Saturday, April 25, 2009

Trio of Random Yum Recipes

Three things I've made over the last month that were especially yummy and a little different.

1) The orzo with spice-roasted carrots, currants and pine nuts I almost didn't make because none of us likes cooked carrots, but I needed something for Passover Seder and it worked well with quinoa to go with our Mediterranean lamb shanks. (See me rolling out matzoh to right and results below - not one sign of Passover in our town of 41,000 people so necessity was the Jewish mother of invention. Results - below - were fine, but if you can buy it, you sure don't need that recipe.)

2) The Armenian spice cake I goofed up when making it at my friend Sally's house for supper (called tea here) distracted by wine and giggles -- but it was still really good.

3) And spicy potatoes, which caught my eye, but I didn't realize until I made them that they were really potatoes pretending to be Buffalo wings. Needless to say, they were gobbled up by the boyz in about a second.
Orzo (or whatever grain or small pasta you choose) with Spice-Roasted Carrots, Currants, and Pine Nuts - adapted from Simple Cafe Food by Julie LeClerc (another New Zealand find, check her out at - more cool recipes there)

1 cup orzo (I used quinoa but couscous, millet, brown rice...lots of things would be lovely here)
4 carrots, peeled
oil to roast
1 t ground cumin
1 t ground coriander
1 t paprika
1/2 cup currants (or golden raisins or regular raisins, chopped coarsely perhaps, would be fine)
1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted
3 T chopped fresh cilantro or parsley
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil (I used less)
2 T cider vinegar
salt and pepper to taste

Cook pasta or grain of choice per package directions. Drain and set aside to cool, rinsing and tossing with a little oil if your starch has a tendency to glop together when cooling. Preheat oven to 180/350. Cut carrots in half lengthwise and then slice on the diagonal into 1-cm-thick (1/2-ish-inch) pieces. Place in a roasting pan, drizzle with a little oil, sprinkle with spices, and toss to coat. Roast for 30 minutes, remove and cool. Mix cooled starch with carrots, currants, pine nuts, herb, oil and vinegar together well. Season to taste and serve at room temperature. Serves 6.
Armenian Spice Cake - loosely adapted from Sally's friend and something we scribbled down from the web. The cake ends up with two different layers: a crust topped with cake, delicious and different. It's nice with vanilla ice cream, softly whipped cream, or good, thick plain yogurt - something they often serve with cakes here that I really enjoy because it balances the sweetness of the cake.

2 cups light brown sugar, loosely packed
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 t baking powder
1 t salt
125 grams butter (about a stick or 8 T)
1 t baking soda
1 cup milk
1 egg
1 t ground nutmeg
1 t cinnamon
1 t ground star anise (plus more of all spices to taste - we probably used almost 2 t of each but it depends how fresh yours are, how much wine you've drunk, etc.)
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 180/350. In a medium bowl, whisk together sugar, flour, baking powder and salt. Rub butter into flour mixture until it is the texture of coarse breadcrumbs. Press half the mixture into a well-greased 20-cm square pan (we used 23-cm round or standard medium round cake pan I'd say). In a small bowl, whisk baking soda into milk until dissolved. Whisk in egg and spices. Pour milk mixture into remaining flour mixture and mix well. Spoon into pan on top of pressed in mixture. Sprinkle walnuts over top. Bake for 50 minutes or so. Let stand 15 minutes before slicing.
Spicy Potatoes aka Buffalo Wing Potatoes - I hate to admit this but I didn't scribble on the photocopied page where the recipe is from although I *think* it's from a Bill Granger cookbook (Aussie chef) from the very good cookbook collection of my lovely neighbor Chris. The copyright police will come get me now. I mucked with it a bit too.

1 kg (2 pounds) potatoes (I used a waxy variety)
2 T plus 2 t olive oil
1 t coarse salt
1 T tomato paste (I cheated and used ketchup)
1 T red wine vinegar
2 t paprika
1/2 t Tabasco sauce, or to taste

Preheat oven to 220/425. Peel and roughly dice potatoes about 1.5 cm (5/8 inch) in size. Put in a large roasting pan or jelly roll pan and toss with the 2 T olive oil and 1 t salt. Roast for 30 minutes. In a small bowl, whisk together remaining olive oil, tomato paste, vinegar, paprika, and Tabasco sauce. Pour over hot potatoes and toss to coat. Roast another 20-25 minutes or until crisp. Serves 4 - maybe. But I'd say make more. Didn't think to take a photo until they had already been inhaled with steak and green salad.
Plus two random cooking tips:
1) Use whisk to stir couscous into boiling water and then to fluff, instead of fork - and it will be fluffier (I know this is from Bill Granger - thanks Bill.)
2) To use up the last bits of mustard in the corners of those expensive Dijon jars I go through so fast I can't quite believe it, shake up a simple vinaigrette in the jar and all the remaining mustard will become part of your vinaigrette. I just squeeze in half a lemon, fill the jar 1/4 to 1/3 full (depending on how acidic you like your dressing) with cider or other mild vinegar, 1 good t coarse salt, grind of pepper, one or two finely minced garlic cloves (depending on size of jar and appetite for garlic). Close jar and shake to mix. Then fill most of remaining jar with mild oil - leaving room to shake. Close jar tightly and shake. Taste and add salt or a touch of sugar if you like to balance.

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