Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Stir Fried Eggplant with Snow Peas

This might not look pretty but it did taste good.  I found something called Thai Long Green Eggplant (Makheua Yao Keaw) at the Leaning Shed Farm stand at the Green City Market so I bought some and decided to do a stiry fry with them.  Thai long green eggplant are similar to the light purple, long and thin Chinese Eggplant except that they are a pale green, and the ones I bought seemed more firm to me.  But that might just have been an indication of how fresh they were.

I followed my usual rule when cooking eggplant:  cook it for a long time, and then cook it some more.  The end result in this case was that parts of it fell apart into the mushy sauce you see in the photo, but there were still enough discrete pieces that gave it some body.  Next time I make it, however, I will cut the eggplant into larger pieces so they will hold up better.  The peapods were a nice crispy contrast to the softer texture, and the crunchy toasted walnuts sealed the deal.

I did not put any heat into this stir fry because I made it to accompany the Corn Casserole with Chicken and Broccoli I made this weekend and that is about as much heat as I can stand in one meal.  In the future, however, I will add my usual garlic chili paste because I have become addicted to the specific flavor that it contributes to a dish.

Once the ingredients were prepped and I was ready to go, this came together in less than half an hour.  This is basically the same dish that I made earlier this year.  You can find the recipe here.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Corn Casserole with Chicken and Broccoli

Woohoo!  Another company lunch with too much chicken left over.  I was able to take home about a pound's worth of meat and as much again of bone.  Truth to tell, I am more interested in the bones than the meat at this point, since I am always looking for scraps for stock.  I also scored about 1-1/2 onions, already sliced up, also for stock.  I will have to get busy this weekend.

What to do with the meat?  I thought about making another batch of the chili chicken sauce I made last time I brought the chicken home.  That was delicious served over polenta.  The only problem is that I already had planned to make my corn casserole, and that is so close to polenta that it didn't make sense to have both at the same time.

I didn't see any reason why I couldn't add the chicken to the corn casserole, though, in addition to the baby broccoli I was already planning to add.  I thought it might come close to a cheesy chicken broccoli casserole my sister used to make, only healthier without the canned cream of mushroom and cream of celery soup that go into that recipe.

I was a little worried that it might be too many ingredients for the base cornmeal, egg, butter and yogurt mixture to handle without getting too dry, but I added a little white wine and that seemed to do the trick.

One other change I made - instead of using the can of mild chopped green chilies that usually goes into my corn casserole, I used a pickled jalapeno (and yes, I did pickle it myself - more on that later).  I found the jalapenos at the Leaning Shed Farm stall at the Green Market, and they are super hot.  So hot that I added a dollop of yogurt to help soothe my palate.  It was perfect.

Because I added almost twice as much volume to the casserole with the chicken and broccoli, I baked it in an 8 x 11" dish instead of the 1.5-quart round dish I usually use.  It was a smart decision.

Adding the chicken and broccoli takes this from a great side dish to a satisfactory meal in itself.  It's a great way to use up leftover chicken.  And it is just as easy to make as the meatless version.

Home Cookin Chapter: My Recipes

Makes 6 servings

2 Tbsp olive oil
1 med onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
Approximately 1 lb broccoli, separted, stems thinly sliced and tops cut into small florets
1-2 cups diced cooked chicken
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup white wine
1/4 cup chicken or vegetable broth, or water
1/2 cup melted butter
2 cup corn kernels, divided
2 eggs
1 cup yogurt
1/2 cup cornmeal
4-oz can chopped green chilies or 1 pickled jalapeno, chopped
1 cup cheese, diced or grated
1-1/4 tsp salt
Additional yogurt for garnish

Heat the oil over medium-high flame in a large skillet.  Add the onion and cook until tender, about 5 minutes.  Add the garlic and the broccoli stems and cook until the stems are tender, another 5 minutes.  Add the chicken and broccoli florets and season to taste with the salt and pepper.  Add the wine and the broth and bring to a boil.  Simmer on low heat covered, for 10 minutes.

Remove from the heat and let cool while you put together the rest of the dish.

Puree the butter, 1 cup of the corn, and the eggs in a blender or food processor.  Pour into a bowl and add the yogurt, cornmeal, chilies, cheese, salt and the rest of the corn and stir together.  Fold in the cooled chicken and broccoli mixture.

Pour into a buttered 9 x 12" baking dish.  Bake at 350 deg. F. for about 40 minutes, until the top has set and has just started to brown.

Serve garnished with a dollop of yogurt or crema fresca, if desired.


Exported from Home Cookin 6.46 (

Friday, October 19, 2012

Aloo Gobi Redux

The last (and only) time I made this dish I was pleased with it, but it was more dry than I had expected it to be.  That was most likely because I used twice as much cauliflower and potato as the recipe required but did not increase the amounts of the rest of the ingredients.

This time, I used the amounts of cauliflower and potato that was called for in the recipe, and even added the extra ounce or two of tomato that was in the jar I was using.  I was pleased with the result.  The smaller proportion of vegetables allowed the spices to shine in a way they had not done in the earlier version.

But I still like the earlier dish.  In that one, the cauliflower and potato were the main stars and they were delicious.  In this version, all of the ingredients blended together into a more integrated meal that was delicious when scooped up with fresh chapatis.

So here is what I have concluded.  The earlier version would make a lovely side dish for a meal that featured meat.  This version makes a lovely meal in itself, especially when paired with chapatis or rice.

I got this recipe from the October 2011 issue of  Saveur  Magazine.  You can find it here.  For a drier version that highlights the cauliflower and potato, double those two ingredients.  For the wetter, main dish version, follow the recipe as written.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

DIY Pickles

I really wasn't planning to make pickles.  I know pickling is hot right now, but it just wasn't something that interested me all that much.  I like pickles well enough, although I am rather particular in my tastes; there are only one or two brands out there that I will eat.  They have to be crisp, and not too sour.  So making them wasn't even remotely on my radar.

Until I saw the beautiful batch of pickle cucumbers Iron Creek Farm was selling at the Green Market.  They were so firm, so green, and so well, pickle-like that I decided right then and there that it was time for me to make some pickles.  They also happened to have seeded dill at another stand that day so I grabbed that as well.

I looked through various recipes, not even knowing enough about them to know what recipe to use.  But the recipe in the Second Avenue Deli Cookbook looked easy to follow and did not require a lot of equipment.  I knew I was not ready to try anything that required sterilization or water baths, and this recipe just calls for you to put the cucumbers in a jar with some brine, garlic, and spices and let it sit for a few days.

And here is the jar just moments after I filled it.  It is actually more involved than just filling up the jar with the cucumbers and brine.  First, you have to cook the brine.  You bring the water and salt to a boil and then let it cool down to room temperature before you use it.  Because the brine is not hot, the cucumbers don't cook, so they stay fresh and crispy.  Just the way I like them.

Here is the first volunteer from the jar, three days later.  I wasn't sure it was going to work, but lo and behold the brine permeated through the cucumber and I had me some bona fide garlic dill pickles.  The first batch I made I used too many of the spices, but after some minor adjustments I had the combination that I liked.  Although ready-made pickling spices would work just as well.

The garlic cloves get pickled too, and I've been using them where I would use raw garlic or I'm cooking something that benefits from an extra bit of acid.  They were not blanched, though, so be warned that they are raw cloves of garlic and as strong, if not stronger, than regular raw cloves so you do not want to be eating them right out of the jar.  Just saying.

These pickles were such a success that I naturally found myself looking for other things to pickle.  After a batch or two of refrigerator pickling projects, I'm about a heartbeat away from full-on canning.

If you have been curious about the pickling process and want to try your hand at it, this is a good way to start.  The only special equipment you need is a jar that is big enough to hold the pickles.

10-12 small Kirby cucumbers, unwaxed, that are close in size
6 Tbsp kosher salt
2 quarts water
10 whole garlic cloves, unpeeled
1/3-1/2 bunch fresh dill
1 Tbsp pickling spices (or 1 tsp mustard seeds, 1 tsp whole black peppercorns, 1/2 tsp coriander seeds and 1/2 tsp dill seeds)
3 bay leaves
1 hot dried red pepper

Clean the cucumbers under running water, being sure to scrub them clean. Combine the water and salt in a large pot and bring to a boil. Turn off the heat and allow the mixture to come to room temperature.

Wrap the garlic cloves in a towel and lightly crush them with the back of a knife.

Pack the cucumbers tightly into a wide-mouthed jar and then add the rest of the ingredients, then pour the brine over them. Close the jar and shake it to evenly distribute the spices.
Store the jar in a cool unrefrigerated place for 4 to 6 days, depending on how sour you want them. The longer they stay out, the more sour they will be. Open the jar once a day to skim off any foam.

Pickles will last in the refrigerator for a few weeks.

Adapted from The Second Avenue Deli Cookbook, by Sharon Lebewohl and Rena Bulkin (Villard, 1999)

Friday, October 05, 2012

DIY: Garam Masala

The past two weeks has been a perfect storm of distractions, mild if any inspiration, and, most importantly, a Blogger dashboard update that has not gone smoothly.  If I finally figure it out there will be one hell of a recall post, but for now I have given up on it.

In the meantime, I noticed that it does not look like I have ever discussed garam masala on its own merit.  It translates to warm spice mix, and that's exactly what it is.  There are no chilies in it, so it is not spicy hot; it just has a lovely blend of aromatic spices that are commonly used in Indian cuisine, such as coriander, cumin, cardamom and cinnamon.

Although it can be added at the beginning of a dish along with the other spices that are cooked with the onions, garlic and ginger before adding the rest of the ingredients, they are often added at the end instead, where they provide an extra depth of flavor and, well, warmth.  When I first started experimenting with Indian cooking I would just use sweet curry powder whenever a recipe called for it, but after a while I started to wonder how much of a difference it might make so I bought some and discovered that it did have a discernible impact no the dish.

After I had accumulated enough of the individual spices that go into the mix as I was learning more about Indian cooking, I realized I could make my own.  And I must say, now that I have been using it for a couple of years, that it is well worth seeking out the ingredients just for this purpose.

  There's nothing like the aroma of spices toasting in a cast-iron skillet on the stove top.  Of course, you don't need a cast-iron skillet for this, any small skillet will do, but I purchased this small skillet pretty much for the sole purpose of toasting spices and I love having it.  I also use it to toast nuts in the oven.

What you see toasting in the skillet here is cinnamon bark, cumin seeds, coriander seeds, cardamom pods, black tellicherry peppers and a bay leaf.  I toast them until I can just start to smell them, take them off the heat, add a little bit of ground nutmeg and put them into a small bowl to cool off (if I leave them in the skillet they will continue to cook and might burn so I always empty the skillet immediately no matter what I have cooked in it).  After about five minutes they are cool enough to put into my spice blender (I use one an inexpensive coffee grinder I bought years ago and now have dedicated to spices).  I grind it into a fine powder and put it in a small jar.  It lasts for a few months.

There are as many recipes for garam masala as there are people who make it.  I looked at several and came up with my own blend, which I will post here.  You should think of it as more of a suggestion than a recipe, though, and adjust the spices to your taste.

You don't have to be an expert at Indian cooking to use this.  You can add any amount from a teaspoon to a tablespoon at the end of cooking just about any vegetable or bean dish.  It's also good with eggs.
Home Cookin Chapter: Spices
Makes about 1/4 cup

8 cloves
4 tsp cumin seeds
3 green cardamom pods (whole)
1 2-inch cinnamon stick
2 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp black peppercorns
1 bay leaf
Pinch of grated nutmeg (optional)
Heat a small skillet on medium. Add all the spices except the nutmeg and dry roast the spices, stirring constantly. After about 5 minutes, the spices will darken and begin to release a unique aroma.
Remove the skillet from the heat, then add the nutmeg. Transfer the spice mix to a bowl and allow to cool for about 5 minutes.
Using a spice grinder, grind the spices to a fine powder. Store in an airtight jar. The spice mixture will keep for up to 3 months.

Exported from Home Cookin 6.46 (
And can I say once again how much I am REALLY NOT liking the Blogger update?
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