Archive | December, 2012

Can’t-Believe-It’s-Not-Take-Out Shrimp Fried "Rice"

27 Dec

There’s no run-up to this one: last night I made the most delicious imitation ever– shrimp fried “rice” that uses my favorite culinary chameleon, cauliflower, instead of rice. Don’t be intimidated by the long ingredient list– this dish is actually quite easy and would be great for a cozy dinner party on an ugly winter night. Enjoy!

Thanks to Tastespotting for bringing me this recipe

If you have two frying pans, you’ll need both. If not, just make the cauliflower and then the vegetables.
–1/4 c water 

–3 TBS fresh lime juice (to taste)
–2 TBS green curry paste (international aisle)
–1 TBS + 1 tsp honey or agave
–1/2 tsp apple cider vinegar

–3 c cauliflower, grated (about 1 large head)
–2-3 TBS coconut oil (or whatever oil you like)

–1 c carrots, diced
–1 c onion, diced
–3-5 garlic cloves, minced
–1 c shrimp, chopped  
–2 large eggs, beaten lightly 
–1/4 cup spring onions, chopped 
–1/4 cilantro, chopped

1. Grate the cauliflower, using a hand grater if at all possible (even I did not use the food processor this time!). Keep in a separate bowl.
2. Mince and dice and chop all the the other ingredients (carrots, onions, garlic, shrimp, spring onions, and cilantro).  Keep each separate.
3. In one pan, heat 1 TBS oil over medium heat.  Add the cauliflower, spreading out in as thin a layer as possible.  Cook for at least five minutes, or until it begins to brown.
4. In the other pan, heat 2 TBS oil.  Add onions and cook until fragrant and translucent, 2-3 minutes.  Then, add the garlic and carrots. Cook over med-high heat, until carrots are soft (5-7 minutes).
5. While the vegetables are cooking, mix together all the sauce ingredients. Now you have a delicious sauce.
6. Back to the cauliflower–once you have a good portion of browned “rice,” make a well in the middle of the cauliflower. Add eggs and toss around, until the rice becomes light and fluffy and egg is cooked. Keep warm over low heat, stirring occasionally.
7. Once the carrots are softened, add the shrimp and cook until done all the way through.
8. Add the cauliflower to the vegetables and toss evenly. Garnish with cilantro and spring onions.
9. Separate into servings and use sauce evenly among the plates.

A Very Kefi Christmas

26 Dec

“It is a miracle if you can find true friends, and it is a miracle if you have enough food to eat, and it is a miracle if you get to spend your days and evenings doing whatever it is you like to do, and the holiday season—like all the other seasons—is a good time not only to tell stories of miracles, but to think about the miracles in your own life, and to be grateful for them.” —Lemony Snicket

There are many things that have afforded me great success in this world– I’m a white person from the US who went to college and is employed.  To 99.99% of the rest of the world, I wasn’t just born on third–I came onto Earth an inch from home plate.

Few things have made me feel as privileged as this past weekend, when my family got together to celebrate a pre-Christmas Extravaganza with me before I headed back to DC to work both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.  It was an amazing 36-hour love fest that featured all of the people I hold dearest, from the family with which I was born to the mish-mash of folks I have chosen over the years to count among my people.  

The Kefis have always believed in a big, fat, decorative Christmas, but our winter holidays have not always been as movie-esque as this one was– those years that began when the oldest of my siblings became a teenager and ended when the youngest of us left adolescence behind brought as much angst and posturing around the holidays for us as they did any other family.  We worked hard for our practically-perfect pre-Christmas, and it made me think about how wonderfully lucky we are if, as adults, we can move past the family squabbles about presents and table turf that our complicated world increasingly encourages, and remember how truly magic Christmas can be, if only we bring to the table with us best wishes for each other and a healthy sense of humor about ourselves (making Christmas a champagne-only event doesn’t hurt, either).

It is, of course, more than happy circumstance that my family gets to enjoy holidays like these at a time when so many families are splintered by the demands of our world.  In some other post at some other time, I will wax and wane on how closely linked happiness is to privilege.  But, for now, let me say without hope or agenda–just because it’s Christmas, and at Christmas you tell the truth–to me, we are perfect.  


"There’s No One I’d Like To Have Dinner With"

20 Dec

Occupy the Grocery Store: Slow Cooker Mustard Brussels Sprouts

10 Dec

Last week I did something crazy–I met up with some friends the night before I had to work and stayed out until 10:30 PM, which is WAY past bedtime. The resulting “Nurses Gone Wild” video should be released in time for Christmas delivery.

But seriously–it was getting late and I had nothing to eat for lunch during the 12.5 hour shift the next day. Not wanting to brave the hospital cafeteria, I peered into my refrigerator and came up with… a bag of brussels sprouts.

Without time to DO anything with said brussels sprouts (btw: did everyone else know that it’s brusselS sprouts, not bussel sprouts?)–a quick google search popped up with a very short slow-cooker recipe for mustard sprouts.  If ever a recipe towed the line between absolutely delightful and dreadfully terrible, this was it  Three minutes, six ingredients, and a few too-short hours of sleep later, I woke up to the most delicious smell in my kitchen and a yummy lunch that earned the envy of most of the break room.

Don’t like the lighting? You wake up at 515 am and see
how much natural light your kitchen gets. 

Slow Cooker Mustard Brussels Sprouts

  • 1 lb brussel sprouts (1 16oz bag), washed
  • 3 TBS oil
  • 1 TBS dijon mustard (some mustards have sugar in them–check ingredients if you care)
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 washed sweet potato, skin still on (optional–I just need more to eat!)
1. Wash the sprouts. Chop off the small stem at the bottom, and then halve them.
2. Throw everything in the slow cooker.
3. Heat on low overnight. The ones that are right against the walls will get a little crispy, and that is great.
4. If you used a sweet potato, it will be so soft you can just mash it up and use as a base for the dish.

Water No Get Enemy

7 Dec

Yasiin Bey (TAFKA Mos Def) does Fela.
If this doesn’t get your weekend going, nothing will.

Spanakopita, Deconstructed

5 Dec

I’ve made no secret about it: spanakopita, practically the national dish of Greece, is no favorite of mine.  This indifference is, in large part, owed to the strong contrarian spirit that dominates at least two-thirds of my opinions (“Oh, you think puppies are cute? Let me tell you why I find that to be misguided…”)– but mostly it’s just because I’d rather be eating my Aunt Lena’s eggplant pie.  Why eat a spinach/lemon/feta concoction when you could be sinking your teeth into an amazing amalgamation of eggplant, tomato, and onion? I rest my case.

But, alas. Winter is coming and the days of eggplant for $0.99/lb (thank you New Jersey, third-largest eggplant producer in the world) are over. Way over. Seems the only things under $2.49/lb these days are greens. Mustard greens, spinach greens, beet greens. Spinach. Arugula. Kale. It’s a slow boat ride back to berry season– but at least we’ll be full of iron.

So what’s a good Greek girl to do? Break down and deal with the hand nature deals the Northeast or spend $86/week on groceries? With my hand forced, I turned to spinach.

I came up with this take on creamed spinach–a cornucopia of uber-Greekness. Olive oil, spinach, dill, creamy yogurt… it’s almost enough to make me forget about that eggplant pie.


Deconstructed Spanakopita, or: “Creamed” Spinach

Pay no attention to the pre-made salmon patty on the left.


  •  9 oz spinach, rinsed and dried
  • 1 medium-large bunch of kale, rinsed, dried, and shredded from the thick center vein
  • 1 bunch dill, bottoms cut off and chopped into thirds
  • 1 large onion, chopped roughly
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped roughly
  • 2 tsp oregano
  • 2 TBS olive oil 
  • 7 oz Greek yogurt (Fage is best, but you do you)

**I made this with my food processor–if you don’t have one, just finely mince the onions/garlic and skip the shredding of the greens. It won’t have the same texture but the option’s there.**

 1. Puree the onion and garlic together in food processor. Set aside.

2. Throw the kale in a big, deep pot. If you have room, throw the spinach in there too–otherwise, cook separately.  To cook, add a splash of water and cover the pot, heating over med-high heat.  After 2-3 minutes, open the pot and stir thoroughly to distribute the heat. Cook for another 1-2 minutes, until the greens are wilted (note: the kale will take longer so, if cooking together, make sure it is on the bottom first so it gets most of the heat).

3. Place the greens in a colander to strain the excess water. Use a spatula to press out any additional water.

4. Heat the olive oil and oregano in a saute pan over medium heat until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Pour the onion/garlic puree into the pan and mix with the oil.  Allow to heat over medium until fragrant and slightly carmelized,  6-8 minutes.

5. While the onion mixture cooks, run the spinach, kale, and dill through the food processor until it is a pulp. Set aside.

6. Once fragrant, take about 1/3 of the onion puree (does not have to be exact) and set aside to cool.  Add the pulped greens to the remainder and mix well to combine.  Cook all together for another 3-4 minutes, until spinach is heated as well.

7. While spinach heats, combine cooled onion puree with yogurt and mix well.

8. Once spinach is heated, combine  spinach and yogurt mixture. Enjoy!

Chocolate Chestnut Pie

3 Dec

Chestnuts and figgy pudding are two of a kind. Everyone sings about them, but no one actually eats them. Always a bridesmaid, never a bride.

Luckily for chestnuts, Thanksgiving at the Kef Household lets them shine once a year–MamaKef has always loved adding chestnuts to her stuffing (though I’m sad to report I have yet to see her roast them over an open fire).  This year, we also threw some chestnuts over our roasted sweet potatoes to a spectacular result.  And this got the Kefwheels turning…

What else can we do with these creamy, delicious treats?

What we have today is a subtle, rich pie that ups the ante and will ensure that chestnuts get more respect than just a passing Carol reference.  A more sophisticated version of a diner chocolate mousse pie, it’s sure to please anyone who makes it to your holiday buffet.  It is most definitely not a traditional pie–but I’ll bet it comes back year after year, anyway.

Sorry, figgy pudding– maybe someone will actually eat you next year.

I adapted this recipe, whose pictures are nicer.
     –1 can (15 oz) chestnut puree
     –1 bag (9 oz) unsweetened carob chips (if you want to use chocolate, use dark)
     –1 and 3/4 sticks of butter (room temperature), cut into small pieces 
     — 2 TBS whiskey, cognac, or dark rum
 –1 c almond meal
–1/2 c coconut flour
–1/2 c carob powder (or cocoa powder)
— 1 tsp baking soda
— 2 eggs, beaten
— 1/8 c honey or maple syrup (more or less, to taste?
— 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
— 3 TBS butter, cu into small pieces and softened to room temp 
–OR baked pie crust of choice (Try this pistachio crust)

1. For the crust: if you’re using your own crust, assemble and bake as directed. Otherwise, preheat oven to 325.  For the sugar-free, gluten-free cookie crust, combine both flours, carob/cocoa powder, and baking soda. Mix well. Add the wet ingredients except the butter and mix until combined. Then add the butter in small pieces, kneading with your fingers until you have a cohesive dough.

2. Press the dough into a buttered pie pan to form the crust. If you don’t need all of the dough, use the extra to make cookies- you can use that for a topping. Use a fork to poke holes all over the crust and bake for 9-10 minutes, or until middle is set. Do not overcook- the dough is very dark so it will be hard to tell that it’s burnt! Remove from oven and let cool completely.

3. To make the filling, fill a large sauce pan 2/3 full with water and heat over med-high.  Put the carob chips in a small metal bowl or smaller pot and hold over the heated water (but don’t let bottom touch water or chips will burn).  Stir constantly to spread heat evenly.  

4. Once melted,  remove from heat and mix in butter, a piece or two at a time, so that it melts into the mixture.

5. Add chestnut puree and mix until combined.  Add vanilla and liquor. Taste mixture and if desired, add more vanilla to sweeten.

6. Pour mixture into pre-made crust and cool in fridge for at least 4 hours (overnight if you have the time).  Use a spatula to even out the top (which I clearly did not do in the above picture).
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