Friday, 19 September 2014

Savoy Tulsi Slaw

Savoy Tulsi Coleslaw

I needed coleslaw.  On a lazy day I wanted a store roasted chicken and sourdough bread, but factory manufactured coleslaw is but a death warrant of sugar and trans-fats, and the taste leaves a lot to be desired.  Only homemade and healthy would cut it.  But the only cabbage that was in good shape and small enough for my needs was a single little Savoy they had rolling around.  I took it home with me, and immediately regretted it when I tasted a leaf.  Bland, and a bit bitter.  It would need some serious doctoring up to be palatable.

It needed sweetening, but without sugar.   A few tulsi leaves, some fennel seeds and fresh lemon juice would do the trick.  This salad takes about fifteen minutes to prepare, and serves four easily.

1 small Savoy cabbage
1 very small red onion, or a bit of a bigger one
1 apple
half an avocado
10 tulsi leaves, (also known as Holy Basil)
pinch of fennel seeds
good squeeze of fresh lemon
ten grinds of fresh black pepper
1 scant tablespoon good oil (avocado is excellent)
salt to taste
pine nuts (optional)

I suppose that if you have no tulsi, you could use more fennel, as both have a somewhat licorice type of taste.  Fresh mint could also be substituted.  But since I am growing it, I have lots, and used that.  This recipe is like that for any salad.  

Don't peel that apple!  The pinkness is pretty and most nutrients are just under the peel.  Slice and dice the apple and vegetables to the size you prefer for a slaw, toss with the tulsi, fennel, lemon, pepper and oil, and then salt to taste.  

As the point of this salad was to counterbalance the roast chicken and thick slabs of buttered sourdough bread, I required no additional calories or protein, but the next day I had the leftover salad for my lunch, this time dressed with lots of pine nuts for protein.  Oh deliciousness. 

Savoy is the prettiest cabbage, but the taste is not my favourite.  But sometimes a not so great start is the beginning of something wonderful.  You know, necessity is the mother of invention.  

The Tulsi (Holy Basil) is wintering in my livingroom window... It will also make a good addition to chai, I expect!

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Loving Kerela

Kerela, mushroom and paneer masala

A few months ago I wrote about learning to love kerela, that strange vegetable that looks like a mad scientist’s experiment with a fish and a mouse.  I have since become enamoured of kerela, to the near point of addiction.  This vegetable, chock full of nutrients and healthy enzymes, is not for the faint of heart.  The bold taste of kerela is acquired, much like the taste for strong olives. 

This morning I was compelled to make it for my breakfast, I am that enamoured.  This amount is enough for three meal sized servings, or a family amount if served as a side dish.  Preparation time is about an hour and a half.

3 kerela, sliced
3 tablespoons coarse salt
2 tablespoons healthy oil (I used avocado oil)
1 teaspoon cumin seed
½ teaspoon fennel seed
1 cinnamon stick
1 red onion, quartered and sliced
2 slices of ginger from the thickest part of the stem, matchsticked
2 chillies(or to taste) , finely chopped
1 tablespoon garam masala
¼ teaspoon powdered mace
10 mushrooms, sliced
2 garlic cloves, sliced

1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses
a few splashes of water
½ cup diced paneer (Indian cheese available in South Asian aisles or markets)

Start early by slicing the kerelas into rounds.  You’ll see I have not removed the core.  Now I like the flavour too much, and I adore the crunch of the seeds.   Place slices onto a salted plate, and sprinkle more salt on top.  The salt helps to draw out some of the punchy bitterness, even though this dish will still have a strong punch. Set aside for an hour.
sliced kerela
Slice and salt an hour beforehand.

In a large frying pan, pour in oil and put on at medium heat.  Add the cinnamon stick, cumin and fennel seed and when fragrant, add onion and ginger.  

Cook, stirring occasionally, till the onion is translucent and starting to get golden.  Add the garam masala and mace and maybe a bit more oil if needed.  Fry for a minute or so, then add the mushrooms.  Space them out and let them get as much contact with the frying pan as possible so they get the chance to become golden and caramelized.  

Within about five minutes, stir in the garlic and continue to cook till mushrooms are mostly browned.  Add the pomegranate molasses and about a tablespoon of water if pan seems dry. 

Meanwhile, put those kerela slices into a colander and rinse well.  (They will still have a salty taste, so no need to add extra salt to this dish.)  Toss into the frying pan along with paneer.  Check for moisture again, adding another splash of water if the mix looks dry.  Cover and cook another ten or fifteen minutes on medium heat, till the kerela are soft.  
Does this look like a science experiment to you?  Mouse and fish combo?

I served these with a bit of yogurt and a chapatti, as I was feeling sorry for myself this morning.  (I had forgotten to buy milk for my morning coffee.)  

I don’t usually get so elaborate for my breakfasts, but this also served as my dinner tonight, and will serve again as breakfast tomorrow morning.  

I will again say this vegetable is for the honest and the bold.  If an olive is too much for you, this dish will finish you off.  But if you are stout hearted, enjoy!

Kerela, kurd and chappati breakfast
The yogurt tones it down a bit, and adds extra calcium and protein.

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Another Linguini with Clam Sauce with a side of Sautéed Green Beans

Pasta with Clam Sauce and Italian Style Green Beans

It’s just not summer till you’ve sat down to a plate of clam linguine with a glass of chilled white wine.  Right? This sauce is loaded with parsley and lemon, but I thought I’d serve a few garden fresh vegetables on the side to up the nutritional value of this meal, and since I don’t like linguine,  I used vermicelli instead. But vermicelli with clam sauce sounds silly, so please forgive.

This recipe takes about half an hour, serves four, and it’s delicious.  The parsley gives the sauce texture, perhaps too much if you like your sauce less chewy.  You can substitute fresh spinach for some of the parsley, if you like.  I like the challenge of chewing parsley, so I stick with that for this recipe.

large pot of water, salted (1 to 2 teaspoons
1 box of either linguini or vermicelli to serve four
The parsley nicely greens up the clam sauce.

The Clam Sauce

2 tablespoons avocado oil
½ red onion, finely diced
2 to 3 tablespoons oregano
20 grates black pepper
½ teaspoon smoked paprika
2 Thai chilies
2 garlic cloves
1 bunch parsley, leaves only, chopped
2 cups white wine, in total
1 can clams (approximately 15 ounces)
½ lemon, juiced
Parmesan cheese freshly grated (optional) 

First, put on a large pasta pot of salted water, as it takes time to boil. Cover.  Have your choice of linguine or vermicelli on standby.

Use a large pan for the sauce, on medium high heat.  Pour in oil and when hot add onion, stirring occasionally till it becomes translucent and golden here and there.  Pour the oregano into the palm of your hand, and rub it into the pan, then add the pepper, paprika, chilies and garlic.  Continue to stir and cook till the pan becomes very fragrant.  Add the parsley and stir for another two minutes or so.  Add the first cup of wine along with the juice from the clams.  Heat through then turn heat down to low, cover it, and get on with the fresh beans.
Tomatoes will add a bit of braising liquid.

Sautéed Green Beans

1 tablespoon avocado oil
½ red onion, sliced and quartered
2 big handfuls fresh green beans, trimmed and cut to preferred size
1 teaspoon oregano
salt to taste
black pepper to taste
10 to 15 cherry tomatoes
sprinkling red chilli flakes 

In a medium size pan, heat oil on medium high heat.  Add onion and fry till almost translucent, then add green beans along with oregano, salt, and black pepper.  Stir whole tomatoes into the beans and then cover.  

These beans take about fifteen minutes to become tender, so the timing of your meal rests on them.  When they do become tender enough to eat, sprinkle a few flakes of chilli and they’re ready to serve.

Depending on which type of pasta you’re using, you may need to add it soon.  Read box directions for length of boiling time.  Be sure your pasta will be cooked and drained at the same time the beans are ready.

When beans are nearing tenderness, drain the clam juice into the parsley sauce, then add the next cup of white wine.  Turn heat up to get it simmering nicely.  When beans are nearly tender, add clams.  Let heat through, simmering for a couple of minutes.  Remove from heat and splash freshly squeezed lemon juice into the pan and stir well.

Drain pasta when al dente, and serve with sauce and vegetables on the side.  I like Parmesan cheese on all pasta, but it’s up to you if you want to include it. 

If you can enjoy this  lemony, fragrant and spicy dish with a glass of chilled white wine, sitting in the glorious sunshine, all the better! 
If only it would stay snowless...

Sunday, 24 August 2014

Nutella Trifle

Nutella Trifle

This natural dessert is fairly easy to prepare, and it gets a lot of compliments.  I wouldn’t recommend it for a weeknight conclusion to a meal, but for a big party it’s wonderful. Nutella, whipped cream and bananas are a luscious combo and the bit of crunch supplied by the cookies and Werthers make it so much better.

I was making this for a large barbecue crowd, but you can divide this recipe in half to feed a smaller group.  It takes less than an hour of prep but several hours of chilling.  You will want to use a large, pretty glass bowl to show off the layers of this dessert.
Cornstarch, jaggery and a touch of salt, so much better than boxed instant pudding!
Jaggery, or shakkar, is slightly healthier than brown sugar.

½ cup plus 1 tablespoon corn starch
1 cup jaggery (or brown sugar)
4 cups 2% milk, or whole if you prefer
1 cup 17% cream
2/3 cup nutella (for custard)
pinches of salt (to taste)
1 teaspoon vanilla (for pudding)

1/3 cup nutella (for drizzling)
 one sleeve package of chocolate wafers 
2 bananas, sliced
4 or 5 Werthers Originals (hard butter scotch candies)
1 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla sugar or regular sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla (for cream)

Start by whisking cornstarch and jaggery with a bit of the milk, just to make a smooth paste. Add the rest of the milk and cream, and set on medium heat.  Keep a close eye on it, stirring often so it cooks evenly.  As the mix becomes hot, add the nutella for the pudding.  It’ll be spotty and granulated at first, but as the mix cooks, it will melt out and combine beautifully with the milk and cream.  As it thickens, stir continuously. Let it boil for a couple of minutes, still stirring, then remove from heat.  Add vanilla and salt to taste.  Set aside just to cool a bit. (Some would cover it with wax paper to prevent a film from forming, but this will be a very textured dessert, so no worries.)

No need to use the entire sleeve of chocolate wafers. Keep some aside for something else, or for decorating the dish later.  I used about seven eighths of the package. Put them in a heavy freezer bag and bash them with a rolling pin.  You want a combination of small pieces and crumbs.  Put almost half of them into the bottom of the pretty glass bowl.  Spoon half the pudding over the cookie pieces.  Then add your next layer of cookie pieces and crumbs.  (Keep a bit more for the final step.)

Put nutella into the microwave just long enough to loosen it up a bit, about forty seconds.  Drizzle some of it
Homemade nutella pudding, look ma no preservatives!
Make it pretty cause some will show!
over cookie crumbs, then add the rest of the pudding.  Top with sliced bananas and drizzle the rest of the nutella over that.  Set in fridge to cool. 

Once the pudding is cold, whip the cream, and as it thickens, add vanilla sugar if you have it, plain if you don’t.  Once it’s nearly making soft peaks, add the vanilla.  It should make good peaks, but be careful not to overwhip, especially in a hot kitchen.  

Dollop the whipped cream around the perimeter of the cool pudding. Sprinkle the last of the cookie crumbs over all.  Put hard butter scotch candies into the cookie bag, and bash with a rolling pin, till you have broken bits.  Sprinkle them on top of  all.  You could decorate with the last of those chocolate wafers if you like.  Put the trifle back into the fridge to chill till serving time.

A glass bowl reveals the scrumptious layers!
Made it eggless so it wouldn't get scary!

We were having a big barbecue on a very warm evening where desserts were placed on an outdoor buffet table.  If I were serving this indoors, or in cooler temperatures, I would have used an egg based cornstarch custard, but this recipe was safer.  A starch and egg custard is richer and more luxurious, but with the cream, whipped cream and nutella, nobody noticed the missing factor.  

This would make a fabulous and fancy dessert for any occasion.  You don’t need to wait for a big barbecue!  You could even stick candles in this and call it a birthday trifle!  It will be a hit, no matter what.

Did I mention this was a Barbershop Barbercue?

Saturday, 2 August 2014

Strawberry Rhubarb Squares

strawberry rhubarb squares

Florida has oranges, California grapes, India the magnificent mango… and what do we have here in Calgary?  Rhubarb, not even a fruit, but an odd vegetable stolen by school children so the stems can be jammed into an also stolen jar of sugar.  Without sugar, the sour stalk is too shocking.

Nevertheless, we love our rhubarb, though most people just buy it.  I still have an old fashioned rhubarb patch in my garden, and once a year I harvest a few stalks.  The distinctive flavour is tart yet delicious, as long as it’s tempered with sugar, and less sugar is needed when strawberries help out. 
Rhubarb is the stalk of the huge leafed plant to left.

These squares are based on another Canadian favourite, date squares, but bad dogs had trampled my rhubarb plant, and so two stalks needed harvesting.  What an excuse that was to substitute strawberry and rhubarb for the date puree..  

I would have preferred this recipe with three stalks, but didn’t want to deplete my plant. 

This recipe makes an 8 by 8 inch pan of squares, and takes about two hours, from start to gobbling warm squares.

Rhubarb stalks
2 stalks rhubarb (3 would be better), chopped
1 cup strawberries
water to cover
½ to 1 cup jaggery powder (raw Indian sugar)

1 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon Kosher salt
¾ cup jaggery powder
½ teaspoon cinnamon powder
1 ½ cups unrefined oat flakes
½ cup hemp hearts (optional)
2/3 cup soft butter 

Start by making the filling. Combine rhubarb, strawberries and the first half cup of jaggery.  You can buy jaggery in Indian grocery aisles, or use brown sugar if you must.  Cover with water and set on medium high heat.  This takes a while to cook down to a paste, so check on sweetness as it’s cooking.  Add as much of the jaggery as you require.  Within half an hour, it should be thick enough.  Stir to make sure no liquid rests in the pan.  Set aside.

Don't expect it to be pretty when it's cooked!
In a mixer, use the paddle to slowly combine the flour, baking powder, salt, jaggery, cinnamon, oats, hemp and butter.  I like the hemp hearts because they’re super healthy, but you can omit them and use more oats in their place.  

When the mixture is crumbly, spread a little more than half the mix over the baking pan.  Press down with your fingers to create a firm base. 

The Great Canadian Cookbook, by Bunny Barss
This recipe has been adapted from Barss' recipe for date squares!
Spread all the rhubarb mix over the base; then use your fingers again to sprinkle the remaining flour mix over the rhubarb.  Gently press down to even out, and bake at 350 F for about forty minutes or till golden. 

These can be served warm with ice-cream, or chilled.  Buttery, tart, sweet… a very delicious cold climate treat!

strawberry and rhubarb squares
Why not try these for Heritage Day?  What could be more Canadian, eh?