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Friday, January 28, 2011

Spiced Indian Basmati Rice

I won't be writing a "The Week in Review" this week, as I haven't had time to review anything! My Google Reader is chock full of what I can only assume is great writing, photography and food, but I haven't had a chance to even peek at it all week! Instead, I'm going to write about Indian food again, like I promised last week. Better late than never, I always say. :-)

This is my family's go-to rice for Indian food. It has plenty of flavor on its own, and even my daughter, whose spice-o-meter is set to low, loves the deep flavor of the basmati rice, Indian spices and aromatics. Although it's easy to make, it does take some time, so plan ahead. It's also very forgiving--no worries if you're missing an ingredient...just forge ahead! Or if you happen to have some extra peas laying around, add them. We serve this with every Indian dish we make.

Spiced Basmati Rice
from Indian Cooking by Madhur Jaffrey

2 cups basmati rice
3 Tbl vegetable oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
1/2 fresh, hot green chili (such as a jalepeño), minced
1/2 tsp garlic, minced
1/2 tsp garam masala (You can make your own, but we get ours from Penzey's.)
1 tsp salt
2 2/3 cups chicken stock

Place the rice in a bowl. Wash it in several changes of water, until the water runs clear. Cover with plenty of fresh water and let it soak for 30 minutes. Drain in a sieve and let it sit for 20 more minutes.

Heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed saucepan with lid over medium heat. Add the onion and fry, stirring often, until the onion has browned lightly. Add the rice, chili, garlic, garam masala and salt. Stir gently for about 4 minutes. If the rice begins to stick to the bottom of the pan, turn down the heat slightly. Pour in the stock and bring to a boil. Cover with a tightly-fitted lid, turn the heat to very low and cook for 25 minutes.

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Friday, January 21, 2011

The Week in Review

Well, here it is, Friday again! I had high hopes of posting another Indian recipe, but it's been one crazy week here. I promise to get to some more Indian food on here next week, but in the meantime, here are some interesting sites, blogs and posts that I've come across this week. Enjoy!

  • I know that it's not harvest season for many of us, but I am already dreaming of the time of year where I can get colorful fresh produce again! As I was browsing the internet this week, I came across this cool site (via Spoonfed) called Ample Harvest. This site will tell you which food banks in your area accept fresh produce. Keep this in mind this spring when you're planting your gardens--it's a great way to donate healthy fresh food to those who need it!
  • This week I discovered that besides living very near Lori from Fake Food Free I also live near another food blogger--a high school student in my town who takes beautiful pictures and makes delicious-looking food! (This is almost a miracle given that I live in a town of 15,000 people.) Go over and take a look at Sami's blog, A Teenage Gourmet!
  • Many of you know Paula's blog, Bell'Alimento. (And if you don't, get over there right now!) She just announced that she's starting another site dedicated to one of my favorite foods: Nutella! Bella Nutella isn't quite up and running yet, but you can follow it on Facebook or even sign up to be a beta tester.
  • And finally, a recipe. I tried Pool of Butter Biscuits from Big Red Kitchen this week, and it was a huge hit in our house! (Even my bread-averse daughter ate two biscuits.) I'll eventually post my variation of it, but trust me, even though these weren't the prettiest biscuits I ever made, they sure were the easiest (and were super tasty)!

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Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Rogan Josh: A Warming Lamb Stew

I have decided to dedicate the rest of January to a few Indian food recipes that my husband and I like to make. Why? Because it's cold and rainy here, and Indian food, with its spices and heat, warm you up like no other food. It's comfort food at its best.

My husband does most of the Indian food cooking in our household. There's no real reason except that he likes it, although I just can't keep myself away from the kitchen, even when it is my night off! So I usually help prep and cook the rice. We've found that Indian food isn't difficult to cook, but it can be time consuming, and the ingredient lists are often daunting. Rogan Josh is a pretty simple recipe to start with, and if you can get some good local lamb, all the better! A friend from India mentioned that he sometimes puts beets into his Rogan Josh, but we haven't tried that yet...feel free to play around with the root vegetables you add, though. We typically stick to potatoes and carrots, but peas would be great added at the very end too.

**We get our Rogan Josh seasoning from Penzey's Spices, but you can also find it at Indian grocery stores, online, or if you're lucky at your local grocery store. If you can't find it, you could always make your own--just Google it!

Lamb Rogan Josh
Adapted from Penzey's Spices
Makes 4 servings

2 Tbl vegetable oil
1 lb lamb stew meat, trimmed of excess fat
1 large white onion, minced
2 Tbl Rogan Josh seasoning
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup water
1/2 cup plain whole yogurt
2 medium waxy potatoes (such as Yukon Gold), washed and cubed into 1/2-inch pieces
4 carrots, peeled and sliced into coins

Heat the oil in a large saute pan or dutch oven with a lid over medium-high heat. Add the lamb and brown. Remove the lamb to a bowl. Add the onion and cook, stirring often until browned lightly. Add the Rogan Josh and salt and cook for one minute, stirring constantly. Add the meat and juices back into the pot along with the water and yogurt. Stir gently until mixed thoroughly. Cover and cook 1-2 hours over low heat. (We usually cook it for about an hour, but the longer you cook it, the more tender the meat will be.)

Add the potatoes in the last 45 minutes of cooking. Add the carrots in the last 20 minutes of cooking. (If there doesn't seem to be enough sauce to cover the potatoes and carrots, add more water, 1/4 cup at a time until there is enough sauce to adequately cover the meat and vegetables.) Once it has simmered for the amount of time you'd like, uncover and raise the heat to reduce the sauce until it is as thick as you'd like it.

Serve with basmati rice and raita. (Recipes coming soon!)

**This can be made a day ahead and reheated. It can also be frozen easily--just leave out the potatoes. When you are ready to eat it, defrost it, boil the potatoes in water until almost tender, and then add them to the Rogan Josh while you are reheating it on the stove.

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Friday, January 14, 2011

The Week in Review

When I can, I'm going to try to start sharing some articles, blog posts, restaurants, etc. related to food at the end of the week. I tried this before in my "Seeing Stars," but in the last year, I've expanded my food interests into more than just recipes. I'd like to share some of that here along with amazing foodie blog posts I've come across during the week. (And maybe someday I can come up with some snazzy art to go along with it, but today I'm suffering from bronchitis and can't be bothered.) :-)

  • In my "I'm totally making this" category, I ran across two posts that I hope to recreate in my kitchen soon:

    --Patent and the Pantry's Beef Bulgogi: Don't know what bulgogi is? No worries...I didn't know either! Apparently it's a type of Korean-style beef wrapped in lettuce. I'm a sucker for lettuce wraps, and this one looks delicious and easy to boot!

    --Fake Food Free's Buffalo Turkey Sandwiches with Celery Yogurt Spread: I love buffalo chicken, but I don't eat it often because I'm picky about bones in my meat, so wings are out. This seems like a healthier, and frankly more appetizing, alternative to wings and blue cheese or ranch!
Have you read anything good this week?

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Tuesday, January 11, 2011

A True Southern Comfort: Goat Cheese Grits

After almost 10 years of living in the south (in North Carolina and Kentucky), I have decided to embrace it with open arms...or at least an open stomach. The south is very different from where I grew up in Southern California. Life is slower here, and southern hospitality is rounded out with a twang. I miss the winter sun of California, but what Kentucky lacks in winter sunlight, it makes up for in belly-warming comfort food.

When my husband and I went to Asheville, NC for a little getaway in October, we stopped at Tupelo Honey Cafe for dinner. My husband had shrimp and grits, but their grits weren't plain ol' grits--they were infused with tangy goat cheese. I swore I would try my hand at grits when I got home, but to my surprise, the grocery store only sells instant grits. I wanted real, slow-cooked grits, and I finally found some at a newly-opened market and butcher shop near my house, Marksbury Farm. (Look for more on Marksbury Farm here in February. I'm scheduled for a tour of this awesome new facility in a rather rural part of Kentucky.)

I paired the goat cheese grits with some pork chops from a local farm--St. Asaph Farm--and a salad, although in hindsight, this meal would go great with some vinegary southern greens. Like a true southerner, I even ate some of the leftovers with a smattering of pan gravy for breakfast this morning.

Goat Cheese Grits with Bacon
adapted from Food52
Makes enough for 4-6 generous side portions

2 pieces thickly sliced bacon, cooked and crumbled
1 cup of uncooked grits (not instant)
1 tsp salt, plus more to taste
1 cup of milk
4 cups water
2 ounces fresh goat cheese, or more to taste
2-4 Tbl freshly grated Parmesan cheese, to taste
Freshly ground pepper

Combine the grits, salt, milk and water in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, whisking often. When it reaches a boil, turn the heat down to low, cover, and simmer for 20-30 minutes, whisking occasionally, until they are creamy and tender and the consistency is to your liking. (I like mine on the thicker side.)

Whisk in the goat cheese, Parmesan cheese and pepper. Taste the grits and add more salt, goat cheese or Parmesan cheese, if necessary. Eat immediately, topped with crumbled bacon.

This can be served as a side or a main dish. To reheat the next day, heat in the microwave or on the stove, adding milk to thin if needed.

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Thursday, January 6, 2011

My Newly-Perfected Lasagna

Over the summer, I made a boatload of my favorite lasagna sauce out of tomatoes I picked at our CSA's farm (37 pounds to be exact)! I spent the better part of three days cleaning, peeling, and quartering the tomatoes and then making the sauce (out of mostly local and organic vegetables). I then froze it--enough to make nine lasagnas!

I made my fallback lasagna a few weeks ago, and it just wasn't exactly what I wanted. My husband agreed and suggested I add a bechamel sauce to it. I did, and the results were great! I am proud to announce that I have now perfected my lasagna. I have to warn you, though, that this lasagna is time intensive. I suggest you make extra sauce the first time you make this and freeze it so that the first step is already taken care of when you want to make your next lasagna. This lasagna also freezes well, either before baking (just defrost it before you want to use it and bake as directed) or after baking. If you freeze it after baking, you can cut it into meal-sized portions, freeze it in tupperware, defrost it and either bake it in the oven until warm (my preference) or microwave it for a quick meal.

Meaty Lasagna with Tomato Sauce and Bechamel
adapted from New Basics Cookbook and The Art of Simple Food

Tomato Sauce (makes 6 cups):
4 1/2 pounds sauce tomatoes, such as Roma, peeled, cored and quartered, reserving one cup of the juice (or 2 35-ounce cans whole plum tomatoes)
1/4 cup olive oil
1 cup chopped onions
1/2 cup finely chopped carrot
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/4 cup red wine
2 Tbl tomato paste
1/2 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
1 Tbl dried oregano
2 Tbl fresh basil, chopped (or 2 tsp dried)
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
Salt and pepper, to taste
Pinch of dried red pepper flakes
Splash of balsamic vinegar
Sugar (to taste, if needed)

Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the onions, carrot and garlic. Cook, stirring, until the onions and garlic have wilted, about 10 minutes.

Add the tomatoes, reserved juice, wine, tomato paste, and remaining ingredients except for the sugar. Cover and cook over medium heat for about 15 minutes, stirring once. Remove the cover and simmer another 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Once the sauce has simmered, break down the tomatoes with the back of a spoon or a potato masher. Taste--if the sauce is too bitter or acidic, add a little sugar, starting with a teaspoonful until the flavors are to your liking. Continue simmering until the juices have become thick and saucy.

Bechamel Sauce:
3 Tbl unsalted butter
3 Tbl flour
2 cups milk (I used 2%.)
Pinch of nutmeg
2 Tbl freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed pot. Stir in the flour. Cook over medium heat for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the milk bit by bit, whisking constantly. To avoid lumps, completely whisk in each addition of milk before adding the next. If your sauce is still lumpy, you can strain it through a sieve after all the milk has been added and return it to the burner to cook. Bring the milk mixture slowly to a boil, stirring constantly. Turn down to a bare simmer and cook for 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally to keep the sauce from sticking.

After about 20 minutes, season with salt and the nutmeg. Stir in the Parmesan cheese. Taste for seasoning--feel free to add more salt or cheese if needed. The sauce should be thick, but pourable. Use right away or keep warm to prevent it from solidifying.

2 Tbl olive oil
1/2 pound ground beef
1/2 Italian sausage (or mild sausage with 2 teaspoons of red pepper flakes sprinkled in)
5 cups Tomato Sauce (see above)
4 Tbl fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
3 1/2 cups whole-milk ricotta cheese (one large tub)
1 cup cooked spinach, chopped and well-drained
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 Tbl dried oregano
3/4 tsp ground nutmeg
Salt and pepper to taste
8 lasagna noodles, cooked until not quite tender
3 cups grated mozzarella cheese
2 cups bechamel sauce

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the beef, sausage, red pepper flakes (if using), and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally and breaking up the meat, until it is browned. Drain and set aside.

Place the tomato sauce in a large saucepan. Add the meat and 2 tablespoons of the parsley and cook over medium heat for 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat.

In a mixing bowl, combine the ricotta, spinach, Parmesan, remaining 2 tablespoons parsley, oregano, nutmeg, and pepper. Mix well.

Place 2 cups of the tomato sauce in the bottom of a 13 x 9-inch baking dish. Drizzle with about 1/3 of the bechamel sauce. Arrange 4 lasagna noodles on top of the sauce. Spread half of the ricotta mixture over the noodles and sprinkle with 1 cup of the mozzarella. Repeat the layers of tomato sauce, bechamel, noodles, ricotta and mozzarella. Top with the remaining tomato sauce, bechamel, and 1 cup of mozarella, sprinkled evenly over the top.

Cover the dish loosely with foil, place it on a baking sheet, and bake for 45 minutes. Remove the foil and bake an additional 20 minutes. Remove the dish from the oven and allow it to rest for 10-15 minutes before serving.

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Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Quick-Pickled Radishes

Happy New Year! I've been MIA because we took a little family vacation to California to visit my family, and I was just too busy to blog. It was a great week of fun and relaxation (and a little bit of sleeping in for my husband and I since the grandparents were all too happy to get up at the crack of dawn with the kids)!

I'm back, though, with this little salad, side, taco topping...whatever you want to call it. I love radishes, and my daughter does too, but sometimes they're just a little too spicy for her. We often go to a little taquería in our town that serves its tacos with radishes, cilantro and green salsa. My four year old loves them and asks where the radishes are when I make tacos at home. I came up with this "recipe" once when the radishes I received from my CSA were a little too spicy for her taste. The lemon juice cuts the bitterness and spiciness of the radishes and creates a nice little salad that goes well with Mexican food (or on top of it), but also works well with other dishes. Enjoy!

Quick-Pickled Radishes

1 bunch radishes
1-2 lemons, juiced

Wash and trim the radishes, and then thinly slice them into a bowl. Add the lemon juice and season with a little salt. Let sit for about 15 minutes, stirring every once in a while to make sure all of the radishes are benefiting from the juice. Taste for seasoning--add more salt if you'd like. Let sit for another 15 minutes or so, stirring occasionally.

Serve with tacos or as a side dish.

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