Archive for November, 2010

Turkey Two Ways

Back by popular demand: turkey two ways – Crazy and Lazy!  I, the Crazy Cook, swear by this turkey recipe.   It really does make one of the best-tasting birds I’ve ever eaten, and I’ll be doing it again this year, due to family requests!  The Lazy Cook’s turkey is well, pretty darn simple, but if you’re just looking to do a smaller piece of meat, it might work for you!  Gobble, Gobble.


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Let’s talk about preserved lemons!  During my recent vacation odyssey in Morocco, I made best friends with preserved lemons.  After my first encounter with chicken tagine, I fell for them.  Hard.  If there was a tagine on the menu with preserved lemons, that’s what I was ordering.  If we passed a vendor in our neighborhood in the Medina of Marrakech selling them, I had to stop and gaze.  It was … an obsession.  They are lemony and sweet and tart and fragrant and every tiny, tangy bite makes your soul happy.  And being the Crazy Cook that I am, I had to try to make them at home, and share the process with you!

I started with two bags of organic lemons.  I opted for Claudia Roden’s recipe from Arabesque: A Taste of Morocco, Turkey & Lebanon (lent to me from my foodie friend Susan).  And while it takes a month for them to fully “ripen,” I’ll share with you the “starter steps.”  Come back in December for the final results!

Step 1. Get a bunch of organic lemons (like five to 10) and a clean, glass jar with a tight-fitting lid. Wash and scrub them.  That’s easy, right?  .

Step 2. Now, the only somewhat tricky business, as you might think you need three hands.  And you only have two.  But you can do it!  The traditional Moroccan style is to cut each lemon in quarters, but not all the way through so it’s still in one piece, more or less, and then stuff each lemon with a big teaspoon of sea salt, like so:

Step 3: Now you cram them into the jar.  Really smush them in there, with your hands, so they’re all snug in the bottom of the jar.

Step 4: Seal the jar and leave it out on a counter (preferably not in direct sunlight) for about 3 days.  The salt will cause the lemons to release some of their juices into the bottom of the jar.  This is what you want (maybe 1/4 inch worth of juice was in my jar after 3 days).

Step 5: On Day 3 (or 4 if you want), juice the rest of your lemons and pour it into the jar like this:

I put five lemons into the jar (quartered) and juiced about five or six to get enough to cover the lot in the jar.

Step 6: Put another tablespoon of sea salt in the jar, on top of the lemon juice, like this:

Then seal up the jar tight and stick it  in the back of your fridge – for a month.  Yes, a month!  At which time, hopefully, they will emerge soft and tangy and fragrant and delicious.  According to Claudia, you then scoop out the pulp and rinse the rinds in fresh water to get rid of the salt, and then you can add them to, say, a chicken tagine, or just about anything – fish, chicken, pork, a pasta or cous cous dish.  I’m even imagining them on a puffed Swedish pancake with powdered sugar !  I’ll let you know how they turn out, but it was fun starting the process, and now I can happily dream about recapturing that taste of Morocco that I so love!  Happy, Crazy Cooking to you!

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Well, it’s late on a Thursday night and I’m listening to Ray LaMontagne (obsessed), still recalling my fun, food adventures at the 2nd annual Foodbuzz blogger conference in San Francisco last weekend.  It was a big, crazy gathering of 350 food bloggers from all over the country.  It was a weekend of making new friends, and hanging out with Chicago food friends (and roommate!) like Mara Rosenbloom

Me and my friend Mara Rosenbloom of I Made Dinner.net!


and eating a lot of amazing food, drinking a lot of excellent wine and running all over San Francisco, in a rather frantic manner, on a foodie-freak-stravaganza!  Herewith, I share my top 10 encounters.  The Lazy Cook was absent, attending to business at the American Dietetic Association meeting in Boston, leaving me, The Crazy Cook to dutifully experience all the foodie magic.  (Her loss, if you ask me!)

1. We were met at Friday night’s Street Food Fare with a huge table of Mission Mini cupcakes spelling out Foodbuzz (my camera could only capture half!).  Food Network was filming the founder for an upcoming show!  They were tiny and delish!

Mission Minis Cupcakes spelled out Foodbuzz!

2.  The Street Food Fare was awesome.  My favorite was Namu’s Korean Taco, an umami-loaded mouth festival of beef in a Nori (dried seaweed) wrapper, kim chee (a Korean fermented / pickled veg and vinegar concoction), scallions, tomatoes and God-knows-what-else. Now I know why people go ga-ga for Korean tacos. I wanted seven of them – yet restrained myself to one!


3. Tiny Pancakes! The old-time-y San Francisco breakfast institution, Sear’s, serves a plate of 18 tiny Swedish pancakes that at first I thought ridiculous – then I went straight to “delish!”  They were light and flavorful (and you don’t have to eat all 18 of them!)


4. Handmade Sea Salt from Mendocino.  Bob and Lora LaMar from Gualala, CA have been making their own sea salt for two years now, after their sport-fishing business was shut down from a fishing ban imposed on 15 miles of coastline.  Being foodies, they made, well, salt from salt-in-the-wound.  Their smoked sea salt is amazing!  Check out Foodzie.com for more info or to buy (not being paid by anyone; I just love it.)

5. Tcho Chocolate! After reading all about it in the Nov. 3 New York Times food section, I nearly had some kind of attack when our cab passed the Tcho Chocolate warehouse on the way to Fisherman’s Wharf.  When I saw the building, I cried out to the cabbie, “STOP THE CAR!”  Mara was like, “WTF?”  And I just said, “Get out, follow me.”  We wound up in their tiny store-front/tasting room for a taste of this South-American-sourced chocolate (much of it sold to the restaurant trade) and somehow found room in our bellies for some tastes.  I purchased a bag of baking chocolate and intend to create some hot-chocolate happiness this weekend.

6. But, wait there’s more!  My foodie friend Deb Kwan and I had dinner Sunday night at Bar Agricole, and she represents Taza Chocolate Mexicano – an amazing maker of organic, direct-trade chocolate, and of course she generously gifted me with some, so there will be Battle Chocolate going on my kitchen this weekend!  The flavors are super-interesting — Guajillo Chili, Vanilla, Cinnamon, Salted almond — I can’t wait to try them!


7. On Sunday we were hell-bent on going to Dynamo Donuts, for their pioneering donut stylings, in such flavors as bacon-apple-maple, lemon-pistachio and salted caramel.  Shut. it. down.  I’m not even a donut-eater, but these?  I had to try.  Why has no one else gotten on this artisanal/gourmet donut bus?  They were DELISH!

8. I also have to give a shout-out to Bonny Doon Wines.  Meeting founder and winemaker Randall Grahm was a major highlight of the weekend.  He’s a wine pioneer and Bonny Doon graciously served their amazing wines on Friday and Saturday nights and it was a real pleasure getting to talk to Randall Grahm and sample Le Cigare Volant and their fantastic Albarino (who knew California winemakers were making the classic Spanish white, Albarino?)

9. Meeting Jeffrey Saad from last year’s “Next Food Network Star” was so much fun!  He’s so nice and I remember rooting hard for him while he was on the show, because of his passion for food and travel (hello? see my last post about Moroccan food madness).  I can’t wait to watch his new show, “United Tastes of America” on the Cooking Channel (debuts Nov. 16 at 8:30 p.m. Central time, and no, I am not being paid to say that!)

Jeffrey Saad of Cooking Channel's new "United Tastes of America" and me!

9. Being a Chicagoan, Garrett’s Popcorn is near and dear to my heart, but San Francisco’s 479  Popcorn offers something different.  They make fun, gourmet flavors of popcorn like Truffle-Cheddar, and the founder named it because 479 degrees F is the perfect oil temperature for popping corn.  All the flavors were divine, and they were just featured in Fine Cooking magazine for a fun Truffle Popcorn Kit. Delish.

10. Well, this photo kind of sums up the food blogger madness that I so enjoyed: the sheer obsession with capturing food in all its glory — the visuals, the smells, the tastes, the textures, the sounds (of hundreds of cameras clicking sometimes, around a plate of food lit just-so, at our food photo workshop).  I love being a part of the Foodbuzz blogger community, and I love sharing my passions with you!  Come back soon for a look at a super-secret underground dinner I recently attended at the Lettuce Entertain You test kitchen in Chicago.  What a food week it’s been!  Happy cooking and happy eating to you! 

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I do!  And so do you!  I recently went WAY out for Moroccan food — all the way to Morocco!  I saved almost all my vacation time for a two-week adventure to Morocco – inspired by a fabulous friend who’s now living in Casablanca (hi, Pam!).  After nearly going cross-eyed on Trip Advisor from shopping for riads (a Moroccan version of a Bed-and-Breakfast-style hotel), my friends and I excitedly settled on Riad ZamZam , in part because it offered a cooking class.  Zam Zam is an utter delight.  Run by Brit expats Marcus and Emma Joyston-Bechal, it’s located in the far north part of Marrakech’s Medina, offering a delightful experience in authentic daily life.  I’m talking local women carrying big, flat baskets of bread dough on their heads to the communal bakery, cute, funny school kids shouting out “Bienvenue a Marrakech” to us American tourists, speeding moto-bikes and quick-moving donkey carts laden with everything from bags of flour to cages of chickens headed for market.  But back to cooking class!  First, I’ll share a few photos of the whole experience.

They set up prep tables in the courtyard of the Riad for the seven of us (two fun Brit couples and us three American girls).

There were little dishes of spices including paprika, ginger, turmeric, pepper, cumin and cinnamon, along with garlic cloves, raw almonds and my obsession – preserved lemon.

The class was really hands-on, with our dada (a Moroccan cook), directing us and owner Emma translating from Arabic when necessary.  Here you see yours truly, with my cooking mate, Tina, chopping tomatoes for a classic salade Marocain — stewed tomatoes to be mixed with roasted, mashed-up eggplant and spices (delish!)

First we prepared a classic Moroccan tagine.  A tagine is the name of the ceramic cooking dish (with the cone-shaped lid) and the meat dish itself.  You can make any kind of tagine you want — chicken with preserved lemon and olives, or lamb with dried apricots, almonds and prunes or beef with dates and figs, for example.  One of the most interesting things about Moroccan cooking to me is the happy meeting of sweet and savory.  The meats with sweet, tangy preserved lemons, and the pastilla (traditionally made with pigeon, which I liked except for the tiny bird bones, but also made with chicken).  Pastilla is a pie-style dish, made with phyllo dough and ground meat, nuts (usually almonds, sometimes hazel nuts), and spices, and then topped with a generous amount of, yes, powdered sugar and cinnamon.  Like this:

Okay, back to the tagine we made.  We made chicken tagine, and while I am still searching for the actual recipe they gave us, I will share my basic recollection and hope to share the actual recipe soon!  It’s a pretty easy dish to make, if you have good ingredients.

You place two or three clean chicken parts (legs, thighs, breast) into the tagine.  Add a good glug of olive oil (a few tablespoons).  Then add spices — teaspoons of ground, dried ginger, turmeric, salt, pepper, cumin, minced parsley, paprika – a thread or two of saffron if you’re feeling “rich” (it’s a rare, expensive delight) and a few minced garlic cloves.  Add about half a preserved lemon (which are lemons ‘preserved’ or fermented in salt over the course of about a month, in a sealed jar). 

Put the tagine’s “hat” on.  Place onto a charcoal tagine cooker-thing — or onto a gas stove with a tagine-ring (which you apparently buy when you buy a tagine) and cook, covered, at medium-to-high heat for about an hour or hour and  half.  I think you can also create this in an enameled cast-iron type of pot (think Le Crouset) and cook in the oven, too.  About 10-15 minutes after you start cooking, add maybe 1/2 cup of water.  Then check it 45 minutes in, and add more water if it looks dry – or you like more sauce.  And that’s about it!  The meat and other ingredients cook together into a fabulous, stew-y, braise-y kind of fantastick-ness, until the meat is tender and almost falling off the bone. 

Along with some Moroccan kbread and Moroccan salads (to come in a future post … think cooked carrots with cinnamon, cumin, honey and raisins, cooked zucchini with various spices, eggplant-and-stewed-tomatoes … oh, it makes a vegetable lover so happy!), tagine is a hearty centerpiece to a delicious Moroccan meal!  Here’s a photo of some of the salads we made:

Overall, I highly recommend Zam Zam Riad, for the cooking class experience, and the amazing hospitality and fun!  I’ll be posting more about Moroccan cooking, as I am currently in a Moroccan fad, recalling all the fresh, delicious flavors and experiences that were so new to me and so very enjoyable!  Bon Appetit and Shokran (thank you, in Arabic) for sharing my experience!

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