Monday, September 25, 2017

Avoidance Chutney

Article to write plus a boatload of fast-ripening tomatoes to deal with equals a stab at a South Indian-style tomato chutney. It will require a trip to the Sourh Asian grocery, but nothing you can't handle. You could, I suppose, do this with canned tomatoes, but try it when you're overflowing with the ugly ones you get at the end of the season.

As for eating: fantastic with idlies and dosas, brilliant with rotis (Indian breads), perfect for filling an omelet, even great as a dip with potato chips, or with cheese and crackers. For vegans and vegetarians: umami bomb.

Tomato Chutney
Makes about 1 cup

About 1.5 lbs tomatoes, chopped fine or puréed (leave skin and seeds intact)
3 TB neutral oil (e.g. canola)
1 TB ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp brown mustard seeds
1 sprig curry leaves (8-10 leaves), torn up if large
2 dried red chilies, broken into large pieces (remove seeds if you don't like heat)
I medium onion, finely diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp sweet or hot paprika, or Kashmiri red chili powder, depending on your heat preference)
1 TB brown sugar or jaggery (palm sugar) (use less to tasted if you'd like)
1 tsp tamarind concentrate or 1 TB white vinegar

1. Heat oil in wide sauté pan. Add mustard seeds. When they pop, add curry leaves and dried red chilies and stir for a few seconds. Add onion and garlic; sauté until onions are translucent and starting to darken around the edges. Add coriander, cumin, pepper, salt (about 1/2 tsp to start), and paprika. Sauté the mixture for 2 mins or so.

2. Add tomatoes and all their juice. Stir to combine and bring to a lively summer. Let it cook until the misxgure becomes a thick paste and you can see the oil separating from the tomatoes when you push the page around in the pan. If your tomatoes aren't very juicy, or if things start to stick, add a tablespoon or two of water as needed.

3. Near the end of the cooking, add the brown sugar and the vinegar, and stir to combine. Adjust with more salt, sugar, and vinegar till you like the balance of flavors.

4. Let cool. Put in jars and store in your fridge for up to 3 weeks.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Kitchen Therapy, Redux

I am once again turning to the kitchen to deal with (or not deal with) the depressing events of the weekend in Charlottesville. I had a meal recently—the dinner itself was terrible, but the corn pudding on my plate was spectacular. So I'm revisiting the scene of the crime in hopes of putting it to rest.

Chili Cheddar Spoon Bread
Serves 6

1 tablespoon butter, plus more for baking dish
1 c cream plus 1 c skim milk, or 2 c whole milk
1 1/2 cups corn kernels, cut from 2 cobs
3 TB chopped pickled (canned) jalapenos
1 TB fresh thyme leaves
2/3 cup yellow cornmeal
kosher salt 
3 large scallions, chopped
1 cup sharp cheddar cheese
4 large eggs, separated

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Butter a 2-quart baking dish.

2. In a medium saucepan, combine 1 TB butter, cream/milk, corn kernels, jalapenos, thyme, cornmeal, and 1-1/2 tsp kosher salt. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 3-4 minutes until thickened.

3. Take off heat. Add scallions and cheese. When its cooled for a bit (about 15 minutes), stir in 4 egg yolks.

4. While the mixture is cooling, beat the 4 egg whites with a pinch of salt until they form soft peaks. Add 1/3 of the egg whites into the corn mixture, using a spatula and big circular strokes until just combined. Add the rest of the egg whites and combine, using a light hand, so you don't deflate the egg whites. The batter should be fairly light and airy; don't worry if it's not 100% combined.

5. Pour into baking dish. Put in oven and bake for 25-30 minutes until browned on top. Let it rest 5-10 minutes outside the oven before serving.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Cucumber Kimchi

My daughter is off for a week with her dad. Just before she left we went to our CSA farm to pick up our vegetables—we have a canvas bag that we can fill with whatever we will consume in a week. I didn't need much, but I think she was worried about leaving me for so long, so she stuffed the bag full—and now I am drowning in produce. I made four loaves of zucchini bread yesterday, and ate zucchini and sweet onions for dinner (nothing else—just the zucchini). Today I have been reveling in salad so that none of the lettuce goes to waste. The carrots and beets will keep for a while, but there's still so much to get through....

She sent me home with three huge cucumbers, too. I couldn't think of what to do with them, until I came across a simple kimchi recipe that I modified to my taste. Like all kimchi, it relies on a natural process of fermentation—a day or two on the counter is all it takes, really. Looks lovely, too.

Cucumber Kimchi
Makes 3 pints

The fermentation happens quickly, though how long it takes is really a matter of taste—test the pickle regularly, and when it has the right level of tang for you, it's done. Store it in the fridge—it won't keep forever like cabbage kimchi will, but it will certainly keep about a month. Kirby cucumbers (the small, bumpy kind) are best for pickling, but I used big slicing cucumbers because that's what I had. 

3 lbs cucumbers, sliced into rounds or half moons, about 1/4", depending on their size
6 tsp Korean sea salt
1/4 c Korean chili powder
1/4 c minced ginger
12 garlic cloves, minced
6 fat scallions, cut into 3" lengths
water as needed

1. In a large bowl, toss all ingredients together (except water). Allow to sit for 30-45 minutes until some of the liquid is released from the cucumbers.

2. Pack vegetables into squeaky clean jars. Add accumulated liquid from the bowl to each jar. Top off each jar with water—the vegetables should be barely submerged.

3. Cover jars and leave on countertop for 1-2 days, depending on your taste. Every 12 hours or so, shake the jars gently to redistribute the brine and open the lid to let the accumulated gas out.

4. When you decide you like the taste, refrigerate the jars and enjoy as a side dish to just about everything.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

"Thai" Chicken Salad (But Please Don't Blame Thailand)

I don't know where the idea came from the saddle poor Thailand with the ubiquitous "Thai chicken salad" that you see on millions of café menus, especially when the best one I've had was at a café in Vermont that had not an Asian employee (or customer) in sight.

However, of all the things to be saddled with, this particular dish is not such a burden. It's not like baloney (poor Bologna) or Mongolian beef (a pure mall food court creation) or Neapolitan ice cream (Italians would never be so cruel as to interrupt the chocolatey goodness) or Long Island ice tea (although, on second thought, maybe LI deserves that one).

The genius of Thai chicken salad is the dressing, which is spicy and nutty and zingy and gingery, and tastes good on a whole lot of things. It's brilliant with chicken, salad or no, and makes a great dressing for a crunch slaw as well as a leafy salad. Ideas below.

Thai-style Nutty Dressing
Makes about 1 cup

You can use any nut butter you'd like in here—I used peanut butter, but cashew or almond butter would work just as well. 

1/4 c smooth peanut butter
3 TB unseasoned rice wine vinegar
juice of one lime
3 TB neutral oil (canola or grapeseed)
1 TB sesame oil
1 TB soy sauce
1 tsp (or more, or less) chile sauce of your choice, such as sambal oelek, Sriracha, etc.
2 TB honey
1 plump garlic clove (or two svelte ones), peeled and smashed
1 inch ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
2 TB cilantro leaves (optional)
salt to taste

1. Throw all ingredients except salt into a food processor or blender, and puree until very smooth. Taste: add more rice wine vinegar if it needs a bit more acidic bite, and add salt to taste. Whirr again, and it's ready.

"Thai" Chicken Salad
Serves 2

This is dinner at our house. Hearty and full of health. You can cook a chicken breast, or substitute any other protein you'd like—baked or grilled marinated tofu, shrimp, whatever you desire. You can also use rotisserie chicken or other pre-cooked meat or seafood. Use whatever vegetables are fresh—this is definitely something I improvise depending on what's up at the CSA.

1 chicken breast
1 tsp canola oil
2 heaping TB sliced almonds
3 cups romaine lettuce, torn into bite-sized pieces, washed and spun dry
1/2 c shredded napa cabbage
1 carrot, peeled and sliced thinly on the bias (I use a Kyocera slicer/mandoline)
1/2 cucumber, sliced into thin rounds
2 radishes, sliced thin
2 scallions, sliced
a handful of cherry tomatoes, halved
Thai-style nutty dressing

1. Heat a grill pan over medium heat. Season the chicken breast with salt and pepper. Brush grill pan with canola oil; grill chicken breast until cooked (about 10 minutes; nick it with a knife to make sure it's cooked all the way through). Allow to rest on a cutting board. In a small skillet, toast the almonds over medium-high heat, shaking the pan regularly so they don't burn. As soon as they turn golden and toasty, remove from heat.

2. Prepare all the vegetables. In individual salad bowls, arrange lettuce and top with other vegetables. Make it pretty.

3. Cut chicken breast into bite-sized chunks. Arrange artfully over the vegetables. Sprinkle almonds on top, and drizzle generously with dressing to taste. Voilà.

"Thai" Peanut Slaw
Serves 4

This is another "put a bunch of crunchy things in a bowl and mix with dressing" recipes. Good in a lunch box.

4 c shredded napa cabbage
1 c shredded red cabbage (optional)
3 scallions, sliced
2 large carrots, peeled and julienned or shredded, depending on the tools at your disposal
5 radishes, thinly sliced
1 pint sugar snap peas, blanched and cut into 1/2" pieces
1 cucumber, seeded and julienned (but only if you're serving the slaw right away and don't plan on leftovers)
1/3 c sliced almonds, toasted, or the same amount of crushed, dry-roasted peanuts
1/3 c cilantro leaves, washed and dried
Thai-style nutty dressing

1. Put everything into a bowl. Add dressing—start with 1/3 c, and add more until it's got enough for your taste. (I like it fairly lightly dressed.)


Wednesday, August 10, 2016

East Meets West Meets Vegetables

Apparently jalfrezi curry—a quick sauté of vegetables in a thick, spicy tomato sauce—has surpassed chicken tikka masala as the most popular Indian dish in England, which makes the fact that it's almost unknown here in the U.S. even more surprising. Americans should get to know it better—it's easy and super adaptable to whatever vegetables and proteins you have on hand. The ideal weeknight meal, it seems to me.

The stories about its origin are legion—it's an eastern Indian dish, probably from Calcutta, which of course was the seat of English colonial trade for a long time and has a strong Chinese influence. One story is that it was concocted as a way to deal with the leftovers from British Sunday suppers—all that leftover meat and cooked vegetables were turned into a quick, spicy sauté. Another is that it was an Indianized version of a Chinese stir-fry. Both are plausible, and of course one doesn't necessarily contradict the other. (Of course, it could have just been invented in some London curry house, too, I suppose. Go diasporic restaurant owners.)

It only occured to me to make this because I had made a batch of paneer to use up a glut of milk, and someone gave me a green pepper—a capsicum, in British and Indian locution. So: paneer jalfrezi it was. Colorful, healthful, and versatile. I ate it with rice, but you could also do as Indians do and wrap it up in a flatbread for a satisfying lunch (naan or pita would work if you don't feel like making rotis).

Paneer Jalfrezi
Serves 3

You can substitute any protein for the paneer—if you use something raw (say chicken breast), cut it into strips 1x2" and sauté it till golden, remove it from the pan, and proceed with the recipe. If you use something cooked (leftover roasted or grilled meat), skip the sautéing and just add it in later. Of course you should feel free to skip the protein altogether and add some other vegetables: blanched green beans, cauliflower, broccoli—whatever your heart (or CSA share) desires.

To make paneer (which is seriously the easiest thing in the world): Place 2 quarts whole milk in a saucepan and bring just to a boil. As soon as it comes to a boil, add 3 TB lemon juice or white vinegar and turn the heat down to low. You'll see the milk curdle, with greenish whey separating from white curds. Empty the pot into a cheesecloth-lined colander (or use a clean tea towel) and when cool enough to handle bring the corners of the cloth together and twist tightly so that the most of the whey drains from the paneer. Lay the bundle, with the top still tightly twisted, on a cutting board you've placed in the sink, top with a plate and a weight for about 5 minutes. Now unwrap the paneer and use it.

You can also buy paneer at an Indian store, or substitute firm tofu (skip the initial browning).

1 batch of paneer, cut into 1" cubes
1 TB canola oil
1/2 tsp nigella seeds (kalonji)
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1 c onion, sliced
2 tsp finely minced garlic
1-2 tsp finely minced ginger
1 green or red chili, sliced (to taste—you can even leave this out)
2 tsp coriander powder
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/4-1 tsp red chili powder (to taste)
1 green pepper, sliced into strips
3 medium carrots, sliced on an angle
3 medium very ripe tomatoes, or 1 c canned diced tomatoes
1 perfectly ripe tomato of whatever color you'd like (mine was yellow), cut into thinnish wedges
1 tsp garam masala
2 tsp kasuri methi (fried fenugreek leaves), if you have it (I didn't)

1. Cut the very ripe tomatoes in half and take out the core. On the big holes of a box grater set over a bowl, grate the tomato. This is an easy way to separate the pulp from the skin (discard the skin) and make a purée. It's a very Spanish trick that I use all the time now when I have VERY ripe tomatoes.

2. In a medium nonstick frying pan, heat 1/2 TB canola oil over medium high heat. When hot, add cubes of paneer. Allow the cubes to brown on one side, then flip them over. Keep doing this until each piece has 2 or 3 golden brown crusty sides. Remove to a plate.

3. Add remaining canola oil to the pan, along with cumin and nigella (kalonji) seeds. When these become fragrant, add the onion and sauté until transluscent. Add the ginger, garlic, and fresh chili (if using) and stir fry for 1 minute. Now add coriander powder, turmeric, red chili powder, and salt to taste and sauté until the spices have toasted and covered the vegetables, about 30 seconds.

4. Add the tomato puree, and allow the mixture to cook until thickened, about 5 minutes over lively heat (longer if your tomatoes were very watery). Now add the green pepper and carrots. Allow to cook for another 5 minutes until the vegetables are just cooked—not soggy.

5. Add the paneer, garam masala, kasuri methi (if using) and fresh tomato, and stir gently to combine. Allow to simmer for a couple of minutes. Serve hot with rice, Indian breads, or stuff in a paratha or pita.


Sunday, July 31, 2016

We All Quack for Ice Cream

For two years, my daughter has been pestering me to try to make the MOST DELICIOUS ice cream she's EVER TASTED omg it was so good: duck egg ice cream.

Now, I will fully admit that this sounded like the most digusting thing in the world to me; not sure why, because all it is is ice cream wherein the custard base is made with duck egg yolks vs. chicken egg yolks. And since duck egg yolks are larger and much richer than chicken egg yolks, it made sense to use them for ice cream (plus the whites of duck eggs aren't particularly tasty, so you feel less guilty throwing them out).

But nonetheless, I resisted, until—lo and behold—I saw sitting in the dairy case of my local organic market half dozens of duck eggs, produced by one of the local farms. They're quite a bit larger than chicken eggs, and the shell is thicker, more brittle, and more transluscent, so that you see a rosy golden glow from inside them.

Before I could divert my kid's attention, she spotted them, too, and my goose was cooked.

Thank goodness, as it turns out. This was the first entirely successful ice creams I've made in my Cuisinart ice cream maker, and maybe the most delicious ice cream I've ever eaten, no joke. It's plain vanilla, but really: what could be wrong with that.

If you come across duck eggs, the rule is use 2 duck egg yold for every 3 chicken eggs. In this recipe, you could use 8 chicken egg yolks instead.

Duck Egg Ice Cream
Makes a quart

Homemade ice cream is not a spur of the moment thing—you need to make sure the freezer bowl of your ice cream maker is sufficiently chilled, that your custard is cold, and that you have time between the churning and the eating for the ice cream to set up properly. You could add whatever mix-ins you'd like; if you add fruit, cook it with a little bit of sugar and let it cool completely before adding it.

6 duck eggs, separated (whites discarded)
1 c sugar
2 c whole milk
2 c cream
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

1. Put the bowl of your ice cream maker in the freezer. It needs to freeze solid before you churn—at least 24 hrs.

2. Make the custard: In a saucepan, off the heat, whisk together the egg yolks and the sugar till smooth and glossy. Slowly pour in the milk, whisking all the time, until thoroughly combined. Place on stove over medium heat and stir constantly with a wooden spoon, making sure to scrape out the corners of the pot so nothing sticks. After about 10-12 minutes, the custard should have thickened—you'll know it's ready when you can run a finger across the back of the spoon and the line stays visible.

3. Fill a large bowl about halfway full with ice, and nestle a smaller bowl inside it. Strain the custard into the smaller bowl through a fine-meshed sieve. Stir in the cream and the vanilla extract till everything is completely combined. Cover the smaller bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 24 hrs, so it's thoroughly chilled.

4. Take your ice cream maker's freezer bowl out of the freezer, pour in the custard base, and set the machine. Let the ice cream churn for about 25 minutes—it will look like softish soft serve, and will "grow" as air gets incorporated. When it's at this stage, remove it to a glass baking pan (like a Pyrex) or some other suitable container and cover it well with plastic wrap. Place it back in the freezer for at least 4 hrs.

5. Scoop, serve, and swoon.


Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Okay, I know it's been a while....

I'm blogged out but I'm not cooked out. So, with your permission, dear readers, I'm just going to post some recipes of things I've been eating—often made using others' recipes, instead of ones I've developed myself.

I've been making a lot of kimchi, Korean fermented cabbage pickle, lately because I made the collosal (AND BRILLIANT) "mistake" of joining not one, but two CSA's this year: the charming Caretaker Farm, where you actually contribute to the labor of the farm and reap all its benefits, and Mighty Food Farm, with its terrific array of produce.