Pacific cod and caper kebabs

by Heguiberto on January 17, 2013

This is another great recipe from Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem. It uses capers! Hurrah!!! How can you go wrong with capers? Salted or brined, these tiny flower buds are alright with me. Yotam writes that caper bushes grow wild around the city of Jerusalem. They’re hardy and you can even find them growing out of cracks in the Wailing Wall (Muro das Lamentações in Portuguese). Isn’t that cool? I’d love to see that someday.

Pacific cod and caper kebabs

Pacific cod and caper kebabs

The original dish also uses quite a bit of dill too, an herb I sometimes find a bit over powering. I think it has to do with the smell of the lagoons around my home town in Brazil. The grasses that grew around those lagoons exhaled a strange dill scent and I always associate these smells with stagnant water. Alas! I think that I must have been a dog or a wolf in a past life. My sense of smell is powerful; which is good sometimes but as in this case, not too great at others. Anyway this dish is all about beautiful colors, flavors and, yes, aromas!

Pacific cod and caper kebabs

2lbs white boneless fish (I used wild pacific cod fillets)
½ cup Italian bread crumbs
½ cup panko break crumbs
1 large free range egg, beaten
5 tbsp capers in brine, rinsed and chopped
3 whole scallions, chopped fine
½ bunch fresh dill, chopped fine
Juice one large lemon
1½ tsp ground cumin
¾ tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
Canola oil for frying

Cut the fillets into 3 inch pieces, place fish in the food processor and whiz for half a minute. Using a spatula push the fish down. Whiz it again for another half minute.

Transfer to a bowl, add lemon juice and beaten egg. In a separate bowl mix Italian bread crumbs, panko, turmeric, cumin, pepper, chopped capers, scallions, dill and salt together. Incorporate bread crumb mix into to fish using a spatula. Do not over mix.

Wet your hands with a bit of canola oil. Shape fish mixture into patties. Place patties on a wax paper lined tray. Cover with plastic film and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Add some canola oil to a non-stick skillet on medium. Fry patties for about 3 minutes on each side. Serve hot with a side of eggplant baba ghanoush.


This is another wonderful rice pilaf adapted from our favorite Iranian cook book, New Food of Life, by Najmieh Batmanglij. I prepared it for our New Year’s Eve party and we shared it with our friends Jasmine Turner and Prof. T.

fragrant herbed basmati polow

fragrant herbed basmati polow

Steven “suggested” the meal, and I’m glad. I was a bit jet lagged from our recent trip to Virginia and couldn’t organize my thoughts around what to cook for our last dinner of 2011: obviously an important decision in any kitchen. This rice is wonderfully fragrant and light. It whispers that spring is coming soon…

Here I didn’t use ghee. Instead I used just a single tablespoon of butter, and extra virgin olive oil for the rest. The recipe calls for plain yogurt but I used labneh—I can’t help it, I’m, addicted to the stuff. I mixed up the herb ratios compared to Najmieh’s recommendations and deployed the cinnamon parsimoniously.

Lastly, this dish requires attention to the process of making it otherwise it won’t turn out the way it is supposed to be. I’ve tried making similar recipes before skipping steps and the result was not as effective, so between prepping and the actual cooking, it took me about 3 hours to prepare.

fragrant herbed basmati polow

3 cups basmati rice
¾ cup whole scallions, roughly chopped
1½ cups dill, roughly chopped
2 cups Italian parsley, roughly chopped
2 cups cilantro, roughly chopped
2 stalks fresh Chinese garlic plants, roughly chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp saffron threads (~ 1 gram), dissolved/soaked in 5 tbsp warm water
2 tbsp labneh
Sprinkles of cinnamon
1 tbsp butter
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt

Rinse basmati rice 3 times in warm water. Transfer rice to a large bowl then add 8 cups of water and two teaspoons of salt. Stir it and soak for 2 hours.

Towards the last 15 minutes of soaking, fill a large pot with 8 cups of water, 1 tsp of salt and bring it to a boil. Rinse soaking rice and put it in the boiling water. Parboil it for about 5 minutes and drain.

Mix all herbs with minced garlic and some salt. Set aside

Using a separate bowl combine about ¾ cup of parboiled rice, labneh and a third of the saffron threads and juice. Be careful not to break the rice.

Heat a tablespoon of butter and a couple tablespoons of water in the pot used for boiling the rice. Spread rice/labneh mix over the bottom of the pan and cook rice for a couple of minutes at medium high. This will build the delicious brown crust of the dish. Reduce temperature to low.

Add a layer of rice, a tiny sprinkle of cinnamon and then a layer of herbs. Repeat until you run out of ingredients. The last layer should be rice. Sprinkle with some salt, the saffron water and threads, half cup of hot water and half of the olive oil.

Place a paper towel on the top of the pan and then cover with the lid. Continue cooking for about 45 minutes. Do not open the lid until time has lapsed. Remove from heat and let it rest, covered, for another five minutes. Drizzle the rest of the olive oil over, transfer to a serving plate/bowl and voila! Najmieh suggests that you pile the rice in a pyramid shape and serve the crust on the side. That would make it look cuter, but we were starved by then so sort of mixed it all together.

welcome 2012!!!

fireworks display over downtown San Francisco and the Bay. Welcome 2012!!!


chickpea falafel

by Stevie on January 14, 2011

I was so proud of myself after successfully making this chickpea falafel. (Is that plural or singular? Do you say “falafels” or “falafel” if you’re referring to more than one of these savory balls of goodness or what? Maybe it is like the word “shrimp?”) Falafel is something that I’ve eaten often and really enjoyed.

chickpea falafel

chickpea falafel

There was this great hole-in-the-wall place in the East Village in New York called “Damascus Falafel” that made these incredible falafel sandwiches called, you guessed it, “Damascus Falafel” that had a few of these lovely balls tossed together with tabuli salad, hummus, baba ghanoush, olives, preserved peppers, feta, tahini dressing all wrapped together in an oversized pita bread. It was wonderful!!!

Making them from scratch seemed like a whole different thing. I used the recipe in Silk Road Cooking: A Vegetarian Journey. Najmieh says that falafel is/are originally from Egypt, which I didn’t know. I would have guessed… Damascus? Joumana from T of B agrees though her account makes the attribution sound less than certain.

Silk Road Cooking describes two kinds of falafel: those made of fava and those from chickpea. Supposedly the priests refused to eat those from chickpea and would only dine on the ones made of fava. That’s news to me as I thought that they were all with chickpea. But that’s just more of my falafel naivety. In fact, T of B just published an exciting version with green beans. Her other version has a mix of fava and chickpea.

Here is another recipe, and another, and one more.

chickpea falafel

2 cups chickpeas (dried that I rehydrated)
1 cup roasted chickpea flour
1 clove garlic
1 tbsp tahini
½ tsp baking soda
1½ tsp salt
¼ tsp black pepper
½ tsp cayenne
½ tsp sugar
½ tsp turmeric
½ tsp coriander (I didn’t have this so left it out)
1 tsp cumin
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/3 cup fresh dill and/or cilantro

oil for frying
sesame seeds

Place everything except frying oil and sesame seeds in food processor. Pulse until you get a paste. Pour falafel mix into a bowl. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes to a day.

When you’re ready to make the falafel, heat oil in a deep pan. Shape falafel into walnut-sized balls. If the dough is too soft, add more chickpea flour (I had to). Roll balls in sesame seeds. Press them into rounds. Gently place in frying oil and cook about three minutes per side. Remove form oil and let drain in a dish covered with paper towels.

Serve with hummus, baba ghanoush, yoghurt sauce or however you want. I made a lot so froze and re-heated them in the over later. They were perfect.


cold cured gravlax

by Heguiberto on May 17, 2010

I made my very first gravlax!

cold cured gravlax

Last week I got into a long conversation with my Michigan friend, J, about the popularity of cured fish in that state. Apparently everyone has their own family recipe for making cured fish there, often handed down form generation to generation. We don’t have that in my family.

I love most cured fish, such as salmon, mackerel, herring and white fish. It’s really popular at delis in New York. Making it at home myself seemed intimidating but I finally decided that it would be a nice adventure.
My former boss in NYC recommended a cold cured gravlax, which didn’t require smoking. It’s simply practical there. How can you easily smoke fish in a tiny New York apartment without setting the fire alarms off and driving the neighbors insane?! If you were my neighbor, I’d be the first to complain about the smell.

fresh salmon covered with dry brine ready to be pressed with weight and cured

I was a little apprehensive about this dish. After all, it’s “raw” fish that you leave out then refrigerate for a while. Sounds really weird! But it turned out good. It even reminded me of New York deli food. Wow! Next time I’m doubling the batch so I can give some to Steven’s workmate, Heather. She recently presented us some homemade smoked salmon that her husband made that was incredible. Thank you guys!

Before making the dish I did some research to find out the etymology of the word gravlax. In Swedish, grav means to bury and lax or lox as it is called on the East Coast means salmon… so surprise: gravlax means buried salmon. That’s how they made this deliciousness originally, by burying it in sand with spices until fully cured and ready to eat. Modern gravlax is “buried” in dry brine and then cured in the fridge for a couple of days. I adapted this recipe from one at group recipes.

cold cured gravlax ready to be sliced

Cold Cured Gravlax

1¾ lb wild boneless salmon in a single piece, scaled, skin left on
½ bunch chopped fresh dill
¼ cup sugar
½ cup kosher salt or other non-iodized salt*
1 tsp yellow mustard seeds
1 tsp black mustard seeds
1 tsp white pepper corn


5 lb weight (I used four bags of beans)
1 ceramic or glass tray (must be non-reactive vessel)
Cling film
1 flat tray to hold weight over fish

Using a mortar or an electric grinder, pulverize white pepper corns. Then add mustard seeds and pulse again to grind coarsely. Transfer to a bowl and mix with sugar and salt. Set aside the “dry brine.”
Rinse then dry salmon with paper towels. Poke skin a few times with a fork or sharp knife.

Make a mound with half of the dry brine at the bottom center of ceramic or glass tray. Sprinkle with half of chopped dill. Place salmon, skin down over salty mound. Cover salmon with remaining dry brine and dill. Place the tray over prepared salmon and add weights on top. Wrap with cling film to cover completely. Let rest at room temperature for 3 hours in a cool area. Our living room was about 63F that day. If it’s too hot, let rest for a shorter period of time. Then transfer the tray to the bottom part of your fridge and cure for 48 hours, turning fish two or three times during curing. Be sure to keep weight on it throughout curing.

Remove from fridge. Unwrap and rinse fish under running cold water to remove excess brine. Dry with a paper towel. Lay on a flat surface and slice thinly on the bias diagonally with a sharp knife. Serve it as is or with toast, bagels, or white rice. We had ours with a bottle of Domaine de la Becassonne blanc. We’re lucky to have a few bottles left. Look for the 2009 this fall! I’ve heard that’s supposed to be even better than ’08.

obs: Kosher salt is coarse and less salty than sea/mined salts, use less salt if the only salt you have available are these. Besides using non-iodized salt also avoid flavored gourmet salts, the will impart flavors to the fish you might not like. Next time I will even reduce or leave the dill out. The salmon flavor alone is already incredible.


rustic fava, edamame and dill tart

This recipe comes from Silk Road Cooking: A Vegetarian Journey. I’ve been itching to make it for months but have had to wait for Spring and the return of fresh fava beans. I don’t usually go for making my own pie crusts but I’m so enchanted with Najmieh Batmanglij’s book in general and the picture of her “Sicilian Fava Bean, Garlic and Dill Crostata” in particular that I thought I’d give it a try.

I prepared it on a weeknight, which might have been a bit of a mistake because it took longer than I thought it would. The crust came out perfectly. At first, it was a little friable and hard to manage. I ended up putting it into my glass pie dish in several pieces which I then squished together while in place.

fresh dill and fava beans in the pod

Unfortunately, I didn’t end up with enough fava beans from my 2 pounds of fresh pods. It was a simple matter of large pods with few beans. Because of this shortage, I added a bag of frozen edamame. They’re not as subtle as fava so I expect that the dish tasted differently from the original recipe.

organic vegetable shortening

You have the option of using a half cup of vegetable shortening in the crust rather than butter. I used soy milk instead of heavy cream for the filling, too. Hegui was highly skeptical about the shortening and gave me a hard time about it. However, my doctor keeps reminding me to lay off foods with cholesterol and this already has three eggs (I hate egg substitutes). I like soy milk. Plus I used organic shortening without trans-fat. That’s got to be good for you, right?

Finally, by the time it was out of the oven it was already eight o’clock. We were too hungry to let it cool. Since it tasted even better the next day for lunch, I’d recommend making this the day before and letting it cool to room temperature.

The dill was very aromatic and filled the whole apartment with its inviting smell. This would be marvelous served at a buffet or perhaps for a picnic in wine country. We had ours with a simple tomato salad and sautéed broccoli rabe.

Rustic Fava, Edamame and Dill Tart

For the dough:

1½ cups flour
½ tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder
½ cup vegetable shortening
1 egg
½ tsp. vanilla
3 tbsp. ice water

For the filling:

1 tbsp. vegetable oil
1 medium onion, peeled and thinly sliced
6 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
5 cups fresh fava and/or frozen edamame
1 bunch chopped fresh dill
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. black pepper
1/8 tsp. sugar
2 eggs
1¼ cups soy milk
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese

To make the dough:

Pulse the flour, salt and baking powder in a food processor. Add the vegetable shortening and pulse until mixed well. Add the egg and vanilla. Pulse for 20 seconds. Add water until dough firms up but before it becomes a ball. This may take more water. Remove dough from food processor to a floured surface. Using a rolling pin, flatten into circular form and then line round baking dish. Do your best. Pierce the dough a few times with a fork. Cover with aluminum foil and put in freezer for at least thirty minutes. (Najmieh says you can freeze it for several weeks.)

Preheat oven to 425F.

Remove crust from freezer. Keep covered with foil and bake for fifteen minutes. Remove from oven and remove foil.

To make the filling:

Remove fava from pods. Boil them for a few minutes to soften membranes around each bean. Remove from water and rinse to cool. Peel membrane off each bean. If using edamame, cook per package directions.

Sauté onion in vegetable oil for about five minutes on medium heat. Add garlic, beans, dill, salt, pepper and sugar. Sauté for five minutes more. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.
Beat eggs, soy milk and ¼ cup of cheese together.

fava edamame dill tart with tomato salad and broccoli rabe

To assemble tart:

Place remaining cheese into partially baked tart shell. Pour bean mixture on top. Cover with egg mixture making sure to get all air bubbles out.

Reduce oven temperature to 375F.

Bake 30 to 40 minutes until crust is a golden brown. Remove from oven. Allow to cool. Enjoy!


feta zucchini borek

by Heguiberto on July 21, 2009

finished feta zucchini borek

finished feta zucchini borek

For the Macedonian party we had the other day I made borek. This classic dish also goes by börek or burek depending on the nationality of origin. Aleks introduced me to it the last time we went over for BBQ at his place and I fell in love with it. It was lightly pan fried and had a filling made with feta cheese, leek and spinach…scrumptious flavors! Borek and spanakopita are sort of similar in the way they are made. Aleks told me borek normally requires a filo pastry that is a littler thicker than the filo we find in shops here. I tried to buy the thick one but could not find it. I ended up using the regular filo dough in my borek recipe. It worked out pretty well. Filo dough is very fragile and dries out fast once the package has been opened. So do follow the instructions on the box regarding handling those sheets!

For this recipe I use about 30 sheets. That corresponds to about one box. You may lose some of them during the borek assembly process due to tearing or breakage. That’s o.k. By the way did I mention that this is super labor intensive? It is! Also I needed an assistant for the actual stuffing and rolling of the borek because it was very messy.

Feta Zucchini Borek


1 box of filo sheets brought to room temperature
4 grated zucchinis or about 5-6 cups
1/3 cup of chopped fresh dill
2/3 cup good feta cheese in crumbles
1 tbsp Hungarian paprika
A good pinch of cayenne pepper (depending on how spicy you like it)
Red pepper flakes to taste
½ tbsp freshly ground black pepper
½ tbsp Kosher salt
1 whole egg, plus 1 egg white lightly beaten
½ cup low fat plain yogurt
4 tbsp olive oil

brushing yogurt dressing over borek prior to baking

brushing yogurt dressing over borek prior to baking

How to:
Add to a bowl grated zucchini, dill, feta cheese, paprika, cayenne, red pepper flakes, black pepper and salt. Mix with a spatula till incorporated. Taste and adjust flavors if necessary. Add egg. Mix again. Let mixture rest for approximately 20 minutes at room temperature. Transfer zucchini mixture to a strainer and squish out as much juice as you can. Reserve about ½ to ¾ cups of extracted zucchini juice. To the reserved juice, mix in yogurt and olive oil.

Pre-heat the oven to 375F. Grease a large cookie tray with olive oil.

To make the borek, think as if you were about to roll a big cigar. Lay 1 filo sheet on your kitchen counter, longer side facing you. Quickly brush it with yogurt mixture. Lay another filo sheet on top of the first. Brush it again with more of the yogurt mixture. Place a small amount of the zucchini filling on one long end of the brushed filo (you should have about 7 portions) Roll it into a long tube or cigar. Transfer the cigar to your cookie tray and roll it in such a way to take a shape of an electrical coil. Repeat the process another until you run out of filling. For each additional roll, wrap it around the center, first one to make a large wheel shape. After the borek is completely formed, pour/brush the remaining yougurt mixture over the top. Drizzle a little more olive oil over the finished pie.

Bake until golden brown, about 45 to 55 minutes. Remove from oven. Let it cool. Transfer to a serving platter, cut and serve.

Our friend Daniel liked it so much that he said he could eat this borek for breakfast, lunch and dinner without ever getting tired of it. I take it as a compliment! Cheers.

serving borek family style

serving borek family style

recovering from making the feta zucchini borek

recovering from making the feta zucchini borek

Charles de Gaulle – “The better I get to know men, the more I find myself loving dogs.”

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