Doesn’t Chana Masala sound exotic? You know just from the name this is going to be a fun and tasty dish. We think so, too, and are a bit surprised that Madhur Jaffrey calls it Chickpeas in a Sauce in her book At Home with Madhur Jaffrey: Simple, Delectable Dishes from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka. Of course, many people will find the latter name more descriptive, even if it is less poetic.
We decided to go with this dish soon after we made our scratched hummus. After all, we were cooking up garbanzo beans (chickpeas) for that, so all we had to do was set some aside for the Chana Masala. Once you start scratchin’ your meals, you’ll start doing things like this to save time. And, when you do it often enough, it turns out that many of your meals take the same amount of time as if you bought something from the store. Only they taste better, way better.
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3 Tbs olive oil
1 tsp whole cumin seeds
1/2 cup onions, finely chopped
1 tsp fresh ginger, finely chopped
1 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp ground turmeric
1 cup tomatoes, chopped
salt to taste
2 cups cooked chickpeas with about 1 cup liquid
1/2 tsp garam masala
1 tsp lemon juice
That’s a long list of spices, some of which you might not have on hand, but many are common to several Indian dishes, so, if you like Indian food, consider going over to your local ethnic market to pick them up. Often they are much cheaper. If you’re missing one or two of the spices, don’t worry, it’ll still be good. And, be careful with that cayenne — if you don’t like spicy, leave it out. Chickpeas, ideally you should boil them up from dried chickpeas, but we know that’s not always possible. When we buy the cans, we do try to get the organic kind, since we’ll be using the liquid, too.
Mise en place. Parts of this recipe goes quickly, so seriously consider getting everything ready before hand. We always chop the onion and ginger and measure out some of the spices and tomatoes.
Heat oil. In a large skillet, heat that oil on medium until it shimmers; you want the oil hot so the cumin seeds will pop a bit. Their flavor changes in the hot oil.
Cook cumin and onion. When the oil is hot, toss in the cumin seeds and onion and cook, stirring until the onions begin to brown.
Add ginger, coriander, cayenne, and turmeric. Stir this around for about 20 seconds. You want to cook these spices just a bit. Again, like the cumin seeds, the flavor will transform from dusty and raw tasting, to just plain tasty.
Add tomatoes. We used tomatoes from a can, and we knew that this brand breaks up easily in the pan, so we didn’t chop them. Other tomatoes we would have diced. Stir around the tomatoes for about a minute, scraping up any stuck bits. Add salt to taste.
Simmer. Turn heat to low, cover, and simmer for about 10 minutes.
Add chickpeas. Add chickpeas and liquid and bring heat to medium heat until the sauce boils.
Simmer. Once again, lower heat, cover, and simmer for about 15 minutes.
Add garam masala and lemon juice. Then stir and cook uncovered for about 5 minutes. Since it is only a tsp of lemon juice, we don’t bother squeezing a lemon, but you could.
It’s always fun to make an exotic (well, exotic to non-Indians) meal that tastes this good. Since we’ve learned a couple of these dishes, we probably have something like this once a month or so, but it’s still missing some of the flavors that you’d find in a good Indian restaurant. Therefore, four stars.
Everyone needs to know how to make flatbreads. They’re quick and easy, and people have made them for thousands of years, so the first one we’ll tackle together is chapatis, which go well with pretty much any Indian food. They’re great for scooping up that last bit of rice and sauce, or for stuffing little pieces to pop into your mouth.
In a medium bowl, combine flours and salt, then add water, and stir until the dough forms a ball.
Turn it out onto the counter and knead for about 10 minutes.
Place back in the bowl and cover it with a plate so it can rest until you're ready to cook.
Heat up a large cast iron skillet or griddle.
Divide your ball of dough into four pieces and shape each into a ball. Dust with chapati flour and roll them into thin rounds about 8-9 inches in diameter and a 1/16 of an inch thick.
Place on the hot griddle, and cook for about 30 seconds. Flip. Now, using a wadded up paper towel, quickly press down on the chapati. Release, and that spot should puff. Do it again in a different spot until most of the chapati puffs. If need be, flip the chapati again and try pressing on that side.
Remove and wrap in a towel to keep warm while you make the others. Serve immediately.
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1 cup Durum Atta flour
Pinch salt (optional)
1/3 to 1/2 cup water
Yes, we guess you could try to make these with all-purpose — we never have — but I’d think that they’d turn out like tortillas. And probably not very good tortillas, at that. If you like chapatis, you might as well head over to your local Indian or ethnic market and get the right flour. The kind we use is Golden Temple Durum Atta flour. While you’re there, wander the aisles; it’s fascinating to see all the different foodstuffs from around the world. It makes us want to learn more recipes.
Measure the chapati flour. Just scoop into a bowl and come close; making flatbread isn’t precision work. If you have a cup and a quarter of the flour, you’ll end up with larger chapatis, or maybe an extra — so what?
Add salt. Some traditional recipes don’t call for salt, but we like to put in just a pinch. Try it with salt once, try it without next time, see which you like better. That’s the beauty of scratchin’; you decide.
Add water. Add about a 1/3 cup water — cold, warm, doesn’t matter — and stir until it forms a ball. You might have to add a bit more water to incorporate all the flour. Feel free to switch to your fingers to mix. We do.
Knead. Turn the dough out onto the counter and knead for about 10 minutes. This ensures that you won’t have flour bombs in the center, so knead the dough until it’s smooth. It’ll probably be a stiff dough, but it shouldn’t be floury. Add more water, if needed.
Rest. You and the dough should rest. We pop it back into the bowl and cover it with a plate so it can rest. How long? Until you’re ready to cook ’em up, silly. If we’re having chapatis with dinner, we’ll make up the dough with our morning tea and let it sit all day long. It’ll be fine.
Preheat. When you’re getting ready to cook, heat up a large cast iron skillet or griddle. If you don’t have one, you could make these on the grill, or you might use a large heavy fry pan with just a bit of oil — we’ve never tried that, though.
Divide. Divide your ball of dough into four pieces and shape each into a ball. Dust with chapati flour and roll them into thin rounds. Thinner. That’s right, about 8-9 inches in diameter and a 1/16 of an inch thick.
Cook. One at a time, place on the hot griddle, and cook for about 30 seconds. Flip. Now, using a wadded- up paper towel, quickly press down on the chapati. Release, and that spot should puff. Do it again in a different spot. And again. And again, until most of the chapati puffs. If need be, flip the chapati again and try pressing on that side. Altogether, your chapati should brown and cook in about a minute.
Keep hot. Remove and wrap in a towel to keep warm while you make the others. Serve immediately.
Told you flatbreads are easy. With Indian food, we generally alternate between chapatis and naan. They’re both really good and both deserve their five stars.
Tomorrow is New Year’s Day, and, to start the New Year off right, we are planning a traditional dinner that is supposed to bring you luck. It’s already working because we can give you the recipes for everything on the menu (except the dessert — which is a secret), so that you can share in the luck.
For the Hoppin’ John, we’ll make up the black-eyed peas using the black beans recipe and the rice will be Basmati. A nice simple, but satisfying dinner; we think you’ll agree. And, just so we don’t forget: Happy New Year!
Q: How was it? A: De-lish-ous. Everything came together to make a great New Years’ Day dinner. The Black-eyed peas were perfect, with just that bit of smoky taste, the collards cooked long enough to bring out the flavors, and the cornbread with tiny bits of jalapenos (in some) was just the thing!
Q: How’d it come together? A: With any type of beans start them early, they’ll hold up. So we started the beans in the morning. At the same time, we rinsed, soaked, and dried the rice. Around 4:00 we mixed the dry ingredients for the cornbread and cleaned and sliced the collards. We also started a slow re-heat on the beans. At 5, we started heating the oven, cooking the collards, knowing they could cook awhile, and waited. Around 5:15 we added the liquids to the cornbread and started getting those in the oven (we had two batches of corn sticks) and got the rice going. Rice got turned off around 5:30 — it can sit a bit – until the last of the cornbread was almost done. Then we started serving, taking out the last of the cornbread, right before serving up the collards. Everything hit the table right around 6, and it made for a great meal. We hope your meal was good, too.
As you have seen, we often get a lot of summer squash from the CSA, and, like the zucchini stories that everyone has heard, it is difficult to decide what to do with it. That’s why we were excited to find a recipe for Zucchini Relish in Lucy Baker’s Edible DIY. It sounds like a great way to use up zucchini. We modified it a little, partly because we didn’t have all the ingredients, and partly to bring it closer to the super easy pickle recipe that we like. Continue reading “Zucchini Relish”
We happen to love pound cake. It is, without a doubt, one of our favorite cakes. It tastes great, keeps well, doesn’t need frosting, can be toasted when stale; basically an all-around great cake. So we were excited to see that Dorie Greenspan had a recipe in Baking, From my Home to Yours; we were hoping for a great pound cake recipe since most her other recipes are tops.
Now, we’ve made pound cake in the past, and some have been better than others, with the best so far being one where we whipped the egg whites and folded them into a batter — we’ll write that one up when we make it again.
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4 eggs, room temperature
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
2 sticks butter, at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
You’ll be creaming the butter and sugar, so you’ll definitely want to get the butter up to room temperature. Same with the eggs, they’ll blend in better. And vanilla, use pure extract only.
Preheat oven to 350°F
Butter a 9×5 or 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 loaf pan.
Whisk most dry ingredients. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, and baking powder. Set aside.
Cream butter and sugar. With a mixer, preferably a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar together. Basically, mix the daylights out of ’em. Let that mixer run on medium-high a good five minutes, so the butter/sugar mixture turns pale and gets fluffy and light.
Add eggs. One at a time, drop in the eggs. Mix on medium for a minute or two. Then add the next egg. Once you’ve added all the eggs, it’ll be like an egg butter mousse so ….
Add vanilla. Add the teaspoon of vanilla and mix thoroughly.
Fold in flour mixture. Carefully fold in the flour mixture, folding until it just becomes incorporated.
Put batter in pan. Scrape batter into loaf pan, and smooth off the top.
Bake. Pop it in the oven on a middle rack and bake for 70 to 75 minutes, or until a thin knife inserted into the center comes out clean.
Cool. Let cool on a rack in the pan for 30 minutes. Then remove from pan and let cool to room temperature.
There! A pound cake, made from scratch.
We liked the simplicity of this cake, but it is not as good as we would have hoped — a bit dry, and a bit denser than we’d want, so this is just a three star, implying it was worth trying, but we’ll be going back to a recipe where the egg whites are folded into the batter.
Okay, we’ll be the first to admit it, ravioli are a bit fussy, but not so fussy that you can’t whip up a batch or two. And, here’s a tip, kids, write it down, get a couple of people working on the ravioli; it’ll be over in no time. We happened to make enough so that we could freeze some for later and it’ll be nice to take out a bag of raviolis and just cook ’em up and cover with a sauce.
We’ve made these mushroom ravioli a couple of times; they are full of mushroom flavor, and people really like them. By using homemade pasta, the ravioli have a nice toothsome bite, not all mush like some ravioli you’ve (and we’ve) had. So let’s mix up a batch of ravis.
Makes about 4 generous servings (70 good-size raviolis)
Chop that onion and garlic, chop all the mushrooms into small dice (1/8 to 1/4 inch), rehydrate and chop and dried mushrooms.
Toss those four tablespoons of butter into a large skillet and start it melting. When it’s pretty hot, toss in the onion and garlic and sauté until the onion is just beginning to brown.
Add mushrooms and cook until most of the liquid is gone.
Add the cup of wine and reduce again.
Season with salt and freshly-ground pepper.
Transfer to a bowl and let cool.
Add between one and two cups ricotta and egg, and mix it in thoroughly.
Run the pasta dough through your pasta machine until you reach a thickness that you like. Drop teaspoons of filling on one side of the sheet, making sure they are about 1/2-inch apart. Fold over pasta, cut, and seal.
Set your freshly made pasta on a clean towel to dry.
Bring several quarts of salted water to a rolling boil, and boil about 16 raviolis for 3-4 minutes, testing for doneness. Remove with slotted spoon, and boil up the next batch.
To maximize the mushroom flavor, try to get some porcini mushrooms in there; we use some dried ones that we reconstituted. Other than that, consider using portobella, crimini, or whatever you can find that you like. The wine is optional; it adds flavor, so consider it. As far as ricotta, when we want ravioli for special occasions, we make our own, but feel free to buy it to save a bit of time.
Mise en place. Chop that onion and garlic, chop all the mushrooms into small dice (1/8 to 1/4 inch), rehydrate and chop and dried mushrooms.
Saute onion and garlic. Toss those four tablespoons of butter into a large skillet and start it melting. When it’s pretty hot, toss in the onion and garlic and sauté until the onion is just beginning to brown.
Add mushrooms. Toss the mushrooms in and let them cook. They’ll produce a lot of water, so your job is to cook it off. If you’ve used dried porcinis or other dried mushrooms, toss the liquid that you’ve used for soaking them in, too. Mushrooms have mild flavors, so you want to concentrate all those flavors into each ravioli.
Cook down. Let the mushrooms simmer, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquid is gone. It’ll start to smell really tasty.
Add wine. Once the mushrooms have cooked down, add the cup of wine and reduce again. It’ll take a while, but you’re not making a Chef Boy-ar-dee product here, you’re scratchin’ up real food.
Season to taste. Once you have cooked down all the liquid, season those mushrooms with salt and freshly-ground pepper. By waiting until the liquids are concentrated, you won’t run the risk of concentrating the seasoning and making salt-block raviolis.
Transfer to a bowl and let cool. The bowl is where you’ll make your filling; let it cool, because you’ll be adding an egg and you don’t want it to cook.
Add ricotta. The ricotta makes for a richer-tasting ravioli, so add between one and two cups, and mix it in thoroughly.
Add egg. The egg will bind everything together when you boil up the raviolis; otherwise, the filling would just crumble when you bite into them.
Roll out pasta. Run the pasta dough through your pasta machine until you reach a thickness that you like. For our machine, we find the setting of ‘4’ works great. Try to get a sheet about 3 inches wide, and however long is easy to handle, and place it on a lightly floured counter. If you don’t have a pasta machine, use a rolling pin and elbow grease. They’ll look a bit more rustic, but they taste great.
Add filling. Drop teaspoons of filling on one side of the sheet, making sure they are about 1/2-inch apart.
Fold over pasta, cut, and seal. Carefully fold the pasta over lengthwise to cover the filling, press down and cut between each filling-lump (we have a funny zig-zag wheel that works a treat, but a knife will work, too). Then, using the tines of a fork, seal all the sides.
Place on towel. Set your freshly made pasta on a clean towel to dry, and make your next ravioli. As we said in the introduction, this goes a lot faster if you can get an extra pair of hands on the production line.
If you’re not cooking soon, refrigerate all your raviolis. Just transfer the towel to a cookie sheet and pop in the fridge. Or, you can freeze ’em on the cookie sheet, and when frozen, transfer them to a freezer bag.
Boil ravioli. Since these are fresh pasta, they cook up fast. Bring several quarts of salted water to a rolling boil, and boil about 16 raviolis for 3-4 minutes, testing for doneness. Remove with slotted spoon, and boil up the next batch.
Serve with your favorite sauce. We made a variation on the hand-crushed marinara sauce, which was pretty good, but a nice cream sauce would be a good choice, too.
These raviolis are outstanding, but they do take some time so as far as worth it goes, we’d probably give ’em four stars. They are definitely worth having for a special occasion, and, if you freeze some for later, they become even more worth it.
Ricotta cheese is one of the easiest cheeses to make; we’ve only had it fail once — for this post of all things. But we persevered and made our own 100% scratched ricotta that will go into our mushroom ravioli. Even though ours failed the first time, we’ll provide that as our recipe and we’ll tell you what we did for the second.
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1/2 gallon milk
1/2 tsp non-iodized salt
Juice of 1 lemon (or 1/2 tsp citric acid)
Use the freshest milk you can find and be careful to avoid the Ultra Pasteurized milk; they won’t make cheese. You can use whole, 2%, 1%, or even skim. It’ll all work. The first batch we tried to make with the lemon juice. It looked good for a while and then something happened and the curds disappeared, we don’t know what since we’ve made ricotta with fresh lemon juice before and it was fine. If you want to go the citric acid route, you can easily find it on-line — it’s generally included with those cheesemaking starter kits (we have one, it’s a lot of fun).
Pour milk in a 3 quart sauce pan.
Add salt and lemon juice (or citric acid).
Heat. While heating stir the milk so it won’t scorch. Heat the milk to 195°F. It will seem to curdle, but that is just the cheese separating from the whey.
Let stand 5 minutes.
Drain. Line a colander with butter muslin — not cheese cloth, the holes are too large — and pour the curds and whey through.
Drain more. Tie the butter muslin shut and suspend it to drain. Let it drain for 30 minutes.
Done. You’ve made cheese. How easy is that?
Now, we’ll be honest, we don’t always go to the trouble of making our own ricotta cheese, but we do make it for that special dinner. It’s really easy and it (almost) always turns out. Four stars.