Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Greek Potato Stew

I'm always on the lookout for dishes that have that unidentifiable deliciousness to them. You know, that thing that finds you face down in your mostly empty plate, slurping up the dregs like a cat drinks milk. The Japanese call it umami, which is loosely translated as "deliciousness". I won't go into an in-depth discussion of the term, but you can read more about it here.

Well I gotta say that this dish has it. I'm not even a huge fan of olives, but I think it's that ingredient that provides the umami. If you hate olives you may still hate this dish. But if you're trying to insert more vegeterian dishes into your diet, this is well worth a try.

Greek Potato Stew
(adapted from this recipe)

2 1/2 pounds potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
3 Tblsp olive oil
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup pitted kalamata olives, coarsely chopped
2 cups chopped tomatoes, fresh or canned (reserve juices)
1/4 cup vermouth, or more to taste
1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
salt and pepper to taste
parsley, chopped
feta cheese, crumbled

In a large saute pan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the potatoes and stir. Stir in the garlic. Add the olives, cook and stir for several minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, vermouth, and oregano. If you need more liquid, add more vermouth or use the reserved tomato juices. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 30 minutes or until potatoes are cooked through. Season to taste with salt and pepper and add more reserved tomato juice if needed. Serve with parsley and feta cheese.

(For breakfast the next day, I served the leftovers with a couple fried eggs, and it was delicious!)

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Bleeding Heart Cakes (well.. sorta)

I try not to bake too often because my husband and I have been known to consume entire loaves of banana bread or whatever I make in the same evening. We definitely have issues with the concept of moderation. Nevertheless, I wanted to bake something as a nod to Valentines Day. I decided to go with the color red as a theme instead of hearts as I'm definitely not a pink hearts kind of girl. I thought it would be pretty neat to make something deep red and oozing, kind of like an actual heart.

Well, I failed at the deep red and the oozing part. The raw batter was a nice shade of red, but turned brown with a hint of red when they were cooked. The cakes were pretty tasty, but this was my first time trying to make a lava cake. After the prescribed amount of time, I unmolded one and it just gushed carnage all over the plate, So then I overcompensated and cooked the rest until the centers were mostly cooked. Ah well. They looked pretty in the ramekins.

Heres' the recipe I concocted, though I'm not sure how succesful it was.

Bleeding Heart Lava Cakes
(adapted from Epicurious)

3 1/2 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
3 ounces white chocolate, chopped
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
Pinch of salt
1 1/2 teaspoons of buttermilk powder
Red food coloring (a whole lot of it)

4 large egg yolks
4 tablespoons sugar
2 large egg whites

Preheat oven to 425° F. Butter four 3/4-cup custard cups. Dust with flour; shake out excess. Combine chocolate, butter and salt in top of double boiler set over simmering water. Stir until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth. Remove from over water. Cool 10 minutes. Sprinkle buttermilk powder and food coloring over mixture and blend in.

Beat egg yolks and 3 tablespoons sugar in large bowl until thick and light, about 2 minutes.

Fold in chocolate mixture. Using electric mixer fitted with clean, dry beaters, beat egg whites and 1 tablespoon sugar in medium bowl until stiff but not dry. Gently fold whites into chocolate mixture in 3 additions. Divide batter among prepared cups.

Place custard cups on baking sheet. Bake until cakes are puffed but still soft in center, about 11 minutes. (mine were undercooked at 11 minutes and overcooked at around 20 minutes) Transfer baking sheet to rack; cool cakes 1 minute.

Using small knife, cut around sides of cakes to loosen. Place plates on top of cups. Invert cakes onto plates; remove cups. Top with whipped cream or ice cream if desired.

In the end, they were pretty tasty, although I think the white chocolate actually took away from the overall chocolaty experience. They also puffed up a lot, and I'm not sure if lava cakes are supposed to do that. Unfortunately, the name no longer applies when they are sitting in the ramekin, no lava flow in sight. But it's such a cool name, I'm keeping it! Maybe I'll try it again some time.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Chicken Korma - Mmm... Saucy.

I absolutely love Indian food. I think I could give up all other foods forever if I had an unending supply of chicken korma. Heck, leave out the chicken! Just give me a stack of Naan bread and a big vat of the sauce that chicken korma comes with and I would be a very happy girl. A girl who is the spitting image of Jabba the Hut, but a very happy girl nonetheless.

Korma can be made in several different ways, but I just purchased Madhur Jaffrey's Quick and Easy Indian Cooking and was eager to give her quick version a whirl. I adapted it slightly to fit the tools and ingredients I had available, and to lower the fat just a touch. I also reduced the whole spices a bit because they were a little too strong for me. As a matter of fact, I thought this tasted much better the next day. The spices had incorporated and mellowed out a lot.

Quick Chicken Korma (Murgh Korma)
(adapted slightly from Madhur Jaffrey's Quick and Easy Indian Cooking

1 1/2 piece fresh ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped
5 to 6 cloves garlic, crushed*
4 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 dried bay leaves
2-inch stick cinnamon
6 cardamom pods
3 whole cloves
1/4 teaspoon black cumin seeds (or ordinary cumin seeds)
1 medium onion, peeled and diced
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 tablespoon ground cumin
3 canned plum tomatoes, chopped
1 1/2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breast, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
3/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
3 tablespoons 2% greek style yogurt

Mash the ginger, garlic, and 3 tablespoons water with a mortar and pestle until it is relatively smooth and incorporated. Put oil in a wide saute pan over high heat. When it starts to smoke, put in the bay leaves, cinnamon, cardamom pods, cloves and cumin seeds. Stir once or twice and put in the onion. Stir and fry for about 3 minutes or until the onion starts to brown. Put in the garlic/ginger paste, and the ground coriander and ground cumin and fry for a minute. Put in the chopped tomatoes and fry for another minute. Put in the chicken, cayenne, salt and 1 cup of water. Bring to a boil. Cover, turn the heat to medium and cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove the cover, add the cream and yogurt, and cook on high while stirring gently for another 7 to 8 minutes or until the sauce has thickened

I served it over rice and the verdict was highly favorable. I am going to tweak it further next time so it is more diet friendly and so that the spices suit my palate a little more. I'm sure that all the korma I've had in Indian restaurants is made differently and with a ton more fat, but I am going to keep trying until I have a reasonable facsimile that keeps me from running to the nearest Indian restaurant, spending too much money and eating way way too much in one sitting.

* I just bought this garlic press and it rules! You don't even need to peel the cloves first.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Feeding Your Inner Child

Have you ever met anyone who doesn't like pizza? I know I haven't. Even those who passionately hate tomato sauce will eat neapolitan pizza with abandon. Perhaps it's because we equate pizza with childhood birthday parties, games, and creepy animatronic stuffed animals. Maybe it's because the combination of dough, cheese and slightly sweet sauce is such a benign yet delicious flavor.

All musing aside, I love pizza and I'm always trying to figure out a way to feel less guilty indulging in it. That's why I was so excited when I found ready-made whole wheat pizza dough for sale at Trader Joes. I picked up a jar of their pizza sauce and nice log of mozzarella cheese. Now, don't get on my case for buying ready made items please! I'm sure that one day I will attempt to make healthy and delicious pizza from scratch, but I figured that this would be a nice simple way to wade into pizza-making.

I don't really have a recipe to offer you, except for the topping. I really wanted to make a healthier version of a pepperoni pizza, and after wading through the salted meats, I found that prosciutto had the least amount of fat and calories per serving. I took the prosciutto and layed it out on a cooling rack fitted inside a baking sheet. Then I baked it for around 20-30 minutes at 450 degrees until it was dark and crispy. I tell you, it tasted almost exactly like pepperoni! Not to mention that the flavor was so strong that I didn't even end up using it all. (You'll notice that a quarter of the pizza is missing the topping. That's because I was feeding a friend of mine who doesn't eat beef or pork products.)

The results? Well, frankly I wasn't crazy about the crust. It had the same tang to it that white whole wheat flour gives to baked goods. It doesn't seem to bother everyone, but I definitely notice it. Otherwise, the cheese and sauce were delicious and almost made up for the funny tasting crust. Maybe I'll just have to forego the whole grains and give the white flour crust a try.