October, 2004

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Garlic-Scallion Bread
Oct 30th, 2004

When our friends Allan and Maria came to dinner last week, I wanted to make something slightly special but that would be doable on a weeknight. Since I had been reading through a book on quick breads, I decided on creamy squash soup and bread. I ended up adding curry rubbed chicken breasts and a green salad to the menu, and it all turned out very well. I was cooking full speed for a while, but I ended up getting everything on the table about and hour and a half after I got home, which was good.

The quick bread I chose was Garlic-Scallion Bread. It sounded like it would go well with a creamy, sweet soup, and it did. I served cream cheese with it at the table, and the combination was yummy. It would also go really well with cream cheese and smoked salmon. Yummmmm....


Garlic-Scallion Bread

3/4 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground white pepper
1 large egg, lightly beaten
3 tbsp olive oil
1 cup skim milk
1 tbsp minced garlic
1 cup plus 2 tbsp thinly sliced scallions, green and white parts


Preheat the oven to 375F. Lightly coat a 9 x 5 x 2 1/2 inch loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray.

In a large bowl, sift together the whole wheat and all-purpose flours, cornmeal, baking powder, salt and pepper. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg, oil, milk, and garlic. Stir the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients just until the dry are moistened, about 10 strokes. Gently fold in 1 cup of the scallions.

Spoon the batter into the loaf pan and sprinkle the remaining 2 tablespoons scallions evenly on top of
the bread. Bake for 45 to 55 minutes, or until light golden brown and a wooden skewer inserted in the center of the loaf comes out clean.

Cool for 10 minutes in the baking pan. Remove from the pan and serve warm or transfer to a rack to cool completely.

-Sigal Seeber, Light Quick Breads
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Missing Squash
Oct 27th, 2004

Stupid server elves, stealing my squash recipe. I hope they enjoyed it! I'll try to recreate a shorter version here, as this is one I came up with myself so there's no cookbook to refer to if I want to make it again.

Orangetti Squash with Roasted Tomato Sauce

1 Orangetti or Spaghetti Squash
Package of yummy dinner sized sausages
2 cups Roasted Tomato Sauce or jarred sauce
A few red bell peppers
As many garlic cloves as you like
Parmesan cheese


Preheat oven to 400°F.

Cut the squash in half and scoop out the seeds and goop. Spread the cut side with butter and place the squash cut side down on an oiled roasting pan. Seed and halve the red bell peppers and place cut side down in the same pan. Sprinkle the garlic cloves, still in their papery husks, over the vegetables. Place in the preheated oven.

After ten or fifteen minutes of cooking time, add the sausages to the pan (or another one if you're running out of room). Check the oven every ten minutes or so, turning the sausages and garlic and removing anything that
looks done. Place the red peppers in a paper bag and seal to steam for a few minutes. When cool enough to touch, peel off the skins. The squash will be done when the skin side gives when you press it, and the squash starts to collapse a bit. This should take about 40 minutes total.

Warm the tomato sauce in a saucepan. Grate some cheese.

Scrape the flesh out of the squash into a bowl, it should come out in strings like spaghetti. Season with salt, pepper, and butter if desired. Every person should get a scoop of squash topped with tomato sauce and cheese, a nicely roasted sausage, roasted red pepper slices, and roasted garlic cloves to squish with your fork and eat their yummy insides. Enjoy!

-Kymm
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Roasted Tomato Sauce
Oct 11th, 2004

This is a very yummy and hassle-free way to make tomato sauce. You roast the tomatoes and veggies in the oven and then pop it all in the blender. Oven roasting tends to bring out the sweetness in fruits and vegetables, and gives this sauce a good rich flavor.

The recipe works well with 2 1/2 pounds of tomatoes, and I had bought a 5 pound box, so I was able to try two variations of the recipe. First I tried it as given, but found that a little bland. The second time I added roasted bell peppers and wine and jacked up the salt and flavorings - this one was definitely the winner.

This is a good recipe to make when you're hanging around the house doing other things. It doesn't take much attention, just time to cook.

The original recipe can be found on Too Many Chefs. For the red bell pepper variation substitute a diced shallot and 2 sweet bell peppers, each cut in fourths for the white onions and add about a half cup or so of wine during the simmering/reducing of the sauce.


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Aromatic Vegetable Turnovers with Yogurt Pastry
Oct 8th, 2004

These are simply adorable. They're little half-moon shaped pastries filled with an Indian-spiced potato, onion, and pea filling. They're very similar to a samosa, but without the deep frying. I'm not sure they're any healthier, as there is a stick of butter in the pastry dough, but at least they're not as messy to make!

Don't be put off by having to make pastry dough. This recipe is definitely not a weeknight dinner recipe, but it's eminently doable on a Sunday morning - even with the enthusiastic assistance of two grubby-fingered little helpers. I gave Jay and Ian each their own little pieces of dough to either roll out or eat/mangle/destroy as desired. I remember really enjoying helping my mom roll out dough as a child, it's such a homey comforting thing to do.

I really enjoyed the finished product, and it makes many turnovers so you can stash some in the freezer for quick dinners or snacks. But I think the filling could use a bit of punching up. I've made another recipe in the past that combines sweet potatoes and spices in a patty that is then quick fried and eaten hot. I'm thinking of revisiting that recipe and modifying it to make a cumin scented sweet potato filling for next time.

These can be served warm or cool, but not chilled. They would also be an excellent appetizer or side dish for an Indian dinner.


Aromatic Vegetable Turnovers with Yogurt Pastry

For the filling:
1 tbsp butter
2 tbsp olive oil
8 ounces onion, finely chopped (red onion preferred)
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
6 ounces potatoes, cut in small cubes
2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
1 cup frozen small peas
Handful fresh mint leaves, finely chopped
Salt and black pepper

For the Pastry:
1 stick butter
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup plain yogurt
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 egg yolk


Make the filling first. Melt the butter and olive oil in a large skillet over a medium heat. Add the onions and garlic, and cook for a few minutes, stirring occasionally until the onions begin to soften. Add the cubed potatoes
and cook for 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally, until they too are just soft. Stir in the spices and cook for one minute; then remove the skillet from the heat. Add the peas.

Turn the mixture into a mixing bowl and season it well with salt and pepper. Stir the mint into the mixture. Leave the mixture on one side until cold.

Lightly grease a large baking tray. To make the pastry, melt the butter and then leave it to cool. Whisk together the olive oil and egg, stir in the yogurt, then, using a wooden spoon, stir the melted butter into the yogurt mixture, a little at a time, until smoothly mixed. Sift the flour, baking soda and salt together. Gradually stir the flour into the yogurt mixture to form a soft dough. Turn out on to a lightly floured surface and knead gently for a few minutes. Then roll the dough out to about 1/4-inch thick. Using the rim of a glass about four inches in diameter, cut out circles from the pastry. Spoon about two teaspoons of the filling on to one side of each circle.
Fold the pastry over to firm a semi-circular turnover. Press the edges to seal. Place on the baking tray and brush with a little egg yolk. Bake in a preheated oven, 400F, for
about 20 minutes or until golden.

-Josceline Dimbleby , The Practically Vegetarian Cookbook
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Mom's Famous Banana Bread
Oct 6th, 2004

This banana bread recipe is one of the dishes Jim remembers fondly from his childhood. A few years back he called his mom and got the recipe, and since then that dog-eared, batter stained, jotted down recipe is the only banana bread recipe that is allowed to be prepared in our home. I have to admit it is good, especially when you let a four year old help you smush the bananas, lick the beaters, and sneak chocolate chips from the batter. Luckily, I usually can only swipe a piece or two before Jim and the boys have gobbled the rest so it's a fairly safe thing to have around the house. But be warned, it's pretty darn tempting coming straight out of the oven, especially if your four year old has left a few chocolate chips behind.

I find that this makes one regular loaf pan and one mini pan. The mini pan is for eating hot out of the oven!


Moms Famous Banana Bread

1/2 cup butter
1 cup white sugar
2 eggs (well beaten)
2 mashed bananas [very ripe - use a bit more if they're small]
1 tsp vanilla
3 tbsp sour cream
1 tsp baking soda
2 cups flour
2 tsp cinammon
Pecans, raisins, or chocolate chips as desired


Cream butter and sugar in a bowl. Mix bananas, eggs, and vanilla
in another bowl then add to butter and sugar mixture. Add the baking
soda to the sour cream and whip. Alternately add the flour and baking
soda/sour cream mixture to the banans bowl, mixing after each addition.
Add the pecans, raisins, or chocolate chips if using.

Bake at 325-350F for 45 minutes to an hour.

-Jims Mom
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Soy-Poached Chicken
Oct 4th, 2004

I've talked before about how much I like Mark Bittman's recipes. They're minimalist and unfussy, yet flavorful and interesting. I've had this recipe for soy-poached chicken marked as one to try for a while, but it's hard to find a 2 1/2 to 3 pound chicken these days. Most of the whole chickens that are sold in the supermarket are closer to 5 pounds, which means they are bigger and therefore older birds. The older the bird the stringier and less tender the meat. But last weekend my grocery store happened to have small organic chickens available. They were labelled 'young chickens', which gave me pause, but they were exactly the right size and organic to boot. It is a bit hard to justify spending more money to buy less chicken, but I bashed my inner cheapskate until she shut up, and pressed on.

Because the chicken is smaller than what we're used to using for a roasting chicken, the cooking time is quite a bit shorter as well, so this actually is a workable weeknight recipe. Bittman mentions that you can poach some root vegetables along with the chicken in the soy sauce mixture for added flavor and to serve along side, but I found that they soaked up too much of the sauce and were too salty. I think that chopping up some 2-inch chunks of veggies like parsnips, turnips, carrots, or potatoes (sweet or otherwise) and roasting them with some olive oil and salt in a 400F oven while the chicken is cooking would be a better alternative. Serve with jasmine rice and some of the poaching liquid drizzled over the roasted veggies and you've got a delicious, unusual dinner.

The recipe uses entire bottles of both soy sauce and wine, but you can save the sauce in the freezer and use it again and again - just topping up the liquids as necessary. Also, I didn't have any mushroom-flavored soy sauce, so I threw in some frozen cubes of shitake soaking water I had in my freezer. Don't know if it made any difference but it made me happy.


Soy-Poached Chicken

3 cups mushroom-flavored soy sauce, or any dark soy sauce
3 cups (one bottle) mei kuei lu chiew wine, or any floral, off-dry wine, like Gewurztraminer or Muscat
2 pieces star anise
14 ounces yellow rock sugar (1 box), or 1 cup white sugar
3 ounces giner (about a 5 ounce knob), cut into thick slices and bruised w/ the side of a knife
10 medium scallions, untrimmed
1 whole chicken (2 to 3 pounds)


In a narrow pot with about a 6-quart capacity, combine the soy sauce, wine, 2 cups water, and star anise over high heat. While the sugar is still in its box (or wrapped in a towel), smack it several times with a hammer or rolling pin to break it up, it need not be too fine. Add the sugar and ginger to the liquid and bring it to a rolling boil.

Add 6 of the scallions, then gently and slowly lower the chicken into the liquid, breast side down. (In a narrow pot, the liquid will easily cover the chicken; if it is close, just dunk the chicken under the liquid as it cooks. If it is not close, add a mixture of equal parts soy sauce and water to raise the level). Bring the liquid back to a boil and boil steadily for 10 minutes. Turn off the heat and turn the chicken over so the breast side is up. Let it sit in the hot liquid for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, trim and mince the remaining scallions and preheat the oven to 500F, if you like.

Carefully remove the chicken from the liquid and serve it, hot or at room temperature. Or place it in a skillet or roasting pan. Roast for 5 minutes, or until nicely browned; keep an eye on it, because it can burn easily. In either-case, reheat the sauce and, when the chicken is ready, carve it. Serve the chicken with a few spoonfuls of sauce on it. Pour another cup or so of the sauce in a bowl and add the mince scallions; pass this at the table.

-The Minimalist Cooks Dinner, Mark Bittman
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Roasted Red Lentil Soup
Oct 4th, 2004

Okay, this is the last recipe from Spice Week. I really like lentil soup, and usually I use the recipe I got from my mom years ago. I've tried many different lentil soup recipes over the years, and none of them have been as good as that recipe. But this one just might be better. I think there are two things that make this recipe special - red lentils and homemade curry powder. Red lentils seem to cook down more and make a nice creamy soup. And somehow they taste less hearty than the regular green-brown kind - Jim commented that he could eat more of this soup at a time than my regular recipe, and really the only substantive difference in the two is the type of lentil.

And then I used my homemade curry powder and I think it lends a depth of taste and slight sweetness to the soup that a commercial curry blend might not (unless you've got a real good one).

I found my red lentils at a Mediterranean deli/grocery, but I think you can also often find them at grocery or healthfood stores that have bulk bins.

Oh, and I don't have any asafetida so I left it out. If you do find some you'll want to store it in a spice bottle quarantined within another glass bottle. It's some stinky stuff. But it has a unique tart, pungent taste for which there really is no substitute.


Roasted Red Lentil Soup

1 tbsp curry powder
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp asafetida
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
3 tbsp vegetable oil
2 tsp black or brown mustard seeds
2 tsp cumin seeds
1/4 cup white sesame seeds
1 tbsp finely chopped garlic
2 cups raw red lentils
1 cup finely chopped onion
2 cups finely chopped celery
2 cups finely chopped carrots
5 cups chicken or vegetable broth
3 cups water
1 cup canned diced tomatoes with juice
1 tsp salt


Combine the curry powder, cumin, asafetida, ginger, and pepper in a small bowl, stir to mix well and set aside.

In a large soup pot or Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium heat for 1 minute. Add the mustard seeds and cumin seeds and stir almost constantly until the seeds pop, 1 to 2 minutes. Reduce the heat to low and add the sesame seeds. Cook, stirring, until the sesame seeds are golden brown,
1 to 2 minutes.

Add the garlic and the small bowl of spices and stir well for about 30 seconds to toast the spices. Add the lentils and cook 5 minutes, still over medium heat, stirring often. Add the onion, celery and carrots and cook, stirring, for about 1 minute. Add the broth and water, bring to a rolling boil and reduce the heat to maintain an active simmer. Cook for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the lentils are soft and easily mashed.

Add the tomatoes and continue cooking 25 minutes to mingle the flavors, stirring occasionally. Stir in the salt and taste, adding a little more salt, if needed. Serve hot or warm.

[I added a splash of balsamic vinegar about 5 minutes before the end of cooking time. A little bit of acid at the end seems to perk up a lentil soup. But you don't want
to add it earlier in the cooking process or it will make the lentils tough. Also if you don't have asafetida just skip it.]

-Nancie McDermott, The Curry Book
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Pumpkin & Salsa Soup
Oct 1st, 2004

Here's another version of a squash soup - this one made pretty much entirely out of cans! I made pumpkin muffins for a pumpkin carving party and had some canned pumpkin puree left (not the sweetened kind for pies, just the plain stuff). So I put the pumpkin puree in a soup pot with some chicken broth, cumin, and some salsa. I cooked it all until the flavors seemed to have melded, and then added some non-fat evaporated milk that was also left over from the muffins. This is a fairly effective substitute for cream. You may or may not need to add salt at this point, depends on how salty your broth was.

That's it! Serve with crusty bread and maybe some grated cheese (cheddar or jalapeno jack would be good) to sprinkle on top of the soup.


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Burmese-Style Pork Curry with Fresh Ginger
Oct 1st, 2004

After the chicken curry, our spice week adventures took a turn to Southeast Asia. This recipe is a variation on a Northern Thai dish called gaeng hahng ley, which in turn was borrowed from the Burmese. It calls for country-style pork ribs, which I believe come from the area close to the shoulder and may or may not include bones. This recipe calls for boneless. You can find country-style ribs that come from the loin or from the shoulder, the shoulder cut is usually cheaper and a bit fattier. That's what I had on hand, and I think the dish probably would be better with the slightly leaner cut. But dang, it's a cheap meal with the shoulder country ribs.

As with most Thai curries, this goes well with Jasmine rice. Some mango tossed in lime juice would be an excellent dessert.


Burmese-Style Pork Curry with Fresh Ginger

1/4 cup peeled, slivered fresh ginger [leave fairly large
so it's easily avoidable in the finished dish]
1 1/2 pounds boneless country-style pork ribs
2 tbsp red curry paste
1/4 cup light or dark brown sugar
2 1/2 cups water
2 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp dark soy sauce or 2 tsp regular soy sauce
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup thinly sliced shallots
2 tbsp minced garlic
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice


Place the slivered ginger in a small bowl, add warm water to cover and set aside. Cut the pork into 1-inch chunks.

Combine the pork, curry paste and brown sugar in a heavy 6-quart saucepan or Dutch oven. Stir to combine the curry paste and sugar, and coat the pork with the mixture. Place the pan over medium heat and cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the pork browns slightly and renders some of its fat.

In a large measuring cup, stir together the water, turmeric, soy sauce, and salt, and pour over the pork. Bring to a rolling boil and lower the heat to maintain a simmer. Cook, uncovered, until the meat is tender and
the sauce has cooked down somewhat and thickened, 45 to 50 minutes.

Add the ginger with its soaking liquid, along with the shallots, garlic, and lime juice. Continue cooking for 5 more minutes. Taste the sauce: it should have a pleasing balance of flavor - salty, sour, and sweet. Adjust by adding more salt, lime juice, or sugar, if needed. Serve hot or warm.

Reheats well.

-Nancie McDermott, The Curry Book
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