Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween!

Yesterday Fiona and I made a load and a half of these black cat cookies for school parties:
Then in the evening I recovered from the sugar haze in the air by making two of my favorite Indian spiced dishes, one an old favorite and one brand new (apologies for the quality of the photos--we started gobbling before I remembered the camera).

The main course was a chicken dish that I can't believe I haven't posted here before. It's one of the dishes I learned along with the terrific biryani rice in the Indian cooking class I took in 2005.
The sauce has a richness that I've only tasted in restaurant Indian dishes, but there is no cream, not even ghee in it. It is the layering of spices that makes it so good. It is cooked up with potatoes; the original recipe calls for 2 medium potatoes but I recommend more, something closer to 4. I had some nice little fingerlings so substituted these and kept the skins on.

One of the coolest things is that despite the fact that the chicken is highly spiced, it is cooked with its skin on and I was able to pull a couple of pieces out, peel off the skin and pull it off the bone and both kids ate it. Neither had a clue that the sauce covered stuff on my plate was the exact same food as what they were consuming. True, Ian dunked his in honey mustard so he probably couldn't taste any of the spices, but Fiona chowed hers down without a blink. Score one for mom!

The vegetable side dish is Spaghetti Squash with Indian Spices out of this month's issue of Fine Cooking and I probably would have overlooked it if two friends, Lea and Sarah, hadn't raved about it. I got to taste Sarah's version and became very territorial of the bowl, circling around it on the buffet and swooping in for seconds as soon as everyone had their first serving.
I've never had spaghetti squash this good--onion, ginger and garlic are the base flavors. There are mustard and cumin seeds that provide little pops of flavor and tomato and cilantro to brighten it up. Oh, and there is also 3 T of butter in there...I'm sure it could be removed without much effect, but it does make this dish feel decadent and a little less virtuous (in a fun way!)

So without further blathering, here are the recipes:

Chicken Curry with Potatoes
by Bhanu Hajratwala

serves 4-6

2 lbs chicken, cut up in pieces
1/3 C oil
8 whole cloves
4 cinnamon sticks, approximately 2 inches long each
8 whole cardamoms
8 curry leaves (get them at Indian grocery stores--then dry some, they are better fresh but ok dried and much more convenient)
1 large onion, chopped
2 T fresh masala (chop together about a 1 inch piece of peeled ginger, two big cloves of garlic, 1 chili, about 1/2 t turmeric and a squeeze of lemon juice--I make this in big batches blended together with some canola oil in the food processor and freeze it in 2 T sized portions so it is always ready to go--it is an excellent flavoring base for daal too.)
1 t red chili pepper powder
1/2 t turmeric powder
2 t salt
2 C water
2-4 medium potatoes, peeled and quartered (or use and equivalent quantity of skin-on fingerlings, cut in half lengthwise)
1 medium tomato, diced
2 T Garam Masala
2 T chopped cilantro

  1. Heat oil with cloves, cinnamon sticks, cardamoms and curry leaves till lightly brown.
  2. Add the onion and saute at medium heat until lightly brown (approx 10 minutes, stirring every few minutes).
  3. Add the Fresh Masala, chili powder, turmeric and salt. Cook for a further 3-5 minutes, stirring frequently.
  4. Add the chicken, stir well, and cook covered until the chicken is no longer pink on the outside.
  5. Add the water to cover the chicken and bring to a boil for about 5 minutes.
  6. Add the potatoes and tomatoes and cook covered until the potatoes and chicken are done (aproximately 20 minutes).
  7. Remove from the heat. Add Garam Masala and chopped cilantro.
  8. Serve with any Indian bread or rice.

Spaghetti Squash with Indian Spices

from Fine Cooking, October/November 2008

serves 4-6

1 small spaghetti squash (about 3 lbs)
1 T vegetable oil
1 t brown mustard seeds
3 T unsalted butter
1/2 C finely chopped onion
2 t minced ginger
2 t minced garlic
1 t cumin seeds
1/2 t ground coriander
1/2 C chopped tomato
1 small serrano chili, seeded and minced
kosher salt
1/2 C coarsely chopped cilantro

  1. Preheat oven to 350. Halve the squash lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. Set the squash halves cut side down on a heavy duty rimmed baking sheet, and bake until strands of flesh separate easily when raked with a fork, about 45 minutes.
  2. Set the squash halves aside until coole nough to handle. Use a fork to rake the cooked squash into strands.
  3. In 10-inch skillet, heat the oil over medium hot heat until hot. Add the mustard seeds and cover. The seeds will start popping; cook until the popping subsides, about 1 minute.
  4. Uncover, reduce the head and add the butter. As soon as it melts. add the onion, ginger, garlic, cumin seeds and ground coriander and cook until the onion softens, about 3 minutes. Add the tomato, chili and 1.5 t salt, stirring, until the tomato beins to soften and the chili is fragrant, about 2 minutes.
  5. Increase the heat to medium high and add the squash to the skillet. Toss with tongs to distribute spices and heat through, 1-3 minutes. Toss in the cilantro and taste to see if you want a little more salt.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

7 random food facts

Mother's Kitchen tagged me for a meme of 7 random (food) facts about me. Here goes:
  1. I dislike intensely two words often found in food writing "toothsome" and "veggies". Not sure why, but they both make my skin crawl (or in the case of "toothsome", my teeth itch).
  2. I often pick an entree at a restaurant based on the sides. In fact, I care a lot more about sides than main courses which I often think of as pain-in-the-ass necessities for blood sugar stability. I love the fact that in a lot of southern BBQ joints you can get a plate of sides and skip the meat (collards or mustard greens, slow cooked green beans with bacon, coleslaw, baked beans, mac and cheese and some sort of corn--creamed, fried, cob).
  3. I have a salt tooth more than a sweet tooth. I like to bake deserts more than eat them which has probably increased my welcome at a number of sweet-toothed people's houses. Not that you won't see me indulging in cookies/cakes/pies, etc. but I don't really crave them and rarely binge on them. Potato chips, olives, and pickles are another story entirely.
  4. I learned to cook as a defensive measure because my mother is British. She has many gifts but the kitchen is not the arena for displaying them. Thanks to her though, I have a pretty decent fake British accent and my kids make me use it to read Harry Potter out loud to them.
  5. I presently subscribe to three cooking magazines (Gourmet, Food and Wine and Cook's Illustrated). At times in the past I have subscribed to 6 at a time, but I had trouble keeping up. Of course, I am thinking of asking for a Fine Cooking subscription for Christmas...
  6. My favorite food? A good salad. Really.
  7. I've bitched about it enough here that most people already know this, but my punishment for gluttony is having two kids who are suspicious at best when it comes to eating. When I think about the foods I enjoyed when I was their age (green bean and sweet potato tempura, curry, pomegranates, beets, SALAD!) that my kids would never put in their mouths, it makes me want to tear my hair out. I know, there are plenty of people who outgrow their kid-palate and I live in hope of the day I can share my pleasure in food and cooking with one of them.
Tag, you're it!:

Ed at Vacuum
Stella at so beautiful and so ordinary...
Jen at A2eatwrite