My high school French teacher organized a trip to France one summer, and along the way I was introduced to and discovered my love of Moroccan food. I have no idea if that particular meal, or my subsequent forays into Moroccan cuisine are entirely authentic, but nonetheless, I think I love Moroccan food. I still have yet to taste better couscous than my first experience in Marseille. If I had only bothered to note the name of that restaurant, my search for that amazing couscous would have been much easier during my college semester in France.
B’stilla, a Moroccan version of a chicken pie (made with phyllo pastry and layered with an almond-powdered sugar-cinnamon mixture) is one of my favorite Moroccan dishes. I came across this recipe after I accidentally purchased phyllo instead of puff pastry and searched for a way to use it up. This dish is definitely not simple – quite labor intensive, actually – but I love B’stilla so much I decided to give it a try.
The outcome was good, the taste was what I wanted, although next time I think I would decrease the sugar just a tad. And, it came out a little soggy, which was my own fault not the recipe (I forgot to cut slits for steam to escape and didn’t thicken the sauce). But overall, I was pretty happy with the results.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
- 1/8 teaspoon crumbled saffron threads
- 1 tablespoon all purpose flour
- 2 cups low-salt chicken broth
- 1 1/2 pounds skinless boneless chicken thighs
- 1/4 cup chopped golden raisins
- 1/2 bunch chopped fresh cilantro
- 1/2 cup slivered almonds
- 2 tablespoons powdered sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 10 sheets (about 17×12 inches) fresh phyllo pastry or frozen, thawed
- 1/2 cup (about) unsalted butter, melted (for brushing)
Heat oil in heavy large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and sauté until tender, about 10 minutes. Mix in cinnamon, ginger, turmeric, and saffron; stir 1 minute. Sprinkle flour over; stir 1 minute. Add broth; bring to simmer. Sprinkle chicken with salt; add to broth mixture. Gently simmer chicken uncovered until cooked through, reducing heat if necessary to prevent boiling, about 20 minutes. Stir in raisins. Set skillet aside until chicken is cool enough to handle.
Transfer chicken to plate. Shred chicken coarsely and return to skillet. If sauce is thin, simmer over medium heat until sauce coats chicken thickly. Stir in cilantro. Season filling with salt and pepper. Cool filling completely. (Can be made 2 days ahead) Cover; chill.
Finely grind almonds, powdered sugar, 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt, and cinnamon in food processor.
Stack 10 phyllo sheets on work surface. Invert 9-inch glass pie dish onto stack. Cut around dish through phyllo, making ten 10-inch rounds. Remove dish. Cover rounds with plastic wrap and damp kitchen towel.
Brush same pie dish with melted butter. Place 1 phyllo round on work surface; brush with butter and sprinkle with scant 1 tablespoon almonds. Top with another phyllo round, brush with butter and sprinkle with scant 1 tablespoon almonds. Repeat stacking with 3 more phyllo rounds, butter, and almonds. Fit phyllo stack into prepared pie dish. Brush with butter. Spoon filling evenly over. Place 1 phyllo round on work surface. Brush with butter and sprinkle with scant 1 tablespoon almonds. Top with another phyllo round, brush with butter and sprinkle with scant 1 tablespoon almonds. Repeat with 2 phyllo rounds, butter, and almonds. Place stack atop filling; top with remaining phyllo round. Tuck in edges. Drizzle more butter over top. Cut 4 slits through top phyllo stack to allow steam to escape. (Can be made 6 hours ahead) Cover and chill.
Preheat oven to 375°F. Place pie on rimmed baking sheet. Bake uncovered until phyllo is golden and filling is heated through, about 40 minutes. Cool 15 minutes. Cut into wedges.
I invited a few ladies over for lunch and then proceeded to rack my brain for a week and a half on what to cook, until I came across this recipe for a chickpea salad, which then provided the catalyst for the rest of our Mediterranean lunch with lamb-raisin-pine-nut pies.
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons whole cumin seeds
1/4 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes, or to taste
4 garlic cloves, finely minced
2 15-ounce cans chickpeas (garbanzo beans), rinsed and drained
1/2 cup oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, drained and finely chopped
3/4 cup Italian parsley, leaves only
Small handful fresh mint leaves
1 lemon, zested and juiced
3/4 pound English cucumber
Heat the olive oil in a heavy skillet (cast iron is nice) over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the cumin seeds and crushed red pepper and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, for about one minute or until the seeds are toasted. The cumin will turn slightly darker in color, and smell toasty.
Turn the heat to medium low and add the garlic. Cook, stirringly frequently, for about three minutes or until the garlic is turning golden. Do not let it scorch or turn brown.
Add the drained chickpeas and the chopped tomatoes and turn the heat up to medium high. Cook, stirring frequently, until the chickpeas are warmed through and are shiny with oil. Turn off the heat.
Strip any remaining stems away from the Italian parsley. Finely mince the parsley and the mint and toss this with the chickpeas. Stir the lemon juice and zest into the chickpeas.
Peel the cucumber and cut it in half lengthwise. Scrape out (and discard) the seeds with the tip of a teaspoon or grapefruit spoon. Dice the cucumber into small, 1/2-inch square cubes. Toss the cucumber with the chickpeas. Taste for salt. If necessary, add flaky sea salt to taste.
Refrigerate for at least an hour before eating. This salad is best after it has had a chance to sit overnight in the fridge, letting its spices and juices soak together into more than the sum of its parts. Serve slightly warm or room temperature. Really good at any temperature, actually.
- 1lb ground lamb
- 2 cups chopped onion
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 2 14 1/2-ounce cans diced peeled tomatoes, drained
- 3/4 cup golden raisins
- 1 teaspoon ground allspice
- 1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted
- 3 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
- 1 17 1/4-ounce package frozen puff pastry (2 sheets), thawed
- 1 egg, beaten to blend
Sauté lamb in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until cooked through, breaking up meat with fork, about 7 minutes. Transfer lamb to plate using a slotted spoon. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon drippings from skillet. Add onion and garlic; sauté until; tender and golden, about 5 minutes. Return lamb to skillet. Add tomatoes, raisins and allspice and simmer until juices evaporate, about 5 minutes. Stir in pine nuts and mint. Season with salt and pepper. Cool.
Preheat oven to 425°F. Roll out 1 puff pastry sheet on floured work surface to 14-inch square. Cut into four 7 inch squares. Repeat with second puff pastry sheet. Beginning at 1 corner of each pastry square , place 1/8 of lamb mixture on the half of square, forming triangle. Brush pastry edges with egg. Fold pastry over filling, forming triangle. Press edges to seal. Brush pastries with egg. Place pies on 2 ungreased baking sheets. Bake until pies are puffed and golden, about 20 minutes. Serve warm.
My companion in this extreme and crazy low-carb diet is Carrie. It’s her birthday this week, so I researched some more sweets that actually sounded good and that were low in carbs (no flour and no sugar). The first one I found was a chocolate rum pie, and rather than use sugar, I bought some stevia, with which I will be experimenting this week. Unlike other sugar substitutes that are chemically altered forms of sugar, stevia is actually a sweet plant, which they’ve concocted into powder or liquid form to add to desserts, or coffee/tea (mine is in powder form from TJ’s). Stevia does have a slightly bitter taste, so it’s best to use it in things that may already have a bit of bitterness to them, like chocolate or coffee.
When I first tasted the chocolate mixture with stevia, I was a little disappointed, but I think once it got cooked and the other flavors came out, it actually tasted pretty great. I think I may actually like the inclusion of stevia over actual sugar. The pie wasn’t overly sweet, which allowed for the chocolate and rum flavor to really come out. I also used the same crust recipe that I found with last week’s cashew “cheese” cake.
Low-Carb Chocolate Rum Pie
1/2 cup raw almonds (pecan or walnuts will also work)
1/2 cup soft dates (got mine at Wholefoods’ bulk nuts section)
¼ tsp salt
1 ½ cup heavy cream, divided
4 tablespoon water, divided
3 ounce unsweetened baking chocolate, coarsely chopped
¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 cup stevia (or 3/4 cup sugar)
2 teaspoons rum
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Soak cashews in water for at least 5 hours. Overnight is best.
- Place nuts and dates in a food processor with salt and pulse to chop until they are to your desired fineness (process a finer crust longer than a chunky one). Test the crust by spooning out a small amount of mixture and rolling it in your hands. If the ingredients hold together, your crust is perfect. Scoop out crust mixture into a pie pan and press firmly, making sure that the edges are well packed and that the base is relatively even throughout.
- Place 3/4 cup of the cream, 2 tablespoons of the water, chocolate and cocoa powder in a medium saucepan. Cook over medium-low heat, whisking, until chocolate melts and mixture is smooth, 5 to 7 minutes. Remove from heat; set aside.
- In a medium bowl, whisk egg yolks, 1/4 cup cream, remaining 2 tablespoons water and the stevia together until blended. Whisk chocolate mixture until smooth. Gradually whisk one-third of the chocolate mixture into the egg-yolk mixture; add to saucepan with remaining chocolate mixture and whisk to combine. Return to heat and cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly for 3 minutes (DO NOT OVERCOOK). Remove from heat and cool to room temperature. Stir in rum and vanilla extract.
- In a medium bowl, with an electric mixer on medium, beat remaining 1/2 cup cream to soft peaks. Fold in chocolate mixture, folding just until blended and no streaks appear. Pour into prepared pie crust and smooth top. Chill until set, at least 4 hours.
So, I actually didn’t cook much for the actual holiday, but during the month of November I was in the festive spirit and decided to make some Thanksgiving inspired dishes ahead of time.
Two weeks prior to Thanksgiving, NYmag came out with this article, asking several top NY chefs for the favorite Thanksgiving recipe made by their mothers. I wanted to try almost all the recipes, but opted for Tom Colicchio’s Sausage Stuffing with Sage and Golden Raisins. Noah loves stuffing; I am not a fan but the only stuffing I’ve ever had came from a box, so I thought I would give it a whirl.
Sausage Stuffing with Golden Raisins & Sage
2 lbs breakfast sausafe (I used broccoli rabe sausage, which I think tasted better)
1 cup fennel, finely chopped
1 cup leeks, finely sliced
1/2 cup carrots, finely chopped
1/2 cup celery, finely chopped
1/2 cup onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup golden raisins, soaked in hot water and drained
1 lb crusty French bread, cubed, placed on a tray and left out overnight (I forgot this step, so quickly toasted my bread)
6 sprigs thyme, stems removed
8 large sage leaves, chopped
2 tbsp fennel seeds
6 large eggs, lightly beaten
2-3 cups chicken stock
salt and pepper
1. Preheat oven to 350. In a large saute pan, cook the sausage over medium heat until browned. Remove the sausage with a slotted spoon, cut into 1/4 in pieces, and set aside. Place the pan of sausage fat over medium heat and add the fennel, leeks, carrots, celery, onion and garlic. Saute for 10 minutes.
2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the sausage, vegetables, raisins, bread cubes, thyme, sage and fennel seeds. Stir in the eggs until mixed. Slowly add chicken broth until the mixture is moist. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer to a large gratin/casserole dish, cover with foil and bake for 30 mins in the oven. Uncover and bake until the top is browned.
Result: Good stuffing, but I think I’m learning that I’m not a huge fan of fennel. Also, next time I would use cranberries instead of raisins. The recipe claims to serve 8, but I believe the servings should be for 20. This made TWO ENTIRE casseroles, and I am almost certain that I did not overdo any of the portions. Oh, and stuffing is a TON of work; there’s a reason people make it from a box. I think I was slaving away in the kitchen for at least 3 hours making this one dish. Not so simple.
Soul Sweet ‘Taters
In all of the Thanksgiving hoopla, theKitchn posted a recipe for “Soul Sweet ‘Taters,” which I immediately wanted. Candied yams are my all-time favorite Thanksgiving dish, and this basically seemed like Candied yams minus the marshmallows (something I like at first, but then it gets a bit too much). As I prepared the “Soul Sweet Taters” I realized that basically, it’s a sweet potato crumble. Who doesn’t love a crumble? Wonderful and delicious!
Soul Sweet ‘Taters
- 4 whole Medium Sweet Potatoes
- 1 cup Sugar
- 1 cup Milk
- 2 whole Eggs
- 1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
- 1 teaspoon Salt
- 1 cup Brown Sugar
- 1 cup Pecans
- ½ cups Flour
- ¾ sticks Butter
1. Wash 4 medium sweet potatoes and bake them in a 375-degree oven until fork tender, about 30-35 minutes. When they are finished cooking, slice them open .
2. Add 1 cup of (regular grandulated) sugar, 1 cup of milk, 2 eggs, 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract and 1 teaspoon of salt. With a potato masher (I don’t own one, so I just use the bottom of a drinking glass), mash them up just enough—you don’t want to be perfectly smooth.
3. Now, in a separate bowl, add 1 cup brown sugar, 1 cup pecans, chopped (that means measure a cup of pecans, then chop them), ½ cup flour, and ¾ stick of butter. With a pastry cutter or fork, mash together until thoroughly combined.
4. Spread the sweet potato mixture into a regular baking dish and sprinkle the crumb mixture all over the top.
5. Bake in a 400-degree oven for 30 minutes, or until golden brown.
Lastly, on the actual day of Thanksgiving, my family went over to Noah’s family’s place and we all ate together. Our parents made most of the food, but I felt weird coming empty-handed and not making anything on such a food-themed day, so I baked a pear pie. Again, I used Martha Stewart’s pate brisee (short crust) recipe, but found the pear recipe part from Allrecipes.
Fresh Pear Pie
1 recipe pastry for a 9 inch double crust pie
1/2 cup white sugar (I used brown)
3 tbsp all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 lemon, zested
5 cups peeled and sliced pears
1 tbsp butter
1 lemon, juiced
1. Combine sugar, flour, salt, cinnamon and lemon rind in mixing bowl.
2. Arrange pears in layers in a 9 inch pastry lined pan, sprinkling sugar over each layer. Dot with butter. Sprinkle lemon juice. Roll out remaining dough, cut slits for escape of steam. Moisten rim of bottom crust. Place top crust over filling. Fold edge under bottom crust, pressing to seal. Flute edge.
3. Bake at 450 degrees for 10 mins, Reduce temperature to 350 and bake for additional 35-40 mins.
Result: I added too much water (I used the max amount) to my pie crust, so it wasn’t flaky. The filling was good, but not amazing. I did really like Noah’s artistry in fashioning a turkey out of the extra dough and placing it on top of the pie.
I LOVE PIES!
Last weekend, I made two and a half desserts. On Friday night I was supposed to go over to my friend Carrie’s for a girls’ dessert night. I planned on making this Rum Raisin Pie from Martha Stewart. Unfortunately, when it came to putting my custard on the stove, this is what happened:
I was mortified! All my eggs basically got scrambled in milk! I believe the stove heat was too high, but I blame this on Martha, because the recipe did say medium low; if it had said low like it was supposed to, I would have used low. I even tried to put this in the food processor to make it turn back into a homogenous consistency – no luck.
I was pretty depressed and dejected after such a fiasco. I don’t think I’ve ever failed so badly at making something. After several hours, I still had a perfectly good pie crust, so I decided to make a Peach Cream Pie (this time using trusty Allrecipes). And this pie redeemed my evening! I did use Martha’s Stewart recipe for Pate Brisee (pie crust made with butter).
Yummy, Yummy Peach Cream Pie
2 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp salt
1 cup (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 in pieces
1/4 – 1/2 cup ice water
4 cups fresh peaches – peeled, pitted and sliced
3/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1. Pulse flour and salt in a food processor. Add butter, and pulse until mixture forms coarse crumbs with some larger pieces remaining, about 10 seconds.
2. With machine running, add ice water in a slow, steady stream just until dough holds together without being wet or sticky, no longer than 30 seconds.
3. Divide dough in half, and shape into disks. Wrap in plastic; refrigerate at least 1 hour or overnight. Dough can be frozen up to 1 month; thaw in the refrigerator overnight before using.
4. Peel and slice peaches.
5. Combine sugar, flour, salt and nutmeg. Add to the peaches and toss lightly. Turn out into pie shell. Pour whipping cream evenly over top.
6. Bake in a preheated 400 degree F oven for 35-45 minutes or until firm and golden brown on top. Let cool and serve warm.
I made a Citrus Pumpkin Pie. I am not an connoisseur of pumpkin pies, but this was quite excellent. One person even commented that it was the best pumpkin pie she had ever had. The recipe comes with grand marnier whipped cream, which I did not use, but might next time.
Citrus Pumpkin Pie
1 Butter Pie Crust dough disk (I used the other half of my Pate Brisee from Friday)
1 15 oz can pumpkin puree
2 tsp grated lemon peel
2 tsp grated orange peel
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
3/4 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp grated nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt
Pinch of ground cloves
3 large eggs
1 1/4 cups heavy whipping cream
1. Position rack in bottom third of oven; preheat to 375 degrees. Roll out dough on floured surface to 13 inch round. Transfer to prepared dish. Fold edges under and crimp, forming high border. Line crust with foil; fill with dried beans or pie weights. Bake 15 mins. Remove foil and beans/weights. Bake until edges are light golden, pressing crust with back of fork if bubbles form, about 7 mins. Cool 10 mins. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees.
2. Mix the first 7 ingredients in a bowl. Add eggs one at a time. Gradually add cream.
3. Pour filling into warm crust. Bake until edges are puffed and center is set, about 1 hour. Cool completely on rack.