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Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Immune Booster Chunky Beetroot Soup

I love beets no matter what the reason, but this time, I decided to use them for healing.  My throat has been starting to feel sore and I would like to kick that to the side before it claims anything more on me.  I felt I needed something full of vitamins that I could also enjoy as a meal (not just a tablet or a drink with boosters).  I was thinking something along the lines of Borscht but vegetarian and with ginger.  The vegetarian part was mostly to cut down on cooking time and also because I didn't feel like grocery shopping.  This little idea flowered into a perfect winter meal.  I was going to use beans in place of the meat.. but for the cooking time, I decided to use quinoa instead.  Those little magic pearls explode into glossy little soldiers floating around in the soup.  They are perfect for body and for the protein component... making this a full meal.
Serves 3-4
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp caraway seeds
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 onion, peeled and diced
1-2 green chiles, diced
1 large raw beet, peeled and diced
1 large carrot, peeled and diced
4-6 cups vegetable broth, depending on the soupiness you want
3 cloves garlic, grated
1 inch ginger, grated
1/2 cup rinsed quinoa
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 handfuls torn kale leaves
lots of freshly ground black pepper
Salt to taste
1.  Heat the oil in your soup pot and add the caraway and mustard seeds until they start to snap and crackle.
2.  Add the chopped onion and chiles and cook, stirring, until onions are translucent.
3.  Add the beets, carrots, and enough broth just to cover.  You will decide how liquid you want it later.  Cover and simmer for about 10 minutes.
4.  Add the quinoa and a bit more broth.  Cover and simmer for another 15 minutes.
5.  Add the balsamic vinegar and black pepper and stir, then add the kale leaves on top.  Add more broth if needed.  Simmer for another 5 minutes.
6.  Stir and taste.  Add salt if needed.  I didn't think it needed any adjustments.  The natural flavors are so present that they need very little to go a long way.

Serve hot!

The kale leaves were a very nice twist on the use of cabbage.  It reminded me of the extra step they bring to Zuppa Toscana, my favorite "Restaurant" soup.  They don't become rubbery and strange in the broth the way green cabbage does.
They were the Perfect topping..

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Sunday, November 22, 2015

Persimmon Apple Cobbler with Green Chiles

This last week I've been trying to figure out a way to make an All American dessert to go with my Kale Chips and Chili.  I usually go with Pumpkin Pie but one of my guests had already witnessed that.. so I had to find something else to fit the theme.  I also wanted to use Persimmons because they are beautiful as adornments to their leafless trees and are really in season.  When I stumbled upon a cobbler recipe using green chiles.. it literally called out to me and took over my brain cells.  I twisted and turned the the idea in my head for an entire week, trying to figure out if I should make a pie, make individual ramekins of cobbler, make a crumble, or just go with the whole messy looking thing and call it "la bonne franquette," which means.. please don't mind the look, just enjoy.
Well, I'm happy I did because I discovered cobbler.  I don't remember ever eating anything called cobbler and I certainly have never made it before, so with a major cutdown on the original sugar amount (it called for more than double what I used) I had something nice and caramelized on top but creamy .. and slightly spicy on the inside.
This dessert could not have been more Me.
Inspired by HomesickTexan
2 apples (I used Gala) peeled, cored, and diced
2 persimmons, peeled, cored, and diced
1-2 jalapeños, roasted, peeled, seeded, and diced
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp fivespice
1/8 tsp nutmeg
Juice from 1 lime
2 Tbsp dried pomegranate seeds
100g (3.5oz) butter
50g (1.8oz) buckwheat flour
50g (1.8oz) oats
20g (0.7oz) wholewheat flour
75g (2.6oz) brown or cane sugar
2 tsp baking powder
Pinch salt
3/4 cup whole milk
1.  Toss all the filling ingredients together and place in a buttered pie dish, spread evenly.
2.  To make the batter, mix all the ingredients except the butter together.
3.  Melt the butter in a pan on low heat until completely melted.
4.  Pour the batter mixture over the butter off heat.  Do not stir.
5.  Pour the batter with the butter into the pie dish over the filling.
6.  Cook at 350°F 180°C for 45 minutes until the top is caramelized.
Eat warm!

When the cobbler is still warm, it will be hard to get it to slice like a pie.  It doesn't matter.  Just serve and enjoy!  Another variation is to make individual servings... but who wants to go through all that trouble when you just want to relax and have a good time?
Next time I will use even less sugar because I don't think it really needs it.  The fruit is so naturally sweet that it seems almost sacrilegious to take the attention away from it...

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Thursday, November 12, 2015

Zucchini is invited into my Fajitas now

So what happens if you only have 1 bell pepper and a mega urge for fajitas?
Use zucchini!
If cooked correctly, it keeps its texture and doesn't become a boring piece of watery mess that takes up space in your plate.
Yes.. it IS important to know how to cook vegetables or you will never be able to appreciate them correctly!  Many people have told me they don't appreciate this or that because it adds no value to the finished product.  You cannot just talk a vegetable into adding value.. even if you DO talk to your food (I know I do).  You are the master of this art.  The thing about zucchini is that it is part of the squash family.  Squash, once cooked, loses its texture and is most often blitzed into a purée or a soup.  If you are not careful, it can get floppy.
This technical issue makes it a perfect candidate for stir-fried type of dishes like fajitas.  You don't cook the vegetables for a very long time so they keep their snap.
Serves 4
250g (1/2 b) chicken breast, sliced thinly
1 garlic clove, grated
few pinches fleur de sel
squeeze from 1/2 lime
few grinds black pepper
1/2 tsp coriander powder
1/2 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp chile powder (optional if serving with spicy beans)
1+1 Tbsp olive oil
1 onion, sliced into moons
1 red bell pepper, sliced
1 large zucchini, cut into bell pepper like slices.. not too thin
1 green chile, sliced (optional if serving with spicy beans)
1.  Rub the grated garlic onto the chicken slices and sprinkle on some fleur de sel, black pepper, cumin,  coriander, chile powder, and paprika.  Add the lime juice, rub in to make sure everything is evenly distributed.  Set aside and let marinate for at least 10 minutes (while you chop everything else.)
2.  Heat 1 Tbsp of the olive oil on high in a wok or heavy based pan.  Add the onion slices and stir fry until just translucent, then add the bell pepper, zucchini, and green chile slices with a pinch of fleur de sel.  Cook on high, stirring for about 3-5 minutes.  Reserve.
3.  Heat the other Tbsp olive oil into the same wok.  Add the marinated chicken slices and cook until nicely colored.
4.  Add the vegetables to the meat and heat through.  You want the bell peppers and zucchini to be crisp, so don't over-cook them into mush.

Serve with some Black Beans and Rice.  Don't forget to add some shredded cabbage, cheese, sour cream, and your favorite salsa!

Now if only I could get a hold of proper tortillas...

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Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Caraway, Tuna, and Broadbean Soup

Soup season doesn't mean you have to drink your dinner.  I personally prefer chunky creamy soups to velvety smooth blended soups.  I have different thickening methods, but my all-time favorite is to use beans.  Once they're cooked, I blend some together with the cooking liquid and pour it back into the pot.  The result is similar to cream.. without the cream, but with all the goodness of creaminess!
Serves 2
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp caraway seeds
1/4 tsp turmeric
1 green chile, slit
1 chopped onion
1/2 cup dried split broad beans, soaked for at least 1 hour
water to level
1 cube vegetable bouillon
1 carrot, diced
2 handfuls cauliflower florets
1 can tuna, drained
1/4 cup frozen peas
lots of cracked black pepper
grated parmesan for garnish
1.  Heat the oil in the soup pot and add the caraway seeds when it is hot.  When the seeds start to crackle, add the turmeric.  It should fizz.
2.  Add the green chile and onions and cook until translucent.
3.  Add the soaked broadbeans, carrot, cube of bouillon, and water to level.  Cover and simmer for about 15 minutes, until the beans are almost tender.  Remove a ladle with the beans and set aside.
4.  Add the cauliflower florets and more water if needed.  Simmer for 5 more minutes.  You don't want to overcook the cauliflower or it will be come mushy.
5.  Add the tuna, peas, and black pepper.  Judge the water level yourself.  Heat through for a few minutes.
6.  While that is happening, blend the beans you set aside in step 3 and pour them back into the soup. This is your thickener.  The liquid should no longer be clear.  Taste and add salt if needed.

Serve garnished with parmesan.  I found some excellent multigrain bread to sop up the last bits with.
Bread and caraway also go hand in hand by the way.

This is is one of those dinners I created as I progressed through the steps and made sure to write each detail down so I could recreate it.  It was everything I love about a soup with a little mix of Indian style technique.  Cauliflower and caraway seeds are a perfect match, but frying them in oil and then adding the turmeric for a fizz is the best way to have them release their flavor.  I love the way the method can be applied to any type of dish.. not only Indian food..
(as I say this, bhangra music is playing in my head)

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Sunday, November 8, 2015

Ginger Oatmeal Peanut Butter Cookies

It's the root of all life and all remedies.  It gives heat without spice, flavor without salt, and a full load of nurture in its nature.
This week ginger has been on my mind.. and it materialized in normal rounds of dinners, but it was the star of these cookies..
This recipe is similar to the Oatmeal Cocoa Bean Cookies, but with a slightly different twist.
Yield 40 small cookies
90g (oz) room temperature butter
30g (oz) natural peanut butter
115g (oz) brown sugar or cassonade
1 egg
70g (2.5oz) flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1 1/2 cup oats
100g (3.5oz) dark chocolate, broken into bits (mine had coffee beans in it)
20g (oz) roasted cocoa bean, crushed with a mortar and pestle into chunks
4 Tbsp minced candied ginger
1.  Sift the flour, baking soda, spices, and salt together and set aside.
2.  Cream the butter, peanut butter, and sugar together.
3.  Add the egg and beat well until as homogenous as you can.
4.  At this point, I like to switch to a wooden spoon.  Add in the sifted dry ingredients a bit at a time until evenly incorporated.
5.  Stir in the oatmeal, crushed cocoa beans, candied ginger, and dark chocolate bits.
6.  Place 1 Tbsp sized balls of dough onto a baking sheet, separating each ball at least 1 1/2 inches apart.  With 1 Tbsp I had around 40 cookies.
7.  Bake in a preheated oven at 190°C 375°F for 12 minutes.
8.  Remove and let cook on a wire rack at least 10 minutes before eating.

They look so perfect in that cookie jar!

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Thursday, November 5, 2015

Tandoori Roasted Eggplant with Pear

Sometimes I have different cravings at the same time.  Those days I just zone out and put my inner cook on autopilot.  Sometimes the result is ok, but not breathtaking.
This time it was a masterpiece.
The balance, between textures, spiciness, sweetness, and Indianness makes it so perfect I wouldn't be surprised if I was served this as an appetizer at a classy restaurant.
I wanted eggplant but had some leftover chutney that needed to be used up.  I only needed to cook for myself so I set myself free and let it happen.  I took my desired eggplant, sliced it, rubbed with tandoori spice and then found a pear that had been hanging out in the fridge for a while and decided to do the same with it.  The worst that could happen would be if cooked pear and tandoori didn't go together.
What happened?
Ultimate witchcraft.  A mesmerizing state of mind during the enjoyment process.  Something I had to absolutely document so I can make it again and serve it to actual humans...
Serves 2-3 as an appetizer
1 large eggplant, cut into 4-5 lengthwise slices
1 pear, peeled, cored, and cut into wedges
1 green chile, split
1 1/2 tsp tandoori spice
1 Tbsp olive oil
1.  In a baking dish, rub the tandoori spice all over each slice of eggplant, pear, and green chile, then toss with the olive oil.
2.  Spread out in one layer and roast for 30 minutes at 200°C 400°F.

Serve with Spicy Cilantro Chutney

or do it again with Persimmons, and Zucchini instead of pear
and serve as a "real" meal with basmati rice and dal.

I had the entire thing for dinner because I could not stop myself from savoring each and every little piece.  Each bite is an adventure in itself.. and with the chutney you skyrocket off your seat.
I cannot wait to make this for company.
It is a high class appetizer.. plus, I won't be offended if you eat it with a knife and fork..

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Monday, November 2, 2015

Beetroot Pakoras

This weekend I was invited to a party and asked to bring an appetizer.  That news in and itself was thrilling and got my gears churning all week to figure out what to make.
I was told to stay within reasonable limits because it was to be served alongside a gratin dauphinois....
That completely blocked my gears.
All I wanted to do was make Lobia Pakoras with chutney and now I find out it has to go with a potato and cream casserole.  How in the hail am I supposed to make something that crazy happen?
Well, lets see.. since a gratin dauphinois is pretty heavy, I should make something light with vegetables.  Ooh beet pakoras!  PERFECT!
All I had to do was present them as beet fritters with cilantro "coulis" to make it sound local enough to psychologically be paired with whatever was going to be served.
After 2 days of trying to find a "French-ish" recipe that I could be proud of, I found the absolute perfect way to break the ice... Indian style.
Original recipe from Padma'sRecipes.
Yield 22 pakoras
1/2 cup toor daal, soaked overnight
1/2 cup chana daal, soaked overnight
1 medium beet, peeled and grated (about 1 cup)
1 large carrot, peeled and grated
1 green chile, finely minced
1 red onion finely minced
1 inch piece ginger, grated
1 sprig curry leaves
2 pinch hing
1/2 tsp salt
sunflower oil to fry
1.  Drain the daals and grind them with the hing, salt, and curry leaves into a paste.  It shouldn't be an evenly smooth paste.
2.  In a mixing bowl, stir together the dal paste and the vegetables.  Knead until everything is evenly distributed.  I pulsed my hand blender in the mix a few times to help it come together.  It should not be goopy or watery, but if you form a ball with your hands it should stay together.
3.  Heat the frying oil.  Make balls and press them tightly together.  Carefully drop the balls into the hot oil.  Do not overcrowd.  You should have enough oil to almost cover the pakoras.
4.  Cook 3 minutes, then flip and cook another 3 minutes.  They should be golden and crispy.  Reserve onto paper towels.
5.  Reheat if needed in the oven for 10 minutes so they keep their crispiness.

I served with a duo of Spicy Cilantro Chutney and Sweet Tamarind Chutney.

This was a great success.  Although they were fried, they were light and crunchy and went perfectly with both chutneys.  The Sweet Tamarind actually enhanced the flavor more than the Spicy Cilantro.. but I can eat that one by the spoonful whether or not there are pakoras or samosas!  I was asked for the recipe.  WIN!
I'm very happy I didn't listen to the "advice" about staying French.  If I have something on my mind, you can't ask me NOT to do it.  The human brain just does not work that way.

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Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Purple Cauliflower Soup with Caramelized Onions and Cêpes

Some people just know me so well, it brings tears to my eyes.  Like my good friend who offered me a purple cauliflower for no apparent reason other than to see my reaction and what I would possibly be doing to it.  It's almost as if she knew she was giving it a good home by offering it to me.  Those are the types of gifts that touch me deeply.
The dizzying purple color was putting me into wild food trances.  I imagined a vibrant purple soup and how sexy it would be if I blended it into a smooth velvety creamy texture.  I imagined how I would decorate it with caramelized onions and sautéed cepe mushrooms and garlic croutons.
All my dreams came true except for the color.  I thought roasting it as opposed to boiling it would help it keep its color.
Alas.. my sexy vibrant purple soup was taupe.. but oh was it delicious and Earthy.. just the way I like it!
Serves 3-4
1 head purple cauliflower, broken into small florets
3 carrots, cut into sticks
1 head garlic, skin on
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp salt
Olive oil to toss
1-2 cups water
2 large yellow onions, sliced into moons
1-2 large cêpe mushrooms, or 200g wild mushrooms, sliced
2 Tbsp olive oil
drizzle balsamic vinegar
garlic rubbed croutons
dollop of yogurt (optional)
1 chile de arbole (optional)
1.  Mix the ground cumin, coriander, and salt together and sprinkle on the cauliflower florets and carrot sticks.  Drizzle it all with olive oil along with the head of garlic and place in a single layer in an oven tray.  Bake at 200°C 400°F for 20 minutes.
2.  While that is happening, make the toppings.  Heat 1 Tbsp olive oil in a pan and add the sliced onions.  Cook on medium until browned (about 10-15 minutes) and deglaze with the vinegar.  Set aside.
3.  Heat the other Tbsp olive oil in a pan and add the sliced cêpe mushrooms.  Cook on medium until glossy (about 10 minutes).  Set aside.
4.  When your good stuff is done roasting, transfer it to a pot and add just a bit of water.  Squeeze the garlic out of its paper and blend it all with an immersible hand blender.  If you like it thin, use more water.  I like it thick.  I probably used 1 1/2 cup.
5.  Heat through in case it cooled down before serving.

Serve hot ladled into bowls garnished with the desired toppings.

Set aside the disappointment about the color.. because taupe is pretty too!

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Friday, October 23, 2015

Chicken Tajine with Preserved Lemon and Artichoke

Sacrilege!  Am I allowed to call this a tajine when I used chickpeas and quinoa?
Well, this type of cooking is not native to me so I have no issues with rule breaking.  There are certain things I would never permit if this was Indian food .  Certain things were made to be the way they need to be made.  I would never serve pasta with daal.. or beef korma.. nor would I ever put bacon in couscous (ok that's not Indian, but still, I wouldn't do it although I've seen people do it!)  I have no problem using paneer instead of tofu or subbing ground turkey for ground pork in Chinese recipes.  I also don't mind using Korean noodles in a Vietnamese dish.  This dish is the same.  I wanted all the little things separately and perfectly within the same dish.  The cooking method just happens to be called "tajine", which is why I permitted myself to name the dish this way.
Traditionally, a tajine is a slow cooked dish of vegetables and mixed spices with very little liquid that is sopped up with some sort of bread or couscous.  It can be made with meat or fish, but they are not submerged in the cooking liquid.  They are rather steamed or roasted atop the vegetables in a circular pyramidal clay cooking vessel also called a tajine.  They usually do not include any beans such as chickpeas.
I wanted chickpeas and I really don't regret it.. sorry purists.
Serves 4
4 chicken legs
1 cup cooked chickpeas (or 1 can, drained)
2 cloves
1 cinnamon stick
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp whole black pepper
2 dried red chiles
2 preserved lemons, pulp discarded and rind sliced
1 can artichoke hearts, drained
1 large onion, sliced into moons
1 green chile, halved (I used a Kabyle chile)
few pinches saffron
1/4 cup water
chopped cilantro
lime wedges
1.  Place the chickpeas at the bottom of the slow cooker along with the cloves, cinnamon stick, cumin, black pepper, dried chiles, and preserved lemon.  Layer on the onion, chicken legs, artichoke hearts, green chile, and saffron.  Pour the water in.  You want the chicken and artichokes to be above the water level so they will "roast" and not soak.
2.  Cook on low for 6 hours.

I served mine with some bulgur and cilantro.
After the hours of cooking, the chicken releases its juices to make a very tasty sauce.  I didn't feel it needed salt, but you might want to add a bit of fleur de sel to your plate.
I put the Kabyle chile on the top so I could easily remove it before serving.  I wanted it to infuse the cooking ambiance but I wanted to have it spice my own plate up and not the entire dish.
I feel I have finally figured out the preserved lemon thing.  You either leave them whole and then remove them after cooking or you'd better remove the pulp.  That pulp is very hard to palate so I was happy to not feel like my dinner was harassing me.
Although.. sometimes I like mealtime harassement...

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Thursday, October 22, 2015

Green Pea and Feta Quiche with a Millet Crust

I stumbled upon this idea from while flipping through DesertCandy a few months ago.  The idea completely intrigued me.  Peas.. in a quiche??  I tweaked a few things but the basic idea is the same.  Put peas and cheese in a quiche.  How fabulous!
I've made this twice and each time was a success.  I was even asked to make it again for the next quiche occasion!
Serves 6 as an appetizer
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 onion, sliced into moons
drizzle balsamic vinegar
100g (3.5oz) fresh spinach
2 cups frozen peas
2 large cloves garlic, grated
200g (7oz) feta, cut into cubes
2 Tbsp freshly chopped mint
4 eggs
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 cup full milk (I used goat)
few pinches salt
lots of ground black pepper
1/2 cup millet, rinsed
1.  Heat 1 Tbsp olive oil in a sautée pan and cook the onions on medium heat until they are glossy and dark in color.  Deglaze with balsamic vinegar.  Remove from heat and set aside.
2.  Heat the other Tbsp olive oil in the same pan and add the fresh spinach.  Sautée for a few minutes with a pinch of fleur de sel, some pepper, and 1 of the grated garlic cloves.  This takes about 4 minutes.  Remove from heat and set aside.
3.  Rinse the frozen peas in a colander under warm water.  Drain and transfer to a mixing bowl and stir in the other clove of grated garlic and the chopped mint.  Smash some of the peas.  I used my hands and squished some.
4.  In a mixing bowl, beat the eggs until frothy.  Add the milk and cream and beat until frothy again.  Add a bit of salt and cracked black pepper.
5.  Oil your baking dish and spread the millet along the bottom.
6.  You are now ready to assemble.  Place the cooked onions over the millet, followed by the sautéed spinach.  Add the peas and try to even out the layer.  Press the feta cubes into the peas.  Help them nestle in and find their place.  Pour the egg and cream mixture over it all.
7.  Bake for 50 minutes at 185°C 365°F
8.  Let cool at least 1 hour before eating.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

The millet hardens the longer it sits to form a nice crust that is crunchy and tender all at once.
The mixture of ingredients is completely surprising but works like magic.  I absolutely love the texture of the half smashed, half whole peas and their natural sweetness contrasted with the feta.  Those two make a lovely pair...

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