May 30, 2011

Southwestern Wheat Tortillas

I have many fond memories of my father in the kitchen making fresh tortillas. Generally, we would not eat them with a meal but instead fresh and hot, on their own or slathered with butter. My father taught me a few important lessons for making homemade tortillas, add warm water slowly, let the dough rest before rolling and roll the tortillas as thin as possible. Now, whenever I make tortillas, I always think of making tortillas in the kitchen I grew up in and what my father taught me. Tortillas, a flatbread originating in the New World, are eaten in many countries, with variances in ingredients, size and thickness, depending upon the region. These tortillas are made from wheat flour and use a leavening agent to make them puffy, thick and chewy as is common in regions of the Southwestern States, Belize and Guatemala. Tortillas are delicious with any number of accompaniments such as fresh corn salad and stewed pork and beans or simply on their own.

For Burt, who loves tortillas.

2 c flour

1 ½ tsp powder

1 tsp salt

2 tbsp vegetable oil

warm water

1. Combine flour, salt and baking powder in a bowl. Add oil and evenly mix with dry ingredients. Add warm water, 1 tbsp at a time, thoroughly combining ingredients with water each time until dough holds together. Once dough is combined, knead dough until elastic, 2-3 minutes. Cover dough and set aside for at least 30 minutes.

2. Roll dough into cylinder, about 1" thick. Cut cylinder into 1" wide segments. Roll segments into round balls and cover with a towel. Heat large grill or skillet over medium-high heat.

3. Place a ball in between 2 12" squares of parchment paper and roll balls as thin as possible to form tortillas, 10-12" diameter. Place tortilla on skillet and cook until golden brown, 30 seconds to one minute per side. Remove tortilla when cooked and place in a clean dishtowel to keep warm.

4. Repeat step 3 until all tortillas have been cooked.

5. Fresh tortillas are delicious warm or room temperature, plain or with any number of accompaniments. Tortillas will keep for a few days in a plastic bag, though are best eaten fresh.

Makes 6-8 tortillas

May 26, 2011

Balsamic Roasted Vegetables

Asparagus is a beautiful spring vegetable, a wonderful ingredient for late May. Native to the old world, asparagus has been cultivated with the young shoot being consumed by humans for thousands of years appearing in the likes of Roman cookbooks and Egyptian friezes. Because of its wide appeal, asparagus lends itself well to any number of dishes and cooking techniques, but tends to shine with minor cooking. Balsamic vinegar, fresh herbs, garlic and honey provide and deliciously neutral flavor palate for roasted vegetables, so that they may be paired with many different entrées or eaten on their own as an appetizer, salad or snack. Balsamic roasted vegetables could easily be paired with an stuffed peppers, homemade pizza or a chicken tagine.

This recipe also works well on the grill. Different combination of vegetables and herbs may be used depending upon availability.

½ lb asparagus, trimmed

2 medium summer squash, trimmed and sliced lengthwise and ¼" thick

1 medium red bell pepper, trimmed and sliced lengthwise into 1" segments

1 medium red onion, trimmed and sliced lengthwise and ½" thick

2 tbsp balsamic vinegar

2 medium clove garlic, smashed

2 tsp honey

2 tbsp olive oil

½ tsp salt

¼ tsp ground pepper

1 tbsp fresh rosemary, finely chopped

1 tbsp fresh oregano, finely chopped

1. Arrange vegetables evenly in a large glass-baking dish. Combine vinegar, honey, salt, pepper, garlic and olive oil in a small bowl. Pour over vegetables and gently toss to evenly coat. Cover vegetables, place in refrigerator and marinate overnight, gently tossing occasionally.

2. In a single layer, arrange marinated squash, asparagus and bell pepper on a large baking sheet with edges. Spread onions and garlic on top of vegetables.

3. Preheat broiler. Broil vegetables for 5-7 minutes, until asparagus and onions are done. Remove asparagus, onions and garlic, flip squash and bell pepper, return to broiler for 2-3 minutes, until done. Once done, remove vegetables from heat and set aside

4. Meanwhile, place marinade in a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring marinade to a simmer and continue simmering until marinade has been reduced and thickened, about half as thick. Remove reduction from heat, cool slightly and add freshly chopped herbs.

5. Spoon reduction over vegetables before serving. Serve vegetables warm, room temperature or chilled.

Serves 3-4

May 21, 2011

Chenna and Paneer

Chenna and Paneer are types of fresh curd cheeses made by adding an acid, such as lemon juice, to hot milk and unlike other cheeses, chenna and paneer involve neither salt nor rennet. Chenna and paneer are commonly used in South Asian cuisine where milk is readily available, such as Indian, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Chenna is crumbled, slightly moist curd cheese and paneer is chenna pressed into a cake. I only recently started making chenna and paneer at home as it is difficult to find commercially and I generally prefer to make things myself. I found making the fresh cheese incredibly easy and satisfying with wonderfully edible results. Though other acids including vinegar and yogurt can also be used, lemon juice seems to produce a more light and delicate cheese. Now I make chenna or paneer on a weekly basis to eat in curries, on salads or with fruits and breads. This recipe is based on Julie Sahni's recipe for chenna and paneer found in Classic Indian Cooking, a great reference for Indian cooking. I used homemade paneer when making matar saag paneer.

To use vinegar instead of lemon juice, use 3 tbsp cider vinegar and 3 tbsp water. To use yogurt instead of lemon juice use, 1 c plain yogurt.

8 c whole milk

4 tbsp lemon juice

1. Bring milk to a simmer in a large heavy-bottomed pot or saucepan over medium heat, stirring continuously to prevent burning. Once milk is simmering, reduce heat to medium-low heat and add lemon juice.

2. Stir gently until white curds form and separate from yellow-green whey, 10-15 seconds. Continue stirring curds gently and slowly until they are well separated from the whey, about 15-20 seconds. Remove from heat.

3. Strain curds and whey through a strainer or colander lined with 4 layers of cheesecloth or thin clean cloth. Place curds under medium-flow cold running water to remove lemon juice and whey from curds, about 10 seconds.

4. Bring four corners of cheesecloth together and tie them. Gently twist cloth to remove excess water and hang cheesecloth over sink or bowl to drain for about 1½ hour. The drained, crumbled cheese formed is chenna.

5. To make paneer: set the cheese, still wrapped in cloth, on a flat surface, such as a cutting board, and place a weight on the cheese, such as a pot of water, for ½-1 hour.

6. Store chenna or paneer in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. Use chenna or paneer in your favorite dishes or on its own as a cheese.

Makes about 12 oz of cheese

May 17, 2011

Toasted Corn and Tomato Salad

I grew up in a family with a deep love for Mexico and for as long as I can remember I have been especially fond of Mexican and so influenced cuisine as their flavors, color and textures are vivid and delicious. I was thinking of Mexican cuisine when I decided to make corn and tomato salad, adding cilantro and oregano, herbs commonly used in Mexico. Skillet toasted corn reminds me of the sweet smoky flavor imparted on corn by grilling, which I very much enjoy. Corn originated in the Americas and has been cultivated by people for thousands of years. I like making corn salad during the summer with tomatoes and corn are in season and abundant. Aside from complimenting any number of Mexican-inspired dishes, toasted corn salad also goes well with braised lentils and brown rice fritters.

Frozen corn may be used instead of or in addition to fresh corn depending upon availability.

2 c fresh corn, removed from cob

1 medium tomato, diced

3 scallions, finely diced

1 clove garlic, pressed or finely chopped

1 tbsp cilantro, finely chopped

½ tsp oregano, finely chopped

1 tsp vegetable oil

salt and pepper

1. Heat a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add the corn and toast until light-golden brown, about 5 minutes, stirring continually.

2. Once corn is toasted, add oil, scallions and garlic, stir to combine and sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute. Remove ingredients from heat and place in a medium-mixing bowl.

3. Add tomatoes and herbs to toasted corn and stir to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Allow ingredients to marinate at least 1 hour before serving.

4. Serve salad at room temperature.

Serves 3-4

May 13, 2011

Summer Squash Fritters

Young squash, such as zucchini and summer, are a vegetable stand-by for me, and I try to always have them on hand because they are a useful versatile vegetable. I have found they can be added to many different dishes to increase the amount and diversity of vegetables consumed, not to mention texture and flavor. However, they are also lovely on their own, or at least made the central ingredient, with their smooth texture and light taste. Though they are so mild and fresh, they do maintain integrity while cooked, a nice quality in any ingredient. I decided to pair them with fresh herbs and lemon for a spring inspired fritters. Technically a fritter is coated with a batter and then fried, but I decided to combine the vegetables with the batter, creating a cross between a fritter and a pancake of sorts, proving culinary terms and labels can be complicated indeed. These fritters would be delicious paired with a beet salad and roasted potatoes.

Straight summer squash or zucchini will work just as well as the combination.

1 medium zucchini, grated

1 medium summer squash, grated

2 scallions, finely chopped

1 clove garlic, pressed or finely chopped

1 tbsp parsley, finely chopped

1 egg

¼ c parmesan, grated

1 tbsp flour

1 tsp lemon zest

1 tsp salt

¼ tsp black pepper, ground

1 tbsp olive oil

1. Place grated zucchini and summer squash in a colander, sprinkle with salt, toss and drain for about 20 minutes. Wrap the squash in cheese cloth and squeeze to remove excess water. Once squash is mostly dry, wrap in a clean dish towel and set aside.

2. Combine scallions, garlic, lemon zest, pepper, parmesan, flour and egg in a medium mixing bowl. Stir to combine, add squash and thoroughly mix ingredients.

3. Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Form batter into 1" balls and flatten into patties, about ½" thick. Fry patties until golden brown, 3-4 minutes per side. Continue process until all batter has been fried.

4. Serve fritters warm, room temperature or cold.

Makes 8 fritters

May 9, 2011

Strawberry Mango Sticky Rice

Strawberry season is in full swing and signs announcing fresh strawberries are everywhere right now, at small roadside stands, pick-your-own fields and farmers markets. I find passing up ripe strawberries particularly difficult, as they easily sell themselves with their bright juicy red exterior, so naturally I wanted to cook with them. I decided to use them alongside mango for sticky rice coconut topping, as mangos and strawberries compliment each other in a beautifully delicious way. Making sticky rice at home eluded me for many years, as it seemed complicated and I lacked the appropriate tools. Sticky rice is a short-grained rice from Southeast Asia with high amounts of amylopectin, responsible for the sticky quality of the rice. However, after finding the proper rice and researching different cooking methods, I found it was possible to simulate the bamboo steamer used in Thailand with a steamer basket and cheesecloth. Sticky rice has since become a frequent dish I have on hand for a dessert, breakfast or snack.

Sticky rice is commonly sold as sweet rice, though different from brown sweet rice, and can be found at specialty stores, larger grocery stores or Asian markets. Frozen fruit can be substituted for fresh fruit, depending upon availability.

1 c sticky rice

1 ripe mango, peeled and seeded

5 ripe strawberries, tops removed

1 can coconut milk

½ c sugar

1. Place rice in a mixing bowl and fill bowl with water. Allow rice to soak for 12-24 hours. Place a steamer basket into a pot; add water up to the steamer basket and line basket with cheesecloth. Drain rice, evenly place rice on cheesecloth, cover and bring water to a boil. Steam rice until tender, 15-20 minutes. Remove rice from heat, place cooked rice in a bowl and set aside.

2. Finely dice a strawberry and a small mango segment, set diced fruit aside. Combine coconut milk, sugar and remaining fruit in a food processor. Thoroughly combine into a smooth purée.

3. To serve, place ½ c rice in a bowl and spoon coconut purée over rice. Garnish with diced fruit and brown or raw sugar. Serve immediately at room temperature.

Serves 3-4

May 5, 2011

Leek Galette

A galette is a free-form rustic pie or tart, depending on the crust used, commonly associated with French cuisine. Galettes are great alternatives to traditional pies and tarts as their lack of structure and ease in forming make them beautiful and unique, leaving size, shape and form up to each individual cook. A galette can be made either sweet or savory depending upon preference and can be filled with any number of different ingredients as long as the filling is not too moist, as the crust needs to be able to contain the filling on its own. After discovering leeks are delicious baked on their own with few additional ingredients, I started making leek galettes a few years ago. Leek galettes go well with any number of dishes including butternut squash soup or purée, mashed carrots or smashed new potatoes.

For everyone who requested this recipe.


1 ¼ c flour

½ c butter

¼ tsp salt

¼ tsp pepper

¼ - ½ c cold water


2 leeks, trimmed, halved and chopped into ¼ wide strips

1 tbsp butter

salt and pepper

1 egg, beaten

1. To make filling: heat butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add leek and sauté until lightly cooked and brilliant green, 3-4 minutes. Remove from heat and season to taste with salt and pepper. Set filling aside to cool while making crust.

2. To make crust: thoroughly combine flour, butter, salt and pepper in a mixing bowl or food processor. Slowly add ice water, 1 tbsp at a time, to flour mixture and gently combine until dough begins to form. Being careful not to add too much water or over work dough. Form dough into a ball and place in the refrigerator for at least 20 minutes. Crust may be made and refrigerated up to one day in advance.

3. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Remove crust from refrigerator and place in between two 18" sections of parchment paper. Roll dough into large circle, between 10-12" in diameter and ¼" thick. Remove parchment paper from crust and place crust on a baking sheet.

4. Mound filling into a circle in the center of crust about 1" thick, leaving a 2" edge. Fold edge of crust around leek filling, gently pressing folded crust around filling. Using a pastry brush, brush crust with egg.

5. Place galette in oven and bake until golden brown, 25-40 minutes. Remove galette and cool for at least 15 minutes before serving.

6. Slice galette and serve warm, room temperature or chilled.

Makes one 8-10" galette

May 1, 2011

Burdock and Carrot Kinpira

Kinpira refers to the sauté and simmer cooking method commonly utilized to cook root vegetables in Japanese cuisine. Generally soy sauce and mirin, rice wine similar to sake but with a lower alcohol content, are used to simmer the vegetables when making kinpira. Burdock, the taproot of young thistles, is very delicious and when cooked tastes similar to artichoke, another commonly eaten thistle. Burdock lends itself well to kinpira as the sauté and simmering reduced any bitterness in the burdock, making it sweet and tender. Burdock can frequently be found in Asian markets, natural food stores or even larger grocery stores.

2 carrots, peeled and cut into 2" matchsticks

1 12" piece of burdock, peeled and cut into 2" matchsticks

1 tbsp sesame seeds, toasted

¼ c frozen shelled soy beans, defrosted

2 tbsp mirin

2 tbsp soy sauce

1 tsp sugar

1 tbsp vegetable oil

black pepper

1. Heat vegetable oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add burdock and sauté, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Add carrots and mirin, reduce heat to medium-low, cover and braise until carrots are tender, about 3 minutes.

2. Next, add sugar, sesame seeds and soy sauce, stir to combine, cover and braise until liquid has been reduced by half, 1-2 minutes. Remove from heat and toss with edamame. Season to taste with ground black pepper.

3. Serve room temperature or chilled.

Serves 3-4