Sunday, March 29, 2009

10 Minute Naan

Success! I'll be making this a LOT from now on. Easy, satisfying, delicious. Recipe to follow.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Dal Shorba (Indian Red Lentil Soup)

Red lentils are always a good "welcome home" when Bill comes off the road. We ate this hearty soup with fresh, homemade naan. Hard to go wrong, really.

Adapted from a recipe by executive chef Vikram Sunderam of Rasika restaurant.

8 ounces dried red lentils (1 1/2 cups)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 medium onions, thinly sliced (about 3 cups)
1 3-inch piece peeled ginger root, finely chopped (about 3 tablespoons)
4 medium cloves garlic, minced (about 3 tablespoons)
3/4 pound tomatoes, coarsely chopped (about 2 1/2 cups)
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
2 teaspoons Madras curry powder
2 teaspoons garam masala
1 teaspoon ground ginger
4 cups water, or as needed
1 medium green bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1/2- to 3/4-inch pieces
1 cup packed mint leaves (from 1/2 bunch)
1 cup packed cilantro leaves (from 1/2 bunch)
Lemon wedges and yogurt, for garnish

Rinse and drain the lentils; sort through them to discard any debris.

Heat the oil in a large (at least 4-quart) pot over medium-high heat until the oil shimmers. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, for 12 to 15 minutes, until they are golden brown; reduce the heat as needed to keep the onions from burning. Add the ginger and garlic and cook, stirring, for 1 to 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes, turmeric and curry powder; cook for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring to blend the spices. Add the water and bring the soup base to a boil.

Add the lentils to the soup base along with the bell pepper, mint and cilantro. Reduce the heat to medium or medium-low so the soup barely bubbles at the edges. Cook for about 20 minutes, until the lentils are tender.

Process the soup in batches in a blender until smooth, filling the blender no more than halfway; or use an immersion (stick) blender in the pot. Strain the soup through a fine-mesh strainer. Season to taste with salt; adjust the consistency with additional water as needed. Serve with lemon wedges.

Muttar Paneer

Another keeper by Arvinda Chauhan. I might add some cubed potatoes next time for a little more body, but the flavors are pitch-perfect.

1 tbsp sunflower oil
3 to 5 whole green cardamom pods (optional)
5 to 6 dried curry leaves (optional)
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup puréed fresh tomatoes
OR 1/4 cup canned ground tomatoes
1 tsp finely minced garlic
1 tsp finely minced fresh ginger
1 1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp Indian chili powder or ground cayenne
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp sea salt, or to taste
1 tsp granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen peas
3/4 cup cubed paneer
1 cup light cream
1/4 cup water
1 tbsp chopped cilantro
1/2 tsp. garam masal

In a large sauté pan, heat oil over medium heat. Add cardamom pods and curry leaves (if using). Cook until golden brown. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until caramelized, about 10 to 15 minutes.

Add tomatoes and cook for 2 to 3 minutes. Add garlic, ginger, ground coriander, cumin, chili powder, turmeric, salt and sugar. Stir and cook for 2 to 3 minutes. Add peas and paneer. Stir well. Stir in cream. Cover and cook for 10 minutes. Add water, stir and
simmer, uncovered, until the sauce is thick and creamy, about 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl and garnish with cilantro and a sprinkling of garam masala. Serve with naan and basmati rice.

Paneer at home

This recipe, by the lovely Arvinda Chauhan, yields approximately 3/4 cup of cubed paneer, enough for the Mattar Paneer recipe above. Bill's been craving saag paneer lately, so I've got the paneer all ready to go. Couldn't be easier.

4 cups homogenized milk
1/4 cup white vinegar
1 teaspoon salt

Line a colander with a thin muslin or cheesecloth. Place colander
over a large bowl.
In a medium saucepan, bring milk to a boil. Turn off heat. Add
vinegar and salt and stir until the milk curdles. Pour and strain curdled
milk through cheesecloth. Twist cheesecloth tightly to extract as
much moisture from the paneer as possible.
Line a plate with another cheesecloth. Place paneer ball in centre
of plate and apply a heavy weight on top to form it into a block.
Allow paneer sit for 6 to 8 hours to drain out excess liquid. Remove
cheesecloth and gently cut paneer into cubes. Add to your
favourite Indian curry and enjoy!
Note: If not using immediately, place the block of pressed paneer
into an airtight container covered with whey and refrigerate for up to 4 days.

Chana Punjabi

The Wednesday Chef's Chana Punjabi recipe looks hard to resist. Now that I've got the pressure cooker working overtime on dried garbanzos, I figure I could get this on the table (from scratch) in under an hour and for a fraction of the cost. Mmmm...

Serves 2

1 tablespoon canola oil or other vegetable oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 teaspoon minced ginger
1 small Thai bird chili, chopped or 1 jalapeño, seeded and chopped
2 large tomatoes, chopped or a 14-ounce can of diced tomatoes, drained
1 1/2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon salt, or as needed
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon garam masala
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 15-ounce cans chickpeas, drained
2 tablespoons minced cilantro
Cooked rice for serving

1. In a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, heat oil and add onion. Sauté until translucent and soft, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, ginger and chili, and sauté until soft and fragrant, about 3 minutes. Add tomatoes and 1/4 cup water. Cover and cook until tomatoes are very soft, about 5 minutes, then remove from heat.

2. Purée mixture in blender or food processor until smooth. Return to pan and place over medium heat. Add paprika, 1 teaspoon salt, coriander, the garam masala, turmeric and lemon juice. Add chickpeas and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low.

3. Cover and simmer until sauce is thick and chickpeas are soft, 45 minutes to 1 hour. Stir pan about every 10 minutes, adding water as needed (up to 1 1/2 cups) to prevent burning. When ready to serve, sauce should be thick. If necessary, uncover pan and allow sauce to reduce for a few minutes, stirring frequently, until desired consistency. Stir in cilantro, adjust salt as needed and serve with cooked rice, if desired.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Basbousah for Carmen

My friend Carmen got married last month. Her new husband is Egyptian, and for the last couple of years we've been talking about how much she loves his cooking, and about the merits of Middle Eastern food in general. This recipe, adapted from Joan Nathan, is one of their wedding presents. I'd like to think it's got a little touch of both of their cultures in it: semolina and almonds for him, and a drop of miel para la iyalocha. (Maferefun Ochun!) A honey-glazed cake for a happy home, with lots of love from me and Bill.

2 cups cream of wheat
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup sour cream or yogurt
1/2 cup sugar
3 tablespoons melted unsalted butter
1/4 cup unseasoned bread crumbs
2 dozen blanched almonds (available in Middle Eastern stores)

1 cup sugar
1/2 cup honey
1 cups water
2 tablespoons orange flower water (or vanilla or even 1/2 cup lemon juice or orange juice -- if you use fruit juice, zest the rind of the fruit before you juice it and add a little minced zest to the cake batter. I added a shot of grand marnier to the syrup for an orange-infused basbousah last night, and it was divine.)

whipped cream for serving

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Mix together the cream of wheat and baking powder in a bowl. Add the sour cream, sugar and melted butter and mix well.

2. Grease a 10 inch round cake pan and dust with the bread crumbs. Pour in the filling and pat down until it is even. Make a diamond design by scoring the mix with a knife. Put one blanched almond in the center of each diamond. Bake for 30 - 45 minutes, until golden on top.

3.In the meantime, bring the sugar, honey and water to boil in a saucepan and let simmer until it is a thick syrup. Add the orange flower water or other flavoring.

4. As soon as the cake comes out of the oven, pour the syrup over it. Let stand until cool. Serve each diamond-shaped piece of cake with whipped cream.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Moroccan Eggplant Salad

This Sephardic classic is always a major favorite on our seder table. I roast the eggplant on baking sheets instead of the more traditional pan-frying.

2 large eggplants
2 tablespons kosher salt
olive oil
1 small can tomato paste
2 cloves of garlic, mashed to a paste
juice of 2 lemons
1 tablespoon ground cumin
Harissa or dried red pepper flakes, to taste
1 tablespoon ras al hanout
1/2 cup chopped cilantro

Cut the eggplants in quarters, lengthwise and slice each long piece into 1/2 inch half slices cross-wise. Pat dry, toss with olive oil until all slices are coated and spread out on a couple of sheet pans. Roast at 400 degrees until browned, turning once and making sure not to burn the slices. This can take anywhere from 15 - 25 minutes.

Mix together the tomato paste, garlic, lemon juice, spices, and half of the chopped cilantro in a serving bowl. Add the eggplant slices, coating them with the tomato mixture. (Can be made up to this point a day ahead of serving) Garnish with the remaining chopped cilantro. Serve at room temperature. Serves 6

Friday, March 13, 2009

Arroz Con Pollo

Photo by Brianna Rohlehr

I was very happy with the big steaming pot of arroz con pollo that we surprised James with up in Hastings-on-Hudson last weekend. (Did I mention that we love the Rohlehrs?)

It's a tricky dish, and all kinds of things can go wrong with the timing. I read somewhere that parboiled rice was the key, and it worked out very well, but I'm quite certain I can get it to work with regular rice next time.

Happy Birthday, James!

4 strips of bacon
1 chorizo link, cut in half lengthwise and sliced into thin half moons
8 chicken thighs, bone in, skin on
Salt, pepper, 4 cloves of garlic, pimenton, ground cumin, olive oil and white vinegar for marinating chicken
Olive oil for frying
1 large onion, chopped
1 large green pepper), chopped
5 cloves garlic mashed
1 (12 oz.) bottle of dark beer
3 1/2 cups rich chicken stock
1 (8-ounce) can of tomato sauce
1 teaspoon Bijol or 1 tablespoon annatto oil (for coloring)
1 bay leaf
2 teaspoons oregano
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons salt (or more, to taste)
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/3 cup pimento-stuffed green olives
3 1/2 cups of parboiled rice (or a slightly smaller quantity of regular long grain white rice)
1/2 - 3/4 cup frozen peas
1/3 cup roasted red peppers, cut into strips

Twelve to twenty-four hours ahead, combine the spices, oil and vinegar in a food processor or a mortar and process into a smooth paste. Rub the mixture all over the chicken and under the skin. Cover and keep refrigerated until about an hour prior to cooking. Let the chicken come to room temperature while prepping all the other ingredients.

Sauté the bacon and chorizo in a large frying pan. Reduce heat to low and let the fat render out -- about 10 minutes. Once the fat is released, remove the bacon and chorizo, increase temperature to medium-high and add the chicken to the hot bacon fat. Remove the chicken when it is browned on both sides.

Add a little olive oil to the same pan you fried the chicken in, and sauté the onion and green pepper until the onion is translucent. Add the mashed garlic and cook an additional minute or two, stirring frequently.

Take the chicken stock and beer and pour into a large covered pot. Add the browned chicken pieces, cooked onions and green pepper, tomato sauce, Bijol, bay leaf, oregano, cumin, salt, and pepper, bacon (crumbled, chorizo and olives. Bring everything to a rolling boil, reduce heat, cover and cook on low for 15 minutes.

Add the rice. Bring to a boil and reduce heat. When the rice has absorbed some of the liquid, cover and simmer on low for about 30-45 minutes, or until the rice is fully cooked. Add the frozen peas and red pepper strips during the last five minutes of cooking.

Birthday Cake

We don't just love the Rohlehrs. We lurve them.

And we were very happy to be around to celebrate a particularly auspicious birthday with them last weekend.

I set out to make RLB's golden layer cake with white chocolate cream cheese buttercream, but...well, the best laid plans, you know...The night before the surpirse birthday lunch, the cakes went all kerflooey and sank to pancake height in the middle. I was pretty much beside myself until I came across a recipe for Dorie's Berry Surprise Cake. With that inspiration in mind, I quickly hollowed out the sunken layers, filled them with whipped cream and berries and frosted the whole assemblage with the white chocolate cream cheese buttercream. Considering that it was very nearly a complete disaster, I was extremely pleased with the results. Folks went back for seconds, so that's always a good sign. If I make "Rohlehr Cake" again, I'll make sponge cake layers, as Dorie intended.

Thanks to the magical Mrs. Rohlehr, for cooking up that surprise and letting us be a part of it. Here's to many, many more celebrations together.

Photos by Brianna Rohlehr

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Seafood Chowder

Chowdah! Just the sound of the word (combined with the sight of our beach) makes my heart race. I am so ready for summer.

5 slices of bacon, diced small
1 yellow onion, diced medium
1 Yukon Gold potato, peeled and diced medium
12 littleneck clams, scrubbed well
1/2 - 3/4 lb basa or cod filets, diced large
12 large shrimp, shelled and deveined
chicken or fish stock
salt and pepper, to taste

Saute the bacon over medium heat in a large pan with a lid. After about two minutes, add the potatoes and onions to the pan, and saute everything together for a few minutes until the onions have begun to soften. Add the clams and just enough stock to barely cover the potatoes and onions, and come about 1/4 up the sides of the clams. This was about 2 cups last night, but could be a little more or less, depending on the size of the pan. Cook, covered for two minutes. Add the shrimp and fish and cream (I didn't measure the cream -- I would say it was about 1 1/4 cups) and cover and cook for four to five minutes longer. The clams should be open at this point. They may need up to a minute longer. At that point, discard any clams that have not opened.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Scallion Oil

(Recipe by Eileen Yin Fei-Lo)
3 bunches of scallions, washed, dried, ends cut off, each scallion cut into 4 pieces
3 cups of peanut oil

Heat wok over medium heat. Add peanut oil, then add scallions. When the scallions turn brown, the oil is done. Strain the oil through a fine strainer into a bowl and allow it to cool to room temperature.

Pour the scallion oil into a glass jar and refrigerate until needed.

Chinese Baked Bun Dough

(From the Dim Sum Dumpling Cookbook by Eileen Yin Fei Lo)
1 ½ teaspoons dry yeast
5 tablespoons sugar
1/3 cup hot water
1 1/3 cups high-gluten flour (Pillsbury Best Bread flour, enriched, bromide preferred)
1 small egg, beaten
3 ¾ tablespoons peanut oil

In a large mixing bowl, dissolve the yeast and sugar in hot water. Set in a warm place for 30 to 60 minutes, depending upon the outside temperature. (In winter the longer time will be required).

When yeast rises and a brownish foam forms on top, add flour, egg, and peanut oil, stirring continuously with your hand. Begin kneading. When the mass becomes cohesive, sprinkle a work surface with flour, place dough on it, and continue kneading. Knead for about 15 minutes, picking up dough with a scraper and sprinkling the work surface with flour to prevent sticking.

When smooth and elastic, place dough in a large bowl. Cover the bowl with a damp cloth and put it in a warm place to rise. Dough will take from 2 to 4 hours to rise, depending upon temperature (it will take longer in cold weather). Dough will perform better if stored overnight and used the next day.

Char Siu Hum Bao (Chinese Baked Roast Pork Buns)

Were these just as savory as any char siu bao in Chinatown? As addictive as the taboo bao in The Untold Story? As traditional as the bao in Once Upon a Time in China? Well, I'd certainly like to think so, and I believe Bill will back me up on this point. (And really, after eating five bao in two days, he'd better back me up.) The recipe isn't complicated, it just takes a bit of time to complete all the steps. Well worth the effort, if you're far from a ready source of hot hum bao and need a fix.

Sauce Ingredients

2 teaspoons oyster sauce
¾ teaspoon dark soy sauce
2 teaspoons ketchup
1 ½ teaspoon sugar
Pinch of white pepper
3 tablespoons chicken broth
½ teaspoon sesame oil

Combine the sauce ingredients. Reserve.

For buns:

2 teaspoons peanut oil
1/3 cup onions, cut into ¼-inch dice
½ cup Roast Pork
1 Baked Bun Dough recipe
1 small egg, beaten
2 tablespoons Scallion Oil

Prepare Filling: Heat wok for 30 seconds over high heat. Add peanut oil and coat wok with spatula. When a wisp of white smoke appears, add onions, lower heat to low, and cook, turning occasionally, until onions turn light brown, 3 to 4 minutes. Add roast pork, raise heat, and stir-fry to combine the pork with the onions, about 1 minute. Add Shao-Hsing wine and mix well.

Lower heat, stir sauce mixture, and add to pork and onions. Stir until well mixed and sauce thickens and bubbles. Turn heat off. Remove mixture from wok and transfer to a shallow dish. Allow to cool to room temperature, then refrigerate for 4 hours, uncovered, or overnight, covered.

Prepare Buns: Preheat oven to 350F. Cut 8 squares of waxed paper, 3 ½ inch on a side.

Remove dough from bowl, knead several times, then roll it out with your hands into a sausage shape 8 inches long. Divide into 8 one-inch pieces. Work with one piece at a time, keeping others under a damp cloth.

Roll each piece into a ball, then with your fingers, press to create a dome and a well.
Place 2 teaspoons of pork filling into well. Hold bun in one hand and with the other turn the bun, pinching it closed. Pressh firmly to seal. Place completed bun, sealed side down, on a square of waxed paper. Repeat until all buns are made.

Place all buns on a cookie sheet, at least 2 inches apart, to allow for expansion. Put buns in a warm place for about 1 hour to permit them to rise. Using an atomizer, spray each bun lightly with warm water. With a pastry brush, brush each bun with beaten egg.
Bake for 15 to 20 minutes. Halfway through the baking time reverse the tray in oven. When buns are golden brown, remove them from the oven, and while still warm brush them with Scallion Oil. (As the buns cool, the crust tends to slightly harden. The brushing with Scallion Oil prevents hardening, as well as adding piquancy.) Serve immediately.