Sunday, August 28, 2016

Roasted Tomato and Garlic Soup


After much lamentation on the state of my green tomatoes, I am flooded with ripe red ones. Plums, Early Girls and Heirlooms lie in neat piles in baskets, on counter tops. Tomatoes are featured constantly at lunch and dinner. As I chop and puree, soup comes to mind. Bread bakes, and a sheet pan of tomato chunks and garlic roast alongside. A little olive oil and those roasted chunks are sauteed, charred bits and all. I squeeze soft garlic cloves into tomatoes along with chicken stock. In no time at all, tomatoes release their juices and my senses cloaked in essence of tomato. The blender does a fine job of pureeing the soup. I add a some milk. I drizzle some cream. Soup's up.


ROASTED TOMATO AND GARLIC SOUP
Serves 4

5-6 big Early Girls or Heirloom Tomatoes (or any big farmer's market ones)
1 head Garlic
2 tablespoons Olive Oil 
1 small Onion
1 Cinammon stick
1 cup Chicken Stock 
1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt 
1/4 teaspoon ground Black Pepper 
1/4 cup Milk
2 tablespoons Cream
Slivered Basil leaves

Heat oven to 400F.

Cut tomatoes into large wedges. Arrange them on a baking sheet.

Slice the top of the garlic pod, exposing the cloves. Place the pod next to tomatoes.

Bake tomatoes and garlic for 20 minutes.

Turn broiler on high.

Broil tomatoes till you see skins are charred. Watch the tomatoes carefully. The tops should be singed brown.




Heat olive oil in a deep pan.

Chop onions into small chunks. Add to olive oil and saute till translucent.




Spoon roasted tomatoes into oil. Bring to boil smashing the pulp with a spoon.

Squeeze roasted garlic into tomatoes.

Add chicken stock, cinammon and seasonings. Stir. Cover with a lid and let tomatoes stew for 15 minutes on a low flame.




Remove from fire and cool for a few minutes.

Take the cinnamon stick out of the pan.

Blend tomatoes into a thick puree.




Return puree to pan. 

Place pan over low heat and add milk. Stir well to mix.  Cook for 5 minutes.

Pour soup into a bowl.

Swirl a little cream over the top.

Garnish with basil and serve.




Soup equates comfort. Knowing that it is made with homegrown produce adds deeper meaning. An acquaintance says that we should let farmers earn their living. I agree. Then again, the riot of tomatoes culled from my small patch, brings me 'abundant' joy!

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Pork Tenderloin with Herb Sauce




Many happy years of married life are to be celebrated, so I plan an evening..a movie and dinner for a very special couple. Keith and Colleen Louis are congenial, fun loving and game for everything! The four of us start by being the youngsters in a mostly grey haired audience viewing Florence Foster Jenkins, a truly delightful movie. The evening progresses to tea and zucchini bread. As the light fades, we move on to stronger libations. And dinner. 

Cold zucchini soup, laced with fried squash blossoms and mini zucchini is refreshing. An avocado and heirloom tomato salad is crowned with a generous portion of burrata and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. The garden theme stops here! The mains are roast pork tenderloin, smashed potatoes and corn with basil. 

The tenderloin adaptation from a chef I follow. Ottolenghi's recipes delight my palate on every occasion.  His list of ingredients is always detailed. The reward is the result...always! With that thought in mind I try my version of this recipe for the first time. How hard is it to blend white wine, tamarind, sugar, lime juice, garlic and herbs? How easy is it to let the meat marinade for a few hours? And how difficult is it to roast this gorgeous piece of meat?? Believe me.. the answer is... easy as ABC! 


PORK TENDERLOIN WITH HERB SAUCE
Adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi 
Serves 6


2 Pork Tenderloins
2 teaspoons Tamarind Paste (see note)
1 cup Mint leaves 
2 cups Parsley 
2 cups Cilantro 
3 tablespoons White Wine
2 Garlic cloves
1 teaspoon Cumin powder 
1 teaspoon Brown Sugar
1 Lime, juiced
1/2 cup + 2 teaspoons Olive Oil 
1 teaspoon Kosher Salt 
1/2 teaspoon ground Black Pepper 


Blend or process tamarind, mint, parsley, cilantro, wine, garlic, cumin powder, brown sugar, lime juice, 1/2 cup olive oil and seasonings. 




Pat tenderloins dry and place them in a glass dish. 

Pour herb sauce over pork, turning pork so it is well coated. 




Marinate in the refrigerator for 3-5 hours. Bring to room temperature before roasting.

Heat oven to 400F.

Heat a griddle or cast iron pan over a high flame.

Let the sauce drip off tenderloins before placing onto pan.

Add remaining olive oil to the pan and use tongs to sear tenderloins on all sides.




Place tenderloins on a baking sheet and roast for 20 minutes. If you are using a cast iron pan, go ahead and place the pan in the oven.

Remove pork from oven and tent with foil. Let pork sit for 5 minutes before you slice the meat.

While pork roasts, pour remaining marinade into a saucepan. Bring to a boil, lower heat and let sauce simmer for 10 minutes.

Cut pork into thin slices. 

Drizzle sauce over sliced pork and serve.


NOTES

If you cannot find tamarind paste, soak a golf ball sized piece of tamarind (available at Indian grocers) in a little water for 15 minutes, then squeeze the pulp till you have a thick paste.




Conversations ebb and flow like the cool breeze through open windows. The comfort of an old friendship fits like a snug glove. How do I celebrate Keith and Col's milestone???...... Just a simple dinner for special folks. Or should I say a special dinner for simple folks. Both work equally well!! 








Saturday, August 20, 2016

Pasta with Tomatoes and Mozzerella




This pasta reeks of summer. Never refrigerated tomatoes is the secret. Along with fresh mozzerella. And of course basil. So you get that I'm emphasizing fresh. Not that you can't use what you have in the fridge. Please do. But I cannot guarantee the taste of sun kissed tomatoes, the texture of buffalo mozzarella and the irreplaceable aroma of fresh basil. If you are fortunate to have even two out of the three, your pasta will come together like a symphony. Play on!


PASTA WITH TOMATO AND MOZZARELLA 
Serves 4


1/2 pound Spaghetti, Linguini or Fettuccini 
3 tablespoons Olive Oil 
1 small Onion
4-5 Garlic cloves
3 large Tomatoes 
1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt 
Several grinds of Black Pepper
4 oz Buffalo Mozzarella 
8-10 Basil leaves


Heat 5 cups of water in a deep saucepan.

When it boils add 1 teaspoon of Kosher Salt to water along with pasta.  Cook till al dente, 8-9 minutes. Drain well.

While pasta cooks mince onion and garlic finely.

Chop tomatoes into big chunks.

Heat oil in a wide saucepan and when it shimmers add onion and garlic. Saute for 3-5 minutes till onion is wilted.

Add tomatoes to onions. Cover and cook for 5 minutes.




Uncover and add pasta to tomatoes. Stir well so sauce coats pasta. Cook for a few minutes.

Season with salt and pepper.

Slice mozzarella into small pieces.




Put the pasta into a serving bowl.

Add mozzarella and basil leaves and toss well and serve.




Spaghetti, tomatoes, mozzarella and basil is Italy on a plate. Strands of mozzarella are maddeningly fun to eat. Summer comes easily to our table. 


Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Tomato Saar




Pronounced sour, though in reality it is a little tart, a little sweet, a little spicy and resplendently tomato flavored. Not a soup though you could slurp it by the spoonful. Hailing from the Konkan area of western India, saar is almost always  made with coconut milk. A looser version is made with kokum or dried mangosteen. Purplish in color, it is has similar qualities, but unlike tomato saar, kokum saar or sol kadhi is drunk like juice or lassi. Sarry for the lecture.... Back to the tomato version as I'm in throes of tomato heaven.


The joy of using a just harvested tomato is undeniable. I am overwhelmed with my crop. Four ziploc bags filled with plums take up residence in the freezer. Friends reap the benefits of brown baggged gifts. The rest are up for grabs. I have assorted chunks of Big Boy, Pink Heirlooms and Plums which I hope to convert into a parade of reds.  Today chunks are boiled with a sprinkle of water and a pinch of salt. Tomatoes release their juices as they bubble. I let them dry out till you get a pulpy mess. Using an immersion blender I turn the pulp into a puree. Big mistake!!!!!! Beware...you will be covered in tomato splatter. On second thoughts I will use a blender or processor the next time. Ghee, mustard and cumin seeds, curry leaves, dried and fresh chiles and coconut milk give the puree an Indian spin. All it needs is some hot rice or a phulka for a satisfying meal.


TOMATO SAAR
Serves 2


2 cup Tomato chunks
A pinch of Kosher Salt 
1 teaspoon Ghee
1/8 teaspoon Mustard seeds
1/8 teaspoon Cumin seeds
4-5 Curry leaves
1 dried Red Chile, broken in half
2 fresh green Chiles, cut into chunks
3/4 cup Coconut Milk
1/4 teaspoon Kosher Salt 
Fresh Cilantro Sprigs


Place tomato chunks into a deep saucepan.

Sprinkle a little water over chunks and place on a medium flame. Bring to boil and let tomatoes cook for 10 minutes. Stir from time to time. Let most of liquid evaporate. 




Puree tomatoes using a blender. 

Heat ghee in a deep saucepan.

When it's hot add mustard and cumin seeds, curry leaves and dried and green chiles. Let seeds splutter 20 seconds.




Pour tomato puree to saucepan and stir to mix.




Add coconut milk and salt and bring the saar to a low boil for 5 minutes.




Garnish with fresh cilantro sprigs and serve.





I eat mouthfuls of rice and saar, licking my fingers as the meal progresses. Mild flavors do not make mild manners! Saary again!!





Sunday, August 14, 2016

Creamed Corn With An Indian Slant




Summer's bounty always translates into something delicious. Long Island grown corn is sweetness personified. Any farmers market corn will yield the same taste. And for this style of creamed corn only fresh corn will do. No cans of corn, creamed or other. Frozen corn is not my choice, but could work in a pinch. It will not have the same taste and texture as fresh. 

You need a sharp knife to cut the kernels. Hold the shucked corn cob vertically as you propel you knife downwards. Stand the corn in a bowl or platter. Kernels have a tendency to fly in all directions if you don't do this carefully. It sounds like a complicated project, but once you get the hang of it, this task will seem a breeze. Or you could use a device that does the job for you. Either way, you should be left with a picked-clean corncob. The next trick is to try to get as much of the corn cream left on the cob. Use the back of your knife to scrape the cream onto corn kernels. These bits of corn puree adds a big flavor boost. Cumin and green chiles just barely lend a Indian slant. Milk gives it creaminess. A slow simmer results in a nuanced creamed corn. 


CREAMED CORN WITH A INDIAN SLANT
Serves 4-6

4 fresh ears of Corn
2 teaspoons Ghee or clarified Butter
1/2 teaspoon Cumin seeds
3 green Chiles
4 tablespoons Water
1 cup whole or 2% Milk
1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt 
Cilantro to garnish 


Remove husks and silk from corn. 

Hold one corncob vertically in a bowl and run a sharp knife downwards to cut off kernels. Rotate corncob till all kernels are removed. Keep corncob aside. Repeat process with other ears of corn.

Hold corncob vertically over kernels. Run the back of your knife from top to bottom of cob , trying to scrape as much pulp as you can off the cob. Repeat this with other corncobs. You might get a little as teaspoon or as much as a few tablespoons from each cob, depending on the quality of the corn.

Cut chiles into small chunks.

Heat ghee in a saucepan.

Splutter cumin seeds and chiles in ghee. Let cumin turn deep brown.

Dump corn into saucepan along with water and salt. Cover and let corn cook for 3-5 minutes. Remove lid.

Pour milk into corn and let milk come to a boil. Lower flame to medium and simmer for 20-25 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes, till very little milk remains. The milk tends to form skin as it boils. Smoosh this skin into the corn with a spoon.






The corn is ready when you have trace amounts of milk left at the bottom of the pan. The corn shouldn't dry out completely.
  
You could remove chiles before serving, but that's optional.

Garnish with cilantro before serving.




Eating corn this way is my window into the past. I see huge copper vessels with corn being cooked over coal fires. I picture it on a banana leaf in my grandmas house. With a little effort I taste the past in the present. 



Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Three Bean Crostini




Heave that sigh of relief....no zucchini recipe!!! Though I still have a bag of squash tricks. Let's move on! Beans are the star performers. Two dried and fresh Romanos  from the garden. This crostini topping was walloped by G when Geeta made it way back in June. Since we are tailgating before a Paul McCartney concert, the beans will make easy finger food. 

The recipe comes from Bon Appetit. You could very well cook red kidney and canellini beans, but cans are a great time saver. The fresh green beans provide an essential crunch. Fresh tomatoes, chiles and herbs are blended and drained. The secret ingredient is chia seeds. Not overtly visible, they offer power packed nutrition. Start your blenders!!!


THREE BEAN CROSTINI 
Adapted from Bon Appetit
Serves 6 as an appetizer 


1 14oz can red Kidney Beans
1 14oz can Canellini Beans
10 Green Beans
1 tablespoon Chia Seeds
2 large Tomatoes 
2-3 green Chiles
1/2 cup Cilantro
1/2 Red Onion
1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt
1 Lime, juiced
1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt
4 tablespoons Olive Oil
1 French Bread baguette 
1 tablespoon Olive Oil 


Open bean cans and rinse beans under cool water. Place beans in a bowl.

Thinly slice green beans on a diagonal.

Cut tomatoes, green chiles and onion into chunks.

Blend tomatoes, green chiles, onions, cilantro, salt and lime juice till smooth. 

Pour blended tomatoes into a sieve, allowing tomato juices to drain. 

Add tomato pulp to beans, along with slivered green beans, chia seeds, salt and olive oil.

Let beans sit in the fridge for a few hours while you make the crostini.




Heat oven to 375F.

Cut bread  on the diagonal into thin slices.

Lay slices in one layer on a baking sheet. You might need two baking sheets. 

Brush slices with olive oil.

Bake crostini for 15-20 minutes checking the slices a few times. They should be pale brown.

Remove from oven and cool crostini on wire rack. When cool, place crostini in an airtight container or in ziplock bags.

Serve beans piled high on crostini for a hearty appetizer.




Tailgating with wine and crostini turns out to be a blast. The concert that follows is even more exciting. Beatlemania and beans turn out to be  a good combination.




Saturday, August 6, 2016

Zucchini Muthiya




Hi folks...bear with me.. The mound is slowly dwindling. Soon I will divert to other veggies but for now the will to cook zucchini in various forms persists. 

Let's get to the dish at hand. Muthiyas are small mouthfuls of grated vegetables, mixed with spices and chickpea flour, rolled into cylinders, steamed and then shallow-fried. That's a mouthful alright. Sounds like many steps, but they go by fast. I grate a mound of zucchini. Salted and left to drip, the mound is converted into two items. The first is Smitten Kitchen's Summer Squash Pizza. The left overs are formed into muthiyas. Almost all the masalas in my spice box are sprinkled into the grated zucchini, along with fresh cilantro, green chiles and chickpea flour or besan. I form them into small cylinders. Placed on a steaming rack, they harden and cook for 15-20 minutes. A little patience and cooling lets the muthiya firm up. This is important as they need to be firm enough to cut each cylinder into thirds. Hot oil, mustard seeds and curry leaves bring out zucchini flavors as the muthiyas sizzle and brown.


ZUCCHINI MUTHIYAS 
Serves 4

1 large Zucchini 
1 teaspoon Kosher Salt
4 teaspoons Chickpea Flour
1/4 teaspoon Turmeric 
1/2 teaspoon Chile powder 
1/2 teaspoon Cumin powder 
1/2 teaspoon Coriander powder 
2 Green Chiles
1/2 cup Cilantro 
1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt 
2 tablespoons Canola Oil 
1/4 teaspoon Mustard seeds
5-6 Curry leaves

Grate zucchini. Put zucchini in a colander and sprinkle 1 teaspoon salt over it. Toss well and leave aside for 1 hour. Squeeze out as much liquid as you can from zucchini. Place squeezed zucchini in a bowl and fluff with a fork to loosen.

Add chickpea flour, turmeric, chile powder, cumin and coriander powder to zucchini. 

Mince chiles and cilantro finely and add to zucchini.




Season with salt and mix well using your hands.

Fill a wide saucepan  with an inch of water and place it on a high flame.

Put a steaming basket into the saucepan.

Form 3 inch cylinders of zucchini mix. You should have 6-7 pieces.




Place them on the steaming basket and cover saucepan with lid.




Steam over medium heat for 15-20 minutes.

Remove steaming basket and let cylinders cool for 1/2 hour. 

Gently place cylinders on cutting board and slice each one into thirds.

Heat canola oil in a nonstick pan. 

Drop mustard seeds and curry leaves into hot oil along with zucchini pieces.




Shallow fry till brown on both sides  so they are slightly crisp.

Serve them warm.




Zucchini is still popular at my table. Muthiyas make a delicious addition to dinner. No complaints on the various incarnations of zucchini to date, but I am beginning to hear faint rumblings of protest.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Squash Fry




Squash is on the menu yet again! If this is tedious reading, by all means skip this part. Fair warning.. there are other veggies from the garden that I add to the mix. Change is elemental, buy squash still reigns supreme. My patch is bountiful and I'm just spreading the wealth.

I pick tiny zucchini with blossoms still intact. They are the size of my fingers. And I think they will make a good batter fry. Ones without flowers work just as well. I also pick green tomatoes and flat Romano beans. It gives me immense joy to eat what I grow. The batter is an old standard, amped up. White wine, egg and flour get a boost with lemon zest and pepperocini. Oil heats as I whisk and wash. The sizzle tells me it's time to eat.



SQUASH FRY
Serves 2-4


4 mini Zucchini with Blossoms 
15-20 Romano Beans
3 Green Tomatoes 
1 Egg
1/4 cup Flour
1/3 cup White Wine
1 teaspoon Lemon Zest
1/4 teaspoon Pepperocini or Chile Flakes
1/4 teaspoon Kosher Salt 
Several grinds of Black Pepper
1 cup Canola Oil for frying


Carefully wash and dry small zucchini, beans and tomatoes.




Cut tomatoes into 1/4 inch thick slices.

Whisk egg, flour, white wine, lemon zest, pepperocini and seasonings till the batter is smooth.




Heat oil in a wok or deep saucepan over high heat.

Dip zucchini in batter till well coated and fry till brown and crisp, turning often. This should take 3-4 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to fry. Drain zucchini on paper towels.




Once zucchini are done, dip beans in batter and fry for 2-3 minutes. Drain beans on paper towels.

Dip tomato slices in batter and fry till crisp brown, anywhere from 3-5 minutes. Drain on paper towels.

Arrange  veggies on a platter, dust lightly with salt and serve hot.




Just picked veggies never tasted so good. The joy of walking to my garden, the greenery giving up these jewels, then making the most of this bounty in my kitchen,  is reward enough. That their taste is as it should be, is a bonus. 


Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Chilled Zucchini Soup




Summer inevitably brings the zucchini challenge. It's running through my mind, the garden, the kitchen and a host of baskets. Squashes abound, hiding under prickly leaves and stems. The handouts continue as I meander through a maze of zucchini recipes. To beat the heat I envisage a cold soup. Some onion and garlic is quickly sauteed with chunks of zucchini and a few choice spices. Stewed for minutes and then pureed, the soup is diluted with milk and cream, then stashed in the fridge to cool off. Poured into bowls, it is topped off with crisp brown squash blossoms.....ideal croutons!!! 


CHILLED ZUCCHINI SOUP
Serves 4


2 medium Zucchini
1 tablespoon Olive Oil 
1 large Onion
2 Garlic cloves
1/2 teaspoon Curry Powder
1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt 
1/4 teaspoon ground Black Pepper
1/4 cup Milk
1/4 cup Cream
5-6 Squash Blossoms (optional)


Cut zucchini and onions into 1/2 inch chunks.

Roughly chop garlic.

Heat olive oil in a deep saucepan.

Add onions and garlic. Sweat onions for a few minutes over high heat.

Drop zucchini chunks into onions.

Add curry powder and seasonings. Saute for a few minutes.




Pour 1 cup water to veggies and bring to a slow boil. Cover and cook for 10 minutes. Remove cover, raise heat. Let most of the water evaporate.

Scrape zucchini into a blender and whiz  for 30 seconds. 

Add milk to zucchini and blend again for a minute till soup is smooth.

Pour contents into a container.

Whisk in cream and refrigerate till cool.

Wash and clean squash blossoms. Remove the inner stamens. Slice each blossom vertically into 4-5 segments.

Heat 1 teaspoon of olive oil in a nonstick pan.

Add squash blossom segments to hot oil and saute till crisp and golden brown.

Pour soup into bowls. 

Top with squash blossom croutons and enjoy.






NOTES

This soup can be easily served hot or cold. Both versions are very satisfying.

Half & half can be used in place of milk and cream. Use whole or 2% milk if you can.

The squash blossom croutons are optional but quite delicious. If you do have access to them, do use them as this adds another dimension to the chilled soup. If not, bread croutons add a nice crunch.





Besides being inundated with squashes and hot humid days, the desire to languish in cool rooms is omnipresent. The idea of a chilled wine and cold food is a soothing balm. And they are enjoyed by all.




Monday, July 25, 2016

Roasted Vegetables with Honey Chili Glaze





Something about mad dogs and Englishmen come to mind as I roast a bunch of veggies on a blisteringly hot day. Ever since I sample the roasted veggies at Pangea in Evansville, the itch to eat them again persists. The restaurant is a hip farm-to-table, contemporary cafeteria style eatery with an eclectic menu. The roasted veggies are outstanding! 

As the temperature soars outside, heat rises in my kitchen. I peel butternut squash, red onions. I dice red peppers and zucchini...yes...that's part of the teeming bounty. Romano beans and Brussels sprouts round out the veggies. Sweat pours off my face as I open and close the oven! The glaze is quick mix of sweet chili sauce and litchi honey, which adds a gentle sweetness. Litchi honey that comes all the way from Hong Kong. Thanks Tammie!!



ROASTED VEGETABLES WITH HONEY CHILI GLAZE
Serves 4-6

1 Butternut Squash 
1 large Red Pepper
2 cups Brussels Sprouts 
2 Zucchini 
2-3 Red Onions
10-15 green Beans 
3-4 tablespoons Olive Oil 
1 teaspoon Kosher Salt 
Lots of fresh cracked Black Pepper
2 tablespoons Honey 
1/2 cup Sweet Chili Sauce 


Heat oven to 400F.

Cut all butternut squash, red pepper and zucchini into 1/2 inches cubes.

Halve Brussels sprouts and beans.

Peel and halve onions. Slice vertically into 1 inch thick pieces.

Place veggies on a baking sheet. You might need 2 baking sheets.

Drizzle veggies with olive oil, salt and black pepper.

Roast for 20-30 minutes, till they brown. Watch carefully, moving veggies as they brown.




Whisk honey and sweet chili sauce well.




Take veggies out of the oven and pile them on a platter.

Drizzle veggies with the sweet chili glaze before serving.




Why am I baking on this sweltering day?? Some old friends arrive for lunch. Kavita's father was by Mum's side on the day my Dad passed away....eight years ago today. This slender thread that holds us together makes me dig deep, to give her family a memorable repast, to help me say thank you.