Sunday, August 30, 2015

Beef Barley Mushroom Soup

The descriptive word that comes to mind is hearty, followed by chewy and trailing last is beefy. The sum of these three adjectives is a satisfying spoonful of soup. Beef is the meat of choice. I often use boneless cuts of beef as they brown and braise easily. When I have leftover roast beef or steak, it gets chopped into bite size pieces and cooks along with the mushrooms. Sometimes I braise lamb neck bones, debone the meat and add it to the soup along with the resulting broth. The most convenient is to start with some form of cooked beef. It's easier, faster, helps the soup along in a jiffy. You do have to have a few mushrooms on hand though! And some barley!

Barley benefits from a quick first boil. It cooks faster and plumper. Pearl barley is easily found in most grocery stores. It has a nutty flavor akin to farro. As it cooks it opens up and adopts the flavor of the broth. The result is a nibbly chew in your spoon. Thick-cut mushrooms and herbs give an earthy taste to the broth. I leave thyme stems whole and pick them out once the soup is done. Fresh oregano and parsley round off the soup. The soup should be thickish, not runny. So instead of using a roux, I grate a small potato into the simmering broth. As the potatoes cook, they disintegrate and give just enough thickness to the broth. A squirt of tomato paste gives the soup a hint of sour. Soups on!

Makes 4 generous portions

1 cup cooked Beef (roast, steak, deli sliced roast beef)
1 cup Cremini or White Mushrooms
1/2 cup Pearl Barley                           
2 tablespoons Olive Oil
1 large Onion
4 Garlic cloves 
1 tablespoon Tomato Paste
1 small Potato
4-5 cups Beef Broth
1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt
3/4 teaspoon ground Black Pepper 
5 Thyme sprigs
2 tablespoons fresh Oregano 
3 tablespoons Parsley

Put barley in a small saucepan. Cover barley with two inches of water and bring to a boil. Let barley boil for 8-10 minutes.

Chop cooked beef into bite sized pieces.

Clean and slice mushrooms thickly.

Cut onion and garlic into thin slivers.

Heat olive oil in a Dutch oven or deep sided pan.

Drop onions into one side of the oil and garlic into the other. Let garlic color for 30 seconds and then stir both together.

Drain barley and add to onions. Stir well for a few a minutes.

Add tomato paste and stir well to blend in. Cook for 15 seconds.

Add mushrooms to soup base. Saute.

Pour beef broth in and let it come to a vigorous boil.

Drop beef pieces into broth.

Drop thyme sprigs into soup. 

Roughly chop oregano and parsley and add to soup.

(Remove thyme stems before serving)

Season with salt and pepper.

Lower flame and let the soup simmer at a low boil. 

Grate the small potato into soup. Stir to mix. Gently boil for 20-25 minutes.

Heat soup for a few minutes before you eat.

A small bowl constitutes lunch. Accompanied by my summer staple sandwich of avocado and tomato on wheat bread. My insides get a warm hug with each spoonful. Chewy barley and mushroom, small beef nuggets and an herb-laden beef broth is 'souper' lunch special.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Banana Fritters

Picture this. The heady days and weeks of me and G in newly wedded bliss. A month of this and my ma-in-law arrives. Terrified, I realize I have to cook for her. She will soon discover that I have married a Goan not knowing a single dish from his culinary heritage. Panic stricken I reach for a slim volume of recipes from the Goan repertoire. A last minute purchase, this book saves face and bacon..literally as one of the recipes calls for a lot of it! Over the years I have perused the book repeatedly, the food-stained, yellowed pages now in tatters. Colleen who knows the author, Jennifer Fernandes, sings her praises. Years later G's brother gets married to Carol Charles, niece of Jennifer Fernandes! And I get the author to write in my book!!! 

Cooking for a new mother in law is scary enough. Not knowing much about Goan food is another set of fears. I try. Badly. I burn rice the first time. Meat is too tough the second time. And yet I am inspired by the easy recipes in the book. Experimenting on G and MIL eventually works in my favor. One cold winter evening I make banana fritters and G says they remind him of his grandma's. Just like that life changes! I'm in the money!

One would think of fritters as plump and crusty. Well...the ones I made before I got married were! Those fritters were sliced bananas coated in batter and deep fried. These fritters are delicate and pancake like. A cross between crepes and flapjacks. They are small. They do not spread too much. And they brown up just like crepes. All you need is a pair of overripe bananas and visions of these fritters will dance before your eyes!

Makes 10-12

2 very ripe Bananas
1 Egg
3-4 teaspoons Sugar
3 tablespoons Flour
3 tablespoons Milk
A pinch of Salt
2-3 tablespoons Canola Oil

Peel bananas and place in a mixing bowl.

Add egg, sugar, flour, milk and salt to bowl.

Mash mixture with a fork till you get a lumpy batter with bits of banana. Or else you could mash it into a thick batter. We like the taste of banana. 

Heat a tablespoon of oil in a 10 inch nonstick pan.

Drop a small ladleful of batter into oil. The fritter should be 2 inches in diameter. The pan should hold 3 more fritters. 

Let fritters crisp for 2-3 minutes or till the edges turn brown. Flip fritters with a spatula and brown the other side for a few minutes. Add oil as needed as you finish the batter.

Drain on paper towels. 

They taste great warm and equally good at room temperature!

Today's fritters are a tea time treat. Back in India, chai comes with munchies, sweet and savory. Those mushy black bananas in the fruit bowl are a delicious accompaniment to a cup of PG Tips. Crusty rimmed rounds with bits of banana, flecked golden, so satisfying, disappear as I write.  Fritters are Goan good for us today!

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Pan Rolls

How many ways can I treat the prodigal daughter?? Countless, she says. So I try. It usually is an Indian meal the day she arrives. I oblige her, with a laden table. We have tabak maas or lamb chops Kashmiri style. I make potato and paneer kofta curry with bright red tomatoes from the garden. Rice and varan are a must. I know she loves pan rolls.

Pan rolls hail from the seaside state of Goa. Any Goan chef worth his salt will have these in their repertoire. Spicy ground meat rolled in thin crepes, coated with egg and breadcrumbs are the complete package. Ground beef is cooked with Goan red masala till dry. I make thin crepes from an easy recipe. I'm not a fan of thickish crepes as they do not let the filling shine through. This recipe calls for warm water and milk, an odd combination that works like a charm. This version is hands down my favorite. I have tried many, so I'm quite the crexpert!

Makes 10-12 rolls

Crepe batter
1/2 cup Flour
1/2 cup Milk
1/4 cup lukewarm Water
2 Eggs
2 tablespoons melted Butter
A pinch of Kosher Salt

1 lb ground Beef
2 teaspoons Canola Oil
1 large Onion
1 teaspoon Garlic paste
1/2 teaspoon Ginger paste
1 large Tomato 
1/2 teaspoon Chile powder 
1/2 teaspoon Cumin powder 
1 teaspoon Coriander powder 
1 teaspoon Paprika
1/2 teaspoon Turmeric
1/2 teaspoon Garlic paste
1-2 tablespoons Red Wine Vinegar
3/4 cup Water
1 teaspoon Kosher Salt
1 Egg
1/2 cup Breadcrumbs 
1-2 tablespoons Canola Oil

Put all ingredients in crepe batter into a blender and whiz till well mixed. 

Pour batter into a bowl, cover and let batter sit for 30 minutes.

Start the filling by finely chopping onion and tomato.

Heat canola oil in a saucepan.

Add onion to hot oil and stir till golden brown.

Add garlic and ginger pastes and chopped tomatoes stirring well till tomatoes are pulpy.

Mix chile powder, cumin, coriander, paprika, turmeric, garlic paste and vinegar in a bowl. You should have a thick paste. Add a little water if needed. 

Drop paste into onion tomato sauce and fry the paste stirring constantly for 3-5 minutes.

Crumble ground beef into masala and stir to break up the meat. Let meat fry for 6-10 minutes till brown. 

Add water and salt, stir and let beef come to a low simmer. Cover and cook for 15 minutes.

Uncover and turn up flame so all the water dries up. Beef should be dry with no gravy. Cool filling. 

Stir batter before starting crepes.

Heat a tiny pat of butter in a small nonstick saucepan on a medium flame.

Pour a 1/4 cup of batter into hot pan, tilting the pan so batter spreads evenly.

Cook pancake for a few minutes on one side, then flip and cook for 30 seconds longer. Remove pancake to a plate. Finish the rest of the batter in the same fashion. 

Once all the pancakes are done you can start assembling pan rolls.

Lay a pancake on a flat surface.

Spread 2 tablespoons of beef filling in the center of pancake. 

Fold bottom half of pancake over beef, tucking it in as you do. 

Fold right side of pancake onto the fold.

Fold the left side of pancake onto the fold.

Roll the pancake into a tight roll.

Continue doing this with all filling and pancakes. 

Break egg into a bowl and beat with a fork.

Spread breadcrumbs on a board.

Lightly dip pan rolls in beaten egg and then coat with crumbs. Do all the rolls this way.

Heat canola oil in a nonstick saucepan. 

Brown pan rolls on both sides quickly over high heat.

Serve them hot or make them earlier and reheat in a 275F oven for 15 minutes.

We love them with ketchup!!!

Traffic delays Shauna, cutting into our wine hour! She arrives with hunger pangs, walking straight to the laden table. This is one of those magical dinners when all is right in the world. Family meals are one of the most precious gifts in my life. We laugh, we remember, we are wide-eyed over Shauna's dinner portions, we fight over the last lamb chop and squirt ketchup over pan rolls. I wish I could wrap up this evening, the conversation and the love...just like these packages of goodness. 

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Zucchini Bread

How many zucchini so does it take to make bread?  All of two big gourds! What do I do with the rest! Fried, grilled, stir-fried and curried versions pop up with regularity. Fried are by far the favorites. As these babies multiply faster than I can a pick them, so some baking action has to be implemented. The hot oven is been a blessing and curse. The dog days of summer have left me perspiring over loaf pans! I do have them in many sizes, from mini pans to ten inch rectangular ceramic ones. I have put them all to use. Buttered and battered, loaf pans yield a continuous stream of zucchini flecked loaves. 

I haven't been this busy for a few years as in the past few years my zucchini plants haven't been fruitful at all. This summer is a turn around. Four glorious plants steadily supply me flowers and fruit. I give away big batons. And I grate a lot into the bread. It is the ease of recipe I love. Flour, baking powder, salt, lemon zest and sugar are whisked in one big bowl, eggs and oil beaten in another. One goes into the other, along with grated zucchini. The batter is either divided into small pans or piled into one big loaf pan. The aroma of baking loaves fills the house.

Makes 1 big loaf or 4 mini loaves

1-2 large Zucchini 
3 cups all purpose Flour
4 1/2 teaspoons Baking powder 
1 teaspoon Salt
1 1/2 cups Sugar
2 teaspoons Lemon zest
4 Eggs
2/3 cup Canola Oil
Nonstick Spray or Butter for pans

Grate zucchini so you have about 2-2 1/2 cups. The food processor makes grating a snap.

Butter or spray one 8 or 10 inch loaf pan. Or 4 mini 5 inch loaf pans.

Heat oven to 350F.

Whisk flour, baking powder, salt, sugar and lemon zest till combined.

Break eggs into a bowl. Whisk till frothy.

Add oil into eggs and mix.

Make a well in the center of flour mix and pour egg mix in the center. Gently mix.

Add zucchini and stir till batter is moist.

Spoon batter into pan of choice.

Bake for 45- 55 minutes for a loaf pan. Mini loaf pans bake for 40-45 minutes. 

Test loaf with a skewer. If the skewer has batter on it continue to cook for another 5-10 minutes. The skewer should emerge clean.

Remove bread from oven and cool on a wire rack for 5 minutes. 

Run a blunt knife around the insides of the pan and invert bread out onto rack.  Turn over and let loaf cool.

Slice and enjoy.

One of the joys of baking so many loaves is giving them away. I take some to a friend at the museum. My neighbor gets a loaf and some go into the freezer for an extended shelf life. That's lucky for the visitor who plans to drop by next weekend!!! 

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Korean Wild Rice and Quinoa Bowl

Lunch is a double edged sword. I'm reading a book about a Korean girl in Flushing and concocting lunch to go with it. The book is a satisfying easy read, full of identifiable immigrant ideals, brimming with many a veiled reference to Jane Eyre.

Korea resurfaces in my rice bowl. Gochuchang paste makes this spicy, briny, sour dressing. An amalgam of wild rice and red quinoa constitutes the base. An artful arrangement of sliced cucumber, kimchi, cheery tomatoes and avocado is generously drizzled with dressing and off to the table it goes. 

Serves 2

2 cups cooked Wild Rice
1 1/2 cups cooked Quinoa
1/2 an English Cucumber
1 cup Cherry Tomatoes 
1/2-3/4 cup store bought Kimchi
1 Avocado 
2 Eggs
1 teaspoon Olive oil
2-3 teaspoons Gochuchang paste
1 teaspoon toasted Sesame seeds
1 teaspoon Red Wine Vinegar
1/2 teaspoon Sugar
1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt
2-3 teaspoons Water
1 teaspoon toasted Sesame Oil 
1 tablespoon Olive Oil

Whisk gochuchang pate, sesame seeds, vinegar, sugar, salt, water, sesame and olive oil in a bowl. 

Heat 1 teaspoon olive oil in a pan and fry the eggs sunny side up. 

Assemble ingredients in a bowl. Divide rice, quinoa, cucumber, tomatoes, kimchi and avocado portions in half. Start with a cup of wild rice.

Top rice with quinoa.

Arrange kimchi over quinoa.

Cut avocado, remove pit and slice each half. Fan slices next to kimchi. 

Thinly slice cucumber and fan out over quinoa.

Slice cherry tomatoes and pile them next to cucumber.

Top each bowl with a fried egg.

Drizzle dressing generously before serving.


Feel free to replace wild rice with brown or white rice. 

Assembly is a snap. I have cooked rice and quinoa hanging out in the fridge. Toppings are within arms reach. I reach in, cut the egg and let yolk and dressing blend. A few vigorous turns of my fork lets the dressing bleed into rice and homogenous mix. Like the delightful Re Jane, both book and bowl trip over my tongue deliciously.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Masala Stuffed Eggs

Neighbors join us for dinner tonight. Rosa and Rolf eat like natives, with a gusto that belies the fact that they are not born in India. Incendiary spice doesn't faze them. They are adept at eating with their fingers. They love all foods Indian. So when I cook for them I don't have to worry about the level of spice or the strangeness of the vegetable. 

We start with Geets' naan pizza and I hope in future she lets me share this muy delicioso appetizer with you. Dinner consists of grilled chicken skewers, fish curry rice, fresh from the garden salad, beans and kale, zucchini and potato, grilled eggplant bhurta and masala stuffed eggs. 

I do deviled eggs but love the masala version more. Browned onions, tomato, ginger, garlic and ground coconut are sauteed along with spices. Hard boiled eggs are shelled and  halved. Yolks are grated into the masala, mixed well and spooned into shells. A quick saute and eggs are done.

Makes 4-5 servings

5 Eggs
2-3 tablespoons Canola Oil
2 tablespoons grated fresh Coconut
2 cloves Garlic
1 small slice Ginger paste
1 Onion
1 Tomato 
1/4 teaspoon Turmeric 
1/4 teaspoon Chile powder
1/2 teaspoon Garam Masala
1/2 cup Cilantro 
1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt

Place eggs in a saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring to boil over a high flame and cook for 7-8 minutes. Drain hot water, cover with cold water and let eggs sit for 10 minutes. Peel and cut boiled eggs in half.

Gently remove yolks and leave aside.

Grind fresh coconut, garlic and ginger to a fine paste.

Cut onions and tomatoes  into very fine dice.

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a nonstick pan. 

When hot add chopped onions and saute till golden brown.

Add tomatoes to onions and saute till they are pulpy.

Add coconut paste, turmeric, chile powder, garam masala and cilantro to onions. Stir for a minute.

Grate yolks into spice mixture or just mash them in, though grating them in gives the stuffing a better texture.

Season with salt and let yolk mash sizzle for a few minutes. Remove from flame and cool for bit before stuffing eggs.

Using a teaspoon, pile yolk mixture into egg whites. 

Heat the remaining tablespoon of oil reusing the same pan. 

Arrange filled eggs in hot oil and fry for a few minutes before serving eggs.

The table groans with platters. My guests are delighted with the plethora before them. They dig in enthusiastically with forks, knives and fingers. Every mouthful elicits sounds of delight. And in these sounds I hear the comfort of friendship, the minutiae of our lives spilling on to the table as we talk late into the night.