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Archive for January, 2011

I was fortunate enough to fall in love this summer – twice.  I visited Vancouver for the first time and absolutely fell in love with the city.  It felt like home in so many ways.  While there I had an incredible dinner at Vij’s Rangoli, and fell in love a second time with Vikram Vij’s forward-thinking Indian cuisine (I had short ribs, yes that’s right, beef at an Indian restaurant).  While at the restaurant I bought one of Vikram Vij’s cookbooks, a brilliant decision at the time.

This week Ben will be cooking Chicken Tikka Masala.  That means the theme is Indian food.  My contribution this week is a vegetarian curry.  I will love forever anyone who brings samosas, but I’m not holding my breath.

This recipe is adapted from Vij’s Basic Masala.  It’s a perfect beginner’s curry as it has few ingredients, and all of the spices are easy to acquire.  If you want to reduce the “heat” then you can skip the cayenne pepper.  A heads up on the image below: I’ve cooked double since I am serving a good size group, so know that the recipe should yield about half.

Channa Masala – 1 Knife  (Adapted from Elegant & Inspired Indian Cuisine)

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup canola oil
  • 1½ cups onions (about 2 small)
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 2 medium-large tomatoes
  • ½ teaspoon turmeric
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1½ teaspoons ground coriander
  • 1½ teaspoons salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
  • 1 can chickpeas
  • 1-2 cups of water

Prep:

  1. In a small bowl combine the turmeric, cumin, coriander, salt and cayenne pepper.  Set this bowl aside.
  2. Peel the garlic cloves and mince them.
  3. Cut open the tomatoes and remove the seeds.  Then chop them into 1-inch pieces.
  4. Peel and chop the onions to a nice mince.  The smaller the onions are cut the better, though this may depend on your tolerance for cutting onions.  I cry like a baby and use my food processor to get them small.

Cook:

  1. Heat the canola oil in a large pot over medium-high heat.
  2. Once warm add the onions and sauté until golden, about 5 to 8 minutes.
  3. Add the garlic to the pot and sauté for another 3 minutes, or until the garlic has browned.
  4. Add to the pot the tomatoes and spices.  Stir well to incorporate.
  5. Reduce the heat to medium and sauté, stirring regularly.
  6. When the oils begin to separate from the sauce you will know that the curry base is ready.  This can take a while, the timing can really vary.
  7. Add the chickpeas to the pot and stir to mix.
  8. Add water slowly until the Masala reaches a consistency you like.
  9. Bring the Masala to a boil.
  10. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and allow to simmer for 5 minutes.
  11. Serve and enjoy!

 

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I’ve been eating a lot of stews and beef lately; you may have noticed this… I need something lighter, preferably vegetarian.  I came across this couscous salad recipe in a bargain cookbook about “beans” that I bought at Border’s a few years ago.  It seems curious that there are bean-free recipes, but alas, bargain book.

Speaking of bargains I recently discovered photoshop.com.  I’ve been photographing my food with a low-end Olympus digital camera, and it shows.  Until enough donations (hint hint… just kidding) come in so I can buy a nice camera, I now have this great (free!) tool to doctor the lighting and crispness of photos to make them look better.

Now back to the couscous.   I like this recipe because it works well both as a main dish and also a side dish.  The recipe serves four as a main dish, and can certainly serve more as a side dish.  This recipe also allowed me to finish off the leftover olives I had from my quiche the other week – always a huge bonus!

Couscous Salad with Zucchini and Olives – 1 Knife  (Adapted from The Big Bean Cookbook)

Ingredients:

  • 1 2/3 cups dry couscous
  • 2½ cups vegetable stock
  • 16-20 black large black olives
  • 2 small zucchini
  • ¼ sliced almonds
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon fresh cilantro
  • 1 tablespoon Italian parsley
  • ground cumin
  • cayenne pepper
  • salt

Prep:

  1. Clean the zucchini and cut them into small strips.  Specifically you want to julienne the zucchini.  This short video explains an easy way to do it.
  2. Remove olives from liquid (if you bought canned) and cut them in half length-wise.
  3. Remove cilantro and parsley leaves from the stems (about 1 tablespoon of each).  Chop into small pieces.  Move these into a small bowl.

Cook:

  1. Bring the vegetable stock to a boil.
  2. In a large bowl pour in the couscous.  Once the vegetable stock is boiling pour it into the bowl with the couscous.
  3. Stir contents of the bowl well with a fork and set aside for 10 minutes while the couscous absorbs the liquid.
  4. Once 10 minutes has passed stir the couscous with a fork to fluff it.
  5. Add the zucchini, olives and almonds to the large bowl and stir to mix.
  6. In the small bowl add to the cilantro and parsley the olive oil and lemon juice, as well as a pinch of cumin, a pinch of cayenne and a pinch of salt.  Stir well with a fork.
  7. Add the dressing in the small bowl to the large bowl and stir well to fully incorporate.
  8. Serve and enjoy!

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The word kugel is one that baffles anyone who didn’t grow up hearing it.  “Koo-guhl??  What is that?”  Simply put, it’s a noodle pudding or casserole.  I started to look up the etymology of the word and came up with some uninteresting stuff, so I’ll spare you.

The kugels in my life come in two main forms: with cheese and without cheese.

I grew up on the “without cheese” kind in my house, but I like the super-rich cheesy kind SO MUCH BETTER. It’s just so ooey and gooey and the flavors are fantastic.  Also if it’s your first foray into noodle pudding I can guarantee tasty results.  Only problem is that you need a food processor, though it’s plausible that a blender could work too.  I recommend making the cheese filling first, that way you can then chop the apple while the noodles are cooking.

Noodle Kugel – 1 Knife (Adapted from Moosewood Cookbook)

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound wide egg noodles
  • butter to grease the pan
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 cups (16 oz.) cottage cheese
  • ¾ sour cream (or plain yogurt)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons cinnamon
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup raisins
  • 1 Granny Smith apple

Cook:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375º Fahrenheit.
  2. Heat a medium-large pot of water over high heat.
  3. In a food processor add the eggs, cottage cheese, sour cream, vanilla extract, cinnamon, sugar, and salt.
  4. Run the food processor until the mixture is smooth.  You should no longer see the cottage cheese lumps and the filling will be smooth and liquid-like.
  5. Once the water reaches a boil add the noodles and cook according to the instructions.
  6. Peel the apple and discard the skin.
  7. Core and slice the apple.  Then cut the slices down into small 1-inch chunks.
  8. Once the noodles are done rinse them in cool water while in the colander.
  9. In a large bowl mix together the noodles, cheese filling, apples and raisins.  Stir until completely incorporated.
  10. Use a small amount of butter to grease your 9×13 inch baking pan.
  11. Pour the noodle mixture into the pan and use your spoon to even it out around the pan.
  12. Bake in the oven uncovered for 40 minutes.
  13. Allow to cool for about 5 minutes, serve and enjoy!

 

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I love cowboy cookies, mainly because they have chocolate, raisins, nuts and oats.  It’s like a kitchen sink cookie without any super wacky additives.  Of course if you don’t like raisins or are allergic to nuts those items are easy to leave out.  For instance with the batch I just made I left out the walnuts, but that was because I didn’t feel like chopping them up.  Now as to the oats… not optional.

I like to make sure cookies such as these last me for the week, so I make sure to store them in a sealed container.  A cookie jar/tin, plastic container or plastic storage bag (like ziplock) all work well.  The key is to keep the cookies fresh.

Cowboy Cookies – ½ Rolling Pin

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup butter at room temperature
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ½ cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 1½ cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup raisins
  • ½ cup chopped walnuts

Bake:

  1. Preheat oven to 350º Fahrenheit.
  2. In a large bowl cream together the butter, sugar and brown sugar.
  3. Add the egg and vanilla extract and stir to thoroughly combine.
  4. In a separate bowl combine the flour, salt, baking soda and baking powder.
  5. Add the flour mixture to the butter and sugar mixture and stir to mix well.
  6. Add the oats to the batter and stir until incorporated.
  7. Add in chocolate chips, raisins and walnuts and stir until mixed.
  8. Using a large spoon or tablespoon measure out a little more than a tablespoon of dough and place on a baking sheet a few inches apart.
  9. Bake for about 12 minutes.
  10. Remove cookies from the baking sheet and place on a cooling rack or plate to cool down.  If you have more dough repeat steps 8 and 9 until you have baked (or snacked on) all of your dough.
  11. Allow cookies to cool and enjoy!

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“Cornbread: Ain’t nuttin wrong with that.” That Chris Rock lyric is always pops in my head when I even think the word “cornbread.”  I blame MTV for this.  But Chris Rock is right; there is nothing wrong with cornbread.

Now everyone has their own cornbread preferences.  Some insist on cooking it in a cast iron skillet (my skillet is too big otherwise I would).  Others like to add flavors like maple syrup and currants to the corn bread.  And others, me included, love to have corn kernels in their cornbread.  I don’t know what it is about the kernels, but they are super tasty.

The one problem I have with cornbread is that it can spoil quickly if left out on the counter, so be sure to refrigerate it.  Also if you know you can’t finish it all fast enough you can freeze it and bring it back out the next time you have a craving, or a bowl of chili that needs a friend.

Cornbread – ½ Rolling Pin (Adapted from the Moosewood Cookbook)

Ingredients:

  • Butter (to grease the pan)
  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • 1 cup flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup yogurt (or you could use buttermilk)
  • 1 egg
  • 3 tablespoons honey (or you could use sugar)
  • 3 tablespoons melted butter
  • 1 cup frozen corn (defrosted)

Bake:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350º Fahrenheit.
  2. Measure out 1 cup of frozen corn and set aside to thaw out.
  3. Grease your 8-inch square pan, or a 9 or 10 inch cast iron skillet, with butter.
  4. In a large bowl mix together the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
  5. In a separate medium bowl combine yogurt, egg, honey and melted butter.
  6. Combine the wet ingredients from the medium bowl into the larger bowl of dry ingredients.  Stir until just combined.
  7. Add corn to the batter and stir to combine.
  8. Pour batter into the greased pan, using a spoon or spatula to make sure the mixture is evenly distributed.
  9. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until the center springs back when touched (mine needed 25 minutes for this).
  10. Serve hot, warm or at room temperature and enjoy!

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A great hearty winter dish, that also makes a good Super Bowl Sunday snack, is chili.  Only problem with chili is it can be highly polarizing.  I mean how many foods have cook-off competitions?  No, “Cake Wars” doesn’t count…

Since I’m here to teach, I’m going to start with really simple chili.  Like mind-numbingly easy.  And the best part is the seasoning doesn’t come from a packet.  At the bottom of the recipe I’m including some additional/optional additives to give the chili more flavor or dimension.  I would recommend adding the additional seasonings slowly, and tasting as you go.

Also be sure to save your leftovers.  Chili is a food that’s flavor often improves after sitting around a few days.  Also you don’t just have to eat it as-is.  You can top it on hot dogs or French fries or anything else you think needs a heaping pile of chili on it, so no excuses about being bored with the same food day after day.  Also, if you do choose to make chili-dogs a little bit of honey-mustard sauce can go a long way to boost the flavor.

Chili – 1 Knife

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound ground round (ground beef with 10-20% fat)
  • 1 can (15-19 oz) dark red kidney beans
  • 1 28oz can tomato puree (I think my can was 29oz, either is fine)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • ½ onion diced
  • 1 clove garlic pressed
  • 4 tablespoons chili powder
  • additional diced onion for topping (optional)
  • shredded cheddar cheese for topping (optional)

Prep:

  1. One easy step: dice the onions.

Cook:

  1. Heat olive oil in a 3-4 quart pot over medium heat.
  2. Add diced onion and sauté until the onions soften (but don’t brown).
  3. Add about ½ cup of the tomato puree and sauté for about 2-3 minutes.
  4. Add the remainder of the puree to the pot.
  5. Add 3 tablespoons of chili powder, garlic, and any additional seasonings to the pot.  Make sure to use a clean spoon to taste the mixture if you are adding spice to taste.
  6. Heat up a separate frying pan on medium heat.  Once warm add half of the ground round, breaking the meat apart into small pieces.
  7. Cook the round until all of it is browned, stirring somewhat regularly.  When the batch is complete transfer the beef to the pot with the sauce and drain the fat off into a grease can or any other safe receptacle for hot grease.
  8. Cook the second batch of beef and repeat the parts of step 7.
  9. Cover and simmer the chili for about 1 hour, and then add kidney beans (drained of their liquid) and an additional tablespoon of chili powder.
  10. Stir well to mix, cover and simmer chili for an additional 30 minutes.
  11. Serve, top with cheese and onions (optional) and enjoy!

Optional Flavor Enhancements:

  • 1 green bell pepper diced (sauté with the onions in the 2nd step)
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (for heat)
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • ½ teaspoon Cayenne pepper
  • additional salt to taste

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Let’s talk about eating healthy for a minute and only because healthier eating (and shopping) has been in the news lately.  I’m going to make a political food statement and I want you to stay with me for a moment: Eating vegetables and shopping at farmers markets for said produce does not make you a bleeding-heart, liberal elitist (i.e. eating arugula does not make you any less of a Republican).  Everyone regardless of background should be eating good, nutritious food.  It’s a pet peeve of mine to hear political conservatives turn their noses down at the “elitist vegetables.”  Vegetables, with the possible exception of the heirloom and near-extinct varietals, are anything but elite.

Moving along…  This asparagus makes for one of the easiest side dishes you will ever make.  Seriously, it’s easier then mashed potatoes.  It’s also healthy and loaded with goodness from the asparagus.  It’s also very versatile and would pair well with any kind of meat or fish.  It really is a side dish for any and all occasions.

I’m also going to give you an unsolicited tip about asparagus storage before I get to the recipe.  When you get home from the grocery store or farmers market, I recommend you stand the asparagus in a large glass, mug or jar (or any container that’s waterproof and that you can stand up asparagus in) filled with a few inches of water at the bottom.  This keeps the asparagus fresher longer while living in the fridge.

Balsamic Butter Asparagus – 1 Knife  (Adapted from AllRecipes)

Ingredients:

  • 1 bunch fresh asparagus
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • salt
  • ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

Prep:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400º Fahrenheit.
  2. Wash the asparagus and cut off about two inches from the bottom of the stalks.  You are removing the rough part at the bottom.
  3. Line a baking sheet with tin foil (for easier clean up) and lightly grease it with the olive oil, spreading the oiling a very thin layer on the foil.  The original recipe calls for cooking spray.  I can’t stand the stuff, though if you have it you can use it.

Cook:

  1. Place the asparagus on the baking sheet.
  2. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Bake in the oven for 12 minutes.  You want the asparagus to get tender, but not limp.  If you have super thin asparagus you may want to cook them less.  Or if you have really thick asparagus you may want to cook them longer.  If you aren’t sure if they’re tender, pierce them with a fork.  The fork should pierce them with a little pressure.
  4. In a small saucepan melt over medium heat the butter.
  5. Once the butter is melted turn off the heat and add the soy sauce and balsamic, and stir until well mixed.
  6. Pour on top of the cooked asparagus and toss to mix well.
  7. Transfer onto a serving dish or on to plates and enjoy!

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