Monday, August 24, 2009

manti vs. manty

I find myself eating a lot of lamb in the summer. Perhaps that's a little odd given the hot weather, but I'm guessing it might have something to do with the abundance of lovely fresh mint. I'm craving middle eastern food quite often, so Melissa Clark's recipe for Pasta with Turkish-Style Lamb, Eggplant and Yogurt Sauce from the NY Times seemed like the perfect make at home fix. She gets the inspiration for this dish from Turkish manti, little lamb-stuffed dumplings served with yogurt.

Recently, while out having dinner with my mom, Brother #2, and his wife, we saw manti on a menu. Having had Uzbeki "manty" I assumed it would be very similar, and encouraged #2 to order it. It turned out to be rather different from the pastry wrapped lamb pies at the Uzbeki restaurants, but you could see the similar influences. It was also a very pleasant surprise. This pasta actually comes reasonably close in flavor to those little dumplings, and it's certainly a lot easier to make at home. Recipe after the jump:

From a recipe by Melissa Clark in The New York Times

1 large eggplant, about 1 pound, in 1/2 -inch cubes
5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher or coarse sea salt, more to taste
3 fat garlic cloves, minced
1 large shallot, minced
1 pound ground lamb
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes, preferably Turkish or Aleppo (see note), more to taste
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint or dill, more to taste
1/2 pound bowtie or orecchiette pasta
2 to 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, to taste
2/3 cup plain Greek yogurt.

1. Preheat oven to 500 degrees. Bring a pot of water to boil for pasta.

2. Toss eggplant with 4 tablespoons oil and a large pinch of salt. Spread on a baking sheet, making sure there is room between pieces, and roast until crisp and brown, 15 to 20 minutes.

3. In a large skillet, heat remaining tablespoon oil. Add 2 minced garlic cloves and the shallot and sauté until fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes. Add lamb, 1/2 teaspoon salt, red pepper flakes and black pepper to taste. Sauté until lamb is no longer pink, about 5 minutes. Stir in mint or dill and cook for another 2 minutes. Stir eggplant into lamb. Taste and adjust seasonings.

4. Cook pasta according to package directions. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, melt butter: the amount is to your taste. Let cook until it turns golden brown and smells nutty, about 5 minutes. In a small bowl, stir together yogurt, remaining garlic and a pinch of salt.

5. Drain pasta and spread on a serving platter. Top with lamb-eggplant mixture, then with yogurt sauce. Pour melted butter over top. Sprinkle on additional red pepper and more mint or dill. Serve immediately.

Yield: 2 to 3 servings.

Note: Turkish or Aleppo (Syrian) red pepper flakes are sold at specialty markets and at You may also substitute ground chili powder. Do not use crushed red pepper flakes; they will be too hot for this dish.

Continue Reading "manti vs. manty"

Monday, August 17, 2009

omg stop it with the berries already

'Tis summer, didja know? It finally feels like it, with this gross hot weather. So of course it's only fitting that we are moving soon, because it is the rule in my family that we only move when it is blisteringly hot out. Actually, we still have a few weeks until the move, so I'm being dramatic. I imagine it will not be this hot out in mid-September, but for now I am neck deep in boxes and the cats are dropping piles of fur on all of it. Thus I label the boxes: Books-Office (Cat Fur).

So as a small snack to fortify myself between rolls of packing tape and sharpies, here are some summery Blueberry Crumb Bars. Honestly, these are just shortbread and blueberries, ie. butter in a bar. These are exceedingly easy to make; crust doubles as crumb topping, berries go in whole, impossible to mess up. Perhaps one of these days I will make a dessert that is not berry-centric, but I don't imagine it will be one of these hot days. Recipe after the jump:


3/4 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup cold unsalted butter (2 sticks)
1 egg
1/4 teaspoon salt
Zest and juice of one lemon
4 cups fresh blueberries (2 pints)
1/3 cup white sugar
3 tbsp flour

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Grease a 9×13 inch pan and line with parchment paper.

2. In a medium bowl, stir together 3/4 cup sugar, 3 cups flour, and baking powder. Mix in salt and lemon zest. Use a fork or pastry cutter to blend in the butter and egg. Dough will be crumbly. Pat 2/3 of the dough into the prepared pan.

3. In another bowl, stir together the sugar, 3 tbsp flour, and lemon juice. Gently mix in the blueberries. Sprinkle the blueberry mixture evenly over the crust. Crumble remaining dough over the berry layer.

4. Bake in preheated oven for 50-60 minutes, or until top is light brown. Cool completely. Using the edges of the parchment paper, lift gently out of the pan before cutting into squares. Refridgerate any leftovers in a sealed container.

Continue Reading "omg stop it with the berries already"

Monday, August 10, 2009

french food i did not eat in france: for julia

[Thanks to Tom for making this photo less beige and much more appetizing.]

It's been quite a Julia-centric week, with the long-awaited premiere of Nora Ephron's Julie & Julia. I attended a screening of the movie last week. I won't get into my feelings about it here, but I will say that I obviously have a great love for Julia Child and all that she has done for food in America. Julia influences not just my attitudes about food and cooking, but my livelihood as well. So here is a small tribute to her, Supremes de Volaille aux Champignons, from her 1961 masterpiece "Mastering the Art of French Cooking".

Now, J-Cat does not like chicken breast. Actually I don't like it either, for the most part. But it appears that saucing your chicken breast with copious amounts of butter, cream, port wine, and mushrooms suddenly makes it the most delicious meat you can imagine. J-Cat inhaled his before I even had two bites. He then put extra sauce directly on rice and ate it straight. This sauce is crack. I took the liberty of using more mushrooms than the original recipe calls for, partially because I assumed that our giant American-raised chicken breasts would be monsters compared to what Julia had access to in Paris in the early 60's. I was right, as the cooking time was quite different. I would recommend either flattening the breast just to even them out, or using the smallest chicken breasts you can find. Recipe after the jump:

Supremes de Volaille aux Champignons
(Chicken Breasts with Mushroom and Cream)
From “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” by Julia Child (Knopf, 1961)

4 supremes (boneless, skinless chicken breasts)
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
Big pinch white pepper
5 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon minced shallot or green onion
1/4 pound diced or sliced fresh mushrooms
1/8 teaspoon salt
For the sauce:
1/4 cup white or brown stock or canned beef bouillon
1/4 cup port, Madeira or dry white vermouth
1 cup whipping cream
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons minced parsley

Rub the chicken breasts with drops of lemon juice and sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Heat the butter in a heavy, oven-proof casserole, about 10 inches in diameter until it is foaming. Stir in the minced shallots or green onion and saute a moment without browning. Then stir in the mushrooms and saute lightly for a minute or two without browning. Sprinkle with salt.

Quickly roll the chicken in the butter mixture and lay a piece of buttered wax paper over them, cover casserole and place in hot oven. After 6 minutes, press top of chicken with your finger. If still soft, return to oven for a moment or two. When the meat is springy to the touch it is done. Remove the chicken to a warm platter (leave mushrooms in the pot) and cover while making the sauce (2 to 3 minutes).

To make sauce, pour the stock and wine in the casserole with the booking butter and mushrooms. Boil down quickly over high heat until liquid is syrupy. Stir in the cream and boil down again over high heat until cream has thickened slightly. Off heat, taste for seasoning, and add drops of lemon juice to taste. Pour the sauce over the chicken, sprinkle with parsley and serve immediately.

Serves 4.

Continue Reading "french food i did not eat in france: for julia"