Archive for ‘Side Dishes’

June 26, 2012

Pickles!

Though pickles have long been a favorite of mine, it wasn’t until I gave up all foods with High Fructose Corn Syrup in them that I started pickling on my own. Pickling has not only made me  popular with my friends, I do take pickle requests, it is quick and simple. This is all you need for pickling.

All you need

You need vinegar, kosher salt or pickling salt as it is sometimes called, jars, pickling spices, you can make your own or buy them, I buy them from my local spice shop, water, and kirby cucumbers.

The ratio is very simple. For every 2 quarts of water you need 1 cup of vinegar and 1/2 cup kosher salt. Put those ingredients into a pan and bring to a boil. After you have sterilized the jars by soaking them in boiling water, put one tablespoon of your pickling spices into the bottom of each jar. I add a teaspoon of red hot pepper flakes for a little kick , but you don’t have to. I also add two sprigs of dill to each jar if I have it on hand.

While the water is coming to a boil cut the Kirby cucumbers into either spears or slices. I find that 6 pounds of Kirby’s makes 5 1 quart jars of pickles. This batch I did both.

Once the water comes to boil top off the cucumbers with the brine, seal the jars, done and done. They will keep in the fridge for months. You can also pickle nearly any vegetable using this brine. Cauliflower, asparagus, carrots, green beans (yellow ones work best.)

Pickles

6 pounds Kirby’s
4 quarts water
2 cups vinegar
1 cup Kosher Salt (or pickling)
5 tablespoons pickling spice
5 teaspoons red pepper flakes
10 sprigs dill

Now that the secret is out, my phone is sure to stop ringing.

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June 22, 2012

CSA cooking. My Very Own Version of ‘Chopped.’

After being gone for nearly nine months, opened a restaurant, restaurant …I’m back. Once I got done catching up on my sleep, I started catching up with my life and was delighted to find that I could still sign up for a CSA share. For those not in the know, a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) share is where you purchase a share (or a half-share in my case) directly from the farmer and you pick up your farm fresh vegetables once a week. I connected to my CSA share through Just Food, which has an easy CSA finder interface, for NYC residents. Click the link to find one near you.

1st CSA Haul

I paid $400 for fresh vegetables once a week from June 4th to November 1st. Which comes out to around $20 a week. I did pay extra for the eggs (4.50) and the strawberries (4.50).

In last weeks ‘basket’ was 4 potatoes, two onions, spinach, chard (which I had never cooked with), scallions, cilantro, radishes and an enormous head of boston lettuce. Obviously, this move was fueled by my desire for farm fresh food, and to help out local farmers, but I also did it to push myself out of my culinary comfort zone. Instead of browsing websites or cookbooks looking for something new to cook and then going shopping with a list of ingredients, I now have to look at my very own ‘Chopped’ basket and figure out how to cook for the week with what I have. It’s changing my cooking already more than I would have thought.

Working under the same idea, I went to the farmers market told myself just to pick up what looked good and worry about the recipes later.   I ended up with cod, scallops and turkey sausage. What I made last week was Fish and Chips, Chard with Chickpeas and Sopressata, Strawberry Jam, Turkey Sausage Meatballs with Cilantro and Spinach in a Shallot White Wine Sauce and Scallops with Panzanella. There was a salad at every meal, including lunch (sometimes was lunch).

The simplest of those recipes is of course the Strawberry Jam. Though 1 quart of berries only yielded me around 5 ounces of jam, it is delicious and super quick!

Strawberry Jam

1 quart strawberries
1 cup cane sugar
juice of 1 large lemon
zest of 1 lemon

Wash and hull and halve the strawberries. Put them into a pot with the sugar, lemon juice, and zest. Stir. Turn heat on medium-high and cook the berries down about 20 minutes until the mixture begins to thicken. You don’t want it at a boil, a slow bubbling is ideal.

Bubbling

That’s it. Place in jar and refrigerate. Want a larger batch? Just double or triple the recipe.

The smell that permeated my apartment was better than any incense or candle and made it worth making the jam all in its own. Not to mention the gorgeous color.

August 10, 2011

Baigan Bharta: A Warm Eggplant Surprise

I, like many people, have a slightly standoffish relationship with the eggplant. They are as beautiful in color as their French name, aubergine, implies and they are sensual in shape as well as potentially a satisfying dinner companion, but, like so many other things in this life, they are often soggy, limp, bitter, let downs. And yet, though I know the eggplants failings I cannot but help being seduced by its many wiles.

This dish is reminiscent in both texture and flavor of a warm, quite spicy, chunky baba ganoush. That sentence maybe cringe inducing for some, but what I have always liked about baba ganoush is the clean fresh taste that the eggplant brings especially when brightened by lemon and heightened by olive oil. Given that eggplants are beginning to appear in so many varied purple mounds in the farmers market, this recipe has given me a reason to grab those lovely purple gourds and take them home.

Baigan Bharta

1 eggplant whole

1 red onion, chopped finely

2 green chilies, minced (3 if you want it super hot)

2 tablespoons fresh minced ginger (or paste)

1 large tomato, chopped

1/2 tablespoon asafoetida

1/2 tablespoon cumin seeds

1 teaspoon coriander

1/2 tablespoon turmeric

 1 teaspoon salt (more to taste)

Cilantro, one handful chopped with stems to stir in at end.

Rub the aubergine down with oil so that it is evenly and lightly coated. Roast under broiler for 7-10 minutes, depending somewhat on the size of the gourd. You could also do this on the grill.

While the eggplant is cooking, chop the onions, chilies and tomatoes. Add 1 tablespoon of oil to a pan and once the oil is hot, add the asafoetida and cumin seeds, roasting the seeds until they pop. Add the onion and cook until sweating, but not brown about 3 minutes and add the chilies and chopped tomato.

Add the turmeric and coriander and stir. When the eggplant has cooled, peel off the skin.

Then chop the eggplant finely, this should be very, very easy, but you want to leave some texture.

Add this to the onions, tomatoes and spices.

Add salt, cover and simmer for 10-15 minutes. When done, stir through the cilantro.

We served this with rotis and mutter paneer.

August 9, 2011

A Classic: Mutter Paneer

Now that I have graduated from beginning Indian Cuisine student to intermediate student, Shiva is beginning to have me make some classic dishes that are seen in Indian restaurants everywhere. Mutter Paneer is either a side or a main.This dish had a really interesting savory flavor with a slightly sweet undertone which made me keep wanting to eat it. The dish comes out sweeter if you grind the whole masala into the paste to cook the paneer in, if you don’t want it sweet then pull the whole garam masala out before you grind the paste.

If you are making your own paneer, you are going to want to press it so that you can easily cut the cheese into cubes.

Mutter Paneer

1 lb pressed paneer, cut into 1 inch cubes

1 medium red onion, sliced

1/2 cup crushed almonds

2 tomatoes, pureed

1 TBSP minced garlic (or paste)

1 TBSP minced ginger (or paste)

Whole garam masala (5 cloves, 3 cardamom pods cracked, 2 bay leaves, one stick cinnamon broken into pieces)

1-1 1/2 cups peas

1 teaspoon turmeric

1/2 teaspoon red chili powder

1 teaspoon ground garam masala

1/2 tablespoon coriander

1 tablespoon cumin

1/2 tablespoon salt

One hand full of chopped cilantro to stir through at the end

Heat 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil in a pan and fry the onions with the whole garam masala until just starting to brown, but not cooked all the way down, about 3-4 minutes.

Add the crushed almonds and 1 tablespoon of both ginger and garlic. Remove the whole garam masala (or don’t, your call) and put into a food processor. Don’t clean the pan that you fried the onions in, we are going to add the cheese to it, picking up all that flavor that was left behind.

Add 2-4 tablespoons water until you get a paste much like the coconut curry paste.

Set aside and purée two tomatoes in the food processor. Add 1 tablespoon oil into the onion pan, heat and add the cubes paneer browning evenly on all sides.

Once the paneer is browned, add the onion paste in and stir through. Then add in the pureed tomatoes.

Now add the turmeric, chili, ground garam masala, coriander and cumin, stir,. Add peas, salt and 1 cup water, you might need 1 1/2 cups but you want it to look like this:

Cover and simmer until most of the liquid has evaporated, but not all about 10-15 minutes. Stir through handful of cilantro and that’s it! How easy, delicious and better than you will get in most restaurants.

We ate it with rotis and Baigan Bharta, that recipe tomorrow.

August 2, 2011

Manchurian Green Beans

Despite the name, Shiva insists that this spicy, savory green bean dish is uniquely Indian and certainly Asia and India share several culinary roots. Regardless of who invented it, this dish was a delightful surprise.

I worried that the beans were going to be oily, overcooked and drowned in sauce. Not so my friends, not so.  And even though everything on the plate was delicious, it was the beans that I wanted to eat the entire pot of. However, there were guests and I would have had to fight Shiva for the beans, which frankly seemed rude. He is, after all, not only teaching me Indian cuisine, but hosting these affairs, so I just had a normal portion. Twice.

Manchurian Beans

1/2 red onion, diced

2 pounds green beans

2 green chilies, minced (we used small Thai chilies)

1/2 cup chopped cilantro

Sauce

2 tablespoons soy sauce

1 tablespoon garlic chili sauce (to taste)

1 1/2 teaspoons garlic paste

1 tablespoon ginger paste

1 teaspoon sriracha

1 1/2 tablespoons evaporated cane sugar

1-1/2 cup water

Sauce Thickener

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons water

Combine all the sauce ingredients, soy, ginger, garlic, sugar, chili-garlic paste, and sriracha into a bowl mix until the sugar has dissolved. Then pour into a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Allow sauce to simmer for 3-5 minutes until it begins to thicken slightly. Add water and bring back to a boil and simmer for another 3-5 minutes.

In the mean time, heat 2 tablespoons vegetable oil in a pan and add the red onion and the chilies. Fry the onions until soft but not brown.

In a separate pan, sauté green beans in 1 tablespoon oil until done, but still crisp. About 5 minutes. Add the onions and chilies and stir. Add Manchurian grave/sauce and the flour/ water mixture and stir until the sauce thickens. As soon as that happens, about 1 minute, pull from heat, stir in cilantro and serve.

July 20, 2011

Indian Crispy Okra, Bhindi Kurkure, Suprisingly Delicious!

Until this dish, I hadn’t ever met an okra that I was crazy about. I never really had anything against it, and frankly I’m not sure that I’d had it any other way but fried. Fried vegetables and me don’t get along, unless it’s an asparagus, because most times I feel that the batter and the frying process heightens a slime factor that distinctly turns me off. Like way off. I know that most people are crazy about the juicy burst they get when biting into a piece of fried zucchini, frankly, it just makes me gag. Then when I asked the question: Why on earth am I eating something that is healthy and delicious in its natural state that is now not in any way whatsoever, I was forced to break up with fried vegetables altogether and this meant that okra and I had broken up as well.

So, when Shiva announced that our vegetable side dish was going okra I scowled a little. Ok, a lot. But everything he has taught me to make has been delicious so I put on my game face, flirted with the okra in the store and tried to pick out the plumpest ones. Now, even though this dish is often fried, we baked it in the oven.

Crispy Okra, Bhindi Kurkure

1 lb okra

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 teaspoon coriander

1 teaspoon cumin

1/2 teaspoon chili powder

1 tablespoon chunky chat

One of the keys to this recipe is to wash the okra the night before and store it in the fridge on a plate with just a paper towel over it. The next day cut the heads and tail off and then slice the okra lengthwise. Preheat the oven to 400 F.

Place the okra in a bowl and coat with 1 tablespoon vegetable oil. To this add 1 teaspoon coriander and cumin. 1/2 teaspoon chili powder and 1 tablespoon chunky chat masala. Toss the okra until evenly coated with the oil and spices and then arrange seed side up on a non-stick surface. Bake in the oven for 8-10 minutes or until crispy.

These came out savory, a little crunchy, with a hint of salt from the chunky chat masala. They were almost like kale chips. I couldn’t stop eating them. Every time I passed the plate I found more going in my mouth. In fact, I ate them all, and the people who usually get to taste our efforts were denied crispy okra all together. Thank goodness I can make more.

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