Friday, January 4, 2013

Greek-Style Walnut Cookies (Vegan Kourabiedes)

Greek Walnut Cookies are especially delicious a few days after they are made - if they survive that long :)!  Very easy to prepare, they are a lovely addition to the holiday dessert table.  A whole clove is inserted in each cookie to signify the gift of spices that the three wise men brought to Bethlehem.  I love the gentle flavor that the orange flower water adds to this cookie.  I freeze at least half the cookies to keep them fresh and also to keep them out of sight.... and off the hips :).

Since they are going to be ground, one can use the cheaper bits and pieces of walnuts rather than the more expensive halves.

Pre-toasting the walnuts bring out their full flavor.  Coconut oil may be used instead of the butter substitute if you wish.

Ingredients:

3/4 cup Walnuts
1 tsp Orange Zest, finely grated
11/2 cups Unbleached Flour
1 Tbsp Cornstarch
1/2 tsp Baking Powder
1/2 cup Confectioner's Sugar
1/4 tsp Sea Salt
1/2 cup Vegan Butter Substitute (Earth Balance)
1 Tbsp Orange Juice
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
Whole Cloves (optional)
2 Tbsp Orange Flower Water (Optional)
1/2 - 1 cup Confectioner's Sugar to coat the cookies

Method:

Spread the walnuts in a pan and toast in 350 degree F oven for about 5-7 minutes.  Let cool completely.

Place the toasted nuts in the bowl of a food processor and pulse to chop them well.

Put in the orange zest and pulse until well mixed.

Add flour, cornstarch, baking powder, salt, butter substitute, vanilla, juice, and 1/2 cup confectioner's sugar to the nut mixture and process with a few pulses until thoroughly mixed.

Gather the cookie dough onto a cling film sheet and wrap the dough.

Chill the dough (to make it easy to handle) for about 30 minutes.

Form into 1 inch balls or crescents and place on parchment lined cookie sheets.  Insert a whole clove in each cookie if you like.

Bake at 350 degrees F for about 15 - 18 minutes; when the cookies set and brown slightly, remove from the oven.

Using a small brush or your fingertips, lightly brush the cookies with the orange flower water just enough to flavor them but not soak them.

Let the cookies cool completely.

Place some confectioner's sugar in a wide bowl, place a few cookies on top and sift more of the sugar on them; turn over and gently rub the sugar on each cookie until completely coated.

Place the cookies on a cooling wire rack as they are coated; allow them to cool and dry thoroughly.

Layer the cookies in a tin and sift a little confectioner's sugar over each layer.  Separate each layer with a piece of wax or parchment paper.

You may also freeze the cookies in resealable bags for future needs; allow the frozen cookies to come to room temperature without opening the bag.

Greek Walnut Cookies make a lovely light dessert with a cup of Masala or Mint Chai.  Enjoy!!

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Arachu Kalakki ( Kerala Home-Style Non-Dairy Chutney)

Arachu kalakki means "ground mix" in Tamil/Malayalam; and ground mixture it is - mangoes or Indian gooseberries (nellikai or amla), chiles, and coconut are ground and mixed with water or buttermilk/yogurt to make an uncooked soupy chutney or sauce; it is also called Uppu Mangai or Neer Nellikai Pachadi depending on the ingredients.  Although the traditional ingredients for making arachu kalakki are baby mangoes (kanni manga)/gooseberries (nellikai) in brine, hot pickled ones may also be used.  When using hot pickled mangoes/gooseberries, chiles may not be needed.  Arachu kalakki is a good way to use up aging pickles with soft mangoes/gooseberries. It is typically served over dry kinds of food like rice/grain dishes, upma, idliskozhakattais, sevai (rice noodles), etc.

If you would like to use dried mangoes/gooseberries, soak a small handful of the dried pieces in warm water until softened before proceeding with the grinding.  You will need to adjust the seasonings as the dried fruit usually does not contain salt or spices.

Traditionally sour yogurt or thick sour buttermilk are used; but I use coconut milk instead and a little lime/lemon for the sourness.

Ingredients:

2 or 3 pickled small mangoes or gooseberries (Amla)
1/2 cup Freshly grated Coconut
1-2 Green or dry Red Chiles
Sea Salt, if needed
1/2 cup Coconut milk  + lime/lemon juice

Thalippu:
1 tsp Oil
1 pinch Brown Mustard Seeds
1 pinch Fenugreek seeds (optional)
1 dried hot red chile
1 Stem fresh Curry Leaves, finely chopped

Method:

Use the whole mango including the seed; remove seeds from gooseberries. If using hot pickled mangoes or gooseberries, additional chiles may not be necessary.  If the pickles are excessively spicy, rinse them well before processing in the blender.

Place pickles, coconut, and chiles and coconut milk in the carafe of a blender and process using just enough water to make blending feasible.

Pour the ground mixture into a bowl; rinse the blender jar with a little water to gather every bit of the arachu kalakki and add to the bowl.  Add a little more water if necessary to get a nice pouring consistency.

Taste the arachu kalakki to see if it needs salt and lime or lemon juce; add needed salt and lime or lemon juice.  Mix well.

Heat the oil in a small pan and add the chile and seeds; when the seeds finish popping, turn off heat and stir in the curry leaves and cover immediately to prevent hot oil from splattering.  Let cool slightly, about a minute.

Pour the aromatic spices into the chutney and mix well.

Serve over plain rice, lemon rice, upma, idli, dosa, sevai etc.  Enjoy!!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

A Duo of Sauces for Pancakes & Ice cream ( Fresh Apple and Berry Sauces)

This delicious duo is unbeatable for making any breakfast or dessert super special.  I whipped these up one morning to serve with breakfast for some very special people :).  Use any combination of frozen or fresh berries - I use whatever I have on hand.  These sauces are fantastic on their own as  a snack or dessert or over pancakes and as toppings for yogurt, ice cream, pudding, etc.

Chunky Applesauce
Applesauce  4-6 servings

Ingredients:

4 large Apples, one kind or assorted
1 generous pinch Sea Salt
1 Cinnamon Stick or 1/2 tsp ground
2-4 Tbsp Water
1-2 Tbsp freshly squeezed Lemon juice
a little grating of fresh Nutmeg, 1 pinch

Method:

Wash, core, and chop the apples; peeling is not necessary but you can if you wish.

Place apples, cinnamon, salt and a couple of Tbsp of water in a pan and cook covered until the fruit is soft - this might take about 5 minutes or so.  Stir occasionally to prevent sticking or burning.

Remove from heat, stir in nutmeg along with lemon juice to taste and serve.

Apple sauce may be served warm or cold.  Enjoy!!

Berry Sauce    4-6 Servings

Ingredients:

2 cups frozen or fresh assorted berries
1/2 cup prunes, finely chopped
1 generous pinch Sea Salt
2 Tbsp Water
1 Tbsp fresh Lemon/Orange Juice
Sweetener - Stevia extract, maple/agave syrup, or sugar

Method:

Place the berries, prunes and salt with the water in a small pan and cook until fruit is soft and saucy - about 5 to 7 minutes.

Remove from heat, stir in lemon/orange juice and a little sweetener if you like.

Serve warm or cold.  Enjoy!!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Mathan and Payar Puzhukku (New Year's Day Black-eyed Peas & Pumpkin Stew)

A Puzhukku is simply a fragrant vegetable stew flavored with coconut, chiles, cumin seeds and fresh curry leaves; black-eyed peas or cow peas are often added to make the dish hearty. It is a traditional home-style Kerala stew to accompany plain rice or kanji (gruel typically made with a grain like rice, wheat, etc).  This one is made with Kabocha squash, a sweet pumpkin-like winter squash with green skin.  Black-eyed peas are added according to the Southern tradition of serving black-eyed peas on New Year's Day for good luck - a very tasty and nutritious tradition that I am very happy to observe :).

The chiles, cumin, and coconut flavor the stew beautifully; the protein-rich black-eyed peas balance the sweetness of the squash perfectly.  If a spicier stew is required, increase the chiles to kick up the heat. Other winter squashes/pumpkins may be used to prepare puzhukku; both black-eyed peas or cow peas work well in this stew.  I love to serve puzhukku over grains like rice or quinoa and sometimes just on its own.  Puzhukkus are often served as a breakfast or as a light meal anytime with kanji in Kerala homes.

Kabocha & Black-eyed Peas Puzhukku
4 Servings

Ingredients:

1/2 cup Black-eyed Peas
1/3 of a medium Kabocha
2 fresh green Thai Chiles
1/4 tsp ground Turmeric
1/2 tsp Sea Salt
1/4 cup fresh or frozen grated Coconut Or 2 Tbsp dry unsweetened
1/2 - 1 tsp Cumin Seeds
1 dry Red Chile
1 stem fresh Curry Leaf
1 Tbsp Coconut Oil

Method:

Pick over the black-eyed peas, wash, and cook in water to cover until soft but not mushy.  Set aside.

Peel the kabocha if you wish and cut into small bite-sized pieces.

Place kabocha and the Thai chiles in a pan with turmeric, salt and just enough water to barely cover the veggies.

Bring to a boil and cook until kabocha is tender.

While the veggies are cooking, coarsely grind cumin, coconut, and red chile using a blender or spice grinder.

Add the coconut mixture and the cooked black-eyed peas to the veggies and simmer for about 5 minutes or so.

Crush the curry leaves in your hands and add them to the stew; drizzle the coconut oil on top of the curry leaves.

Cover immediately and let rest for about 10 minutes or until ready to serve.

Fish out and discard the green chiles so no one accidentally chomps on them.

Stir gently to mix well before serving hot or warm.  Enjoy!!