simple squid

squid and couscous

We discovered that we can get big bags of frozen pre-cleaned squid rings and tentacles at the local fish market, and are preparing to embark on some serious experimentation with it. I know how to clean a squid in theory, but I’d really rather not, so this stuff is great. The one thing I’ve cooked with it so far, based on a recipe in James Peterson’s Fish & Shellfish, was incredibly simple and very, very successful: I sauteed chopped garlic and red pepper flakes in olive oil, added the squid and sauteed for 1 minute, then added chopped parsley and cooked another 30 seconds or so, then scraped it all out onto a pile of Israeli couscous with some roasted asparagus on the side. The ultimate fast dinner, and tasty too.

Any suggestions for our next foray into squid cookery?

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olive and lemon chicken

lemon-olive chicken

Somewhere along the line, North African cuisine has become one of my personal comfort foods. There’s something particularly wonderful about tagines with couscous, when it all blends together to create a bowlful of chewy, starchy, meaty deliciousness. The flavors are often pungent, but balanced, often with a good hit of fresh herbs, and I just find it so comforting on a cold evening. Last week I had a real craving for couscous with chicken and preserved lemon, and I must say it did the trick.

Of all the variations I’ve made of Moroccan chicken with preserved lemon and olives, this turned out to be a favorite. I found a recipe by Paula Wolfert that happened to use the sort of olives I had on hand and the right amount of lemon, and it was very successful. I particularly liked how it calls for braising bone-in chicken parts in aromatic broth, then taking out the pieces and roasting them until the skin crisps up and serving them with the reduced sauce. It prevents that soggy chicken skin problem that usually keeps me from braising skin-on pieces.

I didn’t marinate the chicken ahead of time (not my preference, just disorganized) and I left out the mashed chicken livers that the original recipe called for (partly because I didn’t have any, mostly because I don’t care for liver flavor). We served it with Israeli couscous. It was very rich with schmaltz, but sharp with lemon, olive and parsley. The last bottle of viognier from the basement was a perfect match. Continue reading

steak with sumac and pomegranate

dinner

For some time there has been a page torn out of a food magazine stuck to our refrigerator door. I found the photography compelling – a deep red background, with pieces of steak in a deep red sauce in the foreground – strangely effective. And the recipe itself sounded like something we would like: broiled skirt steak, rubbed with sumac and served with a port-pomegranate pan sauce. It needed only the proper occasion, and Jon’s birthday immediately suggested itself.

flank steak
spice rub Continue reading

Lamb-apricot tagine with Lebanese couscous

Lebanese couscous

Saturday was another nasty, cold, wet, blustery day – perfect for a stew. We had some lamb in the freezer, already cleaned and cut up for braising, and I felt moved to make a tagine. A few years ago I bought J a copy of Claudia Roden’s book on Middle Eastern food, but we’ve actually made very little progress through it with the exception of two tagine recipes, one with preserved lemon and one with apricots. They’re both excellent, so maybe someday we’ll try something else from the book.

 Anyway, this time I felt like making the apricot one. I got started shortly after 4:30 pm when we got home from errands, and dinner was ready around 7 – not really a workday dinner for us, but fun for the weekend. The tagine is really straightforward: I began by sauteeing a chopped onion in a glug of olive oil for awhile, until soft but not browned. I added cinnamon, cumin and a bit of cayenne pepper, then added sliced ginger, garlic and the defrosted lamb chunks and salted and peppered them liberally. Once they were browned I added water just to cover, brought it to a simmer and covered the pan. It burbled away on the lowest heat setting for about an hour while I did other things. Then I tossed in about a half pound of whole dried apricots, stirred it up and covered it again. About 20 minutes later I added a can of chickpeas, left the lid off so the liquid could boil down slightly, and started on the couscous. Continue reading

Lamb & couscous

lamb chops, couscous and broccoli rabe

This was one of those surprisingly wonderful Wednesday night dinners. I mean, I always hope that my cooking is going to turn out well, but sometimes it just seems like everything comes together particularly nicely – and when it does, it makes even a normal worknight seem like a special holiday.

 In our weekly browse through the grocery store meat case we found some exceptionally nice looking lamb loin chops – we buy these often for weeknight dinners when they’re available, but they’re not always worth the money. I got them seasoned before I left for work in the morning – I trimmed off the outer fat, rubbed them with kosher salt and pepper, and tossed them in a ziploc bag with olive oil, garlic and oregano. I’ve found that the preseasoning really helps the flavor of the meat, instead of just the outside crust. Continue reading