Saturday, October 29, 2011

Yunnanese Spicy Ground Pork Sauce

This dish was surprisingly rich and flavourful. Don't let the word spicy fool you as there's just a touch of heat (I would increase the chiles a bit next time!). I had planned to serve this recipe with a bok choy salad when we received bok choy with our CSA box, but I failed to note until it was too late that they only gave us one tiny 3 ounce bok choy, not nearly enough to make a side out of. I'm glad I still tried this recipe though as it was quite satisfying. I did have one bit of confusion with the recipe though. It calls for dried black mushrooms. Searching online, dried black mushrooms appear to be dried shiitakes, but at the store (Folie en Vrac), cloud ear mushrooms were labeled as champignon noir. I wasn't sure quite what to do, so I bought both (I know I need cloud ear mushrooms for some other recipes!) and ended up using the shiitakes in this dish. The flavour was excellent. The original below (unscaled) serves 6 - 8 with plenty of rice.

Two years ago: Lemon Bars

Yunnanese Spicy Ground Pork Sauce (from Seductions of Rice)

8 dried black mushrooms, rinsed
3 1/2 cups hot water, divided
1 tbsp peanut oil
1 cup finely chopped shallots
450g lean ground pork
3 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
1 star anise
1 or 2 dried red chiles
optional garnish: 1/2 cup fresh cilantro

1. Place mushrooms in a medium bowl with 1 cup hot water to soak for 30 minutes.
2. Remove mushrooms from water, reserving it. Finely chop mushrooms, discarding any tough skins.
3. Place a medium heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil and when hot add shallots. Stir-fry 3 - 4 minutes until softened.
4. Add meat and mushrooms and stir-fry another 3 minutes.
5. Add mushroom soaking water and remaining 2 1/2 cups hot water and stir well.
6. Add remaining ingredients (except cilantro) and bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer gently for 30 minutes.
7. Serve as a sauce over large bowls of rice. Garnish with cilantro.

Hash Browns

I've been craving hash browns and with potatoes on hand just waiting to be used, I decided it was time to indulge that craving. This recipe should be seen more as guidelines rather than strict following. I added some chives because we had some sitting around and then remembered that my favourite seasoning for hash browns was always Lawry's seasoning salt. Of course, I don't have that on hand, but figured that I could add some paprika to the mix to remind me of the salt. Next time I would probably at least double the paprika. These came out fairly well if I do say so myself. Serve with bacon and fried eggs for a perfect, filling breakfast. Don't forget the ketchup.

Two years ago: Potato and Bacon Muffins (I really need to make these again!)

Hash Browns (an improvised original)

2 russet potatoes
1 small onion, diced
3 - 4 chives, minced
1/2 tsp hot paprika (I would double next time)
1/4 cup flour
1 egg
bacon grease (from the bacon you cooked for breakfast)

1. Grate potatoes using a cheese grater. If the mixture seems overly moist, squeeze out with towels.
2. In a small bowl, mix together grated potatoes, onion, chives, salt and pepper to taste, paprika, flour, and egg.
3. In a medium skillet, heat bacon grease. Place potato mixture in skillet and spread into a thin layer.
4. Cook until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Hash browns should hold together at this point.
5. Carefully flip to the other side and cook for another 5 minutes.

Stewed Beets with Ginger

I was a bit surprised to see a beets recipe in my Indian cookbook, so I knew I had to try it when we received more beets in the CSA box. The curry cooks up to be a beautiful colour and the flavours work surprisingly well, although I used the 2 chiles I had on hand (1 jalapeno and 1 yellow mystery chile that was quite hot) and wished that it was a little less spicy for a side dish. The recipe also uses the whole beet, but sadly I didn't have greens with mine. It's fine if you don't, but I'd imagine it would be even better with the greens.

Two years ago: Aunt Mary's Craisin Blue Cheese Salad

450g beets, with or without their green tops
2 tbsp canola oil
1 tsp black or yellow mustard seeds
6 to 8 medium fresh curry leaves
2 fresh green Thai, cayenne, or serrano chiles, stems removed, cut in half lengthwise (with seeds, see notes above)
1 tsp coarse kosher salt
3 lengthwise slices fresh ginger (2" long, 1" wide, 1/8" thick), cut into matchstick-then strips

1. Separate greens from beet bulbs. Rise greens under water and shake off excess. Slice into thin shreds, including the stalks. Transfer to a bowl.
2. Trim off and discard both ends of each beet bulb. Peel and rinse under running water. Cut into 1" cubes.
3. Heat oil in a medium-size saucepan over medium-high heat. Add mustard seeds, cover and cook until seeds have stopped popping, about 30 seconds.
4. Add beets, curry leaves, and chiles. Stir-fry to coat beets with mustard seeds, about 1 - 2 minutes.
5. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and cook stirring occasionally, 10 - 15 minutes.
6. Add beet greens, salt, ginger, and 1 cup water. Bring to a boil, cover, and simmer, stirring occasionally until beets have absorbed most of the liquid and are tender, 25 - 30 minutes.

Breast of Chicken in an Onion-Turmeric Sauce

This recipe has been on my list to try for a while and I'm so glad I finally got around to it. It requires a bit of time to marinade, but don't let that turn you off the recipe as it cooks up extremely quickly. The flavours on this dish are excellent. I highly recommend using the Punjabi garam masala recipe as it's an excellent spice to have on hand. I only wish I hadn't scaled the recipe down when I made it so I'd have more leftovers!

Two years ago: Southwestern Egg Rolls

Breast of Chicken in an Onion-Turmeric Sauce (from 660 Curries)

4 tbsp canola oil, divided
1 small red onion, coarsely chopped
1 tsp coarse kosher salt
1/4 tsp ground turmeric
450g boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1" pieces
2 tbsp finely chopped cilantro
1 tsp Punjabi garam masala
3 lengthwise slices fresh ginger (2 1/2" long, 1" wide, and 1/8" thick), cut into matchstick-thin strips

1. Pour 2 tbsp of oil into a blender jar, followed by onion, salt, and turmeric. Puree to form a smooth, light paste.
2. Spoon onion puree into a medium-size bowl, add chicken pieces, and coat well. Refrigerate, covered for 30 minutes to an hour to allow the chicken to absorb some of the flavours.
3. Heat the remaining 2 tbsp of oil in a medium-size skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken, paste and all, and cook, stirring until chicken pieces turn honey-brown, about 5 to 6 minutes.
4. Pour in 1/2 cup water and scrape bottom to deglaze skillet. Bring to a boil and lower heat to medium, cover, and simmer, stirring occasionally until chicken is cooked through, 5 to 7 minutes.
5. Stir in cilantro, garam masala, and ginger. Raise heat to medium-high and simmer uncovered until sauce thickens, 2 - 3 minutes.

Sunchoke Gratin

This is an anti-climatic post for my 400th blog post, but it is somewhat fitting. I've been wanting to cook with sunchokes (also known as Jerusalem artichokes, they look a bit like ginger) for a while now and was delighted to see them in the CSA box. This dish was easy and did a nice job of highlighting the flavours of the sunchokes.

Two years ago: Penne Arrabiata Sauce

Sunchoke Gratin (from Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking)

450g sunchokes
black pepper
1/4 cup freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano

1. Preheat oven to 400F.
2. Peel sunchokes and drop in salted, boiling water. Cook until they are tender, but not mushy, about 10 minutes.
3. Drain sunchokes and cut into 1/2" thick slices.
4. Smear a baking dish with butter and place sunchoke slices in it, arranging so they slightly overlap.
5. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and grated Parmesan, dot with butter, and place in oven.
6. Bake until a light golden crust begins to form.

Veal Scaloppine with Tomato, Oregano, and Capers

This week's CSA box came with an overabundance of oregano, which lent itself to either an Italian or Greek meal. I've been trying to do more recipes from Marcella Hazan's book, so it seemed like the perfect opportunity. Once again, I was not up for cooking this dish and my tastebuds were doing funny things, but I'm told the flavour on this was quite good and the dish did come together fairly easily!

Two years ago: Pasta Milano

Veal Scaloppine with Tomato, Oregano, and Capers (from Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking)

2 1/2 tbsp vegetable oil
3 garlic cloves, peeled
450g veal scaloppine
flour, spread on a plate
black pepper
1/3 cup dry white wine [I used vermouth]
1/2 cup canned imported Italian plum tomatoes, chopped, with their juice [I used fresh]
1 tbsp butter
1 tsp fresh oregano or 1/2 tsp dried
2 tbsp capers [I omitted]

1. Put oil and garlic in a skillet, turn on heat to medium and cook until garlic is a light brown. Discard garlic.
2. Turn heat to medium high.
3. Dredge scaloppine in flour, shake off excess, and slip meat into pan. Brown on both sides, about 30 seconds.
4. Transfer scaloppine to a warm plate and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
5. Add wine to pan and loosen cooking residues.
6. Add chopped tomatoes to pan, butter, and any juices from the scaloppine. Stir and adjust heat to cook at a gentle simmer.
7. In 15 or 20 minutes when fat floats free of the tomatoes, add oregano and capers. Stir and return scaloppine to pan to rewarm.
8. Place on platter and serve.

Lettuce Cups with Stir-Fried Chicken

I wasn't feeling up for cooking on Monday, so the boy was placed in charge of cooking. He decided on an Asian chicken recipe he had, only to realize it had a 90 minute baking time. I balked at the wait and remembered instead that our CSA box had provided us with a recipe idea using chicken that would also make use of the butter lettuce we had received. With almost all ingredients on hand and a 30 minute cook time, we had a winning recipe. The final taste was even better than I expected. Make sure you use a good chili sauce!

Two years ago: Mint Brownies

Lettuce Cups with Stir-Fried Chicken (from Bon Appetit)

16 large butter lettuce leaves
1/2 cup Asian sweet chili sauce
450g skinless, boneless chicken thighs, minced
2 scallions, minced
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon cornstarch
2 tablespoons peanut oil
3 medium shiitake mushrooms (about 1 ounce), stemmed, minced [we skipped, but I'm sure they'd be a great addition]
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon minced peeled fresh ginger
1/4 cup unsalted, roasted cashews, chopped

1. Mix chicken, scallions, soy sauce, and cornstarch in a medium bowl; marinate 10 minutes at room temperature, stirring occasionally.
2. Arrange lettuce leaves on a large platter.
3. Pour chili sauce into a small bowl; place on platter with leaves.
4. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet. Add mushrooms; stir-fry 15 seconds.
5. Add garlic and ginger and stir-fry 10 seconds.
6. Add chicken mixture and cook, stirring often, until golden brown and cooked through, about 3-4 minutes.
7. Spoon chicken mixture into lettuce leaves, dividing equally. Garnish with cashews.
8. Roll leaves around filling and dip into chili sauce.

Stir-Fried Baby Bok Choy with Ginger

Thanks to the CSA box, I'm becoming quite a big fan of bok choy. This recipe might be my favourite preparation that we've tried so far!

Two years ago: Cheese Enchiladas

Stir-Fried Baby Bok Choy with Ginger (from Gourmet Today)

1 2" piece fresh ginger, peeled
325g bok choy or baby bok choy
1/4 cup chicken stock
1 tsp Chinese rice wine
1 tsp soy sauce
1/2 tsp cornstarch
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp sugar
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 tsp sesame oil

1. Cut half of ginger into very fine matchsticks and set aside. Grate remaining ginger and squeeze pulp to yield 1 tsp liquid, discard pulp.
2. Trim 1/8" from bottom of each bok choy head and cut into quarters. Wash and dry bok choy.
3. Whisk together ginger juice, stock, rice wine, soy sauce, cornstarch, salt, and sugar in a small bowl.
4. Heat a 12" heavy skillet over high heat. Add vegetable oil and swirl to coat pan.
5. Add ginger matchsticks and stir-fry for 5 seconds.
6. Add bok choy and stir-fry until leaves are bright green and just limp, 1 - 2 minutes.
7. Add stock mixture and stir-fry until vegetables are crisp-tender and sauce is slightly thickened, about 1 minute.
8. Remove from heat and drizzle with sesame oil, stirring to coat.

Honey-Glazed Five-Spice Baby Back Ribs

I think I've gotten a bit spoiled by the joys of slow cooker ribs because I found these a bit drier and tougher than what I'm used to even though I had no trouble getting the meat to come off the bone. Even if the cooking method isn't my favourite way of making ribs though, the flavours were excellent, so I'm still going to post it. Please note if you're planning on making this that you need to start with the marinade the day before you want to cook it!

Two Years Ago: Basic Risotto Recipe

Honey-Glazed Five-Spice Baby Back Ribs (from All About Braising)

Spice Rub
2 tbsp five-spice powder
1 1/2 tsp coarse salt
1 1/2 tsp brown sugar
1 slab baby back ribs (~1 kg)
The Braise
1 cup lager beer
1 tbsp molasses
The Glaze
3 tbsp honey
1 tbsp ketchup
1/2 tsp fish sauce

1. Combine five-spice powder, salt, and brown sugar in a small bowl. Rub over the entire surface of the ribs until it adheres. Place ribs on a tray or baking dish, cover loosely, and refrigerate 12 to 14 hours.
2. In large glass measuring cup, measure beer and stir in molasses.
3. Heat oven to 325F. Place ribs bone side down in a roasting pan or baking dish. Pour beer mixture around, not over, the pork. Cover tightly with foil and braise, basting every 30 minutes or so until ribs are tender, about 1 1/2 hours. [I think this step would be perfectly fine to do in the slow cooker for a longer amount of time without bothering to braise, but I have not tested this theory.]
4. Heat broiler to high.
5. Whisk together honey, ketchup, and fish sauce.
6. Place ribs on a broiling pan or baking sheet (without the braising sauce) and paint them on all sides with the glaze.
7. Broil ribs about 4 inches from heating element, turning once, until glazed and blackened in spots, about 7 minutes total.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Refrigerator Dinner Rolls

This recipe comes from a collection of recipes I jotted down while I was in Alabama at my grandmother's house last American Thanksgiving. I had wanted to get more of her recipes while I was visiting, but had a difficult time determining which ones were actually hers (and she didn't seem to want to help with finding them much!), but this one was in an old church recipe collection and had her name on it. Her handwritten notes also adjusted the amount of yeast up from 2 packages to 3. I scaled the recipe in half, uncertain of how it would turn out and knowing that I cook for far fewer people than she did! I was pleased with the outcome and I like the idea of having dough ready in the refrigerator for whenever I want dinner rolls, but I'm not too sure about how practical it is during the week given that the rolls need a 2 hour rise time. Despite all of that, these rolls definitely brought back a few memories.

The instructions were a rough sketch and much more vague than I'm used to seeing with bread recipes. I'm not sure how much of that was my shoddy note taking and how much was due to the original. I've tried to flush it out below, but feel free to use your own judgement.

Two years ago: Raspberry-Topped Lemon Muffins

Refrigerator Dinner Rolls (from my grandmother)

2 cups warm water
3 packages yeast
1/2 cup sugar
2 tsp salt
1/4 cup soft shortening (I imagine you could use butter, but you may have a bit more trouble mixing)
1 egg
6 1/2 cup bread flour (I used all-purpose as Canadian flour tends to be higher gluten than American)

1. Mix water and yeast together. (I then let it sit for about 10 minutes so the yeast could do its thing. Most recipes would also start with a smaller amount of water.)
2. Mix in sugar, salt, shortening, and egg.
3. Add flour, stirring, 1 cup at a time.
4. Kneed dough until springy and elastic.
5. Place dough in greased container and grease top of dough. (Grandma recommended an old 5 gallon ice cream container. Use something that will leave enough room for the dough to double in size and has a lid.)
6. Place lid on container, seal, and put in fridge. Punch down dough as necessary.
7. When you want to make rolls, remove dough for rolls 2 hours before baking. (Extra dough can be stored in the fridge.)
8. Shape dough into rolls and put in pan.
9. Let rolls double in size for 2 hours.
10. Bake at 400F for 10 - 15 minutes.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Southeast Asian Squash Curry

My first post-hospital meal was a success! This recipe stemmed from a need to use up some squash and a craving for Thai food. As an added bonus, this recipe called for greens, spinach to be exact, but I figured baby yellow swiss chard would be an excellent substitute. I added some chicken to the recipe because we had some thawed and the boy seems to prefer having animal flesh in his meals, but I don't think it added much to the meal, so I'm posting the recipe without the chicken. If you do want to include, I would brown it before or with the squash and put it into the curry at the same time as the squash. I removed the extra water in the recipe. Finally, I used yellow curry paste instead of red because not only was my refrigerator out of red, but so was the grocery store. I would recommend using either one.

One year ago: Chinese Beef with Broccoli
Two years ago: Easy Buttermilk Cake

Southeast Asian Squash Curry (from epicurious, originally Gourmet)

1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons vegetable oil, divided
680g butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
3/4 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
1 (14-ounce) can unsweetened coconut milk (do not stir), divided
2 heaping tablespoons red or yellow curry paste
1 (2- to 3-inch) cinnamon stick
3 whole cloves
140g baby spinach (or baby yellow swiss chard)
1 tablespoon Asian fish sauce, or to taste
1/4 cup salted roasted cashews, chopped

1. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over medium-high heat until it shimmers. Sauté squash with cumin and 1/4 teaspoon salt until beginning to brown, about 6 minutes. Transfer to a plate.
2. Add remaining 2 teaspoons oil to skillet and cook onion over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes.
3. Add 1/4 cup coconut milk from top of can and cook, stirring, until fat starts to separate and look glossy, about 2 minutes.
4. Add curry paste and cook, stirring, 2 minutes.
5. Add squash, water, cinnamon, cloves, and remaining coconut milk and simmer, covered, until squash is tender, about 8 minutes.
6. Stir in spinach and cook, covered, until just wilted, 1 to 2 minutes.
7. Stir in fish sauce.
8. Sprinkle with cashews.

Carrot-Ginger Dressing

Thanks to the CSA box, we have an overabundance of carrots and salad greens. Since I was sorely lacking in energy last weekend, this was also the perfect thing to throw together for a simple vegetable side with dinner.

One year ago: Spicy Squash Salad with Lentils and Goat Cheese
Two years ago: Blueberry Boy Bait

Carrot-Ginger Dressing (from Radically Simple)

1/2 cup diced fresh carrots
1/3 cup orange juice
2 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp chopped onion
1 tbsp olive oil
4 tsp rice vinegar
1 tsp chopped fresh ginger

1. Combine all ingredients in a food processor and process until very smooth.

Soy-Braised Chicken Thighs with Star Anise and Citrus Peel

I didn't cook at all for the two year anniversary of this blog. In fact, I didn't even have a decent meal that day. Instead, I managed to get myself checked into the emergency room. This recipe is from immediately prior to that fun adventure. It's fairly simple to make (although I mostly supervised), but the braising does take a bit of time. As a bonus, it relies mostly on ingredients I generally have on hand. I did substitute regular onions for scallions and lime zest for orange peel to avoid a trip to the store, but I don't think the flavour suffered much. The original (unscaled recipe) is included below. I hope when this blog turns 3, I'll be feeling well enough to cook a delicious meal!

One year ago: Cosmopolitan Cupcakes
Two years ago: The original raspberry cheesecake brownie

Soy-Braised Chicken Thighs with Star Anise and Citrus Peel (from All About Braising)

2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
2 tbsp fish sauce
1 tbsp brown sugar
1/4 cup plus 1 tbsp chicken stock or water
8 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
3 scallions
3 tbsp peanut oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tbsp grated fresh ginger
1 dried small red chile pepper, such as chile de arbol
3 strips orange zest (3" x 3/4")
1 whole star anise
2 tsp cornstarch

1. Heat oven to 325F.
2. In a small bowl, stir together soy sauce, vinegar, fish sauce, sugar, and 1/4 stock or water. Set aside.
3. Rinse chicken pieces with cool water and thoroughly dry them with paper towels.
4. Heat 2 tbsp of oil in a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat until oil shimmers.
5. Add chicken pieces (in batches if they don't all fit at once), skin side down, and sear, without disturbing, until the skin is crispy and bronzed, about 6 minutes. Lift a corner of a chicken thigh to see that it's nicely browned before turning the pieces carefully. Brown the other side, another 6 minutes or so.
6. Transfer chicken to a large plate to capture any juices.
7. Coarsely chop the scallions, separating the white and green parts. Set aside greens for the finish.
8. Pour off and discard all fat from the pan. Return the pan to medium heat, add remaining tbsp of oil and then add the white parts of the scallions, garlic, ginger, and chile pepper. Stir and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
9. Pour in reserved soy mixture and stir to combine. Add orange zest and start anise.
10. Set chicken thighs in pan and add any juices that have accumulated on the plate.
11. Cover pan with parchment paper, pressing down so that the paper nearly touches the chicken and the edges extend about an inch over the sides of the pan. Cover with a secure lid and set pan in lower third of the oven.
12. After 15 minutes. turn the chicken pieces with tongs and check to make sure there's at least 1/4" of liuid in the pan. If not, add a few tbsp of stock or water.
13. Continue braising until chicken is fork-tender, a total of 30 - 35 minutes.
14. With a slotted spoon, transfer chicken to a serving platter, without crowding the pieces too closely, and cover loosely with foil to keep warm.
15. Set pan over medium-high heat and bring to a simmer. Skim off any surface fat. Add scallion greens.
16. Put cornstarch in a small bowl, add remaining tbsp of stock or water and whisk briefly. Pour the mixture into the simmering liquid, stirring.
17. Pour any juices the chicken thighs have released into the sauce and simmer for just another minute.
18. Spoon the sauce over the thighs and serve.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Salted Peanut Butter Cookies

For some reason, after listening to me whine all day yesterday (I do NOT recommend kidney infections with migraines!), the boy mentioned he was in the mood to make peanut butter cookies. One of the blogs I followed had posted a peanut butter cookie recipe that had intrigued me just a week or two before, so I pointed him to that one (it seems even if I'm not well enough to cook and he's been stuck doing more than his fair share of cooking that I am at least well enough to find recipes and direct!). Shortly afterwards, we had some pretty amazing cookies. The salt may seem like a crazy amount, but it works. The blogger is also right, they do taste even better after they've fully cooled, so be patient! The original recommends natural peanut butter, but that's not what we had, so we just used what was there. I'm sure natural would be even better, but this was still excellent! Warning: this recipe makes a lot of cookies.

One year ago: Kung Pao Chicken

Salted Peanut Butter Cookies (from Orangette, originally Autumn Martin and Hot Cakes Confections)

240 grams (2 cups plus 1 tsp.) pastry flour
5 grams (1 tsp.) baking soda
12 grams (1 Tbsp. plus 1 tsp.) kosher salt (if you only have regular salt, use 1T)
275 grams (2 sticks plus 3.5 Tbsp.) unsalted butter, at room temperature
200 grams (about 1 ¼ cup, packed) dark brown sugar
170 grams (¾ cup plus 2.5 Tbsp.) sugar
2 large eggs
400 grams (1 ½ cup) natural salted creamy peanut butter
2 tsp. vanilla extract
170 grams chopped milk chocolate

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. In a bowl, combine the pastry flour, baking soda, and salt, and whisk well.
3. In the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter with the sugars until light and fluffy, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. (You can also do this by hand, with a sturdy spoon.)
4. Add the eggs one at a time, beating between each addition.
5. Add the peanut butter and vanilla, and beat on medium-low speed to blend.
6. Add the dry ingredients in three batches, mixing on low speed until incorporated and scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.
7. Add the chocolate, and beat briefly on low speed, just until evenly incorporated.
8. Using an ice cream scoop – Orangette's has a capacity of about ¼ cup - scoop the batter onto the prepared sheet pan, taking care to leave plenty of space between cookies. (We also limited it to six cookies per pan; if you add more, they run together.)
9. Bake for 15 to 18 minutes, or until the cookies are puffed and pale golden around the edges, but their tops have no color. (The cookies will not look fully baked, and this is important! The chewy texture of these cookies depends on it. They’re not nearly as good when baked until golden and crisp.)
10. Transfer the pan to a rack, and cool the cookies completely on the sheet pan. They will firm up as they cool. (Also, they taste better when fully cooled. Promise.)

Repeat with remaining dough.

Korean-Style Salmon with Bok Choy

It's not often that I cook fish (I know I should cook more!), but this recipe intrigued me and we had everything on hand except for the shiitake mushrooms. Rather than make an extra trip, I decided to go without. Like most of the recipes in this book, this one came together quickly and easily, yet tastes amazing. It would be perfect for a quick weeknight dinner. Don't be turned off by the long list of ingredients. If you do much Asian cooking, chances are you have all or almost all of them on hand. I scaled in half, but found that that didn't leave quite enough marinade to reduce nicely in the pan. The original is included below for you to use your own judgement about that!

One year ago: Celeriac with Lentils and Hazelnuts and Mint

Korean-Style Salmon "Bulgogi," Bok Choy and Shiitakes (from Radically Simple)

1/4 cup soy sauce
1/2" piece fresh ginger, chopped
1 scallion, chopped white and green parts
1 tbsp rice wine
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp Asian sesame oil
1/2 tsp Chinese chili paste
2 large garlic cloves
4 thick salmon fillets, 170g each (she calls for skin removed, but we left it on)
1 tbsp olive oil
1 large bok choy, about 450g
100g fresh shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and sliced

1. Preheat broiler.
2. Combine soy sauce, ginger, scallions, wine, sugar, sesame oil, chili paste, and 1 garlic clove in a food processor and process until smooth.
3. Place salmon in a large, deep dish and cover with marinade. Turn to coat. Let sit 10 minutes.
4. Remove fish from marinade and place on a rimmed baking sheet. Broil 8" from heat for 8 minutes or until firm.
5. Meanwhile, pour marinade into a small saucepan and boil for 1 minute. Set aside.
6. Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a wok. Thinly slice the bok choy crosswise and add to wok with mushrooms and 1 garlic clove pressed through a press. Stir-fry for 2 minutes. Transfer to plates.
7. Glaze fish with marinade and set atop vegetables.

Cheddar Apple Bacon Strata

I should not grocery shop when hungry as I end up impulsively buying pork belly, cheap chicken to stock up on, and ingredients for this strata that popped into my head. Luckily, it turned out even better than expected. I had been mulling over what to do with the leftover apples and couldn't pass up some aged cheddar cheese or a beautiful looking loaf of pumpernickel. Bacon seemed an obvious addition to any apple dish. Fortunately, while browsing online, I found a recipe that looked exactly like what I had in mind ... with a few modifications. I added some sage as we have an abundance and apple and sage just seem to go together. It also seemed to make more sense to me to cook the apples in bacon fat rather than butter. I substituted buttermilk for regular milk just because and the end result was delicious, if a bit different. The recipe below is also scaled in half from the original as I didn't want too much leftover strata. One final word of warning, strata is best if you allow it to soak overnight, so if you can, plan ahead.

One year ago: Tomato, Semolina, and Coriander Soup

Cheddar Apple Bacon Strata (adapted from Group Recipes)

2 medium apples peeled and coarsely chopped
1.5 tablespoons packed brown sugar
2 cups cubed pumpernickel bread
225g bacon
1 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
a few leaves of fresh sage, shredded
1-1/4 cups buttermilk
1/2 teaspoon ground dry mustard
1 teaspoons worcestershire sauce
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 eggs

1. Grease a casserole dish and set aside.
2. Cook bacon, set aside, reserve grease.
3. Cook apples in bacon grease 3 minutes stirring occasionally until crisp tender.
4. Stir in brown sugar then reduce heat to low and cook 6 minutes stirring occasionally.
5. Layer half each of the bread, bacon, apples, sage and cheese in casserole.
6. Repeat with remaining bread, bacon, apples, sage and cheese.
7. Mix remaining ingredients then pour over cheese.
8. Cover tightly and refrigerate at least 2 hours but no longer than 24 hours.
9. Heat oven to 350 then bake uncovered 45 minutes and let stand 10 minutes before serving.

Braised Potatoes with Garlic and Bay Leaves

With the weather getting cooler, I found myself drawn to more rich, slow cooked foods. This may explain how I ended up with a new cookbook All About Braising. I cannot wait to try so many of the recipes found in this book, although most of them are more suited to weekend projects. It's rare that I start at the very beginning of a cookbook, but I was looking for a side dish to use up some of the CSA vegetables we have on hand and the first thing in the book and the most appropriate recipe for the evening was this potato dish. I've never made potatoes quite like this and was pleased with the results. Next time, I think I'll try the butter and rosemary variation.

One year ago: Pearl Couscous with Olives, Tomatoes and Feta

Braised Potatoes with Garlic and Bay Leaves (from All About Braising)

1.5lbs small red or white potatoes
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 cup chicken stock
2 bay leaves
2 - 3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. If the potatoes are larger than a golf ball, cut them in half. Peel them if the skins are not relatively thin.
2. Place potatoes in a saucepan (with fitted lid) large enough to hold them in a snug single layer without crowding.
3. Add olive oil and pour in enough stock to come halfway up the sides of the potatoes.
4. Tear bay leaves in half and add them along with the garlic. Season with salt and pepper.
5. Cover and bring to a simmer over medium heat. When water is simmering, lower heat to medium-low.
6. Braise, lifting the lid and turning the potatoes once halfway through, until the potatoes are just tender, about 20 minutes.
7. Remove lid, increase heat to high, and boil, gently shaking the pan back and forth until the water evaporates.

Beets with Balsamic Syrup, Mint, and Nuts

Finally, the CSA gave us beets that were not actually black radishes in disguise! I took the opportunity to make a salad that I had seen before and wanted to try. As it happened, we also had a surplus of mint in the CSA box, so it worked out perfectly. The original recipe calls for canned beets, but I roasted mine along with the pork by putting the beets in a foil packet and drizzling on a bit of olive oil and roasting until tender. The original calls for walnuts, but we had hazelnuts on hand, so I used those instead. It also suggests adding goat cheese (I think feta would also be wonderful), but we didn't have any, so I skipped it. Perhaps because of the lack of cheese, it seemed like there was a bit too much mint. I quite liked the salad though. A scaled and adapted version for 2 people is below.

One year ago: Cranberry, Caramel, and Almond Tart

Beets with Balsamic Syrup, Mints, and Nuts (adapted from Radically Simple)

1/2 cup hazelnuts
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 medium garlic clove
450g roasted beets
1 tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh mint

1. Lightly toast hazelnuts in a small skillet over medium heat until fragrant. Remove from pan and set aside.
2. Put vinegar in the skillet; add garlic clove pushed through the press.
3. Bring to a boil and boil until reduced to 1 1/2 tbsp.
4. Cut beets in half (or quarter if they are large) and put in a large bowl.
5. Add vinegar and hazelnuts. Toss oil with beets.
6. Add salt and pepper to taste and top with mint.

Peking Pork with Scotch and Scallions

I'd bought a pork tenderloin on sale and tossed it in the freezer, uncertain of what I was going to do with it, but sure it would make a good meal at some point. If it weren't for the long cooking time, this dish would be a perfect weeknight meal as it requires very little work. The original recipe calls for a 6 lb boned pork shoulder, but I had a 1kg boneless pork tenderloin, so I reduced the cooking temperature to 275 and cut 30 minutes off the cooking time. The end result was a very nice, moist piece of pork. I substituted regular white onions for scallions because that's what the CSA box gave us. When I inquired if we had any scotch, I was told there was no scotch, but we had 4 different types of whiskey. The boy offered to pick up some Scotch or Irish whiskey, but seemed happier when I decided to use up some of the Crown Royal in the sauce. I also roughly scaled down the marinade to match the amount of meat I had. The original recipe is below, but feel free to mess around with it a bit as it is quite forgiving.

One year ago: Black Bean and Tomato Quinoa

Peking Pork with Scotch and Scallions (from Radically Simple)

6lb boned pork shoulder
1 tbsp olive oil
2/3 cup hoisin sauce
3 bunches scallions, trimmed
4 star anise
1/4 cup Scotch whiskey

1. Preheat oven to 300F (see notes if using a smaller amount of meat). Use a sharp knife to remove the skin from the pork, but leave a small layer of fat. Tie the roast at 2" intervals with kitchen string.
2. Heat oil in a Dutch oven. Add pork, fat-side down, and brown on all sides, about 10 minutes.
3. Remove from heat; spread hoisin over pork.
4. Cut scallions into 2" lengths and scatter over and around the pork with the star anise.
5. Cover and bake 3 1/2 hours, until pork is very tender (see notes if using a smaller amount of meat).
6. Transfer pork to a cutting board.
7. Using a large spoon, remove as much fat as possible from the pan juices.
8. Add whiskey to juices and cook over high heat for several minutes, until syrupy.
9. Cut pork into thick slices and serve with scallions and pan sauce.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Chicken-Fried Steak

Prior to making this dish, I had not had chicken-fried steak since December 2009. I was in a cafe in Austin, enjoying a dinner of chicken-fried steak with rich macaroni and cheese, and catching up with two guys I went to high school with. Chicken-fried steak has always been comfort food to me, even if the name seems to confuse people around here. I always had the misconception that it would be difficult and messy to make. After finding some pre-tenderized beef at the grocery store though, this dish came together quickly and easily. I even managed not to splatter things everywhere while frying! I kept fairly close to the original recipe, but used hot paprika powder in place of cayenne pepper and a bit less fat to fry in. Serve with cream gravy.

One year ago: Cranberry Vanilla Coffee Cake

Chicken-Fried Steak (adapted from Homesick Texan)

680g top-round steak (or 4 pre-tenderized steaks)
2 cups flour
3 large eggs
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 - 1 teaspoon hot paprika
2 cups flour
1 1/2 cups cream gravy

1. Cut top-round steak into 4 pieces. Pound beef with a meat tenderizer until flattened and almost doubled in size.
2. Place flour in a large bowl and season with salt, pepper, and paprika to taste.
3. Mix eggs in another large bowl with buttermilk.
4. Take piece of tenderized beef and coat in flour. Dip coated beef into egg mixture and then dip back into flour again.
5. Heat on medium enough oil or lard to fill halfway up the sides of a cast-iron skillet. (I used quite a bit less than this and shallow fried them.) When a drop of water makes the oil sizzle, it's ready for frying.
6. Take the coated beef and place it in the skillet. When the blood starts bubbling out of the top of the steak (about 3 to 4 minutes) gently turn it over with a long fork (using a spatula can cause the oil to splash out of the skillet).
7. Cook another 5 minutes and then take the chicken-fried steak out of the pan and drain on a paper-towel-lined plate. Repeat process for remaining cutlets. And while you're frying the others, you can keep the cooked steaks warm in the oven.
8. Serve with cream gravy made from the pan drippings.

Lamb Stir-Fry

My first foray into African cooking came as a happy coincidence. I had bought Samuelsson's African cookbook, but wasn't expecting to cook from it any time soon as I needed to make some spice blends first. One of the recipes in the book popped up though while I was searching for something to do with kale. Even better, it would use some of the CSA tomatoes. Also, no specialty spice blends needed. Best of all, I just happened to have some chopped up lamb meat sitting in the freezer. The taste didn't seem very foreign to me, but it was quite delicious, quick, and easy.

One year ago: Celebration Yellow Rice

Lamb Stir-Fry (from The Soul of a New Cuisine)

2 tbsp peanut oil
1 medium red onion, sliced
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1/2 tsp ground cumin
2 garlic cloves, minced
2" piece ginger, grated
8 ounces kale, cleaned and shredded
1 1/2 lbs boneless lamb loin, cut into 1/2" thick slices
1/2 tsp salt
4 tomatoes, chopped or 2 cups chopped canned tomatoes
freshly ground black pepper

1. Heat oil in large heavy skillet over high heat. Add onion, cardamom, cumin, garlic, and ginger and saute until onion is translucent, about 3 minutes.
2. Add kale and saute until wilted, about 4 minutes.
3. Remove kale mixture from pan with tongs and set aside.
4. Add lamb to pan and stir-fry until browned on all sides.
5. Sprinkle with salt, add tomatoes, and simmer for 5 minutes.
6. Return kale mixture to pan and stir until heated through, 3 - 5 minutes. Season with pepper.

Sweet and Sour Napa Cabbage

Our CSA box has been delivering some vegetables that I'm generally not drawn to in the store. Cabbage definitely falls into that category! This dish is simple, but quite tasty with a bit of an Asian flavour. The original makes quite a large amount, so I scaled in half, but have included the full below.

One year ago: Beef Rendang

Sweet and Sour Napa Cabbage (from Gourmet Today)

2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp distilled white vinegar
2 1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp cornstarch
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
2 tbsp vegetable oil
2 tbsp minced fresh ginger
1 tbsp minced garlic
1/8 tsp salt
3 medium carrots, cut into 1/8" thick, 2" long matchsticks
2 lbs Napa cabbage, cut crosswise into 1 1/2" wide pieces

1. Whisk together soy sauce, vinegar, sugar, cornstarch, and red pepper flakes in a bowl until sugar is dissolved.
2. Heat a 12" heavy skillet over high heat until a drop of water evaporates on contact. Add oil, swirling pan to coat. Add ginger and garlic with salt and stir-fry until fragrant and pale golden, 20 - 30 seconds.
3. Add carrots and stir-fry until crisp-tender, 1 - 2 minutes.
4. Add cabbage and stir-fry until leaves are just wilted and ribs are crisp-tender, 3 - 4 minutes.
5. Whisk sauce again, add to pan, and stir-fry until vegetables are coated and sauce is slightly thickened, 1 - 2 minutes.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Pork in Green Peanut Sauce

This week's CSA box came with a small paper bag of green tomatoes inside. I was excited, planning on making some fried green tomatoes. When I pulled them out to wash them though, I realized that they weren't green tomatoes at all, but rather already de-husked tomatillos! I had had my eye on this recipe before and even I had jalapenos, onions, peanuts, and a new batch of cilantro on hand as well as some pork for a pork vindaloo. The vindaloo got thrown out the window and this got bumped up in priority instead. Tomatillos and peanuts? A perfect combination. Serve with fresh, hot tortillas.

One year ago: Apple and Cheddar Scones

Pork in Green Peanut Sauce (from The Essential Cuisines of Mexico)

1 kg pork, cut into 1" cubes
1/3 cup roughly chopped white onion
2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
2 tsp salts
4 tbsp vegetable oil or pork lard (I used peanut oil)
1 cup peanuts (140g)
250g tomatillos, roughly chopped (about 2 cups)
1 small bunch cilantro
6 peppercorns, crushed
3 - 4 serrano chiles, roughly chopped (I used jalapenos)
2 garlic cloves
1/2 cup thinly sliced white onions

1. Put pork, chopped onion, garlic, and sauce into a saucepan. Cover with water and bring to a simmer. Cook about 30 minutes.
2. Drain the meat, reserving the broth.
3. Meanwhile, heat 1 tbsp of oil and fry the peanuts, turning them constantly until they are golden brown.
4. Add tomatillos, cilantro, peppercorns, chiles, garlic, 3/4 cup broth, and peanuts to a blender jar. Blend until smooth.
5. Heat remaining 3 tbsp of oil in a heavy pan and fry pork and sliced onion together until golden.
6. Add blended sauce and cook for a few minutes longer, stirring and scrapping the bottom of the pan.
7. Add approximately 2 1/2 cups broth (add water if you don't have enough), then adjust seasoning and simmer for about 20 minutes or until well seasoned. The sauce should be the consistency of thin cream, you can add more water if needed.

Pinon-Breaded Chicken with Ancho Chile Cranberry Sauce

While looking for something to do with chicken breasts, I stumbled across this recipe and was intrigued by the combination of tart berries, ancho chile peppers, and pine nuts. The original calls for jarred lingonberries, but I couldn't resist the fresh cranberries instead. The end result was surprisingly satisfying.

One year ago: Refried Bean Enchiladas

Pinon-Breaded Chicken with Ancho Chile Cranberry Sauce (adapted from Stop and Smell the Rosemary)

3/4 cup pine nuts, coarsely chopped
1/3 cup bread crumbs
3 tbsp minced fresh parsley
3 tbsp minced fresh thyme
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp white pepper
4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
1/2 cup flour
2 large eggs, beaten
1/3 cup olive oil
2 tbsp olive oil
2 shallots, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup Madeira
2 cups chicken stock
2 ancho chile peppers, softened in boiling water 2 minutes, drained
4 ounces fresh cranberries
1/4 cup chopped fresh thyme
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper

1. Mix pine nuts, bread crumbs, garlic, parsley, thyme, salt, and white pepper in a small bowl.
2. Dip chicken breasts into flour, beaten eggs, and then bread crumb mixture.
3. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add breaded chicken breasts. Saute 10 - 12 minutes on each side or until golden brown.
4. Meanwhile, heat olive oil for sauce over medium-high heat in a medium saucepan. Add shallots and garlic. Saute 2 minutes or until garlic is brown.
5. Add Madeira, chicken stock, and ancho chile peppers for sauce. Cook over high heat 5 minutes or until the liquid is reduced by half and chiles are soft.
6. Remove chiles from liquid. Remove seeds and stems and discard. Puree chiles in a food processor. Add puree back to liquid.
7. Add cranberries and thyme to sauce. Cook 5 minutes or until cranberries have broken down some and sauce is consistency of heavy cream.
8. Spoon sauce over chicken breasts and serve.

Black Radish Soup in Roasted Acorn Squash

We started a CSA basket last week and it's been fun trying to cook our way through the mystery vegetables. After a quick inspection, we thought we had beets and I was happy to discover a recipe that used beets, apples, and squash ... all of which we had in abundance. However, once I began cleaning the beets, I realized something was amiss. The black dirt just didn't seem to want to come off! After roasting, I cut into them and noticed a distinct lack of red colour. They weren't beets at all, but black turnips. Beet soup became black radish soup. I was a bit concerned that the taste would be a bit too strong, but it mellowed nicely. The other major change I made was to use a mirepoix instead of just onion as the soup flavour baste, roast the turnips initially, and scaling down the recipe (although the original proportions are below).

One year ago: Cauliflower Gratin

Black Radish Soup in Roasted Acorn Squash (adapted from, originally Gourmet)

For roasted squash
8 (1- to 1 1/4-pound) acorn squash
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon kosher salt
For soup
1/4 cup chopped onion
1/4 cup chopped celery
1/4 cup chopped carrots
1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 pounds without greens black radish, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 red apple such as Gala or Braeburn, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
2 garlic cloves, minced
4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
4 to 5 cups water
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 tablespoon packed light brown sugar

1. Preheat oven to 375°F.
2. Cut off "tops" of squash (about 1 inch from stem end) and reserve. Scoop out seeds and discard. Brush "bowls" and tops all over with oil and sprinkle salt inside. Arrange squash bowls, with tops alongside, stem ends up, in 2 large shallow baking pans.
3. Wrap radishes in a foil packet.
4. Roast squash until flesh of squash is just tender, about 1 1/4hours total. Roast radishes for 30 minutes.
5. After radishes have finished, peel and coarsely chop them.
6. Cook onion, carrots, and celery in oil in a 5-quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until softened.
7. Add beets and apple and cook, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes.
8. Add garlic and cook, stirring, 30 seconds.
9. Add broth and 4 cups water, then simmer, uncovered, until radishes are tender, about 40 minutes.
10. Stir in vinegar and brown sugar.
11. Purée soup using an immersion blender until very smooth. Season with salt and pepper. If soup is too thick, add enough water to thin to desired consistency.
12. Serve soup in squash bowls.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Basil, Hazelnut, and Chocolate Cupcakes

It's been a while since I've made a truly impressive dessert, so I was overdue for something overly complex, but completely delicious. Luckily, I have a reliable source for amazing desserts in Desserts for Breakfast (unluckily, her posts always make me want to go bake IMMEDIATELY). Yes, the instructions are long. Yes, it uses a lot of chocolate and eggs. But the results are worth it. So worth it. And as a bonus, it used up the last of the basil from our new weekly vegetable box!

I did make one major change to this recipe. The original calls for making 8 3x2" cakelettes. I decided that cupcakes would be much more manageable and I needed to make a dozen and was hesitant to scale up the recipe. Instead, I made normal cupcakes and ended up with around 18.

One year ago: Mahogany Beef Stew with Red Wine and Hoisin Sauce

Basil, Hazelnut, and Chocolate Cupcakes (from Desserts for Breakfast, originally multiple sources for inspiration)

for cake:
10 Tbspn butter (142g)
3/4 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed (150g)
6 eggs, separated
12 oz. dark chocolate, melted and cooled
1 1/2 Tbspn espresso
1 Tbspn vanilla
1/2 tspn salt

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a cupcake pan with 18 liners. Set aside.
2. In a mixer bowl, beat the butter and light brown sugar on medium until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
3. Add the egg yolks one at a time to the butter and sugar mixture, beating well between each addition.
4. Beat the melted dark chocolate, espresso, vanilla, and salt into the batter until well-combined.
5. In a separate bowl, whip the egg whites until soft peaks.
6. Fold 1/3 of the egg whites into the chocolate batter, then fold the remaining egg whites into the batter just until combined. Be careful not to overmix! [I was a bit concerned because the batter didn't seem to be coming together at all and was clumpy, but it was fine.]
7. Divide the batter evenly amongst the prepared pans. Immediately place in the oven and bake for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare the meringue.

for meringue layer:
2 oz. dark chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup hazelnuts, toasted and chopped
1/2 Tbspn cornstarch
2 egg whites
2 Tbspn sugar

1. Combine the dark chocolate, hazelnuts, and cornstarch.
2. Whip the egg whites to stiff peaks, gradually adding the sugar as you whisk.
3. Fold in the hazelnuts and chocolate mixture to the egg whites, being careful not to deflate the whites too much.
4. Remove the chocolate cupcakes from the oven and spoon the meringue over the chocolate cupcakes.
5. Return the cakes to the oven for ~15-20 minutes until the meringues are set.
6. Remove from oven and let cool for 10 minutes on a wire rack. Let cool completely before frosting.

for basil buttercream:
1 cup whole milk
2 large handfuls of basil, roughly shredded
3/4 cup sugar (170g)
1/4 cup AP flour (30g)
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 cup butter, at room temperature (227g)
green food coloring, optional

1. In a small saucepan with a tight-fitting lid, combine the milk and the basil. Bring to just a simmer, cover, and let steep for ~30 minutes.
2. Strain the basil from the milk and discard the basil. Set the milk aside.
3. Whisk together the sugar and flour in a saucepan. Gradually whisk in the prepared basil milk and the cream, making sure that there are no clumps.
4. Cook the flour and milk mixture over medium heat until it boils and thickens, about 5-10 minutes. Remove from heat and transfer into a bowl.
5. Beat with a paddle attachment on high until the flour and milk mixture is completely cool.
6. With the mixer on low, gradually add the butter. Then, increase speed to medium-high and whip until light and fluffy. (If the buttercream gets too soft, put it in the refrigerator for a few minutes before re-beating.) Briefly beat in a few drops of green food coloring, if desired.
7. Use immediately to frost the cupcakes.

Chana Masala

I tried Smitten Kitchen's Chana Masala a year or two ago and for some reason, it just didn't do it for me. I'm not sure if my tastes have changed, my Indian cooking skills improved, or this recipe is just better, but I found it much more satisfying. Iyer warns that if you don't find this recipe spicy enough, you can garnish it with some cut up fresh green Thai, cayenne, or serrano chiles, but if you're serving this to the spice-averse, it's probably more than hot enough already!

For the chickpeas, I decided to try cooking them in the slow cooker ahead of time. I cooked them on high for 2.5 - 3 hours, covered in water, without soaking. I went ahead and made a full bag so that I could freeze the leftovers in 1 cup bags. I'm entirely too excited about having easy access to cooked chickpeas in the near future.

One year ago: Caramel Apple Blackout Cake

Chana Masala (from 660 Curries)

2 tbsp ghee or canola oil
2 tsp cumin seeds, 1 tsp left whole, 1 tsp ground
2 tbsp ginger paste
1 tbsp garlic paste
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 tbsp coriander seeds, ground
1 tbsp mango powder or fresh lime juice
1 tsp ground cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
4 cups cooked chickpeas
4 tbsp finely chopped cilantro, divided
1 1/2 tsp coarse kosher or sea salt
1/2 cup finely chopped red onion

1. Heat ghee in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Sprinkle in whole cumin seeds and cook until they sizzle, turn reddish brown, and smell nutty, 5 - 10 seconds.
2. Lower heat to medium and carefully stir in ginger and garlic pastes (it will splatter!). Stir-fry until pastes turn light brown, about 2 minutes.
3. Stir in 1 cup water and the tomato paste, coriander, mango powder (or lime juice), cayenne, turmeric, and ground cumin. Simmer, partially covered, stirring occasionally until water evaporates from the reddish-brown sauce, 5 - 10 minutes.
4. Pour in 2 cups water, the chickpeas, 2 tbsp of cilantro, and the salt. Raise heat to medium-high and cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until sauce thickens, 15 - 18 minutes.
5. Sprinkle remaining cilantro and onion over curry and serve.

Saag Paneer

No classic Indian meal would be complete without saag paneer. The original recipe calls for half spinach and half mustard greens, saying that the mustard greens provide a nice bitter-tasting balance to this creamy dish. I skipped on the mustard greens to keep it a bit more traditional and was quite pleased with the results.

One year ago: Lemon and Cranberry Scones

Saag Paneer (adapted from 660 Curries)
2 tbsp canola oil
1 medium red onion, cut in half lengthwise and thinly sliced
6 medium garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
4 lengthwise slices fresh ginger (2" long, 1" wide, and 1/4" thick), coarsely chopped (I just microplaned it)
2 tsp Bin bhuna hua garam masala
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
2 tbsp tomato paste
900g spinach leaves, well rinsed and coarsely chopped
1 1/2 tsp coarse kosher or sea salt
1 1/4 lbs paneer, cut into 1" cubes and pan fried
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 tsp Punjabi garam masala

1. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion, garlic, and ginger and stir-fry until onion is light brown, 8 - 10 minutes.
2. Remove skillet from heat and stir in bin bhuna hua garam masala and turmeric (the spices will cook without burning!).
3. Transfer mixture to a blender jar and add tomato paste and 1/4 cup water. Puree to form a smooth, reddish-brown paste.
4. Return paste to skillet. Pour 3/4 cup water into blender jar and whir blades to wash it out. Add to skillet.
5. Place skillet over medium heat. Pile handfuls of greens into skillet, cover, and let steam to wilt. Stir and repeat until all the greens are wilted.
6. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally until greens are broken down to a sauce-like consistency, 10 - 15 minutes.
7. Stir is salt, paneer, cream, and punjabi garama masala.
8. Continue simmering, covered, stirring occasionally until cheese and cream are warmed through, 5 - 8 minutes.


I've always avoided the paneer section of my curry book because I didn't want to have to track down paneer. Now I know that I shouldn't have, because it's so easy to make at home! I'm glad to have the paneer issue resolved and you may expect to see more recipes using paneer on here in the future!

One year ago: Linguine with Roasted Tomato and Almond Pesto

Whole-Milk Paneer (from 660 Curries)
1 gallon whole milk (I used 4L)
1/4 cup distilled white vinegar

1. Pour milk into a large saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring frequently to prevent scorching.
2. When it comes to a boil, stir in vinegar and remove from heat.
3. Set aside until the cheese separates and leaves behind a pale green, thin, watery whey, 15 - 30 seconds.
4. Line a colander with a double layer of cheesecloth or a clean dishcloth, making sure there is 2 - 3 inches hanging over the rim of the colander.
5. Place the colander in the sink and pour cheese and whey into the colander and let drain.
6. Once it is slightly cool to the touch, gather the edges of the cloth and fold them over the cheese to cover it.
7. Fill a heavy pot with water and set directly on top of the cloth-wrapped cheese in the colander. Let drain for 3 - 5 hours (I left it overnight).
8. Remove the weight and unwrap the cheese. Wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate it for up to 1 week (or freeze for up to 2 months). This recipe makes 1 1/4 lbs paneer.

Fried Paneer (from 660 Curries)
1 1/4 lbs paneer (3 cups)
1/4 cup canola oil

1. Cut brick of paneer into 1" cubes.
2. Heat canola oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add paneer cubes in a single layer and cook, turning occasionally until all sides are honey-brown and crispy, 7 - 10 minutes.
3. Transfer to a paper-towel-lined plate to drain.
4. To store, place cubes in a bowl of water and refrigerate for up to a week, changing the water daily or freeze without the water for up to 2 months.

Indian Cooking: Building Blocks

I finally invested the time to do a bit of prep for Indian ingredients instead of just cheating and used pre-made curry powders and butter or oil instead of ghee. The result is a well-stocked pantry and I can't wait to make even more Indian dishes with these ingredients. I'm switching up the usual format to include a lot of these recipes below. All of these recipes come from Raghavan Iyer's 660 Curries, an excellent book to have on hand if you enjoy cooking Indian food. Recipes included on this page are: One year ago: Meat Balls in Tomato Sauce

454g unsalted butter

1. Line a fine-mesh strainer with a piece of cheesecloth, set it over a clean, dry glass canning jar (ideally a pint-sized jar) and set aside. (My strainer has a very fine mesh and I was able to skip the cheesecloth. The mouth of the jar we were using was a little bit narrow for the strainer, so we placed a funnel underneath to ensure we didn't loose much of the precious ghee.)
2. Melt butter in a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan over low heat, stirring occasionally to ensure an even melt.
3. Once it melts, foam will begin gathering on the surface. (If you're butter doesn't start foaming, increase the heat slightly, but not past medium-low.) Skim the foam off the surface. Milk solids will settle at the bottom and brown lightly giving a slightly nutty flavour to the butter. Be patient, this will take 15 - 20 minutes.
4. Once the liquid is clear with an amber hue, pour it through the strainer and set it aside to cool.
5. When the ghee is cool, close the jar. Do not close sooner and make sure the jar is dry, because moisture will promote mold growth. Keep the jar at room temperature. It will turn solid at room temperature.

Ginger Paste
8 ounces coarsely chopped fresh ginger (you don't need to skin)
1/2 cup water

1. Pour water into a blender jar, then add ginger. Puree until it forms a smooth, light brown paste.
2. Store in a tightly sealed container in the refrigerator for up to a week or freeze in small 1 tbsp portions for up to a month.

Garlic Paste
50 medium-size cloves garlic, peeled
1/2 cup water

1. Pour water into a blender jar, then add garlic. Puree until it forms a smooth paste.
2. Store in a tightly sealed container in the refrigerator for up to a week or freeze in small 1 tbsp portions for up to a month.

Punjabi Garam Masala
1 tbsp coriander seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp whole cloves
1/2 tsp black peppercorns
1/2 tsp cardamom seeds from black pods
3 cinnamon sticks (3" long), broken into smaller pieces
3 fresh or dried bay leaves

1. Preheat a small skillet over medium-high heat. Add all ingredients and toast, shaking every few seconds until coriander and cumin turn reddish brown, the cloves, peppercorns, and cardamom turn ash-black, the cinnamon and bay leaves appear brittle and crinkly, and the mixture is highly fragrant, 1 - 2 minutes.
2. Immediately transfer the spices to a plate to cool. Do not keep on the skillet as they will cook further. Make sure you take the time to let them cool so that you don't have extra unwanted moisture from the heat that will make the blend cakey.
3. Place in a spice grinder, coffee grinder, or mortar and pestle and grind until texture resembles finely ground black pepper.
4. Store in a tightly sealed container, away from light, heat, and humidity for up to 2 months.

Bin Bhuna Hua Garam Masala
2 tbsp coriander seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp whole cloves
1 tsp black peppercorns
1/2 tsp cardamom seeds from green or white pods
2 dried bay leaves
3 - 4 dried red Thai or cayenne chiles or 1 tsp ground cayenne

1. Place all ingredients in a spice grinder, coffee grinder, or mortar and pestle and grind until texture resembles that of finely ground black pepper.
2. Store in a tightly sealed container, away from light, heat, and humidity for up to 2 months.