Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Reviews and Red Beans

I was at the airport, anticipating my visit to Texas and my cooking class at Revival Market and biding my time at the newsstand when I saw it.

I’d already seen it online, but there it was in the Fine Cooking August/September print edition, on “The Reading List” between reviews of Fire & Smoke and The Essential New York Times Grilling Cookbook. And you know that person you see alone in a public place smiling a bit too broadly for seemingly no reason at all? I became that person. A grin from ear to ear on my face, I had to fight the overwhelming urge to show all the strangers in my immediate vicinity. I quickly paid for just one copy (I did consider buying the whole stack) and ran out of the store to call family and friends to spread the good news. I didn’t feel bad for a second boasting that Fine Cooking describes Marinades as “the kind of utilitarian cookbook I will turn to again and again on a busy weeknight when I want to switch up the flavor of my usual grilled chicken (or pork, or steak, or fish).”

So how about a taste of some of the recipes in the book? BookPage offers up the Grilled Lamb Rib Chops with Curry Marinade. The Detroit News includes that one as well as the Grilled Baby Back Ribs with Asian Plum Marinade, Grilled Chicken Breasts with All-Purpose Tex-Mex Marinade, Shashlik with Shashlik Marinade, and Grilled Fruit with Caramel-Vanilla Syrup along with this interview with yours truly. Kate Lawson says, “Vaserfirer basically has never met a food she hasn’t tried to drown, and I mean that in a good way.” I love that! I also love that they ran my Shashlik photo BIG in their print edition!

For more Marinades, tune into AM Northwest between 9:20AM and 9:40AM on Tuesday, August 12. I’ll be demoing another delicious recipe from the book.

Speaking of the visit to Texas, we decided to make fajitas with Pico de Gallo, Guacamole, and homemade flour tortillas for dinner one night when I was there. This menu was decided on just as we stood before the vast meat case at Central Market. As I began to inquire about skirt steak, my mother guided me over to the pre-marinated meats. She insisted we get their pre-marinated meat for fajitas because it was her favorite. Can you believe it? Could my own mother betray me like that?! “I didn’t just write an entire cookbook with 200 marinades to buy that pre-marinated stuff.” She later claimed my rebuke was accompanied by “that scornful look”. Whatever. We bought the fresh meat, soaked it in my Carne Asada Marinade overnight, and I showed her what’s what. She wrote on her Facebook page, and I quote, “I will never buy pre-marinated meat again. Lucy’s recipe made the best fajitas we ever had.” Vindication is mine!

You can find the Carne Asada Marinade recipe in the book, so here’s another dish that’s often requested of me when I visit the fam in Texas.

New Orleans Red Beans & Rice
Printable Recipe

1 ½ pounds red kidney beans, picked over and rinsed
¼ cup canola oil
3 yellow onions, diced
2 green bell peppers, diced
5 stalks celery, diced
8 to 10 cloves garlic, minced
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
½ teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 ½ pounds andouille, sliced
1 2-pound smoked ham hock
2 tablespoons Tabasco sauce
Kosher salt
Cooked long grain white rice, for serving
Sliced green onions, for serving
Minced Italian parsley, for serving

Place the beans into a large bowl and add enough water to cover by several inches. Cover with plastic wrap and let soak overnight at room temperature.

Drain the beans. Heat a large, heavy pot over medium-low heat until very hot but not smoking. Add the oil and swirl to coat the bottom of the pot. Add the onions and sauté for 8 to 10 minutes, or until soft. Add the bell peppers and celery and sauté for another 10 to 12 minutes, or until soft. Add the garlic and sauté 1 to 2 minutes more, or until fragrant. Add 2 ½ quarts water and the beans, bay leaves, thyme, pepper, white pepper, cayenne, Worcestershire, andouille, and ham hock. Bring to a boil and simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 2 ½ hours, or until the beans are very tender. Remove from the heat and discard the bay leaves. Remove the ham hock to a cutting board and let rest for about 15 minutes, or until just cool enough to handle. Remove 3 ladlesful of the beans to a bowl and mash with a potato masher. When the ham hock is cool enough to handle, remove the meat from the bone and chop. Return the pork and beans to the pot. Return to the heat, bring to a boil, and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 30 to 45 minutes, or until the desired consistency. Stir in the Tabasco and season to taste with salt. To serve, spoon some of the rice into the center of each bowl, ladle the beans over the rice, and sprinkle with the green onions and parsley.

Serves 12 to 14. Mashing a portion of the beans ensures that the results are creamy and thick.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Marinades in the Media

Marinades has been getting some good buzz in the press lately. Verbatim says it’s “a book that will solve all of your ‘what do I make for dinner’ worries for the next year or so”. Pen & Fork calls it one of their “Books of Summer”. Fine Cooking says, “When I say that I can make most of Lucy Vaserfirer's 200 marinades with ingredients I always have on hand at home, I mean it as a high compliment. This is the kind of utilitarian cookbook I will turn to again and again on a busy weeknight when I want to switch up the flavor of my usual grilled chicken (or pork, or steak, or fish).” BookPage calls it a “remarkable, remarkably doable compilation, a virtual ode to the liquid concoctions that make the ordinary extraordinary”. I can’t help but feel like a proud momma right now!

Speaking of media mentions, Flavored Butters gets a shout-out in this Chicago Tribune article about radishes.

By the way, do you know what’s on the menu for this holiday weekend? Marinades has all of the inspiration you need. Happy 4th of July, everybody!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Uzbek Lamb Kebabs and Marinades Updates

This is Uzbek lamb kebab. Those of us from Uzbekistan know it as Shashlik and consider it to be a great delicacy. It’s a must for every special occasion and gathering of family and friends. My parents recently came to visit, and together we made a great big batch to share with you.

Traditionally, Shashlik is made of lamb and includes chunks of kurdyuk, or fat from the fat-tailed sheep, and it’s cooked on a long and narrow grill called a mangal. Skewers are placed right across the rim of the mangal, so there is no grill grate.

The Shashlik shown here is served with the traditional accompaniments of tandyr-baked flatbread called lepyoshki or non and thinly sliced onions seasoned with white vinegar, sugar, and salt. It’s plated on a vintage Uzbek platter depicting the design of the country’s famous ikat textiles. My parents brought the platter and a matching teapot and set of pijalas with us when we moved from Uzbekistan to the U.S. back in 1980. (Sadly, the teapot was broken several years ago.)

My family’s Shashlik recipe is precious to me because we left Uzbekistan when I was just a baby, and it’s one of the few things I have from my native country. It also happens to be the very first marinade I was ever exposed to. So of course I had to include it in my newest book Marinades. I’d like to give you a peek inside the book, so here’s the recipe exactly as it appears on pages 254 and 255.

When making Shashlik, choose a piece of lamb with a generous fat cap. Thread the marinated pieces of lamb onto skewers with the fat side out so that it can render and brown on the grill. And trust me when I say that the fat is the best part!

If you like this marinade, there are 199 more where that came from!

Speaking of my cookbook, don’t forget that Father’s Day is coming up and Marinades would make the perfect gift for Dad. Just in time for Father’s Day, I’ll be doing a tasting and book signing at Vancouver’s Butcher Boys from 11AM to 2PM this Saturday, June 14. Then on Friday, June 27, from 11AM to 1PM I’ll be offering up more samples and signatures at the Mill Plain Chuck’s Produce. If you want the complete Marinades immersion (pun intended!) join me for an amazing hands-on cooking class at Revival Market in Houston on Sunday, July 20 at 4PM. We have an amazing fiesta-style Tex-Mex menu planned, and no doubt you’ll leave class a master of marination!

In other event news, the summer Clark College class schedule is out. I'll be teaching Main Dish Summer Salads and Homemade Dressings. Please join me in the kitchen! Current event listings can always be found in the Cooking Classes, Book Signings & Appearances sidebar on the right.

So have you gotten your copy of Marinades yet? If not, consider that critics are saying it’s the perfect book for when time for cooking is short and calling it “exceptionally useful”, “inventive”, “like a spice rack on steroids”, “the ‘bible’ on the sauce that will bring your BBQ to the next level”, “delicious”, “for those who love to infuse flavor into their products”, “intriguing”, and full “of fresh ideas for creative marinating now”. And if that's not enough to convince you, NPR includes Marinades in this list of summer cookbooks that'll “make the good life even better”. While I’m listing media mentions, here are some of my marinade tips, here are more of my tips along with information on the health benefits of using marinades, and here’s the interview of yours truly from baker and food blogger Kimm Moore.

I truly hope you enjoyed having this Marinades update and glimpse of my most treasured recipe in my book. I'd love nothing more than for you to give this Shashlik a try. If you do, drop me a line, or better yet, come out to one of my book events and tell me how it goes!

Monday, May 12, 2014

Dining Chair Travel and Macaroni Made by Hand

Who doesn’t love Italian food? I certainly always have, but I can’t say I had a real appreciation of the cuisine until I actually travelled to Italy. Experiencing balsamic, parm, and prosciutto at the source was amazing. But it was eating perfectly al dente, perfectly sauced spaghetti in Italy that really blew my mind. The way the Italians can transform something so simple as semolina and water into a transcendent meal is nothing short of alchemy.

I’ve been dying to see other parts of Italy ever since that trip. Until I can go again, a bit of dining chair travel will have to suffice. So I make pasta. A good plate of pasta will transport me, if just for a meal.

This labor intensive pasta, which comes from southern Italy if I’m not mistaken, seems to have countless names, including maccheroni al ferro, maccheroni al ferretto, and maccheroni inferrettati. Google Translate would have you believe that the meaning is “macaroni with underwire” *snicker*, but as far as I can tell it translates to something more along the lines of “macaroni with the iron”, referring to the traditional tool called a fusilli iron used to shape the tubes of pasta.

Fresh Macaroni “with the Iron”
Printable Recipe

16 ounces semolina
6 ¾ ounces warm water

Combine the semolina and water in a large bowl and mix until a rough dough forms. The dough will seem very dry at this point, but resist the temptation to add more water. Transfer to a work surface and knead for about 10 minutes, or until smooth and elastic. Wrap in plastic wrap and let rest for about half an hour.

Cut the dough into eighths. Keeping the remaining dough covered as you work, roll 1 portion of dough into a 3/8-inch thick rope. If the dough springs back as you roll it, cover it with plastic wrap and let it relax for a few minutes before continuing. Using a bench knife, cut the rope into 2-inch pieces.

Press a fusilli iron lengthwise into a piece of the dough.

Roll back and forth, applying light pressure.

The dough should wrap itself around the iron and form a 4 to 5-inch long tube.

Gently slide the macaroni off the iron.

If it’s stuck, give the iron a slight twist while easing off the macaroni. Make more macaroni with the remaining dough in the same manner. As you work, arrange the macaroni in a single layer on lightly floured parchment-lined baking trays. Let dry for a few hours.

Makes about 1 ¼ pounds, enough for 4 to 6 main-course servings. This recipe yields a relatively dry dough. Still, the trickiest part is keeping the macaroni from sticking to the fusilli iron, and you might have to experiment with the amount of pressure you apply when rolling and elongating it. If a macaroni gets stuck and you smush it removing it from the iron, never fear: simply ball it up and try again. By the way, if you don’t own a fusilli iron, a bamboo skewer will work just as well if not even better, as dough sticks less to wood than to smooth metal. Knitting needles are often used as well. Cook the macaroni as you would any other pasta, in a large pot of boiling, salted water for 6 to 8 minutes, or until al dente. It’s pictured here with Angry Tomato Sauce made with bacon instead of pancetta.

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