Out Of The Archives:
Sweet Crêpes

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Chestnut Crêpes in my kitchen

You can find many different kinds of Crêpes in Parisian restaurants and cafes as well as at the to-go windows of the Crêperies throughout the busy sections of the city. Filled with anything from ham and eggs to chantilly – whipped cream – these petite meals, or just plain treats, are easy to make and a truly versatile, standard fare in Paris!!

A Little History

French crêpes originated in Bretagne, in the west of France, although you will find a form of them throughout all the regions of Europe. Crêpes have probably been around since French cooks first started cooking with wheat. They are traditionally thought of as a French dish, but they have history in ancient Rome, as well as every other ancient culture that figured out how to mix up a batter and use a fire. The difference is that the French, of course, have made crêpe making into an art form!

Created as a substitute for bread when wheat was scarce, their main duty is to serve as a vehicle for transporting the fillings inside them. Crêpes can take on two forms, savory and sweet. Savory Crêpes, or Galettes, are heavy and earthy tasting, made with buckwheat flour. Sweet Crêpes are light and sweet and made with wheat flour and a little sugar. A meal made of crêpes can be easy and fun to make as well as filling.

The difference between pancakes and crêpes is that the crêpe batter is thinner and is spread very thinly with a long tongued spatula over the entire surface of the crêpe pan, while a pancake is made from a thicker batter that gets plopped by the spoonful onto a hot greasy skillet.

Crêpes!

A Basic Sweet Crêpe Recipe

This is a small recipe inspired by The Joy of Cooking and is enough for one person. To make more, just double or triple the recipe.

Ingredients:
1/4 cup flour – all purpose or pastry; whole wheat is too heavy so don’t use that
1/4 cup of milk of your choice
1/8 cup water at room temperature
1 egg
3 teaspoons of sugar – fine white sugar is best, turbinado is not a good choice for this recipe
1 tablespoon of melted butter
Pinch of salt

Powdered confectioner’s sugar to sprinkle on top.
Add a pinch, just a pinch, of cinnamon to the batter for flair.

Utensils:
Mixing bowl
A ladle, or 2 cup liquid measuring cup with a spout
Crêpe pan or a seasoned cast iron griddle will do, but a skillet won’t work for this project because it has sides which prohibit turning the crêpe
A long tongued metal spatula

Directions:
Combine all of the ingredients in the mixing bowl and stir until all the dry ingredients are moistened.
Let the batter stand for at least 30 minutes, until the flour has absorbed the moisture.
The batter can be kept in the frigo for up to 2 days.
Have your filling ingredients ready and handy.
Heat the griddle on a medium heat.
Rub the hot griddle with butter until it is covered.
Pour about two or three tablespoons of batter onto the center of the pan/griddle and spread it out with the spatula towards the edges of the pan, making it as thing as possible.
When the crêpe has set and the underside is a bit golden, use the spatula to turn the crêpe.
If you are making crêpes for a meal, then grab a plate. When the crêpe is done, spoon on the filling, spreading out over half of the crêpe.
Fold the crêpe in half, then in half again making a triangule shape.

Fillings:
Spread half of the crêpe with Nutella or another kind of melted or spreadable chocolate.
Warmed fruits such as sautéed apples or peaches, jams, sauces or fruit or nut purees make wonderful fillings.
Simple sweet crêpes can be solely brushed with butter for a simple treat.
Top sweet filled crêpes with whipped cream or dust with powdered sugar.
You can roll the crêpe into a cylinder around the stuffing rather than folding it into triangles.
Variations of crêpes are limited only by your imagination!

Serve warm.

Bon Appétit!

Out Of The Archives:
Fried Rice kimba Style

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Aisian cooking is not my strength in the kitchen. My timing is often off. And when it comes to seasonings … even when I use a recipe my Asian style dishes never quite have the right balance of flavors.

Besides, it’s much more fun to go out for Chinese or other kinds of Asian food, isn’t it? :)

Recently I decided to change this. I realized, as with everything I do, that I had started my efforts too big, too complicated. I should learn Asian style cooking by starting at the beginning – by perfecting my ability to make Fried Rice – and even though Fried Rice is not a festive dish it seemed like a good dish with which to start my adventure.

Stop laughing. Fried Rice isn’t all that easy to get right. It takes a bit of balance too, but at least it’s not a spicy dish, so the big deal is getting the balance of vegetables right – and the egg trick. More about that later.

Cooking Asian food at home is completely different from cooking European food at home. Asian cooking demands my attention. From beginning to end – chopping to eating – the process of getting a dish on the table is intensive. Not so much labor intensive as it is attention span intensive. Paying attention to what I’m doing is half the process. One of the best ways to see this in action is to eat out in any of the Asian restaurants, preferably one that has an open kitchen and an open table or spot at the counter. Watching a professional make Asian food is one of the best ways to learn – it’s half the battle.

A few days ago I finally perfected my Fried Rice recipe. I’ve made this combination of vegetables, egg, and roasted peanuts a few times now with various kinds of rice, and even quinoa, and it works. Here’s the recipe:

Fried Rice kimba Style

You don’t need to have a wok to make Fried Rice. A large skillet will do, non-stick is preferable.

Also, you can’t be heavy handed when stirring this dish in the pan, otherwise it will all mash together. Think of stir frying this dish like flipping pancakes. Dig in and flip.

Ingredients:
About 3 cups of plain white cooked rice, or whatever kind you like. I was out of plain white rice when I made the batch in the photo above, so I used 3/4 cup short-grained brown rice and 1/4 cup wild rice.
1/2 a medium onion (give or take)
1 carrot
1 stalk celery
1/2 bell pepper (give or take), which ever color you prefer
1/2 a cup of frozen peas (give or take)
1 or 2 eggs
A handful of dry roasted peanuts
peanut oil or if you don’t have it handy, olive oil will do
ground black pepper to taste
a clove or two of garlic
soy sauce

Rice:
If you don’t have any leftover rice, make a fresh batch according to the directions for the particular rice you are using.

Chopping the Vegetables:
My rule of thumb for chopping the vegetables is to cut them into cubes, or cube like, and make them all a uniform size. I tend to cut them so that they are about the same size as the peas.
Finely chop the garlic.

The Egg Trick:
Heat some oil in the skillet or wok.
Scramble the egg/s.
Fry the eggs, chopping them up in small pieces.
When they are done, put them on a plate and set them to the side, somewhere handy.

The trick is that they are made separate from the vegetables. If you make the eggs in the pan with the vegetables, or with the vegetables and rice, it gets all gloopy.

Saute the Vegetables:
Put a little oil in the skillet or wok over a medium flame.
Add some ground black pepper.
Add the vegetables according to how long it takes for them to cook.
Add the onions, carrots, peppers, and celery.
Add some soy sauce, to taste.
Stir fry those for awhile.
Add the finely chopped garlic.
Add the frozen peas.
Stir fry for a bit, until they are warm all the way through.
Then add the scrambled egg, mix completely.
Add the rice, as much as you like.
Stir to mix it all up.
Add the dry roasted peanuts.
Stir again until it is mixed.
Add some more soy sauce if you think it needs it.

Note on Meat: If you want to add morsels of meat, add those to the skillet or wok prior to the first batch of vegetables.

Note on Vegetables: Fried Rice is a leftover dish, usually made with leftover rice and whatever vegetables that are in your refrigerator. Don’t hesitate to experiment!

Enjoy!

Out Of The Archives:
Salade Niçoise

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Salade Niçoise is still somewhat of a mystery to folks who don’t live in the South of France. But it’s an easy salad to make if you have access to all of the ingredients, and of course, the recipe can be fumbled for those who can’t find all of the ingredients, or would rather skip a few.

The word Niçoise means of Nice, or as prepared in Nice and typically describes any cuisine found specifically in or around Nice. Dishes from this region usually include the basic ingredients of tomatoes, niçoise olives, garlic and anchovies.

Salade Niçoise usually includes these ingredients plus haricots verts (French Green Beans), hardboiled eggs, tuna (from a can), onions, and herbs from the South of France. The idea of using a tuna steak, or fresh seared tuna, rather than canned is considered to be a major faux-pas in making a Salade Niçoise. This salad is considered to be a full main course, rather than a small side salad. I also tend to serve this salad at about room temperature, meaning I don’t make a point of chilling it or the ingredients before serving.

Note: French Green Beans can be found in The States in the frozen section of Trader Joe’s, or look in your produce section at the grocery store.

My Take On A Niçoise Salad

Ingredients:
Chopped Romaine lettuce – Julia Child’s recipe calls for Butter lettuce.
Hard boil an egg or two sliced in quarters, or eighths.
Steam some French green beans (Haricots Verts).
Canned tuna.
A number of Niçoise olives.
Quarter or eighth one or two Roma tomatoes.
A few boiled new potatoes – Red or Yukon small creamers, or finger potatoes, whichever is available – cut in half or quartered (depending on size). If you don’t have creamer potatoes, then skip because this is definitely not a place for a potato like a Russet.

I tend to use approximately equal portions of each ingredient.

Plus a spoonful or two of Capers.
Hefty helping of freshly grated Parmesan Cheese

Dressing: proportion or use ingredients to taste:
Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO)
Red Wine Vinegar
Dijon Mustard
Fresh Garlic, crushed and chopped.
A squirt of fresh Lemon
A little of the freshly grated Parmesan cheese.
Salt
Pepper

Directions:
Boil potatoes so they are just done.
Hard boil the egg/s
Steam the green beans, leaving them just slightly crunchy.
Chop the tomatoes.
Whisk the Vinaigrette.
In a bowl toss the tomatoes and the slightly warm potatoes into the Vinaigrette. Let this sit while preparing the rest of the salad.

Lay out a bed of Romaine lettuce (or Butter lettuce).
Spread out the olives, capers, and green beans.
Place the eggs around the edge of the salad.
Spread out the vinaigrette, tomatoes and potatoes over the other ingredients.

Open and drain the can of tuna. I like to rinse the tuna as well. Break it up into flakes and small chunks and then sprinkle over the top of the salad.

This is not a tossed salad. You can make this as one big salad for the dinner or buffet table or as small individual salads for each person at the meal. The salad will get tossed on the individual plate.

Chopped scallions (green or spring onions) can also be added.

You may have noticed that there is no mention of anchovies. I don’t use them in this recipe although they are part of a traditional Niçoise Salad. If you like, they can be chopped and added to the salad.

That should be it!
Enjoy!

Out Of The Archives:
Pickled Red Onions

Pickled Red Onion

This little pickle is found everywhere in The Yucatan on Tacos, Salbuches, Panuchos, on the side of Pibil, or sitting by itself on the plate next to the main course. Easy to make, although the second ingredient may be difficult to find, the recipe uses only red onion, sour oranges, boiling water, and salt.

Directions

Getting everything ready:

– Boil some water on the stove, in either a tea kettle or a soup pot.
– Slice the red onion julienne style, to make long narrow strips.
– Juice sour oranges, enough to cover the sliced onion.

Putting it all together:

– When the water has boiled (if you’ve boiled it in a tea kettle, then pour it into a large bowl), turn off the heat and add the sliced onion to the water.
– Let sit for about half a minute, 30 seconds.
– Drain the hot water off of the onions.
– Rinse the onions in cold water to stop them from softening further.
– Put them into a clean bowl.
– Cover them with the juice of the sour oranges.
– Add a little bit of salt.
– Cover and let them sit for at least an hour.

The onions in the photograph at the left were pickled for an hour and still had a little crunch. The onions will keep in the refrigerator for about a month, and continue to pickle as they sit, softening and turning red as the sour orange juice does its magic.

You might think that an orange is an orange, but that’s not so, at least in this case anyway. The oranges that we eat as fruit and make orange juice from are a sweeter, prettier variety. Sour oranges look a little different, almost prehistoric or heirloom, with their orange and green mottled skin and their very large seeds that are clumped inside in no regular pattern.

Finding sour oranges in the States is not that easy. If you have a local Mexican food market, I’d start by asking for them there. Here in the Bay Area, I found them at the Berkeley Bowl and they were grown in southern California, so they’ve got to have some availability!

Out Of The Archives:
Simple Black Beans

A simple batch of Black Beans.

When I go out on the web looking for new recipes or a recipe to remind me of the ingredients I need to have on my shopping list, I’ve noticed that if the recipe calls for Black Beans, the ingredient is usually listed as 1 14-ounce can of Black Beans.

I’m always dismayed by this. While cans of beans are convenient, and they do retain their nutritional value for the most part, they cant compare to the flavor and texture of a pot of home cooked beans!

While most authentic Mexican food in the US offer only Pinto Beans or Refried Pinto Beans in their restaurants, Black Beans are a familiar dish in Southern Mexico on the Yucatan Peninsula. They are rich in flavor, pretty to look at, and full of folate, thiamin, and iron.

Frijol Colado / Tsaaj Bi Bu’Ul

While the image at the left shows cooked black beans, which are great as a side dish, Frijol Colado means strained beans. Tsaaj Bi Bu’Ul is the Mayan name for this dish. Tsaaj is anything that is cooked with oil or lard. Bu’Ul is the word for bean. While a pot of beans in the Yucatan is usually made with a large chunk of lard, Im going to bypass that bit altogether. The only oil I use in this dish is the oil I saute the onions and peppers in.
You will need a soup pot for this recipe, and while you dont have to stand over the stove to make these, youll need about three hours of time to make these before a meal.

Buying The Beans

You can find dried Black Beans in any grocery that sells dried beans, and in a grocery that has beans in the bulk bins. Buying them from the bulk bins is less expensive because you can buy a small amount at a time.

How Many Beans Should I Use?

The amount of beans that you will use will depend on two things, the size of your cooking pot and the number of people you have to feed.

As a general rule, I fill the bottom quarter of the pot with dried beans. I use that rule whether I am using a saucepan or a big soup pot.

Soaking The Beans

There are two ways to do this.

In either case, first wash the beans by rinsing them under running water and draining them.

The first way to soak the beans is to put the dried beans into the bottom quarter of the soup pot, then fill the pot about half way full of water and let the beans soak overnight.

The second way is to put the dried beans into the bottom quarter of the soup pot, then fill the pot about half way full of water and simmer for about ten minutes. Turn off the heat and let the beans stand for about an hour.

In both cases, once the beans have finished soaking, drain the beans in a colander and discard the water. The water will be a deep blue, but dont worry, there is still a lot of color left in those beans.

The Recipe

For those of you who need measurements you can base your proportions from this:

2-pounds of Black Beans
8-quarts of Water
1-ounce of Epazote found in the dried herb section of the grocery.
1 White onion
Xcatik Pepper you can substitute Banana Wax or Anaheim peppers.
Olive Oil
Sea Salt
Garlic

– Once the beans are soaked and drained, chop the onion, peppers, and garlic, all very finely.
– In the now empty soup pot (because the beans are sitting in a colander in the sink) dribble some Olive Oil and saute the onions and peppers until the onions are almost clear.
– Add the garlic and stir.
– Add the drained beans back into the pot.
– Add the epazote.
– Stir.
– Fill the pot halfway with water, filtered water if you have it.
– Once the beans start simmering, stir them and turn down the heat.
– Add salt when the beans begin to get soft.
– Cook until the beans just start to break apart.

At this point, if you just want a simple side of whole black beans, drain the beans either with a slotted spoon, or in a colander. Serve!

Strained Beans

If you’d like to make strained beans, put the drained beans in a bowl and roughly mash them. Or you can use a food processor.

Refried Beans

Leave the beans in the pot with the liquid, dont drain them or add any more water. Over a low flame, constantly stir the beans until they start to break down.