Category Archives: Vegetarian

Acorn Squash (aka Happy Fall!)

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Miles & Mingus (Sorry it’s blurry… the car ride was bumpy!)

 

It’s that time of year again. Time to take the kittens in to the vet, (obligatory cat picture… check!) time to bust out the boots, time to get ready for fall cooking!

It’s been a busy summer around here and it’s finally drawing to a close. I can’t say I’m unhappy to be able to wear sweaters again, though I’m really celebrating too soon. I think we are expected to jump back into the 80s next week.

What REALLY made it seem like fall was getting a beautiful little acorn squash in our CSA this past weekend. Neither Bill nor I are very fond of squash. We have never cooked it at home and rarely order things with squash components at restaurants so this was really going to be a new challenge. Being the adventurous cooks we are, we decided to tackle this little guy first, and leave the peppers, greens, eggplants, and other CSA goodies we’re more familiar with for later in the week.

Side note: our CSA this year has been INCREDIBLE! There has been such an abundance of great and varied veggies (and some fruits–even though we’re only signed up for the veggie share.) If you’re in the Chicago area, we really recommend Montalbano Farms. Next year I think we’ll sign up for Spring through Fall, instead of just summer. I won’t say it’s the cheapest CSA on the books, but I think you get a lot for what you put into it.

Back to the squash. We decided to start with something familiar — pizza. But we also wanted the squash to be the star.

Karla et all… meet the Squah Pizza 2000…

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Cheese, squash, carmelized onions, pine nuts and a little balsamic reduction. We also put arugula on top, but you can see the pizza better without it in the picture. It really was a glorious pizza. But, it wouldn’t have been quite so amazing if we hadn’t used Smitten Kitchen’s awesome roasted acorn squash recipe.  I think that this way of preparing squash would be a great first step for adding bits of it to pizza or pasta, and it’s also pretty great just by itself. Now, this is a big deal because remember, we don’t eat squash!

Roasted Acorn Squash
from Smitten Kitchen’s “Roasted Acorn Squash and Gorgonzola Pizza

1 (1- pound) acorn squash
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (we used 1/2 tsp. and it had plenty of kick)
1/4 teaspoon salt, plus 1/4 teaspoon
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus 1/4 teaspoon

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Slice the squash in half from top to bottom. Scoop out the seeds. Slice the squash into 1/2 to 3/4-inch wide half moons and place in a medium bowl. Toss the squash with the syrup, olive oil, red pepper flakes, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Place the squash on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake the squash until tender and golden, about 20 to 25 minutes.

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Oh! And also, don’t forget to pair this with your favorite pumpkin ale for the real taste of fall!

A few other things from around the web:

Oh my god have you seen this post on “How Sweet It Is?”

We also made mashed potato waffles this weekend. Slam Dunk! (Also the funniest recipe I’ve read in a while)

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Pigeon Peas with Spinach

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I know, I know, I know.

This is not very seasonally appropriate. But seriously, I was wanting to try new things, and it’s too good not to share. How beautiful are these little guys? I love discovering new and awesome things to cook, and this time my experimenting worked out pretty well. Karla et all, meet Pigeon Peas! They also go by the names Gandule bean, tropical green pea, kadios, Congo pea, gungo pea, gunga pea, fio-fio, mgbụmgbụ, or no-eye pea, toor dal, kandi pappu. They’re a staple in vegetarian indian diets, and they’re super yummy.

When I first bought 660 curries, I went to the store and bought a bunch of ingredients I knew I would use at some point as I cooked my way through the book. Different kinds of lentils, frozen spinach, chickpea flour, frozen peas… you get the picture. One of the things I picked up were these pigeon peas. They looked kind of funky, but a lot of recipes used them, so I went for it.

So, about a week ago, I decided to dive in. One package of frozen spinach, one cup of pigeon peas, a pressure cooker, and a flawless spice mix later, I was enjoying one of my favorite curries to date.

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There are two things that make this curry awesomer than it looks. First is the coriander. This spice has never been so good! Make sure you use whole coriander seeds for this recipe. They’re easy to find in the grocery store, and it’s quite literally not as tasty without them. The coriander seeds never get ground down in this recipe. They stay hard little spheres. In a mushy curry, this totally stands out–but that’s a good thing. When you crunch into a coriander seed, you get a tiny rush of citrusy-coriander flavor that is completely surprising and very yummy. I can’t quite describe it. You just have to try it. You only get one every five bites or so, so it’s always something of a surprise.

Second is the ginger. The last thing you add to this curry is some julianned ginger. This ginger doesn’t cook down, like the ginger paste you add at the beginning, so every once in a while you crunch into a little stick of ginger. This is also a fun and tasty surprise and results in a burst of spicy ginger flavor. Score!

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Dried Pigeon Peas

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Mixing the spices, garlic and chiles in the mortar and pestle

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Cooked spice mix

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Pigeon Pea and Spinach Curry

Whole Pigeon Peas with Spinach (Sabud Toor Aur Palak Ki Dal)
from 660 Curries

Ingredients:
1 cup whole pigeon peas (sabud toovar), picked over for stones
1 1/2 pounds fresh spinach leaves, well rinsed (or 1  10-oz block of frozen spinach)
1 tablespoon Ginger Paste (pureed paste with ratio of 1/2 cup water and 8 ounces chopped ginger)*
1 tablespoon Garlic Paste (pureed paste with ratio of 1/2 cup water and 50 medium cloves garlic.)*
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2 cup firmly packed fresh cilantro leaves and tender stems
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
2 teaspoons rock salt (if using table salt, use a little less)
4 medium-size cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
4 dried red Thai or cayenne chiles, stems removed
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
2 tablespoons Ghee or butter
4 lengthwise slices fresh ginger- each 1 1/2 inches long, 1 inch wide, 1/8 inch thick julienned

1. Place the pigeon peas in a medium-size bowl. Fill the bowl halfway with water and rinse the peas by rubbing them between your fingertips. The water may become slightly cloudy. Drain this water and repeat three or four times, until the water remains relatively clear; drain. Now fill the bowl halfway with hot tap water and let it sit at room temperature, covered with plastic wrap, until the peas have softened, at least 8 hours or as long as overnight.

2. Drain the pigeon peas and transfer them to a pressure cooker. Add 4 cups water and bring it to a boil, uncovered, over high heat. Skim off and discard any foam that forms on the surface. Add the spinach, several handfulls at a time, stirring it in until it is wilted. (I used frozen spinach, so I just let it de-frost on the counter and added it all at once.) When all the spinach has been added, stir in the ginger and garlic pastes and the turmeric. Seal the cooker shut and allow the pressure to build up. When the cooker reaches full pressure, reduce the heat to medium-low and cook for about 1 hour. Remove the cooker from the heat and allow the pressure to subside naturally (about 15 minutes) before opening the lid

NOTE: It is very dangerous to open a pressure cooker if the pressure has not subsided. Make sure to follow all the directions that accompany your pressure cooker to make sure that it is safe to open.

3. Meanwhile, combine the cilantro, the 1 tablespoon cumin seeds, the rock salt, garlic, and chiles in a mortar. Pound with the pestle, scraping down the sides to contain the mixture in the center, until the blend resembles coarse-cut wet grass, feels gritty, and has large specks of red from the chiles. (If you don’t have a mortar and pestle, use a food processor, but the mortar and pestle method is easy and preferred.)

4. Heat the oil in a small skillet over medium-high heat. Sprinkle in the remaining 1 teaspoon cumin seeds and the oriander seeds. Cook until they sizzle, turn reddish brown, and smell citrus-nutty, 10-15 seconds. Add the pounded herb-spice mixture and stir-fry until the garlic in the blend forms a thin brown layer on the bottom of the skillet and the medley smells pungent-hot, about 1 minute. Set the mixture aside until the pigeon peas are done.

5. Once the pigeon peas and spinach are ready, add the contents of skillet, and stir in the ghee and the ginger. Pour some of this mixture into the skillet and scrape the bottom to deglaze it, releasing every bit of stuck-on herbs and spices; add the washings to the curry.

6. Simmer the olive-green curry, stuffed with nutty-brown pigeon peas, over medium-high heat, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the flavors meld, about 10 minutes. Then serve.

*Ginger and Garlic Paste: These pastes can be made and then frozen to use in a number of recipes. They’re very useful! When making the paste, make sure you add the water and THEN the garlic or ginger into your food processor or blender before pureeing. Raghavan Iyer has his reasons, but to read about them, you have to BUY THE BOOK!

This is great with rice or on bread, and it’s ESPECIALLY good with roti or naan.

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Country-style Ratatoullie alla Genovese

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I’m sorry about my last post being just a multitude of pictures without any real explanation. I just get so excited by all the wonderful fresh produce in season, and farms, and farmer’s markets popping up that I get a little picture crazy. To me, one of the wonderful things about really fresh, just-picked produce, is that you can experiment a little with it.. the key being not to go overboard and let its true taste shine through. This is why I’ve come up with very few new recipes lately, and gone more for simplicity; letting the vegetables be the stars. Like in my Strawberry, goat cheese, and pistachio salad with walnut thyme vinaigrette or my Vine ripe tomatoes with basil and chevre. Its true you don’t need complicated recipes to make food taste great, which I’m reminded of as I’ve been reading Alice Waters’s biography: Alice Waters and Chez Panisse, which by the way I definitely recommend to any foodie or person interested in how this local food movement got stated–all right here in San Francisco (Berkeley, actually).

Alice Water’s life and vision come alive in this book. Highly recommend!

But before you go searching for that in your local library…try this recipe. Yes, its a recipe, but also lets fresh veggies shine their brightest in a unison of rich flavors. This is a heartier dish, to be served with rice, thick country bread, any white fish (monkfish, halibut, flounder), or on its own sprinkled with some good parmesan or pecorino romano. Unlike some more typical versions of ratatioullie that call for an hour in the oven (you know I’m hesitant of heating my apartment while its 85 degrees outside), this is a stovetop ratatouille. Nothing fancy about it, but the result is something so homey, rich and delicious… you’ll forget your just eating vegetables.

After my most recent trip to the farmer’s market, I somehow got saddled with 3 lbs of vine ripened tomatoes, 6 baby zucchini, and a giant bunch of Genovese basil. So to use it all up, I made a big batch of ratatouille and saved it (for 3 days!) and ate it for lunch or dinner. I would definitely throw in some eggplant and yellow squash if you have it on hand. I like to leave everything in big chunks so the flavors dont completely blend together and it gets mushy. This way each vegetables holds up and at the end you can really appreciate and taste each one for what it is.

If you want a more refined ratatoullie recipe for a dinner party or just to try out your mandoline skills, like the one in the movie Ratatoullie (Remy’s recipes), click here for a recipe from Smitten Kitchen. It has all the same ingredients and flavor, just a different look.

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Country-style Ratatoullie alla Genovese

  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 yellow onion, chopped
  • 7-10 cloves garlic, peeled and whole
  • 2-3 lbs vine ripened tomatoes, halved or whole if small*
  • 6 baby zucchini or 3 large zucchini, cut into thick rounds
  • (Italian eggplant or yellow squash of you have them, cut into large chunks)
  • 1/4 lb baby carrots or carrots cut into thick rounds
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 2 pinches kosher salt
  • 2 handfuls fresh Genovese basil leaves, rinsed
  • 1/2 can cooked garbanzo beans, rinsed
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • Coarse black pepper & sea salt, to taste
  • Grated parmesan or pecorino romano cheese, for serving

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1. Add the olive oil, onion, and whole garlic cloves to a deep sided fry pan or dutch oven over medium heat. Stir until translucent, about 2-3 minutes, but do not brown. Add your tomatoes, zucchini, carrots, squash and/or eggplant to the pan and stir occasionally for the first few minutes until juices start to release. Add the bay leaf, kosher salt, and stir.  IMG_1608

2. As the juices begin to simmer, add a sprig of thyme on top, cover pan, and let simmer on low heat for about 15 minutes (or until all veggies are cooked through, but not mushy). Remove thyme sprig. Let cool for 7 minutes with lid off then stir in basil leaves.

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3. Let sit until just warm and stir in garbanzo beans, balsamic, thyme (leaves only), and salt and fresh pepper to taste.** Serve with freshly grated parmesan cheese, by itself or with one of the suggestions below.

Serve with thick country bread drizzled with olive oil and a pinch of salt, fresh pasta, brown rice, or simply prepared chicken or white fish.  The beauty of this dish is in its simplicity so don’t overdo it.

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*make sure your tomatoes are ripe, smell fragrant and sweet, and give them a good wash

**The reason for all the cooking times and waiting at the end is so that the stronger flavors of the herbs and vinegar do not overpower the delicate flavors of the vegetables (which they would if cooked too long). You also want to make sure the beans stay firm, so adding them at the end is important.

I imagine this dish would be served in the countryside in Italy as a no-frills, home-cooked and family-style dish with only the freshest of ingredients (hence the name). That was my inspiration and from Alice who is always reminding us to let things taste as they are– and not to fuss too much. Hopefully you find this meal as warm and comforting as I did, for three days in a row. Here’s so happy and simple eating! Boun Appetito.

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Urban Gardening and My Basil Plant

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Happy Monday!

This weekend, I went to a workshop on urban gardening! Living in the middle of the city, I don’t have a lot of space to garden, but it was great learning about how easy it is to grow your own food and maintain herbs and vegetables inside your own home. We learned about garden mapping – how to plant different vegetables together in the most mutually beneficial way, and about how to start and maintain anything from a window unit to a community garden plot.

My personal favorite part of the workshop was putting together our own newspaper pots. It’s a great way to start new seedings. You can start the plant in the newspaper pot and then replant it, newspaper and all, into its more permanent home. I planted some marigolds, since the other seeds they have were for vegetables a little too big for my windows. Here are some pictures from the workshop:

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The one plant I do have at home, other than my little marigold seedlings, is my basil plant. Bill bought it for me last year for our anniversary. He knew I wanted to start a little outdoor garden, so he bought me two kinds of basil and a tomato plant. The tomato plant was a little more trouble than it was worth, but the basil plant – oh my god. It’s been pretty fantastic. First of all, basil costs way too much. If you find yourself cooking with basil often, you should have a basil plant. Ours has lasted through the winter inside, and is absolutely thriving. I took this picture after a serious harvesting last week:

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This baby makes a lot of pesto.

Which brings me to this recipe! Despite the fact that it looked like a beautiful weekend outside this weekend, it was SO COLD. On Friday night, it SNOWED. It’s almost May. This is insane. So, we decided to make some really decadent, wintery food. Meet Creamy Pesto Gnocchi. I went to a lovely Italian market a few weeks ago and picked up some pretty perfect looking imported gnocchi, so this meal was pretty simple. If you would like to make your own gnocchi, DO IT! It’s really simple and very rewarding when you bite into the pillowy fluffy goodness that is homemade gnocchi. Smitten Kitchen has a particularly good recipe: click here!

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Creamy Pesto Gnocchi

Ingredients:
Basil
Pine Nuts
Parmesan Cheese
Extra virgin olive oil
Garlic
Salt
Pepper
Heavy (whipping) cream

Gnocchi

Chopped cherry tomatoes (to garnish)

I didn’t put amounts on anything, because this is all about taste and desired level of creaminess. Also, feel free to use some greek yogurt with the cream, if you want a lighter, healthier version. Here is my general recipe: Throw about three packed handfulls of basil, one handfull of pine nuts, two to three inches off a wedge of parmesan cheese (cut in a few smaller pieces), two or three glugs of olive oil, two cloves of garlic, and salt and pepper to taste into the bowl of a food processor. Process on high until the mixture looks like a light green paste.

In a heavy pot, bring salted water to a boil. Add gnocchi and cook on medium-high until the gnocchi float. Drain.

Meanwhile, heat up ~1/2 cup cream in a saucepan, stirring often. Once it’s steaming, stir in the pesto. Let the two meld for a minute or two. Add the cooked gnocchi and stir to coat.

Serve with some chopped tomatoes for a light garnish.

Creamy Pesto Gnocchi

Creamy Pesto Gnocchi

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Indian Food Feast, Part 2: Chana Paneer and Aloo Palak

(For how to make Paneer, see Part 1)

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So, Karla! Before I dive into this awesome recipe, I just wanted to note how clear it is that you live in California, and I live in Chicago. All your recipes are sunny and light, since you’re already well into the spring, whereas Chicago is definitely not quite there yet. Have I mentioned that 30-something and raining is the BEST weather? Thank you, weather gods.

While you’re going Paleo, I can’t stop thinking about heavy soups, curries, cheese, etc. Oh well. I guess I’ll get into the summer mentality eventually.

Regardless, next time you have a chilly, rainy night, this stuff is sure to make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside. To round out our Indian food feast, Beata and I decided to make Chana Paneer (Cheese with Chickpeas) and Aloo Palak (Potatoes with Spinach.) The Chana Paneer was great (the chickpeas are so silky, oh my god…) but I have to say, I LOVED the simplicity of the Aloo Palak. The potatoes cooked up in no time, the spices were simple and tasty, and curry spinach will get me every time. It’s such a flavor blast! I felt the same way with the spinach in the Moghalai Chicken.

Ok, so without further ado… our menu. First, you have to start with a spice blend. Just about all curries require some sort of garam masala to start. What I didn’t anticipate at first is how many DIFFERENT garam masalas there are! This one is fennel based.

Spice Blend

Spice Blend

Balti Masala (Fennel-Flavored Toasted Spice Blend)

Ingredients:
2 teaspoons fennel seeds
2 teaspoons coriander seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon black or yellow mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon whole cloves
1/2 teaspoon cardamom seeds from black pods
1/2 teaspoon nigella seeds
3 bay leaves
2 cinnamon sticks (each ~3in. long), broken into smaller pieces
2 teaspoons cayenne (ground red pepper)
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1. Preheat a small skillet over medium-high heat. Add all the whole spices (reserving the cayenne, nutmeg, and any ground substitutes you may have to use.) Toast, shaking the skillet every few seconds, until they become highly fragrant and browned, 1 to 2 minutes.

2. Immediately transfer the nutty-smelling spices to a plate to cool. (The longer they sit in the hot skillet, the more likely it is that they will burn, making them bitter and unpalatable.) Once they are cool to the touch, place them in a spice grinder or coffee grinder, and grind until the texture resembles that of finely ground black pepper. (If you don’t allow the spices to cool, the ground blend will acquire unwanted moisture from the heat, making the final blend slightly “cakey.”) The ground blend will be a deep reddish brown and the arome will be sweet and complex, very different from those of the pre-toasted and post-toasted whole spices. Stir in the cayenne and nutmeg.

3. Store the mix in a tightly sealed container, away from excess light, heat, and humidity, for up to 2 months. (In my opinion, refrigerating the blend adversely affects its flavors.

So, once you have your spice blend all set, or maybe even while it is cooling, you can start the curries. Each one requires a good amount of attention, although they’re relatively quick to put together. You can do them in whichever order you’d like.

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Aloo Palak

ALOO PALAK (Chunky Potatoes with Spinach)
from 660 Curries

Ingredients:
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 teaspoon black or yellow mustard seeds
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 pound russet or Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled, cut into 1-inch cubes, and submerged in a bowl of cold water to prevent browning
2 teaspoons coarse kosher or sea salt
8 ounces fresh spinach leaves, well rinsed and coarsely chopped
1 cup shredded fresh coconut; or 1/2 cup shredded dried unsweetened coconut, reconstituted. (To reconstitute: cover with 1/2 cup boiling water and set aside for 15 minutes, drain.)
8 to 10 fresh green Thai, cayenne or serrano chiles, to taste, stems removed, cut crosswise into 1/4 inch thick slices (do not remove the seeds)
10 medium-size to large fresh curry leaves

1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the mustard seeds, cover the pan, and cook until the seeds have stopped popping (not unlike popcorn), about 30 seconds. Sprinkle in the cumin seeds and cook until they sizzle and turn reddish brown, about 5 seconds. Add the turmeric, which will immediately turn the oil yellow. Then pour in 1 cup water, which will instantly boil.

2. Drain the potatoes, and add them to the pan along with the salt. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover the pan, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes are fork-tender, 8 to 10 minutes.

3. Pile the spinach into the pan, cover it, and let the spinach wilt, about 2 minutes. Then add the coconut, chiles and curry leaves. Stir, and continue to simmer, uncovered, until the sauce is warmed through, 3 to 5 minutes. Serve.

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Chana Paneer

CHANA PANEER (Chickpeas with Pan-fried Cheese)
from 660 Curries

Ingredients:
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 cup finely chopped red onion
1 or 2 fresh green  Thai, cayenne or serrano chiles, stems removed
1 large tomato, cored and finely chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse kosher or sea salt
1 teaspoon balti masala (see below)
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 cup cooked or canned chickpeas
8 ounces paneer
1/4 cup heavy (whipping) cream
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro leaves and stems for garnishing

1. Heat the oil in a medium-size saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the cumin seeds and cook until they sizzle, turn reddish brown, and smell fragrant, 5 to 10 seconds. Add the onion and chiles and stir-fry until the onion is light brown around the edges, 2 to 3 minutes.

2. Stir in the tomato, salt, masala, and turmeric. Lower the heat to medium and cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the tomato softens, about 3 minutes.

3. Add the chickpeas and 1 cup water. Bring the curry to a boil. Then reduce the heat to medium-low, cover the pan, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sauce has thickened slightly, about 10 minutes.

4. Fold in the paneer and the cream, and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the cheese and cream are warmed through, 2 to 3 minutes.

5. Sprinkle with cilantro and serve.

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Indian Food Feast, Part 1: Paneer

The whole feast: Chana Paneer, Aloo Saag, Basmati Rice, and Naan.

The whole feast: Chana Paneer, Aloo Saag, Basmati Rice, and Naan.

So, last week, my friend and ex-roommate, Beata, came over and we made an Indian feast with my new cookbook, 660 Curries. Beata and I used to order this terrible awesome Indian food when we lived together at the University, and since then we have been to a number of Indian foods in our quest to never go to the same restaurant twice. (Restaurant club–long story.)

Anyways, as soon as I realized that 660 curries was the treasure trove I thought it was, I knew I had to have Beata over for some Indian food. We decided to make a couple of curries that we had already heard of, you know, just to compare it to what you would get in a restaurant. It was an interesting experiment, and everything was delicious.

One of the most amazing things about our dinner was that we made Paneer, from scratch! Making cheese always sounds like a pain, but I’m here to tell you, Karla, and everyone else, that you should never buy Paneer. It’s SO EASY TO MAKE!

So here goes: for step 1 of my series on our amazing Indian dinner, Paneer!

Paneer
This is technically from 660 Curries, but I’ve found the same recipe just about everywhere, so I’m just going to say, this is how it’s done!

Ingredients:1 gallon of whole milk
1/4 cup of vinegar

Suppliescheesecloth
a colandar
a large heavy pot

Step 1: Put the gallon of whole milk in your heavy pot and bring just to a boil

Step 2: As soon as your milk comes to a boil, turn off the heat and stir in 1/4 cup vinegar. The milk will instantly separate into curds and whey (cool, right?) Don’t panic! The curds look like floating bits of cottage cheese, and the whey is pale GREEN. This is completely normal. (Note: If only about half your milk separates, add a little more vinegar. I had to add an extra tablespoon or so before it all separated.) It will look like this:

Curds and Whey

Curds and Whey

Step 3: Line a colander with two layers of cheesecloth. Make sure the cheesecloth is large enough to hang over the edges of the colander a bit. You’ll be folding it over the top of the cheese in a second.

Step 4: Pour the curds and whey into the colander. The curds will get trapped and the whey will go right through the cheesecloth. Discard the whey. It will look like this:

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Strained curds

Step 5: Now, fold your cheesecloth over the top of the curds and weigh it down with a heavy pot full of water. You don’t have to press the curds down at all; time and gravity will do that. Leave the pot on the curds for 3 to 5 hours. It doesn’t have to be refrigerated or anything. Just let it sit on the counter (maybe with a larger bowl underneath.) The remaining whey will strain out, and the curds will come together.

Step 6: After the 3 to 5 hours, remove the pot and uncover your cheese! You will find that the crumbly curds have become one whole. Unwrap it and discard or wash your cheesecloth. Wrap your cheese in plastic wrap and store in the fridge for up to a week, or in the freezer for up to a month. Ta da!

Finished Paneer (Cheese)

Finished Paneer (Cheese)

Next time: What to do with that Paneer!

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Tri-color Quinoa & Sweet Potato Cakes

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First of all, let me just say I have tried my hand at many quinoa “cakes” and these are by far the best ones I’ve made. The mounds of grated sweet potato, a whole sauteed onion, fresh parsley, and grated cheese make these little guys total winners! I would definitely make them again, as soon as possible (even for non-health food lovers). The addition of the poached egg is totally optional (as is the prosciutto), but it added a little extra protein to this mostly vegetarian meal. I also made some spicy tomato sauce to liven it up and it was terrific on top of a bed of field greens doused in lemon juice.

Tri-Color Sweet Potato Quinoa Cakes

  • 1/2 cup Tri-color Quinoa (like Trader Joe’s organic), well rinsed
  • 1 cup Chicken Broth (I used low sodium)
  • 1/2 tsp Sea Salt
  • 2 tbsp Olive Oil, plus more for frying
  • 1 small Yellow Onion, diced
  • 1 tbsp green onion, chopped (can also use garlic)
  • 1 rounded cup Grated Sweet Potato
  • 2 Eggs, whisked
  • 1/3 cup Bread Crumbs
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan
  • 1/4 cup grated Manchego or Iberico cheese (gruyere works too)
  • 1 tbsp fresh Parsley
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Bring the broth to a boil in a small pot over high heat. Add the quinoa and salt. Stir and reduce heat to medium-low. Cover and cook until the quinoa has absorbed the liquid and is slightly translucent, 15-20 minutes.

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Meanwhile chop your onions and grate your sweet potatoes!

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Heat the olive oil in a medium saute pan or skillet (I used my cast iron). When the oil shimmers, add the onion and garlic, and cook for 3 minutes. Add the sweet potato, a pinch of salt and pepper if desired, and cook 3 more minutes, stirring frequently. Taste. Sweet potato should be soft and onions not too brown. Transfer to a bowl to cool.

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Whisk the eggs, breadcrumbs, cheese and parsley together in a large bowl. Add the sweet potato mixture and fold with a spatula to combine. Add the cooked quinoa and fold in.

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Heat a pan or skillet over medium-high heat and add just enough olive oil to coat the bottom. Use a 1/4 measuring cup to scoop the quinoa mixture and firmly press mixture into cup to form cakes. Turn them out onto a plate- should make about 8 small cakes. Add cakes to the pan and cook until golden, about 3 minutes. Flip and cook another 3 minutes. Repeat with the remaining cakes.

IMG_1291While the cakes are frying, poach the eggs in simmering water with white vinegar (lemon juice works too!) until yoke is still tender and runny. Transfer to paper towels and serve on top of the quinoa cakes. Sprinkle with pepper and drizzle with the spicy tomato sauce (below).

IMG_1296Spicy Tomato Sauce

1/4 cup natural katsup

2 tsp hot sauce (I used the Mexican Valentina)

1 tsp chili flakes

Chopped raw or sauteed garlic (depending on how strong you like it)

2 tsp lemon juice, or to reach desired consistency

Mix all ingredients in a small bowl and serve with these cakes, adjusting the ingredients to your taste. I like it spicy!

IMG_1306And that’s it. I made these cakes for one of my guy friends who absolutely loved it! I served it on a bed of lemony greens whisked together in a stainless steel bowl (I love this tool!) to wilt them but keep them nice and crunchy. Just the perfect thing. I also made my recipe for baked eggplant (or aubergine) taken from My New Roots. Check out the recipe here. Slight adaptation: this time I used goat cheese instead of feta, lots of fresh mint, and made a yummy tahini dressing that I will now put on salads and anything else that comes to mind (below).

Baked Turkish Aubergines with goat cheese, sesame seeds, honey, mint, chili, and spicy tahini dressing

Baked Turkish Aubergines with goat cheese, sesame seeds, honey, mint, chili, and spicy tahini dressing

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Spicy tahini lemon dressing

Spicy Tahini Lemon Dressing

Makes about 1 cup, adapted from My New Roots “spicy tahini sauce”

Ingredients:
1/3 cup tahini
1 ½ Tbsp. freshly-squeezed lemon juice (I used more like 3 tbsp)
1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
¼ tsp. crushed chili flakes (or to taste)
pinch of salt
1 tsp. honey (or agave)
water to thin

In a food processor, add all ingredients and blend on high until smooth (Or just mix by hand, that’s what I did). Add water or lemon to thin to desired consistency. This sauce is meant to drizzle, so it shouldn’t be too thick and gloppy. Store leftovers in the fridge for up to 5 days. YUM!

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Filed under Main Dishes, Vegetarian