Saturday, June 20, 2009

Father's Day Brunch.... always a special event!!!

We make a big event out of special holidays and Father's Day is no exception.... so I've been preparing the menu for a week or so and getting all the ingredients ready for that day.... Ricardo, my hubby and Father's Day honoree has very sophisticated tastes.... luckily he likes it all, but as you can imagine I've spoiled him silly. You'd think that would make selecting a menu easier but in reality it makes it harder to pick a special day's menu since it has to be fantastic!

Being a Chef and having lots of time now since I am not working allows me to create elaborate celebrations that otherwise I wouldn't even attempt due to time constraints, but completely possible now that I have so much time on my hands... you know what they say about idle hands, huh? Plus, sitting around has never been my forte and I need to be doing something.... (except cleaning that

If you've been keeping up with this blog then you know I've been cheese making for the past two three days.... well, some of that was so I could have some of the ingredients ready for tomorrow like the Labnah (Lebanese Yogurt Cheese), got my mint plants ready for cutting and a big can of Italian Olive oil at the ready..... The Feta cheese is not ready yet but it will be by the time Rene's birthday rolls around the first week of July, which is his favorite.... but with Father's day, been thinking of a Brunch to start the day off which will give us the energy we need to head out towards "El Barrio de los Sapos", a fantastic swap meet kind of event featuring antiques of all types, artwork and juice and coffee bars by Avenida 5 de Mayo in the Zone of the Monuments downtown puebla. So many vendors bring out their finest antiques and Colonial artwork, it's a feast for the senses as we walk around and enjoy the ambiance.

Thinking of an exotic day featuring the flavors of Egypt to make it special and full of the tastes we love.... I'm preparing the Labnah of course, with an indentation on top to fill with olive oil, finely chopped mint leaves and Kalamata olives all around, this to have with fresh baked Pita's... will make a lovely appetizer. I'm also making a lovely Pomegranate Sauce made from a reduction of the seeds, juiced to offer me their lovely tart flavor which will then be sweetened with Balsamic Vinegar and concentrated until it becomes perfection to serve with fowl....

Serving a "typical Egyptian breakfast", Ful Mudammas: A creamy bean paste made from fava beans, and so loaded with protein is one of the country's several national dishes, a typical breakfast meal. It is often served in a spicy sauce, topped with an egg and containing the favorites Ricardo loves:

Ful Mudammas (Broad Beans in Sauce)

  • 2 cans (15-ounce each) cooked fava beans (I cook fresh beans but take longer)
  • 6-9 cloves garlic, from a garlic press
  • 1 tsp salt, or to taste
  • 1 Tbl lemon juice, freshly squeezed
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1½ Tbl parsley, minced
  • Garnish, such as radishes, hard-boiled eggs, chopped scallions, pita bread (toasted and cut into wedges)
  1. Place the pressed garlic cloves in a medium bowl. Mash the garlic and salt together to make a paste. Next, add the lemon juice, olive oil, and parsley to the garlic mixture and combine thoroughly. Drain the beans well, rinse, and put beans into a large pot over low heat. Add garlic mixture and stir with a wooden spoon to combine well. Serve warm with the garnishes arranged on a platter. Each person is served a plateful of Ful Mudammas and adds the garnishes of his or her choice
Fragrant thick coffee is served as well or hot mint tea which is traditional. I usually also have some fresh baked scones on hand simply because everyone loves them in the morning and they're so easy to make it only takes a moment. Got some organic blueberry's which will be featured in these. I hope you will try this recipe someday, I'm sure everyone will love them and you will find them a snap to make:

Tea Scones.- So easy, they taste fabulous yet only takes a moment....
  • 2 cups sifted flour
  • 3-4 tbl sugar
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 5 tbl butter
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 3/4 cup milk
Heat oven to 425F. Sift together the dry ingredients. Chop in the butter either with a pastry blender or with a fork and work until it looks like little balls or coarse cornmeal. Add the egg and some of the milk (about half) and combine lightly until no flour shows. Add more milk if needed until you have a soft dough. Turn the dough onto a floured surface and knead about 15 min. Cut the dough in half, make two balls and and flatten each into a disk about 1/2 inch, one at a time and cut into 8 wedges (like a pie). Put the wedges in a greased cookie sheet, don't let them touch and allow space between them; glaze each with some beaten egg and bake until golden brown, about 12 min. Note: If you are going to add extra touches like: blueberries, strawberries, raisins, nuts, dried fruit, have these chopped and ready and add these when you are adding the milk, then proceed as usual.

For the main meal in the evening (and we have VERY late dinners, after 10pm..) we will truly celebrate with the best Morocco has to offer and some of our favorites. Being in Mexico means we can get pigeon, but in other areas where they might not be available I would substitute Cornish Hens or in a pinch Chicken.....

Egyptian Stuffed Pigeon.- Aromatic and flavorful.....
  • 6 baby Mediterranean pigeons, squab or small poussins
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • The juice of 1 lemon
  • 6 tbsp sunflower or vegetable oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cardamom
  • 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 3/4 tsp allspice

For the stuffing:

  • 4 cups chicken stock and 2 cups long grain rice
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 150g (5oz) pine nuts
  • 50g (2oz) raisins or sultanas, soaked in water for half an hour
  • 5 tbsp vegetable oil or butter

Put the onion together with the lemon, oil, salt and pepper, cardamom, cinnamon and allspice in a blender or food processor and blend well. Rub the birds with this mixture inside and out.

For the stuffing, bring the water or stock to boil in a pan. Put some oil in a pan and stir fry (along with the pine nuts in a tablespoon of the butter or oil, stirring and turning them until golden), the rice until it changes color. Add the rice, salt, pepper and cinnamon and stir, then cook, covered, on very low heat for about 15 minutes or until the liquid is absorbed and the grain is tender. Stir the drained raisins and the remaining oil or butter (cut into pieces) into the rice in the pan, and heat through.

Spoon some stuffing into each of the birds to fill the cavity, and secure the openings with toothpicks. Arrange in a baking dish, breast-side down. Roast in a preheated (180C/350F) oven for 35 min. Turn them over and roast for another 10 min or until golden brown and the juices no longer run pink when you cut in the thick part of a thigh. Reheat the remaining rice stuffing in an oven dish in the oven, covered with foil, for about 20 min. Serve.

Now, once you see the following recipe you're going to think: "this is nuts, who would do all this?.." BUT, let me assure you THIS IS MORE THAN WORTH IT!!!! This is my favorite dish
in all the world, even if it involves a lot of work.... fabulous!!!!!!!! If you're not up to making it yourself, then do try it by going to a Moroccan restaurant where you live, you'll see what a fascinating combination of flavors this bring and how addictive it can become:

Moroccan B'stilla - Squab and spice filled pie.....
For the almond sugar:
  • 1/2 cup blanched whole almonds, toasted and cooled
  • 3 tbl granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon, the fresher the better as in all spices
For the filling:
  • 1/4 tsp saffron threads, crumbled
  • 2 tbl hot water
  • 1 med onion, chopped (about 1 1/4 cups)
  • 2 garlic cloves, cut into thin strips
  • 1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) butter
  • 3/4 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 lbs chicken parts (about 1 whole breast, 2 thighs, and 2 legs), should be squab, but....
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken broth, watch the salt
  • 3 large eggs, beaten lightly
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tbl chopped fresh parsley leaves
  • 3 tbl chopped fresh coriander (cilantro leaves)
  • 1 1/2 tbl fresh lemon juice, or to taste
  • 18 sheets (about 1 1/2 packages) phyllo leaves (ok if frozen)
  • confectioners' sugar and cinnamon for sprinkling
  • 2 tsp ras el hanout
For the ras el hanout: (moroccan spice blend) - you can make it once and keep for many uses....
  • 1/2 tsp aniseed
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds
  • 8 whole allspice berries
  • seeds from 8 cardamom pods (Thank you Craig!!!!)
  • 8 whole cloves
  • 15 whole black peppercorns
  • 1 stick cinnamon, broken in half
  • 1 tbl sesame seeds
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1/2 tsp cuminseed
  • a pinch dried red pepper flakes
  • a pinch ground mace
  • 1 tbl ground ginger
  • 1 tsp freshly ground nutmeg

To make the almond sugar:

In a food processor grind fine, almonds, granulated sugar, and cinnamon. Almond sugar may be made 1 day ahead and kept covered in a cool dark place.

To make the filling:
In a small bowl combine saffron with hot water and let stand 10 min. In a heavy 4-quart kettle sauté onion and garlic in 3 tbl butter over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, until onionis golden, about 4 min. Reduce heat to moderate and add ginger, ras el hanout, and pepper. Cook mixture, stirring, 3 min. Add chicken parts, broth, and saffron mixture and simmer, covered, turning the chicken once, until chicken is very tender and cooked through, 25 to 35 min. Let chicken stand in cooking liquid off heat 30 min. Transfer chicken to a plate, reserving cooking liquid and solids, and, when cool enough to handle, shred chicken, discarding skin and bones. Measure reserved cooking liquid and solids and if necessary boil, stirring occasionally, until reduced to about 1 3/4 cups. Reduce heat to moderate and add eggs in a stream, whisking. Cook mixture, stirring, until eggs are set, about 3 min. Remove kettle from heat and pour egg mixture into a coarse sieve set over a bowl. Let mixture drain undisturbed 10 min before discarding liquid. Transfer egg mixture to a bowl. Stir in chicken, parsley, coriander, lemon juice, and salt and pepper to taste and chill. Filling may be made 1 day ahead and kept chilled, covered.

For phyllo:
Finely grind almonds, powdered sugar, 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt, and cinnamon in a mini processor. Stack 10 phyllo sheets on work surface. Invert 9-inch glass pie dish onto stack. Cut around dish through phyllo, making ten 10-inch rounds. Remove dish. Cover rounds with plastic wrap and damp kitchen towel. Brush same pie dish with melted butter. Place 1 phyllo round on work surface; brush with butter and sprinkle with scant 1 tbl almonds and sugar. Top with another phyllo round, brush with butter and sprinkle with scant 1 tbl almonds. Repeat stacking with 3 more phyllo rounds, butter, and almonds. Fit phyllo stack into prepared pie dish. Brush with butter. Spoon filling evenly over. Place 1 phyllo round on work surface. Brush with butter and sprinkle with scant 1 tbl almonds. Top with another phyllo round, brush with butter and sprinkle with scant 1 tbl almonds. Repeat with 2 phyllo rounds, butter, and almonds. Place stack atop filling; top with remaining phyllo round. Tuck in edges. Drizzle more butter over top. Cut 4 slits through top phyllo stack to allow steam to escape. DO AHEAD: Can be made 6 hours ahead. Cover and chill.

Preheat oven to 375°F. Place pie on rimmed baking sheet. Bake uncovered until phyllo is golden and filling is heated through, about 40 min. Cool 15 min. Cut into wedges.

To make the ras el hanout:
In a spice grinder or cleaned coffee grinder grind fine aniseed, fennel seeds, allspice berries, cardamom seeds, cloves, peppercorns, cinnamon stick, sesame seeds, coriander seeds, cuminseed, and red pepper flakes, In a small bowl stir together ground spice mixture, mace, ginger, and nutmeg until combine well. Ras el hanout may be stored in a tightly closed jar in a cool dark place up to 6 months. Makes about 1/4 cup.

Side dishes for this feast will be Moroccan Beet Salad with a vinaigrette dressing, a Green Bean Salad with Roasted Red Peppers and Lemon-Olive Oil Dressing and the rest of the Rice Stuffning from the Pigeons. More fragrant coffee will be on hand and for dessert: Some Figs and Yogurt with Lemon Sauce and this easy Moroccan Lemon Cake:

Moroccan Lemon Cake - Easy and light.....

  • 4 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 cups flour
  • 4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 tbl fresh lemon juice
  • zest from 1 or 2 lemons
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Preheat your oven to 350° F (180° C). Grease and flour a small bundt or tube pan. Zest and juice your lemon. With an electric mixer or by hand, beat together the eggs and sugar until thick. Gradually beat in the oil. Stir in the flour, baking powder and salt, and then the milk. Beat until smooth, and then mix in the lemon juice, zest and vanilla. Pour the batter into your prepared pan, and bake for about 40 min, or until the cake tests done.

Allow the cake to cool in the pan for 7 to 10 min. Loosen the cake from the sides of the pan with a spatula, and turn out the cake onto a rack to finish cooling. You can always glaze the cake with some powdered sugar and some drops of milk, then drizzle on top.

If we were to really go all out I'd get some big floor pillows, throw a rug on the floor with the pillows all around, set a low table in the middle of this and arrange the dishes so everyone can eat (with their hands, right hand only since the left is considered "dirty") and sit under candle light while we talk and slowly appreciate the flavors we have before us.... maybe I can see if I can work something like this out.... plus some Moroccan music from the internet (as I only have Persian available but might do in a pinch..) and we'd be set. I think I will get to working so I can be done by tomorrow.....

I hope everyone's Father's Day will be special and allow the whole family to share it with all the Dads.... Will report back next week and will be back with more posts for everyone, until then, Enjoy!

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