Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Squash Kebabs

Monday night, we did baby squash and marinated mushrooms on the grill. I was just tickled by the way skewers look threaded with whole squashes.

I used salt, garlic powder and olive oil on the yellow squash and greek salad dressing on the mushrooms.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Tea Eggs

Mine look nothing as pretty as the marbled eggs in Martin Yan's cookbook, but they had that nice smoky, spiced umami flavor and the slightly chewy texture that I expect in a good tea egg.

Something I like about trying foods from other cultures and cuisines is learning a new take on a familiar ingredient. For example, I regularly toss romaine lettuce into ramen because Chinese are fond of cooked leafy greens and a little confused by raw veggie salads. (When we lived in Taiwan, salads were just becoming popular as sort of a system-starter breakfast.) Americans, on the other hand, wouldn't think of cooking the foundation vegetable of a crunchy Caesar salad.

Well, hard-boiled eggs are another ingredient that have a wide range of interpretations in different cultures. Indians and Eithiopians both have dishes that stew them in a thick oniony sauce. The Chinese have some more shocking uses, such as the teeny, fermented, chewy, green-centered "Thousand Year Eggs," which, along with boxes of moon cakes, dried mushrooms and loose leaf tea, are the kinds of goods that are packaged in bright red boxes with golden characters to be given as special gifts. A more humble--and in my opinion, more palatable--version of eggs is the tea egg. As easy to find served up in slow cookers at 7-Eleven as they are in grandma's kitchen, these eggs steep in a tea, soy sauce and spice liquid.

Martin Yan tells us to hard boil the eggs for 10 minutes, then tap the shells all over with the back of a spoon to form a web of hair-line cracks through which the marinade can seep. They then simmer in water enriched with 1/2 cup soy sauce, a couple of black Chinese tea bags, star anise, brown sugar, cinnamon stick, five spice, scallion and ginger. I didn't have all these things, so I substituted with regular white sugar, two "Licorice Spice" herbal teabags, and some onion powder. I actually didn't use any black tea in my marinade... but I think they still qualify as tea eggs because I did use herbal tea. Yan recommends simmering them in their cracked shells for 15 to 60 minutes. I also stored mine in the liquid for a few days in the refrigerator. They will absorb even more flavor if you peel the shells and store them in an air-tight container with some of the liquid, which is what I did after I took the photo above.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Sweet potato strudel

 This recipe, adapted from my Periplus Step-by-Step Healthy Eating cookbook, is somewhat like the spanikopita I'd been making a lot of lately... but instead of triangles, it calls for rolling everything into an 8-sheet phyllo dough and olive oil layered log. My version of the filling includes roasted sweet potato cubes, roasted smashed garlic, spinach, sun-dried tomato feta, fresh basil, pine nuts and vidalia onion. The whole thing gets baked at 350 until golden. My only regret was that I only used half a 10 oz bag of spinach... would have been better with a higher green-to-orange ratio.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Other uses for Aloo Gobi

A few weeks ago, NBC had the finale of a new show "America's Next Great Restaurant." I was kinda hooked... not because I really like over-extended drama or snarky judges' remarks (really- I never knew Bobby Flay could be so mean!), but because I really wanted to know which restaurant would open as the next chain as the prize for winning.

The final three were a soul-food "meat and two sides" joint (which won), a "modern" Indian version of Chipotle and a meatball place, which, by vice of its original name "Saucy Balls," I knew would not be the winner. The soul food joint, "Soul Daddy," justly won the contest as the creator had a strong work ethic, a smoothly running prototype and a heart-warming against-the-odds family story requisite for any reality show cast. However, I can't say meat and three or meat and two really excites me since the vast majority of non-chains in Western Kentucky are this kind of restaurant. On the other hand, Soul Daddy evolved from a chicken and waffle concept to a healthier, more veggie promoting version of soul cuisine, so it might not be so bad. Not that it will ever come to Hopkinsville!

OK. So my point of this whole rambling intro is that the idea of a chain Indian restaurant that caters to the masses while also introducing white-bread America to some classic Indian dishes got me thinking what kinds of things I would put on the menu if I were in charge.

I've frequently posted the very few Indian dishes that I know how to make... Aloo Gobi, Tandoori Chicken and Behl Puri are probably my short list. And my long list. Aloo Gobi, which is just potato and cauliflower fried in garam masala and lots of onion and garlic, is not only my favorite Indian dish, but one of my favorite dishes in general. See my "Top 5" at this old post. So, what would make it American-y enough to appeal to the masses? I thought of two possible ways to serve it: Masala Gobi over a baked potato (sorry, didn't take a picture of that experiment, but it was a tremendous time-saver and was very tasty) and today's leftover creation: Gobi potato salad with crunchy veggies.

Aloo gobi tastes pretty good cold, in my opinion. With some chopped fresh tomato and cucumber, it's like a salad with all the best textures-- rich and smooshy potato, tender cauliflower, juicy tomato and crisp cucs.

I think another possibility, which I'll have to try, is to turn it into a sandwich filling or make a sandwich sized samosa type turnover. Like a spicy potato pasty or something... mmmm.

uh-oh, son one is up from nap and throwing a tasmanian devil style fit. better go.

Saturday, May 07, 2011

Sea Salt Chocolate new favorite! Joe got me some Lindt dark chocolate with sea salt for part of my Mother's Day present. I love this stuff... it's like eating a chocolate covered pretzel without the pretzel. The chocolate is smooth and rich and there's little bursts of crispy salt as the confection melts.

Garden beginnings

Joe and I took the boys to Lowe's the other night and I sniffed out this delectable peat pot mint plant. It reminds me of two happy memories: All the fancy-smancy desserts I've ever eaten at fancy-smancy venues (They're always topped with a tender little mint sprig) and the townhouse in Schaumburg, Ill., that was my first home and that had a bunch of this growing wild in the front yard.

A few of the leaves were a little chomped on, but it was the bushiest of the bunch. To tell you the truth, I wanted to just eat it up myself at the store. But he made it home intact, and my new little edible friend is sitting on my desk, awaiting transfer to this summer's container garden or... to this summer's fancy-smancy dessert.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Goat Cheese Pizza

Joe spotted a log of chevre with the Kroger "Manager's Special $3.69" label on our last big shopping trip. I used it all on two homemade pizzas yesterday a day before its expiration :-) The first time I had goat cheese on pizza was several years ago when I was a little more dilligent in avoiding cow's milk and all of its yummy derivatives. My parents took us to Bahama Breeze, a chain restaurant with "island" cuisine. I don't exactly remember what else was on the pizza I ordered, but the chevre really put it over the top for my cheese-deprived taste buds. Anyhow, I'm sure there are lots of fancier uses for a log of Silver Goat Chevre, but pizza is what always come to mind when I see one.
To make, I followed the foccacia bread recipe from my 3 and 4 ingredient cookbook (it makes a softer dough than the usual pizza crust, which I need because my TMJ has been acting up lately and I can't chew chewy or crunchy things enjoyably).

To make it, I proofed one T of dry yeast in scant 2 cups warm water with a T of sugar. Then I added a splash of olive oil, 4 cups flour (a mix of bread and unbleached all purpose because I was at the end of my bag of King Arthur's) and a pinch of salt. I let it rise 'til double, punched down, divided it into two balls and rolled them out to roughly match the shape of my jelly roll pans.

One pizza got a topping of sliced tomato, mozzerella, fresh spinach, minced garlic, olive oil, dried parsley and basil and the goat cheese, of course.

The second pizza had pepperoni, tomato, oil, sweet onion, zuchinni, spinach and the herbs along with the goat cheese, except for one corner that I did up with tomatoes, spaghetti sauce and muenster cheese for Stephen.

I recommend drizzling oil on top of all the other ingredients, especially the spinach, which will get all crispy and translucent if you cook it long enough. I like crispy spinach.

And, I made some lemon bars for dessert.