Saturday, August 05, 2006

Weekend Cooking Notes

*I survived the heat wave by eating salads and steamed corn-on-the-cob. Now that the weather has mercifully cooled down, I'm back in the kitchen. Today I made an unexpectedly wonderful dinner. Nothing new, nothing unusual, just pretty great late summer food.

Once again I made hachepouri, Georgian cheese bread. Last time I ended up with one big cheese pie. This time I halved this recipe and made six small pies. Three of them looked a lot like calzones--oval and puffy. The other three turned out like stuffed pita bread, and were much better. I think the trick to this recipe is flattening out the cheese-filled dough pocket until it's at least 1/2-inch thick. I bet hachepouri would be wonderful filled with caramelized onions and tomatoes along with the cheese, but then you'd have calzones. We ate warm hachepouri with Julia Child's ratatouille.

*Inspired by a Moroccan veggie stew with couscous at Casablanca, a local Middle-Eastern restaurant, I made a pretty good chicken version last week. I don't think I got the spices quite right, but I was pretty close. I sliced a boneless, skinless chicken breast into strips and sautéed it until it was almost done. Then I removed it from the skillet and added a bunch of carrots, zucchini and yellow squash, cut into ¼-inch ovals. Cooked them until they started getting soft and golden, then added garlic and spices--cumin, coriander, cinnamon (key spice), a teaspoon of sugar and a little cayenne.

Fresh tomatoes would work very well in this, but I was saving mine for salad. So I added about 1/2-3/4 a can of whole, peeled Muir Glen tomatoes and a splash of water. Brought the whole thing to a boil, simmered until the veggies were soft, then added the chicken and a couple of tablespoons of plain, full-fat yogurt, and simmered a little more. Casablanca doesn't use yogurt, but I think it really made this dish. The chicken breast did manage to dry out even though I didn't cook it very long, but I used it because I wanted to make a 30-minute weekday dinner. Next time I'd use a whole chicken, cut into parts. Chickpeas and eggplant would be very nice this kind of stew, too. Eat with couscous or rice.

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