Monday, July 30, 2007

Curried Turkey Meatballs

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I have a friend who is obliged for medical reasons to cut way down on fat intake. Trying to come up with something that would be very flavorful, but still low-fat, I happened across a curry recipe in the Sunday New York Times Magazine on April 15. The recipe as printed was for curried oysters, which didn’t ring my chimes, but the sauce sounded good and, even better, easy. I did make a few changes to suit my taste and what I had on hand.

I thought I might do it with chicken breasts, which I still think would be good, but at the meat department, right beside the chicken, was ground turkey. It comes in both white meat and mixed white and dark. I figured the white meat would be much lower in fat, so that’s what I used. I echoed some of the seasonings I used in the sauce to make turkey meatballs. To keep the fat low, I used only the white of the egg, and baked the meatballs instead of frying them.

We had it over steamed jasmine rice, with a green salad, and everyone went home happy!


1 egg white, lightly beaten
1/2 cup green onion, with 2” of the tops, minced
1 tablespoon minced cilantro
1/2 cup soft breadcrumbs
1 teaspoon curry powder
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 lb ground turkey breast


2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup onion, finely minced
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 serrano pepper, seeded and minced (See note)
1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored and diced
1 tablespoon curry powder
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 pinch ground cloves
1 pinch ground cinnamon
1 bay leaf
1 can (14 oz) light coconut milk
1/2 to 1 cup chicken stock
Juice and zest of one lime
1/4 cup cilantro, minced

Make the meatballs: Preheat oven to 350 o. Mix all ingredients in a large bowl. Form into 12 meatballs. Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray and arrange the meatballs in it. Bake until done through, about 1/2 hour.

Make the sauce: In a Dutch oven, over medium heat, melt the butter. Sauté the onion, garlic and serrano pepper until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the apple cubes, curry powder, ginger, cloves, cinnamon and bay leaf and stir a few times. Add the coconut milk and 1/2 cup stock.

Bring to a simmer and add the meatballs. Simmer for about 10 minutes, adding more stock to bring the sauce to your desired thickness. Add the lime zest and juice and simmer briefly. Serve over rice, sprinkled with cilantro. Serves 4.

NOTE: Leaving the pepper seeds in makes for a hotter curry. If you like, you may omit the pepper completely; it will still be quite tasty.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Summer in the South of France

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A while back, I was once again the guest of my friends Reed Malkin and Diane Benson for a small dinner party. Well, actually small refers only to the guest list, because when you’ve been to their house for dinner, you never go home hungry.

The dinner was inspired by the cuisine of Provence, in the South of France. Our apéritif was served outside, and was a perfect way to start a Southern French dinner: vin d’orange and gougères, a sort of savory cheese puff filled with black olives, anchovies and sundried tomatoes.

They had brought the wine back from a trip to Provence, but I remembered that the mother of one of my French friends used to make her own and had given me her recipe. And it occurs to me that if you start now, you can have a wonderful beverage to bestow upon special friends during the holiday season!

Recipes for the wine vary widely but most call for “bitter oranges,” which, to my knowledge, are not available locally. You can remedy this by adding the peel of one lime. Use the thin-skinned oranges, not the thick-skinned navel oranges. Wash them well before proceeding.

Some recipes call for a dry rose instead of the white. Some call for a stick of cinnamon to be added to the mixture. It’s your call on both.

The cheese puffs can be made a bit ahead and reheated, so they are a perfect way to start a meal that might require a lot of your attention.


Peels from 10 oranges, left overnight to dry slightly
Peels from one lime, left overnight to dry slightly
8 cups dry fruity white wine (Sauvignon Blanc or Semillon works nicely)
2 cups sugar
2 cups vodka
1 vanilla bean

Mix everything in a large glass or ceramic container. Cover and store in a dark cool place for about a month, stirring every day for the first week, then occasionally thereafter. At the end of the month, strain the wine through several thicknesses of cheesecloth. Fill small bottles and cork or cap them. Let set in a cool spot for at least another month before opening. Serve well chilled. Makes about six 375 ml. (about 8 ounce) bottles.


1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup water
5 tablespoons butter, cut into small chunks
1 generous pinch of salt
4 eggs

1/4 cup Gruyère cheese, shredded
4 anchovy filets, drained and finely minced
1 tbsp finely minced black olives
3 oil-packed sundried tomatoes, drained and finely minced
1 clove garlic, very finely minced

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
Sift the flour and set aside. In a deep saucepan, place the water, butter and salt. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and add the flour all at once, stirring quickly to avoid lumps. Continue stirring until the mixture forms a ball that pulls away from the sides of the pan, scraping into the corners of the pan. Transfer to a bowl and let cool for 8 to 10 minutes.

Add the eggs one at a time, stirring briskly to blend completely before adding the next. Fold in the remaining ingredients. Using a spoon to help form them, make balls about 1” in diameter and space them 2” apart on the baking sheets.

Bake in the center of the oven until golden brown, about 20 minutes. Turn off the oven, open the oven door and let the puffs remain in the oven for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and serve immediately.

If preparing a bit ahead, cool on racks, then place back on parchment covered baking sheet to reheat. Makes about 30 puffs.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Summer white wines!

I was brousing in Fredric Koeppel's wine blog and found his list of favorite white wines for summer. I can't wait to go to my corner wine shop to see which ones are available in Memphis!

Vegetable Shepherd's Pie?

 I was at a business networking luncheon not long ago. In the post-meeting mingling, a friend mentioned that her daughter had recently become a vegetarian and she just didn’t know how to cook for her.

That seems to be pretty popular among young folks nowadays, who don’t always consider the necessity of planning healthy balanced meals. A vegetarian diet can be a healthy one, but I had one young employee who thought a lot of salads and the occasional cheese pizza would sustain her. She wound up one sick little lady.

If you are a regular reader of my columns, you know I’m definitely not a vegetarian, but I thought it was an interesting challenge.

There’s a dish in France called “hachis parmentier.” It’s sort of the equivalent of shepherd’s pie: seasoned chopped meat topped with mashed potatoes and baked. In France anything “parmentier” involves potatoes. You may remember the salmon parmentier we did a few months back (and wasn’t that a yummy dish!).

That seemed to be a good starting place. I sautéed some vegetables, and added quinoa. It’s an ancient grain that is very nourishing and adapts to a lot of different cuisines. As a bonus it has a nice little mouth crunch.

So I tossed the vegetable-quinoa mixture into a casserole and topped it with seasoned mashed potatoes. It looks like a long recipe, but it goes very quickly. It was totally an experiment, and with a tossed salad with some feta cheese and toasted pine nuts included, made a lovely meal.

Not one of the Monday night tasting group asked “Where’s the meat?!?!”


For the bottom layer:
1/2 cup quinoa
2 medium carrots, peeled and very thinly sliced
1/4 cup good fruity olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium red onion, coarsely chopped
3 stalks celery, thinly sliced
1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
2 cups cabbage, finely shredded
2 small zucchini, thinly sliced
1 bunch fresh kale or spinach, stalks removed, shredded
1 can diced tomatoes, with Italian seasoning

For the top layer:
2 lbs russet or Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 medium carrot, peeled and shredded or finely chopped
1/4 cup heavy cream, crème fraîche or sour cream
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup fine dried bread crumbs
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan, asiago or gruyère cheese
2 tablespoons minced parsley

In a medium saucepan, simmer the quinoa in 1 cup lightly salted water until tender. This will take 15-20 minutes. It should absorb pretty much all the liquid. Add the sliced carrot after about 10 minutes. Set aside.

In a large skillet, heat the oil. Add the garlic, stir a couple of times, then add the onion, celery, bell pepper and cabbage. Sauté, stirring occasionally, until just barely tender, about 10 minutes. Add the zucchini and kale and continue to cook, stirring frequently, another five minutes. Remove from the heat. Stir in the quinoa-carrot mixture and turn into a casserole greased with olive oil. Scatter the tomatoes and their liquid over the top.

Meanwhile, in a large pan of well-salted boiling water, cook the potatoes and carrot until tender, about 20 minutes. Drain well and mash together. Add the cream, and season to taste.

Spread on top of the vegetable mixture, making sure to completely cover all the way to the edges. Mix together the crumbs, cheese and parsley and sprinkle evenly over the top.

Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven until heated through and the top is golden, about 30 minutes. If you want a crispier top crust, you could run it under the broiler for a few minutes. Serves 6 to 8.

NOTES: 1) You can make this ahead and leave out, covered, for an hour or two. Or do it up to a day ahead and chill, but bring out of the fridge at least an hour before baking.

2) If you would rather not buy a whole cabbage and shred it, you could use bagged cole slaw mix from the produce section. That’s what I did.

3) I think I would love this with diced roasted butternut squash in place of the zucchini. Or beets.
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Friday, July 06, 2007

Spain in Louisville

I just returned from a week in Louisville, as many of you know. Although the reason for the trip, my father´s illness, wasn´t the most felicitous, my sister and I were able to visit a couple of new restaurants that we really enjoyed.

The first, was Mojito, a restaurant near my parents´home. We went with our nephew and a couple of his friends. After a fairly brief wait at the bar, where I enjoyed a very good red wine sangria (and my sister didn't particularly enjoy her white wine sangria) we were escorted to a table outside.

The menu is nicely geared toward authentic Spanish, with only a little of the Mexican influence often seen in purportedly Spanish restaurants. There was an extensive selection of tapas, both "caliente" (hot) and "frias" (cold). Our waiter, Ivan (pronounced ee-von) guided us toward some of his favorites. We started with the guacamole (there's that Mexican influence showing up!). It was beautifully presented, with fresh, hot, crisp plaintain chips instead of the more usual tortilla chips. And it was gussied up with finely diced tomato and red onion, roasted poblano chiles and plenty of lime juice. Generously sprinkled with minced cilantro, it could not have been better.


I'm a sucker for mussels and pretty much order them any time they're available. Mojito's version was an excellent if fairly standard presentation: diced tomato, white wine, sofrito (sauteed onion and bell pepper), and garlic, again sprinkled with minced cilantro. With plenty of crisp baguette toasts, and a banana leaf scoop, we had no complaints.


A platter of perfectly done calamari, crisp with a cornflour crust, with a tangy lime-avocado aioli, and the albondigas, spicy little meatballs in a red wine-tomato sauce, somehow got consumed before I could whip out my camera, but we did enjoy the grilled vegetable "tabla." Served on a cutting board, it was colorful with red and yellow baby tomatoes, caper berries, grilled eggplant, yellow squash, zucchini, red onion, green and red bell pepper and whole garlic cloves. Topped with a saffron garlic butter drizzle, I could have eaten the whole thing by myself.


We finished the meal with two desserts to share. One, strawberry shortcake, was a slice of rich pound cake, drizzled with rum and topped with caramelized strawberries, and what I think was a drizzle of reduced sherry wine vinegar, and a scoop of super rich vanilla ice cream.

Possibly the most interesting dish of the evening, however, was their flan, normally a custard with a caramelized sugar topping. This one had the additional tang of goat cheese. Sounds odd? Truly delicious!

Mojito has a well-chosen wine list, reasonably priced, and a good selection of beer, both domestic and imported. The menu is quite reasonably priced, too: the total cost of all the food was under $50. (The wine and beer tab was something else again!)

In in addition to the tapas menu, there is a list of main courses, salads and sandwiches. And what looked to be an excellent paella is available for two or four persons, Valencia style with chicken, Spanish chorizo, grouper, shrimp, mussels and the requisite vegetables, saffron and wine. A bargain, at $15.99 per person (with a 30-45 minutes preparation time, giving plenty of time to enjoy a couple of tapas and a glass of sangria!). Can't wait to try it next time!
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Thursday, July 05, 2007

Speaking of cheese....

Is this someone with WAY too much time on his hands or what? The Cheez-It Snack Cracker people commissioned this monumental cheese carving which will now make a major national tour before becoming snacks!