Category Archives: Winter

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

Meatball and Kale Soup

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Saturday was probably my favorite date of the year.  Not day, necessarily; there was nothing particularly eventful, and it wasn’t full of great friends, great food, or everything going exactly as planned.  (Yes, that would be a requirement of my Type-A personality “Perfect Day.”  Pathetic.)  But more a perfect date, being one of the elusive longest days of the year.  It was sunny and warm and slightly humid but not oppressive.  The farmer’s market finally exploded with leafy greens and herbs, radishes and green garlic and pea shoots.  I made progress on goals and crossed things off lists, one by one, satisfying that Type-A personality.  A friend brought over a hand-picked peony bouquet.  We dug a hole and planted a tree in our front yard and wiped the sweat from our brows, warmed from the sun, sticky and dirty but satisfied.

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Funny that just a few weeks before was almost exactly the opposite.  A light drizzle had been falling for four days straight, and the damp and chill had permeated.  Cooped up in the house alone, I listened to melancholy songs on repeat and devoured a lovely book, story by short story, each one highlighting the inevitable disappointments of meaningful relationships.  The weekend required a long solo hike, a strong bourbon drink, and a bowl of steaming soup.  I granted it all three.

One bright spot was finding the first bit of leafy green at the farmer’s market, tucked away in a far corner.  A small Hmong woman was selling bunches of petite kale, freshly picked, roots and all.  The morning was gusty and cold, spitting rain and angry gray, and I was one of the few straggling around.  Not many seemed to make it back to the kale corner.   I considered myself lucky and in the solitary walk back home, decided I would consult my not-so-new but new-to-me favorite vegetable book for inspiration.

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As soon as I saw the recipe, I recognized it from a handful of food blogs, and my mind was made up.  There were green onions, mint, and the kale from that morning’s market; pork and chicken stock in the freezer.  No fresh chiles this time of year, so dried would have to do.  One soggy hike later and I was prepping meatball soup for supper.  The recipe came almost straight from the book, with the addition of a few potatoes cubed over the pot, thrown in to appease my deep-seeded and ever-present longing for carbs in all forms.  It was filling, but not in a extra-couple-of-pounds-in-winter kind of way.  After a bowl of soup and a whisky smash, the gloomy spring weekend didn’t seem so bad after all.

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Nigel Slater’s Chicken Broth with Pork and Kale from Tender (aka meatball and kale soup)
Serves 4

Even though it’s summer, I’ve made this twice since, once with fresh spinach in place of the kale, thrown straight into the soup pot (skip the blanching).  I highly recommend either variation.

1 pound ground pork (I used half pork and half beef)
3 green onions
a small handful each of fresh mint and fresh parsley
2-3 green garlic, or 2 garlic cloves
2 tsp. red pepper flakes (original calls for 2-3 thai or similar chiles)
2 tablespoons oil
4 cups chicken or veggie stock
2 small-medium potatoes, scrubbed
1 bunch kale, rinsed and coarsely chopped (approximately 3-4 cups)

Place the meat in a medium bowl.  Slice or chop the onions, fresh herbs, and mince the garlic or slice the green garlic.  Throw all of it, along with the red pepper flakes or diced chiles, into the bowl with the meat. Mix well with your hands.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a saute pan.  Form the meat mixture into small balls, no more than 2 inches diameter, and place in the pan.  Brown well, in batches if needed- don’t crowd the meatballs or they’ll steam each other.  Once well browned, set aside on a plate.

Put the stock in a large saucepan and bring to a simmer.  Cut the potatoes over the pot into bite-sized pieces (not on a cutting board- a lot of the starch is left on the board, and I like it in the soup to thicken things a bit) and carefully place in the hot stock.  Simmer for 5 minutes or so, then add in the meatballs and the drippings from the meatball plate.  Season with salt and pepper, and continue to simmer for about 10 minutes.

While the soup is simmering, bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil.  Blanch kale leaves for 3 to 5 minutes, depending on how thick or tough they are.  (More delicate kale may only take 2 minutes, so be flexible and watch the pot.)  Depending on the size of the pot, you may want to blanch in multiple batches.  As the kale is blanched, lift from the boiling water with a slotted spoon and drop directly into the soup pot.  Once all the kale is in the soup, bring to a brief simmer, stir, salt to taste, and serve.

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Filed under 30 min. or less, Clean Eating, Gluten-Free, Main dishes, Soups, Spring, Summer, Vegetables, Winter

Two Wintertime Cocktails


I have a problem calling these wintertime cocktails.  I’ve seen no snow, no gusting winds, no blizzards that force mass-exodus-style trips to the grocery store followed by 2 or 3 days of hunkering down in the house, eating beef stew and peeking out the window as the plow goes by to see how high he’s piled up snow at the end of your driveway.  This meek and mild “winter,” pfft, has been downright enjoyable.  Not that I have a problem with it… but clearly, I do have a teeny tiny problem with it.

Even if you happen to be in southern California or up in the Yukon, these cocktails might help fill a small missing piece on a Friday or Saturday evening.  I know I was searching for something by the time happy hour came around on Friday, and these hit the spot.

1. Heidi’s Blood Orange Gin Sparkler.  I only had two blood oranges so I juiced a naval along with it, and it definitely worked.  I had misremembered the recipe that I read earlier in the day and used club soda on the first drink, but found that I preferred the called-for tonic.   These are too good! And I can’t wait to try these with grapefruit, or a grapefruit-0range combo next weekend…

Edit: I couldn’t hold off for long.  Fresh grapefruit juice is, dare I say, even better than the blood orange juice?! Divine.  A perfect shade of light pink, and brighter-n-lighter in flavor, too. Plan for approximately half a large grapefruit per drink.

2.  Rhubarb Rosemary sparklers.  In an attempt to use up the rosemary-infused simple syrup in the aforementioned gin sparkler recipe, I remembered the jars of rhubarb liqueur I had stowed away last summer.   Rosemary and rhubarb…  beyond alliteration, did they have a chance to work in harmony? I say yes.  I had used a mix of the sweet pink and tart green stalks, and the savory-sweet syrup compliments the tart-sweet liqueur.

Rhubarb & rosemary sparkler
Serves 1

2 oz. rhubarb liqueur
1 oz. rosemary simple syrup
2 to 3 oz. club soda
Pour over ice and stir in a highball or Collins glass.

Muted, earthy, and perfect for a quiet winter night in.

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Filed under 30 min. or less, Beverage, Condiments, etc., Winter

Souper Bowl: Kale and white bean soup

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I haven’t exactly been present on this blog.  This last year has brought a lot of changes to my life: work has been busier than ever, I’m eating more healthfully, and having taken up running means that I get less time at night to prepare (let alone photograph) supper.  But when I saw Branny’s Souper Bowl post invitation, I knew I had to participate.

We have two cats.  Ever since I found out that I’m not actually allergic to cats, I’ve known that I wanted a couple and that I wanted to adopt them (rather than buy a specific breed).  Both of ours came from the local shelter, and both have very distinct personalities.  Sierra, the first cat we got and the older of the two,  is a cuddle-bug… for about two minutes. Then she’s out of your arms and dashing away to go off on her own… but if you wait long enough, she’ll be back, for two more minutes of intense cuddling, purring, and marking your chin with her nose. In any case, this post is dedicated to Sierra, our quiet furball.

Up close, wanting some love. (Soup in the background!)

This soup has been one of my winter staples until recently.  Bacon, homemade croutons, and soft slumped kale- what’s not to like?!  It’s filling, salty and almost buttery.  The bacon adds some chew, while the veggies and beans bring the heft. I’ve made it with both curly and lacinato kale, and both work just fine.  And if you’re a fan of chorizo or sausage, you may want to try that instead of the bacon.  But one thing is for sure- do not skip the homemade croutons.

Kale and White Bean Soup
Approximately 4 servings
Adapted from Everything is Better with Bacon and a recipe in the Williams Sonoma Bride and Groom Cookbook

1 pound or 2 cans white beans (if you can’t get fresh dried beans, go with canned)
4 slices bacon, chopped into 1-inch pieces
2 T. olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, diced
1 bay leaf
1/4 to 1/2 t. sage and thyme each (to your taste)
3 -4 medium carrots, peeled and diced
2-3 stalks celery, diced (save the leafy greens if you’ve still got them)
5-6 cups chicken stock
1 large bunch of kale, ribs removed and roughly chopped
salt and pepper to taste

Prepare the beans: if using dried beans, soak overnight and boil for 30 minutes, or prepare according to package directions. They don’t need to be totally soft as they will simmer in the soup.  If using canned beans, drain and rinse; set aside.

In a large dutch oven or kettle, fry the bacon in the olive oil for 3-4 minutes over medium or medium-high heat.  Stir in the onion and sautee for 4-5 minutes more.  Add garlic, sage, thyme, and bay leaf, and stir while cooking for a minute.  Add carrots and celery, stir, and saute briefly; add chicken stock and beans, and bring soup to a simmer.

Simmer the soup for at least 25 minutes, but up to an hour to combine flavors and soften vegetables. Stir in the chopped kale (and the celery greens if you’ve got them), return up to a simmer, and allow the kale to wilt in the soup, about 15 minutes. (If you want a bite to your kale, watch closely and only cook for about 5 minutes. I like mine silky soft and slumpy on my spoon.)  Season with salt and pepper, and serve with homemade salted croutons.

For croutons:
Melt 2 tbsp butter in a small sautee pan on medium high.  While melting, add 1/2-3/4 cup bread cubes.  Sprinkle with a few pinches of good salt.  Toss bread around and allow to brown for 2-3 minutes between stirs, for a total of 8-10 minutes. Serve warm or at room-temperature with soup.

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January 20, 2012 · 3:28 pm

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

Chocolate espresso biscotti


My mother-in-law has a special spot in her heart for biscotti, and her passion has been passed down to her son and daughter. With both siblings’ birthdays in April and Mother’s Day in May, what better opportunity for the daughter-in-law?

And the best part is, my mother-in-law loves them.  They’ve been part of her Christmas gift for the last two years, and both times she called in January to tell me that she had hidden and hoarded them, enjoying one every few days to make them last.  She called me after she ate the last one and told me she needed more, pronto- the biscotti were helping her maintain her sanity.

When I first set out to make biscotti, I had my heart set on a “mocha” flavored cookie and I felt like I had won the lottery when I found this recipe.  I increased the espresso powder slightly, and the effect is exactly what I was looking for– crunchy, crumbly texture with an initial pungent punch of espresso, followed by the bitter/smooth combo of 60% cacao chocolate. Add in the ribbons of white chocolate on top and the occasional burst of white chocolate sweetness in the biscotti, and you’ve got heaven. Italian cookie heaven.


I use Ghirardelli chocolate chips, because the quality and taste is pretty consistent, I think they’re much better than some of the cheaper brands, and they won’t break the bank.  Target seems to have them every Christmastime, so I stock up for a few batches throughout the year.

Chocolate espresso biscotti
Adopted from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking: From My Home to Yours

2 c all-purpose flour
1/2 c unsweetened cocoa powder
3 T instant espresso powder (I used the darkest instant coffee powder I could find, because I couldn’t find instant espresso)
3/4 t baking soda
1/4 t baking powder
1 t salt
6 T unsalted butter,  room temperature
1 c sugar
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 t vanilla extract
1/2 c (4 oz.) bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped or chips
2 c (16 oz) white chocolate, chopped or chips

Directions:
Center a rack in the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, espresso powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar together on medium speed until pale, about 2 minutes.  Add the eggs and the vanilla and beat for another 2 minutes. (Don’t worry if the mixture looks funky; it gets better, I promise.) Reduce the mixer speed to low and mix in the dry ingredients gradually, mixing only until a dough forms.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix in 1 cup of the white chocolate and all of the bittersweet chocolate.

Sprinkle some flour on a clean work surface.  Dust your hands with some flour – the dough may be very sticky.  Turn the dough out and knead in any dry ingredients that might have escaped mixing, and then divide the dough in half.  Working with one half at a time, roll the dough into 10-inch long logs.  Transfer logs onto the baking sheet.  Flatten both logs so that they are 1/2 to 1 inch high and a couple inches apart.

Bake the logs for 20-25 minutes, or until they are just slightly firm.  The tops should spread and crack during baking.  Remove the baking sheet from the oven, place on a wire rack and allow to cool for 20 minutes.  Then working with one log at a time, cut each log into slices 1/2 to 3/4 inch thick– cut parallel to the shorter edge.  Slightly separate the slices on the baking sheet.  Bake the cookies again, this time for 10 minutes.  Transfer to a rack to cool.

While cooling, melt the remaining white chocolate.  (I add 1/2 tsp. of shortening, if I’ve got it, to the melting chocolate to encourage a glossy consistency.) With a teaspoon, drizzle the white chocolate over the biscotti in ribbons. Let the chocolate set before serving or storing.

*These cookies can be stored in a sealed container for a few weeks, or indefinitely in the freezer- if they last that long. Enjoy!

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Filed under Cookies, Desserts, Winter

spinach & bacon twice-baked potatoes

Every now and then, I make a conscious effort to feed my husband something more than starches, cheese, or meat.  In this case, it started with spinach.  An innocent thought of spinach…

… that was quickly overrun with starches, cheese, AND meat.

I try my best, people.  At least N loved them– leafy greens and all.

These are the best twice-baked potatoes I’ve ever had, and I’ve had a lot. Too often twice-baked taters are too cheesy and/or have a runny or thin texture. These guys are creamy AND chunky, thanks to the sour cream and only stirring the filling once; overstirring will break down the potato more and more, until you’re left with mashed potatoes instead of slightly-mashed potatoes. Oh yes, there’s a difference. :)

Small florets of cooked broccoli or cauliflower could easily be substituted for the spinach. The bacon could be skipped altogether, but then you might want to add a little salt to the filling.  Also feel free to add more cheese to the top if that’s your thing.

Spinach and bacon twice-baked potatoes
adapted from Food.com

2 large or 3 medium-sized baking potatoes
2 slices bacon
1/3 c sour cream
1 small or 1/2 large shallot
6 oz. fresh or frozen spinach (approximate)
3 oz. mozzarella or cheddar cheese
freshly ground black pepper

Heat the oven to 400.  Scrub potatoes, then make large slits across the skins, as if marking where to cut them in half lengthwise without actually cutting the potato in half.  Wrap in foil and bake until done through, about 1 hour. (This can be done before and potatoes can be stored in the foil in the fridge for a day or two.)

Heat a small skillet on medium-high and fry the bacon to your liking.  Meanwhile, cut the potatoes in half where you had previously marked them.  Scoop out the insides of the baked potatoes into a medium bowl; add the sour cream, but don’t stir yet.  Once the bacon is fried, drain on paper towels and chop into bite-sized or smaller pieces, and put into the bowl with the potatoes.  Finely dice the shallot and fry it in the bacon grease for just a minute or two, and then dump into the potato bowl.  If using fresh spinach, wilt it in the same pan;  if using frozen, just break it up a bit. Add the spinach to the bowl. Coarsely grate the cheese and add 1/2 of it to the bowl. Finally, take a large fork and mix all of this wonderful stuff together, smashing the largest potato pieces but not completely mashing them to smittereens.

Heat the oven to 350.  Lay the potato skin shells on a baking sheet and fill them generously with the potato mixture.  Grind a bit of black pepper over the top and then top with the remaining shredded cheese.  Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the cheese on top is bubbly and the potatoes are heated through.

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Filed under Gluten-Free, Side dishes, Vegetables, Winter