True. You may not have heard the words, "pidgeon and cinnamon" in the same sentence, let alone the term, "fermented flour." But you would if you were in Morocco. On many occasions I have been know to combine flavors and spices in a way that makes some wrinkle up their noses and gasp in fear at my choices. But for sure NOT ONE OF THEM ever said, "ew!" when I fed them. And this dish is no exception.
I have always felt a kinship with this kind of cuisine. It is heady, sexy, brave and so satisfying to the palate. My Moroccan spice blend gets a good work-out in my kitchen and if you haven't discovered it, get your little apron-wearing behind over the to store now and get some. You won't be sorry.
What could be a better marker of history than food and what better food than what comes from the cradle of civilization? I know, duh question. But then, the discussion of food is always a way to mesh philosophy, art, music, religion, and myth.
This brings me to my next dish, Moroccan Black Lentil and Ham Cold Salad, which at the last minute was finished by adding sliced green olives to bring a briny and acidic sweetness to a bowl of earthy, sweet goodness. It just needed one more fabulous note of flavor to be complete.
Hmmm. Now to try a Hut Makali.
RECIPE: Moroccan Black Lentil Cold Ham Salad with a Balsamic and Lemon Vinaigrette.
Serves 2 - Click here for a printable version.
½ C black lentils, rinsed
2 C water
1 C diced ham
2 C blanched broccoli cut into chunks
¼ C sliced white sweet onion
1/3 C carrots diced
Handful golden raisins
5 green cocktail olives, sliced
1 T Moroccan seasoning blend
2 T good olive oil
2 T white balsamic vinegar
Zest from one small lemon
Salt and pepper to taste
Blanche broccoli and shock in water. Pat dry and set aside.
In a large saucepan, bring 2 C water to boil and 1 t kosher salt. Add ½ C lentils and simmer with lid askew for 25 minutes. Drain any remaining water from the lentils and place in a large bowl. Add the Moroccan seasoning, the blanched broccoli, ham, raisins, onion, carrots, lemon zest, vinegar and oil. Toss well, serve with a slice of lemon and season with more salt if needed.
Deep inside of us is a need to be connected with others. We are looking for experiences that bind us together and satisfy our primal need to know that we matter. And, other than the need to sleep, the most transcendent example of human desire is hunger. It is so basic in fact that it emcompasses almost every part of our memory. Through it we find or have found wisdom, friendship, creativity, even God. We connect food and memory with ease, needing only to mention the lingering flashback of some past deliciousness to travel to a place where all is possible.
I suppose no treatise on food would be complete without mentioning bread. Yes, I thought you'd agree. Look at that butter dripping off the edges of a warm, brown crust. You are loving it, I know. There is something almost poetic l about this kind of food; the way yeast billows its way into our hearts is so comforting because it is the mascot for our survival as a species.
Think about it. Every culture on earth is seemingly founded upon the worth of their loaves. From Moses to Caesar to Genghis Khan, we see the path of civilization rise literally from the insides of a loaf pan. Our history of the world seems to have begun with a slice, crust, wafer or knob of BREAD.
Before I launch into a full blown screenplay worthy of the Discovery Channel, let me explain why I am writing in an almost scriptural way. The story of these biscuits you see here begins long before I was wearing an apron. It was birthed by a great Aunt who, although unable to show love outwardly, did show affection to others with her food. I heard about her over the years from my father, but the seed to recreate her biscuits began as my dad and I sat on a plane, ready to take a trip to Paris, Texas where he was going to be reunited with his (and I might add, "my") cousins, after almost 40 years.
"I'm hoping one of my cousins can teach you how to make my Aunt Ada's biscuits," he whispered in an almost reverent tone. "I always see her hands in my mind, her fingers mixing the lard, buttermilk and flour... and then the taste. Oh, the taste of those biscuits...." and he was lost in memory.
During our visit we were immersed in memory. And I discovered so much more about myself through a heritage I had previously been unfamiliar with. And yet, through it all it seemed we still found a way to talk about food. I am working on a short story about the visit, so I won't digress too much off the subject of bread, but suffice it to say, I was deeply inspired by my roots...and I learned what was needed to MAKE THOSE BISCUITS.
When we talk about lard, the non-fat, 90's era side of our brains go into shock. We compare ingesting lard to the act of swallowing petroleum. But so much has changed in our collective catalog of food facts and we know now that lard is not our enemy but a gift that we must respect and hold on to. Which leads me to the real truth and that is you cannot make a perfect southern biscuit without it. Period.
Biscuits are about loft, texture, and their uncanny ability to elevate butter, jam and honey into an exquisite art form. Lard's high melting point, let alone texture, along with the acidic gift of buttermilk go a long way to assist the gentle and experienced hand of a master baker navigate through the process. I honor and respect anyone who can stand above a bowl of flour and tame it successfully. Don't even get me started on how formidable gluten is. I would go so far as to say that even the great philosophers know better than to tackle that subject. But if one is patient, and can channel a bit of history into their kitchen, biscuits can be conquered, even mastered. And although I am FAR from being a master at it, I was able to recreate a memory full of flavor and love.
RECIPE: Traditional Southern Buttermilk Biscuits
3 C all-purpose flour, sifted
½ t kosher salt
½ t baking soda
1 heaping T baking powder
Almost ½ C lard room temperature
1 ¼ C buttermilk
Butter to melt on top
Use a large bowl with more than enough room for you to get your hands in and work the dough.
Sift the flour and add, then add the salt, soda and baking powder and stir with spoon or fork to incorporate throughout the flour. Make a well in the flour and add the buttermilk. Then, using your hands, take the lard and begin to work it in through the buttermilk only. Don’t incorporate into the flour yet. Rub between your fingers of one hand, pulling and squishing, until the lard is fairly distributed throughout the buttermilk, almost like a VERY lumpy gravy. Now, starting with small circle motions, begin to scoop your hand into the liquid and the flour, making sweeps all around to incorporate the flour and the buttermilk. Chances are you won’t use all the flour and don’t try. You’re looking for a texture just past sticky. Once you have that, roll the dough out onto a floured surface, and knead the mixture on top of itself only about 5-6 times, until it comes together. Don’t overwork. Try to do this with the fewest motions you can. It’s not a contest, just don’t linger. Get it done and together fast. When you have it formed into a circle, cover with a wet paper towel and let rest for 40 minutes, letting the glutens relax a little.
Preheat your oven to 450 degrees F. Pull out a bit of the dough to form each biscuit with your hands, just a bit larger than a golf ball. Roll into ball, flatten a little on arrange on a dark, ungreased baking sheet. Should make about 12. Bake for 7-8 minutes. Now, turn your broiler on for the last minute and a half of cooking. Leave the biscuits in the center of the oven and broil on high until it barely starts to toast the tops of the biscuits. (This is optional if you want more color.) Don’t overcook! Remove, brush with butter, and then serve!
The word "salad" comes from the French word salade which is derived from the Latin salata (salty), from sal (salt). In English, the word salad first appeared in the 14th century. Salt is associated with the term because vegetables were seasoned with brine, or salty oil and vinegar dressings during Roman times.
Since then we have indeed consumed a great deal of this green stuff. No doubt because it can be tossed, torn, or julienned, served hot, tepid or cold, and be our main course, first course, or only course! The term, "salad bar" first appeared in 1976. I recall Wendy's being one of the first fast-food restaurants to offer this display of make-your-own-bowl of everything. Even more interesting, the term "salad days," was first used by Shakespeare in 1606 to mean a notion of "green," or a time of "youthful inexperience."1
Perhaps that's how some people feel in the kitchen, "inexperienced," and throwing things in a bowl with a head of lettuce and some briny Kraft dressing seems to be all we needed to feel like we've made a home-cooked meal.
Let's think about it this way instead: I find it to be one of the foundations of creativity. And the canvas for so much more than the receptacle of briny dressing. I'd like to convey to you that this is your platform for experimentation of the most inestimable kind. Take this salad featured in the post for instance, that blends the fruity and acidic elements of grapefruit, with the smooth sweetness of pears, the creaminess of goat cheese, the crunch of toasted pecans and the umami of a dressing with fresh ginger, lemon, garlic and jalapeno all into a fairly sophisticated expression of tossed food. Topped with the mellow and mildly pickled sweetness of white onions and accented with the peppery notes of cilantro this "greenery" just went from lull you to sleep, to LEGENDARY.
Get the recipe here and begin raising yourself from youthful inexperience to rock-star-salad-maker in no time.
1. Reference: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salad
RECIPE: Pear Grapefruit Slaw with a Lemon Ginger Jalapeno Dressing
Serves 6 - Click here for Printable Version
4 C chopped romaine
5 C chopped Napa Cabbage
Clean sections from 2 grapefruits
1 red pear, chopped (no need to peel)
¾ C rough chopped toasted pecans
Handful fresh cilantro, chopped
1 small cucumber peeled, seeded and sliced
2-3 ounces crumbled goat cheese
1/3 C white, sweet onion
¼ C red wine vinegar
2 T white sugar, divided
½ small jalapeño
1 large clove of garlic
1 T chunks of fresh ginger, peeled
¼ C lemon juice
¼ C mild olive oil
Salt and pepper
Slice the white onion into thin rings. Place in a bowl and cover with the red wine vinegar and 1 T sugar. Stir, let sit for at least 1 hour, 4 hours optimal. Then drain and use to garnish the salad.
Combine both greens in a bowl. Add the chopped cilantro, and the sliced cucumber. Cover with wet paper towel and store in fridge until ready to serve.
In a small food chopper, combine the chunks of garlic, peeled ginger, and the jalapeño, along with ¼ C lemon juice. Combine until almost pureed. Now add the olive oil, some salt and pepper, and 1 T of the white sugar. Whizz and blend again. Set aside and store until you’re ready to serve the salad. (I have a really small food processor; one with about a 1 C capacity. It works great for this. But you can also finely grate the garlic and ginger and chop the jalapeño extremely fine in lieu of food chopper.)
Peel grapefruit and isolate sections of grapefruit, cutting them in small half inch chunks. Put in a small bowl and drain off the juice. Don’t strain, just get rid of most of that extra juice. You can also store the pieces of cut pear in with the grapefruit with a splash of fresh lemon juice to keep the pears from browning.
To Plate: To the bowl with the greens, cilantro and cucumbers, add the nuts, grapefruit, pears, and crumbled goat cheese. Cover with the vinaigrette and toss well. Garnish with the sweet pickled onions.
NOTE: It is ideal to assemble all ingredients separately and then combine right before serving so the nuts stay crunchy and the lettuce stays firm. I usually cover the greens with a wet paper towel and keep in the fridge until ready, then mix all the separate ingredients and serve. This is also in the method narrative of the recipe.
I know, I know. This is cruel of me. Really cruel. We're within spitting distance of bathing suit season and I'm posting the photos and recipe for a jumbo Banana Milk Chocolate Chip Muffin with White Chocolate Ganache Glaze.
Except that I believe in the power of endorphins. And that they're severely underrated. And when you bite into one of these intensely flavorful heaps of heavenly happiness you'll take a bit of bulge around the middle to mitigate the explosion of joy in your mouth, mind and soul.
I seriously made these in less than an hour as my husband was just a few yards away from me in the garage, rotating the tires on my Mini Cooper and doing all the other garagey-type things he's famous for. While looking over towards the screened door from time to time and sniffing in the aromas as they baked in the oven he nearly leapt through the door when I told him they were ready for the official tasting. And when he took that first bite and licked that beautiful, transparent, white chocolate drippingness off the top, I knew you'd still want to be in on this. And you'd find a way to put summer off for just a little bit longer. ~~ They do make bathing suits with skirts, ya know.
RECIPE: Banana Milk Chocolate Chip Muffins with White Chocolate Ganache Glaze
Makes 6 Jumbo Muffins - Click here to download a printable version.
2 ¼ C all-purpose flour
1 ½ t baking powder
½ t kosher salt
1 egg beaten
2 ripe bananas mashed coarsely
¾ C heavy cream
3 T melted butter (I used salted)
2 T soft butter to grease muffin tin
½ C packed light brown sugar
1 ½ T unsweetened cocoa powder
¾ t vanilla extract
¾ C milk chocolate chips
In one bowl beat the egg, then add the bananas and mash them, then add the cream, brown sugar, vanilla, and cocoa powder. Beat well to incorporate. In another bowl stir together the flour, salt and baking powder. Add the liquid into the dry and stir gently, mixing only until incorporated. Do not overmix. Now add the milk chocolate chips, folding them inside and over with a spatula until well incorporated.
Spoon the batter evenly into the 6 count jumbo muffin tin that has been greased with butter. Bake in a 375 degree F oven for about 30-35 minutes until starting to brown on the edges. Let cool on a rack for about 30 minutes then make the ganache and drizzle it over each muffin.
To make the ganache, melt ½ C white chocolate chips with about ¼ C cream. Melt over double boiler. Drizzle on muffins. Store in airtight container once cooled. Can freeze is desired.
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Meet the Cook...
My name is Camine Pappas and I love to create beautiful and delicious food that anyone can make. My signature style centers around a love for combining things in a way you might not expect as I work to find a hidden combination of colors, textures and flavors from the things that are in my pantry and/or easy to obtain.