Thursday, January 4, 2018

Quick and easy creamy cauliflower soup

Happy New Year everyone. I hope you all had a relaxing holiday. We spent a week getting pampered by my little sis, playing with the little cousins  and visiting the battle sites of the civil war. I made my first gingerbread house ever with my niece and nephew (from a kit). It takes a lot of frosting to hold the house together! Eating the gingerbread house and the leftover decorations was  more fun for the kids. I made them brush their teeth afterward, in case you are reading dear sis. We baked sugar cookies and I let my niece and nephew eat as much as they wanted becoming cool aunt in their eyes.  And my sister fed us - Dosa, Idli, Pav Bhaji, Dal, Usli, Bhindi masala and tondekai palya - this is just a partial list. I think we ate her out of the house.
Now it is back and some minor resolutions to eat well - nah who am I kidding, we got goodies galore from Bangalore. We will eat soup and assuage our guilt.

 You can make home made soup in 15 minutes - no instant pot, just operational efficiency. I whipped up this soup yesterday when the big cousins came over. I didn't cook the vegetables in stock or water. I just steamed  and cooked in a smidgen of oil. This made transferring to the blender much easier and far less clean up. And it is a healthy, filling, creamy soup that warms you up and makes you feel rather virtuous too.
Do seek out white pepper for this recipe. It adds a fruity delicate  aroma that is very different from black pepper.

Creamy Cauliflower soup 
1 red onion
1.5 tsp of oil
1 head of cauliflower
2 cloves garlic
1/2 tsp whole white pepper corns
6 sun dried tomato halves not in oil. If using oil packed, drain the oil
a small handful of raw almonds
salt to taste

Chop the onion into slices or chunks. Heat the oil in a tall saucepan that has a lid. Add the onions, turn the flame to medium, add a tiny pinch of salt and close the lid allowing the onions to sweat.

While the onion is cooking, clean the head of cauliflower, Take out the dried leaves and chop into big pieces - stem and all. Peel the garlic.  Put the cauliflower and the garlic in a microwave safe bowl, add a splash of water, cover with a lid and cook until tender but not mushy. It took me 6 mins in my microwave on full power.

The onions should be done by now. Tip the onions and cauliflower into a blender. Add the sun dried tomatoes, white pepper and almonds  and blend. Add water as required to keep the blades running.
Empty blender content  into the saucepan you used to cook the onions and add water to dilute to desired consistency. Heat on medium flame until heated through, Season to taste with salt.

Top with toasted almonds and a swirl of pesto. Enjoy.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Potatoes with Sumac and Z'attar

Thanksgiving or for that matter any festive meal is not complete without potatoes in my family. Everyone crowds into the tiny kitchen and snacks on the boiled potatoes and hover around till the potatoes come out of the oven or the skillet and very generously offer to be taste testers. The quantities provided in this recipe might seem alarming, but they disappear quickly. If you do have leftovers, they are great in a grain bowl or tucked into a wrap or sandwich or just warmed up for a snack.

Boiling and then cooking the potatoes in oil makes for a crunchy but melt in the mouth texture. The combination of Sumac and Z'attar elevates the deliciousness.

This is a technique more than a recipe. In my houshold, I have to figure 2 Yukon Golds per person.

8 Yukon Gold potatoes

4 tbsp of vegetable or peanut oil

1 1/2 tsp of paprika

1/2 tsp of Sumac + more to taste

1/2 tsp of Z'attar 

Salt and pepp to taste

Boil the potatoes until they are firm tender. Cut the potatoes in half. Put in a saucepan large enough to hold the potatoes ( at least a 1 gallon saucepan ) and add enough cold water to cover. Lightly salt the water and bring to a boil. Once the water boils, cook for about 10 - 12 minutes till the potatoes can easily be pierced with a paring knife. Drain the potatoes well and cut each half into 4 parts.

Or you can cook it in the microwave. Prick the potatoes well all over with a paring knife. Lay them on the microwave safe plate and cook. figure about 21/2 minutes per potato. i.e if you have 6 potatoes microwave for about 15 minutes. Once the potatoes are cooked, cool a little and cut each potato into eighths.

You can do this ahead of time and hold the potatoes in the fridge.

Heat oil in a large wok. When the oil is hot, reduce the flame. Add the Paprika, and about a teaspoon of salt to the oil. Now add the potatoes and gently lift and scoop to toss them with the seasoned oil. Increase the flame to medium -high and let the potatoes cook undisturbed for 3- 4 minutes till they have brown spots. Toss and cook for another 3 minutes. Do this until all the pieces have a bit of brown. Taste - add more salt if necessary. If the potatoes look dry add in a little more oil, a tsp at a time

Turn off the flame and add the Sumac and Z'attar and mix well. The potatoes should taste tart and bright. Adjust the flavorings if you have to.  Transfer to a bowl and serve immediately.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Katy's Cranberry relish

When I lived in Bangalore one of the Pizza chains had giant billboard all over town that said  "You won't eat Dosa with Cranberry sauce, why would you put Chiken Tikka on your pizza". I remember thinking the billboard to be rather snobbish and fantasizing about the combination of Dosa with cranberry sauce.   A year later when I came to Denver, I was told that Cranberry sauce came out of a can and it held its shape and is not something I should eat.  Dosa with Cranberry sauce dream died right then and there.
Fast forward a few more years and I discovered fresh Cranberries in Portland. My friend Katy brought in "Sugared Cranberries" to work and I fell in love with the fresh tart taste.  And then she introduced me to Cranberry Relish. Katy claims that her mom found this recipe on a bag of Ocean Spray many years back.  This is my interpretation of her instructions.

Katy's Cranberry Relish

1 lb of cranberries (fresh or frozen)
2 medium sized Navel oranges 
1/4 c of sugar + more as needed to taste
A dash of salt
Lime juice/Orange juice if needed.

For best results, make this a day ahead or at least 4-6 hours before you plan to serve it.
Wash the cranberries thoroughly and drain. Pick out any squishy ones. Chop the cranberries using the slicing blade of the food processor. Put into a bowl. Wash the oranges and dry. Take 1/4 c of sugar in a bowl. Zest the oranges into the sugar. Rub in the zest with a fork. Now supreme the oranges and add the segments to the bowl, breaking them into quarters as you go. Mix in the cranberries and a dash of salt.
Taste; the relish should taste tart and citrusy without being too sweet. Let sit for half an hour and taste again. If it is too tart, add more sugar. 
Let this rest in the fridge overnight or if you are planning to eat the same day rest on the counter for 4 to 6 hours. If you have refrigerated bring back to room temperature.
Taste again. Adds sugar or salt as needed. If it is not tart enough you can  add the zest and the juice of a lime a little at a time until you have the right balance.
Leftovers keep well up to a week. 
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