Fast Fabulous Focaccia

Fast Fabulous Focaccia

Fast Fabulous Focaccia – a chewy, crusty, fragrant bread – that’s perfect with salads, beans and pastas. We make and eat a LOT of bread in our house. I can easily imagine living without meat, but not without bread. Since none of us is over-weight, we must be doing something right. This Fast Fabulous Focaccia comes together literally in minutes. After a proving time of about 1.5 hours it goes into a hot oven and is ready to eat. Fresh bread in about 2 hours!

I’m looking out my window at yet another rainy day with somewhat coolish temperatures for this time of year. While I might feel a bit droopy, my plants are on over-drive. Our terrace garden has never been more vibrant and my herbs are growing like crazy. I have been making pesto and mint chutney, putting rosemary into breads and stir-fry with handfuls of my Thai basil. So last night I decided to make a beautiful salad with ripe tomatoes, arugula, bocconcini mozzarella that I had marinated and fresh basil. I cooked up some pasta that I served with my pesto. But I wanted a bread to help soak up all of those beautiful flavors and olive oil. Since it was already 4:00, I knew that I needed to think quickly if we were going to have fresh bread with dinner. Enter this focaccia.

Having made some wonderful focaccia (see below for links to recipes) I knew 2 things: 1) I didn’t have quite enough time to make my best focaccia and 2) those recipes simply made too much for what I wanted. I turned to Molly Yeh. She is VERY perky – frankly, I find it a bit exhausting. And I wouldn’t make most of the foods that she makes – way to fatty. But she is very clever at decorating foods even if she is a bit too in love with sprinkles.

However, I have made two recipes that were wonderful and that worked exactly as written – her falafel and this focaccia. My version is delicious and easy and beautiful in its simplicity. If you choose to make it with elaborate vegetable designs like Molly Yeh and others I have seen, you can find instructions on the web.

A word about EVOO

The olive oil that you use will make or break this recipe. It is used at different stages of the recipe and truly makes the focaccia magical. As EVOO has become more popular, so has fraud in the industry. So don’t take for granted that the EVOO you are buying is actually what it says it is, especially if you are buying a flavored oil. I love using flavored oils in baking and cooking. If you choose to make your own – great. A Mediterranean blend with oregano, rosemary, basil and garlic was what I used. A good quality plain EVOO or one flavored to your choice would all work.

Focaccia is meant to be eaten fresh and warm with freshly drizzled EVOO on top. But we are only two people and even this more manageable-sized focaccia is too big for us to finish off in one night. Left-overs make wonderful croutons or can be used in a bread salad. The focaccia can be re-heated and we did eat it that way. It is definitely edible but it won’t be as amazing.

For other focaccia recipes:

Focaccia

Olive Rosemary Foccacia

Recipe

Fast Fabulous Focaccia

Yield: 6 to 8 servings

Ingredients

1.24 cups room temperature water

2 teaspoons kosher salt

2 teaspoons sugar

1.5 teaspoons active dried yeast (or instant yeast)

About 9 Tablespoons EVOO, divided

3 to 3.25 cups all-purpose, unbleached flour

2 Tablespoons fresh rosemary leaves (optional, but recommended)

Maldon or flaked sea salt

Directions

Combine the water, sugar and yeast in a measuring cup or bowl. Allow to prove for about 10 minutes. If you are using instant yeast, there is no need to prove the yeast.

Once the yeast has started to get creamy, whisk in 3 Tablespoons of the EVOO. Then add this to 3 cups of flour and the salt in the bowl of a stand mixer. Mix by hand just to moisten everything.

Using the dough hook, knead the dough on medium-high until the dough is smooth and elastic and forms a stretchy ball. If the dough appears to be too wet (humidity and different brands of flour will all affect the moisture level) add a bit more flour, a tablespoon at a time until you get the desired consistency. Mine came together perfectly with just the initial 3 cups of flour. It was a lovely, supple dough.

Brush a quarter-sized sheet pan with 2 Tablespoons of EVOO. Place the dough directly onto the oiled pan and coat it in the oil. Using your clean hands, gently press out the dough to almost fill the pan. Cover it loosely with plastic wrap and leave in a draft-free place. I use my microwave. It should double and fill the pan. Depending on the temperature of your room, this will take 1 to 1.5 hours.

About 45 minutes in to the rising time, heat your oven to 400 degrees F. If you have a pizza stone or steel, place it on top of the rack in the oven and allow it to heat.

When the dough has doubled, remove the plastic. If it hasn’t totally reached the end of the pan, you can gently press it out to the edges. Add your rosemary leaves, if using. With your fingertips, dimple the dough, gently pressing the rosemary into the dough. Drizzle with 2 more Tablespoons of EVOO. Honestly, I just eyeball it. All of the dimples that you made will allow the EVOO to pool in the dough, a classic sign of a focaccia. Sprinkle with the flaked salt. If you prefer or if you forgot, you can sprinkle with the salt after it comes out of the oven.

Fast Fabulous Focaccia

Bake until golden, about 30 minutes. Remove from the oven, drizzle with more EVOO and allow to cool for 5 minutes in the pan. Remove the focaccia to a cutting board and serve!

Fast Fabulous Focaccia

Chicken Curry Punjabi-Style

Chicken Curry Punjabi-Style

Chicken Curry Punjabi-Style is redolent with spices – warming, delicious and comforting. This lovely curry from Chetna Makan is easy to make and sure to please. Don’t be scared off by the list of spices. If you do Indian and Middle Eastern cooking, you will likely have these on hand. And if you are just getting into these cuisines, these spices are basic and easily accessible in most grocery stores and online.

My husband and I find these dishes so satisfying to make and eat. Served over some basmati rice or with a flatbread, you have a satisfying meal. However, I almost always serve these with some chutneys, raita and small salads. When I have these on hand in my fridge it’s like having money in the bank! And I have found that while it may not be traditional, mixing Middle Eastern salads and sides and Indian often works out really well.

Depending on the size of your chicken thighs and your appetites, this will easily serve 6 to 8 people. If you have teenagers – maybe 4!

While you could make this with chicken breasts, I wouldn’t. The thighs are more flavorful, moister and sized better. You will want chicken thighs with the bone in but without the skin. If your butcher won’t remove the skins for you, it is easy enough to do. Chicken Curry Punjabi-Style is made with yogurt, but if you still wish to make this but observe the laws of kashrut, you can substitute, full-fat coconut milk.

I made this for a Shabbat dinner which I always go all out for to make special. So in addition to the curry and salads, we made an easy zucchini and corn fritter (kofta) to along. They make a lovely, simple, vegan appetizer or side, which just require a dab of chutney or yogurt to finish off. I will be posting that soon.

For other Indian sides:

Indian Side Dishes with Something to Please Everyone

For other curries:

Kidney Bean Curry (Rajma Paneer)

Bene Israel Fish Curry with Fresh Ginger, Tamarind and Cilantro

Tofu Coconut Curry

Chicken Curry with Spices

Cashew Curried Chicken

Recipe

Chicken Curry Punjabi-Style

Yield: 6 to 8 servings

Ingredients

For Marinade

1/4 cup plain full-fat yogurt or coconut milk

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon chile powder

1 teaspoon garam masala

4 large garlic cloves, peeled and grated or crushed in a garlic press

1 inch of fresh ginger root, peeled and grated

6 to 8 bone-in, skinless chicken thighs (about 3 pounds), trimmed and with 3 deep slashes made in the flesh of each

For the curry

3 Tablespoons neutral oil (I use Canola but sunflower etc. is fine)

1.5 teaspoons cumin seeds

1 bay leaf (fresh or dried)

4 medium onions, peeled and finely chopped

3 medium tomatoes, cut into small dice

2 teaspoons ground coriander

1 teaspoon garam masala

1 teaspon turmeric powder

1 teaspoon chile powder

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 handful of fresh coriander (cilantro), finely chopped

Directions

Combine all of the marinade ingredients, except for the chicken, in a bowl and mix well to combine. Place the chicken in a glass or stainless bowl or clean freezer bag and pour the marinade all over. Gently massage the marinade into the chicken. Cover the bowl (or seal the bag) and refrigerate for at least 1 hour but up to overnight.

When ready to cook, heat the oil on medium heat in a heavy-duty pan with a flat bottom that can hold everything in one layer. Cast iron is great for this. Add the cumin seeds and bay leaf.

As soon as they begin to sizzle (about 1 minute) add the onions and cook for about 15 minutes or until a lovely golden color.

Now add the tomatoes and their juices and cook for about 10 minutes or until they have softened. Add the spices and salt and cook for an additional minute.

Add the marinated chicken along with any liquid and mix through. Cover the pan and cook on a low heat for 40 to 45 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through.

Chicken Curry Punjabi-Style

This can be made earlier in the day if you like. It is best to allow the curry to rest for at least 30 minutes to an hour to allow the flavors to fully develop. Reheat on low when ready to serve. Sprinkle with the chopped fresh cilantro.

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

Ever since I was a little girl I have loved the tart fruitiness of rhubarb. My mother would make a delicious compote with rhubarb and raspberries every summer as a refreshing treat. What I never understand is why bother to use rhubarb if you are going to change its personality by adding excessive amounts of sugar? This is a Strawberry Rhubarb Pie that honors the fruit with a clean freshness and tart fruity punch. It allows the rhubarb to shine with the strawberries adding extra color and fruitiness.

What is rhubarb?

Rhubarb

Well to start with, it’s actually a vegetable – not a fruit. But then tomatoes are really fruits and not vegetables. I will leave those arguments to botanists and pedants. What is important, though, is that we only eat the stalks. The leaves contain high levels of oxalic acid which is poisonous. This perennial rhizome is easy to grow in most northern climates and its beautiful rosy stalks are wonderful in baked goods but can even be eaten raw with a bit of sugar or salt.

Why this rhubarb pie?

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

I looked at a LOT of recipes. Rhubarb pie is pretty basic and does not contain a lot of ingredients so how different can they be, right? How much sugar to use, whether to use flour, cornstarch or tapioca as a thickener, how long to bake and at what temperature and whether to add any other fruit are all things that varied from recipe to recipe. Of all the recipes I checked out, this was the only one that used lemon zest. For me, that was the deciding factor, although I do think that orange zest would also work. The point is that one change, made the pie sing and really brought out the fresh rhubarb flavor and tartness. So this Strawberry Rhubarb Pie does not taste like some generic fruity mush as so many rhubarb pies that I have tried do. I did make a few tweaks of my own to the original recipe.

Pie Crust

I love a good crust and I am more into wonderfully short, crumbly crusts than flakey crusts- perhaps because that is what I grew up with. My mother was a wonderful cook and baker and I learned early on that if the crust was too easy to manipulate then it probably wasn’t the kind of crust that I like. But this is very personal. So use whatever double crust you like here – even store-bought. If I am being honest, I tried a different crust for this and neither my husband nor I loved it. It LOOKS great, but for my next pie, I am going back to one of my tried and true.

Many rhubarb and other fruit pies use a lattice top and I think they are beautiful. But I found that it is also fun to use a cookie cutter and to place the cut-outs over the top instead. What is important here is the filling.

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

Let’s talk thickeners

For me, there is nothing worse than a gummy filling. But fruit pies do tend to give off a lot of juice so some thickener is needed or you will end up with soup. This recipe calls for Minute Tapioca. It leaves a very clean taste and allowed the filling to thicken without becoming gummy. Individual fruits may vary in their liquid content but generally speaking, rhubarb and strawberries contain a lot of liquid. I found that the amount of thickener used here allowed the juices to bubble up but once fully cooled, the filling held together nicely. Some people use flour or cornstarch instead of tapioca. I achieved good results with the tapioca in this recipe so I am sticking with it. If the thought of tapioca is icky or you simply don’t have it easily accessible, use an equal amount of all-purpose flour or cornstarch instead. A little of the juices will bubble over which is totally normal for a fruit pie. So unless you want to be cleaning up a mess in your oven, be sure to have a pan underneath. And you MUST use a deep-dish pie plate for this recipe! There is a lot of yummy filling and anything more shallow simply won’t work.

Toppings

Really good quality vanilla ice cream! ‘nuf said.

So this 4th of July, maybe consider making a strawberry rhubarb pie instead of blueberry. But don’t wait for a holiday to make this luscious dessert.

For other rhubarb recipes:

Rhubarb Frangipane Galette

Rhubarb Strawberry Tart with Walnut Crust

Harvest Food: Rhubarb Cake

Recipe

Yield: 8 servings or One 9-inch deep-dish pie

Ingredients

1 unbaked double pie crust

2 Tablespoons crushed bland cookies (digestive biscuit or graham cracker for example) OR almond meal

1 pound rhubarb, trimmed and sliced into about 1/2-inch thick pieces

1 pound of strawberries, hulled and sliced in half if small or quartered if large

1/25 cups granulated sugar

3 Tablespoons Minute Tapioca

Zest of one large lemon

1 egg

Directions

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

Line a deep dish pie plate with pastry. Fold about 1.5 inches of the overhang under and smooth or decoratively crimp, if desired. Trim off any excess beyond that. Spread the crushed cookie crumbs over the bottom of the crust. This will help prevent sogginess.

In a large bowl combine the strawberries, rhubarb, sugar, zest and tapioca. Using your hands or a spatula (Okay, or a large spoon), gently stir to combine. All of the sugar will not perfectly combine with the fruit at this point. Not a problem. And while it may look like a lot of sugar, it is exactly the right amount.

Pour the mix into the crust, mounding it slightly.

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

Depending on what you are doing with the top crust, either lay the lattice or dough cut-outs over the top and lightly press the edges down. If you are using a single sheet of dough over the top, then make 4 deep slits in the pie crust to allow the steam to escape. This isn’t necessary with the lattice or cookie cutter top.

Beat the egg and lightly brush over the entire crust. This will give a nice shine, but it also may cause some over-browning. More on that in a bit! Sprinkle some coarse sugar over the egg if desired. It will lend some sparkle. ANd who doesn’t need a little sparkle these days?

Place the pie plate on a baking pan with a rim. You can use a sheet of parchment on the pan to make clean-up easier.

Bake on the bottom rack for 15 minutes. Then reduce the temperature to 350 degrees F and continue baking for 45 minutes more or until the filling is bubbling and the crust is golden. Check on the pie and lightly cover with a sheet of foil if the top seems to be browning too quickly. I should have covered mine a couple of minutes sooner. Don’t worry if some of the liquid bubbles over. That is pretty traditional in a fruit pie, but it is also why you want a pan underneath.

Mediterranean Sheet-pan Chicken

Mediterranean Sheet-pan Chicken

So Shabbat was coming. My husband was busy making challah and I was trying to decide what I could make for dinner that would feel special. And it was 90 degrees outside! So I came up with this delicious, Greek-inspired, sheet-pan chicken with only one pan to wash. And if I am really being lazy, I can use aluminum foil on the pan and have nothing to wash!

I’m sure that I’m not the only one to have come up with this idea. But mine came to me at 2:00 am when I couldn’t sleep. It’s based on decades of cooking and eating, rather than a recipe. It is an easily adaptable recipe and I have already thought of several variations for other Friday night dinners. Since it is just the two of us, I only made a relatively small batch, but this can easily be doubled or tripled.

Growing up, when chickens were delivered to our house by Irving The Chicken Man, my preference was for chicken wings and breasts. But nowadays, when so many chickens are bred with these ginormous, flavorless and often rubbery breasts, I prefer to use thighs. They have more flavor, stay juicier and more tender and are almost impossible to overcook. And they tend to be cheaper too. Need I say more?

For other delicious sheet-pan chicken recipes:

Nigella Lawson’s Sheet Pan Chicken, Leeks and Peas

Sheet-Pan Chicken with Chickpeas

Roasted Chicken with Clementines and Arak

Harissa Chicken with Leeks, Potatoes and Yogurt

Roasted Chicken Thighs with Fennel & Lemon

Recipe

Yield: 4 servings

Mediterranean Sheet-pan Chicken

Ingredients

About 2 pounds of bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs (You can also use drumsticks, if you prefer)

4 to 5 golden or baby Bliss (red) potatoes, quartered lengthwise

1 lemon, sliced into rounds

1 Tablespoon fresh rosemary, coarsely chopped

3 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced

1/4 cup pitted cured green olives (You can use olives with pits, but be sure to let people know when serving!)

1/4 cup pitted cured black olives (If you only have one kind of olive, then use 1/2 cup)

Juice of 1 lemon plus enough vinegar (I used Balsamic) if necessary to make a generous 1/3 cup

A 5 Tablespoons of EVOO

1.5 teaspoons dried oregano

1 teaspoon dried basil

1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika

Kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper

Optional Garnish

Chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, cilantro or any fresh Mediterranean herb

Directions

Make deep slits on both sides of the chicken thighs. Generously sprinkle salt and pepper on both sides of chicken and place in a glass or aluminum bowl or clean resealable, heavy-duty plastic bag.

Mediterranean Sheet-pan Chicken

Add the sliced lemon, potato wedges, sliced garlic, olives and chopped rosemary.

In a small bowl or measuring cup, mix together the remaining ingredients and pour it over the chicken mix. Refrigerate for at least one hour, but up to overnight is okay.

Mediterranean Sheet-pan Chicken

Remove from the fridge one hour before ready to cook. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Remove the solid ingredients from the bag or bowl and place, skin-side down on a rimmed sheet-pan that has been lightly oiled. Lightly sprinkle with some additional salt and paprika.

Mediterranean Sheet-pan Chicken

Place in the top third of the oven and bake for 25 minutes. Then turn the chicken to be skin-side up. Again sprinkle lightly with additional salt and paprika. You can also turn over the potato wedges. Return to the oven and bake for another 20 to 30 minutes or until the chicken and potatoes are golden brown. Remove to a platter and garnish with the chopped parsley if you are making a presentation or just serve from the pan to be unfussy. Either way, feast and enjoy!

Crunchy “Asian” Slaw

Crunchy “Asian” Slaw

This past weekend I decided to make my Sticky Asian Ribs, corn on the cob and this Crunchy “Asian” Slaw. Dessert was my Blueberry Galette. While “Asian” wasn’t in quotes for my rib recipe, it probably should have been. Both my ribs and this delightful coleslaw are certainly Asian-inspired, but I sincerely doubt that either would qualify as an authentic Asian recipe. Crunchy “Asian” Slaw is a no-fuss, delicious side that we all will want this summer.

Anyone who reads my blog knows that when I am making food from a particular culture and cuisine, I go to great lengths to buy the right herbs and spices. And I always search for reputable sources for my recipes and try hard to honor and respect these heritages. But there are also times when it is fun to go off book and to create dishes that give you a certain flavor profile without slavishly being authentic.

I’m not a big fan of creamy, mayonnaisy coleslaw. It has its place but it’s often just a bit too much for me. So when I knew that I was making the ribs, I wanted to find a recipe that was a bit lighter and would compliment the star anise and ginger flavors in the ribs. I also wanted it to be easy. With a few minutes spent surfing the web, I came across this recipe and decided to give it a try. Now I hope that you will too.

So if you are looking for a riff on coleslaw to serve at your next barbeque or with some grilled or roasted meat or fish, give this Crunchy “Asian” Slaw a try. It will work with any kind of slaw that you like. I chose a broccoli carrot slaw, but any cabbage or crunchy vegetables will work. The prep is minimal and the slaw will keep for several days in the fridge. And with more time spent outside, isn’t it great to be able to reach in your fridge for a delicious side that’s all ready to eat. This slaw will brighten up any simple meal. Now that summer is here, who wants to spend lots of time in the kitchen cooking? Haven’t we all done plenty of that over the past year?

For another great coleslaw, try my Holiday Coleslaw.

Recipe

Yield: 6 servings

Ingredients

For the Coleslaw

1 pound shredded crisp veggies (cabbage, carrots, bell peppers, snow peas etc.) or packaged coleslaw mix (any kind)

3 scallions, sliced on an angle

About 1 cup chopped cilantro or flat-leaf parsley

For the Dressing

3 Tablespoons olive oil

1 Tablespoon toasted sesame oil

1/4 cup rice vinegar (I decided to use brown rice vinegar, but any kind will work)

3 Tablespoons maple syrup, agave, or brown rice syrup

1 Tablespoon soy sauce or tamari

1 large garlic clove, crushed or grated

1 Tablespoon grated fresh ginger root

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon chili flakes or chili paste (Optional)

Toppings

2 Tablespoons toasted sesame seeds

Roasted peanuts or cashews

Directions

Toss slaw ingredients in a bowl. Add the chopped cilantro and scallions. Pour the dressing over everything and toss to combine. Garnish with the seeds and/or nuts. Now enjoy!

Cashew Curried Chicken

Cashew Curried Chicken

While it may officially be Spring, the weather is still quite chilly, damp and a bit dreary. Normally, I would cheer myself up by heading to the Art Institute or Museum of Contemporary Art, but until very recently these have been closed. And although you now can go to the museums, you have to think ahead and make reservations. So to brighten up our lives, I have been turning to Indian and Middle Eastern foods even more than usual. This Cashew Curried Chicken with its bright spices and herbs lend color to my otherwise somewhat dull existence. As mentioned in a previous post, I have become a fan of Chetna Makan and watch her on YouTube almost daily. This recipe is hers with some tweaks from me that do away with a pan, an extra step and the order of adding a couple of ingredients.

Do not be put off by the seemingly long list of ingredients. The spices are used over and over again in both Indian and Middle Eastern cooking. So if you enjoy these foods, you will easily use them up. And everything is readily available online or in many grocery stores these days. But because the spices and herbs are so integral to the dishes, please look for the freshest ingredients and grind your own spices whenever possible. It only takes seconds in a spice or coffee grinder and you will be rewarded over and over with the most vibrant flavors. And by buying whole spices, they will remain fresh longer in your cabinet.

Chicken thighs are used here. They are more flavorful than the breast, in my opinion, and almost never get dried out or tough. However, if you really want, you can use an equivalent amount of chicken breast meat instead.

This curry comes together easily and you can have dinner on the table in about an hour. Served simply over rice or with a flatbread, it’s a complete meal. Since my husband just made some delicious pita, we went with that. But if you have the time and add on a raita and some pickle, you can have a feast. So brighten up your life and enjoy this luscious and luxurious Cashew Curried Chicken soon.

Recipe

Cashew Curried Chicken

Yield: 4 to 6 servings, depending on appetite and sides

Ingredients

1/3 cup raw cashews, soaked for 1 hour in hot water to cover

2 medium onions, peeled and chopped in a fine dice

2 Tablespoons neutral oil with a good smoke point (I use Canola)

4 medium tomatoes, cored and roughly chopped

4 large cloves of garlic, peeled and grated or crushed

3-inch piece pf fresh ginger, peeled and grated

8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs – 2.5 pounds of boneless meat, trimmed of all fat. (You can use thighs with the bone-in, but you will need to increase the cooking time by 10 minutes.)

4 Tablespoons whole milk natural yogurt

1 sweet bell pepper, cut into large cubes

1 medium onion, peeled and cut into 8 pieces

1 Tablespoon fenugreek leaves (also called methi)

Spices

Cashew Curried Chicken

4 green cardamom pods

1 cinnamon stick

2 bay leaves (dried or fresh)

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

2 teaspoons ground coriander

2 teaspoons garam masala

1 teaspoon ground turmeric

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon chili powder

Directions

In a large, deep pan with a tight-fitting lid, heat the oil. Add the cardamom, cinnamon, bay leaves and cumin seeds. Allow everything to sizzle and become fragrant – about 30 seconds.

Cashew Curried Chicken

Now add the chopped onion and stir through the oil and spices. Cook until golden, stirring occasionally for 10 to 12 minutes.

Cashew Curried Chicken

Stir through the chopped tomatoes, garlic and ginger. Then cover the pan and on medium-low heat, cook for 10 to 12 minutes. The tomatoes should be softened and a sauce is beginning to form.

While the tomatoes cook, drain and crush the cashews into a paste using either mortar and pestle, food processor or spice grinder.

Turn off the heat! Now add the yogurt and crushed cashews and stir through, mixing well. By turning off the heat, you prevent the yogurt from splitting.

Cashew Curried Chicken

Stir through the coriander, garam masala, turmeric, salt and chili powder.

Nestle the chicken thighs into the sauce and coat with the sauce. Cover the pan and simmer for 20 minutes if using boneless chicken and 30 minutes if the thigh is on the bone. Add the bell pepper and onion sections and stir through. Recover the pan and continue simmering for 10 more minutes.

Take 1 tablespoon of fenugreek leaves and crumble them into the curry by rubbing the leaves between your hands. Cook for a few more minutes, stirring until they are fulIy incorporated. If you do not have fenugreek leaves, do not try to substitute them. Do NOT use fenugreek seeds, which would be very bitter. Fenugreek has a unique and wonderful flavor and I think they are worth having on hand. If you are leaving them out, you can sprinkle some fresh cilantro on top before serving. The flavor is completely different but is also delicious.

Serve the curry over basmati rice (white or brown) or eat it with flat bread.

For other delicious curry recipes:

Chicken Curry with Spices

Tofu Coconut Curry

Vegan Red Curry Coconut Soup

Bene Israel Fish Curry with Fresh Ginger, Tamarind and Cilantro

Thai Style Yellow Curry with Sweet Potato

Roasted Cauliflower Sabji

Roasted Cauliflower Sabji

Roasted Cauliflower Sabji with basmati rice or flatbread makes a satisfying vegan meal – full of umami. As anyone who reads my blog knows, I am neither a vegan nor a vegetarian. However, we don’t eat a lot of meat and I cannot remember the last time I sat down and ate a steak. This doesn’t mean, though, that I don’t want visually interesting meals with a great mouthfeel and full of flavor. Perhaps this is why I am so drawn to both Mediterranean/Middle Eastern and Indian cuisines. Their use of fresh herbs, vegetables and spices make any meal a feast for the senses.

What is Sabji?

A sabji is simply a vegetable cooked in some sort of gravy with herbs. Sabji literally means green vegetable. In Persian cooking it is referred to as sabzi and can include meat as in Ghormeh Sabzi or chicken in this version. There is no surprise that there are similarities between Persian and Indian culture, which is especially evident in food and architecture. Persia invaded India twice – first in 535 BCE under Cyrus the Great and second under Emperor Nader Shah, the Shah of Persia (1736–47). In fact, many dishes that are thought of as quintessentially Indian actually were adapted from British, Portuguese, Mughal and Persia. Each conqueror brought new flavors and techniques to India. And while each nation ultimately lost India, there influences remain and enrich.

Fan Girl

Recently I have become a fan of Chetna Makan on YouTube and the author of several cookbooks, including Chai, Chaat & Chutney: a street food journey through India, where this Roasted Cauliflower Sabji appears. She is charming and enthusiastic about her dishes and just a delight to watch. It’s not difficult to follow and because I do enjoy Indian and Middle Eastern cooking, I have all of the seasonings on hand. This dish doesn’t require any chilis so it wasn’t necessary for me to tone down the heat. My husband was responsible for making the quick, and flavorful flatbread. I made up some urad dal and we enjoyed a healthy and delicious meatless Monday.

As with many Indian dishes, do not get put off by the relatively long list of ingredients. If you do this kind of cooking, you likely will have most of not all of the spices on hand. And the actual cooking technique is very straightforward.

Roasted Cauliflower Sabji would also make a wonderful side dish or as part of a larger Indian meal. However you decide to use it, I encourage you to make it soon.

There are so many different kinds of dal (legumes, pulses or beans) available. And even more recipes for them. Here are just a few and I will be adding more over time.

Punjabi Chana Dal

Moong Dal and Lemony Ground Lamb

Chana Dal Kichadi

Nutritious Comforting Khichari

Smoky Yellow Split Peas

Red Lentils with Ginger

Recipe

Yield: 4 servings as a main course and more as a side

Ingredients

Roasted Cauliflower Sabji

For the cauliflower

1 head cauliflower cut into small florets along with the stems

2 Tablespoons tomato paste

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon turmeric

¼ teaspoon cracked black pepper

About 2 Tablespoons EVOO

For the Sabji

2 Tablespoons vegetable oil

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

1 teaspoon black mustard seeds (I only had brown mustard seeds, so that is what I used)

2 roughly chopped small onions

2 large garlic cloves, peeled and grated

A 2-inch knob of ginger, peeled and grated

2 medium tomatoes, cored and roughly chopped

1 teaspoon chili powder

1 teaspoon garam masala

¼ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon turmeric

Handful of chopped cilantro

Directions

For the Cauliflower

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. and have the rack on an upper shelf.
  2. Mix the seasonings together and spread over the cauliflower. Mix it around to coat. Spread on a baking pan and roast for 15 minutes. Turn over the cauliflower pieces and continue roasting for an additional 15 minutes (total 30 minutes). Remove from the oven and set aside.

For the Sabji

  1. In a pan large enough to hold all of the cauliflower and the other ingredients, heat oil. Add the cumin seeds and mustard seeds and cook for about 30 seconds or until fragrant and the seeds begin to pop. Add in the chopped onion and stir through. Cook until lightly golden.
  2. Add the grated garlic and ginger and cook for another minute, stirring through.
  3. Add the roughly chopped tomatoes and cook on medium heat until the tomatoes soften and give off their juices. Add the chili powder, garam masala, salt and turmeric. Mix well.
  4. Add the roasted cauliflower and stir through, mixing well but try not to break up the florets. Cook for about 2 to 3 minutes. Add the chopped cilantro and stir through.

Brazilian Fish Stew (Moqueca)

Brazilian Fish Stew

Brazilian Fish Stew (Moqueco) is colorful, zippy, and just plain delicious! Full disclosure, though. I am completely unfamiliar with Brazilian cuisine, so I cannot vouch for this recipe’s authenticity. What I can say, is that this simple-to-prepare fish stew is bright, beautiful and relatively inexpensive to make. The fish (pretty much any firm fish, but whitefish, halibut, sea bass and cod are particularly good) is simmered in a fragrant sauce of coconut milk, tomatoes, onions, peppers and lime.

As with many dishes, and this one is no exception, there are many versions and variations. This recipe for Brazilian Fish Stew (Moqueca) originates from Salvador, a bustling coastal city in Brazil, north of Rio. The influences are African, stemming from Brazil’s long history of bringing 4 million slaves to the country over a 300-year period. You can see the African culture in everything from carnival to samba, food and religion. Fifty percent of the Brazilian population now self identifies as Black or mixed race.

Paired with rice and a simple green salad, Moqueca comes together quickly, making it a perfect weeknight meal.

Brazilian Fish Stew

Recipe

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients

Brazilian Fish Stew

1.5 pounds of firm white fish (look for thicker cuts)

1/2 teaspoon kosher or sea salt

Two limes, zest and juice

2 Tablespoons coconut or olive oil (Brazilian red palm oil, if available. I used coconut oil)

1 onion (any kind) finely diced

1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt or to taste

1 cup diced carrots (about 2 medium)

1 red bell pepper, diced

4 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped

1 jalapeno, serrano or other chile, finely diced

1 Tablespoon tomato paste

2 teaspoons sweet paprika

1 teaspoon ground cumin (you could also use the whole seeds)

1 cup fish or chicken stock (I used chicken)

1.5 cups tomatoes, diced (fresh tomatoes are best)

14-ounce can coconut milk (liquids and solids) Do not use “lite” coconut milk.

Brazilian Fish Stew

For Serving

1/2 cup chopped cilantro, flat-leaf parsley or scallions

Additional squeeze of lime

Directions

Rinse and pat dry the fish. Cut into 2-inch chunks. Place the fish in a glass or stainless steel bowl and add the 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 of the zest and 2 Tablespoons of the lime juice. Gently massage into the fish and set it aside.

Heat the oil in a large sauté pan over medium high heat. Add the onion and additional 1 teaspoon of salt. Sauté for 2 to 3 minutes. Turn the heat down to medium and add the carrot, bell pepper, garlic and jalapeno and cook for 4 to 5 more minutes.

Add the tomato paste, spices and stock. Mix well and bring to a simmer. Now add the tomatoes. Cover and simmer gently on medium low until the carrots are tender, about 8 minutes.

Add the coconut milk and taste, adding more salt if necessary. (I used unsalted stock, so ended up using a 1.5 teaspoons of salt.) Nestle the fish chunks into the sauce and simmer gently until the fish is cooked through, spooning the sauce over the fish occasionally. How long it takes to cook will depend on the thickness of the fish, how long it sat in the salt and lime juice and how well-cooked you like it. As with ceviche, the salt and lime juice begin to “cook” the fish in the brine. I like my fish to be cooked through but not dry. Check it after about 8 minutes.

Serve over rice and add the garnish and the remaining lime zest and juice. Now enjoy!

The Juliana

The Juliana

The Juliana is simply the best blueberry pancake bar none that you will ever eat. Not quite a Dutch baby; it doesn’t poof up and then sink. This no-fuss, no-flip skillet-to-oven pancake requires no syrup or other additions. The powdered sugar is for presentation but is not necessary for taste. It’s all there in one pan. Ultimate deliciousness! The Juliana has gone through many iterations to achieve this level of blueberry perfection.

I absolutely love breakfast food for dinner. However, unless I have a full day of hiking ahead of me, I just find most brunch foods too heavy for me to start the day with. But at dinner, I actually almost feel virtuous eating this fruit-forward pancake. And it is so satisfying at every level for me that I never crave any dessert or anything else after eating it. My husband, Andrew, developed this over many months of trial. The recipe began with an Apple Dutch Baby that morphed into this spectacular recipe. My only problem is getting him to stop tinkering with it! Although I do admit that the addition of jaggery in place of granulated sugar in the batter, did take it up a notch. But even without it, this pancake is better than any blueberry pancake or Dutch Baby you will ever eat.

The Juliana

I’m not prone to exaggeration or hyperbole in my posts. Therefore, when I gush about The Juliana (named for our first grandchild) you know it is truly something special. Andrew has successfully made this with strawberries and apples although with a few slight differences, especially since the fruit all cooks differently. The resulting “pancake” is wonderfully spongy, light and fluffy. It is perfect for absorbing all the fruity deliciousness below. And as I mentioned in another post, blueberries have been just wonderful this year. They not only are large and visually attractive but they are firm and very flavorful. They also happen to be our Juliana’s favorite fruit – at least for now. Give this a try. I promise that you won’t be disappointed.

The Juliana

Recipe

Yield: 2 to 4 servings (it should be 4 servings, but if I am honest, my husband and I eat the whole thing ourselves for dinner!)

Ingredients

The Juliana

  For the blueberry filling

    1/3 cup granulated sugar

    Zest of 1 medium lemon

    1 box (18 oz.) of blueberries, rinsed, drained and patted dry

    3 tbsp unsalted butter

  For the batter

    1 cup unbleached, all-purpose flour

    1 tsp baking powder

    1/8 tsp baking soda

    1 tbsp granulated sugar (or 1 tbsp jaggery)

    ½ tsp kosher salt

    ½ tsp ground cardamom

    4 large eggs

    1 cup buttermilk (or 1 cup plain kefir)

    1 tsp vanilla extract

  For serving (optional, but recommended) Sifted confectioner’s or icing sugar

Directions

Preheat oven to 400°F with the rack in the center

Blueberry filling

Place 1/3 cup granulated sugar in a medium bowl. Finely grate the zest of 1 medium lemon onto the sugar. Stir the zest and sugar together; or, rub the zest into the sugar with your fingertips until fully combined and gritty. If no one is watching, then by all means, lick your fingers. Take out 2 tablespoons of the lemon sugar to use later.

Add the blueberries to the bowl and toss to combine. Reserve ½ cup of the sugared blueberries to mix into the batter later.

Batter

1. Place 1 cup all-purpose flour, 1 tsp baking powder, 1/8 tsp baking soda, 1 tbsp granulated sugar (or 1 tbsp jaggery), ½ tsp kosher salt, and ½ tsp ground cardamom in a bowl and whisk to combine.

2. In a different bowl add 4 large eggs and whisk until frothy. Add 1 cup buttermilk (or 1 cup plain kefir) and 1 tsp vanilla extract and whisk to combine.

3. Gently add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, stirring the batter just enough to get everything moist, then gently stir in the reserved ½ cup of sugared blueberries, trying not to break them up.

4. Put a 9” cast iron skillet on the stove on medium heat. Cut 3 tbsp of unsalted butter into 3 pieces and put them into the skillet. Just melt the butter, do not brown it. Immediately add the sugared blueberries, then sprinkle the reserved lemon sugar mixture on top.

5. Pour the batter all over the berries. Place the skillet in the oven, baking at 400°F until puffed and golden-brown, about 20 minutes.

The Juliana

6. Remove and let cool for 5 minutes. Serve dusted with powdered sugar.

The Juliana

Creamy Mushroom Soup

Creamy Mushroom Soup

This Creamy Mushroom Soup is simple, satisfying and sophisticated. Delicious! I came across this recipe just in time. I made it when the temperatures were in the negative numbers (that’s below zero Fahrenheit, guys) we needed soup – hot, soothing, yummy soup.

However, now that we have had a bit of a warm-up and some hopeful signs of Spring, I still want this soup. And this Creamy Mushroom Soup will be delightful in the fall, winter and spring. I tend to move into cold soups in the summer, but this one is light enough that I might just give it a try.

Creamy Mushroom Soup came together quickly and luckily I had all of the ingredients on hand. It can be prepared ahead if you like, but is ready in less than an hour. I served it with a wonderful rustic bread that I had made, a lovely, bright salad and some ripe cheese. A glass of a delicious red wine was the perfect complement. After this, we only had room for some wonderful Clementines which seem to be at their best right now. Citrus fruits are winter’s sunshine. Juicy, bright with just the right amount of tang.

Mixed Salad

While not vegan, this recipe is vegetarian unless you choose to use chicken stock for the liquid. If you did want to make it vegan, I could see adding some cooked, pureed cauliflower, full-fat coconut milk or silken tofu to replace the cream. It wouldn’t be exactly the same but should be pretty close to the right mouthfeel, texture and taste. If you try it, let me know how it works out.

Onion Nigella Caraway Rustic Bread

Now my husband and I ate this as our main course, but it is simple enough to make and elegant enough to be served as a first course as well.

There are many different kinds of mushrooms – both fresh and dried – available these days. The dried porcini have a meaty texture when rehydrated and a robust flavor. And I used 1 pound of baby bella mushrooms, but cremini or even mixed mushrooms should all work. Each different kind will change the flavor somewhat, but they all should make for an interesting soup. The addition of a good glug of sherry at the end is a suggestion, but one that I strongly encourage. It just elevates the flavors.

I didn’t do this, but….. if you really want to tart things up, you could add a dollop of crème fraiche with a few chopped chives sprinkled on top just before serving. However you decide to serve this delicious soup, do make it soon. Any leftovers can be refrigerated and gently reheated.

Recipe

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

Creamy Mushroom Soup

Ingredients

1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms

1.5 cups boiling water

2 shallots or 1 medium yellow onion

2 cloves of garlic

4 Tablespoons of butter (or buttery vegan spread)

1 pound cremini or baby bella mushrooms, sliced

1.5 teaspoons kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper

3 Tablespoons unbleached, all-purpose flour

4 cups low sodium or unsalted vegetable or chicken broth

2 Tablespoons soy sauce or tamari

2 teaspoons dried thyme

2 bay leaves (fresh or dried)

1/2 cup heavy (double) cream

A good glug of dry sherry (Optional, but highly recommended)

Directions

  1. Place 1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms in a medium heatproof bowl and cover with 1 1/2 cups boiling water. Soak until mostly softened, at least 15 minutes, but longer is fine. Meanwhile, finely dice the shallots or onion and mince 2 garlic cloves.
  2. Melt 4 tablespoons unsalted butter in a Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed 3 quart or larger pot over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, and 1 pound sliced fresh mushrooms. Season with 1.5 teaspoons kosher salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally until the mushrooms are softened and have released their juices, 10 to 12 minutes.
  3. Line a fine-mesh strainer with 2 layers of cheesecloth. Pour the soaked mushrooms through the strainer into a measuring cup or bowl. Reserve the liquid and coarsely chop the mushrooms (leave behind any grit trapped in the cheesecloth).
  4. Sprinkle 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour into the pot and stir to coat the vegetables. Cook until lightly browned, stirring regularly, about 2 minutes. Pour in 4 cups low-sodium vegetable or chicken broth and scrape the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon.
  5. Stir in the reserved soaking liquid from the mushrooms, the chopped porcini mushrooms, 2 tablespoons soy sauce, 2 teaspoons dried thyme, and 2 bay leaves. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer partially covered until the flavor is developed and the soup is slightly thickened, about 30 minutes.
  6. Remove and discard the bay leaves. Transfer about 2 cups of the soup to a blender or food processor and purée until smooth. Stir the purée back into the pot. Remove from the heat and stir in 1/2 cup heavy cream.