Saturday, May 31, 2008

Watercress Pakodas

Arugula Flower Chutney
Ted Kennedy's diagnosis was surprisingly emotional for me. My uncle passed away of a similar tumor a few years ago.

Last weekend, since I was planning on frying, I decided to make watercress pakodas. This was a dish that my aunt loves. Apparently, she and my uncle would go across town to specific stand in one of the busiest markets in Bombay for these pakodas.

My uncle was very particular about food. He did the majority of the marketing. He knew how to spot the best mango; which stands cheated you; and when each vegetables were in peak season. I lived a world away from him, so I saw my uncle very rarely, but I still have strong memories of him. He was one mean Uno player and he purchased me my first kitchen (even if it was only 4 inches high.) And, when we would stumble out of the Bombay airport, exhausted and disoriented by the radical shift to our senses, and look into the sea of unfamiliar faces, he would be standing there in his crisp khaki pants and polo shirt, smiling. Anyway, enough of the memories, onto the food.
So, the one time I went across town to feast on these storied watercress pakodas, the stand was sold out. So, I made the same batter of besan flour and water that I would use in cabbage fritters. This was then mixed with 3/4 cup julienned watercress leaves, 1/4 diced onions, and 1/4 cup diced asparagus (my own addition.) I paired this with a coconut, watercress flower chutney.

It was not at all as wonderful as eating fresh pakodas on the street with my family, but it really made due.


Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Ras el Hanout


I am nothing if not dying to be au courant, ha ha ha. Actually, ras el hanout came into my life thank to that child molestor and tv "chef", Jeff Smith. He did a series of shows about world food, and the middle school me fell in love with Moroccan food. Even in the pre-internet world, I found a variety of sources about Moroccan food. And, then I started cooking, making preserved lemons and trying to fashion my own ras el hanout. Mind you, all the while, having never tasted actual Moroccan food. Now, much later, I have eaten Moroccan at restaurants in the US and France and I have made many more attempts at ras el hanout.

It is cool stuff these days; I keep seeing it in magazines and hearing about it on Top Chef. But, what I love about it is the fact that there is no right answer. It is the Moroccan equivalent of curry powder--a combination of spices that vary according family/store and region. For ras el hanout, expect cardamom, clove, cinnamon, paprika, coriander, cumin, nutmeg, turmeric, dried rosebud, and then up to 81 more spices and herbs. The resulting mix, with its rich complexity, is deserving of its more recent fame.

It is lovely on thickly cut roasted sweet potatoes and served alongside yogurt dip. This snack is satisfying and my entry for Weekend Herb Blogging started by Kalyn and run this week by Wandering Chopsticks.

NB: Do you prefer the first photograph, in which the sweet potatoes look as if they have been banished from their brotheren, or the second, in which the sweet potatoes look as if they are being served up at high noon in the desert?


Thursday, May 29, 2008

Green Eggs No Ham

Asparagus Baked Eggs
Last Saturday, while soft snores spilled out of my beautiful baby and hilarious husband, I was standing in a farmer's market line. It was near 7:00 AM, and I had morel and strawberry dreams. But, those were not to be, and I satisfied myself instead with asparagus and eggs. When I got home, the family was quietly waking.

My husband loves baked eggs, retro as it sounds. When we have too much stewed eggplant or ratatouille, which is not very often, I pull out the baking bowls. The prep is all of 10 minutes, and the meal is super satisfying. A whizz in the blender and quickly steamed asparagus, egg whites and parmesan cheese yield a lovely based for baked yolks.

Then tonight, I decided to take this one step further. I made asparagus souffles in egg shells. They were more work than baked eggs and more adorable but equally delicious and satisfying.

As my meals over lap with In the Bag (how nice of them to pick such an ideal combo), I thought i would send it over. ‘In The Bag’ is a food event run monthly by ‘A Slice of Cherry Pie‘ and ‘Real Epicurean’.


Asparagus Souffle

Using a sharp paring knive, nip the top off 4 eggs, pour out egg and then separate the yolks. (You will only use 3 whites and 2 yolks, but have enough filling for 4 eggs.)

Steam 1/2 bunch asparagus, chop and puree (use the steaming water to help). Add
1 t salt
1/2 t pepper
1/4 tsp mustard powder
two yolks
2 T flour
2 T parmesan cheese

Whip egg whites until still peaks. Fold the egg whites into the asparagus. Carefully spoon batter into the egg shell. Bake 5 minutes

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

A Less than Operatic Note: Opera Cakes

It has been a full 24 hours after the affair of the opera cake and I am still drained. There will be 100's of these cakes posted today, so there is very little more that I can say about mine. And, if yesterday I had possessed the energy to lift even one exhausted finger to the keyboard to peck out the tale of my little cakes' creation, well, there would have been a tale there.
But, now, I feel more subdued and resigned about the opera cake. L'opera is a product of the rarified French pastry world, but in my mind, these pastries are tied to Japan and all the fine bakeries that litter Tokyo. A few years ago, a slice of opera (I always ordered the dark chocolate type) and a cup of tea was easily over 10 dollars. And, having experienced the labor and the amount of dairy involved, I have come to think that might have been a steal.

For me, no single element was hard to prepare. Instead, our problems were three-fold: we decided to split the recipe to make two flavors; we decided to do it all as one marathon during Belle's afternoon nap; and we made mini-cakes.

This is a recipe that requires the baker to be prepared, to have a plan, and to be caffeinated. None of those things were true in our case. This meant that when the baby chose to take a 3.5 hour nap, we didn't argue. And, that when she woke up, we allowed some serious latitude in her behavior (running around with toast in her hand and ravaging the tupperware drawer) because we needed to finish assembly.
We were allowed to choose flavor combos as long as the cake remained light-colored. In addition, cupcakes were allowed. How could I turn this mini suggestion down? Well, I didn't. We made 1/2 an opera sheet cake with Mango and Ginger. And, then we made mini-mini green tea, almond, white chocolate cakes. And, but with the green tea, we broke the rules used dark chocolate ganache too (and chocolate butter cream for some). My favorite was the rule breaker, but that is the kind of girl that I am.
My husband is fairly confident the first instruction in next month's Daring Bakers' challenge will read, "sow your land with wheat, mill the first harvest into fine flour..." Ah, the joys of being an insane, I mean, daring baker.

And, while it might seem ungrateful, I am not. Thanks to this month's hosts Ivonne, Lis, Fran and Shea for a great challenge. This challenge was a wonderful way to hone your skills and to feel huge success. Hell, I made 2 opera cakes....

If you want more opera cakes, look at the Daring Baker Blogroll. For a great run down of the recipe, go to Rosie's Yummy Yums. The only thing I would add is, you don't need jelly rolls. I used pyrex pans but only poured the batter in at 1/2 inch thick.


Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Photographing the Farmer's Market

Hustle and bustle results in great photographs. That this adage is made up doesn't make it wrong. I am by no means an experienced or professional photographer. But, recently, I was trying to figure out why I am so happy with the pictures that I take when I go to the farmers market and these are my conclusions. If you are feeling like you can't take a good picture, take your camera to the market.

Photographs are about getting the right things in the frame. So, when you are photographing your dog licking the bone, you need both of those things. But, if you also get the tv cord and some old socks, these might distract the viewer. At the same time, it is also about luck. If you have your dog licking a bone and your husband running in with an empty casserole--hilarious. At the market, there are so many things happening that if you miss one moment, you will find another very quickly. And, for me, taking a camera to the market makes me more observant and in fact a better market-shopper.
Open air farmer's markets add to the photographer's bounty thanks bright light and engaging colors. None of these photographs were color corrected--the outdoor light is magic. While obviously, markets have strengths in terms of food stuffs. (Where else can you get nettles and Japanese asparagus?) Look for the most engaging item, and by that I mean, that thing which you love. Super into asparagus? Loving the radish? (They are my muse presently.) And, then set it down in film or digitally. If you like your subject, your photograph will be more interesting. Look for that detail and snap a couple images.

While the best produce is often gathered when purchasing early, those early morning photographs will have a very different quality than those taken near noon. The morning light (say 7:00 AM) will be even and diffuse. By Noon, that light will give you strong chiaroscuro. And, wouldn't that strong contrast be wonderful on something soft like lettuce or something ugly like Jerusalem artichokes? (Below the first picture was taken at 11:30 AM and the second at 7:00 AM)

Finally, markets are great place to take pictures of people. In this digital age, there are clear issues of privacy, so I have made it a personal rule to not photograph anyone without asking and I don't post faces on my blog. But, this of course is your choice. With people, take many more pictures, after all, unlike the vegetables, they move. And, anticipate the movement. If he is reaching into a bag, click the second before he reveals that perfect apple.
Farmers Market May 2008
Frankly, you could have stopped at the fifth sentence in this postand still take great pictures; farmer's markets are the ideal novice photographer's venue.

RFJ: Almond Fried Chicken and Raspberry Sweet Potato Waffles

Fried Chicken2

When I was living in Berkeley, I found myself spending too much on groceries. There were so many amazing items in the stores, and I would just go crazy. They say you should only shop on a full stomach, so I hatched a plan. I would eat a very filling meal. Roscoe's is a California tradition and its signature meal is Fried Chicken and Waffles. I haven't been to Oakland in years, but back then, you didn't need to ask directions to Roscoe's. You need only spot the line around the corner.

This combo has gotten some good press in the last few years, but if you are thinking "WHAT??!!??" I can only explain it this far...there are many who claim to have originated the pairing. It seems to have been a naturally occuring result of late night dining. Apparently at 2 O'clock in the morning, short-order restuarants would serve both dinner and breakfast. Many diners chose to partake in both and glory in the joy that is sweet and savory.

Recently, I was reading the Royal Foodie Joust ingredients to my husband. Two days later, just after I turned off the bedside light, I heard, "Fried Chicken and Waffles...Almond Fried Chicken and Raspberry Waffles." And, so it was born. Fruity, fried, crispy, crunchy, moist, sweet, savory, healthy (almonds and raspberries) and unhealthy.

And the lime you say? The lime linked the two components. There was lime juice in the chicken marinade, lime zest in the waffles, and lime juice in the coulis.

Did this work? If you accept the premise that there is culinary promise in the sweet/savory counterpoints, then yes. We had planned to make this for brunch during the holiday weekend, but we came to realize why everyone was standing in line at Roscoes--this is a lot of work to accomplish in the morning.

Almond Fried Chicken
The night before, soak 8 pieces of chicken (we used dark meat) in:
2 cups of buttermilk
1/2 cup almond milk
3 T lime juice

Drain the chicken, pat dry, and rest for 10 minutes.Dredge the chicken in 1.5 cup flour that has been seaoned with
2 T of salt
2 T paprika
2 t cayenne pepper
1/4 cup almond flour

Let the chicken rest 10-15 minutes.

Dredge the chicken in fresh buttermilk and then dredge in flour and sliced almonds

Fry in vegetable shortening (oh yes, shortening.) Or, if you go that way, lard....

DSC_0556 almondfriedchicken


Raspberry, Sweet Potato, Lime Waffles

(using a recipe modified from Spice Island Vegan and, well, bastardized, made non-vegan and served with meat. Sorry, Spice Island Vegan.)
Combine in a bowl:
2 1/4 milk
2 large sweet potatoes (about 15 oz), cooked and riced
1/4 cup oil
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 egg
2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Once the wet ingredients are combined, add the dry:
2 1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup almond flour
2 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 t lime zest

These rise! Do not overfill the waffle iron. Fill the waffle iron only halfway up.

Once they are in the iron sprinkle in the raspberries. We found whole raspberries messed things up so we used tiny chunks of raspberry--about 1 berry per waffle. In total for the whole batch we used about 1/3 cup frozen raspberries

Serve with Warm Rapberry Lime Coulis (use the juice and the rind), Maple Syrup, and Hot Sauce.


Monday, May 26, 2008

Ramp Vodka and Rhubarb Vodka

Ramp Vodka
Last week at the market, when I bought my ramps, I informed the purveyor that I would be infusing vodka. The farmer looked past me for a moment, as if pondering the need for an intervention. After an awkward silence, I explained my planned uses: vodka tomato sauce, to finish sauteed mushrooms, to augment white wine in risotto. All of a sudden my plan seemed to make perfect sense. Since then, I have come to understand that this vodka is also great in bloody marys and dirty martinis.
Ramp flavored vodka is super easy. We followed the basic principals of vodka infusion set down at Burnt Lumpia. He used limes. Basically, use lower price range vodka, filter it through a water filter, and martinate your flavoring agent in the vodka for 1 week. Easy and fancy all at once--though my use of canning jars for the process takes down the fancy level considerably.

For the rhubarb hooch, I had a vague plan to make rhubarb wine. A friend who is an experienced brewer and drinker explained that this is easy but can turn bitter, so I tipped my foot into the world of rhubarb-flavored alcohol with a vodka infusion. In this recipe that I found, rhubarb infusion seems a more complicated process than the ramps. But, with that ramp success, I thought, bring it on. Has it succeeded? Ask me on September 15.
Rhubarb Vodka

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Cabbage Kimchi and a small Announcement

Swati of Sugarcraft mentioned in a comment on my Ramp Kimchi recipe that she would love my recipe for Cabbage Kimchi. In full disclosure, I have eaten at Korean restuarants, but I am most definitely not Korean and nor have never lived in Korea. My Kimchi experience is from a sincere love for kimchi and a natural born love of the pickled. In full disclosure, I am an Indian-American, and as such, from childhood, I have loved spicy preserved goods.
And, I really like to think of kimchi as the lovely (if odiferous) substantial cousin of achaar--Indian pickles. And, that to me is the essential difference. In my family, achaar is a condiment and accompaniment. I have been known to add Bedekar's lime pickle to yoghurt and cucumbers for a sinister dip for chips. My grandmother presaged the hot and spicy Cheetos by insisting the plain variety should ALWAYS be dipped in vadu mango achaar. Kimchi is closer to a side dish and eating it with rice would seem acceptable and even filling. I could never feel satiated eating rice with achaar--I would definitely need dal or a vegetable side dish.

Of course there are more practical differences. While both use salinated, hypertonic environments to hold off bacteria, kimchi also is fermented (another great method of preservation.) In addition, while salt is used to soften the cell walls of the vegetables in kimchi, in many pickles, but not all cooking is often used. I have a few more Indian pickles to post, eventually, but if you wish to read about cooking in Indian pickle recipes, look at my orange pickle recipe.

So that said, here is how we make cabbage kimchi. First, we accept the ridicule and derision that might occur from purchasing kimchi red pepper, chinese cabbage (substitute napa if desired), and turnips at a Korean grocery store. I almost never ever make kimchi without a radish, daikon, turnip component. I love their crunch. You can add shredded carrot, I often do. And to answer Modern Beet's question, spring green garlic would be great. Pea shoots are good. Nettle and sorrel work, but when added to cabbage. Rhubarb and spring garlic, it is weird but good. (Will post that eventually.)

Plan of action:

Cabbage and Turnip Kimchi
Cube a 4 inch piece of daikon or turnip. Remove the stems from 1 small cabbage and cut into thick shreds. Salt all the vegetables (use about 1/2 cup pickling salt, yes, 1/2 cup), reserve in a colander over a bowl. Squeeze the cabbage periodically.
Pour out the water and rinse these vegetables. Place in a non-reactive sealable container. Tupperware is fine but it will stain. Add:
2 scallions sliced
5 cloves garlic slivered
2 t sugar
2 T korean chili powder
1 T sesame oil
2 t ginger powder
1/4 cup soy sauce

Mash together this mixture with your hands, put in sealed container, leave out for 4 days and then refrigerate.

Pickled Ramp Kimchi over Rice

ramp kimchi over rice
So, the sickly pallor has finally lifted from my daughter's eyes, and now she is all trouble all the time. I am fairly confident that she is attempting make up for lost time, because she is more active, more inquistive, more physical. Yesterday, we had only a few minutes to make lunch. There is a smidge more ramp kimchi left. I quickly fried up an egg sunny-side up, put it over sticky rice and added 2 or three leaves of kimchi. This might be an advanced use for kimchi because my husband abstained from this completely and opted for toast for breakfast. To each his own...

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Pickled Ramp Bulb

Recently, we made ramp kimchi and we rejoiced. When any food stuff is a two-fer, it can be fantastic or perplexing. Think of that moment when you have made a couple batches of macarons, which incidentally have made your hold your breath all afternoon, and now you are looking into a bowl of 12 egg yolks, thinking what the hell. Well, of course you make flan, lemon curd and an egg wash. (Or to heck with it all, you cook up a couple up for the dog.) Way off track already, and I have 8 more ramp posts to go. Damn, this is really going to be a long evening.
Pickled Ramps
So, ramp kimchi was mainly ramp leaves with just a few bottoms. So, what to do? Periodically, I lurk at Miss Ginsu (doubtless Ms. Ginsu younger, less feminist sister). They had a reproduction of Floyd Cardoz's Quick Ramp Pickles. Floyd is a man I have never met, but I have never ever disliked any of his recipes that I have cooked. And, this is no exception. It was fantastic, easy and satisfying.
When it was finally ready, the first thing we put them on were grass-fed beef hot dogs. I eat hot dogs very rarely, so I decided this one had to be super dolled up. And, this tart looked like she was, well, overdressed. She had Floyd's ramp pickles, hot mustard, red onions sliced oh so thin, and green tomato pickle. It was high/low brow and I ate it leaning over the kitchen counter because I couldn't wait to get to the table.

Ramp Kimchi, Masoor Dal and Potato Sandwiches

Ramp Sandwich
I have a terrible back log of ramp recipes to post. It seems sort of cruel to do so as the ramp season is over (at least in Northern Ohio.) But, as this blog is mostly a selfish exercise of journally our culinary adventures--I am just going to put these recipes down regardless of the present availability of these ingredients. (Apparently, I am hard-hearted inside.)

The ramp kimchi we made ages ago was fantastic and easy. As made commenters said, it is easily enough to do, and it would likely be good with green or fresh cultivated garlic. A few weeks ago, I wanted a hearty sandwich with my tea in the late afternoon. I had some cooked masoor dal in the fridge, so I microwaved a potato, chopped up some kimchi (1 tsp per sandwich) and put a heaping mound in two pieces of wheat bread. My sister-in-law's waffle iron is becoming my new friend (even if it doesn't approve of falafel making), and the result was spicy kimchi sandwiches. Best served with hot black tea.

These were such fantastic sandwiches--warm and spicy; I kind of wish I had one with me right now.

While there is no recipe, I think the point is two-fold: kimchi is great in a warm sandwich and if the dal is thick enough it can be used in a sandwich. Food-n-More has a sandwich event, so why not include this lovely?
Ramp Sandwich

Friday, May 23, 2008

Warm Mango Raspberry Oatmeal Smoothie

mango smoothie

Motherhood contains with it a certain amount of grossness. The newest “eew” to me is hand, foot and mouth disease which should really be called “erupting sores all over disease.” Lost your appetite yet? Well, let me tell you, as there were some nasty suckers in her mouth, Belle sure did. And, frankly, thinking about those sores also made me loose mine. We have both been housebound for the last couple days, because I do not want to go down in history as the mother of Typhoid Maybelle.

I have been cooking soft food and pacing. I had dreams that my culinary results would be both enticing and curative. Of course, as she hasn’t eat anything I have made since Wednesday, excluding white rice and some mango oatmeal smoothie. It does indicate the power of the slightly warm oatmeal smoothie.

This smoothie is becoming a common blue plate (mug?) breakfast special here. It is full of good things (calcium, whole grains, fruit, fiber); it takes less than 10 minutes to make; and it is adorable when being slurped by a sickly toddler. And, it is of course good for me, too.

I have been fairly quiet about my identity, but I lets just say I am over thirty, Asian, and thin—the trifecta when it comes to osteoporosis. My cousin, freshly certifiable and a doctor, claims thirty years of milk consumption are not enough to counteract these risk factors, years of physical inactivity, and high caffeine consumption. In other words, I am about to hobble down a very painful road if I don’t take care of myself. My weight bearing exercise right now is the daily activity of lugging around 21 pounds of lovin’, but that is more than I did two years ago.

The food as medicine portion, including consuming calcium and whole grains, is much easier, tastier and enjoyable. And, this oatmeal smoothie is one great medicine. Heck, even a sore-ridden toddler agrees to that.

I have included this in the osteoporosis event by Food Blogga. Since I saw it listed, I knew that I should make a good faith effort to not only be part of the event but also read all the entries--for my health and belle's.
mango smoothie

Oatmeal Smoothie

Make one serving of oatmeal (not instant and not steel cut) according to the package directions

In a blender, whizz until crushed
1/3 cup frozen fruit (I used raspberries and mangoes)

Once the fruit is crushed add:
1/3 cup plain Greek-style yogurt (I used fat-free)

Whizz. Add soymilk to get the smoothie to the right consistency.

Pour 1/2 the oatmeal, when slightly cooled, into a tall mug, and spoon fruit over the oatmeal.

Makes two adult portions

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Rebellion is Cool

The kitchen is a perfect venue for innovation and experimentation. Short of a grease fire or botulism, the consequences of failure are generally small. The benefits of success are delish.

But, kitchen innovation is about a mindset. A kitchen innovator has a healthy sense that recipes should be changed; tools should be used in a manner not planned by the manufacturer; flavors hereto uncombined are apt partners. In other words, a kitchen innovator is rebellious by nature. Of course, this kind of rebellion is well appreciated in the food world—Ferran Adria is basically a god for some. For me, I appreciate the home-bound brilliance.

One such spark of innovation to me was Aaplemint’s use of spoons in lieu of madeleine pans. I have one mini-madeleine pan but really need 4 if I want to make a full recipe. So, this innovation much appreciated. Good job, Aaplemint.

Spoon Madeleines

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Arugula Flower Rotis

Life is about give and take. In the world of Indian flatbreads, a chapathi is light and soft but not substantial on its own. When one fills these little balls of dough and pan fries them, you get parathas. Parathas have the wheaty goodness of chapathis and are more substantial but lack their fluffiness. Give and take, I say.

In my mind, this fluffiness is worth loosing if the filling is tasty enough. The gold standard in my house is aloo paratha (starch filled starch.) For my cousin, the best paratha is mooli (radish). Fillings have their own algorithm of give and take--they should have a presence but not overwhelm all other vegetable accompaniments.

A couple of our vegetable purveyors at the farmers market have arugula flowers. They are sold plant and all in little baggies. Like broccoli flowers and watercress flowers, arugula flowers have but a small fraction of the piquancy of their foliage. For me, their strength lies in their delicate aesthetic features. Their pale grey veination upon a barely yellow ground gives them a fairy-wing-like quality. In fact, I purchased them on the basis of their look.

So many sites say arugula flowers are fantastic in salad, but we decided to make arugula chapatis and parathas. For the former, we placed the flowers into the dough and rolled then thin. We rolled these very thin. They looked like hand-made flower impregnated paper.

Arugula Paratha

For the latter, we filled the dough with potato and the flowers, pan-fried them, and topped them with butter. The flower chapathis were fluffy, but the flowers imparted color not flavor. The parathas were basically aloo parathas. (In the future, I would have paired the bread with chickpeas and arugula chutney.)

Arugula Paratha

These parathas and this post are my entry into Weekend Herb Blogging started by Kalyn and run by Sweetnicks.

Potato and Arugula Flower Parathas

To make dough, mix in a shallow, flat bowl or pan:
1 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon salt

Drop by drop add warm water until you get a sticky bread-like dough

Cover and set aside.

To make the stuffing, boil, peel, and mash:
1 large potatoes

1/4 cup onion, finely chopped
1 t cumin/coriander powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoons fresh arugula flowers

In the palm of your hand, create small balls, flatten them, and then fill with a small amount of the filling. Gather up all the dough and then roll it out.
Arugula Paratha