Hoisin BBQ Sauce

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My mother became intrigued with international cuisines after her move to the USA from France in 1954. It might have begun when she purchased the set of cookbooks from Time-Life, called Foods of the World. After that, she set herself on a mission of culinary discovery.

I so wish there had been the concept of food photography in my youth, and digital photography would have been a plus, because I’d love to share photos of my mother’s creations. I remember a Russian salmon en croute, called coulibiac, that my mother turned into a fish, precisely carving the fins and scales out of pastry. It didn’t hurt that she was an artist and sculptor.

My mother also became a huge fan of Indian and Ethiopian cuisines. We probably had the best smelling house when those dishes were on the menu. Then, there was her Chinese phase, with my favorite meal being hot pot!


To learn about global cuisines, my mother followed lots of recipes, which I think is the best way to learn cooking techniques. But it also teaches about ingredients and seasonings, and what go well together.

That’s exactly how this sauce came about.


It’s simple, and probably not a unique combination for many home cooks, but for me, this sauce was over-the-top-good and I loved it. My mother’s “recipe” is based on hoisin sauce, using ketchup as a “carrier oil,” plus fresh ginger and garlic. Simple but sublime.

Hoisin Barbecue Sauce

1 cup ketchup
2/3 cup hoisin sauce
6 cloves garlic, minced
2” piece ginger, minced
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
6 pounds baby-back ribs, at room temperature

Combine The first six ingredients and stir until well combined.

Set your slow cooker to HIGH, and spray the inside with Pam.

Cut the rib slabs into halves, then slather them with 3/4 of the sauce; refrigerate the remaining sauce for use after the ribs are cooked.


Place the ribs in the slow cooker for one hour, then reduce the heat to LOW and cook for 5 more hours.

Turn on the broiler and get the sauce out of the refrigerator. Get the ribs out of the slow cooker and lay them in one layer on a rack placed in a roasting pan, meaty side up.


Brush the remaining sauce on the ribs. Broil the ribs for a few minutes until there’s some serious caramelization.

Serve immediately; they’re also good at room temperature.

Cut the ribs into smaller pieces, if desired, although the meat is very delicate.

I served these ribs with plain white rice. Besides tasting the hoisin component, the ginger and garlic really stand out.

The sauce is equally good with chicken, pork, and even salmon.

The rib meat is so tender. Truly this technique is one of the best ways to prepare ribs inside, whether you’re using a marinade or a rub.

As a note, the hoisin in this marinade/sauce can be substituted with Gochujang to create a Korean-inspired version. It’s equally good!

Kimchi and Kimchi Pancakes

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I’ve had kimchi twice in my life, and neither time did it strike a chord, so to speak. I mean, it’s stinky. However, the smell is also addicting. It’s multi-layered, with fish and fiery spice, garlic and ginger.

Kimchi, a spicy pickled cabbage that is considered a staple of Korean cuisine, is basically used like a condiment. I’ve learned that Korean families always have a vat of it going in their homes.

I’ve also learned that there are a multitude of recipes for kimchi, but I’m going with a quick kimchi recipe on TheKitchn.com, written by Emily Han.

From TheKitchn.com, Kimchi is made by lacto-fermentation, the same process that creates sauerkraut. In the first stage, the cabbage is soaked in a salty brine that kills off harmful bacteria. In the second stage, the remaining Lactobacillus bacteria (the good guys!) convert sugars into lactic acid, which preserves the vegetables and gives them that wonderful, tangy flavor.

So I wanted to see if my I liked kimchi more, but mostly I wanted to use the fermentation crock that my daughters had gifted me again; I recently used it for Escabeche.

If you want to understand the difference between pickling and fermenting, this is a great read.

Kimchi

2 pound head Napa cabbage
1/4 cup salt
1 tablespoon grated garlic
1 teaspoon grated ginger
1 teaspoon sugar
3-4 tablespoons seafood flavor (I used 3 tablespoons fish sauce, 1/2 tablespoon shrimp paste)
1-5 tablespoons gochugaru, Korean red pepper flakes
8 ounces Daikon, peeled, cut into matchsticks
4 green onions, trimmed, cut into 1” pieces

Slice the cabbage lengthwise into quarters and remove the cores. Cut each quarter crosswise into 2” wide strips.


Place the cabbage and salt in a large bowl. Using your hands, massage the salt into the cabbage until it starts to soften a bit, then add water to cover the cabbage.

Put a plate on top and weigh it down with something heavy, like a jar. Let stand for 1 – 2 hours.

Rinse the cabbage under cold water 3 times and drain in a colander for 15 – 20 minutes. Rinse and dry the bowl you used for salting, and set aside.

Meanwhile, combine the garlic, ginger, sugar, and seafood flavor in a small bowl and mix to form a smooth paste. Mix in the gochugaru; this author recommended about 3 1/2 tablespoons.

Gently squeeze any remaining water from the cabbage and return it to the bowl along with the radish, scallions, and seasoning paste.

Mix thoroughly, working the paste into the vegetables until they are thoroughly coated. Disposable gloves are highly recommended for this step.

Pack the kimchi into a jar, (I used the fermentation crock), pressing down on it until the brine rises to cover the vegetables. Leave at least 1 inch of headspace if you’re using a jar. Seal the jar/crock with a lid.

Let the jar stand at room temperature for 1 – 5 days. You may see bubbles inside. If using a jar, brine may seep out of the lid; place a bowl or plate under the jar to help catch overflow.

Check the kimchi once a day, pressing down on the vegetables with a clean finger or spoon to eep them submerged under the brine. This also releases gases produced during fermentation.

Taste a little at this point. When the kimchi tastes ripe enough for your liking, transfer the jar to the refrigerator. It’s best after another week or two in the refrigerator, but can be eaten right away.

I couldn’t wait to make the following recipe using my kimchi.

Kimchi Pancakes
From Bon Appetit

1 large egg
1 tablespoon kimchi brine from jar
1/4 cup soy sauce, divided
3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon white flour
1 1/2 cups kimchi
4 scallions
4 tablespoons neutral oil, divided
3 tablespoons rice vinegar

Crack 1 egg into a medium bowl. Add 1 Tbsp. kimchi brine, 1 Tbsp. soy sauce, and ¼ cup water and whisk to combine.

Whisk in all of the flour.

Coarsely chop 1½ cups kimchi, add to bowl, and stir to combine. Thinly slice 4 scallions on a diagonal. Add half to batter; reserve remaining scallions for serving.


Heat 1 Tbsp. oil in a medium nonstick skillet over medium-high. Drop ¼-cupfulls of batter onto opposite sides of skillet (pancakes should be about 4″ in diameter, so you’ll probably only be able to cook 2 at a time).

Cook pancakes until golden brown on first side, 2–3 minutes, then flip and cook until browned on second side, 2–3 minutes longer. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool. Repeat process in batches with remaining batter and oil; you should have 8 pancakes.

Combine 3 Tbsp. vinegar and remaining 3 Tbsp. soy sauce in a small bowl.

Transfer pancakes to a platter. Top with reserved scallions and serve with dipping sauce alongside.

I honestly couldn’t stop eating these pancakes. Look at the beautiful kimchi in the batter.

They were fabulous as is as well as dunked in the sauce.


Next time I will double the pancake ingredients so there are more in which to indulge.

They’re best crispy right out of the skillet, bet you can also re-crisp them in a hot pan before serving the leftover pancakes.

Roasted Pork Shoulder

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I recently read Nigella Lawson’s last cookbook, published in 2017, called At My Table.

It didn’t seem to grab me like her previous 87 books, or however many she’s churned out over the years, but then, after I was done, I realized how many recipes I bookmarked.

The recipes weren’t terribly fancy, but that’s not her style in the first place. And it seemed like half of the dishes were sprinkled with pomegranate seeds, like she’d been studying Ottolenghi’s cookbooks at the time of writing hers.

But again, I did bookmark a lot of recipes. And the first I wanted to make was her roasted pork shoulder. Why you may ask? It’s because when I cook with pork shoulder or butt, I’m usually making chile verde or pulled pork in the slow cooker. This pork shoulder is roasted in the oven.

To quote Ms. Lawson about her recipe: “As far as I’m concerned this is the easiest route to a lazy weekend feast.”

What I didn’t realize, was how challenging it would be to find a boneless, skin-on pork shoulder. I even called D’Artagnan and Lobel’s in New York City.

So I bought a de-boned pork shoulder (I even got resistance from the butcher for that request) and covered it on one wide with pork rind that I purchased from a different butcher.

Slow Roasted Pork Shoulder
With caramelized garlic and ginger

2 heads garlic
5.5 pounds boneless and skin-on pork shoulder
1 tablespoon grated ginger
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon raw unfiltered apple cider

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Cut off the tops of the 2 heads of garlic, so that you can just see the cloves peeking through, and sit each scalped head of garlic, cut-side up, on a piece of foil large enough for you to be able to pull up the ends and scrunch them together to form a parcel.

Put both parcels in the hot oven and roast for 45 minutes, by which time the cloves will be soft and caramelized, then remove from the oven and leave to cool, still wrapped in their foil parcels – this could take up to 3 hours.

Then, 7 1/2 hours before you want to eat, take the pork out of the fridge for about an hour to get the chill off it, and preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.


While you wait, unwrap the two parcels of garlic, and squeeze the bulbs to push the sticky caramelized cloves out into a bowl. Add the ginger, soy, and vinegar and mix together.

Sit the pork, skin-side up, and spread the garlic and ginger paste into the pocket where the bone was. If there’s any residue left in the bowl, you can smear this gently around the sides, but make sure you don’t let any get on the skin.

I cut some of the pork skin I purchased to fit the top of the shoulder. You can see it under the pork. I used a few ties of string to secure it once the paste was inside the pork.

Pour some freshly-boiled water into the bottom of a roasting pan, just to cover the base by about 1/4 inch. Flip over the pork so that the skin is on top and roast in the oven for 5 hours. I brushed a little peanut oil over the pork skin.


After these 5 hours, gently baste the sides of the pork with the juices that have collected in the pan, then leave to roast for another hour.

Remove the roasting pan from the oven, and turn the oven up to 425 degrees F. Patiently spoon the juices into a wide-necked heatproof pitcher and return the pork to the hot oven for 30 minutes until the skin has turned crunchy.

Transfer the pork to a board. Spoon off the fat from top of the intense meaty juices in the pitcher; this should leave you with about 1 cup of the gingery and garlicky gravy. Check to see whether you need to reheat these juices and if you do, just warm them in a saucepan.


Remove the crisp skin and break into pieces. I cut a quite creative triangle for artistic plating.

Then carve, shred, or pull apart the meat, as wished. I sliced, and in this photo you can see the roasted garlic-ginger paste. There was a slight pinkishness to the roasted pork that didn’t show up in my other photos.

Transfer to a warmed dish and pour the meat juices over it, to serve.

The sauce is absolutely delicious. I wish there were more of it.

I was quite impressed with this slow roasted pork – tender and delicious. The next time, I won’t worry about skin, and the last 30 minutes at 425 degrees F won’t be necessary.


I also didn’t realize how much pork rind/skin shrinks, so I should have trimmed it much larger than I did, but it was still a fun experiment.

Strawberry Onion Chutney

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Rarely do I come out of “retirement” to cater. If I do it’s only for good friends, but still these gigs are few and far between. I’m just not in the catering groove any longer.

A few years ago, however, I said yes to a friend who needed help with her staff party. I don’t remember the menu in its entirety, except that I made a sous vide pork loin.

Because it was springtime, I created a chutney using fresh strawberries to go with the pork.

Following is the sweet-spicy-tart condiment recipe that I’m so happy I wrote down. I must say it was superb and loved by all!

Strawberry Onion Chutney
printable recipe below

1/2 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup ruby port
1/4 cup olive oil
4 white onions, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 – 1″ piece ginger, minced
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup loosely packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cayenne
1 pound hulled strawberries, chopped into small pieces
Allspice, to taste

In a small bowl, soak raisins in the port. Set aside.

Heat the oil over medium heat in a large Dutch oven. Add the onions and begin the sautéing process. It will take at least 30 minutes. A little browning is fine, but mostly I just wanted them nice and soft and cooked through.

Add the raisins and the port, along with the garlic and ginger, and cook the mixture for about 5 minutes.

Add the vinegar, brown sugar, salt, and cayenne, and cook for another 5 minutes.

Then stir in the strawberries and continue cooking the chutney, stirring occasionally, until the strawberry pieces have cooked, but still hold their shapes.


If I might say so, this chutney is spectacular. When I made it the second time, I used dark raisins, and served it with roasted chicken, which was equally delicious as previously with the pork loin.

And with cheese? It’s fabulous!!!

 

 

Chicken Teriyaki

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My husband, thanks to me, has quite a developed palate, considering how he was cooked for growing up. He loves Indian food, he loves Ethiopian food, he loves most Mediterranean cuisines, minus the olives and capers, and he absolutely loves dim sum.

However, there’s no dim sum or Indian restaurant where we live. So when we go out, it’s more for me to get out of the kitchen, and much less about either of us having a great food experience. (Sometimes our experiences are downright comical.)

But I admit he seriously sacrifices himself when we go to this local Japanese restaurant.

The restaurant has the most beautiful salad, called the avocado ball salad with a crabmeat filling. It’s divine; I could have it every day. It’s really the main reason I ever want to have lunch at this specific restaurant, although their sushi and sashimi are also outstanding.

However, all my husband orders off of their menu is chicken teriyaki, and it’s not good.

One day I received a Nigella.com email, sharing her Chicken Teriyaki recipe, and it dawned on me that I’d never made it at home before. Chicken Teriyaki was something I learned early on, was grossly over-sweet. I think I figured that out when I purchased a bottle of teriyaki sauce. Horrible stuff.

So I decided to test out Nigella’s recipe, even though she made it abundantly clear that there is sugar in it.

From Nigella: “I know the world is full of good parents who never give their children food with salt or sugar, and this recipe proves conclusively that I am not one of them and, on top of these dietary failings, the following also contains alcohol!”

Here’s her recipe:

Chicken Teriyaki
printable recipe below

2 tablespoons sake
4 tablespoons mirin
4 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons fresh ginger
Splash of sesame oil
1 teaspoon peanut oil
1 1/2 pounds chicken, cut into bite-sized pieces
Sushi rice

In a glass baking dish, combine the sake, mirin, soy sauce, brown sugar, ginger, and sesame oil. Stir well.

Add the chicken pieces and let them marinate for 15 minutes.

Heat the oil in a braiser. Using a slotted spoon, scoop the chicken out of the marinade, and let it cook until browned on all sides.

Pour in the marinade, and cook the chicken for five minutes longer. Remove the chicken with the slotted spoon to a serving bowl, loosely covered with foil to keep the chicken warm.

Lower the heat and reduce the marinade until thick and syrupy. Pour over the chicken, toss gently, and serve, with cooked sushi rice.

It’s a wonderful recipe, and of course my husband thought it was a thousand times better than what he orders locally.

I served the teriyaki with some chopped green onions and sesame seeds.

I looked at my Japanese cookbook just to see what an authentic chicken teriyaki recipe included, and I discovered something unexpected.

Teriyaki sauce is made up of mirin, soy sauce, and chicken stock. To turn it into a teriyaki glaze, sugar is added – 1 tablespoon of sugar for every 1/4 cup of teriyaki sauce.

That’s actually pretty sweet, which is why, obviously, teriyaki becomes such a syrupy glaze. Also, to serve the chicken, the recipe says to “spoon a little of the glaze over each serving.”

So maybe it’s not just the sweetness that can be overpowering, but also the volume of teriyaki glaze on the chicken in Americanized Japanese restaurants.

But in any case, if you dislike chicken teriyaki at your local Japanese-American restaurant, do try this recipe. My husband said, “It’s wonderful.”

And now I’ll probably never get him back to the Japanese restaurant so I can have my avocado ball salad…

 

Masala Shrimp Cakes

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My mother knows my tastes in cookbooks well. Recently, for my birthday, she sent me Recipes from an Indian Kitchen, by Sunil Vijayakar, with “authentic recipes from across India.”


Oddly enough, for a French woman, my mother cooked Indian meals when I was growing up, so I was exposed to Indian cuisine at a young age. She cooked a variety of International cuisines, but Indian was probably my favorite. And that was when my palate was a bit challenged!

What’s not to love, though? Unless you dislike cilantro. But the spices are so fragrant and lovely, and for the most part the dishes are healthy and vibrant.

The author describes the generalized regional cuisines of the north, south, east and west. I know it’s much more involved than four regions, but the differences are fascinating. And the photos in the book are gorgeous. They made me want to grab my camera and get on a plane. One day…

So as I always do with a new cookbook, I read it front to back, bookmarking recipes along the way. One recipe, Masala shrimp cakes, really stood out to me for some reason.

I mean I love shrimp, but the cakes looked like a perfect party food, and one that can be made ahead of time. They are chock-full of colors and flavors.

Loretta will be happy to know that this recipe is Goan-inspired!

Once you have clean shrimp, all you need is a food processor, and the shrimp “batter” is ready in minutes. Just a little time chilling is required to meld flavors and firm the batter.

Masala Shrimp Cakes
Jhinga Masala Vadas

1 3/4 pounds raw shrimp, peeled, deveined
2 fresh red chiles, seeded, minced
1/3 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
1/3 cup finely chopped fresh mint
1 teaspoon coconut cream or coconut milk
4 scallions, finely sliced
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 teaspoons finely grated fresh ginger
1/2 cup fresh white bread crumbs
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 medium egg, lightly beaten

Coarsely chop the shrimp and put them into a food processor along with the remaining ingredients.

Blend to a coarse paste. Transfer the mixture to a bowl, cover, and chill in the refrigerator for at least 6-8 hours, or overnight.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Shape the shrimp mixture into 20 small patties, about 1 1/2″ in diameter. Place on a baking sheet and brush lightly with oil.

Bake in the oven for 12-15 minutes, or until slightly puffed up and light golden.

Serve warm or at room temperature with lime wedges for squeezing over the top.

I made a dip of sorts by blending cilantro, green chile peppers, and a little olive oil, just for fun!

These shrimp cakes were delicious even once they cooled down, but I did love them warm.

My only addition to this recipe would be at least 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Otherwise, it was total Indian perfection!

Gochujang Pork

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This post is a perfect example of why I love food blogging. There are many reasons, actually, like the friends I’ve made – some even in person! But learning about ingredients and foods from different cuisines is really exciting to me.

Gochujang is one such ingredient, a sweet Korean chili paste that I’ve noticed for a while. Thanks to Amazon.com, I now own some.

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I was reminded of this ingredient recently on Sally’s blog Bewitching Kitchen, when she posted Korean pork ribs, and on The Not So Creative Cook, when Jhuls posted Steak with Gochujang Sauce, and on A Cookbook Collection, when Donna posted Korean Chicken Wings. I knew I had to make something!

To test out the paste, I created a sauce using gochujang and a few other Korean ingredients. A wonderful reference for Korean ingredients can be found here, from Sue’s blog My Korean Kitchen.

I didn’t add anything sweet, because the first ingredient in the list of the gochujang is corn syrup. This is unfortunate, but when I looked in to making my own, I decided to pass on that complicated culinary endeavor.

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Here’s what I did:

Gochujang Pork Tenderloins

2″ piece for fresh, peeled ginger
2 large cloves garlic
2 teaspoons sesame seed oil
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1/2 cup gochujang
4-5 tablespoons mirin
2 pork tenderloins
Salt
Pepper

Place the ginger, garlic, sesame seed oil, and soy sauce in a small blender jar or mini food processor, and process as much as you can.
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Add the gochujang. It’s so pretty and has a wonderful spicy ketchup aroma. I wasn’t sure what it’s viscosity would be, but it’s quite paste-like.
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To create my desired sauce consistency, I used about 5 tablespoons of mirin. I wanted the sauce pourable, but not thin.
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Have a baking pan big enough for the pork tenderloins on hand and drizzle in some oil.

Season the pork tenderloins.
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Spread some of the sauce on top of the tenderloins. Turn them over and place them in the oil.
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Spread more of the sauce on the top. Make sure you still have enough for serving time. Cover the pan with foil and let the tenderloins marinate overnight in the refrigerator.

When you are ready to cook the pork, remove the pan from the refrigerator and let the meat come close to room temperature. I set my oven at a roasting temperature of 375. One could certainly also use a charcoal grill, weather permitting.

Use an in-oven temperature probe to monitor the pork. I prefer an internal temperature of NO MORE than 155 degrees Farenheit.
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After cooking the pork tenderloins, immediately place them on a cutting board. After a good 15-minute rest, slice the pork cross-wise.
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Place the slices on a serving platter. Brush on some of the remaining gochujang sauce.
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If desired, sprinkle the meat with sesame seeds, cilantro, or chopped green onions.

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This sauce is so good I’ve made a gochujang-based BBQ sauce twice since I made this tenderloin recipe. Gochujang is fabulous stuff!

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Tomato Beef Curry

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It’s not out of disrespect for Indian cuisine that I don’t often use recipes from my Indian cookbooks. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.

Indian cuisine is our favorite cuisine, if we had to pick only one. As a result, I quite often turn a soup into a curried soup, lentils into curried lentils, or seafood crepes into a curried version. And I don’t mean simply adding curry powder.

Cooking Indian food is about being familiar with Indian ingredients. When I began cooking, I followed recipes in order to learn about Indian cuisine as well as other international cuisines, but now that I’ve been cooking for almost 40 years, I enjoy creating Indian-inspired dishes without relying on recipes.

I want to point out that I’m very aware of the various regional cuisines, meat-based and vegetarian, that exist in India, from the south to the north, from west coast to east. So of course I’m generalizing when I refer to its cuisine when there isn’t only one.

My first experiences were from this ancient cookbook, from the Time-Life Foods of the World series.

Eventually I purchased other cookbooks over the years, and that’s when I figured out that many recipes – again, generalizing – are similar. Most begin with onion, ginger, and garlic, for example, cooked in clarified butter, or ghee.

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A meat, poultry or seafood curry can be prepared in a yogurt-based sauce, or one that is tomato based. Some are enriched with creamed nuts, like almonds or cashews, which are some of my favorites.

Regarding spices, there are many. Cumin, cardamom, coriander (seeds and leaf), turmeric, cayenne, cinnamon, pepper, garam masala (as varied as curry powder), cloves, fennel, saffron, and more. Some recipes contain many spices, some only 3-4.

Sometimes chile peppers are included for heat – both fresh and dried. But, of course, the temperature can be controlled.

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So following is an example of an easy beef dish in a curried tomato sauce. It was done in 15 minutes.

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Tomato Beef Curry

6 ounces ghee, divided
1 1/2 pounds beef tenderloin, cut into cubes
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, diced
1 – 1″ piece of fresh ginger, diced
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon black pepper
Cayenne, to taste
4 ounces drained diced tomatoes
4 ounces tomato purée
2 teaspoons garam masala
Fresh cilantro, optional

Heat 3 ounces of ghee in a heavy pot over high heat. In batches, brown the cubed beef, then place in a bowl until all the beef has browned; set aside.

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In the same pot, add the remaining ghee and lower the heat to medium-low. Sauté the onion, ginger, and garlic for a few minutes, being careful not to let them brown.

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Then add the salt, spices and, if using, cayenne pepper. Stir well and cook for about 1 minute.

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Add the diced tomatoes and purée. Stir, then let the mixture cook at a gentle simmer for about 5 minutes.

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You want the mixture fairly thick. Because I am using beef tenderloin in this recipe, the cooking time is minimal.

Add the browned beef from the bowl, including all juices, to the sauce.

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Stir to coat the beef and cook for about ten minutes, uncovered; the beef should be tender. Remove from the heat.

Just before serving, add the garam masala and stir.

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Normally I would sprinkle fresh cilantro leaves over the curry, but I decided instead to make a cilantro rice as a side dish, seasoned only with cumin and coriander.

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If this dish is too meaty for you, chickpeas can be added.

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If you want the dish creamier, you can add some heavy cream, a bit of yogurt, or even creme fraiche to the sauce.

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Many years ago I turned friends on to Indian cuisine, and my friend Claire bugged me to show her how to “cook” Indian. I told her that there is no difference in cooking techniques with Indian cooking, but she didn’t seem to believe me. So she came over once, and we cooked maybe 4-5 dishes. And we had a wonderful dinner. Her verdict? She wasn’t impressed! I don’t know what she thought I’d be doing in the kitchen, but it’s the same pots and pans, knives and spoons. She now cooks Indian food! Everyone should!

Cherry Salsa

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The prettiest cherries I’ve ever seen was on a drizzly day in Trier, Germany. Coincidentally, the white asparagus was at its peak as well! This is a photo from 2006, while walking through a square on our way to lunch, where I failed miserably attempting to speak German and read the menu!

Later on this trip, we visited the Schwarzwald, or the Black Forest region of Germany, known for Schwarzwald Torte, or Black Forest cake. At the Black Forest open-air museum we ran in to these ladies wearing their bollenhut.

The tradition is that the hats/bonnets with the giant cherry-red woolen bobbles must be worn while ladies are single. After the point they are married, they get to switch to a black version. I think I would have just moved to a different part of Germany.

Recently I was lucky enough to pick cherries from a friend’s trees. As I mentioned when I posted on the baked goat brie topped with roasted cherries, I wanted to create recipes for these fabulous fresh cherries that went beyond the basic cherry pie. That’s when I decided on cherry salsa.

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Now I know that I’m the first to gripe when terms are loosely used in the culinary world – words like confit, coulis, pesto, and yes, salsa. But it’s the only word I could think of to describe this lovely seasonal condiment.

It not cooked like a chutney, and it’s not a sauce. It is similar to the fresh tomato salsa I make in the summer, which really is a salsa, and also the cranberry salsa I make for the holidays. I used fresh cherries,orange, cilantro, shallots and ginger. It has zing, a freshness, some tartness and sweetness.

Use it with any kind of meat and poultry, just like you would a chutney or cranberry sauce. Here’s what I did.

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Fresh Cherry Salsa

1 cup loosely packed cilantro leaves
1 shallot, minced
1 slice of ginger, approximately 1″ in diameter x 1/4″ thick, minced
Zest of 1 small orange
Juice of 1/2 orange
1 teaspoon roasted sesame oil
1 teaspoon agave, if cherries are tart
1/4 teaspoon salt
Pinch of ground cayenne
2 cups cherries, halved if they’re large

Combine the cilantro, shallot, ginger, and zest in a bowl. Add the liquids, the salt and cayenne.

Then add the cherries and stir gently to combine. Let sit for at least 30 minutes.

I love using sesame seed oil, and I thought it would enhance the shallot, ginger, orange and cayenne.

Serve at room temperature.

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I served the cherry salsa with a simple roast chicken and butternut squash.

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The flavors are spectacular.

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Sag

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My husband and I have a lot in common, in spite of being opposites, if that makes sense. We’re both homebodies, yet we also love to travel. And we both love Indian food. Actually these might be the only things we have in common. But they’re important things!

For a small celebration at my house recently, I decided to make an Indian spread. I planned it like a buffet you’d experience at a good Indian restaurant. You’ve never heard these words come out of my mouth before, but at Indian restaurants, I’m not at all opposed to eating from the buffet.

I think it must be difficult for Indian restaurants to make bad food, even for their lunch buffets, because I’ve never had any. (Unlike the case with Chinese buffets, for example.) There’s never been a curried protein, vegetable, or bean dish that I haven’t enjoyed. And if their naan is good, then I’m in heaven.

One of my husband’s favorite dishes on a typical Indian buffet is sag paneer or mattar paneer – curried spinach or peas with paneer. Traditional aneer, which is easy to make from scratch, is similar tofarmers’ cheese. It add something texturally but not really flavor-wise to me, so I can take it or leave it.

Many years ago I came across a dish simply called sag – fried spinach and broccoli – no paneer. The recipe is in one of my favorite cookbook series – Foods of the World by Time Life.
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It’s a lovely vegetable dish, and a wonderful accompaniment to chicken curry, lamb korma, or any vegetarian curry dish.
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Following is the recipe exactly from the cookbook.

Sag, also spelled Saag
To serve 4 to 6

1 cup water
1/2 pound fresh spinach, washed, trimmed and coarsely chopped
1/2 pound fresh broccoli including the stalks, washed, trimmed and coarsely chopped
3 tablespoons ghee*
1 tablespoon scraped, finely chopped fresh ginger root
1/2 cup finely chopped onions
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon garam masala

Combine 1/2 cup of the water and a handful of the spinach in the jar of an electric blender, and blend at high speed for 30 seconds, or until the mixture is reduced to a smooth purée.
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Turn the machine off and scrape down the sides of the jar with a rubber spatula. Then add another handful of spinach, purée for 30 seconds and stop the machine again. Repeat until all the spinach has been puréed. Transfer the spinach to a bowl, and pour the remaining 1/2 cup of water into the blender jar.
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Purée the broccoli a handful at a time as you did the spinach, then stir the puréed broccoli into the spinach.
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In a 10″ karhai or heavy skillet or a 12″ wok heat the ghee over moderate heat until a drop of cold water flicked into it sputters instantly.

This is a photo of an Indian karhai, also spelled karahi. I used my large wok.
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Add the ginger and fry for 1 minute. Add the onions and salt and continue to fry, lifting and turning the mixture constantly, for 7 to 8 minutes, or until the onions are soft and golden brown.


Stirring after each addition, add the cumin, turmeric, coriander and garam masala.

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Fry for 1 to 2 minutes, until the ingredients are well combined, then stir in the spinach and broccoli a cup or so at a time and fry for 5 minutes more.
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Reduce the heat to the lowest possible point and, stirring occasionally, simmer uncovered for 15 minutes, until almost all of the liquid has evaporated and the mixture leaves the sides of the pan in a solid mass.

Serve at once from a heated bowl or platter. I added a little flaked salt to my sag.
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In the Punjab, where it originates, sag is usually made with fresh mustard greens; you may substitute these for the spinach and broccoli if you like.
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As much as I love Indian meat and seafood dishes, I also really love dal – the various legumes of India. So today I served myself sag along with curried chick peas. A delicious and satisfying meal!
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*Ghee is simply clarified butter. Sometimes I use it, sometimes I don’t. The clarifying of the butter removes the solids which can brown and also burn, but it’s the solids to me that provides such lovely flavor. If you’re not using extremely high heat and can’t get your hands of ghee, regular butter will work fine.

Note: If you want to add paneer to this dish but don’t want to make it from scratch, use firm or extra-firm tofu – the kind in water, not the silken variety.