Middle Eastern Style Salad

This is a little salad I put together to go with a Moroccan style chicken Breast cutlets.  I have that separately posted.  Here is the link to Chicken – Pseudo Moroccan.

  • I started by seeding and chopping tomatoes into about half inch dice.
  • Peel, Seed and chop English cucumber, about 1/2 of a large one.  Keep the size about the same as the Tomato.
  • I also washed and cleaned and chopped reasonably fine one heart of Romaine lettuce.
  • Finely dice about 1/5 of a medium size Red Onion.
  • Do a Chiffonade of Fresh mint about a quarter of a cup.
  • Toss all of these into a bowl.


What I needed at this point was really some Tahini.  I did not have any but I had some hummus (good one, made by Ed Hyders a local Mediterranean food source here in Worcester, MA).  I used that instead of Tahini

  • A mixture of Hummus, Lime juice, Olive Oil, Salt and Pepper to make a dressing.
  • What was funny was a secondary positive of the Hummus instead of Tahini; the extra protein from the chick peas made the emulsification of the dressing easy.
  • Taste and adjust.  It needs the acidity but careful not to overwhelm the mint with the acid.
  • As a last and almost light bulb moment, where I wanted a more pronounced lemony flavour without adding too much acid, I sprinkled in some Sumac.

Don’t be a stickler, doesn’t everybody have dried Sumac in their Pantry anyway.  🙂


Chicken – Pseudo Moroccan

I needed a quick cooking chicken recipe for a summer day when most of it happened on the outside grill.  I wanted something from the Middle East, may be Morocco or thereabouts.

  • 1 teaspoon Cumin Seeds
  • 1 teaspoon Coriander seeds
  • 1 teaspoon Fennel Seeds

Toast all of these over Medium heat till they are fragrant.  Cool and grind fine in a coffee grinder that you have dedicated to grind spices… You have one of these don’t you??  You can always resort to a mortar and pestle and elbow grease… Mix in
the following

  • 1 teaspoon of Cayenne pepper (adjust down or up based on your preferences)
  • 1/2 teaspoon of turmeric powder.
  • Lay the chicken breast cutlets out on a Foil lined plate.
  • Drizzle Olive oil over the chicken and rub to coat.
  • Season the chicken with salt and a few grinds of pepper.
  • Sprinkle the spice mixture evenly over the oiled chicken pieces on both sides and let them rest for 15 minutes on the counter top.
  • Turn on the grill and get it heated to medium hot.
  • Grill the chicken pieces quickly over the hot grill.  It should not take more than a minute per side.  I find that cooking is a lot more even if you move the chicken to an unused spot on the grill when flipping so you don’t get a lowered temperature
    from the old cooking spot.

Rest the chicken for a few minutes for the juices to re distribute in the meat.  Squeeze fresh lemon juice over the chicken and serve with some good Pita Bread and a Middle Eastern Salad.  We did not do it last night when we had this dish, but I think a Spanish Albariño would go splendidly with this one.

An Experiment in Recreation – Bottarga

Bottarga – An Italian ingredient that I love but cannot really afford it as much as I want to.

I was thinking about what Bottarga is; well it is smoked cakes of dried fish roe that you grate over some fresh Pasta or may be silky potato puree.  But in a functional description, it adds a rich flavour because of its Protein content, fishy (not everybody likes the fishiness), salty, a little smoky and it tends to have a touch of acidity (mild and not over powering).

So, I thought I could try and recreate it without the fish roe.  Here comes another of Natures greatest Protein sources, the humble egg.  Here is what I did and I will post the results once I taste it.

  • Four Organic Cage free Eggs local farm store.  If this works right, I may have to go find a local farmer who can give me a bunch of it since I have plans for this.
  • Got a Tupperware 6 inch square and layered about 2/3 cup of Kosher salt.  I used Diamond Crystal since I had it at home.  I don’t think it matters what brand but you don’t want it too coarse; that leads to reduction of contact with the egg.  Too fine and it may get too salty from too much contact.
  • Made four divots in the salt with my fingers.
  • Separated the Yolks from the whites with my hands, taking care to get as much of the stringy extra membranous bits without breaking the membrane and releasing the yolk to run.
  • Laid each of the yolks in the divots.  Used another 2/3 cup of salt to cover the yolks completely.  Loosely put the lid on top and shoved it into the back corner of the fridge.  The salt has to pull out the moisture from the yolk.

Three days later…

  • The yolks look gelatinous.  They are still a little soft at this point since a lot of moisture has been pulled out but they are not quite dry.  A good time to get the acidity on to them
  • Took some white balsamic vinegar and diluted it by half.  Used this vinegar to wash off the salt while gently scrubbing with fingers taking care not to break or scratch the surface of these yolks.
  • Layered them on top of a fine mesh cooling grate that fitted in side a Tupperware and put that in the fridge again.  Loosely covered the top with a Paper towel; nothing was touching the yolks.  This was to dry the yolks further and get them ready for smoking.
  • I flipped the yolks after two days to expose the surface in contact with the grate to dry better and left them alone for two more days.

Four days pass… Just forget that they are in your fridge.

  • I need to smoke these dried egg yolks.  They are dry but not hard crackly dry due to their protein content.
  • Set a metal dish on top of the stove, added some Alder wood chips (that is what I had in the garage).  Turned the burner to medium under them.  When they started smoking, turned the heat down to maintain the smoke but take away the excess heat so you don’t cook the yolks. Inverted a clear Tupperware so I could see the smoke and let them sit in the smoke for about 10 minutes.
  • Took them off and lay them not touching each other on top of a coffee filter lining a little plastic Tupperware.  Layered a couple of more coffee filters to loosely cover them and they are sitting on my counter.  Today is saturday and they have been going two days.  I will wait one more day and them I am going to grate them with a microplane and taste them.

They look like Bottarga cakes except they are ovoid rather than the pressed squared off Bottarga cakes you can get at an enormous price at the fancy italian grocery store.


I will tell you what the taste test comes out like tomorrow…


Update:  They were absolutely brilliant grated over fresh pasta

Roots – A restaurant in Rutland, Vermont

We went for dinner during our vacation in July to a restaurant named “Roots – The Restaurant” in Rutland, VT.  The food was not bad… But I had some issues with the place overall. We ordered a Cheese platter for appetizer.  The cheese was not warmed up to Room Temperature.  A cold Brie at Fridge temp just does not go far in my mind.  The cheese itself was good but when it is fridge cold it does not work.  Neither did the blue cheese or the aged goat
cheese.  An hour on the sideboard would have done these cheeses a world of good. Well, I ordered a Verdejo to go with my seared scallops main course,    The seared scallops dish itself was very well done.  The roasted beets were wasted on the plate.  The mixed wild mushroom duxelles with shitake, maitake, oyster and woodear was very nice except for a couple of pieces of grit that managed to sneak through.  Well I also had a problem with a 3Oz pour of the Verdejo at 9$ a glass. All in all it was an average experience with the value for money being on the low side.


DISCLAIMER: This is a resurrected Post and the review was from mid 2015.  Let us not forget that it may be a completely different restaurant now and might just be spectacular.

Mise en Place and why is it so important?

“Mise en Place” is fancy French for Cooking Prep work.  Literally it means “Put in Place”.  This covers all of the putting in place of ingredients ready to cook.  The following steps cover “Mise en Place”.

  • Collect all of the ingredients needed for the dish
  • Measure out the appropriate quantities needed
  • Cut, chop, dice, julienne, brunoise appropriate ingredients.

Sometimes a Mise en Place might actually entail cooking something.  For example a Green bean salad with almonds may call for blanched green beans and roasted slivered almonds; this means there is the cooking process of blanching the green beans and shocking them to stop the cooking before your Mise en Place for the salad is complete.

So  Mise en Place for one dish might spawn other Mise en Places recursively.  C’est La Vie…   I cannot overstate the importance of this process.  Getting everything ready just makes the cooking go faster, smoother and you don’t forget that last ingredient that needed to be added and in your hurry as the stove is going and you want to avoid overcooking something you miss adding it.  Ergo, it is worth the extra minutes to put everything in its place…

An Example Mise en Place for a Paella from the website Passport dinners below to demonstrate

A Wine Rating System for a Pleb like me..


This is a simplistic wine rating system for me.  A Robert Parker 98 means really nothing to most mortals who like to drink good wine.

This is my way of categorizing my wines based on my drinking…


    1. WTIB – This is “Wow Take it Back”, meaning take it back to the kitchen.  This lot of riff raff don’t deserve this and let us drink it just by ourselves without sharing.
    2. ONGM – “Oooohh, nice; Get some more”
    3. GW – Easy rating… Stands for “Good Wine”.  A lot of every days wines fall under this category.  There are exceptions of course
    4. YWE – “Yeah Whatever”.  Nothing exceptional but will do at a pinch…..
    5. EwwP – “Ewwww, Plonk”.  Have not drunk something like this since college.  Would not put it out even after everybody at the party is drunk enough to kill their taste buds.