February Friday Dinner

Truffle Mousse on Mini Toasts

For 6 

Ingredients:

  • one package of store-bought mini toasts
  • one package of store-bought All-natural French Truffle Mousse

Recipe:

  1. Spread truffle mousse onto mini toasts
  2. Bon appétit! ;)

Serving suggestions: salad, wine, fruits …

NOTES: What can I say? I sampled the truffle mousse and loved it too much to not to share. Addictive, savory snack!!

Winter Minestrone Soup

For 6

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb Swiss chard, stems trimmed, leaves coarsely chopped
  • 1 russet potato, peeled, cubed
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 carrots, peeled, chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 3 oz thinly sliced pancetta, coarsely chopped
  • 1 (14 1/2-ounce) can diced tomatoes
  • 1 (15-ounce) can cannellini beans, drained, rinsed
  • 2 (14-ounce) cans low-sodium beef broth
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 fresh rosemary sprig
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves
  • 1 oz piece Parmesan cheese rind
  • salt and pepper

Recipe:

  1. In a heavy large pot, heat the oil over medium heat
  2. Add onion, carrots, celery, pancetta, and garlic. Sauté till the onion is translucent, about 10 minutes
  3. Add Swiss chard, potato and sauté for 2 minutes
  4. Add the tomatoes and rosemary sprig. Simmer until the chard is wilted and the tomatoes break down, about 10 minutes
  5. While waiting, blend 3/4 cup of the cannellini beans with 1/4 cup of the broth in a processor until almost smooth. Add the pureed bean mixture, remaining broth, and Parmesan cheese rind to the vegetable mixture
  6. Simmer until the potato cubes are tender, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes. Stir in the whole beans and parsley
  7. Simmer until the beans are heated through and the soup is thick, about 2 minutes
  8. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Discard Parmesan rind and rosemary sprig
  9. Bon appétit! ;)

Serving suggestions: all kinds of bread, hearty meat,  …

NOTES: Remember to rinse and drain the beans!! Also to save yourself some $, buy Parmesan cheese and save the rind to make this soup, getting the rind by itself cost me $4 … speechless secret ingredient. Also DO NOT use more or too much more than instructed broth, otherwise soup flavor won’t be as special and intense! Don’t cheapen on the Swiss chard, 1 lb raw Swiss chard might look like a chunky bunch but they will get cooked down to tiny bunch in no time, so delicious in soup!

Pizzas

For 6

Ingredients:

  • Trader Joe’s plain pizza dough
  • Olive Oil
  • Pizza Sauce

Toppings 1:

  • Diced pancetta (maybe 1/5 – 1/4 lb)
  • olive oil
  • 1 smashed garlic clove
  • 1/3 large bunch Russian red kale or dinosaur kale, center rib removed, cut into 2-inch strips
  • 1/2 cups small red seedless grapes, halved
  • 2/3 tbsp thyme leaves
  • 1/3  lb fresh, lightly salted Mozzarella cheese, thinly sliced
  • 1/3 grated pecorino Romano
  • salt to taste

Toppings 2:

  • extra virgin olive oil
  • fresh bay shrimps
  • garlic slivers (thin)
  • truffle salt

Toppings 3:

  • shredded mozzarella
  • fresh basil, torn
  • 1 medium – large heirloom tomato

Toppings 4:

  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 oz shredded mozzarella
  • 1 tbsp minced shallots
  • 1 tbsp fresh oregano, stripped and torn
  • 1 tbsp fresh thyme, stripped
  • 8 oz assorted wild mushrooms, cleaned and cut
  • 3 oz goat cheese
  • more olive oil for garnish

Toppings 5:

  • 3/4 cup pizza sauce
  • red pepper flakes
  • 6-8 oz shredded fontina cheese (may use mozzarella or Monterey Jack)
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan
  • 1 mild/hot Italian sausage (sliced or I squeezed out tiny meatballs out of the link)
  • 4 whole eggs
  • olive oil
  • baby arugula

Recipe:

  1. Let the pizza sought sit out for 1 hour before cooking
  2. Preheat oven to 500 degrees
  3. Put the ‘topped’ pizzas into the oven and start checking after 10 minutes.
  4. When ready, take them out, cut and serve
  5. Bon appétit! ;)

Serving suggestions: salad, soup, soda, beer, wine  …

NOTES: Trader Joe’s pizza dough is the way to go! Cheap and yummy! How can you beat the $0.99 deal?! Be creative with the toppings, use seasonal fresh ingredients, just pay a visit to the local farmer’s market, I bet your topping combo imagination will run wild. Remember to either apply abundant sauce or brush on oil if not using cheese, so the pizza won’t turn out dry. But if you watch the cooking time closely, it shouldn’t be a problem. Eggs need to be tended with care but BOY sooooooooo delicious when they come out perfect, slightly runny, um um good! I definitely want to make it for myself again SOON! Most toppings can go straightly to the oven with the dough raw, but if you want to speed up cooking, cook the ingredients half way and then bake with the pizza dough. Fancy cheese totally worth the money and if you are treating yourself, don’t be stingy on spreading the cheese!!!!

Ricotta mousse with honey, pine nuts, orange peel and raisin

For 6

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb whole milk ricotta cheese
  • freshly grated zest from one medium-sized orange
  • pine nuts and raisins to liking
  • honey to taste

Recipe:

  1. In a large bowl combine the ricotta, honey and orange zest. Whip the mixture until thoroughly combined and smooth
  2. Slowly fold the pine nuts and raisins into the cheese mixture until smooth
  3. Cover and refrigerate for a couple of hours before serving
  4. Bon appétit! ;)

Serving suggestions: fruits, dessert wine …

NOTES: When ready to serve, top with some freshly grated orange zest for prettiness.

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January Friday Dinner

Olive Oil Braised Red Onion with Bay Leaves

For 4-6

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 lb red onions (about 3 medium), trimmed, halved vertically, and cut into 2/3-inch wedges
  • 3 dried bay leaves, each torn into 3 pieces
  • 3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1.5 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp dry white wine
  • salt

Recipe:

  1. Position rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 375 degrees
  2. Arrange onion wedges in an half overlapping single layer in a shallow baking dish. Evenly nestle the bay leaves among the onions
  3. Mix the olive oil, vinegar, white wine, and 1.5 tbsp water in a bowl and drizzle over the onions. Then sprinkle over 1 …tsp salt
  4. Cover the baking dish tightly with aluminum foil
  5. Braise the onions in the oven until completely tender, about 45 …minutes. Uncover the dish and continue to braise until all of the liquid has evaporated and the onions are darkly roasted and glossy, about 20… minutes. Remove the bay leaves and serve the onions warm or at room temperature
  6. Bon appétit! ;)

Serving suggestions: salad, bread, grilled steak/pork chop …

NOTES: Fine cooking recommended to chill and toss with arugula, toasted walnuts, and lemon vinaigrette. Or mix with olive-oil packed tuna, capers and a touch of mayonnaise. Or top goat-cheese spreader crostini, which is what I served, I thought it was sophisticated, healthy and delicious! Use to be an onion disliker, but I think it’s starting to grow on me

 

Creamed Spinach with Bacon Bits

For 4-6

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb fresh spinach, about 2 large bunches
  • 3 strips of bacon, uncooked, finely chopped
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • a pinch of nutmeg
  • salt and pepper to taste

Recipe:

  1. Cut off the thick stems of the cleaned spinach and discard
  2. Blanch the spinach in a pot of boiling water until the spinach is wilted, about 1-2 minutes. Drain and rinse in cold water to stop the spinach from cooking further. Squeeze the spinach to remove all the moisture. Chop the spinach and set aside
  3. Heat a large skillet on medium high. Add the chopped bacon and sauté until the bacon begins to render some of its fat. Add the chopped onion and garlic. Sauté until onions are translucent
  4. Melt butter in a small saucepan on medium low heat until it just starts to bubble. Add the flour and cook, stirring until smooth, about 2 minutes. Slowly add the milk, whisking continuously, cooking until sauce thickens.
  5. Combine spinach, bacon and onion mixture, and the sauce into one pan. Add nutmeg, salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a simmer, remove from heat and serve
  6. Bon appétit! ;)

Serving suggestions: fish, chicken, steak …

NOTES: Bacon can be skipped if you prefer … Yummy source of green!!

 

Mac ‘n’ Cheese

For 6-8

Ingredients:

  • 1 head of garlic, roasted
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 pound Cavatappi pasta
  • 0.5 lb sliced Applewood smoked bacon
  • 1 ½ cups fresh white bread crumbs (5 slices, crusts removed)
  • ½ cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
  • 8 tablespoons butter
  • ¼ cup minced shallots
  • ½ cup flour
  • 1 quart whole milk
  • 6 ounces Gruyere cheese, grated
  • 8 ounces extra-sharp Cheddar cheese, grated
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
Recipe:
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Slice half inch off the top of the entire head of garlic. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Wrap garlic head tightly in foil and roast until tender, about 45 minutes. Remove garlic pulp by squeezing garlic head and smash to form  paste
  3. Cook pasta according to package directions
  4. Cook bacon completely and drain on paper towels. Crumble bacon when cool. Reserve 1 tbsp of bacon fat
  5. Combine breadcrumbs, crumbled bacon, Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, and 2 tbsp of melted butter as topping, set aside
  6. Preheat oven to 375 degrees
  7. Saute shallots over low heat in reserved bacon fat for 1 minute. Add remaining 6 tbsp of butter and continue to sauté shallots in butter and bacon fat until translucent
  8. Add flour and continue to cook for 1-2 minutes. Increase heat to medium. Stirring constantly with a whisk, add milk and the roasted garlic paste
  9. Cook until sauce has thickened (coats the back of a spoon). Remove sauce from heat then add salt, pepper, nutmeg, Gruyere and Cheddar cheeses. Taste and adjust salt and pepper if necessary
  10. Stir in cooked pasta and pour into a baking dish. Sprinkle topping to cover entire top. Cover with foil and bake for 15 minutes. Remove foil and continue baking until sauce is bubbly and topping is browned
  11. Bon appétit! ;)

Serving suggestions: salad, soup, southern dishes  …

NOTES: Hearty and cheesy, makes great left over meal too!! Grating all those cheese was such a pain, I wanted to quit then. If possible, store-bought grated cheese would do. As with all pasta dishes, al dente is the key. Maybe it’s because I didn’t grow up eating mac ‘n’ cheese like many American kids, I lack the emotional/childhood attachment to it, although it was comforting and delicious, way too much work to my liking …

 

Balsamic Strawberries with Ricotta & Mascarpone Mousse 

For 8

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 lb whole milk ricotta cheese
  • 8 oz mascarpone cheese
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • freshly grated zest of one lemon
  • 2 lbs strawberries, hulled and cut into quarters
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar, or to taste

Recipe:

  1. Beat the cream until soft peaks form
  2. In a large bowl combine the ricotta, mascarpone, 1/2 cup  sugar, and lemon zest. Whip the mixture until thoroughly combined and smooth
  3. Slowly fold the whipped cream into the cheese mixture until smooth. Cover and refrigerate for a couple of hours
  4. Half an hour before serving, gently mix the remaining sugar and balsamic vinegar into a bowl with the quartered strawberries
  5. When ready to serve, fill a clear cup halfway with the strawberries and spoon over the ricotta-mascarpone mousse
  6. Bon appétit! ;)

Serving suggestions: berries, scones, biscuits, pancakes, crepes …

NOTES: Depending on the grade of the balsamic vinegar you have on hand, you should really taste!!! I imagine it’d be more wonderful with super aged, thick balsamic. I think mine came out a little sour because I didn’t taste and poured in too much :P Also, don’t let the strawberries sit in the vinegar for longer than half an hour because you wouldn’t want acidity cooked berries! Nevertheless, I loved it and the sweet cheese mousse was super good. Left over was consumed with such joy and passion the following days. Definitely would make this again!!! It would be a sweet ending to any Italian meal or summer time. 

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Filed under appetizer, Dessert, Main Dish, Side Dish, Vegetable

Short Rib Ragù

For 4-6

Ingredients:

  • 3 lbs bone-in short ribs
  • 1/2 large onion, diced
  • 1 large carrot, sliced
  • 1 stalk of celery, sliced
  • 1/2 oz dried porcini mushrooms
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced
  • 1 cup fire-roasted diced tomatoes with juice
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1/2 tbsp anchovy paste
  • 1/2 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 1-2 qt low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 cup good, full-bodied red wine
  • 1/2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1-2 dashes of Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 bay leaf
  • chopped fresh parsley for garnish

Recipe:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees
  2. In a bowl, rehydrate the porcini mushrooms with 1 cup of warm water
  3. Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy pot over medium heat. Cook the short ribs for about 2 minutes per side, until all sides are browned. Remove from the pot and set aside on a plate
  4. Leave 1 tbsp of fat in the pot and add in onions, carrot and celery. Cook, stir occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic to cook for 1 more minute. Add the tomato and anchovy paste. Stir to coat all the vegetables thoroughly
  5. Add the tomatoes, wine, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, herbs along with the porcini mushrooms and their soaking liquid (top 75% only as the bottom contains grit from the mushrooms). Stir to combine
  6. Add the ribs back into the pot and pour in enough chicken broth to cover the ribs. Bring the mixture to a boil, cover the pot then transfer it to the oven. Cook for 3 hours, or until the meat is very tender and falling off the bones.
  7. Remove from the oven and transfer the meat to a cutting board to cool slightly. Skim off as much fat as possible from the mixture that remains in the pot and puree the mixture in a blender or food processor until sauce becomes mostly smooth
  8. When the meat is cool enough to handle, pull all the meat off the bones and shred it into bite-sized pieces
  9. Transfer the meat to a serving platter and coat with the sauce.
  10. Bon appétit! ;)

Serving suggestions: salad, mashed potatoes, egg noodles, polenta, rice, bread, red wine,  …

NOTES: Excusez moi for the crappy photo, this dish is definitely a keeper. It’s meat falls-off-the-bone tender and taste even better the second day!! :) Perfect for warming and filling up your stomach in the wintry months! Note that this recipe doesn’t call for salt or pepper because anchovy paste, mustard, chicken broth and Worcestershire sauce sufficiently round up the flavors and it’s definitely got a more aromatic than heavy taste. If you crave a bit of the saltiness in dishes, feel free to add salt and pepper to your liking!

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Sunchoke soup with morel mushrooms

For 4-6

Ingredients:

  • 5 oz fresh or 1 oz dried morel mushrooms, halved and cleaned
  • 1 lb Jerusalem artichokes/sunchokes, scrubbed or peeled
  • 2 shallots, chopped
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2/3 cup heavy cream
  • 4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • freshly grated nutmeg
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Recipe:

  1. In a bowl, mix the lemon juice with cold water.  Thinly slice the sunchokes and immediately immerse them in the bowl of lemon water to keep them from browning. Soak for about 5 minutes then drain
  2. Heat 2 tbsp of olive oil over medium heat in a large saucepan. Saute the shallots for 5 minutes and stir frequently. Add the sliced sun chokes and sauté for another 5 minutes
  3. Add the white wine and cook until it’s evaporated. Pour in the chicken or vegetable broth and bring it to a boil. Season with salt and pepper, let it simmer for 15 minutes on low heat till the sunchokes are softened
  4. Puree using a food processor or blender then strain using a medium-mesh strainer. Pour the liquid back into the saucepan and stir in the cream
  5. Heat the remaining tbsp of olive oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Saute the morel mushrooms for 5 mins and season lightly with salt, pepper and freshly grated nutmeg
  6. Serve the soup in bowls or cups and top with the sautéed mushrooms
  7. Bon appétit! ;)

Serving suggestions: salad, bread, white wine  …

NOTES: Gordon Ramsay’s recipe. Let’s just say the flavor is nutty and earthy. A ‘tasting menu’ item if you are feeling like presenting something ‘exotic’, but the taste wasn’t as lovely as I imagined. Sunchokes are the ginger root-like vegetables in grocery store which are in season during the colder months of the year.  To revive dry mushrooms, soak them in lukewarm water for < 30 minutes. Also, the fresh mushroom to dry mushroom ratio is 1 lb fresh = 3 oz dry. The more I think about it the more I regret wasting my morel mushrooms!!!!! :(

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Salmon with Wine Glaze

For 4

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb (4 pieces salmon fillets/steaks)
  • 1/3 cup Pinot Noir
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 1/2 tbsp pure dark maple syrup
  • 1 1/2 tbsp Japanese sesame oil
  • one 1-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled, sliced and finely grated
  • 1 clove of garlic, finely minced
  • olive oil/sesame oil for cooking
  • toasted white and black sesame seeds
  • salt and pepper

Recipe:

  1. Coat one side of the salmon with salt and pepper and spread a layer of toasted sesame seeds on top
  2. Add some oil in a hot skillet, cook salmon with the coated side facing down first, about 3 minutes. Repeat step 1 for the remaining side of the salmon, carefully flip over and cooking for another 3 minutes
  3. In a bowl, mix well the wine, soy sauce, maple syrup, and 1 1/2 tbsp sesame oil, then add in garlic and ginger. Heat the sauce in a sauce pan for 5 – 7 minutes till it reaches a thicker consistency. Drizzle over plated salmon
  4. Bon appétit! ;)

Serving suggestions: Pinot Noir, vegetables, rice …

NOTES: Cooking time of the fish depends on the thickness of the salmon fillet/steak. Watch carefully, it’s ready when the meat turns white-ish and the sideview of the middle section is just slightly pink. Don’t move the fish around much otherwise you will lose the sesame crust. If you are short on sesame oil, olive oil works as well for cooking the fish, but definitely use good quality sesame oil for the glaze. All I can say is that it’d be such a torture to ever eat BAD (dry, flaky, flavorless) salmon again after making this dish. It’s so easy to make as long as you get good ingredients. Treat yourself right, use fresh salmon fish. ;)

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Filed under Main Dish, Seafood

Mushroom and Potato Gratin

For 4-6

Ingredients:

  • 4 small or 3 medium Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 8 – 10 oz wild mushroom, cleaned, dried and sliced
  • 1 head of garlic
  • 1 cup half & half
  • 1 cup coarsely shredded Manchego cheese
  • 1/2 cup shredded smoked Gouda cheese
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1/3 tbsp chopped thyme
  • 1/2 tsp chopped rosemary
  • salt and pepper

Recipe:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 F, in a baking pan, drizzle garlic with oil, cover with foil and roast till tender, about 20 mins
  2. Squeeze out the cloves when cooled and mash to a paste
  3. In a saucepan, add half & half, thyme, rosemary and garlic paste, bring to a boil and simmer till the mixture is reduced to 3/4 cup
  4. Melt butter over medium heat in a skillet, add the mushrooms and cook till juice from the mushrooms has mostly evaporated
  5. Arrange 1/3 of the sliced potatoes in the bottom of a small baking dish, top with 1/3 of the shredded cheese and 1/2 of the mushrooms,  drizzle with garlic cream, season lightly with sea salt and black pepper.  Repeat for one more layer. The very last (top) layer should be potatoes and cheese submerged in the remaining garlic cream
  6. Bake till golden and bubbling, about 25 mins. Let it cool before cutting and serving
  7. Bon appétit! ;)

Serving suggestions: salad, protein, sparkling  …

NOTES: The baking dish I used was about 6.5 x 4.5? (The smallest from the C&B potluck bakers). I used baby Portabella from Trader Joe’s, but feel free to experiment with wild mushroom and cheese varieties. It will certainly turn out yummy no matter what. There are many ways to arrange the ingredients to your liking and to fit your baking dish. Might want to slice a little extra potatoes and shred a little extra cheese than called for due to dish size differences. I definitely used more cheese than mentioned because I LOVE cheese!!!! :D

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Braised Pork with Fennels

For 6-8

Ingredients:

  • 2 – 2 1/2 lb boneless pork shoulder/butt (tied)
  • 3 cloves of garlic, cut into slivers
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 big leek stalk, cut in half lengthwise, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup diced carrots
  • 1 fat fennel with fronds
  • 1 cup hard cider
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 2 tsp fennel seeds, toasted
  • 1 bay leave
  • 1 tbsp fleur de sel
  • salt and cracked black pepper

Recipe:

  1. Cut small slits evenly all over the surface of the pork, insert a sliver of garlic into each slit  (1/4″ deep slit about 1″ apart), rub in salt and cracked black pepper
  2. Heat 1 1/2 tbsp oil in a large enameled iron pan, brown the pork well over medium heat, about 10 mins on all sides. Take it out and place it somewhere else to keep warm
  3. Preheat oven to 325 F
  4. Add 1/2 tbsp oil to the same pan and sautee the carrots and leeks till tender, about 3 mins. Pour in hard cider to bring to a boil. Lower the heat to a high simmer and cook till the cider is reduced to 1/2 cup
  5. Bring pork back into the pan, pour the chicken broth over the meat. Stir to combine with the vegetable and cook till the liquid comes to a boil
  6. Turn off heat, add in the bay leaf and transfer the covered pot into oven, cook pork till melting tender, 1 1/2 – 1 3/4 hrs
  7. In the mean time, chop about 1 tbsp fennel fronds for garnish. Cut the fennel bulb lengthwise into 1/2 inch slices. Heat the remaining oil in a skillet and cook the fennel slices till browned on both sides
  8. Add the browned fennel slices to the braising pork during the last 20 mins of cooking
  9. Remove pot from the oven and carefully lift the fennel slices onto a serving platter
  10. Transfer the pork to a cutting board, let it rest and cool a bit
  11. Skim off fat from the sauce, and reduce the sauce to 1/2 cup, strain
  12. Slice the meat and arrange on a platter with the fennel, spoon sauce over and sprinkle with chopped fennel fronds
  13. Combine toasted fennel seeds and fleur de sel in a small serving bowl/dish, offer to be passed with the braised pork. Sprinkle a pinch if desired
  14. Bon appétit! ;)

Serving suggestions: WINE!!!!!!!

NOTES: VERY VERY tasty!!!!! :D The fennel seeds & salt combination is a must, it adds another layer of unique flavor to the already flavorful, super tender pork, just remember not to over salt-rub the pork shoulder/butt to begin with. Toasting fennel seeds simply means heating up a small, un-greased pan, put the seeds in,  briskly move the pan back and forth and stop when the seeds become fragrant and slightly dark brown.

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Filed under Main Dish