Friday, December 28, 2012

Vegetarian Pot Stickers

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Aside from the handful of vegetarian Chinese restaurants like Enjoy Veggie in SF, Vegetarian Dim Sum House in NYC, and Buddha's Delight in Boston, most Chinese restaurants are not vegetarian friendly.  In fact, I find most food in Chinese restaurants to be unhealthy and thus I rarely eat out Chinese.  I do have fond memories of a large family style meal at Fang's, a sister restaurant of the popular House of Nanking, in SF.  

One thing I do miss about Chinese restaurants, is pot stickers.  In grad school, I used to buy a frozen bag of Japanese pot stickers, gyoza, from Trader Joes and shamelessly eat an entire bag for dinner.  More recently, I have been experimenting with a healthy approach to making Chinese pot stickers at home.

Inspired by Mark Bittman's minimalist pot stickers, these are delicious, surprisingly light, and packed with fresh vegetables like cabbage, carrot, shitake mushrooms, white scallion parts, ginger, garlic, and green chili lightly drizzled with soy sauceI think a drizzle of sesame oil would also be nice. The only drawback is that it takes a really long time to finely chop all of the veggies.  

This was one of those moments when I wished I had a food processor. I tell myself that I'm a dedicated cook because I shred cabbage and carrots by hand, until my hands bleed, while others use their fancy food processor that they registered for at Williams Sonoma to shred things like cabbage and potatoes (even cheese!) in seconds. But really, I am just jealous and would love to own my very own Cuisinart food processor


I used square shaped wonton wrappers as they are easier to find, but you can use round shaped dumpling wrappers if you can find themSimply place a rounded teaspoon of the filling in the center of the wrapper, brush the edges with lightly beaten egg, and press and seal the edges together.  Since there were 50 wrappers in a packet, we set up an assembly line to make the pot stickers.


Place on a plate until ready to cook; or lay on a baking sheet lined with wax paper and freeze separately. Once frozen, you can combine the pieces in a freezer bag. Freezing the pieces separately will keep them from sticking together. 

 

To cook, heat a large skillet over moderately high heat and add canola (or vegetable oil) and peanut oil. Once hot, add dumplings in a single layer, about 12 should fit in a large skillet.  Cook for 2-3 minutes until bottom browns slightly.  Then add 1/4 cup of water (stand back, it will splash when hitting the hot oil), cover, lower heat to medium, and cook for 3-4 minutes. Uncover and increase heat to high to cook off any remaining water and brown bottoms.


In hindsight, a nonstick skillet would work better to avoid the bottoms sticking to the pan. The pot stickers did crisp up nicely in the stainless steel skillet, however.

Serve immediately with a soy sauce, rice vinegar, and green scallion dipping sauce.



Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Beet Ginger Soup

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Some vegetables like fava beans, peas, and green garlic only show up once a year in my CSA box.  That's part of what makes getting a CSA box so exciting; the variety and ever changing content of the box.

Other items show up more faithfully than others in my CSA box week after week- beets, for example. While it's nice to have a go to recipe for beets, I have been searching for more creative ideas than roasted beet salads in an attempt to beat beet fatigueAnd thus I made beet ginger soup.



I used ginger to add a spicy kick to the beets, rather than adding more sweetness.  I pureed the soup and the resulting color was a beautiful deep purplish red, like nothing I'd seen beforeMy kitchen looked like a crime scene by the time I was done making the soup. 



Overall, the soup was good and really interesting. It isn't something that I would crave, but definitely a welcome change from roasted beetsI served it with a dollop of greek yogurt, which really softened the soup.


Monday, December 24, 2012

How to make Roti :: Meatless Masala Monday

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Roti, or puffed Indian bread, is made with whole wheat flour and is served with almost every meal in a Gujarati household. The roti is cooked on a cast iron skillet and then placed on a wire rack over the flame or heating source and puffed.  In other regions roti is referred to as phulka or chapaati.

Once you are comfortable with the basic approach, you can make thinner or thicker variations, stuffed versions, masala spiced versions. Given the complicated steps, I will provided step by step instructions. The complete recipe is at the end of the post.  But first, I want to share a story.

As a child, I would often help my mom make roti for dinner. It was obvious which ones were mine:  my mom's roti was a perfect circle, while my roti was more of an artistic interpretation of a circle (honestly, it looked closer to the map of India).  My dear father always claimed that he couldn't tell the difference between my oddly shaped roti and my mom's perfectly shaped ones, but deep down inside I knew mine paled in comparison.

I feel silly saying this because everyone thinks their mom is a super hero and the best cook in the world, but so much of my inspiration and love for food comes from my mother. People often ask me at which age I got into cooking and who did I learn to cook from first.  I respond with a smile and say, "My mother, of course."

Even as a small child, well before I could see over the kitchen counter, I was mom's sous chef in the kitchen. I would pull a chair next to stove and stand on it so that I could stir a pot of ghee simmering on the stove; other times I sat on the counter itself and helped roll dough for my favorite snack, pani puri.  When I went to college, my mother made sure I had my very own masala dubba, a handy container with individual holders for the essential spices in Indian cooking.  As I become more serious and passionate about cooking, my mom answered my endless questions about recipes over the phone, and although it was nearly impossible for her to give me exact measurements of just how much ground coriander to add to a sabzi, she tried her hardest to teach me the intricacies of Indian cooking. 

Now as I grow older, I see myself becoming more and more like my mother (even my father agrees), which I find funny because I always identified more with my father. If I can get halfway there, it will be quite an achievement. This post is dedicated to my mother.

Now for the long awaited roti recipe:  In a large rimmed plate or a large bowl, add 1 cup whole wheat flour in a mound, sprinkle with 1/2 tsp salt, and drizzle 2 tsp oil on top.



Add up to 1/2 cup of water a little at a time and knead until smooth.  Set the dough aside, cover, and let rest for 15 minutes.


Coat your hands with oil and knead the dough a couple times, then divide the dough into 8 parts.  With your hands, roll each part into smooth balls.

Take one ball and flatten with the palm of your hand.  Dust with all purpose flour and place on a clean rolling surface. Roll into a 6"circle, giving equal weight throughout.  Do not stretch the dough.  As you roll out the dough, sprinkle additional flour on the dough to keep it from getting sticky.  

I like to roll out all of the dough and then cook them as I find it a bit overwhelming to roll then cook each one.

 




Heat a cast iron skillet, griddle, or flat pan over medium high heat.  Placed rolled uncooked dough onto the pan, cooking until air pockets form on one side. Flip and cook other side until air pockets form.  Then move skillet away and place a wire rack over the heat source. Increase heat to high. Place roti directly on wire rack and let it puff up into a balloon. If it doesn't puff up immediately, press down on one half with a spatula and release once the other side puffs up.  Use this same technique in other parts of the roti to make it mostly puff up. Once it puffs, very quickly remove it from the heat.


Set on a plate and brush lightly with ghee if desired. Repeat with next roti. Continue to stack rotis on top of each other.


This image below is a special kind of roti called bepati (2 pieces). When rolling out the dough into a circle, simple fold over onto itself and roll out again. Continue with the same steps as above. Once it puffs into a balloon, you will be able to separate the layers into two. It's a fun way to get two roti in one!



Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Acorn Squash and kale in brown butter

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Squash and kale are two vegetables that I strongly associate with late Fall and Winter.  Acorn squash is by far my favorite Winter squash. It is easy to roast in the oven or pan-roast in a skillet and it has a wonderful nutty, sweet flavor.  Kale and acorn squash together are a perfect medley of savory and sweet.

Inspired by a dish at Locanda in which chicories were sauteed in brown butter, I decided to make brown butter kale and acorn squash. The brown butter imparted a rich, intense flavor to the dish that cannot be replicated in any other way.  Adding brown butter harmonizes the two with a wonderful nutty richness and creates a delightfully inviting aroma.



First, I pan-roasted acorn squash in brown butter until tender, seasoning simply with sea salt and pepper. 



Meanwhile, I blanched kale in boiling salted water and once cooled, drained and squeezed out excess water, and chopped into small ribbons.  I heated butter until browning, added hazelnuts and toasted for a few minutes. Once I removed the hazelnuts, I added sauteed garlic and crushed red pepper in the same brown butter and added kale, cooking until warmed through. 



I arranged the acorn squash, kale, and hazelnuts on a plate and topped with shaved pecorino cheese.  It would be wonderful with a fried or poached egg as well. 


Monday, December 17, 2012

CSA Meal Planning: November

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The first three weeks of November were so hectic with the move and settling into the new place that cooking was the last thing on my mind.  Thankfully, the month of November included my two favorite holidays, Diwali and Thanksgiving, which incidentally involve tons of cooking!

Although I didn't host my usual big Diwali party this year, we had a lovely, intimate gathering with some friends with good, home cooked Indian food, largely based on the ingredients of my CSA box. We enjoyed saag paneer, savoy cabbage sabzi with onions and peas, green bean sabzi, beet greens bhaji, and dal makhani or kala dal with rice and roti.  After much experimentation, I think I've perfected my saag paneer dish (recipe to come)!

In the midst of the move, I didn't take a photo of the first CSA box in the new place; however, the list of produce is listed below.

Week of November 13:

beets with beet greens
sweet potatoes
spinach
swiss chard
green beans
red cabbage
cilantro
butternut squash
fennel
onions
radish
carrots

Small Diwali dinner with friends: 
saag paneer
savoy cabbage sabzi with onions and peas
dal makhani
beet greens bhaji
green beans sabzi
roti
rice

Meatless Thanksgiving Dinner:
Thai red cabbage, carrot, and cilantro salad
spicy sweet potatoes fries with yogurt cilantro sauce
butternut squash risotto
Swiss chard lentil soup
fennel gratin

These two holiday dinners were exactly what I needed to get back into the rhythm of cooking.  It helps that new place is finally all set up!  I'm excited to try a couple new recipes, including roasted beets and delicata squash with an delightfully complex walnut oil dressing.  As you know, I've fallen madly in love with these overcooked Turkish green beans; this week, I'm also making barely cooked green beans with lemon zest, pine nuts, and parsley.  Many recipes call for baking an acorn squash and stuffing it with risotto, bulgur, or something else tasty.  Instead I am dicing the acorn squash and roasting it and then tossing it with cooked farro and Tuscan kale. The nuttiness of the farro complements the sweet acorn squash and earthy kale.

Week of November 27:

beets with beet greens
red potatoes
spinach
romanesco cauliflower
Tuscan kale
Swiss chard
2 green beans
broccolini
acorn squash
carrots
onions

Day 1:  beet green bhaji
roti

Day 2:  Turkish green beans
roasted beets and delicata squash
broccolini with garlic and crushed red pepper

Day 3:  Swiss chard lentil soup
spicy kale chips

Day 4:  Swiss chard lentil soup

Day 5:  spinach sabzi

roti

Day 6:  romanesco potatoes
green beans with lemon zest, pine nuts, and parsley

Day 7:  farro with roasted acorn squash and kale
romanesco cauliflower and caramelized onion tart

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Farro Salad with Beets, Beet greens, and Walnuts

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Sometimes I get overwhelmed by the frequency at which beets turn up in my CSA box each week.  I typically make a roasted beet salad like this one with goat cheese and pistachio or this one with fresh herbs or maybe this one with dijon and feta.

Previously I've shared ideas about using beet greens and stems in a warm barley dish or using the beet greens in a taco with smokey chipotle sauce.  I was on a mission to make a dish using beets, beet greens, and stems all in one dish.


Here I combine nutty farro with roasted beets, beet greens, stems, and walnuts in a delightfully sweet/nutty/spicy vinaigrette of sherry vinegar, balsamic vinegar, dijon, garlic, walnut oil, and olive oil. I finished the salad with finely chopped mint and parsley.  I loved how the sweetness of the vinaigrette transformed the earthy beets and the way the nutty farro complemented the earthy sweet flavors. Walnuts add a nice crunch but can be omitted if keeping for a day or two.

The salad makes a wonderful side dish and is great in a lunch box for the next day.


Tuesday, December 11, 2012

CSA Meal Planning: October

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I have taken a bit of a break from blogging for the past couple months. We've had a lot going on between health, work, family, and a big move.  In an effort to catch up, I am posting a double CSA menu plan for the month of October, with a double post for November to follow!

Over a long-awaited meal at Locanda,  we shared a beautiful plate of chicory, fried duck egg, parmesan, and hazelnuts in brown butter to start. I loved the way the brown butter cut the bitterness of the chicory.  Inspired by Locanda's approach, I made a gorgeous plate of acorn squash pan sauteed in brown butter, braised kale finished with brown butter, toasted hazelnuts, and shaved pecorino cheese.  It was wonderfully satisfying! It would be equally delicious with a fried or poached egg.

Earlier in October, I took an incredible pasta making class at Flour + Water with Francesca Tori from Bologna, Italy. Executive Chef Thomas McNaughton of Flour + Water and Central Kitchen fame studied in Bologna, Italy under the tutelage of the Tori family. Photos and details to follow!  For now, here's a sneak preview of some of the pasta I made.


Since taking the class, I have been experimenting with making pasta at home. My first project was homemade pumpkin tortellini finished in a brown butter, crispy sage, and lemon sauce.  The pumpkin filling was made with a pumpkin in a previous week's CSA box.  I used the leftover dough to make wide pasta ribbons and tossed with an intensely flavorful fennel tomato sauce.

Another new dish is cabbage pot stickers, inspired by Mark Bittman.  I filled wonton wrappers (couldn't find dumpling wrappers) with beautiful green cabbage, cremini mushroom, carrot, ginger, green chili, and soy sauce. They were incredible-- far more flavor and healthier than anything you can get at a restaurant!

Finally, I used all parts of the beets in my CSA box (leaves, stems, and beets) in a colorful farro beet salad with a walnut oil dressing and walnuts.  The nuttiness of the farro is a perfect complement for earthy beets.
 
Week of October 16:
Tuscan kale
fennel
acorn squash
banana potatoes
green beans
gypsy peppers
beets and beet greens
cabbage
broccoli
onions
garlic

Day 1: brunch: omelet with beet greens and peppers
dinner: roasted acorn squash with braised kale and hazelnuts in brown butter
pumpkin tortellini with crispy sage, brown butter, lemon

Day 2: farro with beets, beet greens, walnuts

Day 3:  tomato fennel sauce with freshmade pasta ribbons

Day 4: Indian spiced broccoli sabzi
Indian green beans
roti and yogurt

Day 5: cabbage pot stickers... cabbage, carrot, shiitake mushrooms, garlic, ginger, scallions

Day 6: quinoa with peppers

Day 7: baby beets with herb dressing
braised kale linguini

Day 8: roasted gypsy peppers with capers and olives (like eggplant caponata without the eggplant)
truffled mushroom flatbread
roasted fennel and potatoes with garlic and onions

Day 9: samosas... potato and pea
three dal
pepper sabzi with chick pea flour
cabbage sabzi




The last week of October was pretty nuts as we were busy packing for the move in the middle of dealing with other complicated, not-so-happy things.  All I craved was pizza in various forms:  gourmet Neapolitan style pizza from Zero Zero, Chicago deep dish from Patxi's, and, much to my embarrassment, thin crust pizza from.... Papa Johns.  Yes, even though I'm a super foodie on the outside, deep down inside I occasionally crave my childhood favorite pizza, Papa Johns.  The only meal I cooked that entire last week was Swiss chard ragu with spaghetti.

Once the move was over, I felt like a stranger in the new house and struggled to feel at home. For days, we ordered take out from the new-to-us neighborhood restaurants. One Friday night, I decided to cook our first dinner in the new house.  I rummaged through the foreign fridge searching for familiar contents of my beloved CSA box and pulled out Tuscan kale, romanesco cauliflower, and broccolini.  The rhythm of chopping vegetables on the wood block put me at ease in the strange, unfamiliar new place.  I browned butter in my cast iron skillet and reached for sea salt from the salt cellar to my left, where it belonged, and suddenly, I felt at home.

It's amazing how much comfort my CSA box provides me; it truly has transformative powers!

A couple days later, we had our first guests over for brunch. I made baked eggs in a tomato cream sauce with collard greens and spinach along with spiced potatoes. We ate brunch outside in the gorgeous garden. It couldn't have been more perfect!

Week of October 30:
delicata squash
Tuscan kale
romanesco
broccolini
savoy cabbage
potatoes
radish
collard greens
Swiss chard
avocado
fennel
carrot
red peppers

Day 1 last dinner at old place:  Swiss chard ragu with spaghetti

Day 2 first dinner at new place: roasted delicata squash and Tuscan kale in brown butter with poached egg
roasted romanesco cauliflower with lemon, sea salt, and parsley
broccolini with garlic and crushed red pepper

Day 3: fennel tomato sauce with spaghetti

Day 4 first brunch with friends at new place: baked eggs with spinach and collard greens in a tomato cream sauce
Indian spiced potatoes
radishes with butter
avocado slices

Day 5: morrocan carrots
harissa with lemon couscous

Day 6: savoy cabbage sabzi with onions
roti

Monday, November 5, 2012

Kala Channa :: Meatless Masala Monday

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Kala channa, or black chick peas, are a type of chick pea that is nuttier and less likely to cook to a mush than the more common "white" chick peas. I recreated this kala channa dal from a distant memory of a dish my mom used to make. 



The result is an intensely flavorful dish, with competing flavors of spice and acidity, that is vastly different from other dal dishes.


I like kala channa on its own topped with chopped tomato and onion, I assure you, it is absolutely tasty this way.  

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Veggie Chili - the best ever

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This is simply the best veggie chili ever. It has everything from beer, beans, chipotles en adobo sauce, colorful bell peppers, smokey paprika, and toasted coriander and cumin. Seriously, it is amazing. We made a huge pot of this fabulous chili for the Super Bowl, hoping for leftovers and were left with none. Even the meat-eating guys loved it and went for seconds!

A good bowl of veggie chili is hard to come by and when you find a recipe this good, you want to hold on to it, trust me. And good old fashioned homemade chili puts any canned chili to shame, even Amy's and Trader Joe's veggie chili. 


 

Black bean and red kidney beans are gloriously simmered with yellow and orange peppers, onions, garlic, jalapeno, and tomatoes. Using canned beans makes it easy to make the chili in a pinch, but the longer you let it sit after you make it the better the flavors.


I love the smokiness from the chipotles en adobo sauce and smoked paprika and the depth from chili powder and freshly ground toasted cumin and toasted coriander.

 


Amber ale and white wine vinegar give the chili a nice tang. 


Let simmer, stirring occasionally. The chili takes about 30 minutes to cook, but to be honest, the longer it sits the better the flavors meld together. Garnish with shredded smoked gouda, scallions, and cilantro. And a dollop of sour cream if that's your thing.


Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Poached eggs over polenta with roasted broccoli

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A favorite Sunday morning dish is parmesan lemon roasted broccoli over creamy polenta topped with a poached egg, snowy parmesan, and garnished with fresh oregano from the garden. There is little better than crispy, roasted broccoli with garlic, lemon, and lemon zest. Except when it is over creamy parmesan polenta and topped with a poached egg.


This the foodiest of brunch dishes, after making it once I have become obsessed with it. It is so delicious and easy to make, and it looks incredibly gourmet. Toss broccoli with olive oil, sea salt, freshly ground black pepper, and garlic slivers; roast until crisp, and toss with lemon juice.


I prefer to use Bob's Red Mill polenta. Just remember to stir very frequently, like you would with risotto.  Bring 3 times as much water as polenta to a boil, gradually stir in polenta Reduce heat, simmer gently, and stir frequently to prevent from sticking, until it is very thick, about 25-30 minutes.  Stir in butter and parmesan, and season with salt.




Monday, October 29, 2012

Cheddar jalapeno polenta stuffed peppers

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As I mentioned in a previous post, I have been experimenting with stuffed peppers. The first was a sophisticated Mediterranean stuffed red pepper with bulgur. The second is a cheddar, jalapeno polenta stuffed pepper. Imagine jalapeno cornbread in a pepper!



I cooked polenta for a delicious breakfast dish and had about a cup leftover. This is really simple dish; just saute red onions with some crushed red pepper, combine with hot polenta, diced jarred jalapenos or canned green chiles, and cheddar cheese.


Serve with this southwestern black bean, corn, bell pepper, and avocado salsa.

Other pepper recipes you might like include:

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Green Bean Sabzi, or Indian style

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Green beans are a quintessential summer vegetable. As much as I love green beans almondine and other simple preparations of green beans, this Indian green bean sabzi is my absolutely favorite. This is a wonderful, wonderful way to prepare green beans. It is delicately spiced with ground cumin and coriander and topped with ground roasted peanuts and shredded coconut.  The roasted peanuts add a wonderful nuttiness to the dish and the shredded coconut adds a lovely textural contrast.



Other green bean or yellow wax bean dishes you might enjoy include:

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