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Friday, May 11, 2018

Brèdes Mafane - Electric Daisies

Every once in a while, I talk about food.
Actually, I talk about food all the time, but every once in a while, I have food conversations with people whose culinary specialties I know nothing about.
Those are the conversations I seek the most because those are the ones that turn me into a human radar for unusual vegetables.
This time, it was a Malagasy conversation about a vegetable called Brèdes Mafane.  The leaves and flowers of this plant are edible and leave a nice tingly feeling in the mouth after eating.  
Not like chile pepper spicy, but like sichuan pepper numbing, or like your mouth vibrating.
OOooOooh!  I like that!
In English, they can be called a variety of things, but my favorite is Electric Daisies.  
These also have excellent anti-inflammatory properties to boot.
Seriously, this vegetable gives EDC a whole new meaning!

Serves 4
Ingredients
1 bunch Brèdes Mafane (approximately 700g or 1.5lb)
2 Tbsp oil
1 large onion, sliced into moons
2 cloves garlic, grated
1/2 inch piece ginger, grated
2 tomatoes, diced
few pinches fleur de sel
1/4 cup water
Directions
1.  Remove the leaves and flowers from the hard stems, rip the leaves, rinse, and dry well.
2.  Heat the oil in a sautée pan and add the onions.
3.  When the onions are soft, add the garlic, ginger, and tomatoes and cook for a few minutes.
4.  Add the brèdes and a few pinches fleur de sel.  Stir to mix evenly, then add the water and lower the heat and cook until the leaves are tender.  It should take about 10 minutes.
5.  Taste and adjust the seasoning and then you are ready to serve.

I served mine with rice and some grilled fish filets.  Perfection.

The broth has such a deep flavor that it doesn't need much more doctoring.  Maybe a bit of chile if you insist.. of course.
As you eat,  let your eyes roll back and listen to the thumping music...

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Sunday, December 17, 2017

Russian Cabbage Pie

 
Most people have no idea what to do with cabbage.  Actually, let me correct that.  Most people know exactly one thing to do with cabbage and that's about it.
In France, it goes into Soup.
In the Mexico, it goes on Tacos.
In the US, it is for Slaw.
In India, it goes as a Sabzi with mustard seeds and turmeric.
In Korea, it goes into Kimchi.
What I meant to say is that most people are unaware of the many different ways to work with cabbage.  It is anything but boring.  1 head can give many meals.  It's nutritious, and most importantly.. it tastes like a gift from the ground.  It can be eaten raw, boiled, sautéed, roasted, stuffed, cored, or as a topping.
Let me introduce you to one of the Russian ways to make cabbage the main attraction (other than Borscht).  This "pie" is very filling and the combination with hard-boiled eggs may seem surprising, but it really does the trick.

Serves 6-8
Ingredients
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp caraway seeds
1 large onion, sliced into moons
2 Tbsp butter
1/2 large cabbage, shredded (about 4 cups)
1 bunch fresh dill, chopped
lots of cracked black pepper
salt to taste
3 hard-boiled eggs, chopped

Batter
3 large eggs
3 Tbsp mayonnaise
3 Tbsp yogurt
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup flour
black pepper
1 Tbsp chopped dill

Directions
1.  Heat the oil in a large wok and add the caraway seeds.  Cook until they crackle, then add the onion slices with a few pinches of salt.
2.  Add 1 Tbsp butter and most of the shredded cabbage.  Cook, stirring to coat, then add the rest of the butter and cabbage with a hefty hand of black cracked pepper.  Do this until the cabbage is tender (about 5-7 minutes).
3.  Remove from heat and let cool.  While this is happening, preheat the oven to 180°C 350 °F.
4.  Make the batter.  Beat the eggs well with the mayonnaise and yogurt, then stir in the flour and baking powder until the mixture is even.  Stir in the pepper and chopped dill.
5.  Butter a pie or cake mould and pour 1/3 of the batter in.  Place in the oven and cook for 15 minutes.
6.  While this is happening, go back to your cabbage.  Stir in the fresh dill.  It should have cooled down a bit.
7.  Remove the batter from the oven and start assembling.  Place 1/2 of the cabbage mixture into the mould over the partially cooked batter.  Sprinkle the chopped hard-boiled eggs in 1 layer.  Add the rest of the cabbage mixture on top of the eggs.  Pour the rest of the batter over the cabbage.  You will doubt that a crust will form.
8.  Place the assembled pie into the oven and cook for about 35 minutes.  The top crust should be golden.  Let cool for at least 15 minutes.
Serve warm or at room temperature as an appetizer or as a meal.  I served mine alongside some roasted roots.

The crust is surprising as it packs an interesting mix of flavors and pairs perfectly with the cabbage and hard-boiled eggs.
I'm not going to lie.. almost anything made with cabbage is a win for me, and this dish is no exception to the rule...

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Saturday, November 25, 2017

Thanksgiving Nut Roast with Oyster Mushroom Gravy

Thanksgiving is the holiday I miss the most since moving away from my family. It's not about the turkey.. It's really about sharing traditions, learning new ones, being open to other cultures, and feeling all the love and gratitude all around. This is mostly how I live my life anyways, so it's not a surprise. I've experienced it small scale, full on traditional, Mexican style, Southern style, Indian style, and Air-style. Each time has been enriching. Although I haven't "celebrated" this holiday in over 10 years, this year will be MY style... Inventing my own tradition. I'm so lucky to have so many peeps to love all around the world. 
Thank you, family and friends, near and far, for making life so beautiful and my heart swell.

This year is the very first year I've done anything special for Thanksgiving since living in France.  
I decided to go all-veg with a rich Nut Loaf, mashed potatoes & gravy, hasselback sweet potatoes, and green bean cheddar casserole.

Nut Loaf
Serves 8
Ingredients
1Tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 pack button or cremini mushrooms, chopped (about 2 cups)
some red wine or sherry to deglaze
2 tsp fresh thyme
2 tsp fresh marjoram
2 tsp fresh tarragon
4 tsp fresh sage
2 tsp fresh oregano
lots of cracked black pepper
1 1/2 cups cooked amaranth
1 1/2 cups cooked and peeled chestnuts, mashed
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup cashews, blitzed
1/2 cup almonds, blitzed
2 large handfuls shredded gruyère or swiss
4 eggs
2 Tbsp yogurt
chopped parsley for garnish

Directions
1.  In a large wok or sautée pan, heat the oil and add the chopped onion.  Cook until the onion sweats a bit, then add the chopped mushrooms and a pinch of each of the fresh herbs.  Season well with black pepper and add a few pinches salt.  When the juices have been released and starts drying out, deglaze with the red wine, and cook for 2 more minutes.  Remove from heat and set aside.
2.  While this is happening, get your nuts ready.  Aside from the chestnuts which are mashed, the rest should be blitzed.. not into a powder, but well broken down.
3.  In a large mixing bowl, stir together the mushroom onion mix, the amaranth, the nuts, and the rest of the herbs.  If it's a bit dry, don't worry.  Preheat the oven to 180°C 350°F.
4.  In a separate bowl, beat the eggs and yogurt together until frothy.  Then stir in the gruyère
5.  Pour the egg mixture into the rest and mix well.  It should be pretty wet.  You should be having doubts that this is even going to work.
6.  Butter a loaf pan/mould or line it with parchment paper.  Pour the mixture into your mould.  Smooth the top of any air bubbles and if you want to get fancy, decorate it with a few mushroom slices.  My mould was a silicone 24x10x6 cm.  I stupidly cut through it with a knife and had to toss it.. so I have to buy another one because it's the perfect size.
7.  Bake at 180°C 350°F for 1 hour and10 minutes or until it is firm.  Remove from oven and let rest 10 minutes.
8.  Remove from the mould and add some chopped parsley to the serving dish (my serving dish is pitiful, I know).  this roast can be sliced and served as is, but it is much more enjoyable with its Oyster mushroom gravy!

Oyster Mushroom Gravy
Ingredients
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
250g oyster mushrooms, sliced
1 tsp fresh thym
1/4 cup red wine
3 cups vegetable stock
1 1/2 Tbsp cornstarch
cracked black pepper
2 Tbsp butter

Directions
1.  In a medium sauce pot, heat the oil and add the chopped onion.  Cook until the onion sweats a bit, then add the sliced oyster mushrooms with the thyme.
2.  Cook until it starts drying out a bit, then deglaze with the wine and add the stock and simmer for about 20 minutes while it reduces and the flavors concentrate.
3.  In a separate bowl, stir the cornstarch into a few tbsp cold water (to make sure it doesn't get lumpy), then add this to the sauce pan.  It should thicken.  Once it is desired thickness, remove from heat.
4.  Stir in the butter.  This is the most crucial step!

Serve over the Nut Roast.. and over some mashed potatoes.  This gravy is KILLER on mashed potatoes!

I hope everyone is having safe and happy holidays



Note:  This recipe is very versatile and can work in many different ways.  The different nuts can be subbed for others with varying proportions, the amaranth can be subbed for quinoa or rice.  I'm sure there can be a reasonable substitute for mushrooms if one does not like them as well....

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Monday, November 13, 2017

Turmeric Chickpea "Burgers" with Tahini Garlic Sauce

Finding a good veggie burger is not as simple as one may think.  There are thousands out there.. it's not the veggie burger that is hard to find.. it's the really good one that is.  It's a texture thing.  I like my burger to hold together when I eat it.  Otherwise I would just plate it and stop trying to call it a burger.
There are the countless processed veggie burgers out there mostly using grains and soy.. but for me, those ones are really unappetizing.
I did have some luck with my black bean and beet burgers.  They were really good and had lots of flavor, but I think I did better with texture this time around.  These turmeric chickpea burgers have a whole different flavor profile, and the chickpeas are not all the way cooked through, which completely changes the texture issue.
These do hold together.  I was flipping them with no problems.. and when you bite into it.. you are definitely biting into something that holds a little resistance.  That is exactly what I wanted.
Vive la Résistance!!

Yield 6 patties
Ingredients

Patties:
1 1/4 cup dried chickpeas, soaked overnight
3 cloves garlic, grated
1 knob fresh turmeric, grated (about 2 Tbsp)
2 small red onions, diced
1 jalapeno, diced
1 bunch fresh parsley, chopped
1 bunch fresh cilantro, chopped
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp salt
1 tsp freshly cracked black pepper
juice from 1/2 lime
1/4 cup chickpea flour + more if needed
Olive oil for cooking

Tahini garlic sauce:
3 Tbsp tahini
1 clove garlic, grated
juice from 2 limes
2-3 Tbsp water, depending on how thick you want the sauce
freshly cracked pepper

Directions
1.  Cook the drained chickpeas until almost done.  You don't want them to be mushy when you smash them between your fingers.  I did mine in a crock pot for 4 hours (instead of 7).
2.  Drain but reserve some of the cooking water just in case.  Pulse the chickpeas in a food processor. Don't puree them, but make sure none are still whole.
3.  Add all the rest of the patty ingredients except the oil and stir well.  If the mixture is too dry, add some of the chickpea cooking water.  If the mixture is too we, add some more chickpea flour.  You want the mixture to hold together if you make a ball with your hands.
4.  Make the sauce by stirring everything together.  You don't want it to be too watery, so add the water 1 Tbsp at a time until it gets to the saucy thickness you desire.
5.  Make and shape the patties.  I used a burger press.  I placed some parchment paper into the bottom of the press, then scooped in the mixture, pressed, removed, and repeat.
6.  Heat some olive oil in a flat skillet or frying pan.  Carefully place each patty down and cook on medium-high heat for 3-4 minutes on each side. 
7.  Place onto a toasted burger bun with the sauce and whatever fixins you desire!

I had red onion, tomatoes, avocado, and lettuce.

This was the most satisfying veg burger I've had so far!  That Tahini garlic sauce is its perfect match.  Do not consider skipping it.
I've been requested to make it again for a crowd.. which obviously means it's a big hit!

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Sunday, November 12, 2017

5-Ingredient Salted Peanut Butter Cookies

I have my go-to peanut butter cookie recipe that I make interchangeably with tahini depending on what I have on hand.  I think everyone has their classic recipe that they are happy with.  The thing is.. sometimes, another one just jumps at you and begs you to be tried.
This is what happened with this one.  It seemed too good to be true, but too intriguing not to try.  I've never done a flourless cookie before.  Nor a butterless.  Come on.. we're not on a diet here!
But this cookie is not a diet cookie.  It is just peanut butter greatness in its perfect form.
It is the way peanut butter cookies were meant to be made.

Yield 33 Tbsp sized cookies
Ingredients:
240g (8.5oz) cassonade or light brown sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 packet vanilla sugar or 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
450g (1 lb or 1 3/4 cups) natural smooth peanut butter
fleur de sel to finish
Directions:
1.  Beat the eggs, then beat the sugar into the eggs.  Go for it.  Beat it good.
2.  Add the vanilla, then peanut butter.  Mix very well, then put in the fridge to chill for 15 minutes or while the oven heats.
3.  Preheat the oven to 180°C (356°F).
4.  Line a baking tray with a cookie sheet.  Mine was silicone.  Scoop Tbsp sized balls onto the sheet.  Sprinkle with fleur de sel, and bake for 18-20 minutes.
5.  Remove and wait for 2 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack.
6.  Very important.  Let cool completely before eating.
These cookies are crunchy on the outside and in the center, depending on the cooking time, you get a nice melty chewy center.
Plus, they are beautifully domed and oh so sexy!

I made a few changes to the recipe from SK.  She uses 335g of sugar and that was just not thinkable, so I reduced to 240g.  They are still sweeter than I prefer, so next time I will go for 200g and they will be perfect.  
She also uses Skippy processed peanut butter with sugar explaining that the processed stuff gives the best results.  I used Dakatine peanut butter without sugar.  The ingredients are 97% peanuts, emulsifier, and salt.
She also chills the dough in the freezer before scooping and after scooping, explaining that it helps the cookies keep their dome shape.  I did not do this because of freezer space, but keeping the dough in the fridge between batches gave me the perfect domes I wanted.
I snuck a few pieces of broken dark chocolate into a few of the cookies to surprise myself later on.. teehee!!

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Saturday, August 26, 2017

Where to use Pesto

If you can't answer that, just rub it all over yourself and have someone lick it off you..

Pesto is Summer
Pesto is Love
Pesto is Indulgence

Pesto is a handful of basil, a few garlic cloves, a handful of pine nuts (or walnuts, or almonds or cashews), a handful of grated parmesan, some freshly cracked pepper, and a good blend with some extra special olive oil.

It is the salsa of the Goddess

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Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Methi & Chard Gotas with Kadhi

I was finally able to recreate one of my favorite Gujarati recipes after growing my own fenugreek leaves from seeds.
They are actually quite easy to grow, very low maintenance, and quick yield.  They'll grow indoors if it's cold in the winter and replenish the outside soil with nitrogen, so it's nice to grow them in several places one after the other to prepare the soil for something more needy afterwards.
I got garden side-tracked.
I've had these growing up, had them in India, and most recently had them in New Jersey every day for breakfast...which I really looked forward to each morning.
Instead of making me tired of it, it actually sparked my desire to make them myself.
Of course, sourcing the methi (fresh fenugreek leaves) is the hardest part.  You can't just go to the store and buy a "bunch" of methi like you would buy a bunch of cilantro or parsley.  Even cilantro is not always guaranteed here (I just grow that too).
My methi leaves are still a bit too small, but I felt I needed to make this right away because I wanted them RIGHT NOW.
So, I added some finely chopped swiss chard greens (also from the garden).  I have a different thinner Kadhi recipe here as well.  This Kadhi is thick like a dipping sauce.
Serves 2 as a meal, 4 as an appetizer
Ingredients

For Gotas:
1/2 cups packed methi leaves, finely chopped
1/4 cup packed chard leaves, finely chopped
1 green chile, coarsely chopped (add more if you like it extra spicy)
1/2 inch ginger, grated
1 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp garam masala
pinch hing (asafoetida)
juice from 1/2 lime
1/4 tsp salt or to taste
1 1/2 cups besan (chickpea flour)
3/4 cups water
1/4 tsp baking soda
Vegetable oil for frying

For Thick Kadhi:
1 1/2 cups buttermilk (half yogurt, half milk)
1 cup water
1/4 cup besan (chickpea flour)
pinch turmeric
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
pinch hing (asafoetida)
1 slit green chile
1 sprig curry leaves
pinch of salt
cilantro to garnish
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
Directions

For Gotas:
1.  Mix all the ingredients together gently until it forms a thick mixture.  It shouldn't be liquidy, but shouldn't be dry either.  You should be able to spoon it and have it slowly drip off.
2.  Heat the oil.  You dont need a deep fryer but you need a deep enough layer so the gotis can be submerged.
3.  Carefully spoon 1 heaping tsp of mixture into the oil at a time, frying until it turns golden, then removing with a slotted spoon onto a paper towel.

For Kadhi:
1.  Heat the oil in a wok or tadka or deep sautée pan.
2.  Add the seeds and cook until they crackle, then add the turmeric and hing.  They should fizz.
3.  Add the slit chile and curry leaves and fry for about 1 minute.
4.  Add the besan and buttermilk and cook, whisking until it thickens.  The buttermilk might separate but it's ok.
5.  Add water until the mixture reaches desired thickness.  Add salt to taste and garnish with cilantro.

For eating:
Either pour the kadhi all over the gotas and eat them one by one on your own plate...
or
keep it communal and use the kadhi as a dip..
Either way, enjoy and wish you had made more..

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Friday, August 4, 2017

Ahi and Avocado Poke Bowl on Arugula


My first memory of eating Poke was on the beach in Hawaii.. bought at the market and separated into plastic cups for the family.
I had never eaten anything as intriguing and it wasn't a big thing.
Then I had it several times at Roy's, a Hawaiian restaurant, and finally, a homemade version from my Father.
Since then, no poke for me.
Also since then, it seems like Poke has become the new fresh fast food.  There are little poke shops EVERYWHERE!
When you only come back to the US every couple of years, these types of changes really stand out.  It went from "what is poke and how to you pronounce it?" to "omg you don't know what poke is?"
Although it's trendy and delicious, which is a rare combination, I do hope that the fishing regulations will take notice of the diminishing tuna populations in the ocean.  These babies need a break to be able to reproduce in sufficient quantities.
Everyone loves to be able to eat it now but it would be even nicer to be able to eat it in the future.
With that said, when it is available and not too expensive, I'm guilty of indulging on that rare occasion.  When I do, this is how I prepare it:
Serves 4
Ingredients
900g (2lbs) fresh Ahi Tuna, cut into cubes
2 small avocados, cubed
1/2 firm cucumber, diced
1 very ripe tomato, diced
1 jalapeno, diced 
2 tsp dried seaweed, rehydrated (use hijiki or wakame)
1 handful chopped cilantro
1 handful chopped chives
1 green onion, chopped
as much arugula as you want as a bed
some black and white sesame seeds for garnish
Vinaigrette:
2 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp grated ginger
1 Tbsp sesame oïl
1 Tbsp rice vinegar
freshly cracked black pepper
1/2 tsp white sesame seeds
1/2 tsp black sesame seeds
Directions 
1.  Whisk the vinaigrette ingredients together.
2.  Toss with all the rest.
3.  Serve over a bed of arugula
4.  Ask yourself if you are worthy of eating such a heavenly thing

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Wednesday, August 2, 2017

From Yard to Table

Can you feel the joy in my heart?
Sometimes the most simple meals are the ones you create while you're daydreaming and are back to real life once you look at your plate.
Sourcing every single thing on this plate from my yard or the neighbor's yard makes for such a gratifying meal.
We have:
Fresh eggs, zucchini, heirloom tomatoes, chives, and cilantro.
The drizzle of olive oil is not from my yard, but brought to me by my brother:  Queen Creek Olive Mill in Arizona.. Mexican Lime Olive Oil.
For this moment.. I could ask for nothing better..

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Monday, July 10, 2017

Fish Tacos on Homemade Tortillas

Fish Tacos.
This made up 75% of my intake in college.  I could eat them everyday and not get sick of them.  I craved them when I was too sick to eat them and will seek out every single fish taco joint in California just to get a sneak peak of the chef's heart.
There are no words...
This being my favorite food for such a large part of my life, the only 2 reasons I had not made them before this year are:
1.  Before living here, I had easy access to them, so never a need to make them
2.  After living here, I had NO access to valid corn tortillas, or masa harina.
  What has changed?
I thought of buying masa on one of my trips back home and decided to try to make tortillas myself.
Major Breakthrough of the Year here!
So, making corn tortillas is actually not so difficult.  You just need to know the ziplock trick.  It's probably even easier with a tortilla press, but hey, it's not a requirement.

Yield 20 6 inch corn tortillas
Ingredients
2 cups masa harina (do not sub corn flour)
1 1/2 cups warm water
1/2 tsp kosher salt
Directions
1.  Mix everything together into a warm ball.
2.  Let rest for 30 minutes, covered with a kitchen towel.  During this time, the masa will absorb more moisture.
3.  Divide the mixture into 20 balls.. or wing it and make small balls that fit into the palm of your hand (I have small hands)
4.  Cut a large ziplock bag so you can open it like a magazine.  Place each ball in between the plastic and press into a tortilla.  Use a rolling pin to help, pressing from the inside toward the outside.
5.  Cook on a flat slightly oiled surface, flipping once.  I don't quite know about the cooking time.. just don't burn them or they will break when you use them as a vessel for your fish tacos.
6.  Place them in a tortilla warmer until ready to use.  If you don't have one, keep them wrapped in a clean kitchen towel.

Sooo easy!
I'll get to my fish taco recipe soon.. with that spicy Chipotle sauce and Guacamole.. mmMMmmMmm!!

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