Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Stir Fried Plantains

"The English are obsessed with the weather" was a strong belief that I held, growing up on a diet of Enid Blyton, P.G Wodehouse and Jane Austen. Living in God's Own Country, I really couldn't appreciate this English obsession:   The landscape stayed a beautiful lush green throughout the year. The sun always shone ; even if for a brief period between cloud bursts during the monsoons.There were hot days and hotter days and the brief period between the Southwest and Northeast monsoons was extremely pleasant.
Let me just say that Oregonians are way more obsessed with the weather than the English. And yay! spring is here and to celebrate there has been all kinds of cooking.

Carrot pickles and Spiced Almonds that got eaten before getting photographed

and  stir fries

 I present the humble plantain -stir fired with Sambal Olek and red onions. It is good enough to eat straight from the pan or served with some boiled rice.
If you have ever cooked with plantains, you know what a pain it is to prep and peel. The plantain skin has a sticky oily residue and you have to oil your knife and hands before prepping. But if you steam the plantains with the skin; it is a snap to peel and you can also reduce the amount of oil you use.

Stir Fried Plantains
3 large plantains
1/2 red onion sliced
2- 3 tsp of oil
1/2 tsp cumin
a few curry leaves
1 tsp Sambal Olek
Water or stock to baste.
Salt to taste

Cut each platain into 2 or 3 pieces along with the peel and put it in a microwave safe bowl that has a lid. Add a couple of tablespoons of water and steam the plantains in the microwave until the skin of the plantains turn black.( this took me 10 mins) in my microwave. Cool until you can handle. 
Use a paring knife to peel the plantains.The peel should come off easily in one segment. 
Slice the plantains into rounds.

Heat the oil in a large work. Add the cumin and the curry leaves. When the cumin splutters add the red onions. Add a little salt and fry until the onions just start to brown. Add the sliced plantains and stir to coat with the onion and spices. Add the Sambal Olek and cover the wok with a lid and let the plantains cook for 5 minutes. Check the plantains. They should feel dry. Add a teaspoon or tow of water or stock and cook until it is absorbed. Check and repeat again if necessary and adjust the seasonings as you go. 
The stir fry is ready when the plantains are tender and don't feel dry. Top with green chilies and serve.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Ginger Chocolate Scones

Spring break week was a mixed week; there were ups and there were downs. And for me the best way to combat the down feeling is to bake something. And these scones and their accompanying write up were the perfect solution.  This would never have made it as post if it were not for my cousin in New York. Thank you Amita - if it weren't for you I wouldn't have taken a picture. 
But apparently there is no satisfying all your customers: the little one wanted it to be made with all chocolate,  the oldest wanted no chocolate and  the middle one wanted no ginger or chocolate. 

Ginger Chocolate Scones 
adapted from bikram baking

3 cups all purpose flour
2 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 c sugar
1/3 c canola oil
1/2 c cold soy milk

8 oz. bar baking chocolate minus two pieces
1/2 c candied ginger
2 tsp freshly grated ginger

sugar for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 400 deg F
Line a baking tray with foil and lightly grease.

Chop the chocolate and ginger finely. For maximum therapeutic value do this the slow way with a knife.

Mix the flour, baking powder, sugar and salt in a large bowl lightly with a fork. Add the oil and continue mixing with a fork or your hands or a pastry cutter until you have pea sized clumps. Now add the soy milk a little at a time just until the dough comes together. Fold in the two gingers and the chocolate.  
Take about a third of the dough and pat it into a rough circle on a clean cutting board. Cut into 6 wedges and arrange it on the baking sheet. Repeat with the rest of the dough.

Dust some sugar on top of the scones and  bake for 15 minutes. Cool for 5 minutes and dig in.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Snow days and chocolate cakes

We had a snowstorm here in Portland and that happens only every 5 years or so. And when that happens the city shuts down. You would think we had a huge blizzard, but really it was only 3 inches of snow. The truth is we Portlanders don't know how to live with the wet snow; so the city goes on a shutdown. Life seems to magically slow down: school and sports practices cancelled; kids, parents and their dogs outside sledding down hills,  snow shoeing and skiing making snowmen and snow forts.Our local grocery store saw a lot of foot traffic.
 I took stock of the pantry - 4 potatoes, 4 onions, chickpea flour and oil. "let us make pakoras and have friends over" .  Seems pretty logical right? Not that anyone is going anywhere and our friends literally live across the street. My husband  assured me that it was a crazy idea and no one would want to trudge in the snow to come over to eat pakoras. Everyone would rather stay warm in their houses and only crazy people would think of such an idea. Arguing I was not crazy didn't really get me anywhere (too much evidence to the contrary) so I just gave up on the idea. Five minutes later there was a knock on the door and there was our friend on skis, wanting to know if we would come to dinner. Sweet vindication! I am not the only crazy in this neighborhood.

My contribution to the dinner in the end was Lentil Salad and a Chocolate cake - all made from pantry staples. As I started gathering ingredients for the cake, I spied the lonely ripening banana that I had rescued from my co-worker and I remembered David Lebovitz talking about the trifecta of chocolate coffee and banana and the inspiration paid off.

The cake was moist and delicious studded with pecans. You can't really taste the banana in the cake and even that teeny amount of coffee complements the chocolate very nicely.  The cake is spectacular when eaten with a dab of blackberry jam or some Boysenberry syrup.

Chocolate Banana Cake

1 3/4 c All purpose Flour
1 teaspoon Baking Powder
3/4 c Cocoa powder
1 c Sugar
1/2 c Canola oil
1/2 c mashed banana (about 1 banana mashed)
1/4 c strongly brewed coffee
2 teaspoons Vanilla Extract
*1/4 c buttermilk
1 c Pecans, chopped into small pieces

*I would have normally used soy milk curdled with a tsp of apple cider vinegar, but I was out.
Preheat oven to 350 deg and lightly grease a loaf pan.

In a large mixing bowl, measure out the sugar. Sift the cocoa powder into it.  Mash the banana into it and add the oil, coffee, buttermilk and the vanilla extract. Mix well and make sure there are no lumps. Sift the flour and baking powder into the bowl and mix until just combined. Fold the chopped pecans into the batter.
The batter will be thick. Pour into the greased loaf pan and bake for 35- 40 mins. The tester will not come out perfectly clean; but don't be tempted to bake longer. Take the pan out of the oven and let the cake cool in the pan for 15- 20 mins. Invert the cake on to a cooling rack. When fully cool, you can dust it with some powdered sugar.

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