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Photo Stories: Encounter with a Lion

African Lion - Busch Gardens

So, I picked up the reins and hauled down to Busch Gardens today! And, I must say, I had quite an exciting experience! The highlight of the day involved a very up-close and personal encounter with their big male lion.

The tale.. plus photos..Collapse )

The full collection of photos, as always, is on my Flickr -- 2010-12-11 - Busch Gardens Gallery. There are about seventy images in this group.

Tahitian Papaya Soup

Summer is almost over here, but it's still not too late for my favorite chilled soup! This is a Tahitian / Polynesian recipe I pulled from a Sam Choy cookbook and modified slightly. It's delicious, very refreshing, and full of tasty tropical fruit. Pouring a little ginger ale into the soup before serving gives it a tasty tingle, too.

It also photographs reasonably well!

Chilled Tahitian Papaya Soup

Chilled Papaya SoupCollapse )

Spinach and Orange Khoresh

So, I tried something new tonight in the kitchen! And completely different, too!

I've been tossing around the idea of trying this recipe for a few months now, but the combination seemed so unusual I wasn't sure it would turn out well. Tonight, however, I decided to go ahead and give it a shot!

Well, it turned out phenomenal! It was absolutely delicious! The citrus tang was really quite nice, blending surprisingly well with the spinach, onions, and chicken flavors. It was an unusual, but fantastic, combination.

I didn't have time to make basmati rice, so I used some jasmine rice I had handy to serve it over. The rice soaked up the bright yellow stew juices and made for a very filling meal tonight.

So.. here we have it, the recipe is under the cut...

Spinach and Orange Khoresh

Spinach and Orange KhoreshCollapse )

Tarka Dhal & Mughal Spinach

So.. it was an Indian veggie night at my house last night. Here's what resulted...

Tarka Dhal and creamy Mughal Spinach!

Dhal & Mughal Spinach

Recipes behind cut...Collapse )

Balinese Cuisine!

So, I've had a Balinese cookbook for almost a year now and haven't been able to fix anything from it due to inability to find the ingredients. WELL... I FINALLY found most of the stuff I needed after scouring every inch of 1st Oriental Supermarket in Pine Hills. Found frozen sliced galangal, whole frozen turmeric, and all sorts of other goodies.

So, tonight I decided to experiment. And I had Ryan over to be my culinary guinea pig too, ha!

I made "Be Siap Base Kalas," which is a Bali dish described as "Chicken n Spicy Coconut Milk."

It turned out delicious!! I didn't get any pictures, since we were rather in a hurry to eat it after all the work involved. But I can attest that this was some damn delicious dinner! I did have to make a few minor substitutions, but I researched into them and found what was an adequate replacement for items that simply couldn't be found locally. Here's the recipe...

Be Siap Base Kalas
Chicken in Spicy Coconut Milk
From "The Bali Cookbook," by Lonny Gerungan

1 chicken, about 2 3/4 pounds (I used two chicken breasts, cubed into 1" pieces, since it was just two of us)
1 lemongrass stalk
3 tablespoons coconut oil
3 salam leaves (Absolutely impossible to find, so I sub'd with fresh bay leaf from my garden as was recommended)
1 3/4 c. thick coconut milk (I use Thai Kitchen's non-lite milk, which is more expensive but very high quality.)
1 tablespoon melted gula Bali or palm sugar (I used granulated palm sugar, since I couldn't find the moist brick type)

For the spice paste
9 candlenuts (I couldn't find these, either. But they are closely related to macadamia nuts, so I sub'd with those.)
1/2 teaspoon white peppercorns
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
5 shallots, peeled and finely sliced
3 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
5 birds eye (Thai) chilies, sliced (I used three, since I didn't want to overdo the heat.)
3/4-inch piece of fresh lesser galangal, peeled and finely chopped (LESSER galangal proved impossible to find, so I sub'd regular ginger.)
1 1/4-inch piece of fresh turmeric, peeled and finely chopped
1 1/2-inch piece of fresh galangal, peeled and finely chopped


To make the spice paste, use a mortar and pestle to pound the candlenuts and peppercorns to a fine paste. Add the shallots, garlic, chiles, lesser galangal, turmeric, and galangal, and pound again to a paste.

Cut the chicken into 4 pieces. Trim the lemongrass, bruise the stalk, and tie the leaves together in a knot.

Heat the oil in a wok and fry the spice paste for about 3 minutes. Add the lemongrass, salam leaves, and chicken pieces and stir-fry for about 2 minutes. Add the coconut milk, melted gula Bali or palm sugar, and season with salt. Simmer the chicken until cooked, about 35 minutes.

Serve the chicken in the sauce with steamed jasmine rice.

Some of my own observations...

The book doesn't specify the heat at which to cook this, but I found a medium-heat kept it bubbling nicely. However, towards the end the coconut milk split and the dish became very oily. Looking at the photo that accompanies the recipe in the book, this might be desirable. But Ryan and I had preferred it in a smoother, creamier sauce as we tasted throughout the process. So, I added an extra half-can of coconut milk and brought the temperature back up to get the oil to go back to the sauce a little bit again.

As far as the spice paste goes, I discovered that the shallots really need to be minced super-fine before going into the mortar. It became difficult to mash them all out nicely with some of the larger pieces. Also, for the mortar and pestle I recommend a very large one of heavy stone. I have a 7" basalt one that I picked up last year at 1st Oriental for cheap. A tiny one will take forever, as you'll have to do small batches.

Also.. on where I FOUND all this stuff:

Lemongrass - Whole Foods had this packaged in the fresh herbs section. But not all WF stores seemed to have it, since the one in Winter Park didn't I had to go back to Dr. Philips to get it there.
Galangal - I found this frozen in slices in the freezer section of 1st Oriental Supermarket, back in the rear near the fishtanks.
Turmeric - Same as the galangal, but frozen in whole pieces. It didn't thaw well and became kinda mushy as it did. But it was still better than using dried.
Palm Sugar - I STILL can't find this in it's more authentic moist brick form. I need to do another intense scan of 1st Oriental for it. But I did find granulated palm sugar at Whole Foods, in the aisle with the other sugar substitutes.
Birds Eye Chiles - Also found at Whole Foods. At one time they carried them fresh, but it seems they have stopped carrying those and now carry them in dried packets near the fresh herbs.
Coconut Oil - They actually had this at Publix, in the organics aisle. Expensive. A 14oz jar cost me about $8.

Khoresh-e Fesenjan

Khoresh-e Fesenjan

Made this Christmas Day and it was absolutely delicious! True, it's not the best picture... but it smelled too nice to dawdle about taking photos! I wanted to eat it already! Here's the recipe:

Khoresh-e Fesenjan
Adapted from Najmieh Batmanglij's "New Food of Life"

2 large onions, peeled and diced small
2 pounds chicken breast, cut into 1" cubes (or dark meat chicken or duck breast)
5 tbs butter
1 tsp sea salt
½ cup pomegranate paste / molasses, dissolved in 2 ½ cups water, or 4 cups fresh squeezed pomegranate juice (you can find pom molasses at Arab/Middle Eastern grocery stores--I buy Cortas brand)
2 cups very finely ground shelled walnuts
½ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp ground Iranian saffron, dissolved in 1 tbs hot water
2 tbs sugar
Seeds of a whole pomegranate for garnish

In a dutch oven, brown onions and chicken in the butter. Add 1 tsp salt.

In a food processor or blender, grind walnuts, add the diluted pomegranate paste, cinnamon, saffron water and mix well to create a smooth, creamy paste. It may be a bit watery, but no worries--it will cook down.

Add the nut/pomegranate paste to the dutch oven, stirring gently. If the pomegranate paste is too sour, add two tablespoons sugar. Cover and simmer over medium-low heat for 1 ½ hours, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon to prevent the nuts from burning.

If the stew is too thick, add warm water to thin it. taste the sauce and adjust for seasoning and thickness. the stew should be sweet and sour according to your taste. Add pomegranate paste to sour the taste or sugar to sweeten.

Serve hot over steamed saffron basmati rice, garnished with fresh pomegranate seeds.

Recipe: Tabouleh

loki snow
So, I made THIS tonight! And it turned out delicious! Helluva lot better than the crap they sell packaged at the grocery store.


Recipe behind cut..Collapse )

Part of the inspiration for making this tonight was seeing this amusing news story today, LEBANON: Chefs smash world hummus and tabouleh records. These guys in Beirut made 7,841 pounds of tabouleh! Holy smokes. So, I had to stop on the way home from work at Publix and pick up the goods to make some myself. Thankfully, I had already picked up a bag of fine bulghur over the weekend at the Abu Maher Grocery over by Ryan's house and I'm well stocked on olive oil (just picked up two more bottles of organic Palestinian oil from Olde City Imports). So, I just needed the produce and I was off and running!

Mmm... 7,841 pounds of tabouleh.

Orzo and Lentil Soup

loki snow
Orzo & Lentil Soup

Orzo and Lentil Soup

Adapted from Suvir Saran's "American Masala."
Region: Lebanese


13 cups water
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (I use Organic Rumi Olive Oil from Olde City Imports, imported from Palestine.)
1 tablespoon whole cumin seeds
3 dried red chilies, seeds removed
1/4 teaspoon ground 5-color peppercorns
1 large red onion, quartered and sliced into thin strips
2 tablespoons sea salt
2 cups French lentils
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 cup orzo pasta
chopped fresh cilantro & lemon wedges for serving

Heat olive oil with whole cumin seeds in a large pot over medium heat until the cumin is browned and fragrant. Add chilies and peppercorns, then cook for another minue. Add onion and cook until onion is caramelized, splashing with water to prevent sticking or burning. Stir constantly. Add water. Add lentils, turmeric, and salt. Cook for 25 minutes. Add orzo and simmer at a boil for about 10 minutes, until orzo is fully cooked Remove from heat and let stand 25-30 minutes until soup thickens some. Return to a boil and simmer for a few minutes prior to serving.

Serve soup hot, topped with chopped cilantro and with lemon wedges on the side to squeeze over soup before eating.

This is what I made for dinner tonight! It's awesome! Also, I bought new casual plates to replace the old, cracked ones I traded a mattress to a guy at the Mighty Mushroom for a decade ago. So, now I have new ones, clean white porcelain and hip square-ness. I dig it.

Majoram Chicken from Ancient Rome

So, this is a recipe I adapted from The Philosopher's Kitchen, by Francine Segan, which was in turn adapted from an ancient Roman recipe (which I believe came from On Cookery, by Apicius). Lineage aside, it was damn good.

Marjoram Chicken

Recipe behind cut..Collapse )

Chicken Sancoche

loki snow
So, this recipe is one that I stole from an ex. His family owned a rather prestigious resort called Petit Coulibri on Dominica and this was one of the recipes they served in the restaurant there. It's a mild Caribbean curry, very delicately flavored and tasty.

Chicken Sancoche - Eat it!

For the curry powder in this recipe, make sure you are buying a Caribbean mix and NOT an Indian mix. For this recipe, I personally like the Badia curry powder, which is easy to find (at least in grocery stores in Florida).

Chicken SancocheCollapse )