Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Rate My Raita!

I made takka tin again for din din! Annoying rhymes aside, it really is a wonderful dish. It's great hot (spice and temperature!) off the stove, heated up for lunch, on its own, and over rice. Since it's got quite a bit of heat to it I decided to whip up a quick raita to cool things off. Once again I'm not sure how authentic this is, and to be truthful I decided to wing it when I got into the kitchen. If only I'd had some fluffy naan with which to scoop everything up. Shovel, even. Double truth: I ate the whole bowlful with a spoon but it could have easily served three or four. I started with this recipe on Epicurious and made the following changes:
  • I seeded the cucumber and diced it coarsely instead of using a grater.
  • Rather than two cups of yogurt, I used only one. It'll be better if the yogurt has been strained (Greek style). It's no tragedy if it's not.
  • Cumin is an acquired taste. I've acquired it. I shook a lot of seeds into a pan to gently toast them. Do this on low heat and watch for flying objects.
  • Surprise! I added a diced mango!
  • A little bit of hot paprika goes a long way. I added a quick shake for depth of flavor, but don't overdo it. You want the raita to be the antidote to your fiery takka tin.
  • I did not chill it. Too hungry.
I could give you a song, but then again I could also give you Chris Kattan's greatest hits as Mango on Saturday Night Live:

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Lean, Mean, Green Bean Machine

You know a dish is good when after cooking it one night you immediately march back to the grocery store and get supplies for another batch. Truth: French beans were on sale for $1.25 per pound, which was extra motivation. And these weren't some sad, brown specimens. They were crisp and sweet when raw, and just deliciously seasoned after following the lead of Deb at Smitten Kitchen. Deb, please allow me to correct your French and pluralize the name of this dish as Haricots Vert with Shallots (surely you'll want more than one!). Did you know the word zydeco is believed to be derived from les haricots? I'm Cajun, so you know I'm close to authoritative on this subject. Speaking of which, I am ashamed I didn't have a specific dish planned for Mardi Gras but there's only one food I associate with the holiday: king cake. I had two different versions shipped up to me from Louisiana, one of which had a pecan praline filling. It was divine. I will be working it off at the gym for a month. A few notes that are mostly differences of taste:
  • I suggest cooking the green beans for a full 4 minutes before cooling. And the cooling step is very important to the whole blanching process, though I'm not completely convinced an ice bath is necessary. A thorough rinse under a cold faucet should do the trick.
  • I like browned shallots and I like lots of them. Again, more of a difference of taste. Adjust the quantity and cooking time to your preference.
  • Sure, they look prettier on the plate left intact. But unless you're eating them with your hands as Deb suggests, it might be more practical to halve the beans once they've been blanched. Everyone will look much more polite eating them this way, if that's a concern.

Double truth: the side tag is a bit of a misnomer: I ate a huge batch of these alone for dinner. Here is your shopping list (I'm doubling the starting quantity):

  • 1 pound of French beans, trimmed and tailed
  • 2-3 shallots
  • 2-3 teaspoons butter
  • 4+ tablespoons diced tomatoes
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • lemon wedges

Blanch...BLANCHE! Oh Rue McClanahan, you minx. May you rest in peace. In memoriam, I'm suggesting the Golden Girls theme song as a musical pairing. That came out of nowhere, right?

Monday, March 7, 2011

Sage Advice

Sage advice: make this dish! See what I did there?!

Geez. You're right. That was terrible, and I do apologize. But I also recommend this white bean salad wholeheartedly. It's packed with protein, which will help you make it through those longer workdays. Or, if you are lucky enough to spend your weekends wandering the idyllic landscape, it can power you through long walks in the afternoon sun. I don't often get the chance to use sage in my cooking and thus don't quite know what to do with it. This is a start. If you have leftover leaves from making this recipe, my suggestion is to follow my lead and fry them in butter as an accompaniment to your morning eggs. I'll try to stay on task here and point out that I've made a few adjustments to the recipe, which you can find here on Epicurious:
  • As usual, I feel the recipe calls for far too much olive oil. I start with water-packed tuna and only add oil once all the other ingredients are mixed. I doubled the recipe and still only used about one tablespoon of [good] olive oil.
  • Using the original portions, add at least one tablespoon of minced sundried tomatoes. I think their sweetness really balances the tang of the vinegar. To me they are so integral to the dish's success that I forgot they aren't included in the original recipe.

For musical accompaniment, slow down with Simon & Garfunkel's "Scarborough Fair." Here are those ingredients for your shopping list:

  • 1 6 ounce can of tuna

  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

  • 1/3 cup chopped red onion

  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

  • 4 teaspoons chopped fresh sage, or 1 teaspoon dried sage leaves

  • 2 cups cannelini beans, cooked

  • 1 tablespoon minced sundried tomatoes

Bon appetit!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Phool's Gold

Cauliflower (phool gobi) is one of maybe three things in season right now. This is hyperbole for sure. But I know I'm not the only one who can't make it through an entire season of root vegetables without several bouts of foot-stamping frustration at the state of our farmers' markets. When I visited my local this past Saturday, the produce guys hadn't even bothered to turn up. A few apples and a quart of delicious cider made their way into my bag, and nothing else. Though we've had brief flirtations with warmer weather--it got up to 68 degrees on a recent Friday--the temperature stays firmly in the lower third of the thermometer. My remedy for this is hot food made extra spicy. Knowing very little about Indian food--aside from knowing that I enjoy a lot of it--I cannot confirm the authenticity of this dish. All I know is its festive colors (very poorly captured by my camera) and lip-smacking flavors distract me from the whipping winds outside. Find this recipe for taka tin (stir fry) in the NY Times Diner's Journal. You'll note it is vegan: no ghee here. You'll need:
  • 1 large whole cauliflower, cut into 2-inch florets
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 3/4 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 to 2 fresh Thai bird chilies, seeded and finely minced (I used dried chilies but you can employ whatever you have on hand that is spiciest)
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • Small pinch chili powder
  • 1/3 teaspoon turmeric
  • Salt
  • Half a small orange bell pepper, cut into 1-inch dice
  • Half a small red bell pepper, cut into 1-inch dice
  • 3 large plum tomatoes, cut into 1-inch dice
  • 2 tablespoons cilantro, chopped
  • lemon wedges

As Mathur says, the tomatoes give the dish tang. To really drive the idea home I finish with a good squeeze of lemon. If you dislike sour food, skip it. I find the method described to be fairly flawless apart from adding the cumin seeds to a pan over high heat. You will want to do this somewhat carefully since small seeds in hot oil have a tendency to POP up at your face. I add the whole bell peppers diced, and to be honest I once made this with only half a head of cauliflower. It was no less delicious. Feeds four, and is great served over a bed of fluffy rice.

Feeling exotic? Listen to the song of last summer, "Surprise Hotel" by Fool's Gold:

I feel warmer already watching that video.