So sorry to have been gone so long -- the holidays came, dontcha know, and computer problems and, well, while i definitely cooked out of my cookbooks, i didn't have the chance to write them down for you all. however, i am making up for lost time by wanting to share with you some of the lovely recipes we created.
Jordan Michael Morris. cool name, huh? the jord-man, as i call him, is my nephew, a tres cool dude of amazing heart and soul who always brings a smile to my face. always. what has that got to do with anything? just watch, my young friends.
this particular day, i opened up one of my fave cookbooks (yes, i know, i have a LOT of favorite cookbooks, but, what can i say?). it is called FEAST FROM THE MIDEAST by Faye Levy. this cookbook also goes on to claim it contains "250 sun-drenched dishes from the Lands of the Bible". oh, yeah. i do believe i have mentioned my incredible penchant for middle eastern cooking (shawarmas are my dream food -- if i had my way, i would have a whole shawarma spit set up in my house). we are lamb lovers and i think that's why i love middle eastern cooking so much. middle eastern/mediterranean cooking has methods that show that meat off to its best advantage. my mom also cooked lamb well, so i was never one of those people who didn't like it. i always loved it. i know a lot of people who don't, but, i promise, if someone gave me just a little bit of time, i could change their mind about lamb. for sure.
but i digress...
Feast from the Mideast. i found a wonderful recipe in which i could use some lamb i had thawed out the night before and was kind of quick. it was LAMB AND RICE PILAF WITH YOGURT SAUCE and it is a little Bedouin dish that has become, per the book, the national dish of Jordan. i saw that and just KNEW i had to make it. i had to. jordan... Jordan... walk with me, talk with me:
3-6 tbs. samnah, ghee or butter, or equal pars butter and margerine or butter and vegetable oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 1/2 to 2 pounds lamb shoulder, trimmed of excess fat and cut in 1-inch cubes
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
6 cups water
2 tbs Seven Spices blend or 1 tsp ground allspice, 1/2 teapoon ground cinnamon, and a pinch gound cardamom
1 1/2 cups long-grain white rice
3 cups hot chicken, beef or veggie broth or water
1/2 cup slivered almonds or pine nuts, or 1/4 up of each
Creamy Hot Yogurt Sauce (trust me)
4 to 6 pieces fine, fresh lavash or 4 to 6 fresh pita breads
what to do:
1. heat 1 to 2 tbs samnah (or butter, or mixture...) in heavy stew pan. add onion and cook over medium heat for 5 minutes or until beginning to turn golden. Add lamb and saute until meat browns lightly, stirring often. Add salt, pepper, water and spices and bring to a boil, stirring often. Cover and simer over low heat for 1 hour or until lamb is tender, stirring occasionally.
2. Remove meat with a slotted spoon and measure broth. Return the lamb to the pan, add 1 cup broth, cover, and keep it hot. Reserve 1 1/2 cups of the broth to make the yogurt sauce. Measure remaining broth and add enough water to make 3 cups.
3. to prepare the pilaf, heat the 3 cups liquid in saucepan or in the microwave until hot, and reserve. heat 2 or 3 tbs samnah or butter in large saucepan. add rice and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes or util the grains turn milky white. add hot broth, salt, and pepper. bring to a boil. cover and cook over low heat, without stirring, for 18 minutes, or until rice is tender and liquid is absorbed. remove from heat. let rice stand, covered, for 10 to 15 minutes.
4. to toast the almonds, place on a sheet pan in 350ºF oven for about 4 or 5 minutes. you can also saute them in a hot pan with 2 to 3 tsps oil or butter until lightly browned. don't let them burn.
5. reheat the lamb if necessary. to serve, fluff the rice gently with a fork. taste and adjust the seasonings accordingly. spread a layer of lavash (or pita) onto a large platter or onto the plates (if using pita, split each into 2 rounds, putting them on a platter or plate with the crust side down). spoon a little of the yogurt sauce over the bread to moisten. mound half the rice on top and moisten the rice with a few spoonfuls of the sauce. top with half of the lamb chunks then sprinkle with some of the almonds or pine nuts. spoon the remaining rice into a separate bowl, sprinkle with the remaining nuts. serve the lamb and sauce separately.
CREAMY HOT YOGURT SAUCE (so yum)
1 1/2 cups plain yogurt, at room temp.
1 tbs plus 1 1/2 tsps cornstarch
1 1/2 cups chicken, meat or veggie broth or your stew's cooking liquid (for this use some of the lamb broth)
1 tbs butter or veggie oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
what to do:
1. mix yogurt with cornstarch until blended. slowly stir in the broth.
2. heat butter in heavy saucepan. add garlic and cook over medium-low heat for about 1/2 minute or until aromatic. remove from heat. stir in yogurt mixture and mix very well. return to medium-low heat and cook until sauce is hot, but not boiling, stirring constantly. cook over low heat for 3 to 5 minutes, stirring, until sauce is smooth and thickened to your taste. season to taste with salt and pepper. serve hot.
here's what we did: first of all, i didn't have any samnah or ghee (clarified butter used most often in indian/middle eastern cooking), so we just used butter. yes, i could have clarified some butter, but i din't feel like it so there :o). otherwise, everything else was the same. i made the yogurt sauce, we cooked up our lamb, put together our rice (no lavash, however -- didn't have any and didn't have the time to make any pita that night). in honor of OUR Jordan, it was wonderful, warming and very satisfying. a perfect cold night dish. the boys ate two servings and i took it to lunch with me the next day. so yummy.
a little story about MY Jordan, if i may:
about 5ish years ago, when Jordan was 17, i was hired to cater a Christmas wrap party for a sitcom. 100 people, me alone, buffet style and all out of my tiny kitchen. i was going to need to set up on set, transport the food to the studio and serve everyone. i needed a second, an idealistic, but practical sancho to my don quixote and i asked Jordan if he was free, could he help -- my teenage nephew who had a girlfriend on a Friday night right before Christmas break... (fingers crossed, oh, please, oh, please...)
he said yes.
o..m...g... HE SAID YES!
so there we are, me, Jordan, a huge empty space, a couple of buffet tables, on set, just beyond the view of the studio audience, setting up as they are shooting the last few scenes. i was swamped, i needed someone with vision to decorate my tables for me while i put together the trays and the food and, well, everything. i turned to my nephew, doe eyed and begging, and without a word, without a thought, Jordan created this really wonderful, subtle, holiday look on the tables (i will not say tablescape, i will not say tablescape... that's up there with "yummo!" for me... deliver us!) that just made everything pull together. it was lovely. and my 17 year-old nephew so rocked the hell out of the night as my second -- plating, serving, refilling, cleaning -- i would have given him my entire take for the evening if i hadn't been so freakin' broke. no lie.
i knew he would. Jordan's just that way. he's this amazingly wonderful spirit with such, i dunno, beauty and brightness all wrapped in this way cool package, i couldn't have been prouder than to call him my nephew that night or, hell, any night, day, infinite eternity. he certainly is someone i respect and admire as a human being. i really like him.
he saved my life that night. honestly. i was exhausted from cooking and i had to cook some of the menu right there onsite, to order, and he jumped right in to take over the job when i needed him. point and click and there he was, smiling, laughing, polite, charming. i got such an amazing compliment that evening when i kept getting asked, "are you guys brother and sister?" no, not because of the fact they overlooked i was quite possibly 23 years older than the guy they thought was my brother (although after the days i had leading up to that evening, don't think i didn't LOVE THAT). it's because the relationship they saw wasn't one of me dominating him or him subservient to me. it was equals, level, a give and take of like-minded compadres. that made my night. hell, that made my whole year and there we were at the end of it.
i don't know if he ever fully realized just how much that evening meant and still means to me. how much it touched me to be able to share that moment with him, that struggle that became so easy because of him. he made it worth it. and i am forever grateful.
love you, jord-man.