Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Punjabi Eggplant with Potatoes

I adapted this recipe from Anupy Singla's Vegan Indian Cooking, which is filled with earthy, exciting opportunities to improve my health. And I fully intend to turn to it more often!

For now, we've got this Punjabi eggplant and potato dish, or—as Singla has dubbed it—"Babaji's Eggplant with Potatoes," called so after her paternal grandfather.

I made a few adjustments, but Singla's recipe does a fantastic job of emphasizing the simple wonder of the eggplant. Meaty and juicy, a ready canvas to whatever array of seasonings you choose to sprinkle on it.

Let's go ahead to the recipe then!

Punjabi Eggplant with Potatoes (adapted from Vegan Indian Cooking)
Serves 4.

2 tablespoons oil
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspon cumin powder
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1, 2-inch piece of giner root, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch-long matchsticks
4 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
1 medium potato, peeled and roughly chopped
1 large yellow onion, peeled and roughly chopped
1 Anaheim chile, stemmed, seeded, and chopped
1 large tomato, chopped
2 large eggplants with skin on, roughly chopped, with woody ends left intact (Note: the author recommends the woody ends as the meatiest part of the eggplant, to be cooked along with the rest of the dish)
2 teaspoons sea salt
1 tablespoon garam masala
1 teaspoon cayenne
1 tablespoon ground coriander
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped (for garnish)

1. In a heavy-bottomed Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium-high.
2. Add the garlic and onion powders, cumin, and turmeric, along with the ginger root. Cook, stirring, for about 2 minutes.
3. Add the potato and cook for 2 minutes.
4. Add the onions and chiles and cook for 2 more minutes, until the potatoes have begun to brown.
5. Add the chopped tomato and cook for 2 minutes.
6. Fold in the eggplant, then add salt, garam masala, coriander, and cayenne. Cook for another 2 minutes.
7. Reduce heat to low, partially covering the pan, and allow the ingredients to continue cooking for 10 minutes.
8. Turn off the heat. Cover the pan completely and let set for 5 minutes as the flavors blend.
9. Garnish with cilantro and serve.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Confit Beets with a Garlic Feta Spread

We don't have much time left with beets (the season wraps up here in July, I think), so I'm inclined to go a little crazy. Stained hands be damned.

On Father's Day, I made a roasted beet and carrot salad to accompany the delicious steaks my dad grilled up. And now just two days later, I'm back on the beet wagon.

This confit beet crostini comes courtesy of Indie Plate ingredients again. I'm partnering with the Baton Rouge grocery delivery service to demonstrate the myriad mouthwatering morsels you can craft up with their offerings. I find the recipe, do the shopping, and take the pictures. But I need a good jumping-off point.

I try to be a from-scratch cook as much as possible, and a key part of that is fresh produce. And I like knowing for sure that it's coming from local farms, where it might not be the prettiest or most pleasingly shaped, but it's the real deal.

So here's what came inside my Indie Plate parcel.

And so I trimmed them. Placed them in a pan.

Heart beets.
And here's where the confit part comes in: I covered the beets with about an inch of oil (maybe a little less) and in the oven they went. When they came out, I let them remain in the oil until they were cool enough to handle and peel.

Then I sliced the beets and assembled the crostini, using a whipped garlic feta spread I made with feta from Indie Plate (sourced from Rockin' R Dairy in Tylertown, MS). 

Finished with a drizzle of balsamic vinaigrette and served!

Confit Beet Crostini
Makes three crostini
[Ingredients from Indie Plate in bold]

5 beets, trimmed (if beets are on the large side, they should be halved)
Olive oil (enough to cover beets in a high-sided pan—about 1 1/2 cups)
4 oz. feta (room temperature)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed
Curly green leaf lettuce (for garnish)
Balsamic vinaigrette (I made mine with Fresina's balsamic vinegar)
Toast (for serving—seasoned with dried herbs and drizzled with oil before toasting in oven)

1. Preheat oven to 300. Place the trimmed beets in a high-sided baking pan and cover with one inch oil. Roast for 45 minutes until fork-tender.
2. Make whipped feta topping by placing feta, 2 tablespoons olive oil, garlic, salt, and pepper in a mixing bowl. Use a hand mixer to whip feta until it's the consistency of a spread.
2. Take beets out of the oven and allow to cool under the oil. Once you're able to handle the beets (about 20–25 minutes), peel them and slice them into 1/2-inch thick slices.
3. To assemble: Spread feta on toast. Top with curly lettuce, then beet slices. Drizzle with balsamic vinaigrette. Serve.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Pot o' Neck Bones: Make Your Own Ramen

It wasn't that long ago that I was a college kid, subsisting mainly off of Hot Pockets, Easy Mac, and heaping late-night bowls of cereal. What's a skillet? Is that the one you put the bacon in?

And now here I find myself making ramen again. But stay with me! This is a good one.

Let's start with the ingredients. The style of ramen I made has a tonkotsu (pork bone) broth. I actually arrived at this recipe by way of pork bone. I recently subscribed to a new delivery service in Baton Rouge, and I'll be partnering with them regularly to whip up some seasonal and delicious things. Indie Plate is a pipeline to all that's fresh, seasonal, and delicious. Not just vegetables either! The site traffics in meat, fish, pantry goods, and more, all from local farms and artisans, for a small flat delivery fee too.

Ordering online, I'm at a much lower risk of loading up my cart with things I don't need or won't use in time. And I won't shop just for one recipe, which I am sadly prone to do. If you're in the area, I surely recommend it. And if you're not a Baton Rouge reader, fingers crossed that you've got something similar in the area—otherwise, start clamoring!

Back to pork neck bones: I found them on Indie Plate's site and, since I'd never made my own pork broth before, I was intrigued. And the recipe grew from there. Onions and carrots, summer vegetables for a stir-fry, leaf lard for the vegetables and frying the egg I set on top of the ramen. All from Indie Plate. I rounded up the rest from the neighborhood grocery once I had firmed up my ingredient list.

Most pork neck broth recipes I found involved simmering for about twelve hours. While I definitely wanted the punch of slow-roasted flavor, I was concerned with leaving the burners on, and I haven't yet used the crockpot I have in my closet. So when I found this alternative take from Seattle Magazine, I was relieved.

Let me take you through my adaptation—as well as the stir-fry I served on the side.

Pork bones from Iverstine Farms

A little more of my bounty from Indie Plate
Loveably ugly heirloom carrots
Roasted pork bones

Tonkotsu Ramen and Summer Vegetable Stir-Fry

Yield: 2 servings ramen and stir-fry; 2 cups of broth left-over

For pork broth:

4 small meaty pork neck bones (I used a 1.26 oz. package, but ideally would have used more)
3/4 cup water and 4 cups water, divided
1/3 of a white onion, not chopped or sliced, just segmented
2 medium carrots, stemmed and chopped
Kosher salt
Soy sauce

For ramen:
2 cups Pork Broth
1 package Top Ramen noodles (seasoning packet discarded)
1 egg
2 inches leaf lard, diced
Sliced scallions (for garnish)
2 teaspoons sesame oil
Pulled pork from roasting pork bones

For summer stir-fry:4 inches leaf lard, chopped
1 medium zucchini, sliced
3 grape tomatoes, halved and chopped
One fourth an onion, sliced
Sesame oil

For the broth:
1. Preheat the oven to 400. Place the pork bones in a large, high-sided roasting pan. Roast for 70–90 minutes, turning the bones over halfway through, until bones are browned all over.
2. Immediately after removing the pan, pour 3/4 cup water inside and use a wooden spoon to scrape up the browned bits. Transfer bones and liquid to a large stockpot.
3. Add four cups water, onion, and carrots. Bring to a boil and then simmer for two hours. Then cool to room temperature (about an hour).
4. Strain out the solids and set aside. Refrigerate the liquid overnight (I placed it in two mason jars.) Pick the meat out of the bones and refrigerate it in a separate container with carrots and onion. Discard the bones.
5. The next day, as you prepare to make your ramen, bring two cups of the broth to a simmer and season with kosher salt and soy sauce to taste.

For the ramen:
1. Add noodles to simmering broth and cook for 3–4 minutes. Meanwhile, heat up chopped leaf lard in a medium non-stick skillet over medium-high heat, rendering fat. Fry egg—seasoning with salt and pepper—until white is set but yolk is still runny.
2. To serve, ladle noodles into each bowl, draining excess broth. Top with fried egg, scallions, reserved pork from neck bones, and a drizzle of sesame oil. Serve!

For the summer stir-fry:
1. Heat up a large skillet to medium-high. Add chopped leaf lard and cook for five minutes, pushing down on lard to render fat. Set aside lard.
2. Add zucchini, tomatoes, and onions to skillet, drizzle with sesame seed oil, and cook, stirring, until golden brown.
3. Serve alongside ramen.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Creole Pickled Squash: A Perfect Burger Topping

Credit where credit's due: I first had pickled squash on a burger at Toups' Meatery in New Orleans. And ever since, I've been in love. These briny morsels have a certain je ne sais quoi that brings the burger home. And with that sharp, juicy flavor, you wouldn't be blamed for snacking straight out of the jar.

When I was searching around for a great recipe, I was thrilled to happen upon Acadiana Table, whom I recognized from their recent SAVEUR nomination. And I was even happier when I adapted their recipe (with a few tweaks) and found it to be fantastic.

So here's how you do it—picking, canning, and all.

Creole Pickled Squash
(adapted from Acadiana Table)
Yield: two 16 oz. jars

3 yellow squash, thinly sliced
1 large yellow onion, peeled and thinly sliced
1/8 cup kosher salt
1 1/2 cup distilled white vinegar
1 1/2 cup cider vinegar (couldn't find sugarcane vinegar, despite living in Louisiana...)
1/2 tablespoon brown mustard seed
1/2 tablespoon black peppercorns
1/2 tablespoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 cup sugar
2 16-oz jars
1 medium saucepan
1 large saucepan

1. Combine squash and onions in a large mixing bowl. Sprinkle salt over the vegetables. Stir, then cover and refrigerate for one hour.
2. In a medium saucepan, bring vinegars, spices, and salt to a boil (stirring to combine). Take squash and onions out of refrigerator. Rinse off salt and add to vinegar mixture. When the liquids have returned to a boil, turn off heat and let sit for thirty minutes.
3. Meanwhile, remove lids and rings from the jars and place all components in the large stockpot and cover with water. Bring water to a boil, sterilizing jars for five minutes.
4. Use tongs to remove the jars from the stockpot and place upside-down on a clean dish towel.
5. Once the squash is done pickling, lade it into the sterilized jars. Twist on lids. Return the water in the stockpot to a boil. Use tongs to return jars to the water. Lower heat to a simmer and process jars for ten minutes. Remove jars using tongs and let cool.

Recommendation: Burger topping! I made my patties with a 4-to-1 ratio of ground beef and pork sausage, and included shallots, thyme, oregano, and egg. Served on a kaiser roll with herbed aioli. It was delicious.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Crispy Smashed Potatoes and Prosciutto-Wrapped Green Beans: Steak Sides

When faced with a big, juicy steak—and before that, the thought of searing that baby to perfection—it can be all too easy to eschew sides...and reason and composure. Steak!!

But if you're able to pull yourself together, delicately blot the drool from your mouth, and spend a little more time in the kitchen, you'll end up crafting a hearty and oh-so-satisfying square meal.

It's like having this one fantastic dress that you want to wear all the damn time—and then you take it to new heights with killer heels and one of those statement necklace thingies (probably not the best example, as I spend most of my time barefoot and not-very-bejeweled.) But you see what I mean.

Let's get to the food.

The green beans are easy to tackle. Quickly blanched, cooled, wrapped in proscuitto, and then browned on each side among minced garlic (with lemon juice squeezed over).

The potatoes I love because they're a slight twist on your usual potato recipe. You get the crispiness of fries or roasted potatoes, the spread and inner texture of mashed potatoes, and the cracked-open aromatics of a baked potatoes. Steak 'n potatoes—there's a reason why it's a thing.

Boil, smash, season, and roast.

Crispy Smashed Potatoes and Prosciutto-Wrapped Green BeansYield: 2 servings

For the potatoes
4 potatoes
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon herbes de Provence

For the green beans:
4 oz. green beans
2 slices prosciutto
2 cloves garlic, minced
Juice from one lemon

For the potatoes:

1. Place potatoes in a large saucepan, covered by at least two inches of salted water. Bring water to a boil and cook for about 10 minutes until very tender (test with fork). Strain water from potatoes and cool under running water. 
2. Preheat the oven to 400. Once potatoes are cool to the touch, carefully smash them while keeping the potatoes intact. Place on a foil-lined baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt, pepper, and herbes de Provence.
3. Roast for thirty minutes, rotating the pan halfway through, until potatoes' edges are golden brown and crisp.

For the green beans:
1. In a medium saucepan of salted boiling water, blanch green beans until they turn bright green. Transfer beans to a bowl of ice water to stop cooking.
2. Divide green beans into two bunches. Wrap with prosciutto.
3. Heat a grill pan to medium-high and add minced garlic, cooking till golden. Use tongs to place green beans in the grill pan. Squeeze lemon juice over each bunch. Cook for seven minutes, using tongs to flip over halfway through. Once flipped, squeeze lemon juice over the beans again.

Implied: your steak is searing to perfection. Put all together and serve!

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Test Kitchen: Zucchini Hash with Arugula Mint Salsa Verde

I don't have the lengthiest attention span. Usually, I jump from new recipe to new recipe, a culinary globetrotter. Doesn't leave a lot of room for refinement.

Next Saturday I'll be doing a cooking demo at the local farmers' market, thanks in part to this little blog! I've worked in a professional kitchen and I've been demonstrating my recipes online here for a few years. But I haven't done a demo like this, so I want to bring something special.

You can find the final recipe at the bottom of the page, but allow me to take you through the process, with words and pictures.

I started with zucchini and tomatoes. I first made this Zucchini "Pasta" with Slow-Roasted Tomatoes last year, with zucchini ribbons, a traditional pesto, and a creamy lemon sauce.

On my first reworking, I used cherry tomatoes rather than vine-ripe, and I used the julienne setting on my mandoline to slice the zucchini into more noodle-like shapes. I replaced the creamy lemon sauce with a lemon yogurt sauce and opted for an arugula mint pesto, sweetened by honey and spiced by cayenne.

The results? The cherry tomatoes—topped with fresh garlic—were delicious, but I should have roasted them for longer at a lower heat, because they weren't evenly caramelized and had charred a bit at the bottom.

The pesto, which I added to bit by bit in the food processor based on taste tests, was good but its consistency too similar to the yogurt.

The noodles were too moist and could have used more seasoning. Not to say that the dish was a disaster—far from it—but it was easy to see where I could improve and how.

On to test two! I added yellow squash to the mix, still julienning the squashes but squeezing them dry before I cooked them—this time on higher heat with a little lemon pepper, going for a crisper noodle.

I went for slightly larger tomatoes, cutting them into eighths and sprinkling them with garlic powder rather than fresh garlic—mostly because the shape of the wedges made them not as conducive to topping with garlic slivers as the cherry tomatoes were. I tossed the tomatoes completely in oil and rotated the pan in the oven halfway through the roasting process, which ran for about an hour and a half at 250.

I used the same lemon yogurt sauce but instead of the arugula mint pesto, I grabbed some fresh arugula and mint, chopped it up, and mixed in honey, lemon juice, olive oil, and cracked black pepper.

And so we arrive at the final recipe. It's pretty...and pretty tasty.

Zucchini Hash with Arugula Mint Salsa Verde
Yield: 8 appetizer servings


For the zucchini hash:
2 large zucchini, peeled
1 large yellow squash, peeled
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tablespoon lemon pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil

For the roasted tomatoes:
1 large tomato, cut into eighths
1/2 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon olive oil
Cracked black pepper

For the lemon yogurt sauce:
1/2 cup Greek yogurt
Zest and juice from one lemon
1/4 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano (or Parmesan)

For the salsa verde:

1 cup arugula, minced
1/2 cup mint leaves, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon honey
Cracked black pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 250. Place tomato wedges on  a foil-lined, rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with garlic powder and pepper, and toss tomatoes. Roast for an hour and a half, rotating the pan halfway through, until tomatoes are evenly caramelized.
2. Make the sauces. In two different bowls, combine the ingredients for each sauce. Cover and chill each sauce for thirty minutes.
3. Julienne the zucchini and squash. I used the julienne setting on my mandoline slicer, but you can do it by hand as well. Using a clean towel, squeeze the moisture out of the slices.
4. In a large skillet, heat two tablespoons olive oil over medium-high heat. Add minced garlic and sautée for 2–3 minutes. Add in julienne squashes and cook, flipping often, until the slices are browned and starting to crisp.
5. To plate: Begin with a heaping mound of squash. Top with a dollop of lemon yogurt and a spoonful of the salsa verde. Tomato wedge on the side.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Buttermilk and Bacon Grease Cornbread

Ya know, I've spent the entire twenty-five years of my life in Louisiana, but this dish—more than anything—hammered home that I'm a Southern girl.

There's a lot to love about the South. I eschew the camo and pick-up trucks. But the food...my God, the food.

We're having a potluck at work tomorrow, and I opted to do another Test Kitchen: Creole crawfish and tasso chowder from New Orleans' The Bombay Club. For my addition/enhancement, I went with this cornbread, sourced from Local Milk, the most gorgeous blog I've seen in a while. I don't have natural light in my kitchen—nor do I have that blogger's photography skills. But I'll be damned if I didn't turn out a delicious product. So I'm sure you will too.

So render your bacon, whisk your dry ingredients, pre-heat your cast-iron...and brace yourself. Delicious bread is coming.

Cornmeal mixed with bacon grease—so golden.

Buttermilk Bacon Grease Cornbread (adapted from Local Milk)
Yield: 1 10-inch skillet of cornbread

1 1/4 cup cornmeal
3 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
3 tablespoons bacon grease (I rendered this from two slices fried, which also greased the skillet for the cornbread)
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup buttermilk
1/4 teaspoon baking soda, made into a slurry with a bit of water

1. Pre-heat oven to 425. Once bacon is fried, place skillet into oven while it is heating.
2. Whisk together cornmeal, flour, salt, and baking powder in a medium mixing bowl.
3. Use hands to mix in bacon grease until mixture has achieved a sandy texture.
4. Stir in eggs and buttermilk well. Add in baking soda slurry and combine completely.
5. Pour mixture evenly into heated cast-iron and bake for twenty minutes, until top is golden-brown.