Sunday, September 23, 2007

Chana Dal and Amaranth Leaves

Doing some research for the weed science class I'm TA-ing, I stumbled across a wonderful food blog (Mahanandi) of the cuisine of southern India, specifically a recipe that uses amaranth leaves (right here). Amaranth is considered a weed in the US, but the grains and greens are used worldwide in cooking. The recipe is for 'chana dal', which are similar to chick-peas, but much smaller and faster-cooking. I found them at the co-op, but I've also seen them at the large grocery store here. Soak them overnight for best results. Also, you could use spinach instead of amaranth, but the amaranth is so good that you should try to find it (I got mine at the Chinese grocery) or collect it from the garden yourself. I think I like it more than spinach, and from now on I will harvest the weedy volunteers in my garden. You should do your best to follow the recipe on the original site--I had to make a bunch of substitutions, but it still turned out really well and even looked just like the picture. Here's the recipe as I would make it if I had all the ingredients, with the substitutions I used in parentheses).

5 small, hot green chilis (2 green Hungarian peppers)
2 Tbsp. grated, unsweetened coconut (2 Tbsp. coconut milk)

1. Grind these together in a food processor or mortar & pestle. I think it should make a fairly dry paste, but mine was more liquidy. This didn't seem to be a problem, though.

1/2 c. chana dal, soaked overnight and drained
1 large bunch amaranth leaves, washed and chopped
1 red onion, finely chopped (yellow onion)
1 Tbsp. oil
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. black mustard seed (yellow mustard seed)
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
chapatis (flour tortillas)

2. Heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed pot over medium. Add the cumin, garlic, and mustard seeds. Stir these until the garlic is soft and just starts to brown (my mustard seeds started popping, so I just held the lid a little bit over the pan.).
3. Add the chana dal and onion and increase the heat. Stir these until the dal is a bit roasty and the onion is soft.
4. Add the amaranth and green chili/coconut paste, and stir a couple of times. Put the lid on and cook several minutes until the leaves are well wilted.
5. Remove the lid and cook the liquid off. Salt to taste.

Serve this hot with chapatis or warmed flour tortillas. The dal will be rather dry, but I think that's how it's supposed to be. If you don't like it that way you can add some liquid and cook longer, which is fine because the amaranth holds up better to cooking than spinach. I know this may seem like a crazy recipe full of ingredients you don't have, but it is really good and worth a try, especially if you have amaranth in your yard or find it at the store. Amaranth is also known as: thotakura (India), red spinach, Chinese spinach, hinn choy (Chinese), tampala (Sinhalese?), callaloo (W. Indies). Basically if you find a smooth, broad-leafed, tender green with reddish/purplish veins in the center of the leaf, it's probably amaranth. Check out the original recipe for good pictures.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Spicy chicken stew

On a recent cold rainy fall day, I had something of an epiphany for how to use a whole chicken I had that was about 45 seconds away from starting to turn. I was tired of soup, but I wanted sauce, spice, and flavor. Solution: Stew. I also forgot pictures because I was too cold, hungry, and grumpy.

I quartered my chicken and browned the quarters in my heaviest pot in some olive oil. I should have removed the wings because they ended up disintegrating and just adding boney bits. Oh well. Once the chicken had some decent browning going on, I poured on a can of whole peeled tomatoes. These are basically the best thing ever for making sauce from scratch, because they have a minimum of processing and are 95% as tomatoey as fresh tomatoes, at maybe 1/5th the price. The rest of the veggies were carrots, peeled and halved; some small white onions quartered and little pearls kept whole; and lots and lots of garlic (maybe 8-10 cloves).

Sinus-clearing action was called for, so I added half a dozen dried Thai chiles I got at the St. Paul farmers' market, seeded and stemmed but otherwise whole. I dropped in a few bay leaves, some healthy pinches of dry basil and rosemary, a handful of blanched almonds, and a few tablespoons of turmeric. Then, a few tablespoons of lemon juice and balsamic vinegar. Lastly, I poured on about 1.5 quarts of stock, or whatever it took to cover. Wine would be good here, but my cellar didn't cooperate. Oh, and a couple good splashes of olive oil.

The best step in stew making: cover, simmer, wait. After about 90 minutes, the chicken was falling off the bone, and the tomatoes had more or less dissolved into the sauce. I removed the chicken and added a half can of tomato paste and boiled the sauce for a few minutes to thicken it up. I served it up with couscous with golden raisins, peas, and scallions, and garnished with some basil chiffonade and squirts of fresh lime.

Today, the leftover stew (we ate all the chicken) got mixed with a box of pasta and some shredded leftover roast chicken breast to make a nice chicken noodle pasta kinda thing.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

A Yankee Meal: Navy Bean Soup, Parker House Rolls, and Concord Grape Pie

Tonight we have the first frost advisory of the year here in Ithaca, so it's a good night to stay home and have a comforting meal. Also, I didn't feel like doing my homework, so I basically got food (at the farm and farm-stand) and cooked the whole day. I even took pictures this time! Tonight's meal was truly all-American, all-Yankee, in fact. A navy bean is also known as a Yankee bean, so the soup is self-explanatory. The Parker House rolls originated at a swanky hotel in Boston; I made the cloverleaf version. The concord grape pie may be more hard to believe, but it does exist and is a regional delicacy. Concord grapes are a 'labrusca' variety, which means they're descended from the native North American grape. I'm not sure if you can find concords in MN, but I hope so, since the pie smells delicious (it's still cooling, so I don't know how it tastes). I think that you can use any other black-skinned grape whose skins slip off readily.

Yankee Bean Soup - Lillian's original recipe

1 lb. navy beans, soaked overnight or using a quick-soak method
1.5 lb. smoked ham hocks (try to find meaty ones)
2-3 qts. meat stock (I used pork from the roast I made a few entries back)
3-4 carrots, finely diced
1 large onion, finely diced
1/4 c. ketchup
3 Tbsp. brown sugar or 3 Tbsp. molasses + 1 Tbsp. sugar
2 tsp. powdered mustard
1 1/2 tsp. white pepper
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp. thyme
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 pinch tarragon

1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. white pepper

In a heavy pot, saute the onions and carrots in some oil or bacon drippings until they begin to soften. You can cook the veggies separately and then add to a crockpot, or just cook them in a Dutch oven and use that for your cooking. Add the dried spices and stir. Add the beans, ham hocks, and enough stock to cover generously (about 1-2 inches over the beans). Stir in the ketchup, Worch. sauce, and sugar/molasses. If you're using a crockpot, go do your thang and come home and deliciousness will have occurred. If you're using the stove-top, cook the soup for as long as possible (I cooked it for about 4 hours). Remove the ham hock, cut off the meat, and add it back to the pot. At the end, add the extra salt and pepper and adjust the sweetness if necessary. It should be rather sweet, with some tangy zip from the mustard and pepper. You can whomp it a bit if you want a smoother soup.

Parker House Rolls

Ok so I'm cheating on this one and not including the recipe. You can find it in any number of places--I got mine from The Joy of Cooking. The key is to brush with butter at basically every step of the process. For this meal, any starchy bread thing would be good. Be creative! My rolls turned out great, which was a relief since I haven't made a yeast-leavened bread in ages.

Concord Grape Pie

Thsi pie recipe is almost identical to the one in The Joy of Cooking. Pre-heat your oven to 425.

1 two-sided pie crust, chilled and ready to use
2 lbs. concord grapes, or other black-skinned grapes whose skins come off easily
3/4-1 c. sugar
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1/8 tsp. salt
1/2 lemon, zested and juiced
3 Tbsp. quick-cooking tapioca or corn starch

Slip the skins off of the grapes, so that the guts go into a saucepan and save the skins in a separate dish. This doesn't take nearly as long is it sounds like it would, and is actually much easier than peeling and slicing apples by hand. Simmer the grape guts for 5 minutes, until the seeds loosen from the rest of the pulp. Squish this stuff through a fine strainer into a medium bowl. While it's still hot, whisk in the sugar, butter, salt, lemon juice, and zest. Then mix in the peels. Allow the filling to cool, and then whisk in the tapioca or corn starch. Meanwhile, roll out the crust and place the bottom half into the pie pan. Pour the grape filling in, and cover with the other half of the crust. Make it pretty and brush it with beaten egg and sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 55-65 minutes. Remove and allow to cool before slicing.

Caveat: I felt that this high temperature was too much for too long. If I did it again, I would reduce the heat to 375 or so for the second half of the cooking. Also, your pie will erupt with liquid hot MAGMA, so you will probably need to put a pizza pan underneath it towards the end. It also needs some tinfoil over the crust after the first 15 minutes. Like I said, it's still cooling so I don't know how it turned out yet. I sure hope the bottom isn't burned!

Wowee check out that keen grape detailing!

So that was a taste of the Northeast for Dan, before he leaves in a couple of days. The soup was one of the best I ever made, especially since I found some righteously meaty ham hocks and cooked it for ages and ages. Sorry for the fuzzy, yellow-ish photos, but there's hardly any light in the kitchen here, and this is the best I can do without the flash.

Coming up soon, I might need to post some apple recipes, since it's that time of year again. I've finally caught the baking bug again!

UPDATE: So the pie is incredible! It's not, as I'd worried, like eating grape jelly in a pastry crust. I'ts more like the super-concentrated Welch's grape juice, with a very pleasant level of sweetness, and the texture came out well too: smooth, with little bits of innocuous grape skins in it. I definitely hope I can find the grapes for this in MN. I did a little research, and it sounds like "Bluebell", "Fredonia", "Van Buren", and "Worden" are hardier black, seeded, slip-skin, grape varieties, though none are as high-quality as the Concord. I know you can buy the rootstocks for these varieties, but I don't know where you find the fruit for sale. Some of the orchards in Pepin County might be good places to look, as well as the farmers' markets--let me know if you find any.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Stuffed Fried Eggplant

Here is a recipe from Alex:

Stuffed Fried Eggplant

This is actually something I made up, though I based it on something I
ate in Turkey(this is actually much better). It may actually be
identical to the dish "Imam Bayaldi," but it looks like there are many
variations on that dish anyway. I only made one eggplant, since it was
left over from another meal - it didn't take long at all, maybe 30

  • Little Mini Eggplants(I had just one - the more, the easier the whole thing is, obviously) - ie, about 4-6" long, not including stem.*
  • Onions (enough to fill the hollowed cavities of the eggplants.)
  • Garlic
  • Hot peppers(to taste)
  • Cumin
Optional(but delicious):
  • Pomegranate molasses("dabas rumaan")(Worth having in the house anyway- very good with salads, or drizzled on top of the baba ghanouj from Lillian's recipe. Available at nearest Middle Eastern grocery store, or ethnic food aisle. Different from grenadine, I believe.)

Cut onions into thin strips, hot peppers into small pieces, mince
garlic. Skin eggplants, cut off bottom, hollow out center(try to
retain a little "plug" if you can for keeping the stuffing in.) You
need not remove the stem(it makes it look nicer when you bring it to
table, also). You can mix the eggplant innards with the onions and
stuff, or you can choose not to. I cooked the innards.

Sautee onions, hot peppers and garlic(and optionally innards) until
nice and soft. Remove to another dish. Add cumin and salt to
mixture(just a bit - and you could probably add it while cooking, but
I couldn't find it until I was done sauteeing. Our cupboard is a
catastrophe). Stuff mixture into eggplants. Plug if possible. Fill pan
with a small layer of oil (olive oil will taste best, but you'll have
a very smokey kitchen. We only have olive oil.), then fry the
eggplants until brown and crispy on the outside, and soft enough to
poke through really easily. Remove from pan, drizzle with small
quantity pomegranate molasses (this really makes everything way
better). You can skatter any leftover filling around the finished

The whole thing ends up looking pretty fancy, so it's good for serving
to guests, etc as an appetizer/side dish to some sort of meaty main,
or as a bigger appetizer among a group of small ones (hummus, baba
ghanouj, etc). However, it's not really easy to divide up, so you
should probably cook 1/guest.

*Is there a special term for this in English? Aubergines? Or is that
just British for "eggplant"? I do not guarantee the results if you use
one of the big honking ones.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Sweet Kugel, Peppery Pork Roast, and Braised Greens

Considering it was the 'day of rest', we at the Byway did anything but. We got up, made a big breakfast (french toast, bacon, and fruit salad), and then set to cleaning the basement. It looks SOOO much better now! The shale foundation still seeps water when it rains (as it is currently doing), but now at least we got rid of most of the clutter, cobwebs, and fixed a dryer ventilation problem. To reward all our triumphant and weary workers I decided to make a nice dinner. I'd been wanting to make a sweet kugel, what with the high holy days rolling around (not that I'm religious--I just like the food), and I thought this would be a good night for it. I wanted to accompany it with a beef roast, but since Melanie can't eat beef we had a pork roast instead. I really have a habit of making one dish from a kosher or halal culture and accompanying it with pork--probably because pork is so versatile and I'm burned out on chicken.

This will be lengthy:

Roast Peppery Pork
  • 5 lb. bone-in pork loin roast
  • 1/2 c. brown sugar
  • 2 tsp. coarsely ground black pepper
  • 2 tsp. white pepper + some more
  • 2 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp. ground coriander + some more
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 c. white wine
  • 1 c. broth
  • 2 tsp. arrowroot powder (or corn starch)
Preheat the oven to 450. Allow the roast to warm up to room temperature, then pat it dry. Combine the seasonings to make a rub, then press it onto the roast. Place the roast directly into a lightly oiled roasting pan with the ribs facing down (they will serve as the rack). Bake at 450 for 15 minutes, then turn the oven down to 250 and roast for 2 hours, or until the internal temperature reads 155 degrees. Allow to rest for 5-15 minutes before carving. (If the drippings get too hot while roasting, add some hot water to the pan from time to time).

Remove the roast from the pan and set it on a carving board. Deglaze the roasting pan by setting it over a burner with the white wine and broth and allowing the alcohol to cook off. Season with more coriander and white pepper. Dissolve the arrowroot in 3 Tbsp. of cold water, and whisk in slowly, simmering the sauce for 3 more minutes. Carve the roast into pieces and serve it with the sauce on the side.

Sweet Kugel
  • 1 bag extra wide egg noodles, cooked
  • 1 lb. container cottage cheese
  • 1 lb. container ricotta cheese
  • 6 eggs
  • 1 stick butter, melted and divided
  • zest and juice of 1/2 large lemon (or 1 small one)
  • 1/2 c. brown sugar + 3 Tbsp.
  • 1/2 c. slivered almonds, divided
  • 1/2 c. sultana raisins
  • 1/3 c. matzo meal
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon + 1/4 tsp.
  • 1/2 tsp. garam masala
  • a few grates of nutmeg
This recipe is really off the hook--it's like eating dessert for dinner! Traditionally it, and other sweet food, are eaten at Rosh Hashanah to symbolize a sweet new year.

Preheat the oven to 375 and grease a large casserole dish with 1 Tbsp. of the melted butter. Mix the eggs and sugar together very well in a LARGE bowl. Add the lemon zest and juice, 5 Tbsp. melted butter, cinnamon, garam masala, and nutmeg and mix well. Stir in 2/3 of the almonds, and the raisins, cheeses, and noodles (you may need to mix with your hands). Pour the noodle mixture into your casserole. In a small bowl, combine 2 Tbsp. melted butter, the matzo meal, 1/4 tsp. cinnamon, 3 Tbsp. brown sugar, and remaining almonds. Sprinkle this topping over the kugel. Bake for 50-60 minutes.

Braised Greens
  • A big bunch of kale or collards, washed, ribs removed, and sliced into thin ribbons
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 Tbsp. oil or fat
  • 1/2 tsp. white pepper
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • dash of tabasco
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • salt to taste
  • pinch of sugar
Heat the oil/fat in a frying pan with a close-fitting lid. Sauté the garlic slowly so that it softens but doesn't turn brown. Add the kale and cook, stirring frequently, for 1 min. Add a couple of tablespoons of water and put the lid on, simmering for 15 min. If it runs out of water, add more. Remove the lid and add the pepper, nutmetg and salt, cooking the liquid off. At the end, add the lemon juice, tobasco, and pinch of sugar. As you can tell, this isn't a very exact recipe but it comes out great every time ;-)

So this meal turned out to be a great combo, as well as having good individual dishes. The pork was tender and juicy (definitely get the bone-in roast), with a crisp, flavorful rub and simple, complimentary sauce. The sweetness of the rub played along well with the sweet kugel, but had enough spice to balance it. I made the kale because, well, I have tons of kale and thought we could use some roughage. It also has a slight sweetness that highlighted the meal, along with some lemony zing.

The only trouble with the meal was that the roast cooks at such a low temperature that I had to cook the kugel after it was done. Fortunately I started early, but I wouldn't recommend making it with another baked dish for this reason.

I really should have taken some pictures this time because it looked fantastic, but I couldn't move another inch after this crazy day. It is such a relief to have the basement cleared out, and will keep all our belongings from rotting into the earth. I guess we'll have to find somewhere new to hide all the dead undergrads.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Kasha Varnishkes

Here is a fantastic side-dish that has the added benefit (?) of smelling like every Jewish home I visited as a kid. It also uses buckwheat groats (when cooked, called kasha), which is a nutritional and agricultural powerhouse. Like quinoa, buckwheat is a seed rather than a grain, and contains tons of high-quality protein and many vitamins and minerals (and if you go by the articles about it, cures and prevents nearly every ill). Buckwheat is a great cover-crop for farmers and it grow very quickly.

The recipe calls for bow-tie noodles, which--face it--are just plain fun. It goes really well with roasted chicken. This is modified from The Art of Jewish Cooking by Jennie Grossinger:

  • 1/2 box of bow-tie noodles, cooked in salted water
  • 1/3 c. butter or schmaltz
  • 1 large onion, diced or sliced finely
  • 1 tsp. thyme
  • 1 tsp. black pepper
  • salt to taste
  • 1 1/2 c. roasted buckwheat groats, whole or cut
  • 2 1/2 c. boiling water
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 egg, beaten
First, cook your noodles. Heat up a large pot and begin caramelizing the onion pieces in the butter or schmaltz in it.

In a separate sauce pan with a tight-fitting lid, stir the groats and beaten egg over low heat until the grains separate (I'm still not sure what this means, but it's what the recipe says. I just stir them until the egg is cooked and dry). Add the boiling water and salt and cover the pot (heat still on low) for 15 min. If there is extra liquid, pour it off. Now you have a pot full of kasha.

When your onions are caramelized, add the thyme and black pepper, then stir in the cooked noodles and kasha. Add salt and pepper to taste and serve. You can also stir in grebenes (rendered chicken skin and onions; mom cooks it with chicken liver). Tonight we had this with a grocery store roast chicken and salad and it was the perfect combo. It also didn't heat the kitchen up too badly--it was in the mid-90s today and it's still in the upper 70s at a quarter past 11. Sweatin' here, boss.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Eggplant Salad (aka Baba Ghanoush) - Zamos style

This recipe has countless variations, so I present the version that mom taught me. Some people add tahini, but I think that ruins it--I like the zingy flavor this version has. This recipe is best made in late summer, when you have the grill going.
  • 2 or more pounds eggplant, preferably small tender ones
  • 3 bell peppers, green or red
  • 1/2 red onion, diced finely
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 1/3 c. good olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp. fresh parsley, chopped finely
  • salt and pepper - be generous with both
  • 1/2 tsp. ground coriander
  • pinch of sugar
  • pinch of cayenne
Place the eggplants and 2 of the bell peppers on the grill and roast until blackened all over. You can use a gas stove or a broiler, but make sure to pull the batteries out of the smoke detector! Remove from the grill and place in a plastic bag for several minutes until they're cool enough to handle. Remove the roasted skins from the eggplants and peppers, and chop them finely into a bowl. Rinse the onion in cold water to reduce its stinkiness, then add to the bowl. Mix in the olive oil, lemon juice, parsley, sugar, salt and pepper, sugar, and cayenne. Don't be shy with the salt or olive oil. Chop the remaining pepper and stir it in unroasted. Serve with toasted pita triangles or yummy bread. This goes over great at potlucks.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Red Beans and Rice

I'm posting this picture 5/27/2012 (4 yrs 8 months after the original post)--just to prove that this recipe delivers again and again over the years!
This is a hearty, simple meal that will feed you all week long. I make it with a pressure cooker because it is SO much faster that way, but you can simmer it on the stove if you prefer. The recipe is based on one from the cookbook that came with my pressure cooker. I didn't take photos because I find that bean dishes look horrible in them so you'll just have to use your imagination.

First soak one pound of red beans overnight. I use "small red beans", but they're kind of hard to find, so you could use pink beans, roman beans, pintos, or even red kidney beans for this. If you didn't soak them overnight, you can put them in a pot of water, bring it to boil for one minute, and then turn off the heat and let them sit for 4 hrs. When you cut a bean in half there should be no pale starchy spot in the middle.

  • 1 lb dry red beans, soaked overnight
  • 1 ham hock or 1/4 lb. slab bacon
  • 1 lb sausage, andouille is best, but pan sausage or Italian will work
  • 1 large onion, chopped finely
  • 4 celery ribs, chopped finely
  • 1 bell pepper, chopped finely
  • 1 spicy pepper, chopped finely
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 Tbsp garlic powder
  • 2 tsp thyme
  • 2 tsp white pepper
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • dash cayenne
  • 1 Tbsp hot sauce (to taste)
  • A pinch of sugar
  • white rice
  • chicken broth
  • S&P
  • butter
  • parsley
For the rice, cook your rice in the broth, S&P, and butter. Stir in finely chopped parsley at the end. Keep warm until dinner time.

For the red beans, if you're using slab bacon, cut it into small chunks and cook it in your pressure cooker pot until it starts to brown. If you're using a ham hock, add it later. Heck, you can use both and it will be delicious. Sautee in the bacon drippings or in some oil the veggies. Add to the pot the soaked beans, all the seasonings except the sugar, and the ham hock. Cover with water (just enough to submerge) and bring to a boil. Put the lid on and cook at full pressure for 10 min, then allow pressure to escape naturally. In lieu of a PC, cook for 1 hr (yikes!).

Open the PC and remove the ham hock to cool. Meanwhile, brown the sausage in a separate pan and then add it to the beans. Cut whatever meat you can find off of the ham hock and add that to the beans. Bring back to a boil and then replace the pressure lid. Cook at full pressure for 10 more minutes and then allow pressure to escape naturally. If you're using a regular pot, continue cookin the beans until they are tender

Once beans are tender, adjust the seasonings with a pinch of sugar, black pepper, and more hot sauce to taste (though you can keep this recipe as mild as you like). Serve over seasoned rice with additional chopped bell peppers to garnish. You will not go hungry with this in the house! Tastes even better the next day.

PS...The original recipe I used is called "Cajun", but trusty Wikipedia tells me that red beans are a Creole item, so that just goes to show the cookbook authors. What do you expect from the Swiss? Anyway you call it, this is a good recipe from somewhere in Louisiana.