Thursday, October 28, 2010

Blog Bites 9: The Holiday Buffet

Towards the end of last year, in a moment of temporary insanity, I declared that I would try 40 new recipes in 40 days and post about each one until the new year. It was a crazy and exhilarating experience. This year, I have better control over my impulsive behavior. Still, I am keen on making the best of what's left of 2010 and cooking and baking to my heart's content.

The rest of the year is packed with holidays so I expect most food bloggers will be churning out festive meals. And our last Blog Bites potluck was so much fun that I decided a good way to celebrate would be to host another potluck buffet.

I took a screenshot of the recipes bookmarked on my computer yesterday and this is what it looks like: there are about 55 recipes in here, and I'm dying to try each one. More are being added to this list on a daily basis, I might add.

Perhaps you too have recipes bookmarked from other blogs that are sitting around waiting to be made. This is your chance to try any recipe from another blog and bring it to the holiday buffet. You have almost 2 months to send in entries (yes, this is a double edition) and depending on how many entries arrive, I might do a string of round-ups or one massive holiday buffet.

The Rules
  1. From now until December 25, try ANY recipe from another blog. 
  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 recipe you tried, with the following (a) A link to the recipe on the inspiring blog (b) A link to this post (the event announcement).
  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. Let's all give credit where credit is due.
  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.

I will kick things off with my very first entry to BB9: butternut curry soup inspired by this recipe from Not Eating Out in New York. This blog has a nice feature- it rates recipes by cost, health factor and environmental impact. If you live in or around NYC, you might be interested in the local food event listing in the left side-bar.

Coming to the recipe: For the last three weeks, ever since winter squash made an appearance at the local market, I have been buying one medium butternut squash every week. Each is large enough that I can cut it and cook it, and use it in two different dishes that week. So far, one butternut squash was made into soup and quesadillas, another went into chili and dal and so on- it is simply a wonderful versatile vegetable with a sweet buttery taste.

A whole butternut squash can look formidable- you look at it and wonder, how on earth am I going to cut this thing without an axe and without losing a digit or two? These two tutorials were very helpful, and now I've combined some of the tips to come up with a method that works for me, as follows:
  1. Cut off slivers at the top and bottom. 
  2. Stand the squash upright and carefully cut it down the middle into two halves. 
  3. Scoop out seeds and innards and discard (you can save the seeds and toast them).
  4. To cook, either use the microwave or oven. I use the former because it takes only minutes.
  5. Place the halves in a dish that will fit in your microwave. Pour in some water, to create steam. 
  6. Microwave for 8-12 minutes, a few minutes at a time until the squash is fairly tender. 
  7. Cool and store in the fridge until use. To use, peel (much easier now that it is cooked) and cut into cubes. 

Curried Butternut Squash Soup

1. Heat 2 tsp. oil and saute a large minced onion with salt and pepper.

2. Add the following and saute for 2 minutes:
  • 1 chopped tomato
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp. Sri Lankan curry powder (or your favorite masala)
  • 1 tsp. paprika
  • 1 tsp. red chili powder (optional, but the heat contrasts well with sweet squash)
3. Add cubed butternut squash (4 cups or so, half of a medium squash) and saute for 2 minutes.

4. Add 1 cup thick coconut milk and 2 to 3 cups water or vegetable stock. Simmer for 10 minutes. 

5. Blend the soup using an immersion blender. Garnish if fresh herbs if desired and serve. 

For something so simple, this soup has incredible flavor- you must give it a try. I served it with egg pulao. 

I'm looking forward to eating down my bookmarks by the end of the year, and here's hoping you will join me for this special edition of Blog Bites.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Warm up with One Dish Meals

October's Blog Bites challenge was to look through your favorite blogs and try a recipe for a one dish meal. Here it is, a big dose of tasty comfort in six different categories. Please click through and read the entries and their sources of inspiration- you might find some terrific new blogs to follow.

The goodness of grains and beans can be the base for so many hearty one pot meals.

Anu makes Hawaiian-style chickpeas with harvest grain blend, a sweet-spicy combination so tasty that she swears they "could not get enough". And go and see for yourself if this is not the easiest recipe ever: marinate everything overnight, then fry in a wok and you have dinner.

Janet wants to feed us booger salad, with barbecued worms and muddy caterpillar hotdogs, but luckily ends up giving us a gorgeous bowl of bulgur and grape salad with nuts and cranberries instead. They say you eat with your eyes first, and this picture just filled me up.

Sharan declares that "we need to chaat" (yes, we absolutely do) and proceeds to assemble leftover sundal (dressed up lentils) with herbs, chutneys, onions, tomatoes and crunchy sev into an irresistible bowl of chaat.

Mimi's Mommy combines rice and sprouts and lots of fried onions to make mujadarah, and praises this Middle-Eastern dish saying, "I don’t know if I should praise the aroma of the ingredients more than the outcome or if I should praise how quick the dish is to make or how tasty and filling it is."

Rice is very nice, indeed, the grain that immediately comes to my mind when I think of comfort food. Plain rice can be dressed up with a infinite variety of spices and vegetables. Priya makes two mixed rice recipes, pepper rice and radish rice.

Boil water and cook up some pasta- add some vegetables and dress with a sauce or some cheese, and you have a one dish meal that can hold all the major food groups and then some.

Megha beats the heat and humidity of Mumbai by making a batch of summer vegetable pasta with pesto, with a tangy and rich almond sauce, vegetables and short pasta. 

Satya loves tiny shell pasta because it cooks up in no time and is perfect for kids. She uses plenty of vegetables to make a colorful platter of mini shell pasta with tomato basil sauce.

Suparna says that her family is not really a pasta-eating one, but she tries stuffed pasta for the first time in agnolotti with roasted red pepper sauce and is very happy with the results. 

A pot of stew bubbling away on the stove is a picture of domestic bliss and home-cooked love. 

Amruta packs in "proteins from the beans; carbs, vitamins and fibers from veggies and whole grain bread/pasta" and shares a recipe for one pot vegetable stew.

There is the dramatic moment when a heavy casserole is lifted out of the oven, when savory vapors envelope the kitchen and you just can't wait to dig in. Casseroles are a great way to use up ingredients and minimize waste by being forgiving in terms of what can go into them.

As Shobana says, she started with an inspiring recipe, and then "halved, changed, added, deleted, all at once" to make a rice and mixed vegetable bake studded with colorful cubes of vegetables and topped with a tempting layer of melted cheese.

Tanvi combines the comfort of an American classic with the complex flavors of Thai cuisine with a tiny bit of cheating as she calls it, using store-bought pie crust to make a beautiful red curry chicken pot pie.

Corina bakes Greek lemon chicken, with potatoes baked in the casserole to soak up the complex flavors of oregano, lemon and garlic. She says it is absolutely delicious, and a keeper.

The Cooker finds a recipe for a samosa casserole, confesses that it had her at "samosa" and makes her own version of Bengali-ishtyle potato-cauliflower samosa casserole which was gobbled up in a single sitting.

Bala used literally one pan, a marvel of technology that goes from microwave to stove to oven to table, to make brussels sprouts au gratin with unusual (to me) vegetables like parsnips and chestnuts and lots of creamy cheese. 

Johanna finds that inclement weather makes grocery shopping difficult, but she manages to use what she has at home, "forgotten vegetarian sausage I found at the back of the fridge, some leftover sundried tomato pasta sauce that had not been a hit, wilted spring onions, a heel of parmesan cheese that was drying out", to make a wonderful spinach rice gratin.

Sometimes life calls for mix and match to make something unique to fit your needs. 

SS reveals her complicated inner monologue about foods that are and aren't appropriate for lunch boxes (e.g. too-green stuff and too-brown stuff is a no-no) and discovers a new dabba candidate in parotta salad, with a torn-up paratha, fresh crunchy veggies, protein patty and a sauce to bring it all together.

Supriya goes blog-hopping and borrows components from different blogs- Mexican rice from one place and fajita vegetables from another, then layers them in a crisp shell to make an impressive taco salad in tortilla bowl.

Just because it is a one dish meal does not mean it cannot also be an elaborate masterpiece.

Satya puts layers of love and care, even making tortillas from scratch, and comes up with a multilayered quesadilla- beans, vegetables and cheese nestled in layers of fresh tortillas.

Miri's description ("not too cloyingly thick, not too sweet, not bland at all - a perfect blend of flavours which pleases the palate") brings alive a wonderful Burmese dish, and then she put a lot of TLC into making a spread of noodles, creamy curry and an array of delightful toppings to make her version of Burmese Khow Suey.

Jayasri battles a migraine and makes it to the one-dish party with a beautiful platter of Hyderabadi vegetable biryani, a labor of love involving a dozen warm spices, plenty of vegetables and several tasty ingredients including cashews, raisins, fried onions and herbs.

Finally, JK says that much as she appreciates the routine of roti-subzi-dal-chawal, sometimes she needs a break and turns to one dish meals instead. She posts three one-dish meals, including handvo, a savory vegetable cake, methi theplas and pan pizza.

A huge thank you to all the participants for playing along. As you might have noticed, time slipped past me and I did not get around to participating in my own event- oh well, there's always a next time. 

Please check back on Thursday for the next theme (clue: there won't be much of a theme per se) and for a bonus soup recipe in that same post. 

Saturday, October 23, 2010

The Radish as Comfort Food

It's a's a's a dal with features of both; a totally inauthentic recipe but so tasty that you should try it anyway.

I owe a great debt to food bloggers- really I do. It is very nice to learn how to make impressive desserts and elaborate dishes for special occasions. But the coolest thing is when blogs teach me fresh new ideas for everyday meals and different ways to cook the same ol' vegetables that end up in my crisper week after week.

Radishes were mainly a salad vegetable in my life until a few years ago when I noticed wonderful ways to cook them into a main dish here on Mahanandi and here on Aayi's recipes. Over the years, this radish dal has evolved in my kitchen based on those recipes and remains one of the greatest hits on the dinner rotation.

The trick here is to work quickly and not let the dal simmer for too long. You will be rewarded with radishes that are cooked long enough to soak up all the delicious flavors but that remain juicy enough to make every bite a treat.

Radish Dal 

1. Cook 12 cup toor dal and set it aside.

2. Start with the tempering
  • 2 tsp. oil
  • 1 tsp. mustard seeds
  • 1 pinch asafetida
  • 1 sprig fresh curry leaves
3. Add 1 large bunch red radishes, sliced into coins or half moons. If the radish greens are attached to the bunch and if they look fresh, chop up the greens and add them too. White radish (daikon) will work perfectly well here too.

4. Add the spices:
  • 12 tsp. turmeric
  • 12 tsp. red chilli powder
  • 1-2 tsp. of your favorite rasam or sambar powder
  • 1 tbsp. tamarind paste
  • Salt to taste
5. Stir for a minute, then add 1 cup water and let the radishes cook for 3-4 minutes.

6. Add the cooked toor dal and more water if needed and simmer for 5 minutes.

7. Taste and make sure the balance of salt, spice and tangy flavors is just right. Let the dal sit for at least 20 minutes before serving and serve over freshly steamed rice.

I finally got around to making ghee at home, and a dollop of this home made ghee transforms dal-rice into something even more special. The picture shows what little was left after V and I finished eating.

Please check back on Monday night for the round up of Blog Bites 8, where it is all about one dish meals. Entries will be welcomed all weekend. I'll include my own entry in that post.

Have a great weekend, all!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Self-Saucing Cabbage Curry

I love low-maintenance recipes. The ones where I don't need to hover over the pan watching like a hawk, or stir the pot constantly until my arms muscles quiver in protest. Where I can put the ingredients in, say "see ya later" and come back to something good and tasty. This is one such recipe.

It uses cabbage, the inexpensive and unassuming vegetable that can be dressed up in a hundred different ways. The idea for a no-hassle way to coat the cabbage in a tasty sauce comes from this recipe that I found via Priya, when she sent it as an entry for Blog Bites.

Dry coconut powder and sesame seeds are blitzed to a powder (this could be made in a batch and stored as a pantry basic). This powder magically turns a basic stir-fry bhaaji into a luscious curry, by combining with juices released from the vegetables and creating a wonderful sauce.

I don't bother roasting the coconut and sesame before making the powder, instead stir-frying the powder for a couple of minutes. I don't add any extra water either, because salt draws out plenty of water from the vegetables. This recipe would certainly work with other vegetables too.

Self-Saucing Cabbage Curry
Adapted from this recipe from Healthfood Desivideshi, serves 4 to 5

  1. Grind 3 tbsp. dry coconut flakes/powder and 1 tbsp. sesame seeds into a fine powder and set aside. 
  2. In a pan, heat 2 tsp. oil.
  3. Temper it with 1 tsp. mustard seeds and 1 tsp. cumin seeds.
  4. Add 1 medium onion (sliced), 5 to 6 cups cabbage strips (about half a large head), 1 bell pepper (sliced) and stir fry for a couple of minutes.
  5. Add 1 tsp. red chilli powder, 1/2 tsp. turmeric, 2 tsp. cumin-coriander powder and the coconut-sesame powder. Stir fry for a couple of minutes. 
  6. Add 1 chopped tomato, salt to taste and 1/2 tsp. jaggery/sugar (optional; do this if you like your savory curries to have a barely perceptible hint of sweetness).  
  7. Don't add water or cover the pan (but others have noted that the vegetables started to burn at the bottom so please take your own stove/cookware into account and adjust the method accordingly). Just let it cook unattended on medium-low heat for 12-15 minutes. 
Serve with rotis or yogurt-rice or dal-rice and some pickle on the side for an utterly satisfying meal.

Enjoy your Sunday and have a wonderful week ahead.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Summer's Last Hurrah

One of the happiest things that happened to me this summer was the direct result of a policy at my workplace. Every Thursday (this started in August and will continue into November), local farmers were invited to set up tents and tables and sell their fresh produce right in the courtyard, in the shadow of offices, hospitals and research buildings, in an urban setting where thousands of employees congregate.

At lunchtime once a week without fail, I am able to stroll down and get my pick of the season's finest fruits and vegetables, grown in nearby farms in Missouri and Illinois. This unprecedented access allowed me to enjoy the bounty of summer more than ever. Last week's market was the turning point- on the tables, you could see the last of the summer crops, squash, peppers, eggplant and tomato, sharing space with the first of the winter crops, cabbages, cauliflowers and greens.

Coming home with this mixed-seasonal assortment, I found myself with a tub of pesto and a container of cooked kidney beans (extras from the rajma I made a couple of days earlier) in the fridge and a scant cup of whole-wheat couscous in the pantry. It all came together in this quick salad that heralded the change of seasons in my kitchen.

On a side note, the cauliflower from the market was something to behold. For starters, it was not swaddled in plastic. The florets were shapely and looser than the turgid florets of the supermarket variety. The florets has light pink-purple striations on the stems. And the tasty was ever so cauliflowery!

Pesto Couscous Salad
(my own impromptu creation)

  1. Grain: Place 1 scant cup couscous in a bowl and cover with 1 cup boiling water. Cover and let it stand for 10 minutes. Fluff the grains with a fork.
  2. Vegetables: Meanwhile, heat extra-virgin olive oil in a heavy pan. Saute cauliflower florets, zucchini and summer squash coins and pepper strips until seared and tender, seasoning with salt and pepper. I find that fairly high heat is required to get vegetables that are juicy but with tasty brown flecks.
  3. Make the salad: In a large bowl, toss together the couscous, vegetables, a cup or so of cooked kidney beans. Dress with pesto, a hefty pinch of red pepper flakes, more olive oil and salt, pepper if required. 
  4. Taste the salad and add some lemon juice or balsamic vinegar if needed to brighten the flavors. 
That's it- a quick supper that exudes wholesomeness. It happens to be vegan too. And a one-dish meal, no less. Of course, other grains like bulgur wheat or barley or quinoa would be a perfect substitute for the couscous.

The other happy (or disastrous, depending on whether you look at it from the point of view of the taste buds or the thighs) discovery of this summer was the jarred refrigerated ranch dressing from Whole Foods. It goes with everything (ask us how we know), including as a sauce atop this salad.

I have butternut squash soup bubbling away on the stove as I sit here and type this, so watch for Fall flavors and heartier dishes on One Hot Stove as we roll into the colder months.

Dale's Tales

A day in the life of a busy dog...

9 AM: Nap in the sun

Noon: Nap in the sun 

2 PM: Congratulate yourself on a hard day's work.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Cheesecake Brownies

Has it really been a couple of weeks since I posted anything new on this blog? Time sure flies when you are having fun- and I've been busy knitting myself a sweater, reading some interesting books (more on this at the end of the post), teaching and learning fun new things and generally taking a short unplanned break from blogging. Which can be ever so refreshing and an antidote to blogger's block.

Anyway. It seems quite logical that one might pick out a fabulous recipe, go shopping for the ingredients and then cook or bake. My method is often less romantic and more pragmatic. Food wastage makes me feel wretched, so I poke around the fridge and look for ingredients that must be used before I go hunting for recipes.

Several weeks ago, I stocked the fridge with Everything Possible for my guests and found myself with leftover cream cheese and sour cream. Yesterday came the opportunity to dispatch the cream cheese by making quick and easy cheesecake brownies- a little treat to celebrate a happy event: Neighbor Girl getting the job of her dreams.

Two bowls, pantry ingredients + cream cheese, 5 minutes of mixing and 30-40 minutes in the oven, and you have yourself a pan of swirly brownies.

Cheesecake Brownies
(adapted from this recipe from delish)

1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Line an 8x8 pan with parchment and grease lightly.

2. This is the cream cheese portion. In a medium bowl, beat together
  • 6 oz. cream cheese (3/4 of a standard slab), softened
  • 1 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tbsp. sugar
  • 1 tbsp. all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
The cream cheese and the butter can be softened by setting them on the counter, or by microwaving them for a few seconds.

3. This is the brownie portion. In a large bowl, beat together
  • 7 tbsp. melted butter (the rest of the stick after removing a tbsp. for the cream cheese portion)
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder

4. Layer most of the brownie portion in the prepared pan. Pour the cream cheese portion on it. Dollop on the rest of the brownie portion. Run a knife tip through the dollops to create pretty swirls.

5. Bake for 30 minutes or until a tester comes clean (with only some crumbs attached). Cool for an hour, then slice into 16 squares. Stand back and let your family and friends fight over how to divide up the squares.

The sour cream and a partial bag of frozen blueberries went into this quick bread from King Arthur. I can't seem to make enough quick breads, they are very popular around here.

On The Bookshelf

When I mention books in this space, it is because I enjoyed them and want to recommend them. But here is a book that I really looked forward to reading, where I loved the premise of the novel but was utterly disappointed with the book when I was done reading it.

They say to not judge a book by its cover, but look at that inviting slice of cake- I had to read The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender. The concept of the book is a young girl who can taste the emotions of the person who has prepared the food she is eating. For instance, her mother is outwardly cheerful but a taste of her chocolate-frosted lemon cake fills the girl's mouth with the horrid taste of sadness and dissatisfaction. She finds herself having to eat packaged snacks made in gigantic factories, untouched by human hands, because everything else is brimming with the darkest emotions and secrets of the person who made it. In the end, the story fizzled out and made no sense to me and the book left me with a deep sense of dissatisfaction, probably tainting the dinner I made that evening ;)

On some level, I believe that the emotions of the cook certainly have an effect on the food. "Made with love" is more than a tired cliche. Mostly because I am in a good mood, I am more likely to focus on the process (whether cooking or something else), take my time and produce higher quality results. This is why I am utterly mortified when I see chefs in food-oriented TV reality shows shouting expletives, throwing things around and arguing violently in the kitchen- the food they make feels toxic to me, in spite of the high end ingredients and fancy presentation. Give me some rice and beans that have been cooked with love and respect instead, chefs. Hold the drama, please.

Have a lovely weekend; I'll be back early next week with a post brimming with vegetables and grains and other good things, plus the latest tales of one Mr. Dale.