Lately I have been watching some DVDs I purchased from The Great Courses. If you are not familiar with that company, they offer video recordings, and sometimes accompanying books, prepared from the lectures of outstanding instructors. You can study art appreciation, Egyptian history, architecture, and just about any other topic you can think of. They have a series on cooking as well as on wine appreciation, so I bought both.
One of the instructors in the cooking series is Bill Briwa who is a Chef-Instructor at the Greystone, California campus of the Culinary Institute of America (CIA). Briwa has a very personal and comfortable teaching style, and on top of that he offers a lot of good information and easy-to-follow demonstrations.
The DVD set that I am currently watching is called The Everyday Gourmet: The Joy of Mediterranean Cooking. As the title suggests, there are recipes and demonstrations from Spain, Provence, Italy, Greece, Turkey, and North Africa.
My blogging friend, Happiness Stan Lives, recently received a tagine (His had eyes), and so he demonstrated how to make a Moroccan tagine. I was surprised to learn from Bill Briwa that a “dry” tagine is made in Tunisia without the peaked hat cooking device.
Since I don’t have a Moroccan tagine (That is a hint to my family.) I thought I would give the Tunisian version a try.
Out of the oven ready to serve
Served with a small salad
Tunisian Tagine Ricotta
- ¾ pound ground lamb
- seeds from 4 cardamom pods
- 4 whole cloves
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
- ½ teaspoon black peppercorns
- ¼ cup olive oil + more to oil the baking dish
- ½ medium yellow onion, diced
- 3 garlic cloves, finely minced
- 3 tablespoons ground cumin
- salt and pepper to taste
- 6 eggs, beaten
- ½ cup Monterrey jack cheese, grated
- 2 hard boiled eggs, each cut into 6 wedges
- 15 ounces ricotta cheese, at room temperature
- 1/3 cup parsley, chopped
- In a bowl, mix the ground lamb with the cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, ginger, coriander, and black peppercorns. Set aside.
- In a separate bowl, combine the beaten eggs and grated cheese. Set aside until ready for assembly.
- Heat the oil in a skillet over a medium-high flame. Add the onions and cook until translucent. Then add the ground lamb mixture, stirring until the lamb is well browned. Turn off the heat and let the mixture cool.
- Using a pastry brush, coat the inside of a shallow baking dish with olive oil. Then pour in 1/3 of the egg-cheese mixture, tilting the dish to completely cover the bottom.
- Spread ½ of the lamb mixture over the egg-cheese mixture. Spread ½ of the ricotta over the lamb. Press 6 hard boiled egg wedges into the ricotta, distributing them evenly.
- Cover with 1/3 of the egg-cheese mixture, spreading it as evenly as possible. Top with the remaining lamb and ricotta, pressing the remaining 6 hard-boiled egg wedges into the ricotta between the other wedges.
- Pour the remaining 1/3 of the egg-cheese mixture over the top, spreading it so that it completely covers the other layers.
- Bake in the middle of an oven preheated to 375°F for 40 minutes or until the eggs are completely cooked and the top is beautifully browned.
- Remove from the oven. Sprinkle with chopped parsley. Serve while still warm. Serves 4.
Recently I have written about noodles and pasta and some of my travails in turning out good products. Part of the stimulus for my effort has been watching an outstanding video cooking course by Chef Bill Briwa of the Greystone campus of the Culinary Institute of America and produced by The Great Courses. Chef Briwa made pasta-making look so easy, especially after my history of struggle over the years.
Actually, I found the basics of pasta and noodle making to be fairly straightforward. (How complicated can anything be with the ingredients limited to flour, eggs, and water?) At the same time, refinements come only with practice and attention to detail.
Here is my effort at a close relative of pasta/noodle: spaetzle. The word is German, and translates to either “little sparrows” or “little darlings”. Personally I prefer the “little darlings” translation because I would rather not have birds floating around in the sauce, and the little noodlets do look cute, snuggling in the brown butter. Spaetzle are basically made from a soft noodle dough that you force through holes into boiling water where they immediately cook and float to the top. You can use a cookie press with a spaetzle attachment, but those holes are too small. You can use a colander with large holes, but there is a lot of effort with a spoon in pushing the dough through the openings. The last time I visited Los Angeles, I found a spaetzle maker at the Surfas kitchen supply store in Culver City. As an aside, I would highly recommend a visit when you are in Los Angeles. They have more kitchen gadgets than you can imagine along with a small sandwich and pastry shop.
Back to the spaetzle, the device I bought at Surfas makes spaetzle-making a breeze. You load the dough into the little box on top, move the box back and forth across the pierced plate, and the dough automatically feeds until you need to load it again. The spaetzle drop into the boiling water, and you scoop them out into waiting melted butter at the same time you reload the box.
I served the spaetzle in brown butter sauce with croutons, along with braised pork chops, apples, and onions. Pretty German – and pretty monochromatic. You might want to add a green vegetable to brighten up the plate.
Use a colander or a special spaetzle device
Spaetzle and croutons in brown butter
Spaetzle served with braised pork chops, apples and onions
Spaetzle in Brown Butter with Croutons
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 1 cup croutons
- 3 eggs
- ½ cup water
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1¾ cups all-purpose flour
- 6 quarts salted water for boiling the spaetzle
- salt and pepper to taste
- In a saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter and cook, stirring frequently, until it has browned, being careful not to let it burn. Remove from the heat, stir in the croutons, and have it next to the cooking water for the spaetzle so that you can transfer the pasta immediately into the butter.
- In a medium mixing bowl, combine the eggs, water, salt and flour. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest for 30 minutes.
- In a large pot, bring salted water to a boil. Place the spaetzle maker over the boiling water. Load the metal box with dough, and using a back-and-forth sliding motion, pass the dough through the holes in pierced plate.
- The noodles should drop into the boiling water and sink to the bottom. After they float to the surface, let them cook for a minute or so, and the lift them out of the boiling water using a slotted spoon or a spider. Transfer to the melted brown butter, stirring them so that they are completely coated with butter.
- Repeat the process until all of the dough has been used up.
- Correct the seasoning of the buttered noodles with salt and pepper. Serve immediately, or you can chill them and reheat them later if yo wish.
Braised Pork Chops, Apples, and Onions
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 boneless, 1 inch-thick pork chops
- 1 cup chicken stock
- 2 cloves garlic
- 2 stems fresh rosemary
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 apple, peeled, cored, and sliced into ½ inch rings
- 1 onion, sliced thinly (Use a mandolin if you have one.)
- ¼ cup Calvados
- salt and pepper
- Heat the olive oil in an oven-proof pan with tight-fitting lid, big enough to hold the pork chops and other ingredients. Brown the pork chops on both sides. Add the chicken stock, garlic, rosemary, and bay leaf. Cover and place in the middle of oven preheated to 220° F.
- Braise for one hour, turning the pork chops from time to time, and adding water if necessary.
- Add the apple rings and onions, and continue to cook for another 45 minutes.
- Transfer the pork chops, apples, and onions to a plate, cover with aluminum foil and keep warm in the oven.
- Strain the cooking liquid, and return to the pan. Boil the liquid over high heat until it is reduced to about one-half and is slightly thickened. Stir in the Calvados.
- Serve the pork chops, apples, and onions, topped with the sauce and with the spaetzle on the side.