Recently, I began feeling convicted that I was letting Peter down in the cooking department. Either I was throwing together uninteresting things we had on hand, cooking the same standbys, settling for easy pizza or popcorn nights, coming up with wonderful carb-heavy ideas, or he was cooking. His cooking is great, and he's usually quite willing to invent something when he's got the time and energy; but I was feeling like a failure, especially with all the beautiful cookbooks we leave unopened in the bookcase. I think they intimidate me most because the ingredient lists are often long and full of things I don't consider staples or have trouble using up before they go bad (like large, pricey handfuls of herbs that we can't grow well ourselves at our current apartment). All that to say, I've started to reform in the last few weeks and tried a number of new recipes, these two from The Essential Mediterranean Cookbook I bought years ago...for the pictures, most likely. (I was also inspired to do more cooking after a recent read of Ann Mah's Mastering the Art of French Eating, which I highly recommend. It's a fun mix of memoir, travel, history, and recipes.)
4.5 oz long-grain white rice
1.25 c chicken stock
6 med. red, yellow, or orange peppers
2 oz pine nuts
1/3 c olive oil
1 lg. onion, chopped
1/2 c tomato passata (tomatoes cooked down with basil, onion, and garlic)
2 oz currants
2.5 T. fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
2.5 T. fresh mint leaves, chopped
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1. Cook the rice in the stock for 15 min. or until tender, then set aside, covered.
2. Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil. Cut off tops of peppers, reserving the lids. Remove seeds and membrane from peppers and discard. Blanch peppers (not the lids) in boiling water for 2 min., then drain and dry on a paper towel.
3. Preheat oven to 350F.
4. Toast pine nuts in a small frying pan over low heat until golden, then remove from pan and set aside. Increase heat to medium, heat 2 T of oil, and add onion and cook for 10 min., stirring occasionally.
5. Add tomato passata, currants, parsley, mint, cinnamon, rice, and pine nuts to the pan. Stir for 2 min., then season to taste with salt and pepper. (I haven't had mint on hand either time, and it's still good, though I'm sure the mint is an excellent addition!)
6. Stand peppers in a baking dish in which they fit snugly (or prop up with crumpled tinfoil, if needed). Divide rice mixture among the peppers and replace lids.
7. Pour 1/2 a cup of boiling water into the dish and drizzle the remaining oil over the top of the peppers. Bake for 40 min. or until peppers are tender. Serve warm or cold.
1 tsp dried yeast
1/2 tsp sugar
7 oz all-purpose flour
4 T. olive oil
1/2 c onions, finely chopped
1 lb lamb mince (or I used ground beef)
2 garlic cloves
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1.5 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
3 T. tomato paste
13 oz can crushed tomatoes
1/3 c pine nuts
3 T. fresh coriander (cilantro, or I used parsley), chopped
Greek-style yogurt, for serving.
1. Mix yeast, sugar, and 1/4 c warm water in a bowl. Leave in a warm place for 20 min. Mixture should be frothy and increased in volume.
2. Sift flour and 1 tsp salt into a bowl, and stir in the yeast mixture, 1 T of oil, and 3 fl oz of water. Mix to form a soft dough, then turn onto a floured board and knead for 10 min. or until smooth. Place in an oiled bowl, cover, and leave in a warm place for 1 hour or until doubled in size.
3. Heat 2 T of oil in a frying pan over low heat and cook onion for 5 min., or until soft but not golden. Add the lamb (or beef) and cook for 10 min., or until brown. Add garlic, spices, tomato paste, and tomato. Cook for 15 min., until quite dry. Add half the pine nuts and 2 T fresh coriander (cilantro, or I used parsley). Season, then leave to cool. Preheat oven to 415F. Grease two baking trays (or start your pizza stone heating).
4. Knock down the dough, then turn out onto a floured surface. Form into 8 portions and roll each into a 5"x 7" oval. Place on trays. Divide the meat among them and spread down the middle. Sprinkle with pine nuts and brush the edges with oil. Roll the uncovered dough over to cover the outer edges of the filling, pinch the sides together at each end, and bake 15 min. or until golden. (I found it quite a challenge to transfer my full "pizzas" from the counter to the hot pizza stone; they certainly don't look quite like the cookbook photo.) Sprinkle with coriander (cilantro, or parsley) and serve with yogurt.
The yogurt really was good with these, and we decided they would make the perfect food truck menu item. Easy to hold, hardly any mess. I also liked that I could smell the cinnamon, taste the cumin, and feel the heat of the cayenne. I substituted beef and parsley, since I personally think lamb and cilantro taste awful. The recipe was quite a hit anyway. Best day of.