Friday, December 26, 2008

2008 Holiday Picture Show

Homemade currant cakes from a friend in Pennsylvania.


"Bear claws" (no actual bears were harmed).

Salad with spinach, grapefruit, avocado and pomegranate seeds in a cranberry vinaigrette - served alongside tamales.

Birthday cupcakes.

Dutch apple pancakes.


Moroccan Green Bean Tagine from The Splendid Table's How to Eat Supper, served over pearl couscous.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Not-So-Veg Saag Paneer at the British Bulldog

On my first visit to the British Bulldog, I was pleased to find that their menu featured both traditional pub fare and Pakistani dishes. I tried and really liked the saag paneer ($9.50) -- chunks of cheese cooked in a spinach curry, served over seasoned basmati rice, with cilantro chutney and pita on the side. While some saags are too creamy for my taste, the emphasis in this saag was on the spinach and the spices.

Unfortunately, on my second visit, I found small but unmistakable chunks of lamb in my saag. The restaurant's menu states that lamb and chicken are available for an additional cost, but in this case, it appeared that the lamb and saag had been cooked together. It's a shame, because it was fun to eat saag in a pub atmosphere, and because the British Bulldog is close enough to downtown Denver to be a convenient workday lunch spot.

The British Bulldog does have some other vegetarian offerings -- including a veg burger ($6.50) and cheese quesadillas ($5.95) -- but none of the choices are as interesting as the saag.

The British Bulldog
2052 Stout Street (corner of Stout and Broadway)
Denver, CO 80202

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Sweet Potato Home Fries

While I like sweet potatoes, a whole potato sometimes seems like too much to eat in a single meal. It's funny how quickly that same potato disappears once it's been turned into home fries...

I served my sweet potato home fries with creole-spiced black eyed peas and garlicky kale. Because the peas and kale had very distinctive seasonings, I decided to keep the fries simple, tossing them in blend of canola oil, salt, and pepper. If you are looking for seasoned fries, consider this recipe -- involving coriander, fennel, oregano and red pepper -- at Kalyn's Kitchen.

I left the potato skins on; of course you could peel your potatoes first if you prefer.

2 medium sweet potatoes, washed
2 teaspoons canola oil, plus a little additional oil to brush the baking sheet with
1/2 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste

Pre-heat the oven to 375 F.
Lightly brush a nonstick baking sheet with canola oil.
Trim the ends from the sweet potatoes.
Cut each potato in half length-wise.
Place one potato half cut-side down on cutting board, and carefully slice the potato into long thin strips.
Place the strips into a mixing bowl, and repeat with the three remaining halves.
Top potatoes with the canola oil, salt and black pepper.
Toss to coat, using your hands.
Place the potato strips in a single layer on the baking sheet.
Bake 20 minutes.
Remove the baking sheet from the oven and carefully turn the potato strips over.
Bake another 10 minutes, or until potatoes are bubbly and the thinest strips are crisp (watch carefully at this stage, as the potatoes can very quickly go from bubbly/crisp to burnt!)
Remove from oven and serve immediately.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Creole-Spiced Black Eyed Peas

This weekend, I'm falling back on a simple recipe for creole-spiced black eyed peas, which I served with kale and sweet potato home fries.

2 cups cooked black eyed peas
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 onion, thinly sliced
1 roma tomato, washed and diced
1 teaspoon creole seasoning (such as Lucille's), divided*

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
Add the onion and 1/2 teaspoon creole seasoning and cook until the onion is tender (about 5 minutes).
Add the tomato to the skillet and cook another minute.
Add the peas to the skillet, along with 1/2 teaspoon of creole seasoning.
Stir, adjust seasonings and serve.

Serves 4-5.

*my seasoning mix contains salt, so I don't use any additional salt in the recipe.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Azuki-Chocolate Brownie/Pudding

I was intrigued by the black bean brownies that Heidi Swanson posted about on 101 Cookbooks. What would brownies made using puréed beans in place of of flour be like?

Before I tell you about the bean brownies that I made, I have to admit that, instead of following the original recipe exactly, I tweaked things to accommodate my appetite and the ingredients I had on hand. I knew that I would never manage to get 45 brownies out of an 8 x 11 pan -- if disciplined I might manage to eek out 9 servings -- and so I reduced the amount of butter and sweetener in the recipe. Since my version contained less melted butter, I used brewed hazelnut coffee instead of the dried instant coffee called for in the original recipe, to balance out the liquids. I also switched out the black beans for azuki beans, which are used to make the sweet red bean filling in my beloved daifuku manju, and which I happened to have in my pantry.
The result? Kind of a brownie, kind of a baked pudding. Surprisingly (and pleasantly) spongy. Does it taste like beans? Actually, no. The flavor is all chocolate.

While I previously refrigerated an "Indian" pudding before serving, I have to admit that I ate some of this brownie/pudding right out of the oven - delicious - and think it's best served warm. Good with ice cream, just like a traditional brownie.

2 cups cooked azuki beans
3/4 cup agave nectar
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 ounces chocolate (I used about 7 tablespoons of dark chocolate chips)
1/2 cup butter
1 cup brewed hazelnut coffee
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 eggs, beaten

Preheat the oven to 325 F.
Brush an 8 x 11 baking dish with canola oil.
In a food processor, blend the azuki beans with the agave nectar and salt until smooth.
Transfer the bean mixture to a large mixing bowl.
In a glass measuring cup or a small glass bowl, microwave the chocolate and butter for 1 minute 30 seconds.
Stir the chocolate and butter until smooth, and add the coffee and vanilla.
Blend the chocolate mixture into the bean mixture.
Add the eggs to the chocolate-bean mixture, and stir to combine thoroughly.
Pour the batter in the 8 x 11 pan and bake for about 45 minutes.
Increase the temperature to 350 F and bake an additional 10 minutes (the brownie/pudding should be well set).
Remove from oven and serve warm, or refrigerate to cool completely before serving.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Tea Embassy: Mexican Winter Rooibos and Almond Cookie Tea

While I was picking out gifts for others this holiday season, I decided to get a treat for myself, too: two of my favorite teas, which happen to come from the Tea Embassy in Austin, Texas. I discovered the teas (and the Tea Embassy) while living in South Texas a few years back. While I'm glad to be back home in Colorado, I have missed the tea.

The first is Mexican Winter Rooibos: a rooibos herbal tisane (or "red tea") blended with orange, cinnamon, coconut, chili bits and red pepper. It smells fantastic and tastes delicious, especially with a little honey.

The second is Almond Cookies Green Tea: organic green tea flavored with almond and coconut. "But, doesn't it have that strong green tea taste?" No, it actually really does taste like almond cookies. Which is probably why, whenever I place an order, I get a call from the Tea Embassy telling me that they'll need a few extra days to fill it, because they're currently out of the Almond Cookies Tea. But, it's worth waiting for, and it never seems to take that much longer, anyway.

Tea Embassy
(orders are taken through their Tea Treasures website, here)
900 Rio Grande Street
Austin, TX 78701

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Lentil Soup

This lentil soup features tomatoes, spinach, and tomatoes, in addition to the usual carrots and onions. It has become my favorite way to make lentil soup. The recipe is a veg-ified version of a recipe for lentil stew, involving ham and chicken broth, that was published in Cooking Light in 2002.

Good with a crusty bread and some cheese, or on its own.

1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
dash red pepper flakes (optional)
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
4 cups veg broth, and one cup water
1 cup dried lentils, picked over and rinsed
1 carrot, washed and grated
2 bay leaves
1 to 3 cups chopped spinach (I vary this ingredient, based on the amount of spinach that I have on hand, and it always turns out well)
3 medium sized potatoes, washed and diced
14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
fresh ground black pepper to taste

Heat olive oil and red pepper flakes in a stockpot over medium heat.
Add onion and garlic, and cook about 5 minutes (until the onion is soft), stirring often.
Add water, broth, lentils, bay leaves and carrot to the pot.
Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, covered, 20 minutes.
Add potatoes and spinach to the pot.
Bring to a boil again, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, covered, 15 minutes.
Add tomatoes, basil, thyme and black pepper to the pot.
Simmer 10 minutes.
Discard bay leaves and serve.

Note: if using a low-sodium broth, add 1/2 teaspoon of salt to the soup at the same time as the tomatoes and seasonings.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Gado Gado

We're only a couple of weeks into the holiday season, but I've already been feeling a bit overloaded in the decadent food department: pie, leftover pie for breakfast, corn fritters, chocolate bread pudding, and rich bread-pudding-like french toast. It's all been delicious, but I needed some veggies to balance things out.

Gado gado is an Indonesian salad. It really delivers in the veggie department, while also providing a wide array of textures and flavors, and a good amount of protein. I've gotten into the habit of eating the salad mid-winter, when I need a little color and diversity in my diet. Apart from the recipe for the peanut sauce, which I follow pretty closely, it's really more of a general guideline for assembly: vary the fruits and vegetables, and amounts of specific vegetables, to meet your tastes.

If serving to a group, set out bowls with each ingredient, and allow each person to assemble their own salad to meet their tastes. Because the salad is served at room temperature, the rice, tofu, eggs, and steamed veggies can be assembled in advance.

I get about 5 servings from the recipe below.

Salad Ingredients
1 cup rice, cooked, along with 1/4 teaspoon tumeric, per package instructions
5 ounces spinach, washed and gently dried
2 cups cabbage (I like to use red cabbage for the color), washed and finely chopped
handful green beans, washed, ends trimmed and lightly steamed
1 cup steamed broccoli
2 carrots, washed and grated
1 red (or yellow, or orange) pepper, washed and diced
Diced fresh pineapple
3/4 cup shredded, unsweetened coconut, lightly toasted (set your toaster oven on its lowest setting to avoid burnt coconut!)
8 ounces tofu, diced and baked
3 hard boiled eggs, shelled and chopped
Other options: steamed bean sprouts, steamed cauliflower, mushrooms, snow peas, diced apple, diced orange, substitute diced potatoes for the rice...

For each serving of salad:
Place a bed of spinach on the plate/bowl.
Top with the rice.
Top with veggies, tofu, eggs, pineapple and coconut.
Ladle peanut sauce over the salad to taste (recipe below).
Add the green onion and ginger toppings (recipes below) to taste.

Peanut Sauce Ingredients

1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1 generous teaspoon grated ginger
2-3 cloves garlic, minced

1 1/2 tablespoons brown sugar
3/4 cup hot water
2 tablespoons rice vinegar (cider vinegar will also work)
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt
dash red pepper flakes

Whisk together all ingredients but the hot water in a medium sized bowl.
Add hot water bit by bit, whisking to combine with the peanut mixture
Add more water if the sauce is too thick, and adjust seasonings to taste.
Serve at room temperature (whisk one last time just before serving).

Green Onion and Ginger Toppings
3/4 cup scallions, washed and chopped
2 tablespoons thinly sliced fresh ginger
1 tablespoon canola oil

Saute ginger in oil, over medium heat 1-2 minutes.
Remove ginger from pan.
Saute green onion 3-4 minutes.
Place in small bowls to serve.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Homemade Hazelnut Chocolate Truffles

After reading about Elena's homemade orange chocolate truffles, I thought that it would be fun to try making homemade truffles myself. I knew that I wanted to use hazelnuts, because they blend so nicely with chocolate, but I wasn't sure what to do about the unsweetened cocoa powder, which tends to be too bitter for my tastes. Rhubarb suggested using cacao nibs, and gave me some to try in the recipe. I think they lend a nice chocolately flavor to the truffles.

Rather than rolling the truffles in cocoa powder, I ground a few additional nuts in the food processor to create a hazelnut coating.

Vegans delight - these truffles are dairy-free!

1/2 cup cacao nibs*
a generous 1/2 cup raw hazelnuts, plus 1/4 cup for the coating (3/4 cup total, or about 1/3 pound)
1/4 cup almond butter
1/4 cup agave nectar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
dash salt

Place 1/4 cup hazelnuts in a food processor and blend until they have a sand-like quality.
Remove the ground hazelnuts from the food processor, cover and refrigerate until later use.
Place cacao nibs and 1/2 cup hazelnuts in a food processor, and again blend till they have a sand-like quality.
Add the almond butter, agave nectar, vanilla and salt to the food processor, and process until smooth.
Scrape the truffle mixture out of the food processor and into a bowl; cover and refrigerate two hours.
After about two hours...
Set out a piece of wax paper or parchment paper, to place the finished truffles on.
Remove the truffle mixture and ground hazelnuts from the refrigerator.
Roll 1 teaspoon of the truffle mixture between your hands to create a ball.
Roll the truffle ball in the ground hazelnuts to coat, and place on the parchment or wax paper.
Repeat until all of the truffle mixture has been used.
Refrigerate until serving.

I get 18 truffles,
and have enough ground hazelnuts left to coat a whole 'nother batch. (I put the leftover ground hazelnuts in the freezer to save them for later.)

*If you can't find cacao nibs, substitute chocolate chips.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Pearl Couscous With Fall Vegetables And Carmelized Onions

Even though we were only three for Thanksgiving this year (including 1 vegetarian), my Mom wanted to make a turkey. I wasn't wild about eating side dish for my Thanksgiving meal, and so, as a compromise, we also made pearl couscous with fall vegetables and carmelized onions, using this recipe (published in Sunset magazine) from chef Joanne Weir.

Couscous is one of my favorite grains because it cooks so quickly and can be eaten with so many different toppings. Cooking the couscous is probably the quickest part of this recipe, which involves several different stages and takes more than two hours to complete. (The cooking time and the price of some of the ingredients, such as saffron, make this a recipe I would reserve for special occasions.)

I started by making the carmelized onion topping. The sliced onions are steamed before being browned in olive oil, and combined with golden raisins, cinnamon, honey, salt and pepper.

Next, I peeled and chopped the vegetables. The recipe incorporates a nice variety of fall vegetables, including zucchini, butternut squash, turnips and carrots, as well as a jalepeño pepper.

Once the vegetables were chopped, it was time to make the seasoned broth that would be used to cook both the vegetables and the couscous. (Mom also poured some of the seasoned broth into her (meat-based) stuffing and gravy.) I heated olive oil in a stockpot and briefly fried saffron, cumin, cinnamon sticks, salt and pepper before stirring in the vegetable broth.

After the mixture came to a boil, I added the carrots, turnips and jalepeño, and let them simmer. The zucchini and butternut squash were then added to the pot, and the vegetables cooked a bit more.

Then it was time to prepare the couscous. I ladeled two cups of broth from the stockpot into a saucepan, and then heated them, along with some water, to a boil before adding the couscous. While the couscous was cooking, I removed two additional cups of broth from the stock pot, to combine with harissa. (Mom and I were unable to find harissa in stores, so we made our own using a recipe from Tagine: Spicy Stews of Morrocco. The harissa was very easy to make - it is basically a blend of red chilies, garlic, cumin, coriander and olive oil.)

According to the recipe, the cooked vegetables and carmelized onions are to be served over couscous, with a pitcher of broth mixed with harissa and a pitcher of "plain" broth. I strayed a bit here because I was planning to bring the leftovers back to Denver with me and wanted to minimize the number of containers I'd be carrying. Rather than straining the vegetables to create a pitcher of plain broth, I let the vegetables soften into the remaining liquid, creating a stew-like texture.

Although the recipe was a bit time intensive, the results were worth it. The vegetables - and in particular the butternut squash - blended wonderfully with the saffron and other seasonings, and the sweetness of the carmelized onions contrasted nicely with the heat from the harissa.

And, yes, Mom did add spices (using a Chinese five-spice blend) to the whipped cream on our pumpkin pie. Yum.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse

My mom and I stopped by the Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse recently, to celebrate her birthday. We had already eaten lunch, this trip was strictly for dessert!

The birthday girl got a slice of tangerine tea gingerbread cake, served with orange sauce and five-spice whipped cream ($5.25):

(The photo does not do the cake justice, sorry!)

My mom likes spice cakes, so I wanted her to have a chance to try the gingerbread at the Teahouse. I think it was a hit; she's now talking about adding spices to the whipped cream on our pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving...

I went for the flourless chocolate cake with Persian spiced dark chocolate ice cream, candied roses and rose syrup ($6):

Yum. The cake was wonderfully gooey inside, and I thought I tasted rose in the ice cream...

Both sweets were enjoyed, along with steaming cups of chai, in the wonderful atmosphere of the Teahouse.

Happy Birthday, Mom!

Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse

1770 13th Street (between Arapaho and Canyon on 13th)
Boulder, CO 80302

Monday, November 24, 2008

Spaghetti Squash With Cranberries And Pecans

Makes a great main dish, side dish, or even a breakfast dish...

2 pounds spaghetti squash (I used 1/2 a 4 pound squash)
scant 1 teaspoon butter, thinly shaved
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons grated orange rind (optional)
approx. 1/3 to 1/2 cup pecans
approx. 1/3 to 1/2 cup dried cranberries

Preheat oven to 375 F.
Cut the spaghetti squash in half and scrape out seeds.
Place the squash face down in a deep 13 by 9 inch (or larger) baking dish and add water to the pan until the edges of the squash are covered.
Bake 45 minutes.
Carefully remove the squash from the pan and place face-up on a cutting board or dish.
Scrape out the inside of the squash with a fork, to create the "spaghetti" strands.
Toss the warm squash with butter, salt and (optional) orange rind.
Add cranberries and pecans to taste.

Serves 2 as a main dish, four as a side dish.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Veg Winter Soup

This hearty winter soup comes together in just over an hour, unless you're using dry beans. The vegetables create their own broth while simmering.

You might notice that I decided to add pre-cooked (or canned) beans at the end. I'm not sure if it's the salt or the acid from the tomatoes, but I've found that dry beans can take an incredibly long time to cook in this type of recipe, and I have more success if I cook the beans separately.

2 tablespoons canola oil
red pepper flakes
1 onion, washed and chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 carrot, washed and grated
1/2 a head of cabbage, washed, cored and chopped
8 cups water
1 bay leaf
3 large red potatoes, washed, peeled and chopped into 1 inch cubes
1 14.5 ounce can chopped tomatoes (I used unsalted)
2 teaspoons salt
1 15 ounce can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed, or 1/3 cup dry cannellini beans, cooked separately per package instructions
black pepper

Place oil and a dash of red pepper flakes in a large stock pot, and warm over medium heat.
Add onion, garlic and carrot, and cook about 5 minutes, until soft.
Add cabbage and cook, stirring constantly, until soft (3-5 minutes).
Add water, bay leaf, potatoes, tomatoes and salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and cook, covered, for about 45 minutes, until the vegetables are tender.
Add the beans to the pot, and cook another 5 minutes.
Add black pepper to taste.

Makes about 6 servings.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Baked "Indian" Pudding

I dug out a recipe for baked "Indian" pudding last week because my usual evening snack - ice cream - was making me too cold at night.

The cornmeal-based pudding originated in New England. The pudding is somewhat similar to polenta, except that, rather than adding cornmeal to boiling water, the cornmeal is whisked into a mixture of milk and browned butter. Once the cornmeal has thickened, molasses, pumpkin pie spice and egg yolks are added. The pudding is then then baked for about one hour and chilled for two hours before being served.

The result is somewhat reminiscent of a pie without the pie crust. The molasses lends pudding a gingerbread-esque flavor, while the spices and texture invoke pumpkin pie. In short, it's a good dessert for this time of year.

Pomegranate Parfait

Summer has ended, but that doesn't mean that we have to stop eating fresh fruit salads. In fact, one of my favorite fruits is just coming into season.

Pomegranate seeds have a lovely ruby color, a nice crunch and a great sweet-tart taste. The seeds are high in vitamin C, potassium and antioxidants. My fondness for pomegranates has only grown now that I've figured out how to seed them without creating a mess.

There's so much that you can do with pomegranate seeds! This is a super easy parfait, which is good as an afternoon snack, or good for breakfast along with peanut butter toast. Really, it's so simple that it's more of a serving suggestion than a recipe...

Ingredients For One Parfait
1 banana, peeled and sliced
1/2 cup vanilla yogurt
seeds from 1/2 pomegranate

Place 1/2 the banana slices in the bowl.
Top with 1/4 cup vanilla yogurt.
Add half the pomegranate seeds
Repeat layering of banana slices, yogurt and pomegranate seeds.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Butternut Squash Mac & Cheese

Another veg-based macaroni and cheese recipe! This time, I blended roast butternut squash into the cheese mixture. The result is decidedly squashy (it would be hard to say the butternut was a "secret" ingredient) and yet pleasantly reminiscent of mac and cheese.

To break up the cooking-time, I roasted my butternut squash a few days beforehand, and kept it in the refrigerator until I had time to assemble the rest of the dish.

2 1/2 pounds butternut squash (approx. 4 cups cooked)
8 oz pasta
1 cup nonfat milk
1 cup grated cheddar
1/4 cup grated parmesan, plus one tablespoon reserved
15 oz part-skim ricotta
1/4 cup onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup panko
canola oil and/or butter

Roasting the squash (can be done in advance):
Preheat oven to 400 F.
Wash the butternut squash, halve and remove seeds.
Place the squash halves face up in a baking dish that has been lightly brushed with canola oil.
Lightly brush the top of each squash with canola oil.
Bake 45 minutes, or until the a knife cuts cleanly through the center of the squash.
If roasting the squash ahead of time, refrigerate until needed.

The day of:
Preheat the oven to 375 F.
Lightly grease a 13 by 9 inch baking dish with butter or canola oil.
Cook the noodles per the package instructions. Drain.
Remove the skin from the cooled butternut squash.
In a medium bowl, mash the butternut squash, adding milk until creamy and smooth. Set aside.
In a large bowl, combine the cheddar, ricotta and 1/4 cup parmesan.
Add the garlic, onion, salt, a dash of nutmeg and black pepper to taste to the cheese mixture.
Stir the mashed butternut squash into the cheese mixture.
Add the drained noodles to the butternut squash/cheese mixture.
Pour into the greased baking dish, and top with the reserved 1 tablespoon of parmesan and the panko.
Bake for 45 minutes, until the topping is golden-brown.

Thursday, November 13, 2008


I stopped into Mici's new Cherry Creek North location for lunch on a recent weekday. I had a hankering for one of their veg panini/salad combos, and I figured that the new location might have less of a lunch rush than the original location downtown. In fact, I was able to walk right to the counter to place my order, which would never happen during a weekday lunch downtown.

Unfortunately, the Cherry Creek North location doesn't yet offer the sandwich/salad combo available downtown. It's a pity, because a half-panini and a small house salad (mixed greens, walnuts, gorgonzola and grapes in a balsamic vinaigrette) makes a nice meal.

Since the combo wasn't available, I ordered a whole Verdura panini ($8.11 with tax). The sandwich is served on a ciabatta roll, with fresh mozzarella, provolone, tomatoes, roasted red peppers, spinach and pesto. The crisp crust of the ciabatta contrasted nicely with the soft ingredients inside. I didn't think I'd be able to eat the entire sandwich, but I soon found myself munching my way through the second half.

I did enjoy the panini, although I would have preferred the sandwich/salad combo.

Cherry Creek North
3030 E. 2nd Ave (2nd and Milwaukee)

Downtown Denver
1531 Stout Street
303.629 (mici)6424

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Hello, Yellow

I seem to have some unresolved issues involving food and color. For, just a couple of weeks after I accidentally created the whitest chili ever, I inadvertently assembled a meal in which every dish was the same shade of yellow.

The first dish on the menu was pineapple pachadi, or pineapple with crushed mustard seeds. While the combination of pineapple and coconut might suggest a sweet dessert, this dish has a nice kick thanks to the inclusion of cayenne pepper and red chilies.

The next dish on the menu was a seasoned dhal. This is one of my favorite ways to eat lentils, and when I decided to substitute yellow split peas, I didn't realize that the dhal would now be the same color as the pineapple.

It was only when I tossed the chopped zuchinni and squash with tumeric and watched it turn yellow, while preparing the squash with mustard seeds, that I realized what I had done. Yellow, yellow, yellow!

Interestingly, while every dish was the same color, and contained some of the same seasonings (mustard seeds, red chilies and curry leaves), each had its own unique flavor: the rich dhal, the spicy-sweet pineapple, and the seasoned squash. While I prefer that my food both look and taste interesting, the contrasting flavors made up for the monotony in the color department.

Recipes for each dish can be found in Maya Kaimal's "Savoring the Spice Coast of India."

Sunday, November 9, 2008


A warm pocket of melted cheese tucked inside a disc of lightly spiced masa, with spicy curtido on the side... Claire's recent review of Pupusa's restaurant at Culinary Colorado made me hungry for pupusas!

Pupusas, an El Salvadoran dish, might be described as a thick corn tortilla with cheese baked into the middle. Curtido is a spicy cabbage salad that traditionally accompanies pupusas. I need to confess, right up front, that I have yet to eat a pupusa (or curtido) in a El Salvadoran restaurant, and so I cannot vouch for the authenticity of this recipe. But, I can tell you that the results are tasty!

Although the pupusas are made from scratch, the masa is very easy to put together, so the pupusas can be prepared in 45 minutes or less (including baking time).

I like to serve the pupusas with curtido (recipe here), avocado and salsa. Beans would also make a nice side dish. The curtido improves as it "marinates," so assemble it the night before, if you can.While the curtido is good on its own, I usually mix in diced avocado before serving, using 1/2 avocado per person.

Pupusas are traditionally fried, but I prefer to bake them. I've found that leftover pupusas are best reheated in the toaster oven or stove top; they can get a bit tough in the microwave.

Variations on the cheese pupusas include mixing chopped cilantro or diced chilies in with the cheese. (Again, I can't vouch for the authenticity, but it tastes good!)

2 cups masa harnia (most grocery stores carry this, in either the "hispanic foods" or baking aisles)
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 and 1/2 to 2 cups warm water
about 1 cup grated cheese (such as monterey jack or cheddar)

Preheat the oven to 375 F.

Lightly brush 2 non-stick baking sheets with canola oil.

In a mixing bowl, whisk the cumin and salt into the masa harina.

Gradually stir in the warm water, mixing until smooth. The dough should be soft but not sticky. Add more masa harina or water as needed. (I usually wind up using a full 2 cups of water.)

Scoop out 1/3 cup of dough. Divide it into two balls, one slightly larger than the other. Flatten the larger ball into a pancake, and add 1-2 tablespoons of cheese to the middle. Curl the edges of the bowl up around the cheese filling, then set the cheese-filled masa down on wax paper or parchment paper. Flatten the second ball into a pancake, and fit it on top of the cheese-filled dough. Use your fingers to gently flatten the cheese-filled mound of masa into a disc to form your pupusa. The filling should be completely enclosed in the dough.

Place the pupusa on a baking sheet.

Repeat until all the dough has been used (I get 8 pupusas, 4 per baking sheet).

Lightly brush the top of each pupusa with canola oil.

Bake 15 minutes.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Beatrice is taking a short break...

Food blogging will likely resume next week...

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Macaroni and Cheese With a Surprise Twist

Some people collect shoes, postcards or buttons. I collect recipes for homemade macaroni and cheese. My collection includes recipes using different kinds of cheeses, and recipes with special add-ins, like smokey oven roasted tomatoes or chipotle chilies. But until recently, I had never tried a recipe in which the macaroni and cheese sauce was a blend of dairy and puréed vegetable (cauliflower to be precise).

I don't eat a lot of cauliflower, but the photo at Food Blogga was so tempting that I decided to give it a try. And, I'm really glad I did. Just as the photo promised, the recipe resulted in a creamy mac and cheese with a nice, crunchy topping, just the way homemade macaroni and cheese should be. And, no, it didn't taste like cauliflower. Instead, the mac and cheese had a good cheddar flavor, with a slight hint of Doritos (due to the addition of southwestern-style seasonings).

The recipe is pretty straightforward. Cooked cauliflower is puréed with a little milk, which results in a creamy white mixture that reminded me of thin mashed potatoes. The puréed cauliflower is then added, along with cheddar cheese and seasonings, to a roux of butter, flour and milk, to create the cheese sauce. Cooked pasta is stirred into the sauce, and the entire mixture is dumped into a buttered baking dish. After receiving a topping of bread crumbs (I used panko) and cheddar cheese, the dish goes into the oven to cook for about 45 minutes, or until golden brown and bubbly.

I strayed from the original recipe in three minor ways. First, I couldn't find the orange cauliflower that Food Blogga used, and so I substituted white. If you can find orange cauliflower, you should use it, because it contains more vitamin A than regular cauliflower and will enhance your dish's color. Second, I used real butter instead of butter substitute. Third, because I was using panko, I didn't bother to blend the breadcrumbs with butter.

Although Food Blogga stated that the recipe would create four servings, I somehow wound up with six. Not that I'm complaining! Now, I have macaroni and cheese (with a built-in vegetable) to eat throughout the week...