Red Cooked Pork Belly Recipe plus a Cookbook and Stir Fry Pan Giveaway!

red-cooked-pork-tastefood-4

Leave a comment below through October 9, 2016 to be entered into the GIVEAWAY for a free copy of  the award winning cookbook “Phoenix Claws and Jade Trees: Essential Techniques of Authentic Chinese Cooking” AND a free Anolon Nouvelle Copper/Stainless Steel Covered Stir-Fry pan.

Mid-Autumn Festival is the second most important celebration after Chinese New Year in the Chinese holiday calendar. Family members gather for a feast and enjoy the harvest moon. This year the holiday falls on September 15, and in partnership with publisher Clarkson Potter and Anolon Cookware, I am giving away a copy of Chef Kian Lam Kho’s award winning cookbook “Phoenix Claws and Jade Trees: Essential Techniques of Authentic Chinese Cooking.” It’s a perfect book for you to learn how to properly cook authentic Chinese food.

phoenix-claws-book

I had the pleasure of tasting Chef Kian’s wonderful cooking at a private event sponsored by Cook’nScribble earlier this year. Not only is Kian a food writer, cooking teacher and food consultant in Chinese cuisine, he is the creator of the the Chinese home cooking blog Red Cook. His first cookbook, Phoenix Claws and Jade Trees, was the recipient of the Julia Child First Book Award from IACP (International Association of Culinary Professionals). Among the dishes Kian prepared at the event I attended was Red Cooked Chicken, a traditional method of slow cooking chicken in a concoction of soy sauce, sugar, garlic, and aromatics. For this giveaway I decided to make his family recipe for Red Cooked Pork, which I discovered has the unique (and very appealing) additional step of caramelizing the sugar first, then browning unctuous chunks of pork belly in the caramel before braising. Say no more.

Anolon Nouvelle Copper Stainless Steel 12-Inch Covered Stir Fry with Helper Handle

In addition to winning a copy of Kian’s book, the lucky winner will ALSO receive a new Anolon Copper and Stainless 12.5-inch Covered Stir Fry pan, which is the perfect vessel for preparing the recipe below for Red Cooked Pork. Its deep shape is ideal for stir frying, with a sturdy handle for moving between cooktops and oven, and its copper, aluminum and magnetized stainless steel base delivers optimum heat control and performance on all cooktops, including induction.

Let the celebrations begin!

UPDATE: Congratulations to Jennifer Anne Keefer, who is the winner of the drawing and giveaway!

red-cooked-pork-anolon-tastefood

Red-Cooked Pork – Home Style

Reprinted with permission from “Phoenix Claws and Jade Trees: Essential Techniques of Authentic Chinese Cooking” by author Kian Lam Kho and Photographer Jody Horton; Published by Clarkson Potter, Sept 2015.

Serves 4 as an appetizer, 2 as a main course

1 1/2 pounds pork belly
2 tablespoons sugar
3 garlic cloves
2 scallions, cut into 2-inch pieces
3 whole star anise
2 tablespoons dark soy sauce
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1/4 cup Shoaxing cooking wine
1 1/2 cups pork stock, the liquid from parboiling, or water, plus more as needed.

Put the entire pork belly in a stockpot and add enough water to cover the meat completely. Bring the water to a boil, then turn down the heat to medium. Parboil the pork belly, uncovered, for 20 minutes, continuously skimming off the scum that forms on the surface. Drain, and let the pork belly cool. Then cut it into pieces about 1 1/2 inches square.

Combine the sugar with 3 tablespoons water in a wok over medium heat. Continue heating until the sugar syrup just begins to turn yellow. Add the cubed pork belly to the wok and brown it with the caramelized sugar, stirring the meat regularly to prevent burning. If you like, cover the wok with a splatter guard to prevent the fat from splattering.

Add the garlic, scallions, star anise, both soy sauces, wine, and stock to the wok. Bring the liquid to a boil, then transfer the contents to a clay pot or Dutch oven. (Alternatively, this dish can be cooked in a slow cooker.) Simmer, covered, over low heat, stirring the meat every 15 minutes to prevent scorching the pork on the bottom, for 1 hour or until the meat is tender when pierced with a knife.

Remove the meat and put it in a bowl. Reduce the sauce over medium-high heat until it reaches the desired consistency. Return the meat to the pot and reheat before serving.

To be entered into the giveaway for a free copy of “Phoenix Claws and Jade Trees: Essential Techniques of Authentic Chinese Cooking” AND a free Analon Nouvelle Copper/Stainless Steel Covered Stir-Fry pan, please leave a comment below with a valid email link through October 9, 2016 (your email address will not be visible on the website). One lucky winner will be chosen via random drawing and contacted via email drawing on October 10, 2016 to receive both prizes. So sorry, but only readers with U.S. addresses are eligible for the giveaway.

Disclosure: The cookbooks for the giveaway are sponsored by Clarkson Potter. The stir fry pan used in the post and provided for the giveaway is sponsored by Anolon.

Gratineed Clams with Spinach, Cheese and Crispy Lamb

clams stuffed 1 tastefood~ Gratinéed Clams with Spinach, Cheese and Crispy Lamb ~

It’s the final challenge of the Lambs + Clams Contest. For the past 4 months I have been 1 of 8 national bloggers assigned to devise a recipe using lamb provided by Border Springs Farm or shellfish from Rappahannock River Oysters, culminating in the Charleston Wine and Food Festival in March. For this final contest we received a variety pack. Think surf and turf – Lambs and Clams style – namely 2 pounds of ground lamb and 25 plump middleneck clams. I admit, these are 2 ingredients I’ve never combined in one recipe, but, hey, there’s always a first time. And I love a good challenge.

Right away I considered a Mediterranean inspired stew, imagining poached clams in a robust tomato broth, with spicy lamb keftas standing in for chorizo. But: I have already created a recipe somewhat similar to that.  It did get me thinking, though, of lamb doing double duty for something else, like, say, bacon. Now, had I received a hunk of meat, I could have made my own lamb bacon, but I had ground lamb instead. So why not spice and cook the minced lamb to a point of crispness, where it could stand in for crumbled bacon? Hmmmm.

Which brings me to the weather – as all musings and ramblings do at some point. For the record, it’s cold,  grey and  wintery at the moment, which in my book is the perfect climate for warm, cheesy gratinéed food. A picture was beginning to form of a gratinéed clam on a halfshell crowned with crispy spiced minced lamb. And since it’s the New Year when healthy resolutions abound, I added a mound of spinach to the mix.

So if you give a cook a challenge, then you get…

clams stuffed tastefood

Gratinéed Clams with Spinach, Cheese and Crispy Lamb

For the spinach:
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
6 ounces spinach leaves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup finely grated Parmigiano cheese

For the lamb:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 pound ground lamb
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne

16 middleneck or Manila clams

Finely grated Parmigiano cheese for sprinkling
Fresh Italian parsley leaves, chopped, for garnish

Prepare the spinach:
Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and red pepper flakes. Sauté until fragrant, 1 minute. Add spinach. Sauté until leaves wilt. Add salt. Transfer spinach to a cutting board. Cool slightly, then coarsely chop. Transfer to a bowl and mix in the cheese.

Prepare the lamb:
Heat oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add lamb. Cook, stirring, until fat renders and lamb is brown. Drain and return lamb to the skillet. Add paprika, salt, pepper and cayenne. Sauté briefly to combine. Set aside.

Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil. Add clams. Reduce heat to medium and partially cover. Cook until the clams open, about 5 minutes. Drain clams. (Discard any unopened clams). When cool enough to handle, pry apart the shells; discard the tops. Carefully loosen the clam muscle from the shell, leaving the clam in the bottom half of each shell.

Heat oven broiler. Place a heaping teaspoon of spinach over a each clam. Top with a teaspoon of lamb. Liberally sprinkle with cheese. Place in a baking dish. Broil until the lamb is crispy brown and the clams are sizzling, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a serving platter. Sprinkle with parsley. Serve warm.

I would like to thank the folks at BBT’s Charleston Wine and Food Festival for sponsoring this contest and inviting me to participate. I also thank  Border Springs Farm and Rappahannock River Oysters for supplying gorgeous products for each challenge. Next month will be so uneventful without one of their packages arriving.

Lettuce Wraps: Pomegranate Lacquered Lamb with Quinoa Pilaf and Spicy Hummus

Lamb Pomegranate TasteFood

Charleston Wine & Food Festival – Lambs + Clams Contest
Round 3 WINNER!
 Pomegranate Lacquered Lamb Lettuce Wraps
Quinoa Pilaf and Spicy Hummus

This month’s Lambs+Clams Contest, sponsored by the BB&T Charleston Wine Food Festival, featured a gorgeous slab of lamb shoulder provided by Border Springs Farm. I knew the lamb was coming and had some time to think about how I would like to prepare the meat. Lamb shoulder is a braising meat, best suited for slow cooking. The French famously do this in an all-day production, aptly named Gigot de Sept Heures, or Seven Hour Lamb. While I appreciate this method of slow cooking a tough cut of meat into supple submission with wine and aromatics, the end result is incredibly rich. After a few mouthfuls I find myself craving acidity and freshness to balance the unctuous meat.

This led me to think of Bo Ssam. Bo Ssam is a Korean specialty of slow roasted pork belly or shoulder, cured in sugar and salt. The pork slowly softens and caramelizes while cooking, finishing in a tender heap of meat that begs to be shredded and scooped into lettuce cups with rice and spicy chile sauce. The difference is that I had lamb, not pork, so I headed to the Middle East for inspiration. I generously salted the meat and coated it with a pomegranate molasses marinade and left it to brine overnight. Quinoa pilaf studded with pomegranate and mint replaced the rice, while a ramped up hummus spiked with harissa and extra lemon added heat and acidity. You might say that this was an around the world tour of inspiration: West meets East meets Middle East.

Lamb Pomegranate Lettuce TasteFood

Don’t be daunted by the length of this recipe. Most of the time involved is braising time. The quinoa and hummus are easy to make and may be prepared in advance of serving (they are also delicious on their own). The hardest part will be waiting while the lamb roasts and its intoxicating aroma wafts through your kitchen.

Pomegranate Lacquered Lamb Lettuce Wraps
with Quinoa Pilaf and Spicy Hummus

Begin the lamb one day before serving. While quinoa is not a Middle Eastern grain, it’s nutty and firm texture nicely complements the tender meat. Bulgur or couscous may be substituted for the quinoa. Serves 8 to 10.

Lamb:
1 (5 pound) lamb shoulder with bone
4 tablespoons kosher salt, divided
1/2 cup pomegranate molasses
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup pomegranate seeds
Fresh mint leaves, chopped

Butter lettuce leaves
Spicy Hummus (recipe below)
Quinoa Pilaf (recipe below)
Pomegranate seeds
Fresh mint leaves
Lemon wedges
Hot sauce, optional

One day before serving, prepare the lamb. Score the lamb fat with a knife. Rub the lamb all over with 3 tablespoons salt. Whisk the pomegranate molasses, garlic, cumin and black pepper in a small bowl. Smear over the lamb to thoroughly coat. Arrange meat side-down in a large rimmed baking dish. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate 24 hours, turning once or twice.

One hour before roasting, remove lamb from refrigerator and let stand at room temperature. Heat oven to 300 F. Transfer lamb to a roasting pan, meat-side side up. Pour any accumulated juices and marinade into a small saucepan. Roast lamb, uncovered, until very tender, about 5 hours. While the meat is roasting, boil the juices and marinade for 1 minute. Occasionally baste the meat with the marinade while roasting.

When the meat is fork tender, remove from oven and increase oven temperature to 450 F. Sprinkle lamb with 1 tablespoon salt and brown sugar. Return to oven and roast until dark brown and caramelized, about 15 minutes. Remove and cool slightly. When cool enough to handle, shred the lamb meat and place on a serving platter. Skim fat from the pan and drizzle pan juices over the lamb. Sprinkle with pomegranate seeds and mint.

Serve lamb family-style with Quinoa Pilaf and Spicy Hummus. Accompany with a platter of butter lettuce and bowls of pomegranate seeds, fresh mint, lemon wedges, and hot sauce.  Scoop a dab of hummus into the center of a lettuce leaf. Spoon a little quinoa over the hummus, then some of the lamb. Garnish with pomegranate seeds, mint and a squeeze of lemon juice – hot sauce optional, but highly recommeded. Pass the napkins.

Lamb glaze~ Pomegranate Lacquered Lamb at the 4 hour mark ~

Quinoa Pilaf:
1 1/2 cups quinoa
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 bunch scallions, thinly sliced, green and white parts divided
1 red serrano or jalapeno chile, stemmed and seeded, finely chopped
1 garlic clove
1 1/2 cups chicken stock or water
Juice and zest of 1/2 lemon
1 teaspoon ground cumin
Salt and pepper
1/4 cup pomegranate seeds
1/4 cup Italian parsley leaves, chopped
1/4 cup fresh mint, chopped

Place the quinoa in a fine-meshed sieve and rinse with water until the water runs clear. Drain thoroughly. Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add white parts of the scallions, chile and garlic. Saute 2 minutes. Add quinoa and cook, stirring, to coat, 1 minute. Add stock. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Cover and cook until quinoa is tender and the little white tails are showing on the grains. Remove from heat and fluff with a fork. Add lemon, cumin, salt and pepper, to taste. Cool to luke warm. Stir in the pomegranate, parsley and mint. Transfer to a serving bowl.

Hummus:
1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, drained
2 garlic cloves, chopped
Juice of 2 lemons, about 1/2 cup
1/4 cup Greek-style whole milk yogurt
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons tahini
2 to 3 teaspoons harissa paste, or to taste
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

Combine all of the ingredients in the bowl of a food processor. Process until smooth. Taste for seasoning. Hummus should not be too thick. If necessary, thin with additional olive oil. Transfer to a serving bowl.

Lambs + Clams Round 2: Smoky Clam, Chorizo and Butternut Squash Stew with Saffron Aioli and Fried Oyster Croutons

Lambs + Clams Round 2: Smoky Clam, Chorizo and Butternut Squash Stew with Saffron Aioli and Fried Oyster Croutons

Lambs + Clams Contest – Round 2
Ingredient Challenge: Rappahannock River Oysters and Clams

It’s not often, er, ever, that I receive a box of East coast shellfish delivered to my California front door – that is until 10 days ago when a special delivery box arrived with 4 dozen pristine oysters and middle neck clams from Rappahannock River Oysters in Virgina. They were as fresh as could be, cold and moist, smelling of seaweed and sand. A taste of the East lay at my feet. This was simply not fair.

~
While I now live in California, and before that called Europe my home, I am a New Englander at heart. And I miss it. This is evident by how I gravitate to environments and sensations that remind me of a place I haven’t called home since 1991. I crave 4 distinct seasons, and reminisce wintry blizzards, humid summers, and the smell of fallen leaves with chimney smoke hanging in the air. I seek vignettes suspiciously similar to a traditional New England setting, old structures and neighborhoods steeped in history, creaking with wood, lined with cobblestones. And the sea must never be far away. Nothing epitomizes New England to me more than the seashore – especially on a chilly foggy day laden with mist, with the cries of seagulls and the clanging of buoys punctuating the sound of the wind and waves.

So there I was, a week ago, with 2 nets of memories before me in the form of shellfish, still moist from their beds, gritty with sand, smelling of brine and salt. It transported me to New England, and I knew that I would have to do them justice. I headed to my kitchen – the heart of our family home and life, no matter the coast or the country. The place where I go to recreate memories, carry on traditions and evoke sensations of time and place.

The oysters and clams were ridiculously fresh, and I knew I had to get to work fast. (OK, I admit a few oysters were instantly slurped straight up with a squeeze of lemon and dash of Tabasco. Hey, you would’ve too). I thought about how to create one recipe showcasing both oysters and clams, drawing inspiration from the East coast, while embracing my adopted West coast sensibilities – with a touch of the Mediterranean. I am a fan of chowders and cioppinos, and I decided on a stew, with layers of flavor and texture. It’s autumn after all, the season of layers – layers of clothing, layers of bedding and layers of nourishing, sating ingredients in our meals.

Each ingredient would stand out yet complement the whole of the stew, with a balance of sweet, smoke, heat and brine. I addressed each ingredient separately before uniting them, taking care to prevent a muddle. I browned the chorizo slices first for color and flavor. They would be added to the stew in the end, preventing softening and loss color by overcooking in the soup. Their legacy, the flavorful oil, remained in the pot infusing the stew with heat and smoke. I sautéed planks of sweet butternut squash in the oil. This step ensured the squash were thoroughly cooked and slightly caramelized. The chunks would be added in the end, like the chorizo, avoiding excessive mushiness and preserving their brilliant saffron color. Roasting the red pepper coaxed out its natural sugars and imparted another layer of smoky flavor to the soup. The clams cooked in the stew, opening and releasing their briny juices in the stock. Finally, I fried the oysters, first soaked in buttermilk and Sriracha, then rolled in cornmeal, ensuring super-crispy results with a playful bite. They would garnish the stew as a riff on croutons one might add to a Mediterranean seafood stew with a definite nod to the American south. A spoonful of saffron scented aioli added a creamy finish to the soup with the kick of heat.


Smoky Clam, Chorizo and Butternut Squash Stew with Saffron Aioli and Fried Oysters Croutons

Serves 4.

Aioli:
1/2 cup mayonnaise (preferably homemade)
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon saffron threads
1/2 teaspoon Sriracha or hot sauce

Oyster Croutons:
16 shucked oysters
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon Sriracha or hot sauce
1 cup cornmeal
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Stew:
Extra-virgin olive oil
12 ounces Spanish-style chorizo sausage, sliced 1/2-inch thick
1 small butternut squash, cut in chunks, approximately 1 1/2-inch square, 1/2-inch thick
1 cup chopped yellow onion
1 sweet red pepper, roasted, peeled, cut in 1/4 inch julienne
2 large garlic cloves
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 28-ounce can Italian plum tomatoes, with juice
1 bay leaf
2 teaspoons fresh thyme
12 to 16 middle neck clams
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste

Vegetable oil for frying
Fresh chopped Italian parsley leaves for garnish

For the aioli:
Whisk together all of the ingredients in a small bowl; set aside.

For the oysters:
Place the oysters in a small bowl. Whisk buttermilk and Sriracha in a separate bowl. Pour over the oysters to cover and set aside. Whisk the cornmeal, flour, salt and pepper together in another bowl and set aside.

For the stew:
Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a deep skillet over medium-high heat. Add sausage slices, in batches, and brown on both sides, turning once. Transfer to a plate lined with a paper towel. Add the squash, in batches, to the skillet and pan fry until golden on both sides, turning once. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon oil from the pan. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil and onion. Sauté until softened, about 2 minutes. Add red pepper, garlic, paprika and red chili flakes. Sauté until fragrant, 1 minute. Add wine and deglaze the pan, scraping up any brown bits. Add tomatoes, bay leaf and thyme. Simmer, uncovered, until somewhat thickened, 15 to 20 minutes. Add clams. Cover pot and cook, shaking occasionally, until clam shells open, about 10 minutes. (Discard any unopened clam shells). Add salt to desired taste.

While the stew is simmering, fill a large heavy saucepan with 2 inches of vegetable oil. Heat over medium-high heat until a deep fry thermometer reads 350 F. Remove the oysters from the buttermilk, shaking off any excess liquid. Dredge in cornflour. Fry in batches, without overcrowding, until golden and crispy, 1 to 2 minutes. Drain on a plate lined with a paper towel

Ladle the stew into warm serving bowls. Top each bowl with 4 oysters. Spoon a little saffron aioli into the center of the soup. Garnish with parsley. Serve immediately.

Salame, Figs, Fennel and a Sandwich Showdown

Salame, Figs, Fennel and a Sandwich Showdown

  Figs, Fennel Salami, Goat Cheese, Arugula, Apple-Fennel Slaw
plus 1 Mystery Ingredient

Yesterday I participated in “TopWichSF” a sandwich-showdown hosted by San Francisco’s Colombus Salame and Sean Timberlake, author of Hedonia and founder of Punk Domestics. I am a big fan of Columbus products, and was more than pleased to be 1 of 3 bloggers invited to this event to promote Columbus’ new line of Farm to Fork Naturals salame. The setting couldn’t have been more perfect, outside on the sunny terrace of Hotel Vitale’s Cafe Americano, overlooking the San Francisco Embarcadero in the company of my formidable competition, John Mitzewich and Michael Procopio.

To begin with, Sean had created a sampling of small bites he created using Columbus products for us to taste. We were then introduced to the Colombus company, and given a little back ground on its 100 year history and the intricacies of flavoring and shaping various salame. I didn’t realize how important a role the casings play in distinguishing flavor – and, apparently, size does matter.


Before we donned our aprons, we were whisked across the street via Pedi-Cabs (picture a bicycle rickshaw with crossfit drivers) to the San Francisco Ferry Building, a bastion of glorious food purveyors, restaurants and specialty shops. We were given ten dollars and ten minutes to purchase the secret ingredient of our choice which would catapult our sandwiches to the highest level and propel one of us bloggers to the winning title. We then had a brief yet scenic trip back to the hotel where we returned to our battle stations on the patio, providing extra entertainment for the restaurant patrons at the nearby tables.

In 20 fast minutes, we had to create our sandwich masterpieces and plate for 5 esteemed judges from Chow, Tasting Table, SFWeekly, YumSugar and Columbus. No time to get nervous. And no time to taste my sandwich either – the time just flew by. After the judges compared notes and tallied scores, the winner was … John! He made a smoked turkey and soppressata sandwich embelished with a pluot and pinenut relish and harissa (no wonder). Michael’s  sandwich was beyond creative with grilled turkey and soppressata with apples, slathered in  bone marrow butter. (These guys are good). As for me, I kept things fresh and made a fennel salami, fig and goat cheese sandwich topped with fennel-apple slaw and a sprinkle of fennel pollen (my secret ingredient). John generously donated his cash prize to the San Francisco Food Bank, and I think we all won by experiencing a fun and fabulous day and opportunity to meet a few friends in the blogging community and the friendly faces behind Columbus Salame.

As for my sandwich, I’ve recreated it here – mostly for you, but also for me, since I never had a chance to take a bite of the one I made yesterday. Buon appetito!

Fennel, Fig and Salami Sandwich with Goat Cheese

Many specialty stores will carry fennel pollen with their spices, but don’t despair if you can’t find it. A little sprinkle definitely adds an extra boost of flavor, but this sandwich is equally delicious without. Alternatively, add 1 teaspoon minced fresh tarragon to the oil in place of the pollen. Makes one sandwich.

Mustard Fennel Oil:
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons Dijon-style mustard
1/4 teaspoon fennel pollen
Pinch of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Apple Fennel Slaw:
1/2 small green or fuji apple, thinly sliced in small matchsticks
1/2 small fennel bulb, very thinly sliced
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Pinch of salt

1 ciabatta roll

2.5 ounces soft, fresh goat cheese
Freshly ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon fennel pollen, or to taste
1 – 2 figs, sliced 1/4-inch thick
2 ounces thinly sliced fennel salami
Small handful fresh arugula leaves

Make the Mustard-Fennel Oil:
Whisk all of the ingredients together in a small bowl. Set aside.

Make the Apple-Slaw:
Toss all of the ingredients together in another small bowl. Set aside.

Assemble sandwich:
Horizontally slice the ciabatta roll in half. Spread the bottom half with the goat cheese. Sprinkle with black pepper and fennel pollen. Arrange the figs over the cheese in one layer. Top with 2 layers of overlapping fennel salami slices. Top the salami with arugula, then top the arugula with some of the apple-fennel slaw (you may not need all of it). Spread the cut side of the top half of the ciabatta with the Mustard-Fennel Oil and cover the sandwich. Eat immediately.

Lambs + Clams: A new contest and a recipe for Moroccan Spiced Lamb

Lambs + Clams: A new contest and a recipe for Moroccan Spiced Lamb

I was delighted to be asked by the folks at The Charleston Wine and Food Festival to participate in a food blog event and contest called Lambs + Clams.  This event will promote the annual festival while celebrating the purveyors and farmers who supply their products to the Charleston region. Four monthly recipe contests will be held in the lead up to the festival which opens February 28, 2013. Each contest will spotlight either lamb, clams or oysters supplied by Craig Rogers of Border Springs Farm and Travis Croxton of Rappahannock River Oysters, both of whom provide their quality products to top chefs and restaurants all over the Eastern seaboard.

I am flattered and honored to be selected to compete with 7 talented food bloggers (listed below) from around the country in this event. By now you should know I love a good challenge, so I did not hesitate to accept. Let the games begin!

This month the contest kicks off with a challenge to create a recipe for a leg of lamb from Border Springs Farm. You can imagine how excited I was to receive my lamb – the anticipation felt like Christmas. It arrived in a BIG box, and I eagerly unpacked a gorgeous, glistening boneless leg of lamb weighing in at 5.4 pounds. Christmas came early this year.

I love to travel, and when I am not traveling, I bring my bucket list of destinations home to my kitchen for cooking inspiration. With that motivation, I decided to create a lamb recipe fragrant with the heat and spice of northern Africa and made a thick fiery marinade heady with Mediterranean spices, garlic, lemon and mint. One deep whiff made my fingers and toes tingle and transported me to Morocco, the sands of the sahara and an aromatic souk. It was all I could do to keep from slurping it up with a spoon.

I smeared and massaged the lamb with the marinade – yes, that’s right: massaging helps to work the spices into the meat. I could also just say “work the marinade into the meat with your fingers” but massage sounds so much nicer. Then came the hardest part – waiting. The longer the wait, the better. The lamb should marinate overnight, or even for 2 days if you can stand it. (When time is truly an issue, 8 hours will do, but overnight is best).

Once you’ve mastered the waiting part, the recipe is very easy to prepare, and the results are outstanding, yielding a succulent, exotically aromatic leg of lamb with a subtle kick of heat. To serve the lamb, I roasted an assortment of late summer vegetables (chinese eggplant, sweet peppers, onions and zucchini) with olive oil, garlic and salt and scattered them around the meat. There was plenty to share, so a few friends joined us as well,  and we all enjoyed this wonderful pre-Christmas gift of lamb.

Moroccan Spiced Lamb with Lemon, Mint and Yogurt

Ground cumin and coriander may be substituted for the seeds, however the flavor is best if you toast and grind your own seeds. Serves 6 to 8.

Marinade:
2 teaspoons whole cumin seeds
1 teaspoon whole coriander seeds
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro sprigs (or Italian parsley)
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint leaves
4 garlic cloves, minced
Zest from one lemon
1 tablespoon Sriracha or harissa
3 teaspoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons sweet paprika
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 3-4 pound boned leg of lamb, butterflied

Yogurt Sauce:
1 1/2 cups Greek-style whole milk yogurt
1 large garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon tahini
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh mint
2 teaspoons Sriracha sauce, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Prepare the marinade: Toast cumin and coriander seeds in a skillet over medium heat until fragrant, about 1 minute. Transfer to a mortar with pestle and grind to a fine powder. Transfer to a medium bowl. Add remaining marinade ingredients and whisk to blend. Make small incisions in the fat and meat of the lamb. Rub the marinade all over the lamb, massaging it into the meat and folds with your fingers. Place lamb in a rimmed baking dish. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

One hour before roasting, remove the lamb from the refrigerator and let stand at room temperature. If grilling, prepare the grill for direct and indirect cooking over medium heat. Grill the lamb for 10 minutes over direct heat to sear, skin-side down, turning once. Move to indirect heat and grill, covered, turning once or twice, until medium-rare (a meat thermometer inserted in thickest part will read 130 F), 20 to 30 minutes. If roasting, place lamb in a roasting pan. Roast in a preheated 425 F. oven, skin-side up, for about 30 minutes for medium-rare, turning once. Finish under a broiler, skin side up, for a few minutes to brown meat. Allow lamb to rest for 10 minutes, loosely covered with foil, before carving.

To make the yogurt sauce, whisk all of the ingredients together in a small bowl. Arrange the lamb on a serving platter. If you roasted vegetables, scatter them around the lamb. Garnish with fresh herbs. Serve with the yogurt sauce.

 

Low Sodium Love: Coconut Shrimp Curry

Low Sodium Love: Coconut Shrimp Curry

Coconut Shrimp Curry – who needs salt?

A year ago, I participated in a food blog event hosted by Jessica, the author of the wonderful blog Sodium Girl. The challenge was to make a favorite recipe and reduce the salt as much as possible. As a salt lover, I confess that this terrified me. What if the lack of sodium  led to bland and dull results? How would I put a positive spin on unsaltiness? Well, as you can see from that post, I couldn’t have been more surprised and pleased when my doctored chicken wing recipe resulted in finger-licking deliciousness.

So, this year when Jessica asked if I would participate in a repeat of the challenge, I had less trepidation. I decided to adapt one of the most viewed recipes on TasteFood – Coconut Shrimp Curry – and exorcise it of any added sodium without compromising on flavor. After all, if it’s such a popular recipe, why not make it available to anyone who is watching their sodium intake? In this contest, natural salt found in whole ingredients is acceptable, but no added or processed salt is allowed. Shrimp have a natural saltiness which would be a boost to the flavor. And, as I learned last year, a great way to compensate for reduced sodium is to ramp up the aromatics and spices, which I did with generous amounts of garlic, fresh ginger, chiles and curry powder – all the good stuff, if you ask me. A spoonful of sugar rounded out the stew and a squeeze of fresh lime juice added sharpness and acidity.

And gosh darn it, it happened again. Once again the results thoroughly impressed me. The curry was rich, bright and brimming with flavor. The extra squeeze of lime provided an extra kick and, dare I say, tricked me into thinking there was plenty of salt in the curry. I even cheated and added a pinch of salt to a small bowlful for comparison. And, guess what? I found the results a little too, well, salty. Go figure.

Thank you, Jessica, for inviting me to participate again this year. For more inspiring low sodium recipes that are heart healthy and delicious with a big spoonful of valuable information,  you can read Jessica’s blog here and find all of the recipe links for this Low Sodium Rally here.

Coconut Shrimp Curry

Feel free to add additional vegetables, such as carrots or cauliflower, to the stew. Depending on the heat of the chiles, adjust amounts to your taste. Serves 4 to 6.

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped, about 1 1/2 cups
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 green jalapeño pepper, stemmed and seeded, minced
1 red jalapeño or serrano pepper, stemmed and seeded, minced
2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
1 medium zucchini, quartered lengthwise, each quarter sliced in 1/2-inch pieces
1 1/2 tablespoons curry powder
1 – 26 ounce package Pomi chopped tomatoes
1 1/2 cups coconut milk
1 1/2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 pound frozen large shrimp, defrosted, peeled and deveined
1/2 cup cilantro/coriander leaves, coarsely chopped
1 lime, cut in wedges

Heat oil in deep skillet or soup pot. Add onion and sauté until soft but not brown, about 3 minutes. Add garlic, jalapeños and ginger. Sauté until fragrant, 1 minute. Add zucchini and curry powder; sauté 1 minute. Stir in tomatoes, coconut milk and sugar. Simmer 10 minutes. Add shrimp and cook until they turn pink and are just cooked through. Add cilantro. Taste for seasoning. Serve immediately in bowls with basmati rice and lime wedges for squeezing over the curry.