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Thursday, August 7, 2014

Chicken Tagine

Chicken Tagine

We carry a lovely assortment of tagines at The Olive & Vine and are often asked about how to use them. They really are simple to use and once you do, well, take it from me, you will be hooked. They are as functional as they are beautiful and can go from the stove to table, which means less serving dishes to clean up, always a bonus as far as I'm concerned!

The first thing you'll need to do once you purchase a ceramic tagine is to season it (and trust me, this is the hardest part about using it, so do it right away as it is simple but time consuming). You do this by soaking the base and lid in cold water overnight (approx. 12 hrs). Once it is done soaking, let it air dry and then rub both base and lid with olive oil (inside and out). Place both pieces side by side in a cold oven and bring up to 350 degrees for 3 hours. Again, allow to air cool, then fill the base with water (approx. 3/4 full) and place over your heating element (use a diffuser if using electric stove top) and heat up slowly at a low temperature and let the water evaporate down to approx. 1 mm depth. Your tagine is now ready to use. A couple of important things to keep in mind when using a tagine: Wood utensils are best. Never place hot clay on a cold or damp surface. Always cook over low temperatures (not over medium heat on the stovetop or 350 degrees in the oven). Always allow hot clay to cool slowly or warm up slowy (no direct refrigerator to oven or visa versa). Hand wash only. If you haven't used your tagine in several months, repeat the seasoning process for long life.

Both the cooking vessel and the dish you are cooking in it are called a tagine. Here is a great recipe for a chicken tagine to try yourself:

1 tsp. saffron threads
1 chicken (3-1/2 lbs) quartered
3 Tbsp. olive oil
2 med. onions sliced lengthwise
3 garlic cloves minced
2 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. turmeric
1 tsp. lime juice
4 Tbsp. chopped cilantro
2 preserved lemons
1/2 cup purple olives (Moroccan or Greek)

Lightly toast saffron in a dry small skillet over moderate heat until just fragrant (about 1 minute). Transfer to small dish, cool and crumble. With a mortar & pestle mash garlic to a paste with 1/2 tsp. salt. In tagine toss chicken with oil, onions, garlic, ginger, cinnamon, turmeric, lime juice, 3 Tbsp. chopped cilantro, 1 tsp. salt, 1/2 tsp. pepper and saffron. Cut preserved lemons into quarters and scrape pulp from the peel. Coarsely chop pulp and sprinkle over chicken. Cut the peel into strips and reserve. Add 3/4 cups water to tagine and simmer, covered for approx. 30 minutes, until chicken is almost cooked through. Check occasionally to be sure tagine is not dry and add water if necessary to make sure chicken is not sticking to the pot. Add olives and simmer covered for approx. 10 minutes longer (until chicken is cooked through). Just before serving sprinkle with preserved lemon peel, remaining cilantro and salt to taste. Serve on its own or with rice or cous cous.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Simply Simple Syrup

I love simple syrups. I use them for tea, for cocktails, for flavoring in sparkling water and I generally have several flavors at the ready. Some I enjoy on their own while others I combine to create more complexity in my drink of choice. Be creative, get inspired and enjoy a refreshing beverage of your own on a hot summer day!

You can make a Light Syrup with a 2:1 ratio (2 water/ 1 sugar)
A Simple Syrup with a 1:1 ratio
Or a Rich Syrup with a 1:2 ratio (1 water/2 sugar) – also called Bar Syrup

1 Tbsp.
2 Tbsp
4+ sprigs of fresh (or 1 Tbsp dried)

My basic recipe is the following (for a light syrup and of course adjust accordingly it you prefer sweeter):

1 cup filtered water
½ cup cane sugar
Leave plain or add flavoring (in the amounts indicated above).

Bring water and flavoring to a boil, reduce heat and add sugar. Simmer until sugar is melted and flavors have married (I usually let it go for about 10 minutes). Let cool, strain, bottle and refrigerate.

I love using the rosemary syrup with lemonade (a sprig of fresh rosemary makes a beautiful garnish). Chamomile is perfect with soda water (you can add a bit of milk or cream to make your own Italian style soda) and lavender is a favorite in my morning cup of Earl Grey tea. How would you enjoy using them?

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Spice, whole vs. ground and the winner is?

Let’s talk spice! We get so many people stopping by the shop asking for ground spices that I need to mention as convenient as it is to reach for something that is already pre-ground when cooking dinner after a long day at the office, this doesn’t bode well for flavor, impact and in the end, your wallet. Most spices begin to lose their flavor shortly after grinding and generally by the time you pick up a jar in the grocery store you’ve already got a compromised product and one that you’ve most likely paid more for than the whole unadulterated spice itself. 

To get the most out of your whole spice, a light toasting is a great way to tease out the flavor before you grind and offers up the best results. I use a small cast iron pan to gently toast over medium heat until the aroma is released (no need to add anything other than the whole spice itself). Once it begins to reveal it's fragrance, pull from the heat and set aside to cool. Now it's time to grind it if that's what you need or use it whole – it all really depends of what end result you are looking for.
To grind or not to grind, that is the question! Is it better to use mortar and pestle, electric grinder, hand crank or grater? Well to be honest, I think the best method of grinding is the one that you will actually use and also depends on the grind you are looking to achieve. At home, I use all of the above and have several grinding apparatuses on hand to get the job done. Yes, it does take a few extra minutes to toast and grind your spices, but it makes a world of difference and at the end of the day you’ll have better flavor while using less spice and saving yourself a fortune in the long run. Some spices can be very pricey and although that bulk bag seems tempting, unless you are running a restaurant or feeding an army, don’t do it, it’s just not worth it. It is better to buy in smaller quantities from a reputable spice shop that turns over their product at a rapid pace to ensure freshness than to spend your hard earned dollars on something substandard.  
For example, peppercorns start to lose their volatile oils within 30 minutes of grinding and by the time you’ve had ground pepper hanging around for a month it is pretty much done. Try an experiment. Grind some pepper and give it a taste. Put the rest away and taste it next to some freshly ground  a week later. Do this again at 2 weeks, 3 weeks and so on. The change is pretty dramatic and once you experience it, I think you may never buy pre-ground pepper again. It really does make that much of a difference. 
Now that said, there are some spices that I buy pre-ground and mostly those include spice blends that may be too complicated and pricey for me to try blending myself or some hot peppers and roots and things that may be more of a hassle that I am willing to put up with or require a mask and goggles to grind. As with anything, use your best judgement and keep it as simple as you need it to be.


Thursday, December 6, 2012

Hibiscus Cocktail Time

Holy cow! It looks like I’ve been bitten by the craft cocktail bug! Once upon a time I used to enjoy a well made Vodka Martini or Manhattan and even an occasional layered shot concoction, but that was another lifetime ago and I’ve been mostly a wine drinker for many years since. Fast forward to now. I live in Portland Oregon and the beverage is king around these parts. From coffee to spirits there is no shortage of creative craftspeople willing and able to take it up just one more notch, ever raising the bar to new heights.

Well now, with all this creativity swimming wildly around you, one can’t help but be swept up in it and now my old nemesis gin is my friend and I am more likely than not to step out of my comfort zone of old standbys and try something new. I still however haven’t really adopted a taste for beer, much to the dismay of many a friend who swore I would succumb after living in Portland for a while – they say one has no choice in the matter. Four years down at this point and I still am not a beer fan but as I’ve learned, never say never and only time will tell.

Clich├ęs aside, in the meantime cocktails it is and I have concocted a simply delicious one using a recipe for hibiscus punch (aka Jamaican Sorrel) as a base. From there I just do what I always do and play with my food, hoping to make something that puts a deep smile on my face (it has to pass my litmus test before I pass my experiments along to my trusted tasters). Sometimes it’s a hit, other times not so much – I nailed it with this one though and thought I would share. It’s one of my new favorites and feels so festive this time of year.

Fill cocktail shaker with ice and add:
1 part Ransom’s Old Tom gin*
2 parts Hibiscus punch
A splash of soda water and a squeeze of lime (I often add a vanilla bean)
Strain and pour into martini glass with a sugared rim
Garnish with a lime

*if you don’t use Ransom’s, I would add a dash of bitters and big yes on the vanilla bean or you can always substitute gin with a nice dark rum for another twist – play around, it’s fun (although if you haven’t tried Ransom’s you really should splurge and give it a try, it's unbelievably good)

Hibiscus punch (aka Jamaican Sorrel):

1 gallon water
3 oz Hibiscus
2 c. sugar

Soak Hibiscus in water for 2 hours. After soaking, bring mixture to a full boil and then reduce the heat and simmer for approx. 8 min. While simmering, add sugar stirring until well dissolved. Let cool and refrigerate.

Cheers and happy holidays to you all!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Bagna Cauda revisited – the perfect cold lunch is in the leftovers

As an independent retailer I am always trying to come up with easy lunch solutions that do not require closing my doors during business hours to run out and grab a bite. Currently we have no refrigeration microwave toaster oven burner or any other appliance to cook or store shelf unstable foods in at the shop, so I am pretty limited on what I can brown bag for lunch and way too often I've just not eaten all day because I didn't plan ahead and have anything suitable on hand.

Now I love having Bagna Cauda for dinner. Seasonal vegetables freshly cooked in a rich garlic anchovy olive oil with rustic crusty bread is pretty much the most lip smacking hot meal one could have, but enjoying it the next day for lunch, cold, is something to behold. I can honestly say that I am not sure how I love it better, hot or cold.
After you’ve eaten your fill of that tasty Mediterranean fondue (Bagna Cauda) cook up the remaining veggies and let them cool in the olive oil. After it has cooled down, pour all of the ingredients into a refrigerator container (including the olive oil) and it’s ready for tomorrow’s lunch. It is delicious eaten at room temperature with a sprinkling of Fleur de Sel and freshly ground pink peppercorn and spreads oh so nicely onto a firm piece of crusty bread. Mmmm, mmmm, good!!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Meyer Lemon Olive Oil Cookies

As we move into the long dark season I begin looking for ways to bring sunshine and light into these dreary NW days and nothing says sunshine, summer and warmth quite like lemons. This recipe for Meyer lemon olive oil cookies makes me smile and is the perfect accompaniment to a nice cup of tea (and because they are made with olive oil instead of butter, they're a little kinder to the waistline (and arteries) -something we generally need to think about this time of year as the holiday festivities make counting calories a wee bit difficult).

1 cup sugar (I like to use organic evaporated cane sugar)
3/4 cup Meyer lemon olive oil
1 lemon zested (Meyer lemon if you can find it, but any will do)
2 eggs
2-1/2 cups flour
1-1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp course lemon salt

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and make sure the rack is in the center of the oven. Combine sugar, olive oil and lemon zest, blending well with an electric mixer. Add 2 eggs and blend until emulsified (usually takes a few minutes). Sift in flour and baking powder, add salt and blend well. Now roll into balls and put on a cookie sheet (you will probably need to have a small bowl of flour handy to dip your fingers in for rolling). Flatten the cookies and sprinkle a little sugar on top if you'd like (you can also play around and sprinkle some lemon salt, or slivered almonds or anything else you may like to top cookies with). Bake for 12 minutes. Makes approx. 2-3 dozen cookies (depending on size).


Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Homemade Grand Marnier

Home crafted gifts can sometimes be met with mixed results. Maybe the special holiday knitted vest wasn't a favorite but the homemade cookies are always a big hit. Well, I've had plenty of "misses" in my attempt at hand crafted items but one of the "hits" that I have had over the years is my homemade Grand Marnier, an orange flavored liqueur. This is a simple recipe that I have used and can be enjoyed in just 5- 10 days, but the longer it ages the mellower it becomes. I am sipping a glass of 2 year old liqueur at the moment and it is buttery and smooth with an intoxicating fragrance rivaling its name brand version. I highly recommend letting it age several months to a year.

1 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
3 cups brandy
2 tsp orange extract

Dissolve sugar in almost boiling water stirring constantly. Once dissolved, allow to cool at room temperature. Stir in brandy and orange extract and transfer to bottles or jars with tight fitting lids. Shake daily to dissolve sugar completely. The liqueur should be ready in 5 to 10 days - but remember, the longer it ages the mellower it becomes. Makes one quart.