Monday, September 21, 2015

FISH MOLEE--A SIMPLE CURRY


This is a direct recipe taken from a favorite cookbook, "Indian Food and Folklore" edited by Jo Lethaby. It is also known as a "white curry." This is so simple it needs no adjustments or ad libs. It is also a great introduction to anyone eating or cooking Indian food for the first time. The ingredients are easy to find, and if you start with a really nice piece or two of fish, you will be as pleased with this as I was. I think this goes great with rice.

1/2 lb fillet of firm, white fish, like cod (make sure it has no bones, as this is very saucy and it could be hard to spot bones)
1/2 tsp turmeric
2 Tbl ghee or vegetable oil
1 tsp salt
1 medium onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
1 Tbl finely grated fresh ginger
1 Tbl curry powder
1 or 2 small red chiles, cut in half lengthwise and deseeded
1-1/2 c thick unsweetened coconut milk (Trader Joe's has a great thick coconut milk in a brown can)

Sprinkle the turmeric and salt over the top sides of the fish fillets and let them sit while you make the sauce.

In a heavy deep skillet, heat the ghee, add the onion, garlic and ginger and fry over low heat for 3 minutes until softened.

Stir in the curry powder and chiles, cook, stirring constantly for a couple more minutes.

Pour in the coconut milk, and stirring constantly, bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer the sauce for about 5 minutes, or until it has thickened slightly--keep stirring.

Add the fish and cook gently for another 8 minutes or so, or until the fish flakes easily and is cooked through.

Serve over steamed rice or even mashed potatoes/sweet potatoes. In fact, this would be a good way to cook parboiled potatoes, cauliflower and other vegetables, which would be vegetarian or vegan depending on the ghee/oil used.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

PULLED (Your Leg) SHREDDED BBQ (VEGAN, BABY!)


This is where I get hit by the proverbial lightening. I live in the homeland of pulled pork BBQ. In fact, if the wind shifts slightly south east, I get wafts of one of the best BBQ places in Tidewater Virginia, because it is literally 1/4 mile right through the woods from my house. But hey, I am all about tilting windmills, so here goes . . . VEGAN BBQ! Yes, VEGAN BBQ!  Seems like an odd concept, but think about it, if you grew up loving pulled pork BBQ, but have chosen to be vegan, you probably really miss it. SO I have made up a vegan version, and it is tangy, sweet, hot, has lots of texture, and is made with very basic things anyone has in their kitchen or can easily get at their markets. I focused on a smokey, slightly hot, sweet but vinegary sauce, but you could also make it with any flavors you wanted. The shredded part is easy, and the sauce is totally adjustable, even as you cook this.

So here it is before I forget what I did:

1 pint of fresh mushrooms
1 medium onion
4 cloves garlic
a few Tbl. olive oil
1 large potato, peeled

Sauce*:
(check labels to make sure it is vegan, no animal products of any kind)
1/4 to 1/2 c Ketchup  or tomato paste
1/8 c molasses
4 Tbl vinegar
1/2 tsp dried chipotle powder
5 or 6 slices of pickled jalapeno slices
salt
pepper
2 tsp raw sugar

*these are all approximate, see the end section about balancing out your flavors. This recipe can come out fairly hot.

Cut the onions into very thin wedges, and separate all the crescents. Thinly slice the mushrooms, and then cut the slices into matchstick shaped pieces. This does not need to be exact, but you want everything to mimic the same shred shape. Peel and chop the garlic.


Heat the olive oil in a large skillet and add the onions, garlic and mushrooms. Saute until the onions start to caramelize and the mushrooms soften. Salt and pepper to taste. Now you are going to kind of build the sauce around the ingredients in the pan. Squirt in a couple of circles of ketchup, a small circle of molasses and about 4 Tbl of vinegar.


Stir, and let this simmer together for a couple minutes. Chop about 5 or 6 slices of pickled jalapenos and add those in. The mixture should be a bit soupy.


This is when you grate the potato and stir into the pan.
 
               
Let this simmer for a few more minutes and add in about 1/2 tsp. of powdered chipotle, which will add some heat as well as some smoky flavors. Simmer for a few more minutes. You will see the sauce is thickening with the potatoes, which should cook quickly because they are shreds. Adjust salt and pepper to taste. See note below for adjustments to the sauce, and once you get the flavor you want, let it simmer a few minutes until the flavors are all balanced and the shredded vegetables are all cooked through.

At this point, taste your sauce and if it's too sweet, you want it more acidic, in which case, add a little more vinegar, or a little pickling juice from the jalapenos. If it seems too hot and too acidic, add some more ketchup, a little at a time. If you want more heat, add more jalapenos, or more smoky chipotle powder. I just kind of taste and adjust at this point because if you are using commercial products like ketchup, they all taste a little different. Today this almost got to the taste I wanted but needed a wee more sweetness. I did not want a strong molasses taste so I added 2 tsp of raw sugar. This kind of BBQ is often served on a bun with a tangy coleslaw, and for a vegan coleslaw it may be more vinegary that mayonnaise based, so consider the balance of the BBQ with the overall sandwich ingredients. I kept mine sweet and hot because I anticipate a more vinegar based coleslaw.

LOOKS LIKE LOUKOUMADES


I decided last night that I wanted to make Loukoumades, traditional Greek donuts drizzled in honey and topped with chopped nuts. By the time I woke up, the plan had evolved, and included not only the traditional ones, but a chocolate version with a different sauce altogether. I have made a version of these on other occasions, but I was not in love with the recipe, so I developed my own, and then added some chocolate. What else could make the perfect fried donut better?

The thing I did not like about the recipe I have used in the past, is that it was basically like a stiff pizza dough, and everything I have seen about these treats shows a wet stretchy dough. So I just made a sweet bread dough with less flour, added a little lemon zest, and then halved it, and added some cocoa powder to the second half. This is a pretty close approximation of what I did this morning. All the measurements are exact except the cocoa which I kind of (I am not going to say fudged) threw in willy nilly.

2 tsp rapid rise yeast
3 Tbl sugar
2 cups flour and some for kneading
1 tsp salt
lemon or orange zest, about 2 tsp?
2 Tbl? cocoa powder (I used dark cocoa powder)
1 cup of very hot water

honey for drizzling
1 oz chopped nuts

vegetable oil for deep frying

In a medium sized bowl, add yeast, sugar, salt and the hot water, stir to mix well. Let this get frothy for a few minutes. Stir in 2 cups of flour until it makes a very wet sticky dough. (Add a little more if it's too sticky to handle the next part). Put half the dough in a second bowl, and stir in the cocoa until it's well blended. It will mix a little during the short kneading, too

Take each piece of dough and knead them on a lightly floured surface until they are still very soft but don't totally stick to your hands. Set in a greased bowl and cover. let rise for about 30 minutes. I would put them in two bowls, as they got more inflated and stickier, they kind of stuck together)



The dough will rise, and get fairly soft and airy. Pull them out of the bowl and set them on a lightly floured plate or surface without deflating the dough.


In a heavy saucepan, heat enough oil to allow the donuts to float freely when frying them. Heat over medium high heat until the oil is 350 degrees. You will want a draining area and a slotted spoon. I line a cookie rack with either paper or cloth toweling.


To fry, carefully pull off small walnut sized balls of dough and place them carefully in the hot oil. You can use your hands, or cut the dough with a very sharp knife. I like the freeform shapes that come from doing it by hand, and I think they don't deflate as much. I put plain AND chocolate dough balls in at the same time because it is hard to tell when the chocolate donuts are the right golden color.


They will brown somewhat quickly, and you will need to roll them over with a slotted spoon or tongs part way through the cooking. They will puff up in the hot oil, so do not crowd the pan. Cook them in batches.


Once they are all cooked, but still hot, place them in a serving dish and drizzle them with honey and sprinkle with chopped nuts. In the case of the chocolate ones, I had some commercially made red wine and fruit sauce which I heated slightly and drizzled over the loukoumades.


You could even drizzle these with a really nice maple syrup, or toss them in either powdered sugar, or regular sugar and cinnamon. This should make about 20 little donuts. Serve hot.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

CALLALOO--WHAT'S NOT TO LIKE?


Sometimes I just run across something that sends me in a direction I was not even thinking of going in, like the chance purchase of callaloo greens in an international market. They caught my eye when I was looking for fresh curry leaves, and I just KNEW I wanted to make them.

I have been familiar with the dish of the same name, which is Jamaican and also Trinidadian, and perhaps common in other cuisines as well. Many people in the states substitute kale or other greens for the callaloo greens, which is bitter and somewhat hearty in flavor and texture. I looked this dish up in some of my many many cookbooks and also watched some youtube videos to get the range and common notes for this dish. This is often made with fish, but I added chicken. If you eliminate the chicken here, you will have a great vegan recipe.

I decided to try making this with what I had on hand, so I opted for a Jamaican version, primarily because the spice profile was something I had in the cupboard. The following recipe is what I worked through and the spice blend, which I mixed myself, is a specific combination I found on line (I do not recall where). This will make more than you need for the recipe here, but it should keep just fine in the fridge).


Jamaican Callaloo

1 large onion, cut into wedges
3 Tbl of Jamaican curry powder (see recipe at the end of recipe to make your own, this is different than a generic curry powder off the shelf)
3 ribs celery, sliced
1 tsp allspice
2 tsp thyme
1 inch knob of fresh ginger, masked or minced as small as possible
5 or 6 skinless boneless chicken thighs, cut into slightly smaller pieces, but not chopped
¼ c vegetable oil
1 hot chile, like a jalapeno, kept whole
2 lbs chopped and cleaned fresh callaloo (the stems are good, too, but you need to peel the outer layer off of them as they are very tough)
1 cup of coconut cream or thick coconut milk, unsweetened

Serve with steamed rice and a dash or two of hot pepper sauce and chopped peanuts for garnish

In a large bowl, mix 3 Tbl of curry powder and toss with 1 large onion, sliced in wedges, 3 ribs celery, sliced, 1 additional tsp allspice, 2 additional tsp thyme, fresh if possible; about 1 inch knob of fresh ginger, cut into fine matchsticks or mashed, 5 to 6 skinless boneless chicken thighs. Set aside at room temperature for at least an hour. 


Heat oil in a deep cook pot, brown chicken mixture and cook until chicken is browned, and partially cooked and onion is translucent. 



You can simmer a whole unpunctured hot chile pepper in the broth, Add a little water if needed to keep spices from scorching. Remove hot pepper, the longer it stays in the hotter it will be though. 



Add in 2 lbs of cleaned and shredded fresh callaloo and stir and cook for about 15 minutes or so, until greens are tender and chicken is done to your liking. Add in about 1 cup coconut cream or thick coconut milk, unsweetened. 



Simmer until flavors mix. Add hot pepper sauce to taste. I garnished it with some peanuts i ground up in my spicy mortar.

Jamaican Curry Powder
Mix in a mortar/pestle and grind until the texture you want:
1 tsp black pepper
3 tsp coriander seed
3 tsp turmeric
2 tsp clove
2 tsp onion powder
2 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp thyme
2 tsp allspice
3 tsp cumin
4 tsp fenugreek seeds
2 tsp red pepper flake
3 tsp yellow mustard seed

2 tsp star anise

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Spicy Oatmeal Peanut Butter Honey Balls


On the spur of the moment, I decided to make some no bake sweet peanut butter treats, so I went on line, looked at a few and then improvised with what I had on hand.

3/4 c rolled oats
1/2 cup chunky peanut butter
1/4 cup of butterscotch morsels
1/4 c dried cranberries
1/2 cup of shredded unsweetened coconut
1/3 cup plus 1 Tbl honey
1 Tbl of chia seeds
splash of vanilla

2 oz of raw almonds
1 tsp garam masala
1 tsp of ground, dried orange peel

Put the first 8 ingredients in a bowl, and mix thoroughly. Then take a Tbl. or so of the mixture and roll it in the palms of your hands, letting it soften and compress into a ball. Lay out on plate or pan until you've made all of the balls. You'll get a dozen or so.

In a food processor or blender, grind together the almonds, garam masala and orange peel until it forms a course meal. You don't want it to be powdery, but you want it even and small enough to make a nice coating.


Roll the balls in the almond crumbs and set back on the plate. refrigerate for about 20 minute or so to set up the peanut butter and honey, and then transfer to a closed container. These can be stored at room temperature.

Don't be afraid to swap out the stuff like the morsels and the cranberries, they seem to be just hanging out on the rest of the dough.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

VEGETABLE CALZONES


Calzones are one of my favorite things to make when I want something that can be made in a large batch and then frozen for later use. The batch I made today are not only vegetarian but also meet the requirements to be called VEGAN, no animal products at all. This recipe uses my regular pizza dough recipe and a filling made with a lot of vegetables held together with a creamy white sauce. No cream, no cheese, no eggs. This recipe will make 12 calzones.

Start the pizza dough which rises very fast due to using rapid rise yeast, and while it is rising, make the filling--

Dough
2 cup very warm water/hot to the touch
2 Tbl. rapid rise yeast
4 tsp. salt
1 Tbl. sugar
6 Tbl. olive oil
5 to 6 c. all purpose flour


You could also buy already made dough, but with homemade you can control the ingredients.

Filling
3 Tbl olive oil
2 medium zucchini, cut into chunks
1 large onion, diced
10 mushrooms, sliced
3/4 cup chopped red or yellow pepper
1 cup cherry tomatoes
3 cloves garlic
--
4 oz fresh baby spinach leaves
3 Tbl olive oil
3 Tbl flour
1-1/2 to 2s c almond milk
salt and pepper to taste


Put very warm water in a large bowl. Add yeast, sugar, salt and stir until well dissolved. Let stand for a couple of minutes to let yeast start to foam.  Stir in olive oil, add 2 cup of the flour, stir to mix well. Add another 2 cups of flour, mixing thoroughly. Stir in the remaining flour a little at a time, until the dough stops being sticky and can be kneaded easily. Do not put too much flour in, you can always add more.

Once the dough is well mixed, and elastic, knead for about 5 minutes, or until you start seeing bubbles form under the surface of the dough. Place in an oiled bowl, rolling dough around until entire ball of dough has been oiled. Let rest in bottom of bowl, and cover with either cloth or plastic wrap. Let rise for 30 minutes, or until doubled in size. At this point, make the vegetable filling.

Saute whatever vegetables you like, keep the pieces medium size so they don't totally cool down,
and small enough to be easy to eat in a calzone

The spinach only needs to wilt, so add that in at the end.
You may want to pierce the tomatoes so they add to the moisture in the filling
Saute the first 5 vegetables and garlic in 3 Tbl olive oil until they are tender, then stir in spinach and cook until the spinach is wilted, stirring often. Season to taste with salt and pepper or any herbs you like. Set aside.

In a small saucepan, heat the 2 Tbl of olive oil and stir in the flour, whisking it until it gets smooth. Let it bubble for a minute or two, this cooks the flour a little and improves the flavor. Then pour in the almond milk. I have to admit, the amount is an estimate. Let the almond milk heat up, whisking the mixture to fully blend in the roux (flour and oil mixture). 

You could use any milk substitute here, or even vegetable broth as the liquid.

You can see the thickness of the sauce before stirring into the filling. 
You want it to be thick, so start with a lesser amount of liquid and add more as you go. you want the final sauce to be about the thickness of thick pancake batter, if that makes sense, because the juices with the vegetables will thin it out a bit. 
Let the filling cool a little before assembling the calzones.
In fact, you could make the filling first if you are not trying to save time.
Add the sauce into the vegetables and stir to completely mix. taste and add seasonings to taste. Set aside to cool.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly grease a large baking pan or cookie sheet and sprinkle with a little bread crumb or corn flour. (Check your breadcrumb ingredients to make sure it is vegan.)

The dough should be ready to use after 30 minutes. Punch down dough and place on the counter. covered with an upside down bowl to rest for ten minutes.

Divide into 12 evenly sized pieces. On a slightly floured surface, roll out a ball of dough, one at a time.  Roll until very thin and about 4 or 5"  in diameter. Place one quarter cup of the vegetables onto on center of the dough. Fold over the dough  and pinch together the edge by folding it onto the edge on top or by folding it over onto the top side and pressing with a fork. You want to make sure you have a tight seal so you don't get any sauce running out.


Notice how the sauce and the vegetables hold together, you don't want a runny filling,
it will get looser when it heats in the oven.

Leave some space around the calzones.
They do not need to be filled too much, if they aren't, they don't split while cooking.
Place on prepared pans, and repeat with other calzones. Place so they are not touching each other, so that as they rise, they will not touch. Cover with a cloth and let rise for another 15 minutes.

Bake for about 16 to 18 minutes, or until the tops are browned nicely. Remove from oven and cool on a rack. You can serve these with heated tomato sauce or eat as is. 

If you want to freeze these, lay them on the pan and put into the freezer until firmed up, and place in a plastic freezer bag. Reheat for about 15 minutes in a preheated 400 degree oven.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Bucatini with Almonds, Sun-dried Tomatoes, Olives and Orange


This dish has a much more elegant Italian name, and it is not my recipe in any way, shape or form. I found this recipe in a cookbook called Regional Cooking of Southern Italy, by Marlena De Blasi, who also has a companion book of Northern Italian regional recipes. I like the books because they have a very stylized writing style and include a lot of background and context to the regions and the recipes.
The recipe here, Pasta alle Mandorle e Pomodorini Secchi di Santa Maria al Bagna (Pasta with almonds and sun-dried tomatoes in the manner of Saint Mary of the Bath) is quite different than many pasta sauces, you may actually find it is more of a dressing. I really liked it, and will be using the sauce part as a focaccia topping soon, as recommended by my chef sister Cindy. Cindy lives and breathes this stuff, and she never steers me wrong.

As usual, when I present a recipe from a cookbook, I offer it as it is written and then add commentary where I deviated or improvised.

  • 4 fat cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
  • Zest of a large orange, removed in strips with a potato peeler (I was impressed by how easy this was! It will remain my preferred way of taking off orange peel.)
  • 2/3 c. extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 oz. of blanched almonds, coarsely chopped
  • 1 small, dried red pepper, crushed, or 1/2 tsp dried red pepper flakes
  • 1 cup of good red wine
  • 4 oz. sun-dried tomatoes, drained of their oil, and thinly shredded
  • 4 oz. dried black olives, pits removed (I could not find dried olives, but I used a dark, oil cured black olive that looked slightly wrinkled. I think you want a dark, strong flavor of olive, not necessarily a briny tart flavored one, so I would not substitute a kalamata for example, although that might be a nice balance of flavors too?)
  •  12 oz. bucatini or other long dried pasta shape (who am I kidding, I used the whole pound box, and I would go with a heftier pasta shape if you don't do bucatini, not a thin one like an angel hair)
  • 1 handful of torn basil leaves for garnish
Step one, I took the orange peel and the garlic and chopped them with a sharp knife continually until they became very small pieces, than I put them in my mortar and pestle and mashed them into somewhat of a paste. (It got juicy and smashed but never really became paste, in my opinion.)



I set this aside and then prepped the almonds, which I needed to blanch, because the store did not have blanched almonds. I had raw almonds in the pantry, so I just boiled them for two minutes, and then drained them, put them on a clean kitchen towel and then rubbed them between the fabric. Most of the skins popped right off, and in fact it was kind of fun. The fresh blanching also created a nice subtle texture in the almonds. Coarsely chop the almonds.


The next ingredient for prepping were the olives, if you buy them pitted, I would recommend tearing them in half so they are a bit ragged. I bought olives with pits, and I found that pitting them with my fingers rather than a knife or a tool was easier and created a nice rough texture. Plus, I could feel if I got the hard pit all the way out. Then I got the sun-dried tomatoes out, and cut them into shreds as best I could, and switched over to kitchen shears. I admit that after they soaked I also took advantage of them being more supple, and I made some of them smaller then. At this point, get all of your ingredients together and prepared for the cooking part, which is super easy.


In a large skillet, heat the olive oil, and once heated, add in the almonds, and cook a minute or two, do not allow them to darken much. Then add in the orange/garlic paste as well as the red pepper (I used flakes). Saute them for a couple more minutes, or until you can smell the garlic and the orange oils releasing into the oil. Set aside.

In a small saucepan, heat the wine until simmering and add in the olives and the sun-dried tomatoes. Remove the pan from the heat, cover, and let sit for 10 minutes. This will allow the olives and tomatoes to plump up and absorb some of the wine. Remove the tomatoes and olives with a slotted spoon and simply add them directly to the skillet with the almond mixture. Continue simmering the red wine until it reduces down until it is syrupy, down to about a Tablespoons worth of liquid and add that to the rest, as well.


Cook the pasta according to directions until al dente. Drain it, but leave it with some water clinging to it so transfer immediately to a large shallow bowl. Add the sauce, warmed, toss to completely coat the pasta and distribute the ingredients and garnish with the fresh shredded basil leaves. I added a little bit of freshly grated grana padano cheese before tossing it all together.


Without the added cheese, this is totally vegan and a hearty dish if you want something with no meat, etc, that is really substantial in flavor. I think this would hold up well with any denser pasta noodle, even smaller shapes like rigatoni or orecchiette.