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Wednesday, May 26, 2010

paneer curry with peas. also saag paneer... with peas!

for 3 weeks in a row i had "paneer curry with peas" on the menu list for the week. and for 3 weeks in a row, it went ignored. the reason i never managed to cross "paneer curry with peas" off the list is what the rest of the line said: "-- make the paneer." from what i can tell, paneer is one of the easiest cheeses to make. but somehow, buying a gallon of milk and spending a couple of hours turning it into fresh cheese was enough of a perceived hassle that i simply skipped over it, and added it to the next list, week after week...

then, one magical day at the farmers market as i was wandering aimlessly, $20 still in my pocket and fresh out of ideas for how to spend it, i saw a sign from appel farms-- "Paneer~ $4.75lb." SOLD!

paneer is a fresh cheese (as in unaged, like mozzarella) with a mild flavor and a firm texture which shows up frequently in indian cuisine. one of paneer's qualities is that it doesn't melt, even in a hot pan, so many recipes using it call for frying the cheese in cubes.

i bought one pound and split into two different meals. the first, a curry with peas and tomatoes, was one i wanted to try specifically because my recent freezer inventory let me know that i am still behind schedule, as far as using up all the stuff i put away last fall. the second, a saag paneer, is a recipe sent to me by our friend scot several years ago, and it would use the lovely baby spinach available at the markets right now. (i added peas. had to, gotta use 'em up!)

the verdict-- loved them both. LOVED. the curry with peas was thick and flavorful, and the combination of spices was great. the saag seemed like it would be spicier than it ended up to be, surprisingly. that's just perfect for me, but for those who like a little burn, you may want to spice it up with more pepper and/or ginger. also, while i thoroughly enjoy, even crave, the thick, creamy, gloppy dishes at some indian restaurants, i really appreciated that these are lighter in texture, and chances are in caloric content!

paneer curry with peas
bon appetit, april 2010

1 Tbsp flour
1/2 lb paneer (or tofu) cut into 1" cubes
2 Tbsp ghee, divided (i used peanut oil because i had some and ghee was $8!)
1/2 onion, finely chopped
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 Tbsp fresh ginger, peeled and minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp ground coriander
1/2 jalapeno pepper, minced with seeds (more if you like heat!)
2 cups (or 14 oz) crushed tomatoes with juice
1/4 cup water
3/4 cup shelled peas, fresh or frozen (thawed if frozen)
1/4 tsp garam masala
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
prepared jasmine (or basmati) rice

toss paneer with flour in a bowl to coat. heat ghee or vegetable oil in heavy nonstick skillet over medium to medium-high heat. add cheese to pan in batches if necessary and fry, turning occasionally, until sides are golden brown, about 4 minutes. transfer to plate and set aside.

heat remaining ghee or oil over medium heat. add cumin and stir, cooking about one minute. add chopped onion and cook, stirring, until translucent and softened. add ginger, garlic, coriander, and minced jalapeno and stir one minute. add tomatoes and their juice, 1/4 cup water, and turneric. bring to simmer, cover, and reduce heat to low. cook covered until beginning to thicken, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes.

add peas and fried paneer and stir. cook over medium-low heat another 5 minutes or so, until cheese heats through and peas are tender. stir in cilantro and garam masala. season to taste with salt and pepper and serve with rice.

saag paneer (with peas!)
from scot (my notes in parentheses)

1 1-inch cube ginger, peeled and chopped
2 cloves of garlic, peeled
1/2 to 1 fresh green hot pepper (i used jalapeno)
6 Tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 to 1lb paneer, cubed (scot notes that they have also used mexican queso fresco, the dry crumbly kind rather than the melty kind, when paneer couldn't be found)
1/4 tsp garam masala
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1/8 tsp salt
2 10-oz boxes of frozen spinach, thawed and drained well (i was using fresh and accidentally bought only 1/4 lb, which, of course, cooked down into almost nothing. a pound might have done it. so i added about a cup of peas leftover from the curry. it was just fine.)
1/2 tsp salt
3 Tbsp heavy cream (scot says they use milk)
jasmine or basmati rice

put ginger, garlic, and chili in a blender or food processor and process into a paste.

heat the oil in a heavy pot over medium heat. add the paneer and fry until they are golden on all sides. remove with a slotted spoon to a plate in a single layer and sprinkle evenly with salt, garam masala, and cayenne. set aside.

put the paste from the food processor into the hot oil in the pan. fry, stirring constantly, for 30 seconds. add spinach and 1/2 tsp salt and stir for about a minute. cover pan, lower heat, and cook gently for 15 minutes. (i added the fresh spinach and cooked until wilted, then stirred in the peas.) add a tablespoon or two of water if it becomes too dry. add paneer and cream, bring to a simmer, and cook covered over low heat for 10 minutes. season to taste, and serve over rice.

paneer-- appel farms
tomatoes, peas, and onions-- our freezer, from our fall preservation
spinach-- alm hill gardens

Thursday, May 20, 2010

beef stew over mashed potatoes-- a staple

as it happens, it can be 55 degrees and raining well into may here in seattle. thus, beef stew season lingers. i make this all the time (really-- all.the.time.), but i'm just now getting around to posting about it.

i first tried this recipe in 2002 when i was taking an evening course in landscape design at the local college. i came into class one day and a friendly classmate asked, "hey, how are you?" i responded, like a complete dork, "I CAN'T BELIEVE HOW MUCH I LIKE THE STEW I MADE TONIGHT!" she smiled and shifted away from the crazy stew lady and i spent the rest of class daydreaming about my new creation.

i've tried several other beef stew recipes, but i keep coming back to this one. the original came from 

by the way, this takes 3+ hours, so start early!

beef stew with mashed potatoes
from hearty beef stew with green peas and carrots, epicurious 2001 
serves 4

1 lb organic, grass-fed stew beef
salt and pepper
olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 cup mushrooms, sliced
3 Tbps flour
1 cup red wine
2 cups homemade chicken stock
1  bay leaf
1/2 tsp dried thyme (more if using fresh)
2 large carrots, sliced 1/4 inch thick
3/4 cup frozen peas

in large, heavy-bottomed stock pot, heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil over medium to medium-high heat. sprinkle beef with salt and freshly cracked pepper. add beef, in batches if necessary, to the pot and brown on all sides, adding more oil if need be. (color equals flavor, so resist the urge to stir the meat. let the sides get a good sear on them before you turn them over.) remove meat from pot and set aside.

reduce heat to medium. add chopped onion to pot and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. add garlic and cook, stirring, about 30 seconds. add mushrooms and cook, stirring frequently, until softened and the liquid has been reduced. (mushrooms let off a ton of liquid when they hit heat, so cook until that has been reduced. if using dried, reconstitute by soaking in hot water for about 20 minutes and add to the stew when you add the beef.) stir in flour and cook, stirring, about one minute. add wine and deglaze pan, scraping up any bits stuck to the bottom. add broth, bay leaves, thyme, and beef. bring to a simmer, cover, and reduce heat to low. cook at a low simmer for about 2 1/2 hours until beef is tender. (ideally it will be very soft and pull apart easily.)

add carrots and peas to pot and cook another 30 minutes until carrots are cooked through. (carrots can also go in earlier.) taste and season with salt and pepper. 

serve over mashed potatoes. (my "recipe" below.)

mashed potatoes

1 1/2 pounds russet potatoes

2 and/or 3 of the following:
sour cream
salt and pepper

peel potatoes and chop into large chunks. add to a pot and cover with cold water. (cold water important for even cooking.) add about a 1/2 tsp or so salt to cooking water. bring to a boil and cook until you can get a fork through them easily. 

drain and return to pot with some of the cook water still on them. mash. stir in milk, butter, buttermilk, sour cream (some combination, depending on what you have on hand) and salt and pepper until they taste the way you want. i like to overseason slightly just to make sure they stand up under the stew.


grass-fed beef and cal white potatoes from olsen farms 
mushrooms, dried porcinis, from foraged and found edibles 
chicken stock made from stokesberry sustainable farm chicken
frozen peas from our freezer, last fall's preservation

Monday, May 17, 2010

bobby flay's corn and wild rice pancakes

i used to be a big fan of bobby flay. it was about a hundred years ago when i was in college and he seemed to be doing a little more cooking and a little less posturing. i found him charming, and he made some really good looking food. somewhere during that time i found his cookbook bold american food on clearance and while i still haven't done a ton of cooking from it, several recipes have become firmly planted in the rotation. one such recipe is bobby's corn and wild rice pancakes, seasoned with honey, chilis, and cilantro, which i serve with honey butter.

i'm not a pancake maker. not at all. good pancakes are an art form, and i'm sure people who have perfected technique and recipes can make a couple of tweaks to this one with good results. that said, these are great as is-- a little like a cross between a pancake and a crepe. they may seem like a fall dish, but it's really all about how you serve them. next to roasted chicken and butternut squash? a hearty fall meal. with grilled asparagus spears? a light and satisfying spring dinner, or brunch! 

corn & wild rice pancakes 
from bobby flay's bold american food 
makes 10-12 (i always halve the recipe and have just enough for 2 people)

2 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 Tbsp melted butter
2 cups milk
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp honey
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp canned pureed chipotles (i substitute sriracha hot chili sauce-- these definitely benefit from a little heat!)
1 cup cooked wild rice
6 scallions, chopped (i used a handful of chives from the garden)
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1 cup roasted corn kernels (see below)
salt and freshly ground pepper
honey butter to serve (purchased or make your own-- recipe at bottom of post)

for the roasted corn kernels:

if starting with corn on the cob, remove the silk and all but one layer of the husk. cover kernels with remaining husk. dip in water and cook in 350 degree oven for 45 minutes on a baking sheet, or grill until cooked and tender. remove husk and scrape kernels from cob. 

if starting with frozen corn kernels as i did, thaw completely and drain off as much liquid as possible. (if using canned corn, drain well and follow the rest of these steps.) saute in a dry, nonstick pan or griddle until the kernels begin to color, stirring frequently. 

in a mixing bowl, combine the eggs, butter, milk, flour, honey, and baking powder to make a batter. add the chilis or hot sauce, rice, scallions or chives, corn, ground pepper, and a generous pinch or two of salt. (can be made up to 4 hours in advance.)

in a nonstick pan or griddle over low heat, pour 1/4 cup of batter. (i usually get two pans going at once here to speed things up.) cook until brown, about 3 minutes. flip when air bubbles are  visible in the center and cook other side until golden. serve with honey butter. 

honey butter

3 parts butter, room temperature
1 part honey

mix well (mixer, whisk, whatever works) and refrigerate. 

i've been reading back through the cookbook recently and taking mad notes on new recipes i'd like to try. while i don't always love his attitude, the man knows big flavors, and i suspect some of these dishes are going to be fantastic summertime fare. the smoke, the spice, the char, the herbs, the marinades, the chilis, the rowdy relishes on grilled meats... yeah, my relationship with mr. flay just may become reignited very soon...

Thursday, May 13, 2010

spicy guinness mustard

i made this mustard about two months ago, and i'm only now beginning to like it. the mustard was ready in 2 days, but it started off entirely too spicy for me (though rob liked it right away). it's mellowed enough now that i can actually taste the flavor of it rather than just the heat, and it's great! we had some on sausages from the grill the other night and thought it was spectacular.

the recipe i used is "spicy guinness mustard" from saveur, and it seriously couldn't be easier. measure, stir, ignore, blend, eat. 

spicy guinness mustard 

1 12oz bottle guinness stout
1 1/2 cups brown mustard seeds (i used two parts yellow, one part black or brown-- i'm not sure which i have!)
1 cup red wine vinegar (i used a little more)
1 Tbsp salt
1 tsp fresh ground cracked pepper
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp allspice

combine ingredients in a non-reactive bowl (glass or ceramic). cover and let sit at room temp for one to two days. the mixture will be very soupy.

on day two, the seeds have begun to soak up the liquids and the flavors are beginning to meld. transfer mixture to food processor or blender and process, stopping to scrape down sides if necessary, for about 3 minutes. the mustard seeds will be coarsely ground and the mustard will be thickened. 

can be used immediately, though the flavors and heat will mellow as the mustard ages. will keep, refrigerated, for 6 months.

Friday, May 7, 2010

looks like bad 80s art, but it's a delicious rhubarb custard pie!

the other day i  made, like, the ugliest pie ever. it was a rhubarb custard pie recipe from my friend annette over at sustainable eats (check out her blog-- it's amazing what she's doing), and while it tasted fantastic, i really screwed the pooch in the "visually appealing" category. i started cutting the dough into a shape, then messed it up, then the dough broke, then i decided "forget this" and just threw the pieces on top. it totally reminds me of my middle-school-in-the-80s decorating projects when i would take mirrors that had been stepped on and arrange them on my wall as though they were exploding out from the center. it cracks me up how ugly this pie is. 

BUT, it tastes so good!

rhubarb continues to baffle me. i bought some at the market and cut off a little piece for rob to taste raw. his face twisted and scrunched up while he cried out like a 4-year-old, "not want!"  and with good reason-- the stuff tastes like the sour grass growing down by the lake that my brother and i used to chew on as kids. but, amazingly, it transforms into amazing desserts! 

as an egg and sugar custard base, this pie has the spirit of a pecan pie, except it's springy! 

annette's grandma's rhubarb-custard pie 

1 double pie crust or shortbread crust (i used store-bought crust. big mistake. huge.)
chopped rhubarb, enough to fill pie crust, about 2 cups
3 beaten eggs
2 cups sugar (annette says to adjust up or down according to your taste-- i tend to not like super sweet stuff, so i adjusted to a cup and a half. totally great, but more would have been okay, too.)
1 tsp vanilla
3 Tbsp flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp mace (optional, and i left it out because i don't have any)

prepare one pie crust for filling according to package directions, or by lining with foil and adding pie weights (purchased, or use uncooked rice or dry beans as weights), and bake at 425 for 15 minutes. cut the other pie crust into pretty shapes for the top. (note: take care to not have the  pieces look like something out of a duran duran video.)

mix eggs, sugar, and all of the spices. pour over rhubarb in pie pan. cover with top crust and sprinkle with sugar or sugar and cinnamon. bake at 450 for 10 minutes, then reduce to 325 and cook another hour. (i actually took mine out after about 40 minutes as it was set.)

tart and creamy goodness. try it. 

rhubarb from stoney plains 
caity's eggs from woodring specialties 

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

asparagus season kicks off with asparagus, arugula, and cream with fettuccine

asparagus! you and your gorgeous spears of spring! welcome back, old friend. let us waste no time. 

for the first asparagus of the season, i saw no need to get fancy. this is a simple asparagus and arugula pasta with a creamy sauce and a little bacon for fun. you can substitute another green for the arugula (spinach, etc), but the arugula brings a great peppery flavor to jazz up the sweet and grassy asparagus. leave off the bacon and substitute vegetable oil for a vegetarian version. also, though they aren't in the recipe below, when i do this again i'll add garlic and/or shallots, and possibly lemon juice or lemon zest. feel free to add them to yours!

asparagus and arugula pasta with cream
serves 2
(note: my cook times below are approximate. most important thing is to cook the veggies until the asparagus is cooked but crisp and the arugula is wilted, and they are both still nice and green.)

1/2 bunch skinny asparagus (about 1/2 lb)
1/2 bunch arugula (about 2 handfuls)
4 strips bacon
1/4 cup white wine
1/2 cup homemade chicken or vegetable stock
1 cup heavy cream
1/8 cup grated parmesan cheese, plus more for plating
salt and fresh cracked pepper 
enough fettuccine for 2

prep asparagus and arugula. remove woody ends from asparagus by bending the bottom of the stalk until it snaps off. it will know the right place to break. (this is a really satisfying task. i especially love the "pop" some of the thicker ones give.) chop into 2" long pieces.

for arugula, wash thoroughly, remove stems, and let soak in bowl of cold water for a few minutes to remove residual dirt and other matter. remove from water by hand (don't pour, or all the dirt comes with it!), and drain.

meanwhile, cook bacon in saute pan large enough to accommodate it. cook to desired crispness and remove from pan to drain on paper towels. pour off all but 1 Tbsp (reserve the rest in case you need a little more) of the bacon grease. (if not using bacon, or if bacon grease doesn't appeal, use veg oil or butter here.) heat it to medium and add the asparagus and saute , shaking pan, for about 2 minutes. add more oil if it gets too dry. add arugula to pan and cook, stirring or shaking, until slightly wilted but still bright green. add white wine to pan and cover for about 2 minutes to steam the vegetables. (watch the pan to make sure it doesn't cook too fast, and the asparagus stays crisp!)

cook fettuccine in large pot of boiling water and about a tablespoon of salt.

remove veggies from pan and reserve. add chicken or veg stock to pan and deglaze, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom. let cook over medium heat until reduced by about half. stir in cream, parmesan cheese, and season to taste with salt and pepper. (overseasonning the sauce is a good idea here, since the veggies and pasta are unseasoned.) cook a couple of minutes longer to thicken sauce. 

toss sauce with hot pasta, and add vegetables. serve with crumbled bacon and fresh grated parmesan cheese and pepper.

asparagus-- canales farm
arugula-- stoney plains organic farm 
bacon-- skagit river ranch 
chicken stock-- made from stokesberry sustainable farm chicken
fettuccine-- made from caity's eggs, woodring northwest