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Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Channeling North Africa

Over the holiday weekend, we weren't celebrating presidents but a wonderful bottle of cava brought over by Cafe Drake for a North African influenced meal. Joining me at the table was 312 sqaure feet main squeze Octavio and awesome 8-bit musician Haeyoung (aka Bubblyfish).

On the menu:
Roasted Cauliflower with Cashews and dried Red Chiles

Lemongrass and Ginger Roasted Duck with Tamarind Suace
Red Snapper Tangine
Cous Cous
Spinach sauteed with Mustard and Balsamic Vinegar

Goat Cheese with honey, sesame crackers and dried apricots

Lemongrass and Ginger Roasted Duck with Tamarind Sauce

1 4-5 pound duck
3 stems of lemongrass
2 garlic cloves
2 inch piece of fresh ginger
1 orange, juice
1/2 cup liquid tamarind concentrate
1/4 cup plus (to taste) honey
2 shallots thinly sliced
1 clove garlic minced
1/2 cup vegetable stock
2 tablespoons

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degress.

Rinse and trim the extra fat from the duck.

In a mortal and pestle, mash up the cleansed and trimmed lemongrass, 2 garlic cloves, ginger and orange juice until a paste has been formed. Loosen the skin from the meat of the duck by working your fingers underneath it. This will help to ensure a crispy skin. Put the paste under the skin of the duck.

Put on a roasting pan with a rack breast side down and roast 22 minutes per pound or until a meat thermometer reaches 160 dgress when inserted into the thigh, rotating the duck breast side up for the last 45 minutes of roasting time.

Let rest on a cutting board for 15 minutes before carving and serving.

For the sauce: in a small sauce pan over medium heat, heat the oil and saute the shallots and garlic until soft. Add the stock to de-glaze. Add the tamarind and honey and reduce about 1/3 until it is a thick sauce and pour over the sliced duck.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Brazillian Lasagna

My sister's boyfriend, Brazilian wunderkind chef, created a magnificent Brazilian inflected lasagna for us while I was visiting. I was loaded with delicious mozzarella and tomato sauce, but with the twist of layers of ham and bleu cheese.

Here is my approximation of the recipe! It was so good I had to post something.

Paolo's Lasagna

1 pound sliced ham
1 onion minced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 (28 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
2 (6 ounce) cans tomato paste
2 (6.5 ounce) cans canned tomato sauce
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons white sugar
1 cup fresh basil leaves
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning (or sprinkle in marjoram, oregano and savory)
1 tablespoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper (to taste)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
12 lasagna noodles
1/2 lb Bleu cheese
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 pound mozzarella cheese, sliced
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

In a sauce pan over medium heat, heat the oil and cook the onion until soft. Add the garlic, sugar, parsley and the seasonings except for the fresh basil leaves. Lower heat and simmer for about an hour. (if you don't have time to make your own sauce, just buy 2 jars of good basil based sauce like Classico)

Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees.

Boil the lasagna sheets. Drain well and rinse in cool water.

In a deep baking dish (9x13), start with the sauce and layer slices of ham, crumble the bleu cheese, the shredded mozzarella and the fresh basil leaves then the noodles.
Sprinkle the Parmesan cheese on the last layer of noodles on the top. Cover with aluminum foil, making sure that the foil does not touch the layer and back for 25 minutes. Remove the foil and back another 25 minutes. Let sit for 15 minutes before enjoying!

Lasagnas and casseroles are almost always better if made the day before and reheated. The flavors get a chance to set together.

Thanks Paolo for a wonderful meal!

New Years Bustle and Birthday Boom

The New Year has been very busy for me over at 312 Square Feet! I had a big show to prep for, the final throes of a project to finish and a big trip planned home for mine and my mother's birthday, which incidentally is the same day. No really! The exact same day. Isn't that something special?

The whole family gathered in my parents transplanted home of Wilmington North Carolina at my favorite local seafood place Hieronymus. Starting out with fresh oysters, moving on to entrees with the catch of the day and ending with a massive birthday cake that my mother had had her eye on for months, we all enjoyed our selves. Hieronymus has all the fresh fish that they get that day on the board and then you select the kind of preparation that you would like from the menu. Pictured above is my entree of mahi mahi with a citrus cilantro marinade. Also, is my father's entree of stuffed flounder with crab.

If you are ever in the greater Wilmington area I highly recommend Hieronymus. The staff was very accommodating and the food was as good as you would get in a fancy seafood place in NYC at a way more reasonable price.