Cumin Beef

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The first time I had cumin beef was decades ago at an Islamic Chinese restaurant in San Francisco. The silk road influences were obvious: cumin is often used in Ughyur cuisine in China’s Xingjiang Province, in tandem with loads of garlic and chiles. I was hooked.

This fragrant dish is a cinch to make and takes me right back to that first time I tasted Muslim Chinese cuisine. Serve this with rice for an easy weeknight meal.

Cumin beef

Ingredients:

1 pound trimmed sirloin steak
2 teaspoons Shaoxing rice wine
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon potato flour
1 green or red bell pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 teaspoons finely chopped ginger
3 teaspoons finely chopped garlic
1 fresh red chili, deseeded and finely chopped
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried chili flakes, to taste
2 green onions, thinly sliced
1 1/2 teaspoons sesame oil

1. Cut the beef into thin slices. In a medium bowl, stir the marinade ingredients with 1 tablespoon water and add the beef, mixing to coat. Cut the peppers into 1-inch strips, then cut diagonally into diamond-shaped slices.

2. Add 1 tablespoon vegetable oil to a wok over high heat. Add the beef and stir-fry until just cooked, about 3 to 4 minutes. Remove beef from the wok and set aside.

3. Return the wok to the heat with the remaining 1 tablespoon oil. Add the ginger and garlic and stir-fry for a few seconds, then add the garlic and chili pepper, and stir-fry until hot and fragrant, about 2 minutes. Return the beef to the wok and add the cumin and dried chiles, continuing to stir-fry until cooked through, about 2 minutes. Just before removing from the heat, add the green onions and stir. Remove from the heat, stir in the sesame oil, and serve.

Loaded Baked Potatoes

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These aren’t your everyday baked potatoes. Oh no, my friend. These are the most impossibly fluffy baked potatoes you’ve ever had: crispy on the outside and ethereal on the inside. The secret lies in enveloping them in a thin coating of oil, rather than foil. Topped with sour cream, herbs, and caviar, these are a perfect weekend indulgence.

Loaded baked potatoes

Ingredients:

4 medium russet potatoes, scrubbed, patted dry
Vegetable oil (for potatoes)
Salt
Pepper
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup finely chopped chives or green onions
1/2 cup finely chopped dill and/or parsley
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1–2 oz. jar trout or salmon roe
Flaky sea salt

1. Place a rack in middle of oven and preheat to 450F degrees. Prick potatoes all over with a fork (this allows the steam to escape, which helps the insides of the potatoes cook evenly and make the skins crisp).

2. Drizzle a little oil over each potato and rub all over with your hands to cover in a thin layer; season with salt and pepper. Set potatoes directly on a wire rack set atop a baking sheet and bake until the outsides are browned and crisp and the insides are very tender about, 70 minutes.

3. Using tongs or oven mitts, transfer potatoes to a platter. Set out along with sour cream, chives, dill, butter, roe, sea salt, and pepper and top as desired.

Fava Bean Fritatta (Kuku-ye Baghali)

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Kuku refers to an Iranian fritatta, of which there are many styles. Kuku sabzi (herb fritatta) and kuku sibzamini (potato fritatta) are the most popular, but fava bean kuku is my most favorite of them all. Seasoned with dill, onions, and garlic, this makes for a perfect brunch or picnic food.

Every year I eagerly await springtime, when fava beans are in season. Last year I came up on more than 15 pounds of favas from Imwalle Gardens in Santa Rosa — no complaints here.

Kuku-ye baghali

Ingredients:

1 pound fava beans, shelled and peeled
1 onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1/3 cup olive oil
4 eggs
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon yogurt
1 cup chopped fresh or 1/2 cup dried dill

1. Remove the second skin from fava beans and place the beans in a saucepan with 3 cups water and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Boil for 10 minutes over medium heat. Drain and set aside to cool.

2. In a skillet, brown onions and garlic in 3 teaspoons oil. Add beans and stir. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.

3. Break eggs into a large bowl. Add the salt, pepper, and yogurt. Beat lightly with a fork. Add chopped dill and fava beans and mix.

4. Heat remaining 3 teaspoons oil in a nonstick skillet, pour in the egg mixture, and cook, covered, over low heat until it has set, about 15 minutes. Cook the second side by cutting into wedges and carefully turning each wedge over one by one. Add the remaining 2 teaspoons oil, cover, and cook for 15 minutes longer. Serve kuku with flatbread and yogurt.

South Indian-Style Potato Roast

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I originally made this dish alongside a yogurt salad and a spinach braise — the crunchy, crispy potatoes providing a contrast to the other dishes. Who doesn’t love fried potatoes? They make the world go round. Contrary to the dish’s name, these aren’t actually oven-roasted, but rather, cooked in a skillet until they’re nice and toasty.

South Indian-Style Potato Roast

Ingredients:

2 pounds potatoes, boiled until just cooked, peeled, and diced
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
salt
1 tablespoon curry powder
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon brown mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon yellow split peas (chana dal), picked over and rinsed
1 teaspoon urad dal, picked over and rinsed
1 red chili, halved
1/2 teaspoon asafoetida powder
1 sprig curry leaves

1. Heat oil in a skillet, preferably nonstick. Add the mustard seeds, cumin seeds, yellow split peas, urad dal, chili, asafoetida powder, and curry leaves.

2. When the mustard seeds splutter, add the diced potatoes, turmeric, and salt to taste. Cook over low heat for at least 30 minutes, turning the potatoes every 5 minutes, being careful to not break the pieces.

3. Saute potatoes until golden. Sprinkle with the curry powder and mix. Serve warm.

Seaweed and Ground Turkey Stir-Fry

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This is one of those #uglydelicious dishes that you make up at the spur of the moment: check out the freezer, open the cupboard, and make something out of nothing. Except that this nothing is actually quite delicious — and healthy to boot. Ground turkey and seaweed are an unlikely pairing, but they come together in moments in a garlicy, lime and fish sauce-flecked seasoning. This is delicious on its own or with rice.

Seaweed and ground turkey stir-fry

Ingredients:

1 or 2 ounces dried mixed seaweed (I used a mixture of wakame, kelp, and white fungus), soaked in water for 10 minutes
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1 tablespoon thinly sliced shallots
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 pound ground turkey
2 Thai dried red chiles
2 tablespoons lime juice
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 tablespoon torn cilantro leaves

1. Drain the soaked seaweed, rinse, and drain again. Cut the seaweed into roughly 1-inch size pieces and set aside in a serving bowl.

2. Place a wok over high heat. Once heated, add the oil, shallots, and garlic until aromatic, about 10 seconds. Add the turkey and chiles. Stir-fry, breaking up meat, until turkey is cooked through, about 5 minutes. Add the lime juice and remove from heat. Add the fish sauce, stir, and add the mixture to the seaweed. Add the cilantro and mix. Serve warm or at room temperature.