Aleppo pepper

fish biryani

by Heguiberto on November 8, 2011

This is our recipe for the biryani cook-off that the delightful Heavenly was so good to sponsor. Though after making this marvelous, complex dish; I’m starting to think that she might have been misnamed, as it appears that a tiny bit of a devilish streak lies hidden among all that domestic goodness and glamour. Have you ever seen one of those cartoons with the good angel and the bad angel sitting on the main character’s shoulders, giving opposite confusing advice? Then you know where I’m coming from here.

fish biryani

fish biryani

Okay I always promise myself whenever I’m about to cook Indian that I’ll get the spices out first, so I don’t get mixed up or forget anything, then proceed to the actual cooking adventure. But no, I didn’t do that again! Perhaps that was my evil angel’s counsel. I got dizzy from relentlessly having to go back and forth to the pantry and spinning the lazy-susan over and over and over again to locate the next needed spice for this dish. How funny that now that we have a new kitchen with a dedicated place for spices, I still find myself unable to find anything. I hope that one day they add some computerized artificial intelligence with a soothing voice to kitchen cabinets that will both find anything that I want via verbal-command and will calm me with his/her flattery and encouragement as I freak out at the stovetop. Then no more getting lost in the aromatic black hole I call my spice cabinet.

spice chaos as I look for ingredients for fish biryani

spice chaos as I look for ingredients for fish biryani

I must confess I think I have never made a dish that was so complicated. Lots of steps! I quite liked the result, but this was an effort. I am going to test the recipe again using spices in different proportions. I feel sure each time it will come out tasting slightly differently, so I can mix it up some. I’m excited to read about everyone else’s versions in the cook-off. You should be too. Follow these links for the other “contestants’” biryani masterpieces.

Heavenly Housewife from donuts to delirium
Vanessa from sweet artichoke
Glamorous Glutton
moinetteTeczcape: An Escape to Food
Laura from healthyjalapeno

fish biryani

Make Masala powder first. See below for recipe.

toasting the spices for the Masala powder

toasting the spices for the Masala powder

for the rice:

2 cup basmati rice
1 bay leaf
2 inch piece of cinnamon stick
Few peppercorns
¼ tsp kosher salt

Soak rice in plenty of water for about one hour. Drain. Place rice in a saucepan with 5 cups of water. Drop in salt, bay leaf, pepper corn, and parboil the rice for about 10 minutes. Do not overcook it! Drain and set aside.

for the fish:

1 lb monkfish cut into individual pieces, or any other firm white fish
Juice of 1 lemon
½ tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp chili powder
1 tbsp Masala powder*
1tsp coriander powder
1 tbsp ginger paste
1 tsp kosher salt

Make a paste by mixing lemon juice, garlic and ginger paste, salt and powders. Rub on fish pieces and marinate for about ½ hour. Keep it refrigerated if your kitchen gets too hot.

gently poaching the monkfish in the Masala sauce

gently poaching the monkfish in the Masala sauce

for the Masala sauce:

1 large onion, cut into thin half moon slices
4 ripe tomatoes, peeled and cubed
2 Serrano peppers, minced, ribs and seeds partially removed
½ bunch cilantro, chopped
A few mint leaves, julienned
1 tsp Aleppo pepper
¼ tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp fresh garlic paste
1 tsp fresh ginger paste
2 tbsp Masala powder *
1 bay leaf
1 tsp ajwain seeds
1 tsp black peppercorn
½ tsp allspice powder
¼ tsp clove powder
¼ tsp onion seeds
1½ cups plain yogurt
2 tbsp canola oil
A few strands saffron
1 tsp sugar

Add oil to a large skillet followed by onion and minced Serrano pepper. Cook until onion becomes wilted and translucent. Push onion to the side of skillet. Add ginger and garlic pastes, ajwain seeds, bay leaf, black peppercorn, Aleppo pepper, Masala powder, turmeric, allspice and clove powder, saffron, onion seeds, sugar and cook until raw smells dissipate. Add tomato, stir everything together and cook until tomatoes begin to dissolve. Mix yogurt with half cup of water and fold into the sauce. Carefully lay fish pieces over the Masala sauce, cover pan and cook on medium heat for about 8 minutes. Mix in cilantro and mint leaves.

At this point heat up the oven to 450F.

ready to layer the baking dish with rice and fish

ready to layer the baking dish with rice and fish

several layers of rice and fish to form my biryani

several layers of rice and fish to form my biryani

*for the Masala powder for fish

5 whole cloves
4 green cardamom pods
2 cinnamon sticks ~3 inch each
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp cumin leaves
1 bay leaf
½ tsp grated nutmeg
1 tbsp ground coriander

Place cloves, cardamom, fennel and bay leaf in a saucepan; put it over burner over high heat. Dry roast spices for a few minutes until aromatic, being careful not to burn it. Transfer to a coffee grinder and pulverize. Mix in ground nutmeg and coriander. (My coriander was already ground, if you have seeds use them instead).

to assemble the fish biryani:

Using an oven-proof baking dish with a cover, assemble the biryani with one layer of rice, followed by a layer of fish masala, and finish with the remaining Masala sauce. Repeat so you end up with three or four layers of all ingredients. Cover and bake for about 30 minutes. The rice will finish cooking in the masala sauce without becoming overly cooked. Remove from oven and let it rest for about 10 minutes before serving.

If you haven’t had enough fish biryani yet, look here, here and here for other related versions.

{ 7 comments }

catfish tenders

by Stevie on August 19, 2011

“Everything’s better fried.” That, and “save room for dessert” are two of my favorite food sayings from childhood. My mother used to call me “the bottomless stomach” when I was a kid, as I was always hungry! We’d be happily eating away at lunch and I’d be asking what we’d be having for dinner; at dinner, I’d inquire about breakfast; and so on. You get the idea.

catfish tenders

catfish tenders

Mom didn’t fry everything and we didn’t always have dessert (though as I recall, we almost always did.) Usually, she’d buy things like fish sticks in frozen packages. My sisters and I would microwave them with slices of Kraft American cheese, the kind that comes individually wrapped, and eat them in sandwiches with lots of ketchup. It was horrible, really, but just remembering it now makes my mouth water.

I wasn’t really thinking of any of this when I made catfish tenders. It is after eating them that it all came to mind. Funny how memory works.

You could undoubtedly serve these as a fish stick alternative to hungry kids. But adults will appreciate them too.

catfish tenders

1 lb catfish fillets (about four pieces) cut in half the long way
2 eggs
2 cups panko breadcrumbs
3 tbsp parmesan
1 tbsp Aleppo pepper
Salt and black pepper
Vegetable oil for frying

Rinse and pat dry catfish. Beat eggs together with about 1 tsp salt. Put fish into egg wash and let soak while heating oil in a medium sized pan. You’ll need enough oil to almost cover fish.

Mix breadcrumbs, parmesan, Aleppo pepper, black pepper and some salt together in another dish. When ready to fry, immerse fish in breadcrumb mix so that each piece is evenly and fully covered. Gently place fish into hot oil and let fry for a few minutes on each side. Once golden, remove and let drain on paper towels. I did mine in two batches.

Serve with lemon slices, a dipping sauce of your choice or even ketchup. We had ours with fiery habanero sauce.

{ 7 comments }

quinoa, fresh fava bean and avocado salad

quinoa, fresh fava bean and avocado salad

I’ve adapted this light and protein-rich salad from Plenty by Yotam Ottelenghi. It is flavorful and perfect for a barbeque party. You will enchant all your guests with this one, whether they’re vegan, vegetarian, or more omnivorous. The dish combines ingredients from both new and old worlds to become a beautiful international delight, just the way we like it 😉

quinoa, fresh fava bean and avocado salad

½ cup red quinoa
½ cup white quinoa
2 ripe Hass avocados
1½ cups fresh fava beans, from about 2 lbs fava pods
8 fresh multicolor oblong French radishes, quartered
1 cup frisée escarole, cleaned, cut into bite size pieces
Juice of 2 lemons
1 tbsp ground cumin
1 garlic clove crushed
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
Aleppo pepper chili flakes
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Add both red and white quinoa to a sauce pan, top with 2 cups of water. Bring to a boil, reduce temperature to medium and cook until soft and little seeds have partially burst. Drain, rinse and let cool down to room temperature in a strainer.

Using a sharp paring knife cut a tiny strip off the stringy part of the fava pod lengthways, pop beans out of their velvety pod. Repeat process for remaining pods. Add beans to a pot with boiling water and cook for about 3 minutes. Drain, shock beans with cold water, let them cool down. Remove outer membrane from around each bean, being careful not to crush them.

Cut avocados in halves, remove large seeds. Slice into wedges, transfer to bowl and sprinkle with some lemon juice to prevent oxidation. Set aside.

In a small bowl, mix garlic, salt, peppers, remainder of the lemon juice, cumin and olive oil.

Transfer quinoa, fava, radish and frisée to a serving dish, pour dressing over everything and toss to combine. Adjust flavors if necessary. Gently fold in avocado wedges.  Garnish with some crisp lettuce leaves.

{ 5 comments }

Heavenly Housewife has been singing the praises of Yotam Ottolenghi lately. She’s even taken an Ottolenghi cooking class in London after waiting forever to get in. Yes, that’s how popular this chef has become in the UK. She posted some delicious treats from the class and then, good heavens, she made some of his salads! That’s a sure sign that she truly adores this chef. I wish we were in London taking Yotam’s classes together. Wouldn’t that be fun? London, Heavenly, Steven, Yotam and me: who could ask for anything more?

Yotam Ottolenghi-style roasted eggplant with labneh, za’atar and pomegranate molasses

Yotam Ottolenghi-style roasted eggplant with labneh, za’atar and pomegranate molasses

Last week while browsing in some colorful Mission Neighborhood shops before it was time for our table at Locanda, I spotted a gorgeous cookbook graced by this eggplant dish. It looked like an objet d’art, a jewel! As you might already guess, the book was Plenty: Vibrant Vegetable Recipes from London’s Ottolenghi. The American version is published by Chronicle Books LLC, right here in San Francisco, very cool! It is packed with a whole lot of exciting vegetarian dishes. I like it so well, that I’ve already prepared four of them, so more to come. The photography in the book is mind-blowing. Our compliments to the photographer, Jonathan Lovekin, and to Yotam Ottolenghi, of course.

I had to adapt the recipe because I didn’t have all the ingredients. Pomegranates are not in season right now, so I used small drops of pomegranate molasses instead. The sauce calls for buttermilk and Greek yogurt, but I used labneh, since we had some already. I prepared my own za’atar, as we have all the individual ingredients in our pantry. The lemon thyme, I’m thrilled to say, comes from my own community garden plot. This is the first recipe that calls for it that I’ve made since planting that lovely herb.

Lastly, the recipe calls for roasting the eggplant at 200F for 35-40 minutes. I think that must be an error. Surely it was supposed to be 200C. The publisher must have forgotten to convert to Fahrenheit. It should have been at least 400F. I waited about 35 minutes before cranking up the heat and only then did my eggplant really start to brown and cook.

Otherwise, this dish was sublime. Thanks, Heavenly Housewife, for introducing Yotam Ottolenghi’s cooking to our table!

Yotam Ottolenghi-style roasted eggplant with labneh, za’atar and pomegranate molasses

For the eggplant:

3 medium to large Italian eggplant, cut in half the long way, stems on
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp fresh lemon thyme, minced; plus several sprigs lemon thyme
½ tsp pomegranate molasses
Black pepper to taste
Pinch Aleppo pepper
Kosher salt
2 tsp za’atar*

For labneh sauce:

2 cloves garlic, peeled and mashed
3 tbsp extra virgin arbequina olive oil
Kosher salt to taste
1 cup labneh
½ cup water or more

*For the za’atar :

3 tbsp sumac
1 tsp dried Greek oregano
1 tbsp pan dry-roasted sesame seeds, cooled to room temperature and ground
Pinch savory
½ tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp kosher salt

Pre heat oven to 400F.

Place eggplant halves, cut side up, on a baking dish. Use a sharp knife to make incisions in eggplant flesh in the shape of diamonds/ lozenges without piecing the skin. Brush halves with equal amounts of olive oil. Repeat until all olive oil is absorbed. Add salt, peppers and minced thyme. Tuck some of the seasonings in the little crevices of the eggplant. Bake uncovered for 45 minutes, or until flesh is soft. Broil eggplant for few minutes towards the end, just to give them some color. Remove from the oven and let cool to room temperature.

Meanwhile prepare za’atar by mixing all ingredients together, set aside.

Place labneh in a bowl. Whisk in ½ cup of water, olive oil, salt and mashed garlic. The sauce should be fairly thin. Add more water here if needed. Set aside.

Arrange eggplant halves on a serving platter. Spoon over some labneh sauce, top with a few drops of pomegranate molasses, sprinkle za’atar over that, followed by a few flowers of lemon thyme

Store leftover za’atar in a tight container in the refrigerator for up to a month. Sprinkle it liberally on salads, rice, humus, yogurt.

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