Welcome to March! This month’s Cookbook Club selection is Deep Run Roots: Stories and Recipes from My Corner of the South, by Vivian Howard. If you’re a PBS watcher, Vivian is the chef at the center of the show A Chef’s Life. Selim loves that show, so this was a fun selection for us! Our first selection is a recipe she calls “Viv’s Addiction.” These spiced nuts really are addicting! We used slightly different spices than she does, but the addiction level is still there. I could not stop eating them as soon as they were cool enough to touch. I had to make myself save a few – I made them with the intention of them going in my work lunches! This recipe is clearly adaptable to essentially any spice you want, and we’re definitely planning to try a few variations.
Smoky Spiced Pecans
2 egg whites
2 tsp salt
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp ancho chile powder
1 tsp coriander
1 tbsp cumin
1 tbsp paprika
1 tbsp smoked paprika
4 cups pecan halves
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Using a stand mixer with whisk attachment, whisk the egg whites until foamy. Then slowly add the salt and sugar while still whisking. Continue whisking until stiff peaks form. Then add the spices and whisk until combined.
Add the pecans to the bowl and stir until well-coated.
Spread the coated pecans in a single layer on a lined baking sheet.
Bake for 10 minutes. Then remove from the oven and flip the nuts over, breaking up clumps as able.
Repeat the steps above, stirring again at the 20 minute mark, and removing from the oven for good at the 30 minute mark.
Once cool, break up any nut clusters that are stuck together.
I distinctly remember the first time I had manti. It was on my first visit to Istanbul. Selim’s cousins took us out to dinner one night at a restaurant I wish I could remember 🤷♀️ I was eyeing the mantı, that was described in English as “lamb dumplings in yogurt sauce.” One of Selim’s cousins saw me considering it and explained that is a traditional Turkish favorite. It is such a unique combination… The manti are hot, but then the yogurt sauce is cool, followed by the oil drizzle that’s hot! It seems like the pieces shouldn’t come together, but they do perfectly. The whole table ended up ordering mantı! I was hooked!
Now I seek manti out whenever we go to a Turkish restaurant. (Probably to the detriment of trying other delicious dishes, but I just can’t NOT order it.) For awhile there, we felt like we were in the secret cool kids club at Sultan Kebab in Charlottesville, because while there wasn’t any manti on the menu, if you knew to ask for it, they almost always had some for you! That quickly became the worst kept secret in town (thanks to chefs exposing the secret via Charlottesville 29 I think…), and now it shows up on the menu. We’ve also learned from experience that if you have a group of people for dinner who can’t decide whether they want a delicious kebab or to try the manti, manti makes a perfect shared appetizer too!
This is one of the dishes that we love so much are were afraid to try at home for fear of messing it up. Not to mention, it is fairly time-consuming as well. But we were SUPER excited at how well this came out. Also, it’s gorgeous! The dough for the dumplings came together easier than other doughs I’ve tried before for similar projects. We had two failings that are quite easy to correct for next time. One, we forgot the dried mint at the store. By which I mean, we picked it up, had it with all our other stuff, and somehow didn’t come home with it 🤷♀️ The dish is delicious without it, but don’t skip it if you can. It adds another layer of flavor. And two, we didn’t quite have the dumplings all the way submerged when they were cooking, which made the tops a little dry on some of them. Learn from our mistakes! Another side note – you should be able to find Turkish pepper at a Middle Eastern grocery. If not, substitute Aleppo pepper.
(Minimally adapted from Sultan’s Kitchen by Ozcan Ozan)
2+ cups AP flour
1 tsp salt
1+ tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup cold milk
1/2 lb ground lamb
1/2 cup onion, grated
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1/2 tsp Turkish pepper
4 grinds fresh black pepper
1/4 tsp salt
2 cups beef stock
1 2/3 cups “Greek” yogurt
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp salt
5 1/2 tbsp clarified butter
1/2 tsp Turkish pepper
1/2 tsp Aleppo pepper
1/4 tsp smoked paprika
1/4 tsp sweet paprika
1 tsp dried mint
Prepare the dough in a large bowl. Sift together the flour and salt, then create a well in the center. Lightly beat the eggs and pour these, along with the olive oil and milk into the well. Stir together with a fork until the dough starts to come together.
Then turn it out onto a floured counter-top and use your hands to form into a dough ball. Knead for ~8 minutes. Place the dough ball into a greased bowl and cover with a damp cloth to rest for 45 minutes.
Meanwhile, prepare the filling and yogurt sauce.
For the filling, combine the lamb, onion, parsley, peppers, and salt in a small bowl. Refrigerate until ready to use.
For the yogurt sauce, stir together the yogurt, garlic, and salt. Refrigerate for at least 15 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
After the dough has rested, roll it out to 1/16th inch thick. (We used our pasta roller attachment for the stand mixer.) Then cut the dough into 2 x 2 inch squares.
To make the dumplings, place ~ 1/2 tsp of meat filling in the center of each square. Bring the four corners together and then twist to seal. Press down to flatten slightly.
Place the dumplings in a greased deep baking dish (or two, depending on the size you use).
Bake them for 15-20 minutes until lightly browned. Remove the dumplings from the oven and pour stock over until all of the dumplings are just submerged in the liquid. Lower the heat to 325 degrees and return to the oven. Cook for another 10-15 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat the clarified butter in a small saucepan. Add the spices and swirl together. Keep on very low heat until ready to serve.
Once the dumplings are cooked, place some on each plate. Pour the yogurt sauce over top and then drizzle with the butter.
Tonight’s recipe is our second effort from Plenty, by Yotam Ottolenghi. Our first attempt was the super unique Eggplant & Mango Soba Noodles, which we loved! I love all things carbs, so a dish of not one, but two types of potatoes is right up my ally. We enjoyed cooking with curry leaves for the first time – so fresh and almost citrus-y! We got to explore a nearby Indian grocery a little more for some of these ingredients too, so that was fun! I expected this dish to be a little spicier (that’s what I think when I hear “vinadloo”), but it only has a mild spice to it. It is very spicED, but not spicY. So this lead me to research vindaloo a little bit. Turns out that ‘vindaloo’ comes from the Portuguese ‘carne de vinha d’alhos,’ which translates to ‘meat in garlic wine.’ This was a dish eaten by Portuguese sailors on the voyage to India because the meat was preserved. In India, the wine was replaced with vinegar, spices were added, and the name evolved to ‘vindaloo.’ So cool! I love the history of food!
We enjoyed this as a side dish (with scallops, so probably not a super common pairing 😂), but certainly it is meant to be a vegetarian main dish.
(Adapted from Plenty by Ottolenghi)
2 tbsp neutral oil
2 shallots, diced
1/2 tsp brown mustard seeds
1/2 tsp fenugreek
1 tsp cumin
2 tsp coriander
1 1/2 tsp cardamom
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp paprika
2 cinnamon sticks
1 dried red chilli
2 tbsp fresh ginger, grated or chopped
25 fresh curry leaves
3 medium tomatoes
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 cups vegetable stock
1 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 large red bell pepper
1 large Russet potato, diced
1 large sweet potato, diced
Heat the oil in a large heavy pan or a dutch oven. Cook the shallots, mustard seeds, and fenugreek over medium-high heat, for 4-5 minutes, until shallots are browned and seeds are popping.
Add the next nine ingredients (spices through curry leaves) and cook for another 3 minutes.
While those are cooking, blitz the tomatoes in a food processor. Next, add the tomatoes, along with the vinegar, stock, sugar, and salt to the dish. Bring to a boil.
Lower heat and simmer, covered, for 20 minutes. Add the potatoes and peppers and continue cooking at a simmer, covered, for 45 minutes (or more, until potatoes are tender).
Once the potatoes are tender, remove the lid and simmer for another 10 minutes so the sauce thickens.
Remove the chili pepper and cinnamon sticks. Serve topped with fresh cilantro.
Our first month of participating in the Kitchn’s Cookbook Club was a resounding success! We impressed ourselves by making several things out of September’s selection – Salt Fat Acid Heat. [See: Pasta with Clams & Sausage, Chocolate Cupcakes with Rosewater Cream, and Sausages & Roasted Veggies in Agrodolce] For October, the book selected is Indian (-ish): Recipes and Antics from a Modern American Family, by Priya Krishna. I’m super excited about this selection because this is exactly why we joined the cookbook club… this is not a book I probably would’ve picked up on my own. It’s apparently pretty popular though (or tons of people in this city are doing the cookbook club too), because all of the copies are checked out at my local libraries. Henrico County Public Library has NINETEEN holds ahead of me! Luckily, I’m in decent position on the e-book wait list. But until I get a hold of the actual book, we’re going to give some of the recipes from the book that are published on the internet a whirl.
This first choice turned out to be a good one. The marinade is easy to make, though with a one new-to-me ingredient (amchur powder). We loved the flavor and the method of cooking the chicken kept it moist. We made a few adjustments, but didn’t want to experiment too much since we’re not Indian cooking experts by any means!
Ok, so this isn’t a real tagine because, well, I didn’t make it in a tagine. I used the word in the title because it’s so evocative of the flavors and cuisine I was trying to cook tonight. I do really want a tagine one of these days, along with all sorts of other cool kitchen items I currently don’t have (I’m looking at you molcajete, fancy chopsticks, wok, Chinese soup spoons…) Using a dutch oven is a reasonable approximation, so that’s what we went with today.
We both love the flavors of the greater Middle East/Northern Africa. You may have noticed that if you’ve read more of our blog than just this post via Pinterest. I would venture a guess that dishes from that part of the world make up the highest percentage of our blog, as compared to other regions. Check out some of our other creations… they range from main dishes like Bahraini Chicken Machboos or Syrian Mini Meatballs (Dawood Basha) to Spinach & Feta Gözleme, to some of Ally’s beloved soups like Persian Spiced Lentil Soup or North African Wedding Soup, to delicious snacks like Muhammara and Spicy Feta Dip, and even Baklava! So many amazing and varied dishes! The flavors here tonight are incredibly similar to our Tangy Moroccan Meatballs, which is one of Ally’s favorite meals we’ve ever made and shared on this blog. The main differences between the two are the addition of the chickpeas tonight, which allows the dish to easily stand alone without the addition of another starch, and the obvious fact that last time we made meatballs, while this time we braised some tender lamb chunks. It’s also a bit spicier and a bit less tangy than the meatball dish. Some variety is good! Last note – this, like many other braised/stewed dishes is SO much better the longer you let it sit. Yay leftovers!
About a month ago, our friend/former co-worker Noel moved with her husband to Bahrain. Not exactly your average move to the other side of town, or across state lines. Noel has been blogging about their move and adventures halfway around the world, which is so fun to see! I was pretty jealous reading about their first Iftar in Bahrain and the gluttonous mounds of food they were offered, which prompted me to investigate the cuisine of Bahrain. From here I learned that the “national dish” of Bahrain is this one we’re sharing today, Chicken Machboos.
This is a simple chicken and rice dish, but with way more spices and flavor than the typical American comfort food version. It is not spicy, but deeply spiced. I tasted the rice both before and after the addition of the rosewater, and let me tell you… you don’t want to skip that step. Don’t fear the floral aroma! It doesn’t make your dish taste sweet or like you’re munching on a bouquet of flowers. It does bring out the flavor of all of the other spices in the dish though. Rosewater can be found at some regular grocery stores, but definitely at Middle Eastern markets. And since you’re definitely going to need to hit up a Middle Eastern market/grocer for the loomi, you now have two reasons to explore. I’ve been wanting to cook with loomi for awhile now. I love trying new ingredients! Loomi are dried limes. Sometimes they’re labelled as such, or as black limes, or even (incorrectly) as dried lemons. Loomi are used in many Middle Eastern recipes, especially those with Persian origins. To make them, fresh limes are boiled in salt water and then left out in the sun to dry. Definitely a unique taste for the average American palate! Give them a try and see what you think!
PS: Noel, what should we make next?? Send us more Bahraini/Arabic/Gulf/Middle Eastern recipes or ideas!
~3lbs mixed, bone-in chicken pieces (we used thighs & drumsticks)
2 onions, diced
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 inch fresh ginger, minced or grated
1 large jalapeno, de-seeded & minced
3 loomi/dried limes/black limes
2 medium tomatoes, diced
2 cinnamon sticks
2 1/2 cups chicken stock
2 cups basmati rice
1/4 cup chopped, fresh cilantro
1/4 cup chopped, fresh parsley
2 tbsp rosewater
*We’ve made our own baharat mixture, following these proportions, as suggested by a Syrian chef when we made Syrian Mini Meatballs (Dawood Basha). As with most spice blends, there are many variations of exact mixtures, especially regionally. Most baharat blends contain paprika; the one we follow does not, so we’ve added it to the recipe. You can also buy this blend, usually at a Middle Eastern market or similar place.
In a large dutch oven, heat the oil. Combine all of the spices in a small prep bowl to the side.
Pat all of the chicken pieces dry and season with roughly a third of the spice mixture. Fry the chicken, skin down, until brown and crispy. (You will likely have to do this in batches.) Remove pieces to the side.
Now add the onions to the hot oil. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Follow the onions with the garlic, ginger, and jalapeno. Top this with the remaining spice mixture. Continue cooking for another 6-8 minutes.
Poke holes into the dried limes and add them, along with the tomatoes, cinnamon sticks, and chicken stock, to the pot.
Return the chicken to the pot and bring the liquid to a boil. After reaching that boil, lower heat to a slow simmer and cover, cooking like this for 1 hour.
While the main dish is cooking, soak the rice in cool water. Drain when the main dish has reached that hour of cook time.
Add this point, remove the chicken to a lined cookie sheet, preheated to 325 degrees. This will bake just while while the rice is cooking.
Add the rice, cilantro, and parsley to the liquid in the dutch oven. Simmer until the rice is cooked and liquid absorbed, which should take less than 10 minutes. Remove from heat while the rice still appears wet.
Remove the cinnamon sticks and dried limes.
Sprinkle the rice with the rosewater. Adjust salt if needed.
Happy first day of spring! Or if you’re of Persian descent, Happy Nowruz! Nowruz literally translates to “new day” and is the name for the Persian new year, which occurs on the vernal (spring) equinox. The holiday has been celebrated for thousands of years and is a holy day from the Zoroastrian tradition, though it is a completely secular celebration for most, especially in the modern day. It has been a long-standing national holiday in Iran and since the collapse of the Soviet Union, many Caucasian and central Asian countries have declared it a national holiday for themselves as well. The holiday welcomes spring with a variety of traditions. Spring cleaning, visiting friends and family, a Santa Claus-like figure called Amu Nowruz with gifts for children, an elaborate table setting called haft seen, other festive decorations, and of course, eatingare all parts of the traditional celebration.
This soup isn’t a traditional Nowruz dish, but most of those gorgeous dinners and sweets involve a little more time than we have on this weekday evening! Actually, I’ve found several variations of my source recipe around the internet – apparently they’re attempts to copycat a beloved soup at a Persian restaurant in Chicago called Reza’s. So we’ll consider this soup a stepping stone towards a real Nowruz celebration one of these years coming up! (I really wanted to make ash-e reshteh, but didn’t have all of the ingredients. It seemed like a cop out to fudge on the ingredients of the traditional Nowruz first night soup, so we bailed on that idea. Maybe next year!) We made another lentil soup recently (Turkish Red Lentil Soup), and while there are some similarities to this one, the flavors end being totally different! This soup is hearty and filling (thanks lentils!), but seems like a perfect welcome to spring with its bright and tangy flavors. Consider it the perfect culinary bridge between winter (warm, hearty) and spring (bright flavors)!