Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Lavender Cookies

Lavender Cookies

The idea for these cookies was prompted by a lovely gift of culinary lavender. Buttery Lavender Cookies are wonderfully fragrant and are very quick as well as easy to make. I made them while preparing the rest of the dinner. They are fabulous as desserts or tea time treats! Be warned - they grow on you :D.

Culinary Lavender

You may use fresh lavender if you grow them; make sure they are not sprayed with pesticides or by pets.

About 2 dozen cookies

Ingredients:

1 stick Unsalted Butter (1/4 lb)
1/2 cup Sugar
1 Tbsp Cornstarch
2 Tbsp Water
1 tsp dried Culinary Lavender + a little extra for decoration
1/4 tsp Sea Salt
1 1/2 tsp Baking Powder
1 cup + 2 Tbsp Unbleached Flour

Method:

Allow the butter to come to room temperature.

Line a cookie sheet with baking parchment paper.

Combine flour, baking powder, salt and 1 tsp lavender in a bowl.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Cream butter and the sugar in a large bowl until light and fluffy - an electric beater makes short work of this.

Add the cornstarch and water to the butter mixture and beat well.

Fold the flour mixture into the butter mixture using a rubber spatula just until the flour is incorporated.

Use two tablespoons to scoop the cookie dough into little balls (they don't need to be perfect) and place an inch apart on the lined cookie sheet; gently press a tiny bit of lavender on top if you wish.

Bake for about 15 minutes on the top rack of the oven; the edges of the cookies should just color pale golden.

Let cool for a few minutes before removing the cookies to a rack; cool completely before storing in an airtight container (if there are any left :D). Enjoy!!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Rice Muddhas/Kofte (Onigiri Indian Style)

Large and Small Rice and Dal Muddhas
I fondly remember that Amma used to make little rice balls with dal and veggies for us when we were little children. This is a tradition in South India since time immemorial and continues to this day and are called 'muddhas' or kisses in some parts of the south - how apt! Japanese Onigiri remind me of these little rice balls.

Mothers make little balls of food for their darling toddlers to not only lovingly tempt their mercurial appetites but also because little ones love to be independent (the universal "I do it" stage) - they love to pick up tiny morsels using their fingers and feed themselves. We neither had special names for them nor made them as a dish in their own right - until now!

Thinking of rice balls brings back another lovely memory: One of the elder ladies (typically a grandmother or an aunt) would gather all the young children (sometimes even the not-so-young :D) for supper. The children sat in a semi-circle and the keeper of the rice pot handed each one a little rice ball just perfect for one mouthful. We made a little indentation with our thumbs so that a little spoonful of the various curries or some pickles could be placed in them. And then came the best part; the whole thing went down the hatch! Seeing others try and relish various delicacies encouraged all the children to try everything. Somehow the food tasted better and in no time at all, everyone was well-fed.

I am thrilled to discover onigiri or Japanese rice balls! Onigiri (they look like Sumo wrestlers with the little wrap of the seaweed, nori) are seasoned rice balls with a filling. When I came across onigiri, I could see that the possibilities are just endless. Just as a trial, I made them with brown rice, dal, and cauliflower upperi. Then I made them with Basmati rice and other dry vegetable curries too! Bored with sandwiches, wraps, etc, Keeshu is quite delighted with this new prospect for lunch!

Muddhas may be eaten warm or cool, plain or toasted.

12 large Muddhas/Kofte

Ingredients:

1 cup rice
Any prepared dal and/or any chutney
1 cup Cauliflower Upperi or other dry veggie curries
Indian Chutneys or Pickles

Method:

Wash the rice in a couple of changes of fresh water and drain in a fine strainer. Place the rice in a bowl and cover with 2 cups of fresh water. Cover and let soak for 1 hour.

Drain the rice, place in a pan with slightly less than 2 cups of water (about 1+3/4 cups). Bring to a boil, turn heat down to simmer and cook for about 15 minutes. Cover and let sit for about 10 minutes.

If using brown rice, cook and let rest covered for 20 minutes. I cooked the rice in the pressure cooker (used twice as much time as white rice) and it came out perfectly plump and delicious. Let cool slightly.

You can make muddhas with plain rice, dal rice with your favorite dal, or chutney rice with any chutney such as Red Bell Pepper Chutney.

For dal or chutney rice, mix the hot rice with thick dal/chutney and let cool until cool enough to handle comfortably.

For large muddhas, use a small bowl which measures about 1/2 cup and for smaller ones, use a smaller bowl; Indian katoris come in various sizes and work very well.

Rice muddhas work easier if you use cling wrap to form them into balls. Take a piece of cling wrap to line the bowl; it should be large enough to hang outside the bowl.

Scoop about 1/4 cup of the warm rice into the bowl and lightly press down; add a little of the chutney/pickles and a tablespoon of the cauliflower upperi on top; add another 1/4 cup of the rice on top of the veggies and press down.

Gather together the edges and corners of the wrap to cover the rice completely and twist to enclose the rice ball.

Gently but firmly shape the rice into a smooth ball; be careful not to tear the wrap. It may also be shaped into a flat disc which is great for toasting.

Proceed to make more rice muddhas as required.

Serve right away or place all the muddhas in a container and chill until needed.

Toasted muddhas: Unwrap the cold muddhas and toast on a seasoned cast iron griddle with a few drops of oil/ghee until golden brown on both sides.

Plate and serve with chutneys, ketchup, pickles, etc; or, cool to room temperature and wrap them in cling wrap for safe transportation. Enjoy!!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Pupusa (Stuffed Corn Cakes Salvadoreño)

Pupusas are thick Salvadoran corn cakes stuffed with assorted fillings and served with salsa and the traditional cabbage salad, Curtido. They are gluten-free and they can also be vegan if the butter and cheese are omitted. I made the masa dough without the traditional fats and have tweaked to make it a bit more interesting and tasty by adding a bit of chile and cilantro. Although not exactly traditional, these pupusas are pretty much true to their heritage and make fun and fabulous eats!

Savory stuffed breads are popular in every country - Dosas & Parathas in India, Calzones in Italy, Gozleme in Turkey, gorditas & Quesadillas in Mexico, Pupusas in El Salvador, etc. Other Central and South American cuisines also prepare similar baked or fried stuffed corn cakes.

If queso fresco (fresh Mexican cheese) is unavailable, Feta, Jack, cheddar or other cheeses may be used instead.

Ingredients:

Masa/Dough :
2 cups dry Instant Masa
1/2 tsp Sea Salt
2 Tbsp soft Butter or Olive oil
1 - 2 Tbsp finely minced hot green chilies (Jalapeño or Serrano)
2 Tbsp finely minced Cilantro
A little Extra Virgin Olive Oil, to cook
1 Recipe Curtido, to serve
1 Recipe Salsa I or Salsa II or Avocado Salsa, or Smokey Salsa to serve

Filling: Choose one or more of the following - you will need about 1 cup total
  1. Black beans and crumbled Queso Fresco
  2. Frijoles and Queso Fresco or Pepper Jack cheese
  3. Assorted grated Cheeses mixed with chopped green onions, garlic chives and/or cilantro
Method:

Make the masa (dough) by mixing the ingredients in a large bowl. Add about 2 cups of warm water and mix thoroughly - take a bit of the masa and roll into a smooth ball and flatten; if there are cracks at the edges, add a bit more water - a tablespoon at a time - until no cracks form when you flatten a ball of masa. Cover and set aside for about 30 minutes.

When ready to cook, heat a cast iron griddle or a large skillet.

Make a ball of the masa, flatten on a small piece of cling film sheet. Place a tablespoon of the filling in the center of the flattened masa and bring the edges of the cling film together so that the masa covers the filling completely.

Place a portion of the film over the masa and pat carefully to flatten into patties about 1/2" thick.

Brush the griddle/skillet with a light coating of oil. Cook 3 or 4 of the pupusas on the griddle at a time as space permits. Cook them over low to medium heat until both sides are well cooked and flecked with brown spots.

Remove from heat and keep them warm in a 200 degree oven until all the pupusas are done.

Serve hot with Curtido and the salsas of your choice. Enjoy!

Buen Provecho!!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Tangerine Peel Gothsu (Citrusy Sweet & Sour Sauce)

This amazing sweet and sour gothsu is particularly delicious served with pongal. You can also serve it as a side dish with poricha kuzhambu, molakootal, simple dal, or for dipping with pancake-like adai or dosa. Although this gothsu can be prepared with any orange, flavorful tangerines are my first choice.

About 2 cups

Ingredients:

1 tsp oil
1-2 dry Red Chiles
1/4 tsp Brown Mustard Seeds
1 pinch Fenugreek seeds
1 small pinch Asafoetida
1 stem fresh Curry Leaves, minced
1-2 hot green chile, cored and minced
1 or 2 fresh Organic Tangerine
1 pinch Turmeric
1/2 tsp Sea Salt
1 tsp Tamarind concentrate paste
1 tsp Rice flour mixed in 1/4 water
2-3 Tbsp Jaggery or Brown Sugar

Method:

Use 2 tangerines especially if they are small. Scrub with a soft brush and wash them thoroughly; peel and finely chop with a sharp knife. Typically the flesh is not included in the gothsu; but I often do. If you like to include the flesh, separate the segments and dice the flesh removing any seeds and membranes.

Heat the oil in a small sauce pan and add the chiles along with both the mustard and fenugreek seeds; when they pop, stir in asafoetida.

Stir in the curry leaves, green chile, and tangerine peel pieces with the salt and turmeric; stir and cook until the peels soften, a couple of minutes.

Add 1 1/2 cups of water and bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer covered until the tangerine is soft.

Add the jaggery/brown sugar and the tangerine flesh if using and bring to a boil and cook for a couple of minutes until the sauce is slightly reduced.

Stir in the rice and water slurry and cook until slightly thickened.

Remove from heat, cover and set aside for a few minutes.

Serve hot, warm, cold or at room temperature. Enjoy!!