Friday, August 31, 2018

Methi Mathri

As I fry the mathri, I know I will put them in an airtight box, nestle the box among clothes in my bag and ferry the bag across several states. For a birthday celebration.  My dear friends turn sixty. It is to be a gathering of families. A weekend spent recalling funny stories, regaling funnier ones and eating great food.

Mathris are small flat puris, deep fried till crisp brown. Flavored with ajwain and black pepper, my version has a twist-- fresh methi or fenugreek leaves. Plain ones dipped in a little achaar are a childhood favorite. A many flavored one is best eaten by itself. Hence these beauties. Read on. Make them. Or just enjoy the auditory aspect, if you can imagine it so!

Makes about 50

1 cup fresh Methi or Fenugreek leaves
1 1/2 cup AP Flour
1/2 cup Whole Wheat Flour
4 tablespoons Canola Oil
1 tablespoon ground Black Pepper
1/2 teaspoon Ajwain or Carom seeds
1 teaspoon Kosher Salt

Wash methi and chop roughly.

Place AP flour and whole wheat flour in the bowl of a food processor.

Add methi, black pepper, ajwain and salt to flours. 

Pulse to mix.

Add about 2/3 cup water to the flour. Add water gradually pulsing often, till the dough comes together in a ball. 

Knead till smooth.

Cover dough.

Let dough rest for 1 hour.

Divide dough into 4. 

Flatten and roll out one quarter dough till 1/5 inch thick. I used a pasta attachment. 

Cut out circles using a 2 inch cookie cutter.

Prick circles with a fork so they do not puff up when fried.

Heat 2 cups oil in a wok or kadhai. A deep circular pan works best.

Test oil with a small bit of dough. It should spring to the surface immediately. 

Fry mathri for 3-4 minutes on one side till light brown, then flip and brown on the other side.

Drain on a rack.

Cool mathri and place in an airtight tin.

John and Geets plan a joint celebration. We wait in anticipation for the festivities to begin. Let the good times roll.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Grilled Clams with Lemongrass Butter

Clams on the grill? Yes, yes and another resounding yes. It is a really fast and easy way to cook them. Use big clams as the small ones may fall through the grates. Better still,  use a mesh grill grate so the clams could be lifted off easily. All you need to do is wash those babies well. Then lay them on a hot grill. Close the cover and let the clams cook. Voila, in five to seven minutes the clams open up. You can see them bubble in their native juices. Take them off the grill. You want them almost cooked, not rubbery. Anoint them with butter. In my case, I make a lemongrass and chile flavored butter. Any melted butter would work, but a flavored one will add a punch. A garnish of Thai basil  and we are ready to slurp clams!

Serves 4

18-24 Clams ( bigger clams are better)
1 Lemongrass stalk
2 Green Chiles
4-5 tablespoons Butter
Thai Basil

Remove outer layer of lemongrass, trim the ends and cut the white part into thin slices.

Cut chiles into thin rings.

Melt butter in a small pan.

Add lemongrass and chile to butter and simmer for 10 minutes. 

Strain butter into a small bowl. Discard lemongrass and chile.

Keep butter warm.

Start your gas or charcoal grill.

Wash clams well.

Lay them on the hot grill. Cover and steam for 5-7 minutes or till clams are open. 

Use tongs to take clams off the grill. Discard any clams that do not open.

Let clams cool for a few minutes before taking the shells off. Or use oven gloves to do the task.

Twist off the top shell. Watch out for steaming hot liquid in the clam shells.

Spoon melted butter over clams.

Top with Thai basil.

Take a clam and slurp it into your mouth.. Bliss!!!!

Mark Bittman writes of the simplicity of grilled clams. I'm a believer! The grill is a mess but our taste buds are delighted.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Grilled Pork with Herbs

I am convinced recipes with astonishing photographs are published especially to stimulate my taste buds. And occasionally to inspire me to cook. So when the NYT Food section has a grilled pork salad that sounds and looks like a million bucks, I make a beeline for the recipe.

Boneless pork shoulder slices are marinated twice. The first time they sit in a dressing of fish sauce, chile garlic paste, lime juice, brown sugar and garlic. The recipe calls for a short marinade, I go the longer way, letting the slices soak for over four hours. The salad base is Vietnamese bun or rice noodles. Cilantro, mint, Thai basil, red onion and romaine are the fresh accents. After the pork has finished its long dunk, grill the slices. The grilled slices get a second dunk in the dressing.  

Rice noodles are boiled in water, drained and arranged on a platter.  Half the greens go over the noodles. Sliced pork goes on next and then the greens smother the pork. Grilled shishitos sit with the grilled limes and lemons. Dressing is poured over the platter. A pretty picture of browns, greens and white graces the table.  

Adapted from Alison Roman in the New York Times Food Section
Serves 6

2 pounds boneless Pork Shoulder or Loin
1/2 cup Fish Sauce
1/2 cup Lime Juice
3 tablespoons Brown Sugar
3 tablespoons Chile Garlic Paste
2 Garlic cloves, minced
4 cups cooked Rice Noodles or Vermicelli
1/2 cup Mint leaves
1/2 cup Cilantro
1/2 cup Thai Basil
1 cup chopped Romaine lettuce
1/2 Red Onion, sliced thinly
8-10 Shishito Peppers (optional)
1 Lime, halved
1 Lemon, halved

Cut pork into 1 inch thick slices. Place slices in a glass bowl.

Make dressing by mixing fish sauce, lime juice, brown sugar, chile garlic paste and minced garlic in a bowl. Stir till sugar dissolves. 

Pour half the dressing over pork. Save the rest for later.

Marinate pork for 4-6 hours. 

Heat gas or charcoal grill. 

Grill pork 3 minutes each side. 

Alternately you can grill the pork on a stovetop grill pan or saucepan. Cook the pork 5 minutes on each side.

Take the pork off the grill on to a shallow bowl or dish.

Pour the rest of the dressing over pork. Let the meat sit undisturbed for 5 minutes. 

Grill shishito peppers 2-3 minutes till slightly blistered. 

Grill lime and lemon halves till you get brown grill marks.

Remove pork from the dressing. Slice thinly. 

Arrange rice noodles on a large platter.

Place half the cilantro, mint, Thai basil, romaine and red onion over the noodles.

Top with pork slices.

Scatter rest of the cilantro, mint, thai basil, roamine and red onion over pork. 

Pour the dressing over the salad.

Tuck the grilled shishito peppers, limes and lemons around the salad and serve.

The salad constitutes our meal. It is refreshing and light. Spicy and salty. Lemon and lime add a touch of tang As tempting pictures go, I hope my photo inspires you to give the recipe a whirl. 

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Bistro Sausage and Beans

The idea of simple meals is appealing to all. Days are longer as the setting sun filters into the kitchen in startling oranges, lilacs and ochre. Sunsets and sunrises are my joy to behold. A little less time at the stove and more gazing out the window makes me a happy person. When a slew of magazines post versions of this recipe I become a happier soul!

Hot and sweet Italian sausages are boiled in water. So grilling them is a cinch. Save that flavorsome water for the beans. White cannellini beans are pressure cooked first. Canned beans work just as well. Just drain and rinse them well. Copious amounts of garlic, onion and thyme add a delicate flavor to the beans. Grill the sausages indoors or outdoors. Spoon a puddle of beans on your plate. Drop that grilled sausage on top of the beans. Finish with good olive oil. You have a fast and delicious dinner.

Serves 4

8 Italian Sausages, hot or sweet
2 cups uncooked Cannellini Beans or 2 14oz cans Cannellini Beans
2 tablespoons Olive Oil
1 large white Onion
6-8 Garlic cloves
4 Thyme sprigs
3/4 teaspoon Kosher Salt
1/2 teaspoon ground Black Pepper
Extra Virgin Olive Oil to finish the plate

Soak beans overnight in lots of water if you are using uncooked ones. Drain beans and place in a pressure cooker. Add enough water to cover the beans. Let water level be about half inch higher than the beans. Pressure cook for 10 minutes or as per cooker instructions. You could also use an Instapot. Follow directions listed.

Place sausages in a saucepan and cover with water. 

Boil sausages for 15 minutes. Drain and keep aside.

Save 2 cups sausage water.

Chop onion and garlic finely.

Heat olive oil in a deep saucepan.

When oil shimmers add onion and garlic. Saute till fragrant and light brown.

Add 4 cups cooked beans to onions. 

If you are using canned beans, rinse beans well before adding to the onions.

Add 1 1/2 cups sausage water to beans.

Drop thyme sprigs into the beans.

Season with salt and pepper. 

Simmer beans for 10 minutes.

Add more water if the beans dry up.

Use your spoon to remove thyme leaves off the stems and into the beans. Discard stems.

Grill sausages outdoors over a gas or charcoal grill for 5-8 minutes till golden brown.

OR grill the sausages over a stovetop grill. 

If you have neither grills, then saute the sausages in a little olive oil in a nonstick saucepan, turning often till brown all over.

For individual servings scoop a large spoonful of beans onto your plate.

Place a sausage in the middle of the beans.

Finish the plate with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.

For a large crowd, double the recipe. Chop the sausage into bite size pieces and mound them over a platter of beans. Finish with a drizzle of EVOO.

My plate looks like a Parisian bistro offering. And the accompanying glass of vino reinforces the feeling.. If you can't go to Paree, let  it come to you through humble sausage and beans.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Thai Beef with Chile and Basil

Basil grows profusely this summer. Both my Italian and Thai plants have bloomed into rotund bushes. I pick a large handful of Thai basil with the intention of making beef with chile and basil. Those Thai flavors are an explosion of spice and freshness. Many moons ago I sampled this at Jaiya, a old Thai favorite restaurant,  and fell in love. Their version almost always left my mouth on fire. My spice palate had dimmed since then, so adjustments will be made.

I slice tenderloin thinly. Two cups of basil leaves look like a lot but they will wilt very fast. I cut four green chiles on a bias. They are the medium hot variety. You really should use Thai bird chiles for authenticity if you can find them. Or if you are brave enough! My Indian grocery has three bins of, medium and mild. Pick your fire! 

This stir fry comes together very fast. So have everything prepped and ready. Garlic is minced. Onions are sliced. The meat is coated with cornstarch and oil. It sizzles in a hot pan. Tenderloin cooks fast. If you use sirloin or flank steak, it might take a tad longer. The meat is taken out of the pan. In goes garlic, onions and green chiles for a quick saute. Put the meat back into the pan. Add soy and fish sauce. Sugar and plenty of black pepper are added. Throw in the basil. Stir for 30 seconds and you have a glistening pan of beef. White rice makes a good foil for the spice. Dig in.

Serves 4

1 pound Beef Tenderloin, Sirloin or Flank Steak
2+ 3 tablespoons Canola Oil

2 tablespoons Cornstarch
1 large Onion
5-6 Garlic cloves
4-6 Green Chiles
2 teaspoons Soy Sauce
3 tablespoons Fish Sauce
2 teaspoons Sugar
Several grinds of Black Pepper
2 cups Thai Basil leaves

Cut beef into thin slices.

Mince garlic finely.

Slice onion thinly.

Cut green chiles on a bias.

When you are ready to cook the beef add 2 tablespoons oil and cornstarch to the beef. Use your hands to coat the beef. 

Heat remaining oil in a cast iron or nonstick saucepan.

When oil shimmers, add beef and stir fry till brown on both sides. Remove beef from pan and keep aside. Tenderloin takes 5-6 minutes in total to cook. Flank or sirloin will take longer, 8-10 minutes. Pierce meat with a knife to check. The knife should go in easily.

Add garlic, onion and chiles to oil. Saute for a minute over a high flame.

Add beef back to the pan.

Season beef with soy sauce, fish sauce, sugar and plenty of black pepper.

Dump basil leaves over beef. Stir for 30 seconds and take saucepan off the flame.

Serve beef with hot white rice.

This is an 'Oh My' dish... we love it. Though the spiciness of chile has dimmed by frying them. The next time I will add them with the basil...Let the beef bite back, one mouthful at a time.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Chilled Corn and Basil Soup

A heatwave makes me yearn for all things cool. An ice cold beer, watermelon spears, bowls of creamy yogurt.. all perfectly adequate before and after meals. I'd like to start lunch or dinner with a cold concoction. Summer corn and my basil bush are my inspiration.

My basil no longer looks like a shrub. More like a bush, which I trim often. And like Jack's beans, it grows back the next morning! We've made pesto. Tomato and basil sandwiches. Basil in salad. Basil in sauce. Why not soup?

I look for inspiration through the NYT Cooking App. Melissa Clark has the ideal offering, a cold corn and basil version. The corn I buy from the farmers market isn't up to par.  So I boil corn kernels and cobs in water for an enhanced flavor. The cooled corn is blended with basil, garlic, scallions and buttermilk. You could use regular milk, then you would miss the tangy flavor that buttermilk imparts. The blended corn is sieved through a fine mesh. This gives the soup a smooth velvety texture. I save a few kernels as a garnish. A squirt of extra virgin olive oil finishes the soup. This pale green potage chills till you are ready to eat. Garnish and garner your spoon!

Inspired by Melissa Clark
Serves 4

2 Corn cobs
3/4 cup Basil leaves
1 Garlic clove
2 Scallions
2 cups Buttermilk or 2% Milk
1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt
Several grinds of Black Pepper
1 tablespoon Lemon Juice
Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Slice the kernels off the cobs with a sharp knife. Use a bowl so the kernels don't fly across the kitchen counter. You should have 3 cups of kernels.

Place kernels and cobs in a deep saucepan. Cover with water. Season lightly with salt and boil corn for 5-6 minutes. Turn off flame and let cobs steep in liquid for 15 minutes.  

Drain corn. Discard cobs.

Keep 1/2 cup corn as a garnish.

Scrape the rest of the corn into a blender.  

Peel the garlic clove and add to corn.

Trim root ends of scallions. Chop into small chunks and add to corn.

Add basil leaves to corn.

Add buttermilk and lemon juice to corn.

Season with salt and pepper.

Blend till almost smooth.

Place a mesh sieve over a deep saucepan.

Pour blended corn into the sieve and press down. Use a circular motion to extract as much liquid as you can. Discard the solids. 

Refrigerate soup till you are ready to serve.

Pour into bowls. Garnish with corn kernels. Squirt a little EVVO onto soup.

Enjoy the cold soup on a hot day!

Soup on a warm day is manna from heaven. Colleen and Keith agree heartily. Glenn poses  the opposing question..."why is my soup cold?" Eyes rolling back, I look in exasperation at my loved one.