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.