Sunday, June 3, 2018

Handmade pasta

This is my stock pasta recipe--good for any type of noodles or ravioli and tortellini. You can mix it up with herbs, squid ink, or spinach in the pasta. I prefer 00 flour because it is milled finer, which means the final noodles end up more soft and pillowy.

A vegan pasta is also easy to make, just substitute ground flax whisked with water. Just use 3-4 TBSP of the flax meal and 3/4 cup of water.

10 ounces 00 flour
1 tsp salt
2 whole eggs
4 additional egg yolks

Mix ingredients well, then knead at least 10 minutes in stand mixer, add a touch of water or flour if the dough consistency isn't right--you want something like slightly firm Play-Doh that is smooth, firm, and elastic. Cover and let rest for 60 minutes, if possible (this will also enhance the texture, but you can skip if you're in a hurry). Divide into 4 equal balls and roll out dough with a rolling pin or pasta roller and cut noodles to desired thickness.

Toss directly into boiling salted water for 1-2 minutes or dust with flour and freeze.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

I'm going to upma Indian food game with vermicelli upma

We had a dinner party last night and I wanted to balance a lot of dals with one or two lighter starch dishes. Since it was also the first time we had met some of the guests, I wanted to have something mild, in case any of their sensitive Montana palates couldn't handle some of my more adventurous interpretations of Indian food (and then I'd never invite them back again). So I settled on this noodle dish. Vermicelli upma comes from southern India, where it's a common breakfast dish. But it's great any time of day, especially because it is quick and easy to whip up. And it's so good that everybody got upma grill asking for the recipe. So here it is!

Since I made this dish intentionally a little mild, you can dial up the garam masala or adapt the other seasoning and hot pepper content if you want a bigger flavor.

Prep time: 1/2 cocktail

4 TBSP oil or ghee, divided
8 ounces dried vermicelli noodles, broken or cut into quarter-length sections
1 tsp tumeric
1 tsp whole brown mustard seeds
1/2 tsp garam masala
8-12 fresh curry leaves
1-2 serrano chilies, diced
1-2 handfuls of chopped veggies (cabbage, peas, red bell peppers, cauliflower, etc.)
1-2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 tsp salt
1/3 cup raw cashews, coarsely chopped

Heat the half of the ghee or oil in a large Dutch oven over medium. When oil shimmers, add dried noodles. Stirring very frequently, saute the noodles until they become toasted and brown, but not burned. Once noodles are fully toasted pour water over them (be careful, as this will splatter), stir in tumeric, and bring to a boil. Cook until the noodles are al dente, then drain and give a quick rinse of cold water while still in the colander.

As the noodles are cooking, heat the remaining oil or ghee in a large saucepan on medium. Once hot, add the mustard seeds. Cook the seeds in the oil until they begin to pop, then add the garam masala. Stir constantly for 10-15 seconds, then add the curry leaves (be careful, this will also splatter!) and cook for 5-10 more seconds then add all the veggies and a TBSP of water. Stir well, reduce to medium-low, and cover, opening this to stir the veggies every minute or two. Add another TBSP of water if the veggies and spices start to stick.

Once veggies are tender but not mushy, stir in the pasts (you might have to use the Dutch oven you cooked the noodles in, if the saucepan is too small for everything). Stir in lemon juice and salt. Cook for a couple minutes until everything is well heated and mixed together. Adjust lemon and salt to desired taste, stir in cashews, and serve immediately.

Idli: making strangers into friends since... last night

So we joined a supper club last winter. However, since we have been traveling abroad for the last 6 months, we had never actually met our supping amigos until last night. Having not cooked for our 6 strange new companions before, I was a little apprehensive about what to make. Would they have weird food allergies? Would they hate spicy food? What if they weren't into my default Ethiopian or Afghani dishes? My solution: make idli! Our new friends wouldn't be able to complain about something as delicious and mainstream as Indian food. And idli, in particular, is an amazingly versatile dish--little mild, pillowy dumplings that can be loaded with flavorful chutney. As it turns out, our supper club companions were a marvelous batch. And they loved the idli--almost too much! So a note to anybody out there: if you're not good at accepting compliments or you don't want to have new friends pestering you to make amazing Indian food every time you see them in the future, then this recipe isn't for you. But if you are into making a bunch of strangers think you're a marvel in the kitchen and clamoring for seconds, then this is your jam!

This recipe calls for urad dal, a split black lentil, which can be found at many Asian grocers or online. You'll also need to purchase an inexpensive idli steaming stand. The one I use makes 24 idlies with depressions that are roughly 3" across by 2/3" deep. This batch leaves me with just a little bit of batter at the end, so you may want to adjust the quantities based on your idli maker and needs.

However, if you end up with a lot of leftover batter, fear not! Leftover idli batter makes excellent uttapam! Uttapam is basically just like a crepe or pancake. To make these, just take your old idli batter and add any veggies you might like (carrots, cauliflower, broccoli, peas, and cabbage are all great) plus some extra salt, onions, and garlic. Ladle this mixture into hot, frying pan that has been sprayed with some cooking spray. I've had best results from cooking these covered and flipping each one halfway through.

Anyhow, back to the idli. You want to have a pretty good blender for this. I use a Vitamix, but anything of reasonably high quality will have the horsepower to break everything down.

You'll also want to serve the idli with coconut cilantro chutney or any other chutneys, dals, or other toppings of your choice, as the idlis themselves are fairly mild.

Prep time: 1 cocktail (after a couple days of fermentation)

1/2 cup urad dal
1/2 cup basmati rice
1/2 cup parboiled rice
Salt to taste
2 pinches baking soda
Optional toppings - including sauteed minced onions, brown mustard seeds, curry leaves, or diced chilies

In a large mixing bowl, combine the dal and both types of rice. Cover with a lot of water, as the contents will triple in volume as they absorb the water. Let soak 24 hours.

After soaking, drain the water off, but do it kind of half-assed. I like a little bit of the soaking water to make it into the final batter, as I think it accelerates the fermentation process a bit. In any event, after you have mostly drained the grains, transfer them to a blender. Add some fresh water and blend until the grains have totally been broken down--this can take several minutes. IMPORTANT: you want this batter to have the consistency halfway between crepe batter and pancake batter. So add as much fresh water as you need to in order to achieve this consistency.

Transfer idli batter to a mixing bowl and stir in salt. The amount will vary, but it should taste pretty damn salty. Stir well, cover with a wet towel and let sit at room temperature for 12-24 hours, until the fermentation has expanded the batter and it has a consistency similar to that of lightly whipped cream (the amount of time varies, depending on how warm the batter is--a really warm environment will achieve this in as little as 4 hours).

Now the batter is ready to use (alternatively, it can be stored in the refrigerator, covered with a wet towel, for up to 2 more days). Before cooking, sprinkle baking soda on surface of batter and VERY GENTLY fold it in a little bit with a rubber spatula. You need to be gentle because you want to preserve the foamy structure of the batter.

Now boil an inch or so of water in a pot with a lid that's tall enough to fit your idli steamer. Once water is boiling, spray the idli trays with cooking spray and ladle batter into each mold--filling each one 75-80 percent, allowing enough space for a little expansion. Sprinkle the tops of idli with any of the toppings you're using.

Transfer idli tray to pot, cover, and steam until idlis have steamed fully and are a bit firm and a toothpick inserted comes out clean. For me, this is 25 minutes, but will vary depending on batter, size of idlis, and snugness of your steamer lid. Remove and serve right away with chutney.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Vegetarian Thanksgiving pizza ideas

I just found our pizza menu from our big Thanksgiving pizza party 2 years ago!! Everything turned out amazing! All pizzas were Neopolitan style!

Pizza 1
No tomato--use olive oil
Fried sage
Roasted butternut squash cubes with fresh grated nutmeg
Home candied walnuts

Pizza 2
No tomato--use olive oil
Flash fried kale (at super high heat)
Carmalized apple
Sage (optional)

Pizza 3
(Okay, it's not a Fall pizza, but I need a margherita pizza as a baseline no matter where I am--even at home!)
Preserved farmers' market tomatoes
Fresh basil
Egg (optional--cracked in the middle and cooked until just solid in the whites)

Pizza 4
Parsnip puree as a sauce
Roasted carrots and potatoes

Pizza 5
Mushroom slices sauteed in butter, salt and a touch of red wine
Thyme, fresh
Garlic confit
Fresh arugula after taking it out of oven (optional)

Rajma - A fantastic Indian dish for those who are lentiled-out

While I do love Indian food, I have to admit that I'm not really a huge fan of lentils, which are a pretty essential staple of the cuisine--especially for us vegetarians.  But if you're like me, fear not! This is a fantastic alternative to get your lentil fix in a new and different way. It's a Punjabi dish that some have likened to an Indian version of chili. While I'm not quite sure it's the best analogy, it does give you an idea of what this dish is like: hearty, rich, comfort food!

Prep time: 2 cocktails

1 pound dried kidney beans
2 bay leaves
4 tomatoes, chopped
6 TBSP ghee, divided
2 1/2 TBSP coriander seeds
1 TBSP cumin seeds
1/2 tsp thyme
1 tsp garam masala
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 TBSP salt
3 TBSP ginger, grated with a microplane or the finest grating of a box grater
Juice of 1 medium lemon
2-3 teaspoons whole fennel seeds
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped

Soak beans overnight. Rinse well and combine in large pot with bay leaves, tomatoes, 1 TBSP of the ghee, and four cups or so of water. Boil until beans are soft, adding water as necessary. A pressure cooker will make this go by a lot faster.

Once beans are cooked, remove 3/4 cup or so of beans and mash up in a bowl with a fork or potato masher. Return to the pot of beans.

Next, combine coriander seeds, cumin seeds, and thyme in a spice grinder. Grind into a powder. Transfer to the bowl of a food processor and add garam masala, turmeric, salt, ginger, and lemon juice.

Now, in a large Dutch oven, melt the remaining ghee over medium heat. Once it's melted, add the spice paste and simmer for 90 seconds or so. Then add the bean mixture and bring to a boil. then reduce and simmer until excess liquid is cooked off and you've achieved a chili-like consistency. Then stir in fennel seeds and cook 2-3 more minutes. Stir in cilantro and serve.

Holy mole! You'll love this chole!

Chole is a north Indian chickpea dish that is simply amazing! Usually made with Indian staples of dark chickpeas called kala chana dal, mango powder, and a few other tough-to-find ingredients. So I've adapted it to be a little more favorable to ingredients I can get locally. But it's still every bit as good!

I personally have an unspeakable love and borderline obsession fenugreek and cardamom in many things in life. I don't think a traditional version includes these to the degree that I do (at least not that I've ever had in Asia or in Indian restaurants in the US). So if you're averse to these, omit the fenugreek and reduce the cardamom by 25-50 percent.

Prep time: 2 cocktails

1 pound dried chickpeas
4 tea bags of black tea
1 28-ounce can whole tomatoes, juice reserved
1 tsp coriander seeds
8 cloves
1/2 tsp cardamom
1/4 tsp fenugreek
4 TBSP ghee
2 bay leaves
1 cinnamon stick
1 tsp whole cumin seeds
1 large onion, minced
1 TBSP ginger grated with microplane or finest grating of a box grater
1-2 serrano peppers, minced
3-4 cloves garlic
2 TBSP tamarind paste (Mileage will vary depending on brand--be careful. I use Tamicon brand.)
1/2 bunch of cilantro, coarsely chopped

Soak the chickpeas in water with a couple tablespoons baking soda overnight. Before you're ready to cook the chickpeas the following day, brew the teabags into about 4 cups of strong black tea and discard teabags. Then rinse chickpeas very well, place in a pot with 1 tsp salt, tea, and water until chickpeas are covered and bring to boil. Cook until soft, about 2-4 hours (a pressure cooker can do this in just a few minutes), adding water as necessary.

Once chickpeas are soft, cook off most of the remaining liquid.

In a food processor, pulse the tomatoes and tomato sauce a few times until broken down into chunks but not a smooth puree. Set aside.

Now, combine coriander, cloves, cardamom, and fenugreek in a spice grinder and grind into a powder. Set aside.

Heat the ghee in a large dutch oven over medium heat. When melted, add bay leaves and cinnamon stick. Simmer for 10-20 seconds. Add all the spices from the grinder, as well as the whole cumin seeds. Simmer for another 10-20 seconds, until it all becomes aromatic. Add onions and saute 5 minutes, or until translucent. Add ginger and pepper. Saute 1 more minute. Add garlic and simmer an additional minute. Now, add tomatoes, chickpeas and any remaining cooking liquid, 1 tsp salt, and tamarind. Bring to boil, then reduce to a simmer, uncovered for at least 20 minutes, until all the excess liquid has cooked off and tomatoes have broken down fairly well. Adjust salt, as needed.

Serve with cilantro as a garnish.

Coconut cilantro chutney

This is a chutney traditionally served with idli. For the coconut, use a fresh coconut or frozen flesh that is sometimes available at supermarkets or Asian grocers--don't use dried or the sweetened stuff for baking. There are tons of really easy to follow instructions online on how to get the coconut flesh, if you're unfamiliar. You can also get the hing (asafoetida), curry leaves, urad dal, and chana dal online or at an Indian grocer.

Prep time: 1 cocktail

1/2 cup chana dal
1 1/4 cups shredded coconut meat (about 1 small coconut)
3/4 cup packed cilantro leaves
1/2-inch ginger piece
Juice of 1/2 lime
1 serrano chili, chopped
1 cup water or coconut water if you use a fresh coconut
3/4 tsp salt
Agave nectar or sugar (optional)
2 TBSP neutral oil, like canola
1/2 tsp urad dal
8 fresh, whole curry leaves
A pinch of hing (aka asafoetida)

Heat a dry frying pan over medium heat. Once hot, add chana dal and toast until it's lightly browned, stirring frequently. Remove from heat, transfer to a spice grinder or electric coffee grinder and process into a powder.

Combine chana dal, shredded coconut, cilantro, ginger, lime, chili, water/coconut water, and salt in food processor. Puree into a smooth paste. Adjust lime and salt to taste, add some agave or sugar, if desired.

Pour into the container you want to serve the chutney in. Then in a small, clean frying pan, heat the oil over medium to medium-low heat. When oil shimmers, add mustard seeds. Simmer the seeds until they just start to pop. Add urad dal and simmer until the dal is browned but not burned, stirring constantly. Add curry leaves and hing cook 3-5 more seconds. Remove from heat and immediately pour on top of chutney and serve--no need to incorporate or stir in oil and spices.  

Major Grey-style fruit chutney

This is a mango chutney, but you can use any fruit that cooks down well.

Prep time: 1/2 cocktail, plus additional simmering time

2 TBSP neutral oil, like canola
1-2 dried red chilies
1 tsp whole cumin seeds
1/2 TBSP coriander seeds
1/2 tsp dark mustard seeds
8 cloves, ground with mortar and pestle
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1 20-ounce can mango pieces or pineapple pieces, retain juices
1/3 cup raisins
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
3/4 tsp salt
Agave nectar (optional)

Heat oil over medium-low heat. While it warms up, combine next 6 ingredients in a small bowl. When oil shimmers, add spices and simmer for a minute or so, until they turn a shade darker. Add fruit (juice and all). Bring to boil and simmer, covered, for 20 minutes. Uncover and if the fruit hasn't broken down, mash it up with a potato masher until it's thick and chunky. Increase heat to medium, add raisins, vinegar, and salt. Cook down until you have a thick, jam-like consistency. Adjust salt and vinegar, if necessary and add agave if you want it sweeter. Let cool and serve.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

No-knead sourdough bread

This is my version of sourdough bread that's easy to make and really only involves a few minutes of active work. The rest of the prep time, you are just relying on natural yeasts and other microorganisms in the bread do all the work. No kneading, no yeast, and no sugars added!

You will need a sourdough starter for this. Find a friend who has one going in their refrigerator already or buy one online or at a gourmet shop. I maintain a 16-ounce mason jar of pure whole wheat starter in the refrigerator. I've also left it totally alone for as long as 8 months and it comes back to life in just a few hours! Amazing! You'll also need a pizza stone for this recipe. If you don't have one, a large cast-iron pan will also work.

~8-12 ounces sourdough starter
2 teaspoons salt
~2-3 cups whole wheat flour, divided
~1 1/8 cups all purpose white or bread flour

First, triple the volume of your sourdough starter by combining your existing starter with whole wheat flour and water until you have tripled the volume (you'll want at least 3 cups of starter). You want to add water and flour to the existing starter trying to achieve the consistency of waffle batter. Mix well with a rubber spatula in a mixing bowl an once incorporated, let stand at room temperature, covered with a damp towel, until the top gets bubbly, like a pancake that's ready to flip. This can take anywhere from 3-24 hours, depending on how old your starter is and the temperature of the room. But in general, a slow activation is nothing to worry about.

Now, split the starter up. Return about 1/3 of the volume to a jar in the refrigerator to maintain the colony (basically the volume you started with). And take your remaining starter and add salt. Stir well with a rubber spatula. Now add 1 cup warm water and 1 1/8 cups each whole wheat and white flour. Incorporate well with the spatula--not your hands or an electric mixer. You want the dough to be about the stickiness of pizza dough. In my climate, I find that I actually need about 1 1/4 cup of each flour, but this will vary based on your flour and humidity.

Once everything is well incorporated, transfer to a large mixing bowl that you've sprayed with cooking spray or brushed with olive oil. Cover with a damp towel and let sit at room temperature until the dough has doubled in size, about 6-18 hours.

After it has doubled in size, transfer dough to refrigerator. Let sit for at least 3 hours (though letting it sit 24-48 hours will enhance the flavor). Regardless of how long you let it sit in the refrigerator, take it out and let it sit at room temperature 4 hours before baking begins.

In your oven, you want a to arrange the racks so that you have one rack in the middle of the oven and one in the bottom of the oven. Put the pizza stone on the middle rack.

Now after the dough has rested at room temperature for 3 hours, preheat the oven with a pizza stone for at 60 minutes at 450F, so pizza stone gets fully up to temperature. Once you're about ready to bake, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Pour this into a large baking dish and put it on the bottom rack.

Now flour the top of the dough and a pizza peel and gently flip the dough onto the peel, trying to preserve the round loaf shape. Next, use the peel to put the dough on the pizza stone, being careful to preserve the shape that it has formed in the bowl. Close oven and reduce temperature to 425F. DON'T USE CONVECTION SETTINGS!

Bake until the outside gets golden brown and a toothpick comes out clean, about 25 minutes. BE CAREFUL when you open the oven--the steam can cause burns when it rushes out.

Let cool on a baking rack after rmoving from the oven for a few minutes before cutting.


Monday, April 30, 2018

Simple, spicy pickled eggs

So even though I went to college and hold down a reasonable job, I've still not totally forgotten my roots that trace back to a long line of simple folk in a small, godawful town in the middle of the country. Only being a few steps removed from my kinfolk who wear wifebeaters and watch daytime TV, I often have a hankering to visit dank, dingy watering holes after a long day. And the ultimate litmus test for me is that if it is a TRUE dive bar, there are pickled things in jars for sale. Doesn't matter what is in said jars--pigs feet, dill pickles, eggs--just as long as there's a decade-old, vinegar-embalmed offering at hand, I feel like I'm home. So much so, in fact, that I have a need to keep a jar of pickled eggs in my refrigerator at home as well. Though it represents a true strain on my marriage to have these orbs floating in a Mason jar living behind the orange juice, I can't say I'll ever be able to give up the habit of nibbling on a spicy, tangy egg after cracking a can of Schlitz on a hot summer afternoon.

For this, I use a half gallon Mason jar, so you'll want to scale your recipe depending on the size of your container.

4 cups white vinegar
2 cups water
4 TBSP salt
18 large hard-boiled eggs, peeled
1/4 onion, cut into thin half moons
1-3 jalapenos, sliced into wheels
10-20 whole peppercorns

Combine vinegar, water, and salt in a saucepan. Bring to a boil then remove from heat and let cool, uncovered, for at least 15 minutes.

In Mason jar put onions, jalapenos, and peppercorns in the bottom. Add the eggs. Pour the brine over the top, seal with a tight lid. Let sit on the counter for 30-60 minutes before placing in the refrigerator. Allow eggs to sit in the refrigerator for at least a week before eating.