Monday, August 15, 2011

Summer comfort food

Summer food is amazing. Especially in Wisconsin, where you can get almost all your produce right off the farm all summer long. My summer diet is usually pretty raw—there isn’t much summer here so I try and get outside to play as much as possible! There is always so much going on that it is difficult to find the time to cook tasty things unless they are for a party or friends coming over.

But…this weekend little chill crept up to me and said something like this:

“Hey psst. PSST! That thing, it’s called a stove. It is lonely. And the temperature is down to 70° so we may as well cook something!”

And so I did, just for me!

I’ve always found Indira’s (of Mahanandi) recipes to be amazingly delicious, inspiring, healthy, and comforting. I was craving lots of warm spices, so I used star anise, cardamom, cumin seeds, whole peppercorns, and fresh ginger to make and Indira-inspired dish on this beautiful, late-summer weekend!

½ cup toor dal, rinsed
1 whole star anise
4 green cardamom pods
1 tsp peppercorns
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp fresh ginger, grated
2  cloves fresh garlic, minced
½ cup fresh coriander (cilantro), plus extra to finish
1 onion chopped
2 cups fresh greens (kale or spinach is good) torn into bite sized bits
2 tomatoes, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
¼ cup plain Greek yogurt

1)    Wash the toor dal and pick out any rocks, cement chunks, or whatever inedible may have traveled with your little beans. Put them in a pot and cover them with cold water (3:1 ratio water to beans). Boil them until soft. Set aside.
2)     Heat the butter in a sauté pan until it is frothy. Add in the star anise and cook for a few seconds. Add the cardamom pods, followed by the peppercorns and cumin seeds. The important thing here is to cook each spice on it’s own for a few seconds. As soon as you can smell it, add the next one. Add the onions and sauté until brown. Add the ginger and garlic, sauté for about 30 seconds or until fragrant. Don’t let the garlic burn!!
3)    Add the coriander and greens to the spice mix in the sauté pan. Add the tomatoes. If the mix is too dry add a little water. Cover and simmer until your greens are tender. If I am using spinach I add the tomatoes right away, but if I’m using kale or collards I usually let the greens cook for awhile before adding the tomatoes to avoid overcooking the tomatoes.
4)    Add your cooked toor dal to your spices and greens, mix and adjust seasonings. Simmer for another 5-10 minutes to let all the flavors combine. Mix in the Greek yogurt when the mix has cooled a little (so the milk proteins don’t separate too much). 

I serve this right away with brown rice or naan. And I use lots of extra fresh coriander on top!  If you are having friends over and want to serve this it is fun to put it in glass jars (like a Ball jar or something) laying it with rice and fresh coriander. It’s pretty like that.

Thanks for cooking with me, and remember to get your produce and dairy products from your local farm!


Wednesday, July 20, 2011


This is one of those tiny things that I know will carry me through any obstacle I face in life. What a sweet surprise to wake up to! 

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

No food in the house....

Ahhh…the salary of a graduate student does not favor a foodie lifestyle, to say the least.  Semester after semester I have to pass on the truffles, the cheese section of the grocery store, skip the lamb and ahi tuna and so on. Someday maybe I will be able to afford all of my food dreams!  But for last night I was stuck with what looked like an empty fridge.  I did have some chicken but the thought of plain roasted chicken was not appetizing, and I only found one little zucchini in the way of vegetables. However,  I did have onions, garlic, lemons and olive oil! I also just bought a lemon basil plant at the farmers market on Saturday, so I had a fresh herb to play with. So I still ended up with roasted chicken—but it was tasty and lemony and made me happy. Funny how a special meal was the result of a pity party about all the food I “didn’t” have.

Chicken breast, split
3 large cloves garlic
Lemon basil leaves
Salt and pepper
Olive oil

Mash the garlic and lemon basil with some salt, oil, and lemon juice in a small bowl. Cut the skin of the chicken breast away from the meat, but don’t cut it off—just make a little pocket. Put the chicken breasts in a roasting pan (make sure they are snugly in there) and stuff the garlic/basil mix under the skin. Cut the zucchini however you want and the onion too. I always cut onions through the root end and then slice them because I think they look pretty that way but it really doesn’t matter. Toss the zucchini and onion with more olive oil and lemon juice, and arrange them around the chicken. I usually pour a little more oil and salt over everything before putting it in the oven. Bake at 375° for about 30 minutes? But you will have to check the cooking time for yourself.  All done! I had the chicken alone but I think it would be good with brown rice too.


Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Is it a cookie? Or is it a cake?

Sunday was a good day. It was coolish and rainy, a perfect day for baking! I’ve had some Frenchie desserts on my mind lately—madelines specifically. You can imagine my dismay when I went to Target and there were no tins! So off I went to Williams-Sonoma, only to discover a $32 madeline tin which was definitely out of my league price-wise. I was just about ready to give up my tasty cake cookie ideas, but then made a stop at my Dad’s house where I found a madeline tin that definitely needed some love. I took it home and whipped up a batch using David Lebovitz’s recipe. I included the baking soda and lemon icing (and mine turned out “humpy” ooh la la!). I didn’t bother with chilling the batter, but I did stick the tin, buttered and floured, into the freezer while I prepared the batter. Baking time can make or break these little guys, so be very careful to watch and not overcook them. 

The best part was that I got to bring them to a party to share with friends!


Thursday, May 19, 2011

In anticipation of spring.....

Springtime in Wisconsin is defined by anticipation—of walks in the woods, camping, tender spring vegetables, and bright blossoms and buds. Everything is electric green and is charged with a tangible promise of a fresh start. 

Spring is also a very happy time for food! The bright colors of spring are inspirational for making vivid and tasty cakes, cookies, and frozen desserts. I was recently fortunate enough to bake two cakes for a good friend’s birthday party—one chocolate, and one bumble bee. Chocolate cake is self-explanatory, but bumble bee cake is a delightful mix of cinnamon, crushed pineapple, bananas, and pecans. Lighter than carrot cake, it is very tasty with a nice cream cheese frosting. My favorite part about these cakes was the decorations! The birthday party had a garden theme, and what better for a spring-time garden than meringue mushrooms and a spun-sugar nest with marzipan eggs? It was my first time with both, and I had a truly spectacular time making a giant mess in the kitchen. My best friend came and helped me, and we drank beer and listened to 90’s hip-hop and danced the whole time.  

In the end, the cakes were very good and pretty. I baked each in a bundt pan, cut the finished cake in half, and assembled them into caterpillars. I set them on a bed of green coconut, frosted them, and drizzled white chocolate in different colors over them to make stripes. I assembled the mushrooms using dark chocolate as glue and used white chocolate to make the spots on the caps. I tried to make the marzipan eggs look like duck eggs by dusting them with cocoa, and I also dusted the mushroom caps to make them look dirty. I nestled my meringue toadstools around the caterpillars and voila! Birthday cake complete.  I forgot to take pictures of the actual cake—because I was having so much fun at the party! And I think that is a good thing.