Chickpeas and Panir with Tomatoes and Garlic

February 11, 2008 at 1:22 AM (channa/ gram, cheese, chiles and other capsicums, dishes by cuisine, dishes by main ingredient, India, legumes/pulses- whole or split, milk and milk products, onions garlic leeks shallots and other alliums, panir, Punjab, tomatoes, vegetables/ fruits)

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     The last few days I’ve been “laid up” with a back injury- nothing too serious- just a few strained muscles, and I am doing pretty well right now. But, during that time, I needed something fairly quick and easy to make as a main protein source, so I thought of making an old Jaffrey standby: chickpeas and potatoes in tomato and garlic sauce. It has no long onion-bhuno-ing step; instead, a massive amount of garlic paste is fried in oil, tomatoes are added and slowly simmered…(well, at least it’s an easier bhuno-ing that didn’t require me to stand for too long!), and then a fairly brief cooking of the sauce with the chickpeas. Instead of potatoes, I thought of using panir as I had pre-fried a home-made batch of it a day or two before my injury and tucked it away in the fridge. The rest I did in parts as I could tolerate it- but I must confess to you that I ended up reclining on the floor to peel the garlic!

     Since I was a little bit in want of fun, I decided not to follow the rest of that original recipe exactly; instead, I took a cue from one of my favorite bloggers- the famous Musical and her equally famous Kitchen. Musical is always playing around with new ingredient combinations and trusting her instincts to concoct interesting mixes of spices- all the while managing to create some really delicious dishes. So I thought “why not?” and took her cooking-is-as-easy-as-breathing approach, and, amazingly, my experiment turned out! It tasted so good that I decided to share it with y’all… and especially this is for other garlic-tomato-chile combo lovers out there! (You know who you are!)

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Chickpeas and Panir with Tomatoes and Garlic

2 C dried white chickpeas/ kabuli chana

3 T oil/ghee

1 t cumin seeds

pinch of hing

18-24 cloves of garlic, pasted- about 3 T

2 C tomato puree

2 t coriander seeds (dry-roasted)

1 t cumin seeds (dry-roasted)

1 t ground red chiles, or to taste

1/2 t turmeric

1 1/2 t amchoor (or lime juice to taste)

2-3 C panir cubes, lightly fried in oil and drained

2 t kasoori methi, finger-crushed

6 green chiles (I used serranos), sliced into 1/8″ rounds (de-seed if you prefer it milder)

3 C broth from the cooked beans

salt to taste

1)Rinse chickpeas well, then cover in plenty of water to soak 12 hours; drain, then add fresh water to cover by an inch or two and cook for 5 minutes at 15 lbs. in a pressure-cooker, allowing pressure to fall on its own and cool- or simmer in enough water to cover until tender. Drain, reserving 3 C of broth.

2)Dry-roast coriander seeds and 1 t of cumin seeds until medium-brown; cool, and grind to a powder.

3)Heat oil or ghee over med-low, add the remaining teaspoon of cumin seeds, fry for a few seconds, then add the hing, followed by the garlic paste; fry, stirring continuously until the raw smell disappears (keep your face away actually!)- about 2-3 minutes, until garlic is a pale brown and has lost most of its moisture.

4)Add the tomato puree, stir well and slowly fry, stirring occasionally at first and more frequently as it reduces, until the oil returns and appears at the edges.

5)Add the dry-roasted spices, turmeric, ground chiles, and amchoor; fry for about 2 minutes more.

6)Add the cooked chickpeas, panir, kasoori methi, sliced chiles, and reserved broth; mix gently, bring slowly to a simmer and allow to cook uncovered for 30 minutes or so, stirring occasionally; add salt to taste. Serve with any flat-bread of choice- para(n)thas are always good. :-D  But I was feeling perky today so I made pooris; I was thrilled because they all puffed up like balloons and one of them was actually round! :-)

 

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(clockwise: chickpeas and panir…, bitter melon stir-fried…, a round poori, homemade karela ka achaar, Bihari-style saag/pureed green stuff)

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Make Whey…and Use It Too!

December 20, 2007 at 10:44 PM (cheese, cream/Philly/hung yoghurt, dishes by main ingredient, ingredient processing and storage, milk and milk products, whey, yoghurt)

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Little Miss Muffet sat on a tuffet, eating her curds and whey;

Along came a spider, who sat down beside her,

And frightened Miss Muffet away.

Perhaps you have heard of this little childhood rhyme, and perhaps, like me at the ripe old age of three, you had no idea what sort of food “curds and whey” was. I recall asking one of my grammar-school teachers. Her reply? Cottage cheese… And ever since then I’ve felt compelled to check the air around me for dangling arachnids as I devour a bowlful. But, there is evidence that the dish referred to in the rhyme is the English sweet known as junket. Either way, milk is curdled. Curds, and whey

Perhaps, like me, you are well-aware that there are many other curdled things made by adding a souring agent to milk or cream. Yoghurt, sour cream, kefir (the production of all three of these demand that edible bacterial cultures be introduced which devour lactose, producing an acid which forms curds) and all cheeses (made by compressing these curds or those formed by introducing an acid directly) would be impossible without this initial phase of “curds and whey”.

Perhaps, like me, you have decided to be a bit more self-reliant by producing some of these food-stuffs at home and wonder, when all is said and done, what to do with all of the leftover whey. Well, for one, it can be added to the sauce or gravy of many dishes. In the Punju dish mattar panir, for instance, it is often added to the tomato-laden gravy where it adds a subtle, sweet-sour sparkle. It can be used to thin saucy legume dishes during the final simmering (adding any acidic substance at an earlier stage of cooking inhibits the softening of legumes); certainly it can be added in small amounts to many soups. It is, after all, protein-rich, and often used as a nutrition-boosting additive in many pre-packaged foods.

But perhaps, like me, after a session of panir-making or yoghurt-straining, you have no immediate way of using all of this whey that sits there so pale, so golden, so lovely in a container on your counter-top. You hate to discard it, so you freeze it, thinking that you will find ways of using it in the near future. And then, over time, you realize that you have so many containers that are taking up so much room… but it’s too much of a shame to just let them all thaw to pour down the drain. Sacrilege, you think. You arrive at a cerebral sticking-point.

And then, maybe, a thought strikes you. You could save space, save energy and dehydrate it…

And, truly, it isn’t very difficult to turn all of that whey into a concentrated powder. Whey powder, to use at whim without thawing, to keep in a handy place in the kitchen, to add to gravies, soups, stews, sweet drinks, almost anything. And here is how to do that:

1)Take your saved quantity of whey and bring it to a boil, lower the heat a bit to maintain a gentle boil, and stir it occasionally as it reduces.

2)It will eventually become a thick, caramel-coloured goop, so be sure to stir more frequently as it nears this stage. I threw in a quick handful of salt while it was reducing; perhaps this is unnecessary, but by doing this I felt reassured that the resultant powder would be spoil-proof. When it is rather thick and deep-golden in colour, remove it from the heat and pour this onto a waxed-paper or parchment-paper-lined baking tray. Allow to cool and set.

3)I then broke this candy-like slab roughly into pieces about 1″-2″ wide, and allowed it to dry thoroughly for a few weeks. I forgot about these pieces for some time actually. The edges and surface of these pieces will become pale as it dries.

4)I then took these hard pieces, gently smashed them in a mortar-and-pestle, and then sifted the powder from this. The larger “pebbles” that remained in the sieve I then placed in an electric grinder and pulverised, then poured through the sieve. You could, instead, continue the pulverising in the mortar-and-pestle if you wish. The resultant near-fine powder I poured into a jar and screwed on the cap. Whey powder dissolves in water, so a good soaking makes the cleaning of any utensils used simple enough, and what was once many quarts now fits within my hands. Much easier to use now, perhaps…

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[Miss Muffet illustration at introduction by William Wallace Denslow. Public domain, and used freely with that knowledge here]

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Beet or Carrot Cake

October 5, 2007 at 2:53 AM (beets, carrots, cheese, cream/Philly/hung yoghurt, dishes by cuisine, dishes by main ingredient, grains and grain-like, milk and milk products, sugars-sweets, USA, various nuts like me, vegetables/ fruits, walnuts, pecans, and hickory-nuts, wheat)

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Shilpa of Aayi’s Recipes is continually making me envious by her beautiful parade of cakes, and no wonder: she has a keen interest in cakes and cake-decorating, and has greatly expanded her talents by studying the subject hands-on with local masters. Despite her self-criticism of the final outcomes, she manages to astound me- and the rest of her readers- with her exquisite attention to detail and gorgeous design. Each time I view the latest one, I find myself wide-eyed in disbelief that she has just begun this hobby!

Let me be honest with all of you: I have never attempted to develop any skills with complicated frosting/icing work; instead, I seem to prefer finding myself in awe at weddings, birthdays, and other occasions when one of these beauties stands before me- silent and breath-taking to behold- and for now, that’s fine with me!  I’m far more interested in churning out edible ladoos and burfis to tell you the truth… So, you’ll have to excuse this little attempt with its rather messy frosting, and slightly-off-center arrangement of nuts…

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This is a beet cake. Apparantly, any recipe for carrot cake can be made with beets instead (is it just me or are there other people contemplating gajar halvah at the moment?), and I do find myself wondering if turnips, rutabagas and radishes would work as well- maybe not. What I do know is that for several years I have been searching for the perfect carrot cake recipe: one that would recall the good old days before the low-fat revolution of the 1980’s took place, one that is like the many slices that I’ve purchased and didn’t regret spending $3-4 dollars on, one that is sinfully-rich, moist, and flavourful, one that screams out: “chilly nights are upon us in Wisconsin”, “mulled cider or wine is in order”, and “tonight would be a great night to sit near the burning hearth”… But really, despite these very subjective images that I tend to connect to a fork-ful, this cake is enjoyable at at any time of the year, and in any weather. And thus far, this particular recipe is the best I’ve found, and yes…I would pay $3.50 for a slice!

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I have changed a few things with the original recipe. Mostly the spicing. (I also reserve the nuts for the filling and exterior and I greatly-disliked the icing recipe that accompanied the original cake recipe and thus found a much better one elsewhere to use). There are some of you that dislike cinnamon-flavoured sweets, but I assure you: if I am able to acquire a taste for cinnamon-infused savories, then it stands to reason that… well….what can I say? I played with the original author/creator’s spicing, so you can too! (But Pel is still thinking that his formula beats all others!)

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Beet or Carrot Cake

(inspired by this one from Burt Wolf’s Menu Cookbook)

3 1/2-4 C shreds of peeled beets or carrots

1 C brown sugar,  firmly-packed

1 C ghee (hee-hee… ghee makes this cake most decadent with a rich, browned-butter flavour, but  vegetable oil (soybean, corn, canola, peanut) is the more usual choice. Don’t reduce it: this is divided by at least 20 slices of cake- so splurge a little!)

3 eggs

1 t vanilla extract

3 1/2 t ground cinnamon (I use a mix of true/Ceylon and cassia/Chinese cinnamon)

2 T chopped crystallized/candied”stem” ginger

1/4 t ground cardamom

1/8 t ground cloves

1/16 t ground nutmeg or mace

1 t baking soda

1 t baking powder

1 C raisins, soaked in hot water for awhile and then chopped*

1 1/2 C all-purpose flour/maida (I suppose half-ata would be just fine)

1 1/2 C raw walnuts, pecans or hickory-nuts halves (I used pecans this time, but walnuts are most traditional)

ghee/oil for roasting nuts and greasing pan(s)

Icing-frosting (recipe below)

0)Pre-heat oven to 350 F/175 C. Grease and line the bottoms of 2  8″-9″ round cake-pans, or one 9″ spring-form pan with parchment-paper (use the bottom of the pan as a guide and cut to fit). Grease the top of the paper as well. I’ve tried it without the use of the paper: the cake tends to stick!

1)Roast the nuts in ghee/oil over med-low flame, stirring constantly until nicely-roasted and fragrant. Remove and drain. Reserve intact halves for decorating. Coarsely-chop the remainder for filling.

2)Mix the beet or carrot shreds with the sugar in a large mixing bowl and set aside for 30 minutes.

3)Add the ghee and mix well.

4)Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each.

5)Add the vanilla, spices, baking soda and powder and mix thoroughly. Add the raisins.

6)Add the flour in four parts, mixing just well-enough between each to blend. I try not to exceed 100 strokes of the spoon total.

7)Pour the batter into the pan or pans and bake until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean. (about 30 minutes for two  9″ pans, or 40-45 minutes for one  9″). Place on a rack and allow to cool completely.

8)Meanwhile, prepare the cream-cheese frosting/icing:

1/2 C butter, at room temperature

8 oz cream cheese, at room temperature

1/2 t vanilla extract

1 pound of confectioner’s/powdered sugar (plus more if needed)

A)Cream (beat well until fluffy and pale) the butter and cream cheese. Add the vanilla; add sugar little-by-little until stiff enough to hold a peak. (If you add too much, a sprinkle of milk will cure it)

9)Remove the cake(s) from the pan(s) and paper. If you baked a single, thick cake: carefully remove it from the pan and paper; slice it horozontally in half to form two layers/rounds.

10)Place one layer on a cake plate. Spread about 1/3 of the icing over the top. Sprinkle the chopped nuts over this and gently press them into the icing.

11)Place the second layer over the first. Press this layer gently, but firmly atop the other. Spread the remaining icing over the top and sides of the cake. Decorate the surface with the remaining nut-halves.

12)Chill for a few hours if you wish (I prefer it chilled), slice and serve with hot tea or coffee.

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*I’ve also seen and eaten cakes that contain fresh/canned pineapple and/or coconut- very good. Other dried fruits might be nice too- instead of raisins- like apricots, prunes, etc.)

**P.S. Today is my birthday. I’m really quite old now…  I would like to extend warm gratitude to my dear  friend, June, for not only allowing me to photograph parts of her kitchen, but for the wonderful time I had at a dinner recently had there.)

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Karel Yakhin

August 11, 2007 at 12:26 AM (bitter melon/gourd, dishes by cuisine, dishes by main ingredient, India, Kashmir, milk and milk products, vegetables/ fruits, yoghurt)

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Anita’s post for the Kashmiri dish, al yakhni, was, I believe, the first recipe of hers that I commented upon. I remember it well, as she was so kind to suggest this recipe after learning what a huge fan of karela I am, as, although her post made use of al (bottle gourd), the same gravy can be used to cook nadur(lotus stem/root/tubers) as well as karel

So, because I had a sizable new batch of yoghurt at the ready, and locally-grown bitter melons from both the farmers’ market and my own vines, I decided that the time had finally come to try this dish and do it justice with these freshest of ingredients. (A stock of Lucknowi saunf helps too!)

I was not disappointed. Most delicious…fragrant with saunf, which goes so well with karela. (Bengali cooks would agree!) Rice is a must to accompany this very soothing, comforting dish and allow the aroma of the gravy to bloom. It will definitely be a regular item on my personal menu from now on. Thanks so much for sharing all that you do Anita. May your next year in food-blogging be just as spectacular!

Karel Yakhin*

750 gms karel/karela/bitter gourd/bitter melon, sliced into 1/3″ rounds**

Mustard oil as needed (highly recommended; use another oil if you absolutely must)

1 C dahi/yoghurt

3 t powdered saunf/fennel seeds

1/2 t saunth/dried, powdered ginger

1/4 t whole shah jheera/kala jheera/black cumin

1/4 t whole jheera/cumin/white cumin

green chiles (optional ingredient- not traditional? Anita uses 3 snapped in half; I used two sliced into rounds, retaining the seeds as well)

salt

1)Deep-fry the slices of karela in oil until golden brown; drain well (You may also shallow/pan fry the slices in a few tablespoons of oil if you like- I did so this time, but next time I think I would prefer to deep-fry them as it would be quicker, really, and karela is not highly-absorbent of oil)

2)Place the yoghurt in a bowl; beat or whisk it until smooth; add the saunf and saunth powders; mix well, then add 1 cup of water; set aside. (This should be at room temperature to minimize separation of the yoghurt)

3)Heat 1 teaspoon of oil in a pan over medium-low heat, add both black and white cumin seeds and fry for a few seconds until their aroma is released; turn heat to very low and add the yoghurt mixture.

4)Add the fried karela slices, green chiles, salt to taste, and, if necessary, a bit more water to just cover the vegetable. Bring slowly to a simmer, cover and cook until the chiles are tender. Serve warm with hot rice. Unforgettable!

*Uh…Anita? Why does yakhni change to yakhin in this title? Inquiring minds want to know! ;-)

**The rule of thumb that I use for bitter gourd is this: if the interior seed-coatings are red, scrape out the seed cavity. If it is still green/white, slice it and the seeds along with the rind. Ingesting the seeds has been known since ancient times to remove intestinal worms. I’m safe! :-)

If you’d like to remove some of the bitterness, soak in salt-water for an hour; rinse and drain, or sprinkle the slices with salt, let stand for an hour, place in a muslin or cheesecloth and squeeze out the liquid. I don’t de-bitter the vegetable anymore, as I would not like to compromise nutrients or lose any of the fine flavour.

NEW NOTE!!!! With the latest info: Kashmiris prefer the karela to be cut in half, or quarters if they are larger, and the seed-cavity removed before cooking in this dish. The seeds, with their protective jackets (if not yet red) are deep-fried until golden and crispy, then sprinkled with ground red chiles and salt and served as a side with the yakhin.

 

 

 

I thought I’d share a few photos with you, my readers, of the karela-vine progress…

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Globe thistle; behind them, on either side, are trellises which the vines are quickly taking over.

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This is a white, Chinese/Thai variety called Hybrid Beauty Winner. This one is still very young; they become paler as they mature and grow, but this one didn’t make it that far!

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Feta-and-dill-stuffed Pide

July 2, 2007 at 5:15 PM (cheese, dishes by cuisine, dishes by main ingredient, grains and grain-like, milk and milk products, Turkey, various greens, wheat)

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This is one of the most delectable things I’ve ever eaten, and as fresh dill is now widely available locally here, I put some of it to good use. I found this recipe several years ago in a Turkish cookbook by Ayla Algar entitled Classical Turkish Cooking- definitely one of the most-treasured volumes in my collection!

Although I’ve already posted a recipe for filled pide, the filling for this one is by far my favorite, and therefore I only make it 2-3 times a year, and share it; otherwise, I’ll eventually nibble my way through every loaf!

The directions for making the dough, filling and shaping it can be found here, but I offer this filling for you to try. Oh, and this time, I replaced a cup of the white flour with ata (Indian, fine whole-wheat flour) and it came out splendidly!

Also, I have made a few adjustments to the original filling, but these will be noted.

Feta and Dill Filling (for small, stuffed, pide)

2 1/2 C (about 1 pound) crumbled feta (this means Turkish feta, which is milder than Greek-style…the author suggests replacing part of this stronger feta with Italian ricotta (which I did- 1 C) or cream/Philly cheese)

3 eggs, lightly beaten

6 T unsalted butter at room temperature (I used 3 T)

2/3 C finely-chopped fresh dill

I also have begun to add the following 3 things:

freshly-ground black pepper

the green part of green onions or chives- a handful

green chiles, minced (2) or powdered, dried chiles 1/2 t or so

Mix the butter and dill together, add the eggs and mix until blended, add the crumbled feta (plus the etc.)

Shape and fill as directed here.

I have one more thing to share with you in this little post…well, two things maybe. The first is that a very talented cook named Connie, with whom I loved chatting with at a former place of employment, was so enraptured by the combination of flavours in this filled bread that she designed a pasta salad using similar ingredients…I hope my memory is intact enough for me to share it:

Boil pasta until tender/al dente (I believe she used farfalle…butterflies/bow ties), drain and cool quickly in cold water.

Then she added crumbled feta, dill, olive oil, green onions :-) , perhaps some salt, pepper, and ground chiles to taste… toss well……lovely for a light summer feast!

Happy Independence Day to all of you…(though the original day was so long ago that now it’s a day to watch firework displays and get a little tipsy… :-D  ) But, maybe we ought to take a moment to consider those living in turmoil and fear, and send a prayer to them for peace.

 

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Lithuanian Summer Borscht

June 20, 2007 at 12:32 PM (beets, cucumbers, dishes by cuisine, Lithuania, milk and milk products, vegetables/ fruits, yoghurt)

If you are fond of beets, you are in for a treat; if not, you may well be converted by this simple, summertime recipe. Of course, you probably won’t give it a whirl if you don’t like beets, therefore, pass this recipe on to someone who does! Then, if you’re feeling brave, you can take a spoonful…

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I was one such person long ago…well, not that long ago I suppose…When I was in my early twenties I worked in a nursing home. Air-conditioning? Just near the nurse’s station at the centers of the long corridors. It was hardly noticeable at either end or in the rooms, where I did most of my work, and not at all in the basement, where the employee lounge was located. That was where a good friend and I would try to meet for lunch; you see, we both had the habit of bringing food with us (as opposed to the “snackers” who raided the vending machines), and, since we both had an inbuilt natural curiosity, seeing what the other had brought was a matter of course! And one warm summer day during our lunch-break, she talked me into a spoonful of this fuchsia-coloured stuff.

My friend was taken in, as a child, by foster parents, who happened to be Lithuanian. She was very proud of this fact, partly, I am sure, by the sheer exoticness of it all, but mostly, I think, because they were very kind people who cared very much for her, and that stability and unconditional love helped her become the person she is today: a registered nurse living in Austin, Texas…kind, caring, mature, self-confident, and still enthralled with life.

Unless she’s now dead; honestly I haven’t heard from her in quite a few years, nor she from me! Somewhere, sometime, between all the moves we have both made in our lives since those naive years, we lost track of each other. Perhaps someday fate will bring us together again for a quick “catching up” over something potable. Perhaps not.

The good news is that I managed to pry 3 recipes, this among them, from her and her recipe-hoarding foster-mom. [evil laugh] You see, her “mother” (perhaps I shouldn’t use the quote marks because this kind woman was everything a good mother could be) was quite old-fashioned in an Old-World way: most protective of her family’s gastronomic secrets. She had a thick, fascinating accent when speaking English, still…her use of it was good enough to politely evade my several requests for this and other recipes… until, finally, as the time drew closer to her daughter moving away for an irresistable job-offer, she loosened…just a bit. 

Such a simple recipe too, to cause all this mischief! But, when you consider that it is delicious enough to convert a staunch beet-hater into a beet-worshipper, it’s simplicity becomes a part of its charm; simple, that is, in its original avatar. By now, if you know me even somewhat, you will note that I enjoy tinkering a bit. And tinker I have indeed with this little gem from the Baltic sea-coast. I present to you a soup to catch the eye, cool the body and soothe the mind- both my version and the original (er…..I think….[always wonders] ) for you to play with as well…

You might notice how very much it resembles an Indian raitha…

You might want me to stop babbling and just get on with it…

You might be right!

Lithuanian Summer Borscht- original as it was dictated to me

Take about equal parts of cooked, shredded beets, chopped cucumbers and sour cream. Mix these well, then add a good amount of fresh, minced dill and a few grinds of black pepper. Thin it with buttermilk (I don’t think she meant true buttermilk- rather the thinned yoghurt available and sold here labeled as “buttermilk”) to a soup-like consistency and salt it to taste. Refrigerate it for at least a few hours, but preferably for a day to allow the flavours to blend. Serve chilled, of course, with crusty home-made bread. (Can we say rye?) And… (I recently learned this) boiled or fried potatoes….also, traditionally this soup is decorated with slices of hard-boiled eggs (I am rarely in the mood for these, so I’m afraid, pretty as they would be, they do not grace my photo).

Lithuanian Summer Borscht- the Pel variation

1 1/2-2 lbs of fresh beets

2 lg cucumbers

1 C green onions- green part only, sliced into 1/4-1/8″ rounds

1 fresh hot green chile- such as serrano, seeded and minced very finely- like 1 mm dice

3-4 T fresh, minced dill-weed (not the flowers or tough stems)

several grinds of black pepper

3 C whole-milk yoghurt (or a mix of real sour cream and yoghurt, or low or non-fat yoghurt- whatever spins your wheels)

salt to taste

See? Nothing terribly foreign to the Lithuanian taste-buds…and I am sure that, besides having a few “chile-heads” there, it is probable that there are many in search of a lighter version of this recipe- hence my use of yoghurt in place of sour cream…but, the two can be mixed if you like; I sometimes do this.

1)Wash and trim both the stem-end and root-end of each beet, place in a saucepan and cover with enough water to be an inch or so above the beets. Bring to boil, lower to simmer and cook for 45 minutes- 1 hour until tender. Allow to cool in the cooking liquid.

2)Remove each beet and slip the skins off- they should slide off quite easily; discard the peels, but retain the cooking liquid; place the skinned beets in a separate dish. Allow the cooking liquid to sit undisturbed while you complete the next steps. (obsessive me will often strain this through a fine sieve into another bowl, but I didn’t want to admit that- ooops, I just did!)

3)Into a large mixing bowl, shred the beets using a medium-cut shredder (if too fine, they tend to form clumps I’ve found). You should have 2 1/2-3 C or so…

4)Peel the cucumbers (if using small, young cucumbers there is no need to peel) slice each in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds.* Slice each hollow half into 1/3″ strips lengthwise, and then across into 1/3″ cubes. Again, aim for about 2 1/2-3 C… Add these to the bowl.

5)Add the sliced green onions, minced chile, minced dill and black pepper to the bowl. Add the yoghurt and/or sour cream and mix very well.

6)Thin the soup by carefully decanting the reserved beet-cooking liquid into the mixture until a desired consistency is reached. (Any missed dirt will sink to the bottom, so don’t use the final dregs of the bowl. If you’d like it thinner yet, use water or American “buttermilk”)

7)Here’s the part that your real skills as a cook are on display: salt this soup to taste. Try not to overdo it: add salt little by little and mix very well before adding more. Salting a cold mixture is tricky, because it doesn’t dissolve as quickly as adding salt to a hot liquid- therefore, it is very easy to over-salt- what tastes fine now can turn to saline-unpleasantness in 30 minutes. Thin it with more liquid if this happens. Those of you adept at raitha-making already know what I’m talking about.

8)Chill for at least 4 hours, but preferably for a day to allow the flavours to meld. Serve with bread, toast, a sandwich, as a first course for a light summer meal or as a snack to cool you off. Offer some to your neighbor with the all-white rooms and act drunk as you step inside the door, clumsily offering a bowlful. Hours of fun! [winks]

*Oh yeah, the cucumber seeds…why chuck ‘em? They’re perfectly fine and delicious, but they tend to cause faster spoilage in cold soups… So…here are a few things I do with them: break the pulpy chunks into bite-size pieces and place in a bowl…then either 1)season them with salt and pepper 2)season them with Thai fish sauce, lime juice, and a sprinkling of ground chiles 3)season them with Indian chat masala and lime juice 4)make of them a paste, and smear it on your face- or other body-parts- as a cooling moisturizer! (rinse it off before you go somewhere, unless you need a new look)

And one more little tidbit for those of you who enjoy reading my verbal dribble so much that you got this far: I sometimes add a stalk of finely-sliced lemon-grass to the soup as well, if I have some handy, which I often do…adds a lovely lemony note that goes quite well with the tart yoghurt! (But don’t tell any Lithuanians that I snuck in a Thai ingredient)

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