A Harmony of Flavors

Monday, March 2, 2015

Reprise of my Valentine Cake

Almond Pistachio Torte with Baklava Flavors
Ever since Valentine's Day, when I made an Almond Pistachio Torte with Baklava Flavors, I have been itching to remake the torte, with some changes. Don't get me wrong - there was absolutely nothing wrong with the flavors. There was nothing wrong with the cake at all, except that if someone with less experience tries that recipe, it will yield a lot of frustration and possibly some heartbreak along with it. 

My Reasons for Making Changes

For starters, when I get going on the creation of a recipe, I am of the "more is better" school. It is really hard for me to scale back on ingredients. I also usually look for what will be the most rich, unless I am absolutely working on a recipe for paring back in some way, due to someone's dietary restrictions. Going on that theme, I used 5 eggs, 1 2/3 cup sugar, 2 sticks of butter and a half cup of heavy cream, on top of the 3+ cups of ground nuts. As I said; rich. My goal was to have the flavors of Baklava, in a cake. That much was pretty good. The actual layers of the torte were too fragile, too wet, too sunken in the middle. 

I used possibly more glaze than needed, but oh my, was that cake moist. I think part of the sinking-in-the-middle problem was too much meringue in the batter and way too much butter mixed in. When attempting to trim the very high edges, the pieces were wet enough to pack into the middle, where the layer was sunken. All this was okay, ultimately. The cake held together, but trying to move the layers onto the cake to ice them was a real trick. The flavors were wonderful. Still, I wanted something less friable. 
"New and Improved": Nut Torte with Baklava Flavors

Creating a New Version

I got thinking it has been a while since I made a dessert. Desserts are generally my specialty. And my mind once again turned to that Almond Pistachio Torte. I got out my Grandma's recipe for a Nut Torta, alongside my recipe for the Almond Pistachio Torte. The vast differences were almost funny. Grandma's cake was mostly eggs with a little sugar and 1 cup of nuts. I wanted to keep the 3 cups of ground nuts I used originally, but felt that I needed more eggs in the mix. Less as meringue, perhaps, but more overall. I thought I needed less sugar, so I lowered that quantity. I eliminated both the 2 sticks of butter (Grandma's cake has no oil or butter at all), keeping only the 1/4 cup of olive oil, which I absolutely had intended using from the get-go. 

The flavors in the original Almond Pistachio Torte were of Baklava: cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, rose water. I kept these, but used slightly more: a teaspoon apiece of cinnamon and cardamom, and I kept the rosewater at 1 teaspoon. The glaze I used on the original cake was upwards of 8 tablespoons of liquid. The cake layers were too moist to begin with. Not knowing how this second attempt would fare, I chose to lower the liquids to 4 tablespoons. As it turned out, this cake could easily have taken the amount I used in the first one. While the torte layers were in no way dry, the extra glaze would not have hurt at all either.

Nice soft crumb when fresh

In the first cake, I wanted pistachios, as my husband loves pistachios. I was going for the love, being Valentine's Day! This time I used 1 cup each of ground almonds, pecans and walnuts. Any nuts preferred will work. It can be made with all of one particular kind of nut meal, or half and half of two kinds. 

The Results

Freshly made, the torte was lovely. The layers  came out of the pans easily and were exceptionally easy to handle. Immediately sliced, the torte was nowhere near the "wet" consistency of the first torte. Obviously I could have used more of the glaze this time, rather than cutting the mixture in half. Once the cake set for a while, cut, it started to dry very quickly. Inside, it was still nice and moist as a cake should be, but the outside was not holding up. If it is meant to go quickly, this should be no problem. Another option to help it stay more moist: put less icing between the layers and stretch it to cover the sides also. I have not tasted it yet this second day, but if it was drying that quickly on the day it was made, I think I need more of something to keep it moist. More olive oil in the batter, and more glaze after baking, probably. Also this time I used all purpose flour in the batter, rather than the rice flour in the first mixture. I may go back to the rice flour concept. I have a feeling I am going to have a round 3 on this recipe before too long!

Nut Torte with Baklava Flavors

Nut Torte with Baklava Flavors

makes one 4-layer 8-inch torte

8 eggs, divided, room temperature
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/4 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon rosewater, optional
1 tablespoon fresh lemon zest
3 cups finely ground nuts of choice
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground true cinnamon, 
     (sometimes called Ceylon cinnamon)
1 teaspoon ground cardamom seeds
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 tablespoon sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease four 8-inch round pans. Cut parchment to fit the bottoms of the pans and set the parchment inside, then grease the parchment. Grind the nuts, measure out three cups worth and set aside. Sift or whisk together the flour, cinnamon, cardamom, salt, baking powder and cloves and set aside. Mix together the olive oil, vanilla extract and rosewater and set aside.

In a mixer bowl, crack in 5 of the eggs. Separate the remaining 3 eggs and put the yolks with the 5 eggs and the 3 whites in another clean bowl. Set the whole egg mixture in a stand mixer with the 1 1/4 cups sugar and beat on medium or medium high speed until the mixture is very light and fluffy and will drop slowly, ribbon-like, dissolving back into the mixture, taking a few seconds to disappear. Mix in the olive oil mixture and the lemon zest, then stir in the nuts.

With a mixer and very clean beaters, beat the 3 egg whites until they hold soft peaks. Slowly add in the tablespoon of sugar and beat to stiff peaks. Fold this mixture into the batter until no white remains. Divide the mixture evenly between the 4 pans. Bake the layers for about 15 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. 

Let the layers cool for a few minutes in the pans, then turn them out onto cooling racks. Brush on the Glaze, dividing evenly between the 4 layers.

1 tablespoon water
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon honey
1 strip (about 1 x 2 1/2-inches) lemon peel
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1-inch true cinnamon stick, crumbled
3 whole cloves

Set all the glaze ingredients in a small saucepan over very low heat and let them steep while the cake is baking. Strain the mixture and brush onto the cake layers.
Frost the layers with Honey Butter Icing (found here).

My passion is to teach people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and help pass along my love and joy of food, both simple and exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me at A Harmony of Flavors Website and Marketplace, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. 

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Chicken & Mushroom Pate to Serve with a Pinot Noir

Continuing with my testing of new recipes to pair with the wines I will showcase at this year's Winefest Renaissance, benefiting the Boys & Girls Club of Aberdeen Area, yesterday I made Chicken & Mushroom Pate. This will pair with an earthy Pinot Noir from J Vineyards. Once again, the recipe came out splendidly, and just what I hoped, flavor-wise. Gathering ideas of what to use in the making of this appetizer, I selected items from my food and varietal pairing sheets. I wanted to use mushrooms, because what is more earthy than a mushroom? Still, I wanted to pair a meat in there somewhere. Chicken seems to be the dominant meat in this year's food pairings. So far I have 3 dishes with chicken as a part of the whole. 
Pairing list

Looking through the internet, the most common pairing in a mushroom pate is chicken livers. Perhaps chicken livers are a great match. I, however, will not eat liver of any kind. Believe me, it is not that I am blacklisting something I have never tried, either. I have tried chicken liver pate; even made it once myself. I was fed beef liver as a child and hated it then. I made it as an adult and still hated it. So, no liver in my pate!

So what would be good to pair with the mushrooms, I wondered. Since I had already bought boneless, skinless chicken thighs to use in the little Pork & Chicken Sausage patties for the sliders I wrote of a couple of days ago, I felt that chicken thighs, being a dark meat, would be a great pairing with the mushrooms. I do not really care for dark meat from chicken or turkey, but if it is mixed in something I can eat it just fine. Okay then, chicken thigh meat would be used. Looking at the list of foods to pair, I chose Pecorino Romano cheese to add that sharpness to the mix. I used fresh rosemary to perk up flavors even more. 

Chicken Mushroom Pate on Pita Crisps

Recently I created a spice mixture I am calling "Pepperless Piquancy". I love pepper. particularly black Tellicherry peppercorns, freshly ground. Not everyone is quite the pepper fanatic that I am though, so I was thinking about spices that could give a similar "zip" to a dish, but contain no true pepper. I made it up a while ago, but have not posted it here in my blog because I have been judiciously testing and tasting it to see how it works. I used some of this Pepperless Piquancy in my pate. I cannot really taste it as such, but I was really loving the overall flavors. Nothing was jarring or out of place. If you do not have the spices to mix a batch of my Pepperless Piquancy to try out in this appetizer, just substitute ground pepper; even better if the Gourmet Blend sort. If looking at the Pepperless Piquancy recipe below and you note that the main ingredient is pink peppercorns, understand that pink peppercorns are not related to pepper at all, but because they resemble pepper and have a certain pepper-like sharp fruitiness, they are included in pepper blends.

Pepperless Piquancy

makes almost 1/4 cup

1 1/2 tablespoons pink peppercorns
1 tablespoon Szechuan "pepper"
1 1/2 teaspoons Grains of Paradise
1/2 tablespoons ground ginger

Toast the first three ingredients in a hot, dry skillet until they are very fragrant. Pour them out onto a plate to cool, then grind them to a powder in a spice grinder or with a mortar and pestle. Stir in the ground ginger. Store the mixture in a jar with tight fitting lid in a cool dark place.

I also used a teaspoon of black cardamom seeds, going on what our friend Rich suggested when he first smelled their smoky aroma. He felt the black cardamom would pair well with mushrooms, and it truly does. Again, not everyone will have black cardamom in their spice rack, so this is optional. If looking for the smoky quality to substitute in this appetizer, I suggest smoked paprika. Use 1/2 teaspoon, taste and add another if it is not yet of the smoky flavor you want.

Down to the Basics

Okay, I now had a creditable list of food items I wanted to use in the making of this Chicken Mushroom Pate. I debated adding some dried mushrooms but left that out. Just another step, when there is already much to do. One thing I truly meant to do was add some toasted walnuts. Unfortunately I completely forgot! Another thing I absolutely wanted to do was deglaze the pan, after cooking either the mushrooms or the chicken. I like to add wine and let it completely evaporate. It gives such great flavor intensity. Mushrooms and chicken can be bland. I was looking for ways to punch up the flavor. I had some dry Prosecco in the fridge, so I used that. Any dry white wine would do well in this instance.

Now that I had an idea of how to make the Chicken Mushroom Pate, I also had to decide what to serve the pate ON. I thought long on this aspect. My sister in law suggested using the little bagel chips. Some bagel chips I have seen are very tiny, and I was unsure how this would work. I did like the idea of using something crisp, in contrast to the soft texture of the pate. I popped over to the local grocery yesterday and picked up a pack each of Bagel Chips and also Pita Crisps. Turns out that the bagel chips are so hard and crunchy, it makes it impossible to take a bite. Either you stuff your face with the whole thing, or it crumbles and breaks. Okay, nix the bagel chips. The Pita Crisps however, were perfect. I felt like I had found Mama Bear's Chair - it was just right. They are thinner, yet have enough strength to hold the pate. It is easy to take a bite and still have the remainder stay whole. Bingo.
One serving of Chicken Mushroom Pate, to pair with a sampling of Pinot Noir

This pate is perfect to serve in a bowl with a little spreader. Since I am using this to pair with a Pinot Noir at a wine tasting event, I am serving two little pita crisps with a little scoop of pate on each as one portion. Measured out, this recipe made 68 scoops (about 1 tablespoon each), or 34 servings.

Chicken Mushroom Pate

34 servings
Chicken Mushroom Pate on Pita Crisps

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs, well trimmed
1 teaspoon Pepperless Piquancy, or ground pepper to taste
1 teaspoon salt
2 - 3 cloves fresh garlic, minced

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion (about 6 - 6 1/2 ounces), finely chopped
1 pound mushrooms (I used Baby Bellas), sliced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black cardamom seeds, ground, optional
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary leaves, finely minced
2/3 cup champagne or dry white wine

more olive oil, for frying the chicken
3 tablespoons fresh parsley, finely chopped
3 ounces (1 cup grated) Pecorino Romano cheese 
1/2 cup heavy cream, divided
parsley leaves, for garnish

First, make sure the chicken is well trimmed of fat and cut into small pieces, none larger than 1-inch. Sprinkle on the Pepperless Piquancy, salt and the minced garlic and mix together well. Set this aside while preparing the mushroom mixture.

mushrooms releasing liquid  |  liquid cooked out  |  wine added  |  wine evaporated  |  chicken well browned
Heat a large skillet, preferably nonstick, and add in the butter and tablespoon of olive oil. Once melted, add the minced onion and lower heat to medium low, cooking the onion very slowly, about 8 minutes, until softened and golden. Add the mushrooms to the onions in the pan and raise the heat to medium high. It will seem a lot at first, but they will cook down quickly. Add in the 1/2 teaspoon salt, black cardamom, if using. Cook, stirring for 15 to 18 minutes, until all the liquid that releases from the mushrooms is cooked out, and the  mushrooms are golden brown. Add in the rosemary and the champagne and cook quickly, stirring, until all the wine has evaporated, 5 to 8 minutes. Pour this mixture into a large bowl to cool. 

Before and after processing the mixture
Return the skillet to the heat and add in a little more olive oil. Pour in the chicken mixture and cook on medium high, tossing continually to brown evenly and cook the meat through, about 6 to 8 minutes. Once meat is cooked through, add to the bowl with the mushrooms. Add in the parsley. Let the mixture cool to room temperature. 

Once cooled, add the Pecorino and mix. Using a food processor, process the mixture very fine in two batches. During this process, add in half the heavy cream to each batch being processed. Remove to a bowl and mix well. This can be made 1 or 2 days in advance. The mixture can also be frozen until needed. Thaw completely before using.

My passion is to teach people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and help pass along my love and joy of food, both simple and exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me at A Harmony of Flavors Website and Marketplace, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Mini Sliders to Pair with a Barbera Wine

The 3rd annual Winefest Renaissance fundraiser, held by the Boys & Girls Club of Aberdeen, will take place this year on March 28th. I have selected the wines I will be presenting along with the foods I plan to pair with the wines (to both the food and wine's best advantage, I hope). I do not have the wines to taste here at home, though I would like to buy some of them to try out myself. My creation of the foods to pair with these wines is based on various criteria:

Pork & Chicken Thigh Fresh Sausage Mini Sliders with Cherry Onion Mustard

  • The descriptions of the bouquet of the particular wine (found online in many places, but most prominently on the site of the winery itself) such as cherry cola, blueberries, red fruits.
  • The descriptors for the wine's flavor characteristics, such as blackberry, plum, black cherry, herbs, oak, vanilla.
  • My own lists of foods that pair best with a particular varietal.
Size of Sausage Patties
When taking into consideration the descriptors for aroma and flavor, in many cases it helps to select a particular food that also has that flavor. In the case of the Terra D'Oro Barbera, I created tiny little sliders. The testing is done, the sliders are perfectly flavored, and i believe they will fit the criteria and pair well with the Barbera wine at the event in late March.

I wanted to use full flavors. Barbera is a wine that plays well with food, much as does Pinot Noir. I created a fresh sausage patty using both pork loin and chicken thighs and lots of wonderful spices and herbs to make them flavorful. I made the patties very tiny, about a scant 2-inches in diameter. Yesterday I made my Mom's Bread Updated recipe, which yields 4 loaves. After forming 3 loaves for bread, I took the portion of dough for the last loaf and made my tiny little slider buns. This amount yielded about 26 little buns, at between 67 to 71 grams apiece. I use a little kitchen scale to ensure they were all the same relative size. At this small a weight, it is easier to use grams to quickly see the differences. Once the breads were formed to rise, I started on the Cherry Onion Mustard. It turned out so wonderfully tasty, I couldn't stop snitching little tastes of it. Yum.

Size of the whole Slider Sandwich
Once I got all the components done and put together, I could not have been happier with the flavors. The little sausage patties were perfectly seasoned, the Cherry Onion Mustard was a perfect match and the buns were the perfect size, light and fluffy and airy enough they did not make the tiny, two-or-three-bite sandwich too bready.

I "ground" the meats in a food processor. When using a food processor for this purpose, it leaves any fat in long, unappetizing strings. Because of this, I trimmed all visible fat from the meat, leaving very lean patties. I did add in a little lard to the meat mixture, just for some succulence for the meat.

Pork & Chicken Thigh Sausage Patties
Pork & Chicken Fresh Sausage Mini Sliders

makes about 26 mini slider size patties

1/2 pound pork loin
1/2 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
2 teaspoons chili powder
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon (more if desired) Chipotle powder
1/2 teaspoon ground mace
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme leaves, rubbed
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano leaved, rubbed
2 teaspoons onion powder
2 cloves fresh garlic minced or through a press
1 tablespoon lard
3 tablespoons powdered milk

Trim all visible fat from the meats, cut into small chunks. Process one meat at a time, till ground similarly to sausage meat. If any fat was left on the meat, it will be found now! As the meats are ground, remove them to a bowl. Add in all the spices, lard and milk powder and mix well but lightly with fingers or a spoon. If making these patties as mini slider appetizers, form the meat into tiny patties to weigh 0.75-ounce or about 21 grams. Optional: Make 4 larger patties for regular sized buns. If making these tiny patties, flatten each little portion to about 1/4 inch thick. On medium high heat, melt extra oil or lard to fry the patties. As tiny slider size, they cooked through in about 3 to 4 minutes, flipping them halfway through cooking. 

I was particularly taken with the thought of the "cherry, black cherry and cherry cola flavors listed in the wine's aroma and flavor. The thought of using cherries somehow in this recipe seemed a no-brainer. Cherry and mustard? Oh, yes! It is wonderful to find a match of a sweet element with a savory one, and this recipe for Cherry Onion Mustard is really flavorful on its own! Granted, we do not generally sit with a bowl of mustard to eat, but this mixture is so flavorful, with the perfect balance of sweet to sour and just enough tang to stand up to the well-seasoned meat patties. I believe this Cherry Onion Mustard would go well on any full flavored meat, and even to serve with cheese. I thought, while cooking the jam, about the possibility of canning this mixture, as it is most wonderful. As yet, I have not researched this, but if or when I do, I will post it here. For now, I have plenty to use for the event.

I realize not everyone has pickled mustard seeds in their fridge, but I do. I felt that they would lend a little bit of texture and color to the mixture. Using the pickled mustard seeds is not absolutely needful. Another whole grain mustard will also work well instead. 

Cherry Onion Mustard

makes about 2 cups

Cherry Onion Mustard with Pickled Mustard Seeds
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 red onion, finely chopped (2 cups)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup dried cherries, finely chopped
2/3 cup white sugar
2/3 cup (plain) rice vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, finely minced

3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons Pickled Mustard Seeds 
OR: 2 tablespoons each Dijon & whole grain mustard

In a large sauce pot melt the butter and add in the oil over medium to medium low heat. Add in the onions and salt. Saute very gently. If the mixture is cooking too quickly, lower the heat. For the first 15 minutes of cooking, stir the mixture occasionally, so the onions cook evenly. Continue cooking  for another 15 minutes, stirring very often, to reduce the onion and very lightly caramelize. From the original 2 cups, there should be about 1/2 cup once well sauteed.

Add in the cherries with the sugar, vinegar and rosemary. Cook this mixture over medium low heat, or whatever temperature maintains a simmer for about 10 or 15 minutes, until the mixture is looking much like a jam. Remove from heat and add in the mustards and stir well to combine. Store in a clean jar with a tight fitting lid in the refrigerator for 3 - 4 weeks

Lastly, the Bread

Tiny little buns
As for the breads, if you do not make your own, simply buy frozen bread dough. Once thawed, use one loaf and cut off small balls and flatten them as much as possibly; they will puff up later on anyway. Set the flattened balls onto a greased baking sheet and let them rise to about doubled in size. Before baking, for a prettier finish, use one egg yolk with a tablespoon or two of water whisked in and with a pastry brush, apply the egg wash to the little buns, being careful not to poke them and deflate. My little buns baked in a preheated 350 degree oven and were done in about 12 minutes. Depending on your oven, keep watching at about 10 minutes. They should be golden and shiny.

To form these tiny sliders, cut each little bun open and set one sausage patty on. Use about 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of the Cherry Onion Mustard to the top of the patty and serve with the bun lid askew for a jaunty presentation. 

My passion is to teach people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and help pass along my love and joy of food, both simple and exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me at A Harmony of Flavors Website and Marketplace, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. 

Monday, February 23, 2015

Curry Leaf is Great in Indian Cuisine

Ah, Curry Leaves. I do miss them. In Florida I had a plant that grew beautifully, giving me the ability to run out and pick them as needed. I just love the flavors imparted when using them in a dish. The first time I saw this plant I had no idea what it was. When living in Louisiana, we had Indian acquaintances, and Priti had a plant in her yard. It was not until much later that I found out what it was and got a plant of my own. I was so glad I did, as I used it very often. Once I learned the flavor, I added it to many of my Indian meals.
Curry Leaves - Murraya koenigii

The plant easily self-sows, and I soon had a second plant growing alongside the first. I figured it could be my backup, in case something happened to one. At the time I owned the plant, I had no idea that the seeds were also edible, and never even took photos of them, though they were abundant.

Not to be confused with the European Curry Plant, Helichrysum italicum, Curry Leaves come from the Curry plant, Murraya koenigii. It is a tender, evergreen shrub reaching up to 20 feet tall in its native southwest Asian habitat. It grows in the foothills of the Himalayas, southern India and Sri Lanka, and is cultivated in many Indian gardens. The leaves are a mid green in color and grow about 16 to 20 on each small stalk. The small, star shaped white flowers grow in clusters in summer, followed by edible, peppery tasting black berries. It is best to use the leaves fresh as they have little flavor once dried. A handful of dried leaves are needed to take the place of just a few, if fresh.

Closeup of Flower of the Curry Leaf Plant

The leaves have the flavor of a curry dish, and lend this flavor where used, along with a slight citrus-like scent. The whole leaf stalk may be added to a dish and removed later. The leaves may be fried quickly at the beginning of cooking to release flavor into the oil being used. Curry leaves are an ingredient in Madras curry powder, and are often used in dishes with brown mustard seeds and dried red chiles. This Indian dish using curry leaves is one of my favorites, though the photo is not my own:

Fragrant Lemon Rice

Serves 6 - 8
Fragrant Lemon Rice

6 cups cooked basmati rice (2 cups raw makes 
    6 cups cooked)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
½ teaspoon brown mustard seeds
½ cup raw peanuts or cashews
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
1 teaspoon fresh garlic, peeled and chopped
1 teaspoon sugar
½ teaspoon ground turmeric
20 - 30 curry leaves (2 - 3 sprigs)
2 teaspoons salt
3 tablespoons lemon juice
½ cup water, if needed

If rice has just been made, cool completely first, stirring often. Put in refrigerator and stir occasionally until cool.

Mix together the ginger, garlic, sugar, turmeric, curry leaves, salt and lemon juice. Set aside.

In large frying pan, over medium-high heat, warm the oil. Add the mustard seeds, saute until they turn grey and start sputtering, about 30 seconds. Make sure not to burn. WARNING: Mustard seeds can sputter out of the pan very easily!

Add the peanuts or cashews and saute until light brown, about two minutes. Add the spice mixture and saute for an additional two minutes. Add the rice and mix well with the spices, mustard seeds and peanuts. Continue stirring until everything has been mixed together and the rice is heated through. This dish is best served hot or at room temperature. 

Closeup of Curry Leaves
This Fragrant Lemon Rice recipe is easily made with leftover white rice, and also makes a good, Indian breakfast meal. While the Curry leaves really add wonderful flavor to this dish, the dish can easily be made without them. The leaves, with their slightly resinous and citrus-like flavors enhance the lemon flavors, but are by no means completely necessary to make this lovely and fragrant dish. If you have access to curry leaves though, you must give them a try.

Growing this plant is very rewarding

Grow this plant as a small shrub outdoors in temperate climates, or in a container to bring indoors. This is a great way to keep curry leaves available for all your Indian and Asian cooking. The small tree has elegant foliage and a unique aroma. Botanically it is so closely related to citrus that it can serve as a rootstock for grafting lemon trees. The plant needs moist, rich soil and full sun to part shade and a temperate climate. It can be grown from seed or cuttings in summer. Plants grown in cool areas or under too much cover tend to attract aphids, scale and red spider mites, so keep the plant in sun. The curry tree will be far smaller, if grown in a container. If you are so fortunate as to find this plant, do try growing it. The rewards of having this marvelous flavor at hand are great.

My passion is to teach people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and help pass along my love and joy of food, both simple and exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me at A Harmony of Flavors Website and Marketplace, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Flank Steak Rolls a Hit at Wine Tasting

Host, Ty, at left: gathering around the foods
Last evening an informal wine tasting was held at the lovely home of Ty and Ann Hanson. I made a few appetizers to contribute to the foods. I have to say I had more fun last evening than I have in a long while. The circle of friends attending were all lovely and convivial. I had a few people who love cooking, and with whom to bounce ideas back and forth. My husband had someone to talk computer geek stuff. We both came away from the evening happy and grateful for such lovely people and such a lovely time. 

Michelle Podoll setting out the wines
I wrote about this upcoming event about 10 days ago, when I was doing a trial run of a couple of the recipes I was planning. My goal is always to pair foods with wines in a way that brings out the best in both. I had created the Lemon Thyme Chicken Fillo Cups to pair with a Ferarri Carano Chardonnay and also with a Pinot Noir. I am happy to report, after last evening's event, that this appetizer paired well with both these wines. The wines presented ranged from about $13 to $73 in price. There was a Cabernet Sauvignon from Spain, a Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, two Zinfandels, a Rhone varietal blend and a Chardonnay from California, an Italian Chianti and a Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand. 

Asiago/cream cheese logs
The other appetizer I had made as a trial run on that same day needed a little modification. This second appetizer was Flank and Asiago Rolls. In the trial run I rolled a narrow rectangle of Asiago cheese with a sliver of scallion in the individual flank steak bites. The fact that Asiago will tend to crumble a bit meant that in some of the rolls, sticking the toothpick through the roll meant the cheese broke in half. Plus, the cheese was a bit overwhelming this way. My sister-in-law, who was there to taste these trial runs, suggested maybe grating the cheese and mixing with cream cheese. I thought this was a great idea. I wanted to keep the strength of flavor of the Asiago, being the component that would make it a good pairing with the strength of the Cabernet Sauvignons being served.

While prepping for the event of last evening, I did grate the Asiago cheese finely (using a small-holed grater (rendering thin strings much like the fresh grated Parmesan one finds in the grocery) and mix in just enough cream cheese to make the mixture form-able. I wanted to roll the cheese into narrow logs this time, making it easier to roll in the sliced meat segments. I ended up with 84 little logs, 6 to 7 grams, or .21 to .25 ounces each. I was completely happy because, as it turned out, I had only two thin bits of the flank steak left, after using the entire 84 cheese logs. Great eye for what was needed (as I pat myself on the back!).

Flank & Asiago Rolls, served
How many appetizers this recipe will yield depends on how one slices the flank steak, and how accurately the little cheese logs are weighed. The cheese logs can easily vary widely, so I used a little scale to ensure they did not vary beyond 6 grams. I have sliced many flank steaks for similar type appetizers, so I have some practice, but it is not a difficult thing to do. There will be waste involved (which we are happy to devour!). Ends that are too thick and not long enough to make into a roll - there is no getting around the waste there. Some slices will end up thicker than others. Just keep slicing and thinking "thin".

Flank & Asiago Rolls

makes about 80 to 85, approximately
Flank & Asiago Rolls

2.3 pound flank steak
1/4 cup Sweet Smoky Cocoa Rub 
1/4 cup olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon chipotle powder

6 - 8 cloves garlic, minced finely

12 ounces Asiago cheese, grated finely
8 ounces cream cheese, softened

1/4 cup Hoisin Sauce
scallions, slivered for rolling
toothpicks for skewering

The hostess, Ann, prepping salad
One or two days before, Combine the Sweet Smoky Cocoa Rub with the olive oil, salt, chipotle powder and garlic. Place the flank steak into a gallon sized zip-top bag. Take one half of the oil mixture and rub evenly onto the steak in the bag. Flip over the bag, and apply the remaining mixture evenly onto that second side of the steak. Seal the bag and place in the refrigerator for 1 or 2 days.

Up to 3 days in advance, prepare the cheese. Grate the Asiago finely, and using hands or a hand mixer, thoroughly combine with the cream cheese. It is best to use a scale or some implement to make all the cheese logs of equal size. Measure out a small amount. Six grams is plenty. Roll this into a log about 2 inches long. Repeat with the remaining mixture, setting the logs into a container as shown in the photo above. Set waxed paper between layers. 

Have ready the scallions. If larger, slice lengthwise down the scallion, then cut this into lengths about 2 or so inches long. Store these in a zip-top baggie in the fridge if making the day before or earlier in the day.

The day before, or early on the day needed, preheat the broiler with the oven rack on the second level from the top. Set a rack onto a low rimmed baking sheet (cover the baking sheet with foil for easy cleanup later), set the steak on the rack and place under the broiler for approximately 6 minutes per side. Remove from oven and tent with foil until cooled. The meat can be sliced at this point, but there will be far more mess. If possible, once the meat is cooled, wrap and store in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours or overnight before slicing; once sliced, the slices can be stored one more night in the fridge.

Once ready to slice, begin at one end, cutting across the long grain of the meat. Set the knife at an angle away from you to get wider strips of meat. All that is vitally important is that all the slices be across the grain, ensuring tender meat. Slice the meat as thinly as possible. Once the meat is too wide for the knife to span easily, slice it into two sections lengthwise. Then, continue to slice off thin pieces until all the meat is used up. I used a 2.3 pound piece of flank to yield the 86 rolls. The slices of meat will need to be long enough to wrap around the cheese log and scallion sliver.

It takes about 40 minutes to make all the rolls. Set the Hoisin Sauce in a small bowl and have a pastry brush ready. Set the flank slices, cheese logs, scallions and toothpicks arrayed near you. Lay out a slice of meat and using the pastry brush, dab a small amount of Hoisin sauce on the slice. Set one cheese log and a sliver of scallion across the width of the meat and roll to encase. Skewer with a toothpick. Repeat with all the remaining meat. These should be eaten the day they are rolled as the scallions become soggy if kept too long.

My passion is to teach people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and help pass along my love and joy of food, both simple and exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me at A Harmony of Flavors Website and Marketplace, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. .