15 March 2013

Out of hibernation

Posted in CSA, events, food at 2:27 pm by Tricia

The confluence of our annual Pi(e) Day party and the first spring CSA pickup has awakened my blog from winter hibernation.

One of my contributions was chard pie, which I’ve blogged about before. I used Trader Joe’s puff pastry as the crust (I’d already made 2 pie crusts – for a pecan and a chocolate chip pie – and Matthew made pizza crusts). As Matthew was telling someone that the chard was grown just a few miles down the road, I started laughing and announced that there was actually not any chard in the chard pie – it included spinach, a bit of arugula (I’d eaten most of it the day before), and the ‘salad mix’ that Jennifer bagged up for us (I saw a few leaves of kale, mustard or mizuna, and lots of other things). It turned out great – you don’t need chard to make the so-called Micah’s Yummy Chard Pie. This pie now makes regular appearances at our house (without the dill :^) – we grown-ups like it, and someday soon I might be able to get Z-boy to try it (not holding my breath for the other two. Like me, they’re not fans of straight eggs. Unlike me, they’re not all that adventurous about new foods, so might not buy the ‘but really, it doesn’t taste eggy!’ line).

I was quite excited when one of my friends showed up with a shoo-fly pie. I told her it was the perfect librarian pie, because I was thinking of the book Shoo-Fly Girl, by Lois Lenski. I’ve never had it before so had no idea what to expect, but between the molasses and the texture it tastes like a piece of really good gingerbread on a crust. She used Alton Brown’s recipe. I might have to try making it myself some day soon, and I might just go back and re-read Shoo-Fly Girl.

Pi(e) Day Spread

Most of the pies that were brought to the party. Savory in the front, sweet to the back, pizzas out of view to the left. I always forget to take a picture before the feeding frenzy begins!

pie party cleanup

A lot of the dishes used during our Pi(e) Party


14 March 2012

Double Punny Pie

Posted in events, food at 11:57 am by Tricia

I bought a bag of Meyer lemons over the weekend, because I intended to make a lemon chess pie for tonight’s Pi(e) Party. After all, chess is math-geeky like pi, right? Double punny pie!

2 lemons, a spoon, and a pie

Turns out, you need at most 1 lemon for the pie, so now I have almost a full bag of Meyer lemons. I guess I’ll need to find some more recipes to use up the lemons. If you have a lemon that you don’t know what to do with, I present the following recipe from the Moosewood Book of Desserts.

Lemon Chess Pie

1 prebaked pie crust, cooled to room temperature

3/4 cup buttermilk
2 large eggs
2 egg whites
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp freshly grated lemon peel
2 Tab fresh lemon juice
2 Tab unbleached white flour
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 325° F.

Put all the ingredients into a blender and whirl until smooth (i used a hand mixer). Pour the custard into the baked pie crust and bake for about 35 minutes, until the custard is firm and set. Cool somewhat before serving.

I, of course, used my go-to pie crust recipe, cooked for 10 minutes at 400° F (with beans in the crust to weight it down, and foil around the edges). For the lemon peel, I used the zest from one of my Meyer lemons, which appeared to be more than 1/2 tsp. The same lemon yielded at least 2.5 Tab of juice (maybe 3), and all of it went into the custard base.

I haven’t tasted it yet, so perhaps I shouldn’t post the recipe now, but some people have been wondering if my blog is still alive, so I offer this untasted recipe and photo as evidence. It’s up to you to decide what claim the evidence supports!

2 December 2011

Spice Rack Challenge – Cinnamon

Posted in events, food at 6:18 pm by Tricia

While tracking down sale mint M&M’s on a recent trip to Target, I was arrested in my tracks on sighting cinnamon M&M’s. Since they were on sale, I decided to give them a try. At the checkout, the cashier (oh wait, I think they’re called associates at Target) asked if I’d had them before. She proceeded to tell me that they were all afraid to try them, because either they’d be really good (and thus dangerous) or they’d be really bad. She didn’t think there would be a middle ground. Apparently Target associates don’t get to try everything in the store, unlike Trader Joe’s team members. Anyway, I was still willing to take the chance and I’m here to tell you: yum! They’re not quite as good as the long-gone hot chocolate choxie bar, but they do taste like real cinnamon, not some fake “red hots” kind of cinnamon. The chocolate pellet is bigger than a traditional plain M, which also adds to the appeal in my opinion. I’m a big fan. Some of my family members think they are kind of odd, but nobody hates them.

And on a related note, one of my boys is a big fan of chocolate chex. Believe it or not, they (barely!) meet my criteria for sugar I’m willing to buy, weighing in at 8g of sugar per serving (my cutoff is 9). He mostly eats them as a snack (not breakfast), since Jonski Papa makes lovely whole wheat pancakes or waffles most mornings. The back of the choco chex box has a recipe for Mayan Chocolate Chex Mix. Even though it doesn’t strictly meet the challenge (there’s only cinnamon products), I present it anyway. Read on for another recipe that does include actual cinnamon.

Mayan Chex Mix

3 cups corn Chex cereal
3 cups chocolate Chex cereal
2 cups cinnamon Chex cereal
1 cup cashew pieces
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
6 Tab butter or margarine
2 Tab light corn syrup
2 tsp ground ancho chile pepper (I used 1.5 tsp ground chimayo chiles + .5 tsp smoked paprika)
1/4 tsp ground red pepper (cayenne)
1.5 tsp vanilla
1 cup cinnamon M&M’s (orig recipe calls for chocolate chips)

1. In a large microwaveable bowl, mix cereals and cashews.
2. In 2-cup microwaveable measuring cup, microwave brown sugar, nutter, corn syrup, chile and cayenne uncovered on high about 90 seconds, stirring after 1 minute, until melted and smooth. Pour over cereal mixture, stir until evenly coated.
3. Microwave uncovered on high 5 to 6 minutes, stirring after every minute. Spread on waxed paper to cool. Break into bite sized chunks, stir in M&M’s (chocolate). Store in airtight container.

It’s a bit too sweet, so if I were to make it again, I would add more nuts and some pretzels, and maybe more of the corn chex than it calls for. And to make it more in the spirit of the spice rack challenge – like, to actually use some cinnamon from the spice rack!! – you could add cinnamon with the chile powder.

Now on to some actual cinnamon. 4 or 5 years ago, we won a romertopf unglazed clay pot in a raffle. I haven’t been able to find many recipes to make with it, other than roasting chickens, but it certainly makes good roasted chicken! I borrowed Mediterranean Clay Pot Cooking by Paula Wolfert from my library, but it only had 2 recipes for unglazed pots, so wasn’t any help either. More recently, I came across this one in my Epicurious app, and was inspired to try something similar. It was quite tasty, and made a nice change from our standard plain roast chicken. We had quite a bit of leftover bulgur (only the adults were willing to try it), but it was good on reheating.

Middle-Eastern-Inspired Clay Pot Chicken

2 ounces unsalted butter
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 red onions, cut into thick rings
1 clove garlic, sliced
2 long sweet red peppers, seeded and cut into rings
1 green peppers, seeded and cut into rings
2 long green chiles, seeded and diced
1 heaped teaspoon ground cumin
1 level teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 large tomatoes, skinned, seeded and diced
2 ounces bulgur, washed
1 1/2 cups chicken stock
1 stick cinnamon
2 star anise (I might have left this out)
few sprigs thyme
1 package “pick of the chick” chicken pieces
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
diced dried apricots

1. Start the clay pot soaking.
2. Heat the butter and extra-virgin olive oil in a pan. Gently sweat the onions, garlic, peppers and chiles with the cumin and cinnamon for about 5 minutes, or until the vegetables soften. Add the tomatoes, bulgur, chicken stock, cinnamon, star anise, and thyme and bring to the boil. Lower the heat, then cover and simmer gently for 5 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, season the chicken lightly with salt and pepper (and more cinnamon, if you wish).
4. Put the bulghur mixture into the clay pot. Sprinkle with the diced apricots. Top with chicken.
5. Cover and place cooker in center of cold oven. Turn on the oven to 450 F and cook for 50 minutes. Remove lid and roast uncovered 5 to 10 minutes to brown skin slightly. (If you don’t have a clay pot, the original recipe at Epicurious gives directions for using a casserole dish.)

27 September 2011

Spice Rack Challenge: Mustard Seeds!

Posted in events, food at 8:38 am by Tricia

The challenge for this month was mustard seeds, with a nod to making summer last a little longer.

I started out by perusing Epicurious on my iPod, and I came up with a couple of recipes that looked interesting. The first was a rice dish (jasmine rice pilaf with mustard seeds). Sadly, the rice was kind of bland (even after I added salt on reheating). The mustard seeds didn’t really add much that I could tell. I also tested out green beans with red onion and mustard seed vinaigrette. The green beans were delicious at first, but when I reheated them and ate later, they were a bit too vinegary for me. I do think the onion vinaigrette has promise, though. (And true to form, I took both of these dishes to a block party!) I figured I could blog these, even though I wasn’t totally excited about them.

Flash forward to this week. Sweet corn season is on its last legs, so I bought half a dozen ears on Wednesday (and the farmer threw in an extra for free). I remembered seeing a couple of interesting corn recipes in my favorite cookbook, so imagine my excitement when I found that one of them included mustard seeds! I took what was left after dinner on Thursday and scraped the kernels off the ears and made spicy corn with sesame seeds and tomatoes.

spicy corn ingredients

most of the ingredients, assembled for one photo opp...

Spicy Corn with Sesame Seeds and Tomatoes
Tamatar Varu Makai Nu Shaak
(serves 4)

2 Tab peanut or canola oil
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1/4 tsp whole cumin seeds
generous pinch of ground asafetida
1 garlic clove, peeled and finely chopped
1 fresh hot green chile, finely chopped
1 1/2 Tab sesame seeds
1 smallish onion (3 oz), peeled and finely chopped
1/2 large green bell pepper, chopped
1 1/2 cups corn (i used cooked corn removed from cobs)
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp garam masala (i used curry powder)
1/8 tsp ground turmeric
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp paprika
1 cup chopped tomatoes (I used fresh; orig. recipe calls for canned)
3 to 4 Tab chopped fresh cilantro

Put the oil in a large nonstick frying pan and set over medium-high heat. When hot, put in the mustard and cumin seeds. As soon as the mustard seeds being to pop, a matter of seconds, put in the asafetida (if you have any!). Stir once and put in the garlic and green chile. Stir once or twice and put in the sesame seeds. As soon as the sesame seeds turn golden and/or pop, a matter of seconds, put in the onion and green pepper. Stir and fry for 5 minutes. (Catch your breath! :^)

Add the corn, salt, and garam masala. Stir and cook for a minute.
Add the turmeric, ground cumin, coriander, and paprika.
Stir and cook for a minute.
Add the liquefied tomatoes and bring to a simmer.
Cover, turn the heat down to low, and simmer gently for 10 minutes.
Uncover, add the cilantro, and stir to mix. Serve hot.

It tastes wonderful! The cookbook recommends rolling it inside a tortilla, chapati, or pita bread. We had a couple of tortillas on hand, so that’s how we ate it for lunch on Friday. I had the leftovers on Saturday by itself – also good. Stir in a spoonful of plain yogurt if you want some added creaminess. (Note: I thought I’d bought some asafetida a few months ago, to try in various recipes, but I could not find it in any spice drawer to left it out.)

All of the produce in this recipe came from my farm share. I thought the green pepper (already chopped when the photo was taken) was a poblano chile and expected it to be hot, but it wasn’t. I see now from various online sources that poblanos are rather mild, so maybe my expectations were just off! I guess I should have used one of my jalapeños (such as the one in the photo…). I expected the two red peppers to be sweet, but the first one I cut into was HOT. I think the second one was not hot, but I’d blasted my sense of taste on the first so I couldn’t be sure. Anyway, my point is: you can adjust the spiciness through pepper selection.

I bought quite a lot of mustard seeds at my local by-the-ounce purveyor of spices because I’ve been intending to make homemade mustard. I just can’t quite get up the energy to do it, though (after all, you need lots of energy to let something soak for two days!), because I don’t even like mustard. This would be for the spouse, so I’d need his participation when it comes to the final taste adjustment step. Maybe I’ll start that…tomorrow.

21 August 2011

August Spice-Rack Challenge: Cumin

Posted in events, food at 11:28 pm by Tricia

The spice rack challenge for August is cumin. As i commented on Mom’s original post, I always associated cumin with Mexican food (you know, chili powder – not to be confused with powdered chiles…). Then i encountered it in various Indian recipes in my favorite cookbook, and learned it’s in many Middle Eastern dishes as well (e.g. the baharat spice mix I used for February’s challenge).

Here are some recipes from my archives that contain cumin:

  • Turnips with Yogurt and Tomato (cumin seeds): I’ve only made it once, so it’s not yet a favorite, but I did make this about a month ago, so it’s current.
  • Spanish-Style Spinach with Chickpeas (ground cumin): This is one of my husband’s favorite dishes. He looks forward to having it when we’ve got lots of spinach in the fridge.
  • Green Beans with Cumin and Fennel (both cumin seeds and ground cumin): my favorite way to cook green beans (if you don’t mind spice with your green beans!).

And here’s a new one:  curtido, a cabbage salad with oregano from El Salvador. The original recipe also called for a cup of shredded crisp lettuce, but I didn’t have any on hand so left it out. For someone who claims she doesn’t like cole slaw, I’m posting quite a few slaw recipes this summer!

Cabbage Slaw with Oregano and Cumin (curtido)

6 cups shredded green cabbage
2 medium carrots, peeled and coarsely grated
1 tsp salt
2 Tab red wine vinegar
1/2 tsp cayenne
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 Tab olive oil

Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl and toss well to mix. Set aside for 1 hour or longer, refrigerating if necessary.

Now if I could just find where my chickens wandered off to… I guess they aren’t getting enough cumin in their diets! [joking! We have no chickens.]

17 July 2011

Spice Rack Challenge – Asian Slaw

Posted in CSA, events, food at 8:35 pm by Tricia

Update: I found out this week that what I thought was savoy cabbage was actually yukina savoy, a tasty green in the mustard family (sort of like tatsoi). Jennifer left us a note to “use it like spinach.” I guess that’s one reason it worked so well in a raw dish! I’m updating the term below because it was hard to find info about it online.

I’ve been negligent the past few months and have missed posting for the Spice Rack Challenge. May was coriander. I was getting fresh cilantro from Capella’s spring CSA, plus I have a couple of go-to recipes that include ground coriander: Spanish-style greens with chickpeas (we eat this regularly, with a variety of seasonal greens), or green beans with cumin and coriander (my favorite way to spice up green beans). But I didn’t post anything. June was mint, and I could have posted the Three-Herb Chimichurri (parsley, cilantro, and mint) from Raichlen’s How To Grill.  I originally made it to serve with grilled steaks but found it was really good on all sorts of things (such as rice, bland veggies, as a salad dressing, or whatever). But once again, I never got around to it.

The challenge for June is basil. I did intend to grow some of my own this year. I had a holy basil seedling that I potted up before leaving on 10 days of vacation. I forgot to line up anybody to water it, and left it on my porch – and it died. The other seedlings right next to it did fine, which was weird, but there you go: no home grown basil for me. But I did get some this past week from Capella Farms, so all was not lost. I’ve been planning to serve roll-your-own Vietnamese spring rolls for dinner, which ideally include Thai basil. Instead, while shopping at a Korean grocery for spring roll wrappers, I got seduced by their thinly sliced bulgogi meat. Tonight I assembled a mostly Korean feast, and included a cabbage dish from Vegetables Every Day by Jack Bishop. The inspiring recipe is called “Napa Cabbage Salad with Southeast Asian Flavors.” I had savoy cabbage yukina savoy and no fish sauce, so modified it somewhat. I’m not big on cole slaw – or cabbage for that matter! – but this combo was really fabulous – the mix of fresh herbs is a great taste sensation. If I were given to hyperbole, I might say something like “a party in your mouth,” but instead I will bow to Bishop’s words when he writes that “the flavors are bright and crisp.” A bright, crisp, flavorful party in your mouth…

Bonus! This recipe actually includes basil AND mint AND coriander (in the form of fresh cilantro), so it kind of makes up for missing the past two months!

green (and orange!) ingredients from Capella

Asian Slaw

yukina savoy cabbage, chopped into thin strips
2 medium carrots, peeled and shredded on the large holes of a box grater
12 large basil leaves, cut into thin strips
12 large fresh mint leaves, cut into thin strips
2 Tab minced fresh cilantro leaves
2 Tab lime juice
a few drops of worcestershire sauce (original recipe calls for 1.5 Tab fish sauce)
1 or 2 Tab diced green chiles from the freezer (recipe calls for 1 small Thai red chile, stemmed, seeded, and minced)
1 tsp sugar
1 Tab toasted sesame oil (original calls for 2 Tab roasted peanut oil )
1/4 cup roasted peanuts, roughly chopped

1. Place the yukina savoy cabbage, carrots, and herbs in a large bowl.

2. Whisk the lime juice, worcestershire, chile, and sugar together in a small bowl. Stir occasionally to help the sugar to dissolve, about 10 minutes. Whisk in the oil.

3. Pour the dressing over the salad and toss to combine. Add the peanuts, toss, and serve immediately.

leftover slaw (bright crisp party in the bowl)

20 April 2011

Chard Pie (with dill!)

Posted in events, food at 8:19 pm by Tricia

The Spice Rack Challenge this month is dill. Dill. Should be easy, right? Except I don’t like dill. In fact, it is perhaps my least favoring herb/spice/seasoning. I’m not entirely sure why – maybe because it reminds me too much of (dill) pickles, and I don’t like pickles. I guess that really makes this a challenge!

I was flipping through my collection of vegetable-leaning cookbooks this weekend, looking for something to use up some of the greens I’ve been getting from my Capella Farm spring CSA. In particular, the kale and chard have been feeling neglected and unloved in my fridge. In From Asparagus to Zucchini, I noticed a recipe called Micah’s Yummy Chard Pie that includes dill! Ha, proverbial two birds with one stone. So tonight, I made it.

The recipe is for two pies. I just made one – it’s easy enough to half the ingredients. I also made mine in an 8×8 baking dish, because I was using a sheet of puff pastry from my freezer (in the interest of saving time).

Micah’s Yummy Chard Pie
8 servings per pie
page 57 in From Asparagus to Zucchini: A Guide to Cooking Farm-Fresh Seasonal Produce

2 Tab olive oil or canola
1.5 cups chopped onions
1 Tab minced garlic or several chopped garlic scapes
1 very large bunch or 2 med bunches Swiss chard, stems removed and leaves chopped
6-8 eggs (I used 3 in my 1 pie)
2 cups milk or half-and-half (I used milk)
1 tsp salt
2 8-inch deep-dish pie shells
2 cups grated cheddar or Swiss cheese (I used manchego and cheddar)
chopped ham, cooked bacon, diced tomatoes, chopped basil, blanched peas, or green beans (optional)
1-2 Tab chopped fresh dill

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium flame. Cook the onion, stirring occasionally, until tender. Add the garlic in the last few minutes of cooking (to avoid burning it). Add chopped greens and cook, stirring often, until they wilt. Turn off heat

Beat eggs, milk, and salt in a bowl. Spread chard mixture in bottom of pie shells. Add cheese. Pour egg mixture over top. Add one or more of the optional ingredients, if desired. (Sorry, Micah, I didn’t use any!) sprinkle with dill (this I did – and I used quite a bit, in the spirit of the challenge.)

Bake at 400 degrees F until the pies are no longer jiggly in the center, 30-40 minutes.

I’m not that big on eggy tasting dishes, so I often avoid recipes that have lots of eggs, but not this time. I’m glad I tried it – it really was yummy, and it wasn’t even very eggy. The only problem is that my audience all disappeared (to a $1/ticket college baseball game) when I put it in the oven, so I ate alone. I guess I know what we’ll be having for dinner tomorrow!

yummy chard pie

square quiche-like chard dish: it really is yummy!

About the dill: we’ve been getting herbs in our weekly share, but not dill. I stopped at a local grocery store on my way home, but they were out of dill in the fresh herbs section. Then I noticed they were selling live herb plants – including dill. Given my dislike of it, I was really tempted to just pinch some off the plants and sneak it out in my pockets. I’d be helping prune the plants, right? A service? But no, that would be stealing. So I bought one. (Now what am I going to do with a dill plant? I suppose I could try some of the other dishes arising from this challenge!)

And you know what? I couldn’t even taste it! It was overwhelmed by the onions or chard. I’m thinking that’s kind of cheating, for the purposes of the Spice Rack Challenge. I should make something else – maybe one of the recipes where I usually leave out dill… such as feta-stuffed cucumber boats, or spanakorizo. I’ve already made one batch of spanakorizo using my share, I suppose I could make another with this week’s spinach and some more pinches from the plant. I’ve never added the dill, so perhaps I should!

Two notes: as I was typing this up, I noticed another recipe for chard pie at the top of the page. The main differences? No suggestion for optional add-ons, and no dill! And then when I was turning to the cucumber section to see if this book is the source of a dish I remember leaving dill out of, I saw they have a dill section! Granted, it’s only 4 recipes on one page, but there you go.

photo of live dill plant

Anetham graveoleus, with carminative properties!

19 March 2011

Cardamom Challenge

Posted in events, food at 9:46 pm by Tricia

Being the procrastinator that I am, I was waiting until this weekend to prepare my dishes for the March Spice Rack Challenge. But as it turns out, we also picked this weekend to install the remaining drawer and door fronts in our kitchen. (We have an appraisal being done soon. The previous appraiser thought our house was too much “under construction” – the perpetual plight of DIYers! – so we’re tying up a few loose ends before this one arrives – nearly 2 years later. Have I mentioned that we procrastinate?) This is what the kitchen looked like when it was time to cook dinner:

messy half round counter

piles of drawer fronts on the table

other messy counter

piles of door fronts on another counter. stack on floor not visible!

March madness indeed!

The challenge spice this month was cardamom. I could refer you to my February entry, since cardamom is an ingredient in baharat, a spice mix (common in the Arabian Gulf States) that I used in my dish last month. Instead, I will give you the recipes for the dishes I was planning to make: muhammar (sweet rice, aka Bahraini pearl divers’ rice) and bathala theldada (Sri Lankan sweet potatoes with cardamom and chiles), which I would serve with a nice lemony roasted chicken or maybe some grilled lamb kebabs. If I had enough cardamom pods left, I would also make an ancient Indian drink called panaka (the variation described as ‘a cold ginger-cardamom drink with lemon and mint’). In fact, I hope to make all of these in the week to come – once the counters are again cleared of hammers, drills, and drawer fronts!

p 249 in The Complete Middle East Cookbook

serves 5-6 (“1 if you are diving”)

1/4 tsp saffron threads
3 cardamom pods, cracked
2 Tab rose water
2 cups basmati rice
6 cups water
1 Tab salt
1/3 – 1/2 cup granulated sugar or honey
1/4 cup ghee or butter

1. Place saffron and cardamom in the rose water and leave aside to steep.
2. Pick over rice and wash until water runs clear.
3. Bring 6 cups water to the boil in a heavy pan. Add salt and rice and stir occasionally until water returns to the boil. Leave uncovered and boil for 8 minutes. Drain in a colander.
4. Pour sugar or honey onto hot rice and mix through with a fork.
5. Heat ghee or butter in pan in which rice was cooked and add sugared rice. Sprinkle rose water mixture on top. Make 3 holes in rice with end of a wooden spoon.
6. Cover rim of pan with a paper towel and place lid on tightly. Cook rice over low heat for 20-25 minutes until tender.

This almost sounds like a dessert, but the author recommends you “Serve with grilled fish and roast lamb.” She also explains that it was eaten by pearl divers on the belief that “they could dive more frequently and with less ill-effect if they had sweet […] and sustaining foods” beforehand. This recipe has two less common ingredients (besides the cardamom pods), but as it turns out, I do have saffron on hand (purchased for a Paper Chef challenge that I didn’t actually complete) and rose water (purchased with this cookbook in mind, but not yet opened).

In addition to the rice and in the spirit of multicultural eating, I was also intrigued by this sweet potato recipe in my favorite cookbook (Madhur Jaffrey’s World Vegetarian, as frequent readers may recall). I figure the heat from the chiles will be a nice foil to the sweet rice and mild chicken. Tonight I would have made a half batch, because I’m down to 1 sweet potato.

Bathala Theldada
(Sri Lankan sweet potatoes with cardamom and chiles)
p 285 in  Madhur Jaffrey’s World Vegetarian
Serves 6

2 very large sweet potatoes (about 2.5 lbs)
1/4 tsp ground turmeric
5 Tab peanut or olive oil
3 whole dried hot red chiles, broken into halves
2 whole cardamom pods
1 (3-inch) cinnamon stick
20 fresh curry leaves (“substitute fresh holy basil or basil leaves for a different but equally interesting flavor”)
3 onions (about 1 1/4 lbs), cut into halves lengthwise and then into very fine half rings
1 to 3 tsp coarsely crushed dried hot red chiles
1 1/4 to 1 1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 Tab fresh lime juice, or to taste

Peel the sweet potatoes and quarter lengthwise, then cut into chunks about 3/4 inch. Put in large pot and cover well with water. Add the turmeric and bring to a boil. Stir well to mix in the turmeric. Boil, uncovered, for 5 to 6 minutes, or until the sweet potatoes are tender but still firm. [I suspect you should drain them, but it doesn’t specify in the recipe.]

Put the oil in a large frying pan and set over medium-high heat. When hot, put in the red chiles. Stir once and when the chiles darken, a matter of seconds, put in the cardamom and cinnamon. Stir once or twice and put in the curry leaves. Stir once and put in the onions. Stir and cook the onions for 5 to 6 minutes, or until they are lightly browned. Put in the sweet potatoes. Stir and fry for 5 minutes. Put in the crushed red chiles, salt, and lime juice. Stir and cook, lowering the heat as needed, until the sweet potatoes are tender enough for your taste.

Remove the cinnamon stick and cardamom pods before serving.

And finally, I was intrigued by this drink recipe, also in World Vegetarian (I told you it is my favorite!). Jaffrey writes that it was popular “about three thousand years ago. It does not exist today. That is probably a dangerous statement to make. There may well be some pocke of India […] that still prepares it […]. Perhaps I should say that I have not seen it served, nor have I ever seen a full recipe for it, just a mention in ancient texts.” But it seems to me like (non-fizzy) ginger ale with cardamom, so it can’t be too bad… I’m definitely going to try this soon.

p 644 in World Vegetarian
serves 6

2-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped
6 Tab dark brown sugar (or Jaggery if you have it)
10 cardamom pods, lightly crushed
6 Tab fresh lemon juice
fresh mint

(cold lemony-minty variation) Combine the ginger, sugar, cardamom pods, and 2 cups of water in a pan and bring to a boil. Simmer on medium low heat about 15 minutes, or until you have 1.5 cups left. Strain and cool. Add lemon juice, mix, and refrigerate. Serve in small quantities with lots of ice and mint springs. (I might mix it with fizzy water, if it’s as sweet as I suspect.)

15 March 2011

Pi(e) Day Eve

Posted in events, food at 10:48 am by Tricia

Pi Day (March 14th – 3.14 by American date conventions) was on a weekday this year. The youngest child had complained bitterly that Pi Day was a school day, and he wanted to stay home from school to have a party, etc. etc. By sheer random coincidence, he was assigned snack duty for that day. I asked his teacher if we could send in a pie (along with some healthy (and round!) tangerines) and she was fine with it. I also got the school librarian to buy a copy of Sir Cumference and the Dragon of Pi for the library, so the teacher read it to the kids on Monday morning. Not sure they quite got the concept, but maybe it’ll be easier next time they encounter it (yeah, right). They definitely enjoyed the pie!

So on Pi Day Eve (Sunday), we held our Third Annual Pi(e) Day Party. Of course, I made pecan pie (increased the pecans, used some dark Karo in place of the standard). Knowing that I was going to make a chocolate chip pie to send to school, I convinced the youngest to let me make something different for the party. I thought about making cherry pie, but heard a rumor that someone else was bringing one. I flipped through my Moosewood Desserts cookbook and was intrigued by the lemon chess pie (we had some lemons in the fridge) but decided to make the mango pie (using a package of mango chunks from the freezer). I almost used the crust from peach pie in a gingerbread crust, but decided to stick with my standard flaky buttery pastry recipe. However, it did inspire me to add diced candied ginger to the mango. Too bad I didn’t use cardamom, or it could have been my entry for this month’s Spice Rack Challenge! My version of the recipe follows.

Starry Mango Ginger Pie

starry, starry pie...

Mango Ginger Pie
based on Moosewood Restaurant Book of Desserts, p 56

top and bottom pie crust (use your favorite)
4 1/2 cups mango cubes
1 tsp freshly grated lime peel (I had to resort to lemon)
2 Tab fresh lime juice (I used jarred)
1 scant cup sugar (next time I might just use 3/4 cup)
1/4 cup chopped candied ginger
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
a pinch of ground ginger
3 Tab cornstarch

Preheat the oven to 375° F.

Roll out half the pie crust and arrange in the pie pan.

Combine all of the filling ingredients in a large bowl. Toss to coat the fruit evenly. Fill the pie shell with the fruit mixture.

Roll out the remaining crust and place on top of the filling. Trim the top crust and then crimp and flute the edges. With the tip of a paring knife, cut small sits in the top crust to allow steam to escape (or use my friend Roger’s trick, and cut out the shape of the pi-symbol).

Bake for 45 to 60 minutes, until the filling is bubbling and the pie is lightly browned. (Mine baked for 55 minutes.)

Somewhere in the past couple of weeks, I saw a lovely pie that was covered with star-shaped crust cutouts (and a solitary moon) – maybe this one at Instructables? I thought that would be more fun than a solid crust, so that’s what I did. It didn’t require that much extra time.

8 pies in a circle

pies, before cutting (and before the peach arrived)

With about 30 people, 9 pies (including one savory; see above – peach not shown), 1 homemade batch of raspberry sorbet, lots of chatting, a round of capture the flag in a muddy field, and a post-party D&D game, I’d say the party qualified as a big success! I liked the mango ginger pie, although it was not a huge hit (nearly half remained at the end of the party). T-boy tried pecan pie for the first time since he didn’t have his standard chocolate chip available, and he liked it. Now if I could just convince myself to like it, it could be the family standard!

Next year Pi(e) Day will be on a Wednesday – maybe we should have a mid-week pie dinner party? We can’t start at 1:59, but traditions have to be flexible if they are to survive…

pies, after eating

at the end of the party

27 February 2011

Indispensable Kitchen Tools

Posted in events, food at 11:23 pm by Tricia

I agreed to host a blog posting event for the Michigan Lady Food Bloggers for February, and my topic was “indispensable kitchen tool.” Of course, being the procrastinator that I am, my own post is going up past the deadline I gave everyone else, but since it’s my party, I can be fashionably late if I want to. :^)

digital scale, analog ruler, paper sticky labels

Can you find three indispensable kitchen tools in this photo?

Some years back, I got a digital kitchen scale, having read that it was indispensable for great baking – weights are vastly preferred to measuring cups and spoons! However, not many American cookbooks are written with weights, at least not for the kinds of baking I lean towards (the sweet stuff). On the other hand, the bread baker in the family relies on it all the time, so it’s definitely indispensable for our continuing consumption of homemade naturally leavened bread. And since I’m not good at estimating sizes, I also keep a ruler in my kitchen, for all those recipes that call for things to be rolled out or chopped to certain dimensions. (I’m not so anal that it things must be exact, but I do want to know if e.g. my pie crust is closer to 1/4 inch or 1 inch!)


broken kitchenaid mixer

Well-used and worn-out Kitchen Aid

Of course, given that we have a bread baker in the family, one of our indispensable tools has been our Kitchen Aid stand mixer. We got it at a yard sale around 1990 for $20. Sadly, it died last week: metal fatigue from multiple years of kneading lots of loaves of bread led to the head falling off (in the middle of kneading!). Jonski Papa started making naturally leavened (aka sourdough) bread for us a few years back, and even had a very small bread baking business for almost a year (until he got a new Real Job With Benefits last June). He’s in the market for replacement parts or an old KA; failing that, is looking for a new mixer. Apparently bread baking forums are full of reports that the new KA-branded mixers are not up to snuff for hard core bread kneading so he’s looking at other brands. Since the unfortunate incident on Thursday, I have been using a hand-mixer that my eldest child won me at an auction a few years back – he didn’t know that I had one that I received as a wedding shower gift from one of my 5 year old Sunday School students [or more accurately, his mom!], way back in 1987. My son probably never saw me use it – we had a stand mixer, after all!

roll of labels

My beloved labels. Only 1 1/4" left on the roll - what will I do when I run out??

What I really had in mind when I came up with this topic is something very mundane and low-tech, and that is a roll of sticky labels. Labels, you ask? Why certainly! Way back in 2002, I got two GIANT rolls of these labels at The Scrap Box. If I recall correctly (and if the box they were in was accurately marked), they were discarded by a large book store company based in our town. I’ve used them as toddler entertainment while traveling; I use them to label boxes for storage, things going to school, mailing envelopes: but day in and day out, I label leftovers and other things going into the fridge (I’ve even been known to mark the ‘date opened’ on certain quick-to-perish commercial items). Almost nothing goes into the fridge without a label (because if it does, we are likely to forget what or how old it is.) The roll pictured here is my 2nd – I used up the first a while back. I don’t know what I’m going to do when this one is gone!

food containers with labels

Sometimes I tear the labels in half - I'm thrifty that way!

What are your indispensable kitchen tools?

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