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.

August 9, 2014

Coconut Yogurt Rice

coconut yogurt rice

coconut yogurt rice

coconut yogurt rice

I keep showing up with this dish everywhere I go. Hey let's go on a picnic. What did you bring? Oh nothing, just this rice. Come over for lunch. What did you make? Oh just this rice dish and some salad. Hey it's lunch time, what do I have that I can eat quickly? Oh just this rice.

Years ago when I lived in Houston, my family and I would head out to the Sri Meenakshi Hindu temple in Pearland, TX, and then stay for lunch - eating just prepared homemade tamarind and yogurt rice. The kitchen staff would prepare fresh batches, and it was fun to watch them mix up the rice in these enormous stainless steel bowls. Half the family was split on yogurt/curd or dhai rice, and the other half were tamarind rice, so we'd get both, and sit on the temple grounds enjoying a sunny Sunday or Saturday. Then we'd get ladoos.

I've made this three times in the past two weeks. My mom has been sending me home with lots of delicious home cooked leftovers, and one day I had so much rice I made this. Making yogurt or dhai rice is really easy. Take leftover long grain rice, and then add plain yogurt, and some seasoned oil, and mix together, and then serve. Comes together in minutes if you have enough leftover rice. My yogurt rice is completely inauthentic, but it tastes good, and everyone that has tried it so far has asked for the recipe.

Coconut Yogurt Rice
Yield: 4 servings, split however you like

Ingredients:
4-5 cups cooked white rice, preferably Basmati rice
1/2 cup yogurt
1/3 cup unsweetened coconut, ground to a fine powder
salt and pepper

Ingredients for Vaghar:
1 tsp mustard seeds
pinch hing (asafoetida) can be omitted (ask for it at a South Asian grocery store)
4-6 mitto limbdo/curry leaves
2 tbsp peanut oil

Directions:
1. If using leftover rice that has been chilled in the fridge, heat it back up with a bit of water. It will make mixing everything easier. Add the rice to a large mixing bowl, such as large pyrex or other large stainless steel mixing bowl. Add the yogurt, coconut, and salt and pepper. Stir to combine.
Note: you can also use just cooked rice. It will be good too, but chilling the rice first keeps it more toothsome and less mushy. 

Next we are going to make a vaghar. Use an oil with a high smoke point like peanut oil. Add the oil to a small pot, like a small saucepan, and when hot add in spices and fresh herb leaves to infuse the oil with the aromatics. Usually the vaghar can be poured over something as a finish, or things can be added to it to such as done when cooking. Let's do the vaghar:

2. In a small saucepan with a lid, heat up the peanut oil. When hot add in mustard seeds and hing and cook until the mustard seeds pop. Add in the mitto limbdo leaves, and close the lid, turn the heat off and let cook for 1-2 minutes. Pour the vaghar over the rice. Stir everything together. Adjust salt if needed. Serve immediately. 

Yum. 

July 25, 2014

Green Pea Hummus

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Look at this pretty pea hummus! It tastes like peas smashed together with mint and thyme.

Last year, I bought The Southern Vegetarian cookbook after being smitten with the Chubby Vegetarian blog. Both the cookbook and the blog are written and maintained by Justin Fox Burks and Amy Lawrence. Their cooking stuck with me because 1) they have upgraded and vegefied southern foods, and 2) they build foods around plant-based, un-processed foods. Some of my favorites from their book: andouille eggplant, mushroom meat, okra fritters, unchicken pot pie, and green pea hummus.

This green pea hummus is a slight adaptation from the recipe in their cookbook. I added ajwain seeds and fresh mint. The thyme-like flavor of the ajwain seeds pairs nicely with the cumin and coriander. The mint brightens up the peas - and I like it better than parsley. The pea hummus will last up to a week in the fridge. I served this hummus along with cucumber and radish slices. It's also very good on crunchy pita bread, or papaddums.

Green Pea Hummus
Recipe adapted from The Southern Vegetarian's Green Pea Hummus
Yield: About 1 and 1/2 cups hummus

Ingredients:
1/2 tsp ajwain seeds (optional)
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp coriander seeds
4 tbsp olive oil
3 garlic cloves, smashed
1 16 oz package or 2 cups frozen green peas
zest of 1 lemon
1/4 cup flat-leaf parsley, fresh
1/4 cup mint, fresh
1/2 tsp salt

Directions:
Step 1: Dump the frozen peas into a colander and rinse with water. This should bring them up to room temperature. No need to cook the peas. Set them aside until ready to use.

Step 2: In a skillet, add the whole seeds and toast until fragrant about 5-6 minutes. Once toasted remove the seeds to a mortar and pestle or spice grinder, and grind to a fluffy finish. To the skillet warm the olive oil and then add the garlic. Cook the garlic just until it gets golden and smells lovely. If it burns, it will give off bitterness in the finished dish. Turn the heat off and remove the pan from the heat.

Step 3: Get out the food processor and prepare the processor with the large mixing blade. Add the peas to the work bowl of the food processor, and then add the olive oil and garlic, ground spices, 1/2 tsp salt, lemon zest, parsley and mint. Blend together until light and fluffy. Taste and adjust for salt.

July 11, 2014

Spaghetti with beluga lentils

those are lentils

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pretty Beluga lentils

spaghetti with beluga marinara sauce

This is my version of a healthy marinara sauce with lentils. Lentils cook in no time in the pressure cooker. Surely by now, I've at least convinced you how awesome a pressure cooker is? I won't give up on you!

This recipe comes together quickly if you can think of it in 3 steps. Step 1, prepare the lentils in the pressure cooker. Step 2, prepare the marinara sauce, and Step 3, cook the spaghetti noodles. Most of the time, I start the pasta boiling water first, and then get to my tomato sauce, but you know your own ability to multitask.

This recipe is dedicated to my hubs. See hubs, now you know how I make it!

Spicy tomato sauce or marinara with beluga lentils
Yield: 4 servings, about 1 and 1/4 cup sauce per serving

Ingredients:
1/2 cup dried beluga lentils or regular green lentils
1 and 1/2 to 2 cups water
2 cloves garlic
a generous pour of olive oil
1 onion, finely diced
1 large carrot, or 2 medium carrots, peeled and quarter diced
1/4 to 1/3 cup of white wine, enough to barely cover bottom of pan (I think red would be fine too; honestly, I've used whatever is in the fridge or pantry) - use vegetable broth or water if avoiding wine.
2 T dried oregano
1 tsp dried thyme
2 T dried parsley 
1 tsp dried red chili flakes
1 and 1/4 tsp salt
1, 28 oz can San Marzano style tomatoes either whole or in chunks * see my note below
1/2 cup water
freshly grated parmesan
basil or parsley to garnish

To boil spaghetti
4 quarts water plus salt to boil
1/2 package or 1/2 lb whole wheat thin spaghetti

Special tools: None besides a good knife, and cutting board. Use the small pressure cooker fry pan for the lentils. For the marinara sauce and the spaghetti, have 2 pots ready. The first should be a large pot to cook pasta, the second should be a wide stir fry pan with a sturdy lid. If you don't have a pressure cooker, cook the lentils in a large pot.

*My cooking note: If using whole peeled canned tomatoes, blend half or 3/4 of the tomatoes in a blender and leave the rest sort of roughly chopped. It is OK with me if you want no chunks, just blend all of it. Do this before you get started. 

Directions:

See my note above indicated with * above.

Step 1: Add the lentils to the small pressure fry pan pressure cooker. Add the water, stir, and set the cooker over high heat on the stove (these are the first two ingredients on the ingredients list). Close the lid to the pressure cooker. Bring to the first red ring (low pressure) and cook 10 minutes on low pressure. Once time is up, remove the cooker from the heat, and set aside to cool down using the natural release method. 

Step 2: Prepare the pasta cooking water. Add the water and salt to a large pot. Depending on your stove, you can begin heating up the water for the pasta. 

Step 3: In a separate wide enough skillet with a lid, heat up a few generous glugs of olive oil over medium heat. Once hot add in the onions and stir, and then add in the garlic and carrots. Cook until the onions begin to just brown slightly. Pour in the wine, and cook until half of the wine is evaporated. 

Step 4: Add in the herbs and spices and stir together. Next, add in the tomato sauce, water, and salt. Turn the heat down to medium low heat,  and cover with a lid so that the sauce doesn't splatter on the cooking range. The water for the pasta should be close to boiling. If not, wait. The sauce will just continue to cook and thicken up a bit. 

Step 5: When the pasta water is ready and boiling, add the spaghetti, or other desired pasta, and cook until ready.  Next, drain the lentils from the pressure cooker, and then add them to the tomato sauce. Stir and taste the tomato sauce for herbs and salt. 

Step 6: When the pasta is done cooking, reserve 1 cup of the hot pasta cooking water and then drain off the pasta in a colander. Toss a little olive oil and a few splashes of the hot remaining pasta cooking water to keep the noodles separate. This is my favorite trick to serving pasta hot.

When ready to serve, add about 1 cup of cooked noodles to a plate and top with 1 and 1/4 cups of sauce. Pass fresh parmesan and chopped parsley at the table. 

June 23, 2014

Tofu Lettuce Wraps

Tofu lettuce wraps

Bibb lettuce leaves create a crunchy and fresh "wrapper" for tofu lettuce wraps. Lettuce leaves are filled with a caramelized crunchy ginger-tofu, and filled with mung bean noodles, grated carrots, and strips of crunchy cucumber and spring onions. Serve these with peanut sauce, or your favorite dipping sauce.

This is a lot of work for dinner, or an appetizer, but the beauty of this dish is in each and every single component. They are fun to put together, and you'll feel healthier for doing so. I promise. If you have leftovers, you can assemble vermicelli noodle bowls. Win-Win!

From my New Roots box, I used the bibb lettuce, carrots (earlier batch), cucumbers, and spring onions. I am loving the box, and I use it all the time. This week, I began measuring out the servings to compare cost per serving. The bibb lettuce head would easily serve 8. According to MyPlate serving sizes, 1 cup of raw veggies = 1 serving; and 1/2 cup cooked = 1 serving. I prepped the lettuce ahead of time, and it stored for longer than a week in the fridge.

'fu
extra-firm tofu cut into strips.

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Crunchy ginger tofu

Lettuce
Lettuce wrap fixins

The Most Awesome Tofu Lettuce Wraps
Yield: 4 servings, 2-3 wraps per person

For the tofu
1 lb extra-firm tofu (1 lb is enough for 2-3 people; use 2 lb for 3-4 hungry people)
salt for tofu
1-2 tbsp peanut oil or enough to leave a slick shimmer in a wide skillet

For the wrappers
1 head Bibb lettuce, washed and the leaves spun dry count 2-3 per person
2-3 spring onions, cut into segments 3-4" in length; cut onions in half or quarter them lengthwise
2 medium carrots, peeled and grated
1/2 cucumber cut lengthwise in half, and then cut into small crunchy strips, peel skin if waxy.
2 oz dried mung bean noodles, optional. Hydrate the dried mung bean threads by briefly boiling in hot water and then draining and tossing with just a tad of sesame oil (optional).
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro

For the tofu glaze
3 tbsp soy sauce
1 and 1/2 tbsp rice vinegar
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
1 tsp grated ginger
1-2 tsp sambal oelek
1 tsp black or white sesame seeds
1 tbsp molasses

Serve with peanut sauce, store-bought is fine.

Special tools: not really anything too fancy: a salad spinner, a box grater, regular pots and pans, jelly roll pan, paper towels, knives, cutting boards. Attractive serving dishes would really showcase the gorgeous ingredients. We do eat with our eyes after all.

Prep ahead: prepare Bibb lettuce, and prepare peanut sauce; can also prepare mung bean noodles. I prep the Bibb lettuce by carefully removing each leaf and washing it thoroughly. Once washed, I spin them in a salad spinner to expel all of the water, and then place them in a zip lock gallon size bag. They will stay fresh for up to a week.

Directions:
Step 1: Drain the tofu and expel the water out of it. The lazy way is to wrap the tofu in a paper towel just drying it very lightly. Get out a jelly roll pan and line it with paper towels. Cut up the tofu so it is in 3/4" thick strips. Lay out the tofu strips on the paper towels and salt them. Let them rest 7-10 minutes. The salting draws the water up to the surface. Use a paper towel to "wick" away the water.  Then rotate the strips a quarter turn, and salt and repeat. This really does result in a chewy texture and makes pan-frying very easy, and with less oil. If you are letting the tofu rest, you can prep other parts of this recipe including the veggies used in the wrap, or prepping the Bibb lettuce, which I have made Step 2.

Step 2: Wash the Bibb lettuce and set aside in the fridge. Make sure that the leaves are dry. This can be done up to 4 days ahead of time. Wash each leaf carefully and then spin them dry in a salad spinner. Once dry, store the leaves in a ziplock bag in the fridge. They will last this way up to 1 week in the fridge.

Step 3: Arrange the prepared vegetables in an attractive dish or plate, and place in the fridge covered with a plate or plastic wrap to keep cold. I recommend prepping the veggies right before serving, they just look so much better. Trust me.

Step 4: Prepare the mung bean threads or noodles if using. To rehydrate them, cook them like you would pasta, but turn the water off when it reaches a boil AND THEN add the mung bean threads. Let them hydrate for a few minutes. They will have that consistency of jellyfish tentacles or that weird jelly goop that comes out of kids toy vending machines. I know, I know. They can be rinsed under cold water and then tossed with a bit of cold water and oil to make them loose. You can also substitute vermicelli noodles.

Step 5: Add 1 tbsp of peanut oil to a non-stick or cast iron pan, and heat up over medium heat. Once hot, pan fry the tofu until golden on each side (about 6 minutes for the first side) then few minutes each side because the pan will be hot! If preparing more than 1 lb of tofu (more than 1 package) cook the tofu in batches using about 1 tbsp of oil for each batch of tofu, and not overcrowding the pan. Remove the cooked tofu to a plate.

Step 6: Meanwhile prepare the tofu glaze. In a medium bowl stir all the ingredients for the tofu glaze together.

Step 7: Once the tofu has cooked, add it back to the pan, and ladle the glaze over the tofu, eventually pouring the remainder into the pan. It will heat up and caramelize quickly. Move it off the heat and remove the strips to a serving dish.

Step 8: Set out everything so it can be assembled at the table. I place the grated carrots, cuke strips, and scallions, and lettuce on a large plate. I set the cilantro, mung bean noodles, and peanut sauce in their own bowls. I give everyone chopsticks and spoons.

How to assemble:
Lettuce
1. Lay out the lettuce wrapper

Mung bean noodles
2. Add in mung bean noodles

Assembly
3. Add some tofu and then add some...

Tofu lettuce wraps

Adding secret ingredient
4. Veggies and peanut sauce

Tofu lettuce wraps
5. Eat, repeat!