Saturday, January 29, 2011

Chayote Squash Relish


Husband and me:

- Would you say Tohayal is a chutney?
- No, chutney is different.
- Is it a pickle?
- Certainly not.
- Is it a pachadi?
-No. It is just what it is: Tohayal! Period.

All right, I saw it before, and it's a losing argument. Tohayal is a South Indian (maybe Tamil?) spiced paste made of vegetables, that accompanies rice and other dishes- a sort of relish, and thus I called it- to be fair. This one here is made of ground chayote squash (chow-chow) peel, tempered with fried urad dhal, red chili pepper, mustard seeds (all ground to a coarse powder). Like my sister in law once said: In India we make the best use of vegetables- be it seed, flesh or skin! Very smart- and yummy!






Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Broccoli and Carrot Stir Fry


I guess the double C in broccoli and the double R in carrot stand for extra crunch- for this stir-fry was a big crunch feast. Inspired from one of my cookbooks ( I say inspired, since I hardly ever follow a recipe to a T), it was a welcomed addition to the {shallow} fried tofu and the plain white rice- which needed a veggie pal anyways! Seasoned with garlic infused soy sauce and sprinkled with sesame seeds and peanuts-  the memories still linger on, for it was our lunch today, and Chinese cooking certainly leaves a trace, even with the exhaust on!


Monday, January 17, 2011

Feta Cheese and Black Olives Roll- :)Invirtita cu Brinza de Oaie...si Masline


Well, feta is one of the "almost national cheese"es of Moldova, though not called that, but Brinza de Oaie, literally sheep cheese! And as luck would have it, my sheep are few and far between :), I settled for feta for the making of this Invirtita- literally a ROLL- so popular in the place I grew up-minus the olives, which was my addition for a bit of bite and Greek character!


For the dough you need:
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1.5 teaspoon active dry yeast
  • 1 and 3/8 cup water
Filling: 
  • 1.5 pound grated feta cheese mixed with chopped black olives, about 1 can
Also:
  • Oil for brushing the dough
Instructions:
  1. Combine all the ingredients for the dough and knead a smooth, pliable dough, as if for bread. You may need to add more flour or water, depending on the humidity level of your flour.
  2. Divide the dough into 10-12 equal parts, slightly knead into small balls and let rest for 10 minutes.
  3. Using a rolling pin, roll each ball into pizza-like crusts about 25 cm diameter.   
  4. Generously brush every single sheet with oil, and lay them one on top of the other. Let rest for about 10 minutes.
  5. Take one sheet at a time and stretch it till it becomes very thin, almost transparent. Either use your both hands and rotate the dough by grabbing its edges or stretch it on a flat working surface. Do not worry if it breaks here and there- it will get covered! (see photos)
  6. When you have a  thin sheet about 40cmX40cm, eveny spread some of the feta filling all over the dough, and then cover with another stretched sheet, repeat with some more filling.
  7. Start rolling to form a log, and then curl it into a spiral shape.
  8. Place on greased baking sheets and bake for about 35-40 min at 350F.






 






Thursday, January 13, 2011

Drumstick and Lentil Stew, aka Murungakai Sambar

Amongst the zillions of sambar varieties, this is probably one of the best I love, simply because of the little drumsticks in it that add so much flavour and comfort (think of the fact that you have to pick them up and artfully drive them between your teeth to remove that yummy flesh!). Added fresh tamarind pulp perfects it and remember to use fresh sambar powder, since spices can be unforgiving to the taste if kept for a longer time.

Great on its own if not too hot, but pairs well with plain rice- how can it not, world?






Monday, January 10, 2011

White and Black Sesame Seeds Tofu- Ying-Yang on My Plate


I discovered the black sesame seeds quite accidentally while cruising through  our ginormous oriental store here in Austin. Since I used to often fry the tofu coated with white sesame seeds, why not bring some drama to it? Worked perfectly well, especially with some chili dipping sauce, or sweet and sour- your choice!


Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Of Christmas and Trade-Offs



My nephews on Christmas Day, 2009

Craciunel- the traditional Christmas braid. Kept near the icon till spring, given to cattle after giving birth

Craciunel topping my Christmas Tree

Not all the world celebrates Christmas on December 25th. Russia, Moldova and a few more countries officially celebrate this holy day on January 7th- The Orthodox Church uses the old Julian calendar, which is 13 days behind the Gregorian calendar. In Moldova both styles are celebrated, though the rural Moldova still sticks to the Gregorian calendar. This being said, the rural rocks!

There are many beautiful traditions connected to Christmas, caroling and group singing and "staging" different plays being amongst the kids' favourites. Kids start off caroling about noon and go from house to house until dusk, being replaced by older crowds. Kids would carry a wooden bar for collecting the "colachi"- the round braided breads with a whole in the middle, and of course, large mittens for the money they would get along with the bread- the best part I suppose!

Good food is always part of the winter holidays, but I am not going to dwell on this topic since I have to mention the "pig slaughtering" and all that comes with it...not now.

This year my mother spent her Christmas in US- and she loved the glamour and buzz around it here. I, on the contrary, love the simple ways of Moldova-but I wonder for how long they are going to stay simple, since the globalization surely is having an impact on every aspect of life in Moldova. Well well...

Merry Christmas everyone!


The Christmas Colachi, Moldova, 2008- ...and the effects of global warming :)

Braided Christmas Wreath, US 2010

And the BIG question: Will she trade off this one for that one?





Monday, January 3, 2011

A Stir- Fry, and a Load of Japanese Character to it

This mixed vegetable stir fry (asparagus, bell pepper, cauliflower, sugar snap peas, squash) was begging to stay away from the store-bought sauce. For some reason, I do not love the too-sweet taste of some of those, so I tried my hand at the making of my -own- way Japanese sauce, consisting of some brown sugar, ginger, mirin, sake, and soy sauce. It did turn out pretty interesting, especially paired with the buckwheat recently brought from Moldova. Now I have to find out if buckwheat is eaten in Japan- just curious. A handful of seaweed ( love it love it!) topped the crunch- how can one not love it?
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