Thursday, September 8, 2011

My Favorite Cardamom Ice Cream

Here is my favorite recipe for cardamom ice cream.  This recipe is adapted from Jill Norman's "Herbs & Spices: The Cook's Reference.

2 cups 2% milk or light cream
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
6-8 whole green cardamom pods, lightly crushed or cardamom seeds
1/2 to 3/4 cup sugar (use less sugar if you don't enjoy sweet ice cream)
4 egg yolks
3/4 cup whipping cream
1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/8 teaspoon rose or orange blossom water (optional)

Put the milk, or light cream, vanilla bean and crushed cardamom pods into a heavy pan and bring slowly to a boil. Remove from heat, cover, and let infuse for 20 minutes. Take out the vanilla bean and scape the seeds into the liquid. Remove the crushed green cardamom pods.
Beat the egg yolks and sugar until thick and pale. Gently reheat the milk or cream and beat a little of it into the egg yolks. Pour the egg mixture into the cream and return the pan to a low heat. Stir until the custard is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon; it will take several minutes. Do not let it boil, or you'll get pieces of scrambled egg.
Remove the pan from the heat and continue to stir until it has almost cooled. Whip the whipping cream lightly and fold it into the custard. Add the 1/8 teaspoon of ground cardamom and rose water (if using). Freeze in an ice cream maker following the manufacturer's instructions.

Helpful Hints
Be careful not to add too much cardamom to the recipe. Cardamom is a very strong flavor, and too much of it can cause a soapy taste.

Serve with toasted pistachios or toasted coconut.

Short Cuts

If you are short on time then you can purchase a good quality vanilla ice cream.  Allow to soften then fold in 1 teaspoon ground cardamom, pistachios/coconut.  Return to freezer for 5-10 minutes.  Then serve and enjoy :)

Middle Eastern Spice Blends - Baharat

Baharat is a Middle Eastern spice mix used in many countries like Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and Jordan, Baharat simply means "spices" in Arabic. This blend is often used to season lamb but is an all-purpose flavour enhancer useful for fish, chicken, beef, tomato sauces and soups. It’s a great addition to lentil dishes, pilafs and can even perk up plain old meatloaf. It can be useful as a rub for virtually anything on the barbeque. A traditional baharat mixture is used similarly to the way Indians use garam masala and may be used as a final flavour booster after a meal has been prepared. It is also commonly added to the pan with a little butter to disperse flavours before frying.
The Turkish style baharat is similar to the Arabic versions but often includes mint. Chefs in Turkey use this blend as an all-purpose seasoning for meat dishes such as kofte, grain pilafs, and vegetable dishes. Excellent as a rub on lamb prior to grilling, it also has an affinity for eggplant, or you may even try perking up your next batch of ratatouille with these flavors of Turkey. Cassia, nutmeg, cumin, coriander and black pepper round out this blend.
It's preferable to use these spices whole then dry roast them in a pan and grind together - however, you can use a short cut and blend powdered spices. Baharat can be bought at Middle Eastern groceries and markets but it is also quite easy to make fresh for yourself and keep it stored in a spice jar. There are many different variations, all based on the basic ingredients of black pepper and allspice. I'm going to share several variations by region.  You should try them all - super delicious and a good way to add flavor without added calories.

Recipes for Baharat

Baharat (Most common blend)
2 tablespoons fresh ground black pepper
2 tablespoons paprika
2 tablespoons ground cumin
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 tablespoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom

Turkish Baharat
2  tablespoons fresh ground black pepper
2  tablespoons ground cumin
1  tablespoon ground coriander
1  tablespoon ground mint
1  tablespoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
pinch of ground cinnamon

Syrian Baharat
2 teaspoons allspice
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons nutmeg
1 1/2 teaspoons cloves

Tunisian Baharat
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon dried rose petals
1 teaspoon black pepper

Kebsa spices (i.e. Gulf baharat)
1 tablespoon red paprika
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons ground loomi (dried lime)
1 teaspoon cloves
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground coriander

I hope you gives these spice blends a try.  Let me know if you have any questions.  ENJOY!!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Cheesy Chicken and Zucchini Enchiladas

If you have your own vegetable garden during the summer months then you definitely have experienced an over abundance of zucchini or squash at some point.  This recipe was developed to solve exactly that problem.  What to do with all that zucchini?  Zucchini bread, grilled zucchini, zucchini casseroles, but I wanted something spicy, light, and great to reheat for leftovers.

I recall seeing a recipe or two floating around for vegetarian zucchini enchiladas, but at my house, some type of protein is necessary.  I decided to add some roasted chicken to sauteed shredded zucchini and make my own chipotle enchilada sauce.  Perfect topped with cilantro, scallions, jalapenos, sour cream or all of the above.

1 chicken breast, or one cup left over chicken (shredded)
1 teaspoon olive oil
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 small onion, minced
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
2 medium zucchinis, grated
salt and fresh ground pepper (to taste)
1 1/2 cups grated reduced fat mexican blend cheese 
4 Large Whole Wheat tortillas
chopped scallions (optional)
chopped cilantro

Spicy Enchilada Sauce Recipe

1 garlic cloves, minced

2 tbsp chipotle chilis in adobo sauce (less if you don't like it spicy)

1 cup tomato sauce
1/2 teaspoon hot chipotle chili powder 
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 cup fat free vegetable broth or chicken broth
salt and fresh pepper to taste


First start by making the enchilada sauce.  In a medium saucepan, spray oil and sauté garlic. Add chipotle chile, chili powder, cumin, broth, tomato sauce, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 5-10 minutes.   Set sauce to the side until the enchiladas are ready.
In a non-stick saute pan, sauté garlic and onions in olive oil over medium heat for about 2 minutes; add zucchini, salt and pepper to taste and cook about 4 minutes.

Remove from heat and add shredded chicken and cheese.

Spray a medium baking dish with non fat cooking spray then ladle about 1/4 cup of sauce in the bottom of the pan.

Lay tortilla on a flat surface.  Fill each tortilla, roll and place seam side down in a baking dish.
Top with enchilada sauce and cheese.  Bake until hot and the cheese is melted, about 20-25 minutes.

Add your favorite toppings and enjoy!!  Yummy!

Chicken Rollatini Parmigiana

This recipe is simple, reheats well, and a complete crowd pleaser.  A great one dish supper than can easily be paired with a salad or or a light orzo side.  Even the pickest of family members will love this dish!  I mean who doesn't like Chicken Parm?  This is such a versatile "method" to prepare chicken.  Select your favorite cheese - mozzarella, goat cheese, cheddar - or your favorite green veggies - spinach, broccoli or shredded and sauteed zucchini.

8 chicken cutlets,
1/2 cup Italian seasoned breadcrumbs or Italian Panko

1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese, divided
3 eggs
5 oz frozen spinach, or broccoli squeezed dry of any liquid
6 tbsp ricotta cheese, goat cheese or Greek yogurt (part skim if your cutting calories)
2 tbsp Parmesan, shredded (the real stuff please)
olive oil non-stick spray
salt and pepper to taste
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon Italian Seasoning (oregano, basil, red pepper flakes - be creative)

Pre-heat oven (or toaster oven) on 450.
Dry chicken cutlets, then sprinkle with salt, pepper, paprika and 1 tsp. garlic powder.

Mix together ricotta cheese, 1 egg, spinach or broccoli, garlic powder, Italian spices.  

Scramble the remaining eggs, sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Create a dredging station, by filling a shallow plate, or paper plate with bread crumbs.  Set Aside.

Arrange chicken breasts on a flat surface.  Top and spread each piece of chicken with the spinach and cheese mixture.  Starting from the shorter end, roll up chicken.

Dip in  egg mixture then roll in bread crumbs.  Spray baking dish with non-stick spray or olive oil.  Arrange chicken rollatinis in a pan then lightly spray with non stick spray or olive oil.
Bake for 25 minutes.  Then remove from oven top with sauce (tomato or alfredo) and or your favorite cheese.
Bake until cheese is melted and bubbling, about 5 more minutes. Serve with additional sauce on the side and grated cheese.

Iraqi Style Eggplant Stew - Morgat Bathenjan

Eggplant is the only vegetable I refused to eat as a child!  I tried many times, but it made me ill.  Luckily, my parents never forced me to eat it since I ate liver, okra, brussels sprouts, cabbage, and just about everything else.  If my mother made Eggplant Parmesan, then I would simply eat around it.  It was odd really because my sister LOVED eggplant and she was always more than happy to eat my serving.  Ironically enough, I enjoy Baba Ghnough which is a roasted eggplant dip.

Over the years I have found a few varieties of eggplant that I enjoyed like Thai and Chinese.  Last summer, I realized that I was allergic to the classic variety of eggplant. My Farmers Market friend Mr. Haley, gave me 2 eggplants that he did not sell.  I decided to make Baba Ghnough since it was the only eggplant dish that I enjoyed.  I cut and and prepared the eggplants and noticed my hands began to itch.  I went on to roast and then prepare my dip.  After eating a couple of spoonfuls I realized that my throat and body were begin to itch. I guess I was a pretty smart kid - apparently I'm allergic to classic eggplant.
None the less, I've now found Japanese eggplant that I very much enjoy.  A few weeks ago, I was hired to cook for a client and her husband for their Anniversary Dinner.  We decided that an Iraqi feast would be a fun dinner.  Here was the menu:

Jajeek Dip - Yogurt, cucumber, garlic and sumac
Shiraz Salad - Cucumber, Tomatoes, Onions and Feta
Entree: Eggplant Stew served with Basmati Rice
Dessert:  Cardamom Ice Cream with Toasted Pistachios

Here is my recipe for the Eggplant Stew - Morgat Bathenjan


1 large eggplant, sliced crosswise 1/2 inch thick
1/4 cup olive oil
2 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil
4 (1lb) lamb shanks or lamb stew
fresh ground pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1 large white onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic- crushed
1 large can of tomato sauce
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon turmeric
2 teaspoons baharat
2 teaspoons ground coriander


If you are using traditional eggplant then you will need to do the following: In a bowl, dissolve 2 teaspoons of salt in a 1 quart of water.  Add the eggplant, cover with a plate to keep the slices under water, soak for 30 minutes. Drain the eggplant and pat dry.

In a large dutch oven or heavy bottom pot, heat 2 Tbl of the oil. Season the lamb with salt and pepper and cook over high heat, turning once until well browned, about 5 minutes per side. Add the onion and garlic.  Cook over moderate heat, stirring, until softened about 10 minutes. Add 1 quart of water, can of tomato sauce, tomato paste, turmeric, baharat, salt and coriander and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 45 minutes stirring and skimming every so often.  

In a large non-stick skillet, heat 1 1/2 Tbl of the oil. Add 1/3 of the eggplant and cook over med-high heat until browned, 3 minutes per side; transfer to paper towels to drain. Brown the remaining eggplant in the 3 Tbl of oil. Add the eggplant to the lamb and simmer over low heat, stirring until the lamb is tender, 45 minutes.

Transfer the lamb to a rimmed baking sheet, remove the meat from the bones and cut into 1-inch chunks. Boil the stew over high heat, skimming, until the liquid has reduced to 3 cups, about 40 minutes. Return the lamb to the stew and season with salt and pepper. 

You may serve the stew with toasted pita bread or basmati rice.