Thursday, September 30, 2010


The thought of breakfast burritos has never appealed to me. I know people love them, but I just always thought I wasn't that kind of girl.

But then last weekend I had a big party. I made a lot of salsa for the party. And, well, leftovers.

So I had all this salsa sitting my fridge, begging for a use. And somehow, it just hit to me. I had some beautiful farmers' market eggs. I love making tortillas.

So. It happened. Hot peppers sauteed. Eggs scrambled. Tortillas rolled. Tortillas cooked. Burritos assembled.

The creaminess of the eggs. The sharpness of the salsa. The softness of the tortilla.

Definitely a convert.

Sometimes food is just beautiful...

And that's all you can say about it.


Roasting beets for soup.

Gorgeous heirloom tomatoes...
That become my dinner. Arugula, tomato, and blue cheese salad.
Gorgeous world, huh?

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Indian in a Flash

I had an exciting cooking experience last night when I decided to make bread from the fascinating Mangoes and Curry Leaves: Culinary Travels Through the Great Subcontinent cookbook, which is just as much a scrapbook of Indian (and Sri Lankan, and and Nepali, etc.) life and culture as it is a collection of recipes. I highly recommend it.

In my experience, naan (which I've blogged about before) is the bread of India, ubiquitous on the menus at Indian restuarants in the States. And rightfully so, for it is delicious. But, as with all cultures, Indian food is greatly limited for us. It adapts to the culture it's in. Furthermore, the food of any one culture is so vast (and with strange, unavailable ingredients), that it would be difficult to get a comprehensive experience of all the culinary palate has to offer.

When looking at this cookbook, I was surprised and excited to find a whole chapter on breads, and knew I needed to try some. Last night was the perfect opportunity. I was planning a meal of many small vegetable dishes, and figured I should have bread it go with it. So after prepping my raw turnip-chili salad, grilled eggplant, and green beans with garlic and arugula pesto, I went about making the bread.

I chose something that looked simple, and my choice--a Bengali-style bread called luchis--were just that. Few ingredients and little prep, but an amazing result. Luchis are a fried flatbread, though despite the fact that they are fried, are not at all oily (the cookbook authors made this claim, and it was true). There is no leavening agent in the bread, but they puff up in the oil, little bubbles of air developing miraculously. Luchis are at the same time crisp and chewy, with a subtle sweetness to them (for this reason, I think they would be great sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar). Paired with a chutney of some sort, I think luchis would be the perfect snack to serve with drinks, and I can't wait to make them again. Here's how:

You'll need:
1 1/4 c. flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. vegetable oil (ghee would be a more traditional choice, but I would imagine most of us don't have any on hand!)
1/2 c. lukewarm water
oil for frying (peanut was recommended, I used vegetable)

*note: these are the quantities I used. The recipe in the book was double this--but I was only cooking for two! This made around 8 breads.

Measure flour and salt into a bowl. Whisk to combine. Add the oil (or ghee) and mix in with your hand or a spoon. When well-mixed, add the water, a little at the time, mixing to make a dough. Kneed a few minutes until smooth.

Let the dough rest, wrapped in a dishcloth. This can be for anywhere between 30 minutes to 2 hours, whichever is more convenient. I let mine rest for two hours.

Break off a golf-ball sized piece of dough. On a floured surface, roll out into a flat circle, of about a four-inch diameter. Continue with the rest of the dough, keeping the prepared rounds covered under a dishcloth.

To cook, heat oil until almost smoking. I find that recipes that call for frying like this always say to use 2 inches of oil, which I think is just excessive. I heated my oil in a wok, and used about 1 inch at most. Put dough rounds in one at a time. They cook so fast, that this is not at all inconvenient (if using a large pan, you could do 2 or 3). When dropped in the oil, the dough will sink and then rise, and immediately begin to brown. Turn over to brown both sides evenly. Put cooked luchis on a paper towel-lined plate. Enjoy!

Frying the luchis

A beautiful plate of luchis

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Garbage Disposal Chowder

I had some old corn. Corn on the cob, some of it already cooked, some of it not. I've been meaning to make chowder with it for a week now, but I just got around to it tonight.

So I decided to throw in my refrigerator. Ok, maybe that's an exaggeration. But I did get rid of some things. A small piece of red onion. A wilted leek. Celery about to turn brown. Sauteed that with some garlic and an old jalapeno for a ghetto-southwestern mirepoix. Added corn, cut off the cob. Added a potato, diced small. Some water. Some salt. A bay leaf. The tops of a daikon radish. Boil. Simmer. Puree. Splash of milk. Grinding of pepper. Eat.

This is enjoyable food for an alone night. Easy and quick to make. Simple food, but all the flavors working together to create something comforting. The earthy flavors of the potato and bay. The spice of the jalapeno. The bright freshness of the corn.

So, next time you're eating alone, just throw your refrigerator in the pot.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Developing Dessert

Well, here we go--my first post from my new kitchen! I have to say, it's taken awhile for me to feel comfortable cooking somewhere else. Of course, the kitchen at my parents' is much nicer than the one I have now, but that was also the kitchen where I developed my rhythm. I've been in my new place for about three weeks, and I still don't feel completely at ease, but don't worry--that hasn't kept me from cooking! Here are a few random pictures of things I've created in the new place:

A perfect lunch--baugette, goat cheese, honey, walnuts, and tarragon


Spaghetti cooked with swiss chard and fresh tomato sauce

Miniature red peppers stuffed with sauteed corn

The real reason of the update, however, is to talk about a dessert I made last night. I'm not a huge dessert person. I like dessert fine enough, though I don't eat it that often, and I certainly don't cook it that often. But I was watching an episode of Master Chef (something else completely out of character for me), and one of the challenges was to make a dessert. So I guess that got me thinking. It was pretty interesting how these amateur, yet talented, chefs were freaking out when they found out they had to make a dessert. But it makes sense. Dessert is an entirely different ball game. Dessert is measuring quantities and getting your dough, custard, or pastry to have just the right consistency. There's less room for improv in dessert. BUT--there is some room for improv. How did dessert recipes come to exist in the first place? Someone got an idea, tried it, tasted it, and wrote it down (if it worked!).

Well last night, that someone was me.

I'de been having a hankering for fried doughnuts. There's a recipe for them in this Mexican cookbook that I like to make, doughnuts flavored with anise and sprinkled with cinnamon sugar. But I moved, so I don't have that cookbook anymore. Well, I thought, I will just make my own. I was feeling inspired from the show, I wanted to do something great, so I thought about it a little, and went for it.

It started with me thinking about the anise. I didn;t have any anise, and I do have fennel seed, but that wasn't quite the flavor I wanted. So my mind wandered to cardamom. Yes. I've made sugar cookies with cardamom before, and they were delicious. When I think of cardamom, I think of India, and when I think of India, I think of tea. A great lover of tea, I sometimes try to incorporate it into my cooking, and this seemed a good opportunity to try. I decided I would make a syrup with the tea to put over the doughnuts, and when I was getting my ingredients out, I spied some dried apricots, so those became part of the syrup as well. So here you go, my recipe for Cardamom-Spiked Doughnuts with Ceylon-Apricot Sauce:

For the doughnuts:

1 c. flour

1/2 tsp. salt (maybe a little less)

1/4 tsp. cinnamon

1/2 tsp. crushed cardamom

1 tsp. baking powder

3 T. butter, melted and slightly cooled

1/2 c. milk (I used condensed milk because that was all I had)

2 T. honey

For the sauce:

2/3 c. of strong brewed Ceylon tea (or other black tea)

1/3 c. sugar

4-5 dried apricots, sliced

Mix first five ingredients in a bowl, using a whisk to make sure they are well incorporated. In another bowl, use a whisk to incorporate milk and honey. Whisk well! Add milk/honey and melted butter to the flour mixture. Stir to make a sticky but firm dough. Will look something like this:

Put the dough in the refriderator to chill for about 15 minutes. While this is happening, you can make the sauce. In a small saucepan, mix tea and sugar. Bring to a boil and boil for about 5 minutes. Turn down the heat, add the apricots, and simmer until a syrup-like consistency is acheived.

After the dough has chilled, fry the doughnuts. Pour vegetable oil in a pan, so it is about 1/4 inch deep. Heat at medium-high heat. Once the oil is hot, turn down the heat to low (this is so the doughnuts cook all the way through and do not burn). Form the dough into little balls and flatten them--the doughnuts will puff up as they cook. Drop the dough into the oil and cook for about 2 minutes on each side. Adjust the heat as needed so the doughnuts brown and don't burn. Move cooked doughnuts onto a plate lined with a paper towel. To serve, put on a plate and drizzle with sauce. Enjoy!

A note about the sauce: I would recommend brewing the tea very strong. Because there is so much sugar needed to make the sauce, the flavor of the tea can easily be drowned out. That is the one big change I will make to this recipe in the future, because I did not brew my tea strong enough!