Monday, June 24, 2013

Summer Cooking Class Series with Oishii Rasoi

Check out the course offerings my friend Samar, author of the excellent blog Oishii Rasoi, and I are offering in the NYC area this summer. Click here for more info and to register!

*Gujarati Vegetarian Homestyle Dinner: If you’re tired of eating the same old greasy and over-spiced restaurant Indian food, this class will open up an entirely different style of cooking based on the vegetarian cuisine of Gujarat, a state in western India. Gujarati food is renowned for its use of lentils and ingredients such as curry leaves, astefedita, and jaggery. This class aims to both demystify these and other Indian spices (all readily available in New York!) as well as introduce you an array of simple yet highly satisfying Gujarati dishes.
On the menu: Pan fried potato croquettes stuffed with peas, currants, and fresh coconut; fried rice with cabbage and asafetida; methi thepla: millet and fenugreek flatbread; muth: sprouted brown lentils; kadhi: spicy yogurt “soup”; cilantro and coconut chutney; dhokla: fermented steamed rice and lentil cakes; kasoori methi-gobi: cauliflower and peas with dried fenugreek; shiro: traditional sweet made of semolina, almonds, and currants.
*Korean Standards: We love galbi as much as anyone but there is more to Korean food than barbecue as we aim to show in this class. We’ll cover everything from gochujang to making your own anchovy and konbu stock to add depth to stews. And once you get a hang of these delicious Korean classics, making your own galbi at home will be a cinch!
On the menu: Quick cabbage and radish kimchi; toppoki (rice cakes) with pork and kale; sundubu jjigae: soft tofu, meat, and kimchi soup in an anchovy stock; pajeon: chive and seafood pancakes; spicy grilled chicken wings; kongamul muchim: spicy bean sprouts; braised radish and tofu with shrimp; jujube and ginger tea.
*Pan Asian Favorites: Give Momofuku a run for their money – and avoid the long lines – by making your own pork buns! This class will take you on a whirlwind gastronomic tour of Asia by covering some it's favorite dishes. What unites this eclectic menu is the tastiness of the dishes and how surprisingly easy they are to make in your home kitchen.
On the menu: mandoo (Korean kimchi and tofu dumplings); tebasaki: Japanese-style chicken wings with miso and shio kōji; Vietnamese pho; Cantonese style roast pork buns); bhel-puri: Mumbai street food made of puffed rice and fried chickpea sticks; Sichuanese green beans and pork with fermented vegetables and Sichuan peppercorns; daifuku: Japanese sweet made with glutinous rice and adzuki bean paste.
*Regional Indian Food: Experience the wonderful diversity of Indian cuisine as we travel from North to South in this intensive hands-on course covering classic regional dishes.
On the menu: North Indian chicken curry with yogurt and dried fenugreek; South Indian idli sambhar; Bengali-stye fish with curry leaves and panch poron (5 spices); Mumbai street-style pav bhaji (mixed vegetables); Gujarati kichidi: basmati rice cooked with lentils.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Inspired by Tamar Adler's, An Everlasting Meal, Tortilla Espanola, Lemony Garlic Beet and Collard Greens & Fennel Herb Salad

I just returned from a vacation with my family on Florida's Gulf Coast. It was a lazy, sweltering trip filled with ocean frolicking, big family meals, boisterous catching-up, and lots of naps. The perfect vacation, really!  

My wonderfully thoughtful mother-in-law, Catherine, brought me a copy of Tamar Adler's book, An Everlasting Meal: Cooking with Economy and Grace, and I devoured it. Adler is beguiling and her prose read like M.F.K. Fisher's. I don't recall if Adler is from the south, but her writing feels southern to me and reminds me of the wit, humor, and stylish wordsmithings of my relations from Alabama and Tennessee.

Adler has a clear voice and her recipes waste not and want not. She offers the simplest and most brilliant advice, beginning with how to boil water (my favorite chapter) and ending, of course, with dessert! 

This is one of my favorite quotes from the book. It reminds me of my polenta post ramblings. 
"...when we watch people cook naturally, in what looks like an agreement between cook and cooked, we think that they were born with an ability to simply know that an egg is done, that the fish needs flipping, and that the soup needs salt.
Instinct, whether on the ground or in the kitchen, is not a destination but a path. The word instinct comes from a combination of in meaning "toward," and stinguere meaning "to prick." It doesn't mean knowing anything, but pricking your way toward the answer." (Page 63).
So, here is the dinner I made after reading An Everlasting Meal. It's loaded with excellent olive oil, fresh vegetables, and pricks toward perfection (or at least toward deliciousness!). 

Following Tamar's advice, I felt my way through these recipes and suggest you do the same.

Tortilla Espanola
2 large yukon gold potatoes, peeled and sliced into about 1/4 inch thick slices
1 large white onion (or enough small ones to make up a large one), sliced into thin half-rounds
a lot of good olive oil
salt and pepper

Slice up the potatoes and onions and preheat your oven to 375. 

Heat about 1/2 inch of olive oil in a saute pan large enough so you won't risk sloshing oil everywhere but small enough so you can use it to cook the tortilla (about 8-10 inches is good). Add the potatoes and onions and heat over a medium/low flame until the oil is slightly bubbling. Cook until the potatoes are tender, sliding any uncooked potatoes to the edge and under the others as you go along so everything is cooked evenly. 

Once everything is tender, pour off about 2/3 of the oil through a sieve into a bowl or container for later use. Sprinkle a good pinch of salt over the top of the potato/onion mixture. 

Whip up 4 eggs with salt and pepper and pour them over everything. 

Place the pan into the hot oven and cook until the eggs are puffed, set, and edges are just beginning to brown. About 15 minutes. 

Pull out (don't forget your oven mitt!) and allow to cool for a few minutes before inverting onto a plate. Serve at room temperature in the Spanish style with either or both of the following.

Lemony Garlic Beet and Collard Greens
1 bunch beet greens/stems, swished in water to remove dirt and sliced into ribbons
1 bunch collard greens/stems, swished in water to remove dirt and sliced into ribbons
2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1 lemon, zest and juice
1 teaspoon dried thyme
olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Add about a tablespoon of olive oil to a large saute pan over medium/high heat, then add the garlic. Once it comes to a sizzle, add the greens. It's perfect if they're still a little wet from washing as this will help them wilt. Cook them down and if things look dry, add a splash of water or wine vinegar. 

Once everything is just about done (tender but still bright green) zest a lemon over the top and then add the juice of that entire lemon, a teaspoon of dried thyme and salt and pepper to taste. Toss everything together and enjoy as a salad, or spoon over good bread that you've toasted, drizzled with olive oil, and rubbed with garlic.

Fennel Herb Salad
Any veggies and herbs you have will work here but I used about two big handfuls each of sliced fennel, celery, basil and parsley. One large tomato, a quarter of a small red onion, and one carrot sliced thinly. Use whatever you have available. 

For the vinaigrette, combine the following then toss with the vegetables.

1 Tablespoon any grainy brown mustard or dijon
juice of one lemon
a healthy drizzle of olive oil (about a Tablespoon and a half)
salt and pepper to taste

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Ehhhh, what's up Mott's®?

On a recent trip to my neighborhood grocery store, the Fairway Market in Harlem, I ran across this rather disturbing display. All I could think was, come on Mott's®, really?

Last time I checked, apples have perfectly functional, natural packaging to begin with. How hard is it for consumers to simply slice one up and put it in a reusable container, or better yet, go ahead and bite into a whole one ( still my heart!)? Am I being too snobby? Maybe so, but it's freakin' ridiculous. Mott's®, pleeeease! 

I'm probably preaching to the choir here, but it's so disturbingly common to see things like this in our "convenience" based marketplace these days. The worst part is that it's just so easy to glaze-over at the grocery store and start throwing all this over-packaged junk into our carts without even questioning it. Just to hammer the point home, here's a link to some more examples of over-packaging doozies

At least we can be thankful that the use of reusable bags is more common than ever (or can we? I often wonder if it's plateaued or is, in fact, in decline. If you know of any good articles about this, please send them my way!) Despite this, however, I still feel that I have to be hyper-vigilant at the checkout to ensure that the folks bagging my food don't throw everything into doubled-up plastic bags before I can exclaim..."Ack, stop, please wait, I brought my own! Sorry, arrrgh!" 

So, in addition to problems at the check-out, which are definitely indicative of issues of class and poverty in this country that I am not prepared to deal with in this post, there's also been a backlash against reusable bags from some folks in the scientific and law enforcement communities. Studies have proclaimed that the bacteria build-up in reusable bags is making people sick AND that reusable bags are also enabling an increase in shoplifting

The question here, I guess, is... is it better to teach people to wash their bags or continue to add plastic to our landfills and oceans? AND how much food do grocers throw away each month in comparison to how much is stolen? These would be interesting comparisons, I think. 

Despite the purported cons and general disinterest, I think it's pretty hard to argue with the fact that the best thing we can do is continue to bring our own (clean) bags to the store and look for other innovative ways to reduce our consumption across the board. 

To this end, I've often though it would be wonderful to start a nonprofit that provides free training to grocery store employees on environmental responsibility and reducing the use of plastic bags. Ideally in conjunction with a wide-spread, rejuvenated anti-litter campaign. I'm happy to report at least, that the Yorkville Common Pantry, a food pantry I've volunteered with many times, is now encouraging it's clients to bring a reusable bag for their weekly distributions! Small but important steps in the right direction.

As for me, in addition to reusable bags, a while back I bought a set of reusable mesh produce bags that have been wonderful. They roll up nice and small and don't add any weight to your produce/dry goods, so you can avoid even more plastic packaging AND buy from the bulk section. Nice!

So, what do you do to reduce, reuse, and recycle when you're food shopping? What initiatives do you think will help lead us toward a more sustainable future? I'd love to hear your thoughts and ideas!

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Vegan Grain and Gluten Free Cinnamon Cranberry Muffins

These grain-free, vegan muffins are adapted from a recipe I found at Healthful Pursuits, the excellent blog of holistic nutritionist Leanne Vogel. These truly are as good as the "real" thing and, as she promised, you do not taste the bean flour one bit.  She uses chickpea flour, while I substituted Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free Flour Blend, which contains garbanzo bean, potato starch, tapioca powder, whole grain sweet white sorghum flour, and fava bean flours. I was really happy with the cinnamon spiced, slightly tangy, fluffy final result. The cinnamon favor almost overwhelms the cranberry, so reduce it by half if you want the tartness of the berries to shine. These are great warm and best the same day you make them.

Vegan Grain-Free Cinnamon Cranberry Muffins
Adapted from Healthful Pursuit's, Vegan Grain-Free Cranberry Sauce Muffins
Makes 18 muffins
1½ cup Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free Flour Mix
¾ cup arrowroot starch
½ cup ground flax seed
1 Tablespoon cinnamon
1½ teaspoons baking powder
1½ teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
3/4 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

14oz can organic whole berry cranberry sauce (approx. 1 1/2 cups) 
¾ cup sucanat (plus extra to sprinkle on top of each muffin)
½ cup plus 1 Tablespoon almond milk (or other nondairy milk)
¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons grapeseed oil or other mild oil
1 Tablespoon good vanilla extract

Preheat your oven to 350F and line your muffin tins. My yield was 18, so I used two muffin tins and baked them off at the same time.

Combine the dry ingredients together with a whisk and set them aside.
Whisk together the wet ingredients then pour them into the dry and fold together until just incorporated. 

Spoon the batter into your prepared muffin tins and sprinkle with sucanat.

Bake for 15-16 minutes, until a toothpick comes out just barely clean. Cool the muffins on racks.