quarta-feira, 18 de fevereiro de 2009

vegetable curry with peanuts

You know that curry dish you always get from your Thai-take out restaurant? The usual coconut milk and curry mixture accompanying vegetables and maybe some meat added to it? Well, I did a little project on that.

Michael and I live close to Rod Dee, a tiny Thai restaurant that is definitely what they call a "hole in the wall", on Beacon street. The restaurant is always packed with people that line up to grab a meal after work or when they just don't feel like making anything at home. I think the answer to their success is the amazing curry sauce that they add to their house curry dishes. It has a lot more flavor than the regular stuff we are used to, and Rod Dee's combination has a nutty and sweet taste that makes the dish rich, complex and really satisfying.

So, I got a recipe for a vegetable curry from Heidi Swanson, and did some twisting to it. The first thing I tried was to add two tablespoons of peanut butter to the pot of curry. Not only did it thicken the sauce but also gave it that nutty comfort I was looking for. It still needed something else to make the spices, the coconut and the peanut butter pop. So, I added two tablespoons of raw honey and the whole thing changed into a warm, spicy and caramel-like curry paradise.

Making your own curry spice mixture will certainly bring your cooking and the flavors to another level. The yellow powder we buy at the supermarket is loaded with turmeric, that almost works as a filler for curry powders. A good curry has darker and warmer ingredients such as cinnamon, cloves, and chillies. This recipe makes a spicy, hot curry, and you can control the level of spiciness by adding one tablespoon of curry powder to the pot instead of two. I've included a recipe for the curry powder below.

vegetable curry with peanuts

1 cup whole coconut milk
1 -2 Tbsp curry powder*
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 large red onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, chopped
1/3 cup water
4 oz firm tofu, cut into small cubes (optional)
1 cup green beans, cut into 1-inch segments
1 1/2 cups cauliflower, cut into small florets
1/3 cup toasted cashews or peanuts
2 Tbsp peanut butter
2 Tbsp raw honey, or good quality honey
1/2 bunch of cilantro

Bring half of the coconut milk to a simmer in a large skillet or pot over medium high heat. Whisk in the curry powder and salt, working out any clumps. Stir in the chopped onion and garlic and cook for a minute. Stir in the remaining coconut milk and the water, and then the tofu. Cook down the liquid for a couple of minutes before adding the green beans and cauliflower. Cover and simmer for just one minute or two, or just until the vegetables are cooked. Add the peanut butter and the honey to the pot. Remove it from the heat and add the nuts. Taste and adjust the salt and curry powder if needed. Serve with some cilantro and rice on the side. Serves 2-3.

*curry powder:

In a dry skillet over medium heat toast 2 dried red chilies, 1 Tbsp coriander seeds, 1 Tbsp cumin seeds, 1 Tbsp fennel seeds, 1/2 tsp cardamon seeds, 1/2 tsp whole cloves. Toast for just a minute or two or until the spices are deeply fragrant. Now use a spice grinder to grind the chilies into a powder first, remove them, then grind the spices - it usually takes about a couple of minutes in the grinder for each. Place the ground spices in a bowl and stir in a scant tablespoon of ground turmeric, and 1/2 tsp of cinnamon. Makes a scant 1/3 cup.

quarta-feira, 21 de janeiro de 2009

chocolate and raspberry mousse cake

What to do when a great cook invites you for dinner and you're supposed to bring dessert? Our hostess was Jess, this cute, smart, tattooed, vegetarian who has her own food related blog: la vida veggie. The blog that inspired me to create this one. 

I knew she would be planning our dinner in advance, carefully prepping the ingredients, making sure dinner would be a memorable one, so I could not underestimate my dessert plans. 

I had many ideas for a great ending to our meal, but nothing was really grabbing me. But then, looking through my culinary books, I found the most decadent piece of heaven that would be perfect for a cold night with friends: a chocolate mousse cake. The cake is a deep dark chocolate torte that is mixed with butter and egg whites for an airy consistency. Later in the process, fresh flash frozen raspberries are added to the mixture. For best results you will need to start making this the day before you want to eat it and chill it overnight.

The recipe is from a book called Market Vegetarian by Ross Dobson, an Australian chef that makes vegetarian dishes look like porn for veggie people. 

He says: "Everyone needs a good chocolate cake recipe, and this could be the one you've been waiting for! Each time I make this, the texture around the edge is a little different to the time before, but it always has the same rich flavor with just a hint of tartness from the raspberries."

chocolate and raspberry mousse cake:

1 1/2 cups fresh raspberries
14 oz bittersweet chocolate, broken up
1 stick plus 7 Tbp unsalted butter, cubed
6 eggs, separated
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/4 superfine sugar (granulated sugar after a nice spin in the food processor)

Put the raspberries on a tray or baking sheet and put it in the freezer for 2-3 hours.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Put the chocolate and the butter in a large, heatproof bowl over a saucepan of gently simmering water (being careful not to let the bottom of the bowl come into contact with the water). Slowly melt, stirring, until the mixture is smooth and silky, then remove from the heat.

Beat the egg yolks with flour for 1 minute until thick, making sure there are no lumps. Add to the chocolate mixture and stir well to combine. In a separate, grease-free bowl, beat the egg whites with an electric or manual whisk until they form soft peaks. Sprinkle the sugar over the whites and beat until you have a glossy shine. Use a large spoon to fold the whites into the chocolate and flour mixture. Do this in two batches, working quickly and without overbeating. Add the frozen raspberries and stir.

Pour the mixture into a 9 inch, lightly buttered springform cake pan, and bake in the oven for 15 minutes. Put an oven-proof plate on top of the pan to cover it without touching the cake, and bake for an additional 1o minutes. Remove the cake from the oven, leaving the plate on top, and let it cool completely. When cool, put the cake in the fridge and leave overnight. Remove from the fridge 3 hours before serving it so that it comes to room temperature. Serves 10-12

sábado, 10 de janeiro de 2009

fennel and tomato focaccia

If you think making bread is a time-consuming, labor intensive task, focaccia might be a revelation to you.

This Italian bread begins by being shaped into a large, flat round that is liberally brushed or drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with salt. Slits cut into the dough's surface may be stuffed with fresh rosemary before the bread is baked. It can be eaten as a snack, served as an accompaniment to soups, salads, or simply dipped into good, sweet, fruity olive oil.

But let's talk flour first, since the right choice makes a big different in texture. Always use unbleached flour. Bleaching uses chemical ingredients that robs the flour of nutrients, flavor and color, all for the questionable end of making white flour even whiter.

Different wheats contain different amounts of protein, and that protein gives the resulting baked goods different characteristics.

Flour can be called hard, soft or all-purpose. Hard flour, also called bread flour, has the most protein, and is the best type for making crusty, coarse-textured bread. You can make good bread with all-purpose flour, but if it is available, use bread flour.

Soft flour has the lowest percentage of protein, and makes delicate cakes with a fine crumb.

All-purpose is the standard to make cakes, pancakes, waffles, since the amount of protein is moderate.

fennel and tomato focaccia:

2 baby fennel bulbs, thinly sliced and fronds chopped
2 tomatoes, thinly sliced
1 1/2 tsp sea salt flakes, or any other coarse salt
3 1/2 cups white bread flour
1 tsp salt
2 tsp dried yeast
3 Tbp olive oil

For the dough, sift the flour and salt into a large bowl and add the yeast. Stir to combine and make a well in the center.

Add 1 1/4 cups warm water and 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Stir to combine, then use your hands to bring the mixture together (if the mixture is sticking to your hands add a little flour, but avoid using it. The more flour the chewier the bread will be). Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and knead the dough for 10 minutes (or use your standing mixer set with the hook attachment) until smooth and elastic. Form the dough into a ball and place it in an oiled bowl. Cover with a kitchen towel and place it in a warm area for 1 1/2 hours, until doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Put the ball of dough on an oiled baking sheet. Using a lightly floured rolling pin, gently roll from the center upwards in one motion, not pressing the air bubbles too firmly. Roll the opposite side making an oval or rectangular shape about 12 inches long and 8 inches at its widest part. Cover it and let it sit for 30 minutes.

Use the tips of your fingers to press dimples over the surface of the dough. Lay the fennel and tomato slices on top and scatter with the fronds. Drizzle with the remaining olive oil and sprinkle with salt flakes. Bake in the preheated oven for 25 minutes. If the top does not get golden, turn the broiler on and toast for 2 minutes or so. Serves 6-8.