In my first trip to Beijing, I quickly determined zha jiang mian, or Beijing-style noodles with soybean paste, to be my favorite go-to dish when I needed to grab something fairly quickly as they can be found all over the city and are quite affordable and incredibly flavorful.
A pisaladière is a tart, originating in Nice, made with caramelized onions, anchovies, and black olives. The dough resembles bread dough and utilizes olive oil instead of butter as the main fat. The use of olive oil rather than butter is typical of dough in Southern France.
Pad Thai is probably the most well known Thai dish around the world. Yet every time I eat it, I feel like I’ve discovered an amazing new dish full of tantalizing flavors for the first time.
Fideuá, a Valencia specialty, is a sort of seafood paella made with fideos (very thin short noodles) instead of rice. The dish is prepared in a paella pan very much the same way as its better-known relative.
Over the holidays, I visited Morocco for the first time. Anytime I visit a country for the first time, I invariably take a cooking class so I can learn about the local dishes. In Marrakesh, I learned how to make an amazing chicken tagine with preserved lemons and olives. The dish derives its name from the conical-lidded pot in which it is prepared. Tagines are meat, poultry or fish stewed with vegetables, olives, garlic, preserved lemons and Moroccan spices. The characteristic shape of the tagine’s lid helps to retain and circulate heat more efficiently. If you do not own a tagine pot, you may cook your tagine stew in a covered cast-iron or earthenware casserole to produce a similar effect. Preserved lemons give this tagine a distinctive flavor. Following the tagine recipe, I have included more information about preserved lemons and how to make your own.
1 preserved lemon
4 tablespoons clarified butter
1 onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves finely chopped
2 tablespoons cilantro, finely chopped
2 teaspoons turmeric
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 whole chicken (2-2.5 lbs.) cut into pieces
½ cup water
3-4 saffron threads
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons parsley, finely chopped
Cut the preserved lemon in quarters and separate the flesh from the rind. Reserve the rind and chop the flesh very finely.
Place the bottom of the tagine on medium heat and add the clarified butter. Add the onions and sauté the onions until they are softened, about five minutes. Add the garlic, cilantro and chopped lemon flesh and sauté for another two minutes. Add turmeric, black pepper and ground ginger and mix well. Season the chicken with salt and pepper and add to the pot. Brown the chicken for about two minutes on each side.
Add water and saffron threads and allow to simmer. When the liquid begins to simmer, Cover with the lid and cook on low heat for about 45 minutes to one hour. Halfway through the cooking time, turn the chicken over. The chicken is completely done when you pierce the chicken with a knife and the juices run completely clear. Taste the sauce and season to taste with a bit of salt and pepper. Sprinkle with the chopped parsley and garnish with olives and the preserved lemon peel.
With a distinctive tart, pickled flavor and silky texture, preserved lemons are an essential component in Moroccan cuisine. They've also gained popularity throughout the world. The lemons are preserved in their own juice and some spices. Preserved lemons can be found in jars at specialty food stores. But it is very easy and economical to make your own. You will, however, need to plan accordingly as it takes about four weeks for the lemons to mature.
6 ripe organic lemons
4 tablespoons sea salt, divided
1 cinnamon stick
6 coriander seeds
4 black peppercorns
1 bay leaf
Freshly squeezed lemon juice (1-2 cups, as needed.
Using a vegetable brush, scrub and wash the lemons under warm running water. Soak in cold water for 4 days, changing the water once a day. This will soften the peel considerably.
Cut the one end of the lemons then proceed to cut lengthwise, as though to quarter them but not cutting all the way through (the pieces should be attached at one end.) Spread the segments and sprinkle about ½ teaspoon until each lemon, then close up the lemons.
Place 1 tablespoon of salt on the bottom of a sterilized, dry glass jar. Pack the lemons as tightly as possible into the jar, adding the remaining salt, cinnamon stick, coriander, peppercorns, bay leaf, and clove between the layers of lemons. Press the lemons down to release their juices. Close the jar and allow to pickle for 3 days in a cool place.
At the end of three days, if the lemons are not totally covered in their own juices, fill the jar to the top with freshly squeezed lemon juice. Close the jar and let pickle for one month in a cool, dark place, shaking the jar each day to distribute the salt and juice.
Before using, rinse the lemons under cool running water. Reserve the pickling juices to preserve additional lemons.
In my recent trip to Mexico City, I had the opportunity to eat some amazing fish tacos that I have already been able to replicate in my kitchen. The fish is marinated for a couple of hours, then sauteed in a skillet. Once in the taco, the fish is topped off with a pineapple escabeche, a flavorful sweet and sour garnish. The recipe calls for achiote paste and guajillo chili peppers. Achiote paste is a spice mixture usually consisting of annatto, oregano, cumin, clove, cinnamon, black pepper, allspice, garlic, and salt while guajillo chili peppers are dried, medium heat peppers widely used in Mexican cuisine. Both the guajillo peppers and the achiote paste can be found in a Latin or Mexican grocery store.
3 guajillo peppers, seeded and deveined
½ cup orange juice
2 tablespoons achiote paste
1 slice white onion, about ½ inch thick
2 tablespoons white vinegar
1 clove garlic
1 pinch ground cumin
1 pinch dried oregano
1 ½ pound red white fish (red snapper), cut into small cubes
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon olive oil
½ onion, finely chopped
1 medium carrot, peeled and finely chopped
2 medium celery stalks, finely chopped
1/3 of a big pineapple, cut into ¼ inch cubes
¼ cup white vinegar
¼ cup cilantro, finely chopped
2 limes, cut into wedges
20 corn tortillas
Place the guajillo peppers in boiling water for 5-10 minutes or until softened. Drain well. Dissolve the achiote paste in the orange juice. Once dissolved, strain and place in a blender together with the softened guajillo peppers, onion slice, vinegar, garlic cumin and oregano. Process until smooth.
Pour over the cubed fish and cover with plastic wrap. Place in the refrigerator and allow to marinate for about two hours.
When the fish is done marinating, strain the fish. Heat a skillet and pour the olive oil. When the olive oil is hot, add the fish and cook for 4-5 minutes (about two minutes per side) over high heat. Remove from the heat.
Place about two tablespoons of fish inside each tortilla and top with the pineapple escabeche and some cilantro. Garnish with lime wedges.
I first learned how to make this dish in a food writing class I took over ten years ago. The instructor prepared this dish and all the students had to writeup the recipe as one of our assignments. I’ve enjoyed this recipe so much that I have kept it in my repertoire all these years. It is very simple, yet elegant pasta dish that elevates any meal to whole new level.
2-4 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 shallot, minced
1 lb. fresh asparagus
1 pint ( 2 cups) heavy cream
1 lb. penne
About ¼ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
Salt to taste
1 teaspoon crushed chili flakes
Fill the stockpot half way with water and bring to a rolling boil. Once the water is boiling, add pasta and add salt to taste. Cook pasta for about 12 minutes or until al dente.
In the meantime, heat 2 tbsp. of olive oil in the sauté pan and sauté, in medium heat, the minced shallots until they are transparent and translucent.
Discard stalks of asparagus and cut the remaining stems into 1-inch pieces. Add the pieces into the pan and sauté for about two minutes. Make sure the asparagus is not dry. If it is, add two tbsp. of olive oil. Salt to taste.
Using the microplane, zest the two lemons and add the zest to the asparagus.
Add the cream and bring to a boil. Once the cream is boiling, reduce to a simmer.
Drain pasta and add it to the cream sauce in the sauté pan. At this point, remove the sauté pan from the heat and make sure you coat the pasta completely with the cream sauce. Add salt to taste and sprinkle with parmesan cheese and crushed chili flakes.