Alright folks…first in line from the Thanksgiving spread is this humdinger of a recipe from the pages of Martha Stewart Living…yes, I’m one of them! I’ve been collecting these issues for years now, and, truly, most of the missing issues from my stacks are from the first year… I figure that I’ll have lots of projects to keep me busy in my old age… but, once in awhile, I notice a recipe that gets my immediate attention, as this one did! It reminds me of the best of what fusion cuisine has to offer: a beautiful bridge between two or three cuisines that stands as a testament to a universal love of good food, fresh ingredients, and hope for a peaceful future.
Although I hardly consider myself to be a food expert in any way, I have seen a few things. And in this little, brightly-coloured side-dish (which is really just fine on its own as a healthy snack!), I am reminded of the orange-walnut salads of Morrocco, the spicy-sweet-sour yum of Thailand, and the chaats and fresh chatnis of India, all combined with an ingredient hailing from the northern part of the globe: cranberries. (Wisconsin, the state I live in is, by the way, the U.S.’s largest producer of these nutritious darlings– so I have no excuse do I?) I made one small change in the original recipe though: instead of peeling and de-membraning the oranges before dicing, I washed them well and used the whole fruit. Certainly this makes for a more rugged salad, but then, there are far too many anti-oxidants (and flavour!) in citrus peels for them to go to waste, so if you feel you must peel, then please do so…
2 C fresh cranberries
1/4 C red onion, minced
1 jalapeno (or other mild to medium-hot green chile), seeded and minced (just one?!)
2 t fresh ginger, grated, or sliced thinly and then cut into shreds
2 stalks of celery, sliced 1/4″ lengthwise and then across into 1/4″ dice
1/2 C sugar (more or less to taste)
2 T lime juice
1/4 C fresh spearmint leaves, sliced into ribbons
1/4 pecans, freshly roasted and chopped coarsely (Walnuts and hickory-nuts are closely-related, so these make a fine substitute)
1)Rinse the cranberries, drain and place in a food processor. Pulse a few times until roughly chopped, or chop by hand roughly into 1/4″ pieces. Transfer these to a large mixing-bowl.
2)Wash the oranges well and dry. Using a sharp knife on a clean board, slice them into 1/4″ rounds, then stack a few together at a time and cut into 1/4″ strips, and then crosswise into 1/4″ dice. Empty these and any juice that has escaped into the bowl.
3)Add the minced onion, jalapeno, chopped celery and shreds of ginger to the contents of the bowl. Mix well.
4)Stir together the sugar and lime juice until somewhat combined and pour this over the salad. Toss well, adjust sweet-sour balance to taste, and then chill for at least an hour or two, mixing well once again before serving. (The flavours continue to blend and mellow as days pass, and even now, at day four past the first serving, the leftovers are quite lovely…and…*munch munch*…gone.)
5)Just before serving, sprinkle the nuts and ribbons of mint-leaves over the top.
A little while back, Musical posted an intriguing Punjabi “rural” recipe. I made it, and found that the final dish, plus her written introduction to the recipe, reminded me very much of another dish that my own maternal grandmother would often make, especially if she knew that I was coming to visit as she was well aware that I loved it so: stewed zucchini.
I don’t know too much about this dish’s history, but I can tell you that it is very popular here in the midwestern area of the U.S.; I would think it was introduced in the early 1900’s when there were many Italian immigrants settling in the area, but this is pure speculation on my part… and, although there are a few vegetable-canning companies that produce a simple and bland version of this dish, thankfully I never tasted them while I was growing up. My German grandmother always prepared it fresh with ingredients from her large garden.
Just short of 5 feet tall, she was a brilliant lady with a quiet, determined energy, who seldom followed recipes nor wrote down her own. Therefore, she had little to pass on to future cooks in the family unless you happened to be present during the heyday of her busy kitchen with an interest and a watchful eye, tasting and asking questions. Her spicing/herbing had a tendency to change with her moods, but I can tell you for certain that, in this dish, she always included garlic and a smidge of ground chiles- not too much, because grandpa would complain… but as much as she could get away with!
This is my own recipe….er, well, I should say that this was the way I made it a few days ago! I usually don’t think about it and just hum along while I add this and that to taste, but this time I wrote it down! And I must say it’s the best I’ve ever made.
Other summer squashes/young gourds can be used in place of zucchini; in fact, my grandmother usually made it using half dark-green zucchini and half yellow crooknecks for a nice colour combo.
Stewed Zucchini with Tomatoes
4 T olive oil
1 T butter*
3 T garlic paste
2 lg. onions, diced 1/2″
2-3 stalks of celery, sliced crosswise 1/4″
1 C of mixed green chiles and/or capsicums(bell peppers), seeded and diced 1/2″ (I used seeded serranos)
1/4 t or more of ground red chiles (I used 1 t)
1 1/2 t fresh thyme leaves (or 1 t dried)
4 fresh basil leaves, minced (or 1/2 t dried)
A few leaves of fresh oregano (1/2 t dried)
3-4 fresh spearmint leaves (1/4 t dried)
A few grinds of black pepper
A teensy-weensy, little-itty-bitty pinch (use your two pinky-fingers to do this) of ground allspice berries
3 1/2-4 C peeled and roughly-chopped fresh tomatoes (good-quality canned or home-canned works fine too)
salt to taste
2 medium-sized or 3-4 small zucchini, quartered lengthwise and sliced 3/4″
1 C fresh green beans, chopped 3/4″ or other mild-flavoured green vegetable of your choice (chopped spinach or other greens work well)**
1/4 C pickled/brined capers
1)Eighteen ingredients…it sounds daunting, but it’s not- easy easy! Warm the oil and butter over med-low heat, add the garlic paste and saute for about 30 seconds.
2)Add the onions, celery and green peppers, raise the heat to med-high and saute until the onions turn translucent.
3)Add the aromatics, and stir, frying for about 1 minute.
4)Add the tomatoes and some salt; keep stirring until the juices are released- about 3-4 minutes.
5)Add the zucchini, green beans, and capers; stir well. Add a half-glass of water, if necessary, to bring the liquid nearer the top of the veggies, and bring to boil. Cover, lower heat way down and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring now and then.
6)Adjust salt and grind a bit more black pepper on top. Serve with bread, over pasta or with rice.
*If you would like to serve this as a chilled soup, replace the butter with more olive oil; thin the stew with more water.
**Some people like to add ground meat or sliced sausages, browning it at the beginning with the garlic (reduce oil, omit butter), but my grandmother usually made it meatless, and often added small amounts of other seasonal vegetables. Just remember: the zucchini must be the star in this show! 🙂
Curious contenders for the starring role: Kalonji and Washiarla…
A few people have mentioned the dish’s similarity to the French ratatouille. I did some reading in Wikipedia, and found that there are several, similar dishes across Europe: kapunata– Malta, caponata– Italy, pisto– Spain, lesco– Hungary, letscho– Germany… Though many of these are prepared with eggplant, there was mention of variants using zucchini or other summer squashes/young gourds.
These dishes, in turn, seem to repeat the much-loved combination of eggplant with tomatoes found throughout the Middle East and eastern Mediterranean, again with variants sometimes using young gourds instead of eggplant, apparantly descended from the Arabian musaqqaʿa…
Some of my food-blogging friends and I have had discussions of yoghurt-cheeses and their appearance in several cuisines, including America’s- where cream cheese/Philadelphia cheese and “neufchatel” (though this does not resemble the true French cheese of the same name) are made in a very similar way… It is delectable when paired with fruit- there is no debate of that- but the “chocoholic” in me is continually searching for new ways to express itself, and I am certain that in no way could I be the first to dream up this concoction…
Chocolate, as a bitter drink, was well-known and used by the Aztecs back to antiquity, as was vanilla. The conquering Spaniards combined this with their passion for cinnamon-flavoured sweets (an assertion of the Moorish influence and Arab trade with India) and milk. It is not difficult to see how Mexican-style chocolate was born, and indeed, all other chocolate confections “born” afterward…
In this recipe, I have combined chocolate with a touch of vanilla, and the familiar combination of cardamom and cinnamon- prevalent in Indian coffee and tea preparations- with the milk-become-yoghurt-become-chatta sweet known as shrikhand in Gujju and Marathi -cinnamon being the tie that binds the hands across the world to create this delectable fusion. Mexican drinking chocolate often contains ground almonds as well, so… an appropriate accompaniment, to my mind, had to be freshly-fried almond pooris; I make a final bow to shrikhand’s origin by gracing the chocolate shrikhand with roasted chiroli-nuts…
Resist if you must!
I extend a big thank you to Madhuli of My Foodcourt for her assistance in helping me name the chocolate shrikhand.
Chocolate Shrikhand with Almond Pooris
4 C yoghurt (I used homemade 3%, but any richness may be used)
1/3 C sugar, more or less to taste (I used raw cane/ turbinado)
1 oz bittersweet chocolate
1/4 t ground true/Ceylon/soft cinnamon
the seeds of two cardamom pods, ground
1/2 t pure vanilla extract
1 T chiroli-nuts
1)Tie the yoghurt in a double-thickness of cheesecloth and suspend it somewhere, with a bowl underneath, to drain most of the whey for at least 3 hours; some, like me, prefer the texture be a little thicker and therefore let it hang longer 5, 8, 10 hours… I leave it up to you. This plain cheese is called chakka.
2)Empty the contents into a bowl, and add the sugar, mixing well. Allow it to stand for an hour or more to dissolve the sugar, then pass this mixture through a wire sieve for maximum smoothness.
3)Melt the chocolate in a small, metal dish over hot water, or use the microwave (keep a close eye on it to avoid scorching). Take a spoonful of the sweet-chakka and mix it with the chocolate, add this to the bowl. Take another spoonful and mix it with any chocolate that still clings and again add. Mix the chocolate with the sweet-chakka thoroughly. Taste for sweetness and adjust if necessary.
4)Add the final flavouring of ground spices and vanilla; combine well.
5)Chill this mixture well for at least an hour to allow the flavour of the spices to marry with the others.
6)Heat a little ghee/oil in a small pan and fry, stirring continuously, the chiroli, until lightly roasted (mine are a bit too dark) and fragrant. Remove to a cloth or paper towel to absorb excess oil and cool.
7)Serve the chocolate shrikhand in small bowls, sprinkled with chiroli, and freshly-made almond pooris (below) on the side.
2/3 C Ata (Indian whole-wheat flour) plus more for dusting
1/3 C ground raw almonds
tiny pinch of salt
oil for deep-frying
1)Mix the flour, almond-meal, and salt together well, then add enough enough water to form a soft, yet workable dough. Knead for 10 minutes, replace it to the bowl and cover with a damp towel to rest for an hour or so. (or place in a plastic bag)
2)Heat the oil over a medium-low flame. Divide the dough into into 8 equal portions, and taking each, roll into an ball and flatten into a patty, with your hand, onto a floured board. Sprinkle some more flour over the top and roll thinly into a 5″ round. Set each on a plate, overlapping the next, and keep covered with a damp dish-towel. Take each poori and gently set it on the surface of the hot oil (hold it with both hands loosely and rest the center, then release the sides. (if it sinks, the oil is not hot enough). Fry for a second or two, and using a pair of tongs or other utensil, push the edges gently under the oil until the top surface changes colour; it should puff up. Turn to the other side, fry until golden, turn back to the other side for a few seconds. Lift out the poori and place in a cloth or paper-lined bowl, leaning against the side to allow excess oil to drain and cover with a lid. Serve immediately.
NOTE: An Umrikan acquaintance just tasted this; although the pooris are now stale and should have been re-fried, still, she didn’t find it sweet enough…..so perhaps you may add more sugar than I did to the shrikhand, or shake sugar over the pooris as they come out of the oil…..I found the light sweetness quite refreshing however…and the whole crispy-soft combo addictive. Anyone who makes this, feel free to give me your input…
And what about those black, bat-like creatures? A nut! Known in Hindi as singhara, in Bengali as paniphal, in Sinhalese as ikiliya, in Chinese as ling or ling jiao, in German as singharanuss, in French as chataigne d’eau a deux cornes, in Japanese as hishi or tou bishi, in Nepalese as singadaa, and in English as water caltrop, bull-nut or singhara-nut; the latin botanical name is trapa bicornis, although other species of the genus are similar and are also known by these names. Hard to believe it’s vegetable eh? Nature is more fascinating than fiction…
The winners? Well… Richa (As Dear as Salt), Anita (a Mad Tea Party) and Linda (Out of the Garden)answered correctly the name of the nut. Congratulations! But, there is a hidden code in the exclamation marks in the title of the post. The marks follow what is known as the Fibonacci sequence. Each member of the sequence is formed by adding the two preceding it. And, also, each adjacent pair, as the sequence continues, approaches a particular relationship known as the golden ratio or divine proportion…this fascinating number is represented by the greek letter, phi; it appears all over nature- in the path of Venus across the heavens, in plants, animals- even in the human body! Using the measurement from our feet to the top of our heads, the golden ratio appears at our navel; also the wrist is at this marking point between our elbows and tips of our fingers…the list goes on! The Fibonacci sequence itself appears in nature as well. Good example? The spiral pattern of gobhi/cauliflower and the seeds at the center of sunflowers follows two such interlocking sequences. Also strands of DNA appear to form this pattern as well…
So, who noticed this cryptic code in the title? Two people…. The Cooker, and Anita (a Mad Tea Party)….great job both of you!!!
Obviously there is only one common element in both sets, and that is Anita…
Congratulations and a serious sashtaang pranam.. [bends down and touches her feet]
“…the leaves contain needle-shaped oxylate crystals that can cause a stinging sensation in the mouth and throat when not properly prepared… ” How nice….that makes me want to dive right in to a plateful….
The truth is, I’ve already eaten arbi leaves…
A few years ago, as I was wandering through the aisles of the nearest Indian grocer, I happened upon a can of them, already seasoned, rolled, cooked and sliced, and, as I had no idea what they were, I naturally placed the can in my basket. Upon arriving home, I tucked it away in a corner of the cabinet. When an inquisitive moment paired with a driving need to exoticly-impress a date finally came, I was pleasantly suprised to see whorls of green layered with gold! I removed them as carefully as I could, but as some of you may already know, it is inevitable that a fair portion of these canned goodies will break. However, whole or broken, the taste was unforgettable: rich, dark greens layered with besan, roasted and infused with an unfamiliar formula of spices, fragrant from re-heating in the microwave oven… for Umrikans this will more-than-suffice for exotic. The date? Well… I could tell by the way his mouth fearfully avoided the morsels as he chewed and swallowed that he was far from feeling fond affection; still, he inspected each piece carefully, turning them this way and that with his fork, his head cocked first one way and then the other in a not-so-subtle attempt to understand and unravel their mysterious aesthetic. I had no explanation to offer, just: “…more chutney?”.
Sometimes, that’s the only way to taste new things in Umrika-land… I looked for them on my next curry leaf run, but it appeared that there was a greater demand for bags of dry, crunchy chaat mixes as these now hung off the corners on clips, filling the entire section, obviously having overgrown their former territory like potted mint will try to do if left unchecked. I passed up the frozen parathas, the pathetic kerelas and left the store with my new stash of kari-patta. Instead of cash, I should have searched my trunk and produced a pair of pruning shears for trade…add another hefty item to my expanding list of “things that I must buy online…” (I grumble much more about the sudden, much-more-local loss of Jyoti karhi and dhal makhani, but I’m keeping my chin up, and mouth open for things to come).
Luckily, recipes for these exquisite, intricate-looking rolls abound in food-blog land. And it isn’t just besan finding its way between the leaves: rice, coconut, and Aunt Karisma’s undies show up in recipes that stretch like crackled elastic from Uttar to Andhra Pradesh. I, however, decided to start my tasting taut and twangy in the sweet-sour state of Gujerat, and collected nine different recipes of similar sort to contrast, compare, calculate and finally arrive at a recipe indicative of the Gujerati opus but without any particular credit in owe.
Unfortunately I was missing just one, perhaps important, ingredient for my recipe: the arbi leaves. I don’t expect to see them for sale anytime soon, or anywhere nearby. That very nice man from Delhi has a hard-enough time stocking usable tendli, let alone leaves that would never make the menu of the restaurant next door. This summer I’ll grow my own, and post the results if I’m able to speak after the first bite. Collard greens are plentiful here and make a fair substitute.
Oh, and just for trivial thrills, there are dishes made from the leaves which do not contain a souring agent; apparantly the taro plant(the accepted Umrikani apellation) is crucial to the cuisine of Hawaii, and other Pacific island cultures; for now though, I’d like to play it safe.* (A tip from Vee of Past, Present and Me: break the stem of an arbi leaf you intend to use, rub the juice on your inner wrist and count to ten; if it stings, the oxylate concentration is too high. Don’t use them. Take it as an omen that you’ve been cooking too much and take the afternoon off from the kitchen. Order out for pizza.)**
The multiple steps involved in preparing these may seem daunting, but actually it’s quite easy; you can even do as I did and start a day ahead of serving, casually doing each step when you have time.
18 arbi leaves
2 1/2 C besan
2 t ground dry red chiles (more or less to taste; I used more)
1 t turmeric
3 t sugar or gur
salt to taste
3 T oil
1/2 C tamarind paste/extract
3 t ginger paste
1 bunch of coriander leaves, finely chopped
1)Trim stems from arbi leaves, wash well and pat dry. Carefully slice off the thick center rib of each leaf, taking care that you don’t split them in the process (it happens though- hide these in the middle of the rolls; know one will be the wiser). Place each leaf on a board and gently roll it over with a rolling pin, again being careful not to split the leaves.
2)Divide the leaves by similar size into groups of three.
3)Mix the besan, ground chiles, turmeric, sugar and salt. Add the oil and mix well by hand until the mixture resembles crumbs.
4)Add the tamarind paste, ginger paste and enough water to form a thick, but easily spreadable paste (like peanut butter or yoghurt cheese). Add the coriander leaves and mix well. Check for salt.
5)Taking the groups of leaves in turn, ribbed sides facing up, spread the paste thinly( if you think of it more as an adhesive than a substantial filling, you’ll do fine…in fact, you should be able to adhere them securely to the walls of your kitchen, should you be so moved…) on each of them, placing the next leaf on top of the previous one before spreading the next layer of paste. So, you will have the following configuration: leaf, paste, leaf, paste, leaf, paste. When three have been layered and pasted, and with the tip of the leaves toward you, fold 1-2″ of the sides toward the center, and then roll firmly starting from the leaf tips to the stem end. Secure the rolls with cotton string (if you wish, or just place it seam-side down) and place in the container of a steaming apparatus. Steam for 40 minutes. Allow the rolls to cool before handling.
6)Now, take each roll, remove the string, and slice crossways carefully, using a sharp knife, into 1/3-1/2″ slices. These may be eaten just as they are with relishes, but most often they are finished with a tempering, such as the following, or deep-fried. I decided to take the middle road:
For the tempering:
3 T oil (if you would like to drizzle or toss them with oil, then use this amount, if you would like to shallow-fry them, use 5-6 T, adding more if necessary)
2 t mustard seeds
2 t cumin seeds
2 t sesame seeds
2 pinches of asafoetida/ hing
1a)Heat oil over med-low heat, add mustard, cumin and sesame seeds; when the mustard seeds splutter, add the hing, swirl and then pour over the sliced rolls. Toss gently to coat if you wish.
1b)If you would like to shallow-fry these, then place a cover on the pan when the seeds begin to splutter and allow them to finish. Remove from heat, and then remove the fried seeds with a spoon. Set these aside. Return the oil to heat and fry the slices on each side until golden brown, adding a little more oil if necessary.
2)In either case, sprinkle them with 3-4 T grated coconut and serve.
If you decided to shallow fry them and still have the reserved fried spices, take them and follow me…
Pel’s Quick-and-easy Pistachio Pilaf
1/2 C grated coconut, fresh or frozen
the fried spices from the previous recipe
a handful of shelled, roasted pistachios (soaked and skinned as well, if desired)
2 C dry, pilaf-making rice, rinsed well and drained (I tried sona masoori- it worked)
3 1/2 C water
3/8 C coriander-mint chutney (coriander and mint leaves, lime juice, salt, ground roasted cumin)
salt to taste
1)Wipe the inner surface of the pan with oil and roast the coconut until very lightly golden over a low flame, add the fried spices, pistachios and a little oil and fry for about 1-2 minutes, stirring constantly to avoid any scorching; add the drained rice and mix very well- about 2 minutes more.
2)Add the water, chutney and salt to taste (I used 1/2 t, but it depends on the saltiness of the chutney); Bring to boil, cover with a tight-fitting lid, turn heat to low and steam for 20 min. Lift lid and fluff with form, re-cover and let stand for a few minutes.
I needed a dish made of pulses next, so, going with the green theme and the Gujerati flavour, I took this recipe straight out of Madhur Jaffrey’s World-of-the-East Vegetarian Cooking:
Moong Dhal Na Poora
1 C moong dhal (I used dhal with skin for extra colour and nutrients)
3/4″ piece of ginger, peeled, sliced
3 cloves of garlic, peeled
1-2 fresh green chiles, cut into 3 pieces
1 t salt, or to taste
1/4 t baking soda (optional…I didn’t use)
1/4 t turmeric
2 T coriander leaves, minced finely
1 small onion, peeled and minced finely
about 1/2 c oil/ghee (I used peanut oil)
1) Pick over the dhal and rinse well; soak in plenty of water for 5 hours; drain.
2)Make a paste or puree of the ginger, garlic and chiles. Grind it with the dhal, adding 1/2 c of water, the salt, baking soda, and turmeric until you have a thick batter. Stir in the onions and coriander leaves.
3)Heat a tava or griddle over medium-low heat; for each poora: drop a teaspoon of oil on the cooking surface, tilt to spread; place 1/3 c of the batter in the center, count to 4, and then with a small ladle or spoon spread the batter by swirling it outward from the center in a spiral, aiming for a 5-6″ circumference; drizzle 1/2 t of oil over the poora surface, and another 1/2 t at the edges; cover and allow to cook for about 2 minutes, or until the underside has a reddish tinge. Flip the poora to the other side, and allow to cook uncovered for about 1 1/2 minutes, until it develops reddish spots.
4)Make all of them this way, stacking them on top of each other. Be sure to stir the batter in the bowl well before each one is made.
Then, I really needed something special to moisten all of this dryness. Anita’s very delicious and very versatile Walnut and Mint Chutney(of A Mad Tea Party) seemed like the answer -and it was!…. except I used pistachios… which she said is just fine….
I know that you might have an urge to add a bit of garlic or ginger or temper-of-hing to this, but don’t! The Kashmiri Pandit Chutney Patrol (KPCP)will come after you if you do!!!!
If you are feeling really fancy, you can make little spoons of celery-sticks, like I did!! 😀
(Ooops! It looks like a Marathi specialty wanted to sneak into the post too… oh well!)
I had a few of the patra bajia left over a fter a few days, and as I was making sweet-cassava pakoras for some company and had hot oil at the ready, I decided to deep-fry some of them as well…. Although I was at first dismayed watching my hard-earned spirals unravel in the oil, the final effect is astoundingly beautiful: a bit like mini-galaxies….
(that’s a lousy photo… make them and see for yourself! They are very crispy… and remain crispy for a looooong time…)
This is my entry to Jihva for Ingredients- Greens, May 2007, hosted by Indira of Mahanandi, co-hosted by Nandita of Saffron Trail. This month’s JFI marks the one-year anniversary of this Indian food-blogging event. May it continue for a hundred more!
“Oxalic acid may be present in the corm and especially in the leaf, and these foods should be eaten with milk or other foods rich in calcium so as to remove the risks posed by ingesting the free oxalic radical especially for people with kidney disorders, gout, or rheumatoid arthritis. Calcium reacts with the oxalate to form calcium oxalate which is very insoluble.” (Wikipedia, the full entry can be read here)
**Pel may have added that last part… 🙂 But in consolation, a concisely-written page about taro may be found here.
The story goes like this: Three elegantly-dressed ladies: A Marathi, a Malayali, and a Konkani from Karnataka, sashay into a Turkish restaurant together and politely request of the chef to prepare something that all of them would like. After summoning his only waiter to their side, he takes a moment to ponder the task set before him, and then begins to work in his kitchen. Little do they know he isn’t really a Turk…but he has dabbled enough in the cuisine to be open for lunch now and then; today is their lucky day it seems…. a short time later, after they’ve serenely polished off a few cool drinks while waiting, the chef returns, grinning from ear to ear. With just a hint of smugness, he sets down a platter of steaming and fragrant…………
Well, you probably know the rest of the tale. This story is as old as the hills!
One of these and a few small sides can make for a wonderful lunch, or serve with cocktails or at tea-time, cut across into 1″ slices for beautiful dainty finger food. As they are bread-and-side-dish in one, these are excellent to take on picnics or outings of any kind for a convenient meal.
It is almost necessary to have a baking tile or tiles or “pizza stone” set on the middle position rack of your oven for these to be successful. (see note) The filling for this can be made a day or two in advance. In fact it is somewhat better to do so, allowing the complex flavours to blend quite harmoniously.
Pide with a savoury filling of tomatoes, brinjals, and capsicums
For the filling:
6-8 small brinjals(about 3 cups), tops removed, halved, and sliced to 1/4″
1 1/2 t salt
1 1/2 T oil
1/2 C besan
2-3 t oil
a pinch of asafoetida
3/4 t black mustard seeds
1/2 t cumin seeds
1 t fenugreek seeds
6 curry leaves, chopped
2 t ground red chiles
1/2 t turmeric
1/4 t ground black pepper
2 C mild or sweet capsicums(such as bell, poblanos, new mexico, california), chopped to 1/2″
2 C tomatoes, skinned and chopped fresh or canned
2 fresh green chiles, seeded and sliced thinly
8 cloves of garlic, minced or pasted
1/2 C water
3/4 t salt (or to taste)
2/3 C finely-chopped coriander leaves
1)Sprinkle the brinjal slices with salt in a bowl, mix well, and let stand for an hour. Drain off the liquid that accumulates and rinse three times. Squeeze out as much water as possible with your hands or by using a piece of cheesecloth. Heat 1 1/2 T oil in a pan and fry the slices until nicely browned and somewhat dry. Remove these to a dish lined with cloth or paper to cool and drain the excess oil. Chop roughly and set aside.
2)In a pan set over medium-low heat, roast the besan until fragrant and a shade darker. Set aside.
3)Heat 1 1/2 t oil in a wok or karahi. Add the hing, a second later add the mustard seeds, cumin seeds, and fenugreek seeds. When the mustard seeds pop, add the curry leaves and ground spices. Stir once or twice and then add the capsicum, tomatoes and chiles. (mind the spluttering)
4)Cook this mixture over low heat, stirring occasionally at first and more frequently as the mixture reduces, until the oil appears at the edges and it has formed a paste. Turn heat to low.
5)Add the brinjals and garlic and continue to fry, stirring constantly, for 4 more minutes.
6)Add the water and salt to taste and mix well. Add the roasted besan and mix until well-combined. You should have a thick paste now. Add the coriander leaves and remove from heat.
Making the pide:
1 T active dry yeast
1/2 t sugar
1/2 C warm( not hot) water
1/2 C all-purpose flour
3 1/2 C bread flour
1 t salt
3 T oil
1 C plus 1 T lukewarm water
filling from above
1 egg, lightly beaten
1)Dissolve the yeast and sugar in warm water let stand in a warm place for 10 minutes. It should have bubbles. Stir in the A-P flour, cover with plastic and let rise 30 minutes.
2)Place the bread flour in a large bowl; make a well in the center and pour in the yeast mixture, salt, oil, and lukewarm water. Gradually work the flour into the contents of the well to form a dough. Take this dough and knead it on a floured surface for 15 minutes until it is smooth and elastic, and no longer sticks to your hands. Add more flour if necessary and continue kneading until the dough no longer is sticky.
3)Oil the large bowl and place the dough back into it; cover with plastic and let rise 1 hour.
4)Take the dough out and divide it into 8 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a ball, place on a floured sheet or tray and cover with a damp towel. Set aside for 30 minutes.
5)Preheat oven with tiles at 500-550 F for 30 minutes before you bake.
6)Take each ball and roll out roughly to a 6″ X 12″ oval on an oiled board. Divide the filling into 8 parts and place a portion on each oval. Spread the filling, keeping 1/2″ away from the edges. Fold the two long sides of the dough over the filling, the edges overlapping along the center. Press down on the folded edges a bit. At the ends, pinch together 1″ from each side to seal. Brush the tops with beaten egg, sprinkle with kalonji seeds.
7)Place one or two pide on the hot tiles at a time and bake 6 minutes, until golden. Keep the finished pide wrapped in a dry towel to stay warm while you finish baking. While you bake, you can assemble the next in line.
The structure for these filled pide was taken from Ayla Algar’s beautiful cookbook, Classical Turkish Cooking. The filling, created by me, was not only heavily inspired by one from this book, but by several other recipes, most notably bharleli mirchi from Anita and her mother-in-law, Manisha’s lovely transcription of a recipe for thakkali chutney by Ammini Ramachandran, and Shilpa’s very nourishing tomato saru. My thanks to them and to all of my readers for your support and encouragement in my new blog. I hope to continue posting recipes of interest in the future. Stay tuned!
NOTE: Unglazed quarry tiles, available at home improvement centers or ceramic tile suppliers, can be, and are often used for baking. Before using, rinse them well and allow to dry several days. Season with oil and heat in a hot oven for a few minutes. Thereafter, keep the tiles oiled often until shiny and black. Scrape to clean and, if necessary use water only (no soap of any kind!) and allow to dry thoroughly before using.(they will crack if still damp).
I thought I’d make up something light, cooling and refreshing for those of you who are experiencing warm weather already, or will soon enough. Here? Well, yesterday it was 75 F(24 C), today is another story….it’s 42 F(6 C) as I write. Wisconsin is like that…
A friend and I took a Sunday drive a few days ago- on Sunday in fact! It was one of those days that charm me to leave the city. A light mist was in the air, and, as you might know, that this can cause the familiar to suddenly look serene, a bit eerie, and well….unfamiliar. It occurred to me that the fog would be thicker- and hence, more dramatic- near the “big pond”: Lake Michigan. Having lived on the lakeshore for nearly three years taught me, at the least, these three things: 1.humid days bring foggy nights and mornings, so plan to go slow if you plan on going anywhere. 2. there are a lot of sand-polished stones, driftwood, and other odd finds on the beach, and 3. some of the best food to be had is in tiny towns situated at the crossings of winding back roads you never knew existed.
One such town is called Slovan. It literally is in the middle of nowhere, yet the town has for decades been well-known, from the Devil’s Door down to Two Rivers, and west to certain knowing residents around Green Bay. Its main attraction is a supper club which, besides serving great traditional local food, hosts spirited polka dances with live bands during the summer, and a good-sized dance hall built just for it. As they regularly have a famous Sunday brunch, I decided to call up a friend of mine, who I knew had been itching to go and sample their offerings…
So off we went, leisurely coasting along rural roads through the thickening mist, up and down rolling hills, gazing out at the shimmering air, at the the forests and farmland that vanished into grey in the distance, all of this lit by a silver sun shining in the eastern sky. A cow here and there appeared out of nowhere at the side of the road and disappeared just as quickly. But no time to stop and talk this morning. On and on we went.
When we arrived and pulled crunchily into the gravel-covered parking lot, I noticed at the far end, near a few scant trees, two cats: one black and one grey-striped, lolling about together at the far side of the lot. They seemed to be very happy about something. With my brow furrowed by curiosity, I parked the car and stepped out into the hazy sunlight, my friend lazily following. We stretched just a bit, closing the car-doors quietly. I checked my pockets out of habit for my wallet and keys and peered over at the cats. Their tails twitched contentedly, but they had not yet taken the slightest notice of us out-of-towners. I took a step toward them, then another, one foot slowly following the other. Crunch……. crunch….. crunch…….. cru… both cats suddenly turned toward me in unison, eyes bright, unblinking and inquisitive. I halted, and motioned for my friend to do the same. I blinked a “hello” to them, and bent down on my knees to beckon them over. With little hesitation they strolled over, sniffed my outstretched hand and gaily “marked” me with grins and whiskered cheeks. Obviously they had frequent human contact. They soon thought my friend was acceptable interactive material too….and after a few minutes of this giddy welcoming party, we figured out what the source of their joy was. They were one of each gender, and in deepest love with each other, gliding against each other across the gravel, circling, inseparable as they moved. We had a hard time breaking away from our new, amorous friends, but the mist was clearing in the strengthening sunlight, and we had a few dishes to investigate.
A Syrup of Spring Mist
2 C fresh-squeezed lime juice
the zest(green part only) of 6 limes or 1/4 C, whichever comes first
1 1/2 C white sugar, more or less, to taste
a 1″ piece of ginger, peeled and very thinly sliced
2 sprigs of spearmint, washed and bruised by squeezing gently
6 very thin slices of green chile
18 whole white peppercorns
a pinch of salt
a pinch of citric acid/sour salt
1)Place everything but the mint in a small pan and slowly bring to boil. Remove from heat and toss in mint. Cover pan with a lid and allow to stand until cool.
2)Strain through a fine sieve and store in the refrigerator.
This can be:
1.mixed with carbonated water in ratio of about 1:5 for a refreshing lime soda,
2.mixed with tequila and triple sec(or other orange liqueur) and served over ice in a salt-rimmed glass for Margaritas,(2 parts tequila, 1 part lime syrup, 1 part triple sec)
3. mixed with an equal part of rum, diluted to taste with water and ice and finished with a dash of nutmeg for planter’s punch, or
4. diluted with plain ice water and served with shaved or crushed ice for Turkish-style sherbet.
It occurred to me much later, as we headed back home in the now bright sun, windows open, fresh and scented air streaming through the car, how Brahma indeed is manifested strongly in these days of erratic weather and awakening life. Those two friendly felines will probably have a new family to raise by the end of spring…it might be worth going back in two months to find out.