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Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Lal Band Gobhi Mutter Subzi

Oh dear.. I'm swooning..
Red Cabbage and Green Pea Stir Fry.
I love rediscovering the sexiness of my vegetables.
It's incredible how many amazing things you can do with so few ingredients in their purest form.  This subzi was a perfect addition to my Mixed Chana-Toor-Split pea dal and Chettinad chicken curry.
Serves 3-4 as a side
1/3 head red cabbage, shredded
1/2 cup frozen peas
1 slit green chili
1 tsp cumin seeds
1/4 tsp turmeric
1/8 tsp asafoetida (hing)
salt to taste
2 Tbsp oil
1.  Heat the oil in a wok and sputter the cumin seeds.
2.  Add the split green chili, turmeric and hing.
3.  When it fizzes, add the peas and cook 1 minute.
4.  Add the cabbage and stir fry for approximately 10 minutes.  You don't want it to be mushy or rubbery.  I like it with a bit of crunch.
Add salt if needed.  I didn't think it needed any.

Look at the lovely colors.
Life is delicious in under 30 minutes...

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Two-Faced Pizza: Red Cabbage vs Asparagus

When you cook a whole head of cabbage, you end up having to rework it into new recipes, because a whole head is a lot of cabbage.
That's ok with me, though, because I think it's rather versatile.
And it's sooooo freaking pretty!
So here is my color palette, a homemade dough spread with rocket pesto (used walnuts instead of pumpkin seeds for a change.. delicious!)
on one side, red cabbage,
on the other, asparagus.
Then, I did the long long time slow roasted tomatoes.. almost 2 hours on low temperature.  These are the best way to do tomatoes.  They come out so sweet and tangy and certainly not dry.  Perfect for pizza or tossed with pasta.
The cabbage side got sautéed onions.  For the protein I slid some chicken slices all over it. 
Then came the cheese, which was pretty much all over the pizza.
I used mozzarella, feta, parmesan, some swiss, and a drizzle of chili oil to top it all off.
After about 12 minutes on the highest oven temp, I added 2 egg yolks on the asparagus side, and that's when the beauty disappeared.
Unfortunately, this one is not photo friendly, but oh was it a party in my mouth..the creamy goodness of the asparagus followed by the sweet texture of the cabbage.. quite the party..
not quite a party as those dried Malaysian plums I've been snacking on all day, but a quite memorable pizza.

I have to admit that the red cabbage is on my mind again, and I feel like going Indian style on it.
Ooh I bet it would make good halwa!

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Sunday, February 23, 2014

Carrot Halwa

I have a neverending love affair with orange and purple fruits and vegetables.  Mention butternut squash, pumpkin, carrots, persimmons, eggplant, beets, red cabbage, and..wait for it.. Purple Carrots, and you'll have me intrigued.
Show me any one of the above mentionned items in a dessert and I'll start having spontaneous conversations with you completely out of context.
Make it an Indian dessert, and there will be an indescribable unspoken bond between us.
I've done it before with beets, now I present you with Carrot Halwa done the traditional way.
I followed the method on VegRecipesofIndia to the letter.
9 medium carrots, peeled and grated (2.5 cups)
4 cups whole milk
4 Tbsp ghee (I used 2 Tbsp canola oil)
10 Tbsp (100g) dark brown sugar
6 green cardamom, dry roasted and ground
Pinch saffron threads
Handful raisins
Handful unsalted pistachios
Handful cracked walnuts
1.  In a large pot or wok, heat the milk and grated carrots together to a low simmer.  Cook this way, stirring from time to time until the mixture reduces to a pudding consistency.  The milk should reduce by 75%.  This takes a long time.. Over an hour.  Don't rush it.
2.  Add in the ghee or oil, sugar, and cardamom.  Bring to a boil and then simmer for another 20 minutes.
3.  Stir in the saffron, nuts and raisins and reduce to desired texture.  I didn't want any liquid, so I left it another 20 minutes, always stirring.

Serve warm or at room temperature garnished with a few walnuts, pistachios, and raisins.

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Red Cabbage and Feta Tart in a Buckwheat Crust

Here she is in all her glory..the pie I've been dreaming of since my last pie.. well, almost.  I was actually dreaming of beets, but during the week my dream evolved into red cabbage and feta.  I'm still in the dark red theme, so that's ok, I'm not crazy.
After acquiring my buckwheat flour, I had to test out the crust with it.
Oh I just learned that pate brisée in English is shortcrust, and pate feuilletée is pastry puff.  I feel so much wiser now.
This shortcrust was my best savory one yet.  I almost want to say it's healthier because of the buckwheat, but I used butter.  I was afraid it wouldn't hold together with olive oil.. and hey, olive oil is precious!

Buckwheat Thyme Shortcrust
125g (4.4oz) buckwheat flour
125g (4.4oz) whole wheat flour
80g (2.8 oz) room temperature cubed butter
1 tsp baking powder
1 whole egg
approximately 4 cL (1.5 fl oz) water infused with 1 Tbsp thyme
Use the method, then refrigerate for an hour in plastic wrap.
Roll, stab, and precook for 10 minutes at 190°C.

Red Cabbage and Feta Tart
3/4 head red cabbage, finely shredded
7 small shallots, sliced
2 Tbsp EVOO
2 tsp thyme
some fleur de sel
lots of fresh cracked pepper
3-4 Tbsp balsamic vinegar for deglazing
2 handfuls cubed feta
2 handfuls cracked walnuts

1.  In a very wide skillet or wok, heat the olive oil and fry the shallots for a few minutes, until translucent.
2.  Add the cabbage, salt, lots of pepper, and thyme, and stir, cooking for at least 15 minutes.  If your pan is not wide enough, do it in batches. I did mine in 2 batches.
3.  Deglaze with the balsamic vinegar and cook for a few more minutes.  You don't want it to be dry.
4.  Arrange the cooked cabbage in your shortcrust.  Nestle the feta pieces into some of the cracks and top with the walnuts.  Drizzle some olive oil over the whole thing and bake at 180°C for 45 minutes.

Let cool 5 minutes before hacking into it, or it will fall apart, like mine did.
But that's ok, because I'm not a food photographer artist or anything.
I served this as a side to some horse hampe.  Whaat? Yes I eat horse every once in a while.  It's very healthy and the hampe is one of my favorite cuts.
This would be perfect along side some magret (duck) or even grilled chicken or fish.
It's light, packed with flavor, and has that deep dark red color that makes me swoon...

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Saturday, February 22, 2014

Buckwheat Poppy Seed Thumbprint Cookies

I found a match made in heaven.. or more like a threesome.
Buckwheat flour, poppy seeds, and maple syrup.
I'm blown away.
I recently bought some buckwheat flour, thinking I'd be making pancakes or something, but within hours of the purchase, all types of buckwheat ideas were running through my head, cookies being the first.  I'm not even sure I have enough flour left for pancakes, but oh well, I suppose that just means that buckwheat will now be a staple in my pantry.
I wasn't sure how the texture would come out, since buckwheat is gluten free, so I did add a bit of whole wheat flour just for the binding properties.  I'm all for the gluten free stuff, but when you end up adding a bunch of weird ingredients just to make it bind like wheat flour, I draw the line.  You either appreciate it for what it is, or you use something else (unless, of course, you have allergies).  It's kind of like going to one of those vegetarian restaurants that feature "ribs" or "steak".  It looks like meat, but it's not.  I don't understand that.. if you want meat, just eat the real thing.. it's probably not any worse for you than all the strangeness they must use to make it look and taste like meat.
Back to the cookies.
Buckwheat has a naturally nutty taste that works very well in sweets.  When I visited Quebec, it was often paired with some maple product (as is almost everything edible) so I decided to use maple syrup as the major sweetener.  The poppy seeds were just instinctive.  Before deciding on making muffins or cookies, my poppy seeds were already within reach.
Yield 3 dozen
Dry ingredients:
200g (7 oz) buckwheat flour
80g (2.8 oz) whole wheat flour
50g (1.75 oz) powdered hazelnut
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp pain d'épices spices
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
Wet ingredients:
80g (2.8 oz) room temperature butter
50g (1.75 oz) dark brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla sugar
160g (5.6 oz) pure maple syrup
1 Tbsp poppy seeds
Poppy seeds
maple butter
black current jam
maple caramel
whatever your sweet little heart desires
1.  Sift the dry ingredients together and set aside.
2.  Cream the butter and sugar together.  Beat in the egg and the rest of the wet ingredients until smooth.
3.  Mix the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until it forms a ball of dough.  It shouldn't be too crumbly.  It should actually be pretty sticky.  At this poing, refrigerate while you preheat your oven.  The dough will be easier to handle.
4.  On a cookie sheet or parchment paper, make tablespoon sized balls with the dough and roll them between the palms of your hands.  Press your thumb into the middle of each one and fill it with the topping of your choice.  I decided on the toppings as I was going along.
5.  Sprinkle poppy seeds over the top of each cookie and bake at 350°F 175°C for 16-20 minutes until very very lightly golden.

The cookies that stayed together best were with the jam.  The maple caramel kind of oozed out and disappeared into the heart of the cookie.  The maple butter made a nice sexy little maple crust over the top.  The molasses made a chewy inside of the cookie.
I haven't figured out which one I like best...although my neighbor relentlessly ate 6 of them in one sitting and he's still trying to figure it out.
The buckwheat is definitely a keeper in the cookie business!

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Friday, February 21, 2014

Quinoa Stuffed Tomatoes

It took me forever to decide what to make for dinner tonight.  Meal planning when you're not hungry and you're too excited about the day after's meal is like torture.  All I could think about was my future Red Cabbage and Feta pie.  It's all I can think about.  But it is not suitable for an evening like tonight, which didn't feel glorious enough for such a feat..

Until I all of a sudden was inspired by tomatoes.... haters look away
I initially wanted to slow roast them and have them as a side dish to some broiled panga filets, but slow roasting is a low temp deal and I didn't have 3 hours ahead of me.
Then I did a quick scan of what was laying around, and I finally would be doing some broiled panga filets, but my tomatoes would be stuffed with shallots and quinoa.
I wanted something multi textured.. some crunch, some juice, some soft.  This would be a perfect side dish.
Serves 4-5 as a side
5 tomatoes, tops cut off and emptied (reserve the guts)
1 scant cup quinoa, rinsed
3 small shallots, minced
2 cloves garlic
pinch thyme
salt/cracked pepper
2 Tbsp EVOO
1.  Heat the oil in a wok, add the shallots with a pinch of salt.  Cook until translucent.
2.  Add the quinoa and toast a few minutes.
3.  Meanwhile, blend the tomato guts with the garlic and set aside.
4.  Add in the blended tomato mixture with some thyme, salt, and fresh cracked pepper.  Simmer for approximately 5 minutes.
5.  Spoon the quinoa into the tomatoes, drizzle some more olive oil over the whole deal and bake for 35-45 minutes at 190°C (375°F)

I added broccoli about halfway through for the multicolored plate.
Serve with whatever you want.
Here's my plate
Oh that brown sauce? It's the bomb!
More about that later.

This meal was a perfect completion for my high active neuron week!

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Thursday, February 20, 2014

Oven Roasted Eggplant with Za'atar

Eggplant is so sexy I just can't get over it!
The purple skin, the firmness of the raw flesh.
It's so "coquin" the way it becomes a creamy delight when cooked, and the way it pairs so hand in hand with quality olive oil and a minimum of fuss.
Here is somewhat of a recreation of something I ate at an Armenian fast food place in Gap.  It was a very large half eggplant, roasted, and topped with kebab meat and a tahini yogurt sauce accompanied with bulgur wheat.  The whole thing was good, but the texture of that roasted eggplant has been lingering in my mind ever since.
Tonight, I kept it simple, but again, that sexy purple vegetable just shines through and makes the whole world smile..
well, that's my perception of life right now.
Serves 1
1 small eggplant, sliced lengthwise 
1 tsp thyme
sprinkle fleur de sel
a few cracks of black pepper
2 tsp za'atar
4-6 tbsp excellent quality olive oil (mine was homemade by a friend)
1.  Cut diamond shapes into the eggplant halves without slicing through the skin.
2.  Sprinkle on the salt, pepper, thyme, and za'atar and rub it all into the crevices.
3.  Brush the olive oil onto each half.  It should absorb it, but its good stuff, so don't worry.
4.  Roast for 40-50 minutes at 200°C 400°F.

Optional (and not pictured)
Serve with some tahini garlic yogurt sauce.  The photo was ugly, so I didn't post it, but it was really mind-blowing for something so simple.
I served with some eggs sunny side up and some roasted carrots.
I don't know what my deal is with roasted carrots these days, but I can't get over how delicious they are.. plus, I can't get over that orange color!!

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Saturday, February 15, 2014

Zucchini and Eggplant Tart in an Olive Oil Crust

Here I go again with my pies..
this time, olive oil in place of butter in the crust, and the whole egg is used instead of just the yolk.
It is a very interesting twist to the original pate brisée with butter.  It is more crumbly, but is much lighter with the delicate addition of olive oil.  It almost seems healthy.. is it healthy?

By the way, at what point in life does it stop being pie and start being tart?  Is it when you start to feel mature and sophisticated about your creations?  That's the point I'm at in my life right now.
And since eggplant is the sexiest vegetable in the world, I've made it beauty pageant style, inspired by this lovely creation by Mimi Thorisson on Manger.
It's supposed to look like a flower.
Does it?  I think it does.

Olive Oil Crust
250g (8.8 oz) sifted whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp paprika
50g (1.8 oz) EVOO
1 egg
3 Tbsp (or more) water
Use the method, then precook for 15 minutes at 190°C.

Tart Filling
2 zucchini, thinly sliced (1.5mm on the mandolin)
1 large eggplant, thinly sliced (1.5mm)
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced (0.75mm on the mandolin)
half log of goat cheese, thinly sliced
2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp fleur de sel
some fresh cracked pepper
juice from 1/2 lemon
an unmeasurably large drizzle chili oil

1.  Start at the exterior and alternately layer slices of zucchini and eggplant spiraling toward the inside of the precooked crust.  The idea is to try to make a floral pattern.
I'm quite satisfied with my art.
2.  When satisfied with the look of it, discreetly slide slivers of garlic and goat cheese between the thin slices.
3.  Sprinkle some thyme, pepper, fleur de sel, and a liberal amount of olive (chili) oil.
4.  Bake at 180°C for 40 minutes.
5.  Remove from the oven and drizzle with lemon juice and some more olive chili oil and let sit 5-10 minutes before serving.

Instead of serving this as an appetizer, this was a side to some grilled chicken.

My pie making days are far from over.  Especially now that I discovered that it is possible to make Tarte Tatin with Beets..

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Friday, February 14, 2014

Baked Sea Bream on Roasted Fennel

Sea Bream (or Dorade) is the type of fish that doesn't need much decoration or sauce.  It's delicious on its own... grilled on the bbq, plancha, oven roasted, or even raw in sushi!
While passing by the fish counter in my grocery store looking for a good price on shrimp, my lovely fish mongerer was describing the delicate flavor of sea bream to another client.  Like a dog tracking a scent, I did a complete 180 and bought 2, because I knew I'd be eating a whole one all alone..

I didn't do much to it, besides prepare a little marinade of lime, garlic, olive oil, fleur de sel, piment d'espelette, fresh pepper, and chopped fennel leaves (which look very much like dill, but taste slightly of anis).
Then I cut slits on each side and brushed my little marinade all over the outside and inside.
Then I got rid of the brush and used my dainty little fingers to rub all the little pieces of garlic well into the slits.
For decoration I placed a few slices of lime over the top, then I refrigerated while I prepared the sideshow of  roasted fennel and roasted carrots.
Mmm roasted carrots..
The fennel cooked for about 35 minutes at 200°C rubbed with some fleur de sel, olive oil, piment d'espelette, and a splash of basalmic vinegar.
They were beautiful and I decided made a perfect bed on which to lay my sea bream.
After lowering the temperature to 180°C, I placed the sea bream and 1 tbsp water into the dish and baked for 35 minutes.

The result was beyond perfection.
Roasted fennel is something that pairs so nicely with fish.  When roasted, it loses the strong anis flavor and turns into something almost sweet but subtle.  It keeps its shape, but is very tender.
Add some roasted carrots and a bit of red rice, and have a meal that's so dreamy you'll forget how healthy it is.
I could eat like this everyday..
ok, every other day alternating with Indian food.

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Saturday, February 8, 2014

Apple and Persimmon Tarte Tatin

It's ugly, but it's quite delicious.
The mix of Granny Smith apples and Fuji Persimmons was interesting.  The apples soften in the oven and the persimmons seem to harden.  Instead of making caramel by melting refined sugar, I used maple caramel, which is all natural.
I probably should have tried to run a knife between the crust and the baking dish before flipping it over, but if you put aside the looks of this piece of sweetness, it's quite a winner.
The best is to make this in a cast iron skillet that you can put into the oven.  I don't have one of those, so I used a regular frying pan to prep the ingredients, then transferred to a deep round baking dish.
For 6 slices.
80g ( 2.8 oz) cubed room temperature butter
200g ( 7 oz) whole wheat flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 Tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp powdered ginger
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 egg yolk4 cL ( 1.3 fl oz) water
use the method
Tart Ingredients
2 large Granny Smith apples, peeled and cut into wedges
1 Fuji persimmon, cut into wedges
3 Tbsp maple caramel (or use sugar if you don't have any)
2 Tbsp butter
sprinkle of cinnamon
drizzle of maple syrup
1.  Spread the maple caramel into the bottom of your baking dish.  I had to heat it a bit.  You want to cover the entire bottom with a nice thin layer.
2.  In a frying pan, melt the butter and some maple syrup and "poach" the apples and persimmons for about 5 minutes.  I did it in batches so that each wedge touched the bottom of the pan.
3.  Arrange the wedges into the baking dish.  I did apples on the outside and persimmons on the inside.
4.  Pour the sweet goodness leftover in your pan over the arrangement followed by a sprinkle of cinnamon.
5.  Lay your pie crust over the whole arrangement and tuck the edges in as to not waste any of that delicious pastry.  Poke it a bit with a fork.
6.  Bake in a 190°C (375°F) oven on the bottom rack for approximately 35-45 minutes until the crust is nice and golden.
Looks promising, doesn't it?
7.  When it's done, use a knife to gently separate the sides of the crust from the baking dish.  I completely forgot to do this, hence the ugliness of my finished product.  The sides of my crust stayed in the original dish.
8.  Place a serving dish over the top of the baking dish.  Try to use something of greater or equal diameter to avoid a mess.  Please.  Carefully flip the whole thing over.  Use oven mitts to not burn yourself.  Let it sit like that for a few minutes before removing the baking dish.  All the caramel goodness will drip down onto the pie.
9.  Let cool and eat warm.  Since my crust had stuck to the sides of the baking dish, I made crumble out of it and sprinkled it on top.

Ah that's better

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Monday, February 3, 2014

Duo of Whole Dal: Urad and Mung

The kitchen festivities have flared up again...
This is what you get when you have odds and ends of different beans needing to be finished up.  Something utterly fabulous.
Had I not been trying to make space in my Bean cabinet, I never would have thought to mix whole urad, whole green mung, and husked mung.  Who knew it would be so delightful!
Serves 6 as a side
1/3 cup whole urad dal (black gram)
1/3 cup whole green mung
1/3 cup husked mung
3 cups water
1 Tbsp ghee or oil
1 chopped onion
1 chopped tomato
1 Tbsp freshly grated ginger
1/4 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp garam masala
1/4 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp salt (or to taste)
2 tsp ghee or oil
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
pinch hing (asafoetida)
1 sprig curry leaves
3 cloves garlic, grated
1 minced green chili
chopped cilantro
splash of plain yogurt (optional)
1.  Rinse the beans well and soak overnight.  Drain, then place in a slow cooker with the water and cook on low for 5-6 hours.
2.  Make the curry.  Heat the oil in a wok and add the onion.  Cook until translucent.
3.  Add the tomatoes and ginger and cook a few minutes until mushy.
4.  Add the ground spices and salt.  Stir well, then add to the cooked beans.
5.  Make the seasoning.  Heat the oil in a wok and add the mustard and cumin seeds until they start tot crackle.
6.  Add the hing, curry leaves, garlic, and chili and cook for 30 seconds to 1 minute.  Add to the beans.
7.  Taste and adjust the seasoning.  I added a bit of salt and juice from 1 lemon.

Serve garnished with cilantro, a lime wedge, and a splash of yogurt if you wish.  Nobody in this world has a valid excuse NOT to make this at least once in the life.  It's also quite healthy and full of happiness.
I served mine in a thali.
From the top clockwise: 
Whole Urad and Mung Dal
Dead center: Basmati rice

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Sunday, February 2, 2014

Sardine Quiche in a Beer Laced Crust

Within 30 minutes coming home after a week, my dainty little fingers were already covered in flour and my mind was throwing all kinds of ideas at me after ingredient calculations.  I haven't gone shopping yet, but I do have eggs, yogurt, and milk, and Top Chef on replay.
This weekend I exchanged a few crust ideas with my cousin.  She told me she sometimes uses baking powder to make it fluffier and olive oil instead of butter to make it healthier.  I started to look into it, but at the last minute I just decided to use less butter and try beer instead of water and see how that goes.  I know... it has nothing to do with baking powder, but in my mind the only interesting addition is the leavening agent.  Beer does that!  Between us, isn't it psychologically healthier to use beer in cooking than to drink it?
Of this thought flourished another quiche.. one with a large can of Pilchard Sardines in tomato sauce with some Macedoine.
Beer Laced Pastry
100g (3.5 oz) cubed room temperature butter250g (8.8 oz) whole wheat flour1/2 tsp salt1 egg yolk
6 cL (2 fl oz) beeruse the method, then poke with a fork and precook for 15 minutes at 200°C (400°F)
Quiche Ingredients
1 special sexy pastry, precooked1 can of sardines, bones picked out
1 small can macedoine or frozen mixed veggies
few dots cream cheese
Beat together:
3 eggs + 1 yolk
3/4 cup plain yogurt
1 full cup whole milk
pinch nutmeg
3 Tbsp chopped fresh dill
lots of fresh cracked pepper

Lay the sardines on the precooked pastry first, then add the macedoine and cream cheese.  Pour the beaten mixture over it all and cook for 45-50 minutes at 200°C (400°F).
Wait 15 minutes before digging in.

Tomorrow I'm going back to Indian food.  I think my body can handle it...

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