July 27, 2011

Chapatis : Whole Wheat Flatbread

Chapatis are a version of roti or any unleavened flat bread found in South Asian cuisine. Common to Indian cooking, chapatis vary in shape and ingredients depending upon the region; however, they are all made of whole wheat flour and cooked on a hot skillet. Flatbreads, like chapatis are important parts of the meal, as they serve as both the carbohydrate and eating utensil. Though they are superb with any number of Indian dishes, chapatis can be eaten at almost any time with almost anything. They are a great alternative to other flatbreads, crackers and leavened breads. Fresh handmade chapatis are delicious and easy to make. Chapatis are delicious served with curries such as matar saag paneer or hummus and baba ghanoush.

2 c wheat flour

2 tbsp ghee or softened butter

½ c yogurt

1 tsp salt

1. Combine flour and salt. Thoroughly work in ghee or butter using fingers. Slowly add yogurt to flour mixture until dough holds together, more or less yogurt may be used as necessary. Continue kneading dough until elastic and dry to the touch. Wrap dough is plastic wrap and set aside for 1-2 hours.

2. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Roll dough into 1" balls. Place dough ball between two sheets of parchment paper and roll dough into 8-10" rounds, about 1/8" thick.

3. Place chapati on skillet and cook until both sides are golden brown, about 1 minute per side. After cooking, wrap chapati in a towel or plastic bag to keep them soft. Repeat steps 2 and 3 until all dough has been cooked.

4. Serve chapatis warm or room temperature. Chapatis will keep for 3-4 days but are best eaten fresh.

Makes 12-16 chapatis

July 23, 2011

Pad Thai

Thailand is an amazing country and Thai cuisine is just as amazing and delicious. My first introduction to Thailand was the city of Bangkok, I had been eating Thai food for many years and cooking Thai food, so I was delighted to experience the food in its country of origin. After my first trip to Bangkok, I continued experimenting with Thai cuisine and have learned many things thanks to research and Thai Food by David Thompson, a wonderful book for those interested in Thai cuisine. I especially love the use of fresh ingredients and the particular attention to their intrinsic colors and flavors. I was able to take another trip to Thailand a year ago, and while there my friend and I took a great cooking class in the heart of Bangkok from a lively Thai man who taught us about the use of fresh ingredients, careful preparation and rapid cooking. Pad Thai remains one of my favorite dishes, one I make frequently at home and goes very well with both fresh spring rolls, cucumber watermelon slaw or strawberry mango sticky rice.

Most any style of rice noodle will work. Meat such as shrimp or chicken can easily be used in addition to or instead of tofu.

For Margaret, who arranged the great cooking class for us in Bangkok.

¼ c boiling water

2 tbsp tamarind paste

1 tbsp tomato paste

1 tbsp palm or brown sugar

1 tbsp sugar

2 tbsp fish sauce or 1 tsp salt

1 tbsp rice vinegar

16 oz rice stick noodles

2 tbsp vegetable oil

1 c tofu, cut into ¼-½ inch cubes

1 clove garlic, pressed or finely chopped

1 shallot, finely minced

2 eggs, beaten

1 carrot, peeled and grated

1 bunch scallions, cut into 1" pieces

1 c bean sprouts

½ c cilantro, stems removed

½ c ground peanuts

1 lime, cut into wedges

1. In a small bowl combine tamarind paste, tomato paste, sugars, fish sauce and rice vinegar. Whisk in boiling water until sauce is well combined. Set sauce aside.

2. Heat a large pot of water over high heat, bring to a boil and add noodles. Remove from heat and allow noodles to cook off heat until tender, 4-5 minutes. Once noodles are tender, drain and run under cold water to stop cooking process. Set aside and allow noodles to continue draining.

3. Heat the oil in a large skillet or wok over medium-high heat. Add tofu and fry until golden brown, about 4-5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove tofu and set aside.

4. Keeping oil over medium-high heat, add shallot and garlic and stir until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add egg, carrot and tofu and stir continuously until egg has cooked, about 30 seconds. Add noodles, gently combine with cooked ingredients and pour sauce over skillet. Gently stir ingredients to heat and combine, about 30 seconds. Remove from heat, add scallions, ¼ c cilantro leaves and bean sprouts and gently toss to combine.

5. Serve immediately. Garnish with ground peanuts, lime wedges and remaining cilantro leaves.

Serves 3-4

July 18, 2011

Pea Soup with Mint

Vegetable purées make a perfect summer soup as they can easily be served at any temperature, as a meal on their own or in addition to other dishes or courses. When making puréed soups it is important to not overcook the ingredients to maintain their color, flavor and overall integrity. Peas have been cultivated by humans for thousands of years and continue to be a widely consumed vegetable. Puréed peas turn into a rich and creamy vibrant green base for a fresh and simple summer soup. Minted pea soup requires little preparation, holds up well in the fridge for a few days and can be served warm, room temperature or chilled. Pea soup is delicious with leek galette or brown rice fritters.

To make the soup vegan, simply omit the butter. Frozen peas work just as well as fresh.

For Nicholas, who requested a pea soup recipe.

4 c peas, fresh or frozen

1 large white onion, trimmed and diced

4 tbsp butter

2 tbsp fresh mint


salt and pepper

1. Melt butter in a medium pot over medium heat. Add onion and sauté until translucent, about 5 minutes, stirring frequently.

2. Next, place peas in pot and stir to combine with onions. Add water until peas are covered and bring to a simmer. If using frozen peas, turn heat off after water reaches a simmer. If using fresh peas, simmer peas until they are just cooked, 3-5 minutes, and remove from heat.

3. Place cooked ingredients and liquid in a food processor and thoroughly combine. Add mint and additional water as desired, thoroughly process into a smooth purée. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

4. Serve fresh pea soup warm, room temperature or chilled.

Makes about 4 cups

July 13, 2011

Rustic Apple Pie

Apple pies are quintessential Americana cuisine and though delicious throughout the year, pies are a lovely summer dessert. Apples, a member of the rose family, were among the earliest trees to be cultivated by humans in Central Asia where apples originated. Apple trees were brought to the States during the 17th century and continue to be one of the most widely cultivated trees. Though in the States we consume only a handful of different apples, there are actually thousands of apple cultivars presenting a vast range of characteristics. Apples are the perfect filling for a freeform pie due to their sturdiness and relative lack of juice. Rustic apple pies are the perfect summer dessert, fresh, easy and delicious.

1 ¼ c flour

½ c butter

1 tbsp sugar

½ tsp salt

ice water

4 medium macintosh or similar apples

2 tbsp brown sugar

½ tsp corn starch

¼ tsp cinnamon

¼ tsp lemon juice

2 tbsp butter

1 egg, beaten

1. Gently combine flour, butter, sugar and salt until crumbly in texture, either by hand or food processor. Slowly add ice water, 1 tbsp at a time, gently combining ingredients until dough forms into a ball. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and place dough in fridge.

2. Peel apples and slice into ¼-½ inch wedges. Toss apple slices with lemon juice, sugar, cornstarch and cinnamon. Set apples aside.

3. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Remove dough from fridge and place between two sheets of parchment paper. Roll dough into a 12-14 inch crust round. Remove top sheet of parchment paper, place crust round and bottom sheet of parchment paper on a cookie sheet.

4. Mound filling into a circle in the center of crust about 1" thick, leaving a 2" edge. Place small pieces of butter on top of filling. Fold edge of crust around apple filling, gently pressing folded crust around filling. Using a pastry brush, brush crust with egg.

5. Place pie in oven and bake until crust is golden brown and apples are tender, 30-40 minutes. Remove pie from oven; cool at least 15 minutes before serving. Serve warm, room temperature or chilled.

Makes one pie

July 9, 2011

Warm Red Lentil and Spinach Salad with Goat Cheese

Lentil salads, such as warm red lentil salad, are the perfect way to continue eating lentils during spring and summer. Lentils, a member of the legume family, were one of the first crops domesticated by humans in the Near East. Due to their high protein content, lentils remain an important part of the diet around the world, especially in South Asia and the Middle East. In the States, it seems lentils are frequently cooked in lentil soup and while delicious, is certainly not the only way to cook lentils. Warm spiced red lentils with caramelized shallots over sautéed spinach and fresh tomatoes topped with crumbled goat cheese are reminiscent of similar dishes served in Persian cuisine and are delicious with tangerine beets and roasted potatoes.

Any variety of lentils may be used, though cooking times and water quantities may vary. Feta could be used in place of goat cheese. Yellow or red onions may be used instead of shallots. Omit the goat cheese to make the dish vegan.

For the Samimi-Aazamis, my Persian dears, in celebration of their anniversary.

1 c red lentils

2 c water

1 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp grated ginger

1 clove garlic, pressed or finely chopped

2 medium shallots, trimmed and thinly sliced

1 lb fresh spinach, trimmed

1 medium tomato, finely diced

1 tbsp mint, finely chopped

1 tbsp cilantro, finely chopped

2 tbsp plus 1 tsp olive oil

salt and pepper

4 oz goat cheese, crumbled

1. Heat 1 tbsp of olive oil in a Dutch oven or similarly heavy pot over medium heat. Add lentils and cumin, sauté until lentils become slightly translucent, 3-5 minutes, stirring continuously. Add ginger and garlic, sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add water, bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium low and simmer lentils until water is almost completely reduced and lentils are tender, 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking. Once cooked, remove from heat and set aside.

2. Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a medium skillet over medium heat, add shallots. Sauté shallots, stirring often until shallots are golden brown and caramelized, 15-20 minutes. Once caramelized, remove from heat and combine with cooked lentils, mint and cilantro. Season lentils to taste with salt and pepper.

3. Using the same medium skillet, heat 1 tsp olive oil over medium heat. Add spinach and sauté until wilted, 1-2 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in tomatoes. Season spinach to taste with salt and pepper.

4. Serve lentils over sautéed spinach and tomatoes and top with crumbled goat cheese.

Serves 3-4

July 4, 2011

Mint Buttered Pecan Brussel Sprouts

Vegetable dishes that can easily be served warm, room temperature or chilled, might be one of my favorite dishes to make because they can easily be ingredient dependent and then served with any number of different entrées or other side dishes. I generally buy ingredients depending upon their appeal at the time and only later create a suitable recipe. Brussel sprouts lend themselves well to side dishes, as they are delicious at any temperature and compliment a variety of flavors. Mint buttered pecan brussel sprouts are delicious with and rye berry or wheat berry salad.

Other herbs or nuts may be used in addition to or in place of mint and pecans.

½ lb brussel sprouts, trimmed and quartered lengthwise

¼ c pecans, toasted and roughly chopped

1 tbsp mint, finely chopped

1 tbsp butter

salt and pepper

1. Place brussel sprouts in a steamer basket over water. Bring water to a boil and steam brussel sprouts until just tender and brilliant green, 3-5 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside in a medium-mixing bowl.

2. Heat a small saucepan over medium heat and add butter, olive oil and pecans. Sauté pecans until butter is melted, stir in mint and remove from heat.

3. Toss brussel sprouts with sautéed ingredients. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

4. Serve brussel sprouts warm or room temperature.

Serves 3-4