Archive for ‘Spices’

October 3, 2011

Local Foods Week | Curried Pumpkin

Local pumpkins are now prolific at farmer’s markets and my Whole Foods.  They are tasty, vitamin-packed treasures that are as versatile as you care to make them.  Add in some of the last of my backyard chilies and yellow cherry tomatoes, and you’ve got a dish that’s downright good for you.

Tonight I yearned for some Indian food and so I spiced up a leftover half of roasted pumpkin to accompany the fish I baked.  With the new addition of mustard oil to my pantry and now this dish, I even felt like I might be breaking some sort of law.  And after dinner there was a very distinctive warmth (not spicy heat) in my mouth that couldn’t be attributed to anything but that mustard oil.  Who says cooking is boring?

Curried Pumpkin, serves two hungry people, originally inspired by a dish by Aktar Islam of Lasan

2 t mustard oil (or grapeseed oil, or other oil with a fairly high smoking point)

1 t whole fennel seeds

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October 2, 2011

Local Foods Week | Brining Two Kinds of Pork

I haven’t made a whole lot of pork lately.  I’ve been swooning over spice-rubbed chicken, braising all manner of cuts beef, and grilling plenty of fish.  I think pork needs its due.  I am a big fan, particularly of bacon and pork belly.  It must be the fat.  But what about the old standby favorites?  I think I’ve been shying away from cuts like pork chops and fresh hams simply because, at first blush, seem kind of mundane.

Enter brining.  A great primer, including a simple ratio, from Cooks Illustrated can be found here.  But in a nutshell, this technique of soaking in a salt, sugar and spice “stock,” really livens up the flavor of the more lean cuts of pork and bumps up the much needed moisture.  It doesn’t require any silly flavor injectors and it’s foolproof.   Adjust the flavors and seasonings as you wish and you’ll have a dinner either as familiar or exotic as you want it to be.  Add in some locally and thoughtfully raised pork, mine was from Curly Tail Organic Farm, and the noble pig doesn’t get much better than this.

Basic Brine, make 1 quart per pound of meat

1 qt water

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August 28, 2011

A Nomad’s Meal | Kicked Up Hatch Chili

It’s a short season.  They’re only really available at the tail end of August.  And I can see why people are obsessedFestivals and cooking competitions span New Mexico and beyond as fans of Hatch’s heat put them in everything from quesadillas to key lime pie.

Hatch chiles are meaty, flavorful green chiles with a skin that slips off easily after a deep roast over my stove’s gas burner cranked to high, and a quick steam in a bowl covered with cling film.  They freeze wonderfully well if you take care to roast them and remove the skins before you freeze them.  One word of warning: they get hotter the longer you freeze them.

I bought a pound of chiles and roasted some for a batch of chili.  After roasting and removing the skin and seeds, I pureed them with a few rehydrated dried chiles for some smoky depth.  I ended up with quite a nomad’s version of chili.

There are several tricks to great chili, the first being you should probably work to develop your own house style.  Start with a recipe that you love.  Use better than average meat: thinly sliced sirloin, cut into short ribbons works worlds away better than basic ground round.  Deeply browned meat and softened onions provide a good flavor base for the chiles and spices.  You are by no means stuck with beef: lamb and buffalo are great options as well.

Use a combination of chiles for the best flavor.  Today I soaked pasilla, ancho and chipotle chiles and blended these with the fresh roasted hatch and a little water for my own chile paste.  Extra paste freezes really well in ice cube trays.

In terms of spicing, think beyond chile powder and cumin to possibly include black cardamom pod (adds a great note of smokiness), a bit of paprika, tiny amounts of cinnamon and cloves, a sprinkling of ground coffee, a drizzle of molasses, apple cider or rice vinegar for balance.  Adding these seemingly exotic spices only deepens the complexities of the chili.  Chili is really not far off from a curry  — its just a matter of how you look at it.

Add in some local beer along with the water depending on where you live: Shiner Bock if you’re in Texas; a bottle of Columbus Brewing Company Pale Ale if you’re in Ohio.  If you choose to add beans, think of perhaps adding a dried bean mix.  Today I used Goya’s 16 bean mix.

By all means let this concoction simmer for several hours, covered to keep in the moisture.  This is a dish that develops over the day.  Keep your spices and seasonings handy as an hour into the cooking will taste much different than three hours into it.  Take your time and trust your palate.  Adjust, adjust, adjust.

Just before serving, you can add in a tablespoon or two of masa harina to thicken and add a bit more flavor.  Serve over rice, if you like.  I believe a Basmati for extra fragrance and interest does wonders.  But remember, there are no rules when you’re making the house recipe.

Playlist included Someday by Ceremony.

August 23, 2011

A Quick Pickle | Szechuan and Dill

These are my first pickles.

I thank sites like Hounds in the Kitchen and Food in Jars for giving me the nudge in the direction of preserving and pickling.

What is it about these methods that seem so daunting?  Perhaps it is that you hear stories of the six thousand pints that your grandmother used to make at one sitting. (Who has time?)  Perhaps it’s the old stories that it won’t keep as well as you hope.  Fear mongers.  Truly folks, don’t listen.  You can put up just a few pints at a time, in two hours or less.

And the satisfaction of a pickle from a cucumber you grew or just picked up at a farmers’ market is like nothing else.

I made up my own pickling spice, because I think things can be a bit boring if you go the conventional route.  I like a bit of extra spice.  I also kicked in some fresh ginger in some and a massive quantity of garlic as well.  They turned out crispy and salty and kind of awesome.

PK Szechuan Dill Pickling Spice

1 t caraway seeds

1 T corriander seeds

1 t cumin seeds

1 t celery seeds

5 cloves

10 juniper berries

8 green cardamom pods

1 T black peppercorns

1 T Szechuan peppercorns

2 T dill seed

Lightly crush all larger spices, especially the cardamom pods and juniper berries.  Use in quantities as your pickle recipe advises.

Playlist included My Heart Skips a Beat by The Secret Sisters.

 

July 21, 2011

Roots | Tex-Mex Enchilada Gravy

It almost pains me to give up this recipe.  Almost.

But I think everyone should try hyper-local specialties: Texas style enchiladas with chili gravy; Taylor ham, egg and cheese; mirabelles.  It’s a taste of place.  It should be a bite that makes you say, “Yes, this is what it tastes like in San Antonio.”  “This is what it tastes like in northern New Jersey.”  “This is what it tastes like in Nancy.”  It’s one way of understanding the world in a deeper way.

This recipe harkens from my father’s mother, passed to my mother, passed to me, passed to Cherub.  (She still likes my Mom’s better than mine.  But she’s not wrong.)  To me, this chili gravy that smothers corn tortillas that cuddle spoonfuls of ground beef, chopped onion and cheeses tastes not only of San Antonio, but of childhood and tradition and family.  And love.  Lots of love.

Enchilada Gravy, makes enough for approximately 48 enchiladas

1/2 c flour

1/2 c vegetable oil (or lard)

1/2 c chili powder (what your powder tastes like will be the dominant flavor of the sauce, taste for sweetness, heat, etc.)

2 heaping T ground cumin

3 or 4 garlic cloves, finely minced

Salt to taste

2 bouillon cubes dissolved in 6 to 8 c very warm water

In a large pan (ideally a cast iron skillet) over medium heat, warm the oil or lard and brown the flour lightly.  Remove from heat.  Add the chili powder, cumin, garlic and salt.  Return to medium heat with enough water to make a gravy.  Simmer for twenty minutes.

{To assemble enchiladas, warm corn tortillas in oil, then roll, filling with any combination of grated cheese, diced white onion and ground beef.  Place in a baking pan in in close rows that had a ladleful of gravy covering the bottom.  Ladle more gravy over the tops of the enchiladas, sprinkle with cheese or whatever fillings you’ve chosen.  Cover with foil.  Bake at 350 for approximately 30 to 40 minutes.}

Playlist included Blisters May Come, by Centro-Matic.

February 21, 2011

Persephone’s Deli| Devi’s Curried Chicken on Homemade Naan

Sometimes it’s nice to have a sandwich for dinner.  There’s a feeling of simplicity to it.  There’s an even greater feeling of ease to if, if you’re using leftovers to start.  I had some of the white ginger chicken leftover that was already deliciously flavored. Why not work that into an Indian spiced chicken salad, make a few fries and call it a night?

I made homemade naan and fries, but you certainly don’t have to if you don’t feel you have the time (because secretly you do, it’s just how you choose to spend your time).  If you’re starting out at cooking, just make the chicken salad, buy the naan and spice some frozen fries with turmeric and sesame seeds and cashews.

Curried Chicken Salad on Naan Bread

1/2 onion, thinly sliced

3 T butter

Meat from 1/2 of a 3 to 4 pound whole chicken, picked, and chopped

2 t curry powder

1 stalk celery, finely diced

1/3 c currants or raisins

1/2 c mayonnaise or Greek yogurt

Salt and pepper to taste

In a small pan, add the butter and onion and season with a bit of salt and a few twists of pepper.  Cook over medium low heat until very soft and caramel brown.  Drain onions from the butter, keeping both separate.  In a bowl, combine chicken through mayo or yogurt and season with salt and pepper to taste.  Chill.

Make naan

9 oz self rising flour

2 t sugar

1/2 t salt

3 1/2 oz milk

2 T vegetable oil

Sesame seeds or nigella seeds

Combine all and knead for 10 minutes (a mixer with a dough hook works wonders here).  Let rest for 15.  Divide dough and shape into six small tear drop shaped pancakes.  Sprinkle and press a few seeds into each.  Bake on a preheated cookie sheet at 450 degrees for three to four minutes or until golden and bubbly.  Brush with the onion butter.  If using store bought naan, warm the naan then brush with the butter.  I think this is what makes the sandwich great, don’t skip this step.

Assemble the sandwiches and top each with some chopped cilantro or parsley (if you hate cilantro, and I know you haters are out there).

Serve with Guajarati Potatoes or toss cooked store bought frozen fries with 1 T oil that has fried a bit of ground tumeric, chili powder some sesame seeds and a small handful of cashew nuts.

Playlist included Young Blood by The Naked and Famous.

February 11, 2011

Simple Suppers | Hainanese Chicken Rice

This is perhaps one of the simplest recipes I’ve ever posted.  It is one that requires almost no effort when it comes to dinner time.  One that everyone in my family loves.  One that requires only a few ingredients and some spices. (Have you been building your spice cabinet?)  It has taken over as my favorite way to utilize a fresh, locally-raised speckled hen from North Market Poultry and Game.  I will suggest that you get the freshest chicken you can lay your hands on.  Pay a little bit more for the chicken than you think is reasonable.  Trust me that it will make a difference in this dish.  Because chicken rice is about two things: chicken and rice.  They need to be good.

The ease of this recipe is that the chicken is poached and then allowed to cool in the stock over several hours.  It’s also sometimes called white chicken.  Essentially, you cook it for 30 minutes in the morning and then when it’s time for dinner, make a pot of rice and gather some soy, vinegar and spices for your condiments.  Dinner can be on the table in fifteen minutes and is a symphony of Singapore flavors.

Ingredients: Ginger, whole chicken, rice, soy sauce, a green onion, vinegar, a spicy chili, coarse salt, Szechuan peppercorns, fresh cilantro.  Optional lettuce.

For the chicken:

Take a whole chicken, 3 to 4 pounds, and remove the giblets.  In a deep stock pot fill with enough water that will cover the chicken.  Into the water

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