WHAT'S COOKING WITH KURT
The New Year is upon us, fresh and packed with possibilities, and here at Pasta & Co, we've got quite a few culinary adventures lined up this year. For starters, we're kicking off 2008 with dishes from across Africa - but we didn't travel far to taste the cuisines of this vast continent. The local source is right around the corner in Pike Place Market at a dynamite restaurant called Pan Africa where chef/owner Mulugeta Abate, known as Mulu,x serves savory dishes from his native Ethiopia, as well as other areas of Africa. Lunch and dinner fare here is downright delicious with hearty plates of eye-appealing textures and muted colors harmonizing with layers of pure, intense flavors. One taste and we knew we had to bring this flavorful cuisine into Pasta & Co. African cuisine is fresh and wholesome with no additives or processed ingredients, which makes us kindred spirits in the kitchen. We share the same culinary philosophy at Pasta & Co, as well as at our sibling enterprises, Beecher's Handmade Cheese and Bennett's Pure Food Bistro. Join us for a taste of Africa as we head into a sensational 2008 jam-packed with terrific cooking and eating adventures!
Yours in good taste,
THE FLAVORS OF AFRICA
Getting your arms around a topic as big as African cuisine is a tall order. After all, Africa is the world's second largest continent (Asia ranks first), and home to 13 percent of the world's population. Traditionally a land of farmers and herders, in the 20th and 21st centuries, wars, famine and poverty compelled vast numbers of people to migrate to northern and western coastal cities.
Regional cuisines vary in Africa. Cultural influences and ingredients from Islamic, European, Malaysian and Indian outsiders have infiltrated local cooking methods, eating habits, and common dishes. The English left their legacy as a colonial poweryou'll still find high tea served in South Africa, Nigeria and Kenyaalong with the Portuguese and French. Such influences give African menus a European flavor. But factor in the slave trade, and it's not surprising many foods from the Americas, including potatoes, corn, cassava, chile peppers, pineapple and peanuts are also common.
For all its differences, similar foods exist throughout Africa. Staple dishes rely on stews made with meat and vegetables, starches and grains, and vegetables, especially beans and yams. Dried or salted meats and fish are important protein sources, although salt is used sparingly. Water and beer made from millet are primary beverages. In cities, lunch is the main meal, while in the countryside or among nomadic tribes, the evening meal is most important. Everywhere in Africa, families and friends cook and eat together in a ritual that's a cornerstone of daily life.
INSPIRED BY AFRICA: NEW WINTER DELI ITEMS
Our feast at Pan Africa (www.panafricamarket.com) motivated us to research and interpret some classic African dishes. We've used typical spices and ingredients to create exciting deli specials you'll enjoy taking home for a zesty meal on a cold winter night.
Build dinner around one of our African-style main dishes and enjoy a brand new taste adventure. Take home LAMB TAGINE, a Moroccan stew whose name refers to the dish as well as its cone-shaped ceramic cooking vessel. (Read more about tagines with our pantry products.) Our tagine combines hearty lamb pieces slowly cooked with olives, special tagine spices, and apricots in a rich, spicy sauce.
We've also prepared BOBOTIE, a favorite South African dish combining ground beef, diced onion, garlic, and bread crumbs seasoned with cumin, curry powder, coriander, and peanut butter, and baked casserole-style under a custard-like topping. It may sound exotic, but it's comfort food with an African twist. Serve it with greens or MOROCCAN ORANGE SALAD to make a complete meal. In this sweet-savory twist on fruit salad, refreshing orange sections wear a spicy dressing of ground cumin, paprika, cinnamon, lemon juice and olive oil, and are garnished with pitted cured black olives, cilantro, and red onion slivers.
Stews rank among Africa's most popular dishes since they allow the cook to combine whatever is on hand. We're offering two versions using berbere, an authentic Ethiopian spice blend containing garlic, red pepper, cardamom, coriander, fenugreek, and other spices. CHICKEN PEANUT STEW, an original from Pasta & Co's executive chef, seasons chicken with berbere, and cooks it with sweet potatoes in a chunky African-style curry. Serve the stew on bed of white rice for an easy one-dish meal. Or take home our LENTIL STEW, also flavored with berbere spices, plus onions, garlic, olive oil, and tomatoes, to please the vegetarians in your life.
To liven up a meat, fish or poultry main dish, pair it with one of the delicious vegetable side dishes we're serving, or you might want to make a meal out of several sides. We're not shy about saying they taste that good. For starters, our down-home delicious BLACK-EYED PEAS are cooked and mixed with a dressing of onions, jalapeño peppers, and lemon juice that lets terrific flavors shine through. Or savor BRAISED SPINACH, where the healthful leafy green is finely chopped, then blended with cumin, coriander, coconut milk and onion for rich, subtle flavor. SPICY CARROTS tossed with a buttery ginger-cumin-cardamom glaze are a guaranteed winner, while YELLOW SPLIT PEAS, stewed with white cabbage, apricots and prunes, are a marvelous mix of sweet and savory flavors.
We didn't forget pasta lovers! For RED PENNE, we blended harissa, Tunisia's traditional hot sauce, with sautéed garlic, red onion, lemon juice and toasted almonds, plus parsley, basil and Parmesan cheese, and used it for a spicy pasta sauce. Word is out: Take home extra servings of these dishes if you want leftovers!
HOME SWEET HOME WITH OUR VALENTINE'S DAY DINNER
Savor our elegant dinner for two and create your own romantic evening on Valentine's Day. Order Pasta & Co's special dinner and enjoy a relaxed, intimate evening at home with your significant other. Our PRIX FIXE SURF & TURF DINNER FOR TWO is available for $59.95 from January 21 through February 13, with a February 14 pick-up. Give us a call, and we'll prepare a superb, restaurant-quality meal that's easy to assemble, heat and serve. The menu includes Beef Tenderloin with Red Wine Sauce, Scallop and Prawn Brochettes with a Tangy Remoulade Sauce, accompanied by Potatoes Fleuron and Snap Peas with Roasted Butternut Squash. Our seductive Pyramid Cake chocolate cake layered with raspberry mousse and glazed with rich chocolate adds a sweet ending. Say the word and we'll add your choice of wine or bubbly to complete your sweetheart dinner.
A COOKBOOK OF DISCOVERY
Africa is a land of exotic flavors and spices, unusual fruits and vegetables, blended spices and wholesome ingredients, plus unique cooking methods such as the tagine. Describing dishes from the Middle East, the Mediterranean and North Africa in Crazy Water Pickled Lemons, Diana Henry infuses her cookbook with the flavors, fragrances and ingredient pairings that make cuisines in this part of the planet so tantalizing. Chapters are organized by ingredients so you'll find recipes highlighting spices--think saffron, cumin, ginger and corianderhoney and vinegar, fresh herbs, garlic and olives, almonds and pine nuts, figs and quinces, flatbreads, and yes, intriguing pickled lemons and Moroccan tagines. With abundant photographs and in-depth information, this cookbook will transport you to fascinating lands for new tastes and flavors.
WINTER PANTRY PICKS
Add something new to your pantry this winter. We're stocking MOROCCAN-STYLE COUSCOUS, and Mustaphaxs MOROCCAN HARISSA, an authentic chile pepper-based spice blend that adds complex, bold flavor with heat to soups and stews. Or dare yourself to try cooking with PRESERVED LEMONS, another xmustx ingredient in North African cuisine. We predict you'll love their tropical citrus flavor balanced with softened sour and salty elements. From Morocco, as well, comes ARGAN OIL, a deep golden oil, produced from the seeds of the Argan tree that grows exclusively in North Africa. Use the rich, slightly nutty-flavored oil in place of olive oil for subtle flavor in salad dressings, vegetable stir-fries, and more. To inspire cooking a genuine tagine, we have both the cooking vessel and the spice mix. Nirmala's MOROCCAN TAGINE SPICE is a balanced blend of warm spices including cumin, allspice, turmeric and paprika that will add depth and flavor to meats, eggs, fish, and poultry dishes. We also found the ideal, authentic OVEN-SAFE TAGINE, the traditional cone-shaped earthenware baking dish used for cooking tagines. Elegant and functional, its structure is designed to slowly cook meats for the classic dish. And if something sweet is on your mind, try WALTER'S NOUGAT. From South Africa, the chewy, sweet confection made with sugar or honey and roasted nuts is sensational!
KURT'S KITCHEN WISDOM
We've become a huge fan of the age-old Moroccan method of cooking hearty stews or tagines. Not only are tagines easy to preparethey practically cook themselvestheir flavors are subtle, complex and satisfying. Made with a mixture of meat, such as lamb, vegetables, olives, and fruit, and a blend of spices, tagines make an ideal winter meal after a day on the slopes. You can borrow the tradition and cook the dish on the stovetop, or use the traditional pottery cooking vessel, which looks like a cone-shaped hat. Read more about tagine spices and pottery in Pantry Picks.
Lamb Tagine with Dried Fruit
1. Toss the lamb with the Tagine Spice Mix and salt.
2. Heat the oil in a heavy bottomed pan over medium-high heat, and brown the lamb on all sides. Push the meat to one side of the pan, add the onion and cook until transparent, about 5 minutes. Reduce heat, add the water, cover, and simmer for 1 hour.
3. Stir in the apricots, prunes, and brown sugar. Cover tightly, and simmer until lamb is tender, about 30 minutes. Stir occasionally during cooking to prevent sticking. Serve hot with rice or couscous.