So, my quest for fresh, new tastes turned up a vegetarian dish called 'Kouftikes de Prasa Salad' or, basically 'Leek Fritters with Asian-style Cabbage and Greek Yogurt topping'.
It's a signature dish from a forthcoming recipe book called Herbivoracious: A Flavour Revolution, to be released May 8, 2012. I cooked it this week and 'twas fabulous.
Herbivoracious website (Cool name eh?)
Herbivoracious is my go-to fav site for inspiration for global flavour combinations. The author -- Michael Natkin -- is a 30ies something looking guy who took up cooking at age 18 when his mother was dying from breast cancer.
She turned to a macrobiotic diet to try and combat the cancer; Michael took up cooking for her and said he has never looked back. He gravitated to Zen Buddhist style cuisine while working at a farm kitchen in California and then interned at various restaurants in New York and Seattle. He started the Herbivoracious blog in 2007.
Kouftikes de Prasa
A kofta is a little meatball or patty but made vegetarian by using leeks, breadcrumbs and eggs. It is dressed up by adding a spicy cabbage, made with preserved lemons and harissa. The recipe suggests putting it on pita bread for a sandwich. Instead, I put it on a plate as a delightful entree. Tofu or meat can of course be added on the side depending on your appetite.
Preserved Lemons are first!
This dish calls for preserved lemons, a Moroccan condiment. If you're in a hurry (and I frequently am), just use thinly sliced fresh lemons instead. It was still great. But on weekend time, I looked around for the best (read easiest/fastest) preserved lemon recipe and found that the traditional style of doing preserved lemons would see the lemons taking weeks to ferment properly (not for me). So, instead, I opted for doing it this way (see below):
6 thin-skinned lemons, washed, trimmed at both ends, and cut lengthwise into six chunks
6 T coarse salt
About 1 cup fresh lemon juice
Heat oven to 200 degrees F. In a baking dish just large enough to hold the lemons, toss lemons with coarse salt and pour enough of the lemon juice over them to just cover them. Bake, covered, stirring occasionally, for 3 hours. Let lemons cool and transfer them (plus juice) into a mason jar. They keep, covered and chilled, indefinitely.
Sumac and Harissa
The recipe also calls for two ingredients I did not have -- sumac and harissa. Wonders never cease but I found both at Loblaws.
The sumac was not with the spices of course or even near the spice aisle but somewhere between the Indian and Middle Eastern cuisine sections. Harissa was similarly difficult to find.
(Small rant: Why? can't supermarkets install searchable directories for customers to find products? It can't be difficult to do.)
Sumac has a lemony flavour so it's perfect for this and Middle Eastern and Arab cuisine, e.g., hummus, salad and kebabs. It's found in za'atar which I've talked about before in the blog. It would be a great spice dye for colouring Easter eggs naturally as I noticed friends do in Facebook postings.
I bought harissa in a tube instead of a can as most recipes only call for a little bit at a time. Harissa is strong, with chilies, garlic, cumin and caraway; substitutes include Sriracha (rooster juice) or a Thai chili-garlic sauce.
Recipe for Kouftikes de Prasa
(Makes 4 servings)
Make cabbage first as refrigerating it for 2 hours helps meld flavours together (personal experience... (not the end of the world if it's not 2 hours). When ready to cook, ensure all the ingredients are cut up and spread around you as cooking time is fast.
For the Spicy Cabbage:
2 cups finely shredded red cabbage (in a pinch, save the shredding grief and buy a bag of already shredded green and red cabbage)
½ teaspoon Kosher salt
¼ cup white vinegar
½ preserved lemon, finely chopped (or just a thin sliced lemon)
2 teaspoons harissa or Thai-style chile sauce (such as Sriracha)
For the Leek Patties:
2 large leeks, white and light green parts only (about 12 ounces)
2 T olive oil
3/4 tsp salt
4 large eggs, beaten
1/2 cup breadcrumbs (Make yourself (I didn't) so use Panko if you can)
½ tsp cumin powder
¼ tsp Aleppo pepper or cayenne
Vegetable oil for shallow cooking
Flaky sea salt
4 pita breads, lightly toasted or grilled (optional, can leave out if using an entree)
20 thin half-moons of cucumber
½ cup thick Greek yogurt
Handful mint (or cilantro) leaves, torn
For the spicy cabbage: Thoroughly toss together all ingredients and refrigerate for at least two hours (the day before is fine too). Allow to return to room temperature before serving.
For the leek patties: Cut the leeks in half lengthwise and then into ¼” half-circles. Wash thoroughly. In a large skillet over medium high heat, heat the olive oil and saute the leeks until tender and starting to shrivel, about 5 minutes. In a bowl, thoroughly mix the cooked leeks, salt, eggs, breadcrumbs, cumin powder, Aleppo pepper or cayenne, and cinnamon.
Put about 1/8” of vegetable oil in the skillet and set the heat to medium-high. Drop the batter in with a quarter-cup measure and use the back of the cup to smooth each patty into a circle about 4” in diameter. Make 8 patties total, which will require two batches. Cook each patty until golden brown, about 3 minutes per side. Remove to paper towels and season with the flaky sea salt.
To finish: Place two leek patties on a plate or atop a pita. Top with a handful of the spicy red cabbage, 5 cucumber slices, and 2 T of the Greek yogurt. Sprinkle a little sumac on the yogurt, and scatter a few mint leaves over the whole sandwich. Serve immediately.