Thursday, February 16, 2017

Ferrari (Pan-Fried Potatoes with Peanuts, Black Pepper, and Lemon Juice)

This is another side from Meera Sodha's Made In India. I feel like India gets forgotten when Americans learn about other cultures, which is a huge loss because it's a country with so many complex, amazing cultures and such a long history. Learning about Indian food is exciting for me, because it's so much more than most non-Indian Americans suspect.

Meera writes, "'Ferar' means 'to fast' by abstaining from certain foods, which a lot of Gujarati Hindus do on designated days throughout the year. Peanuts and potatoes are some of the things which can be eaten on a fast day, hence the creation of Ferrari."

I personally like that this dish can also be eaten by Catholics on Fridays, because this dish was so much more than I thought it would be. It's fast, easy, and its wonderfully flavorful and spiced.

2 oz peanuts, unsalted and unroasted
20 peppercorns (1/2 teaspoon)
3 tablespoons canola oil
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
14 oz new potatoes, chopped into 1 1/4 inch cubes
1 fresh green chili, very finely chopped*
1 3/4 inch piece of ginger, peeled and grated
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 oz cilantro, chopped
1/2 lemon

*I used a jalapeno. I seeded mine because I'm a wimp. This did not make the dish bland, so if you're worried about too much heat, you should have no compunctions about seeding it.

Coarsely grind the peanuts using a food processor or mortar and pestle, remove, and set to one side, then grind the peppercorns in the same way.

Put the oil into a wide-bottomed frying pan on a medium heat. When it's hot, add the ground peppercorns and cumin seeds and, a minute later, the potatoes.

Stir-fry the potatoes for around 12 minutes, until they start to brown. Spear them with a knife to see if they're done (they will slide off easily if they are, and, if so, add the green chili, ginger, and salt. Continue to cook for another 5-6 minutes to cook the ginger and brown the potatoes.

When the potatoes are nicely brown, check the seasoning and transfer to a serving bowl. Scatter over the peanuts, add the cilantro, and squeeze over the lemon before serving.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Leek And Potato Soup

This is from James Beard's American Cookery which is one of my favorite cookbooks. This is a recipe that everyone should have because it makes a simple, delicious soup which is still hearty enough to be a main meal with a salad and perhaps a roll on the side.

The nutmeg and cayenne add a flavor signature which is not common but which I find addictive. (This also makes a good breakfast if your taste runs to the untraditional as mine does.) I have tinkered with it, of course, and my variations are listed below the main recipe. The other variations are James Beard's.

Leek And Potato Soup

5 leeks
3 tablespoons butter
3 cups potatoes, diced
1 quart chicken broth
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour

Wash the leeks, split them lengthwise, and cut into thin slices after removing all sand. Saute in 3 tablespoons butter in a large skillet for about 4 minutes. Add the potatoes and the broth and bring to a boil. Boil for 2 minutes. Reduce heat and simmer until potatoes are tender. Season to taste with salt, cayenne and nutmeg. Strain out the vegetables and puree in food processor. Return to the broth. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a saucepan over low heat and stir in the flour. Add 1-1/2 cups of the broth and blend well until the mixture thickens. Return to the kettle and stir until soup comes to a boil.

My variation:
  • Use a small onion instead of leeks
  • Use 4 cups potatoes and do not thicken with roux.
  • Use 1/8 t. cayenne
Vichyssoise variation:
  • Prepare soup as above and allow it to cool. Add 1-1/2 cups heavy cream and blend well. Chill in refrigerator. Serve chilled.
  • Or chill the soup without the heavy cream. Serve in chilled cups with a large spoonful of sour cream and chopped chives.
Still another variation:
Do not put the vegetables through a food mill but serve pieces of leek and diced potatoes in the thickened soup.

Whole-Grain Mustard

The other mustard recipe I made from America's Test Kitchen's Foolproof Preserving is for whole-grain mustard. My mother (Julie) was less thrilled than I, responding with a disgusted, "Why?" But I actually have several recipes in my regular rotation that ask for this (including the previously posted crab mac and cheese). I've actually had trouble finding whole-grain mustard, so I've been using stone ground, but I'll be using this from now on.

As with the Dijon, this has to soak 8-24 hours, then sit out for 1-2 days for desired spice.

YIELD: 2 1-cup jars

3/4 cup cider vinegar
1/2 cup water
1/3 cup yellow mustard seeds
1/3 cup brown mustard seeds
2 tablespoons packed light brown sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons salt

Combine vinegar, water, yellow mustard seeds, and brown mustard seeds in a bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for at least 8 hours and up to 24 hours.

Measure out 1/2 cup vinegar-mustard seed mixture and set aside. Combine remaining vinegar-mustard seed mixture, sugar, and salt in food processor and process until coarsely ground and thickened, 1-2 minutes, scraping down bowl as needed; return to medium bowl. Stir in reserved vinegar-mustard seed mixture.

Using funnel and spoon, portion mustard into two 1-cup jars. Cover and let mustard stand at room temperature until it has reached desired spiciness, 1-2 days; mustard becomes spicier as it rests. Once desired spice level has been reached, refrigerate and serve.

Mustard can be refrigerated for up to 6 months; once refrigerated, flavor will continue to mature but will not become more spicy.

Dijon Mustard

I will preface this recipe by saying that I don't know where I thought mustard came from, but it blew my mind to see recipes for it while leafing through America's Test Kitchen's Foolproof Preserving. I was very interested in trying them out, partly for the novelty, partly because this house loves mustard, and partly because it turns out mustard is extremely easy to make.

I was curious to see if this was one of those things better made by the professionals, but after trying our homemade mustards, I think it's worth the (small) effort. We made Nigel Slater's crab mac and cheese with the Dijon and whole-grain we made, and it was definitely our best attempt yet, largely because of the mustard!

The first step in these recipes is to mix ingredients and then wait 8-24 hours. The Dijon also needs to be aged 5 days for best use. Plan accordingly.

YIELD: 2 1-cup jars

1 1/3 cups water
3/4 cup white wine vinegar
1/2 cup yellow mustard seeds
3 tablespoons dry mustard powder (try Coleman's)
4 teaspoons onion powder
3/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 1/3 cups dry white wine

Combine water, vinegar, mustard seeds, mustard powder, onion powder, salt, garlic powder, cinnamon and turmeric in a bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit a room temperature for at least 8 hours or up to 24 hours.

When ready to make mustard, simmer wine in a small saucepan over medium-low heat until it has reduced by half (down to 2/3 cup), 10-15 minutes.

Process reduced wine and mustard seed mixture in blender until smooth, about 2 minutes. Transfer mixture to now-empty saucepan and cook over medium-low heat, stirring often, until slightly thickened, 5-8 minutes. Using rubber spatula, push mustard through fine-mesh strainer set over bowl. Work solids against strainer to extract as much mustard as possible.

Using funnel and spoon, portion mustard into two 1-cup jars. Let mustard cool to room temperature. Cover, refrigerate, and let flavor mature for at least 5 days before serving.

Mustard can be refrigerated for at least 6 months; flavor will continue to mature over time.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Pineapple Sage Cake

This is one of my favorite last-minute recipes for an easy offering for book club or a dinner party. I found it when we moved into the house we're currently living in and I discovered the flowering bush in the front planter was an herb called pineapple sage or tangerine sage, which is a type of salvia (salvia elegans). It will put out tons of flowers as long as you water it, and attracts bees, butterflies, and even hummingbirds. I think they die off in winter in colder areas, but this is Texas and mine appears to have been here for at least a few years now. I'm not sure cuttings of this herb are sold anywhere, so if you want some you may have to grow your own. Trust me, it's worth it.

I found this Jamie Oliver recipe while searching for uses for the large bush of it we have. I've never put the pineapple in the recipe, partly because I've never felt it was worth purchasing just for this and partly because I dislike most cooked fruit. I also have baked this in everything from one larger loaf pan to four mini Bundt cake pans to muffin tins. Don't worry if you don't have the specific pan size he wants.

1 cup (1 stick) butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup honey (light wildflower or sage preferred)
5 eggs
2 tablespoons chopped pineapple sage leaves (small, new leaves have the most flavor)
3 tablespoons chopped pineapple sage flowers (optional) [these pepper the cake with red/pink confetti]
1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
4 tablespoons well-squeezed, chopped pineapple
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 cups flour

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in honey.

Add eggs one at a time, making sure to beat one minute after each addition.

Beat in sage leaves, flowers, and lemon peel.

Stir dry ingredients together and add to butter mixture. Fold these together gently until just blended.

Pour into 4 mini loaf pans (6"x3"x2"). Bake for 45 minutes. Cool 10 minutes before removing from pan.

Spicy Lamb Burgers

Another Meera Sodha recipe to go with your baked masala fries. Because many Indians do not eat beef, lamb is a common base for meat dishes. You can always substitute beef if you wish, but we did use lamb when we made these.

As Meera notes: This recipe uses chickpea flour (besan) which is readily available in most big supermarkets, but if you can't get hold of it, you can use all-purpose flour to bind your mixture instead.

1 onion, very finely chopped
1 fresh green chili, finely chopped
3 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro
1 3/4-inch piece of ginger, peeled
2 cloves of garlic
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons garam masala
a few grinds of the pepper mill
1 1/2 tablespoons chickpea flour (besan)o
14 oz ground lamb
1 tablespoon canola oil

Put the onion, green chili, and cilantro into a bowl. Grate the ginger and crush the garlic and add them, too. Then ass the salt, garam masala, black pepper, chickpea flour, and ground lamb and use your hands to mix everything together.

Divide the mixture into four balls and flatten them into round patties with your hands. Put the oil into a non-stick pan on a medium to high heat and, when it's hot, add the patties. Cook for 5-6 minutes on each side.

Baked Masala Fries

I checked out a Meera Sodha book from the library in the hopes of expanding my culinary horizons to Indian food, and I'm not giving it back until I have to. Made In India is a wonderful introduction to many basic, mostly simple Indian recipes. These baked masala fries are easy and very good, as well as versatile. I say versatile because we actually made them with sweet potatoes instead of the suggested varieties, which changed them a little, but I would have loved them either way. Put some of these in the oven and they'll be ready by the time your spicy lamb burgers are done!

4 large potatoes (russets, Yukon Gold, or all-purpose)
2 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon canola oil
3/4 teaspoon chili powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin

Preheat the oven to 425 F.

Peel the potatoes and chop them into your perfect fries. I cut each potato into 3 pieces lengthways and 3 again to make 9 long fat fries from each one.

Put all the potatoes into a lidded saucepan, cover generously with cold water, add 1 teaspoon of salt, and put the lid on the pan. Bring to a boil on a medium heat, then lower the heat and simmer for another 5 minutes, or until the potatoes are soft and fluffy around the edges.

Drain the potatoes in a sieve and shake them a bit to fluff up the edges, but be careful not to break them. These fluffy edges will turn into nice crispy ones later.

Put the oil into a roasting tray and put the tray into the oven for around 2 minutes to heat it. Take the tray out of the oven and carefully put the potatoes into the oil (lower them gently so the oil doesn't splash out), then coat the potatoes in it.

Put the tray back into the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes, shaking it a couple of times during the cooking time to turn the fries over. When you take them out they should be crispy and brown all over. If not, leave them in for a bit longer.

In a bowl, mix together 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt, the chili powder, and cumin, and sprinkle evenly over the fries.

Serve them as quickly as you can, while they're still hot!