Sunday, November 30, 2008
I am feeling fairly uninspired blog-wise. True, I have not been completely consumed with cooking and eating as I had been during the height of the produce season, but it is not as if I have fasted.
Instead, I am feeling uncertain about the future of the blog. Doesn’t that sound a little like a verbal rain cloud? I don’t mean there is a threatened foreclosure. You see, I started this as a way to write everyday; not that everyday’s writing was good this year… But, now I wonder if this blog is about writing. I know that many bloggers are part of a niche, but I don’t know if I have one or am in one. But, of course, we all seem to fall in with a crowd eventually. While I am not part of a tight-network, I do have my regular readers (thanks, Mom).
So here is my question: Like the writing? Wish there was less? Wish there was more? Shut up and give me the recipes? Notice the poll to the right and fill in accordingly
And, on to the business at hand. There is a POM of the curvy bottled juice notoriety contest for the Foodie Blogroll and like everyone, $5000 would be nice. This recipe is super easy and a crowd pleaser.
Pomegranate Chicken Tagine
Marinate 1 Chicken breast with the following dry rub
1 T cumin
2 t cinnamon
1 T turmeric
1 t chili pepper
In a tagine or heavy bottomed pot, brown the chicken
Add 3 small onions that have been sliced
Once onions have browned, add:
1 cup POM pomegranate juice (product placement wink here)
1 acorn squash, diced
2 carrots, diced very large
Simmer until chicken is tender
Top with pomegranate seeds
Serve with Yellow Raisin, Pomegranate Seed, Almond Couscous
I have a serious squash fetish. By serious, I mean that I have four different varieties squash loitering on my kitchen counter right now waiting to be engaged in some sort of something. It started when I became a squash paparazzi at the farmers market. At first I think my husband was amused, then slightly embarrassed on behalf of the squash, and then finally delighted at the squash-infused food. The most successful of these was a squash foccaccia. For the recipe, I used a recipe from Cooking Light, but used two different squash: a red kuri squash and another fancy red squash whose name I never new (such a one night stand it was). I also roasted the seeds and added them to the top of the focaccia.
And, I am sending this Bread Baking Day—Color hosted by Grain Power. And below, I offer squash porn.
Saturday, November 29, 2008
Many years ago now, I was tucking into a large slice of caramel cake that had been sent up from Mississippi by family. My mother in law explained that this cake had gained high esteem over years of family events however I should not even consider trying to make one from scratch because it was too difficult. Having unknowingly thrown down the gauntlet, I began to perfect the caramel cake. It would soon begin the cake of choice for holiday fetes.
This year I thought I would stray from a frosting and syrup laden cake and go with the one that Claudia of cook, eat, FRET makes with glaze only. And then, the Daring Bakers decided this was the month to turn to caramel making with a recipe from Shauna Fish Lydon that called for the syrup to be included in the cake batter and then frosted (sorry Claudia) with a browned butter frosting of a sort.
The recipes for everything were fairly easy if you are used to working with sugar. Caramel is can be a persnickety proposition; it requires the faith to keep from stirring, the patience to watch it while keeping from stirring, and the quickness to stop the cooking at the exact moment it is done.
We went with the original recipe exactly and then topped the cupcakes with candied bacon. Of this addition to the frosting, my husband said with these and a beer, a man could be contented for the rest of his life.
Holidays however require a strong element of continuity, and while this cake was good, it was not the Mississippi-esque caramel cake that my family knows and loves. So next year, back to our Ole Missy.
And for those of you keeping score (rest assured there are people keeping score):
Name of the Cookbook - Shuna Fish Lyndon's recipe -(http://blogs.kqed.org/bayareabites/2006 … he-recipe/)
Name of the Author - Shuna Fish Lyndon
Hosts for the month - Dolores the host (http://culinarycuriosity.blogspot.com/) with Co-hosts Alex (Brownie of the Blondie and Brownie duo: http://blondieandbrownie.blogspot.com/), Jenny of Foray into Food (http://forayintofood.blogspot.com/). And since none of us know jack about alternative baking, we’ve once again turned to Natalie of Gluten-a-Go-Go (http://glutenagogo.blogspot.com/) to assist us.
Thursday, November 27, 2008
When I was a kid, television was populated by happy families—not Leave it to Beaver Happy but Cosby happy. Thanks to these good folks, I knew full well that all families in America would convene around full tables to enjoy turkey and all the trimmings. My mother tried to recreate the trimmings with her own twist as most immigrants do and while the food changed, Thanksgiving was basically every other dinner eaten late in the evening after my parents returned home from work.
When my husband and I were dating, we wanted to institute our own tradition—a sort of outsider Thanksgiving for those who were not going home or had no home to go to. When we were in grad school, such souls seemed to be all around us. But, after many years of guests and friends, this Thanksgiving, it looked like was going to be another quiet evening. And, then today we became someone else’s lost souls at their dinner.
I had a vague plan to make our traditional Thanksgiving cake, but without my cousin here I didn’t really have it in me. Belle was asleep (we don’t watch TV when she is around) and I was appreciating the peace in getting sucked into the Top Chef episode that I missed from last night. The blond contestant (it is far too early in the season to invest the energy to learn their names) mentioned that she used vadouvan in her soup.
Vadouvan is the new ras el hanout, I am guessing. It was in a recent Gourmet magazine, and I have seen it popping up on French language cooking websites. And, while my husband thinks I have too many Indian cookbooks (particularly as I have a family full of Indians to call for recipes), I couldn’t find any real leads in those books. Proof I need more, no?
The story I have constructed from the Internet, which is always flawlessly truthful and carefully fact-checked, is this. Vadouvan is French seasoning born of a Tamil seasoning called vadagam. Rather than the masala powders that I know better, such as garam masala, this mix is not solely born of ground roasted spices. Originally, in Tamil, this seasoning is equal parts roasted, caramelized alliums (garlic, onion, shallots) and spices roasted all mixed up and then dried in the sun.
And, where did the French come into this story? Well, colonialism, my friend. The French focused their colonial interests in India on trade instead of broad people-managing concerns of the British. As with all the colonial regions of India, food flavors intermingled. The Frenchmen who came to Pondicherry in Tamil Nadu in the South found a very different cuisine from the fish-rich cuisine of Goa that the Portuguese or the rich meat curries of British North India. Tamil food from what little I have experienced is a wonderful balance of tangy and pungent spice.
So, in the slowest Thanksgiving I have had in over a decade, I decided to make my own vadouvan. Of course, vadouvan is like everything else hybrid in that if the recipe conformed exactly to the Indian recipes it would not be the authentic French vadouvan. And, as vadouvan is really a creole of French fanciness and Tamil tastiness, well, it is proof that authentic is often difficult to define. It is sort of like authentic Indian Chinese food—it is not Indian, it is not Chinese but some delicious hybrid.
I picked and chose from various recipes. The Gourmet recipe did not include black gram dal, but as we somehow have three bags of it at home (my father brought it to me when he realized Belle loves dosas), I decided to offload some here. The Gourmet recipe included nutmeg and cloves which were missing from the couple recipes I found on Tamil food blogs (Cook Food, Serve Love and Illatharasi). I split the difference including the cloves and not the nutmeg.
While I use these spices everyday, this blend smelled surprisingly different. The resulting blend was surprisingly sweet from all the caramelized onions while at the same time with the richness of mustard seeds and fenugreek. The smell is really intoxicating but in some ways light. And, it is way cheaper than spending $64 for 1 lb.
And then back to Thanksgiving, I made potatoes and Brussels sprouts roasted at a high temperature. Once cooked, I tossed the vegetables in a vinaigrette of apple cider vinegar, grapeseed oil, sautéed onions, and a couple T of vadouvan.
This somewhat long-winded post is my entry to Weekend Herb Blogging hosted this week by by Scott at The Real Epicurean began by Kalyn of Kalyn’s Kitchen run by Haalo of Cook Almost Anything At Least Once.
Vadouvan my way
Slice into thin long slivers:
3 small onions
3 small leeks
12 small shallots
15 garlic cloves (peeled but whole)
Toss with olive oil and roast at 250 until caramelized and lovely
In a skillet, toast:
2 T split black lentils (urid/urad)
2 T cumin
1 T coriander
4 t mustard seeds
2 t fenugreek
10 curry leaves
1 t ground cardamom
1 teaspoon turmeric
2 red chilli peppers
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
Whirl roasted spices until a thick powder. Combine with the alliums ground spices and form into balls. Refigerate or use immediately.
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
I had planned to write up a post about my mother’s special stuffing, a hybrid of potato bhaaji and Stove-top in honor of Thankgiving. I planned to commemorate how thankful I am to be both Indian and American.
But, I feel exceedingly saddened by the news of the attacks in Mumbai; I have spent much of the evening watching Indian news online. While my family lives in the less posh parts of the city, I can’t help but picture my grandmother, intrepid as she most certainly is, seated alone in her apartment watching the news with the shutters drawn tight.
Bombay is a great microcosm of joy, dirt, people, sounds, smells and food. Movement is the only constant; this amazing city is New York on steroids. Muggy monsoon evenings, cluttered streets, delicious street food, the smell of jasmine, camels on the beach, the honk of rickshaws…I wish that I could weave these fond memories of the city into any clear narrative.
Sitting here focused on this siege, this breach of safety, this assault onto humanity, I can’t help but wonder if the street vendors will be able to make their meager income today. I can’t help but wonder if the poor who have no where else but the streets as their home will go if the violence continues and spreads. I can’t help but wonder when this sort of violence will end.
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
My father’s childhood is mostly a mystery to me. I have only heard a couple stories of his life before me and most of those are through family and friends. I have tried to recreate the exact moment when he started drinking coffee. My father’s love of coffee is so abiding that I am fairly certain it will be mentioned in his obituary (not that that will happen any time soon.) If you took a straw poll of the hundreds and hundreds of people he knows, coffee-drinking would be at the top of the list of personal traits.
There is a clear geographic distribution to coffee and tea-drinking in India. My family hails from the land of tea. (I blame heritage for my addiction to said substance.) The first time I had coffee in India I was sitting at an engagement ceremony. Breakfast in all its fried magnificence was being served. Men were running around the room dipping ladles into the stainless steel vats of piping coffee and adeptly pouring them from great height into the guest’s stainless steel cups. As a tween (though we didn’t have that word back then), I had never had coffee (again, we didn’t have Starbuck’s mochas back then either.) To call that drink coffee would be serious misrepresentation. It was basically warm, sweet, spicy milk kissed by a coffee essence. Candy more than anything else.
I always imagine that this was the sort of coffee concoction that my dad’s mother created when he requested coffee for breakfast. Without any hard-evidence, I instead base this assumption on my grandmother’s fantastic sweet tooth and ability to make anything tasty. Something in him must have inherently understood the lameness of this coffee, because apparently in college, away from home for the first time, my father started to associate himself with the coffee-plantation kids. Under their tutelage, he began to drink dark unadulterated coffee the way he continues to consume it to this day. There must have been one moment where he stood is his friend’s house and he looked over to see a black liquid steaming in a cup. One short moment, where a friend or maybe a friend’s mother asked, “will you have coffee our way or would you like sugar?” And, then with sip, something deep seated must have clicked.
This dessert takes the sweet coffee of my dad’s childhood, which had been rightly that anyway, and turns it into a sweet custard. Serve it with strong coffee and coffee glazed donuts.
Masala Coffee Custards
(makes 6-8 depending on the glasses)
In a saucepan, combine and simmer for about 2 minutes
1 cup brewed coffee
1 cup whipping cream
1 cup whole milk
1 cinnamom stick
10 black peppercorns
2 black cardamom pods
2 green cardamom pods
2 T honey
1/3 cup (or less) jaggery (or brown sugar)
Taste. If it isn’t sickly sweet, add more jaggery
3 egg yolks (that have been tempered)
Whip with a whisk
Add 1 packet gelatin
Chill for 4 hours
Monday, November 24, 2008
Hibernation must be in my body’s future. It has been craving thigh-fattening fare for a couple weeks and I can only acquiesce. As I hear my yogi friends say listen to your body and give it what it craves. Sure their svelte, healthy body’s yearn for green leafy vegetables and seaweed, but mine is yelling, screaming for deep fried sweets. In my defense of my body, it has very rarely asked for sweets in its long life. When the whispering about donuts began in my psyche or soul or wherever, I was sincerely surprised.
This deep-seated interest in donuts that has manifested itself in my soul became evident as I sat in the dentist’s chair. I was sitting in that turny seat full of remorse about the ungodly volume of tea that I consume daily and its mark on my teeth. Guilt gave way to obsession as I started to focus on the donut shop across the way. When I left the parking lot, clean teeth and all, will-power reined supreme as I passed Amy Joy by. But, then another donut shop appeared in my view. What was I to do? Fine as they were, those donuts did not satiate me.
And then this weekend, I decided to make Masala Coffee Donuts. We were having friends over for Indian food and I wanted to create a fantastic dessert. Basically, I have an over-inflated sense of my cooking ability and often make new recipes for company. The results can be hit or miss—particularly with dessert. That evening’s round of donuts was so unsuccessful that I went to sleep focusing on how to improve the recipe. The next morning I attempted again. Yes, I made donuts two days in a row. And, yes, my husband did joke, “time to make the doughnuts?” The second time around I added buttermilk to the dough; I am a huge proponent of buttermilk. I believe they made the difference.
The resulting doughnuts are not the average chocolate frosted, and so I suggest if you serve them you warn your guests. The dough has cracked pepper and honey, and the frosting has coffee, cardamom, pepper, honey and jaggery. Doughnuts “gone native” perhaps.
Masala Coffee Donuts with Espresso Cardamom Cream Filling
(Adapted from Epicurious)
makes more than 24 doughnuts
In the bowl of a stand mixer, allow to sit for ten minutes the following:
2 1/4 teaspoons dry yeast
1/4 teaspoon plus 1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup warm whole milk (105°F to 115°F)
1/2 cup plus 2 T buttermilk at room temperature
Add to stand mixer and beat with the hook attachment:
2 eggs slightly beaten
10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, melted, cooled to lukewarm
1 T honey
In a separate bowl combine:
4 cups all purpose flour
1 t ground cardamon
1 t freshly crushed black pepper
1/2 t almond extract
1/2 t salt
Add dry mixture to the stand mixer in small batches until it comes together in a sticky dough.
Let rise for 4 hours.
Pat out the dough into a large rectangle. Cut out rounds using cookie cutters(and then cut the whole in the middle with a smaller cookie cutters.) Let rise for 1 hour on a baking sheet.
Fry at 350 until brown.
When the doughnuts are rising make your filling.
When doughnuts are cooling, make glaze.
Cardamom Espresso Pastry Cream
Soak 1 handfull of crushed espresso beans in 2 cups whole milk for 1/2 hour.
In a sauce pan on medium whisk:
1/2 cup sugar
6 tablespoons all purpose flour
2 cups coffee steeped whole milk
5 large egg yolks
Pinch of salt
2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) unsalted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tsp almond extract
2 tsp cardamom
1/2 tsp crushed pepper (optional)
Whisk until thickened. Chill for 4 hrs with tin foil to cover. (They say plastic wrap but it is not easy to recycle or to reuse.)
Coffee, Honey, Blackpepper Glaze
Steep 8 blackpeppercorns and 2 cardamom pods in 1/4 cup coffee for 20 minutes.
1 1/2 cups confectioners sugar
2 tablespoon honey
1/4 teaspoon salt
Whip until smooth and then simmer.
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
This sort of new snow strikes me as very different than the snows of February. We still have heirloom tomatoes from the garden on the sill but our bodies are aching for spicier and starchier foods. And while we have 50 pounds of potatoes in our basement thanks to the CSA, all I have wanted is pasta. In fact, “pasta, pasta, pasta” is one of Belle’s more common refrains.
An easy such pasta dish is Singapore Noodles. I admit it is not super-authentic, but I have only been to Singapore for 6 hours. And, anyway, Singapore noodles is that fantastic innovation of the Chinese abroad (not unlike my dear husband’s favorite ever—Gobi Manchurian.)
(While I made some tonight, I was too lazy to take pictures. These are my summer version with snow peas)
Cook 1 lb rice noodles according to the package
If using tofu, marinate in soy sauce, sesame oil, olive oil, and garlic paste.
Stir fry vegetables until tender and set aside. This time I used equal parts onion, acorn squash, onions and kohlrabi, whatever is in season.
Stir fry tofu. Set aside.
Sautee garlic until delicious. Add cooked/drained noodles and then 2 T curry powder. Add back in the vegetables and tofu and set aside.
Top with cooked egg (Stir fry an egg with salt and a bit of soy sauce.) and hot sauce.
Monday, November 17, 2008
Displays of gratitude have the chance of being hallow, perfunctory gestures. Form thank you notes turn kindness and emotion into empty formality. On the other hand, edible thank yous, those carefully chosen sweet somethings, can be the polar opposite.
Recently, I stood the metal shop at my place of employment hunched over some medieval torture device that smooths out the rough edges of metal. A strange picture it must have been. The men in the shop were using their break to affix sequins and notions to funny cards for a coworker’s good-bye party. And, I, in my 3.5 inch pink stiletto heels, black mini-skirt, and tailored black silk shirt, was cutting, drilling and polishing metal tubes. Why you ask? I work in the sort of non-profit world where you do whatever you need to get the job done (hence giving up my evenings to work rather than blog.)
In an effort to thank the guys at work for their kind, kind instruction and openness, I wanted to create some spectacular cupcakes. Vegan Chocolate, chocolate beet cupcakes with vanilla buttercream and then tiny gum paste tools seemed tasty decadent. I veganized the recipe from Cook & Eat.
Vegan Chocolate Chocolate Beet Cupcakes
Adapted from Cook and Eat
2 cups beet puree (about 3 large beets)2 sticks unsalted margarine, melted2 cups sugar½ cup brown sugar
2 Ener-G replacer
¼ cup apple sauce
1/2 cup soy milk
1 1/2 cup flour
3/4 cups unsweetened cocoa
2 t baking powder (plus 1 tiny pinch)
1/2 t salt
1/3 cup vegan dark chocolate chips (or a little less)
Combine the margarine, sugars, apple sauce, and beet puree. Dump in dry ingredients and mix. Add the chips at the end.
Thursday, November 6, 2008
I so apologize for not coming back with my cupcake tales. Work is murdering me; and I need to employ every word that might somehow appear in my brain in some comprehensible manner in the variety of projects that I have. But, come monday, there should be some respite, and I will be back.
Sunday, November 2, 2008
Saturday, November 1, 2008
Many years ago, I was running down a London street attempting to return to my dorm before the rain. In my time in London, I never got used to carry an umbrella (still don't.) However, there was some assuring futility in this exercise; I would duck into a cheap restaurant as soon the rain would start.
On one such rainy evening, I found myself in an Indonesian restaurant. I can't remember what I ate, though I think it was a sort of grilled chicken curry, but what I do remember is that the flavors were facinating. Indian and the various South East Asian cuisines seem to combine the same or similar ingredients to get various different results. For example, in my deeply un-familiar mind, while Indonesian and Malaysian food and Thai food share coconut in common, the former has a full-bodied heartiness and the latter a light, lilting sweetness.
This month for Recipes to Rival, we were making Beef Rendang; a dish prepared in Indonesia and Malaysia. For my part, I subbed out the meat and made potato and long bean rendang--basically, I took the recipe and subbed meat with vegetables. With the help of a food processor, the prep time on this dish was fast, and the vegetarian version had a shorter cooking time than the beef version. Great recipe for cold weather, if you ask me.
For more renditions, go to the Recipes to Rival blogroll.