Sunday, February 27, 2011

Indian Feast!

Last week, my sister and a friend decided we need to have Indian night. So that is what we did. I made 2 dishes, one is butter chicken, which was so smooth and flavorful and the other was saag paneer. Sadly, I only can show you the lovely saag. I was surprised at how easy these recipes were, even though they did require a lot of different steps such as blending (in a blender) and cooking ingredients separately. If, you get everything set up and ready to go then it is easier than it sounds. I also don't tend to use the amount of oil and butter the recipes call for, one book is telling me to use a cup of oil to saute onions, seriously?Anyway,  this, is the result:
Not the best photo, but when I saw these colors together, I had to stop and stare like a creep. The saag (spinach) was the brightest green I had ever seen while cooking, and on the right was bold red with the white paneer on top. Now that is Indian cooking!

3 tablespoons oil
7 oz paneer, cubed 
3-4 whole cardamom pods
½-inch stick cinnamon
1 tbsp chopped ginger (I use ginger paste from a jar)
4-5 chopped garlic cloves
2 onions, one diced large, and the other sliced
¼ cup chickpea flour
1 bag frozen spinach (could use fresh but this is so much easier)
½ teaspoon turmeric
2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 tsp ground fenugreek
1 large tomato, chopped
½ teaspoon chile powder (how spicy do you like it?)
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 tablespoon ground cumin
3 teaspoons salt

Add 1 tablespoon of oil to a large nonstick pan over medium heat. Really, try to use nonstick, you'll be browning cheese! When the pan and oil are hot, add the paneer cubes in a single layer. Check regularly to see when the sides have browned. Flip each piece and brown the other side, then move to a plate, sprinkle with some salt.

In the same nonstick pan, heat the other tablespoon of oil. Add the cardamom and cinnamon and toast for a few seconds. Add the ginger, garlic, and cubed onions and saute till the onions are translucent. Add the chickpea flour and stir continuously. The flour will brown slightly and give a nutty aroma when done. Put this mix into a small bowl and allow to cool, smells nice doesn't it?

Add the onion-chickpea flour mixture to a blender and blend till completely smooth. Leave the cardamom pods and cinnamon in, the blender will pulverize them to delicious aromas.  Next add the cooked greens, but do not puree into soup, just enough to chop into a smooth vibrant green paste. You may have to do this in batches to avoid the soup threat.

In the original pan, add the last tablespoon of oil over medium heat. Add the turmeric and cumin seeds and toast until the aromas fill the kitchen (just a few seconds). Add the sliced onions and sautee for two minutes. Add the tomatoes and toss to combine. Next add the browned paneer cubes, chile powder, cumin powder, fenugreek powder, and coriander powder and cook for a few minutes. 

Lastly add the spinach mixture, ½ cup of water, and the salt and stir to combine and simmer. You may need to add a little more salt to season. Oh, and Enjoy!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Pumpkin in February? Oh my!

I know, its not quite pumpkin season right now, but that doesn't mean you can't enjoy the nice sweetness of fresh pumpkin. You might be asking yourselves "where do you get a fresh pumpkin this time of year?" or "Why can't he do this in the fall!?" Well, I will tell you a little secret. In the fall, I buy a lot of interesting looking pumpkins and squash with every intention of whipping up something delicious with them throughout the long winter. One of my favorite varieties is the cheese pumpkin. Its flat, tan and oh so sweet. It also stays fresh for many many months, as you can see! 
This beauty was one of my fall house decorations, and you better believe that I am keeping those seeds for the garden this year! This gem was probably around 10 lbs.
If you too have a lot of leftover pumpkin after halloween (as long as they are intact and not jack-o-lanterned!) you can keep the pretty colors in your house until you are ready to cook it up. I start by cutting the fruit in half leaving the skin on, and then into smaller pieces. Now, this part can be a bit time consuming, but trust me, its worth it. You will need to steam the pumpkin pieces, as many as you can fit is fine, as long ad they get evenly steamed. When they are soft enough for a knife to easily go through, you can remove them from the pan and let them cool in a strainer in the sink.

Finally, when the pieces have cooled enough for you to comfortably handle, really, have patience, they get HOT, then you can start scooping the sweet orange flesh and plopping it into another bowl.
Next, you know when you open a can of pumpkin, and you have that meh brownish orange puree and is also a bit drier than fresh? Well, this next step will allow the pumpkin to drain itself of excess water. You will need cheese cloth and a large strainer. At this point, I usually mash up any of the larger pieces with my hands allowing the water to release from the flesh. Line your strainer with cheese cloth, I would say 3-4 layers should do, and then place the sweet flesh into the cheese cloth. Bunch up all sides, spin around tightly and place back into the strainer to drain for a few hours (also works great for making yogurt cheese!). You will end with a nice firm flesh, at this point I then put it in a food processor until smooth, unless you want it lumpy for a recipe. *You may need to tighten the cloth every hour or so as the liquid drains.

I always ask friends and family what they would make if they had a...lot...of...pumpkin. I always get the same 2 answers; pie and pumpkin bread. I think with this batch I will be freezing quite a bit, but first I would like to make fudge, bread (yes I know!), ravioli, chili...oh man the possibilities are endless! Whatever I end up making I will be sure to post it here...for now let the research begin!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

I'd like to start off with a small introduction about myself. Hi. My name is Dan and I live in a small town situated next to Boston, MA! I have been cooking for a long time, long, very long but it wasn't until recently that I started experimenting more with recipes and winning votes from those who have tried my masterpieces (or guesses, ha!).

I am influenced by Indian and Arabic foods, they just happen to be my all time favorites and I love love love eating these two delicious cuisines. One of my favorite Arabic cookbooks is called "Foods From Biblical Lands" which includes simple, mouth watering recipes, prepared as they were in biblical times.

For Indian, I love to follow Madhur Jaffrey and Bal Anerson (latter from the cooking channel). Yes, I love the cooking channel, more than food network even though they are related. One thing that I have learned by following authentic indian recipes is that the dishes you prepare differ greatly from what you get in an Indian restaurant in America, which leans toward using lots of heavy cream which is delicious but just plain naughty.

Just because these two are my favorite world cuisines, doesn't mean that we wont learn recipes for others such as German (omg yum!), Italian, Latin American, African and Asian (Ever try konnyaku? You will soon!). Oh yes, we will attempt to cook all and hopefully include some photos for your precious eyes to feast on, made especially by my new digital camera, which I am still trying to learn to use.

Lastly, I may talk about my zoo once in a while. I have cats. I love cats, they are so cute. I always say that Pedro (my Persian) would be a chef if he were a human, he is ALWAYS at my feet watching me, but probably just waiting for me to drop something yummy. Pig ALWAYS comes running when he hears he crinkling of certain plastic packages (think coldcuts).

Ok and now time to enjoy the ride and thank you for visiting, please stay a while!

Chapter 1 Word Up

Welcome to my little space where my main mission is to feed your eyes and imaginations with delicious food porn and recipes. Please feel free to interact, share and have fun, after all, it is food that brings humans and animals together, right?

Yummmmmm, lets begin...