Sunday, September 26, 2010

Iron Chef-Bloggers BB7 Round-Up and on to BB8

The challenge last month was to pretend we were Iron Chefs and use one ingredient in two different ways, both inspired by recipes on other blogs. Here are the ingredients, from A to Z and the innovative ways in which they were used...

Anchovies~ Tiny saltwater fish with a pungent and savory flavor. From what I have heard, you either love 'em or hate 'em. At StephfoodSteph uses them in a colorful orecchiette pasta dish and a creamy green goddess dressing.

Bananas~ Get your dose of potassium with this ubiquitous tropical fruit. Most of us eat them as a snack but the ripening process often happens in the blink of an eye. At SS Blogs Here, SS uses over-ripe bananas in two sweet snacks, chocolate banana bread and cookie-like banana bites.

Beets~ Dressed in opulent shades of purple or red, beets are so much more than just a salad vegetable. At Veg Junction, Veena discovers two new ways of cooking beets, with spicy beetroot kootu and sweet little beet cupcakes.

Bell Peppers~Also called capsicum, the colors of bell peppers- orange, red, yellow, green- entice us in summer. At Pieces of Paper, Squiggly Lines, Lavanya cooks up dishes representing South India with red bell pepper chutney and North India with kadhai paneer.

Bread~ A staple food in so many cultures and often left over from the days before. "Waste not, want not", it is said.
     At Seduce Your Tastebuds, PJ recycles left over bread into two tasty snacks, vegetable toast and eggless masala toast.
     At The Budding Cook, TBC made two snacks too, crisp batter-dipped malai toast and fritters with stale bread and eggs.

Carrots~ The bright orange root vegetable. Carrots are usually inexpensive and available year-round. At Priya's Easy N Tasty Recipes, Priya cooks carrots to make a one-pot meal, carrot rice, and a snack, carrot vadas.

Cauliflower~A cruciferous vegetable with notable health benefits and a staple of my vegetable crisper.
     At Tamalapaku, Harini bought a huge cauliflower and used it up in two delicious dishes, a cauliflower kasoori methi curry and cauliflower adai.
     At A Tote Full of Veggies, Sharan made two interesting recipes, cauliflower posto and a cauliflower crust pizza.

Chickpeas~ These beans seem to have it all- a rich nutty taste and plenty of protein and fiber. At Everybunny Loves Food, Sana explores chickpeas in two different cuisines, the Middle Eastern crispy-fluffy falafel and Italian farinata.

Corn~ Sweet corn floods the markets in summer; unlike the processed products made from it, real corn is a nutritious treat. At Super Yummy Recipes, Satya tries something off-beat by using corn to make corn halwa and corn fritters.

Eggplant~A purple beauty of a vegetable, there are hundreds of home-styles ways to cook it. At Enjoy Indian Food, Meera cooked eggplants in two different Indian regional styles, the Konkani way and the Bengali way.

Eggs~ These are a fridge staple for many of us, good for everything from breakfasts to quick dinners to baked goods. At Sinfully Spicy, Tanvi uses eggs in two egg-sotic ways- in Bengali egg rolls (classic street food) and a simple egg stir fry (a side dish for any Indian meal).

Green Beans~ Also called French beans, this tasty vegetable is another summer staple. At Priya's Easy N Tasty Recipes, Priya uses green beans to make a curry and a stir-fry.

Horsegram~ Not a very well-known legume, but worth befriending for its earthy taste and rich iron content. At Oh Taste N See, Denny remembers that her grandmother considered horsegram (kollu) to be a cure for the common cold, and battles her own cold with kollu kadayal and kollu rasam.

Kidney Beans~A popular bean in many cuisines. At Our Cherished World, Swetha uses rajma in a time-honored Punjabi rajma masala and a tasty rajma salad.

Mango~A tropical fruit that evokes deep passions in many of us who grew up in the Indian subcontinent. At Palate Corner, Sonu enjoys mango in two sweet ways, thick mango lassi and sticky, fudgy coconut mango burfi.

Mustard~ A pungent spice and popular condiment, used in the form of tiny seeds or a paste. At Peppermill, Miri uses it in an adaptation of a Bengali dish of mixed vegetables and grilled mustard chicken.

Oats~ A great way to eat whole grains for breakfast. At The Taste Space, they are used in two ways, both sweet and delightful, as a whipped banana oatmeal and peach blueberry raspberry crumble.

Paneer~ The milky fresh cheese that is so popular in India.
     At Mimi's Mommy, the blogger learned two ways of using it, both pretty challenging I must say, and produces piping hot paneer parathas and luscious chilled rasmalai.
    At Super Yummy Recipes, Satya confesses that she has a "big crush on paneer" and uses it in two innovative ways, to make paneer kachori and paneer stuffed okra.

Rice Flour~ Rice milled to a fine white powder, a staple in many Indian kitchens. At Live to EatMegha uses it in two festive recipes with contrasting, sweet modaks and savory pearl modaks.

Sabudana~The starchy pearls that have a chewy, unique texture. At Queen of my Kitchen, Supriya uses sago pearls in sweet and savory ways, in sabudana thalipeeth and sabudana kheer.

Spinach~ A green leafy vegetable, something that many of us are trying to eat more of. At Mharo Rajasthan's Recipes, Priya uses it in two off-beat ways, in a versatile spinach chutney and in gorgeous green deep-fried pooris.

Tomatoes~ The savory bright red fruits of summer.
     Over at Daily Musings, Indosungod uses them in two different types of preserves, a rich and flavorful tomato pickle and sweet-spicy tomato jelly.
     Here at One Hot Stove, I used them in two quick dinners, for a no-cook pizza sauce and refried kidney beans.

Zucchini~Come summer, many cooks are wringing their hands trying to use up summer squash faster than it shows up at their doorstep. At The Cooker, a zucchini of extraordinary proportions is used in a number of innovative ways, including a zucchini cake and savory zucchini pancakes.

Thanks to these wonderful iron chef-bloggers for playing along!

* * * 
The theme for Blog Bites 8 was suggested by the last participant listed above- The Cooker said she could use some fresh new ideas for one dish meals, and I agreed, I could use them too.

Pavani of Cook's Hideout hosted a Monthly Blog Patrol with the theme One Pot Wonders in April 2008 but since over two years have passed since that event, it might be fun to have the same theme again. A single dish that contains all the major food groups, that is filling and satisfying and tasty- these are the kinds of recipes many of us want to include in our repertoire for the daily dinner rotation.

When we think of one-dish meals, many rice dishes like pulaos and khichdis come to mind. I love these, and you are certainly welcome to make them as your entries, but let's also challenge ourselves to make one dish meals beyond rice-based ones, like casseroles, over-stuffed wraps, stews and pasta dishes.

If you are looking for inspiration for the kinds of dishes to make, this post has great suggestions for a variety of one dish meals. If you are a George Clooney fan, then you might get distracted from the aforementioned great suggestions though. For even more ideas, check out these other events featuring one dish meals: a monthly mingle and another one dish event.

The Rules

  1. From now until October 25, look through your favorite blogs and try a recipe for a one dish meal. A one dish meal is where the grain/carbs, vegetables and protein are included in a single dish.
  2. The recipe has to come from another blog; that is the whole premise of Blog Bites, so please turn to other blogs for inspiration. 
  3. Write a post telling us about the one dish meal you made, with the following: (a) A link to the recipes on the inspiring blog, (b) A link to this post (the event announcement), (c) Picture of your dishes.
  4. Please write a post specifically for this event. 
  5. Please do NOT copy a recipe word for word from another blog- that would be both illegal and unethical. Either re-write the recipe in your own words if you have made substantial changes, or simply add a link to the recipe. One of the reasons I am hosting this event is to remind ourselves that when we use recipes from other blogs, we must be fair and honest in giving them due credit. 
  6. Please make sure your entry meets all the rules above. Then, send me the link (URL) of your entry at the following e-mail address: OneHotStove AT gmail DOT com
  7. You can send in as many entries as you like.
Have a great week, everyone!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

You Say Tomato

This month's Blog Bites challenge was to pick an ingredient and use it in two different ways. One ingredient that sneaks into way too many dishes that I make is the tomato. Tangy-sweet with a happy red color, I use tomatoes year round but other than the few summer months, they tend to be of the canned variety.

Here is what I made with tomatoes in the past week. Lately, the focus has been more on cooking and eating and less on food photography so I must warn you that the pictures on this post are quite wretched.

The first is a simple pizza sauce. My usual recipe is from my mom, but this particular evening I was looking for a quick no-cook recipe and found this one from Dine & Dish. It calls for some fresh basil (which is on hand during summer), a few canned tomatoes and some other pantry ingredients, simply stirred together. Perfect!

Here's how I made the 2-minute no cook pizza sauce.

In a bowl, mix together

  • 7-8 whole canned tomatoes, chopped finely
  • Handful of fresh basil leaves, torn
  • 2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbsp. tomato ketchup
  • 1 tsp. minced garlic
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • Few turns of freshly ground pepper
  • Salt to taste

This quick and rich tomato sauce was spread on a thin whole wheat pizza crust, topped with dollops of pesto and thinly sliced summer vegetables- peppers, onions, eggplant, zucchini- and some mozzarella and parmesan, and baked to perfection in a very hot oven. Throw in some good beer and you have the perfect summer meal.

The second tomato recipe is also a keeper. I love Punjabi rajma, with the rich flavor of tomatoes and kidney beans and little else. This refried beans recipe from Kitchen Parade, adapted from a recipe by Diana Kennedy, was very reminiscent of rajma with a different cultural spin.

Here is how I used fresh local tomatoes to make Refried (ish) Kidney Beans

  1. Soak 1 cup dried kidney beans for 24 hours and rinse them thoroughly. Cook them with a little salt in the pressure cooker until tender. 
  2. Puree the kidney beans with 4 medium chopped fresh tomatoes in the food processor. I left the puree quite chunky. 
  3. In a pan, heat 1 tbsp. oil. Saute 1 finely minced onion, 1 finely minced red pepper and 2 tsp. minced garlic
  4. Add 1 tsp. cumin powder, 1 tsp. oregano, 1 tsp. paprika and 2 tsp. red chilli powder (or more or less depending on your desired level of heat). Add salt to taste. 
  5. Stir in the bean-tomato puree and cook for several minutes. 
This simple bean puree was a surprise hit- tasty and comforting. It keeps well in the fridge for 2-3 days. Once you have the bean puree on hand, you can cook it with eggs for breakfast as in the original recipe. I made burritos with the bean puree, sauteed vegetables, cilantro and cheese. 

But this was my favorite way to use it: smear half a whole wheat tortilla with tomato pickle (mine is store bought). Then spread the bean puree generously. Top with some pepper jack cheese, fold the tortilla and microwave for 20-40 seconds. This is what I packed into my lunch 3 days in a row. So good. There was a small container of bean puree left over and I would have taken lunch for a 4th day, but Neighbor Girl discovered it and ate it up before I could protest.

Meanwhile, I am thoroughly enjoying the sneak peek into the kitchens of some of my fellow bloggers, linked in my last post. If you would like to play along, I've extended the deadline for a few days, and the link tool will be open until September 30.

Please check back tomorrow evening for the round up of BB7 and the theme for the next round (today is the deadline for entries). Happy Saturday!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Kitchens Revealed: a Link Party

On my last post, Sangeetha mentioned that she would like a sneak peek into my little kitchen. Well, this weekend started with a lovely and relaxed morning so I thought it was as good a time as any to snap some pictures and share them here.

I've had fun putting together my new kitchen in the last month, trying to make it as organized and functional as I can. Much as I love to cook and bake, rummaging for tools and working in clutter can take the joy right out it. So I made some rules for myself and gave myself a stern warning to stick to them (yes, I frequently feel the need to lecture myself inwardly):

  1. Leave two countertops absolutely clear and empty. This workspace is used only while I am actively cooking. Nothing is ever stored there permanently. 
  2. Put all the tools and equipment in plain sight and where I can easily reach it. I know from experience that anything that is hidden away never gets used. In fact, I forget that I even own it.
  3. Throw away (rather, donate) anything I haven't used in a few months. Unused stuff eats up precious kitchen real estate and gets in the away. I am very ruthless and unsentimental about getting rid of unnecessary stuff. 
  4. A place for everything and everything in its place. Life is too short to go rummaging for things. 

My kitchen is a long, narrow rectangle. This is one of the long sides, with counters (2 of them empty, one with the microwave oven), sink, stove/oven, dishwasher.

All the overhead cabinets are way above my reach (I am very short on the petite side) so they are more or less useless.

Instead, all my storage is on the long wall opposite this one. I placed two Baker's Racks and they contain all my appliances, baking dishes, and all kinds of tools.

I bought these Baker's Racks separately (2 years apart, in fact) used (read super-cheap) from Craigslist, the online classifieds. But they match well. There is a power strip hidden behind into which all of these appliances can be plugged in. A few cheap S-shaped hooks made it easy to hang up all kinds of little things like measuring spoons, tongs and pot holders.

With my other tools, I stuck them in vases and put them on the windowsill next to the counter. It makes it so easy to just pluck out what I need.

The third wall is a narrow one and has a pantry (a simple cupboard with shelves, not the walk-in kind) and the fridge. Instead of hanging bags on the pantry door, I put my favorite dishcloth (a very sweet gift from my friend Bek, a fellow knitter) on a hanger as a little decorative touch.

My very favorite thing about this kitchen is the fact that the fourth wall opens into the back porch and backyard, so I can look out of the window as I am cooking and see the trees-

Now it is your turn. I would love to see your kitchens too. Kitchens can be big or small or downright tiny, tidy or messy, old or new, but they are the place where all the magic happens. Here's a blog event of sorts where you don't have to find a recipe or cook anything.

Instead of the traditional way of making round-ups, I am doing a link party. The round up will be right here as participants add their posts. I've been looking at link parties on craft blogs, like this one, and thought it might be fun to host one just as an experiment to see how well it works.

To participate:

1. Just snap a few pictures of your kitchen and write a post on your blog about your kitchen: what you love about it, how you have organized it, whatever you want to share.
2. Link to this post so your readers can come and check out all the participants.
3. Click on "Click here to enter". Add your post's link/URL. And a little caption or title, saying whose kitchen this is. You can add a picture that will show up as a thumbnail.
4. You can participate anytime until the end of the month, September 30.

Have a lovely weekend!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Cold Coffee for a Tea Party

Are you one of those people who loves sucking down pricey grande glasses of cream-topped something-cchinos from the corner cafe, you know the one with the little green signage with a mermaid on it? I'm not one for coffee drinks, but V loves them on occasion and so do many of my friends. If you are one of the coffee drink devotees, you might be interested in this cheap, simple way to fix your cravings right at home.

I often make cold coffee in summer, and until recently, I used one of two methods. One is to mix up instant coffee, cold milk and sugar and then do an energetic shake-shake-shake (anyone remember the ad?), the other is to brew hot coffee in a coffee-maker, chill it and then mix in milk and sugar. Both were fairly satisfactory.

Then, early this summer, I came across this post on Tiny Choices, a blog about environmental issues and the small changes we can make for the better. This was the first I heard of this method of cold brewing, and what a great method it is. Let's see- it needs no fancy appliances, requires no use of the stove, needs 30 seconds of hands-on time and makes "just like Starbucks" cold coffee for a tiny fraction of the cost.

This is what I do to make the iced coffee concentrate:
1. Use a clean glass jar.
2. Add 2 cups filtered water and 1/2 cup coffee grounds (we always buy the fair trade coffee from Trader Joe's; you can use your favorite brand).
3. Swish the water around so all the coffee grounds are submerged.
4. Put the lid on the jar and place it at room temperature away from direct sunlight.
5. After 8 hours or so, the coffee has steeped. Filter the coffee using a very fine mesh filter/strainer and your coffee concentrate is ready!

Mix the concentrate with chilled milk (soymilk or almond milk are wonderful too) and your favorite sweetener and serve over ice- oh so refreshing. I love mixing the concentrate with sweetened condensed milk to make something like the Thai iced teas you get in restaurants. The possibilities are endless. Top it with whipped cream and chocolate shavings or a dash of cinnamon to create your own fancy coffee drink.

I know people expect a strong cup of aromatic chai at a tea party, but right around tea-time on a hot summer day, a tall glass of iced coffee is just the thing. So this is my contribution to Anita's mad tea party- the deadline was 15th September. It is well into 16th September in her time zone but it is still the 15th in mine, so I hope my entry is in, right under the wire!

Anita recently wrote a very thought-provoking post and I would call it required reading for food bloggers. We food bloggers enjoy reading each other's blogs, trying recipes and exchanging tips, and posting recipes on our blog that are inspired by others, but along with those rights and freedoms come responsibilities, the need to be gracious and honest in acknowledging the ideas that come from others.

You lose absolutely nothing by crediting an idea or a recipe to someone else. After all, human progress is based on people taking what others have done and building on it, adding their own creative touches and creating variations and improvements. On the other hand, when we fail to give credit, we risk losing our reputation, trust and respect, and the loss of any of these is very hard to repair. So Anita's post was a timely reminder to me to try to be a high-quality blogger every time I sit down and type a post and I applaud her decision to take a stance and say something out loud in favor of doing the right thing.

* * * 
This was a treat we enjoyed last week, a gift from my friends: frutta martozana or marzipan fruits, a specialty of Sicily. They are very realistic and almost life-size.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Roasted Tomato Chutney

This recipe started when I bought a couple dozen beautiful tomatoes at the Farmers Market last Thursday. Then I kept the oven at a slow and steady 200F for a whole 12 hours on Friday and roasted the tomatoes with garlic and herbs, transforming the already tasty tomatoes into something more like candy.

That night, I put together the pasta salad that was my Big Discovery of last summer. A year later, I am still surprised at how much everyone loves it. 

A few leftover roasted tomatoes were stashed in a small container. What followed was a weekend of such rare and spectacular perfection that it makes me worry about the future. By the law of averages the rest of the year will have ghastly weather. But I digress. Luxurious weekends are just the thing for the dosa ritual- soaking, grinding, fermenting- and the resulting dosa deserves a tasty chutney to accompany it. 

Chutneys are so remarkably versatile. The traditional formulations are wonderful, but you can always invent a new one based on the unique contents of your fridge. I usually use a sauteed vegetable (tomatoes, onions, zucchini) or an herb (parsley, cilantro) with some coconut (frozen, defrosted)and some roasted gram (called phutane in Marathi and dalia in Hindi) to thicken the mixture and help the grinding process. The chutney gets some heat from fresh green chillies or red chilli powder, and of course some salt and some fresh lemon juice to brighten the flavors. A sizzling tempering of mustard seeds, asafetida and curry leaves provides the final savory touch to bring it all together. 

Roasted Tomato Chutney

1. Grind together to a thick paste, using some warm water as required (all quantities are flexible):
1 cup roasted tomatoes
1/2 cup fresh (or defrosted frozen) coconut
1/4 cup roasted gram dal
Red chilli powder to taste
Salt to taste

2. Make a tempering, pour it on the chutney and stir together:
2 tsp. oil
1 tsp. mustard seeds
1 sprig curry leaves
pinch of asafetida

I love trying dosa recipes from different blogs, and this week I made Vaishali's brown rice dosa. I love her idea of microwaving the rice for just a few minutes to soften it up and make grinding easier. Dosa is the perfect vehicle for brown rice and I have now switched entirely to using brown rice in all dosa recipes.

Wait a second...Dale is saying something.

Dale's Tales

Dale is the self-appointed sheriff of the backyard. He watches over his little kingdom from his vantage point on the porch. If he sees any threats to law and order, such as squirrels squabbling in the high branches or kitties walking along the fence, he leaves his sunny spot and makes a mad dash to bark sharply at them.

For now, the yard is quiet and peaceful and all is well with the world.

Friday, September 03, 2010

Cocoa Brownies

The US is looking forward to Labor Day weekend, the unofficial end to summer, and in my home, we are sure to have a busy and exciting time. Our dear Italian friend arrives this weekend with her husband, baby and sister and they will stay with us for a week. The guest room is ready, sheets and towels are freshly washed and the fridge and pantry are stocked up with enough food for a small army.

To welcome them with a sweet treat, I baked a batch of all-American dark fudgy brownies studded with walnuts. The recipe comes from one of the superstars in the world of desserts, Alice Medrich. I found the recipe here on Smitten Kitchen.

The recipe is unusual in many respects- for instance, you use cold eggs (straight from the fridge) where almost all baking recipes require you to use ingredients at room temperature. Also, after stirring in the flour, the directions ask you to beat the batter dozens of times, where most recipes want you to fold the ingredients in ever so gently avoid developing the gluten when you want a tender result. But it all works just perfectly. What's more, the recipe calls for ingredients that I always have on hand.

I followed the recipe closely with these minor modifications:
1. I reduced the sugar to a cup.
2. I used a microwave to make the butter, sugar, salt and cocoa mixture. This made brownie-batter-making a one bowl deal with very minimal clean-up.

After baking, I placed the brownies in the fridge overnight; cooling them really helped to get clean slices.

These are dense fudgy brownies with a rich chocolate flavor- truly a treat. It is my second time making this recipe. The first time I sent a batch with my friend Neighbor Girl when she went to visit her grandma a couple of states over. Neighbor Girl reported that her grandma who normally picks at her food and barely eats anything ate several brownies with gusto. That just made me so happy, especially since I live too far away from my own grandma to ever bake or cook anything for her.

Fresh off the Hooks

My hexagon afghan is done- whew! And it makes me happy just looking at these colorful flowers. It definitely has a retro look though.

I hope you all have a lovely weekend.