Spicy Fish with Tahini Walnut Sauce

Bachelor Chow Honors Class – Spicy Fish with Tahini-Walnut Sauce

Another Sunday night cooking for myself.  So I made a trip to the an Asian grocer nearby and picked up a piece of fish, thinking I could do something Thai or Chinese… maybe something steamed, healthy-like. I need to cook more fish, not just for health, but for the experience — Sue doesn’t eat fin-fish, and if I’m ever going to win Chopped Home Cook Edition, I’d better be able to filet a fish.  So today’s challenge ingredient is…. Flounder.

Paging through my cookbooks, nothing really thrilled me, and I felt like I was settling for a red curry in David Thompson’s Thai Food. So between shopping and dinner I was watching the food network, and Guy Fieri was at a Morrocan place in the middle of nowhere, and I said to myself, “OK, let’s find something North African or Middle Eastern.”  The book I ended up using is May Bsisu’s “The Arab Table”, the recipe Samakeh Harra Bi Tahini. I’m glad I found something in here, because this is a cookbook that I’ve mainly used for one dish: “Kibbeh in the Tray” which is a knockout party dish.  It always feels lousy to have a whole cookbook for just one dish, but it happens all the time.

This dish is designed for celebration – it serves 10 in the original version with a 4-6 pound fish.  It took me almost 90 minutes of work to put it together. I tried to scale it down by 5, thinking I’d have enough fish for dinner and lunch, but by the time I filleted the fish, it was only one serving.  I ended up with a lot of the tahini-walnut sauce left over… but I’m sure it’ll work well on grilled chicken or something, because it’s delicious.

In afterthought, I should probably have done rolls of the flounder filets, rather than trying to stack, and cook for much less time, and with less liquid — it came out rather mushy. I’ve adjusted the time here. If it wasn’t for the elaborate sauce that’s prepared while the fish is cooking, I’d suggest assembling in parchment and microwaving or steaming, but you’ve got the time here to cook in the oven.

Recipe: Spicy Fish with Tahini-Walnut Sauce


About 11 oz (320g) of flounder
Juice of 1 meyer lemon
2 clove garlic, minced (actually, grated on a microplane)
1/3 of a jalapeno chile, minced
large pinch salt
pinch of red pepper flakes
1/4 cup (60 ml) chopped cilantro
large pinch freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp (2.5ml) cumin
1/4 tsp (1.25ml) coriander
pinch of ground cardamom
1 Tbs (15ml) olive oil

  1. Preheat oven to 400F / 205F
  2. Skin and filet the fish, as specified in The Joy of Cooking.
    I hope the new editions still say how.  In my case, skinning was a pain in the neck, since the tail and fins had been removed. But I persevered.
    Skinned, some meat recovered from the skin
    skinned flounder
    Fileted – most of the chopped stuff on the right I scraped from between the ribs, but overall, not too bad for a first attempt
  3. Rub filets with the cut, juiced meyer lemon, sprinkle with salt and pepper
  4. Arrange the filets into two rectangular portions in a double layer of heavy duty foil in a deep baking dish. I used the scraped bits as ‘glue’ between the pieces.
    arranged filets
  5. Combine the garlic, salt, jalapeno, red pepper flakes, cardamom, cumin, coriander, black pepper and cilantro, mix well
  6. Spread mixture over half of the filets, and drizzle half of the meyer lemon juice over it
    filled fish
  7. Flip the other half of the filets on top of the filling, drizzle with the rest of the lemon juice and the olive oil
    assembled fish
  8. Seal the foil well, and add about 1 cup of hot water to the pan.  Bake for 30 minutes (I baked for 45, it was too much)
    wrapped parcel

Tahini-Walnut Sauce

2 cloves garlic
1/3 tsp (3.3 ml) salt
1/2 tsp sambal or equivalent minced red chile
2 Tbs (30 ml) olive oil
5 oz (150ml) chopped cilantro
1/2 C (120ml) walnuts
1/2 C (120ml) tahini
Juice of 1 lemon

  1. Combine the garlic, salt, sambal/chile
    cilantro, garlic, salt, chile
  2. Heat olive oil in a medium pan on high heat, and saute cilantro and garlic mixture until most of the liquid is gone, about 3-5 minutes
    wilted cilantro
  3. Grind the walnuts fine (I used my spice grinder)
  4. Back in the same pan, add the tahini, lemon juice and about 1/2 cup water, then add cooked cilantro mixture. On medium-high heat, cook until the oil begins to separate and it thickens somewhat
    tahini sauce before cooking
  5. Stir in the walnuts, off the heat. Taste for salt and lemon juice.
  6. When the fish is cooked, plate carefully
    cooked fish
  7. Spread sauce over the top, garnish with cilantro and a walnut half. Served here with whole wheat Israeli couscous (1/3 of a red pepper, julienned, some chopped fresh spinach, both sauteed in a pot. Add 1/3 C couscous, 2/3 C boiling water, cook for 8 minutes)

Recipe: Chorizo-stuffed Mushrooms

This is just a quick post for a friend, who requested the recipe for the stuffed mushrooms I brought to a dinner party over the weekend.

Sorry, no pictures. I hadn’t thought these were going to be anything special, just slapped them together.

Chorizo-Stuffed Mushrooms

20 large crimini or white mushrooms, about 2-3″ (5-8cm) across
6 oz (175 g) chorizo
3 oz (85 g) sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
1 small onion, diced fine
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 oz (55 g) chopped canned green chiles
salt and pepper to taste
Juice of 1 lime
1/2 cup (225 ml) chopped cilantro
6 Tbs (90 ml) bread crumbs
4 Tbs (60 ml) grated cotija cheese (you could probably substitute parmesan)
1/2 tsp (2.5 ml) half-sharp paprika (or a little cayenne and regular paprika)
3 Tbs olive oil
1/2 cup (120ml) white wine

  1. Preheat oven to 350F/175C. Line a sheet pan with foil or parchment
  2. Wash your mushrooms.
  3. Remove the stems and dice the stems finely.
    I added four rehydrated shiitake mushrooms that were in my fridge, but there’s way more filling here than you can stuff into these mushrooms, so feel free to leave that out.
  4. Place the mushrooms gill side down on the baking sheet, and bake for about 15 minutes, or until they’ve wrinkled somewhat and let out a fair amount of liquid.
    This is a good time to dice and grate ‘n’ stuff
  5. Remove the mushroom caps from the pan and allow to cool — don’t discard the liquid that the mushrooms gave off. They’ll be about 2/3 the original size.
  6. In a large skillet, heat the oil on medium-high.
  7. Add the mushrooms, onions and  garlic, and a half-teaspoon salt, and cook, stirring occasionally, until it seems to have stopped shrinking and the onions are soft.  Add the chiles, the liquid from the pre-cooked caps and the wine, and continue cooking until absorbed/evaporated
  8. Remove mushroom mixture from the heat and allow to cool. (At this point I realized I had way too much filling, but soldiered on)
  9. Add cilantro, cheddar cheese and lime juice, salt and pepper to taste and mix to combine
  10. In the same pan, cook the chorizo on medium heat until fat is rendered and it’s crisped up, making sure to break it up into small pieces as it cooks. (This could have been done with the veg, but I prepared a few of the mushrooms without the chorizo for a vegetarian in our dinner group). 
  11. Allow the chorizo to cool, drain as much fat as possible, and add the chorizo to the vegetable mixture.
  12. Put the mushroom caps face up on the now-cooled pan, and fill with the stuffing, mounding it rather high.  (This will only use about 2/3 of the stuffing. Deal with it.  It’s good in an omelet or quesadilla)
  13. In a small bowl, mix the breadcrumbs, cotija cheese and paprika. Melt the butter and stir it into the breadcrumb mixture to make sort of a streusel paste.
  14. Carefully spread the streusel on top of the stuffed mushroom.
  15. The mushrooms can be refrigerated at this point until just before serving.
  16. Bake for about 15 minutes at 350, until the tops are golden brown

Great! Neighborhood restaurants

LTHForum has announced the Class of 2014 Great Neighborhood Restaurants and Resources!

There are 14 new locations, ranging from one of the hottest restaurants in town (Fat Rice) to an Indiana burger chain (Schoop’s in Munster). There’s even a couple in my neighborhood: Rand Red Hots in Des Plaines serves the essential Chicago dog and fresh cut fries, and Boston Seafood Market (also Des Plaines) serves fresh fish both retail and sit-down dining.  Lots of places I haven’t tried, so it’s off to lunch!

Indian Stir-Fried Eggplant

Bachelor Chow Honors Class: Indian Stir-Fried Eggplant

Sue’s out for the evening again (my turn on Thursday… she’ll probably get no more imaginative than French Toast).

I had a couple eggplants I’d bought before the Iron Chef pot luck, to have in case the chosen ingredient was more Mediterranean. It’s not her favorite as a main course, so I’m more than happy to work with it again.  I thought about doing the Bulgur salad again, but kt’s too soon to repeat myself.

Strong candidates were eggplant parmesan, or something Indian. I really didn’t want to fry (I will lose some weight one of these months)… even a lot of the Indian dishes used things like half-cups of oil, coconut milk, etc.  But I found one recipe that looked light, spicy, and relatively quick.  This is a great weeknight meal that takes less time to cook than it does to make rice (especially the brown jasmine rice I put up in the rice cooker). I haven’t seen an Indian cookbook specify cooking anything in a microwave before, 1000 Indian Recipes by Neelam Baira surprised me here.

It certainly was spicy: one measly Serrano chile being stir fried and the air in the kitchen was very hard to breathe.

It would have been vegan if I didn’t dollop on some greek yogurt… which served nicely to tone down the chile.

Recipe: Indian Stir-Fried Eggplant

adapted from 1000 Indian Recipes by Naleem Baira

serves 2

1 large (1lb / 440g) eggplant
1/2 tsp (2.5ml) salt
2 tsp (10ml) oil
1/2 tsp (2.5ml) cumin seed
1/4 tsp (1.25ml) cracked black pepper
1 Serrano chile, chopped fine
about 1/3 cup (80ml) finely diced red onion
2 small cloves garlic, chopped fine
1.5 tsp (7.5ml) finely chopped fresh ginger
about 1/2 cup (120 ml) (around 10) chopped grape tomatoes
1.5 tsp (7.5ml) ground coriander
a large pinch turmeric
1/4 cup (60ml) chopped cilantro
To serve: brown jasmine rice, greek yogurt, a pinch of garam masala

  1. Cut the eggplant into bite-sized pieces (I cut it in eights lengthwise, then 1/2″ slices)
  2. Place eggplant in a microwave-safe baking dish, sprinkle with salt, cover, and microwave on high for 4 minutes.
    microwaved eggplant
  3. While your rice is cooking, prepare the rest of the mise en place, read a magazine… (brown rice takes too long to cook)
  4. In a wok, heat the oil on high. Turn on your vent hood, by all that is holy.
  5. Add the pepper and cumin seeds, stir until fragrant (3o seconds at most)
  6. Immediately add the onions, garlic, ginger and chile. (this is when it will get hard to breathe)
  7. Turn the heat down to medium, stir fry the aromatics until translucent, about 3-5 minutes. If the heat is too high and it’s drying out, add a little water.
  8. Add the coriander and turmeric, stir, then add tomatoes, stir for one minute
    with tomatoes
  9. Add the eggplant and cilantro and about 1/4 cup (120ml) water, stir for about 5 minutes until everything is soft.
    with eggplant
  10. Serve atop rice, with a sprinkle of garam masala and a dollop of yogurt. And a drink.
    Indian Stir-Fried Eggplant



Carrots are divine… it’s magic!

(if you don’t get the headline, you were brought up deprived.  see here)

Last night several of the LTHForum folks got together for our fourth Iron Chef Pot Luck.  No judging, no winners, just an opportunity to be creative and have a nice dinner party.  I had a friend of mine pick the secret theme ingredient, and so battle carrot was on!  Our rules are that the ingredient is announced at 11PM the night before, and you can only shop for that item — everything else has to come from your pantry.

We ended up with two cocktails: a carrot bloody mary, and I made a ginger ale, carrot and orange juice bourbon punch-like drink. Since I didn’t do anything special to the drink other than scale it up, I’ll just link to the original I found from Joy the Baker. Very light and refreshing.
carrot cocktail

Savory dishes included a carrot and pineapple salad (nearly a dessert), my carrot chawanmushi with carrot kimchi (recipe below), Sue’s carrot and bacon corn muffins, carrots and chicken wings on rice, and a carrot soup that unfortunately ended up on the floor of a car on the way over, and a carrot chicken salad that got left home or it would have been piped into little cream puffs.  This is the first battle we’ve had with culinary casualties.

Desserts were Sue’s carrot bread pudding with whiskey cream cheese sauce (awesome!), carrot-shaped eclairs with roasted carrot ice cream filling, and carrot cake.
carrot bread pudding

It’s always fun to challenge ourselves to find a dish that features the ingredient, and is still novel and exciting.  I’d never made chawanmushi, and I think I’ve only eaten it once. What I got was a nice light custard with flavors of carrot, shiitake and shrimp, with a bright, spicy pickled carrot. So I present to you…

Recipe: Carrot Chawanmushi with Shrimp and Shiitake, and Quick Carrot Kimchi

For the Kimchi:

(makes about 2-3 cups / 750ml kimchi)

3 medium carrots, peeled
2 baby persian cucumbers, or about 1/4 medium cucumber, julienned (about 3/4 cup / 150ml)
3 scallions, green part only
3 cloves garlic, chopped fine
1 inch (2.5cm) ginger, chopped fine
2 Tbs (30ml) gochujang (Korean red pepper bean paste)
1 serrano chile, halved, seeds removed, cut into fine half-rings
1 Tbs (15ml) kosher salt
1 Tbs (15ml) sugar
1 cup (250ml) rice vinegar

  1. Using a vegetable peeler, cut the carrots into ribbons about 1/4 to 1/2″ wide (average 1cm), 3-4″ (7-10cm) long, for about two cups (450ml)
  2. Toss all vegetables together in a shallow container
    vegetables for kimchi
  3. Whisk together vinegar, salt, sugar and gochujang
  4. Mix well, and allow to stand for at least six hours
    dressed kimchi
  5. Note: a vacuum-sealer container was used, but there’s no proof that this had any effect



(makes 12 servings)

8 dried shiitake mushrooms
18 medium shrimp, shell-on
3 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 1/3″ (1cm) cubes
ice water
8 large eggs
1 2/3 C (400ml) stock (I used Momofuku’s ramen broth)
1 2/3 C (400ml) carrot juice
2 Tbs (30ml) soy sauce
2 Tbs (30ml) mirin
12 6.5oz/200ml ramekins
3 steamer baskets

  1. In a bowl, pour boiling water over mushrooms and allow to steep for 30 minutes
  2. Drain mushrooms, remove stems, and cut into 1/3″ (1cm) dice. Distribute into the ramekins
  3. Bring a medium saucepan of salted water (about 1Tbs /15ml to 2 quarts) to a boil
  4. Blanch the carrot cubes until just barely tender, about 4 minutes
    blanching carrots
  5. With a slotted spoon or spider, remove the carrot cubes to the bowl of ice water
  6. Bring the pot back to a boil and add the shrimp until just opaque, about 2 minutes
  7. With a slotted spoon or spider, remove the shrimp to the ice water
  8. Drain, separate the shrimp from the carrots, and peel the shrimp
  9. Cut the shrimp into about 4 pieces each
  10. Bring a separate large pot with at least 1 quart of water to a boil, that will fit your steamer baskets
  11. Distribute the shrimp and carrots into each ramekin (about six pieces of shrimp per)
    fillings for chawanmushi
  12. Mix together carrot juice, and stock.
  13. Add soy and mirin to taste, about 2 Tbs/30ml each. It should be saltier than you’d like, because eggs have to go in yet
  14. Whisk the eggs into the stock/juice mixture. I used a blender, then skimmed off the foam on the top.
  15. Carefully pour mixture into each of 12 ramekins
    assembled chawanmushi ready for steaming
  16. Cover each ramekin with plastic wrap and place in steamer baskets
  17. Steam over gently boiling water for 25-35 minutes, until just set.
    steamer baskets
  18. Serve with a garnish of the kimchi
grilling mishaki

And the Oscar goes to.. Somali grilled ground meat skewers

For a friend’s Oscar viewing party, everyone brings something at least loosely tied to a movie.  Italian food from American Hustle or Wolf of Wall Street was popular, with a pizza roll, and chicken picante. We also had blackberry buckle (12 Years a Slave), cheesecake (I don’t remember what that was for), flavored popcorn (Nebraska), and my wife’s reproduction of Milk Bar’s Crack Pie.

I made Mishaki, Somali grilled ground meat skewers, for Captain Phillips, adapted from a few websites, and Shidni, a tomato-tamarind-date chutney to dip them in. Captain Phillips didn’t win any awards, but this dish is a winner.  Mildly spicy grilled meats, with a zippy sauce. The weather in Chicago had warmed enough that standing outside to turn the skewers wasn’t going to result in frostbite, and they’d cook adequately with the cover closed.  I’d grill them with the cover open in warmer months.

Are they authentic Somali recipes?  Probably about as much as any Hollywood depiction.  But they were delicious.

Recipe: Mishaki – Somali Grilled Ground Meat Skewers

1.5 lb (650-700g) ground beef (80% lean) – would probably be great with lamb or chicken too
1 small onion, grated
2 small cloves of garlic, grated on microplane
1 tsp (5ml) berbere seasoning
1/2 tsp (2.5ml) cumin
1/2 tsp (2.5ml) coriander
1 tbs (15ml) potato flour or cornstarch
2 serrano chilies, grated
1/4 (60ml) cup finely chopped cilantro
1 tbs (15ml) olive oil
3/4 tsp (4ml) salt

  1. Combine all ingredients but the meat and mix well
  2. Mix the meat into the mixture thoroughly, and allow to sit for an hour (now would be a good time to make the Shidni, below)
    meat mixture
  3. Make sure grill is clean and oiled.
  4. Light charcoal or gas grill, if gas, heat on high.
  5. Form into 24 small, chubby sausage-shaped pieces, put three on each of eight bamboo skewers
  6. Turn gas down to medium, or move charcoal to one side, and grill for four minutes on each side. Turn carefully, because they’re fragile.
    grilling mishaki
    see the fun of grilling in winter in Chiberia
  7. Serve with Shidni — I was packing these up to take to the party, never got a picture of serving them over shredded lettuce with the sauce in the middle.


Recipe: Shidni – Somali Tamarind-Date-Tomato Chutney

2 Tbs (30ml) tamarind paste
1/2 of a 14oz/400g can whole tomatoes (I used San Marzano Cherry Tomatoes), drained
4-6 hot chiles, stems removed (I used a mix of green serranos and red thai)
1/4 cup (120ml) diced dates
2 cloves garlic
1 tsp (5ml) Berbere spice mix
1/2 tsp (2.5ml) salt
4 tbs (15ml) olive oil, divided

  1. Combine all ingredients except oil in blender, blend until smooth
  2. Heat a small saucepan on medium.
  3. Add 1 tbs oil to pan and add blended (blent?) mixture
  4. Stir constantly for three to five minutes, until thickened and slightly darkened.
  5. Add about 3tbs olive oil to make it a little more liquid (not part of the original recipe, but the sauce was otherwise too thick, more of a spread than a dip)

Makes about 3/4 cup sauce