Tarragon Dijon Chicken (and near death stock-making experience)

One of the best chicken dishes I've had. Ever. And its easy too.

But first I want to demonstrate my commitment to making good chicken stock. I was quite thrilled on Saturday when the allegedly bilingual girl behind the meat counter at the Hispanic market said that they could sell me 4 pounds of leftover chicken bones, ribs, etc., if I came back the next day. Upon arriving at the store on Sunday morning (after a 20 minute drive) I was dismayed to find that there had been a miscommunication. They had packaged for me 4 pounds of chicken guts and a few spare parts such as necks. Very few bones. Very few bones = not enough collagen for a good stock.

Why did I choose to study French? Living in Florida (and the United States for that matter) I find myself wishing I knew Spanish almost on a weekly basis. How often does my French come in handy? Jamais. Maybe I should move to Quebec.

In any case, the butcher was none too happy when I tried to explain that I had no use for his bag o' guts. He gave me a look of disgust and muttered something underneath his breath. I don't know what he said, but I'm pretty sure I heard the words "loco" and "gringo." I wasn't about to leave empty handed though, so I purchased about 8 pounds of chicken legs (for only $6!) and some cilantro to make salsa. And I was off, into the pouring rain.

About halfway home I was proceeding cautiously through a blinking yellow traffic light, when out of nowhere a PT Cruiser came firing out into the intersection. I hate PT Cruisers. Slamming on the breaks, I found myself hydroplaning toward the nefarious vehicle, fortunately coming to a stop about four feet away from the cretin, blissfully anonymous behind his or her tinted windows. I couldn't help but think at that moment about the fact that, had I actually T-boned the vehicle hard, the accident scene would have been littered with about 30 raw chicken drumsticks.

Nerves shaken, I made my way home as the rain began to pour even harder. For about an hour afterward I cut the meat from these drumsticks with a dull knife. My hands sore, my kitchen looking like an abbatoir, I cursed my own temerity. And what did I get from all of it? Only 3 gallons of perfect chicken stock! Not to mention a whole lot of trimmed dark meat that will go nicely into some future dish.

Anyhow, you should try this Tarragon Dijon Chicken. It's based on a couple recipes from Gourmet and Bon Appetit, with alterations in measurement and ingredients depending on what was at hand. One of those recipes calls for brandy instead of vermouth or white wine. I have to imagine that would be delicious. No matter which you use though, I guarantee you'll like this sauce.

Tarragon Dijon Chicken
Serves 4

4 chicken breasts w/rib (skin on)
1 bunch fresh tarragon
1/4 cup water

drippings from chicken
2 Tbsps. chopped tarragon
1/4 cup vermouth
1/4 cup white wine
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 Tbsps. dijon mustard

1) slide a sprig of tarragon between the skin and meat of each breast. Sprinkle with salt. Pour 1/4 cup water into a roasting pan and arrange chicken on a rack. Place in oven preheated at about 375 degrees.
2) The chicken should take about 20 minutes. After about 15 minutes, remove from the oven, remove from the pan, and pour the drippings into a sautee pan. The chicken should then go back on the rack and into the oven.
3) heat the sautee pan over medium high. whisk the sauce ingredients together then add to the pan with the drippings. Stir until the sauce thickens.
4) remove chicken from oven and pour sauce over the top. The sauce also tastes great with broccoli, cauliflower, or rice.


Saturday Produce Shopping

My effort to save $$ on groceries has been a mixed bag, so to speak. While I seem to have splurged on a nice chunk of raclette cheese, a couple lamb shanks, and a good bottle of suvignon blanc, I also managed to get some real bargains today. For starters, the beautiful array of produce you see above, purchased as per my weekend ritual at the Red Barn produce market in Bradenton, Florida, cost a mere THIRTEEN DOLLARS!!! For little more than the price of a movie ticket in NYC, I have enough vegetables to last a week and a half.

We also stopped by a great new hispanic market where my amigo Nick picked up some "instant" masa, and I purchased two whole tilapias, which i might bake with a sea salt crust. Mmmmmm, sea salt crust. They also have great authentic mexican food with the best tortillas I've had since I lived in New Mexico. Two tacos al pastor and a quesadilla con pollo later I was stumbling out into the sunlight thinking about how wonderful life is. The woman behind the meat counter said if I came back tomorrow she'd sell me 5 pounds of chicken carcasses! I see a giant batch of stock in the near future.

We then hit up a nearby Korean market owned by an ebullient man named Yi, whose enthusiasm for his products was infectious. I walked out with some panko crumbs, a jar of Yi's homemade kimchi (deliciously sour!) and a stout called "The Hite," which is brewed and bottled in Seoul, Korea. It's no Guinness (what is?) but it is very smooth and rich.

What to expect from Kitchen Monkey in the week to come? Well last night's chicken tarragon will make an appearance. As soon as I finish this post I'll be making dill pickles out of those tiny cukes you see, and tonight I'll be slow-roasting a pork loin. Tomorrow maybe some eggplant parmesan or babaganoush. Who knows?


Fishkebabs! (Middle East Feast pt. III)

click to enlarge the marinating goodness

Ahhhh, February in Sarasota. Perfect weather for grilling. Must enjoy it while I can; next year at this time I might well be in DC or Minnesota. Can a person even get swordfish in Minnesota? What do people eat up there? Lots of cheese I imagine. And tubers.

I'm not a huge fan of swordfish steaks, but the fishmarkets here often sell the chunks leftover from cutting the steaks as "nuggets." These nuggets sell for about $4.99 a pound and they are perfect for kebabs. One of the best meals I've ever eaten was composed simply of swordfish chunks, onions, and pineapple chunks marinated in homemade teriyaki sauce and grilled on a beach on Lido Key around sunset in late summer.

Same concept here, only I added tuna chunks, two kinds of pepper, and instead of teriyaki I used a marinade of crushed coriander seeds, crushed cumin seeds, diced onion, lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper. I marinated it for about four hours, soaked the skewers in water, and popped the kebabs on the oiled grate of my tiny grill. Very satisfying.

This was part III of the Middle East Feast. Part IV was to be the Egyptian cous cous dessert, but while it looked purty, it wasn't really all that great, so no post.


Frittata alla Scimmia

Starting in August, the blogosphere's own culinary representative of primates everywhere will be joining the already oversaturated ranks of prospective practitioners of the nation's legal profession. Yes, Kitchen Monkey is going to law school.

Top of the list is American University in DC, but also on the list of possibilities: Minneapolis, Boston, and Gainesville, FL.

What does this mean for Kitchen Monkey the Food Blog? Well, in the long term, fewer posts, since I will not be cooking nearly as much during my first year in hell. In the short term, a flurry of posts as I try to get in as much cooking as possible.

What does all this have to do with frittatas? In the coming months more of the posts on KM will be recipes that are simpler, cheaper, and quicker, since I am trying to conserve money for law school and for the June/July trip to France. Expect more dishes like this one and Salmon in a Pouch.

You don't need many ingredients for a good frittata, but I do recommend that you have a good cast iron pan, properly seasoned. You can substitute different cheeses or vegetables quite easily. Its quick, easy, and delicious. It also goes extremely well with Mae Ploy Sweet Chili Sauce.

Asapargus & Tomato Frittata
serves 4-6

8 eggs
1/4 cup water
2 Tbsp. cream
1/2 cup asiago cheese, shredded (parmesan or romano are suitable)
3 shallots, sliced thinly (1 medium onion would also work)
12-15 stalks asparagus, 1 inch trimmed off the bottom and discarded, then chopped in half
1 large tomato, sliced
salt, pepper
2 Tbsp vegetable oil

1) preheat oven to 325 degrees farenheit
2) with fork, whisk together eggs, water, cream, and half the cheese
3) in large cast iron pan (or oven safe sautee pan) sautee the shallots and asparagus in the oil over medium high heat
4) Turn off heat, make sure that the vegetables are evenly distributed across the surface of the pan, and pour in the egg mixture, tilting pan if necessary until surface of the frittata is flat. Place tomato slices on top.
5) place in the oven for 10-15 minutes, or until the top has started to brown. At this point, remove the pan, sprinkle on the remaining cheese, turn on the boiler, and place the frittata under the broiler for a minute or so.

Goes great with red wine and a nice light salad.


Dolma (Stuffed Grape Leaves - Middle East Feast Part II)

Presenting one of Kitchen Monkey's Top 10 favorite dishes to make. Part of Saturday's Feast.

Dolma, like gyoza, do require a good bit of effort, but try bringing 50 of these little beauties to a potluck and you will both delight and impress your friends, most of whom brought chips and salsa or some sort of casserole topped with crumbled potato chips.

Would you like the recipe along with detailed instructions? Happy to oblige...

click on any of the pictures to enlarge

Dolma (Vegetarian or Not)
Makes 40 to 50 dolma

1 Jar grape leaves
1 lb. ground lamb
1/4 cup mint, chopped finely
1/4 cup parsley, chopped finely
1 large onion, diced
4 tbsp. olive oil
1 1/2 cups uncooked long grain rice (I use basmati)
1 tsp. salt
2 lemons
1/3 stick butter
2 cups chicken stock

1) In 3 cups of boiling water, add the rice, and cook for 10 minutes or so, until slightly tender. Drain, rinse with cold water, and set aside.
2) gently pull the bunched rolls of grape leaves from the jar--careful not to tear any. Unroll them, and place them in a large bowl filled with boiling hot water. Let them soak for about 15 minutes, then drain and rinse in cold water. Remove stems with a pair of kitchen scissors, being careful not to rip the leaf.
3) In a pan, sautee the ground lamb until just brown. Set aside.
4) In a different pan, heat the olive oil and add the onion, sauteeing until transluscent. Add the parsley, mint, and salt. Sautee for a few more minutes.
5) Combine the lamb, onion and herbs, and rice, stirring thoroughly. Allow mixture to cool. Feel free to omit the lamb and add more onion and rice for a vegetarian version.
6) Separate the leaves, setting the smallest or torn ones aside. Use some of these to line the bottom of a baking sheet or roasting pan.
7) Now for the rolling. Start with large leaves until you get the hang of it, laying it flat in front of you. Place a spoonful of the mixture toward the bottom of the leaf, leaving about an inch of leaf below. Fold the bottom part upward just over the mixture. Fold in the right then left sides of the leaf, then continue rolling from the bottom. Voila! (See photos above for a clearer example)
8) Place the dolma next to eachother on the baking sheet. When you have rolled all the mixture away, top the dolma with thin pats of butter and thin lemon slices. Now pour the chicken stock over the dolma. Don't use all 2 cups if this means not being able to navigate to the oven without spilling.
9) Cover the dolma with more leaves, or foil if the leaves are all used. Place sheet in an oven preheated to 350 degrees for about an hour to an hour and a half.
10) remove covering and leave to cool for 10 minutes. Drizzle with olive oil and lemon juice, and place on a serving tray or plate with lemon wedges. Eat.


Feast from the East (Middle, that is)

In the days of the Ottoman Empire and well before, some Arab tribes would welcome a very important guest by preparing a special dish that puts Turducken to shame (as though Turducken weren't already a bit of a shame). They would start by stuffing a quail into a chicken. The chicken would then be stuffed inside a larger bird, two of which would then be stuffed inside the carcass of a sheep. Repeat this 3 more times for 3 more sheep, then stuff all 4 sheep into the carcass of a camel. Roast for a long time. Serve with..........pride, I suppose.

After failing to procure a camel, we decided to scale back our ambitions, and prepared a lovely feast of mezze. If you've ever had hummus, or falafel, you've had Mezze. It could be seen as the Middle Eastern equivalent of tappas, I suppose. I've listed below what was included in the spread, along with the person responsible for making it.
  • Dolma (Kitchen Monkey)
  • Hummus (Liz)
  • Yoghurt Dip (Nick)
  • Tabouleh with Cauliflower and Fennel (Nick)
  • Feta with some sort of honey & spice glaze (Mary)
  • Pita & Olives (Guapo)
  • Swordfish and Tuna Kebab (Kitchen Monkey)
  • Laban al Loz - Almond Drink (Liz)
  • Egyptian Dessert Cous Cous - (Kitchen Monkey)
  • Dates soaked in Coffee and served with Yoghurt - (Nick)
Later I'll be posting detailed instructions on how to make dolma (stuffed grape leaves), one of my favorite dishes to make and always a surefire hit with guests. I'll post recipes for the cous cous and the kebab later in the week. Salam.


You Did What With That? (Episode 1-Ghee, Fennel, and Hoisin)

A new feature on Kitchen Monkey.

Anytime you see this little guy it signifies a new experiment with 1 or more ingredients. Sometimes the experiment will be a great success, born out of creativity and giving rise to a new menu favorite that will spread across first the nation, then the world.
More often it will simply be a result of me having some leftover ingredients from a past meal, or the need to make do with what I have when I don't feel like shopping, or, as with today, some combination of both. Sometimes they will be common ingredients, other times, as with today, they will be less common ingredients incorporated into common meals.

Click on picture of omelette basking in the morning sun to enlarge

Omelette made with Ghee
For breakfast I had an omelette and an english muffin. "Normal enough" you say? Perhaps, but this omelette was made with the leftover ghee I had from last Saturday's Indian Feast. It was, perhaps, the most perfect omelette I've ever eaten. I credit an episode of Alton Brown's Good Eats for curing me of Chronic Bad-Omelette-Making Disease. I used to overfill them with loads of cheese and meat or vegetables. They never flipped right and more often than not they would acquire a half-burnt tan-colored crust. Blech. These days my omelettes are simple. Eggs, salt, pepper, butter. That's it. This time I used ghee instead of regular butter and it was dynamite.
Rating: A+

English Muffin with Hoisin Sauce
I was out of honey, out of jam, and I left my damned bottle of Marmite in Utah, and that stuff aint cheap. Although it does last a good while. So anyhow, what I did have was a jar of hoisin sauce leftover from the mu shu pork I made a while back, and I figured it has a taste and consistency somewhere between jam and marmite, so why not? Well, I'll tell you. While it wasn't awful by any means, it was because it has a taste and consistency somewhere between jam and marmite that it didn't work as a breakfast spread. Try it if you have an adventurous pallette.
Rating: C+

Tuna Salad Sandwich with Fennel Seeds
This was lunch today. I'm sure somebody has tried this before, but it was a first for me. The tuna salad was made from a can of "tonno in olive oil" by Chicken of the Sea, a tablespoon or two of mayo, and a chopped up bread and butter pickle. I took about a 1/2 tsp. or more of fennel seeds, crushed them quickly with the mortar and pestle, and mixed it into the tuna salad. It all went on some toasted whole wheat bread with a few slices of tomato. Very good.
Rating: A
If you have any ideas for these three ingredients, simple or complex, let Kitchen Monkey know in the comments.


Coconut Lime Lassi (with Recipe)

I decided to celebrate with a fancy drink today after work. Why?
Kitchen Monkey is going to France.

I'll be leaving on June 9th and returning on July 12. For three weeks I'll be polishing up my waning french language skills in Bordeaux, where I will also polish up my waxing wine swilling skills. Can you say "waxing wine swilling skills" five times fast? I thought not.

In early July I'll be going to a small village near Lyons to attend the wedding of my brother and his fiancee, who is one of those French people. After that, Kitchen Monkey might even skip down to Rome to meet up with a couple amigos from Tampa. In other words, there will be many many many food adventures. Since I'm flying out of JFK, I may even get a chance to stop in at Minca Ramen Factory again.

So I decided to make a fancy drink after work. Nick made these last Saturday (see post below) and left his blender here, so I decided to make my own. There are many different kinds of lassi. The one Nick made, for instance, had no coconut milk and involved crushed fennel seeds. This one is fairly simple and very refreshing. Did I add a little rum? No. Would it curdle? Maybe. Would I care? No. Did I have any rum to add? No. Should you add rum? Yeah!

Coconut Lime Lassi
makes 2 glasses

Blend together:
15 oz. coconut milk
3/4 cup plain yoghurt
1/4 cup lime juice
1/4 cup caster sugar (I used the sugar Nick left here, which is just regular sugar that has gone through the food processor).
8-12 ice cubes.

Garnish with mint or a slice of lime.


Indian Feast - Murgh Makhani (Recipe)

Another in an illustrious series of collaborations with Nick (of I'm Cookin' Here), this Indian spread included murgh makhani as the main course (a buttery chicken and tomato curry), a sugar pea and mushroom curry for the vegetarian in our little dinner party, garlic naan, paneer, lemon pickle, mango chutney, mint chutney, and mint lassi, a sweet Indian yoghurt drink that compliments spicy curries perfectly...

This is the third time I've made naan, a soft flat bread ubiquitous in Indian cuisine, and this time it was far better than the last two, but still not perfect. It would help if I had a partially subterannean stone oven, but Florida Palms Apartments despite being nice enough, do not yet offer this feature. I made do with dry-frying the flattened dough in my cast iron griddle, brushing with ghee and garlic, and sticking under the broiler for a couple minutes.

Nick made the paneer, the mango chutney, and the lemon pickle. The paneer is an Indian cheese that is made simply by straining the curds from the whey after adding white wine vinegar to lightly boiled milk. We sprinkled it on top of the curry. Delicious. The chutney was quite good as well.

The murgh makhani gave me the opportunity to finally use some of the spices I purchased at the farmers' market last week:

The curry included garam masala, sweet paprika, ground coriander, fresh ginger, chili powder, cardamom pods and cinnamon sticks. The sauce comprised tomato puree, ghee, yoghurt, cream, and lemon juice. The next morning I used the leftover ghee to fry an omelette, and it was perfect. I'll be making ghee more often I think.

This recipe was one of a number of Indian dishes in "The Essential Wok Cookbook." I was skeptical at first, since they do not typically use woks in India and these recipes were obviously adapted for the wok in order to pad out the cookbook. But I have to say I was impressed. INot only was it delicious, but my wok is large enough that it was perfect for cooking curry for 10 people. You could just as easily use a large pot. I'm not quite sure why the recipe calls for all the spices and garam masala, since garam masala is made of all the other spices listed her, and perhaps a couple others. In any case, I might try it next time without the garam masala, and just adding more of the others. I'm beginning to really love fresh cardamom, so if anyone has a good recipe involving these little pods and seeds, please let me know.


Murgh Makhani
Serves 4

2 Tbsps peanut oil
2 lbs. chicken thigh filets, quartered (I used some breast meat as well)
2 oz. ghee*
2 tsp. garam masala
2 tsp. paprika
2 tsp. ground coriander
1 Tbsp. fresh ginger, finely chopped
1/4 tsp. chili powder
1 cinnamon stick
6 cardamom pods, bruised
12 oz. pureed tomatoes
1 Tbsp. sugar
1/4 cup plain yoghurt
1/2 cup cream
1 Tbsp. lemon juice

1) Heat the wok or pot on high, add 1/2 the oil and swirl to coat. Add the chicken a bit at a time until brown, removing and setting aside, add more oil if needed to brown all the chicken pieces.
2) Reduce the heat to medium, add the ghee until melted, then add the spices and stir for a couple minutes. This will smell amazing. Return the chicken pieces and stir to coat in the spice mixture.
3) After a few minutes, add the tomatoes and sugar, simmer for 15 minutes
4) Stir in the yoghurt, cream, and lemon juice annd simmer for 5 more minutes. Serve with basmati rice, various chutneys, and naan or poppadoms.

*You can use regular old butter, but ghee is a delight to cook with because of its higher smoke point and has a wonderful flavor. Just melt a whole lot of butter in a small pot over medium heat, occasionally skimming the foam of the top until it is clear. Keep it going for at least 45 minutes, then run what is left through several layers of cheesecloth. Ghee!)


Salmon and Vegetables Cooked in a Pouch!

Tired of kitchen drudgery? Disappointed by complex recipes that ask for so much yet return so little? Need a quick, shiny, modern meal for today's fast-paced, go-getting, hyphen-filled life-style? A dish that says "yes!" when your schedule says "no"?

Then you should try "SALMON & VEGETABLES COOKED IN A POUCH." Guaranteed to satisfy young and old alike, this dish will impress everyone from your vicious, unnapreciative teenage daughter to your severe Scandinavian mother-in-law. After tasting your SALMON & VEGETABLES COOKED IN A POUCH, even your pals at the Rotary Club will be asking, "say, what's your secret Jim?" Though they will probably not call you Jim. Unless your name is Jim; then they might.

With SALMON & VEGETABLES COOKED IN A POUCH, you can make dinner in less time than it takes to scrub the bloodstains out of your new golf shirt. So instead of slaving away with fancy kitchen tools and dirty dishes, you'll be standing out on the patio enjoying martinis with the Hendersons--and Cindy Larson, that hot little number from Marketing.

With SALMON & VEGETABLES COOKED IN A POUCH, the flavor is sealed RIGHT IN THE POUCH. Unable to escape, the flavor reaches levels of intensity hitherto not reachable by un-pouched salmon & vegetables. You may say, "now Kitchen Monkey, is this salmon really that good? After all, it's just cooked in a pouch with vegetables."

Haven't you been listening? SALMON & VEGETABLES COOKED IN A POUCH is the flavor-dish of the new millenium! Just listen to what others have said about this amazing recipe:

"This is pretty good." - Liz Palomo-Phillips

"This is the most delicious salmon ever eaten by me." - Anonymous

"Salmon & Vegetables Cooked in a Pouch saved three of my marriages" - Burt Reynolds*
*this quote paraphrased from something alleged by an unreliable third party to have been said

Try SALMON & VEGETABLES COOKED IN A POUCH, you'll be glad you did.


Pouched Salmon & Vegetables
Serves 4

2 lbs. salmon, cut into 4 filets
Assorted vegetables
(In this case I used:)
2 large carrots, julienned
2 cups bok choy, chopped
1 yellow bell pepper, chopped
salt and pepper
4 Tbsps. butter

1) Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Cut four large heart shapes out of a roll of parchment paper.
2) On one half of each heart, arrange equal portions of the vegetables, then lay a salmon filet on top. Sprinkle salt and pepper on the filet, then add 1 Tbsp. slice of butter to each.
3) Fold the other half of the heart over, and cinch by folding the edge of the paper in toward the salmon a little at a time, starting at the bottom of the heart with each consecutive fold working toward the top.
4) Place in a casserole or on a baking sheet and set in the oven for approx. 10 minutes. Serve with rice.

It really is pretty good, and quick too.


Meat Henge Contest

Well alas, Kitchen Monkey's meat platter came close to placing but did not make it into the top 3. C'est la vie--it was fun anyhow. Thanks to Dr. Biggles of Meathenge, and congratulations to Deb, Meg, and Nic!

You can see the entries here. And you can see my original entry post here.


A Basque Feast

Pimientos del Piquillo Rellenos de Bacalao

Almejas a la Marinera

Usually the posts on Kitchen Monkey are dishes that Kitchen Monkey made, but I had to make an exception here. These two lovely items were Liz's doing. She grew up in the Basque region of Spain, in San Sebastian, a town which Food and Wine magazine recently called the "culinary capital of Spain." Because of all this, and my association with Liz, I am occasionally on the fork end of some amazing dishes. Let me present Pimientos del Piquillo Rellenos de Bacalao, and Almejas a la Marinera...

Pimientos del such and such, which you see in the cast iron pan, is a delicious appetizer which is made by stuffing a type of sweet Spanish red pepper called "pimiento del piquillo" which looks a bit like a gnome hat. What are they stuffed with? Well I'll tell you. Liz purchased two filets of dried salt cod, which were soaked in water for three days, the water changed every eight hours, to get rid of the salt and soften up the fish. Once the cod was ready, it was de-skinned and shredded, sauteed with olive oil and garlic, with flour and milk added later. Carefully stuff the pimientos del piquillo (which you can get at imported food stores or Whole Foods for a great deal of money) with the cod mixture. They were then packed in a small cast iron pan and placed in the oven (the Spaniards bake and serve them in a clay pot, because they haven't yet discovered metal) just until they're hot. Serve!

Almejas a la Marinera = clams in a sauce of white wine, scallions, garlic, and fresh parsley. This too is often made in a clay pot. So versatile, these clay pots. These clams were fairly good, but I have to say I'm a bigger fan of mussels (especially with white wine, garlic, shallots, and fresh thyme).

We also ate Manchego, a hard sheep's milk cheese that has been made the exact same way since Don Quixote was in diapers. We also had fancy Spanish pickled garlic, which is very different than the kind you find in the States. I could describe it, but I'd have to kill you. With my garlic breath.

Sarasota Farmer's Market

I've lived here for four years now and this was the first time that I managed to make it to the Farmer's market. You see, it starts early and closes early, and its not often I'm awake at 8 o'clock in the morning on Saturday--call me crazy. This weekend was different for reasons that are not even slightly interesting.

Many of the booths sell slightly upscale knick knacks, but there are some that sell food, including one that advertises their "sexy sausages." Sadly, I did not get a picture. There are a few good produce stands, including one that sold all-organic produce grown by the booth's proprietors. As you might imagine, it was a bit expensive, but they had a variety of hard-to-find Asian greens and all of their produce looked perfect, as you can see from the radishes and turnips above. I purchased some bok choy that will find itself in a stir fry sometime this week, but I was saving most of my cash for the spicemonger, where I bought all kinds of great spices that the supermarket doesn't carry: fenugreek, cardamom pods, whole allspice, whole coriander, and some great looking saffron. I also purchased a pound or so of Himalayan red rice, so if anyone knows of any good recipes for this nutty, chewy rice, please let me know.
For a great picture of the spicemonger's booth, see this post at I'm Cookin' Here.


Roast Lamb (With Panko and Pine Nut Crust)

Click on photos to enlarge

There are a lot of great food blogs out there, but an unforunately small number of them devote sufficient time to lamb. In doing my small part to alter this tragic scenario, I offer this roast lamb recipe that I enjoyed last night with a tomato feta salad and the aforeposted hummus...

I have to admit to it not being quite as succulent as this braised lamb, but it was still quite good. It also gave me a great excuse to use my digital meat probe thermometer/timer. I know, you're jealous. But they're actually not that expensive if you get one, as I did, at an outlet mall. And 'Merica is just filled with malls of all sorts, so start shopping and pretty soon you too can probe digitally.

The marinade was simply mint, dijon mustard, olive oil, garlic, and lemon juice. The "crust" was made of ingredients I had left over from meals gone by: panko crumbs and chopped pine nuts, along with some mint, onion, & butter.

Truthfully, the tomato feta salad was really just a bit of spring mix surrounded by tomato wedges and slices of a really creamy french feta, all of it drizzled with olive oil and lemon juice. After carving the lamb, something I have yet to truly get the hang of, I served it with the "salad," the hummus posted yesterday, and some warm flatbread. I recommend tearing off a piece of the flatbread, dip it in the hummus, top that with a tomato wedge, a spinach leaf, and a wee chunk of feta. If there's room left, a chunk of the lamb as well. So good.

Roasted Lamb (With Panko and Pine Nut Crust)

1 leg of lamb roast (on the smallish side)

1/3 cup fresh mint
3 cloves garlic
Juice of 1/2 lemon
4 Tbsp. Olive oil
1 Tbsp. dijon mustard
salt and pepper

3 Tbsp. pine nuts
1/4 cup panko crumbs
1/4 cup onion, diced
3 Tbsp. fresh mint, chopped
1 1/2 Tbsps. butter

1) Blend all marinade ingredients in a food processor and seal lamb in a large ziploc with the marinade for at least a few hours
2) Place lamb on a wire rack in a roasting pan and place in an oven preheated at 325 degrees for about an hour (your thermometer should read at about 125 degrees at this point.
3) For the crust: melt butter in a sautee pan, sautee onions until translucent, then add remaining ingredients and sautee for 5 minutes more.
4) After the lamb has roasted for an hour, take it out and smooth the crust on top, return to the oven and bake for about another hour. For a medium rare roast, the temperature at the center of the roast should be about 140 degrees, so be vigilant. It will cook a bit more when you take it out, bringing itself up to 145 degrees. The crust will have started to be toasty brown.
5) Carve. What I think I'll try next time, is taking the leftover liquid of the marinade, adding some yoghurt, and reducing it all in a sautee pan to have a tasty, minty green sauce for the lamb.


Hummus to End All Hummuses

Now I realize that everyone who makes their own hummus believes that their recipe and methods produce the best tasting hummus. To convince you, therefore, that this hummus is worth trying, I must use the power of the English language in subtle and articulate ways.

This is the best freaking hummus you've ever had!!!

You'll notice I used three excalamation points, which should leave you with very little doubt as to its fabuliciousness grandimosity. I have been making my own hummus for the better part of ten years now, and it has gone through a process of refinement that would impress the masters of hummus, wherever they may be. Perhaps they live in caves, I don't know. The good news is, it's easy to make. What's more, because of my concern for you, dear reader, I have given a recipe that is far more thorough than necessary...

Now the key here is to prep everything and lay it out before you. Ramekins are very useful for making hummus, and I also enjoy the word "ramekin." If I ever have a boy I might name him Ramekin. You'll notice in the picture above that the two sides of the hummus have a slightly different color. That is because I used one can of Conchita chickpeas, and one can of fancy organic chickpeas (if my roommate Page is reading this, yes, I stole your can of organic chickpeas, but you can have some of the hummus as long as you don't double dip). Here are some ramekins posing with a container of tahini:


2 cans chickpeas (or if you soak & boil your own, about 3 1/2 cups, in either case, reserve 1/2 cup of the liquid)
2 tsp. garlic, minced
2 Tbsps. Italian parsley
1 lemon, juiced
4 tsps. tahini
2 Tbsps. extra virgin olive oil
salt to taste

1) When making this amount, it is useful to make it in a small prep food processor. These little machines are great for small amounts of garlic, herbs, etc. And, the recipe is measured for the most part in whole numbers, making it easy to divide in half, each half fitting perfectly into most small food processors! You're welcome. I recommend mincing the garlic and the parsley one at a time, then transferring with a spatula to the aforementioned ramekins. That way you can add a little more a bit a time if you want more garlic, for example.
2) Start with a small, relatively clean food processor, add half of all ingredients listed above. Pulse to get it going, then really let her rip, until all of the chickpeas have been pureed and the hummus is smooth. If you prefer your hummus a bit thicker, you can add less of the chickpea liquid, but remember that if you let it sit in the refrigerator for much longer than a few hours, it's going to thicken up a bit anyhow.
3) Taste batch one. Is it too salty? Too garlicky for you? I bet you like it extra lemony. It doesn't matter, because you can adjust for any of that in batch 2!
4) When the two batches are done, mix them together (or don't) in a bowl, and serve with pita bread or flat bread, or pita bread drizzled with olive oil, sprinkled with oregano, and toasted in the oven. You can also make a little well in the center and fill with olive oil for those who like it a little oily.

I guarantee you will like this hummus. If you're not satisfied, let me know and I will personally e-mail you a snide apology.