Nemo Me Impugn Lacessitt (No One Impugns — or Attacks — Me With Liberty)
~Royal Dynasty of Scotland & Order of the Thistle (To Name Just a Few)

As expected, things have just gone totally south, no pun intended. Very worrisome with both sloppy and aggressive behavior and tirades. Where unmitigated, inauspicious chaos and dysfunction reigns.

Already, the now self-anointed Emperor Donald has threatened to send troops to Mexico; vainly tried to veto the Patient Protection & Affordable Health Care Act (passed by both the House and the Senate after public comments) which provides healthcare access to over 18 million women, men, children and the poor; said on national television that Mexico & Iran had serious problems — perhaps he should look in the mirror as the U.S. has real issues. But, you already know he does gaze intently at his mirrors in his robe with his hormoned red hair and tanned, powdered face.

Then, he degraded Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull of Australia, an enduring ally of the states, and in a hissy fit as is his wont, promptly chose fisticuffs to settle whatever differences they had (c’mon man) and terminated the telephone conversation; he overtly lied to the People and press about the size of his inauguration crowd; defying Court orders, he threatened to send federal troops to Chicago and also was planning to defund the entire state of California — by many accounts, the sixth largest economy of the world; this makes no mention of the cast of characters that he has proposed to fill his cabinet, many of whom detest the office/agency/departments (or even could not name) that they intend to inhabit.

During that very same time, the Donald signed some form of executive order, without any other opinions offered, that prohibits the entry of refugees from seven predominantly Muslim nations (none who has knuckled under to a “Trump property or inane golf course”) each refugee was thoroughly and meticulously vetted by the Department of Homeland Security, the FBI, the State Department, national intelligence agencies all of which independently check each and every refugees’ biometric data against security databases. Even green card holders, given permanent United States residency and pure voting rights in local and state elections, were first hit by the ban, on national security grounds.

Naturally, there have been an onslaught of briefs filed against Trump’s actions: “(n)ot only ill-conceived but poorly explained”…from a brief filed by many previous National Security Advisors; (his actions also) “violate(s) immigration laws and the U.S. Constitution”…and “hinders the ability of American companies to attract great talent; increases costs imposed on business; makes it more difficult for American firms to compete in the international marketplace; and gives global enterprises a new, significant incentive to hire new employees outside the United States…” from an amicus curiae brief filed by quite a few tech companies, such as Microsoft, Apple, et al.

The Tweeter-in-chief’s actions are morally repugnant and patently illegal. A blanket immigration prohibition, not only has founders of the Constitution rolling in their proverbial graves, it is flat discriminatory based upon Congress’ half-century refusal to bar refugees from inclusion based upon “national origin.” Remember such people, Emperor Donald, as the Italians, Irish, Jews, African Americans, Native Americans, Germans, Mexicans, Mesoamericans, Indians, Cubans, Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, Koreans and their kith and kin?

Trump attempts to wiggle out of the conundrum by invoking some obscure 1952 congressional action, still asserting that he has some form of “discriminatory power,” whatever that means, all despite his claims of the “one of the highest IQ’s” ever on earth. Do you not distrust whomever bombastically brags about just how smart they are? Embarrassing and quite often doubtful.

By the way, where are your tax returns, IQ tests and results, your P&L statements, and what do you really read (besides paragraphistical snippets)? An elementary to middle school whining president is what we get as our fearless leader? Now, we can all see how you became so shameful to your parents that they shipped you up the river to military school.

Not only does his reasoning run afoul of the due process and equal protection clauses (yes, Donald, 4th, 5th and 14th amendments, respectively) but also the 1st Amendment’s ban on the government’s establishment of religion. Remember, that Donald quoted his fervent protection of the 12th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution before Republican Senators — a clause that simply establishes an electoral college. Trump does not know nor care about his constitutional precepts. Has he even heard of etiquette or comity? Does he not know about impugning the qualifications of jurists and judicial independence? Does he have no knowledge of our system of checks and balances? A president who has little respect for the rule of law? Apparently not, on all counts.

By the way, Mr. Trump and his father, Fred Trump, and Trump Properties were accused of massive bias by the Justice Department and New York City Commission on Civil Rights for violating the Civil Rights Act. By both actions and words, he has displayed a lengthy history of bigotry, misogyny and prejudice.

An enfant sauvage, an orange, sloppy, bullying, feral child at the helm.  His only response has apparently, of course, been a crude, puerile, bunkered tweet that personally denigrates and insults a “so-called” federal judge who was appointed by GW. Speaking of GW (&Nixon), the Donald is an admix of incompetence and arrogance — but worse. It is not about being “a bad person” it concerns ineptitude. What really does Trump even knows, thinks or grasps, and please halt thy incessant during or after-hours unpresidential tweets.

So far his administration has been a soap opera, or more properly put in Trump’s words, a very sad reality TV show.

Oh well, on to more soothing grub…the word for “pot pie” made it into our lexicon somewhere around 1792.

RABBIT “POT” PIE

Preheat oven to 375 F

Pastry
2 1/2 C all-purpose flour
12 T unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
4 T shortening
1/2 teaspoon sea salt

6 T ice water

Place all the ingredients except the water, in a large bowl. Add the water, mash and work with your hands and fingers so that is assembled into a solid, smooth ball. If it is crumbly, add more ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time. Equally divide and form into two evenly sized thick disks, wrap each in plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for an hour.

Remove from the fridge. If the dough is too firm to roll, allow to rest at room temperature for a few minutes. Lightly flour a work surface and the rolling pin. Lightly dust the top of a disk of flour and roll into a round about 1/8″ thick. Roll outward from the center, rotating the dough, and adding flour as necessary to avoid sticking. Fold the dough in half and transfer to a pie plate easing the dough into the corners and up the sides.

Roll out the second dough disk, again about 1/8″ thick. Place on a parchment lined baking sheet and refrigerate until ready for further use.

Béchamel
3 T unsalted butter
3 T flour
3 C whole milk, slightly simmered

1/4 C chicken stock
1 bay leaf
1 T fennel seeds,seared and finely ground
2 thyme sprigs
Pinch of nutmeg
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Sea salt and white pepper

In a heavy medium saucepan, melt the butter over low heat. Add the flour and cook slowly over low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon for 5 minutes to make a blond roux. Remove the roux from the heat, pour in the warmed milk and whisk vigorously until smooth. Then add the stock, thyme, bay leaf, fennel seeds, nutmeg, cayenne pepper, sea salt and freshly ground pepper and simmer gently, whisking often for 30-40 minutes. Remove and discard the bay leaf and thyme.

Filling
1 C red potatoes, cut into 1/2″ pieces
1 C parsnips, peeled and cut 1/2″ diagonally
1/2 C carrots, peeled and cut 1/2″ diagonally
1/2 C celery, cut 1/2″ diagonally
1 small leek, cleaned and finely diced
1/2 C crimini mushrooms, cut into thirds
2 bay leaves
4 thyme sprigs
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/2 C frozen peas, thawed
2 1/2 – 3 C roasted rabbit meat, shredded
1/2 C all purpose flour

2 eggs, beaten (for wash)

Put the potatoes, parsnips, carrots, celery, leeks, mushrooms and onions in a large saucepan with water to cover with bay leaves, thyme sprigs, salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer over medium high heat and simmer until just tender, about 10 minutes.

In a chinois, drain the vegetables, discard the bay and thyme, and spread on an edged baking sheet. Allow the mixture to cool to room temperature.

Strew the simmered vegetables, peas, sauteed mushrooms and rabbit over the bottom of the pie shell. Then, sprinkle with flour. Season again with sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Pour the béchamel over the rabbit and vegetables.

Moisten the pie shell rim with some of the beaten egg. Carefully cover the filling with the top crust and press the edges of the dough together to seal. Trim away any excess dough that overhangs the rim. Brush the top dough with egg and cut three small vents in the center of the top dough with the tip of a paring knife.

Bake until the crust is a rich golden brown, about 50 minutes or more. If the crust is browning too quickly, cover with aluminum foil. Allow to rest for 20 minutes, then serve.

Lentils & Walnuts

June 14, 2012

God gives the nuts, but he does not crack them.
~Franz Kafka

Not to be confused with other nuts or wingnuts…those outspoken, irrational people with deeply ingrained, deranged, flagrantly ignorant political beliefs, e.g., Rush Limbaugh, Michele Bachmann, Fred Phelps and their ilk. The lunatic fringe.

Rather, walnuts are edible seeds harvested from deciduous trees of the genus Juglans, especially the Persian walnut a/k/a English walnut, Juglans regia. Walnuts are rounded, single-seeded stone fruits enclosed in a leathery green, fleshy, inedible husk. Inside the husk is the wrinkly, hard walnut shell, which encloses that kind kernel, which presents as two halves separated by a partition. Walnuts, like all seeds, are living organs which respirate. After harvest, the seeds continually consume oxygen and release carbon dioxide, so storage is crucial.

The common walnut is native to the mountain ranges of Central Asia, extending from western China, into the ranges of Nepal, through present day Afghanistan and Iran, and finally Turkey. Alexander the Great introduced the tree to Greece and Macedonia, so it became known as the Persian nut. Later, ancient Romans imported the walnut tree into nearby conquered lands, such as Gaul and Brittania, where it has thrived since. Some espouse that North American walnuts assumed the moniker English walnuts, since they arrived in the colonies aboard English merchant ships.

The potential health benefits of walnuts cannot be understated — abounding with nutrients, particularly proteins, vitamin E, and essential fatty and phenolic acids, tannins, and flavonoids. They are also rich sources of antioxidants, anti-inflammatories, monounsaturated fats and omega-3 fatty acids. A so-called superfood.

LENTILS & WALNUTS

2 C green lentils (preferably du Puy)
1 1/2 C cold water
2 C vegetable or chicken stock
1 bay leaf
3 fresh thyme sprigs

2 T extra virgin olive oil
1 large yellow onion, peeled and diced
3 plump, fresh garlic cloves, peeled and minced
Splash of sherry or red wine vinegar
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Walnut oil, to taste
3/4 C walnuts, toasted and roughly chopped
3/4 C artisanal chèvre (goat cheese), crumbled

Put the lentils in a medium, heavy saucepan with the bay leaf and thyme. Pour over water and stock, bring to a boil, then reduce the heat, cover and simmer until tender, about 20-30 minutes. If the liquid is not totally absorbed, simply drain off any excess through a fine colander. Discard bay leaf and thyme sprigs.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium high heat and sauté the onion until soft. Add the garlic for another 1 minute, then deglaze the pan with just a splash of sherry vinegar. Remove from heat. Toss the cooked lentils with the onion mixture, and then season with salt and pepper. Drizzle with walnut oil, add the walnuts, toss with crumbled goat cheese and serve warm.

Each spice has a special day to it. For turmeric it is Sunday, when light drips fat and butter-colored into the bins to be soaked up glowing, when you pray to the nine planets for love and luck.
~Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
, The Mistress of Spices

Somehow, this became a three headed post.

Derived from the Persian word beryā(n) (بریان) which means “fried” or “roasted,” biryani is a rice dish crafted from a sensuously transcendent spice medley and basmati rice layered with curried meats (often lamb, mutton or chicken), fish, eggs or vegetables. Biryani was born in the kitchens of ancient Persia, and was later transported by merchants to the Indian subcontinent where the dish developed even further. Whether made in India, South Asia or the Middle East, regional variants are abundant and often without boundaries, such as hyderabadi biryani, ambur biryani, bhatkali biryani, kacchi biryani, awadhi biryani, mughlai biryani, berian biryani, sindhi biryani, khan biryani, memoni biryani, pakistani biryani, sri lankan biryani and the like. That is a short list.

Yes, I have admittedly been cheating on biryani. The farmers’ market spice merchant has been effusively loyal and ever helpful. Yet, I have been shamefully, almost covertly, buying his superb admix which is damned good. So, it only seemed fair to concoct my own biryani blend (with a little help from my friends). Much like curry or ras al hanout, dry roasting and then grinding your own spice brew at home tends to create a more spellbinding and blissful union.

BIRYANI SPICE BLEND

1 T cardamom seeds
1 T coriander seeds
2 t cumin seeds
1 medium cinnamon stick, cut into pieces
6 whole cloves
2 bay leaves
1/2 T black peppercorns
2 t fennel seeds
2 t caraway seeds
2 star anise
1/2 t grated nutmeg
1/2 t turmeric

Dry roast spices over moderate heat until fragrant. Discard bay leaves. Cool and reduce to a powder in a spice grinder by pulses or by using a mortar and pestle. Store in an air tight container in a cool, dark place.

Now, on to the main course. Guests will be grateful for the effusive, almost contemplative, scents…

LAMB BIRYANI

Dry roast and grind anise seeds, black peppercorns, cardamom pods, coriander seeds, and cumin seeds.

1 t anise seeds, toasted and ground
2 T black peppercorns, toasted and ground
3 T green cardamom pods, cracked, toasted and ground
2 T coriander seeds, toasted and ground
2 t cumin seeds, toasted and ground
1 t freshly grated nutmeg
2 cinnamon sticks

3 T unsalted butter
1 T canola oil
3 medium yellow onions, peeled and thinly sliced

3 T unsalted butter
1 T canola oil
2 T garam masala
1 t crushed red chile flakes
1⁄2 T turmeric
1 t paprika

6 plump fresh garlic cloves, peeled and minced
3 medium tomatoes, cored, seeded and chopped
4 serrano chiles, stemmed, seeded and minced
1 1 1⁄2″ piece ginger, peeled and minced

2 1/2 lbs trimmed boneless lamb shoulder, cut into 1 1/2″ cubes
Sea salt
3/4 C plain yogurt

2 1⁄2 C basmati rice
3 T unsalted butter
2 plump, fresh garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1⁄2 T cumin seeds, toasted and ground
4 whole cloves
2 dried bay leaves
Sea salt
2 C water
2 C chicken or vegetable broth

1 C whole milk
1 t saffron threads

Mint leaves, roughly chopped
Cilantro leaves, roughly chopped
Cashews, lightly sautéed in butter and chopped (optional)

Heat butter and canola oil in a heavy skillet over medium high heat. Add onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent and then just turning golden. Transfer to a bowl and set aside for later use.

Heat butter and canola oil in a large heavy pot or Dutch oven over medium high heat until shimmering. Add garam masala, chile flakes, turmeric, paprika, anise, pepper, cardamom, coriander, nutmeg, and 1 cinnamon stick, then cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Then add garlic, tomatoes, chiles, and ginger and sauté, stirring, another 2–3 minutes more.

Add lamb, season with salt, and cook until lightly browned, turning, about 5 minutes. Add the cooked onions and yogurt, cover and reduce heat to medium and cook until lamb is tender, about 25 minutes. Place lamb in a glass bowl or dish, tent and set aside. Keep the empty Dutch oven available for the layering step below.

Meanwhile, melt butter over moderately high heat. Add the minced garlic cloves and sauté briefly but do not burn. Add the basmati rice, stirring well to coat. Add cinnamon stick, along with the cumin, cloves, and bay leaves, and season with salt. Add the water and stock and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low to medium low. Cover and cook until the rice is firm and the liquid reduced, about 10-12 minutes. Set aside off of the heat.

Warm the milk with the saffron threads in a small saucepan.

Transfer half the curried lamb back into the Dutch oven, then top with half the rice. Clothe with layers of the remaining lamb and then rice and finally add the warmed milk with saffron. (Lamb–>rice–>lamb–>rice–>saffron.) Cover and cook over low heat until the rice is tender, about 10 more minutes.

Plate and garnish with mint, cilantro and cashews. Consider serving biryani with coconut curry gravy, daal (lentils), regional vegetable dishes, and/or naan bread.

Pourboire: instead of sautéing in unsalted butter and canola, ghee or ghi–a traditional Indian clarified butter–is often used due to its high smoking point and toasted flavor. A recipe follows:

GHEE

1 lb unsalted butter, roughly cut into pieces

Place butter in medium saucepan over medium high heat and bring to a lively simmer or quiet boil, about 2-3 minutes. Reduce heat to medium, and the butter will form a first foam which will disappear. Ghee is done when a second foam forms on top of butter, and the butter turns slightly golden, about 7 minutes. Brown milk solids will naturally fall to the bottom of the pan. Allow to cool for several minutes. Slowly pour into ovenproof container through a fine mesh strainer or cheesecloth layers. If not using immediately, store in an airtight container and keep free from moisture.