Tag Archives: yogurt

plenty: the mighty eggplant

I’m limited in many of the cookbooks of my shelf; vegetarian entrées are less than a third of each book. Imagine my delight when I opened this new cookbook to 120 main course vegetarian recipes. Yes, I coveted Yotam Ottolenghi’s new cookbook Plenty since Christmas when it popped up on all my favorite food blogs.

Consider this new series a reader’s guide to Plenty. The book is packed with abundant photos and paragraphs, the latter of which can appear daunting. When I received the Peter Gorden’s book Salads from a co-worker, I thought I had to roast an entire red onion to use 1 tsp onion juice in the final dressing. It took many years growing comfortable in the kitchen to realize how I could create the dish without four hours devoted to “leaving tomatoes in the sun”. To the discerning palette, some of these steps make a world of difference; the rest of us work and want to get dinner on the table before midnight. I will walk you through some of Plenty’s recipes (four this week alone!) and hope to take the intimidation out of 600-word recipes.

If you purchased Plenty, or plan to, it is surely inspired by the cover photo: roasted eggplants blanketed in a creamy sauce and sparkling pomegranate seeds like jewels. It looks remarkably elegant and utterly original. It is. And it is so do-able, you need to make this  tomorrow—impress the heck of out your friends. I ate my last eggplant the next day, dressed to the nines and refrigerated overnight: it held up perfectly and was delightful cold. (Good thing, since yogurt does not heat well). The ease of achieving this dish: slice, roast, and dress the eggplant for a memorable evening.

Eggplant with Buttermilk Sauce

from Plenty, serves four as a starter

2 large and long eggplants (firm and unblemished)

1/3 cup olive oil

1 1/2 tsp thyme leaves, plus a few whole sprigs to garnish

1 pomegranate (or package of pomegranate seeds)

1 tsp za’atar (or equal parts dried oregano, thyme, sesame seeds—crushed)

Sauce:

9 tbsp buttermilk

1/2 cup Greek yogurt (I purchased a single serving yogurt cup)

1 1/2 tbsp olive oil, plus a drizzle to finish

1 small garlic clove, minced (on a microplane or like this)

Pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Cut the eggplants in half lengthways, cutting straight through the green stalk (the stalk is for the look; don’t eat it).

Use a small sharp knife to make three or four parallel incisions in the cut side of each eggplant half, without cutting through to the skin. (I made a few too many! didn’t make a difference) Repeat at a 45-degree angle to get a diamond-shaped pattern.

Place the eggplant halves, cut-side up, on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Brush them with olive oil—keep on brushing until all of the oil has been absorbed by the flesh.

Sprinkle with the thyme leaves and some coarse salt and pepper.

Roast for 35 to 40 minutes, at which point the flesh should be soft, flavorful and nicely browned. I increased the heat to 475°F the last five minutes to achieve the proper color. Remove from the oven and allow to cool down completely.

A delightful za’atar substitute from The Internet: crush 1 tsp. dried oregano, 1 tsp. leftover fresh thyme, 1 tsp. sesame seeds.

if you can’t find packaged pomegranate seeds:

While the eggplants are in the oven, cut the pomegranate into two horizontally. Hold one half over a bowl, with the cut side against your palm, and use the back of a wooden spoon or a rolling pin to gently knock on the pomegranate skin. Continue beating with increasing power until the seeds start coming out naturally and falling through your fingers into the bowl. Once all are there, sift through the seeds to remove any bits of white skin or membrane. For the visual learner.

To make the sauce: Whisk together all of the ingredients. Taste for seasoning, then keep cold until needed.

To serve, spoon plenty of buttermilk sauce over the eggplant halves without covering the stalks. Sprinkle za’atar and plenty of pomegranate seeds on top and garnish with thyme. Finish with a drizzle of olive oil.

What would YOU serve alongside this eggplant extravaganza? share in the comment section.

2 Comments

Filed under dinners, health

street food: fritters!

I didn’t like meat growing up. I thought this surely meant a life of alternating peanut-butter and grilled cheese sandwiches. Then in college, Anna introduced me to the wonder that is Indian food–only to be followed by my love and exploration of many ethnic foods. Hellllllllo falafel.

One bite of this fried chickpea patty and you’ll understand why I planned my entire budget birthday around this delight. Serve it traditionally in pita (the “Israeli hamburger” said my friend Johanna) and drizzle with a store-bought yogurt sauce like tzatziki. Or let it accompany a knockout mixed grain dish.

A food processor is best for making this dish in a pinch: mix, chill, fry. That’s it!

My Favorite Falafel

tweaked from Joan Nathan, The Foods of Israel Today 

1 cup dried chickpeas OR 2 15-oz. cans

1/2 large onion, roughly chopped (about 1 cup)

2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley

2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro

1 teaspoon salt

1/2-1 teaspoon dried cayenne

4 cloves of garlic

1 teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon baking powder

4-6 tablespoons stone-ground white corn meal (or flour)

Grapeseed or vegetable oil for frying

Prep the Mixture

Put the chickpeas in a large bowl and add enough cold water to cover them by at least 2 inches. Let soak overnight, then drain. Or use canned chickpeas, drained.

Place the drained, uncooked chickpeas and the onions in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Add the parsley, cilantro, salt, cayenne, garlic, and cumin. Pulse until just evenly chopped.

Sprinkle in the baking powder and 4 tablespoons of the flour (or cornmeal—I found the cornmeal achieves the perfect crunchy exterior), and pulse. You want to add enough cornmeal or flour so that the dough forms a small ball and no longer sticks to your hands. Do not overmix, or the falafel will be tough. Leave a little chunky.

Turn into a bowl and refrigerate, covered, for several hours. I’ve found one hour sufficient, but you could also prep the mixture the night before.

Fry the Falafel

Form the chickpea mixture into balls about the size of walnuts—squashing into a disc fries faster and makes for easier sandwiches. Heat 3 inches of oil to 375 degrees in a deep pot or wok and fry 1 ball to test.

If it falls apart, add a little flour. Then fry about 6 balls at once for a few minutes on each side, or until golden brown. I find they fry well if lowered gently into the oil with a chinese strainer. Drain on paper towels. Falafel does not absorb oil, so it is not a greasy food—despite being fried.

Joan Nathan’s tips:

Stuff half a pita with falafel balls, chopped tomatoes, onion, green pepper, and pickled turnips. Drizzle with tahina thinned with water.

Tahina is an oily paste made from ground sesame seeds. It is available in Middle Eastern markets and at www.ethnicgrocer.com.

To garnish your falafel in true Israeli style, try adding one or several of the following condiments: harissa hot sauce, pickled turnip (both also available at www.ethnicgrocer.com), mango amba (pickle), or sauerkraut.

2 Comments

March 12, 2012 · 2:53 pm

a berry delicious Fourth

You remember I don’t bake, right? Fear of diasters + actual diasterous results prevent me from trying too frequently. You would not believe how flat the almond-blueberry “muffins” I made for company last weekend, yeesh.

So how about a do-able dessert endeavor?

I want everyone to have a memorable and safe fourth of July, and surely this calls for a patriotic pie. Andrew and I will be attending a big neighborhood celebration in his hometown. I am re-posting my favorite festive treat from last year’s celebration in Pennsylvania, because you must make it this year. In case you need a reminder why:

1. It’s really easy (think: add. stir. eat.)  

2. With a food processor, it’s fast and mess-free 

3. You can make it in advance (and make lots of people really happy when you two show up)  

4. The majority of ingredients are nutrient-dense–antioxidants, dietary fiber, whole grains, monounsaturated fats, vitamins and minerals (a few points over other desserts you may be considering…)

5. It travels and keeps very well  (though there will be fights for the last piece; sneaking down before breakfast was my tactic)

      

Fresh Berry Tart with Toasted Nut Crust

Vegetarian Times

crust   

1/4 each whole almonds, pecans, and hazelnuts   

1/4 cup whole-wheat flour   

1/4 cup sugar   

1/4 tsp. salt   

6 tbsp. chilled unsalted butter, diced   

1 large egg yolk   

filling   

1/2 cup light sour cream   

1/2 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt   

2 tbsp. light brown sugar   

1 tsp. vanilla extract   

1 cup blueberries   

1 cup raspberries (or halved strawberries)   

1/4 tsp. grated orange zest   

1 tbsp. orange juice (from the same orange)

other goodies to get the job done

food processor

9″ tart pan with removeable bottom (other reasons you need this pan)

 

FOR THE CRUST   

Preheat the oven to 350F. Coat a 9-inch tart pan with cooking spray.    

Spread nuts on a baking sheet and toast in oven 10-12 minutes, until browned.   

Pulse nuts, flour, sugar, and salt in food processor until the nuts are ground to powder.   

A side note about cubed, chilled butter. This is really key in certain baking recipes. When I worked in a bakery, I was cubing 20 lbs. of butter for endless cookies and scones. Ah, memories. Cut your butter with a sharp knife at the beginning of your recipe and return the cubes to the fridge until the recipe calls for them.   

Add butter to food processor and pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal.   

Add egg yolk and pulse until moist clumps form.   

    

    

   

As you can see, the mixture seems really crumbly. Press the dough into the bottom and sides of your prepared pan.   

A flat surface, like the bottom of a measuring cup, is the best way to ensure an even surface. The nut mixture doesn’t seems like quite enough for the edges, but it’s just right once the bottom is even.   

Your malleable, nutty crust should be about 1/4-inch thick.   

   

Now here’s a fantastic crust technique so you’ll never need pie weights. Pierce the crust well with a fork and freeze for 30 minutes. This keeps the crust from poofing up without the mess of foil and weights and other complications. Who loves simplicity??   

Adjust the oven temperature to 400F. Bake the frozen crust for 12-14 minutes, or until golden. Cool.   

FOR THE FILLING   

Whisk together the sour cream, yogurt, brown sugar, vanilla, and orange zest in a bowl.    

Toss berries (or fruit of your choice) with the orange juice in a separate bowl.    

(Please, please don’t skimp on the orange zest, it really makes the tart special).   

Spread the sour cream mixture into the crust with a spatula. It didn’t seem like enough filling to fill the tart, but it is just enough so scrape every drop from the bowl!   

I really want to experiment with peaches on the next round of this tart, but it is ideal for berries, as they are less likely to brown or bleed color into the sour cream mixture while resting in the fridge for a few days. Nonetheless, the acid of the orange juice kept my strawberries fresh for the mere day and a half the tart lasted among company 😀   

Spoon the berries over top a little at a time, until the sour cream mixture is evenly covered. (No one says it can’t be a little artistic, though)! It really does look beautiful however you arrange your fruit—yet another thing to love about this beautiful dish. I also sprinkled additional zest over the finished tart.   

Refrigerate 30 to 60 minutes before serving. And take my advice, cut thin slices—my tart somehow fed twelve, but we would have loved seconds.   

 

1 Comment

Filed under dessert, techniques

red white and blue brunch

My birthfather stopped in for a very brief brunch this morning (behind-the-scenes photos here). Andrew asked how I could keep calling it a brunch after we rescheduled for 9am? I told him that’s how I could get away with serving tomatoes.

A varied and truly tasty menu, for next Saturday at your place perhaps. Hours of prep work the night before? Waking up at 5am to get that casserole in the oven? Not with this menu. Start to finish, this entire meal begins and makes its way to the table within 40 minutes.

Red: French Toast with Sautéed Tomatoes

Such a surprise. They sounded so good on the page, and did not disappoint.

from Easy Vegetarian, serves 4

4 eggs

1/4 cup milk

4 slices bread (white whole wheat was perfect)

4 tbsp. butter

8 ripe tomatoes, halved (we halved grape tomatoes)

coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper

Put the eggs, milk, salt, and pepper in a large, shallow dish and beat well. Add the bread and let it soak 5 minutes so all the egg mixture is absorbed. (What an amazing technique for luscious French toast)!

Heat a large, nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the soaked bread and cook over medium-low heat for 3-4 minutes on each side.

Melt the butter in a separate skillet. Add the halved tomatoes and saute for 2 minutes on each side. Put the hot French toast on a warm plate and serve topped with the sautéed tomatoes.

White and Blue: Homemade Berried Yogurt

Don’t worry: the yogurt itself is store-bought. Making a fresh berry mixture to stir in is heavenly—and will forever turn you off to those watery aspartame yogurt cups, I hope. Eesh.

tweaked from Easy Vegetarian, serves 4-6

8 oz. fresh blueberries, about 1.5 cups

half a lemon, zested and juiced

a pinch of ground cinnamon

2 and 3/4 cups plain yogurt (cannot use low-fat for this dish; 2% Greek over here)

agave nectar to taste

Reserve a few of the best berries for serving and put the remainder in a small saucepan. Add the lemon zest, cinnamon, and 1 tbsp. water. Heat gently for about 3 minutes until the berries just start to soften slightly. Let cool.

Spoon the berries into glasses, then add the yogurt and agave nectar (start with about 1/2 tablespoon and taste). Top with the reserved berries. You can also just serve this in a big bowl, as we did.

For the guys, Andrew made omelettes with Dubliner cheese and chopped peppadews. On the side, we served sautéed baby potatoes with caramelized onions, pink orange wedges, coffee, and pomegranate-blueberry juice (our most recent Trader Joes obsession).

Brunch is definitely my new favorite way to start the weekend. Next time: honey-roasted peaches with ricotta and coffee-bean sugar.

Easy Vegetarian is an excellent cookbook, with brunch and dinner inspirations galore. For more on this and my other favorite cookbooks, just click here.

2 Comments

Filed under brunch, budget, health, lickety-quick, techniques

easy as pie? give me a break

I am not a baker, and am in fact intimidated by most things involving a cake pan and eggs. Easy a pie is a preposterous expression—unless your grandmother showed you how to make one (and I was too busy eating her grilled cheese sandwiches to pay adequate attention), it’s more complex than the phrase suggests. And easy to mess up, I’ve learned through the years.

This delicacy is much simpler than pie. No pie plate, no layers of dough, no fluting, no venting—it’s a piece of cake. A galette, to be more accurate.

Galette. It’s a gorgeous French word, and if you know me you may be thinking it was my sole motive for making one. Perhaps.

I bought this box of juicy nectarines with the intent to do something exciting. I thought about grilling them and topping with feta, making a fruity salsa, tossing them in a fresh green salad. All fun ideas, but I remembered this nectarine galette I placed on my mental culinary bookshelf a year ago and from there I could dream of nothing else for my precious peach-siblings.

I could not agree more with Deb (of the brilliant blog Smitten Kitchen) that nectarines “unfairly play second fiddle to peaches”. Since childhood, my own love for nectarines has been more profound than peaches—for raw eating, that is.

Nectarines have all the sweet and juicy qualities of the peach, but bless their smooth skin!

My dear friend Eva and I went peach-picking for many years, ending the afternoon with orchard-fresh peach ice-cream. Then, each birthday, Eva standing tall on my doorstep, a hot peach birthday pie in hand (a tradition more challenging since she relocated to The American South). Though I have many fond memories of our peach-picking days, I cannot forget the awful itching of the peach fuzz—one I still experience trying to enjoy a raw peach. And thus began my peach prejudice.

I marveled at Eva’s homemade peach and apple pies growing up. In the kitchen together (as early as elementary school), she was throwing flour into a bowl and producing the most incredible pie crusts without measuring a thing. Even as her pupil, I never succeeded in pies and am still intimidated by the task. Free-form galettes, however, are a simple marvel. Less work, less time, and certainly more forgiving in form.

Prepare for the easiest and most reliable crust you’ll ever need. (Oh and so flaky I can’t even tell you in words).

Crust

1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoons sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick or 3 ounces) unsalted butter, chilled, cut into 1/2–inch pieces

and you’ll definitely want a pastry blender

My previous tart dough was always made in my mixer or food processor. A pastry blender (which I borrowed for the most appropriate occasion) does produce the flakiest crust, and honestly it is much quicker by hand than by machine. Between the assembly and cleaning of machine parts, believe me this dough is a four-minute flash by hand. I know I’m never going back…

Combine the flour, sugar, and salt in a large, wide mixing bowl. Cut in six tablespoons of the coldest butter with a pastry blender, mixing until the dough resembles coarse cornmeal.

Dribble four tablespoons ice water over the mixture, using a rubber spatula to pull the mixture together. Gather the dough into a mound (either in the bowl or on a counter) and gently knead it together, for just a few seconds. If it’s not coming together, add ice water, a tablespoon at a time, until it does. (Don’t be tempted to add too much water—mine was barely holding together but still rolled out perfectly). Wrap the dough in a flat disc in plastic and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before rolling out.

You could slice your nectarines in the meantime (I promise time flies). Pastry dough must, must be cold—hence all the refrigerating required in this recipe. But between brushing all the flour off the counter, slicing the nectarines, and lugging all the bakeware out of your oven so you can preheat it, the waiting time is brief and the galette a sweet afternoon activity.

When you are ready to roll out the dough, take one disc and let it soften slightly so that it is malleable but still cold. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the disk into a 14-inch circle about 1/8 inch thick.

ANOTHER OPTION

Perhaps my affinity for small things is related to my own small stature (surely remedied when I grow to be 5 feet tall one day…) I like small portions, especially when it comes to dough—personal-sized pizza crust and mini cakes are right up my alley. My friend Michele even specializes in mini cakes (The Tiny Kitchen LLC), so it can’t be just me.

I sliced my chilled dough in half and rolled out two mini rounds (using that word loosely). One galette for you, one for a friend! Then I just used half the filling ingredients on each and it produced two lovely little galettes—besides decreasing the baking time.

Transfer the dough to a parchment-lined baking sheet (or two sheets, in my case) and refrigerate at least 1/2 hour before using.

Filling

1 tablespoon ground almonds
1 tablespoon flour
1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons sugar (I used Sugar In The Raw which made for big, beautiful caramelized crystals)
1 tablespoon
amaretti cookies, pulverized — or — 1 extra tablespoon ground almonds plus an extra teaspoon sugar
10 ounces galette dough, rolled into a 14-inch circle and chilled
1 and 1/2 pounds ripe nectarines (about 4 large)
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup sliced almonds (optional)

and you’ll really want a pizza stone

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place a pizza stone, if you have one, on a lower rack. Toss the ground almonds, flour, one tablespoon of the sugar, and pulverized amaretti (or mix of extra ground almonds and sugar) together. I used ground almonds + sugar.

I've said it before, I can't make a circle to save my life

Remove the prerolled dough from the refrigerator or freezer and sprinkle the almond mixture evenly over the pastry, leaving a 1 1/2 to 2-inch border uncoated. (Doing this right on the pizza stone or baking sheet makes life a whole lot easier).

Cut nectarines in half, removing pits, then each half into thirds (you’ll get six wedges per nectarine—though I sliced mine even thinner).

Arrange the fruit, in concentric circles on the dough, making a single layer of snugly touching pieces, leaving the border bare. Sprinkle 1/4 cup of the sugar evenly over the fruit (I used less as this fruit was so ripe—just two large pinches).

While rotating the tart, fold the border of exposed dough up and over itself at regular intervals, crimping and pushing it up against the fruit. Pinch or trim off any excess dough. (Make sure there are no breaks that will let juices leak.) Brush the border with melted butter, and sprinkle it with two tablespoons sugar (or just two pinches of coarse turbinado sugar).

ideally, it looks more like this

If you are a novice baker like me, here’s another reason to make two mini tarts (four generous slices each). One is bound to be less… attractive. (See photos for proof). Serve the pretty one to someone you love and keep the ugly—yet equally delicious—one for yourself 🙂

Bake in the lower third of the oven (preferably on a pizza stone) for about 45 to 50 minutes (less for Lindsey-sized galettes), until the crust is well browned and its edges are slightly caramelized. If you wish, sprinkle sliced almonds over the galette 15 minutes before the baking time ends, so they get toasty and extra-crisp. As soon as the galette is out of the oven, use a large metal spatula to slide it onto a cooling rack, to keep it from getting soggy. Let cool for 20 minutes. If you want to glaze the tart, brush the fruit lightly with a little warmed peach (or nectarine, if you have it) jam. Serve warm, with vanilla ice cream or with plain yogurt—for a perfect breakfast.

Do ahead: This galette keeps at room temperature for at least two days, and even longer in the fridge. The unbaked dough, wrapped in plastic, will keep in the freezer for a few weeks, the fridge for a day or more. Rolled-out dough may be frozen and used the next day.

Again, I highly reccomend making two small tarts out of this. And make a second batch of this easy four-minute pastry dough to freeze and make more! Of course once you see how absurdly easy it is, you’ll be eager to try your own variations. For now, I’m still working on that box o’ nectarines…

See Deb’s nectarine galette over at Smitten Kitchen. My heartfelt thanks to Deb for the confidence booster!

…a peachy galette just a week later

3 Comments

Filed under dessert, the basics

a berry delicious Fourth

I hope everyone had a memorable holiday weekend!   

coloring with cousins (Maddy's a leftie, too)!

Andrew and I returned from a too-short time with my Pennsylvania family—fun with uncles, cousins, babies, and puppies—who could ask for more?   

Though I brought my share of food to our family gathering, I had the chance to practice other skills… like coloring in the lines 🙂   

I brought two pans of my Grammy’s irresistable mac and cheese (to which even my piano tuner requested a recipe), and this exciting tart—worthy of its own post.   

   

This tart was featured in the “Berries Jubilee” article of last summer’s Vegetarian Times. Yep, they have awesome recipes that I’m raving about these days.   

I’m not a big pie person—I don’t enjoy dough enough, even when it is delicious. I usually want more fruit than pastry. This dessert has a crunchy nut crust, attractive and deliciously unique. Clearly it’s beautiful and appealing to the eye, but here’s a few more things I love about this tart—reasons I hope will entice you to make it. (And then write me about the results) 😀   

1. It’s really easy. I’m talking little to no cooking technique required to make this. (We all need a break once in a while…)   

2. With a food processor, it’s fast and mess-free.   

3. You can make it in advance (and make lots of people really happy when you two show up).   

4. The majority of ingredients are nutrient-dense—antioxidents, dietary fiber, whole grains, monounsaturated fats, vitamins and minerals. (I’m not making a case for this tart as a breakfast food, but for a dessert, this is a wiser option than that pint of Ben & Jerrys).   

5. It travels and keeps well.   

FRESH BERRY TART WITH TOASTED NUT CRUST

crust   

1/4 each whole almonds, pecans, and hazelnuts   

1/4 cup whole-wheat flour   

1/4 cup sugar   

1/4 tsp. salt   

6 tbsp. chilled unsalted butter, diced   

1 large egg yolk   

filling   

1/2 cup light sour cream   

1/2 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt   

2 tbsp. light brown sugar   

1 tsp. vanilla extract   

1 cup blueberries   

1 cup raspberries (or halved strawberries)   

1/4 tsp. grated orange zest   

1 tbsp. orange juice (from the same orange)

other goodies to get the job done

food processor

9″ tart pan with removeable bottom

 

FOR THE CRUST   

Preheat the oven to 350F. Coat a 9-inch tart pan with cooking spray.    

Spread nuts on a baking sheet and toast in oven 10-12 minutes, until browned.   

Pulse nuts, flour, sugar, and salt in food processor until the nuts are ground to powder.   

A side note about cubed, chilled butter. This is really key in certain baking recipes. When I worked in a bakery, I was cubing 20 lbs. of butter for endless cookies and scones. Ah, memories. Cut your butter with a sharp knife at the beginning of your recipe and return the cubes to the fridge until the recipe calls for them.   

Add butter to food processor and pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal.   

Add egg yolk and pulse until moist clumps form.   

    

    

   

As you can see, the mixture seems really crumbly. Press the dough into the bottom and sides of your prepared pan.   

A flat surface, like the bottom of a measuring cup, is the best way to ensure an even surface. The nut mixture doesn’t seems like quite enough for the edges, but it’s just right once the bottom is even.   

Your malleable, nutty crust should be about 1/4-inch thick.   

   

Now here’s a fantastic crust technique so you’ll never need pie weights. Pierce the crust well with a fork and freeze for 30 minutes. This keeps the crust from poofing up without the mess of foil and weights and other complications. Who loves simplicity??   

Adjust the oven temperature to 400F. Bake the frozen crust for 12-14 minutes, or until golden. Cool.   

    

FOR THE FILLING   

Whisk together the sour cream, yogurt, brown sugar, vanilla, and orange zest in a bowl.    

Toss berries (or fruit of your choice) with the orange juice in a separate bowl.    

(Please, please don’t skimp on the orange zest, it really makes the tart special).   

Spread the sour cream mixture into the crust with a spatula. It didn’t seem like enough filling to fill the tart, but it is just enough so scrape every drop from the bowl!   

I really want to experiment with peaches on the next round of this tart, but it is ideal for berries, as they are less likely to brown or bleed color into the sour cream mixture while resting in the fridge for a few days. Nonetheless, the acid of the orange juice kept my strawberries fresh for the mere day and a half the tart lasted among company 😀   

Spoon the berries over top a little at a time, until the sour cream mixture is evenly covered. (No one says it can’t be a little artistic, though)! It really does look beautiful however you arrange your fruit—yet another thing to love about this beautiful dish. I also sprinkled additional zest over the finished tart.   

Refrigerate 30 to 60 minutes before serving. And take my advice, cut thin slices—my tart somehow fed twelve, but we would have loved seconds.   

two minutes into cutting... the tart disappeared in the next two!

 

Leave a comment

Filed under dessert, techniques

the Indian spice cabinet

Until this evening, Andrew didn’t realize we had an Indian spice cabinet. This is ironic, as it is the most violent of our cupboards. All our boring, twice-a-year spices (nutmeg, thyme, italian seasoning), reside above the drinking cups, aligned in an intricate Tetris fashion. My special Indian spices, on the other hand, have a designated tiered rack above the kitchen sink. And almost every time we open this cabinet, the coriander seeds or ground cumin jars nose-dive into the sink, shattering glass all over the kitchen. We’ve mourned many ethnic spices in recent months.

Tonight was one to carefully retrieve the exotic spices from this special location, in a first-time attempt to make Indian vegetable fritters. With curry-lime sauce. Yep.  

Since drooling over this recipe on Smitten Kitchen (the most inspiring food blog ever), I’ve vowed for months I would make them and gobble them up. Mine are not as pretty as Deb’s, but they were amazing. And let me tell you, anything that has Andrew knowingly DEVOURING vegetables (zucchini! sweet potato! carrot!) speaks to its flavorful brilliance.  

I had this idiotic idea (like I so often do creating in the kitchen) that I would grate the veggies (that’s russest potato, sweet potato, carrots, onion, zucchini) by hand. On a box grater. Well, the words “hand” and “box grater” explain the bloody bandage on my right thumb…  

 

I read that hand grating (vs. utilizing my beloved food processor)  produces coarser vegetables that stick together. After grating both potatoes, attempting the onion, and stopping the bleeding from my right hand, I surrendered.  

Not that I don’t love my food processor.  

While I mixed the eggs and flour, I drained the shredded veggies in a colander lined with cheesecloth. The cheesecloth made it easier to squeeze the water from the veggies.  

love my spices

 

  

Though the recipe called for four eggs, I don’t enjoy egg-y foods—and I wanted to cut down on the fat just a tad. I used two whole eggs and two egg whites, and the consistency worked just fine. I whisked in flour, coriander, turmeric, and cumin. Smells unbelievable.  

On the side, I cooked basmati and wild rice with cumin seeds. For fluffy, authentic basmati, visit a previous post on the very topic 

I skipped out on the ginger and peas (not a fan of the latter), but loved the cilantro in these fritters. The flavor and color were just—oh gracious.  

This is not the time to skimp on fresh herbs. If you like (no, love) cilantro like me, the full two tablespoons of minced cilantro is essential.  

cilantro

 

  

This thick, rich egg mixture is a fantastic glue for all the shredded veggies. While my rice was cooking, I heated my 12″ nonstick skillet. As you may recall from the last time I made potato cakes,  I liked the browning better with my regular skillets, but nonstick was preferable here to avoid using an entire bottle of oil.  

fragrant and beautiful

 

  

By this point, the carrots and sweet potato have dyed the other pieces to unattractive colors… no matter.  

I was surprised to see the instructions to salt and pepper the veggies at this point, and also immediately after frying. I used kosher salt to lessen the sodium amount, but did find that salting is really crucial, even with all the fragrant spices. The salt enhances the complexity of these fantastic fritters.  

A warning about tumeric if you haven’t used it before: the yellow stains absolutely everything—which is why I have a special plastic spatula (circa 1992) I reserve exclusively for my Indian cooking endeavors.  

Because Deb explains it all so well, I’m going to send you to her site for ingredient amounts and directions. I must tell you that these are a great introduction to either Indian food or Indian cooking, if your taste buds have not yet ventured that far East. Also, this curry-lime sauce is so remarkably simple and divine (really, a four-year-old could make it), I intend to make it frequently for a dipping-sauce staple. Additional support for the wonderful versatility of plain yogurt.  

These are a great appetizer idea that would reheat well in the oven. Though I cooled my fritters between paper towels, as directed, I would strongly encourage placing the fritters on a (cookie) cooling rack directly from the skillet. The fritters were delicious, but weren’t as crispy sitting between damp paper towels—I’ve read that a cooling rack is the solution, but forgot about it this time around…  

This post is a bit jumpy, but there’s so much to say about Indian food!! I promise to share other favorite homemade Indian recipes in future posts. These spiced fritters speak to the simplicity of most Indian cooking—this cuisine always tastes complex, but rarely requires intricate cooking technique.  

Click here to head over to Smitten Kitchen and check out fritter-making in further detail 😀  

  

Now the great debate over who gets these leftovers for lunch…

Leave a comment

Filed under dinners, small bites

sensible snacks and purple basil

I should preface that this post contains sensible, wacky snacks 😉 No carrots & ranch or cheese on crackers here!

My MmOH-friend (that’s mutual-maids-of-honor) Kerie came over Friday to visit and indulge me in the premiere of Food Revolution. Oh my goodness—did anyone watch it??? Well, knowing we’re going to be watching and talking health food, she brought over an unusual “dessert” that even she hadn’t tried before! You’re going to think we’re nuts, snacking on Annie’s All-Natural Whole Grain Bunny Graham Crackers with fresh Greek yogurt on a Friday night. Yes, health nuts for sure. (We get our fill of dark chocolate the rest of the working week).

Enjoying the sweetest blackberries made this a late-night snack I’m ready to repeat.

a hip dip: greek yogurt with a drizzle of honey, accompanied by sweet blackberries and bunny grahams

 

I know you think I’m bonkers. But I’m throwing these wacky (and goodness forbid deliciously-wholesome) snacks out there to inspire some alternative, interesting choices for midday munchies.

Start raising your eyebrows now at this afternoon’s invention, since interning at Azafran Cafe provided me with creative combinations without which I now cannot live! I have come to cherish unexpected flavors.

Two words: Basil + Strawberries. Pure delight.

So a craving for something different this afternoon led me to through together this little concoction:

fresh rustic loaf topped with asiago cheese, strawberries, purple basil, and a balsamic drizzle.

 

Yes, you read correctly: PURPLE BASIL. It’s quite awesome when your second-favorite herb comes in your first-favorite color.

If you haven’t made a balsamic drizzle before, what are you waiting for? Godot? Just pour a bit of balsamic vinegar in a small saucepan, add a pinch of sugar if you like, and keep over medium-low heat until it reduces and thickens, coating the back of a spoon. The flavor is so concentrated, you only need a bit. Hence the drizzling.

Other ideas for strawberries and basil: a summer salad, sorbet with fresh basil, or best yet: strawberry-basil lemonade! I know we’re not at that season yet, but Trader Joes’ strawberries were so sweet (and affordable), I couldn’t hold off much longer!! Forget Santa, I hope the Farmer’s market comes early this year.

So obviously I’m into drizzle: it’s such a delicate, graceful word. And you know how I adore words. If you don’t have time to simmer and drizzle yourself an afternoon snack, at least consider a fun, new combination—in the spirit of good weather and good health! The weather may seem unrelated, but the sunshine just raises my spirits. I pray the same good cheer for you!

 

1 Comment

Filed under health, here to share, lickety-quick

everybody burns the carrots sometimes

Please be certain you’re reading the title of today’s post to the infamous Frank Sinatra tune. After this, I must admit: I really burned the carrots. 

see?

I bought these beautiful carrots after passing up a bag of liquidy pre-cut baby carrots. I thought, oh I’ll just peel and cut these myself—more effort, but worth it, right? 

 P.S. My favorite color combination, left.  

I hear so many people complain about the “trouble” of cooking from scratch. I find it so rewarding, both in flavor and in knowing it offers so much more nutrition than pre-packaged meals. 

And after saying this, after washing and scrubbing the dang carrots, I got so caught up in flipping the potato cakes I completely forgot about the carrots roasting in the oven. One look at them and Andrew accused me of sneaking him burnt sweet potato fries.   

Enough about the carrots, I’m over it. I’m here to also make a case for potatoes. I came from a meat-and-potatoes family, though clearly the meat notion didn’t take. While my husband didn’t grow up eating potatoes, I’m certain we had them in some form every week growing up. That said, even the health nut I am, I’m an absolute sucker for potatoes. And blinis (bah-LEE-nees, Polish potato pancakes) bring me back to all my memorable childhood visits to central PA. 

So I’m coming home from school today and it’s frigid out and carbohydrates just seem so appealing. I resisted the urge to make something with four different kinds of cheese and a stick of butter. Instead, I picked up three huge russet potatoes, along with fresh sage and thyme (cue Paul Simon). Tonight: herby potato roti. 

If you have a food processor, this is the time to whip out the shredding disc, because grating this much potato by hand would have taken way too long (remember, I spent so much time already with the dang carrots).  It took about 40 seconds to grate over 8 cups of potato! 

After this, I dried the potato on paper towels, though I eventually used my salad spinner to finish the job. (Remind me to tell you about the magic of salad spinners at some point, and where I find fun gadgets like these for waaaaaaaay less). I added in a teeny bit of chopped onion to my mixture, and then combined the grated potato with the sage and thyme. I was surprised the recipe off of which I based my little potato cakes did not call for any egg or liquid to hold the mixture together, but sure enough the pieces cooked together nicely in a hot skillet of olive oil.  I did feel all scientific trying this first in a stainless pan and then in my big nonstick skillet (thanks, Mom) for comparison. Well it was much easier to flip these little guys on the nonstick (duh), besides that I didn’t need to use nearly as much fattening olive oil. But, they did not crisp and brown so beautifully as they did in the first skillet–regardless how high I turned the heat in the nonstick.  

Although it seems like the herbs should have burned in these little rotis, they worked out lovely.  And they look so artsy, don’t you agree?

the herby potato roti!

I got chicken sausages for Andrew (who was delighted to see a meal with meat), and served our dozens of little potatoes with herbed sour cream (stirred those fresh herbs into plain yogurt for a delicious, nutritious substitute), spiced applesauce, and…yes, the carrot fries. 

   

 

 

 

 

 

 

remember: I love hearing your recipes, cooking ideas, questions, and feedback. and if this photo doesn’t make you want to put on a Simon and Garfunkel album (vinyl or otherwise), I hope you at least have Scarborough Fair in your head the rest of the day. 

6 Comments

Filed under dinners