Sunday, June 29, 2014

Dishes from my Other Blog - Foccacia 'Upma' (Day 180)


You say Panzanella, I say Upma...

Ever bought something from the grocery store and stashed it away in the refrigerator and almost forget about it? as in, by the time you remember about that  loaf of bread you were looking forward to noshing on, Its gone semi stale. That happened to me this week. Brought home a  foccacia bread (this particular loaf had a generous sprinkle of Za'atar) and spotted it 4 days later in the fridge, by which time it was rather dry. No worries, just sauteed an onion, added a tempering of cumin and a pinch of garam masala and Paprika.

You need:
1 loaf of stale Foccacia bread, diced.
1 large onion diced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon Garam masala
1/4 teaspoon Turmeric
1/4 teaspoon  Paprika (or cayenne if you like the heat)
Salt to taste
Cilantro for garnish
Lemon wedges

Spritz the diced Foccacia with water to moisten it slightly.  In a wok, heat the oil and add the cumin when the oil begins to shimmer. Once the cumin  seeds 'split' add the onion and saute till translucent. Stir in the garam masala, turmeric, salt and the Paprika. Next dump in the moistened bread, stir to coat the pieces completely and cover, allowing the flavors to soak into the bread. (~ 5-7 minutes), remove the cover, increase the heat and allow the bread to crisp up at the bottom. (the crunch adds a nice textural component). Garnish with Cilantro and serve with the lemon wedges to be drizzled over prior to scarfing down warm.

Friday, June 27, 2014

The 'We Knead to Bake' Project 2014 - 'Komaj' (Persian date bread with turmeric & cumin)



I've racked up about 1/2 a dozen of my dishes perfected and photographed, and yet, when it comes to actually writing them up to publish them, it appears that I've been afflicted by a kind of writers block. I seem to be having a hard time trying weave in interesting anecdotes to the recipe (which has been promptly jotted down faithfully in one of my notebooks I keep stuffing into cabinets and shelves in almost every room, so that I don't forget exactly what went into it.
I get my breaks from these blocks with the baking projects thankfully. Aparna picked out a Persian bread for this month and gave an advance notice that there wasn't much historical information she could dig out, other than the fact that the recipe from Greg & Lucy Malouf's book 'Saraban' - A Chef's journey through Persia.
There was something intriguing in that combination of Cumin Cardamom, turmeric and dates, so much that I did not even try to add any of my quirky touches to the recipe.. Or did I??

Komaj: (Recipe adapted from 'Saraban' - A Chef's journey through Persia, by Greg & Lucy Malouf)


You need (for the dough) :

3 3/4 cups bread flour (or all-purpose flour)
1 teaspoon active dried yeast
1/8 cup warm water
2 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds, toasted and lightly crushed
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon salt
2/3 cups warm milk

1 1/2 tablespoon Extra virgin olive oil

For the Filling:

12 to 15 dried dates, pitted and cut into chunks (the slightly soft kind)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, soft at room temperature
4 to 5 pods cardamom, powdered

Milk/ cream for brushing dough


Whisk in the yeast with the warm water and allow it to 'bloom' and bubble up slightly (~10 - 15 minutes). Feel free to add a sprinkle of sugar to help the process.

Sift the flour, sugar, turmeric, crushed cumin and salt into the bowl of the stand mixer. Turn on the mixer (fitted with the dough hook), add in the bloomed yeast and the EVOO, and let the liquid ingredients integrate with the dry ones.

Gradually add the milk and olive oil, and knead until you have a smooth and pliable dough that’s not sticky. Shape the dough into a ball and place in a well-oiled bowl, turn to coat the dough and then cover loosely and let it rise till it has doubled (about an hour or so). Once its risen, punch it down and allow the dough to rise again (another hour).



Prepare the filling by mixing together the chopped dates, soft butter and cardamom together in a bowl.


Divide the dough into 8 equal portions . Working with one portion at a time, roll each one out into a rectangle that is about between 1/4" and 1/8” thick. Place a teaspoon of the filling on the sheet of rolled dough (about a quarter of the way along the length).


 Fold the dough over the filling and gently press down to expel any trapped air. At this point, my 8 year old suggested using a Ravioli press when he saw me struggling with a cookie cutter to shape the individual pieces. His Idea was perfect, not only did the dough get sealed it also got shaped perfectly in one shot!



Press down and seal the dough around the filling. With your palm firmly on the ravioli  press, jiggle it a bit to dislodge the extra strip of dough (which can be used to make more of the buns).


Repeat with the remaining portions of dough and the scraps. The date filling was enough for 12 buns.
Place on  a baking tray lined with parchment,  leaving space between them because they will puff up on baking. Let them rest for about 15 minutes.

Then brush them with a little milk and sprinkle the remaining ½ teaspoon of crushed cumin on top, pressing it down a little with your fingers. Bake the Komaj at 200C (400F) for about 8 to 10 minutes.



Cool  on a rack a little and dust with icing sugar if you like (I had none on hand so did not dust the bread). Serve them warm with tea or coffee. These are best eaten the day they’re made. Leftovers can be reheated and eaten the next day.


This recipe makes 12 Komaj.




 This post is being Yeastspotted.



Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Dishes from my Other Blog - Kalamata Olive and Feta Focaccia ( Day 175 )


The Summer holidays are here and I've started getting a daily list from my 8 year old on what he wants for Lunch / Dinner. He'd been asking me to make Pizza for the past week and in true Panfusine style, it meant the original, as in make the dough from scratch, proof, make Pizza sauce from first principles.. At least I'm not expected to boil & curdle milk to make the cheese!



I struck a compromise and made him a simple focaccia instead, with home canned tomatoes and fresh mozzarella, and used the other half of the dough to make this focaccia with Kalamata olives, Feta, Greek oregano and a sprinkle of Aleppo Pepper for the slight hint of heat.

You need: (makes two 9 inch Focaccia pies)

1/2 the quantity of dough from this recipe (https://food52.com/recipes/28124-homemade-pizza-dough)
3/4 cup pitted Kalamata olives
1/2 cup crumbled Feta cheese
3 tablespoons dried Greek Oregano
1 Tablespoon Aleppo Pepper (or regular Red chili flakes)
Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO) for coating the pans

Prepare the dough as specified in the recipe and allow to rise until the volume doubles.
Punch down the dough and divide into two. Drizzle EVOO generously into two 9 inch round baking pans and place the dough in them. using the tips of your fingers, gently push out the dough to cover the entire base of the pan. The dough should appear 'dimpled.
Using your fingers, gently crush the olives (to ensure that the pits is not hiding inside AND to cut it up flat) and place them liberally over the dough. Sprinkle over with the Feta cheese, oregano and the pepper.
Place the pans in a  warm place to rise a second time for about 20 minutes.
Preheat oven to 450 F. Place the pans into the oven and bake for ~20 minutes until the top appears golden brown. Place the pans over a wire rack to cool and serve warm or at room temperature.


Sunday, June 15, 2014

Dishes from my Other blog - Peach and Thai basil salad (Day 166)


I love eating salads as much as I try to procrastinate making  them. You spend a good deal of time carefully dicing the produce, whisk together a dressing, chiffonades of herbs yada yada, and POOF, it takes half the time to polish it off! but all said and done, salads ,especially with those that contain fresh summer fruit, are a pleasure to nosh on.

I made these with some firm peaches I picked up at Trader Joe's yesterday, you know, the kind that are ripe, and yet not soft enough to give in easily when you press them. I peeled and diced them,  a simple dressing of freshly squeezed clementines and Pistachio oil,  a pinch of citrus salt and finished off with a chiffonade of Thai basil. The end result was simply divine!

You need: (Makes 1 serving)

2 ripe yet firm peaches
juice of 1 clementine
2 teaspoons Pistachio oil
pinches of citrus sea salt
8 - 10 Thai basil leaves

Peel the peaches and dice the flesh into small cubes. Whisk together the clementine juice and the pistachio oil along with the salt. Drizzle the dressing over the peaches. Rinse and pat dry the basil leaves. layer them over each other and roll the leaves into a 'cigar'. Using a sharp knife, slice the 'cigar' to create thin strips of basil. Fold into the diced peaches. Serve chilled.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Dishes from my Other blog - Quick 'Moar kuzhambu' / yogurt soup (Day 165)



This is something no self respecting host will ever allow near a guest. No siree.. these are reserved for those lazy days, when the mere mention of cooking induces a severe face scrunch. Its usually paired with refrigerated rice thats been quickly reheated in the microwave along with some papads.

It takes about 10 minutes from start to finish.

You need:

1 cup yogurt
2 cups water
1 tablespoon garbanzo flour
2 tablespoons sesame oil
1 teaspoon mustard
1 teaspoon Cumin
1 Arbol chile broken in two
1 sprig curry leaves, torn
sliced serrano peppers (optional)
1 pinch asafetida
Salt to taste

Whisk together the yogurt, water, salt & the garbanzo flour, so that there are no lumps. Heat the oil in a pan, and once it begins to shimmer add the mustard, cumin, fenugreek & the arbol chile. When the mustard sputters and the fenugreek and the arbol chile turn brown, toss in the curry leaves, serrano and the asafetida  and give the mixture a quick stir. Pour in the yogurt mixture, lower the heat, and simmer until the mixture appears to thicken. Remove from heat, pour over warm rice & slurp down.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Dishes from my other blog - Grilled Halloumi and Bell Peppers (Day 164)


There's a simple dish I love to pair my roties with. Its known as Paneer Shimla Mirch (Shimla Mirch is the Hindi name for Capsicums/ bell peppers. I personally have no idea if it grows especially well in the town of Shimla). It basically involves sauteing onions, tomatoes bell peppers & Paneer together with some seasoning that usually involves Garam Masala.
I was on a Grilling binge today trying to grill the peppers & paneer before tossing them into a dry 'subzi'. I also had some Halloumi that I was hoping to pair with some grilled figs for an appetizer. To cut a long story short, the salty Halloumi sort of ended up eloping with the Bell peppers instead, and it turns out, The figs were all the more happier for it!

You need:
1 block Halloumi cheese cut into 1 cm thick slices
3 Bell peppers (preferably different colors)
1 teaspoon Fennel seeds
1 teaspoon Bishops weed (Ajwain)
2 tablespoons Oil
Juice from 1/2 a lemon
Fresh cracked peppercorn to taste

Grill the Halloumi cheese well on both sides (~ 3-4 mins each side) such that they acquire distinct grill char marks. The trick to getting the clean marks is to leave them undisturbed on the grill for the required time until the charred lines 'detach' from the grill.  Cut the bell peppers such that they form as flat a piece as possible and grill them until the char marks appear (You may have to use a heavy press to keep them down on the grill).
Cut the Halloumi and bell peppers into strips once they cool and toss them into a mixing bowl.
Heat the oil in a skillet and add the Fennel and Ajwain. once they start giving out their characteristic aroma, pour the mix into the Halloumi & bell pepper  and toss to combine.
Drizzle the lemon juice, add the cracked peppercorn and serve warm with pita or naan.

PS: There is no salt to taste line in the list of ingredients & that is on purpose. The Halloumi tends to be so salty, its more than enough to season the peppers.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Dishes from my Other Blog - Quinoa and Lentil stew (Day 162)



I probably should have done this 161 days ago, but better late than never. I also write a daily blog that occupies  a lot of my time, These are dishes that I make for my family's daily sustenance, a l'il bit of this, a pinch of that.. and if it tastes good, I take a photograph & post the recipe (on most days, if my lethargy doesn't get the better of me). A no frills blog. You can catch up with all the recipes by clicking on the Dish a Day Tab on the top of the page.

I made this as a protein rich vegan stew to be made in the pressure cooker in one shot. In the end, I blew it by adding a dollop of Labneh. I'd also added 1/4 cup of dehusked urad dal, in the original version, but did not care for the glutinous texture it yielded.

You need:
1/2 cup each of quinoa & split red lentils (masoor dal)
2 cups crushed tomatoes
1 tablespoon minced ginger
1 green chili, slit lengthwise
1/2 teaspoon Garam masala
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/4 cup powdered cashew
Salt to taste
Cilantro for garnish
Wedges of lime for serving



Combine all the ingredients in a pressure cooker pan, Cover with the lid and allow to cook on mediun until the weight releases 2 - 3 'whistles'. Allow the cooker to cool, transfer the stew to a serving dish, Garnish with the cilantro & serve hot with Naans or Roti

Friday, June 6, 2014

Going Seasonal - Asparagus Pitlai


 South Indian cuisine technically does not exist. And I'm NOT being flippant or trying to get a chuckle out of anyone. In terms of cuisines being defined by Conquerers and their influence, It does not stand a chance. We never had martial interactions with other civilizations, like the Greeks and the Persians, or the Catholic influence that spread from Goa to South America via the Phillipines (Ref: Rachel Laudan).

That is not to say that Intra nation (if there is ever such a term) influences did not shape the cuisine. The most significant of those influences was through  the Marathas, a valiant , martial clan from Western India, who ruled Tanjore in Southern India.  As a result many of the recipes  that arise from this region of South India have share similar sounding names for dishes from both Western India & Tanjore, the most common examples that come to mind are Usal/Usli and Pitla/Pitlai.

Speaking of Pitlai, Its a flavorful savory, nutty thick stew spiced with coriander, and hints of peppercorn. As for the vegetables that go into this stew, for some reason, Bitter melon is the favorite top candidate, followed behind by eggplant, and the occasional green tomato coming up a distant third. Perhaps the reason is because there aren't really any other candidates that hold up in terms of flavoring and texture to the intense flavor profile of the gravy.



T'was eggplants that I had planned for yesterday's dinner of Pitlai, Halfway through prepping the eggplants, I realized that I had a large stash of asparagus that I had picked from Terhune orchards in Princeton. As glamorous and bright green as they look standing tall at the grocery supermarket stand, Its a disappointment to see them in real life. They look camouflaged, the bright green almost masked as they poke out of the earth like aerating Pneumatophore roots of a mangrove tree.



The mesmerizing magic sets in the minute your fingers snap off the shoots from the group, They ooze a clear vegetal sap that just screams summer, and then you're hooked, Its hard to keep yourself in check as you snap away at every shoot, thin ones, fat ones, curled ones & straight ones . If you get a chance to pick these yourself, go for it!


Back to the Pitlai...

Asparagus Pitlai:


You need:
1 tablespoon oil
1 bunch asparagus, cut into 1/2 inch pieces (keep the tips intact)
1 tomato,diced fine
1 tablespoon tamarind concentrate
1 tablespoon Sambar powder
1 tablespoon powdered Jaggery or dark brown sugar
1/4 cup split pigeon peas (tuar dal)
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
2 cups water
Salt to taste

Spice blend paste:
2 teaspoons oil
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
1 teaspoon dehusked split Urad dal
1 teaspoon split garbanzo dal (Chana dal)
Pinch of asafetida (optional, the other ingredients provide plenty of flavor)
1-2 dried arbol chiles
6-8 whole peppercorns1/4 cup shredded fresh coconut


For the tempering:
1 tablespoon ghee
1 teaspoon mustard
1 sprig curry leaves , torn
2 heaped tablespoons broken bits of cashew
Chopped cilantro for garnish

Set the Tuar dal to cook using a pressure cooker, until its soft and completely mushed.

In s skillet, heat the 2 teaspoons of oil and toast the coriander, arbol chiles, Urad dal, chana dal and the pepper corn, until the dals and coriander turn a reddish brown. Transfer to a small blender jar, add the coconut and blend into a smooth & thick  paste using as much water as needed. Set aside.


 In a pot, heat the oil and add the asparagus, Saute for about a minute and then add the tamarind, sambar powder, sugar and the turmeric, add a cup of water and allow the mix to simmer until the raw aroma disappears. Add the spice blend paste and tomatoes along with another cup of water and simmer until the tomatoes turn soft. Finally add the mashed dal and bring to a boil and immediately remove from heat.

In a separate skillet, heat the ghee and add the mustard seeds, once they sputter, add the curry leaves and the cashew nuts, allow the cashews to brown lightly. Add this to the Pitlay & stir in.



I usually add cilantro for garnish, but today I decided to cut  up a few  (~5-6)extra stalks of asparagus, Saute them lightly in ghee and add them over the dish.

Serve hot with plain rice or even fresh roti.

Bon appetit!





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