Chana Masala and A Review

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Every so often I get totally consumed, kind of obsessed, with a cookbook.  There is something about the food that just speaks to me and I want to totally cook everything in the book.  This summer that cookbook was Raghavan Iyer’s, 660 Curries.  I have loved everything I have tried from this book and that doesn’t happen very often. Usually, I try one or two, maybe three recipes from a cookbook then I get bored and moved on to the next one. There is enough variety in 660 Curries to keep me interested for a very long time.

The curries represent all regions of India.  I really like that the first chapter of the book gives you all the spice blends that are used in the book.  Many of the Indian cookbooks I looked through relied on store bought spice blends that I don’t have access to.  I was lucky to be able to find almost all the spices I needed at my favorite natural food store and a local Asian market.  A few things like fresh curry leaves, fresh fenugreek leaves and Nigella seeds weren’t available but there are more than enough recipes that don’t use these things to make the book worthwhile.

My biggest complaint is there is no Index of what spice blends go with what recipes.  So you can have several spice blends made but no idea what recipe to try them in next. I have just been making  a list of spice blends and what recipes use them as I find them when I am looking for a new recipe to try.  On the whole I would recommend this cookbook if you are looking to learn how to make Indian food.

I am a huge fan of chickpeas so I absolutely loved this recipe for Chana Masala.  I cooked my chickpeas in the pressure cooker but if you don’t have one feel free to use your favorite brand of canned chickpea.

Chana Masala

1 TBS canola oil

1/2 tsp whole cumin seeds

1/2 tsp ground cumin seeds

1 TBS ginger paste

1 1/2 tsp garlic paste

1 TBS tomato paste

1 1/2 tsp ground coriander

1 1/2 tsp fresh lime juice

1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

1/4 tsp ground turmeric

2 cups cooked chickpeas

2 TBS finely chopped fresh cilantro

3/4 tsp kosher salt

1/4 cup finely chopped onion

1 1/2 cups water, divided

Heat the canola oil in a large sauce pan over medium – high heat.  Sprinkle in the whole cumin seeds and cook until they sizzle, turn reddish brown, and smell nutty, 5 to 10 seconds.  Immediately lower the heat to medium and carefully stir in the ginger and garlic pastes and stir -fry them until they turn light brown, about 2 minutes.  Stir in 1/2 cup water and the tomato paste, coriander, lime juice, cayenne pepper, tumeric, and ground cumin.  Simmer, partially covered, until the water evaporates from the reddish brown sauce, 5 to 10 minutes.  Pour in  1 more cup water, the chickpeas, 1 TBS cilantro, and the salt.  Raise the heat to medium-high and cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the sauce thickens, 15 to 18 minutes.  Sprinkle the remaining cilantro and onion over the curry, and serve. 

 

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10 Recipes Every Beginning Cook Should Know #7 Bechamel Sauce

In classic French Cooking there are 5 mother sauces from which all other sauces are just some variation.  Theses sauces are Bechamel, Veloute, Espagnole, Sauce Tomate and Hollandaise.  While all the mother sauces have their uses, I think the most useful to home cooks is  Sauce Bechamel or white sauce.

So for my 6th recipe every beginning cook should know I  choose Bechamel or basic white sauce.

Bechamel Sauce (White Sauce)

1 TBS butter

1 TBS flour

1 cup milk

In a small saucepan, heat the butter over medium-low heat.  When butter is melted, stir in the flour heat  to low and cook, stirring with a wire whisk, almost constantly until the flour-butter mixture darkens, at least 3 minutes.  Stir in the liquid a little bit at a time, still using a wire whisk, cook over low heat until the desired consistency is reached.

Recipes on A Solitary Feast using white sauce

  1. Cream of Soup Substitutes
  2. Mac and Cheese
  3. Vegetable Pot Pie

10 Recipes Every Beginning Cook Should Know #6 Pancakes and Waffles

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Everyone says breakfast is the most important meal of the day but no one tells me how to incorporate breakfast into an already packed morning especially since I don’t do processed food. Often I make a small batch of pancakes or waffles and have one serving in the morning and the second serving the next morning.

For my sixth  10 Recipes Every Beginning Cook Should Know I choose pancakes and waffles.

The following recipes are basic recipes, feel free to experiment with add ins like chocolate chips, pumpkin, fruit, spices or all of the above.  You never have to make them the same way twice.

Basic Pancakes

Ingredients

½ cup all purpose flour

1 ½ tsp sugar

1 ¼ tsp baking powder

2 TBS buttermilk powder

1/8 tsp salt

3 TBS lightly beaten egg

1 TBS canola oil

½ cup water

In a small bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, buttermilk powder, and salt; mix well. In another bowl, combine the egg, oil and water. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients mix until just moistened. Drop by ¼ cupfuls onto a heated pan coated with cooking spray. Cook until the bottom is golden, 2-4 minutes. Flip the pancakes and cook until the other side is golden. 2 2 pancake servings.

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Basic Waffles

Ingredients

1 cup flour

2 tsp baking powder

1/8 tsp salt

1 egg

¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons milk

¼ cup canola oil

In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt. In a separate bowl, combine the egg, milk and oil. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix until just moistened, some lumps are okay. Spread ¼ to 1/3 cup batter on each side of a preheated waffle iron coated with cooking spray. Bake 7 minutes.

Hummus, 2 Ways

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One thing the pressure cooker is awesome at, among many things, is making dried beans in the fraction of the time it takes on the stove.  It takes less than one hour to cook most dried beans even if you forget to soak them, which I always do.  Seriously, it takes about 2 1/2 to 3 hours to cook chickpeas, my favorite bean, on the stove.  It takes 40 minutes to cook chickpeas in the pressure cooker if I forget to soak them and 15 minutes if I remember to soak them.  WOW!!!

So I have been cooking a lot of chickpeas lately and  making a lot of different things with them.  My favorite chickpea dish is hummus.  I like the fact you can make a simple hummus and it is as delicious as a complicated, fancy hummus.  There are so many variations online and I am sure you could come up with many more. Here are my two favorite variations, one simple and one fancy.  I don’t remember where I found the pumpkin hummus idea but it is really good and perfect for the fall weather that is up on us.

If you don’t have a pressure cooker to make your chickpeas, feel free to use a good brand of canned chickpea instead or cook your own on the stove.

Small Batch Hummus

2 cups cooked chickpeas, drained, reserving the liquid

2 TBS olive oil

3 to 4 cloves garlic, minced

¼ to ½ cups parsley

Drain the chickpeas reserving the liquid.  Place the chickpeas in a blender or  food processor.  Add the olive oil, garlic and parsley. While pulsing the blender, add the bean liquid one tablespoon at a time until the desired consistency is reached. 

Pumpkin Hummus

1 15 oz can chickpeas (2 cups)

¼ cup chickpea liquid

6 TBS pure pumpkin

2 TBS lemon juice

1 TBS olive oil

1 ½ TBS tahini or natural peanutbutter

1 large garlic clove, minced

½ tsp pumpkin pie spice

½ tsp paprika

½ tsp cumin

Drain the chickpeas reserving the liquid.  Place the chickpeas in a blender or food processor.  Add lemon juice, olive oil, tahini, garlic and spices.  While pulsing, add the chickpea liquid one tablespoon at a time until the desired consistency is reached.

Tilapia With Yogurt Sauce

When I was a kid my family literally lived 300 feet from the lake. It wasn’t unusual for someone to grab a pole and some bait and go out on the lake and fish. I think my brother was more fish than boy, he spent so much time on the lake. I was more likely to grab my bait and pole and head to the marina to fish by myself.

The marina was a little inlet that was deep, with a lot of weeds on the bottom. The fish came to the marina to spawn. At the marina the challenge wasn’t catching fish, you could drop an empty hook into the water and catch a fish. The challenge at the marina was knowing where to fish for fish that were big enough to keep.

My dad insisted that if you were going to fish you were going to be able to bait your own hook and remove your own fish off the hook as well. I was the only girl in the neighborhood who could do that. I also learned how scale and gut fish, although that tested the limits of my daring. Fish slime I could handle, fish guts were best left to Russell. So why, with all that fish experience, didn’t I ever learn how to cook fish?

Seriously, there are only two seafood recipes on this blog because I have the hardest time cooking fish and other seafood properly. I am paranoid I will overcook it so I undercook it or I am so paranoid I will undercook the fish that I overcook it. It is just a hot mess. That doesn’t mean I stop trying. Last night I found two Tilapia fillets left over from a previous failed attempt at cooking fish. So I decided to try a fish curry from 660 Curries. The dish didn’t look like it was going to come together until the very end. I also had to cover it for the last few minutes of cooking time because the fillets were of uneven thickness. In the end, however, I really enjoyed this dish.

Tilapia with Yogurt Sauce

1/4 tsp turmeric

8 oz skinless Tilapia fillets

1/2 cup plain yogurt

1/2 tsp sugar

1/2 tsp kosher salt

1 TBS canola oil

1 1/2 tsp Bengali 5 Spice Blend

1 dried red Thai chili, stem removed

1/2 cup finely chopped red onion

1/2 tsp finely chopped fresh ginger

Sprinkle the turmeric over both sides of the fish and rub it in. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes up to overnight. When ready to cook, whisk the yogurt, sugar and salt together in a small bowl. Heat the oil in a medium skillet over medium high heat. Sprinkle in the Bengali 5 Spice blend, and dried chilies. Cook until the spices sizzle and start to smell good, 15 to 20 seconds. Add the fish fillets and sear them on both sides on the bed of spices, about 30 seconds per side. Transfer the fish to a plate. Add the onion and ginger to the skillet and stir-fry until the onion is light brown around the edges, about 2 minutes. Pour in the yogurt mixture and stir to mix the onion mixture into it. Spoon the sauce over the fillets and poach them, uncovered, until the fish is barley starting to flake, 3 to 5 minutes.