Wednesday, March 27, 2013

IHCC: Good-bye Madhur!

It's hard to believe this IHCC session is over now. For a very long time, Jaffrey has been a frequent guest in my kitchen, but never as often as in these last six months, when we've had at least one Jaffrey meal each week. Tonight I planned a bit of a celebration in honor of this.

For a starter we had Green Soup (Hara shorva) from Indian Cooking (p177). A kind of Indian cream of pea soup, it turned out to be really simple to make and quite tasty. It takes a bit longer that what I would call quick, but is really simple, so that makes up for a bit of time.

First simmer a chopped potato and a chopped onion in chicken stock, along with a cube of ginger, ground coriander and ground cumin. When the veggies are done, fish out the ginger, then add some chopped coriander, a green chili, frozen peas, salt, lemon juice, and ground roasted cumin. Simmer till the peas are done, then blend. I used my staff mixer, but a regular blender would work fine. When you're about ready to serve, stir in some cream and heat through. That's all. Pretty and tasty.

For a main there was Squid or Scallops in Spinach-Tomato Curry Sauce (Samundar ki kari) from Quick & Easy Indian Cooking (p72). It was the picture of the squid that attracted me to this dish, since I haven't cooked them in quite a while now, but I have scallops in the freezer wanting to be used, so I chose that option. And it's another winner from the Quick&Easy book.

You starting by popping mustard seeds in hot oil, then adding garlic and ginger. When the garlic turns golden, stir in a spice paste of cayenne, turmeric, cumin, ground coriander, salt, pepper, grainy mustard, and water. (Be sure to read the information about choosing the mustard. You can use the same stuff for Pork or Lamb Vindaloo on p33, which is a super recipe and amazingly easy for delicious taste.) Then stir in some tomatoes (I deseeded and chopped fresh ones, rather than using canned), spinach, and water, and simmer for ten minutes. Add the scallops or squid; when they're done, stir in some coconut milk. Serve over rice or noodles. Yum!

And a celebration wouldn't be complete without dessert, so we finished up with Banana Halva (Kelay ka halva) from the same book (p124). This is a really easy dessert you could make any time you have some bananas getting a bit ripe. A half recipe made two nice servings.

Mash your bananas and fry them in ghee or vegetable oil until they are brown and very soft. Turn the heat down low and stir in a bit of sugar. Stir in chopped pistachios and walnuts. I spooned the halva into individual dishes and set them in the fridge to cool to room temp while we ate, then served them topped with a bit of crème frîache.

Now it's time to put away all my Jaffrey books that have been stacked or spread about the dining table for many months now, new friends on the left, old friends on the right.

This post is shared with this week's I Heart Cooking Clubs.

Monday, March 25, 2013

This week in the kitchen

Monday/25-Mar-13: The English Muffin Batter Bread is good. We've already finished off the first loaf.

Twas an IHCC dinner tonight. Nothing much else happened in the kitchen.

Tuesday/26-Mar-13: Read a recent-ish Vie Pratique Gourmand today, a bi-weekly cooking mag, At the beginning of the year they stopped having their bi-weekly menu plans, with breakfast and two cooked meals, accompanied by some recipes. (Some of the dishes were supposed to be standard things from your repertoire, I suppose.) This was actually one of my favorite features. Not that I ever made these meals, but trying to figure out how to arrange a standard sort of 3-course (starter, main, dessert) French meal is an interesting exercise. Now the feature has returned, sort of. There are recipes for two weeks of one 3-course meal per day. One of this week's feature stories was sweet and savory tarts. Most of them look quite good, although those with boughten pâtes brisées don't look as appetizing, Most of the store-bought pastries are pretty bought bunnies. The tarts look good, but my cholesterol level goes up just looking. Interestingly there's also a feature on no-knead bread, giving the Lahey recipe! I might try again using their weights, since it's French flour they're using.

Dinner tonight was, more or less, Tagliatelle with Broccoli (PastaBible, p116). This recipe recommends their "fresh pasta dough no. 4" which has one egg and seven yolks for about double what I made with two eggs. That must be a rich pasta. The broccoli sauce is a kind of standard thing, lots of minced garlic and anchoives. I used red pepper flakes instead of chopping up some chilies. Good stuff it was. Made a salad, but put it in the fridge for tomorrow, since we were both full.

Wednesday/27-Mar-13: Shopping today.

Dinner was Lemon Sole with Chipotle & Ancho Chilli [sic] Recado (JamieMag, not on web that I can find), a half recipe with panga. Pretty good stuff. Served with trio rice and a little salad made with an avocado, a tomato, some red onion, cilantro, and lime juice. Didn't feel like having yesterday's salad too, so that will be tomorrow's lunch. For dessert with had some cornuelles chantilly (made from puff pastry and filled with whipped cream) from the shop.

Thursday/28-Mar-13: Yogurt on overday, in spite of two electricity cutoffs. The last one wasn't noticed, but the yog seems set enough. We'll see tomorrow.

Had the salad from Tueday evening for lunch, augmented with haricots verts and some blue cheese.

Ed worked in the kitchen till 7pm, so we went up to Chez Cisseen for dinner.

Friday/29-Mar-13: Dinner was, quite late, Artichoke Tart with Polenta Crust and Fresh Rosemary (web). A bit time-consuming to produce but tasty. Double-chocolate mini-magnums for afters.

Saturday/30-Mar-13: Dinner was (sort of) Slow Roasted Garlic and Lemon Chicken (web), except that after setting the indicator on the oven thermostat, I forgot to set the dial for the oven temp. So instead of cooking two hours in a slow oven, the chickie did about an hour and a half in a fast oven. Oops. Good enough, but a trifle over-done perhaps. Will try this again, though, since there were good tastes. Served with some little potatoes, buttered and parsleyed. Then a bit salad.

Sunday/31-Mar-13: Off to the Bach à Pâques festival for four concerts and an overnight. Nothing in the kitchen today.

Progress on goals
This week: #1 IHCC/COOKBOOKS: yes, #2 VEG/FISH: 4
This month: #3 PASTA: yes, #4 BREAD: yes

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

IHCC: One Pot Wonders

Almost every week, about the hardest thing these Jaffrey challenges has been choosing what to make. Her books are (still) full of dishes I want to make right away. For this week, I already had a short list of several ideas when I ran across this one, Indian-Style Scrambled Eggs with Potatoes and Cauliflower in Madhur Jaffrey's Cookbook: Food for Family & Friends (p160). With part of a cauliflower in the fridge and some potatoes in a cupboard both wanting to be used soon, this was just the thing. I was making dinner for two, thus a half recipe, but happened to have enough cauliflower and potato for a whole recipe, so I cooked the full amount of veggies.

You start by sizzling some cumin seeds in hot oil. I used ghee, rather than vegetable oil, and about half what was asked in the recipe. After a few seconds, you add about half an onion, finely chopped, and fry till that's softened. Then you add some chopped potato and cook till the bits begin to brown. Then you add cauliflower bits, a chopped chili, and some grated ginger. (Earlier in the day, I had boiled several potatoes to keep in the fridge until I could use them. With the pot of hot water sitting there, I went ahead and cooked the cauliflower most of the way. This shortened the time needed for cooking the veggies later.) If they had been raw, you would need to add a slog of water and cook, covered, till they are pretty well done.

If you were scrambling the eggs, you'd now push the veg to the side, scramble the eggs in the middle of the pan, and mix in the veggies when they're almost done. Rather than scrambling the eggs, I decided a little practice making omelets was in order, so I heated up the cast iron skillet I use for omelets and made a couple. Of course, this meant dinner turned into a two-pot, one-dish meal, but the head dishwasher didn't complain.

Having a double amount of filling, I overfilled the first omelet, causing it to split, and making not such a pretty picture. Never mind, it tasted wonderful. The cauliflower-potato-onion mixture was simple and delicious, and seemed to go really well with the eggs. This is definitely something to make again.

This post is shared with this week's I Heart Cooking Clubs.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

This week in the kitchen

Monday/18-Mar-13: Both of us came home from the dentist today with don't-chew-on-that-side instructions. So it was soup from the freezer for dinner, followed by a double-chocolate mini-Magnum. No chewing around here!

Looks like IHCC will continue. The chef for the next six months will be Yotam Ottolenghi. Santa bought me the first of his books, and there are more recipes on the web, so I might participate some. Maybe not all the weeks as I have with Jaffrey, but some.

Tuesday/19-Mar-13: The penultimate Jaffrey IHCC dinner tonight, and quite good it was. An Indian omelet, followed by a big salad. That was enough.

Wednesday/20-Mar-13: Shopping today. There were pots of herbs on sale, 2 for €3, so I bought three kinds of basil, two pots of cilantro, and one pot of Moroccan mint.

Dinner was Salmon with Pomegranate Molasses Glaze (web), which was easy and yummy. I bought a little pineapple and grilled glazed slices of that along with the fish. Made a kind of pilaf thing, using up the shrooms in the fridge, to go with it. Then a salad. That was all.

Yogurt on overnight.

Thursday/21-Mar-13: Almost had fresh pasta for dinner, but didn't have the oomph. Plus I suspect this is one of those dishes that's better with dried pasta. It was a half dose of Linguine with Sausage, Greens, and Egg Pan Sauce (web), and very good it was too. Used Hazan's Homemade Sausage from the freezer ipv Italian sausage links; used arugula for the greens. Extra yummy. Some fresh pineapple with Pineapple Buttermilk Sherbert for dessert.

Friday/22-Mar-13: Potted all the herbs except the mint, which I'll move to the sage pot. The sage has spread all over the place, and almost none in the pot is alive. Seems like a good place to contain the mint.

We were pooped from our first big gardening day this year and took ourselves to dinner.

Saturday/23-Mar-13: I'm pooped today. Didn't sleep much worrying about Sophie, who didn't come in. Turned out she was locked in the neighbor's garage, but she didn't answer when we each went there one or more times last night. Till this morning at 7.30, when she said, Let me out please. but the neighbors had their shutter closed till about 9.00. We might suggest putting a cat-flap in the door, set to out-only.

Made some Authentic French Bread. Inadvertently used cake&pastry flour instead of bread flour. Can't say we noticed a difference, but basic ABM bread really isn't that sensitive I expect.

Dinner was Summer Squash with Baked Eggs (web, but collected from EAT-L). Good stuff it was. Definitely something to do again when the garden squash abundance is underway. I used a skillet that was too big, so baked in individual casserole dishes. Why not? Double-chocolate mini-Magnums for dessert.

Sunday/24-Mar-13: Another beautiful spring day. The forecast rain never showed up. Got the mint into the sage pot. Potted some bits of sage. If those take I won't feel so bad yanking out the rest.

Changed dinner plans at the last minute to incorporate the bbq. So we had Grilled Chicken Caesar, from an old Cooking Light mag, doesn't seem to be available on the web. The first time I made this and recorded the date was 2001. I've made it a zillion times since and it's always good. Used yogurt thinned with a bit of milk for the buttermilk. Have a bit of dressing left for the next salad.

And for tomorrow's breakfast I made English Muffin Batter Bread. I collected essentially the same recipe a couple of times, maybe originally from King Arthur. An easyish bread, mixed in a bowl, plonked into two bread pans, 45-minute rise, 25 minutes in the oven. Not bad at all. I forgot to set the timer for the rise so it was a bit too high when it went in, but that didn't seem to affect the taste and you can't really see a difference.

Yogurt on overnight.

Progress on goals
This week: #1 IHCC/COOKBOOKS: yes, #2 VEG/FISH: 4
This month: #3 PASTA: no, #4 BREAD: yes

Thursday, March 14, 2013

IHCC: Kebab Krazy!

Kebabs! There are so many recipes in Jaffrey's books to choose from. Looking for something new and untried, I almost made some hamburger kebabs from one of my new Jaffrey cookbooks, but decided instead to use up some lamb from the freezer. I found an interesting kebab recipe in the Delhi chapter of A Taste of India and decided to make a meal from that chapter.

I enjoyed many episodes of this series on TV, but have not cooked very much from the book. I love looking at the pictures of various parts of India, the food and the people, but somehow the recipes haven't been that appealing. Maybe this is because the book is organized, not by courses, but by area, so its mains and sides are scattered through the book.

Skewered Lamb Kebabs (p40) are different from your usual sort of marinated and grilled kebab. Traditionaly Delhi's cubed meat kebabs are made with meat that has been partially cooked before grilling. This makes the cooking fussier, but allows the flavors to permeate the meat. 

For this recipe, the chunks of lamb first marinate for an hour in yogurt spiced with ground coriander, grated ginger, cayenne, lemon juice, oil, and salt. To start the cooking, turmeric and garam masala are mixed with more yogurt, then the meat and its marinade are stirred in. This mixture is brought to a simmer and cooked low, covered, for 30-40 minutes until the meat is almost done. Then the cover is removed and most of the liquid is boiled off, leaving a thick paste. Now you can skewer the meat cubes and either charcoal grill them or grill them under the broiler, which is what I did since bbq weather has definitely not arrived yet. 

I served the kebabs with Moghlai Spinach (p36) and Rice Cooked in an Aromatic Broth (p45), so that the whole meal was Delhi-flavored. The spinach was quite good and easy (I used frozen spinach since the fresh stuff at the store looked pretty dubious). This will make a nice addition to my repertoire of food-with-color for Indian meals. The rice was good but didn't seem like the extra effort of making a highly flavored broth added that much.

This post is shared with this week's I Heart Cooking Clubs.

Monday, March 11, 2013

This week in the kitchen

Monday/11-Mar-13: Disappointing day floor shopping. Easy dinner. Sautéed some shallots and shrooms, added a bit of flour, then the sauce left from the turkey roll plus a bit of water from rinsing the pitcher. Plopped the turkey roll slices in this to warm up. Plus some trio rice and some steamed broccoli. For afters we had a bit of Langres, a cow cheese.

Tuesday/12-Mar-13: Dinner was Potatoes and Chard with Green Curry Sauce (Bishop, p408), which was unusual and quite good. Served with white rice as suggested, but think brown rice would have been nicer.

Wednesday/13-Mar-13: Shopping today. While packing groceries, Ed discovered the missing tomatoes that I bought last week and couldn't find. Since he didn't remember packing them, I just assumed, they'd gotten left behind somehow. I did look in the bag, but didn't find them. Bought more this week so need to be aggressive using them up.

Dinner was Salmon in a Vibrant Sauce (web), the vibrant sauce being cilantro, ginger, garlic, chilies, lime juice, and turmeric. Very good. And an interesting way to cook the fish. After the fish marinates in the sauce for ten minutes or so, some of the marinade is used to coat the bottom of a skillet topped by the fish and the rest of the sauce. Pop the lid on the skillet and cook 5-10 minutes until the fish is done. Easy and delicious. Served with trio rice and some sautéed veggies (zucchini and tomato).

Thursday/14-Mar-13: Twas a dinner for IHCC this evening. Topped off by Strawberry Crumb Pie (web), in honor of Pi Day. I made about a quarter recipe, since that's all the strawberries I had (yesterday's impulse buy). That was just enough for two. It was good too.

Friday/15-Mar-13: Dinner was Dan Barber's Cauliflower Steaks with Cauliflower Purée (web). This was surprisingly good. Served with a big salad with some lardons for a treat. Last bit of Langres for after.

Saturday/16-Mar-13: Cold, blowy day. I tossed the shrimpy salad thing that was on the menu plan and opted for Stir-Fried Shrimp with Broccoli and Garlic-Chili Sauce (MC). This is an old, very easy recipe from Cooking Light or some such, that I've adapted for two and spiced up a bit. Served over rice.

Sunday/17-Mar-13: Yogurt on overday.

Lunch with friends, followed by a concert. Just fruit for dinner.

Progress on goals
This week: #1 IHCC/COOKBOOKS: yes, #2 VEG/FISH: 4
This month: #3 PASTA: no, #4 BREAD: no

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

IHCC: Potluck!

Potluck is always a fun thing to plan for dinner. And this week's potluck looked like it would be cooked on shopping day, which makes fish a good choice. Rummaging through my stack of Jaffrey books, I found Easy Fish Fillets in a Traditional Mustard Sauce (Flavours of India, p156). Jaffrey suggest serving this with plain rice. Easy to do. For a veg, I chose Green Peas in a Creamy Sauce (Quick & Easy Indian Cooking, p87), which is an old favorite and truly quick and easy. For an accompaniment, to munch while things were getting ready, there were some Spicy Cucumber Wedges (Indian Cooking, p172). If I had time and energy, I thought, I'd make some Vermicelli Pudding (Flavours of India, p255). The store had some lovely cod fillets on special for the day, so I bought one to share for dinner.

Game plan: Start the pudding on its way. Prep the cuke sticks, down to pouring on the lemon juice and spices. Prep the stuff for the peas, which cook in one shake of a lamb's tail at the last minute. Prep the stuff of the fish. Start rice. Make fish.

The mustard fish recipe looked like a sure thing. Grind some mustard seeds and a dried chili together and mix with water. Make a paste with turmeric, cayenne, and water. Rub the fish fillets with turmeric, salt, and mustard oil and let them sit for 10 minutes. Prepare some panch phoran and hot chilies for the final cooking. While the fish are broiling, the sauce is prepared by heating mustard oil, then adding the panch phoron. When the mustard seeds in that begin to pop, stir in the turmeric paste and some extra water. Then stir in the mustard paste. Bring to a boil, add salt and the chilies, stir, and remove from the heat. Pour the sauce over the fish, then simmer for two minutes. Serve.

Sounds good. Made a pretty plate. First bite—yuck! Unpleasantly strong taste of mustard. The recipe says to stir the ground mustard-chili into water and let the seeds settle. But the seeds never settled. Even after half an hour, the mixture remained uniformly grainy in texture with no settling apparent. Maybe I ground the seeds too fine, although they it looked coarse to me. Or maybe the recipe meant 4 teaspoons of mustard seeds, rather than 4 tablespoons. At any rate, we both scraped off as much of the sauce as we could, then mixed the fish with the rice. This was reasonably good.

Vermicelli Pudding is one of our favorite Indian desserts. I've been playing with the recipe in Indian Cooking (p102) for years (my first notes are dated 1995), and never quite succeeding. The taste is right, but I always seem to end up with a pudding that is too thick. Finding the recipe in the newer (both to me and publishing-wise) cookbook, Flavours of India, I thought I'd give that a try. Unfortunately, I didn't compare the recipes beforehand, and followed this recipe fairly closely. Again, the result was tasty, but still too thick. This recipe is finished with a few drops of kewra water, which I don't have; instead I used a tiny amount of rose water, which I barely notice, but my husband doesn't like. That bit was missable. (The older recipe is topped with chopped pistachios. We both prefer this.) This recipe uses less milk but more vermicelli than the older recipe. That might be the single biggest problem, since it seemed  much too dense with noodles. This recipe also calls for the seeds of cardamom pods to be added without crushing or grinding, which is esthetically not as nice, I think. It also uses much less ghee to toast the vermicelli. This was certainly edible, but I think I'll try yet again by combining aspects of the two recipes. One of these days, I'm going to nail this one!

This post is shared with this week's I Heart Cooking Clubs.

There are only three more weeks of cooking with Madhur Jaffrey to come. And, then, I was very sorry to learn, I Heart Cooking Clubs is going to fold its tent and steal away into ether. This is the third cookalong that I've joined seriously and each of them has closed up shop shortly after I've joined. I'm beginning to feel like a jinx!

Monday, March 4, 2013

This week in the kitchen

Monday/4-Mar-13: Looks like I Heart Cooking Clubs will close down after Madhur Jaffrey finishes in March unless someone comes forward to host it. Not me. Will be back to cooking from old cookbooks for me.

Really didn't feel like cooking tonight. Went out looking for a nearby open restaurant, unsuccessfully. Came home and made a couple of omelets and warmed the leftover risotto. That was all. Will need to get serious about cooking tomorrow.

Tuesday/5-Mar-13: Finally got the Fennel, Pernod, and Broccoli Pie (web) made for dinner tonight. Used a single crust from the freezer rather than making the one here. Mostly Parmesan, some hollandse geitenkaas for the cheese. Pretty good, not wonderful. Did like the way the flavors of the fennel, broccoli, and peas combined. Maybe in some kind of a salad this would be good.

Wednesday/6-Mar-13: Meal for IHCC tonight, then off to the movies.

Thursday/7-Mar-13: Ed feeling poorly today and asked for chicken soup for dinner. So I made chicken noodle with mushrooms and carrots. It was good. He drank the broth and left the good stuff. Oh well. (Does chicken soup with no chicken meat in it count as vegetarian? It does if you're Ken Hom, but I suppose not.)

Friday/8-Mar-13: Yogurt on overday. The two cabinets left and right of the sink are now on the wall to the left of the stove. Makes it a bit tight getting into the room but will do while their wall is being refurbished. The kitchen guy came to measure for the sink and peninsula counters. Now we await the devis.

Used one of the turkey breasts that I didn't cook at Thanksgiving to make a turkey roll. Filled with a paste of onion, garlic, lime zest, lime juice, cumin, oregano, and chili powder. Poured cider over it for cooking. Pretty good. Made a pretty good salad of the noodles/shroom/carrots left from yesterday's soup, plus some leftover rice, plus some defrosted peas, plus some chopped parsley, all with a lime juicy vinaigrette.

Saturday/9-Mar-13: Made Herb Salt, same old recipe from Art, also in my Handy Book. For lunch we ate the rest of the broccoli pie, which didn't sit well with either of our touchy tummies. We were supposed to go out this evening, but Ed was tired after more kitchen demolition work and I just didn't feel like it. So we sat outside to read for a while, then had our usual lunch fruit for dinner.

Sunday/10-Mar-13: For lunch, I halved two avocados, mushed up the innards a bit to enlarge the hole, broke an egg into each, S&Ped, then baked for about 20min. Pretty good actually, especially with a dollop of soft goat cheese on top. For dinner we had a big salad.

Yogurt on overnight.

Progress on goals
This week: #1 IHCC/COOKBOOKS: yes, #2 VEG/FISH: 5
This month: #3 PASTA: no, #4 BREAD: no