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A bit of a Tahini Crush + Swordfish Experiment

It began rather innocently. 

With a dish I call Anarkali Rice cooked for a  dinner I hosted recently. If you are familiar with the story of Anarkali and Salim, an historical romance, you may suspect how this ends. You see, it was an Iranian style of pilaf/biriyani tossed abundantly with spices, saffron and, the pièce de résistance, sprinkled generously with pomegranate arils. The word for pomegranate in Urdu and Hindi is anar! Kali means bud or flower, which, is generously offered on all festive occasions. 

I served the rice with a side of tahini laced yogurt sauce. It was a combination, much like Salim and Anarkali, fraught with intense passion and rapport. Oh, that is where I may have slipped into an addiction. I have somehow become intensely infatuated with tahini!

I find myself lying awake in the middle of the night, plotting how I can involve said condiment into my lunch the next day. As soon as that is done, I find my mind wandering towards a similar goal with dinner. It gives me goosebumps when I think about how amazing it tastes with the most mundane of things. My current favorite snack is to slice up vegetables and stick them straight into the tahini jar and marveling at where this has been all this time!

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I must say, I have been rather productive (and prolific) in incorporating this intense, yet delicate sesame paste in more dishes than I would have thought of before this sudden obsession. Afore, my scope on the paste extended to as far and beyond as falafels and hummus. Really! I blush as I say this and cannot believe how daft I had been. But, there it is, the unpolished truth. 

If you have seen my Instagram lately, you would have caught a fair glimpse of it too. Yet, as I said, it has been a wonderful eye-opening experience. Have you ever tasted granola with a drizzle of it? No? Well, I have something for you coming up soon. Lately, I have been having a lot of simple sautés for my meals. It seems only too natural to finish with a quick drizzle of the sauce just as I would olive oil. Omelettes? I got you covered there. Soups? Oh yes, it's coming too. I mean really, name any dish category and I have dabbled with it in my 'explorations' over the last couple of weeks.

Ahem! So, I give you fair warning. You are going to see a fair few posts coming up with that particular ingredient sneaking in smoothly. By the time I finish, you'll wonder how one could even possibly consider having the dish without the sauce! ;-)

For the first installment, I am choosing a Fall inspired salad. I walked into Whole Foods and was told a story about them receiving and filleting whole swordfishes every day on premises. I don't know how true that story is but it made me give the fish a thought. It look really good and fresh. I normally do not choose swordfish, given a choice. In my mind, it has been relegated as the American fish steak choice. Meaning, if you don't eat meat but want a steak experience, you would get a swordfish steak. Who ever calls a fish slice, steak?!

Anyway, spying a rather prime looking filet, I picked it up with the thought that, well, if hell breaks loose, there is always tahini ;-) The piece I had picked up was good enough for two meals, which, was great as it let me experiment.

For the first, I cooked it as a steak and served on a  bed of greens, sautéed brussel sprouts and apples, topped with, you go it, tahini yogurt sauce and generous sprinkles of pomegranate arils. I had marinated the fish itself in a spice mix of aleppo pepper, z'atar, lemon juice and olive oil with a touch of salt. The sear was great, the flavors were lovely but I had underestimated the cooking time for such a thick slice. I had to slice it up and sauté again as I really did not like the raw taste.

For my second attempt then, I spent only a couple of hours thinking of flavors, presentation, styling and how to get the perfect dish. This time, the fish would be cubed and seared. I used the same marinade as it had been wonderful. This time though, I pickled the apples, overnight. That was a stroke! And, as for the tahini, I made a sauce with it, homemade pumpkin puree and yogurt kissed with some aleppo pepper, lemon juice and salt. The fish was seared on all sides, strategically placed, adorned by sautéed brussel sprouts and pickled apples.

This dish is a winner! You may wonder why the tahini. Well, let me tell you, it's the sauce that pulls everything together. The subtle spices on the fish are emboldened by their trusted cohort, the tahini. As for the sauce itself, without the sesame, it utterly lacks depth. When you pull together a forkful of fish, a sliver of the pickled apple, a piece of the sprout and drag it through the puree generously lapping it up into a bite, you will know what I mean. They just belong together and in no small measure is that to the credit of the behind-the-scenes role of the sesame paste.

And, thus, continues my adoration of the tahini.....

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Seared SwordFish Salad

with Pickled Apples + Tahini Pumpkin Puree

I made this dish for one and give you that recipe for proportion. It is easily scalable. The recipes for the puree and pickled apples, further below are for a larger quantity then you would need just for one serving. 

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1/4 lb fresh, firm sword fish filet

4 brussel sprouts, halved

3 T of tahini-pumpkin puree (recipe below)

7-8 slices pickled apples (recipe below)

a few slices of red onion

pomegranate arils for garnish

lemon juice

For the fish marinade:

1-1/2 tsp z'atar

3/4 tsp ground aleppo pepper

2 tsp olive oil

juice of half lemon

salt and pepper as needed

 

Start with dicing the sword fish into approximately 2 inch cubes.

Mix together the marinade ingredients and soak the fish cubes for atleast 10 minutes.

In a frying pan, sauté the brussel sprouts in oil, simply seasoning it with salt and pepper. When done, reserve.

Heat oil in a pan large enough to hold all the fish you are frying or make in batches. Do not overlap fish pieces.

When the oil is hot, arrange the fish in one layer and leave it on medium for 2 minutes. 

Turn the fish to sear on all sides, it will take about 5 minutes in all for each batch.

While the fish is cooking, arrange the salad starting with puree at the bottom and then layering with the remaining ingredients.

Place the hot fish cubes on top. Finish with a squirt of lemon juice and sprinkle of pomegranate arils.


Tahini Pumpkin Puree

This recipe makes enough for a 4 person salad of above. If you are making more or using less, it can be stored in the fridge for up to a week. Leftovers are great as a chip dip for appetizer or even sandwich spread!

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1/4 cup tahini sauce

1/2 cup homemade pumpkin puree (without any added spices)

1/2 cup greek yogurt

juice of 1 lemon

1 T aleppo pepper

salt as needed

Puree everything together to a cohesive paste.

I left mine, slightly coarse for texture but for a more restaurant style finish, make it a fine finish.


Pickled Apples

1 apple, cored, sliced thin

2 tsp white vinegar

1/2 tsp sugar

1/2 tsp salt 

Combine the vinegar, salt and sugar and pour into the bottom of a small shallow dish.

Place the apple slices on top, overlapping as needed.

Let it sit for a few hours or overnight, turning it occasionally to let the vinegar infuse all the slices.


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Husk Tomato Tart with Glutenfree Corn Crust

Ground Husk Tomato Corn Galette

I had not been to the Union Square market in over a year and I guiltily made my way through the stalls that I so regularly patronized only sometime back. I was half hoping the stall owners would not see me and half hoping they would remember me. Okay, I confess, I would have really liked one of them to have spotted me and given me a wide smile of recognition and the "It's good to see you again" cheer. But, hey, whom am I kidding! This is New York City, land of the fleeting, transient, and anonymous.

After the first five minutes, I realized I was not going to run the risk of accusatory stares of "Where the heck were you?!". Neither was I going to be enveloped in warm embraces of "Welcome back!". So, I huffed about it for a space of two minutes and then decided to simply accept it and move to leisurely engaging with the produce which has always been a more productive way of spending time anyway. Mooching along the aisles and dodging the crowds, I made my way through the various produce stands. More importantly, I was looking to prove that there was nothing here that was not in my own little weekend farmers' market, where, by now and by virtue of going there literally every week, the vendors said hello to me!

Ground Husk Tomato

I nearly made it to the end without anything really caught my eye. It was the same couple of great vegetable and fruit stands, the honestly, arrogant goat cheese guy, the lovely flower shop and the shop in the corner that has the best ricotta I have ever tasted outside Italy. Then I walked into a random vendor whose stall I don't remember ever buying anything from. There was a huge mound of what looked like gooseberries. I love them but I remember they are terribly pricey at my market. The sight of the large quantity here gave me hope that this may be more affordable.

I tasted one and it tasted nothing like a gooseberry. Confused, I queried the vendor and I discovered a whole other class of tomatoes! Ground Husk Tomatoes. Related to Cape Gooseberries, they are adorable tiny fruits fully encased in a dried leafy husk. They were entirely intriguing. The guy said he eats them on their own and I can see how that would happen. These are entirely addictive just to figure out the flavor and each one is a little different. Was that a berry like one? or a pineapple one? or perhaps a touch of mango? In any case, nothing like a tomato.

Ground Husk Tomato Corn Galette
Ground Husk Tomato Corn Galette

Obviously, as I mulled about it, I snacked on a fair few of them. But, I had bought a good amount of it as they were rather well priced for its exotic allure. I decided the best use other than eating it raw would be to bake it. I made muffins with them and then I decided to make the galette. That was a momentous decision. You see, since learning that I am wheat allergic, I have not had a tart. Now, that is a sacrifice. It is not just that I love this genre of meals, it is also the easiest full meal to make on any day. I was excited and slightly intimidated about the thought of creating a recipe that was completely gluten free.

I thought long and hard about it. Eventually, I decided to go completely grain free. I figured using any nut or quinoa or buckwheat would lend its own flavor to the tart and I wanted these intriguing berries to play the lead and only role. Cornmeal is both easily accessible and has the cleanest flavor palate for this purpose. It is also extremely crumbly. I thought google may offer some help but I found no recipe that used only corn meal. I decided I had to simple test and try my own.

Ground Husk Tomato Corn Galette

The important thing was to figure a way to overcome the rather crumbly texture of ground corn. It simply does not come together. Psyllium would not work here as it does not have enough fluid to bind to. It had to some form of starch. I settled on potato starch, which, I have at home and is not expensive. The first time I made this I followed standard tart making process of balling the dough, tamping and letting it rest in the fridge for 30 minutes. I learnt the hard way, that the dough seizes up quite a bit when cooled and it takes ages for it to thaw back. The next time, I just rolled it out immediately and it was just fine.

Also, even though the starch helps pull it together, the dough will still be crumbly. You can always just press it into a mold and that is really easy. If you want to make a galette, you will need a little patience, some gentle elbow grease and two sheets of parchment paper. Also, don't get angry with it when it tears as you try to fold it over the filling. Just smile and give it a hug and it will come together just fine. The real binding agent here is a butter, so, don't skimp on it and use it to advantage.

Ground Husk Tomato Corn Galette

I kept this tart clean and simple. Just the husk tomatoes, basil, olive oil, salt and pepper. You need nothing more. The corn crust comes out soft and so let it sit for a few minutes so it hardens into a crispy crunch. That against the sweet flesh of the roasted wrinkled tiny tomatoes is a delight!

Oh! On the question of, did Union Square have anything over my little market? Despite this happy find... Not at all! ;-)


Husk Tomato Tart

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For the Grain free Corn Crust:

1 cup corn flour, fine ground {I just used the blender to pulverize the coarse cornmeal I had}

4 tsp potato starch

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

4 T cold butter, in small dice

scant 2 T cold water

For the filling:

1-1/2 cups of de-husked tomatoes

few leaves of basil torn

olive oil to drizzle

salt and pepper as needed

Preheat oven to 400F.

Mix together the corn flour with potato starch with salt and baking soda.

Rub butter pieces into the corn mix.

Add the water and mix to just form a ball. Only if the butter feels melty (like if you are doing this in the middle of a heat wave), cool in fridge for a few minutes.

Place a sheet of parchment paper on the table and sprinkle potato starch on it.

Place the dough ball on the paper and top with another sheet. Gently roll out the dough into a rough circle about 1/4 inch thick.

Remove the first sheet of parchment. Pile the tomatoes in the center leaving a 1 inch border.

Gently fold the edge over the tomatoes. If it tears, simply press the edges to seal again.

Sprinkle the basil, salt, pepper and olive oil over.

Bake for 30 minutes at 400F and then lower to 350F and bake another 15 minutes.

The corn crust comes out soft and so let it sit for a few minutes so it hardens into a crispy crunch.

Garnish with a more basil and touch of oil or balsamic vinegar and serve.


Summer Ease

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There is something about the warm air that brings out a smile and many laughs.

There are so many 'capture' of Summer frolicking all around and on every social media. It is inevitable to be get caught up in it all and just have a bit of fun as well. Partying on rooftops with panoramic views of the city, walking through unexplored parts of the city in a quest of hidden gems, making plans to spend more time outdoors and somewhat doing it (ref. roof tops), doing silly, goofy stuff and needing no excuse for them, lying on the warm sand and forgetting everything else in comfort of the lapping waves, wearing billowy skirts and squealing when the wind catches them and laughing when it catches others', more, more and so much more....

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Amongst all of this energy and excitement is an implicit lethargy, as well. The desire to not spend copious amounts of time preparing meals but much more in enjoying them.

The laziness of simple meals

that easily done and do not distract from activities we are more interested in doing.. :) Fortunately, Summer is that time of the year, when cutting time's corners does not impact the plate much at all. In fact, one could argue that less is more in these times

with all the gorgeous, fresh food available

.

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Looking back at the last few months of Summery times, I realise I am no outlier. Meals at home have been clean, fresh and flavorful. Not much fussing or trussing. Between the CSA, my weekly visits to the Union Square farmers' market and the frequent visitations to Chelsea Market, I have consumed

copious amounts of ridiculously fresh eggs, meat, seafood, vegetables and fruits

without being anywhere close to the production of these items.

When I visited the countryside of Ireland last month and Tuscany last year, I realised how much having access to farm fresh ingredients mattered to me. And, I am just happy that I live in a place where I atleast have access to it because I do know I would find it very very hard to live away from the city too long! Ok! I am basically saying I love New York City and am thankful for its awesomeness.

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So, that's all I have to say this weekend. I have a few photos of some meals from my kitchen and a recipe for the simplest tart ever!

Leek and Cherry Tomato Galette with homemade tahini paste to add flavor. Hope you have a brilliant one!


Leek and Cherry Tomato Galette

1 portion suet crust dough (recipe here)

2 eggs

2 T almond milk

2 small leeks, finedly diced

handful of cherry tomatoes, halved

2 T of fresh basil, torn

3 generous T of homemade tahini sauce (recipe here)

Preheat oven to 375F.

Roll out the dough to a rough 10 inch circle. Leaving a inch and half crust border, spread the tahini evenly throughout the base. Pile the leeks onto the paste and then sprinkle the tomatoes over. Fold the edges of the crust onto the filling in such a way to hold it from running out.

Whisk the eggs and almond milk as thin as you can. Pour the egg mixture into the tart. Sprinkle with basil.

Bake the tart for 30-35 minutes until crust is crackly and cooked and the center is nearly set. Cool on rack and serve immediately. To reheat, warm in oven at 375F for 15 minutes.


Living Every Day

Flowers on window sill

I'll preface this post by saying it loud and there is no way of ignoring it.

I am today what I was not last week!

Last week was a load of sh*t packaged in a nasty brown box, tied up with bow of entrails. A series of painful kitchen accidents, dashed hopes, heartaches, cancelled itineraries etc.

The good news is, I am still alive, not spontaneously combusting, and learning to leave the trail of bollocks behind and move on with a semblance of ... I don't know,

something positive

.

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When I hit the abyss, a few things helped me -

1. Read this

beautiful post by my friend

that reminded me, even when all else breaks down, I can

still make a yummy cake and sit by the window and visit a far away land, tea and cake in hand

. So, I proceeded to do just that and revisited

this cake

with blackberries.

2. A text from another friend who was insistent that it was all just a '

question of perspective

' and if I wanted to I could

press reset, empty my mind, change perspective

. I was tempted to write this off as another cliche but for some reason, I decided to give it a try. Perhaps, it was that the text actually made me laugh and in that moment, transformed me.

You know who you are.. thank you!

3. I was by this time, dead stubborn to avoid the one thing that usually reset my mind into a happi

er

state, viz. baking/cooking/pottering in the kitchen. I just wanted to sit on the couch and wallow in self-pity. The combination of the two above actually made me

turn my back on the devil inside

, get my ass of the couch and whip up a delicious

Ramp Tart

for myself and then

that cake

as well.

Ramp Tart
Cake-&-Flowers-Happy

I proceeded to eat it all and then made a list -

1. On the question of meaning of my life - I don't know, yet, but I have to

live and experience

to find out, don't I?! I live because I can and I should and pain is unavoidable, and perhaps, essential, part of that. So, I just have to learn to accept, endure and take it as it comes.

2. I have always been a control freak with an OCD tendency to plan. I should learn to

let go

. Not easy but desperately holding on to fraying fragments of past details does me no good.

3. Signed up for this

Bread Intensive at the ICC

, starting next week. I am super pumped! I will try to capture my experience here post and of course instagram is going to be a constant companion!

4. Am scheduled to do a few

photography projects

through the year that makes me happy.

5. I am hoping to, finally, attend

this stellar conference

organized by my very talented friends every year.

6. Wrote (with pencil and paper, yes!) down a nice long

list of recipe ideas

I want to execute and share on this blog over the next few months. Some of them involve

new techniques

that I am excited to experiment with. Some of them are cool ideas that need

collaboration with friends

and will also push my creative boundaries both in food and photography! I am looking forward to put them out here and find out what you think!

7. Realised I am plateauing a bit on my photography and need to push myself to the next level. I have a few ideas in mind and am curious to see how they take shape.

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Other things that make me happy, every day -

There is a

new life born every day and there is new hope

. Congrats to

Zita

and her boy friend on their gorgeous baby! The little boy makes me smile :)

I am incredibly proud of

Regula

; she not only perks me up with her food, but apparently

Jamie Oliver is smitten

too! She is his favorite blogger!

Hats off darling, and totally derserved! Regula's research into every recipe she shares and her absolute passion for British food is such an inspiration! Also check out

Regula and Bruno's interview

here; such creative minds and the article reflects it!

I am exhilarated to

have the love I want from those whom I want it from

. I don't know if I say it enough, know that you are appreciated for all the

little things

, the flowers, the walks, coffees, lunches and dinners, the phone calls...

the presence mean much

and I am incredibly grateful for it! :)

And, I am so thankful for the

power of language

, for how would we resolve without it! ;)

The flowers of my heart! Peonies

Ramp and Parmesan Tart for One

For the crust:

1/2 cup spelt flour

about 2 T cold butter

pinch of salt

pinch of cracked pepper

few tsp almond milk

1/2 tsp baking powder

For the filling:

3 ramps cleaned and diced fine + a couple as garnish (optional)

1 pheasant egg (It is about 2/3 the size of a chicken egg and so for perfect for this single tart. I happened to have it. If you don't have a small egg, use just the yolk)

1/4 cup almond milk

1 T mayo

1/4 cup fresh grated Parmegianno Regianno

salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 375F.

To make the crust, sift together the dry ingredients. Rub the butter into the mixture to form a coarse meal. Add the almond milk, one teaspoon at time until a dough just comes together. Refrigerate the dough ball for about 15 minutes.

Whisk all the filling ingredients together. Roll out the dough to a quarter inch thickness. Line the dough inside a 5 inch tart mould. Freeze for five minutes. Pour the filling into the shell.

Place on baking tray and bake for about 15 or so minutes until the filling is cooked and the crust is golden brown. Release from mold and eat!


The secret of great meals - Lamb Chops with Polenta and Braised Swiss Chard

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Spring has arrived! It is such a glorious feeling! Finally, it is warm enough to stroll through farmers' market engaging in meaningful conversations and finding out the back stories of the produce on sale! I have been many such trips and coming back with simple, fresh and ridiculously tasty loot! I will put up a post this weekend with recipes for fresh vegetarian meals.

Spring is also the season for ewe lambs. Ok, I know it doesn't sound nice talking about eating a four month old animal but the reality is that it is the tenderest meat you will ever bite into this year. The beauty of any dish is in the ingredients. Spring lambs are so succulent and flavorful that you don't need much cooking to enjoy them. A quick saute and it will be perhaps one of the best dishes you may have had in and out of a restaurant!

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I share with you today a very simple and flavorful dish of lamb chops served on a bed of polenta and braised swiss chard. I actually served this dish with white wine rather than a full bodied red typically paired with red meat. Simply because, the meat itself is delicate and does not need a robust wine to accompany. It is beautifully paired by a crisp, light white like a Chablis.

Lamb Chops with Polenta and Braised Swiss Chard

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Start with the polenta, them the chard and finally the chops. Cook the chops last, just before serving!

For the Lamb Chops:

6 baby lamb rib chops

3 cloves of garlic, minced

1 T rosemary, minced

1/2 tsp maldon salt or fleur de sel (Use the finest salt you have and use it sparingly. It only takes a little of the good stuff to bring flavor to the meat)

1/2- to 1 tsp fresh cracked pepper based on your taste

1 T good, fruity olive oil

Mix the marinade ingredients and set aside for 10 minutes to allow the flavors to meld together. Meanwhile wash and pat dry the chops. Rub the marinade on both sides of the chops and let rest for 30 minutes up to over night.

When ready to cook, heat a heavy bottomed pan with a light drizzle of olive oil over medium-high flame. I always use cast iron or steel and never non-stick; the sear isn't good and it tastes funny! Arrange the chops in one layer and let them cook undisturbed for two minutes. Gently lift the first chop you placed in the pan to check the sear. If it is good enough turn all the chops over. If not, leave them cook on the side for another minute. Cook on the other side for 3-4 minutes depending on the thickness of the chop for a medium-rare-ish finish.

Cook the polenta according to instructions using milk as the liquid.

For the Braised Swiss Chard:

1 bunch swiss chard, washed, drained and chopped

1/2 cup homemade tomato sauce

2 cloves garlic, smashed

olive oil for the pan

Heat the oil and saute the garlic until the oil is perfumed. Add the sauce and bring to a gentle boil. Add the chard, cover the pan and cook until the leaves are just wilted. Remove from heat.

To serve:

Place some polenta on the plate/bowl. Ladle over it the braised greens and top with the seared chops. Sprinkle fresh grated parmesan if desired!

MADE A RECIPE FROM THE BLOG?

Share your creations tagging @ashafsk on Instagram and hashtag #MadeFromFSK