Monday, April 27, 2009

Spinach Lentil Salad

2 c. green or brown lentils, soaked for a few hours
1 clove garlic, coarsely chopped
2 tomatoes, chopped
2 tb. capers
3 c. raw spinach
1 Tb. chopped scallion or red onion
Olive oil
Salt and Pepper
cilantro garnish (optional)
asiago or parmesan cheese to crumble on top

Cook lentils in water (about 1" above lentils in pot), add a few dashes salt and the garlic. Cook lentils approx 25 mins until tender. Drain. While lentils are cooking, wash spinach and cook in microwave with a dash of salt until wilted (about 2 mins). After lentils have finished cooking, combine them with the tomatoes, capers, spinach, scallion in a large mixing bowl. Add a few glugs of olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. When serving, grate or crumble cheese over the top. I used asiago, but parmesan would be delicious too.

I try to incorporate lots of lentils and beans into my diet since I don't eat meat. This salad was quick to prepare (as long as you soak the lentils ahead of time) and tasty. It serves 2 as a main dish or 4 as a side dish.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Oven Roasted Cauliflower Curry

1 head cauliflower, cut into florets
olive oil (a few glugs)
1/2 tsp. cumin seeds
1/2 tsp. coarse sea salt
1/4 tsp. hot chili powder
1/4 tsp. curry powder

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place cauliflower florets in a 9x13 baking dish. Pour a few glugs of olive oil (a few tablespoons) over the cauliflower and toss to coat evenly. Sprinkle cumin seeds, sea salt, chili powder, and curry powder over cauliflower and toss again to coat cauliflower with spices. Roast at 400 degrees for approximately 40 mins, stirring once to prevent burning. The vegetables will start to stick to the bottom of the pan at some point (unless you use a whole bottle of olive oil!). Although it might not look very pretty, it will taste amazing!

I bought a jar of bell pepper and herb sea salt, and I've been using it on all of my roasted veggies in place of coarse sea salt. If you can find it, herb sea salt adds a lot of flavor. You can also add potato (cubed) and onion (cut into strips). I love any roasted vegetables, but cauliflower is definitely my favorite. I could eat this every day and never get tired of it. I am looking forward to roasting spring vegetables and posting a recipe, but it's still to cold in Wisconsin. The asparagus hasn't even made an appearance yet! Maybe next month...

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Tangy Lemon Bars

Tangy Lemon Bars
1 c. butter, softened
3/4 c. white sugar
2 c. flour
1 (10 oz) jar lemon curd
1/2 c. shredded coconut

Preheat oven to 375. Cream butter, sugar, and flour until mixture is crumbly. Press 2/3 of mixture into bottom of 9x13" baking pan. Bake for 10 mins. Remove bars and reduce oven temperature to 350. Once bars are cool, spread lemon curd over bars. Mix coconut with remaining 1/3 of crumbs and then sprinkle mixture to cover lemon curd. Bake another 25 mins at 350 degrees until top crust begins to turn golden. Allow bars to cool before cutting into pieces.

These lemon bars are a bit tangier than traditional lemon bars. That's why I love this recipe. Warning: they are addicting. My husband ate two bars last night and was practically begging for a third! I hate to admit it but I ate one for breakfast this morning. Yum!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Decadent Chocolate Truffles

Decadent Chocolate Truffles
4 oz bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
4 oz semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
3/4 c. heavy whipping cream
2 Tb. unsalted butter

First, decide how many types of truffles you'd like to make. I made three types: coffee, raspberry, and chocolate flavors. (See below for other suggestions) Divide your chocolate evenly between the bowls (I used three separate bowls). In a small saucepan, bring the cream and butter to a boil. Remove the boiling mixture and pour evenly over your bowls of chocolate (one third of the mixture into each bowl). Stir chocolate and cream until smooth and melted. Add the flavoring to each bowl. I added 1 Tb. raspberry jam to the first bowl, 1 tsp. instant coffee to the second, and I left the third bowl alone. Now place the bowls in the refrigerator for 1-2 hours or until chocolate is firm.

Here comes the fun and beautiful part. You are going to form your truffles into small, bite-sized balls and then roll them in a coating. I think the best options are cocoa powder, crushed nuts, and coconut flakes. Set up your countertop with each "coating" in a separate small bowl. Remove the chocolate from the refrigerator. Using a spoon or melon scoop, form the chocolate into small balls and roll each ball in the desired coating. Arrange on a tray and refrigerate again another 30 minutes or more. Serve chilled.

Other suggestions for ganache flavors include orange (add 1 Tb. orange zest), peanut butter (2 Tb.), or grand marnier. Get creative and add whatever you'd like. I've tried truffles with cheese, olive oil, wasabi, sea salt, cardamom, and the list goes on!

I rated it 4 stars because my family and I loved them, but I don't have any experience making truffles. They were very, very rich which can be good or bad depending on your taste. My 5 star standard in chocolate is anything from Vosges Haut Chocolate in NYC. If I can ever make something that tastes as good as Vosges, I'll give it 5 stars!

Makes 20-25 truffles.

Amma's Mango Pickle

south indian mango pickle home made with curd/yogurt rice
1 unripe (green) mango, peeled and diced
2 tsp. oil ( olive oil or sesame oil)
1/4 tsp. black mustard seeds
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. chili powder (the spicy variety, not American chili powder)
pinch turmeric
pinch asafoetida (optional-I skip this step)

Heat sesame oil on medium-high heat in frying pan. When oil is hot, add mustard seeds and fry until seeds start to pop and splutter. Reduce heat to med-low. Add in salt, chili powder, turmeric, and asafoetida. Stir in mango and sautee for 5 mins. If mango starts to brown or stick to pan, you can add a few tablespoons of water and stir more frequently.

From my mother-in-law's kitchen in India, this is a fresh version of the traditional Indian canned pickle, a spicy condiment. Fresh pickle is best eaten as a side dish with "curd rice" (rice, plain yogurt, and salt mixed) and you can vary the chili powder according to your spice tolerance. I don't like the "mouth on fire" feeling, so I went easy on the chili powder. While the mango should be "green", not ripe yet, I think it would also taste good with a ripe mango. My husband is South Indian and said "yuck" to that idea. Maybe I'll be making ripe mango pickle for ONE next week!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Onion Chutney

Onion Chutney
1 large onion (I prefer red)
1 green chili
1/2 tsp salt
1 Tb. oil
1 tsp. mustard seeds
1 tsp. urad or channa dal (optional)
1 Tb. dry tamarind
1 tsp. brown sugar

Coarsely chop the onion. In a frying pan heat oil to medium-hi heat. Add mustard seeds, urad/channa dal, and green chili. Fry until dal turns light brown and mustard seeds start to pop. Add onion and salt, cook until onion becomes translucent and the raw onion smell is gone.

Add onion mixture into a blender or food processor, and add tamarind and brown sugar. Puree and serve with delicious Indian dishes like dosa or uttapam. Be sure to have gum and breath mints handy if you're going to indulge in onion chutney!!

Lightning Fast Flatbread

I was planning a dinner of pita, hummus, and veggie sandwiches. Before I knew it we were all famished and it was 7pm. I hadn't even started cooking. So much for the fresh-baked pita plan. I came up with this recipe as a quick flatbread alternative. It only took me 15 mins and was actually a bigger hit than my fluffy (wait till it rises) pita bread!

1 1/2 c. white flour
1/2 c. warm water
1/2 tsp. salt

Mix ingredients in a bowl, dough should be a little on the sticky side. Add flour until you can knead the dough and it doesn't continuously stick to your hands. Knead for 5 mins, then divide the dough into 6 equal parts. On a well floured surface, roll out each dough ball into a 6" flat circle. Dust off the excess flour. Lightly oil a frying pan and heat on med-high. Roast each circle of dough in the frying pan for 60-90 seconds on each side. Flip when dough becomes bubbly and puffy, remove from heat when flatbread is starting to brown. Brush with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt (optional).

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Amma's Lemon Rice

1 c. cooked basmati rice
1 T. lemon juice (fresh squeezed)
2 tsp. sesame oil
1 T. channa dal
1 green chili (diced)
pinch mustard seeds
pinch asafoetida
pinch turmeric powder
5-10 curry leaves
salt to taste

In skillet heat oil over med-high heat. Add mustard seeds. When they splutter (pop) add channa dal and roast until dal turns red. Stir in green chili and curry leaves and immediately turn stove off. Add in turmeric powder and asafoetida. Combine with cooked rice and stir in lemon juice. Additional sesame oil can be added for flavor. Salt to taste.

Lemon rice is one of my favorite dishes made by my mother-in-law. The fresh flavor is amazing. Often served as a light main dish, pairs well with crunchy potato chips or papad.

Rating: Not rated yet

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Jane's Olive Dip

2 packages cream cheese (8 oz each)
1 can black olives
1 1/2 c. green olives plus 1 Tb. olive juice
1 Tb. minced garlic

Whip the cream cheese with a mixer. Add in finely chopped black and green olives and the olive juice. Mix in minced garlic and serve chilled with crackers.

My step-mom always has delicious food in the house, ready to serve on a moment's notice. I stopped over for an impromptu visit, and she whipped up this appetizer in five minutes. We tried it with wheat crackers, triscuits, and tortilla chips. Triscuits were my fave. Yum.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Rustic French Baguette

I have always equated good homemade bread with impossibility. My mom had a bread machine when I was a kid, and maybe I just got the impression that you have to be a goddess in the kitchen to make a good loaf of bread by hand. Since I recently had success with sushi (what, you can make that at home???), I decided to break the bread barrier! I baked a French baguette. And I liked it. And my husband and I ate it all in one sitting. Mmmm. It didn't turn out exactly as I had hoped, but the texture was soft and fluffy, and the flavors were surprisingly complex for a simple bread recipe. I'm already thinking about sourdough next!

The recipe I used is a fusion of two recipes I found that looked relatively simple. Here it is:
Rustic French Baguette
1 tsp yeast
1 c. warm water
1 tsp salt
2 c. white flour
1/2 c. wheat flour
1 egg, beaten

Dissolve yeast in warm water. Set in warm, draft free place (I put it in the sun on the countertop) and allow to dissolve for 10 mins. You should notice a few bubbles on the surface of the water. In a large bowl, mix the yeast water and the salt. Slowly stir in the wheat flour, then 1 c. of the white flour. Turn dough onto well floured surface and begin to knead, adding flour until the dough is slightly sticky but doesn't cling to your hands (I ended up using 1 c. flour). When the dough is the right consistency, knead an additional 8-10 mins. Oil a glass or ceramic bowl and place the dough ball in the center. Make sure the dough is also coated with oil so it doesn't stick to the bowl. Cover with cloth and allow dough to rise in a warm, draft-free place approximately 1 hour, or until dough doubles in size (I waited 1.5 or 2 hours). Punch down dough and divide in two equal parts. Form each lump of dough into a long baguette shape, and place on a baking sheet (preferably a baking stone).

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Cover baguette dough with cloth and allow to rise another 20 mins on the baking sheet. Brush with beaten egg (this will give a brown, crunchy crust).

Baguettes need moisture to bake in the oven, so I recommend taking a metal 13x9 pan (glass may break) and filling with 1" water. Now place the water pan in the bottom rack of the oven, and put the baking sheet with baguettes on the middle rack. Bake for 20-25mins until the crust is golden brown.

My baguettes were golden and crispy when I removed them from the oven, but an hour later they had softened considerably. Now the crust is soft and golden but still tasty. One recipe suggested removing the baking dish with water after 15 mins. Maybe I'll try that next time, or I'll just bake the bread a little longer. I was hoping to make bruschetta with the baguettes, but discovered that these are better for sandwiches, soups, or just to be eaten warm with butter and honey. Mmmmmm.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Joni's Tomato Vegetable Casserole

1 medium potato, peeled and cut into 1/2" pieces
1 yam, peeled, cut into 1/2" pieces
1 red bell pepper, cut into 1/2" pieces
2 carrots, peeled, cut into 1/2" pieces
5 Tb. olive oil
1 red onion, sliced into thin rings
1 large zucchini, cut into 1/4" pieces
salt and pepper
2 large ripe tomatoes, cut into 1/4" thick slices
1/2 c. grated Parmesan cheese
2 Tb. dried Italian-style bread crumbs
Fresh basil for garnish

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Toss potato, yam, bell pepper, carrots and 2 Tb. olive oil into 13x9 baking dish. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, toss until coated. Spread vegetables evenly in the pan.

Arrange onion slices evenly over the vegetables. Arrange zucchini over the onion and drizzle with 2 Tb. oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, then arrange tomato slices on top.

In a small bowl, mix the Parmesan and bread crumbs. Sprinkle over the vegetable mix in the baking dish. Drizzle with another Tb. of olive oil.

Bake uncovered until the vegetables are tender and the topping is golden brown, about 40 minutes. Garnish with fresh basil springs.

My aunt Joni shared this recipe with me. I haven't tried the recipe yet, but I love roasted vegetables, so this should be a big hit!

Swedish Cardamom Cookies

2 sticks (1/2 lb) butter
1 c. sugar
1 Tb. karo syrup (I substituted 1 Tb. agave nectar)
1 egg yolk
2 tsp. cinnamon
2 tsp. cardamom (fresh or powdered)
2 c. flour
1 tsp. baking powder

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar. Mix in syrup and egg yolk. In a separate bowl, mix the flour, cinnamon, cardamom. Combine with wet ingredients. Roll into 1 inch balls, place on cookie sheet and flatten with fork. Bake for 10-12 mins. Makes 4 doz cookies.

Using fresh cardamom gives these cookies a little punch. I peeled the cardamom pods open and crushed the seeds instead of using the powdered cardamom spice. These cookies are quite rich, so the smaller the better. Enjoy with a hot cup of tea.

Carrot Cake

4 eggs
1 1/4 c. vegetable oil
1 3/4 c. sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 c. flour
2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 Tb. ground cinnamon
3 c. grated carrots
1 c. chopped pecans

Cream Cheese Frosting (optional)
1/2 c. butter, softened
8 oz cream cheese, softened
3 c. powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla

Preheat over to 350 degrees. Grease and flour 9x13 inch pan.

In a bowl beat eggs, oil, sugar and vanilla. In a separate bowl combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. Stir dry ingredients into wet ingredients and then stir in carrots and pecans. Pour into pan. Bake for 40-50 mins, until knife inserted in center of cake comes out clean. Allow to cool.

Frosting: In a medium bowl, combine butter, cream cheese, powdered sugar, and vanilla. Beat until mixture is smooth. Frost cake once it is cooled.

This carrot cake is rich and moist. I like the carrot cake lightly frosted, but my husband raves about the cake without frosting. Either way, its addicting!