Tuesday, May 09, 2006
The Old Foodie has a great bit about tomatoes and the law that’s a good read. I’ve often pondered the distinctions between fruit and vegetable and how we mangle them. Also how the difference and distinction are culturally based. We tend to use rhubarb (for example) mostly in sweet dished with fruit, but in Persian cooking it’s used in stews (khoresh) with beef or lamb. Which is fabulous, BTW. It’s also interesting the think that tomatoes have legal status. I wonder if that’s still true…
Over the weekend I tried making a few new (to me) snacks. I made a batch of dahi vada from Kitchenmate. I didn’t read the recipe carefully enough (mea culpa) and so ground the onions and chilis with the urad dal mixture. I think this led to the batter being too wet, and I couldn’t get it to make donut shapes without completely sticking to my hands, so I went with just plain lumpy shaped ones. However, they were still a big hit. My son liked them so much he begged for the leftovers to take to school for lunch. Always a good sign. I can definitely see the usefulness of a “wet grinder”. I had a hard time grinding the dal in my food processor, and I don’t have a blender. Could be the next kitchen appliance purchase.
I also tried a batch of ponganalu, using Indira’s recipe. These came out really well, and were a really big hit with my wife, who also really liked the accompanying peanut chutney. I didn’t have a ponganalu pan, but I had one that I bought for ableskiver. Turns out to be pretty much the same thing, and it worked beautifully. Again, since I don’t have a wet grinder, I wimped out and used idli rava and urid flour, but hopefully the results are similar. Definitely something I’d make again. Very easy and tasty.
Last night I found myself wondering what to do with extra chicken livers. Not a typical conundrum, to be sure, but that’s neither here nor there. Over the weekend, New Seasons has a huge tray of gorgeous organic chicken livers at the meat counter, and we couldn’t resist. My wife and I are both chicken liver fans, and our son likes them too, as long as they are properly wrapped in bacon. So we had a (moderate) pile of rumaki for brunch on Sunday, with good, thick nitrate free bacon. I’m really loving my new oven (we moved recently) and one of its best features is the broiler. I discovered that I had to turn the rumaki half way through to deal with the thick bacon, but everything worked out well.
In order not to completely overdose on rumaki (easy to do) I only used about half the livers, which brings us to where I started this. Too many livers.
Anyhow, I decided that the best course what pasta sauce. Chicken liver gives a very nice texture to tomato sauce, so I sauteed the livers with some ground beef until everything was well browned, then let the whole mess cool a bit and hit it with my trusty hand blender until it resembled course liverwurst. Then I put it back on the heat, and added garlic, tomato sauce, some diced tomatoes, a bit of white wine that wasn’t getting any younger, and finally seasoned with some oregano, basil, and a fair dose of black pepper. After most of the extra water had cooked off, I tasted it for seasoning, and decided to add some salt, a bit of thyme, and a small hit (maybe 1 1/2 T) of pomegranate molasses. I’ve used that a few times in spaghetti sauce, and it makes a less harsh souring agent than vinegar.
The whole came together well. The taste of the livers was evident, but not strong at all, and it added a very nice texture to the sauce. Definitely something I’d do again.
Friday, May 05, 2006
I had some leftover daikon radish from the mooli parathas the other night, so last night I decided the rest was bound for soup. I chopped the daikon into large-ish chunks, and threw them in with some chicken broth and sliced shiitake mushrooms. When the radish was starting to get tender, I tossed in some meatballs made from ground pork, seasoned with some garlic-ginger paste, cilantro, green onions, and a little salt and soy sauce. Right at the end I added some fresh spinach, some green onions, and just a little soy sauce.
It came out really well, light but satisfying.
Wednesday, May 03, 2006
One of my buddies at work and I frequently hit the local Indian (Swagath, @ Orenco station) buffet for lunch, and his all time favorite is what he refers to as “green stuff”, or saag paneer. I’m a big fan too, but couldn’t remember having tried making it at home. I finally took the plunge a couple of days ago using Indira’s recipe from her truly excellent blog, Mahanandi, which has become one of my favorites. I particularly liked her recipe for being easy, and relatively low in fat. Lots of saag paneer recipes involved heavy cream, yogurt, ghee, etc. I found that the cashews gave it a very nice body without being heavy at all, although I should have ground them finer than I did. I’ll know for next time. I made the paneer from scratch, which isn’t hard, and I had all the stuff, as paneer is very similar to the kind of cheese my wife makes regularly for SCA events.
I served it up with some methi paratha I had stashed away in the freezer, which went pretty well with the spinachy goodness that is green stuff.
Yup, radish bread. Last night I tried making mooli paratha, as described in loving detail by Saffron Hut. I won’t try to capture her recipe, read it for yourself, but the synopsis is that you grate a big daikon radish, mix the grated radish with some spices, then use the mixture to fill whole wheat flat breads. They were delicious, and the recipe was very thorough and easy to follow. It took less time that I would have thought, and rolling out the breads wasn’t hard at all. I tried some aloo paratha a while back, and had a very messy time with potatoes shooting hither and yon, but the mooli was much easier to work with.
I also tried working with fresh coconut for the first time. Cracking it open was much easier than I had feared. A couple of stout whacks with the back of a cleaver did the trick. Grating it was a much different story. I don’t have any sort of coconut grater, so I had to break the shell up into small enough pieces that I could grate off the meat without the curvature becoming too much of a problem. I can certainly see why a specialized tool is called for. The fresh cocunut was well worth it. Completely different from the dried stuff I’m used to. I used it in two different dished to go with the paratha.
For the first, I boiled some channa dal until it was starting so soften up, then added the water from the coconut, about 1/2 cup of the grated coconut, some garlic, salt, tumeric, coriander, and 1/2 an onion, plus some curry leaves, and cooked it until was almost dry. It had a very nice texture. The channa dal didn’t mush out, each one remaining relatively intact but tender.
The other was a yogurt salad with chopped radish, tomato, cucumber and some green chili and cilantro, seasoned with salt, a little garam masala, and maybe 1/2 cup of grated coconut. Quick and easy, and very refreshing. Next time I might try it with some chaat masala instead for a little brighter flavor.
My son informed me that we’ve been having far too much Indian food lately so tonight I’m thinking maybe some Korean food.
Monday, April 24, 2006
I had some time to kill Sunday morning, so decided to try something new for breakfast. I tried my hand at dhokla, a steamed bread-product native to Gujarat (I think). You make a thick batter of besan (garbanzo bean flour) and spices, then steam it in a cake pan. It comes out (at least texture wise) like a really big idli. I really liked the flavor and texture of it, and it went very nicely with the pepper rasam I made to go with it. Rasams are, I think, my favorite Indian soups, very brothy and usually pretty sour. Very pleasing.
It took me a while to find something big enough to steam the dhokla in, but I finally settled on my (very big) pressure cooker, and just left the weight off the steam vent. Worked pretty well. Unfortunately, I forgot to take any documentary pictures. Maybe next time…
I finally made it over to Penzeys
in Portland this weekend. It was well worth the trip. I went to their store in Minneapolis many years ago, and have ordered from their web site a number of times, but it’s a much different experience being able to see (and more importantly smell) everything first hand. It’s a very nice little store in a strip mall over on 82nd, which is why I’d never been there. From the hinterlands here in Hillsboro, the other side of Portland is a good 45 minutes to an hour away, so it’s not a casual trip. I stocked up an some of their fantastic pepper (so good that after grocery store pepper you’ll find yourself thinking “wow, pepper tastes like that
?”) and some Ceylon cloves that are quite a bit bigger than the usual ones you see in the store. Powdered ginger, galangal, Mexican oregano, and ground Moroccan coriander were among my other purchases. The hardest part is resisting the urge to try one of everything. I was sorely tempted by the Russian sausage seasoning, which smelled really good. On the way back (since I was all the way out there an everything) I stopped by Bob’s Red Mill for some excellent grain products. When we moved a couple of months ago, I dumped large portions of my pantry, so I’m rebuilding all those staple ingredients I’m used to having on hand.
Friday, April 21, 2006
In an effort to sport more pictures, I documented the Spring vegetable salad I made for dinner this evening. I was at New Seasons, poking through the veggie aisle when I spotted these gorgeous “French Breakfast Radishes” and I had to have them. Of course, then I had to have some other stuff to go with them. I started out with some sliced red onion, which I let “pickle” for a while in some fresh lime juice, sel gris, and a little crystalline fructose (a good low-glycemic sweetener).
To that I added the lovely radishes
followed by a very nice Pinkerton avocado
and a nice hothouse tomato.
Oh how I look forward to the heirloom tomatoes of Summer… The farmer’s market starts up in Hillsboro next month, but it’ll be a while before we see any local tomatoes.
The salad got finished off with a little more sel gris, and some pepper.
I see that I need to work on my food-photographing techniques. At least they’re marginally in focus.
One last pic. I served the salad with some asparagus sauteed in ghee, and then sprinkled with lemon juice, sel gris, and a mixture of tarragon and “grains of paradise” which I just happened to have lying around. I got inspired by the asparagus with long pepper over at Tigers & Strawberries, but I had “grains” not long pepper.
To round things out, we had bread and cheese, and for dessert, a “strawberry papaya” filled with vanilla ice cream. Sadly, the camera battery was dead at that point, so I didn’t get a shot of th every amazingly orange papaya. I have another one for tomorrow, and the battery's charging, so hope for the best.
Wednesday, April 19, 2006
I’ve been inspired to cook a lot lately, and it’s largely due to the increase in the number of food blogs I’ve been reading. I’m really impressed with the quality and diversity of the food blogging out there. And I’ve learned that apparently if you want a really sexy food blog, you have to take pictures. To that end, I’ll try to post more images of stuff that I cook, although I have to admit that looks is not what I optimize for.
I updated the blogroll on this site to reflect the foodie blogs I’ve been reading. Check them out. I’m particularly interested right now in the profusion of food blogs written by Indian women. I love cooking (and eating) Indian food, and I’m also really passionately interested in the food that people really eat at home rather than restaurant of Americanized cookbook food, and these blogs totally fascinate me. Take a look at a few, and I think you’ll be as hooked as I am.
Blogging is a great medium for this kind of study, since people mostly post about the food they really eat everyday. At least I know I do.
I've attached the OPML for these blogs as an Rss enclosure for those who aren't looking at the HTML.
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