Coconut Chana Masala

One of my friends makes the most fantastic Indian food.  I usually like to be the one cooking  for other people, but I would beg her to puhleeeezeeeee please please make Indian food again, pleeeeeze or I might actually keel over and die!  Then she moved to Los Angeles and I haven’t seen her in years now, let alone tasted any of her cooking.  It’s really tragic.   When I win the lottery, I’m going to buy a jet so that I can fly around the country visiting all my friends that have moved away.  This curry is my version of something my friend cooked a long time ago that I might not even be remembering accurately, but I think I’ve got it pretty close here.

This isn’t really an authentic chana masala at all, since chana masala doesn’t usually have coconut milk in it.  Coconut milk  ranks up there with butter, bacon and heavy cream, though, which means that you should put in everything and it will only make it better.  This also has some other spices in it that I think taste awesome but have nothing to do with authentic chana masala.

Oh, and anyone who talks smack about vegan cooking has never tasted this recipe.  The curry is wonderfully rich and creamy with a solid spicy kick from the cayenne pepper.  Serve it with basmati rice, some warm flatbread or tortillas and your favorite chutney for a seriously delicious meal.

Coconut Chana Masala 

Cook Time: 5 minutes plus 1-2 hours simmering on the stove.  This recipe is really, really, really easy and comes together super quickly.

Ingredients:

  • 3 cans of garbanzo beans, drained
  • 2 small potatoes, diced into 1/2”cubes
  •  1 can coconut milk
  • 1”section of ginger, peeled
  • 8 cloves of garlic, peeled
  • 1/2 c. loosely packed cilantro leaves
  • 3 tbs. tomato paste
  • 1 dried cayenne chili pepper (or less, depending on your spice preference)
  • 1 tsp. turmeric
  • 1 tsp. paprika
  • 1/2 tsp. garam masala
  • salt & pepper to taste

In a blender, combine all the ingredients except the garbanzo beans and potatoes.*  Blend until smooth. ( This is not the way you’re supposed to make chana masala but it doesn’t matter because this way tastes amazing.)

In a large cast iron skillet (or a pot works fine too), combine the garbanzo beans, potatoes and the coconut milk-spice mixture from the blender.  Simmer on low heat for an hour or two.  (If you make it too spicy, you can add yogurt and some honey to cool it back down, although it won’t be vegan then.)   Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Serve over basmati rice with a few sprigs of fresh cilantro.   This is one of those dishes that only gets tastier if you let it sit in the fridge for a day or two, so you’ll be happy if you end up with any leftovers, which you probably won’t.

*(and the salt and pepper…. that’s always last).

Advertisements

There’s Flour Everywhere

Check off another resolution: the February Cook it 2012 challenge is done! Bread has been baked and our kitchens have been redecorated with flour.

I’m pretty sure you folks are better bakers than I am.   I made a bunch of edible loaves, but nothing was really stellar.  I got pretty close with a loaf of whole wheat bread with flaxseeds and herbs de provence, but the recipe’s not quite there yet.   I think I need to stop baking bread on cold, rainy days  – it doesn’t rise – and I need to get an oven thermometer since all the numbers are all rubbed off my oven dial and estimating isn’t really the best plan for bread-baking.

Look at all this beautiful stuff:

and the links to everyone’s bread posts:

Brioche from Homemade Trade: Aimee, your brioche looks perfect and that cardamom-rose french toast looks divine!

Gluten-Free Bread from Vonnie The Happy Hippie : these loaves look great… can we get a recipe? I’d love to give them a try.

No-Knead Bread & Slow-Roasted Tomato Bruschetta from Adventures of the Kitchen Ninja: Instead of buying an oven thermometer and baking it myself, can you just send me a loaf? It looks so crusty and wonderful.

Rosemary Bread from The Wholesome Epicure: I bet the kitchen smelled pretty wonderful while this was baking…

Rye Bread from My Pantry Shelf:  Reubens on homemade rye bread sound like something we need to be eating, asap.  That watercress soup sounds pretty elegant, too.  Basically, I need to make rye bread.

Sourdough Bread from Grow and Resist: Those pancakes sound really good. I admire your tenacity and I will be coming to your house for bread during the apocalypse.

Sourdough Bread from Oh Briggsy: This post has great information about getting a sourdough starter going. Also this post is hysterical.  I tried making a starter and it very much did not work (though I do have a really wonderful sludgy mess of flour, that’s always charming) so I’m trying again with this method.

Thank you all for cooking along. As usual, it’s really inspiring to see what other people are making.  I can’t wait to see what you guys do with the butter challenge! 

(Stay tuned for Butter Part 2…. post coming soon… )

Butternut Squash Bisque with Coconut Milk and Lemongrass

It’s looking like spring…It seems like it’s been spring for months now, though.The chickens are certainly happy about the mild weather, since they’d rather chase butterflies and eat grass than hang out in the frozen mud pit that is the Winter Chicken Coop.  Winter is such an important time of the year on a farm, though.  Without winter, when would I have time to watch all six seasons of Lost? To completely clean out the pantry and rearrange my canned goods in rainbow order? As much as it might seem like I enjoy hard work, there’s something to be said for sleeping in and doing nothing (which never, ever happens in the summer).  There’s nothing quite like a rainy winter day when all there is to do is keep a fire going in the wood stove and, you know, spend all afternoon experimenting with winter squash recipes. The great thing: the weather forecast this week looks horrible! I was just about to  fully embrace spring, but it seems like we’ll still have a chance to do the whole winter thing for atleast a little while.  I have a bunch of recipes I haven’t gotten around to making yet, cold weather stuff, with ingredients like pork sausage, maple syrup, duck, butternut squash, pumpkins…. recipes like creamed winter greens, maple-chevre-cheesecake, roasted pumpkin with blue cheese and pecans. This soup is one of my absolute favorite – best of the best – butternut squash recipes.  Before the winter squash is all gone and I get completely distracted by things like peas and radishes, I had to make it atleast once.  Butternut Squash Bisque with Coconut Milk and Lemongrass This is an adaptation of the Winter Squash Soup from Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone (p. 216).  Her recipe is more complicated and uses more ingredients (you need to make the Stock for Curried Dishes before you can do the main soup recipe).  I’ve followed the recipe out of the cookbook before, but this is my faster, easier version.

  • 1 1/2 tbs. unrefined peanut oil
  • 1/4 tsp. coriander
  • 2 green cardamom pods
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 tsp. turmeric
  • 1 tbs. ginger, minced
  • 4 2” sections of fresh lemongrass
  • 2 small thai chilis, seeds and all, minced
  • 1 red onion, diced
  • 2 celery ribs, diced
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • cilantro stems (the leaves are used as a garnish, the stems go in the soup)
  • 2 1/2 lb. butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into cubes
  • water (or vegetable stock)
  • 1 can of coconut milk
  • juice from 2 limes
  • salt & pepper to taste, and an optional splash of hot sauce if the peppers don’t do it for you
  • garnish: chopped mint and cilantro leaves

Heat the peanut oil in a soup pot on medium heat.  Add the coriander, turmeric, cardamom pods, cinnamon stick and lemongrass.  Saute the spices alone for a minute or two.  Then, add the ginger, onion, carrots and celery and saute for 5-6 minutes, until the onions start to look translucent.  Add the butternut squash and cilantro stems into the pot and then cover everything with water or stock (Not too much water, just enough to cover the vegetables.  You can always add more later, but it’s hard to fix a soup that’s too thin).   Simmer for an hour or two on low heat, adding water occasionally to keep the squash covered. Remove the tough lemongrass stalks and the cinnamon stick and discard them.  Puree the soup with an immersion blender (or whatever appliance you use to puree things…) Stir in the can of coconut milk and the lime juice.  Season with salt and pepper.  If it’s not spicy enough for you, feel free to put a splash of tabasco sauce to give it a bit more kick.  Garnish with chopped mint and cilantro leaves.  In the past I’ve also garnished with chopped peanuts, sliced cabbage, sesame seeds, fried tofu even…. whatever makes you happy.

Cabbages are Pretty

This post is really just an excuse to photograph cabbages.

Now that that’s out of the way:

I made sauerkraut using the recipe from Food In Jars and it’s finally ready.

When my schedule is rolling along correctly, I like to do a batch of preserving every week, the day after the farmers market.  Ideally, every scrap of unsold produce – those last few tomatoes, extra zucchini, that one little cabbage that no one wanted-  gets turned into something.  (I know, sorry chickens, there’s plenty of grass for you girls).  This keeps the pantry stocked and also makes sure that the garden stays completely picked so that it keeps producing at maximum capacity.  I can all kinds of things, make jams, dehydrate some stuff in the oven, infuse the occasional liqueur.  I’ve been trying to incorporate more ferments into the mix since they’re so easy and require so few supplies. These cabbages I have in my garden right now are a variety called Deadon, and the seeds are available from Johnny’s Seeds here.  I love the shades of deep purple to the palest green on their leaves; they’re really quite stunning. The general idea of this recipe is that you cut up cabbage, put it in a jar with salt and fennel seeds, and then wait. …. and wait some more….When you think the sauerkraut is, well, sauerkraut, taste it.  If it tastes lackluster, just let it sit for awhile longer.  It’ll get to a point that you’ll taste it and it’ll be super tangy and wonderful and you’ll want to keep taking more tastes and then eat the whole jar …. and that means it’s done. I think it’s pretty crazy that I can cut up some vegetables and put them on a shelf in a jar with some salt and then come back later and they’re not only edible, they’re delicious! There’s something about fermenting….  I really don’t know anything about the chemistry of it, or why it works (I should probably read up on that, though…)  I do know that when I ferment stuff it makes me feel like I have magic superpowers over produce.  You should try it.

Cook it! 2012: The Great Pasta Round-Up

The first resolution of the new year is officially complete: pasta has been made, cross that baby off the list. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I was absolutely blown away by the food that everyone made.

I know that making pasta can be one of those projects that, midway through, you start swearing and wondering why you thought it would be a good idea to attempt something so labor intensive.  I am so happy that all of you kept at it and made such delicious looking food!  I want to say some kind of cheesy food bloggy thing, something like “oooh that lasagna looks so good I can practically taste it through the computer screen” but that’s total crap. Looking at it doesn’t cut it at all, I wanna eat it!

Here are a few of the highlights, gathered together from all of the posts:

Here are the links to all the posts:

Lasagna, from Grow and Resist: reading this post made me upset, because it just made me really want lasagna, but not my stupid lasagna — I want Meg’s lasagna with those beautiful homemade noodles. Save me a plate, please.

Orecchiette al Sugo con le Polpetine, from The Wholesome Epicure: that sauce, oh my goodness….  This post also has the internet’s cutest picture of a sweet little kid making playdoh orecchiette.  Future chefs in training!

Orecchiette Bolognese, from the Kitchen Ninja: at this point, I’m basically just drooling all over my laptop.  Who doesn’t love a good bolognese sauce?

Ramen Noodles, from Oh, Briggsy: a dream bowl of ramen with all the toppings, all from scratch, all at home, no epic culinary pilgrimage to Momofuku required.  So impressive!

Rosemary Linguini with Caramelized Onions, Walnuts & Blue Cheese, from My Pantry Shelf: proves that you don’t need a pasta machine to make your own pasta from scratch.  Sage, rosemary, bay leaves, white wine, blue cheese = my kind of dish, for sure.

Ravioli, from Snowflake Kitchen: Kate, I am 100% sold on the ravioli mold, those look absolutely perfect. Also, I love the emphasis on fresh eggs, I completely agree.

Spaghetti & Meatballs, from Grow it Cook it Can it

Spätzle, from Homemade Trade: this post made me really want to visit Germany again…. or maybe just make the journey down to San Francisco and beg Aimee to make me some of her delicious-looking spätzle.  (When do we get the recipe for your mom’s goulasch? I want it! I am a junky for Recipes That Someone’s Mom Has Been Making For Their Birthday Forever.)

Stuffed Shells, from Homesprout: brilliant! with fresh eggs from backyard chickens and homemade fresh ricotta cheese.  Fancy restaurants wish they had stuff this good on the menu.

(Writing this post meant putting in nine billion links and pictures from different sites, actually reading e-mails and checking my inbox, and a bunch more… so please, if for some reason I’ve forgotten someone or messed up a link, or messed up giving someone credit somewhere, please tell me right away and I’ll fix it.)

Thanks everyone for cooking along.  Don’t forget, the February Cook it Resolution is all about bread making…. I made a couple loaves of sandwich bread but I’ve gotten my hands on a sourdough starter that one of my baker friends gave me, and there are all sorts of cookbooks spread out in the kitchen with different recipes I’m looking at and working on.  (Pinterest is all well and good, but what’s the point of bookmarking cool stuff if you can’t trash your house while you do it?)

If you’re just reading about Cook it! 2012 and want to join in the fun…. send me an e-mail at thejamgirl@gmail.com.

Happy baking!

Happy Holidays

Merry Christmas & Happy Holidays! I hope that all of you are happy and warm, celebrating whatever holiday you like in whatever way makes you happy, even if it’s just a big party to keep December from getting too dark and cold.

Black Dog Farm Christmas Dinner Menu

Baked Crab Dip

__________

Roast Ham with peach jam & mustard glaze

Scalloped Rainbow Potatoes

Baby lettuces with blue cheese and walnuts

_________

Pumpkin Pie

Cookies & Candy

Peanut Brittle

Chocolate Jam Thumbprints

Almond-Scented Sugar Cookies with Royal Icing

Pecan Toffee

UPDATE 12/26:

The scalloped potatoes were so epic and delicious yesterday that I had to come back here and share the recipe.  When I was making them, I was thinking to myself, “this much heavy cream? should i really do this? and cheese and butter too? um…. gross” but then when I ate a bite of that brown, bubbly potato masterpiece…. the stars aligned and I had a revelation.  The clouds parted, and  Paula Deen came and spoke to me and told me to spread the gospel of saturated fats.

Make this right now, before New Year’s Resolutions, because it is definitely not low fat or anything along those lines.  The potatoes will not cleanse out your system and you will not feel recharged.

If you have a bunch of friends and family with you, though, maybe for a really special occasion, you’re guaranteed to have a table full of grinning, happy people reaching for more potatoes.

The Best Scalloped Potatoes In The Whole Entire Universe

Serves: 10

Cook Time: 2 hrs., add 1/2 an hour if you’re drinking wine with friends in the kitchen while you cook

Ingredients:

  • 3 lbs. of assorted potatoes: russets, red-skinned, yukon gold, etc.
  • 4 large shallots
  • 1 red onion
  • 3 tbs. butter
  • optional: 1 slice of bacon
  • 4 big sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 1 sprig of fresh sage
  • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1 tsp fresh rosemary
  • 2 pints of heavy whipping cream
  • 2 c. shaved parmesan cheese
  • 4 oz. swiss cheese, grated or cut into very thin slices
  • sea salt
  • black pepper

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Slice the potatoes into very thin rounds.  Cut the shallots and the red onion in half, then cut each half into very thin slices. Mince the rosemary and sage leaves.

Heat 2 tbs. butter in a saute pan on medium heat, and add in the shallots, onion, rosemary, sage, and nutmeg.*  Saute the onions and shallots for about 10 minutes, or until they’re nicely softened and starting to caramelize.  Season the onion mixture with a pinch of salt and pepper.

Grease a casserole dish with the remaining butter.  Make one layer of potato slices, slightly overlapping each other.  On top of this first layer, sprinkle some sea salt, black pepper, swiss cheese, fresh thyme leaves (removed from the stems), and shaved parmesan.  Spread about 1/3 of the onion mixture over the top of the potatoes.  Continue this process, alternating the layer of potato slices with the herbs, cheese, onions, salt and pepper, to make two more layers of potatoes.  Make sure that the very top of the casserole has a layer of the herbs and cheese.  Pour the heavy cream over the top of the casserole.  Wrap the dish in tin foil and put it in the oven for about 1 hours and 15 minutes.  After about 50 minutes, lift the foil and check the casserole: once the cream is mostly absorbed, remove the foil and let it cook for another 20-30 minutes, or until it’s bubbly and golden brown on top.

Note:  My cooking times are vague because, well, my oven is a piece of junk and I’m bad at checking a clock.  The casserole is done when it’s bubbly, you’ll know when you look at it.

*At this point, if you really want to have a heart attack, you could add in some chopped up raw bacon. You don’t necessarily have to, though.

Instead of a picture of the finished scalloped potatoes, here’s a picture of our friend’s dog looking all sweet by the fire, because we ate the casserole long before I could think about photographing it.

Osso Bucco, or A Beginner’s Guide To Braising

I absolutely love osso bucco.  Luxuriously rich-tasting lamb or veal shanks simmered in liberal amounts of wine wine can make our whole ranch smell amazing.  And the bones, the bones: the best osso bucco has big, rustic cross sections of marrow-filled bones that cook with all of the vegetables, imparting the most wonderful flavors.  Working with meat like this makes me feel like I’ve traveled back in time.  There’s something so beautiful and primitive about it, the polar opposite of the styrofoam packages of chicken breasts in the grocery store.  I got this meat from from Owen Family Farms.  They have really gorgeous lamb, pastured veal and acorn-finished pork, and I’ve always been very happy with the quality of their products.  The meat is most certainly on the pricey side, but I’d much rather have one lovingly prepared dish a week using ethically raised local meats than seven days of the cheaper stuff from the grocery store.  If you treat this kind of meat properly, a little also goes a long way.  My osso bucco recipe has a different ratio of meat to vegetables than most other recipes; I think that if you can flavor a whole pot of vegetables with one pound of lamb, than you absolutely should. My mom used to make this when we were growing up, and my favorite part wasn’t even the actual meat , it was the luscious sauce and the vegetables spooned over my dad’s saffron risotto. I used to find cooking techniques like this intimidating,  so I didn’t start tackling braises until a few years ago.  I’ve realized now that they’re really very simple, and I hope that anyone out in the internet universe that may read this will see that it’s possible to make a dish worthy of being served in the fanciest restaurant without much cooking experience at all.  When I make a braise or a roast, I get it started in the morning, right when I’m drinking coffee and eating breakfast, because time is really the secret ingredient.  Cooking meat very slowly on low heat for a whole day will ensure that it’s completely fork-tender and that the sauce is rich and delicious.  Every few hours I’ll give it a stir or add some stock, but there’s very little work involved other than the first 20 minutes or so of cooking.

Osso Bucco

Cook Time: 30 minutes active cooking, and then 4-8 hours of sitting around while it simmers

Serves: 2-4

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/4 lbs. lamb or veal shanks*
  • 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
  • 2 pieces of bacon, diced
  • 1 bay leaf, 1 sprig of fresh rosemary, a few sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 4 c. diced carrots
  • 4 c. diced celery ribs
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 c. crushed tomatoes
  • 1 bottle of white wine (nothing too sweet)
  • 4-8 c. of chicken/lamb/vegetable stock or some combination of stock and water
  • sea salt
  • black pepper
  • 1/2 c. chopped fresh parsley, for serving
  • lemon zest, for serving
  • 1/2 c. shaved parmesan cheese, for serving

Dredge the lamb shanks in flour.  In a large soup pot set on medium heat, saute the bacon and the fresh herbs until the bacon is crispy but not burnt.  Use a slotted spoon to remove the bacon pieces from the pot and set them aside.  Brown the lamb shanks in the bacon fat.  When they’re nicely seared, remove the lamb shanks from the pot and set them aside.  Put the chopped carrots, onions and celery in the pot and saute for 5 minutes.  Add the crushed tomatoes and saute for about 10 minutes, or until the tomato sauce turns a darker shades of red and starts to caramelize (but not burn!).  Turn the heat to high.  Pour in the bottle of wine.  Pour in 4 c. stock.  Put the lamb shanks and the bacon back in the pot.  Let everything come up to a simmer and then turn the heat to very low.  Cook for atleast 2 hours but up to 8 hours.  You’ll need to add more stock occasionally and give everything a stir to make sure nothing sticks.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Serve over risotto or pasta, sprinkled with a touch of lemon zest, parmesan cheese and fresh parsley.

For anyone that hasn’t tackled something like this before, here a few pictures to make it more clear:

“Dredging” just means putting a light coating of flour on the meat.  This helps get a really nice sear on the outside, which in turn helps develop rich, delicious meat flavors in the braise. You can sauté the bacon in some olive oil if it makes it easier, but if you let it sit in the pan for a moment, the fat will start to render out, and you can have bacon fat as the only oil used to cook everything,  (which is almost always a good thing.)  Truthfully, I mainly used bacon because I’m out of olive oil and butter, and you could skip this step and just use olive oil if you want the recipe to be a bit lower in fat.It was only after I photographed all of this that I realized just how dirty my stove looks.  When you’re searing the lamb shanks, you’ll notice that the pan will be starting to get all brown and crusty.  Don’t worry- that mean’s you’re doing it right.  If it starts to smoke, turn the heat down to very low.  Add your carrots, celery and onions next, the mirepoix. Add the crushed tomatoes and keep cooking everything.  The goal is to get the tomatoes to caramelize and turn a darker shade of reddish-brown because of the wonderful flavors that will happen.I’m not sure if the difference between these two pictures is that obvious; it’s kind of tricky to get good photos and not ruin dinner at the same time.Now turn the heat up really high just to make sure the pot is nice and hot for this part.  The next step is my favorite, when you deglaze the pan with white wine.  The wine pulls up all of that caramelized tomato stuff and brown lamb bits from the bottom of the pot and turns it into the beginning of a really killer sauce.Now just add the stock and meats, turn the heat down to very low, and wait.  Here’s what it will look like when it’s finished:If you’re in love with someone and want them to love you back, make this for them.  Trust me, it’s amazing.

*For people who aren’t so fond of gamey meats, chicken thighs will also work quite well (even though it’s not as traditional).  If you have a freezer full of wild game could substitute duck or venison.  And, shockingly, these recipe is easily made vegan.  Instead of using meat, I substitute shiitake mushrooms and sliced parsnips or rutabagas.  I think the unique flavor of these root vegetables and mushrooms kind of mimics the rich taste of lamb.  If you’re using vegetables, no need to dredge them in flour.  You can make a roux and thicken the sauce with flour if you want, but it’s not really necessary.