Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Damn good Dahl

We ♥ dahl in our family. It is the one dish I make and probably have made more than any other in my cooking 'career'. Dahl is one of those things that you really don't need a recipe for. You follow the basic formula, make your own adjustments and presto, just like magic, you have a wonderful lentil or moong dahl soup waiting to be gobbled.

The secret to a good dahl is the tarka, What is a tarka you might say? The tarka is the lovely oil tempered with spices that goes into your soup. You also need something a bit tangy, like amchur powder (mango powder) or tamarind or even a tomato powder. There are too many variations here to mention so I will work with the one I made last night. I admit, I did not measure... I 'eyeballed' - this should be pretty close. **** Do not substitute a curry powder for any of the spices below.

Red Lentil Dahl
  1. Rinse in cold water 1.5 cups red lentils. Rinse several times. Add 4 cups of cold fresh water to the lentils and put on to stove. Add 1.5 tsp. salt and add 3/4 tsp. turmeric. Set pot on high heat, once boiling, turn down to a simmer.
  2. Let simmer for 25 minutes. Add another cup of water to simmering lentils and return to a simmer.
  3. Make tarka. Melt over medium heat, 2 TBS Ghee and 1 TBS Coconut oil in sautee pan. Add 1 TBS black mustard seeds to the oil. As soon as seeds start to sputter. Add in your heaping TBS of cumin seeds, 1 TBS ground coriander, and 10 curry leaves. Sautee quickly as the spices can burn very quickly in the hot oil.  Add 1 chopped tomato to oil as well as well as 2 crushed garlic cloves. Let tomatoes soften and stir constantly so the spices do not burn.
  4. Add tarka to the simmering lentils. IT makes a wonderful sizzling noise as the hot tarka enters the simmering lentils. Stir lentils, taste for salt and add 1 TBS tomato powder/amchur/tamarind to tarten up the dahl. Add fresh ground black pepper.  Let dahl simmer on low with the spices for 5 minutes and then turn off head and let sit for at least 15 minutes with the cover on. This soups flavor really takes off after about 15 minutes.
  5. You may add any dried or fresh hot pepper to the tarka. This can add some wonderful depth to the soup itself.
  6. Chop 1 large handful of cilantro. Serve on top of soup along with raita. Recipe for raita follows.  
 Yogurt Raita
  1. 2 Cups plain organic yogurt. Seven Stars is our favorite or Nancy's.
  2. 1/3 cup of FINELY sliced yellow or white onion, I mean FINELY. 
  3. 1 TBS ground cumin and coriander. Start with less and then add more to taste.
  4. 1 tsp. good salt. We use pink salt. Add more if needed
  5. Fresh ground pepper to taste
  6. You can add sliced cucumber as well although I tend to enjoy just this plain one for adding into dahls.
  7. Stir all ingredients and let sit so the yogurt will mellow out the onions. Let sit at least 15 minutes or can be made ahead of time.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

It really doesn't get much better than this - Early Summer Fruit Tart

Today was a GLORIOUS day. There is no other way to put it! Just fabulous.... sun, more sun and we reached the 80's today. It was a serendipitous day. Magical and centered. Don't you love it when you have a day that turns magical right before your eyes! Being present without expectations. I wish all of my life was like that! So good to just listen to our innermost soft, not even a whisper. It is as if there is a invisible string that guides us to the perfect place at the perfect time.

Before I even got to my destination, I was sidetracked (my ADD at work) by someones creativity in yard signs and ended up at a garage sale. I scored several items.... the best kitchen item was a blue enamel stockpot with steamer insert - major score! I also ended up with a few other odds and ends... already finding a use in their new home. I finally made it to my destination point and I explored the West Side Farmer's Market this morning. I ventured away from my usual Saturday morning routine to the downtown market and it's crowd drawing appeal and opted for a much saner option. Heading west, visiting the equally wonderful market that sits much closer to my house and offers up many little gems along the way. 

I was looking for rhubarb and greens, I was determined to get the rhubarb for my fruit tart. It is my sister's birthday today and I could not let this day skip away without making her fruit tart. I kept thinking rhubarb compote.... apricots.... strawberries... yummmm all these flavors kept mixing themselves in my mind. I could just taste exactly what I wanted to make. I did it... I whipped up this amazingly simple yet tasty fruit tart. And, I convinced my sister to come over for a slice. She brought my adorable  1 year old niece who was the ultimate tasting judge for the tart. She loved it...♥♥♥

Early Summer Fruit Tart -

Make your crust - Follow your favorite pate brisee recipe. I threw 1 and 1/4 cup flour, 1 tsp salt, 2 tbs vanilla sugar into the food processor. Pulse until mixed. Then add in 1 stick of butter, 1/2 cup, make sure your butter is cold. Chop it up into small pieces and throw into the freezer for 5 minutes. Take out and place in food processor, pulse again until crumbly - another 30 secs. Add 1/4 cup ice water and pulse until the dough just forms a ball.  Wrap up ball in plastic wrap and put into fridge for about 1 hour.

This begins with a rhubarb compote. Easy to make. Start with -5 thick rhubarb stems or 10 thin stems. Wash, trim and chop. Throw rhubarb into sauce pan with 1/4 cup water and add 2 TBS organic apricot preserves. Add in 2 TBS vanilla sugar -( we keep this on hand - leftover vanilla beans thrown into a glass jar filled with sugar) Cook compote until it has thickened up, this takes around 10 minutes. You want it to be like jelly, thick and sticky. Taste it - it should be tart like rhubarb, just not too tart. (adjust sugar if needed) Let sit and cool. 

Turn oven on - 450 degrees

Prepare Fruit. 1 quart of berries. I had very large strawberries to work today with so I sliced them in half and then again. I wanted them to lay flat. Take another 2 TBS of your vanilla sugar and coat berries. Slice 1 apricot into thin wedges and toss with more sugar (keep fruits separate).

Roll out Crust. This is the easy part. Flour your surface and keep flouring throughout the rolling process as you will be moving the crust, you do not want it to stick. Roll out to about a 12" circle. Transfer to parchment paper on baking sheet.

Lay down Rhubarb Compote. Now you feel like you are making a pizza. Take your wonderful freshly made compote and spread around the crust, keeping a good inch from the edge. 

Layer Fruit. Place sliced strawberries in a circle, start from the outside and work in. Layer twice and get artistic. Finally layer the sliced apricots in the center.

Fold Corners and Bake. Notice I did not say cut corners... fold the edges of your crust up. CAREFULLY. This is where you need to be delicate.  Put into hot oven for about 20-25 minutes.. I had mine in for 28 minutes today. Check it, you do not want crust to burn. 

Eat and Enjoy. Serve with organic whip cream laced with just a hint of your vanilla sugar. Make sure you give some away... they will leave with a smile! ♥♥♥

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Cherry Vanilla Bean Muffins

I could just blog and blog all day long. These are lovely little muffins, again using the basic recipe found here. These just have the fun addition of vanilla bean and cherries! Swap out blueberries for frozen cherries and add an entire vanilla bean plus 1 tsp extract to bring out that very wonderful vanilla flavor in the cherries themselves.

These muffins are best fresh out of the oven with a pat of butter on them. I keep making tiny muffins as they are just the right size for tiny hands and just the right amount of sweetness to put in a lunch. You could easily fill your muffin cups to 3/4 full and bake these as larger muffins... watch your time take out when they are turning golden. Boy there is a science to this whole baking thing! Sometimes they are perfect, sometimes too dark...we modify one thing and we have to rebalance the entire recipe. Throw these in the lunch or bake a treat for someone you love! ♥♥♥

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Goodness Gracious Must Have Green Sauce - let it all out

This sauce is sooo good. You will want to put in on everything, I mean everything. I love to dip blanched asparagus in this, put in on rice, lick it off my fingers, pour over chicken.... beef... you name it. This was the sauce that ended my week with happiness. I broke down Wednesday night after going for a walk with my kids and my damn legs were buzzing all over the place... it was torture trying to finish the walk. I came home and had a fit while my poor husband listened to me cry and yell. Sometimes we just have to let it all out.

It is easy to bottle up our emotions and we start to brew inside, just like a bottle of beer.... we start to ferment and stew and pretty soon someone/something pushes us and we explode.... Respond, it is like a warm soothing light that we bathe ourselves in, pausing for a moment before we react.

Drip this saucy sauce over all of your goodies... and enjoy. Adjust ingredients to your taste preference. If you like it hot.... add a whole jalapeño, your choice, your are the cook.... no excuses for the delightful dishes that you cook up in your kitchen.

Easy - all you need are the ingredients and a blender. No cooking involved.

  1. nice bunch of cilantro.... cut off bottoms
  2. 3 cloves garlic
  3. 1/2 cup olive oil
  4. 1/2 cup cojita cheese.... a lovely hard mexican cheese... pick it up at your local mercadito and support a local business....
  5. 2 tsp apple cider vinegar
  6. 1/2 cup water
  7. 2 jalapeños de-veined, de-seeded
  8. salt to taste.... do not add salt until you have blended the ingredients and tasted your sauce.... sometimes the cheese can make this very salty.
  9. Blend away... I use my Vitamix because it makes such a the sauce to smooth and sultry.
This goes really well on Roast Peruvian Chicken... of which I have yet to find the best recipe. I am on the hunt... I have a lead....we shall wait and see. Good things come to those who wait.

hugs kisses and good food ♥♥♥

Monday, May 10, 2010

The Perfect Salmon

Easy! Turn on oven to a whopping 225 degrees. Slice your salmon into individual serving pieces. Cut a 12" piece of tin foil/parchment for each piece of fish. Place fish in the center of foil. Sprinkle each with kosher salt, freshly ground pepper, and then drizzle Calamansi Vinegar from Vom Fass onto each fish. I use about 3/4 TBS for each piece.If you do not have the special vinegar, try lemon juice, or your favorite marinade, you only need about 1 TBS per serving.... The calamansi vinegar adds an amazing light citrus taste. It is so fantastic... I just love it. Yumm. Place a pat of butter or drizzle a bit of olive oil over the fish and then fold up the fish like a tiny little package. All set, place packets in a baking dish and into the oven for 20 minutes. Depending on the thickness of your fish, you may have to cook a bit longer. I find for a very think salmon, 28 minutes at that temp does the trick. You can throw in any seasonings you wish.

You will be making your salmon this way, I guarantee.... experiment - I think just the cooking method is what makes this so wonderful. Your fish will be flaky and moist.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Balancing in the dark / Braised Short Ribs

Our kitchen has a large picture window with a lovely view out to our back yard. Since we have not mowed the grass yet, we still have not scared away our tiny bunny family or the beautiful birds that end up perching on the wires. This morning there was a nice fat robin, perched on a wire, balancing itself, redistributing it's weight every second or two, moving it's tail, wings, changing it's grip. It reminded me of these exercises that my physical therapists have given me.... stand on two layers of foam, close your eyes and hope you don't fall. Try it..... it is really difficult, especially for someone who has had their nerves rearranged by a crazy disease. I felt like that chubby robin, perching myself on my own wire, constantly re-balancing and shifting my weight to keep myself upright. As my friend Kurt says, make your feet like a table and distribute the weight. I end up sinking my toes into the ground underneath me and steady my core, trying to maintain B A L A N C E. Unfortunately I do not have a tail or wings, but I do have an amazing body that somehow is bringing me back into balance, little by little every day.

We went out for supper last night at the Great Dane. All I wanted was one of their nicely crafted wheat beers, but went for a glass of wine that went straight for my legs! Arrrgh! Nix wine off my list of troublesome foods for the MS lady - no way. I chalked up the immediate buzzing sensation to cheap wine with added fillers, should have just gone for the beer. My life is balancing itself out, that is what we are destined to do.... it is our challenge. Feel the shifts and then compensate. Sometimes I feel jaded that my diet has to go back to something so pure. I like my wine and beer and my occasional sweet treat, lover of life and people I am.... so pulling my social vices out of the mix can leave me feeling a bit stranded. Alone, in my kitchen, waiting for the healing goddess to descend upon my kitchen space and swap out my nervous system,I guess for now I will just end up cooking these amazing Short Ribs....

Being on the MS healing diet means cutting out saturated fats, or at least limiting them. I guess the short ribs will definitely take me over my allotted serving for the day. Anyhow, they are in the oven as I write....slowing cooking for 3 hours. I am just putting into perspective my life as I look out the window. Remaking myself, helping my body and listening to it.

It is cold here and I will bake today. Yesterday I mentioned rhubarb... and rhubarb crisp it will be with a gluten free topping...... but later.... first we must wait for the ribs.

Braised Short Ribs

Serves 4

3 lbs beef short ribs. We are so fortunate to have Fountain Prairie Farms near by. Wonderful meat and beautiful people.
Freshly ground pepper
1 tsp ground cumin
1 large onion
1/2 lb crimini mushrooms, quartered
1/3 cup good balsamic vinegar
1 cup plus red wine
large handful chopped parsley
5 large carrots
2 lbs. potatoes
several hours to sit and wait while your house fills up with yumminess ♥

  1. Take your ribs out of the package and let sit for about 30 minutes. You want to take the chill off the meat before you sear/brown it in the pan. At this time you can take your dry rub, 1 heaping tsp each of salt, black pepper, and cumin, and rub into meat, all sides. Sprinkle again lightly with salt.
  2. Turn oven on to 300 degrees.
  3. Take out your dutch oven, I use a wonderful old Le Creuset pan. It is heavy duty and really maintains the head when you brown your meat. Turn on burner to about medium and let that pan get nice and hot. When it is HOT, take one of your ribs and start browning it, keep turning it so that you are able to seal that meat. Take out and brown the other ribs. Get the meat nice and brown, you will appreciate it when you taste it later on.
  4. Take your chopped onion and throw into pan, if not enough drippings add a bit of oil. Cook up your onions at this temp and when they have had a good 3-5 minutes in the pan, take your balsamic vinegar and let it deglaze your pan. Your house will begin to smell really good at this point. Throw in your wine and mushrooms as well. Give the vinegar and wine some time to reduce, about 5 minutes. Add 1 cup water ( I do not use broth as they have too many additives and too much salt)
  5. Cover and put meat into over for 1 hour. Take out and turn meat, add more liquid if necessary, wine/water mix. Put back into the oven for 1 more hour. The meat will begin to pull away from the bone.
  6. Chop carrots and potatoes. Add into pan, stir juices and put back into the oven for 1 more hour. You will have cooked the meat for 3 could knit part of a scarf or make dessert during the cooking time. Enjoy...
  7. Take dish out of oven and let sit for 15 minutes.
  8. Dish up and eat! You will probably have to pull some of the meat off the bones. Buen Provecho!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Keeping mama happy ♥

I love to bake..... even with my new gluten free diet, I still love to bake. Someone said it is a pleasureless diet... sometimes I can agree with that sentiment, especially that beer is now out of the picture. Oh well, I guess I will just keep baking for fun and try to figure out how to get creative with all the other grains and nutmeals out there.

Somehow all this experimenting and cooking keeps me sane. It is the molasses in my life, slows me down and keeps me sweet. Exercise also helps with my sanity as well, yet baking is just so much more satisfying and so much easier to do.

It is rainy today and quite chilly, makes me just want to roll right up in front of a fire. I will probably bake something, even if I can't eat it someone will end up enjoying it. Enjoy your weekend, even if you don't bake and if you do, share it with me. I love to see what others are up to. I think I will be getting creative in the kitchen with this wonderful red rhubarb I have sitting in my crisper. Until then... I am posting a few pics of cupcakes I've made and the kids that have enjoyed them...before I went gluten free... enjoy -

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Ina's Coconut Cupcakes

Coconut Cupcakes - barefoot contessa
Most of what Ina Garten cooks up in the kitchen is pretty much just plain fabulous. She loves flavor, butter, and more butter. Of the desserts I have made of hers, each one has been a winner. However, I for one am a lover of coconut. I want to get it anyway I can, in my food, on my skin, on my lips...into my popcorn. I just love coconut. So of course I had to try her cupcake recipe.  This recipe comes from the barefoot contessa cookbook. I omitted the almond extract as I felt the almond took away from the sweetness of the cakes themselves and I added more vanilla and a touch more salt. These are so lovely and wonderful to bring to a party because of just how beautiful they turn out.

Ingredients: Coconut Cupcakes
3/4 lb. butter (room temp)
2 cups organic sugar
5 xl eggs (room temp)
3 tsp pure vanilla extract - I like more vanilla so I added more and left of almond extract
3 cups flour - all purpose
1 tsp baking powder
1/2  tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt 
1 cup buttermilk
14 oz....sweetened shredded coconut

Baking Instructions:
     Preheat the oven to 325. Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy with paddle attachment, about 5 minutes. With mixer running on low, add sugar, eggs one at a time, scraping down the bowl after each addition. Add the vanilla extract, mix well.
     In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In three parts, add the dry ingredients and the buttermilk to the batter, beginning and ending with the dry. Mix until just combined. Fold in 7 oz. of coconut. (save the rest for the tops of muffins)
     Line muffin pan with paper liners (I use parchment liners). Fill each cup to the top with batter. Bake for 25 to 35 minutes, until the tops are brown and a toothpick comes out clean. Allow to cool in the pan for 15 minutes. Remove to a baking rack and cool completely. Frost with cream cheese icing and sprinkle with remaining coconut. (Garten, Ina, the barefoot contessa cookbook, pp. 175-176)
** For an added touch, toast 1/2 the coconut at 300 degrees for about 10 minutes with constant stirring. Toss toasted coconut with untoasted before putting onto cupcakes.

Cream Cheese Icing
1 lb cream cheese at room temp
3/4 lb unsalted butter at room temp
2 tsp vanilla extract
1.5 lbs confectioners sugar - I think this is too much, I added sugar and tasted as I went along. I ended up using less and it did not effect the consistency of the icing. 

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, blend together the cream cheese, butter and vanilla extract. Add confectioners' sugar and mix until smooth. Sprinkle with coconut. (Garten, Ina, the barefoot contessa cookbook, pp. 175-176)

Little Blueberry Heart Cakes for the Little Someones you Love

When you feel blue.. bake, Blueberry Muffins

I took out the Joy of Cooking and halved a basic blueberry muffin recipe and added my own personal additions to create these lovely little heart muffin cakes. A gift certificate from my dear sister led me to the specialty baking store.... I left with a heart pan. ♥ Truly a delight! My friend Judy said that that is the kind of gift I will remember forever, and I will. I am glad I chose something so whimsical, it was the "Do something wonderful for yourself" moment of my day. Thank you Molly! The small little muffins are perfect for throwing into a lunch box and a great afternoon snack.

Blue Blueberry Muffins

This recipe makes enough for about 6 large muffins or 12 smallish muffins. You choose....feeling big, feeling small... Double it for a full pan of muffins. Switch out blueberries for frozen cherries, chop cherries first.  

Preheat oven to 400 degrees - Grease your muffin tin, use an oil, grapeseed works well, butter tends to burn at this high temp.

Whisk together the following in a nice large mixing bowl:
     1 cup flour
     1/2 TBS baking powder
     1/2 tsp salt
     1/4 tsp cinnamon (optional)

In another bowl, mix these wet ingredients together
     1 large egg
     1/2 cup milk, cream, buttermilk, or sour cream (I like buttermilk if I have it on hand)
     1/3 cup organic sugar
     2 tsp vanilla
     1/2 stick melted butter

 3/4 cup frozen or fresh blueberries - toss frozen berries in a bit of flour

Mix wet into dry add berries, just until moistened, you want to see bits of dry flour peeking through the wet batter. Never overmix muffin batter - they will turn out chewy and dense. You want them to be lovely browned muffins with a  tender moist center. You also do not want to squish the lovely fruit. Bake about 15-17 minutes, you will start to smell them, that is when you can start checking to see if they are done. Let muffins cool a bit and then pop them into a nice basket on your table if serving right away.