Monday, January 31, 2011

Scalloped Potatoes

Hooray for cheezy comfort food! The key to this recipe is to slice waxy potatoes ethereally thin (no more than 1/8", ideally more like 1/16"). I accomplished this with the slicing side of my grater. I tried using the food processor, but it didn't slice them thin enough. Even if you can't get them that thin, it will still taste good, but the texture won't be as nice.

Preheat the oven to 350°. Grease an 7"x11" baking dish. 

1 quart very thinly sliced peeled, waxy potatoes (such as red potatoes or Yukon gold)
1 can Cream of Onion Soup
1.5 c. milk
3/4 c. grated Swiss cheese
3/4 c. grated cheddar cheese (mix cheeses together to form 1.5 c)
2 Tbsp. butter
3 Tbsp. flour
1 tsp. ground mustard
1 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. seasoned salt
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. cayenne

Make a roux: heat the butter in a small pan until it starts to shimmer, then add the flour. It will bubble up; stir frequently until it is a slightly browned paste, taking care not to let it scorch.

Whisk the canned soup, milk, and spices over medium high heat, until it starts to simmer at the edges. Whisk in the roux and continue to simmer until the sauce thickens. Stir in 1 c. of the cheeses, reserving 1/2 c. to sprinkle on top. Adjust the seasonings as desired.

Lay out 1 c. of the potato slices on the bottom of the pan so that they overlap slightly. Ladle a thin layer of cheese sauce over the potatoes, and then repeat, until you have 4 layers of potatoes and a layer of cheese sauce on top (only 3 layers of potatoes if your slices are thick). Sprinkle the remaining cheese on top, and sprinkle with some paprika for color.

Bake for 1 hour, or until the top is browned and bubbly and the potatoes are tender. The potatoes on the bottom of the pan should have formed a lovely browned crust (make sure they don't burn).

You can always spice this up a bit by adding chives, bacon, more spices, whatever. If you don't want to make a roux then you could thicken the sauce with corn starch, but it won't have as much flavor and it won't hold as well in the fridge (if indeed you have any leftovers).

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Yogi Tea (Chai)

This is a recipe* that I used back in the '70s BC (before children). I rediscovered chai recently and have tried many brands that are premixed. This is an easy-to-make, great drink for a cold winter day, and in the warm months it is delicious chilled. The directions are for stove-top preparation, but I seem to remember that I made it all day in my Harvest Orange crock pot. The final volume will be approximately 50% of the original volume. It will fill your home with a wonderful aroma.

Plan on boiling for 3 hours if on the stove.

Combine in saucepan:
  • 2 quarts water
  • 15 whole cloves
  • 20 black peppercorns
  • 3 sticks cinnamon
  • 20 whole cardamom pods (split them first)
  • 8 slices fresh ginger (1/4" - not necessary to peel)
Bring water to boil, add cloves and boil one minute. Add remaining ingredients, cover and boil for 30 minutes. Reduce heat and simmer for 2-3 hours. Remove from heat and add:
  • 1/2 tsp. regular or decaf black tea (1-2 teabags)
  • dairy or soy milk and your choice of sweetener to taste.
Let cool and strain. Store in refrigerator. If you wish, you may store it before adding milk and sweetener. Add it to the tea after reheating a cup.

I hope you enjoy this warm, spicy libation this winter.

*This recipe comes from Yogi Bhajan, who introduced Kundalini to the west in the late 60s. Recipe courtesy of

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Moroccan Bread with Semolina Flour

Here's a recipe from Melanie - I know we already have an ok-ish Moroccan bread recipe, but this one is a bit more authentic. However, every bakery/family does the bread a little bit differently. This recipe is heavy on the semolina flour, while others are more wheaty. It's also our first family-made video recipe!

Here's a video so you can see the steps, with the recipe below.

Moroccan Bread

Makes about five round loaves of bread, approximately one inch thick and six inches in diameter.

1. Mix together flours. The below suggestion is my host family’s house recipe. I alter it by substituting some whole wheat flour sometimes; you can experiment with spelt if you like.

3 cups or 1/2 kilo of semolina flour (I use the Bob’s Red Mill variety from the co-op when I’m in the U.S.)

1 cup of white flour

2. Add the following to the flour mixture:
- generous Tablespoon of salt,
- about two teaspoons of seeds (I use white and black sesame seeds and anise seeds, but one could experiment with rye or other ingredients instead)
- about one Tablespoon of salad oil or melted butter
- yeast (I use about one packet or two teaspoons of dry yeast in the U.S. In Morocco, I use a couple generous spoonfuls of cake yeast.)

3. Pour some lukewarm water over the yeast, crumbling the yeast if using cake yeast and mixing it by hand in either case. Add water and knead bread until elastic dough forms.

4. Squeeze dough into balls about the size of a tennis ball, placing them one after another on a flat surface so that you can work with them in the order in which you formed them into balls (giving them a moment to rise and settle). This recipe usually results in about five balls of dough for me, but you can alter their size or number if you like.

5. Pick up the first ball in the line, and form it into a compact sphere by rolling it on a flat surface (or against the edge of a bowl).

6. Pour a little of the yellow semolina flour onto a flat surface (In Morocco, we use a qasriyya, which is the bottom half of a tajine dish. In the U.S., I just use my counter top). Set the first ball of dough onto the circle of flour, and pour a little more of the same flour on top. Now flatten the ball into a round circle, patting in a circular motion to create a round loaf of bread about one-half inch thick and about five inches in diameter.

7. Allow loaves to rise. In Morocco, we lay the loaves on a blanket and cover them with a thick coverlet to protect them from the cold. We leave them for about one hour before baking. In Austin’s hot weather, I can leave the loaves to rise under a light towel. In colder weather, I have tried letting them rise in a barely warm oven for about twenty minutes. I’m still experimenting for the best method.

8. When risen to about 1” thick, bake in oven about one-half hour at 325 degrees Fahrenheit. BEFORE placing loaves in oven for baking, run a fork over them (about five times per loaf) to make some holes to ensure even cooking.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Sweet Potatoes in Chili Powder Sauce

This makes a nice combination of sweet, savory and a little bit of spicy, and is a really nice accompaniment to roasts and meaty entrees.

"Sweet Potatoes in Chili Powder Sauce" is probably not the catchiest name, but I figured "Southwest Style Sweet Potatoes wasn't terribly clear, and I made up the recipe, so probably nobody in the Southwest actually makes this.

4 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-1" cubes
3 large shallots, minced
1 small garlic clove, minced
1/4-1 jalapeno, no seeds, slice very thin, to desired spiciness. It's mostly just supposed to have a hint of spice
1 stick butter
2 Tbsp brown sugar
1.5 tsp chili powder
1 tsp salt

Heat oven to 350.

If you have a microwave, to save yourself some baking time, nuke the potatoes for about 4 minutes, or until somewhat softened. You could also probably boil them for a little bit instead of the microwave. Note that you're not going for the same level of mushiness as in candied yams, more like the texture of home fries.

In a saucepan, melt the butter, then add shallots, garlic and jalapeno. Let sizzle until shallots are starting to turn transparent, then add the brown sugar, chili powder and salt. Let combine on low heat for a few minute, then mix the sauce thoroughly with the potatoes and put everything in a baking dish. Bake until the potatoes are the desired texture, which will depend on your oven, whether you nuked them, and the potatoes that you have. If you have a particularly woody seeming yam, nuke it or boil it more, separate from the other potatoes. The trickiest part of this dish is uneven cooking of the yams.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Vietnamese Carrot & Radish Pickles

These sweet-and-sour pickles are a wonderful accompaniment to many dishes, and are an especially nice contrast to meat-heavy or fried main dishes. I also like to add them to salads, sandwiches, and even instant noodles. You can also make them with red radishes, which turns out beautiful and zingier than if you use daikon. These are best made at least an hour ahead, and they stay good for several weeks in the fridge.

For 1 lb combined peeled carrots and radish:

1 lb. carrots and radish, julienned
1 tsp. Kosher salt
1/3 c. rice vinegar
2 heaping Tbsp. brown sugar

After cutting the carrots and radishes, toss them with the salt and allow them to sit for 10 minutes. Drain the excess liquid and gently squeeze out the rest. Dissolve the sugar in the vinegar and pour this mixture over the carrots and radishes. Allow to sit for at least one hour before serving. Can be stored in a clean container in the fridge for several weeks.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

BBQ Meatballs

Where better to turn for down-home comfort food than a church cookbook? We had these at Christmas and they were delicious in an old-fashioned way. They're basically like meatloaf in ball form, and can be spiced up according to taste. From Elim Centennial 1883-1983 Cookbook, Elk River MN.

Makes about 55 1" balls.

Great with mashed potatoes and a veggie side.

Preheat oven to 375°

2 lb ground beef
1 c. quick cooking oatmeal or breadcrumbs
1/2 c. milk
2 eggs
1 package onion soup mix

Roll into balls and bake on a cookie sheet for 30 minutes at 375°.

1 c. catsup
4 Tbsp. butter
4 Tbsp. light molasses
2 Tbsp. vinegar
4 Tbsp. water

Simmer the sauce ingredients for 15 minutes. Mix the meatballs into the sauce.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Chicken Tikka Masala

I got this recipe from my friend Christine, who got it in turn from one of her students. I've adapted it a bit, and she adapted it herself so it's probably a bit different from the original at this point. I make no claims of authenticity, just deliciousness.


Chicken Tikka:
1 lb chicken breast, cut into 1-2” cubes
1 tsp salt
¼ tsp turmeric
¼ tsp cayeanne
¼ tsp garam masala
¼ tsp fresh ginger
1 clove garlic
1 Tbl plain yogurt
Optional: 1 tsp aamchu (dried mango) powder)

Other ingredients:
1 large onion, diced
2 Tbl chopped mint (optional)
1 (8oz) can tomato puree (or 3-4 tomatoes, peeled and seeded, then pureed)
¼ tsp fresh ginger
1 clove garlic
2 Serrano chilis, sedded, and minced (or just one, this can be spicy)
¼ tsp turmeric
½ tsp cayeanne
1 tsp garam masala
1 c. cream
Cilantro (for garnish)

1. Mix Chicken Tikka ingredients, and marinate chicken at least one hour
2. Bake Chicken Tikkas at 375 for 30 minutes. Alternately, if you don’t want to use the oven (or don’t have one) fry tikkas until the outsides are nicely browned, then set aside.
3. Sautee onions and mint in 4 tablespoons oil, until onions are golden brown.
4. Add tomato puree and chilis, cook until the smell of canned tomato is reduced so that it doesn’t dominate the curry.
5. Add ginger, garlic, 1 tsp salt, turmeric, cayeanne, stir well.
6. Add cream, then simmer until you see the oily sheen on the top of the sauce.
7. Add chicken and garam masala and cook an additional 10 minutes until cooked through.
8. Garnish with minced cilantro.