Friday, December 25, 2009

Sweet Tooth



    
 



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Friday, November 20, 2009

Mediterranean Goodness




MEDITERRANEAN-STYLE SPAGHETTI SQUASH

Serves 6 to 8

INGREDIENTS

1 medium spaghetti squash
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, roughly chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 14.5 ounce can of diced tomatoes, drained
1/4 cup sliced Kalamata olives
1/2 cup feta cheese

INSTRUCTIONS

Heat the oven to 350 degrees.  

Cut the spaghetti squash lengthwise and remove the seeds.  Place the cut sides face down on a cookie sheet lined with aluminum foil. Bake for 30 minutes.

Heat the oil in a large skillet on medium heat. Add the onions and garlic. Saute until the onions become tender. Stir in the tomatoes and cook for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat. Add the olives.   

Use a fork to remove the meat of the squash. Mix into the sauteed vegetables. Garnish with the feta.  

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Sunday, November 8, 2009

A New Side Dish

Stately and imposing, roast turkey has an alluring presence on the table. But, all too often, the feast offered the eyes does not translate to the tongue. That is why I stand with the sides in the turkey v. side dish debate. I don't believe a relatively lean bird can compete with bread crumbs soaked in eggs and potatoes smothered in butter. I won't even start with the pie.


Unfortunately, I'm not the only one in the family who covets the side dishes. When remnants of the Thanksgiving day meal are lined up, buffet-style, my siblings and I elbow for leftovers - mashed potatoes, dressing, and corn (a family tradition) - like early morning shoppers at a black Friday sale. A few forkfuls of the dismantled turkey eventually also make it onto our plates. Inevitably the dreaded post-Thanksgiving complaints are registered. "Is the dressing all gone???" "What happened to the mashed potatoes?"

Given our unanimous preference for sides, I decided to add another dish to the table this year. I wanted something to counteract the richness of the mashed potatoes and dressing. Bon Appetit's brussels sprouts slaw with mustard dressing should create the right balance. In-season and full of flavor, the briefly steamed sprouts offer crunch and tang. I'm hoping their presence on the menu will lead to less tussling over leftovers after the holiday.

Quick tip: score each sprout before placing them in your steamer. This helps the leaves and core to cook at the same rate.

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Saturday, November 7, 2009

More Cranberries



CRANBERRY ORANGE BREAD
(Adapted from Joy of Baking)

TIP
-  The peel of conventionally produced oranges, lemons, and limes contain residues from pesticides. So consider using organic versions in recipes that call for the peel.  

INGREDIENTS

1 large egg
3/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon orange zest
4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries, coarsely chopped

INSTRUCTIONS

Heat the oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly coat a 9 x 5 x 3 loaf pan with canola oil. 

In a small bowl, combine the beaten egg, orange juice, and vanilla.   

In a large bowl, whisk the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and orange zest. Blend the butter into the flour mixture so it resembles coarse crumbs.  

Mix the wet ingredients with the dry ingredients.  Add the cranberries and walnuts.

Pour batter into loaf pan and bake for 50 to 60 minutes.  

Remove from the oven and let cool on a wire rack before slicing.  

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Friday, November 6, 2009

Rethinking Cranberries

My mom had a run-in with cranberry sauce soon after she moved to the states.


It was 1963 and the administration at St. Alexis Hospital had invited all the foreign residents to spend Thanksgiving with a host family. At the time, my parent's social circle included recent immigrants from India, Mexico, and South America. Eager to branch out, my mom convinced my father to accept the invitation. The staff provided my parents with the name and address of an American family living in Cleveland. And like Marco Polo, my parents set off to discover the mysteries of their new world.

I like to picture them stepping out of their black VW bug. My mom in a carefully pressed silk sari; her shoulder-length hair tucked into a plump bun. My father in a dark suit with the buttons discreetly fastened. When they reached the door, they were welcomed by a middle aged Caucasian couple, two children, and a grandmotherly figure who all turned out to be gracious hosts. Other details about the family - their names, hair color, clothing - have faded with time. Even now, my mom vividly remembers the meal.

Soon after they sat down to eat, the grandmother commented on my mom's slender build.

"You're too skinny. You need to eat more!"

She insisted that my mom be given an extra large helping of turkey. Before handing my mom her plate, the woman of the house asked whether she wanted cranberry sauce. From across the table, it reminded my mom of the savory pickle she ordered from
ABC Trading Company (Canal Street, New York, New York) along with cumin, cardamom, coriander and other pantry staples. She nodded politely. Feeling part of the inner circle at last, my mom happily bit into a forkful of turkey smothered in the burgundy-colored sauce. The turkey paled in taste compared to the spice-laden meat she was accustomed to and the sauce was sweet! It was an incomprehensible pairing. She still recalls how she had to fight the nausea that begun bubbling up her throat. Sadly, when she looked down, there was a huge chunk of turkey smothered with cranberry sauce resting on her plate.The following year, my parents celebrated Thanksgiving with the Mennons who had also immigrated from Kerala. Mr. Mennon's employer had offered him a turkey and my mom had insisted that he accept it. She and Mrs. Mennon basted and roasted it under the wing of Good Housekeeping Cookbook (which still has a hallowed place in my mom's kitchen.)

The meal did not include cranberries.
I remember my mom serving canned cranberry sauce off and on at Thanksgiving. Perhaps she felt obligated to include it the longer she lived in the states. Everyone ignored it. After eatingLinkKerala dishes day in and day out, we were wary to let sweet and savory flavors mingle. I have never bothered to include cranberries at the holiday meals I've hosted. But lately I begun itching to make room for the garnet colored fruit on the table. This year a cranberry walnut upside down cake from Gourmet will grace the table.TIPS:


- I love the warm taste of cinnamon and add 1/2 teaspoon to the dry ingredients when preparing this cake.
- It's best to invert this cake directly onto the serving dish because it has a delicate crumb, despite its rustic appearance. If you plan to move it more than once, add a tiny layer of oil to the surface of the wire rack or dish before you lay it down.

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Sunday, July 26, 2009

Starting the Day



RASPBERRY OATMEAL

Serves  2

INGREDIENTS

1 cup quick oats
2 cups 2 percent milk
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup fresh raspberries
2 tablespoons red raspberry jam

INSTRUCTIONS

Put 1/2 cup oats in a microwave safe bowl.
Stir in 1/2 cup milk, 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, and a dash of salt.

Microwave on medium heat for a minute and 45 seconds (or until oats expand and soften).

Stir in 1 tablespoon of raspberry jam, 1/2 cup milk, and 1/2 cup raspberries.

Repeat steps to prepare the second serving.  



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Monday, July 20, 2009

Summer snacking

Susan Pachikara (COPYRIGHT 2009)


Americans get a fourth of their daily calories from snacks. To help guard against diet-related illnesses, consider munching on nutrient rich fruits and vegetables. Vine-ripened grape tomatoes are a delicious choice this time of year. Easy to eat and full of immune boosting vitamin C, they marry well with fresh herbs. For a cool, tangy treat, try pairing them with a serving of basil chive dip.


BASIL CHIVE DIP
2009 Cardamom Kitchen LLC All Rights Reserved

Serves 8

TIP:

- Herbs provide flavor with minimal calories - a gift to anyone watching their weight. In this recipe, chives round out the flavor of sweet basil (a mix of cloves, mint, and cinnamon) with a taste of mild onions.
- Storing tomatoes in the refrigerator compromises their flavor and texture. Keep them on the kitchen counter instead, out of the sun.


INGREDIENTS

5 ounces Neufchatel cheese (room temperature)
1/3 cup light sour cream
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/3 cup sweet basil, finely chopped
3 tablespoons chives, finely chopped
Freshly ground black pepper

INSTRUCTIONS

Blend together the Neufchatel cheese and sour cream.

Mix in the garlic powder, sweet basil, and chives.

Season with pepper.

Serve with grape tomatoes or other vegetables.

Susan Pachikara (COPYRIGHT 2009)

Sweet basil has delicate green leaves. To chop them, gather the leaves in a tight mound and rock a sharp knife over it. Then, hold the knife perpendicular to the original position and rock it over the leaves in the opposite direction.

Basil loses it flavor when subjected to heat. Add it toward the end of a recipe when cooking.

Susan Pachikara (COPYRIGHT 2009)

Chives produce pale purple flowers in the spring and reed like leaves all summer long. The blossoms impart an intense onion flavor so use them sparingly. Discard the tough stems.

Susan Pachikara (COPYRIGHT 2009)

Like basil, the flavor of chives fades when heated. So throw them in at the end of your recipe. Or use them raw. As a mild member of the onion family, they add flavor to salads and Deviled eggs.



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Sunday, June 28, 2009

Roast Chicken and Sweeet Potatoes

I dread ordering chicken. Too often, it arrives at the table dry and dense (whether lounging on salad greens or snuggled between two slices of bread. Worst yet, it has the flavor profile of raw zucchini. Try as one might, the flavor of the chicken cannot be revived with thick goops of mayonnaise or other forms of fat. Luckily, I grew up in an era when family meals often centered around roast chicken. The only thing lovelier than biting into the moist, rich flesh is inhaling the aroma that permeates the kitchen and beckons anyone in it's path to S -L-O -W down. As you'll see from the recipe below, it takes very little effort to create a satisfying and healthful chicken dinner. 



HERB ROASTED CHICKEN WITH SWEET POTATOES

Serves 4 to 6

TIPS:
- You can limit the seasonings in this recipe to salt and freshly ground pepper and produce a delicious bird. Adding thyme, parsley, rosemary and oregano will make the meat even more flavorful.
- It's most economical to grow your own herbs. I have an array in my community garden. Before I got a plot, I raised them in window boxes.
- I'm not one to advocate for buying a lot of kitchen gadgets, but I do recommend investing in a pepper mill. The bright, almost lemony flavor of freshly ground peppercorns really outshines pre-ground varieties.
- I opted to pair the chicken with sweet potatoes because I love the subtle molasses flavor they develop when roasted. They also provide a strong dose of the heart healthy antioxidant, beta-carotene. 

INGREDIENTS

1 (3 1/2 to 4 pound) chicken, preferably free range
Salt
Freshly ground pepper
3 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoons fresh oregano, finely chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh thyme, finely chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh rosemary, finely chopped
2 tablespoon fresh parsley, finely chopped
2 tablespoons garlic, minced
2 large sweet potatoes, cut in 1-inch pieces
2 tablespoons fresh sage finely chopped (optional)


INSTRUCTIONS 

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Rinse the chicken and pat dry.

Place the chicken in a 9 x 13 inch roasting pan. Season the cavity and outside with salt and pepper.

In a small bowl, combine 2 tablespoons of olive oil, thyme, rosemary, parsley, and garlic. Gently lift the chicken skin and spread the herb paste over the flesh.

Truss the chicken to ensure even cooking.

Arrange the potatoes on a large cookie sheet. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and sage. Drizzle on the remaining olive oil.

Roast the chicken for 1 hour or until the thermometer reads 170 degrees. Roast the potatoes until fork tender.

Let the chicken rest for 10 minutes before carving.


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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Get Your Fiber

SPICY TOMATOES AND CHICKPEAS

Serves 8 to 10

INGREDIENTS

2 1/2 tablespoons canola oil
1 1/2 tablespoons black mustard seeds
2 1/2 tablespoons coriander seeds
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon paprika
Dash of turmeric powder
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1 cup tomato, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 cup chopped onion
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon minced ginger
2 cans chickpeas (15 oz), drained
1 cup water
1 teaspoon salt

INSTRUCTIONS

Heat 1/2 tablespoon of canola oil in a small pot on low heat. Add the mustard seeds and cover. When they begin to pop, remove from heat.

Grind the coriander seeds, cumin seeds, paprika, turmeric, peppercorns, and cayenne together in a coffee grinder.

Heat 2 tablespoons of canola oil in a saute pan on medium heat. Add the ground spices and cook for 2 minutes. Stir in the tomato and tomato paste. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring constantly.

Add the onion, ginger, and garlic. Cook until the onion becomes tender. Stir in the mustard seeds.Stir in the chickpeas, water, and salt. Cover and cook for 10 to 15 minutes.


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Friday, June 19, 2009

Early summer salad



STRAWBERRY SPINACH SALAD
2009 Cardamom Kitchen LLC All Rights Reserved

Serves 4

INGREDIENTS

1/2 pound boneless chicken breasts
1 cup fresh strawberries, sliced
5 ounces fresh spinach
2 tablespoons crumbled feta
Olive oil (optional)

INSTRUCTIONS

Heat the oven to 350 degrees.

Cover a baking sheet with parchment.  Season both sides of the chicken with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Place it on the parchment paper.

Bake for 20 minutes. Cool. Shred with your fingers. 

Wash and dry the spinach. Divide it between 4 plates. 

Top each serving of spinach with 1/4 cup sliced strawberries, 1 1/2 teaspoons of feta, and 1/4 of the shredded chicken.

Dress lightly with olive oil (optional).


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Monday, June 15, 2009

Strawberry Yogurt Parfait


An alluring shade of red.  A fruity, floral aroma. Succulent flesh. Fresh strawberries rival even the most decadent desserts. (I confess to frequenting my fridge last week just to inhale the heady scent of a pint from the farmer's market.) But unlike many nutrient bare desserts, fresh strawberries also nourish the body.  A cup of strawberries exceeds the recommended daily dose of vitamin C. In addition, the tiny seeds - which are the true fruit - provide fiber. This sinfully delicious berry also contains an infusion of antioxidants, including vitamin C, which help protect against heart disease.  So consider eating fresh strawberries this summer, in place of other desserts, to feed your soul and body.
                               
STRAWBERRY YOGURT PARFAITS

Serves 4

TIPS: 
  • Locally grown strawberries provide the best flavor profile.  
  • Remove the green caps AFTER washing fresh strawberries to avoid diluting their flavor.
  • The combination of strawberries and vanilla yogurt in this recipe provides a surprising amount of flavor. So if you use frozen strawberries, choose a brand with no sugar added.  
INGREDIENTS

4 cups fresh or frozen strawberries 
1 cup low fat vanilla yogurt

INSTRUCTIONS

Wash fresh strawberries and remove caps.  Slice.

Place a 2-inch layer of the sliced strawberries in four clear glasses.

Top with a 1-inch layer of yogurt.  Repeat until glasses are full.




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Sunday, June 14, 2009

A Family Favorite



RED LENTILS WITH COCONUT
(2009 Cardamom Kitchen LLC All Rights Reserved)

Serves 6 to 8

INGREDIENTS

1 cup masoor dhal (red lentils)
1/2 cup diced onion
1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic
3 1/2 cups water
1 1/4 teaspoon salt
Pinch cayenne
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin seeds
1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
10 fresh curry leaves
3/4 teaspoon canola oil
1/8 teaspoon black mustard seeds
3 tablespoons unsweetened shredded coconut
1 dry red pepper


INSTRUCTIONS

Place the dhal in a medium sized sauce pan. Cover it with water and stir to remove excess starch. The water will turn cloudy. Drain. Repeat until the water becomes clear. Drain.

Add the water to the rinsed lentils.

Reserve 1/4 cup of onions for later use. Add the other 1/4 cup to the dhal.

Add the garlic, salt, cayenne, cumin, turmeric powder, and curry leaves. Stir and bring to a boil.

Reduce the heat to medium and cook for 15 minutes. (The dhal will soften and expand as it cooks.) Remove from heat.

Place the oil in a small saute pan on medium heat. Add the mustard seeds and cover. When the mustard seeds start to pop, add 1/4 cup onions and stir. Cook uncovered until the onions begin to brown.

Add the coconut and red pepper. Cook until the coconut becomes lightly toasted.

Add the coconut mixture to the dhal and stir to blend completely. Serve with rice.

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Saturday, June 6, 2009

Strawberries

Being a yard less urbanite is fine in the winter (who wants to shovel snow). But I always feel cheated by the concrete come spring.  I grew up with a garden that attracted bees, fireflies, and humming birds. Fortunately, I inherited a plot in a community garden in May. Eager to partake in spring planting rituals, I bought seedlings for the rich, Who-filled soil. Tomatoes, bell peppers, basil, thyme, sage, dill, parsley, and hot peppers, at the insistence of my Indian mom, all found a place in the small plot.  

I felt content with my garden until I noticed a small patch of lime green plants in a neighboring plot. The deeply grooved leaves, which sat close to the ground, looked familiar. Strawberry plants! Why wasn't I trying to beckon summer's first fruit? A week later, white petaled flowers with  yellow centers graced the stems. I knew the blossoms would turn into glossy red berries - more fragrant and flavorful than the super-sized varieties shipped from California. Fearful of my weakness for their juicy flesh, I scheduled a trip to the farmer's market. 

June strawberries satisfy all the senses, whether dressed up (with cream or chocolate) or eaten right off the stem. In addition, they provide a healthy dose of dietary fiber, thanks to the tiny seeds polk-a-doting the outer flesh, and vitamin C. The one drawback: this exquisite fruit lingers around for about month. So don't waste time coveting your neighbor's patch. Visit your local farmer's market this week or schedule a trip to the closest U-Pick farm!


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Saturday, May 9, 2009

Asparagus-Mushroom Bread Pudding

Many Chicagoans struggle this time of the year. We generally know what to expect during the winter months: snow covered streets and grey skies that seem to linger forever. But temperature dips in April and May leave us wondering if spring will ever arrive. A visit to Green City Market - where stacks of asparagus and layers of green garlic have appeared - proves there's no need to worry. Mother Nature has moved on. The market's cornucopia also includes an array of locally grown mushrooms and herbs including dill, sage, and cilantro, thanks to hoophouses.

When I headed to Green City's grand opening, I knew I had to have a recipe in hand or I'd buy more produce than I needed (as if overloading my fridge could hasten spring's arrival). I settled on a cozy asparagus bread pudding. A serving of this rustic dish - with asparagus buried in cushions of custard and mushrooms nestled under crusty bread - helped me tide the chilly weather that had Windy City residents bundled up...in May!

TIP: Asparagus spears have woody ends that many cooks snap off and discard. However, you can peel away the strawy outside layer. The flesh beneath it is tender and delicious.

ASPARAGUS BREAD PUDDING

Serves 6-8

INGREDIENTS

1/2 pound crusty bread
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup green garlic, finely chopped
1 pound asparagus, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 cup white mushrooms, sliced
2 cups whole milk
3 large egg
1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 1/2 ounce feta cheese

INSTRUCTIONS

1) Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Cut the bread loaf in two and place each half on a baking sheet, crust down. Cook until the surface browns.

2) Remove the bread from the oven and tear in to 2-inch pieces.

3) Heat the olive oil in a cast iron skillet on medium-low. Add the green garlic and saute until tender.

4) Add the asparagus and mushrooms. Cook until the asparagus becomes tender. 

5) Whisk together the milk, eggs, mustard, basil, black pepper, and salt. 

6) Coat a 9-x-13 inch baking dish with cooking spray. Layer half of the bread in the bottom of the dish. Cover with the asparagus mixture. Cover with the remaining bread and sprinkle with the feta cheese.

7) Pour in the egg mixture. Cover and chill for 2 hours, or overnight.

8) Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake the bread pudding for 25 minutes or until the center is set. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.






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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Fish Tacos

Hamburgers, hot dogs, bratwurst - all delicious, if you ask me (especially with beer). It's not just the high fat content that makes them satisfying. It's the memories that punctuate each bite. When I chew into a hot dog, I can almost feel the thin elastic thread that kept hats on my head at childhood birthday parties. Hamburgers remind me of road trips. Bratwurst, street festivals.

Despite the good taste and memories, many of us need to cut down on meat. It's got too much saturated fat, too many calories. For a lighter option, consider cooking up these simple fish tacos. They're lower in fat than their meat-filled brethren, but still wonderfully flavorful. And, yes, good with beer.

FISH TACOS WITH CORN
2009 Cardamom Kitchen LLC All Rights Reserved

Serves 4

INGREDIENTS

1 pound catfish fillets
1/4 teaspoon cumin powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 1/2 cups diced tomatoes
2 chopped scallions
2 tablespoons cilantro, roughly chopped
12 corn tortillas
Feta to garnish (optional)
2 15.5 ounce cans of sweet corn

INSTRUCTIONS

1) Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

2) Cover a baking sheet with foil or parchment paper. Place the fish on the baking sheet. In a small bowl, mix together cumin, garlic powder, oregano, cayenne, black pepper and 1/2 teaspoon. Sprinkle over fish.

3) Bake the fish until it becomes opaque and flakes when poked with a fork (about 15 minutes).

4) Combine the tomatoes, scallions, and cilantro in a bowl. Toss together and season with 3/4 teaspoon salt.

5) Place corn with liquid in a small saute pan. Heat on low for 5 minutes. (Do not allow liquid to simmer or boil.) Drain water.

6) Place the baked fish in a small bowl and pull it apart with a fork.

7) Heat tortillas in the microwave or with a cast iron skillet. (Warm skillet on high heat. Place a tortilla on skillet. Cook until it warms and softens. Remove from heat. Repeat with the remaining tortillas.)

8) Fill each tortilla with fish and tomato mixture.

9) Sprinkle with feta and serve with a side of the corn.








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Monday, April 27, 2009

Potato Masala

 
Millions of Americans love to sink a fork into the fluffy pleasure of mashed potatoes at Thanksgiving. (Sorry turkey. It's really all about the sides.) The rest of the year, potatoes are treated as a bother. Who takes time to cloak them in foil for baking? Or they are branded with a scarlet "C" - CARBS! However the real health risk may lie in the way they're commonly consumed - as sky-high mountains of fries or prairies of hash browns, loaded with grease? Egads!

As children, we ate baked potatoes once a week as a side dish with barbecued beef. It was my dad's contribution to family meals. My mom used them in potato masala. On occasion, she paired the masala with dosa (a sour crepe made of lentils and rice flour). However, we usually ate it with whole wheat flatbread. If you want to reignite your passion for potatoes, consider trying her Potato Masala recipe. It offers flavor, which we all crave, without all the grease.

POTATO MASALA
2009 Cardamom Kitchen LLC All Rights Reserved

Serves 6 to 8

INGREDIENTS

2 tablespoons canola oil
1/8 teaspoon black mustard seeds
1 tablespoon urad dhal
2 cups diced onions
2 tablespoons minced ginger
1 small jalapeno, cut lengthwise
1 cup chopped tomato
3 cups thinly sliced Russet potatoes
3/4 cup water
1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin seeds
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped cilantro

INSTRUCTIONS

Heat the oil in a saute pan on low heat. Add the mustard seeds and cover. When mustard begins to pop, add the urad dhal. Cook until the urad dhal turns brown.

Increase the heat to medium. Add the onions, ginger, and jalapeno and stir. Cook until the onions become translucent.

Stir in the tomatoes and cook until they begin to soften.

Add the potatoes. Cook for 3 minutes.

Add the water, salt, and turmeric. Stir to combine.

Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium low. Cover and cook until the potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes.

Remove the jalapeno. Gently stir in the cilantro.

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Sunday, April 19, 2009

Spinach Thoran

 

I hosted some friends for lunch on Easter. Being a dessert lover, I prepared the menu in reverse order, beginning with egg-shaped mini chocolate cakes soaked with framboise eau-de-vie and drizzled with ganache.
 





For the main course, I made basmathi rice, spinach thoran (sauted spinach), and fish mappas (mild fish curry). I was a little worried about serving the thoran after one of my guests said that she tries to avoid spicy food! Turns out, I had no reason to fret. It was the star of the meal.
 

If you're looking for a flavorful way to make spinach (a superfood with lots of potassim), try my mom's recipe included below. A few tips:
  • Twelve cups of spinach may sound like a lot, but it shrinks considerably when cooked.
  • Dry out the spinach leaves before cooking them or you'll end up with a soggy dish.
  • Increase the heat to medium high when you add the spinach, or again, you'll end up with soggy spinach.
  • You'll develop the best flavor profile using fresh spinach. However, to save time, you can substitute the fresh spinach with three cups of frozen spinach that has been thawed. Start with the second step if you use frozen spinach. Substitute the fifth step with: "Add the thawed spinach and cook until it begins to loosen. Stir to blend the spinach and onion mixture."


SPINACH THORAN
2009 Cardamom Kitchen LLC All Rights Reserved

Serves 5 to 6

INGREDIENTS

2 tablespoons canola oil
1/4 teaspoon black mustard seeds
1 tablespoon urad dhal
1 cup finely sliced onion
2 dried red chilies
12 packed cups fresh spinach
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground cumin seeds
Dash of turmeric powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup unsweetened, shredded coconut

INSTRUCTIONS

Wash and drain the spinach. Set it aside to dry or pat the leaves with a paper towel to absorb excess water. Chop.

Heat the oil in a large saute pan on low heat. Add the mustard seeds and cover.

When the mustard seeds begin to pop, add the urad dhal. Cook until the dhal turns light brown.

Add the onions and red peppers. Increase heat to medium and cook until the onions are translucent.

Add the spinach. Increase the heat to medium high. Cover and cook until the leaves begin to wilt. Stir to blend the spinach and onion mixture.

Add the garlic powder, cumin powder, turmeric powder, salt, and stir. Continue to cook until the spinach is completely wilted.

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