Friday, May 04, 2018

Veg Recipes of India: Paneer Makhanwala (Paneer Butter Masala)


I love paneer butter masala.  LOVE. IT.  This is pretty much all I order at Indian restaurants.  Well, this and saag paneer.  See a theme?  But I've never actually made it at home, which is a bit of a shame.  So I turned to my trusty favorite Indian food blogger because she never lets me down.  And this recipe was no exception.  A little spicy, incredibly flavorful, and perfectly comforting.  I may not have grown up eating Indian food, but this makes me as happy as chicken and dumplings.

Note: Try to find Kashmiri red chili powder, because that's what gives the red coloring to this dish.  If you can't find it, you can use a mixture of paprika and cayenne.  An Indian bay leaf is different that the bay laurel leaves used in western cooking, but if you can't find the Indian version, the regular one works just fine (as an aside, they only had bay laurel leaves at the Indian grocery I visited, which I found slightly baffling).

Paneer Makhanwala (Paneer Butter Masala)
Adapted from Veg Recipes of India blog

For ground makhani paste:
¾ cup roughly chopped onions
1½ cups roughly chopped tomatoes
½ inch ginger, peeled and chopped
3 to 4 medium garlic cloves, chopped
2 single strands mace
2 to 3 green cardamom pods
1 (1-inch) cinnamon stick
2 to 3 cloves
10 to 12 whole unsalted cashews

For finished dish:
2½ tablespoons unsalted butter
1 Indian bay leaf
1 to 1½ teaspoons kashmiri red chili powder
1 green chili, slit (such as serrano or Thai)
1 teaspoon sea salt, plus more as needed
1½ cups water, or as needed
1 teaspoon honey, or add as required as per your taste
1 pound paneer, at room temperature, cut into cubes
¼ cup heavy cream
¾ teaspoon dry fenugreek leaves, crushed
¼ teaspoon garam masala
1 tablespoon cream, for garnishing
Chopped coriander leaves, for garnish

Making makhani paste: Mix onions, tomatoes, ginger, garlic, mace, cardamom pods, cinnamon, cloves, and cashews with 1 cup water in a medium pot. Cook over medium heat, uncovered, until the tomatoes and onions soften, about 14 to 15 minutes.  Allow the mixture to cool, then pour it into a good blender and grind to a smooth paste.  There should be no small pieces of cashews or spices; everything should be ground very well until smooth.

Making paneer makhanwala:  Melt the butter in a large pan.  Add the Indian bay leaf and sauté for a few seconds, then add the ground makhani paste. Stir well.  Sprinkle the chili powder over the mixture; stir well and sauté the mixture over medium heat.  Keep stirring often, as you will sauté the mixture until most of the water has evaporated, the mixture darkens, and you see the butter leaving the sides. This takes about 20 to 22 minutes over medium to high heat.

Add slit green chili, salt, and water.  Stir well and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, then add honey or sugar and stir again.  Add the paneer cubes and simmer for 2 minutes.  Add the cream, fenugreek leaves, and garam masala.  Stir and turn off the burner.  Check the taste and add more salt, honey, or red chili powder as required.  Serve paneer makhanwala garnished with cream and coriander leaves, hot with naan or rotis.

Makes 4 servings

Monday, April 30, 2018

Honest Food: Salmon with Ramp Pesto


Yes, I still have some ramps left to use.  Yes, I know that I might be slightly insane for buying so many.  But when something amazing happens only once a year, you take advantage of it to the fullest extent possible.  So for my last trick, I decided to make a delicious ramp pesto to top a beautiful piece of wild salmon, but I honestly think this pesto would be delicious on a steak or some fresh pasta.  However, as with the previous ramp recipe, a little goes a long way.

Salmon with Ramp Pesto
Adapted from Honest Food blog

3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
¼ cup pine nuts, toasted
5 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 dozen ramps
1 bunch flat-leaf parsley
½ to 1 teaspoon sea salt (depending on saltiness of cheese)
⅓ to ½ cup olive oil
1 pound wild salmon
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Add the garlic cloves and pine nuts to a food processor.  Pulse until pine nuts are broken up and garlic is incorporated.  Add the cheese, ramps, parsley, and salt.  Pulse until herb leaves are broken down.  Add the olive oil and pulse until the mixture is well combined (but not a smooth paste!) and the oil is completely incorporated.  Add additional oil until the pesto is the appropriate texture (less oil for a spread, more for a sauce).  If storing, add a layer of olive oil once in the storage container to reduce oxidation.

For the salmon, heat the oven to 425°F.  Spray the bottom of the roasting pan with cooking spray and gently lay the salmon in the pan, skin side down.  Season with salt and pepper and dot with butter.  Cook for 8 to 12 minutes, depending on the fillet's thickness.  Salmon will be flaky when done.  Serve topped with fresh pesto.

Makes 4 servings

Monday, April 23, 2018

Always Order Dessert: Savory Ramp and Cheddar Muffins


Since I have a giant bundle of ramps, I've been combing the internet for new and interesting things that I can do with them.  And that's how I came across this yummy recipe for savory muffins that I will be devouring every morning for breakfast.  The ramps are pretty pungent in these, so make sure you've got some extra-strength gum for afterwards.  And I also think that some crumbled bacon would add just the right touch, if you're so inclined.

Savory Ramp and Cheddar Muffins
From Always Order Dessert blog

1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1½ cups chopped ramps
1 large egg
½ cup whole milk
½ cup chicken broth
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground mustard powder (or use 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard)
1½ teaspoons sea salt
1¾ cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1½ cups freshly grated cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 350°F. Generously grease a 12-cup muffin pan (or a giant 6-cup muffin pan).

Heat butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat and add ramps. Sauté for 2 to 3 minutes, just until slightly wilted. Remove from heat and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together egg, milk, broth, olive oil, sugar, mustard, and salt. Add flour and baking powder and stir gently until evenly combined. Fold in grated cheese and cooked ramps.

Divide into prepared muffin pan, and bake about 20 minutes, or until puffed up, golden around the edges, and a tester inserted in center comes out clean. (Giant muffins will take about 5-7 minutes longer.)

Makes 6 giant or 12 standard muffins

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Serious Eats: Ramp Gravy


Do you know what time it is??  It's RAMP TIME!  And as I do every year, I pretty much wiped out the supply at my local market.  I swear, they should just save the box for me each spring.  I have some great recipes planned to make the most of my treasure, and this is the first on the list.  Because what could possibly be better than cream gravy?  Cream gravy with ramps, of course!  Smother this gravy on mashed potatoes, fried chicken, or even your breakfast biscuits.

Ramp Gravy
From Serious Eats

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
6 ramps, finely chopped
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups light cream (heavy cream, half and half, or milk can be used in its place)
1½ teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon sea salt

Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add ramps and cook, stirring frequently, until softened, about 3 minutes. Add flour and cook, stirring constantly with a whisk until golden blond, about 4 minutes.

Increase heat to medium-high. Whisking constantly, slowly pour in cream. Add black pepper. Whisking frequently, bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook, whisking frequently, until thickened, about 1 minute after it reaches a boil. Remove from heat and season with salt and pepper.

Makes 2 cups

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Slim Palate: Paleo Chewy Fudge Brownies


I really didn't think it was possible to make Paleo baked goods that actually taste good.  There's just something about flour and sugar that can't be replicated no matter how fancy you get with your alternative sources.  But I have to say, these brownies come really, really close.  They're not quite as dense and chewy as a regular brownie...more light and tender, but they're every bit as satisfying.

Paleo Chewy Fudge Brownies
From Slim Palate blog

½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ cup tapioca starch or tapioca flour
¼ cup cassava flour (or substitute tapioca starch or flour)
1 pound chocolate, chopped (semisweet or dark up to 85%, depending on desired sweetness)
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for the pan
4 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup coconut sugar
Cocoa powder, for dusting (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350°F.  Line a 13x9-inch baking pan with parchment paper, leaving a couple inches paper overhang on all sides.

In a small bowl mix together the baking soda, salt, tapioca starch, and cassava flour (or tapioca starch or flour).

Place a medium heatproof bowl on top of a pot of simmering water, making sure the bottom of the bowl does not touch the simmering water. Add the chocolate and butter to the bowl and wait patiently while they melt, stirring often, until it is completely smooth. Carefully remove the bowl from atop the simmering pot of water and let the mixture cool slightly.

In a large bowl with a stand or hand mixer on medium speed, beat the eggs, vanilla, and sugar until the mixture begins to turn to a pale tan and thickens, 4 to 6 minutes. Add the flour mixture, switch to a spoon, and beat just until incorporated. Pour the melted chocolate and butter into the mixture while stirring. Mix until everything is completely incorporated and smooth.

Scrape the batter into the prepared baking pan and bake for about 25 minutes, until the top looks dry, shiny, and cracked. Let it cool completely before cutting into 2-inch squares. If desired, dust with cocoa powder.

Makes 18 to 24 brownies

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Ready or Not! (Nom Nom Paleo): Weeknight Meatballs with Umami Gravy


What's the best kind of dinner you can have?  If you said a sous vide ribeye, you would be correct.  But meatballs in gravy on top of mashed potatoes is definitely a strong runner up.  And when you manage to get all of the breading out of the recipe while still having all of the flavor, things just get even better.  I was actually surprised by how delicious these meatballs are (I'm always suspicious of formed meat that has no breadcrumbs), and the gravy is definitely an umami bomb.

Weeknight Meatballs with Umami Gravy
Adapted from Ready or Not! (Nom Nom Paleo)

2 teaspoons powdered gelatin
1 pound ground beef
1 pound ground pork
½ cup finely diced yellow onion
1 teaspoon dried parsley
½ teaspoon dried oregano
¼ teaspoon dried rosemary
¼ teaspoon dried marjoram
¼ teaspoon dried chervil
¼ teaspoon dried summer savory
½ cup grated Parmesan
6 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons kosher salt
Umami Gravy

Preheat the oven to 400°F with a rack in the middle.  Pour ¼ cup of water in a shallow bowl, and sprinkle the powdered gelatin on the liquid.  Let it stand for 5 to 10 minutes, or until the gelatin blooms (absorbs all the water).

Using your hands, gently mix together the bloomed gelatin with all of the other ingredients in a large bowl.  Be careful not to overwork the meat.  Form the meat mixture into 1½-inch balls.  You can use a #24 disher, which holds 3 tablespoons and makes perfectly sized meatballs.  Roll the balls between your hands to make sure they're pretty and round.

Arrange all the meatballs on a large parchment-lined baking sheet.  Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the meatballs are cooked through.  Using tongs, drop the meatballs into the Umami Gravy and stir to coat.  Serve with mashed potatoes, rice, or pureed cauliflower.

Makes 24 meatballs

Umami Gravy
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 medium yellow onions, diced
1 teaspoon tomato paste
½ teaspoon fish sauce
½ pound cremini mushrooms, sliced
3 garlic cloves, minced
½ ounce dried porcini mushrooms, ground into powder (optional)
4 cups beef bone broth or chicken stock
3 fresh thyme sprigs
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat.  Add the onions and sauté for 10 to 15 minutes until soft.  Add the tomato paste and fish sauce.  Stir to evenly distribute.  Toss in the sliced mushrooms, and sauté for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the mushroom juices have released and cooked off.  Add the garlic and stir for 30 seconds until fragrant.  Add the mushroom powder and bone broth.  Drop in the thyme sprigs.

Turn the heat up to high and bring the gravy to a boil.  Decrease the heat to medium-low to maintain a strong simmer.  Cook for 30 minutes, or until the gravy has reduced by about half.  Remove the saucepan from the heat.  Discard the thyme and season to taste with salt and pepper.  Pour the mixture into a blender and puree the gravy until smooth.

Makes 3 cups

Friday, March 09, 2018

Divas Can Cook: Strawberry Cake Pops


For my niece's second birthday, I made a really neat strawberry cake shaped like a "2".  But that meant extra cake that was trimmed away.  And it's always a shame to throw away cake.  What's a baker to do?  Easy answer: eat the extra cake furtively by the kitchen sink.  Slightly less easy answer: make cake pops.  Needless to say, I opted for the second option.  The kids snatched these up in addition to a piece of regular strawberry cake, so it appears they were a hit.

Note:  I would estimate the leftovers from my cake were approximately the same as the yield from a regular cake mix.  You may need to adjust the recipe slightly depending on how much cake you have left.

Strawberry Cake Pops
From Divas Can Cook blog

Strawberry cake, prepared
Strawberry frosting (amount depends on moistness of cake)
2 bags white candy melts
Cake pop sticks
Colored sugar or other sprinkles

Add cake to a large bowl and crumble until it resembles fine crumbs.  Using your hands, add in frosting a little bit at a time until cake is moist and can hold a ball shape, yet still slightly crumbly.

Use a mini ice cream scoop and scoop out two balls of cake mixture.  Roll the mixture into a tight ball and place on a plate. Repeat until all the cake mixture has been rolled into balls.

Melt 2 to 4 ounces of white chocolate in the microwave.  Dip the tip of the cake pop sticks into the white chocolate and insert into the cake balls about halfway.  Freeze for about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare all of your decorating supplies.  Melt the remaining candy melts in a large cup.  Make sure you have enough candy to completely submerge the cake ball.

Remove cake balls from freezer.  Dip cake balls carefully into the candy until covered.  Let the excess candy drip off.  Swirl and tap gently if needed.  Add the decorations while the candy is still wet; it will harden quickly.  Stick the decorated cake pop into a styrofoam block to finish setting.  Place into the freezer to speed up setting time.

Cover with a clear treat bag & ribbon for gift giving, if desired.  Store in a cool area in a single layer, in an airtight container.

Makes 12 cake pops

Thursday, March 08, 2018

BBQ with Bobby Flay: Rib Dry Rub


My mom always made her ribs in the oven, and we didn't put anything on them until they were almost ready to serve.  They were always plenty porky, but I wondered if pressing some spices into the rack before cooking would make any difference.  I've got to say - it's a welcome addition.  The spices add a good flavor to the ribs, and you almost don't need barbecue sauce on the side unless you just really like wet ribs.  Although I did this on pork ribs, I think it would work just as well on beef ribs, whether in the oven, on the grill, or in the smoker.

Rib Dry Rub
Adapted from BBQ with Bobby Flay

1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
1 tablespoon granulated garlic
1 tablespoon granulated onion
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon lightly packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
½ teaspoon ground white pepper
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and mix well. Store in an airtight container. Pack the dry rub onto your next rack of ribs.

Makes about ½ cup

Wednesday, March 07, 2018

Cooking Light: Tilapia in Mustard Cream Sauce


I think I have had this recipe in my file for years at this point, so when I had some extra frozen tilapia fillets that I wanted to use, I finally gave in and made it.  I'm not sure why I waited so long, as the sauce is pretty darn tasty, and it actually doesn't take that long to pull together.  I think this would actually work pretty well with a chicken breast also.  The original recipe also called for mushrooms, but even being a mushroom lover, it seemed like a strange addition with fish.  Feel free to add them back in.

Tilapia in Mustard Cream Sauce
Adapted from Cooking Light, June 2005

4 (6-ounce) tilapia fillets
½ teaspoon dried thyme
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon salt
¾ cup fish stock
2 tablespoons whipping cream
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

Sprinkle fish with thyme, pepper, and salt. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add fish; cook 1 minute on each side. Add broth, and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 5 minutes. Remove the cover and cook for another minute. Remove fish from pan; keep warm.

Add cream and mustard to pan; stir with a whisk until well combined. Cook 1 minute or until thoroughly heated. Serve sauce over fish.

Makes 4 servings

Friday, March 02, 2018

Alton Brown: Meat Sauce and Spaghetti


I know whenever I start an Alton Brown recipe that it's probably going to a major production, but it's going to turn out something pretty spectacular.  After all, this is the king of scientific recipe testing, so he's going to make sure the techniques are on point.  And this spaghetti sauce recipe is no exception.  This pot of deliciousness bubbled away on my stove for hours, and the result is a scoop of meaty goodness that really packs the umami punch.  You need plenty of slurpy noodles to nestle this delicious sauce, and freshly grated Parmesan is also required.

Meat Sauce and Spaghetti
From Alton Brown

6 ounces thick sliced bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 large onions, finely chopped
1½ teaspoons kosher salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 whole cloves
1 whole star anise pod
3 stalks celery, finely chopped
5 cloves garlic, 3 minced and 2 sliced
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
8 ounces coarsely ground beef chuck
8 ounces coarsely ground pork butt
1¼ cups white wine, divided
¾ cup evaporated milk
3 cups beef broth
1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms, finely chopped
2 (28-ounce) cans diced tomatoes
1 tablespoon dried oregano
2 teaspoons dried basil
2 teaspoons dried marjoram
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon ketchup
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
⅓ cup finely grated Parmesan

Pasta:
1 gallon water
2 tablespoons kosher salt
½ pound dry spaghetti

Place an 8-quart Dutch oven over low heat and add the bacon. Cook slowly until the bacon is crispy and has rendered its fat, 25 to 30 minutes. Remove the bacon from the pan for another use. Add the onion, salt, and pepper and stir to combine. Place the clove and star anise into a small spice bag, add to the Dutch oven and stir to combine. Cook, uncovered, over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the onions caramelize, 45 to 60 minutes. Add the celery and the 3 cloves of minced garlic to the pan and continue to cook over low heat until the celery is semi-translucent, approximately 30 minutes. Remove the spice bag from the pot.

Meanwhile, place a wide 4-quart saute pan, over high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and once it shimmers, add the beef chuck and the pork butt and cook, stirring frequently, until the meat is well browned, 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer the meat to a colander to drain. Return the pan to high heat, add ½ cup of the wine and deglaze the pan, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pot. Transfer these bits and any remaining wine to the Dutch oven along with the meat.

Add another ½ cup of the wine, evaporated milk, beef broth, and mushrooms to the Dutch oven and stir to combine. Cover and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, for 3 hours.

Once the sauce has been cooking for 1½ hours, place the 4-quart saute pan over medium heat and add 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Once it shimmers, add the 2 cloves of sliced garlic and cook for 30 to 45 seconds or until fragrant. Do not allow the garlic to brown. Add the tomatoes, oregano, basil, and marjoram and cook until most of the liquid has evaporated, approximately 30 minutes. Add the remaining ¼ cup wine, tomato paste, ketchup, vinegar, and Worcestershire sauce and stir to combine. Decrease the heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes. Increase the heat to medium high; add the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil, and cook, stirring constantly, for 2 to 3 minutes.

Transfer the tomato mixture to the meat mixture and stir to combine. Simmer the sauce, uncovered, over low heat, stirring occasionally, while preparing the pasta.

For the pasta:  Bring the water and salt to a boil over high heat. Carefully add the pasta, stirring quickly to separate. Cover and return to a boil, being careful that the water does not boil over. Once boiling again, uncover and continue to cook until slightly less than al dente, 5 to 6 minutes. Drain in a colander.

Add the pasta to the meat sauce and cook, over low heat, for another 2 to 3 minutes or until the pasta is al dente. Add the Parmesan cheese and toss to combine. Transfer pasta and sauce to a serving bowl or individual bowls and serve.