Monday, March 5, 2018

Mukmura (or Mahmoora) Chicken




For the full article, head over to The Nosher ...


There are three distinctive Jewish Indian groups that happened to be largely isolated from each other: the Cochin Jews of Kerala in South India, the Bene Israel Jews of India’s West Coast and Mumbai, and the Jews of Kolkata in East India (formerly known as Calcutta). In The Book of Jewish Food, Claudia Roden recounts how Shalom Cohen from Aleppo was the first known Jew to settle in Kolkata in 1798. Soon after, Syrian and Iraqi Jews followed and developed a strong community there, where they worked as merchants and traders, and lived in harmony with their neighbors. Things changed in 1947 when India gained independence, and again in 1948 with the creation of the State of Israel; anti-Semitism grew as the Jews became associated with the colonial British power. During that time, most of the Jews from Kolkata immigrated to Israel, the US, England, and Australia. This once vibrant Jewish Indian community is now all but gone from Kolkata.

While only a handful of Jews still live in Kolkata, the food from this community has travelled with its people. Their style of cooking involves a combination of ingredients and preparations from the Middle East, with the spices and techniques of Indian cuisine. There are several cookbooks and articles devoted to Sephardic foods and Indian Jewish cookery that have documented some of the dishes of the Jews from Kolkata. I was first struck by a recipe I found in both Copeland Marks’ book, Sephardic Cooking, as well as in Indian Jewish Cooking, by Mavis Hyman. Mukmura (or Mahmoora) is a dish of chicken and almonds in a slightly sweetened tangy lemon sauce. I like any recipe that looks like it is simple to prepare but still offers big flavors, and this was clearly that. This chicken dish calls for easy to find bold ingredients like ginger, garlic, ground turmeric, lemon juice, and fresh mint. The chicken is braised, which means the meat won’t get dry, and it can easily be made in advance for entertaining, Shabbat, and holidays. By slowly simmering all of the ingredients together you develop a slightly sweet and sour sauce with all those warm spices and aromatics. After making the dish a few times, I experimented with some tweaks to the original method to boost the flavor even more, like browning the chicken before braising it, and being generous with the lemon juice and ginger. This dish is simultaneously comforting and exciting. It is the type of food that makes you feel like you’re eating something exotic and new, but with the benefit of having accomplished that from the comfort of your own home kitchen.




Mukmura
Kolkata-Style Chicken and Almonds in a Lemon Sauce
Serves 4

Ingredients:
1 4-5 lb. chicken, cut into 8-10 serving pieces
1 teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste
2-3 tablespoons oil
1 medium white or yellow onion, chopped fine (about 1½ cups)
2 large garlic cloves, minced fine
1 Tablespoon freshly grated ginger
1½ teaspoons ground turmeric
1 cup water
¼ cup raisins, rinsed
¼ cup sliced or slivered unsalted almonds, without skin
¼ cup fresh lemon juice, about 2 lemons
1½ Tablespoons agave syrup or 2 teaspoons sugar
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh mint, or to taste
lemon wedges, for garnish

Directions:
  1. Cut the chicken into 8-10 pieces; reserve the backbone for chicken broth if desired. You can also find a pre-cut whole chicken, or you can use 4-5 lbs. of your preferred bone-in skin-on chicken parts. Season the chicken pieces with a teaspoon of kosher salt.
  2. On medium high heat, heat a large Dutch oven or deep skillet with a lid. Add a drizzle of oil to the pot and then brown the chicken pieces on each side, about 2-3 minutes per side or until golden brown. Brown the chicken in batches if needed so as not to overcrowd the pot. Remove the browned chicken and reserve.
  3. Over medium heat, add the diced onions to the same pot so the browned bits that remain on the bottom can flavor the onion. Add an additional drizzle of oil if there is not enough remaining chicken drippings. Sauté the onion until softened and beginning to turn golden but not browned, about 5-6 minutes.
  4. Add the minced garlic, grated ginger, and turmeric to the onion mixture. Sauté for another 1-2 minutes, or until fragrant.
  5. Add the reserved browned chicken back to the pot in a single layer. Pour the water over the chicken.
  6. Bring the liquid up to a simmer and then lower the heat and cover the pot. Simmer for 20 minutes.
  7. Add the raisins, almonds, lemon juice, and agave syrup to the pot. If your water has significantly reduced, add a little more water so there’s liquid in the pot. Cover the lid again and simmer an additional 15-20 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through with an internal temperature of at least 165°F. Taste and season with more salt if necessary.
  8. Transfer the chicken to a serving dish, pour the sauce over the chicken, and top everything with freshly chopped mint and a few lemon wedges. Serve with rice or your favorite side.
  9. Chicken can be made a day in advance and reheats well.



Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Tahini Chocolate Chunk Cookies (with Rye Flour)


For the full article, head over to .alma

...What I love most about these cookies is that they’re endlessly versatile. I like to add rye flour to the batter for extra nuttiness, and flake salt before baking for a pop of flavor and crunch, but you could easily use entirely all purpose flour and leave the flake salt out completely. If you’re not into chocolate, you could substitute the two cups of chocolate chunks with two cups of chopped dried fruit or chopped nuts. If you’re feeling adventurous (or frisky?) you can even use all three. In keeping with romantic cliches, just as in matters of finding true love, these cookies benefit from patience. If you chill the batter overnight the cookies taste even better when you bake them off the next day. But between you and me, you can break the rules and succumb to instant gratification and make the cookies the same day and they’ll still work out just fine.

I always hope that Valentine’s Day can be less a celebration of coupledom and traditional forms of romantic love, and more of a an excuse to celebrate all love-filled relationships, including with one’s self. I can assure you that whether these are made for your partner, secret crush, lonely hearts club band, or for you yourself and only you, making these cookies in all their tahini-chocolate goodness is a rich expression of love and all things good.



Tahini Chocolate Chunk Cookies
Makes 24 cookies

Ingredients:
¾ cup all purpose flour
¼ cup + 2 Tablespoons rye flour (optional, can substitute this with all purpose flour)
¾ teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ cup tahini
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
¾ cup brown sugar
¼ cup sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
2 cups (8 oz) chopped chocolate chunks or chips
Flake salt, as needed (optional)

Directions:
1.     In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, rye flour if using, salt, baking soda, and baking powder. Reserve.
2.     Using a stand-mixer or handheld electric mixer, cream together the tahini, butter, brown sugar, and white sugar until light and fluffy, about 3-4 minutes. You can also do this by hand, but it will take slightly longer.
3.     Add in the egg, and mix until well incorporated.
4.     On a low speed, slowly add in the flour mixture to the tahini mixture. Mix until just incorporated, be careful not to overmix.
5.     Stir in the chocolate chunks until just incorporated. Ideally, refrigerate the cookie dough for 24 hours or overnight. If you can’t wait that long, let it chill in the fridge for at least one hour.
6.     Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
7.     Scoop out the dough, one heaping tablespoon at a time, and roll into equal-sized balls. You can also use a small ice cream scoop to do this. Place the dough balls on the baking sheets a few inches apart - they will spread as they bake. Sprinkle the dough with flake salt, if desired.
8.     Bake for 12-14 minutes, or until golden around the edges. Allow the cookies to cool for 2 minutes on the baking sheet, then transfer to a wire rack to finish cooling.
9.     Cookies can be stored in an airtight container for up to 3 days.


Saturday, February 3, 2018

Spiced Pomegranate Molasses Wings




As written for The Nosher

What do I want in a wing? Something that is crispy with a sauce that packs tons of flavor. Pomegranate molasses is a perfect base for wing sauce. Pomegranate molasses isn’t a molasses at all, it’s actually just pomegranate juice that is reduced until it is thick and syrupy. You can even make it yourself at home, but it is easy to come by at any Middle Eastern or Persian market, as well as online. I’ve even spotted it at Whole Foods. Pomegranate molasses is tangy, a little sweet, and with the dark and shiny sheen of real molasses. It’s a common ingredient in Middleeastern cooking, where it’s added to all kinds of dishes from stews, to dips, to glazes for meats, and more. If you’ve ever read an Yotam Ottolenghi cookbook, than you know it’s also one of his favorite ingredients to add to vegetable dishes.

Years ago, I first got inspired to add pomegranate molasses to wings when I saw Aarti Sequeira make a version of this dish on Aarti Party, her Indian-themed cooking show. Since then I’ve reworked the dish to skew it towards my own preferences, and in a slightly more Middle Eastern direction. These wings get generously marinated in a spice mixture of coriander, cumin, cardamom, allspice, and pepper. The pomegranate molasses sauce gets Sriracha added to it for heat, which is a decidedly un-Middle Eastern ingredient, but a perfect compliment to the dish with its peppery garlicky spiciness. To make cooking for a crowd a little easier, the wings are baked not fried; they still crisp up nicely, but you don’t have to deal with the mess, work, or the extra calories that comes with deep frying. Spiced pomegranate molasses wings have become a staple party food recipe in our house, Superbowl Sunday or otherwise.



Spiced Pomegranate Molasses Wings
Serves 4-6 (recipe can be doubled and tripled to serve a larger crowd)

For the wings-
2 lbs. chicken wings
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
½ teaspoon ground cardamom
½ teaspoon ground allspice

For the pomegranate molasses sauce-
⅓ cup pomegranate molasses
3 tablespoons maple syrup or agave, or to taste
2 tablespoons Sriracha, or to taste
1 tablespoon oil (coconut, safflower, or canola)
Salt and pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons vegan butter

Directions:
1.     Pat the chicken wings dry and place them in a large bowl.
2.     In a small bowl, combine the salt and spices. Add the spices to the chicken, and toss the wings until they are all well coated. Cover and refrigerate the wings for 1 hour to allow the chicken to marinade in the spice mixture.
3.     Preheat the oven to 400°F. Place a rack on a baking sheet and spray or brush the rack with oil. If you don’t have a rack to cook the wings on, you can place them directly on a baking sheet, they will just get slightly less crisped. Add the marinated wings to the baking sheet, leaving ½” of room between each wing.

4.     Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until cooked through with an internal temperature of at least 165°F. Flip the wings once after 15 minutes of cooking time.
5.     While the wings are in the oven, prepare the pomegranate molasses sauce. Add the pomegranate molasses, maple syrup, Sriracha, and a tablespoon of oil to a small pot. Heat on medium low, and allow the sauce to simmer for 10 minutes, or until the sauce has slightly thickened. Taste and add salt & pepper as needed, or more Sriracha/maple syrup depending on your preference and the tanginess of the pomegranate molasses.
6.     Once simmered and slightly reduced, remove from the heat and add the vegan butter; this will add a smooth richness to the sauce.

7.     Once the chicken is cooked, transfer it to a large heatproof bowl, pour the warm sauce all over the chicken, and toss until everything is well coated. Serve hot with your favorite sides or dipping sauces.


Salad Olivier




Full article is available via The Nosher
...This salad was first prepared by Lucien Olivier in the 1860’s. Olivier was the French chef of a famous restaurant in Moscow called The Hermitage, hence the very French name for this now popular Russian saladAlso, Russians were obsessed with French culture at that time. Salad Olivier was an immediate hit, and it became the restaurant’s signature dish. Originally, it was made with crayfish, capers, and even grouse. After the revolution, simpler and easier to come by ingredients were more commonly adapted into the recipe. These ingredients are also all conveniently available in the dead of winter.
The popularity of the salad spread beyond Russia to Eastern Europe, the Balkans, and even to Iran and Pakistan. In fact, in our family we call this dish Salad de Boeuf (pronounced as “de beff”), which is what this salad is inexplicably called in Romania and Western Ukraine. Boeuf means “beef” in French, and this salad contains no beef at all. In each geographic locale, the salad might differ slightly. Sometimes the potatoes are mashed instead of cubed, or there’s shredded chicken instead of smoked meat, or sometimes there’s no meat at all, as was the custom in our family. What makes this type of potato salad uniquely a Salad Olivier is the presence of potatoes combined with carrots, peas, pickles, and hard boiled eggs. Everything should be chopped to roughly the same size. The appeal of something seemingly odd and vaguely average is ultimately mysterious, but the combination of hearty firm potatoes, sweet cooked carrots, crisp pickles, earthy peas, and silky eggs in a creamy tangy dressing just works. The ingredients meld all together, each losing its own particular edge to combine to make a complete range of salty, sweet, tangy, satisfying tastes in each bite. I think this salad’s enduring and far-reaching popularity proves that it’s eaten for more than tradition’s sake.
If you’re going to attempt to make this for the first time there are a few things to know. For one, this recipe reflects how my family likes this dish. If you’ve had this before it might be slightly different from what you’re used to. More importantly, the quality of each ingredient matters to the overall success of the dish. I like to use Yukon Gold potatoes because they hold up well and have a pleasant rich sweetness, but you can definitely try it with your favorite potato. Taste the carrots before you cook them; they should be sweet and flavorful, not the dull astringent variety you sometimes end up with. The best pickles for this dish are ones that come from the refrigerator section, that still have a crunch, and are brined in salt with zero vinegar added. They’re also known as “naturally fermented” pickles. The type of mayonnaise you use is also key, and I swear by Hellmann's/Best Foods brand mayo.

Salad Olivier
Serves 6-8

Ingredients:
For the salad-
1.5 lbs Yukon Gold potatoes, about 4-5 medium
3 large carrots
4 large eggs
3 large dill pickles, or to taste (use naturally fermented/brined pickles)
1 cup frozen peas, thawed (you can substitute with fresh cooked peas or even canned)

For the dressing-
1 cup good quality mayonnaise
2 tablespoons olive oil
Juice of ½ a lemon, or to taste
1 Tablespoon pickle liquid (optional)
¾ Tablespoon kosher salt, or to taste
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh dill (optional)



Directions:
1.     Wash the potatoes and carrots well. Add them to a pot, and fill with water. Bring the water to a boil, and boil the potatoes and carrots until easily pierced through with a knife. The carrots will cook faster, about 15-20 minutes. Once they’re tender remove them from the pot and allow the potatoes to finish cooking, about 15-20 minutes more, or 30-35 minutes in total. Be careful not to overcook your potatoes and carrots, you do not want them to end up as mush in the salad. Once cooked, set aside to cool or refrigerate. This step can be up to 2 days in advance.
2.     While the potatoes and carrots are cooking, hard boil your eggs and allow them to cool.
3.     Once cooled, carefully remove the peels from your potatoes. You can either remove or keep the peel on your carrots depending on your preference.
4.     Cube all of the potatoes, carrots, and eggs to the same size. I like a medium-small dice.
5.     Dice the pickles slightly smaller than the other ingredients as they have a stronger flavor.
6.     Add the cubed potatoes, carrots and eggs to a large bowl. Add the pickles and thawed peas to the bowl.
7.     In a separate small bowl, combine all of the ingredients for the dressing and whisk together. Taste and adjust accordingly.


8.     Add the dressing to the potato mixture, and carefully stir until everything is fully coated in the dressing. Taste and add more salt if desired (every brand of kosher salt differs in salinity). If you want it creamier/tangier, add more mayonnaise or lemon juice. You can also use sour cream or yogurt if desired.
9.     Allow the salad to chill for at least one hour before serving so that the flavors can all come together. This salad can be made up to a day in advance, and stores well for 2 days. You can also make this without the dressing up to 3 days in advance, then add the dressing before serving.
10.   Before serving, transfer the salad to a serving bowl. This salad is known for being creatively decorated and festively garnished with fresh herbs, vegetable roses, etc. You can doll it up in any way you like.