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Sunday, September 21, 2014

Curried Kala Chana in Coconut Milk

The month of September this year is probably my busiest month.  I'm out of town all week with little room for innovation in the kitchen and on the weekends, there are a plethora of activities and invitations planned.  This leaves me approximatley 1/2 day a week to become intimately involved in my own kitchen with all its spices and tools, and dry ingredients (since I haven't been shopping much for my empty house).  When I finally do get cozy, I want comfort and regeneration.  Something that will wipe the stress and fatigue away and get me ready and willing to face the crazy upcoming week.
Anything involving chickpeas, beans, or daal does the trick..
Serves 6
Ingredients
1 cup black chickpeas, soaked overnight and cooked until tender in the crockpot
2 Tbsp coconut oil
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp black mustard seeds
1 tsp fennel seeds
1/2 tsp fenugreek seeds
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp turmeric
Pinch hing
1 inch piece ginger, grated 
1 green chili, split and seeded
3 garlic cloves, grated
2 medium shallots, sliced
1 large carrot, grated
1 tomato, chopped
10 small cubes frozen spinach (about 200g)
1 can coconut milk
3 Tbsp dried methi (fenugreek leaves)
Juice from 1/2 lime
1 cup reserved chickpea cooking water
Salt to taste
chopped green onions for garnish
Directions
1.  Heat the coconut oil on high in a wok or tadka and add the cumin, mustard, fennel, and fenugreek seeds.  Cook until the seeds start to sputter, about 30 seconds.
2.  Add the turmeric and hing.  It should fizz, then add the ginger, garlic, and green chili.  Cook until fragrant.
3.  Add the shallots and carrots.  Cook until the shallots are translucent, about 2-3 minutes, stirring.
4.  Add in the tomato and spinach.  You want the tomato to "melt" a bit.
5.  Add the coconut milk.  Bring to a boil, and simmer for about 5 minutes.  The spinach should be completely thawed.  If you choose to use fresh, it should be wilted.
6.  Add in the kala chana, lim, and methi.  Bring to a boil.  If too thick, add in some of the cooking water from the kala chana.  I added about 1 cup.  Taste and add salt as needed.
7.  Simmer on low until ready to eat.  I left mine about 30 minutes on a very very low simmer.

Serve over some rice and topped with some chopped green onions.
I cooked my basmati/red rice in the kala chana cooking water, so it came out brownish, but I really felt I needed to use up every nutrient I had available for my regeneration to be complete.
I also roasted some chicken thighs in some tandoori chicken spices, but that it completely optional.  I enjoyed this so much I'm already dreaming about having it again for lunch tomorrow..
there is something about mixing chickpeas with spinach, coconut, and rice that makes me feel born again.. 

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Thursday, September 11, 2014

Ma La Ice Cream at Terre Adelice

I'm a sucker for ice cream.  Not just any ice cream, mind you, and if you know me even a little bit I may have already mentioned to you the existence of piment d'espelette or tomato ice cream.  You may have been appalled, but I may then have piqued your curiosity.  Opportunities involving such bizarre mixtures in dessert should never be passed up in one's life, because one does not know when that opportunity may come up again...especially when one has been waiting years for that 2 hour drive to happen so one could blissfully slurp that chili pepper ice cream while admiring the beautiful view of the Monts de l'Ardeche.
I've been frequenting the Terre Adelice here in Lyon for quite some time, enjoying flavors such as wasabi, goat cheese, bell pepper, pain d'epices, cucumber, ginger, pine nut, sesame.. and I'm not finished naming them all.  Their ice cream is such high quality and most of the time, organic, that I always must taste a different flavor every time I'm in the area.  Their website shows all the different flavors they make, and after consulting it for the first time, I felt lust at first sight.
I absolutely had to try the Piment d'Espelette ice cream.
Unfortunately, the one in Lyon doesn't carry that flavor (because it must be so rarely requested, being that we are in France, the country of wimpy palets.. hehe) so I had to seek out the social chair, about 150km south of here in a lovely region called Ardeche.
 This desire has been haunting me for quite some time.  I even went near the actual city of Espelette in search of an ice cream glorifying their precious chili pepper but to no avail.
The social chair is only open everyday during July and August.  The rest of the year it is only weekday afternoons and closes at 5pm.  This is the reason it took me so long to make the trip... but today was my lucky day...
Upon arriving I saw the Terre Adelice signs and followed the one that showed the "store" and tasting area.  I had to ring a bell for the girl to come down and open up for me.
As she opened the doors, I felt myself drool.  I had been imagining the mix of spicy sweet with numbing sweet.. the perfect Ma La dessert.. for ages.  When I saw the scoop section, I almost cried.  There were only the traditional flavors available.  Vanilla, chocolate, peach..
WTF!
Please, lady, I just made a 2 and a half hour detour coming home from a business trip for your piment d'espelette and sichuan pepper ice cream and you're offering me vanilla?
I was only expecting to leave with my 2 scoops and then be off with a photo and a salivary memory.
Instead, I was off with 3 pints.  Piment d'espelette, Sichuan pepper, and beet.  No tasting these flavors, since nobody ever asks for them.
Ha (I thought to myself) I have an ice chest in the car, and I don't really care if it melts, I'm bringing some of that goodness home.

And in the end, it worked out better this way, because I will get to indulge over and over again in this sweet spicy numbing earthy dessert.
I would have driven (and did by the way) all across the country for this.

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Friday, September 5, 2014

Back home from Marseille Plancha

When I'm out of town all week for work, I usually want to cook up a storm upon returning home.. except I usually don't have anything in the fridge.. and this time I couldn't really go shopping "for real" because I'm going to be out of town for work all month and home only on the weekends.
What an excellent excuse for plancha!!
Of course I bought way more than 2 people could eat in one sitting, but it's mostly the pleasure of cooking it that makes me feel right at home.  Sardines and giant squid tentacle.  Oooh tentacles!
But home now includes sardines, which is typical Marseille fare... but to be fair, mine were from the Atlantic instead of the Mediterranean.  I usually do Med sardines because everyone says they're the best, but these Atlantic ones were meaty and more flavorful than I remember the Meds to be...
So.. cheers to the atlantic!  There will no longer be a superiority complex between your fruits and those of that minuscule little sea called the Mediterranean!
The sardines were lightly olive oiled, fleur de sel'd, piment d'espeletted and peppered before going ton the plancha at 300°C for about 2 minutes on each side.
The tentacles had the same seasoning as the sardines plus some lime juice, grated garlic and about 1 Tbsp grated ginger.  I don't know why ginger came out to play, but she is always welcome.
The tentacles went for about 5 minutes total, rotating regularly to get an even grill on each side, then sliced into rounds.
Ahhh it feels so nice to be home.. I'm savoring it..

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Sunday, August 31, 2014

Bass and Salmon Quiche

I had 1 whole bass and 1 salmon filet already cooked that I needed to figure out some type of repurposing deal.
Ah.. quiche!
I used my Buckwheat Thyme Shortcrust, but instead of infusing the water with thyme, I used dried rosemary and a pinch of chili powder.
The "appareil" part was the standard 4 medium very well beaten eggs, 1 cup milk, 3/4 cup heavy cream, some chili powder, a pinch of nutmeg and some fresh cracked pepper.
This was poured over the some pieces of plancha bass, salmon, and grilled veggies in the precooked crust, then topped with some grated parmesan and cooked at 375°F 180°C for about 40 minutes.
Now THAT is how to do leftovers!

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Buckwheat Galettes (Crêpes)

I've been living in France for about 7 years and I have never made crêpes or crêpe batter once in my life.  Back home in the US, my mother would do it and everybody in the neighborhood (I may just be exaggerating a bit) would flock to the house to brunch on this foreign French delicacy nobody else they knew could make.  She was good at keeping her secrets.  She also put rum in her batter so of course everyone was addicted to her crêpes!  I always figured I'd leave the crêpe making to my French friends and I'd handle all the "weird" cooking.  Tonight, though, I wanted to participate because I love buckwheat, and I have some home made maple syrup from my colleagues in Quebec that work wonders with buckwheat, and I wanted to share that goodness with the unbeknownst.
Yield 10 large diameter galettes
Ingredients
260g (9oz) buckwheat flour
5g (3/4 Tbsp) cooking salt (not fine table salt)
1 medium egg
25cL (9floz) + 30cL (10floz) cold water
a touch of butter per galette for cooking
Directions
1.  In a mixing bowl, add the flour, salt (I used gros sel de Guerande), egg, and one of the water portions.  Stir together with a wooden spoon.  No need to beat the egg before adding, this should come together very smoothly.
2.  When it has a thick consistency, film the top of the bowl and let it rest for at least 4 hours with one of those hours at room temperature.
Overnight in the fridge is best.  There is a fermentation process that happens during this time that gives these their signature taste.
3.  Add in the rest of the water and beat well.  The consistency should be more fluid.  If it's not, add just a touch more water.
4.  Ready to cook.  In a flat crêpe pan (if you have one), melt just a touch of butter, spoon some of the batter in and spread it into an even circle.  Here in France, they cook it on a flat electric hotplate called a bilig and spread it with a flat wooden squeegee-ish utensil called a rozell as shown below.
(photo borrowed from LaCuisinedeBernard)
I of course have neither of these things and made this batter to bring to a "Crêpe Party" I was invited to.  There was an electric mini crêpe cooker where everyone cooked their own and added the toppings of their desires.
You can also just do this in a very wide round flat pan and flat spatula.
5.  Cook for 1-2 minutes on each side.  Flipping is optional if you can spread it thin enough.  Top with fun things such as egg, spinach, cheese, mushrooms...
you know, all the good stuff.
You can also go sweet and add some maple syrup or whatever floats your sweet tooth.  Here in France, this batter is used for savory and a different batter with wheat flour is used for sweet.
I do not follow those rules.  I love buckwheat too much to NOT have it with home made maple syrup for dessert..

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Friday, August 29, 2014

Bass and Salmon on the Plancha

Today was an eventful day...and I topped it off with some mega plancha activity.
As much as I like grilling meat, nothing quite rivals with fish, seafood, and veggies on the plancha.  Something about this cooking method brings out the best in those chosen ones.
It's all quite simple.. all you need is a theme.  My theme is usually olive oil, garlic, lime, and piment d'espelette.  Sometimes I'll add some orange or herbs, but that's basically how it goes.. I rub it into all the crevices of the bass, then grill it at medium temperature for about 5-7 minutes on each side until the flesh is flaky.
The salmon just needs a quick 2 minute sear on each side after being rubbed with my marinade, some fleur de sel and some pepper.

The veggies I chose this time were onions, yellow bell, zucchini, and green chili.  This mix also received a few teaspoons of the family marinade, and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar during cooking time.
I grilled some already steamed potatoes as well, which was a nice addition to all this goodness.
There are times when you try to identify period of time that made you feel the most.. yourself.
These past 2 weeks were exactly that for me..

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Thursday, August 28, 2014

Green Chili and Avocado Burger

This is a messy picture, but I felt a very very deep need to share it...
So I've been avoiding the charred chili process since I moved to Lyon because I don't have a gas stove (or bbq).  I always used tongs to hold my bell or chili over the open flame of a gas burner to get that charred effect, making the skin much much easier to remove.  When you're planning on cooking the chilis or bell peppers, unless you have digestive issues, you really don't need to go through this step, because the work is not worth the effort in the end.  But when you're going to then marinate them in some olive oil or use them in a salad or as a topping, this process is definitely worth every second.
By the way.. I season and shape my own burgers.. and sometimes I even grind the meat myself.  I'm not sure I've ever shared the seasoning recipe.. but that may be because I never measure, so it might be extremely annoying to those of you who need exact measurements.
I'll give basic instructions, but this is just "to taste" which I agree is very hard to follow because if you've never done it, you don't have a "to taste" reference.
Makes 4 burgers
Lets say I have about 800g (28.2oz)  of ground beef, separated into 200g (7oz) piles
few squirts tabasco, tapatio, or frank's hot sauce (depending on what I have on hand)
few squirts Worchesterchire sauce
drizzle of EVOO
few cracks black pepper
2 shakes Red Robin seasoning (or a mix of garlic powder, onion powder, ground celery, paprika, and salt)
some dried tarragon (or parsley, but I have a large stock of tarragon)
Then I use my little hands to mix everything together into the ball and shape them into "squares" because my burger buns are square.

So.. I don't have a gas stove, but I do have a high oven setting.  I simply placed this beauty whole on some foil on an oven tray closest to the broiler on the highest heat, and cooked it for about 20 minutes, flipping it once to get that char on both sides.
Then I removed it and placed it into a plastic bag for about 5-10 minutes to let it "sweat," making the pyjama removal process much much easier.
And there she is.. sneakily slipping out of her pyjamas..I love the aroma that finds its way to my nostrils during this process.. it reminded me of chile rellenos.. mega flashback!  I just might be able to recreate those here, if I'm careful and find some big enough chilis.  Ooh! Project!
I purposely re-used my griddle pan after last night's fiasco.  No throat grasping tonight though..
I first added my undressed chili.  I should have done 2.  I thought it might be too much.. but seriously... you can never have enough chilis.
Then I added some compté cheese and some raw onions.  I'm really digging the raw onions these days.  I used to always grill them and deglaze with balsamic vinegar, which is lovely, but I like the crunch of rawness... raawwrr!
Notice the non chili burger in the background.  Hahaaa that one got some pickles instead (for color).
The montage consisted of a sunny side up egg, a quarter of a ripe avocado, some tomatoes, and romaine lettuce.  The meat side of the bun was slathered with a sauce they call "Samourai" here which is somewhat of a spicy mayonnaise that works well with burgers.

And Yes.. I say Yes!!

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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Chipotle Lime and Orange Marinade

As I was quietly finishing my dumpling soup lunch, dinner desires were concocting in my head.  I switched continents in a split second.. From China to Mexico, with a longing for chipotle peppers and black beans.  I wanted something tangy and spicy to penetrate my turkey cutlets before cooking them on my griddle pan and getting yelled at for the smokey coughing production caused by the sizzling chipotle aroma.  That feeling, when you make smoke with chili entrails and it catches the back of your throat before you can breath it in..
Yes, that feeling is what I was longing for..because any meal succeeding that feeling is bound to be memorable.  I remember the very first time I felt that feeling.  I must have been 13 or 14, sleeping over at one of my best friend's house, chatting in the morning, when all of a sudden, I felt something grasp the back of my throat.  It wasn't violent, but new and strange.  I couldn't quite identify what it was, or if that was something normal coming from the kitchen.
"Oh don't worry, that's just my mom blending hot chilies.  You get used to it after a while."
It was the most bizarre sensation related to food aroma I had ever experienced.  (I was also not very old, but still.. none of my Indian influences had ever done this to my lungs!)
The funny thing is, that feeling didn't come from smoke at all.  It was the fumes released into all the rooms of the house by the chilis and their seeds after having been grilled during the blending for a very satisfying chipotle salsa.  I thought I could never in the world sit through that again without coughing incessantly, but as the years went by, I did get used to it, and I even craved it.  I didn't really know what it was called, but whenever I felt that throat catching feeling in her house, I knew we were in for something good.
Today I was able to recreate that feeling, although some of it was actually a mixture of smoke and chipotle fumes.
It was pleasant but in a way nobody else in the house could understand, and it brought me back to my teens, discovering how different cultures were what made the world a perfect place.
I achieved my goal by making an amazing marinade for my turkey cutlets (but you can easily use chicken) and grilling them.  I used a griddle pan (hence the house smoke) but this would work just as well on a bbq or plancha, if you don't think your lungs can handle it.
Yield 1 cup
Ingredients
Marinade:
4 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
3 Tbsp EVOO
juice from 1/2 very juicy orange
juice from 1 lime
1 large handful flat leaf parsley
3 peeled garlic cloves
1/2 tsp cumin
pinch salt
lots of cracked black pepper
Pico de Gallo:
1 large shallot, minced
1 tomato, chopped
1/2 large avocado, chopped
2 Tbsp chopped feta
1 handful chopped flat leaf parsley
6-7 chopped basil leaves
juice from 1/4 lime
cracked black pepper
Directions
1.  Blend all the marinade ingredients together.
2.  Lavishly slather it on to your turkey cutlets or whatever cut of meat you are preparing.  Let marinate for at least 1 hour, but preferably overnight.
3.  Grill or griddle your meat and be sure to inhale, and let your eyes roll back as you cough with pleasure.
4.  When you are done with your chili cough, make the pico de gallo by stirring all the chopped ingredients together.  This will be a nice salsa to spoon over your beans or to accompany your grilled meat.

I served this with some Chipotle Black Beans (no pinto this time) into which I added about 1/2 cup roasted Bernettine squash.  The addition of the squash gave it a nice consistency.
I also served some red and basmati rice with a custom pico de gallo.
I'm not even sure I'm allowed to call it pico de gallo, but it served its purpose well.
Today was a good day...

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Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Hot and Sour Leek Dumpling Soup

The best part about spending lots of time one day working on batches of egg rolls, samosas, bagels, baozi, hummus, or potstickers is that you have an amazing meal the same day as a reward for you hard work, but these happily freezable items can then be plucked out individually to fulfill your here and now desire.
My here and now desires are so potent they start manifesting themselves during my sleep, spicing up my dreams to a point that when I have come to, they are screaming from within unable to be stopped by any reasonable human power.
Today, I wanted dumplings.  The desire was intensified by the fact that the desire could be quickly and easily fulfilled.  Don't get me wrong now.. Quick and easy isn't all it takes to cut it for me.  It must be top quality.. Nothing half motivated or mediocre.
Since I had made the potstickers myself, the quality was not an issue, which left me focused on the quick and easy.  All I needed to do was make a stock worthy of my potstickers, then pop them out of the freezer and heat them up in the soup, transforming them into dumplings.
Yes!  Something spicy and sour with some sexy black vinegar and some tangy doubanjiang!
Serves 3
Ingredients
15-18 leek dumplings or potstickers
1 handful leek greens, thinly sliced
1 large carrot, julienned
1/2 cucumber, julienned
1 large handful sliced shitake mushrooms
2 cloves garlic, grated
1/2 inch ginger, grated
1  heaping Tbsp doubanjiang
3 Tbsp soy sauce
2 Tbsp black vinegar
1 Tbsp rice vinegar
1 handful spinach
1 handful celery leaves
5 cups water
1 Tbsp olive or canola oil
1 Tbsp sesame oil
1 tsp cracked black pepper
mint leaves for garnish
Directions
1.  Heat the olive oil in a pot and sweat the leeks, then add the carrots and cook, stirring for a few minutes.
2.  Add in the cucumber, shitakes, garlic, ginger, doubanjiang, soy, and vinegars and stir to infuse the flavors, then add the water.
3.  Bring to a boil, then reduce to an active simmer for about 5 minutes.  You want the carrots to be tender.
4.  Add the spinach and celery leaves and let them wilt, then add the pepper.  Taste and adjust the seasoning if needed.
5.  Before serving, add in the dumplings.  Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat.  You just want to heat them through.  Add the sesame oil and stir.

Serve garnished with some mint leaves and with a side of egg rolls for an immersion meal.

I know it's still august and I just busted out a soup, but it was rainy today, so it worked out.  Plus, I don't care what the weather is like.. when I want dumpling soup, I want it and I want it NOW even if I'm all hot and sweaty after eating it.
The hot came from the actual temperature and the kick from the doubanjiang.  The sour comes from the vinegars which match perfectly with those little leek potstickers.
I've actually run out of my Chinese freezer loot.  I'm going to have to make a run to wonderland again soon... ooooh!

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Sunday, August 24, 2014

White Peach Pie with a Kick

This looks suspiciously like the Red Plum Pie I made last week.. well, that's because it's almost exactly the same pie, except that instead of red plums, I used white peaches.. but I left the skin on, hence the pink hues.
That.. and I added chili powder, which was an excellent decision.  It weens away the people that can't appreciate art, and leaves more for the connaisseurs...
Serves 8
 Ingredients:
1 lb (450g) white peaches, pitted and sliced into wedges
1/4 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp cinnamon
2 eggs
1/4 cup (50g) cassonade or brown sugar plus 2 Tbsp for sprinkling
1/4 cup (50g) ground almonds
dash milk
some cookie crumbs for sprinkling (mine were orange anise cookies)
shortcrust (I used half buckwheat, half T80 flour and spiced it too)
Directions:
1. Cover the rim of the uncooked shortcrust with foil, poke the bottom a few times with a fork, sprinkle it with some sugar, and pre-cook it for 10 minutes in the oven at 190°C 375°F.
2. In a large mixing bowl, whip together the eggs, sugar, ground almonds, and a dash of milk.
3. Lay the wedges into the crust
 and pour the almond mixture in.
4. Bake for 10 minutes at 220°C 425°F, then sprinkle on the cookie crumbs
and reduce to 175°C 350°F for 40 minutes or before the cookie crumbs start to burn.
 5.  Let cool at least 30 minutes before attacking it.
Perfection.. not too spicy, but you can feel it there, tickling you.. waiting to consume you..

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