October 21, 2014

Green chutney

Cilantro cucumber chutney

This is a different take on the ubiquitous green chutney that shows up as a sad accompaniment to those boring papad crackers at like every Indian restaurant. I know you've seen them. Crispy round things served with red and green sauce? They are the chips and salsa of the Indian restaurant world.

My green chutney includes cilantro, cucumbers, peanut flour and sesame oil, so I call it cilantro cucumber chutney. It can be stored up to 1 week in the fridge in an airtight container. I think it's great with roasted potatoes. I used peanut flour because I found dehydrated peanut butter at the grocery store, and wanted to try the peanut flour in smoothies. It tastes like peanut butter, and it makes cleaning the blender easier. However, peanut flour can be easily replaced with about 2 tbsp of whole peanuts, or plain, unsweetened, peanut butter can be used. Have you seen peanut flour, or used it? Thoughts?

Cilantro cucumber chutney
Yield: 3/4 cup, can be stored in fridge for up to 1 week. 

Ingredients:
1 bunch cilantro, as fresh as possible
4" piece cucumber, peeled and seeds removed
1 whole jalapeno, cut into segments, remove seeds if you want a mild chutney
1/2" piece of fresh ginger, peeled
juice of 1/2 of a large lemon
2 tbsp peanut flour (dehydrated peanut butter?)
1 tbsp peanut oil
1-2 tsp sesame oil
1/2 - 1 tsp salt

Special tools: cutting board, vegetable peeler, colander, and blender.

Directions:
Step 1: Wash and drain the cilantro. Trim off any dead looking parts. If you use the freshest cilantro you can find (use same day you buy) it should be fine. Add the cilantro to the blender. Trim the cucumber, peel it, and remove the seeds. Place it in the blender.

Step 2: Trim the jalapeño and peel the ginger. Cut both into large segments, and add them to the blender. For a spicier chutney, leave the jalapeño seeds intact.

Step 3: To the blender, add the lemon juice, peanut flour, peanut and sesame oils, and salt. Add in a few tbsp of water if needed. Blend until well combined (about 2 minutes).

October 15, 2014

Fiets

This is a rambly bicycle post. You have been warned.

Over the summer, I tested out and learned about a dozen road bikes. Unable to narrow down my choice, and pull the proverbial "trigger,"  I am still the proud owner of my heavy hybrid comfort bike (a 2008, Trek 7200!). Seattle has an intensely dedicated group of highly opinionated salespersons. Most helpful, many annoying, all properly opinionated.

For my bike research, I read a bit about components, speed, weight, durability, but really I wanted to ride the bikes, and understand how the bike would fit me, and my perceived wants and needs.

This perceived list of wants and needs includes:
  1. I want a road bike for riding long distances, but not for racing or triathlons. I want to ride to cool places and go as fast as Karl. He has a road bike, I have a hybrid. Inevitably, I trail behind him. It would be nice if I could go over 40 miles on a ride for a day. It's funny to me that I bought a hybrid "comfort" bike. There is nothing comfortable about riding slowly up and down Seattle's hills. My bike was solid for my less than 5 mile commute to and from work in AL. I had a meltdown on a trail after a grueling 40 miler this summer (where wine was or was not consumed in copious amounts).  
  2. I want a relatively light bike that goes up hills more easily than my current heavy bike. I don't think putting 30 miles per week is a lot anymore. 
  3. I would like to mount a rack and fender if possible, weight be damned.
  4. Lastly, I would like the bike to "grow" with my needs. Buying a bike a few years ago, was the best decision I made. It got me on a bike, I used for commuting, and now I want an upgraded version. I think I know what I want more now that I've spent the past few years on a bike.
With my list,  I looked at road bikes. I looked at new and used bikes. I looked at cyclocross bikes. I looked at new hybrid bikes. I tried to not ride more than 4 bikes per visit, and learned that riding 2 bikes per visit was really ideal. After many visits, I would drag Karl to the nearest bar for a de-stressing beer.

I liked every single bike I rode. Which is great! Each bike was light, zippy, fast, and such a huge upgrade from my hybrid clunker, it was hard to decide - but I did narrow down my choices and I tried to only include three:

1. The Jamis Quest Elite. A bike above my budget, but that is outfitted in all the correct ways, and solid specs. Once on it, I raced back and forth along the Burke Gilman, and then rode it up hill over and over again. I'd get up, scramble through the gears, fly down, and then do it over again. After riding this, I tested out a Lynsky viale. Holy fiets y'all. Steel is where it's at!

2. The Cannondale Synapse (alloy not carbon) Disc 5: I loved the overall fit of this bike, and it's two cassettes, and all the same drivetrain components. It is more racey than commuter-ey, This bike felt like it was working together and all the components were harmoniously talking to each other. I test rode this a few times. I rode it up a huge hill and even the hubs was impressed that I went up that hill. I test rode this bike twice, and each time it impressed. It was heavier than the steel Jamis. How? Discs?

3. The Raleigh Capri 3.0 and the Ravenio. I liked both bikes. It was the first or second bike I tried, and even then I liked the fit and speed. The hubs snapped a few "action" shots.


Now, I just need someone to rent these bikes to me for a long ride so I can decide. Any bike enthusiasts out there feel like weighing in?

October 8, 2014

Corn salad

I work from home. During the week, I got hungry for lunch, opened the fridge, assessed its nearly empty contents, and decided to walk to a nearby restaurant. Arriving after the lunch rush, I waited to be seated. I watched patiently as the two servers on staff walked back and forth across the restaurant with no hostess in sight. The restaurant operates like restaurant + market. One can dine in, shop for specialty ingredients, or order take out from the deli counter. As I stood waiting for a table, I looked towards the deli counter where three staff members were behind the counter, performing different tasks. One was helping their only customer in line. The other two were putting food away.

A few minutes passed. I looked again to the open dining area, the "please wait to be seated" sign, and the staff members. I waited. Was I waiting in the right area? Yes. I didn't disturb anyone, but as I waited and attempted eye contact, I grew annoyed. Even as I was standing there, I was the waitstaff's responsibility, a separate customer.  I waited a bit longer, then turned around and left. I can ignore myself at home. I won't be going back there anytime soon.

On the walk home, I picked up a baguette, and pulled out the remaining fridge contents. I had a crusty container of goat cheese, and a ziplock of corn and cucumber salad leftovers. On the counter, a sole ripe tomato waited, along with some freshly made za'atar.  Most of my lunches are scrambles like this, but the amazing part is that they end up always tasting good and filling me up. This za'atar recipe is really excellent. The za'atar has been topped on pizza, roasted pumpkin squash, yogurt, and has been added to cream cheese on toast. It is an addiction. This was the start:

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A nice lunch:

I've made this corn salad several times over the summer. The sweet creamy corn kernels taste excellent paired with freshly grated parmesan cheese and flaky sea salt. Another time, lemon juice, basil, olive oil, and cucumbers were added. I cook the cobs in the pressure cooker. They cook in 4 minutes, and the pressure release time is only 1-2 additional minutes. The cobs come out of the cooker looking golden and steamy. Cooked to perfection. The best part of the cooker, is that multiple cobs can be cooked at once. Trim them in half if they don't fit.

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Option 1: Corn and parmesan salad

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Option 2: Corn and cucumber salad with basil

Summer corn salad, two ways
Yield: enough to feed 4 people as a side, or 2 main large portions

Option 1: Corn and parmesan salad 
Ingredients:
2 corn on the cobs, cooked and shucked
olive oil, your finest and generous pour
freshly grated parmesan
Flaked sea salt + freshly ground pepper

Option 2: Corn and cucumber salad with basil
Ingredients:
2 corn on the cobs, cooked and shucked
olive oil, your finest and generous pour
2 tbsp of fresh basil cut in chiffonade or finely sliced
Fresh lemon juice from 1/2 a small lemon
1/2 cup sliced cucumbers, cut in quarters; peel if waxy.
Flaked sea salt + freshly ground pepper

Special tools: large chef's knife, cutting board, pressure cooker (small pan or large pan fine), mixing bowl.

Directions:
Step 1:  Peel the husks off the corn and trim the ends if they extend over the cooker diameter. Place the trivet on the bottom of the pressure cooker and add 1/2 cup of water to the bottom of the cooker. Place the naked cobs on top and close the lid. Bring the pressure cooker to high pressure and cook 4 minutes. When time is up, use the natural release method to bring the pressure down.

Step 2: Once done cooking, remove the cooked corn to a plate or cutting board to cool off to handle. Shuck the corn and place the corn in a medium mixing bowl. Add the rest of the ingredients and serve immediately.

September 15, 2014

Lentil Veggie Burgers

Veggie burgers

Spicy lentil veggie burgers

For these veggie burgers, any spice mix can be added to suit your own tastes. Although I include chopped pickled jalapeños in mine (this is my secret delicious ingredient), they can be easily omitted. This is a great base for adding your own spices to your own signature veggie burger. Because everyone should have a signature veggie burger. I happen to have like 10. No seriously, this one, this one, this one, this one and then another version of that one. See the one in this picture? This one. Ok, I promise, last one.

These can be grilled, pan-fried, or baked. I've provided all of the directions below.

Spicy Lentil Veggie Burgers
Yield: 10 patties, roughly 1/3-1/2 cup patties

Ingredients:
1 cup dried lentils, rinsed and drained (prepare from scratch, or sub in 2, 14 oz cans lentils, rinsed and drained)
3 cups water (omit if using canned lentils)
1 small shredded beet, or carrot
1/3 cup diced white onion
1/2 cup shredded cheese, such as smoked cheddar (optional, can be omitted)
1-2 tbsp chili powder (commercial or prepare your own, recipe below)
5 pickled jalapeño slices, finely minced
1/2 cup cooked rice, more or less is fine
1/2 cup oats, more as needed (either instant or 1-minute oats are fine)
1/4 cup corn meal, for dredging lightly

Spicy mix
1 tbsp chili powder (e.g. red chili, ancho chili, or chipotle chili)
2 tsp cumin
2 tsp oregano
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1/4 tsp garlic powder

Special tools: a large mixing bowl, colander, pots and pans, a box grater, and a spice grinder if grinding your own dried chili peppers. I used a pressure cooker to prepare the lentils while I prepped the rest of the ingredients.

1. Rinse the lentils. If preparing the lentils from scratch, add 1 cup lentils and 3 cups water to the pressure cooker. The smaller fry pan is fine. Close the lid and bring the cooker to the first red ring (low pressure). Cook 14 minutes over low pressure, and use the natural release method once the time is up. Once cool, drain the lentils in a colander for several minutes. If preparing on the stove, add the lentils and water to a pot and cook over medium heat for 30-45 minutes until soft. Once cool, drain the lentils in a colander for several minutes. No need to rinse them if cooked from scratch. If using canned lentils, rinse and drain them in a colander.

2. Shred a small beet over a box grater and add it to a large mixing bowl. Add the onions, cheese, chopped jalapeños, and rice.  Stir to combine.

3. Add the lentils and spices. Stir, then add the oats and combine until the mixture is fairly dry. We don't want it to be too wet where everything falls apart, and we don't want it too dry where it gets crumbly (see note below). Use your hands and shape a few patties. If it's too wet, add some extra oats, and try again. You can also add an egg at this point, because that will act as a binder. I usually don't add eggs, I think the oats work just fine.
Note: I do not recommend using a food processor because the consistency between too dry and too wet happens quickly, and the resulting product could be a mushy mess. All you really need to do is stir together the ingredients.

4. Smooth down the lentil mixture with the back of a spoon so it is uniformly level, and cover the bowl with a plate. Let the lentil mixture rest for 30 minutes in the fridge. This helps the oats soften up and set. This means the veggie burgers are more likely to retain their shape when cooking.

5. Once ready, shape the patties with your hand, or a 1/3 or 1/2 cup dry mixing up measure. Dredge the formed patty lightly in the cornmeal. Place them on a clean plate or cutting board.

6. When you have six or eight patties, heat some olive oil in a wide skillet and heat up over medium heat. Once hot add in the patties, and cook 4-6 minutes per side (preferred method, but grilling is really super too!)

If baking: lay out the patties on a lightly greased sheet, and spray or brush the top sides of the patties. Bake at 350 for 10 minutes. Flip them, once golden, spray or brush tops with a bit of oil and bake another 10 minutes. Serve when golden.

If grilling: place all the formed patties on a plate and place in the fridge for an hour or overnight. They should be cold just up until they hit the hot grill. These can be cooked on medium heat on a gas grill, 5 minutes per side. Use a spatula and carefully lift them up before flipping to catch the whole burger. Use some tongs or another spatula to help them along. If overhandled they can fall apart. Make sure you lightly grease each side of the patty before putting it on the grill.

Serve alongside some toasted brioche buns, fresh lettuce, and onions rings. I like to roast fingerling potatoes too and serve them on the side. These store well in the fridge for up to 4 days. Don't leave them any longer.

August 20, 2014

Channa dhal curry and grilled patty pan squash

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No surprise here, another pressure cooker lentil recipe. This time, channa dhal is used (channa is yellow split pea). Channa dhal is highly nutritious. What is channa? Basically, a young version of a garbanzo or chickpea. It's packed with fiber, protein, and carbs; it has a healthy dose of iron and calcium, and it, like many other dried beans, is a great source of folate, biotin, and choline. 1 The tomatoes in the dish make the iron more bioavailable. Since tomatoes contain Vitamin C they enhance iron absorption. 1 This dish is just good. It can be used as a base for other beans or lentils, or you can sub in tofu, or chicken, or potatoes. Whatever floats your boat. I served mine with some grilled summer patty pan squash, basmati rice, yogurt, and some sambal olek.

This summer, I've been playing ultimate almost three times a week. Holy smokes, Seattle has an amazeballs ultimate scene. To get to the fields, I started riding my bike. I've been putting over 30 miles on my commuter hybrid a week (I have a 2008 Trek). To get home, I ride up a fairly long incline, and have decided to upgrade to a road bike. So if there are any foodie readers that are also bike riders, what should I be looking for?

I'm not into racing as a sport. I primarily ride on asphalt (did I really just type asphalt?), and I use my bike for most errands within a short distance. The things I like about my current bike set up: it's a workhorse, it has a rack with bike saddle bags that I use all the time. When I lived in AL, and commuted to work, I added fenders. I'd like to keep those elements. What I don't like: my bike is heavy, and slow, and I have a love/hate relationship when riding up hills. I view the uphill climb as a cardio workout, but I would like some efficiency.

On the weekends, when the weather is good, I like going for long bike rides. I've ridden up to Kenmore and Woodinville on my hybrid. The hubs has a road bike so I slow us down a lot. So far, I've been doing some online research, visiting and riding bikes at bike shops, and keeping a spreadsheet of different models, price ranges, and specs. A few weekends ago, I tried out two bikes from the same make (Raleigh Ravenio/Capri 2.0 and 3.0). The difference between my bike and the road bike was astounding. The road bikes were zippy and responsive. I would not use those two terms on my current hybrid. My hybrid is a great bike for occasional rides, that will occur on largely flat surfaces. I love that it got me used to the idea of using a bike for getting around town. Sadly, I think I have outgrown it.

Channa dhal curry with grilled patty pan squash
Yield: 4 generous servings, 1 squash per person

Ingredients
1 cup channa dhal
2 cups water
1 cup rice, such as Basmati or Jasmine rice
2 and 1/4 cups water for the rice
1-2 tbsp oil
1/2 cup onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic
1 tbsp finely minced or grated ginger
1 jalapeño, diced (optional)
3 Roma tomatoes, diced
1/4 to 1 cup water, keep on the side.

Dry Spices*
1 tbsp ground cumin
1 tsp paprika or red chili powder (use paprika if you want it less spicy)
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp cinnamon
pinch nutmeg
lots of cracks of fresh black pepper
*if you don't have all these spices, a commercial curry mix can be subbed in easily instead. Just use 1-2 tbsp, and remember the more you use, the spicier it will be.

Garnishing spices/seasoning*
1 tsp salt (if using a commercially prepared mix, check to see if it has salt)
1 tbsp ground, coriander
1 tsp garam masala
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
*if you don't have all of these, I would solely recommend salt and the cilantro.

Directions for the Channa dhal curry 
Step 1. Soak the channa dhal in the 2 cups of water, and set aside while prepping the rest of the ingredients.

Step 2. Prepare the rice. I use a rice cooker with the following amounts: 1 cup long grain white rice to 2 and 1/4 cups water. Turn the rice cooker on and forget it. Come back later, voilá: rice!

Step 3. Measure out the dry spices in a small bowl and set aside.

Step 4. In the small pressure fry pan pressure cooker (PC), heat up 1 tbsp of olive oil over medium heat. Once hot, add in onions and stir. Cook 2 minutes.

Step 5. Add in garlic, ginger, and jalapeños. Stir and let cook 1 minute. Add the dry spices and cook until the mixture becomes very dry. Then, add the tomatoes, and stir it together. The tomatoes will release water and everything will come together as the tomatoes cook. Let cook 4 minutes.

Step 6. Rinse the channa dhal, and add it to the PC. Stir in 1 to 1/2 cups of water and close the cooker. The liquid amount should not exceed the 1/2 mark on the PC.

Step 7. Turn the heat to high and bring the PC to low pressure (first red ring), and cook 14 minutes at low pressure. Once pressure is reached, turn the heat to the lowest setting to maintain low pressure (usually low heat). If using a glass range, move the PC off the heat for a minute or so. At the same time, turn the heat to the lowest setting, and then add the PC back on. When the time is up, turn the heat off and move the PC off the burner. Use the natural release method. This just means moving the PC off the burner and letting the pressure release naturally. It should take ~10 minutes. Use this time to prepare the garnishing.

Step 8. Once the PC is ready, remove the lid, and add the garnishing spices and seasoning. Taste for salt, and add a little more if needed. Serve over rice, and pass yogurt at the table. Top with the grilled patty pan squash (recipe follows below).

Grilled patty pan squash
Yield: 4 servings, 1 squash each

Ingredients:
4 patty pan squash, cut in half (you could also use compact summer or zucchini squash cut in halves)
1 tbsp olive oil
salt to taste (I am loving this flaked sea salt at the moment)
fresh black pepper
1/2 tsp paprika

Directions for patty pan squash
Step 1. Heat the grill to medium high heat if using a gas grill.

Step 2. In a large bowl, add halved patty pan squash and drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle salt and pepper on top and toss the patty pan squash until the sides are evenly coated. Add the paprika and repeat.

Step 3. When the grill is hot, place the squash, cut side down on the grill and cook about 5-7 minutes per side. Use tongs to flip them over. Thicker (bigger) squash will require more heat. I like them slightly undercooked because they stay crunchier.

1. Brown J. Nutrition Through the Life Cycle. Stamford, CT: Cengage Learning; 2014.