From the very beginning of my program here I have looked forward to the Cuisines of the Mediterranean and Europe class. The reason being is at this point we're all relatively confident in the kitchen, we've been here for about a year and have seen two other classes go through the same class to get us psyched for it and who doesn't love Mediterranean cooking?
It's funny because usually my first impression of something or someone doesn't really mean anything or means the absolute opposite of what I will think once I'm comfortable with it or he or she....but this class was definitely the exception to the rule.
First impression of this class....no good. Persian cooking, as you may know, uses the "yin-yang" approach to eating and preparing food which focuses on balancing foods in the "hot" category and "cold" category in order to form a balance for your body. We prepared the given recipes that first day, piled our plates up with this Arab cuisine, sat down to eat, filled up, cleaned up and went home. All joking aside, I had a terrible stomach ache from about 9pm that night until noon the next day. Apparently this "yin-yang" business doesn't work for me.
It didn't help that day two followed with Morocco and Tunisia, which brings in an enormous amount of spices and fruit with meat and lamb and an array of Persian influences. I quite frankly got turned off pretty quickly and then just couldn't shake it.
The class got better with Spain, France and Italy but it was still very rich, traditional food that left me feeling comatose after every class. I believe it was one of the Spanish days that everyone in my class ate way too much and all shared the same face of pain while cleaning our stations. I went up to Karl and asked if he had tried one of the items I made that day and he looked at me, leaned back, groaned, put his hand on his stomach and told me he couldn't remember and was unable to look at any more food. You'd think we would know our limits by now but it still seems the theme continues to want to try everything....
I believe this very weird picture of me describes how I felt most days.....kind of this attitude like, "welp, here we go again, I'm trying to be excited but it's just not happening." I'm holding a chanterelle mushroom next to my head so you can see how enormous it is. I used it to make a duxelle for a recipe involving fish stock and scallops...interesting. The chanterelle weighed over 11 ounces! Crazy huh?
Alright...the two recipes I want to share are below. They are both delicious and extremely unique.
Not to contradict my previous sentiments about Persian cooking, but you must have this recipe...I'm hopeful that it was not part of what gave me my stomach ache.
Cheese and Walnut Dip (Nan-O Panir-O-Gerdu)
Yield 2 portions
1/4 lb. Farmers Cheese (formed from cottage cheese...can be found in specialty cheese section)
2 c. shelled walnuts, chopped
2 T. scallions, fresh, chopped
2 T. basil, fresh, chopped
2 T. tarragon, fresh, chopped
2 T. mint, fresh, chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. freshly ground black pepper
juice of one lime
1/4 c. olive oil
1. In a food processor or bowl, mix the cheese, chopped nuts, scallions, fresh herbs, and garlic.
2. Add salt, pepper, lime and olive oil, mix well.
3. Transfer the mixture to a serving bowl and serve with lavash or pita bread.
*Taken from The New Food of Life: a book of Ancient Persian and Modern Iranian Cooking and Ceremonies by Najmieh Batmanglij
This next recipe is pictured here and is common in Southern France. Dandelion greens are simply delicious with a little kick similar to arugula but not as peppery. Yum!
Dandelion Salad (Salade Amere)
40 ea. young dandelion leaves
1/3 c. extra virgin olive oil
2 T. red wine vinegar
salt to taste
2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 ea. hard boiled egg yolk
6-12 slices stale bread crust strips for making croutons
1. Wash and dry the dandelion leaves. Wrape them in a towel and refrigerate for at least 20 minutes till they become cold and crisp.
2. Mix olive oil, vinegar, garlic, salt and pepper to make the dressing. Prepare the croutons and sprinkle a little dressing on them. Pass the yolk through a sieve or grate it.
3. Place the dandelion leaves in a salad bowl, pour the dressing over them and toss with your hands. Sprinkle the egg yolk over the leaves and arrange the croutons around the edge of bowl.
*Taken from The Cuisnes of the Sun