Monday, July 23, 2012

Seasonal Salads with an Indian Twist

Doug and I cook a ton of Indian food, and I love it. I find all those spicy curries and soupy lentil dishes equally appealing in the hot summer or frozen winter. But no matter the season, I crave something fresh and crunchy to balance their soft warmth. And for that, let me present my favorite go-to Indian salads.

The winter version is a shredded cabbage salad. A head of cabbage (or three) always makes its way into my fridge in the fall, and keeps fresh for a suspiciously long amount of time. While that means it is often the only green vegetable available, it certainly isn't sexy. Have no fear - this simple recipe dresses it up just right to accompany a well-spiced meal and provide that necessary punch.

And recently, I've found a fantastic Indian-inspired cucumber salad more appropriate for the warm weather months. Doug claims it tastes like a perfect cocktail - well-balanced between sweet and savory, textured and smooth. I love the crunch from the peanuts and cucumbers, and the ghee offers up this (slighty guilty) richness to an otherwise simple combination of ingredients.

Both salads come together in a flash and are the perfect foil for a spicy Indian meal. 

Cucumber Peanut Salad
Adapted from Sanjeev Kapoor, via 101 Cookbooks
Serves 4
  • 3 medium cucumbers, peeled and chopped
  • 2 serrano chiles, minced
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut, toasted
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp ghee*
  • 1/2 tsp black mustard seeds
  • 1/4 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • handful cilantro, chopped
  • 1/2 peanuts, toasted
Toss the cucumbers gently with chiles, coconut, lemon juice, and sugar. Over medium heat, melt the ghee in a small skillet. When hot, stir in mustard seeds. When the seeds begin to sizzle, add the cumin seeds and heat for an additional 30 seconds, just long enough to turn fragrant. Remove from heat, and stir in salt. Pour over the salad and mix in. Top with cilantro and peanuts; serve immediately.

*Ghee is a form of clarified butter, popular in South Asian cuisine. You can make your own or purchase at most international food stores.

Shredded Cabbage Salad
Adapted from Ruta Kahate, via smitten kitchen
Serves 4
  • 2 cups tightly packed, shredded green cabbage
  • 1 serrano chile, minced
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp olive or mustard oil
  • 1/2 tsp mustard seeds
Toss together the cabbage, chile, lemon juice, salt, and sugar. Taste and adjust seasoning as necessary; you are aiming for a well-balanced, sweet-sour taste. Heat the oil in a small skillet over high heat. When hot, add the mustard seeds and heat for 30 seconds or until the seeds begin to sizzle. Pour over the salad and toss. Allow the flavors to develop for at least 15 minutes before serving.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Pepino's Revenge

Another summer Sunday, another summer cocktail. With the margarita firmly entrenched in the pantheon of summer drinks, we often underrate other 'tails of tequila. Pepino's Revenge is Spring's mojito and Summer's margarita resting side-by-side in a swaying hammock. The cucumber cools your core the way whiskey warms your face in the winter. The rewarding scent of freshly muddled cucumber and basil is reason enough to try the cocktail, and their combination adds a beautiful amount of complexity to this refreshing drink. Add this cocktail to your grilling and Bocce arsenal.

Pepino's Revenge
Food & Wine, May 2012
  • 1.5oz tequila
  • 0.5oz simple syrup
  • 0.5oz lime juice
  • 4 cucumber slices
  • 3 basil leaves
Muddle the basil and cucumber, and then add ice, tequila, simple syrup (one part sugar dissolved in one part water), and lime juice. Shake vigorously and strain into a rocks glass with ice. Garnish with a cucumber slice.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Ron el Mal: A Cuba Libre Revision

I rarely dance with dark rum. My aversion to sweetness, warm weather, and coconut bras generally keeps me at bay. I have a soft spot for Hunter S. Thompson though, and watching his character consume rum by the truckload in The Rum Dairy on Friday inspired me to give it another chance. I struck out to make a palatable concoction from what I had in the liquor pantry, and the result was the reinvention of the Cuba Libre. The flavor profile of original coca-cola apparently shared the attributes of Amaro (a bitter-sweet Italian liqueur) and Angostura bitters, so with a little sugar and a splash of club soda, I had all the makings of an edgier cocktail. Its contents are deceptively higher in alcohol than the traditional recipe, so I've entitled it ron el mar - the evil rum.

Ron el Mal
  • 3oz dark rum
  • 1.5oz Amaro (such as Amaro Montenegro)
  • 3 dashes Angostura bitters
  • 1 sugar cube (or a teaspoon of simple syrup)
  • club soda
  • lemon peel
Place the sugar cube at the bottom of a rocks glass and douse it with two to three healthy dashes of bitters. Muddle the bitter sugar and then add a splash of club soda to help it dissolve. Fill the glass with ice, rum, and Amaro. Stir and garnish with a hearty rind of lemon.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Thai-Inspired Black Chickpea Salad

In advance of the arrival of our newest family member, I am implementing a new strategy to streamline our weeknight cooking: cook up a big pot of beans on Sunday evenings. It appeals to my homesteading spirit, and its also given me an awfully good excuse to outfit us with provisions from Rancho Gordo.

But since my shipment of fancy heirloom beans has yet to arrive, my trial run for this new plan was a bag of black chickpeas hanging around from a long-past trip to the Indian market. Black chickpeas are the darker, denser cousin of regular chickpeas. They are deep brown in color, and when cooked, still retain an almost crisp exterior. They taste nutty and rich. And although I imagine they take decently well to most standard chickpea recipes, I think they deserve their own arena in which to play.

This salad is a prime example. The chickpeas are coated in a spiced coconut milk sauce, which when cooled has an almost tropical taste to it and a pleasant thickness. They are joined by a trio of green ingredients - green onions, cucumber, and cilantro - and finished with some lime juice and hot sauce. The result is sharp, crisp, and refreshing - equally good alone or served over a bed of basmati rice.

Thai-Inspired Black Chickpea Salad
Adapted from Off the Meathook
Serves 2 as a main dish, 4 as a side dish
  • 2 1/2 cups cooked black chickpeas*
  • 1/2 of 14 oz can of coconut milk
  • 3 cardamom pods
  • 20 black peppercorns
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds (or ground cumin)
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds (or ground coriander)
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 tbsp lime juice
  • 2-3 green onions, chopped
  • 2 tbsp cilantro, diced
  • 1/2 cucumber, chopped
  • sriracha, to taste
Bring the chickpeas and coconut milk to a slow boil in a saucepan, stirring frequently. Grind the spices and dump them into the mix. Turn the pot down to a simmer and cook until almost all of the liquid has boiled off, about 30 minutes. When the coconut milk has reduced to a thick paste around the chickpeas, you'll know it's done. Stir in the lime juice and spoon the mixture into a bowl or tupperware to cool.

When cooled to room temperature, stir in the green onions, cilantro, cucumber, and sriracha to taste. Serve at room temperature or store in the fridge until ready to eat.

*Black chickpeas can be difficult to find; I've had good luck at Indian or Asian markets. They typically come dried, which means you'll need to cook them before starting this recipe. For most beans, I find that a 2:4 ratio of beans to water, plus some salt, works great. Put them on the stove at a low simmer for 2 hours or throw them in the crockpot on low for eight hours. (Time will vary based on the variety of bean and their freshness). When the beans are soft (be prepared that the black chickpeas don't get quite as soft), drain them and store them in a bit of fresh water in the fridge. Result: a nice pot of beans, ready to be flavored to your liking.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Brown Butter Soda Bread

I wanted to post this recipe in time for St. Patrick's Day, but this is such a great bread that I hope you'll forgive me for being late on the delivery. (And for all those other important holidays and occasions I've missed lately.)

To be honest, I don't usually like soda bread. It can be dry and sort-of stale tasting, and I have a frosty relationship with both caraway seeds and raisins. The great thing about soda bread, though, is that is allows you to undertake a bread-baking project minus the yeast. And as someone who hasn't yet given up her fear of yeasted doughs, that can be very appealing.

So, I bring you this perfect compromise - a soda bread, but with flavors I can really get on board with. Brown butter, rosemary, black pepper. Oh yes, it's as delicious as it sounds. The bread has that wholesome goodness from the oats, with a richness and sophistication from the brown butter and rosemary. The final topping of fresh ground black pepper and the egg wash makes for a golden brown, slightly spicy crust. I love everything about it. 

Brown Butter Soda Bread
Bon Appetit (February 2006) via Caviar and Codfish
Makes one loaf
  • 2 tbsp. butter
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup old-fashioned oats
  • 1 1/2 tsp. sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp. chopped fresh rosemary (I've used dried in a pinch, but fresh is much better.)
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • Scant 1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 egg white, beaten
Preheat oven to 375°F. Stir butter in small saucepan over medium heat until melted and golden brown, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat.

Stir flour, oats, sugar, rosemary, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and black pepper in large bowl to blend. Pour buttermilk and melted browned butter over flour mixture; stir with fork until flour mixture is moistened.
Turn dough out onto floured work surface. Knead gently until dough comes together, about 7 turns. Shape into ball; flatten into 6-inch round. Place round on ungreased baking sheet; brush top with beaten egg white. Sprinkle lightly with ground black pepper. Using small sharp knife, cut 1/2-inch-deep X in top of dough.

Bake until deep golden brown and tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Cool 30 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Whiskey Thanksgiving

This year marked our first Thanksgiving entirely on our own. We moved south, and being this close to Tennessee and Kentucky it's only natural to make this a Whiskey Winter (which is really no different than our previous winters). Inspired by the warm rum, cider, and cinnamon my dad made on Thanksgiving mornings, I turned to whiskey to warm up our morning. (Meghan's way of warming up the morning was to bake miniature pies in muffin tins).  The Hot Toddy is a classic cocktail that has ties to medicinal remedies and the Scottish country-side. One sip will leave you longing to be inside by the fire on a cold, rainy night. The honey always feels like it might get too sweet, while the lemon always threatens to get to acrid, but neither happens.  The balance of this adult tea is great, and it makes for a lovely way to start your holiday morning.  As the day winds on and you need something stiffer to distract you from an overdose of fam and lack of famine, check out De La Louisiane, a warped cousin of the Manhattan.

Hot Toddy
  • 1oz Honey
  • 1.5oz Bourbon
  • 0.3oz lemon juice
  • 3oz water
Warm the water and honey until it dissolves, and then add the lemon juice and whiskey and serve warm.  Lie down with a book, and promptly take a nap.

De La Louisiane
  • 1.5oz Rye
  • 1.5oz Sweet Vermouth
  • 1.5oz Benedictine (or a sweet French/Italian liquor like Lillet Blanc or Pineau)
  • 3 dash Peychaud's bitters
  • 3 dash absinthe
Stir with ice and strain or serve on the rocks.  Garnish with a cherry.  Hallucinate.  

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Rosé Round-up and a Fall Salad

Rosé gets a lot of love for being the perfect summer drink. I can't argue with that, but I also appreciate it in the autumn months. I purchased my first bottle of rosé on a girl's trip to Napa, just when I started to learn that drinking pink wine wasn't something to be embarrassed by. Doug and I broke it open to enjoy on a late September evening and it tasted fantastic with the prosciutto and late summer melon. Since then, I've thought of rosé as my perfect summer-to-fall transition wine. It's cold and refreshing, but with more substance and depth than summer whites.

Rosé also pairs well with some of my favorite fall dishes, including this sweet-tart salad. I've been on a huge fruit-in-salad kick - strawberries over arugula, watermelon cubes with feta, asian pears garnished with toasted pistachios - but this salad was the original. I'd never have imagined that slices of crisp granny smith apples belonged with diced celery. The tart taste of the apples is a surprisingly good match for the dry, vegetal flavor of the celery. The honey-mustard dressing sounds like a corporate dipping sauce, but this one reminds me why those flavors belonged together in the first place - sharp, bright, tangy.

Below is a quick round-up of the rosés I've been enjoying recently. The salad recipe follows the wines.
Domaine St. Lucie 
Cotes de Provence Rose MiP (2010)
This light pink wine - a blend of Cinsault, Grenache, and Syrah - was dry and refreshing. Clear strawberry notes, but also strong mineral character. It was damn good with a Guadalajara Sour.

Martin Codax Cuatro Pasos
Rosado (2010)
This Cuatro Pasos is made with Mencia grapes from the Bierzo region of Spain. Mencia is similar to Cab Franc, so I expected to like it more than I did. Instead, this was a little too berry-rific for me. The fruit dominated the wine.

Domaine Wilfred Rousse
Chinon Rose (2009)
Doug and I have a fondness for wines made from Chinon because they feature Cabernet Franc. This rosé is made entirely of Cab Franc; it's tart and citrusy, with an herbal scent on the nose.

Stella Rose (2008)
Napa Valley
If the MiP is the most delicate of this crew, the Stella is the richest. The wine is made with Syrah grapes. It is full, food-friendly, and fantastic in the cooler months. We really loved this one.

Green Apple and Celery Salad
Bon Appetit (November 2005)
Serves 4
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1/4 Dijon mustard
  • 5 tsps honey (You can short this some, if you want a sharper dressing.)
  • 2/3 cup olive oil
  • 1 large bunch celery
  • 2 large Granny Smith apples, quartered and cored, then thinly sliced
  • 3/4 cup chopped walnuts, toasted
Whisk the first three ingredients in a small bowl to blend. Gradually whisk in oil. Season vinaigrette with salt and pepper. Thinly slice celery stalks on a deep diagonal. Combine celery, apple slices, and toasted walnuts in a large bowl. Add vinaigrette and toss to coat. Season salad to taste with salt and pepper.