Navalles amb all (Razor clams with garlic)

After a couple days of wandering the city at a good clip (~25 miles in the last 2 days according to health app), Sarah and I decided that we had earned a well-deserved lazy day. However, this does not translate into letting ourselves lapse in the food department. Ever since our visit to the La Bocqueria and sampling the razor clams at the tapas venue, I’ve been obsessed with trying to reproduce the dish. We set out this morning and joined the hordes in the market one block away to gather ingredients.

Razor clams are interesting looking creatures. They derive their name from their shape which resembles a straight razor. There is apparently a Pacific version that exist, but I have never encountered them in any market in the US (if you have a market you’ve seen them in, please comment and let me know). Rest assured that you can substitute regular clams into this recipe without an issue.

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Pretty nice lunch spread: Navalles amb all, assorted olives, olives with sardines, green peppers and onions, glass of wine

Navalles amb all

Ingredients:

  • (Razor) clams                               2 lb
  • Garlic                                              5 cloves, chopped finely
  • Olive oil                                         3 tbsp
  • Hot paprika                                  2 tbsp
  • Cayenne (optional)                    1 tsp
  • White wine                               1/4-1/2 cup
  • Parsley                                           finely chopped for garnish
  • Salt                                             To taste

Directions:

  1. Clean and rinse clams thoroughly.
  2. Heat olive oil in pan on medium heat.
  3. Add garlic, paprika, and cayenne. Stir until lightly caramelized.
  4. Add in clams and turn heat to high.
  5. Add wine and put lid on pan. Steam for 2-3 minutes (this is about right for razor clams, but your conventional clams may take a bit longer) or until clams open.
  6. Remove clams from pan and place on dish. Drizzle lightly with olive oil. Garnish with chopped parsley and enjoy!

I enjoy shellfish recipes because they have a lot of bang for your buck. They tend to require very simple and few ingredients and are very quick to cook. The end result is impressive and delicious. I also tend to use a bit more wine when I’m making dishes like this because the leftover broth is delicious for dipping, and I cross utilize it when I make a seafood risotto.

D

Pan con Tomate

Prior to leaving Begur and heading into the center of Barcelona, we made sure to stop by the weekly market and pick up some ingredients for this recipe. Then, upon arrival to Barcelona, we could not resist stopping at one of the busiest markets in town, La Bocqueria. I could wax poetic about all the sights, smells, and tastes but I will spare you. These pictures give you a glimpse of what lies within:

And who could resist some late afternoon tapas in market featuring items sourced just a few feet away.

 

Having access to a kitchen again is a relief and allowed us to make our own breakfast this morning featuring a deliciously simple classic Catalonian tapas dish, pan con tomate.

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We fancied our up a bit with some cheese and jamon iberico purchased at the market.

Pan con Tomate

Ingredients:

  • Bread
  • Tomatoes
  • Garlic
  • Olive oil
  • Salt

Directions:

  1. Slice the bread and give it a light toast.
  2. Take a clove of garlic and cut/break it in half. Rub the half vigorously on a slice of bread. The nicely toasted surface essentially acts as sandpaper and leaves you an invisible film of garlic oils and hotness.
  3. Slice tomato in half and rub over toast.
  4. Give a drizzle of olive oil and a pinch of salt on top, and you’re good to go!

Because this dish only consists of 5 ingredients, it is crucial to try to find the best that you can get. Supermarket bought tomatoes are usually a no no because they are usually plucked before full ripeness and then gassed with ethylene which translates to muted flavors. The bread you select is less critical, but I prefer a nice baguette sliced into rounds.

Bon profit!

D

 

Paella by the Sea

Upon completion of our month in culinary school, Sarah and I have made our way from Providence to Boston to Dublin to Spain. This post comes to you from the city of Begur where we are staying at the charming Hotel Aiguaclara, a renovated colonial style mansion, which is a convenient 30-40 minute hike away from the three major beach areas.

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Sa Tuna

Today, we set out east for the nearby coastal town of Sa Tuna where we enjoyed the salty seaside breeze, the rhythmic clashes of the waves, and one of my favorite dishes, paella (marinera), less than 50 yards from the water.

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Paella Marinera featuring prawns, mussels, octopus, cuttlefish, and local fish

Paella Marinera

I highly encourage you deviate from this recipe and utilize whatever fresh, local, seasonal, seafood and vegetables are available to you. The flavor will be second to none.

Ingredients:

  • Olive oil                                        4 tbsp
  • Large yellow onion                    1, diced
  • Garlic                                             4 cloves, minced
  • Bomba rice                                   2 cups
  • Shrimp                                           1/2 lb, keep whole
  • Squid                                               1/4 lb, cleaned and cut into circles
  • Mussels                                           1/2 lb, washed
  • Paprika                                            2 tsp
  • Cayenne Pepper                           1.5 tsp
  • Saffron                                             2 pinch
  • Peas                                                   1/2 cup
  • Tomato Puree                            1/4 cup
  • Seafood stock                                 2 cups
  • Salt                                                     To taste
  • Lemon                                               1/2, cut into wedges

Directions:

  1. Heat olive oil in paella pan* to medium-high. Add onion and garlic sauté until slightly brown.
  2. Add rice and lightly toast, stirring frequently.
  3. Add tomato puree, peas, saffron, paprika, cayenne, and a pinch of salt. Stir well.
  4. Add 1 cup stock and let mixture comes to rolling boil and reduce to simmer for 10-15 minutes. You may need to add an additional 0.5-1 cup of stock.
  5. Add shrimp, squid, and mussels on top of rice and cover with foil. The seafood should all cook very fast. Shrimp will be done when it changes color. Mussels will be done when they open.
  6. Squeeze lemon juice over the top and serve hot.

*If lacking a paella pan, a cast iron may be the best approximation to use and allow you to end up with some flavor-packed bits of crispy rice on the sides.

Muy bien!

D

 

Be a Dal

I grew up a meat-resistant child in a meat-and-potatoes household. I didn’t have any precocious ethical issues with meat consumption, I simply never had much of a taste for it. At dinnertime I would polish off my veggies and starches, then sit there nibbling slowly at the edges of my meat, making a game of getting away with eating as little of it as possible. When I moved away for college, I naturally shifted into a meat-minimalist pattern, filling my plate with salad and veggie mains with little bits of meat sneaking in at the sides. After some time reveling in being able to avoid meat entirely if I so chose, I began to realize that I did occasionally miss the heartiness that meat can provide. Around that time, I developed an appreciation for lentils and bean-based stews, those effortlessly meatless mains that even dedicated carnivores can appreciate. Which brings us to dal. I rarely think to make dal, but every time I do, I always end up wondering why I don’t prepare it more often. Dal is relatively hands-off, incredibly flavorful, filling, and super cheap once you have the main spices at hand in your cupboard. The recipe below is one that we made in a plant-based cuisine class with Chef Lewis a few weeks ago. While the recipe is wonderful as is, I suspect it could be made a bit more healthful by reducing, or possible omitting the amount of vegetable oil added – I’ll post an update once I experiment further.

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Dal Makhani with yogurt

Dal Makhani

For cooking the beans…

  • 1 cup dried whole black gram beans (sabut urad dal or kali dal)
  • 2 Tbsp dried red kidney beans
  • 1 tsp red chili powder
  • 6-8 cups vegetable stock

For assembling the dal…

  • 6 Tbsp oil
  • 6 Tbsp ghee
  • 2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 12 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 Tbsp ginger root, finely chopped
  • 1 cup onions, finely chopped
  • 3/4 cup fresh tomatoes or 1/2 cup drained canned tomatoes, coarsely chopped
  • 4 green chilies, slit
  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • 1/2 tsp ground cardamom
  • 1 Tbsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp ground red pepper
  • 1 tsp red chili powder
  • 2 tsp kosher salt

For the tarka (perfumed butter)

  • 4 Tbsp ghee
  • 1 1/2 tsp whole cumin seeds
  • 1 cup onions, finely chopped
  1. Cook the beans. In class we used a pressure cooker to speed things up, but you could also pre-soak the beans and boil them according to package directions. Either way, reserve the cooking liquid for later use.
  2. Heat the oil and ghee in a stock pot or dutch oven. Add the cumin seeds. Once the cumin seeds turn fragrant, add the garlic, ginger, and onion. Saute until brown.
  3. Add the chilies and tomatoes, saute until the tomatoes break down into a pulp
  4. Mix in 4 cups of the reserved bean-cooking stock and add all remaining ingredients. Bring to a simmer and cook partly covered for 20-30 minutes. Stir the beans gently a few times during cooking and add more reserved stock if the mixture starts to look dry.
  5. Remove 2-3 cups of the cooked beans from the pan and puree in a blender or food processor. Return the pureed beans to the pot (this gives the dal a smoother consistency).
  6. Keep the dal simmering over low heat while you prepare the tarka.
  7. For the tarka, heat the ghee over medium-high heat in a small skillet. Once the ghee is very hot, add the cumin seeds and cook for about 10 seconds. Add the onions and cook, stirring continuously, until light brown. Pour the tarka over the warm beans and stir gently to incorporate.
  8. Top with chopped cilantro and/or an additional dollop of yogurt, if desired, and serve.

Note – If you cannot find ghee, you can make a suitable approximation by melting butter in a small saute pan and continuing to cook it until the mild solids separate and turn a rich, golden brown. While this isn’t authentic ghee, it will give you a more accurate flavor profile than simply using melted butter.

Aspics of Soup Dumplings (小籠包)

I’ll start this post off by warning you that this post does NOT contain a recipe. Rest assured, I definitely plan on posting one at a future date once I work out some kinks.

If you’ve never had the pleasure of soup dumplings aka xiaolongbao (xlb), they look something like this:

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Vegetarian mushroom medley soup dumplings from scratch

The act of consuming xlb is an experience in and of itself. The surgical precision necessary to pluck the dumpling out of the steamer basket with chopsticks requires the perfect balance of gentle manipulation and assertive force. Too soft a touch and you’ll never liberate the xlb from the bottom of the basket. Too rough and a tear liberates the liquid magic inside. Should you be successful in transferring the xlb to your soup spoon, you are nearly ready to enjoy the fruits of your labor. The smallest nibble unleashes the hot, savory soup from inside. As you finally consume the leftover filling, dumpling skin, with a combination of dark vinegar and ginger, you know you have made it in the world.

Although the last paragraph borders (okay fine…shamelessly dives headfirst into) the melodramatic, it is not an exaggeration to say that this particular food has launched an empire. But let’s switch gears and talk about the thing that makes soup dumplings special…namely, the soup. I used to believe that the incorporation of the soup involved the finest syringe injecting broth straight into a finished dumpling. This is decidedly NOT the case and instead involves a concept we discussed briefly in another post, hydrocolloids.

If you have ever bought a rotisserie chicken from the store and put it in your fridge, you may have noticed a gelatinous yellow glaze on the bottom of the container when you opened it the next day. If you tasted it, you would have noticed that this “meat jello” contained a lot of that chicken flavor. Therein lies the secret to soup dumplings. Back in the day broth would be made containing a lot of animal bones and/or skin. These particular parts contain a lot of collagen. Upon cooling the finished broth, one could skim the surface of it for all the leftover broth-flavored gelatin. Take a cube of gelatin, stick it into a dumpling with the filling, steam it, and the gelatin block liquifies and becomes the soup in the soup dumpling.

In the modern food industry, it is a hassle to continuously make broth, let it cool down, and skim the surface for the soup gelatin. So I asked Chef McCue how we do it today. He didn’t know for sure so did me a solid and called up his chef buddy in Taiwan who revealed that they utilize something called aspic.

Aspic is very simply gelatinized stock – stock + unflavored clear gelatin. Just like how your mom used to make jello, you heat up your stock with the gelatin mixed in, stir until it dissolves, and put it into a container that you put into the fridge. After a while the mixture turns to a broth jello that you can cut into cubes and use in your soup dumplings. Keep in mind that gelatin is a reversible hydrocolloid which is why it can turn back to a liquid upon heating. Another great thing about making aspic is that you can use it with a veggie stock (like we did with a mushroom stock) with great results.

D

 

 

 

Peas n’ Carrots

In elementary school I always dreaded the mound of peas and carrots in the corner of my cafeteria tray. While I loved fresh peas and carrots, the combo totally lost its charm when cooked down to mush. This week we sought to reinterpret some classic cafeteria food dishes in our plant-based cuisine class, and I took on the dreaded mushy-veg combo. Since it still feels a bit wintery in Providence (at least to my NOLA-calibrated self), I chose to make this warmly-spiced carrot soup. Snow peas and snap peas aren’t quite in season yet, so I garnished the soup with pea greens and flowers, but I suspect it would be a wonderful foil for fresh peas when the time comes.

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Caramelized carrot soup with yogurt and pea greens

Caramelized Carrot Soup

  • 1 lb carrots, peeled and diced
  • 2.5 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1/4-1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 4 Tbsp water
  • 1/2 – 3/4 cup vegetable stock
  • Plain yogurt
  • Pea greens, sweet pea flowers, or snap peas as garnish
  1. Place all ingredients in a pressure cooker, stirring briefly to distribute the spices. Cook for 12-15 minutes (the carrots will be perfectly tender after ~10 minutes, any additional time deepens the flavor).
  2. Allow carrots to cool slightly, then pour into a blender.  Add stock gradually until soup reaches desired consistency.
  3. Serve in bowls topped with a dollop of yogurt and whatever pea plant bits you can find.

While I’ve only made this soup with a pressure cooker, I’m sure it could also be made by roasting the carrots in a dutch oven on the stovetop though they’ll take a bit longer to cook this way, and you may need to add more water to keep them from sticking to the pan.

S

Tabula Masa

Browsing the supermarket aisles after a long day, I’m ashamed to admit that there have been multiple occasions where I’ve grabbed a nice package of tortillas for dinner. After all, they are so incredibly versatile: huevos rancheros, tostadas,tacos, enchiladas, etc. Reading the ingredients on the back of the package usually yields at least 5 to 10 different ingredients if you’re lucky.

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Huevos Rancheros with slow-cooked egg, arugula salad, pinto beans, puffed millet, queso fresco (made from scratch), and citrus salt

In reality, tortillas should require a grand total of 3 ingredients, and they are all super cheap. Yes, tortillas take a bit of time and effort to make from scratch. Get the friends and family together. Have a nice group bonding session over this activity and enjoy the fruits of your labor. If you’ve never had the pleasure of sampling a fresh tortilla hot from the griddle, the flavor is wonderful.

Handmade Tortillas (yields 50)

Ingredients:

  • Masa harina                                          7 cups
  • Water                                                       4.5 cups
  • Salt                                                           To taste

Directions:

  1. Knead together masa, water, and salt. The end result should yield a dough that feels like soft cookie dough that doesn’t stick to your hands.
  2. Divide out dough into 1 inch diameter balls.
  3. Get out two pieces of plastic wrap. One piece will go around your tortilla press. The second piece you will use with the dough. This prevents the dough from getting stuck on the press.
  4. Slightly flatten the small piece of dough onto a tortilla press with your hand. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and press. Rotate 180  degrees and press again. Remove tortilla gently. (I’ve found an offset spatula is great for this.)
  5. Heat up iron skillet to medium heat. You can lightly brush it with some butter and sprinkle some salt and pepper onto it to impart some more flavor if you want.
  6. Lay tortilla onto pan. Flip once when dry and firm.
  7. Repeat

You can also get fancy by folding in minced cilantro and garlic into your masa mix. You want a tostada instead? Just take one of your tortillas and give it a quick fry in oil.

D

DIY Paneer

This is a follow up to the muttar paneer recipe in which I promised to post a recipe for the paneer that we made. I will preface this by saying that the process is fairly time consuming and may not be entirely cost effective. That being said, if you happen to live in a place where paneer is hard or impossible to find, this recipe gets the job done. Additionally, it is extremely satisfying and rewarding to be able to make cheese from scratch.

DIY Paneer

Ingredients:

  • Whole Milk                                     22 cups (that’s a gallon + 6 cups)
  • Lemon juice                                   0.6 cups
  • Salt                                                   2 tbsp
  • Garlic (optional)                           2 cloves, crushed
  • Cilantro (optional                        2 tbsp, chopped

Directions:

  1. Bring milk to rolling boil in large pot.
  2. Remove from heat and stir in lemon juice. Return to heat for 1 minute until curds begin to separate. Stir in salt.
  3. Remove from heat and line strainer with a double layer of cheesecloth. Add the garlic and cilantro at this point if you want.
  4. Squeeze the liquid from the curds* and let it drain for 30 minutes. It should yield a block of cheese.
  5. Cut pressed paneer into small cubes and it’s ready to go!

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*We used a cheese press for this step. If at home, you can press the curds by hand in the cheese cloth, place the wrapped curds in a dish, cover the curds with another dish and place a weight on top. The leftover liquid whey can be used as a base for sauces if you don’t want to throw it away.

The Original Hot Pockets

I never cared much for pita until I had a taste of the stuff produced in the wood ovens of Shaya, a much buzzed-about Israeli restaurant in New Orleans. Where most grocery store pita bread is dry and sandpaper-y, the rounds at Shaya are pillowy and have a good chew to them. I easily ate five all by myself and left the restaurant determined to figure out how to make my own. Over the following months, I had several fairly successful pita-making runs with the NYTimes recipe, but felt that there was room for improvement – I found the dough a bit soft and sticky and had trouble rolling it into even rounds and transferring it to the oven. That said, the pita did have great texture and a moist crumb, making me hesitant to toy around with adding more flour.

After all of this lead-up, I was super excited to have the opportunity to spend Monday morning making pita in a class led by Richard Miscovich, a renowned artisan bread baker. While I doubt I will ever again replicate the degree of precision I was encouraged to strive for in Chef Miscovich’s classroom (we used an equation to determine the ideal temperature of the water added to the dough that involved taking into account the amount of heat generated by the mixer…), I left with a great recipe that we will definitely make again at home.

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‘Pita in motion’ – an attempt to break up the unfortunate beige-on-beige color scheme we have going on. Photography will improve when we get home… we hope.

Pita Bread

  • 350g bread flour
  • 350g whole wheat flour
  • 2.1 g instant rise yeast
  • 12 g salt
  • 476g water
  1. Mix the flour and water together in a bowl, cover and set aside for 20 min (this allows the flour to hydrate).
  2. Add the salt and yeast and mix until combined. If kneading by hand, turn out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead for ~5 minutes; if kneading with a mixer and dough hook, turn up the speed to medium for ~3 minutes.
  3. Transfer dough to a container lightly coated with some sort of non-stick or oil spray, cover, and let rest for 45 min.
  4. Turn out the dough onto a work surface and press into a large square/rectangle (aim for roughly 12in x 12in). Fold the dough as if you were making an envelope from a blank piece of paper (lift the left side of the square and pull it over the remaining square until it covers 2/3, then fold the right side of the dough over your first fold). Rotate the folded dough rectangle 90 degrees and fold again, following the same procedure. Return the folded dough to the container to proof for another 45 min.
  5. Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and separate the dough into 12 equal portions. Shape each portion into a ball, set aside, cover, and let rest for 20-30 minutes.
  6. Roll each ball of dough into a circle about 1/8″ thick (note – if the dough seems to resist rolling, springing back after each pass, simply let it rest a bit longer). Cover, let rest 10-20 minutes.
  7. Pre-heat oven to 500°F with a ceramic baking tile or inverted sheet pan inside.
  8. Transfer dough rounds to the baking tile or sheet pan, bake for 3-4 minutes.
  9. Either enjoy pita hot, or allow pita to cool completely before storing. If storing, make sure your container is air-tight – pita has the potential to dry out quickly.

S

 

Not Yo Mama’s Paneer

I distinctly remember my first encounter with paneer in the form of paneer tikka masala at House of Curries on College Ave in Berkeley. One of my vegetarian friends had ordered it and, when I inquired what it was, she authoritatively told me it was a kind of cheese. I nodded and remained supremely confident in my order of lamb biryani, imagining her receiving a disappointing order of orange substance that looked suspiciously like molten nacho cheese. I was surprised to instead discover these robust, small cubes of white cheese swimming in a savory sauce. I stared, waiting patiently for the cheese to begin to melt. Suffice it to say, that never happened. My friend graciously offered to let me sample a cube, and I have been a convert ever since.

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Muttar Paneer

Ingredients:

  • Paneer (stay tuned for a DIY recipe)          1 block, cubed
  • Vegetable oil                                                         3 tbsp
  • Onions                                                                    2, chopped
  • Garlic                                                                      2 cloves, crushed
  • Gingerroot                                                            1 inch, mashed
  • Garam Masala*                                                 2 tsp
  • Tumeric                                                                3 tsp, ground
  • Chili powder                                                       3 tsp
  • Peas                                                                      2.5 cups, frozen
  • Tomatoes                                                            3, peeled and chopped
  • Veggie stock                                                       1/2 cup
  • Cilantro                                                              2 tbsp, chopped
  • Salt & Pepper                                                    To taste

Directions:

  1. Heat oil in large skillet.
  2. Add paneer cubes and cook until golden on all sides. Remove from skillet and drain on paper towels.
  3. Pour off some of the oil, leaving around 2 tbsp.
  4. Add onions, garlic, ginger to pan and stir for 5 minutes.
  5. Add in spices and stir for additional 2 minutes. This mixture should release amazing aromas.
  6. Add paneer, peas, tomatoes, and stock. Stir to coat all ingredients with the spices. Season with salt and pepper. Let simmer until onion is soft. Be sure not to overcook the peas (we want to retain that vibrant green color).
  7. Top with chopped cilantro and enjoy!

D

*Garam masala is a spice mixture that usually contains, peppercorns, cloves, cinnamon, mace, nutmeg, cumin, cardamom, etc. This spice mix varies from region to region but can also vary from household to household. Thus, yo mamma’s garam masala may taste nothing like my mama’s garam masala even if we’re from the same neighborhood. If you are a bit uneasy making up your own mix, you can buy some garam masala at the supermarket or you can find recipes online.