Thursday, July 15, 2010

Lamb and Pita Dinner

A couple of weeks ago, we bid bon voyage to our friend, Suzan, who was on her way to visit family in Turkey. Inspired by her travels, we put together a quick dinner consisting of a few bits and pieces of a lot of eastern Mediterranean cuisines. We started the night off right with a Greek style saganaki, made popular in our home town of Chicago: fried Haloumi cheese, flamed in the pan and finished with a squirt of lemon juice. Let's just say that we were lucky not to have to call the firemen!

The rest of the meal consisted of an eclectic collection of cucumber salad (similar to tzatziki), brown basmati rice cooked pilaf style with pine nuts, marinated olives, and homemade pita.

Rustic Lamb Stew
Serves 4

2 3/4 pounds bony lamb stew meat
flour, for sprinkling
salt and pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 medium onion, sliced
5 cloves garlic, crushed
1 sprig fresh oregano
1 teaspoon dried Greek oregano
1 large tomato, chopped
2 preserved lemon quarters, finely chopped
4 cups water

1. Set the oven at 375 degrees. On a plate or a rimmed baking sheet, spread the flour. Season the flour with salt and pepper, mix well. Lightly dredge lamb pieces in seasoned flour.
2. Place a metal rack on a rimmed baking sheet. Place dredged lamb pieces on metal rack. Roast for 1 hour.
3. In a large flameproof casserole, heat oil over medium high heat. Cook onion and garlic for 5 minutes or until tender. Add fresh and dried oregano,tomato, and lemons. Cook, stirring frequently, for 2 minutes.
4. Add lamb, water, salt, and pepper. Bring liquids to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low, and simmer for 2 hours.
5. Remove lamb pieces from stew. When it is cool enough to handle, pick off meat and stir it back into stew. Reheat if necessary. Taste for seasoning, and add more salt and pepper, if you like. Serve with brown basmati rice.

And, of course, a walnut pie from Mission Pie. It was superb paired with fresh black Mission Figs, lightly whipped cream, and Jim Beam Rye. (For those of you who don't know the story, Mission Pie chooses to make a walnut pie instead of pecan. The reason stems from local, environmental choices. The selected walnut farm is only 60 miles away from the shop, whereas pecans would have to be trucked in all the way from Georgia. The result is delectable.)

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Blueberry Cake

From today's Boston Globe... Lisa's Cake, My Photos...

Blueberry buttermilk tea cake
By Lisa Yockelson, Globe Correspondent | July 14, 2010

Makes one 9-inch loaf

Big handfuls of fresh blueberries belong in a buttery cake, tender with buttermilk. The dark blue rounds float in this vanilla-scented batter and create juicy pockets of flavor. Their taste seems to concentrate during baking. When blues are fresh and plump, with a beautiful silvery sheen, the little rounds retain their shape and offer a mosaic in each slice. On this cake, the finish is a simple dusting of confectioners’ sugar, but many loaves benefit from a glaze. To make one, beat 2 tablespoons milk and 1 teaspoon vanilla into 1 cup confectioners’ sugar just until smooth. Once the loaf is cool, spoon the glaze over it and let it stand until firm. A bowl of whipped cream might seem too extravagant for this loaf. Go ahead and beat cream into clouds. Summer blues only come around once a year.

Butter (for the pan)
Flour (for the pan)
2 1/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup fresh blueberries, picked over
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3/4 cup buttermilk
Confectioners’ sugar (for sprinkling)

1. Set the oven at 350 degrees. Butter a 9-by-5-by-3-inch loaf pan. Dust the pan with flour, tapping out the excess.

2. In a bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt to blend them.

3. In another bowl, toss the blueberries with 1 teaspoon of the flour mixture.

4. In an electric mixer at medium speed, beat the butter for 2 minutes. Add the sugar in two additions, beating for 1 minute after each. Blend in the eggs, one at a time, followed by the vanilla.

5. With the mixer set on low speed, beat in half of the flour mixture, then the buttermilk, then the remaining flour mixture. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula once or twice.

6. Remove the bowl from the mixer stand. With a large rubber spatula fold in the blueberries and any excess flour in the bowl.

7. Spoon the batter into the loaf pan, mounding it slightly in the center. Bake the cake for 55 to 60 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake is clean when withdrawn.

8. Set the cake on a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes. Turn the cake out of the pan and return the cake to the rack to cool. Dust the top with confectioners’ sugar. Cut into slices with a serrated knife.

Lisa Yockelson