Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Easy Weekday Curry

By Lauren Rauh

Craving Indian? It can be less labor intensive than you may think to whip up a delicious Indian meal. At an oversimplified level, Indian food is all about the spices, with a few key cooking techniques thrown in. The following recipe is a curry at its fundamentals! The tomatoes and cabbage can be swapped out for any vegetables of choice. Add a protein of your liking as well and you have a meal! Just a note: of the spices listed, only mustard seeds are whole, the rest are in their ground form. Cumin, coriander, and fenugreek are often sold whole or ground.  Freshly ground will give you a better flavor, but ground is still great. 

You Will Need:

2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. Mustard seeds
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 inch ginger, minced

1 Tbsp. each ground Turmeric, Coriander, Garam Masala, Cumin, Fenugreek,
1 teaspoon Chili powder
½ teaspoon cayenne

2 medium tomatoes, diced
1 small head, or half large head cabbage, chopped
½ cup red lentils
¼ teaspoon salt

Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium high heat in a Dutch oven or heavy bottomed pot. Add the mustard seeds (and any other whole spices you use). Fry the seeds until they become fragrant and start to pop.

Add the garlic and ginger and stir frequently to avoid burning (reduce the heat, if necessary). In a small bowl mix the remaining spices (powdered spices) and a few tablespoons of water into a paste. Add the paste and tomatoes to the pot.

Cook over medium heat until the tomatoes begin to break apart (about 10 minutes). Add the cabbage, lentils, and salt. Stir the ingredients to fully incorporate the spice/tomato mixture. Add enough water to nearly cover the cabbage and bring the pot to a boil.

Simmer the curry until the cabbage softens, the lentils break apart, and the liquid is mostly evaporated. Season to taste. Serve hot with condiments and accompaniments of choice (naan, rice, yogurt, chutney….).

Monday, November 21, 2011

Ok, sister is hosting Thanksgiving this year at her and her boyfriend's place. Backgound: Her boyfriend is actually a damn good cook...I'm wondering if you can help me out with a killer Mashed Potato recipe which will prove that I can be a force in the kitchen. I need a head turner dude!

As the holidays are about to sweep over us, we take a deep breath and brace for the surge.  The travel, the family chatter, the tossing, and turning.  Undoubtedly, they'll leave us gasping for air, stiff, and on the hunt for a roll of tums.
The silver lining, for most, is the prospect of a decent home cooked meal surrounded by people who don't judge you for showing up with a can of cranberry gel and a bottle of ranch dressing. 
And if you hale from somewhere between New York and Los Angeles some part of a meal will be draped/sloshed/dumped over a foundation of mashed potatoes. 

Despite being a simple preparation with only a few ingredients and steps, there is a slew of variables that, if gone awry, can become less than edible.  Maybe it is because of it's simplicity that people feel as though they can take license, and glue ensues.
And, despite all of the fuss, rumors and their "easier to use" dehydrated brothers, mashed potatoes are easy to make. 

I'm including a delicious recipe, but this entry is more about damage control.

  • Use a starchy potato or a combination of starchy potatoes. - including but not limited to - russet (aka Idaho), yukon gold, la ratte, fingerlings, many purple varieties, et al. (waxy varieties such as new potatoes and creamers are crush-able, but don't really yield a nicely "mashed" potato)
  • Season your potatoes well with salt.  They're gonna need it, since starch is a flavor thief.
  • Use cold butter, as room temp or melted butter doesn't fully incorporate in to the mash.

Never Ever
  • Use a mechanical device to mash or whip your potatoes.  You're liable to rip open the starches, giving them a pasty consistency - the worst fate for a mashed potato.  It is not the mashing that releases the starches, it the re-mashing. For this reason a ricer or food mill as ideal since it mashes only once, where a food processor beats on a starch over and over until it resembles Elmer's.

Variations and Comments
Yes, there is some serious butter in this recipe, but in truth it is less than what I actually put and only a fraction of what you'll find in many high end restaurants (Joel Robuchon's famous mash is rumored to be almost half butter with no cream).

A potato ricer looks like a big garlic press.
If you wanted to add various flavor components to these potatoes for extra pizzazz, then by all means.  I love them with a small handful of Parmigiano Reggiano.  Blue cheese would be nice, as would roasted garlic.
You could also sub in some other root veggies such as celery root, parsnips, sunchokes, etc.
All of these you would simply add in the final step.

Very Yummy Mashed Potatoes

2 lbs Starchy Potatoes, peeled, rinsed well and cut into roughly 1" cubes*
5 tbls spoons of cold butter
1/4 cup heavy cream

1. Place, your prepped potatoes in a sauce pan or pot, cover with cold water, add a hefty pinch of salt and set over high heat. Once this comes to a boil, lower the heat to medium and continue cooking (aprox 25 min.) until the potatoes are cooked through. (a fork should easily break them up, or an inserted paring knife should come out easily.)
2. Strain the potatoes.
3-A - For a smooth mash, use a food mill or a potato ricer, process the potatoes back into the pot and GENTLY fold in the butter and cream. 
3-B - For a more lumpy mash, simply return the potatoes to the pot along with the butter and cream and mash the potatoes with a whisk or potato masher to the desired texture. 

Serve with just about anything!

* If you're at all conscious of "organic" labels and natural growing practices, potatoes are the place to to put your foot down.  Conventional potatoes are hit with many kinds of pesticides, both on their leaves and sewn directly into the ground where they grow.  Then, in some cases, an herbicide is used on their leaves and stems to make for easier harvesting.  Then they're charged with anti-maturing agents so that they don't turn green and sprout. Not many of these chemicals have been around long enough to be proven carcinogens, but neither have they been subject to rigorous testing for safety of human consumption.  So you're essentially deciding whether or not you'd like to be part of a giant sample group when you buy conventional potatoes.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

A Better Butternut Squash Soup

by Lauren Rauh

I can never ever get enough butternut squash, but sometimes I do find myself tiring of the same old butternut squash soup. This one is a little different and will keep you cozy and warm through out the cold weather months. The addition of apple compliments and heightens the sweetness of the squash and the celery root brings it back down to earth.

I roasted the squash whole as well as the diced apple and celery root. Though this creates an extra step in the production of this soup, roasting the ingredients first creates such a wonderful, comforting flavor. Another bonus is that you don’t need to peel the butternut, which is perhaps one of the most annoying prep tasks. Though the soup stands well alone, I gave some garnishing ideas at the end of the recipe. Also, this recipe makes a ton of soup, so feed a crowd or freeze some for an easy weekday meal.

(serves 10-12)
The goods:

3 lbs. butternut squash
2 apples, diced
1 medium size celery root, peeled and diced
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 leek, thinly sliced
2 inches fresh ginger, minced
1.5 Tablespoons cumin

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Halve the butternut and scoop out the seeds. Place the halves face down on a baking sheet and roast in the oven for about 30 minutes, until the skin is easily pierced with a fork.

While the squash is roasting, dice the apples and celery root and toss them with a tablespoon of olive oil. Bake the apples and roots until they are tender.

In a Dutch oven or, medium saucepot, heat two tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Sweat the leek and garlic for about five minutes. Add cumin and sweat for a few more minutes, until the leeks are soft and fragrant.

When the roasted squash has cooled scoop the flesh out of the skin and stir it into the Dutch oven. Add the celery root and apple, cover the contents with water (or a mild stock) and bring the pot to a boil. Simmer the ingredients for about 20 minutes, adding more water if necessary. Season with salt and pepper.

When the soup is seasoned and simmered to your liking, use and immersion blender to blend the ingredients to a puree (or process in batches in a blender).

It's delicious thick, but if you prefer it thinner simply add more stock or water.

Serve with…

A dollop of crème fraiche or sour cream
Basil/cilantro pesto
Squash/pumpkin seed pesto
Grated Parmesan

Monday, November 14, 2011

"Truly" Organic Apples

In my last newsletter I briefly discussed finding truly organic apples.  I came across some last week and thought I would share the picture.
The sign says, "with the blemishes to prove it!"
They look pretty gnarly, but they're tasty little guys.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

What's Jamaican?

I'm making rice and peas (kidney beans actually), thank you for asking.
The "peas" refers to pigeon peas, and ingredient common to India, Africa, and the West Indies.

It's super easy, but a step in a different direction from the usual beans and rice.  It's also pretty foolproof.  (Though I might have just jinxed you.)

Jamaican "Rice and Peas"
3 Scallions, roots trimmed, nasty outer leaves removed
4 garlic cloves, smashed
1 habanero, crushed (put two because I love the heat)
1 can red kidney beans (or pigeon peas) drained and rinsed
1 can coconut milk
2 cups, white long grain rice

1. In a medium sauce pan, pour 2 1/2 cups of water along with the scallions, garlic, habanero, and pigeon peas.  Bring this to a boil over medium high heat, lower and simmer and cook for 10 minutes.
2. Add the coconut milk and raise the heat to high again.  Once it boils stir in the rice.
3. Bring to a boil one more time. Reduce the the heat to low, and cover.  Cook for 20 minutes.

Im kind of in love with this preparation.  It's rice and beans, with some extra punch.
It also happens to be the perfect side kick to jerk chicken.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Your One a Day [apples] in A New Way...

By Lauren Rauh

Nothing says autumn like a fresh apple right off the tree (well, maybe roasted butternut squash, or pumpkin, or winter greens…. I love this season!) I went apple picking two weekends ago and filled a ½ bushel bag with beautiful, crisp apples. The perfect sunny, clear, and cool fall day just begged for a celebration of fall, and celebrate I did, with a brisk hike, a bountiful apple harvest, and a sundrenched lunch by the Hudson with a great friend.

Just a week later, I found myself waxing nostalgic as I looked out on the Northeaster that brought winter weather too early to the city. I decided to shake my cold weather blues by spending time in the kitchen with the apples from my day in the country. I had split the ½ bushel with my friend which left me with about 12 lbs. of apples—more than enough for a huge variety of apple applications!

My next couple posts will focus on apples, and I will try to present new and exciting ways to cook them. Apple pie is a favorite for a good reason, but apples are surprisingly versatile and do not need to be pigeonholed to pastry. Apples can add complexity of taste and texture to savory dishes too. Here’s a pilaf of sorts with a very mild flavor, perfect to accompany any autumn meal. Note: This recipe is best with an apple that holds its shape after cooking, think Rome, or Granny Smith.

You will need:

Three medium apples, cored and ½-inch diced
One small white (or two cipollini) onions, thinly sliced
2 tsp. dried sage
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 ½ cups water or stock (veg or meat)
¾ cup millet (or grain of choice - Bulgar, quinoa, rice)
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil (for finishing)
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Toss the apples and onions with 2 Tbsp. olive oil and season with sage, salt, and pepper (Don't forget to season with salt and pepper). Distribute the apples across a baking sheet and place in the oven.

Bake the apples for about 15 to 20 minutes or until the peel has faded in color and the pieces are slightly soft to the touch (but not mushy!). Stir the apples and onions occasionally to prevent sticking and encourage even cooking.

While the apples bake, heat a cast iron skillet, or a heavy bottomed pan. Add the millet and briefly toast the grains in the hot, dry pan.

The grains should become very fragrant and start to pop. At this point add the water and bring the pot to a boil. Lower the heat and cover the pot. The grains should be fully cooked in about 20 minutes, but check the pot frequently to make sure the water has not evaporated away and left behind burning uncooked grains. The cooked millet should be light, fluffy, and dry.

Combine the apples, onions, and grains in a bowl. Add the additional oil, salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot or at room temperature.

Friday, November 4, 2011

The Brooklyn grange Needs Your Vote

The Brooklyn Grange (Rooftop farm in LIC) has been nominated for the BBC's world challenge.  Ben and the Farm need your vote.  Simply click the link below and click on "vote for this project". Here is Ben's request . . .

Hey Everybody, 
I'm writing to ask for your vote in this year's BBC WORLD CHALLENGE.

Two years ago, I started the Brooklyn Grange, a rooftop farm with a great group.  We intensively grow vegetables on a 1-acre soil-covered rooftop, and sell them to local restaurants and farmer's markets around New York.  We also have bees, chickens, kids, and we launched an educational non-profit this year.  It's a busy place.

Recently, the farm was chosen as one of twelve finalists in the BBC World Challenge, a competition that rewards folks who are turning niche sustainability concepts into business models.  It's an impressive group of 12 finalists who were selected for the challenge, and we are the only rep from the US, so we are very proud to be in the runnings.  After the votes are tallied, the top 3 all receive cash prizes, which would be really helpful as we're preparing to start a 2nd location next spring. 
Click on this link to vote:
Voting ends on November 11th.  And please spread the word by any means - we can use it!  And send me a note, or come to the farm!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

A jerk you can stand to be around. . .

[This entry is from one of last year's newsletters. I just made some today, so I thought I'd post it to the blog.  As it is freaking delicious!]

Jamaican Jerk seasoning plays a strange role on the stage of American food.  Its strong cultural ties solicit the ooohs and ahhhs usually associated with ethnic fare, but most people pass it over because of its spicy reputation.   There are diluted versions in popular restaurants, but chances are pretty slim that any of you have ever had the real deal.  True Jerk.  (I haven't)  This is because a big part of the flavor of True Jerk comes from slow grilling over coals and as many branches of allspice as you can get to catch on fire.  This dilemma accompanies almost all ethnic culinary staples: they always require a list of exotic ingredients prepared in complicated ways with unusual tools. 
All you really need to make great jerk is a blender, a few chili peppers, a Bob Marley cd, and some common staples.  
The tricky part is finding the right chili peppers and knowing how to build in the right amount of heat for you.  Jalepenos or serranos won't do, they just don't have the same character. Once you have that in order you can put your Jerk seasoning on just about anything.

It starts with Scotch Bonnet peppers or Habanero peppers.  They're in season right now, so try your farmers market.  They’re very similar, some even claim they’re the same.  It’s a very fine line.  They have a similar aroma, indicative of Jerk, and are equally excruciating when is comes to heat.  And you can offset their heat some by subbing in another, less in-your-face pepper, such as Aji Dulce and Grenada or Trinidad Seasoning Peppers.  There is also the more readily-available Poblano pepper, which is a great compliment to a homemade Almost True Jerk. 

**When toying with serious chilies be aware that whatever touches them becomes a weapon of chemical warfare.   So wear a glove, wash your hands well and don't make any absent-minded trips to the bathroom.

Almost True Jerk Seasoning

1 bunch of scallions
1 shallot
8oz.  chili peppers, stems removed
3 cloves of garlic
1 tsp of all spice (freshly ground if you can)
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/4 cup vegetable oil (corn, canola, soy, etc.)
3 tbsps soy sauce

1. Place all of the ingredients in a blender and puree until it becomes a semi-smooth paste.
(There's only one step, but I numbered it anyways for clarification. Dont be a smart a**!)

The final product: it aint exactly pretty but it does taste good.

In this recipe I call for a specified cumulative weight of peppers.  You can mix and match hot (or not-so-hot) peppers as long as they weigh eight ounces.  You could seed the peppers if you want to; some people do this because its removes a significant amount of heat, but it also removes a significant amount of flavor, so I prefer to err on the side of using less spicy peppers and leaving the seeds intact.

Now you have your Jerk you can put it on literally anything.  It’s most traditionally applied to chicken.   You would rub it onto the chicken, let it marinate overnight, and then grill or roast it.  Pork chops would be great too, or a slow roasted pork butt.  I love it on veggies and have even been spotted putting a spoonful or two into the foundation of rice and beans.  

I found a peculiar cut that you don’t always come across: lamb “riblets” (aka lamb breast). This whole side of ribs ran me about 7 bucks, and it turned out to be a great vehicle for my Jerk seasoning.  I just marinated it and then roasted it at 325 degrees for several hours . . . mmmmmmmmm

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