Sunday, August 30, 2015

Bengali Fish Stew - Maacher Jhol

It turns out that the first Indian recipe that made it into my regular cooking rotation was from Bengal, specifically a dal that still holds a special place in my heart. I posted about it here when it was transformed into a soup, but it wasn't until this fish stew - Maacher Jhol - crossed my path that I realized that Panch Phoron was distinctively Bengali. It was what made the dal delicious and definitely is a defining part of this stew.

The interesting part about first learning to cook Indian cuisine is getting used to what feels like little finicky steps which turn out to be essential. For this dish, it is tossing the fish with some turmeric prior frying it. Seems like a throwaway step, why bother? But it is essential. Follow what mistresses of the kitchen have done for centuries, they know of what they do!

Also, while you can substitute cayenne pepper for kashmiri chile powder and use another oil (ghee, olive oil) for the traditional mustard oil, if you can procure either or both ingredients (usually at an Indian grocery store; I stock up when I'm near them), it is so worth it since it enhances the flavor dramatically. You won't regret it!

Incidentally, the photo above pictures a version made with fish that was gifted to us from my beau's daughter's friend who had caught some fresh ling cod and we were the happy beneficiaries! Thanks Rico!

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Hoisin Tofu Lettuce Cups

A fun local restaurant had "Larb" on the menu - never heard of it? Me neither! It turned out to be another Asian cuisine's version of tasty protein in a lettuce leaf (Thai version). The vegetarian option offered was made with crumbled tempeh but I got to thinking that tofu would have had been a good option too, better texture and ability to soak up the sauce. So of course it made an appearance at our dinner table soon thereafter.

A quick search through the blogsphere turned up several versions of the theme and there's no particular reason that this recipe caught my eye, maybe for it's simplicity. Adapting it just a little, this is the dish it produced. Such a hit! My beau's daughters are not huge fans of Asian cuisines, but there was lots of enthusiasm all around the table for this one!

If you are a regular reader you will notice the Mei Fun noodles on our pretty silver tray (free curbside score!) which do make a regular appearance at the table, 'cause they are just so fun!

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Fig Chutney - DIY Pantry

Exploring Indian cuisine is so much fun because there are sooooo many condiments! Not only are there different types of condiments - chutneys, pickles, raitas - but such variety in each of those types of condiments!

When some free figs came into my kitchen (whoo hoo!!) I knew that they were going into a chutney tout suite. David Lebovitz's recipe looked great but it was boosted with a little more ginger and my favorite chile powder, Kashmiri, for its gorgeous taste and color. (Yes, hard to find except in Indian stores. Stock up on it, you'll love it too!)

My family had already fallen in love with Pear Chutney from this recipe which I made a few days later and canned them all at once to save water (we are in a severe drought!) And we are flying through both of them. So there will definitely be more fig chutney making in my future.

And as you can see from the picture, smearing fig (or pear) chutney on soft cheeses like chevre or brie is highly addictive as well. Double that recipe, you won't regret it!

Like so many delicious things, figs are in season for only a short while, so grab them while you can. Ignore the price and remind yourself they are like christmas or your birthday - a once a year event!

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Grilled Vegetable Terrine with Chevre

What you can't see under all of those crispy browned breadcrumbs is lusciously grilled vegetables layered with goat cheese and pureed tomatoes....ahh, summer heaven!

For me, firing up the grill should not be just for a single meal. So lots of veggies get grilled and this terrine usually makes an appearance in a day or two. You can easily use mozzarella in place of the chevre, but I find it too heavy; the chevre just melts into the tomato puree and basil and lets the veggies shine through as the highlight.

Summer grilling season doesn't last long, so don't wait to make this. And if you have that summer affliction, I mean abundance, of summer squash, here's the perfect antidote!

Sunday, August 2, 2015

The Ultimate Veggie Burger - BEST EVER!

Mark Bittman is my god.

No qualifiers there. He simply is. And his articles about food, recipes and videos make my day. He makes me smile, laugh, hungry, and happy that he is in the world.

Other New York Times food writers don't do as much for me. Of course the cards are stacked against them, but they seem to really fall really short when compared to my god. But this recipe is the one that proves the exception.

Usually I'm pretty skeptical about Melissa Clark. Not to be a hater, but since making the mistake of listening/watching her in video form, her voice runs through my head when I read her recipes...and it's not a pleasant one. So my emotional reaction has often prevented me from making her recipe suggestions.

But I knew this one was worth overriding my emotional quirks. It was complex and sounded like she'd realllly worked out the kinks to make what she called "The Ultimate Veggie Burger." So I gave in.

Yeah! Cooking Stubbornness Conquered Again!

Make a double batch, totally worth the extra efforts, and they freeze well!