About cooking minette

i spend a good portion of every day thinking about, reading about, and talking about whole, unprocessed, real FOOD, and preparing meals for my family. i believe what we eat is directly related to our physical and emotional well being. my romance with food (and my love for cooking) began as a child in my grandmother’s kitchen in tehran, became more refined (i’d like to think) in the south of france, and continues to evolve in southern california. i’ve learned a few things along the way I’d like to share. - See more at: http://cookingminette.com/about#sthash.ziYbGpuD.dpuf

tomates farcies: beef & vegetarian stuffed tomatoes {and a bonus quinoa salad}!

if you follow this blog you know by now how much i love tomatoes. i have for as long as i can remember. as a kid, if we were having something i didn’t like for dinner, i would just chop up a tomato and eat it with white rice (didn’t know about the no-no carbs back then) or flat bread (same thing) or bite in to a whole salted tomato or two! there are always ripe tomatoes sitting in a bowl on my kitchen counter- i never refrigerate them-i was told by a local chef a few years ago that it changes their chemistry (and flavor). when my son visited his friend’s grandparents in the french country side a few years ago, he came home raving about the incredible stuffed tomatoes he’d been served. naturally, i made my own version for him with ground beef and rice (persian style)…he liked them, but they were nothing like the tomates farcies he’d tasted in france. when i came across these amazing organic tomatoes at the market (they are in season and i am so happy) yesterday, i decided to make french style “tomates farcies“. i also made an experimental vegetarian version with quinoa and fennel which was arguably better than the meat variety. some of us had three or four (!!) of these….happy happy tummies!
ingredients for beef stuffed tomates farcies for 6-8:   {scroll down for the salad recipe}

  • 1 pound grass fed organic lean ground beef
  • 1 yellow onion, finely cubed
  • 1 large garlic clove, finely minced
  • 8 large ripe tomatoes
  • 1 large bunch flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
  • a few sprigs of thyme
  • 1 small bunch fresh basil leaves
  • 3 tbs good quality (preferably home made) bread crumbs
  • 2 tbs extra virgin olive oil
  • sea salt & cracked pepper to taste
1. cut the tops off the tomatoes, then carefully empty the insides with the help of a small paring knife and a small spoon (be careful not to pierce them). save the softer pulp and juices from the insides in a bowl. allow the empty tomatoes to drain, and keep their lids near them.
2. in a heavy pot heat 1 tbsp olive oil and sautee the minced garlic and onions until softened and golden, then add the beef, sea salt & pepper to taste to the pot and brown on high heat. break up the beef pieces with a wooden spoon or spatula. chop up about 1/2 of the tomato pulp (from emptying the tomatoes) and add it along with some of the juices to the browned  beef-simmer on med/low heat until most of the liquid is absorbed. turn off the heat, let the mixture cool slightly, then add all of the finely chopped herbs and mix well.
3. add about 3 tbs of good quality bread crumbs to the beef mixture (off the heat) and combine well. taste for salt, and adjust.
4. with a small spoon carefully fill the tomatoes with the beef mixture all the way to the top and cover loosely with lids. place tomatoes tightly in a baking dish, drizzle lightly with olive oil and a sprinkle of sea salt, then bake in a 350 degree oven for about 40-45 minutes-up to an hour. scroll down for vegetarian recipe.

for vegetarian stuffed tomatoes (for 6 and a bonus salad):
  • 1 cup quinoa, cooked in lightly salted water
  • 1 fennel bulb, finely minced (small cubes)
  • 2-3 green onions finely chopped, or a small bunch of chopped chives
  • 1 small bunch chopped flat leaf parsley
  • 1 small bunch chopped fresh dill
  • 6 ripe roma tomatoes (or tomatoes of choice), emptied, soft insides & juices set aside
  • sea salt, freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 1-2 tbs extra virgin olive oil
additional ingredient for salad:
  • juice of 1 large lime
  • 1 cup baby heirloom (or cherry) tomatoes, sliced in halves or quarters
  • 1/4 cup or so chopped dill
  • fennel greens from the bulb
1. combine the cooked quinoa with all of the chopped herbs, green onions, very finely chopped fennel, sea salt, pepper, and olive oil. finely chop up the remaining tomato pulp that was set aside (from emptying the tomatoes earlier) and add to the mixture without too much of the juice.
2. carefully fill the tomatoes with the mixture, put the lids on loosely, and drizzle lightly with olive oil and sea salt. bake in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes. ** you can also add 2 tbs of good quality parmesan cheese to the mixture for additional flavor**fresh quinoa salad with fennel:  after filling the tomatoes, you should have some mixture left over. add to this the lime juice, baby tomatoes, fennel greens, more chopped dill, and a dash of extra virgin olive oil. serve as a quinoa salad!

 

 

dinner is served:
small sweet melons, tomates farcies, salt & pepper, baguette, green salad with rocket & avocado,
quinoa salad, rose wine
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the {so happy i thought of this} lunch bowl!

almost every time i decide to restrict my diet i pick up a pack of organic brown rice cakes at the market. having these rather cardboard like cakes (?!) in the pantry makes me feel like i’m halfway there (to the diet restriction results, that is). i eat them with sliced tomatoes and sea salt, a thin spread of peanut or almond butter, or with sliced avocados. yesterday for my (rather late) lunch i was feeling like a bowl of something light, filling, and fresh. it had to be fast and easy. bright idea: after lightly toasting it, i crumbled a rice cake as the base of my bowl-I then added chunks of avocado, a chopped up hard boiled egg, sliced tomatoes (vitamins E, B6, C-besides, i add them to everything), fresh oregano, and finally a few drops of my lemony shallot vinaigrette. quick taste. yum. crunchy goodness. something was missing, though….looked in the refrigerator for ideas. fresh spicy salsa? scooped over a couple of spoons of that, too. another taste. aha! crunchy spicy zesty deliciousness. i will do this again. and again. it’s thaaaat good!
my new favorite lunch bowl, con salsa, below:
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zereshk polow (barberry rice) with braised saffron chicken: the ultimate comfort food for a lazy sunday

there are times when you are so hungry and tired, (or simply in need of a meal that provides pure comfort) that you can’t really decide what you want to eat. this happens often at our house (not so pleasant for everyone else when i’m the hungry one). typically one of the only meals that gets a collective thumbs up under these circumstances is persian style chicken and rice or “morgh polo,” (aka life saver)-a simple steamed basmati rice served with slow braised saffron infused chicken. Traditionally in my family, we layer the rice with a blend of fragrant rose petals (gol-e-sorkh) , whole toasted cumin seeds, cinnamon, and yes, more saffron! if you want to make “zereshk polo“, or barberry rice, you leave out the spices (other than saffron) and top the rice with slightly sweetened barberries(recipe below). today i’m making the dish as my grandma prepared it for us hundreds of times. I wish you could smell the wonderful aroma surrounding me as the fragrant rice steams along with the butter and spices. this time i’m adding the barberries. you can (and should) play with this general recipe to make it your own by adding (to the barberry mix) nuts such as toasted slivered almonds or pistachios, and raisins or currants-or by subtracting any of the spices you might not like. let’s start with the braised* saffron chicken, for about six:
scroll down for SHIRAZI salad recipe:

BRAISED SAFFRON CHICKEN:

  • about 2 pounds of organic skinless chicken-(either whole cut up chicken, or a combination of thighs, breasts, and drumsticks)
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced (see below)
  • 2 tbs turmeric
  • sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 1-2 bay leaves
  • 1 tbs safflower (or your preferred vegetable) oil
  • 1 tsp ground saffron (or a few strands seeped in warm water)

*braising is the cooking method where the food is seared (browned in a pan at a high temperature) first, then simmered with a small amount of liquid in a closed pot (pot with a lid) until tender.

chicken with water added, ready to simmer for 1 and 1/2 hour
1. heat the oil in a deep skillet, add the onions, and sautee until almost golden, then add the chicken to the pot and sprinkle with the turmeric, sea salt, and cracked pepper. sear chicken pieces on both sides on meduim/high heat (be careful not to burn the onions).
2. add a small cup (slightly less) of water and the bay leaves, cover (letting the steam out slightly), and allow the chicken to simmer softly on med/low heat for at least one hour, preferably an hour and a half. check the chicken often to make sure you don’t need to add water, adding only a little at a time if necessary-after about 1.5 hours, the onions should be almost melted, and the chicken should be very tender. 
3. add the saffron (diluted in a tiny bit of warm water) and simmer for another 10-15 minutes. don’t add the saffron any sooner, as it will lose intensity of odor and flavor. you can cook the chicken ahead (leaving the saffron out), and reheat (add saffron) for 10-15 minutes prior to serving. your chicken should be falling off the bone-if you use boneless, it is ready to serve, otherwise, remove any extra (unattractive) bones, and serve over the rice with the wonderful juices (which should be slightly thickened).
for the rice:

  • 2-3 tbsps kosher salt
  • 3 cups long grain basmati rice
  • 2 tsp toasted cumin seeds
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tbs dry rose petals (gole sorkh)
  • 1 tsp (or about 10-12 whole strands seeped in water) ground saffron
  • 1/2 to 1 cup barberries (cleaned)
  • 1 tbs butter
  • 1-2 tsp brow cane sugar or 2 tsp good orange marmalade
  • 2-3 tbsp oil (safflower)

1. boil about 8 cups of water with 2 tbs kosher salt. clean and wash your rice about 4-5 times until the water is clear, and add it to the boiling water. now the tricky part-keep a close eye on the rice while it boils briskly (on high) for about 6-10 minutes, and gently stir a few times (not too much). when the rice looks like it has softened (at about 7 minutes), drain it in a large fine mesh colander. rinse with warm water.

2. in the same pot heat the oil (you can use clarified butter if you’d like) with 2-3 tbsp water, and a small touch of your ground saffron (1/4 tsp). start with a few spatulas of rice at the bottom of the pot over the oil, followed by a sprinkling of  cinnamon, cumin, and rose petals. keep layering this way creating a pyramid-rice then spices until you have finished your ingredients.  pour 1/2 cup water (i use a slotted spatula to evenly distribute). place a clean dish towel (or you can use paper towels) on top of the pot and cover firmly with your lid. do not remove the lid after this.

3. cook on medium high for about 10 minutes *(don’t move away from the pot or you’ll forget-set a timer if you have to)*, then reduce heat to medium/low and cook for 50-60 minutes more without lifting the lid (lets the steam escape).

4. serve your rice with the chicken all around, drizzle all the juices on the rice, then top with your barberry mixture:
melt butter in a small sauce pan, then add cleaned barberries and either some cane brown sugar or the orange marmalade (mostly the syrup)-keep the heat on low as barberries can burn very easily. add saffron (diluting it with a few drops of warm water prior to adding). combine well, turn off the heat.




SHIRAZI SALAD:

combine together in a bowl (4-6 servings)

  • 6-7 peeled or un-peeled finely cubed organic persian cucumbers
  • 3 medium cubed ripe tomatoes
  • 3-4 sliced green onions (or 2 tsp finely minced red onion)
  • small bunch finely chopped flat leaf parsley
  • 3-4 tbs lime juice (freshly squeezed)
  • 2-3 tbs extra virgin olive oil
  • sea salt and fresh ground pepper
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clay pot chicken and vegetables with brown rice

i’ve been obsessed with clay pot cooking (more like eating) ever since i took my first bite of clay pot chicken at the corner vietnamese restaurant during my freshman year in college. whenever my friends and i wanted to treat ourselves to a good meal away from the cafeteria (which was quite often, come to think of it), we headed there and ordered the deliciously fragrant dish before we even looked at the menu. i had never tasted vietnamese food before moving to California, and this delicate combination of flavors and textures was a wonderfully welcome surprise to my taste buds- as i remember it (unfortunately the restaurant is no longer there), the dish combined an assortment of mushrooms, fish sauce, garlic, lemongrass, ginger, spicy peppers, and cilantro with fragrant jasmine rice and tender chicken. these ingredients were slowly steamed together in a small clay pot to create an intoxicating combination of aroma and flavor. it could have been that we were simply hungry students with cafeteria food as our other option, or perhaps it tasted as delicately delicious as i remember it. when i came across a blue clay pot at the store a few days ago, i had no choice but to bring it home, and today i made my very own version of clay pot chicken with brown rice flavored with kaffir lime leaves and coconut milk. The resulting dish was good enough to share:)
ingredients for 4 servings:

  • 1 cup brown rice, parboiled 
  • (cooked until just tender with 2 cups of water for about 20-25 minutes until water is absorbed)
  • 2 organic chicken breasts, cubed * for vegetarian option omit chicken and reduce baking time to 30 minutes-you may also substitute chicken with sprouted organic cubed tofu)*
  • 2 small red bell peppers, cubed
  • 10-12 mushrooms, cubed
  • 1 small onion, cubed
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas
  • 3-4 kaffir lime leaves
  • 1-2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2-1 cup light coconut milk
  • 3-4 tbs soy sauce *(braggs aminos for gluten free)
  • 1 sliver fresh ginger, thinly sliced or minced (about 1 tsp)
  • 2 tsp unrefined virgin coconut oil
  • 1-2 tsp toasted sesame oil
  • 3-4 thai peppers, thinly sliced (spicy)
  • a few sprigs of fresh cilantro
  • 5-10 baby roma or cherry tomatoes, sliced (optional)
1. in a small wok or medium sauce pan quickly stir fry together with the heated oil (combination of both oils) on high heat: minced garlic, onions, red peppers, mushrooms, peas, ginger, and sliced thai peppers until tender for about 5 minutes. add the lime leaves and most of the soy sauce and stir fry for another 2-3 minutes.
2. add par boiled (almost cooked) brown rice to the clay pot (or dutch oven), then add the cooked vegetable mixture and mix well with the rice.

3. add the cubed uncooked chicken to the rice and vegetables and combine to distribute evenly, then pour the coconut milk and remaining soy sauce with a touch of sesame oil over the rice and chicken combination. stir everything together carefully, then cover firmly.

4. bake in a 350-375 degree preheated oven for about 45 minutes. you won’t believe the aroma when you remove the lid! carefully remove the lime leaves and sprinkle with cilantro leaves and sliced tomatoes before serving.

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