kibbles and wat

injera at the ready

Supper club was at our house this time, and we just had to do Ethiopian cuisine. We’ve been working on our injera recipe for a while, and wanted to show off. Of course, this meant that when we had guests over the previous week for a trial run, the injera failed miserably, sticking to the pan and coming out in half-raw, half-burnt shreds, but I guess you need a bad dress rehearsal for everything. On the day, it worked perfectly. I made a quadruple batch and all but two breads came out just right: sour, stretchy and full of bubbles.

plateful

The rest of the supper club membership came through with their usual magnificence. Here’s what our dinner plates looked like: injera piled with doro wat (chicken and egg stew), shiro (chickpea flour dip), lentil wat, cabbage-carrot curry, spicy mango cucumber salad, tomato-plum stew, ayib (spiced curds) and azifa (lentil salad). For afters there was a banana-mango-coriander frozen yogurt with chocolate chips, and date sambusas.

dabo kolo

Before all that, we had cocktails and appetizers. Jenise made a gorgeous tower of kitfo (raw beef with spices) layered with goat cheese and served with sliced jalapeños – it was spicy and delicious. Jon invented a drink for the occasion, a lemon-honey-bourbon concoction with a splash of his homemade cardamom tincture. And I tried something new, a traditional Ethiopian snack food called dabo kolo. Something like a pretzel or small, spicy cracker, it unfortunately looks exactly like a particular brand of tartar-control cat kibble that we get from our vet. Fortunately it doesn’t taste like it. It has butter, sugar, salt and berbere powder, but just enough of each to make you want another bite. They are rather addictive.

cutting dabo kolo

Dabo Kolo

Adapted from A Bread a Day and The World of Street Food by Troth Wells

  •  2 cups flour (white, wheat, teff or chickpea flour are all acceptable – I’ve only tried it with white so far)
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 Tbsp berbere powder (the recipe we use is here)
  • 4 Tbsp melted butter or oil
  • 1/2 cup water

Preheat the oven to 350°.

Mix the dry ingredients together, then add the butter and water. Knead until smooth; the dough will be very stiff. Cover it with plastic and let it rest ten minutes or so.

Cut the dough into golf-ball-sized pieces, and roll each one out into a long rope, about 1/4″ thick. Using a knife or dough cutter, cut the rope into even 1/4″ pieces. Scatter these onto a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake about 25-30 minutes, until crunchy but not dark. Let cool completely.

Wells suggests serving with melted butter, like popcorn. I like them dry, but maybe with a bit more salt than this recipe calls for. These will keep in an airtight jar for at least a week, maybe longer (but they seem to disappear pretty fast).

dabo kolo

modern Mexican

carne asada and tamales

The theme for our latest supper club was “modern Mexican.” It was another remarkable meal, made up of a series of composed small plates and some amazing flavors.

evening on the bay

It didn’t hurt that the weather was gorgeous that day, and dinner was held at a house right on the water. It set the tone nicely for a very summery meal.

margarita fixings

tamarind margarita

We started out with tamarind margaritas. I love tamarind-based drinks, it gives a tartness that’s very distinctive.

ceviche

Jenise made a batch of ceviche for us to nibble on while we set up for dinner. I know there was shrimp, halibut, corn, green olives and peppers, and it was one of the best ceviches I’ve ever had. It was hard to resist filling up before we even sat down.

avocado soup

Jon and I brought several dishes to share. The first of these was a chilled avocado soup garnished with pepitas. I liked the flavor of this, but it was extremely rich and creamy. If I ever make this again I think we’ll just serve it in tiny portions, like a shooter glass. The pepitas were toasted and tossed with ground chipotle pepper, which gave them a nice smokiness.

scallops in agavero sauce

Roger contributed the next course, based on a dish from a favorite restaurant. Sea scallops in an agavero butter sauce with capers, rolled into flour tortillas. This was fantastic, and I’d never even heard of agavero before, so it was a new flavor experience.

chalupas

Next came our chalupas (little “boats” made of masa, toasted on a griddle, molded by hand, then fried), topped with hot vinegary Mexican chorizo, sauteed pineapple, and a dab of tomatillo-chipotle salsa. We were going to add crema, chopped onion and cilantro but we sort of ran out of room – each of these was only about two bites. I liked the chalupas a lot, but they were best fresh out of the pan; the few that were left over we ate the next day, and they had really hardened up. The chorizo was a huge success – we used to be able to buy locally-made chorizo at our neighborhood grocer but couldn’t get it this time, so we made our own and it was fabulous. The recipe is from a nifty little cookbook called Antojitos, and I’ve reprinted it at the bottom of this post. Adding pineapple was an inspiration we got from Calle, a lovely Mexican restaurant in downtown Mount Vernon – they top their chorizo tacos with grilled pineapple and I’ve really liked it.

duck pomegranate tacos

Linda and Mike brought duck tacos with pomegranate seed salsa, pickled cabbage, a peanut-arbol salsa, and charred corn tortillas. This was just beautiful. I particularly loved the crunch of the pomegranate seeds with the tender duck meat.

tamales and salsa

Jenise and Bob cured flank steak with salt, sugar and hibiscus flowers and then grilled it, and Jenise made two kinds of tamales: black truffle and goat cheese/mint. The tomatillo salsa went with everything.

lime ice

Georgiann’s lime ice, totally refreshing, with mint and strawberries.

Mexican chocolate pots de creme

Pots de creme infused with Mexican chocolate and cinnamon. I made this from a Thomas Keller recipe, adding pulverized Ibarra chocolate and a stick of cinnamon to the warming milk and cream. It was the reverse of refreshing: rich and deadly.

There was also plenty of Mexican beer and a selection of wines that went surprisingly well with the food. I think we did very well with this theme!

chorizo

Chorizo

From Antojitos: Festive and Flavorful Mexican Appetizers by Barbara Sibley and Margaritte Malfy

This makes a very potent chorizo, spicy and vinegary. It works best as a seasoning, rather than a main dish, as a little goes a long way (we made tacos from the leftovers and they were very hot and rich). Yes, there is a ton of ground cloves in this, but don’t skimp!

  • 3 dried arbol chiles
  • 7 dried guajillo chiles (we substitued puya chiles, which are very similar)
  • ½ cup chopped onion
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • ½ cup white vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp kosher salt
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 ½ tsp ground cloves
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 pound ground pork

Layer the chiles, onion and garlic, add the bay leaf, and pour the vinegar over. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and set aside for one hour.

Discard the bay leaf. Put the mixture in a blender and process to a rough paste. Add water to thin if necessary. Scrape out into a bowl.

Mix the chile paste with the salt, cumin, oregano, cloves and pepper. Add the pork and mix thoroughly.

Put a dab of the sausage into a skillet and cook to check seasonings, adjusting as necessary. Refrigerate the sausage for at least 12 hours or up to 5 days. To cook, heat a small amount of oil in a skillet and add the sausage, stirring until the meat is cooked through.

If adding pineapple: dice about a cup of pineapple finely. Put in a nonstick skillet and fry until the liquid cooks off and the pineapple starts to brown. Add the cooked chorizo to the pineapple and stir them together until everything is hot.

puya chiles

homemade chorizo

chalupas

Indochina

green papaya saladwine with dinner

Another month, another meeting of the Bellingham Supper Club. Our theme was Indochina, which allowed for dishes from Vietnam, Laos or Cambodia, with Thailand being an allowable deviation. We had a great selection of white wines of varying sweetness or spiciness, beer, and lots and lots of good food.

snow peas

While we sipped glasses of Grüner Veltliner, Jenise stir-fried some fresh snow peas with sake and we picked them up with toothpicks to nibble on while we talked.

green papaya salad

Our first sit-down course was Roger’s green papaya salad. Very simple and refreshing, with just a hint of heat.

dipping sauce

spring roll toppings

spring rolls and coconut pancakes

Linda and Mike brought spring rolls. There were little coconut pancakes, which Linda claimed hadn’t come out properly, and fried spring rolls cut into sections. These we rolled up in lettuce leaves with herbs and vegetables and dipped into a fresh-tasting dressing of lime juice, garlic, chiles, vinegar, sugar and fish sauce. I particularly loved the texture and taste of the pancakes with the herbs and dressing – I hope to try these myself someday.

satay

Roger made a grilled chicken satay with yet another dipping sauce…

shrimp grapefruit salad

…and Georgiann made a creamy, lightly curry-scented shrimp and grapefruit salad, served in the grapefruit rinds.

dumplings

Jenise threw together some meat-filled dumplings, which were liberally garnished with hot chile peppers. I think it was at this point I went and got a bottle of Tsingtao to wash the food down.

ribs and curry

The last savory course was a lemongrass beef curry from Jenise, and pork ribs cooked in fish sauce and bitter caramel, from us (more about those below), with a bowl of rice.

pandan ice cream

And for dessert, a cup of coffee and a scoop of pandan ice cream.

pandan infusion

This was very successful, I thought, but pandan (the leaf from a type of screwpine – we buy it at Uwajimaya and keep it in the freezer) is an unusual flavor – floral, but also very toasty flavored. We’ve tasted it in drinking water, Indonesian curries use it to flavor broths, and it’s used in sweets of all sorts. Jon made the ice cream, looking up various recipes online and adjusting. It’s noteworthy that every single recipe he found was based on David Lebovitz’s basic vanilla ice cream, which is about as good as ice cream gets.

mixing the custard

into the ice cream maker

The recipe he ended up following was from Use Real Butter, with a few adjustments. He used twice as many pandan leaves, and chopped them up for a more intense infusion instead of knotting them. He didn’t use pandan extract at all, but added two drops of green food coloring to enhance the appearance. The color ended up looking just like classic mint ice cream. The flavor, though, was reminiscent of green tea, particularly the kind with roasted rice in it. And the texture was perfect, smooth and creamy. A little of this goes a long way, but a small portion made a perfect dessert after all the different flavors of the meal.

grilling pork ribs

Then there were our ribs, which were made right out of Andrea Nguyen’s Into the Vietnamese Kitchen. We’ve made these before, but had used the broiler for the first round of cooking instead of the grill. This time Jon braved the elements and cooked them properly over charcoal.

grillin' in the rain

It was a nasty wet day. But the ribs smelled absolutely incredible on the grill. Warning – don’t attempt this before lunch.

putting ribs on to braise

After grilling the ribs go into a pot with their remaining marinade, more fish sauce, and a lot of bittersweet Vietnamese caramel sauce, which we had made earlier that morning.

feesh sossadding the caramel

braising the ribs

They simmer for an hour, until the meat is falling off the bone. The bitter char and smoke flavors from the grill blend with the bitterness of the caramel sauce, creating a rich deep flavor. So good.

Another successful Supper Club!

a very French dinner

it was French night at supper club

It was French night at Supper Club.

salmon rillettes

herbed goat cheese tart

We started off with two different French aperitifs: Lillet Blanc and Pastis. There were salmon rillettes made by Linda, topped with pink peppercorns and served with cornichons and caperberries. Georgiann’s herbed goat cheese tart was a great success, made with Gothberg Farms chevre. If there hadn’t been so much good food to come I could have happily made a meal out of just these two dishes.

first course

Our first sit-down course was made by Jenise: a delicate vegetable terrine and a small pastry that turned out to contain a mushroom stuffed with foie gras. Good lord.

vegetable terrine

While the foie gras pastry was rich, salty and knock-your-socks-off good, the terrine was beautifully subtle as well as gorgeous to look at. One layer had pureed watercress, and another had mushroom duxelles to connect it to the pastries. Carrots and snap peas adorned the center. It was served on a light salad with a shallot dressing, I think.

crevettes a la provencale

The next course, made by Roger while we ate our terrine, was crevettes a la provencale: prawns on a bed of tomatoes and olives. A nice change of flavor from the first course, bold and rustic, it went well with the French red country wines that had been opened and led us into the main course.

untrussing the chickens

the main course

This was chicken ballotine, roasted beets, and petatou. Linda and Mike made the ballotine, boning out two whole chickens and stuffing them with bacon, spinach, croutons and gruyere, then tying and roasting them. A real showpiece of a dish, it was fun to look at as well as eat. Georgiann did the beets, which were tossed with champagne-raspberry vinegar and orange juice. And Jon made the petatou, which was a major production but well worth it.

petatoupetatou

We found the petatou recipe in Tony Bourdain’s Les Halles Cookbook (a hilarious read as well as a great reference for classic bistro cooking) . Essentially a potato and olive salad topped with goat cheese and broiled, it made a fabulous side dish with the chicken. It was enriched with reduced cream and egg yolk, which helped bind the potatoes together for molding, but I can see that it would be wonderful simply made up to the point of adding the cream and served as a cold salad instead of the broiled timbales. This was one of the most delicious things we’ve ever done with potatoes – I’ve copied out the recipe below if you’d like to try it yourself.

carrots

Linda also made some carrots with olives, from a Jacques Pepin recipe. Like everything else on the table, it was beautiful.

dessert wine

Finally, everyone found room for a slice of my tarte tatin, which we washed down with pineau de charentes and coffee. Apparently I ate my slice without even considering taking a picture, but I did do a post on it a while back. This version was made with an extra-short buttery pie crust and Jonagold apples. There were no leftovers.

molding the petatou

Petatou

From the Les Halles Cookbook by Anthony Bourdain. The recipe claims it makes four servings, but we doubled it and (using a 2″ biscuit cutter) got close to 15 servings. Depends on what you’re using for a mold and how tall you make them, I suppose. Leftovers are delightful.

  • 2 pounds red potatoes
  • 1 Tbsp fresh thyme leaves
  • 1/2 pound nicoise olives, drained, pitted and chopped
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 cup cream
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 4 oz fresh goat cheese (chevre)

Cut the potatoes in half, place in a pot and cover with water. Add 2 Tbsp of salt and bring to a boil. Cook the potatoes until tender (about 20 min), drain and cool. Remove the skins and dice the potatoes, putting them into a large bowl. Add the olives, thyme, olive oil, and the vinegar. Add salt and pepper to taste and toss gently.

Put the cream in a small pan and bring to a boil – watch out, it boils over fast! Reduce it by half, stirring to prevent scorching. In another bowl, lightly beat the egg yolk. When the cream is ready, beat it into the egg, whisking constantly. Add all but 4 Tbsp of this mixture to the potatoes.

Preheat the broiler. Using a biscuit cutter or other ring mold, form the potato mixture into cylinders and arrange them on a baking sheet. Cut the goat cheese into circles and lay a piece on each potato tower. Drizzle the remaining cream mixture over the top, and broil until golden brown. Serve with parsley oil (below).

Parsley oil (for garnish)

  • 2 Tbsp parsley leaves
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil

Chop the parsley quite fine, and put it in a bowl or jar with the olive oil. Stir or shake well. Spoon around or over the finished petatous before serving.

supper club: Persian

supper club

We’ve recently gotten involved with a new supper club based up in Bellingham, and the group had our first real dinner on Saturday (not counting the initial planning event). Our theme was Persian food, and it was so successful we might have to do a Persian II sometime.

supper club

supper club

There were two versions of kuku (a Persian frittata), one herb-walnut and one pistachio, yogurt salad, and little bites of cucumber with cheese and walnuts. There was a beef-artichoke stew, three kinds of rice pilaf (one with lima beans and two with lamb), grilled chicken kebabs, and almond tart with pomegranate whipped cream. My husband made kebab b’il karaz (spicy lamb meatballs in sour cherry sauce – perhaps more Turkish than Persian, but very much appropriate flavors), and I made badenjan borani, my favorite fried eggplant dish covered in garlic-mint yogurt sauce. There was plenty of wine, and everything was wonderful. And beautiful! I wished that I had brought my good DSLR instead of trying to capture the dishes with my phone camera.

supper club

We’re very excited about the future of this supper club. Can’t wait for the next one! What should the theme be?