Friday, May 31, 2013

Announcing My Legume Love Affair, the 60th Edition!

I have an ongoing love affair with legumes and I know most of you share this not-so-secret-passion. Well, this month, we're making it official! My Legume Love Affair, known simply as MLLA to its fans, is being hosted here on One Hot Stove this month, June 2013. It is the 60th edition (the diamond anniversary!) of this long-running blog event, started by Susan of The Well-Seasoned Cook and now run by Lisa of Lisa's Kitchen

If you would like to join in the fun, here are the deets:

1. For this event, we will be cooking with legumes as a main ingredient. Any course and any cuisine is welcome. The legumes can be beans, lentils, dals, peas or pulses. Certain other ingredients are legumes too, such as tamarind, carob, and fenugreek. Foods derived from legumes such as tofu and besan (chickpea flour) also qualify. Whatever your chosen legume, please make sure that it is the star of your dish. The exceptions would be fenugreek or tamarind, which are typically used in small quantities.

2. Entries should be vegetarian (eggs and dairy OK).

3. Only 1 entry will be accepted per blogger.  

4. If you have any older recipes you would like to enter, please update and re-post them during this month to qualify.  

5. MLLA entries may be used as entries to other blog events.

6. Use of the MLLA logo (above) is optional but appreciated. Susan designed it; isn't it pretty?

7. You post should mention "My Legume Love Affair" and contain links to this announcement, Lisa's MLLA information page (which is completely worth checking out for info on this event, as well as links to round-ups with thousands of legume recipes), and please give a nod to Susan's blog as well. 

8. After you have posted your entry, e-mail me at onehotstove [at] gmail [dot] com with "MLLA 60" in the subject line and include:

  1. Your name.
  1. The name of your blog.
  1. Your recipe title.
  1. The URL of your MLLA post.
  2. Your location. This is necessary for the prize drawing, but your location will not be posted in the round up.
  3. A photo at least 400 pixel wide.

The deadline for entries is June 30, 2013. The round-up will be posted promptly in the first week of July.

Oh, and did I mention that we have prizes??

1. This cookbook, The Daily Bean. This prize is offered by Susan at her expense, and she will also pay for shipping worldwide.

2. Hurst Bean Box - A case of six bags of the winner's choice of Hurst Bean products, sponsored by Hurst Bean. (Due to shipping restrictions, this prize can only be awarded if the winner is a U.S. resident.)

Before posting the round up, I'll draw a name randomly from your entries. If the winner is in the U.S., they will get both prizes. If they are outside the U.S., they will get the cookbook from Susan and I'll draw again from the U.S. residents only for the beans.

I hope you will participate! 

Friday, May 24, 2013

Sign Up for Round Two of The Spice and Something Nice Swap

The first round of the Spice and Something Swap was quite successful, and today we're kicking off the second round. The idea is that you will be paired up with another person, and then you send each other two small gifts: a "spice" and "something nice".

The Spice can be homemade or store-bought. It can be a powder or a paste or indeed a bottled sauce. It can come from any cuisine. It should just be something that you personally love using and want the other person to experience and enjoy. If you want to include a recipe, or a note with suggestions on how best to use the spice, that would be fine too.

Something Nice is just a small treat for the other person- a nice chocolate bar, a book or magazine, perhaps a luxurious soap or hand lotion or lip gloss, scarf or earrings, or your favorite snack or beverage. Just one small treat that you particularly love and want the other person to enjoy. Again, this can be homemade or store-bought.

This time, I'm opening the swap to people from all over the world. From doing international swaps on another website, I've learned that shipping stuff from one country to another can be (a) expensive, (b) a hassle because of customs forms and paperwork and (c) can take a long time. For these reasons, please note that I will be matching up swappers within the same country.

You don't have to be a blogger to participate. All you need is a valid e-mail address that you check on a daily basis, and a willingness to follow the swap schedule. 

If you want to play, here are the details:

1. Sign up by filling out this form. Sign-ups will be open until Friday, May 31. Sign-ups are now closed.

2. I will e-mail you the name and e-mail ID of your swap partner by Sunday, June 2, 2013. If you have signed up, but have not heard from me by Monday, June 3, please e-mail me right away. Last time a couple of sign-ups vanished into cyberspace.

3. Chat with your swap partner via e-mail and learn a bit about their likes and dislikes, then put together a small package with at least two gifts- a "spice" and "something nice".

3. Mail out your package by Saturday, June 22, 2013.

4. When your gift arrives, e-mail me with a photo and a description. On July 15, I'll post a round up like this one from the first swap and we can ooh and aah over what everyone got.

If you think your friends would like to participate, please spread the word about this swap. The more participants, the merrier! This swap calls for very little commitment and I hope it will be a fun little exercise to kick off summer.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Week in Books and Food

What I have today is a series of brief blurbs on interesting eats and reads from the past several days.

The success of the quinoa pinto bean salad that I posted last week means that many more hearty salads are going to be put together. I cooked a big batch of short pasta (bows and corkscrews) and had some left over. Somewhere, I had seen an idea for an avocado pasta sauce and that's how this salad came to be: cooked pasta tossed with sauteed zucchini, cooked black beans, raw shredded red cabbage and a creamy sauce made by blending ripe avocados with a bit of yogurt, mayo, lemon juice, salt and pepper and handfuls of cilantro. Sound more than a little hodge-podge, but it was a treat to eat cold out of the fridge on a warm afternoon. I drizzled my portion with a little sriracha sauce.

Neighbor Girl and I celebrated our birthdays recently and exchanged gifts and cards by mail (sob!) She sent me nice-smelling handmade soaps and the most gorgeous cookbook (more on that another time), and I sent her freshly-baked cookies and a gift certificate for a massage at a spa local to her (Thank you, Internet). The cookies were these espresso shortbread cookies and they were good but not great. I felt like something was lacking. She was gracious enough to gush about them anyway.

On Sunday, we had some people over and for a very casual meal, we set up a grilled cheese bar. We set out:
Breads- sourdough, sliced multigrain, ciabatta rolls;
Cheeses- brie, cheddar, cream cheese, goat Gouda, mozzarella, etc.
Fillings- sauteed spinach, mushrooms, marinated artichokes, caramelized onions, bananas and apples, sliced tomatoes, and a potato-pea mixture for Indian style sandwich toasts;
Sauces- mustard, jalapeno jelly, raspberry jam, peanut butter, pesto.

Everyone was invited to assemble their own grilled cheese. All sorts of crazy combinations were made and enjoyed. One was a peanut butter, banana and brie, grilled and then slathered with raspberry jam. The one in the picture is cream cheese, artichokes and spinach. Oh, it was fun.

From food to books...

Image: Goodreads
44 Scotland Street by Alexander McCall Smith (fiction). This was a real treat, starting a new (to me, that is) series from one of my favorite authors. McCall Smith wrote a serial novel for a Scottish newspaper, and the book is a collection of the episodes. 44 Scotland Street is a small apartment complex, and we get acquainted with the quirky residents- a child prodigy and his helicopter mother, a college student and her narcissistic roommate, and so many others. Just like the sitcom Seinfeld ("a show about nothing"), nothing earth-shaking ever happens but these are stories about the hilarity of everyday situations, and the diverse personalities that make up life on this city block. I'll definitely read the rest of the books in this series.

Image: Goodreads
Down the Rabbit Hole by Peter Abrahams (fiction; YA mystery). I picked up this book for the Criminal Plots reading challenge that I signed up for, and one of the challenges is to read a YA crime novel. The story is a bit implausible but hey, it's a story that someone made up so one has to go with the flow. Ingrid is 13, athletic, a lover of Sherlock Holmes and an aspiring actress. From her very normal, suburban background, she finds herself in an unusual situation that connects her to the murder of a woman in her town. Of course, she has to investigate, and the resulting story is fast paced and quite entertaining. This book is the first in the Echo Falls series but personally, I'm in no hurry to go out and read the others.

Image: Goodreads
No Rest for the Dead by Andrew Gulli and 25 other authors (!) (fiction; mystery). Again, as part of the Criminal Plots reading challenge, the goal was to read a crime novel written by more than one person. I picked one that's written by 26 people, no kidding. It was pretty interesting to think about how a couple dozen writers could have collaborated on one story and kept up the flow pretty well. For all the mysteries I read, I knew only 1 author out of the 26- and that author was Alexander McCall Smith. The premise of the story is devastating- a woman, a mother of two small children, is accused of murdering her husband and is executed. But she is innocent of the crime. The book tells the story of how the repentant lead detective goes back and solves the crime. The story is engaging enough but there's a 600 lb gorilla in the room- the woman is dead and no neat wrap-up of the mystery will ever bring her back. What a horror capital punishment is.

While I certainly enjoy my share of fiction, there's nothing quite as rewarding as reading a non-fiction book/article and learning something about this world that we live in. Much of the time, I come away fascinated, thinking, "Wow- you can't make this stuff up". Some of the most interesting non-fiction articles that I read come from the New Yorker magazine (the only magazine we subscribe to, as it happens). A website called Longform recommends non-fiction articles, and their selections are often really compelling. (Longform= my favorite way to kill time at the computer when I should be doing something more important).

Image: Goodreads
Confessions of an Alien Hunter by Seth Shostak (non-fiction). My mother picked up this book from the library and I ended up reading it as well. Shostak is a senior astronomer in the SETI program- the search for extraterrestrial intelligence. This is a breezy, entertaining and informative book giving an insider look into the real-life version of the X files, discussing whether alien life is already out there, what forms it might take, and what it could mean for humans. The writing was a bit cheesy for my taste and liberally sprinkled with dorky jokes. And the book is very light on technical details, which is a pity because the average reader is intelligent enough to learn something new about the science of astronomy while she's at it.

Any interesting recipes or books you'd like to tell us about? I'm all ears.

P.S. Please come back on Friday if you want to sign up for the next round of the Spice and Something Nice Swap

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Quinoa Pinto Bean Salad

Once every three or four months, I launch an eat-down in my kitchen. This is when I stop buying more and more food and instead focus on consuming and enjoying all the wonderful food that is jammed into my fridge, freezer and pantry. Eat-down weeks are my favorite because this is when I'm using my creativity rather than strict recipes to come up with meals. You never know what you will find. Yesterday, I found a jar of date-tamarind chutney in the freezer. Yay for impromptu sev puri.

In the fridge was a partial jar of habanero lime salsa, two avocados that were getting dangerously mushy, a few sprigs of cilantro and one plump red pepper. Add to that some quinoa and pinto beans from the pantry and this is what I came up with- a quinoa pinto bean salad that was an instant hit with my post-quilting lunch buddies. This salad uses a lot of trendy ingredients like avocado and quinoa that are touted for their health benefits, but the reason you'll want a second helping is because it just tastes so good. This recipe happens to be vegan and gluten-free. It would be excellent for lunch boxes and picnic hampers.

Quinoa Pinto-Bean Salad

1. Rinse 1 measure (3/4 cup quinoa) well, then cook it in a rice cooker or on the stove-top. Let cool.

2. Soak 1 cup pinto beans overnight and pressure cook them until tender. Drain and cool. Canned beans would work well here too.

3. Add the following to a large bowl:
Cooked quinoa from step 1
Cooked pinto beans from step 2
2 ripe avocados, diced
1 large red pepper, diced
2 tbsp. minced raw onion
handful of cilantro, chopped
1/4 cup salsa

4. Make a dressing by whisking together 3 tbsp. olive oil, juice of 1 lemon, salt, pepper, cumin and coriander powder and a pinch of red pepper flakes. Add the dressing to the bowl and toss all the ingredients together gently. Taste and adjust the balance of salt and lemon juice.

5. Chill for an hour or two, then serve cold or at room temperature.

*** *** ***
For many years, I've been using Google Reader to get updates on the hundreds of blogs that I regularly read. Well, Google Reader is set to retire soon, so I recently switched over to another reader named Feedly, which is working out quite nicely. I'm taking this opportunity to spring-clean the list of blogs that I follow, to go through and cull the ones that I find are no longer relevant to me, and unsubscribe from those that are dormant. At the same time, I'd love to discover some new blogs to enjoy, and I'm asking for your recommendations:

In the comments, will you please link to one or two or three blogs that you absolutely love? They don't have to be food blogs.

And, if you're a food blogger, will you please leave links to one or two recipes on your blog that are your must-try recipes? I'll choose a few and try them and blog about them.

If you write a blog on another topic, please leave a link to any post that you'd like to share.

Normally, leaving links to one's blog in the comments is not considered good etiquette, but this time, I'm inviting you to do so, so that we can find some inspiration from each other. Thank you for playing along, and I wish you a bright and happy week.

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

A Rainy Day Luncheon

One of the greatest pleasures of traveling to a new place is the chance to sample the local cuisine. This past month was my parents' first visit to the Southern US. They have explored both coasts and the Midwest in past trips but the South is a region that is justifiably proud of its food traditions, which was all new to them. During their visit, my parents enjoyed cuisines that they don't have access to in their hometown in India- Thai, Ethiopian and Cuban, to name a few.We went to a diner and enjoyed cheesy grits, biscuits and gravy for breakfast. But the most memorable meals came about when friends generously opened their homes to us.

First there was the invitation from my friend, a German expat who lives in a historic home (180 years old- that's quite old by US standards) in a storied neighborhood. On a gratifyingly breezy, sunny Spring afternoon, we sat on rockers in her charming front porch and enjoyed thick slices of cherry tart with some strong coffee.

Then my quilting teacher, whose home is a veritable quilting museum with beautiful quilts adorning practically every wall, invited us for a proper Southern luncheon, with tomato aspic, dainty sandwiches of every kind, including cucumber, olive-nut and my personal favorite, pimento cheese. All served on antique trays lined with lacy paper doilies, no less. What a treat it was.

We reciprocated this unbelievable hospitality by inviting everyone for a luncheon this weekend. It turned out to be a rainy weekend of record-breaking proportions- non-stop rain that lasted over 24 hours, book-ended by days of more showers. I kept looking out of the window expecting Naoh's Ark to come rowing by any minute. But as it turned out, a rainy afternoon was the ideal time to huddle indoors and eat and socialize.

Here's a quick look at the menu. On a side note: We have this very narrow wall in our kitchen- it sits between the two doorways to the dining room and the living room- and after looking at approximately 10,562 chalkboard paint ideas on Pinterest, we took the plunge and painted it with black chalkboard paint. I love the result- the wall is a nice backdrop for the quilted clock my sister made, and we have space to scrawl menus and messages and make random drawings. There's something very satisfying about scribbling on a wall. And suddenly that narrow strip of wall is a focal point in the kitchen.

Stuffed mushrooms are my mother's favorite appetizer to make. She makes the stuffing with minced mushroom stems, green onions and grated cheese, with minced chilies and fresh pepper for heat. The mixture is held together with some cornstarch and the mushrooms are pan-fried until they are golden and crispy and altogether irresistible.
Stuffed mushrooms
The samosa puffs, meanwhile, are probably my favorite appetizer to make. The approximate recipe is here, although this time I cut the puff pastry sheets into small squares and made rectangular puffs.

The chickpea curry is the usual chana masala and the egg dish was this coconut sauce with lots of sauteed vegetables and halved boiled eggs added to it. The salad was a simple koshimbir of cucumber and cabbage with a lemon dressing, and the rice was a basic jeera rice with Basmati, ghee and cumin seeds, made in the rice cooker.

The spinach lasagna recipe came from an episode of a cooking show, Cook's Country, that I caught on PBS several months ago (Italian Favorites Revisited, Season 5, Episode 504). The recipe can be found on Cook's Country but needs a subscription; you'll also find it posted on several websites if you do a bit of searching. Well, I've made this spinach lasagna three times in recent weeks. It is a very solid, flavorful and hearty lasagna. It is the sort of dish that can feed a large, hungry crowd. True to the unique selling point of this particular show, all the ingredients can be found in a standard US supermarket.

For this lasagna, you make a simple tomato sauce, and a spinach-ricotta-egg mixture. Then you layer these with no-boil lasagna noodles and mozzarella. Bake until bubbly. If you've always wanted to make a lasagna, this is a good recipe to start with, because the directions are very precise (but it is not a quick recipe; be prepared to spend some time and energy following the recipe at least the first couple of times you make it).
Spinach lasagna
I'm always one for trying culinary experiments on unsuspecting guests, and this time for dessert, I tried Martha Stewart's recipe for tiramisu ice cream. The changes I made were to use marsala wine instead of kahlua (how many types of booze can you store in the kitchen cupboards anyway?) and to use chocolate ice cream instead of the espresso ice cream layer. The result was good and everyone quite enjoyed it, but honestly, it would have been just as fine to just set out some cake and a couple flavors of ice cream instead of going to the trouble of softening ice cream and making layers. I don't see myself making this again. But you never discover a knock-out recipe until you try a few new ones, right?

What new recipes have you been trying lately? Any hits or misses to share with us?

P.S. I'm hosting another swap on this blog next month. It will be open to non-bloggers and also to people outside the US (although I will be matching people within the same country to keep shipping costs and times down). In the right side-bar, I've placed a poll with options for three kinds of swaps- please vote for your favorite!