Naan and all things Indian, I love it!

Indian food is amazing to me. The intense heat, the complex spices and the subtle sweetness to balance it out just thrill me. I wish I could make all of the complex dishes I love at home. I confess however, that I don’t know enough about them to understand the names of dishes let alone all the necessary ingredients. In fact, I could probably count on my hands and toes the number of times I’ve actually eaten at Indian restaurants. Kansas City has one in particular that was a favorite of mine. Korma Sutra is in mid-town KC and it was there that I discovered my love of okra, roasted goat and samosas. Honestly, there isn’t an Indian dish I’ve tried that I didn’t enjoy.

I have made a few impromptu curry dishes with just the basic curry powder and coconut milk. They are good and many people I’ve served them to have complimented me on them. They are in no way authentic or do they compare with the fabulous dishes I’ve had at restaurants. The food creates a picture of India for me that makes me yearn to visit. How can food which tastes so good not come from a fascinating and beautiful country?

I have a friend from Mumbai who would tell me she thought I could handle visiting India above many of her other friends. In part because I do love the food so much but also because I am accepting of cultures and have an adventurous spirit. I hope that’s true and I hope some day to find out. After seeing the new film, “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” with Judi Dench, Bill Nighy, Tom Wilkinson and a myriad of amazing British actors, I’m certain that I could not only endure the vibrant odors, colors and culture but relish it!

So, what’s this all about? Well, yesterday I took a second stab at baking Naan (leavened flatbread). Several years ago I attempted to bake some and read the recipe wrong, adding a tablespoon of salt rather than the recommended teaspoon. This time I rigorously adhered to the recipe (well I did tweak it a bit). My efforts were successful, even if I do say so myself.

Simply beautiful!

I used a different recipe this time, one that I knew would be fabulous from Ruth Reichl’s “Gourmet Cookbook”. I have made many of the recipes from this book and every one of them is wonderful. Ruth was the editor of “Gourmet” magazine until is was shut down last year. All of the recipes in the book are the most successful recipes from the magazine.  They have been tested and used and perfected. It’s my second favorite cookbook, buy it if you can! I bought it when it was first published for over $30. You can now buy the same book at Amazon for $7 – $8. Wow.

So, anyway, here is the recipe. Keep in mind that I modified the recipe to exclude the poppy seeds.

Naan
Leavened Flatbread with Mixed Seeds

NOTE: The Indian leavened flatbread called naan doesn’t require a traditional tandoor oven; a pizza stone works well. It doesn’t need to be restricted to an Indian meal either; it’s delicious with leg of lamb or a vegetarian dish with a smidge of cumin or curry powder.

1 teaspoon active dry yeast
1/2 teaspoon sugar {I used honey}
1 tablespoon warm water (105-115 degrees)
3-4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons black poppy seeds {I didn’t use any}
1/2 cup warm whole milk (105-115 degrees) {I used non-fat buttermilk}
1 cup plain whole-milk yogurt, at room temperature {I used Greek non-fat}
1/3 cup finely chopped onion
1/2 stick unsalted butter, melted
1 large egg, lightly beaten (room temp)
1-1/2 teaspoon mixed seeds, such as nigella seeds, sesame seeds, and/or white poppy seeds {I didn’t use any}
Kosher salt for sprinkling {I used lavender sea salt instead – If you can find it, get it! It’s the most amazing herb to cook with!}

NOTE ABOUT SPECIAL EQUIPMENT: A baker’s peel is an especially helpful tool for inserting dough onto the pizza stone. I don’t own one so it was a bit tricky getting the very pliable dough onto the extremely hot stone without burning myself but I made do with two wide spatulas.

Stir together yeast, sugar, and water in a small bowl until yeast is dissolved. Let stand until foamy, about five minutes. (If mixture doesn’t foam, discard and start over with new yeast.)

Sift together 2-1/2 cups flour, salt, baking soda, and 1/2 teaspoon black poppy seeds into a large bowl. Stir together milk, yogurt, onion and 2 tablespoons of butter in another bowl. Make a well in the flour mixture, then add yeast mixture, milk mixture, and egg and stir until a soft, sticky dough forms.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 10 minutes, adding just enough of remaining flour to prevent dough from sticking. Form dough into a ball, transfer to a lightly oiled large bowl, and turn to coat with oil. Cover with a kitchen towel (not terry cloth) and let rise in a warm draft-free place until doubled in bulk, about 2 hours.

Place pizza stone on oven floor if using a gas oven, on the lowest rack if using electric (remove other racks in either case), and preheat oven to highest setting (500-550 degrees F). Allow about one hour to preheat stone. Flour two or three baking sheets.

Once dough has doubled, turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and cut into quarters. Roll out each quarter with a floured rolling pin into a 1/8-inch oval about 12 inches long and 5 inches wide. Transfer to floured baking sheets, cover with kitchen towels, and let rest for 10 minutes.

If using, stir together remaining seeds into a small bowl.

Transfer 1 dough oval to a well-floured peel. Brush top of oval with about 1/2 tablespoon of remaining butter and sprinkle with one quarter of the seeds and kosher salt. Line up far edge of peel with far edge of stone and tilt peel, jerking it gently to start dough moving. when edge of oval touches stone, quickly pull back peel to transfer loaf to stone (do not pull dough back). Bake until edges are golden brown and bread bubbles (top will be an uneven golden brown), 5 to 6 minutes. Keep naan warm, loosely covered with foil, while you bake remaining loaves, one at a time, in the same manner.

NOTE: Baking these w/out a peel is dangerous! Be careful and DON’T burn yourself, please.

Enjoy this amazing bread.  Since I didn’t have an Indian dish to serve this with I just made a goat cheese spread using my favorite curry powder. Simple, easy, and YUM-MEE!

Carrot Cookies with Orange/Lemon Curd glaze.

You’ll be missing out if you don’t use lemon curd in the glaze! So yummy!

It doesn’t seem possible that any cookie could be good if it doesn’t have chocolate in it. For years though, my mother has been baking my favorite cookies. They are cakey, moist, light and absolutely delicious. You might think they’re like carrot cake but they are not. These have a glaze on them that sends them right over the top! I tweaked the recipe slightly the last time I made them and it worked out great! I’m not sure I can even describe them properly. You’ll have to make them. Here’s how:

1 cup softened butter
1 egg + 1 yolk, room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 cup shredded carrots
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp lemon extract
2 c flour
1 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt

First, shred two or three carrots into a small bowl and cook in the microwave in five or six, 30 second intervals or until soft. Set carrots aside to cool.

In a medium mixing bowl sift together flour, salt and baking powder. Using a mixer, combine sugar and butter and beat until light and fluffy, approximately 2-3 minutes. Add the egg and yolk and vanilla beating until very light and fluffy, approximately 2 minutes. Add cooled carrots and combine until just mixed. Finally, mix in the flour and mix until thoroughly combined. Spoon cookies onto baking sheet and bake at 375 for 12-14 minutes.

While the cookies are baking put the glaze together with 1 cup of powdered sugar,  2 tbsp orange juice and 3 tbsp lemon curd. Mix well and top cooled cookies with as much or as little as you like. Lemon curd is optional but oh, so tasty!

Everyone’s favorite …

… well, except for D’s. He doesn’t like it and I’m trying  not to let it hurt my feelings.

Ask any of my friends and they will tell you their favorite dish of mine is Mango/Avocado Salsa. It has a bit of everything in it, it’s sweet, spicy and savory. I can eat it by the spoonful, with tortilla chips and quite fabulously … shrimp tacos. You can make it as spicy as you like, I like mine to give me a kick in the pants.

Mango/Avocado Salsa - YUM!

Mango/Avocado Salsa
2 large avocados
2 medium mangos
1/2 cup minced red onion
1/2 cup minced red bell pepper
1 or 2 minced jalapeno peppers
Juice of one lime
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1-2 tsp cayenne pepper

Mix together all the ingredients and serve fresh. I love it with shrimp soft tacos as seen in the picture.

No reason really . . .

I haven’t posted in a while not because I haven’t been cooking but I simply haven’t done anything new or inventive. Until today that is. I am feeling a bit overwhelmed by my lack of employment and lack of direction . Movement in general is always good I realize, I simply don’t know what direction to move. It seems to me a destination should be in mind but I don’t have one yet. I’m feeling quite useless and that’s not good. When I’m in the kitchen there are results, there are rewards. Rewards for me and for D. I am also missing my friends and wishing I had some here. The few ladies I have reached out to have not reached back. I suppose you can’t make people be friendly. I don’t know what they’re going through and perhaps they find me unsavory. Anything is possible.

Now, on the my inventiveness. Tonight I made fried fish with corn muffins. That in of itself is nothing extraordinary, I realize that. What makes it so for me is that I didn’t follow a recipe in putting the muffins together. I simply went off of memory and experience. I love that. They were moist, slightly sweet, tender and just amazing with butter and honey.  So, what’s in them? Let’s see now …

My own creation, baking is so much fun.

Dry Ingredients
In a large mixing bowl combine the following:
1 cup – white corn meal
1/2 cup – unbleached white flour
1/2 cup – whole wheat flour
2 tbsp – flax meal
1 tsp – baking powder
1 tsp – baking soda
1/2 tsp – salt

Wet Ingredients
In another bowl combine the following
1/2 cup sugar
6 tbsp melted butter (cooled)
2 eggs (one at a time and beat vigorously)
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup Greek yogurt

Once all the moist ingredients are together add 1/4 cup – wheat bran and let set for a few minutes. Gently combine the moist with the dry being careful not to over mix. Fill muffin pan and bake in a 400 degree, preheated oven for 20-25 minutes. Serve warm preferably with butter and honey. They’d be great with chili, fish, or alone. Yummy.

You know how the cooking shows are always touting panko bread crumbs? Well there’s a reason for that. They make what ever you are frying A-mazing! I fried flounder (I know not the ideal fish for frying but it’s what I had on hand) with panko and yum-mee! It’s so easy too. Just dredge  your fish in seasoned flour (cayenne, garlic and onion powder, salt and pepper) then dip in a egg/milk bath and finally dip again in the panko crumbs. Fry in grapeseed oil (it has a very high smoke temp so it will brown your fish quickly). Serve with HOME-made tartar sauce (mayo, capers, shallots, sweet relish, worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, white vinegar) and voila! Tasty goodness in under 30 minutes.

Tell me if you try it. I’d love to know what someone else thinks!

Pancakes, how do you make yours?

I have never understood why people use pancake mixes. They are the easiest of breakfast foods to make and I’ve never had a mix taste nearly as good as homemade. I don’t know about you but I like my pancakes dense, hearty and slathered in peanut butter, of course.

Lately, I’ve been making mine with as many grains as I can. I suppose to offset the guilt I feel about eating a pure carb meal.  Here is what mine look like:

Whole wheat, bran and flax pancakes.

What you need to make them:
Dry Ingredients
1 cup whole wheat flour,
1/2 cup unbleached white flour
1/4 cup wheat bran
1 tbsp flax meal
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
Wet Ingredients
2 cups buttermilk
1 egg
2 tbsp grape seed, canola or vegetable oil
1/4 tsp almond extract
1/2 tsp vanilla

Mix your dry and wet ingredients separately then pour the wet into the dry and mix thoroughly but not so much you see bubbles appear. I like my batter to be a bit thicker than most but you should still get a thick stream when pouring. Cook on a non-stick griddle or frying pan using a bit of butter to make the edges crispy and even more tasty.

Seriously folks, put away the mixes and make your own healthy pancakes. You won’t regret it, I promise!

I’m just making this up as I go.

Last night I needed to fix some dinner but my resources were low. By resources I meant will and groceries. It seems like every month there’s some expense we weren’t expecting that takes our spending budget to zero before we know it and I have to be imaginative in my cooking.

After scrounging around the kitchen for several minutes, I remembered that I had some chorizo in the freezer and thought … maybe I can make empanada’s with them. So, I got out my trusty cookbooks and sure enough, there was a recipe for chorizo empanadas in one of them. I promptly closed the book and got to work. Who needs a recipe when you can just whip them up on the fly? They were so simple to make. Yes, there was some time involved in rolling out the individual pastries,  it’s worth the extra effort. I think the total time to prepare these was about and hour and a half.

Here is what I did.
1. Make a pastry dough using 1-1/2 cup flour, 1 tsp salt, 1/2 stick very cold butter, 2 tbsp Crisco, 6 tbsp ice cold water. I use my food processor to mix all this together. Form into a cylinder wrap with plastic wrap and set in the fridge for 20 – 30 minutes.

2. Saute one small onion with 1 lb chorizo. Once meat is browned add 1 cup corn and 1 cup black beans. Cook altogether until good and hot. Turn off heat and get dough out.

3. Cut dough into 10-12 portions, roll each out on a floured surface (one at a time) add a spoonful of pepper jack cheese, a spoonful of meat mixture, coat the edges of the rounds with egg white, fold dough over, seal with a fork and then baste the entire thing with egg white.

4. Bake in a 400 degree oven for 20 minutes or until golden brown. I baked mine on my Pampered Chef stoneware.

Chorizo, black bean and corn Empanadas

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Derek loved them the pastry was perfect and although they’re not “perfectly” formed they were quite delicious!

Learning new things today …

I have been hearing recently about Meyer lemons. Yesterday, I was at Whole Foods and saw some (quasi reasonably priced) in a bunch.  They are so beautiful.  I was powerless to resist them. I found an story about them on NPR and here’s a bit from it, “A cross between a lemon and a mandarin orange, the Meyer lemon has smooth golden skin the color of a fresh egg yolk. It also has a thin edible rind, a high volume of juice and none of the tartness of a regular lemon — yet its potential in the kitchen went unnoticed.”  If you’re interested in listening to the story here is the link to it. I’m actually thinking about trying to grow one for myself. My mother had a lemon tree she grew from a regular lemon seed, why can’t I?

They really are beautiful and oh so tasty!

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=100778147

So, I’ve tasted them and oh wow. Yummy! I can’t wait to try some of the recipes in the article. I’ll let you know how they turn out.

Also, back to the raw food diet stuff. I was directed to a website called www.rawfamily.com. It has an iPhone app with recipes and a bunch of smoothie recipes for eating raw. I have made my first one. I thought I had purchased all the right things to make one of their recipes but actually didn’t so I improvised. Here is what I made:

1 cup frozen berries (blue, black and rasp)
1 small mango
1 large banana
1 smallish apple
1 & 1/2 cup Dandelion leaves (that’s right dandelion)
1 cup fresh chopped parsley.
2 quarts water

So, I blended all this together and I must say, it tastes really good. Yes, it does have a slight grassy taste to it but everything in it is SOOOOOO good for me that I can’t with a good conscience not eat it. I took a picture of it and the lemons … I wonder if anyone else out there is brave enough to try one of these smoothies too.

Green Smoothie & tasty Meyer Lemons

Muffins … bran muffins … oh how I want a perfect one.

Perhaps because I’m in my early forties and regularity has suddenly become very important to me. I thought this is a sexy topic I can explore, come along with me and we’ll make a tasty treat!

I have been trying to bake the perfect bran muffin since I had my mother-in-law’s at Christmas. My first attempt was tasty but very, very, very dense. Very dense. To be honest I neglected to add enough yogurt. Oh, and I forgot to include the raisins. Lesson learned. The second batch was much better because I actually measured the correct amount of yogurt and included the raisins but they were still very dense. Perhaps, that’s okay and that’s how they are supposed to turn out. We ate them all because they did taste good but I really wanted a lighter texture.

I’ve been using Kellogg’s All-Bran for the recipe which it seems is recommended by most recipes and makes a tasty muffin. This time I switched it up by used half All-Bran and half Hodgkin’s Mill wheat bran. I also add in two tablespoons of flax-meal to all of these which in the end turned out spectacular, see look . . .

MY Delicious bran muffins ... trust me they are a joy to eat!

No, they don’t look sexy but boy do they taste good! I got the base recipe from, you guessed it, Cook’s Illustrated but I modified it in several points. Yes, that is shocking! Here are the deets:

1 cup raisins
1 tsp water
2-1/4 cups (5 oz) All-Bran Original cereal
1 cup plus 2 tbsp (6.25 oz) all-purpose flour
1/2 c (2-3/4 oz) whole wheat flour
2 tbsp flax meal
2 tsp baking soda
1-1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 large egg plus one large yolk
2/3 cup packed (4-2/3 oz) brown sugar (I used dark)
3 tbsp molasses or sorghum
1 tsp vanilla extract
6 tbsp unsalted butter melted & cooled
1-3/4 cups plain greek style yogurt
1/2 cup buttermilk

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 400 degrees. Spray 2, 12-cup muffin tin with vegetable oil spray OR use what I use, a twelve -cup stoneware muffin pan (mine is from Pampered Chef) which I LOVE!

2. Combine raisins and water in small bowl, cover, and microwave for 30 seconds. Let stand, covered, until raisins are softened and plump, about 5 minutes. Transfer raisins to prepare plate to cool.

3. Whisk all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, flax meal, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl until well combined and set aside. Whisk egg and egg yolk together in medium bowl until well combined and light-colored, about 20 seconds. Add sugar, molasses, and vanilla to bowl with eggs and whisk until mixture is thick, about 30 seconds. Add melted butter and whisk to combine. Add yogurt and buttermilk, whisk to combine. Stir in wheat bran and All-Bran until well combined and let mixture sit until cereal is evenly moistened, about 5 minutes.

4. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and mix gently with rubber spatula until batter is just combined and evenly moistened (do not over mix.) Gently fold raisins into batter. Spoon batter evenly into all muffin cups. Do not flatten or level.

5. Bake until muffins are dark golden and toothpick inserted in center of muffin comes out with few crumbs attached, 16 to 20 minutes, rotating muffin tin halfway through baking. Let muffins cool in pan for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack and let cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Peanut Butter . . . I love it!

So, yesterday was National Peanut Butter Day, which of course is silly and superfluous but that’s not to say it’s a wonderful excuse for eating more peanut butter. I’m of the opinion that peanut butter is natures perfect food. Especially mixed with honey, molasses, maple syrup, and of course jam of any kind. When I think of cooking with peanut butter I usually go straight to cookies. I love me some peanut butter cookies. However, in light of the fact that I need to lose 25 pounds before my wedding in September, I decided to try to find another way to cook it and skip all of the calories.

Here’s what I came up with. Chicken Satay Stir Fry. It was so yummy I was giggling and D thought it was something special too. I didn’t follow a bottle of peanut sauce or recipe, instead used what I had in the fridge. The essential ingredients for an “Asian” or “Chinese” sauce are: Fish Sauce, Soy Sauce, Hoisen, Sesame Oil, Chili Sauce, and Rice Vinegar. It’s impossible to achieve the appropriate flavor in your sauces without fish sauce, believe me I’ve tried. You might wrinkle your nose as such stuff and I assure you, you DO NOT want to see how it’s made. Just trust me when I say you can’t make a Chinese/Asian sauce without it. I found mine at an Asian market in Kansas City but Whole Foods, World Market and probably Trader Joe’s sell it. Buy it and keep it in stock (it lasts forever).

Here’s my recipe for the sauce:
2 Tbsp creamy peanut butter
4 Tbsp soy sauce (low sodium)
1 Tbsp Hoisen sauce
2 Tbsp rice vinegar
1 Tsp fish sauce
1 Tsp sesame oil
1 Tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp chili sauce (or more if you want it spicier)
Mix all ingredients together in a blender or with an immersion blender and set aside.

I cut a large chicken breast into bite-size pieces, salt and pepper to taste and the juice of half a lemon. Brown the meat and set aside in oven to finish cooking on 225. Using any vegetables you like cook them until they are aldente then add back the chicken and half of the sauce. Toss until well coated and completely cooked. Serve on rice. I used snow peas, carrots, onions and red bell peppers.

Just putting this together is making me hungry again. Dang it. Enjoy and let me know if you try it.

And now the recipe . . .

Rachel Bruton’s version of Cook’s Illustrated Modern Beef Stew

Use a good-quality, medium-bodied wine, such as a Cotes du Rhone or Pinot Noir, for this stew. Try to find beef that is well marbled white white veins of fat. Meat that is too lean will come out slightly dry. You can use 4 pounds of blade steaks, trimmed, instead of chuck-eye roast. While the blade steak will yield slightly thinner pieces after trimming, it should still be cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces. Look for salt pork that is roughly 75 percent lean. NOTE: I used just stew meat that was pre-cut and I used a bone in pork chop.

2 garlic cloves, minced
4 anchovy fillets, rinsed and minced (DO NOT SKIP THIS INGREDIENT)
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 (4-pound) boneless beef chuck-eye roast, pulled apart at seams, trimmed, and cut into 1 1/2- inch pieces (or prepackaged stew meat)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 large onion, halved and sliced 1/8 inch thick
4 carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups red wine
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth (I used beef stock)
4 ounces salt pork, rinsed (I used a bone in pork chop cut into pieces)
2 bay leaves
4 sprigs fresh thyme (I used 1 tablespoon dried)
1 pound Yukon Gold potatoes, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 1/2 – cups frozen pearl onions, thawed (I hate these and didn’t include them)
1 cup frozen peas, thawed (once again, I didn’t use these but do so if you feel so inclined)
1 pound of quartered white mushrooms

  1. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 300 degrees.
  2. Combine garlic and anchovies in small bowl; press with back of fork to form paste. Stir in tomato past and set aside.
  3. Pat meat dry with paper towels. Place flour and 1 tablespoon kosher salt into a large zip-lock bag. Cut meat into bite size pieces and shake in bag until fully coated. Brown the meat as directed above.
  4. Reduce heat to medium and return first batch of beef to pot. Stir in onion and carrots and cook, scraping bottom of pan to loosen browned bits, until onion is softened, 1 to 2 minutes. Add garlic mixture and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  5. Slowly add wine, scraping bottom of pan to loosen browned bits. Increase heat to high and simmer until wine is thickened and slightly reduced, about 2 minutes. Stir in remaining beef, broth, pork, bay leaves, and thyme. Bring to simmer, cover, transfer to oven, and cook for 1 1/2 hours.

**NOTE**

I had this ready several hours before needing to serve. After the first 1 1/2 hours I turned the heat down to 225 and cooked for another 1 1/2 hours.

  1. Remove pot from oven, remove and discard bay leaves and salt pork (or bones). Stir in potatoes, cover, return to oven, and cook until potatoes are almost tender, about 45 minutes.
  2. Using large spoon, skim excess fat from surface of stew. Stir in mushrooms, and pearl onions, and peas, if using; cook over medium heat until potatoes and onions are cooked through and fork slips easily in and out of beef (meat should not be falling apart unless you cook it as long as I did in which case it probably will, mine did), about 15 minutes.

If you have questions about this email me and I’ll help you out. Enjoy!