Thursday, December 29, 2011

Curried Chickpeas with Roasted Cauliflower

One of the things I love about Indian food is that its recipes are especially adept at packing a lot of harmonious flavors into a single, stunning dish. It's a akin to a song, with all its notes and harmonies; better yet a Jazz quartet--without the distinctly sour taste of ground cardamom seeds to play off the spicy sweetness of the cloves and cinnamon, the fabulously subtle nuttiness of creamy chickpeas would be woefully underrepresented. After all, when was the last time you went to see a Jazz quartet whose fourth couldn't make it?

The sweet cabbage-y flavor of roasted cauliflower is not to be overlooked either, and it pairs well with the spices, garbanzos and clarified butter (which, I promise, is way easier to make than it sounds and is actually a great way to get that butter flavor without having to worry about burning it). I love this dish because it is easy to make with ingredients from your pantry plus a quick trip to the grocery store to pick up the fresh ingredients. If you want curried chickpeas in a pinch, all you have to do is sub out the cauliflower for an extra can of chickpeas. This dish tastes best with long grain white rice, such as Jasmine. I make 2 cups for this amount of food, cooked according to package directions.

Initially, any home made curry can seem like an expensive dish to make, but once you have amassed a store of each spice you will find that they last for long periods of time and are a great way to quickly jazz up anything from meat, fish and poultry to veggies--even coffee. I once had an incredibly knowledgeable chef/foodie roommate who liked to put ground Cardamom in her turkish coffee pot when brewing her coffee; even though its main taste is a refreshing sourness, it served to mellow out the acidity in the coffee itself and was quite delicious. The dried spices you will need to assemble a garam masala are ground cumin, chili powder, coriander, cardamom, whole cloves, black peppercorns and cinnamon sticks. You will need to have fresh ginger root and garlic on hand, as well. It is well worth it to get to know the ways in which these spices work in your curries, so that you can create different proportions to compliment the different main ingredients of your dishes.

Curried Chickpeas with Roasted Cauliflower
Serves 2 - 4

For the curry:
1/2 cinnamon stick
8 whole cloves
1 bay leaf
1 - 2 Tablespoons fresh ginger, peeled and grated (roughly a thumb sized piece)
2 1/2 Tablespoons ground cumin
1 Teaspoons of chili powder (or more, if you like it beyond medium spicy)
2 garlic cloves, put through a press or minced
1/2 Teaspoon Cardamom
6 black peppercorns
4 Tablespoons (1/2 stick) clarified butter (melt and pour through a fine mesh sieve)
1/2 c. + 1 Tablespoon water (9 Tbl. in all)

For the roasted cauliflower:
1/2 head of cauliflower, cut into florets
Extra Virgin Olive Oil (enough to brush the florets all over, about 3 Teaspoons)
1 Teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
salt, to taste

Other ingredients:
1 can of tomatoes, diced (I got mine fire roasted with chilies from Trader Joe's, but anything without basil or other Italian spices is fine)
1 can of Garbanzo Beans (Chickpeas), rinsed and drained
1 medium onion, julienned
3/4 c. water
1/4 c. minced coriander leaves (about 1/4 - 1/3 of a bunch)

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Toss cauliflower in olive oil and rub with spices. Sprinkle with salt and lay out on a baking sheet in a single layer. Bake cauliflower for 25 minutes.
2. Melt butter and pour through sieve to clarify and remove whey. Add butter and onions to pan and cook on medium-low until translucent (about 5 or so minutes).
3. Add all curry spices and, if the onions have soaked up all the clarified butter and left you with a spice paste at the bottom of the pan, simmer in water, 3 tablespoons at a time, adding more water when it has cooked into the spices somewhat and made a gravy. Cook on medium high heat for about ten minutes.
4. Mix in chickpeas and another 3 Tablespoons of water and cook on high for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add another 2 Tablespoons of water and cook for another 4 minutes.
5. Add tomatoes, 1/4 c. water and the roast cauliflower. Cook on medium-high another 5 or so minutes to marry the flavors.
6. Toss in all but a pinch of the chopped coriander leaves, mix together and take off the heat.
7. Garnish with remaining chopped coriander leaves and serve over or with rice.

I hope you enjoy this recipe and I welcome your feedback!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Introductory Post and Ginger Soy Sauce Tempeh with Kale

Welcome, welcome to my kitchen! First, a little bit about me: I've been cooking since I was little--more than 20 years now! I've written step-by-step entertaining menus for the instructional website I've competed in cooking contests and more recently auditioned for season 3 of Masterchef (I promise I'll publish the full menu + recipes for my audition dish in a later post).

The other half of my kitchen team, my amazing food photographer, is Josh, my domicile-sharing boyfriend. He is also my taste tester and advice giver; I've come to rely on his sophisticated and talented palate. My cooking has been inspired by the cuisine of many different countries; I like to think I am tasting the world.

If I had any rules I play by in the kitchen, it would come down to one: fresh, locally-sourced ingredients make the best dishes, by far. We eat mostly vegetarian--though there will be meat dishes aplenty on this blog--but when we do eat meat I try to go for livestock that was raised free range, without antibiotics in their feed, and butchered cleanly and humanely. Obviously organic is better, when possible, but to me the importance of well-sourced meat and other ingredients cannot be overstated.

Introductions having been made, on to first post-y goodness!

The holidays season is upon us, bringing with it an abundance of rich foods, both sweet and savory. To alleviate some of my holiday guilt I am trying to make lower cal healthy dishes this week. Lately I've been craving Tempeh and Kale with rice; growing up as I did in Woodstock, it is considered something of a comfort food dish. For those of you who are unfamiliar, Tempeh is a delicious soy protein cake made from soy and other whole grains fermented together. It is nutty, very dense and quite dry, which can make it difficult to work with. In this recipe I use a broth of soy sauce, ginger and water to soften the cubed tempeh and inject it with some extra flavor.

I had some amazing pickled ginger left over from my Masterchef auditions recently and because I was out of fresh ginger, I decided to mince it and use it in place of fresh ginger (I really don't recommend dried powdered ginger, since it loses a lot of its flavor when dehydrated). The ginger is different from sushi ginger, in that it's julienned instead of thinly sliced from the natural shape of the ginger root and used as a condiment in yakisoba dishes; it's also a bit more acidic and saltier, and when made at home it gets a lovely deep red color from the addition of Shiso leaves. I was very happy with the small amount of zing it imparted to the Tempeh in my dish, although I'm sure fresh ginger would be just as fabulous.

I make two cups of rice to go with this recipe. I recommend any long grain brown rice, cooked according to the package directions. You'll want to put that up at the same time as you start the tempeh, since rice takes a minimum of 20 minutes to cook.

Ginger Soy Sauce Tempeh with Kale
Serves 2 - 4

1 1 lb block of tempeh, cut into bite sized cubes
2 - 3 cups of kale, washed and chopped roughly
3/4 Cups water or Mushroom stock (how-to to follow in a later post about kitchen staples) + 1/4 cup water to steam kale
3 Tablespoons Soy Sauce, regular or low sodium
1 medium, or 2 small onions, julienned
2-3 medium cloves of garlic, minced or pushed through a press
1 Teaspoon minced pickled ginger or fresh grated ginger, or more to taste
1/2 Teaspoon of Toasted Sesame Oil
3 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Sesame seeds, for garnish
1. Combine soy sauce, garlic, ginger, 3/4 cups water or stock, sesame oil and 1 Tablespoon of the olive oil in a large saucepan on low heat. Toss in tempeh and stir to coat. Bring heat up to a simmer and cover pan and cook for 5 minutes, stirring half way through.
2. Add Kale, onions, 1/4 cup water, remaining 2 Tablespoons olive oil and either a splash of soy sauce (the tempeh will have already absorbed all of the moisture and liquid flavoring) or a small dash of salt and turn heat up to medium. Cover again and cook on medium, stirring every 2 -3 minutes for 15 - 17 minutes, or until kale is cooked to desired tenderness.
3. Garnish with sesame seeds and serve over rice.

I hope you enjoy this recipe and I welcome your feedback!