Sunday, August 25, 2019

Kousa Mahshi or Stuffed Zucchini

It's zucchini season! Food related articles teem with a plethora of recipes to use squash. So bear with me while I work my way through this many-step recipe. The end result is a delight. I first fell in love with them in Jordan where they were served as part of a New Year feast. Determined to recreate a home cooked version I have done due diligence to find the right path. 

I find small round zucchini at the Spanish grocery store. Having made kousa mahshi with regular green zucchinis, I attempt the recipe with these small babies. Besides looking cute, they are delicious. I only see them in summer, so this recipe will be seasonal!

Hollow out zucchini with a melon baller carefully. You don't want to pierce the skins. Hollowing them takes a little effort, but is well worth it. If you cannot find round zucchini use the long green ones. Cut them in halves or thirds, hollow them leaving a firm base. You could also fill tomatoes the same way. Fill them with stuffing made with ground beef, uncooked rice, lots of herbs and seasonings. Cook them stove top with a base of tomatoes and onions. An hour later your kitchen will be the best place in the house. 

Serves 4-6

6-8 round Zucchini
2  Summer Squash
2 green Zucchini
2-3 Plum Tomatoes
1 pound ground Beef
3 heaped tablespoons uncooked Rice
2 tablespoons Mint leaves
2 tablespoons Cilantro
2 tablespoons Parsley
3 tablespoons Dill 
2 tablespoons Onion, finely chopped
1 teaspoon Garlic, finely minced
1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt
Several grinds of Peppercorns
1 large Onion
1 large Tomato
1 tablespoon Tomato Puree
1 cup Water
Kosher Salt
2 tablespoons Olive Oil

Cut the tops off the round zucchini. Hollow the zucchini using a melon baller. Work your way carefully inside. Make sure you leave enough flesh on the outside. Keep the zucchini flesh aside.

If you are using regular zucchini and summer squash, cut them into halves or thirds, depending on their length and size. Hollow the zucchini the same way.

Slice the top off the tomato. Use the melon baller to remove the pulp. Keep pulp aside.

Sprinkle a little salt over zucchini and tomato

Chop all the herbs finely.

Place the ground beef in a bowl. 

Rinse rice under running water, drain well and add to beef. 

Add herbs, chopped onion, garlic, tomato pulp, salt and pepper to  beef. Use your hands to mix everything.

Stuff zucchini and tomatoes almost to the top.

Slice onion into half moons.

Slice tomato into thin rounds.

Whisk tomato puree and water.

Heat olive oil in  a large saucepan.

Lay onion and tomato slices over the oil.

Arrange the zucchini and tomatoes in the pan so that they fit snuggly. 

Scatter some zucchini flesh in between the zucchini.

Pour the tomato water around the zucchini. 

Cover with a tight fitting lid and braise for 60-70 minutes on a medium low flame.

Uncover and serve them hot.

We love love love the zucchini. A wholesome addition to any meal, albeit labor-intensive, these stuffed veggies will carve a place in your culinary heart.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Pork Posole

Food magazines are inspiring reading materials.My daughter gets to this month's Saveur before I do. I see that the magazine has many dog-eared pages and I rightfully assume I am to recreate her wishes! The cover has a red posole soup, lucious and laden with accoutrements. As as I drool, I know what's for lunch.

Posole is a Mexican soup made with hominy. Hominy is dried corn called nixtamal. It is made with slaked lime. As horrible as it sounds, get past it. Hominy is delicious and fluffy. I tend to use canned hominy, as the dried one is just too much work. I usually make a green posole with chile verde, so this will be a pleasant change

I start with the pork stock. Single cut pork chops are boiled with onion, garlic, peppercorns and a bay leaf. The stock is strained and the pork is shredded into bite size bits. Refrigerating the stock overnight allows you to spoon off the thick layer of fat that rises to the top. 

The red components starts with soaking ancho and guajillo peppers in hot water. Softened chiles are blended with onion and garlic. The paste is then strained so you have a smooth puree. Stir the puree with oil till it changes color. Add pork stock, canned hominy, shredded pork and water. Allow the soup to bubble and boil for a half hour. I add a grated potato that thickens the soup without diluting the flavor. The hominy fluffs up and softens, the intensity of chile develops and you have a lovely bright red soup. 

Slice radishes. Chop avocados. Dice red onion. Shred cabbage. Cut a few wedges of lime. Crumble some feta. Arrange a few cilantro sprigs. Whisk sour cream. Crush corn chips. This lengthy list of garnishes will take your posole over the top!

Adapted from Saveur Magazine
Serves 4

4 single cut Pork Chops
1 white or yellow Onion, chopped roughly
4 Garlic cloves, peeled
1 Bay Leaf
1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt
3 Guajillo Chiles
3 Ancho Chiles
1 white or yellow Onion, chopped
4 Garlic cloves
10 Peppercorns
2 tablespoons Canola Oil
1 can Hominy
1 Potato, grated thickly
1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt

Garnishes for Posole
Radishes, thinly sliced
Red Onion, diced
Avocado, cubed
Cabbage, shredded
Cilantro leaves
Limes, quartered
Feta Cheese or Queso Fresco
Sour Cream
Corn or Tortilla or Quinoa Chips

Start the pork stock by placing pork chops in a deep saucepan. 

Add chopped onion,4 garlic cloves, bay leaf, peppercorns and salt to pork. 

Add enough water to cover the pork by 4 inches. Bring to boil, lower heat, cover and cook for an hour till pork shreds easily when pierced with a knife. 

Drain stock. You should have 2-3 cups of stock. Discard onion, garlic and bay leaf.

Shred cooked pork into bite sized pieces. Remove all visible fat. 

If you plan to make this a day ahead, refrigerate the stock and pork pieces. You can spoon the fat layer off the stock the next morning.

Stem and deseed chiles.

Soak the chiles in hot water, making sure they are submerged. Soak for 20 minutes.

Place chiles in a blender container along with chopped onion and garlic. Add a few tablespoons of the soaking liquid and blend till smooth. 

Spoon the paste into a fine mesh strainer placed over a bowl. Press down with a rubber spatula to allow puree to pass through. Discard seeds and skins. 

Heat oil in a deep saucepan.

Add puree and saute for 15 minutes over medium high flame till puree starts changing color.

Pour the stock in. Whisk well to mix. Bring to a boil.

Open a can of hominy and rinse well under running water.

Add hominy and pork to stock. Boil for 15 minutes.

Add 1-2 cups water along with the grated potato. Cook uncovered for another 10-15 minutes till soup had thickened.

Season soup with salt.

Serve soup in large bowls with all or some of the garnishes.

Cook the book, rather the magazine,  is a wonderful idea! I'm ever so grateful to Shauna for those dog-eared pages, as we eat spoonfuls of posole.


Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Gharge or Pumpkin Pooris

For me the holy month of Shravan means cooking a plethora of Pathare Prabhu foods offered to the gods.  People celebrate in different ways, preparing repasts fit for kings as well as pauper's plates. My thali falls somewhere in between. For want of fresh banana leaves, I use a stainless thali. The silver is polished and buffed for Ganpati or Ganesh Puja. 

My Monday thalis are the buildup to the Ganpati meal. Most platings have a fresh green chutney, a raita, a subji or two, some lentils like whole green moong or chauli, rice and varan, cooked toor dal smothered in ghee, a coconut sambare or curry, dessert in the form of halva, shrikhand, umbar, and a bhajia or fried vegetable. Four Monday thalis allows me to cook the gamut and not repeat items. Not quite adhering to old customs, I bend and weave the rules. What counts is the offering I make.

In my mum's and grandmum's days, we fasted all day. Not quite the definition as you read it, their fast meant eating limited quantities of potatoes, spiced buttermilk or taak, and an odd variety of rice called vari-che-tandul. So rumbling stomachs were not an issue. Here, I tend to eat fruit all day and serve an early meal, as that rumbling is omnipresent! 

Gharge are pooris made with pumpkin puree, a little sugar and salt, mixed with whole wheat chapati flour. I use regular pumpkin. Steam pumpkin cubes. Once cool, smoosh them till they are smooth. Season with sugar and salt. Gradually add the wheat flour. The dough should be pliable, until you have a soft, shaggy dough. Dust your fingers and the counter generously with flour.  Pat lime sized balls on a floured surface. The poori should be one-fifth inch thick. Since the dough is soft, patting is easily done. Fry the pooris in hot oil till dappled with golden brown specks. These are delicious bites, flecked with pumpkin puree, not too sweet at all. Not an everyday indulgence, gharge grace my table just once a year.

Makes 10-15

2 cups Pumpkin, peeled and cubed
3 tablespoons Sugar
1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt
2-3 cups Whole Wheat Chapati Flour plus extra flour for rolling and patting dough
Canola Oil for frying

Steam the pumpkin cubes till soft. 

Transfer cubes to a large bowl.

Mash the cubes till smooth and pureed. Cool pumpkin.

Season pumpkin with sugar and salt.

Start the dough by adding 2 cups of flour to the puree and kneading to mix. Use your hands. Add a little more at a time kneading the dough till it is soft but comes together loosely. You should have a soft, shaggy dough.  Refrigerate the dough for 1/2 hour. It firms up the dough, making it easier to handle.

Start making the pooris by scooping up a lime-sized ball of dough. The ball of dough should be able to hold its shape when rolled in flour. Make a few balls and then proceed to pat them out.

Dust the counter well with flour. Place a ball on the floured surface and pat the dough gently with your fingers, to form a round shape. The shape isn't that important. Mine are disastrous. The poori should be 1/5 inch thick. If you have the counter space, pat out the pooris before you fry them. If not, pat a few at a time. If you have many balls formed, the process will flow easier.

Heat 2 cups of oil in a deep frying pan over medium high heat. Test the oil with a bit of dough. The dough should spring to the surface immediately. Slide a poori in. Fry on one side for a minute or two, then flip and fry the other side. The poori will puff as it fries. You should see it change color as it cooks. Drain on a wire rack. Dont worry if the pooris deflate. They still taste great!

If you haven't rolled out all the dough, it will keep for a day in the fridge. 

Serve pooris hot.

The gharge fulfill the fried requirement adequately. I keep half the dough for the next day so we have double the pleasure. Then the plan is to see them next year!      

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Heirloom Tomato and Roasted Corn with Goat Cheese and Yogurt

Watching the heirlooms ripen in my vegetable patch is pure joy. Picking ripe ones is so rewarding. The promise of home grown tomatoes is enough to get the juices flowing. I eat them carpaccio style with extra virgin olive oil and ground pepper. In sandwiches with fresh mozzarella and basil leaves. With creamy burrata, need I say more. And since I'm the only soul with these cravings, I indulge every single one.

The idea to pair tomatoes with a creamy goat cheese and yogurt dressing comes from the great one, Ottolenghi. Soft goat cheese is whisked with yogurt, lime zest and juice, garlic, tajin and seasonings. Tajin is my new favorite. Dried lime and chile powder add subtle flavor to anything this powder is sprinkled on. Trader Joe's carries a fair version. 

My heirlooms are Big Boys. I stress the importance of local farmers market tomatoes as they add the best element. Supermarket tomatoes don't quite have that intense taste the salad needs. The corn is local Riverhead grown. I microwave it and roast it over a stove top flame. Smoky kernels add texture and taste. Sliced red onion and mint leaves finish the salad. Add just a few mint leaves for freshness, so they do not overpower the tomatoes.

Compose the salad on a plate. Drizzle dollops of dressing over tomatoes. Refrigerate for fifteen minutes. Enjoy the surprising flavors!

Serves  4

2 large Heirloom Tomatoes (or any farmers market ones)
2 Corn cobs
1/4 cup thinly sliced Red Onion
15 Mint leaves
1/3 cup soft Goat Cheese
1/3 cup Yogurt
1/2 teaspoon Lime Zest
2 tablespoons Lime Juice
2 Garlic cloves
1/2 teaspoon Tajin powder (optional)
1/4 teaspoon Kosher Salt
Ground Black Pepper

Make the dressing by whisking goat cheese, yogurt, lime zest and juice till smooth.

Use a microplane to grate the garlic cloves into dressing.

Sprinkle tajin, salt and ground pepper into dressing. Whisk.

Cut tomatoes into small chunks.

Microwave corn with husks for 1 minute. 

Remove husks and silk. 

Roast the corn over and open flame till charred on all sides.

Removes kernels with a sharp knife.

Arrange tomatoes, corn, red onion and mint on a platter. 

Drop dollops of dressing over the salad. 

Refrigerate for 10-15 minutes and serve.

The salad surprises the non tomato lovers as much as the die hards. Fresh tasting, clean flavors allow the heirlooms to dominate. I devour the ethereal tastes. Another keeper!