Blog - Starches
I really like the wholesome, slightly nutty flavor of brown rice…when cooked properly that is!
I’ve always cooked brown rice according to the basic pilaf method. I’ve experimented with cooking the rice on the stove over moderate heat until the rice absorbed all of the water. I’ve tried cooking the rice in the oven, covered with foil. I’ve even tried cooking the rice in a rice cooker. All of these methods mostly ended in disappointment because the rice became clumpy, was under cooked or scorched a bit on the bottom of the pan. But, recently I’ve experimented with my pressure cooker and every time I make the rice it turns out perfectly cooked, steamed to perfection with every grain absorbing just the amount of moisture needed.
I’ve also paid closer attention to purchasing high quality brown rice and storing the rice correctly to avoid any hint of rancidity.
If you are a fan of Moroccan cuisine like I am, then you have no doubt come across the iconic version of bisteeya, which is traditionally made with chicken or pigeon. The dish is customarily served as a first course offering. It is always eaten with your hands…which is already appealing to me. It is also always consumed hot – just hot enough to slightly irritate your fingertips. Paula Wolfert, in her classic book Couscous and Other Good Food From Morocco, described the eating experience like this: “To enjoy [bisteeya] Moroccan style, plunge into the burning pastry with the thumb and first two fingers of your right hand and tear out a piece as large or as small as you want. You will burn your fingers, of course, but you will have a lot of fun and the pain will be justified by the taste!”
Now that’s a piece of descriptive food writing which makes you want to jump in and try a bisteeya!
Combining the flavors of eggplant, tomatoes, zucchini, red peppers and onions is a classic Provencal mixture. Using the same flavors and ingredients and combining them with pasta and a creamy béchamel also makes a fantastic vegetarian lasagna. This version goes a step further and eliminates all dairy as well to make a vegan entrée. Of course, you can use a more traditional butter and milk béchamel and add grated parmesan cheese to the top of the lasagna if you would like to make the same combination with dairy products…but after tasting this version…well, I think you will be convinced the meat and dairy are simply not necessary!
Ratatouille Lasagna – Makes about 4-6 generous servings
4-5 medium-sized eggplants
6 rondini zucchini
4 red peppers
about 3 dl. tomato sauce
about 5 dl. béchamel sauce
lasagna pasta, lightly blanched
salt as necessary
Begin by preparing the vegetables. Slice the eggplant lengthwise about 1-cm thick. Season with dried thyme, salt and a good coating of olive oil. Prepare the rondini zucchini in the same manner. Heat a grill pan over medium-high heat and grill the eggplant and zucchini until well-marked on both sides and the vegetables are softened. Reserve. Coat the peppers lightly in oil and roast in a 230° C oven with top heat until well blackened on all sides. Remove the skin and seeds and slice into quarters. Reserve. Combine about 1 dl. of béchamel sauce with the lemon-pignoli pesto to loosen. Assemble the lasagna by first lightly coating the bottom of your lasagna dish with béchamel. Add a layer of lasagna sheets to completely cover the bottom. Add the eggplant and light layer of tomato sauce. Add another layer of lasagna sheets. Top with the lemon-pignoli mixture, then with the zucchini. Add the red peppers and light coating of tomato sauce. Add another layer of lasagna sheets, then a coating of béchamel and tomato sauce. Add a final layer of pasta, then top with the soy yogurt mixed with béchamel. Cook in a 200° C oven for about 30 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the middle goes through the lasagna easily. Cool slightly before slicing.
I first came across this recipe from my favorite vegetarian/vegan cooks, Peter Berley. The idea of using basic hummus ingredients to create something totally different was intriguing to me and I couldn’t wait to try out the recipes. I replaced the yogurt used in the original recipe presentation with soy yogurt, which I find works very well as a non-dairy replacement in most recipes. I also decided the eggs were not necessary. I elected to use a couple of tablespoons of ground flax seeds to replace the eggs, and I was very happy with the results. I think the use of beaten egg whites is optional for these pancakes. They do add a certain lightness to the final pancake, but the recipe also works without them if you would like to keep the pancakes completely vegan.
Variations to the basic pancake could include grated zucchini, grated pumpkin, chopped bärlauch and other herbs. Let your imagination run with this idea and enjoy savory pancakes for your next meal. Both recipes make enough for 4-6 servings…depending on your hunger level of course!
140 gr. chickpea flour
70 gr. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 Tbl. curry powder
1 tsp. sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
2,5 dl. water
125 gr. soy yogurt
2 Tbl. olive oil
2 tsp. ground flax seeds
1 bu. chopped cilantro
1 bu. chopped parsley
2 egg whites, beaten (optional)
Whisk together the chickpea flour, all-purpose flour, baking powder, curry powder, salt and pepper. In a separate bowl, whisk together the water, yogurt, olive oil and ground flax seeds. Pour the wet ingredients over the dry mixture and stir to combine. Add the chopped herbs and mix well, fold in the beaten egg whites if using. Place a nonstick pan over medium heat. Coat with a small amount of oil and heat for about 30 seconds. Spoon the batter into the pan and fry for 4 minutes until the surface of the pancake has begun to dry out and the underside is golden. Flip and fry the other side for about 3 minutes. Transfer to a heated pan and keep warm. Repeat with remaining batter.
Spicy Tahini Sauce
150 gr. tahini paste, well mixed
2 dl. water
juice of 2 lemons
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tsp. sea salt
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
Combine all ingredients in a small blender and process until smooth.
I first learned this recipe while attending culinary school in New England. We made this dish during our 2-week course learning various garde manger techniques and served our wonderful creations each Sunday for an extended brunch. This particular pasta salad stuck in my head because it was so tasty…and popular.
I have re-worked the original recipe slightly to reduce some of the sweetness and increase the flavor of sesame seeds by adding the black sesame seed paste (you can find the black sesame paste in Zürich at Nishi’s Japan Store – if you’re not in Zürich, then look in a Japanese specialty store). I like to use very thin pasta for this dish, like capellini or sometimes spaghetini – although the capellini are thinner.
We’ve also created a variation with this dish using grilled or sautéed shrimp and sautéed bay scallops.
500 gr. very thin pasta (I like capellini or spaghetini)
1 dl. sesame oil
1 dl. black sesame paste
125 gr. rice wine vinegar
100 gr. honey
50 gr. soy sauce
1 clove garlic, sliced
1/2 Tbl. minced fresh ginger
1 Thai chili, de-seeded and sliced
2 bunches scallions, sliced
1 large red pepper, cubed
75 gr. toasted peanuts
75 gr. toasted cashew nuts
2 bunches fresh coriander leaves, chopped roughly
black sesame seeds
Cook the pasta according to the instructions – make sure to leave the pasta with a slight bite in the middle. Drain the cooked pasta and toss with the sesame oils. Blend together in a food processor the rice wine vinegar, honey, soy sauce, sliced garlic and minced ginger. Add the Thai chili to liquid ingredients and toss together with the pasta. Add the sliced scallions, red peppers, peanuts, cashew nuts, chopped coriander and black sesame seeds. Toss well together and check the seasoning. Allow the pasta to refrigerate for one day before serving.
I am pretty certain most people have never heard of schupfnudeln before…and I am equally confident my new pumpkin version is even more anonymous!
This lack of attention does not bother me…in fact, I rather enjoyed serving this unknown entity recently to curious friends, and I really enjoyed making them in our monthly what’s in season cooking class and watching the happy participants devour the little pumpkin dumplings. These recent food experiences were a refreshing reminder of my first encounter with schupfnudeln while working in Kaiser’s Reblaube about ten years ago, and why they remain one of my favorite recipes.
I was working the entremetier station and in charge of all vegetables and starches. I was not terribly experienced in European products at that time and I didn’t feel too confident as I checked the new menu the chef had recently posted on the kitchen white board. Schupfnudeln? What were these, I asked myself…and furthermore, how do you pronounce it? One of the other cooks told me they were a lot like potato gnocchi…just shaped differently. I was relieved to hear this news because I just finished working several months in Italy and I was quite sure I could make some dazzling gnocchi.
I quickly found out schupfnudeln were not the same as gnocchi…they were much more difficult to master. They were also incredibly popular and irresistible with the guests and kitchen staff, which meant I needed to make them every single day for a couple of months.
Making pumpkin rösti in Switzerland just seems like a good idea.
There are plenty of fresh pumpkins to find nearly everywhere you look – especially those starchy kabocha varieties which combine the nutty pastiness of chestnuts with the sweet earthiness of sweet potatoes…oh, and with a little pumpkin thrown in as well.
Then, there are those incredible October potatoes to experiment with – and not just any potato will do! In Switzerland, a proper rösti is only made with…eh, a rösti potato of course. You can follow my lead and look for the Urgenta or Victoria varieties if you are in Switzerland, otherwise select a potato that is more on the waxy side with less starch.
Another consideration is everyone in Switzerland seems a bit pumpkin-crazed during the month of October…and always rösti-crazed. So, as you can see, the idea to make a pumpkin rösti just works…and I have received quite a lot of requests for this recipe.
So here’s how I make enough for about two rösti:
makes enough for about 2 Rösti
Place about 300 grams of mostly waxy potatoes (Urgenta or Victoria in Switzerland) in a pot and cover with cold water. Cover the pot and bring the water slowly to a boil over medium heat. Boil the potatoes for 8 minutes, then immediately remove them from the pot an allow them to completely cool. I actually like to refrigerate the cooked potatoes for one night, which makes peeling and grating the next day considerably easier. So when you are ready to prepare the rösti, go ahead and peel and grate the potatoes using the large holes of a grater (or box grater). Place all of the grated potatoes in a bowl.
Now, you will need to grate 300 grams of raw pumpkin into the bowl using the same grater. I like to use a very starchy kabocha variety for making these rösti, but beware…they are not easy to grate. Take your time with this and guard your knuckles a bit. Toss the pumpkin and potato together, and season with about one tablespoon of sea salt and some roughly chopped fresh lemon thyme. That’s it on the preparation…here’s how to make the rösti.
Heat about 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a small non-stick pan (about 15-cm) over medium heat. Add about half of the pumpkin-potato mixture to the pan and shake it a bit, then gently press the rösti down to fit the mold of the pan. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook until the edges are golden. Add a bit of olive oil around the sides of the pan as needed to prevent the rösti from sticking in any way…it should gently slide around as you swirl the pan a bit. Flip the rösti by covering the pan with an inverted plate, turning the rösti over onto the plate. Don’t hesitate…just flip it confidently. Slide the rösti back into the pan – cooked side now facing up. Add some more olive oil and cook gently for another 5-10 minutes. Flip the finished rösti onto a cutting board and cut into wedges. Enjoy the rösti warm.
Also check out our friend Kerrin’s wonderful MyKugelhopf blog report on buying pumpkins near Zürich: A Gaggle of Gourds