Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Peanut-Tamarind Noodles with Spring Vegetables

Mung bean thread are a great addition to your pantry--they're cheap, a good source of protein, and require no actual cooking, which makes them ideal for a spring evening when you want dinner ten minutes ago. You can find them in Asian grocery stores or a well-stocked international aisle in the supermarket, but if you don't have access to either of those sources, you can certainly do this with regular old angel hair or any long, thin pasta. (Not sure if they're gluten-free, so this post isn't tagged "gluten-free"--any of you GF folks know?)

Fresh shelling peas are so sweet and delicious that you can eat them raw if you're a veggie enthusiast. Here, they're briefly soaked in boiling water with the mung bean thread, which cooks them just enough without making them mushy.

1 bunch asparagus, ends trimmed, chopped into 1-inch segments
1 cup freshly shelled peas
8 ounces mung bean thread
1/2 cup natural peanut butter
1/2 cup-3/4 cup hot water
1 teaspoon tamarind concentrate
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1 tablespoon tamari
a few drops toasted sesame oil, if you have it

Steam asparagus until just tender and bright green, 5-10 minutes, then run cold water over it to stop it from cooking. Place the peas and mung bean thread in a large bowl and cover with plenty of boiling water while you make the sauce.

To make the sauce, combine peanut butter, 1/2 cup hot water, tamarind, cilantro, cayenne, tamari and optional sesame oil in a small bowl and blend with an immersion blender until creamy. If it's too thick, add more hot water.

Drain the peas and mung bean thread, return to the large bowl and mix with the peanut sauce. Top each portion with asparagus segments.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Spicy Raw Carrot Soup

The latest in our "homemade recipes from Cafe Gratitude" mission: an attempt to emulate the spicy, smooth and refreshing "I Am Divine," without all the abundance-creation schtick and cash-forking-over. Creamy. Invigorating. Yum.

A word on portions...we're not just being cute with the photography, this is actually best consumed in itsy-bitsy servings. It doesn't make a lot (unless you have the patience to juice more carrots, in which case...wow), and the avocado makes a pretty rich base. So think of this as an appetizer or palate-cleanser, perfect for when dinner party guests get there early or when you just need a little something extra to round out a big salad. It's also best made in small batches because like most raw food, it doesn't keep long.

2 and 1/2 cups carrot juice (juice it yourself if you have the gear)
2 small avocadoes, diced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
juice of 1/2 a lemon
1/8 teaspoon cayenne

Combine all ingredients in blender and blend until smooth. As you eat, feel the abundance of not having paid $7 for your portion.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Avocado, Cilantro and Green Garlic Frittata

Throwing avocado in everything is one of the joys of living in California. So when we had out-of-town guests, we decided to throw it in a frittata. The resulting dish was delicious, quick and memorable, served with a side of stir-fried asparagus.

Everything comes together very quickly, so have all your ingredients prepped before you turn on the heat.

8 eggs
1 cup cilantro leaves, finely chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 stalks green garlic, roughly chopped
1 ripe avocado, diced

Beat eggs in a large bowl with salt, pepper and cilantro. Heat olive oil over medium-high heat and saute green garlic for 3-5 minutes, until just starting to brown. Pour in eggs and add avocado chunks, then cook on the stovetop for a few minutes, until the bottom is set, then transfer the skillet to the broiler and cook for 5 to 7 minutes, until the top is golden. Cut into wedges and serve.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Sweet Potato and Chickpea Soup with Spring Onions and Green Garlic

The pressure cooker is God's gift to anyone who loves home-cooked chickpeas but doesn't have 3 hours to spare while they cook on the stovetop. If you don't have a pressure cooker, consider getting married so you can register for one. If you're commitment-shy or if you eloped, you could make this recipe with canned chickpeas in a regular pot--just simmer until sweet potatoes are tender, probably about 15 minutes.

2 tablespoons butter or olive oil
1 stalk green garlic, minced
1 spring onion, minced
1 sweet potato, diced
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1 cup chickpeas, soaked overnight or quick-soaked
6 cups vegetable broth
1 cup minced parsley
salt to taste

Heat butter or olive oil in your pressure cooker on high heat. Add the green garlic and onions, stir for a minute or two, until translucent, then add sweet potatoes and spices and stir to coat, about two more minutes. Add the chickpeas and vegetable stock, bring to a boil, and cover the pot to bring to full pressure. Lower heat to medium and cook for 30 minutes. Let the pressure come down (You can speed this up by putting the pressure cooker in the sink and running cold water over it), remove the lid and add parsley and salt to taste.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Springtime Potato and Asparagus Curry

On the topic of food pairings that scream "Woohoo! Winter is over," let's talk new potatoes and asparagus. They're a common couple (usually on that wedding-reception plate with the salmon option and some lemon wedges), but this time we've spiced them up with an aromatic coconut-tomato sauce, because we're breakaway cooks like that.

You might wonder whether it's worth it to roast potatoes before adding them to a curry. A friend suggested it when she tasted another of our potato curries and we were very pleased with the results. The potatoes get a chance to concentrate their sugars and caramelize a little, and the texture is awesome.

3 tablespoons canola oil
1/2 teaspoon smoked Spanish paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
12-15 small waxy potatoes (we used red creamers), diced
2 teaspoons canola oil
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
2 shallots, thinly sliced
1 inch chunk of ginger, finely minced
1 small bunch (about 15-20 spears) asparagus, chopped into 1-inch segments
1 cup pureed tomatoes (we used canned, but if you want to make this later in the summer, fresh could work too)
1 14-ounce can coconut milk
1/4-1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1 teaspoon tumeric
salt to taste
plain yogurt for topping (optional)

Preheat oven to 400. Combine 3 tablespoons oil, spices and salt in a small bowl. In a baking pan, toss potatoes with the oil mixture and bake for 40-45 minutes, until tender and browned.

When potatoes are almost done, heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large stockpot on medium-high. Add cumin and mustard seeds and cook until they begin to pop. Next, throw in the shallots and ginger and stir for a minute or two. Add the asparagus and saute until tender-crisp, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes, coconut milk, cayenne and turmeric. Stir well, then transfer the roasted potatoes to the stock pot. Turn heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes, until liquid has reduced a bit, to let the flavors steep. Adjust salt and serve over rice, with a dollop of plain yogurt if desired.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Rasam in the Age of the Curry Leaf Ban

What a beloved soup--we adore rasam in the winter for soothing colds and coughs, in the summer with flavor-bursting heirloom tomatoes, and with whatever type of dal strikes our fancy. But we always assumed that curry leaves were an irreplaceable flavor component and were hesitant to blog something with an essential ingredient that many of you might not have access to. Then, a few weeks ago, we went on a wild ingredient goose chase through Berkeley's Indian groceries only to discover that curry leaves are currently banned in the US. So we took the opportunity to walk a mile in the shoes of anyone who doesn't have ten Indian groceries nearby and try to make this classic, spicy South Indian soup without its trademark curry leaves. Result: delicious. (OK, fine--tamarind concentrate and asafoetida might be a little difficult to find. But hey, at least they're legal!)

If you were smart enough to freeze curry leaves back when they were available fresh or if you have a potted curry leaf plant, by all means throw them in. As for dal options, we made this with urad dal, but it is just as delicious with more easily-available red lentils or even plain old yellow split peas.

1/2 cup dal (see above)
4+ cups water
1 and 1/2 cups pureed tomatoes (canned in the winter, fresh in the summer/fall)
1/4 teaspoon asafoetida
1 tablespoon tamarind concentrate
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 teaspoons canola oil or ghee
1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
10 fresh or frozen curry leaves if you can get them
chopped cilantro leaves for garnish

Combine the dal and water in a saucepan, bring to a boil, and simmer 40 minutes to an hour, until dal is very soft.

*FOR CANNED TOMATOES* Add 1 cup of water, tomatoes, asafoetida, tamarind, ground coriander, ground cumin, cayenne and black pepper to the dal, bring to a boil again, and simmer for 5 minutes.

*FOR FRESH TOMATOES* Combine tomatoes, asafoetida, tamarind, ground coriander, ground cumin, cayenne and black pepper in a saucepan with a cup of water. Bring to a boil, simmer for 10 minutes, and then add to the dal, bring to a boil again, and simmer for 5 minutes.

In a small saucepan, heat the canola oil or ghee and add the mustard seeds, cumin seeds and optional curry leaves and cook until seeds pop (around 15-20 seconds). Immediately pour the oil and seasonings into the soup, stir well, and salt to taste. Serve with a generous sprinkling of cilantro.