Monday, February 19, 2018

Chile Oil Sauce Without Borders! (Simple and Delicious Sichuan-Style Dried Red Chili Oil, Relish)

How do I describe the deliciousness of Chile Oil Sauce "Without Borders"? Its toasty, spicy goodness from the two different kinds of peppers (Sichuan and Red) is great on any food, any cuisine - hence the title! We put it pretty liberally on Kanji, Pongal, Pizza, Pastas, Chinese dishes, Mexican food, etc, - anything at all that needs a flavor boost - really takes everything to another level of deliciousness. Stir a little of it into some mayo for a spicy spread for a sandwich or wrap!

Add Chile Oil Sauce to anything that needs a little zip - soups, stews, Dals, Curries, Veggies, Stir-fries, etc, etc - in fact any dish, any cuisine!

It is very easy to make but working with oil, a highly flammable material, you have to stay with it from start to finish. Once prepared the sauce should last a long time - if you don't gobble it all up, that is! Make sure to use a clean, dry, spoon to remove a portion for the recipe or meal; but do not return any unused part back into the original container. 

This recipe is my adaptation of a few different recipes; I made a few changes and tweaks to work for me - especially in reducing the copious amounts of oil some of the recipes use. Although I use the lower amount of oil so the sauce is still easily spoonable but not too oily (believe me, it still has plenty of oil!), you are welcome to use more of it if you wish. 

The spicy oil is very useful in cooking too. Drizzle a little to spice up roasted or stir-fried veggies or tofu instead or as part of the oil used depending on the level of spiciness you like.

I don't add ginger or garlic to this sauce; there is another sauce where I do use them. If you like the chile oil midler, use only half the amount or less of the red chile powder and flakes.

Ingredients:

Infused Oil:
¾  - 1 cup oil (mild flavored vegetable oil)
5 tablespoons Sichuan peppercorns (whole)
5 star anise (whole)
3 Tbsp Coriander seeds, whole
2 pieces - 2" - Cinnamon stick, preferably Indian 
3 Bay leaves, broken into 2-3 pieces

Chile Oil Sauce:
2 Tbsp Sichuan pepper - ground coarsely
½ cup Ground Red Chile (Hot Indian Chili Powder Or Cayenne)
½ cup crushed Red Chile flakes 
1½ - 2 teaspoons Salt (to taste)

Method:

First step: Make infused oil.

Heat the oil in a small saucepan over low - medium heat until hot but not smoking (add a piece of peppercorn - it should barely sizzle); some of the new stoves heat very efficiently so keep an eye on the oil carefully.

Add the Sichuan peppercorns, star anise, cinnamon stick, and bay leaves.

When the oil begins to bubble very slightly around the edges of the pan, turn the heat down to very low. The heat may need to be adjusted up or down so the oil stays warm but not too much.

Allow the oil mixture to cook for about 20 minutes so it becomes infused with the spices and herbs. Stay close by and keep a watch - oil is highly flammable!!

When the time is up, the spices and bay leaves should darken in color, but not turn black. Blackened = burned = not tasty!

Turn off heat and let cool undisturbed for 10 minutes; it is still hot so please handle carefully.

In another small saucepan, place the ground Sichuan pepper, red chile powder and red pepper flakes and salt.

Set a fine strainer set over the chile mixture in the saucepan; carefully and slowly pour the infused oil through the strainer into the saucepan

Discard the aromatic spices and herbs left in the strainer; they have done their job to impart their lovely flavors to the oil!

Heat and stir the chile sauce just until fragrant about a minute or so; the edges may begin to bubble  and foam a little; when foamy and fragrant, remove immediately from heat and let cool.

When completely cool, taste and adjust for salt, and transfer to a clean and dry jar, add a well-fitting lid, and store in the refrigerator. 

The sauce will keep fresh for up to 6 months (at our house it disappears long before that!) kept refrigerated and if you remember to use a clean, dry spoon to remove portions to serve. Do not put unused portions back into the jar.

Enjoy!!

Sunday, January 14, 2018

All American Apple Pie Muesli (Overnight Muesli With Apples & Pecans)

Of course my muesli repertoir has an All American Apple Pie Muesli! Made with delicious apples, pecans, and apple pie spices, and served a la mode, what's not to love?

This muesli isvery similar to other muesli but served warm with a little scoop of non-dairy ice cream!

2 servings

INGREDIENTS:

2 Apples, diced
1 Pinch of Salt
1-2 Tbsp Brown Sugar
1/4 tsp Cinnamon
1/4 tsp Ginger
1 pinch Nutmeg
1 pinch Allspice
1 cup Oatmeal
1/4 cup dried Cranberries
2 cups Non-Dairy Milk, Almond, Soy, or Rice
1/4 cup Pecans, toasted

Optional Toppings
Pure Maple Syrup
Non-Dairy Vanilla or Butter Pecan "Ice Cream"
Non-Dairy Whipped Topping or Cashew Cream
Nutmeg
Extra Pecans
Extra Milk for serving if needed

METHOD:

Combine apples, salt and sugar in a pan and cook until just softened. Stir in all the spices.

Tip in the oatmeal, dried cranberries and milk and mix well; cover and let soak overnight. 

Variation: Pour the prepared muesli into individual containers such as mason jars which can withstand heat, cover with lids, and put in the fridge. Warm until steaming hot when ready to serve. Top with pecans and other toppings and serve.

Warm until steaming hot when ready to serve.

Divide into 2 bowls, top with  ice cream or other topping and the pecans. Drizzle the maple syrup and dust the top with a little freshly grated nutmeg.

Serve with more milk if desired. Enjoy!!

Barley, Wheat, & Rice Pongal (Multigrain & Mung Bean Risotto)

Happy Pongal everyone! Join in the celebration of this festival which is similar to Thanksgiving; giving thanks for the Earth, Sun, and all the bounty of the harvest. This Pongal is very similar to Basic Pongal, a wonderful comfort food, quite simple and delicious.

Trying to incorporate healthy ingredients while yet keeping food tasty is quiet a challenge; Multigrain Pongal/Risotto more than rises to it! Although similar to the barley pongal, this one is prepared without any added fat! Paired with a delicious curry of your choice, it makes an awesome meal; the complex carbohydrates, abundant fiber, and proteins from the grains and dal make it filling and satisfying.

This pongal may be made soft or fluffy depending on the amount of water used. Other dals like red lentils, toor dal, or chana dal and grains such as steel cut oats, quinoa, coarse cornmeal/polenta, millet or buckwheat may also be used to make pongal.

Since pongal is very mild, spicy and saucy dishes go well with it; try tomato chutney, one of the Gothsus like the sweet-and-sour Tangerine-Peel Gothsu, a raita, your favorite savory chutneys, or a spicy kuzhambu.

Ingredients:

1 cup yellow Mung Dal, lightly roasted
1/2 cup Barley
1/2 cup Cracked Wheat (#3 grade)
1/2 cup Basmati Rice
1/2 tsp Turmeric
1 1/2 tsp Sea Salt
1-2 tsp dry-roasted Black Peppercorns 
1 Tbsp Whole Cumin Seeds, dry-roasted

Toasted Cashews, chopped
Vegan Butter Substitute, to serve
Chutney, Raita, Gothsu, Pickles, etc to serve

Method:

Dry roast the mung dal until fragrant and lightly golden brown and fragrant; pour onto a plate (so that it does not keep browning further - it would if left in the cooking pan from the residual heat) and let cool completely.

Soak the dal, rice and barley separately for about 30 minutes.

Rinse barley and place in a large pot with 6 cups of water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and gently simmer for 20 minutes.

Rinse the dal and add to the pot with the turmeric and salt; bring to boil and then simmer for about 10 minutes.

Rinse the rice with plenty of water and drain.

Stir in the rice and cracked wheat, bring to a boil again. Reduce heat and simmer until rice is tender, about 15 to 20 minutes. If the pongal looks dry during cooking, add hot water 1/4 cup at a time unless you like a soft pongal; in which case add as much water as needed to get the right consistency you prefer.

Grind the roasted pepper and cumin in a spice mill or using a mortar and pestle.

Sprinkle the ground spices evenly over the pongal and gently mix well.  Cover and let rest for about 10 minutes.

Serve hot topped with a little vegan butter substitute and the cashews with gothsu, chutneys, raitas, or other curries.  Enjoy!!

Friday, December 22, 2017

Chickpea (Garbanzo Beans) Salad Spread for Sandwiches & More

Chickpea Spread is a wonderful in so many ways - not just on regular sandwiches and wraps but as a salad and filling for a cool lettuce taco or as a dip to scoop with your favorite veggies or chips! Stuff pretty little peppers, tomatoes, lettuce cups, endive, celery, etc. for a delicious and easy snack or starter.

Cook your own chickpeas or use canned; I cook a big batch so there is enough for a couple of different recipes as well as freeze a portion or two for another day as they freeze well.

Notes:
1. I do the whole thing using the food processor; if you like the veggies chunkier, the carrots and celery may be finely chopped with a knife and added at the end and pulsed once or twice just to mix.

2. Homemade or purchased vegan mayo works quite well.

3. Other herbs like basil, cilantro, chives, etc may be added instead of or in addition to the parsley.

INGREDIENTS:

1 Handful raw or roasted Almonds, around 1/4 cup
2 ribs Celery include leaves, coarsley chopped
1 carrot, coarsley chopped
1 Handful Parlsley, tough stems removed
2 cups cooked Chickpeas
1 Tbsp prepared Mustard, any kind
1/3 cup Vegan Mayonnaise
1/4 - 1/2 tsp Cayenne (optional)
Salt & Pepper to taste
Fresh Lemon Juice, as desired

Optional Add-ons:
Kosher Dill Pickles
Sweet Pickle Reslish
Hot green Chiles, Jalapeno/Serrano, chopped
Fresh Coriander/Cilantro or other herbs
Other Nuts, roasted and finely chopped

METHOD:

If the chickpeas are freshly cooked, drain (reserve cooking broth for soups or other uses) and cool.

Place the almonds in the bowl of the foodprocessor fitted with the metal blade. Pulse until the nuts are coarsely chopped or according to your preference. Pour into a bowl and set aside.

In the same bowl of the food processor, add carrots and celery; pulse a few times until coarsely chopped.

Add the parlsley and pulse again until parsley is chopped.

Tip the drained chickpeas and pulse a few of times until chopped but not pureed or to your desired constistency.

Add the rest of the ingredients and the reserved almonds; pulse a few times just until mixed well. Taste and adjust seasonings, add a little more carrots or celery, etc. Mix well.

Scoop out the Chickpea Spread into a clean container and store in the fridge until needed.

The spread is better if it is made a few hours ahead to meld the flavors. Chickpea spread may be made a couple of days ahead and reserved in the fridge until needed. The spread tastes best for 3 to 5 days.

Serve cold or cool on toast, as filling for sandwiches or wraps, or as a dip with veggies and chips.

Enjoy!!


Thursday, December 21, 2017

Autumn Muesli II (Warm & Creamy Steel-cut Oats Porridge With Fruits, Nuts, & Spices)

Autumn Muesli II
Warm and creamy Autumn Muesli II is a much loved porridge in our household; the aroma of the spices and fruit cooking with the steel-cut oats wafting through the house entices everyone out of their hibernation even on a cold and rainy day! Made with fresh cranberries, delicious apples, almonds, persimmons (when available), and wonderfully warming cardamom as well as other spices, it is indeed a delight! If you use a slow/rice cooker, a pressure cooker or Instant Pot, it is very easy to prepare!

Adjust the spices according to your taste. Any leftovers can be reserved in the fridge and warmed up for the quick comfort of a steaming bowl of muesli anytime you want one! Oats thickens upon standing; you may have to loosen it with a little almond milk.

Do try the muesli with the cardamom; it adds a bright fragrance! I like uing freshly ground  cardamom seeds; lightly crush the pods, remove the seeds, and crush/grind into a powder. 

Dried Cranberries may be used instead of the fresh. 
Mix fruits & Nuts into soaked Oats
Autumn Muesli Ready to cook
4 - 6 servings

INGREDIENTS:

2 cups Boiling Water
1 cup Steelcut Oats
1/4 cup toasted unsalted Almonds, chopped
1/2 tsp Salt
1 McIntosh, Granny Smith, or a favorite Apple, finely diced
1/2 cup Fresh Cranberries, chopped
1 cup Almond Milk
1/4 tsp Ground Cardamom Seeds (about 2-3 pods)
1/4 tsp ground Cinnamon
1 pinch ground  Nutmeg
1-2 Tbsp pure Maple Syrup or Brown Sugar
Extra Almond Milk, as needed

Toppings
Toasted Pecans, Almonds, or Walnuts, chopped
Maple Syrup or Brown Sugar
Persimmon, diced
Dried Cranberries
Pomegranate arils

METHOD:

In a heat-proof bowl combine the boiling water, salt, chopped almonds, and oats; stir well, cover and let sit for a few hours or overnight.

Combine soaked oats, apples, cranberries, Almond milk, spices and brown sugar or maple syrups in a pan and bring to a boil; cook stirring until oats are cooked to your liking - about 6-8 minutes for chewy or a little longer if you like it softer. Add a little almond milk if the porridge is too thick. Stir in the spices and maple syrup/sugar.

Spoon the prepared muesli into individual bowls, top with more milk if you like, add desired toppings of fruits, nuts, etc and serve.

Any leftovers should be stored in the fridge and reheated as needed; it may need more milk or water to loosen to desired consistency.


Enjoy!!
Autumn Muesli II 


Sunday, December 3, 2017

Autumn Muesli I (No-Cook Oatmeal With Fruits, Nuts, & Spices)

Autumn Muesli
 Autumn Muesli is very much a part of my muesli repertoire; though I don't wait for autumn to enjoy it! Made with delicious apples, persimmons (when available), pecans, and warming spices, it is a delight any time. Prepared ahead of serving, it is good to go whenever you are!

This muesli is very similar to Basic Muesli but has autumn spices redolent of pumpkin pie! Adjust spices according to your taste. If you would like a steaming bowl of muesli on a cold morning, Autumn Muesli is great warmed up also!

Do try the muesli with the jewel-like and juicy pomegranate arils; I really love the bright burst in each mouthful! The muesli is sweet enough with all the fruits in it that I don't add any sweetners at all; maple syrup or brown sugar add to the fabulous taste if you like it sweeter.

2 - 4  servings

INGREDIENTS:

1 Apple, finely diced
1 Persimmon, finely diced
1/4 cup Dried Cranberries
4 Dates, finely chopped
1 Pinch of Salt
1/4 tsp Cinnamon
1/4 tsp Ginger
1 pinch Nutmeg
1 pinch Allspice
1 cup Regular Oatmeal (not quick or steel cut)
1-2 Tbsp Maple Syrup or Brown Sugar (optional)
2 cups Almond Milk
1/4 cup Pecans, Walnuts, or Pumpkin seeds, toasted
Extra Almond Milk, if needed

Optional Toppings
Extra Fruit - Apple, Persimmon, Cranberries
Pomegranate arils
Maple Syrup or Brown Sugar
Toasted Pecans, Almonds, or Walnuts

METHOD:

Prepare the fruits and nuts.

Combine fresh and dried fruits and salt in a bowl. Stir in all the spices and maple syrup/sugar.

Tip in the oatmeal, nuts/seeds and milk; mix well. Add a little extra milk if muesli is too dry; there should be enough milk for the oats to soak in. After trying a time or two, you'll figure out the exact amount of milk you like.

Spoon the prepared muesli into individual containers such as mason jars, cover with lids, and put in the fridge to soak overnight. Autumn Muesli will last in the fridge for 3-4 days.

Top with your favorite toppings; eat!


Enjoy!!
Autumn Muesli


Saturday, December 2, 2017

Quick Caramelized Brussels Sprouts, Indian Style

Cooking Brussels Sprouts this way could not be simpler or any quicker! Easy and delicious as well; according to Keeshu: "tastes a lot better than I anticipated". Use small sprouts when possible - they cook very fast and are ever so tender; I cut them in half - the increased surface area aids in cooking faster as well as absorb all the seasonings better.

The dals add toasty flavor as well as a nice bite without being hard on teeth - they soften while the veggies cook; they may be used in smaller quantities or omitted altogether if you wish. Dals not only add taste, but also protein, vitamins, minerals, and fiber too.

I often make a double batch to have enough left over; they are great warmed or cold or on salads.

Ingredients:

1 lb Brussels Sprouts
1 Tbsp Oil
1/2 tsp Brown Mustard Seeds
2 tsp Urad dal
2 tsp Chana dal
1-2 dry Red Peppers
1 pinch crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
1/2 tsp Sea Salt
1 pinch Asafetida
1 stem Fresh Curry Leaves, minced
1/2 tsp Turmeric

Fresh Lime wedges (optional)

Method:

Wash, trim the cut ends of the Brussels sprouts, and cut in half lengthwise (top-to-bottom so that all the leaves are attached to the stem on both pieces).

Heat the oil in a kadai/wok/skillet and add the mustard, chana, urad dal, and peppers. Stir a minute or so until mustard seeds pop.

Reduce the heat, stir in the pepper flakes if using, asafetida for a couple of seconds - I really mean seconds - otherwise it will burn and turn bitter!

Immediately add the sprouts along with the curry leaves, salt, and turmeric; stir well and cover.

Cook over medium to low heat stirring occasionally; a tablespoon of water may be sprinkled if the sprouts dry out.

When the sprouts are still bright green (about 7-11 minutes), I remove the cover and cook them on higher heat turning them occasionlly so they just caramelize but not burn.

The sprouts take just a few minutes to cook; remove from heat as soon as they are done to your liking.

Serve hot/warm with rice/roti, any dal or beans, salad etc. Pass the lime wedges.  Enjoy!!