This month's Is My Blog Burning? is being hosted by foodgoat. I had hoped to participate in the last session but various things prevented me from getting to it in a timely fashion. This time I was determined, but initially found myself stumped by the theme, which was simply - "orange" (the color, not specifically the fruit). After coming up with an preliminary list of foods that met that requirement, I set out to research a menu. Last night, three courses were served (recipes included elsewhere on this blog -- see links below). I had a great deal of fun and felt this theme really stretched my creativity. I got to try out dishes with three different orange-focused ingredients, including carrot, the ubiquitous orange itself, and cantaloupe. A very bright repast.
Carrot, Honey and Ginger Soup
from Hors D'Oeuvres by Erick Treuille & Victoria Blashford-Snell
(ingredients for 1/2 batch)
1 TBSP butter
3 cups carrots, chopped
1/2 onion, chopped
1 1/2 celery sticks, chopped
1/2 garlic clove, chopped
2 in piece fresh ginger, chopped
2 cups chicken stock
1/2 TBSP honey
2 TBSP heavy cream
chopped chives for garnish
Melt butter in pan over low heat. Add carrots, onions, celery, garlic, and ginger with a pinch of salt. Continue cooking covered, until very soft, about 20 minutes. Add stock and increase heat to boil. Reduce heat and simmer until carrots cooked through, 15 minutes. Cool slightly, then place in blender; pulse to a smooth puree. Place a fine-mesh strainer over the rinsed-out pan and press the puree through. Discard remainder left behind. Add 2 TBSP water to the puree at a time to adjust the soup's thickness to the consistency of light cream. Heat soup through over medium heat. Add honey, cream, salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot. Sprinkle with chives to garnish.
Notes: The book this comes from calls for it to be served in demi-tasse cups (the ingredients above would make about 10 servings in that amount) and have a light cream consistency. I opted for something a little more substantive as I was serving it as a first course. Also, since ginger can come in various sizes, I had estimated a generous tablespoon to be an appropriate amount, but in retrospect should have increased it by at least half as much again. Still, it had a lovely texture and a refreshing taste (which was oddly not very carrot-y in the end).
Sauteed Pheasant with Orange Gravy
a Jennifer original
2 leg/thigh pieces pheasant (about 1 1/4 pounds)
1/8 tsp pepper
1 TBSP cooking oil
1 TBSP butter
1/2 shallot, minced
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup orange juice
2 TBSP brown sugar, firmly packed
2 TBSP granulated sugar
2 TBSP orange peel
1 1/2 TBSP vermouth
1/4 cup water mixed with 1 tsp corn starch
Season pheasant with pepper. In a skillet over medium heat, melt oil and butter. Saute shallot until soft - about 2 minutes. Add pheasant for browning, about 3 minutes per side. Add chicken broth, cover, and simmer about 20 minutes, turning pheasant at the halfway point. Remove pheasant and keep warm. Add orange juice, brown sugar, sugar, orange peel, vermouth. Increase heat and reduce mixture in pan by about 1/2 the volume. Add water/corn starch mixture and stir to thicken.
Notes: Yum. Fresh Penzey's orange peel made this a very bright sauce. I was very pleased with how this came out and will certainly make it again at some point.
A fresh, sweet melon is the only kind of melon that transforms into a fine sorbet...
from The Ultimate Ice Cream Book
1 small ripe cantaloupe
1/4 cup orange juice
3/4 cup superfine sugar
1/2 tsp salt
Remove the rind and seeds from the melon. Cut the flesh into 1/2-inch cubes. You should have about 2 heaping cups of fruit. Place the cut-up melon in a blender with the orange-juice, sugar, and salt. Blend until the melon is pureed and the sugar has dissolved, about 30 seconds. Cover and refrigerate until cold.
Stir the chilled mixture and then freeze in your ice cream machine according to the manufacturer's instructions. When finished, the sorbet will be soft but ready to eat. For firmer sorbet, transfer to a freezer-safe container and freeze at least 2 hours.
Notes: At the recommendation of several other recipes, I also added a 1/2 tsp of lime to the mix. I have another recipe with the method which involves making and cooling syrup instead of just blending ingredients and I'd like to give that a try sometime in the future. This had a crisp taste which was quite a lovely way to clear the palate at the end of a food-filled evening.
Broiled Chicken with Mango, Ginger and Cilantro
from Bon Appetit (February 1996)
Recipes with Cilantro #4
2 boneless chicken breast halves with skin
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 tablespoon minced peeled fresh ginger
2 large garlic cloves, minced
3/4 cup chopped peeled mango
1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
1 tsp white wine vinegar
1 tsp lime juice
Preheat broiler. Lightly oil broiler pan. Using mallet or rolling pin, pound chicken lightly between sheets of waxed paper to even 1/2-inch thickness. Season chicken with salt and pepper. Place chicken, skin side up, on prepared pan. Broil until skin is golden brown, about 4 minutes. Turn chicken over and broil until cooked through but still juicy, about 3 minutes longer.
Meanwhile, heat 2 teaspoons oil in heavy small skillet over medium heat. Add ginger and garlic; saute 2 minutes. Add mango; saute until heated through and beginning to soften, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat. Mix in cilantro and vinegar. Season with salt and pepper.
Place chicken on plates. Top with warm mango mixture and serve.
Notes: Paired with Tohu Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2003. If compared to the original recipe in the magazine, one will find that I decreased the white wine vinegar above and added the lime juice. I don't think I got my chicken pounded quite thin enough as it took an extra 4 minutes to cook through. But, in the end, it came out juicy and I found the sauce had a nice mix of flavors.
Grilled Steak with Spicy Cilantro Sauce
based on a recipe from Gourmet (June, 2001)
Recipes with Cilantro #3
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 TBSP medium-dry Sherry
1 1/2 TBSP sugar
1 TBSP minced garlic
1/2 TBSP Asian sesame oil
1/2 tsp dried hot red pepper flakes
6 TBSP chopped fresh cilantro
2 1/2 TBSP vegetable oil
1/2 TBSP lime juice
1 1/2 TBSP soy sauce
1 tsp minced garlic
1/4 tsp sesame oil
1/2 tsp chili oil
3 blade steaks, about 1/2 pound each
Stir together ingredients for marinade in a 13- by 9- by 2-inch baking dish until sugar is dissolved, then add steaks, turning to coat. Marinate steaks, turning once, at least 1 hour (preferably longer).
Prepare grill for cooking. When fire is medium-hot, grill steaks on a lightly oiled rack 3 to 4 minutes on each side for medium-rare. Let steaks stand on a cutting board 5 minutes.
While steak is resting, process ingredients for sauce in blender or small food processor. Top steaks with sauce. Serve remaining sauce on the side.
Notes: This came out really well. I only ended up marinating the steaks about 3 hours, and would have been happier if I'd had longer. Regardless, well-seasoned. The sauce was such a hit that the rice served alongside became a conveyance device for eating more of it. Based on the taste, I think the sauce would also do well with chicken, and perhaps tuna.
Cornmeal and Cilantro Crusted Pork Chops
Recipes with Cilantro #2
2 boneless pork chops
1 cup buttermilk (or 1 cup milk w/ 1 TBSP lemon juice)
3 TBSP fresh cilantro
1/2 cup cornmeal
1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan
Soak pork chops in buttermilk for 30 minutes. Wash and dry cilantro. Place on clean paper towel and microwave on high for 30 seconds (a trick I saw in a recent issue of Cook's Illustrated and decided to try out). Crumble into shallow bowl. Add cornmeal and parmesan; mix thoroughly. Remove chops from buttermilk and roll in cornmeal mixture.
Heat approximately 1 inch of oil in skillet over medium heat. Fry pork chops (covered) - about 7 minutes per side. Rest for 5 minutes on paper towel prior to plating and serving.
Notes: I set with a country-fried pork chop recipe in mind, and found several. However, since I am tentatively attempting to use cilantro as this month's cooking theme, I started hunting around for a more spicy alternative. Since I didn't find anything, I concocted this. I was pleased with the texture of the dish - crunchy coating and moist, tender meat. However, the taste wasn't quite what I'd been going for. I think the cilantro might need something else to contrast and balance it -- I had thought the cheese might serve in that capacity but it barely came through at all. Overall, I wouldn't be ashamed to serve it to guests but personally I think it needs further development. Oh, and I didn't love the microwave method for the herbs this time around, though I may give it another shot at some point in the future.
Last night en route to a Richard Shindell concert, we got the opportunity to revisit the Bentara Restaurant on Orange Street. I admit that it's pretty much been my only exposure to Malaysian food at this point so I have no strong basis for comparison to the cuisine as a whole. However, I have very much enjoyed the dishes I've tried. This was our third meal at this restaurant (though I haven't reviewed it previously), and I highly recommend it. The service can be a bit uneven depending on the staff assigned to the table. No complaints about last night's. My water glass was never empty and the dishes were prepared exactly as requested and delivered promptly as we finished each course. The decor has very clean lines and the high ceilings and angled tables give the floor an open and spacious feeling.
The meal began with roti chanai, unleavened bread which is griddle-fried and served with a thin (and very tasty) curry sauce.
For the main course, I chose kerutuk. It's a stew-like dish with beef (the restaurant also offers chicken and vegetarian options) simmered in a mixture of spices (coriander, fennel seed, cinnamon, cardamom, star anise, and chilies) with potatoes and a cocunut milk reduction sauce. I really enjoyed the mix of spices though the anise was perhaps the most pronounced. Overall, nicely blended. The "heat" of the dish can be ordered as mild, medium, regular, or hot. I went with regular and found it quite spicy. Michael had nasi lemak (which had been the first dish I tried there and we both agreed it's a favorite). It's a spicy stir-fried beef dish served with crispy dried anchovies, cucumbers and sliced boiled eggs on the side. Despite not liking anchovies in any other way, I find the fried little fish quite addictive.
For dessert we had a coconut sorbet served in a coconut half-shell. One of these days, I'll try the pear version. But the coconut is such a sweet and cool counterpart after the spicy dishes that it's just perfect for cleansing the palate.
Recipes with Cilantro #1
Shrimp with Ginger-Herb Butter
Bon Appetit (October 2003)
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) butter, room temperature
1/4 cup (packed) chopped fresh cilantro
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
2 teaspoons minced peeled fresh ginger
2 teaspoons oriental sesame oil
24 uncooked large shrimp, peeled, deveined
Preheat broiler. Mix first 6 ingredients in small bowl until well blended; season to taste with salt and pepper. Brush 13x9x2-inch metal pan with some of seasoned butter. Arrange shrimp in single layer in prepared pan; sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Spread all of butter mixture over shrimp, dividing equally. Broil shrimp just until opaque in center, about 2 minutes. Transfer shrimp to plates. Spoon butter from pan over shrimp. Serve with lime wedges.
Makes 8 appetizer or 4 main-course servings.
Notes: I decreased the amount of butter to 4 TBSP. Also, the shrimp I had on hand were size 71/90 (for ease of repeating the recipe it ended up being a generous 1/2 pound). In retrospect, this is much more suitable to an appetizer or first course, possibly a meze menu. It needed something more substantitive than just crusty bread to accompany it. Perhaps a salad or soup prior to serving it as a main dish. Regardless, a very tasty dish with a hint of cilantro coming out in the mix of flavors and a bright taste that went well with the Villa del Borgo Forchir, Pinot Grigio, Friuli, 2002.
Cilantro and/or coriander (scientific name: Coriandum Sativum): might be categorized as both a spice and an herb. Cilantro refers to the leaves of the plant (an herb) while coriander is produced from the seeds (a spice), each of which has a quite distinct taste.
A member of the parsley family and featured largely in Middle-Eastern, Indian, Chinese, and Latin cuisines. Generally thought to have originated in the mediterranean or south-western areas of Europe. References to coriander can be found in Sanskrit writings and the Old Testament. Seeds have been discovered in Egyptian tombs. The Greeks believed coriander to have aphrodisiac properties; while Chinese folklore says the same of cilantro. The book The Arabian Nights tells a tale of a merchant who had been childless for 40 years but was cured by a concoction that included coriander.
Finding fresh, non-wilted cilantro can be a challenge. Look for bunches with bright green leaves and a fragrant aroma. Store in a plastic bag or place the roots in a container of water. It may last up to 5 days, but the flavor fades fast. Coriander seeds can be found in any spice aisle of a large grocery store. (I order mine from Penzey's.) As with most spices, it's best to buy them whole and grind them as needed. Keep in a cool, dark place.
Spinach and Orzo Salad
1 (16 ounce) package uncooked orzo pasta
1 (10 ounce) package baby spinach leaves, finely chopped
1/2 pound crumbled feta cheese
1/2 red onion, finely chopped
3/4 cup pine nuts
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add orzo and cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until al dente; drain and rinse with cold water. Transfer to a large bowl and stir in spinach, feta, onion, pine nuts, basil and white pepper. Toss with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Refrigerate and serve cold.
Notes: This year I experimented with packing a dinner to eat en route to ACUS. I had a cooler that plugs into the car (with an extension for use with regular outlets). Our menu consisted of the recipe above, along with homemade bruschetta on garlic toast crackers, and smoked salmon. The salad worked out pretty well, though I discovered I had made far too much (even at just a half batch; a full is probably 8 healthy servings I'd guess) and more had to be eaten (and shared) upon arriving at the convention. A nice dish, though, and simple to make. Very pleasantly blended flavors and not at all your average pasta salad. It lasts about 3-4 days before the vinegar starts to turn it south. I expect it would be great for picnics.
For a lighter version, I've seen it recommended that one use low-fat feta and reduce the amount of pine nuts to to 6 TBSP (and toast them for more flavor).