Saturday, October 30, 2010

Potato Curry with Tomatoes

I hope everyone is getting ready for the first major holiday of 2010. Yes, Halloween counts. I'm actually going to an evening group meditation sit tomorrow so I won't get to see the cute neighborhood kids dressed up. What are you all up to?

The Indian cooking continues with oohs and aahs from the family. I'm hearing that my bread and Indian food are causing weight gain. I think it's because they are over eating. I just cook. I don't provide portion control services. That's extra!

I've been making recipes from my little Indian cook book on a weekly basis with lots of success. So far, all the recipes I've tried (all three of the 1001) have been great! Easy, tasty and complete within 45 minutes. This one too. I love the potatoes and tomatoes together. The spices are amazing together in this combination. You could use this spice combo and vary the vegetables (and the cooking times accordingly). Thus, far this has become the family and friends favorite.

Serve with your favorite Indian bread or whole wheat tortillas, like I did. I promise you yumminess.

- 1 lb potatoes
- 4 T oil (I use half the amount called for in recipes, otherwise it is too much!)
- 2.5 tsp mustard seeds
- 2.5 tsp cumin seeds
- 1/2 tsp garam masala
- 2.5 tsp ground red chili
- 1/2 tsp ground turmeric
- salt to taste
- 14 ounce canned diced tomatoes
- 2/3 c water
- 2 T lemon juice
- 1 T chopped fresh cilantro, for garnish

1. Boil the potatoes in their skins then drain, peel and cut in 1/4 inch diameter. I would boil until a knife can pierce the potato easily, about 10-15 minutes.

2. Heat oil in a heavy-based pan and fry mustard seeds over medium heat until the start crackling. Add the cumin seeds and fry for a few seconds until lightly browned. Stir in the potato pieces and fry until lightly browned. Stir in the coriander, cumin, garam masala, chili, turmeric and salt.

3. Stir in tomatoes and cook until the water has been absorbed. Pour in the water, bring to the boil then reduce the heat to low and simmer for 2 minutes. Add the lemon juice. Sprinkle with cilantro.

Note: I took the pictures after I followed the above recipe to a T. I found that the sauce was rather thick and a little chalky so I thinned it out with additional water, making it as saucy as I wanted, sort of medium thick. Add water to your desired consistency.

Happy Halloween!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Walnut Bread

My baking kick continues and now that the weather has definitively cooled, I have more to bake. Plus with a hungry brood of appreciative soles to feed, I feel nothing but desire to please those that eat my fare day in and day out without complaint.

After trying out a few no knead breads and not being as satisfied as I would like, I decided to go back to kneaded breads. I'm REALLY glad I did. I made this very easy walnut bread from Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone. It's dense, hearty, nutritious and scrumptious!. It also has the added bonus of making two loaves for all your efforts. A very deal for the work put in. Freeze one for later!

I love this bread untoasted with butter and cheese. I loved it toasted, with butter again, and sardines and avocado. I've been eating a slice or two a day of the high fiber content. No guilt here.

Try it out and tell me what you think.

- 2 1/2 c warm water
- 2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast (1 envelope)
- 1/4 cup roasted walnut oil (I used regular walnut oil)
- 1 T honey or malt syrup
- 1/ 2 c nonfat dry milk
- 2 tsp salt
- 1 cup wheat bran if whole-wheat flour is smooth
- 3 to 4 c whole-wheat flour (I used white whole wheat)
- About 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 cups chopped walnuts, preferably blanched and roasted
- Melter butter for top

1. Stir yeast into 1/4 cup warm water in a small bowl and set it aside while you gather your ingredients

2. Put 2 1/4 c warm water in a mixing bowl and stir in the oil, honey, dry milk, and salt. Add bran and whole wheat flour (If you add 1 cup bran, then reduce wheat flour to 2 to 3 cups). Beat well until batter is smooth. Add enough all-purpose flour to make a heavy dough that pulls away from the sides of the bowl, then add walnuts. Turn the dough out onto a counter and knead until smooth (won't be perfectly smooth with the use of wheat flour), adding more white flour as needed to keep it from sticking. Put the dough in an oiled bowl, turn it once, cover with plastic wrap, and set aside to rise until doubled, about 1.5 hours.

3. Turn the dough out and cut it into two or three pieces (I did two). Shape each piece into a tight ball, cupping around the dough to give it a plump, round shape. Place each ball on an oiled baking sheet, cover, and set aside until doubled in bulk, about 45 minutes. During the last 15 minutes, preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

4. Slash breads, making three or four parallel cuts across the loaves, then brush with melted butter. Bake until a rich brown crust is formed and the bread is done, about 40 minutes.

Blanched and Roasted Walnuts
This simple process really improves the flavor of shelled walnuts that aren't freshly cracked. Bring a pan of water to a boil, add walnuts, and let them stand for a 1 minute. Drain and wick up the excess moisture with at towel. Spread them out on a sheet pan, then roast in a 300 degree F oven until they've dried out, about 20 minutes. Remove them as soon as they are dry.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Tortilla Espanola

I've been busy hosting dinner parties and it's been fun. I enjoy hosting friends and family; this week I've been doing it on a weekly basis. I like to cook foods that make people feel special which can some times be time consuming. But because I work full time and have a packed schedule of daily meditation, yoga, gardening, writing, blogging, cooking, cleaning house, etc. I like to cook food that is tasty, fuss free, and allows me to be an attentive host. Apologies for the less than ideal picture.

So easy and tasty, it's one of my favorite dishes to make on the fly. Supplement with a green salad with avocado, tomatoes and pomegranate, and a dense wheat bread with cheese, and you have the perfect quick dinner party meal. You probably the ingredients for all three of these dishes in your kitchen now. This meal is guaranteed to fly off the table; there were no leftovers.

I previously blogged about this dish back in 2006, using Deborah Madison's recipe. Mark Bittman was my chef this week. His recipe is more simple with fewer ingredients. I love this one too. The eggs were moist and the potato perfectly cooked through. Some of the potatoes on top were a little crunchy, like potato chips and they were yummy, really. Next time, I think I will add a dash of chili flakes for a little heat. I couldn't stop picking at it until the guests arrived.

Makes at least 4 servings

45 minutes or less
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 pound waxy red or white potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/8 inch slices (I didn't peel)
- Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- 1 large onion, sliced
- 1 red pepper, stemmed, peeled if desired, seeded and sliced
- 1 tsp minced garlic
- 6 eggs
- 1/2 cup minced fresh parsley leaves

1. Place about half the olive oil in a large oven proof skillet, preferably non-stick, and turn the heat to medium. Add the potato slices and season liberally with salt and pepper. Cook, turning gently from time to time, until they soften, about 20 minutes. Remove with slotted spoon.

2. Add the remaining oil to the pan, followed by the onion and red pepper, and cook, stirring occassionally, until nice and soft, about 10 minutes. Add garlic and cook another 2 minutes. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

3. Return potatoes to the skillet, and turn the heat to medium low. Continue to cook, turning with spatula, for about 5 more minutes. Beat the eggs wiht parsley.

4. Turn the heat to low and pour the eggs over the potatoes, undisturbed, for about 5 minutes. Transfer from the oven and bake until the mixture is set, about 10 minutes more. Remove the pan and cool to room temperature before cutting into chunks wedges. Serve.

Bittman calls for first cooking the potatoes, and then the onions and red pepper separately. Not sure why. This takes more time than necessary but I followed his recipe exactly except that I had two skillets working simultaneously. Below I present easy modifications.

My modifications. I thought steps 1 and 2 could be combined to save time in one very large skillet. First cook potatoes and onions together, and then in the last 5 minutes add red pepper. Then continue with the garlic, and the remainder of the recipe. I felt that my potatoes were soft enough so I didn't cook the potatoes more in Step 3. Rather, I jumped right to adding the eggs. I think this will save you time. Something we can all use a little more of, no?!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Golden Beet and Greens Soup | Simple Soup

I don't know about you, I grocery shop with the weather in mind and only once a week. Last time I shopped it was cool fall day. The sun was out and the air was crisp perfect for fall foods like soups, curries and Indian food, and bread making. Then the weather did a 180 and it's been 80+ degrees this whole week -- beach weather calling for salads, melons, and less cooking! Don't get me wrong, I love the heat especially since it's unusual and short lived in this area but when the heat turns up, I like to cook less. You? Isn't it funny how that happens?

I've been playing catch up with a few Sunset magazine recipes. I recommend the Oct 2009 issue (yeah, I'm really behind) of Sunset for their roasted red pepper soup, fennel apple bisque, mushrooms in sherry shallot broth, and this lovely golden beet and beet greens soup. To be fair, I was not a huge fan as much as I love beets. I grew them from seed earlier this year and will be planting them again in a few weeks for a Spring harvest. I love the sweetness and how they look when they've been roasted or steamed. But in this soup, I didn't care for the sweetness with the savory. Friends really loved the soup and I don' think they were just being nice.

I do love how quickly this recipe comes together with very few ingredients that you probably have in your kitchen. It's even quicker if you cook the beets the night before, and it's pretty to look at too.

Serves 4-6

- 3 large golden beets
- 1 small, thinly sliced red onion
- 2 large garlic cloves, minced
- 1-2 T olive oil
- 4-5 C vegetable or chicken broth

1. Trim stems from beets (leave 1 inch attached to beets) and cutting off leafy tops. Discard stems from tops; cut leaves crosswise into thin shreds. Note: Beet greens do not last long so if you don't plan on using greens the day you purchase beets, I recommend buying beets without the greens and substituting 4 ounces of another green like chard, spinach, kale, or your favorite green.

2. Simmer beets until tender, 35- 45 minutes, first bringing them to a boil. Drain and cool. Remove skins and stems, then cut beets thinly crosswise into circles.

3. Saute 1 small, thinly sliced red onion with minced garlic cloves in olive oil until slightly browned. Add beets and 4 cups vegetable or chicken broth. Bring to a boil. Stir in beet greens (or other greens) and cook until greens are wilted, about 1 minute. Add broth to soup to thin it, if you like, and season with salt and freshly ground pepper.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Spicy Cauliflower and Peas | Easy Indian

This past weekend I had friends over for dinner. The chocolate chip cookies made it to the dinner -- I exhibited a lot of will power! I cooked Indian to expand my repertoire from the motherland. It was also the easiest way to feed a friend who is both trying out a vegan and gluten free diet. Kind of tough but very doable. Plus, one of the three dishes was in the freezer which then required me to make only two dishes, one that I knew how to make and a new one! The starter course was the lentil sambar that I wrote about a few posts ago. I also made this absolutely scrumptious and easy cauliflower and pea dish which takes about 45 minutes max (probably less once you've made it at least once) including the chopping up of the cauliflower and grinding up of the cumin and coriander, unless you already have them in the ground form.

Personally, I now keep only the seeds because the potency of these spices lasts longer. Plus, I enjoy using the mortar and pestle to grind up spices. It's a relaxing to pound away the troubles of the day and simultaneously have mouth watering aromas waft up to your nose. It's a win-win. This dish is great for those that love cauliflower -- I've used all varieties including green, white, orange and purple -- and are vegetarian or vegan. It's fairly quick and can be served with dal, rice, raita, etc. The dish is also extremely attractive and tastes and looks great with short grain brown rice. It's a good blend of spices and is not too hot, not like the hot I've described with curry and sambar powders.

This recipe had a few errors that I correct for, like cooking the cauliflower for 40 minutes. The cauliflower will cook in approx. 15-20 minutes and the dish, if served alone, probably does not serve 4-6, more like 2-3.

Yes, the dish does appear fluorescent yellow. That's the turmeric in action!

- 6 T oil
- 1 tsp mustard seeds
- 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
- 1 inch ginger root, minced
- 1 medium cauliflower, cut into small florets
- 2 tsp ground coriander
- 1 tsp garam masala
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1/2 tsp ground red chili, (reduce to 1/4 tsp if you're sensitive to spice)
- 1/2 tsp ground turmeric
- salt to taste
- 2/3 c water
- 9 oz peas (frozen is fine!)

Garnish with chopped fresh cilantro

1. Heat the oil in a heavy-base pan and fry the mustard seeds over medium heat until the start crackling (cover with lid so you don't get splattered).

2. Add the cumin seeds and fry until browned.

3. Add the ginger and cauliflower and fry for 10 minutes until lightly browned.

4. Stir in the coriander, garam masala, cumin, chili, turmeric, salt and water, bring to a boil, then cover and simmer for about 15-20 minutes or until the cauliflower is tender, stirring occasionally.

5. Stir in the peas and simmer for 5 minutes until tender. Sprinkle the cilantro and serve hot.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Where the Cookie Crumbles

Everyone has their favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe. Who doesn't? Who didn't enjoy making the chocolate chip cookies from the back of the Toll-House package or some other recipe. Licking the leftover batter from the spatula was a highlight. Not one speck of batter was wasted, was it?! Raw eggs, who cared.

While Cook's Illustrated says this recipe is the best, and it might very well be, there are countless of wonderful mouth watering recipes. I haven't tried them all to say definitively if this the best but I love it. Cook's goal was to perfect the back-of-the-bag classic with a cookie that was crisp at the edges, chewy in the middle, and full of rich toffee flavor. I've been wanting to make these cookies forever! They made over 700 cookies to perfect this recipe! Given the butter content in these, their staff must have gained weight!

What did I love about this recipe? What's not to love. Butter is one of the main ingredients. Every cookie has almost 1 T of butter. If you believe butter makes everything better than you'll adore these cookies. The butter is melted and browned so that it can caramelize in the oven more which allows for crispy edges and toffee flavor. An added bonus is that you don't need a standing mixer to make these. I also love the nooks and crannies vs. the some times smooth texture that may occur.

I also enjoyed the technique of whisking and resting (read below in the recipe) which develops the deep toffeelike flavor without adding toffee. The high fat content allows these babies to freeze well. A lot are in the freezer now and will be shared with friends this weekend when they come over for an all Indian dinner. I can't wait. In the mean time, I'm trying to stay away from the freezer so there will be some left. We'll see! Can you see where I took a bite (around 10/11 o'clock)?!

Tell me, where does your cookie crumble?!

And before I forget, I want to thank Anu, at My Kitchen Skills, for giving me the Sunshine Award. It made my day brighter on our first fall day. Thank you! I need to pass the award and will do so in the next few weeks.

Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies

Makes 16 cookies

- 1 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 14 T unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 3/4 c packed dark brown sugar
- 1 tsp table salt
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 large egg
- 1 large egg yolk
- 1 1/4 c semisweet chocolate chips or chunks
- 3/4 cup chopped pecans or walnuts, toasted (optional)

1. Adjust oven rack to middle rack and heat oven to 375 degrees. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper. Whisk flour and baking soda together in medium bowl; set aside.

2. Heat 10 T butter in 10 inch skillet over medium high-heat until melted, about 2 minutes. Continue cooking, swirling pan constantly until butter is dark golden brown and has nutty aroma, 1 to 3 minutes. Remove skillet from heat and, using heatproof spatula, transfer browned butter to large heatproof bowl. Stir in remaining 4 T butter into hot butter until completely melted.

3. Add both sugars, salt, and vanilla to bowl with butter and whisk until fully incorporated. Add egg and yolk and whisk until mixture is smooth with no sugar lumps remaining, about 30 seconds. Let mixture stand for 3 minutes, then whisk for 30 seconds. Repeat process of resting and whisking 2 more times until mixture is thick, smooth and shiny. Using rubber spatula or wooden spoon, stir in flour mixture until just combined, about 1 minute. Stir in chocolate chips and nuts (if using), giving dough final stir to ensure no flour pockets remain.

4. Divide dough into 16 portions, each about 3 T (or use #24 cookie scoop). Arrange 2 inches part on prepared baking sheets, 8 dough balls per sheet.

5. Bake cookies 1 tray at a time until cookies are golden brown and still puffy, and edges have begun to set but centers are still soft, 10 to 14 minutes, rotating baking sheets half way through. Transfer baking sheet to wire rack, cool cookies completely before serving.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Buttermilk Pot Style Bread

This is it, my final no knead bread before having to return the book to the library. I thought I was going to be sad about it. In fact, I had been searching to buy a used copy online because I think it would be a great reference. Plus, I wanted to continue my quest to make a new bread every week to 10 days, rather than shell out the $$ to buy a loaf at the store.

Initially, I thought it was me but after making three different loaves, I'm convinced the recipes are good, but not the best.

I started with Peasant Style Pot Bread, probably the best of the three I made from this book. It was like eye candy. Beautiful to look and the scent that filled my home was wonderful. It But like some eye candy, it lacked depth. It had good, if slightly salty flavor. Not as good as the almost no knead bread.

The second was the French walnut bread. Not sure what made it French but I loved the use of walnuts. This bread was good but still not great. In fact, it was not as good as some nut breads I've purchased at the store. A negative for me was the difficulty in stirring the nuts into the dough before the 2nd rise. The nuts were not evenly distributed, and ultimately I believe this affected the loaf.

For my final hurrah (3 week limit at the library) I chose the buttermilk pot style bread because the picture was stunning. Light colored bread flecked with coarse salt, it was perfection. That should have been my tip off. You see, the picture and the description of the recipe did not jive, namely, the recipe said to bake the bread until it was deep brown. The picture of it was not even close to deep brown, it was more like the color of corn bread but slightly lighter. Once again, I had difficulty stirring in the buttermilk powder after the 1st rise. In fact, I had to use my hands to knead it in. I thought this was no knead bread! It was nearly impossible to stir in the powder. I mostly got it in but where it didn't, after it was baked, there were small yellow chunks, almost like the consistency of yolk in the hard boiled egg, on the softer side.

The loaf was not as light and as airy as I thought it would be. It was a little dense and soft. I would skip the coarse salt. It makes the bread look great BUT where you get a bit of coarse salt, you also get a large dose of saltiness. Not good. So after a few days, I picked off all the salt and that helped. It makes really great toast.

I recommend checking out the book at your local library, and trying some of the recipes. Start with a simple one just to gain your confidence and to realize how little work is required to make bread. I learned a lot. I continue to make bread every 10 days or so. Until Cook's Illustrated makes another no knead or almost knead bread, I'll continue with their original recipe. Love it.