Last month I had the pleasure of contributing to Melissa Joulwan’s awesome meatball recipe collection, “March Meatball Madness.” My dish, Bakso, is one of my favorite ways to eat ground meat. Be sure to check out the rest of March Meatball Madness on her blog, The Clothes Make the Girl!
Bakso is an Indonesian beef ball similar to Chinese or Vietnamese beef balls. Like all Asian beef balls, they are dense yet spongy, with a texture similar to fishcake. The key component of this texture is pulverizing the meat into a paste, often described as surimi, wherein its proteins are broken down. I like this spongy texture, and it’s a great alternative to your typical uses for ground beef.
It’s commonly believed that Bakso was first brought to Indonesia by Chinese immigrants. Bakso vendors can be found on most busy Indonesian city streets. Recently, there has been a health stigma against Bakso vendors, since additives such as Borax and MSG are commonly found in the beef balls or broth they’re served in. But in their natural form – as found in this recipe – Bakso is both delicious and healthy. The only modification I made from typical Bakso recipes is that I omitted the bit of sugar that is usually added to the balls to enhance their flavor.
Callaloo is a Caribbean dish that originated in Africa. It is typically made with amaranth leaves (aptly called callaloo in the West Indies), taro leaves (dasheen), or water spinach; since these plants are somewhat hard to find in the United States, spinach is a common replacement stateside. There are many variations of this dish, and my recipe follows the Trinidadian version, which includes coconut milk and okra. In the Caribbean, Callaloo is often served as a side dish, but when I make it, it almost always turns into a main course. I’m not the type of guy that craves vegetables often, or vegetable soups for that matter, and I crave this dish. A lot.
I think I could eat my weight in Callaloo. I don’t know what it is about this dish that makes me go crazy about it. For one thing, I feel like a superhero after I eat it – like I’ve consumed a week’s worth of vegetables in one sitting. It’s also ridiculously delicious, and carries a unique flavor despite using fairly common ingredients. The only ingredient in here we don’t eat regularly is okra, since my wife isn’t a fan of okra’s slimy texture; luckily, the texture is cleverly masked in this dish.
Bouillabaisse is a traditional Provençal (Southeast France) stew, typically made with fish and shellfish. Although it was originally made with rockfish, today it’s also made with all sorts of different seafood. For this recipe in particular, I decided to go with lobster and mussels; I like the idea of pairing two foods that are at opposite ends of the price spectrum (lobster = rare & elegant, mussels = common & unglamorous). This dish is paired with my lobster stock recipe, so be sure to check that out since you’ll need some stock. Putting this dish together – stock and all – is actually a fairly quick experience: in about 90 minutes you’ll have a recipe that will have your dinner guests swooning.
Don’t let the assumed costs of buying lobster deter you. If available in your area, live lobsters are surprising affordable when compared to the going rate at a seafood restaurant. And really, sometimes you can’t put a price tag on eating a rich, classic meal in the comfort of your own home.
Also, don’t forget that I’m hosting a giveaway this week; click here for a chance to win two live 1.5 lb lobsters from lobster.com ($65 value)! The giveaway is limited to continental US residents and ends midnight, Saturday, Feb 8th, 2014. Good luck!
Phew! January has come and gone, which means that my tradition of sharing only Whole30 recipes during the month is over. While I think that Whole30 recipes are easy to make and fun to work with, I miss cooking with alcohol the most each January. So let’s dive right into February with an easy, tasty recipe that can be used in many different ways – lobster stock. Most people associate stock with long, boring hours of slow-cooking. The opposite is true with lobster (and all shellfish) stock, as it’s just a matter of sautéing vegetables and the shells, then adding water and wine, and cooking until it’s super delicious (about 45 minutes).
The folks at Lobster.com were kind enough to donate a lobster for my stock recipe. They ship overnight to the continental US, and it was quite an experience to receive a package in the mail that contains a live, breathing animal; not only was it alive, but it was the most lively lobster I’ve ever worked with! I par-boiled the lobster (instructions in the recipe below) so that I could use its shell for stock, and its meat for a Lobster and Mussel Bouillabaisse. I bought a couple lobster shells from my local grocer to add to this recipe and I was amazed at how thick and hearty the Lobster.com shell was compared to what I usually buy!
I was also able to arrange a giveaway through Lobster.com: two 1.5 lb live lobsters, delivered to your door ($65 value)! To enter, click here to enter via Rafflecopter. The giveaway is limited to continental US residents and ends midnight, Saturday, Feb 8th, 2014. Good luck! Okay, let’s move on to the recipe.
I figure it’s safe to post a pumpkin recipe now. For a while there (all of October and November) I thought I was going to drown in pumpkin-flavored products. Is it just me, or are they becoming more and more prominent every year? Regardless, pumpkin soup is a hearty, warming way to enjoy the cold months of fall and winter, and I didn’t want to let spring hit me before sharing this recipe.
Like many foods we enjoy today, pumpkins are a product of the New World, and entered Europe in the 15th century. Most foods introduced during that time took a while to gain momentum in Europe – sometimes hundreds of years – but not the pumpkin. Because they resembled gourds and squashes common in the Old World, pumpkins were readily adopted and prized for their robust flavor and easy cultivation. It was quickly made into various soups, and mixed with honey and spices as early as the 17th century – a precursor to pumpkin pie.
For today’s recipe I wanted to keep pumpkin closer to its place of origin – North America – so I decided to focus on a Mexican soup commonly referred to as Sopa de Calabaza, often flavored with cumin and chorizo sausage. I really like the cyclical nature of this dish. Cumin was first cultivated in India and introduced to the Americas by the Portuguese and Spanish. Chorizo is the best of both worlds: Old World sausage flavored with paprika made by New World peppers, and later re-introduced to the Americas. So this dish is the product of the unique culinary marriage of these two continents and cultures.
While pre-roasting a whole pumpkin inevitably lends more depth of flavor, using canned pumpkin puree drastically cuts down on your cooking time and effectively turns this dish into a 30-minute meal. Continue reading
Brudet is a fish stew from Croatia, similar to an Italian Brodetto or Greek Bourdeto. All three are based on the Venetian word brodeto (“broth”). The recipes for each dish are similar; in fact, if you ever find yourself traveling along the Adriatic coast and see a similarly-named dish on a restaurant menu, you can probably bet it’s going to be a delicious fish stew cooked in a tomato base.
While there is a lot of variation to this dish, I like the Croatian version because it is an easy and unassuming approach to making soup. Marinate some fish for a while, then throw everything together at the proper time; it’s a true one-pot dish. Traditionally this dish is made with a mixture of fishes, to include eel, rockling, or coral trout; since they’re hard to come by, I think any firm white fish should be okay. I used cod. Adding shrimp and mussels also gives the stew a more rich and satisfying flavor.
Mohinga is a Burmese rice noodle soup not unlike many other rice noodles soups found in Southeast Asia, like Pho and Laksa. Mohinga is unique in that it uses a catfish soup stock and it’s typically served for breakfast.
There are many variations of this dish out there, but the most common versions usually include chickpea flour (which I omitted since it’s legume-based) and banana tree stem (which I wasn’t able to find in my area). The fish used to make the stock is often pan fried and added to the soup upon serving. To replace the chickpea flour and pan-fried fish, I used crushed up fish and rice fritters, which was my recipe from last week. It ended up being a very good decision.
Lately I’ve been slightly obsessed with making super nourishing foods, mainly soups. Turns out that many soups that are considered miracle meals (often affectionately termed “hangover meals”) – Pho, Attukal Paya, or even a simple chicken soup – basically consist of boiling soup bones for extended periods of time and adding spices as needed. So to add to my growing list of nourishing soups, I present Cow Heel Soup.
Also known as Cow Foot or Bull Foot Soup, Cow Heel Soup is a traditional soup found in the Caribbean (mainly Jamaica, Trinidad, and Tobago). Legend has it that in the 18th century, plantation owners would take the best cuts of cows and leave the workers with the “fifth quarter” – tail, feet, head, and organs – which became quite a challenge for local cooks. Over time the recipe for cow heel soup became popular, and while there are many variations to this dish, I tried to keep my recipe close to the standard, baseline recipe.
A few weeks ago, a reader suggested I try my hand at Caldo Verde (“green broth”), a traditional Portuguese soup that is often considered their national dish. It was the perfect recommendation – the soup’s use of simple, satisfying ingredients, plus the addition of slightly-spicy sausage, make it an ideal late spring / early summer meal.
Initially, the soup’s use of kale might seem out of place for a country that is geographically closer to Africa than the rest of Europe. But when you take into context the fact that the soup originates from Portugal’s northern Minho region, which was once under Roman and Celtic occupation and still retains some of that influence today, the culinary presence of a hearty cabbage like collard greens (or kale like in this recipe) makes sense. One of my favorite aspects of this dish is that it’s a perfect pauper’s meal: combine some very basic and always-available ingredients (water, onion, potatoes, cabbage) and add other items if and when they are available (broth, sausage).
Kalops is a traditional Swedish stew, first recorded in the 18th century. The word kalops itself is a cognate with the English word collops, which simply means “a slice of meat” – there’s actually some dispute as to whether the Swedish or English word came first. Either way, this stew is very similar to many English stews, but with a few Scandinavian twists: its signature flavor comes from a healthy amount of allspice, and it is commonly served with pickled beets. When carrots are added, the dish is called Skånsk Kalops, referring to the Skåne region (which is in Southern Sweden – perhaps carrots grow most abundantly there?).
Kalops is most often prepared with chunks of beef, but reindeer or elk are used as well. Personally, I thought it would be neat to make it with bison chuck roast, which US Wellness Meats recently sent me to try. It was pretty awesome. Overall, I loved this stew, and its characteristic allspice-heavy flavor gave it a warm, hearty, and very distinct taste.