Sunday, March 25, 2007
Who are we...?
As a chef who has traveled and lived extensively around the world, I have come to realize that I never cooked anything but “modern American cuisine.” I am a child of parents with eastern European backgrounds, so we feasted on kasha with egg noodles, braised brisket of beef and blintzes filled with sour cream and cherries. These were served primarily on holidays and special occasions. On the other hand, my mother’s daily offerings included the best spaghetti and meatballs on the block; macaroni and cheese that I still make when I need comforting, and a pineapple and clove baked ham that was lifted right off the pages of LADIES HOME JOURNAL.
There was a clear sensibility in the dishes of my cultural heritage. It included copious amounts of garlic, a slick sheen of fat lacing the roast, and onions crisped from frying in rendered chicken fat. Even though the foods my mother made daily were “American,” I came to think of our ethnic foods, served on special occasions, as American traditions, despite their Eastern European roots. American food is a richly woven tapestry that will continue to unfold as long as new people arrive and thread in their tastes, techniques and textures into our culinary consciousness.
Middle Eastern Rice Pilaf - yields 6 to 8 servings
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 pound angle hair pasta - broken into small pieces
2 shallots - minced
1 garlic clove - minced
2 teaspoon ground coriander
11/2 cups Basmati rice
1/8 cup currant
2 teaspoon lemon zest - finely minced
1/4 cup pine nuts - lightly toasted
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoon salt
1/4 cup chopped Italian parsley leaves
1/4 cup chopped cilantro leaves
1/2 cup white wine
Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.
Heat a 6 cup sauce pan and add the oil. Add in the pasta and sauté until a dark golden brown, not burnt. Add into shallots, the garlic rice and coriander into the pasta, and continue cooking for a few minutes – moving it constantly. Add in the rice, currants, zest, pine nuts, cayenne, black pepper, salt, parsley and cilantro. Mix to thoroughly incorporate. Pour in the white wine and cook until it has evaporated. Pour in 3 cups of water and bring to the boil. Cover the pan with a tight fitting lid, and place in the oven. Cook the rice mixture for 20 minutes. Shut off the heat of the oven and let the rice sit another 15 minutes.
Correct seasoning and serve.
Lamb Fillets with Sweet Soy Sauce - yields 4 servings
1 1/2 pound lamb loin fillets
2 to 3 garlic cloves -diced
3 shallots - diced
1/8-cup mint leaves - chopped
3/4-cup ketcap manis (Indonesian Sweet Soy)
1-tablespoon sesame oil
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Season the lamb with the pepper, and heat a grill pan. Seal the lamb on all sides cooking it for a total of 10 minutes. Remove from the heat, and place in a 200 degree oven keep warm. Heat a 10 inch sauté pan and add the oil and shallots. Brown lightly and then add the garlic cooking for a few minutes longer. Pour in the sake off the heat and then return to the flame and reduce by half. Add the mint and keptcap manis and cook for a few minutes to heat to through. Season with freshly ground pepper.
Remove the lamb from the oven and slice into thirds. Spoon over the sauce and serve.