Saturday, July 31, 2010

Eating with Thoughtfulness

Credits to 3268zauber 
I just realized that I have completed publishing 50 postings on my blog!...my oh my! those bloggers out there will have to agree with me that it is not easy at all to be a food blogger...after all, one has to think creatively in terms of a recipe, write it down clearly (or in my case, as clear as possible), in terms of taking decent shots and make that food look at least half edible----I eat my heroes- believe me!
Well, I thought of not posting any recipe or story with this occasion. Instead, I want to meditate on the journey food takes to arrive on our plates...
Every family has its traditions on how they spent their meal time- for most busy folks out there that might be the only time to bond with their kids or share their day's events...
Meal time is a Silent Time in our home. We approach food not as merely tummy filling stuff, but as sustaining and healing energy. Many traditions around the world have elaborated on this subject and I am not going to dwell on it. But we do take this seriously- when we eat our food, we have the whole Universe on our plates. We eat the sun rays that kissed that grain of rice, the wind that caressed the field of corn, the rain drops that washed that apple, the joys and sorrows of those who worked hard on growing, harvesting and bringing my food to my place, day after day, and it turns out their lives and ours are indivisible...Even the plates I eat from have a thousand stories to tell...all I have to do is listen!
My favourite author on this subject is Thích Nhất Hạnh, a Vietnamese Buddhist monk, who beautifully elaborates  this subject in  his book " No Death, No Fear".
It all may be in one's mind, but practicing thoughtful eating  in fact proves to be so enlightening...I always feel humbled and honored to be part of a grand scheme, it involuntarily makes me more compassionate, forgiving and appreciative...


Friday, July 30, 2010

Ravioli with Ricotta and Spinach


Homemade pasta is easy, very easy to make, and it tastes fresh and delicious! Besides, it is fun to make, especially if you have young kids- they will love to cut and glue the dough pieces! Well, mine is still too young to get the fun, but she did get a handful of dough to play with- how do you contain a 15 month old who wants your permanent attention? She has no clue that Mom, besides taking care of the whole stay- at -home-with her-stuff, also has a passion of blogging...sometimes I even wonder what I got myself into! It is addictive!
Doesn't matter- if I survive the toddlerhood- I can survive any crisis in my life!
So ricotta and spinach ravioli- fun to make and easy too. If you have the time, of course. Ha ha- tell me about that.
All you need is: {love:-} and:
For the filling:
  • 6oz frozen spinach
  • 3/4 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1 egg
  • pinch of grated nutmeg
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the pasta:
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 egg
  • pinch of salt
  • water
Also:
  • Tomato Sauce
  • Melted butter
  1. Cook the spinach according to package instructions. When cool, squeeze aou as much moisture as possible. Transfer into a large bowl.
  2. Combine ricotta with egg, nutmeg, salt and black pepper. Cover and set aside.
  3. To make the pasta, place the flour on a clean, smooth surface. Make a well in the middle, place the egg and salt.
  4. Start mixing the contents with your fingers, then knead the dough to form a smooth ball. You may need to add little water. It takes about ten minutes for the whole process. Leave the dough to rest for 10 minutes.
  5. Divide the dough in half. Flour the working surface and using a rolling pin, roll the dough until you get about 1/8 inch thickness. Do the same with the second half of the dough
  6. Cut the dough into rounds using a fluted cookie cutter.
  7. Place little ricotta filling on one circle and cover it with a second one, pressing the edges slightly with your fingers. Place the ravioli on a floured surface and let rest for 30 minutes, turning them occasionally so they dry on both sides.
  8. Bring a large pan of salted water to a boil. Drop the ravioli, gently stir them so they don't stick together. They will cook in about 4-5 minutes on medium heat.
  9. Remove carefully using a slotted spatula, place them on individual serving dishes.
  10. Spoon on the melted butter and serve with your favourite tomato sauce.



Thursday, July 29, 2010

Bean Dip- Easy as 1-2-3

 
Be it the
Super Bowl Sunday or just a casual craving, one sometimes needs a quick recipe to fix a snack. How about Bean Dip?
There are many ways to make bean dips, and this is just one of them, and one of my favourite as well. When it comes to beans, I love cooking them at home using my best kitchen pal- the pressure cooker- simply because I do not have the time in the store to read those fine prints in the ingredient list to search for lard.  Even "less then 3 % lard" makes a dish non-vegetarian....thus the fuss! So I made my own refried beans- easy as 123! 
The chip- I bake my uncooked tortillas and just break them to make chips- so yummy. Of course, corn tortillas would be a perfect mate to this dish!
  • 1.5 cup refried pinto beans ((at room temperature)
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 2 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 chopped fresh tomato
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon cumin seeds
  • Cilantro and green chili for garnishing
  1. Crush the garlic with cumin seeds using a grinder or pestle and mortar.
  2. Add the refried beans and chopped tomatoes to it. Season with salt, lemon juice and mix well. 
  3. Garnish with cilantro and sliced green chilies- if you wish.
  4. You cannot go wrong with beans and chips, so enjoy!



Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Ethiopian Lentil and Potato Pot

 
While shopping at the Leiden Friday Farmer's Market during my 5 month stay in Holland, I made friends with a few young people from Ethiopia. They had come to Holland on political asylum but were living regular lives and going to college. During one of my visits to their place, I was served a dish very similar to this one- I did not ask for the exact recipe- but I was told it was garbanzo, brown lentil and potato stew. I remember it was fragrant and tasty....
After many years, I tried reconstructing the same dish with the help of an Ethiopian cook book (Exotic Ethiopian Cooking : Society, Culture, Hospitality, and Traditions), and I can say that I got very close to the taste of that long-ago-served meal.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup cooked chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin 
  • 6 medium size potatoes, peeled and chopped into large chunks
  • 1 1/2 cups dark brown lentils, dry
  •  1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 (14 ounce) can diced tomatoes
  • 1 yellow onion, minced
  • 1 cup mixed cut carrots and corn
  • 1 pinch salt and ground black pepper to taste
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • Vegetable stock
  1. Combine the chickpeas, vinegar, coriander, cayenne pepper, and cumin in container with a tight-fitting lid. Store in refrigerator while prepping remainder of dish, shaking it occasionally.
  2. Cook the potatoes till done.
  3. Cook the brown lentils till done.
  4. Heat the olive oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat; cook and stir the onion and garlic in the hot oil until translucent, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the carrots and corn and cook till tender.
  5. Add the crushed tomatoes, potatoes, season with salt and pepper.
  6. Add the brown  lentils , increase heat to high, and fry for 4 to 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Season the lentil mixture with salt and pepper, reduce heat to low, cover the pot and simmer.
  7. Grind the marinated chickpeas and add to the simmering mixture.
  8. Mix all the cooked ingredients  together and  simmer for another 5 minutes. Add vegetable stock as you simmer,  if mixture is too dry.
  9. Optional, garnish with roasted cashew nuts and fried chili pepper.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Simplicity at its Finest- Peasant Salad

As tomatoes and cucumbers and other fresh goodies ripen, salads are a must on every table in summer in Moldova. What makes them so irresistible is the unrefined oils that we use for seasoning, which are very fragrant and rich!

I have made a promise to myself and my family that there wouldn't be a day to pass  without some sort of salad...and it works for the most part.
After a packed weekend with both events and food, we decided to go easy and feast on salads for at least a couple of days! So far so good, and of course, paired with my home made bread- this versatile combination worked excellent as lunch today!

Also called  Peasant Salad, this one is of the easiest to make. Just chop cucumbers, tomatoes, green onions, parsley, season with crushed garlic, ground black pepper salt and vegetable oil- and Voila! a healthy treat for your tired tummy!


Monday, July 26, 2010

Thai Lemongrass Soup with Homemade Egg Pasta



Thai soups are delicious. I cook different ones, using tofu, Thai spices and whatever vegetables I have at hand. When they call for egg noodles, I prefer the home made variety as the flavour is certainly superior to the store-bought kind. The "noodle" in this soup was intentionally shaped as a wide fettuccine, since I love to coordinate my ingredients- food has to taste good and look great as well!
I borrowed this recipe from one of my cook books, but replaced the rice noodles with egg pasta and removed the chicken altogether ( :-) from the recipe), adding vegetable broth instead of water.

Ingredients:
  • 2 stalks lemongrass, peeled and cut into 4 inch pieces
  • 1carrot ,sliced lengthwise with a vegetable peeler
  • 1 celery stalks, sliced lengthwise with a vegetable peeler
  • 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon peeled minced fresh ginger
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 2 teaspoons roasted red chili paste
  • 1 teaspoon Thai red curry paste
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • wide egg pasta
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1  cups sliced oyster mushrooms or brown mushrooms
  1. Cook the carrot, celery and lemon stalks in the vegetable broth
  2. Add pasta when vegetables are halfway done and cook till done
  3. Heat the oil over medium-high heat in a small skillet. Add garlic and ginger. Stir fry for about 30 seconds.
  4. Add cooked garlic and ginger to broth.
  5. Bring back the broth to  boil, and stir in the chili paste, curry paste and mushrooms.
  6. Cook mushrooms for about 30 seconds until they have wilted, then stir in lime juice and soy sauce.
  7. Serve hot, garnish with lime leaves or cilantro



Sunday, July 25, 2010

A Piece of Cake...


...indeed, called "day and night" back home. I remember once asking my mom why she always has this cake at every single party, and she simply said that it's the easiest she knows to make, given the fact that before the cake making, she usually has to get a dozen of other dishes ready, plus cleaning up both outdoors and the house, and getting everything look good before guests arrive. Got credits, mom. 

Use a basic sponge cake recipe, batter divided in half and cocoa powder added to one half of the batter. Heavy whipping cream and confectioners sugar are used for icing and chocolate (unsweetened) shavings for garnishing! The effect is casual but smart...



Saturday, July 24, 2010

Spiced Grilled Corn Cob


As kids I remember waiting  for those two weeks window opportunity to have cooked corn cobs, and would check every day on the corn whether it is ripe or not. Despite our parents' telling us that we should look for slightly dried "corn silk", or the "doll's hair" (they used to make wonderful swaddled dolls to play with), we still went into the field splitting the corn to check on the ripeness!

Sometimes we would make a fire in the garden, wait for it to almost die, and throw the corn in the charred wood and leave it there for baking overnight- oh- the flavours of childhood!


During my second visit to India,  I had a chance to try corn cob in a quite different way: brushed with spiced gravy and grilled!  I am happy I took a shot of the lady making them on the street side! 
I do not know of a recipe for the masala, I just melted some butter, mixed in paprika, ground cumin, ground coriander seeds,  little chili and salt, a pinch of tumeric for added yellow drama, and brushed the cooked corn with this sauce, then grilled the corn. It turned out very tasty!

Grilling corn in India


Friday, July 23, 2010

Coconut Chutney


When it comes to certain dishes, like Idli, Dosa, Adai, and all the other pancakes, you just have to have it. What I love about this particular chutney is its mild and delicate character, perfect to be served even to those who do not care for heat in their plate!

Ingredients
  • 1/2 coconut
  • 1 tbsp roasted chana dhal (split bengal lentil)
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1 tbsp urad dhal (yellow lentil)
  • 1 dry red chili
  • 5-6 curry leaves
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 tbsp oil
  1. Grind the coconut and roasted chana into a paste or to desired consistency  in the food processor. You can add a bit of water to get a more liquid consistency chutney, which is our preference.
  2. In a small pan, heat the oil and when hot add the mustard seeds, curry laves, dry red chillies and urad dhal. Fry till the red chillies turn bright red in color.
  3. Remove from heat and add to the coconut paste. Add salt to taste and serve.








Thursday, July 22, 2010

Kashmiri Paneer- Indian Cheese in a Fragrant Red Sauce



I have a few friends who hail from Kashmir and dined in their homes and I can say that I fell in love with the Kashmiri food. The state is renowned for its rich culinary heritage, and this aromatic dish is one of the simplest among the region's repertoire.

The paneer in this dish absorbs the flavours in the sauce and tastes amazingly good!
You can buy paneer ready-made from an Indian grocery, but it is relatively easy to make it at home as well. Same goes for the Kashmiri masala paste, you can use ready made or alternatively make your own out of curry powder.
 

Ingredients:
  • 4 tsp Kasmiri masala paste
  • 4 tbsp tomato ketchup
  • 1 tsp Worchestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp five-spice powder
  • 1 tsp granulated sugar
  • 1 pound paneer, cubed
  • 2 inch piece ginger root
  • 3 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, crushed
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • salt
  1. To make the marinade, mix masala paste, tomato ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, and five spice powder, with the sugar and a little sauce. Leave the mixture to rest in a warm place until the sugar has dissolved
  2. Add the cubed paneer to the mixture, gently mix it and leave for another hour in the fridge.
  3. Finely grate the ginger root.
  4. Heat the oil in a heavy bottom pan or kadai and fry half the ginger and the garlic until golden
  5. Add the masala and paneer mixture and fry on medium heat until the oil has separated from the sauce.
  6. Sprinkle the content with lemon juice, remaining ginger and gently fold in.
  7. Plain basmati rice is an excellent accompaniment to this full of character dish.














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