Category Archives: Fall

Julie Sahni’s Gosht Kari

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I’m not big on cookbooks.  I know, I know, it’s the same complaint we all have.  I love looking through them, and I daydream about having bookcases filled with cookbooks.  But those daydreams generally go like this: leisurely flipping through a couple of cookbooks while enjoying a late morning cup of coffee and Tartine croissant, and then casually spending the rest of the day shopping for and cooking whatever I picked out that morning,  then upon serving the meal to friends and loved ones, having it gushed over and praised to high heavens during a cozy family meal. Not exactly reality.

The reality is that when I check out a cookbook from the library or actually purchase one and bring it home, I rarely make it beyond flipping through the pages and reading the headnotes.  I’ve been known to make a list of the recipes that look good and copy down ingredient lists and instructions in shorthand out of library books, usually when the book is already 2 or 3 days past due and I’m feeling guilty about not cooking from the book in the last 3 weeks, let alone returning it on time.  Or when I’m feeling guilty about the books I’ve bought and never actually cooked from, I’ll bust out the little sticky flags and mark what looks good- but I usually don’t try more than one or two recipes, even if they’re great.

What’s the deal? I’ve decided I’m stuck in a vicious cycle, one that  most of us find ourselves in now and then: kitchen comfort.  We become content with the repertoire of meals we’ve amassed that not only fall within our resource constraints but that our family will readily eat.  We’re secure in the same list of the ingredients to add to the unwritten weekly shopping list, the ability to fall-back on old favorites on a Wednesday night when you walk in the door late and everybody’s hungry already.  Cooking becomes easy.  As the wife of a picky eater and a woman who refuses to eat most prepackaged and processed “foods,” I’ve struggled over the last few years to expand my List of Acceptable and Realistic Suppers.  Picking up a cookbook and flipping to a new recipe might entail ingredients I don’t already have in the cupboards or that we won’t eat, or flavors that we might not like.  I’ve become lethargic, and who wants to cook when the words “supper” and “boring” become synonyms?

So in this context of boredom and hesitance, thank goodness somebody mentioned Julie Sahni.  Seriously.  I’ve been hugely lacking in cooking inspiration and motivation, and this woman delivered exactly the swift kick in the you-know-what that I needed.  I picked up Classic Indian Cooking at the library last week and spent a few evenings flipping through the pages, trying to pick out a recipe or two to try over the weekend.  I wanted to stick with something fairly basic, which is always hard to discern from looking at ingredient lists for most Indian cooking – so many spices and aromatics!  The first one I picked was Gosht Kari, or meat curry, which boasts a relatively short list of ingredients, all things I knew I could easily get.  I made a quick trip for ground coriander and fresh cilantro, but otherwise had the rest of the ingredients already.

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The recipe starts with familiar actions: browning of beef, chopping of onions, mincing ginger and garlic.  “I can handle this,” I told myself, feeling a boost of confidence at the rhythms of the familiar.  As onions turned from white to pale to golden, I measured out fragrant spices.  As the dish started to come together, the smell was almost breathtaking.  These were smells that I’d never had coming from my own kitchen!  While the braise simmered on the stovetop, I peeled potatoes, sipped a glass of wine, soaked the rice.  Before I even tasted it, I knew it was going to be amazing.  The mix of confidence and novelty was coursing through me.  I was excited.  And better yet, I was salivating.  It smelled delicious.

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It also didn’t hurt that the meal was utterly fantastic.  Warm and hearty textures and a complex flavor profile.  I had to have more.  The next day, I flipped open the book again and settled on Mughalai Korma, or Moghual braised chicken, with saag to accompany (pictured above).  The mix of ginger, cardamom, cloves, and coriander in the chicken sounded intriguing and delicious.  Again the process felt comfortable, and again the smells from stovetop were phenomenal.  It goes without saying that all three dishes were great.  Honestly, the saag was my least favorite; I’m not a huge fan of cooked spinach, but the combo of cumin seed and garam masala was quite nice, and the potatoes were decadent.  In any case, two out of three keepers is hardly failure!  Both the chicken and the beef dishes will be made again in very soon order, and this book is going to be added to my bookshelf pronto… only this time, I don’t intend to ignore it.

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Julie Sahni’s Gosht Kari
very barely adapted from Classic Indian Cooking

Serves 6 as a main dish with rice, or 8 with side dishes

8 tablespoons ghee
3 pounds boneless beef or lamb, trimmed well and cut into 1-inch cubes
2-3 meaty beef or lamb bones (I used the bones I cut out of my roast along with an oxtail)
4 small onions or 2 large onions (about 4 cups chopped)
4 cloves garlic (about 4 teaspoons minced)
3-4 inches fresh ginger (about 3 tablespoons minced)
1 tablespoon ground cumin
2 tablespoons ground coriander
1 tablespoon turmeric
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes, or 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1-15 oz. can diced tomatoes, or 2 cups chopped fresh tomatoes
1 tablespoon Kosher salt
1 pound of potatoes, about 4 medium-sized
chopped cilantro for serving

Place a heavy-bottomed pot on medium-high heat with 4 tablespoons of ghee.  While the oil is heating, pat the meat cubes dry to help browning.  Once the oil is very hot, brown some of the meat cubes, being careful not to crowd the meat (this will cause steaming instead of browning).  Brown the meat in batches, removing browned meat to a plate with a slotted utensil.  Once the meat is browned, add the bones to the pot and lightly brown them as well, then place them on the plate with the meat.  While browning the meat, finely chop the onions.

Add the remaining 4 tablespoons of ghee to the pot and scrape the bottom to release the stuck on bits of meat.  Add the onions and brown them, stirring frequently to avoid burning and sticking.  While browning the onions, mince or grate the garlic and the ginger, and measure out the cumin, coriander, turmeric, and red pepper into small bowl.  Put a kettle with about 5 cups of water on to boil.

When the onions are a dark golden brown, add the garlic and ginger and fry for a minute, stirring almost constantly.  Add the spices and continue to fry and stir vigorously for about 30 seconds.  Return the browned meat and the bones to the pot, pouring in any juice that the meat had released onto the plate.  Also add the tomatoes, salt, and 4 cups of boiling water; stir to combine.  Bring to a boil; then cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 90 minutes, stirring occasionally

While the dish is simmering, peel the potatoes and cut into quarter (for medium potatoes), or approximately 2 x 3 inch pieces.  (If serving with rice and forgoing the resting time, this is also a good time to rinse/soak your rice.)  After 90 minutes, add the potatoes and stir; then recover and continue to simmer for 30 minutes, or until the potatoes and meat are both tender.  Julie says to let the dish rest for at least 30 minutes but preferably 2 hours; I was starving by the time it was ready and let it rest for a mere 15 minutes and it was fantastic as-is.  Before serving, remove the bones and check for salt, then reheat to a simmer.  Serve with rice and/or bread and chopped cilantro.  Leftovers are even better in the following days, though Julie suggests freezing if not eating within 3 days in the refrigerator.

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Filed under Clean Eating, Fall, Gluten-Free, Main dishes, Winter

concord grape jam

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I hate to be a copycat, but I have to ask: Have you ever had a concord grape?

Goodness gracious, these things are insane, not to mention beautiful.  These are the grapiest grapes you can imagine.  They cook into the most brilliant purple you can think of it.  And as you might expect, these are both very, very good attributes, particularly in the case of jam.

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I used to have a serious hang-up over grape.  Not grapes, but grape, the flavor.  I was one of those constantly sick kids, and in the 80s and 90s, sniffling or coughing meant one thing: Dimetapp.  That horribly fake grape-flavored concoction guaranteed to put your kids to sleep and dry up their nasal passages.  Dimetapp completely ruined my ability to enjoy purple Jolly Ranchers, Laffy Taffys, popsicles, and suckers.  I preferred to have no jelly if grape jelly was the only option.  Even purple Skittles had to be paired with reds in an attempt to mask the flavor.  Oh, the sacrifice.

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So when I saw Yossy’s grape jam recipe come through my reader, I admired the bright purple preserve, ooh’ed over the pretty pastry, impressed that somebody would take time to squish all those grapes.  But I wasn’t interested in grape jam, or grape pies.  I never expected to see concord grapes at my local farmer’s market, grown just outside of town by a grandmother who informed me very proudly that her husband still hand-picks all these grapes, every year.  Out of politeness, I took a smooth grape from her wrinkly hand and popped it in my mouth, not expecting much.  “Holy crap!”  I gasped once I got over the initial wave of grapiness, the balanced sweet and earthy and tart.  She practically giggled and said, “One or two baskets?”  “Better go with 3,” I said.  “I’m going to have to make some jam this weekend.”

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Concord Grape Jam
adapted from Yossy Arefi at Apt. 2B Baking Co.

Makes approximately 1.7 pints, or 3-1/2 half-pint jars

I had about 2.2 lbs. of grapes when I got home, so I split the difference between the 1lb and 4lbs recipe but used the “jam” methodology.  I also reduced the sugar a bit to allow the “zing!” of the grapes to shine.  Splitting the recipe in half gave me no problems at all, and I ended up with an unbelievably luscious, bright jam.  Definitely added to my annual jamming list.

2 lbs. concord grapes
1 lbs white sugar
juice from 1 lemon (about 1.5 oz.)
juice from 1/2 orange (about 0.75 oz.)

Wash and de-stem the grapes, and separate the grape flesh from the skins by squeezing or pinching out the flesh and seeds into a bowl; reserve the skins.  In a medium pot over medium-high, heat the grape innards until the seeds start to separate from the flesh.  This can take from 3 minutes to 10 minutes depending on the ripeness of your grapes, and it could take some gentle prodding or vigorous stirring, or somewhere in between.  Pour over a fine mesh sieve into a large, heavy, non-reactive pot (such as a dutch oven), stirring and pushing to separate as much of the flesh and juice from the seeds as you can. Discard the seeds.

To the newly separated grape flesh and juice, add the sugar, grape skins, and citrus juices.   Stir well and bring to a simmer; reduce heat and continue to simmer, stirring frequently, until the jam reaches your preferred thickness.  This should take 20-30 minutes of light simmering and frequent stirring.  I use the frozen plate test, but you can also boil until the jam reaches 220 F or use some other method of your choice.

Pour into jars and can using a hot-water bath for 10 minutes, or keep in the fridge or freezer.

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Filed under Condiments, etc., Desserts, Fall, Gluten-Free

almond fig cake

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On a Thursday a few weeks ago, I came home and took a few pictures of the changing leaves.  Then, I came inside and made a cake.

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Not just a cake; this cake.  Figs are either past their prime or almost past their prime, depending on where you are, but I was able to scoop some up for cheap at my food co-op that day.  Generally I prefer green figs for eating- they’re firmer and not as sticky sweet as their purple or black counterparts.   But a girl in Wisconsin can’t say no to cheap figs, regardless of color, and I was determined to make a mostly-almond gluten-free cake, like a cross between the one I’d seen on Joy The Baker and like the many almond meal cakes on Rachel Eats. {Pssst, this one’s my favorite.}

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This was not my first attempt at an almond fig cake, and the first one was maddening.  Too much liquid up front due to bad math resulted in me whisking in more and more tapioca starch and almond meal in vain.  The cake was good, but it took over an hour to bake and the figs were too heavy for the batter- they sank like stones.  Soggy figs cooked inside a cake are not very good, and I ended up picking around the fruit and just eating the cake.

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Then, that Thursday, I found this pin.  What!  The cake I was looking for… almost.  Of course I couldn’t resist tweaking.  With the lengthening sun filling my kitchen with crisp fall sunlight, I poured a Campari Shandy, pulled out my discount figs, and got to work.  The result is gluten-free, Paleo but for the 1/4 cup sugar, and absolutely perfect if you prefer your cakes dense and flavorful and without a wisp of frosting in sight.

Almond Fig Cake
One 9-inch cake
By David Tanis

4 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons honey
140 grams almond meal
35 grams potato, arrowroot, or tapioca starch (I used potato)
1/4 cup sugar, plus 2 tablespoons for sprinkling
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon cardamom
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 eggs
1/2 almond extract
8 to 14 ripe figs, depending on the size of your figs and how many you want (I used 9, but the original calls for 12-14)

Heat oven to 375 degrees.  Butter a 9-inch tart, pie, or cake pan. In a small saucepan, brown the butter over medium heat.   Once the butter is browned, remove from heat and whisk in the honey.  Set aside to cool for a few minutes.

Meanwhile, in a large mixing bowl, whisk together the almond meal, starch, baking powder, cardamom, and salt.  In the saucepan, whisk the eggs and almond extract into the butter and honey mixture; then pour into the dry mix and stir until just combined.  Pour batter into the buttered pan.

Carefully wash and dry figs.  Remove the stems and cut the figs in half.  Arrange fig halves cut-side-up over the top of the batter.  Sprinkle the top of the figs and batter with the reserved 2 tablespoons sugar, and bake for 30-35 minutes, until the top is golden and a cake tester comes out dry.  Cool before serving, if you can resist.

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Filed under Breads, Clean Eating, Desserts, Fall, Gluten-Free, Summer

bourbon cider

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I wish I could come up with something more creative and alluring for a title, but to be honest, I’m exhausted.  The sprint to the end of the summer has left me worn out.  The yard work, the garden explosion, the canning and fermenting, the end-of-summer weekend trips and errands, not to mention work?  I’m spent.  This drink that I cobbled together from a couple of places was just what I needed to accompany the knit-leggings-and-solo-bonfire party I held for myself tonight.  It hit my sweet tooth and warmed me up- just what I need for the beginning of fall.

DSC_3374Bourbon and Cider
Serves 1

2 oz. bourbon
4 oz. apple cider
1/2 tsp lemon juice
3-5 drops angostura bitters
small pinch of allspice
slightly larger pinch of cinnamon
2-3 oz. ginger beer

Shake together bourbon, cider, lemon juice, bitters, allspice, and cinnamon.  Pour in a tall glass over ice.  Top with ginger beer; stir to combine.

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Filed under 30 min. or less, Beverage, Fall, Summer

two notes-to-self

A couple things I’ve made, and made changes to, that I’ve enjoyed recently:

1.  Molly O’Neill’s Roasted Carrot and Red Lentil soup, via The Wednesday Chef.  I followed the recipe almost exactly the first time- doubled the paprika and introduced a little immersion blender action- and loved every bite.   A month or so later found myself with a small butternut squash, a lonely sweet potato, and some straggler carrots at the bottom of my crisper, but craving a creamy, bulky soup.  The combo of the three orange veggies worked just as well as the all-carrot version, immersion blender and all.  But as I sat down with the first bowl, and I felt it was missing… something.  A couple teaspoons of lemon juice stirred in at the end fixed it, and really brightened things up.

2.  Oatmeal Applesauce Muffins at Joy The Baker.  She used blueberries; I used a large peeled-and-chopped Honeycrisp and tripled the cinnamon.  Very welcome at the office on a chilly day. Healthy-ish too!

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Filed under 30 min. or less, Fall, Vegetables, Winter

Sweet potato and parsnip latkes

While there’s still some Hanukkah left, I figured I’d post my favorite twist on a traditional favorite.

But even though Hanukkah only lasts 8 days and nights doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy these throughout the rest of the winter.  They’re a quick and easy way to use up the last few stragglers at the bottom of your veggie bin. And mix it up- or add a regular white potato or two to make them stretch if needed.

If you’re not sure about parsnips, give them a try in a combo dish like this, or as mashed (sweet) potatoes with parsnips. They’re sort of carrot-y, with a herbier, grassier flavor.  And, call me crazy, but I think I even detect a hint of coconut in there.  Maybe that’s why I think they balance so nicely with sweet potatoes and yams.

Sweet potato and parsnip latkes
Adapted loosely from Food Network

2 medium-large sweet potatoes
2 medium parsnips
1 small scallion
2 eggs
1/2 c. flour
1/2 t. thyme
dash of cayenne (optional)
salt and pepper
4 T. vegetable oil

Peel the sweet potatoes and parsnips, and then grate.  Thinly slice the scallion and mix into grate vegetables.  Beat the eggs in a separate dish, and then toss into vegetables; add flour and seasoning and mix to combine.

Heat vegetable oil in a heavy-bottomed skillet over medium high. Once oil is hot, reduce heat to medium.  Drop large spoonfuls into the hot oil and press to flatten; cook on each side for about 3 minutes until golden brown.  Let rest on paper towels, and keep in a warm oven while frying the rest in batches.

And, of course, serve warm with sour cream and/or applesauce. Mazeltov!

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Filed under 30 min. or less, Fall, Side dishes, Vegetables, Winter

Cran-Apple Vanilla Sauce/Relish

Happy Thanksgiving!  I hope you all are spending your day with family and friends.  Due to the weather, N and I are sticking out today alone.  Never fear, we’ve got delicious cocoa brownies and unbelievably-rich stuffed shells with bolognese to keep us company… and, of course, this candy-like sauce.

One part applesauce, one part cranberry relish… I suppose it may even classify as a chutney.  Honestly, I don’t care what you call it.  Make this. It’s magenta. And easy. And festive. Did I mention the taste? It’s a little sweet, and a little tart. Just like me. :)

As an alternative to starting with new cranberries, throw together your cranberry sauce leftovers and some apple chunks, a splash of juice or water, scrape a vanilla bean, and you’re done.

Eat this sauce cooled as a side or snack, or warmed on top of pork or chicken.  I’m so happy I’ve got lots of this for the next few blustery days!

Cran-Apple Vanilla Sauce
inspired by The Foodie Bride

1 bag (12 oz., approximately 2 cups) fresh cranberries
1/2 c. apple juice
3 large apples (I used Honeycrisp and Gala)
1/3 c. sucanat (or light brown sugar)
1/4 c. white sugar
1 large vanilla bean

Peel and chop apples into 1-inch pieces.  Rinse and pick through cranberries.  In a large pot combine all of the ingredients except for the vanilla bean.  Heat to a simmer and maintain for 15 minutes, until cranberries start to pop.

Cut open the vanilla bean lengthwise and scrap the inside clean.  Put the paste and the vanilla-bean halves in the sauce.  Continue to simmer for another 25-30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Once the berries are cooked and apples are soft, roughly mash with a potato masher or heavy spoon.  Serve warm, or cool and store in fridge.

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Filed under Condiments, etc., Fall, Side dishes