Sunday, October 31, 2010

Day 74! India...Fish Curry and Pindi Chole - Rockin' Lunch! Up Next, Indonesia

In my experience, you either love Indian food, or you just can't take the heat. Personally, I love, Love, LOVE the heat (pretty good for a white girl, right?!) and the exotic Indian spices filling my house with the hint of this distant and beautiful country is truly trans-formative.  Today's Sunday lunch features, Indian Fish Curry, Pindi Chole (Chick Peas) and Tandori Naan.

But,  it's not just the smell of the spices that sends me into sensory nirvana. The colors of cumin, coriander, turmeric and garam masala are so deeply beautiful. Let me clarify - I don't mean "deep" in a groovy, 'that's really deep, man' kind of way - I mean the richness and depth of the spices are breathtaking.

Like so many countries, India's long and complex history could fill 15 blogs, so you'll be getting the abbreviated version today and I apologize in advance if anyone feels cheated. Located in South Asia, India is the 7th largest and most populated democracy (1.18 billion people) in the world. India's neighbors include Pakistan, Bhutan, China, Nepal, Bangladesh and Burma.

India's cooking traditions date back about 5,000 years and vary widely from region to region. Vegetarianism is widely practiced through out the country and reflects a long history of spice trade as well religious, spiritual and cultural beliefs. Staples, ingredients and spices typical to India include but are not limited to: rice, red lentils, pigeon peas, chick peas, tomatoes, potatoes, chilli pepper, cumin, turmeric, ginger, coriander, cloves, cardamom and nutmeg.
I used Basmati rice for this meal-it's got a wonderful taste and texture that off-sets the heat of the accompanying dishes
 HOT peppers - I used a whole pepper in the pindi chole, but my friend Sangeeta would have used 2 - go for it if you like really, really, hot!
 Garlic, ginger and hot peppers give the pindi chole zip and a kick - two things I enjoy and seek in both food and life.
 Cilantro and ginger flavor the vegetable dish - a fine vegetarian main course served up with rice
 Once in a while you get lucky when taking a picture. My kitchen is flooded with natural sunlight most of the day. The light filtering through the windows back-lit the papery onion skin and shown the texture of the ginger in a way that artificial lighting never could have captured.
 I chose Talapia for this dish because it holds up well, and - yeah, it's pretty cheap and sometimes you just gotta work with what you've got - or don't got - in your wallet.
 Ground Turmeric - such a beautiful spice

Tandori Naan, a lovely Indian bread accompanied the meal. I have made it from scratch before, but it hasn't been nearly as good as the store-bought brand I like best: Fabulous Flats, which is available in most supermarkets
And there you have it. A beautiful and spicy Sunday lunch!

Pindi Chole (Chick Peas) -(Recipe's original source unknown)

  • 1 can chick peas
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 1/2 inch piece of ginger, 3/4 shredded finely for garnish
  • 2-3 Tbsp. oil
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 2 tsp. garlic, freshly crushed
  • 2 green chilies, sliced (I used 1)
  • 3 medium sized tomatoes, chopped
  • 2 tsp. ground coriander
  • 1 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp. turmeric powder
  • 1//2 tsp. red chili powder (or to taste)
  • Salt to taste
  • 1/2 tsp. garam masala
  • finely chopped coriander leaves

  1. Finely chop ginger. Heat oil and saute onions until golden, then add garlic and chopped ginger and green chilies. Saute for 5 minutes.
  2. Add tomatoes, coriander, cumin, turmeric and chili powder and saute over low heat until the oil separates.
  3. Add chick peas, about a cup of water, salt and half the coriander leaves. Simmer, uncovered until the liquid has been absorbed (but do not dry out)
  4. Add a pinch of garam masala and serve pindi chole sprinkled with remaining coriander leaves and shredded ginger.

Indian Fish Curry

  • 1 1/2 lbs. white fish (I used Talapia)
  • 2 medium onions
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbsp. ginger, minced
  • 4 Tbsp. tomato paste
  • 2/3 cup of water
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 tsp. white cumin seeds or powder (I used powder)
  • 1 tsp. turmeric powder
  • 1 tsp. garam masala powder

  1. Cut the fish into medium sized pieces.
  2. Heat the ghee (clarified butter) in a frying pan and fry the fish pieces gently for 5 minutes. Drain the fish on kitchen paper towels and set aside.
  3. Chop one onion finely and grate the other one.
  4. Add the chopped onion to the ghee in the pan and fry until golden.
  5. Add all spices and cook stirring for 10 minutes
  6. Now add the grated onion, garlic, ginger and tomato puree. Fry the mixture until the ghee starts to separate.
  7. Add the water and salt. Bring the mixture to a boil. Add friend fish pieces. Reduce the heat and simmer for about 10 minutes.
  8. Serve over hot rice or roti.

Final Assessment:  We all loved this meal!  It was hot, spicy, light and beautiful to look at. A perfect Sunday lunch that I'll definitely make again.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Day 73! Iceland...A New Twist on Tradition: Pönnukökur - Icelandic Pancakes - Up Next, India

Check out the awesome back-story on Skyr, the ingredient that rocked today's recipe...

After spending several days combing the web for Icelandic recipes with no inspiration, I randomly picked up the November issue of  Food and Wine magazine while sitting in the dentist's office. Shaz'am, as if by divine intervention, the first article I turned to featured  Siggi Hilmarsson, an Icelandic entrepreneur who single handedly brought Siggi's Skyr, the traditional yogurt of Iceland, to the United States. Transplanted to New York City and feeling homesick for his native land, he began experimenting in his kitchen, gradually perfecting the ancient recipe, testing it first on friends, then with the public. Talk about a sign!

Check out the flavor varieties!
So I got to thinking...I'd seen a recipe for Pönnukökur, Icelandic Pancakes, that called for sour cream. Why couldn't Skyr be substituted for the sour cream? Why not??!!  Now, when inspiration strikes, I'm all over it - so I hit up Whole Foods, my go-to store for all ingredients hard to find. And...wait for it... there it was - elegant in non-fussy packaging AND on sale. How cool is that?! The Nordic gods were watching over me.

The beautiful island country of Iceland was settled in 874 AD, reportedly by a Norweigian Cheiftan, Ingolfur Arnarson. Located in the North Atlantic Ocean, Iceland is volcanically and geologically active. Despite being just outside of the Arctic Circle, Iceland is warmed by the Gulf Stream and so enjoys a temperate climate.

Some of the foods commonly eaten in Iceland include lamb, dairy, fish and bread. Pickling, fermenting, brining, drying and smoking are frequently used techniques to cure meat and fish.
 This was my first time trying Siggi's yogurt, and I am FOREVER a fan. I like it better than Greek yogurt (which I also like), because it's lighter and not as chalky. Also, it's got the perfect balance of tart and sweet.
 Cinnamon adds a lovely taste and smell to the batter

 Beautiful strawberries bring forth the last taste of summer as fall sets in (I'm so in denial)
Once again, I prefer to use one of my old, simple machine tools. This was my grandmother's hand beater and I love it - don't get me wrong - I use my KitchenAid for most big jobs, but when I want to whip up a batch of heavy cream, this is the tool I prefer.
 I used turbano sugar and confectioners sugar for dusting
 Is there anything lovelier than fresh whipped cream? No - I thought not.
The batter sits up for 20 minutes to rest before cooking
For an interesting twist on a traditional recipe, I used blueberry skyr in place of sour cream - Unbelievably good!

 Pönnukökur - Icelandic Pancakes (Adapted from a recipe by Connie Magnusson)

  • 1/2 cup Skyr
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda, dissolved in hot water
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • Brown and confectioners sugar for dusting

  1. Combine yogurt, eggs, cinnamon, salt, baking soda, milk and vanilla. Add to flour, baking powder, mixing to a smooth batter. 
  2. Let rest 20-30 minutes.
  3. Heat and rub bottom of a fairly heavy griddle or crepe pan with butter.
  4. Lift off heat and pour on a small amount of batter, tipping pan until entire bottom is covered.
  5. Replace on heat.
  6. When bottom is cooked (bubbles appear on top), turn and brown the other side.
  7. Place on a plate and sugar each with equal parts of brown and white sugar.
  8. Roll each pancake up and serve warm, topped with whipped cream and strawberries or jam.

Final Assessment: This was a wonderful twist on a traditional recipe. The fresh whipped cream and strawberries were the perfect accompaniment to the meal. And, the skyr...I could go on and on!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Day 72! Hungary - The Last of the "H" countries: Chicken Paprikash and Spaetzle - Up Next, Iceland

Way back in the day, I worked for a foster care agency. At the inexperienced and cocky age of 26, I had the dually awesome and terrifying responsibility of supervising kids placed in temporary foster homes. One of my favorite foster mothers was a Hungarian woman named Ava who welcomed me into her warm kitchen and showed me how to make Hungarian Chicken Paprikash and Spaetzle on one of my many visits. It's been a long time since I've seen Ava, but I have still have her recipe and I hope this does it justice!

Hungary is a landlocked country in Central Europe, bordered by Austria, Slovakia, Ukraine, Romania, Serbia, Croatia and Slovenia. Hungary's capital is Budapest.

Cuisine in this beautiful, ancient country is characterized by the traditions and customs of the Magyar, the primary ethnic group. Hungarians enjoy meats, seasonal fruits and vegetables, fresh bread, cheese and honey.

Hot paprika lends heat and spice to Hungarian food that most European countries do not share. Sweet paprika, garlic, black peppercorns and parsley are also commonly used to season soups, stews and many other dishes.
 Saute green peppers and onions
 Add chicken, lightly dusted with flour. The original recipes calls for bone in chicken pieces, but I didn't have any on hand, so I improvised with boneless chicken breast
 My love affair with sea salt continues...

 Ingredients for the spaetzle - flour, eggs, water, salt, melted butter

And I just really love this old bowl
 My in-house action-shot photographers were MIA, so it was virtually impossible to capture the technique used to form the spaetzle without dropping the knife on my foot or the camera in the pot - but you get the general idea...scrape about a spoonful of dough off the edge of the plate into boiling salted water. These are probably a little bigger than they should have been
The spaetzle are done when they rise to the surface of the boiling water, which they do very quickly and only the require a minute or two to cook through.

Hungarian Chicken Paprikash (Adapted from Ava's original recipe)

  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 green pepper, chopped
  • 2 small peeled or canned tomatoes
  • 1 tsp. pepper
  • 2 Tbsp. Hungarian paprika
  • 1 3 pound chicken, or about 2 lbs. boneless breasts or thighs
  • 1/3 cup sour cream
  • flour for dusting chicken
  • salt and pepper to taste

  1. Brown onions and add green peppers, pepper, paprika, salt and pepper. 
  2. Lightly dust chicken with flour.
  3. Add to onions and brown
  4. Add tomatoes and simmer till cooked. 
  5. Add sour cream, do not allow to boil as sour cream will curdle.
  6. Serve atop spaetzle and be sure to ladle plenty of sauce ontop!

Hungarian Spaetzle

  • 2-1/2 cups flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 Tbsp. butter
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • Dash of pepper

  1. Add flour, salt and pepper to a large mixing bowl.
  2. Add water, eggs and melted butter.
  3. Mix ingredients together until lumps are gone and dough is elastic, but  not stiff.
  4. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
  5. Spoon batter onto a flat plate.
  6. Using a knife or spoon, cut about a spoonful of batter at a time from the edge of the plate into the boiling water. The spaetzle will rise quickly to the surface, and only need a few minutes to cook once they've popped to the surface.
  7. Remove spaetzle to a colander, giving them a quick rinse and drain.

Final Assessments:  If my boys could eat this once a week, they would. I, on the other hand, would have an ass the size of Hungary, so this dish shall forever remain a delicious, special treat. A+

Saturday, October 23, 2010

It won't do to dream of caramel, to think of cinnamon and long for you...

It won't do to dream of caramel, 
to think of cinnamon 
and long for you
 ~Suzanne Vega~
Car-mel, cara-mel, caramel, however you pronounce it, this must be the thing the angels serve up in Heaven. Dear God, one silky spoonful of this sauce, and you will never, I promise you, never buy the store bought stuff again. I have seen the light and it's golden.

I've had this recipe tucked away in a folder since 2005, when I first sampled it on Martha's Vineyard. Shame on me for waiting 5 years to make it. A big shout-out to Amy Miller, a family friend, and professionally trained pastry chef who specializes in cakes, pastry and all things chocolate. A reliable source tells me that Amy's grandfather was the head chocolatier (I don't know if that's a real word) at Hershey's. Now that's some serious confectionary credibility right there.
 I love that this recipe uses lemon juice. The acidity of the lemon cuts the sweetness that can often be cloying in many caramel sauces, and brightens the flavor considerably.
 Just a gentle squeeze from half a lemon will do it.
 This recipe calls for salted butter. I generally only have unsalted butter on hand, so I improvised with sea salt. How do I love thee salt?
 Use a wooden spoon while cooking the syrup. Metal conducts heat and this concoction is like molten lava.
 Keep the syrup at a gentle boil and watch carefully as it begins to turn golden.
 I used a metal spoon so the camera would pick up the color, but stick with wood!
 Now the syrup has turned a deep golden color. Watch it carefully and rely on your sense of smell as well as your eyes to avoid scorching the sugar, which would make it bitter and un-tasty.
 Okay, let me tell you, it was NOT easy to pour cream into molten sugar while taking the picture. I got lucky with this one!
I made sundae's for my kids, but this caramel sauce can be served warm or cool on just about anything - use your imagination.

Caramel Sauce (Adapted from Amy Miller's original recipe)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • Squeeze of lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup salted butter (or unsalted butter with 1/2 tsp. sea salt)
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream

  1. Boil the syrup till it begins to turn golden around the edges.
  2. Lower the heat a bit, continue boiling to a deep golden color; it will darken rapidly.
  3. Meanwhile, combine and heat the butter and cream until warm and melted.
  4. Remove from the heat. Slowly, carefully add butter and cream - it will sputter and spatter up - Beware!
  5. Return to low heat, stir until completely melted and smooth. 
  6. Cool and serve hot or chilled.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Pardon me, would you have any Grey Poupon?

Who among us doesn't love good mustard? French, coarse, honey, name it, there are millions of flavors and brands on the market, some better than others. Just imagine, a beautiful corned beef on dark rye, slathered with spicy brown deli-mustard or..........oh, sorry, I was drifting off into a deluxe hot dog fantasy.

But, before I get into this wonderful recipe, I have to give mad props and a shout out to the sources that inspired me to stay home on a Friday night to make mustard - really, who does that? It all started with a Facebook post by David Lebovitz, a food blogger living in Paris, who along with his own awesome foodie adventures, often posts links to other bloggers who are doing insanely cool things. The link led me to Hank Shaw's blog, honest-food, which I consider to be the zenith, the apex - no, the sick-nastiest foodie blog I've come across...possibly ever.

Here's how the mustard deal went down......and once you realize how easy it is to make, you'll be down too.

Start with a nice clean jar - it doesn't need to be a mason jar - any kind that has a tight seal will do. I just happen to like the way these look, and since I have a thing for glass, I tend to collect all kinds of interesting containers to decant stuff into. I know, don't say it - I stay in Friday nights to make mustard and I collect glass containers - I'm a freak - there, I said it.
 You can use a little coffee grinder or a mortar and pestle to grind the seeds, but I like my mustard coarse, so I opted for the old fashioned way - plus, I really, really, really like this tool.
 Grind the mustard seeds up - making sure to leave plenty whole.
 Okay - besides glass, I love. Love, LOVE salt. This is coarse sea salt.

 I used this lovely raw honey to sweeten up the mustard from  Kirk Webster, a Vermont bee keeper - Rock on Kirk!
p.s. Thanks for the gift Bill&Kat
I used straight up golden sherry because I love the rich flavor
 I had chives in my garden, so I used those - just snipped 'em up and blended them in
There she is - my lovely jar of mustard that will now sit for 24 hours before I can use it. I'm already planning to use it on a ham, a mongo deli-style sandwich and salad dressing.

Mustard - Makes about 1 cup (Recipe adapted from honest-food)

  • 5-6 Tbsp. mustard seeds
  • 1/2 cup mustard powder
  • 3 Tbsp. vinegar (cider, white wine or sherry) - I used straight up sherry
  • 1/2 cup white wine or water (I used both)
  • 2 tsp. salt


  • 2 Tbsp. honey
  • 2 Tbsp. grated horseradish
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh herbs (anything you like)

1. Grind the whole mustard seeds for a few seconds in a spice or coffee grinder, or by hand with a mortar and pestle. You want the seeds to remain mostly whole because you are using mustard powder too.
2. Pour the semi-ground seeds into a bowl and add the salt and mustard powder. If using, add one or more of the optional ingredients too.
3. Pour in the vinegar and wine or water, then stir well. When everything is incorporated, pour into a glass jar and store in the fridge. Wait at least 24 hours before using. Keeps for several months in the fridge.