Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Revisiting Turkey and Farewell Brunch

A big bowl of spanikopita filling.

Kai with cornstarch, at the controls on the yogurt chicken.

Samuel giving me a sweet baby smile.

The lovely southern-style spread at Bill and Kaye's for Kai's farewell brunch.

Monday, April 18, 2011


I mentioned a couple of posts ago that Stephen grabbed some plaintains and other goodies at the Indian grocery store in Chattanooga. We actually did buy them, but they didn't ripen until a couple of days ago.

I was worn out from round two of bagel boiling, so Joe decided to make this dessert from a recipe he found on the food network. I don't remember it exactly-- but it involved 2 plantains, butter, sugar and cinnamon. It was delish!

Boiled, not fried

You know how all those cracker and snack labels now make a point of saying the product is "baked, not fried"? If not, just ignore my post title.

I remember once getting into an argument with someone about bagels. I had heard they were boiled before being baked and so I said so. The other person--whom I'm not naming because I truly can't remember who it was--insisted I was crazy for thinking bagels were boiled instead of baked.

Anyhow. They are boiled. And then baked. And I made two batches in the last couple of days!

My dear friend, Kai, is moving to Turkey in a couple of months. For her going-away brunch, I wanted to make something that I'm assuming she won't find in Urgup or whatever little place she and her family of 6 endeavor to go. Also, Kai, is one of those special people for whom it's not unusual to drop in on and find a homemade crusty loaf of French bread sitting plateless on her kitchen table next to a vase of fresh flowers or a blooming dogwood branch. That's Kai.

So, I was inspired to take a turn kneading the dough to honor her... and so I could enjoy some hot chewy-chocolatey goodness myself.

 To make these bagels, I followed a recipe in my beloved Mennonite cookbook that isn't sold anywhere I could find online, and therefore, cannot be linked :(. The recipe calls for:

3 cups flour
1 T yeast
2 T sugar
1 cup warm water
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
Any toppings or mix-ins desired

Proof the yeast in the water with the sugar. Once it's frothy, add the dry ingredients and mix well. Then knead on floured surface for 10 minutes. Let the dough rise for 40 minutes. Then, divide into 8 balls, poke holes with your finger and twirl them on the counter to enlarge the hole. Let the bagels rise for another 20 minutes while getting a big pot of boiling water going and your oven heated to 400 degrees. Boil in batches of 2 or 3 for a "couple of minutes," flipping once. Transfer boiled bagels to a greased cookie sheet and back for 15 minutes until golden.
 The first time I tried this, I pretty much followed the recipe. I added cranberries to four bagels and mini chocolate chips to the other four. They turned out a little lighter and fluffier than most bagels, probably because I made them on a nice warm, dry, draftless day. Yeast; you know how moody those little critters can be. It's like they have Seasonal Affective Disorder. I liked the results, but I found that much of my mix-ins popped off in the water while boiling. So the second time I made the bagels, I made some changes:

First, I skipped the cranberries, and just went for the chocolate, which I mixed in before letting the dough rise the first time. Next, I made 16 bagels instead of 8. Also, the weather wasn't as nice. In fact, the weather was everything it shouldn't be when you do yeast baking: Windy, wet and overcast. I tried to warm up my kitchen by turning on the oven early, but the bagels just didn't rise as much as the previous batch. Another change I made was that I dipped the boiled bagels in cornmeal before putting them on my cookie sheet, because even though the first sheet was generously greased, the bagels were cemented on there! The mini bagels were chewier and had a more marbled chocolate effect because some of the chips melted as I kneaded the dough. They were also quite a bit uglier because they lacked the smooth surface of their predecessors. I think when I make them again for Saturday's brunch, I'll still stick with mini bagels, but I will let them rise longer after the bagels are formed. Also, I think I'll sprinkle the cookie sheet with the corn meal, as it really helped with the sticking.

Singapore noodles

Another clean-out-the-fridge-and-freezer meal: Singapore noodles.

My version of this dish started with some rice vermicelli soaked in hot water for a few minutes. Then, I sauteed sliced onion, garlic, shredded cabbage and some korean fish cake sheets in oil and curry powder. Once that was all soft and fragrant, I transferred it to a bowl and added shrimp and frozen peas to the pan with some more curry and salt. I only cooked those until they were heated through... I don't like my peas to get mealy or my shrimp to get chewy! To prevent either of those things from messing up my dinner, I took them out of the pan and put the noodles in with the original veggies. I think I could have saved myself some trouble by starting with the shrimp and peas, but my brain doesn't always work like that! Anyhow the whole thing gets stir-fried with a little soy sauce until the noodles are transluscent. Add shrimp and peas back in and give it a quick stir, then transfer to a bowl and top with fresh cilantro.

Behl Puri Kit

There was a little Indian grocery next to The Curry Pot. While Stephen ran up and down the aisles snagging cucumbers, plantains and cartons of cumin cookies, I was looking for a tasty snack that Joe and I had a few years ago when we attended a festival with our former Indian neighbor, Ravi.

I LOVE Behl Puri. It's kind of like a vegetarian Indian taco salad made with savory dry cereal instead of tortilla chips and chutneys instead of salsa.

 After purchasing this boxed Bhel Puri kit and inspecting the vacuum-sealed pouches inside, I learned that Bhel Puri is actually made up of Bhel mix-- little Rice Krispie-like lentil crackers, Puri--round and super fried lentil crackers, and Sev- which look like dried noodle bits. I make mine with chopped cooked potato, tomato, cucumber, cilantro and the three chutneys included in the kit: green chili, tamarind and garlic.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Curry Pot in Chattanooga

The Curry Pot is an Indian Buffet no where near the touristy part of town. The couple that own the buffet must be Christians, as their menu features a logo with a verse from 2 Corinthians on it. The food was much less spicy than the other Indian restaurants I've tried (and than Indian food I've had with Indian friends), but I really liked their Saag Paneer (spinach with fresh cheese cubes) and their Vegetable Korma (creamy veggies with cashews). I also liked their Channa Masala (spiced chickpeas)
Their tandoori chicken, a staple at most Indian buffets, was really charred and overdone. I wasn't a fan, but Stephen really dug it! He wolfed a PB&J and then realized there was more interesting food to be had. "Can I have some Indian food?" he blurted out loud enough for the ladies in the next booth over to swivel their heads and smile.  

Big River Grille

Between the two halfs of the Tennessee Aquarium, we took the boys to the Big River Grille and Brewing Company. First off, I'm not a huge fan of brewing companies and I get irked by places that add an unecessary "e" to the end of perfectly straight-forward words... eg "grille" or "shoppe".

And when the lady at the Visitor's info center suggested this restaurant in response to my query for an Italian or ethnic restaurant, I was a tiny bit annoyed. "Well, it's not really Italian, but it's very good and kid-friendly," she said.

I could tell that Joe was trying his best to find me something more exotic; afterall, Chattanooga offers plenty of cuisines that can't be found in little ole Hopkinsville, KY. I appreciated his efforts to preserve a happy wife, but we had the McQueen's double stroller and the clock was already circling toward 1:00 p.m.
"It's just across the street," she said.
"Let's just go there," I said.

The first thing I noticed was how genuinely nice the hostess and servers were. Our server even helped us lift the double stroller up two steps to a dining area that was less crowded and rearranged the tables near ours so we could roll sleeping Rockam up to the table. She was also quite knowledgeable, having eaten through every dish on the regular menu and some of the dishes on the new-that-day Pacific Rim specials menu.

The atmosphere was also nice--- sort of the typical masculine, dark wood decor you'd expect at a brewing company, but without any of the rowdyness. Despite being a rather large restaurant with several large seating areas, it was pretty quiet. Joe and I actually were able to have some decent conversation (I should qualify that my standard for "decent conversation" is considerably lower since having two kids).

Joe got some kind of burger. He ate it too quickly for me to remember what it was exactly, let alone take a picture. I ordered the Udon Noodle Bowl... laden with shitake mushroom slices, chopped baby bok choy, fried chicken cutlet and fresh bean sprouts. I've slurped a lot of udon in my day. This dish definitely did not taste Japanese, but it was really good :-) The broth was salty-sweet and the chicken was more of an American-style, but all the veggies were flavorful and fresh. Stephen enjoyed slurping some of my noodles in between handfuls of Goldfish and graham crackers.

Pasha Coffee and Tea

Located near the bottom of the Incline railway in St. Elmo, Pasha Coffee and Tea caught my eye on the restaurant review site Urban Spoon.

Their menu includes yummy Middle-Eastern-influenced dishes like this Turkey Pesto Panini served with a side of pita chips and a grape-leaf dolma. They've also got breakfast all day, with various scrambled egg sandwiches. One was called curry eggs... but the girl behind the counter said if I was really hungry, the panini would fill me up better. I took her advice. Free of the buttery coating found on paninis I've had at Corner Bakery and Panera's, Pasha's Panini was more like something I might make in my toaster oven, well-stuffed with turkey, tomatoes, pesto and feta cheese. It would have been better if I could've eaten it hot off the press. Alas, Rockam was hungry too, and I had to nurse him right after I placed the order. So, even though it wasn't hot and toasty, it was still tasty. The petite dolma was tender and filled with tangy rice. The pita chips would have been better if there was some hummus or baba ganoosh to dip them in, but they did help fill me up.

Joe had one of the egg dishes, but he polished it off and had become engrossed in USA Today before I returned from nursing Rockam in one of the back rooms, so I really don't know much about it! He also ordered Turkish coffee, with the famous sludgy grinds at the bottom of the cup. We split a jumbo M&M cookie that was about 50 percent crunchy and 50 percent chocolate.

Pasha's atmosphere is artsy and rambling, with a small, strangly shaped main room and a couple of dimly lit back rooms that feel like hallways more than bona fide rooms, furnished with mismatched wicker furniture, metal cafe tables, a ficus with christmas lights and starving artist paintings on the walls. It's definitely a college town hang out, and it's youthful clientele and baristas made Joe and I feel like old fogeys... not intentionally, I'm sure.

Stephen really liked the big leather couch. He decided to take his nap a few minutes after I set him down on it.

Pasha Coffee & Tea on Urbanspoon

Homemade focaccia

I got this recipe out of my 3 and 4 ingredient cookbook. Just want to post the photo now that the boys are sleeping. Will put up the instructions later.

Turkish taste test

A few weeks ago, I helped my friend, Kai, prepare a meal that she planned to make for our church's small groups. She and her husband, Chris, are taking their four kids back onto the mission field in Turkey this December.

Chris and Kai have been some of our closest friends in Kentucky, and while we're really excited for them to have and heed a call from God, we're also so sad to see them leave.

Let's just say I've been doing some research and have decided that Cappadocia would be an awesome next big vacation. And the town of Urgup has what looks to be a really awesome restaurant called Ziggy's.

Anyway, back to the food above. Kai's menu has included Yogurt Chicken, Broiled Lamb, Spanikopita, and some kind of flat bread. She's also been making grape-leaf dolmas, pilaf and strong, sweet tea.

I love the yogurt chicken. It involved copious amounts of fresh herbs, lemon, garlic and onion as well as yogurt based sauce thickened with a little flour. We tweaked the spanikopita recipe so that we used fresh instead of frozen spinach, olive oil instead of butter and chunks of mozzarella instead of feta.