Monday, June 1, 2015

Pasta with a summer sauce

Memorial day weekend has come and gone. It heralds with the start of the summer and in Oregon it is usually associated with clouds and if you are lucky a brief burst of sunshine. Except this year - It has been unusually warm this year. We hardly had a winter and then the flowers bloomed early and when I checked yesterday, the apple tree had tiny fruits on it. It is scary - this is what global warming does. The weekend was all the more memorable because we had long awaited guests.. I finally got my cousin, uncle and aunt to visit Oregon after having been here for 15 years.There was a lot of eating, walking and laughing.   A lot of eating - I am actually considering an alternate career as a vegan/vegetarian food tour guide in Portland.
And I received the coolest gift ever. My Aunt gave me this doll(that her mother made) to add to my dusserah collection.

Listening this week -
The music of Bombay Velvet -  A hindi jazz album
Dahikkunu Bhagini  - A poem by Malayalam poet Kumaranasan. With the current climate in India an the politics of the beef ban - a dialog worth revisiting. This poem tells the story of a Buddhist monk, on a hot summer's day who begs for water from a woman. The woman is afraid to give him water because she is of a lower caste. This poem is the story of their dialog.

Reading this week
 Fire monks: Zen meets wildfire - a book that has me planning my study time in Tessajara

And for the recipe. This is pasta with a no cook sauce. You gather all the sauce ingredients in a bowl and toss it with cooked and drained pasta.

Tomatoes 5 (4 roma + 1 beefsteak) or any combination
1 garlic clove minced with salt
1 tsp capers rinsed and chopped
2 ears of corn shucked
1 tsp of preserved limes/lemons prepped
1/4 c olive oil
generous splash of red wine vinegar
1/2 tsp kashmiri mirch or paprika or cayenne pepper

1 lb of short pasta.

Bring water to boil for the pasta. While the water is boiling:
Find a large bowl that will hold the pasta
Dice tomato and put into the bowl
Peel the corn. Stand it on the flat edge in the bowl and use a sharp knife to shuck the corn into the bowl.
Smash the garlic with the flat side of the knife on the cutting board. Sprinkle some salt on it and mince it fine and add that to the bowl..
Rinse the capers (brine packed) and chop it into the bowl.
Now about the preserved limes.. I used flesh and skin. If your preserved lemons/limes are very salty, rinse briefly and chop into the bowl.
Add the olive oil,vinegar and chili powder. Taste and adjust for balance. You want a spicy and tart salad.
Let this salad sits while the pasta is cooking.
Once the water comes to boil; salt generously (until it tastes like the sea) and cook pasta al dente. Drain and toss in bowl with veggies. Serve warm or cold.


Corn not yet in season? toss is some Arugula leaves. Too much Zucchini in your garden? Cut your zucchini into matchsticks and use it in the sauce. And do you have some fresh basil,dill or parsley around? toss it in

Monday, April 20, 2015

Vegan thumbprint cookies

I first read about the life changing vegan cookies on One Hot Stove.  And I knew I had to try it. How can you resist? Forgiving recipe, and half of it was toasted nuts. So I mixed up a batch of dough and baked them.  And so glad I did - They are hearty; not too sweet  and the marmalade thumbprint in the middle feels like a nice surprise. They are made with wholesome ingredients so you could even have a couple for breakfast with a cup of tea and still feel good about it.

I deviated from the original recipe a little. I toasted all the ingredients first. I also reduced the oil a little and used white whole wheat flour. I skipped the salt because I used salted and toasted pistachios. 

Vegan thumbprint cookies (barely adapted from the kitchn)
4 cups old fashioned oats
1/2 c bulgur
1/4 cup poppy seeds
2 cups  nuts toasted ( I used almonds, cashews, pistachios, sunflower seeds)
1/4 cup hemp seeds
1 c white whole wheat flour
3/4 cup oil
1 cup agave nectar
Jam or marmalade for the thumbprints

Oven temperature = 350 deg F
Baking time  is around 15 mintues

Dump 4 cups of oats, the bulgur and the poppy seeds into a large wok or skillet and toast on a medium flame.  It is done when the oats will start smelling nutty and turn a very light brown. Turn off the heat and transfer to a large mixing bowl to cool lightly.
I toasted the nuts in the microwave - quicker and easier. Spread the nuts out on a paper towel, place in microwave and toast in bursts. 60 second bursts for the almonds; 30 second bursts for the smaller nuts.
Pulse the nuts and the oats in the food processor.  Put it in a mixing bowl and add the hemp seeds,oil and the agave. Mix with a wooden spoon. Add the flour and mix again. The dough should come together. It will look sticky and wet.  You can refrigerate the dough for 15 minutes to firm it up. Add more flour a couple of tablespoons at a time if the dough is too sticky even after the resting time.
Roll into balls the size of a whole walnut and place on a parchment lined cookie sheet. Make an indentation in each ball with the back of a 1/2 tsp measure and fill with about 1/2 a teaspoon of jam. I filled the cookies with orange and grapefruit-cranberry marmalades and some peach ginger jam.
Bake the cookies until they are slightly browned (about 15 minutes). Cool the cookies on the cookie sheet for 15 minutes and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Keeps for about 3 days at room temperature

Notes to experiment: Use roasted apricot puree instead of jam. Use a combination of oil and applesauce as suggested by commenter. Reduce agave to 3/4 cup. Use a combination of oats, quick cooking barley and millet for a different flavor

Monday, March 9, 2015

The elusive benne biscuit

Growing up in Trivandrum, we would really get excited when our neighbor Prema Aunty asked to borrow the oven. You know those little round ones that got really hot and had no temperature setting? That oven was a relic from Sudha Aunty who left it behind when she moved out. And it continued to be shared between the two houses for as long as we lived in Trivandrum. There was a low wall that separated the 2 houses and scaling that wall was the mode of commuting between the 2 houses for the four kids. And when Prema Aunty borrowed the oven; it meant that she was going to make benne biscuits(butter biscuits or should I say cookies) and we would get some. Her benne biscuits were to die for.. melt in the mouth and crumbly and yummy. I have tried and tried to achieve that consistency - tried shortening; all butter but nothing has come close until this one.
This came about from the hurried reading of a cook book. Alice's Kitchen; a book I have checked out multiple times from the library(note to self: buy said book) Her recipe was for Lebanese Crescent cookies. It is one of those books without the pretty pictures but writing that takes you back to her mother's kitchen and allows you to experience the food. There is a small section on desserts that were cooked in her home. The one for Crescent cookies caught my eye.  She instructs you to chop the almonds fine in a nut grinder and not turn it into a meal..All that popped out at me was almond meal.  So I halved her recipe; and I think I have come a little more closer to the dream benne biscuit.  And it is ironical that this recipe contains not a trace of 'benne' or butter.

This is a total no fuss recipe; it takes one bowl and no chilling required. So go ahead and make this.

1 cups all purpose flour
1/2 c whole wheat flour
1 cup almond meal
3/8c sugar
1/2 c oil
elaichi powdered
Heat oven to 350 degF. Line a cookie sheet with parchment.

Combine dry ingredients in a bowl. Add oil and mix with a fork. Test if it holds together when formed into a ball. If it doesn't add some soy or almond milk a teaspoon at a time until the dough comes together. Knead lightly.  Form into walnut sized balls and place on prepared cookie sheet. These don't expand much. Bake for about 15 minutes until the bottoms are golden brown. Cool on the cookie sheet and then transfer to a wire rack.
The cookies are crumbly - you will need a plate or a napkin or to eat it over the sink.
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