Archive for the ‘Indian’ Category

Palak Chana Dal

February 19, 2019

I love Indian food. Love it.    And I’m overcoming my fear of making it at home. Tonight I actually tried something I’ve never even eaten in a restaurant. I love lentils.  They’re a great vegetarian, low/no fat protein source.  They need a whole grain to complete them, but you can get that an any point in the day.  It doesn’t have to be in the same meal.  Combine my love of Indian food and my love of lentils and you get dal.

There are LOTS of kinds of dal and LOTS of kinds of lentils. Red, green, yellow, black. Chana dal is actually a yellow split pea dal.  And it’s yummy!  There are many, many versions of this. I picked this one because it includes spinach.  I wanted a dish with extra vegetables so I’d have a one dish meal.  And let’s be serious.  I had a clam shell of spinach in the fridge and no plan for it.

Let me start by saying this is NOT a Tuesday night meal.  (Yes, it’s Tuesday night).  I suppose it could be if you cooked the chana on Sunday and did the rest on Tuesday after work.  I started this dish at 6:30, after I went to the gym and fed the pups.  I sat down to eat at 8:00.  Pretty ridiculous for a weeknight.  I thought it would take about half that time based on the recipe.

A few tips.  Where the recipe says to partially cover the peas as they cook, don’t.  You’re trying to get 4 1/2 cups of water to absorb into 1 cup of yellow split peas.  You can afford to lose some in steam.  Don’t bother to do your chopping and measuring until after you have the chana in the pot. Trust me, you have plenty of time to do the rest.  Serve it with rice or naan or some Indian pickles or some combination.  There’s some really good heat in here from the jalapeno and the ginger.  It needs some acid and some starch to balance it.  Some acidic wine is lovely with it as well. I mean, if you’re going to be chopping and stirring for 90 minutes, you should have some wine.

I will make another attempt at this, using a different recipe.  Not because I’m not pleased with the results. I really am! But because I can’t wait to try another version!  In the meantime, I’ll enjoy eating the leftovers.

Here’s what you need:

  • 1 chana dal (dried split chickpeas)
  • TSP turmeric
  • TSP salt
  • 4½ water
  • TBSP ghee (use vegetable oil to make it vegan)
  • ¾ TSP cumin seeds
  • finely diced onion
  • 1 inch-long piece of ginger, grated
  • 5-6 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 green chile (like a serrano or jalapeño), minced
  • tomato, diced
  • ½ TSP garam masala
  • TSP chile powder, like Deggi Mirch
  • A couple large handfuls of baby spinach
  • chopped cilantro, for garnis

NOTE: I bought the Deggi Mirch from Amazon some time ago.  I’m sure it’s available in local Indian markets as well.  The rest of this stuff is available in mainstream grocery stores. I did leave out the fenugreek leaves.

Here’s what you do: 4 servings (and here’s a link to the original recipe)

  1. Sort through your beans for any pebbles or debris. Rinse under cold water three or four times.

NOTE:  Don’t skip this step.  My chickpeas had kind of an odd smell as I rinsed them.

  1. In a large saucepan or pot, combine the chana dal, turmeric, salt, and 4½ cups of water. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, partly covered, for 40 minutes (add more water if needed). The consistency should not be too thin or thick. If too thick, add more water. If too thin, simmer a little longer.

NOTE:  This took me 90 minutes, not 40.  A little less water?  Maybe, but you want the texture to be soft.  A little higher heat?  A little, but not a ton.

  1. Meanwhile, heat the ghee or oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, add the cumin seeds and fry for about 30 seconds until fragrant. Add the onion and sauté until golden, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add the ginger, garlic, and green chile and continue to sauté a minute or two until the garlic is golden but not browned. Add the tomatoes.
  1. Stir in the garam masala, and chile powder. Continue to cook until the tomatoes break down and are soft.

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NOTE: The good news is that this can sit until the peas are ready without losing anything.

  1. Add this mixture to the pot with the chana dal.

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  1. Bring the pot back to a simmer. Add the spinach and cook until just wilted.
  1. Garnish with cilantro leaves. Serve with rice, naan, paratha, or roti.

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How’d it turn out?

This is so, so good. The heat is warm and wonderful.  Nothing sharp and overwhelming about it.  The cilantro at the end is a nice green touch.  I had a little naan with mine, which has fantastic.  Rice would have been good too.  And I really think a quick pickle of radishes and onions would add a wonderful acidity. Maybe I’ll try that with the leftovers.

The only drawback?  90 minutes to make.  I’m interested to find out if another recipe goes quicker.  If you want to use this one, I’d say make the split peas one night when you’re eating leftovers from something else.  Finish it and eat it the next night.

Tomorrow is going to start with ice and snow so it’ll be a perfect day to have these leftovers for lunch!

 

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Curried Chickpeas with Eggplant

February 11, 2019

This one’s for you my vegetarian friends looking for some spice!  Another winner from Melissa Clark’s Dinner.  Don’t be intimidated by the list of ingredients. It’s long, but the recipe isn’t difficult and most of the spices are things you probably have on hand.  The hardest thing about this is not eating all the roasted eggplant while you make the rest!

A few tips.  Do use a brush to apply a little oil to the eggplant.  I have one with silicone “bristles” because it cleans up easier than real bristle brushes.  Using a brush allows you to apply the oil evenly and very little of it.  If you try to pour a little and then spread it with your fingers you’ll use 2-3 times as much and have greasy eggplant.  Tip number two.  If you don’t have garam masala and you’re not starting an Indian cooking adventure, don’t buy it.  You can make a reasonable substitute with 1/2 t each of cumin, cloves, cinnamon, and black pepper.

I made a few substitutions just based on what I had on hand.  I didn’t have a fresh chile of any kind so I added crushed red pepper instead.  And I don’t generally buy fresh tomatoes in February. With the exception of grape tomatoes, they’re pretty expensive and don’t taste like much this time of year in central VA.  I do have a basement full of summer tomatoes that I canned myself.  I’ll take those as a substitute for cooked winter tomatoes any day!  And I used canned chickpeas instead of homemade, because, well, the recipe said it was ok and in the make versus buy equation, chickpeas come out on the buy side every time.

The recipe recommends that you serve this with rice or flatbread if you’re using it as a main dish.  I don’t have any flatbread in the house.  I tried to buy naan over the weekend, but Wegman’s was out of all the naan except their store brand, which I don’t think is very good.  And no rice for me because in the last week I’ve eaten more rice than in the previous few months combined!  I’d recommend some bread or rice though.  The yogurt did a good job of balancing the heat, but a little something else would have been nice.  And it’ll stretch your dish a little further as well.  Maybe a little cucumber salad on the side would be nice as well.

What else.  Don’t skip the step where you cook the spices for a minute.  Giving them a chance to toast just a little really helps.  Also, I don’t usually like mint in savory dishes.  In my world mint is for juleps and tea, but it added a really nice sweet note in this dish.  I used spearmint, not peppermint, which I think is a good choice.

Here’s what you need:

  • 1 large eggplant, sliced and roasted
  • 1/2 a large onion, thinly sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded and minced or 1/2 t crushed red pepper
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons garam masala (substitute described above)
  • 1/2 t paprika
  • 1/2 t black pepper
  • 1/8 t cayenne pepper
  • 1 lb fresh tomatoes, chopped, or one pint canned tomatoes
  • 1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • lemon juice to taste

For garnish:

  • chopped green onions
  • chopped fresh mint leaves
  • plain yogurt (optional)

Here’s what you do:

  • Heat a tablespoon of oil in large skillet, then add the onions.
  • Cook until softened and golden, about 4 minutes.
  • Add garlic and cook until fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes longer.
  • Add spices and cook for 1 minute, then add tomatoes, chickpeas and 2 tablespoons water.
  • Partly cover the pan and let the mixture simmer until tomatoes start to break down, 10 to 15 minutes.
  • Add eggplant to the pan and cook for another 5 to 10 minutes, until sauce thickens.

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  • Serve with any combination of the garnish, rice, and flatbread

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“Everyday” Red Lentils

January 13, 2019

I have developed a serious love for lentils prepared with Indian spices – dal, in many of its forms.  For this Southern girl, with weird food texture issues, it might seem an odd comfort food, but that’s exactly what it is.  So I’m always looking for new recipes. I found this on foodnetwork.com.  It’s from Aarti Sequeira, so that seemed legit.  Whether it’s traditional or not, I love it!

I planned this as the wonderful cap to my “snow” day.  Sadly, I found out too late that I only had 1/2 C of red lentils so there’s only 1 serving of leftovers!  Frankly, I could eat this the rest of the week except that I have an eggplant thing on tap and a business dinner.  If you end up in this spot you could always serve it on rice to stretch it some.

This is super easy.  I was a little nervous about having to substitute mustard for mustard seed, but it worked out ok!  Other than that, I followed the instructions. I don’t know enough about cooking Indian food to monkey around with it but so much.  Could you use canned tomatoes?  I don’t see why not.  You’re cooking them down so not having the peels might be nice.  Could you use ground cumin?  Sure, but trust me on this, it’s not the same.  If you want to cook Indian food, invest in some cumin seed.  I was a little sorry I didn’t have a hot chili to add.  I like a little heat and it helps me not eat too much!

I think you could add rice and spinach to complete this one dish meal.  Lentils have protein, but they don’t offer a complete protein. Rice rounds that out.  And a leafy green is always a good idea.  I’ll do that for the leftovers.  I was so ready for these to be done that I ate them as is!

The one surprise for me was that adding salt too soon will make the lentils tough.  It took a lot of restraint for me to wait to add salt!

Here’s what you need:  serves 4-6

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  • 1 cup red lentils, picked through for stones
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • One 1/2-inch piece ginger, peeled and minced
  • 2 medium tomatoes, diced
  • 1 serrano chile, sliced in 1/2, optional

Tempering Oil (Bagaar):

  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon mustard
  • Generous 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil

Here’s what you do:

  • Put the lentils in a strainer and rinse them under running water. Add them to a bowl, cover with water and let soak for 30 minutes. Drain and set aside.
  • In a medium saucepan, combine 2 cups of water, the onions, garlic, ginger, tomatoes, chile, if using, and the lentils. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Skim any scum from the surface. DO NOT ADD SALT YET; it will toughen the lentils, thereby lengthening their cooking time. Lower the heat, cover the pot with a lid and gently simmer until the lentils are tender, almost translucent, and almost falling apart, about 30 to 40 minutes.

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  • Whisk the lentils, releasing its natural starch, and mash some them so the mixture becomes thick. Add salt, to taste.

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  • Tempering oil (bagaar): In a small bowl, combine the oil and mustard. In another bowl, combine the spice powders and cumin seed. Have all the ingredients ready because this will move very fast!
  • In a small skillet, over a medium-high flame, warm 1 tablespoon vegetable oil. Once the oil is shimmering, add seeds and immediately cover so you don’t get covered in spluttering oil and seeds! Add the spices. They should sizzle and bubble a little – that’s the blooming and it’s exactly what you want. Don’t let them burn. The mixture should bloom for about 30 seconds, no more.

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  • Pour the oil mixture into the lentils, standing back so you don’t get hurt when the mixture splutters again. Stir to combine.

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This is so good, y’all.  Really.  Every bit as much comfort food as mac and cheese or mashed potatoes.  And it’s vegan, for those of you who care about that.  It’s low fat and WW friendly.  Gotta love a comfort food that doesn’t make you feel the slightest bit guilty about over-indulging.  Enjoy!

 

Malai Palak (Indian Creamed Spinach) with Chickpeas

January 5, 2019

This is one of my favorite dishes.  I love Indian food and I mostly shy away from making it at home.  Much of my favorite Indian food has dozens of ingredients and almost as many steps.  This is serious cooking.  So, in a “build or buy” analysis, “buy” almost always wins.  Except for this.  The yum factor far exceeds any difficulty, and it’s not really that hard anyway.  Be prepared for some kitchen cleanup though!

I’ve made this dish twice before.  Once, as described in the recipe – just the spinach; and once using one of the given variations that adds paneer.  The spinach only variety is fantastic, but it’s not a meal.  It’s a side or a sauce.  With the paneer you’re getting closer to a meal, but it’s still really a side.  I wasn’t in the mood to think of anything else tonight so I had to make this my entire dinner, without just eating the whole pan.  I could have added some cubed chicken, but that would have meant an extra pan.  No good.  Aha, chickpeas!  Nothing to do but drain the can.

The recipe below is how I made it tonight.  You should know that the original uses heavy cream, not half and half. I just used what I had on hand.  The end result is slightly less thick, but still so, so good.  The original, which is from my Rasika cookbook, also calls for fenugreek powder.    I’m sure it adds some depth of flavor.  I’ve just never ordered any.

Here’s what you need:

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  • 10-12 oz fresh baby spinach
  • 1/4 C (or  slightly less) canola oil
  • 1 t cumin seeds
  • 2 T finely chopped garlic
  • 2 C chopped onions
  • 1 T finely chopped ginger
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded and finely chopped or Thai chilis to taste
  • 1/2 t ground turmeric
  • 1/4 C half and half
  • salt to taste

Here’s what you do:

  • Blanch the spinach (wilt in boiling water, submerge in ice water)
  • Drain the spinach well
  • Add spinach and 1/2-1 C water to a blender
  • Puree and set aside

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  • Heat the oil in a large skillet until the oil shimmers
  • Add cumin and garlic. Stir 15-30 seconds (Do not burn the garlic)
  • Add onions, stir 5 minutes until soft

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  • Add ginger, chilis, turmeric.  Cook 30 seconds

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  • Add chickpeas and spinach.  (watch for splatter)

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  • Cook 5 minutes, stirring constantly
  • Reduce heat to medium, add cream and salt
  • Return to a boil and cook another 5 minutes
  • Serve as is, or with rice and/or naan

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A couple of tips.  First, adding the chickpeas reduces the splatter factor quite a bit, but still be careful.  If your bare hand or arm gets splattered by hot oily spinach, it really hurts.  Second, time these 5 minute steps.  You need to give the flavors time to develop and the chickpeas time to heat through and soften.  It will feel like a very long time, but do it.

I can hardly describe how good this is.  The addition of the chickpeas was a very good call.  They provide good substance and have a wonderful creamy texture.  I served it over rice, but this is one of the rare cases where I think riced cauliflower might actually be just as good.  I’ll try that next time.  And there will definitely be a next time.  It’s all I can do not to eat the leftovers before I even put them away!

 

 

Vegetable Drawer Survivors: Vegan Curry

October 29, 2018

I’ve been traveling for work, as I often do.  I came home to a house with soup and pizza in the freezer and not much else in the way of foodstuffs, as I often do.  I left two items in the vegetable drawer, partly to see how hardy they are:  a head of orange cauliflower and a small bunch of collard greens.  Both survived in pretty fine form.  Both appear in tonight’s dinner.

I’ve taken a liking to chickpeas with cauliflower.  Neither tastes like all that much on its own.  Both take on flavor really nicely.  One crunchy and one creamy, the perfect pair.  It doesn’t hurt that I always have canned chickpeas in the house.  So, that’s how I landed on cauliflower and chickpea curry for dinner.

This is a tomato curry.  Lucky for me, I have a basement full of home canned tomatoes.  They have a brighter flavor than the canned ones you get from the store.  And since you home can in jars, they never have the slightly tinny taste that you sometimes get from an off can of store bought tomatoes. So, the advice is the same as always.  When you have only a few ingredients, use the best ones you can reasonably find and afford.  This curry has strong enough spices that you can get away with slightly more mediocre tomatoes if that’s what you have in the house.

Now comes confession time.  I didn’t have any fresh ginger in the house. I did have the end of a bottle of “squeeze ginger.”  You cannot make this up.  So, I cheated.  I used that instead of fresh.  Here’s the thing.  It’s not really a one for one substitute.  Fresh ginger is only that, ginger.  Squeeze ginger has a little sugar and a little vinegar in it.  Here’s my logic in using it anyway.  A little sugar never hurts against a heavy spice.  The tomatoes have a little acid added to them so they’ll keep in the jars, so a touch more acid from the vinegar would probably be ok.  Sound logic?  Probably not, but it worked for me.

This is super easy to put together.  Took me about 35 minutes including chopping and cooking.  With rice and/or naan alongside, this probably feeds 5-6.  As stew, more like 4.  But I have a major portion control problem when it comes to foods I like, so use your own judgment.

Here’s what you need:

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The very astute among you will notice that there’s a jar of yellow curry paste in this photo.  That’s a HUGE mistake.  I need curry powder for this.  Generally speaking, curry powder is for Indian dishes and curry paste is for Thai dishes.  Curry paste has a bunch of other stuff in it, usually including lime and coconut.  Not a terrific match for Indian curries.  Fortunately I caught my mistake before I started cooking.

This is supposed to be yellow curry powder, but I only had Madras so that’s what I used.

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I’ve never seen collard greens in a recipe for curry, but I had some and an extra leafy green never hurt anyone so in they went!  They add a little bitterness.  Just be sure to cut them in thin ribbons so they’ll cook through.  Remove the stems from the leaves and stack the leaves on top of each other.  Roll them into a cigar shape and then cut the rolls into ribbons.  Here’s what everything looks like chopped.

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Here’s what you really need:

  • 1 small head cauliflower, cut into pieces
  • 1 onion, halved and thinly sliced
  • 5-6 small collard leaves, stemmed and cut into ribbons
  • 1 T oil – olive or canola or vegetable
  • 2 t curry powder (Madras or yellow)
  • 1 inch fresh ginger, peeled and minced (or 1 T squeeze ginger)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 14-15 oz can whole peeled tomatoes
  • 1 can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 C water or vegetable stock
  • salt to taste

Here’s what you do:

  • Heat the oil until it shimmers and add the curry powder
  • Stir the curry powder until fragrant (1-2 minutes)
  • Add the onions, saute 6-7 minutes, until the onions are soft
  • Add the ginger, garbanzo beans, cauliflower, tomatoes, collards, bay leaf and water
  • Mix gently and bring to a simmer
  • Cover and cook 15-20 minutes, until the cauliflower is cooked through, but not mushy – Stir a couple of times as it cooks
  • Remove the bay leaf
  • Serve as stew or over rice

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How’d it turn out?

I made the curry early.  One of my pups has a pack walk tonight.  No time to eat before and no interest in starting to cook after.  So, I cook before and eat after.  Extra time stewing in its own juices never hurt a stew or a curry.

Let’s start with the pluses.  The flavors are fantastic!  It tastes like sunshine.  It’s warm and delightful!  I’m imagining that it will help me get over a cold that’s trying to settle in.  It’ll be even better tomorrow I’m sure.  And it’s beautiful.  The colors are vibrant and warm.

What would I do differently?  First, I would chop the collards instead of slicing them in ribbons.  It was weird to have stringy collards in there.  And maybe next time I’d use chard if I wanted to add a green.  Second, I would serve it over rice, or even grits or polenta.  The broth is really flavorful, but it’s really thin.  It seems too thin for the chunky cauliflower and chickpeas.  And too thin for a curry.  Maybe you could blend some chickpeas with some broth and add it back to the pot, though that doesn’t seem right either.  Maybe some tomato paste cooked in.  I’ll have to try it again to see.

Here’s a link to the recipe that served as tonight’s inspiration.

And if you love cauliflower and chickpeas together as much as I do, here’s a Thai style curry I hope you’ll like too!

Palak Paneer

August 8, 2018

It’s turned out to be International Vegetarian Week in One Woman’s Kitchen!  And that’s not a bad thing.  I love it when I get to remind myself that there’s a whole world of yummy food out there.  And if it’s mostly plants, well, Michael Pollan would be proud.  I’m not giving up bacon any time soon, but this is the second of two fantastic dishes to come out of the kitchen this week! (See the Vegetarian Enchiladas for the first one.)

I’ve actually made a version of this before.  It’s a recipe from a Rasika cookbook.  Rasika is my favorite Indian restaurant in the US. If you’re ever in DC and you like Indian food, make it a destination!  Last time I made Malai Palak, so no paneer.  It’s not that hard, and nothing too unusual except for the fenugreek powder, which I leave out.  This time I wanted to add a protein and I choose paneer instead of chicken, which would work just as well if you’re not vegetarian.

If you’re not familiar with paneer, it’s a very firm cheese.  It tastes to me like cottage cheese might taste if it came in a block.  It doesn’t melt so it will hold its shape when you add it to boiling spinach.  It’s available in most large grocery stores, but if not, certainly in an Indian market.

One of my favorite things about this recipe is that there’s no need to stem the spinach.  I’m pretty OCD about removing the stems even from baby spinach. I think they’re ugly to look at and unpleasant to deal with as you eat.  This spinach is going in the food processor so it doesn’t matter!

The key to making this successfully is mis en place.  Translation:  get your act together before you start.  Blanch all the spinach.  Do all your chopping.  Get out your spices so you don’t have to hunt for them when you need them.  Once you get started, things move fairly quickly.  The second tip is when it says “stir constantly,” do it.  It’s a defensive move as much as a cooking instruction.  Keeping the mixture moving prevents a lot of cursing.  Because it prevents being splattered by boiling hot spinach, which HURTS.  Warning issued.

First things first.  Blanch the spinach (a pound of it).  All that means is put it in a pot of boiling water for a few seconds, until it wilts; and then pull it out of the pot and move it to a bowl of ice water.  That stops the cooking and keeps the bright green color.  Set it aside in a strainer and let it drain. Don’t worry too much about getting the water out.  You’re going to add water to it in a sec.  Add the spinach to a blender or food processor and some water, up to a cup.  Puree.

Beyond the spinach here’s what you need:

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  • 1/4 C vegetable oil
  • 2 T minced garlic
  • 1/2 t cumin seed
  • 2 1/2 C diced onion
  • 1 T minced fresh ginger
  • 1 t minced thai chili or jalapeno
  • 1/2 t turmeric
  • 1/4 C  heavy cream (optional, but good)
  • 1 C paneer cut into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 1/2 t salt

Here’s what you do:

  • Heat the oil in a large pan.  When it shimmers add the cumin seeds and garlic. Brown the garlic.  30 seconds.
  • Add the onions.  Cook until the onions are brown. 5 minutes

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  • Add the ginger, jalapeno, and turmeric.  Stir 30 seconds.  Add the spinach. (Watch the splatter!)

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  • Stir constantly for 5 minutes.
    • You  know how two minutes talking to a friend is completely different than two minutes brushing your teeth?  This is a tooth brushing 5 minutes.  Watch the clock or set a timer.

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  • Reduce the heat.  Add cream, paneer, and salt.  Bring to a boil.  Stir another 5 minutes. Same rules apply about the splatter.

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I served mine over rice so it felt like a full meal. Feel free to serve it as a side or with naan.  Frankly it’s also amazing over eggs.  This is a food I could eat 3 times a day.  The paneer adds a nice texture.  The bad news is that it won’t take me long to get through this batch.  The good news is that it’s not that hard to make more!

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Chicken Green Masala – Wow!

May 21, 2018

It’s been a while!  I haven’t made anything very interesting lately, but this is a major comeback dish!  If you’ve been reading then you know I love Indian food.  And I’m overjoyed to find that I can make a darn good version of many dishes at home.  I’m incapable of cooking for one so I love dishes that make good leftovers. Check!  And I love versatile dishes.  Check!

This is a variation of a dish from my Rasika cookbook.  Rasika is my favorite Indian restaurant.  It’s in DC so I get to go there a few times a year.  Just can’t say enough good things about it.  If you have a chance, make a trip there.  If you don’t, get the cookbook.  This dish is really popular in the restaurant.  It’s described as really spicy so I’ve been afraid to try it there.  Maybe a good call.  My version made my nose run and my forehead sweat!

Let’s start with the masala.  You can make this ahead.  I love blender sauces because the chopping is minimal.  Note that you use the cilantro stems here.  Love that too, less waste.  Now let’s talk about the chiles.  The recipe calls for 10 Thai chiles.  I’ll admit that my chile knowledge is pretty minimal, but that sound super hot to me.  Medical emergency inducing hot.  My grocery store didn’t have any Thai chiles yesterday so I got a serrano and a jalapeno.  Honestly I didn’t notice that the recipe said 10 chiles until I started.  Just as well.  Plenty hot.  Plenty.  I did include the veins and seeds of both peppers because I was afraid of missing the mark by a lot.  That was a good call if you like spicy.

Here’s what you need for the herb puree: (serves 4)

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  • 1 smallish bunch cilantro, amounting to 2 cups roughly chopped
  • 1/2 C packed fresh mint leaves (spearmint)
  • 5 garlic cloves
  • 1 large jalapeno, roughly chopped
  • 1 small serrano, roughly chopped
  • 1/4 t turmeric
  • 1/4 C fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 C water

Here’s what you do:

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  • Put everything in a blender and puree 2-3 minutes until very smooth

Make the puree a day before if you like.  The chicken doesn’t take very long making this an easy weeknight meal.  I cheated some on the chicken.  The recipe calls for whole cardamom pods; a cinnamon stick; and whole cloves.  I have all of those thing.  What I don’t have is a spice grinder.  So, moving to ground. I had cardamom and cinnamon, but no ground cloves.  Grr.  What I did have was garam masala.  It includes all of the required spices plus a few other things.  Close enough!

Here’s what you need for the chicken:

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  • 1 T canola oil
  • 1 C finely chopped onion
  • 1-1 1/2 lbs chicken, cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 1/4 t turmeric
  • 1 t salt
  • 1 T garam masala
  • 2/3 C unsweetened coconut milk

Here’s what you do:

  • Heat the oil in a heavy pot (with a lid) until the oil shimmers (no smoke)
  • Add the onions and saute until soft, but not brown
  • Add chicken, turmeric and salt
  • Cook with the lid on for 4-5 minutes, stirring a few times
  • Add the herb mixture, coconut milk, and garam masala
  • Bring to a boil
  • Cook 5 minutes, until the chicken is done

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Serve with rice, naan, and yogurt or cucumber raita.

One note.  When you cook the chicken with the lid on it traps the moisture inside, adding a little liquid to your pot.  It keeps the chicken from sticking and burning.

So, what’s versatile about this dish?  You can control the heat.  Leave the chiles out completely if you like.  It’s super easy to make as a vegetarian dish.  Make it with tofu or seitan instead of chicken.  You can control the schedule.  Do the puree ahead or do the whole thing ahead. This dish is designed to eat the next day.  This puree would be good on roasted cauliflower or with shrimp.

I only made 1/2 the recipe, and those are the amounts I’ve provided.  It’s still easily 3-4 servings even without a side dish.  I will say that I made a full cup or cucumber raita and used nearly half of it tonight.  I’m ok with that.  I really enjoyed the heat and was really grateful for the relief as well!

Here’s how it turned out: (cookbook photo on the left, mine on the right)

HOT!  But so yummy.  I’ll make it again for sure.  I’m guessing I’ll make this cilantro puree a lot.  Without the chiles it would be fantastic as a dip for bread or roasted vegetables.  Nice as a sauce for rice as a side dish.  And a great way to use up cilantro stems!

Chickpea and Cauliflower Curry

March 19, 2018

It’s Meatless Monday!  I had a fridge fully of vegetables that needed to become something so I started roasting them.  You can use roasted vegetables in place of raw vegetables in most things and you get the extra flavor.  It also shortens the cooking time of the dish you use them in.  So today I have roasted broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and garlic.  I did a search on epicurious.com for roasted cauliflower to give me some inspiration.

I found this recipe for chickpea curry with cauliflower, tomatoes, and spinach.  Perfect. All things I have.  One of my favorite chickpea curries is a Thai curry with cauliflower and coconut milk that I make in the Crock-Pot.  Having another chickpea curry in my repertoire seemed like a really good idea.

This is super good and super healthy.  I ate it like stew so no rice or bread.  I only wish I’d had a little plain yogurt to dollop on top!

Here’s what you need:

  • 2 t olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  •  1 T ginger, minced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 T curry powder
  • 1 can chickpeas, drained
  • 1-1/2 C water
  • 1 small head cauliflower, cut and roasted
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes
  • 3 C fresh spinach, stemmed
  • chopped cilantro, optional

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Here’s what you do:

  • Heat the oil in a large pot until it begins to smoke
  • Add the onions.  Cook until golden brown.

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  • Add the ginger, garlic, and curry powder.  Stir for 1 minute.
  • Add the chickpeas and water.  Salt the water (1-2 t).  Bring to a boil.  Cover.  Cook 7-10 minutes, until the chickpeas are tender.

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  • Add the cauliflower and tomatoes.  Simmer uncovered another 7-10 minutes, until the cauliflower and tomatoes are heated through.
  • Stir in the spinach, in batches if needed to make it fit.  When the spinach is wilted, salt to taste.

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Here’s how it turned out:

Yum!  I like that this is definitely curry, but not overly spicy.  I love a curry that makes your nose run, but not all the time.  With the spinach and fresh tomatoes, this has just the right early Spring feel about it.

I feel like it’s pretty versatile.  You could definitely serve it over rice to bulk it up.  You could dish it up with a slotted spoon to drain the liquid and serve it as a side dish.  You could add some chicken or shrimp.  Have fun with it!

Here’s the inspiration recipe for you to check out!

Tip Be careful biting into these tomatoes.  They are flaming hot on the inside.  If you bite into one it’s going to squirt lava hot tomato all over the inside of your mouth.  Maybe cut them first.

Malai Palak (Indian Creamed Spinach)

February 11, 2018

Another recipe from my Rasika cookbook, it’s been on my list for a couple of weeks. I had just a little of the chicken curry left and this was nice to have alongside.  It’s nothing like the creamed spinach you may be used to, served with steak and filled with cheese and cream and butter.  I’m not knocking that, but this is definitely not that.  No cheese and with much less cream.  It turned out slightly more like spinach sauce or soup than I expected.  It tastes good and the onions give it some texture, but it still might be nice for it to be a little bit toothier.

I did make a couple of substitutions.  I used part of a jalapeno instead of a Thai green chili, less heat and a pepper slightly easier to come by.  I looked for fenugreek leaves and fenugreek leaf powder, but no luck.  Of course I combed the interwebs looking for a suitable substitute.  Here’s what’s weird. Some sites listed maple syrup and some sites listed fennel and others celery leaves.  Odd.  Maple syrup seemed kind of out there.  You have to buy a whole fennel bulb or a jar of fennel seeds.  I’m not a huge fan of fennel so I wouldn’t have a lot of use for the leftovers.  That left me with celery leaves.

For the spinach:

  • 1 large clamshell of spinach (10oz)
  • handful celery leaves
  • 3/4 C water

Blanche the spinach in boiling water and transfer immediately into a bowl of iced water.  That’s how you keep the bright green color.  Drain.  Add spinach, celery leaves, and water to a blender.  Process until smooth.

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Here’s the spice/aromatic part of the ingredients list: (my photo disappeared!)

  • 1/4 C canola oil
  • 1/2 t cumin seeds
  • 2 T minced garlic
  • 2 1/2 C diced onion
  • 1 T minced ginger
  • 1 t diced jalapeno
  • 1/2 t turmeric
  • 1/4 C cream
  • salt to taste

Here’s what you do:

  • Heat the oil in a large pan.  When it shimmers add the cumin seeds and garlic. Brown the garlic.  30 seconds.
  • Add the onions.  Cook until the onions are brown. 5 minnutes
  • Add the ginger, jalapeno, and turmeric.  Stir 30 seconds.  Add the spinach.
  • Stir constantly for 5 minutes.  Be careful of the splatter.
  • Reduce the heat.  Add cream and salt.  Bring to a boil  Cook another 5 minutes.

Here’s how it went:

Other than the fenugreek, this recipe is pretty easy and pretty good.  It’s beautifully bright green.  It has a toasty flavor with just a little heat.  I did end up with a green polka dotted kitchen.  There’s a LOT of splatter when you add the spinach.  It’s a great side dish.  I imagine it will be good served over rice.  The cookbook offers adding cubed paneer  or potatoes as good variations.  Palak paneer makes a good entree and adding some potatoes would give some weight to the spinach as a side.  All in all, two thumbs up!  My array of Indian food at home is increasing!

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UPDATE:  This is absolutely a multi-use vegetable side.  It makes a fantastic topping for scrambled eggs and an amazing sauce for pasta!

Tariwala Murgh (Chicken Curry)

February 5, 2018

I think I’ve mentioned how much I love Indian food. Love it.  But I rarely make it at home.  It’s often full of ingredients that aren’t familiar to me and that I don’t usually have in the house.  This year I bought a beautiful cookbook from Rasika, my favorite Indian restaurant in DC.  I decided I would be brave.  I would collect some of the ingredients I didn’t know and I would jump in and make some of this wonderful food.

This cookbook does a wonderful job of explaining all of the spices you’ll encounter.  Even better, it tells you in how many recipes you’ll encounter those spices.  This was a big help to me in deciding which ones I should buy to get the most bang for my buck.  For this one, I ordered deggi murch.  It’s a special chili powder.  While I don’t have everything I need to cook my way through this book, I do have an extensive spice cabinet.  I do keep turmeric, cardamon, cumin seed and garam masala in the pantry, so that made this that much easier.

I’ll admit this is not an easy recipe.  It has a lot of ingredients and it takes a long time.  The recipe commentary recommends that you make this a day or two ahead of serving it, so I haven’t even eaten any yet to know if it’s worth it!  That comes tomorrow.

I feel confident that you could use this masala on vegetables just as well, but I used chicken because that’s what the recipe says.  It also says you could make it with lamb. So, very versatile.  And it freezes well.  If it’s good enough to make it again I’ll probably make double.  It won’t be much more trouble to double the amounts and having some in the freezer would be worth it.

This is “Home-style Chicken Curry” so everyone does it a little differently.  I followed the recipe as closely as possible.  I did use home canned tomatoes instead of fresh.  They just taste better than Winter tomatoes in Virginia which taste like nothing.  And I used some bottled ginger to make the paste because that seemed like exactly the right use for ginger that was already kind of paste-like.  Oh, and I substituted ground cumin for ground coriander.  It seemed closer that substituting fresh cilantro, which is the plan that produces coriander seeds.

So settle in.  Here we go.  Just kidding. The description will be a LOT shorter than the actual process!

Here’s what you need, with my adjustments:

  • 1 pint canned tomatoes
  • 2 C water
  • 6T vegetable oil
  • 1/2 t cumin seeds
  • 4 green cardamon pods
  • 4 whole cloves
  • 1 inch cinnamon stick
  • 2 Indian bay leaves
  • 1/2 an onion sliced thinly
  • 1 T chopped garlic
  • 2 T Ginger-Garlic paste (process 1 part ginger, 3 parts garlic and some water into a paste)
  • 1 t turmeric
  • 1 t deggi mirch
  • 1 T ground cumin
  • 1 1/2 lbs boneless chicken, chopped into 2 inch pieces
  • 1 T salt
  • 2 T finely chopped fresh ginger
  • 1 C hot water
  • 2 T fresh lemon juice
  • 2 t garam masala

Whew!  That’s the list.  But there are fewer steps than ingredients!

Here;s what you do:

  • Set out the chicken to come to room temperature and salt it.
  • Puree the tomatoes and water in a blender
  • Heat the oil in a heavy bottomed pot until the oil shimmers.  Cast iron or enameled cast iron are your best bets.  Add the cumin seeds, cardamom, cloves, cinnamon stick, bay leaves.  When the cumin starts to crackle, add the onion.

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  • Cook 7-10 minutes, until the onion is brown.  Add the garlic.  Cook another 3-5 minutes.  The garlic should be brown.  Watch it carefully or it will burn.
  • Add the Ginger-Garlic Paste.  Have the lid nearby!  This stuff cracks and pops in that hot oil.  Cook it 30 seconds.
  • Add the tomato puree.  Bring to a boil.  And the turmeric, deggi mirch, and cumin.  Cook 15 minutes.  You’ll end up with a loose paste.

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  •  Add the salted chicken and ginger.  Cover the pot.  Cook 5 minutes.  Stir occasionally.
  • Add the water, lemon juice, and garam masala.  Reduce heat to medium.  Cover the pot, cook 10 minutes.  It will be soupy when you’re done.

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Serve with rice and naan.  That comes tomorrow.  Fingers crossed that this was all worth it!