Monday, March 21, 2011

Aspargus Soup

FACTS AND FOLKLORE


Early American Indians dried asparagus for medicinal uses. It was used as a natural diuretic and for kidney/bladder problems.
  • Asparagus contains a factor in preventing small capillary blood vessels from rupturing and was used for heart problems.
  • Asparagus is an excellent source of vitamins A and C. It’s also a good source of potassium, phosphorus, and some iron.
  • Asparagus derived it’s name from the Ancient Greek, who used the word to refer to all tender shoots picked and savored while very young.
  • In Germany, every eatery from the tiniest to the most elaborate, offered spargelkarte – a special asparagus menu that would list as many as 45 variations of this vegetable. Like most Europeans, they prefer the white asparagus.
  • White asparagus is achieved by growing the stalks under mounds of earth so the sun does not strike them to produce chlorophyll.
  • Asparagus growing takes patience. Crowns are planted in the Spring and then are set to permanent fields when they are about 1-1½ years old. It takes them about 4 years to produce a sizeable crop.
  • This Spring vegetable loves the sun and water. An asparagus spear can grow as much as one inch (or more) in an hour when weather conditions are just right. The stalks reach about 7-7 ½ inches when they are cut or snapped around ground level.
Here is an idea for a quick and easy weekend lunch.  One of my favorites and so easy to make.

Ingredients

  • 1 pound fresh asparagus
  • 3/4 cup chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup vegetable broth
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 pinch ground black pepper
  • 1 1/4 cups vegetable or chicken broth
  • 1 cup 2% milk
  • 1/2 cup yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Method




Place asparagus and onion in a saucepan with 1/2 cup vegetable broth. Bring the broth to a 


boil, reduce heat and let simmer until the vegetables are tender.


Reserve a few asparagus tips for garnish. Add the remaining vegetable mixture in blender or 
food processor and puree until smooth.



Melt butter in the pan that was used for simmering the asparagus and onions. Stir while sprinkling flour, salt, and pepper into the butter. Allow the mixture to cook only 2 minutes. Stir in remaining 1 1/4 cups broth and increase the heat. Continue stirring until the mixture comes to a boil.




Stir the vegetable puree and milk into the saucepan. Whisk yogurt into the mixture, followed by lemon juice. Stir until heated through, then ladle into bowls. Garnish with reserved asparagus tips. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese if desired.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Stuffed Cabbage - Malfoof - ملفوف




Malfoof consist of cooked cabbage leaves wrapped around a rice  or a rice and beef mixture.  Then the Cabbage leaves are stuffed with the filling which are then bakedsimmered or steamed in a covered pot and generally eaten warm, often accompanied with a sauce. The sauce varies widely by cuisine. Always in Sweden and sometimes in Finland, stuffed cabbage is served with lingonberry jam, which is both sweet and tart. In Eastern Europe, tomato-based sauces or plain sour cream are typical. In Lebanon it is a popular plate, where the cabbage is stuffed with rice and minced meat and only rolled to the size of cigar. It is usually served with a side of yogurt and a type of lemon and olive oil vinaigrette seasoned with garlic and dried mint.  In Iraq, stuffed vegetables are you usually referred to as dolma.  People in the Middle and south of Iraq prefer their dolma cooked white (without tomato sauce).  They use lemon juice or citric acid to add a sour note.  The people of Mosul (northern Iraq) prefer to make their dolma red using tomato sauce or sumac.  To clarify dolma is stuffed vegetables (eggplant, zucchini, bellpeper, onions, tomatoes, cabbage, swiss chard, and grape leaves).  The vegetables are layered in one large pot.

Dolma to this day brings back fond childhood memories.  My aunt would prepare Dolma bil Zeit (dolma cooked in olive oil) for us because it could be enjoyed cold or warm as side dish or or mezza (appetizer).  Any leftovers were  sure to go home with me.  I miss my aunt Fatooh---one of the kindest and gentlest humans I have ever met.  

Today, I'm keeping things simple and making stuffed cabbage only.  You can substitute for Swiss Chard if you don't like cabbage.

Ingredients

1 whole head of Cabbage
1 lb ground beef or ground lamb
1 cup white long grain rice (washed and soaked for 30 minutes and drained)
1 teaspoon Arabic Spice (baharat, or seven spice)
5 Tablespoons minced garlic
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 (32 oz) can of tomato sauce
2 tsp dried mint or dried parsley (whatever you have on hand)
1/3 cup lemon juice
2 large russet potatoes thinly sliced or 3 lamb chops (this will be used to line the pot)

Method:



Discard outer layers.  With a sharp pointed knife, core out the bottom of the cabbage.   



Cut core side down in a pot, add water to cover cabbage and cook on medium heat for about 30 minutes for cabbage leaves to separate, then take out the cabbage and drain.  When leaves are cool enough to handle, separate as many as you can and return the rest to the boiling water, repeating the process until you get to the core.  



As you separate the leaves trim down the thick veins in the leaves.

Allow the cabbage leaves to cool slightly so that they are easier to handle.  Mean while prepare the filling.  

In a large bowl, mix 1 tablespoon minced garlic, salt, pepper, baharat, rice and minced meat.



Line a heavy bottomed pot with lamb chops or potatoes to keep the cabbage rolls from sticking.  I prefer to use the potatoes because it keeps the dish lighter.

Spread about 2-3 tablespoons of the mixture along the core end, and fold both sides to enclose the filling.  Fold the cored end towards the other end of the leaf.  








Place rolls in the pot in a row, next sprinkle some of the garlic and mint or parsley on top and pour about 1/2 cup of the tomato sauce then repeat the layers.  



Once you've reached the last layer, cover the rolls with a plate  smaller than the opening  and weigh it down with a large can or small cast iron skillet.  You will need to do this  in order to keep the leaves in place and weigh it down.  Pour the lemon juice on top and cook on medium heat for about 40-45 minutes.  Let stand for 10-15 minutes after cooking.