Archive for April, 2006

Indira’s Jihva for Mangoes – Mango Rhubarb Sauce with Crisp Johnnycakes

I love reading the round-ups from the many wonderful blog events out there ~ thanks to kind encouragement I am taking part in my first ~ Jihva for Ingredients at Mahanandi, hosted by talented Indira of blogging fame.

I wanted to play, but did not know what to make. I tend to pick up what looks good in the store on any given day, as opposed to having a firm plan in mind. The day I went shopping this week, it was rhubarb that caught my eye. It’s spring ~ just when the rhubarb patch begins to take root. Growing up in New England, my nana always had rhubarb in her backyard, and we kids used to pick the new stalks and dip them in a bowl of sugar to eat, raw. Of course the leaves are toxic; people and pets must stay away from them.

Back in the 1800’s, in the midwestern part of the US, rhubarb was also known as “pie plant”. To make a rhubarb pie, just cut up enough stalks to fill the bottom pie crust, cover liberally with sugar (pie plant is very sour on its own!) and sprinkle a little flour over all. Dot with butter, and cover with top crust. The flour and butter combine while baking, to keep the pie from running. Della Lutes’ great book Country Kitchen details this well in story form ~ an older, out-of-print book, but well worth seeking out if you’re at all interested in what life and food was like in the midwestern US in pioneer days.

I thought the tartness of rhubarb would combine wonderfully with the sweet mango, and the colors are lovely as well. I made traditional rhubarb sauce with mangoes added, and served it over an old fashioned New England johnny cake. The end result was better than I expected!

I have not yet harnessed the photo placement, but here is the recipe for rhubarb sauce which I remembered from childhood ~ with mango added:

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2 cups rhubarb stalks (about 4 large) root end trimmed and all traces of leaves removed
1 large ripe mango
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup water

fresh mango and rhubarb, cut

Cut fresh ripe mango and rhubarb into 1/2 in pieces. Be sure to remove any traces of green leaves at the top of rhubarb. Combine with water and sugar in nonreactive saucepan. Cover and cook over low heat about 15 minutes ~ stir often as rhubarb will break down quickly, and you want to keep the lovely color along with some shape. After the 15 minutes, uncover pan and allow to cook down slightly, another 5-10 minutes. Taste and add a little more sugar if needed. Remove to a bowl to await johnnycakes.

Sauce cooking:

sauce cooking

Finished sauce:

finished sauce

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For the johnny cake I used stone ground cornmeal. Some believe the term johnny cake comes from “journey cake” ~ when folks carried cornmeal and salt, then mixed it with water and baked over the campfire. Again a toss back to pioneer days.

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1 cup stoneground corn meal
1/3 cup water (or more for thin cakes)
salt to taste (this needs salt)

Mix cornmeal and water with salt, I made a thin batter for crispy johnny cakes. Drop by heaping tablespoons into hot greased frying pan, cook about 4-5 minutes on either side, till brown and crispy.

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finished sauce with johnnycake

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There you have it ~ crispy johnny cake with mango-rhubarb sauce. A great breakfast, lunch, or late supper ~ with a bit of history tossed in.

Thank you Indira for the chance to participate!

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Lake Superior Spring Agate

Lake Superior agate

Took a little vacation break to Northern Michigan last weekend for bird watching and agate-hunting. Here is what you can find if you venture 20+ miles from the nearest electricity!

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Val Dal with Tindora

I wanted to try frozen tindora. I was interested to see how it measured up against fresh.

I also wanted to try val dal, which I have only seen mentioned a few times in recipes ~ mostly for dhansak ~ and also in this lovely display from One Hot Stove.

I decided to try the two, frozen tindora and val dal, together, with just a few seasonings.

val dal dry and soaked

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Here is what I used:

1 sm bag frozen tindora

1 c val dal, split
3 c water
1 tsp sea salt (from Trader Joe’s, was disappointed in this salt)

1 TB ginger-garlic paste
1/2 small onion, chopped
1 tsp ghee

1 tsp each mustard and cumin seeds, plus a few curry leaves, sauteed in 1 tsp ghee

1/4 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp chili powder

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Soak dal in warm water for at least one hour.

Boil frozen tindora in salted water about 15 minutes ~ the tindora should be cooked but not complete mush. Set that aside.

Saute onion and ginger-garlic paste in ghee for a few minutes, then add drained and rinsed val dal, salt, and three cups water. Cook all over high heat 20 minutes. The fresh, legume-y scent of the dal led me to believe it might cook quicker than some other dals, so I did not bother taking out the pressure cooker. Instead, after 20 minutes, I improvised: turned the cover of pan upside-down and put heavy can of tomatoes on top. Voila! Instant pressure-cooker. Once this is done you must reduce heat to medium at most, and be sure there is sufficient water or the dal will stick and burn. Your hands will burn as well, without a potholder to remove this contraption.

Cook the dal in this manner for 20 minutes longer, adding another cup of water halfway through.

When dal is thoroughly cooked, add 1/2 tsp chili powder, 1/4 tsp turmeric (for color mostly as val dal cooked up whitish), and additional salt to taste. Add a cup of the previously cooked tindora, and then stir in the tempering/tadka of mustard, cumin and curry leaves cooked in small amount of ghee.

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small cast iron pan from cape cod

This little iron pan came from my grandmother ~ she never used it to toast cumin seeds, but it’s the perfect size!

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val dal with tindora

The finished dal was delicious. I didn’t add too much extra water, so it was quite thick and hearty. The flavor was very fresh and made a nice background for the tindora. A little coriander chutney (store bought) and some homemade eggplant and radish pickle added a little zing on the side.

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daisy is camera shy

Daisy, playing camera-shy in the kitchen…

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Leftover Surprise #2 – Curry-Dal Fritters with Cauliflower

Dal started me on my Indian food journey. Maybe it’s a 40’s thing, (am I finally growing up!?), because all my life, I’ve avoided beans. Not fresh green beans, but anything that even resembled a dried bean. I avoided them until a busy January day when I couldn’t leave work at noon. A nearby Indian restaurant delivers, and I ordered a “thali” lunch which included dal makhani. I was hooked on dal.

Over the weekend I made plain spinach dal and also mixed up Indira’s bottle gourd curry (which also works wonderfully with zucchini, if you can’t find a bottle gourd). Now I have leftover dal, fairly bland, leftover curry, fairly spicy, and of course some rice. I’ve been salivating over the potato bondas on My Dhaba, and also wanted to try out Priya’s gobi paratha… I’m in the mood for something crisp and crunchy. However, there is the problem of the leftovers. I am not inclined to throw out good food. Since I’m the only one here who really appreciates my new little obsession, the leftovers are all mine. Which led me to…

Curry-Dal Fritters with Cauliflower

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Here is what I used:

1 c. cold leftover dal
1 c. cold leftover bottle gourd curry
1 c. leftover cooked rice

1 tsp oil
1 tsp garlic paste
2 tsp cumin seeds
2 c. raw cauliflower, chopped very fine
salt to taste

1 egg (or egg white), beaten
unbleached all-purpose flour for dredging
1 TB oil for frying

Mix leftover dal, curry, and rice. Add more rice if filling is too soft to hold its shape. Set aside. Fry garlic and cumin in oil for a few minutes, then add the chopped cauliflower and salt. Cook over medium heat about 10 minuntes, until it begins to brown. Set heat to low and cook, covered, a further 5 minutes until tender but still crunchy. Remove to a bowl and set aside. When cool, mix 1 c. cauliflower with dal/curry/rice mixture.

Heat 1 TB oil in frying pan. Scoop up about 2 TB of filling, dredge in flour, dip into beaten egg, then slip into the hot pan. Flatten the fritter slightly with a spatula, and cook, about 5 minutes per side, until crispy and browned. When fritters are nearly cooked, add the remainder of the chopped cauliflower to the same pan and heat through.

Serve crispy fritters and cauliflower with yogurt and fresh lime.

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curry dal fritters with cauliflower
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Surprisingly, I liked these! The outside was crunchy enough to satisfy my craving for deep-fried food, and the inside was meltingly tender. The spicy-sweet curry blended nicely with the mild spinach dal. A little messy in the making, but a tasty way to use up my leftovers. Now if I could only figure out how to categorize links… but, tomorrow’s another day.

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Upma – the Indian Cream of Wheat

my Indian grocery spree

A few months ago I found a local Indian grocery, with a general international (mostly asian) shop right next door. Went on a little shopping spree…

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One thing I bought was soji/suji – or semolina. After reading many delicious sounding (and looking!) recipes, I was anxious to try upma. If I had seen this great recipe at Sailu’s Food before I bought suji, I might have tried upma with the box of Cream of Wheat in the pantry. I found the suji quite different from cream of wheat I am accustomed to, which takes longer to cook. Suji thickened right up almost the moment it hit boiling water. The next time I make this, I will be sure to cook the veggies a little longer first. I also thought suji was more delicate both in consistency and flavor.

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ingredients for upma

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Here is what I used for my upma experiment:

“cream of wheat”

1 1/2 c. suji
3 c. water
2 tsp. salt

veggies

1 japanese eggplant, quartered lengthwise, chopped, and lightly salted
1 carrot, chopped
1 small red onion, chopped
1/2 orange bell pepper, chopped
1/2 c. spinach leaves, torn
1/2 can diced tomatoes, drained (ripe tomatoes are so scarce this time of year)

seasonings

2 tsp. ginger-garlic paste
1 small green chile, halved
a tempering/tadka of 1 tsp. each cumin and mustard seeds plus a few curry leaves sauteed in 1 tsp. ghee

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I mostly followed Sailu and Indira’s excellent instructions and toasted the suji. Fried the tadka ingredients in 1 tsp. ghee, then added ginger-garlic paste, chili, and veggies. When the onion and pepper began to wilt, I added the water and brought to a rolling boil. Added the suji in a steady stream, stirring all the time (this part is just like making polenta). I was ready to cover the pan and let the upma thicken slowly, but it formed a lovely veggie-studded ball around the spoon in about ten seconds! So I turned the heat down to very low and let it sit, covered, to help the carrots and eggplant soften a little. In about twenty minutes total, I had a delicious new dinner – upma with fresh lime squeezed over.

upma with fresh lime

Thank you Sailu and Indira, for a new recipe that might even make my kids think twice about ‘hot cereal’.

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Three Sables

I visited this lovely brick lighthouse on Lake Michigan a couple of winters ago… it’s called Little Sable (say “sah-bul”). Note mystery bird in background.

little sable point light

Further north on Lake Michigan is another Sable I have yet to visit, Big Sable Light. And further north still, on Lake Superior, lies Au Sable Point, accessible only by foot on a beautiful shoreline trail preserved within Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. It too boasts a lighthouse – Au Sable Light Station – also part of the National Lakeshore. When I visited, it was being lovingly restored; in the summer you could tour the attached keeper’s home and climb the tower.

A view of Lake Superior from the trail to Au Sable Point:

Lake Superior trail to Au Sable

Au Sable Light from the shoreline:

au sable light from shore

And the view from the top of Au Sable Light – the Au Sable dunes are an example of “perched dunes”. You can read more about them here.

dunes from au sable light

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Leftover Surprise – or Diving into Indian Food

I’ve been on an Indian food kick for a few months. If it hadn’t been for my search for the ~perfect~ dal recipe, I wouldn’t know what a blog was. Who knew there were a million other food fanatics out there?!? I’ve read recipes, gazed at pics, bookmarked and shopped. Even bought two new cookbooks!

I’ve also been craving eggs. A dozen jumbo eggs for 99 cents at a local produce market was too good to pass up. I decided I was ready to venture out on my own and experiment – I wanted egg (you choose – masala, rassma, curry, kurma, korma…) “something”.

Suffice to say, I failed miserably (never mix old curry leaves with hard boiled eggs??). The egg whites were rinsed off and eaten with salt and pepper for supper, while the rest of the offending mixture went to the raccoons – they have to eat, too. 🙂

I’ll be following recipes awhile longer, I suspect. I still need practice, and a lot of it; many of these spices are new to me and in time I will learn the right combinations. Practice makes perfect, or at least edible! Nevertheless, I hate to fail, so onward and upward to the second experiment of the evening – “leftover surprise”. This dish, very simply spiced, tasted far better than the first.

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Here is what I used:

1 tsp ghee
1 tsp cumin seeds

1 small potato, peeled and cut into very fine dice
2 healthy tsp garlic paste
1 c. leftover cooked (basmati) rice
1 tsp coriander chutney (from Indian grocery)
2 TB yogurt
1 tsp kosher salt
1-2 TB water (depending on the dryness of rice)

3-4 cups fresh baby spinach

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And here is what I did:

Heat ghee in medium-sized pan, slowly toast cumin seeds. Add finely diced potato and garilc paste. Cook over medium heat 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add rice, coriander chutney, yogurt, salt, and the water only if needed. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook 5-10 minutes longer or until potatoes are nearly cooked through but retain a slight crunch.

Add baby spinach leaves, stir thoroughly. Cover and cook a further 5-10 minutes until spinach is wilted and all is hot.

Serve in a small bowl with a little fresh lime to sqeeze over – and if you’re me, you’ll pat yourself on the back for remembering that simple is often best!

leftover surprise

Many thanks to all the food bloggers I’ve been following for some time now and who have inspired me with their generous sharing of recipes, pictures, and stories. I will have links up soon, but for now special thanks to Arjuna, Indira, Nupur, and Shyamala, who have all unwittingly encouraged me to try cooking authentic Indian food in my own kitchen.

Special thanks also to Anthony for the most enjoyable weekly Curry Mela, to which I humbly submit this dish. What fun!

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Great Lakes

The best place for big sky, big waves, and solitude.

big waves on Superior
Great for rock-hunting, too.

Superior pebbles

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