There are lots of other substitutions that you can make the soup your own. As for me, I will have to be satisfied with my version until my next trip to San Francisco.
Fried chicken thighs
Baby bok choy
Black and white sesame
Black and white
RT Rotisserie-Style Chicken Soup with Farro
- 4 chicken thighs
- 2 tablespoons salt
- dry poultry rub
- 3 tablespoons canola oil
- 2 quarts (8 cups) chicken stock
- 1 cup dried farro
- 3 baby bok choy
- 1 cup chopped mint leaves
- 1 cup chopped basil leaves
- 1 cup chopped cilantro leaves
- 1 cup chopped parsley leaves
- 5 scallions, chopped
- 1 tablespoon white sesame seeds
- 1 tablespoon black sesame seeds
- salt and pepper to taste
- Place the chicken thighs in a sealable container, cover with buttermilk, and add salt. Cover and refrigerate overnight, turning occasionally. Remove the chicken thighs from the buttermilk mixture, pat dry, and coat generously with dry poultry rub. Place in the refrigerator, uncovered, overnight. Fry the chicken thighs over medium heat in a heavy pan with canola, turning occasionally until browned on both sides. In the mean time, bring the chicken stock to the boil in a heavy soup pot. Transfer the chicken thighs to the boiling liquid and cool at the simmer for 15 minutes or until the thighs are cooked through. Remove the cooked chicken to a plate to cool. Remove skin and bones from the thighs, cut the meat into bite-sized pieces and set aside.
- Return the chicken stock to the boil. Stir in the farro and cook at the simmer for 20 minutes or until the grain is soft.
- Cut the bok choy in half crosswise then in fourths lengthwise. Add to the broth and return to the boil. Stir in the mint, basil. cilantro, parsley, scallions, and white and black sesame seeds. Return to the boil and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes until the bok choy is tender. Adjust seasonings with salt and pepper. Serve while still hot.
- Undoubtedly you could skip the buttermilk brining, the dry rub, and the overnight drying, but I think that contributes to the rich flavor of the soup.
- Our family uses a dry poultry rub for barbecuing chicken. We have had the recipe for years, but there are many dry rubs commercially available, and probably your family has its own favorite.
- Farro is a grain that has been enjoyed in Italy for centuries. It has become increasingly popular in the United States, especially in restaurants. Farro usually refers to emmer wheat, a relative of our usual wheat, but it may also refer to other grains. You should be able to find it in a large, well-stocked grocery store, but if you can’t you can easily substitute wheat berries or pearled barley. For that matter, you could substitute rice or pasta. The amount is up to you.
- One way to tell when the soup is cooked is to look at the white sesame. It will tend to float on the surface until it is cooked. That’s a good sign that the soup is ready.
Before we left for our child-tending excursion in San Francisco, I bought two beautiful artichokes at the grocery store. They were on special for Mothers Day. We wound up eating out a lot during the week, and so the artichokes languished in the refrigerator. When we returned home, I was worried that the artichokes might have spoiled. They had not, so I was confronted with what to do with them. Usually I boil them and serve them with Hollandaise, but I wanted to do something a little different. I remembered a wonderful dinner that we enjoyed many years ago in Ruston, Louisiana. Our host had gone to enormous trouble to wedge a bit of spicy shrimp into every space between the leaves. Such a dish is a traditional Louisiana favorite, but it is usually reserved for special dinners because it takes so much effort. I thought that maybe I could make something that approximated that long-ago creation with not so much work. It turns out that this version is really easy if you have a food processor. Probably a Vita-Mix would work, too.
Leaves trimmed and choke removed
Ready-cooked salad shrimp
Stuffed and ready for the oven
Served with blender Hollandaise
Shrimp-Stuffed Roasted Artichoke
- 2 large artichokes
- 2 slices good quality French bread
- leaves from 6 stems of parsley
- 3 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped coarsely
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons olive oil + more to drizzle on the tops of the stuffed artichokes
- ¼ teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
- salt and pepper to taste
- Tabasco sauce to taste (optional)
- 1 cup ready-cooked salad shrimp, thawed
- ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
- Prepare the artichokes by trimming the stem and the tips of the leaves. Cut off the top of the artichoke and remove the inner leaves to reveal the choke. Using a spoon, scrape out the fuzzy bits of the choke.
- Cut the bread into cubes and place in a food processor. Process until the bread forms coarse crumbs. Add the parsley leaves, chopped garlic, lemon juice, and olive oil and process until well combined but not puréed. Add the Old Bay, salt and pepper, optional Tabasco sauce, shrimp and grated Parmesan and process for just a few seconds until the shrimp are finely chopped but not puréed.
- Fill the center of each artichoke with the shrimp mixture and then spread the remainder over the tops of the artichokes. pressing down to force some of the mixture between the leaves.
- Place the stuffed artichokes in an oven-proof pan filled with about 1½ inches of water. Drizzle the tops with olive oil. Cover the pan with heavy aluminum foil, and poke four holes in the foil. Place in the middle of an oven preheated to 375°F. Roast for 1 hour covered, then remove the foil and roast, uncovered, for another 15 minutes. NOTE: Be very careful when you remove the foil, as steam may rush out and burn your fingers.
- Transfer the roasted artichokes to plates and serve with Hollandaise. I used Julia Child’s never-fail quick blender sauce.
It is just at the end of the season for cherries at our local farmers’ market. My son-in-law and grandson love them – don’t we all – so Carol has been making a lot of things cherry, including a delicious cherry, hazelnut, mâche salad. One of our Sunday dinner conversations focused on all the different things you could do with cherries. Lots of recipes were discussed, but the conversation kept coming back to Cherries Jubilee. The dish has such a romantic name, and it conjures up images of elegance and maybe a little bit of indulgence. Especially for the younger members of the family the thought of leaping flames at table side is the most exciting aspect of the dish. The last Cherries Jubilee that I remember at home was nearly 40 years ago. The most memorable Cherries Jubilee was not even the real thing. Our ski patrol had an annual camping expedition, always held in the dead of winter. On a weekend, after the lifts had closed we gathered at the lift shack on the highest run on the mountain. Then we would ski off to an isolated spot in the woods, pitch our tents before dark, and prepare an evening meal. The first year, everyone brought freeze-dried stew or canned tuna. Everyone except Bob, who was the most experienced mountaineer. We thought he would bring some sort of dehydrated food from one of his expeditions. Instead, he brought an elaborate main dish and then prepared flaming canned cherries that he ladled over a handful of fresh snow in each camper’s dish. That set the mark, and each year thereafter (this being a highly competitive group) the challenge was on for who could make the most elaborate and exotic meal out in the winter wilderness.
With that story in mind, I decided to make Cherries Jubilee for the next Sunday family dinner. I bought a big bag of cherries – and then for various reasons our dinner was postponed. I still needed to do something with those cherries, so I decided to make a cherry pie, actually a cherry galette. I used a commercial pie crust to make it easy, and I added the Kirsch that would have gone into the flambé. It turned out to be simple to make and a good use for cherries before they spoiled. If, when our Sunday dinners resume, there are still cherries available, I’ll go back to my original plan. Otherwise, the family will have to be satisfied with Bananas Foster.
Sweet Cherry Galette
- 4 cups sweet cherries, pitted
- 1/3 cup brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
- 2 teaspoons cornstarch
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- ½ teaspoon mint extract
- 2 tablespoons Kirsch (optional)
- 1 prepared pie crust
- 1 tablespoon chilled unsalted butter, cut into 16 pieces
- turbinado sugar
- Place the pitted cherries in a large bowl. Gently stir in the brown sugar, lemon juice, cornstarch, salt, vanilla and mint extracts, and Kirsch. Let stand for 15 minutes.
- On a lightly-floured surface, roll the prepared pie crust into a circle about 11 inches across. Transfer the crust to a rimmed baking sheet that has been lined with parchment.
- Arrange the cherry mixture in the center of the pie crust, taking care to leave a two-inch space around the edge. Dot the cherry mixture with the butter pieces. Drape the edges of the pie crust over the cherry mixture, pressing the folds to seal the dough.
- Paint the turned-up pie crust with cream and sprinkle with turbinado.
- Bake in the middle of an oven that has been preheated to 425°F for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the crust is browned and the filling is bubbling.
- Remove from the oven and cool on a rack. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature. A scoop of vanilla ice cream makes a good addition.
Cook’s Note: Carol has an electric cherry pitter which makes short work of the task. I have a little device that pits cherries one at a time. The job takes longer, but you can turn on the TV or pour a glass of wine or both to make things go faster.
Spring is well along, and the local farmers’ market is in full swing with lots of fresh fruits and vegetables available. Everyone in our local family is on one or another diet, not to mention their variety of food proscriptions: no onions, no mayonnaise, nothing spicy. So when it became my turn to cook our weekly family dinner, I decided it was a good time for salads. Let everyone push to the side whatever ingredient they wouldn’t or couldn’t eat. The main dish was a cross between a pasta and bean salad with the addition of vegetables and eggs from the farmers’ market as well as some canned items from the grocery store. There was a lot of prep time. I shelled fresh fava beans. I roasted corn. There were eggs to hard boil, chicken to cook and dice, and cans to open. But once that was all done, assembly was quick and easy so that I could sit in the family circle and participate in the discussion. The beauty of pasta and bean salads is that there really is no recipe, and you can add or subtract whatever you want. This version came so loaded that finicky eaters could have a field day picking out ingredients. Since I didn’t include onion or chiles and dressed the salad with vinaigrette, I addressed those objections at the outset. I didn’t see anyone picking at his or her plate,
Pasta-Bean Salad Primavera
Four colors of bell peppers
Pine nuts roasting
Pasta salad topped with sliced boiled eggs
- 1 pound fresh fava beans, shelled, blanched, husked. Set aside, refrigerated, until ready to assemble.
- 2 ears fresh corn, dry roasted and kernels removed. Set aside, refrigerated, until ready to assemble.
- 4 jumbo eggs, boiled and peeled. Set aside, refrigerated, until ready to assemble
- 1 large chicken breast, poached, cooled, and cut into ½ inch cubes. Set aside, refrigerated, until ready to assemble.
- 2 bell peppers, seeds removed, diced. Set aside, refrigerated, until ready to assemble.
- 2 ribs celery, diced. Set aside, refrigerated, until ready to assemble.
- large cucumber, seeds removed and diced. Set aside, refrigerated, until ready to assemble.
- ½ pound mushrooms, boiled for 15 minutes, cooled and halved. Set aside, refrigerated, until ready to assemble.
- 4 ounces pine nuts, lightly toasted in a dry skillet. Set aside until ready to assemble
- 1 cup each of pasta shapes, cooked and drained. (I used orecchiette, penne and farfalle, but you can use your favorites)
- 1 cup olive oil vinaigrette, home-made or bottled
- 14 ounce can, cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
- 14 ounce can, black beans, drained and rinsed
- 14 ounce can, black-eyed peas, drained and rinsed
- 14 ounce can, large, pitted black olives, drained and rinsed
- 14 ounce can, quartered artichoke hearts, drained
- 5 ounce can, sliced water chestnuts, drained
- 5 ounce can, sliced bamboo shoots, drained
- 8 ounces feta, cut into ½ inch cubes
- 1 cup grape tomatoes
- ½ cup snow peas, ends removed and cut into ¾ inch slices
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil
- salt and pepper to taste
- Boil the pasta according to directions. If cooking times for the various pastas are greatly different, add the individual varieties at the appropriate time. Drain the cooked pasta and combine with half of the vinaigrette.
- In a very large bowl, and reserving the hard-boiled eggs, add all of the remaining ingredients to the pasta: fava beans, corn, chicken, peppers, celery, cucumber, mushrooms, pine nuts, cannellini beans, black beans, black-eyed peas, olives, artichoke hearts, water chestnuts, bamboo shoots, grape tomatoes, snow peas, and feta.
- Stir in the remaining vinaigrette and sesame oil. Add salt and pepper to taste. Transfer to a large serving bowl and arrange sliced hard-boiled eggs on top.
- This recipe makes LOTS of pasta salad. It is easily enough to serve at least 12 people generously. It also makes great leftovers for the next day’s lunch
- Roasting corn in a dry skillet over high heat gets a nice char, but you can also achieve the same thing in the oven or over an open flame.
- I used four different colors of bell pepper for contrast and used only half of the diced peppers for this recipe, reserving the other half for another recipe.
- Boiling the mushrooms causes them to compact and absorb the vinaigrette better. If you like, you can boil them in water with a little vinegar and pickling spices to make them a little tastier.
- Dry roasting of pine nuts brings out their distinctive flavor. Just be careful not to scorch them.
- You can use whatever shape pasta you like, but ones with ridges or indentations – like macaroni, penne, or orecchiette – will soak up the dressing and the melded flavors. Just be sure to check on cooking times because if they are too different you could wind up with a mixture of firm and mushy pasta.
- You can substitute crumbled feta or any other cheese you favor. I like cubes of feta because they hold their shape and have a distinctive tart flavor.