Sunday, March 29, 2009

Smoky Chana Masala

Okay, we're back to blogging Indian food, but we're taking a northerly detour from curry leaves and coconut to bring you one of our favorite North Indian treats, totally bastardized so it could almost be considered Latin food. We're big fans of anything smoky-tasting, and this dish jazzes up the chana masala you're used to with several smoky accents: chipotle chile, smoked Spanish paprika and fire-roasted tomatoes.

Have some rice or a good Indian bread on hand to soak up the delicious sauce!

1 tablespoon oil or ghee (if you're a carnivore, you could try bacon grease for extra smokiness)
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
5 large shallots, sliced (about 2 cups)
1/2 teaspoon tumeric
1/4 teaspoon coriander
1 teaspoon smoked spanish paprika (aka Pimentón)
3 cloves garlic, ground
1 1/2 inches ginger, ground
4 cups chickpeas, cooked (canned okay)
1 dried chipotle chile, soaked in hot water for 10 minutes (or you could use the kind that are canned in adobo, or just chipotle chile powder)
3 1/2 cups roasted, pureed tomatoes (fresh or canned)*
3 tablespoons tomato paste

*If you're using fresh tomatoes: Chop the tomatoes into large chunks, toss with a little oil and roast in the broiler until burnt spots appear. Stir well and roast until more burnt spots appear, then puree. If you're using canned tomatoes: Try to find Muir Glen Organic Fire Roasted Diced Tomatoes to get a nice smoky flavor. Puree.

Melt the ghee in a wok over medium-high heat. Once the ghee is hot, add cumin seeds. Allow the seeds to pop for 30 seconds, then add the shallots. Fry, stirring continuously, until browned. Add the tumeric, coriander and pimenton and stir. Once the onions are well coated with spice, stir in the garlic and ginger and fry until lightly browned. Add the chickpeas, chipotle, tomatoes and tomato paste and simmer for 10-15 minutes, until the tomatoes have reduced somewhat. Taste for salt and cayenne before serving.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Jicama, Grapefruit and Pepita Salad with Cilantro-Lime Dressing

We interrupt our regularly scheduled South Indian programming to bring you this light, refreshing salad, based on the version at a local taqueria. Thinly slicing the jicama and supreming the grapefruit really elevate the sophistication of this simple dish, and the dressing is addictive.

By "supremed" grapefruit, we refer not to the most awesome grapefruit ever (although these beauties from Kaki Farms came close), but to grapefruit sections with the skin, pith and membranes removed, leaving nothing but luscious ruby fruit. If you're new to supreming, try this tutorial.

Pepitas are hulled roasted pumpkins seeds, gorgeous little gems of folic acid and iron. The original version we ate was served by itself, but try this on a bed of salad greens to make it a heartier side dish or a light meal.

half of a large jicama, very thinly sliced (we used a mandoline on 1.5mm setting)
1/2 an avocado, thinly sliced
2 grapefruits, supremed
1/4 cup of pepitas
optional bed of mixed salad greens

for the dressing:
juice of 2 limes
zest of 1 lime
1/3 cup olive oil
1/4 cup packed cilantro leaves
1/2 teaspoon salt
optional cayenne to taste

After you supreme the grapefruits, squeeze any extra juice into a small dish with the dressing ingredients. Blend up the dressing with an immersion blender and toss it with the grapefruit and jicama. Lay the grapefruit and jicama on a bed of salad greens and garnish with avocado and pepitas.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Egg Masala

On our last night in Kerala, we slept on a houseboat stationed near a rice paddy. When we awoke, our personal chef had prepared a rich egg masala and fluffy upma for breakfast. We floated along the backwaters, stuffing ourselves with spicy eggs, and we were in heaven.

Somehow, our homemade re-creation, while delicious, doesn't conjure the same kind of bliss. Maybe we missed some key ingredient that unlocks the secret of the masala. More likely? Nothing else tastes as good as what you eat while lounging in wicker furniture. Maybe you can convince someone else to make this and bring it out to you on the porch with a nice gin and tonic.

1 tablespoon coconut oil
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
1 teaspoon urad dal
4 sprigs curry leaves
2 cups of shallots, sliced into rings
1 green chile, sliced in half lengthwise
1 teaspoon coriander
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon tumeric
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 1/2 cups chopped tomatoes (canned okay)
1/2 cup coconut milk
5 hard-boiled eggs, peeled
cayenne to taste

Heat the coconut oil in a wok over medium-high heat. When the oil is very hot, but not smoking, add the mustard seeds and urad dal. When the mustard seeds have popped, add the curry leaves and fry for about 30 seconds. Add the shallots and keep stirring continuously until they are nicely browned. Add the garlic, chili, coriander, cumin and tumeric and stir to coat. When the garlic and spices have lost their raw smell, add the tomatoes.

Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes have broken down considerably, then add the coconut milk, eggs and 3/4 cup water. Continue simmering for another 15 minutes, then taste for spiciness. Add as much cayenne as you can handle, and serve over rice, upma or bread.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Banana Dal

We've been trying to perfect a household dal for a while (sometimes getting stymied by lack of Indian ingredients). And then we went to the motherland of dal, learned this recipe, and hit on perfection. Bananas are a favorite special occasion dinner ingredient around here, particularly because one of us wrote a senior thesis in college about bananas and needs to periodically bombard the other one with random trivia about ripening stages.

We've made a few adaptations at home to personalize this recipe and tweak it for the American stove. Instead of grated fresh coconut, which is used in Kerala, we've substituted coconut milk and grated dessicated coconut. This recipe was presented to us with toor dal, but we used chana dal instead because that's our favorite. We also added some tomato paste and ginger.

1 cup chana dal (or toor dal, or just plain yellow split peas)
6 cups water
2 green bananas, sliced (we're referring here to the most unripe bananas you can find in your produce section, not to unripe plantains)
4 large shallots - two for paste, two sliced into rings
1/4 cup grated coconut
4 cloves garlic
1-inch piece of ginger
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 tablespoon coconut oil
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
1-2 sprigs curry leaves
1 dried red chile
1 green chile, sliced lengthwise
1 teaspoon tumeric
1/2 cup coconut milk
1-2 tablespoons tomato paste
about 1 teaspoon salt

Bring dal and water to boil. Lower heat and simmer, covered, for about 45 minutes or until dal is soft. Add bananas when dal is nearly done and simmer gently for five more minutes.

Meanwhile, grind two of the shallots with the garlic, ginger and cumin in a food processor until you have a coarse paste. Add the grated coconut last, and pulse a few more times.

Heat the coconut oil in a wok on medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add mustard seeds and pop. Add curry leaves and dried red chile and stir for a minute. Add the two sliced shallots and chile and fry until browned, stirring continuously. Add the tumeric and stir to coat the shallots. Stir in the garlic/shallot paste and keep it moving until the raw smell is gone and there's a nice golden color.

Add the contents of the wok, the tomato paste and the coconut milk into the pot with the dal and banana. Stir to mix, then simmer for another 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally, to meld the flavors and allow the banana to fully cook. Add salt and serve with a delicious flatbread -- the one shown here is uttapam.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Keralan Spinach in Yogurt

Where have we been?

Oh, you know, cooking school in the most gorgeous part of India, Kerala.

It was the best vacation we've ever taken, hands-down. (No offense to Phoebe's mom, who offers up awesome accommodations every time, but you can't get a young coconut with a straw in it on every corner in Western Massachusetts). We came home with a deepened appreciation for South Indian food (very different from what you get in most Indian restaurants in the US) and over 30 recipes, which we plan to convert from the metric system, bastardize with kale, and blog.

For our first Haritha Farms recipe, we offer this interesting take on spinach--rather than eating it raw or flash-sauteing it, you'll cook it down with South Indian seasonings until it starts to caramelize on the pan and then mix it with plain yogurt. It's an excellent accompaniment to rice and curries, and an unexpected way to get your greens in.

Ingredient notes: urad dal is used raw, like a spice, in Keralan cooking. If you can't find it in your local Indian grocery store (AKA you don't have a local Indian grocery store), it's OK to leave it out. The yogurt in India was much waterier than our favorite yogurt, so we diluted it with a little water. If you have homemade yogurt, or your yogurt is on the watery side, skip the extra water.

1 tablespoon coconut oil
1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
2 teaspoons urad dal (optional)
2 large shallots, sliced (about 1 cup)
1 green chile, sliced
1-inch piece of ginger, finely minced or ground
1 teaspoon garlic, finely minced or put through a press
6 cups (1/2 pound) chopped fresh spinach
1 and 1/2 cups plain yogurt
1/2 cup water, if needed (see headnote)

Heat a wok over medium-high heat and melt the coconut oil. When the oil is hot, add mustard seeds and urad dal and fry (without stirring) until the mustard seeds are almost fully popped and the dal is golden brown. Add shallots and stir until browned, then add chili, ginger and garlic and stir until the garlic is browned and the raw smell is gone.

Add the chopped spinach and cook over high heat, continually stirring, for about 20 minutes. Be persistent! The spinach will reduce more than you could ever imagine and release sugars that will stick to the pan. When you're certain that the spinach can't reduce any more, remove it from the heat. Once it's cooled to room temperature, stir in the yogurt and water and serve.