Sunday, April 22, 2007

A Palestinian Dish

One of the things I love about doing dutch oven cooking is that it can cook so much, and such a variety. That’s why I’m constantly on the lookout for dishes that I can make that take it a bit beyond the cobblers, biscuits, and barbecue chickens that are the staples of the backporch kitchen. I love telling someone that I just cooked this or that, and seeing the looks on their faces when they say, “I didn’t know you could do that in a dutch oven!”

Having said that, let me tell you another story. My wife’s cousin married a Palestinian man, named Issa. He and I have become pretty good friends. He’s pretty cool, but overall he’s had a tough time adjusting to life in America. Still, after three years or so, he’s catching on.

He makes a traditional Palestinian dish, called Kofta bi Tahini. Kofta is a mixture of ground meat (usually beef, but sometimes lamb) and herbs and spices. It’s shaped into a sort of cigar shape, and then cooked in lots of different ways, like baking or grilling. But my favorite is when it’s baked with potatoes and a Tahini sauce.

My wife thinks this is kind of an acquired taste, but, personally, I acquired it pretty fast. I could chug this stuff non-stop. It does have a pretty strong taste. If you aren’t used to foreign foods, and you want to try this, then you might use a little less parsley and a little less lemon juice. But, to me, that's what makes it great.

Anyway, in my effort to be a little bit different, today I made this Palestinian meal in my American dutch oven. Talk about an multi-national experience...

Kofta bi Tahini

12” Dutch Oven
10 briquettes below
16 briquettes above

1 lb ground meat (lamb or beef (maybe mixed))
1/3 cup chopped parsley (preferably fresh, but I’ve also used dried)
1 med onion, chopped
1 tsp salt
3 tsp mid east spices (baharat, cinnamon, ginger)
1 tbsp olive oil

2 medium potatoes, sliced ¼ inch
1 cup rice

1 cup Tahini paste (sort of like peanut butter, except it’s made with sesame seeds instead of peanuts. You can get it at natural food stores and middle eastern markets. Mainstream supermarket staff will look at you funny when you ask them for it. Trust me…).
½ cup lemon juice
2 cups water

Start with the meat. I usually use ground beef, because I have such a hard time finding lamb. I did find some when I made the Irish stew, but that’s another story. Put the meat, the parsley, the onion, the salt, the spices, and the oil in a bowl and stir it all up. When it’s all nicely blended, scoop some up in the palm of your hand and squeeze it into a finger or cigar shape, maybe about three inches long, and a little thicker than your finger. Set these aside.

Slice potatoes into ¼” quarter slices.

Then, scatter a cup of uncooked rice over the bottom of your dutch oven. Layer the potato slices on top of the rice. Place the Kofta shapes on top of the potatoes in a ring, with a couple in the middle.

Mix tahini, lemon juice, and water It’ll take some stirring to dissolve the tahini and blend it all. Pour the mixture over the meat, potatoes and rice, covering all.

Then put it on the coals. I baked it for about 45 minutes, turning the lid and the oven often, but not opening the lid everytime. Toward the end, check on the rice. Some of the grease from the meat will seep down and make the rice crispy, so you don’t want to overcook the rice.

This dish is traditionally served with this Arabic salad (on the side):

2 cucumbers , chopped
4 small tomatoes , chopped
1/2 cup finely chopped parsley
small finely diced onion (optional) , chopped
½ jalapeno pepper, chopped
1 teaspoon salt
¼ c lemon juice
tablespoon olive oil (optional)
¾-1 cup of plain yogurt

Mix the cucumbers, tomatoes, parsley, jalapeno, and onion in a bowl. Just before serving, add the salt, lemon and olive oil and stir. Last of all, spoon in the yogurt and stir it all up.

I honestly don’t know which I like better, the Kofta or the salad. I could eat them both until I explode. But you be the judge. And, if you end up acquiring the taste, then you can join me for dinner someday!

Saturday, April 21, 2007

GIGO Pizza

So, if you read the comments on my first post, g.parker said, “So did you do the pizza? Our goal in dutch oven cooking is the perfect pizza...”

First of all, thanks for commenting. It’s fun to see a response to a blog after only a few postings! And, everyone else should check out her blog!

The secret to good pizza is pretty easy. I thought at first I’d just reply to the comment, but then realized that the answer demonstrates an important principle I’ve been learning about cooking, especially with the Dutch Oven. So, I decided to turn it into a post. That principle is: GIGO

Those of you who are into computers, especially in programming, already understand this term. For the rest of us in the real world, it means “Garbage In, Garbage Out”. If you make a dish with garbage, it's going to taste like garbage. The opposite is also true. If you use good stuff to make your food, it will taste great. So, to make good Pizza, don’t scrimp on your ingredients. A good dough recipe, good sauce, and good toppings make great pizza.

The first time I did it, I actually just used a pizza crust mix from that “Jiffy” company. It turned out pretty well. The second time, I found an actual rising bread recipe and did it instead:

  • 1 ½ c. warm water
  • 1 Tbsp yeast
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 3 Tbsp oil
  • 4 c. Flour

Dissolve the yeast in the warm water, then add the sugar, a little at a time. After it gets all foamy, add the salt and the oil, beat for a few minutes. Add 2 cups of flour and beat, then add the rest of the flour gradually to make a soft dough. Knead it for 5 minutes or so, then set it aside to rise.

Then, fire up the coals.

First of all, in a 12” DO, get your sausage (I like Italian sausage, as opposed to the common breakfast pork sausage. Still the breakfast stuff is good, too.). Cook it crumbled in the DO with a bunch of briquettes underneath. Spread the grease around the bottom and sides as you’re stirring the sausage bits.

Pull the oven off the coals, pull the sausage out and sprinkle some garlic powder or garlic salt kinda liberally across the bottom of the DO. This will make for a great flavoring in the crust. Spread the dough out over the bottom of the oven. I like it pretty thick, so it’s more of a deep-dish. I don’t remember if this crust recipe makes one or two. I think it does two 12”-ers.

Spread on the sauce. Honestly, I just bust open some Prego. Shhhhhh… Don’t tell anyone. I’m sure there’s a great recipe for pizza sauce out there. When I find it, I’ll do it all from scratch and then post it here for you all.

A little bit of grated mozzarella, then start layering on the toppings. Here’s where the real critical make-or-break stuff happens. Get good, fresh toppings, and be liberal with them. Put on the sausage, the pepperonis (and please, more than one pepperoni per slice…), the fresh onions, the olives, etc… Just go for it and lay out what you like.

Finally smother (and yes, I mean smother) it all in a deep blanket of more mozzarella.

Put the oven back on the coals, 8 under, 16 above, and bake it for about a half hour or so. When the top cheese is melty and brown, and you can see the crust is done, then pull it off.

I cut it with a plastic knife and serve it right from the Dutch, so to speak.

It’s incredible, and since there’s so much food on the crust, it’s very filling.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Zesty (but not too hot) Jambalaya

Today, I did a cool jambalaya that I pulled from Here it is with my commentary and adaptations

2 tablespoons canola oil
about a tsp of minced garlic
1 onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
2 long stalks of celery, chopped
1 lb smoked sausage, sliced thin
1 (14 1/2 ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained
1 cup chicken broth (I used bullion, and next time, I'm probably going to use 1 1/2 cups, so the rice cooks better)
1 heaping teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/3 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 bay leaf
liberal shaking of a commercially made cajun spice mix
1 cup uncooked rice

First, I heated the dutch oven with some oil in the bottom. It was a 12" shallow oven (my workhorse), and I had about 11 or 12 coals on the bottom. Then I put in the veggies and the garlic. I stirred that around a bit until I saw some brown, especially in the garlic.

Then I put in the sausage, and stirred that in. I cooked it for a while. Next time, I think I'll cook the veggies and the sausage a bit more, until they brown some more.

While this was going on, I was also boiling the water and the bullion cube in my 8" oven over about 8-9 coals. I covered it, but didn't put any coals on top.

Then I added the tomatoes and the spices, along with the chicken broth. I let that simmer for about 20 minutes, uncovered. Next time, I'll probably do all the steps up to this one covered as well. I think I lost a lot of moisture in the cooking, which made the rice not cook as well.

Then I added the rice, covered it up, and let it simmer. I took a lot of the under coals and put them on the top. I probably had 7-8 below, and the same on top. I let it simmer for abou 30-40 minutes, until I felt the rice was done. Actually, the rice pretty much absorbed all the liquid, and still tasted a little undone. That's why I'd like to have more liquid in the mix to begin with, and keep it covered.

I also tried to make some cheddar biscuits, and they turned out OK. I just added some grated cheese and garlic powder to a bisquick mix. I had a hard time baking them. I think I just didn't have it hot enough. Still, when they did bake, the weren't burned or doughy, so I guess it turned out OK.



I admit, I need another blog like I need another hole in my head. But that never stopped me before, right?

But I was inspired by my good friend over at "Confessions of a Mormon Foodie". I've enjoyed reading his thoughts on eating, and I've also enjoyed talking them over with him. So, I'm sharing my own experiences.

The setup:

Last Father's Day, my wife bought me a single 12" dutch oven. I'd always wanted to learn how to do it, so when she did that, I jumped right in. I got a few books, read up a little, and found some websites and started. I seasoned the oven, and one sunday afternoon, I made pizza. I'd had fond memories of having dutch oven pizza as a young boy scout, so I did it.

And it turned out GREAT! I was hooked. I started a tradition of doing our sunday dinner in the back yard. Rain or shine, summer or winter. I've missed a few weeks where I've been sick, or out of town, and there've been some dishes that have been less than spectacular (like my first attempt at an apple pie - yeesh).

But still, I've had some real hits.

  1. my Lemon Salmon and Rice is a favorite

  2. I did our Christmas Turkey (with a delicious herbal baste my wife found on the net)

  3. Our Easter Ham (with a cola-based baste - hey, that's poetic!)

  4. And, most recently, the successful apple pie.

Here's a picture, by the way, of the most recent pie:

So, here's where I'll be posting my experiences with my black pots each week. Recipes, tweaks, successes, failures. Just for fun, and a cool place to archive all my work. We're in for a tasty ride!



Related Posts with Thumbnails