Menu Swap Monday Dec 15th: Nuts and seeds!

Nuts and seeds, I really like both of them.  The majority of seeds that I use are typically spices, but I do like to use my share of sesame seeds and pumpkin seeds.  I mostly snack on nuts or use them in Indian cooking but this week, since it is the festive holiday season, I am going to make a brittle with pumpkin, almonds and red chile.  I was going to use pine nuts, but they are outrageously priced at my local store right now, almonds it is. I have a giant bowlful of walnuts that I need to crack that Eby’s dad gave us from his English walnut tree – those might find there way in the brittle too. At least they are local, even if they are still in their hard shells.

This week’s menu swap host is In My Box and she blogs about what arrives in her CSA box every week. Swing on over there and check out all the menus posted – lots of cheese sauces created from nuts this week. I have yet to try doing that as I have no problem with dairy, but I am curious as to how they taste and someday will break down and try making some.

I experimented with making some liver free pate just using pork, and it failed miserably. I chalk it up to over seasoning (never thought I would say that) and using chickpea flour instead of some other flour. You know the golden rule is to never taste your batter or dough before baking if the chickpea flour is in it as it is bitter. Well, the slow cooking, low cooking nature of the pate meant that the chick pea flour still tasted raw – very bitter in a bad way. It was a big disappointment after all that work. But now I know. Next time I won’t try to add a nuttiness to my pate.

On to the menu:
Sunday: Ma Po Tofu, with stir fried broccoli and rice
Monday: Shepard’s Pie – after posting the recipe yesterday, I couldn’t resist.
Tuesday: Chicken Cacciatore with tomatoes, red peppers and baby bella mushrooms
Wednesday: Hot Tamale Soup – with homemade tamales from the freezer stock and grass fed beef and home canned tomatoes (I am in a tomato mood this week)
Thursday: Indian something with eggplant and pork (I know they don’t eat a lot of pork, but I have a lot of pork) or a fish curry, depends on mood.
Friday: Paella with chicken and chorizo – making use of the peppers I bought for Tuesday too.
Saturday: Shrimp with snow peas (shrimp for me, chicken for Eby, who won’t eat shrimp, but more for me.)

Happy Solstice to you this weekend – light a candle and appreciate the dark days, sunnier ones are on the way, after Saturday.

i’m out

Dosas and chana marsala

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Dosas are so tasty and as it turns out, easy to make, with proper training.  They are pronounced doughshas according to the Indian market guy. He has helped with pronouncing idli in the past, so I trust him.

Dosas are made easy with this handy product:

Dosa batter

Go find some now if you like Indian food!  My market carries it in the fridge and freezer section.  Much easier than making your own batter.  Dosas are a combination of rice and urad dal, soaked, fermented slightly and ground up into a fine, loose batter.  They are a form of sourdough and have that great sourdough tang.  The brand I bought has a bit of salt and ground fenugreek powder in it too.  I did add more fenugreek, some coriander powder and cracked black pepper, as I am a spice girl.  I haven’t met a spice I don’t like yet.

So, this is the 4th time I have attempted to make these.  The first time, I soaked rice and urad dal for days and ground them up, added water and just couldn’t get a fine paste.  The second time I found the batter in the store and poured it into a non stick skillet with a dash of oil and well, that really didn’t work.  The third time I grabbed the idli batter by mistake as the containers are identical and the ingredients too, different coarseness and liquid levels.  So, I learned my lesson.  This time, I asked.  How do I make dosas?

The answer:

Extremely hot cast iron or other flat top pan.  Heat it up really hot.  Scoop some batter out, pour it in the middle.  Use the soup ladle to spread the batter outward in circles (like those pro pizza sauce spreader people).  As soon as you are done swirling, drizzle little bits of ghee or oil of your choice around the edges of the dosa.  This sizzles nicely.  By the time you are done drizzling, the dosa crepe is already starting to brown, so immediately take a metal spatula and start skimming under the dosa edges to separate it from the pan.  Once you have it all lifted and in one piece (this might take two or 3 tries to get a whole one), place it on a plate and start over, keeping your cast iron hot the whole time.

making dosas

I even bought a special big, flat cast iron skillet with no sides or lip just so I could make these.  Not knowing to not use oil, they stuck horribly the first time I used it (when the non stick didn’t work).

dosas dosas

Once you have a nice pile of dosas, start loading them up with delicious fillings.  My favorite (because it is the only way I have tried it) is chick peas, potato (better from a whole boiled potato than a baked one), white onions, cilantro and a hearty raita with yogurt, cilantro, shredded cucumber and carrot, nigella seeds (black onion seeds), green onion, salt and pepper.  Sprinkle it with chana chaat spice (see pic) or use any Marsala spice and add salt if it doesn’t have salt in it.  The spice needs to be nice and salty.

chana chaat Raita

Roll it up and eat! Napkins will be needed.

dosa with chick peas and potato dosa with chick peas and potato

i’m out

Aloo Chaat Masala bowl

Crunchy, creamy, tangy, fresh, spicy. That was my lunch. Oh, and deeply satisfying, as well as fat free. How can one have all of the above you ask? Aloo Chaat Masala bowl. Aloo means potato. I can still taste the chaat masala (that is what they called it) I had about 4 weeks ago at the local Indian restaurant. I have been waiting to duplicated it fully ever since. Theirs came with dosa, which I have yet to perfectly duplicate, so today, mine was without a dosa (a rice and lentil tangy fermented flatbread) but with a bowl instead. Super easy to assemble and fast. You probably have the majority of the ingredients on hand.

aloo chaat masala

Aloo Chaat Masala for two

Chickpeas, one can rinsed and drained
Potato – one medium baker – cooked in the microwave, roughly diced
White onion (whites are less sharp and better for raw eating I think – you could use sweet if you have one on hand) finely chopped – really 1/4 of the onion will be plenty
Cilantro – a few stalks chopped
Gram Masala spice mix (Penzeys has some if you don’t have an Asian or Indian store around – or you can Google it and make your own up) or chaat masala mix – this has green mango powder called Amchur in it, it adds a great tang and sourness to a dish, watch for asafetida as it is often cut with a starch like wheat flour.
Raita – Indian yogurt equivalent of Mid Eastern Tatziki
Raita can be made many ways, but this is what I usually put in it :plain yogurt, shredded (the smallest holes) cucumber (max 1/4 of a cucumber) and a bit of carrot – squeezed dry so the liquid is gone, 1 minced green onion, bit of chopped cilantro, salt and nigella seeds (onion seeds – totally optional), maybe some cracked pepper, sometimes a bit of potato mashed in to thicken it if my yogurt is not thick and there is not time to drain/strain it and a dash of lemon or lime juice.
Now the raita might sound like a bit of work, but it is not. Armed with a grater, it took me 3 minutes max to grate, chop, throw it in a bowl and stir. While I made the raita and chopped the onion, my potato was in the microwave “baking”.

To assemble: pile a bit of the potatoes, a bit of the chickpeas, a bit of the raw onion and a bit of the cilantro in a bowl. Place a heaping spoon of raita on top, sprinkle generously with gram masala, depending on how much heat you like, add salt to taste. Stir or not and dig in.

It took me a long time to enjoy raw onion. As long as it is fresh and not overpowering, it really adds a nice spicy crunch. I used to hate that crunch as a kid and would pick the raw onion out of my potato salads. I guess the chaat masala bowl is a bit like a potato salad if it is all mixed up. A tasty one. I will have to add that to the potato salad idea list.

aloo chaat masala all mixed up

Adding the brown masala spice doesn’t do a lot for the sexiness of the dish for photo taking, but it sure tastes great!
i’m out