Saturday, February 23, 2008

Spinach and Roasted Garlic Talluyos de San Juan with Black Bean Sauce

Talluyos de San Juan are a type of tamale served in Guatemala. The tamale dough is rolled out into a square, spread with filling, and then wrapped up like a jelly roll in a process that's similar to to making sushi. We've filled ours with a spinach and roasted garlic paste, but feel free to experiment with black beans, sweet potatoes, goat cheese or whatever else you like.

You can find masa harina for the dough and corn husks for wrapping in the international aisle of some supermarkets or in a Latin American grocery store. We've been looking for an acceptable corn husk substitute for those of you who don't have access, but we haven't had good results. Any suggestions?


About 20 corn husks
1 head garlic
olive oil
2 cups masa harina
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons canola oil
1 cup water
1 tablespoon butter or Earth Balance
1 shallot, thinly sliced
2 cups frozen defrosted spinach, drained well OR 2 bunches fresh spinach, washed and chopped

First, two hands-off prep steps, to do about an hour before you make the tamales:
  1. Soak the corn husks in plenty of boiling water while you do everything else.
  2. Roast the garlic: cut off the top fifth to expose the cloves, drizzle with olive oil, wrap in aluminum foil and roast at 375 for about 40 minutes. When soft, squeeze the cloves out of their skins.
Once you have those two things going, you can also start the dough. Place masa harina in a large bowl and add oil and salt. Mix with your hands until you have a coarse meal, then add water and knead for a minute or two, until dough is smooth. Divide dough into three equal pieces and cover until ready to use.

Next, the filling: melt the butter in a skillet and add the shallots, stirring for 2-3 minutes until they start to brown. Add the spinach and saute another 2 minutes. Transfer mixture to a food processor, add the roasted garlic cloves, and grind until you have a coarse paste.

Place one of the dough sections on a large square of parchment paper. Layer another sheet of parchment paper over the dough and roll it out until it's about 1/4 inch thick. If you have the rolling skills, aim to make a perfect square. If you don't, trim off the edges into a square shape. Spread a layer of the spinach mixture over your dough, then roll it up like sushi, using the parchment paper to help control the shape. Smooth out any cracks that have opened and cut the roll into four equal pieces.

Wrap each section in one or two corn husks. (Robe the tamale in husk, then fold under the ends of the husks. If you want, you can make a ribbon from strips of husk and tie a cutesy little bow, but you could also just lay the tamales fold-side down.)

Repeat until you have used up all of the dough. Put a steamer basket into a large soup pot with an inch of water. Carefully load your tamales into the basket and bring the water to a boil. Steam over low heat for 45 minutes to an hour. When the masa is firm, your tamales are ready to eat.

Black Bean Sauce

2 cups cooked black beans (canned okay)
2 teaspoons cumin
4 peeled garlic cloves
1-2 chiles, whole
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 cup of leftover bean cooking broth or stock
optional: 1 small tomato

Heat the oil in a saucepan on medium. Add the whole garlic cloves, cumin and chiles and cook for just a minute. Add the beans and cook for another minute, stirring occasionally. (In the summer, it's nice to add a diced tomato with the beans.) Add the stock, reduce heat, and simmer for about 20 minutes, or until 2/3 of the water has cooked off. Remove the chiles and blend the rest of the mixture until smooth. Taste for spiciness. If you want more heat, throw part or all of the chiles into the blender. Salt to taste.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Ethiopian-Inspired Collard Greens

We went out for Ethiopian food on Valentine's Day, and the greens we ordered were so compelling that we decided to try making them at home. The key ingredient for Ethiopian flavor is a spice mix called berbere. If you don't have access to an Ethiopian market (East Bay folks, I recommend this one, since you can also knock out any Indian/Middle Eastern/miscellaneous other ingredient shopping you need to do), you can either buy berbere online or make your own. The red mixture shown next to the collards is shiro, and we served both the shiro and the collards with some store-bought injera, although this would also be delicious over rice or with parathas.

1 tablespoon butter or canola oil
1/2 an onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, peeled but left whole
1 bunch collard greens, finely chopped
1 teaspoon berbere
1 cup water
salt to taste

Heat the oil or butter over medium-high heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5-7 minutes, until translucent and starting to brown. Stir in berbere, saute for 30 seconds to coat onions, then add collard greens and saute a quick minute. Pour in water and salt and simmer for about 15 minutes, until almost all of the water has evaporated. Transfer mixture to a blender or food processor and pulse until you have a thick puree. If your greens are on the bitter side, add a little more salt.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Hot Lovin' Golden Turnip Soup with Blue Cheese

Yeah, that's right, we just said "hot lovin'" and "turnip" in the same sentence, and you know why? Because we used golden turnips, not the nasty storage turnips, and those are the best Valentine's Day present we can think of. (Well, if your sweetheart has a blog about kale. Otherwise, try some...carnations?)

Golden turnips are milder than their cranky old counterparts and pair nicely with the pungent blue cheese and the brightness of the fresh herbs. If you don't have chervil, try lovage or parsley (stay away from more distinctive herbs like mint, basil and dill). We happened upon some fresh green garlic and threw it in, but you can substitute 2-3 cloves of regular garlic if green garlic isn't in season yet where you are. We also served this with blue cheese toasts, but you could just sprinkle blue cheese on top of the soup. (If you want to go the blue-cheese-toasts route, get out your special gourmet apron, because you'll have to put some blue cheese on some bread and pop it in the toaster oven).

We suggest using the time while the turnips are in the oven to make your own vegetable stock from the turnip/green garlic/onion/herb trimmings and anything else you've accumulated this week.

6 golden turnips, scrubbed and diced
1 stalk of green garlic, chopped
OR 2-3 cloves of roughly chopped regular garlic
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
1 onion, sliced into half-moons
4 cups vegetable stock
1/2 cup minced fresh chervil
crumbled blue cheese to taste
a few slices of bread (optional)

Preheat oven to 350. In a 9-by-13-inch pan, combine the turnips, garlic, olive oil and salt. Roast for 45 minutes to an hour, until turnips start to brown.

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a medium-sized cast-iron skillet or frying pan. Add the onions, stir to coat, reduce heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are soft and browned, probably at least 30 minutes (and it'll be even more delicious if you let them cook until the turnips are done).

Transfer turnips and onions to your blender, add 2 cups of stock and chervil, and blend until very smooth, continually adding more stock until you reach your desired thickness. Serve with a sprinkle of crumbled blue cheese or with blue cheese toast (again: put some blue cheese on some bread and toast).

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Carom and Spinach Parathas

If you like curries and are looking for a new accompaniment, try these parathas instead of rice. They're buttery, iron-rich and delicious toasted the next morning for breakfast.

We've tagged this post "projects" because it takes a while, but (1) it's still less time-consuming than most bread recipes and (2) you can multi-task here--if you're making these to go with curry, you can start the dough, let it rise while you prep the curry ingredients, and then roll out & fry the parathas while the curry is simmering.

Carom seeds are also called ajwan or ajwain, and you can find them in Indian groceries. They're supposed to be good for your digestion and have a very similar flavor to thyme, which would be a good substitute if you can't get your hands on some carom seeds. You can find semolina in the bulk section, or buy it packaged in the "baking needs" aisle.

We modified this recipe from The Everything Indian Cookbook by Monica Bhide.

2 cups finely chopped fresh spinach
2 cups whole wheat flour
2 tablespoons semolina
1 and 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon carom seeds
Water, as needed
6 tablespoons melted butter

Boil spinach until wilted (i.e., put it in the microwave with water to cover and nuke for about a minute) and drain off the water. In a large bowl, combine the spinach, flour, semolina, salt and carom seeds and mix well. Add 2 tablespoons of the melted butter and then slowly add small amounts of water as needed to achieve a doughy consistency. Knead for 10 minutes--the dough should be pliable and not sticky, since you'll need to roll it out later. Cover and let sit for 30 minutes.

Lightly dust a clean work surface and rolling pin with flour, and grease your hands with a little oil. Divide the dough into 10 pieces. Roll one of them into a ball with your hands, then flatten and roll out with a rolling pin into a 5-6 inch circle. Brush with melted butter, fold in half, brush with butter again, and fold in half once more to form a triangle. Roll the triangle out until the base is 5-6 inches.

Heat a cast-iron skillet or griddle on medium and brush with butter, then add the paratha. Cook for 2-3 minutes, until the bottom is golden brown, then flip and cook 2 more minutes. (Some parathas will puff up, which looks really cool. But don't cry if yours don't--they'll still taste good, because they have 6 tablespoons of butter in them). Remove paratha and cover with a clean towel. Repeat the rolling and frying until all the dough is used up.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Rachel's Masala Potatoes

It's the international year of the potato, and here's one more potato dish to get you through the winter! This one is from my sister; serve with curries in lieu of rice, or under some sauteed dark greens. It's also delicious reheated for breakfast the next day.

6 Yukon Gold potatoes, diced
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1-inch piece of ginger, minced
1 tablespoon black mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350. Toss potatoes with olive oil and seasonings in a 9 X 13 inch pan and bake for 45 minutes to an hour, until potatoes are soft.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Parsley Root and Roasted Garlic Potage

It's time to move parsley from the side of the plate to the center! Ordinarily relegated to a garnish or seasoning, parsley has a bright and interesting flavor that's easy to incorporate in substantial quantities when you cook with parsley root. Parsley root looks like a parsnip with parsley shooting out of the top and has a concentrated, delicious parsley taste. This soup uses both the leaves and the roots for a sweet green puree, anchored with the rich creaminess of roasted garlic.

You can prep the veggies while the garlic is roasting. Also, this is a great opportunity to make your own stock with the trimmings (parsley stems, parsley root ends, onion skins, top fifth of the garlic, and whatever else you've accumulated this week), which can also be simmering while you're roasting the garlic and then it should be ready to strain by the time you need it.

1 head garlic
olive oil
4 tablespoons butter or Earth Balance, divided
2 tablespoons flour (you can use whatever you have--brown rice flour is a great option here because the nuttiness works very nicely with the parsley)
1 cup minced onion
10 parsley roots, scrubbed and diced, greens finely chopped
Vegetable stock to cover (about 4 cups, depending on how big your parsley roots are)

First, roast the garlic: cut off the top fifth to expose the cloves, drizzle with olive oil, wrap in aluminum foil and roast at 375 for about 45 minutes (during which time you can get everything else ready and make stock).

Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter over medium heat. Whisk in the flour and stir for a minute until it starts to smell nutty. Add one more tablespoon of butter and the onions and saute for 5 minutes, then add the final tablespoon of butter and the parsley root and stir for 5 more minutes. Pour in stock just to cover, bring to a boil, and simmer for 15-20 minutes, until parsley root is tender.

When garlic is soft, remove from oven and let cool slightly. Squeeze the garlic cloves into your blender and add the soup and the chopped parsley leaves. Puree until smooth.