Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Bengalese Onion and Tomato Fish Curry

I was on a bit of a curry kick.  I wanted something fast.  Fish and veggiecurries often come to the rescue in such situations.  This one grabbed my attention with its Italian like combination of onions and tomato.  How ever would the other spices play into this?

Adapted from The Curry Bible by Jackie Passmore

serves four

The Ingredients:
1 1/2 lbs thick fish fillets, cut into tenders
1/2 cup flour
1 cup ghee, mustard oil, or vegetable oil
1 - 14 oz can crushed tomatoes
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 large onion, thinly sliced
1 tsp ground chili
2 tsp sugar
1 Tbsp fresh lime juice
2 fresh green chilies (such as Serrano) de-seeded and diced
3 roma tomatoes, cut into wedges
1 inch knob of ginger, minced
fresh cilantro for garnish

The Process:
Place the fish fillets and flour in a large re-sealable bag and toss until the fish is evenly coated.  Heat the oil or ghee in a large, deep skillet.  Carefully add the fish and fry until crisp, but not cooked completely through flipping once, about 4-5 minutes.  Remove the fish to a pan lined in paper towels.  Set aside.

Pour off all but 2 Tbsp of the cooking oil.  Add tomatoes, garlic, onion, and chili powder.  Simmer until the onions have softened and the sauce has thickened.  Add the sugar, lime juice, chilies and ginger.  Stir until combined.  Season with salt and pepper to taste,  Carefully add the fish.  Simmer gently, bring the fish with the sauce until the fish is tender and heated through (about 6-8 minutes).

Transfer to a serving dish or warmed plates and garnish with fresh cilantro.

The Review:
This curry strike me an a wonderful introduction to the hesitant eater.  It boasts many of the same flavors of a well loved tomato-based Italian dish, with a little extra twist.  The recipe is easily adaptable to many variety of fish, though not all are created equal.  I had opted for catfish, despite my aversion to the fish in general.  The flesh ended up chewy and rubbery...with that muddy undertone that I can never quite overcome.  Swai or Tilapia would fair far better for the budget conscious, though cod, halibut, haddock, whiting or pollock would work equally as well.

The curry did make up for the awfully onion-y fish dumpling curry made a few weeks earlier.  It is a dish worth attempting again.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Kolivartha Curry

I few days ago I handed Ross one of my curry books and told him to pick a chicken dish.  Sometimes meal planning and shopping lists  happen more easily when delegated this way.  This recipe below was the one he chose.  His reasoning?  We already had most of the ingredient list.  Gotta love the man who knows the content of the pantry.

From what I could gather this chicken curry dish is hails from the Chettinad region of Southern Indian. I am hardly an expert in Indian fare, though I adore curries from all over the subcontinent.  Please let me know if you have further tidbits on this culinary destination

Adapted form the Curry Bible by Jacki Passmore

serves 4

The Ingredients:
1 1/2 lbs skinless chicken thigh fillets, cut into tenders
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 inch finger fresh ginger, minced
1 onion, diced
1 large tomato, deseeded and diced
2 Tbsp ghee or oil
1/2 cup finely ground almonds or cashews
1 tsp Garam Masala
1 Tbsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 - 1 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp turmeric
2-3 whole cloves
1 1/2 cups coconut milk
salt to taste
fresh lemon or lime
chopped cilantro to serve

The Process:
Rinse the chicken tenders and pat dry,

In a blender or food processor, pulse the garlic, ginger, and onion until a thick paste forms.  Add the tomato and set aside.

In a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat the oil or ghee.  Add the chicken and saute until lightly browned on all sides.  Remove the chicken and set aside.  Add the tomato-onion mixture to the skillet and cook for 5-6 minutes, stirring constantly.  Add the ground nuts and spices;  stir until well mixed.  

Return the chicken to the pan.  Pour in the coconut milk and season with salt to taste.  Bring the mixture to a simmer and cook, uncovered, until the chicken is tender and the sauce has thickened.

Serve with a drizzle of fresh lemon or lime juice and sprinkled with cilantro.

The Review:
Curries with the slightly sweet flavor of coconut seem to be the biggest hits in our household.  The mild creamy flavors were well balanced and complimented the chicken instead of overpowering it.  I haven't tried many curried with ground nuts, and I loved they way the ground cashews thickened the sauce...added only the slightest nutty flavor.  The cashews have a creaminess all of their own.  I suspect almonds wouldn't have quite as distinct a flavor when paired with all of the other spices in the dish. .The easy and quickness in which this dish came together was a huge bonus as well.  As most of the ingredients are staple in our household, I'm sure we'll be enjoying this curry again!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Black Bean and Sweet Potato Soup

The time has come to purge the fridge and pantry cabinets are perpetually stocked with broths, beans, chilies and tomatoes.  Coupled with the oddball tidbits of vegetables that fall between the cracks mid-week, I usually have the fixings for some amazing soups and chilis.  As the weather becomes warmer, soups, stews, chilis and chowders will become far more rare.  This hearty vegan dish sends them off in style.  Until the fall, of course.

the recipe is my own

serves 6-8

The Ingredients:
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
4 cloves of garlic,  minced
2 stalks of celery, diced
2 small carrots,diced
1 can green chilies
1 can stewed tomatoes (15 oz)
2 cans black beans (15 oz each), drained and rinsed
2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
4 cups water or vegetable stock
1/2 tsp cumin
2 bay leaves
1 tsp salt

The Process:
Combine all of the ingredients in a large stockpot over medium high heat.  Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, cover and cook for 2-3 hours or until the sweet potato is soft and the black beans are tender.  Gently mash or puree if desired.

The Review:
I'm not sure why, but the combination of sweet potato and black beans is fast becoming a favorite.  I'll be making this again.  Once I finish up the leftovers I had to stash in the freezer...

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Fish Dumplings

I originally started this blog as an excuse to push myself to try new recipes.  At first it was more of a documentation of the recipes I've tried, good or bad.  Since then I feel I have, consciously or not, attempted to cater to a specific audience.  As such I've noticed I cook more, but actually post less.  I've tended to only share the good.

Granted I've had very few recipes that seemed to outright fail.  But they do happen.  This recipe these fish dumplings came from is a case in point.

Rather than dwell on how inedible we found this particular meal to be, I thought at the very least I would share the positive aspect.  The meal was originally a Thai style curry with fish dumplings.  The fish dumplings were amazing.  But the curry was so awful, I'd rather not share that part.  Lesson learned...if 6 shallots seems like a bit much onion to form the base of what should be a delicate curry sauce, it probably is.  The curry paste was so pungent, my eyes watered from the moment I started slicing the shallots to the moment the garbage bag with the last remnants of the dinner was tied up.

But the dumplings were lovely...

Adapted from the Curry Bible by Jacki Passmore

serves 4

The Ingredients:
1 lb flaky white fish, cubed (tilapia or swai work well)
1/2 tsp salt
3-4 Tbsp water

The Process:
Place the fish, salt and water in food processor.  Grind until soft and pasty.  Moisten your hands and form the fish into walnut-sized balls

Bring a saucepan of lightly salted water to a gentle boil.  Add the fish dumplings a few at a time and poach until the dumpling float to the surface, about 2 minutes.  (They really do cook that fast)

Remove with a slotted spoon and drain.  Gently toss with curry of your choice and serve warm.

The Review:
Easy, isn't it?  And the dumplings are quite wonderful.  Blending the fish into a paste and then forming them into little meatballs creates a texture most of us would never guess as seafood.  They are heartier.  Almost as dense as traditional meatballs, but with a wonderfully delicate flavor.

You can see why it was such a pity to have a horrendously pungent onion-dominate curry sauce with them.  These little fish balls really need something incredibly light to set off they flavor.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Caramel Ice Cream

A another huge thanks to Audra at the Baker Chick for drawing my attention to yet another amazing recipe.  She makes no secret about her love of salty caramel concoctions.  My affair with salted caramel is a little more closeted.  But this recipe needs to have its praises sung.

The caramel ice cream is also my first attempt at the more decadent, thicker custard-style ice cream.  In addition to the richer consistency, the custard-style has the benefit of leaving me with several egg whites on hand.  A pavlova or meringue may be in the future.

adapted from Gourmet's and  David Lebovitz's recipes via the Baker Chick

yields about 5 cups

The Ingredients:
For Caramel Praline:
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 teaspoon sea salt, such as fleur de sel

For the Ice Cream Base:
1 1/4 cups sugar, divided
2 cups heavy cream, divided
1/2 tsp flaky sea salt
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/4 cup whole milk
4 egg yolks

The Process:
for the caramel praline:
Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil, lightly misted with cooking spray.  Set near at hand.

In a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan, sprinkle the sugar in an even layer.  Heat the sugar over medium-high heat until the edges begin to melt. Use a heatproof utensil to gently stir the liquefied sugar from the bottom and edges towards the center.  Continue to gently stir toward the center, until all of the sugar has dissolved. Once the sugar becomes a deep amber color and begins to smoke, immediately remove from heat and sprinkle with salt.  Do not stir.  Pour the liquified sugar onto the prepared baking sheet.  Tilt and swirl the baking sheet to coax the liquid into a thin and (mostly) uniform layer.  Set aside to harden and cool. Once cool, peel the hardened candy off of the foil,  place  a large bag and crush into tiny bits by hand or with a rolling pin.

for the ice cream base
Distribute 1 cup sugar evenly over the bottom of a large heavy bottomed saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring with a fork to heat sugar evenly, until it starts to melt, then stop stirring and cook, swirling skillet occasionally so sugar melts evenly, until it is dark amber.

Add 1 1/4 cups cream (caramel violent bubble and steam, and will seize up).  Cook, stirring, until all of caramel has dissolved. Stir.  And stir some more.  The lump of caramel will dissolve eventually. Transfer to a bowl and stir in sea salt and vanilla. Cool to room temperature.

Meanwhile, Add milk, remaining cream, and remaining sugar to a small, heavy saucepan.  Over medium high heat, bring the mixture just to a boil  stirring occasionally.

Lightly whisk eggs in a medium bowl.  Add half of the hot milk mixture in a slow stream, whisking constantly. Pour back into saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until custard thickens and coats back of spoon (do not let boil, you don't want scrambled eggs in your ice cream!). Pour custard through a fine sieve into a large bowl.  Add the cooled caramel and stir until well dissolved.

Chill custard for  3-6 hours or preferably overnight.   Freeze custard in ice cream maker according to manufacturers directions.  After 10-15 minutes, add the praline pieces. Continue to freeze as per your ice cream maker.  Transfer to an airtight container overnight to further freeze the custard.

The Review:
Izzy's ice cream has an incredible following here in the Twins Cities.  Their salty caramel is one of the hottest sellers...wonderfully and richly sweet with that divine burnt sugar taste.  Yet with a surprising burst of salt to off set the sweet sweet ice cream.

Sadly I have never tried Izzy's salted caramel.

If this homemade ice cream is any resemblance of Izzy's, no wonder the flavor is so popular!  It was so rich; one scoop a serving was more than enough to sate a sweet craving.  The praline bits added a wonderful bit of crunch.  Dulce de leche comes to mind.  It is pure bliss...

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Cornmeal and Ricotta Waffles

Several weeks have passed without a waffle Sunday.  Far too much time.  As schedules pick up, Ross and I are finding fewer and fewer weekends off together.   The stars aligned and this past Sunday found a morning together again.

I came across this recipe a while ago, and tagged it for a later date.  The combination was intriguing, but it wasn't until I tried my hand at homemade ricotta that this recipe drew my attention again.

adapted from Michael Mina's recipe at Food and Wine

The Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups ricotta cheese
2 cups milk
6 large eggs, separated
1/2 cup sugar
2 cups flour 
1/2 cup cornmeal 
1/Tbsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 stick unsalted butter, melted

The Process:
Preheat oven to 200 and heat up the waffle iron.
In a large bowl, whisk the ricotta with the milk, egg yolks and sugar. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour with the cornmeal, baking powder and salt. Whisk the dry ingredients into the ricotta mixture until combined. Stir in the melted butter.

In a separate mixing bowl with an electric beater, or by hand with a strong wrist action, whisk the egg whites until they hold soft peaks.  Fold the whites gently into the waffle batter, until just combined.  Do not over mix!  The batter should retain as much air as possible from the whites.

Brush or mist the waffle iron lightly with oil and spoon batter into waffle iron, spreading quickly with a spatula to cover the entire griddle surface (amount varies depending on waffle iron, mine uses just over 1/2 a cup). Cook according to iron manufacturer’s instructions.

Transfer finished waffles to rack in oven to keep warm and crisp. Make more waffles in same manner.

Serve warm with toppings of your choice.

The Review: 
One thing I've come to truly love about Waffle Sundays is the sheer variety of flavors out there.  Is waffle is so similar, and yet so unique in their own right.  Oh, the shape my be the same.  And the general consistency.  But some are lighter, some are denser.  Some have a smooth, almost creamy center with a crisp exterior while others are more toothsome.  Flavors very from yeasty to sweet to vanilla or cinnamon spiked.  Filler abound: bacon, blueberries, nuts, or nothing at all.  Some hold up to a mountain of toppings.  Others are the perfect sponge for syrup.  

And I love every single one of them.  Some may be more successful than others.  But each and every waffle Sunday has been a treat to look forward to.

SO where does this waffle fall?  This variation was a little denser than most, with a bit pleasant grittiness from the cornmeal.  It soaked up the syrup on a heart beat, yet only the lightest drizzle was needed to offset the light cornmeal flavor.  Of course I added butter, but a silken buttery flavor was present even before the waffle was doused in toppings.  It puffed and crisped wonderfully, and maintained it's crispness under the power of the syrup longer than some, but not quite long enough for my taste.  Yet the interior was wonderfully moist.  

All that sums up to mean these waffles will be amazing frozen for later and reheated in the toaster for a quick breakfast later this week.

And the ricotta?  A creaminess was present, but if you didn't know the ricotta was there, you wouldn't be able to tell.  I used homemade ricotta...this batch turned out a tad drier than the last ricotta, but the waffles did not suffer.  

These may not be the healthiest of waffles, with 6 eggs and 1 stick of butter.  But the fat and sugar is offset by a higher protein content than most other waffles.  This is a waffle that will keep you fuller longer.  And at a 6-8 waffle are only looking at about 1 egg per serving.  The butter may be a bit excessive if you're watching the fat.  Next time around I may swap out half the butter with applesauce. 

Of course, with so many other waffles to choose from, who knows when I'll make it back around to this one!