Monday, April 17, 2017

A changing of the seasons - and a pasta sauce

We went to Olympic National park for Spring break. 2 full days. For once, I was the one that was the early bird. I got to go the beach before anyone else was up and experience the beauty and the tranquility in blissful solitude. It was magical. The photos are from my phone - nothing fancy but something that brings back the feeling of the moment.

 We hit three different beach sites - Beach 3, BEach 4 and Ruby beach and also went to the Hoh Rain forest.
Most people visit the park from the Port Angeles entrance- we visited from the East entrance and got to see a very different side of the park.

We stayed in the park - Kalaloch Lodge. The location is fantastic; right by the beach. The food - not so great. I wished I had planned a wee bit and loaded our camp stove in the van. It made me long for this pasta that I had put together a few weeks ago.

Here is the recipe. .. And if you do happen to scroll to the end, I would be grateful if you could answer the short question.

Pasta with  an Eggplant sauce.
inspired by 'Ikra' at the Los Angeles farmers market

1 lb of dried short pasta
1 large eggplant
1 red onion
6 Roma tomatoes
1/2 tsp of cumin + more to taste
1/2 tsp of Sumac
2 tsp of  Harissa - more or less depending on how spicy you want it.
1/4 cup Olive oil

Roast the eggplant -if you have a gas burner, place directly on the grill and turn the flame up to medium high. Roast till the skin blackens and then turn and roast on the other side. It takes a total of 10 - 15 minutes depending on the size of the eggplant.
If you don't have a gas stove.. Prick the eggplant and place in the  oven and broil. Rotate till all sides are evenly roasted. A toasted oven works really well.
Put the roasted eggplant in a bowl and cover with a plate or a dish towel and let it steam.

Heat water in a large stockpot (I use a pot that holds a gallon).
While water is boiling; dice the onion. Heat the Olive oil over in a large shallow pot over a medium flame. Saute the onions until they brown and become limp.

When the water boils - salt heavily, empty the dried pasta in, give it a good stir and set the timer for the Pasta cooking time indicated on the packet

Once the onions have darkened and softened - add the cumin  and saute briefly until it smells fragrant. Add the tomatoes and salt to taste.

Give the past a stir

Peel the eggplant and roughly chop. Add the chopped eggplant to the tomato mixture and let it cook.

When the timer beeps, turn off the stove and taste the pasta. It should be cooked but still retain a bite. If you feel it needs a bit more softening, let it sit in the pot for a couple of minutes.

Pour a ladleful of pasta water into the eggplant sauce and then drain the pasta.
Season the sauce with harissa and Sumac.Taste. It should taste smoky, tart and a little spicy. Adjust flavors if you have to.

Toss the pasta in, stir and serve immediately.

And a question for you dear readers.. if I published the above recipe in the format below; would it make sense to you?  I often take notes like this and I thought I could get to publishing more often if my words are less. Please do let me know.

Roast whole eggplant
Saute 1 red onion
Add 6 roma tomatoes

cook pasta, add pasta water, toss, eat

Sunday, April 9, 2017

A picnic and a birthday

I had this in my drafts and happened to read it today. It isn't half bad and it brought back pleasant memories so I thought I would publish.
Gubs turned 12 yesterday. Hard to believe that the baby of the family is growing up. Gubba planned his birthday very elaborately. He wanted a picnic with his cousins and aunt and uncle.
The menu was
Caprese salad
Pita chips with  Hummus, Mutabal, red pepper and cashew dip and tahini sauce
Rice paper rolls with peanut sauce
Pasta salad

The salad was assembled onsite with tiny Campari tomatoes and marinated fresh mozzarella.

The hummus and mutabal were made from scratch.

The chick peas were soaked and cooked then blended with cumin seeds, ground sesame seeds, garlic,lime juice and salt. Scoop into a shallow bowl; dot with za'attar and aleppo pepper, top with olive oil.

For the Mutabal, roast an eggplant over a gas flame. Char all over. Put in a bowl and cover for 15 mins. Peel off the charred flesh. Start with sesame seeds and half a clove of garlic in the blender. Blend well and lime juice. Add the eggplant and pulse. Serve dirzzled with Olive oil.
The red pepper dip was made with a jar of roasted red peppers, a smidge of garlic, juice of a lime, 1/4 cup of roasted cashews, Aleppo pepper and a dash of balsamic vinegar. Pulse ingredients in a food processor and adjust to taste. Top with Olive oil.

Pasta salad was made with a whole bunch of marinated ingredients: Canned artichoke hearts rinsed and drained. Marinated mushrooms, rinsed and drained. Roasted red and yellow pepppers; drained and some green peas. Dressing was Katy's strawberry vinegar, olive oil, pepper and kashmiri lal mirch.

For the peanut sauce - Zest and juice of a lime, finely minced ginger and garlic,2 tbsps of hoisin sauce, 3 glugs of soy sauce, sambal olek, peanut butter. Add all ingredients upto peanut butter into a 12 oz glass jar and mix. Then add about 2 tbsps peanut butter and microwave for 45 seconds. stir to blend. Taste, add more peanut butter, water, sugar, salt to balance flavors.
For rice paper rolls:
Marinated tofu - Microwave 2 blocks of tofu. Drain the water, Slice horizontally in half and put on the grill. Dab sambal Olek and a little oil and flip when the first side is done. Repeat on other side.

Rice paper rolls made with, julienend carrots, cukes, lettuce, marinated tofu, cooked rice noodles, cilantro and mint.
Technique. Keep a big bowl of water ready that your rice paper will fit into. Dip the rice paper into it and lay it on a cutting board. Immediately begin assembling. Start with lettuce. Herbs, tofu, noodles, carrot and cucumbers in that order. Place on wrap on end near you. Start rolling. Wrap each roll in saran wrap to prevent sticking.
The food was eaten, games were played and a fruit tart with summer berries and a light custard filling was cut and wishes were made.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Where does time fly? and one more Edamame dip

Two whole months into the new year - really where does time fly? It has been good times in our Portland kitchen.
We ended the year with a trip to Guatemala. Beautiful and diverse country, great food, great weather and; I so wish I hadn't come back. We mainly stuck to the tourist circuit: Tikal, Antigua and Panajachel.  Tikal was by far my favorite. The forests were lush and to see the Mayan ruins poking through was quite something else. We splurged on tours with an archaeologist who is also a great storyteller and it was fascinating to listen to the story of the rise and the fall of the Maya and their understanding of  Astronomy and science. We toured Tikal and Yaxha and got drenched in the glorious tropical rain. Three days was too short; I could have stayed a few more and toured more sites.
Ruins at Tikal

Anitgua was  all cobblestone streets, colonial buildings and a festive atmosphere for Christmas. We took in colorful parades, beautifully decorated altars and great music. Christmas Eve was a partye! We went to a beautiful  late night service at the church. And then had to walk around, waiting for our host family to get back because we couldn't figure out how to operate the lock to our apartment. Long day, we decide to hit the sack and they tell us we HAVE to join them for the fireworks. What a sight it was! Antigua is in a canyon. The night sky was ablaze with fireworks, from the surrounding towns on the hill. Then we were ready to hit the sack, but we were asked to join the family for fruit punch and tamales..
Moral of the story: try to stay with a family  when visiting new country
Church in Jocotenango

Christmas Eve procession

Altar in Guatemala City

Christmas Day procession
Restaurant where we (and Bill Clinton) ate Pepian

Panajachel is the kind of place where you go to do nothing. The lake and the mountains are beautiful. The streets are crowded with vendors. There are coffee shops where one can sit and play chess.

The beginning of the year started with a massive parcel of food from my parents, followed by more food from my aunt and then followed by even more food that my cousin couldn't finish on his own!
I feel very lucky!

I do have a recipe to share. It is an easy flavorful edamame dip- sandwich spread, thin it use it as a pasta sauce, layer it between 2 tortillas and make an un- quesadilla..

Edamame and roasted Poblano dip

(fills 2 8 oz mason jars, can be frozen)

3 Poblano peppers
1/2 bag  frozen shelled  edamame(the standard is a 12 oz bag)
1 clove garlic peeled
1/2 a bunch of cilantro stem and leaves
juice of a lime (add to taste)
salt to taste
1-2 tsps of olive oil
water to thin

Roast the Poblanos directly on a gas flame, rotating until the skin is charred all over. If you don't have a gas stove, put it under the broiler for 3 to 5 minutes and turn to blacken all over. Put the poblanos in a bowl and cover with a lid and allow to steam. While you are waiting for the Poblanos to cool, cook the Edamame and the garlic in a tiny bit of water( stove top or microwave).
Once the Poblanos are cool enough to handle, peel off the skin.
De- stem the Poblanos and add it along with the cooked Edamame to the blender/food processor. Add the Cilantro, lime juice and salt and pulse/blend till you have a mostly smooth paste with some chunks. Add water to thin (if needed) and blend again.
Transfer to a container and top with the Olive oil.

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