A life in flux. Soon to be immigrant to Japan. Recently migrated this blog from another platform after many years of neglect (about March 6, 2017). Sorry for the styling and functionality potholes; I am working on cleaning things up and making it usable again.
No matter how hard we try, the two of us cannot eat a large pot of what amounts to be little more than mashed potatoes, regardless how many greens are involved.
So I decided to repurpose the leftovers a little bit. I melted some butter in a 6” skillet and added a spice blend (Kashmiri garam masala, I think) and turmeric, then poured it over the remaining colcannon in the refrigerator. I also added some frozen peas.
I improvised a dough by rubbing some of flour and salt with a bit of butter, then added just enough water to combine. I worked the dough together and let it rest for a while in the refrigerator.
I then rolled out the dough and cut it into small pieces, and Hiromi and I got to work stuffing them.
The first night I prepared them as just a little snack to go along with a couple of other dishes, but tonight I noticed I had some ungracefully aging pears in the refrigerator, and thought I should make quick use of them before something nefarious happened. I put together a simple chutney built on fenugreek, allspice, a little black pepper, and coriander, along with some fresh young ginger, onions, and a couple of fresh chilies, along with a bit of salt and unrefined sugar.
A couple of nights ago, I prepared some cranberry beans with some Chinese spices like star anise and some large white seed I’ve never learned the name of, and some fennel seed. I thought I was going to use these as a little bean side dish that never quite happened. By the time I needed them again, I had a far different craving, so I mashed the beans with some egg, flour and breadcrumbs, and pan-browned them in a nonstick omelet pan with a little oil. (They could just as easily be deep fried).
I was ever-so-slightly worried that the vaguely Chinese seasoning of the beans would fight with the vaguely Indian seasoning of the chutney, but actually they worked quite nicely together. The star anise and fennel added a nice depth to the bites of the cranberry bean cakes, and the chutney added a nice gently-fiery sweetness. We also found that the baby spinach underneath, motivated mostly by color, proved to be an useful utensil for carrying the bean cakes to our mouths, and added a little textural contrast.
Along with our lentil pie we wanted a lighter, refreshing little eggplant side dish to share.
We adapted a Renu Arora recipe that calls for deep-frying eggplant. We didn't really want to break out the deep-fryer on a hot day, so we went with a less oily alternative.
Using our gas konro (basically a single-burner camping stove), I roasted batches of Japanese eggplant on all sides on a moderate flame, letting the eggplant get soft without scorching the skin too much. I put them in a container with a tightly fitting lid for a few minutes while preparing some other things.
Then I toasted some freshly ground fenugreek and mustard seeds in a bit of oil with some fresh chilies. After a minute or two I added turmeric, garam masala, red pepper powder, ground coriander seeds, and salt. I then adding a generous helping of whole milk yogurt, stirred the ingredients, and worked in the eggplant, sliced lengthwise in quarters then halved in the middle. This needs to gently simmer for 5 or 6 minutes on low heat.
At the table, add fresh cilantro to taste. (Hiromi likes cilantro).
Fire roasting creates a pleasantly smoky character while concentrating the eggplant flavor, without adding unnecessary fat.
The dish tastes nice served warm or even at room temperature, and makes a nice addition to a lunchbox the next day, if you have any left.
I've previously mentioned that Hiromi's pie crust is far superior to mine. Hers is closer to a rough puff than the standard American pie crust, but she pulls it off rather effortlessly. On the other hand, my attempts at rough puff generally turn out to be slightly inferior to the basic pie crust that I can produce with far less concentration..
During Hiromi's short stay, I wanted to take advantage of Hiromi's crust-making skills for a more savory application.
I worked on a simple thick lentil dish made with garam masala, probably a few potatoes, onions, garlic, and ginger, some fresh tomatoes, and turmeric. As I recall, I only had split urad daal handy. These are black lentils which have lost their shells and become a sort of drywall white.
While I was taking care of the filling, Hiromi set out making the pie crust. She cut in the butter and prepared the first turn, and finished a second one before the lentils were done.
We wanted some kind of sweet-savory accompaniment, so I planned to make a chutney. Fresh figs looked nice that day, so we used them as the foundation. I prepared the chutney after the lentils were started, using a little fenugreek and fennel as the dominant notes, a little extra sugar, and a few additional spices. I think I added enough chilies to make the chutney more spicy than necessary, but they didn't hurt.
I'm already fuzzy on the details, but I think we had some other afternoon plan that day and we wandered off for a few hours, then came back to assemble everything. I think Hiromi did one more turn before we filled the pastry in small springform pans, baked, and then were treated to this nice pie.
The only thing I'd change is which fruit to use for the chutney. I think apricot, peach or tamarind would be a better compliment to the heavy lentils, especially on a fairly warm day. The chutney itself was very pleasing, but perhaps it would work better with a less rich accompaniment.
A simplification of a dish I sometimes make with mushrooms, this dum ki khom-inspired cauliflower dish features a cashew-based sauce with a hint of clove and cardamom. Seasoned with a fair amount of freshly grated ginger and a little garlic, It's dressed with a lot of cilantro, which provides a nice cooling effect. I added a tiny bit of palm sugar for this just to enrich the sauce. Instead of yogurt, I used a splash of coconut milk. Tomato paste helps provide color to the cashew sauce as well as a nice acidic counterbalance.
The dum ki khom dish comes from a Japanese-language cookbook by Renu Arora, whose instructions involve preparing the sauce separately from the mushrooms. However, cauliflower takes long enough to cook that I prepared the sauce right in the pan after briefly sauteeing the gobi in ghee, seasoned with garam masala, cumin, and a bit of turmeric.
Asparagus jalfrezi, perhaps
I wanted to use up some asparagus and take advantage of some cheap bell peppers, so I made a sauteed dish with a mustard seed-heavy sauce. To enrich the food with a bit of protein and to make the sauce a bit thicker, I ground some white urad daal up in a spice grinder and cooked it into a sauce with a bit more tomato paste. I used some whole mustard seeds, garlic, and onions as the dominant notes, and I think I used a bit of fenugreek and cumin as well.
This week I was a little heavy-handed with tomato puree, but both of these dishes like their tomatoes.
Rapini, a bitter green, has a hint of broccoli's aroma with a suggestion of mustard's pungency. Somewhat similar to turnip greens, it's also known as broccoli rabe or raab, even though rapini isn't related to broccoli.
I usually blanch it briefly, much like spinach, before using it in anything I cook. The blanching process allows the color to stay reasonably intense, and also mellows the bitterness. Even sautéed rapini benefits from this, although I've been known to take a shortcut from time to time.
I sautéed some onions with garam masala and some garlic, ginger, coriander and cumin. I added paneer, which cooked for a minute or so, before adding the finely chopped rapini, and a touch of tomato puree (not essential, but I had a little too much... a fresh tomato might be nice), and then I covered and simmered the dish for just a few more minutes.
While it's fairly common to puree spinach in palak paneer, I chose to skip that step with my rapini version. The result might be a bit more creamy with the pureed version, but I like the texture of chopped rapini. Besides, not all versions of palak paneer involve making the greens unrecognizable...
With blanched rapini, the dish cooks quickly. Serve with daal for a complete meal...
You wouldn't know it yet considering how much I'm still focusing on my Japan trip (just a few more things to write about...), but I've actually been back home for a couple of weeks already. I've been eating fairly simply most of the time, but perhaps a bit unhealthy.
A simple dinner
After a week full of bread, cheese and asparagus, I was craving something hearty and dense.
I thought it might be fun to try my hand at some crispy flatbread. I'm a fond of roti canai, the flatbread served with a simple channa masala or even a "gravy" made with chickpeas. But I thought it would be nice to give the dough itself a bit of a protein boost, so I used half all-purpose flour and half besan, or chickpea flour. I add a fair amount of ghee and a generous pinch of salt, combine the flours, and add just enough warm water to create a smooth, pliable dough. The dough needs to be rested for a half hour or so.
I cooked them on a big, hot, cast-iron skillet until they were puffy, lightly brushed each side with oil and cooked each side a bit longer. Then I folded each roti over twice so that they become pie-shaped wedges.
They weren't quite flawless, as the edges are a bit rough, but they came out just slightly crispy and the chickpea flour added a nice flavor.
I didn't really know this until looking up other roti recipes after I was all done with this dish, but some versions of besan roti add spices right in the dough. However, I was mostly looking for a structure to serve with dal, rather than something with its own complex flavor.
I made a simple chickpea dish seasoned with an onion jam (caramelized onions with added liquid), tomato paste, fresh ginger and garlic, turmeric and chilies, along with an explosion of ghee-cooked spices including cumin seeds, mustard seeds, coriander, and a garam masala blend. I take this ghee-cooked spice blend and pour it over the soup when both are very hot, causing furious frothing and bubbling, and allowing the aromas of the spices to spread throughout the dish.
The chickpeas come split, and don't take terribly long to cook. I also added a few potatoes about 25 minutes before I expected the dish to be done.
Upon serving, added some cilantro to add a fresh, cooling flavor.
The mango pickle is nothing special... just a store bought thing, used to provide a little tangy contrast... It goes well with the besan roti as well, but I later discovered that the local-to-Seattle Taaza's tomato garlic chutney, by Sunita Shastri, is particularly good with the roti.
I have been craving spicier food the last few days, so I think this won't be the only South Asian food on my table this week.
Tonight I was craving some soup, and something hearty involving lentils… I think I have recently mentioned this strangely unseasonal craving. I decided I wanted something rich, something refreshing, and something comforting.
I’m far from expert on Indian cooking, but I’ve got a surplus of garam masala around right now, so I thought I’d go for something slightly Indian. I don’t have any ghee in the house, and Ballard Market didn’t seem to have any clarified butter where I looked, but I had an extra pound of butter from baking cookies on Saturday, so I decided to clarify some butter.
I made a little tomato soup, roughly inspired by the South Indian “rasam”, without really bothering to remind myself what goes in a rasam. This tomato has some amchur (mango) powder and lime juice, some good fresh tomatoes, and some onions. I cooked some mustard seeds in oil and drizzled on the soup upon serving.
I had a bit of a lentil craving, and a stash of urid daal. I didn’t feel like boiling a lot of lentils, so I ground them up and mixed them with water, salt, and some spices, then hydrated a bit. I added some onions and cilantro. These were then deep-fried, as I prepared a tomato cream sauce; this time, I cooked mustard seeds and garam masala in ghee, and incorporated this into the cream. After the lentil croquettes, or, more loosely, koftas, were finished, I cooked them briefly in the cream sauce to coat.
I wanted something refreshing, too, so I grilled some eggplant on my All-Clad grill pan. I let them soak in some lime juice and chilies. On the plate I added some cilantro and Hermiston sweet onions.
I served more rice than necessary; it was a way to abuse some saffron. I steeped some saffron in hot water before cooking the rice in it.